Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jane is Back!

Jane Mackay is the copy-editor at Medusa's Muse who dedicates HOURS to the Medusa cause. She is also my very dear friend and writing partner. She's been away at college in Boston for the last two years but has graduated and is now back in California. To that, I say...


Jane helped me start Medusa's Muse and is one of the people who continues to support my struggles and keep the press alive. Without her incredible grammar talents and creative vision, and the technological know-how of Rick, I couldn't be a publisher. So having her back in the hood is not only wonderful for me personally, it is fantastic for the press. Even though we've stayed in touched and worked together via email while she's been away, having her nearby makes running my press less daunting. It's given me a jolt of energy that I've been missing these last few months while slogging through school. And it's perfect timing, because the Punk Anthology is (believe it or not) ready for the final version and I will definitely need her help to get it ready for the designer.

Trying to do all the work a book publishing company needs all on your own is pretty much impossible. I've heard of a few people who've done it, but I'm not convinced they're sane. It's important to surround yourself with people you can share some of the work with and bounce ideas off. Jane is that person for me, and she usually has chocolate in her purse.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Now I get why people love Disneyland

I just returned from several days at Disneyland Park in LA with my daughter. It's her birthday, so we went down with Tama and her daughter Boo-Bug for a Princess loving adventure in the "Happiest Place on Earth."

I have never been a Disney person. I could care less about Mickey Mouse and Sleeping Beauty (although I do like Pirates of the Caribbean). But after this trip, I understand why people fall in love with all things Disney.

My daughter has a disability so I was a little concerned about taking her there. Would she be able to cope with the chaos and noise of an amusement park? Disneyland turned out to be the perfect place for her. The staff are well trained and supportive of people with disabilities and the grounds are completely accessible. We had a fantastic time exploring and chatting with Micky Mouse and Tinker Bell. She even went on a couple of rides (although that dang song is still stuck in my head! You know the one, so I'll spare you).

When it was time to leave she asked, still grinning, "Can we come again next year?"


Of course, the work at Medusa's Muse has piled up while I was away and the Punk Rock anthology deadline is looming. I'll update the blog with publishing news and how-to's soon. But for now, I'm gonna pop in Pirates the Caribbean one more time and enjoy an extra day of lounging.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Vacation, See You Next Week

I won't be posting for a while: I'm going to Disneyland! My last class for this semester is tomorrow and after that my daughter and I are going to D-Land to hunt for Cinderella. She's never been, and I haven't been since high school (grad night. mostly I remember looking for good spots to make out with my boyfriend).

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blogging has Hit the Big Time

Remember when a blog was a fun way to keep a journal that you could share with your friends and any random stranger who happened upon it? Then blogging became part of the way we got our news, with bloggers reporting on events that were previously reserved for the New York Times. Sure, some of those bloggers didn't check their facts and a lot of it was well written gossip, but the opinion makers were often bloggers. Now it seems that everyone has a blog, from President Obama and Nike, to your grandma. And it's mandatory for writers to have blogs.

Now, Amazon is allowing any blogger with an RSS feed to add their content to for Kindle users to download and read. The terms of service are here.

And,even more impressive, there is a special "blogger signing schedule" at Book Expo America this year. Fans can meet and chat with their favorite bloggers, including Jason Boog of Galley Cat, and Amy Riley of My Friend Amy. What should the bloggers sign? Laptops?

Yes, the book industry has changed. No longer are bloggers maligned and scorned; now they have author signings at BEA.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tamarian Graffham on The Joy of Owning Your Own Business

If you haven't read Tamarian Graffham's blog, Tales From the Den of Chaos, now's your chance to check her out. She wrote a post about the joys and trials of being an entrepreneur and why she wouldn't give it up, despite the lack of a steady paycheck. Here is an excerpt:

Times like these are both the worst and the best for thinking about doing what you love, rather than whatever puts food on the table. I wouldn’t swap a steady paycheck for opening my own business right now if I had the choice, frankly; but not having that choice, and having been forced to do it…it’s good.

I work harder and longer than I would at a conventional job for returns that are not quite equal to what I’ve made in the past for a lot less effort…but it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, I usually don’t realize I’ve had a “rough” week until I start totaling up the hours for our record keeping.

Put in a lot of hard work, add a dollop of good old horse sense and some meticulous business practices, and the money will follow, almost no matter what you’ve decided to make Your Business.

Put a lot of hard work, a dollop of good old horse sense and some meticulous business practices into something you love and the money will follow and all of the above will feel almost effortless.

It isn’t that simple, of course. Someone who loves making one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments out of dog poop, for example, may find their gross (in more ways than one, ahem) income is a little…um…less than spectacular.

Some things just aren’t going to be fah-buu-los money makers, no matter how hard you try.

But here’s another thing about doing what you love: It can make sacrificing other things a much easier pill to swallow.

Follow the above link for the full post.

And did I mention Medusa's Muse will be publishing her book?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Article About Publish on Demand

To try and make up for scaring so many people with my workshop on self-publishing, here is an article from CNN on-line about successful authors who used Publish-on-Demand.

(excerpt) "If you believe in your book, I think you should give it a chance," Genova said. "Still Alice" "was a book that people already identified with and [Simon & Schuster] saw the book's potential in a very real way."

Genova is not alone. As the economy takes its toll on traditional publishing houses -- HarperCollins dropped its Collins division in February, losing major executives and editors, and Random House continues with cutbacks -- more authors are looking to online self-publishing companies.

Companies like Author Solutions or allow any budding author to submit a digital file of their manuscript on any subject matter. Unlike traditional publishing companies, these publishers only produce hard copies of the books when a customer buys one, a process known as print on demand

Go to the article for the full story.

I'd like to clarify something, though: what this article is reporting on is actually PUBLISH-ON-DEMAND, not Print-on-demand. If you want to publish your book via Lulu or XLibros, you are using a Publish-on-demand company. Print-on-demand is what I use to digitally print my books one at a time as the orders come in (I like Lightning Source for this). Let's all be clear on the terminology.

(And yes, I know there is no standard, industry wide definition of either and they are used interchangeably. I'll be very surprised if I don't get a few comments from publishers and writers arguing with me about my definition. The debate over the difference between publish-on-demand and print-on-demand still rages, but this is the definition I mean when I use those terms.)

In the article, Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, talks about her frustration when trying to get her book published traditionally and why she turned to Publish on Demand. Lisa's book was eventually picked up by Simon & Schuster and is now a New York Times best seller.

But this article isn't just about one self-publishing success story. The article also interviewed Melinda Roberts, author of Mommy Confidential: Adventures from the Wonderbelly of Motherhood, who comparatively has had lower sales, but still expresses feeling successful.

Publish-on-demand isn't cheap, in fact, the only one earning a living is the publish-on demand-company. The article explains the process and some of the costs. But it is often the best choice for authors who are tired of banging their heads against the traditional publishing wall, or who don't want to deal with managing their own publishing company. It all depends on what you want and how you define your own vision of success.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I think I'm Scaring People Away from Publishing

(image by Robin Mills)

Last Saturday, May 2nd, I taught a workshop with Amy Wachspress about starting a small press. 22 people came with their notebooks and questions, eager to learn how we did it.

I think I scared them.

Half way through the class, after Amy had talked about marketing her book and I talked about why I started a press and all the steps I had to take, I realized the room had grown quieter. People stopped jotting notes and instead stared at me with huge, quasi-vacant eyes. Their bodies slumped into their chairs, and the woman closest to me gripped her pen with exasperated tension. A few hardy souls continued to ask questions, but their eager little voices faded into a dull, weary, tone. Luckily, the class was only an hour long, otherwise half the group would have run for the door, fleeing from their dreams of publishing.

I wasn't trying to scare them; I was being honest. Hearing about all the work and money it takes to start a press or self-publish seems to elicit the same kind of terror as the Swine Flu; it's too big, too incomprehensible, and too difficult to deal with.

I changed my focus and talked about what was so great about owning your own press: the creative freedom, control, and collaboration with other artists. I tried to make my voice more cheerful when I explained what an ISBN was. When someone asked what programs Lightning Source wants, I fielded it to Rick (my designer) who explained the process of transforming a file into and Acrobat format they would accept. Someone else asked about editing. These kinds of questions were concrete and specific, so the mood seemed to lighten a bit. But I still had the feeling that I'd tried to cram too much info into one hour and had overwhelmed my students in the process. Had I just deterred a whole room of people from wanting to publish?

The thought annoyed me. If they don't want to hear what creating and managing a press is like, then they shouldn't bother starting a press at all. This is why I wrote my book! The world is full of too many wanna-be publishers who don't take the work seriously and end up with a garage full of books they'll never sell. Serves them right!

Then I remembered how I felt when I was starting, how insurmountable the work seemed, and how I almost quit numerous times. I remember sitting in a room taking notes at a workshop and trying to figure out why the hell I wanted to start a press at all. Was I crazy? It felt impossible, but I had to try. So I kept at it, and slowly I figured it out (mostly), and now I have two published books.

I wrote my book to help people, not frighten them: to give them a road map to follow as they figure out how to start a press and publish their own, or another's, work. I am rethinking the way I present the material so they will understand that YES, the work is hard, but the rewards are addictive. I want people to have success, not a garage full of unsold books.

Or maybe it's a good thing that a bunch of people may have decided self-publishing is not for them before they invest too much money in the process. Instead, they can think about other options.

Friday, May 01, 2009

20 Things to do Before You Publish

In preparing for my workshop tomorrow, I created a list of twenty things everyone who want to publish their own work, or start a small press, should do BEFORE publishing. This is what I'll be discussing at the workshop, as well as book marketing.

I hope you find this useful. And if you think of something to add to this list, please leave it as a comment. I'd love to hear your perspective.

20 Things to do Before You Publish

1) Define your dream. What do you want to do and how will you accomplish it?
What is your personal definition of success?

2) Examine your book with an open mind and critical eyes. What are its
strengths, limitations, and potential?

3) Understand who your reading market is and what they need from your book.

4) Write down your Resources (money, knowledge, equipment, etc), Abilities
(what you know and who you are), and Limitations (time, money, knowledge,
etc). How will you mange them?

5) Find people who can help you. No one can do it all. (book designer, editor,
proof reader, book keeper, CPA, etc…)

6) Study the process of creating and publishing a book! The more you know the
more effective you will be and the better your book will sell.

7) Join a Publishing Association, such as Independent Book Publishers
Association or Small Publishers Association of America. Membership can give
you discounts on printing and marketing, as well as support from experts.

8) Make a budget for your business (not just the book). How much can you
realistically spend and still earn a profit?

9) Choose a name for your company that reflects the image you want to convey.

10) Register your domain name to lock in your spot on the internet.

11) Buy your ISBNs. A block of ten will save you money in the long run.

12) Decide your business structure: Sole Proprietor, Partnership or Corporation?

13) File the paperwork: Business License, Resale License, DBA, etc…

14) Open a Business Checking Account. Keep your business and personal
money separate!

15) Create a Logo for your business.

16) Make a Marketing Plan for your book, including a budget.

17) Explore printing options (digital or offset?)

18) Have your book professionally edited!!!!!!!!!

19) Find a designer who does books. Book design, including cover design, is
different from other types of design.

20) Keep meticulous records of all your start-up expenses to make life easier at
tax time.