Critters Makes for Better Writing

September 24th, 2011

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

My husband is a big Star Wars fan.  He watches all six movies often, though there’s a couple he watches more often than the rest.  He collects the action figures (never call them toys to a “true” collector).  He rushes to the video store that sells the comic books the same day they call him to let him know his comic is in.  And everytime a new SW novel appears in print he combs the bookstores (ranting about it being released in hard back first and having to wait a year or more for its release in paper back, but that’s another story for another blog).  All of this means that when he found his favorite SW author’s web site he, of course, emailed a link to the site to me.

Usually I look at these “helpful” links others send me with half-hearted attention, but the fact that he raves about this author’s writing made me curious.  My initial reaction to Karen Traviss web site was, if possible, even more curiousity because the first page link she has is to something called Critters.  (My husband, being the wonderfully oblivious man he is, assumed the author was talking about her pets or some such thing.)  After looking at her other page links, which all had to do with how to be a better writer, I figured it had to have something to do with writing.

I haven’t been so surprised at being right in a long time.  It turns out that Critters is a group of writers from novice to pro who critique each others’ work.  (Hence the clever name.)  It’s a great idea.  The only catch is that all members are required to submit a minimum of one critique per week.  The good news is that there are ways to get ahead in critiquing and ways to catch up.  The benefits of having your work honestly, and tactfully, critiqued before it hits the publishers desk or you’ve already submitted it to a POD (print-on-demand) company far outweigh the commitment in time and energy spent doing a critique a week.

The best part is that you can have your complete novel critiqued as well as smaller works.  There are special provisions for entire novels and a way to get your work bumped up to the top for critique if you just don’t have the time to wait an entire month.

While it would be nice to be able to write the perfect story from the first word, a good writer knows that editing and rewriting are a must in the craft.  Having your work critiqued by others who have no reason to stroke your ego, as family and friends do, makes the process that much better (though no less painful).  Thanks to authors like Karen Traviss, who are willing to give new and emerging writers advice, and to fellow writers like those on Critters, every would-be author has a better chance at success.


Catch up on the adventure with other books in the Malkin series.

Apprentice Cat CoverApprentice Cat available in paperback and for KindleNookKoboScribd and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Also available as an audiobook on AudibleAmazon and iTunes.



Journeyman-Cat15percentJourneyman Cat available in paperback and KindleNookScribdiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

Audiobook coming soon.



Secrets-of-the-Malkin-sidebar-newsletterSecrets of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 




Huntress of the MalkinHuntress of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookKobo and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Research Your Publishing Options

August 12th, 2011

book photoThe second most important thing to becoming an independent author is to research your options. (The first is, of course, to write, but that is an entry for another time.) I spent a lot of time doing google searches for the “right” publishing company, trying to decide whether to stick with a traditional publisher or strike out on my own with a print-on-demand company.

Although I wouldn’t call my writing “niche writing,” I had to acknowledge the fact that most traditional publishing houses (what many Indie Authors now call Dead-Tree Houses) only publish a small percentage of the manuscripts they receive based almost solely on what they believe to be the marketability of said manuscript. By going that route I would spend a lot of wasted time and money submitting manuscripts and waiting (not to mention getting enough rejection slips to paper my office). That sounded less than enjoyable, especially considering most writers harbor enough anxious energy about their manuscripts to power a small town.

That left print-on-demand, which also didn’t please me. After all, didn’t self-published equal poor quality? As I soon discovered through an even longer search on the subjects of independent authors and print-on-demand that wasn’t necessarily true. The quality of the product depends entirely on the energy the author/publisher puts into it.  I was surprised and elated to find that print-on-demand has been quickly racing toward respectability due to an effort of independent authors like myself who refuse to sacrifice quality just to get into print.

The next issue I needed to resolve before making a decision was the difference between print-on-demand companies and vanity presses. Vanity presses require money up front and leave you with boxes of books in your garage you have to sell on your own. Print-on-demand companies don’t require money up front and only print your book when someone orders one, so you don’t have to warehouse them. The print-on-demand company takes a percentage of each book sold to cover their costs. In both cases, though, the author is responsible for marketing the book to the public. For me, I decided a print-on-demand company was the better deal because I don’t have money to spend on a large run of books, nor do I have the space to warehouse them.

From there it was narrowing the choice from a variety of companies with different offerings to one that best suited my current needs. After another long round of research, I settled on a company called Most indie authors that had used them liked them because their site is user-friendly and they print quality items.

I finished writing (and editing, and revising, and editing, etc. etc.) my first book, formatted it to Lulu’s specifications, designed my cover and finally went through the process of uploading it all to their site. After going over the author’s copy they sent to me (for a low price of $6.07) and approving it for print, I now have a book I’m happy with. The process of uploading and approving the book wasn’t as user-friendly as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t a week-long nightmarish struggle, either.

As I continue to blog, I’ll fill in the details of my experiences with using a print-on-demand company, as well as giving some links to resources I’ve found very helpful along the way.