Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting ready to self-publish

A few months ago, I made a decision: I will self-publish ALL of my poetry books. As I explained to one writer who sympathized with my decision, I was tired of the whole cat-and-mouse game I'd been playing with TWO different publishers. For over 4 years, I have been going back and forth with these publishers who wanted to publish my book, but nothing happened. Had I made the decision to self-publish this book long ago, it would have been in print by now!

So I just got fed up and threw in the towel with trying to get the book published traditionally. I just didn't want to rely on somebody else to make that happen. Nobody in the world cares more about YOUR book than you do. And I care about this book enough to stop being lead around on a leash by traditional publishers. I just decided I'll do this thing myself.

Ever since I made that decision, I have consulted with a lot of people who have taken the self-publishing route. I am still consulting with them! There are still some others I need to talk to about this. I have also been reading EVERYTHING I can get my hands on about self-publishing. I want to learn everything I can and get it right this time. The one time I SP'd a poetry book, it was a failure. (Mainly because the font I chose for it ended up being a bad idea and I could not afford a bar code or ISBN number at the time, limiting my options to sell and market the book.) Still, I'm not giving up!

I want this book to be published. I am passionate about this book.

And, in fact, I have discovered that I WANT to self-publish my poetry books. You know? Just one book a year. Even if nobody buys them.

So my next decision was, which printing option should I use? I will never again go the vanity root. My first poetry book was published by a vanity press, with zero distribution and marketing once it came out. And it's hard to get it into bookstores. So, that's NOT going to happen again.

Already tried the traditional self-publishing route, with the second book. Moving on.

So I thought, what about POD? I checked and THE one POD company I wholeheartedly support (Booklocker.com) does not publish poetry books. However, I AM going to take the new version of my novel, November's Child, through them. (The new version is called Shadow of Samhain and even though I had some personal struggles with it, which I will talk about later, I have a strong feeling that this is the perfect route for me to take with it. I will explain why later, when I talk about those personal struggles.)

I looked at Lulu.com (which MANY fellow poets I know have heartily endorsed) and CreateSpace, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Both of them look promising. A fellow poet I network with recently tried CreateSpace for her poetry book, and I'm keeping tabs on her progress. However, I am also asking questions of poets who have used Lulu.com. I have not yet decided on one, but just checking them out and trying to decide which is the better option. (Just a note: these poetry books are a labor of love for me. I'm not doing this to become a millionaire, or anything.)

Money is one of the factors in the decision I will make. I am on a limited income and have only so much money to spare each month. I also have very little time to freelance to make the money I need for all of the things I need it for (my baby's surgery, a laptop, paying the cover designer, etc.). What time I DO have to write has to go towards working on the books I am under contract to write! So the less amount of money I will have to spend for this, the better. Am I being a bad author by skimping on the cost to self-publish the book? I can't say, but I do know I'll give it my best effort with what funds I WILL have available for it.

I am also putting together a marketing plan for this book. I am trying to figure out ways I can promote it (again, on the limited budget!) and how I can market it.

Here's hoping that, as the saying goes, the third time will be the charm.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The last words you ever wrote

Do you ever think about the last thing you ever wrote?

No, I mean REALLY wrote. Wrote as in, this is a poem. This is a song. This is a story.

I have to read a poem today and there will be a child listening to that poem. My daughter. And the last poem I wrote was about domestic abuse. She is young. Untouched by the cruel realities of this world. So I cannot read that poem.

Then something moved me. A word in an email from a sibling. This word lingered in my brain. This one word. It got my muse roiled up.

I tried to write a poem using this word. I wrote it on demand, without inspiration as my guide. Forcing words. Forcing images. I tried to push them all into something coherent. Something that could possibly pass as a "poem" for me to read. An age-appropriate poem.

But all for naught. My work was in vain, for the poem was awful. Without life, without fervor, without passion or direction. Or heart.

So I am stuck with a miserable poem, instead of a poem that is too mature for young ears to hear.

And I wonder...which of these is the greater evil?

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Friday, July 17, 2009

31 Writing prompts for kids

As part of my daughter's "summer schedule" (which was put together to ensure she doesn't spend her summer in front of the TV or stomping around the house complaining of boredom), I have a weekly "writing session." I put together a list of writing prompts and she selects one each week to write.

And since July has 31 days, I decided to put together 31 prompts. Huzzah!

These prompts are mainly written for children but I see no harm in adults trying their hand at one of them, too. After all, I don't think we ever outgrow that fantasy of being a superhero. :)


31 Writing Prompts for Kids

1. Write a story.

2. Write a poem.

3. Read a book and write about what the book was about. (This works best for a short book. No comic books!)

4. Write about what has happened so far today.

5. Write about one thing that happened today that made you happy, sad or got you thinking about things.

6. Write about the things that you like to do. Why do you like to do them?

7. Write about what you want to be when you grow up.

8. Write a letter to a friend or someone in your family.

9. Make a list of what you would buy if you went to the grocery store.

10. Write a song.

11. Write about what kind of game you would make if you could make up your own game. Don't forget to name it!

12. Write about what kind of animal you like. Why do you like this animal?

13. Write about what kind of car you would invent. What color would it be? What would you name it?

14. Write about a dream that you can remember.

15. Write down as many names you can remember of everyone in your family (that includes grandparents and cousins).

16. Write about something you once did with a friend. It could be something fun, something scary or something that made you laugh.

17. Write about what kind of animal or monster you would create. What is it called? What does it eat? Where does it live? Don't forget to color it!

18. Write about your favorite book or story. What happens in it? Why do you like it?

19. Write about something you would like to do with someone in your family. Does it need to be on a sunny day or a windy day? What kind of things would you need?

20. Write something about God.

21. Write as many words as you can think of that start with each letter of your name.

22. Write about what kinds of things you would plant in your garden if you had your own garden. Why would you plant these things?

23. Write about the things you like to do when you are using the computer.

24. Write about something you want to change in the world.

25. Who is your best friend? Write about this person. Why is this person your best friend?

26. Write about the last TV show or movie you watched. What was it called? What happened in it? Did it make you laugh or feel scared?

27. Spend some time looking at a favorite picture or a picture hanging on your wall. Write about what you like about the picture.

28. Write everything about you and what kind of person you are.

29. Create your own recipe! Write about what kinds of foods you would use to make it. Write down how you make it. What do you think it will taste like? Will it be spicy or salty? Don't forget to give it a name!

30. Write about what kind of superhero power you would like to have. Would you like to be able to turn invisible? Run really fast? Be really strong? What would your name be? What colors would be on your uniform? Write all about you being a superhero!

31. Write about what you wish they would teach at school. What would this class be called? Who would teach it? What kinds of things do you need to use in this class?

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How to make your book stand out

You have a book idea, but you also have a problem. There are several, perhaps hundreds, of other books out there on that very same subject. With that very same idea. So you have to ask yourself, how can I make my book different? How can I make my book stand out from all of those other books on this subject competing for all of that shelf space?

One thing I have noticed while working on the ghost book is that there are other paranormal-loving writers out there writing a similar book. Either theirs is a book with their own branding (as in authors who are famous from TV shows), their books are regional or their books have a unique twist to them.

When you can make your book unique, that’s a big help in making it stand out from the rest. If you are a professional chef with years of entertaining at parties under your belt, you can make your cookbook unique by including funny stories overheard at parties or adventures in getting your masterpieces ready on time.

This is just one way to make a book stand out above the rest. Here are some others:

Slant. What is your book’s slant? Is it a collection of stories or investigations of a case? Is it focused only on one side of an issue or does it explore a debate in the book’s subject? Your book could be a book that’s being sold for charity, to commemorate an event or to showcase material from a club, organization, etc.

Voice. If you have a way with words, you can figure out a new way to tell a story or write a nonfiction book. You can be funny, upbeat, satiric, playful, etc.

Experience. If you have a unique experience with your book’s subject, something that people are not very aware of and/or that really should be out there for the reading public, this will add credibility to your book.

Expertise. If you are an expert on this subject and have several credits to your name, years of experience to back up and support what you're writing about, and you have a unique approach to your book’s subject, this will help your book still have a fighting chance of standing out.

Popularity. You don’t have to be Johnny Depp or Britney Spears to get your book noticed, but if you are popular in the blogosphere, are an award-winning athlete, have a lot of press and/or are at the center of a major news story, you have a pretty good chance of writing a book that is different from every other book on that subject. (It can also help sales.)

Newness. If your book’s subject has not been written about for several years, there’s a pretty good chance it’s time for an update! There’s always something new to add to a subject and new information is being discovered about so many things. If you have new material put together for an old subject, this will help get the book noticed. At the same time, if something new is being done with something old (such as a new trend in cooking), it can be something new to write about, as well.

The Void. Thousands of books are out there and there could be a bazillion books on one topic alone. At a recent visit to the bookstore, I was floored by how many books they have just on the subject of grammar. Zounds! However, there is always that chance that a book HAS NOT been written about something. Say you have an idea for a book and, like every good writer, you do some checking to see if it’s already published. If it’s not published, there may be a very good reason why. Maybe there’s not enough to make this idea a book. Maybe this topic is too controversial. Maybe it’s not a sellable idea. But if you are able to change ALL of that with your book – if you have enough to make a book on this subject, if you can find a publisher willing to play the controversy card and IF your book idea is indeed sellable and something people are willing to buy – go for it and write the book. Just because that particular kind of book is not out there doesn’t always mean it shouldn’t be.

These are just some ideas on what can make your book different from the rest. Hopefully they are enough to offer some ideas on how to make your book stand out.

Writing a book is only the first step of getting it into print. Figure out how you can make your book unique and this will increase your chances of getting your book into print and getting it noticed.

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