Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And Now Back to Our Show

Charon the Editor and his boat full of Writers

How many drafts is the right amount? How many helpless friends (victims) should read your unedited story before either they, or you, get tired of commenting? How much is too much and how much is just right? Do you need a story editor as well as a copy editor – and should you let them meet over dinner? Tough questions and all of them deal with the thorny issue of editing.

There are books on editing, there are histories on editing, there are memoirs by editors and even YouTube videos that droll or drool on and on about the craft. One could leave the room thinking the author had little to do with the work; it’s all about the editing and the editor.

Now, I’m not going to pick on these arcane practitioners and magicians, they have more than once turned lead into gold. Often a thankless job (but well paid for some), I can imagine them grinding through a manuscript wondering, “What the hell was he thinking?” while their red pen bled over the well-crafted lines of text.

So, how many drafts is the right number? My guess is that seven hundred and thirty-one seems right. By the hundredth you hate the thing, by the five hundredth, suicide is sitting in the next room sharping its quill, and at seven hundred you are now a confirmed alcoholic. So it only stands to reason that you are done by 731 (which is not a prime number).

Of course if this were true, no book would ever be printed or manuscript even finished. You can easily polish away the finish. Sadly, during editing, much of the soul in the first draft is lost or even worse, muddled. Crisp and sharp can easily be honed away. Yes, it can be added, but after a million words, often the first lines are better than the last.

For me the story is critical, get it down, tell it all, push it along. There is no waiting at the train station, get on and hang tight. Tell everyone, who will listen, that the first draft is done. Celebrate. They will look at you strangely (with justification) and smile. Your hope is they don’t ask, “And when can I read it?” because you haven’t a clue. Editing stands before you, like dark Charon, with his hand out asking for coins.

For me, I copy the manuscript (Version 1.0) and re-title it 2.0 for first edit, checking for the obvious spelling errors (the is not and isn’t phase), make notes about characters lost or rediscovered. I scan for flow and broad continuity. Then move on to Edit 2.1.

This is a printed version, large type (12 pt.), header and footers, page numbers and the like. It is simple amazing how differently the MS reads on paper. The eye and brain have been trained for years to see things in a better aspect than on a 21 inch monitor (Apple or Dell makes no difference). The errors just jump up, the sentences seem new, the story more real. And my pen gently bleeds across the page; I have blisters on my fingers.

Then back to technology Ver. 2.2, revise the MS, and let’s give it another try, Ver. 2.3. Here’s something important. When I give readings at book signings, I print out the pages in large type so these old eyes can better read the lines. When this is done, I find that, even a year or two later, the phrasing often needs changing and the story needs editing – but it’s too late. So I suggest, and this is very hard to do, that you read out-loud your story, as if there were an audience (sitting in rapped attention) before you. The changes you make as a result of this simple exercise will not only make the MS better, it will make it a hundred times better.

The second to last thing I do is send the MS to the copy editor, the last thing is to read it one more time, edit Version 2.732.

More later . . . . . . .

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is KDP Worth It?

In this world today there are two types of people. The first group loves Amazon. The other believes it is the spawn of the devil. Sure, it’s impressive that this digitally based company will sell you anything, anytime, anywhere. Who wouldn’t be, its reach is simply amazing. But the thrust of this article is more refined and targeted – I’m talking books here.

All my books (see left and right) are available on Amazon both digitally and in paperback (through Createspace), so I have a vested interest in their operation. It is a store, plain and simple, they have things I want, I can buy them, and then they are shipped to my door. It is the perfect retail operation for an agoraphobic that spends their days looking through narrowed window blinds for the UPS truck.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), is actually very cool. It allows me, the author and publisher of my work, to directly sell to the customer, whether in the United States or Patagonia. I can post my book and access my market in less than 24 hours and can adjust my message hourly if I want. I can revise covers, fix typos, and even serialize my work. It’s all mine, all the good and the bad. I have actually more control than I do in a bookstore.

You, the author, determine the royalty rates (which vary depending on the ebook sales price), and you set the price. And it translates the dollar price into euros, pounds, and even yen. They send you the royalty check on schedule. How cool. This has made some writers very rich, and others disappointed. For most of us the numbers posted on the Reports schedule are never as good as we hope. That is the toughest part of writing – financial satisfaction.

Having a specific location where you can send your reader has changed the whole direction of the publishing industry. Before, in the pre-Amazon era (PAE), books were found in three locations, the bookstore, the library, and when you borrowed a friend’s copy. Not much else. So marketing was critical, and still is. Now, with a web site or blog, I can send my readers to my book’s site, they can peruse my author’s page, read the first chapter, see other books I’ve written and read reviews. I don’t have to have hundreds of copies in boxes, Createspace prints and mails in one day. And reviews, posted right there, are critical to the author and the book’s placement in Amazon’s readership firmament. (BTW, if you have read one of books, pleeeeease post a review, very simple, just click and throw out a few words, kind or not, thanks – more reviews = more clicks).

There are other portals that place the book in front of an audience; Mark Coker’s Smashwords is one that I use as well. KDP supports Kindle, that’s obvious. Smashwords gets your ebook into most of the other formats and sales locations, B&N - Nook, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords own ebook service. Again every one of these is free to post, royalties vary somewhat, but all are easy to use.

If there is one disappointment, it is Amazon’s KDP Select (kdpselect). This is a lending library that Amazon runs where, after paying a monthly fee, the borrower has unlimited access to millions of ebooks through their Kindle. But the publisher/writer can’t market the ebook through any other distributor while it’s listed (minimum 90 days). I thought it would help kick the book off, now I’m not sure. Rentals have been minimal, and I wonder what I missed on Smashwords. So I’m pulling it next month and finally posting 12th Man For Death on Smashwords.

All of this is a learning process, and requires the author to market their work from digital ebooks to face to face book readings. The life in the lonely writer’s garret creating wondrous fiction is over, some days I feel more like a politician than a scribbler – all glad-handing and kissing babies.

More later . . . . . . .

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Blush With Pride

This past weekend I received a review that I will treasure. One of the most reputable book reviewers in the business is James A. Cox and his Midwest Book Review located in Oregon, Wisconsin. Their reputation is well known and respected. This is not a pay for review or even a beg for review institution, they will accept your submittable but do not guarantee a review if the work is not up to their standards. I was pleased that they accepted 12th Man For Death but they had one stipulation, all the books in the series should be reviewed at once to give their readers the broadest opinion of the work.

This is their review of the O'Mara Chronicles and the latest book, 12th Man For Death.

The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara is an exciting, action-packed series of danger and intrigue featuring the tough, yet sexy, Sharon O'Mara, a thirtysomething (hey, who's counting?) ex-Army cop who can't overlook the injustice of a cold-blooded murder. In "Land Swap for Death" (9780982837610, $15.00) Sharon resists the soul-sucking greed of the insurance company she works for to uncover just why a man had to die in a parking lot, leaving behind a tangled real estate debacle; in "Containers for Death" (9780982837634, $14.99) Sharon investigates the Chinese Tongs and Mexican Cartels engaged in a merciless smuggling operation involving steel containers floated across the ocean; in the Global eBook Awards finalist "Toulouse for Death" (9780982837696, $14.99), Sharon's mission to return a priceless stolen painting to its rightful owners embroils her in a winner-take-all battle against a lingering Nazi SS who will stop at nothing to begin a "New Reich"; and in "12th Man for Death" (9780965651059, $14.99), Sharon's murder investigation of a skilled American Cup skipper and technical genius uncover a sinister plot to trigger World War III! In addition to their softcover print editions, all four exciting suspense stories are available as inexpensive ebooks. The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara is a "must-read" for anyone who enjoys high-octane mystery-thrillers, highly recommended!

Go HERE for the review.

As I said, I am humbled and thrilled - now back to my next thriller. 

More Later . . . . . . 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Random Thoughts While Doodling

This is one of the best companies to help self-publishers and writers bring their books to life. Late last year I decided to publish my next book 12th Man For Death with a new (to me) printing/publishing venue. All my other books were composed and formatted in InDesign (text body) and Photoshop (cover), converted to PDFs, and then emailed to a print-on-demand (POD) printer in Los Angeles. They were very good, but the cost of shipping books (at least three times) proved profitless. I needed a better way. And, for me, Createspace is it. I know I blogged about this a month ago, but as you can see, I am still excited about this company.

Simply, this printing house, owned by Amazon, takes my files in the same formats as my old POD printer and makes a book of them. The key is that, in association with your Amazon book site, when a customer buys the book, the order is sent directly to Createspace, who fulfills it. The key in any distribution channel (to save money) is to handle the product as little as possible. This is a simple as it gets. And the buyer, not me, pays the shipping.

The instructions are simple and direct on their webpage:, follow them, get to know the system and voila! You will have your proof copy for review in less than ten days, make any corrections to your book, resubmit, reapprove, then Createspace places the book directly into your book’s Amazon site. To be honest I wasn’t sure about this, now I have placed all the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles in the system. And from what I can see the quality is consistent. And the author’s price for copies is a dollar cheaper than what I was paying before.

Check them out, it literally costs nothing.

Smashwords Update
All the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles have been updated at Mark Coker’s Smashwords site. This site, along with Amazon, is a must for your ebooks. With your book here you will have access to iBook, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and most other outlets. Again go to their site, download Mark’s manual on how to submit, and go for it. Again costs nothing until you sell your hard work.

Book Signing
Last Sunday I had the privilege and honor to kick off the 2013 author’s season at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California. It went extremely well and almost thirty of my friends (old and new) attended. Read a few pages from the new book (see left), and talked about writing. I have lined up a few book clubs and other venues in the coming months, I will keep you informed.

5 Reasons It’s Hard to Market Indie Fiction and What to Do About It
Joel Friedlander, book guru and self-publishing Sherpa, has an informative blog that he posts three times a week (or so). Often his comments hit the mark on covers, book composition, and marketing. This week he covers a thoughtful blog by Rachelle Ayala on Indie Fiction. Please check it out, it’s a little long to repost here so please go to Joel’s site:

Update On My New Novel
Wars Amongst Lovers is in rewrite, this is an enjoyable process where you discover what you wrote eight months ago actually still works. You find your story still interesting and that you also lost or renamed characters, mixed some of them up, or started a story thread and forgot about it. It’s all great fun. Every writer develops their own system to straighten out their story and insure continuity. But that’s a subject for a later posting. My hope is to have the manuscript finished by the end of March and professionally edited by the end of April. Then publication. I'm offering a chance to be a Beta reader, if interested, contact me at

So Happy New Year and remember, write every day, even if only a thank you card.

More Later . . . . .

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year and All That Other Stuff

Other Stuff First
This coming Sunday, January 6th at 1:00, I will be doing a book signing and reading at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California. We are looking for a great crowd, so if you are in Sharon O’Mara’s stomping ground, the San Francisco Bay Area, stop by, take a listen, and ask me questions about Sharon and her team. There are no excuses since the 49’s have a well-deserved bye-week.

This book signing is for 12th Man For Death, my latest Sharon O’Mara thriller. The reviews have been stellar and Sharon’s fans want to know when the next installment in the O’Mara Chronicles will arrive. Sadly, I am in the editing phase of my new novel, Wars Amongst Lovers, and until I can finish the first rewrite I am going to have to keep our girl on the sidelines. And besides what do you want from me? Four O’Mara books in two years is pretty damn good, even if I say so myself. What the future holds is another matter for our girl. But I promise you I will try to have another book out before 2013 is over.

By the way I am looking for Beta readers of this new novel. If interested, post a comment and let me know. I have two readers and would like three more serious readers – always remember in a Beta read you have to pass over the role of copy editor, tough but true, and just look at the story. (I can also be reached directly at

Happy New Year
This says it all!
Photo by Darvin Atkeson -
Wow, 2013. The time just marches on, it doesn’t give one hoot about us, it just keeps on ticking away. It is all we can do just to try and keep up; we make our lists, scratch them off and add more to the bottom. Time outs are impossible. We make great plans and hope to achieve half. I am less cynical these days, we have muddled through most of the bad times and the future does look quite promising.

We all make resolutions for the New Year, most of us make the same list over and over (Note to self, publish new book New Years Resolutions for Dummies – now that would save us all time). For the most part those lists just make us more human, we strive to succeed and then come to the realization, just like last year and every year before, we are only human. But we do strive and that is the key.

For writers, we story tellers and word shamans, the goals we make for ourselves are tough. The formula is simple:

Good Characters + Good Story = Good Book

Kid of simplistic, but nonetheless true. During the coming year I will make one resolution for this blog and for you my readers.

I resolve to do what I can to help writers and self-publishers make their work better and more marketable.

So please keep following along. Some weeks will be outstanding and others, most probably, only a step above mundane. But they will all be interesting and helpful.

Have a great and prosperous New Year. And remember: You can only count your money, but you can always count on your friends.

More Later . . . . . . .