Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Author Interview: Allie Mae

Today, we're hosting a writer from our online writing group, the Just-Us League! Allie Mae is one of many authors releasing a new fairy tale anthology, Fractured Ever After, full of fun fractured fairy tales.

Allie, welcome to the A4A blog! We can’t wait to hear about your part of Fractured Ever After. Tell me, what inspired you to write On the Wrong Foot?

I had so many ideas for fairy tales I wanted to fracture, but none of them seemed right when I sat down to work on them. So I went to my collection of fairy tales to get some inspiration, and as I was reading (I think it was “The Fisherman and his Wife”) I had this idea for a character in denial of reality. I applied the idea to a handful of fairy tales, and eventually settled on Cinderella because it is so well-known, and my idea relies heavily on the reader having knowledge of the tale.

Cinderella is definitely a well-known fairy tale! I can’t wait to see your twist. Who is your favorite character?

Definitely Charming! He was the best to write. His version of reality is so entertaining, and I loved putting it on the page.

Ooh, interesting! Was it fun making the prince a romantic instead of the Cinderella character? 

Absolutely! With Cinderella as a much more grounded character, I think it twists the fairy tale nicely. And with Charming’s unique personality, I could be as creative and ridiculous as I wanted! The contrast between the two is hysterical.

Sounds like a match! Now tell me, how did you decide on a setting? Is it based off of anywhere you’ve been in real life?

It’s a stereotypical fairy tale kingdom. Small and basic. I wanted it to be anywhere. The kingdom is literally named “Donia” so it would be generic.

I like having the setting basic so the characters really shine! But let’s move on—can you share some of your favorite authors?  

Shannon Hale, Rick Riordan, Brandon Mull, Jessica Day George… The list goes on and on!

I love most of them too! And before we go, what can we expect next from you?

Well, I’m currently in the process of querying my young adult fantasy novel, and while I’ve gotten a few rejections, I’m still waiting to hear back from some publishers. And I’m working on another short story that’s already under contract. Shh! It’s a secret!

Fractured Ever After: On the Wrong Foot 

By Allie Mae

What if the story of Cinderella was made up to cover the ridiculousness of the real history? When Prince Charlemagne, self-named Charming, forces the girl of his dreams out of the ball and keeps only her shoe as a clue, he realizes that creating a lasting love story isn’t as easy as it sounds.

As part of the Fractured Ever After blog tour, we're happy to give our readers the chance to win one of the following prizes:

Grand Prize (US only): Two Paperbacks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), book cozy + shoe ornament, 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design), set of four signed illustration prints

First Prize (US only): Two Paperbacks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), charm bracelet, 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design), set of four signed illustration prints

Second Prize (International): Two Ebooks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design), set of four signed illustration prints

Third Prize (International): Two Ebooks (Fractured Ever After and Encircled), choice of 3D-printed bookmark (pick one design) OR set of four signed illustration prints

Click here for a chance to win!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Author Interview: William Justus

Join us today as we interview William Justus, author of our newest book: The Wind from Faerie.

Thanks so much for talking with us today. Let’s go ahead and dive right in: What inspired you to write The Wind from Faerie?

I’ve always been a huge fan of fairy tales and mythology, and writing fantasy has been a natural extension of the love I have for the genre. Prior to writing The Wind from Faerie, I made an attempt to write an Arthurian novel but wasn’t able to handle the subject as well as I would have liked.
I originally invented the world of Purovus for a Dungeons & Dragons game and eventually reached a sort of critical mass of potential with the world. It was simply ripe for a story, and I thought it would be fun to tell the tale of a great mage from beginning to end. Kellan was born from that impulse.

That makes a lot of sense for the story. Would you say that Kellan is more of a Lawful Good or a Chaotic Good? 

I think I’d say Chaotic Good because Kellan is dissatisfied with the class system in the Empire, so he isn’t a perfect citizen. His whole journey flies in the face of the cultural norm, and he does sow a little chaos wherever he goes.

I was leaning toward Chaotic Good myself. Tell me, are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 

I could probably write a small book on this question alone, which would absolutely ruin the novel itself. I’ve tried to weave a lot of threads into my story, many of which are allusions to mythology. As far as themes go, the idea that knowledge is powerful and dangerous without wisdom is one that the reader will see recurring throughout the series. I turned to nature again and again for its potent symbolism. Not only do my descriptions of nature set the mood for a scene, but they often foreshadow things to come.

“Knowledge is powerful and dangerous without wisdom” is definitely a sentiment that more people should appreciate. Let’s switch gears a little bit: who is your favorite character?

Master Galan has to be my favorite. I based him loosely on Merlin from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, made famous by the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone. He’s so cooky and overlooked but has so much wisdom if you look for it. Master Galan’s understanding of the world goes beyond conventional wisdom, so he’s ostracized, but he’s completely unfazed by other people’s opinions. He’s very loveable in my eyes.

Master Galan was definitely a fun character. How did you craft your world? 

I started off wanting these separate biomes, so I knew that I would have to design a map on a continental scale. In order for there to be desert, forest, and tundra, there has to be a lot of land and quite a few mountain ranges. Then all the different cultures I’d invented needed to be provided with a liveable space, so that modified the concept a bit.
The cultures I invented grew from my love for Antiquity. Most fantasy novels are set in a pseudo-Medieval time period, but I wanted to do something new. The Halystrian Empire was originally conceived as a late Republican Rome, though heavily modified. Still, the time period I chose meant that the weapons, amenities, and architecture were all going to be different than what I’ve typically read.

I agree—it was nice to see a fantasy set in those parameters. Was it difficult abiding by all the rules of magic in your work?

The magic system isn’t too complex, so I didn’t find abiding by its laws very difficult. The limitations to Kellan’s magic definitely forced me to be more creative with its applications but were never a sticking point. When in doubt, I found that acting out a scene was immensely helpful. I’m very practiced in living room magic by now, and my lamps have learned to be very afraid indeed.

They’re quivering in their shades, I’m sure. How did you decide on a setting? Is it based off of anywhere you’ve been in real life?

The Halystrian Empire certainly has a Mediterranean influence that was particularly influenced by Rome. I was lucky enough to visit Rome in 2013. The memories of that trip have helped me to form an image of Parthicum. The Rhegian countryside was based on the rolling Owyhee Mountains in Idaho, a range which I see every morning.

It sounds like that trip really made an impact on you. As a lover of fantasy myself, I’ve got to ask: who are your favorite authors? 

J.R.R. Tolkien is undoubtedly my favorite author, but I also very much enjoy Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and C.S. Lewis.

Those are some great authors that everyone should read at least once. Thanks again for talking with us today, but before we let you go we have one last question: what can we expect next from you?

I’m currently writing the sequel to The Wind from Faerie, which I have tentatively titled The Many Antlered Crown. The legend of Kellan the Fey will continue to grow and spread across Purovus, following wherever his adventures take him. Events will be set into motion that will shake the very foundations of the world, and I can’t wait to get this next book into the hands of my readers.

The Wind from Faerie

By William Justus

Kellan can only dream of a life without servitude, a life beyond the woods. And magic? That’s just a legend. But after he discovers a book of magic in his master’s library and begins to summon the power of wind, it becomes his obsession. When the emperor offers to test serfs for magical ability, it’s everything Kellan could ask for: a chance for an education, a chance to see the world, a chance for freedom.

At the Lyceum, he finds not only that, but friends, enemies, and more danger than he bargained for. There, it doesn’t take long for tales to form about Kellan the Fey. Can he become worthy of such renown? First, he must contend with the Wind from Faerie…

The Wind from Faerie will be available on April 21st, 2019.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Your Publishing Path: Small Presses

Smaller publishers with more flexibility than the giants, but more resources than an individual author.
Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week we looked at the “Big 5” publishers and talked about how to publish with them. Now, let’s look at some of the smaller publishing companies, and compare that to the traditional publishing model.

What is a small press?

A small press is a smaller publishing house. They publish books, but don’t publish as many as the large publishers, and (since they’re smaller) don’t make as much money. It’s sort of like comparing a local restaurant to a chain. The food may be fantastic, but with just one location, there’s no way that restaurant can compare in earnings to Applebees.
Since they’re smaller companies, small presses are more adaptable and flexible than the traditional publishers. However, they still do the production work of publishing your book.

So why should I go with a small press?

First of all, Authors 4 Authors Publishing is technically a small press (so I am a little biased here). What’s great about us is how flexible we are. We’ve had authors design their own covers, write their own blurbs, and everything in between. Because we’re a smaller group, it’s a lot easier for us to compromise and involve the author in key decisions.
Some smaller presses (like us) don’t work with agents. So remember that commission that came out of your earnings with the Big 5? You won’t lose it with a small press that works directly with you. It also cuts down on the length of the query process, since you can query these publishers directly, instead of trying to get an agent first.
Some smaller presses offer higher royalties than the larger presses. This is mostly to entice authors like you to go with them instead of with a larger publisher. We can do this because our overhead is less than a larger company, so we don’t need quite as much per sale to keep things running. We also don’t have offices in expensive New York City (where the rent is too d___ high…).
The best advantage is that a small press is still a publisher—so those production costs like book covers, editing, proofreading, and so on are paid for by them, not you.
Some small presses specialize.
Which is great—a small press that knows their specific market REALLY REALLY well will know how to place, market, and ultimately sell your book. And while the Big 5 have imprints that specialize, these imprints are still part of the larger corporation, which limits their flexibility.
Another specialty is the type of book. Electronic presses, for example, are small presses that only do electronic distribution, such as ebooks and audiobooks. Since this market is growing and predicted to continue growing, these presses are reserving their resources for the most impactful market areas. While you won’t realize your dream of seeing your novel grace the shelves of your local Barnes & Nobles, your book will be marketed to reach the hordes of readers on Kindle Unlimited, Audible, or Scribd.
Small presses are agile.
I do technical writing as well, so for you non-programmer folks, agile is a rapid development cycle. And small presses are VERY agile. Since it’s a smaller group, the bureaucracy that can slow things down with a large publisher just isn’t there. It also means that a small press can adapt to market changes faster because they can implement new plans and try new things with greater ease than a large company. Want to do a flash mob promoting your book? A small press is more willing to try your idea and support you in that than a larger company.

This sounds PERFECT! Small presses, here I come!

Okay, not to rain on your parade...but as with all our publishing options, no choice is perfect. There are a few cons to small presses. Most of them make sense with what we’ve already discussed.
A small press just doesn’t have the same resources at their disposal as the Big 5. This doesn’t mean they won’t spend as much on your book (trust me, even with having the resources, the Big 5 won’t necessarily allocate them), but it does mean that small presses may not have the same influence and reach with distributors as the larger companies. However, they are still putting their resources on the line, so you don’t have to.
The reason most small presses are small? Because they are a new business, and are still learning the trade. Even if they’ve been around for a couple of years, that’s not the same as the decades of experience had at larger companies. So while the people may be great to work with, there may be some kinks that need ironing as they develop their process.

Now I’m confused—should I go with a small press or not?

As I’ve already said in Choosing Your Publishing Path, there isn’t an easy answer. It’s about what’s right for you.
If you’re an entrepreneur and want to be part of a start-up company (and all the excitement that goes with it), a small press would be great for you!
If you have a very specific idea or vision for your book, but don’t want to self publish, a small press would be a good company for you.
If you prefer a more personal experience, and a smaller circle of people handling your work, a small press would be a great fit for you.

Next: Self Publishing

Join us for the next part of the series, where we talk about self-publishing.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Your Publishing Path: The Big 5

Traditional Publishing: The Oldest Path (Sort Of)
Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
As we explore our publishing paths, let's take a close look at the “Big 5” publishers, and what it means to go “traditional” when publishing.

What are the “Big 5?”

Simply put, through years of mergers and acquisitions, there remain five main trade book publishing houses. These companies are the largest book publishers in the US, and all have their headquarters in New York City. They are:
These companies are really large and own smaller imprints. For example, if you’re a science fiction or fantasy fan, you’ve probably heard of Tor, which is an imprint of MacMillan. Many of these imprints have separate offices and have their own set of editors, publicists, and other specialties needed to bring a book to life.

Publishing with the Big 5

Publishing with the Big 5 is not an easy process—at least, not when you’re trying to break into the industry. The best comparison I can think of is interviewing for a top executive position at a company. It’s not one interview, or a phone screen and an interview, but rather a series of interviews, meetings, and a lot of hope.
Step 1: Find an Agent
While the Big 5 have “slush” piles (unsolicited manuscripts) these usually get farmed out to interns or other unpaid labor to read. Very rarely will a publisher pick up an unsolicited manuscript. Most of them wait for an agent to approach them with a manuscript to purchase. This works for the larger companies because they don’t have to pay someone to weed through all the submissions to find ones that are marketable. An agent does that “for free” (more on that later) thus saving the publishing house the overhead involved. The publishing house doesn’t pay the agent for the work, the author does.
To get an agent, you have to query and submit to agents looking for manuscripts like yours. You can usually find agents with a little bit of research. If an agent likes your book, they will offer to represent you and try to sell your book in exchange for a commission. That commission is a percentage of what your book sells for, and a percentage of any royalties the book earns. The commission ranges from ten to twenty percent, with most commissions right in the middle at fifteen percent.
Querying an agent is difficult and time-consuming: you may get a lot of rejections before you find an agent. Many agents are overwhelmed with submissions, so they may take a long time to get back to you, or even lose track of you in the shuffle. If you opt to go this route, be professional but be in touch since the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
The Agent (Hopefully) Sells Your Book
If an agent decides to represent you, they will approach their contacts in the publishing industry and try to sell your book. The publisher will look at the book, and based on market research, decide how much they think it will cost to publish and how much they expect to make on the book and offer a price. You will receive this price as an advance (minus the agent commission). Bidding wars can increase the price, but you don’t want the price too high, since failing to earn out your advance can make the publisher question whether or not to keep you on as an author. This is a very involved process, but thankfully your agent handles most of it.
Your Book Gets Published
You’ll be contractually obligated to make edits and review changes, like those made during proofreading and copyediting. However, the Big 5 tend to be very hands-on when publishing—so while they may get your opinion on things, they will handle writing the blurb, designing the cover, and other parts of putting together the book.
They will also put together a sell sheet, and try to sell your book to distributors, such as Barnes and Nobles. These are almost exclusively for physical books, as ebooks populate in their distributors automatically. They will also submit your book to renowned reviewers, and pay for reviews and publicity for your book. You will be expected to promote your book, but contrary to the reputation they receive, the Big 5 do put time and resources into marketing a book—they just mostly happen behind the scenes.
You Write Your Next Book (But Still Market This One)
The beauty of receiving an advance means you can dedicate time to write the next book in a series or in general. You should still try to arrange readings and signings, but you can start writing your next book.

How Does That Sound?

In some ways, the process I described above is great! Notice how you, the author, aren’t doing a whole lot once you get that agent. This is probably the biggest advantage of the Big 5: you can focus on writing, and someone else handles the nitty gritty of the publishing and marketing. These publishers have the best reach, and can really get your book out to lots of markets.
So, what’s the catch?
You don’t make that much money. First, you have to earn back that advance. And for each book sold, less than ten percent of the list price actually goes towards that advance. So for your first year of hardback sales, for a book priced at $20, maybe two dollars goes into that advance. And until you earn that out, you don’t receive royalties. After that first year, paperbacks earn even less. You may receive a better rate on ebooks, but it’s nowhere near the seventy percent you would receive self-publishing, or the higher amounts offered at small or mid-sized publishers.
The Big 5 grew designed to sell print books. Yes, they offer ebooks, but their relationships are with printers and physical stores. And unfortunately, there’s just not as much traffic to traditional book stores anymore (or stores in general, at that).
Ebooks appear in a crowded market since self-publishing makes it easy for anyone to publish a book. The publishers do what they can, but with that much noise, it’s very difficult to get a message through and direct readers to your book.
Wait, now this sounds terrible!
It’s not. I promise. It’s just not the gold standard that it used to be. Many people do feel that they haven’t “made it” as an author unless they are traditionally published. But when you compare earnings, there are self-published authors that make a lot more money than traditionally published authors.
Like anything else in life, it’s a tradeoff. With traditional publishing, you give up control of your book and top royalties for someone else to do the majority of the publishing work (sorry, writing doesn’t count as publishing work). In exchange, you get a team of experienced professionals giving your book top-notch development, and the freedom to focus on your next project.

Now I REALLY Don’t Know What to Do

Like I said when I started this series, it’s not easy, and there is no universal answer. I hope I gave you an honest look at what works and doesn’t work for this publishing path. Now you have to ask yourself if it sounds like the right fit for you.
If it doesn’t, just check back in the coming weeks as I go into other publishing options. I’m sure one of them will be, as Goldilocks says, “just right.”

Just us next week when I talk about small presses and electronic presses.

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