Friday, March 27, 2009

Moving Right Along

It's been a fun week! Mike came back to us super-quick with his brand-new original track for Fred's video trailer. I've had it playing on repeat a good deal over the last few days and I'm sure this is the perfect soundtrack for what we want to do. In case you haven't heard it yet, go to and look for "The Muse". My new flatmate Steph ( has agreed to play the part of Jilly, so all we need now is for Fred to find a Davos lookalike. Oh yes, and I have to procure a princessy cone-hat and sparkly-star wand. Shouldn't be too hard.

After a lot of to and fro I've finally gotten an account open at Lightning Source. This means that I can upload book content as soon as I have it ready, and be publishing it very soon after. How exciting! The first one out is going to be Legendary Space Pilgrims, and many thanks to JesusPuppy for his help with the cover. I'll be redoing the book trailer for that, but you can head over to and have a listen to "Dawnlight" - this is the soundtrack for the Space Pilgrims.

In New Zealand the weekend is almost upon us. I'm taking some time out with my parents in a place far from here (well, not that far, I can see it from my window - but it will take an hour on a car ferry to get there) and I'm taking my writing kit to get moving on Godspeed at last - the sequel to Faith Awakened, which many of you have asked me about. It's coming! I last worked on it in a motel in upstate New York, and that was in early October. A long time ago. I'm looking forward to getting it moving again. I'm really excited about it because it's a storyworld I'm so familiar with I could tell it in my sleep - yet now it unfolds new opportunities and new characters as Naomi ventures from Ireland to America and runs for her life. *rubs hands together* This is going to be good!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

If You Like the Book, You'll Love the Movie

I didn't think about marketing when I was writing The Muse. I was mostly worried about getting my daily quota of words into electrons and having it all make sense in a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Even after Grace decided to publish it, I wasn't thinking much past a card table at the local Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic convention or the corner bookstore.

I quickly found myself in a world where books are advertised like movies, with interactive websites and theatrical trailers, and one of the first questions Grace asked me was, "How do you want to do the video trailer?"

I had no idea. How do you condense a 50000-or-so-word novel into a two-minute video that will intrigue potential readers without giving away too many details?

Fortunately, Grace had done this before with her own books, so she was able to point me in the right direction, and we're working out the script right now. So far, so good, I'm thinking. I can do this.

Then, she asks me what sort of music I think would be appropriate for the video.

Music? I'm a doctor, not a, I'm a writer, not a composer! How should I know what music would work for this thing?

As it's turned out, I needn't have worried. Grace found a musician on ShoutLife she thought might be able to do the job, in exchange for some advertising in the book. I listened to a couple of his tracks, and I was hooked. There were themes and motifs in his music that perfectly captured the mood of several scenes in my story, and he was clearly the right man for the job. Even better, today he sent me a preliminary clip of his music for the trailer, and again, it fit perfectly.

Our musician's name is Michael L. Rogers, and you can find samples of his music at and You can also purchase some of his older music on iTunes, listed under the name 'Eleon'.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Blast from the Past

Today I found myself thinking back to when I self-published my first book Faith Awakened.

Now a first book will always be a first book, that is, there will always be things I could have done better. However, all things considered, I'm still pretty happy with the result - especially since, as the book of my heart that had been chasing me for 14 years, it was told in a somewhat eclectic manner: alternating first-person narrative from two different characters who initially have nothing to do with each other.

I reckon I only just pulled it off, and I wouldn't do it like that again in a hurry, but it did work for most readers. For many it did more than "just work" - I felt that it connected with people in precisely the way that I had hoped. So it was a very positive experience. My only regret is the one typo I missed.

That book is still in print and available at all the usual online locations - and do check out the Amazon reviews while you're there! The PDF e-book is downloadable for free on my Author/Reader forum, which you can sign up for here.

Anyway, I recalled making a list of actual tasks involved in the process of publishing. Some of these tasks are not immediately obvious, but I believe this list covers most everything that is necessary for publishing a book. So I want to remind myself of these things to make sure they're all included in the Splashdown Books process. They range from the very basic building blocks to the top level of marketing strategy - so here goes:

  • As a young child, I often wondered if people in Heaven could return to an Earth-like life.
  • As a teenager, I played with the idea of making this into a story, but didn't get all that far.
  • At 22 I began to write, first plotting out the chapters.
  • The plot changed a fair bit in the course of writing.
  • I finished the manuscript about five years after beginning. Most of it was completed in the fifth year.
  • After doing my own preliminary edits, I submitted the manuscript to critique groups - one major secular website for sci-fi and fantasy ( and one smallish Christian fantasy group known as Dan's Killer Crit Group, which later morphed into the Lost Genre Guild. I also sent the file to individual writer friends who'd agreed to look at it.
  • I received around ten complete critiques, where people inserted their comments in the manuscript file. The folk from the secular group were less merciful, but they did help me find some plot holes and fix them, which was very significant to the end result.
  • I printed out the original and all the critiques in very small print and took them to North Africa for a week, where I read them all and scribbled changes into the margins of the original where they needed to be made. I also proofread for spelling errors, went swimming and sightseeing, and read nine books at the beach. One of them was "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Browne and King, and I applied its principles immediately.
  • I made a movie of the whole process
  • I did not accept all the advice I was given. Half is probably realistic. [Definite mark of a newbie, in my now-hopefully-wiser opinion!]
  • I came home and made the changes to the file.
  • I met a graphic designer from Spain on Shoutlife. She offered to do my cover image. It was brilliant, and after a little tweaking, we got the proportions and placement right.
  • Using the image, I created front and back covers to the measurements stated by Lulu, and added text using a graphic program - title and author on the front, and a blurb on the back.
  • I used the new image to create a book website at and included a place for reviewers to sign up. I made noise about the new site at Shoutlife, Myspace and various other places.
  • I printed the current manuscript and proofread it again. Sent it to one or two friends who did the same.
  • I formatted the manuscript to 6x9" page size with 1" margins and added page numbers. The text is Garamond 12pt with a line width of 16pt to loosen it up. Each chapter began on the 10th line of a new page.
  • I created 24 chapter head images with the text "Chapter 1" etc, because I wanted to use the same font as on the front cover and Lulu doesn't recognise it (would have changed it to Courier!)
  • I uploaded the cover graphics and the manuscript to Lulu.
  • I ordered around 40 copies and had them sent directly from Lulu to the people who'd agreed to review my book. Most were beginning authors like me, but a few had a larger claim to fame. Being an adoring fan got me a couple of good contacts. A large number of people also received an e-book copy on request.
  • I took a break for a month or two and watched review comments come in. It felt real good. I collected thousands of friends at Shoutlife and tried out all kinds of Internet social networks to meet potential fans. I read POD People by Jeremy Robinson and tightened up some of my strategies as a result.
  • I began to do film book trailers. Not just one. Ten. One serious, nine funny. Look for them at my youtube page.
  • I added 3 pages of the best short comments, an author bio, a title page and a copyright page to the beginning of my manuscript file. At the end I put in a thanks page, website info, and ads received from swap partners who will also put my ads in their books. And of course an ad for my amazing graphic designer!
  • I stuck a great comment from my most famous bestselling reviewer on my front cover, and a handful of others on the back. I changed the author photo to a better one and formatted the back cover to leave room for the barcode Lulu then added.
  • I ordered a copy for me and one for a friend in another country, and we both searched again for typos. We found two or three.
  • I purchased Global Distribution on Lulu. [sigh! If only it were that easy now!]
  • I made final changes, uploaded new files, and approved the book to appear on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and a few other places.
Of course, some things will be different now, since there will be other authors involved, and I'm using a different printer. Does anyone have anything to add to this?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Editing is Job One

Once Grace and I got the contract hashed out (which required a little research from both of us, but happily, no involvement of dueling lawyers/barristers), I set to work polishing my manuscript of The Muse in detail. I began by making several complete passes through the story myself, looking for any holes or logical disconnects in the plot, inconsistencies in the characters, and mechanical errors--typos, grammar, punctuation, etc.

I also farmed out the manuscript to several outside readers for input. I was fortunate to gather a nice cross-section of folks--young, old, male, female, writers, non-writers, and both fans and non-fans of the genre. Some of the critiques are still in progress, but the feedback they've provided so far has been very helpful. You might think that after going through this story a couple dozen times, I'd be intimately familiar with every letter and be able to recite the entire thing in my sleep, but this process has shown me how easy it is to develop blind spots and how important a fresh set of eyes can be to turning out a quality product.

At the same time, Grace and I discussed concepts for the cover art and a promotional video clip. I hadn't anticipated how tricky the choice of font and color can be. There are so many subconscious flags associated with the shape, size, and color of letters that it's very easy to inadvertently communicate a misleading message about the story. Some fonts are indelibly linked to famous works of literature or particular kinds of stories. For example, there's a font called "Agatha" that was used for a long time on the cover of all the Agatha Christie mysteries. The font is so distinctive, it's almost a trademark for that author.

There are also land mines buried in the video development process. How do you pique a reader's curiosity in under two minutes and summarize the book's theme without giving too much away? Are there actors available to stand in for the book's characters, and do they look and sound right? Will there be background music, and if so, what sort? How can you stage a professional-looking video despite a tight budget?

It's challenging, but it's also a lot of fun. Grace has been very easy to work with, and her creativity, writing experience, and skills in graphic design have kept things moving along briskly.

I plan to post updates about once a week, but I'm hoping this blog will be very interactive, so if you have any questions for Grace or me, fire away, and we'll do our best to answer them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Total Freedom

This work-at-home deal is certainly liberating after all those years in an office. However, I'm finding that I have to give some structure to my days, even though I'm not a structured person at all. Mostly.

Yesterday and today it's worked out quite well as follows:

9am deal with email, check Shoutlife and other networks.
10.30am go bush (there's a lovely forest park just across the road)
11.30am clean pool and swim
12pm lunch
1pm start work: admin, crit, write, design, video, and possibly more networking.

This takes advantage of the afternoon as my best working time, while ensuring I get my exercise in. Days when I go out for errands will be different. Also, right now I'm not pumping out wordcount on any of my own WIPs at present, so when I take that up again I'll be sitting down to that in the mornings as I like to get 3000 words by lunchtime. Other stuff in the afternoon as necessary, and another 2000 in the evening if I'm free.

Anyway, things are churning along at a fine old pace. I've figured out the Lightning Source applications and will be sending off the final forms as soon as I hear back about a returns address for UK bookstores. My thanks to Cynthia of the Writers' Café Press for giving her address to receive my US returns. Returnable books are an advantage for all dealings with brick 'n' mortar stores, so this is something I really want to have. Whether books are ever returned or not, I'm still glad to have returnable books.

After much to-ing and fro-ing (because I'm picky!) I have approved the cover design for Legendary Space Pilgrims, with an awesome rocket drawn by Clank of It's a wonder to see my characters peering out of the screen at me, just how I imagined they'd look!

Fred's contract arrived in the mail from America, and his book cover for "The Muse" is taking shape - after much fruitless searching for a suitable cover model, I found one right under my nose, as it were. We'll be making video trailers with the same actor and I for one can't wait to see the bloopers reel...More on that later, I'm sure!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taking the Plunge

The contract's signed and in the mail, and Grace has put my ugly mug up on the authors page, so I'm now officially a member of the Splashdown Books team. I'm excited to be here, and honored that Grace has chosen to publish my novel.

A little personal information to start. My name's Fred Warren, and I hail from a little town in eastern Kansas, just south of Fort Leavenworth, where I work for a government contractor that provides computer simulation support for Army training exercises. I've been happily married for nearly 25 years to the world's most enchanting woman, and have three kids--two boys in college, and a teenage girl.

My faith background is Protestant Christian. I grew up in the Foursquare Gospel Church (pentecostal), have spent time in Southern Baptist and Nazarene congregations, and am currently a member of a Nazarene church in Olathe, Kansas.

I've been writing on and off since my college days, and decided a few years ago to get serious about it and start putting stuff out for publication. I've sold several short stories to a variety of online and print magazines, but this is my first novel sale.

You can find a list of my published stories, with links to them, on my writing website, If you want to know a little more about my writing style and philosophy, that's a good place to start.

Grace lists me as a writer of "fantasy and spiritual thrillers," and I suppose that's as good a label as any for my novel, The Muse. I think it's got something for everybody--mystery, suspense, humor, adventure, action, horror, romance, and underlying values that affirm faith, family, and loyalty. It's the story of a frustrated author who finds his muse, but the inspiration she provides is nothing like what he expected, and it just might kill him--before he knows it, he's fighting for his soul, against forces beyond imagination.

I encourage you to follow this blog. It's a unique opportunity to observe the progress of a new publisher and a first-time novelist from inception to final product. Grace and I will be providing regular updates on our experiences and will be glad to answer any questions you may have. There will be side-splitting comedy, moments of sheer terror, heart-wrenching despair, and soaring triumphs! Hey, this could be a novel all by itself.