All posts by swanstuff

Writer, small business wannabe, pundit, philosopher, often hopelessly confused, and blessed by a gracious God beyond all imagining (the views expressed by this blogger do not necessarily reflect the Supreme Being, but this blogger hopes he doesn't embarrass the Big Guy too much).

Even Jerks Can Work

He’s arrogant, cruel, self-righteous, petty, venal, and in so many ways a jerk. Yet he’s funny, witty, and charming, so he’s the star of the show.

Maybe you didn’t think of Benjamin Franklin Pierce, AKA Hawkeye from M*A*S*H, as an awful man, but he is. He belittles Frank Burns rather than help improve him, he objectifies women, makes sport of everyone, can dish it out but can’t take it, and while he’s a great meatball surgeon, if you knew him in real life, you’d consider him vain, shallow, and mean.

That’s the power of story. As a fictional character who you don’t have to live with, Hawkeye is fun. As a co-worker or friend, he’d be tiresome.

The Avengers: Jeremy Renner was so fed up of being 'Loki's minion ...
No, no, no, not THAT Hawkeye… well, okay, that Hawkeye, too.

In a story, though, Hawkeye promotes conflict. He riles people up, then awes them with his skill as a wit and a doctor.

He is deeply flawed, which makes him an engaging character. My main characters are often too nice, too good, because they are the observers of the action.

That’s a weakness in my writing and one I need to correct. A flawed character can get worse AND can get better; he can change. He’s unpredictable and stirs controversy. He gets himself into and out of trouble. He commits the action, he is not acted upon.

Hawkeye is a great character, but a lousy person. Make sure your characters are flawed yet have a way of covering themselves.

Another example of this is Psych, a favorite of my children. Sean’s a jerk. Flat out, lousy friend, jerk. Gus MUST have been abused as a child to put up with him. Jewels is out of her mind for caring about him.

But he’s funny. Audacious. Gets away with stuff we can’t.

He’s good story.

Gregory House is another jerk, but he pushes the jerk way hard with the only redeeming quality is that he knows medicine. He is THE most unlikable human on the planet played so fetchingly by Hugh Lorrie. Roguish, biting charm…

In Star Wars, everyone’s favorite human is Han Solo. A roguish, charming bad boy with a tarnished heart of gold.

There must be something good about being bad.

In a story (don’t take that as an excuse to be a charming jerk in real life).

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!