Spoiler Free Summary: The Door Keeper by Steen Jones was my March Book Cover of the Month. It’s a fantasy story about Eden Saunders, a young single mother whose trip to learn more about her birth mother thrusts her into realms she’d never imagine. As she learns more of her place of origin, her mother’s secrets and tragedies leave her with a choice that will affect not only her life, but that of her young daughter.
Character: Eden has some sympathy to her, and she’s proactive. Honestly, my knock on her is she’s a bit too proactive. I found myself wishing she’d thought of a few things more carefully before she found herself in danger. This seemed like an intentional character flaw to me as she habitually acts first and then considers those consequences later. Some of those impulsive decisions didn’t necessarily sit well with me, but her actions lead to more interesting conflicts which have higher stakes. Some of these characters were interesting, but unexplored. Marek, is a character I would’ve liked to have seen explored more. His arc was probably the most interesting, but it wasn’t honestly pursued.
Exposition: If I’m being honest, it’s been too long for me to remember much about the exposition. It was first person narrative, but I don’t honestly recall too much exposition. It could be the amount of time it’s been, but I don’t think so. I’d remember being slowed down by a ton of exposition, and this book didn’t slow me down that much. I have to be honest about the time though. I’d say it was done only when necessary if I was forced to comment on it.
Worldbuilding: This is the best quality of this book. The realms are interesting. This is what kept me reading. Portals (or in this case literal doors) to other places aren’t rare in fiction like this, but the world building for each culture and each setting stand apart. The author seemed to have given a lot of thought to the appearance of each realm as well as the political landscape.
Dialogue: This was hit or miss for me. Sometimes it was snappy, but other times it felt a tad forced. I’d never go so far as to say it was ever stilted or bad, but the snappy, witty segments showed promises of what could be where the more forced or stereotypical dialog passages were harder to handle because I knew what Jones could do.
Description: If the worldbuilding is the best aspect of the book, this is the next closest. Jones makes each setting and location feel visceral. I honestly think her magical realms feel more real sometimes than her Earth realm settings. I think her worldbuilding and description work together brilliantly. This means if wondrous landscapes and brilliant details are priorities for you, this book is probably right up your alley.
Overall: This was an ambitiously optimistic novel with a fascinating world to explore. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for stories jam-packed with conflict. The problems and challenges are quickly overcome without a lot of effort or sacrifice. (Some may argue the sacrifice part, but I’m willing to have it with whoever wants.) That said, some readers appreciate a story that’s happy and hopeful throughout. The entertainment of the story is in the experience of the worlds, not the evolution of it’s characters. Fans of wondrous landscapes and interesting settings will love it.
As the title indicates, I met my goal and finished this draft of Repressed. I’m happy with how it turned out. Before I go over some administrative notes, I want to make sure I thank my Alpha Readers.
First is Ben. He’s always first. He’s my best friend, and reads every first draft I throw his way, even while working a full-time job and helping my sister raise two wonderful, but active, children. Well…the Senior is all grown up, but I digress. Ben pointed out a few of the logistical conundrums this story had, and offered some advice I’ll account for when the book is completely finished.
Next is Grace, who I met at a convention. She liked Caught and wanted more. She was kind enough to not only send some general comments, but she also sent a document that highlighted some of the more egregious typos. She could have just sent an email, but she took time out of her life to give something I wrote a degree of detail I felt was above and beyond. I can’t thank her enough.
Whenever I write something, I try to stretch my abilities. I knew that since this book featured Kaitlyn, who’s 16 at the time of this story, the novella would fall into the YA category, which I’m honestly not a huge fan of. But art and entertainment can do so many wonderful things. I’ve always believed that not liking a person or thing has more to do with understanding it than it being bad. So trying to write this story was a way of approach the genre. However, I’m not going to pretend I know everything about everything. I reached out to the Slush Brain, and Chess DeSalls answered the call. She was my “YA” expert, and I was very happy with her feedback. She’s a successful YA author, and I’ve even reviewed one of her books.
Peggy has not only read every book I’ve published, she’s also helped me sell more books than anyone else. She read my call for alpha readers, and decided to get some advanced reading done. Peggy, Grace, and Ben were particularly helpful because they’ve all read Caught, which I’m honored to say spent a few days on the Top 100 for its category (psychics) for a few days this weekend, and I was very concerned about keeping these elements together.
The reality is anyone can write up a book and get it published. I don’t want to just throw crap on the digital wall. I want stories that inspire and entertain. I want to write stories people enjoy. These alpha and beta (two drafts away) readers are critical to making that happen. They provide honest, direct feedback that lets me make the stories better. I can’t do this without them. Thank you!
So what’s next? Well, I’m going to take the rest of this weekend to watch football and read Oathbringer (probably not the whole book, but a LOT).
Monday, I’ll begin the First Draft of The Worth of Words, my contribution to The Power of Words anthology (Happy to report I’ve received yet another submission by the way). I’ll update you all via Twitter and Facebook on my progress there. Sara and I have began talking about how long she’ll need for developmental edits. If I finish the First Draft of The Worth of Words, I’ll start world building and outlining Betrayed (Oneiros Book 2).
That’s what I’ll be up to through December. Again, I want you all to know what a blessing it is to have anyone even remotely interested in my ramblings. It’s amazing! I’ll keep working hard to believe blogs you enjoy and books you can’t put down. As always…
I’m hard at work on the Alpha Draft of Repressed, which is a little more than halfway done. I’m going to make a huge effort to finish this draft and get it sent to Sara by the end of the weekend. That’s honestly an ambitious goal, but it is feasible.
Finishing that will mean I get to do another draft of Worth of Words, which means it’s time to just keep the word going about the Power of Words anthology.
I’m happy to say I’ve received a few submissions already. I honestly didn’t expect many to come in this early, but they have. I’m still hopeful to get a lot more. My intent is for the anthology to have seven stories. What I imagine is a lot of you are like me. You have the tendency to submit closer to the deadline.
I want you to know that’s completely fine. I’ve told those who’ve already submitted that I won’t start reading until the deadline. This is so I can give this project the attention it deserves. I’m a man of momentum, and I don’t do well when I have to shift gears that quickly. I like to have a project “in waiting” and a project “in progress.” For instance, right now Repressed is “in progress,” and Worth of Words is “in waiting.” This keeps me busy while I’m waiting for edits. I might have to deal with shifting gears, but if I’m reading submissions, I’m more likely to be able to do that than if I’m editing my own work. My hope is to read submissions while drafting Betrayed, Oneiros Book 2.
I hope you’re all having a proactive month of writing, and I truly hope to see your submissions during the end of the month.
The October Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. I’m happy to report we’re off the snide we were on. This month had a solid amount of support, and I’m so grateful to everyone for helping make that happen. These brackets are special to me, and they grow more legitimate and meaningful each time we keep heading forward.
We had 4,007 votes this month.
We had another one of those months where someone leaps out and charges ahead of the crowd. Let’s here it!
The October Book Cover of the Month is…
Demonhome by Michael G. Manning! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.
Manning received 297 total votes. He jumped out in front around Day 2, and never looked back.
Chosen by R.S. Broadhead finished second, which means that’ll have another chance to be the Book Cover of the Month for November. Since November only has 30 days, The Fallen Queen by Janie Marie, who fell to third, also get’s a shot at another bracket. This is actually critical (see below).
That said, Manning is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.
Matthew is the first human wizard to possess the true heritage of the Illeniels, a secret gift no one fully understands. Alone, he travels to another world, seeking the source of their mysterious enemies. There he will discover the origin of their ancient foe, the mysteries of the past, and possibly the future of humankind.
If he can survive long enough.
In a land beyond death and suffering, he finds the true source of evil, within the heart of humanity, and their newest creation. In the search for knowledge, some doors, once opened, can never be closed.
Confession one, this wasn’t the cover I personally voted all he way through. It’s beautiful, it just wasn’t my favorite. (For the record, no book I voted number one never actually won.) Confession two, I’m still glad this book won because I had already intended to read it, so while my TBR pile still goes up by one, it doesn’t double the way it normally does around this time. I’ll buy the audio edition of this book (my preferred medium with this saga).
Here’s Manning’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.
I wonder if Amalia Chitulescu (who did Manning’s other BCOTM winning cover) was the artist for this one. I’m not sure. I’ll try to find out. If so, she’d be only the second artist to win BCOTM. Shawn King has credit (or partial credit) for two covers as well.
The November bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Dec. 1.
Now, that brings up some additional news. My first ever BOOK COVER OF THE YEAR tournament is coming. This will feature all 12 BCTOM winners and four “Wild Card” covers.
The Wild Card Round: This will be a one-week bracket featuring covers that performed well, but just didn’t ever win. It will have eight covers, and the top four will earn places in the BCOTM bracket.
The Book Cover of the Year Bracket (for which I’m purchasing an actual trophy to send to the artist) will launch Jan. 1. It will be a two-week tournament. Then, I’ll laugh the December Book Cover of the Month, which will start off a new year. Honestly, I haven’t decided weather or not I will do another year. At this moment, as I type this, I’m leaning toward doing it, but it takes a ton of energy to do this. (For the record, a lot of participation in the brackets motivates me). I promise I’ll close out the year because that had always been my plan. I’ll make a decision on next year at the end of the November bracket.
I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebookpage, you can see what covers will make the bracket.
I’m thrilled to announce the that second edition of The Journals of Bob Drifter is live! After two more editorial passes, two different design runs, a huge lesson in publishing a digital book (which I’ll blog about tomorrow), and a brief wait, my book is back on the digital shelf. The buy page for the book on my website (linked above) has been updated for the second edition (the audio book won’t change (that was already solid). The paperback SHOULD be out today or tomorrow (I get to look at the printed proof today). Here’s the link to the Amazon 99 cent buy page.
To celebrate, I have Bob at 99 cents during the month of November. Can you all help me get Bob’s story off to a great start?
A reminder: This is not a sequel! I did an editorial pass, and now I can set the price, which helped. I’ve explained this, but I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off because they bought a book they’ve already read.
For those interested in knowing, there are so many ways to help an indie author get more visibility. This is a perfect opportunity to mention those things. I hope those of you reading this take a few moments to do any of these things. It really helps a writer out.
Buy the book. Sales always help. It’s a customer’s way of showing support so much more than it is an author’s way to make money.
Read the book. I’ve had a lot of personal friends buy my books. They’re not readers. They love me, and want to support me, so they buy my books, which is great! The next step up is to read it. Now if you’re in the first few chapters and it doesn’t hook you, don’t force yourself to do anything you don’t enjoy, but I always tell people that the biggest thing anyone can do for an indie author is to buy, read, and enjoy the book.
Leave a rating. This takes less than a second, and some people really rely on these ratings. Don’t be afraid of leaving a one-star rating, but I hope you feel Bob or Caught is worthy of a five-star rating.
Leave a review. This is absolutely essential to indie authors, especially on Amazon. The book’s visibility on Amazon is directly related to the sales and number of reviews. This is why some, less ethical, authors by fake reviews (I don’t). The review doesn’t have to be as detailed as one of mine or long. It can be a simple sentence. As long as there’s a text review, you’re helping. Amazon has some strict rules on these. Goodreads is another great place to leave a rating and review. I’m a big fan of Goodreads as it’s the only social media I’m aware of that is just for reading. If you do both, that’s really some next-level support.
Recommend this book to readers you know. Word of mouth is still the best marketing strategy. Most of my favorite books and authors were recommended to me. The only author I take credit for “discovering” is Peter V. Brett, who I discovered while reading an anthology. If you know someone who reads, and you think they’ll like an authors (my) book, let them know about it.
You can always like and share posts about sales and new books as well.
So those are just some ways to support an author. Please don’t consider this a “direction.” I’ve had a few people ask what they can do, so I thought this post at this time was appropriate. At the end of the day, all any writer wants is for people to buy, read, and enjoy his stories. Many of you have already done that. I can’t thank you all enough for the support you’ve already given. I hope those who haven’t had a chance to read Bob choose today to give it a try.
The main reason I wanted to do a 2nd edition was to gain more control over the price and make it easier for people to purchase. I also wanted to be able to have electronic e-sales. Making this decision allowed me to do another editorial pass. In truth, I did three.
By my count, that means I’ve done about 41 total passes on this book. This isn’t to say I’ve rewritten it, I’m proud to say I only did about three “full” revisions. These were drafts where I changed or rearranged content. The rest were proofreading drafts, and that’s where I want to focus my attention.
There’s this term, minimum viable product. I’ll be honest, I hate that term. To me, it connotes, “get it printed as quickly as possible, and don’t worry about the quality.” Perhaps I take that term too far, but I’ve read work completed under that banner, and to be frank, it never works out well. The typos and issues pull me out of the story and away from the plot.
However, the other side of that coin is even worse. You see, at some point, you have to let it go. This is why I hold so firmly to my process. It’s the balance I’ve found between ensuring the best product I can get to my readers while ensuring I actually release something.
Too many people ever finish a book or never publish it because they want it to be perfect. Here’s the brutal truth: You’ll never be perfect. Of the 41 times I’ve read Bob Drifter, I’ve never failed to find a rather significant number of issues. It’s simply going to happen when one writes 133,000 words. Now, this version is FAR cleaner than the last, and it should be. I’ve been told that the industry standard for “number of errors” in a book is 3% (author and editor friends, I’d appreciate confirmation of this). That means I could theoretically have more than 3,900 typos in Bob drifter, and I’d still be “within standard.”
I never counted, but even after paying my editor to do a pass on the book, I found an embarrassing number of grammar errors and typos. I even noticed a minor continuity issue. (It appears Richard used to own a house that changed color. I fixed that.) I assure you, my editor did a fine job. I promise I gave my best effort the other 40 times I went over the book. The simple fact of the matter is the book will never be “perfect.” I have to give you readers the best, high-quality product I can in a timely manner. That means taking a breath, and letting the story get out into the world at some point.
I don’t in any way agree with the philosophy of “just get the product out.” Those who disagree with me are welcome to, and you can even comment if you wish. This is simply my opinion on a common topic of discussion in the industry.
What I do support is the idea that you have to, at some point, release a book.
What I recommend:
Develop a plan, and hold to it. I’ve mentioned my plan a few times in a few different blogs, but because I can’t think of any one to refer you to, I’ll just go over it.
Discovery draft: get the story written.
First draft: Fill in holes. Flesh out the plot. Read out loud until you don’t catch any errors. (This usually takes me between 3-7 “passes.”)
Alpha draft: Get alpha readers’ feedback. Take information under advisement and address concerns. Read out loud until you don’t catch any errors. (This time it usually takes me 2-5 “passes.”)
Editorial draft: Sara gets her hands on the product and provides her developmental edits. I take those recommendations into consideration and make appropriate changes. Read out loud until you don’t catch any errors. (The remainder of these “read-throughs” usually take between 1-3 passes.)
Beta draft: Send the draft out to the target audience. Apply their feedback. Read out loud until you don’t catch any errors.
Copyediting draft: This one goes back to Sara. She looks at the structure and grammar. Read out loud until you don’t catch any errors.
Proofreading draft: The last draft before I send it to publish. Simply read out loud until I can’t find an error.
Proof draft: When I get my proof (digital or physical), I read it out loud, making any changes I catch. I don’t repeat the process, I simply correct what I catch.
Is this too much for you? That’s OK, you can’t minimize. I wouldn’t be angry at someone who doesn’t do “read out loud” passes until the copyediting draft.
Arguments against my way: “What do you pay an editor for?”
I’m glad you ask. I pay Sara to catch what I miss. The more errors I blatantly ignore or don’t bother to look for, the more likely she is to miss something. I’m sure Sara would much rather I send her my best than if I send her a group of random fragments for her to polish into a book. If I did that to her, I may as well give her credit as a co-author. She’s the editor, but I’m the writer. It’s my job to give her my best product, and her job to make it better.
However, once I finish my process, I let the book go. I haven’t even looked at Sojourn, even though it’s not even scheduled to be turned in until later this winter. I followed my process, and I trust it. I’m sure people will note errors, and I’ll note them and offer my thanks to any who tell me about them, but I did my best with the time I gave myself to develop the story.
This is the process that works for me. You can use it, use your own, or use mine to develop something new. The point is, give your best effort. Don’t expect your editors to take your “least” efforts and make it stand out, but don’t edit a 30,000-word story 30,000 times and take years to release what should come out in a matter of months. (I’m delaying my releases because of a marketing and momentum plan, but those products will be finished well before my “deadlines.”)
A note: Please don’t feel insulted. Perhaps you have a different definition of “minimum viable product.” I’m happy to hear it, though I’ll probably still disagree, it doesn’t make you wrong any more than it makes me right. Like I said, find what works for you. The point is, give your products the love you want your readers to give those products, but remember they can’t love the books at all if you never publish.
What I hope is this post motivates you to publish that book you’ve edited 40 times. Get that story out in the world because you worked hard on it. If you’ve just finished the first draft of a product, do the story a favor and give it a few passes to make sure it’s the best it can be. Perhaps if they called it “most timely viable product,” I’d be more willing to accept it, but that’s not the case.
I hope this motivates you either way. I’m very eager to hear editors’ and authors’ opinions on this matter.
November’s bracket has 31 new books. Last month’s runner up, The Festival of Trial and Ember, by Logan Miehl, also has another chance to win the month.
You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.
As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.
If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.
Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.
A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.
Also, this will be the next to last month of the year. After November’s tournament, I’ll have been doing this for a year. (WOW!) That means the Book Cover of the Year tournament is coming. I’ll start out by having a Wild Card bracket, featuring eight covers that came close, but didn’t quite make it. Those covers will be runners up or high-vote earners. The top four from THAT bracket will be placed in the Book Cover of the Year bracket. The Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Bracket will kick off just as soon as the November Book Cover of the Month tournament ends. If you want to leave a comment for a cover you liked that didn’t get in, feel free. I’ll consider the options, though I think the ones I’m looking at now all have a justifiable right to be consider wild card entrants.
That’s still a month away. For now, please have fun with October’s bracket.
I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.