Drafting, drafting, drafting…

I feel like an old dog that, after laying on the rug half the day, climbs to its feet and shakes off  sleep with a great rattling of fur, ears, and tail.

Just as I arrived at the end of a VAST quantity of editorial work — to give you an idea, I earned as much in a month and a half as I normally earn in a year — I came down with one of the three or four nastiest respiratory viruses of my lifetime. And since my lifetime spans three-quarters of a century, that’s sayin’ something.

At any rate, around the single client project that remained, I’ve been fiddling with a new bookoid. Escapist scribbling, as it were: something to think about that is NOT Donald Trump, NOT mathematics, NOT academic screeds on the subject of how oppressed (fill in your favorite minority or majority group) is, NOT statistical studies of business management or economics, NOT indexes of medieval maritime history….

Drafting of fiction goes very, very slowly for me. Don’t know quite why that is. Maybe it’s that I spend more time visualizing and imagining the setting and the characters than I do actually writing.

Puzzling over this verity, the other day I decided to see how much I really could write in an hour. One hour. Beginning to end. Not much, as it develops: about four paragraphs, most of them dialogue!

Here’s what came of that exercise, draftig, draftig, draftig: set in another time in a galaxy far, far way…. Merren is the head of guard for what amounts to the emperor of the known universe; he is a slave. He has arrived at the home and training academy of Haddam, who turns out high-end servants for high-end clients. Chadzar is the son of Ileite; both are Haddam’s slaves; Chad is being sold to serve as a security guard and valet for the emperor’s unruly and rebellious daughter. Chad and Ileite are Michaians, a race distantly related to the residents of the planet on which they live, pretty much against their will. Merren has offered Chad the loan of one of his own distinctive liveries, exclusive to the emperor’s service, and Chad is trying it on.

“She’s only seventeen, you know.” [Merren said]

“The most difficult age,” Ileite remarked.

He smiled. “Actually, I think that was thirteen.” This line of talk, he thought, could lead him into trouble. Though Ileite and Haddam both chortled ruefully at his remark, evidently having enjoyed thirteen-year-old company themselves, he sensed he’d better direct the conversation away from the Kaina’s behavior, which surely had its moments. This mother sparrow worried about what her chick was flying into, with good reason.

“That sounds . . .” She was interrupted and Merren was rescued by Chadzar’s reappearance, resplendent in the borrowed livery. The mist-blue color made his translucently silver hair stand out in sharp contrast, in a way the standard gray slave’s livery did not. Even his eyebrows and eyelashes, Merren noted, were white. “Oh, my goodness!” she gasped, her eyes widening.

Haddam also looked a little wide-eyed. “Well, my lad,” he said, “you look. . .” he paused for the briefest instant, “very fine!” He smiled, and practically glowed with pride. Ileite blinked back an inchoate tear.

“Looks like it fits him pretty well, Merren,” the old man remarked.

“Not bad.” Merren stepped over and adjusted a loose area. “He’s got about fifteen years of filling out to go, if he’s going to catch up with me.”

Haddam chuckled. “Don’t overfeed him, or he’ll get there sooner than that.”

“We work out twice a day. He won’t get fat too soon, sir.”

“Two workouts a day!” Chad exclaimed. “What else do we do?”

“Well…every day? Target practice. Weapons maintenance and training. Prep for whatever events are coming up. Two work shifts a day. And about once each SECONDARY MOON we host a pow-wow with the police for security, strategy, and intelligence updates.”

“Police?” Ileite asked.

“We work with them all the time.” Ileite raised her eyebrow in Haddam’s direction. He ignored her. “When the Kai — or the Kaina, now — goes to a large event, we hire them as extra staff to help us out.” She making no reply, he added, “It’s good for our guys to spend some time with the hired help — some of us aren’t very comfortable with blacksuits, and it helps to be around them in less formal way. And I think it’s good for the cops, too, to see us as guys like them and not. . .” he shrugged.

“. . . felons,” she filled in his blank.

Surprised, he looked up and straight into her unfathomable, saucer-like blue eyes. The creatures never blink, the thought came unbidden to mind, irrationally oblique to his annoyance. [disquiet, discomfiture, see synonyms] “Former felons,” he corrected her.

Ugh. Talk about “inchoate.” Most of this will unrecognizable if and when it’s finished. But what the heck: at least something is installed in little glowing digital characters…

Image: DepositPhotos, © frenta

Share that transitive ain’t the same as intransitive!

Author to reader:

“As I discuss, the whole point of the argument is…”
“She shared that her experience with whole-wheat bread has been…”

Oh, God. Please, please, please don’t write like that!

Often you see verb misuse of this ilk emanated by writers for whom English is a second language. They have an excuse. If you’re a native speaker, though, you don’t: in that case, what you’re emanating is not imperfect mastery of a bizarre language but just plain old jargon.

In English, verbs may be “transitive” or “intransitive.”

A transitive verb is said to “take an object.” It means the sense of the sentence moves directly through the verb to the noun or pronoun on the other side of the verb.

She saw a bird.
She spoke several words.
She discussed a proposition.
She drove her car.

An intransitive verb does not “take an object.” The action resides within the verb, all by itself.

The truth exists.
A river runs through it.
The accident happened last night.
She appeared to be inebriated.
He laughed because he was happy.

“Shared” is transitive: it takes an object. An object is a noun or pronoun, not a relative pronoun, relative adjective, or subordinating conjunction.

She shared a fact.
She shared an opinion.
She shared her experience.
She shared her clothes.
She shared her spaghetti.

But she did not share a dependent clause! She did not share “that yada yada yada.”

Similarly, “discussed” is transitive.

They discussed the movie.
They discussed the trip they planned to make.
They discussed Donald Trump’s hair.
They discussed the use of transitive and intransitive verbs.

But unless they were given to annoying affectations, they did not just sit around and “discuss.” Nor did they “discuss that…”

Some verbs are AC/DC this way: they may be used transitively or intransitively. For example, you could confide a secret (transitive: “secret” is the direct object of “confide”) or you could confide that you’re having an affair (intransitive: “that you’re having an affair” is a dependent clause, not an object of the verb). You could even intransitively confide in your best friend.

But share is not intransitive, except maybe as a moral precept passed from a parent to a selfish kid: Share, Jennifer! 

Neither is discuss, except possibly as an instruction in an essay question: Boxankle defines the Battle of Hastings as a turning point in Anglo-Saxon history. Discuss.”

When you write like this, blithely confusing transitive with intransitive verbs — and the lovely academics whose prose I edit often do so — you do not sound intellectual or generous-hearted or like a member of some high-brow in-group. You sound like you would benefit from a little more training in the English language.

Billing: How to charge, how much to charge

EditorAtWork Depositphotos_28200159_m-2015

Your Editor at Work

Over at our parent company, The Copyeditor’s Desk, we’ve decided to shift our billing from a per-page to a per-word rate. Several reasons for this, not the least of which is it’s less confusing for the client (and for us) to charge by the word than by the page or by the hour.

There’s a marketing motive, too: a per-word rate looks a lot less daunting than a page rate, and a whole lot less daunting than an hourly rate. For some reason, people think English majors should earn minimum wage or less. 😀 And some of us do work for that…

But my associate and I beg to differ. Silly us, we think we should earn a living wage, albeit on the low end. Business executives who are accustomed to earning well and paying professional help well don’t even blink at our hourly rate — in fact, a couple of such clients have suggested we’re undercharging. But academics and creatives, who tend to live in starving-student mode long after they land full-time jobs paying fairly for their education and skills, have been known to faint when presented with a proposal stating an hourly rate.

The scare factor aside, the hourly rate presents two difficult problems:

First, it’s hard to estimate exactly how long it will take to edit a lengthy, difficult project. Although I always ask prospective clients to send some sample copy, what they present is not always typical of the entire document. Also, some people require more coaching than others: they’re on the email or the phone all the time. So much so, in fact, that back in the day when we did charge hourly rates, I took to adding a flat rate for every email message I had to respond to!

Second, it’s hard to calculate, fairly, how much time you’re really spending on the job. When you’re on a computer, you’re always multitasking — so from the outset the work pattern is gestalt. And then there are the constant interruptions, which exist whether you work in a business office or whether you’re working out of a home office. You’ll just sit down, and the phone rings or an urgent email comes in or the dog barks at some flyer-distributor messing with the front doorknob or whatEVER. This takes you away from the job for a minute or two — not long enough for the computer to register that you’re gone — and then when you come back it takes some time to refocus your attention.

Some of the content we work on is very complex, arcane, and difficult, often written by native speakers of Chinese. When you’re pulled away from that kind of subject matter and writing style, it takes a minute or two to figure out, again, what the author is writing about and how to say it idiomatically in English.

So, consider: at 9:00 a.m. I sit down to work. Ten minutes later, the phone rings. I talk to the client for four minutes. It takes another minute to get back into the content. Five minutes later, I’m dinged by an e-mail from someone who needs an answer right now. Framing, typing, and proofing the response takes eight minutes, and I need another minute to get back into the content.

9:00: begin working on client’s project
9:10-9:15: phone
9:15-9-20: work
9:21-9:30: email
9:30: back to work

In a half-hour, 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., I’ve worked 15 minutes on the client’s project. Word’s time-stamped edits make it appear as though I’ve been reading the copy from 9 a.m. all the way through 9:30. A day or a week later, when I go to add up billable time, there’s really no way for me to know exactly when, during that half-hour, I turned away from the project to attend to some distraction. And since the distractions are so constant and so ditzy, I may not even remember that I spoke on the phone or answered an email during that period. So…I end up billing a half-hour to the hapless client, for 15 minutes worth of work.

That is not gunna make it.

So we settled on a per-page rate, calculated on a sliding scale: the more difficult the work, the higher the rate.

This insures that the client is billed only for the work we do, obviously much fairer and more accurate. But it also has some drawbacks.

The main drawback is that Microsoft Word has two default page margins. One, which resides in my Office 2008 program, is one inch top and bottom and 1.25 inches left and right. The other, in newer versions, is one inch all the way around. This amounts to a difference of about 10 words per page…and that adds up. At one point I realized that we were losing as much as 10% by applying our page rate to the newer format.

Also, some people will try to cheat us by setting the font size at 11 points or even at 10.5 points and by setting the margins at .75 or .85 inch all the way around.

This means that about half the time, even though I specify that copy must be set double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point type with 1.25-inch left and right margins, I end up having to reset the entire document to fit our standard page and font size.

Charging by the word obviates that problem, as well as those associated with hourly billing. It’s fair to both parties — editor and client — and it’s easy to calculate. The project I just finished, for example, was 840 words, not counting mathematical expressions. It was set in 10.5-point Calibri with 1.25-inch left and right margins…probably imported from LaTex, or from a program that will convert a PDF into Word. But the format now is irrelevant: 840 words is 840 words is 840 words.

In some cases, such as the academic anthology we just finished, more than one of us works on the same copy. For example, I may read behind my associate editor, and we may have a contract employee do the eye-glazing work of checking and regularizing in-text citations and references. When we charge a page rate, we simply split the payment, shorting us both on the amount we really should earn for the number of hours we spend. By raising the word rate just a penny, I can charge enough to pay the two of us fairly without creating the impression that we’re demanding some outrageous figure. A cent a word adds about $2.40 per page: not an unreasonable amount, but it looks far less daunting when expressed in pennies.

So, we end up with something that looks  like this…

PerWord rates

…instead of  like this:

PerPageRates

Ultimately the page rates are about the same — slightly less when calculated by the word, in some cases. But for the prospective client, the first table is simpler to read. And as a tool, it’s much easier for the person to situate his or her project within the framework of what we charge.

What system do you use to calculate your fees? Or, if you’re a consumer of editing services, how would you prefer to be charged?

Image: DepositPhotos, © Strelkov

New Book a-Borning…

Okay, okay…let’s face it: I can’t resist writing things.

Selling them? Well…if I could sell, I’d be living high off the hog from proceeds of used car sales. Or some such.

Here’s what’s up: a new idea for a book combined with new determination to do a halfway decent job of selling it.

smoking-coverThe magnum opus: The Complete Writer: The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Living the Writer’s Life. It is, in a word, encyclopedic. The thing covers short form and long form, fiction and nonfiction, print and Web…you name it.

The marketing plan: Different.

My idea is not to try to market the book on Amazon at all. Well…it’ll have a presence in the form of a Kindle bookoid. If a few people buy it there, fine. Mostly, though, I’d like customers to buy the book direct from me: from this website.

But by and large the strategy will emphasize face-to-face marketing: presentations, seminars, dog-and-pony shows, radio shows, podcasts, interviews…whatEVER. When I go to speak to a group in person, I’ll bring a few hard copies to sell — and of course handouts with links to the Plain & Simple Press website. If an organization gives me a speaker’s fee, then its attendees (within reason) will get the book for free.

Paypal can be set up on a website to accept payment for digital and print orders. And it’s easy enough to download a Kindle or ePub book into your reading device — I’ll publish instructions to make this easy.

I’ll also sell hard copies, either in person or from Plain & Simple books. And I’ll try to peddle the thing to libraries.

There are a surprising number of venues for public speaking, including 87 gerjillion small business networking groups, whose members are constantly trolling for new blood in the form of speakers. Podcasts are pretty promising, too.

Before I actually make the thing available to the public, I’m going to do a little hustling up front. Make arrangements for speaking events, get on some podcasts, invite myself to radio shows, pitch stories or columns to business publications on tangentially related topics.

Ancillary to the project: I’m not getting in a big slobbering hurry to do this. I’m going to take my time figuring out what needs to be done, meeting and schmoozing with people, getting things set up in advance, planning give-aways, laying groundwork. Then when the thing finally goes online, a whole series of pitches will already be set up and ready to go. Instead of thrashing around trying to figure out what might work and how to do it, I’ll have already figured that out. And the groundwork will be laid.

Ideally, one would hire a marketing agent. Alas, though, I can’t afford such a creature. And…it’s easy enough to see that fellow scribblers in the West Valley Writers Workshop — a marketing group for writers — are making sales on their own, without benefit of expensive hired guns.

A slower pace and a more carefully considered, focused strategy will make it easier to handle the little crises that naturally arise every time you try to do anything you want to do (as opposed to all the things you have to do). Whether or not it sells books, that’s going to make life a lot easier.

🙂

AH HAH! Moment: A new use for indexes

So here I am, dragging through the index for 420 pages of the new book, The Complete Writer.

On the side, I index books for a living. I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the past several years. But must admit: indexing makes my eyes glaze over.

After I’d compiled this index, a previously unnoticed pagination error surfaced in the content. This dork-up required me to rewrite the whole damn index — that would be SEVEN single-spaced pages in 10-point type and double columns.

Then as I was contemplating the result, it occurred to me that the example I’d used for the chapter on how to write sex scenes was so tame that…well..it wasn’t really a sex scene. I’d tried to be nicey-nice, not wanting to offend anyone’s dainty sensibilities. Bad idea: offend no one, accomplish nothing. So I lifted a livelier scene from one of the Roberta Stuart books, a romp concocted by one of Camptown Races’ best writers. That changed the pagination again, from page 235 forward.

{sigh}

So now I had to rewrite the effing index again. It’s finally done, all the way from A for abstraction ladder to Z for Zinsser.

For writers: How to jump-start your creative engine when you're stuck

W… “How to Beat Writer’s Block”

As I got about into the R’s, it occurred to me an index to a book would serve nicely as an index to public speaking topics.

Yeah…

One of the plans for marketing this book entails doing presentations for groups of writers, students, and the like, at which I will offer folks a marvelous opportunity to buy the thing.

R…
….Revision
……..six-step strategy, 57-66

Et voilà! There’s a dog-&-pony show: “Six Steps to Revising Your Book”!

S…
….Scams, 343-49

S...Six Scams to Avoid

S…”Six Scams to Avoid”

Yeah! “Avoid these Five Scams for Writers”!

Too, too good, isn’t it? Nowhere near as good as

S…
….Sex scenes, writing, 343-49

Woo hoo! “How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes!”

It gets better and better.

Well, come Thursday I have to give a presentation to a business group I belong to. Now’s my chance to start practicing these things! 😀 I think probably “Scams for Writers” would be better for this august bunch than, say, “Sizzling Sex Scenes.” Not that they wouldn’t enjoy contemplating that particular aspect of the writer’s art. Just that…well…I’d never hear the end of it from that bunch. 😀

So there you go, fellow scribblers. If you have a nonfiction book that’s substantial enough for an index, use the index as a source for public speaking topics. The index entries work a lot better for the purpose than does the table of contents, because they’re much more specific: better focused. And if your index is complete, it’ll point you right to the material you need to create a presentation.

S...How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes

S…”How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes”

Writers: Please Don’t Do These Things…

New client emailed that the author of one article accepted for her employer’s latest anthology (employer is an academic press) has entered a section break at the bottom of every page.

Understand, these articles run upwards of 35 pages.

Not only that, but he entered random paragraph breaks all over the  place — in the middle of grafs.

Before she can send it to us for copyediting and documentation formatting, she has to go through the entire damn thing and remove every section break and every irrational paragraph break; then go through and correct the paragraph formatting and presumably try to figure out what the correct pagination is supposed to be.

Dollars do donuts the guy entered those section breaks in an attempt to force do-it-yourself footnotes to fit at the bottom of the pages. If so, when she deletes them, she will generate a Mess for the Ages.

Why do people do that? And who can second-guess such silliness?

Don’t enter wacky commands in Word. If you don’t know how to make Word do what you want it to do, either take a course in using Word or hire someone who does know how to use Word.

Please, dear authors…

Don’t…

Enter superscript letters and try to manually stick footnotes at the bottom of the page or at the end of the MS as endnotes.

Do…

Use Word’s footnoting function: Insert > Footnote
This function will allow you to select footnotes or endnotes, as desired.

footnote

Don’t…

Enter a hard tab (i.e., press the tab key) at the beginning of every paragraph.

Do…

Format your paragraphs so the first line is automatically indented: Format > Paragraph > Special. In this menu, select “First Line.” Word will default to indent 1/2 inch, but you can change that if you wish  (in the pulldown menu next to “First Line” that says “By…”).

Don’t…

Create hanging indents in your References section by hitting a the return key at the end of each line and hitting the tab key at the beginning of each subsequent line.

hangingindent

Do…

Select “hanging indent”  in Word’s paragraph formatting function: Format > Paragraph > Indents and Spacing > Special > hanging.

functionhangingindent

Don’t…

Hit the space bar twice after every period, question mark, exclamation point, colon, or anything else you can dream up.

Do…

Enter one (1) space after punctuation. A word processor is not a typewriter; with word processors we only enter a single space after all those punctuation marks. Typewriters used nonproportional spacing, and typists learned to enter two spaces after periods and the like to make it easier to see the ends and beginnings of sentences. Word processors allow you to typeset copy; typesetting does not place two spaces after punctuation.

Don’t…

Don’t EVER hit the “space” bar over and over to enter an indent, either at the beginning of a paragraph or to line up numbers in a column.

indent

If you do this, I personally will wring your neck.

And Don’t…

Use the space key or the space and tab keys to line up numbers or blocks of copy in columns or on a page.

No attempt to align numbers

list-2Attempt to align with spaces.
These will squirrel around…
Trust me!

Do…

Use the Table function to align numbers.

list-3Numbers & copy aligned in a table

list-4

How they’ll look in print
or with the table grid turned off.
These figures will stay put!

Don’t…

Use Turabian for your documentation unless specifically asked to do so by your publishers.

Some schools encourage students to use Turabian for theses and dissertations. Real publioshers do not use Turabian. They use MLA, APA, or Chicago style, or they use a style manual specific to their academic discipline.

Turabian, as Purdue notes, “follows the two CMS [Chicago Manual of Style] patterns of documentation but offers slight modifications suited to student texts.”

When you use Turabian, some wretched editor has to waste time searching out and correcting every one of those “slight modifications.” Please. Get it right to start with.

Do…

Determine what style manual your publisher uses and do likewise. If you’re an academic writer, buy the style manual appropriate to your discipline. If you contribute to or write books, buy a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. If you’re a wannabe magazine writer, buy a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook.

Whichever manual is appropriate to your job, use  it!

Don’t…

Include items in your “References” or “Works Cited” section that are not cited as sources in text. An article or book chapter is not a Ph.D. dissertation: you’re not trying to prove how widely read you are to some committee.

Do…

In your “References” or “Works Cited, include only the sources you’ve cited in the body of your text. If you want to include a complete bibliography in your book, don’t call it “References.” Try “Bibliography”or “Recommended Reading” instead.

One could go on and on. Unfortunately, though, I have work to do.  Please don’t make extra work for me! Learn to use your word processor as a word processor. If that’s beyond your ken or you just don’t have time to fiddle with it, hire a virtual assistant to type your final manuscript before submitting it to an editor.

Marketing: They have to know about it to buy it…

In my last little blurb, I touched briefly on the marketing conundrum. To return to that: I suspect the most important aspect of book publishing is marketing. You may have the greatest book in the history of Personkind. But if no one knows about it, no one will ever buy it. Readers have to know about it to buy it. And marketing is the way you help them to know about it.

So how can you go about this marketing stuff? From the vantage point of experience, here’s what I’d probably do now, if I were to start all over from Square One today:

Hire a Pro

A marketing person would be my first hire. That is where I would put most of my start-up money, and it’s also where I would invest the most effort in recruiting and personnel assessment. I would hire this person before doing anything else.

The woods are full of people who will tell you they can market books. Most of them haven’t the faintest. Some are so hungry, they will lie just to get the job, saying they understand how to engage this or that tool to attract readers and sell books. In addition, a lot of popular ideas about what strategies work are simply wrong, or are outdated.

Where do you find a paragon among book marketers? Ask everyone you can think of, in and out of book publishing.

Track down authors whose books resemble yours and that are selling well. Send each author an inquiry asking if they can recommend their marketer. Most will not respond, so you’ll need to send out quite a few queries. But sooner or later you’ll probably find someone who will refer you to their marketing agent.

Contact the local Public Relations Society of America chapter. This group’s members are working professionals in marketing and public relations. They have a jobs board and invite job postings from prospective employers. Be prepared to budget some money to post an ad and to hire someone for a gig that lasts long enough to produce results.

If there’s a publishers’ association in your state, along the lines of the New Mexico Book Association, attend a meeting and ask members for suggestions. Many of these groups are very active and include publishers and authors with successful track records.

Attend regional and national book fairs. Network actively and inquire among the people you meet to see if anyone can refer you to a good marketing agent.

Attend regional and national writers’ conferences. The larger, better established ones attract New York literary agents. These people do know effective marketers. They may (or may not) refer you. Nothing ventured: while you’re there, you can also ask authors who seem successful.

Budget a substantial amount of money to pay for marketing services and campaigns, which should begin before the book is published. In retrospect, it’s clear this is where the largest share of a publisher’s or author’s budget should go.

Hire a virtual assistant to handle the social media time suck

Although the effectiveness of social media marketing is, in my opinion, questionable, it cannot be neglected. And it is very time-consuming.

This is another task to which I would dedicate a fair slab of the budget.

You or an assistant should write blog posts every day having to do with subjects related to your books or your readers’ interests. Each of these needs to be optimized for and posted at Pinterest, and then you need to post each one at Facebook groups, on your Facebook business page and on your personal Facebook timeline, at Goodreads, on Twitter, at Google+, and to the extent appropriate, at LinkedIn.

Exclusive of the blogging, which you should be doing anyway, the ditzy social media tasks can easily soak up two hours a day. That’s two hours when you’re not writing, two hours that you’re not out on the town networking, two hours that you’re glued to the computer unable to exercise or take care of your family or read or think or do anything else. And two hours is a conservative estimate.

Unless you truly love passing your time on social media, hire someone else to do this stuff.

Crowd-fund or take out a business loan to pay these contractors

It’s always better to use someone else’s money than to throw your own down the drain. Platforms such as Kickstarter, Publishizer, and Unbound help fund and market your publishing project. Obviously, you have to share the revenues. But these outfits can generate revenues: a share of something is a lot better than a share of nothing.

Some such organizations function like publishers, but they seem to be more flexible than “traditional” publishing houses in terms of the kinds of books they’ll chance their money on.

Put books on Ingram right away

Ingram provides distribution services needed to circulate books to retailers, educators, and libraries. It offers a wide variety of marketing and fulfillment services, as well as a partnership with CreateSpace, a PoD service whose reviews are mixed but which is internationally known.

I would not use Ingram’s CreateSpace for printing, because I want more control over that process than you can get by working through a gigantic faceless corporation that outsources its jobs overseas. However, I would get my books into Ingram’s distribution system as quickly as possible.

Focus on person-to-person and business-to-business marketing

Early on, I discovered that the 30 Days/4 Months diet plan and cookbook sold easily and in gay abandon when I talked it up to groups in person. Campaigns to sell it on social media generate plenty of “likes” but not many sales.

Acquaintances made in writers’ and publishers’ groups report similar experiences. Almost everyone who is making any money on their books will tell you that speaking in front of groups and arranging author-signings and bookstore presentations sells more books than any amount of virtual jawing on social media.

The next stage of my marketing campaign will be heavy on presentations and in-person networking. If I could have started out knowing then what I know now, I would have hit the ground with personal presentations, radio talk-show interviews, podcasts, and YouTube videos.

 

 

Let’s Get Real…About Self-Publishing

Yes. Let’s get real. In self-publishing, a few people make a little money on their books. A very few make a lot of money on their books. But most self-publishers run in the red.

Tips to help make writing a priority when life is busy.

One of these days…

P&S Press makes a little money (very little) on its proprietor’s golden words. But most of the press’s revenues have come from helping others prepare their books for publication: that is to say, The Copyeditor’s Desk is the main driver of income for the entire incorporated enterprise.

In consideration of that reality, some time ago I stopped actively trying to sell Plain & Simple books. Revenues from Amazon have remained the same, whether I hustle as hard as I can or whether I just let the stuff sit there: about $15 to $19 a month.

Fifteen bucks a month…on over 40 titles. That’s combined Plain & Simple Press and Camptown Races output. And no, speaking of Camptown Races: soft-core “erotica” does not sell better than ordinary nonfiction or genre novels.

A couple new books of my own are in the works — but they get put aside whenever paying work comes in from a client.

That means, in effect, they’re always set aside. Every single time I sit down to format the boob book for print or finish off the guide to writing & publishing, someone shows up at the virtual door asking me to edit this magnum opus or to index that scholarly tome. So…I’m always busy, but rarely busy on my own stuff.

“My own stuff” is, de facto, no longer a business but a hobby.

Nor was it ever much other than a hobby, given that it ran the S-corporation deep into the red. If I land the indexing project presently under consideration, that fee will bring the bottom line back to where it was before I took to sailin’ the Amazon. But just barely. And it’s taken over a year to do it.

The plan now is to keep on writing, in idle hours, to publish the stuff on Amazon, to make it available in hard copy whenever there’s something to publish. But I’m not spending any more money on it. And it will always go on the back burner whenever a paying customer shows up.

My own writing will revert to hobby status, to be posted on Amazon much as one displays one’s quilts or needlework or pecan pies at the County Fair.

If I can get one or more of the local colleges to let me teach extension courses — the “lifelong learning” sort of thing — I may use the writing guide as a “suggested text” (we’re not allowed to require people to buy our own books). That will sell a few. But otherwise, that will be about it in the marketing department.

Marketing is what costs you money. And time.

Since time supposedly is money, you could say book marketing costs you money in spades. It’s a huge time suck, and unless you like marketing, have nothing else to do, and love diddling away your time on social media, it’s an ongoing annoyance.

If you enjoy sales and marketing, I’m sure it’s fun. I personally don’t: if I were good at marketing, as we scribble I’d be making a decent living selling cars or refrigerators or radio ad space. Writers don’t live in their garrets because they so love hustling wares, their own or anyone else’s.

 

The Great Aussie-Yankie DIET CONTEST!

The Great Aussie-Yankie Diet Contest! Are you in?Okay, stand back, folks: The dust is about to fly!

Australian Facebook friend Cas Allen and I have thrown down the gauntlet: We’re both determined to lose some fine WEIGHT!

It’s the proverbial struggle of grown-up humans in industrial societies: the processed foods we eat and the forces that tend to keep sedentary lead us to put on the pounds imperceptibly, a few ounces (make that grams in Australia) at a time, until one day it occurs to us that…yes, we’re fat!

I lost 30 pounds over a four-month period by sticking to fresh, whole foods; avoiding starch (potatoes, bread, pasta); cutting out the sugar; and minimizing salt use. That was grand!

But after the boob surgery followed shortly by surgery for an intestinal scarring blockage, for awhile about all I felt like eating was ice cream. And that was kind of the end of the whole healthy-food idea. Next thing you know it’s noodles, baked potatoes, and mounds of rice! I’m now about 8 pounds overweight — down from ten  pounds and still fighting a sweet tooth.

Cas reports a similar stealth weight gain. Like me, she also enjoys good food — lots of it, if at all possible. And good food is to be had in Australia, often influenced by wonderful Asian cuisine.

So, we’ve announced a COMPETITION to see which one can lose weight the fastest and avoid cheating on the diet the bestest. Watch this space for comments reporting our adventures in fine (dietetic) cuisine.

Want to join the race? The rules are simple:

Each day, add a comment to this post reporting how much you lost or gained (in pounds or in kilograms), what you ate, and whether you managed to get any exercise. Competitors must join by 5 a.m. Monday, October 31, U.S. Mountain Standard Time (Google “what time is it in Phoenix AZ to translate your time to Wild West Time).

The contest will run for one month, from October 31 to November 31. Yes, I know: Thanksgiving puts the ‘Mercan contingent at a disadvantage. Too bad. Stock up on turkey and brussels sprouts, and show some balls: push that gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes aside!

The winner gets…uhm…thin.

And I will award the winner her or his choice of any Plain & Simple book, in hard copy, PDF, ePub, or .mobi format.

Prizes for….

Who can reach his or her target weight first?f
Who can lose the most weight in a month? (Uhm…without becoming anorexic, please)

Announce your intention in the comments and tell us how much you hope to lose within the next month and your target weight. Then, once a day, enter your weight gain or loss and the highlights of your cuisine and exercising strategy.

May the best fatty skinny person win!

The Great Aussie-Yankie Diet Contest! Are you in?

FaceBook Ads for Your Book? Think Again…

A friend of mine has decided FaceBook Ads is just about the best deal around for indie publishers to peddle their wares. He argues that FB targets its ads to highly specific demographics, allowing you to reach just the sort of folks who MUST HAVE your magnum opus.

Fire-Rider Book 7 The Battle of Loma Alda

See it on FB, hurry over to Amazon??

Persuaded, I hired a marketing agent who claimed to some expertise in Facebook Ads, and I spent a fair amount of money in mounting a campaign for the Fire-Rider books. Surely, the project cost nothing like a real Madison Avenue-style advertising campaign. It probably didn’t cost as much as putting a a half-dozen plugs in the New York Review of Books’ ads for small and independent publishers. But it still was more than I could afford.

The result? Nil.

We sold exactly NO copies of Fire-Rider during the entire time the FB Ads campaign ran.

The ad agent simply could not believe it. She thought I was putting her on after she asked me repeatedly how the Amazon sales stats looked and I repeatedly told her they were flat. Finally I had to send her screenshots and downloads of my Amazon reports to make her understand: FACEBOOK ADS DID NOT WORK. Despite a flurry of ads supposedly targeted at the kind of readers who like the book’s genre, we did not sell one, single copy.

Yes, I had seen the Veritasium report on YouTube, explaining in great detail why FB Ads amounts to a kind of scam. I figured it was probably sour grapes.

Same for this guy, and this guy, and this guy.

Over time, though experience suggested that all those puckery-lipped fellows might have been right.

Now comes this interesting article from The Economist, reporting that Facebook recently fessed up to inflating the amount of time viewers spend watching video ads. This, my friends, is likely just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If the Big Guys are restive about Facebook advertising, what it means for the little guys and gals like you and me can not be good.

The Economist neatly summarizes the concerns:

One fear is practical: that they are paying for online ads that consumers don’t see, either because they are shown to robots, or tucked in obscure slots. Two underlying concerns are harder to address.

The first is that Facebook and Google have simply become too dominant. Last year the pair accounted for more than 75% of online-ad growth in America, according to Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture-capital firm. “Google and Facebook have added a lot of value to our marketplace,” says Mr Liodice. “They also raise concerns.” Marketers are particularly worried by a lack of transparency. Facebook’s inflated numbers did not lead to overbilling, but may have prompted companies to advertise more on it. Google and Facebook have started to allow third parties to verify some data, but many metrics remain proprietary.

The second concern is that ad agencies are not acting in their clients’ interests. In Japan, “clients are sort of at the mercy of the ad agency,” says Jason Karlin, who studies the industry at the University of Tokyo. In America an investigation backed by the ANA found that agencies were buying ad space and reselling it to clients at markups of up to 90%. Some agencies were also collecting undisclosed rebates from media firms for buying ad space. The agencies’ trade group, the 4As, blasted the report as “one-sided”.

Here's why you might want to think again if you're considering using Facebook ads for book marketing.The second issue, as a practical matter, doesn’t apply to small-potato types like indie publishers — none of us has tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on commercial ad agencies. But the first surely does: no matter what your marketing budget, it’s wasted if it buys ads that are hidden away at the bottom of sidebars, seen by people who don’t care or who work at ignoring ads, or viewed primarily by bots.

When it comes to paid advertising, I found that what sells books is ads placed on websites created for people who favor the genre in question. If you write cookbooks, buy ad space on a cooking site or a foodie site. If you write detective stories, buy ad space on a web site for people who love to read detective novels.

For a time, we marketed “erotic romances” — soft-core porn, to use le mot juste — at a site called Smart Bitches/Trashy Books. Highly entertaining, if you’re into racy romances. Those ads did sell books. No, sales revenue did not cover the cost of advertising, but at least there were some sales. Even one book sold is about a hundred percent better than the zero books sold through Facebook. If you’re going to advertise, you probably would do better to set aside a substantial amount to advertise assertively over a lengthy period — at least six months, probably a year — at a site whose sole readership consists of people interested in whatever you’re writing.

It may be possible to accomplish that with Facebook Ads. But I’ll believe that when I see it.