My Current Project

What is an author to do when he has nine unpublished novel manuscripts on his laptop and one of them, ROSA NO-NAME, is his wife and daughter’s favorite? They even prefer it to the three novels that have already been published.

It doesn’t help that he has recently parted ways with his agent. Not because he dislikes her or because they don’t get along well. They are still friends. But because she doesn’t think she can do anything with any of the four manuscripts of his she’s looked at.

So, what is that author to do? Especially if he’s not in love with the novel he started writing months ago and not making much progress on?

As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, I’m the author in question. Even though I’m in good health at seventy, there’s no guarantee how much time I have left. God has given me the ability to write, however, and I feel led to keep using it as long as I’m able to.

By the time my first two novels were published in 2011, I had already written ROSA NO-NAME as a prequel to FOUND IN TRANSLATION. It wasn’t a Young Adult novel, though, and my publisher wasn’t interested. No publisher  would be interested in a book that related to another publisher’s series.

But Kathleen and Kristi loved ROSA so much that I reread it and fell in love with it all over again myself. I knew I could self-publish–I’d done that with two little books of my shorter writings–except for two things. A self-published book–they call it “independently published” now–needs a professional cover and it needs to be professionally edited.

I spoke to Ken Raney, the talented graphic artist husband of novelist Deb Raney. His quoted price wasn’t nearly as much as I’d expected, but it wasn’t something the family budget could handle. I told Ken I would start saving. And I did.

Can you imagine my joyous shock when I opened my Christmas presents and found that my wife had gotten the other members of the family to chip in money for the book cover? They not only contributed enough that Ken has already been paid in full, but enough money was left over to add to what I had saved for me to seek someone to  do some basic editing. I’m meeting with an editor this coming Thursday.

On January 2 I verified with my former publisher that I am free to proceed with my project, even though some of ROSA tells part of the story from FOUND IN TRANSLATION, but from Rosa’s point of view.

Ken will begin working on the cover later this week.

I’m really excited! I have a very worthwhile project to work on, and I hope the thousands of people who read FOUND IN TRANSLATION will want to read ROSA NO-NAME and learn some of the back story they’ve had questions about.

I  hate talking about myself and my project this way, but I’m too excited not to share it with my blog friends. You can’t blame me for that, can you? All comments gladly received.

NOTE: I wrote that earlier this past week. Ken has finished the cover, and it’s GREAT! People who see that will be likely to take a second look and turn it over to read the back cover. As much as I want to share the cover with you, I’m holding off till my wife and I get a handle on preparing for ROSA’s release.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Before You Self-Publish…

After writing my first novel, my wife and I carefully considered the alternatives. We thought it was pretty good. And, after all, I’d been an honors award-winning English major in college and had taught English for six-plus years.

So I knew good grammar. I knew how to vary the structure of my sentences. I knew a lot more, or so I thought.

And we knew that finding a publisher was a long, taxing proposition. No matter how good my novel.

Furthermore, we knew that the trip from signed contract to fresh, newly published book normally takes at least at least a year. I was going on sixty at the time. Could we afford to waste all that time when  self-publishing opportunities abounded?

I don’t have any training in graphic design, but I thought I was pretty imaginative when it came to a cover design. And between my wife and me, we had editing covered.

So why not self-publish? (They didn’t yet refer to it as “independent publishing” or “indie publishing.”) Sure, it would cost something, but not an extravagant amount. We weren’t going to go hungry or miss a car payment in bypassing the traditional book publishing route and doing it ourselves.

We found a company that looked good and seemed legitimate. We were entirely satisfied with those folks and with the quality of my book–at least the part they took care of.

But readers even then looked askance at self-published books, and–when I started reading numerous writing books and attending Christian writing conferences–I learned two horrible facts.

I’d planned to spend all of my time as an author just writing the next book and the book after that, but my books weren’t going to market themselves. Also, the nature of contemporary novels had changed drastically since my days of lovingly lazing through a thousand pages or more of James Michener’s works, which still take up far too much space on my bookshelves.

I started working hard to improve my writing–to conform to the way modern novels must be if they are to attract modern readers–and committed myself to a lifetime of working to improving my writing. I would never be as good as I wanted to be, but I could always make the next book better.

I learned the rules. The really important ones and the ones that are safer to break–or at least bend. I came to accept the fact that NO book will meet every reader’s expectations any more than it will meet every publisher’s needs.

I learned a lot more, including things I have yet to succeed at putting into practice. But at least I have three novels in print through traditional publishers. I no longer count the self-published one; it was a good learning experience, but well worth forgetting otherwise.

If you have a copy, please hold on to it. Should I ever become well-known, your copy may be worth fifty or sixty cents more than it is now. A strange collector’s item, to be sure.

Now–finally…

I called this post “Before You Self-Publish Your Book…” But I’ve talked only about my own writing journey.

Let me explain. An author I’d never heard of before–we were “friends” on one of the social media–asked if I’d read and write a review of his novel. Since I’ve been looking for more reviewers for The Devil and Pastor Gus, I proposed a swap. I’d read and review his book if he read and reviewed mine.

I read the first couple of chapters and then checked to see who his publisher was. Yep, sure enough. Self-published.

I won’t go into detail about the things that gave him away other than the fact that he had what promised to be a great beginning and then deviated from it.  And the fact that his paragraphs were quite long; modern readers (and publishers) like to see lots of white space.

I kept reading, though, and the story was really good. I felt justified in giving it four stars–an average of five for the story and the writing in general and three for the editing problems.

Now let me get to the point. I completely understand how someone who’s written a book wants to get it into print without the hassle of finding an agent and a traditional publisher. I can relate.

But even after paying my dues–years of conferences and study and struggling to make each book better than the previous one–I couldn’t self-publish without professional editing and cover design. I wouldn’t want my readers to be able to tell it was self-published because of flaws traditionally published books are less apt to suffer from. (Yes, I’ve seen some poorly edited books from those publishers, too.)

Not every book deserves to be published–at least from a publisher’s point of view and probably from the reader’s point of view as well. But a book that looks amateurish isn’t apt to do well and may not even recoup the investment the self-publisher has made.

All of that to say, please keep my advice in mind and take it for whatever it’s worth.

Have you self-published–or even thought about doing so? Would you share a comment, please?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger

 

So You Want to Be a Writer?

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Few things are as fulfilling as spending a number of months writing a book–in my case a novel–and finally seeing it in print. And not just in my own hands. But on Amazon. And in bookstores. Local bookstores where people you know–and who know you–shop. And knowing it may be in bookstores all over the country–maybe even the world–in places you’ll never know about, much less see in person.

Ever since writing my first novel, I’ve had a stream of people come up to me and say, “I’m working on a book” or “I really want to write a book.”

Understandable. They say (although I’ve never known who “they” are) each of us has a book in him or her. For better or worse, that’s where most novels remain–inside the well intended dreamer.

No wonder. Writing is hard work.

Some would-be writers have a sufficiently firm grip on their story that they can sit down at a computer and peck away for hours at a time. Some real writers can do that, too. But real writers also know there’s a huge difference between having a completed draft and a manuscript that’s worthy of being accepted by a publisher–one who will spend countless thousands of dollars putting it into print.

Most people never even start that book that’s in their head. Whether they don’t know where to start, fear failure, or simply can’t commit the necessary time to a writing project, I can’t say. But at least those people will never face the heartbreaking challenge of trying to find an agent and a publisher and endure the grueling process of seeing their babies birthed.

Ah, you say? But anyone can self-publish now. Kindle Direct and CreateSpace (also an Amazon program) allow anyone with the patience to follow the directions to publish their works at no upfront cost. So why worry about traditional publishers?

I’ll tell you a secret. I self-published my first novel. As an English major who’d won the English Department’s honors award as a senior, I thought I could write well enough to bypass the trauma of becoming published by a traditional publisher. What I wrote–and spent hundreds of dollars just to get into print–was correctly spelled and grammatically correct. My cover was imaginative; I may not be a graphics design expert, but I have fun doing my best at it.

But I didn’t realize that my novel wasn’t that well written. Fiction had changed since my student days, and I didn’t have a clue that I had written and published something that wasn’t worth reading.

Not until I started attending writers conferences and studying writing books by the dozen; I have well over a hundred writing books in my library now. Print copies. (See the right hand picture above.) I have several dozen others on my Kindle.

Learning how horrible my first novel was served as a necessary first step towards writing two novels that have been published and a third that’s due out at the end of this month. Years of learning and practicing separated my first effort from my first real success.

Yet how many of those self-published books have been written by people who don’t even have the background I did just by my having been an English major in college?

Let me give you an example of what seems all too typical. I know of a certain novelist who also writes writing books and gives seminars about writing. He is self-published. When one of his novels went on sale for $.99, I decided to give it a try. Although the story was somewhat engrossing, I kept tripping over mistakes a competent editor wouldn’t have missed. So was I going to spend even a few dollars for this same guy’s book about effective editing?

Writing is hard work, and editing is even harder. Talent cannot be learned, but better writing and editing can. Producing a book that’s worth reading is a lengthy and complicated project, and becoming a good writer means constantly desiring–and working towards–being a better one.

I’ve been blessed with knowing a number of “successful” novelists. None of them is satisfied that (s)he can’t do better next time.

That’s my goal, too.

What about you? Do you have a novel–or perhaps a non-fiction book–just burning to be written? Have you started it? How far have you gotten? Etc.? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25.

Best regards,
Roger

How Honest Is “Too Honest”?

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After sixty-seven years of life, I’m just as convinced as ever that honesty is the best policy. But how much is enough–and how much is too much?

Case in point. I have a good friend who’s about seven years younger than me. He is really deep into theological studies and even attended two different seminaries in his younger days—without getting a degree.

He has a pet belief that everything else revolves around—or so it seems. I won’t try to explain it; I barely understand it. I’m not sure I agree with it, but I don’t consider it a vital issue. Certainly not the kind of thing that determines whether a person is truly a Christian.

He thinks it’s important, though. In fact, he wrote a book about it. I read parts of the manuscript, but just couldn’t get into it. Speaking as an English major who overcame that fact to become a published author, I clearly understand why no publishers have taken an interest in it.

The number of potential readers is very small. Not that many people will find it an interesting subject, much less a vital one. My friend doesn’t have a platform from which to “sell books at the back of the room.”

Unfortunately, serious theologians would probably view this manuscript as the work of an amateur. While I think that would be unfair, I couldn’t blame them.

And the problem I’m most hesitant to bring up is this: No matter how smart my friend is—no matter how many years of thought and prayer he’s invested in this manuscript—the writing isn’t top notch. And publishers won’t settle for anything less.

I’m taking a chance that he’ll never see this post. I doubt that he follows my blog.

So what’s my honesty problem?

He told me a couple of days ago that he plans to self-publish his manuscript.

Don’t get me wrong. A number of really good writers are turning to self-publishing now. But I know from my own experience with self-publishing that it’s apt to be a good way to lose money. Unless an author can sell his books—unless he’s willing and able to actively market them—he’s likely to end up with a box or two (or more) of books that do little more than prove he wrote a book.

I think my friend deserves to see his book in print. He needs that sense of fulfillment. I’ve committed to buying a copy. I don’t know how many people follow his blog or read those numerous messages he forwards, but some of them will buy copies, too. Nonetheless, I don’t see how he can hope to recoup his investment.

I attended a class about the ins and outs of self-publishing–it’s often referred to now as indie-publishing–some years ago. One thing that’s stuck in my head ever since is this: Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose.

And He can’t afford to lose it. Not the first penny.

I love my friend. Tell me, please. How can I help him without bursting his bubble?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I revise and repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,
Roger