Category Archives: Ebook covers

Thanks to those who go beyond

Who will tell you what to read?

WHAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF YOU CAN’T EVER READ

Seems such an obvious statement, but being invisible is a big problem for authors – getting the title of your book out there is a constant pressure, and you become very fond of those who make the effort on your blog, their blog, a writing site, a reading site, or any place where readers who would like YOUR books congregate.

And then something has to persuade them to read enough words to get to a ‘Call to Action,’ which can be as simple as a recommendation followed by a link.

The problem of recommendations

If the subject of what you’re reading comes up naturally, I don’t find it too difficult to ask a few questions about what someone new to me likes to read.

I rattle off a couple of favorites of mine – say Jane Eyre and the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries and maybe Dune – and watch to see if the listener’s reaction is fight or flight.

No one likes pushy authors, those who insist their books are ‘for everyone.’ Because it’s not a very believable statement in general, though people who are glad they read Jane Eyre have the most flexible mindset (which is why it gets so much attention). The enjoyment, or even that the story was self-chosen, are the keys – such a reader probably plowed (or ploughed) through similar long-lasting books.

I tried reading A Confederacy of Dunces – an award winner with a good author story (John Kennedy Toole committed suicide when he couldn’t find a publisher, his mother persuaded a legendary literary agent to champion the book, and it won the Pulitzer Prize), but had to force myself to finish Chapter 1. Because it may be brilliant, but it made my gorge rise and choke me. ‘Icky’ is the best I can remember about that long-ago attempt I have no desire to repeat. I don’t get very far into Lolita, either, for similar reasons. Or The Catcher in the Rye.

I can’t imagine their authors spending time with those characters, however good the writing may be.

So I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and am glad I don’t have to assign either book to, say, a class of high school juniors (assuming teachers still get to make those choices), and then have to talk about it in class.

It’s personal for the author

And books can become a personal crusade favorite for readers who then recommend, gift, or lend something they loved.

So, if you LIKED a book, take a moment and do SOMETHING to encourage the author to keep it up:

  • Rate the book
  • Review and rate it
  • Blog about it
  • Recommend it to a friend
  • Leave nice words on the author’s websites
  • Buy an extra copy to lend
  • Send a copy to a friend or family member
  • Use as gifts
  • Ask your library to order the book(s)
  • Write a guide
  • Mention your favorite parts
  • Tell people you can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy
  • Hire a band to parade in DC in costume
  • Anything you would like if YOU had written the book.
  • Be your most creative.
  • Give a copy to any medical personnel who have no empathy for diseases like ME/CFS – this will allow them to live the life of one – without actually having to get it, or Long Covid, or Post-polio Syndrome, or Lyme disease – or any one of a bunch of post-viral syndromes and similar misunderstood ‘invisible’ diseases.

Crusade for indie books in principle by doing something a little beyond your normal response – the author will be delighted.

It’s not the money (though adequate royalties of around $6 per any version I have are about three times larger than many traditional authors make per book) – I crave the readers. Thanks!

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Don’t forget – the Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD ebook is IN KU, and

The NETHERWORLD ebook goes on sale (Kindle Countdown Deal) for a week starting October 19 – lowest price you will find it.

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Font lessons learned the hard way

A LOT CAN CHANGE IN SEVEN YEARS

In 2015, I was publishing a book for the first time, after spending a gazillion years writing the first book in my Pride’s Children mainstream trilogy, PURGATORY.

Newbies have a lot to learn, and it is an intense experience if you do it yourself, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way you will forget the steps.

But you have to allow for change – from the outside world – and it won’t take you or your needs into account.

I forgot two major things: software changes and computer crashes.

Software changes negate some changes you make to your copy

I was barely surviving, even back in 2015 when I spent a summer learning graphics and covers and formatting, and I thought that, between my notes and my blog posts, I was saving enough information to do it again with the second book in the trilogy (eventually named NETHERWORLD).

I didn’t even think – no spare brain cells – that the process would be different in a few years, and that it would take me seven to write the next book. Seven is a big number of years in computers.

Because of several computer crashes during those years, and a coast-to-coast move from New Jersey to California, I had to rely on backups for some of my major applications, and sometimes those backups came from outside my own storage systems.

When you download such a backup, you get a pristine copy, ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE YOUR MODIFICATIONS.

And the major mod that bit me was that on several of my indispensable applications, including Word, Scrivener, and Pixelmator, I had installed fonts I used for the interior and the exterior of the book – duly licensed and paid for – because I liked them.

Find your fonts: on your computer – or download them again

Because I included a Design Notes page at the end of the printed copies of PURGATORY, I had a list of all the fonts I used, their licensing information, and where I’d downloaded them from; plus where I’d licensed them from, with a copy of the invoice and registration information.

Not easily accessible – I didn’t think they would disappear, so I was cavalier about storing them properly – but (and here I credit Apple for saving my bacon several times by making a back of my data at the time of the crashes) they were there on my computer backups, and I eventually located all my information.

Font information is now stored in a MUCH clearer fashion, in a folder on my Desktop labeled 2022 PC Storage/2022 PC FONTS (incl PC1 fonts), and backed up on my computer and in the iCloud, so I won’t have to do this again.

[NOTE: this is where I’m trying to save other users, especially self-published authors (SPAs), time and effort – do this from the beginning, and add all new fonts to this storage system, and don’t be like Alicia.]

Fonts I use for covers or exteriors for Pride’s Children:

  • Alido (monospaced, from SummitSoft, licensed in the Big Graphics Bundle)
  • New Yorker (a very good imitation of the expensive official one, free from Allen R. Walden, to be credited)
  • Goudy Serial (from SoftMakerSoftwareGmbH, licensed) in 6 weights
  • Sorts Mill Goudy (free from Barry Schwarz, credit)
  • Cambria (pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
  • Book Antiqua (monospaced, pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)

Saving – and printing out and saving in physical form – the licensing information is a good idea; fonts are someone’s Intellectual Property, and you don’t want problems with a published book because you don’t have the required information handy to prove you licensed what you use – SPAs are a small business, and it helps to behave like one.

Install the fonts on your system

Before you do anything with additional fonts, they have to be installed on your computer in a form you can then add to your software.

For the Macs, this means installing them into the app Font Book, which couldn’t be simpler (assuming the font is one of the approved font types – which I found listed at Apple Support).

The extra fonts I chose for PURGATORY were all .otf or .ttf, which made it vastly simpler for me: double click on the font, Font Book opens automatically, click Install.

Book Antiqua and Cambria were IN the Font Book already, which makes me think that installing Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac also installed the Office fonts properly. Thanks, Microsoft!

Transfer the fonts to your software – if necessary

On the Mac I don’t have to do this! All the fonts in the Font Book that are not grayed out were now available when I opened Pixelmator!

And now I’m back where I was, font-wise, before the computer crashes and the move, and know a lot more than I did then.

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Scary time of absent brain

The future is boundless; our life, not so much

Not intending to be dire or apocalyptic – but often being able to write a blog post, almost any kind of a post, signals, for me, the end of a difficult period where the brain power needed to do almost anything is just not there, and I’m not sure if it’s the waxing and waning of ME/CFS – or the beginning of the end of being able to write.

Those who know me, or have been following for a while, know how close to the edge of completely non-functional I live. A little bit worse, and no creative juices flow at all.

I wait it out, deal with whatever is causing additional problems beyond chronic illness and disability, pick up where I left off when I can function a bit again.

THERE IS NO POINT

in wasting any of my energy in railing against my fate – it doesn’t help, and doesn’t make me feel better. [Note: my brain supplied ‘railing’ as the appropriate form of protest against things bigger than I can manage. I was terrified for a few seconds when Google only supplied ‘fencing’ as a definition, until I insisted further and ‘rail’ as a verb came up. Phew!]

It is what it is until they figure it out, this ME/CFS, come up with a definitive diagnostic, find the mechanism(s) that cause it, find a treatment, find a CURE!

Today I had an interesting interaction with someone online who claims 1) to have had it, and 2) to have a treatment protocol that cured him. I had the strength of character to tell him I was glad for him, and not interested in arguing with someone online who has the ‘solution of the week.’ And to please stop writing to me.

As we tell new people, “Hope it’s something else – something that DOES have a diagnostic and a treatment.” If something actually cured someone, it is awfully likely they didn’t have what I have in the first place, but something with similar symptoms – and a CURE!/treatment/prognosis.

It’s vanishingly likely that he has something that can help, and I don’t have the bandwidth for another savior with a solution. I’ve been at this nonsense for 32 years.

There is a finite (ie, non-zero) possibility that now that they’re pouring money into long covid research that they will actually look enough to find a real solution. That’s where my hopes are being pinned; ask me in a couple of years if anything panned out – because governments finally realized that 10-30% of the long covid survivors were, essentially, getting ME/CFS and, more importantly to governments, turning from productive working tax-paying citizens into sick citizens needing the disability benefits they have been promised since they started working. Ie, it will COST the governments, and they may figure out a cure is finally worth putting some money into research, instead of telling people it’s all in their heads.

Hope I’m still around.

More than that, hope it works for people who are not recently ill – not that I begrudge the newbies, but I want to be at the head of the line.

Hey! Look! I’m producing coherent (okay, you may argue about that) sentences!

It’s been a rough time since I announced I had finished writing Netherworld, and now that I have finished proofing the text.

The plan was to format and then to get the cover out of my head and onto a page. It’s been weeks. Sometimes I just go read the end, fall in love with it all over again, and go back to sitting staring at the screen.

Because love hasn’t been translating into action.

So far it’s just par for the course, and I expect it will resolve itself, and it won’t hurt to get the new Airbook(name?) from Apple with the M2 thingamabob my eldest daughter says is good – not having the computer question resolved – should I format and cover on the old machine, or wait for the new one and bite the bullet and update my Scrivener which may have some of the things I needed that the previous version didn’t have?

But I can’t believe how much that tiny obstacle in my path stopped me from making ANY progress.

Physical problems have been the stumbling block

I don’t want to go into details, yet, on a public blog, but my already-strained-to-the-limit body and mind have had a huge task added to keeping us all going, it has affected sleep, pain, and comfort to an incredible degree, and taken every speck of energy I had.

Finding a solution took energy I didn’t have, and going outside my medical system, and I’m glad I did – but it won’t be over for a while, and it isn’t going to be any fun. Until AFTER September, and then there will be recovery.

And I won’t have any relief from taking care of the problem constantly unless I am very, very, VERY lucky next week.

I’m sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. That should account for the feeling of doom – sleep deprivation is classified as torture.

So I shouldn’t worry, right?

Except that there’s always that one last straw, the one that breaks the badger’s back, and I wonder, when I have the brain to wonder, whether this is it, and hope it isn’t, because I’m not finished writing quite yet.

If I am, it isn’t because I quit. I was because I was wrestled to a standstill by Reality, which always wins.

Meanwhile, putting words on page has given me a little much-needed hope again, and getting the news my computer situation might be resolving has given me a goal in a decision I kept going back and forth on (wait – or go ahead on familiar if not completely adequate technology – wait -…).

Thinking outside the box hasn’t worked yet

but I am vastly encouraged by the fact that I figured out how to, initiated it, was fortunate enough to find a listening ear (after several tries), and it may work much better than what I have had (nothing). And in my weakened state, no less!

I’m very proud of myself for trying – hope it works out.

So there – and mysterious. The women who read this blog and are older than 50 and/or have had children may have a clue; the rest of you really shouldn’t want to know. It’s grotty and embarrassing and against all the modesty my middle-class Mexican upbringing instilled deep, courtesy of my beloved Mother.

If I navigate it successfully, you may ask privately, and I’ll name the Beast.

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As soon as the fog clears a bit more, and/or the new laptop is here and mastered, I will go doggedly right back to working on the publishing of NETHERWORLD, instead of just going to the file, re-reading the end, and crying into my beer because I love it so much.

I’m just waiting for two good friends to let me know if they liked it, too, to feel a whole lot better.

And if you like to be in at that stage, my contact information is in the About. I could use a few more readers/reviewers who are familiar with PURGATORY, and need to keep going.

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Love in the time of pandemic

AND WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

Gak! It’s been almost a month since I posted anything!

There was a lot of quarantining in that time. NOT because we were exposed to Covid, though some independent living residents in this facility were (we found out because they had dinner with friends in Assisted Living at the Friendship Table, and the AL people ARE tested regularly because they’re in the health-care portion of our facility).

And because those people in IL who WERE exposed to the people in AL who tested positive, the State of California required them to quarantine for FOURTEEN DAYS in their apartments. None of the IL residents got Covid, thank goodness, but WE had a vacation in Lake Tahoe with our kids a few weeks later, and realized that WE wouldn’t be able to go IF we got exposed ourselves, here, and then had to do the same quarantine for 14 days.

That is, we quarantined for 14 days so we wouldn’t have to quarantine for 14 days – at an inconvenient time which would put the kibosh on OUR vacation. Mixed up world, eh?

So – any progress on publishing NETHERWORLD?

Well, yes and no.

For the ms., I created an easy ARC from Scrivener – the complete, very long pdf of the whole thing (~500 pages), and sent it to the first person who’s offered to review AND buy it on launch day (thank you, David!), and as a backup complete proofed file to several places, including my amazing beta reader (thank you, Rachel!), and gave my husband and children the necessary information to manage my literary estate (and publish Netherworld) if something happened on the trip/vacation/return. You never know.

The formatting is no further than that.

For the cover: I have all the pieces, an updated Pixelmator 3, and an updated Learn Pixelmator 3.5 video course (free update – thanks folks!).

I’ve bought licenses for the two cover images from Dreamstime, acquired another photo from the same friend who supplied the sky for Purgatory’s cover, found a couple of low-res images to guide me in the changes I’ll need to create the cover in my head, and put the whole thing into a folder and a backup on the iCloud. Phew.

Now I just have to do the work, get it past my cover mentor (thank you, Jessica!), and create ebook, paper and hardback covers to spec, and then, because I want to make one change to them, redo a bit of the Purgatory covers (bigger name so it shows on the thumbnail, add the award, etc.) which really amounts to redoing a fair amount of the Purgatory covers AND creating the hardcover one.

I have my permissions from Cambridge U. for my KJV quotations – feels nice and official.

I got my copyright certificate from the Library of Congress! I always feel better after I do that, for whatever it might be worth.

Launching is, of course, dependent on having something to launch. I had approached a PR firm, put up with a long delay to talk to them, checked in with them and received a promise of an answer of some kind before the end of May, and than have been ghosted. It does remind me that if people are not reliable in the small things, it’s probably better not to rely on them for the big ones, so that firm is permanently off the table. Too bad, because I liked them, and had already invested some effort into them.

I’m still obsessively re-reading the end of Netherworld – and not changing a word. I promise explosions, and I hope they are well received.

I want to continue getting into writing LIMBO

I literally can’t wait – because there are only a few hours between the end of 2 and the beginning of 3, and I’m very happy how that turned out.

And I’ve already started writing Chapter 41(LIMBO goes to 60).

BUT I’ve been dealing with some medical problems for 2.5 years to no solution, and I’m in the middle of trying to fix some things that really need fixing, and it’s a slow process because disability means EVERYTHING is so much harder – from making phone calls through phone systems that won’t just let you call someone to make an appointment, to doctor visits which consume an incredible amount of prep time, energy, and recovery time, to a whole slew of medical tests with the same problems – which the new doctor insists on before she will even consider DOING something.

Plus a big paperwork problem I’ve finally admitted I had to step in and manage, do some of, get help, hand over to the pros…

And my limited number of daily spoons is gone every day before I manage to write. Because it’s not just ‘write a few words’ now – it’s the whole huge Book 3 planning review, restart, clean up, carry stuff from 1 and 2 typical glorious mess of starting the final volume in a trilogy. Drives me up a tree that I can’t just do it.

But I’m literally doing the best I can

And not managing to sleep very well with all the above, to boot.

I can tell stress that I’m fine until I’m full-body blue, but that does NOT take away the stress. It just doesn’t add worry, but the things I’m having to do are stressful in and of themselves, and that is such a deep autonomic process that you can’t affect it much.

Plus the physical problems have extra pain and much discomfort associated, which has to be micromanaged – and I was already exhausted before that.

There are signs, portents, and possibilities

of improvements, but not fast.

This is literally the first time I’ve even been able to think of writing a simple blog post, in the whole past month.

Life happens – you deal.

I know what my primary aim is (if family is okay), but I’m not able to DO it right now.

Don’t worry. Nothing TOO horribly grim. But I’m all tapped out of spoons every day, almost the end of the morning, when I’ve done nothing yet.

But stuff slowly gets done, and goes into the rearview mirror queue from the To Do list, and I’ll get there.

On the bright side

my oldest daughter is helping me select my new computer for the foreseeable future – my current lovey is from 2015, and can’t be upgraded far enough because then my necessary old software – Office 2011 for Mac and Dramatica Story Expert – won’t work, and I don’t have the mental bandwidth right now to deal with another potential crash.

Everything is properly backed up (Time Machine and iCloud), but bobbles with computers cost me days or weeks when they happen, so for the first time in a long time, I’m being proactive: a new Macbook Air with the M2 processor and good camera should take me far into the future and definitely through LIMBO.

It will, however, require some learning – not my strong point.

So that’s the update:

I’m working as hard as I can on the critical list items

I’m as far along with Netherworld as I can be, including covers

Ditto redoing the Purgatory covers

Ditto writing into the future with Limbo

and dealing with the sorry carcass which makes all of this possible at all in as graceful a manner as I can against the extra stress of having to do it at all, and the unbelievable amount of extra energy it takes

AND, courtesy of my lovely assistant Sammy, whose last day is today (she’s graduating! going on to grad school! going home for the summer!), I have already acquired an assistant for the fall (another senior – so I’ll get 8-9 months of her life, and leave her a changed young woman – but seniors are really handy), and she’s interested in learning the self-pub aspects of the job I haven’t had time to do with Sammy because other things were more, uh, important.

And the ability to write this post reassures me that there’s still a ‘me’ here.

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More when there’s actually progress on this laundry list.

Be well. Have a great summer. Don’t work TOO hard.

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PS: If you are desperate to read NETHERWORLD, and wouldn’t mind writing a review to be posted when it’s published, email me (abehrhardt at gmail), make your case, and I’ll send you what I have at the time.

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What to do with a negative review

Can ‘Good’ come from ‘Evil’?

WHAT TO DO WHEN A READER DISLIKES YOUR WORK?

The traditional answer to this is, believe it or not, NOTHING.

Because a reader’s review is as much their opinion as your book is yours.

And you are grateful to have a reader who was moved to take up keyboard and leave you feedback.

And because you cannot please everyone.

And, most importantly, because have negative reviews is a rite of passage for writers, and now you’ve had yours.

Phew.

And here you thought having all 5* reviews was a mark of a good writer, and now your stellar reputation is trampled forever.

Is acceptance your only option, then?

Well, no.

The first instinct may be to send out destroyer missiles, but that may not actually remove the stain on your reputation.

The review stays.

But I came across a very creative way to use and benefit from that bad review on a blog post of Tahani Nelson, a fantasy writer. She turned a negative review (a reader got almost to the end of the book quite happily until she realized, oh dear, the warrior princess was gay!) into a great ad for her book. I won’t spoil her thunder – she deserves people to go read her post. Or at least scroll down to her ad. It’s gorgeous. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

So, I thought – YOU have some 1* and 2* reviews

What creative use are you going to make of them?

First, two of the ads (maybe written by the same person?) have the same error: ‘It is 545 pages long.’ Um, no. The book is 485 pages long.

The reviewer accused me of writing tedious descriptions about everything. Um, no. If anything, I am extremely parsimonious in the description department for a peculiar reason: Pride’s Children is written in very deep close multiple third person point of view, and I only use descriptions a character would actually THINK at the moment, which eliminates most descriptions (characters don’t do more than noticing a detail or two most of the time). Whether they’re tedious or not, that I’ll leave up to the individual reader, but I try to think of something obvious but fresh or relevant.

One reviewer must have thought the first paragraph of the prologue – a short excerpt from a faux New Yorker article that is my link between books, and the ‘outside’ view of the story from a magazine writer’s perspective years later – was actually the first paragraph of the book – and called it a run-on sentence. The paragraph is 79 words, a complex sentence but not a run on. The prologue is labeled Prothalamion – in honor of Dorothy L. Sayers who used one brilliantly in Busman’s Honeymoon.

The actual first sentence in Chapter 1 is 11 short sentences in 93 words. With periods or ellipses between them – clearly delimited.

I was accused of needing to prove I have an immense vocabulary. Why, thanks, I do know a lot of words, but all I try to do is use the words the characters would use. Which sometimes is very constraining.

The missing clues to my bad reviews (so far)

Several pieces in the negative reviews clued me in to the problem, and it’s a different one than I originally thought.

“I read Pride’s Children because of my daughter’s suggestion. I am not a fan of romance novels”

and

“the book was much too long. It could have been easily condensed to 2/3 the length”

and

“The number of quotations before each chapter was overkill – for the most part they only made sense to me after the chapter had been read.

And these pieces from positive reviews give different clues:

“These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well. And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!)”

and

“I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough – but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern ‘Jane Eyre’, this trilogy is for you.”

My problem?

There are MANY Romance readers and writers in the world – and they do extremely well by each other.

But they have styles and tropes and limitations and expectations, among others:

  • only two characters in the relationship (excepting the exceptions for subgenres)
  • a point of view that goes back and forth at certain times between the two lovers-to-be – in the same scene
  • relative short
  • a particular style of covers
  • a happy ending (HEA – happily ever after) or (HFN – happy for now)

And somehow or other, even when the cover, description, and ad copy try to convey that Pride’s Children is NOT a Romance which follows what the readers expect, some readers picked it up, read, noticed things were not what they expected – but kept going all the way to the end (skimming, I’m assuming, in some places) – and still decided they were not happy, and left a review. An unhappy one. A 1* or 2* review.

I think that may mean I need to work on my ad copy. I don’t know how to say ‘mainstream love story’ as opposed to ‘Romance’ – because it sounds horribly condescending somehow, but wouldn’t you want to know there were supernatural beings or zombies in a book before you chose it to read, given your preferences either way?

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Suggestions welcome.

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If you read, or even prefer, mainstream love stories, and haven’t signed up to be notified about mine, please hop over to the Pride’s Children blog, and follow so you will be informed when they come out. Not frequently – I’m dreadfully slow – but they’re big fat complicated stories when they do.

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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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