4 days from launch: money, stress & mousse

10:51 pm
Heart is beating so loud my ears are ringing
Night before manuscript goes to the digital publisher
Proofreader delivered final product, but the wise author knows to go through it again…and again….
After I gave my first press interview (for a 2 week lead paper) who will hold the article until the launch, and before I started, I walked 4 miles w/my father-in-law to clear my head, then started on the task.

For the record, a proofreader catches about 98% of the errors. The changes, deletions, additions etc, always introduce new errors. For the last 2 hours, I’ve gone through and culled the proofreader’s work. This is typical:

4 times through, and this is what I caught (after the proofreader spent 25 hours for $500 bucks capped)

  • 18 corrective queries on word choice (editors don’t presume to insert words for an author. amazing discipline)
  • 8 space issues (extra line between paragraphs)
  • 13 word changes
  • 4 connected words
  • 2 chapter title indent issues
  • 3 misspellings

As you can imagine, this makes me nervous. Rog came over, saw what I was doing along with the results, inhaled in a worried-sort-of way and uttered a “sheesh”‘ before going to his man-cave in front of the X-box. No solidarity here my friends. It’s me, fats, white bear and P-dog. This is my writing posse.

Kindle, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology - includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers‘She’ wrote my bio, and for that alone, deserves a mention in the acknowledgment, for no one at home or elsewhere could make me sound reasonably interesting. Sadly, after downloading a few ebooks on my new Kindle (yes, I had to break down and purchase one, along with an ipad, though this will be for testing purposes, for I’m an old-fashioned tactile gal), few ebooks have the front matter.  This means the dedications, attributions and acknowledgements were all stripped. The first page is the preface then chapter 1. Apparently, ebook readers have no time to waste on this stuff.

The stress factor is amazing. Over the years, I’ve often wondered about actors before a premier. Are they nervous as they enter the theatre or are they as calm as they look? For the record, I’m a bag of jingling bones. Yet instead of donning a great dress and expensive jewels for a glamorous showing, I’m at home, waiting for the launch, (in the same, stinky clothes I wore for my walk) wondering about whether or not I should watch the download tickers when I’m actually afraid no one will buy the thing. I liken this to an actor going icognito to a theatre, worried viewers will boo or walk out, hoping they will laugh, cry or cheer. My arms have waves of nerves, my stomach is in knots, but this is a part of the process.

I’ll know more tomorrow, when the first reporter speaks to the producer and digital publisher, the book is formatted by professionals, and I write like a fiend on the second installment, already late according to the powers that be. I’m probably supposed to put on an air of calm, but it would be false. I’m as nervous as heck, seven years and eight books leading up to these last few days. No wonder I made the world’s best chocolate mousse earlier today. My inner self knew I needed some heavenly comfort food.

The science of naming a movie+book

Shout out to Brunei and Greece, new readers you. I hope you folks are in some exotic palace or on a beach that I’ll one day visit.

Chambers Book 1
Design by Chris Fannon/BookByte Digital

In the meantime, I’ll share some cool news. Yesterday I received the final book cover approval from agent, editor and moviw studio. I am still wanting to ‘out’ the person who won the naming contest, but this person has requested to remain anonymous for the eternities, taking the diamond earring prize and departing in to the sunset. “She” thinks this is quite rude to all those who participated, but at least Rog can validate that the person a) does exist, b) got the earrings and c) in fact, wants to remain the winner that shall not be named. So be it.

The other finalists however, should get some recognition. The group included moms, a dad, one person from India (the lone figure to represent the global community) and a 9 year old boy that kicked butt . This book/movie series is geared to the 18-25 male crowd that pulls along females (for who doesn’t like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider? I’m a fan)…


Ann Majors Elusive
Ann Majors Forgotten
Ann Majors Millenia
Ann Majors Destiny
Ann Majors Complicated
Janel Ecker Cage
Janel Ecker Minutemen
John Misner Timequest
John Misner Chronologic
John Misner Hours Past
Pilar Parker Horology
Pilar Parker Voyageur
Shannon DeRubens Chronoclash
Shannon DeRubens Minuteman
Sufjan Jonsi CAGED
Vail Kuntz Lone Man
Vail Kuntz In Pursuit
Vail Kuntz Time Chase
Vail Kuntz Seeker
Vail Kuntz Covenant
Lori Kay Epoch
Lori Kay Amnesia

What it came down to:

1. New/Fresh.
The editor, and studio REALLY liked….but…didn’t work for a series….(in no particular order)
Chronoclash, Millenia, Voyageur, Timequest, Covenant, Epoch (on this, the studio wanted Epic). It was interesting, since both groups (the publishing and studio world) are thinking about decades of films and books from around the world. The editor may attend the book fair in Germany and say “oh! we have three Chrono– something books” while the studio will see movies in France that include Convenant. We, on the other hand, being Americans, think only in the context of modern day (not 20 yrs ago) and US only.

2. Leveragability.
Another way of saying..does this work for a series. Forgotten was axed since the movie couldn’t say…Forgotten book 1, Forgotten book 2-“what would that be? Remembered” joked one judge. The same held true for Amnesia.

3. Multi-dimensional:
Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life (Special Collector's Edition)The final 2 names were Chambers and Epoch. Chambers won out, and the studio was rather happy about it. Here’s why: Chambers is a physical room, or rooms…as well as mental (think Chambers of the mind). This is also emotional Chambers…it is not limited by a single definition or dimension. Ultimately, it may be tagged with other, secondary names (Tomb Raider…Tomb Raider the Cradle of Life..)

So there it is, for those of who ever enter another naming contest…

Ps. can anyone tell me why they are replacing Jolie with someone else? I rather liked her in these movies….

Why “We” turn weird

The creeping feeling of depression has been setting in for some time, and I’m not a depressive-type gal. It’s like the Predator. I don’t got time to bleed. That said, even me, as soulless and tough as I may appear, have feelings. These tender, unseen tentacles of love get trampled when people start treating me differently. And guess what? This is now effectively happening, as Rog, and many in my writer/movie world predicted it would.

Here’s how it starts. As an unknown, once-published author (of a rather boring, but useful business book), people treated me normally. When I said I was “an author,” of said biz book, it was like saying I was a singer, but had only gotten as far as the church choir. People were free to talk to me as a fellow dreamer, with lofty ambitions but no real results. Later, when a few of my books were self-published, it was pretty much the same, even tho the books were bought by thousands (15K to be precise) it was a drop in the proverbial bucket of readership. Who cares really, when the US has 300+M readers? Fellow church-goers took the milestone in stride, asking the polite “how’s it going,” knowing in advance the response would be along the lines of “making progress.”

The aura is bigger and more corrupting than the reality

The turning point happened in the last year. Suddenly, the aura of “Hollywood,”which is a city aside a bigger city, (much like Maple Valley is to Seattle without all the crappy Maple Trees), has caused a changed in the world around me. For the most part, people are now more withdrawn, tentative with what they say, in what they share, how they share it. This really blows, to use a crass and not-so-technical term. It’s not like I’m asking because I’m nosy or I’m going to write about them. I actually care, and don’t really like talking about myself in public. It’s kind of boring (see my prevoius blogs!) But as my mother and every shrink tells me, people project their own feelings, insecurities and issues, on to me, “the writer.”  I write about someone who is fat, thin, or the brother of an alcoholic, and all of these can be 100% fabricated. Yet  if the person I’m talking to has insecurities or issues about any of these topics, suddenly, I’m writing about them.

You see where this goes–down a dead end street with no friends. Or at least no conversation. For who among us, has no issues?? Those who do talk to me…well, that’s another set of problems. I’m now getting hit up for all types of favors (mostly monetary or tied to HWood), mainly from the outer fringe of my friend/acquaintance circle. It’s so irritating. I mean, I want to help would-be authors, but guess what? Those people never, ever write me. I publish my email for heaven sakes, and check it once a week, and still…hellooooooo yells my inner Tigger. One time, and one time only, in 8 years, has someone contacted me for actual writing stuff. It was a 9 year old by who had read my earlier books, and wanted to know when my next book was going to be out. He kept after me for 3 years, until his parents told him to quit bothering me (so said he in his final email).
So last night, my head on Rog’s shoulder, a tear rolling over my nose, making his shirt wet, he tells me to “get tough and stop peeing on his shirt.” That got a laugh at least. He’s been through this before, and he says it will only get worse. Writer’s (or actors, athletes and who know who else) get weird from the isolation of those around them. Save family (and even some of these people are turning odd towards me), most people forget we have common issues: greying hair, a cat puking on my couch pillow (just this morning) and how to fix a suede couch that has a huge water stain, thanks to me incorrectly handing a guest a hot cup of tea.

You must admit this blog answers some questions.
Q: Why do writers become introverted?
A: No one wants to talk to us, of if they do, monosyllable responses don’t go far in a conversation. You know how crappy it is to be the person people avoid at a party? It’s like having bad BO, but no one will say anything.

Q: Why do they live on islands or with gates around them?
A: The only people who do want to talk w/us are stalkers.

Q: Are writers really writing about YOU?
A: No. We are writing about us and in general, everyone we see or read about, or above all, in my personal world of time travel and adventure, people who freaking existed 600 years ago. so NO, it can’t be about you.

As an aside, I’m reminded of a model-beautiful friend in LA. She’s 6’1, and other-wordly georgous. I would hate to be her. Seriously. Since high school, I’ve been with her to the store, to the mall, restaurants. At the checkout counter, the female sales clerk will be nice the person in front of her, but when it’s my friend’s turn, the clerk will look down and not say a word. Male clerks turn away, almost rudely, as though pre-empting a rejection. Mere mortal that I am, as the clerks are nice to me as compared to her experience. Worse of all: the men who do hit on her (most don’t) are the old, grody ones with too much grey hair or money, and look at her at as a younger challenge. She says it’s the way ‘its always been.” People assume she’s unkind, so are proactively  mean to her. She has phases. Sometimes she feels bad, other times she’s Ok. She’s tried to look dumpy, hoping it would help people’s interactions with her, but it doesn’t play, so she gave up. Now she glams it up, because, as she says, it won’t last forever, so she might as well be herself.
So I’ll do my best, try not to turn to weird(er), and act all normal when no one around me says much. I’ll smile and write this blog, for as I told Rog last night, it’s easier to write to the anonymous world than to deal with my own.

PS. Jane. You are evil. You pulled on Mom. She pulled on my sister. And it worked. A pox on the Swedish sisterhood.

A writing cycle: Manuscript to movie option

My agent used to say that to be good at ‘an art’ takes 10,000 hours, be it basketball or playing jazz.  Good thing I don’t have more than a few hobbies. So, what does art in motion look like? Readers may know I have 2 books that have been optioned for movies…here’s the ‘overnight success’ of this process for a non-fiction book:

Authorized bio of Sue Kim (renamed The Kim Sisters): Optioned by Warp Film (Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

  • August 2008: Contacted by the Bonifazio-Kim family
  • Sept ’08: agreed to the project (write the book)
  • Oct ’08: signed contract, started interviews
  • May ’09: realized the project had legs for a movie. Mentioned it to the head of finance at Warp Film to plant the seed
  • Dec ’09: had conducted nearly 50 interviews
  • Mar ’10: part 1 of 3 parts written and sent to editor and family for fact checking
  • Apr ’10: edited comments from both, worked on Part 2
  • Aug ’10: part 2 of 3 completed and sent to editor and family for fact checking
  • Sept ’10: made changes, submitted to Warp Film studio for review
  • Oct 10: editing comments from both…had multiple issues to resolve (e.g. fighting) about what to include vs take out…this lasted through..issues would have made or broken the deal with the studio….
  • Nov ’10: studio optioned the movie ($ paid to family and myself)
  • Dec ’10: continued ‘discussions’ escalated, requiring me to go to Vegas (again) and visit w/the fam
  • Jan-Feb ’11: wrapped up ‘issues’ and finished part 3
  • Mar ’11: submitted Part 3 to editor and family for final review and agreement
  • Apr ’11: submitted Part 3 to studio. Movie sizzle reel created and distributed to potential movie financiers.
  • May ’11 (present status): studio reviewing part 3. Manuscript proposal (for prospective publishers) being written, nearly done. Final sourcing, done. This…after 2 1/2 years….finally ready to go out

Total money made so far: @$25K. And why so little you ask, and why would I work for wages that make an average Mississippi income look like an investment bankers? Because the majority of income/revenue generated from writing is done ‘back-end,’ be it in the form of an ‘advance,’ or prepayment on the book, or option, from the movie etc. The royalties from book or movie sales, merchandising, consumer products or DVD sales etc, are also back-end. The good news is if this is anywhere near Casino or Dreamgirls (we could be so fortunate) it will be worth it. In the meantime, one can see why it’s necessary to continue a ‘day job’ that pays the bills. Speaking of which, I best get back to it…

Manuscript to movie adaptation

As the goo continues to roll-down my face, stopping at the towel below my chin, I have enough time to type, wipe, then type again (geerose). So lovely.  She suggested I write about why, in fact, Rog is going heli-skiing today (it had been booked for 6 months) and the latest cycle of writing a book. I, on the other hand, realize I have to add a few more links the latest link on emergency preparedness. With two out of the three down, I’ll give some context to all those aspiring writers out there…

This is the chronology:
Last summer, the studio said my book was ‘weak’, but I wanted to, I could write a 5 book overview and see if was possible to improve the thing. In other words, the producer thought 5% was salvageable. However, nothing ventured nothing gained, and when I say that, it means ‘why the heck not?’ The worst that could happen was I failed and back to where I started.

  • Aug: wrote the 5 story outline, about 25 pages, 5/each book. Hit the plot, the characters, the themes and location(s).
  • Sept: Submitted to the studio for review. (My agent wasn’t interested until I had a completed book).
  • End of Sept: Studio said “it has merit,” and to “write the first chapter only.”
  • 1 evening (I think it was a Thursday): I wrote out the first chapter (about 5 pages), submitted it to the producer. “Great,” the producer said. “Keep going until you have the first 50 pages”
  • Mid Oct: submitted first 50 pages. “Write the whole book.”

At this point you can see that it’s all an iterative, stepping stone process, the milestones set up and met, but each done without compensation. It’s all betting on the come, hoping against hope what I produced was going to be accepted.

  • Oct-end Dec: completed the manuscript. This means I’d written the book not once, but gone through it about 3 additional times. It was at 412 pages. Submitted to the studio.
  • Mid-Jan: received noticed it had been read, but then waited an additional 2 weeks for any input. I was going crazy, my hope dropping with each day that passed w/out a word of feedback. Finally, I wrote an email thta said something like this: “thumbs up, down or sideways on the manuscript?” To which I got a “it’s actually quite good. A solid book. Changes of course. Let’s discuss.” After that short email, it wasn’t until the following month I received feedback.
  • February 7th. Met w/producer in LA, and over lunch, the producer whipped out a sheet of paper and gave me his notes on the manuscript.

I must stop here to highlight why this is so important. Years ago, pre-agent, pre-books, I had this rose-colored ideal that an agent was a writer’s best friend, mentor, guide, editor etc. And why shouldn’t I? When I read the acknowledgments from bestsellers, it usually includes the agent and/or editor as the sole reason for success. My reality (and that of my author/agent friends) is far from the truth. It’s neither the agent’s job or skill set to actually edit and provide feedback. The agent is the pitch person, the negotiator, the deal maker-not the editor. Putting this in movie context, the producer is about finding the right content, pulling all the pieces together and making a movie. It’s not this person’s job to be a mentor or guide either. Yet….this is what Lucas, in this instance did for me. He read the entire manuscript, made out a list of improvements and basically said…here you go.

Later this same day, when I asked the producer about timing, he told me April. As in, April 2011. Have the manuscript complete, the book edited, and ready to be distributed electronically in advance of the movie (and aligned with mobile apps, on line games etc). It blew me away.

  • Feb8th-Mar 1st: incorporated all the comments to the book. The comments weren’t suggested deletions, rather, they were elements that needed to be added. here are the primary points of feedback:
    • Bring the romance closer to the front. V1 had it middle of the book and beyond. a filmmaker can’t wait that long.
    • Equal out the good guy vs bad guy quotient. I’ll admit, I LOVE my bad guys. So did the studio. What I failed to notice (but the studio saw) was 2×1 bad to good guys. I had to bring forward 2 good characters and actually add another, net new, character
    • Increase the amt of dialogue. The original MS (last summer) had too much, the studio said to cut it down, so I did, but in V1, I had gone too far the other way. I had to find a balance.
    • Give a btr set up to one of the major historical figures
    • Add a sense of overall wonderment to the dialogue (for certain time traveling characters)
    • Add a unique relationship between the character in power and the slave

All of the above added another 100 pages to the manuscript. I wasn’t worried about word/page count. I was focused on getting it right. It’s now at 522.

  • Mar 2-sent off to the studio and the editor. Now, as I wait for the verdict, I ponder whether or not I start writing  Book 2 in the series, or take a few weeks off.
  • Mar 3-starting to track down person/group to convert Word doc to ebook format (a few grand)
  • Mar 4-reviewed studio contract for the illustrator for the book ($10-20K)

The numbers and actions show the studio is serious, which is a good sign. Yet for all this goodness, I still don’t have a signed agreement with the studio. The studio said that would happen in the next week or so, since it’s illogical to pay $ for an illustrator or ebook conversion if they don’t own the option rights. The expected course is for editing, illustration and ebook conversion to take place in Mar-April, with distribution and actual prep happening starting in May. Translation: I better get going on book 2. I don’t have all that much time.

Defriended again

Not feeling the love takes on a whole new meaning in the virtual world of communication. De-friending is the latest phenomena, causing marital spats, broken hearts and some ugly skirmishes on the adult playground of life. It’s expected that 14 yr olds will friend and de-friend the same pseudo friend 10 times a day, but when an adult is defriended, it’s this permanent action, slamming the door and walking away forever.

De-liking is akin to this. My own brother de-liked this blog over something I wrote, but I keep forgetting to ask him what it was that bothered him so much. A reader de-liked me today, my count went down by one, and I tried hard not to take it personal. I wonder–did I offend someone with my ditty on hair gel? I pepped myself back up when I realized it didn’t cost me any money, like when a reader returns a book and wants money back. That actually hits my pocket-book, for eventho I don’t write a check back to the publisher, it’s out of my next royalty statement, the ability to buy another Big Mac gone. Poof.

When I’m on my personal FB page and I’m defriended, most of the time I don’t notice. When I do, I evaluate whether or not it’s worthwhile to go, get-to-the-bottom of the situation. I have done this in only one case, with my brother actually, who, by de-liking me, defriended me at the same time. A double-whamming of rejection.

A few months back, I reduced my “friend” count from 150 to about 75, because I realized I don’t talk to those individuals, they don’t write or email me, and basically, I had/have more of an ambiguous “I know you and like you,” status. The insincerity of the friend status caused me to stranglehold what I wrote to the point of ineffectiveness and boredom. Even with 75 (which, by the way, is about the number of folks we invite to our Christmas party), I find it exhausting to wonder what I can and cannot say, what’s relevant and interesting, and will I be offending someone at 8 in the morning. So it is that my personal FB site has dwindled to a place of irrelevance in my life. I check it periodically–about 1 every other week–to see what someone’s eaten for breakfast, who’s child has won the latest soccer match, or other notices of worth.

I’ve found the same patterns to be true with Linked In, the business connection site. This, in my world is worse. People who I barely know as me for recommendations. I may ‘like’ a person, but having never hired, nor worked with someone doesn’t make for a good, honest recommendation. I don’t want to write, call, or email my position on the subject to the asker. It’s just to…uncomfortable. It’s easier for me to shut down my Linked In profile and fire it back up when I need a contact than to deal with everyone who wants a link or a comment or a job.

As I’ve come full circle over the last 10 years, as Plaxo and Linked in have been up long before FB, and as I look forward, to the myriad of other networks designed to make me more social, I’ve realized one thing. I’m a rather anti-social individual, who finds one way communication vis-a-via writing in any form, more comfortable than engaging w/loads of people who are not meaningful in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I still take a hit to the ego when I’m “unliked,” “defriended,” and “delinked,” three new ways of rejection that didn’t exist in my 30’s. Yet I also have a purer kinship to complete strangers who do ‘like,’ ‘follow,’ or ‘friend,’ me, since it’s not required by familial relationship, church association or proximity. It’s genuine. And that’s what I, me, and my curmodgeony-self, truly “like.”

Spies, wars and great crime stories

Dear dad bequeathed me a reddish tint to my hair, a Scottish temper, reduced in part by my Swedish mother, and a love of all things War. He was born Canadian, and ever rued the day poor eyesight prevented him from flying in the military. While his friends experienced the thrill of defeating the enemy, he had to make do with becoming a private pilot and reading a lot of books on wars. He also watched movies, and named every one of our English mastiffs after famous generals. World War II being his favorite war, we had General Patton and General Montgomery, and though my brother and I lobbied for Rommel, since it sounded cool, he wouldn’t go for a name beloved by the enemy. By the time my sister came up the ranks, she converted Dad over to Biblical prophets, naming the last of the dogs Moses.

As the middle daughter, I hung with dad doing, well, mostly Dad things. This meant watching the same black and white movies featuring Japanese Zeros flying after the Americans and English, getting shot down and shooting back. The books–boxes and boxes, all depicted one epic fight scene after another. It didn’t come as a complete surprise that as I aged, my love of all things War was developed and refined, purified with a keen sense of adventure. Sort of JRR Tolkien meets Dad equals an adventurous woman drawn to blood and battle. No wonder my books are full of action, and I given a choice, I choose blow-em up over a moody, make-me-cry movie.

On vacation, I took a gander at the books on my shelf. Bored with the Dec issue of Shape. No wonder, as I’d downed half a gallon of egg nog, I didn’t really want to learn about getting on the treadmill at 15% grade and 3.5MPH. I mean, I’d kill for Brook Burke’s legs, but give me till January 1st. On my bookshelf were two of my favorite books. Great Cases of Interpol, true stories of crime and capture, compiled by Reader’s Digest. I read this about every other year, and find the narrative awesome. Interpol is fascinating just because…but something intrigues me about the glamour and arrogance of the crimes committed in the fifties and sixties. Now it’s blood and guts. Then it was robberies pulled off with a bit of James Bond elegance, and even murders had mystery and flair–or so the Reader’s Digest Writer’s made it sound.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Widescreen Edition)MI6, England’s storied epicenter of all things British and Spy is great. I have a book called MI6, and for the life of me, can’t find the freaking thing on-line. I know it’s old (say, 20 years) and I can picture the cover, but can’t find the title. I’ll have to wait until I go on vacation again to give the link. In the meantime, I’ll say it has over 400 pages of true spy stories that fascinate me enough to strap my Rutger on thigh with some tape and go around pretending I’m Mrs Smith, at least as I take out the garbage. Nothing says sexy more than that.

Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945The third book I’d given to a cousin-in-law, called Between Silk and Cyanide, the true story of the guy who cracked the Nazi code. An amazing story of a man who was a genius at games, and turned this in to code cracking. He went on to write screenplays in Hollywood. It is perhaps one of my favorite books of the era.

All three books I found at various airport bookstores, in the back discount sections. I looked on line for the Interpol book and found only one place that carried it (ok, I looked for about 5 minutes).

Even writer’s need a break, and it was fun to crack open these three books, read a few stories from each (and a few chapters in Mark’s book) and then get back to my own stuff. For crime buffs, and of course, War aficionados, these might be new to your list.

The luxury of being despondent

“You don’t have the luxury of being despondent,” said Rog on the four hour drive to the cold, winter wonderland. When he goes to work, day after day, dealing with client drama, internal politics, sensitive egos of partners, he keeps his cool and his smile. “All you ‘creatives’ are the same,” he continued. “You get despondent because the work is in the background for what–a few years? Then the glory comes and it’s great–for five minutes. Try doing this every day of the year, then tell me if you have the right to be despondent.”

XXXThat, my dear readers, is what four hours, cloistered in a car with your best friend and spouse will do. Best friends you see, are brutally honest. Good friends, in my world, this means mom, sister, cousin and a few actual, non-relatives, are honest as well. They just aren’t brutal about it. Diplomacy counts for something (“maybe you should try this”), as does a consideration of feelings, (“you look better in those jeans, the ones you wore yesterday”). One can be honest and still be nice. I guess diplomacy is sacrificed when one spends the day slaying dragons in the corporate world.

Of course, I am too despondent at that moment to cry. My tears dried up about the time I realized Vin Diesel said he was the 10 year “overnight success” when he hit it big with Triple X and got a mastiff. Rog’s swift kick in the rear lasted a few seconds, and my pity-party about ten more seconds when he chimed in again. “You are so close,” he said, gripping the wheel as the snow pelted the windshield. “What’s the problem?” Hmm. Let me see. No time to finish the last re-writes. Lack of motivation when self-doubt tells me it will ‘never be good enough.’ The endless hours of edits and rewrites to hit me at the first of the year.

The Biggest Winner - How to Win by Losing: The Complete Body Workout (5-Disc DVD Set: Shape Up - Front, Shape Up - Back, Cardio Kickbox, Maximize - Full Frontal, Maximize - Back in Action)“Is that all?” he says, completely invalidating my feelings. “You can create from your house, or car, inside or outside, any time of the day or night, without criticism. The editors are decent, and are at least diplomatic.” True on all counts. “Furthermore, when you write a piece once, it sells over and over. It‘s the only way to get ahead.” Right again.

I sit in the dark, gnawing on the inside of my lower lip, a habit formed in the fifth grade. “I know you are chewing,” he says, without so much as a sideways glance. “Just wake up and get it done. Being despondent is for the weak.” Sigh. Must he be right when I want him to be wrong?

Jordan didn’t get good free throws without plunking thousands in the relative obscurity of some basketball hoop, nor did Roger Clemens earn Hardball times ranking of best all time pitcher without throwing his share on the way to greatness. The pragmatist in me loves the equal playing field of basic tools (balls or computers) that levels the playing field for all. One things is certain. As I continue on to year eight on the 10 year Vin Diesel plan, I’ll never lack for a Jillian Michael’s type-supporter in my life.

Get writing, then get an editor

Apparently, a few burgeoning authors read this Sassality blog. A local business owner who runs a paragliding company, apparently had time to think about a plot as he was floating down the mountain, and then write an entire novel in between instruction classes. Perhaps I should take up careening off a mountainside, dodging power lines, landing with the grace of an angel on the wet earth. It might add some 

Looking for an editor? The first step is knowing what ‘type’ of editor you require. This is largely dependent on the stage of your manuscript. The editor has to be matched precisely to the needs or else you will waste a lot of time and money. Forget some of what you read in Wikipedia…this comes from practical experience with each and every type over the course of 7 books in several genres.

The Firm: A NovelIf you’ve never thought about an editor, you will need one. Everyone does. John Grisham’s first book got a studio deal from the producer I’m working with years ago, who said, and I quote “the manuscript was so bad I could barely find a story in it.” Once the studio greenlit the film, a publishing house got a hold of it and then whipped it in to shape. I think writers are made, not born. And if you care to debate me on this–here’s the truth. Only God knows where the author’s pen stopped, and the editor’s pen began, for no-one ever discloses this information. (Unless it’s me, and this will stop the moment I become successful–or not. She will keep me honest!).

Five types of editing exist. Strategic, basic, copy, line and proofreading.

Strategic Editor: A strategic editor will review the entire book and provide a letter that identifies the key areas of the manuscript and specific fixes to problem areas. This type of reader, as it’s also known, is spendy–about $165/hour. To provide an example of someone who I’ve used over the years–my strategic editor was a former acquisitions editor at 3 major houses (Simon SchusterPenguinDoubleday), and has written/edited several dozen bestselling books on the side. Bottom line: if it passes her inspection,  I’m on the right track.

As an aside, giving feedback to a wily artist is an art form unto itself. One must be blunt and truthful, while avoiding offensive language. It’s hard. It reminds of my hair experience last night. Three quarters of the way through, I realize my hair color is nothing I’d imagined. But, instead of saying ugly, the hair stylist, who I adore and trust with the most obvious part of my physical self for going on 6 years, says “it’s vibrant.” Vibrant? My hair was glistening reddish orange, the color of Jane’s eyes when she’s going in for the kill. That’s vibrant.

For Pam, the equivalent of “it’s a lot better,” means my bill isn’t going to be as high as it was the last time, but still needs three more rounds. Now, she would never be so rude and disheartening as telling me to slog through 350 pages again and again. As Lund says, “don’t pop the bubble. Let reality pop the bubble.” During the eight years, Pam has popped enough of my bubbles to fill an entire Chuck E Cheese factory.

Basic editor: This isn’t a definition in any dictionary, and I’m sure an editor would be insulted by my use of the title. However, for all practical purposes, this is when the strategic editor (above) is re-hired to make changes throughout. For the purposes of saving time, as well as learning how to be a better writer, I’ve spent the $135-145/hour to have this editing task completed. Sometimes Pam has done it. Other times, she’s been busy, and given me another, better priced source (she and I agree on spending money. Do it only when you have to.

Good thing. The first time or two, it was spendy–as in, $1250-1,600. I had a LOT of work to do on the manuscript, but honestly, I didn’t really understand how to make the writing/editing better myself. Seeing the edited manuscript with queries was invaluable to becoming a better writer at all levels, but perhaps most importantly, the technical aspect. It would have been helpful for me to read the handbook on the subject, after I’d finished my first manuscript. Pam’s point was this: 

Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies“Don’t stymie yourself with rules when you (the first time author) are trying to be creative with plot, characters etc.” In other words, the technical elements of writing can be learned (or paid for). The magic sauce of writing is in the creation, not the structure (yet). Each time, the price kept going down and down. Now, a novel around 400 pages is roughly 7-800 dollars.

Copy editor. It was fascinating for me to learn how dramatically copyediting differs from basic editing. I mistakenly thought that basic editing would grab and fix all the ‘copy’ editing items. NOT SO. Let me reiterate this point: NOT SO!! I’ll give you an example…the basic editor will identify BASIC flaws in the manuscript–moving paragraphs around, switching up a line or two, making queries on general items–all things that dramatically improve the manuscript. Compare this to the copy editor, which goes another level down in detail. For instance, if I note 1967 in one chapter, then refer to 1968, the copy editor is supposed to catch this. The basic editor may or may not. Further, the copy editor will track and note items that could be better clarified. This fee is going to run between $100-$125.

My copy editor is someone my strategic/basic editor recommended, and has worked with for years. She’s fast, thorough and reasonably priced. She has multiple NYT’s bestsellers to her credit as well.

Line editing. This is yet another level of detail. Word by word, line by line–the line editor is supposed to pick up and correct every thing out of place. Cost for this $75-$125. Now…what’s interesting is that this is rarely talked about…and never even mentioned to me when I signed up for my first book with McGraw-Hill. It wasn’t until writing my first work of fiction that the copy editor said, “who’s doing your line editing?” It was only then that I realized I’d be spending another big chunk of change on this interim step. Once again, I was recommended to a person with a great resume for line editing–from the copy editor!

Proofreading. As you can imagine, this is the final step in the manuscript editing process, and for good reason. With every editing pass, new errors are actually introduced. For instance, my first book was published by McGraw-Hill. They didn’t use Microsoft Word, but did each editing round manually.  As in, hard copy, so with each editing pass, I’d receive a Federal Express Packet with the editing done in a different color in ink.

First pass-Red Ink. I was required to make my changes in the margins (in a different color) then return via F/X. Then, I’d get the SAME manuscript photocopied, but then a new layer of Green Ink, with the basic editor’s comments. I was required to make my changes once again (in a different color) then return via F/X. This process continued for FIVE (5) count them, versions. The last manuscript was so messy it was barely readable. Then some poor sap had to make sense of five editorial (and five author) commentaries and fixes in an electronic version AT THE SAME TIME. (Yes, I’m shouting. It was ludicrous). When I received the “final” manuscript that I was supposed to review and approve, it had a ton of errors. 

And no wonder. It is a statistical improbability that the document was going to come out perfect. Extra spaces, commas, and misspellings…you name it. I used to think poorly of authors, believing that books with errors were due to the author’s laziness or lack of using a spell-check. Experiencing this over a three month period gave me a whole new world of understanding about the editing process, and guilt of course, for deriding the author’s whose books I read and maligned (e.g. the author is so lame. How could she/he miss a period? I’ve got a thing for periods….)

In terms of rates and availability–proofreaders are everywhere, and very reasonably priced. That said, it was hard for me to find one, (see the above copy editor link and opinions therein), until I tapped my copy editor for recommendations. She asked me to write a description of what I needed, and then she posted it on an ‘editor’ forum. It was/is, a closed forum for editors. I had more than 60 responses within 30 minutes. I responded to each and every one, since I think it’s highly rude not to do so. In any case, I took bids from the first 5 (in order of receipt) and chose #4. The reason wasn’t really the rate ($45/hr, though the rate varied dramatically–from $35/hr to $95)…it was availability and resume.

One final note on proofreaders: even the very very best proofreaders aren’t immune for errors. What I mean is that typos get through. How do I know this? Because it’s happened to me. Imagine you are an author, and have written and re-written at least 7 versions of a 350 page manuscript. Then you are reviewing, rewriting and changing it 5 more times. By version 13, your eyes are bleeding and frankly, you’re sick to death of the thing, ready to move on the next manuscript (and you probably have). So when the proofreader gives the “final” to review, you skim it at best, and don’t notice an extra space, a missing period (there it is again) or whatever. Then someone buys your book and writes on Amazon that it’s great except it “needs an editor”. It sucks, IMHO. Regardless, it happens and I’ve come to expect that books will have typos–not that they will be perfect. My only consolation (and yours) will be that even many a bestselling book has errors.

Just remember to tell everyone you know–it’s not YOU. It’s the editing process.  

And yes–this blog could probably use an editor.

Writer’s inspiration

Inspiration to one is depressing to another. Mom, don’t read this. Statistics depress you. I, on the other than, have enough of my hard-headed-I-WILL-do-it-if-someone-says-I-can’t of my father in me to read on. I’m just that way.

Last night, around 8:30 pm, my Arizona-based Swami told me just that. Hard-headeded-ness (a Sarah special), goes along with cancer, all things painful, and generally speaking, frustration-produced success. I’ll take the success part, but the cancer and pain I could do without. So it was that my Swami was talking me from the ledge last night, telling me what I need to do in order to address the rushing back of all things organically-growing inside my chest tissue. Sparing you the details (I personally get sick of every single retail outlet I enter asking me to buy a pink something-or-other, despite the fact I could personally benefit), let me just say, my Swami did good.

How to Train Your Dragon (Single Disc Edition)“Why do you doooo this,” he drawls, in his Eastern sort of way. The question is rhetorical. By “this,” he means, I
a) wait too long to call a doctor (I’m pretty sure us Swedes burned doctors at the stake, as the Vikings chased the dragons),
b) I didn’t return his call from 4 weeks ago, checking up on me (because I had being chased down by a person in authority. I know. I’m 42, and still a rebellious teenager) and
c) all this might have been preventable if I’d only cut out the ‘stress’ from my life, for stress is a non propigator of all things that are bad for the body.

I’ll get right on that last one.

After I take a massage dosage of what my Swami has recommended,  I cry myself to sleep. Alone, for after Rog does his best to comfort me, he gives up, realizing after 12 yrs, I’ll be better in the morning. Sure enough, I’m better this morning, get on the treadmill as my own little version of toothless crawls around on the floor of the gym, alternately pulling P-dog’s nipples and chasing down white-bear (our cat). I can’t quite get the energy to run until the very end. When I picked up the pace, the endorphins released and I had an epiphany.

Writing makes me feel good, and even though my brother-in-law has expressed more talent in a single paragraph than I can in an entire book, it’s not the point. When stress relief equals writing even marginally readable materials (witness this blog), I’ll continue.

The second moment of realization was that hundreds, nay, perhaps thousands, of other stress-filled homosapiens might suffer from my, or similar illnesses. Since I’ve slogged through the marshes journeyed by an amateur writer and come out the other end, I should share with these very folks. You.

This next piece is an excerpt taking from a writer’s workshop I hold at my house every year. You’ll have to your best to envision the appetizers and desserts that accompany the content. It will make it a lot more satisfying.

Back to mom (are you still reading Linda-Lou?), the reason I put the statistics about the publishing industry, and writing overall, is this: knowing reality is a good level set. The way I see it, when the next great writer shoots the top, overcoming all odds, it’s a wing for everyone (me included). Thereby proving Swedes can be positive in the face of bad news.

At least 6 routes to market exist for books. The “traditional” route is the one most folks are familiar with, though publish on demand is fantastic. One can create a ditty, publish on line, or through a downloadable application. With all the routes, the most credible and, for now, one with the most exposure, is through a publishing house. I’m going to save all the particulars, ins and outs of money etc for on-line releases for another blog. This will get folks started.

Oh-and I must say–this information was never given to me. I’m not in NY, (WA is slightly outside the publishing scene). The school I attended was the one of hard knocks.

Traditional Publisher

 Time to market: 2-4 years
  • ·      Month 1-6 first draft
  • ·      Month 6-12: drafts 2-3
  • ·      Month 12-15: final and pre-selling
  • ·      Month 18-24: publishing and distribution
  • ·      Month 24: in-stores and author marketing
  • ·      Month 30-36: first royalty reports
  • ·      Month 36-42: first payment

The Importance of Agents
Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents, 13th Edition (with CD-ROM): Who They Are! What They Want! And How to Win Them Over!As a side note, I truly lucked out with my agent. Here’s what happened. I bought every last Writer’s Guide book available. Read each page. Bookmarked and tagged. The lists of who I “should” target was overwhelming, both for agents and editors. I was so stressed out, when I passed the book on my shelf, I’d get the runs. (Swedes have finicky stomachs).
I showed my list to Rog, who just told me to start calling. I did one better. I went to the website and read that none of the top 25 were soliciting manuscripts. One had to get a personal introduction.
My lucky break came when Rog offered to talk with the book group within his then-employer (Microsoft). He called up a guy, asked him what agents he liked, and the guy gave him a few names. The first person on the list returned my call, I gave him my pitch, and he liked. So much so, he provided a sample proposal template, a document I’d never seen before (the agent had used it to place over 200 books).
Over time, I learned from a editor that they read submitted manuscripts largely by the reputation of the agent. An “A” agent ensures the manuscript gets read in 3 months or less. “B” agents mean 3-6 months, and “C” agents are beyond six months. On average, and editor will have 50 or so manuscripts printed and stacked in their offices. Then, of course, when an agent has a superstar bestseller, anything that agent reps gets read immediately. New agents (ones w/out a title to their names) have a rough time. This then, is the importance of an agent in the traditional publishing world.
Once a publisher is interested, the terms and conditions come forth. Lots of wanna-be authors (and 10 year olds) who I speak to, are interested in the money, though it’s the shameless 5th graders that ask the questions.
Generally speaking, advances for business books (known as Trade) pay larger advances due to the fact the shelf life is longer. The average shelf-life is 5 years, whereas a paperback romance is 6 months or less (romance novels represent 48% of all books sold, or $1.5B/yr). The advances, and royalties, reflect this fact. 4 years ago, the average advance on trade books was $15K. 2 years ago, it averaged $5K. Now it’s $1.25K, unless the author is well known (e.g. Guy Kawasaki).
Fiction advances, by and large, by the least (again, exceptions exist). Cookbooks and romance pay well, since these tend to draw large crowds at bookstores and cookbooks can be franchised (a la entire brands built around the author, from spatulas to baking products). Childrens/young readers, pay the lowest (I don’t want depression to turn to suicidal tendencies, so I’ll omit that detail). Suffice it to say many receive zero advance $.
·    Royalties range as well, fluctuations dependent on where the book is sold and the accelerator. For instance, if a hard cover book with a retail price of $29.95 is sold in the US, the royalty to the author will be $2.50 to $4.50, depending on volume. That same book sold overseas, say in China, will yield the author $.10 cents. Uh-huh. For a time, my first trade book was selling about 800 copies in China for every 1 in the US. Talk about depressing.
Hardbound and paperback romance novels average a printing of 100,000 books, and the average royalty is $.20 cents, though the catch is it’s usually a 1 time printing.
An accelerator is a clause added to a contract that gives the author more money when sales hit a certain threshold. The royalty jumps up, and is a means to reward the author. The thresholds vary according to the type of book and market (as well as the expected sales as determined by the marketing department within the publishing house). For business books, it’s 2,500-5,000 or 5,000-10,000 books etc. (this is what’s in my Trade contracts). The Accelerators will begin at the top threshold mark, and provide a higher royalty (usually in increments of either $0.10 or $0.25).
A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies.
–Authors Guild
A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.
–Authors Guild. 

The update to the above facts is that an on-line book needs to sell about 60,000 downloads to be considered successful. Depending on the agent or editor I’m speaking with, the range goes from 30-60K, because that’s how many downloads the publisher needs to make a profit. However, self-publishers pocket that entire amount (less the Apple 30% whack. Still, it’s a lot less than the publishers 85%+).
With that in mind, I’m off to address my stress issues. I’m going to start by telling the studio it needs to make a film about Swedes keeping our cool in the face of adversity (PS Rog hid the golf clubs JIC). 
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