If Practice Makes Perfect…

…how long do we have to practice before we get it down pat?

Here’s the story:

Quite some time ago, I thought it would be fun to send my Tasmanian friend a copy of The Story in the Stars. Rather than paying to ship it from here in the US, I figured I’d just order it from Amazon.au and have them send it directly to her. Simple, right? Well, imagine my surprise to discover that in Australia, my books are only available on Kindle, not in print.

Turns out CreateSpace has no printing facilities in that part of the world. To have it printed elsewhere and shipped there would be cost-prohibitive, so they don’t offer their print titles in Australia.

This caused me considerable consternation. When we discussed the possibility of helping my friend self-publish her book, we were talking about doing it through CreateSpace. However, it would make no sense to publish on a platform that doesn’t have the ability to print books in the country where she lives.

After making some inquiries, I learned that IngramSpark does have printing facilities in Australia. As I looked into it further, I decided that of all the various self-publishing options out there, that seems to be the best for our situation.

So, once I finished the manuscript for the JS Freeman project and while waiting for the covers to be completed, I decided to do a practice run (or four) with IngramSpark by publishing the Gannah series with them.

Starting with The Story in the Stars, I reviewed the CreateSpace manuscript, looking for errors and little things I wanted to tweak. I assigned it an ASIN and reformatted it for IngramSpark. I created a bar code for the cover and inserted it in the appropriate place. I uploaded the whole thing, it was accepted, and I received an electronic proof.

I didn’t look at the e-proof very closely, though, because I preferred to review it in print. So I ordered a print proof. It didn’t come… it didn’t come… it didn’t come… Finally I looked to see what the hold-up was and discovered I hadn’t completed the process of ordering it. Ah, that explained it… So I ordered a copy of the print proof and did it right, and when it finally arrived, I went through it with a fine-toothed comb.

My description of all this sounds pretty cut-and-dried, but it’s not. I’m not very techy. Through all the process, I ran into various complications, confusions, and frustrations. And I was very glad I’d ordered a print proof, because I found a number of rather substantial things I wanted to change.

Which I did. And then I uploaded the new-and-improved manuscript, only to discover that the cover needs to be changed, because the spine width was no longer sufficient for the number of pages. Argh!

I contacted the cover designer and asked if he’d be able to make that change for me—and while he’s at it, could he add the Gannah’s Gate logo? (That’s the name of the publishing company I established for these purposes.) Sure, he says, no problem – except he couldn’t use the logo in any of the formats I provided him.

Back back and forth with the company that designed the logo – finally got that wrinkle ironed out. But while we’re doing the cover for Stars, I’d better see how many pages the new-and-improved manuscripts will be for the other books in the series, so I can get all the covers appropriately revised. That meant going through each of the other three books carefully and making revisions and adaptations for the IngramSpark platform, then giving the cover designer the page count and spine width requirements for each.

At last, I think all that’s completed, and I think I’m ready to begin the uploading process, followed by examining the proofs, and then taking the plunge and making them available on IngramSpark.

Every step of the way, I feel like I shouldn’t have to struggle with it so much. I’ve self-published books before, right? I’ve done formatting before. I shouldn’t have to work up such a sweat over it. But yet, I do.

I hope by the time I’m ready to go through all this over again with the JS Freeman series (which I plan to do on both IngramSpark and CreateSpace), and eventually my friend’s book, I’ll be more comfortable with it.

They say practice makes perfect, and I’m practicing! I really am! But I don’t anticipate the end result to be perfection. Only God is perfect. I’m just shooting for acceptable.

I’ll keep you apprised as to developments.

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Shifting Out of Idle

file3951337414647Green means go!

Throughout my writing career (if you can use that word to describe an activity that costs more money than it generates), I’ve watched God’s signals so that I could move forward, slow, stop, and change direction according to how He leads.

This isn’t a “follow your heart” type of a thing. Nor do I hear audible voices or anything like that. But if you’re a Christ-follower too, you understand it’s a combination of the Spirit speaking through God’s word, the alignment of situations, wise words spoken by fellow believers, and other factors, all working together in a process that’s hard to pin down.

As as a result, my writing life has been on idle for quite some time. The motor was running, and I kind of gunned it sometimes just to make sure there was still gas in the tank. But I wasn’t going anywhere.

Now, however, the light has turned green, and I’m moving forward once again. I have a couple of projects in the works, with more ready to take their places when the current heat of this lifelong race has finished.

A nonfiction project I’ve been contemplating for quite some time has progressed past the planning stage, and I’m now into the actual writing of it. It’s exciting and challenging, and, although I’m happy with the way it’s going, the finish line is still distant. It’s definitely not ready to share with anyone yet, so I’ll say no more about it for now.

While waiting for the light to turn, I occupied myself with reviewing and revising the manuscripts for the first two books in the Gateway to Gannah series and formatting them for upload to CreateSpace. This was with the view toward re-releasing them with new covers when the time was right. I also contacted Ken Raney, who designed the covers for Books 3 and 4, and asked him to start working on the first two, so those would be ready whenever the time was right.

Apparently, however, the time is right NOW! Sensing it was time to move, I contacted the publisher of the first two titles and asked to be released from my contract (which would expire next January anyway). And apparently they were also aware that the time was right, because they agreed immediately. In fact, they’re taking the books out of circulation on February 15, so when I do re-release them, there will only be no confusion.file6461244338923

This happened much more readily than I expected. But I don’t want to rush things — I’ll walk, not run. I won’t pressure Ken to knock himself out getting the covers done yesterday-if-not-sooner, and will give each of the manuscripts one more careful run-through before launching them into the world.

And then, of course, I’ll have to get serious about promoting them. Which I’m not looking forward to AT ALL. But once the pricing and distribution of the whole series is in my control, and all four titles have covers I’m happy with, I’ll have no more excuses. I’ll have to buckle down and sell some books!

And, of course, there’s that Deer in the Dining Room book still languishing on my computer. I plan to release it this summer so it will be available by next deer season, but I want to set up a website to go along with it. Urg. Not the type of thing I like to do, but if I take a deep, fortifying breath or two along the way, I should be able to manage it.

Besides all that, I have another fiction story bubbling in my brain. I’m constantly picking up ideas, rolling them around, and mentally plotting the tale. But I think I have enough writing projects for the moment, so I’ll leave this one simmering for now.

I expect it will be quite tasty by the time I serve it.

 

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News Brief

_MG_9358Hey, y’all — I uploaded my manuscript and cover to CreateSpace and all systems are go. I’ve ordered a print proof to review. Expected delivery date April 28. Sounds like a long time away!

Meanwhile, I’m working on the Kindle version. Stay tuned for updates!

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Publication Primer: 15 Points to Ponder

You can’t hang out in writerly circles more than a minute or two without hearing the topic file0001336424447of traditional publication v. self-publication discussed. It’s big; very big. And for a very good reason.

Used to be, it was a matter of pride, vanity (hence the old moniker “vanity press”), and bucks: if you wanted to see your name in print and had the money to see it happen, you paid someone to publish your book. You could be pretty sure no one would ever buy it, and it was also a good bet that if anyone ever did, they’d be sorry. The quality was notoriously bad, from the printing to the binding and usually the writing itself (because if it was worth anything, a traditional publisher would have eventually accepted it), and the cost was notoriously high. The companies producing those vanity books seldom offered editing services, and if they did, their input was minimal. I’ve heard of books being produced with missing pages, upside-down pages, and other glaring errors, with the author having to pay for a re-print if he wanted them corrected. Not good.

file6681269982727Traditional publication is usually defined as publication through a company that pays you to publish your book rather than the other way around. In recent years, traditional presses have been going under at an alarming rate, and at the same time, with the advent of personal computers and easy-to-use writing software, authors are churning out manuscripts like never before. The result is a raging flood of authors seeking publication in a market that’s only equipped to handle a trickle. Not good.

Enter Amazon. On one hand, we might blame this Internet behemoth for the publishing world’s bleak state, as its innovations have changed the face of the industry forever. But it must also be acknowledged that this user-friendly site has made it possible for anyone with a moderate amount of computer savvy to produce a good quality book—print, e-book, or both—for NO INVESTMENT WHATSOEVER. And to sell it online to a virtually unlimited number of buyers worldwide, paying Amazon only a small sales commission for each book sold.

Sounds like a fantasy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Producing a book through CreateSpace, the publishing division of Amazon, is a bit more difficult than waving a magic wand and chanting a spell. But it’s not only possible in the real world, but practical, which is why I’m gearing up to do it this year. Twice.

A writer friend was recently going through the Valley of Despond we all go through uponfile00055331537 having our manuscript rejected by our publisher of choice. I’ve read the book she submitted, and it’s a good one; I wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true. From the acquisition editor’s comments, it was apparent (s)he didn’t “get” the story. Since it’s nothing unusual or complicated, the editor was probably too hurried to take the time to see what it was all about.  (See my statement above about the glut of authors vying for the small number of traditional publishing slots.) Understanding that, though, doesn’t make the rejection hurt any less.

I have a great deal more experience trying to get published than succeeding at it. But I’ve been traveling through the writing world long enough and rubbing shoulders with enough successful authors to have learned a few things.  Based on that experience, I offered my friend some words of wisdom. Okay, maybe the words aren’t all that wise, but I thought I’d share them with you all here on Ys Words anyway. There’s nothing new or startling in the list below, but here’s more or less what I told her:

1 – Everyone has his own ideas of what’s good, what he likes, what he doesn’t like. Just because someone in high places doesn’t happen to like your story, that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

2 – Every writer thinks she’s the cat’s pajamas, that her writing is worthwhile and meaningful, and if someone doesn’t understand it, they’re missing the boat. Even if her writing truly stinks.

3 – No writer is in a good position to judge his own writing honestly. See above.

4 – The writing professionals see a lot of garbage and can recognize quality when they see it; if they find fault in it, chances are it’s not very good.

5 – The writing professionals see a lot of garbage, and every time they see a proposal, they expect it to be more of the same. They take a quick look, and if nothing pops out as being exceptional, they make a snap judgment as to the whole thing.

6 – At one point, after a certain number of rejections, every good writer thinks he’s been kidding himself and can’t really write after all. He’s wrong.

7 – At one point, after a certain number of rejections, every lousy writer thinks he’s been kidding himself and can’t really write after all. He’s right.

8 – Remember #s 2 and 3 above? We all need outside feedback from people who know something, not just people who know and love us.

9 – Caveat to the above: see Point #1. Don’t take anyone’s opinion too seriously; nobody’s God but God.

10 – The one who quits is finished. There will be no more chances for the writer who won’t take them.

11 – Being traditionally published is better than self-publishing. Anyone can self-publish, but being traditionally published is validation that you actually deserve to be published.

12 – Self-publishing is better because you have complete control. You can write what’s on your heart in your own unique style and not worry about having to please a publisher. Moreover, instead of getting a small royalty from the publisher, you keep the bulk of the earnings and give a small royalty to CreateSpace.

13 – Traditionally published books are more prestigious and are overall better quality than self-published works (except for the self-published books that are better quality than some of the traditionally-published ones).

14 – Traditional publication is a great learning experience. But now that it’s becoming easier and more profitable, self-publishing is a good option for those books that are not quite mainstream.

I didn’t tell her this next one, because she’s been around the block enough that she didn’t need me to. However, I’ll add one more point for these purposes:

15 – Generally speaking, writing is not a money-making proposition no matter how you do it. In both cases, the hardest part is selling the book once it’s produced. In both cases, the author who makes millions at it is the exception, not the rule. Write only because you can’t not write, not because you need the income.

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