Author Interview: India Drummond

For those of you who don’t remember, India Drummond had her debut release, Ordinary Angels, last week. Well today, she’s offered to do an interview for us. 🙂 Enjoy!

Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Fiction Author


First off, tell us about your most recent publication.

Ordinary Angels is an urban fantasy / paranormal romance novel in which Zoe Pendergraft falls in love with an angel, frees a soul from necromancers, releases a ghost trapped in the Void, and saves his living grandson from demons.

Give us a brief description of a story you have hidden in your skeleton closet? And will it ever see the light of day?

My first novel will probably never be published. I still love it, but it’s in the way one still holds affection for their first boyfriend. Ill-fated, but a nice memory. I may, however, end up picking over its bones and salvaging some good characters and plot points for something later.

How much of you/your life do you put into your stories?

The first book (the aforementioned ‘skeleton book’, too much, perhaps. Nowadays, not a lot. Zoe, my main character in Ordinary Angels, isn’t like me. She doesn’t have a sat nav, her own computer, or really get into anything gadgety, where I’m a total freak for all the latest tech. I think it’s natural for writers to write about themselves in the beginning, but as we learn our craft, we start to create characters for a specific purpose to act out a role for the best dramatic effect. That being said, Zoe does have my alarm clock and my kitchen.

Which of your characters do you relate to most?

In this book, Zoe, definitely. She’s just so human. Being surrounded by angels, that makes her somewhat insecure about her flaws. She wants to be stronger, tougher, and always do the smart thing, and she laughs at herself when she falls short of the Tomb Raider ideal for “kick ass heroines.”

For you, what’s the hardest part of the writing process?

Seeing my own mistakes. I can polish something within an inch of its life, and my beta readers or editor will still come back to me with so much red-lining that I’m shocked. Every. Time. Just when I think I’ve got it nailed, they set me straight.

For you, what’s the easiest part of the writing process?

Writing that initial outline. I love creating the characters and plotting out their ups and downs and the conflicts that will get in their way.

With hindsight being 20/20, is there anything you would have changed with your publishing journey?

I would have written more books instead of torturing that one poor, first effort for so many years, querying, rewriting, querying again. Back then I didn’t know that to gain more experience, I needed to move on to other stories. Only by doing that can you illicit the experimentation that brings discovery for a writer.

Any advice you have for writers?

Never give up. I know it might sound trite. But really. Do NOT give up. It’s an exciting time for publishing, and so many options are open to authors. Check them out. There is no longer any reason to spend years “aspiring” when you could be writing.

Anything special you’d like to say to readers?

Just thank you! I’ve been so overwhelmed at the wonderful reviews, comments, and letters that I’ve already started getting about Ordinary Angels. It’s been an unexpected surprise. I suppose I knew people would buy my book, theoretically, but the reality of seeing the ranking climb or getting a note saying “I just bought your book, and I’m loving it,” well, I have honestly been moved to tears more than once this week because of the generosity of readers.

A Few Quickies

Pen or pencil: Keyboard—I have a condition that makes writing with a hand-tool very painful if it’s anything longer than a grocery list or a note jotted on a calendar. So I use voice activation software for most things.

Print or cursive: Same answer, I’m afraid. I used to have lovely handwriting! It was a point of pride, even!

Favorite candy: Butterfingers! But we can’t get those in the UK, so I rely on my mum to bring me a couple when she visits.

Favorite food: Chocolate covered cherries are food, right?

Worst habit: I’m sure my hubby could give you a long list, but I’m sure I don’t have any! Oh, except maybe giving two-sentence replies when someone asked for ‘a quickie’ answer!

Thanks for stopping by and interviewing with me. If readers want to learn more about you and/or your work, where can they find you?

Thanks so much for having me. Really great, fun questions! I’m all over the web (bit of a social networking junkie)…

I have a blog at http://www.indiadrummond.com/

I’m on Facebook, where I do like to hang out and socialise sometimes, or you can visit my Facebook Author Page for more book-related updates.

I’m a pretty regular Twitterer too!

About Drummond’s Books:

ORDINARY ANGELS
Lyrical Press, Inc
ISBN-10: (TBD)
ISBN-13: (TBD)
ASIN: (TBD)
Price: $5.50
Publication Date: April 4, 2011

An urban fantasy / paranormal novel in which Zoë Pendergraft falls in love with an angel, frees a soul from necromancers, releases a ghost trapped in the Void, and saves his living grandson from demons.

An angel is about to fall…

Although most of Zoe Pendergraft’s friends are dead, that means nothing to her. After all, they died long before she met them. What does matter is the angel who took her dancing and turned her world upside down. But grim reality intrudes when she finds a body, and the Higher Angels accuse her friend of the murder.

Knowing she’s the only one who can stand against the Higher Angels, Zoe uses any means necessary to save her friend…all the while, wondering if the tempestuous love she’s feeling is real. The blood on her hands forces Zoe to question herself, and her angel to question her.

Contains strong language and supernatural sizzle.

CLICK HERE TO READ AN EXCERPT

Guest Post: Lindsay Buroker on Cover Art

How I Found Affordable Custom Cover Art for My Ebooks

Lindsay Buroker

You know that old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, nobody pays attention to it. Especially when they’re shopping for ebooks!

I know it seems silly (why should an electronic book even need a cover?), but it’s important for us to have professional images to represent our books. You want potential buyers scrolling through the lists at Amazon/iBookstore/Smashwords/etc to be more attracted to your cover than the ones surrounding it. You want them to say, “Oh, that looks spiffy,” and click through to read the blurb for your book. (Bonus points for you if they use the actual word ‘spiffy’.)

Good-looking custom artwork is a great way to stand out, especially next to other indie ebooks. But it costs a fortune, right?

Well… maybe not as much as you’d expect. When I started looking around, hoping to have a couple covers done, I ran into professionals charging $500 and up for custom artwork. I’m sure their prices were very reasonable, considering the work that must go into crafting such a piece, but that’s more than a lot of indie authors can afford.

I headed over to the Deviant Art website and starting browsing the galleries of various members of the community. There’s some brilliant work up there, and I came across more than a few artists who I knew would be perfect for what I had in mind. I made an account so I could send them messages…and never heard back. After checking my virtual armpits for cyber odors that might have driven them away, I decided they were probably just busy and didn’t check in that often.

Then I stumbled upon the Job Offers Forum. There were lots of posts with folks asking for character art, comic graphics, and, yes, book covers!

I made my own post (you have to have an account on Deviant Art to post, but it’s free to create one) and explained what I was looking for. I also stated exactly how much I could spend, since I didn’t want to get excited over offerings from folks who would make me the cover of my dreams…for $700.

Within hours, I’d received several offers, and they kept rolling in over the next week. I was able to browse through the galleries and find someone whose style meshed with my needs. I did see quite the gamut. You want realistic paintings of scantily clad heroes and heroines? It’s there. Gorgeous battle scenes for your epic fantasy novel? They’re there too. Cartoon artwork to appeal to young readers (hand raise), you got it.

A word of warning: artists from all over the world belong to Deviant Art, so English isn’t going to be the first language for many of those who contact you. If you have very specific ideas in mind, make sure to pick someone who communicates well.

I ended up with two artists doing covers for different ebooks, one my Goblin Brothers stories (for middle grade readers) and one a more realistic style for a fantasy novel I’ll be publishing soon. Neither cost me more than $200. Though I thought the artists did a good job, and I would have loved to give more, I’ve got to start making some money first!

Good luck with your own ebook covers, and let us know if you find someone who does a good job.

Bio:

Lindsay is a professional blogger by day and a fantasy writer by night. She writes about her Ebook Endeavors on her blog. Please stop by to chime in on the discussion!

Goblin Brothers Adventures is available at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || Kobo || iTunes || Smashwords

Interview: Stephannie Beman on ISBNs

Stephannie Beman contacted me shortly after the Shout Out to Indie Authors. She was gracious enough to grant me an interview on ISBNs which was a convoluted mess to me. 🙂 Please welcome her as she de-mystifies ISBNs.

Thank you, Reena, for having me here to today.

Tell us a bit about your work.

I decided to self-publish my novels in late 2009 after looking into the publishing industry and deciding I didn’t like my options in that department. In January 2010, I created a small publishing company, Ruis Publishing, to publish my first novel, My Lord Hades, a paranormal romance which came out in June 2010 and a co-authored fiction under the name Timothy Reese Richards titled Footprints on the Beach that was published October 2010. Since then I have signed on one other author whose manuscripts I find to be quality work.

First things first. 🙂 What the heck is an ISBN?

ISBN is an acronym that stands for International Standard Book Number and identifies the one who holds the publishing rights. It can be a 10-digit or 13-digit number that is used by readers, booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors to establish and identify the publisher of a book. Only books with ISBN’s can be added to Book in Print which are sent out to said booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors.

Where does one obtain an ISBN?

T here are over 160 Agencies worldwide, each agency being responsible for the publishers residing in their area. I bought my ISBN’s at http://www.bowker.com, but http://www.isbn.org is another reputable seller. A word of caution, if you encounter an offer to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices, you should be wary of purchasing from this sources because: 1) last I checked ISBN were not sold separately but in groups of 10, 100, 1000, etc.; 2) if source is listed as the publisher who bought the numbers, then you’ll not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books In Print or any of the industry databases such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or those of wholesalers such as Ingram, because publishers cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers–a guidelines that has been established to ensure the authenticity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard; 3) there will be no change in the publisher of record for any ISBN in the block as originally assigned, therefore, searches of industry databases for that re-assigned ISBN will identify the original owner of that assigned prefix as the publisher rather than the second publisher (which would be you).

To fix this later can be expensive because you’ll have to apply for a new prefix, have a new ISBN re-assigning to you, and potentially may lead to the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.

Are there any special criteria folks need to meet in order obtain an ISBN?

First, check with your state laws for establish your self-publishing business identity, every state is different. After you do this, create your self-publishing business identity, including the name of your “publishing house” (hint: don’t make this your name) and the address and telephone number(s) you have chosen to use. These will be listed as your contact information in Books in Print after you apply for your ISBN registration. Go to http://www.bowker.com or http://www.isbn.org, fill out their application and you should receive your ISBN log fourteen days after they process your application.

What are the costs associated with ISBNs?

For a set of 10 ISBNs you are looking at about $280 including the set up fees, and when you purchase a larger block of ISBNs, the price per ISBN decreases. At the same time you might want to have your ISBN translated into a worldwide compatible bar code which allows your book to be sold through bookstores, online or off, or by distributors. Barcode scanning is a required step for many retailers in the sales transaction process for book publications and book-related items. You can obtain the barcode in several different formats: a film that can be “stripped” directly into your book cover art, an electronic file that can be incorporated into your electronic art, or a hardcopy that you can paste onto artwork. It can be requested directly online at www.isbn.org or www.bowkerbarcode.com. Barcodes usually cost less than $100. For a list of companies that provide barcodes, visit http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/barcode.asp.

I was told by a friend that works in retail that http://www.racoindustries.com/barcodegenerator/1d/isbn.aspx and http://www.tux.org/~milgram/bookland/ are also good Online generators for barcodes. And that a good one page guide can be found here: http://www.athleticaid.com/yaquinapress/barcode/index.html

I want to put my books out in eBook, print, and gobs of other formats. What are my ISBN considerations in this case? What should I consider when determining the number of ISBNs to purchase?

Some people have suggested buying 100, because the smaller amount of numbers reflecting badly on publishers. I suggest getting enough for what you have or think that you will use in the next five years. And remember you must apply a separate ISBN to each edition and format of the book you publish, for example, if you are offering the same title in a hardcover edition, a paperback, audio, e-book, etc. Each of these editions would require a separate ISBN. This enables a bookstore or customer to order the correct edition of the correct book. If you heavily revise a book, I’m not talking grammatical changes or punctuations, but changes to scenes, sentence structure, etc, or change its cover later, it will need a new ISBN. It is always best to select the block that will last you for a few years because you’ll be able to maintain one publisher prefix, and minimize the unit cost per ISBN.

I see this thing called an ASIN on Amazon. How is that different from an ISBN?

The ASIN is an Amazon specific number that is used by the Amazon network to track its merchandise. It will not take the place of an ISBN, though some authors have used it as such with success.

Since authors can publish without an ISBN, what are the benefits of obtaining them?

To establish and identify the publisher of a book to booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors. If you’re not interested in your book going to any of these places, you don’t need an ISBN. If you one day hope to see your book in any of these places, then you’ll want an ISBN.

If you are going with a self-publishing company, the ISBN may be rented from or given to you by a self-publishing company that you print the book with, however, that doesn’t mean you own the number. I’m sure there are those that will disagree with me about this, so here is the proof from R.R. Bowker where everyone eventually gets their ISBN’s. “ISBNs cannot be transferred on an individual basis. If a self-publisher wants to be identified as the publisher, the self-publisher must get their own ISBN. A printing company or publisher services company cannot sell, give away or transfer one of their ISBNs to a customer…. The ISBN identifies the one who holds the publishing rights—that is, the publisher who should be contacted when ordering the book.” This helps you and them “identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain.”

Any additional advice you might give in terms of ISBNs?

Once you’ve assigned an ISBN to a product, you need to file an “Advance Book Information” form (ABI) to submit to Bowker. You can also register your book information online at the BowkerLink Publisher Access System (http://www.bowkerlink.com). You’ll have to register for a password to use the system. You can also use this site to change information about your books or publishing company (e.g., to change your address). They’ll add your title to the database of record for the ISBN Agency. As a publisher you are eligible for a free listing in various directories such as Books in Print, Words on Cassette, The Software Encyclopedia, Bowker’s Complete Video Directory, etc. Having your ISBNs does NOT guarantee title listings, you must submit the title information to get into the database. After you’ve received your ISBNs, you must then inform Bowker of your new title(s). Otherwise, your book won’t be listed in Books in Print and other references — which means that it won’t be listed on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, or be orderable through bookstores.

Thanks for giving us the lowdown on ISBNs. For more information, where might folks find you?

I can be found at http://stephanniebman.com or email me at stephanniebeman@aol.com. Also at http://ruispublishing.com, or email ruispublishing.@aol.com.

Thanks again for having me.

My Lord Hades available at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || Kobo || iTunes || Smashwords

Interview: Zoe Winters on Publishing

If some of you haven’t caught on by now, you should know I’m kind of a Zoe Winters stalker. Shh…don’t tell her that. She might start avoiding me. The thing is, Ms. Winters created this character called Zoe Who? which put thoughts of self-publishing into my head. Now being the newbie and all, I wanted to know more. Today, Ms. Winters has offered to answer a few questions which have tugged on my mind.

Tell us a little bit about your books.
The Preternaturals series is set in a world in which humans for the most part don’t yet know what goes bump in the night. There are several different species/groups I deal with: incubi and succubi, vampires, shapeshifters (called therians in my world), Guardians (a demon breed that works guarding mostly vampires during their daylight hours), magic users (wizards, sorcerers, witches), and I may introduce other demon breeds later. Each group has their own political structure and secrets.

Each book technically “stands alone” but some readers might not get all the subplots and back story if they don’t read in order. Different books will focus on different species and different places.  Blood Lust, the first book, is a series of three novellas that happens in a place called Cary Town, where the therians live under a police state. The first novella involves a werecat and a sorcerer, the second involves a vampire and a human, the third involves a werewolf and a human, though that human isn’t what she appears.

Who the heck is Zoe Who?

That is the $64,000 question, huh? Who is Zoe and why should I care? 😛  Zoe Who? is a cartoon video series I started on Youtube. The episodes can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ZoeWinters1 Basically the series makes fun of the publishing industry, my genre, me, etc. There is a lot of material there, LOL. It’s a way to vent a lot of the frustrations in this business and dealing with people, in a snarky, funny way while also garnering a little bit of marketing exposure and sharing my self-publishing journey. Everything is funnier with robotic voices and cartoons.

What made you decide you wanted to get into the self-publishing industry?

I really don’t like working for other people or other people telling me what to do. I’ve had 33 jobs (before I gave up entirely on the concept of working for others) and it just never worked out. I’m an entrepreneur. Someone else’s cubicle is not my natural habitat, and it was becoming a pain in the butt trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. This feeling extended to creative pursuits. The whole idea of the traditional publishing process depressed me. As I got closer to the point where I felt something was ready to be submitted, the writing flow just shut down. Not to sound like a prima donna but I “couldn’t work under those conditions”. LOL. I wanted to succeed or fail on my own. The idea that I needed “permission” to even play the game when we aren’t talking about brain surgery here… it’s just not that serious. So I decided to start my own business and do my own thing.

What was your experience with the traditional route before self-publishing?

OMG. So limited. I’d done a lot of research and heard a lot of horror stories and that’s about the extent of it. When I realized that most NY pubbed authors weren’t making a living from their fiction and still had to have full-time jobs to make ends meet I was like “screw that.” That was the only remaining motivator left to do it that way. I submitted one book to an agent (which wasn’t ready. I’m in edits for that book right now. It’s come a long way since then.) And when I wrote Kept I submitted it to one publisher. By the time I submitted Kept to the publisher, though, I was already really leaning toward self-publishing. I was in the bizarre position where I actually “wanted” them to reject me, so I didn’t have to stand at a fork in the road and make a choice. I wanted to find out what I could do by myself. They did reject me, but it was a very nice rejection letter that offered several bits of advice (most of which I acted upon), to improve Kept. Then I self-pubbed it.

When did you know you’d learned enough and were ready for self-publishing?

I don’t think you ever really learn enough. I think you have to build your wings on the way down. I do think you should find people who you consider to be much better writers than you to critique and beta your work. And find hard asses who won’t let you get away with lazy writing. When you get to the point when it’s time to publish, you’ll know. Then get a good editor to make sure you put out something professional. There is a lot of information out there now on all aspects of self-publishing. You learn from doing. You learn from your peers. And you just keep growing and moving forward.

Editing and critiquing: What says you about them?

hehe. I think I answered that in the last question. Basically… editing and critiquing are absolutely necessary. I’m sure there are a very few people out there who can edit their own work because they have some amazing ability to step back from it and see the problems and fix them, etc. But… that’s probably not me or you. Even if it is, it can’t hurt to have other eyeballs on your work. Though one caveat is… you have to know when to listen to your gut. Some suggestions will kill your work. You need people you trust and more than one. If several people all see the same problem, then even if you don’t like their suggestions for fixing it, you probably need to do “something” to it to get across what you’d intended.

Marketing for the indie industry relies a lot on word of mouth. How do you get your name out there?

Right now I just do Twitter, Facebook, My Blog, my Zoe Who? series, guest blogging, blogging at IndieReader.com. I recently did a Kindle giveaway and blog tour that got my name out a lot. I’ll probably do a big promo with each book release like that. Not sure if the prize will be a Kindle or not… I feel like that’s not specific enough to my demographic and throws off the Amazon recommendations a bit. I also have a little bit of paid advertising coming up with Kindle Nation.  I used to go to forums and comment on a lot of other people’s blogs. But I’m downgrading from a lot of the drama. I don’t have as much time for it now and my platform is starting to get to the point where I don’t “have” to do all that extraneous stuff. But the other stuff, I still do, and will do for the foreseeable future.

The finished product: How do you know your beloved is ready for readers?

When I can look at the cover and know it stands up next to any other professionally produced book cover (helps that I have a pro cover artist). And when I can read it without cringing. You may have heard this from someone else before… but when you do a read-through and you keep switching back and forth on little things, like a word choice, or punctuation in one sentence, then you know you’re pretty much done.

Any advice or words of encouragement for writers?

You aren’t curing cancer or feeding Ethiopian children. You are just writing words, putting them together in an attractive package, and trying to find an audience. It should be something you love, not something that’s stressing you out. Try not to compete with everybody, because there will always be someone who is a better or more successful writer than you, and someone who isn’t as far along as you. Be as generous as you can, but don’t let people take advantage of you. Have fun. Learn, grow. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off when you fall down. The only thing that matters is how you finish, not how you start. And with that last bit of warm fuzzy platitude, I’m out.  Thanks for having me!

Zoe Winters writes snarky paranormal romance and is a loud-mouthed advocate of the indie author movement. Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear. Her books are available at Amazon and Smashwords.com.  You can find her at the following places:

Website: http://www.zoewinters.org
Blog: http://zoewinters.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/zoewinters

I don’t know about others, but Ms. Winters has been a world of inspiration for me as a wannabe published author. Thank you.

Blood Lust is available at Barnes & Nobles || Amazon || The Book Depository || Kobo || iTunes || Smashwords