As announced on Twitter this morning, I’m super excited to tell you that Samhain is going to start offering our front and backlist in DRM-free EPUB format starting in May. We’ve got a good jump on this, we just need to give our over-worked formatter time to get it all together. Many of you know that I’m a big fan of standard formats, like EPUB, and also a huge believer in not using DRM. Samhain (and really, most epublishers that I know of) don’t use DRM and never have so for us the big announcement is really the addition of the new format, not the DRM-free.
Did you know that Samhain editors are on Twitter? www.twitter.com/samhainpub You’ll find most of the Samhain editors Twittering there, as well as our submissions coordinator. They Twitter about submissions, edits, editing, and life in general. Plus, we’re going to start doing some Twitter contests coming soon!
In the conversations from Twitter file: this past weekend I asked for recommendations for political thrillers and action adventure novels in the vein of Nelson Demille, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. I got some great recommendations (and am always happy for more if you have them). I started with two recs. One from agent Deidre Knight for The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano. I bought it and loaded it onto the Sony last night. And devoured it. It’s a totally compelling read. The author has a very readable narrative voice and I had to keep turning the pages to see where the story would go next. The main character is interesting, though not entirely likeable, but that actually works for the book because she’s not a perfect character, but an entirely real one with real flaws. I don’t regret spending the $10 for this book and I highly recommend it!
The other recommendation that I followed up on was James Rollins. I decided to go with Sandstorm, the first in his Sigma Force series. I read the first few chapters after I finished The Girl She Used to Be and enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to this evening when I can pick Sandstorm up and keep reading!
The Twitter pitch (twitch) post is still going strong. I’m going to pull some of the favorites and highlight them in a blog post this week.
Last, unrelated to publishing but relevant, I’m going to be traveling a lot in the month of April. We just decided (today) to road trip to my parents’ in North Dakota for Easter. We’ll leave early next week and won’t come back until the following Wednesday. I’ll have a day to pack and regroup before I head to WRW retreat and from there to RT for a week! I’m a little tired just thinking of it but excited because we’ve never gotten to spend a holiday with them since we’ve been married (or since Brianna was born) because of the distance and work schedules. So yay!
ETA: The first thing to say is that a pitch isn’t necessarily about selling your book to an agent/editor. Time to move out of that mindset! Read on…
Here’s another one to file under conversations from Twitter. This came up this past weekend in a conversation about Blood and Chocolate by Annette Kurtis Clause. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. Someone (@lihsa, follow the link for her article on it) on Twitter asked for a review/description and the challenge was on. 140 character review for a book? It’s the “elevator pitch” at its most refined!
Now, it’s been a few years since I read Blood and Chocolate so even though it’s one of the books I recommend often when someone asks for paranormal YA, I still had to stop and think how to refine it in an interesting way. Years after I’d read it. Hard!
I came up with: teenage female werewolf struggles to find acceptance in a world that doesn’t know about the supernatural. Moody, dark and emotional.
I don’t think it’s the best review/pitch but it does start to refine the ideas. I could make it punchier, ramp up the hook, really get someone interested. Let’s see…
Rebelling against her society. Searching for love. Desperate for a chance. Can this teen wolf reconcile what she is with who she wants to be?
Hmm, I’m not sure. I’m actually over by one character but I figure if I delete a space, I’ll be okay. What do you think? Better? It took me 15 minutes of fiddling to come up with that versus the first one, which I just popped off the top of my head.
But what I’m getting at is that it’s important to be able for authors to refine your book to its purest hook. The conflict, the angst, the info that’s going to make a reader, editor or agent want to pick it up to read, go find an excerpt, request a full or keep reading your query letter.
TV does this with what they call log lines. A one sentence hook meant to engage the viewer and get them to watch the show. Something that will easily fit in the TV guide or, for many of us now, on the guide channel. There’s no second chances when the viewer has only that guide to look at and base their decision off of. So the log line has to be good enough to convince the viewer to turn the channel right then and there, without a bunch of extranneous detail or someone saying “oh wait, that didn’t quite hook you? Well let me tell you just a little more”. The log line is it. The same should be considered true of the elevator pitch or, for purposes of my blog post, the Twitch (Twitter pitch. Ha! I’m funny).
At Samhain, we do something similar with each of our books’ blurbs, but we call it a tagline. If you go over to the website, the tagline is what you see on this page. Something to pique the interest of readers browsing our website, to entice them to click through to the book’s blurb and then excerpt.
I remember being at a conference a few years back and someone at our lunch table asking another author there about the book she wrote. I remember it was a historical but that’s all I remember because she spent the next 15 minutes talking, in depth, about the plot of her book and all the details. Ouch. Those are the times that I have to really struggle to pay attention. It’s harder if it happens during a pitch session because, let’s be honest, it’s hard for any of us to be talked to for 8 to 10 minutes without drifting off and thinking about lunch (unless you’re at lunch, in which case you’re thinking about your post-lunch nap and how much you’d like one). But I can be hooked by a plot refined down to its most interesting conflicts and ideas. Something that either makes me want to ask questions and find out more, or go buy the book and find out more.
In other words, the elevator pitch isn’t just for elevators. It’s for pitch sessions, query letters, the bar, NOT the bathroom, the bookstore, standing in line at the grocery store…well you get the idea. You’re selling your book. To whoever is your audience. Maybe it’s a reader, maybe it’s your dream agent. But the only way to sell it is to get them interested.
All this is to circle back around to what Twitter can do for your pitch. Twitter is currently the largest social media platform behind only Facebook and MySpace. But I believe it’s more open than Facebook or MySpace. Unless you have your Twitter account marked as private, anyone can read your Twitter page. Even those not “following” you. And you may end up with people following your Twitters that you might not have had the opportunity to communicate with/to anywhere else. But Twitter only allows you to type 140 characters (that’s spaces, letters and punctuation). It teaches you to refine your thoughts to the purest level and type only what you need to get the thought out there. And it’s because of those limitations that Twitter can help you refine your pitch. You only have 140 characters and you have a new book releasing, a new writing project in the works, etc (**please read side note at end of this post) and you want to tell people about it. How do you do that in 140 characters or less? You take your elevator pitch (you have one, right?) and you pare it down even further. No, it’s not easy, but once you do it, you can use it everywhere. Book promo, pens, websites, business cards, social media and in person.
Okay, you got it? So let’s hear your Twitch! If you don’t belong to Twitter and want to make sure you’re not going over the 140 character, open Notepad or something similar and let it do the count for you. If enough people leave their Twitter pitches in the comments, I’ll pull a few out and highlight their books/websites/blogs next week in a separate blog post. Ready, get set, Twitch!
**side note: please don’t query editors/agents on Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. It’s really not the appropriate place because most of us use social media as a mix of work, pleasure and goofing off, and we’d prefer to get business related proposals that follow our submissions guidelines at our submissions email address.
File this under conversations from Twitter, since I’m writing this post after a convo started there about hosting, and several people asked why I don’t recommend 1&1 for hosting. Let me be clear: I emphatically do not recommend them for hosting and I can’t emphatically not recommend them enough. I do continue to register my domain names through them and will continue to do so. They’re cheap, they provide the privacy of your personal information for free, when most domain places charge extra for that, and I have no problems with them continuing to renew my domain name.
But when it comes to hosting, 1&1 should be at the bottom of your list. I came to learn this in an almost painful way after 3 years of hosting with them this past January.
Some of you who’ve read my blog might recall a few months ago, around the beginning of January, I was starting to have a lot of problems with my WordPress install. I made several posts wondering if anyone had any ideas about what might be causing the errors that were being thrown. I was unable to use a number of plugins, any type of auto-upgrading was out of the question and things were just becoming increasingly…wonky (yes, that’s a technical term). I posted help questions on WP but didn’t get any reply that helped my situation.
A few weeks after my issues started, I was in my 1&1 control panel doing…something. And I happened to notice that the database for this blog was nearing capacity. Not understanding these things at the time, I didn’t realize that 1&1’s 100mb database capacity is not only alarmingly low, it’s appallingly low. I emailed 1&1 customer support to find out what would happen once I reached my 100mb capacity and received an email in return that was not reassuring.
Thank you for contacting us.
If your WordPress blog reaches 100mb the tendency is your blog site will be lock or typically will be down and you can no longer access it.
So the best thing is to put it as much as possible below 100mb.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
I panicked. Wouldn’t anyone? So I wrote back. I’d been a customer for 3 years, don’t use excessive bandwidth, and pay my bills on time. Surely they’d work with me and do…something?
That means I can never add content to my blog again unless I delete old content. Is there any way to get a database with more than 100mb of storage space? I’m not using my package for anything except blogging, so my usage stats aren’t extreme, and I’ve been with 1&1 long enough that I’d hate to have to move hosts because you can’t accommodate a blog on a database.
The answer, as it turns out, is no they wouldn’t.
Thank you for contacting us.
If you will delete some files on the data base and replace with new on, will it is possible.
But to exceed it more than 100mb then it will no longer be use.
The data base is not expandable nor can be added a memory since it is the only given capacity.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Did I mention I panicked? I was getting dangerously close to that 100mb limit. Like…I only had maybe 1.2 mb or something ridiculous left. I didn’t know what I could delete and really, how could I continue to blog for any period of time and not keep adding content? Obviously, I couldn’t.
So the first thing I did was research some ways to try and bring my database size down to give myself some time and did a few of those things. Second thing I did was put out a call: who do you use for hosting? I got several great responses and though I eventually went with jaguarpc because it suited my needs better and had some options that were attractive to me, for a more reasonable price, I highly recommend Esosoft as well for their exceptional customer service and would not have regretted going with them either. One thing that’s important to note that I discovered is that you have to research what the database size is for each hosting site. 100mb is obscenly low when compared to the several gigabyte or even unlimited databases many hosts offer. When you’re researching a host, please be sure this is one of the questions you get an answer to: what is the database size maximum?
Here’s where I say: Thank God for the Bree half of the Moira Rogers writing duo. She’s a bit of a tech whiz and when I ran to her for help, she attempted to walk me through getting my site transferred to the new host. But unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. See, with the database almost maxed out, the host wouldn’t download my site. In fact, when I looked back at the past several months’ of my backups, I discovered the same thing. The host had been downloading an empty file and I hadn’t realized it. It never occurred to me that could happen. My backups weren’t backups at all. (which is even scarier in retrospect, when you think that my site could have been “locked” by a maxed database, and I wouldn’t have had even a backup available to recreate it with elsewhere).
Bree was able to extract my site by tearing it out in pieces and then reconstructing it. We did discover that my stats plugin was using a good bit of that database but in the end, that shouldn’t have mattered because the host shouldn’t have such an artificially low database size. It’s my fault for not realizing sooner but that’s why I’m telling my story here. Because if you host with 1&1, or another host that has a low database size, and you continue to add content to your blog or website, the potential for this happening to you is very real.
The end result of all this is that once I got my WordPress moved to a new hosting site, all (and I mean every single one) of the problems I had with my WP install and plugins disappeared. My issues weren’t WP related at all, the database was causing all of them.
Today after we worked out, I casually mentioned to Josh that his brother had called just as I’d reached the locker room (I had Josh’s phone since he doesn’t get a locker, just gives me his few things). When he asked what he’d had to say, I said I didn’t know as there are rules against using cell phones in the locker room. I supposed (aloud) that it was so no one had the opportunity to take pictures with them. I then tossed out a comment about how often I get an eyeful of naked women in the locker room.
He was shocked. Apparently, being naked somehow doesn’t occur in the men’s locker room? Or if it does, it occurs infrequently, in haste or out of sight of other men. Whereas in the women’s locker room, it’s not unusual to see women in various states of dress, including buck naked, walking around, drying their hair and watching TV (yes there’s a TV in the locker room).
But he reports that men don’t do that. And that if you have to be naked in the men’s locker room, you do it quickly. Or you’re only naked under a towel, even to take under off/put them on. Okay, that image made me laugh because…really?
It seems that men don’t want to look at other men’s dangly bits, or have theirs seen. It must make having to use those public urinals particularly painful.
Cripes, I enjoyed this way too much. I think this should go on my business cards, don’t you?
Make your own superhero.