On Retitling My Novel After Publication

shutterstock_152047091My writing kryptonite is naming and titling people and things. From titling my book to naming my villian, I always have to go through an excruciating process that takes hours. I comb through the thesaurus, look up historical references, and poll family and friends. I’ll even admit to carrying around a scrap of paper on my purse full of scratched out titles. What sounds good to me one day sounds cheesy three days later. All that is to say that I’ve decided to retitle the first book in The Conjurors Series from Into the Dark to The Society of Imaginary Friends.

After I wrote the first book in The Conjurors Series, I never gave any thought to self publishing and promoting my novel. I put it on Amazon for the cheapest price they allowed so that my friends and family could read it if they wanted to. Then I promptly forgot about it and moved on with my writing. But after being inspired to finish my series and explore self publishing, I decided it needed a new title. There are roughly 1 billion books titled Into the Dark, and it was no surprise that mine didn’t make the first page of books listed in a search on Amazon or Google. Or the second.

It was time for a title change. This time, I put some real thought into the titles that made sense for my series. Guilds, where people can study various magical professions in the world I created, play a key role in connecting the story from book to book. It made sense to name each book in The Conjurors Series after the guild that played the primary role in that story. Because the Guild called The Society of Imaginary Friends kicks off my heroine’s adventure, it made sense as the title of the first book.

In addition to a new title, I have also invested in professional cover art and made some significant edits to The Society of Imaginary Friends, because my writing has come a long way in the two years since I wrote it. In the next couple of weeks I’ll unveil a new cover, and in November the updated novel and cover will go live.

Have you ever retitled or re-released one of your novels? If so, how did the process turn out for you?

I’m Cheating on my Protagonist

shutterstock_69810904I have a confession. I’m in a long-term, committed writing relationship with the current protagonist of The Conjurors Series, Valerie Diaz. She’s great – loyal, smart and filled with integrity. I’m not ready to end our affair – we’re only two books in to a four-book series. But I can’t stop thinking about someone else. While I should be plotting Valerie’s next move, I’m fantasizing about the heroine that I’m going to write about next.

I’m afraid that if I don’t get a grip, I’ll lose the momentum I need to finish my current series, which is planned to be completed at the end of 2014. By that estimate, I really shouldn’t be daydreaming about other heroines at least until book four is drafted. But it’s tempting. My favorite part of the writing process is creating characters and planning plots. All of the characters and plots in The Conjurors Series have been developed, at least at a high level. What’s left is the execution, which I also love, but doesn’t have the same thrilling joy that only giving characters life can bring.

Then, of course, come the comparisons. Valerie’s much nicer than my next heroine, but I think I actually like the new one more. In real life we could totally hang out, whereas with Valerie I’d have to be on my best behavior. Which naturally makes me feel more guilty. They’re both my creations – shouldn’t I love them equally? Of course, I’m aware that the new heroine and I are still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. I’ve yet to become bogged down in the day-to-day grind of hurtling her into strange and painful situations and then carefully extricating her.

How do you stay focused on your current project when the next is luring you with its siren call? Do you give in and cheat, or stay the course until your current writing project is completely finished?

How Not to Approach Choosing a Cover Artist

Picture1When I wrote the first book in The Conjurors Series, I held what turned out to be a naive belief that it would succeed or fail based on the merits of my writing. Now older and (hopefully) wiser, I’m ready to admit that a strong, eye-catching cover is crucial to selling any book – but especially one that you’re self-publishing. If you’re a self-publishing pro, this post is not for you. But if you’re a relative newbie to this world, please learn from my mistakes. Perhaps you’ll save yourself hundreds of strands of hair that you would otherwise pull out your head in frustration.

Unless you’re a gifted artist as well as a writer, don’t create your own cover art.
Even a random person on the street could have done a better job with the cover of my book than I did with my original cover. In my infinite wisdom, I opened ClipArt in PowerPoint, chose an image, and called it a day. To my untrained eye it looked simple and elegant. But friends and family assured me it looked boring and amateurish. When readers agreed, I had to admit that they were right.

Don’t hire someone from O-Desk, Freelancer, etc. unless you have a strong artistic sensibility and know exactly what you want on your cover.
Alas, in my case, my creativity with the written word does not extend to the visual arts. I knew enough to realize that my own cover art wasn’t getting the job done, but figured that surely someone who could draw reasonably well could easily create a dynamite cover. However, without any distinctive guidance from me, or even an understanding if what I was seeing was good, this effort didn’t save me any cash – it was a money sinkhole.

Avoid random web searches for cover artists unless you have the patience of a saint.
After scouring dozens of websites and flipping through hundreds of cover samples, I felt more overwhelmed and less confident about how to fix my cover than ever. I had no idea if the artists whose work I was viewing had been successful in selling books. I was terrified of throwing away more money on an artist who needed guidance from me that I couldn’t provide.

Don’t let your number one consideration when choosing a cover artist be price.
Like a lot of newbies in the self-publishing industry, I’m on a micro budget when it comes to promoting my books. But people more experienced and successful than myself all agree that your cover is the last thing you should cheap out on. I’m not saying you need Dan Brown’s cover artist working for you, but finding someone who can give you a cover that is professional and pleasing can be the difference between success and failure when readers only your see your title and a thumbnail image of your cover before deciding if they want to find out more.

With that being said, there were a few things that did work for me. First was seeing who the pros were using. Some self-published authors thank their cover artists in their acknowledgments or post who their cover artists and editors are on their websites. (And may karma reward them for that!) Another good source was a Goodreads list of recommended cover artists (they have multiple threads on this topic). This was nice because there were a variety of price points. My last tip is to reach out to any friends you have who are artists or at least have a good sense for the visual arts to look at the portfolio of the cover artist  you’re planning to go with before you spend any cash. Worst case scenario, at least you have someone other than yourself to blame if your cover doesn’t come out quite right.

Brand new covers of the first two novels in The Conjurors Series will be posted on my site in October. I hope you come check them out and let me know if I finally got it right!

On Writing 100,000 Words in 100 Days – Sorta

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A little over a week ago I became the proud author of the complete first draft of the second book in my young adult fantasy series, The Conjurors. I’d made a pact with myself to write 100,000 words in 100 days, and I can’t say that I wrote 1,000 words every single day – but I came close. Life got in the way sometimes, like when my husband, toddler and myself all came down with a violent stomach virus. Or, to be fair, also when I became obsessed with Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices Trilogy and decided that my need to marathon the series overrode my need to finish my own story.

But at least having this goal encouraged me to complete the first draft of my novel in close to 100 days. It’s an exercise that I plan to repeat in the future. I know some writers ebb and flow in the amount of content they create as their muse inspires them. Sometimes I wish that I were that kind of writer, but in reality I think I’m the kind of person who does best when I force myself to be creative.

So given that this plan was a success, I think it’s time for a new goal as I begin the editing process – which I happen to love and am excited to begin. I owe my beta readers a draft of the story in September, so until then I plan to edit a chapter a day, minimum. This may be ambitious, but it’s a place to start.

Do any of you have advice on setting editing goals? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice!