Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicken Soup For The Soul For Idiots Who Self-Publish

As the title intimates, there have obviously been many more failures in self-publishing than there have been successes, but let’s start on a high note and list a few successes. Speaking of chicken, there is Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen’s mega-successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series, now down to their final theme, Chicken Soup for The Soul of Martians. Also, we must mention Richard Paul Evans who fortunately had one million of his relatives buy his book, The Christmas Box. Though it was first printed in 1995, Evans still makes a pretty good living off the little book. Like John Grisham, they had to earn their chops in the publishing business the hard way by peddling their books out of the trunks of their cars and irritating the hell out of bookstore owners and relatives.

But since this is a self-deprecating, sarcastic, satirical blog on the negative aspects of writing and publishing, you wouldn’t really expect me to dwell on the positive, would you? I think not my imaginary readers, I think not.

So, what’s the difference between publishing your novel with a legitimate, traditional publisher like Random House or Penguin and self-publishing with any-ole-body? Well, I’ll tell you.

For traditional publishing you must first do what all good authors do: write a book. That done, the next step is to revise and then revise again and then revise again. It wouldn’t hurt to also have a professional edit your manuscript, but be aware that could cost up to five dollars a page. Satisfied, you must then write a synopsis (1 to 10 pages) and a query letter. Then you must send the query letter, synopsis, and three chapters or so to about a hundred literary agents, since 99.9 percent of them will turn you down flat.

Now, if by some miracle you get an agent and if by some miracle she sells it to an acquisitions editor and if by some miracle the publisher makes you an offer, then their editor will mark the hell out of your manuscript and demand you fix about everything, or they won’t publish your baby. After all that, it will still be about a year before it hits the bookstore. Damn.

Now, what about self-publishing? How’s that work? Well, here’s what you’ll need:

1.      A manuscript.

2.      A credit card number to give to the printer-publisher.

That’s it. You’re done. Now you’ll have tons of books you paid for stockpiling in your house, garage, and the proverbial trunk of your car. Books no one wants to buy or read. But don’t give up; you can always make a living submitting true stories to the Chicken Soup guys. How about, Chicken Soup for the Soul of the Unread Bloggers.

I resemble that remark.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My G.D. Muse

I suppose I should firstly apologize to my Christian/Muslim/Buddhist friends for calling my muse a G.D. muse. I have graciously abbreviated the G.D. for their sake, but that’s exactly what my muse is. I hate to upset the religious and easily-offended with my writing, but I pretty much do exactly that whenever I write. Local writing competition judges usually eliminate my work at the first expletive.
As I grow older, I find myself amazingly leaning toward a more secular belief of life and death. Amazingly, because most in the autumn years become more religious as a sort of insurance policy, just in case their beliefs are incorrect and St. Peter really is minding the Pearly Gates. But it upsets me when I’m at church and I hear one of the parishioners take the podium asking us and God for forgiveness, confessing he’s an alcoholic, an adulterer, and he cheats on his taxes, etc. but then is been reborn and now has God inside him. What about people like me who kept the straight and narrow their entire lives? The biggest crime I committed was to rip the tag off a mattress. I’m not a drunk. I’ve never cheated on my wife. I obey the laws, pay my taxes, raised two wonderful and likewise law-abiding children, and yet I’m chastised for not wearing my religion on my sleeve twenty-four hours a day.
I once had a novel eliminated from a competition by a judge who was offended when my character used the Lord’s name in vain. Ernest Hemingway would have never made it to print using those criteria.
My mother once said that Bugsy Malone, the notorious gangster, was in heaven because he confessed his sins to a priest on his deathbed. That’s B.S. (Another graceful abbreviation.) I then asked her if I murdered, ruined families, stole, lied and broke all the commandments, would I still go to heaven if I confessed my sins to a priest. She said yes. B.S. again.
  So, anyway, I’ll get off my soap box. My only excuse for who I am and what I believe in is because I’m an engineer. Engineers take nothing on faith. We ask why, how, when, what, where, and we want proof.
Back to my G. D. muse. It’s a G.D. muse because it’s an inconvenient S.O.B. (another graceful abbreviation.) If you’re a writer, and by writer I mean you who sits at a computer, typewriter, pen and paper, or whatever, and literally become your character, and you can’t put your computer, typewriter or pen and paper down until you have fifteen pages, then you probably have a muse.
Some artists like Lennon may have been visited by their muse while toking some Jamaican. Hemingway may have had his visits after downing half a bottle of vodka. Who knows? But my muse mostly comes in the middle of the night while I’m trying to sleep. Thus the moniker, G.D. muse.
 The muse is relenting, often forcing you to find pen and paper to write your idea, plot, or action sequence down immediately, otherwise it flitters away like Tinkerbell without a trace. Many times I will be in the throes of a passionate kiss with my beloved wife when the muse surfaces and then I have to ask my wife to hold that thought while I write down the muse’s fancy. That goes over well, as you can imagine.
Then there are those awkward times when one is on the toilet and the G.D. sprite nags you to the breaking point. On one occasion, due to my lack of mobility, I had to write the muse’s idea on the sink with toothpaste. A difficult task in any instance but doubly difficult when nature calls. I’m beginning to sound like Stephen King.
Anyway, I’m presently co-writing a novel with Jill Wallace about the South African Border Wars. In one chapter the Zulus cringe in fear of an imagined specter they call the Tokeloshe. They believe the Tokeloshe attacks their women and eats their children. It is described as small and hairy, gremlin-like and mischievous. That’s the way I imagine my G. D. muse.
Perhaps tonight, when the muse comes to haunt, nag and cajole, I will use some shaman’s magic medicine to fend it off. Or, I guess I could just ignore it and watch some TV. I wonder what’s on a three in the morning.