Friday, October 19, 2018

Writing: Audio Version of Books

Recently, on one of the writer's loops of which I'm a member, the question of audio versions of our books came up. Since I'm in the middle of putting out one of those, I thought it would be interesting to address the subject.

In the case of the author contracted with a publishing house,  the document you signed undoubtedly has a paragraph that allows the publisher to put out your book in any and all versions, including print, ebook, radio, TV, audio, etc. This is pretty standard. Some of my books released by publishers are available as audio books, and I wasn't involved in choosing the narrators, listening to the material recorded, or--in essentially every case--marketing that version. I did receive a CD  of one of those audio books, but I have to say it was a surprise to me that it was even available. As for royalties, those are spelled out in the contract, and will vary with the individual situation.

For the indie-published author (and I include agent-assisted publishing), the decision to put out an audio version of a book resides with the author. This is done through ACX (which handles most of the audio books on the market). ACX is a subsidiary of Audible, which is part of Amazon. But all you need to know here is that ACX is where you go to start.

Choosing a narrator is tough, but the website walks you through this, including posting auditions and eventually choosing a producer. There are two ways of paying to have an audio recording of your book--either shell out the cost directly to the producer (who charges on a per hour basis) and be done with it, or strike a revenue-sharing deal with him/her (which means they'll get half your revenues from the recording). This is arranged before you choose your producer.

I've listened to every word recorded by the producer on all my self-published books. I find myself not wanting to do it, but with medical terms thrown in from time to time, I have to be certain they're pronounced correctly. How long will that take? Several hours. But I think it's worth it.

You'll need a cover for the audio book, but this can be resized from the one developed for the print book. And then you have to get the word out. It's all up to you. Worth it? Too early for me to tell.

In just a few weeks, I'll announce (in my newsletter--see sign-up tab on the right--and later on this blog) that the audio version of my last novel, Guarded Prognosis, will be be available just in time for holiday giving. And I hope to have a novella available for the holiday season, as well. Busy, busy, busy.

What is your opinion about audio books? Love 'em, hate 'em, or don't care? I want to know.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"The World Is Too Much With Us..."

On Monday morning, my wife and I watched a recorded program in which a man--supposedly an expert in the field--segued from Google and the Internet into a discussion of bitcoins and cryptocurrency.  About halfway through the program, by mutual agreement we turned off the set. My problem was that, even if I understood all that this expert was saying, the changes he predicted weren't going to come about until I'm long gone. It was interesting, but until it happened it was sort of theoretical.

That same morning, I saw that Sears--a mainstay retailer for most of my adult life--was filing for bankruptcy. I'd been reading that a lot of their customer service, which until recently was one of the reasons people kept coming back to them, had slipped. Other retailers were changing the way they did business. The world was changing. And, to paraphrase Danny Glover in the film "Lethal Remedy," I'm getting too old for this stuff.

Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us, late and soon." There was a time when I echoed those words, but now I tend to agree more with Bob Dylan. "The times they are a-changing."  If you'll allow me one more quote, this from obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, "I don't mind change. I just don't like to be around while it's happening."

What do you think?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Writing: How Does A Novel Get Started?

I thought it might be interesting to see the things that go into the first stages of a novel. I've often heard, "I have a great idea for a novel." But an idea is one thing. Putting flesh on those bones is another.

How do I do it? I start with a single concept. This may be the "log line" for the novel, and is often the opening line of the back cover copy for my work. For instance, here's the log line of one of my novels: "A gunman who has nothing to lose faces a doctor who could lose it all." Sound interesting? But how about putting something together.

I sketch out the flow of the novel. There's going to be a gunman in the emergency room, and the major person he's confronting is a doctor. But that's a scene, not a novel. So I have to figure out how and why this confrontation happens, how it is resolved, and what happens next?

To do all this, I have to populate the story. I assume my protagonist is going to be that doctor, but is the person holding the gun the antagonist, or simply one of the people involved. What lies behind this scene? What happens afterward? And who are the characters, both major and minor, who are involved in the story?

Now what stages along the way does the novel follow? Do I use the three act structure, the "pillars" of a novel, Vogler's hero's journey? And what happens to prevent the "sagging middle" against which writers are constantly warned? Finally, what's the event or scene that Bell calls a "knock-out ending?"

I won't say that all these decisions happen at once. Sometimes I have to go back after several false starts, at times rewriting up to 10,000 words, before I get the sense of who is involved and how they are going to act. But eventually I get a first draft of the novel that has sprung from a single idea. In this case, the idea came from the confrontation of a resident physician of my acquaintance and a man with a gun. You've seen how the idea is fleshed out, and I can tell you that the end result  differs from the inciting scene. It was a start, but there's a lot of work that follows.

Oh, and this is just the first draft. Three or more revisions will follow before this becomes a novel. And later there's always the thought of, "I wonder if it would be better this way?" Like poems, novels are not really finished, just abandoned.

So what do you think? Still want to write that novel? Go to it. It's worth the effort.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Dependence On Social Media

Things have changed, and most of the changes are good--but not all of them. We used to depend on newspapers and radio or TV for our news. Now it also comes from computers and smart phones.

I'm not going to opine about what we read in the newspapers or its slant. The same goes for the commentators (they're not really news anchors in most cases) on radio or TV. But there's no doubt that social media posts have become a major source of news for us. This, of course, has its good and bad points. It's great that anyone with access to a computer can put their opinion out there. It's bad that some of us take these postings as the truth.

A couple of days ago, when I went to my computer I found a number of Facebook messages waiting for me, messages that said my account had been "cloned," and people were getting requests to friend me. I was ready to accept these messages at face value (especially since I got so many of them), but a little digging showed me that this was a scam. No one was cloning accounts. No one wanted to get info from my friends. There was no reason for me to copy and send the message to everyone I knew. But for a few moments I let social media dictate my life.

Remember. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's true."

Friday, October 05, 2018

Writing: Why Go To A Conference?

Some of the authors who follow this blog (both of you) have just returned from an annual writing conference. Others are making plans to go to one after the first of the year. A third group, and apparently a large one, is debating whether to invest the time and money to attend such a conference in the future.

I'm certainly not the world's expert on writing conferences--I've attended as a student, I've participated as a faculty member, and I seriously consider each major conference as it's announced. I think it all boils down to your status, as well as what your expectations are if you attend them.

Some are what I describe as "newbie" writers. I don't use the term in a pejorative fashion--I was one myself--and this is perhaps the group that will get the most from attending a writing conference. But choose one that offers what you need, not one that's the most high-profile. When making such a choice, consider several things.

People starting out entering the publishing world often don't understand the ins and outs of what has become a rapidly changing field. I liken it to algebra--you go along and go along in utter confusion, then suddenly it makes sense. At least, it did for me. And that's important for someone just starting out as a writer.

You may have a great concept of English grammar, but the ability to string words together that are grammatically correct does not automatically confer the ability to write something that will hold the reader's attention. I don't hold with always following the rules, but one needs to understand the reason for each one before breaking them. Sure, Picasso could put body parts anywhere he wanted, but I'd bet he knew where they belonged before he moved them. That's why the novice writer has to learn about point of view, avoidance of passive voice, sparing use of adjectives, and dozens of other admonitions.

Please, fledgling writers, don't go to a conference because there are lots of editors and agents there and you expect to get representation and an immediate contract. For every attendee to whom this happens, there are dozens who are disappointed when their dreams come crashing. Make friends, enlarge your sphere of contacts, and enjoy the atmosphere of being with others who understand what you're doing and offer support.

Some veterans teach because they feel it's important to give back. Asking around will give you the information you want as to which classes are best. Choose them, pay attention, make certain the faculty recognize your name and face. You'd be surprised at how these relationships eventually deepen.

There are many more things to consider about conferences, but perhaps these will help those dipping their toes into the writing pool. Come on in. The water's fine.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Fall...Already?

Somehow, we've turned a page of the calendar and it's October. Around these parts it means the State Fair of Texas (but we haven't gone in years). It also means that we're nearing the end of Daylight Saving Time (which I've likened to cutting off an inch of cloth from the top of a piece and sewing it to the bottom to make it longer). Football is in full swing. Baseball (if you're a fan in this area and your team has been out of contention for a while) is nearing completion with the World Series. And everywhere you turn you'll find pumpkin spice flavoring--lattes, cookies, even pumpkin spice pasta.

It means the temperature will drop, the leaves will turn colors and then turn loose, and those who haven't done so (present company included) will start thinking about Christmas decorations, presents, and meals.

So how about you? What does fall mean? Let me hear.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Writing: Editing Our Work





I'm waiting to get the final edits back for my novella, Emergency Case, so editing is on my mind right now. And I thought it might be a good idea to once more go through the types of editing--at least, this is the way I do it. (There are other classifications and names for the edits, but the end result is the same).

First comes the MACRO EDIT. What I'm looking for here is how the story arc flows, whether there are glaring holes that need to be filled or characters whose actions or personalities should be changed. This is an important step, and the results have made me--on more than one occasion--go back and change things in the book. Sometimes this has happened after I've written ten thousand words or more, and at least once it has meant rewriting parts of the whole book. One of the things I recommend is not falling in love with your own words, because you may have to delete them later.

After that comes the LINE EDIT. This isn't what it might sound like. The purpose of a line edit is to evaluate (and correct) the way the author has used words to communicate ideas. It often involves rewriting a section for accuracy or clarity. But it's not (or at least, usually isn't) a situation looking for errors in spelling, punctuation, or word usage. That comes next.

The final step is the COPY EDIT. That changes numerals written in number form to those spelled out (I never can keep the rules straight). It puts in or removes commas, changes ellipses to dashes and vice-versa, and makes sure that if a name is Holiday in the first of the book it doesn't appear as Hathaway toward the end. (The last one has always been my downfall).

I said final step, but there's actually one more--the PROOFREADING. This is done just before printing, and is for picking up errors missed previously. And, despite all efforts, there is probably something that has been overlooked. It happens everywhere. I was just reading the work of an excellent author, a novel published by a well-respected publisher, and found the same word misspelled twice on the same page.

Ah, writing. How wonderful to put one's words out there for the world to see and criticize. That's why an author shouldn't do all this on his/her own.

What do you think? Is all the editing necessary? Should an indie-published author pay someone to edit (I do) or do it themselves? Let me know.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Scattershooting

Every once in a while, I hark back to the columns of the late Blackie Sherrod, probably one of the best sports writers in this area. He did one periodically with the lead line of "Scattershooting while wondering what ever happened to..." (He'd fill in the blanks depending on his recollections and whatever was on his mind.)

My thoughts today are scattered, and I really don't feel like gathering them into coherent paragraphs. I've just gone through the process of changing our TV/Internet/Phone carrier after tiring of the constant service interruptions by bad weather, inferior equipment (often poorly installed), and other factors. I've watched my local pro football team play an absolutely abysmal game. The season is finally (mercifully) ending for the local pro baseball team. I'm concerned by the current political climate in our nation. And this morning I emptied the rain gauge again. making a total of over six inches in the past several days. (But fortunately we've been spared the flooding that the news has showed us from other parts of the country). And, of course, I continue--despite being "retired"--to work on the products of my second career, writing.

So, that's where I stand. Ever have a time when you were supposed to do something and your thoughts were scattered? If so, you have my sympathy.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Writing: Busy, Busy, Busy

I'll confess--I've been enjoying not having a deadline to meet. As an "independent" author, I've been free to relax a bit. After all, there's no editor or marketing manager or someone else from a publishing house to tell me that a manuscript is due on such-and-such a date, that I need to get edits returned by a specific time, that I should cooperate in marketing because my book will be published an a certain day...in other words, there's a real temptation to enjoy this relative freedom. But at some point, authors unassociated with a publisher have to wake up to the fact that it's all up to them to set up a schedule and meet some of those deadlines--even if they're self-imposed.

My book, Guarded Prognosis, has been doing well, and I thank each of you who has read it (or any of the other dozen novels and four novellas I've written). I'm now in the midst of arranging for that novel to be available in audio format (which means I have to listen to the entire novel myself, correcting any errors the narrator makes). And in a moment of weakness, I said there'd be a novella published late this fall, which means I'm back at work putting the finishing touches on Emergency Case. So, despite the temptation to kick back, I'm back at work...writing, editing, creating, selling, even a little bit of teaching. Ah, the writing life.

Which brings me to a question for you. What do you think the ideal interval between release of novels would be? One per year? One per six months? Does your answer reflect your status as a writer, a reader, or both? Let me hear.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lessons From A Bumper Sticker

It's been a nightmare around here, folks. I was just thinking about how calm my wife and I have been as we wrestled with the vagaries of the "new and improved" type of technology that brings television images into our homes. The Internet is working fine. The landline (yes, we still have one of those) is available for incoming and outgoing calls. But the TV set keeps giving us the message that there's no wireless connection between the wonderful box that gets signals and our set.

Fortunately, the repairman (yes, he's been out here once already) gave us his phone number, and promises to come out today. But just as I was settling down, I read James Scott Bell's post about his own experiences on the freeways of LA. He kept his cool, although I get the impression it wasn't easy. His suggestion is that authors come up with a bumper sticker to be applied by their protagonist. Why don't we think of one for ourselves? Mine might be "Count to Ten." There was a time when I would explode at the drop of a hat, and supply the hat. But I'm better than that now. Or, at least, I try to be.

It reminds me of the incident where a car was pulled over by a patrolman. The driver, all injured innocence, asked why he was stopped. He was told that, despite the fish emblem on the back of the car and the bumper sticker saying they were members of a well-known church in the area, the officer took note of  the way the car was being driven, and assumed that it was stolen.

Think about it. And act accordingly.