Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Moving Along

What can I say? I'm an impatient person. I want things to come together, especially when my engines are running and I'm excited to get the job done. That's the thing about me, I'm a go getter and a hard charger. But I've been put into a holding pattern by my professionals that are supposed to be helping me wrap all this up. They are my real creative team. I'm not so creative. I'm just a writer, a key-puncher. I do it because I have to. I need to. These people do their thing because they love it, they're creative and their work is an expression of their creativity.

Well, Damon came though. Yes he did. The other day I got an email from him with two proofs for my book cover. I was overjoyed, because I felt mobile again, I felt as if progress was being made. I looked over the two proofs and it was a no brainer for me. The first one was the one that I actually envisioned. I saw it long before it was made, and it looked exactly like the first proof. The second proof was just too busy to use. The faces were all over the place. Next it was time to make any tweaks to the cover that I felt necessary. I looked it over and there were just two major things that stood out. My black character was given a black shirt, but as I shrank the picture down to postage stamp size, which is how my readers will be seeing it on Amazon and other retailer's web pages, his shirt looked like a black hole, just a black void in the center of the book cover. I needed that changed.

Then a friend of mine brought out a point. Yes, I got four people to give me their honest opinions of the cover and the first two were so way off base that I discarded their suggestions. But my third and fourth persons were right on the money. The title on the first one was the best because it obscured the image of the city the least, and that the tower in the center seemed to be aimed at the jugular vein of my main character, the white guy, in the front.

Also, one of my four critics was JP. I wanted her opinion of the cover because of anyone, she knew the most about the story. Secondly, I wanted to enervate her, to light a fire under her, to get back into the swing of things and work on my book and stop relegating it to the bottom of her work pile. I hoped that this made things tangible for her. She was excited to have a chance to put in her input and I was excited to have it.

Damon made the changes immediately and the second go round was better than the first. It was an awesome cover, just like his website says Damonza's Awesome Book Covers. I highly recommend him if you want a good cover done fast and at a reasonable cost.

But Karma has a way of giving you what you ask for...if you bitch hard enough. And I guess I was doing a lot of bitching because my soon-to-be webmaster, Vladimir, at Webmaster Studios got in touch with me about moving forward. I sent him the proofs of my cover and he wrote me back that he's ready to do an incredible job as soon as I sign the contract and send him his money. This sounds good to me. We revised the contract to suit my needs and now I'm ready to move ahead even on that. In two weeks we'll have that put together and the framework for the book will be complete. Then comes putting it all together into a coherent whole so that I'll have a marketing platform to work from.

From that platform, I'll have the basic thrust of my campaign to get my book to the masses. Hopefully, all this work that I have done and am doing is on par with the book itself. I hope the caliber of my writing is the same as the work of all these people bringing their talents and skills to bear on my behalf.

Like I said, they are the creative ones. I'm just a writer.

Gregory Delaurentis

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Exercising Patience

It's all a waiting game. That's what I'm thinking now. Here I am waiting... waiting for all the profes- sionals in the mix to come up with their end of the equation. That's the wait, that's what I'm sitting on my hands for. Let's take this waiting game one issue at a time and we'll see what I intend to do.

I have been recently waiting on JP to finish up with the editing of the first draft of the Cover of Darkness. That is the first wait. She is an editor with a great deal to do, which I don't mind. I love the fact that she is prolific actually. She also does a bang up job with my editing, which is desirable to me. So she told me that she would be starting up on working on my book again on the first of October. This was in September. Okay, what can I say to that other than to be patient. She'll start on it in two weeks. Alright, October rolls around and in the middle of October I get an email from her that says now that she will not be able to start work on my manuscript until the first of November because of her present responsibilities.

Now this is somewhat troubling to me. Here it is that I was told that I was given a date to start, after she started once. Then I'm told that I have to make due with another start date. I'm a very literal person, and if someone says that they will give me something on this date, and they don't. Then that's called a breach of contract. Then if they change the terms and tell me they'll give me something on another date, how can I not doubt the veracity of the person? Will they give me what I want? I don't know.

Now, it is true that I did say that we will follow JP's timetable because she was too busy to take on my project from the very beginning. I agreed to this, so this is the overarching contract. But she made the terms to the sub-contract that was breached. So here I am, waiting, now, a full month, with nothing from my editor.

So, what should a writer do? Well, when given time, a writer should write. Period. So I went ahead and started working on revisions. Here's the thing: JP had finished the first 40 pages of my manuscript and sent it to me with the admonition not to go ahead and re-edit it before she finishes with the entire manuscript. Well, I did follow this advice until the middle of October, then I went ahead and made my massive changes per her notations in her edit.

The reason why I did this was because I had finished with the third book of the trilogy, Pale of Darkness. I moved on and did what I had initially set out to do, which is complete the third book before having to go back and re-edit the first. Well, here I go. I finish so what actually is there left to do? Re-edit the first. Therefore I went ahead and made my changes...and finished it. So now what? What do I do now? Can you believe that I've started the FOURTH installment of the series? Cries of Darkness. I pray that I don't finish a fourth book before I get work back from my editor.

But I'm not harping on her, maligning her, or complaining about her. She does a good job, it's just that I feel that my work has been relegated to the bottom of the barrel. Further, what are my chances, as the year closes out, that on the first of November I will get an email from JP stating that because of her workload my manuscript will be edited on the first of December? It happened before, it can happen again, as many businessmen will tell you. If you have a tenant paying rent, and they stop paying for one month, what are your chances that it will be repeated the second month? Unknown, but possible. That's why in business, all you have are you balls and your word. If you give up either...well you get my drift.

On top of this, I have a master plan in the weeks ahead. I would like JP to finish her edit, so that I can make the needed changes. Then I want to give it to another editor that I've found, LV for a final edit. While LV is doing the final edit, I want to see if JP will be amenable to undertaking the task of editing my sequel. This is another reason why I am patient with her, because I want to stay in her good graces. Yes, I am the one over the barrel, I'll admit to that. So the ball is in her court. I can only hope that she is a more conscientious businesswoman than editor. When does it become evident that to continue relegating my work to last place because I have a softer deadline is simply unfair?

However, I have not been just sitting on my laurels. I've moved ahead, as you well know and started working with Damon on the cover of the book. This is a good thing, I'm urgently needing this book cover to start the rest of my marketing. With the completed book cover, I can then move forward with the web pages.

So I'm waiting for that. I'm waiting and waiting, and now, on top of the manuscript, I'm waiting on the book cover. Damon also has a soft deadline, meaning, I have to be patient. His web site swears on a fast two day or three day turnaround, and it's been five now and no word. So I guess I'll have to wait again for the product of another professional.

I have to learn to exercise patience. I've waited a year to finish the work, what's a few months more? I also would like to advise you that if you have soft deadlines, or no deadlines at all, you are at the mercy of the person that is working for you. Be really ready to be patient, or you'll just tear your own hair out. If you want a deadline, you had better make it clear. But here's the thing: With expediency do you lose creativity? Do you want someone to do a slapdash job just to get your work out of the way on time? That's the question.

Well back to the beginning. It's a waiting game, and it appears that you need to sit on your hands, even though I'm chomping at the bit to move ahead with my marketing of the book if not the book itself.

Well, since I'm in a holding pattern in every direction I turn, what's a writer to do?


Cries of Darkness...I know it was supposed to be a trilogy, but, here goes nothing.

Gregory Delaurentis

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Marketing Moves

Moving towards the middle of October. The nights in the city are cool. The days are surprisingly warm and delightful. The trees are stubbornly beginning to turn, and I am working tirelessly on my upcoming book. I have been busy since my last post. When I left off, I had finished paying BOOKBABY.COM for their Premium Publishing Package and I sent them an email to ask about the website and book cover design. I expected them to double talk their way through not doing either, and true to form, they tell me, “I'm sorry, but our services can only be used after you upload your manuscript. We're simply not set up to offer any of them "a la carte". Here's the thing: that's not what their website says. They say when you make your payment you get 60 days free on their website hosting and $30.00 discount on your book cover design. It does not say that you have to upload your book first before you can avail yourself of these things. I called them up and got this really powerful woman who, instead of answering any questions, intended on steamrollering me with her explanation. I got my point off through tedious repetition. If you repeat something over and over again, people get the message that if they don't shut up and listen, you'll bury them with your repeating the same thing.

But even after getting her to understand just how stupid her reasoning was which she continually tried to cram down my throat: “You wouldn't have your book cover or website available before your book is ready because people might want it right away.” She is either a person that is really lost, or will say anything to explain away a serious limitation in their services. I'm not really complaining about BOOKBABY.COM, I think their services so far are beyond parallel, but this is the only thing about them that I think could use improvement. The marketing of your book should come out long before the book is released. I'm not talking about a year before, like two weeks to a month. That way you can build up a buzz before people start panning your book. Not that I'm expecting my book to be panned, I do realize, however, that it will not appeal to everyone.

But never mind. I was enervated by talking to her to DO something now before JP finishes editing the book itself. It's time to get the ball rolling in spite of silly BOOKBABY.COM. Since they will take any book cover designed anywhere else, I decided to find a good book cover designer like I found a great editor. So I put in a search term in Google and found a few designers. I looked over a few, which appeared kind of pedestrian until I came across DAMONZA'S AWESOME BOOK COVERS. I have to say, the books on the site JUMP RIGHT OUT and KICK YOU square in the FACE!!! WOW! Bruce Lee would be proud. I looked at their sample book covers and was mesmerized by all of them. I didn't see a book cover that I didn't like.

I read through the site and acquainted myself with the details and then I did what I call a character search. I put in the name of the company to look for any complaints. I dug around here and there and could find nothing but praise for the company. With this in mind, I took the plunge again and paid the 50% down payment to have the people begin working on the book cover. You have to first fill out a form where you describe what you want the cover to look like. So I went into detail about the story and the cover and sent it off. Almost immediately, I got a reply. Damon wanted more information, and explained some of the difficult to understand issues. We built an instant correspondence, going back and forth, quite rapidly at least a dozen times as he began building the book cover on his end, and he was very professional and cordial.

I've got a tremendously good feeling about this move. I can continue to put together my book without waiting for BOOKBABY.COM. I'm beginning to believe that it's not good to put too much of your project into the hands of one company or person. After I gave Damon enough information to go ahead and construct the cover, I moved on to the web page design. Once again, I did a Google search and came up with several prospectives. I stopped at the second choice after seeing it's sample web pages. Very smart, very sophisticated, and just what I needed to launch my book. Not as generic, cookie cutter as with Bookbaby, where all of their web pages look somewhat similar...this was a company that made unique, high quality pages with a number of perks to go with it, but at a price. Yes, the company was pricey but well worth it if you are looking at any substantial R.O.I. (Return Of Investment). The old biblical saying is that you reap what you sow. If that is the case, if I skimp on the things in the beginning, I will get back meager returns in the end. Therefore, I asked this company, Webmaster Studio for their information, and they right away called me back, speaking to me over the phone. We spoke of a contract and what should go into it, and with that being done they emailed it to me.

I read over it carefully, checking this point, correcting that point to my liking and mailed to back. They had no problems with my changes, especially the fact that I wanted to be free to investigate SEO in connection with my web page (Search Engine Optimization) that uses search engines such as Google and Yahoo to drive web surfers to your site. The more eyeballs on my book, the better the R.O.I. There are a hundred and two other perks that I can avail myself of as I move forward in time after the book release. This was important to me, and this was one of the many reasons why I chose the more expensive Webmaster Studio. I also did my due diligence, searching the web for any negative reviews of the company and finding nothing but good mentions in articles.

I have not signed or paid the half of the job costs down for the contract as of yet. I need to have my content worked out as well as my book cover art completed before putting it all together and handing it over to a webmaster. So, that being said, I am way ahead of the time for implementation and have to put the contract on the shelf until these criteria are met.

However, I am pleased with my choices and am ready to go ahead with putting the marketing framework of the book together. By the time Bookbaby distributes the book itself to the online retailers I hope to have a Facebook Page, a Web page, a blog (this one) and my merchant pages all set up and running at full steam.

It's all about timing. I'm hoping that I can wrap all of this up and get it churning before Christmas. There's nothing like the gift of an e-book for Christmas.

Gregory Delaurentis

Sunday, October 7, 2012

On Following in the Steps of Others

Well, I'm moving on at a good pace with my book, the first of the trilogy. Today I came across an e-book from a website by an author who has laid out a road-map for anyone interested in self-publishing. Her name is J.F. Penn and she has already self-published two books that have done exceedingly well. She has a multi-function site (website/blog) where she offers a very informative e-booklet called the AUTHOR 2.0 BLUEPRINT. You can find her here at THE CREATIVE PENN.

Well, I spent the day reading her e-booklet, and it's so chocked with information that it's going to take me even longer to go through all of the beneficial links. What was really insightful, and what I had somewhat learned from reading the blog from an e-publishing site, BOOKBABY.COM, is that a good marketing tool for your book is Facebook Pages. Facebook Pages are nothing like Facebook because its purpose is not to keep you connected to the everyday life of everyone of your family and friends, instead it introduces you and your work to anyone interested in finding more about you. It's a professional connection that your readers can use as a conduit straight to you.

I put it together in a few minutes and tried to use another site called PAGEMODO.COM to design it. Pagemodo is supposed to be a simple way to make high quality Facebook Pages for a price, but it didn't work. I spent half the day trying to log into it without making ANOTHER Facebook Page, but couldn't get it to do anything but market to me. So, I gave up on it and decided to go it alone. I have to say, I did a simple approach using one of the apps in the Windows 7 operating system called PAINT. A very easy program that allow you to manipulate, on a limited basis, your photographs. I took one of my photos that I like, put my name and sub-title on it and then cropped it to fit the headers on both my Blog-site and my Facebook Page. When done, I was quite pleased with myself. You can see the fruit of my work above on this blog-site. Nothing really involved, but it does look better than the generic header and wallpaper that you get with the BLOGGER application.

Then I went into the third book of my trilogy. I've pushed myself over this weekend...well maybe not pushed but flew through the writing to practically the last chapter. The book was coming together like lightning, so I stayed behind the keyboard to get it done. I seem to amaze myself by just letting the characters do their thing and not really worry about the direction of the story or where I want it to go. It's like it's on autopilot. Or maybe being piloted by the characters and not being forced or pushed about by me to fit a conclusion that might not be organic. I really don't know how this works but it does.

Further today, I drew more from the AUTHOR 2.0 BLUEPRINT, which was an entire self-publishing road-map. So, what I did was take a flowchart template from VISIO and made the road-map into an easy to follow diagram that I can chart for myself. This will work fine for me to decide what actions to take next so that I don't waste time working on things that don't fit in with the plan to self-publish by Christmas. That's my deadline, Christmas.

Finally, today I did it. I went to BOOKBABY.COM and paid for the Premium Package. Yeah, I did it, and the tons of benefits that come with it. Overall, this is the book distributor that I've decided to go with, so since this is the case, why not take the plunge and get the money part of this out of the way. Also I wanted to work on my book cover, which they do for an extra charge, and the website for the book, which BOOKBABY.COM gives you free for 60 days. Here's the thing: I was ready to work on these tools and found that I can't get to them without first uploading my book to the distributor. This messed me up because I wanted to get these things out of the way before the book came into being so that when I was done with it, it would come into the world with all these support tools already in place.

But it looks like you have to do the book first, which makes no sense to me. So I still have to wait for JP to finish editing, and for me to finish revising, and then JP to do a proofread of it before going to the distributor. Which means it's going to be a long time before I can get all these things out (Book cover/web site). I sent BOOKBABY.COM an email asking about this oversight, but we'll see what reply I'll get from them on Monday. Probably a stupid one...”Oh, the 'program' is not designed to do that”, “Oh, I can't do that,” or “Oh, we never thought of that.” All of the above means that they'll not allow me to get these things out of the way first.

So I'm seriously on my way now. If you think I'm doing good so far, and since I haven't gotten hung up in any scams or problems, I've left you links to follow in my footsteps. I hope they are as beneficial to you as they were to me.

Well, everything worked for me except PAGEMODO.COM. If you get this to work leave me a comment. Help me out too.

Gregory Delaurentis

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Being Upset With Oneself

I apologize for the tenor of my last post. Of course I was upset over the publishing industry. I have a bone to pick with them all. But that's my poor story. The struggling writer who spent his life trying to get something, anything of his published. Being passed over time and time and time again by agent after agent after publishing house after publishing house. Yeah, I should be upset with them or myself. Someone is falling short, so I blame them. And I did so in the most harshest terms that I could muster in my last post. For this, I apologize. I should have been more reserved with my passion.

It took a fellow writer that I regard with a tremendous amount of respect to slap me back to my senses about my writing. I was going on about how much money and how many copies of my upcoming e-book that I hope to sell. I went on about the work that I'm about to embark on getting off the ground and into the hands of my would-be readers and she helped me to see, quite gently in fact, that I am not looking at things in the right perspective.

A writer isn't concerned with selling copies or entertaining the masses. That should come out of their joy of writing. It's more of a byproduct of what they live for, which is to write and to bring something to life. Well more accurately, characters and situations into a work that is entertaining and engrossing to the pleasure of others. That is what a writer lives for. Not the dream of making a million on every work they produce, even though that would be excellent, or bitching about the state of the publishing industry, which is indeed in a very sorry state.

There are just too many writers out there to let loose onto the world and not enough editors and critics to review them all if they were at large. That's the funny fear of the publishing industry: to protect the millions of readers out there from a deluge of mediocrity. They are the first line of defense against bad taste and poor workmanship, if you actually believe this insanity. The same tools that the big companies use can be employed by even the smallest, simplest of writers. The only thing that was at one time difficult was reaching the masses, but thanks to the Internet and tablet computing, this has changed drastically.

Everyone feared in the music business that there would be a torrential downpour of musical artists that would flush down the music industry into the massive toilet of obliteration. Yet, this didn't happen. The music industry had to retool and reshape itself from its fat, bloated profit margins and unfair contracts to leaner, meaner animals in a new jungle of competition. This is the model of the publishing industry. Many people will stick with their major publishing houses and their powerful marketing tools, and continue to purchase their books because of their prejudices against what is seen as vanity presses. However, millions of others will reach out for the fringe writers who take on the world on their own, much like moviegoers search out independent movies to escape the swill of Hollywood hacks.

Publishing houses are letting down many of their newer, lesser known writers, by not giving them the attention of their marketing might, leaving it up to and expecting them to build marketing 'platforms' on their own to push their books. They also have shorter runs of books and edit down the size of novels somewhat unnecessarily to bring down the cost of publishing a work, sometimes at the cost of creativity. Let an unknown try to have published a novel the size of a Mitchner or Clancy novel and you'll find the impossible occurring.

With this abandonment of their lesser known authors, as well as their completely ignoring new talent and you get the picture of a business losing its grip on its stranglehold. Any new author will tell you how slow it is to get a conventional book to market, and even slower to get a check from the publishing houses. Also since they take all of the risks they feel, and maybe rightly, that they deserve the lion's share of the profits. I don't argue this. This is probably the rationale behind publishing houses attempting to breathe life into 'co-publishing', where authors are asked to invest money in their own novels with the publishing house. Isn't this a form of vanity press from the same people that decry it? Publishing houses are even coming out with their own imprints of e-books, attempting to cash in on the inexpensive business model of e-publishing, and it's speed to the market. But here too they face the loss of their prestige by giving credibility and bringing attention the the e-publishing world. Again a loss for them.

Some individuals will always want to have and feel paper or hardbound books in their hands. I was once a hardbound collector, but after running out of room in my modest library, I started to see the logic of e-books...hundreds of books in the palm of your hand. Remarkable when you think about it. And you can never lose an e-book if you have it in a cloud, such as from Amazon, where you can have it on your tablet or your PC with software like Kindle (not the device, although it runs on it). But because of On-Demand Printing, which is the ability to print a book one at a time at a profit due to the computing process, this too will fade as it is integrated with e-publishing giving people a choice between an e-book or paperback.

What this means is that the publishing world is due for a mighty tectonic shift. It has a reckoning coming, and like the music business a sea change. However for them, it will be an even greater change because they've also lost their secret bargain to keep the price of e-books up to make them less appealing price-wise than their hardcover, paperback competition. Now that the courts have broke up this cabal, the price of e-books will fall and a more fiercer competition will come to light. The hounds will be let loose and the hunt will begin. Once again, a bell ringer for the publishing industry.

I'm still bitching about all this as you can see, most likely because I'm beginning to wade into the deep waters. I'm nervous and scared of what the future will bring and if I do have talent or not. However, this is my cross to bear and I no longer blame agents and publishing houses for overlooking me. They have their own horrors to deal with, especially now. I have my own course to chart, all on my own, without the aid of the large fathers of publishing to hold my hand.

Who can say what the future holds, for me or publishing? Good, bad or indifferent, life will go on and change will happen. Will I be able to navigate the waters? Will I sink and give up totally? I have a new energy regarding my work now. I feel that there is a new avenue for me to go down, and go down it I intend to do.

Wish me luck. Now I'll get back to writing.

Gregory Delaurentis