Erin Lausten

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Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

2015… Wow!

Posted by erinlausten on February 2, 2015

Here we are in the second month of 2015 and I am amazed at how quickly it is going already.

When reminiscing on New Year’s Eve with my extended family I realized this year marks FIVE years since I published my first novel Unexpected! I can’t believe it. I feel like I’ve only just started this journey but looking back at the books since Unexpected I know it’s been a heck of a ride. And it is FAR from over.

To celebrate I am offering Unforeseen (Book 2 – Viator Legacy) for $0.99 from February 2nd until March 17th on Smashwords and Amazon! I love Grace and would like more folks to meet her. Lucius isn’t too bad either.

Let’s get ready for more adventures with Deadbeat coming out very soon and Unrepentant (Book 3 – Viator Legacy) coming out later this year. This wild ride just keeps on going.

Happy 2015 Everyone!

Posted in writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Excitement… It’s Overwhelming

Posted by erinlausten on November 13, 2013

I’m just a tad excited. Ok, a lot excited. I’ve told you about Unforeseen coming out next week. I have comments back from Betas on Cibola’s Revenge and shooting to have that out by Christmas. But now, I have a new announcement, I am launching a new Pen Name, to  write my happy, fun, lovely romances. Oh, they are fairly steamy too. They just don’t fit in the same vein as my Erin Lausten books. So if you like sweet, steamy fantasy fodder, check out Amie Archer at http://amiearcher.wordpress.com/

Now what has me super excited is not only am I telling the world Amie exists, but I am also releasing her (my) first book. It’s a novella, it’s hot and just in time for Christmas. Before you ask, it is titled Cabin Fever. Oh yeh, did I say hot? Yum. In addition to this first book, I will have two more out before Christmas. So if a heat-filled romance is something you like, check out Amie Archer’s blog and like her on Facebook!

Wait… did I say I have three books for Amie, and two for Erin coming out before Christmas? Yes, yes I did say that. No I am not a mutant (though you could say some of my characters are… Viators maybe? Hmmm), but I do have that many books to release. I just happen to have a backlog which is finally getting cleaned out.

How am I handling all this insanity? Well, I can say I’m just a little nutty. Not the normal nutty, but a more frazzled, excitable, happy nutty. I couldn’t do this without a huge support staff. Well, not huge, but the help and support these key players provide is HUGE. Consider  yourself warned that you will see a flurry of madness over the next couple of months and then we’ll be back on track. After the madness I’ll be working on a new project. A super-secret project ….ok, I can’t keep secrets. It’s about vampires…and werewolves… and fairies… and centaurs…and Chihuahuas… um, yeh, I said Chihuahuas. It’s going be a blast. It will be MY fun take on the supernatural genre. So, keep watching—things are about to get Verrrry interesting.

<a
Smiley

Posted in News, plotting, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Quality of Self-Published Books- The Conclusion

Posted by erinlausten on August 16, 2012

In the first post of this series I posed the question: Is there a high level of low quality material published through self-published models? And if so, does it matter? In the second post I evaluated the first part to the question. Do we indeed see a significant level of low quality material published through the self-publishing model? I ran through that exercise for a variety of reasons, but most importantly to explore the variety of influences that impact the question. In addition, it has helped me to focus my thoughts on the issue. Because the main purpose of this entire thing is to examine the implications.

So, let’s assume I was able to come up with conclusive evidence that there is a glut of bad books being produced through the self-publishing model. Remember, what constitutes a “bad” book is determined by a variety of criteria, but if we simplify it to its basic root, I think we can move on. I am going to define a “bad” or “poorly written” book as one that readers as a whole hate. It can be unedited, poorly structured, topically irrelevant, etc. Whatever it is that makes it bad, we’ll count it in the pool of awful reading material.

Now, what does it matter? What implications does a surplus of bad books have on writers (traditionally published, self-published and aspiring)? I believe much of the concern stems from a fear that discoverability will be adversely impacted if a reader must sort through the excess and choose a book that they will enjoy. It is hard enough being discovered amid the stacks of good stuff, how can we compete when readers have to sort through the crud too?

The point is valid. But there are a number of things running in favor of good books. First, readers are intelligent. They know what they like and what they want to read. They can find it, evaluate it, and make a choice based on a number of criteria they have developed. Some they developed through experience in the traditional book process, such as understanding genre, evaluating blurbs, and trying out a few pages. All of these options are still available.

It is amazing how fast a reader can disregard books they know they won’t like. Have faith. If they make a mistake and choose something they don’t like, they file that away in the cabinet of things to watch out for, and move on. They are not going to give up reading because they read a book they didn’t like. There is a belief that readers may become so frustrated with the number of books they don’t like that they will give up. But we forget how many great books they are also discovering. Why would they stop when there is good with the bad?

Another thing in favor of good books is that this is all brand new. Electronic book discovery is in its infancy. The technology that enabled this model is still growing and the systems haven’t caught up yet. Discovering the most relevant information on the web is a constantly evolving process. Entire platforms are developed just to facilitate discovery in the most effective ways and Amazon is not the only stakeholder in creating superior discovery methods. Academic databases and search engines are also in the business. The need to retrieve information in a reliable way that can target relevant resources faster and effectively is an ongoing issue across the digital world. With the need expanding, the tools will be developed and improved upon. We are only at the beginning of this process and while the tools may be clunky now, we will see significant changes in the next five to ten years that will make what we have today look like stone tools.

Today we are limited to sorting through giant pools of options based on things like genre, cost, format, sales figures, and reader reviews. But imagine if someone comes along like Pandora and classifies books into categories that are even more specific and minute? What would the discovery experience look like then? What gems would I find among the vast options when I simply type in the name of a book I like and see what shows up with similar elements? And that is just one option. I honestly believe we will see amazing developments in what is possible as the world adapts to the new publishing models.

That does not mean that I believe the current criteria we use will disappear or lose value. Reviews are gaining steam as a means to discover great books. We are seeing some of the flaws in the system, but they will work themselves out over time as well. For instance, the issue has come up that just about any author can come up with a handful of friends that will post glowing reviews about their books. And this is true. But what does that do? What happens when those reviews work? People buy the books and if they are unhappy about it, they can write their own reviews. As this happens, the value of the original favorable reviews lesson and it evens out. So why worry?

The great equalizer is time. There is this feeling that if a book is going to succeed it must happen now. What does it matter if my book is successful today instead of tomorrow? A year from now or even three it may take off as it finds its audience and develops a reputation. Don’t get me wrong, I wish it would happen today, but based on how things are shaping out in the business, I think this will be the biggest shift. They are calling it the long-tail, and if a writer is in this for the long haul, it is the piece that will create the most success.

The decision to go through the traditional or the self-publishing model is a personal choice based on a variety of circumstances. Do some people self-publish out of impatience, a fear of rejection, and an expectation of making it big off of one badly written book? Sure. And just as many people work their tail off learning the craft, studying the business and making sound, economical decisions on how to go about the process.

We can’t tell people not to publish before they are ready. The determination is their own and is dependent on a number of factors. And that is the key. If a writer simply wants to finish that one book and put it up to see what happens, then that is what they will do. They may not want to build a career, write another book, or even find a significant audience. And we will continue to see writers in various levels of their craft development. A first book may not be the best, but ideally we will see improvement over time. I have read numerous “first books” by authors I now love, and you can see the difference. I don’t stop reading the bestseller’s newest book because I tracked down an early book and found it wanting. They have grown as a writer just as many of the self-publishing writers will.

Those that do not grow and develop their skills may keep writing, though I find it unlikely. I expect to see a number of self-published authors with only one or two publications but significantly fewer that keep at it and publish more. Those that do will begin to see the success over time. Because even writing badly takes a lot of work. If they don’t want to put in the effort to develop the skill, why would they keep working so hard writing the next book? Eventually the realization that there needs to be improvement will hit and then the choice will be made: Do they learn or quit?

I completely agree with Sue Grafton when she tells new writers to “master your craft.” That is the key to a lasting career. And it is an ongoing journey. But I would not agree with the statement “Stop worrying about publishing.” When your head is in the book and you are learning the craft, then yes, don’t think about the publishing aspect. Focus on the task at hand. But you do need to learn the business and that includes “worrying about publishing.” There are choices that need to be made and plans to enact. In a recent clarification, Sue Grafton admits that she does not understand the new model and may not have a complete understanding of the situation. I think this illustrates more than anything that at every point in your career, you should do the work and learn your craft and your business.

The issue of quality in self-published books won’t go away, but I don’t believe it will unduly impact the market as tools are developed to better assist readers in discovery. Additionally, I feel it is far too early in the process to make sweeping judgments on how it will impact writers as a whole. It’s new. The situation hasn’t settled and until it does, we will see all kinds of possible issues that in the end won’t be an issue at all.

What will be important is the personal side. The decisions each writer makes to develop their work and skill will improve the possibilities of success. The patience required to really grow and make a career of this new publishing landscape will weed out just as many writers as it did/does in the Traditional process. How a writer copes with rejection, the time commitment, and the immense effort will determine who keeps going and who slips to the side.

And that is why the best advice to new writers will always be the same: Master your craft. Learn the business. And keep writing.

Posted in publishing, quality, the craft, writing | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

The Quality of Self-Published Books- Evaluating the Question

Posted by erinlausten on August 15, 2012

When I first wrote this post, I knew that it would bring to the forefront the author of the original article and their opinion on the matter. Sue Grafton has caught flack on the issue and when you publicize your opinions and thoughts, inevitably there will be comment and confrontation. But the inspiration for this post wasn’t drawn from her comment out of a personal outrage that I felt at the statement. Rather, it reminded me of a thought that has been brewing in my head for some time. She is not the first, nor will she be the last commentator on the quality of self-publishing. And rather than focus on the person, I would far rather focus on the question. I believe that since it has risen so highly in the discourse on the topic, it deserves a serious analysis. And I hope that through this process I can come to some kind of answer, if only for my own personal edification.

And that brings us to the question posited in the first post in this series: Is there a high level of low quality material published through self-published models.  And if so, does it matter?

In this post, I will be focusing primarily on the first part of the question. The second part will be addressed in a following post.

The Analysis:

Is there an easy answer? Ideally, I would love to see data that illuminates the answer and unfortunately, I am not finding that. There is no pie chart out there with the percentage of badly written self-published books in relation to those that are mediocre or even great. So my first question is, “Where are we getting the notion that there are a lot of badly written self-published books?”
I imagine it comes from firsthand knowledge in some cases and repetitive recitation of what others have observed in other cases. So, what does that mean? If I randomly choose a self-published book or three and find they are awful, is that an appropriate test? Can I say that the majority of self-published books fall into the same bucket?

I hope the scientist in you shivers, because this is hardly a representative sample.  So first we need to collect a sample group to test (We can’t read ALL the books out there, so we have to select a number based on criteria that will hopefully show the proportions of quality in the whole). So how do we determine a sample group? Are the books read limited to a specific genre? How are they selected? If I were to simply read the self-published books found on the Amazon Top 100 lists I would be wary to claim I had significantly seen the level of work being produced. There are so many factors that contribute to a book “making” it to those lists, that I have found they do not necessarily bring us the “best”.  In fact, I have had better luck finding great self-published work through word of mouth and serendipitous discovery. (Imagine that, it works just like the traditional model)

Are we limiting our search to Amazon? Or do we include the other options, like Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Lulu, etc.? And once we have selected where we will pull the books from, how do we then select them? There isn’t a list of self-published books that we can skim to choose books. We could go to Smashwords or others that only cater to self-published authors, but it isn’t a complete look at what is out there as so many skip that as a publishing option. In addition, a number of self-published books look just like every traditionally published book out there. In many cases you have to dig to really decide if it was self-published. And if we miss these kinds of books are we not filtering out a set of the sample that could be quite telling?

This is a significant problem. And I am starting to see something quite interesting, but hang on I will get there.

Let’s pretend we are able to put together a good representative sample. (Honestly, I think it is possible— work intensive, but possible. Anyone looking for a dissertation topic?) Once we have a sample, then we would need to establish the criteria that determine the quality of a book. Are we looking at basic grammatical standards? At what level? Newspapers are supposed to be written at an eighth grade level— is that the standard? What level of errors is considered negligible to not matter? Spelling, commas, sentence structure. Where does it stop?

And are we limiting the definition to just basic writing rules. Or are we looking at storytelling as well? Are we talking about criteria set by the literary types in universities across the globe? Or perhaps criteria that the reading public determine? Hold on. We don’t know what the reading public likes. Why do people flock to Twilight and Fifty Shades when so many cry that it is bad writing? What made Harry Potter an international phenomenon? Why would Transformers 3 make millions? (Wait, sorry about that last one—wrong industry).

I am getting a little snarky about the process, but let me rein that in and state that yes, we do know that there are basic criteria that determine a book’s quality. Good story and editing that ensures a reader never falls out of a book is a sign of good writing. But the specific details that make one book stand above the rest often elude us. The Writer’s Digest recently posted an article on the 21 key traits of bestselling fiction. And these are great, but they aren’t necessarily quantifiable. If I follow every rule, can I guarantee a bestseller? No. Not at all.

Perhaps if we cannot quantify the criteria that make a good book, we should utilize a sample of readers instead. So my proposal is to have thousands of readers read the sample of thousands of self-published books, provide their opinions and then evaluate the opinions over that broad spectrum. If we could only tap into this unutilized source of data…

Actually, this is already there. We have Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, and Smashwords. Thousands of self-published books are being uploaded, sold and read daily. The answers are there. Do we know if the collective whole is bad? If you sort the searches in Amazon by the ratings, you get self-published and traditionally published books running through the list from top to bottom. Some of those books that rise to the top of the list could be characterized as awful writing. But consider this: It is at the top for a reason? Why are people reading it? Why are they loving it? Why are bad books making money? Maybe the real question is: Do you really know what makes a good book?

If you hold up two books and cannot tell the difference between traditionally and self-published, then perhaps it is not that distinction that is important. Perhaps it is not the model at all that we are observing as the precipitating factor, but rather the work, effort, and experience being put into the finished product. Perhaps the issue is that there are a number of books out there that are not meeting an accepted standard. Because the self-publishing model is relatively easy to break into, it allows for individuals to produce works that are less likely to be found released through the traditional model.

Yes, as a self-publisher, I can slap stick-figures on a book cover, type nonsense onto a page and throw it on the web. And I am not going to argue that there are not a significant number of badly written books (by whatever criteria) out there. And while I have not been able to do the actual math, the self-publishing model does provide the opportunity to put up just about anything.  And inevitably, the quality can range from phenomenal to not so great.

I went through a lot of words going over how we can tell if there is there a high level of low quality material published through self-published models. And ultimately, it was an exercise in futility, because I didn’t give you a definitive answer. I would love to see actual numbers and know how those numbers were reached, because as you can see, there are so many variables it really needs to be a well designed study. But, the truth is, this isn’t the important part. And that is what I will look at tomorrow.

Does it matter?

If there are a ton of badly written self-published books out there, does it matter? What implications does it have on the industry and what does it mean to the traditional, the self-published and the budding author?

And so… until tomorrow.

Posted in publishing, quality, the craft, writing | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Another Phoenix Comicon Wrap Up

Posted by erinlausten on May 30, 2012

Picture by phxcc

Wow. Can I just say Wow? What an experience!

I arrived at the Phoenix Comicon on Thursday, May 24th, and really, I had no idea what to expect. Well, that is not entirely true; this was my third year at Phoenix Comicon. The first two years I performed with a dance troupe at the Steampunk Ball, and then just enjoyed the rest of the con like anyone else. But this year was my first sitting behind a table.

And it was way worth it. I got more out of the first two hours on site then I ever expected, and it didn’t stop for the entire ride!

Thursday was the preview night, so many of the vendors were still getting settled as the early birds shuffled into the room.  I got to meet my neighbors, including James Barnett. I had a blast sitting next to James. His art work was phenomenal, and his attitude was even better.  Then, to my delight, Lizzy Ford was set up right in front of me. What a fabulous surprise. I’ve been following Lizzy’s work online for some time, and I had no idea she was an Arizonan. It was great just to have someone else going through the same thing I was, new to the Con and excited about meeting new readers. I can tell you, a nicer writer you just won’t meet! And her books rock too, so Bonus!

By the end of Thursday I was already grinning like an idiot, just happy to see my spanking new poster-sized pic of Cibola’s Promise up on the wall and my books lying out all pretty. I can’t remember if I sold any books that first night, everything is now all a blur.

Friday came fast, since we didn’t sleep great, and the excitement was starting to get to me, but we were there, and the crowds started to come. It was awesome having a front row seat to all the insane costumes and happy people running around the con. Where else can you see an Elvis Darth Vader? And the steampunkers were out in full force, which made me extra happy. I caught up with my old friends with Mantecoza and the awesome Lords and Ladies working the booth for the Society for Creative Anachronism. And by the end of the day, I had sold 6 books. SIX books. I was ecstatic! I went home exhausted, but grinning like crazy, and I knew I still had two more days.

And Saturday happened. Goodness help me, Saturday happened. Things just took off like a hailstorm. The aisle filled, people started stopping by and soon enough I lost count of how many books had walked away. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that men and women both were drawn to my table. I learned to talk about my work, and discovered more often than not I was helping to educate the public on what Steampunk really is. I had no idea it would be so fun, and those conversations were some of the best. It is an experience I won’t soon forget. And as the hours passed I started to get nervous, looking down to see if I would have enough books for one more day. By the end of the day, I had sold more than half of my stock. I should be good… Only one more day after-all.

And Sunday was as awesome as the rest. Conference fatigue was setting in, but my smile never left. Can you really get tired of the awesomeness? And then we got to the last hour, and I walked up to the table after a break, just in time to see the last of Cibola’s Promise taken from the table. That’s right. I sold out. I cannot begin to explain how amazing that was! Then I looked over at Unexpected. And there were only 4 left! I didn’t even expect to sell any of those! I mean, I wasn’t sure it would be the right book for this crowd. Boy was I wrong. I love being wrong!

And then it was over! My Comicon Table experiment was a resounding success. I had a blast with awesome friends and family that came to help me out (something I can never repay). I got to see things you just don’t see anywhere. And I walked home with Brent Spiner’s autograph.

Yeh. It was a pretty awesome weekend.

And with all the awesomeness, I have not been able to format Cibola’s Promise for Ebook. But I am on top of that, so you will find it online in the next couple of weeks. It will be a wild summer. Unforeseen, Book Two of the Viator Legacy Series, will be released by August, and I will be working hard on a few more projects that will hopefully be in your hands by the end of the year. Hang in there, we are in for a crazy ride! 

Posted in steampunk, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Road to Phoenix Comicon

Posted by erinlausten on May 10, 2012

Three years ago I began a journey with a band of friends. I had just discovered steampunk and was active in a belly dancing troupe called Shahrinz. The troupe is still counted as my greatest friends, and my interest in steampunk has only grown. At that time, a wonderful opportunity fell into our laps. The Phoenix Comicon was looking for performers and we jumped at the chance. We decided to fling ourselves into the steampunk fray and performed with that in mind. Since then, the troupe has put together a number of shows with steampunk flavor, and I have begun writing stories about a Wild West that is a little bit strange and a lot of fun.

And so, we come to this year. I will be at Comicon once again, but this time, I will have a table with my new steampunk story Cibola’s Promise. I am extremely excited about this story. Its inspiration taps into so many parts of my life. From the beautiful troupe that helped develop the characters and their intricacies, to my life in the American West and love for history, it has been a true adventure in writing.

The Phoenix Comicon has been an excellent event for each of the years I have attended, and I know this year will be no different! The organizers know how to put together an amazing experience, and if you have the chance, I highly recommend a trip. With everything from Science Fiction, Fantasy, comic books, gaming, and novels, it is a pop-culture dream. And so I hope to see you there!

I will have print versions of both the new Steampunk book Cibola’s Promise as well as the first novel in the Viator Legacy Series, Unexpected. This will be the premier for Cibola’s Promise, so do not fret, I will have it available in E-book shortly, and both will be available through Amazon in print. If you make it to the event, I will be in Artist Alley at table 342!

And to you all, may your life be an adventure and full of surprises!

Erin Lausten

Posted in writing | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Self-Publish Or Go The Traditional Route: It Does Not Matter

Posted by erinlausten on June 9, 2011

It takes quite a bit for me to get revved up over a controversy. When it comes to deciding what side of the fence to be on I prefer riding the helicopter overhead. I am definitely not saying I don’t take sides or don’t believe passionately in things, but I prefer to understand and examine the complexity of the process. There are no easy answers and no simple questions.

This is no better illustrated than in the current atmosphere of publishing. There seem to be two camps. The first argue Traditional publishing is the only way to go (sending your book to an agent, then editor and finally wonderfully, tangibly, ecstatically the book ends up in bookstores and into readers hands). Check out this article for some on this side of things. The second group says that things have changed, it is time for the industry to move on, adjust to the new digital reality and writers need to self-publish their work (It is a brand new world where writers can control where they sell their books, to whom, when and how. The social net connects authors and readers in ways previously unseen) JA Konrath seems to be the go to guy on this. Of course, this is elementary, as many suggest, the options are open and you should do both. Check out Dean Wesley Smith for more on this topic.

However, if you look deeper into the articles you’ll see it isn’t black and white. They aren’t arguing that you should do this or that. Instead, they are looking for solutions and finding the ones that work best for them and their point of view. And this is where I think many writers, aspiring and otherwise, are getting confused.

So, I am going to give you the answer that comes from between the lines of all these blogs and articles.

It doesn’t matter. Period.

What you choose, how you choose to do it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. You may fail, you may succeed, but it really doesn’t matter which way you decide to go. The opportunity is there for both.

What matters is you.

You have to decide what direction you want to go. And the only way to do that is to figure out what matters to you and what you need in order to give yourself the best shot. There are two things you have to do, and they are essential. First, you have to know what you are doing and what you want. Second, you have to learn. A lot. And don’t just look at one side of the story. Learn everything you can about both. Give yourself the best opportunity by seeking out all the information you can and make decisions based on that. Don’t just listen to one voice, or two, or even twenty. If you want it you have to know it.

This shouldn’t be a shocker. If you want a career, you go to school. You learn to think, you learn skills that will help you in the jobs you will fill, you learn what you do and do not want from the career of your choice. Then you apply it. You get your first job and you have to learn more. You have to sort through everyone’s opinions on who, where, what and why. And then you start to learn from experience. You make mistakes and you adjust. You have success and you adjust. And it never stops.

So the key to success is this: Know thyself and have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  For all those aspiring authors out there (I include myself in this camp) you are in school. Read, study and practice. You may not have a professor or assignments due, but you are still in school. Don’t let anyone get you down because you don’t have all the answers. You are learning and take pride in the fact that you have chosen a goal and doing all you can to succeed.

And if you are frustrated by the blogs, comments, tweets, chatter out there about either camp, keep this in mind. We are all learning. There is excitement about trying something new, be it self-publishing or traditional publishing.  Aspiring authors are learning and part of that includes putting themselves out there for scrutiny. It’s rough. It’s frustrating. What they say or think today will change tomorrow as knowledge and experience grows.

Finally, the biggest key to all this is you can’t succeed unless you try. Nothing makes up for experience. You learn from failure even more so than success. But what worked for someone else may not work for you. The market is different, opportunities change, experiences influence outcomes. There are no answers to this, only opportunities to try. And there are very few mistakes that are irreparable. And in the end they give value in gained experience.

For those that think they have the answers. You don’t. You just have time and experience. It’s a good thing to share. But don’t forget you too are still learning and the answers you have are for you and may apply to someone else…or not.

Posted in writing | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »