Saturday, August 30, 2014

The road less traveled, or maybe more traveled than not

Good ol' Chuck has another guest blog by Tom Pollack about how to juggle this crazy career we call Part-Time Writer. (Don't call it a hobby and don't call yourself "aspiring" just write, damn it!)

I'm blogging about it, so I must have a few thoughts myself on the subject. Consider them more of an extra table of goodies to Mr. Pollack's buffet of ideas. 

Plan Your Time
Beyond Planning your time, steal time back when you can. Be a complete klepto when it comes to pens/pencils, paper and your downtime. Instead of whipping out your smartphone and making Angry Birds angrier, jot down a few sentences .

This does two things; inch you closer to your weekly word count and trains you to jump into writing mode faster. Not only will have less guilt about a slow day when all those extra sentences got you over the hum, you're more likely to skip that thirty minute Internet "warm up" on if you've learned how to write a romance scene in a frigid, noisy airport.

Stick To Your Plan -- But Don't Let It Turn You Into an Asshole.
I think Tom is close to something here, but missed a bigger truth to writing. The truth that a writer pretty much a paradox who in one moment has to lock themselves in a oubliette, pull a rope to close the top and write in utter solitude and in the next moment is in the middle of humanity, seeing it for all of its wonder (and terror.)

'Cause in order to write characters that make your readers empathize with the human condition, you have to see, hear and taste that particular condition for yourself.  And you can't do that chained to your laptop. 

Enjoy It
You have to, or it will burn you out faster than roman candles duck taped to gas cans. This not only goes for the writing part but also the "go forth among humanity" part as well. 
Perhaps the best way to think of it is this way: Most people have to have their own children before they rediscover the wonder in life through the eyes of their little ones.

But as a writer, you always have to have your inner tyke on tap.

Yakity Yak, Here's some feedback

The great speech recognition experiment is done.

And in the end it wasn't so great. The software worked for a while and the diction was close enough that it greatly helped my output for a while.

But at some point, the software's accuracy went downhill instead of improving. Worse yet, the mircophone that came with the software didn't want to synch up with the program half the time.

So what started as something that was close enough to remind me of what I had original intended, became a slog of rewriting that had me seriously wondering if I had really gained any ground. And despite my best efforts, I was missing more typos than I was catching.

When my writing workshop mates reported that my last submission was a new low point grammar wise, that was the final straw.

So now it's back to the slower, more silent, typing and handwriting efforts of the past.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How much "exposure" do you need?

It looks like Showtime should have had a different pitch for their latest contest. Instead of promising graphic designers exposure at an upcoming boxing event, they should have labeled it a free vacation package.  That might have gone over a bit better. Or the designers who are boxing fans would be more inclined to say yes.

Though to be fair, this is an ad/PR firm working on Showtime's behalf. I'm guessing more PR than ad company.

Let's look at that email and Mr. Cassaro's response.

I'd have a few "Qs." (It's cute when ad people try to be hip.) How long are these spots? How prominent will my contact info be on these spots and at the MGM Grand? Yeah, I get exposure on the social media, which might include some decision makers for various companies that might be client material (who now know I will work for "contests.") But who do I get real face time with?

The answers are pretty pat here. The only real exposure will be on social media, which is a crap shoot (pun intended) and where it really counts at the MGM and on broadcast the answer will be "They will see your art only, no contact info. What you are asking for is almost like an ad." Well, PR/Ad firm, that is what your pitching me right? I've gotta leverage the most out of it.

Because working as a creative is a business at heart and, when you're lucky, a business with heart, but you have to make savvy decisions about your "exposure." Because frankly, it's a wash most of the time in any business.

I've seen all type, sign makers, marketing firms, and even contractors get taken in with a big client who promises "exposure" and to put your name out there if they are happy with the end result.

And then somehow it never works out.

You've put the client is now in a position of real power and they'll abuse it like crazy. Mostly by making countless changes to the project that you take the hit on to keep the client happy. You'll realize those hits have put you in red too late.

Ask the VFX companies hows that working for them.

So I'll wrap up with this classic bit from a classic curmudgeon. It's relevant.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The price of growing up ...

is seeing all of your childhood heroes pass away.

Robin Williams

May his family find the solace they need in these trying times.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Yep. That's pretty much how Starbucks is.

When that urge to be a "Starbucks" writer hits me, I gotta look at the time. If it's past 5pm, forget it. The 7-person knitting circle has taken all of the comfy leather chairs.

I don't make this stuff up, honest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three bags of hurry up and wait

Well, that took a bit longer than I thought it would.
The prize aspect of a writer is discipline. You got to keep your butt in the chair and keep plugging away. Even when you’re staring at a screen that says “Uploading your ebook now.” That’s not so great for my ADHD.
My plan to e-publish was two-fold. The first was to provide several short stories so that potential readers could have more content to choose from. The second was to spread my distribution among the big three -- Amazon, Nook and Smashwords.
But if you have 7 shorts that essentially means you’re uploading 21 stories. I should have thought out that math earlier. So my plan to do a massive upload in one day turned into more like a week. Technically, I could have done it in a day, but I would have gnawed off my arm by the end of it, and learning to type with one hand is a bitch.
At this point, the experience of it all is a bit blurry (having a cold that week didn’t help). But from what I can remember …
For any of the three e-publishers:
·         They will want your tax information: It’s the price (or payment) of doing business. If you haven’t incorporated yet, they will take your social security number in lieu of your tax ID number.
·         If you have the  .doc file and a short story, you’re all set: it’s savvy to learn how to set up your formatting and TOC for your novel in Calibre or Scribe. If you have a .doc (not .docx) file, though, all three publishers have online conversion tools that should work for short stories.
·         Each company has different cover sizes and they change without notice: Do your homework on the covers.
·         For all the talk of how traditional publishers want to straightjacket you into a marketable niche, the genre labels for these companies are mostly either generic or what’s trending. If you happen to have a post-apocalyptical Science Fantasy short in the vein of Vance’s Dying Earth, good luck with that getting lumped into Science Fiction, Apocalyptical, and Adventure. And the Fantasy genres will only touch on Epic, General or Contemporary/Paranormal.  If you’re lucky, you could find Steampunk. Unfortunately, the pull-down menus for these are clunky. I’ll get to tags/labels with each publisher.
·         And no matter the publisher, if you have more than one book online, then you probably aren’t going to be happy on how you have to drill down in the reports to see what’s really going on with the sales numbers. That’s for just 7 stories. I can’t imagine what hoops the writers who have dozens of stories have to jump through to understand their data.
·         A “Same entry as last time” for things like author, publisher and price would make the process much less of a time suck.
·         Have a “cheat sheet” of your blurbs, tags and author bio handy to do a lot of cut and paste
Now for the individual guys:

You sly, sly dogs. I’ve already said that Amazon tries to make themselves a convenient one-stop shop for an author. They allow you to use Styles from Word to set up the formatting for TOC and offer a gallery of customizable book covers. However, then they’ll try to tempt you to go exclusive with them. (But do you really want only one company holding all the cards at the end of the day?)
Amazon only allows 7 tags for your product and offer limited genre choices. The biggest positive is that I saw one or two instant sales -- but then afterwards, nothing.  My cynical side wants to think that Amazon has a slush fund for buying the first copy of a writer’s work. If they can keep you hoping, then you’ll keep putting out content.
Not that I have any proof of such a silly idea. Maybe I should just pat myself on the back that I got lucky day one.
Uploading takes forever and you can’t really go on to the next project as you wait. The whole process happens over several different screens.
The actual publishing of your ebook takes 24 hours.
Nook doesn’t offer you a free cover, but they do try to make themselves your browser-based word processor/Scrivener project manager. If you have any bold or italics in your document, you’ll have to go back and add them in via the Nook system.
I seem to remember this one was the most clunky to work with, though they seemed to have the most flexible system for cutting and pasting your tags in.
Again, uploads take forever and it seems that you take chances if you try to skip to the next project. You have to go through several screens related to different silos (price, audience, actual upload).
The upside is, they publish your ebook in a few hours.
How I hate and love you.
Smashwords had the only single upload screen process, which was great, and the process actually invites you to upload something else as your ebook is translated in any format you need. Neat.
But SW has the most proprietary system for formatting your work (which at the very least means including a copyright that names your submission a “Smashwords Edition.”) For example, Their Word TOC system works off Bookmarks, not Styles and other odd bits.

->TL:DR Read their handbook. It will save you from a lot of grief later.
Even though the actual upload is painless, it take days -- yep days – for a story to go live. It makes me imagine that they have a light-starved gnome locked in a server box, reading every upload by the light of a candle and a Sega Genesis.
I still believe enough in my strategy that I’d do it again. But in the future, I’ll be adding individual stories and remember that I have to multiply my efforts by three.  
’Cause as an ebook author, there’s no such thing as bulk shipping.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Help a Franchise Fiction Brother out.

Do you like Star Trek, Farscape, and World of Warcraft? What do these three things have in common? A great writer who's in a bit of a pinch.

A Master of Franchise Fiction,  Keith DeCandido, selling and signing a lot of out of print stuff to make ends meet until the next set of projects pay off.

I've personally met the guy and he's a great person. Give his Facebook post a check and see if there's something you'd love to have on your shelf.