Annette's blog

Shhh! Can you keep a secret? Yeah. Me neither.

Everyone who knows me knows this about me: I can’t keep a secret to save my life.

On New Year’s Eve, I received an amazing gift, but it came with one caveat: don’t tell anybody. Eeek! I could feel the tug of war begin inside me: how can I not tell everyone?

Here’s what happened. During the last days of December, I was reading a blog post by Hugh Howey. He’s a self-published author whose book, Wool, has broken records. New York Times bestseller. All that jazz. Hugh has done well for himself, and one of the results of his success, is reaching out to help other self-publishing authors. Indie authors, we’re called.

On this blog post, he talked about the sequel to Wool, a book called Sand. He also mentioned how thrilled he was with the cover art. Cover art is an author’s first and sometimes best means to convince readers to buy the book. It’s the way we first grab a reader’s attention.

I looked at the cover art for Sand, and it was perfect. I saw the author’s name, Jason Gurley, and I thought, wow. What I wouldn’t give to have a cover that nice. And I thought, heck, I’m going to write to the guy. Sending an email is free. I’ll ask him what he would charge and if he would work on a book like Bone Girl, which isn’t his usual science-fiction genre.

I did this. I sent an email to this stranger, thinking I would probably not hear back. I’m a new author with only one title, Celebration House, which isn’t really selling. But, the next day, there was a response. He said he wouId consider it. So we corresponded some more, and he agreed to do my cover at a price I could afford. I couldn’t believe this news. But it gets better.

On New Year’s Eve, I filled out the form he requests of all authors, talking about the characters in the book, the setting, what I thought were the most visually important elements. And I thought, maybe I’ll hear back in a month or so. Meanwhile, I got busy and drafted the blurb, the short paragraph on the back of the book readers scan to see if they want to buy it.

Excuse me. Could you hand me a Kleenex? I get teary-eyed when I relate this next part.

I woke on New Year’s Day and at 8:25 a.m., there in my email inbox was the first draft of cover art for Bone Girl. Not just one version, but three I could choose from. Holy. Buckets!

For the first time, it felt like someone besides me and my family believed in Bone Girl. Someone saw my vision and added to it. I felt empowered. I felt like I’d grown wings and could fly. After hearing so many no’s, I heard a loud yes.

And I know the marketing department – if I had one – would say, let’s keep this under wraps for now. Show no one. Tell no one. We’ll plan a cover-release event.

But as I’ve already explained, I can’t keep a secret.

So then, here, dear reader, is my cover art for Bone Girl. All credit to Jason Gurley. Stand back. This. Is. Huge!

Huge!

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Annette's blog

Hugh Howey! My hero…

Recently, I stumbled onto the May/June 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest. A young, good-looking man stared back at me and I saw his name: Hugh Howey. That name was familiar.

I turned to page 34 and read. What I learned may change my life.

In July of 2011, Hugh posted an e-book novella of “Wool” online. In October, he realized the book was selling about 1,000 copies per month. He compiled all five sections of the book, and three months later, he was selling 20,000-30,000 copies of the book. “Wool” went on to become the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Best Indie Book Award in the Sci-Fi/fantasy category. By the time the book had been out for about a year, Howey was selling 20,000-30,000 copies of “Wool” a month. His monthly salary: $150,000 from e-book sales alone. He quit his day job. The offers of representation poured in, as did the offers from publishers. But Howey did an amazing thing: he only sold the hardback and paperback rights to “Wool.” He kept the e-book rights for himself. This is revolutionary for authors.

I know it’s ridiculous to compare “Bone Girl” to “Wool.” They’re different genres. “Wool” is science fiction, and as near as I can figure, “Bone Girl” is a middle-grade novel.

But one Sunday night a few weeks ago, the financial pressure cooker that is my life darn near exploded. In desperation, I thought, hell, let me see if I can put “Bone Girl” on Kindle. And guess what? I did. I put together some cover art and lo and behold, I downloaded the first three chapters. Why not? That was the same amount of material I sent to all of the agents and publishers who rejected the book. How many rejections exactly? About 22 now.

Howey self-published his books because he was impatient. I am the queen of impatience. My former journalism professor, Les Dunseith, told me I was the most impatient person he had ever known. Flatterer.

But there was more to it than that. Howey wanted someone to read his work rather than let it languish on the hard drive of his computer. Me again. That was the reason I put Bone Girl on the Authonomy website. I never intended to fight my way to the top so an editor at HarperCollins would read it. I wanted anyone to read it, regardless of whether it propelled my writing career.

Here’s the scary thing about Bone Girl: it’s the best book I’ve written. I don’t know if I will ever write another book with such an amazing main character, and I can’t sell the darn thing. My rejection count stands at 22.

Self-publish it? I don’t know. Maybe. I’m sure thinking about it.

Annette's blog

The final edits are done! Oh, the final edits are done…

George Lucas once said, “Films never get finished. They get abandoned.”

After spending every spare moment over the last two weekends – adding more details about minor characters, finagling punctuation, inserting little hints so that a sequel is feasible – I finished Celebration House. And I knew what George meant.

I returned the manuscript to my editor. I couldn’t look at the book anymore. I felt like a high school student taking the ACT who finishes the test before time is up and goes back to change correct answers. My editor emailed me later that night. The manuscript was returned to the Tirgearr Publishing and was on its way to the proofreader.

I have so many worries about Celebration House. Did I give the reader enough description so that they can envision Stratton House? Are the renovations and the speed at which they are accomplished plausible? Will the reader empathize with my main character, Carrie, or find her annoying? Are people interested in what Civil War ghosts have to say? Ugh! I just don’t know.

But I will know after August 1st when Celebration House is opened to the public. In the meantime, I stew. I fret. It’s like sending your child off to kindergarten. Are the other kids going to be nice to her? Will they want to play with her or will they think she’s just sort of, well, weird?

The rational part of my brain knows that Celebration House is just one of thousands of books to be published this year. Thousands! Will this one small volume of 45,000 words really make any difference in anybody’s world? Probably not. But boy, I sure hope it does.

Hands and arms inside the cart: What I learned from Hugh Howey. Who’s that? He’s my hero!