Coffee heat rising

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.

Never a Dull Moment…

SO…here I was, about to write a complacent little post about how NICE is it that I’m getting a little respite from the grinding workload this summer and how a friend is coming over and we’re going to go window shopping at the long-ignored “fashion square” upon which we ruminated yesterday, and ahhhhh isn’t everything beer and skittles…

Never fails, does it?

Our Fair City, in all its City Parents’ bat-brained wisdom, evades going so far as to fix worn-out streets by patching them instead of resurfacing them. They send crews around about once every 10 to 15 years to fill and spray oil over the cracks in your neighborhood’s streets. This enhances the Look of Blight so fashionable in our town and delays having to do the job right for another while.

Week or so ago, they threw flyers on our driveways (we call those “Burglars Enter Here!” notices) informing us that we were to keep our cars off the roadway, because if they came across a vehicle parked at the curb when they arrive to fill in the cracks, they will have the vehicle towed.

I’m sitting here, then, about to start scribbling today’s post, when the dogs go FREAKING BATSH!T.

The tarring crews are out in front, and they are flummoxed. Neighbor catty-corner across the street, a very beloved and nice neighbor, has left an SUV parked out in front of his house. The workmen are obviously trying to get a rise out of the house’s occupants. Some of the men are taking the opportunity to loaf, to inspect the car, and generally to scurry around aimlessly. No answer: Joel & Dita presumably are…you know…at work.

I call WonderAccountant, whose house/office is next door to them. She hadn’t gotten the message that the City intended to impound vehicles left parked on the street, but in any event, the car is not Joel’s. It belongs to a friend of theirs who’s trying to sell it. Friend lives in a gated compound and is not allowed to leave it out for potential buyers to see. Not that they could get in through the gate anyway. So Joel & Dita are letting the guy sell it from our street instead of his.

W.A. texts Joel. Joel contacts Dita. Dita is home but like all women around here, wisely not answering the door to strangers; she is going to run out and move the car.

Ah, the drama. Ah, the operatic flights of fancy!

Respite…yeah, OK…what was that about? Oh yes…

The nasty cough that was the only symptom (except for a brief 102.5° fever) of the late great homicidal cold is still hanging on. FOUR MONTHS LATER.

After 12 weeks of choking and gasping, accompanied by some unprintably disgusting effects, I finally gave up and visited Young Dr. Kildare. The reason I persist in seeing this man, despite his having moved his practice to a part of town where you have to dodge bullets to get from the parking lot to the door, is that his signal quality is common sense.

You don’t often find that in a doctor.

So I tell him I’ve been to WonderAccountant’s lung doc, who says it’s not asthma and who says the X-ray he ordered came back “clear.” YDK whips out his stethoscope and listens to everything you can listen to and says he can’t hear anything in the chest, either.

I remark that the evil Other Symptoms sound a lot like the cough you can get with GERD. He being a GERD veteran himself, remarks that it could be.

He suggests that I go back on the omeprazole for two weeks. If it helps, we’ll know it’s the GERD and a few more weeks of omeprazole should calm it back down. If it doesn’t help, then we’ll know it’s not GERD and then we’ll have to figure out what to do next.

Two long weeks later… Nothing. The omeprazole plus liberal doses of ranitidine have effectively zero effect.

Well, not quite zero. It’s gotten a tiny bit better, but not so much as you’d notice.

This means I really should go over to my “official” GP at the Mayo. But I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna because those folks at the Mayo are test-happy. Extravagantly test-happy. They are going to subject me to hour after hour of tests — which will entail endless drives to the far side of Scottsdale. And one of the tests they’d like to foist on me involves shoving a camera down my throat. I do not want a camera shoved down my throat. Enough medico-miseries are ENOUGH, already.

So I think…hmmmm…. So it’s probably not GERD. It’s not lung cancer (though it surely could be esophageal cancer but it’s probably not). It’s not Valley fever. It’s not pneumonia. What can we conclude from this?

a) If it’s not esophageal cancer, it’s likely not life-threatening; and
b) It probably has something to do with the Cold/Cough from Hell.

I’m not swallowing any more of the carefully husbanded stash of codeine cough medicine, which I think is contraindicated anyway because the reason I’m coughing so hideously is all the gunk that’s coming up. But I do have some Mucinex left over, purchased when I came down with this thing. It didn’t do a whit of good then. But…it functions to make you cough stuff out. What if the problem is that this hideously thick, gummy stuff is stuck in there and needs to be expelled? The worst that could happen is the Mucinex could kill me, and at this point, that doesn’t sound like an altogether bad thing.

So I try the stuff. And amazingly…next morning, the cough is about 90% better! It’s still there, but it’s not about to drown me, nor am I gasping for air.

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!

So that’s relief number 1.

Relief number 2 will be engineering a chance to visit with my friend for several hours today. And even to go into a very fancy, very air-conditioned mall and view the way the One-Percenters live. Always an amusing prospect.

This relief is attenuated by the facts that…

a) A new version of Honored Clients’ 33-page (typeset!) tome on matters economic arrived yesterday, with a request to please turn it around in three days; and
b) The second set of The Complete Writer‘s page proofs are ready at the printer’s shop, and my Honored Spy there thinks the cover is still not working — suggests redoing it from scratch.

Welp, I got through 12 pages of the Chinese economic study yesterday, plus the headnotes of the 8 single-spaced pages of 11-point tables. So if I can get through six pages today and six pages tomorrow — not at all unreasonable — that may leave time to proofread tomorrow afternoon, or at least will make me only one day late.

Meanwhile, I have a presentation on Saturday and really wanted to have the book in hand to sell to the audience. This means those proofs have to be picked up today!!!!!!!!

It also pretty well guarantees I will not finish the Chinese paper tomorrow, because it will take a good half a day to rebuild the goddamn cover, and because I’m still not finished preparing the presentation. And the interior copy will need to be double-checked to be sure the three or four dozen changes came across OK.

So I propose to suggest that Dear Friend, who planned to drive today, leave her car in my garage and let me drive, thereby consuming my gasoline for the considerable drive to the printer’s shop.

If she agrees to this exploit, it will be an experience for her, since the printer is located in a part of town where…shall we say…nice girls do not go. It’s due south of the airport, in one of the most desperate slums in the Southwest.

Brief Recovery Phase

Still in extended day-of-rest mode after finally finishing off the large academic anthology plus a last-minute math paper. Tina is busily rewriting her resumé and trying to write a convincing statement about why she wants to go to law school. It seems like a slam-dunk to me…her background is just the thing to entice a law-school selection committee. To say nothing of a law firm’s hiring committee.

Despite feeling like hibernation would be the best course just now, I finished off a couple of small bidness-related matters while loafing around, fooling with Facebook, cruising the Internet, and playing computer games.

Did manage to prune an overgrown rose, a project I’ve put off interminably. The climbing roses look OK, probably because they’ve had so much water over the winter…and for a change I didn’t neglect them quite so shamelessly last summer.

Still need to spray bugicide all over the west side, another project that I’m having a hard time forcing myself to do.

Last year, I learned from a Home Depot guy who claimed to have been an arborist that a particular bug spray, if applied as a soak to the ground around an infested paloverde, actually will make a dent in the supposedly invincible paloverde beetle population. So I applied it in the spring, but then was too damn lazy (and cheap: the stuff is mightily expensive!) to apply it in mid-summer, when I should’ve.

Nevertheless, only about half as many monster beetles emerged than came up in the prior year’s crop. That was impressive.

So I figured January would be a good time to apply another layer of the stuff…especially now, while the ground is very damp. Didn’t get around to it today…so MUST do that tomorrow.

How do you like the current draft of the upcoming book’s cover?

Still trying to make the background gradient work a little better…because i are a english major, i are not a artist, getting it more or less right involves endless trial and error. But I did contrive to get the spine copy and logo in place, rewrite the back cover copy (which, as we scribble, I see contains yet another goddamn error), and realize that I probably could widen the cover 1 image enough for it to run all the way over the bleed margin without distorting the cover lines. Much. Hm. That’s for the next draft.

The damn image wants to snap to grid, even though I’ve turned off that function. And…I think I’ve overestimated the width of the righthand bleed margin, so I could in theory not run it all the way to the edge of the PPt slide without risk to the subtitle’s cover lines. Maybe. Maybe not.

Nor do I feel especially thrilled about the Cover 4 copy, anyway. It’s too verbose. Later. Figure that out later…

My e-book designer seems to have tabled the ePub/Kindle version of this thing, so it looks like either I’m going to have to find another formatter who has the skills to handle illustrations in ebooks — not an easy trick — or I’m going to have to learn to do it myself.

In the course of thrashing around over that, I discovered the updated iBook Author, an Apple program designed for creating fairly elaborate formats — including illustrations — for publication on iTunes. As it develops, more recent versions will convert the finished product to ePub and will carry over fairly simple illustration, such as diagrams and simple figures, without much distortion. It looks like it wouldn’t be too hard to learn. There’d be a learning curve, a protein to which I’ve developed an allergy of late, but it doesn’t look insurmountable.

Unfortunately, I’d have to update to OSX 11. I don’t even know if this little computer would run OSX 11, nor do I know whether Wyrd will run on it. Newer versions of OSX will not run MS Office unless — in some cases — Office was already installed at the time the program was upgraded.

If I upgrade and the new operating system trashes my Word and Excel programs, I am screwed. As in royally screwed: it will put me out of business. We rely on Word’s “track changes” function, which does not translate to the Apple ecoystem.

My only choice, if I want to stay in business, would than be to buy a new PC from Costco, where I can get a copy of Office on disk (thereby obviating the need to do all my work and my client’s work in Microsoft’s cloud, which I do not want to do and will not do).

Really, I should do that anyway, so as to get ahold of that Office program while it still can be had on disk. If it still can be had. And really, I do need to switch back to the PC.

It’s just that I don’t want to. And I dread it. Can’t even say how much I dread having to relearn Microsoft’s horrible operating system and fight the constant onslaught of malware with the dreadful, system-clogging antivirus software and cope with the cheesy hardware that’s “old” after about three years. Ugh, ugh, and triple-ugh. But since sooner or later Apple is going to upgrade me out of business, no doubt it’s foolish to continue much longer without a PC.

Anyway, given that the PC purchase can’t be put off much longer and at least one of these two Macs needs its operating system updated anyway, I might as well buy and learn iBook Author and the ancillary programs you have to buy to run beside it. That way I could not only do my own eBook formatting, in theory I could do it for clients, too. And I could produce bookoids in iBook format, which can be pretty darned classy.

I see that iTunes has some blandishments for first-time uploaders. I never did load the Fire-Rider volumes or the cookbook to Barnes & Noble or to iTunes, mostly because I don’t have ePub versions. Supposedly they exist, but my friend has never sent them over. It would be fairly easy to create iBook versions of the novel. The cookbook, not so much. But…if I could extract the ePubs from the formatting dude, it can be imported into iBook Author. For that matter, supposedly things can be imported from a decently formatted Word file…but there’s a wind I’ve heard blow before. 😀

Well, it’s nearly 10 p.m. I’m hungry. And tired. And so, away!

Video Day…and stuff

So this evening we’re going to record the video we’re cooking up by way of applying for the $20,000 small business award. I’m positioning it as something that will support the S-corp in marketing the Boob Book. That is, not “give me money so I can sit around and write a book” but “invest your money in  marketing this product.”

Heh! It’ll be interesting to see if it flies, won’t it?

Twenty grand would buy a decent marketing campaign. And a significant grant like this would get me through an agent’s door, meaning I could probably get the thing published by one of the surviving Big Five houses.

If that’s the case, it’ll be the last chance for me, in the years allotted, to hit print again through a mainline publisher. The publishing industry is in a shambles — William Morrow, my old publisher, is no  more, and even the few large publishers that remain can no longer make a profit in the current atmosphere. Publishing is now a hobbyist’s game, by and large, with just a few big names dominating what little remains of profitability. Two articles from the current Author’s Guild newsletter, one by Roxana Robinson and the other on losses created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (pp. 11-14), tell you just about all you need to know.

The handwriting on the wall says “find some other line of work.” Writing and publishing as a way to make a living are things of the past.

Twenty grand is close to what I would earn as an advance from a mainline publisher, given my track record with The Essential Feature and Math Magic, one of which earned steadily for many years and one of which was one of William Morrow’s ten best sellers in each of the two years after it was published. But it’s not coming from a publisher…probably because a publisher could not earn enough to recover that advance in the 21st-century book market.

Well, I’d better get up and rehearse my spiel another few times before my co-conspirators show up.

Pray for the best! 🙂

Boob Book: The Newest Bu$ine$$ Plan

Today I need to begin work on cornering a $20,000 business grant, which would nicely support and (more important!) market the Boob Book.

The three big projects now at hand:

  • Write and rehearse a script for the application video (the application is a video)
  • Interview three women to grab sound bites for said video
  • Recast the existing table of contents and chapter outline to reflect the new approach conceived for the book

The grant is for small businesses in Arizona and Colorado; the main prize is 20 grand, which of course would make any small bidness owner ecstatic, and the runner-up prize is $3,500…a figure that would be extremely helpful in itself.

Luckily, Plain & Simple Press is an imprint of The Copyeditor’s Desk, which is an incorporated business and has been so since 2000 and ought-10. The pitch I’m going to present is that the book will set the business on course to full-blown success and allow me to hire ever so many underlings.

The new approach I’m going to take to the book — which will be pretty easy with the material already in hand — is to present it as a guide for women who have received a breast cancer diagnosis to the many (one might say “endless”) decisions you have to make along the way.

Every chapter can readily be set up in terms of decisions: At this point you have to decide…A or B. At the next point, you’ll need to decide…C or D or E. And so on. Each woman’s decisions need to be informed by fact and by her own preferences and circumstances. And her decisions may be illuminated by other women’s experience.  Each chapter can present a decision, summarize the facts and advice that we know today, and point readers to sources where they can get more in-depth information.

One of my former students was an audio major. He’s taken a course in videography and he has some equipment. So I’ve already roped him in to helping out with this project. And I’ve already made contact with three breast cancer “survivors” who are willing to speak in front of a camera.

As usual, I’m not holding my breath until the money rolls in. But…as a practical matter, the proposal does have a chance of succeeding. P&S Press, as a subentity of The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc., is a verifiable business. And this new approach I’ve come up with will create a genuinely useful work for women who are blindsided (as we all are, unless we have enough cancer-ridden relatives to clue us to a genetic problem) by a diagnosis of breast cancer, DCIS, or LCIS.

We shall see!

New Book a-Bornin’

make-time-for-writing-tipsBelieve it or not, I have a new book in draft. And this is one that a) I wish to use as a tool for marketing the others and b) I suspect will sell smartly in its own right.

After watching the book marketing industry and testing its waters, I’ve come to think that probably the best way for a self-publishing scribbler to sell books is face-to-face. Person-to-person. Business to Business. That would be through a variety of speaking engagements in front of groups whose members might be interested in whatever one is selling, and by bringing the book to sell it on the spot.

Far more profitable, though, is helping others self-publish books. There are a lot of good reasons to self-publish — none of which include becoming a famous best-selling writer who makes enough on her genre novels to quit her day job. For example:

  • Many a manufacturer can use an informational book for customers or retailers.
  • Nonprofits and churches can raise funds with any number of books, whether they’re related to their mission or cookbooks for supporters.
  • A town’s history society also can raise funds and support its mission with a local or regional history.
  • A family planning a reunion might collect stories and facts about the family’s history and produce it, for the event, in book form.
  • Genealogy enthusiasts can gather all the dope on the ancestors and produce their findings in books to hand down to the grandchildren.
  • Doctors, dentists, and veterinarians can profitably produce patient information in book form.
  • Lawyers also put out books of client information.
  • A paperback or coil-bound book is a convenient way to gather and produce employee training materials.
  • How-to instructions, whether for workers or for people who buy products, lend themselves to book format.

The Copyeditor’s Desk is already doing just that: producing print-on-demand books for clients who want them for specific purposes.

So I propose to suggest this service to businesses and nonprofit groups around the city, by attending meetings where managers are likely to show up and explaining what they might have to say and how they can say it in a book. And why.

The subject of the current work in progress is why, what, and how to self-publish. In it, I argue that Amazon is a scam, just like all the other scams that exploit people who think they want to be a Writer with a Capital W.  The highest and best use of a self-published book is not as something to sell on Amazon.

Cobbled together from two blogs and a book I published some years ago, it’s already at 395 pages, and I still have a half-dozen chapters to write out of whole cloth.

LOL! I figure when some business owner or lawyer who covets a book to peddle his services sees a 400-page tome on how to do it, he’ll figure he’d better hire someone else to do it. Namely, moi!


Seriously: I had no idea I’d written so much on the subject! By the time I transferred content from the published book (which I’ve reused many times for courses and so had in PDF and even, in some cases, in Word format) and then added in as many blog posts from Plain & Simple Press and FaM, the thing came to over 460 pages.

Cut about 70 pages, but then had to add some content to fill in a few lacunae. There’s more material that I can cut, but I’ll need some time and space to think about it. But nevertheless, I’m afraid the thing will come in at right around 400 pages.

Whether that’s an advantage or a disadvantage remains to be decided.

Occurred to me to break it into several books. However, the Amazon experience at serializing Fire-Rider gives the lie to the conventional wisdom about spoon-feeding readers in baby bites. Three books = three times as much cost, three times as much work, and three times as much hassle to produce, print, digitize, and market. I really think I’d druther focus on trying to peddle one book than two or three.

 Of 66 chapters, 18 remain to be written or massively rewritten. Or maybe not massive; a few just need some edits. But even if I average all of one per day, that’s only 18 days of work!

Then another two days of formatting. In the meanwhile, I’ll be trying to hustle up some speaking engagements. Since it only takes about two or three days for Author2Market to print a PoD opus, I should be able to get it out in fairly short order.