Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Slow Work...

I’ve been working on two complete but older novels to submit for ebook conversion at Smashwords.  They were finished in 1998-99 but I wrote them on an old word processor, as opposed to a word processing program on a personal computer.  My first PC came in 2000. Benefit of the Doubt was a behemoth at 840 pages and 200,000 words while Conditional Voluntary was a much leaner 278 pages and 67,000 words.  Of course, hard copy printouts are not going to work for ebook submissions.  The good news was that I had earlier started transcibing Benefit into a Word document but I had gotten less than halfway through the manuscript (this must have been more than five years ago).  I have a scanner that can convert the untranscibed pages into a PDF file but I would still need to get the novels into an editable Word doc.  I looked into one service that can scan bound books and loose pages into Word docs but I would have had to pay for them to do it of course plus shipping costs.  Alternatively there are several downloadable programs that allegedly convert PDFs into Word.  I attempted free trials on them: some failed to even download; others simply scanned the PDF of Conditional Voluntary’s first chapter into an image that I could look at but not edit.  Maybe the paid service would take it that far but I didn’t want to waste money without being sure it would work.

So that left me with the slow and steady option of retyping the books myself.  I picked up where the original Word doc left off for Benefit and am now 64% through the manuscript in terms of pages.  However, I was able to cut a lot of material that I found superfluous and the word count is only 44% of the original version; simple math tells me I’ve already dropped 20% of the 1998 draft.  Because Conditional Voluntary was already a fairly concise, fast-moving novel, my revisions have been relatively minor (yes, I’m transcribing both at the same time).  I have transferred 25% of the pages and the new word count is 21% of the original.

Meanwhile my other four completed novels have all been accepted into Smashwords’ premium catalogue.  Still waiting for them to be “shipped” to the ebook retailers; that might happen in the next couple of days.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Step Forward

"The Courage of His Convictions" has now been accepted for Smashwords' Premium Catalogue! So what? Well, here's what Smashwords says about getting into this listing: 

"We distribute to major ebook retailers including the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and others. In order to gain distribution and benefit from selling power of our retailers, your book must be accepted into our Smashwords Premium Catalog."

Hopefully, this novel's "siblings" will follow this measure of success.  "Courage" may have made it through first only because it's about half the length of the other three.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Elsewhere On the Net

Speaking of Smashwords, here is my profile page on their site:

And I have a Facebook page where I have some novel samples you can read:

When I Grow Up I Want to Be...

I used to want to be an actor.  When I was in high school, I acted in several plays.  It was a college town high school so we had several productions per school year.  I never aspired for leading-man status.  My acting heroes were the "character people" who appeared in the old movies I loved to watch: John Carradine, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, and my favorite for all time, Peter Lorre.  But I was disappointed in how small my roles usually were during my sophomore and junior years.  I figured that I could use some acting training to improve my chances for more substantial parts.  With encouragement from my mother, I auditioned for a few summer programs and applied for some others.  I was initially excited to be accepted into one college's acting workshop for high schoolers.  But then I got word that the acting program was cancelled due to insufficient interest, something that must be hard to believe in the current age of "Glee."  The summer programs' director asked apologetically whether I might be interested in one of the other workshops they still had going.  Music?  I couldn't carry a tune, let alone play any instrument.  Math?  I was decades away from learning how to enjoy solving problems.  Writing?  H'mm...

I wrote a short story as a means of application and got accepted.  So at age sixteen in July of 1980, I entered a three-week program for would-be authors who hadn't graduated from high school yet.  There were nearly thirty of us and girls outnumbered boys by 3-1.  Lucky boys.  We were almost all from the Northeast, mostly New York state (where the college was located) although I lived in Massachusetts.  They housed us in three dormitories and our group was further divided between prose writers and poets.  The mathematicians and musicians were there at the same time; it was a nerds' summer camp in an academic setting.

Being sixteen meant that I was impressionable.  I made out with a girl for the first time and went home convinced that I should be a writer.  Writing stories turned out to be easier than kissing more girls, alas. I continued to act in plays during my senior year but I dreamed now of books with my name on their covers.  I put my writing ahead of schoolwork in college with predictable results.  I ended up moving away from home at twenty and almost never lived with my parents again.

I gradually developed an ability to write full-length novels and got fired from a job at a photocopying store for unauthorized copying and binding of the first novel I ever finished.  Years went by as I worked towards something I felt was good enough to be published.  It wasn't until 1998 that I had my first taste of success.

I found a literary agent willing to take on my novel "Benefit of the Doubt" and another one I put together from out-takes from earlier drafts, which I entitled "Conditional Voluntary".  But the agent never found a publisher for them and although I managed to complete another three novels in the first few years of the new century, I never got anywhere with them and my ambitions for literary success faded away.

But the urge to write remained with me like a dormant virus that could flare up now and then.  I contributed to an online opinion site run by a Minnesota news organization for several years until the site was taken down.  But I made no attempts at another novel until 2009.  This turned out to be "Stray Kitten" which I wrote with an attitude of not expecting it to be published.  I let loose my obsessions with various subjects, finished the story, and set it aside.

Suddenly, just weeks ago, really, a neighbor of mine let me know he was working towards publishing his own novel as an ebook.  He gave me the information about the site that takes in books for this format and can distribute them to online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  After researching the site - Smashwords - and studying their formatting requirements, I revived the ten year old novels that already existed as Word documents and just yesterday uploaded them to the site.

So now at last I can see my own name and book titles in a retail catalogue.  I'm glad to have lived long enough for technology to allow me to be an author.

Of course if anyone buys my novels, that would be nice too!