Tuesday, May 31, 2011

End Of The Month

I'm not going to give you the sales figures this month but I'll say it was better than last month.  That's all you can hope for.  I have no idea if it was better or worse at BN, the number is so low it hardly matters.  The 2 horse books are still the strongest sellers there.  Why?

I had an idea for the cover of NLM2 this morning so I spent a couple hours trying to organize that.  I don't want to give it away, but I'll say it's not pastry.  I had been looking at a dessert book on Amazon a couple years back on this topic but didn't want to invest in it.  That's always pretty much of a mistake.  So today it's not available here except as after-retail and it was $50.  No way I'm paying that for a used book in French.  I don't speak French.  I looked at Amazon Canada and they had it for half that but the wait is 1-3 MONTHS.  I wound up buying it from Amazon France, it'll be here in about a week.  I've bought from them before.  It doesn't take long.  Then I got 2 yards of oilcloth for a good price to use underneath the objects.  (Everything is a good price until you add in the ridiculous shipping costs and they're complaining the Post Office is going broke.  It's from something other than highway robbery.)  Then I looked for spoons.  I could always use one of mine, but how about if while I'm doing the shoot I have a choice.  So I had to order some baby spoons.  Well why not just go to the party outlet if I have to have yellow spoons.  Because these are both yellow and a pleasing shape.  We're talking art here.

I'm going into quite a bit of detail so you can see what can go into getting the right image for a cover.

Why didn't I just put the glass (yes, a glass is involved) down on a board and start shooting.  Well, yeah, I could but for me, that's not the point of this whole self-publishing exercise.  I can finally control everything.  The ideas I've been walking around with can finally be implemented.  So yeah, I want to do the best I can creating the image.

I don't know if this will work.  I may have to do petit fours or something anyway.  It's such a bad time of year to do stuff that will melt.

I ordered a book from an Amazon Marketplace seller last week and it arrived today.  So that's fantastic speed.  It was a little more than I like paying for used books but I wanted to read this one and it said it was in good condition.  It's nearly in near fine condition (that's a bookseller/collector term) so it was pretty much worth the money.  I would have gotten it as a download but it doesn't exist in digital.

So there's your business plan.  You pay the writer to write the book.  It doesn't sell.  It's remaindered.  Booksellers buy it for $1 then sell it for whatever.  Neither the publisher nor the writer makes a penny ever again.  And I'm happy to buy these things for 1 cent plus shipping.

Or you, the publisher, could be smart and get the damn things digitized (and I'm so sick of hearing how expensive that is to do.  You don't have the money?  Give a million bucks less for your next ridiculous advance and hire some computer tech students from NYU, CCNY, and Columbia, they'll get the job done.) and you have the hope of making some money forever.  All your backlist books could be priced at $4.99 or something.  And it's a potential bonanza.  But no.  They don't see the wisdom in that.

I'd like to see the day when every book in the Library of Congress is available in digital format

Monday, May 30, 2011

To Sharpen Or Not To Sharpen

I ran a little test just now for 2 Photoshop Sharpening Actions.  I'm not sure you can see the distinctions here on the blog but I'll walk you thru them and you can decide for yourself what you want to do.  If you're into Photoshop and photography at all.  At least it's a break from from all the writing stuff which is getting pretty darn repetitive even for me.

The first thing I did was take a close-up of a Pistou Basil, a mini French variety as opposed to the normal Greek mini basil you usually find, I started from seed and potted up this morning.  It's cloudy out and I shot in RAW instead of JPG because I thought that would help me.  If it did I couldn't tell that part.  I wanted something with a lot of lines so the sharpness would be easy to detect.

I just took the 1 shot, because I didn't really care--that wasn't the point, the point was to see how much the software could do. I think I could have tinkered with the brightness a little but it's like 95 degrees here, 150% humidity, so I'm choosing not to care about a lot of stuff this afternoon.

Here is what the original jpg looked like after I lost interest in the RAW file.  Frankly it looked better to my eye when I was shooting it than this.

Then I ran a High Pass Mask and I wasn't thrilled.  If I had spent more time I might have been happier but I decided to skip all that and try the 2 actions I talked about yesterday.  The trick with the High Pass is to go one click below the glow.

I installed the Sharpen Action.  (Photoshop, contrary to how contrary it is about everything else, if you download an action and open it up in the download folder, Photoshop will go ahead on its own and install it for you.  You don't have to do anything or "install" it.  Very nice.  You won't find that in their instructions anywhere if you can find their instructions.  Still, thank you.)

Here is the same image using what was called Sharpen Action.

You can see it's an improvement.  Sharpening only sharpens.  It doesn't mess with color tone or light.

Then I went back to the untreated image and ran Manyk's sharpening action.

I think that's better.  You need to look at the smallest leaves in the center of the cluster and decide if that's sharper than the image above or not.  At some point it becomes arbitrary and also a function of your own eyesight.  It also depends on what you're going to use it for.

Also know that while I shot this image as a huge file, I didn't save it for upload as huge.  Because I actually didn't want it that great and possibly be seen elsewhere.  Altho there's nothing preventing that and I didn't watermark it.  I just want to have a discussion about sharpness.  I should have taken a picture of the milk bottle I was using earlier in the week.  That was great because of all the lettering.  Very easy to see the sharpness.

So that's Photoshop Sharpening Actions.  Here's the address for you to download Manyk's file.  It's free out of the kindness of his heart.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sing A Song of Nikons

Blogger seems to have been healed so that's nice.  I spent the last few days working on the camera.
I don't know if anyone will be very interested but here's what I learned.  No one takes a digital picture and figures that's the end of it.  That's more like the beginning.

When I was a photography major, you did everything in the camera.  Now you do everything in Photoshop.  Including sharpening because apparently digital isn't as sharp as film and everyone knows that.  But me.  I didn't know that.

You can use the Sharpening filter, the Unsharp mask or the High Pass mask.  I think the last winds up being the easiest--on the duplicate layer remember to switch from normal blending mode to overlay or nothing happens.  There are also some Photoshop Actions (an action is an automated procedure) for sharpening but I haven't tried one yet.  So if you decide to go in that direction, those are a couple search terms to use.

Amazon sent me notification that the tripod has shipped and I should get it soon.  That'll be great.  The tripod I had in college was really unsubstantial as I recall so this one can't be worse.  It got good reviews so we'll see.

If you aren't the kind of person who really wants to do everything themselves, if you don't already have a good camera and lens, you are better off going to a stock photo site and paying $12 for a photo to use on your cover.
(Don't use a sunset.  Way overdone.)  Or the other option is to spend a really lot of time going through Flickr.com and searching for something close to what you had in mind.  Some of the people who post their images there are very talented and if you contact them, they might sell you the rights to a one-time, non-exclusive use.  It will probably cost more than you want to pay.  10 X more than Shutterstock or similar.  But in general, I find the fare at the stock photo sites to be incredibly bland and uninspired.  It's worth it (if you have the money to spare) if you are busy and completely unprepared to do an image on your own.  I did find the vector art for Sweeps at an image site but still I had to put a couple more hours in on it to get what I needed.

An older woman sent me the cover image she did for her book.  I thought the image was very good and eye-catching.  The font was wrong and I told her to look a little harder.  She agreed and found something else that was better but I think still could have been improved.

Fonts are problematic.  I want something cool, too.  But the simpler the better/easier to read.  Script can look stunning but it can be very hard to read.  Just a week ago I scored bigtime and found a font that had been given away free for years but now has disappeared.   I found it and it's great but I know it's impossible to use on a cover.  I looked for days for the right font for Mr Mitnick's Harem.  Because the Mission Santa Caterina is so central to the valley and the story, I wanted a mission style font.  That's easy.  At the turn of the 19th Century Mission Oak furniture was the rage and recently experienced a renaissance so there are plenty of Arts & Crafts style fonts out there.  Most of them were too hard to read, or not very attractive.  Then I found something that worked and it's bold enough to read easily.

I hope you aren't being discouraged by the work that a cover might be.  See, I would get more discouraged and upset if I paid someone $200 and what they presented me was 180 degrees in opposition to what I wanted.   But there are people who do terrific work and it's worth the price.  A cover is important.

I just want to put a little addition here.  Today on one of the lists I'm on, someone begged to know the dimensions of a cover in Photoshop.  I emailed her off-list 1000 pixels X 1500 pixels.  So now hours later someone answered her on list and said to check with each site because they are all different.

NO THEY ARE NOT.  This is the standard dimension for what an ebook cover is expected to be.  You can make it larger staying within that ratio but that's what it is.  Amazon will tell you what the limits to the longest side are.  You can't send them 10,000 X 15,000 because you don't know any better.

Then the answerer said "But here's the good news.  You can go to resize.com (whatever) and make your image any size you want."

NO YOU CAN'T if you want to maintain your resolution and detail.

Say I have an image that's (keeping the math easy for me here) 500 X 750 (and this is way too small, don't bother, don't entertain these numbers, they are wrong).  If your DPI isn't sufficient, when you increase the size of that image, it'll pixelate.  You can't make things bigger willy nilly.  You don't have the information in the image to support an increase in size.  Try it for yourself.  Download something from Google images that's say 200X200 and then in your graphics program blow it up real big and see what happens.  When it was resized down data was lost.  You can't make the data rematerialize just because you want the thing to be bigger.  It doesn't work like that.

Be careful about where you get your information.  This is important stuff and there are...people out there saying whatever comes into their heads based on nothing.

Maybe that's what people think of me.  That's fine.   I just want to assure you that any nutty ideas I have are always based on something!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How Books Are Now Like Movies But With Words

Some years ago I lived in California while being ignored by the industry out there.
What's his name?  I don't know but he wrote a semi-forgettable movie with Tom Selleck.  (See how much I'm telling you.  You might even be able to figure out who I'm talking about with the process of elimination!)
We got into a conversation about books because it's just so bloody difficult to write a screenplay, sell it, and see it made.  That's really tough.  So he was asking about books since I came from books.
What he wanted to do was essentially write a script but in prose.   I went back to my agent at the time and explained this to her and she said it wouldn't work.

Now we have digital and I think the time is perfect to do that.  Most readers, the ones who are here now I'm not saying anything about who might show up in 6 months or a year, like heavily plotted non-interior styles.  "Nothing happens!  This is all thinking!"  Someone basically said in a review this week.

I do take (you noticed) reviews seriously.  Not so seriously as changing anything, "What am I dumb or sumthin'?" to quote Lena Lamont in Singing In The Rain,  but to detect what they're looking for.

The line between a chicklit book and a chicklit movie is non-existent.  Bridget Jones, See Jane Date, the awful movie based on a book about the woman who hired the male prostitute to be her companion at her sister's wedding.  You could name 50 more esp if you chose TV movies from the Hallmark Channel and um LMN.  These projects have primed the audience to expect storytelling in a very filmic way.  No one "thinks" in a movie.  They're called moving pictures for a reason.

The strongest sellers in ebooks are essentially little movies.  They're in the thriller genre.  Or police procedure.  Turn on USA Network, Sleuth, or even LMN again and you'll see endless renditions of this.

So if I have to give you any advice if you wanted to attempt to write something with good results, I would tell you to write a prose movie.  Write something you would see on HBO or Showtime.  You don't need much characterization.  What you need are types.  Clearly define your character into types.  Don't be too challenging.  Don't make the character deep or complicated.  Any psychological issues they might have--and they should have at least one, and a grimy backstory--should be easily understood.  You want to explain it once and have it understood.  You can refer to it again as the story progresses but don't add to it.

There was a TV movie on LMN this afternoon (is that Andrew McCarthy as a cowboy????) and the female lead's father left home when she was young.  That ruined her life.  That's all you need.  You don't need it to be more complicated than that.  As she explained her childhood to him (why she'd open up to him is beyond me but see I'm thinking and that's not necessary) she looked sad.  Okay.  We get it now we can move on to more important things like maybe losing the ranch.  If they're on a ranch, the ranch is always in danger of being foreclosed on.  Why reinvent the wheel?

All this holds true for thrillers.  Put the woman in danger.  Slap her around.  Maybe (your choice of abuse goes here) her so she's really sad, and then have her rescued.  Just like a movie.

Don't be timid.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cloud Computing

For me, Blogger has been down for another 24+ hours.  By a circuitous route, I managed to get back here.  Very sad that a company as wealthy and clever (let's call it clever and leave it at that) can't keep Blogger running.
Makes me want to put all my really important files on an off-site computer and hope it's there next time I need it.
Like yeah.

Kindle has been slow all week but seems to be picking up somewhat.  I am weaning myself off of seeing what my ranking is on any book for a while.  I don't mind the rankings but then you see the stupid reviews.  I would like to know if everyone has very disenchanted/mean readers or if people are really being mislead by NLM.  I think they think it's chicklit and it's not.  So they take out their disappointment on me.  I've thought about playing around with the price of this, too, but I suspect I won't.

I have been working on NLM2.  A lot of time and upset has gone into the cover art due to the camera.  I got the camera to do the photography for the knitting book.  It was at the time a fairly expensive (to me) camera, a Nikon d70.  It's my 3rd Nikon but my first digital Nikon (I did have a point and shoot Epson to take images for eBay).  I've always been disappointed in the quality of the images.  First I thought it was the kit lens that came with the camera, and that's probably true.  They're going to give you a good lens?  No they'll give you the crappiest piece of plastic they have.  So I eventually got a 75-200 vibration reduction zoom and that was better but still left much to be desired. 

Over the last few weeks--and I'd like to say Way to go Nikon!  When I first read the manual I thought whoever wrote it had to be stoned and after this most recent session, I'm convinced of it.--I researched what other people were doing and trying and the problems they were having and the fixes they came up with.  I finally reached a point where it's as good as I can get it.

Which you could see if Blogger worked but it doesn't so, Sergy Brin should apologize, I've done all I can.

I suspect only a photographer would detect the softness of focus that bothers me so mightily.  It should be sharp as a knife.  That's the point.  If it's not then it's Fail.

I can't publish NLM2 without the cover, so that has to be as perfect as possible and I have a lot of work in front of me for that.  Or I can pay $150 for a lovely image from someone else.  $150 is a lot of money.  In the real world it's a lot of money.  It's not that much to those selling 20,000 books a month but I don't so I can't make that choice.   Actually my covers (change in that status in 4...3...2...) have never gotten a complaint.

I don't understand the reviews that intimate I'm an idiot.  Okay, you don't like the book.  Why does it have to become personal.  We are living in a very meanspirited culture where the snarkier you are, the better your street cred or something.  I think this is something I should deal with in Bad Apple 5 maybe.  BA4 is about something else.  Which will probably be missed anyway.  "Not enough happened!"

If Blogger ever heals, I'll try to get that image inserted, otherwise, Happy Memorial Day and thank a soldier for the freedom we enjoy and far too often take for granted.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Nook

$139.  Touchscreen, lighter, smaller, e-ink, battery lasts practically till next year.

Kobo released a new touchscreen reader , too, this month.

"One problem with the e-reader market is that if you purchased books from Amazon's Kindle bookstore, you won't be able to read them on a Nook and vice versa. This is an enormous disincentive for people who purchased books from one company to switch to another company's products, regardless of price and features."

Larry Magid on these things

That's why dedicated readers may be perfect for some--low price for children, the non-techies among us, but for anyone else there is going to be a migration away from readers to tablets.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Legacy Publishing Practices

I just went looking at the various ebooks out there.  The prices are so high, I'd rather buy them in paper.
I don't know if I should bother attempting to have a business discussion on this.

Obviously no one saw the value of ebooks a year or so ago.  That's why the market was flooded by midlist writers and others pricing their work at 99 cents.  Now we're spoiled.  But geez, pricing an ebook at $12.99?  I won't.  Not ever.  I'll wait for the thing to be remaindered and pick it up for 1 cent plus shipping then donate it to the library.  By then the author makes ZERO.  

Is a book worth more than a single mp3?  It should be since it takes so much more time to create.  Does anyone review songs?  "Gee that song by the Woodhicks was stupid and repetitive!"  So not only do writers make less at 99 cents than musicians, they get these reviews.  Of course, there may be a group that creates a song and the money has to be split.  I'm not complaining or comparing an mp3 to an epub but since I was talking about the music industry yesterday, I'm still thinking about it.

The question we might ask is what makes paper books so expensive.  In the 80s & 90s when multinational conglomerates began to buy up independent publishers like Atheneum, there were big and substantial changes.  Let me say I'm a capitalist, I believe in the free market, I believe in a free society and a small government.
I also believe in the basic teachings of the Bible.
Due to unimaginable greed--as we saw in the music industry--the multinationals treated publishing just like any other of their businesses, lightbulbs or whatever.  Except that books are not like a ratchets no matter how much you would like them to be.  So they didn't want to pay adults to be editors--too expensive--so all the adults started leaving (mostly to become agents, or sometimes writers).  The editors were fresh out of college who were happy to live in studio apartments just to be in New York where they could go clubbing.  They didn't have a background in literature particularly (one editor I spoke with had no idea what Ivanhoe was) and didn't really know how to edit.  Or even think clearly.  They were there to *acquire* books.  That's all.  That's why they were called aquisitions editors.

My editor at Berkley on my travel series made some notes on the first book, read the second, left for a job at NAL for the third (now she's a writer) and no one gave me notes on the last book.  And it was the last because Bertlesmann bought out Berkley during that period and killed the series.

See, I'll be around to give myself notes on NLM2.  I'm not going to NAL.  My future depends on this book, it's important to me.  Very.

So you have these poorly paid young women struggling to do all the work while the bosses are jet-setting around the world.  That's why an ebook costs $12.99.  Not because the Seal Team 6 of publishing squired this book thru the system.  No.  It's because these businesses have vampires at the helm.  They're sucking everyone white.

It's not about spreading the wealth around, it's about greed.  It's about doing the right thing by everyone you deal with.  

Okay so they did the suck everyone white in music (executives making more than the artists, putting more cocaine up their noses if that's possible etc).  How's that working out for you?  No one's buying music anymore, they're downloading it.  Artists, like Aimee Mann, go out on their own.

Here's OK GO, a band without a record label supporting them.  Here's a link to Damian Kulash's article in the Wall Street Journal Future Of The Music Business

We're on the same track in publishing.  Books priced fairly are bought.  Books not priced fairly are not bought.
So with some exceptions, you have legacy publishers failing in the ebook realm and indie publishers succeeding.

Of course writers can't give concerts and no one will pay to hear me read Bad Apple, so it's not apples to apples.  Music and literature are not the same but oddly enough, the similarities are shocking.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

As CDs Were To Music

So are ebooks to publishing.

There's not much more to say about it.  There's of course an argument if you are on the side of legacy publishing.  What is it again?  Probably something like ebooks make up 8% of the books sold in the world today.  It's not a threat.  Okey Dokey. 

"Watch and learn, kid.  Watch and learn."--Geraldine Granger, the Vicar of Dibley.

This is the first episode, part 4.  You could watch it from the beginning, of course, as all the parts are there and it is wonderful.

I just read Steve Knopper's book "An Appetite For Self-Destruction"

"Knopper, a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, takes an inside look at the highs and lows of the record industry during the past 30 years. Beginning with the crash of the disco craze in the late 1970s, the industry revitalized itself numerous times over the years, beginning with Michael Jackson, MTV, and the boom in CD sales in the 1980s, through the teen pop of the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, and Britney Spears in the 1990s. The entrenched sense of entitlement and complacency was rocked to its foundation, however, with the ushering in of the digital age. Instead of embracing the new medium, the record companies insisted on clinging to the old model of forcing buyers to pay $18.95 for a CD just to get the one or two songs they really wanted. Knopper takes us inside the boardrooms for heated debates between high-flying record executives, and into the basements and garages of the computer geeks who brought them down. Although the record industry continues its uneasy relationship with digital music, he shows how independent artists are finding creative ways to use the medium to their advantage." --David Siegfried 

Some day soon someone will write a book like this but about publishing.  And the reaction to everyone outside the industry will be "Oh boo-hoo, bring on the whaaambulance."  It's hard to feel sorry for someone who is just so bloody self-destructive.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Who Knows What You'll Find Here

I don't want to link to Huffington Post and I didn't want to go there but some "famous" guy I never heard of, Jason Pinter, wrote an article about all the wonderful things we writers will miss with the adoption of epublishing.  This link will get you there.  
You will miss lovely book signings where fans fawn all over you.  Or in the case of the vast majority of writers you will miss sitting in a bookstore all day and being ignored, and signing no books and also selling no books.
You will miss seeing your book in the bookstores.  Or if you have a situation like mine with The Complete Idiots Guide (I was the idiot) to Knitting Patterns, NOT seeing it in any stores.
So go there I guess if you want to snort your morning beverage through your nose because you need a new keyboard.

Seems to me a ridiculous take on what we'll miss.  I'll miss not making any money.  I'll miss being treated shabbily.  Yeah right.

Let me tell you about this experience I had.  I was in Santa Barbara at the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore and they actually had a copy of my gingerbread book.  No, I don't remember the title.  It could be Gingerbread: Things to Make and Bake which goes down in the annals of publishing history as one of the stupidest titles ever.  But then the editor was about 19 years old so what can you expect?  I wanted it titled Gingerbread:  Homes For The Holidays.  But as I've said many times, I'm just an idiot writer who is quickly dismissed and discounted when it comes to really important decisions.

So I pick up this book and bring it to the counter and say "I'm the author.  Would you like me to sign it?"

They were appalled.  How dare I suggest defacing this book?!  NO!!!  Cross.  Garlic.  Uzi submachine gun pulled out to scare me off.

I sold used books for a while and I can assure you that having an author inscription is added value, not a case of defacing a product.

Speaking of inscriptions, third day in a row, I admit to being confused.  There's a site/company that for a fee enables you to sign your ebooks.  Why must one pay for someone to do this?  Is this something readers are clammoring for?  Why don't we all just "sign" our books at the beginning of the process?  No, it won't be personalized but are you trying to tell me there is added value in a digital product being fake signed? 

You can create a jpg in under 5 minutes.  I wouldn't pay for the service.

Friday, May 20, 2011

You Thought I was Done With Reviews

ACK!  The bane of my life.

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice - but, May 19, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Not Low Maintenance (Kindle Edition)
As in "Sweeps" which I devoured, the story of a strong young woman's struggle to attract and hold her one and only is marvellously told. Like travel in spectacular country, there's always much to marvel at.
Until the end. An error.. A cumulative poison comes into play - but the one chosen is not in fact cumulative. And this does tend to suspend belief. However in an ebook that could be easily fixed . 

This is not an error.   Apple seeds are poisonous.  Yes, in quantity.  I don't know even by researching it, how many you really have to eat and in what time-frame.  I'm sure because it's POISON this information is probably better off not revealed  like Casey Anthony learning how to make chloroform to kill little Caylee. 

This is fiction.  I'm not Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell.  I'm not a forensic scientist and from the level of some of the reviews, neither are the readers.  Geez, just let it go.

Old Pete, I'm grateful for your lovely review of Sweeps and the appreciation you have for my work.  That said, Please don't read Fling.  If you show up here, contact me and explain this really easy Act 3 fix which has tentacles everywhere.  I guarantee if I can't shoot holes it in like I was using a TEC-9, I will use the fix.  

Liberty Media has offered a billion dollars for Barnes & Noble.

We all know I'm bad at math (and poisons apparently!) and forget business, that ain't gonna work for me either.  But Amazon to quote Charlie Sheen for the 2nd time this week (and he disgusts me) "Winning!"  BN has to do something different already.  

If Amazon really wants to put a stake into BN's heart the easiest way is to open up the Kindle Store to epub.  Draw everyone in the world to the digital superstore regardless of their reading device. 
Maybe that's simplifying it but Amazon is the driving force in digital content.  Except there's this epub issue.  Maybe that's where Bezos is going based on what we talked about yesterday.  If so then BN has to offer something different, something that Amazon doesn't offer.  What's that?  Besides a Nook Color, BN offers nothing different.  Although I like the readers who leave my nice reviews there very much.  

The big thing is always going to happen.  Then when it does, it turns out not to be such a big thing.  So we wait till the end of this year to find out if Amazon adopts epub format.

You know vampires are not real, right?  There is no school of witchcraft and wizardry and shouting expelliarmus does not disarm your foes.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Amazon Adopts Epub---or Something

There's an article--I'm sorry I can't make heads or tails out of it really but maybe you can.
Amazon allows epub

Epub is a format adopted by many companies/devices.  Mobi is an Amazon aberration.  This reminds me of  iTunes which was so bloody proprietary that I had to pay like 3 different times for my favorite Ramsey Lewis song.  I eventually got a convertor program to put it into mp3.  I have refused to go back there ever since (years)--way to please customers!

Bezos is in the same position.  He's been insisting on a format that will never be adopted as industry standard.  Why do I know that?  Because tablet computers don't use it and more and more people are realizing a dedicated reader is stupid when you can have a computer for nearly the same price that will do lots of things and you can play Angry Birds on it.  Sure there is Kindle for Android, can we make life more simple instead of more complicated?   Overdrive, the library lending program, uses epub. 

This is like the Betamax/VHS war.  VHS won.  (And that's dead now, too, word to the wise, pal.)  Bezos has won the war, he owns ebooks.  Give in on the skirmish, adopt epub and dump mobi.

But that's not what this article seems to be attempting to convey.  (Oh, a review.  Remind me to talk about that after this part)  What the article says is that 4 publishers were given the green light to submit in epub format.
Who freaking cares?  You can submit in doc or html now.  What is the benefit for *submitting* in epub and then having it sold in mobi?  I don't get the greatness of this.

The article then goes on to hint about Overdrive.  Somehow Amazon will accommodate Overdrive's need for epub by the end of the year.  What does that mean?  What I don't want to see is a buffet of formats available to Amazon like at Smashwords.  It's stupid, it's cluttered and it's unnecessary.  Going forward let's all be epub.  I don't know how they solve the current devices that require mobi problem--that's what coders are on earth for.  I write the books, let them figure out how to make them available to a vast audience. 

If Amazon is going to support epub, does that mean I can use my Nook Color to buy books at Amazon?  Or is it just that Kindles will read epub format?  

So BN is going to release Nook Color 2 this month or something and Amazon is gonna ...not have color and stick with mobi or something.  It's sort of non-news unless I should have had my secret decoder ring and figured out what the article was really saying.

Anyway, if you'll recall I got 2 feral reviews for Sweeps in the past weeks.  I really felt like "Did you read MY book?"  I couldn't understand.  I seem to be having this problem a lot!  Yesterday I (and I don't want to look at the pages anymore, and I don't want to look at reviews) wound up seeing Sweeps had gotten another review.  Being a weak woman, I looked.

5.0 out of 5 stars masterpiece, May 18, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sweeps (Kindle Edition)
A complex tale of the clash between two opposites - who deeply attract each other.
If you like fine writing, word play, emotion, then this is for you.

So it's kinda weird to see this next to 2 reviews that essentially call me an idiot who threw words at the computer in order to cheat them out of 99 cents.

Here's the Ramsey Lewis song.  I did a beautiful vid for it which youtube quickly yanked off and threatened me with jail time etc.  I guess someone changed their mind because here it is now.  Maybe I should try uploading mine again.  Like I have nothing else to do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Modern Times

I've been thinking about the incident of yesterday.  And then surprisingly, my rabbi emailed me to tell me about a book written about a friend of mine.  (I'm not going to get it and read it.)  I talked about the day and got around to mentioning the Nook.  He asked about it.  I touted all its wonders.

Do people in legacy publishing realize the sea change that's occurring now?  Or are they like the Amish pretending they're living in an era that's passed?  Did it occur to that agent that after not hearing from her for about 6 months that not only did I not even remember I had written to her but that I might have taken control of my book and gone digital?

What are they seeing in legacy publishing that so many of us no longer see?  Any upside there is to legacy publishing is more than balanced out by what digital offers.

I did a book for Alpha/Penguin.  My agent at the time emailed me and asked if I could forget about the nonfiction book on gardening and do one on knitting instead.  Did I know anything about knitting?  Yes.  So I had a phone call from the scatty editor who said there would be 20 projects.  And I had 10 weeks.  I thought that was fairly insane but 20 projects isn't so bad.  I started in.  I finally got the contract.  The editor kept asking for more projects.  I realized I couldn't both write this and knit at the same time.  I struggled to find knitters.  Then when all the knitting from all around the country was done, this scatty editor asked where the photos were.  What photos?  The photos of the projects being made.  I pointed out the first issue--that wasn't in the contract.  And with her schedule forced on me, I couldn't be in Florida and California and points in between taking pictures. It wasn't 20 projects anymore, it was closer to 100.  It was one huge blow up after another with her.  She'd be good for a couple weeks and then throw a tizzy fit upsetting everyone.  Finally she left the company and I was forced on another editor who said she would never have given me 10 weeks to do a book like that, it would have been more like 18 months.  So all the knitting was done, all the patterns were done in the 10+ couple weeks extension.  And then they announced I needed an illustrator.  I went thru 3 people to get all the illustrations required.  I paid out most of my advance.  And then we sat for a year because we missed the original pub date.  By the time my book was published, the craze for knitting books had peaked.  They didn't get it into any of the chain stores like Borders.  I still owe them about $16,000.  I cleared nothing from the advance.  It all went to create the stupid book.  And when they owed me the final payment and my dog needed a cardiac specialist to live and I didn't have the money to pay for it, they wouldn't pay me.

So just tell me what's so great about legacy publishing.  Because this isn't the anomaly, it's the standard.  Sure if you're Amanda Hocking and they just threw 2 million bucks at you, your book is going to be in the stores.  Me, not so much.

Is it such a feather in your cap to be published by one of the Sick Six?  Is that really an ego boost?  I get an ego boost if I see Rise has sold another copy.  So I'm curious about their arrogance and complacency.  Where does that come from and is it deserved?

I'm bored by it.  The past is the past.  Digital isn't going away.

This vid has nothing to do with publishing, it's just gorgeous.  It's a Roy Orbison song sung by Cyndi Lauper. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Am Grinning From Ear To Ear

I wasn't sure I had anything to say today because I found something to say in NLM2 so I was going to get right to that after making dog biscuits etc etc.

But this email arrived in my mailbox and I'm copy and pasting it for you to enjoy.  I'm not hiding her identity.  They're proud of themselves.  They're the elites.  So why hide.

Last year I queried this agent re: NLM.  So here we are 5 months later.  I'll give you her note first and then my reply.  That's a good way to do it.

Her first

Dear Barb,  

Thank you for getting in touch regarding your book NOT LOW MAINTENANCE. I'm sorry to say that I'm unable to request more material at this time. I should let you know that a pass isn’t a reflection on your writing. I can never be quite sure what will catch my eye, which is why I look at each and every query I receive, but in the end, there’s no telling what manuscripts and proposal will resonate with me and what I might let slip away.

However, every literary agency prefers different styles and genres and your work may be a great success with another agency. I wish you the best of luck with the manuscript and thanks so much for thinking of me!

Best regards,

Joy Azmitia | Russell & Volkening | Literary Agents
50 West 29th Street #7E | New York, NY | 10001 | Tel - 212.684.6050 | Fax - 212.889.3026

My reply

On 5/17/2011 2:13 PM, Joy Azmitia wrote:
Dear Barb,  

Thank you for getting in touch regarding your book NOT LOW MAINTENANCE. I'm sorry to say that I'm unable to request more material at this time. I should let you know that a pass isn’t a reflection on your writing.
I know!  It's sold over 7000 copies in the last 6 weeks at Amazon Kindle.  It's been #2 behind Michael Connelly in Legal Thrillers for the past 2 months.   I love that!  In another list, I'm #3 behind Michael Connelly and John Grisham.  Me with my self-edited book with the homemade cover that no one in New York was the least bit interested in.  There I am.  I imagine them going "Who's that?!"  So I'm really not interested in legacy publishing anymore which is good because it's not interested in me.  You can probably understand that dynamic.

Thanks for getting back to me, though.

Have a good day.

Barb Morgenroth
I do want to say something about the potential for this reply being perceived as mean.  I have discussed situations such as this, altho not this specific one, with my rabbi.  Anything that's important I discuss with him.  This is true.  Sometimes you do people a disservice by not confronting them with the truth, or reality.  I wasn't mean to Joy, she was quite nice to me, wasn't she, provided that wasn't a form letter where she typed in my name and the title, which I suspect it was because I'm just a worthless writer after all.  And she's in a difficult position because we here know legacy publishing is dying.  So she's in a dying industry, although she doesn't know it consciously yet.  I'm sorry for her.  I was in a dying industry, too.  Legacy publishing.  It was freaking killing me.  
This blather about someone else maybe possibly liking my work after it took her 5 months to get back to me, I should invest/waste still more time to be rejected by these people.  It's cuckoo. 
I've got real work to do, real books to write and sell, I don't have that much time for their futile games.  They jerk writers around as if our lives don't matter.   

To quote Charlie Sheen "Winning!"


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Stuff

I was reminded of one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies this morning at the supermarket.  I have fallen in love with a new brand of yogurt and there was none of my favorite flavor in the case.  I turned to the young man who seemed to be in charge of all things dairy and said "Do you have any black cherry?"   He said "I think I do."  And there was a case right there on his handtruck thing.  He was going to open the box and I practically shouted "Give me the case!"  It was a double score because it was on sale this week, too.  Non-fat.  Thick.  Best.  Yogurt.  Ever.

So here's the trailer.  The movie is about a yogurt-like substance that oozes out of the ground.  It's good for you.
You'll lose weight.  You'll never be tired again.  But as Michael Moriarty says at the end "Are you eating it or is it eating you?"

You can go to youtube and watch the entire movie in 9 parts which I of course recommend as I have a dvd of it and watch it frequently.  It's funny, endearing, stupid, well-written, quotable, well-acted, preposterous and even a bit like The Blob.  The commercial jingles are terrific.  The Bloom Brothers are gorgeous.  Embedding has been disabled so if all I can persuade you to do is go watch part 9, then please do and you'll know how I felt carrying the case of Chobani out with me just an hour ago.  Then throwing a bag over it on the passenger seat when I passed a state trooper on the way home, furtively trying to hide my treasure.  (No, sillies, no bag but I did pass a trooper as I was rolling through a stop sign.  How about you put the stop sign where drivers can actually see up the road.)

The Stuff part 9

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Amazon Is Very Clever

I was just over there to do a tweak on my tags.  I'd love to get people to stop thinking of NLM as chicklit.  Why?  Because all the chicklit I've read is fluff and I don't write fluff.  I think it misleads readers but I don't know that tags will help me.

But this new thing will.  As I scrolled down I noticed a new (to me) section called Highlights.  Yes, it's a little unnerving but you turn it on or off at will.  As a reader is reading, they can highlight passages of the book.  If you have it turned on, your Kindle phones home and sends that information back to Amazon Zentral.  If enough readers do this, it'll go on this Highlights section on the book's page.

As I read through, I was actually quite impressed with the passages readers had highlighted.  They were all salient and significant.  It wasn't the jokes, these were meaningful thoughts.   As John Locke would say these people are my audience.  I don't have to guess--having these comments pulled from the book by readers and made available on the book's page are a selling tool that easily negates thoughtless reviews.  You want to know what the book is about, here ya go.  Thank you, Amazon!

I checked with a couple other books in the ribbon of "People who looked at this also looked at" and the few I checked didn't have a highlights section.  You have to have a certain number before it can happen for you.  So that's cool that I crossed the threshold with at least 1 book.

I'd like to point you to what John Locke has to say about bad reviews which I found helpful.
John Locke on Bad Reviews

Missed Opportunities

We all have them, don't we.  Sometimes we choose to miss them and sometimes we don't realize we're missing them.

I read a book this week with a premise so engaging I looked forward to its arrival in my mailbox.  Yes, it was a paper book.  For a whole penny.  (What did that reviewer say?  Yeah.  "Worth the price!")

Again it was well over 100 pages before the "love interest" showed up.  What am I not understanding about this style of writing?  If --geez do I have this wrong after all these years?--the engine of storytelling is conflict and the primary dynamic of your book is between THE MAIN CHARACTERS don't you want the two of them to be in proximity as soon as possible?  Isn't this, again, Writing 101?  

Okay so we dawdled for page after page, close to 200 of them, talking (I'm not even going to say focus because that was more than what was on the page) about the friends and family and nothing really happened.  Isn't something supposed to happen or did I get that part wrong, too?

Finally I was relieved when the guy showed up.  And the premise was so rife with potential, I was excited to see how the relationship and the history of the characters was going to be explored.  I was prepared to savor this one.

And now that I finished the book I can't tell you his history.  The really super interesting choices he made are a mystery.  I know he had his feelings hurt.  She had her feelings hurt.  Okay.  We covered that in a paragraph or two.  Now back to the friends and family and nonsense filler.

What a missed opportunity.

It's shallow.  It's psychologically, spiritually and intellectually unsatisfying.  

Have you ever seen the movie Demolition Man?  (Wow!  Are we lucky someone posted this clip for us!)

All books do not have to be "taco bell".

Bargain Basement Books

This is sort of about price but it's more about value.
I said I had been reading reviews on books other than mine.  I was struck by one reader having a real tizzy fit about price.  It went something like "You get what you pay for.  I've never liked a book that cost less than $3.  This reinforced that experience."
I had someone say about one of my books "Worth the Price!"  Geez.  It costs 99 cents.  Does it mean it's bad or it's good?  It was a 4 star review so I took it as a good thing but still is it really only worth 99 cents?

What's 99 cents?  Symbolically.  It's bargain basement.  It's as low as you can go without being free and Amazon doesn't permit indie publishers to price at free.
If there is no overhead and there is no team of employees, what financial investment is there in my book?  There's my time.  My time used to be worth a great deal with I was working at ABC but my time has no value to anyone but me right now.  I could, however, do something other than write and "give" my work away to people who have no sense of the lifetime invested in perfecting my craft and living to gain the experience and wisdom to put on the page.  I can't put a monetary value on my time but if you take the Joe Konrath view, I'll get paid forever and forever is a long time.  I'm not going to live forever, though, Joe.  And I don't know if digital books will live forever either.  So let's try to keep it to a decade for the time being.  So 99 cents for the next 10 years, it's a good deal.

But value.  Price is the only way I can think of this morning that determines value.  AND, of course, rarity.
If there isn't much of something the price goes up.  There are tons of diamonds in Africa but they're being withheld from the market so the price will remain artificially high.  Supply and demand.

To be honest there are a ton of books being published that are total crap and maybe readers should be paid to read them.  Already we see supply and demand kicking in.  There is high demand for reading material but the supply of better books is always going to be smaller than the total of all books.  Better books are not being priced as if they have greater value than the crap books at the moment.

Digital books don't exist in the real world, you can make 1 or a million and the cost to produce it is the same so they're not like diamonds.  They're not even like Skeezik Stones sold at the Home Shopping Network.

There will come a time, probably sooner than I expect because everything in digital is faster than anyone  expects, that there will be some kind of tier system observable.  

I don't mean pricing Bad Apple 1 at 99 cents and all the rest in the series at $2.99 altho when writers do that it's a vague attempt to bring price and value into line.  When I raised the price of the Kate book to keep feral children from leaving malicious reviews on it (and that worked) that was an expression of value.  Essentially I was saying, This book is "worth" more, it needs to be treated better.  And it's not about money but price is one of the best ways to identify intrinsic value.

I suspect (with no background in finance and dyscalcula) the reader, not the writer,  will be the driving force in identifying value.  Just like the feral children did for Kate.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Artificial Publishing Ease

I have frequented one blog, gee, I think longer than any other, because it draws intelligent, astute comments and I have unbounded admiration for the host.  I offer you a snip from a comment on a recent thread about a blogger (who I never heard of) who was quitting.

"the artificial publishing ease created by the blogosphere removed all barriers that held back the would-be writer. When the internet made writing accessible to all, many people showed that they could do it, but it never really became a part of who they were. It was a hothouse atmosphere that spawned many a prize orchid, but for most it was only a temporary dream come true. Rare is the man who is destined to write; rare is he for whom it becomes his real calling and his real work, in rain or in shine, in sickness or in health. Writing is a very unusual business and few there are who are born to it."

This seems to be the meme of the week.  People writing who are unwilling to be real writers ie someone who invests, according to Konrath, 10,000 hours to perfecting his craft.  Konrath's guest poster said he's often asked how to effectively market an ebook but he is rarely asked how to become a better writer.  I can top that.  While I am often asked how to market, no one has ever asked me how to become a better writer.

Quite the reverse.  I am far more likely to have my advice attacked, to witness unearned self-confidence, raging arrogance and in general be treated as if I am stupid.  Why they ask for my input is beyond my ken.  (Ken!  Oh geez.  How do I even know that obscure word going back to Old English from the German verb kennen which means to know?!)  I don't have anything to prove so good luck poking a sharp stick at me.

Rise is being found and finally it went live on Amazon.  I spent a couple hours yesterday switching Sweeps back to itself on BN where it was Love After Lunch for a couple months.  Those changes went live already.  BN is so good at publishing things quickly.  Bravo to BN.  I thought it should be the same on both sites.  It really wasn't a case of test marketing or comparing, it was more like the complete lack of energy and desire to change it back.

I want to leave you today with a piece of filmic art.  This was created in 1899 by the Lumiere Brothers in France.  Each frame was hand tinted.  They had a commitment to their art, a desire to constantly improve the craft, the need to communicate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rise Live

At least it is at BN.  Not yet at Amazon.  Why does it take them so long?  The book was fine in epub format.  I don't know what it really looks like in mobi.  In the Kindle emulator the right hand margin disappeared.  Again I find myself at a loss as to know how to fix that.  If it's fine on my computer screen, and the Nook, then it's something more esoteric than I can get my mind around.

I had problems with uploading the zip file.  If you open an html file in Calibre it *looks like* you are given a nice zip file, too.  Don't believe it.  I don't think the images are included.  I don't know what's in there but I couldn't use it and had to revert to Open Office just because it's more predictable.  Yeah it only took me 90 min. instead of a whole morning or whatever.

I'm not done with the work involved.  I still need to add promo pieces to the other books and then upload the changed documents.  So more hassle with zip files.

Why zip?  Because if you include images, kindle requires a zip file.

I got a 2 star review on Not Low Maintenance call it yesterday.  I think several things are in operation.  We are now very accustomed to being on the internet and pretty much able to get to anyone.  There are forums galore where we can comment on everything.  Anonymously.  Without fear of repercussion.  This coupled with a general meanness, gives people the idea they can or should say anything they damn well please as if there is wisdom attached to their random notions.

Look at me!  Look at ME!

It's mostly a form of attention seeking.  Sure there are plenty of reviews that are an attempt to help people.  I was reading vacuum reviews yesterday and some are very informative.  But as for the poor reviews books garner (yes, I went around reading reviews on other people's books yesterday, too)  I can't now guess what psychology they spring from.  Sad people.

Apparently the bad review NLM got hasn't impacted sales all that much because on Monday it sold 244 copies and today it's 196.  Which I suppose is significant if you're talking about going from 0 to 50 but it's just not that significant when it's selling 150 copies a day and it's still #2 and #3.

I'm not done talking about reviews, though (you hoped!).  No, because the comments are not astute literary criticism, they're just petty personal reactions basically saying "I'm not pleased with the way you did this.  In fact, I'm damned irritated and I'm going to get you for it."

Writing, however bastardized it is at the moment, is still an art.  Yes, there is skill involved.  Technique, intelligence and knowledge.  Writers sit down and make artistic choices.  For whatever reasons they have, this is what they want to say.  It's art not computer programming.

As I said yesterday, if I comment on someone's work, I don't set about to rewrite it.  I try to spot where they may have gone wrong structurally or dramatically.  I don't give two hoots and a holler about their specific choices.  If I say something I'm prepared to defend it in a logical way based not on my emotions but on the reality of storytelling.

The way things are set up now, writers and their books are like the clown dunking tank at the carnival.  Everyone takes pot shots at you and you can't respond.  No wonder Caleb Carr went nuts at Amazon creating a sock puppet to defend his book. 

So this woman didn't like the end.  I guess Joel and Viva together at the end, however predictable that is, is what she required.  I didn't want to do that.  I don't think like that.  This is what I chose.  Or was it more of the end, like Act 3 as the end?  Was it what happened to David?  Was it what happened afterward?  What about the "end" bothered this woman so grievously? 

Okay so she hated  it.  What about all the Jews in the book?  This was a drawback for traditional publishing and yet readers don't seem to notice.  No one says anything about that.

These are not interactive novels.  You don't get to choose your own ending.  If you want to choose your own ending, write your own book.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Formatting Bad Apple #3

I don't know when I finished writing this book and then started post-production.  Time loses its meaning at this point.  I thought I had everything set up pretty well so I wouldn't be stuck with a big mess at the end and that's true but I had a centering issue.

I don't understand computer programs.  You click on center and why doesn't it just center?  No, it has to be more complicated than that.  You have to Google it, and then you find out you're the only person who's had this problem.  NOT!!!  There are 27 pages of hits for this issue.  When you go into the catacombs of Word you find out there is an "align to top" and "align to center".  Why why why?  And why isn't align to center the default?  I've never heard of align to top.  Who uses that, engineers?

So I realigned it.  I resized the treble clef about 6 times.

Here's some news.  Nook doesn't like PNG images.  Okay.  Had to go back and make it a JPG.  Good thing I now have the Nook Color so I can check the formatting and all. (I still don't know why that one reader saw all the l's (ells) as 1's (ones) because there was a section in a book I downloaded that was like that too.  A traditionally published book that should be perfect, right?  I would like to avoid these issues.

I thought it would be done this past weekend and now I'm hoping it'll be live for this coming weekend.
I have read 2 books in a row that I have a difficult time explaining.  One I would say I am absolutely sure the writer thought she had lots of material for a good series of books but she quickly ran out of steam.  Book #1 was pretty good, good enough for me to seek out #2 and #3.  By #3 it was totally horizontal.  She was throwing the kitchen sink at the page trying to fill it all up.  The characters were if not flat, unlikeable, the murderer was completely predictable, the "love" affair was as bloodless as you could imagine.  I didn't even know these people liked each other.  Not that these days you need to like someone to have sex with them, but I think it's a good place to start.  I should go read the reviews on this book and see if she gets yelled at for the romance part the way I have been.

The other book...wait, I have to remember what that was...oh yeah.  The cover is the best part of this book.  I feel like ripping it off and um framing it or something and throwing the book away.  Again we have a main character who is completely unlikeable.  She's supposed to be a Strange Baptist (no idea what that is but it's gotta be some flavor of Christianity, right?) and she's as rude and unpleasant as I could imagine.  Such a shame.
That's a missed opportunity for the writer to portray a Christian in a good and positive light instead of this irritable bitch.  The writing is totally horizontal.  We're hearing about what's in the pantry, how she's cleaning the house, the neighbors, the town, everything except the relationship with the freaking love interest who 100 pages into the book hasn't even shown up yet except in telephone calls in which they argue and then hang up on each other.  Foreplay?  I think not.


So what's horizontal writing?  Think about it.  You should be writing/building toward something.  The writing is ascending dramatically.  That is story structure.  It holds true in novels, in plays, television and in film.  This has existed since humans sat around the fire and told stories.  It pre-dates the Greeks.  It is how it works.  If you're not building to anything, if you're essentially treading water, then it's horizontal.  You're supposed to be on a roller coaster, not one of those toy train rides around the amusement park.

If you have nothing to say, if you have no dramatic incidents, you will be going horizontal.  You will be boring.  No one can do that and not be boring.  No one is that good a writer.

How do you solve horizontalitis?  Kill someone.  It's what works in thrillers.  Have something happen.  RAISE THE STAKES for your character.  Make something important happen to them or take something important away from them.  Throw a monkey wrench into their life.  Let us see into their hearts and minds. 
This is writing 101.  I find it difficult to believe these fairly well-known authors got published with such amateurish books. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Sounds Delicious!

Why did they stop making this?  It sounds enchanting.  And Juicy Fruit is terrible.  (No, they're not the same, did you think I wouldn't check?)

This is a two-for one deal.  The artwork was done by Neysa McMein.  No, I don't expect you to know of her but she was in with the in-crowd during the 1920's.  Yes, she was a member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table.  Later in life, she went into portraiture and painted some of the most famous people of the century.

Apparently no one has written a biography of her which is unfortunate.  I'm sure there are some fascinating stories to be discovered and told, since she had an open marriage and was considered a feminist.  Update:  Someone did write a book that had something to do with her in 1988 but since it's *out of print* now we have no way of knowing what's inside without spending $20 to get it.

At one time I wanted to write a book about the history of the bomb shelter.  Did you know that the scientists in the early days of the atomic bomb thought fallout was a myth?  Yeah.  And the government thought you could stay in the bomb shelter and play board games for two weeks and then return to the surface where everything would be swell again.  No residual effects from this nuclear war that just took place.  They so did not have a clue.

So I did the proposal and I got an agent somewhat interested but the bottom line was being told "History begins with The Brady Bunch."  Excuse me?  No one really wants to read about anything that happened pre-Brady Bunch.  Okey Dokey.

I get it.  There's a small audience for a book about Neysa McMein.  How about digital?  Is it still a small audience?  No, it's automatically a larger audience.  

Old days.  Someone walked into a bookstore.  They browsed.  No book on Neysa McMein.  Oh well.  It wasn't foremost in their mind anyway.  How would they even know it existed?  How was that researched ?  Pre-computer.

New days.  Hey, I just read about a glamorous party with the glitterati of Manhattan that took place in Neysa McMein's art studio.  I'll type that into Amazon search and see if anything turns up.  Bingo.  There's the book.
It's perfect for digital.

So aren't you fascinated at how deftly I moved from California Fruit Gum to yet another indictment of legacy publishing?  Me, too!

Friday, May 6, 2011

How To Get Published

Or taken.

I have a gmail acct and they sneakily give you ads based on key words in your emails.  So of course because I'm on a couple publishing lists, I had an ad this morning "How To Get Published".

I was baffled.  What kind of idiocy is this?  You take your manuscript, format it according to the FAQ at kindle and 5 min. later you are published.

But no, this is XLibris who will do it for you.  Why do you need them?  Have you never heard of CreateSpace?
I'll tell you a brief story.  I had a dear friend who was incredibly intelligent but she had a hard time channeling that into anything productive.  (The smartest person doesn't always succeed.)  So let me call her Chantal just to be over the top.  So Chantal was a good enough writer.  She was fine and she could have been published IF she had ever written anything anyone would want to read.  But she didn't because all her stuff got in the way.  She came upon an agent who took her on and then who quickly found her a publisher up in Canada--Commonwealth I think it was called--and they wanted to publish her non-fiction book, the Christian Cuss Book.  Because Chantal, with all her amazing brain power, had gone through the Bible and determined what cuss words good Christians could use.   

Chantal explained the facts of life to me.   "I know publishing has changed since you started and Commonwealth has asked for $3000 to cover the costs."  I  tried to be calm and nice about it.  "Listen to me, Chantal, you don't pay them, they pay you."  "Yes, that's the old way," she explained patiently as if I didn't get it.

Turned out Commonwealth was running a huge scam and was closed down by the Royal Canadian Mounties.  The "agent" was the wife of the publisher or some such thing.  So poor Chantal got caught up in this mess.  Her mother lost thousands of dollars and Chantal took another body-blow to her already frail self-image.

I don't know what makes writers stop thinking clearly when it comes to their books.  I see it weekly on the mailing lists, not this but close enough. 

Another story, not mine.  This is a big Chassidic story that's told often.  A man needs to get to a town, he's not familiar with the way.  He comes to a crossroads where a boy is playing and asks for directions.  The boy says "You can go the long but short way or you can go the short but long way."  Well DUH.  The man says "I'll go the short way."  Okey dokey.  The boy points and off the man goes.  The short way turns out to be awful, it's got potholes and brambles and pretty soon it's blocked entirely.  The man has to backtrack to the crossroads.  "What the heck kind of information did you give me?"  He demands.  The boy shrugs.  "Didn't I say that way was also long?"

If you take shortcuts, if you don't do your homework, and the research, you're not going to get where you want to go.  Doing the work, going the long way, being patient is how to get to your destination.

XLibris, and many others, count on people wanting to go the short but long way.

Good Shabbos.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm Just Here For The Story

I don't know what constitutes the story, tho.

Someone left me a 1 star review on Sweeps saying I apparently didn't even bother to do 1 revision.

It took me years to write the book and I wouldn't be surprised to find out I went through it 50 times.  So why am I giving this person any credence at all.   Well I'm not and I hope no one else is either.
Why bother reading?  What is the point?  These people are going so fast through these books that the last chick didn't realize Viva was never married to David, and this one can't see the story or something.

Maybe this is all about education.  And I'm lumping MTV etc in with that because those entertainment outlets do train us.  The whole notion of a story starting out slowly and leading you in, is so 19th Century.  You can't do that now.  I probably still do at times because I don't give two hoots and a holler.  I'm not a commercial writer.

We have a generation and a half of people who do not sit down to savor a book , they're there to inhale it., gobble it down as quickly as possible and move on to the next comestible word source.  They're not there for the details, they're there to find out what happens in the end.  But the details are part of the story.  How do you understand what's happening, what the motivation is, why people love or hate, if you're not paying attention to the details?

Or do you just want the main characters to get together at the end?  If it's a "romance", don't we already know that so what's the rush?  I feel like giving everyone a short cut and you can read the end at the beginning in order to save precious time.

I don't have anything smart to say about it.

I started to read Sheri Anderson's book.  I think she's smarter than this but I'm sure the books will sell so that's the point, right?  She obviously can handle the language but it's not interesting in this form.

When you're the headwriter for a show you write a lot of documents that tells the producer and the network where the story is going.  There's a certain tone to this.  You don't have a lot of room and they don't have a lot of time.  They already "know" the characters from watching the show, so you don't have to get into any of that.  You don't need but a hint of back story.

What you're going to load up on is plot.  What's going to happen?  How do all these characters and divergent pieces fit together?  That's what this book reads like.  Like a story pitch more than a novel.  It's repetitive and unbelievable.  There's no sense of the characters as live people, there's no sense of place.

But what I will tell you there's plenty of and that's produce placement.  I have never read a book that was so full of brand names from the sheets to the shoes and everything in between.  I better go take out the reference to Pratesi sheets in NLM2.  I'll just say 2000 thread count sheets.  That's fine, that works for me.

I'm sorry and I'm disappointed.  I probably won't bother reading to the end.  I don't know who any of these people are besides Marlena and John and am not fascinated by their incredibly toned bodies.

I finished Thomas Greanias' 2nd Atlantis book.  This worked a lot better for me, less to imagine.  I have to admit, I'm one of those terrible readers I'm talking about in that I'm skimming a whole lot.  But I wouldn't go to Amazon and leave a 1 star review after essentially reading 4/5 s of the book.  Again I suppose these books are very light on characterization so I don't know very much about the main players.  It's light on the graphic violence and just a hint of sex so I give it high marks for that.

Here's another commercial I like very much.  The young man is beautiful.  Wowwee.