Thursday, January 21, 2010

Editing Proof Copy

I received my proof copy from and was pleased and displeased. I was very happy with the cover, paper quality, binding. I was unhappy with the margins around the text and the pagination. Everything I was unhappy with can be fixed, is my fault, so I'm getting on with it. The interesting thing about the method is that you submit the internal pages of your book in PDF format. Of course, I followed their recommendations for margins and what I configured look right in the E-version. It just was wrong when printed.

This will mark my fifth full edit of the book since I first sat back, took a breath, and told my wife it was done! But looking at it printed in a 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" trade paperback size is revealing and sounds like a bear and porridge fairytale. Once the text PDF was run through the printer, the bottom margin was too great, the left and right margins were too small, and the interior (gutter) margin was just right. All easily fixable.

The real problem now is the arrangement and order of the plot and dealing with my insistence on not using quotation marks (" ") for dialogue. I want to set dialogue on an indent marked with an en dash (--).

"Well, you say, "agents and editors aren't going to think this is edgy or experimental. They're just going to think you are an idiot! Plan on instant rejection."

-- Yes, I've noticed, the aspiring author said.

Now into my fifth full edit I see that using an indent and en dash works very well, if (and only if) it is very clear from the proceeding paragraph who is speaking and the dialogue after the en dash does not contain any additional description. For example:

-- Yes, I've noticed, the aspiring author said. He coughed into his fist.

As soon as more description is added to the dialogue line, it becomes confusing. But I can fix this.

The more complex problem is the one of plot. Yes, I had a plot outline when I began writing. I wanted 13 chapters (to follow an occult model) and I wanted a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. I had a top story at the beginning of each chapter that told a piece of the story from the science fiction present. Then I had the main story, a fantasy adventure, that began with a flashback and then moved the characters forward through their adventures to the present -- which is where the story ends. So, what's wrong?

I'm happy with the writing of each individual scene, but when the narrative strings the scenes together within a single chapter (and each chapter is about 30 pages long because I was insisting on a total of 13 chapters), the causal SFF reader -- not to mention agent/editor -- is going to think there is too much space between slam-bam action scenes. How did Tolstoy and Dickens solve this problem? They didn't.

I have decided on a solution but I'll put it in future blogs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More on CreateSpace

I received notice 1/13/2010 that my proof copy of Time of the Heathen was shipped to me from I am anticipating another read through to examine how the text flows in book form as opposed to the HTML pages of the Ebook format.
  • The articles I've published on have been read almost 100 times after just a couple of weeks.
  • Also, my Twitter account for Time of the Heathen is now over 100 followers.
These things are all helpful, but I still need early readers to validate whether the book is readable and compelling. I am writing the second volume and have finished the opening chapter and first saga. I will be supplying more information about the second volume in future BLOGS.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Using CreateSpace

I've decided to submit my text to and order a preview copy of the book. Actually reading the story in a trade paperback should give me an opportunity to make any final edits. No matter what anyone says, there is a difference in reading a physical book and viewing pages online or in an e-reader. I will be paying about $15.00 (including postage) for my proof copy of the book. I should receive it in 1-2 weeks. Once re-edited, tere are three ways I can sell the printed book:
  • Print On Demand (POD). I must update my website with a PayPal link through which I can receive credit card payments for the book and an e-mail notice of payment so I can ship a purchased book to a customer. Advantage, I obtain the highest markup. Disadvantage, customers must go to PayPal site to buy.
  • I can also send Amazon 5-10 hard copies to hold in their warehouse and ship to customers purchasing through their online store. Advantage, customers browsing on Amazon can find the book and purchase it using their one-click option. Disadvantage, Amazon keeps more of the revenue.
  • I can set up and operate an Amazon or Ebay store to allow sales of single copies through it. Advantage, the store host processes payments for me. Disadvantage, they keep more of the revenue.

Of course, all this time I continue to offer the Ebook on both Amazon Kindle and SmashWords Estores. Links from my website should help direct sales traffic for all of these methods. The big question, how can I turn website visits into sales? As I discover how to do that, I will continue to BLOG the results.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Createspace POD publishing

I received a clarifying telephone call from customer service at In a followup from a previous post, I now understand how the createspace book printing works.

There are really two options for self-printing/publishing my book:
  1. Use the createspace Amazon distribution channel (an e-store within Amazon) to sell and print on demand single copies of my book.
  2. Use the createspace publishing platform to print multiple copies of my book to distribute any way I see fit.

I've determined that, for me, the best use of POD publishing is to use number 2. My reason is simple, although it was difficult to tease the information out of createspace, cost per book. Using option 1, I was given a cost per book of $17.64 (which equals the lowest retail price allowed for the book), the particulars of which I included in a previous post.

However, using option 2, I obtain a printed cost of $6.41 per book and I can set any retail price I choose. Another benefit of option 2 is that I can print any quantity of books I like for that price. I could print two books and have them mailed to any address I choose. One deficit of option 2 is that there are no price breaks for greater quantities. I can never receive a lower cost per book than $6.41.

I'm going to try it. I've n0thing to lose. Once I hit Submit on my publishing page, a single proof copy of my book will be printed and mailed to me. If I've got it right, I can approve the proof and order the printing of additional copies. If I disapprove the proof, I can make changes to the text, upload a new text file, and re-submit, get a new proof copy, etc.

Future BLOG posts will update my experience with POD and let readers know how successful I find this form of printing/marketing is.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Follow up by CreateSpace

Got a telephone sales followup call from this AM. It seems that the calculated costs (describe by me in an earlier post) are for a P.O.D. order. They are essentially the costs of a one-off printing of my book caused by an Amazon customer ordering a single printed copy.

There is a separate box that calculates a "multiple copy" cost per book printed. In my case, if I purchase directly more than one book, I would pay either $10.58 (stnd) or 6.29 (pro) for each book + shipping. I'm waiting for an additional call back from the customer service people for my account to explain the details of this feature.

It seems that an author/customer could pay the $39.00 onetime Pro fee, and then have books printed 10 at a time. Those books could be either sold from the author's website, off Ebay, or out of the Amazon warehouse. It would seem you could sell a trade paperback then for $11.99, deduct a cost of $6.29, adding shipping and net a royalty of $5.70 per book. It is true that this royalty is exactly the same you get off a POD sale. The difference is that the POD retail price must be $19.99 per book. I'm just guessing, but I think sales are more likely at an $11.99 retail price then a $19.99 retail price.

Once all points are clarified, I will BLOG that information to help others trying to understand how self-publishing in the POD world works and what options/variations are possible.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Print On Demand

Went through the setup online for, a print on demand publishing service controlled by Amazon. I have issues. While CreateSpace assigned a ISBN and EAN-13 identifying number to my book (for free), the sales and royalty program seemed less than generous.

They calculate a list price for you that is based on fixed charges + 40% Amazon take of list (in my case $7.056/copy). The fixed charges for printing my 454 page 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" trade paperback include: $1.50/book fixed charge + a per page charge of .02 per page ($9.08 in my case). So my book would cost me $10.58 in fixed charges + 40% of the list price. Amazon insists on a minimum list price of $17.64. If I accept that price (I can choose to charge more), then I will receive $0.00 in royalties per book sold. This is because if you add up the fixed and percentage charges Amazon makes per book, they must have $17.636 per book printed. If I want to make any money on the sale of my trade paperback, I must increase the retail price beyond this amount. However, they will continue to take an additional 40% of any increase I make.

Of couse, if I will pay a one-time fee of $39.00 to be a Pro, then I will receive $4.29 of the minimum retail price. Obviously, every author is pushed to become a Pro.

Yet, like all POD printers, I must do all the setup to ensure the book is finished with artwork, text, and uploaded files. Since printing appears to use my files automatically, I'm not sure how much Amazon (createspace) employees actually do to print a copy of my book.

I would like to hear from anyone that tried out Amazon's POD program using createspace. Did everything go well or are there issues with the quality of the printed book?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to 2010 - My Plan

Welcome to my BLOG for 2010! This is a BLOG for discussing fiction, science fiction/fantasy, the writing and the publishing process.

In 2008 I began writing my first SFF novel and completed 3 chapters. In 2009 I finished it, 456 pages (if printed as a trade paperback) and 118,939 words. I'm very proud to have done so. In July 2009 I began looking for a literary agent. I soon realized that getting any to take a look required an excellent query letter. Like other authors, I'd rather write a 500 page novel than a 1 page query letter. But query I did, changing the letter every 6 agents to see what bait would attract a bite. Fishing was bad. Regardless of bait chosen, the fish lay sluggishly on the bottom of a cold pond, apparently well nourished.

While looking for an agent, I began connecting with social media and soon realized that many other wanna-bes were also finding it difficult to locate an agent or a publisher for their work; but I took no solace in being part of the crowd. When I located any notice of a publisher seeking new authors, their submission guidelines appeared daunting. The most attractive seemed always to require printed materials (it's about $50 to copy my manuscript) mailed in with SASE. So I initially preferred e-mail submissions but, after 45 rejections, I think e-mail screeners only read until they encounter the first word, sentence, clause, paragraph or concept they can construe as a reason for rejection. I finally realized that connecting with an agent who is not just looking for what I've got to sell, but also looking for my way of expressing it -- that is the actual search I am undertaking.

Entering 2010 with something to sell (while writing my follow-up), I think I must proceed simultaneously on the following fronts:
  • Continue trying to sell the Ebook version of my first book on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.
  • Continue to locate and query prospective literary agents. I'm using to track my submissions.
  • Continue writing articles about my writing experience on where I am listed as an "expert author".
  • Continue to BLOG and TWEET looking for connections and information.
  • Begin to contact small presses looking for a direct publisher.
  • Begin to examine Print on Demand (POD) or short run printers to see if I can buy printed review copies of my book at a low enough cost to allow me to sell paperback versions of my novel either directly from my website or through outlets like Amazon.
I will be thrilled if I find success following any of these paths but advice is contradictory. Some in social media suggest that agents and traditional publishers will so resent an author going around them by self publishing (instead of waiting for them to bless the book) that they will refuse to publish anything by that author. Others suggest that before publishers will gamble on a book from a new author they actually want him/her to self publish to prove that their book has a market. Some promote ebooks, some say print first, ebook later.

2010 is the year in which I want to find out whose right.