I just signed up for a promotion through The Fussy Librarian, which proved to be an eye-opening experience.
The Fussy Librarian has an interesting spin on the business of providing readers with book recommendations—readers can sign up to receive email notifications of ebooks based not only on genres of interest to them (à la BookBub), but also based on content preferences for language, violence, and sexual content, rated as None, Mild, or Extensive / Extreme.
Before you read further, if you’re a reader, think of a book you read recently and decide how you would assess the content based on these ratings; if you’re an author, consider one of your own books.
Based just on the terms None, Mild, and Extensive / Extreme, I filled out a form submitting The Sense of Death for consideration (it will be featured for $0.99 on 1/1/16!). Then I started questioning my responses. The assessment seemed so contextual—for example, an assessment of the level of violence will differ depending on whether one is using Arthur Conan Doyle or Thomas Harris as the point of comparison. So I wrote to the Fussy Librarian asking for guidance, and got this:
Extensive profanity. Frequent use of the f-word or any use of the c-word (either of them) or mother-******. R.
Mild profanity. Occasional use of hell, damn. The f-word once or twice. PG-13.
No profanity. G or PG.
So I had to change my rating from “Mild profanity” to “Extensive profanity” since I use the f-word 17 times in The Sense of Death. I’ve only ever gotten one complaint about the language in my books, and that was from a friend who, I think, was wishing I would be a little more lady-like in my language. (That said, it did take me a minute to figure out what the second c-word was.)
Explicit descriptions of violence. Reserved for deeply unsettling scenes, including scenes of torture, rape. or incest. Think “American Psycho,” "Hannibal," or most of Chuck Palahniuk’s work.
Extensive violence. If a character dies a violent death, it should get this rating. Suicides also merit this rating. R.
Mild violence. A little gunfire is okay (includes setting below). Fistfights, some gunfire. PG-13.
No violence. G or PG.
So I had to change my rating from “Mild violence” to “Extensive violence” since a character dies a violent death.
Explicit descriptions of sexual acts. Scenes that describe a couple having sex. All erotic romance automatically gets this rating. R or unrated.
Mild sexual content. Non-explicit scenes of sex are fine. Characters have sex but it’s off the page. PG-13.
No sexual content. Kissing and affection but nothing steamy. G or PG-13.
(I did wonder about them specifying that the Explicit rating applies to couples having sex. If it’s a threesome, does that somehow merit a different rating?)
I got to keep my rating at “Mild sexual content.” I once had a potential reader ask me if my book had a lot of sex in it. I told her, “Only one passing reference,” and she said, “Then I’m not interested.” Hoping I’m not discouraging any potential readers with that admission!
I thought the exercise was an interesting illustration of the different expectations a book’s author and its readers bring to a book! (Plus it made me think that The Fussy Librarian needed a “Moderate” rating between “Mild” and “Explicit / Extensive.” And that maybe there’s a space in the market for the Slovenly Hedonist site with a different rating scale!)
Did your assessment of your book’s ratings match up with The Fussy Librarian’s guidelines?
I’ve become so enthused about independent publishing that I’m launching a non-fiction platform to share the information I’ve gained through the process—I’m calling this new venture The Indy Author™. An overhaul of the sketchy web site I put together is underway, and I’m lining up interviewees for a podcast, the results of which I plan to turn into a series of blog posts, eventually to be assembled into a book.
I’m going to use as a metaphor for the independent publishing process the building, launching, and operating of a classic wooden boat: writing is a craft in both senses of the word, and we authors need to find reader-passengers to enjoy our craft, and need to send them off on their journey in a well-built, seaworthy vessel.
I wanted a logo for The Indy Author and on the recommendation of my business mentor, Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, I went to 99designs.
What a fun process! I have described ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange) as the matchmaker between authors and professional narrators, and 99designs serves the same function for authors and professional designers.
I posted an image I wanted to designers to use as the basis of the logo, and gave a brief description of The Indy Author. I then reviewed examples of existing logos and picked the ones I liked the best, which resulted in a profile of my preferences—traditional versus modern or minimalist versus lush, for example. I also had the option of picking the color palette. This formed the basis of the design contest.
Then the designers started submitting designs, and I rated them, provided input, or eliminated the ones I didn’t like. I was also able to create a poll to allow others to weigh in (thanks to all those who participated!). After narrowing the choices, there was a finalist round to pick the winner.
My contest ended up having 132 design entries! I believe the large number was at least in part due to the fact that I was providing input quickly—this is definitely an interactive process, and the more actively you participate, the more likely it is that you will get the result you want.
The designers also responded as it became clear which designs I liked and which I was eliminating. This resulted in a certain amount of “Hey, he stole my idea” grumbling—for example, the winning designer had submitted the second of the 132 designs, but the winning design incorporated a stylized pen element which another designer came up with part-way through the contest.
For the big reveal of the winning logo design, go to The Indy Author Facebook page (you can also see the image that inspired the logo, it’s the cover photo of the under construction boat)--and Like me while you’re there!
Here’s wishing you smooth sailing for your fall reading and writing!
Yesterday's launch party at Kildare's Irish Pub in West Chester, Pennsylvania, was fantastic--many thanks to everyone who came! Special thanks to my friend, Anne, who was my best buddy starting in fourth grade, when I moved to York, Pennsylvania, and right through high school and beyond; she and her husband, Mike, were spending the weekend nearby to celebrate the 28th anniversary of their wedding (in which I was the maid of honor).
Many of the folks at the launch were members of book clubs I've attended--if you live in Chester County, Pennsylvania, or an adjoining county, I'd love to attend a book club to discuss The Sense of Death or The Sense of Reckoning! (Just reply to this email if you're interested.)
I'm very exciting to be making a return appearance on Omnimystery News with a guest post on "The Sense of Place - The Story Behind the Story." Click the link to learn more about the backstory of The Sense of Reckoning--the historic fire which burned much of Mt. Desert Island, Maine, and part of the resort town of Bar Harbor, on October 23, 1947!
October 23 will mark the culmination of almost two years of writing, editing, publishing, and promotion work with the launch of Book 2 of the Ann Kinnear suspense series: The Sense of Reckoning.
Back in 2013, the launch party for Book 1, The Sense of Death, consisted of dinner at a local pub with my husband and a few of our close friends. This time around, I’m extending the invitation to a lot more friends, old and new—some of whom I may not have met yet except through my first book, Facebook page, or blog posts! I hope you'll join me at Kildare’s Irish Pub (18 W Gay Street) in West Chester, PA, starting at 5pm on Friday, October 23. (Starting at 6pm, you can enjoy live music by Kevin Eppler!)
The Sense of Reckoning deserves a bigger party because the list of contributors is longer! Wade Walton, in addition to being a great sounding board for, and originator of, plot ideas, once again penned a back cover blurb that really captures the spirit of the story. Wade and my sister, Mary Dalrymple, both served again as trusty beta readers, with Lynda Holl joining the team this time around.
Some roles were the same but were filled by different contributors—Jen Blood provided editorial support, pointing out where plot lines or characters needed to be fleshed out, and Rob Frankel designed a cover that’s already getting rave reviews.
Unlike my first book, I needed to do some historical research for The Sense of Reckoning—its backstory is the fire that blazed across Mount Desert Island and burned much of Bar Harbor on (surprise!) October 23, 1947. To ensure I got the details of the fire and mid-century MDI right, I worked with Sean Cox and Virginia Mellen of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, Paul Richardson of the Bar Harbor Historical Society, and Robyn King and Kate Pontbriand of Acadia National Park’s research center. Fellow Dickinson College alum David Fried, MD, F.A.C.P., provided advice on the medical aspects of the story, and Sandra Paoli provided Italian translations. Most fun of all, Tim Stanley, Assistant Manager at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine, let me poke around the hotel (so if you ever need to hide a body at the Claremont, I know just the place).
If you’re near West Chester on October 23, I hope you can join the celebration in person!
If you’re further afield, I hope you’ll check in on Facebook for updates on the launch.
If you’re in Chester County, Pennsylvania, or an adjoining county, I’d love to attend a book club discussion of The Sense of Reckoning.
And wherever you are, please go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble on October 23 to order your copy! (Print copies available on both platforms, ebook available on Amazon.)
Happy haunted reading!
I recently participated in a writers group meeting that was attended mainly by traditionally published authors. One attendee mentioned that she had asked a self-published writer how she knew when a book was ready without the input of a publisher. The response was that she published when she felt she was sixty percent “done.”
Sixty percent?? That was horrifying, but I couldn’t come up with a way to express why.
Then I attended a charity event in Maine where one of the items being auctioned was a beautiful hand-built dory (that's David Rockefeller, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, admiring it). And I found the metaphor that expressed why sixty percent was unacceptable, and that encapsulated my own approach to writing: writing is a craft in both senses of the word, and the author owes it to the readers to send them off on their journey in a well-built, seaworthy vessel.
Then, in a serendipitous coincidence, a link to this video--“Artistry on the water: Wooden motorboats”—appeared on my Facebook feed. Does the boat-building metaphor hold up?
Sanding? Check. That’s every word I wrote and then had to strip away to allow each sentence to run smoothly.
Fastening? Absolutely. That’s ensuring that each chapter has a logical and solid place in the frame of the story, and links seamlessly to those on either side.
Varnishing? As they say in the video, many circumstances must align to ensure a high quality finish: not the least, a talented editor. (A gorgeous sheen can be most elusive without a second pair of eyes on the craft.)
That sounds like more than sixty percent to me.
So did I end up with the nautical Steinway that the “Artistry on the water” video rhapsodizes about? I think my books are more like the pleasing and trusty dory that earned Mr. Rockefeller’s approval.
I feel that there’s a lot of value to plumb with this boat-building theme. To provide a platform to do so, I have established The Indy Author Facebook page to engage with you--please Follow me on this voyage!
Whether you are an author, creating the craft, or a reader, making a voyage in it, does the boat analogy ring true for you? Please post your thoughts at The Indy Author!
Just got back from two wonderful weeks on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, a combination of relaxation and work.
The relaxation for me generally meant sleeping in (no dogs needing to be let out and fed), taking walks, swimming in the cove, and eating great food (Fiddlers' Green!). My husband added hiking and kayaking to that agenda.
The work was the result of the fact that MDI is the setting for much of the action in The Sense of Reckoning so I spent some time doing some final research before sending the manuscript off to my editor, Jen Blood. Many thanks to Virginia Mellen and Sean Cox of the MDI Historical Society—Virginia has been helping me since last year to research mid-twentieth-century MDI and Sean read through the manuscript to make sure I got the details right of the Fire of 1947 that burned much of Bar Harbor. (Click here for more information about the fire.)
We also got a behind-the-scenes tour of The Turrets at the College of the Atlantic. I already have a Chester County-based plot in mind for Ann Kinnear Book 3, but I may be exploring The Turrets in Book 4—that looks like a place that has a lot of good ghost stories to tell!
And we visited the lovely and gracious Claremont Hotel, which serves as the basis for the Lynam's Point Hotel in Reckoning—should I ever need to hide a body at The Claremont, I know just the place.
Sales and reviews are starting to come in for the audiobook of The Sense of Death, now available on Amazon and Audible!
During production of The Sense of Death, I figured I better acquaint myself with audiobooks from a listener’s perspective so I signed up on Audible and started using my credits. One of the first books I listened to was Andy Weir’s The Martian—what a great book to start out with!
Click here to see a talk Andy gave at Google shortly after the publication of The Martian. Andy started out self-publishing on Kindle to provide his friends with an alternative to reading the serialized story on his web site and almost accidentally found himself with an agent and a publisher--you can hear his comments on his experience in the publishing world starting at 21:55. (Andy is a programmer as well as an author, and at one point he refers to the reader as “the user” which I think presents a thought-provoking perspective on the author / reader relationship.)
Andy’s very funny writing is supported by R. C. Bray’s equally funny narration (check out a sample on Amazon). I’m glad I listened to the book rather than reading it because I would have been tempted to skip over some of the more technical sections that turned out to be integral to the story. It also made me appreciate the art of effectively-used profanity—maybe I should add more swearing to The Sense of Reckoning!
With the advent of technologies like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and with our ever more frantic schedules, I believe that audiobooks will play an increasingly significant role in how readers consume content. I’m starting to delve deeper into the audiobook world and would love to engage with any of you who are audiobook listeners to get your perspective--if you are interested in participating in such a discussion, please drop me a note from the About & Contact page and let me know!
In event news ... Check out the Hockessin Art and Book Fair to be held Saturday, June 20 from 11am-3pm. Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, will be there, and I will be at the Sisters in Crime booth signing copies of The Sense of Death!
In publishing news ... Actress Sarah Purdum and I are finishing up the audiobook for The Sense of Death and I am targeting to have that available on Audible via Amazon within the next month! Click here to listen to an excerpt on Dropbox.
In blog news ... My planned blog post for June was on the topic "What do you do when two passions in your life vie for your time and energy? Is it possible to do justice to both? Must one eventually win out over the other? For me those two passions are writing and flying. ..." The blog topic was triggered by the sale earlier this month of my 1946 Stinson Voyager and all the drama leading up to that. However, the post got so long that I decided to see if I can get it published as a magazine article--I just sent it off to my alma mater's publication, Dickinson Magazine. If you'd like to see an advance copy of the article, just let me know!
In other news ... I just launched into a personal challenge to raise money for Nowzad which, among other wonderful activities, reunites stray dogs with the US and UK soldiers they befriended in Afghanistan after the soldiers have returned home. Some of these dogs have become fully trained Service Dogs: "These clever canines who were once battling to survive on the harsh streets of Afghanistan are now a much valued and loved lifeline to their veterans suffering from PTSD." Click here for details. Pen Farthing, Nowzad's founder, was named CNN Hero of the Year in 2014. If this is a cause you'd like to support, please click here to contribute! (My personal challenge is to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks--I'm two weeks in and three pounds down!)
I had an interesting opportunity to compare approaches to suspense this week.
Early in the week, I listed to an interview with Michaelbrent Collings, one of Amazon's top selling horror writers. His perspectives on writing and the community it creates were so appealing that I thought I'd give one of his books a try. I downloaded a sample of Strangers: "You wake up in the morning to discover that you have been sealed into your home. The doors are locked, the windows are barred. THERE'S NO WAY OUT. A madman is playing a deadly game with you and your family. So what do you do? Do you run? Do you hide? OR DO YOU DIE?" Based on the first chapter, evidently you die. Once I got a taste of exactly how you die, I decided Strangers was not for me.
Later in the week, I watched the movie Peacock, starting Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Susan Sarandon: "A train accident in rural Nebraska gradually unveils a mystery involving the town's bank clerk." Certainly one of the most boring movie tag lines ever. Even the movie's producers must have been bored, because, as far as I can tell, it bypassed movie theaters completely and went right to DVD.
I loved it. The performances were wonderful (especially Murphy and Page) but what I most appreciated, especially after my experience with Strangers, was the subtlety of the story. Okay, there was a train car derailment (just the caboose) and a fire (contained to a motel room) but the true suspense of the movie was conveyed in quiet and beautifully presented moments where the focus was on exploring the inner life of the characters, not on exploiting over-the-top action in the plot. Certainly a story I would have been thrilled to have conceived myself.
Give Peacock a watch (or, if you're in the mood, give Strangers a read) and let me know what you think!
For updates in between my blog posts, follow me on Facebook!
My next appearance will be on Saturday, May 2 from 1-2 at the Capital City Book Fair in Trenton, NJ--I'm the featured author at the Cloak and Dagger bookstore's booth. The book fair looks to be an event to warm the hearts of book lovers whatever genre you prefer--click here for details!
I'm extraordinarily excited to announce that actress and voice talent Sarah Purdum has signed on to narrate the audiobook of The Sense of Death!
The venture into audiobooks is one I never foresaw when I was writing The Sense of Death, but with versions available in paperback and ebook formats, audio was the next logical channel*. It's a valuable writing lesson to consider not only how a passage will sound to a reader's virtual "ear," but also how it will sound to a listener's actual ear!
I'm also incorporating input from a beta read by my fabulous editor, Jen Blood--adding a bit of mayhem to keep things interesting and fleshing out a character who wasn't quite as fully realized as the others. (A beta read is one that focuses on structure, plot, and characters rather than detailed grammar or word choice.) Check out Jen's own suspense thrillers--highly recommended!
On Tuesday I'll be at the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Symposium in NYC--I'm especially looking forward to hearing Laura Lippman, author of one of my favorites, What the Dead Know, interview Lois Duncan, author of I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Happy haunted reading!
*Next: translations! Die Richtung des Todes ... Le Sens de la Mort : )