Fiction School

Fiction School
Check out the podcast I host with two other writing professors

Friday, June 29, 2012

Listen to Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft Chapters 1 & 2

I just posted a free audio version of the first two chapters of my new novel, AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT! I love audiobooks and I love reading my own work, so I hope to do more of this in the future.

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft Chapters 1 and 2

Happy Friday! Just wanted to share some good news I stumbled on by accident today. BABE IN BOYLAND, my YA novel, was chosen by the International Reading Association for a Young Adults' Choice Award. Thank god for vanity searches, or I'd never have known!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga Interview: Indie Publishing=Vegas and the Gold Rush Rolled Into One!

Here's the interview with Wendy Nelson Tokunaga I promised! She's got so much useful, down-to-earth information. I feel incredibly lucky to have connected with her. Without further ado... 

1) What circumstances led up to your decision to try self-publishing?

I’d self-published a novel called “No Kidding” in 2000 through POD publisher iUniverse and it was a rather interesting experience. Though I didn’t sell many books, I learned an awful lot about self-promotion. “No Kidding” did end up winning the Mainstream/Literary Fiction Category in Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards, but even after this no agent wanted to touch it. There was still quite a stigma attached to self-publishing back then, but today the landscape is quite different with e-books and what’s now referred to as “indie publishing.”

But I didn’t set out to self-publish my two current novels. I originally wrote “Falling Uphill” in 2004 and my agent at the time sent it out to several editors (at least he supposedly did) but we didn’t get any positive responses (although I think he didn’t have a good handle on where to send the ms, but that’s a whole other story!). So I put that book in a drawer where it sat, gathering dust. Fast forward to 2007 when I had a new agent who sold my debut novel “Midori by Moonlight” to St. Martin’s Press, followed in 2009 by “Love in Translation.” Then fast forward again to my women’s fiction novel, “His Wife and Daughters,” which, in 2011, my most recent agent could not find a home for, though we got close a couple of times. I didn’t want to give up on this book (I’m quite proud of it!) so I thought I would try putting it out as an e-book. I also dusted the cobwebs off “Falling Uphill” and read it for the first time in seven years. I was reading along and actually couldn’t remember what happened next. This is good, I thought. I can’t put it down and I wrote it! So I decided to self-publish that one too.

2) What format/distributor did you choose and why?

I’d done a lot of research and observed a lot of talk on e-mail loops, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and I initially decided to go with Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook). But I hardly sold any copies and wasn’t sure how to get the books noticed. It wasn’t until I took them off Nook and went exclusively with Amazon on its Kindle Direct Publishing Select program that I got results.

3) What advice would you offer to writers who intend to try this themselves?

Do your research first and find out what will work best for you and your books. Sometimes you just have to plunge in and see what strategies give you the most success. Some people do well with Smashwords, others not so much. And some authors do fine with Nook. I personally am satisfied at the moment with sticking with Amazon’s KDP, but that may not be the right move for everyone. I don’t have the time to manage the books on various platforms and play with pricing. But I’m flexible and will change things up when and if I see fit. This whole indie publishing thing right now is Las Vegas and the Gold Rush rolled into one. It’s a wild and woolly world and no one can predict the future. But all I know is that I haven’t had this much fun and instant gratification as a writer in a long time. It’s so great to connect directly with readers who want to read what I write.

4) What marketing techniques have you found to be most successful?

I know there are some successful indie published authors who claim to do very little or even no promotion, but that’s not true for me. I am a big proponent of Twitter and I’m also active on Facebook. I belong to the Girlfriends Book Club Blog and I have two of my own blogs. I wish I could get myself to blog more often, but I find it hard to discipline myself to write blog posts when I should be working on my fiction. But I try not to be too hard on myself; you have to do the promotion that you enjoy the most and that, for me, is Twitter.

I have also put out a non-fiction e-book on the topic of cross-cultural relationships called “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband,” which is a collection of insightful interviews with Western women married to Japanese men. The main marketing I’ve done for this book is via Twitter and I’ve been quite happy with the sales results.

5) Do you plan to go back to traditional publishing with your next book or stay with indie?

I think I’d still like to try my luck with traditional publishing, but if I change my mind or things don’t work out, I can always put future novels out as e-books and I’d be just fine with that. I’m also excited about self-publishing shorter fiction (e.g. short stories, novellas) as e-books and hope to do that in the near future.


"Falling Uphill" - original e-book novel: 

"His Wife and Daughters" - original e-book novel: 

“Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband”



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga Dishes About Self-Publishing

Thursday I went to the enchanted land known as Emerald Hills in Redwood City to hear Wendy Nelson Tokunaga speak at Ellen Kirschman's gorgeous home. Other writers in attendance were Gretchen Maurer, Katia Noyes, Lynn Kaufman, Harriet Chessman and Maude Carol. We got amped on sugar and coffee and hungrily soaked up everything Wendy told us (okay, we interrupted her constantly with comments and questions, but that's not a crime, is it?) She chronicled her journey from traditionally published work (Midori by Moonlight, Love in Translation, St. Martin's Press) to going her own way (Falling Uphill, His Wife and Daughters). I listened with rapt attention to her tale and took feverish notes. Rather than summarizing it all here and potentially misrepresenting some of her experiences (I was under the influence of sugar and caffeine, after all) I'm going to follow up with a Wendy interview, so stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I've Decided to Publish Independently: After Six Traditionally Published Novels with the Biggest Houses, I'm Taking The Plunge and Going Rogue

Not so very long ago, if a writer told me he or she was self-published, that translated into probably not very good and most likely desperate, get out of this conversation now before they shove a messy manuscript at you for review! There were those who made the cut, and those who didn't. End of story. At least, that's how I saw it, and most professionals I met in the industry saw it that way as well.

Now, though, the world of publishing is changing at a whirlwind pace. Blockbuster, iconic authors like Jackie Collins and JK Rowling are bypassing the middlemen to strike out on their own. Last summer Wired magazine called Rowling's choice to turn her back on traditional publishing the book industry's "Radiohead Moment." Much like musicians, we authors now have more ways to reach our audience directly. Social media and digital formats have flung the doors wide open. We find ourselves facing a dazzling, Technicolor world of possibilities. It's dizzying, perplexing, scary and exhilarating.

I may be a bit late climbing onto the self-pub bus; writers like JK Conrath and Amanda Hocking have already gone stratospheric in their success, and millions of us are scrambling to catch up.

Here are just a few of the reasons I've decided to publish my next YA novel, AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, on my own:

1) TOTAL CREATIVE CONTROL: While authors occasionally get to offer input into book design and marketing strategies, more often we're sidelined or not included in the process at all. With AUDREY, I hired my own model and sketched out my own vision for the cover. We transformed my writing studio into a photo studio and my husband David went to work. For over a week we've been obsessing over fonts and pouring over Photoshop tutorials. We've had a blast making it our own. I plan to attack every aspect of marketing with the same gusto. It's liberating, taking control in this way.

2) MASSIVE INCREASE IN ROYALTIES: Okay, I'm not totally naive. I know I'll have to sell a lot of books to earn anywhere near the advances I got with my first two book deals, both of which were a healthy six figures. Still, considering that I'll be going from an average of 10% royalties to approximately 70%, even a moderate success has the potential to keep me in Fluevogs (my crippling weakness; don't click on that link if you have shoe addiction issues).

3) NO WAITING: Ask any writer and they'll confirm that the waiting process is endless and creatively draining. You have to wait months for editors and agents to get back to you, your pub date gets delayed, your project is on hold until you can get more feedback. It goes on and on. With this process, publishing happens when I say it does.

4) IT'S FUN: Okay, it's early days, I see that. I'll probably be singing a new tune if my marketing falls flat and I join the fifty percent of self-pubbed writers who earn less than $500 a year at their craft. After living with the disempowering lack of involvement I often felt with traditional publishing, though, there's a real skydiving-esque thrill to all of this. I'm taking the plunge. The outcome is uncertain. Wish me luck.

This week I'm heading to the Bay Area to hear how Wendy Nelson Tokunaga made the transition from traditionally pubbed to self-pubbed, and to pick her brain for insider's secrets. I'll post here about everything she's learned. Stay tuned! 

Monday, June 11, 2012


 I'm determined to blog more now that it's (a) summer (b) I'm on sabbatical and (c) I have a new book coming out very soon. This summer AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT will hit the shelves! I'll follow up with exact dates, but it's definitely happening in the months ahead. This is a first on so many levels: it's my first YA paranormal and it's my first time publishing a book on my own rather than through a traditional publishing house. I'll be posting lots of updates on what I learn about self-publishing, ebooks, marketing, and all the other spooky adventures I'm taking on with this puppy. I know many authors are either going the self-pub route now or they're currently thinking about it. I hope to provide lots of useful insights into the process, allowing others to look over my shoulder and learn along the way. More soon, so stay tuned!