Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Post Troubles And More On Self-Publishing

My computer won't let me sign on, but for some reason my iPad will. So what does that mean? This is going to be a short post. I had a friend pass along an article from the Wall Street Journal (from Dec. 9) about self publishing. It was about an author named Darcie Chan who wrote a manuscript a number of years ago. She submitted it to over 100 agents before finding one that would represent her. Then none of the major publishing companies would pick it up. After shelving it for years she finally decided to go the self publishing route and published it earlier this year through Amazon's Kindle self-publishing program, selling her books for 99 cents (Chan makes about 35 cents per book).

She did some research and purchased some ads and reviews, and after some fortunate mentions on websites, etc. she has now sold over 4000,000 copies. Her book has been on the NY Times best selling list, yet astoundingly, she still can't find a publisher. She's had six film studios request the rights to her book, along with audio-book publishers and foreign publishers. She hasnt accepted any offers because she's afraid it will make it more difficult to get a publishing deal here in the US. But the traditional publishers are still hesitant to take her book on because they now fear it's "run it's course" and won't be successful for them. Any offers she's received have been worse than the money she makes on her own. So frustrating!!!

It's an interesting article. It reminds us that we need to be informed when it comes to self-publishing or traditional publishing. We need to know what our ultimate goals are, and what roads we need to take to get there. And we have to be prepared if those roads lead us somewhere we didn't expect.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ode To Thanksgiving Leftovers

The month is gone, where did you go?
Goodbye fall leaves, it's time for snow.

And with another season change,
My food I'll have to rearrange,

Oh turkey, it is time to leave,
I know it seems hard to believe,

'Tween ghosts and elves you were the bridge,
But now your scraps are in my fridge,

And going bad, I'm sad to say,
They won't last even one more day.

Out rolls and sweet potato pie,
Out mashed potatoes, my oh my,

'Cause I need room for Christmas treats,
for custard, ham and yummy sweets,

So leftovers, it's time to part,
But know you'll stay deep in my heart,

Until next year when one more time,
we meet again to feast sublime.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Micro Tension: Welcome To Life

There was an LDS Family Services counselor who spoke at a multi stake meeting a few weeks ago about overcoming trauma and fear.  One thing really struck me in that meeting.  She said that our bodies are engineered to handle the big catastrophes.  People who have been through horrendous tragedies surprisingly don't always need counseling because their brains and bodies are essentially wired to help them endure.  Instead, its the smaller things-- the day-to-day trials and struggles-- that actually impact us more and do greater harm.  Especially when we're young.

I'm reading a book right now that I feel like I should love but I don't.  There's action (major, end of the world type stuff), a romance, good characters.  The writing is beautiful.  So why don't I like it?  It's boring. There's no micro-tension! Turmoil and major catastrophes?  Yes, there's plenty of those.  But from chapter to chapter it feels like the characters are numb to the crazy things happening around them and they just sit around worrying about the big picture.  It's getting a little annoying, honestly.  The author does a great job of getting us inside the characters' heads, but nothing is happening in there.  At least, nothing new. 

So what is micro-tension?  It can be a lot of things.  It's the animosity Harry and Draco have for each other while Harry is trying to defeat Voldemort.  Or the typical teenage/parent tension between Bella and her dad that Bella has to deal with while figuring out how to survive when dating a vampire.  Or the death of a little girl that Katniss honors while trying to stay alive in a horrific game of Last Man Standing. 

We need micro-tension in our stories.

If in life it's the small, day-to-day things that impact us the most, maybe it works that way in literature too.  Just like in life, micro-tension develops character, shapes decisions, and often directs the final outcome. The big story is important, but it's the micro-tension from chapter to chapter that keeps us reading.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The E-book, Self Publishing Dilemma

Hello strangers!  Yes, it has been months since I posted here.  I'm happy to report that it's mostly because I've been hard at work on my manuscript.  I tend to get distracted when I blog surf, so I've had to stay away for a while.  But I'm back, at least for the moment, with a topic that has often been on my mind.

A writing friend of mine wrote on her blog recently about the rising issues and challenges with ebooks.  I brought it up during our monthly ANWA meeting (yay ANWA) and discovered there's a lot to this topic.  Here is some of what we discussed:

Ebooks are changing the face of the publishing industry, in some ways quicker than the industry can keep up. In the past, if an author didn't get a book deal there were very few options, but not anymore. An increasing number of authors are starting to self-publish, many of them using the ebook format and selling their novels for as little as $2.99 (which seems to be the magic number for ebook sales). Some of them have done very well, even getting great book deals from large publishers after their ebooks were a success (the Tiger'S Curse series by Colleen Houck, for example). On the other side, well-known authors are dropping their publishers and going straight to selling ebooks on their websites and garnishing 100% of the profits. So which option is best?

The ebook, self-publishing option has lots of positives. First,you get all the profit with very little overhead. This is appealing for authors who usually get about 10% on their books, and some of that goes to the agent. Second, there is something very tempting about foregoing the grueling and time-consuming process of finding an editor and agent. But this option comes with risks too.  When you don't have a publisher, then you lose support in marketing your book. All the work is up to you and you really have to do your research to know what are the best ways to spread the word and get your name out there. Second, when you forego the publisher the quality of your book is often compromised. You lose that team of editing support that can make a book shine.

Going the traditional route has it's benefits and issues too. As far as benefits, they have resources that in general go far beyond a self-publishing author. Marketing and editing resources are two huge ones. A publisher wants you to succeed, and (in theory) can help guide you in getting your book out there to the masses as a polished product. They can facilitate your meeting other successful authors. And there is just something appealing about seeing your book in hard copy, not just ebook format. But there are some challenges here too. For one, the author makes considerably less per book, which is understandable because there's a team of people working on your book who all have to be paid. Also, there are still a lot of issues with ebooks that have yet to be worked out. For example, publishers make a considerably higher percentage of the profit on an ebook than the author, whereas with hard copy books the percentage is about equal. Also, the profit reporting for ebook sales can get a little sticky. The ebook phenomenon happened so fast that some publishers may not have accurate systems in place to report profits, and some authors are concerned that they are actually selling more ebooks than are getting reported.

When it comes to ebooks, self-publishing and traditional publishing both have their benefits and problems. The most important thing in deciding between the two is to make sure you do your research and discover which option is best for you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Card, Characters, and Characterization

Right now I'm rereading the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card.  He's one of my favorite authors.  I read his writing and realize I've got a long way to go (which should logically make me not like him, right?  Perhaps I'm a masochist, or I just like to understand what good writing is supposed to look like even if I can't duplicate it yet).

In the intro, he talked about how he came up with the idea for Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.  In the later book he has a character with a handful of children who are all pivotal to the plot.  An author friend of his read the manuscript and complained that he was having a hard time telling all the children apart.  Orson Scott Card realized that what it really meant was that he hadn't developed those characters well enough that they stood out as distinct individuals.  Since I had just received the same criticism lately, I thought this insight was very... well, insightful.

So I paid close attention as I read to how he distinguished these characters, especially in scenes where there were multiple ones all together.  I noticed that he constantly referenced each of them in the scene, even if they weren't the ones speaking.  They were still doing something--  standing, sulking in the corner, smiling, or in one case peeing on someone else's leg.  Whatever the case, their physical actions were mentioned-- and those actions were as indicative of their character as their dialog.

He also pointed out that writing a story with a lot of characters is difficult, because there are so many relationships you have to work out.  Not only the relationships they each have with each other, but also how all the characters relate as a whole.  On top of that, you have to keep in mind that different people act differently depending on who they're with (who doesn't act different with a parent than they do when they're with their friends, especially as a youth).  So you are not only developing multiple characters, but multiple variations of each of those characters as well.

Whew!  Writing can be exhausting.  It also makes me realize why I'm so absent-minded.  With all those extra people in my head, it's a wonder I can still remember my children's names.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Change In Perspective (And Time Zones)

I just got back yesterday from a trip to Ireland. My head is still spinning from the jet lag, so if this post doesn't make sense forgive me. It was 60 degrees and raining the whole time... and TOTALLY awesome. The countryside was amazing, the food was fabulous. But what has stayed with me most is the day trip we took to Belfast. Did you know there is a twenty foot high wall that cuts right through the city? It divides the Protestants from the Catholics and it closes every night at 7 pm. Everything in the city is divided-- they go to separate schools, live in separate neighborhoods, and even take different transportation (years ago the Protestant side-- Belfast is still under English rule which supports the Protestants-- made a law that Catholics could no longer ride on public transportation. The Catholic community came together and bought a bunch of black taxi cabs so they could still get around.) They don't even agree about their nationality-- Protestants say they're English, Catholics say they're Irish. To the Catholics, the English are suppressors (in the 80's they had internment camps where prisoners could be held without cause and without a trial for up to 2 years and 4 months). To the Protestants, the Catholics are the terrorists (IRA).
I knew a little (very little honestly) about the violence in Ireland, but until I saw what was there I just didn't understand. It's amazing what a little change in perspective can do.