Thursday, September 18, 2014

It Will Always Be Hard

The Struggle of Art

"When does it start to get easier?" the newbie author asks me.
"Never. It will always be hard," I say.

I feel like the Harsh Mistress of Author Truths in that moment. But it's better to slay that expectation in the crib than let it grow into a monster that will cripple that new author.

Example: I've written a lot of books. You would think I would be better at this by now, right? And from an objective viewpoint of "is your craft better on the tenth book than the first?" I would have to say yes (man, I hope so). But that doesn't make it easier. 

The forth-coming First Daughter is a good example. My editor (the fabulous Bryon Quertermous - hire him!) rightly pointed out two substantive story-arc changes that would make the book stronger. I worked and worked the first one, trying to figure out how to change the story without completely breaking the parts that were good... and simply couldn't do it. All the evil voices came out to play, all variations on the theme of: You should be better at this by now. But I've encountered this particular Dark Force before, and I knew this:

If you're struggling and all seems lost, 
you're on the verge of something great.

This sounds like a platitude - or, not coincidentally, the plotline of an awesome story - but it also happens to be true. (Hint: fiction is the story we tell ourselves to understand life's true struggles.) Time and again, in the past, when I've been beating my head against a plot wall, the hardest struggle invariable precedes the best work. I'm a scientist - I notice correlation like this. I can't prove causation, but it doesn't matter. All I need is to note the pattern and work it.

So, I moved on from the first story-arc change, letting that lay for the moment, and worked on the second story-arc change. That one was no better. In fact, it was more difficult. But I worried that thing like a dog with a bone, and finally, an idea came to me - and that idea didn't just fix the second story-arc issue, it fixed ALL THE PROBLEMS. It one fell swoop, notes large and small from three different editors/critique partners, were addressed by this one change. (Now, it still took time to actually implement the edit... but that's the easy part. Knowing what to change is what's hard.)

Long example, but here's the upshot:

The struggle is the art.

There's no "getting easier" because the art is born out of the hard noggin work that you do to make it. The anguish, the persevering, the triumph - they're all part of the same process of art-making.

So, when the next newbie author asks me, "Does it get any easier?" my answer will be, "Only if you're not doing it right."

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Which Sue Makes A Mistake..

In case you thought I was a robot from the future impervious to error, we now have SOLID PROOF that I am a human being capable of making mistakes. And when I make them, apparently, I make them EPIC.

The Mistake
Remember how Third Daughter went free and took off, zooming up the charts, to the tune of thousands of downloads? (Currently #148 free, 3360 downloads) Somewhere in the middle of all those thousands of people downloading, I uploaded the pre-order for Book#3. That wasn't the mistake - the mistake was accidentally uploading the preorder over Third Daughter. Worse, I didn't know it happened until an astute reader pointed out that her copy of Third Daughter wasn't Third Daughter at all... but some crazy mix of First Daughter's cover and Second Daughter's title page and something that said NOT FINAL DRAFT.


NOTE: The correct file is up there now, so if you click over right now and download Third Daughter, you'll get the right file.

The Fix
After a small heart attack, profuse thanks (and a new file) for my reader, and verifying the problem was still there, I hastily uploaded the correct file. And got on the phone with Amazon (via Author Central). The lady who picked up the phone is a saint, because I'm fairly certain I was mentally unhinged at that point.

"Hello, Amazon's Author Central, can I help you?"


I'm pretty sure that's a direct transcript. She somehow managed to expedite the upload of the new file, so within an hour, that was fixed. But that wasn't enough - I knew thousands of people had the wrong file sitting on their kindles already. It was possible for Amazon to "push out" the corrected version, via automatic updates and emails, but the people who did this wondrous task were gone for the day. So I had to wait until this morning... but the update finally came through! (*kisses Kindle* *hugs Amazon screen* *looks to see if anyone is watching*)

How To Get Your Updated File
Many of you will already have the correct version - either you downloaded before I made my epic fail or you have "automatic updates" turned on and Amazon has already updated it for you. If not, you should have received an email from Amazon telling you how to update the file. Essentially, you go to your Amazon account, click "Manage Your Content and Devices" and next to your Third Daughter download should be a new button that says "Update Available". Click that (and make sure your Kindle is connected to WiFi) and you should be all set.

My Apologies
I'm so sorry for the hassle! If for some reason, the above doesn't get you the right file, I will gladly help - or send you a file to replace it (just email me at Thanks for all your support! I will try to keep the Epic Failing to a minimum in the future.


p.s. Here's the info about Third Daughter again, in case you missed it before! All clear for clicking now!

Assassins, skyships, and royal intrigue...

FREE in ebook
KindleNookKoboiTunes, AllRomanceGoogle Play
(also available in print)
(note: free on Amazon US and other retailers listed above... not all international Amazon stores will have free pricing)

First Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #3) now available for pre-order on Amazon!

releases 9/29
Pre-Order HERE

(41 reviews 4.6/5 stars)

"Thoroughly enjoyable science fiction/steampunk/romance with an East Indian flavor, a kick ass heroine, plenty of action, and terrific world building." Kay Hudson, Amazon review

"I don’t read a lot of steam punk. I don’t read romance at all. I loved it anyway." - David Bruns, Amazon review

"Would you marry to prevent a war? What if you were secretly betrothed to another? Oh, how I loved this book! A romantic adventure. A vivid landscape in a stunning world. Beautifully written. Cannot wait for the next in the series!" - Corrine O., Amazon Review

Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting Your Best Royalty On A 99cent Title

Sometimes, just when I think I have it all figured out... I learn something that rocks how I view things.

I sell a 99cent ebook on Nook (direct upload to Nook Press) - royalty $0.40
I sell a 99cent ebook on Nook (distributed by Draft 2 Digital) - royalty $0.59

Now, I actually knew this fact already, way back in the distant, hazy days of 2011 when I first started self-publishing. Smashwords has a similar high-royalty for low-priced works, but Smash was unreliable. (Note: Apple direct uploads pay 60% on 99cent works. It's only Nook Press, Kobo, and Amazon which have that 99cent ghetto.)

What Changed
I started writing serials with 99cent episodes. And short fiction with 99cent price tags. And then Draft 2 Digital came along and presented a more reliable distributor system.

I Finally Put 2 and 2 Together
Using a distributor didn't make sense to me, with the exception of getting a free book onto Nook (the sole advantage that I could see, and worth tolerating the unreliable nature of Smash). I certainly couldn't imagine using a distributor for my fast-paced output of serial episodes. I knew D2D was more reliable, but I hadn't bothered to experiment with them. When I finally did, I re-discovered this royalty issue! And more - D2D allows vendor links, whereas Smash forbids it (see how to manage your backmatter). Smashwords has more vendor agreements, but I've found these to be largely useless - and problematic if you have a title whose price you ever plan to change. (Example: I pulled Mind Games off Smashwords in 2012. In 2014, I sold a copy through Diesel, a small vendor that Smashwords had distributed to... two years prior!)

Ways D2D and Smash Are The Same

*can upload your pre-formatted EPUB
*can distribute free books to all their vendors
*will do pre-orders on Nook

Advantages of D2D Over Smashwords

*allows vendor-specific links in your backmatter
*general reliability
*checks your EPUB as you upload, to let you know if there is an issue with it, rather than waiting for it to pass an EPUB check some indeterminate time later... or worse, letting it through then getting it held up at the vendor
*gives you a vendor specific link to the book you just distributed so you can instantly check to see if it's live yet
*paid monthly, not quarterly

Advantage of D2D Over Direct Upload to Nook Press

*higher royalty on 99cent titles (60% vs. 40%)

The Main Disadvantage of All Distributors

*inflexibility and speed - if you want to change your price, they are not responsive enough to get that price updated in a timely way. In fact, they are slow all around, taking up to a week (or sometimes much, much longer) to upload books and update information. D2D is better than Smashwords, however. I recently uploaded a book to all three (Nook Press, D2D, and Smash) as a test - Nook went live in about 2 days, D2D within a week, and Smash still hasn't distributed it (2 weeks later).

The Lightbulb for Me
I will be using D2D to distribute my 99cent serial episodes and shorts to Nook, as well as for pre-orders and free books on Nook. I don't sell as much on Nook as I do on Amazon, but that's all the more reason to go for the higher royalty on those lower priced titles. For titles $2.99 and above, I'll be going direct to Nook Press for ease-of-use and timeliness.