Creating Audiobooks with Less Than Three Press + A Giveaway!

Untitled-1In 2013, Less Than Three Press started releasing audiobooks, with the fantasy novel Prisoner being the first release. We wanted to ask them about the process and what they learned during it. We talked with Megan Derr and the Less than Three crew about what the audiobook process was like for them.

(Check out the end of the interview for a LT3 audiobook giveaway!) 😀

What drew LT3 to develop audiobooks?

It was something I’d always wanted to do, mostly. I’d been hovering around the idea, and periodically looking more closely into it. We’ve been asked about them before by readers, too.

What did the process entail for LT3 to get into audio and to produce these books?

There actually wasn’t much to it. The hardest part was looking into the various options to see what was available. We landed on Red Planet Audio because they do pretty much all the work, and they’re very good at what they do. After we settled on them and signed the contract, we pretty much just gave them the books, told them what we wanted for each, and they took it from there.

What was it like choosing a voice for your different releases? Were there any difficulties in finding the “right” voice?

The voices were fun. I don’t know how the voice actors do it, but it’s crazy cool. All we do is tell Red Planet the kind of accent and all that we want, and they come up with a few samples. We listen and pick one. So far it’s been pretty easy. I heard the sample for Prisoner and went YES THAT’S PERFECT.

DanceWithTheDevil_audioWere there any challenges that you faced during the process that you hadn’t known about before making audio books?

Only a silly one – you don’t realize how many things in fantasy you just know how to pronounce (because you made the words up) that are not as readily apparent to everyone else. So you have to come with whole lists of how certain words are said. Like ‘arcen’ in Prisoner. People often assume it’s pronounced ar-sen, but it’s pronounced ark-en. Otherwise, the only hard part was deciding which books went first.

Do you have any tips to share with authors and publishers who are considering making the leap to audio?

Saving Liam_audioAuthors – make sure your contracts give you plenty of say in the matter. You don’t want to sign over all the audio rights and then find out well after the fact that your book was put in audio and you completely hate the voice actor and they say half the names wrong. If your publisher doesn’t do audiobooks but you’d like that to be an option for your readers, make sure you retain those rights.

Investigate your options for audiobook. We went with Red Planet but there are other options out there (ACX is another good one, and allows more flexible choices). Audiobooks are expensive, but I think they’re a good option for publishers and authors. They’re increasingly popular, and people are always on the go, moving around. Not everyone has the time to sit and read, but plenty of people have time to kill on commutes and such. They’re definitely worth looking into, even with the costs.

cover6Less Than Three contributes to the Overdrive Library, which is the resource for ebooks and digital materials for public libraries across the U.S. Do audiobooks go into the Overdrive system as well?

Yep, the audiobooks are available through Overdrive. If you can’t afford/just aren’t inclined to buy, you can ask your local library to obtain them (same with the ebooks and print, and LT3 is always happy to donate to libraries that can’t afford to buy).

Are there more audiobooks on the horizon that fans can look forward to?

The current list of forthcoming books is Honour (A.F. Henley), The Party Boy’s Guide (Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas), The Missing Butterfly (Megan Derr), Love You Like a Romance Novel (Megan Derr), Signal to Noise (Talya Andor), A Shadow of a Dream (Isabella Carter), Dreamer (Julia Alaric), Midsummer set (Megan Derr), and Imaginary (Jamie Sullivan). After that, we’ll compile a new list :3

Thanks for the great interview, Megan! It was so cool to hear more about the process!

GIVEAWAY TIME! 😀

Leave a comment on this post and you will be in the running to win a LT3 audiobook of your choice! The drawing will be done on Sunday, March 30.

Publishing Works in Translation – An Interview with Josh Lanyon

JoshLanyon_iconMore and more LGBT romance writers are working with overseas publishers and having their work translated and sold to non-English speaking markets. We thought this was really fascinating and wanted to learn more about the process.

We talked with author Josh Lanyon, who has had several of his novels translated, including recent translations in Japanese.

Josh, you have multiple works that have been translated and published overseas. We’d love to learn more about the process of working with overseas publishers and what that entailed for you.

What was the first book of yours that was translated? What was this experience like? Did the publisher contact you?

fatale_schaduwenThe first book that actually went into translation was Fatal Shadows. MERC, a Dutch start-up publisher contacted me and asked for translation rights to the Adrien English series. The publisher admitted at the outset that he was inexperienced and there would probably not be much financial reward — and this certainly proved to be the case — but I was excited about the idea of reaching readers in the Netherlands. So as far as that goes, the experiment was a success. I’ve seen a number of reviews on Dutch blogs and I’ve been contacted by a number of readers from the Netherlands.

But there were also problems I didn’t anticipate.

Since that publication, what else has been translated and published overseas? Has the process differed between different companies, or has it overall been the same?

I’m working with a small French company called MxM Bookmark. It’s very much the same set up as MERC — a start-up company without a track record or a lot of experience. No advance. But they have passion, enthusiasm, they aren’t holding my rights very long, they did send my author copies, they do stay in contact. I haven’t made a penny, but I feel like this one is a success.

lombreOnce again, the idea in getting translated was not to make a bunch of money in the short term. The idea was to find new readers — this is what we authors are always moaning about. Where can we find new readers? So I’m agreeable to taking a certain amount of risk.

I also tried to commission my own Spanish translations, but that has not been successful. A major part of the failure can be laid to the difficulty of marketing translations if you don’t have the infrastructure of an overseas publisher. How do you advertise and market in a language that is not your own?

It’s made me hesitant to partner with indie translators because A – I’m hesitant to tie up translation rights in case an actual publisher comes along, and B – How are we going to successfully market this translation?

sombras_fatalesSince your work has begun to appear in translation, have you seen an uptick in sales overseas? (And more international fans?)

You know, I don’t think a lot of publishers realize there is a global audience for M/M fiction. Just as our mainstream publishers here have been a bit slow to catch on, well, so are overseas publishers. But my audience has always been surprisingly intercontinental. Now that might have something to do with the fact that my original publisher was British, but right from the beginning I was hearing from readers in Germany, Holland, Italy, France, and Sweden.

Along with Fair Game and Don’t Look Back, the first two volumes of Adrien English have been translated into Japanese. (And I hear vol. 3-5 have been picked up as well!)

Japan has a very developed m/m (or Boys Love/BL) novel market, and has been publishing m/m novels for decades. Since it has an active market, do you see this as an effective avenue for m/m writers outside of Japan to explore? Did you find it very difficult to enter the market?

fair_game_japaneseI’m really happy with my Japanese translations. Shinshokan is one of the largest publishers in Japan. They know what they’re doing. They pay a decent advance, they send author copies, and I have definitely seen an uptick in my Asian market sales. And let us not forget ARTWORK. I love those covers and those inside illustrations!

In this case I was contacted by an agent rather than the publisher or translator. The publisher had contacted the agent, the agent contacted me, and we went from there. So far they’ve contracted for five novels, one novella, and two short stories. Nobody is making a fortune, but the books are doing well enough to justify continuing to publish more of them. So I’m really thrilled.

I do think M/M and Japan’s Boy Love market is a good marriage. A natural meld.

What has surprised you the most about working with overseas publishers and seeing your work translated?

fatal_shadows_japaneseIt’s really fun to see the new covers, and there’s no question that it seems like a coup to have your work translated. But honestly, it still feels really new and I have no idea how it’s going to play out. I’m excited by the possibilities.

Also…if there is a test of storytelling, maybe it’s surviving translation. If an audience who doesn’t even speak your language still enjoys your story, surely that’s a good sign?

What would you recommend to writers who are interested in having their works published overseas?

I think the market for translation — right across the globe — is only going to get bigger and better. Now is the time! But the problem is…you want and need a professional, high quality product — and you want and need a distribution channel and a means of marketing and promoting your high quality product. I don’t think you can do it without all the pieces in place. Or at least I’m not able to.

That said, Amazon sells everywhere and if you can get your work translated and uploaded onto Amazon, well…you have access to Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, India, etc.

a_dangerous_thing_japaneseYou should work with experienced professionals. Having said that, this is a young genre and we’re working in a DIY publishing environment. Just as a lot of authors are learning their craft, a lot of translators are learning their craft too. This is another growth arena in publishing. So really…as  long as everyone has realistic expectations, maybe it’s okay to experiment with getting your work translated.

I would say this — use contracts and get those contracts vetted by someone who actually IS an experienced professional. You don’t want to accidentally sign over exclusive rights to future works (which was one of the original clauses in my Dutch contract)!

Oftentimes the titles for a work will change in translation. Do you have a favorite translated title from your works? 🙂

The translated titles are always fun, but I especially love the Japanese translations. Fatal Shadows is translated to Shadow of an Angel. A Dangerous Thing is Whisper of a Ghost

Thanks for stopping by, Josh! 😀

A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist. Learn more at Josh’s website.

Author Insights: Ethan Stone and Sara York on writing Trans* Romances

TransparencyStoneYork1500At our January 2014 Portland LGBT Romance Reader Group Meeting, we got the chance to talk with GRNW author Ethan Stone about his 2013 trans* romance story Transparency and about how well it was selling.

The story’s success seemed to counter arguments that there isn’t much of a market or demand for romances with trans* and gender queer characters, so we wanted to sit down and chat with him and coauthor Sara York about the story.

What prompted you both to write Transparency?

Ethan: The idea originally came to me at the GRNW meet up in Seattle. Several people said that there was a lack of stories with trans and lesbian main characters. The idea of writing a trans man started percolating in my brain.

Sara: I’d been thinking of writing a trans story but I didn’t really know where to start. When Ethan mentioned writing one together I said yes immediately.

Did you do research to help prepare?

Sara: I did do some research on female to male transfers. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding of transpeople. The reasons to change are as varied as the people themselves. Both MTF and FTM are individuals and want to be treated as such. I found that there are some basic rights that are missing that need addressing. It’s difficult for understanding to come to the mainstream if we don’t talk about some of the issues.

Ethan: I admit I don’t usually do a lot of research for my writing, but I did do some this time. I looked at some porn including the amazing Buck Angel. I looked at the use of dildos and how many men see it as an extension of their bodies.

Sara: Ethan introduced me to Buck Angel. It was a side of porn I’d never seen. I think the diversification in the LGBT community is broader than what the current writing community is embracing.

When you published Transparency, how was the response after?

Ethan: I was very pleased with the reviews and comments we got. I didn’t hear any negative comments about the story itself, except that it wasn’t long enough.

Sara: I’m very happy with the reception. I will be looking to include more trans stories in my books.

Did sales meet expectations? Surpass?

Sara: Sales far surpassed my expectations. We really had no idea how many people would be interested in reading about Charlie and Taylor.

Ethan: I have been absolutely blown away by the sales. I think it’s amazing that so many people have read it.

Do you have any recommendations for other writers who want to write stories that focus on trans* characters?

Sara: Do some research and look at the community. Write from the heart, not just because you want to write a character for the novelty of it.

Ethan: Don’t be afraid to write it if you want to. Don’t let the idea of bad sales keep you from doing it. I think there is an audience for trans* romances. If the story is done right it will speak to all audiences. Some people may feel that because the character doesn’t have a cock he can’t be considered a gay man. However, it’s not the outside that matters, it’s the inside. Taylor is a gay man who happened to be born in a female body. He had surgery on his upper half but not on the lower half. This is a decision every trans* person has to make for themselves. The fact that Taylor doesn’t have a dick doesn’t make him less of a gay man.

Ethan Stone is becoming a duck once again. After more than a decade away from the soggy state of Oregon, he is back in his home state. He used to have a day job where he wore a sexy uniform to work; now he can wear whatever he wants to work as he attempts to see if this writing thing can support his Mt. Dew addiction. Visit Ethan at his website!

Sara York enjoys writing twisted tales of passion, anger, and love with a good healthy dose of lust thrown in for fun. Almost a quarter of a century ago Sara met her lover, falling for him after knowing him for ten minutes. Sara’s passion for him comes out in her stories, mixing with her passion for life, love, and good times, flowing onto the page and becoming tales from the heart. Visit Sara at her website!

Cover Art Expose: Jordan Castillo Price!

Cover art is sometimes (very often) maligned in our genre. (We even discussed the many naked chests at GRNW 2013, which led to one of our favorite lines spoken at the conference–Lou Harper’s “In defense of the headless torso…”)

The truth is that the genre boasts a lot of fantastic cover artists, who have a tough role of capturing the reader’s eye and capturing the story’s essence, all in one small space.

One of the features for the GRNW blog will be to go out and talk with those amazing artists and find out more about the magic behind their process.

For our first Cover Art Expose, we talk with the wonderful Jordan Castillo Price, who not only self-publishes her work through JCP Books, but does all her own cover art!

At the end of this interview, we’ll also be doing a giveaway for JCP’s sci-fi novel Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory.

partners21- What was the first book cover that you worked on?

At the time, I didn’t realize how rare this was, but I made a request and Torquere Press allowed me to design the cover to PsyCop: Partners, the print compilation of the first two PsyCop novels. In 2006 m/m was pretty new and I imagine a lot of the standard practices in place now were not established yet. Nowadays it would be quite rare to be allowed to design your own cover. Many publishers don’t even give their authors the right of veto, citing “house style” over the preferences of the author.

2- How long does a cover normally take? Which cover of yours took the longest (and why?)

I’d say I work on each cover about half a week to a week. Initially it’s getting all the elements in place. If they don’t work correctly, this is the point I go back to the drawing board. Sometimes things look fantastic in my head but they’re too busy or confusing on the page. The last few sessions I’ll spend cleaning up and tweaking, putting on finishing touches. Then I sleep on it and end up tweaking a few hours more.

My covers for the Petit Morts series took the longest because they’re vector art. Instead of colored pixels, they’re composed of mathematical points and curves. Theoretically you could zoom in infinitely and all the lines would still be crisp, unlike regular pixel-based artwork where it turns into little squares when you zoom or enlarge. It’s a more labor-intensive process but I wanted the bold graphic look that’s unique to vector art…well, I imagine you could mimic it with a pixel-based program but I was comfortable enough working in vectors. I’m a heck of a lot rustier nowadays. The last vector element I designed was the Spook Squad logo and FPMP seal on the back cover of the paperback.

The Petit Morts series

The Petit Morts series

3- For the art nerds out there, what are your preferred tools and programs?

For paperback and PDF typesetting I use InDesign. For cover art, mainly Photoshop, though for vector work I prefer Illustrator. Photoshop has vector tools now, which is new-ish these past few years. I’m just more accustomed to Illustrator, which I used quite a lot in my day job for flyers and big signage (like the type of banner you’d see hanging from an overpass, for instance.) I was a graphic designer at a public library for many years, so I got to learn how to do things from postcards to bookmarks to those big ol’ overpass signs.

For any major art nerds who might wonder, I’m running CS6, though undoubtedly some new feature will come along and tempt me into upgrading to Creative Cloud. I try to train at least an hour a week through something like Photoshop User TV, or Lynda.com, or Kelby Training, or my local Adobe User Group, and inevitably I’m going to see something that’ll make me want to upgrade since these trainings tend to focus on the latest version. New Camera RAW integration looks really nice, for example.

turbulence-2004- You’ve done a lot of series covers, with your Psycop books, Channeling Morpheus, Petit Morts, and the different chapters in the Turbulence serial.

What is it like when you’re tackling covers in a series? And how did your style differ between these series?

It seems like I must have realized a series should have a cohesive look—it’s just a matter of common sense—but PsyCop evolved over so many years in such a piecemeal way that it really didn’t have a particular “look” beyond the PsyCop logo. Certainly my skills improved a lot since 2006 as well. Since I’m now the publisher, I’m opting to redesign PsyCop so that it looks like an actual series. That project began last year. I’m working on Camp Hell (book 5) now.

payback-200Sometimes a cover “look” will be dictated by choices the stock photographer made. Because the photographer added B&W high-contrast effects to the shot of Michael on the cover of Payback (Channeling Morpheus 1), if I wanted to use that shot, I needed to make all the subsequent cover art match it. (And I was really married to that shot.) For that series, I think it worked really well, but in general it irks me when stock photographers make artistic choices like B&W effects, or really close cropping. A lot of shots are unusable because half of someone’s head is cropped away, for instance, so I can’t position them where I need to in my composition. And if I want B&W, I can make my own B&W since I have filters too…and maybe I would have chosen a different sort of contrast than the photographer picked. /rant

5- You have a knack for finding excellent cover models for your books. (GRNW hearts Wild Bill!) How hard is that search process?

GRNW hearts Wild Bill

GRNW hearts Wild Bill

Thank you! I heart Wild Bill too…wow, that mouth. Searching through stock models is actually kind of nauseating for me, I’m not really sure why. I must be looking too hard at the monitor for too many hours.

I will hoard good photos for years and years. I’ve been holding onto the cover model for Elijah from Mnevermind forever. I had nicknamed him Major Tom because he had a late 80’s New Wave look to him and he reminded me of the Peter Schilling song.

Some stock photos are pricier than others. I’m willing to pay for really expensive photos if need be because I’m self-publishing now and I can make that decision to invest, whereas authors working with publishers are usually limited to a smaller pool of more affordable art. Wild Bill was expensive, but oh so worth it.

I live in fear of putting a model on my cover and realizing he’s prominent on someone else’s book. It’s deplorable how few stock photos of men are available as opposed to women.

6- What cover was most challenging for you and why?

I was going to put Captain Kaye on one of the Turbulence covers, but older women are even more underrepresented than men. After hours of searching I found one model I liked…but the photographer had cropped her so close that I couldn’t position her anywhere on the page, and eventually I gave up.

bodyart2007- Is there a cover that you wish you could go back and redo?

Absolutely, I’d do Body Art in a second. I think I was so excited to see that tattooed arm reaching to adjust a tie (it represents a theme in the book so well) that I didn’t consider the overall tone of the cover. In a re-do, I’d forget about presenting a visual narrative a certain scene and make it look more like a thriller. And I’d have lots of dark tree silhouettes. I also have a theory that the eyes are the most important part of the model (which is why I despise those naked manchest floating over cityscape covers in m/m) so I might dig around and find a good headshot to represent my main character.

8- Are there things that you hadn’t thought about before you started doing your own book covers?

Ebooks are changing fast. To give you some perspective, when I started making ebook cover art in 2007, the Kindle wouldn’t be on the horizon for over two more years. I guess I would have thought there’d be a standard electronic art size, but there really isn’t. Various devices have different resolutions as well as different ratios, kind of like all the different computer monitor sizes. I just go with a ratio of 2:3 now and it seems about as “standard” as you’ll get.

This is a bit of a non-sequitur, or maybe it’s related, but one thing I used Photoshop for as a graphic designer at a public library was to take nonstandard audiobook packaging, scan it, manipulate it into a standard ratio, and make it work with a package we could circulate. So I went to pick up a CD-set on hold today and wondered why it looked so familiar—had I listened to it? Then I saw it was from my old library and realized that I’d re-done the packaging myself a few years ago. Ha!

9- Do you have any recommendations you can share for those who are thinking about doing their own book covers?

secrets-200Get really good at Photoshop and don’t waste your time with freeware programs. Buy an older version of Photoshop if money is an issue, just check the system requirements to make sure you can run it. It makes me crazy in certain publishing forums where new publishers are trying to figure out how to publish a paperback using freeware or Microsoft Word. I’m probably an Adobe snob, but it bugs me when people attempt to force consumer tools to do professional jobs and then wonder why it doesn’t work. Adobe software is a monetary and time investment, but it’s the industry standard.

If you’re totally new to Photoshop, grab a free one-week trial membership at Lynda.com and watch some intro courses for a solid week. I personally think the annual subscription there is worth much more than they charge. Photoshop is a very in-depth program, you’re not going to learn it in an afternoon. I’ve been learning since 1999, and as I said, I try to do an hour of continuing ed each week. If online learning isn’t your thing, invest in a class through your community college.

Once you have the hang of Photoshop, look at images you really like and try to reproduce them. I don’t care for most book covers so I look at movie posters instead. There are often multiple ways to get the same effect in Photoshop so tinkering will usually get you somewhere.

If you’re an author and the art is for your own books, be aware that publishers generally don’t let you do your own cover art.

forget-20010- Any future covers on the horizon you can tell us about?

I mentioned the star of my latest cover earlier: Elijah from Mnevermind (otherwise known as Major Tom, who I’ve been hoarding for at least five years). Book 2 of the trilogy, Forget Me Not, will be out later this month. I really enjoyed working on the covers for this series, both the photographic effects and the logo with the crows and the state capitol behind it. Their dreamy, intense and stylized tone really reflects the nature of the stories, a very gritty and realistic speculative fiction about false memories. The interiors of the paperbacks were also fun to lay out, where I used some subtle crow graphics on the pages.

Thanks so much for the interest in my cover art! Hopefully I didn’t send anyone into a design-geek coma!

Thanks, JCP! And for anyone interested, you can download a free PDF of JCP’s cover art gallery!

Giveaway Time!

To celebrate Mnevermind 2: Forget Me Not coming out later this month, we’re doing a ebook giveaway of Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory to one commenter below. We’ll pick a winner on Sunday. Good luck!! 😀