Customer Experience

In proofing Frontiers, I am re-discovering that qualitative reading “difference” between print and e-books. Both versions have their pluses and minuses, and I still maintain I would not chuck out print books in exchange for e-books. E-books have their role, but they are not everything.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of books and reading glasses.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of books and reading glasses.

I do final corrections by reading the paperback proof, scribbling in the margins, and simultaneously have the PC (currently, a Surface Pro 3) open on the desk (currently, post-move, that’s the dining room table) to the manuscript. If I see a word, or phrase, or typo, or punctuation I want to change, I insert the revision as a “comment” in Word at that spot in the PC manuscript. Then it’s back to re-reading the print book.

I hope to get through the proof that way within a few days. I’m fanatical about the text. Every word. Every letter.

Because I absolutely haaaaaaaate typos and sloppiness. I get a sense from what I read on the net that some indy authors – eager to make their, uh, fortunes – rush to print having missed obvious errors or, worse, don’t seem to care about them. I don’t think either is acceptable from the perspective of you expecting people to separate themselves from their hard-earned money to buy your book. By making your book the absolutely cleaniest you can (I’ve seen major publishing house books with typos too and don’t think that’s acceptable either), I believe you show readers the respect that is their due in their choosing to buy your work ahead of others. It is standard good “customer experience” stuff that applies to any business.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of the word business in the dictionary.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of the word business in the dictionary.

In terms of craft, the tale is written as it is for reasons of my own. It’s personal. It’s mine. It’s like a painting or poetry (for me). I’ve often agonized for hours over the style and flow of a few paragraphs.

Indeed how it “sounds” not just in one’s head is important to me too. I tend to proof read, at times, out loud. (Naturally, that is helped immeasurably when I am alone in the house. And, no, you don’t want to hear my English-French or English-Russian accents! ;-) ) Doing an impersonation of an “audio book” I find greatly assists in tightening the story flow and reading experience.

Overall, what might appear to be a “typo” in a conversation is almost certainly not. I write conversation in the manner of “real chatter,” so it is often ungrammatical in the manner in which we all sometimes speak. I also write non-native English speakers’ accents in English….carefully. I am fully aware it can be dangerous to venture into that realm in case one accidentally drifts into caricature, but I believe it is vital for my story and characters. (I’m told I succeeded in that with Passports, so now feel more confident in continuing that style.) It’s always a case of knowing where to draw the line. (I’ve reached the point now that my characters are so familiar to me that I know whose English is better than whose!) So an awkward delivery by a non-native English speaker is presented that way deliberately.

Yesterday, I was able to finalize about 150 pages out of the nearly 390 of the full story. Not bad that. The day whizzed by.

Although it may not be possible, I would love to get Frontiers published on November 9. On that exact day. It would have been our friend Kam’s 46th birthday.

New Authors, Take Heart

Politics on the Hudson blogged this on Wednesday:

After selling 945 copies in its first week of publication, sales of [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo’s memoir dropped to 535 during the second week, according to The New York Times, which cited figures from Neilsen BookScan.

An imprint of HarperCollins released Cuomo’s book, “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life,” on Oct. 14, and it has sold poorly….

I tweeted the opening line of that blog post:

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So we new authors are not alone. Even someone with a huge book deal and endless free media coverage doesn’t always sell masses of books. Indeed, the New York governor’s sales situation is perhaps even more discouraging – for his publisher – for this reason:

….The Wall Street Journal reported in July that HarperCollins had ordered an initial printing of 200,000 copies of the book….

Uh, it looks like they really should have considered using print-on-demand, Createspace. ;-)

In Her Memory

Following on from yesterday, some “insider” info. If you’ve been stopping by since February, you may know. They were not idle words: I am going to do it. She will have her own page among the front matter:

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The cameo appearance has made it into the tale as well.

I’ve left everything I could on Frontiers’ pages. It’s not perfect, naturally, but hand on heart I feel I’ve given it my best effort. That’s all we can ever aim to do, isn’t it?

Free Stock Photo: Sunflowers in a field.

Free Stock Photo: Sunflowers in a field.

A thought, a dedication, a nod. Just something. In a two decades’ long friendship, she never let us down. I pray I haven’t let her down now.

Whew, I need a cup of coffee….

The Initial Unveiling

Well, the full sequel is now “out there”…. being looked at for the first time by others besides myself. This may be even more of a “story shocker” for them than the first book. It is also making the “proof read” rounds in a far more complete form than did the series opener.

Bracing myself for impact: Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, is the now full, official title.

Almost a year’s worth of struggle. A personal hell at times. To say that I’m feeling “nervous” – even a bit sick to my stomach – is an understatement.

Free Stock Photo: A tree in fog at night.

Free Stock Photo: A tree in fog at night.

Having broadband finally installed meant I had, uh, no more excuses for avoiding sending off large files. It was past time, and I well knew that. You can write yourself silly, producing hundreds of thousands of words, but if no one ever reads what you’ve produced, if it never touches someone else, or gets them thinking, there’s no point really.

Anyway, time now to pursue something of the mundane, but decidedly necessary: to put a second bed back together. ;-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

T. J. On The Wall

A late in the day post, relatively speaking, from me, I know. It’s just that our domestic broadband just went “live,” and I’m taking advantage of it over a cup of coffee. After over a week “in the internet wilderness” (restricted only to spotty and at times even totally unusable mobile broadband), I feel I am properly back with you all! And with solid (and no longer astronomically expensive) net access, in coming days I can FINALLY get the new book polished off! (And then immediately begin fretting over the next volume, which I’ve already started.)

No desk yet, though: the last of this book will be completed on the dining room table. And we’re unpacking still, post-move. I’ve been at it much of the day. I’ve also reconstructed – for the third house – some cool bookshelves we like:

I can be relatively handy, believe it or not. Order slowly arising from the chaos of a house move. Bookshelves reconstructed. Trowbridge, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

I can be relatively handy, believe it or not. Order slowly arising from the chaos of a house move. Bookshelves reconstructed. Trowbridge, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Getting that done felt good: they are a jigsaw puzzle to rebuild, to say the least. Yes, top left hand corner, is an American flag clock: a gift from my parents back in, I think, 2002. It has been on numerous walls here in Britain over the years. To the top right, caught in frame, that’s a print of Sydney, Australia – a fantastic city we love. Best of all, hey, look at what I unboxed a little while ago:

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860): "Thomas Jefferson." [Photo by me, 2014.]

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860): “Thomas Jefferson.” [Photo by me, 2014.]

He’s soon to go up on yet another office wall. That print was another gift many years ago from my parents. Mr. Jefferson has followed me across the Atlantic, and this here in Trowbridge will now be his fifth English home.

It’s no secret. We all know. He was not exactly the biggest fan of the British government of his day:

I am sincerely one of those, & would rather be in dependance on Gr. Br. properly limited than on any nation upon earth, or than on no nation. but I am one of those too who rather than submit to the right of legislating for us assumed by the British parl. & which late experience has shewn they will so cruelly exercise, would lend my hand to sink the whole island in the ocean.

So I find it mildly amusing hanging him up on walls all over the country. I also firmly believe he would have a much more friendly view of the British government of today. I’m also pretty sure he would be ecstatic at the stable republic that eventually evolved on the other side of the Channel. (What he would have thought of the two huge, twentieth century, U.S. military interventions in that country is, of course, another question.)

Have a good what’s left of your Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Want To Be Goodreads Buddies?

If you are on Goodreads, and are interested in being friends, send me an invite and I’ll “friend” you back. Thankfully, Kate Colby has broken the ice. I’m glad.

Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995

I’ve been negligent of that site. Early in the year, I’d gone through all of the “approved author” vetting, and signed up. Yet I have done almost nothing with it since: my authoring “social media” energy has been directed here, and to Twitter.

My main Goodreads problem is the same as I, uh, face with Facebook. Goodreads is for my pen name, so I can’t “like” and “invite” anyone I know under their real names as Facebook friends in case they also “follow” the Crime Novelist. Given he’s on Goodreads too, he’ll notice me for sure, thus destroying my pen name “cover.” ;-)

This dual identity stuff is exhausting after a while.

Clocks have gone back here in Britain early this morning. I’ve been so out of touch, I don’t know if they’ve gone back in the States yet. Eh, maybe I’ll wake up my parents in Pennsylvania with an early phone call and find out! :-)

Wall, Meet Head

Shortly after I awoke at 5:15 (uh, that’s “AM,” just to be clear), the subject for this post hit me.

You can write 100,000 words in a sweeping, multifaceted, transcontinental story. It may cover over a dozen major characters you struggle to bring to life, to make them “people” with all of their individual layers, quirks, and shortcomings as well as positives. Doing that’s the easy part.

Because eventually you have to pull it together. What is it REALLY about? Good grief, you have to try to sum it up.

It’s time for…. the back cover blurb.

Now, composing that is to discover true writing terror.

Eventually, after you’ve been through about your 863rd version, someone offers this helpful suggestion: “Just think of it as your elevator pitch.”

As if you hadn’t thought of that already? And you think, “Oh, shut up.” Only someone who never put all of themselves into those 100,000 words would ever employ a vacuous, reality TV, pompous “entrepreneurs'” dopey expression like that.

Sorry, sorry. That’s just my haughty, self-important novelist bursting out briefly. I’m still practicing it! ;-)

For Passports, I had a small (very helpful) “committee” reviewing my back cover, tweaking words, and making suggestions:

Back cover of Passports, on my ad hoc holiday cottage desk. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Back cover of Passports, on my ad hoc holiday cottage desk. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

“You should include _____,” and “Make sure you mention _____,” and “Don’t forget to say _____,” and “You don’t really need to say _____.”

Above all, you don’t want to give away too much. You want a potential reader to get a sense of what’s inside – of what you battled to produce in 100,000 words. But you can’t rewrite the book on the cover. Thankfully, that helpful “committee” included a friend who’s a children’s book author, as well as another who’s a professional marketer.

By the end of the process, though, I still wanted to ram my head against a wall repeatedly.

Well, the sequel now really needs its cover blurb. No more putting off the inevitable. Here we go again…..

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are in the world. Myself? Oh, look, there’s a wall just next to where I’m sitting typing this.

Hmm, it looks as hard as rock – which it should because it’s solid stone, not drywall. This is rural England. It’s not a wood-framed, suburban U.S.-style house we’re staying in currently.

Exposed stone, underneath the plaster, on the wall next to the entrance to the kitchen. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Exposed stone, underneath the plaster, on the wall next to the entrance to the kitchen. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Hmm. Maybe I should think twice about beating my head against the likes of that. :-)

“Messaging” Over Wine And Brandy

Now, this is English:

Puppy parking place, outside a shop in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Puppy parking place, outside a shop in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

We’ll soon be in our new place in Trowbridge. I snapped that silly photo yesterday nearby in Bradford-on-Avon. B-o-A is a town that’s absolutely worth visiting.

B-o-A is hardly alone. Lots of towns in England are worth visiting. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start.

Here’s the view outside our holiday cottage window this morning, English roses included:

The view just after dawn out the bedroom window from our holiday rental in Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The view just after dawn out the bedroom window from our holiday rental in Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Last night, obviously intrigued by some of our Facebook photos and “check-in” locations, just after 11pm British time my uncle in the eastern U.S. “messaged” me:

Are u allowed to tell me what u guys are up to..and btw when u get a chance send a quick email to good ole Annie…she misses you guys.

Annie is another relation. I messaged my uncle back, explaining we are relocating within England for my wife’s consulting work. We are in the process of renting a house and getting a car.

Since I’m not involved in this consultancy work, and with my wife sitting next to me egging me on, and after we had had a few drinks, within my reply, I wrote:

….Maybe I’ll write that novel at last? ;-)

As I clicked “send,” my wife on a chair across the lounge laughing, I remarked, “Well, that oughta get a reaction.”

And it did. Within his next reply, seconds later he wrote me:

…As for you writing a novel I feel certiain you can write a Cozy that is a fine novel type..check it out..you have seen enough to write it..and a person like yourself can be the narrator…

A “cozy?” And “a person like” myself as the narrator? Oh, my.

After I read that aloud, wine glass in hand Mrs. “Pot Stirrer” Nello pushed for me to go a bit further.

Holding my brandy glass, though, with a smile I told my personal English rose, “Uh, no. That’s enough.”

Rule of thumb: When relaxingly inebriated after a long day, never start teasingly “messaging” your HarperCollins published novelist uncle about how you are now thinking of writing a novel after you’ve written a novel(s) that he doesn’t know you’ve already written.

Have a good Sunday! :-)

_____
UPDATE:

He’s been at me again, sending me this a couple of hours ago:

Maybe you’d prefer to write a thriller..I am teaching a class right now in fiction writing…a page a day in one year a manuscript of 365pgs…u can do it…

Oh, gosh, what have I started? ;-)

Amazon Reviews

Like most of you, I receive those post-Amazon purchase emails which ask for a review and a “1 to 5 star” rating. That’s hardly earthshaking blog material, I know. What prompted this post is I received one the other day for a friend’s new book:

From Amazon email: “Robert ______, what do you think? Please share your opinion with others on Amazon.com.”

That email got me thinking. Regarding his book specifically, even though I liked it (and in my opinion it’s a read that’s worth the money), I didn’t review it. One reason is my Amazon account is under my real name, which is vaguely similar to my pen name. Given that, I felt reviewing it would have looked tacky at best.

My uncle has told me more than once over the years that he doesn’t usually read reviews of his books. He has been reviewed in newspapers and magazines (on paper) in what now seems like an earlier time. So I suppose avoiding them was easy enough to do.

As for nowadays, I’m not quite sure how we avoid anything – be it negative or positive. New at this myself, I’ve read that Amazon’s “star system” is perceived by many authors as dangerous: the crux of the argument seems to be that those with an axe to grind give out nasty “1 star” reviews, while, conversely, hordes are sometimes organized to click out “5 star” reviews.

Personally, I have never – not once – reviewed a book on Amazon. Whether I’ve loved one, merely liked it a bit, or didn’t (and I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book I’ve disliked so much to have given it “1 star” anyway), I just never have done it. Is that strange?

Happy Friday! :-)

In The Global Spotlight

American Revolutionary patriot and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, is quoted as once saying, “Either do something worth reading about, or write something worth reading.” As writers, most of us probably lean a bit more towards trying to achieve the latter. And that’s not unreasonable of us either.

After all, doing something could well mean that something will be something that means we won’t be around to read about ourselves anyway. So it falls to us to write. Yet, as if writing something worth reading isn’t fundamentally tough enough, we’re told everyone has to “know” us now too.

Okay, ahem, so, who are *you*? Tell us all about yourself. Don’t be bashful. We’re all listening. The world stage is yours. The spotlight is on you!:

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an empty stage with spotlights

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an empty stage with spotlights

Previous generations of writers shared mostly their books and stories. Authors were only rarely as well-known as their outputs. What they were as people pushing their pens, and/or typing their pages, was largely unknown to their readerships.

In contrast, today, as authors, we must use “social media” to become better-known to the world:

image

Who is she? She’s Ana Franco, a Brazilian writer. And she deserves to be better known.

So now you know about her. Her post also got me thinking about this issue. When was the term “social media” first used? I suppose I could Google or Wikipedia that question, but I just can’t be bothered to right now. ;-) Presumably it has been in regular use less than 15 years.

A few months ago, I thought aloud to you relatedly on “fame”:

The default position seems to be everyone wants to be “famous.” The assumption narrowly in our context here is if you blog, or use social media, you are cravenly just seeking attention. However, I don’t buy that as applicable across the board.

Yes, out there are certainly the likes of my HarperCollins published uncle. He is a complete extrovert. He loves being on TV. He relishes being the center of attention in the room. Facebook is the worst invention imaginable for him: he can carry on to a couple of hundred “friends” about how he wishes he’d been in the Spanish Republican army in 1936 or something. (God, I hope he never sees my blog. Then again, he’d probably laugh, because he knows I’m right.)

Myself, I just want to write entertaining novels that stand on their own, which when a reader finishes she/he says, “I enjoyed that.” I seek to use this blog and Twitter to help spread the word and to be there for those curious about my books. However, I have no desire to be a “celebrity”…. as odd as that may sound in the novelist biz today.

So we understand why we do it. While it may be amusing to write entirely for your own amusement, if you aspire to write for others they have to know that your writing exists or no one will read it. “Social media” now makes getting the word out about your work easier than ever before.

Yet it feels odd to talk “about yourself.” I’ve even “interviewed” (at times decidedly tongue in cheek) myself on here. How weird is that? But doing so is also actually a worthwhile exercise in cultivating an improved self-awareness too.

Still it feels strange how we are expected to share so much of ourselves to the world. It’s also important to bear in mind that, although it’s highly unlikely, it is theoretically possible that any post – ANY post – you casually publish could end up being seen by millions around the world. So, uh, no pressure there then. :-)