How Hard Can It Be?

Since finishing the draft of The Stolen Songbird, I’ve found veritable mountains of small things that all need to be done.

  • Formatting for a self-publishing venture…that could be a whole post by itself. When it finally dawned on me that I had to actually tell Microsoft Word that the paper would be smaller than 8.5 x 11, the page count went from 317 to 406. EEP! Talk about panic! If there’s more pages than I told him there were, will the beautiful cover Ian designed still fit over the book? Doh! I thought the margins fixed all that…sigh…they don’t.
  • All that copyright stuff before the title page… do you just copy it from another book? Make it up? Find it online? Call 1-800-Consigliere?
  • Author bios. Acknowledgements. Page numbers on alternating sides of the page. Gutters. Book blocks. Recto and Verso and a partridge in a pear tree.
  • Not to mention editing the draft while simultaneously plotting and outlining the 50,000 word novella I’ll be doing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which starts in YIPES! Six Days!

But the most embarrassing one for me by far has been this conversation…

Me: The book is done! The book is done!

Friend: Ooo that’s awesome news! Congratulations! What’s it about?

Me:  Errr….

Yup. All the work I’ve done and I still don’t have an elevator speech… How could I have forgotten such an important and pivotal thing? I mean come on! I have one for work (remember folks, every day’s an interview and you never know who’s going to be in the elevator with you!) and I left the one for the book, for the career I’ve wanted since I was twelve years old, out of my work plan? I’m such a thickhead! Oh well. How hard can it be?

Famous last words those. Once again…when in doubt, turn to the trailblazers…

Chuck Wendig’s Pen Monkey e-book series contains six of the best nuts and bolts books on writing ever. Chuck doesn’t pull any punches, and tells it like it is. (Danger Will Robinson…if you’re still under 21 and your parents monitor what you read, there’s lots of cussing involved, but the writing advice is invaluable). They’re actually on sale in November for NaNoWriMo…all of them for $10 in a bundle: His blog, Terrible Minds, also rocks:

My favorite is his writer’s paean…”For I am a writer and I will finish the stuff that I started”. The day I read that the first time was the day I knew I would finish a novel this time and not stop half way or let it rot under the bed. I reread it every time I hit a bump in the writing process and it helps me pick myself up out of the face plant and keep writing.

In reading his blog the other day, I noticed that one of the questions he asks in his author interviews is: “Give us the 140 Character Story Pitch”. And here are two of the answers from two different authors that he’s interviewed:

  • DYING IS MY BUSINESS is a hardboiled urban fantasy-noir about a thief for a Brooklyn crime syndicate who can’t stay dead. Also, monsters. (Author Nicholas Kaufmann)
  • The god of War possesses the body of a female lieutenant at West Point, and the two make an uneasy truce while fighting War’s sworn enemy. (About Eye of the Storm by Author Aimee Kuzenski)

To quote Gru from Despicable Me “Light bulb”. I’m new to Twitter, so it never crossed my mind to craft my elevator speech as a tweet…but it makes sense. I see tweets fly by with various authors pitching their books in 140 characters every day on my own feed.

Could I do that? How do you stuff 407 pages of action, adventure, clockwork explosions, falling off rooftops, a dirigible, the Loch Ness Monster, and toffee into 140 characters and get the essence across without losing anything? Hercules had it easier. Well that was my first thought. But then I remembered Mr. Goldsberry and poetry. Haiku. Doesn’t that do the same thing? Take a big idea and turn it into 17 syllables? So this is the same thing except with letters not syllables.

So what needs to go in? Genre? The story has elements of steampunk, fantasy, action, adventure, and serial type cliffhangers…that’s 93 characters right there without saying anything about the story, so probably not a good idea to waste the space and pigeon hole it into a genre. Characters? Plot? Promise?

It was then that I remembered author Sharon Cathcart’s class at the Clockwork Alchemy convention on creating a branding statement. As an author, you are your brand. Just like people know when they pop open a bottle of Coca Cola, they’re going to get something awesome over ice, people should know what they’re going to get when they open one of your books. It was a super class (you can check out Sharon’s published works on her Amazon Author Page: ).

Right then. What am I promising the reader will get if they open the book? Good question. That required much think time to distill down to essence of Songbird (ooo…that sounds like a bubble bath…). Here’s what I came up with…

The Stolen Songbird will take you on an adventure in a Victorian Age that never was but should have been. Join Harry, Shay and Rachel as they use their Talents to save the Britannic Alliance!

Fifty characters too long. What to cut? I liked the adventure and the ‘never was but should have been’. It promises fun and lets you know that this isn’t history as we know it right up front. I like joining the characters in the adventure… Next try:

Join the Talented Harry, Shay, & Rachel on an adventure in a Victorian Age that never was but should have been in The Stolen Songbird!

Shorter than 140 characters (only 133), but it lost some of the punch on the cutting room floor. Also, even with an ampersand instead of the ‘and’, Harry, Shay, and Rachel take up a fair amount of the allotted space without being able to describe them enough for somebody to be drawn to them. Maybe a different approach. One more time:

Don’t believe the dreadfuls-Jack Fletcher’s not the real hero of Stolen Songbird…a romp in a Victorian Age that never was but should have been!

Aha! That’s down to 143. Very close, but it will take some think time and crafting to drop that last three characters. I like this approach though because it promises mystery. Instead of saying what the story is about, it says somebody (Jack Fletcher) might be taking credit for somebody else’s adventures in the story and you’ll have to read the book to find out who. More enticing than bashing over the head, or describing.

I will get this tweet thing down. Stay tuned for the final version in a post to come! How hard can it be? Very!

Teaser Trailer (This preview has been approved for blog readers of all ages…)

I’m excited. REALLY excited. I can’t wait to write for you next week because what I get to write about has me alternately laughing and crying and getting goofy. There may even be *gasp* pictures or even a video if I can figure out how to attach them to the blog. Technologically savvy, I’m not…

Today I will get to share a long awaited writing milestone with a rockin’, kick-booty, 13 year old marvel that wants to be an author. I am getting misty thinking about being able to pay it forward to such an accomplished young lady (not only does she write and blog, but she also plays musical instruments and sings too…how cool is that?!) and I can’t wait for her to see…

Wait! Stop! She’s very smart. Very crafty. So I dare not write more lest it not be a surprise (Ha, Scout! You thought I was going to spill the beans didn’t you! Nuh-uh… I was born at night, but not last night!). Of course, knowing my luck and how brilliant she is for a wee little lass of 13 summers, she’s already figured it out…but in my head it will still be a surprise. So stay tuned for next Sunday’s installment of Wild and Woolly Wordsmithing to see wild writing action, a spectacular technological wonder, and maybe even…a semicolon! Squeee!

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “How Hard Can It Be?

  1. I have to say self- publishing is a whole ballgame I don’t understand. My only idea which may or may not be helpful, is to enter the words “Self Publishing” in the tag line within the Reader section, found on Dashboard. Hopefully you can find lots of fellow self publishers thee, and some of them will help you with the technical issues I’m so incapable of advising you on

    • Thank you very much! I hadn’t though of doing the reader…that should be much easier. Google has so much it’s a monumental task to pick the gold out of the dirt. As always, sir, you are awesome! Thank you for doing what you do!

  2. Reblogged this on Seumas Gallacher and commented:
    …nice post on some of the travails on the self-publishing Odyssey…

  3. So right on! Thank you for following my post,

  4. Lot of info!

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