Shouting into the Wind

Today was a release day. Yay? It should be a celebration, but oh my, what an eye-opening experience it has been. It’s not even the first title I’ve released this fall. It’s the second title, although this one is the first of the reverted titles from Carina Press.

I can’t even begin to list how much has changed in the six years since I walked away from the publishing world. I feel like I’m back to being a babe in the woods, a newbie author all over again, shouting into the wind, hoping someone will hear about my book and be interested in it.

Things that I used to rely on when I had a release day are no longer available. Like my carefully curated mailing list which had taken me almost a decade to build. Gone. Because I’d reached a certain limit, the mailing list provider I’d used was suddenly going to charge me $50 a month. Which I couldn’t afford, especially when I wasn’t publishing anymore. When I tried to transfer the names to a new provider they told me the addresses in my list were too old and wouldn’t accept them, so I’m back to rebuilding it. Except this time I don’t have a publisher helping to promote my books. It’s just little old me. Which is my choice, so I can’t complain too much because hey, I have control of my books again, but still, yikes.

The week before my first title republished last month, I went through several rounds with a major book publisher named after a large river who didn’t believe my books were actually my books and were threatening to pull my account. The back and forth between us went on for nearly a month. It wasn’t enough for me to provide a letter from the original publisher that the rights had indeed reverted. I sent a copy of the duly registered copyright from the Canadian government’s Library and Archives (think the Canadian version of the Library of Congress.) That wasn’t good enough, so I went back to the Library and Archives and got another letter that I had indeed purchased the ISBN for my book, and it was registered under not only my real name, but my pen name AND my imprint name. I also ended up providing another form, this one from the Ontario government, proving that yes, I was indeed the owner of the imprint line I publish under. Ultimately, and this was the one that got my goat, I had to provide a contract between “me as my real name” and “me as my pen name” giving myself permission to publish my own books. That’s how bizarre it got.

In amongst all that stress, I have realized my bullet journals are becoming increasingly important to track all this. I also really need to them so I can keep track of all the tasks I have to do. I have numerous checklists of things that have to be done months in advance of a release, and especially today, release day itself, I need to know all the things that have be done, like making sure the website is updated, that I’ve posted to all the various social media sites, that I’m using the “now available” graphics I’ve created instead of the “Preorder” or “Coming Soon” graphics.

Then there’s writing the endless marketing copy I need to create for each title. (I really despise this side of publishing, and it’s one of the good things — sort of–about having an actual publisher–to be able to rely on someone else to do all this. I know I’m a writer but marketing is a whole different animal.)

So I’m now scouring Etsy and various Facebook journaling groups for suggestions about stickers and printable pages to help me stay organized, and so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Because I’m definitely not the only one facing these journaling battles.

Oh and if you’re interested, and like to read really steamy romances, today’s book is All I Need for Christmas. About a Canadian Mountie determined to get her man and end her days of solitude in the Great White North. But be warned. It’s really really steamy and not one to read to the kiddies.


Reclaiming my rights

Despite the headlines south of the Canadian border this last week, this post is not about what you’re thinking it’s about. I have big news for my writing persona. Quite a few months ago, I wrote to my NY publisher and requested a reversion of rights for all of my books they’d published.

When you sign a contract with a publisher, there are paragraphs listing when you can attempt to reclaim your rights to your stories. Length of time (7 years usually), a set number of sales or $ amount within a quarter, or a year you have to fall below for a set number of quarters or years, etc. And sometimes there are other weird clauses. But even when all the contractual provisions are met for such a request, the publisher can always find ways to hold onto your rights. For instance, they can sell your novel to a different publisher in a different country, or sell it for translation (with this publisher they often sell it at a flat rate, say $50. So you get 17% of that and never see another cent no matter how many books that other publisher sells.) And you still have to wait another seven years for that part of the contract to expire.) Or they can republish the novel (which they had already done with several of my books already) which means the original 7 year contract from original publication date resets to the newest publication date and now you have to wait yet another 7 years. And one of my novellas was part of an anthology which would affect two other authors.

Given all of the above, I wasn’t confident I’d get the rights back for three of the titles, especially the anthology novella, and was only semi-hopeful about the other two. But I thought it was worth a shot. They replied and said it would take about two months. Two months came and went. Three months, came and went. Last week, I posted on my FB timeline that I figured so much time had passed that I doubted I’d get my rights back to any of my books.

So I was thrilled this morning when I opened up my email and discovered the publisher had indeed reverted my rights for all five of my titles.

Getting my rights back means I have all the control back in my hands. I get to publish them myself–either digitally, or, more importantly, as paperbacks, which my digital-only publisher never did for these books. I’d heard from a few of my readers that they only read in print so I’ll finally be able to offer that option. I’ll be able to set my own price, adjusting it for sales as I choose. I can choose my own cover art (of course I have to pay for that cover art). I can choose my own titles. (Yes, even the titles are often dictated by the publisher.) And best of all instead of getting 15-17% royalties, I’ll get about 70%. That difference will help pay for editors and cover artists for future novels, website fees, promotion and advertising, etc. It’s scary having that much control, because I can make totally wrong decisions, but at this stage I really wanted those novels back under my control.

But I’ve been out of the publishing realm for six years, and now I have to delve back into the convoluted publishing world. Re-learn skills I’d lost. Relearn what the market can bear, what the readers are looking for. Where my readers might be. Like everything in life, the publishing world has changed a lot in the last six years so I feel like a total newbie again. And to be honest, as exciting as it is to have that control, I’m already finding myself slightly overwhelmed by everything I have to do:

  • The mailing list I’d garnered over the years had timed out (because people had signed up more than 6 years ago) and was back to 0, so that has to be restarted.
  • I need to determine a timeline for their release (which I’ve pretty much settled on already.)
  • I need to rewrite all the blurbs (back cover copy) for all 5 books since the current versions belong to the publisher. Hopefully I can come up with something snappy on my own, but sometimes I need to hire someone because it’s a an art to write such a marketing tool. ($$X5)
  • I need to have new covers designed for both digital copies and paperbacks, and there’s an extra cost for the paperback covers since there are both front and back, as well as the spine to be created where the digital version is a flat front. ($$$X5 Or maybe X7 if I bundle two series into box sets).
  • They’ve already been professionally edited but sometimes things get missed (every single book has a typo or missed word somewhere no matter how many editors and proofreaders there are) so I have to re-read them all for those typos or missing or words, as well as update any outdated technology. (Hey, for the first books I got published, the smart phone hadn’t even been invented yet!) (at least this has no cost)
  • I need to apply for new ISBNs. Luckily for me, Canadians can get them for free so yay! One less cost to worry about.
  • I also need to get them all formatted for digital and paperback formats. There is software so I can do it myself which is easy to do, but there is a one time cost to purchase it. ($$$) Well worth it since that single purchase can be used for an unlimited number of titles.
  • And I need to figure out how to promote them to a new audience. I do words, not numbers or marketing so this is the part I find most intimidating.

At least there’s no real deadline on me like there are with publisher contracts. I can set my own deadlines at this stage.

To add more stress to the mix, I also received an email reminding me that my author website’s hosting is up next month. It’s basically tripled in price so I’ll probably end up moving it to a new host to keep the costs down while I’m dealing with all the above pre-publishing work. Annnnd, I just went over there to update a few things and learned they’ve changed the coding and now I’m facing yet another steep learning curve. Oh joy oh bliss.

But first I need to clear out my office–again! We spent last month decluttering the basement–for some reason a lot of detritus ended up stashed in my office and I’m back to where I can barely walk from the door to my desk. (This will be the second declutter I’ve done of my office so far this year.) All that clutter interferes with my creativity so decluttering and cleaning is this week’s goal.

photo of five stitched but unfinished bookmarks, one saying Hold My Spot surrounded by various coloured blackwork stitched panels, one rather rude bookmark telling people I'm reading, one that says "and they lived happily ever after" with hearts at the top and bottom, one that has two piles of books and a clock, with the words "I don't have insomnia, I have a good book and no respect for tomorrow" and a blackwork bookmark with no words on it.
Bookmarks that still need to be finished

As for this site? It took me some years but I learned that I definitely need to have a hobby to turn to every day instead of spending 20 hours a day (not hyperbole) obsessing about the next book, the next marketing strategy, etc. I finally learned I need to give my brain down-time, time to focus on something other than marketing and writing. So I’ll be keeping this site up.

I’m rarely knitting these days — my hand is still screwed up, but I have picked up cross-stitch and blackwork again. I’m mainly working on little projects like the bookmarks in the photo (hey, I’m an author so bookmarks are always useful!) They still have to be finished–I want to put a grosgrain ribbon on the back and of course they need a good iron. But the sewing part is done. And now we’ve been living with our revamped kitchen for almost a year, I have a few thoughts about what I’ve learned, and what I like about it and things I’m not keen on now I have them, that I want to share.

Kitchen Reno: Flooring, part 2

Because we were having such problems getting the short ends of the vinyl planking to properly lock, no matter how much we used the block or pull bar, we ended up pulling up all the flooring we’d laid and started again from scratch.

Despite the manufacturer saying on their video that their flooring was tolerant of imperfect floors, this particular tile was definitely not tolerant. It needed no more than a 1/8th inch difference anywhere. Now our floors are from 1974, with 24″ between the floor joists. Which means there’s a lot of movement in the floor. Because several runs have HVAC ducting between the joists there was no way we could strengthen/brace the joists from underneath. Which meant lots of movement on the floor. But we did what we could.

After pulling up the tiles (thank heavens they are floating tiles, not ones that had to be glued down so pulling them up was simple), and doing a ton of research/video watching, we ended up pouring more self-leveling compound (which by the way isn’t actually truly self-leveling) and sanding it to perfection. We ordered a much heavier-weight pull-bar from Amazon since there were literally none available at ay of the local Home Depots or Lowes. We found quite a few professionals recommending you lock the short ends of several tiles together before laying the long ends together and snapping them in and we discovered that worked much better. We also laid down a sheet of 1/4″ plywood beneath the fridge, recommended so the weight of the fridge won’t interfere with the floatiness of the tiles. It’s not perfect, but it will do for us.

photo of a kitchen with white Ikea cabinets, brushed nickel door handles, black quartz countertop, and various appliances, highlighting the vinyl plank flooring.
despite the way that photo looks, that one line is not a gap, it’s just the way it catches the light. It’s supposed to look like it’s tile with a grout line. The other faux-grout lines just don’t show up on the photo.

Frankly, by the time the floor needs to be replaced again in ten years or so, we’ll probably have sold the house and it will be someone else’s problem. I’m not doing it ourselves again because all our backs and knees hurt by the time we finished the second round of laying this floor. And in ten years we’ll both be in our mid 70s and this type of DIY is for younger folk.

But for now, the floor is finished, the toe-kicks are down (which were really easy to do as they are straight cuts and snap onto the Ikea feet) and now we can move on to the last task of adding the trim around the window. Oh and figuring out how to make the tops prettier by adding some crown moulding. But that’s has nothing to do with making the kitchen workable, so whenever that gets done, doesn’t matter much to me. Yet.

Kitchen Reno: Flooring

We haven’t worked on the kitchen since last fall, with just the flooring, undercabinet lighting and trim around the window to finish. We left the flooring because the order for luxury vinyl plank flooring we made in July didn’t arrive until November. By then it was too cold and my son and hubby objected (rightly) to running in and out of the house to saw the tiles to the correct size on the table saw in the garage when it was snowing. So we waited until the snow melted and we finally have good weather.

We visited a lot of flooring stores last summer, not just the big box stores but actual flooring stores in the area. We knew we wanted vinyl, not wood. Since the kitchen leads onto both the dining room (which leads to the living room) and the main hallway, we didn’t want a wood-looking vinyl. That’s because when we ultimately can afford to remove the carpeting from the dining room, living room and hallway (and three sets of stairs leading off that hallway), we don’t want to have to match all that flooring to what exists in the kitchen. Otherwise we’d end up with too many colours of wood clashing when you stand in the hallway and can see all the rooms.

So after a LOT of discussion, we decided upon a grey slate or marble-like luxury vinyl plank tile that is 18″ x 24″ that is a click and lock method and has a cork backing. Because it has a very thick vinyl top layer that means scratches won’t show the lower layer, it was far more expensive than anything Home Depot or Lowes carried.

Now normally the floors are prepared once the cabinets have all been removed. But we did our kitchen in stages, so we decided to tackle the flooring after the cabinets were in place. During the construction stage, we discovered that beneath the 1990s peel and stick tile, there was a 1970s roll vinyl that probably contained asbestos that had been glued using a black mastic that definitely contained asbestos. So pulling up that flooring was a non-starter unless we wanted to hire an abatement team. Also, the support joists beneath the kitchen are 24″ apart, so there was a lot of sinkage between the joists.

So after a lot of research (hey, we had all winter, right?) earlier this week, we removed any loose or curling peel-and-stick tiles, primed the floor tiles, and poured self-leveling compound. We waited 2 days for that to completely dry (luckily it was steppable after 4 hours), used a heavy-duty four-foot level and ensured the floors were all straight/level. I should also mention before we started, we scanned the QR code on the box and watched the company’s own video on YouTube on how to install these tiles. In that video they assure the installer that their planks can be installed on an imperfect floor, that it is forgiving of minor imperfections. The store also told us not to use an underlayment as underlayments can often mean the tiles will shift more, possibly breaking the tongue-and-groove segments. Also the tiles have cork on the bottom so they shouldn’t require an underlayment anyway.

So, to sum up so far, the floor has been prepped and is level and should accept this type of flooring.

I should also mention that we’ve previously installed two rooms of angle click flooring that has held up for six years, so we expected this to be similar. You install the long edge first, holding it at a 45 degree angle, then lowering it until you hear a click, then tap the short end until the two short edges meet. We have a tapping block for the tiles in the middle of the room, and a pull bar for pulling in the tiles at the wall edges. We also knew not to take the laminate all the way to the wall so it would have room to expand, which was easy since we could simply lay the flooring under the cabinets to any point behind the toe-kick (which will be the next thing to be installed as they simply snap onto the cabinet feet.)

We used a laser level to establish a straight line slightly away from the sink cabinet wall, the area that will probably receive the most traffic/weight/movement. Yesterday morning, we finally started laying the tiles/planks

Except where we thought 18 x 24″ blocks would be easier to install than the thinner, longer wood-like planks, they’re not. These tiles are stiff so there is no play in them at all. Which should be a good thing, I thought. While the long edge installed…okay (yes, you are right to read “tone” into that word), the short edges sucked, no matter how much we tapped or pulled. Only a couple actually joined properly (see the first photo below), but many others left us with 2mm gaps that will be nothing but dirt collectors in quite a few places.

This is what the short edge joins are supposed to look like–similar to the store sample photo above:

photo of 2 grey slate-like tiles with the proper distance between them
proper short edge join of one of our tiles
photo of grey slate-like tiles with a 3-5 mm gap between them
short edges we’ve ended up with for many of the tiles

We ended up tapping that pull bar so freaking hard that we bent it. That section I’ve circled in the photo below started at a 90 degree angle. Now it’s almost a 45 degree angle. And still so many short edges won’t meet.

we bent metal!

After laying several rows, pulling them up and re-laying them several times, we got about 80% done, then threw up our hands in despair and decided to tackle the rest today.

Except, when we came down this morning, almost all the tiles had separated on the short sides. The long edges were still connected, but the short sides had widened to even bigger gaps–one as wide as 5 mm, though most are 3-4 mm apart. It’s not just along a particular line or row. It’s almost every tile of every row.

photo of the partially finished floor using Coretec LVP in a grey-slate-like vinyl, with too-large gaps that are opening between tiles.
what we came down to this morning (the bottom right corner tile hasn’t been properly placed yet as that’s where we stopped, so you can ignore those gaps)

This is supposed to be a floating floor. It’s not supposed to be secured at the wall edges to allow for expansion and contraction based upon temperature and humidity. But the tiles/planks/whatever shouldn’t separate like this, especially over night when hardly anyone has walked on it. And we haven’t even moved the stove back into place yet–I hate to think what that weight and movement will do to the gaps. (We didn’t tile beneath the fridge–we used a piece of 1/4″ plywood underneath that.)

I cannot live with a floor that separates overnight. Or if someone tries to tell me that this is an acceptable gap? I cannot live with having 18″ channels that will end up as massive dirt collection ditches every 24″. It’s just not acceptable.

So we find ourselves with a dilemma. This is about a thousand dollars worth of flooring that isn’t working as it is. Since it was special ordered, we can’t return it, not only because we’ve had it since last November. I like the colour and the pattern, but something is just not right here. I’m not sure if it’s a fault with the way those side channels were manufactured or … what, especially since the floor is level. But we don’t know where to go from here…