How it's going...

If I were to start a new blog, with advice either on writing, or on how to market one's book, self-published book, ebook, I would have to call it, Something you REALLY have never heard before... REALLY! Though I doubt I could actually think of something that has not already been written, posted, blogged, tweeted, shared. The web is more like a hive.

In my explorations, I have encountered people such as the Passionate Bibliophile, who confessed that yes he is a real person, if also an Amazon affiliate book store. I had to ask, because all the titles he posts on G + made me think he was either a speed reader or a computer program. But no, he is real and he likes books that affirm triumphs of the human spirit. Well who can argue with that? We all like to hear that people CAN overcome hardship, physical, psychological, situational, unanticipated, long standing. Even when we know that, perhaps, most often we accustom ourselves to living with whatever it is, since there may be no other choice, so many things cannot be overcome. At least not with un triomphe étincelante, or a sparkling triumph (though I like the French word for sparkling, which is kind of a visual onomatopoeia). Me, I like mixed motives, unresolved endings.

I persist in feeling most comfortable on sites for readers, such as Goodreads, though that site has come under fire from writers' sites, which now recommend Library Thing and, in Canada, the 49th shelf. Should I join everything, I wonder, just to keep up with the blazing changes in taste? One of the first sites I signed onto belongs to a librarian, Melissa, whose enthusiasm makes me feel as though I am part of an actual discussion, I mean a face to face discussion.

Many sites/blogs, whatever, collect other sites/blogs, just as I am doing here. Yet I find them hard to read. They are like textbooks with too many footnotes. Brian Fawcett, in his book Cambodia: A Book for People who Find Television Watching Too Slow, made literary use of the kind of attention splitting that happens when a reader is following one text and, at the same time, trying to keep track of the supporting information from another, or many other texts. I appreciate all the information people provide, while suffering mentally and ocularly.

Like a novice mariner lost at sea, I keep my eye peeled  for literary fiction writers who are in the same boat I hopped into a few months ago. A life boat of sorts. A literary lifeboat. For when conventional publishers do not share one's vision for presenting her work, there is now the option of e publishing. I thought I snagged a kindred spirit the other day, someone whose sense of humour and publishing experience led me to believe we might develop an on-line friendship. I was about to order one of her books when I saw that her novels are for young adults. No reason why I can't befriend a writer of young adult novels, and yet... Most of the writers whose posts I have read so far produce books that fit on easily labelled shelves.

I am still a baby in this new world, even if a veteran writer. The good news is that You Again, the third in the Shinny's Girls Trilogy, is now available as a separate ebook and will soon be available in print, with another great cover by Stephen (p0ps) Harlow.

Daunted, haunted

In this still new territory of epublishing, I raise a finger to the wind and have to work to keep myself standing in a hurricane of possibilities: best blog sites, how to market your book, the most successful this, the most effective that. Websites, social media advice, instructional youtube videos. Numbers, numbers. The literary fiction sites that seem not to include actual literary fiction. Of course there are also quite informative blogs and sites. I like the sites for readers, the online book clubs, such as Goodreads and others less well known. Reassuring for a writer to know that so many people like to read. Interesting to read their opinions of various books.

Meantime, I'm travelling the old routes of promotion, preparing a talk to deliver at libraries across the country, beginning with our local library later this month. Haunted by memories of beginning the Shinny story, in that little trailer where I escaped to work, writing in long hand and on a portable typewriter, using yellow newsprint. The roaring White Salmon river. Since the mid to late 80's, when I started thinking about the character who became Shinny,  single mothers are no longer considered sluts and welfare cheats. Banks give loans to single mothers, employers don't consider them a bad risk. Many women choose to have children but not to marry.

 I have matured as a writer, too, become more ambitious in theme and design. That began with the second novel, Flashing Yellow. This weekend I found some old tractor feed paper from the time I was writing FY, with handwritten notes on sonatas and string quartets, in the drawer of a small desk I seldom use. Flashing Yellow has four themes, love, death, truth and money, and is divided into four parts. I aimed towards the reflection of a musical form. In my notes on the sonata, I see that it is so like the arc of a story, the beginning exposition, the transition, the recapitulation of the first part, but with changed harmonies.
From yellow newsprint to tractor feed to books delivered by whispernet. From the threat of an obscene caller, to a poison oak infection, to Shinny's suspicion that her boss might be involved with terrorists. Discordance resolves as conditions and characters change.

"Perfection means hitting exactly what you are aiming at and not touching by a hair what you are not." John Gardner

Back to the book

I am a lifelong writer who has entered the world of digital publishing. In some ways it feels like leaving home, saying goodbye to Mom and Dad, the publishers who managed the jobs I am doing now, and striking out on my own. As with any big move, there is much to think about.

My book Shinny's Girls, the Trilogy has been available on Amazon for almost a month. I was excited to let friends and associates know about it and pleased to receive many notes of congratulations. I liked hearing that some readers were getting caught up in the story. But I had signed onto the Kindle Select program, which means that until the end of September the book will be available only to Kindle users and users of Ipads and Iphones, and in the case of the latter two, the print is still appearing in bold italics, which one reader/friend says she does not mind; but it is not supposed to be that way. Ah, doubts. Maybe I should have stayed home, if they would have had me; Mom and Dad, that is.

There is also the lingering stigma attached to self-publishing, the echo of vanity presses and the fact that anyone can publish almost anything electronically now. We traditionalists wonder how quality can be maintained, yet non-traditionalists are less worried. No one has to read a bad book. The gatekeepers, publishers, what did they know anyway? And were they any better at finding readers that I can/will be? One positive is that, like a grown-up, I am not waiting for approval from the gate keepers but have enough confidence to present my work myself. Really, this route is not so new. Even Dostoyevsky self-published, through his press the Dostoyevsky Publishing Company.

More issues arise. My friend Julie wants chapter breaks. She is a serious, traditional reader who enjoys ereading, but prefers ebooks that are more like physical books, with page numbers to show her where she is in the book, and chapter headings to divide up a long read. To me, clear chapters are a stylistic choice; at present I have a running narrative with only lines and spaces dividing the voices of different characters, different scenes. I have four sections in Flashing Yellow, three sections in the lengthier You Again. In the next iteration, I will put these on the Contents page, with links, so that readers can encounter the novels that way. Maybe it is something that digital publishing demands.

And then of course there is promotion. How will browsers on Amazon ever find Shinny's Girls, the Trilogy among the hundreds of thousands of offerings? I can notify friends and ask that they notify their friends. I can especially target other writers and people in the book business, book club members. I should be practical about the necessity of promotion, but after a lifetime in which one of the worst things a person could be accused of was doing something just to get attention (the voices of brothers and sisters clamour in memory), I have to find the right way to balance my private self with the public self required to do these things. My godson Jimmy says it doesn't matter. People tweet their hearts out knowing that recipients will just forget what they read in the flood of other tweets, posts, emails, texts.

What now?

Shinny's Girls, the trilogy is now available to e-readers!

It is finished, yet does not feel complete, so I ask, what now? In the past when I have published a book, a package arrives in the mail - the author's copies - and the pleasure of fruition is sensual, the smell of the newly printed book, the feel of the smooth cover, sometimes even a slight crackle as the top copy pulls away from the one just beneath. This time, my first experience with e publishing, it was a matter of pressing the Save and Publish button on the Kindle Direct site, and waiting 12 hours for the book to be vetted (however mysteriously that is accomplished) before seeing the book cover, blurb and ordering information appear on the Amazon site. A little anti-climatic, if still satisfying to have come to this point in the long creation of this volume.
       I found out the hard way that one must meticulously follow every step in the formatting guide, rather than winging it more or less logically to achieve the same end, in this case, indents. After the first attempt I made with the aid of my mentor Steve Harlow, I discovered that although I thought I had formatted correctly, manual tabbing was not acceptable, so I spent a day and a half manually removing all the tabs and creating first line indents for the whole document via the paragraph menu.
     At this point, if this were a paper book, the publisher would be sending it to newspapers, magazines and broadcasters for reviews. There would be a book launch, possibly a tour, readings, signings. I would register my new title in the Public Lending Right program and with Access Copyright. It might be nominated for a literary prize. (Is there one for perseverance?)
      Over the next several months I will discover more about the next steps, have some answers for the "what now?" But as of this week, my feet are officially wet.

Oh no!

Today, the 2013 summer solstice, was to be P or publishing day. We were ready. Text complete, edited, formatted according to Kindle guidelines. Steve's cover design approved and appreciated all round. Only thing remaining, to upload it all onto the Kindle Select site.

Steve (Stephen (p0ps) Harlow) and I connected by Skype at 9 to begin the process. Skype's screen sharing feature made it possible for us to discuss the various options on the My Book page. First problem was uploading the cover in Tiff. Not only did it take 20 minutes, but when it appeared, the colours were inverted. The lovely red came out turquoise and the off-white background of the drawing appeared in black. Steve soon figured out that the Jpeg would work better than Tiff, although Kindle declares that both are acceptable.

The big, yet-to-be-fixed problem was when we previewed contents. The indents were too long, also inconsistent. I had followed instructions for "Building" my book. The text appeared as it should have on David Zieroth's Kindle and on my computer. Hmm. Steve is going to follow a tutorial he found, by a guy who had similar problems with Kindle and so used a different method. We will see what comes next.

And so today is not P day after all. But it is still the first day of summer, and I will celebrate by taking my first swim in the sea this year.