Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beta Blues - or why I might not beta your book

I beta read for a few people - very few. There's a reason for that.

I'm thorough - as in sentence by sentence commentary, suggestions, and in one case rewrites (only after being asked, of course).

I can't bring myself to half-ass my part on something that someone else has poured all this effort into, and its damn time consuming.

So darlings, please don't be offended when I won't beta read your 200,000 word opus - I just don't have the time to do it properly, and wouldn't feel right doing a less than perfect job.

Also, I have been shown pieces that aren't ready for a beta read. I'll say that as well - for some reason or another (be it spelling, grammar, or 'find the story') the first few pages indicate that the draft isn't ready for that kind of scrutiny.

It doesn't mean you suck, it means you have more work to do.

Anyhow, back to the current beta.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Does vanity Press=Scam?

I finished and sent off a short screenplay. Feels good to finish things. I've bored you enough with my personal life.

Anyhow, back to writing about writing.

There's an emerging school of thought that purports all vanity presses to be scams of a most nefarious order, dooming your precious tome to an eternity of obscurity. Well, you do have to do your own legwork. All a vanity press does is print your book for a fee - there's no shelf placement, promotion, marketing - all that stuff to get the word out and get your book on the shelf is left up to you.

But does that make every vanity press a scam?

I don't believe so. There are a number of vanity presses, such as Lulu, who are quite upfront about what it is that they do. Upload a PDF of your manuscript, and they make it possible to run off copies. That's it. (Now they do have pay to play packages for those who don't or can't do their own formatting, but it is simply a charge for a service.)

Others offer those packages for a fee, often a very high fee. Xlibris, for example. But they don't promise or imply fame and fortune if you'd only use their services. You pay the fee, you get your book shipped to you. That's it.

Some are without a doubt, scams. Those who imply that your book will be shelved next to those of a commercial press (Publish America), that all you need to do to become a 'real' author is to pay the fee, and somehow the buying public will find you (Publish America, Tate). They appear to promise the moon and the stars, but all they really do is print your book.

Even worse, the wording on the websites is deceptive. It plays on your dreams (i.e. vanity) to make you believe that all you need is a printed book and then the readers will come.

Publish America is by far the worst of these. Besides being rude and adding hidden costs ('editing'- read 'spellcheck' - $99, when they claim to take no upfront money; another charge if you want to change the stock image cover they dump on your book), they claim you 'never pay a penny'.

Every vanity press model involves selling copies of the book to it's writer. What PA pulls is grossly overpriced softcovers (typically $30 or more EACH to the author - imagine what they'd have to sell for!) and hideously inflated shipping charges (the last one I noticed was $3.99 PER BOOK).

NO other vanity press that I've researched pulls that. While POD (Print on Demand) books tend to sport a slightly higher price tag than a mass market book, places like Lulu let you set your own price per copy - you get to decide how much money you make per book. This allows the writer to set a price that's at least competitive in the market.

While severely overpricing the product may be shady, that bit isn't really where the scam hits. A scam claims to do something it has no intention of doing. PA has no distribution. Lightning Source is a printer/wholesaler, not a distributor.

'Ah', you might say 'but they have books at Amazon and B&, etc' - Surprise! ANYTHING with an ISBN will be listed on those sites. Amongst the millions of books available, who is going to order a hideously over priced paper-back without being able to look at it?


I'm not sure how I can make that any clearer. 'Available' means that cousin Johnny can walk into a bookstore, ask for the title, and order it (payment in advance) and have it sent to his home. Not that there's any guarantee that he'll ever receive it - PA is notorious for not filling out orders, so don't blame the book store.

Honest vanity presses have their place, and it's up to you to decide if doing that route is a good idea. Just make sure you are going with a company that is up front in their dealings, and that you have realistic expectations of the results.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Resolution updates

Well, some things are going better than others...

I have not yet joined a gym.

I am not writing screenplay pages every day. I am writing every day.

I am halfway through a short story, and have been writing every day.

I have not been drawing every day-though I did order some art supplies.

This weekend had no social outings - however, we did get and install a washing machine and dryer, which made the time productive. And we did go out and spend time with friends one evening this week, so small steps in the right direction. And the money that was supposed to go to the gym went to a washing machine instead. Overall, I believe it to be the right choice.

Friday, January 8, 2010

EFW files - BLAH!

Okay, okay, I have to join at least the 20th century. I'm behind, I know it.

My current oy vey is EFW files. What are they? They're just zipped files, but getting them unzipped? Harder than unzipping a recalcitrant virgin at a drunken prom party.

All you really have to do is rename them with a ZIP extension, and you're good to go. If you do it the handy right click way, anyway. You can't just rename it by clicking in that little box underneath and changing the text. Why? I have no idea.

Figuring this out only took a minute, but my frustration levels lately don't allow for too much puzzle solving. Maybe I need to eat better.

Two years ago, I didn't own a computer. One year ago, my computer was used for word processing and playing solitaire.

Now, I'm one of the mods for a large-ish film making site, have a blog, a digital camera, and am trying to figure out how to DRAW in Photoshop. I'll be a regular computer 'user' if not a homebrew wiz by next year.

Always be learning - even if those curves make you feel like Sisyphus.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Comic Cover #1

Comic cover mockup by ~DigitalisVitae on deviantART

Always be learning. Always.

So this is my first attempt at a comic book cover. Eh, its okay.

So far...

Haven't yet joined the gym.

Am writing every day, on several pieces.

Am drawing every day.

Worried that the same health problem that plagued me last year is back...bleh.

Downloaded the newer version of Celtx; we'll see how it does.

Need to upload pictures.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year! Goals and re-assessment

Hi guys, and happy new year!

First, I really have to thank all of you guys who follow and read this blog - it's great motivation to keep going on it.

Looking back over the year, I'm seeing one of my own issues as the 'scattershot' method - there are lots of things I want to accomplish, and I bounce around from one to the next without much rhyme or reason.

The real reason? I see something that inspires me, then 'woosh', I'm off and running in that direction until I see another butterfly. How on earth does one get around this problem when having so many interests?

I'm not sure. Maybe my short - term goals were too short term, and likewise with the long ones. So, I'm setting some new goals for myself this year, hopefully the clearer terms will make them more achievable.

1. In three months, I will have a freelance gig doing art with a gaming company. The two I'm interested in working with are WhiteWolf and Wyrd Games.

2. Now that the heat is not an issue in the house, the SO and I will take one day out of every weekend together and get out of the house to do something. That something will not consist only of driving to a local restaurant to eat.

3. By the end of this month, my Shoggoth manuscript will be 100 pages or more. It does not have to be perfect, or completely finished, just longer.

4. By the end of this week, I will have joined a gym. I will commit to going there twice a week whenever I am working from home.

5. I will bring my shiny new camera on all weekend outings with SO. I will NOT obsess about taking proper stock photos - rather, I will enjoy taking pictures. If some work as stock, great.

6. I will write at least one screenplay page every day, no matter where I am.

7. I will draw something every day, even if it's just doodling.

What are your goals for the year?