Saturday, June 11, 2016

My new adult fantasy trilogy; The Vengeful Half is on sale; The Stolen Heart is out!

What a week!

I've been waiting for the release of The Stolen Heart before I would run a proper 99 cents sale on The Vengeful Half. Well, my week is finally here! The Vengeful Half is 99 cents through June 16th AND The Stolen Heart is out!

The Vengeful Half: On sale for 99 cents through June 16th!

I also quietly put the first book in my adult fantasy trilogy up for pre-order. This is a totally experimental project for me in imitating the Habits of Highly Successful Ebook Authors: trying to write "to market" quickly. But I also fell deeply in love with this story, Velsa and Grau and how they grow over the course of the trilogy which, I've already written in my HEAD if not entirely on paper... As I said in my last entry, it's still set in the Hidden Lands, but 100 years before The Vengeful Half. I have so many ideas for the sequel already. But I'm also deep into book 3 of the other series. So much to do!

This book is an adult romance. It has sex scenes. So if you're related to me, please don't read it, or don't tell me you did. And like, if you do, please just remember, I'm trying to make money here. =P

Official blurbiness:


Born of wood, cloth, and a substantial dose of magic, Velsa is a Fanarlem, a beautiful artificial girl. Raised to be a concubine, she has seen her friends at the House of Perfumed Ribbons sold off to be the pets of wealthy men. Now her own dreaded day has come. Grau Thanneau is a kind and handsome sorcerer who expects to own a spectacular piece of spellwork--he doesn't realize that everything he has been told about Fanarlem is a lie. Velsa is not a dull-witted doll, but an intelligent and luminous soul who captivates his heart. Neither of them expected to fall in love, in a land where the law will never recognize her as his equal... 

When Grau brings Velsa with him as he serves in the border patrol, they encounter odd magic sent from the High Sorcerer's palace--or is it magic at all? War is brewing, and with it, the winds of opportunity. Velsa has powers of her own, powers no Fanarlem girl should have, but when the enemy attacks, she might be the only one who can stand against them. 

I'm experimenting with offering this one for 99 cents during the pre-order and initial release.

(Click here to pre-Order The Sorcerer's Concubine!)

More updates soon! I am trying to write this update while on a brief vacation to my parents' house in the Asheville area (and heartily tired!).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Stolen Heart cover and Self-Publishing: 2 Months In, Hard Decisions, New Projects

The cover for book #2 of the Hidden Lands, The Stolen Heart, is out and about now!

The daughter of a wealthy and corrupt businessman, Thessia lived a pampered life. But she has fallen for the one boy she can’t have: Lester Alamont, a talented young sorcerer…and a Fanarlem. Fanarlem, a highly realistic race of ‘doll people’ created by magic, were considered only fit to be a slave race for centuries, and to Thessia’s father, that’s still the only thing they’re good for.

Alfred Brawder, Thessia’s former fiance and the son of an organized crime boss, is trying to go straight by attending Thessia’s school—and he still wants to see her find happiness, befriending Lester and encouraging the clandestine relationship. But in the traditional world of Atlantis, forbidden allegiances quickly lead to violence, and for Alfred, keeping his hands clean proves harder than expected…

As much as I love book 1, I love book 2 even more because it progresses the characters emotionally so much!

However, I've been dealing with rapid-fire business decisions in my new indie publishing career. Recently I scheduled a brief 99 cent promotion. On the morning when I was supposed to go lower the price for the sale, Amazon informed me that my book file was too large to make into a 99 cent book! This is thanks to the pictures. I had to quickly hack 2/3rds of the pictures out of the book or the promised sale would never happen. Talk about painful, after all the work I put into them. The pictures are never going back in, because never being able to put the book on sale is just not an option...

At this point, I am generally faced with the tough call that the pictures are not paying for themselves.  Some of you loved them, and I love you for it because I was so happy doing them... But, I've learned that the story has to stand on its own and I'm sensing that very few people picked up the book just because of the pictures. I could probably write 1-2 extra books a year in the time it takes me to do the artwork, and I lose a substantial chunk of my sales on delivery costs. So, soon I will be pulling the remaining 1/3rd of the art out of TVH and offering ALL the art as a free extra. Subsequent volumes probably won't have art because I just can't justify the time to do it...but I do still draw all the time, just in a lot of more of a sloppy way, so I'll post that stuff around periodically.

I also had to face the fact that while I very much wanted to offer my book at all the major retailers on a philosophical basis...I have only sold a whopping one copy outside of Amazon in the past few months. So, the book is now exclusive to Amazon so it can benefit from page reads on Kindle Unlimited and the sales Kindle offers.

A part of me hesitates to talk about all this so openly. It sounds like a lot of "OOPS". But, part of the reason I liked the idea of going indie is because I DO like to talk about things openly, including business. I'm a Capricorn--business is my jam! (When my Capricorn sun is not being overruled by my quirky Aquarius planets and the tormented emotions of my Scorpio moon, that is.) And the cool thing about indie publishing is that you can observe what's working and what isn't and make changes. 

With that in mind, I've also been wanting to write an adult fantasy romance because I think the market is stronger than YA, and in the past 10 days I've written almost the entire draft of one. Literally, the entire story hit me in one day and I've just been writing like a fiend ever since... I'm far enough along now (it will be a shorter book!) that I can say with certainty that I can release The Stolen Heart on June 10th and then The Sorcerer's Concubine on July 10th! It's still set in the Hidden Lands, but many years prior, so the feel is more high stands ENTIRELY alone from the main series but also sheds a lot of light on the situations in that series. And it has a few sex scenes, which I was very embarrassed to write, even though see above about "adult romantic fantasy" + "stronger market"...but I think the book would actually lose something pretty important without them. So I want to say this book is for adult readers, but then I am aware of the irony that most teenagers--in public school, at the least--probably still know more about sex than my homeschooled self...(really it's true...-_-;;;;;...I feel like no matter what I do I'm still going to get reviews that say "this should have been a middle grade!!")

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Self-Publishing, One Month In

It's been a little over a month since The Vengeful Half came out, and I decided I wanted to be a bit transparent about the process, because the more I learn about indie publishing, the more I realize there is a huge divide in perception and knowledge between traditional and indie YA writers. Many traditionally published writers know almost nothing of the indie market. This includes me, and so self-publishing was a very scary prospect to me! But, I'm learning more all the time and I'd like to pass it on.

 Starting Line

There is a lot of info on starting out as an indie publisher from scratch. And there is also a lot of info on traditional publishing. There is NOT much info about hybrid publishing in the YA market. Even less so because the indie published works many YA hybrid authors publish are things like tie-in novellas, short stories, or sequels their publisher turned down. The data on launching a brand new series is almost nil. Would my prior published books give me any kind of advantage? I had no idea. I suspected the answer was "very little" because my most successful book released 6 years ago, and most of the bloggers and such who loved it are not blogging anymore. (Some of them are now writers or publishing professionals themselves!) I have also taken a lot of social media breaks and basically been terrible about retaining fans. Part of the reason for this was because all through my traditional publishing career, the Hidden Lands books have burned inside of me and I really wanted to talk about THEM, not the books I was selling. This is an awkward way to maintain an "author face". So I am hoping I will be able to have a more consistent presence now, but either way, I don't have a lot to draw from.

Launching the Series

I put the Vengeful Half up for preorder about a month before its release on March 10th. I blitzed all my social media with the announcement of the Hidden Lands series. Between Twitter, Facebook personal and fan page, Blogspot, and Goodreads I have about 4,500 followers. It sounds like a lot, but that number is misleading, because a lot of them come from my YA author "boom era" when Magic Under Glass and Between the Sea and Sky came out, 2009-2010, and are not fresh followers who have had a recent interest in me. And also, of course, there is a lot of overlap. Once I had announced the series, I emailed a slew of bloggers offering review copies to try and get some reviews. I put up a LibraryThing giveaway for e-ARCs, a Goodreads giveaway for a paperback, and I purchased a 1-month NetGalley Co-Op for March. Much of indie book success seems to hinge on paid advertising, but I did no other marketing because I decided to save any paid marketing for book 2. Since I don't have a lot of money, I want paid advertisements to be able to benefit from sell-through into a second book. Some of the paid advertising sites require a certain number of reviews so I decided to focus on getting reviews instead.

I launched the book at $4.99 and decided to go wide, putting the book in Apple, Kobo and B&N, rather than keeping it exclusive to Amazon. Most of my sales occurred on the day I announced the series and on release day. Then I went almost a week with no sales at all, so I dropped the price to $2.99 to see if that would help, although I did it quietly because I wanted to measure organic sales, not sales from friends. At first, no change but then I went a week with 1 sale a day. At the 1-month mark, I have sold almost 50 books, of which 14 were paperbacks, most were at $4.99 and about 7 were at $2.99. Several of my sales were to Europe including two of the paperbacks.

Was it what I expected? Yes, it was about what I expected. My book is not written to market, or marketed to market, nor was it advertised or put on sale, so I didn't expect many organic sales, but I did definitely get a few, maybe to my pre-existing fans though. A lot of people, including me, don't buy series until they are farther along, so I expect a decent chunk of people are just waiting for me to write more.

What I Might Do Differently Next Time

The hard part about indie publishing is all the choices, entirely in one's own hands. All of my regrets are huge "MIGHTS" because if these other paths wouldn't have ended up being successful, I would have regretted them even MORE because they weren't my first instinct. But, I might change the way I do things next time due to results. --I may consider more "typical" covers. When I commissioned my covers I wanted something that captured the anime/magical Mafia feel of the books, looked cool, and made for a nice thumbnail. But I have since learned that the most successful indie books tend to look like every other successful indie book. Unique is not considered a virtue. So I am always second-guessing my covers. On the other hand, you know, I REALLY wanted to like my cover and they were cheap, and it's not like every book with a typical cover sells either, so...who knows.

--I think I maybe should have launched at 99 cents and booked a few cheap promos. I probably wouldn't have made much on them, because of the lack of other books in the series, and I would've lost some money from my loyal readers buying the book at 99 cents instead of $4.99, but I could've gotten the book a little more traction for a stronger book 2 launch. On the other hand (there's always that), why rush? I have 4 more books in this series, 4 more chances to promo and benefit from sell-through immediately, so patience is perhaps a virtue.

--Should I have done a pre-order? I didn't get any rankings boost on Amazon when the book came out because most people had already bought it, and that wasn't great, was probably good to learn the process with a pre-order. In the long run it doesn't matter much. But I may not do a preorder for The Stolen Heart. --Should I have included so many mini-comics and art pieces in the book? It takes a huge chunk out of my Amazon sale price. I think I should have kept the delivery cost under 50 cents... In future books, I'll be scaling back on the art a bit because I just can't pay that much delivery cost per book.

--I think if I could turn back time I might have given the book a 90 day stint in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon's exclusive program. Although I hate the idea of keeping all my books exclusive to Amazon forever, so far I have sold exactly ONE book outside of Amazon. I'm pretty sure I would have made at least more than $2 through Kindle Unlimited page reads. I think promo and time are both necessary to make money on the other platforms and since I didn't plan a lot of promo, and time is not on my side right now (kiiiiiinda broke right now) I should have just done KU at first, then pulled it out for book 2 when I did more promo.

Going Forward

The Stolen Heart releases June 10th. I don't expect to see a lot of sales for The Vengeful Half until that book releases. Right now I am focusing on finishing book 3, and then I will start gearing up some more aggressive promo for book 2. This book probably won't be a shining star right out of the gate. Magical Mafia isn't really a hot concept at the moment, and it's also funny and has quirky world-building, which confuses some, and also has a lot of epic fantasy elements that don't become apparently immediately. But the readers who love it really really love it, so I hopefully I can find my people and not completely lose my shirt doing it...

I also think I might benefit from a "funnel book", a more commercial book that I can market in a more straight-forward way, but still tie in to the Hidden Lands world. I have a few ideas for other side series that might serve this purpose.

Despite not making a profit yet, I am ENJOYING myself 100x than I ever did writing my other books. I have never been SO excited to sit down and write every single day. It's amazing to be able to plot a five-book series and already consider the NEXT story arc, to foreshadow things that won't happen for a long, long time, and to include the comics and all the quirkiness that makes me keep returning to this world again and again. It's rare for an indie book career to take off with just one book, so I am not worrying about numbers much at this point.

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my post on Why I Decided to Self Publish, and if you want to be kept abreast of my publishing news, be sure to join my mailing list!: Jaclyn Dolamore's Writerly News

Monday, March 14, 2016

Musical Update, Vengeful Half giveaway, video and more!

I have a little more info on the Magic Under Glass musical, Clockwork Heart. The venue will be Reservoir High School in Fulton, MD. (Note: The show is not being put on by a high school. The CCTA just uses high school theaters over the summer.) The show dates are July 28th-31st. I still don't know times or have ticket info, but...will keep you posted!

The Vengeful Half is now out, and available at Amazon as an ebook and paperback, and as an ebook at KoboBarnes & Noble, and iBooks. A couple of people have asked me where they should buy it. You should buy it anywhere you like buying books, it's all good, but if you have choices, Kobo is the best place to buy the ebook. Due to Amazon's file delivery charges, my royalty gets pretty hammered there. Though this is not a problem with the paperback.

I did a video this week to celebrate the release, showing just a few of the 20 years of sketchbooks and notebooks I've filled writing about the Hidden Lands!

I also did a guest post at the Tea and Titles blog: 4 Tips for Writing Compelling Characters. Specifically, I considered writing Alfred, because he is my favorite character. Oh, if only every character was as easy to write as Alfred! Sample: "Some of the most common advice given in writing books is that a character must want something very badly, and that desire will drive the entire plot. Even better, I think, than writing one thing, is wanting two things that can’t be had at once."

Trish at Wide Angled Life has been so supportive of The Vengeful Half and is giving away an ebook copy at her blog.

See a few of you at the New York Teen Author Festival this weekend! =D

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Clockwork Heart...the Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone MUSICAL!!

I finally get to tell you the news I’ve been sitting on for a year!!!

I’ve sold the theatrical rights to Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone…to create a rock musical based on both books, called Clockwork Heart!!! I wrote the libretto, and the music is by the crazy-talented Michael Francis Kline.

And HEADS UP, Baltimore/DC! The world premiere (that’s fun to say) will be directed by Toby Orenstein and performed this summer by the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts in Columbia, MD. They’re a non-profit organization that I’ve heard amazing things about and I am so excited for them to put this on! The performances will be the last weekend in July (exact details to come).

By pure coincidence, that’s the same weekend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens in London, and if you won’t be there, well, it would be nice to have an evening of YA fantasy theatre anyway, wouldn’t it?

Readers, I am so excited to share this with you. For one thing, I wrote the libretto, so it’s very faithful to the books. But what I am even more excited for is the music. From the day Mike first played some rough drafts of these songs for me on his guitar…well, if it was possible for my jaw to literally drop out of my skull, we would’ve needed an ambulance that day. He took my playlists for the books and drew from them for inspiration, weaving together 1970s rock, indie, and traditional/world music influences, and brought such an innate understanding of these characters and the mood of my books. I can honestly say that I don’t think David Bowie or Freddie Mercury or Colin Meloy or Arcade Fire or anyone I might have chosen to write a Magic Under Glass musical in my dreams could’ve done a better job of capturing this story…and writing some DAMN catchy music to boot.

I can’t believe I’ll be seeing Erris and Nimira’s love story play out on the stage!! I hope to see some of you there!

They will also be doing a cast album, so if you can’t be there in July, you can still enjoy the music. I also hope to have some songs to share before then so you don’t have to take my word for it.

(And since someone always seems to ask if they can be IN these things, it is part of CCTA’s paid summer camp for ages 14-21:

Also, FYI to reviewers, my new book The Vengeful Half is up on NetGalley. It comes out in two days--eep!--and I'd be honored if you choose to spend some time in my beloved world.

And on the 19th and 20th I'll be at the New York Teen Author Festival! Come say hi!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

On Self-Publishing an Illustrated YA Novel

I wanted to just write this up as an offering to the Google gods, because when I was looking into publishing The Vengeful Half I had a hard time finding initial resources about indie publishing and illustrated novels. I found stuff about comics and picture books but nothing about just weaving little pictures into the books.

So I'm going to write up the little FAQ I could've used. I am by no means an expert, but at least it might help someone.

Q: Can you add pictures to an e-book and if so, how is it done?

Yes! I used the software Vellum (which is only for Mac) which very easily allows you to plug pictures anywhere in the text. Vellum forces you to choose between four sizes, but I didn't find this to be a problem. There is no way to 100% control the size of your pictures anyway, because different e-readers will display them differently. Vellum has a preview feature you can look at as you go, that shows what the picture will look like on different common e-readers. I found this very helpful! However, I have gotten one feedback already that a large picture got cut off even though this didn't show on any of the e-readers in Vellum's previewer. I adjusted the size to be a tad smaller but I have yet to find out if any other readers will have this problem.

Q: What about the print copy for Createspace or other print-on-demand publishers? How do I create that?

I got my partner to do this for me. He used iStudio, a $30 program for Mac. You can also use older versions of Pages but not the latest version. I can't comment on software for PCs. I also can't tell you anything further about how the heck he did it...

Q: Are there any issues I should be aware with uploading picture-heavy files to Amazon, etc.?

Yes, unfortunately, Amazon will charge you a delivery fee for your files to Kindle IF you choose the 70% royalty option. Therefore, an image-heavy file will take money out of your royalties. I added either a single illustration or a multi-panel comic to about 40 chapters or so, and my delivery fee is $0.82. That is a pretty decent chunk and it is a bit of a financial disadvantage for me, as I can't price my book too low without being forced to switch to the alternate 35% royalty.

It should be noted, Vellum's site will tell you that Kindle compresses the files themselves so you can leave them large. However, we brought down the delivery cost SUBSTANTIALLY by shrinking the files ourselves, to below Vellum's recommended minimum. This didn't seem to harm the viewing quality at all.

None of the other major e-book retailers charge a delivery fee or have strict minimum file sizes so you can expect the full royalty at Nook, Kobo, etc.

Q: What kind of pictures did you use?

Mine are all black and white line art scanned as grayscale. I don't have experience with color. I wanted the pictures to be easily visible on B&W e-readers.

Q: How is the picture quality on your basic e-reader?

A: The pictures, admittedly, don't look *AS* good on my 1st gen. Nook as they do on paper or read on, say, an iPad screen, but they'll do. There are probably techniques for creating art to look its best on e-readers but it's probably not realistic to adapt your entire art style for e-readers! And then you'd still have tablet, phone, and print copy readers to consider. One important thing I discovered is that I could not hand-letter the comics I did. I had to replace all the wording with computer fonts.

Q: Is there anything to bear in mind while creating the pictures?

E-readers don't have superb picture quality and they are tall, not long. So don't create big, detailed, wide pictures unless you want readers to have to turn their e-readers around.

Q: Is there a market for teen/young adult or even general fantasy novels with added comics and/or pictures?

I guess I'll find out! But I know what I like and I wanted to create the book I'd love to read, a novel with the feel of a manga thanks to added extras. Comics and visual storytelling is a very different medium from prose. For me, it's possible to express my sense of humor in a very different way by adding comic strips to the text. Whenever I show my sketchbooks to fans of my novels, they love the comics, so I thought...why not just put them in the book??

Q: To my readers: Do you know of any novels for adults or teens that incorporate art? Especially in ways that go beyond simple illustrations, such as comics?

So far I know of:
I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Thieves and Kings by Mark Oakley (a series of graphic novels with prose sections)

I would love to know of more! Surely there are more!?

And if you came to this post looking for information on illustrated novels, I hope you'll consider checking out my series, beginning with The Vengeful Half!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review of "Take Off Your Pants!" by Libbie Hawker, and Thoughts on Outlining a Series

"Take Off Your Pants!" was recommended on some forum threads about writing faster. The paperback is just 8.99 (cheaper still as an ebook but I need this kind of thing in paper for SURE) so I gave it a whirl. I'm somewhere between a plotter and a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) and always trying to perfect the art of the outline so I'll stop waffling around.

So far this book has been pretty effective for me. She gives a lot of props to John Truby's "The Anatomy of Story", which I have not read, so I can't say how they compare...but The Anatomy of Story is over 400 pages and this is about 100. I really liked how lean, mean and focused this book is, because I already know a lot of the fundamentals of telling a story and in many cases a quick and dirty plot breakdown is EXACTLY what I need. This book does that beautifully. I found her outlining techniques much easier to work with than I've seen in some other books.

If you're a beginning writer, however...although this book certainly IS accessible to beginners, I might start by reading a few books with more depth because it will help you when it comes time to actually write the outline.

The reason I've been particularly keen on creating an outline is because I am currently plotting book #3 of The Hidden Lands series. This is certainly the most ambitious writing project I've taken on thus far. Five books, four main characters and many side characters, multiple antagonists... How I love this story, but sometimes I look at the work ahead and think... "............................"

On the other hand, I've gotten better at what I do! That's such a good feeling! Enough so that I can actually tell you some of the things that help make plotting a multiple-POV, multiple-book series work. It's pretty hard to find advice on this, so I hope it helps! Mind you...I don't know if these rules will apply to all such series. I really won't know that until I try to apply them to my next series!

Tips Ahoy:

--When developing multi-POV, multi-book character growth arcs, keep sight of your theme.

It has helped me a lot for all the characters have a push and pull between two contrary desires. In this case, three of the characters--Alfred, Olivia, and Lester--are torn between a desire for power and a desire to have a peaceful life. They all have slightly different motives for wanting power, however, so their arcs are not quite the same..but that remains a theme for all three of them, and in each book, they make different moves toward one or the other. At the end of book 1, Alfred moves toward the peaceful life. At the end of book 2, he moves back toward power. In book 3, he tries to balance both. In books 4 and 5, he has renewed his commitment toward power, but his MOTIVES for wanting power change as his character matures, so the pursuit doesn't feel repetitive.

Some variation of this is repeated for Olivia and Lester, but sometimes they are shifting in different directions from each other, and this creates conflict.

Thessia is a bit of an outlier. She is more trapped than the others, and for her, power = freedom. She doesn't feel the same pull toward a peaceful life. Her motives for gaining power are more pure than the other characters from the start, and her inner conflict is simply that she is afraid to stand up for herself. But she still ties into the theme of "What is the benefit of power? Why would we want it? Are we growing up to be good guys or bad guys?"

Throughout the series, these questions are also echoed in the side characters, such as Det, who made an infamous choice years ago to commit a serious crime for the greater good, giving each character a chance to ask themselves whether they agree with Det's choice and whether they would be willing to repeat it.

--Give the characters in a multiple POV book series every possible chance to meet one another, grow together, and impact each other's lives. 

In the beginning of book 2, Alfred, Thessia and Lester are at school together, while Olivia is not. In the first draft, Thessia's best friend at school had a lot of influence on Thessia. Meanwhile, I had the problem of Olivia seeming detached from the other characters. In the second draft, I decided to downplay Thessia's best friend and instead found ways for Thessia and Olivia to meet, and Olivia to bring about the character revelations that had previously come from Thessia's best friend. In book 3, once again, I have a character separated from the rest, so in the outline, I tried to find regular spots where the characters would communicate or their actions would have a bearing on one another. Otherwise it'll end up feeling like you have two different books and you risk losing the reader when you switch POV.

--Don't lose sight of the antagonist.

If you're writing a multiple book story and you want to keep the reader invested, make sure you identify the ultimate antagonist from the very first book, and keep them in mind. This has been especially important for me because ideally I want this series to lead into future series, so I've planted the seeds of future plots throughout. However, the first series MUST stand alone and feel complete and satisfying. In this case, I've used the Marvel movies as an inspiration. There are ongoing hints about Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet throughout the Marvel movies, but if you watch one, you don't feel cheated because you don't get the story of the Gauntlet right now. The movies establish clear boundaries between the plot at hand and the suggestions of future conflicts.

Even if you are not planning THAT far ahead, one should still take some time to consider the ultimate antagonist of the story from page 1, book 1. It is highly effective when every minor antagonist somehow feeds into or sets the stage for the ultimate antagonist. Voldemort is an obvious example...from book 1, every individual Harry Potter book's antagonist plays into the overall Voldemort vs. Harry conflict. The character arc of the antagonist should follow a similar pattern to the protagonists, as outlined above. If your characters are, in fact, going to meet the same antagonist in every book, then consider how that antagonist will have evolved into a new and escalated challenge with each encounter.