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 Amazon.com 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.