Alyssia Kirkhart

Author of Adult & Young Adult Romance

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Business of Writing: The Heartbreak of Being Let Down


Before I start this post, I want to make a quick disclaimer: I do not believe every consignment plan between merchant and vendor is bogus. In fact, I am sure there are many artists who have a fantastic, honest relationship with the store-owner or manager who has agreed to sell your product(s) in their store and split a percentage of the profits with you. This is merely my personal experience.

When I released my fourth novel, I knew this journey would be different. Not only because this series is young adult fantasy romance, but also because I'd reinvented myself a little, chosen a pseudonym, accepted that I would (hopefully) be gaining an entirely new readership in addition to the amazing readers I already have. I wanted to have a more firm grasp on my business as an indie author. Branch out a little. Do more book signings. See my novel on numerous bookshelves across the country or, at least, within my area.

I ordered author swag -- posters, notebooks, bookmarks. I did the whole social media bit, which helped and continues to help build the excitement of a new release. And I also shopped local booksellers, set up meetings with store owners, put on my best smile, and requested they carry my new novel on their shelves. It's a lot of work, promoting oneself, especially as an introvert, but I knew it was necessary. If I wanted people to read my book, I needed it to be seen in as many locations as possible, not just online.

At the beginning of the summer, a local bookstore hosted a book signing for a fellow author (and friend), which was very successful. Great area, beautiful shop, snacks, amazing author swag, smiling faces. People were buying up her book like crazy. I was so--and still am--very happy for her. She introduced me to the owner as a talented author (swoon!) and the owner, in turn, showed interest in putting on the same show for me. A solid week or two of promotion, the book signing, my book would be right up front, posters in the windows, a link to buy an autographed copy on the company website...To say I was excited would've been putting it lightly. 

In that moment, I felt like J.K. Rowling.

I signed a contract -- 70/30, like Amazon -- as well as spent almost $400 on a promotional product that was wholly unique to the shop AND to my novel. While that may not seem like a lot of money, it was more than I had ever spent at one time for one book (besides ordering copies). But, I thought, I was making a business decision. Surely it would pay off, and I'd earn that money back in no time. 

The book never when up on the website. Posters (posters I'd paid an artist to design and so ordered at my expense) were dropped off, but remained in their tight cardboard tube. Advertisement for the signing, promised at least two weeks before the event, was not displayed in the window. On the day of, three people showed up to my book signing--all of whom I know personally. I felt like a small child who had eaten all her dinner and, though she was promised dessert, was told there was never dessert in the first place. Don't misunderstand: I am grateful for the support I received. Those three know firsthand what it's like to be in the awkward position of sitting behind a table, hoping someone--ANYONE--will at least stop and say, "hi," much less buy your book.

Now, I realize author signings are a gamble. Either lots of people show or you're lucky to see a handful, if that. It wasn't the lack of people that upset me; it was the reality that I had been promised things that were not fulfilled. I don't do that, wouldn't dream of it, so why should someone else? Though naive, perhaps even a little foolish, that was the process of my thoughts at the time.

I signed five or six books to be sold in-store, left a few bookmarks, and went on my way. 

Since our initial meeting, about ten to twelve books have been sold (total) in that particular store, as well as a few of the special promotional item I mentioned. Our contract relayed that consignments would be paid out at the end of every month. Two months came and went. I sent an email, inquiring as to when I might expect my first payment. "The fifteenth," I was told, which was strange, as the contract, at least as I remembered, stated the end of the month.

All right. Maybe business was getting a little overwhelming. Maybe rent had to be made, and there wasn't enough money. Businesses rise and fall. Nobody's perfect. And I don't expect perfection. I do, however, expect honesty, an attribute that was walking a seriously thin tightrope. If I had been told, plainly, "Look, I know you're owed for the books and promotional stuff I've sold over the past two to three months, but I just don't have the money," I would've been disappointed, of course, but I would've also understood. There's been many times in my thirty-eight years that I simply haven't had the money.

The fifteenth dawned and faded. I waited six days and sent another email. "Perhaps I didn't give you my PayPal address. It's... yada, yada. Thank you for your attention." 

The reply arrived that the store's PayPal was not working; the owner would be issuing paper checks this month. I could either pick it up on the weekend, or it would be sent to me via regular mail. At this point, and after a fellow author had not only relayed her difficulty with getting paid by this particular shop, but also that the shop owner had changed her cell phone number, I decided enough was enough. I would go pick up the check, as well as the rest of the inventory for which I'd already paid.

Except...there wasn't a check waiting. The nice lady working the register had no clue what I was talking about. Frustrated, I boxed up my inventory and left. Cried off and on for hours. Berated myself for being so stupid, for trusting someone I didn't know, for making (what seems by now to be) a terrible, terrible business decision. 

And then I sent another email, cordially advising that I had stopped by the shop today, as instructed, only to discover that, yet again, what had been promised was not done. 

Will I ever see that money? Probably not. Granted, it's not a fortune. But I keep thinking about this person selling my novel--the novel I worked for months writing and editing and perfecting for my readers--my BABY--for their own profit. Not mine. Theirs. And, yes, I gained readers. For that, I am very, very thankful. But this, to me, is theft. As a paralegal, my first instinct is to go through every legal course of action allowed by the state. 

However...As a writer, a mother, a wife, and a human being who tries to see the good in everyone...I realize that accepting and learning from this situation is how I will get through it and, in turn, grow. 

And that is something no one can steal.

I love you guys. Thank you for your readership and your support.

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,


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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Signing #1: Shreveport, Louisiana


First book signings for a new novel are always nerve-wracking adventures, mainly because you have no idea what to expect. What should I wear? How many pens should I bring? How many books do I need? Should I have chocolate? You can spend so much time sweating the details, you tend to forget the real reason you're doing this: to connect with readers.


For those who might care, I chose a 90's floral dress, complete with velvet choker. What can I say? Neve Campbell in The Craft was bae back in '96. I did bring plenty of Sharpies, including the pink cutie with which I signed. Lots of books that luckily didn't sell out, so, yes...you can still get one! And though I didn't fill a bowl with chocolate, the amazing folks at The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts provided assorted cheeses, crackers, olives, grapes, punch and, oh-my-goodness-YES, an amazing Hazelnut coffee that made the rain pouring outside all the more soothing. Kate set the mood with a fantastic playlist consisting of The Cure and Depeche Mode and...voila!




What made this signing different from my others, which were still awesome, by the way, was the hero of The Other Half, Athen Stormrathe, now officially has his own candle. Yes! Kate and I worked together (although, admittedly, she did most of the work -- she's amazing!) to create a scent that embodies all that I imagine Athen to be. That ancient, wise, earthy man who is Scylla's symbolon. Athen's candle is a wonderfully complex blend of amber, geranium, patchouli, gardenia, and cassia. 



All in all, we had a great time yesterday with friends and enjoyed interesting conversations about writing and, yes, even our current election here in America. So very blessed to live the interesting (if sometimes topsy-turvy...ding!) life of a writer and to be able to do what I love. Thank you guys for making that happen and a special thanks to Kate & the team at The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts for hosting me!




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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Recipe Favorites: French Madeleines


2     eggs
1     cup all purpose flour
2/3  cup sugar
1     tsp vanilla extract
1/2  tsp grated lemon peel
10   tbps (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter (melted, but cooled slightly)

You’ll need a madeleine pan, which you can find in specialty cooking stores or online. I found mine in a small kitchen store at an outlet mall.

Preheat your oven to 375. Spray your pan with cooking spray or butter it generously. I love the spray that has flour in it – perfect for baking.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl, just to blend. Beat in vanilla, salt, and lemon peel. Add flour gradually, then beat just until blended. Add the butter in a steady stream, beating just until blended. You definitely do not want to over-blend these dainty cookies.

Spoon 1 tbsp of batter into each seashell shaped mold. Bake until puffed and golden (about 15 minutes). Cool for at least 5 minutes before gently removing from your pan.

Voila! Feel free to dust your madeleines with powdered sugar or enjoy them as is with a cup of tea or coffee.


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Friday, July 1, 2016

Available! The Other Half: The Symbolon Series Book One


After a few hiccups this week, I'm thrilled to say the first book in The Symbolon Series, The Other Half, is finally available in eBook format and paperback. Special thanks to everyone who had a hand in this novel, a fair few of whom are mentioned in the Acknowledgments portion of the book itself. This was--and continues to be--new territory for me as a writer, and I am so looking forward to moving on with Scylla's story and her adventures with all her newfound friends (and enemies!) in the Faerie world.

Now to share with you a few links, so you can stay connected with me and the cast of The Symbolon Series!

You can purchase the novel at all major retailers (a few of whom I've listed below) in eBook and paperback:





If you're interested in the visual inspiration behind the story, I'd love for you to take a peek at and follow my Symbolon board on Pinterest. It's a work in progress that has bled over into the series in its entirety, so you may be able to take a good guess at what's in store next for Scylla!

Also, there is the music that has inspired and continues to inspire me as a write and have written. You can listen to the playlist through the ever-amazing Spotify. If you're interested in hearing the working soundtrack to The Symbolon Series, and are not yet hooked up with Spotify, it's easy and FREE! Click this link and then follow the instructions.

As you read, I'd love to see visuals and music of what came to your mind as you traveled along with Scylla and her Fae companions. Please feel free to share those below or post to Facebook or Instagram. Be sure to tag me, as well!  #symbolonseries #anhart

Thank you for your continued love and support. Happy reading!


Peace, Love and Junior Mints,




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Sunday, June 19, 2016

June 28: Release Day!


As I was proofreading the third proof of this new book, which will begin an entire series of Young Adult science fiction/fantasy/romance novels, it hit that I haven't published a novel in three years. With good reasons, really, some of which are better than others -- the better being I have a young son and a day job that can get quite demanding. Did you guys know I'm a paralegal and assistant to a state senator? It's pretty crazy. He's a great guy. I'm blessed.

Still.

Three years.

This won't be a long post. Just wanted to give my readers and friends (who, prayerfully, are one and the same!) a heads' up that, yes, I will be releasing my fourth novel -- first under my YA pseudonym, A.N. Hart, on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. It is entitled The Other Half: Book One of the Symbolon Series and I am super excited, as this release officially embarks into new territory for me. As a writer, as a reader and a chick who generally daydreams in historical romance panorama. All new. You'll encounter humans and creatures who actually do exist -- yes, they do. Magic, prophecies, villains, good versus evil and, yes, of course, lest we forget...love and romance.

Because, let's face it, telling me to write a book without romance is like telling me to successfully make a soufflé that doesn't fall. It's just...not in the cards.

All that said, I hope you enjoy. I hope you're excited. And I hope you can make it to a book signing this year. I'll be posting those dates as they arrive. Oh! And look for giveaways via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...the usual suspects. I've got author swag and all kinds of goodies. You won't wanna miss out.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints, y'all!

The Other Half: The Symbolon Series Book One

When eighteen-year-old Scylla is kidnapped from a carnival, she is convinced things couldn't get any worse. Her parents are dead. Her brother is missing. She hears voices no one else can hear. Disaster seems to follow her everywhere, until she meets Athen, the mythological faun who took her captive. His reason? She is his symbolon--the mate prophesied to him. Whisked to a land she didn't know existed, among creatures she's only read about in fairytales, Scylla learns there is more to her captor than meets the eye. He is kind, he is wise, and he is one of four Fae generals who fought for the survival of mankind nearly one hundred years ago. 
 
He is also the last faun in existence. 
 
As she learns from him, her feelings for Athen burn deeper and deeper. Terror turns into trust, exchanged smiles turn into fiery kisses. But Scylla's brother is in trouble and wicked forces in the Fae world threaten to sear Scylla's budding bond to Athen. Together, they must find her brother and put an end to the evil spreading across the land--or risk the annihilation of the human race.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Writer's Bubble

A "bubble room" at the Attrap'Rjves family hotel, in the Allauch commune in France.
"If your imagination is in on a particular track, you have to be careful what you let in, because that can spill in to what you're doing." - Tom Hiddleston (2016 Interview with Peter Travers)

Humans are amazing creatures; I think we all believe that as truth. We learn, we absorb, we apply what we've learned and absorbed to life. And it's life experience that molds us into who we are today, in this moment, which may or may not be the same person we were yesterday and who we are tomorrow may or may not be the same person we were the day previous. 

Whew.

Fact is, ideas and information and occurrences, to name a few, impact our decision making. Whether it's choosing a spinach salad over pizza tonight, because you saw that cover photo of Carrie Underwood at the checkout line, or voting one candidate over another, because the former's ideas and principles closer apply to your own moral compass, what you allow in your mind changes you. It may be minute; it may be significant. But it does change you; your mind will make a decision.

But this isn't a post about the magnificence of the human brain.

In working with a new series or any new project, for that matter, I tend to immerse myself in what I call The Bubble. I literally imagine a sphere surrounding me wherever I go. Only certain things are allowed in, be it the television I watch, the music I listen to, or the book I'm currently reading on Kindle. Since Tom Hiddleston is who I picture as one of the main males in this series, I've been cramming him into my mind's eye--his movies, interviews, photos. In an interview with Peter Travers, which can be found here, he talks about taking time away from work to see his family. However, even during those moments, he must be careful with what he allows into his mind. Whether he's about to play Loki in the popular Marvel movies or Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager, he is forever wrapping his brain around whatever character he intends to portray.

That's what it's like for me as a writer. Now, I say for me, because every writer's process is different. Just the other day, I played a track for Hubby by the deliciously ominous Cold Shower, explaining the scene I wrote to it, and he said, "Wow, babe. You're listening to some dark stuff here lately." Unintentional, but true. If he flips our Direct TV to channel 327 (CMT), I gasp, throw my hands over my ears like a child, and sprint for the bedroom, singing, "la la la la la la la LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

He's stopped doing that while I'm in the vicinity.

We're safest with the 80's channel, which he enjoys, too, so it's a win-win.

Do you have a weird process that's not weird to you, because...well...it's your normal...but to other people, it's...well...weird? 

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


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