Thursday, December 29, 2011

Query Letter

I wrote my first real, honest to goodness, query letter tonight. (I know I said I would be editing, but I'm so tired of edit-hell that I had to do something else.)  Anyway, I need to proof the query letter for several days, do some word-smithing, and then I'm sending it.  Yep, gonna print it on some beautiful, heavy paper, drop it in the mail, and then wait for that rejection letter, sent to me in my own SASE. 

Scary stuff.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Earlier in the year, I made myself a promise that I'd finish editing my novel by January 1st (of 2012), and even though I've done a lot of work this year, editing, re-writing, and editing some more, I haven't gotten everything done. January 1st is getting close, and I've still have tons of work to do.  Plus, my friend Kim is doing a cold read-through, providing feedback on pacing and transitioning, (and doing some line-editing for me, thank you Kim), while I'm doing the Easter Egg Hunt in Hell, trying to cut words without cutting content or voice.  I have three more chapters to edit, and then more work to do to address the issues that Kim raises.

So with that said, there won't be a blog for a week or so. 

I hope you all have a great holiday, sigh, while I'm editing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Publishing Quandary - Part Two

update: 09feb12 - Note:  I just got through listening to a lecture on e-publishing.  I want to clarify that CreateSpace is the division of Amazon that physically publishes e-books.  I believe the royalties percentages are the same, but the fees may not be.  If I go the e-publishing route, I'm sure I'll share all the details.  See my 09feb12 post for more information on the lecture.

The other thing that has changed is that Amazon now has a "fund" for authors to pay out royalties for books that are loaned via their Prime membership.  I don't know all the details, but e-publishing is looking better all the time.

Let's Talk Money

To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish: I mean, that is really the question, at least on my mind these days.  As I mentioned, many of my friends have been sending me the articles about the benefits of self-publishing, and I’m starting to listen, and investigate.

I found a blog called “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” (see the link on the right sidebar) which appears to have a lot of convincing information on the advantages of self-publishing, but call me skeptical, I’m of the opinion that you cannot believe most of what you read on the web. 

So I opened a CreateSpace account (Amazon’s tool for self-publishing). 

The first advantage is that the author gets somewhere between 35-70% of the royalties. After doing some reading on CreateSpace, the “what is my royalty” equation appears to be quite complicated. Even if you sign up for the 70% royalty program, you may not get 70% relative to delivery* expenses and taxes**.

* "Delivery Costs are equal to the number of megabytes [Amazon] determine[s] [my] Digital Book file contains, multiplied by the Delivery Cost rate listed below."  For example: = $0.15/MB, = £0.10/MB

** "When [Amazon] sell[s] a Digital Book to an EU customer from one of [Amazon’s] EU websites, the price includes value-added tax at the rate of 15%, the statutory Luxembourg rate. Tax rates for sales in other countries and from other Amazon websites may vary."

So, let’s say that my book sells for $0.99 and is somewhere between one and two megabytes in size, the equation (if you read all the fine print) would look something like this:

0.70 x ($0.99 – 2($0.15)) = 0.70 x $0.69 = $0.48

which is half of the cover price, and still not too shabby. 

But let’s also say that it sell on one of the EU websites (using the 15% tax rate mentioned above).  Now the equation looks like this:

$0.99 x 0.15 = $0.15
0.70 x ($0.99 – 2($0.15) - $0.15) = $0.33
which makes it worth considering the flat 35% option.

At the 35% rate, the delivery costs are not taken into consideration, and the book can be sold in any territory, while you only get the 75% rate in certain territories (countries).  If a county is not listed as a 75% rate territory, then the royalty reverts to the 35% rate.

Still sounds good, yes??

But my favorite tidbit—and they, Amazon, are very open with this, it isn’t hidden in minuscule fine print—is the interesting clause under the flat 35% option (and from what I can glean from the legalese, this could also happen with the 75% rate):  "[if Amazon is] matching a free promotion on another sales channel. [My] royalty is zero."

So basically, Amazon has the right to give my book away, get whatever they get for giving away stuff like this, and I get nothing.  I'm not sure, since I've never dealt with a publishing firm, whether this is just standard practice or not.  Time will tell.  But it does disturb me that Amazon can decide "we're having a free-for-all, gonna have a huge give-away" and I get zero.

Of course, all this is opposed to an at-best royalty of 17% when going through a traditional publishing house.  I’ve been told by existing authors that they have gotten as little as $0.07 on the dollar for each book sold, depending on the contract, the agent, the publisher, and the market.  I’m pretty sure the agent gets more than that.

With that said, it's still a toss-up.  Next time, I'll investigate the non-financial issues and advantages of both traditional and non-traditional publishing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Publishing Quandary – Part One

Several of my friends have sent me articles about self-publishing, and until now, I have pooh-poohed their efforts, smiling and nodding, but basically ignoring them because in the past self-publishing was the equivalent of climbing the highest tower you can find and ringing the death knell for your career as an author.  It was an indicator that you couldn’t make it in the “real” publishing world, and I did not want to give that impression.  Not to anyone.
But last year, about this time, I bought a Kindle, and I never thought I would enjoy using it, because I’m an orthodox bibliophile. I love the feel and smell of books.  If you could see my living room, I wouldn’t need to tell you that buying a Kindle was like breaking a trust.  Anyway, I bought a Kindle as a lark after winning $2700 at a casino, to prove that I was more of a purist, more serious, more resolute than all those people who would seriously buy and use a Kindle. I tried hard, really, really hard to dislike my Kindle, but I couldn’t.  I do like it.  I like having space on my nightstand.  I like not having to replace my furniture, chairs and such, with more bookshelves because being able to sit is important in a living room.  In addition, I especially like the ability to read books on my Android when I’m sitting in a doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store.
Once I had the Kindle, I pulled down books, lots and lots of books. Did I mention that I’m a bibliophile?  Maybe not as orthodox as I once thought, but reading is still a spiritual act for me. The lower prices, many free, on digital books made me willing to read new authors.  Some were worth reading, some not.  Some were excellent even though I had never heard of them.  The important thing is that I hadn’t spent $25 on a book I couldn’t finish, and yes, there have been books I pulled down from Amazon that I could not finish.  Some of them are bad, just bad, but then again, just because you can self-publish, doesn’t mean you should.
Some of the books were so dreadful that I felt sad for the author.  (I have a folder called "didn't like" so that I won't waste money on those authors again because some of these books are not even worth $0.99.)  Then again, many of these self-published, minimum-priced, Kindle authors have enormous potential, and only need a class or two to refine their work, while some are lost causes.  The point I'm getting to, via an extremely circuitous route, is that these books showed me that I could, at minimum, get published and be better than many.*
There are advantages and disadvantages to both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Those advantages and disadvantages will be the topic for my next post. 
 For now, I still have work to do tonight, work from my real job. 

*[Don’t judge my novel on what I write here.  This is just a blog, and I’m treating it as such.  I’m just talking to you as if I were talking to a friend.  I’ve been working on my novel for over five years, have a writing certificate in Literary Fiction, and so on, whereas I rarely put more than a few hours into a blog post.]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Spelling Faux Pas

Tonight my friend, Mike, pointed out that I had descent spelled wrong in the title of yesterday's post.  I fixed it with great haste and a bit of humility.

So, right up front, I have to confess that spelling (correct spelling, that is) is not one of my virtues. Back in what feels like a previous lifetime, when I was in my twenties, I went to engineering school, and we had a saying:  "I are an engineer, no got good english."  Well, that was one of our sayings.  We had lots.  This saying of ours raises the question of whether engineers are naturally bad spellers or whether bad spellers make good engineers. But I'm wandering from the topic.

Needless to say, this spelling problem of mine makes writing coherently difficult.  I read and re-read, and re-read again, and still I miss words like descent.  Damn that spell checker for not knowing what I meant. 

This poses a huge getting-published problem for me because from what I hear, the publishing world isn't what it used to be.  No longer does the publisher provide an editor, at least not to no-name newbies.  So my novel has to be pristine, has to be error-free, with every word spelled correctly.  Words like decent versus descent, what with my suspect spelling skills, make editing a novel a daunting, time-consuming task.   (Mike caught that one too. I had used verses instead of versus.) Both are real words. Both are in spell checker. In both cases. It's for this reason that I've farmed out the final proofing on my novel to friends like Kim and Kathleen and Dustin. At least they're my friends for now.  They may not like me so much at the end of this process.

With that said, for this blog, if spell checker doesn't catch it, I may not catch it either. I'm not trying to be flippant about it, just honest. You can understand and forgive me (maybe post a comment) or you can laugh at what an idiot I can be or you can even get annoyed and go away, but I hope you'll persevere and experience this process with me, until I get published.

So to Mike, thanks!!  Keep up the good work.

To Kathleen, Kim, and Dustin, I'm sorry, in advance.  You know I love you.  And you must love me, a lot, to commit to such an effort.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Long (Descent into Hell) Day

Last night around 11:30pm, I decided, foolishly (I know, adverb bad), to re-read some of my early chapters.  And the editing began, again.  Somewhere around 2am, I finally (I know, another bad, bad adverb) closed my laptop and decided I needed to get some sleep.

Today, on top of five hours sleep, I had meetings non-stop at work, one-after-another, until it seemed that every usable idea had been wrenched from my head by force with a giant turkey baster.  And yes, after all that, I try to come home and write.  That is why there are too many nights when I just drivel garbage onto the page, instead of something meaningful or even worth writing.

The reason I was up reading/editing is that this book, this ankle-biting child of my invention, is my first novel, and at it's current length, after some drastic editing already, it is still 135K words.  Experts say that agents/publishers don't want to see a manuscript over 110K from a newbie writer.  Makes sense.  Why invest 600 pages of reading time on someone you've never heard of?  In case you didn't know, 150K words equals 600 pages, and I was almost there because I went to the Bill Faulkner school of writing.  Why say something in two words when you can use twenty-two? 

So now, I'm in panic mode.  How do I cut 25K+ words from my manuscript?  I mean, cutting that much could convert Maggie from a tormented woman into a happy simpleton. Okay, that was an exaggeration, she could never be happy. Or a simpleton. But cutting that many words could weaken the effect of my voice, my writing voice.  I mean, seriously, old Bill Faulkner (well, actually he's dead now) is whispering in my ear, telling me that my novel is not just about telling a story, it's about telling a story with my voice.

And I tell Bill (this is another form of that socially acceptable schizophrenia that writer's have) that I have to adhere to the rules before I can tell my story, at least the first time.  If I was Mr. Faulkner, or Stephen King for that matter, I could get away with so much more, but for now, I have to follow the rules and prove that I'm a good writer, that this novel is not just the progeny of good luck.

On top of the Easter egg hunt for words/sentences that can be culled from my hard-birthed offspring, I set a goal--maybe unrealistic, I know--of being done with the final edit by January 1st.  Of 2012.

So I'm taking the middle ground.  I'm cutting words like crazy and still trying to retain my voice.  I'm cutting the "family history" chapters--Morgan, Greer, Nessa, and Bree, your stories will be left for another day--which will reduce the story by 15K words, and I'm editing Maggie, not so that she's a happy simpleton, but so that she can share her problems with someone besides me.

And I will keep editing (and selling) until you get to read this novel.

With that said, I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs."

(BTW, I'm having a glass of my favorite white wine, Eroica by Chateau Ste. Michelle, and contemplating adverbs and the road to hell.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

First Post Ever

So, this blogging thing is alien to me, but I was advised that it helps aspiring new authors to have a web presence, so here I am sharing my experiences.  The question that keeps coming to mind, or maybe coming out of my mind, is why would anyone want to read about me.  My characters, yes, I think you will want to read about them, get involved with them, be annoyed by them, love and hate them as I do, but me, I'm nothing special (and that's not me fishing for compliments).

I believe that writing is a gift, but I also know that it's a lot of hard work, and that most anyone who has the drive to keep at it can do this, can write a novel.  Maybe it's the will power that's the gift, because there have been plenty of times when I was sick to death of my characters, when I've wanted to just kick Maggie's whiny butt out and start something new, when I've wanted to just shake her and ask her why she's got so many problems and why can't she figure them out on her own.

All that turmoil is a symptom of my second belief (about writing), that writing is a form of socially acceptable schizophrenia. Maggie, Liz, Desi, and all these other people in my novel are in my head, laughing and gossiping, explaining and crying, and sometimes even making rude sexual sounds when I'm not looking.  They have become part of me, and in a lot of ways, every one of them is me.

So my goal is to get them out of my head, and into yours.

With that said, here's a quote from my beloved Homer Simpson: "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals."