Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday - Script Writing

Hey if you have an interest in screenwriting consider dropping in at ScriptMag It's a division of the Writer's Store (where you can get stuff you need for writing). Yeah, it's that short and that simple this week. Yes, they'll try to sell you stuff, but they have some pretty good blogs (check out Balls of Steel) and podcasts for aspiring writers and for readers just interested in what goes on in Hollywood.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March - National Reading Month - Draws to a close

March is National Reading month.

Yay?  Well sort of. Reading is intrinsic to learning and readers will agree instantly, but non-readers are another animal altogether.  If you take a minute to check the stats (and you can find a lot of those by googling “reading statistics for kids” or “national reading month”) you’ll see how reading takes a severe dip when kids hit their teens and doesn’t really recover.

Lots of folks would say, so what, sign of the times. Well, maybe, but I still can’t help cherishing those times when I read to my niece when she was very young and she’d look up at me with eyes large and round with expectation and say, “more please!”.  Now it seems even the smallest children can’t wait to get up from the lunch table to grab a cell phone and start texting friends. Or play some sort of video game. For those who enjoy the wonderful escape world provided by books that is very sad to contemplate. Even though statistically little kids are still enjoying being read to, by the time they reach their teens reading appears to have become an entertainment and enlightening choice of last resort.

It’s a revelation to a writer who loves to read and who’s many friends also love the pass time, to have it brought home that reading just doesn’t seem that important or interesting to the teen-agers coming up. Yes, there’s the iPad and there’s Amazon’s Kindle (reader/tablet or computer App ) or any number of other gadgets, but it’s time for us writers to wonder if the upcoming generation is going to be reading stories/books/scripts or just texting/playing games. The interest in reading is declining, that’s a fact. I mean think about it. If the average person reads 15 minutes a day he or she would read about one million words in a year yet 80% of US families didn’t buy a book in 2014. Scary? It should be for writers who love to create novels.  Yet, weirdly, at the same time, 56% of young people (‘young people’ is not clearly defined) claim they read more than 10 books a year. Huh? It’s complicated.

So, presuming we want to do something about this and change the minds of kids so that they actually read what can be done about it? Personally I believe a great deal of the effort has to come from the home which is a bit of a scary thought when it seems most homes don’t care to or have the time to really work on the problem.

What would they need to do? Well, reading aloud to kids is still the number one way to get them to want to read. And it leaves such wonderful memories. Remember that niece I read to? She wound up being a writer for graphic novels and comic books and a very well-read individual. On top of actually reading to them, they need to see you read. I may be preaching to the choir here as folks reading this are no doubt ‘readers’ and perhaps ‘writers’, but maybe if we press things a bit and spread the word we can make an impact.

Another thing you can do is discuss books in your home. When they’re little, talk to the kids about books you’ve read aloud to them. When they’re older encourage reading and talk about books they’re reading for school or (OMG!) for pleasure, and don’t judge. I remember talking about all sorts of books with my mother as I grew up. She’d read books I had read before her and we’d talk about it and I’d read the books she read. And I mean there were no ‘banned’ books in our house. We read anything and everything. Even when I knew J.D. Salinger occasionally made her cringe, she’d read the book I read and we’d discuss it. Great times!

And that’s another key. Variety. Of course we all settle into our favorites; genre novels, non-fiction, whatever, but exposure to variety is always a plus.

You can find ways to make reading something fun to do. Yes, they have all sorts of electronic doo-dads and there’s nothing wrong with reading a book on a tablet or some other device, but the key here is they must be reading. You might consider allowing your kids to stay up a few minutes later (remember that 15 minutes = a million words a year above?) if they want to read (and seriously, make sure they’re reading and not playing games). Most of the time they’ll actually read in order to stay up later. If not, they can go to sleep.   

Tuck books into the car if you spend a lot of time in it with them, real old-fashioned books (and they don’t have a motion sickness problem). Take them with when you travel. Reading on a device is okay, but be sure you check occasionally to make sure they’re reading.

Speaking of devices, and I know this will bring shrieks of dismay, it seems like about time adults take charge and limit some activities – like time on phones and other electronic gadgets. Seriously, don’t you think it’s about time the kid raises his or her head and takes a look around at life? That they choose to do something (anything) else but be immersed in electronics for at least a short time each day? I mean think of all the other stimulation found in other quality activities for kids and young adults when they have to shelve the electronics.

Reading is amazing, fun, and, darn it, necessary. Do you know that 46% of American adults can’t even understand the prescription label? And 33% of high school graduates will never read a book after graduating? Whoa, time to change that, don’t you think?

So, as National Reading month draws to a close remember, there are lots of reading events throughout the year – just ask the American Library Association and pick up that book and read.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday - The Tongue Untied

Here we go - a little something for everyone who works with  language - writers, readers, students, business folks - The Tongue Untied

A Guide to Grammar, Punctuation and Style.  What more could you want?  Your helpful online guide. Take advantage - it's out there for you - and polish up your language skills. Oh, and by the way, that's a humming bird moth in the photo - ain't it cool?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If You’re Gonna Self-Publish, publishing, sometimes we don’t know how or can’t decide how to pull it all together. Go the traditional route or self-publish. These days, fortunately for indie writers who choose to go it alone most readers, I’d guess the majority, don’t really care how a book hits the shelves or Amazon or any other distributor.

So, if you’ve considered different methods of getting your work out there and have settled on self-publishing for right now, read on.

Despite the fact that most readers don’t care if a book is self-published, for a lot of reasons (including they don’t actually know it is) if the indie writer is smart he or she won’t allow what has become a big down side of the self-publishing world jump up from the newly purchased work and slap them in the face.

What’s that you say? You're asking what downside? Come on, if you’ve gotten Ebooks (and of course self-published print books) you’ve experience the total crap that can be out there.

Believe it or not, readers are truly turned off by books that look like crap. Books that have awful spelling, grammar, formatting, infantile covers, insanely long and convoluted sentences, links from table of contents to chapters that don’t work, etc. You know, unprofessional. It’s shoddy, it’s messy and it won’t keep or get you any more readers. The one reading will give up and new readers, if they read sloppy samples, will pass you by.

 That’s the big plus of professional publishers. They do it all. I know, I know, not so easy to get them to publish your work even if you choose to go that route as opposed to indie. But take note. The books they produce look professional from cover through text. Well, at least most of the time. I’ve seen some doozies there as well (but my guess is the Editor was fired). Still, it’s worth emulating their methods.

Bottom line, you don’t want to look like an amateur.

Another bottom line, too many writers think they can simply crank it out, slap it up and sell a million.

Uh, no.

If you have any self-respect as a writer at all you should be going
for the polished, professional, outstandingly stunning look.  You want a reader to be unable to tell the indie published book from the traditionally published book – until or unless they look at the imprint name in the listing. So the goal is to make the book look very professional so your fantastic story won’t be tossed aside, the reader insisting any self-published book is junk. Not good for you; not good for other struggling Indies.

So, pay attention to your work. Check and double check. Have volunteer readers or an editor, or both, go through looking for all those little mistakes. And throw in a professional formatter versed in the various venues if you just can’t seem to get the hang of it yourself.

If you do that from the very first book, make sure it’s professionally done, your readers will know who to come to for a great story AND a professionally done manuscript. You know, one they can read without being jerked to a stop, pulled out of the flow of the reader’s trance, every few sentences by some glaring error that should never have been allowed to see digital or traditional print.

And let’s not forget the cover. It has to be professional as well. Remember that old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  Well, really, people do. Sorry, that’s life. The reality is if you don’t have a great cover you aren’t going to hook ‘em in the first place and they’re not going to read your truly fabulous story.

I suspect it’s always been true, but modern life has only exacerbated the problem. With all the distractions we have, work, cell phones, the net, video games, hardly any free time in between, you want to give your reader some eye candy to lure them in.

The take-away here is check and double-check. Everything. Twice.
Don’t let something stupid or blatantly obvious slip through the cracks. Don’t think, ‘if it’s there they’ll buy it,’ because they won’t.

And readers, I don’t blame you. I’m a writer in addition to being a reader and I understand. We can all forgive an occasional typo or maybe a left-out close quotes, but if it’s peppered throughout the book it becomes unforgivable.

Writers, I understand your pain as well. There are a whole lot of platforms to publish with out there, Amazon, Smashwords, Create Space and others and every one has a format that claims “It HAS to be exactly my way”. There’s a lot to dead with but that’s exactly why you have to be on your toes and get it right. It’s much too easy to get it wrong.

So get your work out there, but get it right. Thrill your readers and boost your books. And proudly do the work all Indies can also take pride in.

Go ahead, tell us about your good and bad reading and writing adventures in Indie world. Let’s see what’s right and what needs to be fixed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday - The Internet Library

This is the Internet Public Library. The site may not look like much when you first connect, but click on one of the subjects and start mining. There's lots of great info here on most any subject you're interested in. 

Doesn't matter if you're a student, a writer, a reader, just dive in. There's even a 'librarian' you can ask questions of.  

Go ahead, explore!  Then be sure to comment here on what you discover.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Agent Basics For Writers

I’m not going to get into the minutia or contracts or any of that stuff – it’s just too much to handle here. What I am going to discuss in this post are a few Agent basics since a few people I’ve spoken to seem to be a bit confused on the subject. 

So, in broad strokes, here it is. 

If you’re going the traditional publishing route you may want to hook up with an agent and that isn’t as easy as it may first sound. But, there are fewer obstacles than one might imagine. One of them isn't upfront cash.

First, I’ve heard such comments as “I can’t afford an agent”. Hmmm, there’s little to afford ‘up front’. Reputable agents rarely charge any up-front fees. Their revenue comes from the percentage they get from the sales (royalties) of your books. There are a handful of agents you can find who are now charging a fee of maybe a couple of hundred dollars or a bit more they say to cover the costs of postage, printing, etc. But at this time there are few of them.  Mostly they don’t. And, even the ones that do, it will depend on the language in your contract, but that fee might be taken out of your earnings instead of being required of you up front. And, if they are indeed reputable there will be no other fees added without you knowing ahead of time its coming.

So, cut to the chase, don’t mess with any ‘agent’ who wants to charge you for everything you can think of and get that money from you before you even start. If the literary agency you’re talking to REQUIRES you pay in advance for Submission Fees, Reading Fees, Editing Fees, Proofreading or Marketing, run as fast and as far as you can in another direction. There are lots and lots of scammers out there preying on writers who have dreams. Don’t let them steal from you. 

Okay so now that that is out of the way what are some of the advantages to seeking agent representation?  Here’s a short list. 

    1.   An agent knows the trade, genres and how you might fit into it. Because of that the agent can handle business issues for you, you might want to pass on, such as…
    2.   Negotiating your publishing contract
.   3.   Selling foreign rights to books when they’re published or after
.  4.  They track advances and royalties (I do suggest you keep good records on these as well though)
   5.  You might find you have the possibility of a contract – book to film deal – that you otherwise might not have had
    6.  They handle all the copyright stuff

Good, reputable agents are worth every penny they get from your royalties. Bad agents, even if otherwise reputable, are not. I’ve had both and speak from experience. I’ve had a great agent and one who was a (expletive deleted) sort I’m glad to be shut of. 

If you tie in with a bad one (in any sense of the word) don’t hesitate to cut the cord and move on. Oh, and by the way, be sure you read any contract you might sign with an agent. Usually there is a clause in there on how to terminate the relationship. Make sure it isn’t too complicated. 

So, how much do those good and reputable agents actually charge? Presuming qualified, honest and reputable with a decent reputation it’s about ten to fifteen percent of the royalties your book earns in the domestic market. Usually that bumps up to twenty percent or thereabouts of royalties earned on books internationally published. Movie rights? That’ll be something to be negotiated if the time comes. 

Let’s summarize:

If you believe you can’t afford a literary agent, you need to be talking to some different folks. I suggest you visit or think about purchasing (or visiting at your library) a copy of Writer’sMarket 2015 where there are lots of markets listed as well as a section on Literary Agents. 

If an agent has called you out of the blue – be very cautious. Do your research. This could be a scam. In fact is probably a scam.

If the agent you’re talking to wants a lot of money from you before he or she does a thing, again, watch out, in fact, run – in the opposite direction.

Got all that?  Good! Now if an agent is what you want, get those query letters ready, get out there and find one.

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