Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Page a Day

My first publishing experience is not going as expected, and believe me, I didn’t expect much. Amazon and B&N have the book listed, but not complete listings. Neither has the cover art yet, and although Amazon has a description, it does not have the “Look Inside” feature. I spent weeks trying to get hold of Wingspan to find out why they are not listing properly. It took a while for them to answer and when they did, said it was an error on the part of Ingram distributors. Seems very unusual to me that a distributor that deals with millions of books a year would mess up on mine (although Wingspan insists it’s not just me). Today, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I uploaded a cover picture to Amazon and added a book summary to Barnes and Noble’s site by way of a customer review (of course I noted that I was the author). It’s the best I can do at the moment, since it is difficult for me to deal with these sites directly.
You might be wondering what I am doing in the meantime. Am I sitting by the computer all day loading and reloading the online website to see if they’ve corrected the error? Am I staring at my ratings, watching for a change in rank and sales? Well yeah, okay, I do that. But not all day.
What I do in the meantime is write. In addition to my day job as a technical writer, I work daily at completing my next books. While I have always been a writer, I have now reached the status of author. If I want to maintain that status, I need to produce more books, and I need to keep them circulating. Right now I am working on two books simultaneously. Both are for the juvenile audience, but one is straight fiction (bordering humor, depending on your perspective), and the other is fantasy. One is short and simple while the other is a full novel with a pretty complex storyline. You can probably figure out which one I’ll publish first.
Because I have so many other tasks going on in my life – work, family, marketing, etc – it would be easy for me to make excuses not to write. A while back, I proposed a challenge to some great writer friends of mine on a forum called The Writers’ Block. Most of us spend many waking hours writing for other people and not much time writing what we enjoy. Many of my friends have talked about their bestselling novels, the ones that they dream about but never had time to write. I proposed to them that they take time to write a page a day for themselves. A page can take fifteen minutes, or it could take an hour. If you can sacrifice that small portion of your day, every day, it eventually becomes routine. I began taking my own advice. Instead of writing a page a day, I write for an hour a day. It is the hour I get for lunch each day, where I’m just sitting there staring into space, poking at some overly buttered cafeteria green beans. That hour has become vital to my continuity as an author.
Writers have to write from the soul. It is our sustenance. Some of us take paying jobs writing ads, articles, manuals, and copy. We have the skill to make someone else’s message clear to the reader. But a true writer cannot live on bread and water alone. We need to take the time to write out some filet mignon, maybe even a little champagne. Writing isn’t about splashing words mechanically onto a page. It’s about splashing creativity and passion onto a page. It’s difficult to get passionate about a client’s sales pitch. That’s why an hour a day of personal writing is so important. Without it, writing is no longer a passion. It’s a job.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Social Networking – A Reclusive Writer’s Worst Fear

I suspect a lot of writers are like me, sociaphobes who spend more time in their fictional worlds than out in the open. The real world is a scary place. It’s unpredictable and sometimes cruel. Fiction writers deal with this by creating mockups of the real world, adding elements that save or destroy, depending on the situation. It’s all about control, I think, especially control over our own fears. I once read an article about a horror writer who was scared of the dark as a kid. (I think it was someone famous, but I don’t want to mention the name, because I’m not sure.) He was scared of monsters and boogie men and whatever creepy things may go bump in the night. He overcame the fear by writing about them, the most horrible worst-case scenarios that a monster can create. It was his way of controlling the monsters, controlling his own fears. The same is true for other writers. We know that we can’t stop death and hate and pain in real life, but we can create worlds where these bad things happen at our command. We’re not detached from it, and a good writer won’t make the bad things convenient. In fact, the more emotional we get from a scene, the more powerful it’ll be for the reader. It’s controlled in that the reader and the writer can walk away from the experience—much like a thrill ride at an amusement park—without truly being hurt.
The real world doesn’t give you that option. There are infinite possibilities of tragic events that cannot be controlled. They can be reduced and sometimes prevented by not putting yourself in a vulnerable position in the first place. Enter the recluse, the person who tries to control fate by isolating him/herself. The best way to avoid a car crash is to not drive. The best way to avoid negative confrontation is to not confront. Distance yourself from all means of social interaction. Don’t use the phone. Don’t join clubs. Don’t talk to too many people who might judge you. It’s a cushy little world – until you become a published author.
Enter social networking, a reclusive writer’s worst fear, but one of the most vital tool for marketing your books. I knew this stage would come. I’ve been bracing myself for it for years. As I patched up the last edits of my book, I was intensely aware of the social grim reaper looming over me, black cloak billowing in the wind. I can’t write him into submission, can’t stab him from my life with a fountain pen. This is something I have to deal with head on.
I’ve met many awesome virtual friends in the past few weeks, writers like me, some experienced and some new, who are going through the process. I’ve joined writer networks and now follow blogs that I actually read. It comforts me to know that these writers are human like me, not monsters or boogie men hiding in dark corners. This social networking gig isn’t as bad as I thought. It’s actually been a pretty positive experience so far. I’m not saying that I’m ready to pick up the phone and chat with people now – I probably won’t be attending any video conferences or all-night book signing parties any time soon. But I definitely see the value – no, the urgency of shedding my public phobia. It’s time to embrace the social reaper.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Little Brighter

Maybe this situation is salvageable. Wingspan replied back that they can drop the listing price for the hard cover to $27.95 (at a lower royalty, of course). That’s still pretty pricey, but I checked today and found that they are listing Mourning Under the Bridge for a discounted rate. The hard cover is $23.72 and the soft cover $12.92. I’m pretty happy about that, because what is the point of publishing your book if no one can afford to buy it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my second book. POD seemed to be the easiest route, but I’m giving away a lot of my profit for nothing. I mean, I’d gladly pay the price if the publisher actually did something, like provide a professional layout without me having to tell them what to do. I’d love it if they edited their own work after they dumped the files into InDesign. For the money I paid, I shouldn’t have had to tell them that they misaligned several pages.

So what do I do? Should I go through submission hell with a hundred different publishers and agents only to lose my rights and get low royalties and very little marketing? Should I buy my own copy of InDesign and do the layout myself? I’m not sure I know the business enough to be comfortable with that. There really are a lot of options these days. I’ll have to look into what is available. I know Amazon has a program where you can upload your own book and they’ll do a print on demand for you. I’m not sure how that works yet, but I will put finding out on my to-do list.

In the meantime, Mourning Under the Bridge is listed on, but the entire listing is not complete yet. I’ve heard that it takes a few days for the cover art and summary to catch up with the listing. I don’t expect any sales until the listing is complete. When it is, I will post a link here.