Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cloaked in Fur Book Review

I like reviewing books for Reader's Favorite. If you are self-publishing, I recommend you submit to them for a review. I sent Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards to them, and if I get a favorable review, I am planning on submitting it for their contest. Reviews are free (unless you want them fast), but the yearly contest does cost. However, submitting your book will either get a good review - if the book is good OR advice on how to make the book better. Either way, you get a little sample of how the market feels about your book.

Reviewed by Jennifer Reinoehl for Readers' Favorite.
T. F. Walsh’s Cloaked in Fur is an action, paranormal book. It is an intense, suspenseful werewolf-style story set in modern Romania and told in first person.

Daciana, or Daci as her boyfriend calls her, no longer feels at home with her pack because of the changes in the way their leader is acting. She lives in the city away from her wulfkin (werewolf) family, dreads the nearing Lunar Eutine when she will have to join them, and is seeking a mystical recipe that could help her become a human and allow her to leave them permanently.
Then, she encounters a dracwulf – a forbidden creature created by mating a wulfkin with a natural wolf. She must figure out why this creature is in existence when allowing it to live can mean death for her pack and why it is suddenly hunting the humans near and dear to her. She also struggles with leading a double life and keeping up with all the lies she has to tell her boyfriend, Connell, to keep him from discovering her true nature.

Cloaked in Fur is a page-turner that moves quickly from beginning to end with many heavy action scenes. Once you start reading, catch your breath where you can. The descriptions are realistic and well done. There are scenes of graphic violence and one, long, detailed sex scene, so this one isn’t for kids. I docked it a star because although most of the ends are wrapped up, T. F. Walsh takes a little longer to do it. This makes the conclusion drag a little even though the heavy action is sustained throughout it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Grump session part II

Yeah, I know I did the self-publishing thing and interrupted it with this, but since blogger screwed up the order of my posts, I wanted to get the rest of the self-publishing together and this post grew too long.

So the guy who hired me called me up to tell me I didn't know what I was talking about because I hadn't had any scripts produced or accepted. Here's the irony - of the few screenplays I have written, I have only tried to get one produced - Mary's screenplay. Now, as a ghostwriter, I have no control over what my employers do with their screenplays once I give them to them. Therefore, if I write a screenplay for someone, they could bury it in their backyard and it would never be produced through no fault of mine. This would be a very expensive way to get something to bury in your backyard, but hey, who am I to judge.

I did not tell Mary to submit the script to a production company, but to a screenplay contest. This is actually the easiest way to get noticed- survive a well-known screenplay contest as long as you can. The script is now in the second round qualifiers (YEAH!), but I am praying not necessarily that it will win but that it will get produced so she can feel justified in the large amount of money she spent on me. If it does win, I will probably step out of my hole and help her try to get someone big to notice it. Shoot, even if it doesn't I might at this point. But I really like Mary - she is a very nice employer.

I have no desire of getting a screenplay produced with my own name on it. If Mel Gibson (the first producer that came to my mind) appeared outside my door and said he had been following my blog and wanted to pay me a quarter of a million dollars to write his next movie, I would not jump up and down with joy. I would probably tell him I did not want that kind of pressure and turn it down unless my husband were there to stop me - I am pretty sure he would stop me from turning down $250,000 for anything. (I asked him - he said his response to me turning this down would be, "I'm sorry, Mel. I know this is kind of backward for you, but I think my wife is drunk.") Please Mel, if you are reading this, do not put that kind of strain on my marriage even for a joke. I am sure you can find much better, inspired screenplay writers than me.

I have worked in the theatre; I love the theatre; I have many friends in the theatre; but I do not under any circumstances want to work in the theatre any more than what I do. I am a dresser not only because I love the challenge of changing a man into a woman in less than 30 seconds, but also because it is one of the few jobs in the theatre that requires the least amount of commitment (unless you want to do it for a living).

Needless to say, this guys comment that I hadn't had something produced and was thereby worthless hit me hard. I was pretty insulted. He certainly wasn't paying me enough at $35 to read through his play and critique it and then insult me afterward. He then told me he never wanted me to edit it (I have it in writing that he did), and he said I didn't give him comments about it. There are at least 3 - 8 comments on every page of his 125 page screenplay - although the last 10 pages or so are sparse in the comment department because I think he should just cut them. I then gave him a 2-page word document of general comments. I asked if he had read all my comments, and he said "no." Why did he hire me if he wasn't going to read all my comments?

I know what I am talking about, and I think that is what irritated him. I told him not only what was wrong, but why it was wrong. He could not say "Oh, no one else pointed that out and thought it was bad, so she must not know what she is talking about" because this is the type of feedback I gave: "You cannot stop using sentences in dialogue. Yes, some responses are not complete sentences and some characters may never talk in complete sentences, but you have most of your characters resorting to speech that is so disjointed it reads like the character took notes about a situation and then decided to read them aloud word for word." This is a fact. He can look at his script and see that, yes, his characters talk in notes, not sentences. 

When I started to read my comments to show him that I had in fact given him comments about the characters, he hung up on me. Yeah, real mature. So, I decided that if he was going to hang up on me AND insult me, he owed me the full amount due, and I invoiced him accordingly. We'll see if he pays or just loses his bragging rights about paying. I am just glad I won't have to come up with reasons why I can't help him with his posters. Perhaps if I had just written: "This entire screenplay needs to be completely rewritten, and I am not available to do it" it would have saved us all some time and money.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Formatting a Children's Book for CreateSpace or My Adventures in Self-Publishing II

So when I went to hire someone to illustrate my book, one of the artists said she would also format it for me. In the end, she did not want to illustrate it, but she still begged me to have her format it so it would be "done right." She told me she had seen many children's books that were poorly formatted and she learned the special technique to do it. And, I believed her - but that shouldn't be a surprise, I tend to be naïve when it comes to trusting new people. It is true, however, that formatting a children's book is not even remotely easy.

Now, once the book was illustrated, I hired her to format it. Now, I didn't just hire her without checking anyone else out. I posted a job and she was actually the best candidate. Most of the other people were graphic artists who were going to both illustrate and set it up for kindle, which I did not want. She was the only one who actually had samples of children's books that she had formatted.

However, she also, apparently, had illustrated all the books she had formatted. In other words, they were all ready set up in a way she felt would best set off the words. I sent her the pictures, expecting her to send me back a page that had the words on it like a normal children's book. She sent me back a page that had the picture outlined in a heavy frame and the words outlined in another heavy frame.

When I told her what my vision of a page was, she complained that some of the pictures were done in portrait and some in landscape and she did not want to resize them because it would ruin the pictures. I told her I would fix them so they were all square pictures to fit on the square pages and she could just add the words and flatten the pages. (I had not discovered how to add the words in paint so they would be consistently sized from page to page nor did I have a page flattening program.)

So, I went through and created square pages and then set them to her so she could cut and paste the words into the picture, flatten them by pressing a button and send them back to me "formatted." I paid her hundreds of dollars for this. Then, she was supposed to send me two files, one for CreateSpace in a PDF and one for Kindle in a .mobi file.

When the project was nearing its end, she called me up. I had given her access to my CreateSpace account, and she had taken the MS Word file, changed it to PDF and uploaded it. Now, she complained, she could not adjust the pages in the MS Word file so they would look right in CreateSpace. Every time she tried to move a picture on the page to center it better, another page would disappear.

By this time, I was finished. I asked her about the kindle file and she said I did not need one because CreateSpace would do it for me. I said I wanted one anyway, but she never sent it. She began to whine that the pages were not acting right because I set them up wrong and she wanted to be paid because it was the end of the month.

I was tired of it at this point. I had spent a lot of time talking with her on the phone two to three times a week and she had already spent six weeks on a job that was supposed to take two. I took the messed up file she had and then I released her money.

Now, this woman also talked with me for hours on the phone about her life, my life, and everything in between. She kept telling me she wanted to friend me on Facebook and then never did because she told me she was afraid to friend people. I cannot say I am upset. I am actually just relieved.

It was easy to figure out her problem - she never put page breaks between each picture. I did this and then to save time, I just put in the margins required. This made my pictures a little smaller than what they could have been because she put margins into the pictures and then "bled" them with zero margins, but I think that was also part of the problem. I could have gone back and reduced the size of the original files, but I was done and the book looked good in CreateSpace. If you get it, you probably wouldn't have noticed the wide margins except I have now told you to look for them.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Formatting a Children's Book for Kindle or My Adventures in Self-Publishing III (As usual, Blogger decided to publish this out of order)

 Well, my book looks pretty awesome in CreateSpace in my humble opinion. I used an 8.5" square format, and I feel that is a nice size for kids to use. I ordered the proof, found a typo (I had switched two pages in all my adjusting), and then wanted to hit myself because I had already ordered the proof. However, when I uploaded the new file, I must have done it quick enough because CreateSpace sent me the corrected version.

I was really happy and waited the 24 hours for the review and the conversion to Kindle. Even though this was over Thanksgiving, they did it quickly. I missed my final final final deadline of Black Friday, but all in all I was pleased. I hadn't done any marketing so I wasn't expecting to sell anything anyway. Then I went to pick up the CreateSpace file that was formatted for Kindle and carried it over to the Kindle link where I could deposit it.

Excited, I opened the converted kindle file - I have a Kindle on my computer. But it showed square pages. I wanted to see what it would look like on an actual Kindle. So, I opened the previewer on the website (which caused its own problems since I upgraded to IE11 too soon) and found my pages shrunk to mini-sized and only filling the top half of the screen. Wow. Another disaster. I am so glad that it automatically will convert it into a nice file and I didn't need the mobi I was supposed to get.

Actually, I am glad. Had I received a mobi file, I might have tried to use that and it probably would have been just as useless based on my experience. So, I went back to the drawing board - literally.

I created a paint page that was 1800 x 3000. I have no clue why I finally settled on these dimensions, but they seemed to work well. Then I created a 4 x 6 MS Word document with .5" margins. I created a colored box, cut the words out from the formatted pages in 1700ish pixel lengths and pasted them into my paint page on the box. This was torture. Then I cut the picture out of the formatted document and pasted it onto the page. This was tricky because I couldn't paste anything larger than 1800 pixels wide. Sometimes, I would enlarge the page or cut parts off it to focus in on certain areas.

Then, I tried to put it into a html file which Kindle likes - that wasn't happening, so I just uploaded a PDF again. It worked well. Again, I am happy with the results.

Please note, it took from Thanksgiving until Dec. 8th before I finished this process. It was not fun at all. However, since I feel I have finally figured it out, I think I am going to add it as a skill to my new Guru profile. Anyway, here are the same two pages I posted earlier in my "Kindle" version:

Friday, December 13, 2013

We interrupt our regular programming for a grump session entitled: If you don't want my advice, don't hire me.

I want the people who hire me to get the money they pay me back. That means, I want them to succeed in whatever they are doing. I have said before that I am brutally honest, and I am. If I ever make it big, I will either have to stop talking (and have my husband talk for me) or I will have to hire someone to talk for me. I do not mean to be rude, but I cannot and will not say - "Oh yeah, that's a great _____! You are going to go far with it!" when I think it is awful. I will do my best to find the bright spot, because I don't want to crush people, but this is not a part of my nature.

Well, I took a job from a guy who was bragging about all the money he has spent on Guru. He hired me to "review" his screenplay and give me my opinion of it. Then, in a private message he added that I could edit it, too. Okay. Whatever. He also wanted me to call him, and like all people who have enough money where they think they can buy the world but no class to match it, he said not to worry about my bid. He told me he would pay me an hourly rate and asked what mine was. When I told him $18, I could hear him gulp. Yeah, that's a lot to dish out for your screenplay hobby. I was nice and said I would lower my rate, because at this point it seemed like all he had gotten was masses upon masses of cheap coverage that were like film critics "I like it/ I don't." He wasn't ready to take the dive and pay a real writer to fix his errors or even point them out. ($36,000 is the going rate to have someone write your screenplay. Please note: I am cheaper, but not cheap to most people.)

Now, he has written many, many screenplays and never gotten them accepted. And based on what I read, he never will unless he decides to put forward the $75 - 100 million and form his own production company to accept them. (I don't think he's that rich based on his attitude - Most of the really rich people I have met usually have class and don't need to brag about how great they are.) But it irritated me that he felt I wasn't qualified to work on his script because I live in Indiana and not Hollywood. Really? Welcome to the 21st century where screenwriters can choose their hometowns and commute through computers.

During our conversation he also started telling me about all these other projects he has and how he could work with me on those. I inwardly groaned. No, I do not want to write posters. No, I do not want to edit your sleezy biography and no Tropic of Cancer was not that big of a hit. I already have jobs lined up for a while; I just need little ones to sustain me through writers block. But, I played nice on the phone.

Then, I actually got into the script and began point out the editing/ plot/ character/ formatting issues he had. I spent two days writing him extensive feedback on how to make his script better (in short, hire a professional that is not me to rewrite this mess you made). And, I wasn't nice. I am not in a nice mood this week, and I used all my nice up on the phone to him. I was actually pretty upset to find that the first half of the screenplay was formatted and written correctly and the entire second half  was not. I sent it to him and asked him to release the meager amount he had placed in SafePay and then sent him an invoice (not through Guru yet) for the more than $200 it would cost him at our agreed upon rate. I told him I would understand if he didn't want to pay the invoice in full.

To be continued (Thursday)...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards or My Adventures in Self-Publishing I

So, after much hard work and trouble, I have finally published a children's book. This book is a labor of love about a toddler who has a wild imagination. It teaches children to confront their imagined fears.

I hired someone to format the book but had nothing but disaster with her (to be continued on the next thread...). So, my book that was supposed to be finished by the end of September and marketed in October for a November release is just now getting uploaded into CreateSpace and Kindle (sigh) and has yet to be marketed. I also still need to have it translated and create the hardcover version (which costs $99 and you then have to buy the books from CreateSpace and sell them yourself). *CreateSpace no longer offers this.

Now, when I published my Teaching Guide on the novel Cheaper By the Dozen, I paid CreateSpace $25 to buy extended marketing (although this is not "real" marketing in my book it does open up options). I was perfectly happy with this option. This time, I was initially excited because extended marketing was "free." However, selecting this option meant that the least I could make the list price for my book was $9.99 (Amazon is selling it for $8.99 - go figure). I would rather pay the $25 and be able to charge less.

Thankfully, I can set my own prices on Kindle - well, sort of. I wavered between the 35% commission and a $0.99 cost or the 70% commission and a $2.99 cost. I felt the later was better to start. Not necessarily because I want to make more, but because I feel the book is good enough to charge that much. I do not think I could charge any more than $2.99 for an e-book simply because it doesn't cost anything to publish it (aside from marketing).

Yes, despite the fact that my social media targets adults and adults only, I wrote a children's book - well, maybe the person that I am hiring to market it can help figure that out. Don't worry, I am not planning on changing anything about this blog to market it. I just wrote the book many years ago and wanted to put it out there. However, if any of you are interested or happen to have children or grandchildren that need an extra stocking stuffer (or Kindle stuffer?), here's the Amazon link.

And here's my favorite pages:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Typing Speed

Some of you might have noticed that I added a typing speed checker at the bottom of my blog so you can check your typing speed. This is only a rough estimate because it is made with random quotes which are much easier to type than random words.

If you want to write, you need to be able to type. I found a cool online typing practice website too: You can go there and practice so you improve your speed.

Typing is a vital skill for anyone who wants to be a writer. Yes, you can write everything out on paper (I used to only get inspiration with a pen and paper in hand), but not only is it inefficient because you then have to type your work  before you can do anything with it, but it is also inefficient because you have to keep track of it and moving one section to a new spot is a lot more difficult.

Whatever your method, at some point as an author you need to type, learning to do this quickly and efficiently will save you both time and money in the end.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What would you do?

So of the past three editing jobs I have had, one was a content edit and two were "grammar/ punctuation."

I have talked about this before, but the "grammar/punctuation" were actually content edits in disguise. So what would you do? These people hired me to do a quick, easy 3 day job and paid me to do a quick easy 3 day job, but in the end I had to spend a month doing a content edit, send it back to them, and then do a regular edit. (I had to send it back to them because eventually it gets too red and marked up to deal with anymore.)

The other problem is that one of these people did not know how/did not want to use the track changes feature. She returned the paper to me with all the changes still marked and then in the email said - "I don't want to change this, this, this, and that, but everything else is good." What!! Not only did I have to spend extra time going though and fixing her manuscript but I also had to then spend several hours going through the changes and accepting only the ones she wanted. I am not talking a couple of hundred changes, I am talking tens of thousands of changes.

Of course it becomes impossible for me to finish these manuscripts in the time I estimated. I have finally finished them, but I still have the content edit for the guy who actually hired me to do that. I, unfortunately, work on a first come, first serve basis and he was the last person to put his money in. Sad.

What makes the story even more tragic is that the lady already docked me on feedback for timeliness - really? When you give someone a manuscript with thousands of errors and want them to fix it, it is going to take time - it is also going to cost more. But, the first time an author gets their manuscript edited professionally, they should expect thousands of changes. Beta readers are not paid and cannot do this for you for free. The guy, whose manuscript I returned today and who is probably also going to dock me for timeliness, used beta readers before sending it to me.

Beta readers are good to send a manuscript to after you have had it content edited. They will pick up things the content editor missed. Once an editor becomes familiar with a story it makes it difficult to find the errors. Then, you need to send it in for a grammar/punctuation check which should turn out maybe hundreds of errors. Finally it goes to the proofreader who should pick up tens of errors and formatting errors.

I still do not know what I am going to do the next time I get a "grammar/ and punctuation" editing job and find out they need a good content edit - do I just fix typos or do I actually insert numerous comment discussions about the things that don't work?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lifting the Lid

I review books for Reader's Favorite. The best of them I like to post here as examples of how to write a good self-published book:

Reviewed by Jennifer Reinoehl for Readers' Favorite.

Some people can spend their entire dull lives living inside the box, unfortunately, Trevor isn’t smart enough to do that. When faced with another poor job review, he decides to take the company up on their offer to let him go with severance pay before they can fire him. So what does an idiot with a rather nice bundle of cash and no job do? Buy a broken down camper and head into the wilds of Scotland for a little adventure with plenty of midge spray and an incorrigible dog named Milly. Unfortunately, his tame adventure goes wrong at the drop of a toilet lid and spirals out-of-control from that point forward. His life becomes so crazy that even his own mother wants to put him behind bars. After developing a love-hate relationship with a private investigator working for questionable employers and being chased around Britain by bad guys, good guys, and guys no one knows about, will Trevor finally be able to escape prison time for all crimes he has not committed?
Rob Johnson’s Lifting the Lid will grab you and pull you along for a fun and wild ride. Although written for the British, anyone will find this book entertaining. The story was fast-paced, and the lighthearted style keeps you smiling. The characters are lively and intriguing. They leave you wanting to read more about them and their zany lives. Whenever they think they have it figured out, something new jumps into the road for them to deal with.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writer with a PhD

I always roll my eyes at writers that advertise themselves as having a PhD. I certainly wouldn't hire them and I think they are being very misleading.

You see, not all majors have a PhD as their terminal degree and writing is one of them. If you want to be a creative writer, you get your Master's degree. What this means is that people who advertise themselves as writers with a PhD, either do not know what they are talking about or have a PhD in something else - such as business or biology - and then let people assume that their PhD is in writing.

You may be thinking - but if I am writing a fiction book like Jurassic Park, wouldn't I want a biologist or paleontologist with a PhD helping me? Uh... no. I have a B.S. in biology - for that degree, I needed to take all of two writing courses at a whopping 6 credit hours. I have read a lot of biology journals - let me tell you, it shows in their writing. I have also taken numerous biology exams where I wished the teacher had taken at least enough writing courses to create coherent questions.

After a biologist gets a Bachelor's Degree, they never have to take another writing course again. They will be doing a lot of writing on their thesis and dissertation, but they can hire someone like me for content editing to help them. In fact, there are many teachers who recommend their graduate students do this because they do not have basic coherent writing skills.

For the record, I have taken more than the required writing courses. I took creative writing, two fiction writing courses and two literary/play analysis courses. But that is why I have two undergraduate degrees with 256 credit hours and no masters degree (sigh). At this point in my life, I would like to get a Master's degree in creative writing, but I have to pay off my college loans first - 256 credit hours is expensive to say the least.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Flat characters are black and white. When we read a story with flat characters, we walk away unsure of what makes that character tick.

The novel I am editing right now actually explains something about each character when we first meet them. We learn a little of their background and what motivates them. I do not agree that everybody should do this, but for this particular novel, it works.

Now, just telling me that your character is motivated to find the pirate's gold, or to marry the woman, or to kill Dr. Michner, is not characterization. To make your characters real, you have to know what they eat (and don't eat), what they read, what they wear. You also need to know why they do the things they do. Are they struggling to be famous? Are they trying to get out of a bad relationship?

You as the author need to know everything about your character. You do not need to tell me everything about him. Unless something interesting happens in the bathroom - I do not need to know about it as a reader. We all have to use it, and for the most part there is very little that can happen that is exciting in there. And if something interesting happens in there, the reader better know why or find out sometime in the book.

In addition to understanding your character, you need to make him or her logical. You can have a good character, who helps little old ladies across the street and rescues puppies but works as a hitman - as long as you justify his behavior. If you don't - if your character is motivated and does things strictly because (a) you're the author and you said so and/or (b) he or she has to do it or it will ruin your plot - the character will be flat. As a reader, I want to know why the guy is a hitman if he is rescuing little old ladies and puppies on the side.

If I were writing a book like that, my hitman would have been abused alongside of his sister as a child, because he loved his sister, he always stood up for her - hence anything that is weak he helps and cannot kill. However, since he was abused, he is challenged by taking out the capable and competent. I would not tell the reader this in the story, I would show him or her. I would have the hitman talk about his sister in ways that are loving. I would have him get angry whenever he is told what to do, and I would throw in a plot twist right around the climax where he is sent to kill someone and discovers the person is a blind, helpless, female.

When I write, I become my characters. I like to know everything about them and then I write from their perspective. Perhaps this is because I was originally trained to be a method actor before switching my concentration to costuming halfway through my theatre degree.

P.S. The few the number of main characters, the easier it is to know them. Once you get to six characters, you will generally begin to transpose one character on another one.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Looking for Inspiration in all the Wrong Ways

Like most writers, I find inspiration at the library. On my latest visit, I was browsing the poetry section and noticed a book entitled People of Walmart. When you see a book like that in the poetry section, you immediately wonder what in the world it is doing in the poetry section (some may also wonder what I was doing in the poetry section since I was researching Hanoverian England and specifically went to the library looking for a book entitled Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking). I could not resist my curiosity and began glancing through the book.

This book is very wrong. One of the lines in the disclaimer states: "We are not responsible if [after reading this book] have the sudden urge to... clean your eyes with bleach..." Yes, it is that wrong.

I began reading this book captivated, telling myself that I in no way could bring this book home where not only would it go on my library record for the NSA to know I checked it out, but I would also have no guarantee that my children would not accidentally pick it up and glance through it themselves. However, it was close to closing time and so, I had to check it out... The librarian agreed with me that (1) the book is just wrong and (2) it is nearly impossible to put down once you open it. I justified my voyeurism into the wrong world of Walmart shoppers by saying I would have to make a blog post about it.

Hey, if pictures and stories about the wrong people who shop at Walmart inspire you to write a better historical romance, this is definitely the book for you... Taste is pretty good too, but there is nothing wrong about that book - except maybe the color picture of the lady skinning a rabbit.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking to Publish Your Book - Beware!

I just wanted to take a moment to warn you about the publishing scams. I guess they are not scams per se, but they are definitely on the boarder of scam. First, if you are looking for a traditional publishing company - do not do an Internet search to find one. The only reputable source that I would recommend for finding a traditional publisher is the latest version of The Writer's Market. There are magazines, book publishers, agents, contests and these come in the general version and specific genres. Are there other legit publishing companies not listed? Maybe (I think sometimes agents and publishing companies are so booked they request not being listed, simply because they will be in one year, out one year and in the next year). But why take the chance?

If you are self-publishing, just go to Amazon and figure out how to format for CreateSpace (or have/pay someone do this for you). Most self-publishing companies are a rip off. The Writer's Market doesn't even list them. You pay them big amounts of money to publish your book for you. You may or may not get marketing help and many of them will just go to Amazon and CreateSpace and publish your book there (for free and take most of the royalties). You may or may not be paid royalties you earn (there are several self-publishing companies that have not paid authors even if the book sold well). Are they all scams? - No. Some do provide services similar to what you could hire on Guru or eLance that will give even the poorest authors a good book. But again why take the chance?

It is difficult to build an audience. You want each book you put out to be the best it can be so your audience wants to buy the next book you write. If you dump a bunch of money into marketing your first book and it is awful, you just spent a lot of money reducing the size of your audience by that much.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brutal Honesty

Okay, so if anyone reading this hasn't guessed by now, I am brutally honest in my opinions. I will not lead you on a yellow leash and tell you that what you have is wonderful when it isn't. If you are lucky, I may have my husband read through my comments first to make sure I am saying it as nicely as possible... maybe.

For those who hire me, I give them brutal honesty and when we are finished, they will have a story that is marketable. However, I do not expect many to return unless they are masochistic. I do, however, expect them to leave better authors than what they came to me.

I would like to take this time to return to a post I wrote several weeks ago about the woman who hired me to edit her novel. I was the most expensive freelancer and I have a morality clause - I don't work on things that I deem to be ethically or morally wrong - that's right MY definition. Now, she had SEVERAL freelancers turn it down because of the raunchy sex in it, but she insisted it was not being published as erotica. So, I took the job.

Hmmm.... how do I say it... it was raunchy. But, it actually had a decent plot considering it is her first urban novel (she has written one other book - a memoir). Now, we have taken several weeks to tear apart this book. I worked on it, then I sent it to her and she worked on it and it went back and forth like this. Yes, I told her what she had done wrong, but as an editor, I gave her the choice to fix it or not. And most of the time, she fixed it (there are still a few raunchy scenes, but they are much better written) and she did a good job of it. I don't know if she will ever want to go through the process with me again, but I have confidence that she has a product that is marketable and she has learned things about writing.

So, I try to help people, but I reached out to one of the old school freelancers who was grumping about not getting enough money. After reading my suggestions for him to spend more time marketing himself, he called me a "troll." Okay, I 'm a big girl... I can take it. People inherently resist change of any kind even if it is for the better (which is why it surprises me than none of the people who have hired me have called me a troll or worse yet). However, in response, to ensure I was not some evil new Internet scumbag, I found this lovely blog that lays it out for you:
Occasionally, I am an A - if I deem there is nothing I say that will get through to you. But for the most part I am B. I do not eat people or goats... well, at least not raw.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Freelancers Unite! So we can make millions of dollars! - NOT!

I'm sick of freelancers posting that we should be earning more money and whining because people underbid them on jobs. One said we shouldn't charge less than 0.50 per word! Regardless of the project! Really? None of the people who posted to this discussion and agreed with this silly rate had famous names like Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. Yet these people think the $0.02 per word (that I charge) is slave labor, and I am giving it away free. Yes, my writing/translating rates are about to increase to $0.03 - $0.05. I also charge based on a sliding scale depending on the job (Editing is $2-$4 per page) and if I have an established relationship with the employer or not (The longer I have known you the more flexible I will be in my pricing).

Let me put what these overpriced freelancers are asking in perspective:

I just wrote a book (in about three months – I do not freelance full time) of 70,000 words that I am planning on submitting for traditional publication or if that fails, self-publishing. Either way, I will put time and effort into promoting/marketing this book, and I will, of course, assume some or all of the risk – my income from it will depend upon sales. All in all, I expect to make about $25,000 off of this book over time. (This book is different from the children's book I am self-publishing in a few weeks.)
By their standard flat rate of 50 cents per word, if an employer hired me for this book, gave me the idea of what to write about, and then assumed ALL the risk for it, I, a no name freelancer who will assume none of the risk nor spend any time promoting it, should charge him $35,000 to write it. The freelance editor should then charge him another $35,000 to edit it (times however many editors he likes to use, I prefer three). The proofreader should charge $35,000, as well. So, those who support this outrageous rate are saying that freelancers, who once again assume none of the risk and frequently are not famous or even known, should charge more for a book than what someone who is an outright author should earn.

The bottom line is that people buying books will only pay so much. That means the people hiring you are only going to get so much for it. If I write an awesome, award winning novel and charge $50 per paperback book copy – I am not going to sell very many books no matter how much I promote it. If I am an awesome science fiction author, I may sell millions of books, but I am limited by the number of people who like to read science fiction. If I write articles for a magazine, I am limited in what I can charge by the number of people who subscribe to the magazine and the number of authors submitting their articles to it.

If you want to be a freelancer, my advice is to research the market and find out what other freelancers are charging - regardless of where they live (please note: NOT in discussion boards where you can say you earn tons of money- look at their profiles and look at the projects and how much they actually earned). That is why I like Guru. I can see what others charge, and I can look at their posted work samples, so I can charge competitively with others who produce the same quality of work. However, when you are just beginning, don't expect to make the same that someone who has a proven track record makes.

Why? I give you this example - When I hired 5 freelancers for one job, 2 were old pros. They completed the job quickly, kept up good communication throughout it, and provided me with quality work. Three of the freelancers were new and had not made over $1000. Of them, one was close to making $1000. He completed the work like an old pro. The other two neither communicated with me, nor completed the work. When an employer hires a new freelancer, he or she is taking on more of a risk with a newer person than an older one. One of the old pros was asking a higher rate and the up and coming one was asking the same (I negotiated a lower rate with the up and coming one). The other old pro was asking the same amount as one of the bad newbies. The third (also bad) newbie was asking a little less than all the others.

My point is, if you are new, you are a risk. I will not even hire people with no feedback as a general rule. But, if you have a service I need, are low priced, and I have time to hire someone else if you fail, I consider it. Regardless of how good you are - being new means more risk to your employer. The way to get them to take that risk is to show them good samples and offer an introductory rate. Start out asking 50 cents per word, and I guarantee I will have made more in my first year of freelancing than what you will make during yours.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So you want to be an author?

So you have a "good idea" for a book? So people keep telling you that you should write a book? So your friends LOVED your manuscript?

Until recently, I believed that everyone could be an author especially with support services like those found on Guru. Now, I'm sorry, I don't believe this any longer.

Why? Because it has recently come to my attention that some people (self-proclaimed authors) do not know their limitations and are surrounded by people who will not point them out to them. Not everyone can author a book. The End.

Now, for those of you who feel the limitations of your craft and who seek out people to increase their knowledge and refine their craft - yes, you can all be authors. If you have never read a book and failed Freshman English (the second one applies to me - it's a long story) but you have a really good idea for a book and want to pay someone to ghostwrite it for you (who is qualified) than you will make an excellent author.

You don't have to follow the "rules" to write a book, but you have to know all the rules so you know when and where to break them. I do not expect every book I read to be excellent or even good. I understand that your first novel will probably not be your favorite. But please, if you are writing a book, get objective help.

I loved The Princess Bride. That book breaks the rules. The author knew exactly when to insert a "meaningless" excerpt from his life to build tension and show how his life (or a fictionalized version) was a mess compared to the happily ever after in the book. Genius.

However, the reason I am writing this is because I have read a published book by someone who did not know how to write a book, who submitted it and published it through a publisher who knew nothing about the trade, and who made a bestseller list with reviews that were by people who either didn't finish the book or were paid.

Imagine if I gave you a book to read about a two trolls who needed to be together to save the world. They were together in the beginning of the book then one decided to leave and fight in a troll war. During the troll war he was captured by lizardmen. [Imagine an image of my family geneology is inserted here.] Ryan and his family lived in Australia with his favorite dog. One day his dog got lost and Ryan travelled down my family tree to find it. At the bottom was an inter-dimensional tear to the troll world. He went through the tear and help the troll escape, but the other troll had already come looking for the captured troll. Ryan died, but the lizard woman he married there was carrying his child. The lizardwoman and the captured troll travelled to the trolls home and met the first troll along the way. The end.

Sadly, this story that I just made up is better than the book I just read. This is why you need objective feedback. I asked my husband, who loves me dearly and thinks I am a good writer, his honest opinion of the story I wrote. His first words were "What do you mean?" After much prompting, he finally said, "It's short" (nervously). I had to tell him he would not get in trouble with me no matter what he said before he finally admitted, "It's terrible." If you think your loved ones are telling you the truth about your work, write something really awful (make it short - they are your loved ones after all) and see what they say. If they are still saying you should be an author and it's wonderful, you might want to find a new source of objectivity. Please.

It doesn't take much to be a good author. Even those without writing skills can write wonderful stories with objective, constructive criticism (or a good ghostwriter). But you have to be humble enough to ask for help from the right people.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Promotion

Most new authors who are self-publishing think they can put it on Amazon and that is all they need to do to start making money. Yes, it can happen that way, but more than likely it won't. Promoting your book is as important as finding a niche you can stick with the guidelines to write.

I recently received a message from a guy (through Guru) who wanted me to write a letter he could send to "all" the publishers that would get one of them to promote his already published books. No, I did not break down laughing - although I was rolling my eyes because I do not deal with marketing. I would rather pay someone to do it for me. Let me rephrase that: I would rather pay someone thousands of dollars to do that for me instead of only hundreds of dollars to develop a plan for me and do it myself.

If you have found yourself with a large stack of books that you have paid money to self-publish and now instead of earning the money back you find them sitting around the house as useful doorstops, bookends, step stools, and Christmas gifts, this was my response:
If you have already had the book printed, a publisher is not going to promote it for you. There are many ways to promote books online and there are some book promoters in the marketing section of Guru that could help you. There are trade shows, book reviews, book signings. Locally, you can sometimes donate your book to libraries to generate interest.

If you had an unpublished manuscript, you could send it to agents and publishers; however, it would be a waste of time and money to send it to "ALL" publishers. You would need to purchase (or borrow from the library) a 2014 copy of the Writer's Market and choose publishers who publish in your genre. Sending a non-fiction book to Tor (a noted science fiction publisher who only accepts agented submissions) will only serve in adding more paper to the recycling bin. You need the most up to date copy of the Writer's Market, but it also contains a wealth of ideas for self-promoting your book. Publishers only accept published books that are already doing well and those that were heavily promoted. In fact, it is difficult to find a traditional publisher these days who will accept new authors who don't already have their own promotional platform in place.
I left out the part that explains what I do on Guru and what I do not. Since I am absolutely the worst person to write a pitch (yes, I have already read thousands of successful ones - see above note about paying someone to market my book), why someone would seek me out and ask me to write them an impossible sales letter is beyond me. Maybe its my sunny personality? :-)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Writing for a genre

Each genre has certain guidelines of what works and what doesn't, just as each publishing company prints a very specific books. The problem is that as an author you might want to write a book that doesn't fit into neat guidelines.

Does that mean that you can't write that horror romance or conspiracy theory fantasy - uh, no, not exactly. It does mean you might not want to make it your first book. Although guidelines are very inhibiting, they are there for a reason. Publishing companies know what sells and what sells easily. As a first time author, it is difficult to break into the market (i.e. sell to people who you have not met personally). Promoting yourself will be more difficult if you choose to write something that is not standard even if you are publishing it yourself.

I am currently using some beta readers. Since I posted about them and I have a large book I do not want to invest editing money in right now, I wanted to give them a try - more on that in a future post. However, one of the beta readers commented that she generally didn't read Christian Historical Romances because the female characters tend to be... well those ladies you hear who are very happy on the Christian talk radio sessions. Happy, positive, glowing. Yes, they glow through the radio.

I have read a lot of Christian Romances. I agree. I am a rather devout Christian, and I do not identify with most of these women. I would love to glow, but I (as you might have guessed) do not. I think the movies Arachnophobia and Scream are both comedies- members of my family tease me about this. I was rolling on the floor for The War of the Roses (the 1990's version). I loved how she tossed his hand aside in the final scene. I hate slapstick.

But I need to fit into a genre. Could I write a regular romance with all the heaving bosoms? Yeah. However, I do not want to (see devout Christian note above). In fact, I generally skip the sex scenes when I am reading those kind of romances - they bore me. Without those, my options are limited to Avalon (chaste romances, but I have not found any that even mention God) or Christian Romances - inspiring, uplifting. So, the latter is where I best fit in because I don't think God should be taboo in a romance. Is my main character fluffy? A little. But I did give her a little backbone. Call me a rebel.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just another NSA day

So, once again I find myself thinking that I hope the NSA is looking the other way as I access my search engine today.

"Palmdale Airport" - Which is an airport rented from the US AirForce base right next to it.
"What are the best songs to have sex to? - Hey, most people don't like my taste in music, but I can't believe the stuff people recommend as an answer to this question. (I needed to know because I am editing a book with a prostitute in it and her music selection is described.)
"How do I make/buy chloroform?" The fact that I can even find the answer to this question on the Internet is in itself scary.
"What kind of chemicals can I use to knock someone out?" (See above)
"Ecstasy" - The Wikipedia entry on this seems as if it was written by a definite supporter of its use...

How I miss the days of being able to go to the library anonymously and look these sorts of things up...

The thing is, if you want to be a good author, yes, you need to do this research and look it up. As an editor, when I come across things that the author might not have researched as thoroughly as he should have, I have to check it. Still, authors should be careful with the knowledge they learn. It's like on MacGyver - the authors of the series always left out important parts of the equation to prevent someone from using the information on the show to build a nuclear reactor in their back yard.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reviews for hire

Prior to working on Guru, I just assumed that online reviews were true. Then I saw the jobs - "Wanted 500 positive reviews."

Recently, in a sting operation, the police set up a fake restaurant on a review website. Sure enough, they got several negative reviews. I am not surprised. I was checking out cabinet builders as one of my jobs and some of the bad reviews were over the top - I highly doubt the guy came back to your house after the project was done and kicked your dog... sorry.

I only give honest reviews. People cannot hire me to write a review for them. One time I did bid on a job wanting someone to honest review a book for her. She gave me two of her books for free. Then I realized she wanted the reviews published because someone had put a nasty review about her on Amazon. I checked and for whatever reason this guy was allowed to publish a comment that insulted the author without having read the book. Nowhere in the review was the book addressed, he just complained that the author was giving away free books in return for a review.

My sense of justice was offended. I took no other payment from this author except the books, and I wrote an honest review on Amazon for her - "My daughter liked the book" (it was a picture book). I gave her a generous review if for no other reason than to counter the injustice of the other persons nasty comments about the author. However, I also complained to Amazon about this guy - to the best of my knowledge they never removed his comments.

I have several reviews of books on Goodreads as well, but I did not review either of the books I received from the author mentioned above on there. I want people to know they are getting my honest opinion - not my paid opinion. However, I see nothing wrong with an author giving free books in exchange for an honest review. How else is a new author supposed to break into the market and how else are readers to know if the book is worth their time?

That said, I do review books for a professional book review site. When I post these reviews on Goodreads, I preclude my review with a notice that I reviewed the book professionally. I get paid all of $1-$10 per book, but I do it because I can be completely honest in my review. If I think the book was awful or needs work, I can send a message to the author instead of writing the review and explain the reason for my dislike.

When an author begins to pay people for a good review or even for a bad review of a competitor's book (as opposed to an honest review)- that is when I have an issue. And, when a someone pays for 500 generic product reviews that the reviewer has neither tested nor even knows what they are reviewing - then I have a serious problem. Granted, most authors would not want to pay me for an honest review - it takes a lot to get a 5 out of 5 star rating from me - my average on any review is 3 of 5.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How many words long should my book be?

Frequently new writers either write an overly short book or an overly long one. Since I have been asked this question, I decided to post the answer here.
First of all you really need to decide if you are going to submit it to a publisher. If this is your first book, you have to stay within guidelines. Publishers receive thousands of queries each day. If you do not meet their guidelines and they do not recognize your name as a published author, yours will be passed.
Second, if you are not submitting to a publisher, you need to research what the average word count is for your genre. Most novels run 50K - 90K words depending on genre. Here is the thing: if you are self-publishing and the book is huge, most people are not going to want to try it. If it is too small (less than 15,000 words) no one is going to want to pay for it.
In addition to editing, I also review newly self-published books for a book reviewing agency. We get to select from all the books that have been submitted to them, so I deliberately tend to avoid anything over 250 pages because the chances of me telling the author he/she is going to need a major rewrite instead of giving them the review they want are high. Which leads me to...
Third, most new authors repeat themselves and actually give a lot of detail about things that are unnecessary. For example, in the current crime novel I am currently editing, the author explains what project the primary company is working on. Understanding the project is important, but then the author proceeds to tell the reader about the project each time a new character gets involved with the company by explaining it to the new character in dialogue. These explanations need to take place "off screen" because the reader already knows. This book has a good plot and is interesting, but the repetition would make a reader want to skip those parts and may turn the reader off to the book in general.
New authors also tend to tell people what is going on instead of showing them. This means that it is going to be hard for your reader to slog through an overly long book.
Once you have finished writing, it is always a good idea to find an editor who will read through it, correct grammatical errors, and honestly tell you what you don't need and what you do. Yes, some books are long and capture the reader - Lord of the Rings, The Count of Monte Cristo for example - but unless you have a massive marketing plan in place, keep in mind the size of the book will be something potential readers will use to judge whether or not they want to purchase it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Beta Readers

Beta Readers can be a good choice especially if you are a new author. In exchange for an acknowledgement in your book, they will read through it and give you feedback for free.

I have never used a beta reader, but I am editing something for someone right now who is meticulous about them. He is a relatively successful self-published author.

However, a beta reader should not be used in place of a professional editor. (Unless it is a beta reader or nothing because this is your first book and you do not have funds to pay someone.)

Why? Because anyone can be a beta reader and chances are good you will not find a person who gets paid to edit doing it. "Professional" means that not only has the person been paid to do it but that the person is good enough at the job to make living off of it.

Prior to becoming a freelancer, I was a proofreader for the Gutenburg project. I loved doing this, but I think I have done one project this entire past year. I get paid to do proofread, so just as a professional chef may cook a charity meal here and there, s/he is probably not making a gourmet dinner at home every night. (One family I knew where both the mother and father were five star chefs found themselves eating at McDs - a lot. Kind of like editors who write blogs for fun and neglect to edit them... but I am sure you get the picture.)

In addition, you, the author, are going to get paid. You are not a charity. Therefore, what you are getting when you find a beta reader is someone who wants a little bit of fame in exchange for reading your book and giving you their opinion of it. Most professional editors really do not care about fame - they get business more through word of mouth.

Like any skill, editing is something you must train. The more you edit, the fewer mistakes get past you. In addition, if I am getting paid to work on your book, I will force myself to read the entire thing - no matter how awful it is. Then, I will either (1) fix grammar, spelling, and punctuation while leaving comments about things that don't work or (2) fix everything to the best of my ability and leave comments.

If you send it to three or four beta readers before finding a professional, you will save yourself time and money. You will also have a good idea of what more than one person has found wrong with the story. This will be helpful so that when your editor tells you to remove a sex scene you do not balk and say that you wanted it for the shock factor. You will, in fact, already know that everyone who has read it was not shocked but repulsed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Conspiracy Theory?

I don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist. However, I accept that any time I look on the internet or make a phone call, someone could be watching me. As a result, I like to be cautious with what I am looking at or posting.

So, this week I have been a little nervous. I am editing several books right now which require me to check a few facts. Unfortunately, the facts contain search terms like: MI5, NSA, Chinese Special Forces, F-35... you get the picture.

Hopefully, if anyone has decided to watch my surfing, they will understand that I am not interested in these things because I am looking to join with some foreign government's secret service agency, but because I am just checking the facts for these books. Apparently covert books are all the rage to write right now... go figure.

Who said being a writer wasn't dangerous?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

English 9 (Honors)

As a writer, high school English is very frustrating. The person teaching my son self-admittedly talks fast. I can understand that an honors class requires you to get through things quickly, but it is important to be able to think about new concepts when you are trying to grasp them. It has been my experience that people who speak fast (and I am one of them unless I am teaching someone something or acting) tend to do so because they frequently wander off topic. Since they are wandering off topic, they need to speak faster in order to get through everything a slow, focused speaker gets through in the same amount of time.

Today, I looked at the lesson outline the English teacher sent home. Of course, there was a typo on it. I admit a certain justified vengeance in finding typos on things teachers send home - especially English teachers. In addition, she wrote that one of today's goals was to "Synthesize multiple sources of media an [sic] make conclusions. Connect to literature." Wow! Aside from the typo, that is quite a lofty goal. However, I have to question if she truly knew what she was writing. It would be extremely difficult to create more than one "source" (which means origin or work that something else is to be based upon) in a single, 2-hour class. However, I assume upon reading this that after watching several examples, the students pieced together one or more media clips to make a coherent short film or journalistic piece that was somehow connected to the book they are reading. Still a very lofty goal. I was actually asked to do a similar project in one of my college level creative writing courses. Synthesis is considered a higher order learning objective because it is difficult to create something new out of something old.

However, as I continue down the page, I see that there was no actual synthesis. Instead, it seems that the students watched AT&T commercials and then compared them to the book they were reading (both were made up of short emotional blurbs). Comparing and contrasting fits under "Comprehension" which is a very basic, lower order learning objective. Don't get me wrong, it is important that children master the basics. But, I expect English teachers to know the vocabulary they are using and to use it appropriately.

The worst thing any writer can do is use words with which he or she is unfamiliar. If you write, write to an audience that understands your vocabulary. Do not attempt to write academically if you haven't been to college and suffered the long boring courses that teach you how to write long boring tomes that only people who are truly interested in the topic would want to read. On the other hand, if you went to college specifically to learn how to write academic tomes, please do not attempt a children's picture book. You can write outside of your knowledge level - just make sure you hire someone to help you :-).

In the freelance world, you have very versatile writers (and some not so much) - these people have usually been to college and at least minored in writing. They may have trouble in some areas (one of my well educated writing teachers could not write or understand the fantasy genre, for example). But, they are usually aware of their limitations and avoid them or overcome them rather quickly. I recommend that anyone who wants to be a writer take writing classes. Learn to critique your own work.

Now, I will leave you to find all the editing errors I have made in this post... I am sure there are many to give you your own vindictive pleasure.

Monday, September 30, 2013

PFA Professionalism

The Internet is filled with many abbreviations. People connecting with others through keyboards designed their own acronym shorthand, and most people today use it. Even back in the day when the BBS was better than the Internet (I know I am dating myself) there were abbreviations and lingo. However, I have never been up on them. I have used two in my lifetime: Thanx! (and only if I am very, very thankful because I feel it shows my eagerness to forego spelling in an effort to thank you) and of course my handles or usernames.

So, I am employing people and currently looking for editors. Note to all the potential editors out there - proofread your bid/application and do not include acronyms. Most of the editors who applied with acronyms were immediately deleted as were those with glaring spelling/grammar errors. But I opened the attachment on this one and saw it was a so-so editor before reading the message.
If someone types FYI, yeah, I know what it means. Or perhaps LOL (although I only know that this one means something about laughter). I am familiar with BTW and have considered using it in my text messages. But most acronyms I have no desire to use. This one contained " PFA :) " .

Professional footballers association?
Protection from abuse?
People for animals?
Physical fitness assessment?
Plucked from air?
Pop forwarding agent?
Public fishing access?
Printer font ASCII?

Acronyms and abbreviations are way to ambiguous when it is important you make your point and when the person you are sending the message to does not know you well enough to reply: "What in the world does PFA mean?" Or you may not be aware you could be saying "Your problem" or "yes please" since many abbreviations have multiple meanings (as you see from the list above).

Yes, I finally figured out that it was probably "Please see attached" but as far as I am concerned it was a Predictive Failure Analysis that the bidder did not pass.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Powerfully Fragile by Briohne Skyes

As a freelance ghostwriter/ author/ editor, one of the downsides is that you do not always get to follow your work. What happens to it after it leaves you? You don't always know. However, I helped edit this play with Briohne, and I was shocked to see that it played in five different theatres in Australia:

Briohne actually has her own website and fan club as part of her therapy, and she is an awesome person to work with. (Sometimes it feels good to end a sentence with a preposition.)

In the end, I may be a ghostwriter now, but I am not happy to remain in the shadows forever. I am an author, using my skills to pay the bills now, but I want my story published with my name on it some day. However, if I should become famous tomorrow, I would not want to stop helping others achieve their fame.

I didn't write Briohne's work. The story was all hers, but I would like to think that I helped her on her way. I enjoy helping others achieve their goals- whether it be writing your love story to win back your girl, editing a play that tells the story of how you survived cancer, or trying to promote the story of your brother's unjust death. I have done all these things and more since I began freelancing and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Doomsday Code by Nigel Ross

This was one of the more interesting jobs I have done. Nigel did not want me to help with editing or writing, he just wanted me to create a contest puzzle for him based on his book. He wanted a puzzle, which actually became a series of puzzles that people who bought his book could figure out and solve (for a prize).

This was tricky, but I feel I did a good job with it. The problem is, since I know the answer I can't solve it. Sigh. Oh well, I guess getting paid to do it was my prize.

I make it a point not to review any books on Goodreads (or Amazon) that I was paid to work on in some way or the other. I do not feel it would be fair. My only exception is those books that I work on for an author review service. When I write these reviews I get paid a minimal amount for my time and I get a free copy of the book I am reviewing. Sometimes, I review these to give the author advice (where I do not actually write a publishable review). however, if I am writing a publishable review, I signed a contract stating that I can repost it as long as I tell people that I reviewed it for the service. Since I am disclosing that I reviewed it for a service, I do post these reviews.

Monday, September 23, 2013

You are Invited to a Project!

The first time someone invited me to a project, I was ecstatic. I thought, wow! they invited me. Then I realized they also invited 100 other people. This was after I had already bid on the job thinking I would get it. It was also before I realized I needed to click the envelope instead of the use my profile so I do not waste a bid.

Now that I have been invited to marketing projects, software development projects, and website design projects (I am neither knowledgeable nor excited about performing any of these), it has lost some of its glamour.

I do state on my profile that if someone is interested in my skills beyond writing and translation, they can invite me to their project. However, the specific skill I was talking about is my videoediting (which is listed on my profile as well). So far I have only had one job and it would have been way more in-depth than what I could do right now. (It was a huge job and I already have too many big jobs going.) I also would have probably not done it as low cost as some of the other people who were invited to it, because I would have hired actual actors.

Anyway, today I got another project invitation and started to write this post to grump about it (it is my fourth invitation this week). However, it turned out to be from a guy who actually wants to hire me, who has only invited me, and who has been communicating with me about it all week long. Now I feel both special and ecstatic. Well, at least until the next marketing invitation comes along...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Dangers of Working on Two Jobs at Once

August was slow. I have many big projects I am working on, but they do not pay my weekly bills. They just pay for me to edit, illustrate, market, etc. my own work. They have bigger payouts that I cannot access quickly enough.

Therefore, I need small jobs to keep my family fed. And there were not many people hiring in August I am noting it as another slow time on my calendar to help me budget better. So, I did what I always do when I am slow - beginning bidding on new (short) jobs... a lot.

Well, now those jobs must be at the end of their posting because I have gotten two new jobs every day this week. I am not complaining. These jobs are short and easy, but combined with my other work they can be a little overwhelming. Today, I decided I could work faster if I work on two jobs at the same time. One is a job with a list of software tools the other is a job writing a few simple children's books on emotions. I soon discovered this was a bad idea after typing Max is sad. His Aunt came home. on the list of software tools.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tracking Changes and Comments

I understand that a lot of people know how to use this feature. However, when I first started I did not know how to do this and it is very important for any author to be able to do this.
To track changes in your own work, you click on tools "track changes" and then make sure that "Highlight changes" is selected in the box. If you have .docx I think it is located under editing - but if you have the "starter" version of the latest MS Word you will not be able to access the feature. I prefer the old MS Word, so I only have the .docx starter. (I am thinking about upgrading but I hate 2013, so I want an older version than that.) Everything you do to change the document will be visible (if you delete a line will go through it; if you add it will appear in the color your chose).

If you receive a document with changes tracked and you want to accept or reject them: Under the "tools" menu in Word, you should see a "track changes" icon. Under that you need to select "accept or reject changes" and make sure "highlighted changes" is selected. Then you can just click "find" and it will find the next change I made in the document, and you can click "accept" or "reject" for each one. You also need to uncheck the "highlight changes" box if you are going to keep working on the document.

Alternatively, you can right click on each change in the document and "accept" or "reject" should appear as one of your options. This is sometimes hard to do if the editor has only changed one letter or added punctuation.
Comments are found under the "insert" menu. (Also not available in Starter.) These are actual information about your story. A person can leave you a note directly in text. The text they are talking about becomes highlighted and when you pass your cursor over it you can see the note. Again you can right click to get rid of it. You can also use these to make notes to yourself.
Similarly, you can add comments to PDF files. If you pay big bucks for the upgrade, there are additional options for editing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Editing, Content Editing, Proofreading, Copyediting, Beta readers

Many people do not know what these terms mean, so I am going to make them the topic of today's blog.

Generally, a novel (or any written work) goes through at least one edit, it is formatted,  and then a proofread is done. There are, however, two different types of editing: traditional editing, which covers spelling, grammar, and punctuation; and content editing, which actually changes words and sentence structure to make the novel flow better. In addition, a content editor may tell the writer that certain parts of the novel do not make sense and need more explanation or why some parts need to be removed. A proofreader does traditional editing and makes sure that the novel is formatted the same throughout (for example, they will fix it if you accidentally used "body text" style with size 24 font on the chapter 6 heading instead of "Heading 1" with 14 point font that you used for the rest of your book.

Sometimes newer authors have a content edit done and then a regular edit afterward especially if they are uncertain about their writing style. Other new authors do not want to lose their "voice," and so they only want a traditional edit. Sometimes authors want to have two or three traditional edits done on their work by different people.

All editors should be familiar with "track changes" in MS Word and the "comments" feature. However, if you want the same editor to do multiple types of editing and/or proofreading, they should submit it to you at the end of each process. This is because it can get kind of messy and becomes very difficult to do a good job unless the changes done are accepted and notes are cleared. I will talk about this in my next post. Some of my employers want me to submit a document with the feature on and a second one with all the changes accepted, but I recommend writers go through and check each change themselves unless it is a content edit (sometimes employers do not even want me to use the track changes feature for this).
Beta readers are people who will voluntarily go through your work and give you tips about the story. They are good for picking out inconsistencies. They will fix grammar and spelling as well. In exchange, you need to list them in your acknowledgement section of your book. I will have more on beta readers in a while.

Copywriting is basically writing advertising, but copyediting is just another word for editing. A copyeditor and an editor are the same.

In general, non-fiction costs more to edit because of the references. Content editing and proofreading are more expensive than just editing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


For the most part projects are very straightforward. However, occasionally I come across one that leaves me shaking my head.

For example, today someone posted a job looking for an editor, but he just wanted the editor to highlight the areas where he was overly wordy and make changes but tell him first or not make changes. He also had no clue who his audience was but he thought it might be good to identify one and then he had no clue how to write toward his target audience unless they were really young or really old.

The topic of his book: Writing for Clarity.

What? Um, excuse me, but if you, yourself cannot write clearly nor can you even post a project in such a way that makes it easy for those reading it to understand what exactly it is you want - perhaps you should consider writing on something that you are more expert in: Writing for Ambiguity.

A long time ago before e-publishing, author's had to be experts in their field in order to publish books. Now they do not. In fact, they do not have to know anything about their topic. It makes me very leery of using any modern book for research, since there are several self-publishing companies that are masquerading as real publishing companies.

If you are planning on writing a non-fiction book, my advice to you is to identify your audience first. If you write a book and then afterward decide that your audience is going to be biochemists, it will be a bear to go back in and add biochemist language to the book, remove references to things a standard biochemist would know (but Joe next door would not know unless he, too, was a biochemist), and finally explain things that biochemists would not know, such as how to bake a cake in an oven instead of in beaker on a hotplate. Identifying your audience is one of many keys to publishing any book successfully.

Needless to say, I did not apply for this project. However, several other people did. Personally, even if I was rewriting his book or him so that it truly did speak of clarity in clear language, would I really want other people thinking that he wrote it and coming to him for information on the topic? Nope. Sorry, my drive for money is not quite that strong.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What's the difference between an acceptable sex scene and erotica?

I have found that many authors have trouble drawing a line between what is expected of their genre and erotica.

The key is the answer to the question: how much sex is contributing to the story? People who sell books have to classify your work, somehow. When they look at it, they are going to want to put it into a certain section of their book store (unless you self-publish but more about that in a minute). When you include a bunch of sex for the shock value alone, you have made it difficult to classify your book. Chances are good, a traditional publisher or agent is going to ask you to get rid of some of it.

You may think if you self-publish you can avoid someone chopping apart your art-form. However, you are not thinking about the people who will be buying your book. If you say, "this is a science fiction" and then you fill it with numerous sex scenes that do not contribute to the plot, you are only going to attract those who enjoy both science fiction and erotica. You have reduced your audience. Sometimes you can combine genres and it works out okay, but erotica is one of those genres that is still very taboo. If you combine anything with erotica, it is still erotica.

One final note. If you want to publish to a Christian audience, you need to get rid of all the sex in your novel. I have actually read a book that was published trying to attract a Christian audience and it contained a hot and heavy scene. Even if this occurs between non-Christians or married people, no Christian organization will promote it. Its a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to publishing. Why cut out any of your options just to make a point?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The week of indescision

Another person contacted me and said she really wanted to work with me but she wasn't sure if I would work with her since my profile states "I have the right to refuse a job that I deem ethically wrong even after accepting the award for it."

When I applied for her job, it stated there was sex and graphic violence in the book that need to be edited. Okay - I can handle graphic violence and sex. However, in her message she described the book as if it were erotica. Which I do not do. I also would not write a book like this. I have the full ability to write something filled with graphic details, but I choose not to. Editing, well, I have read some pretty bad trash in my time, so nothing much can phase me reading wise.

However, there is a fine line between erotica and a novel with sex in it. In her initial post, she did not say "graphic sex," just "sex". But perhaps she meant to combine the two? A novel written as erotica is written specifically to ...hmmm ... how shall I put this - excite people... or perhaps make them throw up. I vaguely remember reading a bit of Anne Rice's In the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty years ago - or at lest an excerpt from it. That book seemed to only have the goal of, uh, exciting people and I obviously did not continue reading it. However, I have also read Dangerous Liasons, and that is what this book seemed along the lines of. Similarly, most romance novels also have some pretty spicy parts interwoven in among other parts. The key is - what is the goal of this book. Is is solely to get people going? Then you can have as much sex in it as you want - just call it erotica. If it is to depict a crime and sex is an integral part of it, such as Basic Instinct, sorry, its not really erotica. If your goal is to show how a man and woman end up living happily ever after - its a romance and although you can put spicy sex in it, most romances still have a limited amount of sex and there are certain things you do not usually describe even in spicy romances.

This woman must have thought hers was more on the erotica side because she stopped corresponding. That' is fine with me. I really hate taking a job and then ending up having to turn it down.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I've awarded you this job... Wait no I changed my mind.

Friday, a potential employer sent me an email alerting me that she had awarded me a job at 3:00PM. Now, some days, I keep my email open all day long, but I am running short on my online allotment (actually I am way over right now, but who is counting?).

I got on my account at 4:45 PM, only to see her email announcement, see that she had in fact awarded me the job, and then see that she had rescinded that award. (Rescinded is my spelling word of the week since she did this to me.)

What provokes someone to award a job and then cancel it an hour and forty five minutes later?  I don't know. Although there is a place for the employer to leave a message, she chose not to tell me why she made her rather flighty decision.

However, in some aspects I am relieved. I really do not work for someone who can't decide what she wants...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time Flies

Some people say that time flies when you are having fun. Perhaps it does, but time also flies when you are working with people from around the world. For example, yesterday, one of my clients from France asked me for a translation. I did not get the message until 5:00pm my time, which unfortunately was 10:00 his, so I had to leave him a message.

Now my British clients usually are up and ready at about 4:00AM, but the French are usually a little behind this. Unfortunately, but the time I got on and received his message, it was already the afternoon. Sigh. I wanted to have this done today, but today was already done for him.

Some freelancers do not like the confusion of working around the world. Or the difficulty of trying to figure out when you can call them without interrupting your sleep. I like the challenge -after all, who needs sleep anyway?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The hardest part of self-publishing is marketing. I am working on a book now that will probably not be accepted by a publisher. However, I am committed to helping my employer self-publish, even if that means spending hours on the phone with him helping to walk him through it. He actually has two books he wants to publish, so I will probably need to do it twice.

However, the biggest problem with self-publishing is marketing. On Guru, you can hire marketers. When Sal comes out, I may do that. However, this man probably will not have money for a massive marketing scheme. Still, I want to help. I feel he has a unique voice.

This experience has definitely made me consider my options for starting a publishing company. There are plenty of publishing companies that are online and I tend to roll my eyes at them. It is easy as all get out to publish online if you have the patience to deal with formatting revisions. You also should have a professional editor glance at it before doing it. Oh, and it is nice to have a platform to advertise it on.

So if you do not have a platform and cannot hire a marketer, what do you do? Well, you can buy several copies yourself and distribute it to your friends, family, and local libraries. You can also approach local bookstores about carrying your book.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Most authors self-publish as a way to break into being a published author. Well, I am a published author. I began by having several things published in my local paper, then I moved on to having two stories published in an Indiana University publication while I was attending there. Then I began working on Guru and I had HIV and AIDS: the Essential Guide published under my name in the UK.(I believe it is on Kindle in the US.) And in October I will have Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy: An Essential Guide published under the same imprint (Need2Know books).

However, I have so many things that I have written and received rejection letters for, that I felt I might as well publish them myself. After all, they are only collecting dust (okay they are digital so they are really just becoming outdated file formats). So, I just finished publishing A Cheaper by the Dozen Study Guide. The paper version will be reproducible (it is still under review but should be live by Monday since it has already been proofed). And then there is the guide and answer key in digital format that are sold separately (for 99 cents each) and can allow the guide to be taken anywhere in an easy format.

So far, no one has bought them, but at least I feel better since they are now collecting dust on Amazon's shelves. I am not expecting it to be a best seller. However, I am having a children's book illustrated and I am hoping that it will make it into the top 100,000 sales on Amazon. Perhaps I am too optimistic...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The guy who has a book...

Whenever someone finds out I freelance write, they always have a book they have been working on. I know that everyone in any sort of business runs into this problem, but I find it very interesting how frequently people are writing books.

I guess I should not be surprised. It is very easy to begin a book. It is very hard to complete it. However, when you are working on someone else's book, you tend to be more inclined to finish the project so you can have instant gratification of getting paid. When you complete your own book you often then have to go through the heart rending difficulty of not finding a publisher (and mounds of rejection letters from publishers and agents alike) or you self-publish and do not make past 1,000,000,000 in sales rank on Amazon. Yeah, writing for yourself is tough and it goes beyond thick skin - it is more like turtle shell plated skin.

Although I like to be practical, this is my income. So, when people say, "I have this book I would like you to look at" I usually try to take a look at it and give them an estimate on what it would take for me to complete it. I also try to encourage them to self-publish.

Although it is difficult not seeing your book rise to number 1 in sales rank on Amazon, it is better than getting a rejection letter in my opinion.

Granted, when my HIV and AIDS: The Essential Guide made it to 100,000 twice, that was good enough for me - Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy: The Essential Guide will be coming out next.

Learning Song

Occasionally a job falls into my lap that is extremely enjoyable. This week, a science teacher hired me to write a song to Rihanna's "Umbrella" about cell theory and the parts of a cell. With his permission, I have decided to share some of it with you today:

Uh huh, uh huh (Yeah Cell Theory)
Uh huh, uh huh (Structure of life)
Uh huh, uh huh (Helps you…Function)
Uh huh, uh huh

Everything alive
Big or small, short, tall or in between
From each of the kingdoms: five
Is made up of cells, which come from cells.
In 1665,
Robert Hooke took a look, through his 
Microscope not his telescope. saw cork up close and personal,
Said in his head, “I thought this was dead but instead
It looks like living cells!”
You got a lot to gain
From the cellular membrane;
Protects your cell like skin;
Watches what goes out and in.
Cytoplasm fills it up;
Holds organelles in a
Colorless watery gel.
Lets talk about the cell.
When we begin, we begin together
Pass through the cellular membrane cover
In a vacuole through cytoplasm
Past the mitochondria and ribosomes.
The endoplasmic reticulum
Speeds the proteins to their destination.
The nuclear membrane keeps the rest
Of the cell from the nucleus
(Cella cella ai ai ai),
Inside each of my cells
(Cella cella ai ai ai),
Inside each of my cells 
(Cella cella ai ai ai),
Inside each of my cells
(Cella cella ai ai ai ai ai ai).

Sometimes my job is good (and fun).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Am I starving or just foolish?

So I am bemoaning my state of poorness. I have over $1000 in invoices out right now and the people have not paid me. So I am starving. One of these invoices is scary to me. You see, I did not use safe pay and it is the first time working with the person. Oh, and instead of the $25 which is what I would normally risk, he owes me around $470. Um... and I invoiced him around two weeks ago. So, I am biting my nails on that one.

Why did I do it? Because it was a large job and paid per word. It is difficult to set up SafePay on a per word basis. You do not know how many you will have until the job is finished. I have usually required some sort of downpayment into SafePay, but the person want the immense job done in two weeks, so I did not want to waste time and money waiting for him to make the deposit. I would have never been able to complete it.

Everyone else either has worked with me before, so I am pretty sure they will pay, or has the funds in SafePay. But still, it is a lot of money. My bank account right now is $0 (at least I hope it is $0 and not negative.) I have gone four weeks without receiving a payout of more that $25 here or there. So I am starving.

This is one of the biggest dangers of freelancing, and it is pretty much resolved with SafePay. After all, if they have already paid, why don't they release it? But my income is not steady at all. Which is bad, because my income feeds us. Sigh.

Anyway - this is why I have been grumping about money lately. Four weeks without real pay is a long time...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The starving artist

People who are single can easily be starving artists. Before we were dating, my husband and his friend came over to my house to pick me up. While I was in the bathroom (because I was taught you always go to the bathroom before you leave), they both (who apparently had never been taught the manners of visiting someone's house) looked through my freezer. At which point my husband joked, upon my exit from the commode, that they could not give the $1 Kroger's pizzas away to employees for free when he worked there.

However, I was single. It is very easy to be single and live off power bars and $1 pizzas topped with frozen spinach. Not so much once you get married to the gourmet that I did (I say this in jest, if you give him 1/2 pound of grilled beef, some potatoes and canned corn, he is happy). Now that I have children, one of whom shuns peanut butter and bemoans the fact he is not deathly allergic to it so he would no longer need to smell it in the air or on our breath, and others who complain because I forget to tell them in the drive through that this sandwich gets no lettuce, this one no pickles, and this one no tartar sauce, now I have found living on the shoestring required of an artist (or in this case author) is not acceptable.

Thus, I have also decided that selling my own work may cost me money in the beginning - for pictures in the case of all the children's books I have written over the years, for editing in the case of the book I co-wrote with my husband, and for help getting past writers block in the case of most of my other works - but it will in fact bring in more money that is steadier if I can build a platform.

I have also decided that in order to keep the delicate balance of money coming in now - i.e. freelancing money - with money that will sustain me in the future - i.e. money I will make as a small time author once I have self-published - I will begin to limit my posts to once or twice a week. Although I feel I was faithful to the every other day posting that I initially set up for quite a while, it has been very difficult to sustain that. This has created two to three week gaps sometimes, that is not fair for people who are actually interested in finding out what it is like to be a freelance author or any sort of writer at all.