The Road (Not Taken) to Publication

As a follower of our blog here at Spellbound Scribes, I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot of new Scribes grace our posts. And with new writers, comes new followers! So with that in mind, I thought I would focus today’s post on one the very basics of publishing.

Now, I’m sure many of you who follow our blog are familiar with a lot of these terms/concepts, but there are still folks (including many writers) who don’t know the difference.

Lately, I’ve noticed some confusion about the various types of book publishing, even amongst writers. Or rather, there’s a lot of misinformation about the different publishing platforms, which leads to a lot of confused writers out there. So I thought I’d take a moment to clarify a few of the finer points. Think of it as a crash course in Publishing 101. Keep in mind, this is just a general overview. There are always exceptions to the rules!

First, I’m going to break it down into two types: Traditional Publishing and Indie Publishing.

Traditional Publishing:

 Big Six

These are your major publishing houses. These publishers will only consider books solicited by agents (not the author, but there are exceptions). Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster make up the Big Six, as well as all their various imprints (e.g. Knof Doubleday, Ace Books, Tor Books, etc.)

Authors who sign with any of the Big Six will receive some sort of advance and will earn royalties from sales (after they’ve earned out their advance). These publishers will manage all aspects of the book from editing, marketing, and distribution.

Small Press

These are considered smaller publishing houses, often considered independent publishers or independent press. Many publish and market books towards a niche market (sci-fi, romance, etc). Some small presses can be/are also considered small regional presses.

Just like the Big Six, small press publishers handle editing, marketing, and distribution. Agents aren’t always required for book submissions, but many may require agented requests. Some small press publishers will offer advances, but some do not.

 Indie Publishing:

Self-publishing presses (aka Vanity Press)

These are companies that masquerade as a publishing company. In short, they will ask for money in exchange for publishing services: editing, marketing, cover art, distribution, etc. Many of these sites will charge fees ranging in the hundreds and thousands to “see your book in print.” If you stumble upon a publishing site that has a section entitled “services,” “fees,” or “pricing,” click away from the website.

They will not call themselves vanity presses, but that’s what they are in a nutshell.

Much like legitimate publishers, vanity presses will request authors to sign a contract. Authors receive royalties based on book sales. Unfortunately, many authors do not make enough in royalties to recoup what they paid in services.

Self-Publishing (aka Indie Publishing/Indie Author):

These are your “do-it-yourself” authors. Indie authors are in complete control over the books they write and publish. Many hire independent contractors (cover artists, formatters, editors), but these are one time services/fees. There are other indie authors that choose to do the work themselves (formatting, cover art, etc).

Most indie authors will use a print on demand (see below) to produce print books. Ebooks are uploaded directly by the author, allowing full control, including pricing and royalties. Royalties are given to the author directly from the retail site (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc).

Print On Demand (not so much a publishing type, but a service used by indie authors)

These are companies that produce print-on-demand print copies. Not to be confused with vanity presses, these companies do not charge fees for their services, rather, they take a commission from each printed book “demanded” (it costs money for ink and paper!). Some companies may offer services (editing/cover art) for a fee, but it is optional. These companies are also distributors to many of the online retailers and for a minimal fee ($25 for one company) they can also make your print book available to a wider distribution network (i.e. brick and mortar bookstores or libraries).

There are no contracts with print-on-demand companies and authors can remove a book from availability at any point without penalty.

Creatspace, Lightening Source, and Lulu are some of the more popular print-on-demand companies.

Next are the Pros and Cons of each type of publishing:

 Big Six


Bragging rights…You got signed with one of the Big Six

If they like you, they will market the crap out of your book

They handle editing, cover art, marketing, distribution, etc.

Decent advance


They own the rights to your book

You can be dropped for future projects if your first book doesn’t sell

You get a small portion of royalties (unless your Patterson or King)

You have no control over editing, cover art, marketing, etc. (unless your Patterson or King)

Small Press


You signed with a publisher

They handle editing, cover art, marketing, distribution, etc.


They own the rights to your book (easier to get your rights back than with the Big Six)

You get a small portion of royalties

Little or no control over editing, cover art, marketing, etc.

Small or no advance

Vanity Press


You get to see your book in print


You may never recoup your initial ($500-$10,000) investment

You get a small portion of royalties

Indie Publishing


You get to publish your book

You have 100% control over editing, cover art, marketing, distribution, etc.

You get higher royalties

No limits to how many books you publish within a certain timeframe


The stigma attached to self-publishing

You are in charge of editing, cover art, marketing, distribution, etc. (you’re running a small business!)

I’m sure there is a lot of I didn’t cover or neglected to add, but I hope I’ve cleared up some of the confusion. Not all writers will follow the same path, and no path is better than another (well, except maybe using a vanity press), as long as we’re on the same page.

The Draw of Book Signings

As writers we have dreams of having readers, fans, and a long line of folks waiting to meet us at book signings. Well, I have readers, a few loyal fans, and the reality is, unless you’re a household name, you the few that actually approach your author table at a signing have probably never even heard of you. 

Me at our local Railroad Festival last June. Photo credit: Jan Rayl

After doing several book signings, I told myself I wouldn’t go through the trouble again. The majority of my sales are from ebooks, so why put in the extra effort and money into print signings? 

Another book signing last July at the local coffee shop. I think my uncle was the only one who bought any books that day!

But then I got an email a few weeks ago asking if my husband and I would be interested in participating in the 15th annual Fall for the Book event. Now, for those unfamiliar with Fall for the Book, it is a week long book festival in Northern Virginia (DC area) that invites authors from around the country to participate in events and panels throughout the area. Their yearly literary awards has given us an opportunity to meet literary greats like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.


So my answer? A resounding YES! 

Now, I got this invite by way of my husband. A man who never reads, much less writes. But one of the events this year is a food showcase that will highlight chefs to promote their cookbooks. Well, because my husband doesn’t have a cookbook, they asked if I would like to team up with the hubby and speak on how his culinary career impacts my books. And fortunately for me, I have a new book I’m working on that has a very strong food component, Darkly Beings

I’ve always incorporated food into my books. Whether it be Aunt Maggie (Travelers Series) cooking up mouth watering culinary creations and later becoming the host of her own cooking show in an alternate reality, or the DeLeon sisters who capitalized on their talent for cooking by opening up their own restaurant in the small fictional town of Caldero, Texas (Darkly Beings), food has always been a focal point in my writing. 

So now, I have to work double time to ensure my book is done this month, so I’ll have enough time to promote and prepare for the event in September. For the first time, I’ll have a built in audience to promote my books (they anticipate over 200 at this event) and my husband will draw them in with his spectacular gumbo! 

Now let’s just hope there are a few attendees interested in picking up a YA paranormal book amidst the sea of cookbooks!

What about you other authors out there? Book Signings… love them or hate them? 

Juggling it All

It is possible that I have nothing to post about today? A writer that has absolutely nothing to write about?

Perhaps I’m suffering from a brain fart, writers block, or maybe I’m just spent.

Nah, I think I just have too many things running around in my head, not to mention my life. That happens when you try to juggle too many things at once. When you’re an indie writer, you have the awesome responsibility of wearing a lot of hats, and perhaps taking on more than one can handle.

Right now, I’m finishing up the last few chapters of my latest book in a new series, Darkly Beings. I’ve got another 15k words to go and I am really hoping to have it completed by the end of the month.

I’m also brainstorming on the storyline for book four in my Travelers Series, Parameter. I have so many fans emailing me about a release date that I find myself so overwhelmed that I’ve created a total mental block! I promise, the story will come to me!

On top of all that, I am working part-time during the summer (in-between semesters teaching at the college) at my favorite clothing store in the whole world and it’s taking up much more time than I realized (I have to bring my laptop to work during breaks). I’ll also be teaching one summer course two nights a week for six weeks starting in July, so there go a couple more nights that I’m not writing.

Then there’s keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and all the other social media outlets. Yeah, I’m kind of lazy about posting updates… Okay, it’s more like I forget.

But with all the craziness in my life right now, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Sure, I could stop all the madness at anytime and go back to working full-time at a 9 to 5 job. But everything I’m doing right now is to realize my dream of being an author. I already have three books published that are earning me nice royalties every month, but giving up isn’t an option. I have too many stories to tell and readers still wanting to read them.

So maybe I don’t have anything enlightening to write about today, but that doesn’t mean I’m out of stories to tell.

For all you writers out there, how do you deal with juggling it all?


Infallible Characters?

Yes, you read that right. Infallible. Because it always seems (to me at least) that characters are expected to be nothing short of perfect. 

So as writers, should we follow the example of our characters or should our characters reflect us? This is always a hot topic, especially when writing Young Adult books. Should my main character curse? Is it okay to have them drink underage? Are they appropriate role models? Well, I know for fact a lot of teenagers swear, drink, and do other things that parents wish they didn’t. So why do authors get slammed when they write characters that emulate real life? Is it our job to provide a good example for teens? To create a world that’s void of real life issues and drama? 

It’s a dilemma that I struggle with. In my Traveler’s Series you won’t find much swearing or drinking or dare I say it, sex. For the most part, it’s clean and wholesome, and you’d be hard pressed to find any indiscriminate activities. 

And now I’m writing a new series and it’s geared toward an older audience, so yes, I’ll have to include aspects of real life. Yes, there’s drinking, yes, there’s swearing, and yes, you can bet there’s sex. But does that make my character a bad role model? My main character is your typical red-blooded-American-male (over 21). Does it make him flawed as a character if he does all of the above, or is he a realistic example of a twenty-something college kid? 

Personally, I love flawed characters. Perhaps they’re not the best role models, but that’s OK. It’s how they deal with the issues that makes a character worth admiring. Besides, who wants to read a story about twenty-year olds that don’t do anything. 

But, “Oh my, what if my 14 year-old reads it?” Well, I would hope younger readers are able to figure out that my characters are of an appropriate age, and that parents have taken the time to talk to their kids about being responsible and what is acceptable behavior. 

Characters can still be role models while still being true to the story, even if they are flawed.

The Pet Psychic

I’m sitting here thinking about the new book I’m working on and I have to say, I’m a believer. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a world where folklore and myth trickles into what we know as reality, but for whatever reason, I believe in the unknown.

A few months ago, I met Jeanne Miller, a pet medium, through one of the writer forums I frequent. We struck up a great conversation over email and she offered to do a pet reading for me. I didn’t even hesitate (who passes up an offer like that?), so of course I said yes!

Before she did the reading, I wanted to have an idea what to expect, so I purchased her book, The Pet Psychic Diaries. 

81FgrGWgSiL._SL1200_Even for those non-believers, it was a hilarious and heartfelt account on Jeanne’s life as a pet psychic. The stories that she shared brought laughter and tears.

Now, some of you know that the hubby and I lost our little Guapo last October, so I was thrilled (and scared) to have Jeanne talk to him to see if he was okay. Gus, our other pug, was also going to have a chance to talk to Jeanne and I was so happy to finally figure him out!

photoGus (fawn) and Guapo (black)

After sending my five questions and messages, Jeanne came back with her readings and if I was ever a skeptic, this would have changed my mind. Keep in mind that my questions and messages to my pugs were very generic. What Jeanne’s reading uncovered was nothing short of real.

Here are some highlights from Gus’ reading:

Jeanne said he was a real gentleman and that Gus told her that, “I’m pretty well-behaved. I’ve always been the best behaved out of all of us,” and that he was quite proud of this.

Now, of all our dogs, Gus has always been the best behaved. He’s so smart and to be honest, all he does is sleep. You can’t get better behaved than that!

“I like when Mom sings that song to me. It’s just for me.”

I never told Jeanne that I sing him songs!

One of my questions for Gus was if he minded my hugs and kisses. This was his response: “Well, I like it more than I let on, but I have to be tough too so that Daddy knows I’m a tough boy like him. So sometimes I pretend I don’t like it. Sometimes, I just need to be a big boy.”

Whoa! I’m always telling my husband that Gus wants to be just like him and be a big boy!

From Guapo’s reading:

I won’t dwell on the questions/answers about his passing, but needless to say, I feel better about him after he let me know that he knew we loved him and there was nothing we could have done for him.

Jeanne asked him if he was in a good place (one of my questions) and his response was, “Oh, it is so pretty here! And I can make it look like whatever I want it to look like. Sometimes I make it look like our home, sometimes I make it look like a beach, and sometimes the woods…”

I never told Jeanne that the hubby and I take our dogs camping. The only “scenes” Guapo knew are our house, the beach, and the woods. When I told my husband what Guapo said, he was not impressed. “Duh, those are the only places we took him,” he said. I then when reminded my husband I never mentioned that to Jeanne, he was floored.

The real kicker was when Jeanne said he showed her a bumblebee. Guapo said, “sometimes I make them up so I can chase them. They sound funny and I like that.”

Guapo ALWAYS chased the bees in our backyard. While Gus was always unimpressed by anything other than food, Guapo was fascinated by bees and other critters.

There was a lot more, but if I keep looking back to the readings, I’ll continue to cry. But what really struck me was the tone in which Jeanne related the messages. Gus’ responses were very adult-like, while Guapo’s were childlike in nature. That’s exactly how I see them and how they interacted with us.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know we added another pup shortly after Guapo’s passing. This is what they had to say about Gertie:


Gus: “Well, I like her and I will like her more as time goes on. But right now, she can be a little annoying. She hasn’t learned the rules and I try to teach her but she doesn’t always listen to me. Or Mom.”

Guapo: “And the little girl and I play. Well, not so much play, as I chase her sometimes. But I think she’s getting used to me. I like her. She’s pretty.” (Guapo visits us BTW)

Now I know that when Gus and Gertie act strangely or when a bowl suddenly moves just a hair out of place, Guapo is here for a visit.

So, if you are ever interested in what your fur babies are thinking, you should definitely give Jeanne a holler. She is a fabulously kind and generous and a great person to work with. Not interested? Well at least give her book a chance. I swear it’ll make you laugh and think twice about what your pets are really thinking!

It’s a New Year!

It’s only the first month of the year and I’m already behind! That seems to be a theme with me I think, but this year, I really hope to get a handle on scheduling. Oh, and I hope everyone had a super holiday season and are looking forward to this new year!

So, here’s the reason I was a bit slack in posting today:


The hubby and I went to Richmond today to meet up with our friend to pick up four lab puppies! Three are going to friends, while we are keeping one beautiful southern belle (they’re from South Carolina) we named Gertie. 

So first up on the list is to train our new lab puppy! While it may sound easy, especially since I work from home, our new little girl will need constant attention in order to train her right. I just hope she doesn’t mind having Buffy the Vampire Slayer on in the background or napping while I write! 

As for books, I hope to finish at least two books (I’ll probably end up with three, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself). One will be the much anticipated PARAMETER, book for of the Travelers Series, and the other will be a new book I’m working on (25% done!!) that will be what I consider YA Southern Gothic (paranormal). I don’t have a title for it yet, but I’m toying with the idea of calling it DARKLY BEINGS. 

Another goal for this year is to get healthy! Not to lose weight necessarily (although the five pounds I gained this last year working from home really needs to go back to where it came from), but too stay as healthy as I can, especially since I sit at my desk all day and write. I’m a huge fan of the paleo way of eating, and if I don’t eat too much, I might be able to shed those pesky five pounds! This is also were our new pup Gertie will come in… to help me from sitting on my behind all day! 

I try not to saddle myself with too many goals. Just trying to keep up with everything on my plate is enough, so for this new year, my hope is that my readers will be surprised if I end up with more works than I planned on.

Treasured Memories

I have to admit, Christmas is not one of my favorite holidays. Mainly because I dread going shopping. While I love giving (and receiving) gifts, I hate the mad rush of people at the department stores, the rudeness of others (aren’t the holidays supposed to be peace and good will towards man?), and the loss of time one gets when you realize you have to pay more in shipping than the gift itself because it’s one week until the big day.

I’m not completely anti-holiday. I love what it represents. I still believe in Santa and he believes in me. I enjoy the traditions and stories that come with celebrating Christmas. Whenever friends of family ask what I’d like from their vacations*, I ask for ornaments. No silly keychains or magnets for me! I want something I can display on my tree, even if it’s received months before the actual holiday itself. On the rare occasions I travel myself, I always pick up an ornament or two to commemorate the visit, so I can have a story to tell about its origins.

This summer, my basement flooded three times. My box of ornaments were the only thing down there I cared about. I dreaded checking the box, fearing the worst. So this weekend, I finally gathered the courage to check my tub to see the extent of the damage. Fortunately, about 80% of my ornaments survived (most of the ones that perished were my cheap glass filler ornaments from Target). But a few cherished ones were lost: my dancing Pinocchio that my friends bought back from Italy when they went on their honeymoon (a thanks for dog sitting), the expensive work of art my husband purchased for me in Santa Fe during our first Christmas as a couple (which we didn’t spend together).

What I have left of my collection after years of collecting.

Then I realized that the memories, or stories, weren’t gone from my mind. I still have them, even if the ornaments that represented those moments in time are lost. It’s no different than the stories that we read or tell. Once we’ve experienced the moment, it’s hard to forget. I still have the little Russian doll ornaments I got when I went to Alaska, the Hershey bears when I visited Hershey, PA, and even the pirate skull ornament I got in the Outer Banks during our yearly trip to the beach, but the stories are no more fresh in my mind than the stories attached to the cherished treasures I lost.

I hope everyone celebrates traditions old and new this year and store all the memories for years to come. You don’t need tangible objects to remember, you just need to re-tell the stories.

And as a way to celebrate the holidays, we here at Spellbound Scribes will be hosting a Holiday Giveaway! Prizes will include several ebooks by Spellbound Scribes authors and a $50 gift card to Amazon! More details to follow!!

*My parents are celebrating Thanksgiving in New Orleans this year. My mom is bringing me back an ornament (I asked for a voodoo doll). When I get it, it will remind me of the time “my parents went to New Orleans and didn’t take me.”

Shameless Halloween Horror Self-Promotion

For those that follow this blog, you know that the Spellbound Scribes is home to authors of the paranormal genre. But I like horror. I write horror. It will always be my favorite genre.

It’s a take it or leave it kind of genre, whether it be books or movies. You either love it or hate it. People are often surprised to hear I’m a horror buff. And why wouldn’t I be? It’s one of the few genres that sticks with you well after you’ve left the story (don’t tell me you haven’t checked the behind the bathroom curtain or under the bed after reading a scary book or watching a horror flick).

Often times, horror is all about perception: what we perceive to be scary. Clowns have a bad rap (thanks to Poltergeist, Stephen King’s IT, and John Wayne Gacy) and have gone from being children’s entertainment, to just plain terrifying.

So while I have a sci-fi/parnarnormal YA series, I’ve also written several horror shorts that have been published in various anthologies. I recently published a collection of those short stories, unDead Dixie Debs, which has everything from zombies to vampires, all in the tradition of classic southern gothic horror.

And this fall, I am proud to be part of Coffin Hop 2012. There’ll be tons of writers, giveaways, and good old fashioned B-rated drive-in horror, so don’t forget to check it out! Seriously, this is one blog hop you don’t want to miss.

I’ll even have a story in the upcoming Coffin Hop anthology (will be released 2013)!! I think this is one of my best stories to date (if I do say so myself), as it’s gritty, horrific, and just plain fun….And features chupacabras, a strip joint, and a great recipe for body glitter.

Perception, right?

Yes. Because horror can also be funny, witty, and gritty.

So in the spirit of Halloween, how ‘bout a little magic with your horror? I’m still obsessed with this scene from Glee Season 3 (I just started watching it on Netflix):

Brittany S. Pierce: “When a pony does a good deed he gets a horn and he becomes a unicorn and then he poops out cotton candy until he forgets he’s magical and then his horn falls off…And black unicorns, they become zebras.”

Kurt Hummel: “That’s a horrifying story.”

Remember, it’s all about perception!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

For those of you who are writers that follow Spellbound Scribes, we are now approaching our feature on plotting!

I always envision my book like a Christmas tree. If you don’t celebrate the holiday, bear with me…you’ll still get it! My plot is like a Christmas tree without its fancy glass ornaments that make it festive and bright – everyone’s tree starts off the same, but in the end, after all its adornments, it becomes special and unique.

That’s how I view plots. It’s not to be confused with the story or it’s characters. Usually, it’s what allows the characters to make (or not make) choices. In my Travelers Series, I can sum up my plot into a nice one sentence summary: A group of individuals who form a rebellion against a evil tyrant. Yeah, I told you it was simple enough.

After that comes the lights on the tree – you can chose clear or colored lights, your choice. That’s the story. My twinkling Christmas lights are the different realities and time-travel concepts that my characters must face in order to defeat the villain in my tale (i.e. conflict). In this instance, my series is character driven, rather than plot driven, so I usually have plenty of string lights.

What about the ornaments? Those are my characters. Some are big and shiny, others small and matte. Depending on my mood, I can either coordinate ornaments (or characters) to compliment each other, or just put them up at random.

And what about the star? – or angel, or Santa Claus. Again, whatever suits you. That of course is the resolution. Sometimes I like to think of it as the icing on the cake, or the cherry on top.

But back to plotting. For me, it’s one of the easiest parts of writing a story (all I have to do is buy a tree, right?). I’m a die hard pantser (writer speak for: “I don’t do outlines”), thus allowing my characters to face their conflicts in whichever way they deem appropriate, but as far as plot goes, I control the strings. It’s about the only thing I have total control over – do I buy a Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, or an imitation tree from Target?

When Bad Guys Turn Good

Almost every story has one: a villain. Whether it’s thrillers, cozy mysteries, or even romance, there’s always a bad guy afoot. But there’s no genre that exemplifies the enemy more than paranormal. There will always be a plethora of bad guys to go around.

In my case, when dealing with alternate realities, I find myself with more villains that I can handle. What makes things even more complicated is when some characters are friends in one respective world, but an enemy in another. Talk about your split-personalities!

And often times we find villains making the grand leap from bad to good in both books, television, and film. This doesn’t weaken the character, but rather strengthens their role.

Let’s take some of my favorite “bad guy” turned “good guy” characters:

Eric Northman from The Southern Vampire Series. He’s a total jerk towards Sookie at the beginning, but towards the middle of the series, we grow to love him and he pursues a relationship with Bon Temps favorite telepathic waitress.

The Terminator. He went from trying to kill Sarah Connor and her son in the first movie in the franchise to a re-programmed killer bot, in order to ensure the destiny of John Connor in the subsequent movies.

We all saw The Avengers (if you haven’t, where have you been?) and did you know that Hawkeye was initially a villian in the Marvel comic universe? It wasn’t until he fell for the beautiful Black Widow that he decided to repent for his evil ways and join The Avengers. Even Black Widow had her moments.

And numero uno on my list: Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He wins the medal for making a complete character one-eighty. He went from killing slayers for sport, despising Buffy, to being a Champion. Buffy’s relationship with Spike didn’t hurt the ratings either. Can we say, “muy caliente!”

Who’s your favorite villain gone good?