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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Gratitude: It’s Worth More Than 13 Scrabble Points

thanks-1804597_1280This is the time of year when people talk about things they’re thankful for. Gratitude is a healthy thing, and it’s refreshing to hear people express it instead of whining.

Today, I’d like to comment on how thankful I am that I don’t have to earn my living by writing.

Yes, I enjoy writing, and I’m probably fairly competent at it. But earn a living at it? Ha! In order to make money, you have to actually market yourself. And your product. And I loathe, abhor, detest, despise, and abominate* marketing in any form. Besides that, I dislike it rather intensely.

Though I might phrase it a bit more passionately than most, the majority of my fellow-writers feel pretty much the same way. We’d rather write than do promotion. But if you want to sell books (or articles, or whatever you write), you have to let people know your work is available. And worth buying. And there’s no way to do that without putting a good bit of effort into it.

I sell a book now and then. I think since my first self-published book came out in 2014, there’s only been one month when I didn’t earn a few cents’ royalties. (And when I say “a few cents,” I mean that literally. There have been more months than I care to admit when my total month’s royalties for all four books have totaled under a dollar.) But I figure even if I sell only one ebook, that’s one new reader who might tell one or two others about the Gannah stories and/or buy another book in the series. In other words, though I can’t really call it progress, it’s better than paying people to take a book.
to-write-1700787_1280
So I’m thankful my husband has always been a good provider. His provision allows me the luxury of spending my time writing without having to stress over marketing.

Which is not to say I don’t do any marketing. Awhile back, I submitted The Story in the Stars to Rabid Reader Reviews, and they liked it. Though the review was published a few years ago, they recently tweeted about it, and I thought, “Hmmm, that was a good review, wasn’t it? Maybe I should remind people it’s out there.”

So, in case you care, hop on over to their site and check it out. And if you haven’t bought the book yet, treat yourself to a good read. If you have a Kindle, you can pick it up for a mere 99 cents, so you shouldn’t have to break into the kids’ piggy bank to afford it. And I’ll get a 34-cent royalty payment. We both win!

Thanks!

*apple-1603132_1280In case you’re curious, that heart-felt phrase is borrowed from a poem I loved as a kid. While you’re clicking on links, check it out too!

 

 

 

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Why I Don’t Blog

blog backgroundWhen I started Y’s Words back in 2010, it was for the purpose of establishing a writing platform–or at least an online presence as a writer. What I’d hoped would be a platform, however, turned out to be an infinitesimal, near-imaginary toehold despite my attempts to do everything pretty much as was recommended at the time.

Back in the day when I posted three times a week, I learned a few things: 1) the effort did not generate significant book sales; 2) as I’m a slow writer, doing three posts a week imposed a fairly small but constant strain and required me to devote the equivalent of one whole workday per week; and, 3) the posts that got the best response from readers were about my personal life, not writing. (Or, about nothing in particular. For instance, a post in which I shared an old, not-so-funny joke is the one that’s gotten the biggest number of hits. Go figure.)

It’s been several months since my last post, though, so it’s time to do an update. That much is obvious. What I’m less certain of is what I should write about.

2015-07-24 12.30.28No point talking about the weather. Whether or not you like the current weather conditions or look forward to the coming winter or summer (depending on your hemisphere of habitation), there’s no point in my writing about it.

I’ve talked enough about snow, spring flowers, gardening, and that sort of thing in the past. To do so again—especially with nothing new to contribute—would be redundant.

There’s nothing going on in our lives at present worth reporting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for same-old/same-old can be a comfort. But it doesn’t make for interesting blog posts.

How about writing? I don’t know about you, but I’m bored nearly to tears with writers’ blogs by now. Everything worth saying has already been said a myriad of ways and will be repeated many times in the future. A newcomer to the writing life who wants to learn more about it already has plenty of resources, and I see no reason to add my weak voice to the clamor.

file8431289655927There’s another reason I haven’t been blogging, and I touched on it lightly above: the time factor. No, I’m not the busiest person around, but neither am I looking for things to do; and I have neither time nor energy in inexhaustible supply. As a writer, then—and, as I noted earlier, I’m a slow one—I must choose between writing blog posts and working on my next book. I can’t do both on a regular basis.

To summarize: I don’t blog anymore because 1) I have nothing to say; and 2) it doesn’t seem to be the best use of my time.

But, while I have your attention, let me tell you about my current WIP. (For those writing-newbies, WIP stands for Work in Progress.)

I’m about 82,000 words into my latest novel. It took me a while to get rolling, but now that I’m fully immersed in it, I’m loving it. Love the story, love the world I created for its stage, and love the characters galloping about on it. But I have a problem: it’s getting too long. I’ve already written a novel’s worth, but I still have at least as much to go before the conclusion I envision.

Sometimes my fellow writers will say things like, “My novels are usually only about 50,000 words, but my publisher wants at least 75,000.” Or, “I’m done with my first draft, but I’m 15,000 words short. How can I bulk up the story?” Ha! I never have that problem!

IMG_2017For now—that is, while I’m in the first draft stage—I won’t worry about it. I’ll continue to tell the story as it demands to be told until it’s all put into words. Then I’ll decide whether to make sweeping cuts, or add a little more (if necessary) and turn it into a series.

I can think of good reasons for doing the latter, and, though I’d originally planned for this to be a stand-alone, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing. Here are my thoughts on that, in case you care:

  1. Because I intend to self-publish it, there’s no need to consider a publisher’s requirements. That is, I can do whatever I want.
  2. Especially with titles by little-known authors (that is, me), readers are more apt to pick up a short book than a massive tome. Cost is a big factor here: fat books take more paper and ink and consequently cost more to produce, and the price must reflect that. Time is another consideration. Would I prefer to buy a book, even an inexpensive ebook, that’s going to take me forever to read, or one that’s short and sweet? Unless it’s by an author I already love, I’d opt for a short one.
  3. A short book that’s first in a series can whet a reader’s appetite for more. That way, instead of trying to introduce myself to a reader by selling her one heavy-weight volume, I can tempt her to try a short sweet one; and if she likes it, I have a good chance of selling her the whole series. (In other words, it’s better to sell three books than one.)
  4. If I write the whole story and divide it into three volumes, after publishing the first, I can then release the subsequent titles quickly before reader interest in the first one wanes.

And I’ll bet you’re already bored. See what I mean? I have nothing to say that’s worth blogging about.

00097However, I’m giving some thought to posting the opening of my current WIP—just a little bit—to test the waters and/or generate a little interest, so maybe once I finally publish it, I’ll have three or four people already prepared to hand me their money.

What do you think? Would you like to see the beginning of my current project? Or have you already quit reading this post because honestly, you don’t give a fig?

 

 

 

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Beware the Polyspore Gock

polyspore GockMany mornings, I wake up with a random word or phrase in my mind.

Quite a few creative people find inspiration in dreams. Most of the writing “experts” advise us to keep a pad of paper and a pen (or the electronic version thereof) at our bedside, so we can write things down when they come to us when we wake up.

Indeed, these thoughts are fleeting, and if we don’t record them when fresh, they’ll soon vanish like dew in the morning sun.

In my case, though, that would be no great loss. Once the sleepiness clears, I invariably realize all that brilliant stuff that came to me in my sleep was utter nonsense.

Take yesterday morning’s wisdom, for instance. I awoke with this profound statement running through my mind:

Or perhaps he just fears the polyspore Gock.

This raises many questions. The “or perhaps” suggests that the first presumption was that he feared something else. Like what?

Would he fear monospore Gock, or is it just the polyspore variety that’s dangerous? Or is neither dangerous? Maybe this whole fear-of-Gock thing is a groundless phobia. I suspect that’s the case, as saying he “just” fears the polyspore Gock makes it sound like it’s not worth being afraid of.

The statement is shrouded in mystery, to be sure. But I think I can identify the “he” in the statement. My waking impression was that it referred to the Dr. Pik character from Gannah.

And that would make sense. Pik was on my mind when I went to sleep, because I’d just been reviewing the print proof for the newly-released second edition of Words in the Wind. And Pik, despite his physical size and strength, is afraid of many things.

But polyspore? Gock? I have no idea.

I had a lovely afternoon yesterday finishing up the proof. This morning, I clickedLost and Found “Publish,” so perhaps by the time you read this, it will be ready for purchase. I did find the page for the print version, but as of this moment, none of the reviews have been transferred yet, and the Kindle version is not yet live.

Once the whole Gannah series is up and running, I can start thinking about promoting it. Well, actually, I’m already thinking about promotion. But soon, I’ll be able to get serious about it.

While I’m working on that, I’ll have to keep my eye peeled for that polyspore Gock stuff. I’m not sure it’s something to fear, or if I’ll recognize it when I see it. But I know it’s out there, because I dreamed it. And dreams are always true, right?

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As The Old Saying Goes…

file0001772520894A man may toil from sun to sun, but a writer’s job is never done.

Oh, wait… it’s supposed to be a woman’s job, not a writer’s. But what if that woman is a writer?

[Side note: I looked online for free images for working, laboring, toiling, tired woman, and so on, but couldn’t find what I was looking for. So these guys with the jackhammers will have to do.]

Using a jackhammer is work — a lot more physically toilsome than writing. So much so, in fact, that it isn’t fair to compare the tasks.

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

BUT… at least when you’re done breaking up concrete, it’s done. I doubt any of the guys in the picture above went back to the job site later and said, “Hey, I want to revise that.”

Which is what this “elderly woman with laptop” (the caption given to this image by FreeDigitalPhotos) has a bad habit of doing. (In case that statement wasn’t clear, I’m talking about me, not the model in the photo.)

Okay, so I guess I’m not elderly yet. But I’m a gray-haired woman with a laptop, and that can be dangerous.

Old cover
Old cover
New cover
New cover

As you may be aware, Risen Books recently released me from my contract so I can self- publish the first two titles in the Gateway to Gannah series, with new cover art. And, although they offered me the manuscript files, I elected to use what I already had on my computer from the first time around, as I intended to revise them anyway. I didn’t plan to change either of the story details, just tweak a word here and there.

I embarked on that project about the time I contacted the designer to talk about doing new covers. So when he completed the first one last week, I had the first book revised and formatted and ready to go. I uploaded it to CreateSpace and checked the digital proof.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.18.47 PMHmmm… there were a few glitches. For instance, I omitted a drop cap here and there, or indented the first paragraph of a scene when I shouldn’t have. So I fixed the issues in my document and uploaded the corrected version.

Oops. Somehow one of the chapters was in a different size font. Redo. Upload again.

But then…. I’d put a fleuron at the beginning of each chapter (that little star-like thing you Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.24.36 PMsee in the example on the right) as well between scene changes. But it looked too cluttered that way, so I took out all the flourishes between scenes but left them at the beginning of each chapter.

Upload again.

Eventually, I was ready to order a print proof, which required a wait of several days until it arrived. During that time, I sparred with the cover designer over what to do for the next book. (I say “sparred” because I always feel like I’m a pain in the neck in these discussions. But he’s very nice through the whole process, and if he grumbles about it, I never hear him.) We discussed numerous options and he did a few preliminary sketches, and we finally came to an agreement as to what scene to depict and what it should look like.

to flourish...
to flourish…
Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.33.17 PM
…or not to flourish…

Meanwhile, the print proof arrived, and, highlighter at the ready, and with a pack of little sticky flags at hand for marking pages, I went over it verrry carefully.

 

And made a change to almost every page! I didn’t find many actual errors, but I found LOTS of places where I wanted to reword something. And, hey, if I’m going to make any changes, I might as well make a lot of them, right?

Correct this, correct that, for 330 pages. Upload again. Review the digital proof once more!

WAK! Here’s another paragraph that’s indented, though it’s not supposed to be. And there’s one where the drop cap is missing. ARGH!

Correct. Upload. Review. Oh, and did I mention, each time I thought I was satisfied, I had to wait for CreateSpace to look it over before I could do the final proof? The whole process took several days.

But then, finally! After an uncounted number of repetitions of this exercise, I approved the proof. Publish the puppy!

And then there’s the Kindle version. When I first uploaded it and checked out the result, I remembered–belatedly–that I didn’t want those fleurons at the beginning of the chapters in the ebook version; I only wanted to use them to delineate scene breaks. (Just the opposite of how I did it on the print version.)

Revise. Upload.

Oh, you know what? The drop caps don’t translate well into that format. I should get rid of them in the ebook version.

Revise. Upload.

Well. All that to say… the new-and-improved The Story in the Stars is now available on  Kindle, and it should be available very soon in print. (If not, I’ll have to find out why, because it should be; but at present, the only print version I can find is the original edition. Which I thought was supposed to have been taken off Amazon as of February 15, but it obviously hasn’t been.)

Next, I get to do the same thing with Words in the Wind, once Ken Raney finishes up the beautiful cover he’s creating for it.

James Michener in 1991 (Wikipedia)
James Michener in 1991 (Wikipedia)

After that, maybe I can concentrate on some of these other projects I have on the back burner.

Oh, yes — another thing about writing that makes it never-ending: you can continue doing it long after you’re too old to use a jackhammer.

James Michener published his last novel at the age of 87, and shortly before his death at the age of 90, he published a collection of poetry. Maybe by the time I’m that age, I’ll have hammered out the ins and outs of this business…

 

 

 

 

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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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