Lulu versus CreateSpace III

After much kvetching and discussion about CreateSpace, I’ve started to publish the NTD paperbacks through them. The latest release, Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4, saw publication through CS. Why? The short answer: money. The Global Distribution package on Lulu costs $75.00 plus whatever you pay for ISBN’s. The Pro plan of CS costs $39.00 (plus what you spend for the ISBN). You can get an ISBN for free from CS, but if you want to establish your own imprint (as a publisher), best to purchase the ISBN from Bowker.

Recently, CS did away with their Pro plan. They now offer you the option of extended distribution for $25.00. The royalties for Amazon based books are far better – about $5.00 per book and that’s without charging exorbitant fees for your books. CS charges a reasonable price for contributor copies too. Contributor copies cost more through Lulu. With retail sales, I’d get a dollar something per book, and when you’re splitting royalties between two or three people, it comes out to pennies per book. Caveat: you do not get discounts by ordering extra contributor copies through CS. Lulu will discount the contributor copy if you order five or more books, plus they offer frequent specials.

Also, with CS, your book will go up on Amazon straight away, whereas you have to wait six to eight weeks (longer if there is a backup) for Lulu distribution. Promotion and book releases won’t do any good if your book isn’t showing on Amazon and other retailers. Another caveat: CS will format any eBook version for you but there is a hefty charge. I format NTD eBooks myself and get the ISBN from Bowker.

Does this mean I will publish all future NTD material through CS and kick Lulu to the curb? Absolutely not. Lulu does a superior job on the magazine. NTD magazine comes in 88 pages, which results in a narrow spine. Lulu allows you to resize the print so you can read the label off the spine. CS does not allow any print on the NTD spine because in their opinion, the spine is too narrow. Another issue: when I print reviews, I must list three retailers that carry the respective book. I did that with NTD 20, and the magazine is available on Amazon. I don’t mind listing retailers but putting NTD out there with a bare spine gives me the creeps. Especially with the upcoming issue, as I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on NTD 21’s cover. Kudos goes to Marge Simon and Teresa Tunaley for their brilliant artwork.

The magazine has a lot of illustrations, and I’ve had limited success with putting illustrations in the eBooks. Smashwords does not recommend illustrations at all, and most eBooks look best if you stick to B&W illustrations and one font. NTD has about three different fonts, so I offer the eBook version in PDF format. Lulu carries the magazines and the other NTD books in eBook format for no charge. I just ordered the print run for NTD 21 and got a generous discount from Lulu.

Some overseas authors prefer Lulu because Lulu will market your book to other countries besides the USA, where said authors will realize their best sales. CS does not have a global distribution plan.

This past week, I released two books. Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4, edited by Ginger Johnson and Night to Dawn 21. One through CreateSpace and the other through Lulu. Which company is better? For magazines, Lulu; for paperbacks, CreateSpace. It all depends on your market and publication.

 

 

When to Hire an Editor

Some time ago I posted the advantages of Autocrit software, and the wisdom found in Writing the Breakout Novel. Autocrit enabled me to catch repetitive words, and I ferreted out problems in my novel when I applied techniques from Writing the Breakout Novel. However, the devil is in the details, and a small press editor once told me that no writer sees their own mistakes. So I kept going through my work again and again.

The time is coming for me to step up to the plate: either submit my next novel or publish it through Night to Dawn. A lot more authors are turning to independent publishing, but I’m hearing complaints about the spotty editing found in self-published books. The books on the table are Steel Rose, the novel following Dark Side of the Moon, and Dead Folks Stalking, a short story collection. The child in me insists that since I edit Night to Dawn material, I should be able to edit these books myself, right?

The adult in me hollers, “Wrong!”

After looking at comments workshop leaders made about so-called “ready” material, I decided to send Steel Rose off to an editor. This will include content editing. Editing any book is a big job, and takes time, so I proceeded with work on a sequel and the short stories.

I went through the short stories that had seen publication in small press magazines. There’s a lot to be said for putting one’s work aside and then reviewing it weeks later. When I looked at the tales with a fresh pair of eyes, I saw areas that needed rewriting. Perhaps a paragraph had too much tell and not enough show. So I did some rewriting and sent these off to an editor for polishing.

Good thing I did. The content in these stories was addressed by the editors who published them, but there were quite a few typos. Had I sent these tales to press, the errors would make them look less than professional. Mind you, typos make it to print in a lot of books. Two or three errors in a book may not harm sales, but two or three typos on a page will. “Sunset Kill,” a tale featuring dead nursing home residents who resurrect and feed on their caregivers, had that many on some of the pages. Not any more.

So why couldn’t I see my own mistakes? I think because I consider my stories like family members, and I’m too close to them to edit them effectively. At most hospitals, policy dictates that health care workers not treat family members because they’re too close to their situation. Perhaps the same policy should apply to writers and editors with their own stories.

Barbara Custer is the publisher of dark fantasy and science fiction.

Autocrit Revisited: When Your Book Needs More

Some time ago I raved about the merits of Autocrit. I ran Steel Rose and other work through it and became ecstatic when the software ferreted out repetitions, cliches, and problems with sentence structure. I showed up at the PWC with Autocrit-edited work, and learned that Autocrit made a great proofing tool indeed. The extraneous adverbs became history, and so did problem sentences.

But workshop leaders told me the manuscript needed something more. The one-dimensional characters had to go. The villain was all-evil, with no saving graces. Even Dracula had his sympathetic moments. I took a figurative slap on the wrist because my villain turned from a medical professional into a monster who wants nothing but blood. Where’s the conflict?

There wasn’t any. Shame on me.

At the conference, the workshop leaders preached the merits of Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I got the workbook, started reading it, and got a strong awakening. For starters, my protag Alexis whined too much. Granted she has serious problems, but don’t we all? Not many people sympathize with a whiny character. So I’m whittling down the whining as I go through each chapter.

By the way, Alexis grew up in a strict religious family. During her treatments, she falls in love with and beds down an alien lover. Whaaaaat? This goes against her religious beliefs, not to mention her mother’s feelings. In my rewrite, Alexis will have to fight with her conscience before she agrees to love this fellow.

Maass encourages the writer to think of his protagonist’s defining quality. Then he prescribed the writer to write a paragraph in which their protagonist does the opposite. Okay, in Steel Rose, Alexis loves her mother and would never do or say anything to upset her. As the book reads now, Alexis doesn’t mention squat about her alien romance, knowing her mother would get angry. For my rewrite, Alexis will tell her mom, “Hey, it’s my life, and I’m the one who has to live with him.” Just thinking about this makes me respect Alexis more.

I just did the same exercise with a secondary character. After I rewrote the respective chapter, I saw a big difference in the way it read.

With the chapter on antagonists, I softened villain Laurel a bit, and gave her an extra dimension. Now I’ve got to do the same with another antagonist. I will need to work those exercises a lot more before doing the chapters with the villains.

After I’ve walked through (there’s no running here) each chapter through Writing the Breakout Novel, I will revisit Autocrit for help with proofing.

Has anyone else worked with the Breakout Novel workbook? How did it help you?


 

Revisions and then More Revisions

Over the months, I’ve alluded to a sequel: Steel Rose. Steel Rose wound up with its own cast of characters, so I can’t call it a sequel any more. Maybe this is good. At workshops, speakers have advised everyone to put their manuscripts aside for a few weeks, and then rework them. I put Steel Rose on the back burner while I worked on Starship Invasions. Now I’m back with fresh eyes, and I brought along my Autocrit program.

Putting the manuscript aside was the best advice anyone gave me. When I went back to it, I found a lot of inconsistencies and need for line editing. The big thing was repetition. One chapter was cluttered with “that.” There is nothing wrong with using “that” or “was,” but those words shouldn’t clutter the pages. In this, Word has been a staunch alley with its find and thesaurus features. Since I’ve gotten into publishing books and marathon revisions, I’ve made peace with Word, and I’m starting to appreciate its assets.

But let me not digress. The more revisions I make, the more I see that need to be done. Writing comes naturally, but introducing characters that people love can be difficult. The body language needs work, and I’ve seen that with others’ manuscripts. I found research helpful, and even more, the critiques I get from my writer’s group. Reading out loud enabled me to catch problems if I stumbled over sentences.

Some days, the revisions come easy, especially after a good night’s sleep. Other days, it might take three or four of my best curse words to do the job, especially when life gets in the way. On the bad days, I try to remind myself I’m making progress. And if later, an editor should suggest revisions, I will consider that person a good friend. It is better to fix the problems before the manuscript goes to print, than to have a reviewer or reader comment on them later.

That said, I have to wonder how Jonathan Maberry and other great writers get through the revision process. With deadlines, you have to move fast. I can edit fast. I have to sometimes for the NTD tales but revising comes slow. Perhaps if necessity was involved, I’d speed up my revisions.

I’d like to hear about your revising process. What was most difficult? What has helped you?

Steel Rose features cross-genre horror / science fiction by Barbara Custer

This tale received a lot of pruning before it went to press. Props to my editors!

CreateSpace versus Lulu

My mother once told me that when you leave your old street for a new street, you know what you’re leaving, but you don’t know what you’re going to find. I kind of felt that way when some of my fellow small press publishers encouraged me to do my NTD printing through CreateSpace. The royalties are better, they told me, and copies are cheaper.

If you want extended distribution, such as Published By You in Lulu, it runs about $100 ($75.00 for distribution and $25.00 for an ISBN if you buy yours in lots of ten). I saw that I could get extended distribution in CreateSpace if I got the pro plan for $39.00, and then I read the fine print. CreateSpace does not sell overseas. Lulu does. Once you plunk down the $39.00 charge, you have to pay $5.00 a year to keep the distribution going. So..let’s say the book stays in print ten years. That’s $50.00. And there is still your $25.00 for the ISBN. CreateSpace will supply an ISBN but you can’t use it anywhere else. Funny thing, I never read anything about the $5.00 a year charge when I visited blogs to see why people esteemed CreateSpace.

There is another caveat I didn’t find on these blogs. When you upload files on CreateSpace, you must have them in PDF. That goes for the cover as well as the interior. Better go out and spend several hundred on Acrobat software to make PDF files if you don’t already have it. I don’t have Acrobat, but I have Word 2007, which enables me to convert the interior file to PDF but not the covers. Lightning Source is another company that requires you to own Acrobat software and be savvy about it.

If you don’t intend to go for extended distribution, CreateSpace may well be cheaper, and with that in mind, I contemplated CreateSpace as an adjunct to the Lulu printer. Perhaps it might work for the Night to Dawn magazine. So I gave it a try, using a PDF file I had gotten off of Lulu.

With the right kind of file, the uploading process wasn’t bad. The files passed muster, and it came time to order a proof. This brings me to my final caveat, payment. Lulu will give you the option of PayPal. CreateSpace only deals with credit cards, and the company wouldn’t accept mine. I’ve used the same credit card for ten years with no problems but CreateSpace would not accept it. I only keep one credit card that I use regularly, and I’m not getting another credit card just so I can place an order. So I did not get the proof.

Well, well. Two other sayings come to mind, these gotten from my husband. When you buy cheap, you get cheap. Stick with the one who brought you to the dance. If I tell Mike about my experience with Lulu and CreateSpace, that is exactly what he would tell me. And so with that in mind I will be happy to release Tom Johnson’s new book, Cold War Heroes, using my familiar Lulu printer, smile, and kick up my heels.

Which company would you use to print your books? What were your experiences with that company, and would you recommend it for others? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Ghost Dance features zombies, vampires, and werewolves.

 

To Lie or not to Lie; that is the question.

While lying with balloons, Barbara Custer contemplates novel ways to lie to her readers.

We lay in bed all day waiting for Barbara to lie down.

I’m referring to one of the verbs that give me and other writers a lot of grief –  the difference between lie, lay, and laid. That and certain words that mean one thing when used as a compound, and something else when used separately, can mess up an otherwise well-written tale.

And so therein “lies” the problem:

Lie as an intransitive verb: I am lying down with my balloons.

Lay as a transitive verb: John, please lay the balloon tree on the table.

Sounds simple but when we move to the past tense, complications arise. For example, the present tense of lie is lie. Example: He lies on the rug. The past tense is lay. Example: Robert lay on the floor. The past participle is lain. Example: He’d lain in that bed for some time.

The present tense of lay is lay. Example: I lay my purse on the table. The past tense is laid. Example: Barbara laid her balloons in the cart. The past participle is laid. She’d laid the bags on the table an hour ago.

Looking at compound words, I found that certain words, when used separately or as a compound, mean two different things. One example is setup. Is it set up, set-up or setup? So I went to my trusty dictionary.

“Setup” is a noun, while “set up” is a verb. But it’s not quite that simple. You always use “set up” when you’re using it for a verb, so….

You must set up your computer software.

Mary set up her balloon tree.

Frank set up a bank account for his client.

As a noun and adjective, you would use either setup or set-up and each means different things. Setup is the noun or adjective used pertaining to computers and their setup. Set-up is the noun or adjective used pertaining to things unrelated to computers and their setup. So…

This PC setup screen is unique.

The computer’s setup is compact.

But:

That bag of pot was a set-up from the beginning.

Some banks charge exorbitant set-up fees

The set-up of her entertainment center is precarious.

Sometime versus some time. It sounds simple, but isn’t…quite. When “some time” is used as a certain / unspecified duration of time, use “some time.” Example: I spent some time looking for the rose balloon. When “sometime” is used as an adjective meaning “former,” it’s one word. Example: That balloon salesperson is my sometime friend. If we’re referring to an unspecified point of time in the future, either “sometime” or “some time” is appropriate. Example. I plan to travel to the islands sometime / some time next year.

As I continue my work, if I find other compound words that stump me, I will post them in a future blog. For now, I have it clear in my mind which of the above words to use in my work-in-progress. Somehow, though, when I get engrossed in the heat of the scene, I’m liable to forget and mix up the verbs. A wise instructor once told me that English was the most difficult language to learn. I think she had it right.

Do you find yourself struggling with “lie” versus “lay,” or any of the compound words? I would like to hear about your experiences with compounds and words like “lie/lay,” and how you worked your way around them.

 

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