Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten Things I Learned This Year and Where Did the Year Go

We (I and my live in/with publisher) have learned a lot over the last year about writing and publishing. I would guess that a small book could be written about the experience (just one more book to add to the long list of future books I’ll write). I wrote and finished two books this year, we published three books, and I am well into the fourth 4 Death book. The road, while not profitable yet, has been informative and at times, a very cool ride. A book signing at a fashion show, who’d a thunk?

As one of my teachers said, “If you'd pay attention Mister, you might learn something.”
  1. Be well organized before you start. This includes computer files, notes, articles, and all pertinent data collected. Make a plan, use it for all your books, make it a part of your routine and style.
  2. Set a schedule and try to keep to it. Those of you involved in the NaNoWrMo this past month understand, no schedule means that you didn’t write that 60K novel in November. Schedules will be broken – use the guilt to push you harder.
  3. Keep your files in multiple locations, duplicate and date every file. The cloud is the thing these days but I’m more mobile and bounce between at least three computers and access to the Internet is problematic. Memory sticks are great. Dedicate one stick to each book, save often, make copies.
  4. Publishing is hard work, but you do meet the nicest people. Think of a lifeboat set adrift with a bunch of strangers, all hoping to survive. This is the nature of publishing today. Go to bookselling shows and publisher’s trade shows. You have to do it, enjoy and bring lots of handouts, you will feel better.
  5.  Learn how to use Adobe InDesign. We self-publish and I do all the book formatting and construction (blame me for the covers, but I like’em!). It’s a reasonably easy program, just work at it; it isn’t like AutoCADD drafting software – that will make your brain melt.
  6. Read and reread Mark Coker’s instructions on posting at Smashwords (Amazon’s too). This small company with 12 employees (saw that on a Coker Tweet), is doing more than any, and in fact all, of the publishing houses in the world in changing how we access books and data. Not everything he prints is books, there are manuals, how-to’s, poems, short stories, you get the picture.
  7. Get out, do the research, and meet people. I’ve asked Canadians to edit my French, an Army ranger to review my Iraq battle scenes, a fellow who runs one of the largest sailing schools in the Bay Area about sailing, and many other experts, professionals and layabouts, to get context and data. Properly asked they all love to help - a meal or a book is helpful too!
  8. Join LinkedIn and add your name to many of the discussion groups. It is amazing how open people are with information and points about the writing and publishing craft. Sure there’s a lot of hype and book flogging, so what. Like you, they want to succeed, help them and they will help you.
  9. Read a book a week and watch TV. I know, I know, educated people don’t watch the boob-tube. It’s all so pedestrian and low-brow, and it will rot your brain and widen your ass (proven, the study is posted on Smashwords). But, if you are a thriller writer (moi?), you really would kill to have your character on a TV show, in real color, maybe 3D, with bad commercials and all. Besides you will learn, if you pay attention, to edit and reduce to a strong minimum your story and dialog. Get over it!
  10. Try to find a day job you like that pays the bills. There are maybe three writers in the whole world who make enough to live on, true story. All the rest of us are shills for the publishing and printing industry. We take the above income and pass it directly on to them, hoping to turn a $1000 investment into $250 in earnings. No one ever said this was a sane occupation, but it is fun and enjoyable.
What a year and tomorrow is December 1. We bought a Christmas tree last night, listened to carols on the radio (Michael BubblĂ©), and noted that there seems to be more decorated houses already this year. Maybe this is a sign that this year Americans say to the Man, screw you, I’m going to have a great holiday whether you want me to or not.

More later . . . .

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