Why the Jewels on These Book Award Medals?

Why are there jewels on the Annual Book Award medals at Prismatic Prospects? I’m glad you asked!

I’m sure you’ve heard expressions about finding hidden gems. Just how hidden a gem may be could depend on who’s doing the looking. 😀 Still, whether a book is traditionally or independently published, whether the author is famous or lesser known, whether the book is a new release or has been around for years—whatever the case, a great book is a great book. A gem. And this bibliophile is all about sharing the literary gems she discovers.

Admittedly, I had a doubt or two as I designed the latest version of my award medals. Would including a gemstone in the center mean the medals would be, you know—less than neutral? Too feminine, or something?

Um…

Huh. Well. I reckon if even kings and queens alike go for gemstones, then, hey. 😉

No telling what literary gems will be on my award lists later this year! The Annual Book Award winners so far are here.

 

There’s No Such Thing As a Free Book

I want to give a little reminder to fellow book lovers—lest we get it twisted and think that just because there may not be a fee to click the “Upload” button at an ebook publisher, or to click the “Download” button at a retailer featuring a $0.00 ebook, that the book is truly free. That it’s of no expense to anyone.

Lest we forget the many hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes years that authors spend laboring over manuscripts when they could be spending that time doing something else. Time the authors aren’t receiving wages for. Time the authors can’t get back.

Lest we forget the diligence, care, and research, the heart, soul, and sacrifice that so many authors put into their work.

Lest we forget the citizens’ taxes and donations and the other supplementary funds that go into paying for our public libraries, and the funds libraries spend purchasing books so that patrons can check them out over and over again.

Lest we forget that someone is paying for the prizes and shipping for every book and swag item we receive in the mail from giveaways we’ve entered.

Lest we think that ebooks are basically nothing because we can’t “hold them in our hands” like print books, and besides the many hours authors spend writing them, that editors, proofreaders, photographers and models, graphic designers, cover image licensers, and book formatters don’t have to be compensated for the materials, time, and labor required to put those digital books together.

Lest we forget the hours and finance needed to market books on an ongoing basis (because the vast majority of books don’t automatically [or magically] sell themselves from the instant they’re published and ever after, as they sit, possibly buried, amongst the multitude of other books on a retailer’s website), or fail to realize that an author or publisher likely paid anywhere from $30 to $800 for their “$0.00” book to appear in a newsletter or on a website or wherever you saw that book advertised.

And lest you forget yourselves, dear book lovers, and the time it takes to even procure books (the greater number of books, the greater amount of time), and the added hours and dedication it takes in life to actually, you know, READ BOOKS.

No, this isn’t an exhaustive list of the investments and expenses that books and publishing require/incur all the time, no matter what form the books come in. Nor is it a call to feel guilty for the gifts you’ve received from authors and publishers. Rather, it’s a reminder, fellow book lovers, so that even with our love for books, we don’t lose our appreciation for books, which add so much value to our lives.

A reminder that a “free” book isn’t free—that every book costs someone something, and that oftentimes, the cost is great. And worth it.

As a P.S., if you’re a book lover who can afford to purchase new books that are more than $0.00, then by all means, make those purchases! It will ensure that authors can keep on writing and publishing. Many local libraries are also willing to purchase some books that their patrons request, so it’s a good idea to ask! 🙂

 

Oh, For the Good Ol’ Days: An (Indie) Author’s Thoughts on Publishing

I’ve been traditionally published once before. Since then, I’ve published all of my books independently.

Whether traditionally published, hybrid, or independently published, plenty of authors, myself included, are working hard to navigate this new and changing era in publishing. Yes, there are factors in the era that concern, discourage, or even anger us at times. After conversations with other authors in the midst of the grind, I’ve picked up on the tendency and temptation for some of us to look back on the good ol’ days of publishing with nostalgic eyes.

Nostalgia is natural. And back before we got into publishing for ourselves, all or most of us likely had wonderful imaginings about what our author careers might be like.

Oh, for the former days when an author could focus on creating literary masterpieces, and the publisher would take over the labor from there. Proofreading, designing, marketing—the whole bit.

The author wouldn’t have to lift a finger again until the publisher would send them on an all-expenses-paid book tour, where the author’s job would be to stay at choice hotels, to eat in fine restaurants, to make a string of bookstore and book festival appearances, and to sign copies of their books for lines of their adoring readers.

While royalties and fan mail would continue to flow in, the author would receive the comfortable advance for their next masterpiece, and they’d focus on finishing it, whenever inspiration would move them to do so.

Ahhh. The life.

But how many of us were imagining our future careers like those of the midlist authors who, even in the good ol’ days, numbered far more than the few bestselling authors in the spotlight? We may or may not have known that many of the authors managing to land publishing contracts didn’t get to quit their day jobs. And perhaps we weren’t thinking so much about the one-hit, half-hit, and no-hit authors who never got another contract after their first book.

We weren’t thinking about the authors without the sales or leverage to justify big advances or higher royalty rates than a dollar and some change. We weren’t thinking about the very limited shelf space in brick-and-mortar bookstores and the stores’ regular returns of books that didn’t sell. Or the many authors who never got a book tour. Or the books that went out of print after only one print run. Or the uncounted authors, even famous ones among them, with additional book ideas or manuscripts they loved and believed in—manuscripts collecting dust, stuffed in drawers, or thrown away—because their publishers wouldn’t touch them.

“Those aren’t the kind of books our readers want from you. If you bring us anything too different from what we’ve accepted from you thus far, we’re not going to publish that here.”

Ahhh. The…life?

As we authors grind away in the present-day world of publishing, I wonder: how much is the nostalgia for the good ol’ days based on the common realities of those days, and how much of it is only based on imagined, fairytale scenarios?

Yes, it may have been more likely for some readers to spend fifteen bucks on a new release at one time, when now they’d rather get three or more ebooks for that amount. Sure, various publishers are tightening up and taking even fewer chances on new ideas and unknown authors. Yeah, in an era when more authors can publish themselves without the say-so, restrictions, or dismissals of publishing house gatekeepers, the market is filling with too many low-quality books.

Still, would an author like me want to go back to the former days of publishing? Well, not so much.

An untold number of passionate, dedicated, and conscientious authors, myself included, are getting our books out there and finding an audience when, less than a generation ago, it might not have happened for us. Most publishers reject far more manuscripts than they accept, and it’s not always because the manuscripts are no good. I could go on about the different reasons for publisher rejections, but that would take another blog post.

Personally, I just wouldn’t want to be another writer back in the past, pining and dreaming about glorious book tours and literary stardom, while my rejected manuscripts sat in a drawer or in a box at home, waiting. And waiting. Read, enjoyed, and appreciated by no one but me, with no guarantees that one publisher or another would finally say “yes” and agree with my vision for the finished products.

As much as I want traditional publishing to live on, and though it might be nice to get another contract someday, no, I don’t want to go back in time to an industry that was more exclusionary and inaccessible as a whole. Where I likely might have watched some, most, or even all of my books go out of print at some point, if they ever made it into print in the first place.

Whether an author goes the traditional, hybrid, or independent route, publishing isn’t for the faint of heart. My present-day grind as an independent author isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. And every single human being who now gets the chance to read the books I work mega-hard to produce is worth FAR more than any glittery or fairytale “good ol’ day” daydreams.

As for the important part up there about publishing gatekeepers, I speak to that a bit more in a two-part post. 🙂

 

Maintaining the Joy of Reading as an Author

For many of us authors, our love for reading is, at least in part, what drove us to become authors in the first place.

And now that we’re published, there are benefits of remaining dedicated readers. Among other advantages, reading helps us to stay fresh, imaginative, and sharp; to keep up with what’s happening in our genres; and to recognize examples of what to do—and what not to do—in our own work. Reading helps us to hone and improve our writing craft. Even if writing, publishing, marketing, etc. means we don’t have as much time to read as we used to, the quality of our reading matters more than the quantity of books we get through.

Still, when I hear someone say that becoming an author has made reading less of a joy for them, I get it.

I’m no stranger to the internal editor that clicks on while I’m reading. It’s great for when I’m actually editing or when I’m reading for critique or review. But when I’m trying to relax and read for leisure, that internal editor can be a whole ‘nother something to deal with.

Eeesh, writer’s brain! Put a big, fat, woolly sock in it already! I’m trying to READ, for goodness’ sake.”

The more serious we become about writing and literature, the more we must notice and pay attention to the major and minor details that make up good (and poor) writing. If we didn’t worry about it as much back in our Carefree Bookworm days, then, yeah. It can be a pain now, when we want to simply enjoy a book. For some authors, it can even become a deterrent to reading.

But for me personally, I’d be doggoned if I let the work of being an author rob me of the joy of being a reader.

I’ve had to adjust to the reality that reading for leisure will never be exactly the same pursuit it once was for me, back in my pre-authorship days. And that’s okay.

I think of it as something like celebrating Christmas as a child versus celebrating Christmas as an adult. It’s one thing when your only job is to put on your pajamas, go to bed, and wake up in the morning to find that presents have appeared under the tree. It’s something else to be the one responsible for making sure those presents appear.

It doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying Christmas, though, just because it’s no longer the same. You enjoy it in a different way now. Besides, your maturity gives you the capacity to appreciate the holiday more now than you did as a child. Much that determines your enjoyment of the holiday is your attitude about it.

Or take, say, romance and marriage as an example. Romance may be one thing before the responsibilities of marriage and possibly the addition of children. A relationship with someone you’re just getting to know isn’t the same as a relationship with someone you’ve been married to for a while. But that doesn’t mean the romance of it all eventually has to go on out the window.

As a relationship matures, romance gradually takes on a different flavor, a different significance. And in a healthy marriage, it’s better years down the road than it was at the beginning, if a couple learns to appreciate love and romance for what it becomes.

Well, for this author, reading isn’t the same as it once was. But it’s not supposed to be. When I approach reading with the right attitude, it’s actually better now.

If you as an author want to enjoy a book you’ve pulled out to read for leisure (whatever “reading for leisure” is for you 🙂 ), you’ll likely need to let go of some of your author’s ego. Some authors may do this naturally. Others may have to be more intentional about it.

It doesn’t necessarily mean your internal editor or writer’s brain will become blind or indifferent as you read. But when you acknowledge and become good with the fact that it isn’t your job to “fix” this book somehow, it’s easier to relax. The book you’re reading may or may not be everything you think it should be, but in either case, it’s okay. The book is what it is, and in a big way, it doesn’t need your help.

As an author, reading for enjoyment takes grace. Grace to know that no author—whether a novice or a veteran—is perfect, no book on earth is perfect to/for everyone, and countless imperfect books have and will continue to make a difference in people’s lives. Grace allows your writer’s brain to learn from or to take special note of what you’re reading while your reader’s heart takes pleasure in the reading experience.

Your internal editor doesn’t have to be noisy, demanding, or intrusive. Grace (and letting go of some ego) allows your internal editor to become a fitting supplement to your reading, not a hindrance to it. Many times, you might even stop noticing all the work your writer’s brain is doing while your reader’s heart is caught up in a good book. After you finish it, you and your writer’s brain can briefly go back and take stock of what you read, if you like.

Granted, the further along you come as a writer, it might mean you have to seek out new challenges and new interests in your reading. You may or may not get the same level of satisfaction out of the kinds of books you read before you became an author.

Yet, when your ego is in check, you consider that this is a big world, and you’ve not come near to reading all of the brilliant writing in it. There are indeed books that can still interest and challenge you, no matter how good of a writer you’re becoming.

If you’re an author who keeps on reading for its benefits, the right attitude and a little grace can help you maintain, or even reclaim, the joy of it.