Hi folks! My debut YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, came out THIS TUESDAY! I’ve already done a bunch of Big Exciting Things, including a Facebook Live Q & A (which was WAY less intimidating than I thought it would be), and today I’d like to share one of the biggest, most exciting things I’ve ever done: video readings of three excerpts from Keeper of the Dawn!
Crystal Collier approached me about reviewing her most recent novel, Timeless, a few months ago when she was first organizing her blog tour, and I agreed to read the whole series. Now, since I picked up all three in ebook format, I had no idea how long any of the books were when I agreed to this, and I was hoping I could read all three of them in time to get the review of Timeless up during the blog tour.
Well, it turns out Moonless is a pretty long book, so the blog tour is long over(although I still participated and you can see Crystal’s guest post), but I’m still going to review Timeless, and I’ve decided to review the other books as well. After all, new reviews are good for older books too. Every review counts, regardless of when you get it.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the blurb for Moonless:
In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.
Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights.
Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.
And here’s my review:
The story in this book is immediately interesting, and while I have to say it took me a while to warm up to the main character, the questions raised in the first couple chapters are big enough that it didn’t matter.
One really interesting thing about this book is the use of dreams. I can’t go into it much because I don’t want to take you to Spoiler Land, but there are several different dream sequences throughout the book, and the vast majority of them are done really well. As someone who always struggles with writing dream scenes and deciding how many to include/how long to make the dreams, I’m always impressed when a writer pulls this off well, and Collier definitely has.
Another interesting thing about this book–one that makes me really excited to continue reading the series–is that it presents unique twists on common myths. The magical species in this book are, as far as I can tell, original creations, but they have characteristics reminiscent of many myths. And although a lot of questions were answered at the end of Moonless, I have a feeling I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Really, my only complaint is the amount of time Alexia spends obsessing over the blue eyed stranger’s eyes. There are interesting reasons why she is immediately obsessed, and it’s worked into the world, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever read another book that spent so much time on a character’s eyes. It’s kind of insane.
Still, I really enjoyed this book and I’m definitely going to read the next one. Overall I would give Moonless a 3.5 star rating. You can buy Moonless here.
Last week I spent time hanging out with some of my friends. One of the guys there was raving about an energy drink he’s currently working as a marketer for. He explained the whole system and was extremely gung-ho about it, convinced we should all give it a try and could become millionaires through the company’s system.
Some of these companies are legitimate and you can make tons of money, but there are plenty of scams out there too, just like in the publishing world. Still, I didn’t say anything about that. What I did say was “thanks for the information, I’m too busy working on writing and editing my books”.
His response? “That’s fair. Books are a great way of creating passive residual income.”
I didn’t say anything, but it was extremely hard not to. There are several things I could have said, but I didn’t want to get in the debate right then and there. Instead, I’m going to explain the realities of passive residual income from books here, and hope that it will help you–because frankly, it wouldn’t have helped that guy anyway. It would have become a pointless argument, when really, all I would do would be point out the following realities:
1. You make a lot more money with non-fiction. Or perhaps, you are a lot more likely to make money with non-fiction. People are always learning, and as a fantasy writer, you have no idea how often I hear “I only read non-fiction”. And while there are a limited number of fantasy fans and different ways you can take it, you can write non-fiction about ANYTHING and for ANYONE. There’s a huge market for non-fiction depending on your exact subject, and you’re way more likely to make good money on a non-fiction book.
2. Most publishers give horrible contracts. In fact, in traditional publishing, 12% is a pretty big royalty. It’s really, really hard to make good money when you’re getting 12% of $10.00. The advantage a publisher gives you is prestige and sometimes–but not often–a marketing budget. Ebooks give you better royalties, but there’s tons of competition and lots of people still don’t read ebooks. Any way you look at it, getting published is hard, and making a living off your published work isn’t any easier. Yes, the income created by royalties is passive income in a sense, but without writing more books and staying active on social media, you won’t make much money at all, certainly not enough to live well off of.
3. I don’t write for money. Well, I do, but I don’t write JUST for money, and money has almost nothing to do with why I write novels. It has everything to do with why I write freelance articles on different subjects, but it doesn’t have much to do with most of my writing. The Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer is going to be a free ebook for the foreseeable future, and I have no way of knowing when my novels will bring me money–or even if they will, as much as I’ve had hundreds of people express interest in my books.
Writing fiction with a focus on money is a fool’s errand. Freelance writing can be extremely profitable, but it’s still incredibly difficult. If I could picture myself being happy in any other career, you bet I’d take it. Get off the keyboard and actually make a steady income every month? Hell yeah, that sounds like a great idea! But I could never give up my writing, regardless of the money, and all the best writers have said the same thing, if not in the exact same words:
I write because I can’t not write, not for passive residual income, not to please other people, not even truly to please myself, but because I literally can’t not write.
Why do you write? Do you see books primarily as a source of income or as a labour of love?
I’m sipping coffee in a cute café in the tiny mountain town of Quincy, California, 90 miles from my home. Tonight is the last signing for my new book, The Forest House. For nearly three months, like a traveling peddler from the Old West, I’ve spent my weekends driving from one town or city to the next.
This is my second book tour—and I did it all wrong.
My memoir about a year spent healing in an isolated forest retreat is with a prestigious, but small, publisher: Counterpoint Press. My publicist, sweet and professional, set up about half of my “events”—readings, radio interviews, guest blog posts, a college class and a book club visit—and I arranged the other half.
What I feel, as I wonder how many will show up tonight (3? 6? 10?) is relief. It’s the way you feel as you spy the corner of the last lap of the race. You’re tired, but the knowledge that it’s almost over is like an espresso shot of energy.
Of course, everyone’s tired after three-plus months of concentrated effort, of being “on stage,” of meeting new people and always being polite and punctual.
Before I continue, I will admit there’s something annoying about authors who complain. This is mostly true for authors who’ve made it—who never have to worry if the room will be empty. When reading about book tour advice, I’m come across heartbreaking laments like this: “My toddler kept me up the night before I had to go on the Today Show!” Really?
My first tour, in 2002, was for The Territory of Men, a coming of age memoir about growing up in the wild 70s California with several stepdads, and the legacy of that life on my adulthood. It was a sexy book that struck a lot of chords about the culture of that time. The book was reviewed well in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and I had my 15 minutes of fame on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Fast forward 10 years, and the The Forest House came out to relative silence. I did get fine reviews in Kirkus and Booklist, and a few bloggers gave the book high marks, but it was nothing like my first book.
Instead of the 75 people who filled the room at Northtown Books in Arcata, Ca., to hear me read from my first book, 5 people wandered in for my second. I sold two books at this event that required a 14-hour round trip drive, two tanks of gas, meals, a pet-sitting fee, and a motel stay (all on my dime). The people who did come were enthusiastic and lovely, but would I do that again? Probably not.
For a few weeks I blamed the quiet response to my book’s release on the nature of the book itself—it wasn’t sensational. It was reflective, literary, full of deer and doves and serene, snowy morning walks. Nature memoirs are a lot of things, but sexy ain’t one of them.
Then I finally realized how different the media landscape is: it’s a blizzard out there. All I had was a website and a Facebook page with 290 loyal fans.
According to BJ Gallagher in “The Ten Awful Truths About Book Publishing,“ “it is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with more than ten million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time.””
Publishers are quite aware of this, which is why even selling The Forest House in the first place was a grind because as the big presses told me and my agent, I had no “media platform.”
Today, in addition to having your own blog or at least writing guest blogs regularly, you need an author website, a Twitter and Tumblr following, regular witty podcasts, clever dispatches on your FB author page, a catchy YouTube book trailer—and then you must stride up and down Main Street with a bullhorn.
Guess those publishers had a point: it’s hard to launch anything off a nonexistent platform.
What I would do differently next time? I’d customize my book tour to myself.
Just as there’s a surprising and wonderful difference between a one-size-fits-all outfit and a tailored one, there’s a stark contrast between the traditional, paint-by-numbers book tour and a contemporary, custom one.
So, given that it’s a blizzard out there, what kind of snowflake are you? Here’s what I’d do next time I brave the storm:
1. I’d set up more visits at book clubs, college writing classes, and women’s clubs in my community (such as the Soroptomists). These events meant captive audiences who were excited about me and my books. I brought books to sell and flyers to hand out so people had something to take home.
2. I’d plan more parties with family and friends at houses, restaurants, nightclubs—wherever people can gather to celebrate. Again, books and flyers would be on hand.
3. I’d get my media ducks in a row well before launching—or even selling—the book. That means not just creating an online presence, but ramping up the one I already have by blogging, posting on social networks and YouTube, and doing interviews with other authors.
4. I’d limit my actual “tour” to bookstore events at a few nearby stores where my reading would count as news in the local paper and on the local radio station. If I wanted to visit a faraway bookstore, I’d bring my son and make a vacation out of it.
5. I’d set up “paired” readings with author friends so we could double our promotion and hopefully our audience.
What I’ve learned is that a book’s release into the world should be fun and worthwhile. In the end, I stay gracious—and grateful that I’ve gotten to experience this wild and crazy life as an author. I can’t wait to see what happens with book # 3.
Joelle Fraser is the author of the memoirs The Territory of Men (Random House 2003) and The Forest House (2013). A MacDowell Fellow, she has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches writing and lives in northeast California with her son. Find her at www.joellefraser.com.