Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rocket Girls

My Muse went to dinner two months ago with three other Muses and when she came back she told me all about the idea they came up with. After many weeks of collaboration and the dedication of Jody Gehrman, the Rocket Girls web site is born!

The Rocket Girls are Kim Green, Jordan Rosenfeld, the aforementioned Jody Gehrman, and me. Three lovely writers and one cool publisher. The purpose of the site is to help other writers by offering articles, how-to's, question and answers, a blog, and advice on writing, publishing and being creative. Plus, it's a great way to network with other writers and support each other's work. Right now, there are two questions about publishing posted by a writer, which I've answered. Go to the site to read what I said and post your own questions,too.

I teased my Muse about being pathologically afraid of boredom. "How many more projects are you planning?" She grinned and replied, "As many as I can think of."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

World AIDS day is one week away

This is from The World AIDS Day Organization in the UK. Even though the info is UK oriented, it's a good reminder to us all that AIDS is still prevalent, and that includes the US. So speak out, remember, and keep fighting. AIDS can disappear if we all work together.

World AIDS Day is ONE week away!! Take Action!

WORLD AIDS DAY – Saturday 1 December


World AIDS Day is less than one week away. There are over 33 million people living with HIV around the world and more than 70,000 people are living with HIV in the UK.

World AIDS Day 2007 is a great time to get talking about HIV, listen to people's experiences of HIV, and learn the facts about the virus to help spread the word to friends and family.

Five facts you may not know about HIV and World AIDS Day:

1- In 2006 there were an estimated 73,000 people of all ages living with HIV in the UK and about 21,600 were unaware of their infection.

2- Internationally, there have been 2.5 million total new cases of HIV in 2007, with 2.1 cases in adults and 420,000 cases in children under the age of 15.

3- The red ribbon worn for World AIDS Day has been a symbol of HIV awareness since 1991 and is a powerful way to challenge the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS in the world today.

4- Young people (aged 16 – 24) accounted for over 1 in 10 new HIV diagnoses in the UK by the end of 2006.

5- The UK theme for World AIDS Day 2007 is 'Understanding Through Communication', which highlights the importance of using open communication to break down the silence and stigma around HIV and to get people talking to increase their knowledge about the virus.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Top 10 Lessons I've Learned About Publishing

My Muse lounges on the couch with her feet up and announces, "I feel fecund."

"That's an interesting word," I reply, sitting in my favorite chair across from her.

"It covers it all. Fecund. Creatively fertile and satisfied."

"Me too." We smile at each other, and then she asks, "What have you learned from all this?"


"Yes, silly. Learned about publishing. You've been studying books for a year and finally put it all into action on a real book. Did any of it make sense? Do you think you know what you're doing? Could you do it again?"

I think for a moment and nod slowly. "Yes. I have."

She hands me a note-pad. "Write it down."

Top Ten Lessons I've Learned About Publishing

1) Marketing is not a dirty word. Creating a Marketing plan is not an act of evil. If a publishing company wants to survive it must know and understand the potential market for a manuscript. Target markets are good.

2) A Publishing Company is a small business. Learn what you have to do to run a business as well as a publishing company. If you skip learning how to manage your inventory or forget to get a resale license, you're screwed.

3) There are creative, talented, eager people all around you. Don't be afraid to ask for their help. If you don't know or understand something, ASK. Ignorance will cause you extrutiating headaches as you try to undo the mistakes you've made.

4) Never underestimate the value of a good book designer. If you are lucky enough to have a person in your life who wants to be a part of the press and will work for free, AND is good at designing covers, you are extremely lucky. If you don't have that person, then save up the money to pay someone. Really. It is worth every dime.

5) A good copy editor is just as important as the above mentioned book designer. Pay them, bribe them, lure them with promises of riches or sexual favors, but get someone who can spell to edit the manuscript.

6) The Internet is the greatest tool a small publisher can have. Learn how to use it. Don't be afraid of My Space. Get a blog. Create a good website. Keep it updated. The time you spend surfing is not a waste of time. You can learn a lot from reading other blogs and joining list-serves. Get over the fear of "Big Brother" and embrace the digital age.

7) Join organizations like Publisher's Market Place and take advantage of the information and on-line trainings they provide. There is so much help and advice out there. Talk to other publishers and independent presses. They can guide you in the right direction and save you hours of fruitless effort.

8) Dan Poynter really is the God-father of Independent Publishing. Buy his book first.

9) Buy extra chocolate. You will put in many unpaid hours working on the mansucript through editing, revision, editing again, designing, planning the marketing campaign, making cold calls to get book readings for your author, filling orders, and sometimes staring at the pile of books in your living room wondering what on earth you should do next. Chocolate will get you through.

10) Listen to your Muse. She's smart.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jordan's Blog Interview

Hey look! I'm famous! Well, at least on Jordan's blog.

Jordan Rosenfeld is an excellent writer whose newest book, Make a Scene, helps the writer create riveting, page turning, powerful scenes in their novel. A definite must-have for every writer, especially any who are having trouble with dialogue or setting a scene.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ukiah Book Reading


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Last night was Laura's reading at the Mendocino Book Company, and it was a huge success. We packed the house and sold quite a few books. Laura's good friends from her quilting club brought munchies and the bookstore provided wine and lemon aid. The staff was incredible. I arrived early at 5:30 and chairs were already set out for the audience and a table was set up for Laura to sign books. By 6:00, it was hard to navigate the room with all the people packed around the reading area, filling the chairs and blocking the aisles. At 6:20 the bookstore owner, Ann, introduced me. I told everyone how Laura's book began; one lovely day in February after I read her manuscript, I asked if I could publish it. She said yes, and here we are. People cheered and Laura began to read, at first sitting nervously in her chair, face practically buried in the book. But when someone asked her to speak up, Laura stood, found her confidence, and finished reading in a loud, clear voice. I was very proud of her.

My muse circled the room, her skin radiant with the warmth and good feelings from the people there. I think she's feeling better about being "forgotten." Rick was there as well and people praised him for his design, especially the image of the road extending completely from back to front on the cover.

Ann, the bookstore owner, is a wonderful woman and really helped me with pricing and working with bookstores. This was my first event at a store, so I wasn't sure how the percentages should be. But Ann answered my questions and explained it all, even giving Medusa a larger percentage of the sales than I had offered, saying, "How can you stay in business at that price?" Thank you Ann!

A beautiful night. Hopefully soon we'll have more readings on the coast (Mendocino?), in Willits, and south in Santa Rosa. It takes time to get them set up, and a great deal of coordination between the store's and Laura's schedule. But I think she and I are both feeling more confident about this.

I know my Muse is happier.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In the Background

My Muse has been trying on different outfits for a week; a black, slinky gown, a man's suite with a red, skinny tie, an electric blue turtle-neck with gaucho pants,a cowboy shirt and jeans, a leather mini-skirt and stripper boots. There's a large pile of discarded clothing on my bed and my Muse is looking worried.

"I have nothing to wear to the book reading on Friday!" she wails, tearing off a red sweater.

"What are you worried about? No one' s coming to see you."

She freezes, her eyebrows rising sharply. "What do you mean?"

"I mean people are coming to hear Laura read. No one cares about the publisher, let alone her muse."

"That's not true."

"Afraid so. Wear what you want. We're support staff now."

"That's a terrible thing to say!" She throws an alligator boot at me.

I laugh. " one publisher."

She crosses her arms."Random House."

"That's a publishing company. Who's the publisher, the person who did the work?"

My Muse blinks her heavy, sea-green eyes several times, then shrugs. "I don't know and that's not the point. Those are huge corporations with hundreds of staff. You ARE Medusa's Muse. Well, you and Jane and Rick. So people should know you and be proud of you."

"A few people do, and the people who know me are proud of me." I reach out and tuck a nervous snake behind her ear. "There's nothing wrong with being support staff. We're there to help Laura read from her book and have a wonderful time. It's like being the director of a play, you know. We don't go on stage. We help the actors look good."

She shoves over a pile of skirts and sits on my bed, crossing her legs. "Do you mean to tell me we did all this work..."


"Fine, you did all this work, and no one knows or cares?"

"Welcome to the world of publishing, my dear. And remember, this was all your idea."

I sit beside her and the two of us stare at my desk covered with overflowing stacks of papers, lists, post-it notes and half a chocolate bar.

My Muse murmers, "I thought this would be more fun."

'Me too,' I think. 'I'm getting a little tired of the non-stop marketing and paperwork, inventory lists and business management tasks. I miss writing, being creative, thinking about cover design and editing. I miss creating books, even the revision process. Instead, I spend my time keeping track of book sales and hoping I don't mess up the taxes. My own writing has been eclipsed by someone else's and instead of working on my own novel I'm writing letters to bookstores asking them to carry her book. On top of it all, most people have no idea I'm the person who edited, published and promoted Laura Fogg's book.' "This sucks," I say out loud.

My Muse solemnly stands and pirouetts to face me. "We will not feel sorry for ourselves. We will wear fabulous outfits on Friday and conduct ourselves as the publishing royalty we are. We are an elite club, you and I, and I refuse to let anyone diminish our accomplishments. Not even ourselves." She holds up a gold, Grecian tunic with emerald clasps. "This will look wonderful on you."

"It's a bit much, I think, but perfect for you."

"Then wear that new dress you bought, the green and black with the reflective beads."

"I like that one. Okay."

My Muse grins and shakes her full main of snake filled hair. "People won't know what hit them."

Sunday, November 11, 2007


The book is selling very well and I'd call this launch a huge success. It will be a while before we break even, but if published books only sell an average of 150 copies, we are well on our way to beating the average. Excellent!

Today, someone asked me how many books we've sold and I had to think for a bit. Let's see... this many at the conference, then add in the ones from the party, plus the two to my friend, the ones I dropped off at the bookstore, the ones Laura bought (but do those really count toward overall sales numbers?), several copies my mother-in-law said she bought from Amazon... um... I think... we've sold... this many? No, I forgot the five my friend bought as gifts. So that's ... um... wait... I lost my count.

This is ridiculous. I've been writing them down one by one in a notebook; the ones I've sold and the one's I've given away as gifts or as promotional copies. I'm positive I haven't forgotten to write any down, but I don't have a way to keep track automatically. I can't just pull up a number on any day and say, Ah ha! I've sold 50! Instead, I have to use my fingers and count hatch marks. Not a good way to run a business.

I've been learning how to use Peach Tree accounting software, and for creating invoices, it's great. Supposedly, once I learn how to use the program properly, it can tell me instantly what my sales are, my earnings, and eventually, my profit. I've been trying to input every sale into a Peach Tree invoice and I THINK I've figured it out. My husband told me the college teaches classes on how to use Peach Tree. You mean this program is so complicated you need a college class to use it? Great!

I ran across a software program "specifically for publishers." But it's $295.00 bucks. Seeing as I've already maxed one credit card, I'm not sure my business budget can handle another big bill. But what money am I losing simply by wandering around Peach Tree aimlessly? I'd better look into other options.

In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away at Peach Tree, so at least I can have a basic idea of where my books are going and who has actually PAID for one.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Now that the book is launched and Medusa is open for business, I am learning to juggle the myriad parts of myself and my life. All the labels I wear are gracelessly colliding; Mom, Writer, Publisher, Wife, Pet-Owner, Home-Owner, Business-Owner. Medusa's catch phrase, "Transforming Chaos into Art," has taken an all too personal meaning as I climb over piles of laundry to get to my room, hunt for a pen that actually works, then try to clear a spot on my desk to pay a bill. I can't sit on my chair because it is piled with three coats and the blue ball-gown I wore for Halloween. Instead, I'm perched on the step stool, trying to reach the key board while my cat presses her nose against my wrist.

Yesterday was another book event for Laura. Her boss threw a book party and all of Laura's co-workers and many of the families included in the book were going to be there. 30 minutes before the party, Laura called needing a ride. No problem. I went into my daughter's room and announced it was time to go to "the party." My daughter didn't budge. She sat on her bed in full 12 year old angst with snot running from her nose.

I asked if she was feeling alright.

"Yes," she growled.

I wiped her nose and felt her head. A little warm, but she said she's fine, so we should still be able to go, right?

The child would not budge.

"Do you want to go?" I asked.

She wrapped her arms around herself tightly and said, "I don't know."

Just then, my husband walked in the door, ready to go to the party, too. He's the book designer and has so far missed any of the celebrating. Now it looked like he couldn't come to this party either. He said no problem, he needed to study for school any way. Class started in an hour. That gave me about 45 minutes at the party.

I grabbed a few books, drove madly to grab Laura, who I had made late while fighting with my daughter, and arrived at the party for my 30 minutes of celebration. I was bummed. This was the one night my girl could come and share in the celebration. She was on the cover of the dang thing, and a whole chapter was about her. I wanted to show her off and let her feel some of the energy I felt sharing the glow of Laura's book. Oh well. I drank some apple juice, gave the books to Laura, and went home.

Sometimes this motherhood gig sucks.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This is one of the reasons Medusa is a success

Jane Mackay is one of those people who can spell any obscure English word you can imagine, and she's saved my professional butt more times than I can count. With her diligence, Medusa is able to produce works of high quality. There are NO spelling errors in a Medusa book (well, none Jane missed. Sometimes things happen in the design department -me and Rick- that she doesn't know about, but we discuss that now).

Here is a link to her website, for those who also need a grammar and spelling perfectionist.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Being a Fairy Godmother



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The book launch at the California Association of Orientation and Mobility Specialists in Montery was incredible! The above photos are of Laura and Pete, Laura reading,and Me and Laura at the Medusa table with her book. Laura did an excellent job reading and everyone there appeared excited about the book. We sold quite a few, but the highlight of the entire trip was when Laura presented a book to Pete Werzburger, the "godfather" of Orientation and Mobility. During and after WWII, there were thousands of soldiers returning from battle who were rendered blind from their injuries. These were healthy young men who faced a world of dependence and disability. Pete Werzburger decided to do something about it and he pioneered the use of the white cane and other mobility techniques to help these men. From there, the field evolved from being strictly about rehab and veterans to schools and children. Every person in the US who uses a white can owes a debt of gratitude to Pete, and he was Laura's teacher when she was learning O and M.

Pete is now in his 80's and was able to come to the conference with his family. On Friday night, Laura read from her book to about a hundred mobility instructors, including Pete. The room was completely silent and everyone appeared transfixed and moved by the reading. When she then presented Pete with a book, people stood and clapped loudly. Pete said a few words, but even he appeared to be touched by Laura's words of praise and gratitude. I looked around the room and took in the joy of that moment; the room filled with cheering people, Pete's family beaming, Pete grinning, Laura with happy tears in her eyes, and I understood exactly how it feels to be a fairy godmother. Through my hard work, talent, dedication, and credit card, I helped make this moment possible. I helped Laura's dream become real and in so doing touched the heart of an old man and many others. Even if this book doesn't make a dime, that moment made everything worth it.

Happily, we did make a dime. A few dimes. People bought lots of books and are really excited about it. Laura was so happy she giggled almost the entire day. And I again enjoyed watching her chat with "fans" and sign books.

This work is the most fulfilling work I have ever known, and maybe someday, I'll be able to earn a living from it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Book Launch Day

Today's the day. Traveling Blind is available for purchase as of today. Laura is officially a published writer, and I am officially her publisher. I dropped ten books at the Mendocino Book Company and am waiting to see if sales actually come in. Will we sell a thousand books? Or ten? Time will tell. Either way, I'm having a great time doing this, although my Muse is a little bored with the day to day, business end of it. Inventory and shipping are dirty words to her. Creating the book is wonderful; trying to sell it is something she doesn't want anything to do with.

We set up a link on the Medusa's Muse website so people can order books directly. Otherwise, I encourage people to either get it from their local bookstore (go in and bug them. They can order it for you from Ingram. This will help generate some buzz and get the book into the bookstores)or order it from Amazon.

Still waiting to hear from Powell's. I really hope they decide to carry the book too. If anyone lives in the Portland area, would you mind requesting the book?

Time to get back to packing for the conference tomorrow. Wish us luck.