Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ARTWORK & ALL THE EXTRA WORK

I knew getting into it that Antonio would not complete things on time. But this was ok, I had no idea when I needed things done. All I knew is that I wanted the artwork 100% complete by the time the book was 100% complete, so I did have time.

Once his new wave of illustrations came out I was excited and prepared to keep it organized. Once a week I emailed him with his total illustrations received and numbers still needed. He fell behind very quickly. The deadline was November 2009 and the weekly updates soon escalated from needing to complete 2 to 3 a week to 5 to 6. He went weeks without a single illustration sent to me. And the ones he did send to me were not usable. Everything was always changing. Sometimes he sent me a near complete digital illustration and sometimes he sent me a bad, blurry scan of a drawing with a pen. Yes, a PEN.

PROBLEMS
*never the resolution I needed them at (always VERY small - often too small for printing)
*would add ridiculous gags in them for amusement only (something telling me to keep them in)
*never sent original PSD or layered files - only final JPG
*over the top suggestions (especially with sexual or present day references)

Knowing that I could trace and digitally complete any bad illustration I knew I could do anything provided I got the drawings. What was worse is when he finally did send me "complete" digital illustrations, they were BOTH not the correct dimensions (wayyyy to small. I asked for 300dpi AND 8" x 8" and he was sending me 200dpi at 1" x 1"). He also refused to listen to my constant notes asking him to send me a LAYERED file and make sure the illustration was border free: so what did I get? Images that were not only touching the borders of the canvas, making it not look nice in the book, but also images that were flat and un-editable. I had to trace every illustration just so the back ground was white. Completely ridiculous. And if I only had to do that for it to be complete I was happy.

Why the tolerated insanity? For one, the illustrations are fantastic. Secondly, not only was it 100% what I wanted, it was cheaper. As a friend, I can offer him hundreds of dollars instead of some crack-pot person I don't know requiring thousands. I was extremely frustrated by most of what he sent me, but I had to calm down and take a breath: this is better than anyone else for this project and you can afford it. It's better than some lesser artist costing you more money.

Interior layout

Much like finding an editor, I had no idea what to do with my interior layout. I own Indesign so I contemplated doing it myself. I opened it up and created a new document. Bad Idea. I hardly know this program and playing around with it for 20 minutes got me no where. I needed to hire someone.

So the search began for an interior designer (typesetter is the official but often unknown and outdated term) for my book. Like finding an editor, I was out of luck when I came to knowing what to do. I created a list of companies from my books and did a few google searches and came across a few companies to contact. Immediately the one company that stood out was 1106 Design. Unlike most companies, this website described in detail their services and offered tips to publishers and authors. They also provided detailed PDFs on what they do and how they do it.

If you've ever hired a contractor for a specific service, especially creative, it's a pain in the ass when you have a list of people and the majority of them have no information about their services. No website and if they do have one, it has little to no information about themselves or their services. why should I waste my time to get the basic, intro and information/FAQ that you should be eager to give me before I even make a phone call? What a waste.

I don't remember how many places I called but it wasn't that many. My search was down to three companies. 1106 still looked great because of their expansive website and as an added bonus - they did the whole shebang. I could hire them for the interior and ALSO a final proofreading, book marketing copy, printer selection, and more. Plus there was a discount for 4+ packages. I scheduled a phone call and was ready to make the decision.

The phone call wasn't that great. The woman was un-enthusiastic and said a couple dumb things. The first dumb thing was that she said hardcover books don't sell and I should do a paperback. First off, that's an ignorant statement. Is she in sales or is this coming from her friends in the industry who are hired by big companies who needs to sell a few ten thousand copies to break even? With a hardcover book you sell less because its more expensive but you don't need to sell that many. Plus, if you want to make the whole preference schbeal, you concern should be in ebooks and not the hardcover/soft debate. Not to mention that if you want someone else to buy the right to your book, they will take you more seriously if you have a hardcover (let alone the smaller interest in re-publishing a paperback...).

In a nutshell, it was a quick conversation and I got little out of it. Also, considering we already emailed and I was close to a final decision, it should have been more welcoming and shown some sign of excitement to talk to me and learn about my project. (She did get a little excited when I mentioned I wanted to send files in a week, so at least she was excited to get my money).

A week later I decided to go with them. The price was good and with the other services I needed, i would get a 15% and overall, despite the un-enthusiastic phone call, I had all the information from the detailed website and the informative email responses. I was happy.

So what did I order?
1 - Interior Layout
2 - Galley Cover Design
3 - Author Bio and Book Marketing summary
4 - Book Cover Design
5 - Proof Reader

It was difficult for me to narrow this list down. If I traveled back in time I would SURELY change this list but will wait for all my experiences and details for another post. Ultimately I thought about doing the cover myself, but figured to leave it up to someone else, especially a professional. While I can come up with some great ideas, it would be best to get a few concepts from a company. They images on their site were pretty basic, but with my own artwork and notes, I was excited to see what they could do. Especially knowing they would do all layouts aside from the design it was a seemingly good move.

I sent in my signed form with the packages I ordered and send payment or 50% of the order. Production had just begun!

Finding an Editor

Once the drought ended and I re-read my book (yet again) I was ready to have this edited by a professional. It was very exciting and terrifying. I had no means to know how to pick an editor and what to look for. Sure, I read my books and they said the good and bad, but really, I know there are tons of people who would do a great job and I would never be able to find them.

My inquiries:
1 - I emailed a slew of people from the recommendations from the 'Self-Publishing' Manual
2 - I emailed people on craigslist
3 - I did google searches and emailed a few people

The response was very minimal. I was hesitant toward anyone for the most part. the self-publishing manual is a great resource, but for recommended editors? As great as they are, they probably only have experience working with editors who worked on non-fiction.

Once I started getting a few responses, the first thing I noticed was the extremely high cost in it! One woman I spoke do not only charged $60 an hour (granted, any professional in any field is going to charge a living wage, so I acknowledge it's not a rip off) but this very woman said she would edit my manuscript by hand (pen/pencil) and ship the manuscript back to me. Seriously? MS Office came out a really long time ago and I am supposed to re-type my own manuscript from your 'notes?' Your and editor, you are supposed to edit it, not mark it up. If you aren't familiar with this, there is a function in Office called "track changes" and when you select this and mark-up a document, it makes the changes to desire, but then markes up the page to show what you did, thus, the digital editor. When the author gets the notes, they look at it and go "yes...I like this" and with a click of a button the mark-ups are finalized.

It was frustrating emailing the few people I did. From the self-publishing manual list, I only had three companies I was looking forward to hearing back from. Of the three, my top pick emailed me back! Unfortunately, this person said she was too busy on projects and would not be able to start a new book for 3 months. Yikes and ouch. But, she said she worked with another editor who was great and also a fan of science fiction. She gave me the name and email of this editor and we quickly had a very positive exchange.

After a few emails back and forth I was excited to give it a test run. The best advice that I read from the books is to hire a potential editor for X amount of pages and determine out it works. Her rate was a good rate - still pricey when it comes to spending money but at a good rate for what the job called for. I emailed her 3 chapters and waited to see what would happen.

A week later I received the three chapters back. Skimming through chapter 1 I was very happy with the notes - lots of simple things and also a number of sentence restructuring, which is what my writing really needed. Then I flipped to the second chapter. NO NOTES. There was a comment that said since my book was about time travel and this story (a mere 2 paragraphs) described a conversation between space alien and school children and not touching on the subject of time travel it should not be included in the book. she also said the meaning of the story isn't clear. WTF? I was a bit irate and really should have taken this as much more of a red flag than I did. Back to that in a second - on to chapter 3. This chapter, like the first, looked good. I was happy with everything... except this omitted chapter. Refusal to edit it?

What was I supposed to do here? My month long quest to find an editor led me to this one person with no other option - not that I should go with the default but everything was lining up except for this ridiculous comment. First off, she only knew what my book was about from my 3 sentence description, so the fact she is telling me that it has no place in my book is a pretty bold, ignorant statement. So there are two concerns here, one that she didn't edit it and assumed it doesn't belong, and two, she didn't understand it at all. Awww damnit. What to do. Not that it was then a work of art and simple, but not understand it at all? Kids are eating lunch and a space alien walks up to them. He is offered their lunch and takes a bit until realizing there is a dead animal in his sandwich. He knocks one of the kids to the ground and steps on him until death. He looks up at the remaining kids and tells them that killing animals is wrong. In a nutshell, that was the story (imagine it expanded into about 15 more sentences). I emailed her and told her that while it doesn't involve time travel, the entire book isn't 100% based on time travel, it's just the reoccurring theme and while this story doesn't instill the nature of traveling through time, the fact that school children had an encounter with a space alien, it was a fitting exception and worthy to be included. She accepted my explanation.

So from here I hired her and divided the book into three editing installments and three editing payments. Overall the editing was great considering the sloppy manuscript that it was. When I received the marked up digital file I printed it out and circled any edits that I did not approve of. This varied from a missed 'invented reference' to basic structure to prove my point. I didn't object to much and was very happy that every page was filled with notes. The entire process was very helpful and improved the manuscript greatly.

I let the manuscript sit a while to finish artwork. When I returned to the manuscript I had friends and family look over some of the chapters I was less confident with. Still lots of errors and problems. Not to put the entire burden on my editor - she truly turned lots of this books around but didn't not pick up every single detail. In don't know whether this is from the fact she didn't take every single word in the manuscript and just re0write the damn thing, or because what I gave her was riddled with errors and sloppy writing. It's hard to say. I had family and friends edit the long stories and I even found a student masters student in NY to cheaply proof-read a few chapters to make sure I didn't do anything stupid.

Overall, I'm happy with my editor and the choice I made. It still needed work once the editing was done but as it was was unacceptable and I am very happy I did this pricey process. Without my resources otherwise and a day-job to cover the editing expenses (plus the additional for my NY proofreader) nothing would have been possible. It's amazing to think back to all the errors I made in writing and all the dumb repeated mistakes that where in there and that are now gone.

A professional editor is a requirement regardless of how well you think your skills are. Be careful of anyone who won't do this process outside of Microsoft Word as it will be a gigantic burden to you. While I should have been more upfront with what I wanted (and possibly strengthened my manuscript more before the final hire) this process was nothing but positive.

Galleys

Another item i didn't plan to far in advance for was galleys. With my print order in place, I will be getting all my books more than 4 months prior to the publication date, so I am set for advanced copies and the standard 4-month buffer. However, some places REQUIRE a galley otherwise, no dice. This is not pleasant since galleys cost more than your book (unless you are going to order a few thousand of them) so there is no interest in paying $500 for 50/100 books when you REALLY only need to send out 10-30 or so. Advanced books are the way to go (well see when I do this).

However, I still needed galleys and have no desire to pay $500 for them. I'd rather print them myself, which is more expensive per copy and they don't look as nice, but in the end would be cheaper. A friend of mine who published prior to be gave me great advice when I asked her what to do (being on the fence to just forgetting everything). The advice was brilliant:

"Ask your printer to make some 'dummy copies' (books with no cover - jut the bound innards"

Perfect! It's the same thing and it's already being made. The verdict? I emailed my rep at my printer and asked if this was possible. YES. So 50 of my 3,000 books will be turned into cover-less galleys for my use. A minor additional cost for the extra handling and an additional 50 dust jackets to have as extras.

This is perfect: a tiny added fee for a box of galleys and the only downside is that I will only have 2950 books instead of 3,000. Seeing how I will be able to ship the galleys out with the 4-month bubble, I am all set.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's all about the Money, Honey

It's been an interesting month and I've learned a great deal about money in regards to both funding a book company and trying to get a loan. The loan was a total bust. If you want a small business loan you need one of two things: 1 - lots of collateral and securities or 2 - an existing business of 3+ years with lots of already earned success. Most likely you don't fit either, as I surely don't. Since I don't there was only one loan I could logically apply for: an express small business loan with Superior financial Group. Verdict? I filled out the pre-qualification loan and was immediately given the lingo "CONGRATS! You may qualify for a small business loan!" It then went on to tell me to download the PDF application and send it in. Great! So I filled out the application and the day before I was going to send it in I got a rejection letter. DENIED! Why? "insufficient lender matrix score." WTF? I looked this up and it pretty much means that while I have good credit, it's not enough. The reason it's not enough is because I have no legal business experience. Again, if my business was registered a year prior and the bank account was opened back then, this would probably not be a problem.

The main problem is that I didn't know any better going into this. A small business loan is nice, but why do I need a small business loan? I have a day job, make good money and shouldn't have to defend my start-up business? After all, I am entering the field to sell a risky product and should I fail (regardless of having a day job and still being OK) my books are for the most part worthless (I mean, what's a lender or bank going to do with a stack of books).

Sort of a run-around and waste of time. In the end, luckily, my parents are loaning me my minimum to keep things moving. And my minimum I don't mean anything close to small change. While I have put and will continue to put up money for this book, galley and books cost a lot of money and if nothing went through I would be screwed.

I looked into a personal loan through one of my college's credit unions. 18% APR! WTF? But they have a credit card that goes as low as 7.9%! WTF? Most credit cards give 1-3 year deals better than this, which in turn,. is a better loan.

I don't think I'm going to look into this any further. If not for my parents I would be forced to, but this was a total waste aside from the educational value which is debatable. Just another reason to register your business and open your business checking as soon as you possibly can.

The Drought

As mentioned, I had what I refer to as a drought when working on this book. Ultimately, I'm glad it happened. Many months passed that I didn't even touch the book, let alone think about it. I was in a complete financial struggle and working as many random gigs as I could to stay afloat. In July 2009, I got a real job with a real salary and security and immediately re-started Selected Shorts full-time. It's been one years since I got this moving in full gear and now it's done and will be sent off to the printer in a few weeks.

Talking about the delusion of greatness, I was ready to finish this book and "self-publish" it early 2009. What was I thinking? I cannot stress how embarrassingly bad the book's condition was back then. No way would I have gotten Antonio's artwork in by then and should I have published it, it would only look like a pathetic amateurish attempt at making a book. Luckily I did a number of things. I took months off not thinking about it. When I returned I read through the book again and couldn't believe the number of mistakes and poorly written sentences. That was gigantic: to take a step away from the book and then be able to re-read it through another est of eyes. I then found an editor, which I will discuss further, who really took all the embarrassing things out of it. I then had my father re-read a few stories and then also have fiance read the stories (mainly the long ones) I had problems with. THEN, as the book was being laid out, had a final proof-reader mark down the major problems. Where there major problems? YES! Not many, but there was a lot of little things (perfect grammar) and then a few terrible things caught (maybe 10 really bad things).

In the end I re-read this book countless times. My father read through it 1.5 times, my brother read through it one, an editor re through it once, and proof-reader read through it, and my fiance read through the 8 longest stories. All of this takes time. The more time the better. Of course it's a creative project and it's never really "done" but there is certainly the lines between embarrassing, bad, good, and very good. Make it the best you can- I am surely glad this drought happened. Not only is the book 10x better, but it's also a real book and not a POD or "self-published" book that I pay profits to some lame company for no reason.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Get your records and registrations going as soon as possible

As I mentioned earlier, get your business registered as soon as possible. Get your business credit card going too, rack up some good credit on it. Yesterday I received two major articles in the mail, one good and one bad. the good? A re-sellers permit for the state of California. If you sell anything you need to tax it, and you need a permit to do so. And the one vital reason you need this as soon as you can get it: TAXES! The last person you want to screw with is the government...it's hard to win a fight with them, especially if you are wrong. So with my new re-seller's permit, I don't have to pay taxes of my massive book order which is right around the corner. Imagine, buying 3,000 copies of your own book, and then paying taxes for each one. Absolutely insane right? If this is a new concept to you, think of it this way: you are a re-seller. You are manufacturing books to sell and the end buyer pays taxes on the books they buy (much like you pay taxes on items at target or the grocery store. The same is for you since you own your own business. You buy the product (thousands of books) and the end buyer pays the taxes on them. Had I not gotten this permit in time, I would need to pay for the taxes for the books up front (which would royally suck) and then be slowly compensated one by one with each purchase. And think of the nightmare if you get distribution! How in the world are you supposed to get your "tax" money back?

So the BAD form I got in the mail was a DENIAL letter from my small business loan lender. I filled out a pre-qualification form online (extreme minimal information) and was told "Congratulation, you may apply for a small business loan," and to print out the full application and mail it in. As the days passed, I carefully filled out the application to receive in the mail... a denied letter. What? WTF? "Insufficient lender matrix score" was checked off and that alone. I have a good credit score, in fact, it's listed at the bottom section of "very good." So why this? Not sure exactly, but for the most part there are two reasons: 1 - my business has only legally existed for 4 months and 2- I haven't utilized my business credit card enough. (I have good credit, but could use a little more).

There is no telling why I was denied. The lender for this loan has a serious problem with people defaulting on their monthly payments. It's frustrating that my business could make $0 and be a financial catastrophe and I'd still be able to pay this loan back 100% because I have a day job, but you know what? that doesn't matter. This has to do with my business and to these people, it's worthless. No idea what I am going to do with this. I am still able to apply, but will need to attach additional materials (business plan, example) to make my case. On one hand, I am truly grateful my parents are loaning me some money so this is not an emergency, otherwise I would be in a very terrible spot. But it would be nice to be covered for a lot of the expenses yet to come.

What should you do? Register your business now. You don't need to make any money, but the longer ti's registered the better off you are. Also utilize your business account, which once you are registered you need to open ASAP. Get the credit card and use it for all business expenses and pay it back 100% each month. Also, unlike me, it would be wise to map out all expenses and make sure they are all covered well in advance. It's easy to some degree to cover monthly expenses for your book development aside from the massive printing you may want... which is what I about to start. Had I registered this business when I really started it, back in 2009, and got my ducks in a row back then, I'm sure this situation I have found myself in would be in a much brighter patch of grass.

Artwork Phase #2 - Frustration

As mentioned earlier, I was working with my friend, Antonio Deleo, to produce illustrations for my book. With the 10+ illustrations he already gave me, I traced them in illustrator and colored them in photoshop. They looked great and was an easy inspiration for me to keep things moving. Then my dry spell hit -- I was in a financial bad spot, not making any money, and I put my book on hold for quite some time. With that, I stopped pestering Antonio for the continuation of the book.

I don't know how much time passed, but when I got a new job in July of 2009, I knew I had to re-start my book and get it done. Afterall, I got a significant pay bump and could now afford simple monthly expenses. I got back on Antonio and told him I was back working full-time on the book and that he needed to start pumping out more drawings (atn the time, I had 40 short stories, so while I may have had 10-15, it was still short of the full amount). And then... he told me what he was thinking.

"I'm not feeling that style anymore, you know? I kind of want to go down a more simpler route."

WTF. WTF!! Argh was I pissed. Not only did it take a long time to get the 10 or so drawings out of him (and now having to start all over) I spend countless hours tracing all the damn illustrations up to this point. And to start over? I was not happy. But, on the plus side, I new that I was far from being done with the book. It was fully written, but I needed to go through everything and re-touch it (not to mention have it professionally edited). Looking at it, I was very far from being done. On the other hand, not having illustrations done before the completed manuscript would present a problem. Also, I not had a real, full-time job, so my ability to communicate throughout the day was limited-but with that, I could pay him some money for this too.

With all the thoughts bumbling around my mind we came to an agreement: 40 illustrations to be completed by November 30th (Pushed back a few weeks from the original deadline). Of these 40, a few were already done from the first wave (The planets, example, one of which is my company's logo). So in the end, Antonio would need to do about 3 illustrations a week to stay on track. I figured he would not meet this deadline, but setting it for November was good, as any delay would certainly be OK albeit frustrating.

the first few drawings came in and I was pleasantly pleased. Surely these were more animated and fun - let alone cute. While the previous ones were just as unique, these were more playful and attractive for the aim I need for illustrations in my book. PERFECT!