Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Rush to Publish

Rush to Publish
We’ve all heard the old maxim, “Act in haste; repent at leisure.” This is true in a lot of things, most especially in publishing. Why more so in publishing? Because when we authors act in haste, we’re not just saying something inappropriate that will be forgotten in time; we’re not just acting badly in one instance that eventually will be forgiven. We’re putting our words out there on paper (or on screen) forever.
This issue has cropped up fairly often lately. I do beta-reading, formatting, and editing for quite a few authors, and I see the result of this rush to publish more than I like. I read one friend’s story that, for the first 80% of it, had nice pacing and flowed along fairly well. Then, as if a switch was flipped, the last little bit of it suddenly turned into “telling, not showing,” more like an epilogue than the natural ending of the story. I told the author I could not, in all honesty, give his story a decent review because it seemed unfinished, as if he had just quit on it. He confessed that he knew he needed to flesh out the ending more, just hadn’t gotten around to it.
Then why publish?
I helped another author format a book for paperback via CreateSpace. Once we uploaded the file to CreateSpace and had the online proof reviewer available, she perused that for a few pages and called it good. She was ready to hit the publish button without even taking the time to check through the entire book or order a print proof to review. I cautioned her on this and luckily, she listened. Once she had the physical proof in her hands, she realized the book was anything but ready. We went through another major read-through and edit, then still found a few scattered typos even after she published.
One more author asked me to take a look at his newly-published eBook and gifted it to me for that purpose. I was shocked to see an error on the cover, no front matter at all, no copyright or publication data, and too many formatting errors to count. I understand doing a soft launch, publishing and then asking trusted friends to read and comment before the full-blown official launch, but even for that, the book should be as good as the author feels s/he can make it. Sure, we can always tweak it, but at least get it as close to a finished product as possible.
The problem with the rush to publish is not just that readers will see an unpolished “not ready for prime time” effort, but that this unprofessional version could be floating out there in the ether for a long, long time. Whether readers have bought a paperback or an eBook, if the first version was so glaringly unfinished, how likely are they to try the next (hopefully perfect) version? How many of those paperbacks will get recycled at the local used bookstore, and how many of those eBooks will lie fallow on Kindles or iPads, forever unedited? These ghosts of impatience and incaution could be in circulation for a long time, reminding readers of the author’s lack of professionalism. Like duck-face Facebook pictures, these unpolished embarrassments can come back to haunt the author again and again for years.
Believe me, I know well the urge to finish up a book and call it done. The very first book I sold to a publisher was one I worked on tirelessly for the better part of a year. It was an historical romance (western) about a half-breed trying to find her place in the world. Born of a Cheyenne warrior and his captive white wife, the girl was raised on the Great Plains as a Cheyenne. When, at the age of thirteen, she and her mother were recaptured by the US Cavalry and sent to New York to live with the girl’s grandparents, where she was forced into the new and alien culture, reconditioned and disguised as a young, well-bred white woman. At the age of twenty, she fled the white world for the unsettled West once more, searching for her Cheyenne family and hoping to find the one place in the world where she could finally call home.
My original plan had been to be as authentic as possible in the representation of the Cheyenne culture of the time. I had a pile of books on the Cheyenne and had copious notes on the structure and organization of a Cheyenne village. However, by the time I got to that part of the story, I was so sick of it all that instead of writing the detailed experience I had planned, I settled for a truncated version that skipped most of the essence of the Cheyenne culture. I rushed to finish the book and start sending it off to publishers.
Luckily for me, the publisher that bought the book wasn’t happy with the final page count. After they’d accepted the book and sent me my advance, I got a brief and unapologetic letter saying I needed to add 70 pages to the book. More luckily for me, this was a few years after I’d finished the book, so I was able to go back with a fresh view and add all the detail in the experience in the Cheyenne village that I’d left out before. Seventy pages later, the book was complete, and was finally the book that I had originally wanted it to be.
The rush to publish is something most of us have to grapple with at some point or another. K.S. Brooks talked about her own experience with this in a post called Letting a Manuscript Sit. It’s nothing new, but the problem is that it’s seductive. We get tired. We get bored. Maybe we already have an idea for a new story brewing, and we want to get on with it. We want to finish the one we’re working on and check it off our list. Don’t do it. Readers can tell. I had one friend tell me that he read a book where he could tell just about every time the author reached the end of his day, because the quality of the writing fell off appreciably. At the start of the next chapter, it would come back fresh and alive, but later on would flag again. Readers can tell.
If you’re tired, bored, or have less than full commitment to your story, don’t rush to finish it. Put it aside and do something else. Come back when you’re fresh. And whatever you do, don’t publish if you have any niggling thoughts about, “I can fix that later.” Don’t do it.
Think about those duck-face Facebook photos.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on December 30, 2014

Monday, June 11, 2018

New Release: The Field Where I Died

Have you been fascinated with a place you've never visited? Or with a historical event that happened well before you were born? Many of us have, but what does that mean? Could the reason be more than simple curiosity?

I'm pleased to announce the release of my latest book, The Field Where I Died, a novel that examines these questions and more. Here's a brief summary of the story.

Devon Muir has always been fascinated with the Civil War.  When he discovers that his fourth great-grandfather fought at pivotal battles like Antietam and Gettysburg, he is compelled to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps and experience the battlefields on his own. What he doesn’t count on is dreaming about a battle every night—and being killed every time. Now his exploration of battlefields becomes a different kind of quest as he struggles to understand who is the soldier he becomes in his dream, and who is the woman whose face he sees as he lays dying.

Sound intriguing? If so, you're in luck because The Field Where I Died is only 99 cents through June 17, 2018. Here's a great chance to add it to your summer reading queue (or, for my Aussie friends, sitting cozy beside the fireplace) at a bargain price. After that, it will revert to its normal price, $4.99.

For those of you waiting on a new book in the Lacey and Sam series, I'm working on Book 13 as we speak. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Cover Marketing Ideas

Once you’re got your excellent kick-ass book cover, what do you do with it beside plaster it all over your blog and Facebook page? Believe me, there are plenty of fun ways to use it for promotion, marketing, and just plain getting attention.
book cover e-magnetsMagnets
Make business card-sized magnets and give them away at your next function. You can buy sticky-backed magnets from Amazon or any office store, print your book covers on card stock and stick them on. (Or Avery makes printable pre-scored business card sized magnets.) You can also buy full-sized sheets of thin magnet “paper” (available from Avery, Staples, and other manufacturers) that will go through your printer. You can make the magnets any size you wish, then just cut them out with scissors. The strength of this magnet paper is not as strong as the business card model, but it will definitely stick to a refrigerator. In the picture at left, the larger ones are business card-sized while the smaller ones are cut from the full sheet.
If you’re not into DIY, you can also have custom magnets made up by many online companies like Vistaprint. (See the IU Book Cover Resource page for links to all these items.)
e-bookmarksBookmarks are always an excellent way to get your books out to the public. Include one in every book you sell and give them away at book fairs and book signings. As with the magnets, you can do it yourself or have them made custom by online companies like Zazzle or If you’ve got more than one book out, you can put two or three book covers on one bookmark, or you can highlight a single book by including the blurb or good reviews.
Other Items and places like also offer all sorts of promotional items like mugs, buttons, bumper stickers, mouse pads, clothing, water bottles, clocks and tablet cases. You can really run wild with all of this, but of course there’s a price. Most of these things would be too pricey for giveaways, but they could come in handy for contests, raffles, and book launch prizes.
book cover charms and pendantsBook Charms
I found these little book charms and love them. They don’t work for every book, however, just because of the size. If your book cover has a lot of complex images or a lot of text, they will probably not translate well to this size. But if your book has a simple design and very sharp, clear text, it will work. These from Etsy come with a bail (your choice of styles) for hanging on a chain or a thin ribbon bookmark.
3D book covers3D Images
Finally, get attention with your book cover by doing something different. Ninety-nine percent of the book covers you see online are just flat rectangles. Good-looking, informative, yes, but not exactly standing out from the crowd. Several software products will allow you to turn your ordinary flat cover into a stunning 3D book. Cover Action Pro is an add-on to PhotoShop and is pricey, but the result definitely pulls your book out of the sea of rectangles. As always, you can do it yourself if you’re up for that, or contact a good cover designer or digital artist.
Book Cover Contests
If you think your book cover is really special, there are several book cover contests, but they may be less productive than authors might like. For most of the ones I found, the prizes are recognition only, no real monetary value.
The Book Designer holds a monthly e-book cover design contest. They remind entrants that this contest is primarily educational, and that by submitting your covers, you are agreeing to invite comments, commendations, and constructive criticism. The covers submitted are featured on the website along with the opinions about the designs.
The American Institute of Graphic Arts holds a yearly book and book cover contest called 50 Books/50 Covers Competition. Again, you must be a member in order to enter your book or cover for consideration. There is an entry fee of $45 per book. Finalists will have their entries published in AIGA’s Design Observer.
What other uses for your book covers have you found? What have you tried, and what worked and what didn’t?
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on January 13, 2015