In recent weeks, I have had two queries asking me how I decide which art to feature at Ink & Alchemy.
Mostly, I wing it.
I try to be fair. I have a method of keeping track of all the creative people I feature (including writers) and I do pay attention in a handwaving, don’t-really-care-all-that-much way. I started doing this several years ago because I was seeking inspiration for myself and even though it has morphed into something bigger, that is still one of the underlying goals. I don’t want to take the fun out of it by imposing strict guidelines upon myself because I’m just compulsive enough to feel pressured by it.
I feature what I like. I post things that catch my eye on a given day. It’s not a whole lot more complicated than that.
I like color. I try to stretch my boundaries because I don’t like to get stuck in small places. I like shiny, glittery bits and I live almost wholly in the moment. This means that sometimes I start out with a certain artist or medium in mind, but when I sit down at the computer, something fabulous pops up in my feed or email that I just can’t ignore. I’m kind of fickle like that when it comes to art. There are many places in my life in which I must, by necessity, operate according to rules and regulations but I stubbornly refuse to operate from a place of rigidity with regard to creative things. They are my refuge and I refuse to codify them too much.
And if I’m being completely honest, those who interact on the page regularly probably end up featured more often. It’s not a conscious decision, but I’m a busy person and when I see your name pop up, it may prompt me to click over to your page or website and see what wonderful thing you have created lately.
Some things that cause certain names to be passed over time and time again:
- no new art
- poor photography
- lack of color
And a huge pet peeve of mine: if you are using a personal FB profile instead of a page, I am unlikely to post your work. Why? Because unless they are friends with you on FB, my followers cannot see most of your content and it’s not the most effective way to do it. One of my goals at Ink & Alchemy is to help others learn how to connect online and I often lead by (good) example.
There are two under-utilized ways to get featured.
1.) Drop me a line with a good image attached and ask. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s worth a shot.
2.) Post your own work at More Ink. This page is intended for just that purpose. While I typically curate Ink & Alchemy (with the exception of link sharing days like today), More Ink is always available for you to showcase your work and practice your networking skills. I’d love to see what you’ve been up to!
I try to notice when someone needs a helping hand and put new artists out there. I appreciate reciprocity and repay favors when I can. I encourage you to do that same.
I’ve got some new ideas stewing over here. In addition to daily features, I’ve been running month-long promotions for artists and writers on my website. If you’re on either of my featured lists (here & here), it’s just a matter of time until the spotlight is on you. 🙂
I’m in the beginning phase of a new effort to assist those without a website to get up and running. Why?
Because it’s important.
If you’re trying to manage a platform and create an online presence, you need to have a website. It’s your home base. I hear from many people in all types of creative disciplines that they either don’t want to spend the time creating a website or they don’t have the skills to do so.
I also hear that they don’t have the funds to pay for a designer. Understandable, but that doesn’t negate the need to have one.
I’m trying an experiment and will take a few initial clients at a ridiculously low price. I’m doing this because I need to work out the kinks in the process and see how it goes. If you’re thinking guinea pig, you’re on the right track. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands. You can find the details on my website, but here’s what I’ll do in a nutshell: I’ll create a free website for you and give you a tutorial so that you can manage it yourself going forward. I’ll also provide some recommendations about how to get connected online and build a platform.
These sites won’t have all the latest bells and whistles, but they will have functionality and provide a static place for you to send your customers. My website is an example of what might result from an effort like this. Do me a favor and take a look and then drop me a line if you’d be willing to partner with me in this new endeavor. Of course, you will need to provide certain pieces of information (your bio, images with titles, etc.).
Personally, I think the service I’m offering is much more valuable than paying someone to design and manage your site for you. If you learn how to do it yourself, you’ll have much more flexibility and retain the ability to make changes without paying exorbitant fees to do it. Take my word for it – it’s easier than you think!
Finally, Mark Coker produces relevant and interesting industry content on the Smashword.com blog, which can be found here. His most recent posting about the Indie Author Manifesto is brilliant writing. It is loaded with talking points and culminates in 10 self-evident truths. For an example of what I have done, you can find me on Smashwords here:
C.S. Maynard is the author of Blood of the Wolf and she has agreed to share her self-publishing experiences with us today. Thank you so much, Charlotte!
C.S Maynard on Self-Publishing and Editors
I had worked on a couple of books and written a couple of novels before my husband sat me down and said, this next one we’re going to publish. We’re going to go all the way. We did our research, we looked at the numbers, we read about traditionally published authors who were actively choosing self-publishing over traditional and then we decided. We chose the self-publish option.
We won’t go into the stigmas of self-publishing or the quality of it versus traditional. We won’t go into how or why an author should choose that over the other options. That’s another post. I want to talk about editors.
If you go the traditional route and you get a contract, you will have an editor. Sometimes not one, but several, depending on how big the publisher. They understand how important it is to have someone else give it a look over.
My husband and I fought over this concept as we pushed to write this novel that we were insisting that we were going to go all the way to the end. He kept insisting that we didn’t need one, couldn’t afford one, he could help me, we had good beta readers. The list of his explanations and excuses went on and on and it was always something so important that we just couldn’t make it happen.
I finished the book, we started having our beta readers do their work. I have some really good beta readers, some writers themselves and they all found important things. I learned a lot in the process, I’m still learning, and everything I had experienced told me that we needed that final editor, someone with grammar and punctuation skills that could give it that final polish.
Still, my husband fought me, insisting that we could do it on our own. Nothing I could say mattered. Then, he went to the most critical of our beta readers to get her opinion just on the first chapter. She was polite, non-specific, too nice in her opinions and he realized there was more to what she wasn’t saying than what she was.
They talked for awhile and he discovered that she did have issues. All manuscripts have flaws. You can be the most experienced, talented writer and there will always be something that you miss. In fact, there were so many issues that this very experienced reader couldn’t get past that first chapter. She didn’t finish it.
We had a real problem if we were going to take this book to publishing. Finally, I had that second opinion, that firework in the sky to convince him that maybe there was something to what I had been trying to tell him all along. We needed an editor.
I had worked with a free service before and they had some really good options, opening up their editors to doing original fiction. However, these were volunteers and not professionally trained. You roll the dice and hope that you get assigned to someone who not only reads and enjoys your genre, but has the skills and training to accomplish what you want. When I used the service, I found just that. It is possible, but you might have to go through a few to find the one that works best with you.
This is an option if you don’t know anyone. It’s an amazing service and I recommend at least trying it if you choose to self-publish. Especially with your first few books, money is very tight and every little penny counts.
In my case, I have a neighbor who does technical editing for a local University and she was willing to help me out. We paid her a pittance, but it was important to us to give her something for the really amazing job that she did. The difference was outstanding. She didn’t change the story or the characters or mess with my theme in any way. A good editor won’t.
She took what I had, the rough cut, fogged gem and cut away the detritus. After her polishing, my gem wasn’t the dirty, ragged thing I had given her. I won’t say it had become a diamond. It might be more accurately likened to a bit of topaz that you can find out on the ground in the mountains near where my story is set. But it was a far sight more beautiful after her touch than before.
I recommend self-publishing if you can put in the time and effort into promoting it. You will have to deal with the fact that it’s definitely not as fast growing and most don’t sell 100 books in the first month.
If you do choose to self-publish, however, find yourself an editor. You don’t have to pay the $2500 for some that I saw being offered, there are other options. Let the master do the work they love, put the polish on your baby and know that you really did put yourself out there in new and exciting ways that you can really be proud of.
Free Kindle Books
Every High School has their social outcasts. The band nerds, the math geeks, the chess club, the girl that chews her hair, but at Butler High, even the creepy nose picker in the chess club is more popular than Caleo Anima. No matter what he did, his pale skin, snow white hair, and piercing blue eyes always made him an easy target. He used to think that the only way things could get worse would be if someone found out that he was gay, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of problems after a mysterious stranger shows up and changes Caleo’s life forever.
Hidden amongst our society, a secret and magical race of people known as ‘Leeches’, have been engaging in civil war for decades. Both sides are desperately searching for a weapon with unlimited power that will give them the advantage they need to rule their world. This wouldn’t mean anything to Caleo, except for one problem…He is that weapon!
Forget making it through High School. Caleo has bigger problems! As the search for him goes on, the world is quickly crumbling around him. He’s now fighting for his life and the life of what little family he has left. With the help of new friends, he has little time to try and master his newly found powers as he tries to figure out who he can trust, who is trying to use him, and who just wants him dead. One wrong step and being the awkward pale outcast will be the least of his worries.
What if you knew the exact date and time the world will end, what would you do?Sam Tucker was faced with that dilemma when he began getting visions of the Earth’s demise. Luckily for him, he was able to save his family and as many people as he could before the tragic event occurred, and he did so with the help of unknown visitors. With Earth now destroyed, Sam, his family, and thousands of other lucky survivors must live the rest of their lives on a faraway planet in a Dome that simulates life on Earth. But Sam’s mind can’t seem to rest as a few questions arise. Why did the aliens save them? How did they know about Earth’s sure fate? And exactly what are they hiding?
Emma Tucker begged for an escape from her boring life but never in a million years did she think it would come at the destruction of Earth. Living on a new planet and finding it difficult to get rid of her rebellious habits, Emma finds herself making friends with a member of the alien race and it soon develops into an unexplainable love; a love that is more dangerous than she could ever imagine. While her father is searching for his own truths, she has no idea that she is stumbling on a truth of her own.
Told from the point of view of both Sam and Emma, author Nova Sparks takes readers on a journey to discover love, fate, faith, truth, and the mystery of the DOME!
I’m excited to have a guest blogger today. L. Blankenship is the author of Disciple Half-Omnibus, which collects the first three parts of Disciple into one meaty book. If you haven’t read Part I yet, you can try it for free.
And don’t forget to scroll way down at the bottom of this post to enter for a chance to win a free copy of her forthcoming book! And now on to the guest blog…
I’ve been self-publishing for over a year now. A year and three months, to be more exact. I’m still waiting for the Fun Police to kick in my door and stop me.
Because while self-pubbing has been stressful and frightening and at times soul-crushing, it still feels like I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be able to. I’m part of a group of writers who say a manuscript should be submitted around “until hell won’t have it!” so at first I joked that by self-pubbing I was catapulting my story straight over hell’s walls and they had no option about having it… bypassing publishing’s infamous gatekeepers and all.
The joke wore off as it became obvious that my manuscript was probably sitting on a sidewalk inside hell’s walls, being stepped over and ignored.
Nobody came to stop me, though.
So I loaded up my second manuscript and fired that over the walls too. Then the third one. Each time, I went through the same ritual of betas, revision, and hiring a freelance editor. I plotted long-range character arcs and pondered the changes in narrative voice. I hired cover artists and squeed over what they sent me.
I was sure that would alert the Fun Police, but they still didn’t serve me a cease and desist order.
Self-publishing is not a bed of roses unless you mean a bed of rosebushes rather than one of flower petals. I came into this with 15 years’ experience as a graphic designer, prepress technician, proofreader, and a small-press publisher in the tabletop gaming industry — and I still have my share of thorn scratches.
Each of those is from the silence that follows a promotional post. An offer of free review copies that went unanswered. A Sunday that I went around to my sales sites to collect the “weekly eggs” as I call those strings of zeros.
This is why writers need thick skins. The bed of thorns.
I do catch the scent of roses, though. I still squee when my artist sends me sketches for my next book cover. When someone posts that they liked my sample, it’s a welcome ray of sunshine. Every time I go looking for zeros and find numbers instead, it plasters a smile on my face.
I’m going to keep doing this until the Fun Police kick in my door and haul me away.
Ophelia London has been kind enough to write a guest blog for today. She was born and raised among the redwood trees in beautiful northern California. Once she was fully educated, she decided to settle in Florida, but her car broke down in Texas and she’s lived in Dallas ever since. A cupcake and treadmill aficionado (obviously those things are connected), she spends her time watching arthouse movies and impossibly trashy TV, while living vicariously through the characters in the books she writes.
Ophelia is the author of DEFINITELY, MAYBE IN LOVE, ABBY ROAD, and the Perfect Kisses series including: PLAYING AT LOVE, SPEAKING OF LOVE, and FALLING FOR HER SOLDIER (Jan 2014).
Hi there! Ophelia, here. I’m so happy to hop on your blog and give a little behind the scenes peek into the creation of Falling for her Solder, the third (and final—sob!) novel in my Perfect Kisses series.
When I decided to write another smexy category romance, I knew I wanted music to play a huge part in the story, almost like it was its own character. Since I’d already written a book about a rock star chick (Abby Road) and a high school show choir teacher (Playing at Love – book one in Perfect Kisses), I knew I needed to come up with something just as musically fun.
Anyway, back to the music…
Thanks to my father, I’m a huge Frank Sinatra fan. But Sinatra’s not very relevant with today’s romance readers. That’s when I settled on the smooth, croony sounds of Michael Bublé to be the backdrop of the dancing scenes in Falling for her Soldier. However, since Charlie is having a hell of a time getting his macho marching feet to move properly, he often gets frustrated and annoyed with Bublé voice and kind of blames him every time he missteps. A muttered “Bublé” becomes Charlie’s favorite curse word.
As I was writing all those frustrating/romantic dance lesson scenes, the “method writer” in me also began to get irritated whenever a MichaelBublé song would come up on the playlist. “Grr, I hate that Bublé,” I would often mutter as I skipped ahead to the next track. Not that I have anything personal against Michael Bublé. In fact, I pretty much love him and his dreamy blue eyes. (Swoon!)
In the final, big dancing scene, Charlie and Ellie don’t dance to Bublé, but to another dreamy crooner, although I won’t give it away here… You’ll be happy to know, however, that Charlie does end up with a soft spot in his heart for Bublé, knowing that whenever a Bublé song plays, that means he gets to dance with Ellie…which is always worth it.
On a personal note, I was at a wedding reception and my not-yet-but-soon-to-be-boyfriend asked me to dance to John Denver’s “Annie’s Song.” It was probably the most romantic dance floor moment in my life. Do you have a favorite song you like to dance to? Tell me!
A guest blog written by Jonathan Kahn
Before we get started, I have a riddle for you. What is both hand-made and fabricated by a machine? Read on for the answer.
Did the holidays run roughshod over you… again? Do your Christmas memories consist of old specials on TV, bad traffic, and all-out panic? Year upon year, do you vow to start your Christmas shopping in August, only to find yourself staring at end-caps of pre-wrapped $9.99 gifts at 11:30 on Christmas Eve? Don’t be afraid to admit it; there will be no judgment here. In fact, this was me only a few years ago.
I have mixed feelings about the commercial nature of Christmas. I like the way malls, stores and even cities decorate for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t if not for the commercial appeal. But I very strongly dislike the way everyone is urged to buy gifts. The operative word in the last sentence is buy. I do like giving gifts, and I would love it if the gifts people gave each other showed thought and effort.
Ideally, gifts that are made do this quite nicely. We all know someone who is skilled at carpentry or pottery – making tangible things with their hands. If you’re not one of those people, you’re in the right place – I’m not one, either. But I am good at other things. A few years ago I recorded a couple of classical piano pieces, put them up on Facebook, and burned a few CDs. That was my gift to family and friends. It may sound cheesy, but it was something I made with my own hands.
This year, I published a collection of short stories. Yes, self-publishing is frowned upon in some elite circles. But like my classical piano recording, my little book is something that I made. It may not be a custom-built spice rack for the foodie in my life, but it’s not another $9.99 set of monogrammed handkerchiefs given in haste to someone who never wears a suit, either.
Technology gets blamed a lot for making humans more isolated, but it’s really just an enabler (for good and bad behaviors). Technology enabled my two projects, by making them economically feasible for a guy who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them. Recording software meant I didn’t have to buy expensive studio and mastering time. On-demand publishing and e-publishing meant I didn’t have to commit to printing a thousand copies of my book.
Do you make your own gifts? What do you make? If you don’t, what kinds of gifts would you like to make for your loved ones in 2014? Let us know in the comments.
Start now. You’ve got plenty of time until Christmas. 🙂
As we prepare to start a new year, I thought a crash course in my inky efforts might be useful. As I’m sure you know, one of the primary goals of Ink & Alchemy and More Ink is provide a place for writers and artists to network and show off their stuff. Another of my goals is to teach by example. I work diligently on my platform and hope that by doing so, each of you will pick up some useful ideas for strengthening your own platform.
As I reflect on 2013 and consider how to improve I&A and MI in 2014, one fact keeps swimming to the surface. We haven’t used this platform as effectively and consistently as we could have. Much of this is my fault and I have an incredible number of ideas floating around in my brain aimed at improving in the future.
There are many ways that you can take advantage of the free marketing I’m offering, but many people don’t. This surprises me. People are downright desperate to get their work out there, and I don’t blame them a bit. So am I. The market is tough and it’s hard to make yourself heard above the roar of the crowd.
This blog post is a friendly reminder of myriad of ways that you can take advantage of the promotional opportunities that I offer in the upcoming year. Let’s work together so that we’re more successful than ever before.
- My website has lots of free resources, including lists of recommended sites and a reading list, links to help you promote your ebook during your free KDP days, and a PDF describing the basics of building your social media platform.
- I offer Featured Artist and Featured Writer programs. Submit your work. There is no cost to you and the bottom line is increased exposure for your work. Use these enthusiastically. When I feature you, you should re-post that link far and wide and comment when you can. Leverage every single bit of exposure for all it’s worth.
- A tip about features: I do my best to give everyone a fair shake, but the bottom line is that if you regularly frequent the page, interact with others, or share my links, you’ll likely get featured more often. Reciprocity. It’s just the way it works.
- If you have an upcoming event (book release or signing, exhibition opening, etc.), send me the info. I’ll do my best to post it throughout my platform. You can increase your odds of being promoted by sending me a well-formatted blurb complete with links and an image. Copy, paste! How much easier can it get?
- Along the same lines at the previous bullet – I offer guest blogging or features on a regular basis but people seldom participate. This is a win-win. Fresh content for me that I didn’t work very hard to get and content for you that you can smear all over cyberspace. You can wax poetic about how incredible you are and blame it on me if you like! Just send me a piece that is publication-worthy (with links and images). Please, please, I beg you – do not send me poorly spelled and punctuated ramblings. Because I’m basically a nice person, I spent way too much time correcting and editing this kind of thing in 2013. New year, new rules. In 2014, I will do light editing, but I don’t have the time to re-write submissions.
- Sometimes people apply to be featured and then shoot themselves in the foot. You really need to have a website or at least a FB or blog page that is regularly updated. I can’t promote what doesn’t exist. If you’re still starting out and building your platform, consider submitting a guest blog. See previous bullet.
- I’ll admit that I like to control the content at Ink & Alchemy. It’s kind of my baby and I’m a little protective of it. Every once in a while, I open it up for link sharing (like today RIGHT NOW), but for the most part, I curate this page. More Ink is another story. You may feel free to post useful links, events, and anything else you think will energize us to greater creativity! Think of More Ink as ourpage, yours and mine. If you’re a part of Ink & Alchemy, you should probably also frequent More Ink. It’s a less formal, more open forum and I’d love to have you!
- My platform reaches far and wide and isn’t just limited to the FB pages. Try to branch out in the upcoming year and use a new medium. How about Vimeo, Behance, or Tumblr?
If I were going to summarize what I think successful promotion looks like, I’d say this:
What do I mean by cross-linking? Imagine that networking is…well, a gigantic net. Every single interaction that you have in cyberspace is tiny potential thread in the larger mesh. You can’t build a strong, reliable network by rushing or using a shortcut. It’s not quick because you have to earn the trust of your followers. Every little thread should be carefully placed and secured. How can you do this? The best approach is to consistently post quality content. Regularly interact with others. Be patient. Be genuine. Your network will build itself slowly. I’ve talked about this in many other places (like here, here, and here), so I’ll spare you the details.
This art knocks your eyeballs around a bit, doesn’t it? I adore the work of Jaeyeol Han. He’s a Korean artist who works primarily in oil bar on canvas and is part of the I&A Featured Artist Program.Pay him a visit at his website by clicking here or on any of the images in this post.
Need a creative kick in the ass?
P.S. Wanna hear something fabulous? Sheila Cameron has made my day. She is one of my favorite artists (not to mention just a terrific and kind-hearted person) and has created a very special discount today in celebration of Ink & Alchemy. I am beyond honored.Go to her Etsy store and enter coupon code: INKANDALCHEMY for 20% off. But you’d better hurry, because I’m heading over now and I can’t guarantee that I’ll leave anything for you.