Monday, April 25, 2011

I'd like to support you, but the book sucks...

This is happening to me more an more often, as self publishing becomes (supposedly) as simple as uploading a MS onto CreateSpace. (There are other one button uploaders, but this one seems to have the most traffic.)

I've been told that this digital self productions and distribution mechanism is the 'great equalizer'. While you could always pay a printer for bound copies of your manuscript, the 'ebook revolution' (sorry for the number of quotes) allows anyone to upload a copy onto, say, Amazon, and reach a network of millions of potential readers with one click.

POTENTIAL readers, not guaranteed readers. Amanda Hocking is a fluke, darlings. A wonderful, hard working fluke and, if to judge by her blog, a capital human being to boot.

Amanda Hocking is not you. Or me. And the people trotting her out as an example of self publishing success are feeding into the illusion that it could be you. Or me.

I could win the lottery next week as well - the odds are about as good. Intellectually, I know this. I also know I have the self promotion skills of a hamster. Yet late at night as I stare up at the ceiling waiting sleep, I wonder if I could be the next break out.

Everyone does - so don't feel guilty about that. Miss Hocking did it the best way she could - she had covers designed, hired editors (who still didn't help as much as a publisher round would) and is also incredibly prolific.

Are you any of these things? And do you have a bit of disposable cash to spend on a cover and a real editor?

Doing this right is HARD (as Miss Hocking herself has mentioned, particularly at the editing end of things), and most people just don't do it right.

Which brings me to my current quandary. Each and every person has this little voice in the back of their head that just KNOWS they're going to be this exception. No matter how logical you are - it's the same little voice that makes a person play lotto (if you do), take 'opportunities' that may not actually be as presented (I'm guilty of this one) etc. It's called hope.

This springs eternal in the artist, and isn't totally a bad thing - it keeps us from giving up.

The issues I see, are where hope and ability don't mesh, and the creator genuinely doesn't understand this. Add in the research and practice factor, and goals will eventually be reached - but that only happens when the artist understands what level they perform at, and what to do in order to reach the level that they want.

This self publishing thing cuts out the middle man, sure. But that middle man involves all of that research and practice and learning. I have honestly yet to see a work of fiction on CreateSpace that comes anywhere close to a commercially published story, in terms of writing, story arc, or grammar. Sorry guys, that's just the truth.

And the authors themselves are relentless promoters. Usually, not good ones, just relentless. I get dozens of new updates every day from friends and acquaintances who have opted to self publish.

I do want to support their efforts, I really do. I just can't bring myself to buy something where the excerpt either bores or makes me cringe. If the grammar is fine, the writing is flat.

And don't get me started on covers. This is THE thing that's going to make someone click on your book - and the covers range from god awful to non existent. Some of these writers are even trying to charge others for their cover design 'skills', which is terrifying. Owning photoshop does not make one a cover designer. People spend years of time, effort, and schooling to become designers. There's a reason.

For whatever reason, the cover design tends to be indicative of the quality of writing within - I keep waiting to be surprised by a gem that just has a lousy cover, but it hasn't happened yet. I have no idea why this is. Perhaps the same people that have delusions regarding one skill have similar issues looking objectively at their other skills?

So, a few more helpful hints:

1. I understand the being 'so close' frustration, I really do. Here's where you might think this option is viable - if agents and editors have requested fulls. That means either you're nearly there, or you are there, and there's just no room in the line up right now. If you're not getting past the query or partial stage, there's a reason.

2. Unless you have a graphic design background, don't do your own cover. Please. It's going to suck. Don't assume you'll be the magical exception.

3. You CANNOT edit your own work. Your mom, teacher, college prof, etc, also cannot edit your work. Every single time I've seen something edited this way, it sucks. Every time.

4. Be aware - if all of your sales are coming from friends and family, there's one of two things going on: either your marketing sucks, or your book sucks. I'm sorry to say, it's probably both.

I can't help but feel for some of these books, if not the writers. How many could have been something with a real editor and copy editor, with a real cover design, etc. Now those first rights are gone, and the poor writer is stuck with an unsellable mess where they could have made a few bucks.

I hear all the time 'better to have it out there to maybe make money, what's the harm?'. Besides your first rights being gone? If it's terrible, no one will probably notice it, and it'll disappear. No big deal - unless you count all the effort of writing the thing in the first place.

Your work is worth more than that. If you are going to self publish, please do it right.

Comprehensive guide for comic book scripts

The Ultimate comic Guide

For all you aspiring comic writers out there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Atlanta Nights Movie website

I decided that this little blog o' mine already covers two pretty broad topics, and isn't really the right place for updates about my personal film project - especially as this blog's goal is primarily educational in nature, rather than promotional.

So from now on, all news, silliness, and updates about the film project will appear on the official site, rather than my personal blog. (If something really interesting happens, I may post a link, but no more endless movie posts here.)

Feel free to follow and comment on that site as well, I run both of them, so you're still talking to me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Positive reviews that DON'T help.

A friend of mine's mother writes short stories, and they were looking for an inexpensive way to have them bound to share with friends and family. I just sent a link to Lulu.

While there, I figured I'd do some perusing to see what's new and interesting in the world of...


Followed by sighs of incredulity.

Each and every one of the competently (not even well, just competently) written blurbs that I've read so far has been either from a book put out by a commercial press, or an anthology collection from a well respected magazine. Those are also the books that sport covers that don't make my eyes want to leap from my head and run under the sink, where blessed darkness may ease the burning.

Yes, I'm sure I'll hear 'there ARE well written self published books' recited back at me like the mantra that it has become. My response?

Who the hell wants to waste hours digging to find the one that appears at least competent? I clicked on about fifty links this morning. There was ONE self published fiction that looked well written, and it was only marginally fiction: a series of hauntings from one county in Tennessee. While marginally fiction, the book appears to be interviews and history, with a bit of paranormal speculation.

Every single other blurb that I read was swamped with awkward sentence structure, clunky writing, and in some cases, mind boggling spelling and grammar issues. If the blurb is incomprehensible, the thought of suffering through an entire manuscript by that writer makes my hands shake.

The only thing worse (or funnier, depending upon your taste) were the obviously shill reviews from friends and family, raving about how great they were. When a self professed non reader takes the time to say how 'grate' a book is, and how it was a 'page turner' without hinting at the story itself, that doesn't help sell a book. When 'a reader' waxes on about the skill of a writer (which is clearly belied by the blurb) with zero other thoughts to that book, it kills any semblance of reliability of that review.

Reviews CAN help you sell this thing to someone other than Aunt Edna, but only if that review feels realistic and balanced. I'd be far more inclined to take the chance on something that 'could've used another round of copy editing' or 'exposition fell flat in some places, but still an enjoyable story' far more than 'teh gratest book evar writen' and 'I couldn't put it down' without saying WHY. (Didn't that type of advertising go out of fashion in the mid 1980's?)

Used car commercial language is silly in used car ads. It's absolutely dismal in an obviously biased, poorly thought out review from a friend that wants to help. Honestly, it doesn't help.

And for dog's sake, do not give a raving review about your OWN book. It makes you appear a bigger ass than those other reviews.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Atlanta Nights, read the book

I've had a few people asking me just how bad this book is. While I can wax philosophic for ages, I found an online PDF so you can experience it (and this book is quite the experience) for yourself!

(Link by clicking on the title of this entry.)

If you like the book, consider buying a print copy from Lulu - the proceeds go to the Emergency Writer's Fund.

If you want to see this become a movie, consider donating to my kickstarter fund here:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Is that gig really worth it? A guide to how I figure it out. Part Two

All aspects of our lives are composed of relationships, including business, and none more so than entertainment.

All of your actions and choices reflect upon those relationships - building them, altering them, sometimes severing them.

There are more people asking for one's time an expertise than several lifetimes can fill. How on earth to choose which relationships to cultivate, which to stand on the sidelines for, and which circumstances it makes sense to walk away from?

The number one way I figure this out is: does this person need me? The answer, which you might think strange, should always be 'no'.


Let me explain. The people that I want to work with are talented and motivated in their own right. They don't need me holding their hand every step of the way, and will manage whether they have my assistance or not. They'll want to work with me because our sensibilities mesh well, we share a goal, we can help each other.

I have both personal and professional friends in this category that I'll go out on a limb for, go the extra mile every time because I believe in them just as much as they believe in me. We do great work together. But if I were hit by a meteorite tomorrow, their projects would move on, whether I'm there or not.

That is the person I want to work with. These are the people that I'll fly across the country for, that I'll volunteer time and effort to help.

The other sort, are the ones that like the idea of fame and fortune, rather than the process of making something. They expect that merely knowing someone who works on films is enough to make them a famous actor, a top tier writer, whatever. (These are most often the strangers that want you to work for free, too!) Somewhere, they think making films is like playing lotto, at whatever stage. Some have the 'great idea' that's been floating around for a decade, unwritten. Some have even gotten to the 'made a movie' stage, but didn't realize how much time, effort, and expertise goes into one until it is far too late.

I suspect you have friends like this too - 'I could write a novel, if I only had the time', 'I have this great idea...', 'I could be an artist/graphic designer/pro blogger but...', and a slew of others.

I'm not a pro blogger (obviously). I have no one to blame but myself for the unwritten words to my novel. I'm not really an expert anything - that's right, I'm NOT an expert. I do share observations on life and work that have worked for ME. They're designed to be helpful, so hopefully I can save you some of the heartache that I've gone through on my path. That's all.