Friday, July 15, 2011

It's my birthday and I'll say what I want to...celebrating myself!

Tomorrow is my birthday. That statement always causes me to have a moment of reflection. Several actually. Sometimes I groan. Sometimes I get grumpy. Then, I eat cake. The number of years I have to admit to is always a shock though, because one thing remains true from year to year and decade to decade. No matter how I look in the mirror's reflection or to people around me, no matter that I am actually somebody's GRANDMOTHER, no matter what changes occur in the 364 days that pass from birthday to birthday to the body I wear, the essential being that I am inside remains pretty much the same. Seriously.

What I mean by this is that, although I learn new things with my brain and have new experiences all the time with the body--some positive and some negative on both counts-WHO I am inside and my way of processing things is pretty much the same as when it stopped changing around the age of ten. So, I am essentially the kid I always was and WHOOPPEE.... I always will be.

That is probably why I always get along with children and dogs and why I can write so easily for children. Because I haven forgotten for a second, not for a second, what it's like to be a kid and see like a kid behind my lined adult face.

I confess that Christmas and Halloween are still my favorite holidays. I eagerly read every Harry Potter book and I love Butterbeer. I wear a Hogwarts tShirt on the Forbidden Journey and The Cat and The Hat rides at Universal. I still suspect there may just be fairies and things that go bump in the night. I always 'hear the bells' and if the Polar Express should happen to stop at my door I will hop aboard. And not just for the hot chocolate. I love Wonka bars and I would love to see Oopma Loompas and a bitchy girl turn into a giant blueberry! I'd be game to ride a giant war bear to find the Golden Compass and Harry's cloak of invisibility would suit me up just fine. I actually think I may just have seen Tinker Belle flashing on an off last year in the North Carolina mountains, too. And I know that Wonderland lies on the other side of the rabbit hole in the woods. The door knob told me that a long long time ago, way back in the twentieth century. So there.

I know about it, because I've seen Wonderland, even if only in dreams, and I hope somehow that you have too. If my house blows away during a tornado and lands somewhere else on a pair of legs in striped stockings and ruby slippers I'll have one up on Dorothy though, because I wear an adult body that has had much experience thanks to Madame Time. It knows the striped stockings would be hot and the pointed toed glittery red slippers would hurt my bunions, so I'll pass and keep on wearing my adventure sandals. Oh, and I do I know where the yellow brick road leads to anyway, which is to a city that is painted green but isn't eco friendly. I know that the Munchkins have been huffing something illegal---lollypop league or not. The wizard is just a con man from the midwest who's going to run for national office next year. But I'm gonna sign on with the Tinman and the Scarecrow and the lion and ride in Glinda's bubble anyway if the opportunity arises, 'cause I still know how to have fun! So what if I'm not in Kansas anymore. It's mostly flat anyway.

But, I won't eat green eggs and ham, because my body has learned the consequences of eating food with green stuff on it. That's okay-- I knew better than that at ten!

So, its my birthday. Drink up me hearties and show me the horizon! Here's a toast to the undead monkey and a raspberry to the krakken. Who cares what the mirror and my birth certificate say. Here's to being ten again for another year!

By Nancy Wayman Deutsch

I was ten once long ago.
Ten on the outside I mean.
Inside I'm still ten,
sometimes, ten and a half
which is six moons past July,
or I'm ten minus a half
which I guess, would be five
depending on whether I'm right side up or upside down.
I still see things like a girl of ten, or five:
the way dogs smile, and a caterpillar dancing on a twig,
the way lizards are really dinosaurs, shrunken down to manageable size.

I'm Alice fallen down a rabbit's hole,
or I'm a princess in a castle built of books
dancing in crystal shoes past twelve on nimble feet,
feet that never hurt at all.
I know spiders hold all the evil in the world in their fat, squishy bellies
and fireflies are really golden fairies.
I know I'll live forever, somewhere
maybe on the other side of the universe from here
because I'm ten and I'll never be eleven,
not even when they think I'm eight times ten
in the grown up world other people live in.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book production and the 'indie' author

Well, I guess I owe you an apology of sorts, dear readers. I rarely if ever check the blog archives and when I do I realize I repeat myself in small ways at times. I don't post that often and when I do, I tend to forget what I've posted before. So, if you'd read any previous entries you already knew prior to my last post that in the case of my 'dragon book' I wasn't using the illustrations from the artist who, like Harry's 'he who must not be named', shall not be named here. Not because she's an evil wizard of course, I just don't want to give her any publicity. I will repeat myself on purpose this time by reiterating that from lemons come lemonade and as a result of my sour experience with the aforementioned artist I am having a very sweet experience with designing my book.

Thanks to the fact of having to pay way too much for her unusable stuff and being loath to fork out any more $$ for further layout, design services etc we (spouse and I) are boldly going way beyond anything we've done before. Its so exciting to literally be designing the pages of my written work from A to Z and know that what we learn now will be usable in all future projects.

We are the designers, producers, and publishers. We rock!

We know how it works in traditional publishing. You (the hopeful author) write the book proposal and/or the book, shop for an agent, maybe land an agent who in a small number of cases actually sells your book to a publishing house. You have a contract and may or may not have control of the rights to the material but you lose control of the cover design and some of the content which will be reedited. They may give you, as the author, an advance payment prior to publication and you get some royalties from the book sales post publication. Your agent takes a significant cut. The process from beginning to that point can take a decade before you get to see your book in a bookstore for the several months it has to hit it big before it is shelved and discounted. Maybe you get a deal for another book. Maybe you can quit your day job. Maybe.

But that's not where I choose to go. I am happy to be one of those folks who elicit a contemptuous sneer from some editors and agents and well established writers from the old school years: an 'indie' author. The purpose of this post is not to tell you why I choose this route. The purpose is to tell you what goes into producing and independent book.

So, what actually goes into book designing an 'indie' book like mine? I hope you are wondering that by now as you read this.

Here's a few important things for the inside of the book itself. Every word, every line, every paragraph, page and picture has to be correctly formatted. I don't mean put into a Microsoft word file on your computer, spell checked, paginated, and paragraphed with page breaks inserted with Author's biography, book synopsis, and key words list. That's what I always did before and sent to the book designers. And yeah I had to do that with my current book. But since this time, I am also helping to design the book I had to go further.

The person doing layout and formatting (which in this instance is primarily my spouse with me assisting where I am able) has to remove the layers of 'stuff' or code that lie underneath all those things you see on the page on your computer. The corrections, p symbol for paragraphing, line and page breaks and tabs all have underlaying well, I'll call them symbols and marks, in the text and they have to vanish before the finished product goes to the printer. Just because you don't see them in your manuscript doesn't mean they are not there. They are still there, sort of literary dust mites that must be swept away for good.

The book designer has to remove these cussed things and do many other tasks such as: convert the eight and a half by eleven computer screen page to the size template of the actual book ( in our case the popular trade paperback size of 6X9. The actual size is 6.25 by 9.25 or something very close to that.) The book designer has to check each line of the entire text, look for spaces between words that shouldn't be there, properly format the scene and point of view breaks within each chapter, set the margins so that when the print book is bound each verso page has plenty of left margin for line readability, deal with those single lines at the bottom of the verso page and the top of the recto page that are called 'widows and orphans', make sure the text is justified on every page and each line has the proper number of words for readability, set the space between each line of the text (generally 1.5 rather than single or double space), paginate the text but not the title page, table of contents, copyright page, dedication and any blank pages. Whew, is your head spinning yet?

The designer also needs to make sure the title page appears as a recto (right) page with the copyright page on the back of it. He has to label the verso (left) pages at the top of the text with the book title and the recto pages with the chapter headings, decide what font to use on the text for readability (Garramond recomended by most folks), whether each chapter will be a recto chapter with blank verso page opposite or randomly follow the text, the use of chapter headings and negative space in beginning each chapter, set controls so that the table of contents appears correctly referring to each chapter and page number. Pictures and titles must be embedded in the text at the proper places and sized and formatted to match the text.

There are lots of other tasks to add to the list but it is long enough already to give you an idea of just how much work is involved. And that's just the inside of the book. The book designer also has the cover to do. He has to know about 'full bleed' so that the color on the cover goes all the way to the end of the front and back without a telltale white line on the edges. He has to select a different font that that used in the text. He has to know how to physically put the various elements to be used on the cover together. Cover art is a subject in and of itself. Adobe Creative Suite Design Standard and Photoshop are essentials to have as software on your computer. (cost approximately $1200.)

The designer and author need to select images and color, how the title and author's name should read and where both should appear. What goes on the back: plot synopsis, testimonials, author information, etc. Generally in fiction, if the author is famous her or his name are in bigger font than the title. Unknown authors names are less boldly displayed than the title. The title and authors name need to be viewable on the spine when the book is shelved. Since people do indeed judge a book by its cover the cover should catch the eye with the colors used which should also give a clue to its genre and mood. Covers should not be too busy or too simple. Go to a bookstore and look at the covers and you will see definite trends in each genre.

Because many books are now sold through Amazon online and in Kindle format, a cover designer need to consider how the book will appear online to the browsing consumer. Amazon uses a white screen so the book cover should not be predominately white, for example. The image will be small so it need to be eye catching with a clear subject.

The author and the designer must decide what sort of copyright the book will have and secure it, decide and insert other attributions that will appear with the copyright, and the author as publisher must buy the ISBN number. They need to list the book with the 'books in print' folks and make sure it can be sold on Amazon and through major booksellers such as Borders and Barnes and Noble. They need to determine the length of the book, what the printing costs will be, and what the author will charge per copy for the printed book.

There are many other things that have to be done post publication which fall under marketing and will not be addressed here. But I think you get the idea of what we are doing. I used to think book designers read a few instructions, hit a few keys and voila, eet wuz done! Color me clueless before. Now, I know why it took so long. And that's when you don't have to do it in snips and snatches after work. After many hours of tutorials, Adobe training programs, weblogs, and Joel Friedlander's online advice for self publishers I am beginning to understand the process.

If you are an author and don't want to do any of this of course, you can pay a book designer and subsidy publisher to do it for you. You will pay a minimum of seven hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars for the service depending on what you choose. If you choose to publish in hard cover with color illustrations and dust jacket it will cost much more and if you self publish in volume rather than using the POD (print on demand) method it can run you an easy ten thousand dollars and you need a climate controlled warehouse for your unsold books. If you want to make any significant money at this you must promote your book shamelessly and constantly and you must get it on Amazon. But, your books will cost you about four fifty to ten dollars a paper back trade copy to print depending on pages if you use a service like LULU or Create Space and you can sell the book for sixteen to twenty dollars per copy. The printer gets a small cut and you keep the rest. So you get a bigger payoff per book than you would from a traditional publisher. The downside is you have to find ways to sell your book without the big publisher corporations' networks helping.

Your book is not printed until it is pre sold if it is POD, so you have no inventory to store. Some people really do make a lot of money this way.

And the 'indie' stigma is fading with the recent successes of some indie authors who sell large quantities through Amazon and the Kindle delivery format. Print bookstores are going into bankruptcy and so are big name publishers. If the content of your book is good and people know about it and it is priced right it can sell. You don't always need agents and traditional publishers any more. The times, they are a changing. Your options and opportunities are broadening.

So, that was a quick general overview of what I did on my summer vacation. Or part of it, anyway.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dorothy, put down them ruby slippers and fetch me a glass of lemonade

(Photo: Judy Garland as Dorothy in 1939 film, The Wizard OF Oz)

Hello ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages. Step right up for some important enlightenment. Pay no attention to the man behind the screen. Today's topic under the Emerald City Blogodome comes straight from that wizardess of words herself, Wayworm, the Wicked Wit of The East. Yessir, folks, that's me and my post is about making literary lemonade from lemons.

I suppose I might subtitle it, "Surviving a ill thought out commission to an illustrator and moving onto loftier heights." If that sounds sort of high-toned or Victorian, excuse me please, for I have just read the fifth gaslight murder mystery of the week. But, I digress. We wicked wit's do that occasionally.

What I really want to address today once the Munchkins calm down, are two topics: (1) what not to do when working with an artist on a book project (that's the lemon) and what happened afterwards (the lemonade).

First, a little backstory. Back in 2008 or 2009 I decided to take a project I'd been working on sporadically since 2000, then called The Dragon Chronicles, and turn it into a children's book in verse with pictures. I hired an artist with a background in animated design who was recommended by a friend to create some character drawings for this book. I didn't check her references or set a time limit for obtaining her designs. Are you already feeling chills up your back? I should have. Maybe I was distracted by the shine of the ruby slippers. In any case, wicked wits aren't always wise.

Now, I knew even back then that if I were to take this book to an agent and was able to get one of the big publishing houses to buy it (highly unlikely, folks) the publisher would toss the pictures I provided and hire an artist from their own stable to do the drawings. But, I wasn't planning to go that route. I was writing the dragon book to read out loud to Toto and as a legacy for my eventual grandchildren.

The artist gave me to understand I could pay for the character designs and stop the project at any time. I should have but I didn't. Flash forward to spring of 2010. By this time we're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. By this time, the picture book in verse had morphed into a full fledged fantasy novel for YA and adults. It didn't really need pictures anymore. I hadn't heard from the artist for the better part of a year. All I had was a rendering of the dragon, which I liked. I had already paid her a considerable sum, more than I should have, and I emailed her that I was finished with my book, it was in final edit and I either wanted the rest of the characters or the project cancelled.

She made all sorts of excuses and strung me along the Yellow Brick Road, but she did finally come up with the rest of the the spring of 2011! Why did I wait? I suppose because I had already been involved with this project so long and in my mind had paid for the designs so I thought I ought to get them. When the artist finally delivered the designs, she did so in the unexpected form of a computer disc that couldn't even be used without the purchase of a $1200.00 software program and she hit me with a huge and very much unexpected bill as well. Color me shocked and black and blue. Oz could have blown me over with a feather.

When I was finally able to view the illustrations in final form in the black and white format they would be in in the text, they were completely wrong for the book. Still wanting to like the art, I showed the small paintings of the characters she'd done and delivered with the disc to a survey group to a resounding reaction of dead air. Gulp. No cheers from the Quadlings or the Munchkins either. The scarecrow shrugged. The lion didn't even roar once.

I dug out the agreement we'd signed several years before and discovered it promised things that hadn't been done and said absolutely nothing about the stuff on the unusable disc. I asked the artist for a discount prior to final payment, which she refused. She got a lawyer to write me one of those nasty lawyer letters. She eventually offered a discount, although a smaller one that I asked for. Her lawyer informed me she'd copyrighted the designs, which she'd conveniently neglected to inform me. She has promised to transfer the copyright. Lets just say I am not holding my breath on that one but I do have a bucket of water handy.

So, what if I had decided to use her pictures in my published book, assuming that since I'd paid for them they were mine as she had verbally told me? I shudder to imagine what might have come of that.

If you are wondering about the art, I stuck it in one of those empty gift boxes that you always mean to reuse and never remember where you stashed it in time for Glinda's birthday. Then, I shoved the box on a crowded top shelf in a little used tower guest room closet where it will probably remain until a child or grandchild comes across it one future day and tosses it into a garage sale bin.

If you are still with me here is my advice on the lemon:
1. Do not hire an artist to work on your book is you plan to publish traditionally.
2. If you do hire an artist, shop around, check references and qualifications, have a real contract that someone with legal qualifications signs off on before you do.
3. Be very very specific what you want and don't think you have to be overly polite about substandard results so as not to hurt a creative person's tender feelings. Encourage them to move on with the project but be direct. This is business and you should get what you asked for and what you paid for.
4. Have a set time for product delivery detailed in the contract and list the penalties for failing to adhere to that schedule.
5. Have a set payment schedule in writing for each part of the project and make sure all parties adhere to that schedule.
6. No verbal agreements.
7. Don't worry about lawyers saying nasty things about you in their letters. They are hired by their client to say nasty things in an effort to intimidate you. Lawyers say awful things as a part of their daily job (think Jose Baez here). They don't have to be true. Its just part of the law game. After they spew hateful words at witnesses and fellow lawyers they get on the elevator, slap each other on the back and invite each other for golf or drinks. I have personally witnessed this.
8. You have recourse to Small Claims Court for claims of $5000.00 or less. The case will be heard by an impartial judge and not someone hired by your opponent.

As for me, I am like Aunt Em's cat who once sat on a hot stove burner. Not only will I not hop on a red burner, I won't ever sit on a stove again.

Okay, now for the lemonade. It occurs to me that this getting a bit too long, so if I may, I will expound on the lemonade in the next post. But here's a teaser. Having spent money on useless art and sucking up the sour aftertaste, I was reluctant to hire a book designer or book producer, or sign with a subsidy publisher for my indie book. But guess what? That expensive software we bought (which we got cheap through the university thanks to my spouse's staff discount) has everything on it to enable us to become book designers, book producers, and yes, our own publishers. All we have to do is learn how. I thought this would be easy. It is not, although probably easier for my spouse who has a degree in CIT than myself. It is very complicated and involves study and research and practice. But, it is fun as well and once we get the hang of it it will potentially make future book productions as slick as the Tin Man's oilcan and as easy to swallow as Ozma's Emerald City Smoothies.

We've been working with Adobe Creative Suite Design Standard and Photoshop for a month after work and on weekends, have read countless tutorials on the 'how tos'. Joel Friedlander's book, A Self Publisher's Companion and his blog, The Book Designer are GREAT references. So, we're doing this exciting new thing all by our selves. We will produce a well written and well produced book to put in your hands with no middlemen involved. I'll tell you how next time.

Until then dear friends, live long and prosper. And, uh, don't go flying around in one of those hot air balloons without a certified pilot. Watch out for those flying monkeys and the guy or gal behind the screen, too.