Sunday 20 September 2009

Traditional or Electronic

The holiday is over and reading the first book by the late Stieg Larsson called The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A friend recommended this book to me, so as I was in the land of Barnes and Noble, I searched and found. It is a fascinating book, written to hold your attention with detailed care. The pace, while it plods steadily on, leaves you persistently glued to see what the stars do next.

To me, acquiring new books is like acquiring treasure and the wonders of what you would find once you turn the first page. I love books - who doesn't? - and the smell of a new book is like that new perfume you covet, that new-leather smell of those killer shoes, that bright shiny spark of a new lipstick shade from your favourite brand of cosmetics. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I get more of a rush from shopping for a new book than I would with other items, you know, like clothes, shoes, etc.

Of course, I don't randomly buy books. Most of my book buying is with purpose - some are accidental. There are many books out there that I simply do not bother with, let alone look at or even touch in my quest of finding that book. I am sure this applies to many people - my mother-in-law is a classic example. Unless its got fluffy romance and a happy ending, she'll not think twice about reading it. Violence and graphic action are things she will recoil at and curdle her blood...which means my own book may never be read by her. Ah well, I'm hoping the romance side will sell it to her.

Until recently, the main choice has only ever been traditional books: crisp, clean paper bound together by the printers into neat and convenient little compact reading tablets that is the sliced-bread wonder since man first scratched on a wall with a rock. It's every writers dream to get published and see their books bound together as such and displayed for all to see and read. I am no exception.

During my quest for finding a publisher, it was automatic that I sought out a traditional publisher. After all, when you think 'book', you immediately think of that rectangle slab of bound paper with a pretty cover and a come hither title to catch your eye.

But there's an alternative.

Electronic books! The other sliced-bread wonder since man invented email.

The more I researched about them and the more websites I clicked onto that offered electronic books, the more appealing they became to me. I became hooked and eventually, I made a decision to actively seek out said e-book publishers. After all, not everyone can nip across to the nearest bookstore and spend a couple hours browsing through their shelves looking for books, as appealing as that may sound. Practically everyone has a computer tucked away in some corner of their house or permanently affixed to their lap. And everyone loves to browse the internet. Eventually, reading from a screen gives you more comfort than it does from reading off a piece of paper. Of course, there are the die-hards that still love a book to be a book, me included. But times are changing, and so are books.

My decision to opt for an electronic book was not disappointing. A few people have criticized my decision (the die-hards) mostly because they see e-books as crappy little efforts by equally crappy little wannabes and feel marketing themselves small on the internet is the only way they would ever sell their books. That may be true to some extent, but not entirely. So many well-written books by solid writers choose electronic publishing, and quite a number of them end up being published by traditional publishers. Even the old favourite classics are now finding themselves being converted to electronic format for the mass market to read via the e-book reader - a must-have device if you are expected to function in this rapidly developing technological age.

And now that I have acquired just such a device, I have now taken to trolling through the many websites and online stores that offer e-books from the comfort of my own home. I can pore over book blurbs, even read excerpts and reviews before I make the decision to buy, and without a suspicious looking store clerk looking over at me from a counter wondering if I plan to stay the whole day and read the book without paying or have intentions of nicking it. We've all gotten that look as we spend a tad too long pondering over the decision to buy a book or not, to the extent the clerk wanders over under the guise of 'can I help you?'. No, just browsing now leave me the eff alone!

But now, book buying has become that much more appealing.

I now have to get used to the crisp new smell of moulded plastics and digital fumes.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Seeing Your Own Name

So, here I am sitting in the guest house in Orlando, enjoying my holiday and having absolutely nothing but a blank slate knocking about in my head. I feel very dense and ignorant - the creative juices have come to a complete standstill. I suppose that is what being on holiday means.

At the back of my mind, I have that niggling little voice that's telling me I need to write something. Anything. Whether its a few more pages of book three or some inane words for my blog. But the mind draws a blank. It doesn't help that there is much to see and much to do and much distractions that split your brains literally into two.

What do I need to feel creative? Its very simple: Quiet time.

For me, quiet time can come in all sorts of disguises, places, or moments. But mostly, it's that time where there are no distractions other than my own mind talking back to me. Yes, it's a little worrying, but I do answer back. Sometimes, I even have lengthy conversations...

Having a computer helps. There's no end of mindless jabber that fills up the noise of everyday distractions and eventually, quiet time slowly pushes itself in. Amazing, but true. And then, while ambling around your favourite websites - webmail, Facebook, etc., hoping to find some inspiration to your story, you just happen to click onto your publisher's website, just to see what's new. And then you pause...

What do you see? Your name. Correction: MY NAME!

I cannot begin to describe to you the feeling you get when you see that. Nor the wide grin that spreads across your face. There, listed among their authors, is my name. Finally you feel as if it's all for real - all that time spent writing, creating, seeking, pouring over their contracts, making sure you made the right decision...finally comes to the point where you say to yourself: Yes, it's really happening. I am being published and my work is going out into the world for all to see.

Then you grin some more and can't stop for some time.

Suddenly, you feel like a writer. Of course, after the first nasty critique you will no doubt receive, you may beg to differ. But for the moment, you're your own dream come true.

And the creative juices start to spout forth and you want to write on any surface that will allow you to. You start to see things, people, instances, moments, everything in a different dimension. I never knew it before, but now I do - or have come to realize - that the dimension is the writer's dimension. You take one step back, retract your eyes inwards and into that 'place' where you simply observe, process, calculate, project... It's like going undercover in plain sight. You see simple actions, phrases, moments in a different light. While you observe, your mind injects varying scenarios as to what would happen should one thing be out of place, if one moment were done differently. If you shifted your viewpoint, your thoughts, your would that alter things? Before you know it, you've created a whole scene, one that could be used, exploited and enhanced and used in any way you see fit. You start to join that scene with another, then another...and the rollercoaster beings.

Of course, when you've got a shitload of distractions, like shopping for those shoes you saw the other day, well...what can I say? I suppose I should carry on with my priorities and see my holiday through like a trooper. There's always time for writing - after the vacation is over.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

The Waiting Game

Choosing publishers is like choosing clothes. If it doesn't fit right, what's the point in buying it. In my journey in selecting publishers, I scoured the long list of many reputable publishers both great and small, not minding if they were publishers in e-books, traditional, print on did not matter so long as I could get that blasted size 5 and a half foot in the door.

Easier said than done. After all, my foot is tiny compared to most.

Some publishers, I found, only represent a certain genre and nothing else. Reading their submissions guidelines - carefully - is a must. I discovered that many do not publish fiction; many still only publish cookbooks or books on history about some obscure person or event that took place. Some only publish law books, academia, anime and graphic novels, and lets not forget those exciting books on computer programming.

Because most lists start alphabetically, one automatically starts at the letter A, then moves on to B and so forth. I set up an attack plan and portioned out a few hours in the day to launch my onslaught. After careful reading and background checks, I had my list completed and sent out as many queries as I could, careful to disregard those that stated they do not accept multiple submissions. Now, it took me a while to figure that one out. I thought at first they meant that I shouldn't send them a bombardment of submissions, hoping that they'd get the point and read my manuscript. What I dufus I was. It simply means that if I submitted elsewhere, not to bother sending to them. And, believe it or not, there are many publishers out there who do just that. Which really makes it hard when you're in the submitting process.

Most publishers, after an initial confirmation notice via email that they have received your submission, will take at least one to three months to reply to you with either a yes or a no. Now as a first time writer seeking out a publisher, that is hard work and if you don't have the patience, don't bother being a writer.

The waiting game is the hardest.

Because your conscience (well, mine in particular) does not allow you submit to someone who does not accept multiples, you spend the majority of your time waiting for a response from the publishers who are not so strict in their guidelines. While you wait, you think all number of things. Like missed chances, the shrinking time frame as the limited opening for submissions passes by, wondering if you worded your query letter right, did you offend someone by being too frank, did they think your work was crap and they just tossed it... On and on you drive yourself mad with these thoughts.

Somewhere during my waiting game, I made the decision to cancel my vanity press option. It was hard to do, but I knew it was something that I needed to do in order to prove to myself that I was a writer. That I didn't need to pay to have my work printed because it was good enough for someone to actually want to publish it.

And still I waited...

Then the replies started to come in drips and drags: No thanks, not what we are looking for at the moment. And one by one, you cross names out from your list.

And then one day, just when you thought people had completely forgotten about you, just when you think about your next plan of attack, a reply comes.

You read it twice, just to make sure you've seen correctly. You read it carefully, just like the first rejection letter you receive. You read it once more and then the grin spreads across your face and you can't stop grinning for the rest of the week.

Yes! Someone finally said yes!

To make things even more special, its a yes from one of the publishers you were hoping would say yes.

Life is good once more and you feel blissfully loved.