Stumbling Through Self-publishing

This blog hopes to make the reader/writer…since most of you are readers and/or writers aware of some of the steps necessary to self-publish. I am not criticizing; and would not consider going any route other than self-publishing.

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My second book “The Gift” brought a few more challenges to self-publishing.

It was not written by me… but through me under the guidance of the Greatest of all Muses, God. Lest you think I am mocking God, let me say that many of my friends who purchased and read this book asked, “Did you really write this book”.

I replied, “Yes I was inspired; it just flowed

The story is about a baby donkey that was present when Jesus was born. Jesus has many conversations with the donkey talking about his Heavenly Father, why he was sent, and being reborn. The little donkey Atiya becomes very confused.

Writing the book was the easy part deciding what to do with it was more difficult. Self-publishing presents many opportunities to expand your knowledge and talents. That’s a euphemism for…

“What the Hell made me ever think I could do this”.

Find a Publishing Company:

I researched many of the publishing companies, Lulu, Wheatmark, etc. They all offered services that I felt I could handle,

After all, I’m a computer savvy kind of guy … said with a strut and a flourish of feathers

 

Find a Mentor:    

I was breaking unfamiliar ground and needed guidance…

Where do writers get guidance? Why of course, from other writers.

I joined the Society of Southwestern Authors

The president Penny Porter took me under her wing and guided me along much of the way.

Keep a Record of Revenue and Expenses

Self-publishing is a business and you are the owner. You must keep track of all monies that pass through your hands.

I established a company Golden Tree Books for reporting income and expense and applied for a license to conduct business.

 Obtain an Illustrator:

Penny referred me to a fabulous illustrator Marilu Savage. I provided her with a copy of my manuscript and she performed her magic. Just as a sculptor would evoke an image from clay or marble, she translated my words into marvelous drawings. I was thrilled, although it seemed a little expensive to a neophyte. I was assured by others that her price was very reasonable.

I had bought several books on Self-publishing. I’m a sucker for books, too bad I don’t remember what I’ve read. (Grin) the books provided me with information on scanning resolution and pixel size to use for digitizing the drawings.

Pixel size! I thought Pixel was a studio that made cartoons. Didn’t you?

I set up a folder to hold my images and scanned all of the sketches. I scanned them twice, once at maximum resolution in case something happened to the originals and once at the suggested resolution.

Doing the Layout:

Now that you have the manuscript and the illustrations, it’s time to do the layout work. I opened the Ms. in Word using a 2 page view and started a layout of the book. This is very time-consuming; You have to pay close attention to where paragraphs are breaking and determine where to place images and what size to make them. A lot of resizing and trial and error.

Next I had to create the Front matter; the information at the front of the book. There’s a standard format for this but you can just look at any book as a model

  • Publication date
  • Copyright
  • Dedications
  • SBN
  • Library of Congress Number – this isn’t a requirement but I obtained one

The next item was to complete the cover. I had to add the Front cover text and the blurb on the back. This required selecting a text color and font style that fit the appearance of the illustration. This provides an opportunity to delve into the world of Hex and HTML designation for colors.

The hardest job was expanding the cover. I had received it as a 9×12 image in landscape format. This had to be resized and padded to accommodate the cover size requirements. I learned a lot about Photoshop in the process.

I now had a finished product of my book….At least I thought I did.

This blog will be continued in the next epidode…

Can you identify with the story thus far?

Wait until I get into publishing the book….

The Trials of Self-publishing Part 1

Why Self Publish

The first book I wrote was a travel narrative about a trip through Europe that my son and I took “Fulfillment is a Place”.

It was a fantasy trip, my fantasy, to see all of the places I had always wanted to see. Since my son lived in Columbus OH, the trip was planned over the internet, deciding what we wanted to see vs. what we realistically had the ability to see, the logistics of travel, etc.

We visited Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Munich, Salzburg, Dachau, Colon, Paris, Monaco, and London. Most of the trip was taken with Euro rail Pass. We visited museums, churches, enjoyed great food and had an unforgettable trip.

I had planned on writing a book when I returned, so we took several cameras, a micro-cassette tape recorder and a note pad.

The trip fulfilled all of my hopes and I returned with a collection of museum books, about 500 photos, 14 cassettes, and a journal full of notes. Now all I had to do was put the book together.

It took about 2 years of research and editing and required a lot of time to review photographs, scan the selected ones, and determine on what pages they would look best.

I attended a presentation at a Senior Citizens computer club meeting given by the owners of a short-run printing firm. They were hoping to appeal to people who wanted to convert their genealogies to books.

This sounded like an ideal way to publish my book. I provided them with my manuscript and photos in digital format and the material I wanted used for a cover.

For $1000 I got 10 hardbound books with removable covers and 75 paperbacks. I was very pleased with the results. I gave the hardcover copies to my family. The paperbacks were mine. I sold about 50 copies at $14.

This is amusing; several years later I googled the title of my book “Fulfillment is a Place” and got a hit on Amazon.

At this time I had not released my book for sale anywhere. The listing on Amazon offered a copy of my book for $150 as a rare 1st edition signed by the author.

Of course it was rare, I only had 75 printed.

What were my advantages in self-publishing?

  • I had total control of the preparation process
  • There was no one to stop production
  • I had control of the number of books printed, I wasn’t stuck with a garage full of books

What were the disadvantages:

  • Since I was the publisher I had to purchase SBN numbers and an SBN barcode scan .
  • This was before the publication of Kristin Lamb’s  book “We Are Not Alone”  WANA; I was alone. I had no one to go to for assistance.

That was my first experience at self-publishing.

What kind of experience did you have?

What are your arguments for or against self-publishing?

There’s One Born Every Minute Part 2

So I was 20 years old and I had a new 59 Plymouth Belvedere. It was beautiful, bright shiny red, sparkling white vinyl top. Was I happy?

No         .

What did it take to make me happy?

 

 

First, it wasn’t the car I wanted, it wasn’t the beautiful bittersweet car with the 8 cylinder engine and the pushbutton transmission.

The beautiful red Belvedere with a 6 cylinder engine was  so underpowered a 49 Ford could take me leaving a stop sign.

So what?

This was very important to a 20 year old.

About this time some of my friends were buying sports cars, one had a Jaguar XK140 convertible, another had a Karman Ghia.

What did I have     ?

A crummy 6 cylinder Plymouth!

One weekend several of us went to the Road America sports car race in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin. It was an unbelievable experience Jaguar introduced a new car, the XKSS. Briggs Cunningham was testing a new Osca, and a new class of race car the Formula Junior was introduced.

I was totally intoxicated by the roar of the engines and the smell of the nitromethane.On the return trip I made up my mind to get rid of the Plymouth.

I really wanted a 1959 Austin Healy 3000 MKlll but just couldn’t make it happen. Then I saw an MGA roadster, black, red leather, wire wheels with knock off hubs, beautiful.

 

 

I had to have it.

 

They were willing to take my 59 Plymouth in even trade for the 57 MGA.

I’m sure I lost out on the deal but I didn’t care. It was mine..

I didn’t even notice that the spare had most of the spokes broken and that the tires were worn badly.

I had a lot of fun with the MG I’m surprised I didn’t get more tickets or kill myself.

I kept the MG for less than a year because the clutch needed to be replaced. This was extremely expensive.

Bye bye MGA.

I may have been a sucker, but I sure had fun.

Did any of you have a sports car that you will never forget?

Write me let me hear what kind of cars you had. I love to talk about cars.

What –No Black Lace Garters

What no black lace?

My wife recently bought new sheets. We had stretched the corner pockets of the old ones so often that they tore. These new ones should be a welcome relief; they had deep corner pockets that would accommodate a mattress up to 17 inches (where would you ever get a mattress that deep or thick)?

We put the sheet on and tried to figure out what to do with the corners. The sides were tucked under as far as we could reach, there was excess on all four sides. My wife kept stuffing the sheet under the mattress. She was determined to make it work.

Every morning the sheet was pulled out around the edges and had to be stuffed back under. This became more of a hassle than trying to stretch the corners on the old sheet.

My wife, Jackie went back to the store to find another solution. She returned with some elastic straps with fasteners on the ends. They looked very familiar:

Mattress Garters?

The struggle to adorn our mattress with its new devices was somewhat like trying to put a garter belt on a hippo. Don’t try to visualize it your mind will reject the image.

 

We finally managed to dress our mattress in its new lingerie and I must admit the garter belt works very well. The corners and the edges of the sheet have not tried to creep out.

You can always find a new use for something, can’t you?

What old products have you found new uses for?

I Confess

I Confess:

The title may be a bit radical, but today I’m going to talk about writing or what gets in my way when I write.

Steven Pressfield wrote an excellent book (a must read) titled “The War of Art”. In this book he describes the many things that prevent writers from writing and how to overcome them.

I enjoyed the bookl very much but I don’t think he described my problem.

I can hardly admit this but, I’m addicted to technology, not all technology, primarily the kind related to computers.

Okay, you got me, I’ve got a thing for cars too. But that’s pretty much under control.

How does this addiction manifest itself?

I collect tools, software tools, hardware tools. Tools that will help me in writing.

While searching, reading, looking for the perfect tools. I completely overlook the fact that many of these tools carry a high learning curve. But does that matter, not one bit, its all part of the quest for the perfect tools.

Using tools are not bad in fact many of my tools are excellent. Why else would I have bought them?

Step back and give me some room–I’m going to open the toolbox.

Let’s start with notes and research. I store my research articles, photos, web pages using either Evernote or One Note.

Why do I need both of them? Both programs are very similar, you can clip pages from the internet, type directly into the program, save email, etc.

I think Evernote is easier to work with and more flexible in using stored information.

One Note has an outstanding feature that sometime tips the scale in its favor. The program installs with an included print driver that allows you to copy a large document and “print” (think insert) it into One Note.

One Note comes standard with most of the Microsoft Office packages or it can be purchased through Microsoft. The basic version of Evernote is a free download and comes with a variety of optional packages.

Another tool that I depend on is Writeway Pro. This is a fabulous program designed to literally meet a writer’s dreams. It was designed by a programmer who is married to a writer and it was designed to his wife’s specifications.

You can develop and record the traits and background of your characters, plot your scenes considering location, environment, character actions, and tensions. You can create storyboards, outline, and it includes a full featured word processor.

If you’ve reached one of those spots in your story, you know the spot. Your hero has been driven to go on a quest, who will go with him and why? At this time I turn to a web program called Webspiration, this is a mind plotting program. It allows you to consider alternatives, all of the Hows, Wheres, Whos, Whats, and Whys. Webspiration will develop outlines or charts and instantly coverts from one format to the other. There is a fee for using the program but I think it’s worth it.

 

I use an Alphasmart Dana to write my draft copies. It’s the greatest little gadget for writing. In essence it’s a small computer (1.9”H x 12.4”W x 9.3”D , weight 2Lb) that has a full size keyboard. It’s powered by either a rechargeable battery or 3 AA batteries. It is advertised to have a 30 hour battery life and comes with a charger.

It syncs to another computer through a USB connection. With other included apps it can perform standard PDA functions. It can even be used as an ereader. Due to its compact size it can easily be taken anywhere.

One of its disadvantages is also a big advantage; it can’t access the internet, which means you can concentrate on writing. Isn’t that you’re supposed to do?

I find the screen on the Dana too small to do editing, for that I need my regular desktop or laptop.

 

Speaking of my laptop, I never could get used to using it. The glidepad or whatever controlled the cursor would not behave. While typing I would suddenly find myself in the middle of a previous paragraph, then have to go back and see what chaos I had wreaked and correct it.

I tried changing the sensitivity of the pad but that wouldn’t do it—then I saw an ad in one of the PC magazines for a Swiftpoint mouse. You have to see this mini_mouse to believe it.

Please follow the link; you’ll be glad you did. Swiftpoint

Your book or story is finished and it’s time to edit.There are many books on editing; I must have a dozen of them.

But, in addition I recommend a program called Editor, the program searches for problems using a customized set of criteria. As you would expect it catches spelling errors, in addition it detects errors in grammar and usage, it will identify problems with homophones, and suggest changes that might improve the manuscript. One of the more valuable tools is a word count of the appearance of each word per paragraph or sentence (I’m always amazed at how many times I use the word I in a paragraph. See, I used it three times in the last sentence.

Serenity Software the creator of Editor have made regular updates to the program, one of the more recent improvements adds Editor as a Plugin to Microsoft Word. This improvement allows you to review your word document with the suggested changes highlighted and explanations accessible.

All of these tools are very helpful to any author—as long as they don’t get in the way of your writing.

Tell me about any tools or programs that you have used. Maybe I missed out on something.

Don’t tell me that you use the oldest tools available stone tablet and chisel or tablet and pencil .

 

Storm 1—Computer 0

And the Byte Goes On

I went through several Pentium computers. Still making no money but I enjoyed playing games, Diablo, Myst, Doom, until gaming technology surpassed the ability of my computer.

Gee, what a shame    .

 

It was time for a new one, a dream computer. I decided that I would build one. I bought books on building a monster computer, the more I learned the more fearful I became.

Thankfully, my son Mark came to my rescue, he agreed to build one for me.

I researched the components I wanted and had them shipped to him in Ohio. This was really fun, picking out the case, the motherboard, CPU, and accessories. I’m not sure that Mark shared my enthusiasm?

 

The total cost of my acquisitions was $2000?

What did I get for my money a dual core AMD CPU, 2 Gb RAM, a 250 Mb high powered video card, and a top of the line ASUS motherboard. Not very impressive by today’s standards but I christened it with the name El Monstro.

I can’t believe how much I spent on this “toy”. My wife couldn’t either, nor could anyone else.

Words of Wisdom: I’ve had a lot of computers over the years and noted that a power computer will always cost between $1500 – $2000.

What kind of supercomputers have you had?

Tell me about them.

After assembly and break-in the computer was shipped via UPS back to me in Tucson. Fortunately it arrived and operated with no problems. My computer and I bonded and enjoyed each other’s company. In addition to writing it was also great at playing Titan’s Quest and Diablo 2, until.

(OK, this is where the tension rises). 

It was storming, one of our nice Arizona summer storms. You know the kind that flood the wash, blow down trees, and lightning sets fire to the bufflegrass. We moved to Arizona to escape from tornados.

Who knew there were such things as microbursts.

I wasn’t concerned about the storm, I had the supercomputer protected as it deserved to be by an APC Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backup support and a surge suppressor. Let the lightning flash, the thunder roar, and the washes flood. Roar on Mother Nature.

Of course I had taken the precaution of turning my computer off (but not unplugging it).

After an especially loud thunder and lightning display, I heard a beeping coming from my office. It was the UPS telling me that it had been hit and was injured.

I unplugged it from the wall to stop the beeping noise. An hour later I tried to start the computer. Nothing, no sound, no beeps, no whir. I called one of my techie friends over to look at it. The motherboard had been fried. The motherboard had been the most expensive component in the system and now it was gone.

I could replace the mother board but technology had outstripped the rest of the components in the PC, it was completely outdated.

We had a fitting ceremony and retired it to a PC salvage company.

My friend sold me a fixer upper from his garage for $170. It was faster, had more memory, and a newer operating system than the deceased.

So much for spending $2000 on a computer.

Addendum to Words of Wisdom:

Even though I replaced a $2000 computer with a $170 computer that ran faster. A supercomputer today still costs $2 – 3 thousand.

How many of you have the same technological obsessions?

How much have you spent on a computer?

Tell me about your supercomputer.

 

Making Money with a Computer—Not

Continuing the computer chronicles.

In my last post I was sitting back fat, dumb, and happy; just me and my Coleco Adam. Then–

In 1991 a life-changing event occurred—I was presented with the opportunity to retire. No my job wasn’t eliminated—I wasn’t escorted out of the building—the company just wanted to get rid of us o ld farts— er—trim some expenses.

I was only 52 and was a long way from collecting Social Security—I had to do something—but what. What did I know?

I always liked Jaguars, maybe I’d sell Jaguars? —But, those salesmen have to put in a lot of hours—I don’t think I want that—not for me. What else do I like?

(Sounds of a lumber mill and the smell of sawdust)

 

 

 Zounds, egads, and a few other mild oaths. I think I’ve got it:

I like computers!

But can you make money with a computer?.

How?

I did some research and bought several books on making money with a computer.

First I needed a computer.

I bought a new 486 PC equipped with 2 floppy drives and a hard drive (I think it had 120 mb, I know I kept running out of space, and a nice Canon ink jet printer. Since I was going to use it for business, I had it equipped with a tape backup system to make certain that all of my client information was secure.

Tape backup? Did you ever hear of a tape backup system?

Tape drives were installed in a drive bay similar to a floppy disk drive.

In 1991, the only practical methods for backup were:
5 ¼ “ floppy disk with a capacity of 360Kb or 3 ½” floppy disk with a capacity of 1.44Mb
Both had very limited capacity compared to the tape which had a whopping 30Mb.

Yes Mb is Megabyte, not Gigabyte, or Terabyte. It’s humorous to think of worrying about backing up 120Mb until you realize it was the equivalent of 85 floppy disks. Then the tape made sense.

I bought various software programs, Word, Excel, and Paradox. I didn’t know what software my business would need.

This was in the days of DOS, so there was no multitasking; I had to satisfy myself with working on one task at a time. Special utilities were needed to control memory (all 4 Mb of it), access the internet, and do email.

Then Windows came and simplified our lives, didn’t it? 

Well what do you think —Windows—Fer or Agin?

 I talked my brother into forming a consulting company with me. I learned to use all of the software. I was ready for business—whatever business—perhaps I should say what business?

Neither my brother or I were hungry enough to work or we were just too wussy to go out and sell ourselves.

I can’t speak for my brother, but considering my successful venture in selling insurance and Mutual funds (after all the time and effort it took to get licensed), I can safely say that as a salesman, I am a WUSS!

Not just a WUSS but a WUSSY Geek—or is that a Geeky WUSS?

More Computer Chronicles to follow:

And the Match Goes On

I am not a golfer! Nor do I ever want to be one—but—

I live in Arizona about 3 miles from where the Accenture Match Play Tournament is presently taking place.

Why live in Arizona in a location surrounded by golf courses? To enjoy and appreciate the beauty of God’s works:

The plants:

 

 

 

 

The wildlife:

javelina herd     

The sunsets—there’s no way I can top the picture heading my blog.

Here in Marana, golf rules. Millions of dollars are made by the golf courses, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc.

The anticipation prior to the Accenture—Will he show up—? Is he here yet—? How did he do today—?The he– is Tiger Woods. 

The Tiger finally arrives, on the television the world is watching him practice.

The next day the match begins. The Tiger is scheduled to tee off at 10:35AM. Many of the spectators are making moral judgments—Does he deserve to win?—Has he paid for his sins—? Those are not our judgments to make. He is still the Tiger.

Back to the match, I know it has begun by the sounds of encouragement emanating from the living room. My wife who knows less about golf than I do is cheering him on. He scrapes by to win on the first day.

Will he survive the next match? Despite fighting to survive—he loses. There are mixed emotions—cheers for the winner—respectful silence for the Tiger.

It’s over for him, after the exit interviews, he fades away—will he return next year—? Maybe!

The match goes on!

Computer — Valued Treasure or Overvalued Pleasure

I’m starting a new blog today on another favorite topic–Computers–Love them or leave them.

I admit it, I’m a computer nerd. During my entire career I worked in main-frame computer related fields. Then the personal computers began to appear:

  • The TRS-80
  • Altair
  • Macintosh
  • IBM PC
  • Commodore 64

I wanted one badly; I didn’t have a good reason other than it was a breakthrough in technology and I love technology. Several of my friends were buying various models. They were just too expensive, at least for me (Macintosh Plus $2599, IBM PCs’ in the same price range).

Then a poor decision by Coleco (yes the same company that made Cabbage Patch Dolls) made it possible for me to purchase my first computer.

Coleco had introduced a very innovative computer called the Adam, priced at a comparatively reasonable price of $600. Unfortunately some of the early models had problems. Coleco either was too slow to react or didn’t recognize the seriousness of the situation. The public turned against Coleco and branded the Adam unreliable. Coleco dumped their entire inventory to the discount stores. I was able to purchase my system including Motorola RGB monitor for $350, even I could afford that.

 

What made the Adam innovative:

  • Equipped with a letter quality daisy wheel printer
  • Used TV as a monitor or optional RGB monitor
  • Two tape drives with digital search capability
  • 80K Ram
  • 3 expansion slots
  • Cartridge slot that accepted all Coleco game cartridges
  • Capable of operating under CP/M OS which would run Wordstar, Lotus, dBase

One of my favorite features about the Adam was that it powered up in word-processing mode. There was no wait for an OS to load and then wait for an application to load. Just turn it on and start working.

I liked this computer so much that in later years I purchased additional Adam units for anywhere from $50 to $100. I wanted to share my good fortune with all of my friends and proliferate the wonders of the Adam.

When Coleco went bankrupt and withdrew all technical support, User support groups popped up all over the world. Some of the more active groups in addition to those in the US were located in England and Canada. I was the editor of the newsletter for the St. Louis Adam Users Group or (SLAUG).

Annual conventions were held to socialize and share knowledge. Unbelievably, twenty years later these conventions are still taking place.

I hope I didn’t bore you but after twenty-five years I’m still passionate about my first computer, the Coleco Adam.

How about all of you readers, what were your first computers?

Are you as emotional as I am?

 

The First Car…

The last time we chatted, I was going to tell you about my first car and I hit a patch of nostalgia and spun out. Maybe I’ll make it today.

I’ve already established how important a car is to the physical and emotional needs of a young boy (er, I meant young man). Although most men learn to physically control and master the mechanics of driving a car, many of us never gain control of the emotional affect induced by cars.

 

My first car was a 41 Plymouth coupe. It was maroon blending to rust, the chrome was a little pitted, but still shiny, the interior was in pretty good shape.

The best feature was that for $50 it was mine. Mine!

Apollo never had a finer chariot when he raised the sun each morning. It was my access to adulthood.

My friends and acquaintances know that I am ostentatious bordering on pomposity.

Okay, I heard someone in the back whispering, “How can you be ostentatious or pompous when you own a 41 Plymouth in 1955?” Yes, I heard you! You know who you are and so do I.

Seat covers might dress it up. I bought a set of rolled and pleated seat covers (if you don’t know what that means) take my word, they were cool. The seats had a red and black diamond pattern with black vinyl trim and channel stitching running down the back. I paid $75 for the seat covers.

That was more than the car cost, but they would totally renovate the car. I spent a Saturday installing them.

When I was through I opened all of the car doors to display the renewed interior. I stood back, walked around to the other side of the car, got into the back seat and looked at the stitching on the seatback, got into the front seat, felt the sooth sleek seats, shook my head and realized sadly that it was still just a 41 Plymouth.

Paint, a new paint job; that would do it.

At the time I was working in a paint store. I bought some black enamel and borrowed an electric sprayer. This wasn’t a compressed air sprayer operating on electricity; it was simply a jar with a spray nozzle that plugged into an outlet.

I drove my car over to my father’s house and parked it in the garage. My stepbrother and I began the prep work, sanding off the rust and wiping the car down.

I filled the paint reservoir (otherwise known as a jar) with paint, plugged the sprayer into an outlet, and slowly squeezed the trigger, nothing happened. I checked the sprayer and realized that I had not opened the sprayer’s orifice. I adjusted the nozzle and once more squeezed the trigger. The sprayer sputtered and spit a blob of paint followed by drips, drops, and finally a mist. By evening the paint job was finished. I walked home and impatiently waited until the next day when I could view the results of our effort.

The next morning I slowly opened the door of the garage. The car was black, but it didn’t shine. I touched it, it felt like sandpaper, I turned the light on and saw that the surface was gritty, looking closer I saw dust embedded in the finish.

Now I knew why painting was performed in a closed off spray booth. After extensive smoothing with steel wool and a second coat, it still didn’t look any better.

Several months later I got an offer to buy it and accepted. Thus ended the saga of my first car.

Don’t fret I’ll have other car stories.

What was your first car like?