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Free reads. Scary and yet so tempting. Actually, we’ve found some stories, series, and authors we love by taking a chance and downloading that free ebook.

In the spirit of being helpful this week, we’ve compiled a list of a few free reads by small press and self-publishers. The list is not by any means complete or all-inclusive, just titles that came to our attention this week that we thought we’d post. Most of the links are to Amazon and Kindle, but you can click on the publisher’s page to go to their website for other versions. Some we’ve read, some we haven’t, so if you have, give us the scoop! Or if you have any to add, definitely let us know! We love hearing about new books and new authors.

Carina

Fatal Affair – Marie Force

Photographs & Phantoms – Cindy Spencer Pape

Ellora’s Cave

Stolen Hearts – Karen Erickson

Masks – Evangeline Anderson

Second Sight Dating – Marianne Stephens

Harlequin

Has a ton free, check their website here

Samhain

Temporary Arrangement – Karen Erickson

Hotter Than Hot – Tina Leonard

An Introduction to Pleasure – Jess Michaels

The Wild Rose Press

Moondrops – Sarita Leone

A Reason to Fly – Aysel Quinn

Under the Moon Gate – Marilyn Baron

Marrying Molly – Linda Hope Lee

Tempted by Adam – May Williams

Self and other Pub

A Hidden Fire – Elizabeth Hunter

The Governess Affair – Courtney Milan

Measure of Devotion – Caethes Faron

Dancing with the Duke – Suzanna Medeiros

J to tha M Have the Self-Publishing Blues

This Stuff Is, Like, HARD

self-publishing information

sxc.hu/pygment2

M:  So, I’m considering self-publishing my Ash story

J:  I know it’s been on your mind for a while. It’s not a bad idea. Self-pubbing doesn’t have the same stigma anymore

it’s still tough

and crap. After doing some research to possibly self-pub the oracles, I have a lot of respect for people like Elizabeth Hunter who do it all on their own

M:  we’re jumping in together again

J:  it’s just what we do

There are so many options, too

what used to be considered vanity publishers are now “assistants” to the process

M:  and honestly, the whole stigma thing doesn’t factor into my decision. It’s more about what’s right for me – where I’m at – and the story.

J:  still, it’s easier knowing you’ll get a fair shot

that people won’t immediately set it aside

M:  I think it’s a good story. I just don’t know that it fits into the “formula” that a lot of publishers look for

J:  it does in a way, though

you’re thinking the romance formula

which it does not fit

but the romantic thriller…yes

M:  and I’m not willing to compromise. And I think readers are not only willing to accept non-formula, they like it. I know I do

plus, while a publisher might be willing to look at it despite it being outside the norm, I’m not willing to give up a lot of the rights some publishers want

J:  it really is a give and take. They offer so many things

but they also take

M:  very true

each manuscript and situation is different

J:  My reasons for self-pubbing (or considering it) are more a timing issue, since Morning Star will be ready very soon, too

though, by the time I figure out what the hell I’m doing…

M:  exactly. So many choices and decisions

and while that’s a good thing, it’s also confusing

especially when you’re just in the beginning stages of learning

J:  There are some options for those who want the freedom but not the crazy work

confusing work

M:  yes, so many places offering packages to self-publish, and I’ve heard all kinds of stories, good and terrible

some do all the formatting and distributing

offer cover art and editing services

some take a flat fee, some percentages

some reputable, some not

holy crap

or do you just take it all on yourself and hope you learn as you go, don’t screw up too bad?

J:  that’s what I’m looking at

but whoa

there really is a lot

M:  yeah, whoa

J:  I mean, formatting, distribution, royalties, legal issues

maybe it’s worth finding a company that knows what’s going on

but then you still lose something

that tiny little piece that’s just not your own anymore

M:  or then, what is really the benefit of not having it traditionally published? Where does that line get drawn?

When is one a better decision than the other?

ugh. It’s so confusing

and stressful

I just want to get the story out to as many people who might be interested as I can

and be fair to me, readers, service providers…

J:  well, as a self-published author, you get to make so many more decisions

how much you charge, when to offer it for free

M:  I really like that part

having more flexibility in making it available to the readers

and what I find really cool is you can make changes to the published version at any time

like if you find a whoops, even after the eleventy billion times you’ve gone over and edited

J:  ugh. I hate that feeling

M:  the control you maintain is a pretty big benefit for all the research and uncertainty

and money invested

J:  it is

it’s very inviting

M:  that’s another big thing. With a publisher, you don’t have to invest up front for editing and cover art, formatting and distribution. But you give up control over other things

so many pros and cons to either side. It’s a hard decision.

J:  you know what, though? I’ve paid editors to help me get my shit together before submitting to MSP

it’s an investment you make when you want your book to be as good as possible

I’m willing to go a step further to get the rest of it right

M:  you take your chances with either, sure

a traditional publisher is not a guarantee of a good editor or cover artist, just like hiring one freelance isn’t.

but I think you have a better chance with freelance, because you have choices. You usually don’t with publishers

J:  yes. I’m often gobsmacked at the lack of editing or the terrible cover design on books from big publishers

M: so, it comes down to what’s best for you and the story.

I bet we have lots of people out there with experiences, thoughts, and opinions

we want to hear them!

lay it on us

J:  I’m afraid I’ll just be more confused

but I want to know.

M:  more info, more better

J:  I’m going to get some – more info, that is

M:  You’re so good at that

J:  brb

Book Review: Obsidian by Kayla Curry

Novel Review by Lisa Lester

Book review Obsidian by Kayla CurryKayla Curry’s Obsidian is the first book in her planned Mystic Stones series.  I wasn’t familiar with her work prior to this one, but after reading the summary on goodreads, I was intrigued.  Set in the year 2020, the world has become completely dependent upon technology, to the point that societies can no longer function without it.  Then comes the day that the technology fails.  Cars stop working because they are dependent upon GPS satellites to simply drive down the street; computers won’t work without the internet. And on islands like Hilo, Hawaii where our story takes place, food supplies can quickly become scarce when ships can no longer travel the oceans.  Within the first few chapters we meet our protagonist, Ava, a building manager whose company rents out office space.  We also meet Tom, another main character, who we quickly discover is one of the vampires behind the technological collapse in order to coerce humanity into trading their blood for use of technology.  When Ava spurns Tom’s offer of becoming a vampire like him, she goes on the lamb and we meet a colorful group of characters including surfers, rogue vampires, and an immortal with a secret of his own.  This group decides to band together to try and take down the vampires and save humanity, starting with the group on Hilo.

Overall, I loved the premise of this book.  It was a fresh and original take on the vampire/supernatural mythos.  I really, really, wanted to like this book.  However, the main plot of technological failure quickly takes a side rail to the romance between Ava and Tom, and later Ava and Jesse.  There is a brief Twilight-esque love triangle between Ava and the two men, which further muddied the plot for me.  While the love story interwoven in the main plot isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I felt that she could have done much more with the technological angle.  If the lack of technology is supposed to be such a world-changer, it isn’t really shown as much more than a minor inconvenience in Ava’s world.  Newer cars won’t start, and computers won’t run, but paperwork still exists in the year 2020.  Restaurants are still able to cook and serve food, and there are still plenty of cars and motorcycles and boats that work perfectly well without GPS.  There’s also some aspects thrown in that defy the suspension of disbelief, such as when one of the characters, Hui, asks Ava if she still throws [knives], and she replies with a comment about being rusty, but yes.  Nowhere in her back story does it ever mention that she would have a hobby such as throwing knives, and there would be no reason for a building manager to have a skill like that.  Another such example is (minor spoiler here) Ava’s own progression from mere mortal to powerful immortal.  In the course of a few chapters she experiences a build-up of power that defies logic and sense.  Even characters such as Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake and Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan went through a progressive buildup of power.  Even to say that Ava was born with this much power, there should have been hints of it earlier in her life, and even earlier in the story, that would have made more sense.  The aforementioned examples also had their moments of failure with their powers, which makes them more believable, while Ava’s powers never go awry or fail her at any time.  The other consequence to a power build up so great this soon in the series is that the author leaves Ava no room to grow as a character.

This book had a lot of promise.  Like I said, I really wanted to like this book, but the more I read, the more I felt as if the story pacing and character development was lacking.  The characters were likeable, and I enjoyed the use of Hawaiian slang and pidgin. Unfortunately I would hope that in future books we would see more of the main story and less of the romance, and more character development, but I have to say I was disappointed with this one.

2BrassMonkeys3

About the Book

Ava Tanner finds herself in a world without satellite technology in a time of GPS, Smart phones, and Tablets. When she discovers that a corporation headed by vampires with sinister motives is to blame, her world is turned upside-down. After a narrow escape, she learns a mystical secret about herself that could aide her in her fight against the vampires. Unfortunately, the vampires see her either as an asset or a target.

When the world is on the brink of complete social and technological destruction, one must ask themselves: Would I give up my blood for the modern ideal way of life, or will I risk my life and wage war with the overlords of chaos?

About the Author

Kayla Curry lives in North Platte, Nebraska with her husband and two year old son. She is always getting ideas for stories from random thoughts and places, but a lot of inspiration comes from the wide range of people she sees while working front desk at a local hotel.

In her free time, Kayla likes to do arts and crafts and also dabbles in knife throwing. As of late, her son and her writing take up most of her time, as well as preparing for a new addition to her family. She plans to continue writing even with a new baby in the family. Follow her on Twitter and Goodreads, or visit her website. You can find Obsidian at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and many other online retailers.

***

Lisa Lester lives in humongous house with three cats, three dogs, two dudes (one of which she’s married to, the other one is a refugee from New Jersey) and a partridge in a pear tree…okay, just kidding about the pear tree.  And the partridge too. When she’s not working for the Man. she’s reading or killing stuff on World of Warcraft. She also enjoys nerdy things like Star Wars, crocheting, and pretty much any kind of music.  

The Benefits of Small Press Publishing

Weighing in on Alternative Publishing Options

Guest post by David J. Kirk

publishing options for fight for your write

Stuart Miles for freedigitalphotos.net

I would like to thank Jen and Melissa for allowing me to guest post on this great new site.  Being a small press author, I am here today to talk about the benefits of publishing in this venue.

I have to begin by admitting that, yes, I have submitted to the big six (or five, or however many there are now).  I also received five or six very nice rejection notices, mostly on postcards so my mailman could read them.  Like many of us who have been submitting for years, my first goal was to get published, and how wasn’t a major concern.  However, I started to look into independent publishers as I became more realistic.

University and small presses have had their famous authors and best sellers.  The Dummies and Chicken Soup books started out this way.  Plus, the independents may also be willing to take a chance on an offbeat story or an unknown author.  I hear they give smaller advances, if at all, although I don’t know this from experience.  However, keep in mind that advances are not bonuses; they are just what the word implies, advances on royalties.  If you receive a generous advance, and your book starts out slow, it may be quite a while before you receive a royalty check.

Generalities aside, I can only speak of my experience with my publisher.  I signed with Martin Sisters Publishing and my experience couldn’t have been any better.  I entered into an agreement with them on April 1st and my book was released August 11th of the same year.  My first expense was the purchase of my marketing copies.  Editing, proof reading, cover design, and formatting were all completed by the publisher.  I was highly involved in the editing process of the entire book via email.  My book is now available in almost every online selling point imaginable in this and several other countries.  I have also placed it in several retail outlets through buyback agreements.

While my publisher did not take out full-page ads in the New York Times, they did keep me involved in the development of my release press kit.  I was allowed input in personalizing press releases to the targeted markets.  I am also free to purchase copies at the wholesale price and sell them as I see fit at signings and other events.

My overall favorite aspect of small press publishing, however, is the almost family atmosphere of the whole organization.  I’m never more than an email away with any question I have for my publisher.  There is just no substitute for the personal attention I receive.  I also have access to a group of accomplished fellow authors, my host Jen Barry being one, who have literally taught me this business.  Many of us MSP authors stay in touch and help each other out with promotion.

I just can’t say enough good things about this publishing venue.  I hope you give it a try.  I also hope that you keep reading this blog as I’m sure Melissa and Jen have many more great things to come.

David is the author of Particular Stones by Martin Sisters Publishing which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other online outlets.  His author page and blog appear at djkirk.net and please follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  Watch for his new book Cornerstones.

So, You Want to Publish (God Help You)

Various Publishing Methods and Why They’re All SO HARD

Guest Post by Lissa Bryan

Various publishing methods for Fight for Your Write“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker

You’ve done it. You’ve completed your magnum opus and are now ready to share it with the world, but now you’re faced with the monumental choice of what to do with the damn thing. Writers have a greater range of choices in this regard than ever before, and really, the decision comes down to which method of publishing best suits your goals and the amount of effort you’re willing to personally invest. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Traditional “Big Six” Publishing

This is the typical writer’s dream  when it comes to publishing, but it’s also the most difficult to achieve. Only about one or two percent of manuscripts will be accepted by a Big Six publisher, hereafter referred to as “Bix,” because I’m a lazy typist. (Soon, it will be “Bive” after the merger of Penguin and Random House. I’m really hoping they change their name to “Random Penguin,” but I digress.)

Most Bix companies and their subsidiaries will not accept directly submitted manuscripts. To go this route, you must have an agent, who will shop your manuscript around and attempt to get you the best possible deal if a publisher is interested.  Acquiring an agent is a difficult process in of itself, fraught with many pitfalls for the unwary and eager. The agent will also absorb a cut of your earnings, and most new authors don’t make much.

Going with a Bix company means you will get highly professional editing teams and graphic artists who will design the cover. However, you will sign over most of your creative control. You may be required to make changes to the storyline or re-write portions of the book to make it more marketable. Bestselling author J.R. Ward was recently forced to change an m/m romance storyline in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series to include a female character. You also may have no input whatsoever on what ends up on the cover. Even the highly successful Stephenie Meyer has said she had no control over the cover art for her first three novels.

Then, you wait. It can be up to two years before the book is actually published and on the shelves.

But, hey, you get an advance, right? That helps keep you going in the meantime and to soothe your wounded ego over the changes you had to make. However, the advance an author receives is essentially a loan against future sales. If the book fails to make back the amount of the advance, an author can be sued by the company to return it. And dozens have been.

Still, it will all be worth it to see your book in stores, right? Bix companies have the distribution channels no other form of publishing can match. However, a book’s time on the shelf may be brief, unless it’s a success. Bookstores typically stock a title for a certain number of months, and then return the unsold books to the publisher, so they can use that precious shelf space for another novel. Remember, too, that the big bookstore chains that comprise the majority of Bix publisher’s sales are quietly dying. Borders is gone and Barnes & Noble is teetering on the edge.

The amount of promotion a book is given by the publisher depends on whether a book is “front list” if it’s expected to be a hit, or “mid list” meaning, it might sell moderately well. There’s an old writer’s comic which shows an author and a publisher’s agent in contract negotiations: “We’d like to take your book, change everything about it, put it on the shelves for a few months and do absolutely nothing to promote it.” The days of the promotional book tour are almost over, and more and more, authors are expected to take on promotional duties themselves. The “mid list,” the books on which the publisher takes more of a risk, is shrinking, meaning fewer new authors are given a chance.

In the end, there’s a reason why some mainstream authors are ditching the Bixes and publishing themselves.

“Indie” Publishing

Small, independent publishers are booming, spurred by the ebook revolution and print-on-demand technology.  Look around a bit and check out the quality of the books they publish before you decide whether they’d be a good fit for your book.

Most independent publishers can be approached directly, without an agent, and most have their submission guidelines on their websites. The benefits include more creative control over your work and cover art, and having a professional editing and graphic arts staff to prepare your book for publication. Another benefit is a much quicker publication time, but that means a lot of work in a short period, so be prepared for it.

A book published by an indie likely won’t be found in a chain bookstore. However, your book will be available through online retailers, such as Amazon, and the chain bookstores’ websites may carry your ebook version.

An indie publisher may have a marketing team, but you’ll need to put in effort to help promote the book by getting reviews, guest spots on book websites, etc. It’s a lot of work, building a base of readers.

You’ll also have the added burden of a stigma. There are some who insist that the Bix publishers are the only “real” publishers, even as indie and self-publishing eat up more of their market share every day as the Bixers contract and merge. Your book needs to be squeaky clean when it comes to editing, because reviewers point out any errors they find in indie/self-published books.

That brings us to…

Self-Publishing

This is the do-all-the-work-yourself option. It’s going to require a significant investment both in time and money.  Research carefully the services you use for formatting and publishing your book. They vary widely in price and, apparently, in ethics.

The most important thing you need to remember is, You cannot edit your own manuscript. Nor can your mom, or your friend, unless either of those happen to be a professional editor. You’re going to have to pay for a professional, and a good editor doesn’t come cheap. Your manuscript has to be as clean as a saint’s soul or many people will reject it automatically, even if it has a great story.

This is only copy editing. You also need substantive editing. That means, you need strangers who aren’t worried about hurting your feelings to read the book and tell you the parts that don’t work. Every book has them, but the author usually can’t see them. You don’t want to learn about them from reviewers after the book is published.

And you’re going to face an even greater stigma than those with indie publishers. Despite the ebook revolution, and the incredible success of some authors, there are those who disdain self-publishing. When I was at the Texas Book Fair with my publisher last October, a woman entered our tent and scowled at the booth of my publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop. Her husband headed in our direction and she grabbed his arm. “That’s self-publishing,” she said, in the same tone she would use to warn him away from entering an infectious plague ward. I stepped forward and corrected her, telling her we were a small, independent publisher. Her expression changed from scorn to interest, and she came right into our booth, where she bought several books. Good stories, all, which she never would have read if she thought they had been self-published.

That’s why your book has to be well-packaged if you want to be a success as a self-published author. You have to pay for professional editing and a good graphic artist to make an eye-catching cover. People do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately, and will scroll right past a book that has cheesy or clumsily executed cover art.

So, there you have it, in one overly-long article. Hopefully, I’ve given you at least a general impression of the pros and cons of each method of publishing. Success is possible with each of them, but no matter which method you choose, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.

It’s not a profession for the faint of heart. It’s a Sisyphean task, and sometimes discouraging… but ultimately, very rewarding.

Good luck, and may God have mercy on your soul.

***

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Find Lissa on her blog, her Facebook pageGoodreads profile, and follow her on Twitter. To buy the books, check Amazon.