Monthly Archives: July 2012

Give’m What They Want

This is a phrase I’ve heard over and over in all of my careers, especially in my customer services positions. Give them what they want. It also holds true in my writing and publishing career. Maybe even more so.

What am I talking about? When a publisher asks for a particular way to send a manuscript, i.e. format or number of pages, that is what you need to give them. Anything else is just asking to be rejected. You must do exactly what they want, how they want, and when they want it. It is so true that the publisher is looking for reasons to reject manuscripts.

As a writer I followed this rule (give’m what the want) to the letter, and although I received tons of rejection letters, I followed their rules. As a publisher, I can totally understand why the publishers are so picky. If a writer can’t even follow simple instructions, how can they possibly be expected to be able to meet deadlines and expectations of the writing profession. So when I get a submission that doesn’t meet the simple instructions that the submission guidelines provide, yes, I will reject it.

This also holds true for any writing contest. I remember one time I submitted an entry which was supposed to be double spaced and I sent it in single spaced. It was actually my first entry into a writing contest. It was rejected with no time to resubmit. I was very disappointed but I learned an incredible lesson that I have NEVER forgotten. And I have never repeated that mistake again.

So don’t even make that mistake once. Give’m (publisher, contest, whatever) what they want. Stay Tuned.

PS- Speaking of submissions- we, Seventh Wave Books, are looking for a few good authors. We would like to put out at least three more books by the end of the year. But we need those submissions NOW, so that our editors have time to tweak them into perfection. Yes, we love first time authors. So if you write mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, or action/adventure, check out our website and our submission guidelines. http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

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One Piece Of Advice…

The best piece of advice I got when I first starting writing seriously was from a wizened older writer. The question was how he wrote so much. He answered, “You sit your butt in your chair and just write.” To this day I live by that mantra.

Some of my writer friends use the excuse that they have trouble writing all the time because they just can’t get enough time to spend in their office or they don’t have an office. Where you write is merely a state of mind. All that matters is that you write.

I’ve written in some pretty strange places. Coffee shops are a given. Even with the noise and distractions, many people write in coffee chops. Libraries are another place that people write. However, some times the quiet bothers me. (Yeah, I’m weird.) Hotels while traveling, yeah these are pretty standard too. In the car while traveling (no, not driving the car). In the hallway of the hotel is one of the stranger places I’ve written. At a restaurant. On a picnic table in the local park. Sitting in the car while waiting on kids. At a kid’s birthday party. In the kitchen while cooking. In the stadium stands at a competition. At work (I work at a call center and write between calls.).

I have never had an ‘office’. Right now my ‘office’ is my lazy boy chair in the living room. (My family is living in a very small apartment and space is at a premium.) Usually I can write with almost any sort of distraction. The hardest distraction I’ve found is the TV. This is because when the commercials come on, they are at a slightly higher volume then the shows and it pulls my attention out of my work. (Yes, they do that on purpose, those crafty advertisers.)

The point here is to just write. In my case where ever I find myself. For some, it has to be a certain place. Whatever you have to do, just get your bottom in a seat, any seat and write. Write, write, write.

Stay Tuned.

(Of course every four years I get VERY distracted with watching the Olympic Games. Maybe, just maybe someday the world can get together in peace for more than just 17 days. We can hope.)

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

Yes, I’m a big Monty Python fan. But that being said, I decided that once a month I’m going to do a review of a book I’ve read. I’ll try to only do recent books I’ve read but it depends on a lot of factors (i.e. how much time I’ve had that month). So every fourth Sunday of the month it will be a review.

The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode is my pick to start this off. I picked it up on a free sale via Amazon for my Kindle. I really don’t know why I picked it. Something in the name of the title I guess intrigued me I guess.

The plot is set in the 30’s in Michigan through Texas. A seventeen year old boy Tobias Henry comes of age as he is sent on a trip to Texas by his father. His father, a Baptist minister, is blinded in an accident and is about to get kicked out of town so he send Tobias to recover hidden money in an abandoned well in his old homestead in Texas. Tobias must travel from Michigan to Texas by himself. During this epic adventure he meets several colorful characters, including a very likeable character, Craw. Craw teaches Tobias the ways of the hobos. When they reach Texas, more adventures await him including true love.

The book kept my interest which is something because I read in spurts. Ten minutes here, half an hour here, five minutes there. The story had a pretty good pace and the emotional growth of Tobias is as expected, after all it is a coming of age story. I felt that the quick turnaround of the father was a little abrupt and some parts were predicable.

Craw was impressive though. I did find him to be the best of the story. The ending was a little too sweet for me, but not unexpected. Although not one of my all time favorites, it was still a good read and I would recommend it to someone looking for just a little something to enjoy.

Here is the link to Amazon for The Dirty Parts of the Bible. http://www.amazon.com/The-Dirty-Parts-Bible-Novel/dp/1419667394

If you have a recommended book that you would love for me to review, put a comment here and I’ll see what I can do. Stay tuned.

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Where In The World?

Today I was boringly doing my mundane job when one of my co-workers asked the question…. Where do you get your story ideas from? If you’ve been writing for long or given any book signings or presentations at writing conferences, this question always comes up. It would seem that people who don’t have the inclination to write are fascinated by how we do it.

The answer that I give is a fairly vague one because there is no one place. A least for me. Anything can spark an idea. A picture. A news story. A snippet of conversation. Something I see when I’m driving. A phrase that someone says to me. Even something from my mundane job.

Many times I don’t get the spark right away. Sometimes the ‘idea’ merely languishes there in my murky brain. It collects cobwebs in the recesses of what I like to call my inner brain. Then it ferments until it explodes into a full blown story. Or I see something and immediately the story blooms.

The weird thing about this question posed to me was that I had just read an article in Writer’s Digest September 2012 issues by Candy Schulman. And it was Andy Rooney’s answer to her question that is a truth for all writers. His answer was “Well you damn well sit down and decide to have an idea.”

No matter where these ideas come from, it takes the writer’s intuitive sense to take it and develop it into a full blown story. And that is where the real writer lives. Stay tuned.

Speaking of ideas… If your manuscript that you’re writing is ready for publication and it’s a mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy or action/adventure … We’re seeking submissions here at Seventh Wave Books. We would like to publish at least three more books before the end of the year… And it could be your lucky day! Check out http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

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Digital Conversion

This concept for us is still a work in progress. We are slowly working our way to how we want to be able to convert all of our manuscripts to digital format but aren’t completely happy with the results. I know that all of the big publishers use InDesign. However, since we are a small publisher working on a shoe string budget, we can’t afford this system yet. Working on it, but not there at this time. Therefore it has been a real learning experience with using different programs.

First we started out asking other authors and other small publishers what they use. Between that they told us and my research online in the very confusing world of the internet, we came up with several things that need to happen before you end up with a digital file in both e-pub and mobi (azw). E-pub is the standard that most e-readers use, these include Sony, Nook, Kobi and many others. Mobi (azw) is what the Kindle uses. If you are going to publish in digital format you have to be able to convert to both. Also you should produce a PDF for those that can’t use either of these two formats (not many).

For e-pub it is fairly easy to find a converter for free. I’ve haven’t been excessively happy with any of them so far. One of the drawbacks seems to be file size. I have one I really like but it won’t convert a full manuscript at one time. I have to do it in pieces. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Everything I read says, and what I’ve learned from experience, is that you have to have a clean html to make the best conversion. Apparently Word docs have a lot of extra formatting (I’m not a geek here, so sorry that I’m not using technical terms) that is unnecessary and hard to convert to digital. So first take your Word doc and clean it up. I found a really good html cleaner for free. http://word2cleanhtml.com/ Again, it does have a size limitation.

After you have a clean file, then you need to add back the paragraph indents and chapter breaks, scene breaks, etc. One site recommended Open Office. http://www.openoffice.org The program is pretty intuitive to use (I figured it out and I’m not a spring chicken who was raised with computers!). Several people and sites recommend using Sigil a WYSIWYG e-book editor to do the same. http://code.google.com/p/sigil/ I’m still learning about this program, so I’ll let you know how it does. Right now I’m using Open Office.

Next you have to convert it to the intended format you want. There are several programs that I’ve tried and the work to varying degrees. I usually use this PDF converter. http://www.freepdfconvert.com As for e-pub programs, there is any number of e-pub converts for free on the internet. I’ve used http://www.2epub.com

As for mobi (azw files) I’ve found two. The first is MobiPocketCreator. Just Google it. It’s a free download and again is easy to use. The mobi files work well on my Kindle. The other is Calibre. Again another free download. This is a whole e-book management system. One of its components is that it converts a Word doc to mobi and e-pub. I’ve not been as happy with the e-pub conversion but I don’t have a lot of experience in e-pub because I own a Kindle. The mobi files work fine on my Kindle. And again this program is fairly easy to use.

If you are transferring directly to any e-reader device, these programs all work great. However, the big stumbling block is that when you upload your manuscript to Amazon via Creatspace, it doesn’t like the mobi file. It likes a Word doc better. Go figure. So if you’re selling directly off your website, any of these will work. If you are going with Createspace or other middle man, Word doc seems to be the best so far.

One drawback to InDesign… Smashwords ( http://www.smashwords.com ) doesn’t take InDesign files well. Again, it prefers Word docs. Again, go figure. Well, as I learn more I’ll post it to the blog. Stay tuned.

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SOAP BOX ALERT! Pricing of books.

Okay today I’m going to step up on my soap box and rant a little. If you don’t want to read a rant, then you should probably skip this blog. What am I going to rant about? The price of e-books from the big publishers and others just really torques me off.

Here is what set me off. I’m currently reading several series of well known authors. As a Kindle lover, I prefer to read these books on my Kindle. Yes, I’ve converted from an ‘I love print books’ to an ‘I really like reading on my Kindle’. But it always bothers me the price that is being charged for the digital reading material.

For example, I started reading from Craig Johnson, the Walt Longmire Mystery Series. The cost of his e-books is $11.99 or more. The paperback, let me repeat that, the PAPERBACK version of the same books retail at $11.20 or more. $11.20! Less then the Kindle version!

Another example. I love Christopher Moore’s books. Love them. I have never laughed harder while reading a book. Seriously, read his stuff, you’ll be wetting your pants. However, I no longer buy them because the Kindle version is $9.99 and up. The print version is $10.19 and up. That’s only a 21 cent difference! Really. Really publisher?!

I haven’t read this one but I decided to find a best seller to see how they were priced. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. The e-book version sells for $9.99. The print version is $9.57. Forty cents LESS then the Kindle version.

So you are probably wondering why I’m so incensed. I’ll tell you. The publishers are ripping off readers. Okay maybe ripping off is the wrong term. Fleecing would be a better term. Heres the reason.

The cost of print books is pretty high. The average small printer’s cost on a paper version (a 6×9 trade paperback book) is around $5.50. That what it costs to print an average book. The bigger publishers probably get a much better price than that. They still have to pay the author royalties, the distributor (middle man), then there is the percent off that the book seller’s take. Therefore for the medium to small printer in order to even break even the print books have to, HAVE to be priced at $12.99 and up. Again the bigger publishers can cut this price down a bit, but even for them there are still costs associated with the actual printing of a book.

Now the outrage and a secret the big publishers don’t want you to know. The price of a digital e-book is minimal. After converting the manuscript file to digital, using the same cover for the book (already paid for because of the print version), and uploading it to the Amazon website, the cost is substantially less. And there is no overhead! No printing, no shipping, no warehousing the books, no paying for book space at book stores (Yes, that does happen, people!), no middle man (besides Amazon, B&N, etc.)! Yet they are charging as much if not more for the e-book, in this case Kindle version, of the book. They are fleecing the e-book readers of money. Knowingly, even doing it with glee. The publishers are raking it in. In huge piles.

I was outraged when I started in this publishing venture. Why make the reader pay MORE to read it on an e-reader? Why? Because they can, that’s why! When Jason and I started our publishing business, Seventh Wave Books, LLC, we decided to keep the price as low as possible on both fronts. Yes, our print books are priced at $12.99 or more. They have to be for us to be able to pay our authors and still make a small, and I do mean small, profit (we’re talking around $1.00 for us, not the authors). And we pledge to keep our e-books at $4.99 or less. We still make a small profit on them and pay authors well (I do mean good). Yet, we are still keeping the price of books at a reasonable cost. That is the promise we make to you the reader. Give us a try.

In the meantime, I will not buy a Kindle book that is over $4.99. It just doesn’t happen for me. I refuse. I keep a close eye on my favorite authors and when a book is put on sale, $4.99 or less), I buy it. But until then… no way. I’ll keep my extra money, thank you.

Okay, so now that I ranted, I’m stepping down off my soap box. Thank you for listening. Stay tuned.

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Books, Books, And More Books

In Real Estate the motto is Location, Location, Location. In publishing it’s Books, Books, and More Books. The content we sell is books. The more content (books) you have for sale, usually, the successful you will be. (Told you I’d get back to this topic soon.)

However, there is a caveat here. It has to be good content. Good readable and sellable content. This will sound bad, but there is tons of crap out there. And I do mean tons. I have been a judge on quite a few writing contests. There are gems out there, but there are many more manuscripts that need a lot of work. I mean a lot. Most of those manuscripts are not ready yet for publishing and the right to call it a book. (Before a book is signed by a company and published it is actually called a manuscript. Only after printing/publishing is it called a book.)

In judging those contests, I have come to realize that some writers take criticism well, learning from their mistakes and making improvements on their manuscripts. These writers as they develop their craft with eventually become authors. However, there are some that do not take good advice, even common knowledge, and put it to use to improve their manuscripts.

In one such contest in which I was a judge, for three years in a row the same writer sent in an entry. The first year all three judges comment in the same respect about the first twenty-five pages (the entry amount required). All three commented about that there was no hook, the characters were flat and lifeless, and the plot did not move at all in those twenty-five pages. The second year the same writer sent in the same manuscript. Nothing was changed. Nothing, at least as far as I could tell. I was the only judge from the year before and, again, all commented on the same three items that needed improving. In the third year, I was lucky(?) to get the same manuscript entry again. Needless to say, again there was no seeming change in the pages. And again the same comments. Needless to say this person never even placed in the top ten in any of the contests.

The reason I mention this is that as a publisher, you have to get stern about the manuscripts that you read. If it isn’t so close to publication that it excites you, then it should get the ubiquitous rejection letter. Now I’m not saying be mean about it. I also try to give suggestions with my rejection letters, (I’ve been on the receiving end of rejection letters. I have a whole pile saved.) And sometimes it is just that little suggestion that can improve a questionable submission into a submission that gets a contract.

In those cases, when I can see that the writer is moving in the right direction and just needs a little help, I offer as much help as I can within limits. I would hate to have a truly budding author lose heart and stop writing.

Just remember this when you’re weeding your way through the ‘slush pile’ to find that one gem. And there are out there too. Just put on your wading boots, take a deep breath and start reading.

If you’re a writer and reading this, remember that the people who are reading your manuscripts are trying to help. And make sure that your manuscript is as polished as you can make it. Then take any suggestions seriously and remember what I wrote in my last blog. Stay tuned.

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