Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pathways to Publishing.

I'm presenting at the Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference this Saturday on the Pathways to Publishing Panel. It's got me thinking about all the ways there are to get published now days and how lucky we are to not be dependent on publishing companies anymore.

Not that publishing companies are bad! Hell, I am one. But if you don't want to go the route of finding a publisher, you now have many options. In fact, there are FIVE options to get your work out where other people can read it.

Option One - The Traditional Route
. This is the one where you find an agent and then the two of you hunt for a publisher, preferably a BIG PUBLISHER, who can give you a BIG ADVANCE and market the book enough that it sells. This is the pot of gold for an author. We all dream of making a deal with Random House or Hatchet and selling thousands of copies of our novel. But competition is fierce and the odds of you actually landing that book deal are slim, especially now days with publishing companies being forced to make budget cuts.

Happily, there are other options.

Option Two- The Micro Publishing Route. This is where you'll find publishing companies like Medusa's Muse. We typically don't work with agents, nor can we afford much of an advance, if at all. But we do offer lots of editorial support and marketing help, as well as making you feel more like you're part of a team than a product. Your book is published by a legitimate publisher, but the odds of selling thousands of copies are slim. No one gets rich in the micro publishing route, and your book may never make the splash you'd like simply because a micro publisher's marketing budget is as micro as the company.

Option Three- The Subsidized Publishing Route. If you'd like to bypass hunting for a publisher but would still like a chance of selling your book, then this is the route for you. This is where you'll find online publishing companies like XLibros and IUniverse. Subsidy publishing has changed for the better over the last decade and a lot of the stigma has disappeared. Working with a subsidy publisher is quick and easy. They'll design and edit your book, for a fee of course. It isn't cheap going this route, and many people have been unhappy with the final result. Plus, you don't own the ISBN, the subsidy publisher does, so that means you don't actually own the book. If that bothers you, then perhaps you should follow option four.

Option Four- The Self Publishing Route. You do it all if you self-publish (so you'll probably want to buy my book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro). You write it, hire people yourself to edit and design it, send it to a printer, market the book, and sell copies, often from the back of your own car. You will be an author and a business owner, so you also get to do the bookkeeping and track inventory. You'll need a block of ISBN's and a resale license. But all that work allows you to control everything about your book. It's yours, and no one, not an agent or a publishing executive, can tell you what to do. All the profits are yours too. But will it make up for the hours of labor you'll need to put into self-publishing?

Option Five- The Electronic Publishing Route. This is the age of the Internet, so use it. Set up a blog and a website to publish your writing on the net. Post a chapter at a time to serialize your book and start networking with other writers and people who may be interested in your topic to get readers. You won't make any money this way, but you build a following over time which can eventually lead to money in the future, especially if one of those agents we mentioned in Option One likes your work.

I suppose there is an Option Six as well. You can do nothing at all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Goodbye Merce Cunningham

from the BBC:

US choreographer Merce Cunningham, widely recognised for revolutionising modern dance, has died "of natural causes" at the age of 90.

In a statement, the Cunningham Dance Foundation, which he founded in 1953, said that he "revolutionised the visual and performing arts, not for the sake of iconoclasm, but for the beauty and wonder that lay in exploring new possibilities".

Follow the link to see video of some of his work, and hear him speak about courage.

"Courage... when you're doing something that you want to do. You may even not know how to do it, but you still want to do it, so you go ahead and try..." Merce Cunningham.

May we all live such long, vibrant and creative lives.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Writing the Punk Rock Introduction

At last, the punk book is DONE. Well... mostly.

I know I already said the book was done, but what I meant is that the writers are done. And my editing is done. Now the designer has to lay out everything and add some awesome photos.

But first, I have to write the intro.

Yep, I got everyone's parts completed but neglected to finish (as in start) my own.

And now I'm looking at this lap stop screen with a completely blank brain.

I need to write my own punk rock story and explain how that inspired Punk Rock Saved My Ass.

So let's see...Well... Once upon a time there was a hippi girl who met a punk boy and she fell in love with his music. Even though the relationship didn't last, her love of punk did... and that's why she put this book together... the end.

Yeah. That could work. Too short to suck is always a good thing.

I'm thinking I need to flush it out a bit more, though.


If you need me, I'll be trying to explain how this Hippi Chick from Northern California came to love Punk Rock music. Is there such a thing as a Hippi-Punk?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who is Medusa's Muse?

That question has been haunting me lately. Who is Medusa's Muse? What do the words, Medusa's Muse mean? And what do I want to do with my press, and this blog?

Since I started grad school in September last year, the majority of my energy has gone into intellectual, analytical, systematic thinking. School requires this kind of work. At the same time I was writing a factual, how-to hand-book on starting a publishing company (What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Business Start-Up Guide for Publishers, by Terena Scott). Between homework, managing my press, finishing a non-fiction book, and taking care of my daughter's needs, I had almost no time for creative thought. The biggest creative outlet I had in the past 12 months has been The Sims (Yes, it is a creative outlet. Just ask my Sims family). But playing the Sims isn't writing.

My brain is weary from all that linear thinking. I need some creative, imaginative expression.

I'm looking for more balance in my life which has me questioning my choices. School is important so I won't give that up, and Medusa's Muse is my passion. Eventually I'll be finished with school which means I'll be working while also raising my child. How will I have time to keep Medusa's Muse going?

That's why I'm asking: Who is Medusa's Muse? What kind of books do I want to publish? What kind of writers do I want to work with? And is Medusa's Muse only about books and writing? What more can I do to keep my wild, creatively fueled mind thriving?

It also feels like this blog needs to change. But in what way? I'd like to expand the focus on ways to feed all of our muses so that we are creatively alive. Of course I will continue sharing information about running a book press and news on the industry, because it is just as important to know how to manage your inventory and market your books as it is to be artistic. A thriving artist needs to be practical as well as imaginative. You have to work hard so you can pay the electric bill. It's impossible to use your lap top when the battery is dead. But don't work so hard your creative muscles atrophy. Great artists need inspiration and imagination, as well as food and shelter.

My Muse is smiling at me right now because I finally have the answer. Who is Medusa's Muse? She is the Muse of practical imagination.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gifts from my Muse

My Muse did a great job encouraging me to focus on my creativity and let go of some of my task oriented, linear way of living. And then as soon as the temperature passed 100, she vanished, complaining that her snake-filled hair was too sweaty. I'm pretty sure she went to Hunter S Thompson's memorial birthday party which Johnny Depp was hosting on his yacht, but she never tells me what her plans are. "A Muse doesn't have to explain," she says, just before vanishing in a puff of snake scented smoke.

That's a muse for you; wonderful when you need a good push, but not there to catch you on the other end.

It's a good thing I'm used to her disappearing acts. She appears in a rush of inspiration and insight, then is gone when the wind changes direction, like a sexy, incandescent Mary Poppins. After one of her trips, she brings back stories wrapped in shiny paper and gives them to me. "This one came from the top of Mt. Denali. Be careful, it's very cold. And this fancy one is from a nightclub in Berlin. I thought you'd like the music." She fills me up with characters and ideas and then commands me to write.

I'm lucky. I've never felt like I had nothing to write about. My problem is I have too many stories in my head. My muse is generous, filling me to the brim until I can't absorb one more image and I beg her to stop because I'm feeling sick. "Nonsense," she says. "No one ever died from too many stories. Writers kill themselves when they run out."

I've begun work on a new novel, and it feels wonderful to write something creative again. This time I have no deadline, no set goal, and no sense of impending failure (at least not yet). The story has been in my head for a couple of years and is finally being transformed into words. Because the characters have lived inside me for so long, they flow out from my imagination fully formed and speaking scenes of dialogue. What a relief to write this story after so many months of textbooks and nonfiction. And the fact the Punk book is finished gives me more time to create my own worlds.

And yes, I do still need to double check the invoices before paying the State of California its Sales Tax. Tomorrow. Right now I'm going to write.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr. Hunter S Thompson

A Muse of my Muse, the good Dr. Thompson. A man who danced on the edge of the cliff singing loud Puerto Rican songs with a glass of scotch in one hand and a pistol in the other. Insane, destructive, beautiful, and extremely talented. Let us all raise a toast to a true original.

There will never be another Dr. Hunter S Thompson.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Muse is Back!

Greetings to you lovely Medusa fans. This is Muse, taking over for Terena because she seems to be suffering from post-semester brain block. This is a common problem with all people who think too much and have spent a great deal of time focused on one highly complex task for too long. She spent five weeks doing nothing but reading text books and writing opinion papers on subjects such as the Pro and Con of discussing budgetary issues during an IEP and the merits and deficiencies of multi-cultural education. Before summer semester, she wrote a how-to book about starting a small press (What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Start-Up Business Guide for Publishers) while at the same time going to Graduate School.I have been mostly silent for 8 months, allowing her time to get through this period of single minded dedication to intellect. But no longer.

Today I found her mumbling over inventory lists in preparation for paying sales tax ("Do I pay 8.75% on sales after April 1, or for all sales of that fiscal year?"). Enough is enough! I grabbed her I POD, set it to play every Pearl Jam song she owns, and pushed her out the front door. "Go for a walk and don't stop until you're worn out!"

"But..." she began.

"No buts. I've had it with all this cerebral, non-creative, linear thinking. Go walk it off."

She lowered her head and pouted but did as she was told.

It's all good and well to focus on work that must be done. Eventually Terena will need to get the sales tax paid, and I'm proud of her for being so dedicated to school. But school is over and she can pay the bills next week. I'm taking control of Medusa's Muse now and steering it back on a more imaginative, creatively passionate, productively wild, course.

After all, a Muse can not live by text books alone.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Editing an Author's Work

From the book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Start-Up Business Guide for Publishers, by Terena Scott

Editing is my favorite part of publishing, the time when you and the author work together to transform the manuscript into a work of art. This is also when you build your relationship with the author and create trust. Editing an author's work requires compassion, dedication, mediation skills, humor, and vigilance. You must find a way to help an author see what improvements need to be made without destroying their often delicate egos. A weepy author can't get any work done, but while you’re supporting them emotionally and creatively, you also need to be tough about deadlines. And don’t be afraid to use your red pen. You are a professional and you need the author to be professional too. Be honest about what needs to be fixed and clear about your expectations.

When critiquing, I start with what's working, and then point out what needs improvement. Usually there's a lot that needs to be changed, so I continue to point out the positives while finding the negatives. It is important to be as specific as possible when offering suggestions. Try not to say things like, "This isn't working for me." Instead, say, "This section feels preachy. Ground it in sensory details and focus more on the character than the message."

Occasionally, you and the author will disagree, and that's when you need to decide if the edit is important. The publisher has the final say and the author must defer to your opinion. Don't make demands the author can't provide, though. This is still the author's voice, her work, her writing, so she isn't going to write like you. If it's a minor detail, let it go. If it changes the plot profoundly, you may need to insist. When working with Laura, she was very attached to her descriptions of the landscape. I wanted those descriptions cut and the focus put back on the action. Slowly she cut them down from several pages to one page, then to a few paragraphs. After many months, I was satisfied with the amount of description remaining. I wanted even more cuts, but I let it go because the remaining descriptions didn't distract too much from the book's pacing. I decided to let her keep some of her descriptions, remembering it was her writing style, not mine.

In the example contract provided above, there is a clause that allows both of you to pull out during the editing process. If the author can't deliver a manuscript acceptable to the publisher by a certain date, the contract is void. She gets her work back and you are free to find a different project. Every now and then, it happens.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How to Tell When You've Reached the Limit of What You Can Manag

When you forget which day it is and therefor go the wrong appointment, you've reached the limit.

When you can't answer simple questions like what you ate for breakfast without staring into space trying to understand what the word breakfast means, you've reached the limit.

When your to do list has more than six subheadings, you've reached the limit.

When it's the last month of the last quarter of the Fiscal year and you don't know where the invoice file went, you've reached the limit.

When your book gets a wonderful review and it takes you a week to tell your friends and family, let alone post it on your blog, you've reached the limit.

When your website still doesn't have an image of your book's cover after three months, you've reached the limit

When you groan every time the phone rings, or open your inbox, you've reached the limit.

When all you want to do is play the Sims, you've reached the limit.

When you can't figure out what to do when you've reached the limit, you have definitely reached the limit.

Now what?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Have You Ever Read the Declaration of Independence?

Imagine how it must have felt to be a Colonist in 1776 and hear these words spoken. Your country has just declared war against its Government, The British Empire, the biggest super power on the planet. The odds are so stacked against your country it will be a miracle if anyone survives. Despite certain death, you all agree to fight.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Worst Writing in the Whole World

David McKenzie of Federal Way, Washington was declared the winner of the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest, "where www means 'wretched writers welcome." You can also read an interview with David McKenzie in the San Jose Mercury News.

Follow this link to see his submission, and then try to out do him. Writing bad isn't as easy as it looks.

Here's my attempt:

The road passed the red break house and just kept going, over the horizon to places unseen, never to be seen, by the little girl in the green dress who lived in the red brick house. She wished she could go there, but she had to stay in the yard and watch the cars go by, far away. It made her sad.

Your turn.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Micheal Jackson

I am not what you'd call a Micheal Jackson fan, although I respected his incredible talent. This is a man who was truly unique in the full definition of the word. There was never anyone like him, and I doubt there will ever be another.

His life was tragic. He was so flawed, so gifted, so shattered. As he aged, he seemed to become more and more unreal, alienated from himself and everyone around him. He never had a chance to live in the real world, so he had no grasp of what real was. His talent helped him survive, but also destroyed him. He may have been the loneliest man in the world, despite the fact he was surrounded by millions who adored him.

When Thriller came out in 1983, I had a paper route. Since I lived in the country, I couldn't ride a bicycle to all the homes (spread out over 30 miles), so my mom and I drove a car and blasted Thriller as loud as we dared at 6:00 am on a Sunday. The album became our paper route anthem. To this day I can't help but sing along to Thriller.

Whether you are a fan or not, you can't deny the incredible impact Micheal Jackson has had on our culture and ourselves.

The world does seem emptier now that Micheal is gone.