Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Interview

Not the interview for a new job, no.  However, a fellow blogger and author gave me an in-depth interview which is published and can be read here: Books Are Magical by Kathryn Loving, AKA Momma Fargo. The questions are well thought out and Kathryn is very generous with her kind words of praise.

You can find Kathryn Loving's work on Amazon. Her first book, entitled The Boogie Man Is My Friend are true stories from her life as a police officer in Casper, Wyoming.  Her second book, also on Amazon, is The Boogie Man Is My Friend: The Rookies and describes her experience training new officers.

Kathryn has a third book that's recently published. The Last Song of the Meadowlark is the story of a recently divorced, vulnerable woman who encounters a confidence man - a true sociopath with only one priority.

Kathryn Loving is an excellent writer and her work exemplifies why the Amazon Kindle self-publishing model is working so well.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's in a Name?

Pretty much everything if you're the famous J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.  Rowling decided to publish The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym just to see what would happen, which wasn't much.  Inevitably the news moguls used their brilliant powers of deduction and discovered that Robert Galbraith was actually J.K.  Well, aren't we all surprised. 

Naturally when this harmless deception was revealed to the general public sales of The Cuckoo went through the roof, proving that brand recognition matters.  A lot.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened.  Prior to eBooks, every so often an undiscovered author would take a classic work of literature, a best seller or even a recent Pulitzer prize winner and change the names around, then submit it for publication.  The work would get rejected, and not because it was plagiarism.

I'm afraid Mark Twain never would have made in today's market.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Publishing and Intolerance

I'm old enough to remember what it's like to use a manual typewriter.  For those of you who will never be forced to use one of these machines, let me tell you that it's no fun and you are not missing a thing. The electric typewriter is worlds better, but provides the user with a lot less exercise.  That old Royal manual could really provide the typist with some serious cardiovascular exercise.

The main advantage to using a typewriter is that you didn't have to worry about a printer interface or printer problems.  If your ribbon was worn out, you reluctantly dragged yourself down to the office supply store and bought another one.  Likewise, copies were pretty simple.  You used carbon paper; one piece of carbon paper between two pieces of typing paper.  And, like the ink ribbon, when the carbon paper got too worn out to use, you dragged yourself down to the office supply store and bought another package.

All this worked real well until you got your wires crossed and hit the 'T' key instead of the 'Y' and ended up with Tou instead of You.  This was the typographical error, or typo as it was called back then.  When that happened you had to get out your typing eraser, which was a little wheel eraser that looked like a unicycle with a brush on it instead of a tiny seat.  You then rotated the platen a couple clicks until you could get at the offending word, they you tried erasing the 'T' in Tou.  This generally didn't work well, as the eraser would smear the ink across the paper and then you tried to erase the smears, which sort of worked and sort of didn't.  Mostly it didn't.  Then you'd give up and brush the eraser remains off the paper with the little brush so they didn't accumulate in the works of the typewriter and eventually jam everything up.  Then you tried to realign the paper, which didn't work either because trying to erase the 'T' caused the paper to shift just enough to make the rest of the sentence look funny.  If you were using carbon paper you had to go through each sheet and erase the 'T', being careful not to press on the carbon paper because if you did the carbon would leave strange black marks on the page under it and the whole business was shot.  People could make a maximum of six copies, but that required typing extra hard on the manual typewriter.

Centering a line meant counting the total number of characters in the line, subtracting that number from the total number of characters on a single line of a page (80), dividing the result in half and tapping the space bar that number of times to get the line centered.  An experienced typist could estimate this close enough for government work.  Margins were also manually set.  You opened the carriage and there were two manual stops inside that you set for the margins.  Tabs were set the same way.

Enter the word processor.

Typographical errors were easy to correct, copies were effectively unlimited once you got the printer to interface with the PC, something that Apple has yet to completely come to grips with, and the spell checker fixed your spelling errors.  All the typist had to know was English grammar, or in this case the author.  Most do know enough to avoid the basic grammatical errors, and we now have a grammar checker that will detect the rest.  So it should be pretty easy to produce a novel, right?

Enter the publisher.

A person who wants to center a line will use the space-bar until the line appears to be centered, just like they would on a manual typewriter.  If each paragraph should have the first line indented, the author will use the tab key to do so.  All sentences are separated by a double space, because that's the way it used to be done back in the bad old days.  And, should the spelling and grammar checkers constantly interrupt the next Hemingway, these helpful tools can be turned off and forgotten.  All of these things will result in this invaluable contribution to civilization being rejected by the publisher's slush pile editor, an Eastern school graduate who has a bachelor's in English and is developing a drinking problem from looking at the idiocy piled up in her IN box.

Want to get past the first tier?  Learn to use your word processor.  Leave the spell checker on and pay attention to your spelling.  If you have poor grammar skills, take a course or two at the local university and hire a GradAss to tutor you between classes.  You don't have to possess outstanding grammatical skills, but your skills have to be adequate.

Meantime, be thankful you aren't using an old Royal portable with a worn out ribbon and an 'e' key that's bent.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hot Off the Electronic Press - Murder One

All I can say is that it gets easier the second time around.  I'm talking about complying with the inconsistent, poorly written formatting regulations from various electronic publishing and distribution services.  Actually, the author publishes, the service distributes.

Anyway, Murder One is finished, edited, formatted and electronically published.  You can take a look at it by clicking these links:

Murder One on Amazon

Murder One on Smashwords

It's about a private investigator who is placidly doing his best not to make any waves while taking his turn on the treadmill, then everything blows up.

My other book, Magic for Hire on Amazon, is doing much better than I expected.  People are buying it and a few like it so much they've written a review.  My thanks to everyone who bought a copy - I really appreciate your business.

My special, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has written a review.  Thank you very much for your time and effort.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Publishing Process: Part Three

Let me tell you something about Smashwords. They sound really good, a lot of authors use the site to publish their contribution to literary excellence and entertainment, but if you decide to publish on Smashwords you'll end up looking (and working) behind the glitter and the face paint, which is a true chorus girl experience.

Consider Las Vegas, the legendary land of milk and honey. You go to a show and you get a seat near the back, about three rows on the good side of the nosebleed seats.  The show is spectacular and includes a troupe of nearly naked chorus girls giving their all right behind the headliner.  What a show, what a show.  The costumes are magnificent, the girls are all beautiful twenty-somethings that no man in his right mind would take home to mama, and you have a great time watching.  Hey, what's not to like, right?  Well old son, it's like this.  Don't get too close.

If you get within shouting distance, you'll notice that the girls are sweating and breathing hard; some more than others.  Advance to eye contact distance and you can see that their skin has a kind of fake looking plastic uniformity to it, sort of like it's all painted on (it isn't, by the way.  It's sprayed on.) and the face makeup is pretty heavy.  At spitting distance it becomes evident that not all of these girls are petite, athletic twenty-somethings.  In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find one that is under 25.  Move right up to halitosis range and the truth comes out.  We're talking late twenties for some, mid to late thirties for the others and there's one or two that may have celebrated their big four-oh with a fifth of vodka and a handful of pills.  Most have had cheap boob jobs that need repair.  Others have been rode hard and put away wet far too many times.  There's one or two that have more miles on 'em than I-15.

Talk to the girls and you'll find them friendly enough, but the more you get to know them the more you'll regret giving out your phone number.  Most of these girls are a bit quirky.  Delicately put, they're eccentric.  They tend to have baggage, both emotional and social.  We're talking ex-boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends and in some cases - other.  That last should cause you to change your phone, email, residence and buy a gun.  Emotional baggage gets triggered by things you'll never guess at or see coming.  Some little thing triggers a reaction, the bag drops off the luggage rack, falls open and the bats fly out.  Your best bet is to walk away and keep walking.

By way of comparison, Smashwords agrees to accept your story in M$ Word format, run it through their own system which is affectionately known as the meat grinder, translate your hard work into multiple formats too numerous to name here, then hawk it for you all around the world.  They'll pass your part of the royalties back to you when they're good and ready (see the royalties agreement).  The fly in this miracle ointment is formatting errors and the reporting of same.

When your work is accepted by Smashwords, they'll check the work for formatting errors.  If they find any, your work is either rejected entirely or partially.  Partial rejection means that your book is not included in the Smashwords premium catalog, which is where you want your work to be.  Smashwords will send you error messages about your formatting; unfortunately all the error message are generic: You have errors.  Check our formatting requirements, fix the errors are re-submit.  What Smashwords is really saying is that somewhere, and we're not saying just where, but somewhere in a novel of 61,273 words there are one or more formatting mistakes.  And if you can't find 'em, where does that leave you?

Step One: Curse and think bad thoughts about the geniuses at Smashwords who can't compose a helpful error message.

Step Two: Download and read, or re-read, Smashwords Style Guide.  The guide is not concise nor is it particularly well written.  If you plow through it and do some word substitution, you'll be able to fix your formatting problems and make the Smashwords premium list.  For instance, if the guide says something like, "We've found that the best results are obtained when..." you should change that to, "Anything that violates this condition will be rejected."  I don't know why they don't say that in the guide, but they don't.

Step Three: Fix the errors and resubmit.  Just do it.

Step Four: You are now on Smashwords time.  Your priorities are not the same as Smashwords priorities; your time is not Smashwords time.  Sit on your hands.  It will be ten days or more before someone at Smashwords gets around to checking your story for inclusion on the Smashwords premium list, and there isn't a thing you can do to hurry the process along.  Yeah, I know it sucks, but until something better comes along this is it.

I've been through this process just once.  It took me three days just to decide to keep going on Smashwords, and this is entirely due to the obstructive error reporting system they use.  I have no trouble with, or objection to, fixing the formatting errors in my work.  The very least Smashwords could do is show me where the errors actually are.  Still, I persevered - here's my book on Smashwords: Magic For Hire.  I console myself by thinking that the next book will be easier.

Until someone successfully shoots Smashwords out of the saddle, they're one of the best games in town.  I say one of the best, because in reality it's Amazon and whomever is in second place.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Writing Process - Delayed

I was about to compose another missive about the writing process and software, but I've got some sort of nasty infection in my upper respiratory tract.  Plainly, I've got a common cold and I feel like five miles of bad road.

When my health has repaired itself, I'll continue.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Publishing Process: Part Two

Hindsight is always 20/20, except in my case.  I broke my rear view mirror last week and haven't found a solid replacement.  Busted mirror or not, if I'd only known then what I know now...

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Publishing Process: Part One

A year or so ago my brother Mike bought a Kindle ereader.  Mike let me try it out and a week later I bought one for myself, a Kindle keyboard.  I like my Kindle.  My own dear mother who is over 21 and holding wanted one, so I managed to secure a Kindle keyboard for Mom.  She's having a good time with it.

Taking a quick look at ereader history, I got this from A brief history of eBooks By Michael Kozlowski.

1998: The first eBook readers appear in the market: The Softbook and Gemstar’s Rocket eBook Reader.

2007: Online book retailer releases the Kindle, made exclusively for the American market. The first lot of Kindles sells out in five and a half hours.

Which is where I stopped reading.  Sold out in five and one half hours?  Out?  Like, people want them but there ain't none?  The smart money immediately found an empty slot in Amazon's parade and hitched their float to it.  Late comers to the rear, but in this case it's better late than never, and Amazon is equally welcoming to everyone who wants to publish an eBook.

I am now one such person.

My contribution to classic literature is Magic For Hire, an anthology of stories about an itinerant wizard who must deal with the practicalities of life, such as food, clothing and shelter while striving for the luxuries; wine, women and song.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.

That goes for publishing as well.  Any literate person can write a novel, a short story, a play, or a whatever.  Ah, but getting published - that's the ticket.  After I got my anthology together in one file, I spent another forty hours of hard work trying to figure out how to get my work to Amazon and sell it, a process that both of us want to see succeed.  Trust me, it ain't easy but it can be done.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be writing about the publishing process, most of which is going to be a real learning and growth experience for me.  My hope is that a few people will read my missives and avoid breaking their ankle by stepping in the same gopher holes I didn't see until too late.

Monday, September 30, 2013