Friday, February 27, 2009

The Book Production That Will Not End!

I was starting to think What You Need to Know to Be a Pro would never be finished. It seemed like every time we thought we were done, we'd find more that needed to be done. First I thought I hadn't prepared the document for In Design correctly because the program wasn't behaving correctly. But then we discovered that the Find/Change feature in my Word program wasn't working the way it should, so I spent too much time marking by hand where paragraph breaks should be. After that it was weeks of "floating the text," making the needed adjustments to the layout, then "floating the text," again, over and over, weeding out irregular page breaks, orphans and widows, and changing quotation marks. Rick had to decide where to insert the images and how to format the advice from other experts. We'd think he had it finished, then Jane would send back more notes, pointing out that the first word of each paragraph didn't appear to be lined up right. There would be more tweaking and cursing, followed by long hours of work, late nights of hunting for hyphens, examining the pages line by line (thanks goodness it's only 136 pages long!), until FINALLY we were done!

And THEN we ran into trouble preparing the document to upload to Lightning Source. For some reason, the conversion how-to is hidden at the bottom of the "File Creation" tab, so it took me a good night of hunting to find the info we needed. It had been over a year since we uploaded a book and since then the website had changed. I still had the info from a year ago but we both wanted to make sure we were following the most current instructions. (For the record, you need to scroll over the "File Creation" tab, then scroll down to "Digital Bookblock Creation. Click on that and you'll find all the various links you need to convert a file from In Design to the correct type of PDF they want).

At last the document was converted into the right PDF and uploaded to Lightning Source. I paid the money for a proof copy ($30.00) and eagerly waited for my book. In only five days, the proof arrived via UPS.

When I opened the package I stared at the 6 x 9 paperback, surprised to feel how light it was. I spent a year on this? It's so tiny. I turned it over in my hand, feeling mixed sensations of excitement and fatigue. Yay, the book is here. Whatever... can I just sell the dang thing now? I am honestly so sick of this book if I didn't have to look at it again I'd be thrilled.

With trepidation, I flipped through the pages, examining them for smudges, mistakes, blurred images or clipped words. All looked good. The layout looked clean, the print easy to read, the images crisp and the paper smooth. The cover was even and bright and they'd even managed to print the title on the spine without the words looking too smashed. My nerves calmed and I felt more excited about my little handbook. Here it was, fresh from the printer and ready to share with others.

Then my Muse said, "Did you put the page numbers in the table of contents?"

I sighed. Of course not. I turned to the table of contents, dreading what I would find, and sure enough, there were no page numbers. In fact, there were even a few periods missing.

"Shit," I said. This book just won't end. How the hell did THREE people miss that?

I told Rick and he said, "I have plenty of books with no page numbers in the table of contents. Do we need them?"

As much as I wanted to say "You're right. We don't need no stinking page numbers," I sat down and made Rick a list of each chapter's beginning page number. I also marked where the missing periods should be. He shrugged and said, "Okay," then promised to have it done this weekend.

This is the book that will not end. Every time I think we're finished, something else pops up. Pretty much everything that could go wrong with a book project has gone wrong with THIS book project. I'm so over it I don't care if it ever gets published.

I'm too stubborn to quit, though. Seeing as I've just spent over a year working on this thing, I'll be damned if I'll give up now. I will see this book to it's end, and then I will celebrate the launch, knowing I don't have to work on it any more.

At least until I update the information in a couple of years.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Resources Can Change Over Time, Especially TIME

When I was young (meaning under 40) I could manage four creative tasks at once, spending my energy freely on writing a novel, revising another novel, editing a friend's novel, and sketching out a new novel. I could flit from one plot to another like a hummingbird enjoying fresh nectar, feeling renewed after every task, ready for another page of words, another character to develop, and another ending to write.

Those days are definitely over.

While I've been finishing up What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, I was also supposed to be editing the submissions for the Punk Rock anthology and getting notes to the contributors. I set up the Medusa's Muse production schedule so that while one book is in the design, pre-press phase, the next book is in the editing and revision phase, thereby giving 6-8 months between book launches. I figured I could afford two books a year, as long as the print runs are small and my viral marketing efforts strong. I mean, how hard can it be to edit one book while marketing another?

Very, very hard.

I suppose it would be easier if I wasn't also raising my daughter and going to graduate school while still managing my press. I obviously think I'm some kind of Wonder Woman and should be able to do everything all at once while remaining sane.

In my book, I write about identifying your business's resources, namely Time, Money, Knowledge and Help. I also show you how to identify the limitations, or challenges to your business, all those things that can get in your way while you build your publishing company. After writing that chapter, I felt pretty good about my own limitations and believed I had a viable plan for producing books. What I have learned since I wrote that chapter is that challenges and resources can change quickly; it's important to update your list often.

Lack of time is now a huge obstacle to managing Medusa's Muse. I have the money to produce books (although there never seems to be enough to market them!), the knowledge to do so, and the help I need. What I lack is TIME. Unless I want to give up sleep, which I don't recommend to anyone, I need to give up the idea that I can focus on two books at once.

Which means I need to readjust my production plan and only do one book at a time: from editing to design to printing. Just one. The author can write and revise her book while I'm finishing up the current book, but I can't give the author much of my attention until I'm done. Marketing is an ongoing process, so I need to give energy and time to ALL my books, not just the current one, which is another reason why trying to produce two books at once is unrealistic. Traveling Blind was released over a year ago but I'm still marketing it, and will continue to do so as long as it's in print. Every new book requires marketing time, which takes away from editing time. I will soon be juggling marketing plans for three books while editing one.

As you can see, managing a small press, just as managing any business, takes constant planning and re-planning. You can't just make a plan and say "all done." You have to keep fine tuning the plan as things in the industry and in your life change. Maybe when I'm done with school I'll be able to manage two books in production at a time, although I doubt it. Not only am I not as good at multi-tasking as I once was (which I think may not be such a bad thing), I'll have a full time job when I graduate. And really, what's my hurry? Books are a collaborative work of art that should be relished.

Although I would like to publicly apologize to all my Punk Rock Anthology contributors and thank each of them for their patience. You're all excellent to work with. Thank you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Rules of Working With Your Significant Other

We all know that a marriage can be hard work. No matter how much you love each other and stay committed to the relationship, every day stress and sudden catastrophes can test even the strongest marriage. If you decide to start a business with your spouse, then you've just tripled your marriage's stress load.

My husband is my book designer and right now he's pushing hard to meet the deadline to launch What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. I am technically his boss since I'm the publisher, so I have to keep us on track to meet that deadline. I'm the one cracking the whip, demanding to know when the book will be finished, and how soon before I can send it to Jane for a final copy edit, and then the printer. I have to keep the pressure up on my wonderful, driven, perfectionist husband/designer, or the deadline will never be met. But I'm a little worried that this project is causing resentment between the two of us.

How do you keep the business pressures of meeting deadlines and staying under budget from crashing into your relationship with your spouse?

People who work on a team in any type of business will have personality conflicts and different motivations. What is good enough for one person will not be good enough for the next. Each team has to define its rules to determine what is acceptable behavior and how conflicts will be solved.

The same applies when that team is made up of your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, life partner, or even that person you're really interested in but haven't slept with yet. You are building a team, so be clear on the rules.

The Rules of Working With You Significant Other:

1) Do not personalize the work. If he misses the deadline, it has nothing to do with how he feels about you, and therefore nothing to do with the relationship.

2) Be very clear about what your expectations are of each other while working together. These will be different from how you do things in your relationship. Don't assume since he goes along with whatever you want in the relationship he will do the same when you're working together on a project.

3) Keep the relationship baggage out of the work. If he takes too long on one part of a project and keeps you waiting, don't think about how he's never on time to pick you up or how often you have to wait for him to get ready. What happened on your last two dates has nothing to do with the work at hand.

4) By that same note, keep the work baggage out of the relationship. If the work is piling up and he says you didn't give him enough time to complete the project, don't carry your frustration about that through your day, thereby increasing the odds that you'll get in a fight about who forgot to buy milk. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are mad about the project, not the milk.

5) Communication is VITAL. This applies within a relationship AND work. You have to keep talking and hammering out ideas or the work will become bogged down with false starts and missed information. He/She can't read your mind in the relationship, so how on earth can they read your mind when your working together.

I'm sure there are more, but these are the five that popped into my mind. Send me a comment with your own ideas about keeping a relationship from imploding when you work together. I'm sure plenty of people are experiencing this balancing act right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Liu Xiaobo

As much as I might disagree with our government at times, I never take for granted my right to free speech. It is the First Amendment that gives us the ability to speak out against our leaders without fear of imprisonment or death.

This is not the case in many other countries.

On December 8, 2008, Liu Xiaobo, former president and current board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was arrested for helping to launch Charter 08, a petition calling for political reform and human rights in China. He has been in police custody since, and is facing prosecution for "inciting subversion," a charge that carries a three-year prison term. The Charter asks for:

Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.

Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China's recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime's disregard for human rights.

Equality. The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every person—regardless of social station, occupation, sex, economic condition, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief—are the same as those of any other. Principles of equality before the law and equality of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights must be upheld.

Republicanism. Republicanism, which holds that power should be balanced among different branches of government and competing interests should be served, resembles the traditional Chinese political ideal of "fairness in all under heaven." It allows different interest groups and social assemblies, and people with a variety of cultures and beliefs, to exercise democratic self-government and to deliberate in order to reach peaceful resolution of public questions on a basis of equal access to government and free and fair competition.

Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. Democracy has these characteristics: (1) Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people. (2) Political power is exercised through choices that the people make. (3) The holders of major official posts in government at all levels are determined through periodic competitive elections. (4) While honoring the will of the majority, the fundamental dignity, freedom, and human rights of minorities are protected. In short, democracy is a modern means for achieving government truly "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Constitutional rule. Constitutional rule is rule through a legal system and legal regulations to implement principles that are spelled out in a constitution. It means protecting the freedom and the rights of citizens, limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power, and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.

By asking for these things for the people of China, Liu Xiaobo is in prison.

Please go to the Pen American Website and sign the petition in support of the release of Liu Xiaobo.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Why is it so hard to promote my own writing?

I seem to have a mental block when it comes to my own writing; I simply don't have the self-promotion gene. My book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro; The Start-up Business Guide for Publishers, will launch next month, but I haven't done a blessed thing to market that book. I should have sent out press releases and marketing materials to reviewers and bookstores MONTHS ago. I haven't even ordered postcards yet! I sent one letter to our local bookstore about hosting a reading, but I still haven't gone back to the store to find out if she will.

Why is it so hard for me to promote my own writing?

There are thousands of small, indy publishers who publish their own books and who are annoying in their self-promotion. They talk about their books ALL the time, pass out business cards with the cover of their book emblazoned in gold lettering, and keep a box of books in the car everywhere they go so they don't miss an opportunity to sell a copy. They make guest appearances on blogs to talk about their book, attend trade shows and conferences to talk about their book, grab radio time and pitch television stations to talk about their book. They drive everyone crazy because all they do is talk about their book.

But me? I mumble "Yeah, I wrote a book," while staring at the floor whenever anyone asks about it.

I'm not just shy about my book. I also avoid talking about my plays. My full length play, "The Guru," is finished and my friend Jody Gehrman is hosting a play reading, birthday party for me this Saturday, inviting many of her acting friends to read it aloud so I can hear the flow of the words. I've been working on that play for three years, growing it from a ten minute scene for a class, pounding out a full length version for Script Frenzy, and then spending 8 months revising. I finished a two act, full length play! I should be excited. But no, not me. Instead, if someone asks me about my play I shrug and say, "Um, yeah... it's about a Guru at a health spa." The person will wait for me to say more, but finally realizing I won't, change the subject to cover the awful silence.

Obviously I have poor self esteem when it comes to my writing. Do I really think I don't deserve praise, despite the hours of hard work it takes to create a book? It's more than praise though. It's like I don't think my work deserves to be read by anyone. If that's the case, why write at all?

My birthday was on Wednesday (Feb. 4th) and on that day I got an acceptance letter from Hip Mama Magazine, saying how much they enjoyed my wrestling essay and they would like to publish it in their "Secrets" issue. I was ecstatic! I get plenty of rejection letters, so an acceptance was a real treat, and on my birthday no less. But when Jody stopped by to wish me a happy birthday I didn't tell her about it until she was leaving. She was stunned. "Why didn't you tell me? That's great news!"

"Um, I got sidetracked," I replied. Somehow, getting accepted by Hip Mama wasn't as important as finishing my quiche.

This has got to stop. I need to embrace marketing my own book with gusto. It's already late in the book marketing game, but I have to start some time. I will order those postcards and update the website with book info today (has anyone noticed I haven't even added the book to the Medusa's Muse Press website? Geesh!).

Seeing as I'm so bad at this, would you all mind spreading the word as well? I think I'm going to need my friends to generate a little buzz, while I try hard not to hide under my desk.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Product Safety Commision Postpones "Lead Law" for One Year

This just in from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

CPSC Grants One Year Stay of Testing and Certification Requirements for Certain Products

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously (2-0) to issue a one year stay of enforcement for certain testing and certification requirements for manufacturers and importers of regulated products, including products intended for children 12 years old and younger. These requirements are part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which added certification and testing requirements for all products subject to CPSC standards or bans.

Significant to makers of children’s products, the vote by the Commission provides limited relief from the testing and certification requirements which go into effect on February 10, 2009 for new total lead content limits (600 ppm), phthalates limits for certain products (1000 ppm), and mandatory toy standards, among other things. Manufacturers and importers – large and small – of children’s products will not need to test or certify to these new requirements, but will need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements.

The decision by the Commission gives the staff more time to finalize four proposed rules which could relieve certain materials and products from lead testing and to issue more guidance on when testing is required and how it is to be conducted.

The stay will remain in effect until February 10, 2010, at which time a Commission vote will be taken to terminate the stay.
Click above link for full story.

So it looks like all those calls from publishers, hand made toy makers, libraries, and knitters have encouraged the CPSC to take another look at the impact of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Hopefully Legislators will rewrite the law so that children are truly protected at the manufacturing level (where the problems really are), there by not driving craft fairs out of business.

Thank you to Scott Flora at SPAN for the update. Again, this is why I encourage everyone going into publishing to join the Small Publishers Association of North America.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Mad Dash to the Finish Line

Rick finished all the drawings for What You Need to Know to Be a Pro and they look wonderful. Now he's "floating the text" in InDesign, laying out each page of the book. It can be tricky to design the text on the page when some of the pages have images. Also, each chapter has a quote from a publishing expert, so he and I are discussing how best to present those sections. In a box? Italics? Indent? Larger print, or smaller? Rick is certain he can have both the interior and cover designed this week. I'm sure he can, but I'm not looking forward to the late nights and stress. But late nights and stress are part of the process in the last weeks before you send the book to the printer.

Between working hard to get the book finished, setting up events for book launch and Small Press Month (more on that later) and Grad school starting again, I've had to cut back on blogging. I'll do my best to keep you updated on Publishing News (especially any new information on the lead law and the Amazon lawsuit) as well as on the production of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, but my posts may be sporadic for a couple of weeks. Stay tuned, friends, for the big launch of the next Medusa's Muse book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro; The Start-up Business Guide for Publishers, written by me, Terena Scott.