Year in Review: 2016

The year 2016 has been a roller-coaster-ride of a year. Between wars, crazy politics, and the huge number of celebrity deaths (on that note, I’m not a religious person, but isn’t there something in the bible about good people being sent to heaven right before the apocalypse, leaving only the sinners left on earth to suffer? Anyway…) a lot of us are ready to kiss 2016 goodbye.

But it wasn’t all bad! This year, I’m proud to say I became a published author, one of my life-long dreams. So below is my Year in Review for 2016, highlighting the milestones (some writing-related, some not) that have defined my personal journey this year.

I really encourage you all to sit down and make a similar list. What were the moments in 2016 you were proud of? No matter how big or small, try to remember every moment that made you happy. Did you reconnect with an old friend? Get acknowledged for your hard work? Meet a fitness goal? Find a new favorite movie?

Make the list, and if you still feel rotten about 2016, do what my friends and I are doing on New Year’s Eve: build a bonfire and burn 2016 calendars. I think it will be pretty cathartic.

CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark – My Experience

CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing platform) and IngramSpark (Ingram’s/Lightning Source’s self-publishing platform) are probably the most popular sites to self-publish print-on-demand (POD) books, and they both have their pros and cons. I decided to utilize both sites for my novel, Grigory’s Gadget, for several reasons:

  • Publishing through CreateSpace:
    • Title set up is free, unlike through IngramSpark
    • Your royalties will be higher per book sold on Amazon
    • The cost to order copies of your own book is less than through IngramSpark
    • It’s very user friendly
  • Publishing through IngramSpark:
    • Books are distributed through Ingram, which is what brick-and-mortar stores use to order books
    • Books are returnable, which means brick-and-mortar stores are much more likely to stock your book

Those are the pros of each website that I knew going in. Now that I’ve submitted my book through both sites, received physical proofs, and am preparing to officially publish (Grigory’s Gadget will be on sale in just over a week – on March 12!), here is my experience:

  • Title Set Up
    • CreateSpace
      • As I said above, title set up is free
      • The process is very straightforward and user-friendly
    • IngramSpark
      • Title set up is $49, but this fee is waived if you order 50+ copies of your book within 60 days of set up
      • The process is still very straightforward; basically, it just doesn’t look as flashy as CreateSpace
  • Proofing my book
    • CreateSpace
      • Once I uploaded my files, I was able to digitally review them almost immediately, via a very cool online proof page that even shows my book in a 3D view
      • I was able to order my proof less than 24 hours after submitting my files, and the book was printed and shipped only a few hours later (impressive!)
      • I received my proof 5 days (which included a weekend) after ordering
      • LESSON I LEARNED: Do NOT OK your proof until you’re ready for your book to be officially on-sale. I had my book on pre-sale with a set publishing date. CreateSpace doesn’t care what you say your publishing date is – if you finish submitting your book, it will put it on sale. If you have a set publication date, just let the book sit there until a couple days prior to that date.
    • IngramSpark
      • Once I uploaded my files, it took less than 24 hours for them to be approved and for a PDF proof file to be generated
      • At that time, I was also able to order my physical proof
      • I received my proof 7 days (including a weekend) after ordering.

Now for the side-by-side comparison of my proofs! For both CreateSpace and IngramSpark I used a 5×8 trim size, matte cover, and cream paper. In the following images, CreateSpace is on the left and IngramSpark is on the right.

2016-02-04 20.30.18

Front Cover: The covers are almost indistinguishable (in the photo above, the CreateSpace book looks a bit darker only because of the way the light hit it; the darkness levels on both are actually about identical). The main difference I noticed is that the CreateSpace cover feels a bit smoother, while the IngramSpark cover feels slightly more rubbery. The CreateSpace cover also shows fingerprints more prominently, as can be seen in the next photo:

2016-02-04 20.30.53

Back Cover: I will admit I leave fingerprints pretty readily on everything, but they definitely don’t hide on the CreateSpace cover! Another obvious difference for the back cover is that CreateSpace reserves that specific bottom-right corner for its bar code, while IngramSpark lets you float the bar code pretty much wherever you want. It’s also smaller. Not a big deal, but something a cover artist would obviously have to consider.

Another note: the IngramSpark back cover doesn’t appear to have been trimmed properly – you can see the thin white line at the bottom. I called IngramSpark’s customer service to request a new proof to confirm it was just a printing error (and one that wouldn’t repeat). I was on hold for an hour (!) but once I got ahold of a representative, she was very helpful and ordered a second proof for me (I didn’t have to pay for the second proof). The second proof looked fine. I’ve since ordered 50 copies of my book from IngramSpark, and have found one other copy (so far) with a similar printing error. I’ll be contacting them again once I take a complete tally of the quality of all 50 books. I’m a little disappointed here: IngramSpark is supposed to be the higher-quality and more professional POD site.

Map Image: I have a map image for my book, as shown above. There’s a pretty clear difference between CreateSpace and IngramSpark here: IngramSpark’s image has a much crisper, higher-contrast image. That said, it’s not like the CreateSpace image is awful. It’s just not as good 😉

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Interior: The first thing I noticed was actually something I did NOT notice: a notable difference in the paper colors. I’ve read a lot of complaints that CreateSpace’s paper is super yellow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Maybe they’ve changed paper recently? A big difference between the two books is the text. The IngramSpark text is sharper and darker, but it’s also a little glossy (you can actually see that in the photo). So I guess, it’s easier to read unless you’re reading under harsh light? The other difference I noticed is that the IngramSpark paper is very smooth vs. the CreateSpace paper which has more texture to it.

Overall: The IngramSpark book is definitely the higher-quality book, with the exception of the cover printing issues. That being said, the CreateSpace book is definitely not bad. You really can’t tell the difference between them unless you’re doing a side-by-side comparison like this.

  • Preorder Process
    • CreateSpace
      • Short answer: there isn’t a preorder option. And DO NOT approve the proof of your book until you’re ready for it to be on sale!
      • Long answer: there’s KIND OF a preorder option. I’m not sure why Amazon hasn’t consolidated this convoluted process, but here’s the gist of it: When you’re ready to start a preorder for your book, you need to make an account with Amazon Advantage. This is one of their vendor sites (different than Amazon Marketplace; I don’t know what the exact differences are because I’ve only used Advantage). Then you set up your book there with all of its information, set the publication date, and put it on preorder. Once your order is processed, Amazon will request copies to stock in its warehouse(s) (the amount varies, presumably based on some algorithm or other). You don’t need to send them anything – for every order, you just say the product isn’t ready yet. Once the publication date draws near, you need to contact Advantage and let them know that CreateSpace will be fulfilling all of the orders. It’s convoluted and dumb, and I would think a company like Amazon would have streamlined it by now. Oh well.
    • IngramSpark
      • During the title set up, you enter the publication date. Once you approve your files, IngramSpark puts your book on preorder until that publication date. Easy peasy.
    • Note on publishing through both CreateSpace and IngramSpark
      • First off, DO NOT enable Expanded Distribution on CreateSpace if you’re using both. For the Expanded Distribution, CreateSpace sources through Lightning Source anyway, so just let IngramSpark take care of that side of distribution
      • Second, make sure to watch your book listings on Amazon when you start your preorder and/or publish your book, since both CreateSpace and IngramSpark distribute to Amazon. If the books have the same ISBN, they should play nice and not create redundant pages. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, though, but all you need to do is contact Amazon and they will fix it for you 🙂

Moving forward, I think I will definitely use CreateSpace again in the future. I’m not quite as sold on IngramSpark, due to the increase costs and the cover issues. To be fair, though, I haven’t yet ordered 50 copies from CreateSpace – they may have the same inconsistency issues.

Cover Art and World Map Reveal!

I have very exciting news: I’ve finalized the designs of the cover art and world map for Grigory’s Gadget, created by the wonderful artists at Deranged Doctor Design!

Here’s the cover art:

3d render book transparent background

And here’s the map:

HANDOVER Fantasy Map Elizabeth Hennesy

Because I finalized my cover art, that means can start sending Advance Review Copies! I’ll be sending only eBooks to start, but once I have proofed the paperback version, I can send that format as well. If you are interested in receiving an ARC, please contact me (here on WordPress, via twitter @ea_hennessy, or via my Facebook page E. A. Hennessy) with a link to the blog where you would review my book!

E. A. Hennessy is Not Available at the Moment, Please Leave a Message After the Beep

*beep*

I debated not posting on my blog this week. I didn’t want to break my blog schedule, though, so here I am.

I’m SO busy this week working on Grigory’s Gadget. I have my time booked with my cover artist at Deranged Doctor Design for mid/late January, which means I need to have a final page count (so they can use the proper spine width) by then. That means I need to finish my copy edits, proofread, and format the interior by *approximately* January 15th. (There is actually nothing approximate about this date. Once I set a deadline for myself I meet it, goddamnit! I’m a tad “Type A”)

Did I mention I also have a full time job?

In order to manage my time and give my editing the attention it needs, I’ve dedicated every “free” moment of my day to my novel. I set daily goals for myself to finish copy editing by Saturday (about 2 chapters per day) and haven’t had to stay up too late to meet them. I’d call that success.

While I finish up my novel, now is a GREAT time to sign up for my newsletter! Subscribers will be the first to see the cover art and map for Grigory’s Gadget (I should have these by the end of January/beginning of February). Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. I only send emails when I actually have news or special offers. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2016 is going to be an exciting year for me – my debut novel, Grigory’s Gadget, is going to be published this year! In March, to be exact. Here’s a breakdown of what’s ahead:

  • By mid-January, I’ll have my manuscript edited and proofread, then formatted for paperback and eBook
  • Starting in mid-January, I’ll be working with Deranged Doctor Design to create my cover
  • Throughout February, I’ll be proofing copies of Grigory’s Gadget, and will start sending out advanced review copies (ARCs). If you have a blog/youtube/other platform on which you review novels, feel free to reach out to me to get an ARC!
  • Grigory’s Gadget will be published (barring any unforeseen issues) on March 12, 2016!
  • I’ll be organizing a launch party with the wonderful owners of Mermaid & Weasel in Buffalo, NY. Keep an eye out for details on that!

Once again, Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday to Me!

Merry Christmas! Today also happens to be my birthday!

This post will be short and sweet, with a quick update on Grigory’s Gadget:

Last week, I received my copy edits from the editors at  Writership. My sentiments about this are summed up well by this quote from one of my favorite authors, Gail Carriger:

Meanwhile, I get Book 1 fixes from editor. I had been led to believe I might cry, so it is a nice surprise to find I can cope with equanimity. Of course, most of the edits were ones I knew I should do, but didn’t want to because I’m lazy. Mark my words; a good editor ALWAYS catches you out.

(source)

So, moving forward, I will be spending all of my time curled up in a cozy corner of my apartment, sipping either tea, coffee, or hot chocolate (as I see fit), editing away. I need to have my text and interior formatting complete by mid-January (so the designers at Deranged Doctor Design can create the cover!), so I will be a busy bee for the next couple weeks!

I hope you all enjoy the holidays, and if you’re in the Northeastern US like I am, enjoy this beautifully mild weather!

World-Building: Creating a Universe From Scratch

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my map for Grigory’s Gadget (which will then be beautified by the wonderful artists at Deranged Doctor Design), so world-building has been on my mind.  World-building can be a rough ride. Where do you start when you place a story in a fictional place? How much detail should you include, and where, and how? Here’s some advice I have from creating my own fictional world for Grigory’s Gadget and the Gaslight Frontier Series.

  1. Chicken or the Egg? Which comes first, establishing your fictional world, or establishing your story? For me, this is an iterative process. The world informs the plot, and the plot informs the world. Are your characters traveling by ship? Great, that means there’s an ocean. How big is that ocean, how far are they traveling? What type of ships exist in your world, and what does that mean for speed and the feasible length of the trip? Plot and setting ask and answer questions back and forth like this, likely throughout the entirety of your story.
  2. Real-world inspiration: All fictional worlds take pieces from the real world, in one manner or another. Architecture, social structure, religion, climate – there are a myriad of inspirations throughout the world and throughout history. What makes your world unique is how you combine these elements, and give them your own spin. In the case of Grigory’s Gadget, I took inspiration from the Russian language and from Russian history, particularly from the first half of the 20th century.  I also took inspiration from the “Golden Age of Pirates” that occurred in the 1700s. I tied these bits of inspiration together with steampunk and a sprinkling of dieselpunk.
  3. Keeping track: Building your own world is a big endeavor. How are you supposed to keep track of all this? There are a lot of specific answers, but one general one: keep note of EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL. Details slip through the cracks very easily, especially if it’s a detail you decide on the fly to include in a brief conversation in the middle of your novel. As far as how to keep track of those details, here are some of the things I do. The big one, of course, is the map. That map determined a lot of the plot of my book, because it determined how long my characters would be at sea between points A and B. It also determined how quickly the climate would change as they headed south. Another tool I found very helpful is the software Aeon Timeline. I used this software to keep track of the various goings-on in my world, from weather events to political events to the more minor details of my plot. It’s a nice way to see how those different elements overlap, and will definitely come in handy as I work on the sequel, which runs concurrent to Grigory’s Gadget. The other tool I use is Scrivener. This software is amazing for keeping your writing organized, and that includes all of your research and world details as well. I have a folder in Scrivener for my world, which includes reference photos, relevant Wikipedia articles, and a Glossary of terms for my world. That Glossary is to help me keep track of what I named places, objects, etc, and what they mean.

So that’s my advice on world-building! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Happy writing!