Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anna (A Starseed Novel)

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined the by the lovely and talented Meghan Riley who has written an award winning novel called Anna (A Starseed Novel)  that she has come to talk to us about.  Thank you for joining us today Meghan!

Thank you for giving me the chance to talk a little bit about Anna!

I think the fact that you have the subtitle: (A Starseed Novel) along with declaring the book a “YA Science Fiction” story means I’m not just about to read a tale of high school romance.  Or am I?  Would you tell us a bit more about the novel?  

There is a little bit of romance. And I mean a LITTLE. My main character, Anna, is a 17 year-old girl, and I tried to incorporate a little bit of every aspect of what it means to be a girl that age. Of course, that means sibling dynamics, friend drama, school stress...and crushes.. But I didn’t want that to be central to my story. Teenagers are constantly trying to put themselves in different “clothes” to see what fits. But no matter what we do, no matter what persona we take on as human being, our true selves eventually win out and that’s one theme in this novel.

Anna loves astrophysics and wants to be a physicist someday, but it’s going to require her to leave home to go to college. This is a struggle for her, because ever since her father died in Afghanistan, she’s been very protective of her family. She fears things with her brother and mother will start to fall apart if she leaves. So, she’s feeling torn. To make matters more complicated, her crush suddenly takes notice of her and she doesn’t quite know how to handle it or if he even likes her that way, because she’s led a sort of sheltered life. She gets a taste of being a true teenager, which is something she’s deprived herself of and it messes up her routine.

But all of this is a distraction, because, as Anna is dealing with life as a teenager, she’s also dealing with a sort of medical mystery. For as long as she can remember, she’s had these strange spots on her arm. They’ve stayed relatively the same for most of her life, but at the beginning of her story, they start to change. First, a rash. Then, boils. Then, hallucinations. She comes up with very logical explanations, but something happens, and she realizes that she has no more explanations. She has to figure out what is happening to her before something bad happens.

There are a lot of twists and turns, and people who don’t usually read Science Fiction have liked it.

I understand the story was released last year on Wattpad, how did you discover that site?  What was it like winning their 2012 Watty Award?  

I originally participated in some traditional online writing communities, but it was taking four or more weeks for me to get feedback on my writing. So, I went searching for something new and I ran across Wattpad. I signed up in February, but was concerned at how public it was. There were a lot of people participating and not as much structure as what I was used to. In June 2012, just as I was finishing up a rewrite of Anna, I decided to take the leap. I started posting the novel chapter-by-chapter and got feedback instantly, and I was surprised to find people were really liking the book. I got some really passionate messages from readers, on Wattpad and on the social networks I’m on.

I didn’t originally plan to enter the 2012 Watty Awards. There are a LOT of books on Wattpad and thousands were entering the awards. In the end, those messages from my readers spurred me to enter. The first round of winners were chosen according to reads, votes, and frequency of activity. I ended up in the final round in the Science Fiction: Undiscovered Gems category, a subcategory chosen based on number of fans of each writer. I was pretty new to Wattpad, compared to other finalists. I was up against four other books and ended up winning by a rather large margin. It was stressful throughout the few months it happened, but I was thrilled to win.

With an award under your belt and designs on a sequel already in place what brings you to Kickstarter and self-publishing?  Couldn’t you just take it to Baen, Tor, or one of the other publishers?  

Taking it to a publisher is a lot easier than it sounds. They’re incredibly picky. They want a book that’s basically done and ready to be published. Most don’t want to work with the writer to prepare it as needed. Most would also rather deal with an agent, which is incredibly hard to come by.

My biggest issue is that Anna hasn’t been edited by a professional, not just for grammar, but the overall package. A Comprehensive Editor or Content Editor will pay attention to the details of the story itself to make sure everything is consistent and realistic in the frame of the world, and will make suggestions on how to make the story better overall. They’ve read many books and know what works. A large chunk of the money that I’m trying to raise is for editing. It’s an expensive process.

I want to self-publish, because it will give me a chance to build a writing career that’s more in my favor. I can make more money from the books, because a traditional publisher will take a large chunk of the profits and will want me to sell them a large portion of my rights, which reduces what I have a say in..

What about your story makes it “Young Adult?”  

The themes of the story are more geared toward young people between the ages of 12 and 18. I’ve had many adults read the story, and they’ve loved it, but it really resonates with teenagers.

$6,600 is an oddly specific target amount which you list a breakdown of the costs on your page which I thank you for you doing.  The biggest part of that breakdown is “Comprehensive and Copy Editing - $3,192.”  Do books really cost that much to edit?

Most definitely! I did a lot of shopping around, even before I decided to do Kickstarter, and, like most things, you get what you pay for. I saw editors with only a few books under their belts quoting $20/hr for proofreading and that seemed pretty open-ended to me. The $3,192  for “Comprehensive and Copy Editing” is actually two rounds of editing and it’s broken down per word, rather than per hour.

The first round comprehensive editing looks for technical inconsistencies and ways I can make the story better, which is important to me. I might not do something like that for future books, but I’m still a young writer and I know I have room to improve. This will help me. The second round happens after I make changes according to the comprehensive edit and it’s focused mainly grammatical mistakes. This is my chance to have an experience second set of eyes look at my book and give me an unbiased opinion, which is a bit different than having a family member or writer friend looking at it.

Who is editing the book?

I decided to have everything done through Createspace, a company owned by Amazon, which has a long history of helping authors prepare their manuscripts for publishing. They provide everything from editing to formatting to on-demand publishing. They’re reasonably priced and have a good reputation.

You also list a “Book Cover - $749.”  Who is doing the cover?  

I’ll be assigned an artist when I start working with Createspace. At first, I was hesitant. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my vision, and I was afraid I wouldn’t have much say in how my book looked. However, I perused many forums searching for other authors’ experiences with Createspace and was pleased to read how happy they were with the process.

If the book is already available for free through Wattpad why should folks back this project?  None of the money seems to fund the sequel.  

First, a lot of readers have enjoyed Anna on Wattpad, but it’s not the best it can be. The editing will improve it greatly and make it even better than what it is now. Second, you can only get it on Wattpad. I’ve had a lot of people ask me where they can get a physical copy or where they can get the ebook version to download onto their reader, but they can’t. I don’t have that option yet and it limits my audience greatly. When people pledge to support Anna, most of the rewards include either an ebook copy or physical copy, or both. It’s like pre-ordering a new book, as one would a new Cassandra Clare or Veronica Roth book. Having it on Amazon, as planned for when the project is done, I’ll be able to reach many, many more people, especially those who have never heard of Wattpad.

The funds don’t go toward the sequel, because I believe in reinvesting the money I make off of sales of Anna. That’s what I will use to pay for editing for the sequel. This will be my first published book and it’s going to be a big lesson. Along the way, I know I will learn techniques that will make the sequel easier to create and manufacture, but I first need the lesson...a lesson that I will share along the way in project updates.

What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking of writing a book?

Just spit out the first draft. Getting it on paper the first time is the hardest part. Then, edit it until you’re sick of the story. Put it aside for a few weeks and edit it some more. When you’re content, put it on a website like Wattpad. That’s when you really learn what works. Plus, it helps you build up that tolerance for criticism that you need as a writer.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I believe, I first heard of it when Mashable.com ran a story on it. Then, a couple of friends suggested I try crowdfunding to publish Anna. I thought, “What the heck! I can’t say it did or didn’t work if I don’t try!”

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

I’m working on keeping everyone involved with an update every few days, not just on Kickstarter, but all of my social media accounts. My friends, family, and readers are doing a great job sharing and supporting me. With their help and consistent conversation, I hope to get more people involved.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

I have a Facebook page, a rather large Twitter following, a Google+ account focused locally, my Kickstarter video on YouTube, and I’m contacting local media that focuses on books in hopes of attracting a more targeted niche. I am, indeed, using Kicktraq. It’s a very convenient way to analyze all your pledge data.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Do lots of research beforehand. Don’t just jump into it and try to find at least one person you know is good at business and ask their opinion on your project proposal. Also, try to be as transparent as possible in your proposal, because people are more likely to pledge if they feel you are being honest.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thank you. I appreciate you all taking the time to read this. For the past 25 years, it’s been a dream of mine to be published, and I hope you consider supporting me in this project. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message on Kickstarter. I’d be happy to answer!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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