Friday, June 1, 2012


This is part one and I'll be running part two on Monday, June 4th.

A 'Round the cup discussion. 

Most writers, who want to be published, are reaching for traditional publication. That's their goal. These authors have worked long and hard to be traditionally published. Now, we have traditionally published authors who are self-publishing many books in addition to their traditionally published work. Why?

I asked a friend, Judi Fennell, to give me her thoughts on why she chose to also self-publish a series of books. What's the appeal? How hard is it? Now that she has books in both markets, I was curious about what conclusions she drawn. So she shared her thoughts on why she chose to dip into the self-publishing market. One thing stands out in these articlesthese authors (I know many) have a different mindset when it comes to the business of writing. They have to be to make it a success.

Those of you who have seen my Tritone Trilogy (Mermen off the coast of the Jersey Shore), may recognize the “dive into the romance!” tagline. It was funny, punny, and tied the series with the romance, but now I’m using it to talk about the fact that I’ve dipped my toes into the self-publishing pond with Beauty and The Best. 

Why, you ask?  I mean, I’ve worked so hard to be traditionally published (5 books, #6, Magic Gone Wild, comes out August 1 and is available for pre-order I'll have a sneak peek of this one on Monday!), why go the self-pub route? 

I’m like a lot of other traditionally published writers, and those who haven’t yet been traditionally published (henceforth TP): we have books that NY just doesn’t know what to do with. Self-publishing gives us the opportunity to share our books with readers.

NY has big rents. They have overhead. They have salaries. They used to have marketing budgets and editors who could grow an author.

Not anymore.

Nowadays, it’s all about the bottom line, especially with the new kids on the block: Amazon. To achieve those bottom lines, NY needs to make sure they’re going to make money on a book. It’s not always advisable, then, for them to take a chance on a new author, or a new subgenre, or a storyline they haven’t seen before, or finish out a lackluster series. Tried-and-true is pretty much the way they hang.

But publishing is changing. Reading is changing. And the reading public is changing with them. E-Readers are now on our phones. Kindles, Nooks, iPads are all over the place. I was one of those who thought I’d never give up on paperback books, but I have to say, that One-Click buy button makes everything sooooooo easy. Especially if I finish a really good book at 11 pm and just have to find out what happens in Book #2. I can get it instantly.

We were on vacation two years ago and on the plane, Kid and I were talking about a book I recommended. We opened up the eReader and downloaded that book before the “Turn off your electronic devices” call sounded. Kid was entertained the entire plane ride (which meant Mom got to enjoy her book…)

You can read more HERE
But back to the reason I self-published. My first book (and yes, there will be more) was my American Title III finalist, Beauty and The Best. This book had come this close to being picked up by TP, but two editors left the day I’d submitted revisions to them. Yeah, two at different houses at different times. I’d gotten that far and then nothing. My current editor has seen it twice, but she didn’t “know how to market guardian angels.”

Um, okay. I will.

Readers have seen this story for years. It was in the American Title contest. It was in the & Schuster First Chapters Contest (the only Romance to make the Top 20 finalists out of over 2,600 manuscripts). Its won contests. The opening line is a keeper:

There’s a naked man in my kitchen.

Now, finally, I have the ability to bring it to my readers.

I’m on a lot of self-pub and indie loops and I see the same thing with other writers. Their editors didn’t know what to do with this new subgenre they’re writing. The editors didn’t want to change what was working. So the authors have put these stories up themselves and, finally, they’re able to make a living at being a writer. I say finally because a midlist TP author really can’t, not with one or two books out a year and a 6% royalty rate.

Plus, authors can now bring out more books a year, at a lower price, which is not only to their benefit, but also their readers’. Compare my TP book prices of $5.38, to the $2.99 I can offer Beauty and The Best at. Self-pub authors see sales figures HOURLY rather than twice a year.

What’s the appeal of self-publishing?

  1. The ability to actually make a living as a writer
  2. The ability to put out more books a year.
  3. Self publish backlist rights to books the author has written 
  4. Ultimate control over our story from editorial to the cover (something most TP authors have ZERO say in. 
  5. See monthly income rather than twice a year—as TP contracts pay 
  6. Self-published authors are paid 70% of the cover price (compared to 6% TP) 
  7. Write the stories we've always wanted to write but no one “knew what to do with.”

Of course, self-publishing isn’t all wine and roses. Self-published authors now take on the role of publisher as well as author. That means no advances and all the up-front costs: Editing (story, copy, line…), a cover, formatting, ISBN, copyright, marketing. You have to be your own editor, art department, publicist, and marketer in addition to being a writer and businessperson.

Sure, there are stories of people putting a story up and doing nothing else and the book takes off, but that isn’t the norm. You have to get the word out. You have to have a good, professional product. Your story could be great, but if you don’t have a clue about spelling or grammar or leave plot holes wide-open, readers will call you on it.

Covers are arguably the best marketing tool you have after word-of-mouth. I’ll talk about that more on Monday with part two. How to choose the right cover, editing, and how to actually self publish a book.

  • Writers, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on publishing—whether you've gone both ways or by passed traditional publishing altogether. What are you seeing?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


My guest is Lisa Brackmann. I'm glad to have her visiting Over Coffee again. If you remember, I interviewed Lisa last year when her debutROCK PAPER TIGER (Year Of The Tiger in the UK)—was released. 
Lisa's second book, GETAWAY (Library Journal Reviews lists it as a must read this summer), has just been released. Lisa is currently down in Puerto Vallarta (hence the margarita above, directly from her to us) attending a book event and will be checking in from Mexico through out the day.  

I’m here in Viejo Vallarta, a few blocks from the beach, close enough to feel the ocean breezes. To my left is a ravine, where several donkeys stomp on the hillside, waiting for their nightly appearance at Ánadale, a bar down the street in La Zona Romántica.

At this point, some of you who read my latest novel, GETAWAY, may be saying, “Waaait a minute. Didn’t you just write a scary book about an American woman who goes on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, and things go very, very wrong? Aren’t there headless bodies on every street corner?”

It is true that there are some very scary stories coming out of Mexico, largely centered on the violence that has exploded since Mexican President Calderón declared war on the drug cartels a few years ago. This war has claimed upwards of 40,000 casualties, and though most of them are involved in the drug trade, journalists, officials and innocent bystanders have also been targeted or caught in the crossfire.

All of that said, it’s important to understand that this violence is largely localized, focused mainly in the border zone or in other areas where different cartel factions vie for control of the market.

Puerto Vallarta is still a safe destination for tourists and a wonderful place to spend your vacation. In fact, every time I visit, I ponder relocating here. I could live in this town. Write on a terrace cooled by ocean breezes. Take a break on Los Muertos Beach. Have a margarita or two.
So, why did I write a book that made the place seem dangerous?

My primary reason was that I am familiar enough with the location that I felt I could do the setting justice. A lot of readers want to be taken to an unfamiliar place and get a sense of what it might be like, and providing that experience is one of the things I most enjoy when I write books.

The other? It’s the job of a suspense author to, well, provide suspense.

This trouble looks pretty 
good to me, especially after a 
Margarita or two...
So, after deciding that I would set a suspense novel here, I had to figure out where the suspense would come from. I had a sort of vision, of an American woman on vacation, sitting on the beach, watching the passing carnival of tourists and locals, drinking beers, selling trinkets and serapes. She was unhappy, I knew that, but I didn’t know why. I wrote the first chapter, and figured that part of it out. Set up the situation that would get her in trouble.

Then, I had to determine what that trouble was.

You work with what’s plausible, or at least with what you can sell as plausible. Involving the drug trade in protagonist Michelle’s problems made sense. But I hope what people will take away from the story is not, “Mexico is scary!” and that the drug trade is a Mexican problem, one that has nothing to do with us in the US. But rather, that the story deals with corruption in general, and on both sides of the border.

A friend of mine who lives here asked, why would setting a crime novel in Puerto Vallarta be any different than say, setting one in Los Angeles? I think it’s a very good question.

Most Americans wouldn’t hesitate to visit Los Angeles, setting of countless crime novels, or New York, or Navaho country, or Oslo, or Beijing, or most of the places where countless authors have created fictional mayhem. In the case of Mexico, it’s true that there are areas you probably want to avoid, but I think that the many stories of drug violence with little to balance them have created a perception that does not match the reality of the country. Yes, the drug war is one reality. One aspect. And it’s a tragedy of epic proportions.

But, life goes on as well. And in most of Mexico, life is peaceful and ordinary.

So, adiós, for now, from Puerto Vallarta! It’s time for me to walk down to the beach, and have a margarita.

GETAWAY  Available in stores and online bookstores.

Michelle Mason tells herself she’s on vacation. A brief stay in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a chance to figure out her next move after the unexpected death of her banker husband, who’s left behind a scandal and a pile of debt. The trip was already paid for, and it beats crashing in her sister’s spare room. When a good-looking man named Daniel approaches her on the beach, the margaritas have kicked in and she decides: why not?

But the date doesn’t go as either of them planned. An assault on Daniel in her hotel room, switched cell phones and an encounter with a “friend” of Daniel’s named Gary gets Michelle enmeshed in a covert operation involving drug runners, goons, and venture capitalists. Michelle already knows she’s caught in a dangerous trap. But she quickly finds that running is not an option. If she’s not careful, she’ll end up buried in the town dump, with the rest of the trash. Now she needs to fight smart if she wants to survive her vacation. EXCERPT

"Brackmann strikes exactly the right mood in this frantic look at an ordinary woman who can't seem to claw her way out of the mess in which she's managed to land."—Kirkus Reviews

My Review 


Lisa Brackmann has worked as a motion picture executive and an issues researcher in a presidential campaign. A southern California native, she currently lives  in Venice California, with her three cats. Her critically acclaimed debut novel Rock Paper Tiger, was an Amazon best book of 2010.

You can find Lisa: Website, Twitter, Facebook

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kat's Monday Maundering – Toys for the Reader’s Brain

Here's to you Kat! And Thank you.

First of all, no, I’m not Sia. Sia has kindly allowed me to hijack borrow her blog while she takes a well-deserved rest and enjoys the long weekend. With any luck, she’s sitting by a pool with an iced coffee (or other adult beverage!).

Today’s blog topic was prompted by reviews I read on a book I loved, by people kvetching remarking they were unhappy with what they viewed as an unresolved, ambiguous ending. To them, I want to say pffft have you never watched Gone With the Wind? Shane? Read pretty much any literary novels?

I remember seeing Gone With the Wind for the first time when I was 15, as part of a class assignment. Rhett delivers his lovely line and slams the door. Scarlett cries and says she’ll think about things tomorrow. Fade to black. Lights up. I remember standing and yelling “I sat through four hours of boring war scenes and two intermissions for this??? This non-ending?? This…this…” At that point I became pretty much incoherent.

Many years later I watched it again. And discovered that I loved the ending. I loved discussing and debating it with friends. Did Scarlett chase after Rhett? Chase after someone else? Learn her lesson and become a nicer person (pffft!) Margaret Mitchell didn’t spell it out for us because she trusted us, as readers, to be discerning enough to figure it out ourselves. She didn’t need to wrap a pretty bow around it and deliver it on a silver platter. When asked, Mitchell herself said she did not know and said, "For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult."

The movie Shane ends much the same. The hero kills the villain and saves the town, but is wounded in the process. He gets on his horse and rides away into the sunset. Does he die? Find a doctor? Go on to save some other town? Marry Miss Kitty (oops, wrong Western). The thing is, we don’t need to know. The ending is satisfying just as it is, and the discussion/debate around it is even more entertaining.

So long as an author ties up all the major plot points, vanquishes evil (at least temporarily), and has cemented a memorable protagonist in my mind, I’m satisfied. Does the hero live to fight another day? Does the heroine look toward the future—no matter what it may hold—as a changed (or not!) person? I’m good with that.

I look at ambiguous/open/temporarily resolved endings this way: Let’s say on Christmas morning, you are given two presents. The first is all tied up with silvery wrapping paper and tied up with a pretty bow. Inside you find a doll house—the walls are decorated, it’s filled with tiny furniture, and comes with a little doll family all ready to move in.

The other package isn’t nearly as pretty—it’s kind of lumpy and unwieldy and has sharp corners poking out. When you unwrap it, you discover a pile of Legos. OK, so you can make your own doll house with them. Or you could build a skyscraper. Or a rocket. Or a pirate ship. They can be just as entertaining as that pretty ready-to-go gift, but some assembly is required. You’ll need to think. You’ll need to use your imagination.

But Legos—that daunting pile-o-stuff—comes with the best thing of all: possibilities. They can become whatever you want.

And so it is with books that have those open, ambiguous endings. When I read books like that I thank the author for respecting my intelligence, for trusting that I will discern their meaning, and for gifting me with whatever possible ending I can imagine for the characters.


If you’re up for a “flying off into the sunset” kind of ending, one that manages to combine BOTH a wounded hero AND a woman trying to figure out the next step in her life, I highly recommend the newest thriller from Lisa Brackmann, Getaway. Lisa herself will be here to talk with you on Wednesday, but I love her work so much, I wanted to recommend it ahead of time!

  • So tell me: do you like your endings wrapped up with a pretty bow, or do you walk on the wild side and play with Legos?

Kat Sheridan is a recovering project manager and business analyst whose hard-bitten persona has always hidden a secret romantic. She likes her stories with a dark and dangerous flavor, so long as—in the end—the villains are vanquished and true love triumphs. She is inordinately fond of glitter nail polish, shiny things, bourbon, and any comestibles on which frosting can be placed.

Kat splits her time these days between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter because she dislikes snow, driving on ice, and wearing shoes (except for flip-flops, preferably with rhinestones). Her peripatetic life is shared with her own real life hero who shows her every day what happily ever after means.