Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets with Barb Caffrey, Author of 'Changing Faces'

Name: Barb Caffrey     
Genre: LGBT Contemporary Fantasy-Romance        
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Barb: One morning, many years ago, I woke up with a problem I had to solve. At the time, I wrote nonfiction—opinion, sports, arts and entertainment, current events, and book reviews. But I had this story, see…two lovers who did not want to be separated, but were in a terrible fix. The woman wanted to become a man, and the man didn't know what to do about it…then two aliens (who also might be angels, depending on your point of view) stopped by and tried to "fix" the problem by putting each other in the other one's body.
Oh, and did I mention that a car accident and a coma are also involved, too?
I saw nothing out there that was anything remotely like this, so I decided I had to write the story myself. And in many fits and starts, I did just that.
Anyway, that's where I got the idea for CHANGING FACES. It came to me long before transgender issues became a trending topic, but because civilized society now seems to understand transgender issues better, the time for this story to be told has finally come.
Is this your first book?
Barb: CHANGING FACES is my third published book, but it's the first one I started to write. (I refused to give up on it, and it's gone through quite a number of revisions. But I had the title early and never wavered about that.) And it is the first book I've ever written that's specifically meant as a romance—much less a transgender romance (with fantasy elements).
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Barb: My publisher is Twilight Times Books, a respected (and respectable) small press. I chose this method because I believe in the publisher, Lida Quillen, and know that she puts out high-quality books.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Barb: My publishing journey was long and protracted, but some of it had nothing to do with publishing, per se.
You see, as I was querying agents and publishers for my first novel, ELFY (later split into two books: AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), my husband, Michael B. Caffrey, passed away. He and I wrote together, worked together, and understood each other extremely well, and had a great marriage.
Losing him, especially when I was still in my thirties and he was only in his mid-forties, was devastating.
I say this because I believe in being honest. I don't want to discount how much my husband Michael did for me, and with me. He believed in CHANGING FACES as much as he believed in the Elfyverse, and he wanted me to complete CF because he felt it was an important story. (He even told me that it reminded him of some of C.S. Lewis's later work, which I thought was high praise and certainly didn't expect…and he said this long before we were even dating, much less married.) Without that belief, and without all the help Michael gave me before and during my marriage, I would be a much poorer writer and a much poorer human being, too.
It took me a great deal of time—several years, minimum—to be able to go on after Michael's untimely death. I refused to let my writing die during this time, but I wasn't able to do much with it, either…I was just too dazed with grief to be able to do much.
That said, I did keep going, kept writing, made friends with more authors and editors, worked on my crafts of editing and writing, and went through several revisions with CF to make it the strongest and best story it could possibly be.
At any rate, over time, I learned a great deal about publishing. I knew that a story like CHANGING FACES needed someone to take a chance on it, which meant a large publisher was likely not in the cards. (Larger publishers usually chase trends, these days, rather than set them. If my transgender romance sells a ton, they probably will come calling at my door…but until then, they won't be interested. I'm not a household name, and that's that.) I needed someone who understood the quality of my work, and that it had a timeless, romantic story to tell despite what some might see as "trappings" or even borrowed garments if they didn't realize this story was in process long before transgender issues became so widely discussed. (Much less the story of poor Leelah Alcorn, who dealt with much frustration in her own family due to being a transgender youth before ultimately committing suicide. I dedicated CF to her memory, BTW.)
Then, while working with a number of fellow writers to learn more about self-publishing, I met author Stephanie Osborn. She and I clicked immediately, and she pointed out her own publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books. Without Stephanie, I don't know if I would've found Lida as quickly—though as I said before, "quickness," in this sense, is definitely a relative term.
Anyway, Lida Quillen took a flyer on ELFY, she I got to know each other because I did some freelance editing for Twilight Times Books at her behest (I'm now on the TTB editorial board), and down the line, she read CHANGING FACES and thought it had potential.
Because of that, I worked with a great editor, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel (a wonderful writer in her own right; do look her up and buy all her books), and helped to get CF into the best shape possible.
And along the way, Lida found me an exceptional cover artist, Tamian Wood, who translated what I saw in CF perfectly…I could not ask for a better fit than Tamian, and I am greatly appreciative of all Lida Quillen has done for me and CF along the way.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Barb: I think the most important things I've learned over time are very simple: Keep going. Do not break faith with yourself. Your story may not seem to be relevant—goodness knows, for the longest time many people did not understand CHANGING FACES whatsoever (granted, Lida Quillen might have, but I didn't make contact with her until mid-2012), and they certainly didn't understand the Elfyverse, either.
The publishing industry, as a whole, is very slow to move. They want to see hard numbers, results, and they want to see what you, the author, can do for them.
A smaller press is much more likely to deal with someone who isn't well-known but does quality work, and that's why I'm pleased that I found Lida Quillen and Twilight Times Books.
While I have self-published some work—particularly the works of my late husband, Michael, or work he started but I've finished—I prefer the work I've done with TTB. The editors, the fellow writers, and Ms. Quillen are top-notch people who understand what they're doing and are committed to telling the best stories possible. I enjoy my interactions with them and believe that I've improved as a writer at least in part because of them.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Barb: Absolutely. Do your research, go to Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors and look to see which publishers are reputable, and try the ones that seem to be good fits. (Don't just query willy-nilly; that will not help you.) And give a good, long, hard look at TTB, while you're at it; the contracts are reasonable and the publisher is honest.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Barb: Keep writing. Work hard. Network with other writers. Find out about writing groups that might be able to help you, such as, the Forward Motion Writers Community (, or join other groups focused on marketing like Marketing for Romance Writers (you do not have to be a romance writer to join, mind) or Exquisite Quills, and learn all you can about the business as a whole.
I'd also advise you to read as many different blogs as you can about the business and craft of writing. The blogs I recommend the most include (this is the blog of Kristin Kathryn Rusch, a long-time SF&F writer and editor), the Passive Voice, the Mad Genius Club, Amanda Green's writing blog, and a whole host of others of various political persuasions. Try not to get too hung up about whether this one's a Libertarian or this one over here is a liberal Democrat; instead, figure out if this person understands the craft of writing (or the craft of self-editing) and keep following along. Maybe you'll find one thing of interest in a year—but that one thing can change your perspective and help you.
And best of all, these websites are all free! (How great is that?)
In addition, other authors need to know about several great people who do a lot of low-cost or no-cost promotion. Chris the Story-Reading Ape is a wonderful gentleman who loves SF&F and writing in general, and he's done so much good for the writing community. Ditto for Nicholas Rossis, Charles Yallowitz, Sally Cronin, and Mrs. N.N. Light (her blog used to be called Princess of the Light, and is now called POTL; her blog charges a nominal fee for many promotions, but it is well worth doing as your page views will go up considerably). All of these people will help you get the word out about your writing, and much of it is done for free because they know how it is themselves, as all of them are writers, editors, or book promoters, too.

So, in conclusion, don't give up, research the business of publishing as well as the business of writing, and keep working on your craft. That's how good things happen. (Or as my early writing mentor Rosemary Edghill once put it, "It takes many years to become an overnight success." You could learn a lot from that, if you try.)
About the book:

Genre: transgender fantasy-romance (contemporary)
Author: Barb Caffrey        
Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, and love each other very much. Their life should be idyllic, but Elaine's past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should've loved her—but didn't, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.

When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn't know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn't think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.

He prays for divine intervention, and says he'll do anything, just please don't separate him from Elaine…and gets it.

Now, he's in Elaine's body. And she's in his. They'll get a second chance at love.

Why? Because once you find your soulmate, the universe will do almost anything to keep you together—even change your faces.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets of Howard Jay Smith

Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony - "The Best Small City Symphony in America" -  and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.




About the Book:

At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his
past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past. 
As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

Purchase Information:


Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Howard Jay:  As a working professional writer, screenwriter, teacher and TV executive for almost four decades, I am always on the lookout for great stories of historical figures where my potential protagonist wrestles with the same types of profound emotional or psychological issues that each and every one of us can relate to in our own lives. I have also been a life-long lover of classical music and in fact sit on the Board of the Santa Barbara Symphony – the best small city orchestra in America.

My very first short story about piloting a Cessna – about half a page long – was written when I was in elementary school.  And I got my first rave reviews!
I wrote all though High School and college, everything from the school paper to newspapers.  My Master’s thesis was a draft of a novel about the social upheavals of the late 60’s and an accompanying teaching guide.

In my mid 20’s I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a Scholar into Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf Conference where I met the late novelist, John Gardner.  John became my mentor and over the next few years I returned to Bread Loaf as a scholar a total of three times. There I worked with other greats of that era, John Irving, Toni Morrison and Tim O’Brien. I also studied with John back in DC and Virginia. Gardner was hands down the best teacher I have ever had for any subject ever.  It was through my work with him that I found my essential voice and truly began my career as a writer.  I soon published a dozen or so short stories in literary magazines before heading to what I imagined were the greener pastures of Hollywood and screenplay writing.

Seven years ago, when I first came across the story of Beethoven’s death -- how at his last moment a bolt of lightning strikes the side of his building, rousing him from a coma; his eyes open, he sits up right, he shakes his fist at the heavens and then collapses back to the bed and is abruptly gone -- I found the contrast to my own near death experience stunning. 

When I was not yet twenty-one and going to school overseas in Singapore, I had
a severe motorcycle accident. As my body somersaulted through the intersection, time stopped and a great and profound sense of peace and tranquility suffused my consciousness.  Fear, especially that fear of death we all share, disappeared.  My biggest surprise was landing very much alive – and in pain – on the other side of the crossroads and not the “other side” of life.

Beethoven’s death throes were so different from my calm transition.  That led me to wonder what it would have taken for this great man to come to peace with all the turmoil and failings of his life – and there were many.  In that nugget of a thought, Beethoven in Love; Opus 139, was born. Although those injuries still ache decades later – especially when it rains – researching and then writing this novel was an absolute joy. 

Is this your first book?
Howard Jay:  No, it is my third. I have also published or written for hire innumerable business articles, short stories, radio pieces, commercials and screenplays.

With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Howard Jay:  My friend and fellow writer, Russell Martin, author of the non-fiction bestseller, Beethoven’s Hair, also runs a small independent press, SYQ.  I ultimately decided to go with SYQ and found the process much more to my liking.  I was involved and had control over every aspect of the process, including the layout, design and cover.  I should add that the cover art was done by my son, Zak Smith, a well-known artist in his own right with five published books and paintings hanging in eight museums around the world.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Howard Jay:  My first book John Gardner: An Interview was published way back in 1979 by the now defunct New London Press. The best surprise was walking into a bookstore in Middlebury, Vermont, that summer and seeing it on the shelves and for sale.  Wow!

The publisher of my second, Opening the Doors to Hollywood, was Random House. It was a non-fiction work based on film and writing classes I taught at UCLA.  We had great distribution through bookstores nationally and it was again, a great kick to walk into a bookstore and to not only find it on the shelves but to also be asked for autographs.  That book sold in excess of fifteen-thousand copies but the profits were all gobbled up by Random House in shipping and distribution costs.  We pocketed almost nothing directly.

Opening the Doors to Hollywood was also in terms of the history of the publishing world, ancient history and of little use in obtaining a new publisher for my Beethoven novel.

After I had a finished draft of Beethoven In Love; Opus 139, I made a number of attempts to reach out to literary agents and other publishers using my old networks of contacts and business connections.  Soon, I realized that the publishing world had vastly changed since Opening the Doors to Hollywood was released.  Every agent I spoke with – and there were many of high caliber - wanted either a celebrity driven piece or an easily commoditized book of 250 pages.  Beethoven in Love; Opus 139 is neither. That’s when I turned to SYQ and struck a deal.

What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Howard Jay: Great question. Much of my career work has been related to not only writing, but business and finance. I have always been described as one of those “Left Brain – Right Brain,” kind of guys who goes back and forth between these two worlds.  The first five years I spent researching and writing “Beethoven In Love; Opus 139,” were clearly the creative side.  Once done though I switched gears and treated the printing, marketing and sales of the book as a business proposition.  What good is it if you write a great novel but no one reads it?  I focused on marketing and treated the costs and time spent as one would a business start-up, imagining that it would take a while to recoup those expenses. 
Clearly publishing and bookselling are industries that has been radically transformed by the web. Once I committed to a small press, I knew we had to maximize the use of electronic mediums to generate real business.  The old models didn’t work and I don’t think anyone has figured out the very best methods to deal with the new reality just yet.  Understanding that world remains a work in progress.
Recalling my experience with Random House where the profits were gobbled up by shipping, SYQ and I decided to limit sales to online outlets such as Amazon.  We created a large web and Facebook presence and then hired a publicist to promote the book to national newspapers and radio stations.  In the first few months following the release I did a lot of public readings and interviews on radio, in print, on podcasts and through the web. 
One of the beauties of a book about Beethoven is that I was able to target diverse markets through Facebook. We focused not only the world of book readers and clubs but also to the music world and have had a fair amount of success in both those realms. 
I have also performed in numbers of classical music venues in conjunction with soloists, small ensembles and even a full orchestra and choir.  The musicians would perform Beethoven’s compositions and I would read related selections from the book. In fact my first public reading was for a gathering of Beethoven scholars at the American Beethoven Society’s Thirtieth Anniversary Conference.  There I was, reading a work of fiction to the very people who knew more about Beethoven than anyone, and, thankfully, they loved it.
Now I not only have a following of devoted fans all over the world, I have also made a number of connections with the descendants of some of the true-life characters in the novel, such as the great grandson five generations removed of the woman, Giulietta Guicciardi, to whom Beethoven dedicated the Moonlight Sonata and is one of the women consider as a candidate to be his mysterious Immortal Beloved.
All of these activities feed into daily Facebook posts and Tweets and those in turn have driven sales.
Not everything however has gone as smoothly as desired. There are no road maps yet in what is still uncharted territory. For the better part of the past year, I have often felt like I am being forced to re-invent the wheel. My first publicist was a very traditional book publicist from Hollywood who has a client list of many famous writers – but in this new reality she was of limited actual help and very expensive.  I have since moved on to a publicist from the 21st century who understands the web and the results have been vastly superior.
In the end, though I have sold fewer copies than when I was with Random House, my personal return on investment has been much greater.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Howard Jay: Yes, but only, and I truly stress this point, but only if one is willing to make significant additional investments in the time and money to do the marketing.  This has not been easy. Finding the right small press, and hoping they have the key people one needs to do the proofing, the type font design, the layout, the cover is all essential.  And once the book is actually printed or put out electronically, one must be committed to spending both the time and dollars necessary on marketing. You can’t do it half way and expect good results.  It takes total commitment and effort.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Howard Jay:  And what tips would I pass on to other writers?  Researching and then writing this novel was a long journey, every moment of which was an absolute pleasure.  I learned ages ago that if you want someone to take the time and effort to read your book and find your work compelling and engaging, you must also be equally passionate about what you create. I absolutely love the entire process of crafting a story, from jotting down ideas and doing research when necessary, to shaping each line, each paragraph, each character, each scene. I want to transport the reader into a vivid and continuous dream that is so powerful, so all-encompassing that the next thing they know is that someone is calling them to dinner. So my first advice to any other would be writer is this: love what you are doing and let that passion be your motor or you will most-likely fail.

That journey however does not end when you type, “The End.”  It is just the beginning of the next phase.  You still must be the driving force behind the actually publication and marketing of your fabulous book that everyone will want to read.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets of Steve Dunn Hanson

I've lived in places that grew me . . . from a small Idaho farm town, a run-down neighborhood in St. Louis, and a middle-class southern California community, to Sydney, Australia, and Bucharest, Romania. My experiences are as varied as the places I've lived. I have a hopper full of "reality" including being a volunteer jail chaplain and flying with a U.S. presidential candidate in his small plane when an engine conked out. And all of this is fodder for my writing.

My latest book is the action/adventure/suspense novel, Sealed Up.

Website & Social Links


Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Steve: I decided to be an author some decades ago. I just haven’t had time to really get into it until the last few years when I haven’t been so swamped by things that keep me from doing it. As far as my book, Sealed Up, is concerned, I’ve had a compulsion to write about this for the last six or seven years. It’s literally unlike any other book out there both in its subject matter and its conclusion. It just may be that I was prescient in writing it. We’ll see.
Is this your first book?
Steve: It’s my first book for the general market and my first “full length” novel. I have three previously published books for a sectarian market.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Steve: I went Indie. I tried the agent route at first and may have gone that way if an “acceptable” agent took it. Ultimately, I decided to go the Indie route because of the control I would have. I’m glad I did. It has been a learning process which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and the results so far are very satisfying.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Steve: Journey is the right word! There are so many nuances with self-publishing that unless you are willing to put in the time and effort to learn the game, and willing to spend some money, don’t do it. You are the writer, the publisher, the promoter, the marketer, the advertiser, the reviewer recruiter, etc., etc. For me, this all has been very interesting, even fascinating at times. The downside is that it takes me away from writing and adds months to my schedule for getting my next book in the series out.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Steve: The market is hugely competitive. Agents, by their own admission, are highly subjective in what they choose to represent. If you don’t have a track record, you’d better have an “in” or no matter how good your book, you are not likely to get the kind of agent representing you that you want. On the other hand, Indie publishing is extraordinarily competitive too. For example, there are some 4 million eBooks on Kindle. That’s what you are in competition with. The upside is if you do your homework and—VERY IMPORTANT—you have a really good book, you are going to be okay. It’s lots of work, but it can be done. Many thousands of Indie writer-publishers have proven that.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Steve: If you can find the kind of really good agent that will work their tail off for you, I’d go that route. On the other hand, if you are willing to learn and work hard, and you have a Cracker-Jack of a book, the Indie route works!
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Steve: If you know you have talent, just keep plugging along. You will need to learn how to write for your market just like you learned to walk. It’s not an overnight process and most of the really good (and successful) authors would consider their first offerings trash. And it probably was. Be patient with yourself and try to be objective about your writing. Seek out and listen to folks you respect who are willing to be candid about what you are putting out. And read, read, read! That will help you more than just about anything.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book Publishing Secrets with Tom Carter

Name: Tom Carter

Book Title: Nashville: Music and Murder

Genre: Fiction (Suspense, Thriller, Crime)

Is this your first book?

Tom: No, I've written eighteen, half of which were New York Times or USA Today best-sellers.

With this particular book, how did you publish - traditional, small press, Indie, etc. - and why did you choose this method?

Tom: This is my first self-published book.  I did so because conventional publishers no longer pay the lofty advances-against-royalties that I derived from my previous books.  Also, my self-publisher (Ingram) pays much higher profits than royalties issued by conventional publishers.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?

Tom: I was a 17-year newspaper reporter who also wrote for Time and People magazines.  I moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1988 to collaborate with singer/pianist Ronnie Milsap to co-write his
autobiography.  I eased from that book to an autobiographical collaboration with another celebrity.  My momentum gathered, and I eventually co-wrote twelve celebrity autobiographies.  I also 
wrote six unrelated books in various genres.

What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?

Tom: My two books for 2017 were my first dance with self-publishing.  I learned about self-publishing mostly through time consuming trial and error.  My previous books were published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, HarperCollins, Random House, McGraw-Hill and Putnam.  Once a deal was signed, the publishers handled all of the production and distribution.  Not so with self-publishing, where a writer must learn the ins-and outs of the day-to-day rigors inherent to publishing, select a publicist, fulfill the publicist’s recurring demands, writing blogs, taking PR meetings, etc.  I may return to conventional publishing just to avoid self-publishing’s busy work. 

Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?

Tom: Yes.

What's the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

Tom: Love to write for writing's sake.  The odds of being commercially successful are stacked against you.


                         About the Book:

     As a teenager, Maci Willis fled the poverty and sexual abuse of her Louisiana childhood in hopes of finding a new life as a Nashville recording star or greasy spoon waitress.  Despite the odds, the former fate unfolded, and Maci recorded hit songs for two decades while indulging a pampered lifestyle void of risks and regrets.
     But all of that changed during one fateful performance.
     While Maci sang a fourth encore to a crowd of 18,000, the music was shattered by a gunshot fired by an obsessed fan.  She emerged triumphant from the attempt on her life — only to face another attempt shortly afterwards.  Was it a coincidence?  Or was something more sinister at work?
            Nashville: Music and Murder follows Maci's frantic flight from danger — and toward redemption.  Along the way, it exposes glamour of stardom, the loneliness of fame, and the seedier side of the Nashville music scene.
            Antagonized by the mass media, victimized by her record label executives, stalked by deranged fans, and hunted by local and federal authorities, Maci leads readers through a fast-paced descent into hysteria, chaos and murder. 

            In an attempt to escape it all, Maci finds herself returning to the childhood she once fled.  The woman who faced life on her own terms soon discovers that loneliness is a walking prison from which she’ll never walk away.