Mindy Klasky

Other August Books

In an effort to stop obsessing over my own book coming out tomorrow, I wanted to point out a few of the other books showing up in August. (I’ll add sales links for Kane and Klasky when they become available tomorrow.)

Wrong Ways Down [Amazon], by Stacia Kane. (August 6) For fans of Kane’s Downside series, I’ll just mention that this story is from Terrible’s point of view, which is something I suspect many of you will appreciate.

Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], edited by Todd McCaffrey. (August 6) A collection of memories, essays, and insights about the creator of Pern.

Possession [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], by Kat Richardson. (August 6) Tor.com has an excerpt from Richardson’s latest Greywalker book here.

Single Witch’s Survival Guide, by Mindy Klasky. (August 13) This is the first volume of Klasky’s Jane Madison Academy series, where her librarian-witch opens a school for witches. Go Team Librarian! The first chapter is posted here.

Velveteen vs. The Multiverse, by Seanan McGuire. (Mid-August) I wrote the introduction for McGuire’s first delightful Velveteen collection, and I’m very excited to see the second coming out! Preorder from ISFiC Press here.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?


Cover Art: Doing it Right

More authors are experimenting with electronic self-publishing these days. I want to point out two recent releases by friends of mine. Aerophilia, a short story by Tobias Buckell, and Fright Court, a serialized novel by Mindy Klasky.  Specifically, I want to point to the cover art.


I love these covers. Aerophilia’s was put together by Jenn Reese, Fright Court’s by Reece Notley. (I’m noting these names for my own use, since I’m toying with the idea of publishing a few more mini-collections of my own.)

ETA: Mindy was kind enough to share her own first draft of a cover. You can see that, along with Mindy’s comments, here.

Remember my post last week about making it look easy? I look at these covers and think, Hey, I could probably do that! Maybe not the artwork itself, but if I found a good stock image, I could slap it all together. Because it looks easy.

Then I remember doing it with Goblin Tales [Amazon | B&N | Lulu]. Big shock: it ain’t easy, and skill as a writer means squat when it comes to visual art or graphic design. I did get professional artwork for mine, and I’m proud of what I came up with, but I think both Klasky and Buckell ended up with better-looking covers.

I’ve heard people talk about covers that “look self-published.” I’ve used that phrasing myself, but I think it’s inaccurate. It’s not that so many covers look self-published; it’s that they look amateur. Amateur isn’t a dirty word, and it’s not an insult. It means the work was done by someone who’s not a professional.

My friend Stephen Leigh gave me permission to pick on him. He’s an author with DAW, and has been doing this far longer than me. He recently released his dark urban fantasy novel The Woods [Amazon | B&N] as an e-book, and did the cover art himself. He used the cover on the left first. After receiving some feedback, he reworked the cover and came up with the one on the right.

I think number two is a better cover — easier to read, clearer visuals — but it doesn’t have the professional vibe I get from Mindy’s or Toby’s.

All of which leads back to the myth that it’s quick and easy to self-publish. Well, it is … but it’s not quick or easy to do it well. Slow down. Either hire people to do the jobs you’re not skilled at, or take your time and do the work Cover art and design are just two steps in the overall process, and there’s a reason publishers hire professionals for most of those steps.

Discussion time — how much attention do you pay to “professional vs. amateur” cover art when browsing e-books? What sort of things make a cover look amateur to you? (For me, I’ll admit to having a bias against most digital art.) And does it really make sense to invest in professional cover art for a small self-published project, given that most such projects probably aren’t going to see huge sales?

PS, All three of the writers mentioned here are wonderful people, and you could do much worse than to check out their books!

First Book Friday: Mindy Klasky

Welcome to First Book Friday!

A long time ago, on an internet far, far away, there was an online writing bulletin board called the Rumor Mill. A young writer named Jim used to visit every day, learning about manuscript format and markets and writing scams. One of the people he encountered was a writer named Mindy Klasky (mindyklasky on LJ).

Mindy was a “real” writer, who had recently sold a fantasy series to Roc. I remember being in awe that this person had actually done it. Looking back, I think this was my first “Hey, I know that author!” experience. From my perspective, it looked like such a wonderful experience, all jellybeans and unicorns and rainbows.

So it’s fascinating for me to read the story from Mindy’s POV and learn what her journey was really like.


Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. We’ll code name it NOVEL ZERO, for reasons you’ll soon discover. After a couple of weeks of poking around, I landed an agent. We’ll code name him Agent X, for more reasons you’ll soon discover.

Agent X tried to sell NOVEL ZERO for five long years, averaging one rejection every twelve months. (Yeah, I could write a separate post about how the wrong agent is worse than no agent at all, but I’ll spare you.) During my long wait, I broke up with Agent X twice, but I took him back both times.

Meanwhile, I wrote another novel, The Glasswrights’ Apprentice [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. It had all the things I love in traditional fantasy – a medieval city, strict castes, a thousand gods. And it had a thirteen-year-old heroine who witnessed an assassination and was accused of being the killer, necessitating her masquerading through her society’s castes to find the true murderer.

Agent X took twenty-four hours to (allegedly) read APPRENTICE, and then he said that it was flawed in all the ways that NOVEL ZERO was flawed, and oh, by the way, he was breaking up with me.

After great gnashing of teeth, I searched out other agents.  On March 31, 1998, I signed a one-year contract with Richard Curtis. Then, for one entire year, I waited. I started work on another fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE.

At the end of 365 days, no deal had appeared.

But on the 366th day, I got an email from Richard with the subject line “A Bite” and the content: “Roc wants APPRENTICE.  They asked about sequels; I told them you had two.”

I was thrilled.  Overjoyed. I leaped for the phone, only to find that Richard had left the office for the day. I started to plot sequels, spinning out story ideas that I had never considered before.

That night, I went to the theater, to see a lousy murder mystery. About half-way through the first act, I was pummeled with a brutal realization: The date was April 1, 1999. April Fools’ Day.

I quickly convinced myself that Richard Curtis was the cruelest man in the world.

I did not sleep that night. I phoned Richard’s office at 9:00 a.m. I held my breath as my call was transferred from the receptionist to my agent. I started crying when I found out that he wasn’t the cruelest man in the world.

Roc did, indeed, buy THE GLASSWRIGHTS’ APPRENTICE. My initial contract was for APPRENTICE, a sequel, and SEASON OF SACRIFICE. I quickly signed a second contract for three more Glasswright books.

Alas, the Glasswright books eventually cycled out of print. But this month, the Author’s Preferred Editions have been (finally!) issued as e-books. The series is also available, for the first time, as trade paperbacks. (You can read the first chapter of each book on my website.)

I’ve loved writing my speculative fiction novels, and I look forward to crafting many more. And I think that April Fools’ Day should be a national holiday.

Happy Mermaid Day

It’s here!  Today marks the offical release of The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]!  Which means I’ll be pretty much useless for the next few days, as I go through the hyperactive bipolarity of book launch insanity, checking Amason rankings, Googling reviews, preparing for the book launch party (Thursday evening at Schulers-Eastwood in Lansing), and so on.

This is going to be a crazy week.  I’ll do my best to avoid getting carried away pointing out awesome reviews or linking to giveaways or the 10/12 contest at Bitten By Books where you’ll be able to win one of 12 DAW anthologies or a grand prize of a complete set of painted goblin miniatures.

Likewise, I promise not to spend the entire week linking to my web site, where you can read the first chapter of the book online, or plastering the synopsis over every post like so:

There is an old story — you might have heard it — about a young mermaid, the daughter of a king, who saved the life of a human prince and fell in love.

So innocent was her love, so pure her devotion, that she would pay any price for the chance to be with her prince. She gave up her voice, her family, and the sea, and became human. But the prince had fallen in love with another woman.

The tales say the little mermaid sacrificed her own life so that her beloved prince could find happiness with his bride.

The tales lie.

(I also promise most entries won’t be as long-winded as this one.  But hey, I’ve got a book out today!  I’m allowed one day of excited babble, dammit!)

My thanks to everyone who participated in the one-question interviews.  I’ll be adding questions and links as they go live, and you can click over to read the answers.

  1. In the Princess series, what makes you choose certain characters as protagonists, and certain characters as antagonists? What princess have you enjoyed working with the most thus far? (-Catherine Shaff-Stump)
  2. What do you know now—about your characters and world, about writing, about yourself—that you didn’t know when you started writing these books?  (-Rose Fox at Genreville)
  3. 5 Quick Questions, including who would win in a fight between the three princesses? (-Lexie Hamilton)
  4. Where did you get the name for your most difficult to name character? (-orcaarrow)
  5. Will ninjas be making an appearance in this book, or will we have to wait for book five: The Ninja’s Nemesis? (-socchanIncludes a special visual aid!
  6. 3 questions, including “In a tag-team match, televised to the entire world, who would win? Goblins or Princesses? And would the Goblins cheat?” (-Jaime Moyer)
  7. Before you started writing this series, what fairytale Princess (Disney or not) did you most identify with personally? (-Philomena Hill)
  8. Princesses vs. Transformers: who would win? (-guinwhyte) I think this was my favorite silly question!
  9. What inspired you to create Jig?  Did he come from your gaming experience or did you have some other kind of inspiration?  Or did he just pop into your head? (-Dave Roy)
  10. Have you ever been worried that someone would see themselves (or think they saw someone from real life) in your work? (-Steve Saus)
  11. I’m wondering about your feelings/thoughts/actions on putting a “message” in novels. Like when 9/11 happened, was it time for novelists to jump on the soapbox about the evils of fanaticism/war/whatever? (-Jenn Simmons)
  12. When you realized that The Stepsister Scheme could be the start of a series, did that realization come complete with ideas for the other fairy tales you’d like to use, or did the later books develop as you looked for new fairy tales? (-dragovianknight)
  13. Do you now, when you encounter a new or old folk tale, find yourself mentally rubbing your hands together and thinking ‘hmm, I think I can use that’? Are you incapable of ‘turning it off’ at this point? (-b_writes)

Finally, as long as you’re going book-shopping, check out these other new releases:

Flesh and Fire [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], by Laura Anne Gilman.
Dragon’s Ring [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], by Dave Freer.
Memories of the Future, Volume 1, by Wil Wheaton.
How Not to Make a Wish [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], by Mindy Klasky.

Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman: Book Cover Dragon's Ring by Dave Freer: Book Cover  How Not to Make a Wish by Mindy Klasky: Book Cover

Jim C. Hines