On A Personal Note

maya-angelou-quotes-on-writing

I have been writing for years on the power of the personal story. Even on those days when you look in the mirror and feel utterly ordinary and not much interest to yourself, let alone the world, this is simply a lie. Every moment of each of our lives accrues a kind of alchemy of energy, where each piece of the puzzle of who we are paints a magnificent map of love, loss, hope, spirit, and courage: Whether we know it our not.

Each story is like birthing a child into the world, a child to be cherished and drawn into the lives of those around you. But, more importantly, your story has the power to change at least two people: One person who may have been waiting to hear your story so that they can learn something that will make their life better or simply not feel so alone. And the other person that will be changed forever …is you. Telling your story is quantum healing, is profound therapy, and is such a creative act of loving yourself that you will not be the same for the telling.

So let me encourage you to embrace the beauty and the lessons of your life and spread the wealth. Write your story. Write it for you and for the world. Leave a legacy.

Agony

The Real Cost of Publishing your Book

village to self publish

OK! This is a come to Jesus wake up call to everyone who has a great book, a vision, passion and tenacity to publish it. I had a question from a great writer with a great story this morning and it let me know that publishing a book is like getting pregnant. It is full of excitement and bliss but when the baby is born that bliss is now accompanied by an overload of work and stick-too-itiveness. Have you heard yourself or friends ever say as they are chasing their twin two year olds around the world, “Wow I had no ideas what it would entail being a parent.” And for you as a writer, your book is your baby and once it is published you are the parent

This is the most accurate article I have found on the expenses of self publishing. And if a publisher picks up your book don’t think that then you are free of all this work and expense. They will take it out of your royalties and send you on the road. So this is my “tough love” article on “So you want to publish a book? Here is what to keep in mind.” Maya

By Miral Sattar
May 15, 2013

At every writers conference or self-publishing panel the question that almost always inevitably comes up is: “How much will self-publishing really cost me?”
Because the book publishing industry is one of the last industries to go digital, it’s going through a quick transition. As a result of this shift, authors no longer need to go through the traditional gatekeepers to publish high-quality books and are instead moving toward self-publishing. Launching a book is like launching a startup. Putting together a quality book involves not just writing it, but getting it edited, then formatted, designing a cover, and having a marketing strategy around it.
Below, I break down the costs of how much professional services will cost you for a high-quality book.

(For the purposes of calculation we’ll assume you have a manuscript that is 70,000 words.)

1. DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING
Once you’ve written your book, a developmental editor is important. Many authors think they don’t need an editor. Everyone needs at least some type of editor. Not having an editor is like not QA’ing a software product or not testing a drug before it goes out into the marketplace. An editor will evaluate and critique your manuscript, suggest and provide revisions, and shape it into a smooth, workable piece. They’ll look at the big picture and make sure everything flows and is consistent.
Costs:
1-5 manuscript pages/hour for a manuscript page that’s 250 words, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association.
$45-65/hour based on the experience of the editor
70,000/250 = 280 pages
280 pages /5 pages per hour = 56 hours
Low end is 56 x $45 = $2,520
High end is = $18,200

2. COPYEDITING
Once your manuscript is in good shape, the next thing you need to do is hire another editor called a copy editor or line editor to go through and catch spelling mistakes and adjust for grammar, punctuation and consistency.
Costs:
2-10 manuscript pages/hour
$25-50/hour based on the experience of the editor
Low end: $840
High end: $7,000 (if it needs a lot of work)

3. COVER DESIGN. YES, BOOKS ARE JUDGED BY THEIR COVERS
Readers judge how a book looks on a shelf and how it looks on an iPad or black-and-white Kindle. For iPhone users, a thumbnail of the cover is probably the first thing a reader sees. It’s important that your cover design be optimized for print, digital, thumbnail sizes, and how it looks on an e-reader or mobile device. You might have your own images, or you might need to buy a license to use the images. Some designers even sell premade cover designs for as low as $50.

But if you want to hire someone to make a custom cover design, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $3,500. The higher end is for award-winning designers who have done Random House- or HarperCollins-type covers, according to book design maven Joel Friedlander.
Costs:
Low end: $150
High end: $3,500

4. FORMATTING FOR PRINT AND DIGITAL CONVERSION
If you’re tech-savvy, you can set up your book on your own for free using programs called Sigil, Calibre or Pages. If you’re looking to hire an expert, you can find someone to do the print-on-demand conversions for as little as $150 or as much as $2,500 to convert from Word or InDesign. The costs will usually be $200 for a text book that’s less than 400 pages. The higher costs are if your original file is in PDF, has a lot of pictures, or is highly illustrated. PDFs are much more complex to convert.
Costs:
Low end: Free
High end: $2,500 or more based on interactivity and pages, according to book design maven Joel Friedlander.

5. GETTING AN ISBN
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is recommended if you’re doing a print book or want it placed in a library. A lot of third parties sell ISBNs, but if you don’t purchase your own ISBN you may not be listed as the publisher of your own work! Not everyone believes you need an ISBN. If you plan on only selling your book in e-book form, then you do have the option of skipping the ISBN and using the default numbering system for Amazon, iBooks or BN.
Costs:
$125 for one ISBN
10 ISBNs for $250
Bowker is the authorized ISBN retailer in the U.S.

6. DISTRIBUTION: FREE
You can do this yourself by following the instructions to get your books distributed into the various retailers. However, if you use a third-party they do take a percentage of each book sold.
• Amazon distribution instructions
• Barnes and Noble distribution instructions
• Apple iBooks distribution instructions
• Kobo distribution instructions
7. GETTING YOUR BOOK PRINTED
You no longer have to pay upfront for printing costs because now there are so many print-on-demand options. With print-on-demand services like CreateSpace or Lightning Source, the book only gets printed when someone buys it. It’s also not recommended to print books if you don’t already have a distribution deal in place. Otherwise, you might end up housing 1,000 books in your garage.

8. GETTING REVIEWS PRE-PUBLICATION
There are many resources for authors to get professional reviews. Sites like Kirkus, Blue Ink, and Publishers Weekly all sell review packages for indie or self-published authors. There’s also a great list of bloggersthat you can reach out to for reviews for your book.
• Cost of review from Kirkus: $425
• Cost of review from BlueInk Reviews: $396
• Cost of review from Publishers Weekly PW Select: $149

9. MARKETING & PR
This is probably the toughest part after you’ve written the book. You can pay someone to help you market and set up blog tours for $10 to $40 per hour on BiblioCrunch (my company). For $10 you can get a college student, for $40 to $65 an hour you can get a professional marketer. We recommend you pay someone at least 10 hours to market and on the high-end 40 hours. If you have the time, you can do a lot of the marketing yourself. Also, good book publicists can get you radio spots and press pickups for anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per month.
Costs:
Low end: $100
High end: $5,000 and up.

It’s a lot of information, but spending money on quality editorial services will set your book apart from the sea of books in the marketplace.

Miral Sattar is founder and CEO of BiblioCrunch, an award-winning author services marketplace that matches authors with quality, award-winning professionals to get new books and apps to market. She has worked in the media industry for 11 years, most recently at TIME where she launched several digital initiatives including an iPad and mobile site, mobile apps, a video and podcast channel, blogs, and SEO strategy. Her writing has been featured in TIME, CNN, NY Daily News, among other media publications. She has a MS in Publishing (Digital + Print Media) from NYU and a BS from Columbia University in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. You can follow Miral on Twitter @miralsattar or @bibliocrunch.

The Art of Letter Writing

mark twain

Emails have revolutionized communication much like the telephone changed the art of letter writing. But, as for me, I cannot say it was an improvement. The availability of all the various instant communications is efficient and fast but it may in fact rob us of some very essential things.

I grew up in a family that did not communicate well or often. And having a military father, he was least inclined to discuss anything and more inclined to just lay down the law. But there was a rare moment that came only once a year when I was allowed to see into a far deeper and much more wonderful part of my father: Christmas.

My dad had a tradition with all of us. He would, once a year for Christmas day, write each of us a letter. In that letter he would talk about the year, his new years resolutions but what he did the most was share feelings, share his heart and talk about loving each of us in ways he never once showed us in the year leading up to Christmas.

I imprinted on these letters as my life raft of relationship with my dad. But what I took away from 18 letters that began the day I was born was that a letter is power. It is life changing, transformative, revealing and deeply personal. A letter allows us to craft our feelings, to create imagery that remains in the heart of the reader. A letter is spacious and forgiving. I cannot say any of that about an email or a text.

So when I married at 18 years old, the letters stopped as my father thought they should. But every letter was kept by my mother in a shortbread cookie tin and handed to me when I was nearly 50.

I remember being in a U-Haul in a blizzard between Maine and somewhere in Ohio when the roads were a whiteout and my knuckles were betraying how terrified I was. My husband was driving and listening to AM radio and televangelist’s had nearly driven us mad. So, I had the tin of letters in my backpack and pulled them out and started reading them to my husband.

We crawled along with no way to see where the road started and stopped and prayed for a place to stop for the night. I kept reading letter after letter, and then I noticed that even in the midst of tension and peril my husband and I were crying. We were crying at the beauty of these small gifts that my dad had left as his legacy. We could have ended in the ditch but instead we were mesmerized by the power of a letter.

For me a letter is a gift of the soul. The time, the effort, the care and making someone a priority is an art form we are losing. It is essential that we keep this form of writing alive and well.

paper has more patience

Don’t Call an Exorcist

Exorzistlogo

For the writer, my suggestion is to never call an exorcist if you feel that you have lost control of your story and someone else, who came uninvited, is writing your story for you. Don’t call Father Damien to make a late night house call. Just get a cup of tea or a scotch and sit down and take a deep breath. Then from somewhere inside, you might hear a voice that says, “Fear not, I am your muse”. Then relax.

We all have myths and concepts about what a muse really is. I won’t go into Greek mythology but for most writers, we say we know when the “muse” is upon us and we know equally well, when the muse has disappeared. I want to put a new lens on the subject of being possessed my the muse.

Short and sweet: We are not only crafting our story, we are a channel that allows the story to come through us. Whether you want to write the self-help book of the century or write a true crime about a real life serial killer and feel you need to get all your facts correct, in the end, you are simply the messenger. When you allow this to be the case and detach from your story [which translates as stopping holding your story in a vice grip], then magic is possible.

I interviewed a possible client with a story that he had defined his life by. He had been working on his story for ten years. I asked him how many drafts he had and the answer was: 152 drafts. I didn’t take him as a client since I knew in an instant that the process was far more important to him than the outcome. And I knew that his muse had gone on permanent vacation or was a sadomasochism .

Our muse is an energetic voice that as you write, steers your story in unexpected directions. The more you try to bring the story back on whatever track you think it needs to be on, the more you labor, you flush an entire draft down the toilet and stare at the page. The muse knows the destination of your characters, knows the plot line even before you do and you simply surrender into the arms of the muse and be a faithful scribe.

“Where did he come up with that stuff?” I have said more than once about one of my favorite writers, Stephen King. He has a serious long-term muse relationship. My passion for writing is not only about the beauty of words that when stuck together with another word forms and even more glorious experience on the page, but my deepest passion is for the mystery of not knowing and being taken on a ride every time I sit to create a scene, dialogue or inspiration. This is what makes a writer prolific, insatiable and powerful: Listening to the directions of the muse and faithfully following the breadcrumbs into the forest of story.

I am working with an author to co-write of all things a story about Reality TV. Not a genre I have ever written about before but I have experienced the shark tank of reality network TV, so I thought “what fun”. The author of the idea sent me an amazing outline. After talking at length one of the things I remember him saying was that “the storyline just poured out effortlessly”. So, armed with a fabulous outline of an idea I dove in thinking I knew the direction and had pretty good idea of how to write the characters. But I was wrong. This story grabbed me in the middle of the night and made me start writing in a very different direction. The main character wanted new clothes, firearms and loved super heroes. The villains had their two cents about how they wanted to be portrayed and now I am nine chapters in and have not one single clue how the story might morph. It is an exhilarating way to write.

Allow the voice of the muse to derail you, to take you down a blind alley, to have your trash one of your best scenes in order to replace it with something entirely different. This brave choice, for a writer, is a courageous act that takes confidence and patience. But in my book, it is what makes great writing.

Stephen King Muse

Poetry Not for Wimps

poet is the amen

She said in no uncertain terms, “I hate poetry, it simply bores me and is for wimps”.

Then she wrote a poem since she had an ocean of words to tell her story, and it felt overwhelming, so she thought to try her hand at telling the truth, stripped down and naked through a poem.

She wrote another poem and sent it for me to read. She published that poem. Then she wrote a third poem and read it out loud to a group of writers. Everyone sat stunned.

Not a wimp in that room.

Most people feel like poetry is a breed unto itself, a woman’s preference, a form that does not demand as much as a novel or a memoir from the craftsman. Think again.

Poetry doesn’t have to conform to limits or formats. Poems can be as long as a book, such as Paradise Lost, or simply two lines long, like Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro. It can be 300 pages long as in the revolutionary Dante’s Inferno. Poems don’t have to rhyme or follow any kind of structure or they can be rigidly formatted. Poetry is limitless in its possibilities. For many, poetry is probably the most flexible literary genre.

Introduction to Poetry—Billy Collins

 I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide                                                  or press an ear against its hive.                                                                                                                     I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch.                                                                                                   I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore.                                                                                                                                                               But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.       They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

billy collins

For those writing 250 pages of something they may get lost in, or have dropped the thread and are trying to stitch the chapters together, stop. Open a new Word Document and try a poem that captures the heart of the book you are writing. It will rearrange the furniture of your thinking so that when you go back to your novel or memoir, or your non-fiction piece of brilliance, you have new crisp eyes to see with. Or maybe like our woman who hates poetry, you will discover the power of your own words in a new way.

And then again, just listen to a bit of poetry that sends your body into a visceral convulsion that rearranges your very cellular nature.   When you hear this poem read by its author, Dominique Christina, winner of the Women of the World Poetry Award, I assure you, you may think differently about a poem from this moment on. This poem is NOT for wimps.