Agents and Indies and Self-publishing oh-my!

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As I patiently move through line edits and more rounds of read-throughs of Wine Bottles and Broomsticks and begin seriously plotting the second book in the Rick Basket series, rather a lot of my mental energy is being wasted on the question ‘what comes next?’ I mean, after final revisions and copy-editing and things. I’ve thought I’d been to this point before, but not really. This time though, I really am. If all goes well I’ll be sitting with a full draft in a few weeks.

Obviously, I really want to get this thing published, you know, like a regular book – but HOW?

It seems like every writer out there has a completely different and thoroughly justifiable position on this.

The most promising initial path I’ve got for this project and where I want to take it is to try and connect with an agent. Of course, I’m completely unknown, don’t have any proven track record of selling books or meeting deadlines. Not only that, I’ve got to find a person I can trust and works in good faith and also won’t deadbeat me. It’s scary and, I suspect, very hard.

Another path, the sort of knee-jerk path, it seems, is to just start firing the manuscript off to various publishing houses. I have serious doubts I’d even manage to get read, let alone get signed. To make it worse, if I do manage to get a contract, I’m likely as not to screw it up and kill the project before it really gets off the ground. It’s my biggest fear in taking the next step here, actually. I like writing these characters and I want to keep doing that. It would really suck for me if I got derailed because of my own stupidity.

The last approach is self-publishing – a highly popular and sometimes successful way to go. The problem is that I don’t have much time and I certainly don’t have a lot of cash, so while I could self-publish, the amount of advertising I could do is pretty minimal. This, actually, doesn’t help either. It’ll be out there, sure, but I won’t be able to tell people who actually want to hear it’s out there that it is. Plus, and this is an ego thing, I won’t be able to walk into Barnes and Noble or the local indie store and find it on the shelf.

So, here I sit, heartburn chewing up my insides staring cross-eyed at a manuscript trying to viciously eliminate passive voice and unnecessary dialogue tags while stretching my plot-holes into compelling story that gets me over the 80K mark (77.6K at last count). Sigh – Any agents out there want to take a look? No? Well, had to ask.


photo credit: The Printing Press via photopin (license)

Writer’s improvement hell – Tools #2 (The word processor)

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A couple few blogs ago I complained about operating systems and computers. The conclusion being that there is no one solution. Anything you pick to work on is going to give you a headache of one sort or another. Apparently, word processors are the same. At face values anything will work, and indeed as far as simply using your word processor as a tool to get your story down, that is totally true. However, once you’re done writing your story, you get to a point where it has to be shared. That, it would seem, is where the problems start. Of course, if you’re like me and work in a thoroughly multi-computer / platform environment, things get dicey.

So what are some of the options?

MS Word is generally regarded as the gold standard of word processing, it does a lot and it does do it pretty well. It’s highly portable, has a lot of features, and if you’ve spent any time working in an office, odds on, you’re already familiar with it. What’s my problem with it then? First off, it’s expensive, in the neighborhood of $100 by itself, and if you go with Office 365, you’ll be paying that every year. I seriously doubt I’ll ever sell $100 worth of book to even make that worthwhile. The second problem for me is that there is no Ubuntu Linux version of Word (yes I could use a windows emulator like Wine, but it’s a pain). Mac does have a version, but it’s not as reliable as the Windows version. In short, cost and portability make this a tough one for me.

Although I’ve never used it, Word Perfect is still an option. However, coming it at over $200 for a license, cost is most definitely an issue. Again, this one isn’t available on Ubuntu, but it is available for Mac. Might as well go with Word, just for cost alone.

Scrivener is another good option, it’s relatively inexpensive, in the neighborhood of $50. As far as word processing goes it’s bare bones, but it hits the high-points for the needs of very many writers. There are some other major bonuses here, it allows compilation of your novel into a format appropriate for distribution. It also provides excellent document management and organizational tools that allow for notes to be tacked on all over the thing. For drafting or even final construction, this really an excellent option. There is an Ubuntu version, but it’s missing a few essential pieces, the key being spell-checker. The real problem, however, is that you have to be extremely good with scrivener to make it work for others. I recently distributed copies of my manuscript to folks for a beta read, and every single one of them had one problem or another – the point here being, you CAN get all the bugs out of scrivener when you compile, but it’s not as easy as just pressing a button.

If you have a Mac, you’ve got Pages. As far as word processors go, it’s not awesome. It doesn’t suck, but it’s not as feature loaded like Word. The other problem is the very limited scope of document support. It only handles a few document formats. Again, if you’re dealing with multiple platforms (or sharing your work for any reason), this really becomes unworkable.

In the realm of free, you have Google Docs, which you can store on Google Drive. I’ve only used it a bit, but it gets good reviews. While this set of tools supports multiple document formats, you’re stuck managing all of your documents out on the web. There are major benefits here with respect to multi-platform systems, but it does shut down portability a bit. You’ve really got to have Wi-Fi access. Other issues I have here involve to trying to construct a 100,000 word document and then transferring that into a format which could be used to construct a book. I cant say anything with particular authority, but but I suspect this would pose something of a challenge.

Also in the realm of free are OpenOffice and LibreOffice. I’m going to lump these because they both use the .odt format, and generally have the same set of features. These are flexible, support a number of document formats, and can be used in Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are some oddities with formatting and available fonts, but I think most of this might be limited to LibreOffice, in all they’re fairly minor considering the product is overall pretty good and also free. I think the main problem remains that conversion and portability seem to be problematic.

I don’t know that I can say I know what the point of that rant was. I’d say any one of these options works as well as any, again if you can get it MS Word is probably the best tool, especially if you’re working on a single platform. Barring that, how do you choose? – I have no idea. I use LibreOffice as my primary word processor because that’s what Ubuntu comes with. It works fine and it’s free – no complaints. However, now that I’ve discovered Scrivener and started working with it, I’m moving all of my projects over there. This is largely because of the other tools it has relating to making notes and various compile options. Once I figure it out, I expect my problems with portability and conversion should be resolved.

The truth is though that anything really will work, so it’s all up to preferences. Just like computer, anything you choose will have it’s own special problems.

Now that I’m done ranting about word processors, are there any remaining problems? Yes. Stay tuned.


photo credit: IMG_0561 via photopin (license)

Relentless

The only word that could possibly do justice to today’s weather is relentless. The wind is blowing at about 35mph, and gusting to around sixty, though I’m pretty sure that last night we were breaking toward 80. The Oxford English Dictionary (the thirteen volume version) simply defines this word as Incapable of relenting; pitiless. This is a pretty good description of what’s going on here. It would be cold without the wind, and when it’s cold, the wind seems to have so much more force behind it. The OED also contains this little gem on the word.

1798 Edgeworth Pract. Educ. I. 380 Few things can be more terrific..to the young writer than the voice of relentless criticism.”

I don’t know that I ever feel terrific about criticism, but I certainly appreciate it and find the result of responding to it close to terrific.