All posts by netta

Of Deadlines and Betas

Ah, the deadline for my beta readers was today, and with only a couple of exceptions, they were all really great about getting back to me regarding comments and critiques or notice they would be unable to fulfill their beta duties.

I have a bit of a reputation about deadlines, and that’s because of the copy background. Well, that’s not strictly correct. I have been anal about time since I was late showing up out of the womb. (Sorry, Momma!) See, in my line of business, time is money.

Notice there is silver in this pile. I usually see more pennies than quarters.

Being self-employed, I have to set my own schedule. And while I’d rather schedule marathon viewings of “Firefly”, long bubble baths to soothe my aching back, or hour-long sessions of cat-skritching, unfortunately none of those pay my bills.

Sometimes very difficult to explain to my Cat Overlord.

So, instead of leading the life of luxurious sloth I so richly deserve, I find my boss is an absolute bitch about deadlines. I know people depend on my finished work in order to accomplish theirs. I also know one of the best ways to kill your writing career is to make a habit of missing deadlines. That’s not to say when I set someone else a deadline I don’t understand when Real Life happens and things are derailed — sure, it’s happened to me. But I think the key here is communication. If I don’t think I’m going to meet a hard deadline then I’m in touch with the client as soon as possible to communicate that. To me, it is the height of unprofessionalism to stick your head in the sand and pretend the train wreck is not going to happen.

Do I miss the mark? Sure I do, but not often. It’s a personal thing. I know writers who blow off deadlines like it just doesn’t matter. That irritates me. Either you’re a professional or not — and if you are, act like it. Just because you have thirty days doesn’t mean you leave it to the last one. That’s stupid, and in NettaLand, a hanging offense.

Yes. I will find you, and I will hang you. But first, you will suffer.

The moral of this little story — if you’re not going to make it, communicate that factoid. This gives everyone a chance to make changes and shuffle important activities around.

***

Now that little lecture is over, let’s talk about something more fun, shall we?

Mired as I have been in writing web copy, I am very excited to be putting on my editor’s hat in the next week or so. Not only will I be editing the fabulous Lori Whitwam’s Make or Break, I will also be starting edits on the equally fabulous Patti Larsen’s second book in her Diamond City Trilogy. I’m very excited about both projects and can’t wait to begin.

Even more exciting, with the notes I’ve received from my blessed betas, hopefully I will begin revisions on Athena’s Promise.

This is Zach Carter. He looks like how I feel! Only he's so much cuter!

I’m not setting a deadline (heh) because I never know what the next day is going to bring and I have a wedding in August which deserves my full attention.

Don't worry, it's not me. I'd stick one of these in my eye first.

But, my hope is to have Athena’s Promise ready for publication in September. Of course, updates here as they happen. šŸ™‚

And of course, I couldn’t let you go without expressing my eternal gratefulness to my beta readers. It really takes a special person to be a good beta reader, and all of mine are GREAT. Their insightful, perceptive and honest observations have confirmed some thoughts I had and opened my eyes to places where Athena’s Promise needs a little help. Thanks to them, I can take Pallas and her story to the next level, and for that I can’t thank them enough.

I Love You Beta Readers! *MUAH*

Change Is The Only Constant

Yep, some changes in Netta-Land, and while change is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a little disconcerting.
So, if you’re tired of the same old story…turn some pages.

This is me — turning some pages.

***

One of the biggest changes and one I am ecstatic over, is the position I’ve accepted at Etopia Press as a Content Editor. I am over the moon.

This moon. Not the other kind of moon. That would just be wrong.

I am so happy about this because fiction has always been my first love, story my passion. I really enjoy working with new authors and taking a manuscript to the next level. This position allows me to expand my scope and exercise my Mad Editing Skillz, as well as provide an opportunity to meet and work with some outstanding authors. I am very excited about this!

I decided to sign with Etopia for many reasons. One of them was because of the fabulous Managing Editor and founder, Annie Melton. Not only is she smart and savvy, she and I share the same driving passion for story and what really resonates with me is her respect for writers in general. She gets it. Annie has a lot of experience in the publishing and editing field, and she has the kind of high standards I can get behind 100%. I feel very fortunate.

So, if you are interested in working with an indie press dedicated to nurturing and supporting both new and established writers, take a look at Etopia Press. If you think it would be a fit, use their submission form and if you would like to work with me, include my name. If accepted, your story, novella or novel will come to me and we would get to play together! Doesn’t that sound like fun?!

Don't be scared. Those are fake horns. Mostly.

I am interested in all genres, but I will admit a fondness for speculative fiction, horror, paranormal, urban fantasy…you get the picture. Length doesn’t matter (so many jokes here, so little time, but I’ll spare you, heh!) because I love short stories as much as I do longer works.

Send me what you have! I’d love to see it.

***

And not so much of a change, but in addition, I have some new releases on my Amazon. Three of the covers I did myself, but the cover of The Blood is Not Enough was done by Laurie O’Hare who totally nailed it on the first try. I love this cover so much, I’m thinking about getting a tattoo. The story means a lot to me, and could be in development as a longer work.

My other cover, for Of Virgins and Indigestion was done by graphic artist Rebecca Treadway. She brought George to life, and it is SO COOL! This is the first Netta Character ever to have a face, and I’m so happy with it. I love George, bless his heart.

Both of these stories appear in Not Nice and Other Understatements but stand quite nicely on their own. I’ve also packaged a selection of stories in On the Edge of Insanity – A Triptych of Crazy and Little Rebellions for those who aren’t sure they want the whole collection. (And why not?)

For something new, I’ve released a volume of twelve stories called Musical Chairs – A Jamming Bio, a unique look at significant memories over a period of time inexorably linked to a selection of popular music.

More projects in the works as time allows. Stay tuned.

***

Another major change in Netta-Land is I’ve decided, except for a few select clients, to retire from writing web copy. I’ve had a good run, but it looks as though the Universe is poking me to travel in a different direction. To that end, I am currently on the hunt for an Outside Job Involving Real People. (Oh, the horror! Heh. For me, not them! Although some people may differ on that opinion.)

I’ve chosen to do this for many reasons. The main reason is I want to focus on my editing and writing endeavors. Right now that’s not enough to support me, so I will have to adapt. I can do that.

Decisions, decisions.

Another reason is I have become increasingly disenchanted with writing web copy, and this is partly due to the demanding deadlines. Now, I don’t have a problem with deadlines, and I have made it a priority to never miss one and I am proud to say I haven’t. But it is extremely wearing to always be “on alert”, so-to-speak, especially with other factors becoming major issues.

“What factors, Netta?”

Well, I’m glad you asked that question, Dear Reader. Factors like low pay, unreliable payments, disrespect and general Fucktardary (sure to be the subject of another NettaRant. I’m sure you can’t wait). I’ve had enough, to be perfectly blunt. Truth is, I know the world of fiction and publishing a lot better than I know the world of web copy, and I’m much more comfortable with fiction. I’ve straddled the line for almost three years, and it’s time to pick a side.

Talk to the hand.

So, I have.

I don’t count my years writing web copy full-time as a loss. I have learned so much that will serve me well in the fiction arena, and I feel as if those lessons will give me an edge. I’ve met and worked with some fabulous people, and I’ll still be working with a select few. I also feel as if it’s time to put my butt on the line in a different way, and to that end I will focus my energy on what I truly love to do.

Change is the only constant. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

Going To The Dentist…Er, Editor

I thought this would be a one-time post about editors, but it seems like the subject is really too big for its britches. That means there will be more. Aren’t you excited?

Editors get a bad rap.

Oh, it’s okay. We’re used to it. We’re the dentists of the writing world. We do what’s necessary, we do what’s requested, but it can be painful and no one likes pain. (Well, except for the freaky people, but we’re not talking about them right now. Heh.) We drill, we fill, we yank and we dig. And then, we make you pay for it.

No one likes this scenario. No one.

It’s a necessary evil. You can function without an editor (or a dentist) and you can put off using their services, but eventually that rotten tooth is going to start throbbing and causing problems, and so is your story or novel.

Sometimes, all you need is a good cleaning to stave off any big problems, and sometimes you need a thorough root canal. Sometimes, you have to pull everything out and just start from scratch, with a brand-new set of choppers. There could be blood.

No one likes this either. Not even the Editor.

It’s a lot more difficult for the self-publisher, because writers who go through the “traditional” publisher (I don’t like that term, but it’s the only one I have) will see their work evaluated by an editor as part of the package deal. The book will be seen (hopefully) by a competent proof reader, copy editor and a developmental editor. The goal is to come out the other side with clean copy that is factually consistent and worthy of publication. Does traditional publishing miss the mark? Sure. Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes the work is pushed through so fast there are glaring errors — we’ve all seen them.

From what I’ve seen of self-publishers, few have had the self-discipline or the funds to polish their work to the best it can be, and the result is a flood of garbage, if I’m to be blunt.

Like picking through this. Gross.

What to do, what to do? As a self-publisher, you don’t have access to or can’t afford the same kind of services offered by the Big Houses, and yet, you really need them. I mean, you really, really do. And I’ll get to the reasons for that in my next post.

But first, you have to understand the different levels of edits and exactly what you’re getting for your investment. Keep in mind every editor is not the same as another — some will offer all these services, some will offer one, some will offer a combination. We’ll get to that.

1. Developmental editor. The developmental editor is the one that will take an overall view of your work and evaluate it for several different points. Namely, story arc, story flow, characterization, plot, transitions and logic. This is the first, and probably the biggest, step in the editing process. The developmental editor (also known as a “story doctor” or could even evolve into a ghostwriter) may suggest major changes in plot lines or chapter placement. However, all decisions are strictly up to the writer to make. Developmental editors typically do not do a copy editor’s job (but some do), although they may make suggestions of that nature. After the developmental editor, the copy editor comes next.

Are we done yet?

No. We’re not done yet. Stop whining.

2. Copy editor. A copy editor works according to the “five c’s”…Clear, Concise, Correct, Complete and Consistent. At this level, a copy editor is checking for errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and terminology. Additionally, a copy editor also checks for errors in facts, and evaluates flow without changing the meaning of the text. A good copy editor will make your words say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Are we done now?

No, we’re not done now, either. I said stop your whining.

3. Proofreader. This type of edit is generally for punctuation, spelling, grammar and typos. Some proofreaders will work against a copy, and some will do it “blind”. (Not actually blind. They just don’t check things against a copy.) This is actually the last stage of the editing process.

Now we're done. Right??

Almost.

By this point, your story or novel should be shining like a new penny, if you’ve done the work. The editors are not there to do your work for you. It’s in your best interest to submit to the editor(s) your best material. Yes, you’re paying them for their expertise, but if you aren’t submitting the best you can do, you’re just making it more difficult on yourself. You’re going to have to correct those mistakes anyway, why pile more torture and re-work on yourself?

But, Netta, you say. I’m an indie. I can’t afford this. Or, you say, But, Netta, I know I’m good. As a matter of fact, I’m GREAT. My mother/sister/best friend/writer’s group/receptionist at the dentist’s office TOLD me I’m great! Editor? I don’t need no steeenkin’ editor!

Really.

Well, now that you know what levels of editing there are and what different editors do, tune in for the next post where I’ll tell you why you need an editor and maybe help you find some alternatives that won’t drain the bank account.

In the meantime, stock up on the novacaine.

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!

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.

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! šŸ™‚

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!

Fabulous Fiction Friday Round-up

You might have been expecting this kind of round-up.

Yeeehaw! Okay, it’s not that kind of round-up. There are no cows or bulls, no ropes and no manure (although that might be a matter of opinion). What I thought I’d do is re-introduce you to some of the Fabulous Fiction Peeps I’ve had the honor to host on this blog.

First, you may have heard of this guy. He’s the best-selling author of The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, along with The Great Bazaar and Other Stories and Brayan’s Gold. His name is Peter V. Brett, and you can find my interview with him from 2009 here. I find his comments about publishing especially interesting.

Next up is an interview with Jeremy C. Shipp. I think he had the best answer I’ve ever heard about the future of publishing. Although I haven’t done a review of “Cursed” yet, it is on my list. Which is about as long as my left leg, right now. *sigh*

My next victim…uh, I mean my next GUEST…was a badass chick by the name of Susan Helene Gottfried, author of Trevor’s Song, Shapeshifter: The Demo Tapes – Year 1 and ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes – Year 2. She inhabits the world of rock and roll, kicking asses and taking names.

Of course, I have a soft spot for editors, and I have two I’ve interviewed here. First is the “Goddess of Flash”, Esther Schrader, the Editor-in-Chief for Flashshot. Second is the Mad Aussie, aka Matthew Glenn Ward. In addition to his editor duties (although Skive has been regretfully retired) he found time to compose his novel, John F. Kennedy Lives in the Future! and is one of my favorite people.

Podcasting is a fast-growing portion of the fiction market, and to that end I wanted a word or two with Kate Sherrod who also composes some brilliant sonnets in her spare time. Besides the podcast point of view, Kate is A Very Interesting Person, and you can read the fascinating interview here.

MeiLin Miranda is probably one of the most innovative and hard-working indie authors I know. She’s recently won the Preditors and Editors Best Erotic Novel for 2010 as voted by the readers. You can find “Lovers and Beloveds” in a wide variety of formats, and you can find my interview with her here.

Last, but far from least, if you haven’t met him, now’s your chance. Yes, it’s Joseph Paul Haines, author of Ten With a Flag and Other Playthings. He’s got a lot to say, and pay attention. He knows what he’s talking about.

Quite a stellar line-up, if I do say so myself. Every one of these artists are hardworking, dedicated, twisted, demented and brilliantly talented. The have all inspired me in different ways to become better at my chosen career, they have offered hope that it can be done and lead by example. These guys don’t just talk the talk, people, they walk the walk. Every one has marched to their own beat and represents a different aspect of the writing journey. I hope you enjoy the interviews as much as I did conducting them.

Find your own drum. This one's mine.

Did I Say Too Much?

The other day, my friend Patti Larsen talked about a very interesting subject regarding watching your tongue as a writer. Go on and read it, especially the comments — I’ll wait.

Done already? Okay. I think we’re talking about a couple of different topics here, because there is a difference between ranting about something going on in your life and tearing up a writer in a review or exposing too much of yourself in a blog. The topic on Patti’s post seemed to gravitate more toward what an agent might think of you through book reviews on your blog and how a negative attitude may impact your chances of being signed to a contract.

As I said on Patti’s blog, I’ve critiqued and edited hundreds of stories for over a decade. I’ve edited novels and non-fiction work for clients. You don’t have to be the Simon Cowell of the writing world. Why be cruel? What’s the point? Some people do find that kind of thing funny, but to me it’s immature, unprofessional and unnecessary.

Yeah. Don't be like him.

I do reviews occasionally here on Word Webbing, usually on Fabulous Fiction Fridays. They will become more frequent, as I’m participating in the ABC Indie Reading Challenge this year and part of that is to provide an honest review. I fully suspect I will pull some stinkers, as a partial reason for this challenge is to act as a type of gatekeeper. As we all know, the indie/self-publishing ocean is full of fish, and they’re not all tasty. That means I will be honest — fair, but honest. It’s important to my own integrity as well as to those who follow me and value my opinion. But I won’t stoop to being cruel.

But for the sake of argument, say I was cruel (much different from “snarky”, in my opinion). Will that have an impact on my chances of being signed with an agent? I’m sure it can, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to speak with my own voice. I’m sure being cruel and mean-spirited would have an impact on the type of people who read me, the friends I have, on a whole lot of other aspects of my life.

I know there are bloggers I have stopped following because they have crossed the line — my line, mind you — and I just don’t buy into the negative mindset they’ve developed. If I see a blogger tearing up some hapless person who just happened to piss them off, I’m outta there. Who needs it? To me, it’s just another form of bullying and there’s too much of that going on as it is.

In essence, it all boils down to respect. Respect for yourself, respect for your readers, respect for anyone who has the balls to take on the career of writing in the first place. You can get your point across without calling someone names or attacking them personally. At least, that’s how I see it.

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!

Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil
Well, we’re fast approaching the end of another year and the beginning of the next one. It seems like a good time to wrap it up. For me, 2010 was a whole lot better than the previous two years; I’m hoping the trend continues. To that end, I plan on setting a few goals for myself (I refuse to call them “resolutions”…such a tired term, and oh-so easily broken) in the hope I can keep a little more on track and working smarter, not harder.

This year, I moved twice, visited my Muffin once, gained and lost several freelance gigs (the nature of the beast) and published my first collection of flash fiction. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words in non-fiction, a lot less fiction, and gained and lost an equal amount of weight. I had an awesome experience tutoring a student from China in English, which required me to take a risk and step out of my comfort zone. I’ve edited a stellar work of fiction of which I am very proud, discovered some amazing new writers and made new friends, and have learned an unbelievable amount about marketing, social networking, breaking technology and just how resilient I can be. All-in-all, it’s been a decent year for me, and at this point I can actually look at 2011 with a sense of hope which was sadly lacking the past two years. I’ll post that in the “WIN” column.

****

Novelist Patti Larsen has a great blog post sparked by a conversation we had about one of the dangers writers face in the dawning of the self-publishing age. Like I said in my previous post, I have dealt with phucktards before and have preached often about doing your due diligence when considering a potential client. The same principle applies to self-publishing options. Do your research! Ask questions, Google these people, examine their business model and weigh all the pros and cons. Personally, I don’t see how paying someone to publish you benefits the writer in any way, unless they are including editing services, marketing, cover art, or another good reason they need to take a cut of your money, especially when you can do many of these things yourself. Even if you can’t, it’s much more cost effective to pay a cover artist, for example, a flat fee for their services than to pay a “publishing house” a percentage over a number of years for the same thing.

Call me crazy, but that’s how I feel.

****

Since putting Not Nice and Other Understatements out there, I have taken a close look at my body of work and see a change from in the beginning to today. I’m happy to see an improvement, of course, and I also see a change in tone and delivery. When I compare NN to my work-in-progress, similar themes pop up, but it’s a lot lighter and AP is not as…literary? I still manage to turn most things to the Dark Side; I don’t think that will change. But then, I think of reader’s expectations.

“Not Nice” is…well, not nice. I can see how this might take some people by surprise, because I am quite funny on a regular basis, and I can see how NN might disconcert some people. My option, and I did think about it, was to publish NN under a pen name. However, so much of me was in that book, I couldn’t do it. “Athena’s Promise” might be a different kettle of fish, and I’ll really have to consider a pen name as AP is very different from NN, aside from the obvious format — NN is a collection of shorts, and AP is an urban fantasy novel.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, there comes a time in every writer’s life, I would hope, that you aren’t just writing the same thing over and over. You may be concerned about your audience, and whether or not they will follow you. But I say as we change and evolve as people, we also change and evolve as writers and it stands to reason your material will change. This is not a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing. However, if you have concerns, a pen name is always an option. And have faith in your readers — chances are they follow you for a reason, and if you have forged actual relationships, they will continue to follow even if there is a change. Maybe because of a change. I know I have favorite authors I will follow no matter what they write. It doesn’t mean I totally love EVERYTHING they produce, but I will at least give it a chance.

****

Well, I’ve nattered on long enough for today, so I’ll leave the rest of the goodies for Fabulous Fiction Friday for the wrap-up of my favorite fiction and new writers. Stop back and see me!


Autographed copies of Not Nice and Other Understatments are still available, or you can also find it on Amazon as a hard copy and also for the Kindle!

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. šŸ™‚

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!

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.

šŸ™‚ Yep, still smiling!