Thursday, May 27, 2010

When writers cry

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with my friend Joy Collins. While they were vacationing in New York this week, her husband John died suddenly.

If you've been to this blog a few times, you've heard me mention Joy or seen her comments. Please keep her in your thoughts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cactus Rain eBooks

It isn't likely that Cactus Rain will publish eBooks. Once the book has been transformed into eBook format, the cost is relatively low from there on out. So why is there a price war on Amazon with several large publishers and Kindle books?

Like I wrote in the previous post, books are the product that pays the company expenses. So eBooks have to pay for the staff, furniture for the staff, electricity and everything else used to run a business so the eBook can be produced. The whole idea of being in business is to turn a profit. Publishers generally are not charity enterprises.

Remember way back when video formats came out with VHS and BetaMax? Every government office I worked in had a video machine and they were all Beta. The cassettes were not interchangeable. At least the new BluRay machines will play the old DVDs.

While we embrace technology in many ways there is still an awe associated to my 100+ year old books on my bookshelf. There is something about the aging leather cover, the vivid lithograph pictures, and the print - typeset, mind you - on the page that no StarTrek technology can emulate.

Social media, eBooks, phone apps, all of it is fun...but does it deliver a lasting product? Will anyone run the tips of their fingers over an eReader in a hundred years?

I have a resource for the authors who want their books eFormated and distributed. However, every time I've given in to peer pressure the results have disappointed me. Mostly I've been disappointed that I didn't stand on my convictions. I always come back to the thought that it was The Emperor's New Clothes. (If you don't know that children's story, go buy the book. Don't borrow it, you need a copy to keep.)

If it wasn't late, I'd draw the Cactus Rain logo cactus with an eReader...just for this post.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why are books so expensive?

People see books at boot sales (garage sales) for a few pennies - certainly $1.00 would be the top price. In bookstores the retail price seems high in comparison to buying them used or borrowing from a friend makes us stop short.

Libraries buy 2 - 3 copies of the best sellers at a discounted price and hundreds of people read them, but there was only 2-3 purchased and that means only the revenue from 2-3 came to the publisher and eventually to the author, if the advance had been met.

All of that expected loss revenue is factored into the list price of the book - exactly what I did when I priced my books to go onto (BTW, my books will be on sale on my website in June for my birthday gift to you.)

It is far too complicated to talk about wholesale pricing with co-ops in bookstores without making this a long post (and online retail is another set of formulas). Leave it to say for now that the math would make any reasonable person's head spin.

Even when large advances are not paid, there is still the staff to pay, electricity and plumbing, building rent or mortgage payments with property taxes, building insurance and all the employment taxes, the computers, the special equipment plus the standard copy, fax, printers, water coolers and furniture... to be bought or paid for in any business, even publishers.

Since there are few bestsellers in comparison to the number of books published in a year (estimated by one source as 20,000 a day), those are the ones who carry the weight of the budget. Without them, risks couldn't be taken on debut writers or new twists to old genres.

In today's publishing industry the digital explosion has meant that not only are print book formatted by experts in fonts and layout, but digital books (eBooks) require a unique layout. (Yes, I know there are some who think a pdf version of the print book is an eBook - it isn't exactly so.)

And there is a web presence element that is in the budget of any business, especially publishers. Joyce, my web designer, and I have been working for months on the website for Cactus Rain Publishing. We started last fall. After we drafted two designs then we had to have the logo designed professionally. Joyce helped and there is a blog on that somewhere. Laura did the graphic design work on the logo.

This past weekend Joyce and I worked on the fourth draft of the website template. We have spent hours of conversations and emails discussing what the site needed to achieve and how it should function.

Above is the tweaked version four. What do you think?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A matter of opinion

My friend in California and I were talking [on the phone] the other day about how it seems that when [some] friends read our works, they feel they should critique them. We decided they meant well, but it is published now, so there is no "fixing" anything at this point. Besides, I'm not sure anything needs fixed. The funny thing too is these are non-writer people.

There are writing groups for that sort of thing - before it is published. I suppose book clubs might take it in a different direction, more about what the story meant to them. Classrooms of people might analyze the style and the mechanics of the work. Reviewers give an overview, some times telling key points that become spoilers.

I certainly think because I wrote a trilogy it is easy to see what is my style and what growth occurred as a writer in other areas over time. But then, one is a bit locked into a form when the books are a set, a trilogy.

Will my future books be different, of course. The characters are much different so they will have different voices. There will not be the extensive interior dialogue that Kathryn had. Also, I won't do diary entries again. Nothing wrong with doing them, just each book should be its own work.

We all have our own ideas of what makes a good book good. Publishers try to figure out that combination of factors for target audiences that makes a book into a commercial property. Plus they look at what the author is like and hope the agent can baby set the debut writers as well as the divas - male and female.

As a boutique publisher I probably look at the second factor even more than larger publishers do. I'm at about a 75% rejection rate for queried works. I doubt there has ever been an ms come through the door at any publisher that is totally ready to go. How the author reacts to rewrite requests has a lot to do with whether I'll offer a contract.

I let one ms go that I liked and thought had a strong audience base. The writing was weak and the author unwilling to work at improving it. "Mom" telling the writer that it is perfect isn't the same as someone in the publishing business reading the ms.

Another surprise to beginning writers is that most of the time the title is changed, so assume your title is a working title. Don't fall in love with it. The publisher will probably change it. However do title your works. I think writers need titles to set the tone of the book for them; it needs a name so it can be written. Not to mention it has to be called something in the query letter.

Do you get unexpected critiques of your works?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's next?

For those who emailed asking if I was "okay," thank you and yes. I'm fine. If I wasn't, I'd be the first to do something about it. Work is taking far more of my time and energy than I anticipated.

Quite frankly I'm not sure what else to do with this blog. I like teaching, but I don't feel I'm a total expert on the subject of writing (or anything else). I write a type of fiction that isn't all that popular with publishers; literary and in first person present tense. Yes, I'm a fairly good writer and I know a lot, but so do a lot of other people.

I'm not sure what is interesting or useful to my blog readers. I know time is precious and if you're going to read my blog, I owe you my best -- which is damn little at the moment. So I need to hear from you either in the comments or in an email what you like and want for First Draft.

One thing I thought of doing, but never would, is to start a blind blog and blog about work. But since I like my job, I don't think I should immortalize my coworkers' antics. I know they don't read this blog, but they might find the other one (that I'm NOT going to do) and not think my version of the truth is all that funny.

With all the pirating and unauthorized digitalization of print books, I have thought if that is the case, I might as well post my book like an old time newspaper or magazine serial. But honestly, would that really hold anyone's interest? I suppose it might if we dissected it chapter-by-chapter, but who would want to do that?

There has been some fan fiction about the trilogy. I find it interesting, but with each change in the storyline, it causes future changes and sometimes multiple changes as a result and in the end takes Kathryn's story where I had not planned it to go. If I do a fourth book, Beyond Beaches, that storyline has to stay in tack. However, if you're inclined to write fan fiction, be my guest. I don't mind as long as you don't publish it.

Changing the storyline would be an exercise to try if you get stuck in your current work in progress (WIP), but me, I just toss out everything and start over. I'm certainly not possessed by such a fondness of my writings that I can't dispose of them and begin again.

What I'd like to do is move First Draft into talking about the behind-the-scene story of Cactus Rain Publishing. Would that interest anyone? Please comment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Storm Surge

Some of my coworkers are reading my books. Once again, we go through the conversation of mistaking me for Kathryn.

Sometimes it is funny and I admit that it means my idea of a faux memoir worked - too well, perhaps.

Kathryn's Beach and High Tide were written in 2000. Do any of you remember the third book's working title was Atonement? (Everyone hated it.) Atonement, the movie, came out and I changed titles.

Some will remember that it took months to come up with the new title, Storm Surge. It had to be two words and have to do with "ocean" somehow. I hadn't wanted an alliteration for the title, but hey, that is how it turned out.

In 2009, I dumped the ms and started over; keeping only the bones of the first chapter and the characters from the first two books.

Most people think Storm Surge is the best of the three books. It is certainly more like people expect storylines to go. It is, perhaps, less literary in writing style than Kathryn's Beach. Storm Surge is less funny, and less dialogue too, than High Tide.

If you've read Storm Surge and want to comment on what you liked best or least, leave a message. You can comment anonymously, if you like. Please don't tell what happens to Kathryn, though. And if you haven't read it, comment anyway - what the heck!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tempus Fugit

Once again there was no time to blog. I'm going to take some time off from posting. I have no idea how long.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Back on track: Newsletter

Moving and starting a new job turned out to be a Darwin exercise of "survival of the fittest." I won't go into details (I'm a government employee now - can't talk) but there were many nights I worked late, came home, and went straight to bed - exhausted. Meals were as far as one can get from Martha Stewart quality.

So it was a good weekend to get done the things I did, plus to get the first newsletter in two months posted on my website.

Take a look, please...

After that, here is another one that just came in...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

High Tide

I'm not sure if second books in a series are easier or more difficult to write than the first book.

I've always freely admitted that the only real reason that High Tide was written was because 'certain people' wanted to know what happened to 'you-know-who' at the end of Kathryn's Beach.

My thought on the matter has always been, "Who cares? The story is about Kathryn - refer to the title, see?"

Telling the one thing that 'some people' wanted to know would have made for a boring story, and it is really about Kathryn, so I went in another direction. To expand Kathryn's world I brought the background characters forward and introduced them properly (developed them from 'characters' to 'people').

Kathryn's conversations in her head - her mind talk - still goes a mile a minute, but there are more 'real' (well...this is fiction, how real can they be?) conversations between the characters.

There is a bit more humor in High Tide than in Kathryn's Beach. I don't think I could ever shock people like I did on Thanksgiving weekend in Kathryn's Beach, but there are a few 'gotcha' moments in High Tide.

One interesting thing is that while it isn't 100% fan fiction, I do get a lot of storyline comments - totally different endings and such. Of course they are brilliant, but they wouldn't work with the storyline in Storm Surge.

In this month's newsletter I mention some of the themes of the trilogy. Pop over to my website and give it a read.