The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold coins


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All that glitters

Hey, you guys, remember how one of my goals for this year was to write 52 blog posts, which I changed from specifically one per week last year because I thought it would be more achievable?

Please join me in ROFLing vigorously.

a llama rolling around on the ground

source: Giphy

I don’t feel too bad about it, because I think there’s an argument to be made that last year I was kind of using blogging as an excuse to procrastinate on writing my book. (As in “Gosh, I’d just LOVE to do the work I’ve been avoiding all day by finding pointless things to do around the house, but I’ve got a blog post to write! Too bad, so sad.”) But I really do enjoy blogging and the regular posts were finally starting to give this blog some momentum, so it kind of sucks to have lost that.

HOWEVER. I am here now. HELLO! HOW ARE YOU? THE YELLING IS BECAUSE I’M EXCITED TO BE HERE. And also because I have LEARNED SOMETHING ABOUT WRITING!

Okay, so the last time I updated you guys about The Murano Glass Slipper, I was working on expanding the 50k draft I wrote shockingly fast into one that was longer and made more sense. About a week and a half ago I was 25k into that second draft and… well, hating every second of it, basically. Which was really disappointing after how exciting the first draft was. But then I had what I think is a bit of a breakthrough.

Basically, I think I’m too afraid of deleting scenes. I have this idea that written words are Precious and Must Be Preserved because Writing Is Hard. With the MGS draft I was working on (as with lots of drafts of The Rose and the Mask), I found that I was expending a lot of effort to try and prop up parts of the story that… actually weren’t that good. I was working on this one scene in particular and just found myself thinking “This is SO. BORING.” My character was in a scene and she had no real motivation to do anything (relatable, but not great storytelling). And the thing is, I had ideas for what would give her that motivation, but I kept kicking them away because they’d involve rewriting other scenes.

But then, I thought: “Tory, you wrote all 50,000 of those words in a month. Maybe not all of them are solid gold.”

Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold coins

Pictured: not my writing source: Giphy

This is a very sensible thought, and probably one you have already had several times while reading this. But I’d never looked at it that way before. My approach so far has been to cheerfully write a scene at a reasonable pace, and then spend endless, weary, miserable months trying to wedge it into a scrambled mess of a manuscript until my will is finally broken and I delete it – and painlessly write another one. It has only now occurred to me that I can just skip that middle section altogether.

So, am I starting again from scratch? No. There are several scenes from the first draft that I really love, and that are worth polishing up for the final version. And there are plenty more that will be replaced by very similar scenes – scenes that will be easier to write because I’ve written these first scenes. The plan now is to write another 50,000 words in the next month. I’m hoping that, combined with the parts of the first draft I want to keep, this will get me most of the way there! I definitely want this book published by the end of the year, and I’m even hopeful about getting it out sometime in the autumn.

I’m feeling good about this, I think. I’ve got a brand new scene-by-scene plan that blows the old plan out of the water, and that should help keep me going. I’m not certain I can do 50k in a month again, because I’m not feeling that nervous energy that forced me onwards last time – plus, last time I had a few days off work, which really helped, whereas this time I’m actually going to be super-busy at work and probably really tired when I get home. But I’m excited to give it my best shot anyway. Watch this space!

the disneyland paris castle at sunset


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Hey Tory, where have you been?

Thanks for asking.

Well, in a physical sense, I was just in Disneyland Paris for almost a week. It was awesome and I am suuuuuuuper tired. Here’s a few random photos from my phone. There are probably better ones!

the disneyland paris castle at sunset

me on the teacup ride

me and carl in raincoats

Mostly the weather was great, but briefly it really, really wasn’t

a man elaborately carves characters from aladdin into watermelons

This guy is almost certainly better at melons than you

I also bought this truly excellent souvenir:

a real clock shaped like cogsworth from beauty and the beast

The pendulum actually swings!

 

Of course, a few days in Disneyland doesn’t really explain why I haven’t updated my blog in over a month. But that’s good news, I think: I’ve actually been really busy with The Murano Glass Slipper, which seems to be going pretty well! I’ve definitely hit a few snags and, now that I’m trying to refine what I’ve written it doesn’t feel like I’ve been as productive as it did when I wrote 50k words in under a month, but it’s still pretty exciting. Hopefully I’ll have something new to share with you soon. For now, I think I need a nap…


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Self-Published Authors: Should you have your book professionally edited?

adventures in self publishing - victoria leybourne

When I posted my Self-Publishing To Do List, I promised to come back and write about some of the things on that list in a little more detail. I think editing is a good place to start—it’s likely to be one of the biggest expenses involved in getting your book to market, and it’s certainly something I gave a lot of thought to.

Of course, the first question is… Should you have your book edited at all? Honestly, I can’t tell you that. It’s a topic I see brought up and vigorously fought over among indie authors all the time, and there are good points to be made on both sides.

The case for editing

Most arguments in favour of editing boil down to professionalism. For some people, it’s about competing on a level playing field with traditional publishers: their books are professionally-edited, ours should be too.

It’s also about long-term strategy—it’s all very well grabbing sales with your great cover and snappy blurb but, goes the argument, if your actual book is riddled with grammar mistakes and plot inconsistencies, those readers won’t come back next time. And there’s a good chance they’ll leave bad reviews to warn away others. It’s about respect for readers, too—doing everything you can to make sure your book delivers on the promises made by your marketing.

Something that’s harder to measure in sales is this: having your work edited can make you a better writer. I know I learned an awful lot from my editor that I can use to write better books in the future.

The case against

Basically, editing costs a lot of money.

Editing should cost a lot of money, because you’re buying hours of a skilled person’s time. But, well, I personally am nearly five years out of university and only last year started making anything noticeably above minimum wage from my (non-writing) work, so I don’t necessarily think of myself as being in an “employing people” sort of place.

Arguments against editing tend to be about… I’m going to say “agility”. The less time and money you spend on developing a product, the less money it has to make to be profitable. It also leaves you free to go after market trends, to try things out and drop them quickly if they don’t work. There are authors doing very well putting out a book every month or two (or maybe even more than that), with minimal investment but at minimal cost, and making a fortune on volume. Some readers probably are turned off by the lack of editing—but those authors reach so many people that it doesn’t matter if they lose a few.

There’s also a school of thought that readers don’t notice most of the errors an editor would catch, or don’t care about them if they do. I don’t think that’s true. What I think is that these agile writers are very fast and very clever, and figure out very quickly how to self-edit to a level that their audience is happy with. That’s not an option if you haven’t met your audience yet.

So… should you do it?

Ultimately, it depends what your goals for self-publishing are, and what your strengths are as a writer. If you’re just publishing for bragging rights, you probably don’t need to spend the money—but maybe you’d brag harder if you knew your book was better. If you’re aiming to make a profit, maybe you’ll want to speculate to accumulate—or maybe you know you’re fast and savvy enough for the agile approach.

Me, I know I’m not agile. The Rose and the Mask took three years to write. I’m aiming to get the sequel done in less than one, but that’s still slow by indie standards—and glacial to those agile writers.

There was probably also an emotional level to the decision for me. As it went further and further over-schedule, TRatM became a labour of love on which I’m definitely never going to make a return on my investment of time. After all that, the idea of someone thinking it was just something I threw together, on the basis of mistakes that an editor would have caught, was unacceptable to me.

Next time*, I’ll talk about what the actual editing process was like for me. (Spoiler: hard work but sort of awesome.)

 

* Maybe not literally the next time I post, this blog is run entirely according to whim.


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Better than I expected, not as good as I hoped…

Honestly, this sums up a lot of things in my life! But of course, as usual, I’m talking about The Rose and the Mask – specifically, its first week as an actual, real-life published book!

So, how has that first week been? Well…

Expectation: my kind and supportive friends and family would buy it, and almost no one else.

Hope: ONE MILLION SALES!!!

dr evil from austin powers

Alright, I guess I was a little more restrained than that, but I had all these little scenarios in my head that were, um, less than realistic.

Reality: Okay, well, I probably won’t keep posting the figures (mostly because it’ll get embarrassing and a little sad sooner or later) but here’s how they’re looking right now.

Paperback sales: 21

Ebook sales: 36

Kindle Unlimited Page Reads: 15,187 (equal to about 37 full read-throughs of the book)

(For those of you not in the know: Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service where people pay monthly and can read as many KU-enrolled books as they want – sort of like Netflix for books. Authors/publishers get paid based on how many pages were read. You don’t find out how many people read how much of a book, though, so that 15,000ish could be 37 full reads or it could be 150 people reading 100 pages each, or anything else.)

I definitely don’t have 21+36+37 friends and relations. Not even close. Sooo… expectation exceeded. And honestly, I’m really pleased! And so grateful to the people that bought and/or read it! But… well, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m never proud of anything I do when there’s the option to feel bad about not doing it better instead. 🙄

But, onwards and upwards! Here’s what I’ve got going on at the moment… you know, besides endlessly refreshing the sales stats.

  • I made a Twitter thread suggesting some better ways they could have introduced a gay character in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, in response to the somewhat underwhelming revelation about Lefou.
  • I’ve put together a tentative plan for getting The Murano Glass Slipper – the sequel to The Rose and the Mask – written, and maybe even published, by the end of the year. That’s VERY ambitious, given that The Rose and the Mask took three years, but I feel like I learned a lot from that process. Mostly, that I should NEVER EVER EVER NOT EVER start writing a book without working out a scene-by-scene plan first. So I’m working on that at the moment. It’s going… okay? I think?
  • There are SO MANY blog posts I want to write. Some about writing The Rose and the Mask, some about the self-publishing process. Hopefully once the nervous excitement about the book being published wears off, I’ll be able to concentrate a bit better. Or at least stop wasting time agonising over the stupid stats! Please feel free to tut disapprovingly at me if you don’t see any of those posts soon. I deserve it.


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Release Day Update!

It’s about 3pm here in the UK (assuming I don’t get hopelessly distracted from writing this post for another hour or two, which is not out of the question) so I thought it was time to update you on how Release Day (AAAAHHHHH) is going.

Well, I’ve been a guest over at The Silver Petticoat Review, talking about how I adapted some of my favourite elements of Beauty and the Beast to write The Rose and the Mask. Take a look and let me know what you think!

I’ve also been interviewed by the glorious Bronwyn Green over on her blog, talking about what I most like about my main characters, why I chose Beauty and the Beast, and elaborate pasta-based escape plans.

Sales so far have been, er, nothing to write home about. (This is not literally true, I’m sitting right here texting my family about them!) To my certain knowledge, I have sold eight (8) copies so far.

There are some mitigating factors, namely:

  • That’s only ebooks. It takes a lot longer to get the figures for print ones.
  • There miiiiight be a delay on the ebook figures? They haven’t changed in several hours – and if you think I haven’t been sitting here most of this time refreshing the page, then you think too highly of me. However, Occam’s Razor would suggest that they haven’t changed because there, y’know, haven’t been any sales.
  • It’s only like 5 – 10AM in the US, which is the biggest market for Kindle books.

So it’s definitely too early to declare this whole thing a miserable failure – even for me, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Panicky Pessimism. Plus, this is very much what I expected – that only people who know and love me would buy it. But of course I hoped for more than that, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

Objective for the rest of the afternoon: figure out which pages I can refresh obsessively without risking seeing any reviews, because I would definitely not cope well with a bad one right now.

More updates to come!


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The Rose and the Mask: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling IS NOW AVAILABLE!

OMG, you guys. I’m so nervous. My book is OUT THERE. People are going to BUY IT (hopefully) and READ IT (hopefully) and REVIEW IT (yay but also *incomprehensible panicked squeaking*).

I’ll be back later with more news for you but right now I need to take a break from feverishly checking things and have several large cups of tea. In the meantime, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here are some links that may interest you!

theroseandthemasksidebar2

Faustina is a beauty and a thief, not necessarily in that order. She doesn’t believe in magic, just luck, and hers has run out. The last thing she needs is to get roped into a ridiculous revenge plot by her brother—especially when that brother is Giacomo Casanova, Venice’s most notorious libertine.

Benedetto Bellini has never been particularly lucky. The fact that he’s under a beastly curse proves that. Now he’s got a second problem, one that’s washed up on his island in its undergarments and attempted to steal his silverware. He finds Faustina intriguing and infuriating in equal measure. And, thanks to the curse, he’s stuck with her.

Faustina doesn’t know what to make of the sweet, shy and deeply irritating man holding her captive. Does he have something sinister in mind, or is he just trying to keep her safe? And why won’t he take off his mask?

Available in paperback and ebook editions from:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon MX | Amazon IN | Amazon JP


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One week to go!! Or, the art of self-deception.

YOU GUYS AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH YOU GUYS THE ROSE AND THE MASK COMES OUT ONE WEEK TODAY AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH

(Don’t worry, the book contains much more punctuation and much less screaming than that.)

Here’s the cover and the link to the website again, you know, in case you lost them.

theroseandthemasksidebar2

Here are a couple more reminders:

As for new news… there isn’t very much to tell. After a busy month or so, I’ve been at a bit of a loose end this week. My to-do list for this book has dwindled to nearly nothing, but I’m much too focused on it to really get anything else done – like writing the sequel, for instance.

For anyone hoping to learn from my self-publishing fails, I can confirm that organising my own blog tour (which I mentioned that I was going to try in my Self Publishing To Do List) has been… not an unqualified success. I contacted around twenty blogs, which I hand-picked myself on the basis that it looked like they reviewed books like mine, didn’t say that self-published books were libris non grata and so on. One invited me to guest post, which I’m super-excited about (look out for the link next week)! And I’ve had a couple of polite “no”s. Otherwise, it’s been radio silence. This is totally understandable, because I know review blogs get an overwhelming number of requests, and I’m not at all surprised, individually, that each blog didn’t get back to me. But of course I hoped that some of them would be interested, so I’m definitely disappointed.

Still, I’m sure there’s something to learn here for next time – which is a large part of what this first release is going to be about! It might be that I just picked the wrong blogs, but I’m sure I could improve something about my approach, too. E.g., I actually spent quite a long time exploring each blog to get a feel for their style and content but, since I was trying to be concise, that maybe didn’t come across in my emails – they might have looked a little impersonal.

And an update on the above-mentioned giveaway: it’s now at 681 entries, which means that 681 people have heard of the book! Yaaaaaay! Although the frequency with which I have been checking that number does not bode well for my self-control about checking my sales figures after the publication date.

And finally…

I am suuuuuuper stressed about the publication date being so close – something which will not surprise any of you who’ve seen me get suuuuuuuuper stressed about incredibly minor, everyday crap. But I’ve been able to turn it to my advantage! (Sort of.)

One of the many things I am irrationally anxious about is going to the dentist. I had perfectly respectable teeth as a small child but, when my adult teeth came in, they were large, free-spirited things that grew in some rather whimsical directions. So I’ve had quite a lot of scary, painful and expensive work done to them and am now afraid of dentists. Like, openly-weeping-in-the-waiting-room afraid. So, when I got a reminder to say I was due for a checkup, my first thought was that there was no way I was dealing with that until after the release. But then I realised that I was already pretty close to a maximum stress level, so what the heck – and I went today. It worked! (Sort of.) I mean, I still freaked out, but only for a few hours before, not, like, a week – because I was too busy worrying about the book. If I’d done it after the release, I’d have had ample time to worry about both.

Self-trickery: almost as good as being able to respond to challenges like a functional adult!

Right, that’s enough excitement for me for one day. See you all soon! ❤