A Surprising Admission from a Publisher

I know it’s strange to admit, but I haven’t read a paperback book in years. I read a couple of hardback books a little more than a year ago, but almost all my reading has been done on a Kindle Fire or a computer.

Until recently, that is. I’ve relocated my office and probably a thousand books, among which I found several novels I had been meaning to read. Two nights ago, I picked up Dean Koontz’s By the Light of the Moon.

It was weird.

6 x 9 Standing Paperback Book Mockup - Covervault
Do you know where your paperback is?

The font was small, the margin dipped into the bend of the spine, and it felt odd turning thin pages. Then someone turned off the light and reading was over for the evening.

I’ve taken for granted the ability to change font size and type style on my Kindle. Both my Paperwhite and Fire need no exterior light, and swiping is second nature.

I had the thought that it won’t be long before e-readers completely take over the market. I’ve been resistant, of course. I love paper books. I love the smell and the creak of the spine. Yet I made the realization that of the six bookshelves in my office, my Kindle has the capacity to hold all my books in the palm of my hand. That says a lot to a guy with a sore back from moving said bookshelves.

Of course, I take that to heart when designing my author’s books. Font is large enough to read easily, gutters are wide enough, but the ebook sells for less and has the same royalty.

Will paperbacks and hardbacks go the way of the VCR? Maybe. Especially with libraries being closed for a while now, people are turning to their Kindles. It is difficult to go back.

Does that surprise you? Perplex you? Or have not thought about paperbacks in a while?

ACX and Audiobooks

Time has become vapor in these days of crisis. I missed blogging last Wednesday and didn’t notice. Sorry.

Last night I submitted my first audiobook to ACX. Great platform with a lot of improvements. Learned a LOT! The next time will be much faster.

Should you produce your own audio book?

Maybe.

It helps to have a background in, or be able to learn, sound engineering. You must have a good microphone and place to record. There are great instructions at ACX, Amazon’s audiobook publishing platform, but I don’t agree with all of them.

Microphone Woes

My old condensor mic stopped working, so for recording Creativity Wears Boots, I bought a Blue Snowball. What a nice little microphone! That stopped working. My computer couldn’t find it. So I submitted a warranty claim and Blue was excellent. Amidst all this Covid madness, they replaced it with, they said, a Yeti Nano, which is a step above the out-of-stock Snowball. What I got was the Ice.

Blue Snowball iCE USB Condenser Microphone 988-000067 B&H Photo
The Ice. Good for single source narration.

The Blue Snowball Ice is a fine microphone, I finished up my recording with it, but the Ice is a step down from the Snowball because it’s uni-directional. The Snowball is uni- and omni-directional.

Amazon.com: Blue Snowball iCE USB Mic for Recording and Streaming ...
Blue Snowball – Omni and Uni Directional with a switch. Good mic!

Another call to Blue and they sent out a Blue Yeti Nano. THIS MICROPHONE ROCKS! Clearer than the clear Snowball, richer tones, it’s a great microphone. Unfortunately, I had to do some pickup recording so a couple chapters sound better than the others. That’s why I started with my book before recording any of my other author’s books, so I could make the mistakes on mine.

Hands-On Review: the Yeti Nano from Blue Microphones
The Blue Yeti Nano – Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

So, good microphone, and my office is covered with sound tiles (hard to make stick on the wall, which is another story).

Which Audio Recording Platform?

ACX recommends Reaper as your audio recording platform. It has a free 60-day trial, is ranked #2 for audiobooks, and is very confusing.

I used Audacity, #14 on the list, free, and very easy to use. I also downloaded an ACX Check plug-in which told me how to process my files, which meant making them louder and limiting peaks. Prior, I removed background noise, equalized, deepened, normalized and added a hint of reverb.

Audacity outputs to a wave file, so freac is a free audio converter to MP3 formatting, for uploading to ACX.

ACX Uploading

ACX now has a nice feature. When you set up your book and load a file (follow their directions), it immediately analyzes the file and tells you if it’s acceptable. Of 37 audio files, only one was rejected (which was odd, because Audacity’s ACX Check said it was fine. ) Another boost of volume and limiting of peaks and it was set. (For future, set the gain higher and turn on the limiter).

I finished setting up my account and submitted it. I got an email that the submission was accepted and after they lightly process and analyze it, within 30 days they’ll let me know if it’s rejected or it will be available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes (wider distribution is possible if you’re willing to take a deep cut on royalties. Most audiobooks are purchased on these three).

Oddly, you don’t get to set your own price. They’ll do it for you based on the length of the product.

Are You Ready for the Work?

Audiobook production, like self-publishing, is a long, complicated process. At Prevail Press, we help people daunted by self-publishing while giving them a great brand affiliation.

If you find recording too daunting, you can pay an independent or ACX-affiliated producer, or split royalties with ACX producers. Nor do you have to go with ACX, there are other distributors.

It’s a lot of work that may or may not be worth it, but as time goes by, audiobooks will become more and more of the market.

Got questions? Ask away!

Audio Books – Who Knew?

I admit I’m new to audiobooks. I’m not an auditory learner, but I am recording an audiobook, so I did some research.

They’re expensive! And some can be LONG!  I saw a $65 audiobook that was 36 hours long. That would take me a year to listen to because I would only listen in the car. Yet, others are listening all the time, when cooking, ironing, working in the yard. For audio-centric people, audiobooks are the bomb!

Image result for audiobook
Can you say you read a book if you listened to it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Audiobooks can be from 45 minutes to 45 hours. They can go for anywhere between $10 and $100l this makes Audible a good deal at $15 a month that includes one or two audiobooks and 2 or 3 “Audible Specials.”

I sort of get it and sort of don’t. A 45-hour audiobook would take about 100 8-hour days to produce. At least. Hence the high prices.

But wait, it took longer than that to WRITE the book…

My sister tells me that the narration is tricky but vital (of course). There are good narrators and bad narrators. I’ve listened to a couple, and I hope I’m not in trouble. My book, Creativity Wears Boots, is narrated with a conversational tone. It might be a bit too fast since the samples I heard were incredibly and annoyingly slow. My book is 65,000 words/230 pages; it will be 4 hours long. Working here and there on it rather than 8-hour days, it has taken me a couple of months to produce. It has improved the book, though. You catch typos and rough sentences by reading it out loud.

If you can professionally produce your own audiobook, you’ll make up to 40% with some distributors. Make sure they at least list on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Some distributors go to B&N and other audible book outlets, as well, and even offer higher royalties, but that will mean giving up exclusive rights for Amazon, which will cost you in the long run, since most sales go through the big three. If you need to hire talent, expect to split the royalties 50/50, which gives you up to 20%. Many outlets will set the price for you, so what that translates into dollars, I don’t know. Yet.

As I take this journey in a few weeks, as I learn things, you’ll read about them here.

If you’re an avid audiobook listener, tell us what you like and don’t like about those you listen to. What hints can you give producers? How can you follow a book by listening to it (that question is gratuitous; I just don’t get it!)

Reader’s Delight!

I am regularly humbled by the authors we publish. Their generosity and willingness to go the extra mile for their readers is amazing.

Nowhere is that more evident than this week’s sale on all Kindle editions of Prevail Press books. It wasn’t my idea, it was the authors who suggested we offer our readers a Pandemic Discount. We know that our responsible readers are practicing social distancing and may have extra time on their hands. What better use of that time than reading?

This week, all Kindle Editions are 99 cents each. That’s a $3 savings! Buy all for $9 and save $28! I guarantee, you’ll find delights for your whole family!

Our authors are all heart!

Go to this link: http://www.prevailpress.com/page17.html and click the book covers of your choice to take advantage of this offer. While some books don’t have Kindle versions, all physical books are available at their regular price.

There is something for everyone: Fiction for all ages, non-fiction that will illuminate and delight you, and especially now in this time of close confinement, a marriage book with daily tips for romance to make those days together sizzle!

Such a Time As This: 5 Steps to Demolishing Writer’s Block.

The greatest form of Writer’s Block is lack of time (it’s really lack of scheduling time, but for now, let’s just call it time).

Well, now you do!

Sledge Hammer Smashing A Concrete Block Stock Video - Download ...
Break that Block!

I’m not suggesting you abuse your Work from Home status if you are working from home for your day job, but there’s commute time-savings that can now be devoted to writing that book you’ve been meaning to write.

I know, I know, the first week or two was all about binge watching TV, but that gets old fast. There’s only so much yardwork. Grab that laptop and get comfy. Here are a few tips for getting started.

  1. You don’t have to begin at the beginning. Eventually you’ll have to write that, but that scene that’s been clawing at your mind? Write that. If you’re afraid of writing a book, don’t, just write chapters. You can assemble them all later. That’s the Post-It Note method of writing. You write all the juicy stuff, then fill in what’s needed. (I’m going to plug Scrivener again, because it’s GREAT for this method).
  2. Get to know your character. If the character is single, how would they write his or her dating profile for an online link-up site? You don’t have to include that in the book, it may be something your character would never do… that’s OK because it’s just about getting to know how your characters thinks about themselves. Alternatively, you can create their LinkedIn profile or any other kind of profile the characters would write about themselves.
  3. Write Your Character’s Eulogy. It’s said that there are two ways people think about you, the expedient way for day to day interaction—which can be harsh, truthful, and oh-so-private—and their cleaned-up way. This is the kind of thing that would be shared as a Eulogy, which has its own kind of truth. In the first way, they look at the worst, in the second, the best. Your story will display the expedient way. This eulogy is the subtext of how one character views another. For example, I had a college friend who was selfish, deceitful, and opportunistic. He was also knowledgeable, talented, and fun to be around. We operated out of both, but the negative was close to mind for survival, yet the positive influenced everything we did.
  4. Write the Travel Article. Where do your characters live? What is the setting? How would each character write a travel article? Some would be disparaging, others lyrical, others selling the place. How characters think about their setting is important.
  5. Figure out your best entry point and exploit it. I love beginnings. That’s where I start. However, if I think in terms of Acts, a story has at least three beginnings, one for each act. When I get stuck, I can write the beginning of Act Two or Act Three. That would give me tentpoles from which to swing, so filling in the story is easy. My son likes to write action, those are his tentpoles. What are yours?

We may be staying home for a while. We can see that as a negative, or we can see it as a positive.

How do YOU get started?

Today’s World IS Sci-Fi!

For years I resisted getting a cellphone. Back then they were dumb flip-phones, very rudimentary. Today, my hand-held supercomputer occupies way too much of my time, just ask my wife.

Cellphones are great for connecting to the world, but that’s a sizable problem for fiction writers. One of the jobs of storytelling is to isolate your main character and the situation. After all, if they aren’t isolated, they can solve the problem with a simple phone call to someone more capable. Stakes are lowered, tension is dropped, main character motivation is compromised.

Image result for guy in a box
You gotta be IN the box to think OUT of the box!

Twenty years ago, isolating a character was easy. Cut them off on an island, maroon them out of their depth, have the car break down. Now help is a cellphone call away. Out of power? Borrow someone else’s, everyone has one.

Need to defuse a bomb? YouTube has your back and it’s right on your phone.

You can break their phone, have them forget their phone, be beyond cell service… but that only works for so long.

Historical fiction is looking very good these days.

Good writers can find a way, of course. In thrillers and suspense stories, you can be tracked with your phone, so depower and remove the battery. Or perhaps your character is a technophobe or allergic to electronic frequencies (supposedly a real thing).

No matter how you do it, you have to be believable and consistent in isolating your characters. If the reader has to ask, “Why didn’t she just…” then you’ve pulled them out of the story.

What are some ways you’ve isolated your characters?

In Light of the VIrus

You’re a writer with a writer’s mind. Probably, like me, you’re using the Coronavirus as at least a mental writing prompt.

Oh, my head has spun conspiracy stories, dystopia stories, pathogenic stories, and more.

Image result for genius
Beware the Writer’s Power!

World events are grist for the mill. Let me encourage you with a few thoughts:

  • Write them down! Always good to have a number of project ideas.
  • Do NOT share them! Really. Right now, some people are sanguine, some are nervous, some scared, some annoyed, and some on the very edge of panic. The problem is, you don’t know who is who. Your clever story ideas could spin them into weird mindplaces.
  • Don’t mistake them for reality! Right now, we’re all a bit isolated. Sure there’s stuff going on. Sure, there may be more than we know about. Chances are, you haven’t come up with anything beyond fiction. Just as it isn’t wise to freak out other people, don’t freak out yourself.

As writers, we’re a bit weird. That’s OK. We can be the life of the party! But use your powers wisely. With great imagination comes great responsibility.

As in any crisis, no matter how you feel about it, strive to think of what you can do for your fellow person. After all, they are your audience; take care of them!

But please, please, please, remove “Stay Safe” from your vocabulary. It’s inane, tone-deaf, and while well meaning, is hollow. “Take care of yourself,” “be well” “See you later” all good cliches.

Be well!

A unique publisher who is Author-Centric and Reader-Sensitive