Bankrupt: What do you when your Publisher no Longer Exists?

You have two options – find another publisher or self-publish them.

This is what I was faced with recently on two of my six books/anthologies. I decided to self-publish Seasons of the Soul and Lockets and Lanterns, because they were published years ago (Seasons of the Soul in 2006 and Lockets and Lanterns in 2012).

I believe self-publishing is the right path to go on these two books. However, this meant I needed to develop a new cover. After all I did not own the rights to the covers, the publisher did. What should I do? Go with an expensive cover designer or do a nice cover without any bells or whistles?

I decided to do the latter. I could not see paying a lot of money for a cover artist on books several years old. Thus I turned to a friend who has self-published, and she is assisting me.

Now since the original Lockets and Lanterns cover never really said romance, and it is a romance, it made sense to have a cover that more matched the genre. In fact at book signings, people often thought this book was either a horror or mystery novel. Although Lockets and Lanterns includes an element of mystery – the husband’s secret – your average mystery reader would not consider it as such. It is pictured below. What do you think?

L&L Coverjpeg

The second problem was the book’s description. It needed to be revised. It did not say “romance” and, of course, it must do that.

This got me thinking about publishers who market all types of genres. They really do not know what each target audience demands. So, although going through my submitted manuscript is going to be a chore since I will have to correct the point size and fonts used and remove all editor’s remarks, it also is a time of rejoicing.

Rejoicing you say? Are you nuts? No, I have been disinterested in these books for quite a while to focus on my new material, such as the recent release of my historical humorous tale, The Bride List. The cover is pictured below.20160104_The_Bride_List_p2

However, now I am excited about these older books. Why?

Because it also took me back to when my autistic sons were younger as relayed in a spattering of personal accounts in Seasons of the Soul. I could relive those trials, such as where the family almost drowned or a humorous tale of when Andrew’s cat went missing. And, I could reread the God-inspired story, loosely based on my grandfather, in Lockets and Lanterns.

So when disaster strikes like a publishing company going out of business. First panic then take a deep breath and realize the positives. Positives of getting the books printed as you wanted in the beginning and are able to do so with self-publishing them.

Have a great spring and I would love to have your feedback on this issue and as always God bless.

 

 

Categories: Book Covers, Copyright, Self-Publishing, Short Stories, The Writer & Author, Traditional Publishing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Dragon Speech-to-Text Software: A Review

Back in December 2016, my boss recommended that I try Dragon, or some other speech-to-text software. I don’t remember how the subject came up (I do remember it was during the office Christmas party, so it probably had something to do with vacation plans and plans for life), but he said that as a writer (something that becomes common knowledge for anyone who gets to know me) it could be helpful with how quickly I write.

Now, I admit at the time I was a little skeptical. I’d heard of programs like that, but I didn’t know much about them, and I can be a little wary when it comes to new technologies. But over the next month or so, I heard from several writer friends who had used Dragon, either because they wanted to try it and see if it works, or because various medical conditions or health issues prevented them from actually typing their stories and blog posts. So, with a lot of gift card money, I ordered Dragon from Amazon and decided to see if it could help.

After a few hiccups in getting set up (turns out my laptop needed to upgrade its audio equipment, and I kind of forgot to register my copy of the software on Dragon’s website before starting out), I started testing it out. And it actually works very well.

The way Dragon works is that once you download the program onto whatever computer you use to write, you boot up the program and turn the microphone settings on, signaling to Dragon that you want to record what you’re saying. Dragon picks up what you’re saying either through the computer’s built in microphone or through a microphone headset that comes with the software (I prefer using my computer’s microphone, but that’s just me). Dragon will then record what you are saying to it into a Dictation Box (usually pops up when I’m using Dragon to write a blog post, like this one), into a tool known as the DragonPad, which functions similar to Notepad programs, or onto Microsoft Word, whichever you prefer.

Dragon also takes commands. For example, if you usually use italics to emphasize a character’s thoughts, you merely have to say, “Italicize this word through that word,” and those words will be italicized. Dragon comes with tutorial programs to teach you the basic commands and how to use them when writing, and there are plenty of videos online showing you how to use the program if you need more help.

I spent the first couple of sessions with Dragon just learning how to use it. It takes a few sessions for the program to get used to your voice, which is why I highly recommend you use it in a space where the only noise will be from you. Background music from a stereo, noisy kids, or any other distractions may confuse Dragon, especially during the first couple of sessions. But Dragon does get used to your voice eventually, and with more practice, it has an easier time transcribing your words as you want them to be transcribed.

Not only that, but you can actually teach the program new words. Usually when you boot up the program, it will ask if there are documents or emails they can use to learn your speech patterns or any particular words you use a lot that aren’t in a standard dictionary. This is very handy if you tend to write fantasy or science fiction. I was able to take the outline for the final book of my science fiction trilogy, and use this option to teach the program certain words in the story, including a few character names that probably won’t make the list of popular baby names in the United States. It’s a very handy feature.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems with Dragon. It will still mishear words and commands you’re telling it. I often find myself having to go back and make some corrections, like when Dragon hears the word “them” as “him” and vice versa. It also sometimes lists numbers as numbers instead of words, and unless you configure it so that it always does numbers as words, it can get a little annoying.

Still, I find Dragon very helpful. I still type some parts, especially with words that Dragon doesn’t know or when I make corrections. But for the most part, I’m now speaking my stories, and my stories are being written faster. What used to take a couple of hours to write can now take as little as half an hour to an hour. A chapter that took two to three weeks to write now takes three to four days. I speak my story, making corrections as I go, and it unfolds before me. All in all, I would recommend at least trying it out.

Now I know that this isn’t for everybody. Some of us just love to type or write in spiral-bound notebooks. But for those of you who are interested, here are some tips I’ve gleaned from using Dragon. Please be aware that I’m still new to all this is well, so if you have a tip and you don’t see it here, please leave it in a comment below.

  1. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. You don’t have to have the entire story in your head before sitting down to write (or speak), have a general idea. The more you plan, the less you find yourself stumbling over your words or taking long pauses to figure out what you should say.
  2. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t sound like an audiobook narrator. Audiobook narrators are generally paid actors who are provided a script ahead of time. They’ve read over and review the material and practice plenty of times before they go into the recording booth, and even then, they make mistakes which are corrected in future takes. When using Dragon, you’re basically putting down the first draft. So if you make a mistake, or you don’t sound like William Defoe narrating Stephen King, don’t be discouraged. It’s a first draft, so mistakes are okay.
  3. Find a quiet place to write. Like I said, noisy spaces interfere with Dragon picking up your words. I heard from one woman who said that when she played music on her radio while writing, Dragon sometimes picked up what the radio was saying instead of what she was saying.
    If you would still like to listen to something while you write, you can put in your headphones and narrate while iTunes or YouTube or whatever program you use place your favorite tunes. Dragon will actually quiet the music you’re listening to while you write so that it seems more like it’s in the background rather than blasting into your ears.
  4. Don’t expect to master Dragon all in a single session. Like I said, I’m still learning how to use it, and I’ve had it for about a month or two. Like any craft or any tool, it takes a lot of practice to get very good at it. Don’t sweat the mistakes.
  5. Have a glass of water nearby. This may just be my thing, but narrating my stories makes me thirsty. If it’s also your thing, then definitely have something to drink nearby.
  6. Use those learning tools. Even if you don’t write science fiction or fantasy, those tools are quite handy for any writer. Perhaps you write a story with a lot of Polish characters with those long Polish last names. Or the French language shows up a lot in a short stories set in Paris. Or use an expression or slang term particular to a certain area and it’s not well-known outside of that area. It’s times like these when the word-learning tools are helpful.
  7. When using Dragon for a blog post, go over it before publishing. Like I said, the program does make mistakes on occasion, so if you’re used to writing a blog post and then publishing it straight away, DON’T!!! Check over it first to make sure Dragon didn’t mishear “won’t make” as “don’t take” and then you can publish. Trust me, it’ll avoid all sorts of problems

If you are interested in trying Dragon, you can get it direct from the manufacturer, Nuance Communications, or from Amazon like I did. And it might also be available at Best Buy or other electronic retailers, though I don’t know that for sure. If you’re getting it for home, make sure you’re buying the home version when you check out. And please, make sure your audio software is up-to-date, and that you register your software on Dragon’s website before downloading the program.

If you have Dragon, what is been your experience with it?

What tips do you have for using Dragon?

Categories: Editing & Rewriting, General Writing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

It Is Possible To Write Fast And Have Quality Content

I just saw a blog post from someone who was basically saying that writers should not produce more than 2-3 books a year.  (I assume this person meant 50K words or more per book.)   I’ve heard this argument a dozen times over the years, and each time, it boils down to the same thing, “You can’t produce quality content if you write fast.”

dog-reading-books

ID 57738106 © Okssi68 | Dreamstime.com

That picture was just too cute to pass up. 🙂

Today, I’m going to argue this thinking with a couple of points.

1. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.

What you might consider bad, another person will say is good.  Just a casual look through reviews on any book (especially one that has been a good seller) will prove this to be true.  Go on and take a look at books that are selling very well right now.  You will see a wide range of reviews.  Some people will say, “Best book ever!” and others will say, “Who wrote this piece of crap?” They might not say that in those exact words, but that’s basically what the reviewers are saying.  Which of the reviewers are right?  I’ll tell you who is right.  Both of them.  And you want to know why?  Because reading is in the eye of the beholder.  There is no one book that everyone on this planet will love.  And some of the books have been written and published fast.

2. Since we are all different, we can’t be all pegged into the same hole.

Who is it for anyone to decide how much a writer can or cannot write?  Maybe for some writers, it is impossible to write and publish more than 2-3 books a year.  If it is, they shouldn’t do it.  But why would you turn around and assume that every other writer can’t do it?   Not everyone writes the same way you do.  I can sit down and start writing by the seat of my pants.  Other writers need an outline, and some of those outlines are more detailed than others.  Some writers speak their book into the computer.  Some like to type them out.  Some even handwrite them first and type them in later.  Some writers have word count goals.  Some like to write a scene at a time.  Some sit down and write the entire book in one week.  (I know and have heard of writers who actually write an entire book in one week, and they have done very well.  I can’t do it, but some have proven it can be done.  It would be unfair for me to tell those writers they shouldn’t write a book that fast just because I can’t do it.)

Some writers have day jobs.  Some write for a living.  Some have children at home.  Some don’t.  Some take care of parents.  Some don’t.  How much time is available in our day does play a part in how often we can write, and this will factor into how quickly we can write and publish a book.  Also, the creative process works differently for everyone.  Some people have ideas that come quickly to them.  Some need time to mull over ideas before the story is ready.  Some people write even when they don’t feel like it (which is what I do).  Some write only when they feel like it, which is the case for a couple of writers I know.

Not everyone will have the same editing/polishing process, either.  Maybe your editor doesn’t work as fast as another writer’s editor.  Maybe your beta readers take longer to read the book than another writer’s beta readers do.   Not all editors and beta readers are created equal, and this will play a big part in how tight the timeframe is from the moment a writer sends the story out to the team to when it’s ready for publication.

3. If you want to pay your bills or earn a living, you need to keep up the production.

I wish I could say it isn’t so, but it is.  More books equal an increased chance of making more money.  You need to consistently have something coming out if you want to maintain your audience’s interest in your books.  We live in a world of instant gratification, and people don’t like to wait long for the next book to come out.  The more books you have, the better your odds are of earning money.  (I’m not going to say it will guarantee you’ll make money.  It just means your odds of it will increase.)

4. The more you write, the better you get at it.

I didn’t start out writing as many books as I do now.  I got faster over time, and the reason I got faster is because the more you write and study up on the storytelling process, the better you get at it.  You also figure out how to organize your time better, and you have figured out who makes a good editor for you.  (Not all editors are a good fit for all writers.)  You figure out your target audience.  You know why they read your books, and you start fine-tuning your stories to meet their expectations.  You also get a good grasp story structure.  You don’t necessarily write to a formula, but at the gut level, you know how storytelling works.

You also notice red flags that pop up while writing the first draft A LOT sooner than you used to.  For example, you might notice your creativity seems to be slowing down.  When you sit to write, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with the words.  Usually, this is a signal that you’re taking the story in a direction it wasn’t intended to go.  If you persist in writing, you’ll probably end up having to do rewrites later on.  My advice: take a day or two away from the story.  You can work on something else, go for a walk, or watch a movie.  Relax your mind.  Then come back to it and see if you’ve figured out what the problem is.  The answer often comes to me when I’m not sitting at the computer.  Another red flag: you feel unusually tired when you try to write.  This often means you need a break and will burn out if you don’t take it.  (Though if you have been away from the story for a while, it just means you need to get your brain back into gear.) Now, if you’ve been writing regularly and feel this tired sensation, take a day or two off to get back your energy.

Those two red flags I mentioned above are the two biggest things I’ve noticed that will slow me way down in my publishing schedule if I don’t deal with them right away.  You might notice your own major red flags that pop up from time to time.

Here are some tips on how to increase productivity.

I’ve been writing and self-publishing since 2002, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I started writing more than 2-3 books in a year.  From there, I’ve been writing and publishing more and more books each year.  I honestly believe the more you do this, the faster you get because you become better at the overall process of producing a book.  These days I average 8-10 books a year.  (About 8 will be 50-60K words, and usually the others are shorter.)

1. Get the cover done before you write the book or while you’re writing the book.

2. Get the description done while writing the book and tweak on it as necessary.

3. Make notes for scenes before you sit down to write them.  I don’t plot a book in the traditional sense, but I do think of what I want to happen in the next scene.  I’ll mark down a few brief notes to remind myself of what I want to write in the next day or two.  (For example, “heroine finds wrong paintings in the den and freaks out”.)  Some of my best ideas come early in the morning while I’m in bed, so I have a notebook I keep next to me.  If you want to just think it in your head or want to write details, that’s fine.  Whatever works best for you is what you should do.

4. If you can manage it, work on more than one book at a time.  I know this doesn’t work for everyone, so do it only if you can balance the workload.  I write three books at a time.  (I’m trying to boost my way up to four, but I can’t seem to do it if I’m also in edits.)  If I get stuck in one book, I have another one I can work on.  Also, while my editing team is working on one book, I’m working on the others.

5. Notify your editing team you’ll have the book ready for them in advance so they can clear the schedule for you.  If you reserve your slot early enough, you shouldn’t have trouble getting your team to read your book when it’s ready.  I give my editing team a month to work on my book, but they usually get it back to me in three weeks or less.   Also, treat them well.  Pay your editors a good wage.  Offer beta readers a signed copy of the paperback or gift them the ebook when it’s out.  Give them something for their time.

6. If you do pre-orders, this can really help you tighten up your publishing schedule since it forces you to have everything done ahead of time.  If you take time to organize your schedule, it does help you become more efficient.  How many words/scenes/chapters do you need to write a week in order to finish the first draft by a certain date?  How long will it take for you to do the initial edits before you send it out?  How long will you give everyone in your editing team to work on the book?  How long will you work on it when you get it back?  What is your projected release date?  (Hint: estimate out at least 2 more months than you think you’ll need.  Real life and writer’s block do pop up.)  The nice thing about doing a pre-order is that on the day of the book’s release, all you need to do is announce it to your email list, in your newsletter, on your blog, and/or on your website.  (And you can have those all done in advance if you want.

Categories: Uncategorized | 18 Comments

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