Category Archives: On Writing

What I’m Learning About Self-Publishing a Book

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Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I recently self-published my first book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It’s a 200+ page collection of short essays about my experiences as a camp host and parking lot attendant at a popular trailhead in a National Forest. Some of my readers have expressed interest in publishing books of their own, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about self-publishing so far.

#1 Writing the book was the easy part.

Confessions of a Work Camper includes 15 never-published-anywhere-else essays, as well as newly written introductions to each chapter, and some fun lists, but the bulk of the book has appeared in blog posts. For the most part, the book was written before I decided to self-publish it.

The steps that came after writing were the more difficult parts for me.

#1a Proofreading is a pain.

Believe it or not, I edit my blog posts several times before I schedule them. I thought I’d been doing a great job proofreading until I put the texts of posts into my book document and found typos all over the place. So I did more proofreading and editing. Then I did more proofreading and editing. Then I took a friend up on her offer to help, and she read the entire document and offered some corrections. Then I read the entire book aloud and found more mistakes. So when it was time to approve the proof of the book, I did so without reading it one more time. That was a mistake.

When I started reading my essays again in preparation for reading them aloud to an audience, I immediately found more errors. I’m not talking about formatting problems. I’m talking about wrong words in sentences. Since the words aren’t technically misspelled, the spell check didn’t alert me to them, and my eyes glided right over them. Sigh.

Every typo is an embarrassment to me.

The first edition is barely complete, and I already need to work on the second edition.

#1b It took me a while to figure out how to use CreateSpace.

I needed some form of Adobe to use CreateSpace’s cover creator. I couldn’t get Adobe to work with Firefox. I had a telephone conversation with a CreateSpace representative in South Africa. He was exceedingly nice and very helpful, but Firefox and Adobe still wouldn’t work together to let me use the CreateSpace cover creator. I ended up using Google Chrome to do anything on CreateSpace that required Adobe.

I put the text of the book in a Word Starter document. (Word Starter is the word processing program my laptop came with. I never upgraded.) When I transferred my text into the document formatted for CreateSpace, any words in italics transferred to all caps. Since I use italics to indicate thoughts or conversations, this glitch made it seem as if all the people in my book were YELLING AT EACH OTHER. I had to go into the CreateSpace document and manually change each instance of capital letters into italics.

When it came time to approve the book’s formatting online, formatting that looked fine in the CreateSpace Word document looked all wrong in the examples of the actual book. I spent an entire morning working on the formatting, and it’s still not perfect.

I’m not saying CreateSpace is impossible to use. When I got frustrated with it, I reminded myself that people many people use CreateSpace to self-publish every day. However, there is a learning curve when using CreateSpace. (The Poet had warned me of the learning curve when she first told me all she knew about publishing with CreateSpace. Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/19/self-publishing-books-online/.) Until a writer learns the ends and outs of CreateSpace, getting a book ready for publication may take more time than expected.

#2 That book’s not going to promote itself.

Again, writing the book was easy, compared to getting people to buy it.

My book was first released as an ebook. In the first day the ebook was available, it sold nine copies. This is great! I thought. From there, sales dwindled. Once my friends who read ebooks bought their copies, I had to figure out how to get strangers to buy it.

#2a Public libraries aren’t so keen on buying self-published books (and sometimes they don’t seem to want to buy any books at all).

I had the idea to get all my friends across the country to ask their local libraries to buy my book. To make it easier for them, I researched different libraries to find out how my supporters could go about requesting a book for purchase. Many libraries have an online form for such a request, but while some library systems (I’m looking at you, Las Vegas, NV and Richmond, VA), say sure, patrons can suggest a book for purchase, I found no indication of how to do so.

I filled out an online request for the purchase of my book with a library system in a major U.S. city where I happen to have a library card. I received a response saying they don’t even consider buying a self-published book unless it has at least 50 reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. (I currently have seven reviews on Amazon and none on GoodReads.)

#2b I’m not much of a hustler, so figuring out ways to promote the book hasn’t been easy. I’m encouraging folks who’ve read the book to leave reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads. I’ve set up an author’s page on GoodReads. I’ve announced the book (repeatedly) here on my blog and on the Rubber Tramp Artist (https://www.facebook.com/Rubber-Tramp-Artist-1582864462007151/) and Blaizin’ Sun Creations (https://www.facebook.com/Blaizin-Sun-Creations-291317231259583/?fref=ts) Facebook pages.

I’ve done two readings so far, and have another scheduled for the day this post runs. The two readings were at the RTR and both were small. Making a reading a success seems to take a lot of promotion, including hanging flyers and sending emails. I haven’t given up, but it’s a lot more work than I expeted.

#2c It takes CreateSpace a while to deliver 100 copies of a 200+ page book.

It was Christmas before I was able to approve the book for publication and order the 100 copies I wanted for promotion. I thought I’d get them by the first week in January, which was based upon absolutely no concrete information. Instead, my estimated delivery date was January 17. I was hesitant to schedule reading where I hoped to sell copies of the book when I had no copies of the book to sell.

#3 Lots of people want to write a book.

When I mention I’ve recently self-published a book, the person I’m speaking to often says s/he has written a book or wants to write a book. I try to be encouraging while also making clear that writing a book is only the first step in getting it read.

 

My Creative Dream Guidebook

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I’ve adored SARK for years.

I can’t remember which of her books was the first I read, but I know I knew about her before the 21st century. I remember decorating a post card and writing a fan letter on it and sending it to her in 1999 or 2000, so I certainly knew her work well by then.

If you’ve never heard of SARK, I’m glad I can be the one to tell you about her.

Succulent Wild Woman
SARK is her acronym name; the letters stand for Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. On her website, Planet SARK (http://planetsark.com/about-sark/), she says about herself,

Throughout the course of my life and career as an international expert in personal well-being and transformation, my name has become synonymous with transformation, color, healing, movement & FUN.

I’ve written countless books and created programs that I offer to provide a powerfull [sic], grounded and practical approach to feeling glad more often, transforming what hurts into what helps and living a life of joyfull creative expression. No matter what!

I’ve read a lot of SARK’s books over the years, including Succulent Wild Woman, Eat Mangoes Naked, A Creative Companion: How to Free Your Creative Spirit, The Bodacious Book of Succulence: Daring to Live Your Succulent Wild Life, and Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed: The Ultimate Nap Book.

The books are full of colors and wisdom and love. Even though I live in a van and have little space to hoard books, I own copies of both Succulent Wild Woman and Eat Mangoes Naked. Sometimes when I am sad, I reread one or both of the books for the umpteenth time. I like browsing through the books, skipping around, reading bits and pieces here and there. Reading SARK’s kind and gentle words always lifts my spirits, cheers me up, makes me feel better.

Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day
In 2004, Touchstone books released SARK’s book Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day. (Yes, I WOULD rather sleep all day, as a matter of fact.)

I’ve had my eye on Make Your Creative Dreams Real for a while now, but I was never in the right position to acquire it. I don’t like to spend money on books since there are so many free ones out in the world, but I never found this one in a free pile or offered on BookMooch.

I was house sitting for a friend from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve. She had a $10 voucher at an independent used bookstore that expired on New Year’s Eve. She didn’t have a chance to use the voucher before she left town, and her plane didn’t land until late on December 31. Since she couldn’t use the voucher, she left it for me. (Super big thanks to this generous friend who also left a Chick-fil-A gift card for me!)

Before I went to the bookstore, I didn’t really know what I wanted to get. I wandered around in the store for a while before I thought, OH! SARK!

So I sought out SARK in the store’s self-help section. (SIDE NOTE: I couldn’t find the self-help section, but I was too embarrassed to ask any of the workers to direct me. How silly is that!?! I was too embarrassed to let strangers know I wanted to self-help myself. Sigh.)

The Grapes of Wrath
There were quite a few titles by SARK on the shelf. Then I saw Make Your Creative Dreams Real. Oh, yes, that would do. I checked the price. It only cost $8! Score! (With my remaining $2, I bought a battered copy of The Grapes of Wrath, which I’d decided to revisit.)

Although the word “plan” is clearly in the subtitle, I didn’t realize Make Your Creative Dreams Real is a how-to book. I started reading it and realized it’s a twelve month, week-by-week guide. Every week SARK presents a new project, exercise, game, or suggestion.

I’ve never been good at sticking with how-to books that require weekly exercises, but I figured since I already had the book I should stay the course.

The exercise for the first week was to make a “creative dream guidebook” for myself. I had a visual journal I’d bought with a gift certificate The Lady of the House gave me a couple years ago for Christmas. I’d bought two journals and only used part of one, so I thought the second one would do just fine.

I made collages on both covers. (One of the best features of this particular journal is that you I can open it completely and lay it flat.) I went for a blue theme, which I thought gave everything a dreamy feeling. Coyote Sue had just given me an old children’s dictionary she’d bought at a thrift store, so I cut out and pasted on the definitions for “create/creation/creator” (since there was no entry for “creative”), “dream,” “guidebook,” “blaze” (because, you know, the dictionary doesn’t include “Blaize”), and “sun.” I think it turned out great.

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I took the photo of my Creative Dream Guidebook collage. The other images are links to Amazon.com. If you click any of those images, they will take you to Amazon, and I will get an advertising fee from anything you purchase.

What Do You Think?

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As we get ready to greet a new year, I wonder what folks think about this blog?

I was going to set up a neat little survey, but then realized everything I could find that would maybe work was going to cost me money. I don’t think I need to spend money. I think I can ask a few questions, request your answers, and done.

My questions will follow. Feel free to answers one, more, or all of them. You can answer in the comments section of this post, or, if you want to answer in private, send a message to rubbertrampartist@gmail.com. Please feel free to answer whether you are a longtime reader or if you just discovered this blog five minutes ago. I am truly interested in your opinions, but I reserve the right to do whatever the heck I want.

#1 How do you feel about the frequency of publication?

a) Once a day is great!

b) Once a day is a little excessive. How about

i) Four times a week

ii) Three times a week

iii) Twice a week

c) Once a week is about all I can take

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#2 How do you feel about the length of posts?

a) Short (less than 200 words) is best

b) Keep most posts at 300 to 2,000 words.

c) Go in-depth (2,000+ words)

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#3 What category of posts do you like the best?

a) Travel stories with photos

b) Stories about travels with traveling kids

c) On-the-job stories

d) Experiences with frugal living

e) Book reviews

f) Stories about music

g) Personal experiences living in a van

h) Stories about food

i) Other [please give example(s)]

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#4 What do you think about the overall Rubber Tramp Artist attitude?

a) The Rubber Tramp Artist is too negative.

b) The Rubber Tramp Artist is keeping it real.

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#5 Do you think the Rubber Tramp Artist is funny?

a) The Rubber Tramp Artist IS funny!

b) The Rubber Tramp Artist THINKS she’s funny!

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#6 Would you recommend this blog to your friends? Why or Why not? (If your answer is yes, please go ahead and recommend now.)

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Self-Publishing Books Online

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I recently announced I am planning to self-publish a collection of my work camping stories. (Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/09/in-which-i-decide-to-write-a-book/.)

In the post, I mentioned asking the Poet for all the information she had about self-publishing. She graciously sent me an informative email within a couple of hours.

In response to this information, one of my readers asked, Is there any chance that you could pass this on? I just recently heard about it, but don’t know much about the where and how-to. I would be grateful for any info.

I asked the Poet if I could share her information in a blog post, and she said, yeah for sure! 

The following is the information I received from the Poet, with names removed and only lightly edited. I hope this information helps other folks who aspire to self-publish.

The two main ones are CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/) through Amazon and Lulu (https://www.lulu.com/).  I think they’re similar, but Lulu if you get on their mailing list sends lots of discount coupons/promotions for publishing through them.  I’ve received 30% off coupons from them a few times…

I have a good friend who uses CreateSpace to publish ebooks, mostly lesbian erotica.  I don’t know if you want to publish it ebook and paper book simultaneously?  I think you might need Microsoft word for that, but I’m not certain.

Also you need if you’re going to sell ebooks (or maybe paper books too) to link it directly to your bank account so you can get the funds you earn direct deposited, at least through CreateSpace.  That turned me off because I wanted to route things through PayPal, but when I was researching a few months ago, maybe half a year ago?, that wasn’t an option.

You have all these options–they try to sell you packages that include cover art options, editing, and other kinds of help.  Of course the more work you do yourself, the cheaper it is.

So you upload your text in the right format, you check and make sure everything’s okay, you do your cover.  You get an ISBN.  Then you pay them something.  They mail you a proof, which I think takes a little while.  Then you okay the proof and I think there’s a little time delay after you tell them the proof was okay before the book is actually available.

There are different packages where you get so many copies for yourself.  But the main appeal about print-on-demand is that you don’t have to buy a thousand copies of the book yourself and store them and sell them yourself–people order them directly through Amazon or Lulu or other ways.  You can do a package where they make your book available for booksellers to sell, like Barnes & Nobel can pick it up, for example.

My friend just wanted to get 30 books printed for him to sell and give away himself, not to sell print-on-demand or ebook, so he was able to do that and I guess he found the shipping to be expensive. But he got what he wanted.

I think this whole process takes a while so if you want it in time for Xmas probably other people are thinking the same thing so I’d hop to it.

I know more about CreateSpace than Lulu.  Most of the info I give you above is what I learned about CreateSpace.

I think one of the main ideas is that you self-publish and your book gets noticed so a regular publisher decides to pick it up.  Then you’re in a good position and will get an advance and some promotion maybe and the book will take off.

That’s about all I know.  And hopefully things haven’t changed much since I researched it.  Good luck!

In Which I Decide to Write a Book

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My friend the Poet visited me at my campground over the summer. During the visit, the topic of self-publishing books came up. The Poet planned to self-publish a book. I hadn’t given self-publishing an actual book much thought. Sure, I’ve published zines before, but a whole book? That seemed beyond my capabilities, but the more I thought about the project, the more I thought, I could do this!

A couple weeks after The Poet’s visit, I decided on a Tuesday afternoon that I would self-publish a book (called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods) collecting my stories of work camping. Before a week had passed, I made decisions about chapters. I wrote intros for each chapter, as well as an intro to the whole collection. I decided in addition to stories that had already been posted on my blog, the book would include brand new, never before published stories. I wrote several of these new stories.

I want the book to be ready for purchase for the winter holidays, which means I have to work pretty fast. When I got to civilization, I asked the Poet for all the information she had about self-publishing. She graciously sent me an informative email within a couple of hours. I choose a company to work with and did some of the preliminary work of setting up an account.

I also did a quick Google search on “confessions of a work camper” and “confessions of a camp host,” and with the exception of a couple of poorly written blog posts, I found nothing. Could I possibly have come up with an idea for a book that’s never been written? (Part of me thinks I should not go public with this idea, lest someone else scoops it up before I can complete my project. Oh well. I’ve never been much good at keeping my big mouth shut. Also, I feel like if I go public with my intentions, I will have to follow through if I don’t want to look like a fool.)

I wrote to another friend who is a published (as in by a publishing company) writer. She offered to help me with the book and told me to think about goals for the book. Goals? Ok.

My Goals for My Book

#1 Generate income

#2 Generate interest in me as a writer

#3 Bring more readers to my blog

#4 Amuse readers

#5 Educate people about the possibility of work camping.

Because I am worried my blog will suffer while I am working on the book, I have been recruiting guest bloggers. I’ve invited several friends to write for the blog while I am busy with the book. In less than an hour, three people said yes and one said maybe. If other folks want to share stories, please contact me. I am looking for nonfiction pieces of a personal nature, 300 to 2,000 words. I’m most interested in travel and van dwelling stories; pieces about class issues; recommendations for books, articles, zines, websites, music. I don’t want to put a lot of work into guest posts, so please edit carefully before you send me anything for consideration.

This entire book project is exciting and overwhelming, but mostly exciting. I think I will feel less overwhelmed when I am no longer isolated on a mountain with no internet access. It won’t be long now.

 

10 Ways to Support a Writer

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It came up on my Facebook news feed again, a meme titled 10 Ways to Seduce a Writer.

Seduce? Merriam-Webster says seduce means to persuade (someone) to have sex with you; to persuade (someone) to do something. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/seduce). So is this basically a list of ten things to do to get what you want (wink wink, nudge nudge) from a writer? I find it a rather creepy thought process; buy books for a writer and the writer will have sex with you.

Maybe the writer who wrote this list (perhaps a writer who was hoping to be seduced?) meant it as a list of things to do to develop a deep and lasting friendship with a writer. Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong. I would really like it if someone bought me books. (Actually, I do have a dear friend who occasionally buys me books. I am pretty sure he does not want to have sex with me.) I would like it if someone took me to dinner near a bookstore and sent me to a writer’s retreat and introduced me to new independent bookshops. But I don’t know if I would be seduced. If seduction is going on, there better be kissing. I agree with what Neil Gaimen said:

Many writers figure out that they’re being seduced or flirted with if someone is actually kissing them. (http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/18932682858/as-requested-by-too-many-people-making-the-last)

Also, while everything on the list sounds nice, I don’t know if most writers have time to be whisked off to restaurants and tea gardens (Tea gardens? Is that a West Coast thing?) and bookstores and writing retreats. Most writers I know are slogging through life on little sleep with barely time to put on pants in between dropping kids at school, picking up groceries, trying to make a dent in the laundry, and possibly even (gasp!) working a mind-numbing “real” job. Most writers I know are trying to fit some writing in the gaps between kids, significant others, housework, and personal hygiene. I propose to anyone trying to seduce a writer, try supporting that writer first. The seduction may come later (if the writer can stay awake).

10 Ways to Support a Writer

  1. Listen to the writer speak about her/his “process.”
  2. Buy the writer cute new pajama pants so there’s something clean to wear when the laundry (still) hasn’t gotten done.
  3. Clean up the writer’s hard drive so the computer moves faster than a cold snail on Monday.
  4. But don’t touch anything on the writer’s desk! Each pile of books and scrap of paper sits where it sits for a reason. “Cleaning up” will not be helpful. If you want to help, do the laundry.
  5. Happily participate in endless discussions such as “Which character name–Fiona or Astrid–is more believable?” and “Is there a copyright on hobbits?”
  6. Bring sustenance of any kind to the writer so s/he can spend another hour at the desk without starving.
  7. Amuse the children. An hour (or 15 minutes) of quiet is precious.
  8. Coax the writer away form the laptop and into the sunshine so s/he doesn’t suffer vitamin D deficiency (again).
  9. Sympathize when the poet-writer laments the lack of rhyme for the words “orange,” “silver,” and “purple.”
  10. Don’t run away when the writer is grumpy, discouraged, tired, disheartened or unwashed. Your support might be what the writer needs to finish the masterpiece (or the 2,000 word article on muscle cars that buys the groceries this week).