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Monday, July 28, 2008

Kiss and Tell in Publishing

This is something I wrote after I was offered my first contract. I hoped to impart some useful information to other writers/authors.

It finally happens. You're offered a contract from an ebook publisher after years of writing, sending queries, receiving rejections. Your heart pounds. Your pulse races. That joyous, euphoric sense of accomplishment makes you want to happy dance in the streets...but you think twice about that idea. Neighbors would surely assume you'd gone insane. Plus, dancing maybe isn't your best skill!

But, hey. You're flying high on that number nine cloud. Years of trying to prove you could achieve the dream of being an author materialized. A message of "This is better than sex" flashes in your head...

Backtrack on that thought. You regain your sanity real quickly. Nope. Even in a slightly insane state, you'd never be able to let that thought linger in your head.

It's amazing how people react to your news. Those that love you, wish you well. Others who "don't read romances" congratulate you with a look of "sorry, I'll never read it". Some wonder why you've gotten published while they're still trying. And the last group seem perplexed by the fact that you've accepted an offer from an electronic publisher.

You enter into a relationship with your publisher. What you can and can't discuss about your contract and your publisher's business binds you together, like a new couple. Hence, kissing and telling becomes your decision and it can't be taken lightly.

Questions accompany all who respond to you. When does your book come out? Can I buy it at a bookstore? How much does it cost? What's your contract like? How much do you get?

You try to answer all questions, although some make you feel a bit uncomfortable. The easy ones have answers that flow unconstrained, simple and to the point.

"No, you can't get this at a bookstore. This is an ebook. You download it to your computer or to an ebook reader." Okay...not so simple to those who haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. But you smile happily and explain what's involved, and usually the response you get is, "I'll wait until it comes out in print." You accept their response graciously and move on to someone else.

The cost? Will you know before the book's published? Some authors do and some don't. You may have to smile and answer, "I'm not sure right now."

Now the contract questions. Some publishers post their standard contract on their website. Others don't. Still others have a standard contract but each author receives one tailored to their needs, desires, what you both agree to...a specific one detailing your conditions in signing with your publisher. Therefore, there is no standard contract for everyone.

Along with this comes a confidentiality agreement if your publisher has one for you to sign. Basically, you agree not to divulge information about your contract or information passed on by your publisher that's strictly for in-house personnel...staff and authors.

So. How do you answer those questions about your contract? You've already "kissed" your publisher so now there's no "telling" if you've signed that agreement not to reveal information. Your choice is to speak in vague terms. "I have options I may take. I may get my book into print eventually. My publisher holds certain rights to my book." You get the picture. Nothing specifically spelled out.

The last question is asked by some simply out of curiosity. Others ask with a different reason in mind. For the curious ones, once again, you give a vague answer. "Oh, around half of what the book costs." Not an exact truth, but enough to satisfy them.

The ones who ask with that different reason in mind seem to be the same ones who question your sanity in going with an epublisher. You still smile and give your vague answers, but that may not satisfy them. Some groups like Romance Writers of America and individuals who are same-minded about pitting print publishers against epublishers seem to make it their business to expect you to divulge your income. Why? To make them feel vindicated about their stance?

You've kissed, so there's no telling. And, it's really nobody's business what you make. Exceptions are your publisher, the IRS (in the US), and yourself. Outside of those, you'll be gracious in answering the well-meaning curious people, but be leery of the ones trying to downgrade your success. They're the ones you need to ask, "Did you ask your doctor what he makes? How about the engineer at your local phone company? Your son's math teacher?"

Personal experience...Someone not impressed with epublishing (although she hasn't published in years) stated that authors should make enough to live on, inferring an ebook author couldn't compare to a print one. I looked at her and asked, "Do you?" That stopped her train of thought very quickly.

My point to epubbed authors? Kiss your electronic publishing company and tell what you can and want to impart. But smile when you do and always keep a professional profile.

"Strip Poker for Two", by April Ash, will be released 20 August. For details, check www.ellorascave.com or www.aprilash.net.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Save That Computer Stuff!

Yes...my name is Marianne and I'm computer-challenged. I admit this freely. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels all the time, just trying to keep on the edge of computer knowledge, and then something always goes wrong and I'm ten steps behind.

Email accounts. We all have them. Most have more than one...I do. But I stayed faithful to the one account I've had since I first entered the wonderful world of computers. It was always comforting, familiar, and welcomed me each day like a friend. I slipped into that state of complete bliss just knowing I could use it whenever I wanted. And, my address book teemed with family, friends, and publishing/business contacts.

Ah...the business side of email accounts. My publisher, editor, publishing loops, special friends in my writing world. I devotedly checked my email on a daily basis, usually more than once.

Disaster struck one Friday night. I couldn't get into my account. Panic welled inside me but I hoped it was just a temporary glitch. And, I smugly decided, all was safely backed up in the program the email account managers had offered.

So, I stayed calm, assuring myself that my address book, inbox, and files for sent messages, publisher information, saved messages, fun stuff, and twelve other files for other things would magically appear the next day or surely in the back-up program.

No problem. I felt safe.

Then came the next day, Saturday. My husband worked all day sending and receiving messages from my email account's service. Nothing worked. Not only couldn't they understand why I lost everything, but they also couldn't figure out why the back-up system failed and had nothing in it...and I'd been faithfully backing up for months. And, to add insult to injury, some of the "technician's" messages were standard form messages, not even addressing the questions asked. Oh...they did manage to send me an address list from my address book...except that it was at least 8 years old. I knew that for a fact since someone on that "retrieved" list had died in 2000.

Panic set in that Saturday night. I had to go to all my loops and redirect message to different email accounts. Also had to request that if anyone had sent me personal answers to questions I'd asked on loops to please resend messages to a new address. I had to notify my editor, publisher and others in the company of my change in address.

Friends and family. My address book. Now I was faced with the real tricky part of getting all that information back without making a gazillion phone calls. I found an old (June 2007) address list I'd printed out. From that, I emailed twenty or so names that I knew hadn't changed addresses and asked if they still had/kept any general group messages I'd sent recently (new book release, book out in print, etc., announcements). I needed them to forward my message back to me so I could retrieve some addresses.

Yes! Some wonderful friends and family members had kept my messages, or hadn't had time to read them yet, and sent me addresses. So I rebuilt my address book at a different location.

My point to writers and readers?
Back up all important messages and, well, anything you don't want to lose in cyberspace
.
Print out your email list once a month (I already have it marked on my calendar).

Somehow, no matter how fast technology pushes us to utilize computers, backing up on different computers, flash drives, in different files, folders, programs, can help. And, a paper copy of valuable information placed in a filing cabinet is always a alternate, positive choice.

What do you do to keep your computer stuff from disappearing?

Check out the following websites:
www.mariannestephens.net
www.aprilash.net

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Who's Katie O'Hara?

Today I'm interviewing my heroine, Katie O'Hara, from my latest Cerridwen book, "Gone to the Dogs". She's had a rough time after losing her fiance, Roger, to the boss's daughter, and then was downsized in her job. Let's see how she handles some questions.

Marianne: Katie, you've recently moved from New York City to a Kansas suburb of Kansas City. How's that going?
Katie: I'm adjusting. Living with Aunt Phoebe involves living in a whole other time dimension, but I love her dearly. While I miss my life in the fast lane in NY, there's something to say about living here in the Land of Oz. It's kinda growing on me.

M: Is there something you especially miss about NY? Really like about KS?
K: NY bagels. There's nothing like them anywhere on earth. Hmm. Like about KS? Well, there is Mike...but you didn't ask who I like, did you? So I'd have to say I like the friendliness of most of the people here.

M: Now that you mentioned Mike, tell us all about him.
K: Well, we just seem to butt heads all the time, you know? He's a fireman who's hell-bent on saving me, playing rescue guy. Yeah. Okay. I admit sometimes I need his help. But he's irritating, fascinating, annoying, charming, frustrating, hunky. Crap. He drives me nuts and sends my hormones into overdrive.

M: Wow. Sounds like a love-hate relationship. Thin line between those two.
K: (Sigh) I know. But my goal is to do a great job and then return to NY. I can't let Mike keep me here, can I? See? I can't think straight since he entered my life.

M: Why don't you tell us about your new job. How's that going?
K: I'm a marketing consultant for the Yipsey Dipsey Company. My job's to help Danny Yipsalante make the right decisions in marketing his first product. It's tough since I've gotta let him lead the way since his grandfather, the company's owner, wants Danny to do this more or less on his own. It's gotta sell or else the company will go bankrupt.

M: What's the product?
K: It's a new drink called Whoopsie. And I'm telling you, the first few versions of it had me ready to admit defeat and head outta town. But, Danny and his sister (who's the mixture expert) finally came up with a drink I figure we can market.

M: Any problems getting it done?
K: I've been having some mishaps lately; things going wrong all the time. I'm getting more and more suspicious about some people here not wanting the company to prosper. I've got three definite suspects in mind.

M: Sounds like you have your hands full. But, let's get back to your love life.
K: I-we-I'm not sure what we have. Making love with Mike is wonderful, but I'm not sure I want to stay here. Like I said before, he tries to help me all the time.

M: And, that's a bad thing?
K: You ask all the hard questions. No. It's not bad. But, I let that lousy ex-fiance of mine control me and I won't let that happen again. (Sigh) Then again, Mike's not really like Roger, is he?

M: Only you know the answer to that. What's next for you to do with Whoopsie?
K: One final taste testing, this time under my constant supervision since the last one was sabotaged. I'm determined to have this Whoopsie version be successful.

M: And, then what?
K: I'll need to sort through my feelings about Mike. I know deep down inside I love him. But, I can't concentrate on anything until this job is done.

M: You mentioned mishaps. Are things getting better?
K: Uh, actually they've gotten worse. Someone ran me off the road. Could've killed me. But, I think I know who my enemies are so I just have to be more careful.

M: Katie, thanks for being with us today. Anything else you'd like to add?
K: Wish me luck on this taste test. Then, once that's settled, I'll have time to figure out what to do about Mike. Thanks for interviewing me!

You can read Katie's adventure in "Gone to the Dogs", available as an ebook at www.cerridwenpress.com. Reviews and excerpts available at www.mariannestephens.net.
Also, visit my April Ash website at www.aprilash.net. April's first book, "Strip Poker For Two", will be my newest release.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Me, Myself, and I

Are you one of those people who gets pulled in 14 different directions because you desperately try to satisfy everyone's need for you to do something for them thus fulfilling their perception of you? Or, do you attempt to be /behave/react the way you think they feel you should? Lord, I fall into that trap so easily you'd think I had multiple personalities.

Wait. I do.

I'm my real name (not telling!), then Marianne Stephens, and also April Ash. The real me is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, cousin, niece, aunt, grandmother, friend, volunteer. Hmm. That's 11 personalities right there.

Marianne Stephens is an author, critique partner, promotions expert (yeah, right!), speaker on writing, writing groups member, blogger, loop joiner (way too many!), treasurer for an RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter, etc.

Of course, as April Ash I do all of the above and am just beginning my career as an erotic romance author.

How do I pull off switching personalities to suit everyone else...especially when it comes to my writing? A better question might be...should I?

The three of me (me, myself, and I) sometimes end up going in circles trying to please everyone while catering to others. Sometimes the grandmother encounters the speaker who's trying to help the erotic author explain why I write what I write as April Ash. That has been a difficult task as the real me has found out. Telling people I write erotic romance books as April Ash hasn't been embraced by some as an accomplishment. In fact, some think I've "crossed over to the dark side" by doing so.

Both my pen names write romances with happily-ever-afters. The differences occur in how they get there and the language/details I write for each book. While Marianne Stephens enjoys writing the more sensual, funny, paranormal and sometimes suspense type of romance stories, April Ash has only written one funny, very erotic romance story. More story ideas flood my head for each to write. In fact, I'm working on more than one book now.

Can I please everyone with my very different approaches to romance writing? No. In fact, hell no. I can no more keep everyone happy with their ideas of who I am/what I should or shouldn't do than I could fly minus the use of a plane.

While I try to compromise on some things to keep others happy with their image/expectations of me, it gets harder to do that the more I want to see how far I can get with my writing career.

So, how do you handle keeping everyone happy...or, do you? Not getting what you want or expect can be a valuable lesson, no matter how old you are. I've got to have a therapy session with the three of me and learn to help others accept my combined trio of personalities!

Good news!
"Strip Poker For Two" by April Ash will be available on 20 August from Ellora's Cave (www.ellorascave.com). Think strip poker, boxers, love notes, chocolate fondue, and cannoli cream. AND, I forgot to mention a tuba! All play a part in this funny, erotic, romance story.

"Street of Dreams" by Marianne Stephens was "blurbed" on Barbara Vey's Publisher's Weekly Blog (http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/880000288/post/200028420.html).

Don't forget to visit my websites:
Marianne Stephens www.mariannestephens.net
April Ash www.aprilash.net
At these sites, you'll find lots of information about my books, contests, newsletter, etc.



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