How I Publish My Novels

Final chapter in this series on how I write my novels! If you missed the previous articles, you can find them here:

1. Drafting
2. Outlining
3. Plotting
4. Writing
5. Revising

As always, I’ll throw out the reminder that Scrivener is my software of choice for organizing and drafting novels. But my methods may be adaptable to other creative organization helpers, as well.

In this final segment, I’d like to cover publishing. I have never taken the traditional publishing route, so the only experience I have to offer here is self-publishing. But first things first … final edits.

Final Edits

When I felt there was nothing more I could for my book on my own or with the aid of beta readers, I hired an editor to help with final edits. Editors come in two varieties: content and line. They are different from proofreaders. Let me explain.

Content editors look at the content and context of the story overall and suggest ways to improve it. When I wrote my first book, I hired a content editor because the thing I was the most insecure about was whether or not it was a good story. Her feedback was invaluable overall, but in the end, since I am self-publishing, I had the final say on what to change and what not to change. She gave me tips on things like setting development, parts of the story that could be cut out, what didn’t work for her in terms of concepts, and advice on word count vs. story telling for fantasy novels. If I had any questions about plot holes or character development, I could consult her about that.

Line editors look at the script’s technical aspects. This includes proofreading for grammar and spelling, but they can also offer editorial advice in terms of what did or didn’t work for them, raise questions about clarity of wording or style, and suggest ways to make the script tighter and more efficient. I will admit I have never hired a line editor, due to my limited budget. But between my own expertise in English, the multiple eyes of the beta readers, and the content editor, most of the technical errors get squashed during the many revisions. What a line editor will not do is help you develop your setting, characters, or plot.

Finally, there are proofreaders. Proofreaders are not editors. They are not there to help you with the content or development of your story in any way. They are there to find your spelling and grammar errors, and that is it. It is not their job to give opinions on context, characters, style, word count, or suggest rewrites of any kind other than technical errors.

It’s important that you know what you are paying for when you choose professional revision services. And it’s important to remember that in self-publishing, the author has the final say. Always.

When I get the final feedback, revisions are usually quick because there is usually little left to correct. The book is now almost ready to publish.

Cover Art

The next thing I finalize is the cover art. I usually do my own because I used to be an art student. But there are loads of extremely talented artists for hire out there who would be happy to design a good cover for you. Pay them well! People really do judge a book by its cover.

The basics on cover art are simple. The thumbnail design needs to be distinct at a distance. The cover needs to look like the genre(s) it fits. It needs to be relevant to the topic of the story. And it needs to be as professional as possible.

I pushed the boundaries on the “thumbnail” rule with my own books, but that’s because I personally love detailed art. Plus, I wanted Aija and Trizryn represented either in part or whole because of the ambiguous relevance of the titles. They are both changelings. They are both fledglings. They are both having to confront some dark themes by book three. They are both heirs to the royal bloodline in book 4. And they are both in some way responsible for the saving dragons in book 5. … I knew the rule. I broke it anyway. Meh. I’m happy with my designs. But I can always change them later if I change my mind because I am in control of those decisions, rather than the publisher.

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The Dragonling by Melody Daggerhart.

To get a feel for good cover art in any given genre, browse the top-selling books in that genre on-line or in a book store. Don’t copy ideas. But pay attention to what might grab the reader’s attention about the designs.

I usually start working on cover art somewhere around the third draft and give myself plenty of time to finish it before the final draft.

Keep in mind good art is not cheap and takes time. Also, remember the cover artist cannot read your mind. Provide as much reference as you can if you have specific ideas, and answer any project communications as soon as possible so they can get right back to work. The longer you delay communicating with your artist, the longer your finished cover will take to produce. Make sure the cover art is absolutely finished with the correct size recommendations for your chosen publication site before beginning the publication process.

Choosing a Publisher

I’ve already said I cannot offer advice on querying a traditional publisher. But I can offer a few thoughts on how to choose a venue for self-publishing.

Determine the size of the audience for your particular genre. Amazon’s self-publishing services have the most “reach” in terms of sheer numbers of readers. But that is also precisely why a lot of authors don’t want to publish through Amazon. They feel Amazon is monopolizing the market. And if authors feel that way, readers can feel that way, too.

I publish through Amazon AND Smashwords. Smashwords will distribute various formats including mobi to various sellers and libraries. So, people who prefer not to shop at Amazon can find my books through alternate distribution and formats. One thing to be careful of with this approach is exclusivity clauses. For example, if I sign on with Kindle Unlimited, I will have to unpublish from Smashwords because Kindle Unlimited requires exclusive rights. That means fewer formats, which might mean fewer readers reached.

Decide whether you wish to publish in digital or paper or both. The publisher you choose will determine options available. I have chosen to go with digital-only versions for now because I can more easily update the previous books as new books in the series are done. When the series is finished, I will pursue print versions. But for the sake of cost and time, digital is all I can afford right now.

Finally, choose a publisher that will return the royalties you wish to receive. Generally speaking, self-publishing royalties are higher than traditional, but you have to do all the marketing footwork yourself. (Actually, I’ve heard from people in traditional publishing that either way, you’re expected to handle your own marketing more often than not.) Print will be more expensive to produce than digital because of cost for paper and ink, and that price increase will be passed along to the consumer. The size of the book, therefore, will determine a large portion of that price. Otherwise, digital books can sell from .99 and up. My books are priced at $2.99 because 1) I am an indie author, so it’s unlikely people who have never heard of me will want to invest much more than that into something unfamiliar, but 2) my work is worth something. Dragonling took two years to write and some very, very long days and nights.

Pricing is a very controversial subject among authors and readers alike, but generally a book should not be given away as a freebie unless it is the first book in a series, or unless it is part of a special marketing event. Don’t be afraid to ask a fair price for time and effort spent crafting the product.

Publishing Process

The actual process for publishing will depend on the chosen publisher. Amazon’s submission requirements are very different from Smashwords’ because Amazon seeks to streamline whereas Smashwords seeks to diversify. You can hire someone to do this for you if the process feels too overwhelming, but I have always done it myself.

When I’m finally ready to publish, the first thing I do is create the front and back matter, if I have not already done so. Front matter includes title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents. On-line sellers usually preview a certain percent of the book, so you don’t want to clutter the front matter with a lot of extras. The table of contents is the most important part of the front matter because in digital readers it needs to be interactive and work correctly. Back matter generally contains any series information, author information, marketing information (like web pages or other books by the author), and extras like maps, appendices, and acknowledgments.

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The finalized chapter folders for Dragonling. I do one final word count for the entire script, then hit collate to spit out a .doc file in Libre Office or Word.

When everything passes one final inspection in Scrivener, I double-check my settings for exporting the files into Libre Office, then hit the collate button. Other than the index cards, collate is my favourite feature in Scrivener. I write scenes separately for ease of reference, but without collate, I used to have to copy and paste ALL of my scenes together in the end to form one long script. Now collate does that for me by taking all of my scene files and chapter folders and squishing them together into one script. I have a checklist to follow from here on out.

Checklist

First, I make sure I export collated copies of the whole script for each publisher. For me, that means one is labeled for Amazon, and another is labeled for Smashwords. I also note the version of the story. I edit the copyright page to say “Amazon Digital Version” or “Smashwords Digital Version”. I add an updated copyright if I’m revising a previously published version. (I believe Smashwords now requires their name on the copyright page.)

The next thing I check is formatting. I will not go into detail here; it’s too complicated for this article. But generally, I check the book for strange spacings, margins and alignment, font styles and sizes, blank pages, too many pilcrows before or after chapter headings, etc. With Amazon Kindle, Word’s “Headings” can auto-generate an interactive table of contents. But for Smashwords, I have to program my own headings. That’s because Smashwords’ distribution engine, known as the meat grinder, needs specific simplicity to chop the script up and spit it back out in a variety of different formats. In general, the rule of thumb for digital publishing is the simpler the better. The more fancy the layout, the more likely it will have problems transferring between various file types and devices.

If the formatting check passes inspection, I sigh with relief/grab a snack to celebrate/dance around the room/squeeze my cat with unwanted hugs and kisses. If it doesn’t, formatting can be a nightmare to correct. … Just saying. Too many times I’ve had my italic and bold fonts completely stripped from the script while trying to fix something with formatting inconsistencies. Considering I use italics for a lot of telepathic dialog, foreign dialog, flashbacks, and emphasis … to lose ALL italics for the sake of a minor formatting correction is gut-wrenching. But as a last resort, there have been times when I had to nuke the entire script of all previous formatting and start over from “default”. This is why formatting is usually my most dreaded task of all.

Digital books require an interactive table of contents. For Amazon, this means highlighting each chapter heading as a “Heading” in Word, and then creating additional headings for front and back matter. For Smashwords, this means creating my own bookmarks for each heading, and then going back and creating hyperlinks for each bookmark. Tedious does not begin to describe this task when you’re talking about books with 30-50 chapters.

Finally, I check the front and back matter for any interactive links that need connecting to the web.

When all is said and done, I put the finished publisher-ready edit through a “homogenizer” like Calibre or Amazon’s Kindle Previewer to see how it looks in phone, tablet, and e-reader screens. I check the table of contents to make sure it works. I check other links to make sure they work. Then I do a quick skim to make sure there are no weird formatting issues I might have missed. If there are errors, those errors must be corrected; then the script goes through the homogenizer again to be sure the fixes worked.

All of this used to take a few days for Kindle and about a week or more for Smashwords. This year, however, I had to learn how to make my books functional with the newer Kindles, so it took 3 weeks. (sigh) … Hopefully, next time I can get it done faster, but this time I hit a lot of obstacles in the learning process and finally gave up on using Libre Office and switched to Word. My main problem was figuring out a way to put invisible headings on pages that didn’t have visible headings (like the dedication page) without the Kindle add-on nuking all of my previous formatting! Ugh! Live and learn. … For Smashwords, it took the usual week. (I cannot believe I actually preferred formatting for Smashwords this time around.)

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HELP!!!! While using Libre Office to create the interactive table of contents for the newest Kindle Fire readers, I had to consult a lot of wiki and forum advice. How do you create a “Heading” for a page without its own heading … essentially an invisible heading? (Like the dedication page.) I puzzled over this a long time before I finally gave up on Libre Office and switched to Word’s Kindle Add-On, but even then I had to be careful because that erased formatting completely if I had to save and exit the program after the initial “preparing script for publishing” prompt. I still have no idea why. … Have I told you how much I hate formatting? … I hate formatting!

The Home Stretch

The rest of the process is easy after that. You upload the script. The publisher skims it for errors and spits out anything it thinks should be double-checked before publication. It’s usually just spelling errors and uncommon words mistaken for spelling errors due to the setting being in a fantasy world.

I correct what should be corrected, check the ignore box on what I want to be ignored, and resubmit the revised script. The publisher will notify me when it is approved and ready for publication.

If I haven’t already done so, this is when I fill in the details for the book’s royalties, formats, genres, credits, availability, and ISBN code. I update my tax information and upload the cover. This is usually quick and painless stuff.

The final element is the copy writing and blurbs. Again, I do this myself, but the option is there to hire someone else if it’s not your thing. Copy writing is very different from creative composition. It summarizes the story using journalism methods and marketing language to encourage people to buy the book. So many authors might prefer someone else to do it. The blurb, in particular, has to be short, pithy, and enticing.

Copy writing is usually limited to three to five short paragraphs. This is what we usually see inside the book cover in print versions and in long descriptions on the page where the book is sold. The blurb further condenses those paragraphs into three to five sentences. And that is what you normally find on the back of the book cover in print versions and in short descriptions when using a search engine.

When all of that is done, all that’s left is to hit the publish button! The publisher notifies the author when the book is “live” so purchase links can be shared on web pages.

I usually give it about a week before considering the publication done, just in case something goes wrong and needs immediate fixing. (Marketing is a whole other topic for a different discussion.)

Final Note

On a final note for this article series, I’d like to add that when I publish the newest volume in the series, I also update previous volumes. This is me taking advantage of digital format at no cost to reprint anything for both myself and my readers. This means I proofread each of the previous books one more time to catch any errors previously missed, cut down word count, or clarify minor edits, so the quality of each book is improved. It means I had to go through the mind-numbing process of reformatting each book all over again after updating front and back matter. It takes time to read, revise, and update four books that are over 100K words each, while also handling the initial publication of the fifth book in the series. But I do this because I want the books to be the best that they can be. There is always room for improvement, and I am committed to this series and to giving my readers the best that I can offer.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into the stages of how I create my novels, from beginning to end. At the very least, I hope I’ve offered some insight into the work involved in creating a novel and self-publishing. It’s not easy. It’s not quick. It’s not pretty. But for me, the end result is worth the effort. I write because I am a writer … because I love telling stories. If other people enjoy what I’ve written, that adds even more depth and meaning to what drives me. And I thank my readers from the bottom of my heart for sharing the journey with me. ❤

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Whew! Well, I’m exhausted now. How about you?
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The Dragonling: Book Launch!

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The Dragonling by Melody Daggerhart.

Just in time for Halloween! 🙂

At long, long last … after 2 years of drafting and revisions, 2 months of waiting on beta reader feedback, and 1 month of formatting issues, I am pleased to finally announce that the fifth book in the Elf Gate series has been published! The Dragonling is now available in digital format at the following links! Woot!

Amazon Kindle version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076XKWGCC

Smashwords version: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/755867

I have completely reformatted the previous four books for the formatting options of the newest Kindle e-readers. And I have updated all previous books to include minor error corrections, minor formatting changes, and an update to the series information pages. Please update your older versions of each book you have purchased. This is one advantage digital publishing has over print! It should be a simple matter of removing the old copy from your device and downloading it again. I will be contacting Amazon to notify them of the changes so they can email readers. And at Smashwords, you will always have access to the older version, but should select the most recent one available.

(Edit: In looking up Amazon’s update contact information I see that they now only notify their readers of changes that make the book difficult to read. They do not notify reader when authors correct minor content, add new content, or add new marketing content. Therefore, dear readers, you will not be getting notices from Amazon. However, you should still be able to go into the tab that manages your Kindle account and download the updated version of previously published books.)

Q: Why digital format only?
A: Time. I am publishing all of these books against the clock amid other life events that have been patiently waiting for me to finish writing this series. Dragonling took twice as long as the other books to publish, due to various delays. So my primary goal is to FINISH THE SERIES before time runs out.

Q: I don’t have an e-reader.
A: Amazon has a free Kindle reader app, you can download and install. And Smashwords has a web reader version available for download, as well as formats like PDF.

Q: Will there ever be a print version?
A: I plan on doing a print version when the series is complete, but like the digital version, how soon I can accomplish that will depend on time allowance for writing.

Q: Can this book stand alone, or should I read the other books in the series first?
A: This book was not meant to be a standalone. Reading the other books in the series will help immensely with understanding what’s going on in this one. There are too many spoilers in this book for people who have never read the previous ones, and this book marks the beginning of the end for the main story arc of the series.

Q: I’ve read the previous books in the series. What can I expect from this one?
A: Just like the other books in the series, this one picks up where the last stopped. The main plot of this volume is about the protagonists protecting the only dragon they have in their camp, while the antagonists push everyone over the edge into a civil war between the dragons and elves. Readers will learn more specifics about Trizryn’s unique origins and the powerful, lost artifact his mother hoped to find through him. Aija continues to acclimate to living among the fae while seeking that ever-elusive gate that will take her back to the human world, and this time she finds an unlikely connection—another human. Reznetha’ir has to fortify the refugees in their new “camp” against two dragon factions at war after the true leader of the conspiracy is revealed. And Chizrae is harboring a very important secret about an obscure prophecy that could make or break the outcome of everything.

Q: I’ve never read the series. What is it about?
A: The Elf Gate series is epic, dark fantasy with elements of adventure, folklore, horror, action, romance, political intrigue, and comedy. It is a classic portal tale about a young English girl who is swept through an elf gate into the Other World of the fae.
These are not intended to be “Tolkienesque” elves. Nor are they intended to be stuck in dated fairy tales. These elves were referenced in the grim folklore of various human cultures, but have evolved into an industrial-steampunk/magical-technology society similar to that of humans … only differently.
This series is dark because it contains vampires, fantasy violence, strong language, and confronts controversial subjects like religion and politics. But it is not “A” horror book. It is epic because of its length and complex plot threads, but it is not necessarily “classic” fantasy. Good and evil are often ambiguous in these characters, yet this is not a gritty, Game of Thrones type of fantasy.
If you are looking for a light, quick read where good and evil are as easy to spot as the character’s fantasy race, these books might not be for you. However, if any of this sounds right up your alley, come along for the ride. 🙂

Q: What are the other books in the series?
A:
Book 1, The Changeling
Book 2, The Fledgling
Book 3, The Darkling
Book 4, The Atheling
Book 5, The Dragonling

Series on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Melody-Daggerhart/e/B009RUYC7G
Series on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MelodyDaggerhart

The Dragonling might be a bit slow showing on the author pages, but it IS available for purchase now! :3 I encourage readers to leave honest reviews so that other readers may decide whether these books sound like something they might enjoy. And I hope you enjoy The Dragonling as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Worry About Word Count

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“Bad Cat Sleepy Books” by Melody Daggerhart Medium: digital art, Corel software Hours: 7 All copyrights reserved.

I’m still cleaning out my old blog, and today an old article I wrote about word count caught my eye, so I’m revising it. At the time, I was writing the third revision of The Atheling. My first reconstructed draft was about 200K. The second finished at 180K. And at the time I was writing the article, I had brought the count down to around 179K. (179,856 to be exact, but that wasn’t the final number.) The book was still a monster, partly because it’s a middle section in an epic-length tale. But figuring out a good way to destroy word count was a major victory for me.

Today I was attempting to destroy word count in the fifth revision of The Dragonling. My first draft word count for this book was around 165K, but that was taken without even being close to finishing that draft. Second word check came in around 175K for the second draft. But that included a lot of unfinished scenes that I knew I would have to return to … and probably drastically rearrange. Third draft went up to 208K, and I started cutting scenes because of my panic that the numbers might be getting too high. But it was starting to look more coherent, at least. The fourth draft peaked at 239K. Jeeze! How much higher could this go? … The first fifth draft (a.k.a. the second fourth draft, weirdly named because of drastic revisions that ended up changing major sections of the book, but wasn’t necessarily a true revision with me scrutinizing every line from beginning to end) cranked it up to a tune of 250,537. 😦 … Obviously, it was time to start murdering my darlings, as Arthur Quiller-Crouch once famously suggested. (Cambridge lectures, “On the Art of Writing”, 1914.)

Before I go any further, though, let me throw out a reminder I’m talking about epic fantasy series. And the word epic means … well, BIG! This genre is known for its length and attention to detail. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually one long story divided into three volumes. And perhaps you don’t need to know the exact words of the poems spoken or the definitions of translated Elvish or what someone’s lineage looks like down through the ages, but those kinds of “ornamentation” are exactly the kinds of details that give these imaginary worlds realistic depth. Also, middle and end books of epic series tend to be uber thick compared to first books or stand-alone books because it’s their job to bring all of those plot threads together toward an end. If the story is complex, it takes a lot of pages to follow each twist, complication, and obstacle encountered before that end is in sight. The alternative is to cut out scenes that could leave the reader thinking, “But what about this thing mentioned back in book 2? Whatever happened about that?” J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is an example of how heavily loaded plot closures can be toward the middle and end of a series. The last two books in that series were written as one ending, but divided in half for practical handling and purchase. (Something I might have to do for my own series if my next book’s word count becomes completely unreasonable.) If it’s a choice between thinner, quicker, cheaper books and a quality closure, most fans invested in a series would rather have a quality closure, I think.

But my first article on the worry over word count prompted me to do a little research back then. How big is too big when it comes to novels? When I first started writing, the standard word count for fantasy novels was 50-100K, which is bigger than most fiction genres because it takes into account that the author must use more words to build imaginary worlds. The average first novel published by an new author shouldn’t be more than 50K because big paper books cost more to produce than little paper books, and that cost is passed along to the consumer. Cost of digital production shouldn’t be as high, but word count still affects editorial fees, since they charge by the hour or word/page count, and marketing. Readers are also less likely to invest money or time in long, expensive books by authors they’ve never heard of.

And yet, when I voiced concern in the past about word count, the majority of responses from readers and writers alike was along the lines of, “whatever is needed to tell the story.” Though some people prefer short stories, nobody likes stories that feel rushed. So, while I’m still frustrated at how each book in my series gets progressively bigger, I have to remind myself that butchering scenes for the sake of word count simply is not the right approach for this particular series. The Hobbit is 95,022 words. Fellowship of the Ring is 177,227 words. But The Order of the Phoenix (from the Harry Potter series) was 257,045 words! And The Gold Finch was high on the charts during my first publishing of this article, making good sales in spite of having a whopping 296,586 words from a relatively new author! On the down-side, it’s also been rated as one of the least-finished books because people don’t have the time or attention to devote to it, for whatever reasons. I realize I might lose some readers if my books are too long, especially if bad editing or boring content comprises some of that wordiness. But I love long books, so I write what I would enjoy reading. And I take heart that I’m not the only reader who loves epic tales that continue bringing me back to familiar worlds and intimate characters. I’m not the only reader who loves stories so complex they simply take longer to unravel and play out.

Bottom line … Many writers, editors, and readers will drop a high-word-count script like hot metal. Word count matters because of publishing costs, marketing concerns, and reader preference and attention. But word count should never be the most important aspect by which we judge books. Words are merely the tools we use to ply our trade. “… it is up to the writer to say when the story is done.” [Quindlen, Anna (September 23, 2002), “Writers on Writing: The Eye of the Reporter, the Heart of the Novelist”, New York Times.]

Just for fun, here is a list of some of the longest novels ever written. I was not surprised to see that War and Peace was included. I was, however, surprised to see Les Misérables. And I felt rather pleased and proud to have actually read and enjoyed Varney the Vampire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest_novels

Marketing Books for Free?

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Image Source: Pixabay, congerdesign.

The Dragonling is now in the hands of my most trusted beta readers, and I am wrapping up front and back matter, updating web pages, cleaning out files, and working on the first revision of Book 6. (Book 6 is actually more like a first draft because it’s comprised of everything from the original draft plus everything that was cut from the previous books, so somehow I have to mash all of that into a comprehensible ending for the series. It’s such a collection of spare parts and scraps right now, I’m tempted to make its working title The Frankenstein-ling.) So for today’s blog, I decided to clean out my old blog, too, and resuscitate an old article with new life.

I came across an article I wrote when The Changeling was first published; I was offering free copies for a few days. I was a new indie author, and it was my first book, so I thought it would help with promotional exposure and “discoverability” (the current buzz word in marketing). Lots of new indie authors take this route. It was a controversial marketing move back then, and it continues to be a point of debate today. Should new authors, artists, and other professional “creatives” offer their works for free?

Some people dislike the idea because if you offer something for nothing, people come to expect it as a regular thing. It lowers the value of the market overall, but it takes the highest toll on the creative professional as an individual. It takes a lot of TIME to create things like novels and professional quality art. The Dragonling has taken two years to craft … so far. It still has to endure the beta read, the final revisions, and the final edit before it’s ready for official publication. That’s about 500 pages of work going through about 7 revisions total in the end. That’s waking up every day at 6:00 a.m. and logging in anywhere from 4 to 19 hours a day of drafting, researching, and editing, even on weekends and holidays. (And that’s not including the time and effort spent on cover illustration or marketing.) Creative work is a labor of love for the creative professional, but it IS labor, and our time and effort are worth something because we have bills to pay, too. No other profession puts that much work into a product only to give it away for nothing. Can you imagine telling a doctor you expect the first visit to be free, because you don’t want to have to pay until you know you’re going to like the service?

There is also the argument regarding whether give-aways actually work as a marketing tool. Most people who snatch up the freebies snatch them because they’re free, not necessarily because they’re truly interested in the product. A lot of one-star reviews come from freebie offers because the consumer didn’t invest anything in narrowing down his or her own preferences for the purchase. And free literature doesn’t necessarily lead to more reviews in return. Something-for-nothing receivers are under no legal obligation to return the favor, even when authors bait them by saying, “I’ll give you a free book if you review it.” Maybe it’s because some readers don’t understand how reviews are the lifeblood of marketing for authors, but usually reviews don’t happen simply due to lack of time or inclination. So, if it isn’t a long-awaited sequel, from a favourite author, or a book that really, surprisingly impressed, most reads will not result in reviews. Many free books aren’t even opened.

On the flip side, those freebies I gave away did result in some really nice, very gracious reviews I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I probably would not have reached my initial audience or found regular readers had I not offered that first book for free to draw attention to the fact that this series exists. And as a reader and consumer myself, OF COURSE I want to save money! So, yes, I will look for free books before I look for cheap books, and save the expensive ones ($15-20 for an e-book? Seriously?) for last.

Right now all of my finished books fall into the “cheap” category because I realize people are hesitant to spend money on an author and series they’ve never heard of. But it’s also important to me that my books be reasonably affordable because my love of reading comes from growing up reading stacks of library books. Had it not been for free library books, I would not have become a good reader or writer … because I couldn’t afford to buy books, otherwise. I side with Neil Gaiman on this matter in saying I don’t care whether you bought my book, borrowed my book, or don’t like my book and choose to read something else. Just read. Reading is fundamental to a free society.

But I, too, must pay bills and eat. 🙂 So, if you enjoyed any books in the series (however you got your hands on them), please leave a review to help other readers know what you thought of it, so they can decide for themselves whether they might enjoy them, too. For those readers who have already left reviews, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It does take time and effort to write a thoughtful review, but it’s always appreciated by the author, especially if that author does not have a big-selling name that helps books market themselves.

There comes a point when the creator deserves to be paid for the creation, or eventually she will stop creating and have to find another job. So, if a book, song, handcrafted item, or other creative work lifts your spirits or offers a few minutes of fun or a few years of beauty, support your favourite author, musician, and artist by offering a few dollars and reviews.

“Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless’. And that may sound as if that means it’s something not worth supporting. But if you actually think about it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless. Wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra, without which life is not worth living.” (~ Stephen Fry)

Digital Books For Everyone

Having finally published The Atheling yesterday, today, I’d like to throw out reminders that even if you don’t have an e-reader, this book (and many, many other e-books) are still available to you if you have a computer or smartphone.

Kindle app
Amazon Kindle store offers free reading apps for PC’s, pads, and phones.

Amazon has a free reading app that you can download here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/kcp-landing-page… . I have a Kindle reader, but I also use this one on my computer. If you use i-products or Android products, you can purchase from the Kindle bookstore and at checkout choose to have the book sent to your Kindle or device with the reading app.

Here’s an article with more information about how to do that:https://netgalley.uservoice.com/…/54717-can-i-use-the-kindl…

Smashwords logo
Smashwords offers nine download formats .

Smashwords is my other current publisher because they offer nine different formats, including pdf, text, an on-line reader, and the original document. Would you believe PDF format is actually their most popular sales? Here’s an article on that: http://blog.smashwords.com/…/most-popular-ebook-formats-rev… . They suspect it’s still popular because of its easy formatting, universal PC acceptance, and familiarity.

So, if you’re interested in digital books, but don’t have a specific reader, give some of these other options a try. Many sites also offer public domain or discounted books for free or lowered prices. I still love my paper books, and my novels will eventually go to print. But I also love my digital readers since I can take lots of books with me and not have to worry about storage space. (Because, yes, I’m one of those people who has starry-eyed visions of some day owning a ceiling to floor library in my forever home.) 😉

Book Launch: The Atheling

The Atheling cover
The Atheling by Melody Daggerhart

The Atheling is now available at Amazon and Smashwords in a variety of digital formats! (Paper versions will not be available until the digital series is finished.)

Woo, woo, woot! One year in the making, three months past the due date I had in mind, and fighting high word count every inch of the way, this book has proved to be my most challenging yet. But it’s finally done.

A word about the series first: the Elf Gate books comprise a portal tale that stretches across several volumes like a story arc. Aija is mistakenly abducted into the land of the fae, where humans are outlawed and to be executed on sight. But she can’t find her way home because the gate she came through collapsed. With the help of Trizryn, the enigmatic elf who mistook her, Aija discovers fae have modernized like humans, only differently; that they are on the brink of civil war; and that she must learn to defend herself in a world full of magic she doesn’t understand. In trying to find a gate home before dragons destroy them all, they must unravel secrets not even Trizryn is aware of about himself and the fae court. This dark fantasy series combines elements of horror, comedy, romance, and adventure, in a modified steampunk setting. Rated for older teens due to language and violence.

I’m still in the process of updating author pages and such, but I’m ready to get word out there that the fourth book in the series is finally available. I published a short interview on Smashwords for its release. You can read the whole interview here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MelodyDaggerhart . But here are some highlights.

THE ATHELING picks up where THE DARKLING left off. Aija and her fae friends have a lot to accomplish in this book. They have to fix a broken airship and use it to rescue the hostages Ilisram is holding in Absin’navad and be prepared to confront him and any necromancy tricks he has up his sleeve. But, of course, things are never that simple. …
Time is running out with the dragons destroying the gates before Trizryn can find one to take Aija home, which means the falling gates are also taking chunks out the Veil that divides alternate realities. The dragons that have already risen are growing in number and are still prophesied to attack Brinnan, and Ilisram’s conspiracy against the Derra Eirlyn is looking more clear, yet more muddled at the same time. They need to get word out to the rest of the kingdom about what’s really happening in the fae court because they can’t trust the King to do it. And the King is still after Trizryn’s and Aija’s heads. …

This is still a coming-of-age story for Aija. This is still a spiraling-inward journey for Trizryn. Most of the characters introduced so far come together once more, along with a few new ones, for a full-blown assault on Absin’navad in attempt to free the hostages, locate the body of the Princess, and defeat Ilisram. So, there’s a lot of action in this book compared to the first couple where they were still learning to trust each other. I hope readers enjoy this fourth installment of the series.

The most difficult part of producing this book was, without a doubt, word count. I don’t usually care about it, but books that are too thick, particularly books by indie authors, don’t sell well. The fact that this is the fourth book in a series helps because fans who have enjoyed the first three books will hopefully look forward to more in the fourth. But I don’t want it to be too expensive to print or impossibly bulky for print when that time comes. Otherwise, I’m a big fan of series and long books, so I enjoy having more material to read on characters I’ve learned to love from books and TV shows. I love big books with new worlds and familiar characters that I can take my time exploring extensively.

The easiest part of this book was the flow of the action and dialog. My characters have a tendency to take over the story, and this one was no exception. But the interaction felt more fluid this time around — too fluid, if that’s possible. Which is why the excessive word count had to be curtailed. I had to cut out one scene entirely after about the third draft, but I fought hard to save everything else, even if it meant meticulously scrutinizing and cutting 20K words or more.

Many of the series questions will be answered in this book. Many more are pending. There are still one or two more books to finish. I initially drafted the final as book 5, but if it’s too big, answering all plot threads started is more important. I will split a large final book into 5 and 6, if necessary, to be able to give it the proper conclusion. The final book(s) will probably take longer to produce, partly for this reason and partly because I have a lot of personal things going on in my life right now that are demanding attention — the kinds of things that really don’t give a damn about whether I have readers waiting for the next book to drop while ideas are fresh in my mind. (*sigh* … life …) But I’ve already started revising the draft of book 5, so I promise diligence until completion as much as possible.

As always, I’ve also updated the previous books in the series to include information on book 4, correct minor errors, and give them more unity in publication formatting. You should be able to upgrade your previously purchased copies at the locations where you originally bought them.

Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed reading my drafts of this series as free web serials, please consider purchasing the final copies. Writers have bills to pay, too, and while these stories might be readable in a matter of a few weeks, they each took a whole year to craft. If you purchase a copy from either Amazon or Smashwords, please consider leaving a review to give other readers an idea whether these books might be something that suits them.

To those of you who have already left reviews for other books in the series or for the web series version of this one, or who just were present to offer support when I doubted myself (because artists forever doubt themselves), thank you for being patient and encouraging me to keep writing. I write first for myself because it’s part of who I am, and I will always have stories to tell because it’s how I process and play with the world around me. But without readers those stories are like plush toys in an attic, lacking children to love them. My readers are important to me. And I sincerely hope you enjoy the latest adventure in this series. 🙂

The Atheling Cover Reveal

The Atheling cover
The Atheling by Melody Daggerhart

The cover for The Atheling is done. 🙂  So, is the manuscript! (I think that deserves a double smiley, but I’ll spare readers too many emoticons per paragraph.)

Final word count was beyond my goal, so I’m very proud of myself for bringing a 190K+ script down to around 166K. I don’t have a final word count yet because I am still working on front and back matter, but that gives you an idea that it’s still a pretty hefty volume, though not as monstrous as it could have been.

Currently working on stuck on the blurb. (sigh) Why is something that’s only 200 words or less more difficult to write than something that is 166K+. And after that I have to format everything for uploading. But the end of the tunnel is in sight!

A few comments on the cover art … Some people are of the opinion that you should never put the faces of the characters on the book because it destroys the reader’s imagination of what those characters look like. Or, on a more practical level, if the artist doing the cover has never read the book, he might get the description wrong.

I am the author, so I know how my characters look. And I’m of the opinion that since I am the author, I am in charge of what the characters look like. 🙂

Whether to describe characters in detail or leave them open to interpretation is one of those conditions some people like to set rules for, but there is no such rule because creative writing is an art. Some people prefer details; others prefer to supply the details themselves. They’re both fine. Books that provide details are like completed water-colour paintings. Books that leave elements open to interpretation are more like abstract art or colouring books. Nothing wrong with colouring books. 🙂 But no one in their right mind would tell an artist to paint only half the picture and let the viewers imagine the rest. It is the artist who chooses whether to give the audience the opportunity to fill in the rest of the picture, or finish the entire painting exactly like she wants it done.

Do my characters look exactly like my cover art? No. My art style is pretty set when it comes to portraits, and it’s not a realistic one. In fact, my inspiration for drawing hair started way back in about 5th grade when I got my hands on the Revolver album by the Beatles. 🙂 I have a thing for long hair, and I remember trying to copy that hair many times. Art is based on interpretation, even with the basic elements in place. So, I love fan art. I love seeing how different interpretations turn out, even with the same basic elements.

Revolver
Revolver by the Beatles: one of my early album art inspirations for hair textures and profile studies.

So, if funky art is good enough for the Beatles, it’s good enough for me. Creative arts and writing are supposed to be fun. Have fun with design.