The Alley would like to welcome the Little Red Hens! Today we have Lucy Blue here to talk about what a month in the coop looks like and to give you an excerpt from one of their latest releases! Please help me in extending Lucy an enchanting welcome!
My sister, Alexandra Christian, and I have our very own micro-press, Little Red Hen Romance, through which we deliver our brilliance to a grateful public. At the risk of rendering you all mute and paralyzed with envy, let me give you a rundown of what that means exactly, an average “month” in the life in the Coop.
Week One: What In the Name of the Benedict Cumberbatch’s Quirky Brand of Handsome Are We Going to Put Out Next Month?
Every publishing cycle begins with a lunch meeting conducted in the glamorous abandoned file room full of broken office furniture at the back of Lexie’s day job. Specifics vary, but here’s our basic agenda:
- What the heck are we doing this for?
- We aren’t making any money
- Amazon are f*ckers
- Kindle Unlimited can kiss my a$$
- We pay more for cover art than we make every month
- You’ve got to at least finish your d@mned series
- I’m still working on that other thing
- Let’s give it another month
- Do we have a theme?
- Is a new season of Sherlock about to come out?
- I’m still having that Russell Crowe cowboy dream
- Do we have anything already written?
- Sure <maniacal laughter>
- I’m still working on that thing
- I can dig out my old computer from the attic; I think there’s a story on the hard drive
- I still have that thing I didn’t finish when we did this theme last year
- As long as we put SOMETHING out, we’re fine
- Deadlines <laughing so hard soda comes out our noses>
By the time we both have to go back to work at the jobs that actually pay us, we have a pretty good idea where we’re headed. Sometimes it’s not even straight off a cliff. And even if we don’t know at the end of the meeting, we know by the end of that first week.
For example, for Halloween in October, we knew we wanted to do a LRH Nightmare anthology (when it’s your press, you can make up as many imprints as you like!) instead of a handful of standalone shorties. I had a couple of things that were a lot harder and more horrific than our norm that LRH had never published; Lexie had a couple of erotic horror shorts that had been released back to her from the exploding wreckage of her former publisher, and we had several horror-themed shorties in our back catalog that hadn’t been in an anthology yet. So we thought, awesome, all we need is a cover, and we’re done! Except… because we’re masochistic geniuses, we realized we wanted to do some kind of framing story that would give the anthology as a whole some kind of throughline theme beyond “scary sexy stuff!” We talked about the Crypt Keeper and about the awesome Hansel and Gretel riff in the Tales from the Darkside movie, and Lexie had an amazing idea for a story about a haunted writer’s desk that we both loved.
But once she started writing, we realized that 1) it would make a dang fine novel, and 2) she’d never finish it in time to get an anthology out before Halloween, and even if she did, it would take up more space than the stories it was introducing. I was at that same time completely exasperated with the production company that’s filming a horror TV show for pay cable in our small town, and I started fantasizing about a fate worse than death for their lead location producer. And out of that, in the space of a couple of days, came “Living Dead Girl,” the black comedy frame for Until Death. Lex’s desk story was way more complex and interesting, and I hope she’ll finish it. But we needed something NOW.
Weeks Two through Three (or Four or Five): Writing, Compiling, and Covers, Oh My!
This is where I highly recommend working with your very talented sibling. Lex and I have very similar writing styles; we love one another’s work; and we trust one another’s judgment completely. Consequently, we can trade rough first drafts and do edits for one another very, very quickly; we can communicate problems almost by osmosis and get them fixed. I would dearly love to hire another set of talented eyeballs to do edits for us, and I still hope at some point we’ll be able to do that. We both know the mechanics. I have a master’s degree in English lit and used to teach composition; she has a degree in education and used to teach kids how to write; we’ve both published lots of stuff with big, traditional publishers as well as indies; and we each have a fair amount of experience editing other people’s fiction. But we still need another editor. (Enchanted Alley piping in here… I KNOW AN EDITOR!) The same connection that makes editing each other comfortable cheats us of all the many benefits of a truly objective point of view. But right now, we don’t make enough money to pay somebody else, nor do we have the time to give another editor a turnaround schedule that is anything close to reasonable.
This is also when we start working on covers. Again, we do our own because we can’t afford to pay somebody else. (Though my husband the artist has stepped in more than once to help us out with stuff we couldn’t manage.) We try to find stock art that already hews very closely to the vision we have so we don’t have to do much blending of images or many effects—I’m still using Gimp, and I’m not what you’d call proficient. We spend hours going through page after page of imagery to find stuff that will look clean and original, then try hard not to screw it up. With Until Death, Lexie offered to do the cover since I was writing the frame, and I think she did an amazing job. She found an image called “Romantic Zombie” (Andrey Kiselev/Dreamstime.com) and dirtied up fonts and played with colors until she got what I think suits the stories inside perfectly.
Week Four (or Five or Six or Seven): To Market, To Market
Once we have clean versions of each story and covers we like, it’s time to publish. We do everything through Amazon through my Kindle Direct Publishing account. Amazon are indeed f*ckers, and we’d love to expand out to other platforms. But the sad truth is, everybody either has a Kindle or the Kindle app on their non-Kindle e-book-reading device. (The main alternative I’m interested in exploring at this point is iTunes, but they’re f*ckers, too.) As much as I’d love to have a couple of hours every week to exchange emails with a reader who’s trying to open my book on her Cricket phone after downloading it from Alice The Much Nicer E-Bookstore Owner’s World of Romance website, I just don’t. We use my KDP account so we have everything plugged into Amazon’s excellent sales and royalty tracking resources. We can tell exactly how many sales we have all over the world almost the moment they happen. (Lexie either has one reader in Denmark who compulsively checks Amazon to download her stuff as soon as it comes out, or she’s HUGE with an extensive cult of Danes.) Uploading the stuff is very easy—all you need is a cover created to the Amazon specifications (very easy to find on the KDP website), a Microsoft Word version of the story (including any table of contents—Amazon does the conversion for you), all your frontispiece information (authors, editors, etc.), and seven little keywords. Things usually show up on Amazon within 12-24 hours.
We’re constantly marketing stuff, of course, but this is also the week we get serious about that new release, using social media a lot, offering to write blog posts for dear friends kind enough to let us. But I can’t stress enough that marketing isn’t something that you do one book at a time one month at a time; we are constantly on the lookout for ways to get all of our releases in front of the eyeballs of readers who will love them.
I don’t know that I’d advise anybody to take up self-pubbing right now or start their own indie press, even with their darling sister. It’s a much tougher, much crazier market than it was just a few years ago. But all griping aside, we HAVE found a lot of readers, and we ARE publishing exactly the stories we want to publish in exactly the way we think they should be done. And for now, that still makes it worth the aggravation. Next month, we might quit, but for now, we’re thinking about Christmas.
Find us at our website at: http://lucybluecastle.wixsite.com/littleredhenromance or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/littleredhenromance/ .
And check out this snippet from “Living Dead Girl,” the frame story from our latest collection, Until Death: An Anthology of Twisted Love Stories, available now from Amazon:
“That’s supposed to be a love story?” he said, feeling a little sick.
“Of course it is,” she said. Her zombie make-up was horrifying; his crew was talented. But her eyes shining in the moonlight were almost enough to make him not notice. “Rhett’s love for Cynthia was so strong, even after she died, it could sustain an immortal sex demon. That’s beautiful.”
“If you say so,” he said. Twisted but cute, he thought. “I guess that’s what I get for looking for love advice from a zombie.”
“True love is everywhere,” she said. “Anything can bring two people together if they’re meant to be, even zombies.”
“Yeah, that’s what the writers tell me,” he said. “Then half a season later, they kill off the love interest, and the internet goes crazy.”
“I know a story of two people who never would have stayed together if they hadn’t been attacked by zombies,” she said.
“Real zombies?” Maybe too twisted after all.
“Well….my grand-daddy said they were real,” she said. “But he used to tell me spaghetti grows on trees, so I’m not sure we should believe him. It’s a good story, though, a western. You want to hear it?”
The set-up was still at least an hour from being ready. “Sure, why not?”