Monthly Archives: February 2013

Shout out to Skylight Editorial

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was trying out a new editing service, Skylight Editorial. I received my first novel-length editing job back from them and I am VERY pleased with their work. They had three separate editors go through the work and make corrections using three colored fonts so I could see which was suggesting what and they also made several notes in the margins which were items that required my attention. They provided me with two versions of the document, one with their mark-ups so I could see what they changed and one with the edited text sans the mark-ups. Using the documents side-by-side, I was able to re-word things where they suggested it was needed while still seeing what I had been there originally and what they were suggesting.

I had paid a lower rate which allowed them 4 weeks to complete the edits, but they did it in just two. And their pricing simply cannot be beat. They offer a fews tiers of prices based on the speed in whcih you want the work and also to what extent you want them to edit. I paid for essentially proof-reading which corrects all of the typos, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, but they also make some changes based on over usage of a word, or to clarify the meaning of a sentence. I could have paid more for a thorough editing for content as well and gotten feedback on plot and/or character development, etc. I have another means for this piece so I only paid for proofreading.

I would quite happily recommend Skylight Editorial to any author who does not already have an editor. And if you don’t have a professional editing team, your work is likely not being properly edited. I have learned this the hard way.

Again the pricing cannot be beat. For a 63,000 word manuscript, they charged me $280 and change. That is far less than any other quote I got and the quality was just as good. I will be using them for my future books as well!

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There is never too much proofreading

I recently learned this valuable lesson. I self-published Immortal Betrayal almost a year ago. Before it went to print, it had been proof-read by no less than 3 sets of eyes besides mine. I think I have mentioned before that I am dyslexic so asking me to proofread something is like asking the rain to dry out your lawn. After making the corrections these three proofreaders gave me, I went ahead and published.

The 3 proofreaders I had were all friends who volunteered to do it for free and are all better than most when it comes to grammatical correctness. Although they are each very good with grammar in general, one specializes in correct punctuation and formatting, one is really good with word usage, and the third is another published author who is also an excellent source for proper spelling. To me, this seemed like a good way to get the bugs worked out of the manuscript.

I was wrong. They are my friends and I love them dearly, but they are not professional proofreaders. The only negative feedback I have had about Immortal Betrayal is the number of grammatical/spelling/typing errors that remain. This only goes to show you get what you pay for.

Now that Immortal Betrayal has been picked up by Thursday Night Press, I am biting the bullet and paying a professional proofreading agency to go over the final manuscript before I give it to them to publish. I held off doing this before because the cost was daunting. But by continuing to search, I have found a company, Skylight Editing, that offers a variety odf services, including simple proofreading, with a scale of prices. A full edit, which includes feedback on the quality of the story, plot, characters, flow, etc. typically runs about $1000-$1500 for a normal sized novel (65k-80k words). But, through Skylinght, I was able to get a thorough proof-read – which focuses only on grammar, typos, punctuation, spelling, and word usage – for under $300. This I can afford. They charge more to do it quickly, but I am not in a hurry, so I paid the lower amount for them to do it in 4 weeks. I sent it to them last weekend, so I’ll let you know the results when I get it back next month.

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It’s been a winding road

My experience with publishing has been a winding road. My first 3 books, all large royal genealogies with no text to speak of, were published by Clearfield, a genealogical publishing company in Maryland. By the time the 3rd book came out (2002), the internet was making such genealogies less marketable so I stopped making books. I can’t really say I wrote them, as it was more correct to say I compiled them.

However I still wanted to do a book abut the Romanov imperial family of Russia. So I kept researching and “compiling.” As the decade was coming close to an end I finally decided to go a different direction with this family and write a biographical genealogy of them. I was inspired by a book titled “Queen Victoria’s Descendants” by Marlene Eilers which came out in the mid-80s. Her book included a complete genealogy but also significant text telling the stories of those people on her list. I replicated the format for the Romanovs

Writing such a book never would have worked for my first 3 books because the genealogies were entirely too large. Each one included some 10,000+ people. But for a smaller group of people this seemed to be the way to go. So I limited my Romanov book to the descedants of Emperor Nicholas I. He is the common ancestor of all the male lines still living today. But instead of telling the same stories that had been told over and over in other books about the 19th and early 20th century Grand Dukes of Russia, I chose to focus on the current generation of the family which then included several elderly members who were born shortly after the Revolution. By now it was well after the year 2000, so I titled the book “Romanovs in the 21st Century.” There was some discussion of the long dead family members but only as a bridge from the past to the present.

But the question came of how to get this thing published. Clearfield was on its last legs at this point. They had gotten to point that they had been sending letters apologizing for not having the funds to pay my pultry little residual royalties from those first 3 books, so it did not seem prudent to attempt to publish through them. During my searches for a publisher, I came in contact with a German print-on-demand publisher who specialized in academic work. Hooking up with them has turned out to be the worst decision I have yet made in my writing career. Under the terms of the contract, they had total control of everything, including the cover art and setting the price.

Their first sacriledge was the cover art. They chose a modern day photo of the Kremlin, and nothing else. The remainder of the cover was a solid purple with white writing. I was appalled. By this time the Kremlin was the absolute emblem of the Communist Regime whose founding fathers were responsible for the murder of over a dozen Romanovs during teh Revolution. Then they added injury to insult by setting the price at 68 euros, which was then about $95. Who in their right mind is going to pay $95 for a book of this nature? No one, and that is who bought it. I have not made one dime off of the printed version of this book.

Through my depression of being had on the Romanov book, I noticed there was a new fad that seemed to be taking hold: ebooks. The German publisher had rights to the printed book but not to electronic versions of it, at least not if I made significant alterations to it. So that was what I did. I added a new chapter, updated the text with several pieces of information that had come to me too late to include in the print version, and completely reformatted the genealogy to be more readable on an ebook reader. With the help of a friend who was working on her first novel, I quickly discovered Smashwords, a company that allows authors to self-publish, for very little cost, to all e-reader formats (except Kindle). So I published an ebook of Romanovs in the 21st Century. Because Smashwords and Kindle have never quite worked out an agreement between them, I also published to Kindle directly. Since I own the ebook rights, I can publish with as many different outfits as I want to, but cannot publish a paperback version because those rights are still held by the German company.

Romanovs in the 21st Century, as an ebook, has turned out to be my best selling title to date. There’s even been a few months during a recent lay off where it paid the rent.

This success prompted to me top pursue a few more royal projects I had been working on over the years. With these new projects, I was able to add a paperback element to my self-publishing through CreateSpace. Each of these books has been relatively successful, especially considering the limited market they would appeal to. By 2011, I had finally gotten to the point that was ready to indulge a long-held desire: a novel.

As it turned out, writing the novel was the easy part. I knew it would be difficult to sell as a self-published book, so I tried to get professional assistance. By this point, the big publishers were generally all to the point of working only with agents, so I searched for an agent. I queried dozens, but never found one. So I decided it was time to go out on a limb and try self-publishing and see how it went. I have managed to make a name for myself in the circles that care about Euroepan royalty, but that did not translate into sales for a novel, even one with Imperial Russia as the backdrop.

Lesson learned? To be successful in the fiction market (any genre) requires good marketing. If you are able to make you book really stand out from the pack (and it is a HUGE pack), you may do okay. But realistically, the number of authors who make it big starting off in self-publishing can be counted on one hand with some fingers left over.

So where has that left me. I very recently found a small press to publish the series I started with Immortal Betrayal. I have other works outside of that series to use to continue to query agents who can hopefully help me get a publishing deal which comes with a large marketing component. Small presses are wonderful and they do afford me some benefits. Most notably, their books can be marketed to retailers and reviewers who still thumb their noses at self-published authors. Also, Barnes and Noble, the largest brick and mortar book store chain still in existence, will now at least consider carrying my books. Because I self-publish through CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon (B&N’s only real rival), they will not even consider those books for their stores, but they are all available on their website.

There are lots of people who dole out advice for up and coming authors, much of which can be conflicting. But the one consistent thing I keep being told: keep writing. If you eventually have a hit, or at least develope a following, they will seek out you older books. So that is my current plan. keep going on the Immortal series, and use other fiction projects to try to entice bigger publishing deals.

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I have a Publisher!

I am happy to report that my “Chronicles of the Mages” series has found a home. Thursday Night Press has agreed to publish the first volume with right of first refusal on the remaining 4 books.

Thursday Night Press is a small press in Denver whose schtick is promoting new Denver authors. They are essentially a start-up company, so their clientele list is pretty small so far. But the best thing is that with then as a publisher, I can get my work considered by reviewers and retailers who thumb their noses at self-published authors (which is most of them). Most notably, my books will eligible now for consideration to be on the bookshelves of most brick-and-mortar books stores, like Barnes and Noble.

Futhermore, I have found a professional proof-reading service that does not charge an arm and leg to give my work a final corrective read. I already have an editor who helps with things like writing style and tone and plot/character development, but she has proven not so reliable with catching typos. Since I am dyslexic, I generally don’t even notice words with the letters turned around wrong, so I definitely need a professional proof-reader.

The self-published version of Immortal Betrayal will be pulled from publication this weekend, the text will be re-edited and professionally proof-read (I have gotten feedback that there are still several typos) and then re-released by Thursday Night Press. It should be available by mid-March.

So I’m having a good day (and it’s only 6:30 am)

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A New Year, A New Adventure: Blogging

Okay, the year is actually a month old now, but I’m just getting with this program.

So let’s start with the esstentials:

Who am I?
I am a struggling author. I have been writing non-fiction books related to royal genealogy since 1996. But I have recently started writing fiction. My first novel Immortal Betrayal was self-published in March 2012.

Why self publish?
My non-fiction books appeal to a very niche market. These are people I know how to reach through various sources. I do not have a need to try to find a publisher for them. However, the world of fiction is a very different universe. There are literally thousands of new titles being released every day. Trying to get your novel noticed by anyone, reader or bookseller, is the biggest challenge of the business. For me, I find this process harder than writing the book to start with. So I am actively seeking an agent and/or publisher for my fiction work. There will be plenty of posts here on that subject alone.

Why royal genealogy?
Why does gravity work the way it does? Hell if I know. When I was a very young man, I read a book called The Queen and her Court on something of a whim. It was in front of me and I was bored. Yeah, I was one of the those kids that read the encyclopedia for entertainment. But my upbringing is a subject for a whole other blog (or possibly a shrink). This book had an appendix which included a listing of Queen Victoria’s children and grandchildren. They ruled countries I had not yet even heard of. So I started looking into the royal families and how they were related to one another and soon I was hooked.

What kind of fiction do I write?
I range from pure fantasy to standard historical fiction, but usually fall somewhere in the middle with a combination of the two. Immortal Betrayal is meant to be the first of a series of 5 books. The primary characters are members of a secondary race of humans, called the Homo Magis (Mage for short) which live incredibly long lives. Their average life expectancy is over 900 years. The books are stories about the roles they have played in select historical events. There is a conflict building among the Mage ranks and it will come to an intense climax in the last book.

I am also working on a stand alone novel revolving around the return of the Greek Gods to the world in the present day. There are lots of colorful figures and a dark entity trying to prevent the return. Working title: When Gods Wake

Other writings have included article length to short story length alternative fiction stories. These stories tend to be tied to royal families and follow “what if” scenarios. One example is based on the premise that Tsar Alexander II actually survived the assassination that, in our timeline, made Russia into the powder keg that led to Revolution followed by a Communist regime. I have yet to publish any of these. They may come together in a anthology.

I think that is enough for a first blog entry. I will add entries regularly as I progress through the publishing process.

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