Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Book Resolution

*Editor's Note: this post is utterly useless except to showcase how depressing and OCD my reading behavior is. I will hopefully get back to posting somwhat informative pieces next week.*

My reading goal for 2012 was to read 10,000 pages and I certainly made it. For 2013 my only goal is to read all the books I own that are as of yet unread. I got into a really bad habit of getting books and adding them to the pile and it got quite out of hand. I got rid of two big boxes before I moved and another after. Luckily I got most of the books for $2.00 or less (often free because I'd go through other people's giveaway boxes). Now I'm down to a manageable 35-ish books. Since I read 32 books in 2012, this is my next year's goal. I want to get into the habit of buying books saying "I will read this next" rather than "I will read this after I read those other 40 books I have to read."

I keep all the books I read, even if I don't like them. I enjoy having my own library and lending the books out to people that want to read them. Plus, a lot of the books are non-fiction that I keep for reference. So, my whole library mentality meant I wanted to add to my collection, even if I knew I wouldn't get around to reading the books for years. Well, I don't have room for that, I'm wasting money if I keep it up, and it made me lax on actually finishing books because I had so many in line to read. So, I'm making a real effort to read the books I have and NOT buy books I know I won't read. I don't think I could go a whole year and not buy any books. I mean, if a book I have on my wish list comes into the library donation bin that I can buy for $1.00, of course I'm buying it. It does happen, but it doesn't happen every week. And while I've only been spending $10-$20 every month or two on books, it's added up to too many books. I've weeded my library. Now I need to get to reading.

AJ's 2013 Book Resolution

Beginning January 1st, 2013 my goal is to read all the books in my "to-read" pile that I own and to restrict my book buying to a set list of guidelines.

A. The Books I Will Be Reading

1. The books I intend to read in 2013 will be written on a list and I will not be able to re-evaluate the "Books I Can Buy" section until I have completed reading all the books on the list.
2. There are some books I own and haven't read that will not be put on the list such as how-to books like that one I have about constructing and operating small-scale greenhouses.
3. Some books are a series and I will only obligate myself to reading the first book in the series before I buy more books.
4. I may add to the list for 2013, keeping a small "overflow" section that I can move books to should I buy more books under the set guidelines that I want to read in 2013.
5. The list shall not exceed 40 books, the overflow 10 books, for a total of no more than 50 books.

B. Books I Can Buy

1. Books shall only be bought if they are on my wish list. I may add to the wish list, but may only buy if I find at one of the locations listed under #3.
2. Exception to#1. Because my research is ongoing and I have stumbled upon many books that have been very valuable, I can buy books not on my wish list only from the library/used books and only if they fall into one of the following categories:
a. Fiction -- a main character with a physical disability.
b. Non-fiction -- a book that centers on disability studies, gender studies, human sexuality, psychology of physical attraction, or body image.
c. memoir with disability or body image as central theme.
3. Books may only be bought in real life from one of the following:
a. library discard table
b. library used book sale
c. library used book donation bin
d. thrift store
e. planned excursion that includes a bookstore or discounted book store
4. Even though I love stocking up at library used book sales, I have a limit of THREE books for these in 2013, the only exception being if I actually find more than three books on my wish list at the sale.
5. Buying online is completely VERBODEN unless it is to buy a book by an author I know who has published a book and I cannot get it any other way.

In short, I have 39 books on my to-read list (including some new ones I got for Christmas!) so my 2013 reading goal is 40 books, and I should just limit buying books used that are on my wish list. The end.

To everyone who made it down this far, have a great new year. May it be filled with books ;)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Everyone loves quotes

This is not a real post because I woke up with a migraine (amazingly enough the only one I've had for months, which I'm extremely thankful for) and the post I had prepared somehow disappeared. I think I know why, but that doesn't make it reappear, unfortunately. I didn't think I would be able to post today because taking head meds and wallowing under covers only made me feel nauseous, but for some reason, putting on my headphones and thrashing around like an idiot in my own invisible mosh pit with the lights out while I ate a number of Fruit Rollups in between songs made me feel better. But I'm going to ride that adrenaline through some editing instead of a blog post. Since I have an odd habit of obsessively collecting quotes, my plan B blog posts will always be quotes. So let's get to it.

“if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
― Stephen King, On Writing

“The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
― Stephen Hawking

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
― C.G. Jung

“Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.”
― Ezra Pound

“The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”
― Confucius

“Her reputation for reading a great deal hung about her like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic.”
― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

“Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life. ”
― George Gordon Byron

“Conquer anger by love, evil by good; conquer the miser with liberality, and the liar with truth.”
― Siddhārtha Gautama

“Do not think of knocking out another person's brains because he differs in opinion from you. It would be as rational to knock yourself on the head because you differ from yourself ten years ago.”
― Horace Mann

“The truly faithless one is the one who makes love to only a fraction of you. And denies the rest.”
― Anaïs Nin

Sunday, December 16, 2012

6 ways to be "that" annoying author on Facebook

With all the talk of author brands, online platforms, and finding more outlets to promote work, Facebook seems like an ideal place for an author to connect and advertise. In many ways it is, but if you're not careful you will quickly turn into that annoying person on Facebook, who gets blocked or removed from your friend's news feeds. As an author that uses Facebook with other authorly friends, here are the six most annoying things (in my opinion) an author can do on Facebook.

1. Creating too many pages, and wanting your friends to like ALL of them.

Having multiple pages for pen names or keeping your personal page separate from your author page is often necessary. But don't go overboard. I know authors that on top of having a personal page and multiple pen name pages, they make pages for each book published. Way too much, especially when the author sends like/friend invites to their entire friend's list each time they make a new page. There are only so many things friends will like before you start getting ignored.

2. Word for word multiple postings and shares.

Posting things on your author page AND your personal page word for word will show up as repetitive clutter in friend's feeds that are linked to both your pages. I am guilty of doing this from time to time and I should stop, because it is annoying. Not to mention it doesn't give anyone a reason to like/friend an author page if you post everything to your personal page as well. If you want to promote works via other pen names or your personal page, spread it out and don't copy paste. It's easy: Post. Wait a day. Post with different wordage. But only on really important things like a new book or maybe a promo.

3. No content other than "buy my book."

Not only will you get boring to your friends, new people that check out your page (who may have already bought your book) won't want to subscribe to you on FB unless you provide more content. There are plenty of LOL cats relating to books, writing, or topics you write about (zombies, cooking, rodeos).
If you want to be more serious, do book reviews, post smart things people from history have said, or cats doing serious things. Linking other social networking accounts to automatically post to your FB can be good to up content but not if you post the same things on twitter that you post on FB. (I personally like the goodreads app. For FB, as it updates automatically and I post things there I don't post anywhere else.)

4. Abusing tagging and messaging

Just because someone liked your page/friends you doesn't mean they've signed up for the mailer too. Private messages are a little better, as these are private, but tagging means it'll show up on the tagged friend's wall.

Which, yeah, then people that aren't friends with you will see you have a new book! Awesome!

No, more like annoying because it feels like you're stealing the friend's opinion and using their space for advertising. Bad.

If a friend chooses to post: "New book by Authorly Awesome, read it!" Then great. But when you say "New book by Authorly Awesome, read it!" and stick it on their wall with the clever use of tags... ouch. Sure, people can untag themselves or remove themselves from messages, but really, do you want to wave something in front of their face and annoy them to a point of taking action? They probably won't check out what you're telling them about if that's the case. Especially if you just posted it on your author page. And again on your personal page. Oy.

5. Being too casual.

Personally, I would love to post naughty words and angry self-righteous rants on my personal page, but I don't. I'm super PC, because I'm paranoid. So I'm usually extra paranoid on my author pages. Keep in mind that strangers will be looking at your page even if they don't friend/like your page. So personal, heated drama should probably stay out of your updates. Life updates like moving or kidney failure are probably good if you can tie it into why your next book is late, but daily wallowing is bad. Also, keep it professional. Have a cleaner layout, use complete sentences. No pixilated pictures for your cover photo and do not make your Schnauzer your profile picture. Using profanity is up to you. Of course if it's in your book or your book has adult themes you don't want to present yourself as having a book full of gee-whiz and sexuality that goes as far as the midriff. Just use your best judgment.

6. Calling FB "advertising" or using it as your primary marketing tool.

Having an author page is not advertising. Maybe if you pay lots-o-money for those side ads, but there are debates as to how effective those actually are. And if you think just making a FB page for the book is a good enough marketing plan... um. It's not. And if you think all 437 friends on your personal page will buy your book, you are dreaming. From the local authors I know, and from my experience, only about 10% of your friends will actually buy. A little bit more will read/download free stuff like short stories or blog posts. And less than 10% will come to a live event. Facebook only goes so far and you will soon exhaust your pool of fans and annoy them into blocking you from their feeds/unliking your page if your only advertising is done there. Which defeats the purpose when you have a new book or an event to share.

In my experience FB is best when you have NEWS which is very rare. A new book is news. The first book signing is news. An award is news. Reminding friends to buy the book you published 8 months ago is not news. Reminders are okay, if you get an influx of likes/friends from say a blog post being featured or a book event you went to. But posting every week (or every month) about old books is a good way to turn off your audience. Constant posting is good to stay updated with content, but keep it minimal. A quote here, a link there, an lol cat once a week. That way when you have NEWS you can have a cluster of postings and not be annoying/actually have people pay attention.

FB is a double edged sword, and I will return to the topic to further depress authors in a post I have in the works: why FB will disappoint you as an author. Cheers.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

10 Ways to Make Your Editor Angry

I was an in-house editor at my college for my internship and since graduation I've delved into the world of freelance editing, on a small scale in between drafts of my own stuff. I've learned a lot, especially about author/editor relations. So here's a handy list of things to upset your editor, in case you ever want your editor shaken, not stirred.

1. Giving your editor your first draft.

I'm begging and pleading here: do not give your editor your first draft. If you say to me "Brandon and Jeremy are the same person, I just haven't decided the character's name yet," you are not ready for an editor. Unless both you and the editor know it's an early draft to be gone over for general suggestions, you won't get a very good edit from an early draft.

2. Giving a ridiculous deadline.

"Yeah, I want to start formatting this next week."

Well… It takes me at least two months to edit a book. Longer if you insist that all 250,000 words in this behemoth is necessary. I've had some writers practically laugh in my face when I say it takes me at least an hour to edit 5 pages well. And I never edit more than two hours in a row because then I start rushing or looking over things. Trust me, my suggestions for plot and character development are going to take more work than just adding a comma here and there. Getting an editor may be one of the last steps in the process, but it's one that takes a lot of time, so please don't have unrealistic expectations.

3. I'll pay you in pickles.

It was really rocky for me to transition from "I need the experience, I'll edit anything for free" to "I will need some money from this." Even now I charge way less than pro editors. But I still get, "I can't pay you, but I'll take you out to lunch." or "I have half a tub of cool whip and some toilet paper to give you if you'll look this over." Really strange things. (Unfortunately, no one's offered peach vodka, which I would probably go for.) I understand it's hard for an author to shell out a lot of money, especially if they aren't sure the edit will be good. (I personally hate it when I hear stories about an author paying a crap editor. Just because they like to write or have been to college doesn't instantly make them a good editor, even if they think they are. Makes me sad.) I do my best to tell the author exactly what I would do in an edit, how I make it mandatory that they sit down with me and we go over everything together after I have edited a section to clear things up/get better ideas. I show them my work and my process so they know where I'm coming from. Unfortunately just like graphic artists and photographers I've known who have made the jump to charging for their services, people think that because it's more of an intellectual/abstract service that it doesn't deserve as much payment. I do a good job, act as a professional and truly believe I can assist authors with my skills. Please don't offer to pay me in sandwich toppings.

4. Not taking any of the editor's advice.

I know as an author myself, sometimes you think your work is so fantastic, when someone else reads it they're going to say, "Whoa, this is amazing! I mean, this comma here might not need to be there, but other than that, this is great!"

End daydream sequence here. An editor is there to edit. Cut. Chop. Murder all your sweet, innocent darlings. I actually like when an author is a little feisty and defends their ideas. Or maybe I don't get something and they say, "Well, I was trying to get this point across." Then we edit an earlier part to make the troublesome part make sense. That's editing. But when an author completely shuts down every suggestion I make, I stop making suggestions. And that is an utter waste of everyone's time and money. An author certainly does not have to take all the suggestions an editor makes. Part of being a good writer is knowing when to veto some suggestions. But don't let your ego destroy your work and your relationship with an editor. Even if it means putting the piece down for awhile and looking at it later. But yes, as an editor when I spend hours reading and editing something, just to see the final published version is EXACTLY the same thing I read…. Uh oh.

5. Giving an editor's credit without permission.

Now, this may be different for some editors. Some editors will be offended if you DON'T give an editor's credit. But for me, at the stage I'm at, I don't want an editor credit. I'm also an author, so I don't want my name popping up too much on other work that is drastically different than my own. I'm also not officially pro and can't take on several projects at once, so my name as an editor doesn't need to be out there. What I would rather have is a short write up of how I helped the author and how the edit improved their progress, so I can show that to future authors that want me to edit something. HOWEVER, if the editor does do a good job and wants a credit, give it to them. Basically, be clear about what the editor wants and never put an editor's name out anywhere unless they approve.

6. Stealing the editor's exact words.

I usually circle problem paragraphs and offer loose suggestions, but this does not mean I'm rewriting the paragraph for you. I say "this is an example," not "put this in verbatim." But often I will see the author put in the exact word or sentence that I suggested. Or I'll say, "Maybe start this differently" and start a sentence then fade out… but the author will say, "You didn't finish this sentence for me here."

No… because you're supposed to.

I don't know if other editors just rewrite entire paragraphs for authors, but I don't. Usually I talk with the author instead of writing suggestions. If you think you can just plop a manuscript down and insert the corrections the editor made and move on, you are mistaken. Which brings me to…

7. Not rebuilding your piece.

I hate it when I make suggestions and the only changes I see are commas and misspellings but no real overhaul to the piece. I do not try to change the integrity or point of a piece, but STRUCTURE, PEOPLE. You will have to perform some surgery after an edit. You can't just put in what the editor put in red. Or worse, something at the end is re-written but that just makes something at the beginning not make sense. As an author, you still have to write and see the whole picture. Or else you just make both you and the editor look dumb.

8. Sending three stories when I said I'd only look at one.

Each transaction must be agreed upon. If you say, "Hey I have this 2,000 piece work, can I pay you twenty bucks to look at it?" and I say yes and get three stories in my inbox? No good. Or I edit one book for someone, eight months goes by and suddenly book #2 magically appears in my inbox with "We can get together Wednesday about the first section edit." No, no good. Also, if I say "Well, I have too many things going on right now, I can't take this on," don't try to guilt trip me into looking into it anyway by saying I don't have to look at allll of it, just sooome of it. I don't work that way, I'm sorry. I've learned the hard way when I was not charging that if someone asked "Could you look over something for me?" I would get anywhere from 3-7 pieces sent to me. Know exactly which ONE piece you want edited when you approach an editor.

9. "So, uh, since you edited my book... and you've done this before... can you format my ebook and print book for me? And can you set up a Facebook page/tweeter thing/manage my Createspace account too? I have more toilet paper money."

Uh… No.

I have absolutely no problem showing authors how social networks work. I'm a bit of a junkie in that aspect and am on goodreads every day. I even ask about post-production in the editing process, with marketing ideas etc. because I firmly believe it is important to keep in mind during editing. But I cannot manage all those accounts for you and send updated royalty reports to you. And while I may format books for authors in certain situations, I will want to be paid in addition to the edit. I will most likely charge less than a freelancer on Craigslist anyway, so don't take advantage of the fact that I taught myself the skills you need by throwing the service in with the edit or giving me more pickles.

10. "Thanks for editing my book! It's on sale now. It's 25.00 but for you, 21.95!"
No comment. Just don’t.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Writing Technique Inspired by Tag Clouds

I call it "clouding," because I am a genius. Here's the back story.

While writing the bulk of my most recent book, I set a daily word count goal that usually changed by the week. My method would be to take a piece of paper to work and try to write a scene during my 15 minute breaks and my lunch. Then I would go home and type the scene and meet my word count. That worked okay maybe two days of the week. Most of the time my brain would be numb, I'd be lucky to write 300 words total on my piece of paper and when I got home I would be so burned out trying to produce the scene that I'd only type the words on the page and make such little progress and wallow in literary despair.

Something had to be done.

One day I was looking at my blank paper of doom and decided to chill out and just jot some things down, not worry about it being a scene, just to save my sanity. That's when I remembered the Tag Cloud on Smashwords.
A tag cloud is basically a group of words you have tagged all your books/stories with. These groupings of words together give a taste of what the writer is all about, collectively, even if the words are very different. Here's a screencap of Matilda's current humble tag cloud on Smashwords:

So, I started by just writing words that brought the essence of the scene out, which led to a rough outline of the scene with a few lines I wanted to use. I hadn't filled up much of my page at all, but I went home and typed over my word count goal. By not burning myself out and giving myself some time to brew over the essence of the scene, I was able to be much more productive.

This page is a week of my awesome clouding:

Normally, I would have tried to handwrite that much of a page at least in a day in the crevices of work. But this half a page turned into 2 1/2 chapters, one chapter is almost 3,000 words long. Much better than trying to force out scenes when I'm tired and uninspired.

I guess the lesson is, if something isn't working, try something new. Rearrange your ideals. I used to think it was impossible for me to write complete scenes unless I had handwritten them first. But my happy little clouds have proven me wrong. And I'm much more sane because of it.