Sandra Murphy, Editor
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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Right now, I’m visiting my mother’s house in Portland, Maine. The weather has been dismal, but I’m surrounded by books, including many that I read years ago.
As I look at the titles on the many bookshelves here, I find some of them make me smile. For example, I found a book called The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. It’s a kid’s book published in 1942. (I probably last read it in the 70s sometime. ) Even though it is a small book with a simple plot and I haven’t read it in a long time, just seeing it and remembering snippets of the story gives me a little happy feeling.
I think that is one reason I write. To try and give people that little happy feeling. Even if it’s only for a second. And writing a story that makes someone smile 40 years later? That’s a goal to aspire to!
This month we’re talking about how to take matters into your own hands. If you’ve written a sterling story, a beautiful book, or neat novella and you know your target audience and how to promote—where do you put your work and how do you get it there so people can find it? Pat Kogos started her own publishing company to put her book Priory, Louisiana into the hands or e-readers of her fans. Earl Staggs self-published Justified Action, but did so without forming a company of his own. Patricia Fry ventured into the deep waters of fiction, writing her first novel—Catnapped, a Klepto Cat Mystery—and self-publishing in a Kindle e-version only. Their articles below explain the whys and hows of it all.
Once the work is published, then what? Take a look at this month’s book review to find out how to brush up on/learn media skills so you can talk about your writing in sound bites, learn how to deal with hard questions, and more.
Have a great and safe Fourth of July, remember to set aside time for creativity, and use lots of sunscreen!
– Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
This issue of the SPAWN Market Update includes over 200 resources, links, and recommendations for the freelance writer, author, and script writer. We provide a link to over 100 websites that pay writers, research help sites for authors, over 100 blogsites for writers/authors, industry news, and much more. Which major publishing organization has a new name and purpose? How can you publish your fan fiction at Amazon? Where can you go for writing or photojournalism jobs? How can you get help with the research for your book? How can you get your script read? Where are some of the best blogsites for writers and authors? Find out by reading the July issue of the SPAWN Market Update—in the member area of the SPAWN website. Use your full name to access the member area and the password issued to you when you joined.
Join by going to www.spawn.org and click on Join/Renew.
Ask the Book Doctor:
Ask the Book Doctor: About Point of View and Internal Dialogue or Thoughts
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Here is a quote from the March 26, 2006, Atlanta Journal Constitution about Elizabeth Strout’s book, Abide. “One of Strout’s strengths is a gift for omniscient narration that takes us smoothly and convincingly into the consciousness of whomever she wishes…”
Is the trend changing again? Is the once-popular omniscient point of view coming back? I have struggled to stay true to one point of view in a particular section or chapter (what I thought was the current trend), to the extent that sections and chapters often go through extensive rewrites because there is only so much a writer can say in any one particular viewpoint. Now it seems my struggles have been in vain. What is your take on this subject?
A: I haven’t read that particular book, but when I checked Amazon.com, I saw several other reviews of it, most of them good, but then one review came from a reader, Gwyneth A. Baumgartner, rather than a professional reviewer, and it said this:
“I can honestly say that it is the worst book that I have read in years . . . it ended up being a hard-covered Harlequin romance. The story was shoddy . . . it was written for someone in a nursing home. The best page was the last page. Definitely do not recommend . . . except for someone born in 1920.”
True, the reader’s complaint is not about the point of view, but her statements show that you cannot please all people, no matter what you do. I have not heard of any big shift back to the omniscient point of view of the classics, and I know why.
As an exercise, I recently reread The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Despite the fact that it involves sex, ostracism, Native American shamanism, single motherhood, and many other hot topics today, such a book would never be a bestseller in today’s market. Contemporary readers want books that show, rather than tell, that move forward like a movie, rather than sounding like a lecture. Written in omniscient point of view, The Scarlet Letter rambles, drags, and even refers to “you, dear reader.” It tells readers what we should be thinking. The narrative goes on for many pages with little to no action or dialogue. No wonder I did not enjoy reading it back in the 1960s, either.
Read between the lines of the AJC review of Strout’s book. It says, “One of Strout’s strengths is a gift for omniscient narration that takes us smoothly and convincingly into the consciousness of whomever she wishes . . .” I interpret that statement to mean that although omniscient narration is not popular today, Strout has overcome the objections to it with her skilled writing. In my opinion, it sounds as if Strout’s book is not setting a trend; it is bucking one.
Q: I am writing a (historical/fantasy) novel with multiple protagonists (a society) all striving for the same goal, more or less. I have looked for examples in books on writing to make sure I am doing it right, but could not find more than a page here and there. For instance, how much interior monologue is too much? I am pretty certain I should use limited omniscient third. What do you recommend?
A: I have not read the manuscript, but from your definition, my first concern is that the conflict and tension will not be high enough if all the main characters want the same thing. Conflict among characters is what makes a good story, and if everyone agrees, the story sounds more like a saga than mainstream fiction. Plots are built on one main protagonist wanting something so badly that he or she is willing to take risks or do whatever is necessary to obtain a goal. When obstacles and people get in the way of that main character’s reaching a goal, a story develops, and in the end the protagonist either triumphs or not. When a whole group is working toward a common goal, where is the conflict and suspense? Perhaps that is why you have not read many novels with such a theme. Even in the classic Lord of the Flies, some boys have one goal, while other boys have other goals, and their conflict builds into a solid, memorable story.
All that said, you can have several main characters and change point of view logically by ensuring that each scene is written from only one point of view. To change the point of view, shift to a new scene or a new chapter.
As far as internal monologues—thoughts—I strongly advise against using them. Create scenes that involve characters speaking to each other and sharing their thoughts and opinions through dialogue, to avoid having to resort to internal monologues. Why am I against using thoughts as a way of revealing a character’s motivations? Because thoughts always tell, rather than show, whereas dialogue always shows rather than tells. A good novelist knows to show, rather than tell the story.
Think of the novel as a movie. In a movie, how would a character’s thoughts be revealed? If not as dialogue with another character, thoughts become voiceover. Voiceover is not popular because it takes moviegoers out of feeling that they are experiencing the story and makes them realize they are watching a movie.
Internal thoughts in a novel do the same thing; they remind readers that they are not experiencing a story, they are reading a book, whereas the best books keep readers embroiled in the story so they forget they are reading.
How much interior dialogue is too much? In my opinion, one single lapse into a character’s thoughts is too much, but do not rely on my opinion alone; just remember that a little internal dialogue goes a long way, and less is best.
For more questions and answers, order Ask the Book Doctor: How to Beat the Competition and Sell Your Writing at http://zebraeditor.com/book_ask_the_book_doctor.shtml.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
The Media Training Bible, 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview by Brad Phillips
SpeakGood Press (2013)
ISBN: 0988322005, Paperback size 9 x 6, 229 pages
Brad Phillips is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in New York City and Washington, DC. He produced this book in order to educate anyone who plans to be or who currently is in the media limelight. He says it is important for authors and others who will be interviewed for radio/TV to understand the ground rules of working with reporters. And he specializes in helping folks create memorable media messages, deliver winning interviews, answer tough questions, use positive body language in order to reinforce their message, and prepare for and manage a media crisis.
Have you ever dealt with the challenge of adjusting your approach from print to radio or social media, for example? The wrong approach can be disastrous and Phillips can help you to avoid disaster.
Here are some of the issues authors and others report to Phillips upon first contacting him: “We’re not good at getting our messages across,” “I tend to say too much and I’m afraid the audience isn’t getting my point,” or “I’m terrified of going on TV.” These issues and more are covered in this book.
I found his list of six personality traits of successful spokespersons interesting and telling. Briefly, these people are authentic, natural, and flexible; they speak to their audience, they self-edit, and they are compelling. This book addresses these traits throughout. It also offers examples of media successes and failures—what to and what not to do and say.
If you plan to be interviewed and/or to appear on podcasts, radio, TV, and other public media to talk about your book, consider reading this book. And then read my book, Talk Up Your Book.
Self-Publishing Is Not an Excuse for Poor Editing
by Jessica Bennett, Compulsion Reads
Over the last year my business partner Leslie Ramey and I have had the opportunity to evaluate over 100 self-published novels. Through this experience, we’ve met many authors, read some truly amazing tales, and…seen enough grammatical errors to send an English teacher to the mental ward.
Leslie and I are the co-owners of Compulsion Reads, a company that evaluates and endorses indie and self-published novels based on a set of quality standards that we believe all good stories encompass, regardless of genre or plot specifics. You can probably guess what some of these standards are: well-developed characters, strong plot, accuracy of details, and, of course, correct grammar.
As of this writing, our endorsement rate is roughly 50% of our submissions, and the standard that a majority of our books fail is grammar.
Though writing is a creative and artistic process, we believe that authors who seek to sell and profit from their book must treat it as a product. That means authors must focus on the packaging along with the writing. Self-published authors don’t get a pass on these details just because they don’t have a big publishing house checking every comma.
When an author publishes an error-filled manuscript, it indicates that he or she does not yet perceive him- or herself as a professional writer. Readers will reach this same conclusion after stumbling across the fifth misspelling in the first chapter.
Nothing damages the reading experience faster than consistent grammar mistakes.
Self-published authors who care about their reputation and about giving their book every chance to succeed should not publish their book without a thorough copyedit—and not from themselves! It is my opinion that writers should not copyedit their own work. I am a professional copyeditor, and even I don’t copyedit my own books. When you’ve read ten drafts of a novel and poured a hundred hours or more into crafting it to perfection, you simply can’t view it with the dispassionate, careful eye of a professional copyeditor. Trust me; I’ve tried it on my own work and failed miserably.
Many talented writers are terrible at grammar. That’s fine. It’s more than fine. It’s normal! Poor grammar doesn’t equate to poor writing or lower intelligence. All it means is that you need to invest in your book by paying for a professional copyedit.
Hiring a copyeditor can be expensive, but it’s the right thing to do for your book. Be prepared to pay $300 to $1,000 for a copyedit, depending on the length. If you can lower the cost by having a friend do a pre-edit read for obvious mistakes, by all means go for it.
Some parts of this may sound harsh, but self-published authors already operate under a significant stigma of low quality. You’ll hear murmurs that self-published writers are lazy, aren’t good enough to make it as traditionally published authors, bring down the quality of the entire writing establishment, etc. Publishing a book filled with grammar mistakes only reinforces these assumptions. It’s also a sure ticket to NoSalesVille. Readers don’t respect authors who don’t respect the products they put out.
You are an author. Your book is a product. Don’t forget that. If you put your heart and soul into the words of your novel, then give them a chance at greatness by making sure poor grammar doesn’t drown them out.
Compulsion Reads, created by Jessica Bennett and Leslie Ramey, seeks to shine the spotlight on quality indie books by endorsing those books that meet CR’s strict quality standards. Learn more about Compulsion Reads by visiting www.Compulsionreads.com. Enjoy our kooky video, read about our endorsement criteria, and visit our growing library of endorsed indie books. www.facebook.com/compulsionreads https://twitter.com/CompulsionReads
Creating a Small Press
by Pat Kogos
If you’ve written a fantastic piece of literature and are contemplating self-publishing, you may want to create your own publishing company. After I wrote my novel, Priory, Louisiana, and decided it was ready to be out in the world, I created Big Porch Press.
I wanted a paperback edition of my book because I don’t want to lose potential readers who might not embrace technology. While I am impressed by e-books because of their low price and easy portability, I love the feel, smell, and pizzazz of ink on paper, wrapped in art. Inside my book, and on its cover, I always envisioned a press name. It looks legit, as my teenagers say.
Without a press, books printed via CreateSpace (my print-on-demand choice) would list CreateSpace, an Amazon company, as publisher. Some bookstores are not fond of Amazon, and I hope to entice bookstores to offer Priory, Louisiana on their shelves.
If you, too, decide to create your own publishing company, several steps need to be taken:
1) Choose a press name. Keep it short because it will be on the spine of your book. Look at other paperbacks to get ideas. Make sure the name is a brand your readers will embrace, preferably one with a strong visual element for your logo. I chose Big Porch Press because my daughter loves big porches. Stories are told on porches. You get the idea. My logo is a rocking chair.
2) Make sure the name is available by doing a search at the Secretary of State website. Don’t register the name until you finish Step 3.
3) Make sure your desired domain name is available. My domain is bigporchpress.com. There are many ways to register domain names inexpensively, but it’s easiest to choose a company that can register domains, host your websites, and manage e-mail accounts. If your domain name is not available, go back to Step 1. Otherwise, register your domain.
4) Create your publishing company via your Secretary of State website. Discuss incorporation options with your CPA and attorney. Setting up your corporation is important. Seeking professional advice is money well spent. Reports will need to be filed, taxes will have to be paid, and you need to know the ramifications.
Your company is up and running. Now you have publishing considerations and responsibilities:
Editing is important. Your publishing house will gain a reputation. Be professional. Best-case scenario, several skilled individuals should edit for grammar and content. I enlisted a professor from my MFA program, my writing critique group, and some friends and family members (the ones who are avid readers or grammar geniuses).
Hire an artist. Impressive covers attract readers. Your art needs to look good on a paperback cover and as a thumbnail online. Your logo should be simple and recognizable. My artist is also a friend who is talented and willing to work with a small budget.
Get ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) for your publication. Each version needs to have its own ISBN. You can purchase these from Bowker online ($125 for one ISBN, $250 for 10) or you can get them through your publishing platform. Check out the websites of the print-on-demand and e-publishers you are considering to evaluate your options.
For my paperback, I chose the “Custom ISBN” from CreateSpace for $10. This allowed me to list my small press as the publisher and use CreateSpace as the distributor. Perfect for my paperback and Kindle versions.
For my other e-books, I was hoping to have a similar option, but I had chosen Smashwords as my e-book converter and distributor. They used to have an option called “Premium ISBN” that allowed you to pay $9.95 for a “vanity ISBN,” allowing you to use your publishing company name. This option is no longer available, but by the time I was converting my non-Kindle e-books, I was already seeing the finish line and just went with the free one offered by Smashwords.
In retrospect, I would have spent the $250 with Bowker and bought 10 of my own ISBNs. They don’t all have to be used for the same book, so they can be utilized for future publications.
Format your paperback and e-versions. There’s definitely a learning curve, but also a wealth of support online to help you. If you don’t have patience, hire a professional.
CreateSpace provides instructions for formatting your paperback and Kindle versions. I had my artist-friend create some interior art to accompany chapter headings in my paperback for a more professional feel.
Smashwords offers a style guide to help prep your files for e-book conversion. Check the output. Rework. Try again.
Create your platform: Publishing website, author website, social media platforms, etc. Since I’m not super computer-literate, my kids helped me, but this is an ongoing learning process.
Market your masterpiece. If you don’t, your book will be available but it won’t have selling power. Use websites, social media, friends, family, book clubs, conferences, and more to get the word out about your work. Sign books. Radiate optimism. Sleep.
My husband owns a New-Orleans-style eatery (Riverbend Restaurant & Bar) in St. Louis where we live, so we are having my book launch at the restaurant. Priory, Louisiana is set during Hurricane Katrina, and some of the characters are from New Orleans. The book launch is a hurricane party to tie everything together. (Editor’s Note: Minutes before the hurricane party/book launch started, a thunderstorm rolled through St. Louis. The skies opened right at 3:00 p.m., time to start the party—perfect for the theme of her book. Pat sold fifty books online to those who couldn’t make it to the restaurant. Another fifty copies sold at the party.)
Congratulate yourself for your perseverance! If you are brave and ambitious and have time and money to spare, publish someone else’s book. This is a frontier I haven’t explored, but you never know…
Pat’s debut novel is the story of strangers who ride out Hurricane Katrina at an inn in rural Louisiana. It’s about regret, questioning faith, and starting over. Priory, Louisiana is available as a paperback and e-book. For more information, check out www.patkogos.com. Pat Kogos has lived in both St. Louis and New Orleans. Her writing combines her Southern and Midwestern roots. She currently resides in the Gateway to the West with her husband, two teenagers, and one adorable Yorkie.
After the Fantasy
by Earl Staggs
Writers have a fantasy about how it might happen. We’ll write a good book and sign with a big-time agent who will sell it to a major publishing house. We’ll get a healthy advance check and look forward to big royalty checks in the future. Our book will debut on the New York Times Bestseller list. We’ll spend a few months traveling around the country doing speaking and signing events, guesting on talk shows, being interviewed by newspapers and magazines, and then return home and begin writing our next book.
There was a time when it wasn’t fantasy. The big publishing houses did wonderful things. Their staff of editors made sure books did not contain errors. The graphics department designed fantastic covers. The promotion and publicity departments made sure the world knew a bestseller was on its way and scheduled a nationwide tour.
Here in the real world of today, we occasionally hear of an unknown author living that fantasy, but for most of us, the odds are about as good as winning the lottery or one of our grandchildren becoming the next American Idol.
The publishing industry has changed. The only thing that hasn’t changed is what writers do—we spend hours, days, weeks, months, even years writing and rewriting to produce a book that’s as good as it can be. Reality sets in when our manuscript is finished and ready for publication.
It can take a couple years to find an agent. It can be just as long again for the agent to land a publisher. The publisher no longer has a full complement of professional staff editors. Cutbacks, you know. Same for their publicity and marketing departments. The responsibility now rests on the shoulders of the authors.
We do our own editing and proofing. Since there’s no longer anyone in the publishing house to spread the word about our books, we have to do the shouting out ourselves. Fortunately, we have the Internet with Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and more in our arsenal of tools. All we have to do is devote hours every day to mastering the art of self-promotion. If we want signings at bookstores, that’s up to us, too.
If we manage to sell a respectable number of books, our publisher may publish our next one. It will be a while before that next book is ready, of course. We have to spend so much time marketing and selling now, we have less time for writing.
The books we sell will produce revenue, and we’ll get our share of that in the form of royalties down the road. The publisher takes its share up front, the same as always.
Hmmmm. Let’s stop and think about that. We have to do the bulk of the work, but the publisher still gets a big share of the revenue.
Something’s wrong with that picture. That led to radical ideas such as cutting out the middleman and being your own publisher. If you have to do the bulk of the baking, you should get the bulk of the pie. Maybe even all of it.
Thus was born the self-publisher. Many of us have taken on the responsibility for our own editing and proofreading, and we’ve become our own marketing and promotion specialists, using hours we once devoted to new writing. Many writers have decided to take full and complete control of their career and their future by wearing all the hats publishers left hanging on nails.
One thing has not changed, and that is the basic foundation. We, the writers, must continue to produce the best work we are capable of. If we do that, our books will find a way to get into the hands of readers.
I plan to keep writing and stick around long enough to see what comes next.
Meanwhile, visit my website where you can:
. . . . .read Chapter One of Justified Action featuring Tall Chambers.
. . . . .read Chapter One of my mystery novel, Memory of a Murder.
. . . . .read a short story called The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer. Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written.
. . . . .read another story there called White Hats and Happy Trails, about the day I spent with my boyhood idol, Roy Rogers. There’s even a picture of me with Roy to prove it’s all true.
. . . . .and more. Here’s where: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
Earl Staggs earned a long list of five-star reviews for his novels Memory of a Murder and Justified Action and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He served as managing editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
Patricia Fry is the author of 38 books, all of them nonfiction except one. She has just published her first novel, Catnapped—A Klepto Cat Mystery. It’s a Kindle book and is available for $2.99 now only at http://amzn.to/14OCk0W
Arlene Uslander, officially wearing a new hat as a publisher for the first time, reprinted her book, That’s What Grandparents Are For, an illustrated book of verse celebrating the very special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. The traditional publisher went out of business, so Arlene networked with SPAWN member Teri Rider to find Jostens Printers, who is also developing her website. Arlene participated in a street book fair on June 15.
If you go to http://tinyurl.com/l94j4x7 you’ll see the latest issue of Publishing Poynters, the monthly newsletter from Dan Poynter, the self-publishing guru (and SPAWN member) who speaks all over the world. Barbara Florio Graham’s website is mentioned on page two of this issue, and her Quick Reads page is at the top of page ten. This is the second time this year that Bobbi’s photo and tips have been published in this newsletter. If you read the entire newsletter, you’ll also see her on the list of Dan’s recommended Book Shepherds. Bobbi also had an article on time management in the April/May issue of The Byline, the newsletter of the Ottawa Branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association, and one about recycling in the May 31 issue of Funds for Writers. That’s the weekly newsletter that has repeatedly been chosen for Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers. The URL is www.fundsforwriters.com. Find Barbara Florio Graham on Facebook, LinkedIn, BranchOut, Pinterest, and Google Plus. Simon Teakettle III (Terzo) blogs at http://www.SimonTeakettle.com/blogterzo.htm His 2013 calendar is now available from http://www.OttawaPhoto.com and his Very First Video is at http://lnkd.in/fKsbhH
Books produced by TLC Graphics (Tami Dever) have received 13 national awards this year, thus far! Several are for cover and interior design, including two of the three finalists in the 1- and 2-Color Interior Design category of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards (one of which won gold). TLC Graphics, Phone: 512-669-5744 / Fax: 512-904-8120 / Austin, Texas, www.TLCGraphics.com
Tammy Ditmore and eDitmore Editorial Services were recently featured in Liz Broomfield’s Small Business Chat on her LibroEditing website. The June 8 piece was an update of an interview posted in 2012, and it took a look at how eDitmore Editorial had fared in the past year and what Tammy had learned in her second full year as a small business owner. The interview can be found at http://libroediting.com/2013/06/08/update-tammy-ditmore/. Watch for more from Tammy in the August SPAWNews.
LuckyCinda Publishing is proud to announce its 2013 Book Contest winners. This year’s Grand Prize Winners are Ken Corré for fiction and Jan Pippins for non-fiction. First-prize winners will be considered for a traditional publishing contract by Weaving Dreams Publishing and will also receive feedback from Joyce M. Gilmour of Editing TLC. In addition, all winners, including honorable mentions, were awarded book-marketing promotional packages through February 2014, courtesy of LuckyCinda Publishing. To learn more about the winners and their work, please visit, LuckyCinda Publishing Global Book Contest 2013. http://bookcontest2013.luckycinda.com/.
Contests, Events and Opportunities
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