Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Traditional Publishing

When I started this blog traditional publishing was a real thing.
Now it's not so much and like any other system that is threatened by change
they'd send out their minions to attack indie publishers.
Good luck with that strategy.

Here's what could be my last post here.
You don't have to be an artist.  Just tell a cracking good story.
Write a good blurb.
Get a good professional cover.
Rinse and repeat.
You don't have to sell a million books to be satisfied with all you've achieved.
Just give the readers the best you you can.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'm from Tennessee or Something

Ashley Judd now thinks she wants a career in politics.  Okey-Dokey.


It helps to know what state you're going to run in, babe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

One Immortal Day

I'm honored to call her my friend.  Michal Towber just released her new album.  Emmy award winner, a musical prodigy she could be a female Truly Lambert.  When asked what music I write to, Michal is always on the list.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

John Dalberg 1st Baron Acton said that.  No, I don't know his historic significance besides that phrase that is used way too often.  Unfortunately, it expresses that idea so well it's almost impossible not to use.

Some people are good with power.  Maybe they had the right parents, the right upbringing, the right training, and when they attain a position where they can lead, they lead.  Other people go nuts and become tyrants.  They become drunk on power without the attendant decency and morality of character to go with it.

You can look around the world and see any number of tyrants behaving badly on their ego trips.  Louis XIV said it well "L'etat, c'est moi"--"The state, it's me."  He called himself The Sun King.  Yeah, he didn't have an issue of being shy and retiring.

I just occurred to me how full of themselves some people get in publishing.  They really do wield a kind of power, the livelihood of a writer is in their hands, and they seem to enjoy taking advantage of their position.  Sad, really.


I've gotten on an apple kick so I'm going to be tinkering with this image in Photoshop for a while, seeing what I can do with it.  It was the original cover image for Bad Apple.



Monday, January 28, 2013

They Don't Know You Exist

I can't explain how lightning strikes, and I don't mean the weather.  I've heard tales of a writer doing basically nothing besides publishing their book and then 6 weeks later it's a bestseller.  It's still the same thing--word of mouth WOM--but really fast.  The audience was exposed to a book and read it, liked it and told their friends. 



This is exactly how it works.  (Yes, that's Heather Locklear before she was arrested on the DUI)

I contacted a number of book bloggers this week and some were very excited to read my books.  Of course I was glad about that but it made me realize that with all the books out there, the possibility you will be struck by this Fame Lightning is about as possible as being struck by actual lightning.

The problem as I see it on the horizon is that this too, like freebies, will lose its effectiveness.  There will be so many writers asking for reviews and so many horrid books turning reviewers off that it will become increasingly difficult to get reviews or placement.
At that point probably the only way will be by paying a person to book tour you.  They will have a circle of bloggers who relies on them for a certain level of quality and the publicist will be able to rely on them to review the book, conduct the interview or do the promo.

Since everything happens now with increasing speed I'm guessing that in a year it will be almost impossible to get to bloggers with a track record as a newbie.

Start now if you haven't already.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Promotion

When I was published in the physical world they did everything for me.  It was great.  Did you know they have a publicity team in every publishing house at the ready to get the word out on your book?  Did you know they work extra hard to get your book into stores?  Did you know they set up tours for you?

Did you know they do this if you are Stephen King but if you are me they do NOTHING?
You had to do everything just like now as an indie author.  They couldn't care less about midlist authors and that is the sad truth.  Still is the sad truth.

There were a few years where there were more readers than ebooks and everything was peachy and now we're out of that dreamyworld and into virtual reality.  Writers have to find ways to promo their work.  Let's not talk about outliers.  You can't duplicate whatever makes an outlier an outlier.

What does this take?  Work.  Specifically, you will either have to do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you.  You need to do interviews, guest posts, giveaways and on the rare occasion find someone who will review your book.   Your life will become one long book tour.  This is true.  I'm sorry.

I try to do one promo thing a day whether it's find a blog who wants to host an interview or a post or what I did over the last few days and that was finding bling I could afford for giveaways.

Why isn't it enough to give away a free copy?  Because the people who gave away $200 Amazon gift cards spoiled it for the rest of us.

The difference between you asking bloggers for a review and the person you pay to ask them for a review is time.  If you ask it'll take two months or more for them to get through the To Be Read stack they already have.  If it's a tour arranger asking, it seems to happen more rapidly.  Either way you should be working on your own trying to make those connections and get your book on blogs.

Does it help?  It doesn't hurt and there's not a lot of other things to do right now.  I know a writer who is very committed to promotion and the hard work has paid off.  She's the kind of person who doesn't have the discouragement gene.

Get out there and push that book.

Paris Forever--Trey Ratcliff

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nikon Girl

I was going to major in art at college.  The drawback to that was that I really can't draw.
I'm plenty artistic but the drawing thing, no.  So after a couple weeks I decided to go into photography which would meld with the writing and I could be a photojournalist.  There was a great tradition of that.  Unfortunately more in movies than real life.  But it was possible so I said yes.

My father had a Leica but the professor insisted on a medium format camera for the first year or something, so I got whatever it was, a Mamiya?  But it only took 1 semester and I got a Nikon F.  That was a really good camera and I think you can pick them up now for about 1/10th of what we paid for the body and telephoto.  I think it was a 300 mm lens.

Some years later I was at a combined training event--it was entirely a nightmare, so bad I don't even want to go into it--and somehow the camera dropped.  I'm sure Nikon could have fixed it but within a couple hours it was stolen.  I was devastated.  I lost my camera, I was stuck with the world's worst boyfriend who had two of the brattiest kids on the planet and then the truck broke down in Yonkers on a Sunday evening.  Wow.  How can things get worse?

Yes, I later found out that things can get very much worse, but that night will live on in the records as one of the worst.

I got a less expensive model as a replacement.  For some reason every time I picked it up the battery was dead.  It had one of those little disk things.  The light meter always seemed wrong.  I was too busy in television to bother, when I wasn't in the studio, I was in the car commuting.  I stopped being a photographer and was just a writer.

Then digital came in and I ignored it.  I was very busy.  I got a cheap Epson to use to sell stuff on ebay.  You don't talk about quality except can you see the objet you're trying to sell.

Everything went like that until I got a contract to do The Complete Idiot's Guide to Knitting Projects.  I thought the job was to...well I thought it was what they TOLD me it was.  Come up with 20 projects and some variations.  And you've got 10 weeks.  Okay, pressing it but I'll do it.  Then I read the contract and someone is supposed to provide photos for all these projects and oh by the way it's not 20 it's 100.

In a crisis--which that was--you revert to what you know best so I knew I had to get a Nikon, whatever the budget would allow because I had to pay for EVERYTHING out of my advance (here's some advice, don't do one of these books unless you must or love being under horrible pressure).  So I got a D70 and never understood it.  I couldn't understand the manual.  I couldn't find anyone who could explain it to me.  But apparently I was doing okay because I shot all the photos for the book and that's what was published.

I don't remember why I got the D7000 other than I hated the D70 because I didn't know it.  The manual was better and there was a lot more help available on the internet and I got Photoshop.  Everything fell together.  I worked hard with it and with Photoshop.

And then I got the D600 which is a fantastic camera.  But the D7000 is great, too.  And when I stumble upon what's left over from the D70, they aren't bad.  A little tweak, some sharpening and they're very acceptable. 

Digital cameras aren't like film cameras which you expected to have for a lifetime.  Digital is semi-disposable.  You expect to turn it in for the new model in 2 years.  Luckily all Nikon lenses work on all their cameras because if you had to get new glass every 2 years, you'd better be rich.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Images in Digital Books

Still not perfected.  Two years ago it was much more difficult, Amazon needed the file in html, separate images and zipped.  Now it's possible to upload a doc file (just like BN always took) and it's fine.

I just received an email from a reader saying she couldn't see the images contained in Flash of Light in her reader.



I went to my Kindle Fire and it's fine for me.  (Small but fine)  She didn't say what reader she has.  

I did a magazine trial--impossible to read full page because it was designed for a large physical magazine.  To read it in a Fire meant lots of scrolling and moving the page around.  Big hassle.  Maybe it works on an iPad.

So is it worthwhile to include images?  Only if you accept that not all your readers will be able to see them.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Bling Boing

I just saw a raffle for a giveaway.  Sterling silver necklace that looks to be about 4 engraved pages of the book being given away.  Value--supposedly $200.

First writers were forced to chase publishers.  Then the business changed and there were too many writers for publishers to deal with so agents were basically invented.  Writers chased agents.  Now the business has changed.  Two years ago it was great.  Readers needed writers.  Today there are so many books and so many writers, readers are at a premium and writers are chasing them waving gift cards and bracelets.

Wow.  This is wrong on so many levels, I can hardly sort through it.  But we don't deal with life how it should be we deal with it how it is. 


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Bling or Not To Bling

That is the question.
Whether it is nobler, and wiser, to give away stuff
in order for potential readers to show up
Or is it simply buying eyes who will clean up and move on,
Alas, Horatio, I don't have a clue on it.

I didn't know writers were giving away trinkets and what-all in order to...what, increase customer enthusiasm?  Traffic?  But I have been informed this has been going on for a long time, besides the bookmarks which are obsolete now, right?  It's not enough to give away free copies of your book, now you have to give away gift cards, bracelets, and even Kindles.

I used to make the cutest little vests for a tack shop in Wilton, CT.  I crocheted an applique of their logo, a horse, of course--I think I still have one in my trunk--so I'm no stranger to making stuff.

It was far too late to do anything for the current Bad Apple Tour but other events are coming up so I used the remainder of yarn from a vest I made myself a couple years ago and some leftover yarn from that Complete Idiots book I did.






I can't get past the feeling--is this serious?  What next?



Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Writing Prime Directive

This doesn't apply to all writers, perhaps, but I think it applies to all members of The Writers Guild.

I don't make changes unless I get paid to do so.  And I mean more than 35 cents.  About 1000X that would be in the parking lot of the ballpark.

This is what I learned and here's a good, short, example of it.  Before digital publishing was what it is now, and paper was the only game in town, I was trying to sell Nothing Serious (titled Disconnected then).  I sent it to an agent.  She said it started too fast.  I sent it to a former editor at Berkley and she said it started too slow.

I can't make that change.  I don't know what that is.  And I'm not going to bother trying until I'm under contract and you're paying me.  They didn't pay me so it never got changed.  No one's complained since.

On the internet everyone gets to have and opinion and broadcast it.

As with the agents and editors and their conflicting opinions, it's not worth paying much attention to that kind of random input.

The only time I change anything without a paycheck is when I believe in it.  Otherwise you become a windsock.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Find A Niche and Fill It

If you are not remarkable in style and content, downloaders will graze upon you momentarily then move on.  I think.

Sometimes someone comes up  with the perfect thing for the time.  EL James did that with 50 Shades of Grey.  Rowling did it with Harry Potter.  Who started the vampire craze was it Twilight or Anne Rice?  They tap into something no one knew they wanted and are wildly successful.

You can't plan for that.  You can try but I'm not aware of anyone who did this mechanically.  These people wrote what they wanted and then the audience showed up.

Another way you can set yourself apart from the rest is by being talented.
We can't all be remarkably talented.

We can be skilled but that's work.  It takes time.  It also takes having the kind of mind that can conceive of improving and growing.  Some people don't have that ability or thought process.  They can be told how to improve but their minds can't work that out.

So now that we have millions of books available, how do we set ourselves apart from the masses? 

What do we have to offer that readers might want.  Some people want to read the same book over and over again but with slightly different characters and situations.  Other people might call this predictable.  The flip side would be to call it comforting. 

Find out what you can do then do that to the best of your ability.  Try to determine what your weaknesses are and strengthen them.

This could be called branding yourself.  If a reader wants to read a comforting book that isn't challenging, do that.  Be the person who becomes known for that.  Promo that. 

If you're going to write about quirky characters in unpredictable situations, be that.  Be the go-to-guy for that. 

Figure out where you heart is and be that.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year New Photoshop Hints

Some things can drive you nuts.  I don't want the hard way to do things, most of the time, I just want to get close.

Matte finish in Photoshop.  I don't see free actions for this but I see super super expensive actions--and I'm talking about $35!

What are we going to do about this?  I'm going to give you the shortcut. 

This was tweaked but that's not what this is about.  We just want matte.







Doesn't that satisfy you?  It works for me on this.  Yes, you can go take the original and throw a slight Gaussian blur on it.

What I did was make a image of a yellow that I liked, saved it.  Then placed it on top of the original and clicked the blending mode SOFT LIGHT.  That's it.  You can lighten the effect or not.  Or don't use the blending mode and just reduce the NORMAL mode's opacity.

Happy New Year's Gift.  Here's the texture I used.  Sure I could have put some actual texture on it but I didn't.  Feel free to do so.


Monday, December 31, 2012

Hypocrisy thy name is Hollywood Celebrities

Don't watch if language and Hollywood violence upsets you.  Although this should upset you but it's your choice.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Passive Guy Throws Down the Gauntlet

Over at Passive Voice, PG posted a photo of Ernest Hemingway skiing.  "Famous Authors Playing In The Snow" and I said what about obscure authors?  So he said submit photos of obscure authors for consideration.

So I put my D7K on the tripod outside.  Got out my wireless remote and ran in front of the camera while tripping the shutter.

Obscured Writer in Snow
That was 1 shot.  It's cold out there, the snow is deep and all the feral cats wanted to know what I was doing.  So yeah, it would have been good to have my boots in the shot but we'll leave that for next time.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve and The Tipping Point

Merry Christmas.

I wish us all great sales this holiday season.

That out of the way, Joe Konrath posted his yearly resolutions and I'd like to respond with my own take on the state of epublishing.  It's true that I derived a push from reading Konrath in last 2008.  I tested the waters with Impossible Charlie/now Dream Horse, which I had already self-pubbed with Lightning Source earlier that year.  At that point digital was pretty much nothing.

And it grew fast.  So fast most of us can't keep up.

Where are we now?  There are millions of books for people to choose from and millions more will flood in next year as backlist books are added.

Just write a great book, publish it and write the next.  Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat. 

That's what we hear and I don't believe it right now.  If you're Konrath and have a fanbase fine.  Sure there are outliers like EL James who comes along and makes a huge impact.  But the thing with her is that she had a fanfic fanbase already. 

So I sat down and said "How can I better understand this market and how to get attention over the din and the sheer tsunami of books crashing in upon all of us?"  I went back and read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.  He explained it pretty clearly.  It boils down to word of mouth.

Here's the reality.  You can write all the great books you like but if you don't light the fire under readers who then start telling each other "This is great!  You have to read this NOW!" you will be as unnoticed and unappreciated as someone who wrote dreck.  So yes, go write that great book.  What's step 2?  Go write another book?  Or get that first book to some readers?

It's your choice.  It's your career.  These are your books.  If you think having a shelf-full of ebooks is the way to go, do that.  It could work.

Here's another plan.  Flog that book.  I know a romance writer who flogs her work like crazy and it works.  She's a good writer and she should be read.  She makes sure people are aware of her.  She advertises, does book tours, gets reviews and does freebies.  She makes her books visible.  She puts them in front of the audience with a vengeance.  She twitters constantly.  She told me she doesn't care if it bothers some people, she'll redouble her efforts.

I've been reading about the life of Ruth Harriet Louise a portrait photographer in the silent era of Hollywood.  They flogged every movie, they flogged every actor.  They sent out tons of publicity photos.  Someone wrote in and asked for a photo of Norma Shearer, they got one.   There were fan magazines whose only reason for existence was to put actors in front of the public.  The interest was created.  People bought the magazines to see the stars, to get fashion tips from the stars, to read concocted rumors of the stars' lives and to go to the movies to see the stars.  The studios didn't let up for one minute.

You have to get people to know you're there.  Get them talking about your books.  Sure make it easy to find you with the best keywords and all your search engine techniques.  Have great covers.  Have great blurbs.  Don't stop there.  It's not enough.

And I'm not at all convinced (which is putting it nicely) that spamming on Facebook will help.  You are probably reaching more writers, not readers.  I have seen no proof that readers depend on Facebook to tell them what to read.  Maybe there are a couple pages with websites or blogs elsewhere that are influential but I can't tell you which those are.

I do know it's going to get harder to do as this year goes along so start gearing up.  You have even more work to do than before.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Formatting Anthologies or Boxed Sets

This seems like a lot of work and it is but it's not horrible.
If you're using Word, you're going to make 4 separate sections.
You'll have front matter and a contents page.  More on that in a moment.
You'll have a section for each book.
This is not page break.
Look under page layout and you'll see section break.  Use that.
This way you keep the TOC for each book separated.

In the front matter content, use hyperlinks and direct it to the bookmarked title.
Don't make another TOC.
Don't give Word reason to get confused.

And that's really it.  You copy and paste to 1 long document, separating each with a section break each time.  Clean up where you need to.

So yes, it's work but it's not horrible.

How you do the cover is up to you.  I know someone who did it in Paint and that's about as basic a program as you can find.  I tried a couple different ways and then paid for a photoshop action that automates the process beautifully.  It is possible to do it manually and it will help if you're good at geometry which I'm not.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advertising/Publicity/Book Tours

The answer is now yes.
It's no for some outliers but for the rest of us, yeah, taking up shelf space isn't enough or isn't quick enough.  If you want to achieve audience awareness, I don't think passive works anymore and you'll have to have some kind of marketing campaign.

I have a pal who is on this aspect all the time.  She does freebies on Select and then promos them everywhere.  She does quite well sales-wise.  Not up at the top of the charts but steady sales.

I don't know if FB and Twitter work.  I'm sure they do for some but perhaps you need a fanbase first.  Personally I'm sick of seeing someone flogging their books everywhere on FB and having every instance of it wind up on my wall.  I've unfriended some individuals for such egregious behavior which is the opposite of what they want.

So you need to keep the annoyance factor down.

Anthologies.  I'm not sure why these took off but apparently readers see it as a good deal.
Right now (the price will go up by the first of the year) the Flash anthology is basically $1 a book.  So that is a good deal.  You could price a 3-book boxed set for 99 cents and that would be a fantastic bargain.

But people still need to know it exists.  You can't rely on them finding it among the millions of books now on Amazon.  You need to find a way to point to it.

I've approached book bloggers in the past months and they were unaware of my books and very enthusiastic to read them.  That made me realize there are just too many books out there to expect to be easily found anymore.

The Flashes

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Old Technology

I use a CRT for a monitor.  Yes, it's old technology but it's actually very good for photo editing.  Unfortunately it seems to be time to switch to digital.  My concern is that a new monitor will require a new computer.  It's all quicksand.  You install a better video card and then there's a cascade of requirements as everything wants to be upgraded.

So until I get that sorted out, I'll probably be away for a bit.

Let me just say something about ebooks, sales and Amazon.  Ebooks are the future.  Amazon is leading the way.  Sales slowed?  Hey people, the economy is crashing.  Some are either oblivious or in denial but that's the truth.  Whether people consciously know, as I do, or feel it, these are not the same days as 2009 or 2010.  People are not going to be spending freely.  Sure there are writers not feeling it.  Certain genres aren't feeling it (erotica or as I call it--porn).  There is also the issue of freebies which have glutted the marketplace so people don't need to buy in order to read.  Maybe they can't read what they want to but they can still read.

That's where we are.  I'm betting it's going to get worse for a long stretch although in a couple years things will improve financially.  (Yes, years, this isn't a joke, this is a big recession, this is a fundamental change to the country.)

So what can you do.  Actively seek out your niche audience.  How?  That's for you to figure out.
Write the best books you can for your audience.
Put more effort in than your competition.

Happy Holidays.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Ten Thousand Hours

I watch American Idol and the X-Factor.  Some  mock people who do.  Well, mock on.

Some years back Carrie Underwood was on American Idol and I loved her.  I kept saying "How do you learn how to do this?"  She was a girl from a small town in Oklahoma.    Is it that you sing better than the other 56 kids in your school so you think "Gee, I'll go on American Idol.  I could win."

A lot of people do go from their living room to the stage and make fools of themselves.   But I'm talking about the people who "go from their living room" and stagger the audience with their talent and brilliance.

Here's the audition of Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, from Westchester.  You look at it and say "How do you learn how to do this?"



You learn it the same way you learn anything.  You put in ten thousand hours of practice. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vanity Publishing v. Indie Publishing

Don't. Do. It.

What's the difference between vanity and self?  Well self publishing is indie publishing.  You do it yourself.  If you need a book cover you HIRE someone to do the cover for a FLAT FEE.  If  you need editing help, you HIRE someone to edit for a FLAT FEE.  Then you publish your book and you get ALL THE MONEY the book makes, if it makes anything.  These strangers don't make money off you in perpetuity.

What's vanity?  It's when some scamster takes advantage of your desperation and ignorance to be published to charge you up the wazoo.  Like $2000 for a cover when you can easily find someone to create a respectable cover for 1/10th or even 1/20th that.  Ditto the editing.  On top of charging you for everything, they will also take a cut of the money your book earns.  Forever.

In other words, you're being taken for a ride, scammed, stuck, ripped off, played for a sucker.  Those are the polite terms for it.

This happened to a friend of mine.  I couldn't talk her out of it and $5000 later she had several thousand books in her garage that she would have had to hand-sell and that was frankly not a topic many people would care about.

And this is what Simon & Schuster has just come up with as a way to make money.  It seems like Simon & Schuster is a reputable company and we'd all love to be published by them, right?  They're trading on that good name and reputation to rip people off now.  They probably would spin it differently, saying they provide legitimate services and guide newbie authors through the process.  Yeah, maybe they do but they're so overcharging ($25,000???) for the privilege of being taken in by them, that I just have to ask one question of anyone thinking of doing this.  No, it's not one question.  Is it worth it?  When, seriously, do you figure you'll earn the money back you've invested and get in the black?

I was contracted to write a book for Penguin.  They gave me an advance of about $16,000.  Out of that I bought a camera, all the supplies, paid for the illustrators, paid the agent and what all.  I still "owe' Penguin $16,000.  I made NOTHING on that book because I haven't made a penny back on the advance.

In Big Publishing, most books don't earn back their advance.  It's writers like Stephen King and Nora Roberts paying for everything. 

If you've invested $500 in your indie published book, you do have a chance that you will make your investment back and then start turning a profit.  How are you going to make back the $25,000 you pay to Simon & Schuster/Author Solutions/"Archway"?

I know I couldn't reason my friend out of it.  She could do the math and imagined how great her book would sell.  She was a positive thinker.  I am a realistic thinker.  I've seen things go right and I've seen how things can go really wrong.

Don't.  Go.  There.


Friday, November 23, 2012

A Photoshop Friday

Still learning, still experimenting, still watching tutorials.  I saw a photograph, actually the product of a malfunction, and spent hours trying to recreate it.  Didn't.

If there's any takeaway it's to keep growing, expanding, trying new things and hope that it all eventually comes together.

Maybe life is like that photo.  You do everything to the best of your ability, it all malfunctions and what you wind up with is something beautiful.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Script Fonts--Yes or No

I am completely against using a script font on a cover since it's difficult to see in a thumbnail.

So how do I explain this?  It's quite large.  That's all I've got.  It's a beautiful font and I keep trying to use it.  I don't recommend it or any atypical font.  The good thing is that nothing is permanent.  It's all a test, you can try everything out and if it doesn't work, you can always change it.

I suppose some people can't live with this state of flux.  They don't enjoy self-publishing and want someone to do everything for them.  I don't care how many times I change things around, there are always new people coming on board who have never seen it before.

What did I do to this image?  It's something I got at a stock photo site--the girl in the hat, for a bargain price.  You don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a pretty good image but unfortunately you'll probably invest hours looking for it.  Some sites have more commercial type images and others, usually more expensive, have more artistic shots.  At some point someone will realize there is a market for images created with ebooks in mind.  Hasn't happened yet.

I blew the image way up not caring if the photo became unsharp or not.  There is post processing involved with the image and she's nowhere near that saturated originally.  Then I layered a photo I took of a little orange flower with a cobweb on it which diffuses the background/woman.  The dew is real since it was first thing in the morning.  There are other layers involved  but that's mainly what's going on.

It's funny how the edge of the leaf follows the brim of her hat so perfectly.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tooting Your Own Horn

Let me start by saying I've never been good at hawking myself.  "Let the work speak for itself" has been my motto.

Well times change.  Two years ago was an eon in digital publishing and the clammor for attention is fierce now.  I do feel somewhat sorry for readers.  If they're scrolling through a list of a couple thousand books, how can they tell the quality from the dreck.  And there's plenty of dreck.

Obviously a less than professional cover is a quick way to tell.  Then the potential customer should read the blurb and then the sample.  It's very time consuming.

I feel sorry for writers because even drecky writers can pay to have a pretty good cover done for them.  It doesn't improve their writing any but there you are competing with them.  Everyone shouting for attention.

It's rather demoralizing when you think about it, isn't it?

I just read what happened to Cora Carmack.  She wrote a book, self-published it and within 2 months was on the NYT bestsellers list and had a high 6 figure book deal. There's always going to be an outlier but she proves you can be heard over the crowd.  What makes her such an outlier is that it came so easily.  (Putting the book aside.)

Amazon search engine looks at all the words in your "Look Inside"/it's all metadata, so let's put that aside for the moment.

If all writers who haven't made it to the top of the charts are equally unknown, and equally doofusistic, if you have a legitimate horn--toot it.  Have you achieved anything?  Let the customer know.  Have you won an award?  And I don't mean a badge in Girl Scouts.  Let's tout real achievements and I mean real, not fantasized or invented ones because someone may decide to check just to prove you're fabricating your background.  If you're writing a novel with a boating background and you sailed in an America's Cup race, say that in your bio and the blurb.  If you have special skills or talents, mention that.  Make yourself look as bright and shiny as possible.  Rinse and Repeat as necessary.  Don't annoy people but remember that new customers are always entering the market and you are an unknown to them.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

High Concept

If you want to get noticed, the best advice I can give you or me is to come up with a great idea.

I remember when I lived in California the big sale was two advertising guys got on the phone and said we're not getting off until we come up with a million dollar idea.  They finally came up with "What if a nuclear weapon became sentient?"  I think Kevin Costner got attached to it and they got their million dollars.

I knew someone who was so angry with the way she was treated in tradpub she decided to make them pay by coming up with a million dollar idea.  She did and apparently is living happily ever after.

What's high concept?  Snakes on a plane.  Except that's bad because once you hear that, you don't need to know any more.  It got made so I suppose that's the point.

The other best advice is to look to the mechanics of screenwriting and movie making for high concepts.  Be able to explain it in a sentence.  Shout it across the parking lot and have it understood.  Some people say 15 words or less, some give you an extra 10. 

Then you, of course, have to, like Snakes On A Plane, have a title that conveys this idea.  How many words should be in a title?  I like 1 but obviously at some point we're going to run out of all the words people know.  I told a friend her 2 word title needs another word and she said "The rule of three?"  Which I admit I had never heard of,  so no, it was just that her 2 words didn't have impact or rhythm for me.  It has to have some kind of flow.

They say in Hollywood if it can sound like something someone already has heard of that's good.  What you probably don't want is something no one has ever heard of.  The Golblutz of Asyirya.  Sci Fi always baffles me.  I don't even know how to pronounce most of the words.  It's good in that community  if you're not in with the in-crowd, not so much.

The point is to connect with the audience/customers as quickly as possible.




Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Covers and Subtitles

I have a more difficult time with transitions in my life than most people (sometimes) so I understand why there are those positively CLINGING to traditional publishing.  Especially if you were treated well or are still treated well.  Like they are polite and pay you.  It's hard to see digital as anything but the enemy.

Digital is my friend, right? 

There are professionals who cannot see the difference between a digital book cover and a physical cover.  They continue to design and approve of approaches or design elements  that work in print that cannot hope to work in digital.

Let me restate what should be obvious.  The text should be readable on the cover.  The bigger the better.  This isn't art, it's a billboard to sell your book.

This isn't art, it's a billboard to sell your book.

So cutesy little phrases that people can't read without using their browser to zoom in don't work.  "A Novel of the Edwardian Era"  BZZZZT  Thanks for playing, see ya again when you recover from being slapped upside the head with a 2x4.

Keep your name relatively the same size as the title or larger.

Subtitles.  If the book is part of a series, that information should be on the cover.  If it's not you have room to include something like "A Cozy Mystery", "A Contemporary Novel" or some description.  This should be smaller.  If you're fortunate enough to be award winning you could include that.  

BUT you have to be smart since you DO want the image to be seen.  Don't include too much text.  Don't clutter up this small space.

I'm a lot happier with including the subtitle in the book's description--"Miss Grayson's Gambol: An Edwardian Novel"--than putting that on the cover.  The subtitle will appear in the listing and not clutter the image.

These are ideas you should consider whether you design the cover yourself or have someone design one for you.

 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Formatting and Don't Think I Have A Solution

If you write in Word, you should understand/accept that Microscoff adds tons of proprietary coding.  You can see it if you view the document in html code.  Very messy and I'm not good enough with html to know how to clean it up.

So I updated that Her Cold Kiss book, gave it a new cover, a little bit of a new ending so that it ended and was no longer the 1st book in a series.  I added a Table of Contents.  Okay.  Uploaded it to Amazon.  Fine.  Lovely.
If it looks good on the Kindle Fire, I figure I'm set.

I upload it to Kobo.  Total and complete corruption.  Pages with 1 sentence.  Really bad.  Not just the indent is off.  Uploaded it to BN.  Same thing.

For the next week, all I did was strip and reformat this book.  Generally any small problems can be handled in Word itself.  There's an eraser icon (whatever it is) and you click that and it's supposed to put you back to square 1.  Not always, or not completely.  What you then try is to save the document in rtf, open it in wordpad, save, open it in Word and all the formatting is stripped.

Not this time.  I did that several times.  I  opened it in Open Office, saved, whatever.  Nothing worked.  I unpublished it from BN.  That happened immediately.  I tried at Kobo, it got stuck.  Apparently Kobo support doesn't work on the weekends.  Good to know.  They finally deleted it yesterday.  Meanwhile an adequate version made it through BN.

I don't quite understand why this has to be so difficult to the point where the average person can't do it.

I also have some confusion about the TOC/NCX file.  Amazon is beginning to nicely push publishers to include a TOC.  Fine.  We covered that here some months back.  Then this NCX file issue came up.  It's hidden, it stands for Navigational Control for XML.  It's what gets you around.  I started to hear about creating this blasted thing and all this stuff I couldn't understand.  I'm a writer not a coder!

If you download the free program Sigil and look at your document that you wrote in Word and created the TOC in Word, and then save as a html, filtered file, you can look at what's in your document.  You'll see the NCX file.  

You don't have to build it, or do anything.  Word has done it for you.  So relax, that's one less thing you have to worry about.  But you are going to want to put TOCs in all your books and start going back into your old ones and do them, too.  Sorry. 

You can do it in Sigil if you don't want to do it in Word.  It's even easier there.  Or you can pay someone to do it.





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lost Romance

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers.  Sublime.

v

Someone I know (kinda) went to a seminar about self-publishing and many of the luminaries were there.

Make your name big on the cover.
Some people are reticent about this ie if you're not famous don't be so loud.
If my name has been small it's because I don't want text spread all over the image, then you have a clutter but I'm going to give it a whirl till the end of the year or I come up with something else to do.

Subtitle it.  Nothing Serious: A Romantic Comedy. 
I've heard Amazon isn't wild about that but I haven't heard they've threatened anyone over it yet.


Any word that is in your “Search Inside” segment will pop up on search engines.
Does that simplify life or what?  I don't see that it's done anything for me one way or another but it's good to know.   Since this came from someone at Amazon, we have to assume it's true and worthwhile to pay attention to what's in the first pages of the book.

Createspace wasn't mentioned and I'm on the fence about that one.  Some people love it.  Dream Horse does sell some books each month.  Murder is Exhausting never does.  You have to guess/figure out if it's worth the time and effort to bother.  It's not hard to earn the money back, but it can be like working for pennies an hour.




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thinking, Too Much Thinking!

The last 6 weeks or so have been a lot about covers.

I don't know that anyone's opinion counts for anything except the customer and we can't interview them.

Here's logic.  Your book cover will appear in thumbnail size all around the internet.  If you are good with people not being able to read the title or your name in thumbnail size because you've designed it extra special artistically, that's your choice.  It's hard enough to see the thing in thumbnail even if you try hard you might not be able to read the text.

Some people will reflect on this point and other people will ignore it/defend their choice practically to the death.
It's not that important.  Do what you want to do.

Don't make it hard for people to buy your book.  It's hard enough to get people to the book's page as it is.
Have you made the book, the blurb, the cover as attractive as possible to THEM, not to you?  We don't care about you.  You don't really matter.  Or you can matter and have complete sway on another book.  What if you only have 1 book?  Do it your way.  This is a learning experience for everyone.  Either you will learn or you won't.

I'm changing Her Cold Kiss around because I don't think anyone understood it.  I'm not devoting vast amounts of time to it but the fixes are simple, quick.  Digital publishing means not only attending to what's in the future, it also means attending to projects in the past.





Thursday, November 1, 2012

Textures

There are very few Photoshop projects that don't include at least one texture layer.
You put them on top of everything else then back the opacity way down.

A couple nights ago I was running water into a bowl in the kitchen sink and saw all these great bubbles.
I said Wow!  Textures!

So I'm sharing it with you.  Use it well, don't let the soap get in your eyes.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy by Dion & the Belmonts Not Mother Nature



Only 60,000,000 million people will be affected by this storm.  They're already being told on Long Island to expect power will be out for 7-10 days.  Luckily I don't have much in the freezer.

After Hurricane Irene, my pal sent me a nice business laptop that had gone off business lease so I have that and 2 batteries.  Still it will be a mess.

Maybe I can get a pair of socks knitted for the winter.

Monday, October 22, 2012

CreateSpace as Time Suck

I'm sorry.  I wasted hours and hours of my life on a 72 page book so I'm not giving the process high marks.
It kept telling me the images inside weren't 300 DPI.  According to Photoshop they were, so who do I believe?  Photoshop.  I wound up deleting the image instead of rebuilding it a 3rd time.
It was unhappy with my fonts, they wanted them embedded.  I tried.  According to Word they were.
I went back and forth between Word and Open Office a number of times, just like every time I try to format anything for print.

Word is good in some ways and luckily in the ways that Word crashes and burns, Open Office makes it easy.
The final version was uploaded from Open Office because you can export into PDF and embed fonts that way.

Apparently this is worth it for some writers but it's not for me.

The cover took about 6 hours.  So if you pay someone to do this for you, hundreds of dollars is understandable.


If you super super want/need to see your work in print format, by all means satisfy the longing deep inside and do it.  If you have the money to spare, have someone do it for you. 

Otherwise it's a huge time suck and spending more time on sharpening up your Kindle offerings seems to be more practical.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unheard

This was originally titled Will the Real Renie Lake Please Stand Up.  It was when that title made sense.  Now, of course, it really doesn't, so I changed it.  I did an extensive rewrite which it needed because I'm smarter now than I was then.   The original cover I liked then but don't any longer.  It was Renie standing in front of a window turned slightly to look at the audience and we can see her reflection in the glass--a girly girl, instead of the street-wise chick she's become.  It makes sense and obviously the artist read the book because he understood Renie's inability to determine who the new her was.  That confusion is fairly normal. 

I think it was always more about communication, though, since Jan is deaf and can "hear"/communicate and Renie is hearing and can't.  Maybe I titled it wrong!  The movie was called "Tough Girl" so that's completely in the wrong direction.  Unheard is the right title.

And now it has a new cover.  That has nothing to do with hearing, communication or toughness but the girl is really pretty!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Things To Do When You're Stuck

You play around with Photoshop.

What some of us might realize is that digital publishing is growing and changing very rapidly.  What worked in 2009 doesn't work now.  We've gone through some incredible phases incredibly fast.  Even when Amanda Hocking first published her books, no one had ever made a million dollars on ebooks.  Now quite a few people have. 

Readers were so excited by digital books, they were glad to have them.  Now they're not so excited.

Now we have people trying to game the system,  Sock puppets and writing your own reviews.  Something about Harriet Klausner reviewing books before they're even available.  People copying Wikipedia articles and publishing them  If there's a quick buck to be made, someone will find a way to do it.

We'll get through this phase too. 

Keep writing.  Use spellcheck.  Be serious about your work.  Get the best covers you can.  Learn how to write a good blurb.  This is important.  It's not a plot summary, it's a sales tool.  Learn how to write a sharp, succinct
100 words or less hook about your book.

Great cover--makes people stop and click to your page.
Great blurb--intrigues and makes people read the sample
Great sample--makes people want to read the whole thing.

Do that and you'll be ready for the next phase. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cover Art

There is no way of minimizing the import of cover art.  It's the consumer's introduction to you.
(Should they be called readers?  What does Amazon call them?  Probably customers.)  If you have a cover that is visually intriguing then people will stop scrolling and look.

The blurb is where you get them to read the sample or buy.

The difficulty of finding the right image that represents the sensibility of your novel is so difficult unless you are straight-line genre.

At some point some stock photo site will actively court the needs of ebooks.  It hasn't happened yet although it's possible to find many lovely and usable photos and sometimes vector art.  If I had to give advice on this, I'd say use something close until you can find something you love.  Unless you can afford to hire an artist and I mean an artist who will produce something specifically for your book, not a designer who just buys something at bigstockphoto and plops it on a template.  Make them read the book first.  It should be a deal breaker if they're uninterested in reading it.  You're paying top dollar for a design, it should include understanding what the book says.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Busy!

I remade the covers for Ari & the Doctor and Inhibitions.  I spent a day running around looking for pipe for the heater before winter sets in and all kinds of other things pulling me in opposite directions.

Call it 2 years ago vampires were the most popular topic I could think of for ebooks.  Paranormal still sells really well.  Erotica has taken the lead and from the couple bits I've read it's not the old-style erotica, this is really graphic material.

A couple years ago I was researching erotica/girlie magazines/porn and up until the 1970's it was pleasant, gentle and not very graphic.  The girls in Playboy would tease but not be nude.  They were cute.  Then everything changed and became very gynecologic.  I suppose if that's what you grew up with, that's what you like and anything less seems tame.  It doesn't appeal to me and I have to wonder what's the next level.

If it's BDSM now, then does it become like Dune, where the bad guy had to have sex with the young slave with his heart plug removed?

Not my thing.  At all.

Flowers are always good.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writers and Readers

Of course I can very easily say I never had so much contact with readers until ebooks.  Once in a while I used to get a fan letter but that was it.

Now I can see their reviews and get emails.  They know where to find me.  Obviously I'm here.  We're supposed to be able to be found because it's good visibility.  Social media, blogging and standing on the street corner wearing nothing but a sandwich sign--all ploys to get you out there.

I got a review last week complaining about Dream Horse and all the many grammatical and spelling errors.  "I would reccomend this book, though" she finished.  Well, I recommend you use spell check, babe, I do.

About two weeks ago I was accused of being a "wannabe writer".  Trust me, there are days when I don't wannabe.

But there are books to write.  On to the Christmas season!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gram Parsons

Infuriating.


Pride and Prejudiced Against Hollywood Movies

I understand Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier were considered to be wonderful actors.  That said, Pride and Prejudice is on TCM right now and its awfulness is laughable. 

Maybe Hollywood's intention was always making money and telling stories that would get people to cough up their money to be entertained.  Is there something about being vaguely historically accurate that would prevent people from being entertained?

Baring all else, every Hollywood studio had a costume department.  Did no one look at a Regency gown?  Yes, they were ugly, but not half as ridiculous as the meringues Greer Garson is wearing--sleeves so enormous she has to turn sideways to get through the doorways.

I know Elizabeth says she is quite old when speaking with Lady de Bourgh, but I thought Lizzie meant about 22, not 35.  This is like Norma Shearer, who I quite like and am grateful she took such good care of Irving Thalberg,  playing a 15 year old Juliette.  Come on.  These women were too old for the parts.

The Bennets were supposed to be, if not poor, then certainly not rich.  You should see the huge house Hollywood put them in.  If they had this much money, what was Mr. Darcy's problem with Elizabeth and her family?  The Bennets being well-off completely undercuts and undermines what Jane Austen set up.  Oh well, writers are always too close to their work so what the heck did Austen know about her story anyway?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Conflict

I signed up with Pixels of Ink.  Every day (dismayingly) there is quite a list of free or cheap books available at Amazon.  I download only the ones I think there is at least a 50-50 chance I'll get to.

Unfortunately most are disappointing and wind up DNF (Did Not Finish).  Many of them lack a center.  They lack a central conflict.  As I'm reading I can't answer the question "What does this character want?"  We are we left with the sense that nothing is happening because without conflict, nothing is happening.

CONFLICT
Man v. man
Man v. nature
Man v. self


It's not enough that your main character discovers they are a fey child or have a super power.  Saving the world is great, thanks for your efforts on my behalf!, but you need someone trying to prevent the saving of the world.  There must be an adversary.

Someone famous in the romance writing world gave a seminar and said "If your main character is an arsonist, the love interest has to be the fire investigator."

You need to personalize the struggle, the conflict.  Then you need to dramatize this conflict.  You must show incidents with rising intensity of the conflict playing out.

Again I will tell you go read a book on screenwriting.  Nothing will give you a clearer description of the three-act dramatic structure than that.

You're not writing a script?  You're not writing a drama?  Yeah, you are.

Readers don't care, all they want is a good story?  That's how you create a good story.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

People are Strange

Not when you're a stranger--I could find that song, it's by The Doors, right?--people can appear to be fine and then they surprise you by coming off the rails.

I had someone stalk me once.  Luckily not in a threatening way but it made me understand how easy it was for this person to lose their handle on clear thinking.  In the throes of this behavior, it makes sense.  All it requires is to step off the path and then everything else can be viewed through another prism.

No, this rumination is not apropos of nothing but that's the end of the rumination.

D600 w/ 40 mm



The D600 is an extraordinary camera.  From a technical standpoint, I'm not smart enough to know how the D4 is appreciably better for 4 X the price.  As I understand it, it's a more substantial body that can take being in the field better.

Yes I did drop my F once and that pretty much would have meant sending it into Nikon Repair but it was stolen a couple hours later so I never got the chance to know if it could have survived it.  I'm not on a safari or climbing Mt. McKinley.  I think my equipment is pretty safe.

From a personal standpoint, I took this photo, cropped it and uploaded it.  Even as wonderful as I thought the D7k was, I always threw some sharpening on it.  I would bump clarity, contrast and blacks.  (There's my secret revealed.)  What's here is an unprocessed image.  I'm not interested in trying to improve it.  I think this is good and leave it alone.

Maybe not every shot can be left so alone but it shouldn't be my responsibility to do what the camera's supposed to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

D600 Test Photo 2

This camera has an affinity for light.

D600 85 mm f 1.8


I sent this to a friend and she said "It looks almost 3D"

Followers of this blog, know I've been talking about a stripped down Nikon that would deliver the finest possible images for the lowest possible price.  This is that camera.  Nikon got it right.

You may not like the placement of the buttons, but at least, at the very least, discuss the quality of the images it produces.

If you can't take a remarkable photo with this camera, it's not the camera.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

D600 First Test Shot

It's not just a little bit better than the d7k, it's a lot better.

This is a raw image, taken with a 40mm Nikkor macro lens.


Unfortunately, it almost impossible to see on a blog/website how stunningly sharp this is.

It's basically the d7k body, a little bigger but not very.  It feels the same in the hand as to weight.  The buttons are all in relatively the same places.  It takes the same battery.  I took the chip and the battery out of the d7k when the 600 arrived so I could just go out and shoot.

It's happy with an FX lens or a DX which is framed in the viewfinder so you'll know how cropped down the image is.

I know there are nitpicky little things some people will glom onto and complain about but if you just want to go out and shoot and get a fantastic image, this camera will do it.  I don't know about shooting in caves or sporting events or hanging upside down off the Eiffel Tower--those people probably wouldn't be happy with anything.

Anyone want to buy a slightly used D7k?  I'll include the 55-200 zoom.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nikon D600

I actually don't know when it was formally released today or on the 11th but at any rate, today is the day I pre-ordered it from Amazon.  Why Amazon and not BH Photo?  Because I've returned stuff to Amazon before and it's really easy.  They're supposed to start shipping on the 18th but who knows how many people are ahead of me in the queue.

As with any Nikon all lenses will fit although older lenses will not be metered or have auto focus.  After I've said that I can tell you I have a Nikon lens that absolutely does not work on my D7k.  So YMMV.

My 40mm DX will work and my 85 FX 1.8 definitely will work so I got the body only.  It was still much more than the $1500 bandied about earlier in the year.

I'll take a bunch of test shots and if I don't fall in love, back it goes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How To Be Discovered

Some years ago a man who had written a movie you'd probably remember asked me about writing books.  He told me this story he wanted to write and I couldn't follow it, maybe it was something about super-powers and invisibility.  My agent gave it a definite nyetski.  Movie ideas don't translate into good books.

I think now they do.

Books are more like novelized movies than ever.  I won't name names but think about it.

There are so few ways to rise out of the multitude of books out there.  Some people don't think freebies work anymore.  My good friend thinks they do and runs them constantly.  Do reviews help?  Some say yes but if they're written by drunk trolls then no.  If they're all 5 star whether the book deserves it or not, readers are cynical.

Ya can't win but for losing!

What's the answer?  Be more Hollywood.  Seriously.  Have a high concept story (don't throw everything and the kitchen sink in, that's not high concept, that's the town dump) execute it relatively well, get a great cover, write a great blurb and wait.  People will show up.

Here's 1 definition of high concept Steve Kaire.

"I love high-concept books. A lot of the books I read and represent are high concept and get a lot of film interest. I define high concept as a premise that can be boiled down into one sentence and sets it apart from other stories by its unique hook or angle." –Paige Wheeler, literary agent

High concept is simple and unique.  It is different.  It's not another story about vampires or the zombie apocalypse unless you really have a new twist on it.

It's not about bumping up the gore factor or the porn scenes (altho erotica sells. it's still not high concept).

It doesn't always work but it works so much of the time that people want it.
The movie Speed worked.  Snakes on the Plane didn't.  It should have but no one remembers it now.  The title told the whole story, who had to watch the movie.  Jaws.  The Poseidon Story.

Come up with your own list.  It'll be educational.

If you want a lot of attention fast, this is the way to go.  High Concept.


(No I'm not being horribly shallow talking about movie ideas on the anniversary of 9-11.  I already rewatched the tapes of the morning news shows of the day, I already did my crying, and I'm still certain most people don't get that it's not over.  You can't choose peace when your enemy choses war.)