RSS

Category Archives: books

Self-Publishing 4

Do it yourself self-publishing can be a scary thought, but if you can write a book and get it ready to publish, then you do have enough skills to get that book out there. I took the plunge and so can you.

What made me change my attitude from scary to possible? Sure, I talked to others who had done it, but I was still hesitant, until I came across a book by Lucinda Moebius called Write Well Publish Right. First of all, I was interested in reading a book about writing from a high school and college teacher. Her book is what she teaches her students from beginning to the end at publishing. Mainly, I thought maybe I could implement some of her concepts into ideas for teaching language to small groups. Moreover, what I really took away from this book is that it is possible for me to self-publish a book.

Lucinda states that it is easy with the use of the formatting guides available through ePublishing platforms. She hired a formatter for the Kindle version of her science fiction books, but formatted the Smashwords version on her own. Also, she had help with her cover, hired an editor, and went through Amazon CreateSpace as her printer. Many times she states that it is up to you to do your own research and do what is best for you.

Yes, she inspired me, so I went to createspace.com and got started. There an author can put in the title and paste in your manuscript and cover. Remember you have to have an ISBN number for your e-book, another one for your print book and CreateSpace can provide them for you. I did have to hire help with the e-book, my son did the front cover work, then I hired Fiverr for the spine and back cover for which I paid a little extra. Instead of five dollars with Fiverr, it was ten dollars and I’m very happy with their work.

I learned that the CreateSpace process for me was somewhere between adding art and print to a Vistaprint writing advertisement to doing my own taxes (on an easier year).

Yesterday, I went to hear multi-published author, Joanne Pence, give a talk about self-publishing at my local writers group in the Boise area. After already using CreateSpace, I learned the following information:

For those of you that want to add a publishing name to their self-pubbed books, Joanne says that you can go through SBA.GOV for your assumed business name. Registering a name will cost you $25.00. For my writing business name of Melland Publishing, LLC, I went through the Secretary of Idaho and paid $100.

Joanne also says that off-white or cream is the paper color of most fiction books. The 6 x 9 inch book size is becoming the industry standard and costs less than a book sized 5 ½ x 8 1/2 inches. You can buy a cheaper, older version of Adobe Photoshop on eBay for making your own covers.

Finally, Joanne adds that, especially for multi-published authors, the value of going to kdp.amazon.com and using them exclusively to sell your e-book for your first 90 days can give you five free days on Amazon. It’s a way to get your name out there in hopes of readers choosing to buy and read your other books. After 90 days you can renew with them, or you can put your book into an .epub format and download it to other bookselling sites.

Yet, as Lucinda says, you need to do your own study and then decide what is best for you.

http://www.maryvine.com

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Self Publishing 3

This summer I had the opportunity to read several books. Some of the e-books I chose to read were free on Kindle, by long published authors and new authors taking advantage of the self publishing boom.

I have an eye for spotting errors in what I read, probably because I have practiced editing and proofreading my manuscripts for many years. I’ve gotten so that I can spot an error in anyone’s book, at least one error, ninety-five percent of the time. I am okay with, or can tolerate, up to four errors per book, but after that I am annoyed and most psychology books will say that being annoyed leads to anger.

Yes, I became angry with a new author, who could write, but had errors in her book. It wasn’t misspelled words that got my attention, but words that didn’t belong in the sentence, like someone used auto correct. Another common error in this book was leaving out a word in a sentence. Writers can leave out a word and miss it in the editing process because our minds know what we meant to say and so we think it’s there. It happens to the best of us, that’s why we need another set of eyes on our manuscript. Actually, more than one pair.

Today the trend is to hire a professional editor to go over a book before self publishing. An editor is someone who prepares the final version of the manuscript, helping the writer determine the length and the order of events and scenes, character development, etc. Yet, I believe the author mentioned above needed a professional proofreader more than an editor. A proofreader goes line by line and marks corrections in grammar, spelling, omitted words, etc.

Presently, some of the best marketing opportunities are asking for books with four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. They want proven books, reviewed by average folks, not your author buddies. So, basically, the writer needs a proofreader and an editor, whether you hire someone or not. Don’t trust your eye as the only proofreader you need because it is quite likely you will miss something. The goal is to present your best work to the world, so don’t be in a hurry and get the help you need.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Outside the Genre

One of the more frequent pieces of writing advice I see is to read outside the genre one writes in. The reasons to read extensively in one’s genre are obvious: one needs to know the rules and assumptions that define that genre’s boundaries. Figuring that out, really understanding it, requires you to read books comparable to the ones you write. But the risks of reading exclusively one genre are a little more nebulous than the advantages of reading extensively in that genre. I think the fear is that reading one genre exclusively risks internalizing those rules too much and becoming formulaic and stale by creating a closed creative feedback loop. 

Obviously, what we read is not our only source of inspiration, but, for me at least, it’s an important one. I want to write books I want to read. Reading a fantastic romance makes me want to write one. It inspires me to want to write better, faster, deeper. So, you know, that’s great! Read romance! Yay! And, honestly, I’d really be pretty happy if all I read was romance. About five years ago I realized that I have no interest in reading fiction that doesn’t have a happy ending. I remember the two books that drove that home to me: The House at Riverton and I Capture the Castle. They’re both fantastic books, but about 2/3 of the way through The House at Riverton I realized that there was just no way that book was going to end well and I couldn’t take it. I put it down and didn’t pick it back up and felt bitter and unhappy about having forced myself to read that far. I did finish I Capture the Castle, but the ending destroyed me. To this day I pretend that the end wasn’t, that my edition was just missing some happy epilogue found in all other copies of the book. In fiction, I need a happy ending to enjoy the experience. And reading for me is about enjoyment. I’m not going to force myself to read fiction just because it’s good for me, but I really do think that reading romance exclusively is bad for my writing. So what’s a happy-ending addict to do?

(1) I read mysteries by authors I know from past experience will leave me content. Romance is my current love, but mysteries were my first love and they meet my need for a satisfying ending without feeding my gluttonous desire for happy love stories. Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, Edmund Crispin, and Elizabeth Daly are old friends. They follow different rules and write in different styles and feed my creative well in an entirely different way than romance does.

(2) I read non-fiction. I go through phases where I start obsessively collecting books on different subjects. You need recommendations for an entertaining non-fiction book on the Black Plague? WWI? British travel writers? English country houses? The history of the British aristocracy? English social history from 1919-1939? I’m your girl. (I said they were different subjects, I never said they didn’t have a common theme. What can I say, I’m an Anglophile.) These are all subjects that are very unlikely to make their way into anything I write, but they stoke my curiosity and keep my brain learning and stretching in different directions. They’re not useful, except in the way that they get me outside of the obsessive romance-reading bubble I would otherwise happily live in.

What about you? Do you naturally read books outside the genre(s) you write in or do you have to push yourself a little? Any other Anglophiles out there?

 

“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.” –Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I have to admit this blog post is of a self-serving nature. My goal is to share with you a couple of books or phrases that have captured my attention and left a lasting impression on me. In return, I’m hoping you will share some of your favorites with me.

One of the most compelling non-fiction books I’ve read is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Most people are probably already familiar with the works of this amazing WWII concentration camp survivor. In college I had to read this book and write a paper on it. I’ve held on to it ever since. I’ve gone back and skimmed through it countless times over the last twenty years. The dog-eared pages are yellowed. Sticky notes peek out from all directions. Multi-colored highlights abound from the pages as I found different passages spoke to me depending on the time in my life that I was reading it. It even smells a little dusty. At this point it’s become more of an old friend than a book.

The next book wasn’t a particularly profound read but more of a fun one. However, there was one passage in the book that grabbed my attention enough to warrant jotting it down. The book is Shannon Hale’s Austenland and the passage reads, “Why was the judgment of the disapproving so valuable? Who said their good opinions tended to be any more rational than those of generally pleasant people?” This captured my attention because it made me realize how much credence I sometimes put into the opinions of people who are inherently difficult to please.

Now that I’m done baring my soul (what a book lover won’t do for a few good recommendations), I’d love to hear your favorite books or passages. Maybe it’s completely different from these. It could be one that always makes you smile, motivates you or just makes you think.

 
16 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2013 in books, inspiration, Psychology, reading

 

Tips for Submitting Manuscripts for Professional Critiques

In a workshop I took last fall, Heather Petty, a very wise author, shared some tips for submitting queries and manuscripts. One of her tips appeared numerous times: follow the submission guidelines. It’s so important, she repeated it.

I found out recently just how annoying it is when authors don’t follow submission guidelines. Our SCBWI region is hosting an event we’re calling The Great Critique, and I asked authors to submit their manuscripts via email as an attachment, in either a pdf or doc format. Most of them got it right. A few put the text of their manuscript in the body of the email. Some sent me a link to google docs for theirs. A few asked who to mail it to.

Since some of these manuscripts were going to agents and editors for paid critiques, it was pretty important that they be correctly formatted. And I asked the authors to resubmit them correctly.

But there are other ways authors don’t use their best judgment in submitting for professional critiques. So here are a few random tips from someone who is often sending manuscripts from authors to agents/editors for these kind of paid critiques. It’s not exhaustive, but it should help.

1. Send only your absolutely best work. Not your first draft for sure. And not a draft that your grandchildren really liked. If you have a regular critique group or one or two trusted readers, make sure they’ve seen what you plan to submit before you send it. Then you’ll be sending the best possible work you have. The reasons for this strategy are many. The most important one, I think, is why would you want an editor to associate your name with anything that is sub par? No, said editor is probably not going to offer you a contract based on ten pages she critiques, but if she ever sees your name again, wouldn’t you want that association to be a good one?

2. Follow the standard formatting of manuscripts. These include double-spacing, 12 point type, a normal font (usually Times New Roman), decent margins, and numbered pages. Even if you’re submitting electronically and the agent/editor can manipulate the text on the screen, why make them work harder to read your story? And make sure to use only single spaces after sentences–it’s so annoying to read ten pages thinking the entire time: “one space. One space.” Make sure there are no typos, your dialogue is correctly formatted, and your paragraphs aren’t too long or too short. Show that you are a professional.

3. Know your genres. If you are submitting a picture book text, it better not be 2,500 words. That proves to the editor that you don’t know anything about the current picture book market. If you’re submitting YA, the protagonist darn well better not be 12 years old. If you don’t know what defines a certain genre, then your manuscript is far from ready for a professional critique. You need to do some research, take some classes, join SCBWI or another professional organization, but you aren’t ready for this.

4. You don’t need a cover letter, a note, an explanation, or anything else. If the guidelines ask for a synopsis, it should be one page or less. The same care and attention should go into your synopsis as your manuscript. Most of us find these truly difficult to write, so don’t just dash one off and assume it’s fine. It needs to capture the basic elements of your action plot as well as the emotional plot. All materials not requested just get recycled, so don’t waste the paper.

5. Know whether your manuscript is appropriate for the professional who will be reading it. This is a common issue with agents/editors who speak at conferences. We often invite authors to submit manuscripts for critique when we have an agent/editor speaking at a conference. But not all agents rep all genres, and not all editors acquire all genres. All of these folks have web sites. At the very least, take a look at that before you submit. If you have a picture book, but the critiquer doesn’t do picture books, don’t waste your money. This is clearly not a genre that this person loves, nor is this person going to have much to say that will be useful to your manuscript. Save yours for a chance with a professional who is totally into your genre. At larger conferences, where there are a wide variety of speakers, you might have a better chance at getting connected with a critique in your specific genre.

6. If you are lucky enough to receive the critique in a face to face interaction, be polite, prompt, and open. Don’t argue or get defensive. Let the professional do most of the talking. You want to learn from them. If you are receiving a written critique, read it, then put it away, then read it again in a week. Our natural response it to think they are stupid and totally misread everything we meant. But a week later, our defensiveness has dissipated and we can be more objective. Usually, we see that the agent or editor was spot on.

7. Don’t get the same manuscript critiqued over and over. Most of these kinds of critiques usually want the first 10 or maybe 20 pages. Work on the rest of the manuscript too. Don’t work the opening to death. Each reader is going to have a different opinion, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and confused when you have too many opinions. If what the first critiquer says make sense to you, then take those suggestions and use them as you revise your entire manuscript.

8. Never forget that some of the best critiquers are right here, your peers and colleagues. Yes, we all value what an agent or editor has to say, but sometimes you will get far more usefulness from peer critiques in a group setting than anywhere else. Don’t discount those valuable fellow authors and their knowledge.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Create Writing Connections

One of the best investments you can make in your own writing career to to attend conferences. Sure, they cost money, and I’m often the first to use no money as an excuse. But it’s money well spent. What business can prosper and survive without investing in it? If you are ready to take your writing seriously enough to invest in yourself, congratulations.

The conference I want to tell you about is our regional SCBWI (that stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Boise, Idaho, April 27. You can register for it here. And even if you don’t write or illustrate for children, that’s okay. It will be an awesome conference. Here are a few highlights.

Sare Megibow

Sara Megibow, an agent with Nelson Literary in Denver, will be speaking on a number of topics, including Connecting with Ourselves as well as Choices in Publishing. These will cover flip sides of the coin: turning inward to connect with yourself as a writer, and turning outward to seek out the best route to publish your book.

Karl Jones, an assistant editor and jack of all trades with Grosset and Dunlap (a division of Penguin), will wow us with his techniques in how to pitch your story. Karl tells me he does this on a web channel, and it’s very popular, so I asked him to recreate the experience with us. He’s also got some other magic under wraps for the day.

Karl

In addition, we have Miriam Forster, whose debut novel, City of a Thousand Dolls, came out this past May. I’ve been in critique groups with Miriam, and she is a talented author and delightfully fun person. She will share two of her favorite topics. First, she’s going to wow us with the wonder of How to Connect to Your Reader with Social Media. Miriam is well acquainted with all kinds of social media, and you should be too. Her other talk will be about World Building. In Miriam’s book, she creates an amazing and realistic fantasy world with such subtle skill you hardly even realize it. Learn how to do this in your own writing.Miriam

Author Anne Osterland will be on hand to help us focus on creating awesome characters, plus she will be talking about the small stuff, the details that bring a story to life.

anne

Sherry Meidell, a picture book book illustrator, will offer her insights about what makes a good picture book. Beginners in the children’s lit world often set their sights on picture books, so we have asked Sherry to help answer all the usual questions about how picture books are made and how you write one. Since she’s an illustrator, she’ll have loads of slides to show. I love going to illustrator talks, because I am not a visual artist, and it always amazes me how they think of story in pictures.

sherry

So you have the opportunity, in one day, to learn about:

  • creating intriguing characters
  • building a fantasy world
  • how to use details to bring your writing alive
  • using social media to your advantage to connect with your readers
  • connecting with yourself
  • pitching your ideas
  • making picture books
  • multiple platforms for publishing

And, you’ll meet people with whom you might bounce around ideas or become critique partners. You might talk with Sara at lunch and realize she’s the agent for you. Or you might find out from Karl Jones that his company has work for hire gigs you might like.

For me, one of the best things I get out of conferences, and I’ve been going to them for more than 12 years, is the inspiration. Always, I come away with new ideas, new perspectives, and even new friends. Whether you are a beginning author or and old pro, you never stop needing inspiration and growth. I hope you’ll join us in April.

 

Another Reason to Buy an E-book

Recently, my husband said I should get a new Kindle Fire, the one with the larger screen and the capability to be online anywhere with a reasonable distance to a cell tower. I knew phones could do that, of course, but I didn’t know a tablet could, so in a few days I held one in my hand. The 4G Kindle Fire takes a little time to get used to, at least for me, but once I have it figured out I should be able to do just about anything with it.

At work, I looked for some vocabulary curriculum that I could use with my high school students, and came across a reading comprehension sheet from Read Theory, LLC. The paper didn’t have a title or a mention of the author who wrote it, but it was about books becoming relics, and how e-readers are superior. Obviously it was a persuasion essay, and I’m not here to tell you to throw away your books. I will always love an actual book I can hold in my hand, too.

I have heard several of the author’s arguments before, but one thing really opened my eyes. E-books are environmentally friendly. Of course they are, I have no argument with that. Further he/she stated how many trees it took to print a book.

80,000 pieces of paper in a tree.

If your book is 300 pages long, printed 1000 times, it will take 4 trees.

If your book is a bestseller, selling 20,000 copies a week, it will take over 300 trees per month.

If you are J.K Rowling, with the Harry Potter series, you have sold 450 million copies and have used 2 million trees to print your books.

So, here is another reason to buy E-books. I, personally, love trees and am rethinking the value of a book held in my hand.

http://www.maryvine.com

 
16 Comments

Posted by on March 19, 2013 in 4G Kindle Fire, books, ebook, readers, reading, values

 

Tags: , , , ,