If You’d Asked…Why is that cat on the dog’s bed?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

7. Why do cats like to lie down on a dog’s bed?

This is Cat Language for “I am the boss here. You are a peon. Do not even think of crossing me, you twit.”

Most things that cats do actually are various ways of saying the same thing in Cat Language. Cat Language has many synonyms.

A tidy new “publishing” scheme

As you know if you follow “News & Chat,” the P&S Press blog, I’ve been amusing myself (and possibly you, with any luck!) by posting chapters here from three self-publishable books: The Complete Writer, Ella’s Story, and If You’d Asked Me… (the latter being the world’s finest collection of bathroom reading).

This self-imposed task got to be a little much, when I insensately decided that a chapter of each should go up each week. That is, each week would see publication of not one, not two, but three bookoid chapters here at P&S Press.

So I decided to put the brakes on that.

The inchoate result didn’t seem especially well organized, to my mind. And since Ella is a work in (very slow) progress, it still didn’t leave enough time to draft a full chapter between deadlines.

So I’ve come up with a new schedule: One chapter a week of just one book, which will go up whenever I get around to it, but no later than Friday of a given week. Bookoids will rotate: first Writer, then Asked, then Ella.

In theory, this shouldn’t be difficult…and wouldn’t be, if WordPress hadn’t kindly deleted all the formatting I installed in months’ worth of The Complete Writer. Thought I was getting away with something, but nooooo…. To prepare that thing (and, it develops, all of the things), I had to create separate posts for the remaining un”published” chapters and “schedule” them in WordPress.

And that, as you can imagine, was a royally time-consuming task.

Now I’d like to do the same for Asked, all of whose content is tucked away in a manuscript that I’ve had neither time nor inclination to upload to Kindle. This also will take many hours…just not this hour.

Ella is, of course, still under way. What you see is all I’ve got! 😀 And the next chapter may or may not get written by the next deadline. Pray for the best.

Part of the plan, too, is to publish links to the published chapters at this site’s pages for The Complete Writer, If You’d Asked Me, and Ella’s Story in table-of-contents type lists. I managed to get this done for Complete Writer, but the other two remain. Once the existing posts are linked to entries on those pages, all that will appear there will be a TofC with live entries, rather than the aggregated content of the book in question.

This will make life a lot simpler for me! And since I usually have my links open in a new tab, a reader could in theory toggle back and forth between a bookoid’s TofC and its contents, easily and smoothly.

So it all sounds great, eh? Alas, though, these time-sucking projects have been much complicated by Life, the Universe, and All That: one crisis after another, to say nothing of the distraction that is paying work. My little dog has hovered near death for the past six or eight weeks (amazingly, she finally seems to be recovering). Friends have died. I crashed my car. The veterinary and house-maintenance adventures are running me out of money…

All that and more (if you like to follow real-life soap opera, you can do it at Funny about Money by entering the category “dispatches from hell” in the search bar at the upper right)…yes, all that and more have tended to work against the project to write Ella’s Story. When I have time to think about it, I’m so exhausted I can barely move, much less dream up new copy. So…I may not be able to keep up even with the new, attenuated schedule.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, watch this space. Whenever I get the energy to write it, I’ll publish a rough schedule for future posts.

Speaking of exhaustion, I cannot type another word. And so, to bed…


When Self-Publishing Works: The Complete Writer

When Self-Publishing Works: The Complete Writer
*Free Reads*

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishing and Self-Publishing

 This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


When Self-Publishing Makes Sense

The mines of the Amazon are liberally salted with fool’s gold. Your chance of striking it rich with the next best-seller as you make an end run around traditional publishers is right up there with winning a Powerball jackpot.

But there are a few good reasons to self-publish. Some will help you turn a dollar or two; others let you create a product with special significance for specific, targeted audiences. Let’s consider the possibilities.

First: The costs

Publishing on Amazon is free. You can create a Kindle book by posting a Word document formatted cleanly with Word’s “Styles” function. You can make any content available to anyone with a Kindle reader—and since you can download a Kindle app on almost any device, this means your market is anyone who owns a computer. You can set your price or even give it away, gratis, if you’re willing to fork over exclusive sales rights to Amazon.

Print-on-demand technology is not free, but it’s very cheap. It allows you to produce a professional-looking book in extremely small print runs—even one copy. Most PoD printers will ship books to addresses that you provide. With this approach, you can create a print book for a specific audience, order only as many copies as you need, and never worry about warehousing or shipping. Unless you’re an experienced publishing professional, you’ll need the help of a copyeditor and a graphic designer, but prices here are within reason, too.

So, what can this swell self-publishing technology do for you? What kinds of projects are we looking at?

Educate your business or professional practice’s clients

This is useful for doctors, lawyers, and any business whose customers benefit from understanding facts and processes.

During the Great Recession of 2008, a lawyer I met displayed a self-published guide to walking away from an underwater mortgage. He had it sitting on the receptionist’s counter where everyone who came into the office could peruse it. Part of his practice entailed helping people to get out from under dead-weight loans.

The Mayo Clinic, among other medical groups, publishes a book-length guide for patients with breast cancer.

A chiropractor who has developed a specialty in treating fibromyalgia distributes his book to patients, complete with charts and diet logs to help them keep track of their treatment and its results. He also takes the book to conferences to share with other health workers.

Build credibility for your business

Most people still hold “authors” in awe, believing that anyone who writes a book must be an expert.

A friend and former university colleague started a corporate consulting business that thrived. Early on, she published a book that outlined the major principles of her specialty. Last I saw of her, she met me for lunch at an expensive restaurant,  wearing an outfit worth more than my net worth.

Market your business

Because of that “gee-whiz” factor, a book not only can build credibility but helps spread the word about what you do. My chiropractor client, for example, takes his books to regional and national conferences, where he sells or gives them away to potential clients and colleagues.

Another friend, writing before the Amazon era, created a book that complemented her consultancy, which did in-house employee training programs. Her book, which (admittedly) appeared through a mainline publishing house, added luster to her image and gave her something to distribute to prospective clients and their workers. She did exceptionally well in that line of work.

Raise funds for clubs and nonprofits

Who among us has not seen (or bought!) a Junior League or church cookbook? For groups with active memberships or effective communications, a book relevant to the group’s mission can bring in some nice charitable contributions. These may be inspirational books, how-to books, or books about the group’s history and accomplishments.

Record your family’s history and genealogy

A professionally produced and printed paperback is a much better way to collect and share a family’s history than a big pile of papers in someone’s closet. You can create such a book and print as many or as few as are needed to give them to every member of the family. If you don’t have a lot of graphs and images, you can (in theory) produce it in e-book format for family members around the world to download economically, or even for free.

For family genealogists, a big advantage to self-publishing technology is that you can easily change or add to the existing content. All you have to do is edit the formatted copy, add or delete what you like, and re-upload.

Write and share your memoirs.

One of my clients has led an interesting life as an international banker. Among several books he’s writing is a memoir that he wishes to hand down to his children and grandchildren. This is a brilliant use of self-publishing technology. The result was a professionally produced, bound book that can be shared with his adult children and friends and also saved for the coming generations. He printed about fifty copies for friends and family.

Commemorate large family reunions

Write up the events and experiences when a large family comes together for a reunion. One strategy might be to ask family members to write anecdotes or short memoirs. Another could be to have one person do the reporting and collect photographs.

On a vacation in Bermuda, I stayed in a hotel that had mostly been taken over by a very large African-American family who were gathering there for a family reunion. It was quite a posh and fun affair. Any event like that would lend itself to a book commemorating the reunion and celebrating the family’s history.

Write a community or town history

My city has several historic neighborhoods populated by active community advocates who love their districts’ history and charm. These areas are often besieged by developers and political interests who would sacrifice them for a profit. A book describing a neighborhood’s historical importance and unique aspects can help preserve it, interest others in living there or protecting it, and enhance property values.

Most small towns have town archives or a museum housing historical materials. These lend themselves to the writing of book-length histories. If you’re a history buff, gathering and interpreting these materials is a fun and rewarding project. Produced as a well-edited and professionally designed book, it’s a great contribution to the community.

Compile a business history

Some years ago, a friend of mine was commissioned by a large corporation to write the company’s history. It was a big job, for the company had been in business for many decades. The result was useful for the company’s upper management, a nice morale-builder for employees, and all-around good public relations in the community.

Monetize your blog

If you have a blog with a specific theme, collecting posts or—preferably—rewriting posts to create a book-length work and then adding extra content to enhance value can help drive readers to your site. Sales of the book can also increase the site’s profitability. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff blogger Crystal Stemberger, for example, sells books on budgeting and on monetizing websites.

Enhance your online or face-to-face course

Many people offer informal online courses to any and all comers. Journalist and personal-finance blogger Donna Freedman, for example, has an online course on writing successful copy for the Web. Providing a free-standing text or workbook—electronic or print—adds value to your course and gives participants a permanent reminder of their experience.

Community colleges often allow people with expertise or experience to present special community-service courses, usually for little or no college credit. This is also a good venue in which to sell books you’ve written and self-published, assuming they’re relevant to the subject. You may not be permitted to require students to buy them as textbooks, but nothing can prevent you from drawing them to students’ attention.

You get the idea. No doubt there are many other possibilities. The point is, an ambition to publish a best-seller is not the only reason to create a book. Nor is profit the only motive: contribution to community or family is as good as the almighty dollar when it comes to writing and publishing.

Ella’s B-a-a-c-k! For the nonce…

Ella’s Story, Chapter 32

Okay, so I finally stumble to the end of the current chapter. Never did recover the last scene that Word so kindly disappeared for me. However, what doesn’t make you crazy…makes you crazier, I guess.

So this is actually chapter 32, not chapter 30 as I remarked in yesterday’s grutch. You may want to catch up or refresh your memory by visiting chapter 31, or simply go to the site’s search bar (in the right-hand sidebar) and enter “Ella’s story,” which should bring up all the chapters. And then some, probably.

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 32

Sigi, lithe but tall and substantially built, walked around the perimeter of the room. Here and there she put a hand on a countertop, tested a weak-looking spot in a wall, ran her fingers over the grain of an old window’s trim. Ella and Dorin, the new doctor Darl in tow, stood by and watched quietly while she explored.

“This room is a lot bigger than I thought,” she remarked, mostly in Dorin’s direction.

“It was chuckablock full of junk,” he replied. “You couldn’t see the back wall from the front door.”

She glanced up from pacing off the length of the far interior wall. “What did you do with it all?”

“It was a challenge.” Her quizzical look elicited a chuckle. “Threw most of it out.”

“Good riddance, then,” she replied, a little distracted as she thumped a fist along a suspect wall. Ella expected she must be pleased to find she didn’t have to clean house before she could start working. “So, Darl: how do you want to lay out this place? What do you need, and where do you want it to go?”

Seeming to study the space, he looked flummoxed. “Not sure. I’ve never tried to do any such thing before.”

Sigi paused in her inspection. She could, Ella reflected, be a little intense once she got focused on something. “Well,” Sigi said, “it’s not so hard, brother. Let’s think about what you’ll be doing here. You would have people coming to talk with you, no?”

“Yeah. I expect.”

“Where will you want them to be? And what else would you be doing in here, besides talking to people?”

He paced stiffly across the room and stood looking around. “We’d want a waiting area over there, near the door, I expect.”

“All right. We can move the doorway, if you’d like. Or you can have more than one door.”

“In one and out the other?”

“I guess. This wall,” she indicated the long stretch of dirt-gray paneling that held a bank of cabinets and shelves, “backs onto the men’s quarters. If we had an entrance somewhere along about here,” she waved vaguely toward one end, “some people could come in without having to go out into the weather. Or…hmmm…” She stepped over to the door and looked out. “We could build a covered breezeway along the front. It would shade the front wall—that would be good—and people could come out through the servant house’s east entrance and pass along here, under cover if it was raining.”

A master of ambition, Sigi was, Ella reflected. The more elaborate she could make this project, the longer it would take to build it and the longer she would be able to stay on the estate instead of having to go into the city to work. Before long they’d have a hospital with half a dozen wards, no mere in-and-out clinic. Ella waited for Dorin to have something to say. Not a word, though, was forthcoming.

“So we have a kind of entry, greeting, and waiting area. Near a door. You’d need a room to talk to a person in private, yes?”

“An examination room, yes. And a separate consultation room would be good. So we can talk and they don’t feel so…vulnerable, hm?”

“Makes sense.

“And if I could have a small office or study space?”

“We can work that. What kind of storage do you need? How much stuff will you need to keep in here?”

“We have other storage space for things you don’t need right at hand,” Dorin said.

“Right,” Sigi said. “So we’ll just need to build space for things you use day-to-day. Plus of course the electronic gear.”

“So…that would mean bandages and dressings, a fairly standard set of medications. Products for tests. Some things I can do myself, some of it would have to be sent to a laboratory.”

“That would be in the city. E’o Cinorra.”

“There’s no chemist in the village?”

“I dunno. Dorin?”

Dorin shrugged. “I don’t think so. But the midwife there would know.;”

“She probably does whatever she needs herself,” Sigi remarked.


“Well. Yeah. They’re trained for that kind of thing.”

Darl gave her a dubious glance, then after an instant’s thought said, “That could be useful.”

“Do we have a water line in here?” Sigi peered under the rickety, time-worn cabinet.

“Nope,” said Dorin. “You can run a line off the service to the men’s showers.”

These people from the upper classes of Samdela, the rich ones of the remote south, were almost as alien as…aliens. Did he think midwives had no training? Had he ever even met a midwife? Possibly not, Ella speculated. She herself had never seen a doctor, one who had specialized training from a special center, until she was sent to Zaitaf. And that one was no Samdi. She was a Varn. An employee of the Company. And there for good reason: the equipment in those mine shafts could create some pretty spectacular injuries.

That woman—the Company medic—had three assistants, all of them prepared to help in the event of the next little disaster. They also dispensed all the routine health care required for a population living in low gravity.

But why, Ella persisted in wondering, did the kaïna imagine such a person was needed here? True, occasionally one of the estates had some kind of agricultural accident, usually involving heavy machinery. But the victims would be carried into Cinorra by air-car. That took time…but she’d never heard of anyone dying because of it.

A figure passed in front of the door, blocking much of the outside light that shone in through the open frame. Speaking of aliens, she thought. Chadzar, the kaïna’s Michaian head of guard, struck her as about as exotic as they come, with his snow-colored hair and the emerald-green eyes traced by white lashes, the long fingers, and those wide feet seemingly made for balance on ice and snow.

Yet somehow he seemed less…what?…less foreign to her than this new creature from the other side of her own world. More like her own: worker, brother in service. Unmonied, unpolished, unsheltered. Not that Chadzar wasn’t highly polished. He was, indeed, having been brought up in Haddam’s service to be some aristocrat’s valet. But in Ella’s opinion that was surface buffing.

He smiled and nodded respectfully in her direction. She returned the silent greeting, unnoticed (she thought) as his face lit up at the sight of Sigi.

“Hello,” he said to the new man, who looked up uncertainly. “We met in the mess hall a couple of nights ago. I’m Chadzar, one of the guard. Mr. Darl, no?”

“Eyah,” a Southern Samdi term. Would he ever fit in? “Mr. Chadzar, I recall…but I’m having a hard time with the names.” It would be hard not to recall one that looks like this one, she thought.

“There are a few of us,” Chad agreed. “It comes to you eventually.

Eventually. This Michaian was a quick enough study, she reflected. True, Merren had been grooming Chad for awhile to stand in for him, in the months before the assassin’s bomb took his life and the Kai’s. But still…in a matter of seconds he’d found himself at the head of the remaining crew, and also pretty much constantly at the Kaïna’s side.

He’d taken things in hand, though, without a blink. Appropriately enough, since Michaian eyes seemed never to blink… An army of blacksuits had descended on the estate – they would have been there before he could have taken Rysha home even had she not insisted on going straight to the Central High Ministry. There she learned that her father was dead and his personal guard Merren mortally wounded.

Ella recalled her own astonishment at seeing her young mistress, barely more than a child, address the crowds of citizens who already had gathered below the ministry’s façade. That day…that day: it was hard for her to think about that day, though every minute remained vivid in her memory. Everyone on the staff had been called in off their jobs and confined to the servants’ house, though it had taken awhile for some who were working in the city to get back out to Skyhill. A few of those had been detained by blacksuits as they were trying to make their way home, but most got back inside the gates within an hour or two.

Varn kais and kaïnas did not speak to the people. They sang to them. And though Ella had heard her practicing voice and elocution, Rysha had never had a chance – or a reason – to stand on a balcony over the people, out in the open air with the vidsound equipment broadcasting her words and song. She was, after all, just short of eighteen years old. Chadzar, too, was very young. Tall and blue-suited, he stood behind her, his ice-white hair glowing in Varnis’s hot gold sunlight, seeming to co-opt the five menacing armed blacksuits who looked more interested in staring down the crowd than in heiress to a galaxy-wide realm.

To this day, Ella could remember most all of what the Kaīna Rysha had sung, the words she sang with perfection, sounding—impossibly—as though she were rehearsed. How did she do that? In the blood, so people said, as though one who was born to power were born with all it takes to wield it.

She sang to the people the same message, first in Varn and then in five other tongues. The Samdi came across to Ella as strong, clear, and plain. It was the language of the people. Surely not the [inflection] of this fancy doctor man, nor, for that matter, of her own lowly northern dialect.

Best, Ella imagined, to converse with this one in Varn, as much as possible. That would limit the annoyance factor.

Chapter 33

Where’s Ella?

Lost in space, of course… 😉

Seriously: it’s been one frustration after another in the Creative Department. I’ve been cranking my way through chapter 30 of Ella’s Story, verrryyy slowlyyy, as one interruption after another falls from the heavens, like meteors upon the dinosaurs. Some of those interruptions have been paying work, which you may be sure supersedes all other demands and cravings. Others have been various little personal crises — surgery for skin cancer that turned out (surprise!) not to be skin cancer (please, can we max out the stress and drama a little more?); the dog at death’s door but refusing to go through; one unholy doggy reaction to one unholy medication after another (three times, I thought that dog would die before day’s end); friends dying right and left; a week or ten days’ worth of pool renovation going on in the back yard; editorial jobs flying in over the transom; and of course the unceasing sideshow that is our national politics, a constant and constantly amazing distraction.

Last week as I was trying to wrap up the chapter, in came not one but two new assignments within a few hours of each other, both from Chinese authors. One was a doctoral dissertation in, of all things, accountancy.

Who knew accountants did Ph.D. dissertations?

This, while not especially lengthy, was difficult to read because of the annoyance factor: they were making the kid emit an elaborate covariance analysis to prove…the obvious. The thing went on and on and on, essentially saying the same damn thing 15 ways from Sunday and demonstrating…nothing, really. Other than the obvious. It was an exercise in pointlessness.

By the time you removed all the tables and the references section, you ended up with a magnificent 29 pages of narrative. I mean…say what?

This, from my point of view, added another layer of annoyance. My dissertation was a full-length book that contributed a whole lot of new information based on months of archival research and that was published by a major academic press in its field. And you may be sure that my first full-time academic job did not start in the five figures, as his will.

So I leave Ella up in Word as I plod through this thing.

Then as soon as I shovel that back into the ether, I have to turn to the other author’s project: Chinese math. Transmission of HIV through certain high-risk groups in Guangzhou…don’t ask. Turns out to have been quite short, adding another layer of annoyance: I should’ve done this writer’s project first, because I was able to move it off my desk in a day. Better to have returned it promptly than to have made this person wait while I plowed through 28 pages of pointless palaver.

Math papers sent to American editors from China are commonly written in a program called LaTex, then converted in a crude way to Word with the equations stripped out. This, as you can imagine, occasionally creates an unstable file. And yea, verily…

The minute I wrapped that damn thing up and hit “save” for one last goddamn time, it crashed Word! Everything went down, including the Ella’s Story file I’d left open.

And yes, even though I’d saved, saved, and re-saved that file as I was working on it, and yes, even though I’d hit Command-S before I turned to the paying work, Word lost the new stuff I’d written in it.

Infuriatingly, Wyrd is set to save every five minutes on this computer, because of its propensity to crash at the most impossible times. So even if I hadn’t manually saved to disk, it should have auto-saved…many times over, during the several days I was working on the customers’ papers.

Wyrd is supposed to back up to what is called an “autorecover” file. If you know how to get at it, you can find the most recent autorecover and that will contain most of what you’ve done. In my case, it would retrieve everything done up until the previous 5 minutes.

But n-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooooooo, No chance. I can NOT find an autorecover file with the passage I wrote and felt so smug about.

Shit, Hell, and Damn!

I brought the computer down to the church office, which normally is quiet as the tomb, figuring I could sit here in the silence and, if not reconstruct what I’d written, come up with something new.

At the risk of repeating myself: n-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooooooo! The phone has been jangling nonstop. People have been wandering in and out the door, most of them wanting nothing more than to chat. EVERYBODY on the clergy and the staff is here this afternoon, meaning they’re all here to receive calls and try to dodge time-sucking visitors.

An hour and ten minutes to go. Then I have to fly home, bolt down a few bites of food, feed and wring out the dogs, and then turn around and fly back down to the church for choir rehearsal.

I’ve done almost nothing on the Ella opus — certainly not try to reconstruct the lost passage, except to realize I can’t remember any of it — and obviously there will be no time for any of that this evening.

Just hope my dog is still alive. That’s about the best I’m up to…hoping the dog hasn’t croaked over yet.

What’s Your Favorite Dog Breed?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

6. What is your favorite breed of dog?

My favorite breed is extinct.

Back in the day, we had German shepherd dogs that were loyal, intelligent, healthy, and (mark this one) sane.

Today, you would be very challenged, indeed, to find a Gershep that fills all these bills. In fact, I would venture to say healthy, mentally sound German shepherds no longer exist.

The dog has been overbred to the point that any individual will develop one or more serious chronic ailments: hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, pannus, megaesophagus, DM (degenerative myelopathy), osteoarthritis, several types of cancer including bone cancer and lymphoma . . . it goes on and on. Additionally, many are dog-aversive—meaning they are unsafe around other people’s animals. And some suffer a kind of mental illness—this is how a vet described it to me—in which the dog will unpredictably go in for the attack. And no, we’re not talking about dogs that have been abused.

I’ve had a lot of German shepherds and loved them all, but after the last one passed on to her furry fathers, I gave up on the breed. Right now I have two corgis. For the nonce, the Pembroke Welsh corgi is pretty healthy. Don’t expect that to be a permanent state of affairs, though: unfortunately the breed is fast becoming popular, which means it also will be destroyed by irresponsible breeders.

Next dog will be a Heinz-57. Preferably more than 57.

Less is not more…

…Nor does “less” mean the same as “fewer.”

Saith our honored headline writer at AZ Family News:

Despite storms, less tax dollars spent on potholes

Lordie! Where do people learn to write like that? Leaving aside the ambiguity created by the passive voice (the dollars have a checkbook, maybe, allowing them to spend on potholes?), consider:

“Less” is for things that cohere, or that we perceive in general. It means “a smaller quantity” of stuff that we think of in the aggregate, as it were.

Less sugar
Less water
Less time
Less canine company
Less computer trouble
Less money

“Fewer” is for things that can be counted. It means a “smaller number” of things that we think of as a collection of individual things.

Fewer grains of sugar
Fewer gallons of water
Fewer hours, fewer minutes, fewer seconds
Fewer dogs
Fewer computer crashes
Fewer dollars

Less stuff. Fewer things. See?  It’s not that hard. Really. 😀


Self-Publishing: REALLY? The Complete Writer *Free Reads*

The Complete Writer

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section VII: Publishing and Self-Publishing


Self-Publishing: Really?

Know how to get a small fortune?

Start with a large fortune and publish a book.

(Cue laugh track)

 That old chestnut wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t so true. As a practical matter, most people make nothing on self-published books. They soon find their magnum opus interests no one but themselves, and the whole project turns into an expensive hobby.

At this writing, I have a pricey Facebook Ads campaign plus several other efforts under way, by way of peddling one of the forty-eight books and bookoids my two imprints have put online at Amazon. It’s been going on for several months. So far we’ve sold a few copies of the cookbook in Kindle—and far more of them in hard-copy through face-to-face marketing—three copies of Slave Labor, an occasional copy here or there of the erotic shorties. And we have sold a few copies of the beloved novel. Not for lack of trying: serial versions of the thing have earned five-star reviews.

The books that do sell with a little regularity—the “racy books” published through Camptown Races Press—do not even come within shouting distance of breaking even on ad investment.

The cookbook sold smartly to a group of friends but in the wide world is barely noticeable on Amazon.

Yesterday as I took a break from hour after hour after crushing, unpaid hour of recovering a 325-page book our software had corrupted for reasons unknown, I reflected on the causes for this.

Books have never been easy to sell.

Unless you have a platform from which to market them—a business with a broad reputation or one that does something relevant to the book’s subject matter—you will have to hustle madly to bring your book to anyone’s attention. That has ever been so, yea verily since long before the Amazon disruption.

Digital publishing amplifies that difficulty

Amazon has made the marketing challenge infinitely more difficult. Without literary agents and publishing houses as gatekeepers, the market is now flooded with dreck and chaff. Not just flooded: we’re talkin’ tsunami here.

Readers know that about 80 to 90 percent of books offered on Amazon and waypoints are junk or self-serving marketing tools. They also know, if they’re at all savvy, that they can acquire most of the stuff—and even some readable books—for free. So of course they’re not about to pay you enough to cover your time and skills. Not when they think they shouldn’t have to pay you anything at all.

So, the nature of the market has changed: not for the better, where people who write for a living are concerned.

A fly-by-night enterprise from the git-go

Then we have the issues inherent to self-publishing that have always worked against independent writers: publishing a book or periodical and getting people to buy it requires a full staff of workers. It’s not something one little person working alone is likely to succeed with.

Every time I’ve published a book through a mainline publishing house—and I’ve published three of them, not counting the ones I’ve worked on for my employers or the ones my business has packaged for other publishers—I’ve worked with an acquisitions editor, a copyeditor, a layout artist, a proofreader, a marketer, and various secretaries and admins.

The first magazine I worked for, which published the occasional easy-to-market book, had five editors, three graphic designers, four or five ad space sales staff, and a publisher whose job was to market the publication. The next magazine had three high-powered editors, a fact-checker, a photo editor, four graphic artists, a production director, and a marketing department. It also had a book division with its own editor and designers.

To make a self-published book fly, you need to do the work of all those specialists.

And you’re not a specialist. If you are, it’s as a writer, not as an artist, a marketer, a sales rep, an acquisitions editor, a production manager, a copyeditor, or a proofreader.

The likely upshot

Because you’re an amateur at seven in eight of the jobs that need to be done to write, produce, and sell a book, your chances of success are almost nil. But even if you were expert in all those lines of work, you’re only one person: there’s no way you can do the work of eight people and do it well.

That’s why you’re better off trying to sell your book idea or manuscript to a mainstream publisher. And it’s why, if you have a lot of money to start with and are willing to subsidize your book by hiring the talent needed to put it together and sell it, self-publishing means you’re likely to end up with a lot less money.

All is not irredeemable gloom and doom, though. In fact, there are some good reasons to self-publish. In some circumstances, self-publishing can be the most reasonable, most economical, and most successful way to reach a targeted, interested audience. Stay tuned for chapter 33 to learn when and why to publish your own book.

At Last: Back in the Saddle. More or Less…

Okay, as proposed a while ago, today I’ll publish this week’s one chapter from the three books in progress. The Book of the Week: The Complete Writer.

Putting this stuff on line is surprisingly time-consuming, because of the amount of formatting and dorking around that has to be done to make it more or less readable. So, as I’ve explained elsewhere, the idea of publishing a chapter a week from each of three books in progress is going away.

I think, too, that trying to put each of the books online in a single place, slowly building each book’s WordPress “Page” into something that holds the entire book’s content, is another lost cause. For one thing, it makes pages that are unmanageably large and difficult for the reader to navigate. For another, it’s redundant: these things exist in PDF format and if you want one, all you have to do is ask. Click on the P&S contact page to do so. And in sum, compiling this stuff into one page is brain-bangingly time-consuming: a fair amount of ditzy behind-the-scenes formatting has to be done, which may be grand if you like that kind of thing…but I don’t.

Instead, I’ll post each book’s table of contents in those pages. Whenever I get around to it, which may or may not be today. Or this week. Or as the next chapter of each book is published. One (1) a week.

Bêtises of the Day…

Officials say witnesses reported seeing a black Chevy Cavalier driving at a high speed when the vehicle lost control and collided head-on into a mini van stopped at the red light. (“Phoenix Fire: 9 people hurt following head-on collision,” Fox 10 News, October 19, 2018.)

The vehicle didn’t lose control of anything. The idiot driver lost control.

When officials arrived on scene they found two adults with gun shot wounds and transported to the hospital. (“1 person killed, 1 hospitalized after a shooting in Mesa Saturday morrning,” Fox 10 News, October 20, 2018).

They found two adults transported to the hospital? By teleportation, no doubt.

That’s a “minivan,” by the way. One word. 🙄

“Gunshot,” too, come to think of it. When we say “words of one syllable” around that newsroom, we’re not kidding!

Destiny the cat is recovering with her new foster dad after being shot in the eye with a dart. ( “Valley cat shot in eye with dart recovering,” 12 News, October 20, 2018).

Kseniya Schminke first saw Destiny last Saturday, as she darted into a bush near 32nd Street and Thomas.

Snark! Nice pun there. Did you do that on purpose, dear reporter, or were you high on something? And why was Kseniya darting around in the shrubbery, anyway? The story stumbles on…

“I saw, what I originally thought was a screw driver, but later figured out it was a dart. You could see it’s eye was basically about to fall out. It was sad,” Schminke said.

Is there a reason for the comma between the verb and the object? Apparently not. “It’s eye”? Really, no one ever taught you to proofread? And if you meant “its,” are we talking about the dart’s eye or the screwdriver’s eye? “Basically”? Does this overused and pointless adverb have any meaning here? Don’t make your interviewee sound like a moron unless you intend to do so. Speaking of moronic quotes…

“It’s heartbreaking to realize that a human would do this to a defenseless animal and repeatedly. This person is a serial abuser and this neighborhood needs to be on the lookout and we need to find this person,” Sloan said.

Well, yeah. But what’s really heartbreaking is that people let their cats roam loose to be victimized by other cats, dogs, coyotes, automobiles, and lunatics. This cat would never have been injured if its owners had done the responsible thing and kept it inside or in their own yard. If it’s a feral cat, it would never have been injured if its predeceessors’ owners had spayed them.

Study: Arizona in the middle for politically-engaged states (KTAR News: October 21, 2018)

“A recent study from Wallet Hub found that Arizona was in the middle for states and their respective political engagement.”

Huh? What on earth is meant by “respective political engagement”?

No hyphen after an -ly word, by the way: politically engaged.

 Here are the differences among iPhone map programs (KTAR News, October 20, 2018)

“Anyone that was using an iPhone when they initially launched the Apple app remembers the widespread reports of incorrect directions along with lots of bugs and errors.”

We should know about bugs and errors…we certainly sprinkle our copy with plenty of them. 😀

Possibly the reporter meant “anyone who”? Who is a perfectly innocent non-gendered pronoun, and it works well to suggest you’re writing about a human being, not a one-eyed cat or a speeding Chevrolet.

“They”…the users launched the Apple app? Well, obviously the writer intended to refer to the Apple Corporation with the misbegotten “they.” But a corporation is an “it,” not a “they.”

You have to give KTAR credit, though: as infotainment goes, this bêtise-laden passage takes the cake! Not bad. Not bad at-tall…in the not good department, that is.

Too hilarious!