A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Book covers. They’re always a big topic in the Writing Community and the publishing world at large.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover unless it’s a literal book.

The first thing a reader sees is the cover. We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover…but we do. All of us. The first thing we see is the cover and it’s the thing that makes us decide if we want to pick up a book to read the blurb or move on to something else. Just like picking a mate might first start with physical attraction–something in their physicality that makes us want to learn more–the same can be said for books. The cover is the sexy shoulders, supple lips, or piercing eyes of a book.

Okay. That’s a little creepy, but you get what I’m saying here.

A book cover catches our eye and is the first step in getting a person who has never heard of a book to give it a chance. If you’re an unknown author trying to entice readers to give you a shot, your cover can be super important if you want to hit the ground running when you publish your novel. It can sometimes make or break an author’s first chance at gaining traction in their writing career.

Sad but true.

However, this “judge a book by its cover” discussion speaks to a larger issue that is rarely addressed.

You can put a pound of glitter on a turd, but it’s still a turd.

I’ve read traditional books, indie books, self-published books, all formats, in different languages…I’ve read great books with shit covers or covers that were just kind of…meh. I’ve read shit books with amazing covers. I’ve read shit books with shit covers. Great books with great covers. Okay books with okay covers. And everything in between.

I’ve had some great covers in my own writing career and I’ve had some absolutely horrible covers. One of my best sellers, A SURPLUS OF LIGHT, started out with a cover that most of its first supporters thought was kind of crap. And that was a fair assessment. But word of mouth kept the momentum going. Eventually, when the cover was changed, interest grew even more. Word of mouth, good cover…it’s performed pretty well for me. I couldn’t be prouder.

However, the thing that kept enthusiasm going for the book–even before it got the new and improved cover–was that readers enjoyed the story. They were enthusiastic about it even. They told others to give it a chance. It got good reviews from people I didn’t even know (which is 90% of my reviews). The cover might have been crap, but the story stood up to the scrutiny LGBTQ+ YA readers gave it.

When we talk about the importance of certain aspects of publishing, a lot of people have a lot of different opinions. This thing is the most important. That thing is the most important. You really should do this. You really should do that. It can be confusing and downright exhausting for a new author. Even for established authors, the trends and conventional wisdom change so often you never really know if you’re doing something right. If what you’re doing will resonate with readers.

Bottom line, you need a damn good story to sell a book. You need to tell a tale that engages people, makes them root for the characters. You want them dying to turn the page to see what happens next. You want to hit them in the feels in a visceral way–have your words touch them in that intangible place called the soul.

When a reader reads the last word in your book and they close it, setting the book aside, you want that story to stay with them. To haunt them. You want the reader to think: “I have to tell someone to read this book!

Don’t get me wrong – a sweet book cover is so important. Competition in the writing world is tough (not the imagined competition between writers, but the competition that takes place on the bookshelf where a reader decides which book to pick up) and you want every advantage possible.

However, I worry sometimes that writers spend more time worrying about what their cover will look like as opposed to spending more time with a developmental editor, re-reading until they’re blue in the face, honing every word in their book until it matches the idea they had in their head. The story itself will always be the most important part of a book. That’s not a debate.

It sure is sweet to see a cover designed for our darlings…but if we didn’t nurture those darlings, it’s really just glitter on a turd.

And, just for funsies, for my newer readers that have never seen the original cover for A SURPLUS OF LIGHT, I present them both here for comparison:

Lastly, today is my birthday. If you would like to “get” something for my birthday, I would love it if you would donate to one of the following charitable organizations:

Dolly Parton Imagination Library

SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders

AANE Asperger/Autism Network

The Miracle Project – Mayo Performing Arts Center

National Down Syndrome Society

SOS Children’s Villages – Senegal

The Marsha P. Johnson Institute

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

When Words Grow Fangs

Happy Blog Post Day, my reader-friends!

Today, I thought my blog post should be about my upcoming LGBTQ+ YA novel – WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS! And in case you follow me on Twitter and haven’t seen the cover enough times by now, here it is again:

WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS is the story of what happens when Jude Ross stands up to his school’s (mostly Principal Lockmore’s) antiquated views on LGBTQ+ programs for the students of Whitmer Central High School.

All Jude has wanted to do was play the mobile game Bandits with his buddies, learn as much as he can about journalism–he plans to be a world-renowned journalist one day–run his blog and his advice column (Hey, Jude), and spend time with his friends and family. However, on the first day back from Winter Break, a fellow student at his school is the catalyst for a social media firestorm that leads Jude down the path of standing up for all of the kids in his school…regardless of how they identify.

Before he knows it, an article he writes on his blog about the injustices at Whitmer Central High School has gone viral, he becomes the subject of an international news piece, and everyone either loves him or hates him. His moms–and his sister, Penny–are proud of him. However, what does this all mean for a teenager who still hasn’t quite figured out his own identity?

In the end, Jude realizes that not all of the people he disagrees with are the enemy, not everyone he agrees with is his friend, and sometimes our lifelong dreams hold a bit of tarnish.

This isn’t an LGBTQ YA book about finding love–though, with the way Jude’s life is going, it’s a possibility–but more about discovering oneself and learning to stand up for what is right. Even when no one asked you to do it.

I’m extremely excited to share this story with all of you. It has same-sex parents representation, representation of the whole gender/sexuality spectrum, and is full of humor and heart. Most importantly, Jude is a character living with an anxiety disorder. It’s not a plot point. It’s not used for dramatic purposes. It’s just his reality. Anyone should be able to read WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS and find someone with whom to identify.

Additionally…NO ONE DIES IN THIS ONE!

I know that fact alone will make the readers who have been with me from the beginning extremely happy. If your heartstrings get pulled in this one, it will be for happy reasons. It’s definitely more heartwarming than heartwrenching.

WHEN WORDS GROW FANGS comes out March 5th, 2021–just two-and-a-half weeks away! If you haven’t reserved your copy yet, what are you waiting for, people? You’ll want to spend time with Jude, his family, and his friends as soon as soon as March 5th hits!

To whet your appetite for a new Chase Connor book, here’s a very brief snippet from the book, just to give you the “vibe.”

Within seconds, I had opened Zoom and clicked “login” to access my account. Moments later, I saw my face in the grainy live box in the middle of the screen. I yanked my phone out of my pocket and sent the meeting code to the group text. Normally, waiting for everyone to join the Zoom meeting would have taken forever. However, seconds later, in rapid succession, three other boxes joined mine on my laptop screen. I adjusted my laptop screen with haste so my camera was at a better angle.

            “Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!” Nick crowed from his box. “What’s happening, hot stuff?”

            “Hey, Nick,” I responded.

            “Sup, you ugly bastards?” Callie said from her box before stuffing a handful of popcorn into her mouth.

            At least, it looked like popcorn. Zoom videos are never that great.

            “Being ugly, beautiful.” Nick smiled widely.

            “Ugh.” Callie responded blandly before reaching off camera for more popcorn. “Don’t be so obvious about wanting me, Nikita.

            “Hey, guys!” Joey piped up cheerfully.

            “Hey, everyone,” I said. “What’s up?”

            Callie shrugged, I think, and chewed her mouthful of popcorn, another handful at the ready.

            “Not a damn thing,” Nick said. “Boring as balls around here. I can’t wait for school to start.

            “Not me.” Callie mumbled around her mouthful of food. “I just got up. A girl needs her sleep. I don’t want to start getting up at butt-early-thirty again.”

            “I can’t wait to see all you guys!” Joey replied.

            “This guy,” Callie said. “Are you ever not a raging dork, Josephine?

            Nick cackled loudly and leaned back, stretching in his chair.

            “I mean,” I said, “I kind of miss you guys, too.”

            “Another lost cause.” Callie stuffed more popcorn in her mouth and proceeded to keep talking. “Don’t you guys have lives or something?”

            “We’re here talking to you,” I said, attempting to smile. “So, that proves you don’t have a life, either.”

            “Give me time,” Callie said. “Just woke up, remember? In an hour I’ll be living my fabulous life doing fabulous things in my fabulous bedroom all by my fabulous self because the fabulous snow means my mom won’t let me go to any fabulous places.

            We all laughed.

            “So,” I said, moving my eyes to Joey’s box, “how are you just gonna let me get shanked in the neck in Bandits and do nothing, man?”

            He winced.

            “My bad,” He said. “Mom was yelling at me, and—”

            Did you know your roots have grown out, Judith?” Callie cut him off.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

The Hardest Thing

Something that never fails to strike me as odd is what the average person thinks it must be like to be a writer for a living. Not to get into specifics, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve responded to an email from a reader, only to get a pleasantly freaked out response that *I* actually replied to *them*. As if they imagine me sitting on a golden throne somewhere with better things to do than to interact with actual humans who make my work as a writer possible.

Now, I don’t want to mock anyone who has responded to me in that kind of way–I love the eff out of all of you–but it is very confusing for me.

All of you who read my books make it possible for me to keep writing. I may not be able to interact as often as I like–and maybe I like to keep a mostly private life–but I do love interacting with you.

I think it would be rare to find a writer who doesn’t enjoy getting to know other people.

At the absolute least, interacting with people is good research. Thinking more broadly, social interactions are just healthy for most humans. It feeds our soul and helps us connect to that formless thing that defines what it is to be human. So…I will respond to you if you email me. It might take a minute, and it might not be a 10 page dissertation on how we’re best friends, but you’re not any less important than me.

The fact that you took time out of your day to send me a lovely email that likely made my day makes me really, really want to respond as soon as possible.

I’m not sitting on my golden throne thinking I’m better than you. I only use the golden throne to eat my meals. Otherwise, I’m busy at the computer pumping out words.

However, I really do love my life as a writer. It’s creative, I don’t really answer to hardly anyone (don’t tell the people at The Lion Fish Press I said that), it’s fulfilling, and I “meet” so many amazing people every day. When you’re just a mildly to even a wildly successful writer, you’re really in charge of your own destiny. Which is, like, the pointy part on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or something. Essentially, I get to daydream and play for a living. Not that it’s not hard work often, but it’s a lot more fun than working for The Man (even if “The Man” pays more at times).

Regardless of how much I love my life as a writer, there is a drawback. One that has been swirling around in my head lately.

I am far from being a wildly successful author, but I do all right–especially since I’ve only been doing this professionally for 2.5-ish years. However, in those 2.5-ish years, something has changed with my life as a writer.

Who do I write for now?

When I started out publishing (fully self-published in the beginning), I had no specific goals other than to get published. I had no preconceived notions about what was expected of me. I never once considered “does this work for the reader?” or “will this upset someone?” or “will I be mocked for this?”

I just wrote what was in my heart.

I wrote the stories that felt “right” to me and excited me. I wrote about characters and plots that I wanted to read about when I picked up a book. I just wrote what my soul told me to write. That sounds super Marianne Williamson, but it is what it is.

No one was watching me, so I felt free.

Now that more people have their eyes on me…I feel a little less free at times.

Every word, every sentence, every character, every plot point, holds weight. Will a reader like this, will a reader like that, am I doing this right, is this going to get me mocked?

Having readers pays the bills, but it also might send you to therapy.

Basically, anytime I sit down to write something, I’m worried that it’s the thing that will have my haters screaming: “I told you he was a hack!”

At times, I feel I have less confidence now than when I published my first writing 2.5ish years ago. I’ve become much more aware of things I was doing wrong–no matter how much people might have enjoyed it. I’ve become much more aware of things readers expect in their books–even if I never delivered those things before. I’ve become much more aware that readers are way too concerned with who I am as a person as opposed to letting my work speak for itself. And I’ve certainly become far too aware of how some readers assume certain things about a writer due to what what they write about in their books.

But the thing is…I just love to write what feeds my soul. I love to write things that people love to read. Those things don’t always coincide, but when they do – *chef’s kiss*. When what is in my heart and what is in a reader’s heart match up, it’s magical. It makes every bit of blood, sweat, and tears that go into my stories worthwhile. All those sleepless nights and coffee-fueled mornings, and missing out on fun things to work…it doesn’t matter anymore.

Someone felt seen when they read my story.

Sigh.

J’aime cela!

It’s just difficult to write what’s in my heart when I’m hyper aware that it might get trampled on by people. It could be constructive criticism–or it could be a gaggle of “readers” with nothing better to do than ruin a writer’s day. It could be a group of writers working behind the anonymity of the internet to undo all of a writer’s hard work (those folks exist).

That’s the hardest thing for me as a writer now.

I don’t care about fame. I don’t want to be famous. I want MY BOOKS to be well-known. I don’t care if people care about me at all. I don’t even care if I get credit, as long as I get the royalties. I didn’t become a writer to be famous. I became a writer because I couldn’t fathom a life where I didn’t write. It was my Rainer Maria Wilke moment – I woke up every day thinking about writing, so I knew that I was a writer.

I didn’t wake up every day thinking of fame.

I know that if I’m ever lucky enough to sell millions of books, I’m going to have to step out of the shadows and accept some level of fame. It is what it is. Then again, J.D. Salinger gave fame the middle finger, so maybe I can, too? Regardless of what happens, I don’t want to compromise what’s in my heart.

I have to write for me.

Hopefully, readers will stay in the bus for the journey.

Shotgun gets aux cord!

But let’s try to avoid the country music, eh?

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase

When I Die

Another blog post, another title that is total clickbait. Chase Connor is here for the clicks, my friends!

Seriously, though, this blog post was inspired by a question asked by a reader I’ve exchanged emails with for several months. It was a question that, when answered, would be helpful to other writers and interesting to readers.

What happens when a published author dies? Especially an LGBTQ+ author? Does some homophobic next of kin get to claim their future royalties?

Eventually, we all die. Right? I mean, unless you have some secret deal with Satan, I guess. Having no such deal with Lucifer myself, so this was an eventuality for which I’ve always been prepared. Of course, it never occurred to me that other writers might not be–and readers might not have even though about it. Not everyone is as morbid as me. Not everyone spends their days thinking about the day the writing ends.

But my reader/email buddy/friend made me realize that maybe this question needs to be answered publicly. Some people are queasy about asking this question. I don’t blame them. No writer wants to think about not ever writing again and not many people care to think about their mortality.

So, leave it to my morbid, over-prepared ass to drop some help in your lap.

How you publish is the first thing we have to consider. Are you self-published? Indie? Traditional?

If you’re self-published, the answer is a little more complicated because the work that has to be done upon your death is a little more extensive. Let’s start with our self-pubbed writers.

Before I fully begin, take everything I say with a grain of salt until you consult with a lawyer. How to handle your intellectual property upon your death may vary greatly depending upon where you live in the world.

Self-published writers need to immediately get to work on their Last Will & Testament. Now, laws vary state to state, country to country, province to province, so it might be best to work with an intellectual property lawyer when drafting your LWT if you are a creative leaving behind work that will likely continue to generate income. In some areas, your spouse may automatically get everything you own regardless of what your will says. Some areas may allow you to be a little loosey-goosey with your LWT. It just depends. However, consulting a lawyer as a creative with intellectual property when drafting your LWT is vital.

In your LWT, you can assign an executor to, well, execute the terms of your will. You will also indicate which person(s) receive(s) specific pieces of your property. The executor is to make sure this happens. Sometimes the executor is the person receiving all or some of your property, sometimes they are just an impartial third party that a person trusts to follow their wishes upon their death. But an executor will most likely have to be chosen in a lot of cases.

Once a person outlines who their executor is to be, who gets their property, and all other formalities they are instructed to complete by a lawyer, the LWT is witnessed, certified, filed, and so forth. The writer is now just waiting to die while they continue to write in an effort to create immortality through art.

Told you I’m morbid.

Upon the writer’s death, the executor will make sure that death certificates are obtained for the deceased–which prove the writer’s death actually occurred and they are no longer amongst the living–and then disbursement of property can begin.

But it can be a lengthy process that requires “legwork.”

Working together, the executor and the person receiving the property (unless they are one and the same), will reach out to all parties who publish/published the writer’s work (Amazon, IngramSpark, Lulu, etc.) and let them know the writer is dead. They will ask for that company’s specific guidelines on how to get future royalties transferred to the new intellectual property rights owner.

Usually, this is a certified letter with the executor/new intellectual property owner’s intentions, along with an original death certificate, and payment details for where future royalties should go.

The executor and new owner will want to keep the deceased’s bank accounts open until companies have indicated that the new payment information has been changed and all is clear. Just in case the next round of royalties come before the new payment information is processed. I would wait until at least one round of royalties have come through under the new owner’s account before moving forward.

This might take companies a while to do. It’s not their top priority.

The companies might even lose or misplace the first letter and death certificate. They may ask for more information. There may be a lot of hoops to jump through. It’s okay to expect this to be a simple, yet lengthy task, but be prepared for the worst.

However, once the new owner is now getting the royalties to their own account, the executor can close the deceased writer’s accounts and disburse any royalties in that account to the new owner.

The writer’s intellectual property income is now being received by the person of their choosing–or who the law dictates is the rightful new owner.

Now, let’s talk about indie and traditional pubbed authors.

Don’t skip the Last Will and Testament step. This is vital. However, you will also want to let your indie imprint or publisher know who your next of kin is and who you intend to receive your intellectual property rights upon your death.

Upon your death, the executor of your will can contact your imprint/publisher with the specifics of your will and a death certificate, find out what all information needs to be forwarded, and the imprint/publisher will make sure all future royalties go to the new owner of the intellectual property. Not to say that things can’t get mucked up, but usually, indie and traditionally published writers’ royalties are usually easier to transfer because there are less entities involved. The imprint or publisher is a buffer between the writer and the point of sales companies. It helps everyone avoid a lot of headaches.

It seems easy enough, right?

You write, you die, your intellectual property rights go to someone else.

Keep in mind that (in the U.S.) copyrights are good for the lifetime of the creator plus an additional 70 years. You can keep passing down intellectual property rights in perpetuity, but after the author’s lifetime plus 70 years, other people can start profiting off of it without breaking any laws.

While this post is not the most fun, I hope it has helped some of you and answered a lot of questions. Go write your Last Will and Testaments, creatives! Then get back to writing and waiting to die!

All the Morbid Love & Thanks,

Chase