Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – August update

We’ve had a couple of great days, as we always do in the third week of the month. The WritersMic Meetup was terrific, with another batch of varied reads. If you think you’d like to come and read or to listen, sign on at the Meetup link above. We’d love to have you!

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Just some of the Rendezvous members – looking happy after the meeting

On Wednesday, a dozen or more of us showed up for the Writers’ Rendezvous at Barnes & Noble in Westport to be deafened by the sound of jackhammers – inside the store. Worse than that, the area being worked on was the café, so we were deprived of coffee too! Undeterred, member Gina Ryan suggested we meet al fresco, which was lovely until the construction trucks drove by, causing yours truly to signal them rather rudely and to absolutely no avail…

The item that caught everyone’s interest actually came at the very end of the meeting, when we go around and say what we hope to get done before we meet again. Member Elizabeth Chatsworth casually said “I’m going to have my computer read my novel aloud.” An eruption of questions prompted her to explain. MS Word has a text-to-speech feature which will read your work, without much expression, but accurately, so you can hear where you might have repeated yourself, skipped a word, or said something clumsy. I’m a fan of reading one’s work aloud – it helps me see where the flow becomes wonky, but when I do it I’m apt to supply a missing word, or even replace something without noticing. The computer doesn’t care – it will read what you wrote while you take notes, or stop it to correct things. Elizabeth supplied me with a link which explains how to enable the text-to-speech feature in Word. She also sent me the info on a free tool, Natural Readers, that claims to sound more natural. I’m not sure how much better it is, but it does offer different accents, if that’s your thing.

The Ridgefield Writers Conference is happening from September 22-23 at the Ridgefield Library. Run by Adele Annesi and Rebecca Dimyan, it features a great list of presenters. It is a juried event, so if you want to attend, you’ll need to send them a one page sample of your writing. Check the site for details.

Dogwood, Fairfield University’s Literary magazine, is open for submissions to their next contest. They charge to submit, but offer prizes in poetry, nonfiction, and fiction – three prizes of $1,000 each for the best story, essay, and poem submitted.   Enter by clicking this link.

Member Ed Ahern found this article about author etiquette on Amazon and, incidentally, how to avoid trolls. Among the suggestions are: Don’t spam/Never trade reviews for books/Never diss other authors/Don’t pay for customer reviews /never respond to reviews/Always report abuse/avoid certain sites/Don’t stray from your genre…

Along the same lines, here’s one on how to get book reviews as an unknown author by Jason B Ladd on the Creative Penn website. This is a good website to subscribe to if you’re an indie author. Joanna Penn, who runs it, has succeeded as an indie author (she may even have coined the term) by working very hard. I began by listening to her podcast, where she interviews fellow authors while she was still writing her first book, and then subscribed to her blog.

For those of you looking for an agent, Publishers Marketplace produces a daily email you can subscribe to, which will keep you abreast of all developments in the publishing world. It’s called Publisher’s Lunch and although there’s almost too much information if you’re not looking right now, you might want to make a note of it.

Looking for help with your query letter for a novel? Writers’ Relief has some suggestions. You can read the article here.

If you need beta readers, or you want to become one, Goodreads can help. One of their groups is Beta Reading and Editing, and you can post your willingness/availability/charges, or look for someone to read your work. They will send you occasional email updates, but to get the most from it, you should check it regularly yourself. I don’t need to tell you that the advantage of having a beta reader you don’t know is that they don’t know what you’re trying to say, either. And if they don’t get it, they’ll tell you so. Don’t rely on your cousin Antonia!

Finally – enjoy the rest of the summer – our next meetings will be on September 19th and 20th. Look forward to seeing you there. If you have anything to add or correct, please let me know in the comments.

And if you like this blog, please follow it. Thanks!

 

 

Interview with author Lisa Winkler – editor of Tangerine Tango

In addition to writing a regular blog, Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America.  She’s also the editor of a new anthology of writing by women called Tangerine Tango (yes, of course I’m in it!) and I was impressed with the energy and dedication she brought to putting the project together, so I asked her about it.

GC: Congratulations on publishing Tangerine Tango. Is this the first book you’ve produced?

LW: Thanks, Gabi! I’m so proud of the book. This is my second book.  On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America was published last February. That is a very different book than Tangerine Tango. It tells the journey of a teacher I met from Newark, NJ who rode his horse from New York to California to honor the contributions of African-Americans to US history.

Tangerine Tango is a collection of essays and poems by 12 women writers.

GC: Tell me something about how you found your authors.

LW: Most of the writers I have befriended through blogging and I asked them to contribute.  By reading and commenting on each others’ blogs I feel as if I have all these wonderful friends!

GC: The book is attractive looking. Did you design it yourself, or did you have help?

LW: I had help. I am so lucky to have met Solveig Marina Bang. She is a designer and copy editor, based in India, who turns my word documents into art!  We go back and forth debating grammar as well as design.  She created 9 covers for me to select from—I loved this one immediately.

GC: Which parts of the publishing process did you handle yourself? (ISBN numbers, editing, etc)

LW: I have self-published with CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company. They assign the ISBN. I edited the essays and shared the edits with the writers. Then Marina and I pored through the entire document scores of times, and the writers proofread it too. I think there were over 20 drafts before it was ready to submit for publication.

GC: Was publishing the book pretty straightforward?

LW: Well the paperback was unavailable for a few days because of some glitch between Amazon and CreateSpace. In order to solve the formatting problems I had to wait for them to fix the issues with the Amazon paper copies. People who ordered from CreateSpace directly weren’t affected, but it was a nuisance from a promotional point of view. On the bright side, while it was unavailable, Amazon was advertising used copies for $999!

GC: Is the problem cleared up now?

LW: Yes, thankfully, and it’s been selling well.

GC: What piece of advice would you give to other indie authors looking to publish?

LW: It’s a risk and investment. There are tons of paper books being published both traditionally and self-published. Then there are eBooks. There’s a lot of competition. Don’t expect to make fast money. There’s no guarantee even if you’re traditionally published.
GC: Would you be prepared to do it again? Is volume 2 in the works, for example, or do you have something different on the horizon?

 

LW: I’d love to do this again! It would be another title; maybe with themes, maybe not. I’d love to double the size of the book and the number of authors. I think I’ll wait at least a year though to see how this one does, and if I do another book, I want to research other companies.

Author interview: James Tenedero

One of my more popular posts recently was the one about authors’ blog tours. After reading it, James Tenedero, a Canadian author, asked me if I’d be prepared to host him when he organized his blog tour today. James is from Montreal, but has traveled extensively in Europe, as you’ll find out when you read his book, The Consistency of Parchment, a thriller. You can find out more about his background at the bottom of this post.

Since this is James’ first novel, I wanted to know how, exactly, he arrived at a finished, published work. I was interested in the process from first concept through editing to self-publishing. I think you will be ,too.

GC: I can see from the book that you’ve traveled in Europe a great deal. Did you live there once? And, – a couple more questions: What gave you the idea for this novel, and why all the train trips?

JT: I have studied in Copenhagen, and I also lived in Budapest for a short time.  The idea for the novel really originated during my stay in Hungary. At the time, in 2003, the transition from Communist rule to democracy was already well underway, but I was still struck by the lack of severe Soviet-era architecture and customs; while there were traces of this past, much of that history seemed to have been swept out of view.

I started to consider the idea that we relate to the past in a very visceral way through the symbols and artifacts that we encounter in our daily lives. This is really the key underlying theme of the book, from which I then developed the storyline involving Cal, Kendra, and their journey to discover the contents of the safe deposit box for which Kendra possesses the key.

The frequent train trips in the book were based on my own travels throughout Europe. I used these episodes as a way to develop the bond between Cal and Kendra, and to flesh out the details of their motivations without impeding the narrative arc or the pace of the story.

GC: Once you had your ‘final’ draft, who edited it?

JT: I edited the book myself. Although I don’t have the skill set of a professional editor, I did work as a proofreader for a federal government agency for several years – so I have some sense of what to look for. Ultimately, I decided that the person best able to tell the story was me. So it seemed to make sense for me to write and edit the book myself. I’m a big proponent of the desk-drawer approach to editing: finish the draft of your manuscript, set it aside for a few weeks, and then come back to it with a set of fresh eyes.

GC: When you decided to publish, where did you start? I assume you had a Word document, but what happened next?

JT: Since I had made a decision to publish with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I followed the template provided in their Building Your Book for Kindle guide, which is available online for free download here. I formatted the manuscript accordingly, added hyperlinks for the Table of Contents so that readers could easily navigate through the book on their Kindle, and then uploaded the full document for sale on the Amazon website.

GC: Who designed the cover and layout?

JT: As with the editing, I selected the cover art and designed the front cover. (You can probably tell that I like to exercise a good deal of control over the way that my writing is presented, and with The Consistency of Parchment I was an unabashed monopolist from conception of the story to sale of the book!). The photograph is taken from a cemetery in Manchester, England, which I visited earlier this year, and I experimented with several different fonts before settling on the text that you see here. I’m happy with the overall result, and I’ve already had some very complimentary feedback in this vein from potential readers!

GC: Where is it available?

JT:Although there are certainly many options for authors looking to make their books available on the Web, I chose Amazon because of the popularity of the site. I wanted to ensure that I had the largest possible audience for my work, and Amazon provides me with this opportunity. Another nice feature of their publishing model is that you’re essentially unrestricted in terms of the potential volume of sales you can realize. You publish online, your book is automatically listed by Amazon, and your ultimate success is dependent on the quality of the product (as determined by the readers and reviewers, not by literary agents or publishing houses) and the amount of effort you devote to marketing it.

GC: When you sent me a review copy (thank you) it was in MOBI format. Can you tell us why you chose that format?

JT: I chose MOBI as my format because of its simplicity and inexpensiveness. An author can use freely available software such as Mobipocket Creator to convert a manuscript into MOBI. Also, these files are fully compatible with the Kindle, which of course was an important consideration for me!

GC: I opened my copy using Calibre, and then transferred it to my Kindle Fire. Am I right in thinking that this only works for free copies?

JT: Although I haven’t used Calibre myself, my understanding of the tool is that it works for both free and paid copies.

GC: So if people want to buy it, how much does it cost, and where can they find it?

JT: The Consistency of Parchment is currently on sale for $2.99 on the Amazon web site. Since my book is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon Prime members can obtain it for free. Also, the familiar ‘Look Inside’ feature allows readers to sample the first couple of chapters before deciding whether to purchase the book.

Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to speak about my work! I would invite your readers to follow me on Twitter (@jamestenedero), connect with me on Goodreads, and Like my Facebook author page. I’m always interested in hearing from other authors and readers, so feel free to get in touch with me through any of these channels.

I hope you enjoy the book, and I welcome your feedback and comments.

James Tenedero is a Montreal author, PhD student, (sometime) adventurer, and (unrepentant) bibliophile. After stints in corporate finance and management consulting, James answered the call of academia: he is currently enrolled in PhD studies at McGill University with the hopes of eventually securing his place in the ivory tower. When he’s not writing fiction, James can be found in his office researching organizational innovation and writing non-fiction. The Consistency of Parchment is his first full-length novel