2017 Reading Challenge Round-up

2017 Reading Challenge Round-up

I can’t believe we’re already in the middle of 2017! This year is seriously flying by.

I made a goal in January to read 50 books this year. That’s up about 2x from what I read last year, and felt like a stretch goal, but still possible! I also wanted to read some more books out of my normal YA Fantasy diet–some classics, some political books, some books on productivity and writing/book marketing. As we’re halfway through, I thought I would take a look at how far I’ve come. 

The current count is…44! I’m seriously blowing my goal out of the water! There’s just so much good stuff out there to read, and I’m spending more time reading than watching tv these days. I’m also listening to a lot of audiobooks on 1.5 speed, which helps me get through more books. I guess setting a goal really does help!

Here’s what I’ve read this year so far…

YA  and/or Fantasy

A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah Maas

Air Awakens, Elise Kova

A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab

Roses & Rot, Kat Howard

And I Darken, Kristen White

The Reader, Traci Chee

A Shadow Bright & Burning, Jessica Cluess

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemesin

Labyrinth Lost, Zoraida Cordova

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho

Wintersong, S.J. Jones

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

Vengeance Road, Erin Bowman

The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Choshki

Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen

Windwitch, Susan Dennard

Red Rising, Pierce Brown

Golden Son, Pierce Brown

Morning Star, Pierce Brown

Nevernight, Jay Kristoff

Walk on Earth a Stranger, Rae Carson

Passenger, Alexandra Bracken

Middle Grade Fiction:

Pax, Sara Pennypacker

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill

Outside my Genre Fiction:

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

1984, George Orwell

Cinnamon & Gunpowder, Eli Brown

Non-Fiction:

Men Explain things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay

R*tfucked, David Daley

March, Volume 1, John Lewis

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Andersen

Deep Work, Cal Newport

Writing Books:

Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Lyon

Guerilla Marketing, Derek Murphy

Launch to Market, Chris Fox

Write Better, Faster, Monica Leonelle

If you’re interested in following the rest of my challenge, or for my thoughts on any of these books, find me online on Goodreads, or on the Litsy App–my handle is claireluana. 

What about you? What are your reading goals for the year? Read anything good lately?

Why I Got my Rights back and Self-Published

Why I Got my Rights back and Self-Published

I recently made the decision to terminate my contract with my indie publisher and re-self-publish my first novel, Moonburner. This post is to explain why!

As many of you know, I published Moonburner last June with Soul Fire Press, a division of Christopher Matthews Publishing. Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience with Soul Fire and CMP. I was pleased with my cover design and the quality of the book that was produced–I felt like it was a product I could be proud of. So certainly, I don’t regret my initial decision to publish with Soul Fire. At that point in my indie author career I knew next to nothing about launching a book, I had 200 people on my mailing list (most of whom were my friends and family), and I didn’t know a lot of other authors. My reach was pretty small.  I tried to educate myself about how to do all the right things for my launch, but ultimately I was not happy with how the book sold. Everyone who read the book (when I could get someone to read it!) has really loved it, (even strangers, not just friends/family who got review copies), so I felt that I had a good product, but there was something going on that was keeping people from buying the book. 

Flexibility and Control

Over the past year, I’ve been educating myself a lot about the publishing industry as well as connecting and networking with a lot of other indie authors, especially through the Alliance of Young Adult Authors, started by Derek Murphy (I am hugely grateful to be a part of that group because I have learned so much). Through my research and networking, I’ve learned out that if your book isn’t selling it’s going to be a result of one or more of a few things: Your cover, your blurb (book description), your pricing, or keywords/categories on Amazon. As an author through a publishing company, I didn’t really have a lot of control over any of those things. I could change the blurb and I could ask my publisher to change some of my keywords/categories, but I wouldn’t have real-time feedback on these changes (because I only get royalties twice per year), so it would be really tough for me to know if those types of changes were having an impact. Also, I didn’t have control over pricing, which I felt was an issue for my book. The eBook is $5.99, while comparable eBooks are $2.99 or even $.99. The print book is $16.95, which I feel is too high for a paperback. So there were a number of things I wanted to change.

KDP Select

The other option I would have as a self-published authors that I didn’t have when published through a smell press was to enroll in KDP Select. KDP Select is a program in which your eBook is only available on Amazon. This was not something I initially wanted to do, because I like the idea of having my book available “wide” (on all platforms-B&N, Kobo, iTunes). I have a Nook, I don’t have a Kindle, so I figured if I couldn’t even get my own book, it probably wasn’t the best solution for me. But the more I learned about KDP Select, the more appealing it was. Being in KDP Select means your book is in Kindle Unlimited–where there are thousands of Amazon readers who can borrow your book for free. Even though they don’t pay to borrow it, Amazon does pay you for borrows and page reads. That is a low-cost entry point for readers who may not normally take a chance on buying a book from a new or unknown author. Also, publishing through Amazon, you can take advantage of Amazon advertising. A lot of authors I know are having a lot of success with Amazon advertising, and I wanted to explore that. The other benefit of KDP Select is that you get to have 5 free days every 90 days, which is another low-cost entry point for new readers. For me, at this point, it’s not about making money, it’s about getting my book into the hands of more readers, and beginning to build a following. So I really liked the idea of exploring all of those things, and I could not do that without being a self-published author.

Pricing Promotions and Data

The other promotional tactic that a lot of indie authors are having success with is price-drop promotions. Traditional publishers are getting clued into this, and I could do this through my indie publisher. I did two $.99 promotions on the Kindle eBook, and it worked all right. I had to email my publisher, and he had to contact Amazon, so it just required additional coordination to make sure it was getting done. We weren’t able to do the price drop promotion on the other platforms like B&N, for some reason which is still unclear to me. But again, it was really hard to see in real time the success of these promotions, or the promotional sites I was paying to promote my “deal” on, because I didn’t have access to real time sales data. As a self-published author, I could time my promotions over several days, and then see exactly how many books sold on what days, and identify which promo sites were successful for my book. It was just one more thing that I thought–if I was doing this myself, I could do this more effectively.

Publishing the sequel

 The other big factor is that I’m publishing the sequel, Sunburner, this summer. My publishing contract for Moonburner is for 3 years, and I knew at the end of the 3 years, I would want to get my rights back and try self-publishing for all of these reasons. So, even if I wasn’t going to terminate early, I was going to get my rights back eventually. At that point, my publisher would retain the cover and interior design, and I would need to re-do Moonburner. I realized that if I self-published Sunburner this summer, designing it to match Moonburner as it is now, I’d have to redo both books when I got my Moonburnber rights in 18 months.  That’s not inexpensive, and a lot of work for me as well, so I realized it was preferable to pull the trigger and re-self-publish Moonburner now, so I only have to redo one book.

So, those were the factors that played into my decision to leave Soul Fire and self-publish. There are some downsides to being self-published–like you get a little additional street cred from being with an indie publisher versus being self-published. It’s potentially easier to get into libraries and bookstores, and some review sites or bloggers will not accept self-published books. But really, I found (and this is another thing I couldn’t have known before I indie published) that I’m not getting into bookstores and libraries anyway, and I’m not getting any traction with bloggers or review sites where I don’t have a pre-established relationship, so I don’t see a downside for me personally. I don’t feel that I’m losing anything.

Everyone’s path is different, of course, and there was a lot of value for me in having my book published for me the first time. It would have been pretty overwhelming to learn how to produce a book and learn to market all at the same time. But now that I do have additional knowledge and education, I think it’s time for me to strike it out on my own!

Hopefully you will all check out the newly refurbished and relaunched Moonburner in August, and Sunburner in September! Stay tuned for the amazing new covers, plus lots of fun extras I have up my sleeve, like a book trailer, map of Kita and Miina, and character sketches of Kai and Hiro!

BOOK REVIEW: Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

BOOK REVIEW: Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer is the first book in a new duology by one of my favorite authors, Laini Taylor! This book was everything I loved about Taylor’s writing and former trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The book follows Lazlo Strange, who is a librarian, who has been obsessed since childhood with a mythical city called Weep. He believes that Weep is real and is fascinated by its history and downfall. Those around him are convinced it’s just a legend. His adventure starts when mythical warriors from Weep come to the Great Library seeking scholars to help them solve a problem. Lazlo jumps at the chance to go along, and when he gets to the magical city of Weep, he discovers the true nature of the problem. For hundreds of years, Weep was enslaved by cruel gods with blue skin who lived in a giant palace in the sky. Ten years ago, there was a battle between the gods and the people of Weep and the people overthrew their overlords, killing them. But, it left the palace in the sky blocking all the sunlight. 

Unbeknownst to the people of Weep, five young god-children survived the massacre, and have been growing into teenagers in the floating palace. One is our other main character, Sarai, who has the magical ability to enter people’s dreams; she has been terrorizing the city of Weep with nightmares for the last ten years. But, over the years, she has gotten to know Weep’s fears, and seen her parent’s cruelty, and her sympathies for the people of Weep have grown. When Lazlo arrives, she realizes that not only does he have the most vivid dreams, but he can see her in his dreams, something no one has ever been able to do before. 

At its core, this is a romance. Lazlo and Sarai fall in love, all within Lazlo’s dreams, and their courtship is as magical and fantastical as you can imagine! This book is also about the deep-seated hatred between two people who have hated and hurt each other for generations, and what it will take to overcome that. There are no real villains in the book, everyone has been damaged by this war and so the story is very deftly created, as you are sympathetic to all the characters and see where they are all coming from. You are rooting for them to overcome their differences and find a way to live together when you know that this will likely be impossible, and a return to war is inevitable. 

As with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of the most remarkable parts of this book is the fantastical world she creates. Taylor’s worlds are so lush and unique–you know she has such a vivid imagination! It’s also the writing, Taylor has such a beautiful way with words (and metaphor and imagery), and this book was truly a joy to read. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy.

Full disclosure, this book does end with a serious cliffhanger. It’s one of two, and pretty much just cuts off in the middle. So if you really hate cliffhangers, you might want to wait until closer to when the second book comes out to read this. But definitely read it at some point!

Welcome to the AAYAA Scavenger Hunt!

I’m Claire Luana, and I’m delighted to be a host for this amazing Alliance of Young Adult Authors Scavenger Hunt!

A little about me:

  • I write young adult fantasy novels! My first novel, Moonburner, launched in 2016.
  • I live in Seattle, Washington.
  • I have two dogs named Jameson and Guinness.
  • Sparkling rose wine, bad CW shows, and Cadbury Mini Eggs are my Kryptonite.

Yep, that’s pretty much what you need to know about me!

Now, to the hunt! There are some seriously good prizes at stake here, including the $500 grand prize, so I wish you luck! To be eligible for the grand prize, you need to visit the participating authors’ sites in the designated order and write down their key words in order to form the final story! Then, submit your final story HERE to enter to win! My key word for this scavenger hunt stop is

WITH A

I hope you’ve already gotten to know some YA authors while hunting, and found some exciting new reads! Most of us became authors because we love stories and books as much as you do, and connecting with fellow book nerds is one of the funnest parts of the job. 

That’s why I’m giving away one YA release every month this year–the book that launches that month that I’m most excited to read! So far, I’ve given away copies of Caraval, Wintersong, Strange the Dreamer, and Defy the Stars! This month (drumroll) I’m EXTRA excited about the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin, the long awaited conclusion to Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy! In honor of the release, I’m giving away hardback copies of the whole trilogy

Enter to win below! And follow me on Facebook or Twitter to catch all my future giveaways!

Now, head to your next stop on the hunt: Frost Kay!

The AAYAA Scavenger Hunt is coming soon!

The AAYAA Scavenger Hunt is coming soon!

In June, the Alliance of Young Adult Authors is sponsoring a massive young adult scavenger hunt. This is a chance to meet some new authors, grab a bunch of free books, and sign up to win a whole bunch of epic prizes!

RULES

Each author will be given a special keyword, which will be bolded and all caps like this: BUTTERFLIES.

All you have to do is visit all the author’s sites in this order, write down the special keywords to discover the short story, then enter the giveaway with the completed short story HERE (link will be posted soon).

There will be one main giveaway for the main prize, but most of the participating authors will also have smaller giveaways for free books, amazon credit and author swag, so make sure you read their post carefully to see what else they’re offering while you’re on their site for the keyword.

 


THE MAP (PARTICIPATING AUTHORS)

  1. Cindy Ray Hale
  2. Katherine Bogle
  3. Melle Amade
  4. David Kudler
  5. A.M. Yates
  6. Alethea Kontis
  7. Stevie Rae Causey
  8. Katlyn Duncan
  9. Debbie Manber Kupfer
  10. Meredith Rose
  11. N.M. Howell
  12. Lara Ann  
  13. K.M. Robinson
  14. J.A. Culican
  15. Heather Karn
  16. Rob L. Slater
  17. Dylan Keefer
  18. Sarah K. Wilson  
  19. L.J. Higgins
  20. Gina Marie Long 
  21. Em Kazmierski
  22. Travis Hall
  23. Heather Young-Nichols
  24. Anna Santos
  25. J.L. Weil  
  26. Jo Schneider 
  27. Logan Keys
  28. Kristin D. Van Risseghem
  29. Martine Lewis 
  30. Tara Benham
  31. Stacy Claflin
  32. Beth Hammond
  33. Erica Cope
  34. Nicole Zoltack
  35. Char Webster
  36. Sabrina Ramoth
  37. T.J. Muir
  38. Raquel Lyon
  39. Beth Rodgers
  40. S.L. Beaumont
  41. Eva Pohler
  42. Melanie McFarlane
  43. Cheryllynn Dyess
  44. Audrey Rich
  45. Amanda Zieba
  46. Sandie Will
  47. Elle Scott
  48. Robert Jones
  49. Ashley Maker 
  50. Mandy Peterson
  51. Audrey Grey
  52. Chanda Stafford
  53. Amy McNulty
  54. Melinda Cordell
  55. Monica Leonelle
  56. Claire Luana
  57. Frost Kay
  58. Preeti C. Sharma
  59. Ginna Moran
  60. Mackenzie Flohr
  61. Lena Mae Hill
  62. Angel Leya
  63. Wendi Wilson
  64. Wendy Knight
  65. Samantha Britt
  66. Tamara Hart Heiner
  67. Norma Hinkens
  68. Patti Larsen
  69. Megan Crewe  
  70. Jamie Thornton
  71. Jessie Renée
  72. T.A. Maclagan  
  73. Lydia Sherrer
  74. Edward Cullen Sucks or K.T. Webb (alternate)
  75. P.D. Workman
  76. J.A. Armitage
  77. K.N. Lee
  78. Angela Fristoe
  79. Rhonda Sermon
  80. G.K. DeRosa 
  81. Erin Richards
  82. Ali Winters
  83. Larissa C. Hardesty
  84. Kristine Tate
  85. Debra Kristi
  86. Keira Gillet or Bella Rose (alternate)
  87. Cortney Pearson
  88. Jeff Kohanek
  89. Kristal Shaff
  90. Rachel Morgan  
  91. Arwen Paris or Emma Right (alternate)
  92. C.L. Cannon
  93. Joanne Macgregor
  94. Lindsey Loucks
  95. Farah Cook
  96. Edward Cullen Sucks or Erin Hayes (alternate) – yes, it’s the same word as #74!
  97. Jesikah Sundin
  98. Dorothy Dreyer
  99. Danielle Annett
  100. C.J. Ethington
  101. L.C. Hibbett 
  102. Madeline Dyer
  103. Katie John
  104. Nicole Schubert  
  105. Rachel Medhurst 
  106. Tee G Ayer  
  107. May Freighter 
  108. Gwynn White
  109. Jen Minkman  
  110. J.L. Gillham
  111. Karen Tomlinson
  112. Kate Haye
  113. Megan Linski
  114. Martina Billings
  115. Jo Ho
  116. Imlovingbooks.com or Kellie Sheridan or E.E. Isherwood (alternate)
  117. Inna Hardison
  118. Rachel Bateman
  119. Sally Henson  
  120. J.L. Hendricks 
  121. A.L. Knorr  
  122. T.M. Franklin  
  123. Raven Oak
  124. Stephany Wallace or Felisha Antonette (alternate)
  125. Jake Devlin
  126. S.F. Benson
  127. Laurie Treacy
  128. Emily Martha Sorensen 
  129. Leia Stone
  130. T. Rae Mitchell
  131. J. Keller Ford
  132. Kat Stiles
  133. Jessica Hawke
  134. Elyse Reyes
  135. Sophie Davis
  136. Lindsay Mead or Bianca Scardoni (alternate)
  137. Jenetta Penner
  138. David R. Bernstein
  139. Olivia Wildenstein
  140. Derek Murphy