Saturday, September 27, 2008

This and That:

In this week's round-up of IAG author doings;

Dianne Salerni has posted her October Spotlight at her blog, here. This month, the focus is on horror, mystery and suspense. Check it out!

Nan Hawthorne has a recipe for King Alfred's bannocks at Author Cookies. Umm... and then there is an edible version, too.

Pauline Mantagna is inviting participation in her ezine, "The Romance of History"

And member Kim McDougall has opened a site for book trailers called "Blazing Trailers" - venture therein only if you have a couple of hundred hours to spare, looking at a computer screen...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Texiana - The Next Chapter

These last few weeks, I’ve been in the process of wrapping up the final loose ends of the Adelsverein Trilogy. The cover for it will be done when the cover artist comes back from vacation, and my prospective-hopeful-maybe employer is going over the final draft with a fine toothed comb. She edits for a living, to the very strictest standard, and asked me if I would let her do this – she loved reading “Truckee” but said there were a fair number of spacing errors and typos in it. So – the first two books are pretty well wrapped up, and I sent out most of a box of twenty of the first volume – Adelsverein: The Gathering as review copies to various websites and publications. (I will link to the reviews as they appear)

Time to think about the follow-up writing project – what to do next? Blondie, my daughter, wanted me to do something set in Ancient Rome. She had an idea about some characters, a family of jewelers in 2nd century Rome, and a children’s adventure set in 1st century Britain, about the children of a Druid who escape the massacre of the Druids on the Isle of Mona. I just couldn’t warm to either proposition. This writing thing, creating characters and a story, making it live so that other people get into it — you have to be into it yourself. It has to kick up a spark in you, one way or the other. It’s hard work, long and complicated and pulls a lot out of you. And it also helps to already have a lot of the required reference books on hand.

So, it’s back to the 19th century frontier. I had been kicking around the idea of going back and doing a sort of prequel about the early American settlers in Texas. I had alluded to some of the incidents and accidents involving the Becker family, and thought it might be interesting to do a book about Margaret Becker, who was a walk-on character, but with a fascinating story in her own right as a society hostess and entrepreneur. I also wanted to carry on the story of some of the Becker children, perhaps with involvement in some of the hairier range wars, like the Mason County Hoo Doo War. I did fear I might beat the franchise to death, or get into a boring rut… but there were so many angles and characters I wanted to explore, and if I had given in to that impulse as I was writing Adelsverein, it would have been several times longer.

The next project came into focus when the notion popped into my mind that I should also do a book and follow the adventures of another peripheral character in Adelsverein. I had made a passing reference to the fact that this person had gone to California with a herd of cattle during the Gold Rush, had stayed for a bit and then come back. Ah-ha! I had always wanted to write a picaresque adventure about the California Gold Rush, of following the trail, and of the whole great and gaudy Gold Rush experience, when Argonauts from the world over poured into California by ship, by wagon train, mule train and on foot.

So there it is – another trilogy; independent of Adelsverein but linked to it, focusing on certain minor characters which I have already created and know something about. Three different roads, three different searches; working title “The Western Trail Trilogy”. I’ve already done a couple of chapters on the first one, and begun reading a tall stack of books. Books about pre-Republic Texas, about the Gold Rush, about range wars and vigilantes… some of them that I can even take into work with me and sneak in a couple of pages between phone calls. So there it is – something to look forward to, when you have read all of Adelsverein. Which will be available in December, don’t forget.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Author Interview

Marsha Ward interviewed Jessica James on "Writer in the Pines" - the interview is here!
Jessica James wrote Shades of Grey, which I reviewed on Blogger News Network.

And if you scroll down, there is also another interview with Lloyd Lofthouse.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Recommended Link - The Publishing Contrarian

Lots of good comments here, from someone who has been around the publishing track quite a few times - Lynne Scanlon, the Publishing Contrarian.

Here, a couple of well-chosen paragraphs about cover design and from her archives, a few more about the virtues and benefits of well written and/or well chosen cover copy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

So..., You wanna write a book..

Chapter 55

So, You wanna write a book L

Writing is the easy part, Publication is easy as well. Editing until you are cross eyed, then promoting and marketing will kill you, unless your name is Tom Clancy of Military and Political thrillers, or Andy Hilstrand of Deadliest Catch fame J It is a mud hole you may want to consider more than once before you step off into it. I was convinced I could make it work and pay some bills that were coming due. Boy, was I ever wrong J

Publishers promise a lot that they may, most likely not, be able to deliver. Things like promotional assistance, helping you with a targeted readership, assistance in obtaining meaningful reviews from people who feed those reviews into organizations that provide exposure for your book, ad nauseum. It don’t work that way, not one tiny bit. A Publisher, who you pay to purchase their grand publishing package with all the frills, thrills, chills and minor vibrations you perceive you’ll need, have only been paid to establish themselves as another middle man, standing with their hand outstretched for further payment if and when one of your books sells on Amazon or any other bookstore affair. Lemme think, what does that do? It reduces YOUR royalty because everyone will be paid. Book printer, wholesaler, distributor, shipper, retailer, and then you.

By making yourself the book wholesaler, you cut the Publishing houses out of the loop. They don’t do much anyway. Of the “Special” Publicist/PR package I purchased from one Publishing house for my book, they spammed twenty two thousand plus Press releases to various groups, ranging from Radio and TV stations to Newspapers and Religious Publications. I received six requests for copies of my book for “possible” reviews. To date, only one person reviewed the book and posted it as a “customer” on my product description page in It may have helped sales a little, but you couldn’t prove it by me.

To make yourself the wholesaler, simply do what Publishing houses do, go directly to outfits like Lightening Source. They actually print over a million books a month and are the largest in the United States. You could go to off shore printers, like those available in China or Korea, but I prefer to spend what little I have at home. You could also seek out an Offset Printer who can print a book for about a buck each, but minimum printing runs will have you buying a warehouse to store an inventory of about a bazillion tons of your book. No, POD is the answer for a small publisher/writer. Lightning Source does not help with distribution, but lists with Ingram, the largest book distribution firm in the United States, Walden, Amazon, Barnes and Noble as well as other retail outlets, feed on the Ingram listings.
This is particularly applicable to POD books. The books are only Printed On Demand so no warehousing or inventory problems.

There is somewhat of an advantage to going with a Publishing House. They step in and purchase the ISBN and Bar code all books must have for salability and listing. This is of course at a labor intensive(?) inflated rate then what you, as the author could accomplish with just a few strokes of the keyboard at your home computer. The International Serial Book Number is vended by a sole source. I have no idea where they are located, but do know your book must have one. It is printed on your book cover on the small white rectangle that contains the Bar Code. The code that reports sales and inventory on the check out scanners we have become familiar with. Bar Code? “Free,” if you choose your ISBN from the right source. Fifty five bucks. You probably pay in excess of three hundred dollars for the two in a Publishing Package with a Publishing House.

Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, getting the book printed. It must be “formatted” after it is approved and edited. You can do the editing, but it will not count as a professional edit. Those you pay for by the word or page, both are very expensive. I have had book reviewers refuse to review my book because I short-changed my readership because I failed to pay a professional to edit my trash. All formatting is, would be converting your Word, Works or Apple generated book document into an Adobe Acrobat 8.0 PDF manuscript. Pretty simple with Acrobat Wizard, just highlight and click.

What else? Let’s see, Set Up fee of seventy five bucks. Plus an ISBN of $55 and that pesky Bar Code for free. Humm? Seems like I am missing something, Oh, yeah, the middlemen who make publishing so expensive. Well, we cut them all out.

An outfit like Lightning Source makes all their revenue printing books. A 300 page book will cost around five bucks when purchased from them. They will ship via Media Mail, the old Postal “Book Rate,” so that amounts to about .03% of the cover price of a $12.95 book (mine). My Publisher now, will only ship books via United Parcel Service and if a bookstore in Alaska wanted to carry it, shipping equals 29.65% of the cover price of my book. The Publisher sells it and receives 78.46%, which includes my royalty of 20% as well as paying for the printing. Adding the 78.46 and the 29.65, you see why a bricks and mortar bookstore cannot stock it. The price is printed on the cover and the cut all involved want is over 108% leaving our retailer holding the bag.

Now let’s talk about Trade Discount. An interesting industry phrase. Most default Trade Discounts are 20%. That will guarantee your book will never see the light of day on a book shelf in a retail outlet. Industry standard is 55%, some authors can squeak by at 40%. The 55% Trade Discount has some pitfalls. In that one is your royalty is smaller, another is the bookstore will have a “buy back” privilege. That is to say you incur the obligation to buy the book back from a retailer if the book is not sold after a reasonable set time. Think about that possible nightmare. A book chain like Walden may have over a thousand bricks and mortar retail outlets. Say they decide to stock your book and purchase at that 55% Trade Discount and they want 5 books at each store. That’s over five thousand books that you now carry as a potential liability. If they only move twenty or so percent in that specified period of time, time is money you know, you may end up buying your book back at the rate Walden paid, plus any shipping as well as paying for the shipping to have them sent where ever you want them to go. Sounds kinda glum don’t it J

Now for the “good” part of POD. There are hundreds of publishing outfits like BookSurge, Wheatmark, AuthorHouse, Outskirts, Joe’s Back Yard BBQ and Book Printing Company, WeDon’ and on and on. They assume all the risk, which is none, but you pay them handsomely to do it, just stay away from that 55% Trade Discount or they’ll get further into your pocket. By that I mean you will be required to pay the publisher an “insurance premium” of about four hundred dollars to buy unsold books from retailers. They see the spots and parts of the country that consistently move your book, you don’t ever have a clue, so it is easy to move those books to favorable sales places and you will never see a royalty, not a dime, as the books now belong to the publisher. This is fun, isn’t it? Book publishing is a racket, almost criminal, but just above that line. Any down the road revisions are expensive, so do the math and decide on the price YOU want, edit until you are cross eyed and drooling on the keyboard, DO NOT purchase a PR/Publicist Package as they are expensive and about as useful as boobs on a tree trunk.

If you go with an outfit like Lightning Source, it will cost you $55 for the ISBN and Bar Code, an additional $75 set up fee and I strongly suggest a $40 proof copy, then a $12 listing fee. So, for $142 you are in print, EXCEPT, you will need to engage a Graphics Design person to collaborate with concerning your book cover. The photographs you use to festoon the cover will be yours, ones you personally clicked the shutter or you will need a copyright release from the person who did. On the back cover there is room for your “hook.” A brief synopsis of what the book is about, make it as catchy as you can, this is what sells your book to the browsing public. An estimate here, that initial $142 and a Graphics Design person, the whole shootin’ match will cost about $400 to be submitted Print Ready. One last thing, a table of contents or index is not automatic. You will need to list your chapters, although you will have no idea the page number of each chapter, only the Shadow Knows J A couple other last things, you will have to select your book size, i.e. an 8.5 by 5.5 book or whatever choices you are offered. This tells LS the total pages of the book based on Word Count. Example, a 73,453 word book is 283 pages long in an 8.5 by 5.5 book, IIRC, that is what my dining room table leveler is J Damn, I gotta check my Dining Room floors again, anybody seen my laser level? One last thing, be certain you do the Prologue and copyright pages, just look at another book and plagiarize a suitable example with slight re wording to fit your book. Further, this affiant sayeth naught. Damn, I coulda been a lawyer J