Friday, May 18, 2012

The Self-publishing Odyssey Begins

Hello, dear reader. I know you’ve been following my Facebook updates regularly, curious to find out the next turn in my self-publishing adventure. You’re clamoring for a list of what I’ve done so far, and what I’ve learned from…ah, who am I kidding.

Dear Jessie:

Here is your Toadhouse Trilogy self-publish list to date:

  • Write the first in a young adult trilogy about a sister and a brother who learn they must travel into classic literature to save themselves. Books ARE magic.
  • Submit to your agent. Have her love it.
  • Due to her connections in the industry, have all major publishers reject it in record time.
  • On May 14, 2012, choose to self-publish, as if you have another option.
  • Submit book concept to Crowdspring so graphic designers can begin designing possible covers.
  • Choose to begin distributing your book only on Kindle so you can take advantage of the Kindle Select program. Immediately mourn your relationship with indie bookstores, whom you love. Wonder if you are a horrible human being.
  • Figure out how to format a book for Kindle and what other requirements they have.
  • Decide to go with CreateSpace for the hardcopy version of your book.
  • Choose to purchase an ISBN through CreateSpace that you can take anywhere with you, even if it means you have to pay $99 and CreateSpace won’t let you distribute them to libraries. Also, stumble across mention of fleurons and realize you must have them in your book.
  • Hire a copyeditor, as you’ve already the manuscript substantively edited by the best in the business.
  • Contact your web designer and come up with a plan for the new website. Scare her by saying you’d like it up and running by June 1.
  • Develop a promotional plan, the key focus of which will be to get free reviews, which can be a challenge for independently-published books.fireworks-photos-156
  • Realize that to get good copyediting and solid reviews, June 1 is way too soon. Move The Toadhouse Trilogy, Book One, publication date to July 4 because you like fireworks.
  • Wonder if The Toadhouse Trilogy, Book One, is a lame name for the first in the series. Discuss other options with your close friend Burgermeister Meisterburger and decide that you both like the title just fine.
  • Write a first draft of a press release. Throw around names for your fake publicist. Judy Doright? Jack Donaghey?
  • Sit back impatiently, awaiting edits and your book cover so you can go to the next phase: advance publication date promotion.

More to come!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Ten Things I Learned at Left Coast Crime 2011

  1. It’s okay to be a humorous mystery writer. Really, it is. Left Coast is the only conference that celebrates the art of combining murder with mirth. They offer the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery, which I’m proud to say I was nominated for. And lost. I’m considering putting that on future book covers: “Lefty-losing author Jess Lourey…” 
  2.  Self-publishing ebooks can be profitable, and as of right now, Kindle (Amazon) is where most of that money is being made.
  3. If you are considering self-publishing, there is an awesome site called CrowdSpring where authors can post a description of their book for thousands of graphic designers to read. The designers, usually a couple dozen per book, will each create a book cover based on the description. If the author sees one she likes, she can buy it, usually for a couple hundred dollars. If she doesn’t like any of them, she doesn’t pay.
  4. Book trailers are a waste of time and money *unless* they help the reader to connect with the writer, either by answering interview questions or talking about places/people/events that inspired the book and maybe filming at associated locations. Laura Lippmann and William Kent Krueger both do this well.
  5. Harley Jane Kozak, the conference’s toastmaster, wears size 9 shoes. She also starred inArachnaphobia! How cool is that??
  6. Along that same line, did you know that Parnell Hall (, panelist moderator at Left Coast Crime, wrote the screenplay for C.H.U.D.? I cornered him by the ATM and made him admit to it. I think he thought I was making fun of him, but I’m a sucker for campy horror movies. Give me a glimpse of a zipper in the monster’s back, and I’m yours for life.
  7. It is incorrect to refer to a Scottish accent vs. a British accent, as Scots are also Brits. Thanks for this, Simon Wood. I blame the American education system for my ignorance.
  8. Volunteer at any conference you attend. It’s the best way to make connections, particularly for us introverts, and you can feel good at the same time.
  9. The television and film industries are going the way of the music and book industries in that they are becoming democratized. Some of the best TV shorts and films are coming from independent people with no connections to the industry, no formal training, and little money.
  10. Bring your own books to a conference, if you can. The on-site bookstores can only bring in so much, but they’re often happy to sell on consignment.
  11. I know, I know, the title says ten, but I didn’t really learn this one; I already knew it: Keith Raffel, Vicki Doudera, Shannon Baker, William Kent Krueger, and Catriona McPherson are all fabulous people to hang out with!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dangerous: Writing while Reading, by Jess Lourey

image What, if anything, do you read while writing? For me, usually nothing. I’m a full-time teacher and mother of a 12 and a 9 year-old. I also have a wonderful boyfriend, serve on the national board of the Mystery Writers of America, am active in Tae Kwon Do, and volunteer in my community. When I add writing a novel on top of that, reading goes by the wayside. However, the young adult novel I’m working on at the moment requires a great deal of research. I find myself writing in fits and spurts, broken up by necessary reading, and it’s driving me crazy!!! I can’t meet my 2000-word-a-day minimum, and I feel like a humongous slacker.

So maybe this post is more about asking how you all make time for writing. I get asked that question all the time, of course. Every writer does. One time, a couple years ago, I half-jokinglyimage (which=embarrassingly true) told a reporter that I have time to write novels because I don’t watch TV, have a social life, or shower on the weekends. That become the two-page, full-color headline for the article, over a photo of me with my 19-year-old cat in my arms: “I Don’t Have a Social Life and I Don’t Shower on Weekends.” This is how cat ladies are born, people. Shame combined with the realization that personal hygiene is negotiable.

imageNowadays, when I teach creative writing for MWA-U and am asked how I make time for my writing, I gently correct my students. We all make time for what is important, I say, so the question is not how to make time for writing but how to make writing important to you.

That answer works great as long as you’re not under a deadline, right? I need to get this YA novel done by September 1, the December book in my Murder-by-Month series by December 1,  and I hope to have a magical realism novel completed by May 1. I had it all within my grasp, right up until I realized I had far more research to do for the YA novel than I had allotted time for. So I repeat: how do you make time for writing, especially when it requires researching?

On a profoundly unrelated note, last month, my publisher kindly put forth June Bug as a free ebook download. Tens of thousands of copies were downloaded, and even more exciting, the sales of the other five books skyrocketed. You know what else? The entire six-book e-series is still in the top 10,000 ranking for’s Kindle downloads, weeks after June Bug has returned to full price. Thank you to Midnight Ink for their brilliant support and inventiveness, and for allowing me this opportunity.

accelerated degrees

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

E-xcited? by Jess Lourey

I never owned a security blanket as a child, but a book serves the same purpose for me as an adult. I love the feel, smell, and potential of a book in my hands. Would holding an ebook give me that same sense of comfort and safety? Maybe. It’s possible I’ll never know, though, because I am an o-reader: old-fashioned.

I no longer use paper to pay my bills, do most of my clothes shopping over a computer, and as a college professor, I teach 80% of my classes online. However, I prefer my eating, sleeping, and my reading to be tangible.

But as an author, I’m not blind to the future. On May 19, announced that their ebooks are now outselling print. According to this article, ebooks may not be ecologically sound, but they are convenient and appeal to the tool-loving monkey in most of us. And soon, photos with and personal messages from your favorite author will become part and parcel with your e-version of their book—consider it Author Signature 2.0. This writer even sees a future for professional editors to make the jump to ebook publishing with little or no start-up costs.

Anyone who tells you what the future of books looks like is guessing 98804081 and hoping, but we know it’s changing. That is why I’m grateful to have a publisher who continues to position themselves in the future. I recently found out that June Bug is going to be a free Nook download and free Kindle download for the month of June! To those of you who have taken the technological leap to ebooks, cheers. If you have not yet checked out the series, now is a safe time to start. Please spread the word, and have a happy June.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Education and Writing, by Jess Lourey

I have two semi-related issues to discuss with you. The first is the pronunciation of the word “ribald.” Kirkus Reviews wrote of October Fest, it’s “funny, ribald, and teeming with small-town eccentrics.” (They also wrote some crap about the plot falling apart toward the end, but I can’t really remember that part—I subscribe to the ellipses method for getting the stains out of book reviews.) I was pretty happy with that little blurb and told lots of people about it, including a best-selling mystery author out in New York I was trying to impress. Here’s how my conversation with him went:

“Getting any reviews on your latest?”

“Yeah! Kirkus Reviews said October Fest is funny and ribald.”

Pause. “RYE-bald, hunh?”


It was that pause that signaled to me my pronunciation was off. Honestly, it was the first time I’d ever said the word out loud. I got off the phone and hurried to my computer. Turns out it is really pronounced “ribbled,” like how a giggling frog feels. Really. Hear it here.

I got to thinking. I consider myself pretty smart. In fact, I am an English teacher, and a well-larded vocabulary and a tight-lipped stare of derision are prereqs for the job. However, my book reviews have consistently shown me how meager my spoken vocab is. I had to look up “surfeit” when a reviewer of May Day wrote that the protagonist has a “surfeit of sass.” Another reviewer called her “insouciant” in June Bug. Now, I don’t want to embarrass you, but did you know that word is pronounced “in-soo-sient” and not “insoochiant?”

What kind of world is it we live in that reviews of my own books go over my head?

And now that I’ve established my credibility as a teacher of the written word, I am asking for your input. I’m putting together mystery curriculum on behalf of an MWA committee I’m on. My goal is to create six teaching modules: three on mystery-focused creative writing and three on mystery-focused literature/reading, each group divided by age lines (middle school, high school, and college). These modules will be available for any teacher to use, free, and will hopefully bring further legitimacy to the mystery genre as well as provide interested teachers a way to expand their curriculum. What I’d like from you are suggestions as to the “best” mysteries out there. I’m looking for mostly dead authors so there is no favoritism, and as much gender variety and multiculturalism as possible (I've already got the dead white male mystery writers covered, me and the rest of society). Within those guidelines, what should students be reading?

Monday, March 28, 2011

My New Website Is Live! by Jess Lourey

My last post discussed my travails in creating a website and asked YOU for your input on a new one. Most of you agreed: author websites should be clean, uncluttered, without flashing and blinking, and easy to navigate. I took your input to heart, I hope. You can see my new site here.image

Beth Tindall of Cincinnati Media did a brilliant job of making the site navigable and clean. Steve Tuytschaevers of PlanetMaker Design worked with her to craft the seasonal trees (Murder-by-MONTH mysteries, get it?) in the banner and the thriving secret garden walls of the side columns. Thank you both. I’m super happy with how it turned out!


In honor of my new website, I’m listing some of my favorite online time-suckers below.

  • Hyperbole and a Half. Sometimes crude, always funny mixture of adolescent artwork and simple stories. If you can get through her writing about moving cross country with her dogs, or her parents and tipsy aunts humoring her Christmas play without laughing tears, you’re made of concrete.
  • Jezebel. A beautiful mix of politics, feminism, pop culture, imageand humor.
  • Awkward Family Photos. Because we’ve all been there. Like literally. I think that might be me and my sister in that photo.
  • The Nation. This is one of the few places I can still regularly find investigative journalism.
  • The Onion. Because sometimes I need a break from investigative journalism.
  • Awful Plastic Surgery. Because it’s rude to stare in person.
  • Groupon. Are you kidding me? I’m stuck on this site and I haven’t even bought anything from it yet. The old grandma in me loves to vicariously save money. And shake her fist at kids.

Where’s your favorite place to waste time online?

Monday, February 07, 2011

What’s in a website? Would that with which an author advertises smell as sweet in any other format?

Yes, I’m updating my website. It’s not something I like to spend money on, and the promotional part of this writing business has never fit me well, but it’s time. If you visit Wayback Machine, you will discover that my first website (2006) looked like this:


No, that’s not Dorothy Hamill, and yes, I tried to make my website mirror Carl Hiaasen’s (he’s since updated his). I figured, at the time, that it was the “funny author” prototype website. Probably you’re thinking that’s odd because it has a leafy morgue feel, overall. A leafy morgue with Dorothy Hamill as the mortician. Don’t judge me.

Looking for something brighter, I updated to this website in 2007:



I take full credit (blame) for the above layout. I wanted a strong feminist feel (note the “woman” symbol as page divider), and I also wanted to convey that I intended to write across genres (the feminist stick lady wears a different hat on every page; I know--subtle like an axe). Seven mystery novels later, I chalk up my cross-genre dreams to the same delusional tendency that has me hang on to those size 5 Levis that will fit if I ever find a time machine or am lucky enough to lick a tapeworm.

Last year, in honor of my first three novels being reissued with new covers, I had my boyfriend, who is a wonderful graphic designer (but, it turns out, allergic to Dreamweaver), create this site, my third update:


I love his design. However, because the web software ended up handing him his own ass (let the records indicate that he fought the good fight), the site is really just a bunch of photos of pages rather than a true website. That means I can’t update ANYTHING, from my author info to my books to my events page. Bring on Beth Tindall, website designer extraordinaire, mystery fan, and Most Reasonable Woman I Know. She’s going to work with Steve to make me an uber-site, completely focused on the Murder-by-Month series, and dynamic. The new site’s go live date is March 1.

Which brings me to my question for you: what IS in a website? In other words, what do you like about the websites you like? What brings you back? What’s your favorite feature on your site (include a link so we can see what you mean) or what author site is your favorite (also include a link)? Join the conversation, and help me! Please. You see what I’m capable of when left to my own devices. Without your help, this could be my future:

image image   image