Rant-O-Rama Follow Up

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

Okay, maybe not so much. Believe it or not, that was probably as painful for me to write as it was for you to read. I’m not apologizing – I meant every word. Part of it was because although this subject has been spoken of on other blogs, it’s in hushed terms like the straight truth is going to break something. And really, I know I took a big risk letting it all hang out like that.

I’m about to take another one.

I know I shouldn't play with these but I just can't help it.

In conversations online and off; in comments, blog posts and private messages I’m hearing the same thing coming through loud and clear. People, meaning writers AND readers (sometimes one and the same), want to know what they can do to help promote their favorite writers and to cut down on the amount of crapola floating around out there. They’re sick of it, too. I’ve already covered things you can do to help your authors, but what if you run across one of the types I’ve mentioned in my last post?

Simple. Don’t buy their shit.

With a printed book, this is easy. You read the dust jacket, the author bio, hell, you can sit and read the whole thing if you want, right there in the bookstore (until they shut down, that is. RIP Borders. *sigh*) You can check a book out in a library, borrow it from a friend or pick it up at a discounted price in a used book store, if you can find one. You can buy on the cheap at garage sales or thrift stores, and you’re out nothing more than a quarter if it sucks. Or, you’ve seen the book reviewed in the newspaper or on TV.

You can stick to your favorite authors and never try a new one again. But that sucks. Reading is about EXPANDING your horizons, not limiting them.

For the growing e-reading population, it’s just as easy. Same principles apply. Check out the author’s website or Facebook page. Read reviews by people you trust. READ THE SAMPLES on Amazon or Smashwords. If they don’t let you read a sample, well then, you have to wonder why, don’t you?

I said we are Gatekeepers.

See those pointy things? They'll come in handy later.

Until now, the Big Publishing Machine has had control (a lot more than you think. But, that’s another subject). Now it is directly in your hands. Like Spiderman said, this is a lot of power, and with great power comes great responsibility. This is the hard part.

Say you do your due diligence, and find something that looks appealing, but when you pay for it and download it, it’s not all that and a bag of chips. The formatting sucks. You can tell there’s no editing of any kind, or the whole package is unprofessional. The story REEKS. What do you do? What can you do?

If you’re a reader and not a writer, you pretty much have the freedom to do anything you wish. You can write a scathing review, send the writer a message, demand your money back, bitch about it on Facebook, your blog or your Twitter stream. Have at it. Whatever you feel like doing, go ahead. More power to you. And thank you.

For a writer in the business, it gets a lot trickier.

You will seldom see a writer trash another one in public, no matter how much they deserve it. It’s not professional courtesy — it’s fear. Yes, you heard me. FEAR.

“Why, Netta,” you may say. “I’m not scared of that silly face. I’m not scared of anything.” Bullshit. Yes you are. You’re scared that if you write an honest review and it’s negative, it’s going to impact your writing career. And you’re right to be scared. You think I wasn’t scared posting that last rant? Or this one? How easy is it to sabotage a writer’s work or really fuck them up in this day and age? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. It will explain a lot should your sales tank and people spit through their fingers when you walk by. (Which is disgusting, if you ask me.)

So for writers, you have to walk a fine line. As much as you would like to write a review along the lines of, “You suck like a Hoover and I’m initiating legislation making it a felony charge with the death penalty should you ever go near any writing implements ever again in this Universe,” you can’t say that. Not only is it rude and unprofessional, it’s probably career suicide.

Or maybe I’m overstating the situation, but I don’t think so.

I’m not telling you that you can’t say what you want. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I preach being kind, professional and…well, kind. I don’t see any reason to be cruel or nasty. That just doesn’t fly with me. And people will judge you, like it or not, on the whole way you approach this sticky situation. But I will give my honest opinion, oh yes I will.

You’ll notice I did not single out one person in my previous post, although I’m sure we can all think of examples and in fact, it was one person in particular that sent me over the edge into Rantville. I’m happy to report that even though said person was not targeted in any way, they fixed their problem. I have no idea if they saw my post or not, but I still call that a victory. Now, I like them.

This is for you, Anonymous Writer. I heart you!

When you write a review of someone’s work, you can get your point across without being an asshole. If it’s a book or novel you just cannot recommend, well, you have a choice. What you do is up to you. My mother used to say if I couldn’t say anything nice I should probably shut up, but she was THE most outspoken woman I have ever known, so I take that with a grain of salt.

Don’t click a “Like” button of any kind unless you genuinely like that author or their work. And please, please don’t ever recommend something that sucks. This does so much damage — if I trust you, and you recommend something to me, and it sucks, I WILL NEVER TRUST YOU AGAIN. See how that works? In addition, I will question everything you say, everything you write, and I most likely will not buy your book, your story, your anything. You’re killing yourself here.

If I don’t like the material you’ve recommended, that’s different. We all have different tastes and I say, “Yay for diversity!” But if you rave about something and it really and truly sucks, especially because of LAZINESS, you’re in big trouble. And so is your reputation.

One thing is for certain. If you ask me for my opinion, you will get an honest answer. That’s how I roll. But I’m not mean or cruel, and I won’t call you bad names like “coochieface” or “buttmunch”. Promise. And I won’t recommend crap. That’s also a promise.

It’s a fine line, but we must walk it. Now, take the pins out of the voodoo doll, please. My ass is killing me.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Caveat Emptor vs. Caveat Venditor

WARNING: This is a true NettaRant. You might want to wear a helmet.

ā€œIā€™m just feeling kind of truthsome right now. Life is too damn short for ifs and maybes.ā€ ~ Capt. Mal Reynolds of the Serenity

Instead of your regularly scheduled programming in which I feature some form of Fabulous Fiction, I have instead decided to shake things up in more ways than one.

Yep, it's likely to get thick. And I'm pretty sure it's not going to bring any boys to the yard.

As you may well be aware, I am all for supporting the self-publishing wave, also known as the Indie Movement. (Although some contest the moniker, “indie”, as it really applies to a different aspect of the publishing business…still, I’m not one to split hairs.) I believe passionately in self-publishers coming in to their own without the stigma of “if you’re self-published, your work sucks hot rocks.” That being said, some self-publishers are making it VERY difficult to don the pom-poms and rah it up.

Oh, not on purpose, I’m sure. Pretty sure. Right now it seems like it’s the “American Idol” of publishing, and like American Idol, some people are just not right for the stage, and that’s my nice way of expressing it. It’s a buyer beware world out there — I’m not saying it hasn’t always been that way, but at least with the Big 6 as gatekeepers you had some assurance of quality. (You can argue about their control issues another time. I’m on to something else right now.) In this Wild West Frontier of self-publishing, as a reader you have to do your own due diligence as far as sniffing out quality material to read.

Okay. Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, I need to vent. Consider this your wake-up call.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND HOLY, PEOPLE, GET YOUR SHIZ-NIZ TOGETHER!

It’s not just a “let the buyer beware” world out there, it’s a “let the seller beware” world! Wake up! I understand you want to jump on the bandwagon and present your work to the world, but have some patience! Is it your best work? Could it be better? Have you EDITED your piece? Have you hired a professional editor or just let your sister who has a degree in liberal arts have a whack at it? Did you put it away for a few weeks to look at it with fresh eyes, or did you mindlessly throw it up on Smashwords or Amazon so fresh off the word processor it’s bleeding from a thousand knife wounds? You guys are KILLING ME.

And while I’m at it, let’s take a look at formatting. Is it formatted properly? Is it consistent, or do you have flawed formatting throughout the entire novel? You know, like it starts off with indents, then goes to block, then back to indents? Are there proper spaces between paragraphs? ARE THERE EGREGIOUS TYPOS?? Did you even bother to put it through a simple spell or grammar check?

Am I perfect? Oh, hell no, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that. It’s not perfection you’re going for here, but at least aim in the general vicinity!

Oh my GAWD, you make me stabby, cranky and want to spank you so hard you can’t sit down at your word processor for a YEAR.

Don't make me get out the whip. Because I WILL do it!

I have seen so much potential absolutely RUINED by LAZINESS and that makes me NUTZ and quite frankly, it pisses me off. As a self-publisher myself, every one of you that is too damned lazy to make sure you’re putting out a quality product is adding to the very stigma you’re trying so hard to dispel! I know you’re in a hurry, I understand why you’re in a hurry, but slow the hell down! Will it really kill you to take an extra few weeks to make sure your work is polished, professional and ready to fly?

If it’s not, you run a real risk of wrecking any chance you might have of a successful launch, and instead you’ll be thinking oh, this self-publishing stuff is bullshit, just like you think the Big 6 is “The Man” and keeping you down, when in fact it’s your own fault! If this is any example of the kind of material you have sent to “traditional” publishers, it’s no wonder they kicked you out on your ass. And if your baby is NOT ready, then roll up your damned sleeves and DO THE WORK.

You’re doing even more damage than that. You are tearing down the credibility of every single writer out there in the self-publishing process who actually works their ass off to make sure what they produce is as good as anything from the Big 6. It’s aggravating, defeating and embarrassing.

I realize this post is not going to make me popular at parties, but someone had to say it. Go ahead, make your voodoo dolls and stick pins in me, but in your heart of hearts you know I’m right or you wouldn’t be so annoyed at reading this.

Go ahead. It wouldn't be the first time.

I am really frustrated (no, Netta, really??) by starting off reading a book by an indie and being unable to continue because of the above-mentioned flaws. I am frustrated because many of these pieces have great potential, but have sadly fallen victim to the author being in a big fat hurry or just not caring. And if YOU don’t care, why should I? That’s right, I don’t. I’m not liking your damned page, I’m not liking your damned book, I’m not re-posting, re-twittering or re-anythinging your work if you can’t actually give a rat’s ass about what you’re putting out there. I’m sorry. I just can’t do it. If that makes you hate me, oh well. I’m over it.

Self-publishing is not the easy way — NEWSFLASH — there is no easy way! Unless you realize that you’re not going to be successful and you’re just clogging up the works like a hairball in the drain.

Hire out what you can’t handle, such as formatting, book covers or editing and if you can’t afford to hire it out (and BELIEVE ME, I am so in touch with that!) then impose on good friends who do know how or learn it yourself. Stop pimping writers who aren’t ready. And for the sake of all of us out here, buyers and sellers alike, have enough respect for yourself, the profession and the potential fans to take your time to put out the very best you can.

Otherwise, get the fuck off the stage.

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Who Are You Wednesday

You guys rock! The first marketing experiment was a resounding success, and I thank you so much! For your next mission, should you choose to accept it, if you’re on Facebook simply go to the left of my page here, where you’ll see a Facebook box. If you’d like to become a fan, just click on the “Like” button. That’s it! You’re done! On the fan page, you’ll receive occasional bits and pieces and breaking news on the writing front. If you don’t mind, please share the page on your Facebook page to spread the word. And thank you, thank you so much! :)

I have met a lot of new people in the last few weeks, and I know some of them have stopped by here to get to know me better. Hell, I’d like to get to know me better, but that’s probably a topic for another post.

I’ll give you the short version, and you can extrapolate the rest.

I was born in California many moons ago (I’m not telling you how many, so don’t even bother asking).

Let's just say it's a lot more than one. A LOT more.

My parents divorced, and my mother, me and my siblings moved to central New York where I lived for most of my life. We moved a lot; I attended seven different schools in seven years. I was the oldest of five. I have been reading voraciously from the time I was three years old. (I was quite precocious, and learned while I was in the hospital with a bout of croup that almost killed me.)

I married, bore three fabulous children, and divorced. That wasn’t a whole lot of fun, but you have to take the good with the bad, right? It was after the divorce I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a self-sustaining writer. At first, my focus was on fiction, namely flash fiction, but it evolved to writing non-fiction in the form of web copy, mostly because it paid better.

I left New York and moved to Kentucky for a few years, then further west to the St. Louis area where I am very comfortable for the first time since I can remember. I returned to Kentucky when my mother was in the end stages of terminal breast cancer; you can read about some of that here or here. Shortly after she passed, my daughter presented me with my first grandbaby, nicknamed “Muffin”.

But eventually, I returned to my beloved Lou.

In my life I’ve completed an LPN program in high school; worked as a dancing hamburger; worked as a shift supervisor in the restaurant business; was employed by a major health insurance company; worked in a urologist’s office where I saw more penises than any woman has a right to see, and served as a reservations manager in a hotel. It has been a very interesting ride.

Yeah. Kinda like this.

My first love is flash fiction. I have released my first collection, titled “Not Nice and Other Understatements” and I self-published for many reasons. I am currently at work on “Athena’s Promise”, an urban fantasy about a hotel run on the edge of Zombie Town (“Z-Town” to the locals) by a demi-goddess and a Gorgon. In the meantime, I write stellar web copy for several private clients, edit novels and craft books, and generally try to cause as much mayhem as I can.

Relax. This is not mayhem. This is just hay.

In pursuing my fondest desire of writing for a living, I have learned and done so many things I never dreamed I would. I learned a lot about marketing, constructing a website, SEO, and social networking. I’ve learned much about myself, as well – that I can be disciplined, I have Mad Research Skillz, and I’m stronger and smarter than I ever thought possible. I’ve worked hard to hone any skill I may have at this writing business because I. Love. It. I never want to do anything else.

Best of all, I have met some absolutely fabulous people along the way, and this has enriched my life immensely.

So, that’s a little bit about me. Welcome to the strange planet inside my head — tell me a little bit about you!

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Showing Love For The Writer

This is a mountain. It takes up a lot of room on a fork.

Self-publishing your own work is rough. Actually, any publishing is a difficult road — even “traditional” publishers expect an author to shoulder the majority of the marketing it takes to get a book up and running. (The advantage of being picked up by a “big house” today is still their distribution channels, which is why many authors elect to explore this route.) While it looks like at this point a combination of self-publishing and big publishing is probably the best way to approach launching your career in writing novels or non-fiction tomes, it is still a writer’s responsibility to get the word out.

And you can’t do it alone. It’s a huge endeavor, like trying to eat a mountain. Or an elephant. Most of us are working a day job, have families and homes to care for, so that mountain or elephant is humongous. And there’s only one way to eat it — one bite at a time. Still, with the help of friends, family and like-minded writers with the same dilemma, there are things that others, like you, can do to assist in the process.

Too big for any fork most people own.

I read this article and learned a lot about what I can do to help myself, and even more about what you can do to help me, if you’re so inclined. With author John Kremer’s permission, I’m going to list three of the ones I feel most apply to my particular situation, but I encourage you to read his post and see what else is there that may appeal to you, little things you can do to help the writers you love to read, not just me. This applies to all writers, no matter their publishing route.

#4. Recommend your friend’s book. If you like the book, recommend it to friends. Blog about it. Tweet a review or mention. Share a note on Facebook. Recommend the book to your book group. Review her book on Amazon.com, BN.com, GoodReads, Library Thing, and other reader social networks.

The reviews are a Very Big Deal, because in the self-publishing universe, there are a ton of fishes swimming in the sea that are not vetted — meaning, they haven’t gone through an agent, an editor, a committee — and your review is how others often make a decision on whether or not to buy the book. Even if all you do is rate it and leave a short comment about the book, that little bit counts for a lot.

#23. Seed your friend’s book. If you can afford to buy a few extra copies, start leaving them around town. Leave a copy on the bus. Donate a copy to the library. Leave a copy in a waiting room. Every additional book out in the world helps to generate exposure for your friend’s book while also increasing the word-of-mouth about the book.

I really like this idea, of books flying free on their own and ending up who-knows-where. You may be able to contact your writer friend and score a discount for purchasing a few copies, or s/he may even donate them. Hey, you never know unless you ask, right?

#25. Recommend your friend’s book to your reading group. If you belong to a reading group, suggest your friend’s book as part of your reading program. Or at least tell your reading group about the book.

Creating a buzz is what it’s all about. If you think your friend’s book is a good fit, you’re doing both the group and the writer a favor by introducing the two. You may be able to work out an arrangement where the writer supplies coupons through Smashwords for a discount for the group. I know I’m sure open to this — I would love to have a book club feature “Not Nice”. I’d be fascinated to know what they think.

There are lots of things you can do to help a writer promote their work, little things that don’t take a lot of time and help out so much. Even if all you do is offer a word of encouragement here and there, it helps more than you realize. Writing can be a lonely profession, and often writers can feel like they’re banging their head against a brick wall or that they just can’t take one more bite of the mountain. One kind word about their work can give an extra encouragement that all that eating is not in vain.

Have you read a book lately that’s been entertaining, enlightening or has touched you in some way? Pay a little of that forward, if you would. It makes a difference, it really does.

Many thanks to John Kremer for his generosity.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Pre-Orders Are Now Open!

From the Introduction: “This collection of stories are from the very beginning of my writing career. They are dark and uncomfortable and I make no apologies for that. Life is often dark and uncomfortable. Some of you might wonder how much of these stories are true. To that all I can do is quote one of my literary heroes, Stephen King: ‘Fiction is the truth inside the lie.’ The rest I will leave up to you.”

I am pleased to say the final edits have been uploaded and “Not Nice and Other Understatements” is now available for pre-ordering for autographed copies. Just click on the “Buy Now” button below, and fill in the required information. You can include a “Note to the Merchant” to let me know of any special inscription requests. Don’t worry about shipping and handling charges — they’re on me, as a gesture of appreciation for your support. I expect to be able to start shipping as early as next week.

If you have any questions or if there’s a problem with this process at any point, you can reach me at annetta(dot)ribken@gmail(dot)com, on Facebook, or through Twitter. Please feel free to spread the word amongst the Universe, and if you want images or banners to help you, let me know and I’ll supply them.

Thanks for your patience and support as I wade through this experience. I have been overwhelmed with the love and encouragement — it really has kept me going. Much love to all of you … I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have putting it together!

The book you hold in your hands is a sort of jalapeno-laced jelly doughnut, meant to be both savored and feared…Because while she might not be right in the head, Annetta’s stories are right in the gut, just as they should be.~ From the Introduction, by Joseph Paul Haines





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Wednesday Bits and Pieces — Judith Griggs Rides Again

I have been following the saga about Cooks Source from the beginning and have been infuriated, angry, bewildered and flabbergasted all the way around. Today, I ran across the home page from Cooks Source thanks to a Tweet from @victoriastrauss.

To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement. Somehow, it was fatigue and Monica’s “rudeness” that is to blame for the whole situation. Somehow, exhaustion and extensive travel is an excuse to steal someone else’s work without compensation or permission. Somehow, it’s okay to type something out of a printed work but failing that, you can gank material off the web as you like.

Aside from the terrible grammar, sentence structure and punctuation, the mind-set of Judith Griggs is what really makes my brain hurty. I can appreciate the challenges of running a small magazine. I can appreciate 12 hour days, because as a freelance writer trying to eke out a living it’s a rare day I put in less than 18 hours. I can’t remember the last day I had off. I’m not complaining — it’s my job and I chose it and I LOVE it. But not for one minute do I believe being exhausted gives me the right to steal someone else’s material because I’m just…so…tired.

I wonder how that defense will work in court when Cooks Source is up against the Food Network. Or Martha. Or Disney.

The fact is, the situation with Monica is not an isolated incident for this publication. The fact is, Judith Griggs had many opportunities to make this situation right, and just kept making it worse and worse. And she’s still making it worse.

Sometimes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It makes me sick that she can’t just stand up and say, “You know what? I fucked up. I really did — but I’ve learned better, I’m very sorry, and I will make it right.”

She has apologized, made the amends Monica requested, but all that really means nothing because she has not taken responsibility for her actions. “I was TIIIIIRED. Monica was RUUUUUUDE. I’m being persecuted and all the little people I do so much good for are SUFFERING. Oh, and Monica was RUUUUUDE.”

Well, let me put it this way. If someone breaks into your home, steals your jewelry and you see them on the street wearing it, would you be nice and polite? Hell to the No. So for me, whether or not Monica was rude is a moot point. She had a right to be rude. IF she was.

Gah. Cry me a river. For years, Judith Griggs profited by stealing other people’s work. I guess that would wear anyone out.

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Update on the Self-Publishing Saga: I fixed the little tweak requested and re-uploaded the file, but neglected to hit “Continue and Save”…DUH. There went two days. Finally figured that out, and received a response today — even though the file was fixed, I got the same error. I emailed CreateSpace’s customer service, and they indicate I will receive a response within one day.

I think it’s taken me longer to get this thing printed than it did to write it. Jeez.

***

Paying worked has ramped up quite a bit. I’m happy about this and scrambling to get all the bases covered and so far, so good. I’m a little irritated because one job, which has repeatedly warned me not to depend on them for a steady source of income, has now imposed quotas. Big ones. I can’t help feeling hey, wait a minute. When I need YOU, that’s a no-no, but when you need ME, I’m supposed to drop and run? That’s not strictly fair. Then I hear my Momma’s voice in my head saying, “I never told you life was fair.” Point taken, so noted, and onward. Because it’s all about the client and juggling the eggs in my basket. Thank you, Momma. <3 That's the status update. Stay tuned...our heroine is not bald yet, but there are some patches of hair missing. Fortunately, most of the damage can be hidden under strategically placed head-wear. ****ADDENDUM**** Apparently, the Cooks source webpage has been taken down. You can read the entirety of the entry to which I was referring here.

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Self-Publishing: The Saga Continues

Not Nice and Other Understatements
Well, it looks like all the care and attention to formatting BEFORE uploading to CreateSpace paid off. The cover passed right away, and just one tiny tweak to the interior — which had to do with mentioning “Available through Amazon and other retailers in the introduction by Joseph Paul Haines — and I uploaded the corrected copy and fully expect it to go through with no problems.

Some notes about the interior for next time:

* It helps if you choose the size of your book and the font first when putting it together. Saves time later on. I chose 6×9 as the size, and Garamond 12 for the font.

* Everything goes on one document.

* Formatting for print is vastly different than formatting for the web. You want your book to look professional. Although, if you are a writer primarily for the web, you will need to resist the temptation to include all the white space and eschew the indents. That’s not how it’s done professionally, so think about that.

* Page breaks after each chapter or story. This way, when you’re tweaking out a chapter, it doesn’t throw off the rest of the formatting you’ve done.

* Page numbers start AFTER the front matter — meaning the title page, the copyright page, the table of contents. Page numbers will go in the footer of the page.

* Chapter titles (or story titles) go four paragraph spaces down the page and centered.

* There’s no such thing as looking through it too many times. I’m sure there’s stuff I missed, and I’ll kick myself when I see them, but at some point you have to let it go. It helps to let it sit for a couple of days in-between picking, because you’ll see a lot more when your eyes are rested. You’d think being a professional editor would be a help — but when it’s your own work, not so much. Heh.

* I used Open Office because for one thing, I hate M$ and Word drives me nuts. Plus, with one click of a button, OO transforms your document into a pretty .PDF file. One click. Love it.

* Label your versions like, Working Title 1.0, Working Title 1.1 to keep track of where you are. After each editing, I exported to .PDF to see what it would actually look like. Sometimes you catch things in the .PDF that you don’t see in the .doc form.

Notes about the cover for next time:

Let someone else do it.

Seriously. I am not good with graphic programs, photo programs, or anything remotely looking like a combination of art and computers. I’m totally lost. I can barely take a digital picture and upload it to Photobucket. Therefore, I know my limits and tapped my good friend to format the cover for me. I commissioned my daughter to take a photo for the cover — something she is very, very good at — supplied the copy and photo for the back cover, sent it to my friend, and he did the rest. For which I am eternally grateful.

Yes, I probably should learn to do that myself, especially since I very likely will go through this process again.

Random thoughts:

When putting together a collection of shorts, flow is very important. You want one story to flow into the next, and you want to vary the placing of long stories with shorter ones.

Leave the Table of Contents for the last thing to do. *sigh*

I included an introduction written by Joe, who knows my work very well; an acknowledgment page; an afterword and a publication history. I copied the format (but not the content, that’s my own) of a copyright page from an actual book. I gave credit to the photographer, the cover artist, and the introduction-writer.

I had to choose a name for my own press. :)

The next step will be waiting for the proof to arrive in the mail so I can approve the printing. That will take about six days to three weeks. Then, I can start setting up for pre-orders, autographed copies, and start a marketing campaign. But, that’s for another post, although you can see some of my thoughts about marketing in this post.

“Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction” will be appearing shortly. I’ll let you know how the next stage progresses.

For now, my brain is really hurty!

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Nearing the End: Self-Publishing and a Note on Stealing Other People’s Stuff

You know, it always seems to happen that when I’m neck deep in a personal project, the paying work comes piling in. I’m not complaining, mind you — I’m ecstatic when I get all busy-like, and in some ways I feel more productive.

The collection has been revised and re-vamped to meet professional standards for a publication by a friend who is much more knowledgeable than I am about such things. What he told me (and I took notes) is that titles of chapters (or stories) should be centered and 4 paragraph returns down on the page. Each section is ended with a page break, so you can format the stories without messing up the rest in the line-up. Also, page numbering starts AFTER the front matter.

He’s busy and I’m busy, so this was info shared on the fly. Eventually I’d like to get all this information in one place to make it easier for those starting out to find out what they need to know. And that’s the Master Plan.

In the meantime, I need to go through the manuscript one more time and fix any boo-boos, get a final page count, and submit that to my photo-shopper for the cover. Then, I shall upload and let it rip.

As a side note, I have decided to upgrade to CreateSpace’s Pro Plan for a mere $39 to take advantage of the expanded network for distribution. I should make that back if I sell even seven or eight copies, and I think I can do that :)

***

Yesterday, the Internetz blew up over a case of blatant copyright infringement and subsequent snarky arrogance. The word spread like wildfire, with pieces appearing almost instantly from BoingBoing, John Scalzi, and even Gizmodo. The news even hit the LA Times, was picked up by NPR, and by some accounts, re-Tweeted by none other than Neil Gaiman. There are many more links out there; this is just a small sampling.

The Facebook page of “Cooks Source” was bombed and flamed in true Internet flaming fashion (man, I LOVE the Internet). Editor Judith Grigg’s assertion that everything on the Internet is Public Domain and therefore up for grabs is an error in judgment so huge the mind simply boggles. And yet, plagiarism is one of the most insidious and hard-to-police hazards of a writing career. It’s happened to me, with a story that won a contest. When the offending material was found (through a friend — I had no idea) I contacted the gentleman and we exchanged a few words, polite in the beginning. He eventually took the content down, but honestly, I was aghast that someone would be so brazen to snarf someone else’s work without their permission. If he had simply asked and provided a link, I would have been more than happy to let him use it. But he didn’t even do me that courtesy.

A writing career is a lot to handle without having to worry about people stealing your stuff when you’re not looking. In future posts, I will be exploring the options available to writers and other providers of content designed to help protect digital rights. I am aware of something exciting on the horizon, and I will be sure to update y’all when it goes live. I know I, for one, work too damned hard to have my stuff padding someone else’s pocketbook.

****

And so, the race is on. My Friday is stuffed full, with a “To Do” list that makes my head hurty. But, I like it that way. I guess that makes me a masochist, heh!

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Self-Publishing: In Which Our Heroine Wrestles With Formatting

I feel like I just ran a 60 mile marathon. Holy shitkes, I’ve been at it since just about 7:30 AM, and except for a couple of breaks to take care of other pressing business, I have finally stepped back for a breather.

My brain feels like oatmeal. Although, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’ve had a blast. That is, if you ignore the bald patches, the chewed up fingernails, and the list of things that remained undone today because I’ve been totally obsessed with getting this thing just so.

First off, let me say I believe I probably saved myself a major rupture and hemorrhage by working in Open Office rather than in Word. I used to be in love with Word, but Open Office made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That would be free. Not only free of charge, but free of annoying bugs designed to drive you straight to the looney bin or nearest bar. (Sometimes, they amount to the same thing, heh.) The other reason I chose OO is because it is supposedly much easier to transform to a .PDF file, and this is a requirement for CreateSpace files. Being somewhat technologically challenged, this is definitely a plus for me.

To begin, I had to format my files into something that looks like a book. I had the material chosen — an assortment of 36 short stories and flash fiction. I had them in a line-up with which I was happy — I added a story and flipped the order around a bit. Then, I had to add a title page, choose a publishing name, and type up the copyright page to include the two people working on the cover (more later) and a disclaimer about everything thing being fictitious and one that prohibits people using the material without my express permission.

I figured out how to add a footer containing the page numbers, which thankfully sorts itself out as you format, add, and subtract pages. Go me!

After that came the table of contents, although I don’t have the page numbers entered yet. Next, the acknowledgments, and two pages reserved for the introduction, to be written by a friend of mine.

Then, the stories.

I had to decide on the font for the titles, which I did to match the title page. Then, decide on the spacing for each story. I kept an eye out and adjusted so no widows showed up on the next page (you know, that odd word or sentence that looks all alone and “widowed”) and added blank pages where appropriate. For instance, a 100 word flash fitting all on one page I’d place on an uneven page number with a blank behind it, because that’s how it looked best to me.

I had to ask for some help with setting the margins, as this was a trifle confusing to me — easy to do on my best days, I have to admit. Heh. Then it was endless re-arranging until the text looked even and consistent. I even managed to pick up a typo or two, which is Very Good at this stage, although I face-palmed at how I missed them in the first place. See? I say it over and over, you just don’t ever see all your errors the first, second, or even seventeenth time through.

Insert the after words, the publishing history, and voila.

That sounds easy, right?

What I learned through this part of the process:

1. Patience is definitely a virtue. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and I don’t know if it’s my flash background, editing background, or just plain old anal-itis, but you really do have to be picky and take your time, often going over and over and over yet again to make sure everything is exactly where you want it. I have long believed in flash it matters a great deal to the story how it appears on the page, and I am quite anal about that.

2. Format the page size before you start formatting everything else. I made this a lot more difficult than it had to be because I was working in an 8×11.5 page size when my book is going to be 6×9. Starting at 6×9 means you don’t have to reformat AGAIN once you realize you need to re-size your page.

3. The inside margin corresponds to the “left/right” margins and the outside margins are everything else — namely, “top/bottom”. I didn’t have to worry about inside bleeds because I have no images in my book.

4. Every time you move something, even something as small as a punctuation mark or to add a space, the whole she-bang shifts. That’s just a fact of formatting life, and you’re gonna have to come to terms with it right quick or you’d better hide the sharp implements and flammable materials.

5. Creating a .PDF from Open Office is as easy as falling off a log. One click. That’s it. HALLELUJAH!

6. I have the most patient friends a girl could ask for.

Is the formatting done, you ask? Oh, hell no. But the bulk of it is done, I believe, although I just took another peek at it and I see some minor things that need fixing. However, my eyeballs are bleeding right now and need a break. I have passed the copy on to someone with un-bleeding eyes to take a look and see if I’ve done the majority of items correctly (not fooling myself for one minute I have) and to get back to me regarding any corrections.

The photo I was waiting for arrived, and it has also been forwarded to a volunteer to morph it into a cover. So, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At least, this particular tunnel. More tunnels ahead, I’m sure, and I’ll let you know all about the next one.

:) Yep, still smiling!

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Entering the Arena of Self-Publishing

I’m taking the plunge.

After months of dithering between here and there, this and that, trying to correlate the reams of publishing information bouncing around the internetz, I am going to self-publish a volume of my short works, a combination of published and unpublished stories. I have Joseph Paul Haines to thank for the kick in the pants — and fabulous support for my inane questions about the process — since he blazed the trail with the release of his own collection. I must credit MeiLin Miranda too, for sparking off the idea in my head that there could be a place for such a volume.

I’m still in the early stages, and I will blog about my experiences with self-publishing as it happens. I know I whine a lot about conquering another learning curve (doesn’t it seem as if your head will explode at some point??) but as I’ve stated before, a writer doesn’t “just” write anymore — if they ever did. Time to man up (or woman up, if you want to be politically correct) and take it head-on. Whiners belowdeck.

***

So, for me (and your mileage may vary if you decide to accept this mission) the beginning of the self-publishing process was to talk to Joe and pick his brain, since he had just completed his own mission. He made it sound quite easy, and thus encouraged, I went on to do my own due diligence. Don’t get me wrong — I know Joe would never steer me wrong and I hold him in very high respect. That being said, it’s up to ME to do my own research, and that I did.

Joe recommended CreateSpace, so I not only looked at the company’s website, I Googled reviews. I re-read some of MeiLin’s experience with them, and found that in spite of a small snafu, she was very pleased with the quality and customer service of CreateSpace, and the other reviews I read reflected that opinion.

I signed up for a free account. To be honest, I found their interface a bit confusing at first — yeah, a learning curve — but eventually I figured out how to get around. What I wanted to do was study the submission requirements and make sure I got it right the first time around. This is all before I started to put the collection together, understand — I felt like if I had the basic requirements down, that would save me time later when I was putting the masterpiece in order.

What is confusing me at the present moment is margins and terms like “bleed” (which sounds ominous), but those are little things I can ask more experienced writers. (Yes, Joe, you’re on deck. Heh.)

Now, on to the fun part. And believe me when I tell you I say that facetiously. Choosing the material. Plus, although I try to stay organized, I have pieces saved in several different folders, on flash drives, and I even went digging in GMail to find others. I’ve visited websites in which my stuff has been published, and had to re-type one that had been published in print which of course, I didn’t save anywhere else. *sigh* Lesson learned. I finally got it all in one place.

Actually, it’s not choosing the material that’s a brain fryer as much as the line-up. Most of my short work (but not all) is flash. I love flash. I’ve written a lot of flash. Tweaking my stockpile into a cohesive flow is a challenge. Plus, I became easily distracted walking through the beginnings of my writing career and remembering how, when, and why I wrote what I did. It was fun, but draining.

So, I tweaked and copy and pasted and dithered. I asked for the opinion of a trusted friend about the line-up, made a few more adjustments, and moved on to write the Author’s Obligatory Acknowledgments, a Table of Contents, and Author’s After Words. It’s starting to shape up to resemble a book! Yay!

Next stop is the book cover — I’m waiting on a specially commissioned photograph to reflect the material within, which should be here tomorrow. I will forward it to a very dear friend who has offered to Photoshop it into a cover, and in the meantime I will tweak and adjust some more.

And that, my poppets, is where I am in the process so far. Joe was right — it has been easy up to this point, but then we move on to the uploading and waiting for a proof. I will certainly keep you updated on the progress.

I hope to have “Not Nice and Other Understatements” available in the next couple of weeks, the gods willing and the creek don’t rise. Wish me luck :)

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