Monday, December 15, 2014

Footnotes in Fiction

I am working on a rather lengthy historical novel (editing) right now. But, I felt I must take a break to address this issue. Footnotes have generally been reserved for non-fiction, but some fiction authors make use of them. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Morrell is probably one of the most recent example of footnotes done well.

In non-fiction, readers sometimes skip the footnotes and come back and read them when they finish the chapter. In fact, when footnotes are endnotes at the end of the book instead of chapter, I frequently just read them when I get to the end of the book. In non-fiction, you can do that. Footnotes do not add anything to a non-fiction story except more background. If you are writing a fiction book and using footnotes like this, it will fall flat.

You see, footnotes in fiction should add to the story - and not everyone can do that well. Many authors, famous authors, have tried and not fared well. Footnotes, by nature, break up the story. If you want to explain something, do it in text without diverting the reader down a side path. However, footnotes can work very well when they are part of the story. Still, I do not recommend them.

Most of the manuscripts I edit come from authors who have had little professional (university level) writing education. They majored in business, nursing, education, or didn't even attend college at all. Some of them don't even read the genre of books they are writing (or read any books at all).
Please note: If you want to be a professional writer, you at least HAVE to read or hire someone who does read to completely ghostwrite your book. If you do not read, you have no clue about plotting or how novels work, and quite frankly, you will end up sticking a glossary in the center of the book and switching from civil war south to gypsies in Europe halfway through. Yes, you can be self-published, but no, you should not be. Harsh, perhaps, but truthful. Would you want a doctor working on you who didn't read medical journals to keep up with the latest developments in medicine? Would you want a mechanic working on your car if he didn't even own one car of his own? On the road, do you want to be anywhere near the driver who has never driven a car before? 
As you can see, I do my own "footnotes" on my blog. They do break up the text, and you can come back and read them later. Despite the fact that I know how to use footnotes (although don't base your opinion of that on the way I use them in my blog), I would not want to insert them into fiction. You have to be completely immersed in the fantasy world of your book to make people happy about reading them.

The authors I work with are not. They have done a lot of research and want to share bits of information they learned. This can be done just as well by adding the information into the story subtly and discriminately. The reader should be able to know that you did a good job with your research just from reading it. At the same time, the reader does not need to know everything you researched.

This is true of non-fiction, too. When I write a scientific paper, lets say I  look up 20 - 40 papers on the topic. I read through the abstract and determine which ones apply to my topic specifically. The abstract may weed out 10 - 20 that I do not have to read. As I read the rest of them in full, I again weed out some that are not quite addressing my topic. In the end, I may have 5 - 10 papers listed in my bibliography, and I may only have 3 pages of writing, but as long as the paper is focused it will be well received.

Now, in some non-fiction books, you pick them up and there are hundreds of footnotes. For the most part, these are references and not explanations of text. Frequently, they expand the story - "This marriage later caused the War of the Roses (see also Dexter, 1989)." If the story doesn't cover the War of the Roses, it is appropriate. Unfortunately, fiction writers tend to use footnotes to explain the story further: "Sarah has blonde hair and blue eyes and is a very pretty girl." Again, this can be used well, but it is not recommended. Explaining the story (in footnote or text) is NOT necessarily expanding it.

Yes, all rules in literature are made to be broken. However, if you do not know them and understand how to use them and when to break them, it is best to follow them.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday - Cyber Monday Sale

I am trying to capitalize on the Black Friday crowds this weekend for my titles by running a sale on my books on both CreateSpace and my website.

I am also going to give away all my currently published e-books on Cyber Monday.

And I currently have a Goodreads Giveaway and will run another one in December.

I admit, I have not put as much effort into advertising these as I should have, but if I get any response from them, I will let you know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Goodreads Giveaways

So this week in honor of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, I will be giving away several of my books on Goodreads.

I have found Goodreads giveaways to be a great way to get reviews for your books (expect about a 50% return - 4 books given away should give you about 2 reviews).

With these reviews, I am going to try a new tactic I learned from participating in other people's reviews - the nudge. I will include a "packing slip" that has technical information and a note to please provide the book with a review.

There are dangers in Goodreads giveaways. On person, upon not being selected by Goodreads to win immediately gave me a 1 star review of my book - I hadn't even sold one copy so I protested - there was no way this person could have read the book to have reviewed it.

Also, the reviews you get are usually only posted on Goodreads.

Limit your reviews to the United States. The first two giveaways I had were international - I opened them up to all English speaking countries. For one, this is very expensive. It cost more than $10 each to send the books to most of the people who won (not sending prizes will get you banned from future giveaways). I was giving away 10 books, so I spent a lot of money (not including the cost of the books). Second, people in other countries do not always "get" American literature. I have had my  children's book reviewed by several teachers and child educators - all of them thought it was great for the 5 - 7 year old age target. Those from the international community felt it was too difficult for small children to read. My inspirational, historical romance (set in 1739 U.K.) received bad reviews because it was "Christian." One British person gave me 3-stars because I accidentally left one Americanism in the last chapter of the book. I received great reviews from the American community and ho hum to bad reviews internationally. In fact, several people did not seem to understand that "inspirational" MEANS "Christian," which brings me to my final point:

Be sure to spell everything out in your Giveaway (and in your book blurb for that matter). Not everyone knows what inspirational means in the romance community. If you have written a book that could even remotely be skewed as "Christian" be sure to spell it out. If your book contains offensive material - add that to your description. Even if you don't find it offensive - if someone,  somewhere could find it offensive, let people know. In general, people are squeamish about violence, foul language, sex, drug and alcohol use, etc. Basically, go to a movie store and see why movies are rated above "G" and that will give you a good list of things to check for in your book.

As a final note - If you give away 10 books and only have 20 people sign up, you really haven't lost anything. All you needed was 10 people. The number of people who signed up for some of mine were 700 - 900, but I am having far fewer people signup for my latest ones because I am trying to use my description to weed out those who won't like the book's subject matter or writing style. Really, you do not want reviews from people who hate reading fantasy books if that is what you have written.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Should I publish my writing on Amazon or on a blog?

In order to answer this question, you need to answer another: Why are you writing?

If you are writing because you want to build a writing career through self-publishing where you are planning on marketing your own books and constantly developing new books and promoting them, you should edit the book as best you can afford and self-publish it on Amazon.

If you are writing because you enjoy it, or somebody told you that you should write a book about your life and you don't care if you have to give it away for free, you just want it to be available to other people, you should blog your writing.

Here is the problem- when authors who want to make their living from their writing are at a disadvantage because of those who just want to write. These authors will still probably need to give away their books for free in limited supply, but instead of reaching a target audience, they will reach many people who are addicted to collecting free books. These people will never pay a penny for another book no matter how good it is because there are so many free ones. Yes, I have actually met these people in real life. Publishing a book just to give it away free indefinitely is counterproductive. For one, a lot of time, effort, and money go into publishing a book - even if you do if for free on Kindle or CreateSpace. Maintaining a blog does not require as much work.

Some people are interested in making money off their writing, but instead put in on a free blog. If you post your material on a blog, you will not be able to sell it. If people are getting it for free, they will not then pay for it. (Unless you only post part of it, such as a first chapter that grabs their attention.)

Blogs are a great place to start writing, though. The most frequently posted Guru jobs are along the lines of "finish my book." If you are not in the habit of writing, a blog will make you or break you. Blogs also get people interested in your writing before you publish - which is what you want. If you are not sure what category you fit into, you should start with a blog.

What if you have been writing a blog and now you want to turn it into a book? Save all your blog posts in a Word file and remove them from you blog. Removing or reducing the access works just as if you never published it. The posts could still be accessed (probably) by computer savvy individuals, but the number of people going to that trouble would not be great. You should leave a teaser of your work to attract others, and by all means keep blogging - just adjust your theme or focus.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Avoiding Scam Publishing Companies Part II

Now, on the Automat homepage, you can see the submission button loud and clear. This should also be a warning sign. (We are not accepting submissions so you don't need to look for ours- and probably won't unless I decide to go through the headache of royalty reporting.)

Harlequin's is buried. In fact, most major publishing companies highlight the books they are selling and hide submission buttons or bury them in the footer at the bottom of the page (like Simon and Schuster or even the smaller Quirk Books). Thousands of people submit to real publishers every day. Thousands (or more). If you want to submit to them, they are certainly not going to make it easy on you. On the other hand, scam artists, vanity presses, and those who make money off other's ambitions without offering much in return WANT thousands of people to submit to them - that's how they make money. They will have it right out in front.

The purpose of legitimate presses is to make money off the books they sell, so those will always be highlighted on legitimate publishing company websites. However, you would expect even vanity presses would have some way of buying their books. Looking at Automat's doesn't impress me..."Please send check or money order" for $11 to... Uh, okay, that is an epic fail. If you are advertising your books online, you should have some sort of online method of allowing people to buy them. Dreaming Reality does (although I haven't tried it myself, so I really don't know if it works - however, people clicking on the CreateSpace links on the home page can purchase the books through Amazon - my preferred method of business anyway); Harlequin (HQ) allows you to buy from them; Quick books links you to the retailers where you can buy it; Simon and Shuster does both. NONE say - send your check or money order here... although HQ offers a "Bill Me" option, but hey, they also send people free books to get them to sign up to buy more.

In addition, the Automat offers 42 books - 7 of which were written by the Automat founder. Obviously, our website is the same - I have written or helped write all the books on it. Still, if the founder of the publishing company has authored most of the books, it usually means you are supporting their writing habit. And, if Dreaming Reality were accepting submissions as a vanity press, that is what we would be doing, too. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that HQ has so many books you could sink the Titanic with them.

If you further read Automat's submission guidelines, you will see that each book costs $10 (plus shipping and handling) and that you will have to market it yourself. Again - warning bells should go off if any publishing company says you need to do all your own marketing (most vanity presses will offer some marketing, even if it costs). All authors need to do marketing but publishing companies help with that. That is their job. If you want to do your own marketing, publish on Amazon. (Please note - Automat does not sell its books on Amazon - one of the biggest book retailers in the world.) Also, $10, for a paper bound - that's right not even a paperback, but a stapled together (that is what a chapbook is), B&W, light cardstock bound book I could print out and make with my home printer will cost you (and your customers) $10 even if its 50 pages long. Frankly, I could get better quality at Staples for less. It does seem the author will get a discount if he/she buys books to sell, but no royalties. Honestly, even at $7.50, you are going to have a hard time getting anything other than sympathy sales.

One final note: if you scroll to the bottom of the Automat's ordering page, you will see the covers of several (all?) of their books. They do not scream "buy me" or even make me want a cover like that on on any of my books. Some are quite good, but in essence they are all pretty much similar and some have really amateur artwork and design work.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Avoiding Scam Publishing Companies Part I

Someone today on one of my LinkedIn groups was moaning about how the publishing company he was working with had been stringing him along. He paid $20 for them to read his manuscript, they accepted it, and then he waited... and waited... and waited... until they just sent him a letter saying they were going under and couldn't print his book.

I got on and tried to explain to him that you should NEVER pay to have your book published (or read or whatever fee a 'publishing' company comes up with - that is a vanity press. I also told him vanity presses go under because they frequently do not have the funds and people frequently lose money.

He felt I was being condescending because I assumed he hadn't done his research. My husband, who frequently engages in equally risky attempts to contact "publishers" also ignores me when I yell at him about it. Please, Internet research is NOT research. Purchase a copy of the 2015 Writer's Market and submit to every traditional publisher, agent, and contest in there - but stay away from Internet resources.

Now, first, as an author - you are marketing yourself. You MUST learn to take criticism with grace. This is the only way. Yes, I am an epic fail at this, but I do try. In addition, if you criticize me and I realize I am wrong, I will admit it and attempt to do it right. Still, I know that my lack of grace (and refusal to act like a groveling slave around certain employers) is what kills some business relationships that could have been profitable. However, I really would not want to continue working with employers that treat me like scum anyway. On the other hand, when people rate my books poorly- I don't attack them. I have a feeling this guy would not be able to keep himself from getting the last word in - which is not good.

Second, he claimed to do his research. Thankfully, I think I have convinced my husband to stop his risky Internet behavior. I typed in the name of the last "agent" he contacted and the word "scam" into a search engine and let him see the results after the so-called agent sent us oodles of spam. But the problem is on the Internet, you may not be able to tell if the guy (or girl) is a scammer until it is too late. Scam posts only get posted after the fact. There were none on the LinkedIn guy's "publishers."

However, aside from the reading fee, there were several things that could have keyed the guy into the fact that these "publishers" might not be the best ones to go with. For comparison, I will use the website of the indie publishing company I share with my husband and Harlequin.

Here are the landing pages:
LinkedIn Guy: Automat
Mine: Dreaming Reality
Harlequin

Automat has 1 picture that is repeated on every page you click. Most of the pages are just text. Although the website domain was purchased - the design screams "I did it myself." A quick click on the about us page shows that, in fact, the website owner's son did it himself.

Obviously, when you click on my page, each page is uniquely designed. (Our website is a freebie site - that should be a warning if you were looking to submit to us. However, I cannot justify the cost of  a website when we are (a) not taking submissions and (b) prefer to do our sales on Amazon.) The pictures on our website are varied except for those beneath the "coming soon" books. (Shoot, I have two more books to put out this month... why am I not working on those instead of blogging and doing LinkedIn!!!)

Harlequin also has unique pages and varied pictures. (And a newsletter sign up on the front page! Ours is on the "contact us" page - maybe I should move it?)


Friday, November 14, 2014

Answering a post question: Publishing a Hardcover on CreateSpace.

A while ago I published this blog post on here about getting hardcovers published through CreateSpace. I just had someone comment on the first post where I informed everyone I was doing this process, so I figured I would repost the link to my journey. I only have done the one book so far, but I am definitely planning on doing it again soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fantasy Football and Freelancing

Most of you would probably think its a no brainer, but Fantasy football and freelancing do NOT mix well. I am sure you could substitute any time consuming project - 4H, Candy Crush, FaceBook lurking, self-publishing, etc. - for "Fantasy football."

I would not have signed up for Fantasy football - nor asked to be signed up for it - but my husband of 15 years signed me up without my consent. Sigh. I always knew he was a football fanatic (and so am I), but he hated Fantasy football. Until last year...

So, this year he signed up the whole family and convinced me that it was a "family event." Yes, each of our four children are also playing in our league. However, I cannot just play. I am a highly competitive person. So, I had to develop notebooks filled with player stats to make sure I had the best players in the right positions. Then of course I stumbled across all the sub-games that www.nfl.com offers. More notebooks appeared filled with even more stats as I tried to guess the best players, teams, etc. each week. Meanwhile, my blog and my freelancing business have gotten sluggish. The fact that I got sick and entered into a major depression in August/ September and am still trying to pull myself out of it hasn't helped.

Now, when I am putting out a book or posting to Facebook, I am at least being productive. However, when I am doing things on NFL.com, I can't really justify them. Although I am limiting my time on there (and my team/ entries are suffering), I still am typing this with one tab open to watch my team going against my son's team. Believe me, if I ever think of a way to promote my books on there, I will let you know. But really, how many people watch football/ play fantasy football and enjoy reading fantasy, historical romance, medical non-fiction, children's books, postmodern fiction books? I would be willing to bet not many...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My book review matrix for self-published books for which I am exchanging reviews.

I am going to be publishing some reviews of Indie books on here as part of a series on the review exchanges I have be participating in on Goodreads. I hope to explain how this process has worked/ not worked for me, but before I do, I would like to share the matrix I have developed for this process. 

Initially, when I did these reviews, I reviewed the books as I would any traditionally published book or book I review for Reader's Favorite (where I receive a small amount of compensation). I will point those out when posting them. However, as I went along, I realized that this is not really fair despite the fact that one of the leaders of the groups said as self-publishing authors we should be tougher on the books we review. 

Traditional publishing companies have resources and marketing outlets unavailable to indie authors. For example, if a traditional publishing company wants reviews about how great their book is, they easily have the connections and staff to post hundreds of them – many from people who do not disclose they are paid or received the books for free. In addition, they can send out thousands of free books to targeted audiences for reviews. 

Also, each traditional publishing company sends books first to a professional developmental editor - who fixes plot inconsistencies, chops inappropriate material, and fills in material that needs more explanation or different voice. Developmental editors can cost up to $12 per page and an indie author has no guarantee that he/she will do a good job. Then the traditionally published book goes to another editor who checks it for grammar and spelling - this can cost the indie author up to $6 and again, there is no guarantee the editor is any good. Grammarly is an acceptable substitute, but it will cost you $30.00 per month. (I think. I have a yearly subscription.) Then the book is formatted by a professional layout person and send to a proofreader who will check to ensure the formatting is uniform, and there are no more typos. I charge $1 per page to format (unless it is tricky), and I charge another $1 per page if you want me to reformat a photo/ image intensive book for Kindle. I am sure this is probably on the cheap side. Proofreading - true proofreading and not editing/ formatting/ proofreading that someone is trying to get done for the price of proofreading (which many editors will charge more for if the author tries to slip it through or had the previous jobs done by an incompetent person) - can cost up to $8 per page. Add this all together and a 200 page book can cost more than $5000 - just to edit professionally and the author may not even get it done well. (Don't worry, I am going to be talking about ways to lower your editing costs in future posts.) However, when you also add in cover design (generally $50 - $100), and illustrations (figure around $50 per image) and marketing costs if you hire someone ($1500 per month) - you either need to be rich and well connected to put out a professional book by yourself or you scrimp in places (I belong to the latter group). 

Because of this unfair advantage that traditional publishers have, I have decided to use a different rating system on indie books that were given to me to review as a part of a review exchange. I do not want to write a glowing review, when I don't think the book deserves it, but I also want to take into account that indie authors have less resources than traditional publishers. Like my professionally reviewed books, these books will no longer be adjusted based on the rating systems where I am posting the reviews. To keep my star rating unbiased on books I receive for review exchanges, I have developed the following matrix which I am also referencing on my Goodreads profile page.



Editing:  Poor = -1 Okay (few mistakes) = 0 Clean = +1
Plotline:  Incoherent = -1 Some odd twists/ unexplained items = 0 Amazing = +1
Formatting/ images: Poor quality = 0 Okay, but with a few issues = +1 Looks good = +2
Liked: Disliked the story = 2 It was okay = 4  Loved the story = 5
Characters: Difficult to follow = 0 Easy to follow = +1
I add up score and divide by 2. To determine whether I will round up or down, I look at average of other ratings – if it is higher, I go up; if it is lower, I go down. If there are no ratings, I go up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Great Song Dealing With the State of English Today


I saw an online news article today that said "good" condition is worse than "fair." The state of editing even in traditionally published items is getting worse. Sometimes nothing says it better than Weird Al...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Frustrations of Freelancing

There are two jobs that I lost under frustrating circumstances.

The first was typical. I bid on a job, someone sent me a private message asking me how quickly I could finish and then awarded the job to someone else before I got back to them. These are the most frustrating jobs, because (1) Guru's messaging system is quirky and (2) my response times are usually within the hour, but I do occasionally sleep and work on other projects. To lose a job simply because I received the message at 9:00 PM and did not respond until 7:00AM has me kicking myself. Usually, I am available until midnight.

The second is even more frustrating. Many times I have received messages that say something like, "Wow, I really like your profile, and your price is fine, but I am going with someone else on this." Grrr. Why? Why me? I did nothing wrong and I still didn't get the job. Sigh. The story of my luck.

I suppose I am happy the person contacted me - he said he hoped we could work together on a future project. The bad thing is that he closed the conversation, so I can't even respond. I also, don't necessarily believe he will choose me.

I once had a guy who kept sending me invitations to his projects, but when I applied he would never choose me. Why? I have no clue. Once I have applied a certain number of times to the same employer, I eventually mark them on my "do not apply" list and stop wasting my time. I am flattered you want to use me, but really I want to be chosen, not flattered.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Building a Website

Someone on LinkedIn was asking about building a low cost website where they could sell there books. This was the advice I gave:

You can register your own domain through Wordpress and Blogger - registering a domain is NOT purchasing it. You have to renew your registration or you lose your name. If you forget to reregister, you lose your name because there are giant domain purchasers who will scoop it up - then you have to buy it back from them, which is not cheap. Registering a domain is the only way to get a unique website name that is portable.

However, if you register a name through a free website builder (such as WordPress, Blogger, or one of the ones listed at the bottom of this post), it may or may not be portable depending on the host. (Some free hosts will actually register the name for you - in their name, so this is why many people want to do it separate from their website setup. However, not all of them are like this - read the fine print.) Many hosts will keep registering your name for you each year if you have given them a credit card to bill. GoDaddy (not recommended if you may eventually want to use a web developer), eNom.com, and Register.com are registries if you want to do it separately. (They should work with ICANN if they are legit. On average it costs $20ish per year, but some may have multi-year plans.)

I use Moonfruit: www.writetodreamreality.moonfruit.com because it is relatively easy to set up a shop with Paypal on Moonfruit and many websites want to charge you to do this. Obviously, since I my domain is umbrellaed under their name, I pay $0 and only have the small link in the upper right hand corner and the "Build your website through Moonfruit" at the bottom as far as ads go. The downside is that the instruction manual on how to set it up is long - and you want to download it for reference. Also, you have to update your website at least once every six months or you will lose it. Again, these were not problems for me. However, with CreateSpace, I would probably not need to sell on my website, because I could just link to my CreateSpace shop (which I do anyway on my landing page). If you just need a website that allows you to link to CreateSpace, you really wouldn't need something like Moonfruit.

Some people have trouble with Wordpress - to make a really nice website, you need to know HTML. I don't know what kind of shop you can set up on Blogger - my blogger websites are just blogs, but my website links to them and they link to my website.

Other notable and low-cost or free website builder/ hosts that allow you to have an onsite shopping area are: www.homestead.com (Paypal), http://jigsy.com/ (links to ebay), http://www.jimdo.com/, http://www.squarespace.com/ (if you are in the US), http://www.tripod.lycos.com/ (PayPal), http://www.webs.com/ (links to etsy), http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/ (PayPal), http://yola.com, and http://www.zoho.com/sites/

Different Methods of Freelancing Part II

Now, since my website is out if I were trying to promote myself as a freelancer without Guru, I could use my blog to generate business. Posting quirky little tips to attract potential employers - but then I think we all agree that would drastically change the look of my blog(s). Two of my blogs are purely book promotion: The Lost Histories of Eden and The Inconvenient Series. So, those are both out - unlike my website, they get an expected amount of traffic. (Actually, I have no clue how much traffic my website gets... according to Alexa I am ranked 9,000ish- whatever that means?) Then there is my RSS News feed page. I created this blog for myself. I wanted a homepage where I could read all my favorite news feeds and not have ads or distracting garbage. I use the blog part solely to vent about news. Which brings me to this blog. (This blog is unranked with Alexa - after all who really wants to SEO when you are ranting...)

Technically, I should be using this to promote my freelance business, but really? As any of you who follow me know - this blog is FOR freelancers. It is for you to realize that yes, there are very strange employers out there, but there are also excellent ones I just finished working with one). There are things that work and there are things that don't work. It is for you to learn writing and self-publishing tips. And, yes, it is for me to vent about my toughest jobs. I am a writer - since I don't currently own a punching bag; I don't currently have time to go to the gym or even workout; and the pen is, after all, mightier than the sword, this is my place to get it all out of my system. Because goodness knows tomorrow I may wake up and find I am working for yet another person who requires a huge amount of patience on my part - or worse, could really do with some sort of mental evaluation. And yes, I spend plenty of time on my shrink's couch venting there, too. Thankfully, my shrink knows how to laugh with me about my experiences.

Anyway, if you click on the article, you will also find tongal a crowsourcing website that doesn't appeal to me because (1) it's primarily for freelancers who make videos and (2) you have to go to the trouble of coming up with an idea and selling it, but if you aren't chosen, you don't get paid. :( And then there was contently which is a portfolio hosting website. The only benefit contently offers over Guru is that bigger names would get to see it...

I'll be the first to admit, my way isn't the only way. It just works for me. Yeah, Guru has serious messaging and file upload problems, but I would have to arrange for offsite delivery with many of the other options, too. And yeah, I don't get credit - but as an art for art's sake writer, I don't necessarily want a byline on an advertisement or even an e-book I pushed out in two weeks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Different Methods of Freelancing Part I

I was recently contacted to do an interview about the different methods of freelancing. Guru is obviously my preferred method, and it is considered a bidding platform. Usually, when I talk about freelance websites on here, I talk about Guru or elance, or some of the other bidding platforms/ freelancer classified websites.

However, this particular article was about being a freelancer in general - and obviously there are numerous ways to go about doing this. Most people think my way - bidding on jobs - is just awful. I shudder when I think about freelancing their way, so I guess we are even.

For example, some people have websites with blogs and market themselves that way. Well, here's my website. As you can see, I use my website to sell my self-published books. To date, I have sold 0 books on my website (I would rather sell through Amazon, anyway, so I don't promote it much; in fact, most of the book links on my website take you directly to Amazon) and was propositioned for 1 freelance job. That particular freelance job stressed me out and I didn't take it. Why? They wanted my Social Security # (SS#).

Now if you work in the U.S., your employers need your SS# for the 1099 tax form they will have to fill out. How do freelancers working outside of Guru control who has their SS#? I have no clue. Call me paranoid, but if I can't (1) recognize the name of your company [I actually did recognize his company] (2) get confirmation from HR at your company that you work for them and are indeed authorized to hire me for said project [I confirmed he worked there, but no one called me back after I left a message about his hiring ability] AND (3) work directly through your HR department (because really, do you need to act as a middle man when my SS# is involved?), then sorry, I don't particularly want the job that badly.

Still, MANY freelancers hand employers their SS# every day. They apparently do it safely - probably by creating an EIN# with the IRS and using that instead. Yes, I have an EIN, but I had just received it, and really, he should have asked for that.

NOTE TO EMPLOYERS: ask freelancers for their EIN# and not their SS# (or even one or the other).


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Writing Beliefs

My friend asked me why I don't try to get a job at the local newspaper. Obviously that kind of work would be more regular. However, I informed her that I don't have the myopic, cookie cutter views of our local paper. I think I would be instantly turned away, and if I were not, I would certainly be fired once I refuse to write articles that agreed with the limited views of the paper.

With freelancing I try to only take jobs that go along with what I believe. I don't write bologna. Yes, when I am desperate, I do take some copy writing jobs. (Copy writing is writing advertising copy - not to be confused with copy righting, which is registering your work with the government, or copy editing, which is just a fancy way of asking for line editing).

Now, I do research on the products I am writing about, I would refuse a job if it were truly selling something under the bridge, but there is always that edge of the playground tinge to the products. Do I truly believe one cream or one pill is going to keep me from showing signs of aging? That's a tough question. I certainly would like to believe it. I admit that I did go out and purchase facial care products after one round of beauty cream ad writing. But I didn't purchase their particular brand of aging cream because I didn't think looking younger was worth that price.

Needless to say, the two anti-aging creams I tried both turned my face more red than anything else, but I still use them occasionally - one of them did get rid of my acne (which was not an advertised benefit), but it made me smell like an old lady because it had so much fragrance in it.

My latest advertising job came by mistake. I was in one of those slight slumps where no one was hiring me, so I began to scrounge around the edges of the jobs I will accept. I didn't get hired and went on to take other jobs. Well, needless to say, two other freelancers did not finish the job in a timely manner. The guy asked if I would still be interested and I accepted.

This guy truly seems to believe in his product, and that is always something that encourages me. If the people making it believe in it, it must at least have some sort of positive placebo effect (at least that is what I reason). It was above board for the most part, I think one of the celebrities backing these types of products is a charlatan, but the product itself has the potential of improving the health of those taking it in some ways, at least.

There are some freelancers out there who are salesmen. They can sell themselves and they can sell any product, whether they believe in it or not. I am not a salesman, but I can at least write Infomercial style ads for products I somewhat believe in. I sometimes even find it fun. This particular job was not fun. It was tedious, but I finished it and hopefully can leave sales jobs to real salesmen for a long while.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are writers a dying breed?

You may think there are plenty of writers, and there are, but with all the online - "I'll write your essay for you" websites, what will the writer of tomorrow look like?

I agree with the next guy that making someone write an essay to get into college is dumb. No high school teaches the college level skills needed to be semi-successful especially when you are competing against essays written by college graduates and paid for by other potential students. The only essay that should be considered is the one that is a part of the SAT or any other college entrance exam. (Read: one that has been written after the student's identity is verified and under controlled circumstances.)

Guru does not allow school projects to be posted, but some people have found ways of getting around this (as you know by my last couple posts). For example, there was the guy who posted a project looking for an engineering paper. I thought the project looked a little suspicious, but the next one he posted was for a nursing paper. Okay, no engineer is going to need a nursing paper, so I thought this guy was legitimate. I applied to the next job, which was also on a medical topic, and that was how I discovered he was trying to have freelancers do college papers for students.

Anyway, if a freelancer is writing college entrance essays, basically they are allowing the rich (who can afford to pay freelancers) to get into college and discriminating against the poor (who may be better writers but will not be able to compete against a college graduate). How sad is that. Furthermore, they will be allowing a disproportionate number of cheaters into the college system. These cheaters, it can be expected, will continue to cheat throughout college and will never learn anything (like how to write for themselves).

So, my question is, when we get to that point - what happens when all the educated people (who had been covering for the uneducated but wealthy) die? Who will write papers then? What will happen to all that knowledge that did not get passed on to the next generation because they were too busy cheating to learn it?

Maybe that is the real reason all the empires of the past fell.

Friday, August 8, 2014

No, I won't do your schoolwork for you!

I have had two jobs in the past week that wanted me to do schoolwork for someone. One said they needed a political science paper "to make it presentable at a group function." Hmm, I got a totally jacked up undergraduate paper with instructor's notes (that primarily said the paper was jacked up - no thesis nor basic organization not to mention sentence structure, content, citations, etc.). Sorry, I really don't consider school to be a group function.

I mean really, I write at a post-graduate level. If I rewrite your completely disorganized undergrad paper (maybe even high school on this one - I hope the guy wasn't in college), do you think your professor isn't going to notice? Do you think he or she might not be a little suspicious as to how a person who could not even form a thesis sentence suddenly writes a publishable paper after receiving one page worth of notes?

Then, I had a graduate student looking for "tutoring." For the record, I do help graduate students edit and polish their theses and dissertations. Not everyone is a scribe. Few undergraduate degrees require more than two classes in writing. Therefore, I do not mind helping education majors, or IT majors, or even biology majors clean up their final work before they present it to an adviser. But I ONLY EDIT. I give advice to make it sound better - the student must write it and do the work/research. The student must know what he or she is doing.

So, I got a guy who wanted me to "tutor" him. First, he asked me to download all this garbage - including Skype and TeamViewer. Now, I don't Skype and TeamViewer is scary because it allows you to take control of someone else's computer (or vice versa). Needless to say, I didn't install that one. However, after downloading this, he contacted me asking if I could get him a paper because he didn't have the entire article - in 12 hours! I need a few days to get things from IU since they upgraded their computers and decided I could not longer have immediate access.

(I have been trying to think of whether it would be worth (a) going back to school for yet another degree and dumping even more money into the IU system or (b) applying for some menial job just so I can be "faculty" and get my immediate access back, but neither is all that tempting.) 
Well, the next morning, he was not asking for the paper, but he sent me all his work to analyze for him before his 3:00PM appointment. We are talking about reading through Java code to find mathematical errors that were "too advanced for him to do" and crunching about 30,000 or so numbers after I already told him I did not have a computer that could do that kind of work (you need Linux not Windows if you are interested in becoming a biostatistician). And by the way - he REALLY needed it because he hadn't brought anything to his adviser in two weeks.

Now, if I wanted to do all the work to get a Ph.D., I would just do option (a) and get the PhD in my name. Who would want to do the work for a degree so someone else can put their name on it? Sadly, there are people who do this. I have no idea why, though. Really, no amount of money would inspire me to do this for someone else. Especially since that someone else might be the nurse waiting on me in the ER or the Engineer who designed the bridge I am about to drive over. Yeah - those two school paper subjects were posted this week too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Let the Buyer (or Freelance Employer) Beware! Part 2

Now, I was actually in contact with the next employer. But, as you probably know if you have been following me for any length of time, I am not a salesman. My work sells itself. If you don't like my work, don't hire me.

Now, for this particular job, I was listed in the top three on Guru. I was pretty sure I had underbid the top two, though because I offer long- and short- rates. My long-term rates (if you let me work your project into my schedule) are cheap. My short term rates are probably average for Guru (low for the professional world).

So, I waited... and waited... I needed the job ASAP to consider it a long-term job and still get it done on the employer's deadline. And, then the job went to someone else. This person claimed to have an MBA in English, but he has only had one other job on Guru and no feedback. Now, I initially thought, wow, he beats me. But then I decided to give it the bologna sausage (B.S.) test. Why? Because he claimed to be an award winning editor - while editing his college newspaper and working on his Masters.

The more in investigated, the more my suspicions rose - first he lists his GPA. In order to remain in any Master's program, you must get A's and B's, therefore listing your GPA is slightly redundant. Second, when I checked out the newspaper, he was not listed as editor-in-chief during any of the years he said he worked on it. Third, the award he said he received earning his Masters, is only given to juniors and seniors (read undergraduates).

He says he graduated in 2011. Presumably, this means he was a senior (cough, cough - assuming perhaps he was doing an accelerated program that gave him his B.A. and M.A. at once) in 2011. Now, he did not receive the award in 2011. I was able to find the name of the person who did. I was also able to find archives for the student newspaper where he worked - His name did not appear on any of the articles from 2006 until the present. The person who won in 2011 had several articles attributed to her.

So, I went back and looked at his profile again, and it suddenly became glaringly obvious that he did not even arrange the paragraphs in a logical order. He jumped from his graduation backward and forward to present day. He also repeated himself - perhaps he neglected to edit.

Freelancers (self-publishing authors/ traditional publishing authors)- don't lie. Someone like me who is a little more heartless could expose you. I could have named names in both my examples, but that is not my intent. Be honest - eventually you will lose if you aren't. I quickly rose above example #1 in rank and have never been close to him since. There is a reason. No matter how cheap nor how much he mixes sausage with bologna, my work will always stand above his because I am honest.

Employers - please check out the "facts" listed on freelancer profiles. I cannot tell you how many people post complaints about freelancers on the Answers page at Guru. Just within the past week, one company discovered that the freelancer they hired not only gave them a bad website design, but also had plagiarized their own website design from another site. All it takes is a little research to save you much lost time and money.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Let the Buyer (or Freelance Employer) Beware! Part I

I don't even notice most jobs that I am not hired for, but on occasion, when I think I am the best applicant (yeah, I freely admit there are people better than or equal to me), I go back and check to see who won the job and try to figure out why so that I can adjust my strategy. 

Now, this has been an interesting couple of weeks. I have been approached twice to do someone else's school work and I have lost two jobs for questionable reasons.

It's those two jobs I want to talk about. In both cases, I have to question the ability of the freelancers to perform well. Both of them are amazingly good salespeople. They have very convincing front covers to their profiles. However, if you dig a little deeper, you find that all is not what it seems. 

Freelancer no. 1 has been around Guru for a long time. He has a very compelling picture and a well-written cover for his profile. A while back, when I first began freelancing, I checked out his writing. It was 100% filled with fluff. It didn't say anything. Based solely on his samples, I decided he must get paid per word because he was really boosting his work without much research. 

Well, I recently had cause to check him out again. This time, I used a deep web search to find all the websites that mentioned him because his new profile landing page was filled with accolades. He has (according to it) done remarkable things in Film, Radio, and Journalism. I was a little skeptical, after all I had seen his samples a few years ago and I was certainly not interested in reading them again. 

My deep web search turned up some more great pages about him - but these were on advertising websites. In other words, he probably wrote them himself. In one, it said that this freelancer was responsible for giving a singer his nickname. I am going to say "Sting," because I don't want to expose this freelancer directly. It also mentioned that he started a type of PBS in his hometown. Well, I did the research and "Sting" had been called "Sting" since he first formed the band. His band members began calling him it - not the press. In fact, it was used in the press 5 -10 years before this guy claimed to have given it to him. Oh, and the PBS station did not exist in any online forum. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What is the difference between developmental editing and line editing?

I recently saw a project posted for a developmental editor. Another freelancer posted a comment saying the employer actually wanted a line editor. The employer asked him what he meant.

A developmental editor basically does a rewrite of your work. They are on the edge of the spectrum between ghostwriters (who are usually presented with only vague ideas that are frequently not even written down) and line editors, who do a little bit more than just catching spelling, grammar, and formatting errors. You would send a rough draft of a novel (really rough draft) to a developmental editor and they would basically rewrite it for you to make your story work.

When I, personally, do developmental editing (content editing), I recommend the employer let me do it without tracking changes. Normally, I find a lot of errors on a page, which makes for a very red page that I return. However, the developmental edit would end up almost entirely red. Tracking changes is not helpful because if I move pieces of the work around and then go in to edit them, they will already be red and there is no way for the original author to discern what I have edited and what I have not.

A line editor also may make edits for flow, but not to the extend that a developmental editor does. The line editor also check for spelling, grammar, and formatting inconsistencies. It is important to have the work line edited by a second person after it was developmentally edited by someone. Ideally, you would then send it to a proofreader.

Most writers - especially newer ones with little reading experience and few hours logged in a writing classroom - need to have a developmental editor as well as a line editor.

In the case of the project, the project description (sans title and keywords) was a description of a line editor. However, once you opened the work (which the description told you to do), you knew it was a developmental edit as listed.

Having one or two run-on sentences in your first paragraph (that remains basically coherent) requires a line editor. Having entire pages of wandering thoughts without punctuation requires a developmental edit.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What makes employers tick?

I just lost a job on Guru, and I am really scratching my head over it. This particular job had a way overpriced budget - I bid $300 for the $500 - 1000 budget range. However, I really cannot see just taking people. At the same time, I think the job was worth $300, I had just finished one that was almost identical and was paid a similar amount.

The job was an "editing a technical manual" job. Now, my blogs are a mess. I try to do a quick edit/ read through when I am finished, but these are no where near as polished as the work I turn over. As I have said before, I am not getting paid to write these - it is more of a psychological release. However, the only way an employer could get to this blog from my bid, would be to click on my profile and then click on my website, then click on the tab for other websites and blogs, and then click on those. By that time, they would certainly have to be more than a little interested in me.

My bids, are well-edited. My profile is well-edited. And, this was an editing job. If you click on my profile, you will notice that each service I offer has a unique description (and picture for that matter). I also have a variety of skills. My annual income isn't looking so hot right now because I devoted four months at the beginning of the year to putting out my own books (these do not show up on Guru as projects unfortunately).

The freelancer who won had no feedback, had never done a single job on Guru before and had a cut and paste profile. What I mean by cut and paste is that every skill she offers has the exact same picture. All but one of the descriptions of the services she offers have the exact same description. And none of the descriptions match the service. For example, her grant writing service description talks not about all the grants she has written (although they do get an honorable mention) but it talks about everything she has written.

Did I mention this was an editing job she just won? Most distressing to me is that her primary cut and paste description was horribly edited. She began talking in first person, and then flipped to third person. She ran one sentence into the next without a single space between the two.

Anyway, I will be watching to see how much (or perhaps how little) she bid on this. You see, I don't consider this to be my professional world even though I link to it professionally. This is my recreation (which is why it gets cut when I have to crunch in some money). However, my professional profiles on Guru and LinkedIn are frequently reread for clarity, updated, and improved. Polished, if you don't mind calling them that. But this freelancer presented herself like a lazy slob. (Cut and paste is very lazy - easy - but lazy.) Although she go the job, I cannot condone her efforts. As an employer, I, personally, would have never hired her. Would you?

Okay, I am going to go sulk in a corner now and lick my wounds.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Formatting a Children's Book for CreateSpace? Or Layout and Formatting?

Someone recently hired me to format their children's book for CreateSpace. I can do this, but the person who hired me had no idea what she wanted. You see, she gave me a PDF that someone else laid out - and she wanted that exact layout.

I am writing this to let you know that if you want a children's book layout, you should not expect one freelancer to do it exactly the same way as another freelancer. She tried to argue that the way it was originally done was the only way to layout a children's book - well, I will send you to the children's section of your library to refute that.

Her original layout was not even all that great. For one, there were giant gaps of white space at the top of many pages. Generally, pictures should fill that, but I didn't dare change the size of her pictures - that would have made it different from the original design. So, I just balanced the pages to get rid of the excess white. That upset her.

In addition, the original formatting was inconsistent. Some of the text is centered, some is left aligned. Some of the text is one size, some of it is different.

Granted, she will sell thousands. You see, the best way to become a writer is to write a book about a cause. This gives you many ins into the business especially if you are willing to donate "a portion of the proceeds" to that cause. If you do this, you can advertise on most websites that support that cause. You can send your books to the cause to be distributed. And you can offer discounts to people wanting to use your books for promoting that cause.

You don't even need to write a good book because it is just like when your child brings home a catalog from school. You buy stuff out of the catalog even though it is overpriced junk simply because you know that you are going to be somehow supporting your child. I, unfortunately, am not commercially minded like that. I like to write "art for arts sake" books and will probably never make it big. However, I am happy with what I write even if I am only appreciated by a few.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Shelf at the BEA

Sigh, we bought our shelf at the NY Book Expo America with high hopes, but I am afraid, it was definitely not worth it.

How did I hear about BEA? Well, it is right there on the CreateSpace marketing page as a great way to market your books. I did not want to travel to NY and exhibit in person (too costly), so when I found out about purchasing a shelf (around $1000) or a slot for a book on a shelf (around $300). I was excited. The thing is, BEA does not handle this exhibit, Combined Books does.

It literally took 4 hours to fill out the BEA online form for the 8 book shelf. I had to upload samples of each book and add all the publication info about them. If you pay online, they will tack an additional $25 on for the service. Otherwise, you can send in a check, but they want it ASAP (like they will send you an invoice the next day and call to ask why they haven't received the check the day after that).

I was sending hardcovers and paperback, so I called Combined Books and asked if multiple shipments were okay - they told me 'yes.' Then, when I had a printing error and had to send a substitute title, I called again to inform them, and they thanked me. So far, everything was good.

Then I visited the website to change the title there. This is where things started to go bad. My contact information did not transfer correctly from the BEA website and I could never figure out how to fix it. I was able to adjust the book information (which was also messed up). However, this process took time that I didn't want to spend since I already wasted four hours typing it in the first time.

Next, I got an email from them telling me my books had not arrived. Then I got a call saying the same thing. I had tracked the mail, and I knew that my books had arrived. So, I called. And no one returned my call. I sent e-mails. And no one returned my e-mails (including about questions for fixing my account info on the website. In addition, it was never the same person contacting me.

The day before the show, I finally spoke to a person. That person told me they probably had the books and it was due to a "new person" who hadn't checked them in. She told me she would call me back, and to her credit, she did. However, she also told me her boss would call me back to reassure me, and he never did. The last I knew, they still had not found one of my books.

I will say you get a listing on their website for a year. This is nice, but as of posting, I have not seen a spike in sales as a result of it. No agents or publishing companies are knocking on our door to give us a contract. No distributors have put in an order.

My take on it is that some of the thousands of people visiting probably did wander over to the display (perhaps just to get away from the authors who bought a booth and were begging them to come look at their books). They might have even looked at our books out of the hundreds (thousands?) that were there. They probably went home with the nice flyer (along with countless other pieces of literature) and promptly filed it (them) in the circular file. But I am a cynic.

Who knows? Maybe a month from now everybody will be beating our door down to buy our books... I won't hold my breath for that one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspirational Romance

Well, my book, The Inconvenient Widow, isn't doing so well ratings wise on Goodreads right now. Why? Because it is an inspirational romance. Now, I don't try to hide this fact from anyone. I clearly stated it on my Goodreads Giveaway page. In case anyone didn't know what that was, in the description, I say, "Marcus is there to protect her while Emily’s faith helps her through her ordeals." Unfortunately, the same people who do not know what an Inspirational Romance is also seem to miss that very important clue. 

According to the Romance Writers of America, Inspirational Romance is "Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship." All the books I have read that are marked "Inspirational Romance" use Christianity as their basis of belief. Obviously, mine follows suit. 

So, I am getting bad reviews because of all the Christianity in my Inspirational Romance. Sigh. I know I am not the only author to suffer this readership misunderstanding, but it is the equivalent of someone reading a fantasy and giving it a bad review because it contained unicorns and dragons. After all, that isn't very realistic. 

True, my novels don't have sex in them or swearing, so I suppose they are attractive to those who shun these things in books, but it is disappointing to get a one-star review that berates the unbelievably Christian characters, but then in the last sentence says, "The author is a good writer." I write well, but since I have chosen to write Christian Romance my books are one-star. 

So, please, if you are following this blog, go out and tell your friends - and tell them to tell their friends - Inspirational Romances are Christian Romances. The next time I do a Goodreads Giveaway, I will definitely be spelling it out better. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Great editing quote

I found this quote:

"In modern times, an editor will use track changes so that the author can accept or not accept the editor’s suggestions. An editor will also flag spots and leave comments.
A good editor will not pussy-foot around bad writing. You asked for help, you got it. Suck it up. If you feel your editor is too harsh for your thin skin or not doing what you think he or she should be doing, use a different editor. Personality and expectation clashes do happen but sometimes an author isn’t ready to hear the truth or is inclined to do the work." 
Here.

As anyone knows, I will not candy coat my opinions. When I give reviews, you are going to get my honest opinion. When I edit, I use comments and give my honest opinion. My opinions are not off the wall. I have taken college creative writing and writing fiction classes at a state university and I have read so many books, I doubt I would ever be able to give an accurate number.

Now, before I began working on and reading so many self-published books, my star rating system was a little different. Since I have done all this work I find few books at the ends of the spectrum (1 star and 5 star). But, sometimes the truth hurts. That is what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur writer. Amateurs defend their work. Professionals suck it up and drive on.

I am very thankful for a recent review of The Corruption that was written by Eduardo Aruna. In short, he said the book is long - and it is - but it pays off in the end. Reviews like that are helpful because they make me into a better writer. I knew that this book was long in advance, but I was unsure how the public would react. Based on Eduardo, my son, Samuel, and some other reviews, I know that Book 2 needs to be tighter.

Sure, I could try to contact these reviewers and complain - I am trying to create a fantasy/ literary fiction combination. Of course, it's long! Instead, I recognize that if I want my target audience to read it (the fantasy fans) I need to drop the literary fiction end. Complaining about reviews doesn't do any good.

So, that said, in the next few weeks, you are going to be seeing single blog posts with some of the reviews I have been writing in exchange for other reviews on Goodreads.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Please Stay Away from Art Bookbindery...

Do yourself a favor and do not use Art Bookbindery (ABB) to self-publish. It is not worth whatever they would charge you.

Someone just hired me for a project. In the project description, it said they needed me to format a children's book for CreateSpace (CS). Normally, this means I take their MSWord document, format it, and turn it into a PDF.

Wrong. This person had gone to Art Book Bindery. All she had was a PDF that was not set up for CreateSpace, the images (JPEG), and the text (Word Document) in three separate files. Because I was not hired to do page layout I did not want to re-set up the pages (This would have taken much longer than the four hours I spent on the project). So, I had to print out the PDF at Staples, physically cut the pages apart, and rescan all the pages back into the computer.

Here is where it got interesting. When you are setting up a children's book, you want the font on every page to read the same size. Well, I was cutting and pasting into the same sized JPEG, and the words were getting larger and smaller depending on the pictures. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong, but then I checked the original. Yes, the ABB did not do the layout very professionally (Yeah, I know. It's free if you don't have pictures and cheap if you do. You get what you pay for). Now, maybe my client did the layout and did it wrong. However, why wouldn't she have JPEGs with text and pictures combined if that is what happened?

I went to the ABB website, just to check things out, and I wasn't pleased. First, they encourage you to get an ISBN. They claim that if anyone else gets an ISBN for you and gives it to you free, then you will be signing away your rights. Say what???

I read CS' contract. Basically what it says is that if I choose another publisher (one that isn't CS), I have to use a different ISBN number. To make matters worse, if you do what this woman did and go to ABB first, purchase your ISBN number and then go to CS, you will lose the ability to be distributed through the libraries and institutions channel. Why limit any of your distribution options? (ABB will not distribute - they offer everything else, including free layout, but not distribution.) You also have to pay for a minimum of 25 - 50 books.

The fact that comb binding is even mentioned on their website should scream "Stay away!" I am not a fan of vanity presses, but this one is tricky because it doesn't come right out and tell you that is what it is. Instead, it offers to give you services that aren't really a service.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to create a cover for CreateSpace on a shoestring budget

On CreateSpace, there are a few ways to create a cover. Probably the easiest is to upload a cover PDF that is the exact dimensions of your book. If you don't know how to turn a JPEG (or other graphic file) into a cover PDF file, John Carroll has a good description of what to do on his blog.

However, many authors do not have the talent or funds to create a unique cover (or have one created). CreateSpace conveniently offers a cover creator template that allows you to make your own cover. No matter how strapped you are, I don't recommend using the stock photos. Why? Because they are easy to pick out, especially if you have used cover creator. I do use a stock photo for my study guides, but most people buying study guides are not exactly looking for a fancy cover. 

It is easy to find royalty-free stock photos that have expires or no known copyrights to upload for your cover design. Check out Flickr , CanStock, Wikimedia Commons, and even places like NASA. You are looking for pictures whose copyrights have expired or whose creators are licensing under the GNU free use (U.S. government photos are copyrighted by the citizens of the US and open to their use). (You should always cite the creators of your cover images. I recommend doing it on the copyright page with "Cover image by") You will not be able to copyright these images yourself, but they are frequently more impressive than the standard CS or KDP stock photos. Here is a cover I created from some old images of paintings:

Finally, you can find freelancers who are willing to design your covers at reasonable rates on freelance websites (Guru, eLance, etc.). Expect to pay $50 - $300 for good cover design. Here is our latest release:


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reviews

Reviews are the life-blood of Indie/ Self-publishers. However, reviews (reviewers) are difficult to find. On Goodreads, there are three review groups that I have joined.

The Strictly Reviews is the one that I have been a member of the longest. It is a no commitment group. By that, I mean that you post your book link and a brief description and let reviewers contact you.

To date, I have gotten one review for Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards as a result of being a member, and it cost me two books (the reviewer wanted a copy for her local library, which I was more than willing to provide). However, I posted it in the picture book section and the children's book section in December, and it was the last post to date (June) in these threads. I have received 0 reviews for The Inconvenient Widow. After adding The Corruption today, I see the fantasy thread has had no one posting in it (aside from my new post) since November (not very encouraging), the paranormal and Christian threads are not much better.

The General Review group was the next (and recent) group I joined. The premise of this group was that you join, you sign up when groups are forming, and you read and review other books from group members while they do the same for you. This group helps you get fair reviews. However, I recently joined and it is undergoing a transition.

Initially the group was set up so that you have no idea what you are reading and no matter what it is you are supposed to give it a fair review. Apparently there has been an influx of erotica and graphically violent books, which has created problems (people were refusing to review them). So, after a debate, which I of course embroiled myself in and probably shouldn't have, they decided to create a "hard core" group, which is primarily for erotica, BDSM, LGBT, and graphically violent works, the general group (which means you will have to review everything in it without complaining and it could contain some of the above "hard core" items), and the "clean" group that contains no sex, and no violence. Of course, the hard core group filled up quickly (I think there is only one space left in this round) and then the general group filled up (again only one space left), but the clean group is struggling a little (they are about halfway there). The benefit is that you give and get 4 reviews. It is also nice because the people reviewing you are not the people you are reviewing.

I also joined the extension of the above group - The Genre Specific Review Group. This group is run the same as the General Review group with elements of Strictly Reviews in it. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be quite as popular as the General Review Group. However, I was able to join the fantasy group that was forming and have started that. Again, you join a group and when enough people have joined you are in it. In this group, you give and get 2 reviews, but you are not reviewing the same people who are reviewing you. This group is broken down into many genres, though. You can also let the moderator know if you want to give 10 free MOBI/ ePUB/ PDF books to have people review it. This is similar to the Strictly reviews board, but a little more controlled.

All in all, I should be getting 4 reviews for The Inconvenient Widow and 6 for The Corruption published on Goodreads, Amazon, and Amazon UK. The only limit on the number of reviews/ groups you join is that you are able to fairly give the number of reviews you commit to. For example, I will be reviewing a total of 10 books to get my 10 reviews. And each group has a maximum time limit for posting the reviews.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Vast Minefield of the Internet

I know many people who type random words innocently into search engines only to get not so innocent results. I have had this happen to me once when I was trying to figure out how to spell a British phrase. I thought "cocking" meant "looking." Needless to say I never discovered the answer because I was so offended by what it turned up that I pursued the topic no further.

However, I have recently stumbled across a naughty website because I clicked on a topic a search engine returned and discovered that the link did not take me to the website it described. I reported it, but it made me realize how irresponsible some people are. What if a child had clicked on that?

Ideally, authors would stick to libraries and academic journals for their information, but that is not always the easiest method of research. For example, I wanted to check into crowdfunding for my last post. One would assume that would be an innocent topic, but alas no. I clicked on two crowdfunding websites only to find they were for crowdfunding perv, fetish, and porn niches.

While it is disturbing to stumble across these websites, it is even more disturbing to think that one would go to ones friends and ask them to fund your latest porn video. I am glad I don't have friends like that.

As someone who has to be on the internet all the time, I think all browsers should automatically be set to keep this out. I don't know if this is the way it is, but mine obviously is not. Prior to a few weeks ago, I never had any problems.

For a writer, not being able to type in key words and find relevant information wastes research time. I cannot write articles about up-to-date business internet information without being able to use the internet to find said information. I cannot recommend websites without using a search engine to find good ones. It seems to me that not only creating a .xxx extension for these websites, but also creating an a Google.xxx would be helpful. That way, my search engine won't show junk I don't want to see and people who want to see it can find it without sorting through non-perv websites.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Inconvenient Widow Giveaway

Okay, so Goodreads had some sort of e-mail glitch (according to them) and since they couldn't e-mail me a confirmation, my Giveaway for The Inconvenient Widow (an inspirational historical romance) didn't go live until a few days ago. I kept changing the "end date" to reflect the not getting posted, but they posted it when there were only a few days left.

So, I am drawing your attention to it - just click the link above to enter. Goodreads picks the winners and I send them the book, but I have to agree to a very strict contract that prohibits me from doing anything with that information except that.

I want this giveaway to end before I tell you my opinion on these. Then I will have two under my belt and I can better give you a rounded opinion.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Balancing Self-publishing and Freelancing

Whether you are interested in self-publishing or whether you are interested in freelancing, both require a lot of work and a lot of promotion/marketing. For me, freelancing is my income. When I cut off my freelancing work, as I have done for the past month and a half, I make no money. Yes, I have begun to sell some of the books I have been self-publishing, but they are no where near the level of sales I need to give up freelancing. For me, freelancing is much easier than trying to promote my self-published books by myself.

Self-publishing also costs money - lots of money in the beginning that you might not have unless you are independently wealthy. So, I work as a freelancer and then watch all my money drizzle into my self-publishing efforts.

I spend money on editors, translators, and book cover artists. I spend money buying books to give away on Goodreads and to friends and family members. I am constantly seeking people who will review my books on Amazon, but I haven't discovered the legal way of finding them yet. All this takes time - a lot of time that I could be making money freelancing.

So, I have spent most of the last month self-publishing. I wish I could jump back into freelancing, but I still have some obstacles to sort through first. Primarily, I have to finish Johnny 5's rewrite (which is technically a freelance job, but one that has been on my plate too long). Actually, two of the early books I wrote for him have been published and they have many favorable Amazon reviews... maybe I should ask him how he does it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting a hardcover on Createspace.

Several weeks ago, I posted about how to start the process of turning one of your paperbacks into a hardcover on Createspace. The person I spoke with told me this process would take about 10 business days once I had paid and set everything up. He was wrong.

The process of turning your paperback into a hardcover takes more than a month from the time you paid. To review:

1. You contact CS (Createspace) customer service through the message screen on your account and tell them you would like to turn your book into a hardcover.

2. The will e-mail you within 2 business days and ask you some preliminary questions. Right now, you can get laminate or hardcover with dust jacket options. I chose the dust jacket, but this costs $2 more per book when you order them. If you ask any questions, expect a response time of 2 business days. Also, you can speed the process by knowing which book (have the title and CS id number that you see next to it on your dashboard) and which binding and telling the person this information up front.

3. In 1 - 3 days, you will get a notification saying the item is in your cart. You must click on the cart tab to access your cart and pay for it. (At the time, this service cost me $99.)

4. In another 1 - 3 days, you will see the item appear on your dashboard. Instead of the usual CS book icon, this one will have an icon that is a little different in front of it. Click on this and answer the questions (some of the information will be asking you again what binding you want).

5. Wait. When you finish with the questions, it will say that CS is processing the information and will let you know when the next step is needed. There is no next step, so this seems kind of strange.

6. In about 4 - 6 weeks, the hardcover will be available for you to order. WARNING: There is no proof step. There is also NO WAY to change the files when you finish. Unlike the paperback titles on your dashboard, when you click on a hardcover title you will be taken to a "dummy" screen that will have none of the adjustment options you see with paperbacks. Make sure your paperback is immaculate BEFORE you take this plunge. We just put out The Corruption (hence my silence for a few weeks), and we will be offering that in hardcover soon, but not until we are sure most of the bugs (read typos) are well out of it.

I am attaching some pictures to show you that my hardcover came out just as nice as my paperback. I was very impressed. The pages of the hardcover are a little thicker and are glossy white. CS does a much better job with its POD hardcovers than Staples (although Staples will get them to you faster).

(I had to choose white pages when I set up my paperback because it is a color children's book. Since The Corruption is going to be done on cream paper, I will give you an update how that comes out - probably next year.) 

The downside is that you can only order the hardcovers yourself. They will not be on CS or Amazon, so you need to either have an outlet (someone you can sell them to out of your home) or you need to have a website like ours where people can buy items directly from you. In some ways, this is good because you don't have to set unreasonably high and non-competitive prices, which CS would invariably make you do if you marketed through them. However, at the same time, it is bad because you do not get the exposure for your hardcover.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Trying to Gain Ground

Well, I have been putting out 4 books so we can fill a shelf at the New York book expo - more on that later. However, I have one more book to "fix" and then it will be off (the other 7 are already heading to NY).

So, I had to check on Goodreads because my Sal Giveaway ended this week. (Wow, I have so much to blog about it is crazy.) You will notice that the Sal Giveaway link (above) will be replaced by a Widow link soon.

Now, the purpose of these giveaways is to give a book away in exchange for a review. (Yeah!) However, I noticed on May 6th I got a one star review of the book from Erin Roberts on Goodreads.

At first, I thought about sending her a message, asking her why she didn't like my book (she didn't actually take the time to write a review). But then I remembered why I am trying so hard to get Sal reviews - that is the ONLY book I have not sold 1 title for. Yep, no one has bought the book and since I just mailed the winners their copies today only my friends and family could have read a copy (because I have been giving it to them).

Now I suppose Erin could potentially know one of my friends or family and have read my book without purchasing it, but I doubt it. Call me suspicious. I should think that she has somehow found my book, read it, and disliked it because it makes no sense why she would randomly choose me to bestow her hatred on. Or maybe she is angry because I she did not win the giveaway (over 1000 people entered to get 5 books.) However, I do not pick the winners. She should give Goodreads a one star review not me. They simply send me the winners along with some serious warnings that I had better get them their books ASAP.

Thankfully, my mother has also reviewed Sal (I gave her a copy, so I assume she read it.) Sal now has a Goodreads rating of 3 stars. :( Looks like it's going to be a long time before I will sell my first copy of this book I love.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Selling Books at McDonalds?

Sigh. I frequently work in unusual places. The library and McDonalds are actually two of the more normal places (I am typing this on my grandmother's couch right now).

As part of my Goodreads Giveaways, I am required to send the books in a timely manner. So, when I was sending Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards, I had to address the envelopes while my kids played at the McD's play place. Now, here there I was with a bunch of children's books and many non-related kids running around. Oh, it was so tempting to try and hawk them, but I am sure there was a "no soliciting" sign that I had previously never paid attention to posted on the door.

I was good. I didn't even broad cast I had these books by moving them from the chair to table (probably more because I didn't want them to be ruined if something spilled on the table). However, perhaps I should ask management if I can set up an author signing there in the future? If I become desperate enough to sell Sal in the future, and do this, I will let you know the outcome.

For the record, I have talked with my local Barnes and Noble manager about doing a book signing. There are problems with this (CreateSpace does not offer returnable books, so I would have to buy all of the 30 copies that do not sell at retail price, and not all of my books are listed through expanded distribution to keep prices down. In short, if you don't list your books so they can be sold on B&N.com, you cannot sell your books in a B&N store). However, I am also planning on approaching some independent retailers.

The B&N signing won't occur until late July. I will update later on that, too.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Library Writing Group Part II: The Critics

As I went to the next writing group, I was more happy with it. This, I was told, was a group that would critique your work. I also ran into a professional writing couple whom I am sure guest taught one of my writing fiction classes fifteen years ago.

There were a lot of people at this group, but they schedule reading so that only two people can read per meeting. They do, however, meet twice.

As I sat there looking at two manuscripts, I thought of the irony of the situation. After all, I won't even critique my friends' things without asking for money. Yet, here I was, critiquing two other people's work for the chance to read my work in July. I needed a critique now. The book was soon to be published and the prologue is still not where I want it to be. Sigh. I don't have the money for an editor and I know I need one.

But, I only had to go over the manuscript once - and while the author was reading it at that (so while I wrote a comment, I missed several things). This kept me from over scrutinizing. In general, when I am paid to edit or comment on a manuscript, I spend days pouring over every inch of it three times. I usually find hundreds of typos per page and have about one or two comments. On these manuscripts, I found several typos in all 14 pages, and only about 3 major comments.

I need the input, so I am fully willing to spend the $5 that this group charges per year to join it. I just wish I had done so sooner, then I would have felt better about that prologue.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Library Writing Group Part I: The Encouragers

All authors need feedback. The more feedback you get as an author, the better an author you can be. You can take accredited college writing courses to help improve your writing through feedback, but the highest degree available for creative writing at this time is a masters. Eventually, you are going to run out of classes, but you will still need feedback.

You can get feedback in a variety of ways. Some people use beta readers, others pay professional editors. Then, there are library writing groups that can frequently be helpful.

Now, some people need a how to write/ how to get published type of writing group. I didn't really need one of those. Some people need an encouragement to keep writing publishing group - I don't need one of those either. What I needed was a feedback group that is going to tell me what is awful about my writing. So, I headed to my favorite local library and joined the writing group.

Unfortunately, it was an encouragement to keep writing type group. Every month you are expected to bring something in to read to the others that you have been working on.

You can find these writing groups online too - for example at Harlequin in the community area of their webpage. Look for writing support groups (they also have submission support groups). These groups are good for writers who don't have motivation to finish working. However, if you have this problem, you should probably look into publishing and not freelance writing - freelance writing requires you to be extremely motivated and finish things every day.

However, they did at least refer me to the right kind of writing group - at a different library that was still nearby.
(I am really luck that I live within 10 minutes of five libraries and this group was at one of them).

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rights

Many freelancers are concerned about retaining their rights. I really don't care about the rights to the items I freelance. (Which is a good thing since I can't retain my rights and work on Guru.) The thing that puzzles me about this is that traditionally published author's frequently give up their rights to the work. Go to the library and randomly choose five books off the shelves - look at the copyright page. Most of the time you are going to see a publishing company owns those rights not the author.

Now, this is shifting somewhat, but not necessarily for the better. Traditional publishing companies may make you file for the copyright, but then make you sign a contract that gives them unlimited use. Since they want you to market yourself, can you really expect them to pay to have the book copyrighted?

Anyway, the things I care about, I self-publish. There are, for example, plenty of freelance jobs asking people to write romance novels. I could do this, but I do not. I am not going to put that much time, effort, and thought into something that will be published by a probably mediocre publishing company and if promoted right may end up making them tons of money. It doesn't appeal. I can do that much myself, and I do with CreateSpace.

But there are tons of jobs that I really do not care about. Website content - I won't even take these unless I can't find something else or the topic is easy and interesting. Research papers - I am not daring enough to approach the peer-pressure (uh, I mean peer-review) community on my own at this time. Articles - I put them out in about 1 - 2 hours, not enough time to make me interested in putting my name on them most of the time.

I am not a good marketer. I am struggling through self-publishing and starting to see my business pick up, but I do not do everything I should be doing to make my business shine. And, for the most part, I focus on editing and giving people feedback on their manuscripts. I love helping others, not asking them to buy my work - trying to justify its value. So, I am a freelance writer. And I give my rights away because I don't really want them. But that's just my opinion.

If one of my book-length fiction works had been traditionally published, I would have fought tooth and nail to retain only movie rights.