Following the bread crumbs of writer Rich Erixon

Have you ever wondered how your favorite author comes up with ideas or their approach to the process of creating a story? We are always interested in the writing process and want to invite you to join us as we launch a new blog series with one of our guest authors, Rich Erixon. Follow along as we learn about Rich’s experience as a writer. Each post will contain a question and answer session with Rich and occasionally an excerpt of his work as it progresses.

Who is Rich Erixon?

Rich is a fifth and sixth grade Social Studies/Language Arts teacher in the Denver area. He recently began working on his first book, a Young Adult (YA) novel, and agreed to let us follow him through the process. While teaching takes up most of his day, Rich finds himself writing in the evenings and provides great insight into how the process works for a first-time author.

Kari: Where are you right now in the process?

Rich: I am working on the fourth draft of my YA fiction novel. This being my first novel, I loosely followed Stephen King's advice: write what you know (being a teacher and a father), create some good characters and an event and write like the pages are on fire, and then sit on the story for a while before reworking it. After my second draft, the basic reworking, I gave a copy to a student of mine who would be honest with me, and a couple of other trusted people. Based on their sometimes painfully honest recommendations, I reworked much of the storyline and added a very evil antagonist.

My fourth draft comes after getting a few pages of my work in front of some agents at a writing conference and getting their take on how it would sell: make the young protagonist stronger and have her dive headlong into the fray instead of being pulled along; and make the setting a near future version of the United States instead of creating an entire new world. These are very exciting changes that will only make my story stronger, and I am chomping at the bit to implement them.

Kari: What are your current challenges?

Rich: My two biggest challenges at this point are completely changing my setting (the creative part) and working on getting my book out to the public (the business part). I will tell you right now that I struggle mightily with the business part. I am a creative soul and all of the different aspects of getting a book published get jumbled and mashed around in my brain, and I find it almost painful to sort out. But sort it out I must, because I desperately want to share my stories with everyone.

Kari: What is the most recent hurdle that you feel good about overcoming?

Rich: I was able to trump my ego and get my story in front of people. I chose a small writing conference in Crested Butte, Colorado that allowed me unprecedented access to some agents and editors. I allowed my work to be throttled in a critique group with an agent who was more worried about a good story than my feelings. One has to have a positive mindset going into those things, and I set my mind to come away having learned something about my story and my writing. I came away with a wealth of helpful information that I piled back into my book.

Kari: What is your next step?

Rich: The next step of my process is to get published. Not yet by a major publishing company, or even by self-publishing (close, but not yet). I need to get some of my short stories into magazines. Everyone needs a strong resume and getting into literary magazines can only strengthen a writer's profile. I am now going back to revise some of my older stories and I am also writing some newer ones.

Below you will find a News Feed from one of Rich’s blogs. Stay tuned for more from Rich Erixon.

News Feed!  Ex-IIF Agent Kidnaps Daughter, Goes on the Run

Patrick Cosgrove, a criminal and traitor to the United States, has been located but not yet captured. Cosgrove disappeared on October 24, the same night that the Independence Corps positively identified him. Reports state that Cosgrove kidnapped his daughter and forced her to flee with him. Their land-loving 4X4 was spotted heading south on I47. The Independence Corps has put out an all points and has scrambled every agent in the area to help in the hunt.

Cosgrove, a onetime IIF agent, went into hiding after escaping from an Independence Corps minimum security prison fifteen years ago, killing two men in the process. He has been living in Boulder, in the state of Colorado, as a teacher named Gabriel Turley. His daughter Carson Turley is his only child. His wife, another ex-IIF agent, does not reside with Turley. She has not been seen in 15 years.

Cosgrove was initially jailed for attempting to sabotage and destroy the Sons of Liberty immediately after the citizens of the US voted them into power. His actions were seen as a threat to the stability of the US, and an attack on its citizens. The Independence Corps has displayed pictures of Cosgrove and his daughter across the Big Sky. Please do not try to apprehend the fugitives yourself, as Cosgrove is assumed to be armed and dangerous. Please contact the Independence Corps immediately if you see them.

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In the future, will print books only be available at the furniture store?

The question might sound crazy since “the book” has been around for nearly 2,000 years and has held its place on our bedside tables, backpacks and libraries for as long as we remember.  Even so, there may come a day that the print books we have in our house are mostly being used for decorating.

The act of writing – in one form or another – dates back 5,000 years.  Of course the method at the beginning was much different. The form was not that of a book, but of an inscription on stone or clay tablet.  It then slowly changed to papyrus or a parchment page and then onto the form of a book that we recognize. So, couldn’t the e-book be the next form of writing that dominates our day-to-day lives?

What I find interesting is the amount of emotion you find when these questions are raised.  There are people who fell asleep as a child reading books, they studied using books, they love the feel and smell of books, they were a librarian in their past life…they just love books.  Books are comforting to them.  Because of their history with books, the thought of e-books becoming more “popular” is very uncomfortable for them.  I wonder what is so upsetting really. Is it the loss of how it is made or the loss of the writing?  The art of bookmaking may be lost (or lessened), but the content of the book still remains and to the reader, isn’t that what matters most?

I believe that we will always have books because they are so special, but maybe it’s not such a crazy idea, that someday the traditional print book will only be found at your local furniture store; its purpose to decorate your coffee table and well-designed book cases.

Book formats continue to change.  The current e-book format won’t be around in a thousand years.  Men plan and God laughs.

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To Print or not to Print?

So, your book is almost finished and you are starting to think about how you are going to turn your manuscript into something that Readers want to buy.  Some book designers I’ve talked to suggest working on the book cover while you are in the editing phase.  Having a book cover can give you some focus for your writing work.  After ALL editing is complete, you’ll start on the interior layout phase.  Your book cover and interior layout will have a big impact on your marketing and reader satisfaction, respectively.

One of the considerations in building your cover and your interior layout is whether you plan to sell your book in a print version.  If you think you’ll want a print version of your book in the future and if you are engaging a professional service to create your cover and interior layout, then it is worth asking the designer(s) to design both the e-book AND print versions of your book cover and interior layout at the same time.  This will cost more now, but less than re-engaging your designer later to do the print version as a stand-alone project.  Even if you are doing the cover design and interior layout yourself, it is a good idea to tackle them at the same time.

Still not sure you care about print? Here are a variety of reasons an author might want to consider printing their book:

  • Depending upon your genre, 50% to 90% of sales are typically print books
  • Print-On-Demand (POD) is a low-cost way to make your print book available on Amazon.com
  • Position a book for bookstores and other bricks-and-mortar distribution possibilities
  • Print books for book signings and promotions
  • Print books for reviewers/bloggers that prefer print versions
  • Print books for keepsakes (families/friends/personal use)

If you are going to design a cover and interior layout for a print version of your book, then you may want to consider choosing a target book size that is ready for several different printing services.  Creating one book-cover file and one interior layout file that can work across multiple platforms (and look good on any of them) will save you money and keep you flexible as your sales and distribution evolves.

I recommend creating one set of files that can be used on any of these platforms:

  1. Lighting Source
  2. Createspace
  3. Espresso Book Machine
  4. A digital web press (hopefully a shop with the latest commercial HP printers)

There are plusses and minuses to each of these print routes, but at the very least, you should be able prepare your book files once and be ready for any of them.  In an upcoming blog post, I will ask one of our book designer friends to give us some advice on which format targets (book sizes) are common and available across all four platforms.

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Getting started

By Kari Stevenson

Have you ever told yourself you want to write a book one day? I definitely have, but have to admit, I would be scared to even begin. There are so many different aspects involved when writing and publishing a book that it is easy to get overwhelmed.

So how DO you get started? What different things do you need to think of, beyond your actual writing?  To help answer this, I spent some time with WaveCloud’s own Tara Kill, to ask how she took her dream of writing a children’s book and made it a reality.

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Kari:   What’s the most difficult thing about getting started?

Tara: Organizing the pieces.  Knowing that a children’s book has artwork, and in my case an illustrator to negotiate with, I have found myself getting hung up by the legal.  I have two very simple steps to follow up on.  Find a contract to “copy” and negotiate the deal with the illustrator.

Kari: What are your most pressing concerns about taking this step?

Tara: That I will sell myself short and that he won’t follow through.  What if the book is successful and I have done all the work to write it, edit it, publish it, market it  and at the same time have promised the illustrator a lifetime of profits from the royalties?  Is that fair to me?  Since I don’t have the money to buy his artwork upfront, I  will have to come up with some secret formula that will be fair to both of us.

Kari: What drove you to want to write a book in the first place?

Tara: My kids. I’ve always felt like I could tell a tale that my kids will listen to. Now I have to prove that a world of other kids will listen as well.

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As you can see there are a lot of different things to consider when choosing to write a book, especially if you need any illustration done. The agreement between author and illustrator can really present an issue when self-publishing.

I find Tara’s journey as an author rather interesting and am looking forward to hearing how she handles all the legal agreements with her illustrator. I can’t wait to see the final product Tara!

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What’s in a Genre? Better Question: Who decides?

J.K. Rowling recently announced her next project.  It is not about children, wizards or the school of Hogwarts.  It’s about a town called Pagford and the people who live there, torn apart by class conflict.  Her website describes the book as “blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising,The Casual Vacancy” is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.”  (Adult Fiction)

Hummm. Theses sentences got me thinking.  Were the Harry Potter books classified appropriately under the right genre?  Seems to me that the books could also be described as blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising (i.e., a school torn apart by conflict and scary wizardry).  My 8-year-old son is finally able to watch the first “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Fantasy/Children/Juvenile Fiction, Young Readers, 9-12 year olds) movie without getting freaked out. And he is not the norm. Most of his friends have read the books already or have at least seen one of the movies.

I started thinking about “The Hunger Games Trilogy,” by Suzanne Collins.  The books are listed under the Children/Juvenile Fiction or Young Adult genre.   I would not let my child read any of the books, but I know my neighbor’s 10-year-old daughter has read all three.  I just finished reading “Mockingjay” and there were times when even this 40-something had a rough time sleeping through the night.  All of this makes me wonder how genre classifications are decided and whether they are used to define age-appropriate books or simply to enable sales. Scholastic, Inc. seems to think that “Mockingjay” is appropriate for a 12 year old.  (Children/Juvenile Fiction, Young Adult 12 – 17 year olds) I beg to differ.

What JK Rowling has done really well is leverage her existing fan base, allowing those child readers to grow into adult readers who will no doubt be drawn to “The Casual Vacancy.”  They have grown into this book.  She has, and will always have, the Harry Potter series that children will read and grow out of.  She has brilliantly laid out a marketing plan using genres as a guide.

Genres are guides used to classify or organize books.  They are not policed by a world or national organization.  They are decided on by authors and publishers in an attempt to target the right audience.  We could talk for hours about the slippery slope that Romance Fiction takes when it crosses over into Erotica (a.k.a., “Paper Porn”) and how those authors may take some liberties in downplaying their genre classifications.  But what this really tells us is that we, as readers, need to be aware of what we are reading.  The genre is our guide, not a defining factor of a book’s true contents.  When it comes to our kids, I only hope that publishers and authors think long and hard about where their book falls under the Browse button. Not every parent previews their kid’s books!

Please tell us your thoughts on genres and how they impact your reading decisions.

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Do I need an ISBN? (Yes, but it’s complicated)

I crafted this post as an addition to a LinkedIn thread in the self-publishing area.  This is the detailed version of my response:

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I'd like to add a different perspective on ISBN purchasing and the implications of an Author’s choice.

  1. If you are planning to treat the publishing of your book as a business, you need an ISBN for your book.  Industry guidelines strongly suggest that you will need more than one, because:
  1. Each physical format needs a different ISBN: Hardcover, Trade paperback, Mass paperback each need their own. Continue reading

Paranormal, Dystopia, (drum roll) What’s Next?

From Bill Van Orsdel: I was searching for good examples of Authors who had built a brand around their story and found Bill Gourgey’s book Glide (www.glidethebook.com).  I was impressed by his efforts to brand himself and his work and asked him to give us a few tips.  This is what he had to say.

By Bill Gourgey

With the blockbuster success of The Hunger Games, it’s safe to say that the dystopian genre has more than arrived. It has grabbed the golden crown from the paranormal, ruled of course by Harry Potter and Twilight.  And it’s no wonder that these genres—dark at heart—have had such a great run.  It's as if the facts on the ground are always so grim that it's impossible for even our most brilliant writers and artists to imagine settings other than those threatened by dark lords, vampires, and Armageddon.  Bright, hopeful futures are the stuff of Disneyesque animations, if they're told at all.  Continue reading

Taking a book to market: Reaching that first milestone

In my previous post on this topic, I publicly committed to write my first fiction novel and share my progress.  Last weekend, I completed the first four milestones:

  1. Create a business plan for the book, including a budget and sales goals
  2. Create a production schedule for the book
  3. Research target audience for the book, select target genre(s)
  4. Research genre “standards” and decide which to follow

The first two tasks were sobering, but required.  Continue reading

Country Music Legends in Print

The Academy of Country Music Awards will once again honor the best talent of the genre when the ACMs air live from Las Vegas tonight on CBS. And while the music of country artists is known to recount sad stories of lost love and redemption, it’s often the books written by and about the artists that tell the most compelling tales. Here at WaveCloud, we’ve created the following list of our favorite books detailing all the heart-wrenching stories of country’s best and brightest. What are your favorites?

1. Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn
2. House of Cash: The Legacies of my Father, John Carter Cash
3. Patsy Cline: Honky Tonk Angel, Ellis Nassour
4. My Life and Other Unfinished Business, Dolly Parton
5. George Strait: The Story of Country's Living Legend, Mark Bego

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