Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

THE TRUTH ABOUT GETTING PUBLISHED

March 20, 2015

It’s time to return to the original focus of these blogs—writing.  I’ve strayed from the subject for several years and I think it’s time to retrace my steps and talk about things I’ve experienced.  The purpose of these next few blogs is to bring want-to-be writers face to face with reality in a gentle way.  My purpose is not to discourage but to give you the information you need to make informed decisions. First, not to throw freezing water on a freezing body, but publishing is like playing the lottery—hundreds play only a few win.

It is my wish to catch you before you  make disastrous, expensive decisions that can’t be reversed. I tell folks that I’ve made most of the bad decisions possible in publishing.  What I’m hoping is that I can explain what those decisions are and how to avoid them.

For a while, perhaps two or three blogs, I’m going to focus book publishing and then drift off into articles and short stories.  I’ll talk about different types of publishing and try to give you the positives and negatives of each type.

ROYALTY PUBLISHING

This is every writers dream.  You write your book, a large publisher (think Putnam or Simon & Schuster) picks up the book for publishing and you earn millions in royalties and travel the country on their dime doing hundreds of book signings for adoring fans.

THE REALITY is…

The likelihood of a large publishing house picking up your book is very small. The reality of the publishing business is the bottom line.  They want a writer with some kind of proven track record—a huge following of potential buyers of the book or some outlandish disaster or rumor which the public will remember by the time the book is published in six months to a year from now.

Publishing advances for most authors are less than $10,000 with royalties ranging somewhere from 8% to %15 of the retail price of the book.  Most royalties don’t kick in until the advance is earned back.

If the publisher and your editor really believe in the book you might get a four to six signing schedule.  Usually this schedule includes large cities with large bookstores.  The reality may be that you will be responsible for setting up your own book signings.

For most authors, the most difficult part of getting a royalty contract will be the total loss of control of your book.  It is likely you will have no control over the cover artwork or the actual book set-up.  Once the book is accepted your job becomes correcting the proofs, working with the content editor and generally behaving yourself.

SMALLER ROYALTY PUBLISHERS are a bit different.  I’ve worked with three royalty publishers now.  One is very supportive and keeps me in the loop all the time.  I even get to help select my own cover art and jacket text.

One small publisher went under with no word of explanation leaving me with no access to my sales records and no revision of my rights.

The third publisher was difficult to work with in the formative stages, but shines on PR for the marketing.  The jury is still out.

Next time I’ll discuss other forms of publishing.

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PRIVACY? HAW! HAW!

September 20, 2013

The average homestead house was approximately ten feet by twenty feet in size. When Elijah Everitt brought his family of four to this cozy spot, it included a wood burning stove, table with four chairs, and perhaps one large cot and two smaller ones. Doable, but not exactly a roomy place in 1881.

Now extrapolate out the space when Charles, Elijah’s son married his wife Mary Ann and the children bloomed from four to twelve. No wonder that in 1910, the homestead house was expanded to triple it’s size and included two bedrooms on the lower level and a huge second story divided into two rooms. It must have felt heavenly to Mary Ann and Charles to have a bedroom with a door that closed.

Of course, all that body heat probably added to the house’s warmth in winter but imagine the summer nights. Perhaps some of the older children retreated to those willow trees for sleeping accommodations. In addition to the body heat, the kitchen stove burned both winter and summer in order to provide meals for the family. Lack of windows in the house also kept cool summer breezes from lowering the inside temperatures.

Hot in summer and cold in winter didn’t make the homestead house a perfect abode, but it was home. The sacrifices made in lack of privacy and uncomfortable temperatures was overshadowed by the ultimate goal of having land to call their own.

Water, Water, Water

August 2, 2013

And not a drop to drink.

It’s an old adage, but quite true in the western United States. Boasting around 18 inches of rainfall per year, the American west is truly a desert. When explorer Stephen Long encountered the plains, later to be the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming, he correctly called it “The Great American Desert.”

Despite the sight of tall prairie grasses brushing the underbellies of his men’s horses, he was accurate in his labeling. Once the early pioneers crossed the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, water was at a premium. Water barrels attached to the sides of wagons became a necessity. West of the great rivers, streams and minor rivers were far and few.

Occasionally creek and river beds were a sandy expanse in summer, changing in mere minutes with the advent of a brief rain into raging torrents of water floating full grown, twenty-foot high cottonwood trees ahead of the sludgy, brown stream. In mere hours, the whole scenario would vanish leaving pockets of quick stand and gumbo mud behind.

To westerners water was and is more valuable than gold and the fight for water rights from the 1800’s to the present is on-going. Westerners are now involved in a water rights grab akin to the Oklahoma Land Rush. Population explosions in towns and cities have taxed water supplies to the limit and now below ground aquifers with names like Laramie-Fox Hills, Denver, and Arapaho have become household words as land owners make decisions on whether to hold or sell their valuable water rights. This decision effects the agricultural/ranching base of the rural areas.

Small and large reservoirs have assisted in solving an infinitesimal part of the dilemma, but water remains the largest obstacle in settling the West. All this will affect who has water to drink.

MY GRANDFATHER WAS A HUCKSTER

June 6, 2013

Huckster—the word evokes all kinds of sinister images in the modern mind, but in reality the dictionary defines huckster as a peddler. Hucksters in the 1800’s traveled from distant outposts and farmsteads selling notions—pins, needles, and perhaps a yard or two of brightly colored cloth.

The huckster was CNBC or CNN in a wagon. He brought news from the neighbors and the outside world. Far from a flimflam man, he often traded his goods for a good meal or a bit of hay for his livestock.

Traveling in a zigzag pattern over the Nebraska and Kansas plains, it is no wonder that it took my grandfather and his father more than a year to travel from their former home in Erie, Ohio to Denver, Colorado. When they arrived in Denver, they made the easy transition from hucksters to freighters into the Rocky Mountains.

The huckster wagon was a marvelous maze of compartments and cubbies each containing a treasure for a price. Items the pioneers were forced to leave along the westward trail were conjured from the depths of the huckster’s wagon to the delight of homestead husbands and wives. The replacement for broken scissors or a much-needed bottle of horse liniment emerged from the hidden recesses of the huckster’s wagon.

Yes, there were a few questionable traders out there, not my grandfather that I could discover, but for the homesteaders and ranch families of the plains the huckster’s wagon

100th Anniversary Celebration

May 21, 2013

100 years old. Quite a feat. I’m not 100, but the pioneer built Ruth Chapel in Parker, Colorado turned 100 on May 13, 2013. A community celebration sponsored by the town of Parker and the Parker Area Historical Society on May 18th featured hay rides, tours of the chapel, and refreshments of the era accompanied by music from a “brass band.”

I was fortunate to be included in the festivities and spent the morning handing out celebratory red carnations to the ladies. Also briefly neglecting my carnation duties, I had my photo taken in front of the “motor car” which added color and interest to the morning.

The story of Ruth Chapel is similar to other historic buildings throughout the West. Female residents of the area decided it was time for some childhood religious training so began a Sunday School that met in the local school in the 1880’s. Later circuit riding ministers held monthly services in the school. In the early 1900’s, the community was in need of a church. George Parker one of the co-founders of the town, which bears his name, sold the church property for $1 and later school superintendent, Dr. Heath, donated the land. The building had one paid worker, construction supervisor William Holmes; the remaining workers were local ranchers and farmers who donated their time and skills to build the small church.

It didn’t matter the religious affiliation of the worker; the community banded together to get the job done. The basement was excavated with a horse drawn scraper and local families contributed the building’s light plant and furnace.

By the 1913 completion date, Dr. Heath had passed away but the building was dedicated in memory of his daughter who had passed away before the Heaths came to Colorado. It was called the Ruth Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.

Like all community endeavors, membership in the church waxed and waned with the area population sometimes counting less than ten attendees until the Parker community began to grow in the early 1980’s. The Methodist church out grew the building and purchased the vacant school building next door. The Ruth Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and after being purchased by the Town of Parker has become the site of small weddings and similar events.