Friday, 23 December 2011

Determination and Organization

This past week I learned that it takes more than a little determination and organization to get a novel listed on various booksellers' sites.

In the end, I created a table to keep the various site names and and what to post where, straight. My table lists  site name, URL, format (e-book or print book), ISBN (yes, these vary by format and site - in fact I registered seven ISBNs for the various e-book formats), listing price, and a comment field for other valuable information. Otherwise it would have been a nightmare to keep organize. With respect to ISBNs, I learned that CreateSpace can obtain one for me at no cost, but I opted to do it myself for the experience (it was no cost as well - and it was great of CreateSpace to provide the link to the ISBN agency on their site.) One of the other fabulous things I learned was that an e-book posted at is then made available at .uk (England), .de (Germany), .it (Italy), .sp (Spain), and .fr (France). I checked the sites, of course. I'm impressed. Friends and family in those countries can actually buy my e-book (in English)! I also learned that Smashwords will make the e-book available on Kobo. If you're thinking of self-publishing, it's worth checking out their sites to understand the breadth of their offering in advance so you don't duplicate your efforts.

Then there's the Amazon Affiliates site, which lets you post an image of an item on your own website and link it to Amazon's website, which I've done here. (See the right side of the page. You may have to scroll down to see the links.)

I've also been considering how to get listed on sites that cater to other English-speaking countries. Australia, New Zealand, and India all speak English, so why not? This might be a bigger challenge, however. My initial research shows that one needs to have a bank account in that country. Hmm. That's a stumper.

All in all, a fulfilling experience. I just wouldn't want to rethink the entire process for the next book in the series, hence the resource table.

Yes, Marilee Bright's newest adventure is underway and I hope to have it out soon. Working title: The Case of the Purloined Poppy.

Happy holidays, everyone, and I hope you have a wonderful New Year's!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Announcing Blog Tour for Grounds for Death

Grounds for Death is now available from Amazon for $2.99 for those of you who have a Kindle or expect one within, let's say, less than a week ;) ? It will also be available by December 25th in print form, if that's your preference. I'll do my best to get the book up on Chapters and Smashwords today.

I'm also announcing a mini blog tour to kick off this, book two, in the Garden Plot Mystery series. Here are the websites and dates:

On December 18th, Grounds for Death is featured on Dru's Book Musings. Dru Ann has a wonderful feature entitled "A Day in the Life of..." that provides blog followers with insights into the inner workings of cozy mystery sleuths. There's also a chance to win a copy of Grounds for Death for one luck entrant. Hurry, entries must be submitted by 6pm on Dec 20!

On  December 20th, take a look at A Tale of Many Reviews, which asked me to provide an excerpt about Grounds for Death. I think you'll like it, and perhaps you'll be curious to know what happens next!

December 22th brings Lori's Reading Corner, just in time for the holidays. Here you can learn more about what's between the covers of Grounds for Death, and what pickle Marilee Bright finds herself in this time. And one lucky follower will receive a copy of Grounds for Death.

Happy holiday reading, everyone!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How Many Cats?!?

Okay, I have confess that I inadvertently adopted a kitten last weekend. I say inadvertently because I had picked her up with the intention of giving her to my brother, who has spoken about adopting a cat for three years now and recently bought his first townhouse (he had a condo before). So I thought, good idea, right? Turns out it wasn't such a good idea. He'd been to the animal shelter and decided he wasn't around enough to give some poor kitty the attention s/he deserved.

So I'm sure you can guess what happened. My husband and I didn't have the heart to take her back to the pound. Add the new kitty, Nellie, to the bunch, and now we have four. Yikes. Thankfully, everyone's adjusted well to the new addition despite the initial hissing and yowling.

The moral of the story is this. They always say giving a pet as a present is not a good idea, and now I know that to be true. And if you dare to try it anyway, you might just end up being the unexpected owner of a new pet.

Coming Soon: Grounds for Death

If you've read my other two posts today, you know that Grounds for Death will be available for the Kobo, Kindle, Nook and other e-readers, as well as in print, within days.

I can't wait, and to give you a sneak peek, I've attached a copy of the cover and synopsis below. Many thanks to Kathleen Collins Howell for the illustration and to Rebecca Swift for the cover design.

Who’d have thought a garden center owner could unearth the dirt on murder?
The season is off to a good start for Marilee Bright’s garden center and landscaping business. When skeletal remains are found at the bottom of a well during a landscaping project, things start to go downhill, and fast. Who is the dead body, and when was it dumped down the well? Is the killer still at large in the quiet town of Sandalwood? Amateur sleuth Marilee Bright needs to dig up the dirt on this murder before the “green” goes out of her business and she loses her hard-won new career.

I hope you take the opportunity to check it out.

Publishing a Print Book with CreateSpace

While the primary medium for publishing Grounds for Death is planned to be electronic (that is, e-books), I also had the cover designer provide a complete book cover file - front, spine and back. At the time I made the decision I didn't really expect to create a print book, I just thought it would save time and money in the long run if the two files were created at the same time. Now I'm glad I took that approach.

I've known for months that if I were to publish a print book, I would print it through CreateSpace. I hadn't realized how easy this is until just a couple of days ago when I set up a user ID in CreateSpace on a lark just to see how it would work. It looks like they've thought of everything. The process is easy to follow, you can always go back to a former screen, and links providing additional information open in a separate window so you never lose your spot in the process. Not to say it's fast - it took quite some time for me to work my way through all the screens. At one point, CreateSpace electronically assesses the correctness of your book's format and lets you know what major issues stand in the way of finalizing the book. I had two, which I figured was pretty good. The first was that I had too many blank pages between my title page and the next page, which I fixed in minutes. The second was that the fonts used in the book had to be embedded in the file. I had no idea how to do this, but CreateSpace provided screen-by-screen instructions, so I was able to address this also within minutes. (And my PC is using Word 2003, so I was pleased to see instructions still available for that version of Word.)

So far, so good. I'm now at the stage where I've ordered a printed proof to see how it will look, which will be here by Dec 13th (I paid extra for fast shipping, to keep to my timelines).

I hope to be able to let you know within days that both my e-book and print book are available. 

Thoughts on Self-Publishing

I'm in the home stretch with my new mystery, Ground for Death. These last few months have been an eye-opening experience, all in a good way, of course. My editor has completed her work, and so have the cover illustrator and the cover designer. The cover file and book text file are both with the e-book formatter, which is the final step before the files are uploaded to the various book sellers. The false start I had with the original cover illustrator cost me two months and will cause the entire project to squeak in just before Christmas (fingers crossed).

You may think that a launch at this late juncture spells disaster for Christmas sales, but I don't see it that way. I expect that a ton of people will receive e-readers and gift cards on December 25. My blog tour will have just finished (it runs from Dec 18 - 22), and people will be looking at their favorite book bloggers' websites to see what new books are out there to read. And voila, Grounds for Death will be right there for hungry readers to read about.

In addition to the great learning this activity has provided, I've made one significant observation. To explain, I need to outline this book's timeline. I finished writing Grounds for Death at the end of July 2011. By mid August I had found an editor and finalized the editorial contract. She took about six weeks to complete the edit (to end September), which is well worth the time spent. During this time I researched other resources I would need to bring this project to completion. Now that the cover design and illustration process is complete, I have learned that it takes about 2 months for the detailed type of illustration I wanted. The cover designer worked simultaneously, and once the final illustration file was in her hands, it took mere days to finalize the cover design. All of this to say: next time I will start the illustration process much earlier in the process. Makes sense. All you need is an idea of what the cover should be about - you don't need to have a completed entire manuscript in your hands! This accelerates the time to market immensely; if the illustration is ready when the editing is complete, you're days from launching. Ignoring the illustration problem, it took about three and a half months from manuscript to published novel. And now that my learning curve is complete and I have a great team to work with, I think this can be reduced to at most 2 months.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

There are always challenges...

The last few weeks have included a few challenges. My editor and cover illustrator were hard at work to meet my September 30th deadline so I could pass the final files to my e-book formatting and get the entire thing uploaded to the on-line booksellers by October 7th. Sounds easy, right?
Nope. My cover illustrator/designer blew the deadline. Okay, he sorta met the deadline but gave me something that didn't match the story details, samples, and cozy mystery cover norms I'd provided. Oh, and he also failed to give me any sort of sketches along the way to indicate what his ideas or recommendations on the cover art were.
So I had a bit of an idea that this wasn't going to come together well. But since we'd already agreed, I couldn't very well back out of the arrangement. So on September 30th or thereabouts I received a cover design. Notice how I didn't say cover illustration. A typical cozy mystery has a cover illustration, not a photo mashup, which I had clearly indicated up front.
Long story short, I've hired a new cover illustrator who will deliver in mid November. And before I forget, my editor did a great job. She was on-time, thorough and painstakingly ensured that my voice wasn't lost in the changes. Thank you, Kathleen!
Because of the change, I've also had to hire a cover designer. She can't wait to get going, although she'll have to hang on a bit as my cover illustrator and I work out artwork ideas. I have, in fact, connected them so they can iron out some of the things that I will add no value to, such as what dpi the illustration will be in, and the image "bleed" (whatever that is).
As I wait for the finished Grounds for Death, I'm trying to convince my busy editor to take on Death in the Forsythia, Book 1 in the series, which I recently took back from iUniverse and which could possibly use some editing before re-release. Book 3, working title The Case of the Purloined Poppy, is underway as well. Stay tuned!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

I'm now on Goodreads!

Hi everyone,

I'm thrilled to let you know that I've joined GoodReads's Author Program, so you'll be able to add Death in the Forsythia (and soon, Grounds for Death) in your "To be Read" list. I'd love to get your feedback, so once you've read them, please let me know how you liked them. I've also added the "G" favicon on the right side of the screen, so a simple click lets you add Death in the Forsythia to your Goodreads list.

On a separate note, Grounds for Death is progressing through editing, and my editor is keeping me on my toes with questions about point of view and character profiles. We're still on target for a September 30th wrap on editing. I haven't heard from my cover illustrator/designer, so that's worrisome. I hope to get good news soon that he's on target for a September 30th finish, too. I look forward to letting you know when it's out!


Thursday, 18 August 2011

I've written the book. Now what?

Aside from catering to my three cats' daily wishes for a thorough petting, I've also completed further research in my self-publishing journey. I published my last novel, Death in the Forsythia, with iUniverse, but royalty options are now better through different options, which I am now investigating.

I will probably upload my recently completed novel, Grounds for Death, at, which will take care of reaching what is likely the biggest readership in English-speaking North America. To do that, though, I've learned that self-publishing without the assistance of a self-publishing house like iUniverse means I take on the responsibility for everything myself.

As a result, I've learned that self-publishing a la Amanda Hocking consists of 4 parts (aside from actually writing the manuscript): editing, cover art, cover design and e-book formating/uploading for various platforms. I've set myself a budget of $3000, of which I've almost spent half on editing (yes, I signed with a local editor that I met with last week. Yay!).

Now I'm learning that probably the most expensive of the four parts is the artwork, at least the artwork I'd like to have. So far, quotes are coming in at $1800 to $3500. Even the lowest of these will blow my budget out of the water without my even having sourced cover design and ebook formating, which I understand can be had for a total of $500.

If you're looking for cover art for your book or novel, I recommend checking out,,, or

I might have to rethink my cover art ideas, though, if I ever hope to fit it into my budget. If anyone has other suggestions for artwork, or can recommend someone for cover design or e-book formating/uploading, please share it here. Thanks!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

On Editors and Book Covers

I've spent the last week researching. Researching editors, book cover illustrators, and how to publish and market my books, in other words, the entire gamut of what needs to be done outside of actually writing.

One thing I have learned is that it takes volume. You can't just write a book or two and then start focusing on marketing your works - you need to produce a slew of books so that your readers know there's more where that came from.

The exciting news is that I'm meeting with an editor tomorrow morning. This will be my first experience of its kind. I'm not quite sure what to expect, and I haven't prepared as yet, but I did receive estimates of cost and timing. It's not quite the $500 in editing that J.A. Konrath listed in one of his 2010 blogs, so we'll see where this goes. Certainly it is worth having one's work edited. (This morning I looked at a bestselling Kindle e-book and was astounded to see three spelling errors on the first page! Yikes.)

I also researched book cover art. First, I did it the hard way, googling various terms and making my way through the search results. I had long ago determined how I would approach this particular task, but had stupidly decided it wouldn't work. Finally, late yesterday, I decided to put original plan to the test. I went to the library, looked at the book covers I'd like to emulate, and looked at the inside information to identify who did the cover illustration, then googled them. Voila, there they were, and I've since contacted a number of them to see if they're interested in my project, which is, after all, a series, and would add to their portfolio if it takes off. And it appears that book covers greatly influences readers' buying decisions. I should note that this approach is likely a more expensive one, since these artists are already well known, and I may very well go back to my original list of potentially less expensive artists.

Through this process I also learned that the actual book cover does not solely consist of the cover illustration. Cover design is an important part of it. Cover design includes the type of font used for the book's title and author's name, as well as its size and placement. Further, it includes layout of the spine and back cover as well, all of which are important visual cues readers will use to decide whether they will buy your book.

The research is a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Looking at the various artwork sites is like being a kid in a candy store. The diversity is fascinating!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Need an ISBN? Here's where to get one

It is not yet clear to me whether an author would ever have cause to obtain his/her own ISBN, but I did the research anyway. I published my first novel, Death in the Forsythia, using a self-publishing company. The self-publishing company secured both an ISBN and bar code for my novel.
Now that I'm on the verge of publishing my second novel, Grounds for Death, I'm investigating alternatives. Interestingly, e-books do not seem to need an ISBN, so publishing your work is as simple as providing the book seller with your completed work (ie I have yet to figure out how this works with
The link to finding the ISBN issuing organization in your geographic region is here.
If anyone has done further research to find out how to get a bar code for the back of a tree-book, or whether there is no situation in which an author must obtain one on his/her own, I would like to hear about it.
If anyone knows how an author can get a e-book/tree-book novel listed with Chapters, B&N and Borders, please share.

Is Self-Publishing good for a writing career?

Today during Blog Jog day I came across an article by Tiffany Jansen about whether self-publishing hurts chances at a traditional publishing career.
It's an interesting question and here's my take. As I do, I'll take you back to the 1970s and 1980s. At that time I was just a youngster, and everyone was buying LPs. I never ended up buying a lot of records. Why? Because I didn't agree with the idea of having to buy a whole LP just to get the title track. I felt that it was somehow forcing the consumer to buy more than they intended. And then Napster and others came along to provide individuals with the tools to be able to share music, making much of the music sales cycle instantly obsolete. The music industry started making a stink, and I thought "Serves you right. You've been gouging people for decades, and now you don't like the decrease in sales resulting from people who have figured out how to get only the song they're interested in." Let me clarify that I don't agree with people getting for free what others have worked hard to produce - that's not my point. My point is that an industry shouldn't be holding consumers and producers hostage by claiming that the only valid way is their way. I didn't like it when the industry concerned was music, and I don't like it now that the industry concerned is written works. I for one am thrilled that resources are now available to regular people to get their creations to the markets that want them. (And individual songs can be bought for a dollar - gees, how long did that take? 30 years?)
Interestingly enough, I was watching a program recently in which the interviewee said that, at traditional publishing houses, decisions about what gets published are made by accountants. Exactly my sentiments. Unless you're a well-known celebrity like Tom Cruise, or already a prolific author like J.K. Rowling, publishing houses don't want to talk to you because there's no guaranteed profit - they have to figure out what the probability of financial success is, and fewer and fewer publishers want to take that risk. So, just as music has begun to be published by independent resources, I say publishing should follow the same route. Traditional publishers are grasping at the ever disappearing reins of the power they once wielded. And they had authors begging to be signed on (same idea goes for agents, by the way). Authors are the creators, and let's not be deceived that publishers and agents should be revered and pursued to get that elusive deal. For some reason, the balance of power has shifted away from where it should reside - with the author.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who read the story of Amanda Hocking's A-to-Z self-publishing success and said "Aha! I thought so." And the fact is that the connected world is now so huge and full of diverse interests that everyone's written works have markets and no publisher or agent should be touting themselves as the gatekeeper to success.
So go and publish traditionally if you wish, but celebrate also the freedom to do so independently through self-publishing. Success is all in the effort you expend, with some skill thrown in.
Happy publishing!

Blog Jog!

Welcome to Blog Jog Day! Please enjoy my site then click over to to see what the next Blog has to offer! Lost in the links? You can always go back to the main Blog Jog Day Blog at and find a new link to jog from. Thank you for stopping by my site!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Blog Jog: August 7, 2011

On Sunday I will be participating in my first Blog Jog.

Blog Jog Day is a one-day event where Bloggers are joining together for a pyramid effect promotional rally. We all post on the same day with each post leading the visitor to the next Blog, and so on full circle. Visitors explore your Blog, and then click on to the next one bringing potentially thousands of unique visitors to your site. Nearly 2,000 joggers showed up last November!

Bloggers can sign up at Join us!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

2011 Giller Prize

Hi everyone,

Us regular people may not qualify to submit an entry for the Giller Prize (only publishers can), but we can add our vote for the Reader's Choice Award and Giller Prize long list. Submit your nomination by August 28, 2011 and become eligible to win prizes. The Giller Prize long list is announced September 8, 2011; the short list is announced in Toronto on October 4, 2011.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Big news, Blog Tours, Google Blog Search and New Canadian Publisher Seeks Authors

Hi everyone! Sorry I've been away for over a month. During that time I finished my second novel, Grounds for Death, and now I'm working on hiring an editor, researching cover art and determining my marketing plan.
I recently learned about blog tours, in which an author sets a timeframe during which s/he arranges for book reviews and does Q&A sessions with bloggers, in advance of a novel's release. (Here's a great link explaining blog tours.) It sounds like a fantastic idea, so I'm planning to arrange that as soon as I 1) figure out how long the editing process will take, and 2) who all those bloggers might be! Another strategy is to set a specific release date and solicit pre-orders to cause opening week sales to spike and hopefully cause a book to hit bestseller lists. Okay, this might be beyond my reach, but I can always dream.
Google has a blog search tool (click here), so I'm easily able to locate suitable bloggers. The trick is in identifying those that review cozy mysteries, and what their review policy is - yes, bloggers actually have rules they go by for reviewing novels, who'd have thought?
Also, I want to let you know that The Workhorsery, a new Toronto-based publisher, is looking for authors to represent. Here's the link for more information.
But the past month hasn't been all work. I recently took these pictures and wanted to share them with you. 

A female gold finch sits on a clutch of eggs
in a Red Maple on my front lawn. Five babies
hatched last week. It seems late in the year
(end of July) but I trust they know what they're doing.

A male grossbeak eyes me suspiciously
from an Austrian pine outside my breakfast
nook to determine if it's safe to visit the feeder.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

How do you write a book outline?

One of the first things I heard about when I started down the path of writing my first novel was that a book should start with a book outline. Okay, I thought, show me an example. I surfed the web and came up empty. That was over a year ago. More recently, I've had two books on the go, and after 30,000 words or so, it was getting pretty hard to remember where all the various plot threads stood. Does X know that the death was a murder? In this chapter, does she already know the name of the victim, or not? I really needed a better outline tool. I had been using a word document in which I provided a brief outline of what happened in each chapter, but it was cumbersome to find the exact piece of information I needed when I needed it. So I thought I'd take another look for a "book outline" tool. Thankfully, Cameron Mathews of came to my rescue with a useful tool. It's a simplified take on the "snowflake" method, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's called Cameron's Outline helper ( It helps you build the scenes and characters and helps you track your progress towards completing the various scenes. It was originally designed to help with NaNoWriMo (which I haven't participated in), but I'm using it pretty successfully for my two works in progress. I have made my own modifications to it as well. For example, I don't really want to know how many more words I have to write to get to my goal; I'd rather go by words completed. I guess I'm just a "glass half full" kind of person; I want to know what I've achieved because it gives me the motivation to keep going. I'm also tempted to combine some of the tabs. For example, two tabs are about the characters in your book. I'd prefer to include all of the information in just one tab, so I know that when I click on the tab, I'm bound to see the information I was looking for. And, something simple, I've renamed the tabs because I couldn't remember what information was which step. So far, so good. It's helped me summarize the plot points of each scene much better. And I wrote over 1,000 words today, bringing me up to over 38,000 in Grounds for Death.
I hope your writing is making progress, too.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Stuff I learned yesterday

In addition to figuring out how to set up this blog, yesterday was a day rich in learning. I read Amazon's e-book publishing process. Wow! Easy, and with better royalties than I'm currently experiencing with my iUniverse contract. Amazon is also associated with, who will produce a treebook at no cost, provided it's given to them in complete form. Which means you have to have the artwork, inside layout, and editing completed beforehand. That seems doable. They also obtain an ISBN number for the work. So I thought I'd make some strides by publishing my book "Death in the Forsythia" in e-book format right away. Yesterday. But then I realized I had a contract with iUniverse, and what the heck did it say about my publishing the same book through another source? I spent an hour looking through all sorts of boxes and files, and finally found it lying on top of my "in-tray" in the office. I guess I'd dug it out already following a major office clean-out by hubby so he could paint the room (dark taupe - amazing with our black desk, filing cabinet and book shelf). Darn, the contract was 3 years long! But then I checked the date: I'd signed it June 24, 2008. I was within days of it ending. Perfect! But before I go down that route, I want to be sure I understand exactly what will happen if I end the contract, so I have a couple of days to figure that out.
In the meantime, I'll work on one of my other in-progress novels.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hi everyone!

I'm happy to finally join the blogosphere! I look forward to posting my progress and hearing your thoughts. I'm currently mid-way on books two and three in the Garden Plot Mysteries series, working titles "Grounds for Death" and "The Case of the Purloined Poppy".