Friday, June 29, 2012

Making my own book trailer

Okay, so last year I decided to take my unpublished chick lits and indie publish them, because I had nothing to lose. They weren't making any money sitting on my hard drive, and agents and editors all told me that they liked my writing, but that no publisher was touching chick lit with a ten foot pole, not for a new writer. Furthermore, they're Mormon chick lit. I'd already published one book with one of the major LDS publishers and at the end of the day decided it wasn't worth the hassle for the very limited exposure I got in such a tiny, regional market. So, why not see how it worked in the national market? Fast forward eight months and I am making more money from my indie novels than I am from my science fiction short stories, and I've been paid pro rates on my short stories for years, but the gap keeps on widening as the novels sell incrementally more each month. I never thought I'd be a self published author OR a chick lit author. It's funny the twists and turns life takes sometimes. Nowadays I love being both traditional (as Emily Mah, the science fiction/fantasy author) and indie (as E.M. Tippetts, the LDS chick lit/YA author) and what I especially love about being indie is all the skills I have to learn. I know so much more about how a book goes together, gets seen by readers &tc. nowadays, which can only help my traditional publishing career, I think.

So I decided to try to make my own book trailer. I should have kept my first ever draft, but I saved over it. When I realized that it was worth showing a before/after, I did save one of the older drafts.

The images are from Shutter Stock, which is also where a lot of cover designers get the raw material for their cover art (including me), and the music is from Premium Beat. Since I don't have the talent or resources to do a live action trailer, I knew I had to invest a little into getting professional images, and especially into music. Premium Beat does movie trailer music, as in what people in Hollywood literally buy for their trailers. The site has a cheaper rate for us small time indie folks. What is absolutely critical in any business you start up is to be thrifty, not cheap. The idea is to get good value for money, not avoid spending it altogether. If you can only afford a slideshow trailer, then you pay good money to make it the very best slideshow trailer you can afford, and if you can do live action, invest in making it look professional. Having a bunch of your friends in a park speaking Old English with people throwing frisbees in the background is a complete waste of your money. Having no trailer is better than having a bad one.

Sooo, I had to see if I could make a "not bad" one. Here is the first "final draft" version I created:

As I said, the above trailer was my first "final draft", where I thought, "Okay, that'll work". Only it doesn't. There are many, many flaws in it, but the ones I spotted were:

1) No reference to my website. Oops. Duh. I should have that in there because this trailer is embedded in other sites all over the net, including Goodreads, Facebook, and Amazon. It's therefore not enough to mention my website only on YouTube, as not everyone will even see the YouTube page.

2) The text flashes by too fast in parts: Now this is a hard one. My problem is that I'm a speed reader, as in a super speed reader, as in I read Twilight in one day and part of another book too. When the last Harry Potter novel came out, my husband and I were both reading it on a plane. I sat on his right because I was soon one page ahead of him, and within an hour, I was half the book ahead of him. Therefore, I do not have a good concept of how long it takes people to read the text. If they can't read it, that's really ineffective. I'm not sure I was able to fix this one entirely, but I think I made it better.

3) The placement and formatting of the text is weird in places: "Her boyfriend is devoted" has a weird indent in part of it. "the senior class psycho" displays right over a large white portion of the picture for a long time, and worst is the end. I have my sand castle image there, and you'll note the title and my name are positioned to crash right into it. All of this was due to my using Microsoft Movie Maker and it's not intuitively obvious how to position text with that program. I finally figured out that if I had blank lines before or after the text, that would move it up or down the screen.

4) Poor timing of images: I couldn't fix all of this because I don't really know what I'm doing, but where possible I tried to line up more of the image changes to the beats in the music. I think Microsoft Movie Maker offers very limited capability on that score. Some of the images are too slow, like the diary excerpts. You don't actually need to read those, so those can flash by much faster and just give the gist.

5) Too much text in some frames: I really was conscious of how long the whole trailer was because a lot of ones I've seen go on too long. But I figured out in the end that this was a scripting issue more than a trailer editing one. Trailers that go on too long try to cover too much of the plot and get into subplots. Here my experience submitting manuscripts came in very handy. I only talk about the central plot with just a few hand waving hints to subplots in the setup. Given I'd kept the script tight, I could afford to take more time to display less text per frame and keep it on screen long enough for the person to absorb it.

Is the final product perfect? No it is not, but I think it is better, and given it's my first ever book trailer, it's not a complete disaster. See what you think:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We Love WIFYR!

WIFYR? What is this mysterious acronym? Only the best workshop for aspiring authors on the planet! You know you're in the right place when the special guest literary agent says, "The word in New York is that if you want to find the hottest new talent, you go to Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers."

We had five Scribblers Cove contributors in attendance this year: Leisha, Jonene, Rebecca, Amber C., and Kevin, who is not in this picture. Sorry Kevin.
Scribblers Cove out to lunch!

Here's what Leisha has to say about WIFYR:

Leisha with author Matt Kirby
This was my fourth year at WIFYR. I keep going back because I'm not done learning (and won't ever be) and because it's an awesome opportunity to network. I love the people I meet, the friends I make, and the options that open up if you're patient and work hard. This might not sound earth shattering but the point that impacted me the most this year was that I need to stay true to my vision and write the book that needs to be written--the one that won't stay quiet in my head and heart.

Jonene shared these thoughts: 

Jonene and her writing group at WIFYR
This was my third year at WIFYR. When I'm reading a very good book like Harry Potter, I get to disappear into an amazing and intriguing new world for short time. Going to WIFYR is like that. For a week I get to join a world of writers. We soak in the ambiance of others who live and breathe the beauty and excitement of words. We get the very best training by seasoned writers who didn't quit. We make new friends who will keep us going and inspire us in the coming years. We come away with key pieces to the missing parts of our own story puzzles. We also have chances to meet the people (editors, agents, contacts) who can make our writing dreams come true.There are a million more reasons, but the obvious reason we like WIFYR and keep coming back is that we get addicted to such positive, brilliant writing energy.

Amber and Leisha in the auditorium
Amber C. came to WIFYR for the first time this year, and we're pretty sure she was the youngest person in attendance. She'd love to go back again because she learned a lot and she would probably learn more next time. She attended the fantasy class led by Matt Kirby, and her favorite part of the workshop was critiquing her classmates' manuscripts. One thing she learned that she had never thought about before was that good stories have both internal and external conflicts.
I volunteered to help Tim Wynne-Jones with his lecture on dialog
As for me, I've had the full-day workshop experience at WIFYR three times, and each time I felt I've been reborn as a writer. There's a "you can do it" attitude at WIFYR that I haven't found anywhere else. They bring in some of the nicest, most talented people in the publishing industry; authors, agents, and editors. But most of all I enjoy hanging out with my writing buddies and finding new critique partners. It's a great place to come together, and I love it so much that every year since the beginning I've brought along a friend. This year I was finally able to bring my daughter, and my friend Fatma, who has wanted to go to the workshop since I told her about it years ago, was able to come all the way from Oman. I learned a hard lesson this year, that even fiendishly clever opening lines and charming opening scenes that everyone loves have to be cut if they don't serve the story.

I love sharing this awesome workshop with others

We know Kevin was at the workshop. Hello Kevin! But he was so busy running the WIFYR blog and being an assistant for one of the classes that we didn't see him much. If he'd like to add something to this post, he's welcome to!

It was great to see everyone who came to WIFYR, and I hope we can meet there again many times in the years to come.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Someone Will Never Use Me As A Secondary Character

I've come to a sad realization in my life. I will never become a secondary character.

What? WHY NOT?

Well, let's avoid the obvious answer -- that I am the STAR OF THE SHOW. (Hey, even my college roommates declared themselves secondary characters in our college experience. I tend to aim for an exciting life.)

No, the real reason is because no one can pronounce my name. And you just can't put in a name as ridiculous as mine, because eventually people can get Hermione right. As many times as they read my name, it will just baffle the reader so much that they'll put down the book.

My dream of being a character in a book is forever blown away. Le Sigh. 

And NO, I was not a teenage drama queen. Okay, I may have had my moments. Or days... or... um... moving on.

So now I'm asking for advice. As much as I love my name, do I use it in the publishing world? Or will teens show up at the bookstore like, "Um... yeah... I want that new book by that one author with the impossible name."

And OF COURSE the bookseller will be like: "OHHH.... you mean Chersti Nieveen's FABULOUS new book. It's over this way."

So what are your thoughts? Pen name? Initials? Leave the cover nameless. Post your vote below

ps. My name is pronounced SHARE-STEE NEH-VENE. Yes, my last name is exactly like the Prince on The Princess and the Frog. There's no relation, though, I can assure you. *wink wink*

Monday, June 18, 2012

Write What You Love

A recent post by the talented Ava Jae posed the classic question, "Would You Write If You Were Never Getting Published?" This question has its origins in the pre-self-publishing era, where the only way your story had a chance to reach the masses was through a publisher, and the odds of that happening were long (still are). If you are pursuing the trad-pub path and would never in a million years consider self-publishing, then the question still applies.

But with the advent of self-publishing as a viable (and increasingly respectable) way to reach readers, not only does the answer to that question change, but I think the question changes as well.

Changing the Answer
For people that consider self-publishing a viable option, the answer quickly becomes "yes," because self-publishing essentially guarantees that your work will be exposed to the world (whether it will sell is another question). Even if you consider self-publishing as a last resort, after trying the traditional path, there is no longer the prospect that you could spend months and years working on a manuscript, just to have no one (outside your critique group) read it. (Whether this is a good thing, or not, is a separate question - but it is at least an option.) So, the only reason your work will not get published is if you decide you do not want it to be published - an altogether different writing environment.

Changing the Question
In this environment, I think the question should be changed to, "Would You Write that Story If You Knew It Wouldn't Sell?" 

Maybe you're working on your first novel, which you're convinced will be a self-published bestseller. If you knew ahead of time that it would tank and sell less than 100 copies, mostly to your mom's crochet group, who uses your novel to hold their skeins of yarn, would you still write it? Perhaps, because you have to write your first novel before you can write your second and third. But you might hesitate before publishing it.

Say you're a little further down the path. Maybe you've got a few novels under your belt, maybe some of them are even published, but you're itching to write the biography of an obscure Irish boxer from 1955, which you're convinced no one, absolutely no one, will buy. I mean, the market for that has to be infinitesimally small, right? (Even if you're a famous author.)

Would you still write it, if you knew it wouldn't sell?

This question becomes more than theoretical once you're past the thrill/rush/nausea of publishing your first (or second or third) novel. When you know you can write a novel and you can have it published, would you still write something if you thought it wouldn't sell (i.e. the market is small and/or unreachable for it)? I can see this question nagging both trad-pub and self-pub authors as they march down the path of their careers.

For me, this question illuminates the choice of what to write after my Mindjack series is done (in the next six months or so - what can I say? I like to plan ahead). I have a several ideas that I think will sell: a steampunk YA fantasy, another YA science fiction series, an adult SF novel. I also have an MG Fantasy that's already drafted that I love - but indie publishing isn't really ready for MG, and the traditional route still has long odds. Not zero odds, but much smaller than the chance that some of those other books have of selling in the indie market.

What would you do?

(p.s. my answer: write it anyway, for the love alone. Query it. If it doesn't sell there, indie publish and be happy with whatever few sales it makes, just to have it out in the world.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I have an agent!

So it's good news Wednesday here on the blog.

I now have an agent.

For those of you who don’t know, I started querying back in mid-April (kind of like sending around a resume for a job). My query letter did really well, and I had several agents ask to see the full manuscript. Which was pretty awesome, and made me feel like I was doing something right.

Then I had a few offers of representation, which meant I had a very hard choice to make. And I’m so bad when it comes to choices. I talked with several agents on the phone, and they were all just so amazing. But talking with Nicole was like magic. Her enthusiasm for my manuscript, her ideas for revision, and her personality just clicked.

So in the end, I signed on with Nicole Resciniti at the Seymour Agency. She’s a self-confessed science geek, and I write science fiction. Not only does it sound like a match made in heaven, but I know she’s going to make sure I get my facts straight.

I had someone ask me why I chose Nicole over any other offering agent. And to be honest, a lot of it was just a gut feeling. But this is what I was generally looking for:

1. Good sales record: Nicole’s record speaks for itself. She’s a newer agent, but it’s like she's on fire when it comes to book sales. I did a lot of researching on Publisher's Marketplace, which I know some agents don't report to, but it does give a pretty good idea.

2. Great communication: I've heard the horror stories of authors who have agents who just won't respond to them. After a little initial confusion (I kept going to Nicole's spam...) on the email front, Nicole had perfect response time. And when I was looking at response time, I'm not talking about "answer me in 2 minutes or you've got a black mark." It's more if my email doesn't get a response after several days, or even a week.

3. Client praises: Yes, what their client feels about the agent matters. And if you happen to google Nicole's name, you'll get several glowing posts from her clients. It's like she's the magical fairy godmother every author wants.

4. Editorial agent: This was super important to me, because I want to continually grow as an author. And I want an agent who will push me--and ultimately my book--to become a million times better.

A bunch of agents actually fit that criteria, so the choice was harder. And ultimately it came down to Nicole was one of my top three choices when I went into querying. I love her agency, and she is so enthusiastic about my book, and I was blown-away by so many of her ideas for my career as a whole.

So there you have it! I’ll be posting about my querying process, and spend the next month talking about queries in general over on my blog. So stay tuned, and let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Is a One-Pass Revision Possible?

A few weeks ago, an awesome writing buddy sent me this link:

I laughed, and thought there's no way (before I read it). My previous editing sessions went something like this:

Finish first draft of my manuscript. Dance. Sing. (Of course, I do these alone for fear of being committed to an offshore institution.) Then I call up or e-mail my writing buddies and share the glee.

After which, I come back to earth and start the months or year-long process of revision that goes something like this:

First edit, focus on plot. Look for a theme.

Second edit, strengthen the characters and setting. Strengthen theme as needed.

Edit number three, work on pacing and smoothness. Take out unnecessary scenes and make sure everything works. 

Edit four, do the fine, picky line-editing stuff.

Edit five, do a final go-over.

So, yes, when I saw that the link said ONE pass revision, I laughed. No way.

But I read the article anyway.



I can see the possibilities. Yeah. Really. And this is timely, because I have a freshly baked first draft sitting right here. The thought of having it done in two weeks or even a month is rather tantalizing.

Soooo, a question or two (okay, three): 

Do you think it’s humanly possible to revise an entire manuscript, or am I dreaming?

How do you revise?

And what do you think of Holly Lisle’s article?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What the Heck is a Robinsonade?

Finding Your Genre
by Jonene Ficklin

Many years ago, I wrote my first novel. It was a YA and took place on another world. The minute it was finished, I began the eye-opening journey of submitting. The first touch of reality came when I wrote the query and synopsis. Not fun. Not good. And I couldn’t get past the question of which genre it was.

Since it took place in another world, that made it fantasy, right? Or paranormal? Sci-fi? However this world was earthlike, with no magic and no werewolves. It had elements of romance and could even work as a thriller. I gave up, played it safe, and labeled it an adventure.

Fast forward to the present. I’ve written six more novels and many new queries. I’ve spent countless hours perusing the genre and subgenre lists, trying to find the one to encapsulate each novel in a word.

And then, glory be! I found it. Robinsonade. (Say that ten times fast.) The term has been around since 1731, and it’s a subgenre of survivalist fiction. Think Robinson Crusoe. Now think a little broader. A Robinsonade is a high adventure story where the hero/heroine is marooned, shipwrecked, or otherwise isolated from society and has to survive.

You want examples? The Hunger Games, The Life of Pi, Lord of the Flies, The Cay, Tarzan, and of course, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, The Mysterious Island, and The Jungle Book.

Some of these books I've read over and over as a child, and they're the stories I’m most drawn to. Therefore, they're the kind I like to write and most of my books are clearly Robinsonades.

How did I find this lovely term?

Recently, I read Chronal Engine, a midgrade story by Greg Leitich Smith. (I’ll be taking a writing class from him starting June 18th at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop. Check out – there’s still room in several classes, so come join us!) At the back of his book, he explained that his story is a Robinsonade, and what that meant.

Now you’re heard my story. It’s funny how excited writers can get over a single word, isn’t it? Maybe I’m the only one who struggled so much while trying to find the perfect genre. I hope it’s easier for you.

Meanwhile, I hope you read an awesome Robinsonade soon. It really makes you appreciate spaghetti and meatballs, hot showers, and penicillin. Oh, and just in case, never leave home without a Leatherman. Just saying . . .

Anyhow, I’d love to hear how you found the perfect genre to represent your story.

And, I have one more question (which I find fascinating): what’s your favorite genre to read?

Happy reading and writing!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kickstarter campaign underway for the next E.M. Tippetts novel

As many of you know, I've got two writing careers. I've gone the traditional route as a science fiction and fantasy author and sell short stories to magazines, sub novels to agents and editors, and have been working on that for over a decade. Then last year I watched the indie movement get underway and really wanted to jump in an join the fun. So I revived my old chick lit pen name, E.M. Tippetts, and indie published two novels.

The rest, as they say, is history. Fans have been so incredibly supportive and I make a very respectable supplementary income from my novels. Now I'm in the final edits of my next project, and I'm turning again to my fans for some support. I would really like to get a Kirkus Indie review for this next project, so I've launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost.

For those of you who don't know Kickstarter, it is a fantastic resource for independent artists of all stripes. This'll be my first campaign, but not the last, I hope!