What happens after the manuscript is done?

There comes a point in time when you realize that the manuscript is ready to go out there. Or at least you want to believe that. My fantasy manuscript is ready and I’ve already started seeing publishing options (I’ll check first the traditional options and if not, self-publishing). The process is long, so what happens in the meantime?

I could have waited and concentrated my energy for the fantasy manuscript to reach its end-result: the published book. But for some reason, I decided that while I wait for replies on query letters, I could start working on a new project. Therefore, I’ve started a new manuscript on a new different story, based on an idea has been nagging me for some time and I didn’t want to wait anymore.

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I realized that as I get more into this writing process, the better I feel. I spent a lot of time on my first original thriller manuscript (which was left incomplete several years ago – it is still lying there, dormant), but the story had too many plot holes, and the characters were too simple. Perhaps, I’ll come back to it some day, with a refreshed and more interesting approach- or a complete revamp. In the meantime, if you count that original manuscript, the recently finished fantasy one, then this would be the third time starting the whole process of writing a new story. And I feel it gets better with time. I’ve also realized I’m definitely not a plotter, not a pantser, but a mix of the two.

When I started my fantasy manuscript, I found an interesting technique that I’m considering this time too. I started writing as a pantser, wanting to know where the characters and story led me to. But then I realized that if you keep as a pantser, you face the risk of entering an endless journey with no direction. So I stopped, and came back to analyze the story and characters. This process worked very well during the fantasy manuscript. Characters were one of my best improvements and I feel very proud of how they developed in my fantasy manuscript. Still, the story plot became too complex at some point, and there were some editing rounds where I had to “patch” some massive story plot holes.

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In the new manuscript, let’s call it the “dystopian” one, which is more or less the genre of this one, I feel more confident about “sketching” characters, letting them being, and experimenting changes. I think I got a better hold on that process. Now, I want to improve the process for developing my storyline. I’m planning on introducing a bit more “plotting” on this manuscript to not lose as much track of it as it happened on the fantasy one. However, I’m definitely not planning on becoming a rigid plotter, killing my creativity and adaptability to change.

I’ve already written the first 45 pages of the dystopian manuscript .They were mostly done in a pantser “state”. Then I stopped. Now I’m going through these 45 pages to give it more structure. I want to still be able to fly with the story, let my writing spirit be free, but with a bit more of structure. It is working rather well until now.

In addition, I’m starting to do deeper editing from the start. I want this first manuscript draft to be in a more decent readable state than my previous manuscripts where the first draft was barely readable. I hope this approach works better so that future editing rounds are not as hard and time consuming than previous ones. Also, I’ll start searching for beta readers in an earlier stage. Feedback is important. It is tough on writers, but we need it. Let’s see how my new writing approach works now.

And you, do you feel your writing process improves with each project?

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The Last Families – The Cover Reveal

I finally have a cover for my first fantasy novel “The Last Families” and I’m extremely happy to reveal it:

Printed Version

Ebook version

The cliffs in the cover are inspired by the first opening paragraph of the “The Last Families”:

Blood climbed at least half a mile towards the sky. That was Yarisha’s first impression when she saw the crimson hue that covered the tallest cliffs she’d ever seen. The immense island above them resembled a piece of land floating on the water’s surface. Judging by the marks on the red cliffs, the water could have been higher once. Whatever mineral drenched the rocks, it painted them a deep red. This wasn’t the dreamiest place one would expect, but the families didn’t have anywhere else to go. Their own land had been destroyed.

The book launches soon in November. Subscribe to this blog to get more updates:

Fan Fiction when you are an Author

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a long time, you probably know that I started as a fan fiction writer. I don’t have any shame about it. I think that there is no better compliment as an author to have “fans” of your story. These fans have the story so glued in their brains and understand the characters so well, that they want to write a fan fiction about it. They might be looking forward to doing alternative endings, or simply writing scenes that were not mentioned in the book that somehow they can imagine happening. If you write a fan fiction story, it is usually because you liked the story, the characters made an imprint on you, and you feel they deserve your time to write about them.

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I know that many authors are against fan fiction. To many it looks as if others are stealing their characters and breaching copyright. I thought a lot about this. But being a good follower of many fan fiction platforms, I’m aware that in most of the cases, there is always a disclaimer at the beginning of the story, about who the characters belong to and also author’s recognition.

Therefore, I would love to have a “The Last Families” (my fantasy novel to be released soon) reader who wanted to write a fan fiction story about it. Building a fan base is quite hard and what better way to encourage fans than allowing them to be creative?

In addition, for those that are not much into writing, there are also fan-made illustrations. I believe it is an honor to have fans spend time into crafting and drawing illustrations about your characters and/or scenes. I’ve seen many of these illustrations on Pinterest and Tumblr only because I’ve also followed boards of books/stories/movies that I enjoyed and I was excited to see illustrations coming alive.

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I’m about to finish by book’s website. But I’ve come across one idea that I haven’t seen much out there. Maybe there is an author who’s done it but I’m not aware of him or her. I want my readers to feel enticed to write fan fiction stories and to draw/illustrate their favorite characters scenes. I’v been thinking of including a section in the book’s website where they can submit those. The submission form will mostly make sure that there is a disclaimer about the use of my characters and story. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t if it will mess the copyright things. I only want the readers of “The Last Families” to be able to have a space, with the author’s consent, to submit their stories. where they can have their own side plots, alternative endings and unwritten scenes. I also want the readers to find an interactive section on this website where they can read and see fan fiction and illustrations submitted by other readers. I’m not sure if this idea will work or even if I will have people who like the story so much in order to devote time to it. But the idea has been nagging me for a long time. After all, there is no way to avoid from fan fiction happening on other platforms. I’ve been a fan fiction writer myself and it would have been great to submit my stories to the author as a tribute of how much I enjoyed their story. I only know that the I have to dare and try. I don’t have much to lose. It is self-published and I’m the only person who owns the rights. What do you think?

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Visuals for my website

When I decided to self-publish my novel “The Last Families”, I knew there would be many things that I would have to handle myself. One of them was the book’s website. But what is a book’s website supposed to include? I was imagining the Cover, maybe the book’s synapsis and that was it. It would be a pretty simple website and I wasn’t sure how appealing it would be.

One of the things that I loved about fantasy stories is that you can find lots of fans’ illustrations online. I was thrilled by the idea and decided that I was going to work with a friend who happens to be an illustrator to get some visuals for not only the book’s website but also for future social media makerting. Otherwise, if I only had the cover as my single visual, that would not enough material to use when promoting the book.

Therefore, based on the very particular specifics of my characters (purple, red, green hair, etc.) Let me introduce you to my characters’ illustrations that I will add to my novel’s website, including some brief excerpts from the novel that describe them.

Ian: His short black hair with hard edges around his face made his expression tough. The man stepped down of his horse in one single jump. Small eyes framed a pointy nose, surrounded by very thin eyebrows. A huge, jagged scar drew a line down his throat. Ian wore fur boots and a coat, his attire’s color matching his skin tone.

Malakay: He was the tallest in the family, with shoulder-length hair, partially pulled back into a bun. He had little resemblance to his father; he had clearly inherited most of his mother’s traits. Malakay’s eyes were darker than usual. In some light, they even seemed black. Having acquired a certain tanned color, his skin wasn’t as white as the rest of his family.

Yarisha: The Verbaren family leader and the only mind-reader of her kind. According to Malakay, her blue eyes were appealing, and her red hair wasn’t as limp as the other Verbaren girls. She had soft curls that tangled with the wind, bringing some harmony to her face.

Mandely was probably in her late forties. She was mother to seven Ninfire children, and all had survived this trip. Mandely’s curly lilac hair differentiated her from her children. Her eyes were as big as two full moons. The purple in her eyes shone, making them look even bigger. Her apple-shaped face emphasized her cheeks.

Marquesh: The Drontas partriarch stepped in front of her field of vision. His silver-white hair contrasted with his black skin. A vest of white fur covered his big, muscled body. The Drontas’ talent was their physical strength.

Palista: The oldest woman and matriarch had the greenest eyes of the family, and it wasn’t a coincidence. The Kaptarish chose their leader based on the eyes’ brightness. It was said that the green color gave them the power to heat things up. Palista was the oldest person in the family and the oldest of all survivors reaching Gambir. Even though she was a grandmother of ten, she was still strong enough to lead her family.

Choosing a Print on Demand service (Second Part)

In the first part of my post, I started recounting about the Print-On-Demand services that I researched to self-publish my first fantasy novel “The Last Families”. I found many roadblocks on KDP, IngramSpark, and BookBaby. It was time to consider others.

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Draft2Digital was my next option. I’ve already been getting newsletters from them and they had good reviews online. I thought this service was meant to be the one. Like BookBaby, Draft2Digital uses PayPal and Payoneer to send payments to authors. PayPal is still an issue for me, since this payment gateway doesn’t completely work in Bolivia (you can’t connect it to a bank account), but you can still receive payments in your PayPal account and use them as available credits for other future online payments. Payoneer, on the other hand, is a better solution for me. I can actually cash out that money with it. Given this payment advantage, I was already excited with Draft2Digital and I thought I had found the one. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice that it was only for ebooks. Print-on- Demand was still on beta and not quite available yet to all their customers. Well, time to go to the next one.

LuLu or Blurb. Those two were the final ones on my list.

Weird enough, there weren’t many reviews on Blurb. I had found some comments online that they didn’t get any cut on profits, but other sources said they did. Of course, I planned writing their support to clarify about the profit issue, but in the meantime I had been exploring their platform a bit more. They asked you to download a software on your computer to work with your manuscript and convert it to a printable file. That was the first barrier. I never got their software to work on my computer, and yes, I’m computer savvy. I wrote to their support service and followed the steps they provided but nop, the software didn’t work. I was still giving them a chance and trying to make the software work when I decided to look at their website shop. All these Print-on-Demand services offer you to sell your book on their web shops, besides the big distribution partners (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) But Blurb is mainly focused on books with visuals/photos- I’ve heard their software does wonders for books with photos for example. Unfortunately, their website shop is not the place where I want my Fantasy novel to be listed. They do list fiction, but it is not their focus and I don’t see any advantage of being listed with them. I doubt any bookshop or small library will look into Blurb’s website for fiction. It is sad, but true at this point. A couple of days later, I found the final barrier when I dug more into their shipping policies, they ship to North America and the EU, but not Bolivia. Sorry, bye Blurb.

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That made me pass to Lulu. And although they pay with PayPal, not Payoneer, it was the option that didn’t present any other harsh barriers. They get 20% of profits. I had to say okay. They ship worldwide. Their website bookshop is not that bad. Their platform is quite easy to follow. They distribute to Amazon and the others. And although, I might only see earnings in the form of PayPal Credits, I guess that is acceptable for the moment. They get you a free ISBN, so that is always good. Therefore, Lulu is the chosen one for the moment. (You don’t have to stick with one of these services, you can always cancel a service with them and work with another in the future).

I’m also happy to say that I have a second alternative for issues with shipping to Bolivia, using Aeropost. I know since the book is in English, the main book’s market is abroad and not my country, but I still want to have the option to get them to Bolivia. I still want to order around a half-dozen books for friends and family over here. Amazon has been sending things to Bolivia with DHL. And it is the biggest mistake ever. I even called Amazon support about this. I’m not going to go in detail in this post, but aside from what you are charged for Shipping & Handling when you buy at Amazon’s website, you pay a lot of money here to DHL (more than what you paid for the order) for their “additional handling”. DHL Bolivia has these “minimum amounts” they charge for handling your package, even if the product was worth only U$5. Short story, Aeropost is a service for countries like Bolivia and others in Latin America. They give you an address in the US and you ship your orders there. Then they consolidate the packages and charge you for shipping and handling to Bolivia. It is not cheap but their fee is lower compared to the one from DHL. To give you a specific example, DHL charges a minimum of U$45 for handling, aside from custom taxes, for any item that is worth at least $1, in addition to the U$35 you paid for “shipping and handling” in Amazon’s website. It really doesn’t make any sense to me. It is too expensive. You are paying over U$95 (with taxes) to buy a U$10 book. Aeropost charges you shipping (U$17), customs taxes, and $5 for handling. In total, it is less than a third part of DHL’s fees in Bolivia. Unfortunately, those are some issues of living in a third-world country.

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I know this post had a little bit of everything. And most of you might not have these issues at all. But it is still good to know what happens with other authors out there. My biggest hope is that this post reaches international authors who might be living in countries where these things are common and that my experience helps you a bit. At least to encourage to keep going on.

My book cover should be ready soon. That is another story for another post. Once it is done, I’ll order my first Lulu copy for approval. So excited about this 🙂

Choosing a Print on Demand service

In this path to self-publishing my first fantasy novel “The Last Families”, I’ve encountered many blocks. There are many services out there to Print-on-Demand, but they are mostly suitable for authors in the US and Canada. I live in Bolivia and that makes things a bit complicated. I don’t think I’m the only author facing these issues so probably this post is going to be helpful to authors in other countries that are not part of North America or the EU (which also has some advantages).

I started with Amazon’s KDP. Of course being on Amazon is important and I’m planning two formats: a printed paperback and ebook. As soon as I started considering self-publishing, KDP entered my radar. I read all Amazon’s terms and agreements and fount out soon that I would be surrendering to them around 70% profits. Half of that is related to taxes since my country doesn’t have any agreement with the US regarding those. I’m still reviewing all this information to see what options and alternatives I have. Although I didn’t choose KDP for other reasons, soon explained, I still want to sell on Amazon. Therefore, I guess I still have to have this tax thing figured it out.

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The main reason why I didn’t chose KDP is because they pay by check. And yes, this is the only alternative they offer for international authors. I have many issues with that. First, if a check is sent by regular mail to Bolivia, then there are at least 80% chances that it won’t get here. The Mail in Bolivia is a disaster, and at this point, I’m not even sure if it is working with the pandemic. Before Covid, it sort of worked, but it took around four or more months for your correspondence to get to you. Small envelops, postcards, don’t always arrive, they simply get lost. At this moment, I believe the Mail company is heading towards bankruptcy, and as far as I know, mail hasn’t gotten here since 2019. But even if the Mail company started to work and the check managed to get here, there is another issue. I called my bank and asked how much is the fee to cash an international check. They provided the following example: If your check is U$100, the bank has a minimum of U$35 fee for international checks and 15% on the total, so U$50 will be deducted for a U$100 check (which is also the minimum that Amazon pays). That is half of the earnings. No way, I’m going this route.

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Then I had a quick passage through IngramSpark and quickly found a roadblock when I filled my account and billing details and got a message that more or less said, “Your country doesn’t support digital signatures so we are not able to provide our services at this point.” It was time to move to the next one.

The next in my list was BookBaby. I always thought it looked quite decent. They distribute to Amazon and other major channels and besides, their online shop, BookShop, is really a good place to have your title listed, even small libraries and bookshops check their site to order some books. From a previous research, I already knew that I needed to buy an upfront plan to publish with them. It seemed to be around U$349 in a quick search. Their main advantage was that they wouldn’t take any profits on books sold on their site or to distributors. After considering this, I decided that it was worth making the investment. However, it was never meant to be only U$349. I navigated all ways on their platform and even called their support service to make sure I was doing things right. I turns out that I needed an initial order of 25 books. There was no way to get a lower quantity, and with shipping to Bolivia, and adding other things like ISBN (which they charge $39), I was soon close to U$1000 before checkout. Nop, discarded.

And since this story is a bit long, and to avoid getting you bored, I’m going to continue in a next post where I still consider a couple of options more before I get to the final one. See you in a next post in a few days.

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