Category Archives: publishing

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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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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Today’s Little Accomplishment

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Today I completed a goal for this week.  I went to Amazon Kindle free publishing and self-published Stardusters and Space Lizards.  The cover plan shown above is for the print version priced at $4.85 on Amazon.  There will also be a $.99 Kindle version.  I am a bit wiped out from formatting, but I used this book as the learning tool.  More will be forth-coming in my rush to publish before the end of life on Earth.  Ironically, saving a planet is one of the major themes of this book.  So it is a comedy about alien invasions, cannibalism, and the end of all life on the planet.  Where do I find all these hilarious themes, do you suppose?  Ah, well.

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Und So Weiter…

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Page Publishing finally has my novel in page design.  I am hoping to actually seeing a physical book in print, though I am no longer in any way confident that such a thing will actually happen.  The more time that passes, the more I find out about Page being a scammer-type publisher.  The mistakes they made in my work in editing were apparently on purpose.  Now that I have threatened to sue them, I am hoping they will no longer try to sabotage my book to the point they can extort money out of me to fix it.  I think if I had more control over the publishing process, the book might actually sell.  So my resolve is to hereafter do only the cheapest possible self-publishing.

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My art, my writing, and my life is basically organic, growing and changing in dynamic and unpredictable ways.  That is the biggest drag on living in this mechanized, grinding-wheels-for-profit world.  I don’t fit into their neat and perfectly stackable boxes of officially sanctioned society.  They have to chop the leaves and branches off my tree of creativity to make me fit.  I am thoroughly tired of saw blades and wood-choppers of the metaphorical kind.

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My swimming pool is now a grassless space for reading in the sunshine.  I hope to grow flowers there.  There need to be more flowers in this life.

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My work is more real to me now than reality is.  I intend to spend as much of my remaining time on Earth creating things, making the world of my mind tangible and viewable to others.

I finished a novel on my Tuesday blog posts.  I am debating what to plug in there next.  I discovered that the scammers at Publish America are being sued in a second class-action suit by authors.  I might be able to score some money, even though I never paid them for anything.  They have had the rights to my novel Aeroquest bound up in their publishing agreement since 2007.  But my contract is long over.  I can use that novel on Tuesdays with ample rewriting.

I have made peace with the idea of never having money enough again.  Life continues to cost more than I make.  I tried to sign up as an Uber driver for extra cash when I am well enough to drive.  Unfortunately I am only rarely well enough.  And even more unfortunately, my android phone refuses to download either the Uber or the Lyft driver apps.  So I am all signed up, but unable to receive even one driving assignment.  I just read a literary biography of Poe, though, and even though he was a better writer than I am, he lived in abject poverty for the majority of his adult life.  Who am I to do better than he?  For that matter, who is James Patterson?  I don’t claim to better than him, but he is definitely not better than me.  And that dude is a writing millionaire.

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The TV Justice League from my boyhood.

 

That, then, is my “So on and so on…” for today.  Thanks for letting me complain.  If you read this far through my ramble-brambles, you are a noble and worthy reader.  I appreciate you.  And I promise you, it gets better from here on.

 

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Silly Sunday Stuff

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I made a choice, long about 1980 or so.  And I have not regretted that choice.  I became a teacher instead of the writer/artist I thought I wanted to be.  And the more I look back on it now, if I had gone the writer route back then, I could’ve eventually become an author like Terry Brooks who wrote the Shannara books.  I might’ve even been as good as R.A. Salvatore whose fantasy adventure stories have reached the best seller list.  Back then, in the 1980’s I could’ve eventually broke into the business and been successful.  Even as late as when Frank McCourt broke onto the literary scene with his memoir, Angela’s Ashes in 1996, I might’ve been able to transition from teacher to writer the way he did.  But I chose to keep going with a teaching career that enthralled me.

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Publishing and the literary scene is changing now.  And it is no longer possible for someone like me to break into the big time.  I am an author who has come aboard a sinking ship.

But I have stories to tell.  They have lived inside me for more than thirty years.  And I am scrambling now to get them told before my crappy old body completely betrays me and makes the chance go away.  I will get them told… even if no one ever listens.

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And there are some advantages to doing it the way I have done it.  It is, and always has been, about the people in my life.  My wife, my children, my students, my co-workers, my cousins by the dozens, my little town in Iowa…  they are the people in my stories.  My stories are true to life, even if they have werewolves and fairies and living gingerbread men and nudists in them.  I live in a cartoon world of metaphor and surrealism, after all.  I would not have had the depth of character-understanding in my stories without my experiences as a teacher.  And I really don’t have to worry about the whole marketing thing any more.  I am not on that treadmill.  I do not have to be aware of what the market is looking for.  If my writing ever turns a profit, I won’t live long enough to see it anyway.  And that has never been what it is all about.

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I can do anything I please with my stories.  They belong to me.  I do not owe the world anything.  What I give you now in this blog and in my books, is given for love, not profit.  I can even write a pointless blog post about Sunday blather and illustrate it with Tintin drawings by Herge. And you can’t stop me.  And, hopefully… you don’t even want to.

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Cutting Losses

Sometimes going forward will set you too far back.  Sometimes the only direction you can take is down and out.  I am not at that point yet.  But it is now on the horizon.

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Am I sounding suicidal?  I hope not.  I was glooming about publishing and books that I am trying to make live.  I have paid Page Publishing practically all the payments I stupidly agreed to, and yet, I am stuck in an endless loop of editing where they ignore my emails and appear to be proceeding without me.  The clueless case manager sends me an email saying, “Go ahead, take all the time you need to edit” after I have already emailed them the final instructions and requested the process continue to the next step.  I re-sent that email and asked them if they have gotten my last email.  No responses, though.  What the hell am I paying them money for?  I’m editing the book myself.  Their proof-reader makes changes that I have to change back to the original, and then they don’t even want to take the next step?

I admit that my illustrations for this rant are only pictures saved for other posts that never got used before.  Like this cool Kingdom Hearts one;

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But I am not ready to kill the project yet and hire a lawyer to sue the publisher to get my money back.  I want to see this book, Magical Miss Morgan, live.

And I need to see Snow Babies live too.

But from here on we go with the cheapest possible options.  Free if possible.

Here is another Wizard Donald to look at while I continue to stew about publishing problems;

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I have always tried to make the best of what I already have.  I have always lived by the idea that other people are all my equals, even the really stupid ones, and I have nothing that I am not obliged to share.

I have little left besides wit and wisdom.  And I have tried hard to share that here.  But I sometimes feel like I am alone and pointless.

But the captain always goes down with his ship.  And if my ship is sinking, then at least I will soon know if there are mermaids down there willing to teach me to breathe underwater, or possibly not.

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