hard work

The Business of Independent Publishing
authors | Broken | business | errors | guide to independent publishing | hard work | how to write a book | Huffington Post | independent publishing | Uncategorized | writing

The Business of Independent Publishing

Regarding the business of independent publishing: A few months ago, I received a polite email from Professor John Maxwell of Simon Fraser University. Some of his students had come to him. Between the covers of the text he had ordered for his graduate class on publishing, The Content Machine by Michael Bhaskar, was the novel Broken by Traci L. Slatton, in its entirety. He attached a picture to show me, see below.

Here was an opportunity to spread the word about Parvati Press in general and about my novels in particular, I thought. “Are your students interested in the novel? Would you like more copies?” I asked. I am always looking for opportunities to promote the Press.

He accepted with alacrity. Ten copies shipped out to him at SFU.

Sometime later, during an email exchange, he invited me to guest lecture to his class via Skype. I accepted. It was a good experience; his students were bright, polite, inquisitive, and thoughtful. I enjoyed talking to them but finished with a feeling of frustration: there was so much else to say about independent publishing.

Much of it I’ve learned the hard way, too.

It has been an intense journey since the day I decided to expand the Press and take on other authors. I’ve learned some tough lessons. My first time out of the box, I took on a writer who turned out to be certifiably insane. Not, like, a little kookie, but off-her-rockers lunatic demented. I’ve blogged about that elsewhere, including a Huffington Post article about How to Handle eMail Harassment.

The next three writers weren’t crazy, but I still made a big mistake in trusting one of them.

After the debacle with the first writer, I realized I needed a solid contract for dealing with potential Parvati Press authors. I hired an attorney who had helped me on other matters. She wasn’t a publishing attorney, and the contract put off the other writers.

That was my responsibility, I knew. So I went out and found a real publishing attorney, I mean, the guy in publishing law, to create a contract that was clear, simple, fair, and had precedents in publishing. He did a great job.

He also yelled at me about the deal I was giving the writers. He explained that I could not sustain the Press with that deal. He was right, but I felt that I had given my word to the writers, so those first few would still receive the deal I had originally offered them. He called me crazy. But I was going to keep my word.

One writer refused to do a revision that his manuscript urgently required. Line for line, his prose was polished and perfect. Unfortunately, it was a good story badly told. His novel was boring. He had to revise it to bring it to life. He didn’t want to do the work required because he’s had a storied career as an author. But production values matter to me, so I declined to send him a contract.

A second writer saw immediately that I was being scrupulously honorable. She signed the contract and sent it back immediately.

Ah, but the third guy. He had been hemming and hawing, wringing his hands, and dragging his feet about signing a contract from the day I sent him one. Days and weeks would go by. He was always about to talk to his attorney, who was so busy…. When I sent him the second contract, he said, “I’ll sign it right away, I’ll tell my lawyer that I want to get this done unless there’s something major wrong with it.”

As the months went by, with all the foot-dragging and hand-wringing and excuses, I was working on this writer’s manuscript. I stupidly invested a great deal of my own time, thought, and energy into his manuscript. Now, it had a germ of a good idea, and the writer showed flashes of serious, big talent throughout. But it was no where near publishable. It was going to require sustained heavy lifting to get it to the point where the manuscript was professional and polished.

Also, it was tricky to deal with the writer because of the arrogance involved. Taking editorial criticism is a skill that requires learning for most of us.

I paid for the Parvati Press editor to do a thorough manuscript critique. It was still going to be at least three more revisions before the manuscript was ready to be published, two that I could do and one more from the professional editor. Note that this editorial critique is the work product of Parvati Press.

Despite my honorable behavior, there was only continued hand-wringing and hawing and excuses about the second contract.

I woke up.

I realized–finally!–that this writer had no intention of signing a contract with me. One tip-off was when he asked why there was now no “out” in the new contract so he could go to a bigger publisher if one made an offer.

It broke over me that this writer was out to get free editing for his manuscript so he could shop it around to other publishers.

I conferred with several experienced business people close to me. One woman with her own PR company told me that it happens all the time. Clients come to her, get her ideas, and then don’t sign a contract and pay her. They go off and use her ideas either by themselves or with another PR firm.

Essentially, they rip her off, the same way that this writer planned to rip off Parvati Press.

Another businessman said to me, dryly, “Welcome to the business world.”

Another friend said, “These are the early business mistakes.”

My publishing attorney said, “Never work on a project without a signed contract.”

I emailed back to him, “I’m learning.”

This is just writer relations, a tiny slice of the whole juicy pie. There is so much else to independent publishing, especially the way I do it: with integrity. The book has to be high quality in terms of content, and it has to look good, too. It has to be copyedited, proofread, professionally laid out with an appealing, professionally designed book cover, and given an ISBN and accurate categories…And all that is BEFORE the hard work of marketing a book so it stands out from the crowd: so that readers will know about the book and buy it.

Marketing is a big challenge. It deserves its own post, so I’ll pause here. Meantime, here’s Professor Maxwell’s post about finding BROKEN in his textbook, called, cleverly, “My Content Machine is Broken.”

Maxwell is a good writer himself. His post is worth reading, though his characterization of my novel BROKEN is condescending and pejorative. I emailed him to let him know this:

I would like to put out there (please indulge me) that BROKEN is more than a paranormal romance. It is based on a serious philosophical question with which I wrestle every day: How could a good God allow such pain and suffering?
In this vein, FOREWORD REVIEWS, which is the Library Journal for independent publishing, is reviewing BROKEN for its forthcoming Sci Fi issue, and wrote, “This is a gorgeous philosophical treaty on right and wrong….”

To his credit, Maxwell agreed with me.  He has yet to correct his post to reflect the respect my novel deserves. And this is part of independent publishing, too: Making sure that independently published books are valued and respected.

independent publishing

Great Beast
art | authors | freedom | hard work | healing | hope | kindness | language | love | special | vulnerability | wholeness | writing

Great Beast

It’s that fanged, clawed thing, back to taunt me and play with me and befuddle me. Creativity, of course. The way in and the way out, both at once, and neither; a thing unto itself.

So here am I, staring into its liquid eyes that are one moment golden and another indigo. It leaves stripes of blood on my arms and torso but I don’t dare gaze away. We are in a contest, me and it, me and me.

Its tail flicks back and forth. It is stalking me. I pursue it. It changes shape in my arms, then it vanishes.

Moments like these I take to Rumi, who is a kind of solace for those who are word-drunk, like me. I think Rumi would sneer at me and I hate myself for it, for the insecurity and the terror, as much as for the inadequacy.

I know better than to take too much wine, though the temptation is there. That way lies a folie a deux, a sharing of madness.

There are more constructive ways to offer up.

I stand outside with my arms lifted toward the sun and pretend that I am a crocus. The hard earth has asked for the freeze to release it, and purple blossoms are the first hint of hope. I am still saturated.

I am evanescent. The moment will pass. The welts will reveal themselves as mirages. There are paw prints in the loam, and I am left with longing, the old longing, the one that never goes away.

creativity within Traci Slatton

Days of Inspiration
friends | gratitude | happiness | hard work | healing | hope | love | missing people | real friends | redemption | special | spiritual teachings | vulnerability | wholeness | writing

Days of Inspiration

Yesterday started out as a really hard day for me. When I woke up, the things that are wrong with my life weighed heavily on my heart, mesmerizing me to the point of destabilizing me.

I’ve endured these debilitating days periodically throughout my life. My usual strength seems like a sham, my resilience is a distant, invisible shore, and my many blessings have no more substance than twisting shadows. Even when I try to enumerate the specific graces of my life–because gratitude is one of my go-to tactics for self repair–they vanish before I can grip and savor them.

Then I saw some excellent tweets. Yes, of all things, the mercurial Deva of Twitter stepped in to succor me.  A blogger had mentioned my name in her “Top ten authors of 2014” list.  A Spanish man had glowingly tweeted his enjoyment of my novel “En Inmortal.”

I called my friend Jan and she patiently and lovingly talked me through my conundrums. She herself has experienced similar challenges, so she had insight to offer. She’s one of those brilliant souls with deep wisdom gleaned from living with presence and authenticity. She also has, oh, a million talents. I pay attention when she talks. Jan understands about pain and love and life and longing.

Gently, at one point in our conversation, Jan said, “You see things so clearly, Traci. That’s your sin.” Then she explained her meaning, and I gained new clarity.

My lovely friend Lori emailed me “So much love” and invited me to email back. I poured my heart out to her, and she emailed back with such fierceness on my behalf. Her empathy is amazing. It moved me and humbled me. And I got another dose of it today on Skype, and today we could laugh together, too. Just seeing her bright face lightened everything.

Beautiful Michelle Skyped in today, uplifting my day with her piquant presence and all the glamorous goings on of her life. She’s a canny, perceptive soul and she listened closely when I explained what bothered me. She had practical advice that was specially tailored for Traci, and no, it wasn’t drinking red wine, though we giggled most rambunctiously about that.

Aren’t giggles just the best medicine?

So from an inauspicious morning flowed two days of kindness from people I love who love me. That’s been the biggest learning of these middle years: to fill my life with people who love me and support me, people I can trust. I wish I’d known long ago to do so. Maybe I felt I didn’t deserve them.

There was affirmation, too, in the form of the “Best of authors” Blog list and the Spanish gentleman’s tweet–and that always helps.

For anyone who reads this post, I wish that you may experience the same kindness and love and affirmation, when your heart trembles.

For a pix to accompany this blog: FiberOptic Fairy II, our tree topper.  Because she’s whimsical and unintentionally funny, and earnest and sweet, and full of holiday spirit. And I’m grateful to her, the way I’m grateful to my friends, that she holds her place so gracefully.

Days of Inspiration

 

 

Extraordinary Life Lesson Speech: Admiral McRaven’s 2014 Commencement Address at UT Austin
5 star review | happiness | hard work | hope | life model | maturity | redemption | self-reliance | wholeness

Extraordinary Life Lesson Speech: Admiral McRaven’s 2014 Commencement Address at UT Austin

My father was career Navy, an enlisted man, a chief. He was a difficult man and not a particularly good one, but I was, and am, proud of his record of service to this country.

So when someone suggested that I google the commencement speech by a Navy Seal about making your bed to be successful in life, I was intrigued. I googled and found this wonderful video. I’m glad I followed through.

Admiral McRaven’s words go directly to the core of life: sustaining hope, not giving up, respecting other people, enduring failure and coming back from it, taking risks, and paying attention to the little things.

I’ve been making my bed in the morning in a casual way for a long time, but after listening to this speech, I’ll be taking a more formal approach to square corners and linens drawn tight.

Great Review of Broken at Game Vortex
art | blogs | book reviews | Broken | hard work | review

Great Review of Broken at Game Vortex

Psibabe, aka Ashley Perkins, at Game Vortex posted a thoughtful and beautiful review of my forthcoming novel BROKEN.

She wrote, in part:

Broken by Traci L. Slatton is both a story of supreme selfishness and selflessness. It centers around Alia, a beautiful fallen angel who has chosen to live life as a human in Paris right before the Nazi occupation during WWII. She willingly chose to fall when Ariel, another angel dear to her, fell from Heaven and she now spends her days enjoying the once forbidden fruits of sexual activity with humans, despite Michael the Archangel, who sometimes comes to persuade her to return to Heaven. Sex with humans is forbidden because angels are completely irresistible, and to do so takes away a part of the human’s free will, along with a portion of their “light,” leaving them with a need and desire that they can never again fulfill. It’s cruel, but Alia doesn’t care about any of that. She is merely trying to forget her angelic days and the pain she suffered when Ariel fell.

What, or rather who, she does care about is the young girl who lives next door, Cecile, who often comes to visit Alia. Cecile’s mother, Suzanne, is a Jew although they are both French citizens, and Alia, who is often beset by visions of the future, fears for Suzanne and Cecile as the Nazis approach and Jews are more and more persecuted.

Broken has some incredibly graphic sex scenes and these may take some readers aback, but they are meant to shock, as well as explain Alia’s selfishness, desperation and hopelessness after becoming a human. It took me a few chapters before the book really had its hooks into me, but Broken is incredible and, much like Immortal, had me in tears as I finished it.

I knew from our email exchange before she posted the review that she enjoyed the book even as it troubled her. I’m grateful that Psibabe expressed herself so eloquently, and that she took the time to think about what she had read. Readers like Psibabe keep me writing. They encourage me to take risks.

This is what it’s all about.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.10.13 PM

 

BROKEN: Available in September
art | authors | book covers | book reviews | Broken | gratitude | hard work | I am | kindness | love | novels | redemption | sex | wholeness

BROKEN: Available in September

This novel is dark, gritty, and smutty. It’s also about the power of love and the fact that spirit informs everything.

An early reviewer, one of my favorite readers, got back to me yesterday, writing, “Beautiful and heart-wrenching. I cried like I did at the end of Immortal. I will write my review this week. Thanks for sharing Alia’s story with me early.” I’ll post the review when it goes live.

BROKEN

Thanks again to brilliant Italian painter ROBERTO FERRI for giving me permission to use his gorgeous painting LIBERACE DAL MALE for the cover. Thanks to talented designer Gwyn Snider for turning the image into a breath-taking cover.