So I chose Smashwords, as you know, and I’m happier with it, mostly, than I am with me. Writing, as I said, is the easy part, at least for me. Editing is a nightmare. Since I wrote it and my brain knows that, it tells my eyes to see what is supposed to be there–not necessarily what is there. I read “Mirth, Wind, and Ire” four times front to back. I hired, as in paid, a professional to copy edit it. Then I read it again. I sent it to a professional formatter who out of the goodness of her heart noticed an incorrect word in a headline. Arg! She changed it. I read it again. The book is now published and I just found a missing article (grammatically-speaking, not a piece of clothing) in a sub-heading. Ack!
“So fix it,” you say. Hrummph. Were it that easy, would I be writing about it? Even a one word change requires a re-review by the company. During that time the book is not available for sale. It doesn’t take long, but it is a pain. They are not looking for other mistakes in the Queen’s tongue, they are checking to be sure the change made doesn’t mess up the formatting of the book. Once I deal with this I will have a chat with them about that. Surely a minuscule change, like mine, the word “the,” shouldn’t bring down the sales machine.
By the way, professional editors advise a three-part read. One is for content. Does it say what it is supposed to say? One is for grammar and syntax. Does it say what it is supposed to say while meeting acceptable language standards? And here’s the one I love. Read it line by line–backwards! This detaches your brain from your eyes and your eyes can concentrate on each word freshly seen. Then you do it again and if you’re new at the editing game, maybe yet again. Not easy–not fun.
So for better or worse it’s done, or I’m done with it. Now it’s time to publish. To get that done, the book has to be formatted in such a way that made me feel I needed degrees in architecture and geometry. It has to be done that way to fit the major e-publishers’ formats. I hired a pro. What would have taken me another life-time, she did in a day and did it for 60 bucks! (Marti Dobkins, email@example.com)
Then comes the application. First you’re told to fill out the author’s interview, a set of self-interview questions about who and what you are. Then comes a form that is a bunch of boxes to check and lists from which to choose that, in toto, give the prospective reader a basic over-view of what they’ll get if they buy. It also goes into the big mix-master of a search machine and pops it when a seeker hits the magic word. Then the duck comes down with the book in its mouth (thank you, Groucho Marx and “You Bet Your Life”). One is also advised to allow a certain percentage of the book to be read for free. I chose 15%. You don’t get to pick the 15% you think is the best 15%; it’s the first 15%.
The application requires uploading the book into it, but in a Word’95-2003 format. A separate uploading of the cover has to be done even though the cover is also uploaded with the complete manuscript. Don’t ask. I don’t know.
Some people write just to write, I’m told. They care not if anyone reads. I’d say that’d be 5% of writers. No one else writes for the hell of challenging one’s body to see how long you can do this before getting arthritis in finger and thumb joints, which I’m getting. So the next stop is marketing. Smashwords is honest in telling you that in spite of their worldwide outlets and in spite of their own “bookstore,”most authors are the difference between a lot of sales and not so many for their own book. So this morning’s task, begun last night, is creating a marketing list drawn from places I’ve worked, people I know, friends and relatives, postman, sanitation man, gardener…. If they have eyes, they go on the list.
Then one writes a press release. Of course you have to know how to do that, and if you don’t Smashwords’ folks are there to help. Now it has to be released. With the list one needs to know the email address for the local radio and tv outlets. If an author has the professional contacts in media that I do, a separate mailing of the release goes to those particular media folks, not just the news desk. Then too there are local bookstores that have “author’s readings. They get added.”The list groweth.
I do a lot of lecturing and teaching and like it. I live in an area with condos galore looking for speakers to be part of speaker series. More for a list. Belong to a house of worship and/or belong to organizations large and small? Another list.
My wife has her own lists, as do my children (who are adults), as do my friends who will receive the link to the book with a humble note requesting them to let their friends on their lists know. Lists spawn lists–hopefully.
And of course the obligatory business card with blog, website (not done yet), and link to book. That way any poor sucker who engages me in a conversation gets a card and becomes a list of one.
There comes a time, I’m told, when the sales take on a life of their own–or don’t. When you hit the “or don’t” period and want to push things, Smashwords offers a ton of ideas, one of which is a sale. The price of the book can be changed for a limited period; it even offers discount coupons. (“Look Ma, I’m Macys!” K-Mart?) Smashwords encourages the author to be creative and offer enticements. I’ve already thought of one. The person who finds the most mistakes and identifies them, so I can fix them, will win an autographed, bound copy of the book. ‘not exactly the fare of Le Bron’s new giveaway quiz show, but I gotta start somewhere.
Finally this. Familiarity breeds recognition. The author is advised to begin book two while doing all of the above for book one. So kids, “More Mirth, Wind, and Ire” is in the works with more updated material that proves the same depressing stuff. As a nation, we’re stuck in first gear of social problem solving. To salve the reader from dealing with the worries of the world, more humor will be included.
Book three will represent a complete change. It will be autobiographical, called “The War of the Itchy Balls” (“C’mon man! ‘not what you think…) and will be stories about be coming of age in Brooklyn. If my fingers hold out there will be a sequel, “And George Washington Slept Here Too,” which will be my coming of age in college. In between or after, I have yet another book I want to write, “The Hidden Ministry.” It will be about police chaplaincy. There may be one more, but it will have to be a mystery for now.
Next week you will receive a hyperlink to get to the book. Feel free to purchase as many hundreds of copies as you like… and of course send it, and notice of the book, to your lists….It will also be available in soft-cover, but I haven’t set up the architecture and geometry for that.
So if you want to write a book……think twice. But as Neil Simon (yes THAT Neil Simon), who i lost in my divorce, once said to me,”If that deters you, then you’re not a writer.” Simon by the way, wrote his first play, “Come Blow Your Horn” 14 times start-finish-garbage can-start again!
Happy New Year!
That’s all folks.