vrijdag 24 oktober 2014

Angel Manor

A beautiful house – with a dark and deadly secret. Those who enter will be lucky to escape with their lives. ANGEL MANOR – November 14th

Let's talk cheeseburger for a moment: "I haz excitement"

First sketch of the cover.
I asked the artist to give it
more of a maiden, mother,
crone theme.
In about three weeks time my first full length novel will hit the market, and I can't wait. It's not the first novel I wrote (not by a long shot) but it will be the first that goes to print. It’s been a personal challenge writing this one.

First of all, I decided to work with a lot of different characters, which was new to me. Normally I focus my novels very much around one or two main characters and have a few side characters that get a tiny bit of the spotlight. In this case I had several different ‘voices’ and ‘points of view’, sometimes it felt like a juggling act.

When I first presented it to my publisher, it was a monster of a manuscript at 135.000 words. I think I may have heard him cry a little when he saw the size of it. Lucky for him, the manuscript was still in a very rough state, so it needed a bit of trimming. At the same time, lucky for me, the publisher did really like the story, and suddenly I had myself a book deal.

Some trimming was done, and some adding (the publisher slowly weeping again) and as I’m writing this blog, my manuscript is with the editors, so it will (hopefully) be ready in time for its November 14th release date.

another early sketch and try out for a blurb
So… why Angel Manor? I wrote this novel because I love haunted house stories, and I had some ideas for my own. I like working with classic horror topics and images, so when I started the first thing that came to mind was: this is going to need some creepy nuns. In hindsight, looking at the beautiful cover Stephen Bryant (check him out here: http://www.srbproductions.net/#!-book-layouts/c23j9 ) made for me, I'm very glad I went with the nuns. 

As I was writing it, I decided that the story was too big for just one book, it needed more. Angel Manor was just the beginning *cue scary music* I'm going to work on at least two more novels following this one. Each will be linked to the fictional area called 'Lucifer Falls', which will be the storyline that runs through all three books. 

For each of the novels I want to use a classic horror element. The sequel will focus on 'dolls', and I think the last one will probably focus on creepy children. Of course all books will have a healthy doses of ghosts and perhaps even other monsters.

This series will be interlinked with another series I’m writing –Celestials—and will exist in the same universe. I’m hoping to have some of the plotline bleed into each other, but in such a way that you can read the series as separate entities. It should just be a pleasant surprise for those who like to read both.

The cover for Angel Manor has done well so far, I’ve noticed that it gets a lot of interest. The artist really did a great job matching it to the story inside. I hope you will all enjoy Angel Manor when it comes out. I know I enjoyed writing it. It’s a little more gory than most of my work is at places, but it felt nice to go full out. I’m sure this novel is not for everyone, and part of me is dreading the reviews of the people who don’t like blood and violence. Only time will tell, I guess.

Angel Manor, the first full-length novel from Chantal Noordeloos, will be released by Horrific Tales Publishing on November 14th.
Evil nuns, satanic practices, and the most deadly haunted house in all of Scotland come together in this dark gothic tale.
"With ANGEL MANOR, Chantal Noordeloos brings a novel that grips you with corpse fingers and drags you into a world of deadly dangers, unresolved sins, haunted basements, and malevolent nightmares. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Noordeloos delivers on her promise to terrify you." – JG Faherty, Bram Stoker and ITW Thriller Award finalist and author of CARNIVAL OF FEAR and LEGACY.

donderdag 16 oktober 2014

The Permuted Press war.

Right, since things are really blowing up out of proportion around the whole Permuted Press thing, and I got involved, I might as well say my two cents about some of it.

As some of you know, I’ve been expressing myself about bad contracts lately. They really are an issue. Not just with Permuted… they are an issue everywhere. I’ve used Permuted as a convenient example, but the problem is that people now think I’m bashing Permuted Press.

I’m not. 

I don’t know them, I haven’t worked with them. 

Not that I approve of the PoD stunt, it’s not a good thing to do to your authors, but at the same time… I think everyone is putting way too much focus on this. *tried desperately to steer people away from the PoD and back to the bad contracts*

Everyone involved is now suddenly being demonized. The people who are on the inside are evil and the people on the outside are evil. No one seems to be looking at logic anymore and it’s turned into a big slander fest. This upsets me a little. Let’s accept that there are some bad things going on, and not downplay them, but we don’t have to break out our torches and pitchforks either.

For one I know some people who work for Permuted and they are not evil people who are preying on their authors. I know for a fact that there is a lot of love in their imprints, and I almost considered signing to one of them because I really believe in the people involved, and that they wanted to do what’s best for me and my books.

I think this is where the outcry of some of the authors who are siding with Permuted is coming from too. It’s not just the people who are in the Platinum level, or whatever it’s called, it’s the people who feel that Permuted (or rather their imprints) can still do things for them, because there are passionate people involved behind this, who have great ambition to make their authors shine.

I still don’t agree with the contract that I saw. I can’t speak for other contracts, they may be far more reasonable, but it would be nice to see people to stop the witch hunt on everyone involved.

And let’s take a step back and be adults here… people who signed have done so out of their own free will. It was their choice not to understand the contract, and it bit them in the backside. Permuted never actually broke their contract. This is why I blogged and why I’m trying to make new authors aware, it’s so important to know what you are signing.

I hope Permuted themselves will take a second look at what’s going on and try to fix their mess. But as I said in my previous blog, they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are actually worse presses out there.

It’s so easy to step onboard the hate train and throw rotten eggs, but maybe it would be good to support the authors who have been a victim of bad choices, instead of just being angry?

Drama Llama teaches a valuable lesson.

Let’s be honest for a moment here… there is a lot wrong in the small press / indie world,  which is, according to some (not me), the lowest order of the publishing realm. Recently there has been a lot of drama surrounding a medium / small press.

Permuted Press is providing the dramatic role of the perfect scapegoat at the moment, (which they deserve for the nasty stunt they pulled) but come on… we all know this is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know how things fair in traditional publishing, though I have a sneaky suspicion there might be an iceberg or two in there as well. That’s not for me to judge.

Anyway, I recently wrote a blog about reading your contract. What inspired me to write , you may ask? A contract I was offered myself. I actually read the whole thing in disbelief. The contract was asking a lot, no… not just a lot… it was asking EVERYTHING surrounding those books, for the extent of the copyright, and I couldn’t help wondering what the publisher was actually offering me in return. A hundred copies a year, that’s all I could find. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but that’s not a lot. Even with my current novella, short story collection and short story I sell a lot more than a hundred copies a year each. Those aren’t even novels yet. The other conditions were equally dodgy. They would offer me a limited say in the cover art, but that sounded rather hollow. No real marketing promises except that I would be mentioned online. This could be anything really, if
they did a facebook post they would have lived up to the contract, so I wasn’t impressed with that. Even the editor wouldn’t be paid, they would just get a percentage of the earnings. A lot of alarm bells went off in my head.

At first I decided to let the whole thing lie, why bother talking about this right?… until I realized that two years ago, when I first started out –desperate to be published—I would have signed that contract. I would have signed away my soul for a five book deal with a publisher… any publisher. Only because I didn’t know any better; I just wanted to be published and that was the only way I knew how.
Judging from the amount of people who signed that contract after I saw it, I know there are more desperate souls out there. We writers are dreamers, and that can make us a little naïve at times.

This got me thinking about what my expectations were when I started out. I was going to write a book. That was step one. Then I would send the book to an agent, (probably a few agents, I wasn’t that unrealistic) but eventually my book would be picked up and it would go to a big time publisher, who would then put my book in the real live stores. I was convinced my books would then sell enough to at least make a living out of this profession. Even if it was just minimum wage.

Yeah… I can hear all of you who have been in this business for longer than 6 month laugh at me. I laugh at that me too. Unless your name is Stephanie Meyer… that’s not going to happen.  And even if it is Stephanie Meyer, if you haven’t written Twilight… it’s still not going to happen.

There are thousands of writers out there. Some of them really good, some of them really bad and a lot of them nice and average. They are all trying to make it. A few lucky ones do, the rest of us keep struggling. Even if you get a decent publisher, they won’t guarantee you get into a shop. I think even some big five now sell ebooks first, and if you do well, you earn a place in bookstores (not sure about this, I’m basing it on rumors)  

A lot of people turn to self publishing. In the beginning I frowned when someone mentioned going at it alone. Let’s face it, there is a lot of poor quality in self publishing land. It’s filled with interesting ideas and terrible executions. This is because a lot of self publishers forget one crucial thing… they aren’t just authors… they are publishers too. Going down this path you need to do all the things the publisher would normally do, and be critical about your own work. This is very difficult for any writer.

Now, I know… I know… Tip My Hat is considered self publishing too. And that’s fine, I am not ashamed of it. The only difference is, I’m not doing it all by myself. In fact, I’m doing none of the publishing stuff; I do the writing part, that’s it. I have editors and proofreaders to make sure that what I write doesn’t suck, and yes, I’ve rewritten things at the request of my editor and even omitted stories. I get a say in what happens, but not about everything.

My husband handles the finances and the marketing. He is also the one who updates my page most of the time, and he deals with the formatter and Amazon, or the shop he’s gotten me in. I don’t even handle my own website, one of my friends does this, and we provide the content. The reason why we do it this way is that I would be a terrible publisher. So I wouldn’t want to publish my own work.

 I know people who are great self publishers, they are really smart and business savvy. They know what they’re doing and some of them make a lot of money doing it. It’s very possible to be a grand success as a self publisher… if you have the right skills. Otherwise you will be another name on Amazon, with one of the thousands of  books, that may or may not be good, for most readers to overlook.

I hear that some people only sell about 10 books a year. That’s utterly depressing. I probably would sell no more than that if I didn’t have a team to back me up. So I’m content with the way some of my work is ‘self published’. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a good publisher. I do, and I’ve found one for at least one of my series.

Now here’s the tricksy part. You see… just like anyone can call themselves author… anyone can call themselves publisher. As soon as someone starts up a press, all we eager writers swarm around them like flies, because we want to be picked up by someone who knows what they are doing. We want someone to help us with the big bad marketing aspect of things, to really sell our books. Most of us don’t have a clue what we’re doing, or where we can find readers that will love us. So we look to the publishers.
A fair amount of small press / indie publishers that have great ideas and know what they are doing. They will invest money into their company and are willing to invest. They know their company will start out as a money pit, but will eventually –if they do
the right things—pay off. These presses will have open submissions and look very critical at the submitted works, picking only the cream of the crop. They hire great cover artists, good editors, have proofreaders and maybe even get a few beta readers. Their books will be well formatted and look professional. They will have marketing strategies. Now… the latter are never a guarantee to sell books, but they will help. These presses will only take on the books they can handle, and have an allotted time to work on each one with care and love.

The benefits of a small press / indie press is that they will usually be more personal. Where they lack the ability to get you in all the big book stores, they will take your books to conventions, talk to people about your work and do their very best to promote you. They often have good connections with popular blog sites, and they know just where to show off your book covers. If you look around you can see the ones who do this. They are always promoting their authors, and their books will be beautiful. It doesn’t mean these presses will make you a millionaire, but you won’t be worse off selling your books to them. Personally, I think you will do better with them, than you would self publishing, unless you have a killer plan and can do what they do.

But… there are also presses who don’t do all this. Basically these guys are self publishers who just want to make money from your book instead. Not all bad presses have mal intentions. A lot of them truly want to put up a good press. Some of them just don’t know what they are doing. There are a few presses that might actually get better in time once they learn more about the business. It’s not all predators out there, but there is a lot of incompetence. There are a few more devious among them.

I have seen a lot of badly produced books come from small presses. Some, like Permuted now, won’t even bother with a print version. The books are often terribly formatted and the covers are done by unprofessional artists. They don’t spend time on blurbs, don’t advertise (posting your Amazon link on Facebook is not exactly advertising, unless they have a following of more than 10K) and take on as many books as people are willing to give them. I even wonder sometimes if those publishers have a slush pile or if they will produce anything offered to them.

I urge you to remember why you want to sign with a publisher. What do you need them to do for you that you can’t do yourself? I'm not saying you don't need them, but you need to understand WHY you do. Personally I would rather work with a publisher than self publish, but if they won’t offer me anything good and I have to give up a percentage of my money… what’s the point? If your book won’t get properly edited/ formatted/ promoted… what is the reason to give your precious work to a publisher?

A lot of writers are looking for a ‘family’ to belong with, and I have seen publishers promote their brand as a family. I get it, I’m very happy to be part of the ‘Horrific Tales Publishing’ family, but it’s not wise to publish somewhere just because you like the people. It’s nice if you can get both, I rather not work for assholes either.

Because of the Permuted debacle, I wanted to post something hopeful on my Facebook wall, and most of all something helpful. I asked people to recommend a publisher. After a few recommendations I was starting to despair. I received an alarming number of personal messages by various Facebook friends about 2/3rds of the recommended presses, warning me about them. I heard complaints about bad
editors / formatters, about no editing at all, about unprofessional behavior, people not getting paid, people getting no sales, people being forced to promote books they didn’t agree with. In the end, my whole hopeful thread was just depressing me. Even a few medium presses, who I was hoping to submit to myself, were starting to look a bit shady. I got messages of people having to fight back for the rights of their stories, that were just being left to collect proverbial dust.

I understand why some people consciously choose to self publish. Maybe it’s not so bad to keep it close to home?

Yet I stick to my initial conviction, a good publisher is beneficial and I would gladly give up the majority of my profits for someone who does the work.

I am not speaking out against publishers at all. All I am saying is that you have to be critical about who you sign up with. This is difficult because most of us don’t know what we are doing. Here are a few tips on what I do. Maybe they’ll help (maybe they won’t… remember, I don’t know what I’m doing either)

Don’t jump into signing with anyone. Just check them out first. Always see who they have published. Do they have good named writers in there? (this isn’t a prerequisite, especially with newer presses). I always go to Amazon and check out the first page of one of their books (actually, I check out two or three of their books). My aim is to see if the books are well edited. If they are full of grammar and spelling mistakes, I scratch that publisher of my potential list. If the formatting seems crap, I’ll probably do the same. After that I look at the sales rankings, and I start with the newest authors. If an author has only been out for a month and the sales rank is over 100K, that can be a bad sign (doesn’t have to be, it can be). I check out some of the other authors. Are they at decent rankings, or are they all around the million mark? This should tell you how a press does. Though it’s not guaranteed, they could be having an ‘off month’. But it’s as good of an indication I can get.

Check what you can find out about your press. Google them. See where they promote. Where can you find book reviews on the books they publish? Are the bigger reviewers picking up on them?
How many authors are they publishing? Unless they are a HUGE company, it’s usually a bad sign if they publish a new book a day. Publishing books properly takes time.
Are they giving an advance? This sounds petty, but getting an advance means the publisher trusts that your work will sell. No advance means no risk for the publisher, and all the risk for you. It means they don’t have to push your work to get their money’s worth.

Lastly if all of this seems okay, and you’re sure… (yes, here I go again) read the contract.
Always read the contract and only sign if it’s a good one.

Please do yourself a favor and don’t just sign your work away to anyone. Only give your work to
a publisher who will do a better job than you can. I know it will seem hard to even get a publisher. Rejection is part of our existence. Rejection is to a writer what water is to a swimmer. Don’t despair, if your work is good enough, it will be picked up by a worthy publisher. If it doesn’t, polish it some more. Don’t just be critical of the publishers, also be critical of your work.

The starry eyed wannabe writer in me died a horrible death when I truly entered the publishing world. I’ve learned a few lessons in the two years I’ve been publishing. There are no clear answers to success, and a lot of us are making it up as we’re going along. Don’t let other people’s confidence fool you, there is a big chance they don’t know what’s going on either. Let the drama that's been going on be a lesson to all of us writers.     

woensdag 1 oktober 2014

Sign here

I’m in one of those moods again, where I’m most likely to post something that will make a lot of people upset. So I’ll start by saying: “Sorry if I’ve upset you”. I never mean to upset anyone, but I have this nasty habit of speaking my mind.

Today I would like to dig my own grave by talking about contracts. *Puts the shovel in the dirt*.

You see, there is nothing we writers want more than a book deal… well except maybe millions of fans and that desired bestseller. Anyway, I’m starting to digress and daydream about the long lines of people who want my autograph…. So moving back to contracts.

When we first start out we will take any job we can get. Let’s be honest, most of us start out stupid and starry-eyed. It’s part of a writers process. The idea that your book or story will be out there is a fantastic thought, and if someone likes it enough to publish it, they are your personal heroes.

This is all fine, this is how we learn. And I learned a lot more about the business when my stories were out there, than I did before I was published. Like many people, I gave away my first stories for free. And I’ll be the first to admit, if I really like a publisher, I might still give away the occasional story. It’s not very business savvy of me, but who cares? It’s not all about the money.

However, signing a book away is different. And you should be really careful when you do. Even with reputable presses. It’s fine if you mess up, but you want to be careful anyway.

I have met a lot of writers that were fighting to get the rights of their books back from publishers that went bankrupt, or that just quit. I’ve seen them try to get their rights back from publishers that simply let their books rot. Some won, some are still at it… but the fight is never a good one. And it’s unnecessary.

There are certain rules to signing a contract: 1) READ THE CONTRACT!! All of it, even the fine print. Have someone else read it too, and talk about it together. 2) UNDERSTAND THE CONTRACT! If you don’t get something… ask. You can ask the person who sent you the contract to clarify, or ask someone who knows about these things… whatever… but make sure you understand what you sign. 3) DO THE RESEARCH. This one I will explain in a second.

First of all, there are a lot of publishers out there that are… how shall I put this… less than professional. Not all Indie presses are bad, in fact there are some AMAZING ones out there… but some are basically just self publishers who publish other people’s work. They often don’t pay writers, or offer them a percentage of a profit that just simply doesn’t exist. Some books only sell about a dozen a year, and if you have to split the profits of 12 books with at least 10 other writers… you can count how much you’re getting.

These presses rarely even pay for editors, or have really unprofessional editors. The cover art they use is often cheap plus not very attractive, and they wouldn’t know marketing if it bit them on the ass.

The bright side of the bad indie presses is that they usually give you a contract that’s easy to get out of, but this is not always the case. I’ve heard many writers complain about it. I’ve been fortunate so far not to have been in this situation myself, but I want to use these people as an example anyway. Don’t be one of them. But as I mentioned before… it’s not just the crappy presses that can give you contracts that aren’t good for you.

So, now you have read the contract (and the fine print) and discussed it with a second person who knows theirs stuff. Good for you. It’s time to make sure you understand the contract.

One of the things you need to look out for is whether this contract works in your favor as well as the publishers. Because often… it doesn’t. You can’t really blame the publisher for this, but you need to really stick up for yourself. A lot of contracts these days are for the extent of the copyright. Which means they own your work 70 years after you die. Your children will get NO rights.

This is fine if a book is going to take off and take the world by storm, so you don’t have to necessarily panic about this. BUT… and there is a big but (J-Lo would be jealous) that only works if
you have a publisher that is going to put a lot of effort in your work. Unless you are very lucky, already famous or have someone behind you that will make this happen… most publishers won’t.

I used to dream of big five deals (heck I still do), but I’ve heard and read the nasty reality of those as well. If you are not famous, there are precious few publishers that will go all out for you. Which means your book will have to sell with a limited budget on promotions (if you even get that). This is a very saturated market, so the chances are… your book won’t sell that well.

And here’s the catch… if your book doesn’t sell, there is a chance it will just bleed to death slowly, and the publisher will probably eventually give up on it all together and count their losses.

So there you are, with your literary masterpiece that isn’t selling. You can’t put it with another publisher who might be a better fit for your book, because your contract is iron clad, and unless someone is willing to buy your book (which isn’t selling) from the publisher… it will just stay there in oblivion.

This is why you always need a good reversal clause to a lifetime contract. Always! Make sure this reversal clause works in your favor as well as the publishers.

Now there is another thing: the advance. Let me be the first to tell you, emotionally… I don’t give a hoot about an advance. I don’t need them, BUT(t)…. (yes, it’s wiggling its cheeks again) an advance is a sign of faith from the publisher. They believe that your book will at least make the money they offer you. No advance means: Russian Roulette with your book for you. It means they only have to sell enough to cover their costs. Which depending on what sort of people they use, doesn’t have to be a great big sum of money. So think about that too when you sign a contract.

Also think about WHY you are signing a book contract. You want your books to reach the public and be sold. That’s why you are giving up a big chunk of your profits to a publisher. You want a good editor, formatter and cover. If the publisher doesn’t provide these things, you might as well just go out and publish yourself.

So do the research. Look at what the publisher has put out. If it’s a big time publisher, look at their unknown writers and look at their sales. Go check their rankings on Amazon. Check out the reviews on other sites. See what happens when you Google their books. Look at how long they have been on the  market. It it’s a newly published book and their rankings are low, there is a big chance this publisher does little about marketing.

Check out what the covers are like. Do they look professional? Or does it look like someone let little Timmy have fun with his crayons? Open the books (You can do this on Amazon too). How’s the editing? Does it look professional? Is the formatting okay?

These are all questions you want to ask yourself. Of course the latter will probably be okay with the bigger publishing houses… but check anyway. And don’t look at the famous writers either… trust me, they will get all the love and promotion they need. You need to know what this publisher is going to do for you. Having said that, the publisher won't do ALL your promotion, you'll still be expected to do a lot yourself.

Be alert to what you sign. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say no. I know it will feel like no one else will ever sign you, and you may feel desperate at times. But if your writing is really good… someone will pick up on you. And they WILL be good to you. Keep looking for that good indie press. Because they are out there. And let’s be honest, though indie presses might not be able to get you in the bookstores… if they are going to fight for your book, they might even be better than a big company that won’t really do anything for you.
I’m not saying I won’t be tempted by a big five contract. Heck, I might even sign one someday that isn’t the most beneficial for me, simply because I’ll be star struck. Who knows how the world goes? But I wanted to write this blog anyway, for those of you who only just started and who need to get your critical mind going. *finishes digging her grave and lies inside*
Not everyone wants the best for you in this world. Not everyone cares. So here’s hoping that you find a publisher that does.