Good things…Dumb things

In the GOOD THINGS department… Have you ever noticed how little disasters seem to lead to large benefits? Why is that, d’you suppose?

Case in point today: the busted tooth disaster. How did I NOT want to have my muzzle cut open to remove that broken tooth? And how did I TOTALLY not want to pay out my entire goddamn year’s tax refund to an endodontist for the privilege? Let me count the ways…oh, wait! I can’t count that high.

But…oh, yes, but…

With that cracked fang out of there, the mouth doesn’t hurt annnnyyy more.

That is correct: no pain. Zero-point-zero-zero twinges, stabs, or aches.For the first time in a couple years, I can chew on that side of the maw…and did you know your taste buds are different, one side of the tongue from the other? Yeah: food tastes different (read BETTER) when you can munch it on the other side of your mouth.

I know: weird.

Yet another benefit of the Battle of the Busted Tooth: whilst convalescing, I learned about Pacific boxed soups. Not that I hadn’t tried a few of them. But canned (and by extension, packaged) soups are not my cuppa. My experience with canned soups and broths has been that they’re oversalted and they taste of industrial chemicals.

But I had to eat something. One of Funny’s readers had recommended the Pacific brand, so I picked a variety of them at Sprouts.

Hot dang!

These things taste like REAL SOUP. I mean, they taste like that soup would taste if I’d made it myself, upon mine own stove.

The potato soup? Outta the way, Julia Child!

The tomato soup… What? It seems to have…well…tomatoes in it. The sweet potato ginger Thai soup? To DIE for.

What? Today, after having had a lovely and interminable morning farting with the computer, I finally rose from the chair into which I had been frozen along about 11 a.m., starved and craving a ration of strong drink. Remaining in the cupboard: a little box of Pacific brand lentil soup.

Dump into pan. Add a little chard. Heat. Zing up with a squeeze of lemon. Use it as an excuse to pour a glass of wine. And…

Dayum! How do they do that? Once again, it actually tasted like real lentil soup. If I made a giant pot of lentil soup, it would taste just like that.

In other precincts, check out this little post at Quora: it’s garnered 242 “likes” since I put it up just a few hours ago. Probably because it’s kind of funny. Stupidly hilarious, we might say, if we were cynical enough…

In the Dumb Things department: might as well ’fess up: I just do not have it anymore when it comes to techno-talent.

Yea verily. Back in the Dark Ages, I was ahead of the wave. Always on top of the computer revolution. And all that bullshit. But today: I do not care soooooo much that I can’t remember stuff I learned and knew and used for years.

Last night I set up the first raft of FREE READS Fire-Rider stories to post automatically starting about 7:00 this morning. There. All done. Nice, eh?

Heh.

Well. It would be if I were still even faintly competent with computers.

What did I fail to take into consideration? Wellllll….  With a blog, the most recent post is what appears first to the reader. Soooo… If you posted chapter 1 and then chapter 2 and then chapter 3 and then chapter 4, your reader sees your posts effing BACKWARDS: she sees chapter 4 FIRST.

Arrrghhhhh….. Yea verily, I failed to remember this basic factoid — i.e., the computer universe is unstuck from reality every which way from Sunday, which in computer land is the last day of the week, not the first day. So when I got back from this morning’s wee-hours doggy-walk, I found that the first few posts had appeared…bass-ackward.

So I had to sit down and repost every goddamn entry, with the first entry to go online last, so that it appeared at the top of the queue…

THEN…then I discovered that for the life of me I can. not. remember. how to build a widget.

Worse yet, I do not want to know.

Absolutely positively not. I do. fucking. NOT. want. to track that BS down and relearn it!

See why I don’t own a smartphone? Because I do not want a damn telephone that’s smarter than me, that’s why.

 

WooHOO! Proposal: GONE!

Finally DONE! The proposal for the Overprescription book is written, finished, and winging its way to Canada! GONE!

What a project. Every time I looked at the copy, more things to change would pop up. I rewrote an entire chapter. Revised the chapter organization twice (or was it three times?). The proposal finally ended up with eight sections…

  1. The pitch itself (6 pages, single-spaced; 2100 words)
  2. Table of contents
  3. Detailed chapter outline (18 chapters & introduction)
  4. Introduction (1400 words, exclusive of references)
  5. Chapter 1 (3520 words)
  6. Chapter 2 (2120 words)
  7. Chapter 3 (2375 words)
  8. Curriculum vitae, much shortened and bowdlerized to hide dates (3½ single-spaced pages)

{chortle!} One thing you have to say: when I pull out all the stops, I’m damned impressive! Polish that ego! 😀

It’s highly unlikely that the first publisher who sees this thing will buy it. (Although it’s happened before: twice, come to think of it…) But I wanted to give Toronto first shot at it, because the Canadians seem to be a great deal more alert to the problem — and the Canadian government is far more assertive about combatting it. The U.S. government…well, one hesitates to use the term “corrupt”…but when agencies are in the pocket of mega-corporations, it’s hard to think of a more accurate term. Let’s leave it at “laissez-faire.” Yeah.

Presuming the first foray will be repelled, this week I need to run over to a college or university library and raid Literary Marketplace — whether in database or electronic format. Compile about a dozen potential publishers — these days names and email addresses of acquisitions editors can usually be found at publishers’ websites….but first you have to identify the likely markets. I suspect LMP is still the go-to reference for that purpose.

So with 12 or 18 likely publishers — companies that expresssly state they publish the kind of thing you’re writing — you start sending out proposals, six at a time.

Editors hate that, of course: they don’t want to compete for your book, and they certainly (and reasonably) wish not to spend a lot of time and effort evaluating a manuscript, only to be told you’re going somewhere else. However, the “do we want it” process can take so long that if you have to go to several publishers, you may not see a printed book in your lifetime.

So what I’ve done in the past — and probably will do this time, too — is always to have a half-dozen proposals in circulation. When one comes back, rejected you simply turn it around and send it to the next publisher on the list. I’ve never had to send a proposal out to that many houses…but one does have to be prepared for rejection, and to keep the process moving steadily.

It will be interesting to see what transpires this time.

Time flies…damn fast!

Woo HOO! There’s a book hiding in this pile of pills!

Tempus fidgets, as my mother used to say. She and about a million others in the Greatest Generation, I’m sure. True that, though: time passes so fast you don’t even notice it going by.

Yesterday, for example, I didn’t notice it was Wednesday. Thought it was Tuesday. Along about sundown it happened to occur to me that a whole day had disappeared. 😀 Tossed a blurb from Asked up online, but never did much else, partly because we had another sharp storm in the evening that threatened to blow down trees and power poles.

Just wrote that little piece on Quora — “Did You Ever Walk Out on a Doctor (because he was disrespectful…).” And right off the bat, it attracted something over 200 “likes” — a kind of a record. Since it went over so well there, I decided to add it to the Asked collection.

Another essay — on getting out of an abusive relationship — is closing in on 1,000 likes. Can you imagine?

In the middle of this, up pops a message from a client: did I receive the paper he’d sent me to edit?

Uhmmmm…well, nooooooo….

Turns out the damn MacMail decided out of the blue to route messages from this guy into “Junk Mail.” This was several days ago. He sent me a new copy before I could find the original among the 105 unread messages in “Junk,” the 174 derailed to “Trash,” and the 415 (!!!!) in  the “Facebook” folder.

Holy shit! There is simply NO way anyone could possibly keep up with that tsunami.

Tuesday was one long struggle through the heat and humidity to stay focused on writing the proposal for the Drugging of America book. On reflection, I realized Chapter 1 covered way too much ground, and that I needed to break it into three chapters. That took most of the day.

So I now have three new chapters — for a total of 17, plus the introduction, plus the references section, plus a resources section. And now I have to revise the chapter outline. Whee!

But by the end of today, most of the proposal was drafted. Still have to write a self-aggrandizing bio, but otherwise the most difficult parts of that thing are done. Tomorrow I’ll finish the body of the proposal, revise the chapter outline, and get the thing ready to send off. I hope.

My plan is to send one proposal to one university press — the one I think most likely to publish this book. Then when (which is usually the case: when not if) they reject, I’ll send out a half-dozen at a time until someone bites.

And I think they will. This really is a great idea for a book, one whose time has arrived. And there isn’t much competition. Other than Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest eloquent rant, that is.

But the advantage I think mine has is that it isn’t an eloquent piece of creative nonfiction cum seat-of-the-pants reporting. This is a book that could be — easily — used as a reading in a number of college courses. And not just in pharmacy or nursing. The proposal will suggest courses — real courses that I’ve tracked down at universities — in public policy, nursing, and pharmacy, plus a combined program that leads to an MD and a master’s in journalism.

Texts that sell in college courses, as you can imagine, are the sine qua non of academic publishing. Sell a book to one professor, and you sell upwards of a dozen copies a semester. If it’s a decent undergraduate course — as you can bet will be the case in colleges of nursing — you’ll unload upwards of 30 copies per section. A required lower-division course? Hundreds of copies. Every semester. At a stiff price.

I was still getting substantial royalties from The Essential Feature 10 years after the thing went to press…because every professor who ordered it for a course spawned 30 or 60 sales. Per semester.

So…that’s how I hope to sell this book.

However it flies, the thing is not going on the trash-heap that is Amazon.

Selling your squibs on Amazon is fine as a hobby. That’s essentially what my little scribbles are — the FireRider series and the diet/cookbook thing and the various other stuff. Taken together, they generate about $5 a month. When the weather’s  good. But pretend as much as you would like that you’re “in business” to sell the stuff: it’s still self-published. You can’t get a newspaper or magazine to review it for love nor money, nor do you have much chance of persuading a bookstore or a library to pick it up. And it certainly is not going to end up on some professor’s syllabus!

Another day has slipped by. I’m exhausted! Going to bed, before it starts to rain again…

How to Cause Angels to Sing

So here’s what: I need to know if the PDFs at this site — The Complete Writer — actually work from a website visitor’s perspective.

Does the page explain adequately what is going on and how to access the three PDFs posted so far?

Do they download without a problem?

Once they open, do they seem intelligible?

What have I forgotten, screwed up, confused, or otherwise rendered colorful and mysterious?

Got any suggestions? observations? complaints? whatever?

Lemme know, through comments either here or at the P&S blog post on the events of the day. And plug the darned thing on all your social media sites.

Askin’ and Writin’

In the writin’ department…

The current Answer to the Great Questions of the World is online at Plain & Simple Press, as is this week’s serialization of Ella’s Story. So…avail yourself of the FREE READS…and if you would please, kindly plug them on Facebook, Twitter, & waypoints, that would be lovely. 🙂

Finally, at last, I’m getting a little traction on the Drugging of America proposal. Can’t recall whether I mentioned this here, at P&S Press, or not at all…but the plan is to peddle this book to a scholarly press (since it’s richly researched). First on the list of prospects is U of Toronto Press, which recently published a rather slight book (as academic books go) about the length of the planned Drugging opus. Short, that is…

I need to make a run on the GDU library to compile a full list. Figure I’ll need at least a dozen. What I used to do — and probably will do again, even though it’s considered dreadfully bad form — is send out proposals to six publishers at a time. Back in the day, I’d have a list of around 20 likely publishers. Then as a rejection came in, I’d just turn it around and send it off to the next outfit on the list. So at any given time, about half a dozen proposals would be on the float.

This is highly problematic. In the first place, editors hate it. In the second, the scholarly publishing club is quite small, so if your idea is striking and your proposal strong, the risk that you’ll get caught out is pretty high. Piss them off and they’ll reject you, no matter how great your idea is.

Creating a book proposal is a project. You need to have completed an introduction and two or three chapters, a table of contents, and a chapter outline. Then you need to survey the market to see what’s out there on the same or related subject and explain how yours is different and why it’s better. You need to articulate the proposed audience and find out how large it is. If you have half a brain, you’ll also suggest some avenues through which the book might be marketed.

For Toronto, I’ll have to update my CV…oh, ugh! An academic CV is a gawdawful long thing, and this one of course will reveal my age, which will make it harder to talk them into buying anything I write.

I’ll also have to unpublish the Drugging of America blog series, because of course they will NOT want to know that this material has been informally distributed online. That will be something we accidentally forget to mention in the proposal.

At this point, the posts amount to draft chapters. So I have seven chapters reasonably close to completion (which will need to be elaborated on), plus I need to write two more from scratch: one on the FDA & its conflicts of interest and one on the practice called “disease mongering” and the medicalization of conditions that do not need treatment or that may not even exist in the patient.

Because seven of the proposed chapters are pretty much in hand (they’ll need some work, but nothing very crushing), I think I can crank the book out by the end of the summer. Today I wrote an introduction and rewrote the bloggity “Overprescription” into full-fledged chapter form. Remaining: revise, edit, clean up the documentation.

If a contract comes in with greater speed than one would expect — say Toronto buys it and they do so within eight or ten weeks — then I certainly will put the thing together by the end of August, at the latest. There’s not that much to do…and some motivation in the form of a check or at least a promise to publish will move what is left to do right along.

A contract in hand will give me access to the Mayo, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and waypoints, thereinat to interview experts on the subject. Some quotes will help a lot, as long as they don’t come across as too very journalistic.

Sometimes academic presses do not pay an advance against royalties. Really, for an academic author, “pay” for a book comes in the form of promotion and tenure, both of which mean substantial salary increases.

Obviously, I’m past the P&T stage of my career. But y’know, I’d like to get just one more book — just one — in print through a real publisher. I mean…well…it’s not like three aren’t enough. But still. Just one more real book through a real publishing house. Please?

Putting your squibs up on Amazon and pretending that makes you a “published author” is great fun in a hobbyist-y way. Sort of like…I don’t know…knitting baseball caps. But it’s totally self-absorbed and self-centered. It doesn’t prove you’ve done anything other than click “post” to upload a file to a gigantic electronic scam. Publishing it is not.

Not real publishing, I mean: in the sense of fazing a book idea past a canny editor and a team of marketers who know what’s good, who know what sells, and who know what the hell they’re doing, then engaging battle with peer reviewers, revising and editing passages again, and so on. When you come to the end of that process, then you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

The overprescription issue is big in Canada. Canadians being brighter than Americans these days are all over the issue, with government-sponsored programs to alert pharmacists, doctors, and members of the public. Although the US has a small effort going, it is as nothing compared to the program Canada has. So I think I can use that interest to my advantage with a Canadian press.

The more I look at the matter, the more astonishing it appears. People in this country are outrageously overmedicated. There’s no question folks in the medical profession know about it — with the exception of some investigative reporting, most of the published reports and assessment of the issue appear in medical journals. But it doesn’t seem to be registering with practitioners. As far as I can see, though, there’s almost nothing out there that is science-based but written for the average Joe or Jane, which is what I propose to produce. Worst Pills, Best Pills, which was the best thing on the market this side of PDR, went out of print years ago, replaced by a pay-to-peek website.

I’m dead sure there’s a market for a plain-English book that describes the problem, how to recognize when it’s happening to you, and how to deal with it.

 

Woo HOO! THREE new *FREE* books up at P&S Press!

Yes. That means exactly what it seems to mean: come on over to Plain & Simple Press and check out my new, ever-so-profitable (to you!) marketing scheme: GIVING AWAY books to you and all your friends, relations, lovers, and enemies. For free.

Y’know, I’ve had several books in progress for quite some time. Two of them are now finished. One is still wandering around the veldt.

But… Y’also know that I find the present publishing landscape profoundly discouraging, far more so than it was in the Good Ole Days when all you had to do was engage a talented agent to get your Fine Works of Literature published. I’ve sold two books on my own — academic presses are pretty easy — and one through an agent. All three, we might add, to real-world, heavy-hitting publishers.

But my last agent passed on to her Heavenly Father some years ago. At the time I was so engaged in my academic career — which mostly entailed teaching and managing university programs — that I failed to bestir myself to find someone to take her place. And of course when one reaches one’s dotage, hiring a literary agent is about as lost a cause as getting hired by a company or government agency that will pay you a living wage.

Hence: Amazon.

Yeah. Amazon will let you (and all your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and long-lost grade-school friends) publish your golden words in Kindle format and try to sell them on your own.

Therein lies the problem: marketing. I am not a marketer. I do not want to be a marketer. And so I do not market. Thus the golden words — five real books and an uncountable number of “romantic erotica” squibs — rake in about $15 a month. Wowzers.

Yet I write.

I write because I am.

That’s what writers do.

One recent day it struck me that if I’m not going to make any fortune on my written opus, I might as well…not make any fortune. Why not simply give it away?

Selling on Amazon is roughly the equivalent of giving your work away. Why pay Amazon for the privilege?

Why pay anyone for the privilege, when you can give your books away yourself? That, after all, is what a website is for: giving your writing away. No?

An acquaintance of mine does exactly that, with the result that he sells far more books off his own sites than he ever could sell on Amazon…and he doesn’t have to split the proceeds with that vast heart of darkness. Exactly how his marketing plan works, I do not fully understand, though I study it. Someday I may figure it out. Or not.

Meanwhile, I write.

It’s always gratifying when someone reads your work. That, after all, is why you write. More or less.

Not for any pecuniary reason. Really.

So. I’ve decided I’m going to give these things away.

Plain & Simple Press will post a chapter or a section of each book every few days. You can read them at the site blog, one chapter at a time. Or, if you’d like to read a whole book online, you can go to the site’s pages dedicated to the respective Great Works:

Ella’s Story

An e-telenovela about people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire.

The Complete Writer: The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Living the Writer’s Life

Brings twenty-five years of writing, publishing, and academic experience to bear on issues that most concern people who want to be writers.

If You’d Asked Me, I’d Have Told You

Sassy, staid, off-the-wall, matronly, bitchy, conservative, liberal: with you I share the wisdom of the ages. The ages of a very long life.

Alternatively, you could buy one of these books in its entirety! I can provide it to you as a PDF, an ePub, or a printed paperback, handsomely designed and packaged. The Complete Writer and If You’d Asked Me are all set to go: come on over to the site for more details. Ella’s Story is a true work in progress: you can follow it as it grows. I expect there’ll be several Empire books: watch for them.

Don’t go gestalt: Go whole hog! Buy a book…feed a writer.