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There are so many choices for new authors who want to see their book in the hands of a smiling reader. The road to publication no longer follows a straight path to NY. It is often a twisting maze of luck and perseverence.

With new publishing houses popping up every day and other publishers imploding, leaving authors begging for the manuscripts back, it can be a mine field wading through facts and rumors. Add to that the loud voices of those that are finding gold in the hills of self-publishing and you have a plethora of confusion on what is best for your manuscript.

So where do you start?

First, decide what it is you want from your writing. The satisfaction of seeing your words in print? A little extra income? A living wage and writing full time? What is your ultimate goal? It will certainly give you direction. For me, quite honestly, it was the income. As so many of you know I had to give up teaching due to medical reasons. And though it wasn’t much in the grand scheme of things, my salary did contribute to the family budget. I want to have that again. And I will.

With that in mind I wrote my first book and began sending it out while working on my second book. Rejections piled up and still I wrote and sent out queries on my second book. More rejections followed. I finally stepped back and reassessed, looked at the market (because I wanted income) and wrote a book I thought would fit the erotic romance market which was growing exponentially at the time. I also realized my only avenue wasn’t print, but digital publishers. I queried several new up-and-coming publishers and three well established houses. I got four offers, an offer of re-write and a rejection. One publisher called me directly. Boy, was I thrilled. But I didn’t jump on it. Why? Because it was a publishing house that had been around only a year.

Here’s the thing I did next and I think more authors should take time to do. I emailed random authors on the publisher’s author list. Why? Because they’re in there and know better than anyone how the publisher works. The good, bad and downright ugly. I asked specific questions about editing staff and techniques. About sales and royalty payments. How long from contract to publication. I even asked about percentage of books going to print. Authors are wonderful people and most will be honest … brutally honest, which is what I wanted. Granted, there were some who did not respond to my emails, but that gave me information also.

From these emails I accepted a contract with Liquid Silver Books. And though I no longer have books there, I will be forever grateful to them for giving me such a wonderful start to my writing career. I HIGHLY recommend them and would tell that to anyone who asks. And let me just tell you, two of the four who offered contracts and whose authors never responded to me have recently gone under. Seriously, a little research goes a long way.

And what of self-publication? Another avenue to explore and consider. It’s not as difficult for someone like me who publishes digitally anyway. There are no huge formatting issues for upload so don’t let that slow you down. Nor does the marketing and promotion change. Because if you’re with an e-publisher already, you know the importance of getting out there and marketing your book. So what is there to consider? Editing and cover design, both of which can be a considerable outlay of money. Whether you have the readers who are auto-buys for your books or your looking to begin a readership. All are important things to weigh when you’re thinking of going this route.

There is money out there for sure, but don’t go into self-publication with stars in your eyes. The reality is many people aren’t selling. Many aren’t making money. *slowly raises hand* Sales get sales. If a book doesn’t have sales, it isn’t going to show up on the lists. If it doesn’t show up on lists, it’s not going to get the attention of new readers. And all the great reviews and marketing aren’t going to get your book in front of the general Amazon surfer, which is your ultimate goal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t go that route. I’m simply saying, like all parts of the publishing world, go into it well informed.

My goal for 2012 is to have my toes dipping in all of the markets, mass market print, digital and self-pubbing. There is no one way that is correct. In this day and age, an author needs to weigh their options and make decisions that fit them best.

This is the story of an avid reader. A regular JoAnn who stops at Starbucks and buys her double double mocha latte with extra foam on her way to the bookstore. It’s a wonderful day. She’s visited her favorite author’s websites and has her list all ready.

The bookstore is bustling and JoAnn gets all caught up in the excitement of adding to her “to be read” pile. She peruses the paranormal shelf, choosing a couple of books, even picking up a book written by a debut author. She then heads over to check out the latest releases in the historical section. gathering several more books and finishes her visit in the erotic romance section bashfully picking out the backlist of her favorite authors. With two bags filled with books, she heads to the front of the store.

But on her way to the register she comes across someone who has all the books in her bags for free. That’s right. Completely free.

“Why are you buying those books. I’ll give them to you for free.”
“Wow, why don’t they cost me anything?”
“Oh, I got one copy of the book and made more copies. I’m happy to give them away.”
“Well, if you’re here in the bookstore, then it must be legal.”
“Who cares if it’s legal. Everyone’s doing it. Besides authors are rich. They’ve already been paid to write the books.”
“Well, then I’ll take one of everything you’ve got.”

People wouldn’t do this. Of course it would never happen in a bookstore. But it happens all the time on the internet. As much as authors shout from the rafters about internet piracy and their bottom lines, readers don’t seem to understand how much money authors and publishers are losing to these thieves.

I don’t usually get too uptight about people pirating my books. I’ve never had many downloaded. But in the last two days, one of my best selling books has been downloaded 22,000 times … for free. I made no money from these books that were stolen from me. I’m sick. I’m not foolish enough to think that all of these people would have purchased the book, but even if a third of them had, I could make my mortgage payment from the royalties off those sales for THREE months!

THREE MONTHS!

And now I’m pissed. Downright indignant that people continue to think this practice is all right. Worse than the torrent sites offering books for free are people who go on ebay or create their own sites and SELL illegal copies of books. Talk about adding insult to injury!

I’m not sure if everyone understands that authors who write for digital publishers don’t get paid advances. My hard work is only rewarded when people BUY my books and I get royalties from the sales. Writing is what pays my bills. There isn’t anyone who wants to work a full week making widgets only to have all the widgets given away and the business not paying them for their time. Yeah, it’s the same thing.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here on the blog. You’re all wonderful authors and readers and I appreciate all of you. But seriously, I’m beyond frustrated with this particular website that’s giving away my book and all the people who visit it and steal from me. I’m fortunate that my publisher actually has someone who sends out cease and desist letters, but they take time to get the books taken down. Congress is working on copyright infringement laws, but they’re just not coming through fast enough for me. I believe if the music industry was able to fight the illegal downloads, the publishing industry will be able to follow suit.

In the meantime, please get your books from reputable sites where the author and publisher are making money from the sales. Secretaries, editors and cover artists also depend on book sales for their salaries.

Because seriously, this kind of pirate isn’t sexy at all!

I’d like to welcome author SAPPHIRE PHELAN to The Block today.

Welcome Sapphire. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and how you got into writing
I’ve been writing since I was eight, maybe even younger. I wanted to make up stories (mainly animal and scifi ones) like I read. I wrote poetry when I was in high school besides short stories and one day discovered this poetry magazine when I was 17. I submitted three poems to them, “The Horse,” “The Leopard,” and “Sands of Time.” All three were accepted and I got a contract and was paid. That was my first paid publication.

But it took until 2005 when I wrote my first erotic fantasy romance. It was about a knight cursed to become a dragon at night and the young woman who broke the curse and become his love. It was a twist on the virgin offered to a dragon.

Oh, I love dragons. Your newest release involves shifters as well. Could you tell us a little bit about it? 
DARK LEOPARD MAGIC is the second book in the Beast Magic universe. It is erotic male/male interracial novella with wereleopards as the two heroes.

Dev Tollen is a tortured soul who also happens to be gay and a wereleopard. He has never had the Dreaming until one day it happens and he sees his destined mate. Montsho first appeared in the first novella as a secondary character, BEAST MAGIC, as friend to Ramses, the werelion leader. He never thought a male wereleopard would be his mate, as he never thought himself as gay.

And there’s a mystery involved in the storyline besides being a paranormal romance.

Blurb for the book:
Dev Tollen is a man with a dark past and an even darker soul. More than that, he’s a gay wereleopard. He has never had the Dreaming and never met his true mate. But one night the Dreaming does come and reveals his lover, an African man named Montsho, also an alpha black wereleopard. Montsho will fight their love and their destiny. Dev will do all he can to win his beloved’s heart and keep him by his side always.

Then the ghost of a human begs Dev to solve his wereleopard lover’s murder. Both men will find that their new-found love tested and their lives in danger. Their idyllic time in paradise is about to be torn asunder when they discover who the murderer is.

Oh, two alpha males, they sound great. How did you come up with them? 
Out of my head, like all of my characters. I knew about Montsho and knew from the first book that he had to be the central figure in the second one. But I couldn’t figure out who should be his mate. Not until it hit me why he never found his destined mate. And when I started writing DARK LEOPARD MAGIC, Dev Tollen came to life and in first person. That Dark leopard didn’t mean because of Montsho’s black wereleopard form, but because of Dev having a dark past and even darker soul. I realized as I went into the book that I also had to have some chapters from Montsho’s viewpoint.

Sometimes those dark characters should come with a warning. If you came with a warning label what would it read? 
Beware: Author creating universes of hot sex and supernatural beings and aliens. She’s always trying to save the day, so take care of explosions, evil creatures, and hell breaking loose!

LOL! With a warning like that it should probably be posted over your desk. Could you describe your writing space for us? 
I write in a room that the office shares with my sewing room. LOL I do costuming so this was the costuming room first. I have piles of reference books and collectibles fighting for space. Everything helps me write. I always have something to look at to give me ideas. I like this mainly for my writing area, though I have taken my laptop and written while sitting on the couch in the living room when my husband needs to get to his PC (his and my laptop sit side-by-side), when I go to conventions I write up in my room and even during a writer’s workshop at my table! But I prefer my office the best.

I’m a little envious that you can write most anywhere. So tell us a little about your writing process are you a plotter or a pantser?
I think I am more a pantser—the stories just came to me. When I do a novel or large novella, I do write down the characters, descriptions and more so I can always reference back when one returns. I never could do outlines, even in school. I write the article, then do the outline. The teachers gibe me As, never knowing I never did it the way they asked us to.

I either have a cup of coffee with cream or bottle of diet Lipton green tea within reach. No music. I admit listening to a song on the radio one day while driving the car that inspired my paranormal romance, ‘His Girl” that’s included in Just Another Paranormal Halloween anthology, but I don‘t listen to any while writing.

So what happened to the first novel you wrote? 
I wrote this novel, Howling in the Night when I was in seventh grade. It was by long hand and since I was a kid, I doubted it was even 40,000 words, never mind what they want today. LOL it was a gothic romance with horror mixed in—paranormal romance before it was thought of.

I know this is completely off topic, but do these pants make my butt look big? 
No, I don’t think so. And after all, black is slimming as they say.

Mwah, just the answer I was hoping for. There is just something about sitting down to edit in leather pants … oh, sorry, I digress. How do you get through the editing process?
I try to write my book completely before starting to edit it. I try to do it twice to three times when I edit a book or story. I also take chapters or a story to my writer’s groups I am with and my critique buddies. They help me immensely. Once I feel it’s ready to submit, that’s when I do it.

Thank goodness for crit partners. Who or what do you attribute your success to? 
All those writers I’ve read short stories and novels and nonfiction books of. Like Shirley Jackson (her The Haunting of Hill House is still a big fave ghost story), Ray Bradbury (this man knows how to write and keep you reading), Anne McCaffrey, etc… I also attribute my success to my friends and family who have backed me, to my editors who made sure my stories are the best they could be, and most of all, to my readers, who buy and read my crazy worlds. Thank you all.

Rapid Fire Questions …
Vampire or shifter? Shifter, natch’!
* Coffee or Tea? I like both
* Cats or Dogs? I like both, though all we own right now are two cats. It’s hard to be a cat herder
* Shopping or Massage? Mmmm. . .massage
* Happy Ever After or Happy for Now? It’s depends on the story. Both work for me
* Boxers or Briefs? How about commando?
* Sugar or Salt? Sugar
* Wine or Beer? Wine
*Quiet night with your honey or a party with friends?  I like both, but a quiet night with my hubby beats it all
* Flowers or Candy? Flowers if in a pot and I can plant outside. Candy—yeah, I like this. Me though, I prefers books and eBooks

Well it looks like the cabana boys are heading this way. Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers before we dive into that pitcher of margaritas? 
Keep reading. And do contact me, letting me know how you liked my heroes, heroines, and worlds they play in. I always love to hear from my readers. I try to write the stories of my heart and I am glad you have embraced them well.

Sapphire Phelan is an author of erotic and sweet paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction romance, along with a couple of erotic horror stories. She also writes as Pamela K. Kinney, for horror, fantasy, science fiction, and nonfiction ghost books. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two cats, Ripley and Bast. She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house and husband sometimes suffers for it! Most days you can find Sapphire at her website or her blog. And follow her on twitter and facebook.

**CONTEST ALERT** Sapphire will be giving away a download of DARK LEOPARD MAGIC. So leave a comment with your name and email so she can check back and draw a winner from ALL the blogs on her tour on NOV 29.

What a blast I had this weekend chatting with you all about Valentine’s Day. I took the tour myself and wowsa! there sure was a lot of man flesh to enjoy!

Congratulations to the seven prize winners who were chosen at random from all those who commented on all the blogs:

Amy S
Beth C
Carol L
Cathy M
(who won an ebook from me!)
Gabrielle L
Jen R
Jennifer M

Each winner won an inbox full of electronic goodness to add to their reading collection. I sure hope you’ll all join us again when we decide to do this again!

I also chose one commenter from this blog to win a package full of goodies from me! Congratulations to …

Marcie O
from
Seattle, Washington

You’ve got a package of “Nina” goodies headed your way … Enjoy!

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