Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Writers Guide to Shipping and Media Rates

If you’re a writer like me, you’re also an avid reader. And while this may not be news to you, I was surprised to learn that I could mail books to my friends at a media rate. It’s a lot cheaper than standard mail. In fact, media mail is one of the least expensive ways to use to ship books and manuscripts. These media rates are often the very lowest of all shipping rates. Other types of media rates for shipping books and manuscripts quicker include overnight mail, first class mail, certified mail, and registered mail with return receipt requested. An author should never ship the only copy of a manuscript anywhere, obviously. Always make at least one photocopy to save in case the shipped version gets lost or damaged during transit. Is anyone else surprised that so many publishers still ask for snail mail submissions? I marvel at this.

As I went about mailing my first manuscript submission I began thinking of the life cycle of a book from idea to finished manuscript to published book. It is a long and involved one. But any writer with enough determination and dedication can achieve the dream of having a book published.

The Idea

The aspiring author first decides what the idea or concept of the book. Then the hardest part begins: the writing. Only after the complete novel is done, does the idea get shrunk to a one page written synopsis or query, which will eventually be submitted to prospective book publishers or literary agents. The nonfiction author can sell his book idea based solely on the contents of the book proposal.

The Book Proposal or Query

The book proposal includes writing sections on what the specific audience for the book is, how to best promote and market it, the synopsis, an author bio, one to three sample chapters, along with a self addressed stamped envelope, aka a SASE. The query, on the other hand, is a pitch letter for the novel which includes the flavor or voice of the story you’re pitching. But either way, this is the beginning of the book’s journey.

Researching the Prospective Markets

There are many print and online writing market directories where authors can perform due diligence on potential publishing houses or literary agents to see which specific books they handle. Study these markets well and avoid wasting postage, effort, and time!

Sending the Finished Manuscript Out

When a query attracts the attention of an agent or publisher, congratulations! It’s time to send on the full manuscript. Manuscripts should be mailed out in securely wrapped and sealed packages using media mailing and shipping rates. Hopefully the next step in the mailing process will be signing and sending a contract to work with an agent or editor. Certified mail will now be your bestie!

Waiting for A Publication Contract

A nonfiction book author has to wait until his book proposal is evaluated before a publication contract will arrive in the mail. A fiction manuscript writer has to wait until his entire novel is evaluated and accepted for publication before an official contract will be sent to him.

Waiting for the Book to Come Out

After the contract is received; it takes about a year for the fiction writer to see a novel make it to print. The nonfiction writer has to first finish writing the entire manuscript, and about the same year wait is necessary before that book is for sale online and in the bookstores. The ARCs and then the final books will then be shipped not only to you, but reviewers, libraries, and finally the general public. I don’t know about you, but for me receiving my own book at my doorstep will be the most amazing package ever to arrive.

Jody Sparks is working her way toward becoming a published author. She's also an avid reader and blogger.

An and the Pirates - Excerpt from 'The Smell of Gas'

Lian came up with a plan. He would simply cut off An’s long hair and dress her in some of his old clothes. He would pass her off as his cousin from the country, and she would accompany him on his next pirating expedition.

It was a fine plan, except that when the men of the crew saw An, they immediately knew that she was a woman. They made some crude remarks, but Lian drew his sword, and everyone agreed An could come along on this one voyage only.

Lian’s “pirate ship” was hardly worthy of being called a ship at all. It was little more than a large fishing boat, although it did have a cannon. The rusted cannon had been salvaged from the wreck of a British trader. The ship’s crew consisted of six men other than Lian. They didn’t give An their names, and she didn’t ask. They looked as if they all had something to hide. She wouldn’t have been surprised if they were all murderers. Still, sensing that this was her only chance, An clung to Lian and sailed with them.

Three days out to sea, the would-be pirates had encountered nothing but fishing vessels. They would sometimes rob the unfortunate fisherman of their catch, their water, or their liquor if there was any, but it was hardly worth the trouble. Then, as the sun was beginning to set on the third evening, An spotted a ship’s billowing white sails in the distance. She took the news straight to Lian.

Lian took a look at the vessel and shook his head. “Japanese Navy,” he said. “We wouldn’t dare.”

“What do you mean, you wouldn’t dare?” An said. “You’re a pirate.”

“The penalty for piracy is death,” said one of the crew. “And the Japanese are even more relentless about tracking down violators than the Chinese.”

“Especially if the victim ship happens to be in the Navy,” Lian added. “Attack the Japanese military and they’ll consider it an attack against the Emperor himself. And you know how funny they are about their royal family.”

The entire crew laughed, except An. She’d met a few Japanese men in her line of work, but she’d had little opportunity to converse with them about politics.

The ship’s crew went back to what they were doing--drinking and playing cards, mostly. An watched the single-masted vessel with the white sails as it drew closer.
She soon realized it was not alone. There were three Naval vessels in a V formation, escorting the largest ship An had ever seen. She ran and reported this finding to Lian.

He looked at the ships again. He smiled and shook his head. “Somebody really important,” he told his sister. “Maybe the Emperor himself.”

“Let’s take it,” An said.

Love pulp fiction? Just try putting down THE SMELL OF GAS by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin. TSOG is full of saints and sinners you'll love to hate. There's Brigid, the high school basketball player and secret heroin addict. Fred, a Catholic lesbian teen, loves Brigid, but doesn't know about her affair with Edward, a married Evangelical preacher...oh yes, there are also turn-of-the-century Chinese pirates. Sex, ethics, religions and mythologies clash as you dig deeper into their connection to the death of a young couple. Available now in print and e-book from Melange Books.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A double thank you

I want to thank Marcy Hatch of Mainewords and Dianne K. Salerni of In High Spirits for critiquing the first page of my manuscipt on their blogs.

If you have a manuscript and you've been thinking about the opening you should visit them, they look at three different first pages a month and give suggestions and exposure to them. If you act now, you might still make it for May.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bloggers and Intellectual Property Rights

As a writer and a blogger, something I’ve been think a lot about is intellectual property, I heard recently that the courts have been asked to keep up with technology changes while applying property laws. Sounds like an interesting challenge for them. Writers who create online content may want to know about these changes, given the way that people can steal content online. An IP lawyer can provide personalized advice on a situation. Beyond that, there are some measures that bloggers may want to investigate that will help deter intellectual property theft.

Creative Commons License
With these licenses, you can post a badge on your site letting others know exactly how they are allowed to use content. You set the allowances for how people may use your content. Likewise, having the license noted on your blog will let visitors know you are serious about protecting content. Most potential content thieves don’t want to take risks, and this type of measure could potentially scare them off.

Fair Use Warnings
One thing that an IP attorney may advise is that the law implies a fair use policy. This means that people may post some relevant portions of your content on their blogs for the purposes of summarizing, highlighting, or showcasing it. They are not allowed to post the heart of your work. If you post a fair use warning, you’ll remind would-be content thieves that they may not steal large sections of your writing. Though this won't always deter theft, it may help.

Click Protection
One of the newest ways to protect content is to click-protect your page. This means that people can’t right click to copy your content. You could also add a feature that prohibits individuals from highlighting text for the purpose of copy/pasting. While people could take the time to trudge through transcribing your work by hand, I doubt that most would-be content thieves would actually bother. Making theft a little difficult for them will probably be enough of a deterrent.

Jody Sparks is working her way toward becoming a published author. She's also an avid reader and blogger.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review: 'The Gargoyle' by Andrew Davidson

I've got a confession to make: I don't know of very many Canadian authors. Seriously, the only one I can think of is John McCrae, who wrote the famous poem "In Flanders Field" as a tribute to the fallen soldiers of a terrible First World War battle. In 1915. And then came Andrew Davidson.

Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle came to me through one of my husband's remodeling customers, Juanita. She and I got to talking about books when I went with my husband to swap out a medicine cabinet in her bathroom. Juanita's adult son had read the book, then sent it to her, insisting she had to read it. She allowed me to take her hardcover copy home with me. It was on my to-read list for at least nine months, but I finally got around to it.

Juanita's son was not wrong: this book is a must-read. It opens with a young porn star, a narrator whom Davidson never gives a name, who drives his car off a cliff in a stupid act of drunken driving. The resulting auto fire burns most of his body; only the car's falling into a creek saves him from near-instant death. He spends 8 months in a burn ward, recovering and making an unlikely friend in Marianne, a visitor from the hospital's psychiatric ward. Marianne claims to be over 700 years old and swears she knows the narrator from a previous lifetime.

What unfolds over the course of the narrator's recovery is an epic spanning from medieval times to the present, including a cast of characters from feudal Japan, the Scandinavia of the Vikings, Italy at the time of the Black Plague and German monastic life. Each time and place is the setting of a striking love story. Throughout the novel, Davidson weaves in elements of Dante's Inferno.

Given that the narrator is a porn star, it comes as a bit of a surprise that this novel has so much heart. Although it never becomes overly sentimental, it does espouse a theme of eternal love. Think Francis Ford Coppolla's Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's up to the reader to determine whether this 700-year romance is actual or delusional.

What's even more astonishing is that this is Davidson's debut novel. If Canadians are going to write books like this, then we Americans need to pay more attention to them.