After Hurricane Ida last month, our power went out for, it turns out, a whole week. The eight major transmission lines for the city of New Orleans and suburbs went through one single decrepit tower, which collapsed under the storm, draping the lines into the Mississippi River and leaving the whole region without power for days.
After a late-summer hurricane it always becomes extremely hot. The storm sucks up all the moisture over the Gulf of Mexico and precipitates it, so after the storm passes, the sky is clear and the sun in August or September is absolutely brutal. And with the power out, no AC. People die in these circumstances. My husband couldn’t handle the heat, so we decamped to his parent’s house north of Baton Rouge. Their power was out for less than a day.
“We can’t keep doing this, ” I said as we drove north, skirting Lake Pontchartrain, the water and sky a vista of blue.
“We can go to my sister’s if we can’t go to Mom’s next time,” he said.
“No,” I said, “I mean Louisiana! This is going to keep happening. These storms that spin up from nothing to a Category 4 or 5 in 48 hours. That’s not enough time to prepare. To evacuate.”
“Nope,” he said.
“And we can’t keep cleaning up these messes. My God, all the power going through one tower, what the hell! It’s climate change. These storms are going to keep happening. We need to harden this place, south Louisiana. We can’t keep getting caught with our pants down. Spending billions of dollars we don’t have for recovery.”
“That’s not going to happen,” he said. Louisiana is a very poor and red state.
“It has to! Somehow.” I looked at the marsh grasses beside the lake, shining in the sun, ideas tumbling in my head. “Maybe I should write a book about it.”
“You just did!” he said.
I did, sort of. Climate change and the ensuing havoc are part of the backstory of THE PONO WAY, an integral part of the character’s lives. The very first page mentions how coffee, real coffee, has become a scarce and expensive luxury. The second page lists a litany of chaos and destruction that is the normal course of events “two centuries into the Anthropocene era of mass extinction and climate change.” The destruction of the environment is part of the background tenor of everyday life in Pono, my island state. It’s largely why Pono was created (it’s an artificial sea-steading) and why many of its inhabitants migrated there, to escape the instability of the mainlands. Including my protagonist, Jake Weintraub.
But the Ponoans come to discover that even a thousand miles of ocean can’t really protect them from the danger and dysfunction of the broken, corrupt remnants of North America forever.
So yes, calling attention to climate change and its ensuing disasters is part of why I wrote that book. Part of why I write at all. My last book was about an epic, civilization-ending apocalypse too. [Daughter of Atlas: A Novel of the Fall of Atlantis, if you haven’t read it yet. 😉 ] And that, too, was caused by unchecked human greed and pillaging of the earth.
It’s important to me. Society has been talking about ecological collapse and doing nothing about it for my entire lifetime. This is my way of doing something.
But there’s more yet to write. I was imagining a story where a bunch of solarpunk misfits take over Baton Rouge and turn it into a green, sustainable, New New Orleans. Baton Rouge is as far north as the Mississippi is safely navigable for the huge container ships that provide so much of Louisiana’s revenue. Far enough north that it won’t be under water in a hundred years. It is the state capitol and a university town, home of LSU, my alma mater. It’s the logical place to migrate to.
Because we will have to migrate, one day. Everyone in south Louisiana. I hope it’s done in a just and peaceful manner. Instead of some kind of Mad Max land rush.
To make something happen, you first have to imagine it.
That’s what I do. You can help me by reading my books, yeah? 😉
When I was shouldering my way into Geek Fest, April, one of my colleagues, encouraged me to donate a few copies of my book to the library, so that attendees could check them out. Which is something I always intended to do, but never got around to, because of my shyness. Another way I just “had to do it,” as Alys Arden said, but didn’t.
But with April’s encouragement, I did, and the cataloging department kindly had them ready in time for Geek Fest.
Of course, I earmarked a copy for my own branch that I manage.
That’s it above. One of my staff members put it on display. They were excited to finally see it.
“They could make a movie out of this!” my coworker Belami said.
(I think so too, but find the possibility unlikely.)
And now, all three copies of my book are checked out and there is even a waiting list! I have to tell you, that makes you feel like a real author.
It was lovely to receive this support from my coworkers. It’s encouraging.
That’s the thing about “just having to do it,” — it’s not all nerves and anguish. It can be good too. You get support. There are rewards. (Besides, you know, selling books.) This is what I learned from this.
And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
So, if you are an indie author like me, you might look into donating a few copies of a book to your local library. Particularly the first book in a series, if you have one. It’s another way for people to discover your work. If they like it well enough, they may be moved to buy your subsequent books.
If you work exclusively with e-books, you might look into the SELF-e platform libraries use. Again, it’s a donation, but it’s a way to get noticed.
It’s up to the inclinations of individual libraries and librarians whether they collect indie authors or not. Some libraries are very supportive of their local authors. Some are not. But it can’t hurt to offer.
DON’T, however, try to sneak in a purchase request for your books as if you were just a regular patron. We librarians can always tell, it smacks of desperation, and it just pisses us off. Be above board and donate a few copies if you can. If nothing else, they will go to the library book sale. You will get noticed and help the library earn a couple dollars.
So I did have a really great time. But the thing is, I had to force myself to do it. Represent myself as an author allied with the library, who deserved to be there.
I have real issues with marketing my work. I’m so introverted and socially avoidant, I quail at the thought of putting myself or my work out there, even if it’s just online. God forbid actually in public in front of real people.
But you have to do it. No one’s going to read your books if they don’t know they’re there.
When my book was first published, I asked Alys, “How do you make yourself market your book?”
And she said, “You just have to do it. You just have to put yourself out there. It’s hard. But you just do it, and it gets easier.”
Well, I struggled and avoided it for a long time, but when I learned of Geek Fest, I thought, I have to be involved in this. I thought, Hey, why aren’t I on that panel?
So I talked to the organizers, some of my colleagues at Main Library, and said, “Hey, I want to be on that panel at Geek Fest.” And they said okay.
And it went well. And there are rewards too:
This is Bethany. She came up to me after the panel. I thought she was going to give me grief for trash-talking Laurel K. Hamilton. (An unpopular opinion.)
But no. She said, “I’m Bethany. I work with your husband. He gave me your book to read, and I loved it!”
Wow! My first time hearing from a fan out in the field. What an incredible moment. Isn’t this why we write at all? To reach people, to be heard? Thank you, Bethany!
“She said, “I just wanted you to know.” I offered her one of my cards with this website on it, and she said, “I have one, Sam gave it to me.” So, hi Bethany! Great to meet you! We talked about my follow-on book to Daughter of Atlas, which isn’t a straight sequel, but shows what happens elsewhere when Atlantis falls. Which Bethany said was what she was curious about in a sequel. So that was wildly encouraging.
They say that’s the way indie authors build their fan base, one reader at a time. The only way you can do that is by reaching out to them, both on and off-line.
So, if you are struggling with marketing your books, don’t be afraid. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Go ahead and shoulder yourself onto a panel at your local sci-fi con. You never know who you might meet.
The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has reached its finals: the blogger/reviewers have chosen their 10 finalists, and all will read all to determine the winner. Read about it here.
My book is not among them. In fact it was cut during the first round of eliminations.
Ouch. That hurt. But I have to admit that I seriously overestimated my chances on this thing. There are many, many authors entered in the Blog-Off that are far more experienced than me.
The mini-reviw of my book on Team Weatherwax is here. The reviewer (not sure who) said Daughter of Atlas has “pacing issues.” Ugh. That’s hard to hear. But no else who’s ever read or reviewed it (that I know of) has ever said that, so I guess it’s a matter of opinion.
My biggest disappointment from being cut so early, though, is that DoA didn’t get a cocktail made to memorialize it by Book Wol of Tome & Tankard. I was so looking forward to that. There is a general cocktail for all the early losers here.
One thing I have noticed, is that most (I think eight out of ten) of the finalist books have more “painterly” covers than your usual indie-published books, with their Photoshopped covers. It looks like the authors paid to have artists actually paint cover paintings for their books, or at least composit them in a more illustrative style than the usual photorealistic , CGI’d indie covers we are used to. It makes the books more “professional” looking, that is, more like commercially published books. It probably contributes a positive halo effect to the books. They are appropriate to the genre, fantasy, and are what readers expect to see.
(Not that I am displeased by the cover of my book, or having second thoughts. I love the cover of DoA, and I have always received positive feedback from it. But it is something to keep in mind for future works.)
Author and YouTube book vlogger Quinn Buckland gave DoA a stellar review here. Check it out. Thanks Quinn!
My interview by Michael Baker of the Thousand Scars Muse blog is here. I did see a small sales spike from that, thank you Michael.
And I have a new review on GoodReads from XDesoto, here.
Well, there’s always next time. My forthcoming book is science fiction, so I can’t enter SPFBO with that, but I will return to fantasy and to my series Atlantis Fallen in the future, so hopefully one day I will be able to enter the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off again.
Does anyone know if there is a similar contest for indie sci-fi?
Finally, let me extend my thanks to Mark Lawrence, who founded the Blog-Off, and to all the bloggers and reviewers, who are putting in an incredible amount of work on their own time, for love of reading and the genre, and also to all my fellow authors. Good luck to all the finalists!
The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, Round 4, starts tomorrow, Wednesday, August 1. I’m sure many of us authors are nervous and excited.
To celebrate, many of the participating authors, myself included, are dropping the price of their ebooks to 99 cents from August 1 through 5, to allow fans and readers to follow along and purchase as many of the entry books as possible. Thanks to author Andrea Domanski who put this whole effort together!
Of course, you can purchase my submission, Daughter of Atlas, here, as always.
Daughter of Atlas was assigned to the Team Weatherwax review team, and Bookwol of Tome & Tankard is already reading it! Hm, hope that doesn’t mean I get eliminated early. We’ll have to see, I guess.
Good luck to all the authors, and a huge thank you to all the reviewing book bloggers for putting in this huge amount of work, for love of the genre and indie publishing. And especially to author Mark Lawrence, who created the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off four years ago.
I’ve been looking at the books Daughter of Atlas will be competing with in SPFBO 4. Here’s the Goodreads list.
There are some very experienced indie authors on this list, I see, as well as some noobs like myself. The competition is strong. Just glancing at the list, I see Daughter of Atlas has only a one-star rating! This is because only one person has given it a star rating, and that rating is one star. (As I understand it, some people on Goodreads like to mark their “to be read” books with a one-star rating. Yes, that’s it!)
So, it looks kind of bad to see that one star in there among all those three- and four-star ratings. I’m hoping you can help me with that. If you read and enjoyed Daughter of Atlas, and have a Goodreads account, hop on over there and give the book a rating of more than one star. Whatever you think is an accurate rating. (A review would be nice to, if you have the time.)
I’d just like the book to make a better first impression on Goodreads, for the judges, and anyone who might be following the contest.
I’ve decided to do something fun with my book Daughter of Atlas. I hope you’ll follow along.
I’ve entered into the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 4, a big book review tournament for, as noted, indie-published fantasy novels. It was created by indie author Mark Lawrence. Eight bloggers or teams of bloggers will review 300 books. Each team will choose one semi-finalist to be read and reviewed by all the blog teams. The final winner wins, well, the title of SPFBO 4 winner, fame and hopefully fortune.
And here’s a Goodreads list of all the competing books. And a list of the books for Team Weatherwax here.
I’m very happy and excited to be a part of this, and I’d like to thank Mark Lawrence, all the bloggers, and also all the authors for taking part in this wonderful opportunity for the indie book community.
The contest will begin in August. I’ll keep you apprised.
I got back the final draft of my paper book cover from Selfpubbookcovers.com, and uploaded it to CreateSpace. So I am waiting now of the proof copy of the book to arrive from CreateSpace, which should take about a week. Once I approve the proof, the book will be for sale.
I’m probably going to lose my mind when that proof comes in. My book! Made real! Something I’ve been waiting my whole life to see.
I should have done this ages ago. It was surprisingly easy, and I feel really good about it. As my friend Rob Cerio said, the only difference these days between a published author and an unpublished author is clicking that Amazon button. So click it! You’ll be glad you did.