Tag Archives: agents

Tips from an Idiot

A year ago I was readying to “submit” to agents for mainstream publishing. I read some agents’ blogs and watched their tweets fly by. I decided they are dicks and so I maneuvered around that process, learning that there was no opportunity to get a widespread, quit-your-dayjob publishing opportunity without agents.

So I ditched it all and published my book myself.

I sold about 100 print copies of *that book* (you know what I’m talking about, that I can’t mention it here) and only had a couple of months to promote it before the world ended. I’ve had about 1000 downloads on various free-e joints, so that’s not bad, but you can’t count if people actually read the downloads.

I’m not into analytics on this stuff anyway. I just want to know people enjoy my work as much as I do. That’s actually a lot to ask, but my mantra has been to publish as much as you can wherever you can.

I’m on to my first novel now, which I’m issuing RIGHT NOW. Moxie Mezcal put a great cover together and I formatted this motherfucker last night in a few hours. It didn’t take the month + help I got on my first book, because I took the steps to ensure I didn’t have to retrofit more than 200 pages as much as I would have.

I am an idiot with formatting and graphics. That’s a disclosure it is important to understand. I’m not at the bottom of the barrel–in fact, I consider myself close to being an MS Word whiz. But in order to format a book properly, you really do need to be that whiz, not just be close to it.

Start writing your book the way you want it to look and the process isn’t as painful. I had to retrofit my entire first book, and that process sucked.

Using styles, this book was much easier to format since there were no bizarre blocks of text in a different font. tnd once I realized that my indents were too big (and gee, that’s why the thing looked so lame), I just went in and moved the top tab to .1 rather than .5 and the whole thing magically fixed itself. *Awesome*

Global seek and replace was a winner for my sections–those imperative but annoying breaks within a chapter but not quite a chapter break. I had two asterisks, then I had 5 asterisks, some separated by tabs, some not, but a global search and replace worked wonders.

I write a lot of dialogue that is cut off, like, “Hey, asshole, what are you–” In Word, it tends to not like the emdash followed by a closed quotation, so you have to manually go in and replace the open quote with a closed quote. Again, global search and replace works fine for symbols and punctuation so don’t hesitate to use it. (However, search & replace function doesn’t work for finding curly quotes and replacing with straight quotes. Or at least it doesn’t work on my system. You should try it though, to make sure you have all your quotes in the same style.)

I should have (but didn’t) customize each header to match the chapter, since I wrote Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn with multiple perspectives. It would have required going in and inserting a section break for each of my 36 chapters. Then the pagination gets all fucked up. Meh….

Table of Contents is easy, it’s an *insert reference* function on your menu and you just make sure your chapter headings are identified in your TOC settings. Once you finish formatting, right-click on your TOC field and click update. Because I messed with a few of the headings, I didn’t want to update the entire TOC but just the page numbers.

Mirrored margins was an easy choice to find and it wasn’t a custom or manual function. (This makes it so when your book prints each facing page is centered correctly.)

I laughed when I opened the book on my nightstand to get double-check the pages before the text actually started (copyright, acknowledgements, kudos, bullshit, whatever) in Murakami’s last book there were 10 pages of bullshit before the text started! But I did learn I had to put in a blank page so that the text started on the right side, not the left. I could have put the TOC on two pages then to avoid a blank page, but then it wouldn’t have been facing each other and that’s lame.

I DID NOT align the text along the bottom of each page. I don’t know how to do that and I didn’t fuss over it. I probably should have. I know I’ll get my ass kicked for not doing it. But I didn’t. Meh, again. (If my story is so boring that you are focusing on the bottom page alignment, then I need to worry more about my story rather than the formatting.)

And there it is. I formatted my book. Now go ahead and do yours.

Thanks for reading.

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The Legacy of Publishing’s Ownership of Work

There are a couple of things here that you may think are unrelated but I’ll try to bridge the gap and make a coherent argument in support of my thesis. I contend that the history and very institution of publishing has lent itself to a culture of a lack of ownership by authors and artists, resulting in today’s hysterical clamoring on privacy issues.

You all have a better sense of the publishing industry since Gutenberg than I do, so there’s no need to retread. So just think about how difficult it is to turn that Titanic of a beast around in just a few short years. I’m no industry apologist–I think that’s been made clear–and I’m not saying that we should give it some time. I’m asking that we reconsider how we are framing the debate around the breakdown of the traditional publishing industry; the rise of the independent author; the risks and opportunities of technology to serve readers, established authors, and independent writers; and the implications of copyright, privacy, and ownership on all of the above. Here are some of the areas through which we have to change our perspective in order to offer thriving solutions:

Agents. While agents have no doubt played a pivotal role in mediating the publishing industry’s desire for total control of a text and an author’s rightful assertion of ownership, they have also perpetuated that very dispute. How? They haven’t fought on behalf of writers for their fundamental rights, because that is not their role, traditionally. Sure, a good agent has fought for more money, bigger marketing budget, a favorable contract that matches the author’s strengths. However, agents have supported the passive-aggressive nature of the publishing industry in recent decades by fighting within the publishing companies’ own rules.

See, what I mean by that is this issue of framing our own perception of things. We have to work outside what we know as the traditional boundaries. Isn’t that what successful technology innovators do? Next:

Ownership, Privacy and Copyright. I never thought I would get hung upon this, but every day we are seeing some outrageous assertions of ownership, and not by the authors. Where the hell are our writer-brethren taking to the proverbial streets and proclaiming their ownership of their works? Because we are seeing press releases and contract clauses and Terms of Services stating proudly that the content deliverer retains at least some aspect of the rights to the work in perpetuity, or some godforsaken thing. Come on, y’all, that’s just ridiculous.

What I’m trying to get at here is that writers have been utterly de-fanged over the years of publishing industry beatdowns, reinforced by agents. We need more Stephen King and less, well, of everybody else. (Which is to say, we need more writers who tell the industry paper-pushers to fuck off. See Hunter S. Thompson’s comment to this effect.)

It’s not rocket science. It just means operating outside the “Terms of Service” and when enough of us do so, and if we create a strong enough demand in the marketplace for our work, miraculously those terms of service will derive from our side of the dispute, not the publishers’.

Now I’m not talking about bunnies and unicorns: this is going require a tremendous amount of discipline. Which brings me to my next point:

Desperation. This is the reason why the industry as we know it has perpetuated. Writers in general are desperate for exposure and that potential big gain from a publishing contract. So what do they do? Give it all up. That’s right, they give up their e-book rights and derivative marketing rights to a marketing department full of 22 year old interns with no budget who foil that author’s attempt at success because they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. But the writer is ok with this, because they know that the risk they’ve put on the table is worth the possible reward. Wait, not it’s not. The rewards of signing with a major publishing company suck, and the chances of a $1 million book contract are nil, so why not publish yourself and instead play the lottery each week for a better chance to win? BECAUSE WRITERS ARE SO FUCKING DESPERATE THEY ARE BLIND.

I guess we could consider what it is that has made writers so desperate. Maybe it is in our personalities: we create something and put it out there and hope for accolades, because that piece of writing is an extension of ourselves. Maybe writers are just talented people who didn’t get enough love and so this is what they do. Except I’m not a shrink and couldn’t possibly assert any truth there. All I know is that when there is a mass population (there are a shitload of writers) who require such enormous public accolades, with a finite number of readers (and by extension a finite amount of money you can earn from selling your work which is in effect a measure of that public love), there are bound to be disappointments. Lots of disappointment.

Is it social Darwinism of writing? I don’t accept that because it assumes a framework from which to judge good or bad writing and assigning it a successful or unsuccessful stamp. But clearly our expectations must change or else we are all headed for continued disappointment.

Democratizing the world of reading and writing will help everyone, I’m sure of it. No more hardcover books, sold at ridiculous prices–there’s just no need. No bottlenecks and gatekeepers needed any longer, you are relieved of duty. The internetz can enable this democratization of the book and content marketplace, but let’s just keep aware of the vultures who prey on writers’ naiveté  or their unwillingness to blaze their own trail, instead of following the trail of peanuts right back to the monsters that ripped out their teeth.

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