Editing and Ego

credit: Penn Provenance Project.

The best part of being a writer–in my opinion, anyway–is creating. That’s why I like to write: I’m a creative person, and I enjoy making things. To be in control of a character or setting, or to invent either from the ground up, is a thrilling thing for a writer.

But that’s not really what a writer does, is it?

A writer starts there, but the real work is in honing that creative idea into something readable. That’s not an easy thing to do, whatever Mr. Vonnegut says. It takes a lot of attention to detail, a lot of time and effort, and–most especially–a big slice of humble pie. Editing is where you take that incredible, gonna-be-a-millionare gem of a manuscript, and tear it to pieces until it resembles something people will actually buy.

When I was in high school, we were given a simple project in English class: write a story from the viewpoint of a character from another story we’ve read in class. I chose a story with a character who was illiterate and uneducated, and had him write a letter to his son. I purposefully filled the story with spelling and grammar mistakes and imposed a lack of clarity, because I thought that was how an illiterate person would try to write a letter. The idea might have been interesting, but I failed the project. Why? It was filled with spelling and grammar mistakes, and suffered from a lack of clarity.

The piece needed severe editing, but my insistence to the teacher that “this is how the character would have done it” fell on deaf ears. In trying to be creative, I missed the point of the lesson: to create a cohesive story that was interesting to read. It was, in fact, unreadable–and despite that being the intent, the story ended up being a complete mess that was hard to follow and not enjoyable to read. And here’s the point: properly edited, that story could have been clear and easy to read, while still getting the point across.

And that, I think, is the hardest part of the editing process. It’s easy to think about an editor as the one who erases or deconstructs your work–but when you take your ego out of it and understand that editing is in your best interests, you start to see how valuable that process is. An editor will not only check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes, they’ll refine your piece to make it the best it can be.

I’m in the throes of this process now. I recently sent a selection of my work for a sample edit from an editor, and the response was surprising. After going over the story twice myself and making my own edits, I thought it was close to finished–but my editor picked up on a lot of small things I’d missed. And that, I think, is the best reason for getting a professional editor to look at your work: they’re going to find stuff you missed. That in itself is worth the cost.

My first collection–The Astrologers and other stories–is ready to send for editing now. This is a step in the writing process that I’ve never taken before, and it’s a bit nerve-wracking. But it’s also liberating.

My editor is fellow writer and blogger Yesenia Vargas. She’s just started offering editing services, which you can find more about here. Now, another stumbling block for new writers is the cost of hiring an editor–but Yesenia has great rates (among the best I’ve found), and I can speak to her work being top notch.

And, as of the time of this writing, Yesenia is graciously offering a 50% discount to her next four clients! Send her an email quick and get on her list–you won’t find a better deal than that.

We’ll be talking to Yesenia about her editing services soon, so stay tuned!

 

Publishing through Kobo, Step by Step

Visit the Kobo Writing Life site by clicking on the pic.

Yesterday, I talked about my first e-publishing experience. Today, I thought I’d walk you through it.

For my first venture into e-publishing, I’m going with Kobo Writing Life. I’m Canadian and Kobo the primary source for buying eBooks up here, and because I own a Kobo myself it seemed a natural first step. Kobo also has agreements to distribute your work to several different eBook sellers which—while it doesn’t yet include Amazon or iBooks—is growing quickly. Finally, Kobo also doesn’t hold you to rights, meaning I can upload the book to an aggregator and get it into other major retailers anyway.

Step One:

Do your research. You can find the FAQ here, and there’s a helpful User Guide once you sign up. Also, be sure to go over the Terms and Conditions. Know what you’re getting into; lots of people use this service and it’s in Kobo’s best interest to work to your best interest, but if you don’t know all the details you could get caught by surprise.

(I’ve gone through the T&C, and they’re solid–still, read them. For a horror story on why you should read Terms and Conditions as a writer, visit this link. They don’t have anything to do with Kobo, which is a fair and honest service!)

 Step Two: Rights.

Kobo requires that you own the digital rights to your work, but doesn’t claim rights to it. This means that they will let you distribute the book on your own, without their interference (as opposed to, say, Amazon KDP, which requires you sell only through them), as long as you own the rights. If it’s something you wrote yourself, you won the rights automatically, and it’s copyrighted. If it’s a book someone else wrote, you’ll want to make sure you get the rights…but we’re writers here, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Step Three: Your account.

Enter your contact information. One thing that caught me is the optional field for your Publisher name. Kobo encourages this if you’re an individual doing business under a different name, i.e. a publishing house. I’m not sure this is strictly necessary, but I imagine it would come in handy if you’re uploading books for which you own the rights, but haven’t written yourself; for example, there’s a (look up that company that does copyright fee books). I put my Publisher Name as Eloquent Eyes Books, a spin on the title of this blog.

Here is where you need to accept the Terms and Conditions, which, of course, is a requirement of signing up. If you don’t agree to the terms, you’ll need to go somewhere else. Now, we’re all guilty of just glossing over T&C forms in our haste to just install the software or whatever, but–at the risk of repeating myself–in this case you really need to familiarize yourself with them. You wouldn’t want to get your account suspended because you went against them, or find yourself in breach of contract somewhere. I would add some pertinent notes from the conditions, but one of the conditions is that I don’t publicly share them without their consent. So if you’re interested, check them out by signing up!

 Step Four: Payment Details.

Once you verify your email address, you’ll be asked to set up payment details. Go to Your Account, and a drop down menu will show you where you need to go. From here you can enter your banking information. Kobo pays you royalties on every book sold, depending on the price—if you fall between a certain price range and conditions, you’ll get 70% royalties; if it’s outside that range you get 25%. You’ll get paid by direct fund transfer into the account your specify about once an month-though Kobo will hold your payment if it’s less than $100 a month, in which case you’ll receive it at the end of six months. Kobo also notes that it may take as long as 45 days to receive payments, though I’m not sure why this is.

Step Five: Publish Your Book.

This is the fun part, and Kobo makes it painless. There’s a link that says “Create new ebook;” clicking on that will start you on a four step process. First you describe your book by adding a title, subtitle, and series name if applicable; writing a synopsis that will appear in the store; and giving your eISBN number. Purchasing an ISBN is the subject of another article–but note that if you’re a resident of Canada, you can get one for free through the government. You also put your book into a number of categories, which will help buyers find it by browsing through the store. Finally, you can add a cover–we’ll go over that in more detail in another post, but you’re basically just uploading a .jpeg that will show as the book cover in the store.

Next you upload the book–Kobo accepts a number of formats, and if you don’t upload it in an .epub file, they’ll convert it for you.Then you set the rights; you have the option to allow the sale of the book in other countries (though I don’t see why you’d restrict that), and whether or not you want DRM protection.

Finally, setting the price. Again, that’s a topic for another article; suffice it to say that you can set whatever you like, and Kobo will automatically convert currencies for you for sale in different countries. Or, you can set each country’s sale price individually–though again, I’m not sure why you’d want to. Note that the royalties you receive differ depending on the price you set–for example, if it’s less than $1.99 or more than $12.99 you only get 45% royalties; otherwise you get 70%.

*Also note that, for a limited time (until the end of November), Kobo is offering a bonus incentive: 80% royalties on all books within the range noted above.

And that’s it. Nice and simple–even as a guy who’s completely new to this e-publishing thing, I had no issues. I’ve also found the Kobo staff to be extremely helpful, and quick to answer questions via email. The only real negative I can give is that they don’t publish your book to Amazon, B&N, or iBooks–but really, they’re not an aggregator, and that would be outside the scope of their business, so you can’t fault them for it. They do put your book out internationally, so there’s still a lot of exposure–and there’s nothing preventing you from also uploading your book to Smashwords or LuLu.

So there we are! Next up, we’re back to my current project. I’m in the midst of professional editing now, so I want to take the next few articles to talk about that process. Stay tuned!

Publishing on Kobo Books

Available at Kobo Books!

Now that I’m well on my way to publishing my first eBook, I decided to give myself a “dry run” through the e-publishing process. I’d hate for my first professional release to be fraught with issues as I learn how to do this, so I thought I’d put together a small collection of poems, work up a cover, and upload it, just to see how it’s done. You can find this attempt–Muzak for the Metro–at Kobo Books.

This is a bare bones release, and certainly isn’t perfect–which is why it’s free–but it served its purpose of walking me through the process. I found it to be a simple and painless operation, though it highlighted some areas I’ll have to learn more about.

Tomorrow I’ll take a more detailed look at the process, but for now, I’ll note two things:

I did this cover myself, just for the sake of having something besides a blank image to put in the store. It’s a photo I took in Paris several years ago, cut to size and doctored up in Paint.net. It was dead easy–but this isn’t the way to get a cover for your book. I admit it’s not great quality, but being a test of sorts, it’s not supposed to be. My upcoming collection will be a more professional job, which is important–despite the cliche to the contrary, many people will judge your book by the cover, so it should be a good one!

The second issue I had was with formatting the eBook. I used Scrivener to create the .epub file, and although it showed fine in Calibre, once I uploaded it to Kobo the line spacing changed. In Adobe Digital Editions, there are no line breaks at all except for between poems; on my Kobo device, there seem to be extra spaces and line breaks in random places. I think the issue has to do with the fact that it’s poetry, and so has abnormal spacing anyway; but I’ll obviously need to learn more about formatting.

Edit: I’ve read on other blogs that this formatting issue isn’t unique, and in fact is relatively common. One suggested solution is to upload the book in a .doc file, instead of an ePub.

So there we are: my first published work. I’m not really counting this, of course–in fact, I intend to take it down in a day or so, because I don’t want this example to seem indicative of my work. But all in all, I think it was a worthwhile experiment, and ‘m glad I cut my teeth on this, rather than fumbling through something I plan to sell.

You can find it at the Kobo store for a day or two, so check it out!

Swooping and Bashing

I haven’t had a whole lot of time (or energy) this week to put up a blog post, so apologies for the delay! This one is going to be short and sweet, but I wanted to get something out there. My intent for this week was to get out a few related articles on the process of editing, but that’ll have to be pushed into next week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime: Swoopers and Bashers.

In the wonderfully quirky Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that there are two types of writers: swoopers and bashers. Swoopers are those who write everything all at once, just get it on the page, then spend an arduous amount of effort editing the work until it’s “right.” Bashers–Vonnegut identifies himself as one–prefer to labour over each and every sentence, getting it right the first time until it’s done.

I used to think I was a basher too. I’m the kind of person who will stare at a blank page, not because I don’t know what to write, but because I don’t know how I want to write it. I’ll have the scene or dialog all planned out in my head (or, occasionally, in an outline), but won’t put pen to paper until I know exactly how I want to say it. That way, in the words of Vonnegut, “when it’s done, it’s done.”

This is all very well and good, but what I’m finding out now is that it doesn’t work that way. Maybe for an accomplished wordsmith like Vonnegut it’s okay, but not for me. In looking over my existing work this past few weeks and deciding what I want to publish, I’ve been discouraged to see that the pieces I thought were ready for ‘print’ are far from it. Much of it looks immature, if you will. In fact, it looks very much like a (gasp!) First Draft. Which, of course, is all it is, because I thought I was the kind of guy to get it right the first time and never bothered to go back.

Lesson learned. Now that I’ve finished my first collection of short stories–which I hope to have published online in about a month or so, pending setbacks–I’m starting to learn how much work actually goes into writing. And more importantly, how much of the writing process isn’t “creating” at all, not in the sense once like to think of how a writer crafts their work. Most of writing is actually editing, revising, and frankly cutting stuff that doesn’t work. It hurts, it’s dull, and it will drive you crazy–but it’s necessary. I don’t know what kind of magic pen Kurt Vonnegut had that let him bash out the perfect novel on the first try…but I’m inclined to think even he had it harder than he let on.

 

Case in point: a wonderful blog post on editing from Mike Nappa on the Writer’s Digest website. I couldn’t put it better myself, so take a read after the jump: How to Edit Your Book in 4 Steps.

Now, about that collection I mentioned above: I’m in the process of getting an editor, and will be sending it off to be pored over very soon. This is my first experience with a professional editor, so I’m interested to see how my work pans out. And of course, I’ll let you all in on it as we go…watch for that coming soon!

 

 

Another Brick in the Road.

Source: Sarah Reid c/o Flikr

 

So, I’ve set the first brick in the road to becoming a self published author: writing something to publish. Of course, I’ve written lots of things over the years–stories, poetry, novels–but nothing that’s gotten me moving. Today, however, I finished the fourth story in a collection of shorts which I plan to sell on the Kobo store (and via them, on iBooks, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble) in order to establish a presence and start some buzz. I haven’t decided on a price yet, but it’ll be low–and I plan to offer one of the stories separately for free as a teaser, which will hopefully generate some interest.

Why I am I going this route, instead of going straight for the novel-in-waiting?

There are several reasons. First of all, I need to experiment with this. I’ve never published before, and although it’s getting easier and easier for writers to get their work out there, there’s still a lot to learn. I figure it’s best to cut my teeth on something smaller and simpler, rather than going for broke with a large project–and potentially mucking it up.

Secondly, one thing I’ve read over and over again in my research on e-publishing is the importance of building an author platform. This is something I’ll concentrate on in a separate post, but suffice it to say it means developing an audience. You can’t sell books without having people to sell them too, and your readers will be your best source of advertising. It’ll be easier to start building that audience with a shorter introduction to my work, not to mention quicker.

Finally, and most importantly: I need to just get started. I’m not going to publish anything if I don’t start somewhere, and to be perfectly honest, starting small will keep me accountable. And, hopefully, once I get the ball rolling, it’ll be easier for me to keep rolling with it.

Next step: finding an editor. I’ll be writing more about that part of my journey in the coming weeks. If all goes well, I plan to have something published online by the end of September.