Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why Print on Demand (POD)?

I wrote this post in an earlier incarnation of a "writing" blog that I decided was neither elegant enough in appearance or "meatier" enough in content. I'm much happier with the current layout and except for not yet figuring out how to group postings under different topics like I can in the Edublogs blogs I set up for my work, I'm content with the content so far. For now, this one seems like a "keeper"...But what does this have to do with Print on Demand?

I became a Dad a few months ago. Although this event was not entirely unanticipated (we had tried for three years), when it did happen, it took me almost completely by surprise. Suddenlly, every routine I had established over a lifetime of childless adulthood was turned on its ear. The first to go, it seemed was the writing regimen I had established only two years ago. Luckily, by the time my son made his appearance, I had my first book (Mai Shangri-La) "in the can", so to speak, and my second book at what I estimated was 70% complete. So much for good intentions.

In the nearly ten months now since Jr.'s birth, I have completed the first draft of the second book ("The Wayback Machine"), but the second draft rewrite of Mai Shangri-La has languished - and my marketing efforts have pretty much dried up on this, my first completed novel.

"Too long for a first novel," said one publisher.
"Too complicated," said one prospective agent.
"The flashback technique isn't compelling," said another agent.
"Not my kind of book," said a third, although I HAD carefully (I thought) researched the market to match potential agents with my genre and writing style.

And so, I find myself now with TWO completed manuscripts, and, at the moment, nothing in the way of a really promising publishing prospect in the works. This begs the question, "Should I launch the new book that's been simmering away on the back burner ever since I was halfway through Mai Shangri-La, or should I concentrate on getting something into print to confirm my belief that making the break into the publishing world will, ultimately be achievable.

To cut through this problem, I've decided to finish the third draft of Mai Shangri-La and let it go with the POD service. Although I'll need to spend a good bit of time on promotional work (since I'm a complete unknown at this point), I think that putting a wrap on MSL will free me to begin work on any one of several new projects that have been bubbling on the back-burner for some time (ike MSL did - for ten years....)

I'm not a whiner by nature, but if anyone was ever to read this post who can offer a new, sure-fire suggestion for making that first big break into traditional publishing, I"m all ears....

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Third Draft'll Nail it?

Well, they never said it was easy. Working through the Proof Copy of Mai Shangri-La has been something of a humbling experience. I finished the first draft in a whirlwind six-month stint where I never missed a writing day, and then, following Stephen King's advice in "On Writing", I put it aside for several months while I went on to other writing projects. Then I printed a hard-copy, read it over again and cleaned up the remaining punctuation errors, grammatical faux pas and basic story detail.

I guess I came back to it too soon, though, because when I submitted the second draft to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, I actually thought it was a pretty clean copy. It's only now, when I'm actually holding what feels like a "real" novel in my hands, that I can so clearly see the many rough edges that still need polishing. I'm almost glad now that I got knocked out of ABNA early on. The MS needs a LOT more work!

And so it's back to the beginning, doing a line-by-line edit and review, rechecking, of course, for things like punctation that's still buggy and adverbs that still dangle obtrusively (see what I mean?) following verbs that aren't specific enough, but this time also stepping back a bit and scanning for an overal narrative flow and story cohesiveness. So far, I'm finding an average of four obvious edit requireemnts per page, and these are taking me anything from five to fifteen minutes to fix, so quickly doing the math, I see that I've got about a hundred hours of third draft work here before I'll be satisfied that I've finally got the thing ready to release.

My intent is to get this all done by the end of April, to submit the new draft to CreateSpace, and then to start promoting the book through every contact I can muster. I'm not trying to get rich here (I think my royalty on a $19.95 sticker price is 93 cents), but I would like to either sell enough copies to be able to consider myself a published writer and move on to other things - or attract the attention of an agent or publisher who would offer to represent or publish me, respectively. But you know what they say about Good Intentions...

Having just complete the first draft of the second story (the Wayback Machine), I'm also finding a lot of potential for linking back from the second story to the first, and in some cases, this means I need to set these links up a little better in Mai Shangri-La so that bringing them out in Wayback makes more sense. Chalk up another few dozen midnight-oil sessions. Sigh...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's REAL!!!

So far, so good, as they say. The Proof Copy of my first "baby" arrived the other day. It badly needs cover art and a quick flip through reveals that it definitely needs another line-by-line edit. How could I have missed so many close-quotation marks and periods? What's my reader supposed to make of unattributed quotations when I can no longer keep track of the speaker? Where did I pick up the annoying habit of almost always using an interesting adjective a second time within a paragraph or two of it's first appearance? And why didn't I notice THAT rather glaring editorial gaffe on the second draft?

In spite of its warts, though, it's an actual, 379 page paperback novel. It says so, right there on the cover!

Mai Shangri-La
A Novel
Robert J. Rubis

So far, CreateSpace has definitely lived up to their end of our "agreement". They've taken my uploaded file, laid it out in a 6X9 format, added a cover, and bound it in a finished product. The rest is just tweaking. I'll hope to complete the next round of editing within the month, and hopefully by the end of April, I'll have my first book available (Print-on-Demand) for sale. Exciting stuff!

Watch for "Mai Shangri-La" on your CreateSpace homepage (and hopefully on Amazon, too) sometime soon.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mai Shangri-La: the Cover Blurb

Reuben James Runquist is finally facing facts; at eighty, he's stuck with a retirement condo in an environment that is decidedly "Mai" ("Not" in Thai) Shangri-La. Global climate has "flipped" raising sea levels seven meters over turn of the millenium levels, plagues have killed hundreds of millions, and worldwide transportation and commercial infrastructures have collapsed. Reuben is reduced to s subsistence existence in the high-tech but questionably secure "Panic Room" of his barricaded condo in Pattaya.

Reuben needs to escape if he's going to truly live out his "golden years" in relative peace and security. By now, though, the Thai central plain is awash in a new inland sea, and Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Lee is ratcheting up the pressure to acquire rights to Reuben's new virtual reality game/novel "StimSim". Reuben's always been his own man, but what are his options? How can he escape global warming AND the clutches of a man who won't take no for an answer?

(many thanks to Joan Rickard of Author Author Literary Agency for her straightforward advice on drafting a workable cover blurb. This is approximately what went on the back cover of the 1st Proof Copy at CreateSpace, and I haven't yet come up with a better draft)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why did I write "Mai Shangri-La"?

Five Big Reasons...
  1. I've always wanted to be a writer (haven't we all?)
  2. I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the future of the planet - and need to find something I can do that might influence more than just the kids I teach to do the right thing
  3. I'm still healthy, involved in my life, and planning to live to 100 (even without dramatic life-extension intervention as seen by some futurists). I've got a vested interest in trying to make a difference for the future
  4. At 54 (when I launched the book), I was about to become an official "senior" in some circles, and mandatory retirement is beginning to loom large. I need a second career; something engaging, challenging, meaningful - and hopefully at least somewhat remunerative. My overseas teaching "provident fund" (no pension plan) is not going to allow me to live the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed...
  5. Although he was not a factor when I wrote the book, now that I'm trying to market it, my nine-month old son IS. He needs a stable family and a secure future. He also needs a positive role-model for living a life as "part of the solution rather than part of the problem".