One Year After Publishing Grigory’s Gadget – What I’ve Learned

Sunday, March 12th, marks one year since Grigory’s Gadget was published!

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Since about a year has passed since publication (wow!), I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned in terms of writing, publishing, marketing, and more.

In terms of writing, I’ve discovered that it gets a lot harder after publishing a book! There’s an added pressure that simply doesn’t exist if you’re an unpublished author. Now I need to finish the next book – people are waiting! I can’t just push it aside for months or years, nor can I switch gears to work on a different project. Well, I could, I guess. But my personality won’t allow it!

One thing that surprised me about this process is which distribution channels sold the most books. Most information on the internet would suggest that eBooks are the way to go in this regard. However, as you can see on the chart below, I’ve sold almost a majority of my books through vending events and consignment.

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I have attended 8 vending events since publishing Grigory’s Gadget (and I have two more this month!). These events, combined with selling books by word-of-mouth, have proven to be the best way to get my book out there.

Smashwords was my second-most successful distribution channel, thanks in large part to their sale events they have multiples times per year. Amazon, via Kindle Direct Publishing for eBooks and CreateSpace for paperbacks, was also successful.  Books sold through Indiegogo and Amazon were pre-sale books. IngramSpark by far is the least successful distribution channel. I still suggest that self-publish authors utilize this channel, however, if you have any interest in getting your book into brick-and-mortar stores.

Another factor that contributes to the success, or lack-there-of, of each distribution channel is the fact that I haven’t done much in the way of advertising. I’ve dabbled a bit in Facebook and Amazon ads, but never saw an impressive return on either. I’ve done a couple interviews, and had my book reviewed on a few blogs. I’ve also started to utilize Newsletter Swap, which actually seems to have boosted my sales quite a bit. (By the way, if you haven’t already, you should join my email list!)

For now, I still won’t be putting a lot of money and effort into advertising, since writing is still a (passionate) hobby for me. For the time being, most of my writing-related efforts will be directed toward the actual act of writing. I need to finish the first draft of Serafima’s Stone!

Have you grabbed a copy of Grigory’s Gadget? In celebration of its anniversary, Grigory’s Gadget will be on sale throughout the month of March!

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Find the eBook on Amazon and Smashwords!

Get the discounted paperback through my CreateSpace eStore using the code 8CAZ5J8X!

Taking Publishing Into Your Own Hands – My Indie Author Day Presentation

“On October 8, 2016, nearly 300 libraries across North America invited thousands of local writers in their communities to join them for a day of celebration and inspiration devoted to indie authors. During the inaugural Indie Author Day, libraries big and small hosted events where local authors connected, networked, shared experiences and offered advice to one another, while also featuring locally-written books to library patrons in their communities.” – Indie Author Day

I attended Indie Author Day 2016 at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library downtown location. In addition to connecting with local authors and publishers, I also had the privilege of giving a presentation on the self-publishing process titled “Taking Publishing Into Your Own Hands”.

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I received a wonderful response from the attendees of Indie Author Day; everyone seemed to really like my presentation and some requested a copy of the presentation. So, I obliged!

A PDF of the slides is available here: taking-publishing-into-your-own-hands

In the presentation, I go over the differences between traditional and self/independent publishing, pros and cons, expected costs, and some lessons learned. I also included links to my favorite indie publishing resources:

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Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

In other news, I’m currently in the process of revamping my website by moving from Wix to Bluehost/Wordpress. The transfer will take a bit of time, as will setting up the new site. You can find updates regarding my website by following me on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll try to keep you posted in my weekly blog posts as well!

Indie Author Day Update!

Next Saturday, October 8th, is the inaugural Indie Author Day! During the Inaugural Indie Author Day, libraries from all across North America will host their own local author events with the support of the Indie Author Day team. In addition to these local programs, each library’s indie community will come together for an hour-long digital gathering at 2 pm Eastern featuring Q&A with writers, agents and other industry leaders.

I will be vending at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Downtown Central Location that day from 10am to 3pm. In addition, I’ll be giving a presentation on the self-publishing process titled “Taking Publishing Into Your Own Hands”!

If you’re in the Buffalo area, come by and say hi! If you’re anywhere else, find out if your local library is holding their own Indie Author Day event! Go forth and support your local library and authors!

In Anticipation of Autumn

The first day of autumn is less than a week away!

Yes, I am one of those fall-loving girls, and I have no shame. The summer here in Buffalo, NY was especially brutal this year. We had eight 90+ degree days (it felt like more!) and a strange combination of high humidity and a summer-long drought. It was too gross to be outside unless absolutely necessary, especially since I don’t have a pool. So yes, I am very much looking forward to autumn!

It also just-so-happens that a lot of autumn tropes are also writing and reading tropes. Curling up with a good book, sipping tea, experiencing the existential crisis that results from equating the coming winter with our own looming mortality…

It really gets those creative juices flowing!

Speaking of tea, I’ve created custom-blended Grigory’s Gadget-themed teas at Adagio Teas. Each tea is inspired by a character or place in the story:

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Zoya Orlova: Berry Rooibos Tea; Lilia Alkaeva: Masala Chai Tea; Anya Filipova: Yerba Mate Tea; Nikolai Polzin: Gunpowder Green Tea; Demyan Volkov: Almond Oolong Tea; Dream of Mirgorod: Tropical White Tea; Lodninsk: Pu Erh and Chestnut Tea

5% of the sales for each of these blends is donated to Amnesty International. (I don’t receive anything from the sales; I just made them for fun!)

So grab some tea, cuddle up with a book, and enjoy the cooler weather!

Music That Influenced My Novel: Grigory’s Gadget

Music has a place in pretty much every aspect of my life. I listen to music in the car, I often listen to music at work, I’m a dancer…even if I’m not actively listening to music, I’m probably singing along to something-or-other in my head. I also frequently experience musical frisson – that rush of chills you get when music gets AWESOME.

So, of course, music has a place in my writing as well.

I touched on this topic a bit back in December, but that was before Grigory’s Gadget was published, so I wanted to revisit it.

The music I listen to while actively writing is often instrumental. If there are words to a song, I’ll just wind up listening to those words instead of my story’s. Usually this music consists of soundtracks. While writing Grigory’s Gadget, I tended to listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks, along with a little Lord of the Rings,Game of Thrones, and Lindsey Stirling.

Along the way, I also discovered a new favorite genre of music: electro-swing! This genre takes jazz and swing songs and remixes them. This blend of old and new fits wonderfully with steampunk! My favorite album was Jazz Goes Steampunk! Electro Swing Invasion. It does break my rule about instrumental-only music while writing, but it didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. Now, if we want to be technical, the fact that most of these songs are from the 1930s would suggest they’re more appropriate for dieselpunk, not steampunk. Grigory’s Gadget already blurs those lines, what with all the communist and fascist dystopian undertones, so I still consider it appropriate!

SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned!

Grigory’s Gadget was also influenced by music when I wasn’t actively writing. Songs I hear on the radio often influence plot or characterization. For example, the song “From Finner” by Of Monsters and Men helped set the tone of the story. The chorus of the song –

We are far, far from home, but we’re so happy;
Far from home, all alone, but we’re so happy

– became a sort of mantra for my characters. The juxtaposition of the forboding sound of the song with the smattering of hopeful lyrics set the tone as well.

The song “Gangway” by Guster influenced Anya’s characterization: she’s energized by being at sea, and quickly took a liking to being a pirate.

If I could make a wish, if I could right a wrong,
If I could plot a twist we wouldn’t be here long,
I’d lean in to each turn, seeking evermotion.
Soon, the walls, the house, the sky starts shaking,
The clouds, the land, the sea,
Gangway!

By far the most influential song I listened to while writing Grigory’s Gadget was “Hero” by Family of the Year. This song actually caused me to make some characterization adjustments and major changes to the climax of the story. Namely, this is the song that led to Demyan being killed.

Let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else

This song actually led to my discovery of foreshadowing I hadn’t realized I had planted. At the beginning of the story, the friends play a card game called Durak (Russian translation: fool) and Demyan loses. Throughout the story, Demyan is the one who is the least adaptable to their situation (getting seasick, getting frustrated by their situation, etc.). He also lacks the rebellious streak of his friends, preferring to keep his head down and do as he’s told. He doesn’t want to be a hero.

The original ending of Grigory’s Gadget saw Demyan live, and he felt like a dead weight (pun intended, sorry). I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was until I heard “Hero”. That song resonated with Demyan’s character so much. Then it clicked: I had been foreshadowing Demyan’s death this entire time! And of course, his death was an act of bravery and heroism: he helped Zoya start to come back to herself at the cost of his own life. He wasn’t a dead weight character anymore. He had done something; he saved the woman he loves and their friends.

Moral of the story – don’t underestimate the power of music! It can be lethal…

The Enchanted City Preview

Tomorrow I will be attending an event that I’m VERY excited for: The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World. The Enchanted City is the annual steampunk festival in Troy, NY. Troy, being a city that was booming during the Victorian Era and has recently been going through a revival, is the perfect backdrop for this event.

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I’ll start the day off at Market Block Books, located near the Chamberlain’s Inventors’ Challenge, for a signing event for my novel, Grigory’s Gadget, from 11am to 1pm. During and after my signing, there will be a plethora of activities happening elsewhere in the Enchanted City! Check out the jam-packed schedule below:

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There’s something for everyone at this event! I’m particularly excited about the races, costume contests, cook-off, and the myriad of musical performances! Not to mention the vendors…alright, I admit, I’m excited for everything!

If you’re in the Capital District, I highly recommend you check out this awesome festival.

Meet the Characters: Nikolai Polzin

(Image source: Nappturality)

For this series, I’m going to delve into the characters of Grigory’s Gadget in the style of those fun/silly surveys that pop-up on social media from time-to-time. I’ll also include name pronunciation, because I know a lot of people have been asking about that! (That being said, you can pronounce the names of my characters however you like, I’ll just be listing the “official” pronunciation) This post will be about Nikolai Polzin.

WARNING: Mild spoilers for Grigory’s Gadget contained in this post!

Name: Nikolai Polzin (NEE-koh-LIE POHL-zihn)

Name Meaning: Nikolai – Russian form of Nicholas, meaning “victory of the people”; Polzin – occupational name designating a merchant who engaged in transactions for profit in Russia

Age: early 20s

Physical Appearance: Dark skin, long dreads, deep brown eyes, muscular

Hometown: Lodninsk, Morozhia (LOHD-ninsk, moh-ROHZH-ya)

Family: Mother died from a plague that swept through Lodninsk; father’s death is unexplained

Relationship Status: single

Education: studying archaeology

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: Intensely loyal to his friends; sharp-witted and an analytical thinker

Greatest Weaknesses: Cynical to a fault; has a quick temper

Favorite Color: Orange

Hobbies: playing card games like Durak; considers archaeology a hobby/passion

Biggest Goal in Life: Go on an adventure, inspired by tales of ancient cities and artifacts