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Archive for August, 2011

No, I’m not talking about Ghostbusters.  Although it might be time to watch the movie again.  This post has been bubbling around, trying to take form for several weeks.  Kate’s post this past Sunday, and the comments to it, brought it to life.

A little background first.  When I first got my kindle, I was a skeptic.  I love books.  I love the feel of them, the look of them, etc.  I couldn’t imagine reading on anything like the kindle.  For one thing, I spend so much of the day sitting before the computer that the thought of reading on some sort of device simply didn’t excite me.  Then I got the kindle and very quickly realized that I preferred it to physical books — at least when reading for entertainment.

It didn’t take long to realize something else.  The errors in spelling, punctuation and formatting I’d started seeing in hard copy books seemed to leap off the digital page.  There is something about reading on my kindle — or on my tablet — that seems to accept the errors that have gotten past the copy editors and proofreaders.  Was it because there were more errors in ebooks than in hard copy books, or was there another explanation?

A figurative stroll through different e-reader related forums quickly revealed I wasn’t the only one asking these questions.  Even now, two years after receiving my kindle, the question is asked in the kindle forums almost weekly.  Speculation runs from laziness by legacy publishers to too many people thinking they are the next great writer waiting to be discovered and who are taking advantage of the ease of self-publishing digitally.  The truth of the matter is a bit more complex.

When it comes to problems seen in e-books put out by publishers, the first occurs when titles are scanned and then digitized.  This process often creates OCR errors where letters are altered.  This usually occurs near the margins and is easy enough to spot — if the file is proofread.  Unfortunately, it appears that many of these titles aren’t proofed before being put on sale. I’ve seen a couple of examples where the OCR errors were so bad, the text was almost unreadable.

The bulk of errors in e-books seem to come from the lack of proofreading and, to a lesser extent, copy editing.  This occurs, despite what a lot of the complainers in the different fora believe, in both indie and legacy published titles.  It occurs in indie titles, especially those that are self-published, because authors are, on the whole, their own worst editors.  It occurs in legacy published titles because they have cut back on their employees so much that they now rely on the authors and agents to do much of the editing and proofreading that editors used to do.

So, how does this relate back to Kate’s post and what are we, as authors, supposed to do?

Simple, we follow the guidelines, especially the one that almost every publisher includes: make sure your work is as close to publishable as possible.  That means more than having a good story.  It means making sure it is formatted according to guidelines.  It means having beta readers who know to look for more than misspelled words and comma faults.  It means, if necessary, hiring an editor to go over your manuscript before submitting it.

There are reasons for guidelines that go beyond making it easy for the editor to read the submission.  First — and this is very important — your ability to follow the guidelines is the editor’s first impression of your work.  Take the guidelines for Naked Reader press for example.  The very first thing listed under “guidelines” is the fact that we have set submission periods.  So, if you send something outside of the submission periods, I know you haven’t read the guidelines.  The same goes if you fail to send a synopsis of your novel or if all you send is the synopsis.  We want both.

Now, back to Kate’s post and some of the comments.  Part of any publisher’s guidelines are how to format your submission.  NRP uses standard manuscript format:  double spaced, one inch margins, 12 or 14 point Courier or Times New Roman.  Simple, right?

Apparently not.  We get titles that are single spaced.  We get titles without first line indents.  We get titles where there are additional spaces between paragraphs.  We get submissions that don’t have a cover email with the information asked for: name, contact information, publication credits.

NRP hasn’t gotten to the point yet where we are refusing to look at submissions that don’t meet our guidelines.  I know of a number of other publishers and agents that have.  I will tell you, though, that a manuscript not formatted according to guidelines starts with a strike against it.  Why?  Because I have to wonder about an author who doesn’t care enough to follow them.

So, it is up to the author to make sure he’s followed the guidelines just as he’s done all he can to make sure he is submitting the best story he can.  Frankly, this is true whether the author is submitting a title to a publisher or he’s publishing it himself.  If there is a reason for not following the format guidelines listed by a publisher, tell them.  Or at least send an email and ask if it’s okay.

I hear you saying that you have decided not to submit to a publisher but are going the self-publishing route.  After all, you have a great novel.  You’ve done your homework and know there are free programs out there to help you create your e-book.  So why worry about format guidelines and submission processes when you can take your e-book directly to the public?

As an author, I understand the sentiment.  It’s hard to get a publisher these days, especially a legacy publisher.  It’s even harder to get an agent — something you need to get your foot in the door at most legacy publishers.  It really is easy to understand why so many writers are choosing to do it themselves.

What many of them seem to have forgotten is that the same rules for submitting to a publisher apply to self-publishing.  You have to have a well-edited, proofread manuscript in a format readers are used to.  That means beta readers, proofreaders and, if necessary, professional editing.  It also means cover art and GOOD cover art.  Readers will tear you apart on the boards for bad cover art, or for generic cover art.  If they don’t like the font you use for your title, they will let you know.

Despite what you hear from a lot of bloggers, despite the fame of some indies like Amanda Hocking, there is still an onus about self-published work.  If you doubt it, read the boards.  See how many people won’t buy a novel originally priced at 99 cents because they know it’s by an “indie” and won’t be any good or will be so poorly formatted as to be unreadable.  Check out threads like those asking why indies keep shooting themselves in the foot by not having their novels professionally edited or formatted for e-books.

Don’t get me wrong.  As quick as they are to condemn a poorly written or poorly edited/formatted book, they are just as quick to praise one.  So, what does that mean?

It means he writer is not only the keymaster — the creator of the story — but is also the gatekeeper.  It doesn’t matter if the novel is going to a legacy publisher or is being self-published.  It needs to be as clean — as well written, edited and proofread — as possible before submission.  You are the master of your story.  Don’t be afraid to act the role.

In other news around the industry, check out what Kris Rusch and Joe Konrath have to say about the future of traditional or legacy publishing.

What do you think about the keymaster/gatekeeper roles and about the future of publishing?

Cross-posted to The Naked Truth and to Mad Genius Club.

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As most of you know, everyone involved with NRP is very anti-DRM.  We feel that it is an insult to our readers because all DRM says is that a publisher or an author doesn’t trust the reader.  We also feel that you, the reader, should be able to read the e-book you just purchased on any e-reader you own.  Finally, we feel that adding DRM to an e-book is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  It simply eggs on folks to try to break it and then, once they have, to offer it for free to others who haven’t paid for the book.

So, do we like piracy?  No.  If we find out that a site is offering our titles without permission, we will go after them.  After all, we’re here to make money for our authors.  However, we also know that a little bit of piracy is inevitable and, frankly, it is promotion.  The vast majority of people who read e-books are honest.  If they read an unauthorized version of one of our titles, they’ll go out and find the legitimate title and buy it or they’ll buy more titles by that author.  So it’s a win situation for us and for our authors.

What is worse, in my opinion, is what happened over on fanfiction.net recently (and this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, nor will it be the last).  Basically, Cynthia Eden was notified by a number of fans that her book, Deadly Heat, had shown up on the site in the guise of fanfic.  Oh the names had been changed — to Edward and Bella — but that was basically all.  The so-called author of this piece of Twilight fanfic also changed the POV from third to first AND — and this is where I can understand Ms. Eden getting a bit hot under the collar — acknowledged that the names of Edward and Bella belong to Meyer and the Twilight franchise but that she meant not copyright infringement.  Note that she said nothing about the book she plagiarized.

You can read more about this on Ms. Eden’s blog and this post on PW.com.

Plagiarism is the bane — and greatest fear — of most authors.  We work long and hard to write a novel.  It’s so much more than just sitting down at the computer and writing.  In a lot of ways, it’s like giving birth.  To then find that someone has taken it, filed off a few of the identifiers and claimed it as their own is enough to send us screaming into the night.  It doesn’t matter that this was posted on a fanfic site.  You’d be surprised how many people — people who buy books — read these sites.  Can you imagine how they’d react if they paid for the novel that had been plagiarized — after they’d read the so-called piece of fanfic?

All it takes is one reader saying in the right forum that author A stole a plot from a fanfic site and claimed it as her own.  The damage is done because someone else is bound to pick up the thread and spread it.  Even thought the author is the one who had her plot ripped off by the fanfic poster, it is the author who will have to defend her work against the cries of plagiarism.  After all, how many times do we compare the date of fanfic post to the publication date of a book or short story?

According to Ms. Eden, the fanfic poster has taken down the plagiarized piece, noting that it was an “experiment”.  Sorry, I buy that explanation no more than Ms. Eden appears to.  I’d like to give the fanfic poster the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that she made the disclaimer about Twilight and yet remained silent about the true basis of the work speaks volumes.  At least to me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against fanfic.  I’ve been known to write it, as have a number of authors.  It is a wonderful way to hone our craft and have fun doing it.  But the key here is that you have to “write” it.  That means coming up with the idea, the plot, following canon — or having a darned good reason for breaking it — and putting your own spin onto it.  It’s not just changing the names and POV of someone else’s work.

Whether the plagiarized work is offered for sale or simply put up for free on fanfic sites, it is still plagiarism.  Worse, it’s stealing.  The poster has stolen another person’s hard work and is stealing their credit.  Instead of taking the time to go through and file off the literary serial numbers, spend that time and effort to write your own story.  It’s a lot more fun.

Cross-posted to The Naked Truth.

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This past month, I’ve been focusing more on my writing than in previous months.  Part of it is because I have deadlines looming large.  Part of it is because the job is still as demanding as ever but I’m more confident in what I’m doing.  Of course, I still need to clone myself — as well as everyone else at Naked Reader Press — to keep up with everything that’s going on, but I’d rather be busy than twiddling my thumbs.

As I’ve mentioned here and at Mad Genius Club, part of the problem with my writing has been the number of stops and starts I’ve had to make because stories wouldn’t cooperate or I’d suddenly realize the book I was writing wasn’t the one I was supposed to be writing, etc.  Anyway, I thought I’d give you a taste of some of the different voices/plots/characters demanding my time today.  Then, if you feel you need to call the men in the white jackets, go ahead.  I need a nice vacation for a week or so.

From Hunter’s Moon:

Death is inevitable.  Try as you might, you can’t prevent it.  Medical science and a healthy dose of luck might postpone it, but that’s all.  Sooner or later we all die.  It’s what happens next that’s up for grabs.

Just because there’s no way around it doesn’t mean I want to die one moment sooner than absolutely necessary.  For one thing, the way my luck runs, the next phase very likely would not find me traipsing happily through the Elysian Fields or whatever you call the afterlife.  No, it would be my luck to turn into one of the creatures I’ve spent most of my unnatural life hunting and killing, all in an effort to keep humanity safe.

Unfortunately, it looked like my life had finally run out.  It was bound to sooner or later but, given a choice, it would be later – much, much later.

I admit it.  I was in a lousy mood.  Dealing with cops has never been my idea of fun.  Dealing with them in a dark alley before dawn and in the middle of a “job” ranks right down there with my least favorite things to do.  That’s especially true when the cop in question looks all of thirteen and is convinced he’s just seen me commit cold-blooded murder.

Damnation, I hate days like this.

Then there is this one that I’ve posted before from Skeletons in the Closet:

All my life, my mama’s tried to raise me to be a proper lady.  No, that’s not quite right.  She’s tried to raise me to be a proper SOUTHERN lady, full of refinement and grace, dressed in lace and delicate pastels.  To hear her talk, it’s been a futile effort that’s caused her more than her fair share of gray hair.  And, where the lace and pastels are concerned, she’s right.  Still, she’s managed to get me to say, “yes, ma’am,” and “no, sir”.  For the most part, I’m respectful of my elders, even when they don’t deserve it.  I even wear clean underwear whenever I leave the house – usually without any extraneous holes in it – because Mama is convinced some rampaging bus will find me and strike me down, necessitating a trip to the emergency room.

I swear, I think it’s her life’s dream that it will actually happen.  You see, in her world, a trip to the ER has only one ending.  The handsome, rich and oh-so-conveniently single doctor who saves my life will fall madly in love with me.  What she seems to forget is that in a bus vs. me battle, the bus will always win.  So, unless the doctor is also a re-animator, he’d be falling for a corpse and, well, ewwwwww!

Besides, having somehow managed to survive a close encounter of the nearly fatal kind, the last thing I’d be interested in is finding a man to settle down and raise a passel of kids with.  Not that it would deter Mama one little bit.  Hell, she’d probably arrive at the ER with her minister firmly in tow, a marriage license burning a hole in her hand bag, all ready to fill in the blanks and make me a married woman.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my mama rarely lets reality interfere with her plans.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can usually deal with Mama’s plans and manipulations.  I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out how.  All I have to do is make sure I look both ways before crossing the street.  Of course, the odds of a bus hitting me here in Misty Creek are about as good as the odds of Hell freezing over.  So I figure I’m safe – at least for the time being.

Knock on wood.

From Jubilee Plot:

“Slainte!”

He leaned back and nodded slightly, satisfaction filling him.  Who would have guessed he’d have found so many kindred souls in America.  Kindred souls with money and the patriotic fervor only those driven from their homelands seemed to possess.  Kindred souls who would do almost anything he asked, if for no other reason than to strike a blow against the English who continued to refuse to admit Ireland was for the Irish.

Perhaps Ireland would finally be freed from its English oppressors.

It was strange, and certainly now what he’d expected, but he felt at home here.  Chicago was live with commerce and trade.  Everywhere he turned, someone had an opportunity to offer.  Sure and he knew some were merely opportunities to part him from his cash.  But now, after several days in the city, he was beginning to understand why so many called this the Land of Opportunity.  Where else could an Irish Catholic who fled his homeland with nothing but the clothes on his back be able to make his fortune?

But it was more than that.  Parts of Chicago were more Irish than Ireland.  Even here.  The poorly lit pub was filled with voices, many of which sounded as if they’d arrived from Ireland not much before he had.  Mixed in with the lyrical accents he knew so well were the broader, flatter accents of those who’d never stepped foot on Irish soil but who were just as Irish as was he, in heart and mind if not in location.  Irish Gaelic mixed with English, lulling him into a sense of security, almost as if he was home.  Add to that the smells of too many people in too small of a space, stale ale, whiskey and smoke and, well, he could be sitting in his favorite pub in Dublin.

Familiar it might be, but it wouldn’t do to be careless.  Even here in Chicago, home of one of the largest Irish populations in America, the Brits had their spies, something his companions didn’t seem to understand.  Little did they know that the Home Office, as well as the Metropolitan Police, had agents everywhere, doing all they could to derail the movement for Irish independence. 

The Brits might decry those patriots fighting for Irish independence as murderers and traitors, but they weren’t above murder or the use of double agents who thought nothing of leading brave Fenian men and women to their deaths.  Of course, he couldn’t explain how he knew this, not without risking his own life.  So he’d choose his words carefully and keep his eyes and ears open.  That tact had kept him alive all these years.  Hopefully, it would for many more years as well.

The fact his four companions seemed unconcerned about meeting in a crowded pub to discuss their “business” didn’t sit well.  The Shamrock and Shillelagh might be considered safe by those who frequented it, but its connections to Clan na Gael were well known, not only to those who believed in Irish independence but to those who opposed it as well.  A stranger might not be made to feel welcome unless vouched for by one of the regulars, but who was to say one of the regulars wasn’t a spy — or worse, a traitor.  Even if the stranger posed not threat, there were too many people around, too many ears to hear what he and his companions had to say.  All it took was a slip of the tongue, innocent or not, by someone who happened to overhear the wrong thing to foil their plans. No, he’d feel much better if they were meeting somewhere isolated and easily secured.  Unfortunately, he’d left the place of their meeting to his companions and it was too late to change it now.

“You’re not drinking, Francis.”

“Wasn’t I too busy thinking about the pretty lass back home?”  Let them think what they would.  They were amateurs at the conspiracy game.  If he told them how worried he was, it might queer the deal.  He couldn’t risk that.  So, he’d lie.  It was only a white lie after all, one designed to protect them all, whether they realized they needed protecting or not.  “Slainte!”  He tossed back his whiskey, savoring the smoky taste before signaling for another round.  “Now, Paddy, you said you had news –“

Francis Millen paused, shaking his head, as, with a puff of smoke and squeak of metal wheels against wooden floor, a small servercart rolled up to the table.  America truly was a strange land.  He’d seen some mechanicals in London and Dublin before, but not like here. It seemed as if the mechanicals were almost everywhere, in every shape and size.  Steam powered airships floated through the skies.  Mechanicals that looked like oddly built spiders scurried up the sides of buildings, sealing cracks in windows and conducting other minor repairs. In this country, technicians and engineers were encouraged, even respected, and they took advantage of it.  Even in the pubs their strange machines seemed almost commonplace.  A quick glance at the bar showed the pub owner, a large controller in his hands, guiding the servercart amongst the tables, stopping from time to time so the patrons could grab their drinks.  Each time the ‘cart started, it gave a puff of steam from its smokestack, much like a train engine’s, adding to the smoke already hanging in the air from cigarettes, cigars and the occasional pipe.

“Well, you’ll be home to her soon enough, Francis,” Patrick Murray assured him, snagging another whiskey from the ‘cart before it moved on.  “We think we’ve a solution to your problem.”

Add to all of these Russian Nights , my historical fantasy/alternate history, Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins, a space opera that is really starting to bother me because it’s been neglected for so long, a mystery and the project I hinted at yesterday but can’t say too much about just yet.  So, is it any wonder I sometimes want the voices to shut up just so I can hear myself think?

 

 

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No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the Earth, although the last month or so has made me want to.  There simply doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do everything I need to do.  Between work — and I’m not really complaining.  I’m thrilled with how Naked Reader Press has done this first year of operation — the family and trying to write, sleep has become an almost forgotten commodity.  Even when I do sleep, my mind is racing, trying to accomplish everything I didn’t get done during the day.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to interface the mind with the computer.

The last year hasn’t seen as much writing as I’d like but after taking a couple of weeks off last month, the muse has gotten very loud and demanding.  I have a deadline in two weeks that I’m working furiously to complete.  After that I have to put the finishing touches on Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins.  Then there’s another project to do as well as proposals to send out and, well, you get the idea.

But I am really excited about a project I can’t say much about just yet.  Just know that I’m doing the happy dance in the corner and will be shouting the news from the rooftops as soon as all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.  Hopefully, it won’t be long.

In the meantime, I have to try to find a way to quiet the muse about the space opera, the mystery and the I-don’t-know-what-it-is-and-don’t-want-to projects it wants me to do NOW.  Maybe if I make a few notes about the different plots, it will leave me alone…yeah, I know.  Wishful thinking.

The word count yesterday wasn’t spectacular, but today looks like it will be better.  The problem is that even inside it is too hot to work.  It hasn’t been this bad down here since 1980.  I do not want to see my next electric bill.

Any way, time to get back to writing.  I promise to be back later this week, assuming my brain hasn’t fried like an egg on the hot sidewalk.

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