Thursday, April 28, 2022

If I Could Help, I Would, but...

       As I noted last month, opportunities to sell my books by hand are gradually returning. I've done several arts and crafts fairs, a literary festival, and an art walk that also required me to schlepp some of my paintings along to show--but I really wanted to sell books.  I always meet interesting people, just wish more would buy a book and not ask me for advice on getting published. I write mostly romance, historicals, and some main stream with romantic leanings. My output seems impressive, three racks of books holding thirty-two titles.  But as I have to explain, I am not prolific. I've been writing for eighteen years. That comes to about two books a year.. Being e-published means they never go out of print, that's all, unless the small press closes.

     I have no idea why would-be children's authors approach me.  That's a whole different world from mine, but as a former librarian, I can say they need great illustrations and an original story that will appeal to children.  My press doesn't do this kind of work nor do most e-presses. Getting on with a major publisher is a long hard road full of rejections. Then, I refer them to others who have self-published this kind of material, which is what they usually end up doing. Along the way, they discover it ain't cheap to get a full color picture book printed..

     Memoirs and/or ghost writing memoirs is another thing I have no experience in doing. Lots of people want to write about their wonderful mothers, and I can applaud that even though mine wasn't.  Unless their mother is the love child of Elvis, big presses aren't going to be interested.  Although once I was approached about getting a family story out and after telling them how hard that would be, they finally revealed their uncle was a major mobster. Well then, pitch that to an agent and off you go. Saddest of all an elderly woman wanted me to write her story of being in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.  I encouraged her to record her story and put it into good hands like the Holocaust Museum.  I had no skills in that area, but do hope she did as I suggested.

      Then there was the eighty-two-year old woman who hobbled up to my booth and asked me to write an expose true crime story about her neighbors who were upsetting her life by running a drug operation that might be undercover next door. I had to tell her I thought that would be both dangerous and possibly illegal, something the police should handle, but she said they won't listen to her.  As I pointed out, I only write fiction, and sorry to say, suggested she ask a judge who was at the festival for advice. Passing the buck.

     A friend asked that I give some advice to a relative who had a book she wanted to publish, and could she contact me.  Oh, sure. Turned out to be erotica, which does have a market, but again, not my style. I informed her that my publisher did have an erotica department that might be interested, and learned she'd already self-published with Amazon and had a better PR campaign going than I did.  Nice talking to her, however.

     I've had to tell numerous people I don't read or edit manuscripts and certainly wouldn't do the last for free which is very time consuming.  I suggest they hire a real editor and do what they say.  Do they?  Nope.  Most just go ahead and self-publish some very bad books. Frankly, people don't take advice well, but still they ask a person who is no help at all.

     

Thursday, March 31, 2022

On the Road Again

   With some trepidation, I boarded an airplane for the first time in three years. Masks required in the airport and on the planes where I swear the seats and aisles were even narrower than before--or maybe I gained weight during Covid. My destination was lovely Savannah for a mother/daughter trip. Once landed, I saw few wore masks which made me glad I'd been vaccinated and boosted as the city was crowded with traffic and tourists.

     Now, when I travel I always carry with me a selection of book cards, postcard-sized with my book covers on one side and a blurb, a listing of all my titles, and contact information on the back. I give these out at every opportunity. Before I got off the plane, I'd handed one to my seatmate who had an actual book in her hands. Generally, I ask what a person is reading, explaining that I am interested because I am a retired librarian. Gradually, I work my own books into the conversation and try to pick out a card the reader might be interested in. Not everyone wants a sexy guy card, so I also carry pretty covers for others. Occasionally, I am rebuffed, and if so, simply go back to reading my own book. 

     By the time my daughter picked me up, the day had turned rainy. We decided to get a hot cup of tea and shortbread cookies at the Tea Room. We took our time, talked to the very knowledgeable server, and stayed an hour and a half because no one else was in the place, though seeing us having such a good time, customers did start showing up, getting tea to go. The conversation turned to reading, and as it turned out, our server loved romance novels. Needless to say, I gave her a card, too. 

     Next stop, the indie bookstore just around the corner as it was still raining and not great for strolling on brick sidewalks. At Shaver's, two fluffy cats greeted us or at least deemed to accept a pet. We read the witty cards to each other and browsed the many small rooms. I did purchase one of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton novels and could absolutely envision my new Regency series shelved near them. As I checked out, I left another card for the manager in case she might want to consider adding my books to her inventory. Back home, I did follow up with an email and got a most gracious no due to limited shelf space which was kind of her. But, she had checked my web site and told me about a literary festival I might want to attend next year. Probably too far to travel and too expensive, but I'll consider it.

      That evening with the rain still coming down, we met up with the rest of our mother/daughter group. Other than going out for dinner rather late, we stayed in and played UNO. I offered one of my books that I'd brought along as an UNO prize. I won the first hand, my daughter the second, until we finally got a winner on the third round. I personalized the book for the winner and gave out cards to the rest.

      Next day, more rain. We got tickets on an on-and-off bus to get around, toured the cathedral and had lattes at a little coffee shop across the street before hopping on the tram again to get to the waterfront for shopping and a late lunch of shrimp dishes. Still raining,. my daughter was sheltering me with a little, folding umbrella. Out of the blue or rather gray sky, a man with a much larger umbrella offered to trade with her. He said he had plenty as his company gave them out. We took his offer. 

     Despite the weather, we were not deterred from going on our Ghost Tour that evening. The rain added to the ghostly atmosphere, dripping from the Spanish moss and slicking the gravestones in the cemetery. We weren't required to get down, but did have a rest stop at a bar and were allowed to bring drinks aboard. I heard a few tales I could work into plots if I ever do another ghost story other than The Courville Rose. The guide loved to read. I left a card for her along with a tip for a fun experience.

    The sun returned on our last day. All wanted to go to the beach. I am not fond of hot sand, murky water, and sunburn. I elected to stay in the beach pavilion where I had food, water, a bathroom, and plenty of people to talk to--about books. Also amusing, the pigeons and grackles courted and stole food from the unsuspecting. A fisherman pulled a three-foot shark from the water near my friends. We rejoined to go to a great pizza dive for dinner, then a cocktail-making class at the Prohibition Museum, fun and interesting though I don't drink much. By the time, I boarded the plane to return, I'd nearly run out of book cards.

     Some people are tickled to meet a real author. Others might just be polite enough to accept a card and throw them out first chance, but some will use them as bookmarks. No telling if I will get any sales out of this. But I would say don't leave home without yours.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Where have all the Copy Editors gone?

      If you are a published author, you already know what a line or copy editor is. They work in the third phase of getting a book published. By the time a book reaches this vital person, it has been gone over with the proverbial fine tooth comb by the editor and the author to create the cleanest, most cohesive copy possible. The line editor then goes over it one more time to flush out any remaining grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors that remain. They might also check for accuracy and consistency. Every word must be read and considered. While I pride myself on submitting clean manuscripts, I have been saved a time or two by a sharp line editor, one who caught my misspelling of a pin worn on clothes as a broach when it should have been brooch.

      Usually, these people work without making comments, but once I received a remark through my regular editor that the copy editor said she'd never had a manuscript with fewer errors. Quite the compliment. However, I recently got a suggestion for a person whom I think aspired to be a regular editor suggesting a change in plot.  Nope, not at this point in the publishing process. The next step is sending a galley or final proof of the book for the author to approve. I usually still find a few errors, but things a reader would most likely miss. In general, I don't notice any subtle changes a line editor might have made which is as it should be.

     I have no idea if copy editors enjoy reading books on the cusp of being published. They would certainly have a first look at a variety of genres. No idea either if they get to choose the types they want to read, but I doubt they do. This job could be fun for a person who loves to read and pick over grammar and spelling errors. Now, I imagine big New York publishing houses have a whole slew of copy editors tolling away for a decent salary with benefits. Not so in small press e-publishing. I only recently learned when I got a little testy about a line editor holding up my book for six weeks (which delays publication) that these folks are not paid. They get a tiny percentage of the sale price of the books sold. I receive a thirty to thirty-five percent royalty, and believe me, that can be way less than a dollar per book depending on its price. Also, the copy editors, like the authors, are paid only quarterly. Surprise! You earned very little for your hard work. Most might do this in their spare time for a little extra cash. With so many books being written during the Covid seclusion, a big backlog exists in every point of publishing, but we cannot move forward without the vital work of the copy editor.

    If not totally discouraged by now, I know Wings ePress is looking for copy editors. Contact Jeanne Howard (executive-editor@wingsepress.com). A Google search would reveal plenty of these jobs is my guess. I did contact a friend who delights in correcting people's grammar (former English teacher), but she gave me a firm no. She only likes to do it orally. I can only say if you find any errors in this blog, I did not have a copy editor to go over it.

Friday, January 14, 2022

How to Devastate an Author

     Try posting a one star review on Amazon within days of a new release. Don't reveal your name or post a review as to why you feel this book is absolute trash. But both you and the author know this lone star will influence other readers not to buy the book.  Sure, that hurts economically, but more so it means few if any people will read the story that took months of research and more months to write. That one star also endangers the entire series that went before and might come after. In this case, I am speaking of Lion in the Heather, the latest of the Longleigh Chronicles, which is supposed to be a funny romp of a Regency novel. Granted, some take their Regencies very seriously, and this will not be to their taste. I understand that, especially if they post a review saying so. Also, sometimes, an author can glean some insight for their next book and perhaps avoid a pitfall. A one star review with no commentary is only meant to hurt.

     I've been writing for sixteen years and know by now one must grow a skin the thickness of a rhino to continue on. I vividly recall my first troll review on an early book, The Convent Rose.  It dropped the day the book was released, hardly enough time to read it. The troll didn't even have the name of the characters right and purposely garbled the plot to make it sound inane. I contacted my editor. If there had been crying emojis back then, my message to her would have contained a dozen tearful faces. She told me to forget about it. I had fans who would like the book and correct the low ranking. She was right. Positive reviews came in slowly and the book ended up with an overall ranking of four stars, probably about right for this short, funny story.

      Of course, there is the possibility a person meaning well thought a one star review was great. I had a person once admit to this, but she'd also written a glowing review saying how much she had like the book. At least, this made it clear to anyone reading it that she'd misunderstood the star system. Hey, folks, if you have done this accidently, it is possible to go back and change your ranking, especially on Goodreads. Just go to your review and click on Edit. I am not sure how this is done on Amazon as they rarely take down a review unless it can be proved to be malicious, but with no actual review submitted, it's just an opinion. If a mistake, they could balance that out with leaving five stars and no comment! 

     One person remarked to my current woe that authors write mostly for themselves. Somewhat true. It certainly isn't for money as most books generate only around a dollar for a copy sold. The rest goes to Amazon and the publisher, so no getting rich unless you sell millions of copies. Big name authors can make big money. Many free copies are dispensed to get reviews, and their legions of fans will punch the five star button whether the book is great or not. Much as I like Nora Roberts, I do occasionally drop a four or a three star review. Some stories are just better than others. However, we do want people to love our books and say a few kind words, especially if the author is mid-list and doesn't get tons of reviews.

     Personally, I have never given a one star review to any author though I have read some one star books. I am too aware of the time and effort and courage it takes to write a book and put it out there. Their sales will tell them their book is bad--and lots of other reviewers, but not me. I will not devastate others.

     

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Covid and Publishing

      The Covid epidemic has changed everything, including publishing. As I mentioned before, during the long seclusion, lots and lots of people wrote their first book, and those like me finally got around to penning one they'd been putting off for all kinds of excuses. By the time I send The Aussie Sinner off to my editor, I was told for the very first time that she wouldn't be able to look at it for several weeks. Her desk was flooded with new manuscripts to accept or reject, but all had to be read at least partially along with a synopsis. Since I write a long running series, The Sinners, my contracts are rather routine and come back fast. Not so this time. Once the wait for the contract ended, I found myself in another wait line for an editor. Same for a line editor and a cover.

     In the big time, New York City publishers, a year's wait for a book to come out is common. In e-publishing, they move a bit faster, usually six months, sometime nine. For Aussie Sinner, submitted in the spring, it was nine.  I submitted a new Longleigh Chronicle, The Greatest Prize, that same spring with a difference press. It appeared in December, longer than usual for them. Right now, The Bad Boy Sinner is in publishing limbo, editing finished long ago and cover done, but absolutely no release date given. The next of the Longleighs, Lion in the Heather, is vaguely slated for January.  Meanwhile, I work on Edie's Sinner. A friend who submitted her new mystery was told it would not be out until 2023 sometime, so the situation has gotten even worse.

     Inexperience shows as well. One line editor whose job it is make sure spelling and grammar are correct, took several weeks to work over one of my manuscripts which are usually low on errors and returned it with notes on scenes she'd like to see changed-ah, not her job. I'd just finished appeasing one editor's quirks and didn't need hers. Though my editors haven't changed lately, I suspect there are a lot of inexperienced ones taken on to deal with the glut. Another friend said the only editing she got was constant notes to check the publisher's handbook. While we often dream of how nice it would be not to have an editor, they really can make a book better, and she felt she hadn't been given that chance.

     Because literary festivals and library events are returning, I soon found my most popular title, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, sold out.  I've reordered this title twice already. The price to me inches up, but not enough to for me to raise the price to the buyer--yet. I'll wait until after the holidays to do this. Why add to the rush at Christmas. I won't really need them until spring. I do dread the new price because everything like meat and gas has gone up, but this time it will be the price of paper and ink and shipping. Usually, I sell my large format paperbacks for fifteen dollars. If forced to go up to twenty, I suspect my sales will drop off. The only other alternative is to sell for cost--and I am not going to sit outside in rain or sun to virtually give them away. While I do believe the price of food and fuel will come down, I suspect this change in pricing for books will be permanent. I can only wait and see.

      Keep an eye out for Lion in the Heather in January. We'll see what it costs.

      


    

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Dinosaur Wedding

      I  took another break from writing (been doing that a lot lately) to attend our son's unique dinosaur wedding in Minnesota. I've often said I love long road trips. We elected to drive from Louisiana to Minneapolis for the event, three solid days on the road through Dallas traffic, the bleak central landscapes of Oklahoma and Kansas, and the corn fields of Iowa. Travel differed a little from the pre-Covid years. We wore our masks at every rest stop, often ate outside because the places we stopped had drive-up only service, and discovered that our rooms were not made up every day to limit contact between guests and staff. Soap containers were wall mounted in the showers. I am sure both saved the hotels lots of money, too. Need TP? Make a trip to the desk to ask for more. And sadly, our favorite rest stop on the Iowa border no longer offered pie and coffee. We did find some fine little family restaurants, an Amish-themed rest stop, and one small dinosaur museum along the way to make up for that.

     The wedding took place in a park on a terrace overlooking a beautiful lake. The Officiant arrived in full riding a dinosaur costume. Attendants carried bouquets of tropical leaves with small dinosaurs in the foliage and the centerpieces were planters of succulents and cactus creating a Jurassic landscape for more dinos. The bride made them all. After the bride and groom said their hand-written vows, they demonstrated their union by pouring two ingredients into a science project volcano, causing it to erupt. While pictures were being taken (did I mention the bride looked stunning in a long emerald green gown), the guests were treated to a show with live raptors, hawks and an owl.

     We dined indoors with appropriately spaced tables seating family or friend groups and after eating enjoyed a fabulous cup cake buffet with four choices. I was sorry to limit myself to one, a chocolate and red velvet combo. While pre-recorded music played, guests enjoyed a variety of games from giant Jenga on which they were encouraged to write messages to the bridge and groom, Connect Four, and corn hole on the terrace which also had smore making station. Guests could have their photos take with a charging T-Rex, and several tried on one of the three dinosaur costumes and took to the dance floor. Truly, I haven't had such a great time in years.

     Those invited were limited to fifty, sixty with the wedding party. Masks were available, and the couple called all who attended several days later to make sure no one had contracted Covid. None did in highly vaccinated Minnesota. We'd had our shots. Who would have thunk it? Vaccinations work.

     Took me a week after to settle down and do more work on Edie's Sinner, the next Sinners book. Meanwhile, The Bad Boy Sinner, edits finally finished, joined the publication queue for a release sometime next year. Lion in the Heather, the next Longleigh chronicle is due out in January.



     

     

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Hurricane Hiatus

        Truly, I meant to write this blog the last week in August--and then along came Hurricane Ida.  At first, the storm appeared to be headed right for our small southwestern Louisiana town, the setting for most of my books.  Gradually, it moved eastward and placed us on the western edge. For those of you who don't know much about hurricanes, that's the best side to be on. Even better for us, the storm continued to veer to the east targeting New Orleans and Baton Rouge and the smaller towns of Houma and LaPlace. By then, we'd carried in all the porch furniture and potted plants (many). checked the battery supply, went out to get milk and canned goods we could heat on the grill, and boarded up the windows. Usually we fill a bathtub for a water supply just in case and keep a pail nearby to recharge the toilet Not our first rodeo by far, the night of Andrew still vivid in our memories from many year ago. 

     My husband took the car out to top off the tank in case we had to evacuate and found all the stations closed. So many people in pickup trucks loaded up numerous gas cans, they drained the pumps dry. Late in the afternoon, he found a convenience store off the beaten track and managed to fill up.  Our area is still low on gas due to people fleeing from New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  The motels are full as well and will be for some time. We were prepared and now had to sit and wait watching the round the clock storm coverage on all channels, sometimes the worst part of the ordeal, that wait.

     Even though we were out of the danger zone, we did expect some high wind gusts and lots of rain, probably a power outage, too.  We placed flashlights in most of the rooms. I decided to work on the new Sinners title, Edie's Sinner, as long as I could since I'd missed hours of work to storm prep. Having a battery backup for the computer with sixty minutes of time on it, I figured I'd have plenty of time to save and close down when the lights went out.  After two-thousand words, my most productive day in a long time, I quit with the lights still burning bright and went to bed hoping Ida hadn't changed her mind again and was coming to get us. In the end, all we got was some wind and a few sprinkles, never lost power.

     Oh, but to see the devastation on the TV in the morning. Little frame houses blown over, large trees down everywhere in a tangle of wires. one man crushed in his home, another killed by an alligator as he waded in deep storm water (only in LA). They do tell us to stay inside and out of the flooded areas. Some folks with nowhere to go sat in half-destroyed homes waiting for help.  The Cajun Navy, private citizens with small boats went to the worst areas and evacuated people, some from attics because their homes had filled with water. Thank heaven, in New Orleans the levees held this time in the below sea level city. But, they did lose the tower that generated electricity for the whole area when it fell into the river. Days and weeks ahead of steamy weather and no AC or lights.  Baton Rouge, not as bad, but still hit hard.

    We are prompted to charge cell phones in advance, but that doesn't do much good if the cell phone towers go down. I keep a land line as well just for these occasions even though the junk calls drive me nuts. I have many writer friends in both cities. I'm beginning to hear from some in Baton Rouge as the power there comes up, but only one message from New Orleans that all was well with that person.  I lost a couple of days of writing and a little more time hauling stuff outside again.  They, no doubt, will lose weeks while cleaning up from the storm. It takes several years for cities to get back to normal. Lake Charles is still recovering from Laura last year, another one that missed our area. Hurricanes, no fun at all. Just hoping we don't attract four like last year.