Monthly Archives: August 2014

Pre-Order functionality for Indies

For a long time, one of the advantages of traditional publishing was the ability to get pre-orders. The soon-to-be-published book would be visible in online shops with a possibility to order a copy which would then be shipped upon publication. Trad-Pubs then had considerable time to promote their upcoming release. The good thing is that all pre-orders would count as sales on the day of publication, making the book much more visible to potential readers. So far, Indies didn’t have many shops where they could garner pre-orders, and of those that did offer it, not many made much sense to use.

Now, amazon announced a pre-order option for Indies. If that will benefit authors and small publishers remains to be seen. One thing is for certain. We’ll have to get better at scheduling our releases. It doesn’t make much sense to offer a book for pre-order if it’s all proofed, has a cover and is ready to go. But it will be interesting for ongoing series where readers often want to know when the next volume will be available. Of course that means that if you set a publication date, you’ll have to stick with it. There’s nothing worse then an unplanned delay.

I, for one, am really curious to see how well pre-orders will do once I know how to use them well. How about you? If you’re a reader, are you the kind of person who uses pre-orders? If you’re a writer, will you try out this feature and what do you expect from it?

What Makes a Story Unique / Original?

I’ve been doing some research / study on originality in fiction. Remembering the conventional wisdom that there are only so many plots in the world, and all of them have been done many times…and by the masters, how do contemporary writers have a hope of writing original, unique works?

One persistent response is “voice”, that elusive element that marks your work as your own. Something that an individual writer often can’t recognize in their own work, but that others read and say, “Oh. Of course. That’s a Deb Logan story.”

But more than voice, where does originality reside? Is it in a gimmick? Some little detail that no one else has thought of that an author can build their plot (which has been done before…and by the masters) around?

I decided to look at three of my favorite series and see what insights I could gain. Each of these three has a distinct gimmick…but is that the answer to their uniqueness? Let’s see.

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Colfer built an entire series of eight middle grade fantasy novels around an imaginative bit of word play: leprechaun = LEP Recon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance). I love that … wish I’d thought of it first *lol* I heard Colfer speak once and he revealed another bit about why this series is so original: he based the main character, Artemis Fowl—who begins the series as a 12-year-old criminal mastermind—on his older brother, thereby pulling in Colfer’s own emotional history. It’s a delightful series with a great character arc leavened with lots of age-appropriate humor.
  1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher – The first book of Butcher’s Dresden Files series introduces us to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a contemporary wizard living and working in Chicago. It’s the little touches that really make Harry unique – the fact that he advertises in the yellow pages under “W for Wizard”; his sidekick and helper, Bob, is a disembodied spirit who lives in a skull and loves romance novels; his cat, with the nondescript name of Mister; and eventually his dog, Mouse, a gentle giant with magic of his own – a Tibetan Temple dog (Foo dog). All through this series Butcher creates memorable and unique characters, giving them a life of their own while breaking traditional stereotypes. (His vampires are truly terrifying…and completely original.)
  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – this series could be described as time-travel romance, but you’d be limiting its scope. Diana’s gimmick is that Claire Randall, a nurse who has just survived WWII, is sucked back in time through a circle of Scottish standing stones. Doesn’t sound all that original, but her characterization is amazing. Diana writes really LONG novels, and there are eight in this series (so far) all centering on the passionate love of ONE couple: Claire and Jamie. I don’t know many writers capable of keeping me interested in the life and love of a single couple over that many words, but she pulls it off. Plus, her main characters jump from being in their late 20’s in the first book, to nearing 50 in the 2nd, and the relationship remains just as intense.

Interesting. A good gimmick is great to start the ideas flowing (LEP-Recon; Wizard for hire; time-travel), but what makes the story original ultimately is the depth of characterization and the author’s own emotional history woven into those characters. All of these books have characters that I love as well as characters that I love to hate.

Each of these writers has created characters so real, that I feel like I know them … and not just the heroes. Even the secondary characters have personalities so distinct that I can recognize them from dialogue alone.

Which leads me to conclude that originality, uniqueness, memorability, isn’t a function of the gimmick or the plot as much as it is a by-product of characters so real they leap off the page and drag you into their lives, loves, and adventures.

What do you think? What makes your favorite books memorable for you?

Audiobooks- Will and Karin Chat on the other way to your readers

I’m chatting with Karin Gastreich about a-books. This is one of those decorous corners of the self-pub world, like coming across a hidden niche in a mansion, with lovely furniture that just makes you want to sit and take it in. Were you as charmed by the idea as I was when it first came up- and hey, whenabouts did it come up in your career as an author, right away or recently?
Karin_Rita_GastreichWell, I signed on with a small press, Hadley Rille Books, and in that initial contract they asked for the audio rights. So right from the beginning, the idea was in my head, thanks (or no thanks) to my editor. But it took a while to make that dream happen.
I’m curious: What charms you about the thought of an audiobook?
I could try to lie, but- it’s the sound of my own voice! I can’t think about a-books as anything other than self-narrated. I’m an old acting ham from way back. My first effort, The Ring and the Flag, drew me because I knew I could convey some of my passion for the tale with the spoken word.
Yes, me too! I love acting and reading out loud. As a consummate narcissist, I especially love reading my own stories.

You couldn’t possibly be as egotistical as me!  What’s more, reading my own writing out loud is a best practice for finding odd constructions, run-on sentences, repeated words. I find that talking out my chapters is half the rehearsal I need to record it later anyway. Will 1
Yup. I totally agree. There’s no better way to edit.

Where do you come in on the Fear of Being Heard Scale? Would you contemplate narrating your own stories? Can anyone else do them better?

I would have loved to have done the audio edition of EOLYN. In fact, my editor, after hearing me read a few times, suggested that very option. But I don’t have the time to read a full book, or the means to record it properly. So I think I knew from the beginning that we would have to find another narrator.Darla_Middlebrook

Can anyone else do them better? Well, I would say Darla Middlebrook probably did a better job with EOLYN than I could have. She has a gift for voices that I don’t share; and I think she understands pacing for an audiobook better than I do.

Hold the phone, what do you mean by “pacing”?

Well, basically just the rhythm with which one reads the story. It’s one thing to listen to a 10-minute read; another to listen to a 14-hour read. People need time to digest all the details when listening to a book; they can’t flip back through the pages to double check on something they forgot. The narrator needs to respect that, to keep an even pace that’s not too fast or too slow.
Oh, and there’s something else that I suspect might be important. Darla connected to the story as a reader; I will never get past connecting to the story as an author. Darla probably saw elements in my work that I am blind to, and so was able to capture and interpret these elements in ways that I could not have.

Hey that’s right, she does count as a reader! Heavy.

Yes, and I’m really glad that in addition to narrating the book, Darla also liked it! She is doing the audio edition of the companion novel, HIGH MAGA, which should be out sometime this fall.

Will 5I will confess, marketing a-books has been a puzzle for me. I posted my one complete tale to Podiobooks at first, and later decided to also try Scribl, where people can get the e-or-a-book and the price is crowdsourced. I can’t help but feel it’s out of the way there, though; I link to it and mention it, but… any great insight come your way about how to push the tale in people’s ears?

Marketing is tough. I’m just getting started with the audio edition of EOLYN, and am still exploring possible channels. A lot of what’s out there (book blogs, forums like Goodreads, etc.) is very much geared toward the ebook or print market.
One interesting thing has happened since the release of EOLYN in audio. HRB coordinated production through the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). As a result, Audible (i.e., Amazon) sets the list price. When the audio book was released and I first saw the price tag, I thought “No one is going to pay that!” Why would they, when the ebook is so much cheaper?

I think I’d have the same problem, separating the price in my head. A tale’s a tale, surely?
But to my surprise, people are buying the audiobook, not in hordes, but consistently since its release. I’m hoping that as I pick up on my marketing effort, that will increase. I suspect that the market for audio books is not nearly as saturated as the market for ebooks, so it’s probably a little easier to get noticed.

Agree, and it sounds like your publisher did good work for you there.

I would say that it’s probably a good idea to establish a track record for your work before releasing an audio edition. Let the reviews of the ebook (and print) editions build up a little. The more buzz you already have once you go audio, the better.

Whoa, print, I’ve heard about books written on paper. So the platform can never be wide enough, I guess that’s fair to say. And you’re right, I keep hearing (!) about folks who want good audio materials for things like the daily commute. It just seems to make so much sense, especially if you have a book with good chapter-breaks.I did get some notice and nice feedback on the audio first chapter of Games of Chance I used on the blog tour. An audio-file as a blog post might be a nice way to sample a tale. Have you done that?

Yes, I have posted some audio recordings of my readings on the blog. There is a page that carries readers to those links, and it’s one of the most visited pages. I think people really like to hear an author read his or her work.

You mean, besides ourselves? Yes, I’ve heard that too. But let’s assume we’re getting a narrator. Tell me a bit about who you looked for, why you picked Darla; did you chat with her before she started recording, for example?
Eolyn_Audio_Cover_compressedWhen HRB decided to do the a-book, they solicited auditions through the ACX platform. Interested narrators, after reading the book blurb, recorded and posted their auditions, which consisted of an excerpt provided by the publisher.
Darla was one of the first people to audition. Since HRB is a small press, my editor asked me to listen to the potential narrators. (Not sure if a large press would have given me that option.) I knew nothing about this back then, so really I was going on instinct. Darla has a rich voice, and it simply “felt” like the right choice. My editor agreed, so the decision was made. During the auditions, I had no direct interactions with potential narrators; HRB took care of that.
One thing I’ve figured out since then: When choosing an excerpt for an audition, pick a scene the has a lot of voices, male and female, preferably of different ages. That will give you a very good feel for the versatility of your narrator.
What have you heard about the pitfalls here?

Well there are many pitfalls in making an a-book. I’ve had a great experience with Darla Middlebrook, but some of my fellow authors have run into problems with audio productions. Narrators occasionally defect from the project, or the final recording is not satisfactory for any number of reasons, or the name pronunciation or voices are all off. It took us about 4 months to produce EOLYN with everything running smoothly, but I have colleagues who started their audio production at the same time I did and still do not have a final product in sight.
I guess one advantage of doing your own audio recording is that you depend on no one else but you. What has been your experience, recording stories in your own studio?

My studio, that’s a laugh. I rustled up a microphone that had come free with some game or other, made in the Philippines back before Marcos stepped down. And I stuck it in the crack of a music stand, and put that into my PC (using Audible, which is free and great) facing into my daughter’s closet (so the clothes would help deaden the echo). I read the entire novella into my PC like that, three times- I mean multiple takes of each paragraph, going back and scrubbing the project and coming back to re-record three times. I have no idea how many hours I spent- so much pop, crackle, what sounded like background noise, and an irregular bub-bub-bubb sound like I was gently bouncing the mike. Argh!
But I got through it, and after some significant heavy-handed engineering I think the end product sounds quite good. Have to say I was really unsure if I’d go ahead on those terms though. Suddenly, a friend simply sent me a microphone- a really good one.

Good friend, or good microphone?

Yes! Both. I was stunned. That’s what I used to read off the first audio chapter of Games of Chance– in like half an hour, no pops, no sounds, nothing. And a stand, with one of those foam circles to catch your spit- I feel like Peebo Bryson recording the end-music for a Disney movie.
That’s awesome. For any author who has the equipment, talent, and time, I’d say go for it. Record your stories and put them out there. For the rest of us who are a little hesitant to take on this particular challenge alone, ACX is a great alternative for making our work available to a wider audience.

Thanks Karin, really good chat. Everybody, get down with the links below especially the trailer and the rafflecopter at the bottom. And let’s “hear” from you in the comments!

EOLYN http://edition
Karin Rita Gastreich (author)
Darla Middlebrook (narrator)

Sole heiress to a forbidden craft, Eolyn lives in a world where women of her kind are tortured and burned. When she meets Akmael, destined to assume the throne of this violent realm, she embarks upon a path of adventure, friendship, betrayal and war. Bound by magic, driven apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King confront each other in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes will satisfy fans of traditional epic fantasy, with a romantic thread.” – Publishers Weekly

“Magnificently written.” –Kindle Book Review

Purchase Link:

Link to YouTube Preview:


About the Author:

KARIN RITA GASTREICH lives in Kansas City and Costa Rica. An ecologist by trade, her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. Karin’s first fantasy novel, EOLYN, was released by Hadley Rille Books in 2011. The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is also available from Hadley Rille Books. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. Follow Karin’s adventures into fantastic worlds, both real and imagined, at and at

Author web links:

Blog for Eolyn:
Blog Heroines of Fantasy:
Twitter: @EolynChronicles

About the Narrator:

With experience of 34+ years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, more than 20 years as a stage & film actor and over 20 years as a trained singer with knowledge and insight into the mechanics of the voice and speech, Darla Middlebrook brings a wealth of experience to bear to develop character voices (male, female, mature, extremely elderly, creepy, bright exotic, etc) with an impressive emotional range.

Currently, Darla is one of many voice actors who narrates podcasts for AIRS-LA (an audio internet service for individuals with visual challenges) in addition to narrating audio books. She is able to produce retail quality audio books from her home studio in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – Canada.

Narrator Web Links:

Twitter: @GypsyCatVoice

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