I suppose I shall start with the pen name.
If you haven’t followed me on Facebook, then you don’t know I’ve gone from Raven Ember to Victorea Ryan Meadow. I’m so loving this new name. It’s gorgeous, it embodies who I am and how much I’ve overcome in my life and how much more I will overcome in my life.
Tokyo in Tulsa is one weekend away, and I’m just so excited for this. Last year, I was woefully unprepared for this event. I still feel unprepared for this year, but that’s more to do with I don’t have everything I want completed as I would like. I have twenty copies of each book coming in to sell. Yep. Twenty copies. Sigyn’s Flowers and Portal to Gaming have additional copies coming in for the Cosplay Giveaway. That’s more copies than what I had last year. By far. I will even be able to accept credit card payments this year.
This is also turning somewhat into a family affair. My mother will be selling crocheted items. I am trying to get her to lean more towards fantasy-themed items. Maybe for next year!
Self-publishing has been an ongoing, learning process for me. I admit right now that I wasn’t ready to publish when I first published. I didn’t do enough research beyond some bare-bone basics. I’m going to impart some of what I have learned, and I encourage others who read this to also do their own research.
For starters, be sure of your name. I’d decided a long time ago, like when I was sixteen, I always wanted to use a pen name, and, when I set everything up, I’d forgotten the pen name I’d wanted to use. When that happened, to pay some homage to some very dear friends of mine, I created Elise K. Ra’sha. The Elise was for my friend, Lise Radke, and the Ra’sha for my friend, Raksha. I’d added the K for my best friend, Kami. As everyone may well remember (and I know you probably do), back in December, I felt the need for a change. I’d wanted to take some time with the new name transition but, once I wrote out Raven Ember, it felt good at the time, another homage to my Pagan side, and then I was running with it. Within a few months, I was no longer satisfied with that, and I began to toy with the name of Victorea (pronounced Vic-tor-eee-ah, ie Victoria) Meadow.
I’ve always loved the name Victoria. I’ve loved it since I was sixteen, and I hope one day to be able to change my real name into my pen name. Given my spiritual nature, I know I will have more than one name, but those will be private.
In any case, if you want a pen name and you plan on self-publishing like I have, be sure of it and yet, allow for changes. Allow yourself room to grow as an author and be wise for when your pen name no longer suits you.
Also, if you like your pen name but may want room to change it in the future as well as self-publish, a bit of practical advice: Use the free ISBN* provided by either CreateSpace or Lulu. Back in December, I expected a fight for the name change on CreateSpace, even though I’d contacted Bowker about it. (This time around, I found out I could make the changes myself on Bowker rather than trying to contact them and have them do the leg work.) I didn’t get the fight then. I got it now, and one thing that wasn’t working in my favor was I didn’t check my contributors on Bowker’s site. Those are now changed, but CreateSpace, to this point, has been insisting that I use a new ISBN for the same 6×9 format. (Understand, Bowker doesn’t require a new ISBN for pen name changes. Format and major manuscript changes, yes, but pen name? No. I’ve double-checked on that, too.)
Because I have paid for these ISBNs, I have ultimately refused to do as they have suggested. Call it stubbornness on my part (I will definitely agree), but that is ultimately my money at work here. Given I’m working two jobs and am seeking to add a third/let one of the previous ones go, this seeming lack of regard for my money on CreateSpace’s part (yes, they’ve not even acknowledged that I’ve been saying to them repeatedly that I’ve purchased my own ISBNs) is grating. In my eyes, I have worked hard for those ISBNs, to be able to purchase them, so to use another for something as simple as a name change in their metadata (that they can do – the review process must be completed for this – my books were found under Elise K. Ra’sha and now, if I put them back into print, Raven Ember) is a bit of a waste of money. I’ve also been told by Lulu that, because my ISBNs are already assigned to another format, I have to use a different one to publish through them. They, too, offer a free ISBN* to publish through them.
I say for people who are only halfway sold on a pen name to use those free ISBNs for one reason alone: money efficiency on the author’s part. A single ISBN through Bowker is $125, ten is around $275, and a block of one hundred is $575. Unless you have copious amounts of money to spare on ISBNs for such things as name changes, that’s a financial sting I would love to spare others from feeling when it comes to self-publishing.
* – Note here that the free ISBN through either Lulu or CreateSpace comes with the string that either company gets to list themselves as the publisher of your story. Given that they don’t have the standard procedure of a traditional publishing house when it comes to manuscript submission, I personally take issue with this. Publishing houses have people who read over manuscripts to accept or reject them. Publishing houses have editors to help the author make the story better. They have people who do the formatting and typesetting of the manuscript, and, finally, they pay artists to do the cover art. All of this is at no upfront cost to the author. Mind you that, ultimately, the author does pay for this – traditional publishing houses offer advances, which are loans to the author – but it isn’t directly upfront or out of pocket. The publishing house, as mentioned before, pays the author an advance. Once that advance is taken care of through book sales, then the author starts to receive royalties. They do all of this on top of simply providing an author with the ISBN.
Lulu and CreateSpace do neither of these. To get editing done, I must do this myself and rely on critique sites to weasel out the inconsistencies, spelling and grammatical errors, the missing words, and the like before I take my stories to their sites. They offer editing services, at least CreateSpace does, but it costs the author. They offer to have others do the artwork, but, again, it costs the author out of pocket and upfront if the author chooses to have them do this. Even if the author doesn’t choose to utilize those services, it still costs out of pocket to find and hire an editor and an artist. Yes, upon publishing with them, an author receives the royalties, but the costs don’t pan out right away. If I spend $500 for editing, $500 for art, but my royalties are only $200 a month, it takes a while for the royalties to actually be royalties.
And that’s just for one book. If you plan on writing only one book ever, this would definitely end up more beneficial to you in the long run. However, many authors have more than one book they want to publish. Self-published authors are basically using royalty money to either invest back into paying for the upfront costs of self-publishing or utilities, or, if they’re lucky enough, both. What helps some self-published authors is that they’re married and have a significant other who can help ease the bill paying! ^_^
It’s simply my personal opinion that a publisher gets to be a publisher because they’re taking the majority of the work off of the author’s shoulders. It isn’t always easy to find someone willing to edit your work nor is it cheap. It isn’t always easy to find someone willing to do the cover art for you. Some of it does come down to money. Some of it comes down to time. Some of it comes from not knowing where else to look. I’ve had people recommend Fiverr to me for finding art and editing services, and I would still do self-editing. (Editors are human, after all, and they can add errors to your work without even meaning to – it’s always best to work with the editor, communicate well, and develop a rapport to make sure the manuscript gets to where it needs to be; otherwise, you will still have a book riddled with errors that are not your own.) If I am to be the one to do all of this legwork just to get my book ready for publication, then I feel that sites like CreateSpace and Lulu do not have the right to list themselves as my publisher. If others have no issues with that, then far be it for me to tell them how they should feel. As self-published authors, we do need to do what is best for our careers and our bank accounts. That’s why I am saying that this is my personal opinion, which is based on what I know in bare bones terms what a publisher does for an author. I mean, if I want copies to sell at a convention, I still have to pay CreateSpace and Lulu to print those copies. I don’t know how obtaining works with a traditional publisher for an event goes. (It could very well be the same deal, and, if that’s the case, then I certainly will not begrudge Lulu and CreateSpace for charging me.)
If you have no inhibitions on using your real name for self-publishing, then I do recommend obtaining your own ISBNs. It is a recommendation only. Given my circumstances, I do understand if one is unable to do so. Again, we authors need to do what we feel is best for our careers and bank accounts. I suggest this because, well, if you have your own ISBNs, you can eventually sell directly from your own website. In fact, once I can get an actual website set up, that is one of the things I would love to do, sell directly to the reader so they’re not relying on a single website for all of their book purchases. (This is why it’s recommended to have an ISBN for ebooks. Eventually.) Purchasing your own ISBNs is actually, in my opinion, quite worth it. It allows the self-published author to actually list who the publisher is, which is said author. This is an investment in yourself. Take the credit for the amount of work and hours you’re putting into your manuscripts. You actually are your own publisher in this case. Be proud of yourself that you’re actually doing this. Just remember to sit down and write, too!
Finally, well, I’ve been having an interesting conversation with someone on Facebook over things like what feminism is doing to current literature. According to some, feminism is “destroying” literature because, hey, we’re kind of tired of the old trope of misogynist man gets the feminist woman every time because she’s the one to change for his love and he still gets to be a dickhead. Mens’ rights are somehow slowly being eroded away because of feminism, and this particular event from my personal life came to my mind. It’s kind of brief, but it’s still no less personal for it, either. I feel it’s quite relevant, too, because, hey, I want a strong man in my life, someone who isn’t afraid to laugh and to cry and to demonstrate that he truly loves me, trusts me to be there for me, and vice versa. Strength isn’t necessarily about how hard you can hit with your fists or about how much stuff you can get done on your own but how willing you are to stop, realize that you need help, then show that vulnerability to the world. It’s so hard to ask for help anymore, but we humans were never meant to carry the weight of the world upon our shoulders.
Anyway, this was a response to a woman who felt that “liberal” culture was destroying the manly manliest men out there. It’s been edited and expanded upon for this journal’s purposes. For my fellow writers, I do encourage you to read this. I encourage you to expand the way you think about your characters – all of your characters – and challenge yourself to do more than simply write the tropes that have existed since publishing became a big industry. Writing is an art form, and art challenges us to step outside of what we know to be true.
Once upon a time, I was the only girl on my father’s side of the family. I was surrounded by boys. The rough and tumble kind of boys, the kind of boys who felt it okay to treat a girl however they wanted because they were boys, and, back in the eighties, the expression boys will be boys had a much stronger sway than what it does now. It was a time when men were still looked down upon for shedding tears for stubbing their toes or for experiencing heartbreak. Ten years in, another female cousin was born. Fast forward to the day she got married, and I’m watching my grandfather at the wedding. He had tears in his eyes.
The mens’ right men would undoubtedly scoff at my grandfather for the tears in his eyes at a wedding. They would. Men don’t cry, right? Little would they know, that would be the only granddaughter of his five granddaughters that he would ever get to see be married. Little would I know my female cousin’s wedding would be the only one of our weddings he would ever attend. I have yet to find my soulmate/s in this life, and my other female cousins, well, I don’t associate with them any longer, but, last I knew, neither were involved with anyone so neither of them were married. My grandfather had every right to have those tears of joy in his eyes. Every right. By associating myself as a feminist, I do declare that men have the right to express more than just anger and lust. They have the right to be sad, to be vulnerable, and to be smart, to be intelligent and witty, to learn and to grow from their mistakes. The manly men who want nothing more than to be manly men and to take whatever they want are simply toxic. For all of us. The women who think it’s okay for “boys to be boys” are just as toxic as the manly men who use their fists to get their points across.
I despise such people because such people, the toxic manly men, have never allowed for MEN to feel more than just lust and anger. They want to keep everything bottled away, to believe that “no” means a woman is simply playing hard to get, that they don’t have to respect others by virtue of being born a boy. To them, tears in a man’s eyes are a weakness whereas to me they’re a sign of strength and trust placed in the world around him, where he’s saying, I’m hurting and I trust you to not hurt me further.
I pity the people who think that a man can only be defined the way they have been defined over hundreds and thousands of years. I truly do. And, as a writer, I find sticking to that trope to be so . . . limiting.
Have a great weekend, my friends! The double-shifts begin again tomorrow (part of the reason why I’m so silent anymore).
I leave you with the new covers for Portal to Gaming and The Sons of Thor. No text on them, as they were included separately. Thanks to Annabel Lee for such an amazing job!