Oct 08

'Tis the Season to Rip Off New Authors

Friend had her first novel accepted by a very small press (two owners, a couple, fighting) and excitedly signed a contract that said the press would edit her work for publication. But instead it referred her to an editor they knew who wanted $450. My friend, eager to see her book published, paid it. The edit/rewrite horrified her. She called me and added that she hated the book's new title, and had paid $250 for the cover image (what?!) and more for her own author photo (that's normal, paying for your own photo), and the press was pushing her to have the book out by November 1, "in time for the holidays," and expected her to do all her own marketing and sell 500 copies by Christmas. My friend asked the press how she could possibly do that, and they said, "Hire a hall and then invite everyone you know and and sell them the book."

The owners weren't speaking to one another and one was secretly trying to establish her own separate press, and secretly asked my friend to come and be HER author, although this entailed having the manuscript edited again by another editor, with my friend responsible for the cost.

What should she do, my friend asked.

I said, "Pull out, today. Call. Tell them you don't want to work with them. Send a registered letter. They broke contract when they made you pay for an edit. They sound too penny-ante to hire a lawyer and fight you, but if they did, they broke contract and they will lose."

But oh...they'd accepted her first novel! She so much wanted to see it in print. And she knew that if she pulled her book, ahead of her lay months of submitting her manuscript until someone else accepted it, and she didn't want to go through that again, and self-publishing, well, that was death; so what should she do?

Jul 03

The 32 Drawings

wwvhdrawingsSheila Kennedy's 32 drawings for my next book were ready Thursday and we met at a coffee shop and when I suggested a change on one drawing Sheila right there took her pen and drew in a few wonderful lines that both snared and reproduced reality, and changed everything. I marveled at her skill and at the way her practiced eye must see the essential in every material thing, in every shape and being. Rarely do I get to see artists besides writers in the act of creation. The word "awesome" was really warranted. I brought the drawings home and admired them and the vastness of her achievement all at once. And was amazed that it was my text and initiative that helped bring them into the world. Watching the artist at work helped me realize that the act of creation is just as awesome when writers do it -- common as it seems to those of us who write.
May 08

The Self-Publisher Options You Need and Don't Need

Every self-publishing firm offers a number of optional services on top of its base price. If you want a professional-quality book, these are the options you want:

-Professional copyediting and proofreading of the initial manuscript and final proof. Money spent on this is money well spent. Don't economize by trying this alone. Your readers will love finding the inevitable errors, and you will hate paying the self-publisher to correct and reprint your book.
-Professional layout or setup of the book's interior. This may be called "the setup fee" and is often included in the base price. The self-publisher has the proper software for this.
-Professional cover design. You may supply the photo or illustration, but don't insist on drawing or lettering your own cover. If you don't like what the publisher's graphic artist suggests, ask for another design.
-Register your book with the Library of Congress. It sounds easy: Fill out forms and write a check. But the forms are complicated, rather like patent applications, and with my first book only an 18-month correspondence straightened everything out. Save your mental health and pay $100 to get it done.

Don't waste your money on:
-Independently buying your own cut-rate ISBN number for your book. A self-publishing firm will not be able to use it.
-The pricey package allowing you "unlimited customization" of your book. Why pay your chosen self-publishing firm thousands of dollars just for the luxury of spurning its help and advice?
-Promotional or marketing packages that will compose press releases, send your books to reviewers, and so on. Self-published books do not benefit from these tactics.
Apr 25

Free to B!

The ms. sent out in June got rejected yesterday. YAY! Now for Plan B. "B" stands for "Better"! With the social-software course I took this autumn, and the appearance of the very viable, buyable, Kindle reading pod at amazon.com, I can with confidence bypass traditional publishers and, if I decide, turn it into an eBook and do just fine.

That’s sort of like sending a movie not to theaters but straight to DVD.

To make an eBook is free unless an ISBN is required. Ridiculously, ISBN numbers are sold, by one vendor (Bowker), normally in packages of 10, and that package costs $245 plus $30 handling. They sell singles for $125 (!) but they don’t advertise that. (Info is from http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/000668.php and http://blog.selfpublishing.com/?p=145). Talk about artificially difficult!

But I might just do it for Fame: St. Louis Writers of the 1990s. Somebody must want to read interviews with Donald Finkel, Carl Phillips, Harper Barnes, Ntozake Shange, and seven more, for their historic value -- or just explore the minds of fine writers. This summer I researched and wrote killer introductions to each interview, and (in a rare instance) am still glowing from how well I did them. They kick! Wish I’d interviewed MORE writers.