So, last Friday, I sent TANO off to first readers. Then, I put the draft into a paperback template so I could get a paper copy and start proofing. Doubling up on revision and proofing would mean every proofing copy I read (at least two, maybe three paper copies) would be a little different as revision would be ongoing. This is not ideal, but I thought it would be faster.
But no! I already have comments back from three readers, each noting a handful of small things to address, one or a few medium things, but (alas) two biggish things. Not super big, but I have to come up with a better justification for two plot elements. As I say, alas!
So revision first, then redo the template, THEN proofing.
But in the meantime, I’ve made decent progress with –>
Okay, so right now I have four versions of No Foreign Sky open simultaneously. Having contemplated this mess, I have decided upon a basic approach.
The original version (the longest) doesn’t have the smooth plotting of the final version, but it has more worldbuilding. Too much? Not sure. It also doesn’t have the neat secondary relationship that appeared in later versions.
The second version has smoother plotting, but other things may not be as smooth, sigh.
The third version may be the best overall, but the fourth version has some better stuff in it, especially at the paragraph level.
So right now, I am reading through versions C and D side by side. I read a bit of C, then the same bit of D, adding to and modifying C as I go.
Wow, is this tedious. But I’m almost finished.
Then I will ditch D, open B, and again skim through B and C together and tweak C.
Then the same with A and C.
Deciding which versions have things I want for the final draft and then making sure everything’s in one version and that version flows smoothly from front to back … sheesh. Did I say tedious? Because this is SO TEDIOUS. No wonder I put this off so long.
I’ll do the Tano revision before going past the C and D comparison,c and wow am I looking forward to that. Much lower degree of tedium there.
I finally bit another bullet for No Foreign Sky, however, and ordered a cover. An illustrated original cover. Ouch, that’s the expensive way to get a cover. But I would like the cover to show a turun, and I said very specifically, “This has to look like a real animal, this cannot look cartoonish in any way.” The cover artist said no problem, so we’ll see!
Oh, you don’t know what the turun look like. Well, they look like troll-centaurs with four arms as well as four legs, very large and intimidating. Think really big Clydesdale-sized centaur, only bigger and not that horselike. No fur. No tail. Four arms. Tusks, too. We’ll see what the artist does with that! I haven’t suggested any other cover elements because that’s the important element right there.
Do you think it’s important if the cover shows an action scene, or is a static scene just as good? Vote, please. There is an action scene that might be okay, but on the other hand it might be something of a spoiler. I’m inclined to make it a bridge scene rather than an action scene. But maybe that’s not a great decision?
For science fiction, should I put Rachel Neumeier on the cover, or R Neumeier, or make up extra initials and put something like RE Neumeier? (I don’t have a middle name, so I would have to make up something in order to have more than one initial.) But basically, what do you think? Initials or the full name?
This is a tactical question. When stepping into another genre, do you think it’s sensible to change the author’s name at least somewhat? I don’t think there’s any great reason to change the name completely, but I thought initials might be one more way, along with the cover art, to signal to readers that this is a departure.
Here’s a different aspect of that same question: Do you think that any significant proportion of male readers would hesitate to pick up SF novels with a woman’s name on the cover? I am actually not sure! But I’m feeling like that’s a possibility! Years ago, I thought, if I were doing it over, I’d have gone with initials right from the beginning. Now I’m thinking I might do that for SF at least.
I also ordered covers for the Invictus Duology. I rapidly tired of looking through great heaps of premade covers that weren’t really what I wanted, and went back to the same cover artist and dropped a couple more orders in his schedule. (This is the artist who did the Death’s Lady series plus Sphere of the Winds.)
This time, I don’t need illustrated covers. These should be simple. Spaceship, stars. Since I’m paying for original covers, though, I went ahead and added elements that are suitable for both covers.
When he gets around to these, I will have to think of actual subtitles. On the order form for the covers, I just said Part One and Part Two. I need something much better than that! I might do the names of the two primary characters:
Invictus: Syova or Invictus: Sevastien
But I’m not sure. It’s true that Syova is the most important pov character for the first half while Ila gets to carry the pov more in the second half, but they both have pov scenes in both halves. I’ll have to give this some thought. I realize none of you have read this except Craig, so you probably can’t make suggestions.
Hey, Invictus is a Latin word! Maybe something in Latin for prelude and finale. Let me see, looks like that would be praeludere, which is fine, but “finale” is ultimo, which I don’t like. “Finish” is “metam,” which is not much better. Oh! “Downhill” is “declivis.” Well, what’s “Uphill?” Looks like “Ascensus.” That’s not bad! What do you think”
Titles: so difficult and annoying! (!!!!!) At least I’m not trying to think of titles for everything else too at the same time.
I can see that I’m going to be hip-deep in revisions and formatting, back cover description and titles, for AGES. Sigh.
(Actually, I hope to be finished with ALL revision, have everything up for preorder, and move on to Silver Circle by May at the latest. Preferably sooner. Ideally much sooner.)
I’ve started The Unselected Journals of Emma M Lion, and it’s delightful, so thank you to everyone who kept getting me to shuffle it toward the top of the TBR pile.
28 thoughts on “Update: Many Annoying Tasks”
I think using an initial is a good way to signal the change, no need to invent more letters though
Glad you’re enjoying Emma!
Answer 1 — I think the cover needs to convey the FEEL of the book more than anything else. I love the covers of all the books with Aras and Ryo because they’re beautiful and mysterious (winter and summer side by side?) and that makes me want to pick up the book (even if I weren’t going to anyway).
Answer 2 — I’m not sure I’d change the name. If you were a newbie, perhaps. But you’ve developed a following under your current name, yes?
But I’m not sure about the whole “men not reading women” thing. I’d like to think we were beyond the James Tiptree era, but who knows.
Cover – I think of the cover as a promise to the reader. A quality artist suggests a quality book (yes, you can’t always judge a book by its cover, but an unprofessional cover suggests an unprofessional operation, and a professional cover suggests the writer/publisher think the book is good enough to sell enough copies to justify the art), and the subject gives me some feel for what the publisher/writer want my first impression to be. If I see an action scene, I feel like I’m being promised a rollicking action adventure. Static scenes can convey a lot of different things, but I would say go with action if the novel focuses on action, otherwise go with static.
On the name, I’d probably go with R. Neumeier.
Proofing at the end is definitely easiest!
My preference for covers is something that conveys the atmosphere of the book. I don’t need an action sequence. I mean, it doesn’t hurt, but if it’s there it had better be a scene from the actual book and not something random. When I was a teenager, I would pay attention while reading to spot where the image from the cover came from, when it wasn’t just, like, a scenic valley or a character posing for a portrait. It always annoyed me if I couldn’t pinpoint the specific moment.
Initials are good, but if you make one up you’re going to be having people constantly asking you what it stands for, and who needs that kind of stress?
Latin is cool, but might throw people off because people are weird about things in other languages. How about “Invictus the First” and “Invictus the Second?”
Re the name, I would suggest keeping it as Rachel Neumeier. You already have readers under your existing name, why go through the work of marketing a whole new persona?
There are a lot of authors who write fantasy and sci-fi under the same name, some of them very successful. The first few examples off the top of my head:
Primus and Secundus? Otherwise I agree that too much Latin in a title is risky.
Oh dear. I am so sorry for the tedious revision–may it be finished soon! I recently picked up a novel project I’d shelved because I could NOT figure out the best way forward…kept writing, tearing out, writing a different version, tearing out, on and on until the actual draft is currently 25k and the file of words cut out is 75k. I think I’m finally past the trouble spot, but I may have developed a permanent distaste for Chapter Sevens.
Covers–I’ve always liked static covers the best. Action covers often read as cheesy to me. (Not that this stops me from picking them up.) Most important, though, as other commenters have mentioned, is that it conveys the feel of the book.
Name–I like R. Neumeier the best of the options, I think. It signals it’s a little different from your usual without being so different that current fans can’t find the work.
Invictus subtitles–not sure I am convinced by Ascensus and Declivis. The mention of Praeludium did send me down a series of musical pairs like Prelude and Fugue, Toccata and Fugue, etc. but nothing that jumped out as subtitle-worthy. Counterpoint and Inversion could be vaguely science-fiction-feeling, I suppose. Urgh, titles.
Hm, I wonder, what about keeping the idea but not the Latin? Invictus: Ascent and Invictus: Descent?
Invictus makes me think of the poem, and of course I have no idea what the book is about , but how about Invictus: Master of Fate and Invictus: Captain of Soul?
So glad you are reading Emma M Lion. The books get better and better, the farther you go.
I like Maigen’s suggestion of Invictus: Ascent and Invictus: Descent. “Ascent” and “Descent” will be easily remembered & pronounceable shorthand for fans discussing your books. (Of course we do!)
I also think that unless you’re drastically changing the TONE of your books, there’s no need to change name when just changing GENRE. Someone who’s used to Rachel Neumeier books being beautiful, dark-edged, but ultimately hopeful fantasy, might not be pleased at picking up, say, a cynical grimdark, but they should be perfectly well able to cope with science fiction! And a spaceship on the cover will tell them more than a change of name would, anyway.
On the cover I’d mostly make the same recommendation as the majority here, it’s more important to give a feel for the book, so action cover if and only if it’s mostly an action book.
On the listed author’s name, keep the existing one. I do get that a change should help prevent someone from thinking they know what they’re getting and then being (unhappily) surprised, but if you’re not majorly changing the style and tone then it’s not an issue. If it’s mostly not to have readers/buyers expecting fantasy and getting an SF book, just make sure the cover and description are clear on the genre and you’re all set.
Changing the name could just lose potential readers who want to read more of your books and won’t find them since they’re listed separately (not that getting from one to the other is hard, but it’s more work than the zero work of having the same name, and needing work means some people won’t do it).
It also makes it less convenient for readers on devices/software that allow filtering by name. e.g. when I finish one of your books and mark it as read in Calibre, then doing a quick “show books by same author” to set the next one to transfer to my reader, one won’t show the others. There are writers who switch names for genres/series/whatever, and it’s always an annoyance, requiring an extra hassle, which does mean sometimes I just get to read less (and so buy less) of their books.
And I really wouldn’t worry about male readers who would outright skip a book with a woman’s name as the author. I can’t believe it’s more than a really insignificant minority who would be that level of biased these days.
For the Invictus titles, I’d recommend to go with whatever you want that isn’t the super generic “part one” or “first” or somesuch. In practice I think I don’t really tend to care about individual book titles, as long as they’re at least somewhat unique and can’t be easily confused with dozens of other books with the same name. I can remember reading, and what I thought about, “Syova” or “Ascendus”, but I really won’t have any remaining future impressions about reading “part one”. (And no, the initial “Invictus:” on a title won’t help, it’s the also series name so I won’t consider it a part of the title of all books in the series mentally, and I probably will even strip it of the title field in Calibre so it won’t dupe with the series)
I would vote firmly for sticking with “Rachel Neumeier”. Fantasy and SF aren’t really that far apart, as genres go. As Rowan noted above, many successful authors have crossed over before – I would add Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Shinn, and Andrea K Host to the examples – all authors I greatly enjoy and admire, and who also share many fans with you. I couldn’t speak to male SF readers avoiding a female author; the male readers I know read plenty of books by women, but they are not fans of SF or Fantasy, alas (why I have to find my reading community online).
I think Allan made an interesting point when he said the cover should convey a promise about the focus of the book. I hadn’t considered that before, but i think I probably agree. I also agree with Deb about an action scene, or specific scenery needing to reflect an actual event in place in the book. I often find these helpful to envision that scene, unless of course it is inaccurate!
As for Invictus, the title brings to my mind the movie about Nelson Mandela and Rugby, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon – one of my all time favourites. Of course that movie also builds off the poem. I personally don’t have any objection to “Part 1” and “Part 2”, although it may be boring, at least it’s very clear. I wouldn’t use Ascending and Descending, in any language, unless that reflected something of the themes or events of the 2 books. Not having read them, I can’t suggest anything more appropriate. (let it be noted I am quite willing to read them in advance in order to better suggest a title…)
Well, you all have convinced me to stay with “Rachel Neumeier.” Yaron in particular made very persuasive points. Plus yes to all the examples, Sharon Shinn and Martha Wells and everyone.
So that’s a start, at least.
There’s a lot of action, but (surprise!) the relationship stuff is probably more central. I think.
The titles are going to be a pain yet again, I see. Phooey.
Maigen, I’m wincing in sympathy. I hope your 25k starts moving more smoothly.
Or some variety on that?
I do like Invictus: Capture & Invictus: Crisis!
Presumably these titles represent something of the events in the books, so it will be easy to remember them. Also, i would expect the Crisis to come later in the overall plot arc, closer to the climax, so it will be easy to remember that that’s Part 2.
Agree, I like Capture and Crisis as well.
+1 on not having Latin in the subtitles!
I think most SF subgenre audiences are pretty flexible in terms of author’s presumed gender. Keeping “Rachel Neumeier” will help fans of Invictus find your other books.
Also a yes on Capture and Crisis! I like the alliterative pairing, they’re easy to remember, and if they reflect the events of the novels that’s rather more clear than the Latin would be.
Another thumbs up on “Capture” and “Crisis” as subtitles for the two volumes.
(Everyone else — yes, those two words definitely do reflect events in the two books. Some of the characters probably think they’re already in a crisis in vol. 1; they are mistaken.)
Author name for the SF books, I have no strong opinion about. I don’t think my impressions about contemporary readers are based on wide enough experience to be worth much.
It sounds like you’ve already made your decision, but I’d like to cast my vote also for the cover matching the “feel” of the book and for sticking with “Rachel Neumeier”.
The problem is that Invictus means Unconquered in Latin. So Invictus Crisis and Invictus captured doesn’t necessarily work. Unless it does, within the context of the book.
When I was in librarian school, boys and some men not liking to read books written by women was something we learned about. That was 4 decades ago so I’d hope things have changed, but the whole “sad puppy” mess around the Hugo award nominations, just a few years ago, shows that there is still a group of men out there in SF reader land who do have trouble with accepting the representation of women and minorities in SF, both as published writers and as PoV and characters. Misogyny is still a factor, as is apparent in many circumstances (e.g. recent debates on Jordan Peterson’s & Andrew Tate’s influence online), not just SF readership.
The question is whether they are part of the group you want to market to; if their usual taste for MilSF and action/adventure in a boy’s world might include your Invictus story. In that case, going for R. Neumeier on the cover might be a good idea. Neumeier is still unusual enough that your books should be easy to find, whether it’s with your initial or your full first name – that really doesn’t involve extra searching effort, and I do think you should link them all on your author page.
Signalling the SF genre with some spacey or futuristic element on the cover is important for the SF readers who dislike fantasy.
If you do want to use Latin for tge subtitles, go for something that recognisably signals “first part/beginning” and “second part/ending” for those who don’t know any Latin – i.e. use words that won’t put people off, like alpha and omega (has strong associations with paranormal/werewolf UF nowadays, so not that useful in SF), or *maybe* primus and secundus. I think start/ the beginning and finale would be better than using Latin if all you’re doing is saying which is part 1 and part 2.
Personally, Invictus: Capture and Invictus: Crisis sound the best to me, as Craig says they do fit the story. Alison, I have no problem with those words following Invictus, as I rather interpreted that as being likely to be the name of the spaceship, or something like that. It also adds a bit of hopefuĺ foreshadowing, that whoever or whatever is denoted by Invictus, may get into temporary trouble, being captured and going through crises, but will end up unconquered in a positive ending. I already trust Rachel for that, but the name/title does carry that seed of hope as well.
Sorry for being late to the discussion, but maybe it’s still useful to add my two cents’ worth.
Alison, I think the terms do work. Being a captive doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been conquered. In this case, emphatically not. And the words do fit the plots.
Hanneke, although of course I consider that my readers are largely superior people with enlightened opinions, I assure you that anyone, anyone at all, is welcome to buy my books. Preferably all of them, in multiple formats.
However, Yulan’s comments about practicality settled this for me. I don’t want even the slightest barrier in the way for anyone considering buying my books, see above.
And yes, Invictus is indeed the name of the ship.
This got me thinking that I see a lot of female protagonists in MilSF. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I recently finished Tanya Huff’s Valor series (which I hadn’t heard of before you mentioned it in a blog post) and quite enjoyed it – very strong female protagonist. Just mentally browsing back through space opera / milSF over the last ten years or so now. Not sure what the percentages are, but of the titles that stuck in my memory, at least half had female protagonists. Having said that, misogyny is still clearly a thing. Using a gender neutral name might bring in a few readers you wouldn’t otherwise get. However, feminism and representation are also a thing, and having a female name on the cover may help sell some additional books. On balance, I doubt the apparent gender of the name really moves the needle much these days, but I have no data to back up that supposition.
I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, full name it is!
The Valor series is probably my very favorite military SF series.
It’s so good, and I thought using an NCO as the protagonist was a stroke of genius. Offhand I couldn’t think of another MilSF series where the protagonist wasn’t a commissioned offer.
I had the exact same reaction, Allan — making the protagonist a sergeant was brilliant, set the series apart, and the Huff handled the series really well.