Childhood Release Date

I’m happy to announce that Childhood will be released by SCP February 10, 2020. The next day kicks off a 14-day blog and review tour with CelebrateLit.

scott-webb-167099-unsplashKatie lived a lonely childhood, her after school time filled with responsibilities to her father and special needs brother. Her chores prevented her from experiencing the carefree life her peers, including Joey, her neighbor and secret crush, lived. She began running to impress Joey, then discovered track as a possible way out of the small town of Nortonville, Tennessee. But as the promise of a college scholarship drew her closer to the escape she had dreamed about since childhood, she wondered why she didn’t feel better. What was missing?

Childhood is the novelette prequel to Fatherhood, a full-length novel about abortion from the father’s point of view. Fatherhood is targeted for release in 2021.

Photo scott-webb-167099-unsplash.jpg from Unsplash

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Childhood Cover Reveal and Offer

The cover is complete for Childhood the novelette prequel to my upcoming novel, FatherhoodChildhood follows young Katie Whetley’s quest  to find her place in life as she grows up in the small West Tennessee town of Maynard. Childhood will be released later this year.

The good news is that you can get a free eBook copy of Childhood before it’s released! If you have enjoyed one of my previous novels (Forgiveness, Leaving Darkness) and write a review on either GoodReads or Amazon, I will send you the eBook file once completed. Just email me (greg.schaffer@secondchancebook.org) a link to the review and I will add you to the list. As always, I appreciate your support!

From a Certain Point of View

In Return of the Jedi, Luke confronts Obi-Wan about not revealing Darth Vader as his father. Obi-Wan responds with what I can only call thin logic that he didn’t lie when he told Luke that Vader killed Anakin, that it was the truth – from a certain point of view.

scott-eckersley-irtWpLLwRX4-unsplashPoint of view, or POV, in a manuscript describes from what character the scene is experienced. The reader is “in the head” of the POV character – what the character sees, the reader sees. Changing POV within a scene, or even a chapter, can confuse the reader by removing the perspective anchor. Referred to as “head-hopping,” maintaining what I refer to as “POV discipline” is a basic skill novelists need to master.

However, the perspective is a part of the equation. While working with an editor on the manuscript for Childhood, a novelette to introduce the main characters and situations of my upcoming novel Fatherhood, two recent revelations have revealed that perhaps I’m not as skilled in POV as I thought, and that POV can be a powerful yet subtle story-telling device.

The first example was a simple dialogue tag – “Dad said.” I, apparently mistakenly, have always avoided using Dad and Mom and other similar dialogue tags because they’re not names, defaulting to “her father” and so on. My editor made the change to Dad. I am fortunate to be working with an excellent editor. There has to be a correct reason for the change, and it tied to POV. In this scene the character POV is the daughter of the man who spoke. “Dad” is the daughter’s name for her father, therefore is appropriate (and conveys a feeling of family). “Her father” is rather stuffy. Point taken.

The second example is more subtle. My editor replaced “egg innards” with “slimy egg.” That bothered me at first, as I liked the description “egg innards.” Enter POV again though. The story is told through a young girl’s eyes, not a 52-year old man’s. While I may lob “egg innards” in casual conversation, she, as a twelve-year-old, probably not.

Can you see the connection? Going beyond POV discipline and using POV to inject aspects about the POV’s character is a powerful tool I honestly had never considered before. Editing is often tedious work, but this revelation has energized the process for me. I feel that a certain “tunnel vision” point of view has been lifted.

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

Second Chance Publishing Launches

Second Chance Publishing Logo 2I’m excited to announce the official (meaning paperwork accepted) launch of my second business, Second Chance Publishing, or SCP. SCP is the imprint I created in 2013 for my self-publishing writing hobby. As I’ve grown in talent and seriousness towards writing, I realized it made sense to treat this endeavor as a business. My two-year experience with vCISO Services, LLC taught me much that I am now applying to SCP. While the primary function is as before, an imprint for my self-published works, I am considering branching out to help other aspiring indie authors. I have learned so much about everything that it takes to produce a novel, and realize I have only scratched the surface, but I have much to share. I’m not sure where God is leading me with this, only that, when called, the best response is to say yes.

My latest work, Childhood, is a prequel to my work in progress (or WIP as we refer to such in author-land), Fatherhood. Fatherhood (anticipated publication late 2020), a novel about abortion from the father’s point of view, is not an easy novel to write. In some ways, to me, it makes the process of creating Leaving Darkness (a novel about escaping depression) look like a walk in the park (yes, a cliche, but I’m writing a post, not a novel, so I deem cliches okay here). Childhood, a novelette about 10,000 words in length that introduces the main characters in Fatherhood, is in the late production stages (line edit, cover finalizing). I see it as my most mature work to date.

The business website is secondchancebook.org (if you’re reading the blog, you’re already here). I published the first video on the YouTube channel today – a radio interview from the spring of 2019 so it’s really only audio with a picture – at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1gzSy2v8ms. I will add more videos, just as I’ve enjoyed doing for vCISO Services, as time permits and inspiration hits.

Life is about living – that’s the beginning. It’s also about being proper stewards of the gifts given to us (Matthew 25:14–30). Drawing from a recent sermon, when my time under the sun is done, I hope to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And that’s really the reason (beyond that I enjoy it) why I am pursuing this writing journey. I would be honored and humbled if you’d follow my progress – social media links below. I’d also appreciate prayers for guidance on where I need to take this. Thank you!

Website – https://secondchancebook.org
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gregschafferauthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/newtnoise
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/gregschafferauthor/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNv3gpqA7OAJ-DQ3Mpf4DGg

How I Increased My Mailing List by 800 in 80 Days

Navigating the publishing world is not easy. The deeper I dive into the marketing area, the more I realize I don’t know.

On Twitter some authors, indie and trad alike, often engage in follow-backs to increase their following to hopefully impress agents and publishers, but if you ask the pros, they will most often discount the Twitter follow number if it is roughly 1:1 proportionate (equal followers and following). That’s because Twitter follow backs most often are not following because of content but rather numbers. It’s a hollow strategy that unfortunately many seem to spend much time on.

However, constant advice from writers and agents alike is to have a strong mailing list. This demonstrates marketability by showing a following of readers interested in your work. This is important because strong reader following equates to potential book sales. But how to gain interested subscribers? Book shows and author signings may net a handful if you’re lucky.

Here’s the key – you have to provide value first in exchange for a follower. How can they follow you if they are not familiar with your work? And how do they become familiar with your work if they don’t follow you?

An effective solution I have found is book promotions, specifically through BookFunnel. For those unfamiliar with Bookfunnel, it is essentially a book distribution service. Whether it be sending out beta copies, providing a reader magnet, or offering free copies of a novel, Bookfunnel is an efficient and secure method to manage your free electronic distributions. It’s not free; the basic plan begins at $20 per year, but it’s the mid-level plan at $100 per year that offers the ability to collect email addresses.

You can place a link on your website offering a free download that will collect the reader’s address, but that requires constant traffic to your site. You can of course promote on social media, but I didn’t see much chance of success going that route. What did produce results beyond what I’d hoped was a Bookfunnel promo.

Promos are hosted by an author and usually focus on a specific genre. The more that join the promo, the better chance of exposure. It’s a multiplier; instead of posting that you have one work for free, depending on the promo participation you can post on social media a link to dozens of free ebooks. Every participant is encouraged (sometimes by offering perks such as a premium place on the landing page based on number of shares) to share their unique link to the community page.Capture

I signed up for my first one in April, a twelve-day window that I hoped might result in twenty or so addresses. I ended up with over two-hundred. This prompted me to participate in two more promos in May and June. My total subscriber list approached 900 at the end of June, from a starting point of zero in April. The image to the right is from one of my giveaways (still active at https://dl.bookfunnel.com/kc5ix83t35 ) that I provided for two of the three promos.

There are caveats, of course, the first that you have to have something to give away. All of the promos I’ve seen require a published full-length work. If you have yet to publish, this venue isn’t for you at the time. Also, if you are fortunate to have a catalog to draw from and offer a different work per promo, you will get duplicate subscribers.

You will also lose subscribers when you send your first email to the new signups. From my limited experience I expect around a 10% attrition rate, but your mileage may vary. Note that may trigger an alert from your mailing list service (you need to use one to satisfy spam laws) that your unsubscribe rate exceeds industry standards. At least I did get a note from MailChimp. So long as you can prove that your subscribers provided consent (a feature of the Boofunnel process) you should be fine (though I have yet to have to provide this).

To summarize, from three promos running less than 80 days total (though two ran concurrently), I gathered 882 signatures, of which I anticipate 88 unsubscribes on “first contact,” leaving roughly 800 followers. Plus, that’s 800 readers that now have one (or more) copies of your work to enjoy. True, this method produces no direct income from sales, but when you’re an author looking to build that important email following, perhaps the compensation is greater than sales.

 

Development Editing – Do It

I have two current Works In Progress – a novel, Fatherhood, and its prequel novelette, ChildhoodChildhood is positioned as a reader magnet, a short story offered for free to (hopefully) spark interest in the novel.

kourosh-qaffari-1144508-unsplashA novelette is shorter than a novella, which is shorter than a novel – averages of around 10,000 words, 35,000 words, and 80,000 words, respectively. Don’t let its diminutive stature fool you, though. A novelette requires the same attention to plot development and detail as a novel.

I’ve gone through the critique process for Childhood. For those unfamiliar, this involves peers (usually authors) reviewing the draft (usually first, second, and/or third) of a work before the author sends it to a professional editor for further work. By critiquing others’ work, authors become better writers. It’s a wonderful relationship that produces positive results, but is not complete. Critiques at this level only go as far as your peer group’s expertise and time.

The next step in producing a work of fiction is development (dev) editing. A professional editor will examine plot, timing, pacing, chapter structure, and other manuscript qualities to point out what does not work. This is not a cheering section; an author needs the dev editor to be brutally honest.

A few days ago I received my dev editor’s input for Childhood. In her email, she stressed I take a few days to process the comments before responding. I had no choice; I was at a conference and could not address the feedback until a few days later. But I did review the summary comments and let her know I appreciated the feedback and would be delayed with my response. She appreciated that, because, as she wrote, she wants to know that she’s provided the best service possible.

And she did. Pages of excellent comments pointing out opportunities for improvement. If I hadn’t gone through the process before, I may have been put off by the volume of feedback. But here’s the one important point to remember when receiving dev editor feedback: they want you to succeed.  Once you believe that, the criticisms become positive opportunities for learning.

Such was my experience with my dev editor for my previous novel, Leaving Darkness. I had always been sort of “loose” with point of view (POV), but that feedback taught me how important it is for the reader to produce a work with “POV discipline” (my term, if you want to use it, I get royalties!). Seriously, I became a better writer because of that feedback, and my trade will only improve with the input for Childhood.

I offer this as 1) a glimpse into the novel creation process for the non-author and 2) encouragement for the author. If you’re writing fiction, go beyond your crit group and contract with a dev editor. Consider it tuition towards an advanced degree in writing.

Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on Unsplash

Franklin Book Fair This Weekend

This weekend at the Williamson County Public Library in Franklin, Tennessee is the first Franklin Book Fair. Actually, to be fair, there Mid TN Authors Circlewas a smaller one several years ago, but we hope this larger event will become an annual tradition.

The book fair is a collaborative effort between the Middle Tennessee Author’s Circle and the library. The authors circle consists of several hundred members (that’s me sporting shades at an event in 2018). Over forty authors, myself included, will be there over the two days.

Each hour features a different panel staffed with local authors on specific genres and aspects of writing including self-publishing. I will be leading and participating in the Christian Fiction panel at 3 PM Central on Saturday.

There is no cost to attend. This is an excellent event to support local authors in the Nashville area. Come join us, learn some great stuff, and maybe even buy a book or two , or three! Check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/2469215829769672/ for more information.

Photo: Middle Tennessee Authors Circle

Three Attributes Every Writer Needs

One thing I have learned is that every writer seems to have advice but there is no one-size-fits-all set of rules or guidance. Still, I believe there are three core attributes every writer must possess to be successful: authenticity, tenacity, and business acumen.

Authenticity
Whether fiction or non-fiction, I believe a reader can sense the genuineness of an article or book. The passion poured into the creation of the words transfers through the reader’s eyes to their heart and mind. Conversely, lack of authenticity, in my opinion, results in a substandard product.bernard-hermant-621390-unsplash

This isn’t much different from the common “write about what you know,” advice, except knowledge doesn’t equate to passion. I suppose this makes no difference when writing a textbook or Wikipedia article. But when the reader feels the author believes in their work it compels them to read more. I don’t think you can fake that.

Tenacity
Writing is easy. Writing well is difficult. I have painfully experienced, particularly with self-published works, examples published before sufficient polishing. It takes time to learn the trade. What is the oft-quoted rule of thumb, ten-thousand hours to become a master of anything? With my years of writing experience, I am unsure just how close I am to that mark.

There’s more. A huge mistake new authors (myself included) make is assuming once published the work is done. No, readers will not magically flock to your book. Writers speak of their platform, essentially their (mainly digital) reputation and exposure. It takes time and determination to build that. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Business Acumen
Writing is a business, even if it’s a hobby, and writers need to approach it as such. That begins with keeping detailed financial records, to track your expenditures and income and to generate information for tax filing if so fortunate (if you have to file income taxes based on your writing, you’re making money).

Then there’s marketing, dreaded more than rejection letters. You not only need determination to market, but you also have to market correctly. That can require trial and error and learning from mistakes, which in turn requires some business analytical skills to interpret marketing action results. Twitter ad analytics is a great example.

I’ve been writing for many years now, off and on (recent years more on) since I was in high school in the 1980s (this post’s stock photo is reminiscent of the old Smith-Corona typewriter I used back then). It’s only been about a year when I became serious about my craft beyond a fun hobby, which required the attributes above.

Incidentally, all three attributes above apply to entrepreneurship as well. I launched a small consulting firm two years ago and would not have achieved the success I enjoy today if not for authenticity, tenacity, and business acumen. In fact, extending that successful model to my writing life was an easy decision.

What about you? Do you agree with these? Any others?

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

 

 

Tackling Abortion

A dismembered arm, a torso, a head – all bloodied, lifeless, gone.

Joseph Barbetti turned away from the image, magnified a hundredfold so anyone within the bounds of the ellipse in front of the Nashville courthouse could see the grossness, and suppressed the urge to retch. He acknowledged their right to protest and agreed with their position on abortion.

But why did they have to do it like this, in your face with shock and awe, and first thing in the morning?

The is the first draft opening of my novel-in-progress, Fatherhood, revised this morning. The original opening was more benign, with main character Joseph Barbetti slamming a gym bag against a locker in frustration at the edge of losing his job, anxious to relieve the tension with an early morning five-mile run.

This book is neither about job loss or running. It’s about abortion.

greg-rakozy-38802-unsplashI have to begin it there, and with “shock and awe,” because the taking of a human life is too serious an offense in my opinion to introduce on page seventeen. It needs to be up front, in your face.

I’m not a father, nor have I endured the abortion of my offspring. Yet for as long as I can remember I have not understood why this is such an issue. In my eyes, it’s murder, whether inside or outside the womb. I don’t think you need to be a father to see that. From my perspective, abortion for convenience is wrong.

I know many others have a differing opinion, and I respect that. I only ask for the same.

Abortion in cases of incest, rape or when the mother’s health is in danger is a much more nuanced topic. I never have, and never will, walk in those shoes. For that, I don’t have the answer, only that love and compassion is needed.

I don’t intend Fatherhood to be a black-or-white look at abortion. Like Leaving Darkness, my novel about depression, I hope to create (I’m only about 2,300 words into what I’ve planned as an 80,000 work novel) a story that someone may read and gain a different perspective on a difficult situation. Not just the mothers, but the fathers as well. Hence the title – I’m writing from the father’s perspective.

It’s a difficult road in front of me, one I don’t relish, but this is what God called me to do, and I plan to respond with a work filled with compassion on all sides. I’d appreciate prayers that I’m able to find the right words that will reach the right people.

A first draft of a novel is full of mistakes, not usually found until the second draft process. I found perhaps the biggest one today before the end of Chapter One. We don’t need to bury abortion, we need to discuss it. Millions of lives – unborn children, mothers, fathers – are at stake.

Childhood, the novelette prequel to Fatherhood, available free this summer. Sign up for your copy at http://eepurl.com/gk67iD

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

 

 

The Value of Self-Publishing

It’s a common debate in the writing world today. Which is the better route to take, traditional (or trad) publishing or self-publish? Years ago, trad was the way, with vanity presses the only viable self-publish option. How many authors from the 80’s ended up with a garage full of a paperback that never sold, I have no idea.

Today, however, both e-books and print on demand (POD) are viable options to expose the author to the world without having to convince someone else to spend money to do so (which is what trad essentially is). There is much value in self-publishing:

  • Maintain rights
  • Maintain pricing control
  • Go to market is quicker

Maintain Rights

The self-published author retains all rights to their work. Trad publishers may require a change in story, character names and development or even cover art. The trad author cannot make changes to their works easily, if at all.

Maintain Pricing Control

Trad and some hybrid self-publishing organizations do not allow for much, if any author input on pricing. This can be a huge detriment, as I explain in a bit.

Go To Market is Quicker

An author can create a work and self-publish it over a weekend. More savvy indie authors see the value in the creation process to produce quality work, and will refine their words, invoke beta readers, and hire editors (dev, copy, and proofing for fiction). Still, as I understand (as I have no trad works), the trad route from when the manuscript leaves the author’s computer to when it appears on Amazon can be a year or longer. Indie authors can go to market with quality work in a quarter of that time.

My Experience

I wrote my first novel in 1994 and queried agents in 1995. I still have a few of the rejections and the sealed package to prove copyright (back then, the recommended practice was to mail a copy of your manuscript to yourself and keep it, unopened, if there was a dispute, the postmark bearing the timestamp). That experience almost 25 years ago turned me off from trad, but again back then there was only one other option, and I was not going to travel the vanity press route.

IngramSparkTIn 2013 I learned of IngramSpark, the self-publishing arm of Ingram, and signed up. I published as a test a short book of poems which, to my surprise, a few actually bought (it’s still available here). I found the process to be educational, not easy but I had to learn about cover design, e-book creation, print formatting, ISBN, and so on. Eventually my work from the 20th century, Forgiveness, made it to Amazon, and I was hooked on writing. A few novels later and I’m still going strong. I’m such a fan of theirs they sent me an indie pub T-shirt!

For my most recent novel, Leaving Darkness I opted to leverage a hybrid self-publisher, Westbow. Westbow is the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson, a well-known Christian book publisher. I (perhaps a bit naively) thought that if I went with Westbow that surely the sales would be good enough to prompt Thomas Nelson to at least take a look at bringing my title into the trad world.

That never happened because of a few reasons, the first of which all authors understand – marketing is hard and takes much effort. I’m still learning the marketing dance – it’s part science, part skill, part luck, and part magic. Regardless of indie or trad, though, the author bears the marketing weight. Many first-time novelists don’t understand that.

Westbow also priced Leaving Darkness too high. The e-book is at $3.99 and the print (softcover) $19.95. It’s a $14.95 book, if that. Westbow offers the option to reduce the price for 30 days to $0.99 as part of a promo package. However, at over $2,000, the cost is, well, unreasonable.

I asked the marketing rep what would stop an author from putting the work up on Amazon themselves, and he said nothing, the author owns the rights (see above). He advised against it because it would cause “confusion.” I’m not sure what that means, sounds like sales talk to convince me otherwise.

Anyway, relaunching the e-book version of Leaving Darkness leveraging my relationship with IngramSpark is exactly what I just did. To ensure I didn’t step on Westbow’s toes, I used only the materials I had prepared for them, and not their layout and cover. For an e-book, the layout doesn’t matter much, and the cover photo I provided, they just added the title and my name. Easy to do myself (thanks Photoscape).

You may have noticed that I didn’t hyperlink Leaving Darkness. I will add the links when my copy is available on Amazon. I’m keeping, for now, the Westbow version there at $3.99 because of the good reviews it has. (Note 5/8/2019 – I added the link to the special edition.)

This experience has taught me that I want to stick with IngramSpark for my publishing needs. That means, likely, never pursuing the trad route again. I may change my mind if the situation is right, but so far as I’m concerned today, indie is the way, and total indie – no more hybrid self-publishers.