Friday, April 24, 2015

War of the Three Hats...

In what is likely a continuing conversation with myself, I've posted a LinkedIn article, commenting on the insightful Why Authors Should Think Like Publishers by Allen Taylor. From the article: 
"You may be a writer, but as soon as you decide to publish your own writing you have also become a publisher. That means you have to think like a publisher. If you are not ready to do that, then you should reconsider the idea of publishing your book. It's not as easy as some people make it appear to be. Here's a simple way to think about what a publisher's job is versus an editor's or a writer's:
A writer crafts a story or manuscript and puts it on paper. An editor reads the manuscript to judge its literary merit and works with the writer to improve it to make it publication-ready. A publisher is responsible for ensuring the process is carried out efficiently while ensuring the writer's manuscript is a reasonable financial risk and maximizes the profit opportunities from the publication of the manuscript.
In other words, as a writer, your job is to ensure you tell the best story you can and to improve the manuscript as much as you can before the editor sees it. As editor, your job is to ensure the manuscript meets all the publisher's specifications and the manuscript is improved to the point of near perfection. As publisher, your job is to manage risk and make money. If you opt to self-publish, whether digitally or in print, then you'll serve in all three of these roles unless you outsource some of it."
 Read the whole article
This description of the three hats that a self-published author may choose to wear is spot on. I would only add that those different jobs, when embodied in a single person, can frequently lead to the same conflicts that one might expect if we were dealing with two separate professionals, the author and publisher—specifically, where the creative process bumps up against rational business goals and requirements.

Learning to edit your own work is hard, but it's a known skill set that can be mastered with time, maturity and determination. Successful publishing is a whole different can of worms.

Successful publishing takes business savvy, intimate market knowledge and an eye for talent. It also entails—like any business endeavor—taking the occasional calculated risk. This becomes apparent when a genre-bending story becomes difficult to pigeonhole, hence much tougher to target market. Most traditional publishers will pass this work by in favor of more reliable commodity fiction. 

So when the creative muse takes an independent author/publisher in the direction of a unconventional genre mashup, things can get tricky. Do you plow ahead with a work that you know is going to be problematic to market? Or do you slip on your publisher's hat, and send the poor author a rejection letter: "Interesting idea, but I have no idea who'll buy it..."?

The creative process demands risk-taking, and very frequently, hell, most frequently, that means failure in the marketplace. Traditional publishers are free to evaluate those risks on the business merits; independent publishers face a more difficult task—to stifle their own creative impulses in hopes of reduced market risk, or to continue chasing the muse over what will likely turn out to be the steep edge of a cliff.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Film is Made in the Editing Room. So is Your Novel...

I'm not one to talk a lot about the sausage-making of creative writing, preferring to leave that to the, well, sausage-makers. Lots of writers know what the rules are, and most writers aren't great storytellers, so one has to assume that there's a bit more to it than just working the rule book.

That said, a short while ago I commented on a LinkedIn article (The Hardest Revision, by Taylor Rees) and thought I'd share it with you here. It's an analogy that I've found useful in my own work, especially when it comes time to "kill your darlings."

It's been said that a film is made in the editing room, and it's been my experience that much the same can be said of writing. 

    A director will typically shoot 12 to 20 hours of film during the production of a two hour motion picture, possibly running as high as 200 hours of (digital) video shot for a two hour documentary feature. No director would seriously consider shooting two hours of film for a two hour feature and call it a day. 
    All of the various camera perspectives, the wide-angle vs close-up shots, the tinkering with exposure or lighting, and the multiple emotional interpretations of the same scene by the actors all get sorted out in the editing room. The 20 or so hours of raw film is cut down to the two hours that best tells the purest version of the story ("Director's Cuts" aside).

    The same applies to writing, especially to creative writing. Nobody buys a novel to revel in the genius of my unconventional stylistic quirks. They're not there for my breathtaking description of a sunset, for my emotional rendering of a tender moment, or for my powerhouse construction of an action scene. They're there for the story. Period. End of argument. Step down, next case.

    Anything and everything that doesn't serve the story should be considered fair game for the editor's pen. Like most writers (as reflected in the author's article), it took me a while to figure that out, to understand that my 20 hours of raw film needed to be boiled down to the two hour feature that I intended to create. 

The first draft manuscript is the block of marble; the statue appears only after the editing is done.
Enjoy the sausage.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Aqua Vitae Ebook Give Away!

A new year, a new ebook give away! In a blatant, unambiguous and unapologetic attempt to scare up a few good reviews for my latest release, Aqua Vitae, I'll be giving away free copies of the Kindle ebook starting on January 7, 2014 and running until Saturday, Jan. 11th.

Nothing is more important to an independent author than good word-of-mouth, and nothing gets the ball rolling like a pageful of laudatory reviews. I'm confident that the book will do its job - to stimulate your imagination while keeping you entertained for the duration of the read. But I need you to give it a shot.

It's a crowded market out there, with many, many choices (free or otherwise) competing for the reader's eyeballs. All I can do is place it in front of you for free, and hope that it captures and holds your attention. If you enjoy it, all I ask is a few kind words on the book's Amazon page in return.

While you're waiting for the promotion to begin, you can get a head start by reading the first couple of chapters here.

Thanks in advance for your interest and participation. I look forward to hearing your reaction to the book.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

There they go again...

It seems that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has noticed your drinking habits, and has calculated the cost of your miscreant behavior on the rest of society:
Excessive alcohol use cost states and D.C. a median of $2.9 billion in 2006, ranging from $420 million in North Dakota to $32 billion in California. This means the median cost per state for each alcoholic drink consumed was about $1.91.
Get that? It costs your state almost two bucks every time you knock down a beer. The study's recommendations? The usual:
Perusing the Community Guide, one can find the “effective strategies” recommended by CDC’s Brewer for dealing with excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S. Among them are increasing alcohol taxes, limiting alcohol outlet density through licensure and zoning regulations, and maintaining limits on days of sale and hours of sale. In addition, the Community Guide recommends against the privatization of retail alcohol sales.
 Gee, why does this sound familiar? This is a fresh approach to alcohol-related problems, right? (reference The Prohibition - 1919-1933).

It also sounds disturbingly like the underlying premise for my book, The Last Bartender. In the book, similar economic arguments led to a new prohibition on alcohol sales, and...well it's a novel; chaos ensues. I strongly recommend that you read the book before the government taxes you that extra $2 per cocktail to make up for turmoil your drinking habits are costing society.

Read the entire article by Dr Susan Berry over at Breitbart/Big Government: CDC 'Excessive Alcohol' Study Author Recommends Prohibitionist Policies

And as long as you're up, grab a softcover copy of The Last Bartender  here, or the Kindle edition here

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Blackfoot Confederacy and their buffalo...

It's always amazed me how statist environmental bureaucracies are more than willing to all but halt the forward movement of civilization to protect an obscure sub-species of an amphibian or fish found in a puddle in some backwater strip mall development, but when it comes time to step up and make a positive difference across potentially hundreds of thousands of square miles of the Great Plains, offer nothing but red tape and legal barriers to those seeking to reestablish wild bison herds.

Here's a short video illuminating the relationship that the Blackfeet have with the buffalo, along with a little history of how the Wildlife Conservation Society (the Bronx Zoo folks) reintroduced the practically extinct pure bison lineage back into the wild.

I covered most of this territory in my first two books, The Third Revolution and Middle America. They remain fine, still-relevant liberty tales, and prominently feature the very spiritual relationships between the Blackfeet and the bison. Check them out to see what can be done when those Washington-based statist environmental bureaucracies finally get pushed out of the way.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Third Revolution on the NSA...

Color me shocked that anyone thinks that the NSA scandal is a scandal. I thought that spying on domestic and worldwide electronic communications is what they were paid to do. And that bullying private sector corporations into giving up said data is what governments were paid to do.

Way back in 2004, in The Third Revolution,  I reflected that outlook through the literary lens of Ms. Kim Lange, then special assistant and confidant of Montana Governor Ben Kane:

Joe took a sip of his draft and turned to Kim. “So are you expecting a late night out with the Billings' brass?”
“No, not at all. The mayor is a busy man. Ben just wants me to take his temperature on the federal stuff.”
“Wouldn’t a phone call have been quicker?”
“The National Security Agency monitors all calls made in the country—in the world, for that matter. They have for years. But in the last three years or so they’ve actually installed the computing power they need to be able to process and screen the millions of calls they capture every day. Ben wants people to be able to speak freely to him without risking the chance the conversation is going to show up on some NSA junior analyst’s radar screen.”
 I'm quite sure I wasn't the only one who knew this. At any rate, for a more in-depth look at my visionary grasp of the obvious, please pick up your own copy of The Third Revolution to discover more of my Nostradamus-like insights into the evolution of the U.S. political landscape. 

When everything is a crime, everyone is a suspect.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sooner or later...

Sooner or later, one of these movements is going to succeed, and then, I believe, all hell will break loose:
Representatives of 10 rural Colorado counties met Monday in the sleepy plains town of Akron, about a half an hour from the Kansas border, to advance a plan that has been both hailed and ridiculed in recent weeks: A bid to split from Colorado and form the country’s 51st state.
As you might figure, this is yet another urban/rural, liberal/conservative split boiling over, but this time the minority (conservatives) are opting for the more libertarian solution: you live the way you want to live, and we'll live the way we want.

I don't know if this particular movement will work out; it's worth noting that no attempt at state partitioning has been successful since the creation of West Virginia in 1863. But the legislative mechanisms remain, and when a large enough, relatively cohesive group of people feel that their culture, their livelihoods and their liberty are being adversely impacted by a group of perceived "outsiders," a bit of push-back is to be expected. Since they feel (for apparently good reason) that their traditional political/legislative avenues have been cut off, they're moving ahead with the only solution remaining: leaving.

Sooner or later, it's going to work, and then everyone is going to want to get in on it...

 Read the entire article here: Rebellious Colorado counties move forward with plans to secede