Category Archives: Ebook covers

The indie author’s artistic integrity is prime

mine THE BUCK STOPS AT THE INDIE AUTHOR, AND IT SHOULD

I am in an odd position. Someone said something about my cover, in a negative way, claiming they said it as ‘tough love.’ As a ‘friend.’ It hurt – because I am very proud of that cover. To have someone suggest, literally, that ‘I still think you’re shooting yourself in the foot with that cover. I’m pretty sure that a mediocre but professional looking cover will outsell a far more evocative but still obviously home-made effort every time.’

For the record, I disagree.

I had to think about it. To figure out why the response was so visceral to something meant kindly.

Bad covers are UBIQUITOUS

I knew, when I created them, that my two placeholder covers were ‘bad.’ Definitely amateur. But I hadn’t yet done ANY studying about design or cover elements or what a cover telegraphs to a potential reader. I knew those were not going to be published, because I also knew I was going to spend the time to learn how to do covers properly.

As I have taught myself to write properly.

But the comment was about the actual cover I published, and for which I spent an entire summer studying graphics and design and covers, and reading books and blog posts. After accumulating at least a year of studying the CONCEPT of ‘cover’ and of looking over the sites of many ‘professional’ cover producers – not one of which I liked. There were plenty of covers in that sample – thousands that I looked at. I added new sites every time a blogger I respect suggested a cover designer.

I’m not even going to mention bad traditional covers; that is shooting guppies in a teacup.

CAN an indie learn cover design?

In the same way I found ONE photo of a woman out of the thousands that I looked at which would do. At ALL. Because of nuance I would never be able to explain (to anyone except a professional photographer I then wouldn’t be able to afford).

The cover I compared to every set of covers I could find on the books I believe are my ‘comps,’ the ones I want to sell with, and whose audience I believe will like my work. And compared to every set of covers I did NOT want (from too literary to too Romance to definitely genres like SF, fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers). Because if you signal ‘Romance’ to a reader, you had better be providing a proper Romance between the covers, or you’ve already lost the marketing war.

WHO’S ON FIRST?

More and more I’m believing that the choices in the indie world are UP TO THE AUTHOR. And they REPRESENT the author. That the whole thing, beginning to end, is an exercise in learning what choices to make, in making those choices, and in standing by those choices because you ARE the Author. The artist. The creative. The creator.

If you choose to use a commercial editor – with all that entails, from finding one to paying one to accepting the edits – it is your choice, it was hard enough to make, and no one has the right to second-guess you.

If you choose a cover, you yourself will decide exactly what you want, even if that means you want to abdicate the responsibility for the cover to someone else. Or you want to learn Pixelmator and do it all YOUR way. Or you want to paint an image from the book. Or you want pale blue letters on a black background, or yellow on green, or WHATEVER.

The COVER is part and parcel with the BOOK now.

I’m starting to believe that when the author gives someone else responsibility for or authority over a part of the production, whether or not money is involved, it is the author’s choice to do so, and the author’s right to revoke that when and if the AUTHOR decides that is necessary. And it is a precious gift.

Whether or not the results SELL is not the validation. It is how the author FEELS about whether the product represents the best the author can do (assuming that’s the goal) that validates.

Now, more than ever before, when you buy an author’s product, you are getting the PURE author, warts and all, artistic judgment and artistic sensibility and esthetic sense all rolled up into a big ball of product. The consumer may like or dislike it, occasionally even returning the product for a refund; the consumer may give the product a bad review – reviews are up to the consumer.

This product has always had the writer’s name right there front and center.

[Whether the writer was a pseudonym or a ghostwriter has never mattered to READERS. And few people even notice the publisher’s name or logo.]

But other people don’t have the right to judge the product – the book – per se. They only have the right to say, “I liked it.” Or, “I didn’t like it.” They will never have the right to say, “It’s wrong.”

———–

How do you feel about the covers you see, if you’re a reader; or have on your own books if you’re a writer, too – whether or not you design them yourself?

Waiting for print? Pride’s Children has achieved ignition

 

PC1 3D frontPRINT BOOKS HAVE VOLUME – AND FRONTS AND BACKS

The print edition is up. Links below, if you were waiting for it.

‘Achieved ignition’ is my little joke. Hard to set ebooks on fire. Though I hope if you get one, you will read it first. Passing print books on to other people is also a good way of getting them off your shelves if you don’t want them any more.

But don’t lend them. The books I lend never come back.

I’ve finally learned not to lend them

PC1 3D back3D FREE Images courtesy Boxshot (high quality renderings available)

Looks like a book, doesn’t it?

You store these ideas in your bookmarks because they are neat – and eventually, you get to the place where you USE them.

IF you remember that you have them. (I need to go through that whole bookmarks list labeled ‘EBOOK,’ which is where I’ve been storing these things, some literally for years, in anticipation of this day.)

Thanks, Boxshot. This time it was very quick to go into Pixelmator, cut out the appropriate images from the full cover (anyone with sharp eyes will notice it’s MY original version – CreateSpace hasn’t put the bar code on the back cover yet), save them as separate images (back, front, spine) trimmed of all excess blank space (Trim Canvas command – but don’t save!). My first attempt looked very odd as a book because I forgot to trim the pixels down to just the piece I needed – the spine image was a tiny sliver down the ‘book’ spine.

Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (Book 1 of the Trilogy) is in PRINT

Amazon kindly links everything up for you on the product page, but here are a couple of the links for your convenience:

Amazon print product page

Amazon.UK product page

Amazon.MEX product page  (Hola, familia)

Amazon ebook product page

In this day and age of ebooks, I don’t expect to sell as many in paper (okay, except maybe to myself), but I’m glad to have that publishing milestone checked off the list. I do have lovely people who have been waiting for the print edition.

AMAZON HAD A SALE COUPON ON MY PAGE, VALID UNTIL DEC. 14.

Hope it is available to customers – I don’t control it. But it IS a limited time coupon if it’s there.

MATCHBOOK: Amazon sells you an inexpensive ebook of Pride’s Children

…if you buy the print edition. I’ve kept that at the 0.99 setting for now.

Check out their conditions – I don’t know what you can and cannot do with the ebook.

Still having fun. Over to you.

Pride’s Children Cover, Book Description Reveal

PC: Book 1

Pride’s Children: Purgatory — Book One of the Trilogy

~ ~ ~

WHAT YOU DO WITH AN OBSESSION COUNTS

“I, KARENNA ELIZABETH Ashe, being of sound mind, do… But that’s it, isn’t it? Being here proves I am not of sound mind…

So begins Book One of the Pride’s Children trilogy: Kary immediately regrets the misplaced sense of noblesse oblige which compels her to appear, live on national television—at exorbitant personal cost.

What she cannot anticipate is an entanglement with Hollywood that destroys her carefully-constructed solitudinarian life.

A contemporary mainstream love story, in the epic tradition of Jane Eyre, and Dorothy L. Sayers’ four-novel bond between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Pride’s Children starts with a very public chance encounter, and eventually stretches over three separate continents.

~ ~ ~

Colm Herron, Irish author of The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next), The Fabricator, and Further Adventures of James Joyce: “I was there, Alicia. THERE, in that sweaty studio, aware of the audience, rooting for Kary, contemptuous of Dana until, well, until I saw for sure that she was more than a plastic chat-show hostess. I wondered what Andrew was thinking. I could guess. I think his snort was involuntary and then thought better of. No better tribute can I pay than all that I’ve written above. I don’t make this comment idly. This to me is top gear.”

Herbert Collins (Saskatchewan), reader: “I feel Andrew’s emotions, and feel for him. You have successfully given your readers a story that appeals to men and women. It is wonderfully written.” and “Pride’s Children has helped me to look inside myself and see many things I need to see and deal with. I have never read a work of fiction that has touched me so powerfully! I love it and will be rereading many times.”

J. E. Hallows, author of Rebellious Rogue: “I’ve just finished reading Pride’s Children [Book 1]. That last chapter was beautiful. Probably the most moving chapter of all, which is a great way to end the story.”

Kevin Gebhard, American actor, screenwriter, and author of The Steeps: “You’re right-on. It’s hard to believe you’re not writing this from [a movie] set.” or “You really know how to write this stuff—like you were tucked in a coffee shop on Rodeo Drive (I lived in L.A. for five years).” and “Oh, to be in a writer’s head. Living amongst imaginary people. What could be better? But then comes the actual writing part. You caught it all.”

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~

The above is the description that will accompany the ebook on Amazon (and be the back cover copy for the POD version as soon as I get that ready).

Here is my entire marketing plan (I need to write Books 2-3):

  1. Until publication later this week (I hope before November 1, 2105), if you have been following along and reading as I put Pride’s Children, Book One, up on this blog, and would like an eARC (electronic Advance Reading Copy), email me at abehrhardt [AT] gmail, and I will email you back your preferred format: epub, mobi, or pdf. ARCs are usually sent to reviewers, but I don’t have the energy to do that – and continue writing. IF YOU CHOOSE, you can then write a review (preferably without spoilers) which you can put up on Amazon AFTER I launch (save it until then – I don’t want to even see them until/unless they are officially posted by the reviewer – do not tempt me!). IF you write a review, please include ‘I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion’ in the review, as per Amazon’s requirements, or they may decide to remove your review (as you will not be a ‘verified purchase.’)
  2. As soon as I launch (there will be another post announcing the date and time), Pride’s Children will be on sale for $0.99 for three days. Reviews from ‘verified purchasers’ welcome anytime from here on, too.
  3. After that, I will put it in KDP Select, and enroll PC in Kindle Unlimited AND raise the price to its publication price of $8.99.
  4. When the book has been up long enough (30 days minimum) AND the POD is available for sale (dunno how long that will take me, as it includes mailing proof copies from Createspace to me), I will run a Kindle Countdown Deal, something KDP-Select allows once every 90 days, and you will have a chance to acquire it at 0.99, 1.99, … over a period of 7 days, until it is back at 8.99.
  5. I don’t know when there might be another Countdown Deal; I’m only thinking as far as the first, but wouldn’t be able to do another for several months in any case.

~ ~ ~

Thank you to followers, readers, and commenters – you have kept me sane for the past two years while I posted this, and we are at the starting gate for…?

Wish me luck. Joe Konrath insists there is a huge element of luck involved. I’ve now done all I can do.

I can’t wait to get to polishing Books 2 and 3.

The Newfangled Writer gets a Book to Market

WRITING IS EASY; GETTING A BOOK READY, HARD

I have been MIA for a number of weeks here, and it has been for a necessary reason: once I got Pride’s Children, Book 1, out of the category of ‘writing’ and into the category of ‘prepare a product for market,’ I was completely out of my areas of expertise.

But I have also been in an area where my basic do-it-yourself nature has taken over in a big way, AND I have had little that I felt was useful to other people.

You can’t teach people how to learn. They have their own individual methods by the time they are past young adulthood: a combination of their predilection, say, for audio over visual, or kinesthetic over being lectured to.

Adult learning is Self taught

It is because people have to become fast at learning, once they’re out of school.

School should be focused on 1) basic knowledge of the world, and 2) developing the capacity to teach yourself anything you need (which doesn’t preclude more formal academic learning, if desired).

So, in the course of writing, I first started thinking something I could write on this blog MIGHT be of assistance to another writer learning to write. Then I moved to a stage (long-term readers might remember) when I explicitly cautioned people that I was writing not so much to provide instruction in my particular methodology, but to provide entertainment at how convoluted and ‘special’ that methodology had become.

Pick the best teacher – only rarely another complete beginner

Now I’ve moved to the stage where few care what I have to say precisely because I’m such a beginner at most of the remaining tasks of publication that there are far better teachers out there, and my bumblings aren’t even special any more, and therefore have little entertainment value.

Do you, Dear Reader, need to learn how quickly a graphics file with layers (Pixelmator, Photoshop) gets humongous? If you do your own graphics, you already know. If you don’t, and have no intention of ever trying, you don’t need to know. Really, you don’t. If I write it, you’ll skip it!

So I haven’t had much to write about that I would spend time turning into a blog post.

Have I been idle? You can bet your sweet biffy I haven’t.

In the interim, however, I have been working my little tail off (while sitting in this chair and trying not to let the enormous amount of time in a sitting position make the sciatica and mobility problems any worse).

EVERYTHING else has gone on the ‘To be done when I get this thing up on Amazon’ list.

A very long list that includes anything I could put off or postpone (even though I’ve been postponing since March, when I finished the what I thought was completely finished and polished version of Book 1):

  • Routine maintenance on the ol’ body.
  • Sorting out paperwork.
  • Making anything in my workflow better and more efficient.
  • Dealing with clothes (and the season has now again gone back to cool, and I think I bought two pairs of shorts I haven’t used over the summer – that’s all).
  • Vacations.
  • Getting a new assistant and working with her/him to organize this place.
  • Holly’s Tiny House pictures
  • CFS posts and walking posts and house posts
  • … (I won’t bore you – you each have a list like this)

I foolishly thought that if I just concentrated, I could get this thing up on Amazon, and get to writing/revising/editing Book 2.

But the time has now occupied FIVE MONTHS of my life.

Where DOES the time go?

Graphics took a good three months – I had a lot to learn, have (I think) blogged about it a bit. However, I was not willing to put my new cover, the final product of said graphics, up too soon. Jinx? Dunno.

I’m getting to the point where I must COMMIT – and it will be time to do a cover reveal very soon.

All this, of course, at the extremely slow pace of my brain-fogged thinking apparatus, which still (thank the Lord!) operates for a while every day even though it is mostly sidetracked at the station.

Getting to Mt. Doom and actually tossing The RING into the fire

One of the interesting things that happened as I spent a LOT of time on things I am NOT good at (yet?), was that Fear, or what Stephen Pressfield calls Resistance, or possibly self-protection (if you never publish, nobody can fault you for being too revelatory, or a terrible writer, or full of yourself) gets a HUGE second chance.

And had to be battled back down to its homunculus size. Several times. Possibly more than once per ITEM (editing, formatting an ebook, graphics, Amazon keyword – all count as items), because in each new field of endeavor you are an ignorant beginner again and should not dare to have an opinion or tread where the angels don’t go).

To summarize this all up: I have been incredibly busy, incredibly productive, incredibly frustrated. And life has had its own little share of cherry bombs and landmines.

KNOWING there is a light at the end of your tunnel, and not a train

But I am getting extremely close, since:

I FINISHED FINAL EDITS.

In that department, once the proofers and the beta readers have had their say, it will be done – because most of my part is done.

Don’t quote me. And I have no idea how long it will take me to do the book description’s final version, or to rewrite the tiny Prologue if I’m going to, or to create front and back matter and then credit Oxford University Press properly for allowing me to use quotations from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, or a hundred tiny details like that.

But that final editing thing? It was a bear I didn’t expect to see coming out of the woods – and it is finished. Done. Vanquished. Vanished. Vamoosed. Va-beared?

Except for typos – and any extremely unlucky plot holes, etc., my lovely helpers may turn up.

Thank you, Gentle Reader, for your patience.

The now Extremely Near Future

I will soon be asking for a bit of help from readers, so if you’ve always wanted to be part of the team who gets the eARC (electronic Advanced Reading Copy) of a novel, or one of the Influencers in the adoption of something new, there will be opportunities. And much gratitude.

So thank you ALSO for keeping me functioning and working all this time.

This, the first time, will not happen again. Do you remember yours for a big project?

Thanks to Quozio.com for the quote software.

Writer working: Feel free to disturb

cropped-p4157551.jpgWHERE, O WHERE HAS MY LITTLE DOG GONE?

It occurs to me that I have left my small band of followers in the dark for a while, and that is not nice.

I am STILL here.

Nothing bad has happened to me.

I have not gone walkabout, quit, decided to take up the care and rearing of dandelions.

What I have been is working my little tail off, for the eventual benefit of those who appreciate such things, and LEARNING all kinds of esoteric things, such as kerning.

In the writing thing, I feel reasonably competent: I’ve been at it for many years, and have come to a style of my own. So when I blog about my writing techniques, while I don’t expect to be followed on that path (many of them are cobbles uniquely suited to my fogged CFS brain), they represent actual solutions to real problems, and I’m proud of having figured out how to do something.

Always use shortcuts, if possible

I don’t blog about writing problems I’ve seen solved elsewhere. Granted, I don’t SEE everything, but I do a search or two, read some blog posts and some books, and hope someone else has provided ‘the answer’ – before I go to the effort of figuring it out on my own.

If someone else has a canned solution, I use it. Even if it needs a minor adaptation or two. Why reinvent the wheel unless you’re designing hovercars?

I will try to credit all the people who have made major contributions to speeding up my work flow, but we all know that you can read ten things before they add up inside your head, and you suddenly know what to do.

So, what HAVE you been doing, Alicia? And how goes it?

I have been making a cover.

This, of course, required learning graphic design for covers, and fonts, and how to search image databases.

And the careful expenditure of cash – for licenses. As a firm believer in intellectual property rights, I want my books to have all the credits and rights and licenses necessary.

J.M. Ney-Grimm has been an absolutely wonderful mentor.

The cover has been finished for ten days now, and I’ll do a reveal a few days before everything else is ready to go – you’ll have to trust me until then. I know it’s done because my subconscious finally let me alone about it.

I have gotten permission to use my quotes from the King James Version of the Bible.

You have to email the rights person at Cambridge U. Press, give all the details, and get an answer.

Why? Because the British crown has awarded itself rights in perpetuity (they paid for the translation, and it took YEARS, and many scholars, and they ARE the crown).

As I want to be able to market world-wide, I didn’t want to have any problems in British territory – and have them decide I would make a fine test case for enforcing their rights-by-treaty with other countries, like US.

I’m working of the book description.

Because it, and the cover, are your most important piece of free advertising.

Over the years, I’ve tried several approaches to describing a long, complex book in a couple of sound bites.

I have the placeholder, and the one I use on Wattpad (which is very different), and one of every form advised by anyone whose blog I’ve read.

And I’ve done my market research – some of the stuff out there is pretty ludicrous, some depends on fame I don’t have, and some has been quite eye-opening.

All I can say about book descriptions is that they are hard to get right.

Lily White LeFevre is helping – I’m getting back to it really soon, Lily. Promise.

And I’m currently up to my ears in ebook formatting.

I want the ebook version to LOOK nice, but to work on ereaders everywhere. A tough combination.

And I don’t want to spend gobs of time when I want to fix a typo, so the process has to be under my control (big surprise), and set up right initially so changes are easy.

Which required a LOT of reading of formatting books and methods, and lots of blog posts, and some experimenting.

And learning enough HTML and CSS to know what need to be changed by hand in any automatic systems I come up with. And to make sure I have nice clean code. No shortcuts. Ha!

I’ve been at this latest venture for the past 8 days, and I am glad it’s going to be a lot faster than the cover. Phew! HTML and CSS are computer coding, and I used to do much tougher programming, so I don’t approach it with the trepidation many non-tech writers do, but with a long list of questions of ‘How do I do X?’

It’s coming. I’ve made some decisions as of yesterday which I hope will result in said system.

I just figured out some of my problems are because I don’t know HOW I want it to look, which makes it impossible to achieve it. Duh!

But yesterday, yours truly created her first ebook for Kindle, navigated getting several programs installed on her computer, learned that several I already had needed updating.

I got the dreaded ‘Kindle can’t open this’ message, tracked it down, got MY EBOOK version open in my Kindle for Mac and several Kindle Previewer formats, and learned how to handle the viewing controls for the Previewer.

I have reviewed dozens of systems (everyone has a favorite), and have decided to use Scrivener + some post-processing in TextWrangler (a free text editor for the Mac, little brother to the famous BB Edit).

Why? Because I have complete control in how I create my text files, set them up in files and folders, and I think I’ve found a way to do everything I want to do. Basically, because I think I can.

You are now up to date.

I’m getting there. I have a path through most of the hard stuff remaining (except marketing).

I’m happily busy, not stalled, not frustrated – just very, very busy with DETAILS.

And, because I have only the experiences of the newbie, I haven’t written much about the processes and steps: we all go through them, no one’s system works out-of-the-box for anyone else, and mine is a patchwork quilt of pieces taken from everywhere (including the very LONG Scrivener manual).

Next task from the TO DO list?

I hope to report next that formatting is a go, and that I have plunged into EDITING. I hope I don’t have to make MAJOR changes there, but I have a long list of things to clean up.

If you have left a comment, editing will be where I will consider what you said VERY carefully, add it to what everyone else said, and decide what to do. Yup, even those comments you made two years ago on Chapter 1, Scene 3.

If you have any other suggestions, speak now or forever… 

Sorry about the radio silence! The two functioning neurons have been busy.

 

 

One-track mind: writing OR graphics mode

3 symbol

I MISS WRITING IN THIS BLOG

I realize I haven’t been producing original content for this blog for a while now.

The impulse is there: I’ve started around thirty posts, with a few words and a basic idea, and have gotten nowhere.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply can’t multitask, and that includes switching from writing mode to graphics mode, and back.

No, I have not gone hiking in the Himalayas

That’s next year’s project. And next book’s.

I have thousands of words in my Scrivener project: Pride’s Children Finish BOOK 1.

A quick check reveals I’ve written 50,000 words over the last two months. But every single one of them has to do with learning graphics and working on the cover for BOOK ONE.

And there I started as a rank amateur, with four years of reading the blogs and ebooks from self-published writers about cover design, a strong desire for a particular sunset image I had fallen in love with (and secured the rights to use), and not much else.

Oh, except for the desire and decision to do it myself.

My reasoning there is that this is fun, I’ve always wanted to have an excuse to learn something like Photoshop, I wanted to be able to interact with a professional if I decided to use one, and the belief that many things rise to ALMOST the level of art if you become very good at craft.

TOOLS

Following these impulses, I had already purchased both Pixelmator (a wonderfully inexpensive Mac graphics program that has most of the basics in Photoshop) and Learn – Pixelmator 3 Edition, a video course for Mac user with over two hours of detailed tutorials (most under 2 minutes). I have watched these tutorials over and over, finding layers and layers of information as I was ready for it. Thank you, Mac. U.

To that I added accounts at several of the companies online which supply images and arrange licenses (because my drawing is rudimentary, and I had an idea which required a figure of a woman on the cover).

Many of the videos on the web are made for Photoshop users. I early on exhausted the Pixelmator ones, absorbing things as I went.

I have a few references for specific pieces of craft, such as a nice discussion of what the various blending modes explained are (and what that means).

I have learned to use Google Images – something I’d never done before because I really don’t think visually, and had no particular need to go through images by the thousands. I have now – and found out fascinating things such as that most books about Africa have 1) a sunset (very red/orange), and 2) a single tree in the middle of a vast plain (Acacia tree?). That image instantly says ‘Africa’ to readers when used as a cover – something that is both useful and sad at the same time.

We all know that the Romance covers have gotten stereotyped to the point where is the cover has a man’s naked abs, and it isn’t obviously about bodybuilding, it’s Romance.

Amazon has become my go-to tool for book research. I looked at hundreds of book covers. I read their descriptions, perused their interiors and samples, I paid close attention to their prices, and especially examined the typography: the last thing I want to do is pick a cover which somehow screams to the cognoscenti that the book inside is genre X – if I don’t think Pride’s Children falls within Category X by a thousand miles.

Branding – in the future

I may still do my own thing – this is called ‘branding’ when you do it on purpose (and know what you’re doing) – but it won’t be OBVIOUSLY sending the wrong signals. Of course ‘branding’ isn’t much of a concept if you are putting out your first book – but it pays to think ahead on these things.

One of the nicer things to come from all this research is that I still find myself in uncharted territory, rather than finding out, depressingly, that I had simply picked up on the universal gestalt and was rewriting the latest memes.

Not that I think writing ‘the same, only better’ is wrong – but it certainly isn’t what I’m aiming for. If so, I could have saved myself an awful lot of trouble.

CREATIVITY

It basically comes down to me only being able to do one semi-creative thing at a time. It’s been visual/graphic for the last two months

And, because I don’t want to do a cover reveal until the whole is finished and available for sale, I can’t bring myself to put many of those thousands of words into blog posts.

Maybe afterward – when I feel I have something to show. I have even considered writing ‘The Making of the Cover of Pride’s Children,’ because a new designer is going to need to go through the same steps. I’m held back by the sheer ego of the idea: who am I to teach anyone how to suck eggs?

Biting off more than I can chew

Truth be told: I probably couldn’t have picked something much harder to try. This is said in retrospect, with little of that massive ego in it.

I have attempted to produce a composite image as if it were an actual photograph, out of SIX photographs, TWO vector shapes, and an artificially-created sun.

At worst, I have constructed a magnificent failure, just enough ‘off’ in every direction to annoy the subconscious mind. At best, well, let’s just say that NEXT TIME I am going to find a model, locate the right house, and camp out there until the sun does what I want it to do – and it will still save me time.

Question for today: can YOU do several creative things at once, or do you get lost in a single mode for months on end? Or is this mostly an artifact of either my CFS brain – or aging?

Relative silence doesn’t mean no progress

Skirt scaled blueLACK OF FINISHING DOESN’T MEAN LACK OF PROGRESS

(Fuzzy image of a blue skirt)

I find that, being involved with graphics (learning enough Pixelmator to attempt a cover for Book 1 of Pride’s Children), I am finding myself with nothing to blog about, and I wondered why.

I think it is because I have nothing much to report yet, and the style of my posts has often been ‘reporting back from the trenches.’

When I learn something new that I think might interest or amuse someone else, then I write about it – and share the experience.

I hope there is at least something mildly useful to my readers in what I write about.

And that isn’t true of the graphics because:

Much of what I’m learning is how to achieve specific effects – and my experience of those effects are very much limited to using them for this one particular cover.

The cover isn’t finished – I have nothing to show so that a reader could see what I’m talking about, and graphics should be visual. That, and it takes a lot longer to describe something than to show it.

My level of experience in using graphics software is low and recent – I have nothing to ‘teach’ that a reader can’t figure out more easily than from reading my posts.

Statistically, most indies who design their own covers won’t be using Pixelmator on a Mac.

I read many Photoshop tutorials, but I’d be even lower on the experience ladder in that community, as I don’t have access to the program, have no intention of buying access, and definitely have nothing to add to the knowledge base.

Reading (and writing) are more common activities than doing detailed graphics – so I would expect a lot less interest in a graphics post UNLESS I had something amazing to show, quite unlikely for a beginner.

So I find myself in the position of learning widely and possibly deeply (much more than you would need to enhance photographs), and of keeping thousands of words of detailed notes so I can reproduce effects on a clean copy of everything once I have the ideas worked out, and of having nothing to say.

My notes have pieces such as:

“The shadows are too dark, and I lost the contrast with the arm – so the arm disappeared. Going back to basics I realized the top of the skirt is clumsier than the one I cut from Skirt 5 – but I’ve already put so much work into the skirt I’m hesitant to redo it. The palm of the hand needs some shadow – the reddish glow makes no sense.”

and

“Fix the right foot. Take picture of daughter’s foot at correct angle, and with light coming from the right direction for the figure and the sunset. Blur tool and paintbrush – toes fixed.”

and

“NEW important trick: to make a white-to-fade (transparent) gradient, http://on.aol.com/video/how-to-create-a-shining-orb—-pixelmator-172549845 teaches me how.”

Unavoidable interruptions – we all get them

In addition to all this pixel stuff, real life has taken a turn toward more stuff, and includes things like:

“Find a medical specialist that accepts our insurance, has an appointment within a reasonable time, and handles problem X, and has the right certifications.”

and

“Document EVERYTHING in the process of getting a major corporation to do their job, and send it to them, even though they are being pain about it.”

and

“Figure out how to use the automatic thermostat for the AC in the chinchilla’s room, install said AC, remember how the controls work, and this time WRITE IT ALL DOWN – it will be the same next year, as it was the last three – why don’t I have notes?”

Plus my assistants quit – and I’m non-functional in the areas I was depending on them, plus all their jobs now have to be reassigned to me, or I have to find someone else. Weeds don’t pull themselves (not that I’ve pulled many lately).

Not much to report

So that’s all this is: a post about why I have nothing much to say, all done in my inimitable long-winded style, filled with incomprehensible detail.

I miss having something to blog ABOUT, and chatting with people online when they comment, but I didn’t want you all to think I’d been IDLE.

Very soon this stuff will jell, and I will be moving back to the short path to publication I’m on, with something to show for all this immersion in an area definitely alien but fascinating.

Teach yourself as much as possible, then find mentors

I am immensely grateful to those who have taken the trouble to explain things with posts full of images and with YouTube videos – I wouldn’t be making ANY progress without them: this stuff is so different from the way I normally think and work and the Pixelmator has thousands of useful features – and VERY limited documentation about those features.

Full manuals seem to be a thing of the past, and I never find the coverage deep enough (the lone exception here has been Scrivener, which has a full manual that has almost everything you could ask in it) in programs, and the online ‘documentation’ which supposedly can be updated more easily I find appalling.

Maybe it’s the explosion of knowledge. So many features are being added that the documentation can’t keep up with the changes. Maybe it’s the expectation of new generations, something we already experience a lot of, that the features on a program shouldn’t NEED documentation, but should be intuitive and easy to learn (ha!).

Maybe I’m just too old for this. And I can’t deny the brain fog is a factor in slowing the process.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been up to: learning. Teaching myself (with help from J.M. Ney-Grimm, who has shortened the learning path more times than I care to count). Doing something that is not me, and liking it.

But not writing much about it.

All I can say is, “I’m working on it!” That will have to do.

What y’all been up to?

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.

 

Official confirmation: this writer’s life is circular

On the general principle that if you can’t find something to read, you should write something, I go to the list of ideas I have for blog posts, all, as in a seamstress’s workshop, in various stages of completion, lying around draped over forms and mannequins and furniture.

A gray chinchilla being hand fed her treats.

Treats!

A year goes by – everything is the same

I find this, from almost exactly a year ago: May 7, 2013 10:19 AM. [NOTE: I never turned it into a post, but I’m fidgeting because I can’t write, it’s raining (and I got the last of the garden fertilized this morning, and there is NO energy left and major brain fog), and it made me chuckle to see how little has changed.]

At Madgenius.com, Amanda Green complains It’s Tuesday, where’s my brain. I start writing a comment. It gets too long, so I bring it to my own place:

I’m feeling a bit snarky, too, it being Tuesday.

Before I comment, I want to say that
1) I am not minimizing YOUR pain
2) I do not want sympathy/pity/whatever. Okay?

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