Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On the Sound of an MRI

One day a filmmaker made a blockbuster movie and he claimed that he paid the utmost attention to detail so as to make it as realistic as possible. He went over the details of everything in his historical movie to the nth degree. He even used submersibles to go down to the icy depths to examine every single detail of a ship that had sank on April 15th, 1912. I'm talking about the movie Titanic, directed by James Cameron, that went on to gross $1,843,201,268 worldwide.

To call it a blockbuster is no misnomer.

Years later a famed American astrophysicist and science communicator went to see the movie and while sitting though the film he noticed something. He noticed that the stars in the sky during the sinking of the ship were all wrong! Not only were they wrong, one side was a mirror image of the other. This egregious error drove Mr. Tyson up the spout, and he went on to try to correct Mr. Cameron on several occasions. For a movie that was to have supposedly paid so much attention to detail, how could Mr. Cameron let such an error fly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B6jSfRuptY)?

Such a horrible mistake made by Mr. Cameron. When approached about it he had only one response. He said to Mr. Tyson: “Well, last I checked, Titanic, worldwide has grossed $1.3 billion dollars. Imagine how much more it would have grossed had I'd gotten the sky correct?”

What is the biggest lesson to be learned here?

Can a writer, ANY writer, take something away from this? Yes, we all can. There is a big lesson to be gleaned if we understand what's really important.

The reader, the moviegoer, the fan, wants to be entertained not educated.

I like writing cop fiction. I love cop fiction and I love police procedurals. I read through books on the subject, I also listen to online seminars, read blogs, check Google+ and Facebook posts. I love the subject, but I don't make the mistake of thinking that my readers love the subject as much as I do. I want to give the most realistic experience that I can for my readers and that's important to me...somewhat.

I assume that a reader of my work does not want to go to school to become a cop, no more than someone who watches Gray's Anatomy watches it to become a doctor. When someone reads a book or watches a film, such as Titanic, do you think they care that the plates lack the exact design of the Titanic crest? Is the detail that important?

Let's go further. A blogger on a blog post pointed out that the noises of an MRI scanner are completely different from a CT scan and how the show Hannibal got it all wrong (http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2013/06/author-beware-know-your-equipment.html). This post was under the title: “Author Beware: Know Your Equipment.” Author beware, huh?

Again, I ask, is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes there is. It might be a painful one for some, but it's one that they need to know for certain. Why? Well in my opinion, which is what my blog is, these critical individuals and many others have their priorities all wrong.

I have a blog that I follow religiously that debunks specifically a lot of cop shows and books. They shoot down many shows and books that 'get it wrong', when it comes to cop procedures. Once again, they make the smallest things seem egregious. Not singling out that blog, but I've also come across another grousing over the fact that Castle shouldn't be working on the police force as closely as he is being that he is a writer.

Let's hit the brakes here.

We need to take stock of several things. It's easy for people who don't write fiction or who don't entertain fans to be over-critical. They loose sight of the fact that writers today are pushing the limits of everything. Now that there are self-published books, the envelope has been broken and flights of extreme fancy are beginning to emerge. Further, a writer can't know EVERYTHING. Writers are not gods, although they are the gods of the worlds that they create, and because of this, stars can be where they wish. MRI machines can make whatever noise that they want, and Castle can be given an assault rifle by Detective Beckett anytime she desires. This is the unvarnished truth.

Who can correct these gods? Who can nit-pick about the smallest things as if they affect the story? The fans. Remember, millions of people sat through Titanic and saw the same sky as Neil Degrasse Tyson did and were more focused on if Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson (Winslet and DiCaprio) were going to survive this horrible catastrophe. Who cared that the major characters in the movie NEVER EVEN EXISTED? But we are to care that the sky was incorrect? What made the fans go see this film? The STORY.

In the episode “Buffet Froid” the tenth episode of Hannibal, Will Graham is put through an MRI to see if there was damage to his brain. The MRI shows that he has Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. But Dr. Lecter persuades Dr. Sutcliffe to tell Will that his brain scan was “completely normal”. Hannibal no doubt had more insidious work to do with the protagonist. What, I ask, do you think was the most riveting part of this exchange? The fact that a homicidal doctor was lying to a patient to make him believe that he was the killer in many murders, or that the MRI machine was making the wrong noise?

Realize that the FANS dictate what's important in a book or movie. Critics who produce nil need to realize that a writer or director can only do so much and can't cover over ever single base, even if they wanted to. James Cameron in fact really wants to make every aspect of Titanic realistic, because he changes the sky in a later release of the film (http://www.mediaite.com/online/james-cameron-alters-stars-in-titanic-on-neil-degrasse-tyson-insistence/). But this is past tense, and behind the fact that his fans have already bestowed him with the highest honor that they can grant him, their patronage, even when he got the sky wrong.

Critics, no matter their degrees or specialty, should realize that to an author or director, it's their fans that they seek to please and fans are not interested in miniscule details if they are reading a book about vampires, zombies, homicidal doctors, crooked cops or whatever world the writer creates for them.

It's the STORY that the reader or viewer is interested in.

Sorry extreme critics, your priorities just do not count. Just like Cameron said, $1.3 million dollars in revenue can't be wrong. The strong seasonal Nielson ratings for cop shows like Castle and Hannibal are what keeps them on the air, and this is not undermined by miniscule errors. One needs to realize that this century isn't the first one that has books and television shows with a raft of errors. This has been going on since time immemorial, because above all else, we are all human.

But fans are the key, they are the arbitrators of the gods of worlds. If a fan finds that the smell of cordite in a gunfight is incorrect and is not more worried about the characters in the gunfight, then the writer indeed has a poor story and has not done his or her job. Remember, the creator of a story can have pets come from the dead, Orcs rise from Wizards, bullets stop in mid-air to have a discussion, bodies dissolve into phonebooths, and people spout fangs, and if the reader or viewer has no problem with it, if they even accept it, how ridiculous is it to find some miniscule error and blow it all out of proportion, as if IT was the basis of the book or movie?

There will always be critics like Neil Degrasse Tyson in the world that will nit pick everything about someone's work and try to hang the value of the entire book or movie on their astute knowledge. Is this really about bettering the movie? Or is this more about self-importance? As Mr. Tyson says himself: “I was just completely immature about it.”

To writers I say, attain your position as god of your world, make water flow up, make people shrink to a quarter of their size, lose ships in space, cause serial killers to jump from three story roofs. Who cares? As long as your readers love your story. Do your research, give your readers realism, but as they say in the urban world: “Don't sweat the small stuff.” Your fans, people that really like your work and are not going over it with a fine toothed comb are the only people that you need to please and the 'minutaeists' (my word) can continue to critique and grouse as they wish. Don't let them rob you of your forward momentum by causing you to walk on eggshells because you might have something small wrong.

Worry about your story, let them spend sleepless nights over the sound of an MRI.


Friday, October 18, 2013

On the State of Publishing

People are clamoring over the state of publishing today and there seems to be some dispute as to what direction Self-publishing and Traditional publishers are going in today. In digging through this stuff I learned a raft of new words, one being 'disruption', which is what they are calling the changes that are being affected upon publishing today by the advent of the self-publishing revolution. There are more, but unless I use them I won't bother remembering them.

I will use the word Disruption though. Because it is a very good usage and visual as to what is happening today in publishing. Visualize a restless sea, churning and rolling with white capped waves, going about it's business, doing its thing, that is, being a body of water. And then see a boiling, dark cloud bank blot out the sun, flashes of lightning, not only in its depths but also lancing down to strike the agitated waters, bringing up angry waves. Deep valleys and huge swells of sea, crashing and exploding in gaudy sprays of white.

This is the disruption that is tearing through the publishing industry. The oncoming storm that is changing the face of the waters. The same with Self-publishing changing the face of publishing. Many people in the industry believe that Traditional publishers will be around in another ten to twenty years, but whatever is left of it, will not resemble what it looks like now, just like it doesn't resemble what it looked like ten years ago. People fail to realize that publishing was done by authors in years past.

Before publishing became an industry it was the simple tool of authors after they finished writing their books, a logical extension of the writing process. A writer went to a printing press, had a few hundred copies of his book manufactured out of his/her pocket or maybe the pocket of a patron, and then went to the neighborhood bookstores and left copies on consignment. This was the true face of publishing. This was a direct line between author and reader with very little in between. The creator handing their work over to the patron.

Over time unscrupulous individuals saw the benefit of exploiting an author's labors to their own gain. They took over the printing process and distribution channels and collected the works of authors to make a profit. Authors became lazy and publishers became greedy. As time wore on, others added themselves to the process, interjecting themselves between the Author and Patron. Editors were given the unlikeable task of reading from the slush pile to pick out the worthy manuscripts from it. Agents stepped into the process, at first working to represent authors, then acting as intermediaries between authors and publishers, finally turning into the same gatekeepers as the editors had become.

These three interlopers between the author and the reader began to see the author as something other than the beneficial source of their financial gain. Because there were so many authors, they began to view them, not as the wellspring from where everything came from, but as a spigot to be turned and used and then turned off when done. These Three ruled over the very people that they derived their livelihood from. They had what writers craved—authorship. They dangled the carrot and hundreds of thousands of authors fawned before them. The power indeed went to everyone's head. Yes indeed, there is power in being able to harness the work of thousands.

We see this in the maltreatment of authors in general, like when they are accepted by these gatekeepers, the price of authorship is so high. This is evident in the contracts that they are forced to sign in return for their services. The author signs away a great deal of their rights to their own work, and they are given a low percentage of the profits. One might falsely believe that many writers get such a hefty advance prior to the publication of their work, but this too is skewed. It's beneficial if the book is a flop, but burdensome if it is a hit. With the state of self-publishing today, it doesn't take hundreds of thousands of dollars to create and market a book. Why does an author have to give up so much of the profits and so much of his/her rights? In profit negotiation alone, couldn't the split be at worst 50/50?

It gets worse. Agents, Editors and Publishers began huge seminars where they built the audacity to charge writers to come and learn how to approach them. They gave irrational instructions on how to write queries and pitches and how to even address them as professionals. They charged writers to hear them speak at these conferences and writers flocked to this further infrastructure whose only purpose was to fleece them of money promising them that which they were not actually willing to give to all of them—authorship.

I'm not saying that no one benefited from anything that the Three had done, but sad to say, only a small majority are ever published. It's a golden ticket handed out to children to the chocolate factory to make the factory ever more enticing and desirous to all the many more children that do not get the chance to walk its delicious halls and wonders. It's a fabulous system that benefits itself by building such lopsided rewards that really have nothing to do with ability but more a game of chance to the benefit of the Three.

However, suddenly Amazon, wittingly or unwittingly took a writer's work and put it on an electronic bookshelf right next to a trade published work. Like being struck with a madness, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other electronic retailers became the printing presses of old, returning to a time when the author had a direct connection to his/her readers. Now the process is much easier. An author goes to an e-book distributor who moves it to the online retailers, but clearly it's smoother and facile. All an author has to do today is to create a quality manuscript and they can hand their book directly to someone interested in reading it.

The question now is where does this put the middlemen in the guise of Publisher, Editor and Agent? They are suddenly where they were before this amazing edifice was created. Nowhere. They produce nothing, they create nothing, and really have nothing to offer that the writer can't do on their own in this coming dawn. They'll offer their services, but now other individuals can also offer the same services. Such as editing. Publishers can offer up just their editing services, but there are already thousands of freelance editors out there doing the same. Or marketing skills. Publishers can offer their immense marketing machines, but as time goes on, writers will be able to pay for the same services from outside the publishing sphere.

Agents will lose publishers to offer their services to when authors go directly to their readers. Editors will have to only provide editing services and their power as gatekeepers will be completely lost. The publishing construct will begin to separate, fragment, then splinter and dissolve in the ocean of competition that they never had to fight against before. The great walls that held everything and everyone at bay will collapse and sadly, they will vanish behind them.

There just isn't any reason for writers to split their proceeds with individuals who do nothing but offer the services of others. The problem is that people don't remember how publishing was in its beginning. They are under the impression that publishing has always been the way it is now, when this is a process that is greatly akin to a growing vine on a tree. The vine has no connection to the tree, and at best believes that there is a symbiotic link between the two, when in fact its a parasitic pairing, the vine using the tree to reach higher an attain more light. The loss of Traditional publishing will be of no loss to anyone. That is why there is so much doomsday rhetoric coming from publishers, agents and editors about the future of publishing in the hands of self-publishers. But instead of crying the demise of themselves, they cry the end of publishing in general as we know it. This is false.

This will only revert to the way it once was.

The author will be able to give their hard work to the reader directly. And all services will go, not to interfere with this process, but support it. A process that was and once again is becoming organic. The artificial will not survive.


Friday, September 27, 2013

On Comming to Terms

I've been running about New York, partying after the end of the four week blog book tour. It's been a bit grueling to someone who has his hands full of marketing and writing. I've resumed working on my radio show about independent publishing. I started it on www.blogtalkradio.com several weeks ago and did at least three weeks of shows, which had over 3,000 downloads. I had built up this following as if by magic, they just appeared. Then I had to go to see my mother in North Carolina for a month. She needed a great deal of attention so I found it hard to beg off and do a 45 minute radio show every Friday. So, my listener base fell from 3,000 to nil in four weeks. I'm talking absolutely nil.

A skyrocketing rise to a meteoric fall. So now I'm trying to regain lost traction. I'm working hard on building that listener base by putting more value in my radio show. The show, I thought, could dwell on my book a little, but put the greater emphasis on self-publishing which could make the difference. It would attract listeners who were interested in self-publishing and yet give them a small dose of my book. So this was on my plate while I was doing the blog tour, plus a score of other marketing projects. So the book blog tour was not easy to do because it wasn't the only thing that I was juggling.

Therefore I took a week to party at my success in making a failure. Of losing 3,000 listeners, but of gaining scores of likes and followers from the book blog tour. Starting this week though, I'm back to work and no play. I'm having a problem bringing my seventh book to completion, so I want to get on that. My plan: I'm going to lean on the manuscript until I squeeze out the rest of my creative juices and finish the thing.

Further, I would like to find a good marketing plan that will get my book out to a larger portion of the masses. I see my marketing efforts as a growing stain across the nation, building and spreading, a dark growth creeping across the states. But I also do believe that each effort causes it to expand but it shortly cools and stops. You have to move on to another method and start the expansion once more, the slow creeping somewhere else, or somewhat within the stain, and hope that there is an even saturation.

Like rainfall that soaks the earth and causes grass and fauna to grow, your marketing efforts have to have the same effect. It needs to be consistent and varied. So I feel. That's why I try to do different things. While I'm working on the one hand to continue my series of novels, and on the other hand I work to get the first book promoted to everyone. To fan the fires, which takes some doing. Especially when you don't know what you are doing. I'm just feeling my way, like a man in a dark room. I haven't stumbled yet, and all of my efforts have been nominal. Hopefully I'll be able to grow more eyes on the book.

I would like to know my fans. I would like to know what it is that they like and didn't like about the book so that I can make a better one. I've gotten some reviews, and I value them. I've found a lot of fans on Facebook and Twitter and I'm trying to reach out to them, to interact with them. Because ultimately, that's what writing is about. It's about making the human connection, it's not just about making fans, but understanding them. It's about the human interaction that we all value.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

On When The Dust Settles

The blog tour has been long and hard. Almost 4 weeks in total. The first week I had to go down to Ahoskie North Carolina to take care of my mother. It was tricky checking into the blogs in the mornings and keeping up with those who commented while I was down there, but I got it done. Once I got back to New York it was business as usual. I got back into my daily routine and made managing my blog tour one of them.

I didn't understand the value of a blog book tour until the end, until now. Before the tour started I Googled the title of the book and my name and what I got was maybe a handful of returns on my search. Six if I was lucky. My blog didn't even register. That was before the tour. Now I did the same search and I have web pages filled with returns. I'm on virtual book shelves, blogs the works. And every blog has a different slant or feel or approach. I'm uniquely echoed all around the Internet.

Then I learned about the Law of Three. If your book is mentioned in more than three places on the Internet, people are more apt to purchase it. If the Law of Three applies, Cover of Darkness is well on its way. I am happy about this tour. It has benefits that I never even thought of. Yeah, okay, the blogosphere is noisy with chatter from my book, but then my Facebook pages and Twitter accounts began to blow up also. I'm having likes and followers every day. The name of my book is reaching the masses. 

Then I come to my blog, merely by accident, and noticed that even here, the numbers of my members has risen drastically, with the pageviews busting through the roof. And it dawned on me that I didn't blog in months. I was so busy with the publication of my book and the blog tour and marketing the book that I stop communicating with everyone. I've gone dark.

I need to keep up more. I need to speak out and do more. I've done a great deal, that's for certain, but I need to do more. Right now, I'm engaged in what I really love. Writing. I've almost finished with the 7th book in the Darkness series. I have book two to the editor and we're going over it with a fine toothed comb. We're doing the best work we've ever done for the second book. I'm also very excited to be working on book two and I'm happy to say the team, the proofreader, the cover designer, the formatter and others should have it all wrapped up by the end of the year. That would be great.

I also want to give Cover of Darkness some lead time. I want to market it to the best of my ability and marketing is probably the left leg if writing is the right. It is true that writing is what I love and if it was a perfect world, writing would be all that I would do, but it's not, and marketing is a must if you want your book to be noticed, and read. That's my burden, or job now, and that's to publicize the book.

Another thing is to stay in touch, which is what I've been failing at miserably. I've been so into doing the marketing thing and the Facebook thing and the Twitter thing that I've lost sight of the blog thing. So here I am, trying to catch everyone up with what I've been doing this past month, which has largely been the blog tour and several other matters to get the word out on the book.

One thing that I did, which was my plan just before the completion of the blog tour, was to put out another press release for the book. I chose to use a different agency this time, a cheaper one, whose ad stated, why pay hundreds of dollars when you can pay just about $200.00. So, maybe against my better judgment, I chose Lightning Release to do the job. It's been days since I paid them, and I have yet to see anything that they have done. I'm going to stay patient though. I know that there are a lot of rip-off artists in the self-publishing world today. Myriads, and myriad more are popping up daily. I've been extremely lucky so far. This might be my first mistake.

I've been making other moves too, but I'm not going to bore you with them all in this one post. I'll be more in touch as the days wear on. Right now, I'm going to take a break, wind down, and coast a few days. Then complete the 7th novel and go back a re-edit the 3rd.

By Friday, the blog tour will be over and I'll have far more time to do other stuff. And I hope to keep in touch through my blog.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On the Flat Ocean

I'm past the tran- sition. I've gone though the wilder- ness of crea- tionism. Yes, the book is out, pub- lished and at the distributors. I've made it through and there is nothing but flat glass ocean before my sailing ship and the curve of the horizon with no land in sight. My compass is spinning, the wind is brisk and the sails are full of wind. And yet, I am not done. I don't feel at this point that I will ever be done. There will never be an end to this journey. It's a trip across the ocean that has no landfall. Ever.

The transition. I covered it briefly earlier. The second third of my three fold plan. I'll go into it a little here. Once the book is finished, it has to be polished and cut, like a rare diamond, it needs to be clarified and changed before it can go out to the public. That's why you need a good editor. An editor that you can trust and that will be fair and yet clear with your book. Someone who polishes your writing and can make unclouded what you want to say to your readers. Where you are muddy, the editor can make crystal. You cannot do this yourself, no matter how good a writer you feel that you are. You can imagine yourself as a (and you can just as well be) a professor of English and a student of the written word, you are still too close to your manuscript. You are in effect performing surgery on your own baby, and I know you can tell, that's not a good idea. Much worse, it's performing surgery on yourself which is more tantamount and even worse.

Let another professional go over your work. Let them take out your errors that you don't feel are errors. Let them shed new light on your prose and gain the benefit of having a second pair of eyes go over your work. You will do fine if you allow the clarifying of your gem to be done. But this is not the only professional that you will need. There are more. There is a proofreader that is needed, to make it even more perfect, to root out all the typographical errors, and then a beta reader, if you can. A beta reader will look at the story and find errors in its construction, locate weak plot-lines, check continuity and do some fact checking. Also they will outline the plot, find themes and archetypes and point out where things work or do not. A beta reader is invaluable if you want to give your readers something different and are willing to take criticism from a stranger that is looking over your story as one of your readers would.

Then you have to go to a formatter and a book cover designer. Two people that are invaluable to the process. A formatter will take your manuscript and find the proper font, spacing, header, footer and the so forth. They move the work to publication. A good formatter is important. Then a cover designer is vital, because they make or break your book. A reader only looks at your book cover for a second or two; very briefly, and then it's over. If your book cover does not grab them by the throat and make them stop to check out your book, you have wasted all of your time in putting together your manuscript. Traditional publishers have scores of professional cover designers that sit down and work out the most striking cover for your book. You need to do the same. Maybe not find scores of designers, but find a good one and help them help you to make the best cover you can afford.

You have to take the time to find the best that work for you and your price range. Once you get through this field, once you've gone through this task, you will have an e-book and a file to upload to the distributors. From the distributors you go onto the third/third of the project. The part of the project that will last for years and years, which is marketing.

Marketing will take forever, and is multifaceted. It's on the other side of the transition and is the only one of the three that is without end. It will go on as long as you want it to, and you'll never want to stop once you get started. It'll flag, it'll wane, just like wind in the sails of a ship, but it will also pick up and billow, snapping your sails loudly and forcibly. When you tire, it will continue, and when you continue, it will tire. Marketing is one aspect of being a writer that will never go away. Unless you get a large multinational traditional publisher to fund your novel and they'll take over the marketing beast for you, they will also take the lion's share of your income that it makes. But here, if you are the master of your own destiny, the captain of your own ship, you will reap untold benefits if you do it yourself. It is what it is.

How do I know this? How do I know this when I've never done it before? I've listened to other writers, other self published authors that have done this on their own. They pushed their books and watched as the number of book sales rose. They cultivate their sales like a farmer would a field of wheat or corn. That is the great thing about working your own marketing plan is that you can watch it grow from nothing to something over the span of time and effort that you put into it.

I am doing my marketing plan now. I have book blog tours, did Goodreads and Facebook campaigns, have done a show on BlogTalkRadio, I have put out press releases and given my book to book reviewers. I've caused a big enough splash for the months of June and July and I will eagerly watch my book sales. They will either go up or don't move at all, but I suspect that they will rise somewhat. As the book gains more and more eyes it will find it's fans. I don't doubt that. It will find those who want to read it and will take the time to do just that. The book will find them and they will find the book. You have to convince yourself of that fact. You will find your fans and they will find you.

Much of it has to do with belief. You must believe that you will, through your writing, touch the souls of others. You will find your fans and they will find you. It may take months, it may take years. But they are out there, and it will only be a matter of time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On The Transition

I'm finally there. The end of the book has become reality. Cover of Darkness is finished, proofread, and ready for distribution. I call this point in the process: The Transition. Why do I call it this? Well, there is the formation of a book, the sitting down and sketching out of characters, plot, story arcs and the so forth, and most writers excel at this foundry of creation. We live for it, we sit behind our keyboards and pound away until before we know it, we have a manuscript. We are skilled at this, that's why we call ourselves writers. Some of us went to school for it, some of us have been writing since we were children, but all of us can put together a manuscript for better or for worse.

Once we put together one of these things, we are in a state of flux. Because here there are many decisions that can be made. It can go into percolation...which is on the shelf, or on the hard drive...to wait until we forget much of the heat that went into it, and then re-edit it with, hopefully, fresh eyes. Or it can move on in the process. It can go to a professional editor, proofreader, beta-reader or other editorial professionals, lurching its way toward distribution. I consider this process more of a 'creationism' and is on 'this' side of the process. That's because we are abundantly familiar with this procedure and are largely comfortable with it. Some of us can't take criticism and this can be painful when the manuscript moves into other hands. But it's still on this side of the fence.

I will get into the other side later.

Then there comes The Transition. This is the mechanics of the machine, the churning muscles beneath the skin. This is where we do what we do because we have to. We have to find formatting and formatting companies, book creation, standard printing or print of demand, book cover design, outlet and distribution choices, all the meat and potatoes that bring the book into either an ebook format or physical book. This is the bewildering hurricane of jargon, choices, and options that come at you in dizzying cyclone of information. A great deal of reading goes on at this point, a great deal of digestion. You learn everything from book binding, ISBN numbers, cover design, it goes on an on and in some depth until you go round and round and come out here.

This is where I'm at, The Transition, and it's terrifying because you don't want to make a mistake that will cost you dearly. Every decision that you make has far reaching implications in the cycle of your book. If you survive The Transition, if you are not bilked out of tons of money, if you get what you paid for, if the quality of your final product makes you proud, you survived and can move on to the other side of the fence.

The other side is also fraught with the same trials and tribulations. But worry about that later, because if you don't have any experience with The Transition, you'll probably have even less with “Marketing your book” which is the other side of what we do. I break this entire process up into three zones so that in totality it doesn't seem so daunting.

I'm sitting behind my computer, fielding emails from my cover designer, ebook and paperback formatter, ISBN website and distributor. Survival and success is in the future, and I will chronicle the rest of my journey on these pages as I go along.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On lessons learned from DUNE

Paul Mu'ad Dib Atreides once said in the book, DUNE: “The spice must flow.” This is very true for that universe. Everything turned around the spice melange. Ships traveled through space by it, blood rushed through the veins by it, the Reverend Mothers manipulated family lines by it, Paul could see the future because of it. It was the lifeblood of the universe and without it everything would grind to a halt. Everything.

And with this backdrop I started thinking about what was going on in the publishing industry in this day and age. Everyone is talking about new business models and how the big publishing houses are retooling themselves. But in the book, DUNE everything was run by huge imperial family houses that called the shots across the universe because there was never any threat to something so ubiquitous as the spice. It continued to flow, the houses continued to rule with an iron, uncaring hand and the Fremen, the people of Arrakis, the home-world of the spice, were under their iron thumb.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

I was thinking about it one night and I came to the conclusion that literature, writing, is the spice melange. The product that pours out of the fertile minds of the writers the world over flows into the minds of readers who then visualize it, they make movies of it, Broadway plays, and television shows. Stories and characters are potent melange that the entertainment world spins madly around. And if writing is the spice then writers are the Fremen. And as with the Fremen writers were abused and exploited by the huge publishing houses that ruled the universe for decades.

But like DUNE, like Arrakis, Paul Mu'ad Dib arrived and changed everything. He took the spice from the great houses and gave it back to the Fremen. He emancipated the people and gave them back the true power of the universe. The Houses did not do anything but exploit and use their abundant riches to transport and distribute the spice. They did little more than that.

The Internet has become Paul Mu'ad Dib. And an emancipation has occurred. Now the Fremen can pass the spice directly to the people. And the great houses, as in the book, become irrelevant. All power fell backwards atop Arrakis, and so too does all power return to the Internet. The Internet, and these start up companies that distribute e-books, and Print on Demand services will be the new channel that people will go to for their books and reading entertainment. If the publishing houses don't see this, they need to read DUNE.

The spice must flow, and the literature must do the same. But a new path is opening, emancipation, and the true winners will be the Fremen, the writers, and the true losers will be those that ruled them with an iron fist.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Ending Your Story

I'm a writer and this is a writer's blog.

I spend a lot of time here talking about my upcoming book but not about writing in the real sense and I'll tell you why. I don't think you can teach anyone how to write. I think writing is such a personal thing that it's almost impossible to teach someone because it becomes like teaching someone how to be like you. My writing is so personal, it's like trying to teach someone how to become Gregory. That's an impossibility because I'm a unique individual and to teach someone to be me is like trying to squeeze blood out of a stone.

The funny thing is that to be a writer it's best not to be taught to be one. To be a good writer you have to be yourself and see the world as you do, and once you come to grips with that you can be a writer in your own right. Maybe someone can show you a few techniques, which you will learn on your own just by reading the works of other writers, or you can make your own techniques. What the hell? Who's right when it comes to writing? There are tons of rulebooks on the subject, but do you want to know the truth? Only the reading public can say who's right and who's wrong. All of these books on the subject of writing can take a long walk off a short pier because you can skip all of their rules and if you become a bestselling author, all that literature proves to be just what it is, swill.

I'm not saying to ignore everything. There are some good suggestions out there, but for the most part you have to write your own story, and if a hundred people say it sucks, then you should ask them why. Maybe you do suck. But you have to be you. You have to write for you, and then if someone wants to share your journey with you then you can build a fan base. That's if an editor will allow you access to your audience. Editors and agents are the gatekeepers, and they stand in your way by deciding what is good and what is not. In fact, they don't even do that anymore. They decide what will sell a lot and what wont. They don't even read your material anymore.

But that's for another post. The thing that I'm talking about today is how to write a conclusion to your novel or book. Well, I'll tell you how I write a conclusion to my book and you can either take it to heart or ignore it, that's up to you, but this is my writing lesson for today. Conclusions. They are the stuff of your novel, because without a conclusion you have nothing. Or is that true? Can you finish off a book and not 'tie up all the loose ends'. I seldom try to tie up loose ends simply because that is not life. Stuff is messy in life, people don't always climax after sex, the bad guys are not always killed, or killed in a way that equals their badness, liars are not found out, cheaters are not caught, justice is not always swift, the only sure thing is from a quote from the bible, which I will paraphrase, “the victory does not always go to the swift, or the prize to the wise, because time and unforeseen occurrences befall them all.”

What am I trying to say is, it doesn't always work out in life, and some of the messiest things occur out of left field, good, bad or otherwise. So if you are coming to the conclusion of your novel, you don't always have to make sense. People will understand it because they've seen it before in their lives. The bad guy does not always have to get caught, the good guy the accolades, the woman the pregnancy that she wants, the child the spelling bee. You can mess things up and not tie up ends and who's to say that you are wrong? This is your story, end it how you like. Just don't wind up the book too tightly because it feels false if you do that. It's not life as we know it.

We are used to failure, to falling short of the mark, we are used to the wedding ring falling into the drain, or being caught by our wives or husbands when we have an indiscretion. The cops stop you for a blown tail light on the only night that you've been drinking in ten years, and you never win the lottery. Keep your stories real. You can just end them anywhere. Don't wander around looking for the 'appropriate' ending. Some writers do that, and find that they can't finish their work. That's probably because the work is already finished and needs the three letters FIN put at the end of it. But no, they roam and wander like men in the desert, looking for that miracle oasis of a finish that will wrap up their novel succinctly. This is a lark, a canard. There is nothing like this. Nothing in real life that is.

End it. Put it out of it's misery. The reader might want it to end too. Don't string them along, don't drag them behind the car just because you don't know the address of the end. Just stop and end it. I like to end my stories on harsh notes, on unfinished notes. It's just me. I don't try to imitate anyone. I'm writing because this is my journey.

Take your journey...remember to end it.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On Setbacks

More setbacks.

More delays. More time to sit on my hands, which I really refuse to do. I'm constantly working on my writer's platform while I'm waiting for my editor to come back to me with my finished manuscript. That's what's so disheartening, but on the same coin, it builds me up. How do I explain this?

Well, I want the book finished, wrapped up and sent to distributors and out to the reading public. That is my foremost desire. Everything else, everything, from the web-page, to the cover designer, to the head-shot photographer and the virtual book tours are waiting for one person, my editor to finish. This is disheartening.

Although everything is in stasis, I am not. I refuse to sit still just because someone else is proving that my project is not important to them. With this being said, I move on to building up my writer's platform. A writer's platform is everything that draws readers to your book and your name. In the old days they called it a marketing campaign. Now they call it a platform. While I'm waiting on my editor I'm working on this platform. I'm choosing who to go to for my virtual book tour, I'm picking magazines to run ads in, I'm spreading my name across blogs-sites to get it out there, I'm going to review sites and preparing them to receive my book whenever it is completed to write reviews for it, I'm building an email marketing campaign and the materials that are to go into it, I'm building a Facebook marketing campaign that will have a tiny ad aimed at my target audience, I've built a Facebook page for the book, and a twitter account to let my fans know what I'm up to, and I'm working on a Google Ads campaign which is similar to the Facebook one, as well as an Amazon one.

What I'm saying is that I am working on my marketing and as soon as I get the final piece of the manuscript in hand, I'm ready to explode all over the place. The marketing is critical because they say that it is impossible to sell 10,000 copies of your book. Well, not impossible, but it's a watermark that's incredibly hard to reach. I'm hoping to push my book to reach that number and more. But 10,000 is my trigger number for the second book of the series to be launched. Once I get there, I want to automatically launch it like a rocket and follow behind the momentum of the first one with it.

Whatever happens, I am working, and the above builds me up.

I'm not going to sit around on my hands and I definitely will not stop just because I am being forced to wait on someone that I don't think cares like I do about my work. But who's supposed to care more for a project than the one that spawned the project themselves? I should be understanding that this is the way things go and recover and move. And that's my plan. To recover and move.

Setbacks only allow one to build infrastructure and nothing can stop a person who has more patience than a corpse. I am confident that my moment will come and when it does, I hope to be ready to make things happen.

I wont sit still, and I won't stop working.
I move on.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the State of Publishing's Future

Happy New Year.

Yeah, that's just how I feel. I am happy for the first time in my life. Everything is falling into place and I like that. The thing about being a writer is that you spend much of your time alone, in a chair, tapping on the keys of a laptop, computer, typewriter, trying to make your voice heard. That's the thing, you have to be a solitary man to do this (or woman), and you have to give up a lot of life to this art if you want to be taken seriously.

I know, all the successful writers out there have the opposite to say, some never had a difficult time in making it to the top, but they are the exceptions to the rule. That's the funny thing about life. There's always another recourse to follow. But I can only give you mine. Writing takes time, and it takes a devotion to the craft. You may never get noticed, you might be noticed right away. But whatever the case, things are moving fast, and the fastest are benefiting from it. And the slow...well they are just slow and don't deserve the worm.

I work every day on my craft. I work hard and diligently. I want to be taken seriously. I don't want people to hear that I'm a writer and say to me, oh that's just a hobby. It's not a hobby and I work hard to prove that. That's just the way that it is. I think that hobbies are fine, and some people have turned their hobbies into writing riches, and some have been plugging at this all their lives and are still not published. The beauty of it all is Legacy Publishing is on its way out. Every day they bleed until they are bled white. Sad to say, that's the case and it's a passing that is, in my book, long deserved.

Many writers claim that there will always be the Legacy Publishers. They will co exist side by side with the new wave of indie publishers, just like the music industry is still strong even though indie musical artists are proliferating. My question is why do they use this business model to compare to the publishing model? They are not the same. The music industry still holds sway over the key ingredient to the masses. Radio. As long as Djs don't go out there and play indie music, the average person will never know of them. The music marketing machine has a lock on radio and magazines. Local indie bands don't stand a chance of being heard over all this background noise. The music industry's dwindling profits come from the digitization and proliferation of their music without having a hand in it. They are losing in sales, not in marketing.

Unfortunately, for Legacy Publishing, they haven't been real marketers of books by even their own lesser known authors. When it comes to marketing anything but their top ten bestsellers, they could care less. What little they could do for them is all that they do for them. They want their new authors to go it on their own, and they do...they have to, because they have to sell scads of books to see any kind of profit, since the publishing company is taking the lion's share of the profit.

Social media is the new word for authors now. Also Search Engine Optimization and Virtual Book Tours and personal reviewers are spouting up like weeds in a forest and the big publishing companies are still using television, radio and poster/billboard campaigns to spread the word. The Tyrannosaurus Rex is far to stupid to realize where all the food has gone. It didn't follow the migration, but instead is loitering around at the same ponds, rivers and high weeds where it's prey used to feed. It missed the boat so to speak.

Yes, I'm saying it now, as the Legacy Publishers numbers shrink the proper business model to compare the current upheaval in the publishing business is that of the business model of the dinosaur....