Are You Ambitious?

Since my last blog, I have tried my hand at a publishing company that offers no help whatsoever: www.blurb.com, but is free. I mentioned them earlier, but now I have tried them. I decided to experiment with my short story book: Hobos I Have Known.

At this point I have done much of the work and sent for my first book to see how it will turn out. It has been shipped and I expect to see it any day now.

This book has been around for several years now so much of the editing and proofreading were done. Still, there is always the urge to change and improve(?) things. In the past, I did all the work and hired a local printer. That printer no longer does small run print jobs.

So, what is the difference between Blurb and Trafford besides cost?

The things I mentioned in my last blog about back cover copy, business cards, bookmarks, etc. are equally important with both companies. At Trafford, if you pay for the service, they will punch up your copy for you. At Blurb, you are your own, although you can hire people to help you out. These are freelancers not connected directly to Blurb.

At Trafford, they will design a cover for you. You make suggestions of what you want the cover to look like and they work with what you provide. They have a huge selection of pictures that you can draw from. You get one free rejection and then you have to decide between their second attempt and the first. If you are not happy with either, you can always send in your own. The first attempt looked like what I had requested but, didn’t really capture the essence of what I wanted. I liked their second attempt. It followed my suggestions; I supplied the artwork. I was talking to real people during this process.

At Blurb, they simply give you a choice of layouts and you do all the work. If you have a flair for design, that is no problem. Again, they will supply you with a list of designers if you want to hire one.

As for the core of the book, Trafford made it simple. After you do all your editing and proofreading and have someone else look at it as well, you simply send them a Microsoft Word file and they turn it into a book.

Blurb sounds as simple, but it isn’t. You do need a Microsoft Word.doc file. That’s the 2003 or earlier version and then have to break it up into separate files for each chapter. There was a  problem with paragraph indents which I had been forwarned about by Candy McMudd, another Blurb author. Check out her youth book: Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove at Blurb.com or check out Diane Tibert’s blog page at WordPress. The editing process was slow at times. If you try them, watch the video on how to publish a text book first. I wish I had. I’m not going to offer hints on how to get around the paragraph intent problem until I see my book first. But don’t let me scare you off. Try your luck. It’s free.

Blurb, to my eye, is a picture book publisher. They seem to have handling photos down to a science. I haven’t actually tried a picture book. If you want a book of your wedding photos with text for you, your family and closest friends, they look like the place to go. Got thousands of fantastic vacation photos and want to make a travel book. Try Blurb.

Step one of this process is finishing the manuscript including proofreading and editing. Getting the book into print is step 2. Next comes marketing.

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How do you decide what you will pay?

My writers group met the other night and we discussed some of the findings of the 2015 Smashwords Ebook Suvey. Smashwords, for those unfamiliar, is a site where independent authors can sell their ebooks. Actually, it does much more, but that is not the focus of today’s blog.

One of the findings garnered from twenty-five million dollars worth of ebook sales data is that the sweet spot for selling full-length indie fiction is $3.99. If you are interested in reading the full report, and if you’re not an indie author why would you bother, go here: http://blog.smashwords.com/2015/12/SmashwordsEbookSurvey2015.html

Why, I wonder would $3.99 outsell $1.99 for the same product.  It turns out that $1.99 is the black hole in terms of overall earnings and should be avoided. The report doesn’t draw any conclusions; it merely points out the facts. It appears some people believe that a book selling for $3.99 has to be a higher quality book than one selling for $1.99.

This raises questions about all our purchases. How do we decide what we are going to pay when the prices for what appears to be a similar item vary? Are those dollar items at the Dollar Store as good as what appears to be the same item selling for $2.99 at Walmart?

I currently wear a pair of $140 boots—steel toes, steel arch, good to -40C. Could I have gotten the same value for say $80 or even $50? There are boots out there making similar claims. When I drop a log on my foot or step on a nail, that’s not the time to find out I should have gone for the higher-priced boot. Is minus-40 overkill? I live in Canada. It’s winter. Nothing can ruin a day outdoors more than cold feet. So in my mind, I can justify that outlay of money.

Then, there is the seamier side of the question. Do retailers price products based on their cost to produce plus a reasonable markup or do they price things based on what they think the market will bear? As consumers are we being gouged by our own desire to make what we think is a smart purchase? Do we pay higher prices because of some preconceived notion that more must be better?

It’s something to think about. In the meantime, I will be at Smashwords and Amazon raising the price of my books from $1.99 to $3.99. It’s not my fault. that’s the price that sells.

 

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The importance of a good name and tag line

The challenge today in blogging 101 is to tweak the blog name and tag line of my blog site. Latties Brook Writer stays. There may be more of us putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard here in Latties Brook, but I’m not aware of who they are. Consequently, I want to grab that title while it is available.
The tag line I will change. Previously it was “my journey into publishing” or something like that. I am changing it to “a view from paradise.” I played around with “a view from the second storey of paradise” or “up a storey in paradise.” This is a play on the word story and storey. I write on the second floor. But, that’s not really my style.
In paradise today, it is -14C. It has to be paradise. Hell is not that cold, or so we’ve been told. As I look from my window, one storey up, everything is white. It has been a week since the last major snowfall and the snow still clings to the ground. I used to joke when I lived in Winnipeg that the snow that fell in November was still there in April. Is Nova Scotia joining the rest of the country in that regard. In the good old days, two years back, the snow in Nova Scotia would come, turn everything white, look nice for a day or so and leave.
We seem to be creating a new paradigm, and not in a good way. Nobody who lives in Nova Scotia needs to be reminded of last year. It snowed every Tuesday and Saturday in February and March and piled higher and higher  until your neighbour’s house simply disappeared. The snow hung around until May. Is this the new normal?
I notice next Tuesday it will be +1 according to the weather network. It brings to mind a Rick Mercer Skit on weather forecasting. At the end of the seven-day forecast they would always give us a +1, something to look forward to. Here’s hoping.
Thanks for reading, but it’s time to get back to putting words together that will add up to a new manuscript. I’m 105,500 words into my first draft. It’s time to bring all those plot twists and turns together. I know where the end is. The challenge now is to get there.

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Starting again

My name is Art and I am a writer.

Self-published.

People, like the anonymous “they”, tell aspiring writers they must blog to build up a fan base. I’ve been writing since 2003. Somewhere in that distant past, I tried the blogging thing. I wrote about the journey involved in getting a book into print.

I quickly discovered there is only so much you can say on that topic when you don’t know a lot about it.  So my blogging sort of dwindled and died.

Now I am going to try it again., this time with guidance.

Unlike my last efforts,  I will not limit myself to blogging about the writing journey. I will discuss that when the mood strikes, but at the same time I will write about things that sparked my interest on any particular day, upset me on any particular day or popped out the end of my fingers when I sat down at the keyboard on any particular day.

I choose to do this in a blog rather than say, Facebook, because people will have to come to my blog to read it. They can react anyway they want to my ramblings, but they came here. Unlike Facebook where I would be sticking these articles in their faces whether they wanted them or not.

So, I’m supposed to be introducing myself. As I said my name is Art, Art Burton. I live in a place called Latties Brook in rural Nova Scotia, population around fifteen, depending on which parent some of the kids in the community are living with on any particular day.

I write and self-publish mystery novels and short stories. I understand I’m not supposed to be pushing any products, but if you add .ca to my name you might find my books. This writing process started in 2003 when I retired from the Halifax Herald. I have a wife, Flame, and a dog, Charley. Let’s blog together.

 

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What’s in a Name?

Amazon is running a contest for writers who have unpublished or self-published manuscripts and it is free. At that price, I couldn’t afford not to enter. The question became which manuscript to enter. Should I use one that’s been out in the public for awhile or one that no one has seen but me?

In my mind, they are all equally as good, but I’ve learned that I’m not always right. After some deliberation and discussion with a few close friends, I’ve decided to go with my self-published novel “For Hire, Messenger of God.”

For Hire, MofG cover Trafford

Entering it into this contest allows me to do some additional edits that I think are required now that I and a hundred or so other people have seen it in print. The other thing it allows me to do is re-address my chosen title.

It seems that everyone in the business but me knows enough not to use the word God in your title. I was even advised not to do this by an editor at Canadian Stories magazine. Unfortunately I ignored his advice. My fault and I’ve possibly suffered as a result.

Without generalizing too much there are at least three categories or readers out there when it comes to the use of that word in a title.

There are those that won’t even pick up the book. They fear it will burn their fingers or something. Too bad for them because my novel was one they would probably have enjoyed.

There are those who grab it up, expecting some religious message. Their disappointment that it is not even remotely religious prevents them from enjoying the story.

And, there is everyone else. Those turned out to be my readers.

In my own defence, I thought the title captured the essence of the story. When I was going through it today making changes, I believed every reference advanced the story line. Even as I was making changes, some little voice was shouting at me to leave well enough alone.

Ordinarily, I would have. But this was contest with huge prizes. I wanted to make sure the judges got beyond the title and into the story, so I sucked it up and went with the new version. It is now called: For Hire, Messenger of Death. As I look at it, the name grows on me.

So, I guess this blog is going to serve two purposes. I’m recommending authors keep this in mind when they are naming their books. I guess this only applies to self-published authors. Those going the old traditional way would have someone who would prevent them from making this mistake. And to my readers, if I re-release this book through CreateSpace, it will have the new title. Don’t buy it thinking it’s a new book. Instead, buy it to see what changes I made. I still haven’t decided on the ending. If you’ve read the book, you will know what I mean. If you haven’t, well it’s available out there in one form or another.

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I was wrong!

I might have been wrong. Now that I’ve been involved in this self-pulbishing thing for a few years and have been reading what others say about the companies involved, it turns out I might have been wrong. That’s being too easy on myself. I am wrong.
In my earlier posts, I mention that I used Trafford to publish my first two books: For Hire, Messenger of God and Caught in the Line of Fire. Trafford as it turns out is associated with Author Solutions.

Trafford did give me good quality books and did all of the work. Then, the phone calls started with all their marketing and other promotions. At first, this seemed like they were being helpful. When I realized that No didn’t mean No to them and the calls kept coming, it became annoying. The calls still come regularly. I’m polite (I’m a native born Nova Scotian) and simply decline and hang up now. Fortunately for me, both of my books were published for half of their regular prices. For all I know, maybe everyone does it at half price, but they did get me started.

My latest book, Concealed From Sight, was done through Create Space. Diane Tibert http://dianetibert.com/home/

alerted me to this company. If you do the work yourself, the only charge is the purchase price of your books which is about half of what Trafford charges when shipping and taxes are factored in. Make no mistake, these costs have to be factored in.

But the scary aspects of Author Solutions was brought to my attention by a facebook post by Steve Vernon which took me to the site listed below. This is a must read for anyone thinking of publishing their own works. To any of you I might have lead astray, I apologize but it is a learning process, myself included. Read this post before making any decisions.

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fdavidgaughran.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F11%2F28%2Fsimon-schuster-joins-forces-with-author-solutions-to-rip-off-writers%2F&h=-AQGQbDxl&s=1

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The Real Work Begins

Yesterday, I visited my editor. This is always an enjoyable experience until we get down to the reason for the visit.

“Here is your manuscript back. Here are my comments.”

The book that looked so good when I passed it over has been maliciously scribbled over. That doesn’t bother me. Errors are hard to detect by yourself.

The killer line for me was: “too much detail and/or description for some things.”

That description flowed from my finger tips like magic. Those details were the result of hard work, life experience and research. And now, or soon to be, gone.

Even as I allowed some of this crap to spread across the page, I knew it was too much. Still, it sounded so good I couldn’t stop myself. I always blame Dean Koontz for making me do it. Now, under the cold light of reality, it has to go.

Consequently, today’s post is short. I have work to do. Later.

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Inspiration or Invitation

Another beautiful day in paradise. The cerulean sky, patches of green fighting through the brown thatch of lawn, red buds appearing on the tips of the tree branches, and of course, a blazing sun lighting it all up.

This is the view through my window as I sit down to crank off my thousand words for the day. Later in the season, a day like this presents no problem. They become common place (this is paradise). For now, however, it’s all new again. And it’s screaming at me to get off my duff and get outside and enjoy what is being offered.

These are the occasions that make the thousand-word-a-day schedule a challenge. The easy thing to do would be to avoid sitting in front of this window. That won’t work. This is where I write.

This same window inspires my occasional dalliance into Dean Koontz-like descriptions of blue jays twittering as they scurry from branch to branch in some blooming maple tree or the distant rumble of logging trucks, fully loaded, slogging up a steep hill. These don’t pour from my imagination; I am describing real life as it happens in front of me.

The temptation is to say: “Missing one day or writing won’t matter. It’s not like I’m under a real deadline.” Thinking like that can be fatal to a writer. Every day does matter. It’s not the thousand words; it’s the discipline of getting them on paper that is important.

Almost as bad is procrastination. Writing a blog instead of working on your manuscript accomplishes nothing towards finishing your story. What? If that is true then I had better get myself into that other world of murder and intrigue. Later.

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As I said in an earlier blog, marketing is one of the big three of publishing your book. You shouldn’t write with making money in mind, but once the process is completed the money is nice if it comes in. To bring it in marketing is essential, along with word of mouth of course.

In this day and age the Internet has to be part of your marketing plan. Every writer should have a web site where people can find them. The key to being found is having a web name that resonates with the reader. In my opinion, with absolutely no research, your own name is your best advertising vehicle. For me that doesn’t work, at least in the dot com world.

artburton.com is owned by a writer of western books. arthurburton.com is owned by another writer, and aburton.com, although not in use is owned by someone else. Just plain burton.com is the world-famous snowboarding company. It used to be neat to see their name plastered all over the place. Not anymore.

When I joined webpress, I chose the name lattiesbrookwriter. It seemed cool at the time. artburton was not available. Now I’m left with the dilemma, do I want this to be the name of my website. People would not randomly stumble across it. I would have to direct them to it. This does work. I’ve had in excess of 450 hits on my other website with the cumbersome title of users.eastlink.ca/~artburton. Of course many of those hits were me logging in to see if I was getting any hits. That little squiggle after the backslash is called a tilde and is found by hitting the sift of the key to the left of the number one. That is one of the reasons I’m looking for a new site name.

All this rambling does have a point. If you’re a new writer, check out the options for websites that relate to your name. If you find one you like, grab it now. Don’t wait for your book to be published. Use it to provide updates on your book’s progress. As Diane Tibert, a writing friend, says: “It’s never too early to build your web presence.” Diane has that mastered. You can find her at dianetibert.com. Check out her blogs on the craft of writing.

As for me, I’m still deciding. I have to hope that one of the other twenty people who live in Latties Brook don’t take up writing and grab that name before I do.

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More Hobos I Have Known

Hobos I Have Known has been a successful book for me. Originally, I had written it as one story, My Brother’s Keeper. In that book, I wove all the related stories into one plot. I liked it, but for some reason, long since forgotten, I never followed up with the book. Unfortunately, I don’t think a digital version of it exists any more, only one paper copy, somewhere.

Bernice Morgan, author of Random Passage, suggested I write a book of connected short stories. She had never seen My Brother’s Keeper so it wasn’t a comment on that book. Instead we were sitting around talking about book ideas and the subject of all the hobo stories my mother had shared with me came up. I mentioned My Brother’s Keeper but she had done a book of connected short stories about a young girl coming of age. I read it and liked the concept of the related stories. You could leave out a lot of the filler necessary to make the stories flow into one another in one book and just get to the crux of each story.

In the beginning, I self-published the book in the truest sense of the word. I printed it on my home computer, folded and stapled it myself and sold it at craft shows. It sold well.

I was invited to do a few readings and at each of these I would gather additional stories to add to the collection. Soon it outgrew my ability to fold and staple. In early 2011 I had a copy printed through Blurb. http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/2065303

Now the time has come to put out a follow up edition. I could add to the first one, but those who have already purchased various early releases would feel gypped if they bought a new one with many of the old stories still in it. Also, it would be foolish not to capitalize on the pent up demand for more stories and the resulting sales that would follow.

The challenge now is to decide whether to continue the same format or try something different. In the first book, all the stories had a rural setting so it was easy to tie them into one first person character. The stories I’ve been collecting for the next addition take place in towns, cities and on the trains themselves. So far this doesn’t lend itself to a common character. This is something I will have to figure out when all the stories are written. Magic does still happen.

So far, I’m still in the collecting stage. I will do a follow up post when the book is completed and will tell you how I solved the problem.

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When things go wrong

My first experience with Trafford Publishing went so well that I hardly gave any thought to signing up again for my second novel. Getting the book into print didn’t prove to be a problem. Getting the book into my hands became an exercise in frustration.

Apparently, during 2011 Trafford introduced some new software into their distribution system. I came up against this when it took forever for my sample book to arrive. A couple of phone calls and I did eventually get it.

I’m not going to go into detail about all the back and forth that took place. Suffice it to say that I expected to order books and within a couple of weeks to have them at my door.

The 30 books that came with my package took over two months to come. The kept referring to them as my free books. I kept calling them my included books. Anyway, I missed a couple of marketing opportunities but when they finally arrived they sold out quickly. This delay, however, pushed back my ordering more books for Christmas sales. I wasn’t ordering additional books until I had this first batch in hand.

A man at Author Solutions (the parent company?) seemed to intervene to get things eventually moving. I’m not  sure exactly what the problem was except for the generic “We’ve got a new system for distribution and there are some bugs.” This was the excuse for the first books delay as well.

Finally, I ordered the batch that was hopefully going to be my Christmas sales. Low and behold they were still having computer glitches. After a couple of delays, phone calls, reassurances, I e-mailed the Author Solutions guy and once again things happened. My books arrived in early December. Marketing is not my strong point as I may have said in previous blogs and living outside the city added to the challenge. A lot of Christmas trees unfortunately were missing copies of Caught in the Line of Fire.

What inspired me to write this blog today? Trafford called last night and told me that all the problems they’ve been having with their computers have been solved. Good for them. I informed them I’ll try it when I needed some additional copies. Alas, they are my publishers for these two books. I have no choice.

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