Where do I start with this?  Here’s a good place:

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,84700.0.html

What’s going on here?  Isn’t part of the contract accepted by authors publishing with Amazon that each author is responsible for his or her own content?  So now why is Amazon putting their nose in the way?  If they really want to give up this whole section of their offerings, the least they could have done is handed it over to Borders and maybe saved a casualty.

It was suggested in some of the responses that unscrupulous readers were wishing for a refund by pointing out “errors” in the author’s work.  This still does not excuse a one-sided decision to remove the book from “published” status unless it violated the ethics of erotica, slander, racism, etc.  But these were not the issues.  The issues were over comma usage–in this case, one of the correct forms anyway–and slang usage in dialogue.  The slang is what makes the character who he is!  No one talks like a grammar book unless he wants to put his audience to sleep.

I haven’t had dealings of this sort with Amazon personnel, so I can’t say for sure if they are the picture of perfection when it comes to grammar, punctuation, style, and form.  But I do have one question.  Who is the more reliable when it comes to questions like this:  someone who has studied it, used it, reveled in it, and made a livelihood from it–or some reader who disrespects a book enough to try to recoup the paltry sum he paid for entertainment that was good enough to read to the end?

And if the Amazon employee is that much of an expert on all things grammar, why is he/she still working there?  There’s a professorship with your name on it!  Just sayin’.

Eye cud bee gud otther weth Amazon’s hellp!

Well, here I go with trying something new.  I’ll be honest with you–trying new things isn’t getting easier.  I can sit in my corner and whine about why no one seems to want to read what I write, or I can learn from others who are more successful and maybe come up with my own ideas.  So that’s what I’m trying.  I decided to drop the price of my first baby to $0.99 for a while.  I picked the date of 9-9-11 as much to remind myself as to remind any interested readers.  It’s starting to work, but like a car with a dead battery, push-starts ain’t easy!  Here I am, stepping out of my safety zone, shaky, sweating, hoping.  We’ll see.

Here’s another thing I’m trying.  A dedicated user of Facebook and Twitter understands how difficult it can be to create the buzz authors need to succeed in their ventures.  She has started Amrita Publishing on Facebook, whose goal is to promote one author at a time and have all members start a shout-out that the world can hear.  I am adding my small voice to the chorus; together maybe we can rock the world!  She is on Twitter at @NiamhClune.  If anyone reads this, we start tomorrow at noon PDT.

I’m learning, I’m trying.  It’s better than pouting and more melodic than whining.  I was even starting to get on my nerves!

Oh, here’s Prophet Shorn:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/prophet-shorn-thomas-kier/1102891612?ean=9781461038917&itm=1&usri=thomas%2bkier

http://www.amazon.com/Prophet-Shorn-ebook/dp/B004TMC7DS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1314481282&sr=1-3

BUY MY BOOK!!  OK, done whining

Have I committed heresy?  Will I be publicly flogged?  Or is it okay to make a confession?  I confess I’m not an expert at blogging.  I don’t know how to use all the features of WordPress.  I don’t even know what all the features are.  After several months of postings, I finally figured out I could actually see if anyone was viewing my posts.  I’m still not sure how to use that information.  I got some e-mails from WordPress that told me someone liked my post, and it told me which post.  Then it identified a gravatar, which through study I found out means “globally recognized avatar.”  I also found out I have one, and I think I saw a picture of it once.  It doesn’t look a lot like me.  I’m not sure what to do with this new info either.  But someone’s actually listening out there–thanks!

“Sshhh!  You’ll make them nervous!”

“No, they like to be acknowledged.”

“This is the internet.  They’ll never talk to you again.”

“What?  All they did was click something.”

“That’s how people get in trouble!  Now stop, or nobody will ever click you again!”

“Sshhh, they’re listening!”

It’s all right now in our society to be honest, to be vulnerable.  As much as I respect the rough ‘n’ tumble cowboys depicted in the old westerns, men can be sensitive now.  That’s good, because they always have been.  Now they don’t have to hide it.  It’s all right to use words instead of fists.

Thank you, Oprah!  I have a lot of respect for you.  Congratulations on not letting success make you crazy.

“Hey, aren’t you blogging this in the wrong blog?  Shouldn’t this be in Scattered Shards?”

“No, I wanted to put it here so the people who clicked ‘like’ would see it if they returned.”

“You afraid to offend anyone?”

“I don’t have to be afraid.  Oprah opened the door.”

I have a fable in some book I run across from time to time.  It is about a tin soldier in a box full of tin soldiers.  The difference in this one is that he was formed last, and has only one leg.  But he stands straight and remains true to his mission, no matter what.  At the end of the story, if I remember correctly, he ends up being washed down the sewer and disappears from the kid’s room.  The kid doesn’t care.

Sometimes I feel like I’m standing in a crowded room screaming at the top of my lungs.  No one can hear me because they’re all doing the same.  Is this how the world was meant to be?  There are so many people, we can’t possibly care personally about every single one.  We can’t celebrate with them or cry with them or tell them how much they mean.  Sometimes we don’t even speak their language.

I am in a crowd trying to stand out.  Is it surprising no one notices me?

I am dedicated to what I am doing.  I will continue to do it in every spare moment I can.  Even if I never sell another copy of anything, I will do it.

That is my mantra.

But wouldn’t it be nice to . . . [Dream]

What is life if you never try something new?  I tried something new when I started writing.  It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than trying to connect with other people to market my work.  Why?  Because writing is done in privacy; it’s just you and the computer.  When you’re done with the private part, you have to go public with it if you want it to sell.  That’s the hard part, and it’s harder for some than for others.  My opinion is this:  if you are committed enough to finish the best work you are capable of, you must be committed to the fame of being read and appreciated by others.  The only person I know who became famous by being invisible was–The Invisible Man.  It doesn’t work for the rest of us.

I had already taken a chance by publishing my books.  I had already taken a chance by having a website and a blog and having my writing put in my club’s newsletter.  I am safe so far in relative obscurity.  But here’s the truth:  Obscurity Doesn’t Put Food on the Table!

During the last week, I threw together a Press Release.  I had some input from friends.  Why I was fearing such a thing I don’t know.  I wrote some books already, right?  It should have been easy.  I found out where to send it, and scored an interview.  That was another big fear of mine.  But you know what?  The guy interviewing me was human, too.  Another thing I’ve done now, and I should fear less in the future.  I’m not sure when or where it will be published.  But doing something just requires gritting your teeth and doing it.  My jaw muscles are sore tonight.

Maybe I’m on my way.  Maybe my face won’t scare the crowds and crack the mirrors.  If I want to do this for a living, and I really do, the chances I must take stretch out to the horizon.  I know others have come this way before me, but I’m not them.  I have to push myself.  It’s not easy, but neither is life.  It’s only worth it if you go all the way.

I keep telling myself that.

Someone in my club, the High Desert California Writers Club (hdcwc.org) kept bugging me about joining Linkedin.  After my bad experience on Facebook, I was not sure I was ready to try this again.  Thank goodness she did not give up.  I grudgingly signed up, then found out a lot of my fellow clubbers were already on there.  So far, it seems to be more a place where professionals go to share good advice and develop new ideas.  I have joined five of their groups, all about writing and blogging, and these people are really intelligent and dedicated to their craft.  I am glad now for this opportunity; we share a common goal.

I keep running across mention of a book by Lewis that maximizes the way people can make use of this site.  I will have to check it out.  Hopefully it is available as an e-book, and is a little cheaper than a print book.  Like many starving artists, I am well down that road.

I do recommend Linkedin.  Maybe when I grow bolder, I will try Facebook again, but I will be very careful.

A while back, I had something unpleasant I had to deal with.  My e-mail address was hijacked and all my contacts started receiving spam-vertisements from an overseas company.  When I realized what was happening, I immediately e-mailed everyone on my list and told them what had happened and not to open any future mails from that address.  I then very quickly started a new address and e-mailed everyone from the new one.  I cleaned out the old one:  the entire inbox, all my contacts, all the deleted messages, everything went straight down the drain.  What was the cause of all the ruckus?  All I know is that my wife had signed up with facebook.  That in itself is not bad.  Even though I flushed that account, later I reopened another one.  Social contacts are necessary these days.  But someone–an extended family member–kept bugging her to be her “friend” and that’s all it took.  I’m sure it was a front (maybe even without the member’s knowledge) for the sale of new ad lists.  Be careful who your friends are.

End of story, right?  Wrong!  About a week ago, maybe a month or two after all this blew away, I got locked out of my Hotmail account.  I never could get information about what rule I broke that caused all this.  I was still using the account for info about when bills were due, vital info about how advertising was going with my books, and more things.  I assume it took Microsoft that long to catch up with what was going on.  They give you links about how to fix the problem, but I couldn’t get any of the links to do what I wanted.  I went to a third party on the internet just to get a phone number for Microsoft, only to find out they offer absolutely no phone support for Hotmail, a product they still advertise heavily and which millions of people rely on everyday.  The only recourse is a review through a forum-like process.  They let you answer certain questions about your account, but when you view your answers, they don’t all show up.  What does show up are more questions they didn’t even ask you, and of course those answers show blank.  I went through the whole process four times before I got a positive result, and the only reason it finally happened was because after studying the page extremely thoroughly, I saw a tiny link to add a reply.  I got on my knees on the keyboard and begged for my account back.  I was a little surprised, but it actually worked.  Then I worked for two days, changing my profile so that I hope it won’t happen again.  Will it?  I don’t know.

My point is this:  it was all the same to a faceless, nameless person on the other end if I got back what I needed (including access to my website which I have to pay for every year).  I was just a faceless, nameless person to them.  If what they were looking for was someone in a position of less power than even them, and someone who would suffer or praise them according to what they decided, and someone who was like a worm on the sidewalk caught out after the rain, then they’re in the right business.  I had a teacher once who claimed we build ourselves up by tearing other people down.  Why bother with self-improvement when you’re the biggest pig in the muck?  Forgive me; the wound is still fresh.

I’m just looking for people who care.

Maybe it’s just a lesson I shouldn’t forget.

The white rabbit was obviously in a hurry.  He had planned too much for the time he had.  Sometimes we are the same way.  But what we should be doing is allowing time for extra things that we hadn’t planned, things that are important enough to put our plans on hold for a little while.  This way we won’t be running around, getting confused, and bumping into things, like tax deadlines, which I almost missed.

So why am I talking about allowing our plans to be put on hold for someone else’s plans?  I told you about my two books that are available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon as e-books.  (Didn’t I tell you about them?)  Anyway, they are both about a girl who is trying to get through a life filled with bad things.  Sometimes I am amazed at her courage after all that has happened to her.  I did a lot of research to get all the facts straight, and I rushed the second one–that’s the shorter one–out there so people could find out about her while she still needs visitors to help her through her hospital stay.  As of now, she doesn’t have a home to go back to; I don’t know what she’s going to do.  Her school counselor, James Withern, has been an absolute saint.  He gives up a lot just to help her through this dark time in her life.

I was thrilled when he came to me about the book, and even more thrilled when he asked me to help him get her day-by-day recovery out there for people to know about.  At the same time, I was not so thrilled.  I’m one of those people who stop my plans in whatever stage they’re in just to care for the kids or get some sleep at night.  There’s never enough time.  But this was one of those things you give priority to.  Yes, I’m proud of the books I’ve written; I think I did a good job on them.  All I had wanted to do was try and advertise hard enough to get people to buy them.  Then I would go on and write something else, maybe make up a story of my own.  But my sense of responsibility kicked in, and here I am helping to get all the new parts of Carmen’s story out there.

Am I upset about this new job?  No.  If I can find out the truth about what happened that night when Carmen almost lost her life, I will try to persuade the guilty party to take responsibility for his/her actions.  This is important.  This is enough to make me put my plans on hold for a little while.  I never have believed her ‘accident’ was that; someone was out for blood.  I am glad Carmen was saved.  There are far too many people in the ground; most of them have died too early.  This is one that will fight for a better way of life for another day.  It is my privilege to help in any way I can.

Other stories will still be out there to tell when it is their turn.

Never stop believing in the power of the story.

If you’re interested in Carmen’s story, visit:  www.rondeljournal.wordpress.com

PS:  If you’re interested in my books, go here:  http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Kier/e/B004Q1CQT2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

or here:  http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=thomas+kier&ugrp=2

My son started using a word — I don’t know if it came from school or the TV, but I think it’s a combination of friend and enemy.  That’s what time is.  We never know how much of it we have.  I think the worst is when you see a deadline approaching, and no matter how fast you move to try and beat it, it won’t work.  Two or three weeks ago, I learned about a contest that would be perfect for me.  It’s the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award.  The prizes looked fabulous, or at least well-worth the $100 entry fee; and it just so happens I could squeeze that much out of the lemon that is my life right now.  I knew my novel was ready — it was already renting its own apartment in the e-book world, and I was already working on a print version of my novella.  So I started pushing hard on making a print version of my novel; a bound and finished copy is what is required to enter in the contest.

Here’s the deal.  Anything you do at the early stages of your writing life can make or break your reputation.  The people at Writer’s Digest know that.  One of the things they look carefully at is how professional your work is.  It doesn’t matter if your prose is brilliant and your grammar could write its own textbook; if the book looks sloppy, you look sloppy.  They did allow any books published within the past five years or so to be eligible. 

So here I was, trying to push my book through finishing school in record time.  I am using CreateSpace for the printed copies:  budget constraints, et al.  I don’t know how many thousands of people they work with; they are part of Amazon.  But it takes a certain number of hours to accomplish a task, even if it is mostly automated in their computers.  And it takes a certain number of days to mail a physical object from one side of the country to the other.  When you print a copy of your baby, it is old-fashioned.  Things don’t update at internet speed.  So you format your work to the best of your ability and submit it.  Once they approve the format as usable, you need to order a proof copy and wait for it to arrive.  Things that look perfect on a computer screen don’t always look perfect on a page.  When you flip through a book, it’s easy to see any discrepancies, such as margins that don’t match from one chapter to the next, such as quotation marks that point the wrong way at the end of a cut-off conversation.  I don’t know if I’m missing some hidden feature of Word, but I could only get the quote marks to do what I wanted them to do by changing dash marks to ellipses.  I have learned a lot about the Ruler.  The ruler tells each paragraph how much to indent the first line, for one thing.

Another thing I learned was to take a book published within the last several years — mostly Stephen King stuff in my case — and study the formatting used by the professionals.  If you learned about paragraph indents of five spaces in school, that is no longer in ‘vogue.’  Now it’s about three.  Margins are close to the edges, too close if you ask me.  What if by some twist of fate a page becomes torn — say it isn’t so!  You have just lost that many words, and if you are like me, things like that stick in your mind:  the whole book is DAMAGED GOODS.  The page numbers are at the top, the author is all caps on the left, the title is all caps on the right.  If you are going with a full-service self-publisher, they may take care of all that for you.  If you are on my budget, you have to take care of all those details yourself.

So the proof comes in and you start marking your changes and dog-earing the pages; both of which hurt my heart to do to a book.  If your trusted friends have any kind of life at all, most of the work will fall on you; make sure you get everything right.  When you’re done, you go back to your computer copy and make all the changes there.  Save it as a pdf, and take the time to study every detail.  Go through it fast and watch for formatting glitches.  Go through it slow and watch for everything else.  A missed Return at the end of a chapter will spread out a line until it reaches the right margin.  Try it and see how retarded it looks just above that huge white space, just begging to be noticed.

Every time you make a change in your book, it has to go through the approval, proof printing, shipping, study process all over again.  Once you approve the proof, it’s finished.  I don’t want to make my first printed works anything less than my best effort.  I already know I will miss the deadline for this contest, which is also tax-day.  Rather unforgettable, isn’t it?  Maybe it’ll happen next year.  Maybe I can advertise effectively in the meantime, sell a million copies, and my book will speak for itself.  Maybe pigs will fly out of my . . . umm, book.

Don’t ever give up.

I’m not.

So why would you need a ‘real’ book, with a cover and a binding and words on a page when you have a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad (which would be like carrying the library’s unabridged dictionary around with you if just used for reading books)?  Here’s the best answer I can come up with:  The people who will read your book and write a review for you–some for a fee–don’t want to spend money on buying it.  They want something where they can turn the pages and maybe write in the margins; I don’t know what exactly they do with it.  But you know what?  You need them very much if you’re trying to break into the biz.  So make it easy for them.  Send them two copies; send them more if you want.  Don’t send them a basket of mini-muffins like they did on Friends.  Don’t try to bribe them; a review is worthless if it comes from a source known for taking bribes for a positive review, so do your homework and find the honest ones.  And if they write you a bad review, don’t get upset.  The good reviewers will look for what does work in your book, even if they think it’s mostly crap.  Even a bad review can still be used to get your name in front of people.  The only bad publicity is no publicity.

I heard someone else blog about what to do with the books you send–sorry; I follow several and I can’t remember which one right now.  Don’t put a big sticker on it about how it’s not for resale.  Do send a personal note thanking them for their time, even if you paid them.  Sign it with a real pen; don’t use a rubber stamp.  Show the reviewer you care about their review just as much as you care about your book.  Make sure you can use their review, or parts of it–check with them–when you advertise your book.  Make sure you give them or the place they work for or both proper credit.  Do everything honestly.  Even fiction writers, who lie for a living, will lose all credibility if they are not honest.  It’s the same as when you are writing.  Readers can tell if you’re not honest.  Give them what they want, and they will want more.

So how do you get a book in print?  Here’s what I’m doing:  I already have a novella for Nook and Kindle.  Barnes and Noble (Nook) assigned their own ISBN to the electronic version.  Amazon gave it a number that is not an ISBN.  Nook took a little longer to do because there are more choices that require a lot of thought; also I did that one first, and everything was brand-new to me.  The good thing about it was that it showed on my computer screen an image of the Nook and how my book looked on it, all the way through.  I could adjust spacing as needed and change my uploaded file.  The same changes are possible with Amazon, but without purchasing a Kindle, I don’t know exactly how it looks.  Both formats required changes from the copy I uploaded to eCO–the US Copyright Office.

Amazon bought CreateSpace and that’s what they use for their print-on-demand service.  Since I need ‘real’ books, I decided to give them a try.  There are many more decisions to make than what you have to do for e-books.  I decided to save money and have them assign me an ISBN for the print version.  They tell you ahead of time that this locks the title in with CreateSpace.  You have the option of purchasing your own ISBN from elsewhere.  You need to decide on the physical size of your book and the color of the pages.  They offer format services for both interior and cover.  Each starts at $299 and are separate.  I decided to go it alone.  There are downloadable formats for both interior and cover.  I suggest using the ones that include the chapter numbers and text.  They already have page numbers and headers formatted for you to erase and type over.  Theyare formatted to exclude the header at the beginning of each chapter.  You should make sure your own file that you will copy and paste already has section breaks included–use the section break that starts the next on a new page.  That part’s easy enough.  Make sure you include a fiction disclaimer if needed.  You can put in a dedication, acknowledgements, author bio–already formatted at the end, and whatever else you need.  It’s like using Word:  add page breaks or section breaks as needed.  You can double-click in the header area to see what section you’re in.  Make sure to link it to previous or unhook it as necessary.

Now about the cover.  That was a bigger headache for me simply because I didn’t have any experience with PhotoShop.  CreateSpace offers templates for that and I had already purchased rights for a cover photo from iStockPhoto so I used that.  The standard rights cover 499,999 uses before you need the extended license.  Again looking to save money, I downloaded the free sample usage of PhotoShop–yes, it’s legal but you must purchase after 30 days to continue using it.  Then came my crash-course; I stumbled around and learned as I went.  You create more layers to put on background colors and photos; another layer can let you type in text with text tool.  I used the same description for the book that I had put together for the e-book.  When you’re done, remove the layers that include the guide markings, then flatten it all into one layer and save it as a pdf.  Then you’re ready to upload it to your CreateSpace account.

You submit the whole project to CreateSpace and they will check it for format.  The answer came back on mine in just a few hours; it was ready for a proof-printing.  So far the only money I’ve spent is $39 for expanded distribution, which I recommend, and the cost of the book and shipping.  I’m now waiting for it to arrive so I can review it before authorizing printing.

The California Writer’s Club went with a print-on-demand called Outskirts Press; I haven’t had a chance to talk with them in detail about all their experiences–before my own experience, I wouldn’t even have known what questions to ask, and I’m sure there will be even more I pick up along the way.  But I know that Outskirts is a full-service pod that states all the prices up front.  I’m sure that would have saved me some headaches, but would have cost a little more money.

Here’s the deal:  You need ‘real’ books.  Print on demand will do it for those of us on a budget.  Make sure you and as many friends as you need will look for and fix all the errors that creep in; professional editing services are big bucks.  Make sure everything is right; this is your professional face you are showing to the world.  Do it and do it right.

Happy Authoring!

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