Progress of a sort toward publication

THE FALLOW PERIODS MAY BE INCREDIBLY PRODUCTIVE

I realized I haven’t written much on the blog recently, but it is NOT because I’ve run out of things I want to write about here, but because I have been so incredibly busy since writing ‘To Be Continued‘ at the end of the last scene of Chapter 20 in Pride’s Children.

I have 50 unfinished posts in one or another states of disarray! If you think my blog posts are all over the place, you should see the ideas files they are eventually pulled from to be cleaned up and thrown up here for public consumption.

I can’t afford to give them the creative energy I need right now to get ready for publication.

What I know – and what I’ve put off

Writing I know how to do. I proved it to myself by finishing Book 1, and being happy with the results (pending final editing tweaks).

I’ve made lists and abortive starts, and stored bookmarks and bought books – all for the OTHER part, the getting ready for publication and actually throwing it up there for people to find on Amazon, etc., part.

Now I’m reading and absorbing all that.

What has been going on chez Ehrhardt is that the reality of what I was putting off is HUGE.

And every one of those postponed list items takes the daily energy that I used to pour into the writing (which I can’t wait to get back to).

For a slow writer like me, there is a bittersweetness to the fact that I’m forcing myself to do a whole bunch of one-of-a-kind items with a steep learning curve – and I won’t use those skills I’m developing for a very long time after I finish getting Pride’s Children Book 1 published. So I’m learning things I will then forget to some extent before I need them again. And the world of computers and software moves into the future at light speed while I’m trying to master today.

But they have to be done – by me or someone else I pay – before publication is possible.

Collaboration isn’t possible for me right now

The more I think about having to interact with other people over control of my work, the less able I am to let someone else do it for me. Because the interaction itself will suck the energy out of me, and I will have no control of that timing with someone else. That is the reality of the CFS and the damaged brain.

It makes it very difficult to collaborate, say, with a cover designer. I had a brief experience of it on Wattpad where a very lovely designer did a new cover for Too Late (if you haven’t read it, it’s a prequel of sorts to Pride’s Children, here, Wattpad version including cover here). The amount of energy it took from me was unbelievable: I came to a complete brain-fogged stop for days, just trying to get my ideas across, because she was normal and had lots of ideas of her own. But she was doing me a favor, and so I had to work with her right then, while she was focusing on MY cover.

My profound gratitude to the friends I’ve made online

This inability to collaborate is not the same as not getting help: I have had wonderful email conversations with people who have read Pride’s Children, or who have created wonderful blog posts about how to do something.

This help – an answer to a question at the right time, an example of how they did something I’m just now learning, feedback about an attempt of mine – is the most amazing thing ever.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pay back the support, or even pass it on to other writers following, so it is disinterested and pure help. It has been the kind of help that my Mother would say, ‘got you into Heaven with your boots on.’

I’m not naming names here – though some of them will be very obvious if you check out the comments in some past posts – because I don’t want them inundated with requests for the kind of help they have given me unprompted. You know who you are, guys, and I love you for it.

But it’s one thing to accept offered help, and another to pay for work done. It’s the latter I can’t see myself doing, no matter HOW good the person is at his or her job. Because of ME.

So for now, while I LEARN what it is I might be asking someone else to do for me, it is DIY for me.

The current short list of overwhelming tasks being slowly mastered:

Book Description. Or cover copy, or back cover copy, or blurb. The words which go in the Amazon description box telling you what the book is ‘about.’ Where you get to summarize, extract, create your own best advertising, in your own (gulp!) words, that will make a reader decide YOUR story might be something they would read.

A reader’s NEXT ‘first impression’ (after cover, title, words under the picture on Amazon, and whatever led them to the place where they’re thinking about it in the first place). The words ‘above the fold’ on the page for the book BEFORE the reader clicks Show More or Add to Cart or even Look Inside!. To be followed, if Show More is clicked, by the rest of the description.

I’ve known forever that the descriptions I have up as placeholders on various sites, including this one, are inadequate. Cringe-worthy even. All over the place. Writing a hundred-word ‘description’ of a 150K word novel is by definition impossible. [For practice, try writing what Gone With the Wind in about in a hundred words. Good luck.]

I’m finally working on it, and have been fortunate to get help, real help, from several writers. Meanwhile, every reader who goes through one of these placeholders is still getting an inadequate version. And I’m not going to change that for now.

Elevator pitch. The short version of everything. Would you believe, that I, like many new authors, choke every time someone asks me, ‘What is your book about?’ or ‘What are you writing?’

I’ll be brave: here is the current version:

“I’ve always been fascinated by how celebrities choose who to marry. Pride’s Children is about a reclusive best-selling writer who is irresistibly drawn to an Irish megastar, and thinks she’s safe because she will never see him again. To complicate matters, a beautiful young actress has already decided that she and the actor will make the ultimate Hollywood Power Couple.

“Book 1 tells the story of the development of a beautiful relationship – that can go nowhere.”

It takes 23 seconds to say the first part, and 29 for the whole.

It’s not finished.

I haven’t actually used it verbally on anyone yet.

I am trying to memorize it – and I feel like an idiot saying it. So? If I can’t open my big mouth and tell an interested (or polite?) listener what my book is about, I’m wasting an opportunity that will never return.

Think writing the book description is hard? Try accomplishing the same goals – to get someone to seriously consider your book – in less than 30 seconds.

Then be sure to whip out a card with all the information on it, and hand it over.

I’m sure this little acting performance will get more polished. I’m also pretty sure I’ll always have stage fright about it.

Cover. The all-important visual first hook for many people. Again, the placeholders are barely that – but allowed me to write first, and finish enough so that I know what I’m TRYING to do: evoke an emotional response (or at least not quash one) in a potential reader.

In my opinion, good covers do this, and meh covers don’t, while bad covers actively discourage me from reading your book.

I believe half the interest in The Goldfinch or the Fifty Shades books is due to their covers. That’s how important cover design is.

One way is to let someone do it. That’s how traditionally-published authors usually have to go. It’s taken out of their hands, and the web is rife with those traditional authors who dare speak out complaining about said covers. The ones who daren’t must be legion.

It’s one of the joys and pains of self-publishing that you get final approval of your cover.

And note carefully that writers are usually not also graphic designers. This is balanced by knowing our own book in a way no one else can. Me, I’m learning Pixelmator slowly and with the help of a wonderful video course I play over and over. And I’m making progress – with more of that aforementioned help.

Soon, I’ll SHOW you what I mean. Meanwhile, my head is exploding. But it’s all good, and I even created a font from my own handwriting (being tweaked). I have purchased my first image (of which I will use only parts), obtained the rights to another from a friend I will be happy to compensate if we sell more than 50 copies. But talk about ‘creative discomfort’ and the pre-learning tantrum. Sheesh!

Rights. To use the tiny bits I want from the King James Version of the Bible. From Cambridge University (who manage the permissions for the British Crown, who have granted themselves rights in perpetuity). Why? Because even though they don’t normally pursue violators, I won’t publish something I know I don’t have the rights to. And I want to sell worldwide, including Great Britain. And the punishment for copyright infringement in print is the theoretical recall of all the printed copies (or large fines) – an d all kinds of legal hassles.

I want to use these bits. I believe they fit the book. I believe I’m not being disrespectful (their opinion may vary). But I’m also capable of writing something entirely my own if they refuse permission. Which would be THEIR right.

I’m on tenterhooks, waiting, and it already took a month to get an initial response – and nothing since. Really. And even if you publish traditionally, and they assist (if they do) in getting rights, it is STILL the author’s responsibility.

[And yep, I obtained the rights to the cover images I will be using (see Covers, above). In writing.]

Copyright registration. Yup, did that BEFORE I published the final scene here on the blog.

Why? Because it is important to note that if you don’t, you may be able to win statutory damages from an infringer – but not punitive ones. Punitive damages require a registered copyright. For a book like Pride’s Children, it’s worth it to me.

Online registration is doable, though not perfect (I still don’t understand a few things). But because I had copyrighted the play I wrote (Tangled Webs), I already had an account, and had been through the system, and part of the pain was minimized. Another one of those things I don’t do every day.

All the rest. The fabulous TO DO list.

It is getting longer, but I’ve made decisions, and there is an order to the whole.

My intention is to get everything ready, but launch quietly and softly because I am still learning the ropes, and may have to take things down and redo parts as I go.

The one thing that is good is that I don’t expect major rewrites anywhere in the book itself. That part is due for minor tweaking only. I’m happy with the content, and I could not possibly attain the required fever pitch again for those scenes. What you have read here is basically it – the story won’t change in the tidying.

Mostly I have editing things to do like making sure the phones and answering machine in Kary’s house are self-consistent, and Andrew’s accent makes sense in how it waxes and wanes. What I call the ‘whole book’ edits. Which is probably why many people haven’t noticed these little deficiencies.

Consider yourself updated.

And I have gotten a few words out on the blog.

Pray for me – I have chosen a path and now must tread it.

It is fun. Honest. Now that I’ve finally switched over completely from writing, and know that I won’t get back to writing until it’s done, I have accepted that and moved on.

I’m hoping it doesn’t take forever, and that God and the universe are not laughing at me because of my plans, and that I live to finish the trilogy (if it’s up to me).

But I’m happy, content, and working hard in my own way.

Though I may not blog quite as much as during the writing. For now.

Thanks again to supporters and helpers. I couldn’t do this without you.

Good wishes much appreciated here.

 

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15 thoughts on “Progress of a sort toward publication

  1. Sandra Manning

    Good luck on all of this. There’s so much work to putting out a novel, whether you are published by someone else or self-published.
    When I went to Thriller Fest last year, I attended a session on pitches. They generally recommend that you boil it down to 25 words or less. Mine was something like this: “When Kolya Petrov is set up to be captured and tortured, he must choose to save the woman he loves or to stop a killer.” Skips a whole bunch of stuff, but that’s sort of the emotional heart.
    Didn’t actually get me an agent. Actually, didn’t get me much of anything – I got my offer of publication because I met the editor of Five Star at a round table where she read my first two pages and then agreed to read the novel.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Yes, in principle. But the thought of looking an agent in the eye in an elevator and delivering those and only those 25 words is a bit daunting. The short lead-in sentence about ‘why’ makes a tiny possible bit of common ground, and lets me relax. In theory.

      How it will work in practice I don’t know. The one time I ‘explained’ what my book was about attempting this short version, I muffed it. I got the first sentence out, and messed up on the rest. Maybe practice will help.

      There’s also the bit about how most people really don’t want to know! They’re caught in a corner and being polite. Like in an elevator. But maybe they’ve also read People magazine in the dentist’s office and have always been curious about some celebrity. It could happen.

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      1. donnainthesouth

        Oh I wish – just did like you’re doing and followed the leads; went to one of those stock photo places and found my guys – nobody else likes them, though, that is….until I get them to understand what I’m really trying to do – have to find somebody who shares your vision, like….question…do you picture the cover of Kary’s book?

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  2. Janna G. Noelle

    I’ve been working on my blurb and tagline for years now and am still not completely satisfied. But I think it becomes a state of mind after a while, this writing in the short. A little while ago, I wrote a tweet-length pitch of my WIP in case I someday decide to participate in a Twitter pitch contest like Pitmad and even had enough space to include the hashtag (#pitmad). And then, wonder of wonders, I was able in making the tweet even shorter!

    I do not, however, have an elevator pitch as yet. That will be tricky, since it has to be both conversational and informational. I like how you started yours with some info about yourself (“I’ve always been fascinated by how celebrities choose who to marry.”)

    If I may offer a bit of critique on the rest of it, it wasn’t clear at first that the writer and the star already knew each other. When you say “irresistibly drawn to an Irish megastar”, I thought she was pinning for him from afar unbeknownst to him. But then you say “and thinks she’s safe because she will never see him again”, which suggests that they had actually met at some point, and that she didn’t enjoy the experience. Just my two cents. Feel free to give me change back. 😉

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I read a little book I had for a long time and hadn’t really dug into, called Selling your story in 60 seconds, by Michael Hauge, and his big tip was to start your pitch (of any length) with something that gives the listener a bit of context as to why this story (I’m probably misquoting him). His suggestions for screenwriters didn’t work for me, but I know why I started this story (okay, I was a Paul McCartney girl back in my teens, and he went and MARRIED Linda Eastwood and broke my heart, but he seemed to love her until she died tragically, so that made it more okay for me. As long as he was happy.) So I used that, because it is the question every fan of a star asks: “Why not me? We’d be perfect together.” Except they never get to find that out because they never meet, much less get to know each other.

      Hauge’s book is designed mostly for screenwriters, but he also suggests his techniques work for when you have written a novel, and have two floors in an elevator with an agent. I thought ‘How fascinating!’ at the time, bought it, and read it quickly, putting it back on the shelf for when I might have a query to write (the copyright date is 2006, so just at the beginning of the SP debacle we are involved in).

      Now that I’m at the ‘describe your book in a few words for the nice lady’ stage, I took it out again.

      I, too, have many pitches, loglines, tag lines, and short descriptions created along the way, and of course everyone defines every term differently, but I’ve run into the questions so many times that it seemed a good time to develop the shorty. I was trying to stay under 30 seconds – so I will be happy to answer any question that results from this pitch (or any other versions) if the listener asks a question like yours, but I got in:

      Three characters – and a tiny bit about each.
      The context: relationship story in the celebrities world; possibly involving marriage
      The fact that the two main ones have met at least once, but the writer doesn’t think it will happen AGAIN.
      Something he did or said resonated with her enough so she was attracted.
      And that she doesn’t think that attraction is ‘safe’ – for her? for him?

      Just a spoonful of something tantalizing?

      I just re-read your comment – and I realized I will have to change ‘safe’ to a better word, because, if you haven’t read it, you may not realize that what isn’t safe is her life style and her isolation and her heart; she is in no danger from Andrew, only from herself.

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  3. Thomas Weaver

    Writing a back cover blurb is HARD. I can’t do it. Elevator pitches are even worse, like trying to write a novel in a Twitter post. Covers… Also not easy, even for authors who do know graphic design. (My twin has experience using various graphics programs, and I have a degree in art.)

    Doing everything (or almost everything) yourself means you’ll have that much more satisfaction when it’s all complete, though, and along the way you may discover talents you never realized you had.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Very funny. I went back to see if I can break my elevator pitch into tweet-sized chunks. Almost. With a little work. Huh.

      It’s on the list somewhere. I could also tweet the chapter headings – some of those make sense. ‘Chapter heading + brief explanation of chapter’ = tweet. Huh again.

      It’s a different world.

      And, yes, there is a certain sense of satisfaction in mastering things you haven’t done before – like finding the only image of a woman that will work for you out of 20,000 viewed images.

      We’ll see what the world says.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          You will. Sort of. As soon as I have the cover done – graphic design of ebook covers is HARD.

          I am acquiring all these skills and bits of knowledge and photographs – and slowly learning how to put them together to catch the eye. I spent days futzing around and getting wonderful information and advice from JM Ney-Grimm (MUCH obliged, JM).

          And now my head is trying to pull it all into several potential covers. I don’t know yet whether I’ll put them up for voting, or just reveal the cover – it hasn’t gelled completely yet – but a month ago I had a million ideas, and now they’re distilled into a group I can count on my fingers. Progress!

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