Reasons to Love Miami

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If you follow me on Facebook you know that that feed is all about “Reasons to love Miami –>”. One of the many reason to love Miami is the Miami Book Fair. It brings in a laundry list of authors. I remember meeting cozy author Donna Andrews at the Murder on the Beach booth in 2005. I love her bird titled Meg Langslow series and the techie themed Turing Hopper series.

MIamiBookFair 2005 RV Reyes Donna Andrews

In 2012 , I went and heard my professor Sandra Cisneros. I took a semester long poetry class from her at University of New Mexico in the early 90s. her fiction writing is wonderful but her poetry is what really speaks to me.

RV Reyes Sandra Cisneros 2012And now to the round about way of what brought me to this post —–

On Friday, I went to hear Daisy Hernandez read at my local library. I know her from twitter and an online Latina writers group. Her twitter feed had recently had a few Sandra Cisneros quotes. My curiosity was piqued. Did we have a Cisneros connection as well? Then a few days after that the GLBT youth support group, Pridelines, sent out a social media blast that Daisy was coming in support of her memoir. The memoir entitled A Cup of Water Under My Bed is about growing up as a 1st generation American, her Cuban/Colombian heritage, and about coming out as a bi-sexual person.  The title comes from the Latin custom of putting a glass of water under one’s bed to absorb the negative (spirits/dreams) and protect you while you sleep.

Daisy Hernandez RV Reyes 2014After she read excerpts from her book she opened the floor to questions. I asked her about how she came to writing the memoir when the manuscript had originally been a collection of essays. It took her many years to come around to the reality that she could not hide behind the ‘protection’ of writing her story as a string of essays. She answered my question and then we discussed it a little more in depth after everyone had left. See I have a story to tell that is probably a memoir but something is stopping me from diving into it. Daisy and I share some similarities on the Cuban side (family members that practiced Santeria) and on the writer side and so I asked for her consejo. How do you break through your hesitations to be completely open, raw, and honest in your writing about your personal history? In reply she gave me a writer’s prompt from Sandra Cisneros: Write what you are afraid of.  Just a few minutes each day — begin it with “I am afraid to/of”.  I thought on this a moment and came to the realization that I am not really afraid to write it but perhaps I am afraid to re-live some of it. The pain of some of the stories. I found another writing prompt from Cisneros: Write what you want to forget.  Yes, that is it. I need to write what I want to forget. That is the scary part of the memoir process — remembering the painful that you have pushed into the far corners of your memory. Thank you Daisy for bring it full circle — back to Sandra.

Let me bring this post full circle and say that Daisy Hernandez will be at the Miami Book Fair next month. Go see her! She is a wonderful speaker and a writer that moves the spirit. While you all are waiting for my memoir, please check out my short stories about Ossie Piñero, PI in training available on Kindle, Nook, and Apple.

Behind the curtain

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If you follow this blog (or me on twitter and facebook) you know I recently self-published a duet of short stories.The general response from my non-writer followers has been excitement and support. The general response from my writers friends has been mixed. Yes, there has been support and congratulations but there has also been the unsaid. The writers that have self-published say welcome aboard get ready for freedom and a lot of hard work. The traditionally publish writers say congratulations on the hard work but then there is this unsaid thing. All us writers know it and live with it. This post is for all my non-writer followers so that they might understand that unsaid thing. I am going to set this up as a Q&A.  Yes, I am both interviewer and interviewee—- just suspend your disbelief  and play along.

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Why did you decide to self-publish?

I have been writing in the mystery genre for almost ten years. I have been submitting to agents throughout that time. It is a looooong wait between your first e-mail query, the follow-up request for full manuscript (if you are lucky), and the final yes or no reply. (like 3-6 months) I have had several requests for full manuscripts and many thanks but no thanks replies. These replies come as a form letter with no constructive criticism or comments. As a writer active in many writer communities, I know that agents are overwhelmed and can not comment on every manuscript they read. That’s fine. I get it. Yet—- comments are crucial to a writer and yes, we get them via critique groups but, there comes a moment when a story/character needs wings. It just needs to fly and show itself to the bigger world. In a nutshell, I self-published because my writing needed to see and be seen. (Oh, and also, #weneeddiversebooks.)

Doesn’t self-publishing have a stigma?

It certainly used to! But now that the self-publishing market is so big, the writers that polish their work and produce a professional product rise to the top and get the respect they are due.

What do you mean by professional product? Can’t I just write something and upload it to Amazon?

Yes, you can. If I published the first draft or first edit of my work I would lose credibility with agents and readers. (You have noticed my typos and errors in this blog, right?! I am very aware of the grammar-knowledge holes in my writing. I try to catch them as best I can but often fail to even see them until 3rd or 4th reading after I have let the writing sit awhile.) The Ossie Piñero Short Stories I self-published have been through critique and professional paid editing. I, then, used a formatting agency to upload to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and other companies.  Amazon I did by myself. Oh and don’t forget a good cover image is critical. Thankfully, I have an in house artist that does pro bono work.

So, what are the costs?

A professional editor will charge between $3 and $5 per page. A cover will cost as little as $40 for a stock cover. Or $99 to $340 for a custom cover.

My expenses to date are:

Editing two short stories (appox. 37pgs): $145

Cover design: $0 but for the sake of argument let’s $99

Total expenses to self-publish a short story volume of 40 odd pages: $244

How much money will you make from sales?

I am selling for 99 cents. The agency I used to upload to B&N, Kobo, and Apple tracks my sales, takes a small royalty, and sends out a monthly check. I chose to go with them because of the ease of tracking sales and getting paid via one outlet instead of three. For each 99 cent e-book sold by them I will receive about 59 cents in revenue.

On Amazon, I will receive .35 per unit sold.

So, how are sales?

I published on Sept 29th and today is Oct 5th. In one week I have sold 15 books. My expected profits from the week will be $6.71.  So to recoup my $145 investment I will have to sell a lot more books! 322 on amazon or 245 on the other outlets.

That doesn’t seem impossible if you market and advertise, right? 

Absolutely.  I do have a marketing plan. It is called a street team. That translates to –> my blog, twitter, and facebook followers. Every time they share or retweet my posts my audience grows. I bet my followers didn’t know how vital a component to my success they were. I do hope they know I appreciate the help.  I try to thank every new twitter follower and retweet.  It is  a little harder to acknowledge who reposts on facebook but for the record — Thank you!

That seems like a lot of work and energy.

It is but I would have to do it even if I was published in the traditional way.

What?! Don’t publishers and agents do that for you?

In the past they did but now not so much. There is minimal advertising budgets for first time authors. Many agents (at least in genre publishing) want to see you have a social media presences before considering partnering with you as a client. Yes, I said partnering. Both you and the agent are working to get a publishing contract. The writer’s job is to present a polished product. The agent’s job is to sell it to a publishing house.

Well, if you are already doing the polishing and promoting part of the equation why pursue traditional publishing at all?

A lot of reasons! 1. The hybrid (self and traditional) author is most successful 2. Every authors dream is to walk into a bookstore or library and see their book on the shelves 3. It still carries the status of authenticity (that is the unsaid thing I referred to earlier) 4. I want to see diversity in my genre 5. Because  reading a novel that speaks to you can change your life. (For me, it was Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut.) I want as wide of an audience as possible to be that for someone else.

What do you mean diversity?

I write stories with Latina main characters. In the genre I read and write there is not a lot of diversity. Most of the stories revolve around small towns with largely white American heroines. I love the storytelling that happens in them but I do not see myself in the stories. It is like a child of color walking down the toy store aisle and seeing only blonde hair and blue eyed dolls and figurines. Or a science-y girl wanting more choice than a kit that is pink, perfumed, and flowered.  I want to see myself reflected in some of the cozy and mystery stories I read.

It is hard to get traditionally published. Some agents get as many as 500 submissions a week! Imagine wading through all of those e-mails — anybody would get tired and go with a proven formula. So, when the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing are so overwhelmed and profit driven (come on we all know the reality of this 2014 economy), it is harder for a culturally different voice to be heard.

Read this article on NPR’s Code Switch “To Achieve Diversity in Publishing, a Difficult Dialogue Beats Silence”.

Last question, can you elaborate on the unsaid thing? Has self-publishing limited you or helped you?

Both. I was not able to submit to a prestigious writing competition because I had self-published. If I had won or placed as a finalist in that contest it would have given me a leg up in getting noticed by the traditional publishing world. But, the road to self-publishing has also done me a lot of good. I have chosen to get serious and invest money in my writing career. I am  actively building my reader base and learning all kinds of social media skills and know-how. I was always fearless in regards to believing in my ability to tell a story well and from a distinct point of view. What has changed is that I am now fearless in promoting my distinct voice because self-publishing is giving me direct feed back and real-time encouragement.

~~~Scene ~~~

Pardon the theatre major humor.

I hope that I have pulled back the curtain on the publishing process for my non-writer followers. If you want to be a part of my street team please let me know via e-mail or twitter. #RVRstTeam . You can also help by leaving a review on Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble. Thanks.

Published

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Presenting . . . Ossie Piñero PI (in training)!

My duet of short stories is available for download to your e-reader.

Kindle

Nook

Itunes

Kobo

The duet is a short read at 50 pages and perfect for a lunch hour escape. At .99 cents it will be the best deal of your day. Ossie dresses like the Puerto Rican flag, finds malice in utopia, and struts to her own beat.

 

Here is a line from The Baby Shower:

“One of these days some girl is going to fall for your mierda. But not today, Benny,” I said, giving him a peck on the cheek. Keeping Benny on my team made good business sense. He knew about everything that was happening in el vecindario. He was the neighborhood eyes and ears.”

RVR_OssiePI_storiescover

Do me a favor once you’ve read the stories, please leave a review and rating on whichever platform you bought it from. Also, share this blog with your friends. You never know who is a mystery reader in disguise! I found a fellow mystery fan in an artist acquaintance of mine. We’d never had a conversation about what each other read because most of our interactions revolve around art. Lo and behold, she is a  Nero Wolfe fan! So, consider yourself part of my street team and share my blog & book links. Spread the word about this fun Latina character. It will help me write her full length story quicker.