How To Republish Your Own Dang Book

Or: How To Rise Like A Phoenix From So Many Ashes

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Seriously, y’all.

Now that the Ariah relaunch has happened, I thought it might be cool to walk you through what that looked like, exactly, in case any of you out there need similar info/skills in the future times.

What Happened When I Heard My Press Was Going Under
Oh, you know. Irritation. Resignation. Worry. But it’s the new normal, right? You can’t let yourself dwell on it too much. I got the rights reversion language from them, and filed it away. Ariah (and the other books I had under contract with them) was mine again.

And that felt a bit like freedom, honestly. Terrifying, exhilarating freedom.

Deciding What To Do Next
I went into that a little here. The options were pretty clear-cut:

  • find a press willing to reprint Ariah
  • create a press and reprint Ariah
  • self-publish Ariah

Ultimately, I went with option 3, for now, because of timing and resources. Judging by word of mouth and some of the few stats I have at my disposal, there is some momentum and demand for Ariah out there currently. I was afraid if the book disappeared altogether that the word of mouth would dry up, the momentum would turn to stillness, and Ariah would entirely lose the audience its found. It felt, and still feels, important to keep the book out there. It is as entirely legitimate as it will ever be–publishing through a press is not going to make that more or less true–and the text has already been copy edited.

Ariah’s Second Edition – Nuts And Bolts
Ok, with that decision made, I started sketching out tasks to make it happen:

  • Cover – I have always loved the cover art the press secured for Ariah, so when they offered to let me purchase it, I jumped at the chance. Done.
  • Redo Digital File – I took the epub file the press gave me for promotion purposes when the book initially launched, and plopped it into Sigil. Sigil is a free program that I use to edit and manipulate epub files until they are *exactly* how I want them.
    • Change Front and Back Matter – I needed to make changes, definitely, to the copyright page. This is a second edition, since the publisher has changed. I took out some of the language my press had in the copyright page and added some other language. I reconfigured the Table of Contents. I removed some of the back matter and added other back matter, and made the links live.
    • Tweak Book Design – In Sigil, I tweaked some of the chapter titles and section headings to be more my aesthetic.
    • Upload to Kindle – When the Sigil file was done, I uploaded it to a different program, Calibre. In calibre, you can add a cover image. You can also convert the epub to other formats (like mobi). I took the newly created mobi file and uploaded it to Kindle. Bam: that’s your ebook.
  • Redo Print File – Also in Calibre, I converted the epub to a rtf file. I made whatever book design choices I wanted in Word–important note: you have to set paper size to 6×9 and set mirror margins to match the default CreateSpace size. I found this part to be extremely, weirdly, super fun. Then, I exported the word doc as a PDF, which I uploaded to CreateSpace.
    • Upload to CreateSpace – You’ll need to go through CreateSpace’s entire finicky checklist, and you’ll need to go through the cover design process there. This was…less fun, but very thorough. Once it’s all done, and reviewed, then you have a print-on-demand paperback!
  • Update Amazon Author Page – Go to AuthorCentral and add the new versions of the ebook and paperback to your bibliography. I had to add all the extra shizz to their pages (editorial reviews, about the author, etc).
    • I couldn’t get Amazon to link the new editions to the old editions, so the current reviews are trapped forever on the old edition’s page. *sad trombone*
      • although I have found a couple of ways to inquire about this (check out this and this if you wind up with similar issues). So hopefully this will be resolved soon!
  • Update Goodreads – Add the new ebook and paperback as new editions to your book’s goodreads page. If you do this, then your reviews from the old editions will carry over like magic.
    • If you run into trouble with that, the Goodreads librarian group is full of angels.

What’s Next?
The big question is What To Do With Those Other Books Zharmae Had Under Contract. I’ve shopped them around a little, but not much. But honestly, I don’t really know what’s next.

I do know it will work out. And I’ll be around. And it’ll be great! Stay tuned.

ARIAH has relaunched!

In the wake of Zharmae’s closing, I was faced with a choice:

  • take my book and go quietly into the night, shopping it around as a possible reprint
  • relaunch it myself immediately

I’ve decided to do both things. I’ve put a couple of feelers out to people who might be interested in reprinting Ariah–people with resources and reach I don’t have alone–but in the meantime, this little book has grown legs!

There are readers who would like to buy it in the interim, in both ebook and paperbook formats, and it feels not super cool to keep Ariah out of circulation just because when it takes not a terrible amount of effort to put it back in circulation.

So: Ariah is available, as a second edition, via Amazon in both print and digital formats. One day there might be yet a third edition, if any of those feelers pan out, but maybe not, so what is there to lose really?

Psst – there is a giveaway happening right now through my newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter mailing list here, if you haven’t already, and enter the giveaway here.

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2nd Edition Ebook | 2nd Edition Print

The second edition has no story or grammatical changes in the text compared to the first edition. Really, the only change is that the first edition was published by Zharmae, and this edition is published by me, and thus they have different ISBNs. I did take the opportunity to make some slight differences to layout and book design, but again, the book does not have any additional content, so if you already have a copy of Ariah, I can’t really tell you in good conscience to pick up a copy of the second edition (unless you’re like OMG I MUST SUPPORT B IN EVERYTHING THEY DO in which case…thank you! You’re very sweet and encouraging!!).

B

Writing ARIAH: A Closer Look at the Titular Character

Ariah is the pasty one in the center, FYI

Amazon | Goodreads

Given that Ariah hit some new folks radars thanks to spotlights thrown by the wonderful and talented Foz Meadows and Liz Bourke, I thought it might be talented to post some writerly behind-the-scenes type things here on how the book came to be. I haven’t really done that since before its launch, anyway, though if you’re interested, you can find all of those posts here.

Ariah Lirat’Mochai is a funny story. The book wasn’t supposed to be about him. It was supposed to be about his mentor, Dirva. Ariah was supposed to be the reader’s lens into Dirva, the way Nick Carraway narrates The Great Gatsby though the book isn’t actually his story. I maintain that Dirva is an interesting character in and of himself, but Ariah quickly took over the narrative. No passive viewpoint character here, no, Ariah demanded to tell his own story while Dirva’s maudlin arc played out in the shadows, seen sometimes and hidden at other times. I went with it. What else can you do but surrender to a first draft?

I have always loved Ariah’s voice. It came fully formed, of its own accord. He overthinks, he questions and second guesses, he is uncertain, but at his core, Ariah is a man who has a moral center. Not, particularly, a sense of self, but a firm moral center. And this makes him very interesting to write, because for him:

The truth was a slippery thing that, perhaps, did indeed slide between categories.

He spends a lot of time and energy trying to parse what he should say and what he should not, and when, and why. Some of this is to do with his magic–being an shaper, which is somewhat like an empath–he essentially eavesdrops on other people’s emotional states. They may be trying to cover, putting on a game face, that he sees right through without realizing he’s even seeing through it. So, because he’s so accidentally observant, he’s very careful. Ariah tries to weigh everything before he speaks. He doesn’t always get it right, but he tries to, which means there are so many thoughts running through his mind at any given moment as he tries to process everything at once.

On top of this is the complication of his empathic magic, and the way it interacts with his shifting sense of self. Early in the book, it becomes clear that he needs some sense of stability to keep himself together:

Ambivalence tends to drive me to self-sabotage. I do not do well with internal conflict; I do not do well when I am unmoored.

But it also becomes clear that for Ariah, paradoxically, coming to terms with a shifting sense of self provides the greatest sense of stability:

It’s like you’ve got two hearts inside you: yours and theirs. To learn a litany, you have to learn to be yourself and not yourself at the same time.

It’s only by understanding the way he is deeply shaped by the people he is around and loves that he can keep that dangerous ambivalence at bay. The only way Ariah can find to silence that awful internal conflict is, shockingly, but accepting that there is no single ineffable Ariah–there is the Ariah that brought to the surface by Sorcha, and the Ariah that is brought to the surface by Shayat and the Ariah that is brought to the surface by Halaavi, and none is more real or true than the other.

Ariah, like all the characters I’ve written, is deeply similar to me and deeply dissimilar to me. He is like me in that I tend to get immediately and terribly overwhelmed by the information I receive from others. I pay far too much attention by accident to people’s postures, their tone of voice, their word choice, their clothing, everything, and then I have to process it, and it’s exhausting, so very exhausting. He’s unlike me in that he strives for harmony and politeness. I don’t. But this idea of reconciliation between all these different versions of oneself, this idea that all the different sides and presentations of oneself are harmonious, are in sync, are a network of related ‘yous’ all made possible by the strength and depth of your relationships with other people, that is a thought I don’t think I would have had without writing this book. I wouldn’t have made that insight, which I find profoundly uplifting, without having stumbled upon Ariah’s voice and letting him take the story’s direction. I’m glad I did.



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Sex as Worldbuilding

A couple of days ago, I read Karin Kross’s recap of the Sex and Science Fiction panel that happened at SDCC. From Karin’s recap, it sounds like the panel was equal parts thoughtful1 and irritating2. In any case, the recap got me thinking about the role sex plays in my own writing.

Just narrowing the scope of this post to sex, the act itself, and how that has occurred in my fiction, I’ve tried to explore it in ways that mirror the way sex is used Ariah_FrontCoverOnlyin the real world. Which, yes, often sex is an expression of love. Or desire. But many times, sex is divorced from both of those things: it can be used as a weapon (either literallyy or figuratively). It can be used transactionally, economically. Sometimes these uses blend together, and you can’t separate one from another.

Sex for love and desire happens often in my writing; my characters tend to be sexually and romantically agentic people. Yay for them! That’s why Ariah was classified as a romance, after all3. But here are some other ways sex has appeared in my fiction:

Matters of Scale coverMatters of Scale” touches obliquely on the issue of sexual addiction. Both “Matters of Scale” and Ariah explore the intersection of sex and magic with regard to shapers, for whom sex is complicated—consent is tricky because they essentially black out4. Some shapers self-medicate with sex to escape the constant noise of their magical abilities, just like some real-life people use sex to keep anxiety or depression or other demons at bay.

Cargo is one of the very few places I’ve written about sexual violence. It’s a topic I write about infrequently, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s triggering and it’s often written about flippantly and inappropriately. But it does happen.

Cargo also introduced the Aerdh-pirate concept of tethers, or captain’s concubines. CargoMy current work-in-progress, The Search, is exploring the nuance and nature of tetherdom in greater detail. This is sex as transaction, or at the very least implied sex as transaction, but it’s not coercive. The Search is going further, too: what would a brothel that is not coercive and exploitative look like? What would a sex worker-run brothel look like?

All of these elements were as plot-driven and plot-driving as the romantic and lusty bits. All of these elements, I think, were also key to include from a worldbuilding perspective, as well. It’s false to think of sex one way. It has always been a flexible part of human nature, used and abused and traded in a hundred different ways. Hopefully one day we won’t abuse it anymore, but I think we’ll continue to trade it (hopefully ethically—because I think we can trade it ethically). At the very least, unless you’re writing in a utopia, your world needs to include all the permutations of how sex occurs.


1Wesley Chu

2Nick Cole

3Ariah was published by Love, Sex & Merlot, the Romance imprint of the Zharmae Publishing Press, not its fantasy imprint (Luthando Couer).

4I am coming to realize there is likely a whole separate post in this.

Roundup: June 15-June 21, 2015

Black whalers in New Bedford, MA

Black whalers in New Bedford, MA

Paperbacks, Sales, and Free fiction!

  • Want Ariah in ebook format but haven’t gotten around to picking up your copy? Now is your chance! In honor of the recent SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Ariah is available for $1 here until July 1st. Support queer love; support queer books!
  • Or, maybe you’ve been holding out for a paperback copy of Ariah. Well, you’re in luck there, too! Ariah is now available in both ebook and paperbook formats over at Amazon (though neither of those are on sale, FYI).
  • Also in honor of the SCOTUS ruling, I compiled three of my short stories–all F/F, all with happy endings, two of which feature characters of color–into a FREE collection called #LoveWins. You can download it here in mobi, epub or pdf: http://tinyurl.com/lovewinsstories

Ramblings Around the Web

Writing Update

  • The Search crept from 64k to 67k. Both Sorcha and Shayat miss each other, but neither will admit it (cue Dawson’s Creek theme song).
  • I started a short story tentatively titled “The Two Voyages of Pippin Tripp” and knocked out 3K words out of it. I probably have about 2k in it to go. It’s a retelling of pieces of Moby Dick from the perspective of Pip, the young Black cabin boy who goes mad. Sidenote: the history of Black whalers is utterly fascinating.

#LoveWins Sale! ARIAH available for $1

Ariah_FrontCoverOnly

The Supreme Court voted today to make gay marriage legal across the entire country. In honor of this momentous occasion, my publishing house, Zharmae Publishing Press, is having a sale on several LGBT titles, including Ariah, via https://payhip.com/tzppbooks.

The sale is running until 7/1/2015, and you can get an epub version of Ariah for just $1!

Support queer love. Support queer families. Support queer books. #LoveWins

Dissecting ARIAH’s Opening Paragraph

Every couple of months, a new listicle pops up on my Facebook or Twitter feed rounding up the greatest opening lines in literature. Or there’s pitchmases. Or there are improve-your-writing articles about landing an agent by sharpening your opening sentences. Obviously the start of a story is important. I think, on that, we can all agree. Today I thought I’d walk you through the evolution of some of my opening lines.

This is the opening paragraph of my second novel, Ariah, which was released last week:

There are times I still have nightmares about that first day in Rabatha. I’d come from Ardijan, which is a small place built around the river and the factories. It’s a town that is mostly inhabited by the elves who work the factories with a smattering of Qin foremen and administrators. We outnumber them there. We’re still poor and overworked, we still get hassled, but there is a comfort in numbers. It was a comfort so deeply bred in me that stepping off the train in Rabatha was a harrowing experience. The train, a loud, violent thing that cloaked half the city in steam, plowed right into the center of the city and dropped me off only three streets away from the palace. Even with all the steam, I could see its spires and domes. Even with all the commotion, I could hear the barked orders and vicious slurs of the Qin enforcement agents.

In order to craft successful opening lines, you may need to take a step back and consider what you want them to do. This is your first interaction with your reader. These sentences have to set your tone, kick off your plot, introduce your setting and your characters—any number of things. Choose wisely. In the case of Ariah, I really needed to emphasize:

  • The story is told in retrospect
  • Ariah’s deep emotional sensitivity (he still has nightmares)
  • Ariah is an elf, which is an oppressed class in this world (there are slurs thrown at him when he arrives)
  • Create a sense of urgency and chaos in the reader

Ok, compare that to the opening of the first draft of Ariah*:

I honestly had no idea what to expect that day. I suppose that’s how most feel, though, when they first meet those who are supposed to take them on as apprentices. Then again, usually it’s already someone you know – someone from your town, someone that runs in the same circles with your parents. The kind of person whose children you played with growing up. So most probably at least knew what they were getting into. I didn’t. I was shipped off to the capital, a strange bustling city I’d never been to before, and told to go see someone whose name I’d only ever seen on the spines of books in my mother’s study. All I really knew was that I was terribly nervous. What if he didn’t like me? Would it be worse if he took me on as a pupil anyway or refused my parents’ request? What if I didn’t like him?

Clearly I rewrote this, which means I don’t think it’s that strong. I think this opening lacks urgency—it’s meandering where it should be gripping. It’s thoughtful where it should have some force to it. It’s more focused on Ariah’s unnamed mentor than on Ariah himself. It’s shot through with telling instead of showing: he says he’s nervous, but we, as readers, don’t feel that nervousness. We are not immersed in a situation that makes us feel nervous with him.

Most of my openings start like this in the first draft—bland, telling without the showing. They usually drastically improve in revisions. Often, simply because in the second draft I actually know the story I’m telling. For example, one reason the first draft opening is written about the mentor is because the story was originally supposed to be about the mentor. Ariah was only supposed to be a viewpoint character reflecting on the mentor, but then Ariah took on a life of his own and took over the narrative. He went rogue, and the opening lines became an artifact of a story that was never actually written.

In my writing, the opening lines of first drafts get written first—sloppily—simply because you have to write something. You have to start somewhere. The rest of the draft comes together, the writing tightens up as it does, you find your voice somewhere in the middle and get a cadence. By the end of the first draft you finally have figured out what the story is about. Then, you start rewriting. You fiddle with the first part, and you rewrite, and you rewrite, but those opening lines are actually the last thing to get seriously tweaked and polished precisely because they are the first thing everyone will actually see. Those lines are high-stakes, which makes them intimidating as shit, so you hold them off and perfect everything else, then you perfect them.

I am generally not a critical self-editor, except when it comes to the first paragraph and the last paragraph, these make-or-break-a-book lines. These are the ones that have to be just right. These are also the ones, though, that can be killed by too much fussing. You have to let them breathe; you have to resist the urge to over-write them. You have to trust your gut that you’ve finished them and done them as well as you have it in you to do them. You have to stop yourself from fiddling with them forever to stave off the terror of putting your work out there.

*Oh, man, showing you parts of a first draft is like showing you my messy bedroom. I know everyone has one, but it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing.

Roundup: May 25-31 2015

click through to purchase!

click through to purchase!

Obviously, the biggest thing that went down last week was the release of my second novel, Ariah! Beyond the rabid posting on this blog, I made a couple of guest appearances last week:

In case you don’t follow me everywhere all over the internet, here’s what you missed last week:

  • A fresh round of Supernatural Haikus went up on my tumblr.
  • I took a long overdue vacation from everything this week to visit a wonderful dear friend. I slept on her extremely uncomfortable couch, and we spent a week straight watching the Avengers-related Marvel Universe movies/TV shows in in-universe chronological order. I started live-tweeting my reactions somewhere around Iron Man. The tesseract makes so much more sense now…kinda.

Writing Update:

  • What with all the book promotional stuff (all those blog posts to write!) and all that Marvel Universe watching and the relaxing there was not a ton of writing that happened. The Search continues to hover at 50kish words.

ARIAH Release day!

click through to order!

click through to order!

It’s here! It’s happened! It’s release day!!!!!!

It’s just really exciting!

Hey, and if you maybe want a free copy of Ariah, well, shoot, why not enter this giveaway? It’s open until midnight this Saturday!

I don’t have much else to say except:

iwroteabook