Archives for July 2011

Stunned by a fall

During a heavy shower on July 3, 1860, in South Granville, NY, a man heard “a peculiar sound at his feet.” Looking down he saw a foot long gray snake, “lying as if stunned by a fall. It then came to life.” This was recorded in Scientific American, 3-112.

–Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned, p. 93 (The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover, c1974).

This was his error

On July 8, 1886, according to Science Gossip, 1886-238, a land species of small snails fell during a heavy thunderstorm near Redruth, Cornwall. The number of them was so great that they were gathered up by the hatful, a species unknown in that district. A correspondent writing in the same issue said they must have been on the ground in the first place, and that “astonished rustics had jumped to the conclusion that they had fallen.” He met one person who said he had seen the snails fall, but “this was his error,” the investigator said.

–Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned, p. 92 (The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover, c1974).

On the tops of haystacks

On July 25, 1850, at Rajkote, India, according to All the Year Round, 8-255, after one of the heaviest rainfalls on record, the ground was found “literally covered with fishes.” Apparently some of the fish were found on “the tops of haystacks.”

–Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned, p. 87 (The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover, c1974).

Anybody who lost a pond would be heard from

Fort records that on July 30, 1838, according to Notes and Queries (8-7-437), little frogs were found in London after a heavy storm. The explanation for such phenomenon is that the frogs were scooped up by a whirlwind. His commentary: “In the exclusionist-imagination there is no regard for mud, debris from the bottom of a pond, floating vegetation, loose things from the shores–but a precise picking out of frogs only. Of all instances I have that attribute the fall of small frogs or toads to whirlwinds, only one definitely identifies or places the whirlwind. Also, as has been said before, a pond going up would be quite as interesting as frogs coming down. Whirlwinds we read of over and over–but where and what whirlwind? It seems to me that anybody who had lost a pond would be heard from.”

–Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned, p. 82-83 (The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover, c1974).

Five Challenges Indie Writers Face (and How to Overcome Them)

Independent publishing is not easy. Oh, it may seem that way at first. Kindle and Smashwords make the process quick, but quick and easy aren’t the same. I know I’m appreciative for any advice on self-publishing I find; maybe you’re the same. I offer these challenges and some ways to deal with them.

Challenge 1. The Donna Syndrome (aka IWIAIWIN)

I’m known among my family and friends for developing obsessions about particular consumer goods and wanting instant gratification of said obsessions. I saw a cool netbook last year. No, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. “I want it and I want it now.” I don’t really say those words, although my husband ascribes them to me, but the effect is much the same. Let’s just call it the “Donna Syndrome” for short.

How does the Donna Syndrome affect indie authors? I upload a manuscript to Smashwords. Why is it taking so long? Now I wait for it to go into the Premium Catalog. Why is it taking so long? I WANT IT AND I WANT IT NOW. Smashwords is an amazingly fast system of publishing, given what it does. Think about the number of formats the “Meatgrinder” produces your work in. How much the system has improved just in the past five months I’ve been using them. The responsive customer service. But I see complaints all the time about how slow it is, or indirect complaints about how it “finally” is ready.

How to deal with the Donna Syndrome? Be patient. Spend the time while you’re waiting working on your marketing plan, so that by the time your manuscript is ready for sale, you’ll know exactly what your next steps are.

Challenge 2. Marketing

And speaking of  your marketing plan, do you have one? I read recently the wise observation that the skills required of a marketer are not generally those of a writer. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to most writers. Even traditionally published authors have to market their own works these days. Marketing your book is an overwhelming prospect, and there’s no shortage of advice online.

How to deal with marketing? Create a plan. Make a list of all the “chores” you see in various blogs and e-publications that seem reasonable to you: Blog about your book, blog about a related topic, guest blog, promote another author on your blog (see Challenge 4). Assign a frequency to them, then arrange them into a schedule. That way you stay on track and hold yourself accountable. This idea isn’t original with me. Tony Eldridge wrote about it in an excellent blog post.

Challenge 3. Exclusionary Thinking

E-publishing opened up the world to people who wouldn’t have had the chance in the past. Traditional publishers are casting about, often aimlessly, trying to figure out what the future holds for them. Don’t fall into the trap of exclusionary thinking, though. By that I mean the idea that “E-publishing is only THIS,” or “You can’t do both e-publishing and traditional publishing,” or “Anyone who accepts a traditional contract after e-publishing is selling out.” Thinking this way limits your options, and reduces your mindset to an unhelpful “us versus them” mentality.

How to deal with exclusionary thinking? Remember that each author comes to publishing in her (or his) own way. Your path isn’t the only one. Gather up great ideas from both worlds.

Challenge 4. Isolation

Writing is usually a solitary activity. Even with a co-author, you put your own words down in pixels or ink. The problem with isolation is you miss out on other opinions and perspectives. Relying only on  yourself skews  your perspective as much as challenge 3 does.

How to deal with isolation? Join a group, in person or online. Read blogs about writing. Improve your craft at every opportunity. The Indie Book Collective has some great tutorials on publishing and marketing. Promote other authors on your blog to develop collaborative relationships.

Challenge 5. Good Enough

By “good enough,” I mean the temptation to publish your manuscript whether it’s really ready or not. You fall prey to the Donna Syndrome (see Challenge 1). Publishing is so quick that you may “want it and want it now.” I’ve read many comments lately about e-publishing to effect that “readers don’t care about editing, they just want a good story.” E-publishing suffers criticism because of this attitude. Careful editing and grammatical sentence structure enhance the reading experience.

How to deal with good enough? As I said in Challenge 1, be patient. Edit your manuscript, then have someone else edit it who knows editing. Spend the time and effort to make it the best it can be. I talked about that in another post.

All of these challenges are about your mental state. Improving your craft, approaching it as a professional, seeking the camaraderie and advice of others: these activities don’t just improve you and your writing. They contribute to a strong and vibrant independent writing community.

Please let me hear from you in the comments. What challenges that you face have I left out?