Don’t Miss to Read this Fiction Book

I am not a believer in book promotion. The only time I buy a book based on an author’s tweet is when I am already a fan of said author and have been eagerly awaiting his/her next release. I tune out the constant background noise on social media urging me to try this author or that, trumpeting the release of books that don’t interest me written by people I’ve never heard of. This is why I limit my own promotion (if you can even call it that) to family, friends, and those dear souls who already follow me. I post and tweet messages along the lines of, “Hey, guess what, Epic Cool is finally out. I bet you thought I’d never finish it.”

Except once.

A little over a year ago, I was approached by someone who was starting up an author/book promotion business. This person was so kind, and so persistent, and so cheap … one dollar! For a year’s worth of regular tweets! … that I finally relented and gave her a dollar.

I did not anticipate that I would find tweets promoting my own books just as annoying as all the other book promotions flooding my Twitter feed. Nor that the tweets would be composed by people who were not fluent in English. A tweet recommending The Fortune Hunter by someone who clearly lacks the language proficiency to have read it is not a convincing endorsement. For over a year now, my Twitter feed has been filled with images of my covers accompanied by messages like, “Don’t miss to read this #fiction book”  and “Read author @DianeFarr amazing Book.” :sigh: Bless their little well-meaning hearts.

I haven’t noticed a huge spike in sales, in case you are wondering.

 

Inspiration Overload at #RWA16

My brain can only handle about two days of RWA before it fries. I wouldn’t miss a minute of it—I wouldn’t dare, for fear I’d miss the best minute ever—but as I sit here in the San Diego airport, waiting for my flight back to the real world, I am feeling so inspired, so energized, so filled with information, gossip, tips, data, and carbohydrates, that I can barely think, let alone write. I am fit only for Candy Crush at this point, but the airport charges for wifi. So forget it.

The conference hashtag (#RWA16) will fade into history, the awards will find their permanent resting place on mantelpieces and bookshelves across the English-speaking world, and all the excitement fizzing in the air at the Marriott Marquis will scatter with the attendees and disperse. But as the old lyric says, the melody lingers on. The word “amazing” is used so indiscriminately today that its original meaning is diluted through overuse, but I’ll risk it. RWA is an amazing organization, and I mean that in the original, jaw-dropping way.

Are women truly wired differently than men are? Why are other creative organizations so cutthroat, and Romance Writers of America so nurturing? I don’t have an answer for it that doesn’t sound sexist, so I’ll simply thank them …us … for consistently amazing me. Every conference is uplifting as well as informative. Members who have progressed in their careers are cheered on, and members who have not progressed are supported, surrounded, encouraged, and counseled. It’s like a sisterhood—a sisterhood that includes men. I saw far more men, and a more interesting variety of skin tones, than I did even a few years ago at RWA12. White women, move over. A lot of new voices are offering tales of human pair bonding in all its myriad forms! This afternoon, for the first time, I read a romance featuring “black folk.” It was fantastic. Multicultural romances are going mainstream, and it’s way past time.

Is It Next Week Yet?

Like everyone else in America, I am so done with this week. One of the pleasures of traveling to San Diego to attend the Romance Writers of America conference will be the utter absence of news. For heaven’s sake, people, behave yourselves while I’m gone. When I come back to the real world, I’d like to find you all sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows and telling  jokes.

Someone please make arrangements and send out the evites. I’d do it myself, but I have to pack …

Sentimental by Proxy

It’s fun to take a “sentimental journey,” revisiting former haunts to see how they have fared. Sometimes the places you love are unchanged, plunging you into a sea of pleasurable nostalgia and bringing a smile to your face. Sometimes they have vanished — a less pleasurable experience, since the disappearance of buildings and streets once familiar, places that seemed permanent at the time, is an uncomfortable reminder of one’s own mortality. Usually what you find falls somewhere in the middle: The once-familiar place is still there, but time has altered it. And you.

They say you can never go home again. I once believed this sad old adage. Then I moved, bracing myself for disappointment, back to a town I had left years before. And found that I fit right back in. I loved it, if anything, more than I did when I first called it “home.” I’ve had this experience twice now, so I’m happy to report that you can, in fact, go home again. Sentimental journeys, however, remain a mixed bag.

Which brings me to my latest interest: Revisiting scenes of lives other than my own. I have an uncomfortable suspicion that there is something unhealthy about family history research. Like the old joke about codependency (“How do you know you’re codependent? You get hit by a bus, and someone else’s life flashes before your eyes”), I now find it fascinating to visit places where I have never lived, and research other people’s lives.

I’m not alone in this obsession–far from it. Even perfectly normal people feel some degree of interest in visiting, say, Ireland. Or wherever one’s family is from. But when you really stop and look at this impulse, it’s a bit odd. The more I study genealogy, the more aware I am that we are all connected. We all come from everywhere. Go back far enough, and it is clear that “the family of Man” is more than a turn of phrase. It’s a description of reality.

So why be more interested in your direct ancestors than you are in their contemporaries? Is there actually some sort of mystical bond … a connection to the land that survives somehow in the blood? Or is it all vanity?

I vote for the mystical bond. I’m a bona fide history buff and actually am interested in people from the past to whom I am not related. All lives are interesting. But there is an extra edge of excitement in learning about an interesting life whose genes you share. You hear their stories in your own voice, and ghosts crowd up behind you to peer over your shoulder as you pore over the microfiche or eagerly scan a ship manifest for long-sought names.

So I take sentimental journeys by proxy, driving past farms long gone and buildings remodeled beyond recognition, strolling from a train station to a house I’ve never lived in, retracing steps taken a century ago by a man who died when I was three. It’s strangely satisfying. I feel their approval, these ghosts who travel beside me, looking through my eyes at places they inhabited once upon a time. They seem to be as interested as I am to see what’s become of their old stomping grounds.

Too bad they can’t return the favor. I can’t look through their eyes and see what used to be there. But hunting down scraps of history is great fun, and I’ve always had a good imagination.

Just wish I could lose the nagging suspicion that it’s seriously weird to be so interested in dead people.

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Me, beastin’ on history at the Santa Cruz museum archives

 

 

 

 

The First Week of the Rest of my Life

I’m loving it. Was there ever any doubt? Last night was unusually balmy for April. I was lulled to sleep by the song of frogs and the scent of jasmine, blissfully unaware of what time it was and knowing that it didn’t matter; I would wake with a gentle glide to consciousness whenever I was ready. Even on vacation, one must usually wake at a time certain in order to “get going” — sites to see, places to go, things to do. Retirement bestows a freedom I haven’t experienced since childhood summers. July, say, when school is a distant memory and returning to school seems so far in the future that it’s not worth bothering about.

Okay, today I’m going to start work on the final chapter of Epic Cool. But that hardly counts as working, because I get to do it when I darn well feel like it.

Some people, I hear, have a rough transition when they leave their jobs. These must be the kids who moped around the house during summer vacation, whining that they were bored, that there was “nothing to do.” Good grief. Now as then, I’ve got so many delicious things to do I can scarcely choose between them. So…catch you later; I’m off to paddle happily in my pool of projects!

My Last Weekend

It occurred to me, as I pulled into the garage Friday evening, that this would be my last weekend. My last real weekend, a Saturday and Sunday spent catching up on chores and trying to snatch some “down time” with the threat of Monday morning circling overhead like a buzzard.

Next weekend, as Alice Cooper is wont to remark, school’s out forever. I am leaving my much-loved job at the California Arts Council and returning to my interrupted writing life.

Writing full-time has its own set of frustrations, of course. The income is unreliable, the work itself can be mentally agonizing, and it’s impossible to really do it full-time. At least for me. I can write for about four hours before my brain fries. This is why I went to work for the state of California in the first place; I couldn’t write more than twenty hours a week anyway, so why not get a part-time job for the other twenty hours? This worked fairly well until the Arts Council lured me into a full-time position. I enjoyed the job, and it took eight hours to fry my brain instead of four, but at the end of the day I was fried all the same. And with no words on the page. Needless to say, my books suffered. I have had no new product out since 2012, and the only reason I was able to finish that one (Scary Cool) was that I began it in 2006! One book every six years is insufficient to keep one’s momentum. Trust me.

I hope to do better now, but if you happen to be one of my long-suffering readers, I warn you: I have never been a fast writer, and am unlikely to suddenly flood the market with books.  On the other hand, they will almost certainly appear more frequently than every six years.

Meanwhile, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m about to start my last real work week. I can hardly wait to throw out my alarm clock.

Author Interview – Diane Farr Talks Self-Publishing

A blast from the past: Author Interview – Diane Farr Talks Self-Publishing.

In 2011, I was still a newbie at self-publishing. But, come to think of it, everyone was. That’s how fast times have changed! In this interview I dish the dirt about the good and bad on both sides of the street: traditional publishing and self-publishing:

Q: Can you compare self-publishing to traditional publishing?  Is one easier than the other? Do you like having more control over the process?

A: This has been a long, strange journey for me, full of twists and surprises. I was once a traditionally-published author who honestly believed that self-publishing was mostly—not entirely, but mostly—a consolation prize. In other words, I thought it was for losers.

It seemed glaringly obvious to me that e-publishing, even through a legitimate e-publisher, was so inferior to traditional print publishing that no author in her right mind would consider it as anything other than a last resort—or, rather, a next-to-last resort. Because self-pubbing was surely the last resort; the final destination for manuscripts that had been rejected everywhere else.

That may have been true a few years ago, but publishing has changed so quickly that savvy authors are now giving self-publishing a serious look—in some cases, even before submitting to traditional publishers. And that’s a sea change.

I got caught in the current when I transitioned from writing Regency Historicals to writing YA paranormal. Traditional publishers kept me dangling, unsure if my readership would follow me into a new genre, claiming to “love” my Wicked Cool, but…but…but. I suppose I had grown spoiled, over the years, expecting my books to be bought on proposal. I had “proven” myself—but only in my genre. By changing genres, I had stepped back into the role of newbie. Now I had to produce actual chapters! In fact, I was expected to deliver a complete manuscript before they would take me seriously. I kept working, but I grew impatient.

Finally, a reputable publisher “fell in love” (their words) with Wicked Cool. I had a couple of fabulous telephone conferences with my new editor. Received a contract. Signed it. Returned it. And never heard from the editor or the publisher again.

Now, publishing is a strange and quirky business, but that experience was the last straw. I pulled the plug on Wicked Cool, thanked my agent for all her hard (albeit fruitless) work, and gave it to an e-publisher—who snapped it up with an alacrity very soothing to my bruised ego.

I didn’t expect much, and I didn’t receive much. (Remember, at this point I considered e-publishing the “better than nothing” alternative.) I was pleased to have the book available, professionally edited and with nice cover art. But a few months after publishing Wicked Cool, my e-publisher revamped their imprint, went all-romance, and gave me back my rights.

“Oh, well,” I thought. “At least now I can self-publish a print version so my sisters can each have a copy.” And I did that. And part of the process of doing that was creating a cover. So I published Wicked Cool to Kindle while I was at it. After all, all the work was already done; the sucker was formatted and had cover art. And publishing to Kindle was free. So what the heck?

Talk about low expectations!

At first, I did absolutely no marketing. I didn’t even add it to my email signature, or talk about it on Facebook, or tweet it. Nothing. My expectations were nil. But, lo and behold, people started buying the book. My first sales were just four or five books a week—a number I found astonishing, frankly. I was absolutely dumbfounded when my sales doubled, then tripled, then went through the roof. (Somewhere along in there, I mentioned it on Facebook and added it to my email signature. But still.) Wicked Cool spent most of the summer as No. 1 on Amazon’s YA paranormal list.

So now…I’m a believer!

You asked me to compare self-publishing to traditional publishing. It’s difficult, because the two experiences are so different. Each has pros and cons.

The “pros” of traditional publishing are pretty obvious. You receive an advance and a contract with a deadline—a combination that often is the difference between finishing the book and not finishing the book. In a perfect world, the advance gives you enough to live on while you write, and the deadline lights a fire under you so you stop procrastinating. Meanwhile, you have a team of professionals at your back—a team that is every bit as invested in your success as you are. Your manuscript will be edited, copy-edited, typeset, proofed, and seen by many pairs of eyes. This helps minimize errors and guarantee that the end product will be as close to perfect as humanly possible. Marketing geniuses will design a cover, write back cover copy, figure out the perfect placement and pricing and who-knows-what, aiming to put your book in the hands of the readers who are most likely to buy it. And let’s not forget the prestige factor. That is not to be taken lightly. It feels really, really good to get picked up by a publisher—especially a “big six” publisher. Looks great on a resume. Or a query letter, for that matter.

The “cons” of traditional publishing may be less obvious, to those who haven’t had the experience. The first, of course, is that it’s really, really hard to get in the door. You have to have talent and you have to have luck. Editors don’t want to see your unagented manuscript, thank you very much, but agents aren’t interested in unpublished writers. Once you somehow get past that Catch-22, there is normally a wait of weeks or months while your manuscript is passed around and discussed (or, worse, sits on someone’s desk untouched—and you will never know which fate has befallen your precious manuscript until the decision is finally announced.) This is your first experience of the glacial pace at which the publishing industry moves, and believe me, it never gets any better or any less frustrating.

After the euphoric moment when you get “the call,” you may wait months for a contract. You sign quickly and return it, and sit patiently by your mailbox for the next weeks or months, waiting for your countersigned copy and your advance. Your book will actually be published a year (or eighteen months, or two years) after that. By this time, your advance is long gone, together with most of your dignity and all your self-esteem. They have vetoed all your ideas, including your chosen title, and slapped a title of their choosing on your work. They have created a cover without consulting you—and, love it or hate it, no changes will be made. (There is still cover art up at Amazon.com for one of my books with my name misspelled.) They have paid the cover artist more than they paid you. They probably paid the copy editor more than they paid you. Maybe they pay their mail room clerk more than they pay you; you’ll never know and you’re probably happier not asking. You are a cog in the machine, and by the time your book comes out you will feel like the least important cog. And it’s best not to borrow any money against the royalties you expect to receive in the future. Because, again, your first royalty statement won’t arrive for another year—yes, that’s right, a year after publication, which was a year or more after signing the contract, which was several months after you got “the call,” which was several months after you or your agent submitted the manuscript—and when it does, it will be an incomprehensible sheet of contradictory numbers with no check attached.

Okay, there may be a check attached. If you’re lucky. But book sales are even harder to predict than the stock market. So don’t get your hopes up, you worthless cog.

You see? Pros and cons…!

But there are pros and cons to self-publishing, too.

The “pros” begin with the absence of gatekeepers. Nobody will ever say “no” to you. You don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval. You don’t even have to wait for feedback or input of any kind. You want to publish something? Publish it.

Oh, wait, that’s a “con” as well as a “pro.” Because the gatekeepers are what gives traditional publishing its well-deserved reputation for quality.

If you self-publish, my best advice is to run it past as many pairs of eyes as you can coax into looking at it. No matter how well you type or how clean your copy is, there will be errors in a novel-length work. You should catch as many as you can.

The author has complete creative control. Again, this is both a “pro” and a “con.” It’s blissful to have no combative personalities to deal with, and nobody you have to handle with kid gloves because they have all the power and you desperately want their approval. When you self-publish, you have all the power, and you can be as nice to yourself as you like. But on the other hand, those editors and marketing people have their jobs because they are excellent at what they do—and some of the changes they browbeat authors into making are changes for the better. Without these people interfering in your business, you will feel much more relaxed and cheerful. But you may be producing an inferior product—and you’ll never even know it.

Your self-publishing ventures will pay you a much, much higher percentage than a traditional publisher is willing to offer. And you won’t have to negotiate to get it. The “con” on this one? You’ll be getting a bigger piece of a smaller pie. Sometimes a much smaller pie. So it can be hard, sometimes impossible, to measure whether you’re better off self-pubbing or trad-pubbing. Sometimes it’s obvious, one way or the other, but often it isn’t.

The next “pro” has no downside, as far as I can tell, and that’s the transparency and immediacy of self-publishing. You will see your sales happening in real time, and money will be deposited directly into your bank account on a monthly basis. There is nothing, nothing like this in traditional publishing. At least not yet.

Here’s the worst “con” that I’ve found with self-publishing, one that can’t be mitigated without incurring expenses that an author may or may not be able to handle:  no marketing or art departments! You are going to have to pay for cover art, put up with sucky cover art, or be extremely clever and/or talented. Plus you have to advertise the book yourself, trumpet it via social media, or cross your fingers and hope for the best. From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s difficult to type with crossed fingers. So now you know what method I use.

My Favorite Things — for Christmas!

My Favorite Things — for Christmas!.

Thank you, Diana Belchase and the Waterworld Mermaids, for including my Dashing through the Snow among your favorites!

This, by the way, is my first venture into audiobookworld. I chose it because it’s a novella. I figured, how hard can this be? It’s just a novella. I’ll sit down, read it into a microphone, and that’ll be that. After all, I used to be a voiceover actress in Hollywood. I still have my AFTRA card somewhere. Piece of cake, right?

Well … I sort of underestimated this brave new world of DIY. When I was a voiceover talent, I showed up, read my copy, did a take or two (or three), picked up my check and went home. It was probably the easiest acting job in the world. This project didn’t work quite that way. I had to not only read the darn thing, I had to engineer it too. I had to edit out all the dead air and random noises, watch a bunch of YouTube how-to videos on audio compression and blah blah blah, and drive myself crazy applying what I learned.

Okay, it was fun. But it took forever!

I hope you enjoy the result:

Dashing Through the Snow | [Diane Farr]

 

Pitching my tent at Muse Camp

I was interviewed for Muse Camp recently and allowed to natter on and on about my journey from “trad” publishing to “indie.” For those of you who are interested, you can listen to the interview for free through November 22nd: http://musecamp.com/spe_dianefarr/

Muse Camp is a great site, with inspiring stories, tips, interviews, and support for writers of every stripe. Anyone who has been to summer camp will understand the concept! There’s something about getting away with a group and focusing intently on something for a few days that refreshes the spirit.

Enjoy!