Welcome to my Front Parlor, a place where I hope to engage you in some stimulating conversations about my continued journey as an indie author and the joys of writing historical fiction. I continue to marvel at how well the first three books in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, and Bloody Lessons, and the companion short stories, Dandy Detects, The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage, and Mr. Wong Rights a Wrong, have been selling. Thanks to all of you for your support. Do come in, look around, comment, and before you go, please leave a visiting card (url, twitter, fb address, etc) so I can return the courtesy and visit you next time.
You know how your own voice always sounds so strange when you hear it recorded? Well, my voice in my head always sounds warmer and deeper to me than it does in real life. Not surprisingly, that is also how the voice of my main protagonist, Annie Fuller, sounds to me. This difference between my real voice and what I think Annie should sound like is one of the reasons I would never narrate my own books.
Unfortunately, the narrator of my first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series didn’t produce a voice that satisfied me—or many of my fans, so I put off getting Uneasy Spirits, the second book in the series, narrated for some time.
Then, at a local book club in town, I met Alexandra Haag, a professional narrator, and I fell in love with her voice. Here was the warm, rich tones I envisioned for Annie Fuller. I also liked the idea of working with someone local. This has worked very well for me with my cover designer, Michelle Huffaker, and I looked forward to duplicating this experience.
Alexandra Haag and I first collaborated on the short stories connected to the series, getting feed-back from fans who have their own ideas about what my characters should sound like. Links to the audiobooks of Dandy Detects, The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage, and Mr. Wong Rights a Wrong, individually, or as part of the Victorian San Francisco Stories (a collection of these stories) can be found here. As a bonus, currently, if you already have a Kindle copy of any of these—you can get the audio versions for $1.99!
However, what I am most excited about is Ms. Haag’s production of the second full-length book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Uneasy Spirits, which has just come available as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon.com,and iTunes.
I thought that this might be a good time to interview Alexandra Haag about what it is like to be a professional narrator and to narrate a long work of historical fiction such as Uneasy Spirits. Here is what Ms. Haag had to say!
How did you become involved with making audio books?
By the time I first considered audiobook narration, I had read the newspaper on our local PBS Radio Reading Service for about three years and was a lector at my church for many years. I’d received some very kind encouragement about my presentation which “primed the pump,” so to speak, for exploring voice work.
There was a book that the afore-mentioned book club had read that I thought should be in audio format but wasn’t. So I began to explore how to get that done. One thing led to another and here I am! But that book never did get published as an audiobook – maybe the publisher didn’t think there was a huge market for the work of a 14th century mystic; go figure.
What special qualities to you personally bring to your work?
Everywhere I hang out as an author, I see blog posts discussing the effect of the introduction of Kindle Unlimited (KU) on authors’ sales. For those authors just waking up to this discussion, Kindle Unlimited is the subscription service Amazon introduced in July. Subscribers pay a monthly fee and can borrow all the books they want that are in the KU library. For most books by indie authors to be part of that library, the book must be enrolled in KDP Select.
If you have ever read my blog before, you will know that I found that enrolling the books in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series in KDP Select was very rewarding—even though it meant accepting the terms of enrollment that prohibited me from selling my ebooks in other stores. If you are interested, click here for a list of the posts I have written on that subject.
In fact, last winter I announced that my strategy for 2014 was to keep my books in KDP Select and use the new promotional tool called the Kindle Countdown as my major form of marketing.
Which I did, quite successfully.
However, when Amazon announced the introduction of the Kindle Unlimited program, I, like many authors, was very interested in how this new program would affect my income.
Now, after using the KU program for five months, I have come to a conclusion. The overall impact of the introduction of Kindle Unlimited has been negative for my books.
As a result, I decided to remove my series novels, Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons, and my short story collection, Victorian San Francisco Stories, from KDP Select.
However, my experience may not be representative of what is happening for all authors, so I would like to share how I came to that decision. To that end I will:
1) Briefly evaluate why the strategy of keeping my books in KDP Select and using the Kindle Countdown promotional tool worked for most of 2014 (and might still work for your books.)
2) Describe what happened to my books when Kindle Unlimited was introduced.
3) Describe why I think the program had a mostly negative effect on my income.
4) List what strategies I intend on pursuing for 2015.
When I read Marie Force’s recent blog post celebrating four years as a self-published author, it occurred to me that I should celebrate my own anniversary since I self-published Maids of Misfortune, the first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, on November 28, 2009––FIVE YEARS AGO.
While Force’s success as one of the most prolific and high selling hybrid authors of today is truly remarkable––it struck me that I should honor the fact that when I self-published (with no traditionally published books under my belt, no fan base) I was doing something a little risky––a little ahead of the curve. In 2009, the pundits were still saying ebooks and self-published books were the route to failure, and J.A Konrath and April Hamilton were voices in the wilderness. So, when I clicked publish on that first ebook edition, I was taking a leap of faith. The first of many. And some of the most gratifying lessons I’ve learned from self-publishing have been to continue to take risks, not take no for an answer, and to enjoy controlling my own destiny.
The night wind whispers — Ghosts !
They are waiting for their hosts;
The waning moon is weary and will not be up till late ;
Already there are shadows at the gate.
A word, half heard, that is whispered in your ear,
And a presence that is felt when no one else is near.
Have you been along the corridors alone — all alone —
And listened to the wind up yonder making moan?
Have you thought about it all,
The footfall in the hall
That comes and goes — comes and goes —
With the measure of a heartbeat of a life that ebbs and flows ?
The poem above was the first item in a nearly 200 page book, Hallowe’en Festivities by Stanley Schell, put out in 1903, that was devoted to giving suggestions on how to celebrate Halloween. It includes everything from examples of invitations to the party, decorations, songs, a play, pantomimes, costumes, dances, and twelve ghost stories. There are also recipes, like the following. (Notice the 1 gold ring)
I am very pleased to introduce Katja Blum, the person who did such a lovely, professional job translating Maids of Misfortune into the German edition: Dienstmädchen im Unglück.
She graciously answered some of my questions in my quest to get to know her, and I think you will be as charmed as I was with her answers.
1. Please tell the readers about yourself and how you got into translating.
I began working as a translator (English into German) while I was studying at Hamburg University in Germany – sheesh, that was almost twenty years ago. My major wasn’t translation, by the way, but American Literature and Women’s Studies. For my first job, I translated Harlequin romances into German. I’m fluent in English, I’m a writer – how hard can it be? The answer: Very. I learned many important things from working with those romances and my extremely strict editor – listening to the author’s voice and reigning in my own, being disciplined about deadlines (tough one) and writing to meet specific market requirements, while still creating a natural, flowing text in German.
After a few years working solely as a literary translator, I felt that I needed a different challenge and went into marketing and corporate communications for luxury brands. I was able to use many of the skills I had learned, because I was still dealing with fairy tales for adults, just that the perfect guy was being replaced by the perfect pair of very expensive shoes.
One of the very best parts of my job is that I can work in my pajamas. I don’t usually, but I could. Freelance work also allows me to make my schedule around spending time with my three-year-old son. Sam has a condition that makes it hard for him to learn speech, so in working, playing and learning with him, I now get to approach language, communication and storytelling in a whole new way.
Apart from family and books, the fiber arts are my greatest passion. I study textiles through the ages and how to make them today using the old techniques from spindle-spinning flax to tatting lace. The knowledge comes in handy when I translate historic fiction. Not only do I have a pretty good idea what people are wearing or making, but the study of textiles also comes with a lot of social history, which to me is as fascinating as it is useful.
Today, I mix it up in my job with marketing translations, usually time-sensitive, and bigger book projects (fiction and nonfiction) with longer deadlines. All parts of my job inform the others and continue to shape my understanding of the languages I work with and – hopefully – my skills as a translator.