How to Kill Your Success, Part Deux

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! This is the day when we all look back over our lives and remember to be thankful for everything we have. There’s definitely lots to be thankful for. My wife and I had our first child, and it took us fifteen years to crank out the little guy so I’m definitely thankful for him. And of course, the lovely woman who birthed him. Yes, that is me with my early morning wildman hair and no glasses. (The little guy kept pulling them off while trying to press his head against my head.)

The last few years have been crazy. I was fortunate enough to spend my father’s last 5 years with him, getting to know him, his likes and dislikes, his love for his family. He was a spiritual man who felt the need to impart his knowledge and wisdom to his children. He also encouraged my writing, and as I continue on this journey he continues to stay in my thoughts.

This thanksgiving I want to talk about one of the things that keep me motivated, and should hopefully help you keep on track as well.

You are going to die.

Wait, what? You thought I was going to say something else?

I can’t take credit for it. A guy by the name of Gary Vaynerchuk said it. But it’s awesome, so I stole it. But what does it mean? It means that time is short. If you want to accomplish anything meaningful, you can’t waste it.

Time is the one thing in this life that has any real value. We all trade time for money. We spend time in ways we hope will produce income, whether it’s writing or some other pursuit that interests you. People place a monetary value on it. But the reality is, it’s all you really have.

We also waste a lot of time. we do things that don’t move us forward, towards the things we want in life. We waste time being mad at people over petty things that don’t matter. We write each other off over political differences, personal choices, pie recipes, cat pictures. (By the way, I don’t have cats so don’t post pics of them. I’m allergic.)

We waste time everywhere. Society keeps us busy with TV, internet, social media, video games, all designed to hold our attention (and rake in revenue, of course).

I’m not going to knock people’s past times. Everyone has hobbies for relaxation, I know I do. But if you’re one of those people who complains about not having enough time, you may need to rethink where you’re spending your existing time. Most of us have jobs, things to take care of. So ask yourself, what are you doing with your time? Write it down. Write down where your existing time is going, so you can see it in front of you. Then, after deciding what it is you want to do, start cutting the things out that are eating the precious bits of time you could be spending somewhere else.

Someday, you’re gonna die. None of us can stop it, none of us can take time back once we’ve spent it. The biggest thing people do to kill their own success is wasting the one thing that they have that can give them success.

The good thing about time is that even if you’ve wasted some, life isn’t over. If you’re still breathing,  you still have time. You can still do all the things you want to do. You just have to keep trying, and stop throwing your time away.

Cheers.

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Trade Paperback Proofs

Trade Paperback Proofs

 

While I have a moment in between working on new chapters, hanging out with the inlaws for the holidays, and just general lounging, I thought I’d give you a preview of the upcoming paperback version of Confessor. The cover turned out nicer than I thought. There are just a couple of internal things I need to tweak but nothing major.

 

The photos aren’t as good as I would like, but you get the idea.

Overall I’m completely happy with how it turned out. CreateSpace does an awesome job. The book is bound well, shouldn’t fall apart in your hands after several read throughs (I’ve read all the books I own multiple times, lol). Honestly, it feels great to actually have a physical book. Well, back to slaving away. Hope everyone has a good holiday.

Formatting for CreateSpace

Formatting for CreateSpace

Using open source software for anything can, at times, be tricky. Mostly that stems from the fact that everyone follows Microsoft, even though not everyone can afford their programs. I won’t get too deep into the whole open versus closed software debate here, although I am clearly opinionated on the whole topic. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to use open source software, ranging from hate of Microsoft, to just wanting an inexpensive way to do things. Anyone who knows me knows I both hate Microsoft, and hate paying bloated prices for software.

CreateSpace-5×8-template

Here’s the template I used for my book Confessor. Credit goes to its main author, http://blog.edwardmgrant.com/?p=872

This is only for CreateSpace use, I’ll go into Kindle formatting in a different post. While this template only says it’s for 5×8, I found it easy enough to change the page size and gutter. I matched the gutter to CreateSpace’s MS Word template (which doesn’t work well in LibreOffice, the main reason I went with this template) and had no issues. On Edward’s blog, he lists directions that have to be followed in order for it to work. It took me a little bit to figure out how it worked. Basically the template comes with styles, so here’s a walk through on how it works.

Here’s what the title page looks like. You just change the title to whatever you want, change the font, etc. Same with the stuff on the left.

For the first two chapters, you just copy your own text, highlight the “your text here” text, and paste over it. Easy enough. Again, change the chapter heading to whatever font you want, rename it to One, ONE, chapter 1, whatever.

At the end of your chapter 2 text, leave your cursor at the end of it and, at the top of the page, navigate to Insert>manual break>page break, then click OK.

This is where the page styles come in. On the new blank page, right-click and select Paragraph. This window will pop up. Select the Text Flow tab, then make sure the Insert and With Page Style are checked. Then in the drop box under the type, select First Page Of Chapter. Then commence copy and pasting your next chapter in.

Repeat this step with every chapter.

Stay tuned for my (hopefully) next post on formatting for Kindle. I also tried some specialty things, like using jpegs for chapter headers, but I’m still waiting for proofs to see how they turn out. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s all there is to it. Most of what I’ve read on formatting seems to either assume you’re a rocket scientist, or a programmer. This way, you don’t need to be either.  Feel free to check out the template and post your questions/comments below. Don’t forget to check out Edward’s blog as well. Happy formatting!

Books, Linux, and assorted news

My book giveaway went great. I wound up extending my free book giveaway through Saturday.  I had 251 downloads in the US, 35 in the UK, and 3 in Germany. I’m sure my numbers won’t stand up to many other writers, but for a first time out, I’m very happy with it. I don’t have anything to compare it to, so I’m interested in hearing from other indy authors t see if they have had similar results. I also finished proofing the paperback version of the book, so I will announce it when it goes live.

I’ve been planning on writing a series of posts on e-publishing on Linux, using only open source tools such as LibreOffice and gimp, among other things. Over the last few months I’ve (hopefully) learned everything I need to know about formatting. I also did some extensive work with gimp for covers, so I should have plenty to write about in the coming weeks, haha. Indy publishing has been a huge learning experience for me, and I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs. Everything in its time, of course.

You will probably see some more posts unrelated to writing. While I love talking about writing, and will continue to share things as I learn them, I don’t want to get burned out just talking about that. So expect some deviations.

I have a Youtube channel in the works that I’m putting together with a good friend of mine. More on that as it gets formulated.

That’s all I have for now, hope everyone has a safe Thanksgiving and Black Friday 🙂

 

Spirituality in writing

So, I’m only two (or three) days out from having the editing finished on my current WIP. Then a few beta reads, then publishing. My original plan from there is to launch into the sequel of it. (EDIT: since writing this, I’ve discovered the sequel isn’t next in line) I’m not  If you know me at all personally (I’m sure most who read this don’t) you’ll know that I don’t take things lightly. I have taken a spiritual road that, four years ago, I would have never imagined I’d take. No, I’m not gonna get all religious on you. I don’t believe in religion, in the way that most people think of it.

When I set out to write stories, I want them to say something. I want them to speak of hope, and love, and fortitude. I want people to maybe take away something they didn’t have when they sat down to read it. I’ve had long conversations about this with many people. There are some who write just because they want to tell a good yarn, the characters perhaps are interesting, the situations engaging. But do they say anything? I’m not talking agenda here. I’m not talking about pushing God on people through fiction (something I’ve abhorred when I have read some “Christian” fiction). I’m not talking about pushing political views either. (Although sometimes, that comes through in writing as well) But for me, the most memorable stories are ones where hope, and love, and goodness, run through them, even as darkness threatens to overwhelm, where goodness wins in the end. Or at the very least, doesn’t completely lose. I’m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

I have taken a spiritual road that, four years ago, I would have never imagined I’d take. No, I’m not gonna get all religious on you. I don’t believe in religion, in the way that most people think of it. When I set out to write stories, I want them to say something. I want them to speak of hope, and love, and fortitude. I want people to maybe take away something they didn’t have when they sat down to read it. I’ve had long conversations about this with many people. There are some who write just because they want to tell a good yarn, the characters perhaps are interesting, the situations engaging. But do they say anything? I’m not talking agenda here.

I’m not talking about pushing God on people through fiction (something I’ve abhorred when I have read some “Christian” fiction). I’m not talking about pushing political views either. (Although sometimes, that comes through in writing as well) But for me, the most memorable stories are ones where hope, and love, and goodness, run through them, even as darkness threatens to overwhelm, where goodness wins in the end. Or at the very least, doesn’t completely lose. I’m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

I’ve had long conversations about this with many people. There are some who write just because they want to tell a good yarn, the characters perhaps are interesting, the situations engaging. But do they say anything? I’m not talking agenda here. I’m not talking about pushing God on people through fiction (something I’ve abhorred when I have read some “Christian” fiction). I’m not talking about pushing political views either. (Although sometimes, that comes through in writing as well) But for me, the most memorable stories are ones where hope, and love, and goodness, run through them, even as darkness threatens to overwhelm, where goodness wins in the end. Or at the very least, doesn’t completely lose. I’m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

‘m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

I have heard some authors say that, to paraphrase, “our job is just to tell the damn story.” While I agree with this on some level, I believe it is not my job to tell a spiritually dead story that says nothing of the human condition, that leaves no room for the things I mentioned. Every writer, I believe, writes what is within them. Dean Koontz had this to say, “Everything I believe about life and death, culture and society, relationships and the self, God and nature–everything winds up in the books, not in one more than another, but equally, title after title. A body of work, therefore, reveals the intellectual and emotional progress of the writer, and is a map of his soul. It’s both terrifying and liberating to consider this aspect of being a novelist.”

For me, that just about sums it up.

Why Self Publish?

Recently I’ve been asked why I decided to self publish, over doing it the traditional way. I borrowed the Declaration below from Joe Konrath over at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ .

The truth is, I have been dreaming of being published for most of my life. From the time I discovered that I wanted to be a writer, around the ripe old age of seventeen, writing has been the one thing I’ve consistently come back to. But like all authors, there’s something about the dream that draws me in. Maybe its holding my own book in my hands, feeling the cover and texture of the paper,  or maybe it’s seeing my name on it, knowing that this was something I Created. I don’t know. But whatever else it is, for me it’s also the dream of making a living doing something I love. That, above all else, has been my motivation. I don’t need to be rich. I don’t need a million dollars (although that would be nice!) and I certainly don’t need fancy cars, a big house, and specially tailored clothes. All I need is to be able to make a living. That’s it. Impossible? It used to be.

There was a time when writing a book was akin to playing in a band, or being a supermodel. You had to be DISCOVERED. That meant you had to send your manuscript in and hope someone read it. That meant you had to receive rejection after rejection, and not necessarily because your writing was bad. More likely, it was because whoever happened to be on the receiving end of it didn’t want to read it. or, maybe they read it but just didn’t like that kind of book. or, maybe the grass grew an inch too tall because of the big rain, and they had to leave work early to mow the grass, or maybe…

You see how this goes. When you publish the, ahem, normal way, you are at the mercy of a gatekeeper. Someone who will Judge your book, and most likely tell you its crap, even though it’s really not. Or, maybe it really is crap, but relying on some self-appointed gatekeeper isn’t the way to find out one way or another.

There is a lot of slogging through crap when it comes to trying to get published. This declaration pretty much sums it up for me.

 

The Declaration of Independence for Writers

When in the Course of publishing events, it becomes necessary for writers to sever their ties with the industry that is supposed to have “nurtured” them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that we should declare the causes which impel those writers to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all writers should have an equal chance to find readers. That their successes or failures should be dependent upon their own actions and their own choices. That they should be paid fairly for their work. That they should have control over the works they produce. That they should have immediate and accurate access to their sales data. That they should be paid promptly. That they should not be restricted from reaching those who may enjoy their work. That whenever a publisher becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of Authors to abolish all connections with the offending parties.

The history of the legacy publishing industry is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over writers. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have given us take-it-or-leave-it, one-sided, unconscionable contracts.
They have failed to adequately market works they have acquired.
They have artificially inflated the price of ebooks.
They have refused to negotiate better ebook royalties for authors.
They have forced unnecessary editing changes on authors.
They have forced unnecessary title changes on authors.
They have forced crappy covers on authors.
They have refused to exploit rights they own.
They have refused to return rights they aren’t properly exploiting.
They take far too long to bring acquired works to market.
They take far too long to pay writers advances and royalties.
Their royalty statements are opaque, out-of-date, and inaccurate.
They orphan authors.
They orphan books.
They refuse to treat authors as equals, let alone with a reasonable measure of fairness.
They make mistakes and take no responsibility for those mistakes.
For every hope they nurture, they unnecessarily neglect and destroy countless others.
They have made accessories of the authors’ ostensible representative organization, the quisling Authors Guild, and are served, too, by the misleadingly named Association of Authors’ Representatives.
They have failed to honor promises made.
They have failed to honor their own onerous contract terms.
They’ve failed the vast majority of authors, period.

 

The first thing I began to notice when I was debating on which way to go, was the price of ebooks. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but If I’m not receiving a tangible, i.e. a paperback or hardback for my money, I don’t expect to pay the same price or higher. And yet, all my favorite authors (that means you, Dean Koontz!) have (had?) ebooks that were more expensive than even a paperback. Utterly ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it does not cost the same amount to make an ebook as it does paper. Not to mention the author who wrote it is getting the shaft. I have begun the slow process of not buying books from the big six publishing houses, and also, searching for good books written by unknowns who have self published. While I prefer a paperback over ebooks, ebooks are the future. You can debate this all you want, but its true. So while I still want to see my books in print, at some point there aren’t going to be any more brick and mortar stores that will carry paper books. The ones that still exist are hanging on for dear life, or looking for alternative ways to bring in revenue. Like Barns and Noble, for instance. I don’t have hard data here. If you want that, check out Joe’s blog, he’s got tons of it, including his self pubbing sales numbers. When the big book stores die, the only place to get them will most likely be places like Amazon. And fortunately, you can have you book printed as well.

I’m not sure when I realized I wasn’t going to be published the usual way. Maybe it’s when I realized that authors get screwed, earning only something like 35 cents on a paper back. Or maybe it was when I realized I was being forced to pay 15 bucks for a book that only exists here, in digital space, instead of decorating my large oak bookcase. Every writer must find his or her own path. For me, it’s self publishing.

The mutilation, er, metamorphosis of a cover.

So, in the interest of documenting this journey called self publishing, I thought I would share some of the ins and outs of cover making. Yes, I make my own, in a wonderful program called Gimp. This cover is different from the first two I did, way more technical and required me to learn a good bit more about the program. Yes, it had me tearing out my hair just to get it done. I went through more ideas and hours than I normally would spend on something like this, but as this book is going to be a series, I wanted it to be perfect, branded, and made in such a way that I could make the next two sort of add to it. That being said, I will walk through some of my early designs first, so you can get an idea of what this cover went through to get to its current look.

Version 1:

This version sucked for reasons you can probably see. I was doing more sketching with this one than anything else, just trying to get a feel for a cover, and didn’t really have any concrete ideas other than the word ELI, which is an event in the book.

Version 2:

This was better, although I didn’t like any of the fonts I used, and the fire text was, to me, over done. Again, still following the ELI concept, but it kind of throws off the title of the book, and more appears that the book is called “Eli” instead of “The Confessor”.

Version 3:

Still not sure where I was headed. Tried some different stuff, still didn’t really know the program too well either. I do a fair bit of drawing when the mood strikes me, playing with graphics in Gimp is sort of like sketching to me, except I’m more impatient with it. I had no real strong idea of what the book cover should look like, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t finished writing the damn thing in the first place. I was at the in-laws house doing this, taking a break from writing. No, I didn’t procrastinate too much. I promise. No, really.

Version 4:

By this time the book was almost finished, and I was home at long last. I started getting some strong ideas, namely the tunnel, from another scene in the book. I was learning a good bit about the program, but still not satisfied with it. The lay out was more mocked than anything else, I scrapped it because something about it just didn’t feel right.
Version 5:

Flowery huh? As I explored ideas, and just about finished the book, my overall ideas began to get stronger. This cover, at least to me, doesn’t look horrible, but is too passive for the subject matter. I wasn’t too happy with my skills in Gimp at this point, according to my wife I’m a perfectionist, and I wasn’t happy with anything I was coming up with.

Version 6: 

had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted, but for the life of me just couldn’t make it work. If you look closely, there’s a page from a Bible in the bottom, and some words written in color, each color representing the word its coloring. I decided to take a day or so off. Learning a new program is a lot like working out. You stretch the muscles, tear em a bit, then give them a rest so they can rebuild.

Version 7: 

By far the best of the bunch. By the time I got to this point, I was using Gimp like an old (new?) pro, and I’m very happy with this version. That it’s the best of the bunch I know, not because I think it is (although I do), but because my fifty friends on my private Facecrap page tell me it is. And you know we can all trust our friends, right? 🙂 This cover is one of three, and is a departure from what I normally do, in that the second and third covers will be a continuation of this one, so to speak. It still might need some touching up, but overall, I’m happy with the result. And, I had stopped tearing my hair out too, so that’s a good thing.

Well, hope this perhaps gave some insight into what I go through in making a cover. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and caffeine go into this. While I know I could possibly get better results if I paid a cover artist, or at the very least save myself some headache, for me, doing it all, at least at this point, is part of the process I need to go through, so I can understand just what it takes to do everything.  With this book, I’m also planning on using Amazon’s CreateSpace to do paperback, so I’ll keep you all posted as I go along. Thanks for reading.