Check-in Post, 12/27/14

Now that you’ve had a full two minutes to marvel at the awesome title of this post—

With weddings to go to on the opposite side of California, holidays with family, a two-week cold, and planning for upcoming travels, I haven’t made much time to post on this blog or work on my novel in recent weeks. Here’s a brief update:

Traveling Again

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton - Ray and Debra Barone in ItalyAs I’ll be going back to certain countries in Europe and Asia soon, I wanted to do some A.D.M. Was Here posts about my past trips before setting out again. That’s not going to happen, but I might write those posts while I’m revisiting those locations (I do like going to cafes in different countries and doing work there—feels a bit more like you live there, doing regular stuff while also taking in the local ambiance).

Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this, I chose a random season of Everybody Loves Raymond on Netflix and ended up with the episode where the Barones go to Italy (where I should be soon).

State of the Novel

I’m about 20,000 words into the second book of my series right now, and I’m currently waiting on some beta reader feedback before I go back and edit my first book yet again. Then, I’ll send out another batch of queries to potential agents. Hopefully, I can get some of this done on my many impending train rides, and also do some more research for indie publishing.

A Superhero, the Post-apocalypse, and World Domination

Infamous 2 - Cole MacGrath - Sucker PunchWhile sitting at home to nurse my cold, I’ve been going through a backlog of PS3 games I never finished, including Infamous 2 by Sucker Punch and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West by Ninja Theory. On top of that, I’ve been playing hours upon hours of Sid Meier’s Civilization V on the PC.

Infamous 2 has some questionable character designs and the story kind of fizzles out at the end (no matter which ending you go with), but the game is enjoyable. Enslaved is also fun, though the story isn’t as intriguing as reviews led me to believe (but it was compelling enough through the majority of the game), and there are a few glitches here and there (none of which are game-breaking, so it’s fine). Finally, judging from the many hours I’ve spent on Civilization V, it’s fairly safe to conclude that I think the Sid Meier game is worthwhile.

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Punching Self-Publishing Stigma in the Face

Successful novels that were self-published - The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan - My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking Wool by Hugh Howey - Fifty Shades by E L James - Eragon by Christopher Paolini - Daniel's Gift by Barbara Fr

First, a bit of a summary of what I’ve learned about indie publishing over the past six months, and then a glance at some indie successes.

Indie publishing, not self-publishing.

One thing I’ve learned about non-traditional publishing is that many prefer to call it “indie publishing” as opposed to “self-publishing” because the latter carries an outdated, negative connotation.

Traditional and indie publishing: neither is clearly better than the other.

In an older post, I analyzed a number of pros and cons for traditional and indie publishing for a new author. To paraphrase myself: Indie publishing allows for greater freedom in the content of your writing, the cover design, and much more. However, going indie generally requires substantial out-of-pocket costs for the author. Traditional publishing, on the other hand, takes away some freedom but the publisher would provide professional editing and a cover design, and potentially aid in marketing and an advance on royalties. My ultimate conclusion was that new authors should at least chase traditional publishing first because it allows time to understand the market as well as an opportunity to properly edit the manuscript before rushing to print (impatience is one of the worst traits of a self-publishing author).

Manuscripts without a high concept have a tougher time getting published traditionally, but there’s no such bar for indies.

As I’ve previously discussed, high-concept fiction is highly original, widely appealing, easy to visualize, and easy to sum up in three sentences or less.

These days, agents and publishers generally look for high-concept work. Thus, if an author’s query (or even just the hook) fails to demonstrate enough high-concept qualities, traditional publishing folks will be very unlikely to even look at the manuscript. It makes sense considering the quantity of material that goes into their inbox and the fact that a book without a high concept will result in less impressive sales numbers.

If you’re indie, you can publish just about anything—there’s no requirement of a high concept. However, you’ll run into the problem that agents and publishers anticipate when they see a “low concept” book: it’s going to be much more difficult to get people to buy that thing.

A book doesn’t need a high concept to be awesome.

While a book which lacks a high concept may be difficult to market, it isn’t necessarily a bad book: a book that doesn’t seem original on in a three-sentence summary may be original in its details; wide appeal is helps for quantity in sales, but books which cater to smaller, niche markets can great; visualization for high-concept fiction generally should be somewhat of an “action” scene which will be non-existent in subtler works; and there are plenty of awesome works out there that are difficult to sum up in a few sentences while demonstrating originality, wide appeal, and provide a strong visual.

Indie authors should utilize professional editors as well as beta readers.

A lot of the sucking found in self-published titles can at least be partially attributed to a lack of professional editing. At worse, these novels require drastic revisions under the guidance of a developmental editor. In the not-too-bad scenarios, these books merely need another read-through by a copy editor.

Many indie authors probably don’t bother with professional editors due to the considerable cost. In those cases, the author should alternatively gather a substantial amount of beta readers (including a mix of casual readers, other authors, and English Major-y people to provide feedback), and take time to seriously weigh their suggestions.

I’ve seen at least one indie author admit to ignoring all beta reader feedback and simply rushing to print. While it’s a good idea to critically analyze feedback and avoid rushing to change your book based on the opinion of a single reader, you shouldn’t take any feedback too lightly—particularly when the same bit of advice is repeated by several readers.

Too many indie book covers look like stuff I made in seventh grade (some are even worse).

Seriously, I’ve seen covers that look like they were slapped together by some kid in the late 90’s on MS Paint. If you aren’t considerably gifted with graphic design, find someone who is (i.e., a professional with a relevant degree). If you really want to get away from the old stigma of being self-published, it should look like it belongs on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.

If there’s an image, the resolution should be high—I don’t want to see pixel-y blocks unless your book is about 8-bit video games. Also, the book title and author name should be easy to read with genre-appropriate fonts (this article by Derek Murphy may be helpful, though some of those fonts are a bit too flamboyant and illegible for my taste). I’ve also read an article which suggests to use a serif font and sans serif font for the title and author name, but to avoid using the same type for both—one is serif, and the other sans serif.

Book sales will require dedication to marketing endeavors—platform building, book reviews, pricing deals, appearances, interviews, and conventional advertisements.

You can’t just slap your novel onto Amazon, B&N, Lulu, Smashwords, and Kobo and expect sales to magically happen. You’ll need to market that thing. Personally, marketing my book is what scared me into chasing traditional publishing. However, reading about different avenues for authors to get the word out on their books has made it less foreboding.

The first thing an author needs is a platform: a means with which the author can reach an audience.

If you’re a celebrity or a renown expert in some field that relates to your book, then you’re pretty well off. Having none of that, it may be a good idea to make some noise on the internet (e.g., blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). I’ve read some articles that bad mouth the effectiveness of social networking as a means to advertise your book, but I’m of the school of thought that believes some reach is better than none. Continue reading

Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen

If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Arrow, this post will have some *SPOILERS* (come to think of it, the title is kind of a spoiler already—oh well).

After some Arrow bingeing on Netflix, I discussed the cast of characters with my friend who thought the show forcibly added attractive women into the cast and didn’t know what to do with them (story-wise). In that friend’s opinion, a lot of the female characters are underdeveloped.

This prompted me to list the main and recurring characters to see how many characters were of either sex. With just the characters off the top of my head, I found there were more male characters than female: seventeen men, and thirteen women. What I found most interesting was that of the thirteen female characters on my list, Oliver Queen—the show’s protagonist—sleeps with six of them and is romantically interested in a seventh.

1. Dinah Laurel Lance, Esq.: Oliver dated her prior to the start of the show and they have some relapses during Season 1 (poor Tommy).

2. Dinah Sara Lance/Canary: Oliver cheats on Laurel with her sister in flashbacks, and when Sara returns on the island, and as the Canary, there’s a bit of something going on there.

3. Felicity Smoak: It’s been demonstrated that they at least have crushes on one another—Felicity lets it slip that she imagined Oliver holding her, and that she likes watching him do that pull-up-cross-fit-y exercise (looked it up—it’s called the Salmon Ladder), and she’s also jealous when Oliver’s with other women; and Oliver is super jealous of Barry Allen when Felicity is all smitten with the Flash-to-be.

Caity Lotz as Sara Lance aka Black Canary - Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance - Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak

Canary, Laurel Lance, and Felicity Smoak

4. Helena Bertenelli/The Huntress: Arrow sleeps with his fellow masked vigilante.

5. Detective McKenna Hall: A female detective showed up, so he had to date her.

6. Shado: Oliver’s island-flashback relationship in Season 2. Why have Oliver be taught archery by a man when you can kill that man off and let Oliver roll in the sand with his daughter?

7. Isabel Rochev: Yay, Summar Glau’s here—oh, well, couldn’t stop Oliver from getting all up on her for too long.

The Huntress, Detective Hall, Shado, and Isabel Rochev

The Huntress, Detective Hall, Shado, and Isabel Rochev

To be fair, the character of Oliver Queen is a billionaire playboy in the comics, so Arrow giving the guy so many romantic interests stays true to the source material (and, I suppose in real life, lots of people date seven or more people within two years).

Notably, John Diggle also has two romantic interests on the show: his brother’s widow, and his own ex-wife, both of whom aren’t very developed as characters. When I tried to come up with a list of shallow male characters who exist primarily as love interests for a main female character, I couldn’t come up with anything (Roy Harper, Robert Queen, and Walter Steele are considerably significant characters).

Overall, though, you can’t say that Arrow capitalizes on women’s looks alone:

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper.