Category Archives: publishing

Cover Design

I am the first to admit, I don’t know diddly-sqwoot about effective cover design.  But now, with self-publishing as the only option left to me, I am learning things about publishing that I only ever scratched the surface of in my few college forays into publication design and layouts.  I had some experience publishing junior high yearbooks, (and losing money on something that most teachers lose money on).  And I have gotten a lot of serious criticism from sources that matter to me, like my daughter, the Princess.

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With the novel I have been working on with Kindle Publishing on Amazon in view, I came up with this.  I like it.  But it will not cut the mustard with the Princess.  (She uses a knife on mustard, but lately has given up on eating mustard all together).  So I had to work the idea out further.

I tried this;

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The design is a little better.  But Rowan has become so ratty and run down that I hesitate to use the background which is not much like the Rowan of 1974 when the novel was set.  So I decided to focus on character instead.

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Still needs work, right?  You can no longer see the post office sign in the background.  Sherry is still a small head growing out of Superchicken’s neck.  And Milt Morgan is a good addition, but the purple paisley shirt looks terrible.  And besides, this will not fit the whole cover of the Kindle paperback.

It will end up looking something like this;

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Or not.  Because I am still learning how to do it right, and I still have many more mistakes to make.  But as I finish editing and formatting, the time will come soon to see the proof in the pudding.  (And you better hope I don’t put uncut mustard in the pudding.  That would taste terrible.)

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Filed under art editing, artwork, humor, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing

Stupid Stuff I Think And Do

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Last night I spent a couple of hours avoiding washing the dishes that piled up in the sink for the weekend by submitting my rough draft novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children to the Inkitt free novel contest.   I am pretty sure that was a stupid thing to do.  I created the above cover to complete the submission.  I had previously decided by researching Inkitt that it was probably a bad idea to go for this kind of publishing scheme.  I cannot afford another vanity press price.  I can only manage free publishing opportunities.  I am probably better off publishing through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

The novel is not entirely a stand-alone.  It is the companion story to The Baby Werewolf whose climax I am working on last week and this week.  It wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t a pile of irresistible weird stuff left over from the creation of The Baby Werewolf and Superchicken.   It is full of fairy tales, “real” fairies created by fairy tales, Nazis, teenage nudist girls, and a sweet old German lady who managed to survive the holocaust.

The contest will only have four winners this month, and I did not submit it until four days before the end of the month.  Snowball’s chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks, right? I cannot afford to pay them to publish it.  So if it doesn’t win, I tell them no.

I mistakenly believe I am a good writer and story-teller.  But that may be a totally delusional belief.  I am not any good at the publishing and promoting game.  I am forced to trust to luck, and am probably the unluckiest goober who ever lived.

And while I was tackling the crisis point of my horror novel last week, my Republican friends and family, rabid Trump supporters all, were on my case in social media about why I, as a former teacher, wasn’t completely on their side about making teachers with guns a line of defense against future school shootings.  I have to be careful what I say and support, because a single wrong word can blow up my friends on Facebook with an incendiary display of name-calling, Fox News facts (which are pretty far removed from true facts), accusations, recriminations, and crying about my stupidity.  And through it all, I am not totally convinced that the stupidity is all on my side of the word war.

So, we shall wait and see.  I did a stupid thing.  I said some stupid stuff. I have risked a lot on the current direction of the wind. And soon I will know if my stupidity has scuttled me, and I come crashing down in my sailboat to bottom of the sea… or if I am somehow right, and allowed, for now, to sail onward.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, writing

Mickey Viewed From the Inside

Yes, this post is a self-examination.  Not the kind you see Donald Trump enacting every weekend, where he says any crappy thing that occurs to his craptastical very good brain to cover what he doesn’t want us to believe about the truth on Twitter, basically for the purpose of continuing to say he is great and we are poop.   I do not like myself the way Trump likes himself.  I am an old bag of gas that is in pain most of the time, in poor health, and the subject of endless persecution from Bank of America and other money-grubbing machines that are convinced any money I might accidentally have really belongs to them.  But this is not a complain-about-crap fest either.

This is a self-examination that attempts to honestly examine where I am in my quest for wisdom and my affliction with being a writer.

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If I am being honest about the type of writer I really am, I guess I am most like the Weird Recluse in the bottom corner.  I can’t claim to be as good as Kafka or Dickinson, but I am definitely better than some of the crap that gets published and marketed as young adult literature.  The business of publishing is more interested in how many books they can sell, rather than literary merit or good writing.  Some of the crap that is out there and being made into bad movies (which I have not seen because I don’t go to movies that don’t pass the fiction-source smell test) is actually a form of brain poison that will mold young people into sexual predators and professional poop makers.  And people will take poison happily if it has been deviously marketed well.  So far, in the money test, I have made only $16.43 dollars as an author (plus whatever I have made from I-Universe that doesn’t cut a check until it reaches at least $25 dollars).  Nobody is buying my books because nobody has read them.  I have sold a few copies to friends and relatives.  Some of those books are just sitting on a shelf somewhere unread.  I have a couple of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and that is it.  I will die in the near future not having known any measurable success from my books at all.

I have entered novels in writing contests and done well enough to make it into the final round of judging twice.  I have not, however, made a big enough splash that anyone really noticed.  I have paid reviewers to review my books online.  One of those charged me money, and then reviewed a book with the same title by a different author, a book which was nothing like my book, and then, when forced to correct their error, only read the blurb on the back of the book to write the oopsie-I-goofed-last-time review.  They were not worth the money I paid them, money that Bank of America could’ve sued me for instead.

The only thing I have done successfully as a writer is, I think, this goofy blog.  By writing every day, I have managed to give myself considerable practice at connecting with readers.  I have practiced writing humor and written some laughable stuff.  I have plumbed my soul for new writing ideas, and found a creative artesian well bubbling up with new ideas daily.  I can regularly manufacture inspiration.  I am never truly without an idea to write about.  Even when I write a post about not having an idea to write about, I am lying.  Of course, I am a fiction writer, so telling lies is what I do best.  I am also a humorist, so that means I can also tell the truth when I have to, because the best humor is the kind where you surprise the reader with a thing that is weirdly true.  Like just now.

So, somewhere ages and ages hence, I hope there will be a trove of old books in a cellar somewhere that will include one of mine.  And some future kid will pick it up, read it, and laugh.  The golden quality of that laughter is the only treasure I have really been searching for.  It is the reason I write.  It is the reason I continue to be Mickey.

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Mickey Makes Novel Magic

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Yep, it happened today.  A box of ten books arrived from my publisher.  Magical Miss Morgan has reached the published stage finally.  It will hit the bookstores saying, “first edition; 2018”.    I struggled long and hard for two years to accomplish this.  I did practically all the work myself.  Even the cover is my artwork.  I don’t know how to explain the author feeling it gives me, but those of you who are published know what I mean.

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It may not be perfect, (Blueberry has branches with leaves on them growing out of her head), but it is beautiful to me.  I approved it for the final time today.  It goes to Amazon and Barnes and Noble soon.  Don’t know when… but they tell me soon.

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So, do I recommend Page Publishing?  I do not.  But they did get it into print and into stores for me.  And they also convinced me to self-publish from here onward.  And I love this book.  It makes me happy.  Even if all the money I spent on it was for nothing and I am the only one who will ever read it cover to cover.  I gave my daughter a free copy of it.  She might read it.  Someday.  If the internet dies and nothing good ever comes on Netflix again…

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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 3

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A cover proof for my novel Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing.

After the good people at PDMI crashed and burned without publishing my book, I needed some way to publish again.  I wanted to repeat the experience I had at I-Universe and I wanted to do it for significantly less money.  So I went in search of another Print-on-Demand publisher to do my second Rosetti Awards 265469780

contest novel which also made the final round of judging and lost, though this time there was more final round competition, some by some books that have done quite well in the marketplace since the contest in 2016.  I finally found a publisher offering print for a price I could actually afford.  (I hadn’t been forced into bankruptcy at that point, and had rebuilt my credit rating.)  Page Publishing was its name. It was only half the price of publishing with I-Universe.  Unfortunately, you got far less than half the services for the price.

Here’s a decent review that didn’t exist when I was searching; Page Publishing reviewed.

The resulting book will be good, but here are the reasons why I should never have gone down this forest path to publishing with all the weasels hiding in the brambles just off the pathway.

  • The money is paid up front and they don’t really do anything for you until the payments are done.
  • Nobody actually reads your book.  The “editor” working on my book was no more than a proof-reader, and not a good one at that.  They didn’t actually read the book.  The primary quibble which led to 157 changes in the manuscript was substituting “Ms.” for “Miss”, even in the title of the goddam book. I spent months working to undo the many mess-ups in my story, dutifully citing every line number and instance of me changing things back to the original.  Only about three proofreading changes were acceptable.
  • The company ignores you for long periods of time, taking weeks to respond to e-mails, being unavailable by phone, and dragging their feet on every change to the next step in the process.
  • Everything they did for me I was able to do for free for myself later with Amazon.  Any real work on the content of my book was done solely by me.  There is no call to be paying people for work done by me.

So, after two years of paying and publisher-initiated problems and foot-dragging, I vowed never to ever in a thousand million billion years pay someone to publish my work ever again.  It should be noted, I think it will be a marvelous book when published.  I love the story and the characters in it.  But I resent having to pay them for the privilege of doing all the work myself.

I finished the writing of an experimental novel in segments on this blog in the meantime, and decided to experiment with publishing through Amazon’s free self-publishing service.  That got me a book which I already have a finished copy of, Stardusters and Space Lizards.

You can find that book on Amazon right this instant by clicking here!!!

Once that was successfully done, I didn’t waste any time getting my best baby into print.  The next publishing project was Snow Babies.

I now proudly own a paperback copy of my best novel too.  I am delighted.  You can find my masterpiece on Amazon by clicking here!!!

So, what advice do I have to give after 3 whole posts about the terrible, icky, horrible experiences I have had in the publishing realm?  Do you really believe after all my confessions of missteps and wrong-headed doofus-decisions that I have any wisdom at all to offer on the subject?  Even one single worthwhile syllable of advice?  Well, of course I do.  People all learn best when they learn the hard way.  So here are Mickey’s rules about stupidly publishing your novels;

  1. Never pay for publishing.
  2. Be prepared to do everything yourself.
  3. Learn from every misstep.
  4. Learn to laugh about every embarrassing mistake.
  5. And never stop writing… at least until you are dead… and maybe, not even then.

 

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing

The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 2

Yesterday I started a rant about publishing novels.  I guess I only filled that word balloon halfway up with mad gasses and bull puckie.  So it isn’t fully inflated with noxious opinions of publishing, indie publishing, and getting a book into print.

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Having written a competent young adult novel that was well-reviewed by anyone who actually read it, I was faced with the question, “How do you get your work noticed to the point that more than just the members of your family will read it?”  So, I took another of my decades-old manuscripts and transformed it into a contest novel.  It was Snow Babies, the first of my Valerie Clarke novels.  (That’s Val in the cover mock-up to the left above.)  I entered it in the 2012 Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Dante Rossetti YA Novel Contest.  I surprised myself by being one of eleven of the hundreds of contestants that made it to the final round of judging.  Of course, it is a contest open to anybody who could write a novel-length glop of words and pay the entry fee.  But the final round contained only those novels that could be actually considered viable for publication.  While I didn’t win a prize in that contest or get the recognition that might bring, I had my novel confirmed as something worth getting published.  So I vowed to find a publisher that would not charge me for the publication of my novel.

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So this time I found myself working with a small press called PDMI Publishing LLC.  They absolutely loved my novel and gave me a contract.  I had high confidence that I would see the novel in print.  And, as a business, PDMI actively worked not only on printing authors’ books, but on promoting and marketing them, putting in appearances at various Comicons and Dragoncons and other nerdy Con-cons.  They even owned their own bookstore at one point.  They assigned me an editor, Jessie Cornwell from Seattle, and she was a delight to work with, bringing insight and wisdom into the development of my work.  But one small problem developed.  Just as my novel became fully edited and ready for the next step, the whole publishing company broke down and went out of business.  It was sad.  So many, including me, had invested a large portion of themselves into the whole novel business; writing, editing, printing, and marketing.  So many were left scrambling with their hopes and dreams spilling out of the bicycle basket of PDMI after the bicycle crashed into a wall.  I completely lost touch with my editor, so I couldn’t even offer her money that I didn’t have to pay her with anyway for her wonderful work.  Something else had to come along to keep my dreams of putting Snow Babies into the dreams of the reading public truly alive.

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By now you have probably come to the unpleasant conclusion that there will be a Part 3 to this horrible rant.  But for me, it is a good thing.  It will contain the eventual solution I came up with, and will lead to a cold-comfort happy ending.

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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience

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Publishing a book in 2017 is a real art form.  And there are rules for doing it.  Unfortunately, no one can explain those rules to you.  No one can even explain it logically to themselves.  It is a form of voodoo and bingle-bungle flim-flammery that only the anointed like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling can use to cast publishing spells with.

So I will not try to tell you how to get published in 2017, even though it seems I have done it myself three times this year.  I will only tell you how NOT to do it.  I am an expert on that.  I have the brain bruises to prove it.

First off, here’s my proudest achievement that came as a side effect of doing things in the worst possible way.

Click here to see the magic.

  1. “”The first mistake you need to make in publishing novels in the worst possible way is to turn to an overpriced print-on-demand service called Publish America.  For more information about just how shyster-iffic and icky this publishing scam in sheep-dip clothing is, just click here.  They published my first book in print, Aeroquest.  51ABNW+RWlL._SL500_AA300_

Publishing this novel was a mistake in itself.  I had only worked on it for a year and a half.  Compared to Catch a Falling Star which I worked on for seventeen years and had in my head since 1977, it was thoroughly underdone and only half cooked.  Good novels are either baked at 450 degrees for a decade or more, or composed of prime ingredients that you have been keeping in your mental cupboard since childhood.  The greedy, no good, evil publishers of this overpriced and under-cooked novel actually paid me a dollar up front and sixteen dollars in royalties total.  I didn’t pay them anything.  But they made one intentional formatting error in the climactic chapters of the story and wanted huge sums of money to fix and reprint it.  They never lifted a finger to sell it to anybody but relatives and people I named as friends.  It was a learning experience that thoroughly humbled me and taught me the primary lesson that “Mickey knows nothing about publishing a book.

2.  The second mistake you need to make to have a truly horrible experience in the publishing world is to make up your mind that you will pay for the process yourself, no matter how much it may take to do it, of both money and carefully carved out pieces of your soul.

Here’s the I-Universe propaganda.

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I turned to I-Universe as a publication choice for the first of my babies that have gestated for more than a decade before being born.  They have a submission process where they will evaluate your manuscript and tell you flat out if it is worth publishing or not.  If they tell you it is basically crap and worthless, they will give you a vanity press treatment and let you publish as-is your piece of crap story with no editorial or marketing support.  If they think your book is marketable, as mine was, they begin charging you additional publishing fees to work with editors, proof-readers, and marketers to make it all happen.  The bills keep piling up, but you get to work with editors who have worked in the major publishing houses for years (I-Universe was bought by Penguin Random House so they have many seasoned employees to call upon).  These editors will actually read your manuscript, offer real editorial input, and help you hone your work. They will also grouse about how the publishing business is disintegrating and offer betting odds on whether your book will make money or not that actually are rather distant from the shores of flattering praise.  The marketers will help you set up a blog and recommend promotional programs for more money than you can possibly sustain over time.  I only got a stock cover that didn’t look at all like the suggestion I gave them.

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I have to admit at this point that this particular topic makes me windier than usual, and though I am only about half way done, the rest of this rant will have to be saved for Part 2.   I am already at 700 words and only just getting warmed up.  The full blaze is yet to come.

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