About mestengobooks

Welcome to Mestengo Books, a gathering place for my work. I wracked my brain for hours to come up with a designation that represents both me and my work. With so many blogs and websites already out there, it was a challenge to come up with something original. Mustang is a popular online moniker because it speaks to strength and endurance. The horse has been a totem animal since I was a child, so I knew it would be a good symbol for me because it represented much of my character: freedom, travel, strength, endurance. Mustangs have survived the wilds of the Americas since the Spanish first brought them here, making them, by nature, most durable. The word mestengo has a neat history; its origin is from 16th century Spanish that translates to wild, stray, ownerless. I knew the moment I saw it I’d found the right name. And anyone who knows me can certainly attest to the fact that I am, without a doubt, una mestenga. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing. Regards, Denise Thunderhawk Denise was a second prize winner of the Southwest Literary Center’s 2006 New Mexico Discovery Awards for her nonfiction, A Bump in the Road.

Picture Perfect Opportunities

overcast sky3-hiveminerdotcom

Source: Google Images/hiveminer.com; photo from Norfolk County, MA

Autumn is finally upon us here in NorCal. The sweet smell of decaying leaves is everywhere, as are the crisper days and cooler nights. Only thing missing is the flat gray cloud cover back home that I aptly call a “November sky,” as it is a regular weather pattern seen in a mid-season New England autumn. I find myself pining for that back lit cloud cover; for any clouds at all. California has nice weather – perhaps too nice, as in too much sun and not enough clouds. Growing up in New England, I learned to appreciate the overcast autumn days as a signal to spend more time indoors with a cup of hot cider or chocolate, hard at work at whatever hobby/task needed attending. Like spending more time writing and editing. Sunshine beckons me outside, leaving my writing and other hobbies for the all-too-rare-in-NorCal cloudy days.

Speaking of Spending Time Inside…

It’s NaNoWriMo time! How many of you are partaking this year? It’s the perfect opportunity to “get your write on”. Sadly, I’m working a new gig that keeps me out late every evening so I’m not working on anything other than an occasional blog post… deep sigh… I think if that overcast sky would show up, I’d find a way to hunker down and write. Or edit. Or both… sigh…

Test yourself; see how much you can complete before Dec. 1 gets here. Maybe I’ll make a half-hearted attempt if some cloudy weather shows up!

A New Marketing Angle That May Be Picture-Perfect

I purposely don’t spend much time online. Life is short and I’d rather be experiencing something like nature instead of staring at a computer for hours on end. But this was an interesting article I came across from a book marketing site I used to follow.

There’s an online business called Cameo Marketplace – perhaps you’ve heard of it? I haven’t so I’m sharing it with you. Ever dream of some famous person talking up your book? Do you fantasize that you’ll sell a gazillion copies on the word of that famous person? Well, here’s your chance – kind of.

Cameo Marketplace (cameo.com) offers a personalized shout-out from your choice of their famous clientele in a ‘cameo’ video. Yep. For a fee, you can have, say, Charlize Theron plug your book. (I don’t know if she’s actually a client.) Or Tom Hanks. (Not sure if he is, either.) Point is, you can find a well-known (or quasi-famous) personality, one that fits your book’s style and image, to say something positive about it in a short video. The actor earns money and you get more sales, so you earn money. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?

Unless you pick someone who won’t exactly influence the right people – your target audience. You need to know who they are before choosing your celebrity. Prices range from $5 to about $150 for a personalized video and promotional videos cost more. Probably not a good idea to invest in the prettiest face. Make sure the actor you do choose can have a positive effect on your book marketing and sales; otherwise, it’s wasted money.

So there it is, my advice for the week. It’s not much but who knows, it may help you find the perfect face to sell your book.

 

Post Script: I only just realized that I didn’t title this post and put too much space above the pic… oops. And wouldn’t you know, that November sky I referenced is here today, on my day off! Yippee!

 

Pre-Black Friday Sale is On!

MB List price Nov sale

EARLY BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

Now 30% off! Order now for Holiday gifts! Get your health on!
 
That’s right, folks… I’ve got an early sale just for those pre-Black Friday shoppers. Want to get a headstart on getting and staying healthy through the holidays? Here’s your chance!
 
Visit my Lulu page today and get your copy while supplies last! Tell your friends all about it!
3D softcover JPEG

Smart Tips to Create a Self-Publishing Imprint

selfpub2

Source: Google Images

For those who may not know, an imprint is defined as, per Wikipedia“An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work.” As a writer, if you self-publish, then you are technically a business owner so it’s a good idea to have an imprint or trade name under which you bundle your works. You might even use different names “as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.” (Wikipedia) You must be a jack-of-many-trades as you take on the roles of writer, editor, publisher, project manager, funding specialist (if you’re looking into crowdfunding your publication), and more. It’s a huge undertaking and there are pros and cons to be weighed before making the commitment.

The following tips are from an article written by Amy Collins for the November/December 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest:

NO SHORTCUTS

Remember, there are NO SHORTCUTS in self-publishing. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. Unless you want to put out a poorly written and edited manuscript with a cheesy book cover that doesn’t sell well …if at all. Self-publishers may have a smaller budget so they will want to skimp on the important parts: editing, layout, proofreading, cover design, etc. My advice is DON’T SKIMP. Nothing wrong with looking for affordable options – just know that you WILL get what you pay for, which may or may not end well for you and your book. Remember that this part of the process is for your readers, not you (your part was writing the story, whatever your inspiration), so do your best to put out a worthwhile product. And this step is vital if you want bookstores and libraries to consider purchasing copies of your book. It needs to look and read as professional as possible. Do your research and do your best to choose wisely.

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Budget for every element of book publishing: development editing, copy editing, layout of the interior, cover design, marketing, sales, distribution, and printing as well as every element of starting a small business.” (My tip: include accounting and taxes in this list, since this is a business and will likely be separate from your other work.)

“While self-publishing is a viable option if done well, the marketplace is flooded with sub-par, poorly written, self-edited, book-shaped objects that have not gone through the proper care every book needs before being published.” ~ Amy Collins

Caveat Emptor: WATCH OUT for Those Vanity Publishers!

I wrote on this very topic in a previous post. Luckily, our watchdogs at Writer Beware® keep the writing community up-to-date with the who’s who of fraudulent or questionable “publishing houses.” (And if you’re not subscribed to that blog, accrispin.blogspot.com, shame on you.) There have been and continue to be issues with royalty payments, fees padding, and unscrupulous owners offering restrictive contracts that may or may not take away your copyrights. READ every line of every contract and don’t be afraid to ask QUESTIONS. 

Amy’s Pro Tip: How do you know whom to trust if you want to avoid a nightmare situation in partnering with a self-publishing company? Sites such as Writer Beware highlight offending companies. Other resources that offer a guide to the hundreds of author services out there include The Alliance of Independent Authors self-publishing service guide and the Independent Book Publishers Association Advocacy Committee’s list of nine criteria on what it means to be a professional hybrid publisher.

CREDIBILITY ISSUES?

Even though self-publishing has been around for more than ten years, indie publishers continue to have difficulty building their reputations, thereby making it harder to garner attention from readers and retailers (not Amazon but the brick-and-mortar businesses). There can be issues with accepting returns (for example, do you have a way for retailers to return unwanted books?) and a lack of trust in the quality of your product (so go back to Tip #1).

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Build your credibility and reader base with consistent outreach. Approach established book reviewers, but don’t forget to keep asking for reviews from your readers as well. Researching book reviewers and requesting reader reviews is a practice that should continue for the life of a book.”

Fellow Authors are Your Friends, Not Your Enemies

I admit to feeling a bit competitive and unwilling to read some books in the same genre (Chinese medicine) as my nutrition book. Somehow, I believed, my information was superior. That is just not true. There are so many wonderful options out there; it would actually behoove you to read a few books within your genre. Get to know the authors who write stories like yours; connect with them on FB and other SM; see who’s following them and leave comments. Who knows where these connections could lead you (and your stories).

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Find the bestselling authors in your genre and follow them on social media. Read their books and help where you can. Enjoy getting to know their readers. Authors can do so much for each other if they put aside the crazy idea that “it’s either them or me.

Write reviews and post in your author newsletter about the authors you truly admire; start building friendships. Soon, you will have a large, supportive group of authors ready to do the same for you because they genuinely want to help a fellow author. Offer to be a beta reader and cross-post for your favorite authors on their launch days.”

In the end, how our books do out there in the digital world/global community depends solely on our commitment to their success. There are many steps to take in publishing your own works but the rewards are greater if you adhere to the above advice. Like any other business, it’s best to have a plan so you can leave your imprint on the world. 

Grammar Rules! Or At Least It Used To…

which v that

Source: Writersdigest.com

Here are some great tips from Writers Digest blogger, Brian Klems. He certainly cleared up a few grammatical confusions for me. It’s been a lot of years since those Catholic grammar school English classes. Honestly, as much of a ‘grammar Nazi’ as I can be, there are times when even I can’t figure it out. Brian clears it all up succinctly and in an easily comprehensible way.

These tidbits are nice refreshers of some of the issues many people have when writing/speaking:

Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid)

Thank god, cuz this one always has me topsy-turvy, never quite getting it right.

Here’s the difference between lay vs. lie, along with ‘lay lie’ examples and a simple chart that breaks it all down. (PLUS: laying vs. lying)

Source: Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid) – Grammar Rules

Who vs. Whom

This one’s the easiest for me but I see their misuse all over the place.

Source: Who vs. Whom

Which vs. That

Oh, I know I get this one wrong a lot, as do many people.

Source: Which vs. That

If you like these, check out his other posts: Since vs. Because; Snuck vs. Sneaked (hint: one of them is a made-up word now a part of our American lexicon); and Leaped vs. Leapt (I never figure this one out).

For writers, grammar rules can make or break our work. We don’t have to have a Masters in Fine Arts or English. It makes sense to have a good grasp of the basic rules of grammar; then our stories will be better off and our readers will be, too. Oddly, I’m the first one to break most rules (I prefer to think they’re for other people) but, for some reason, grammar rules are the ones I choose to follow (probably because I want people to actually read and like my books and not think I’m a complete idiot). When grammar rules, stories shine. So do the writers.

Writer, Thinker, Dreamer-in-Residence

dreamer pic

Source: Google Images/dribbble.com/Rebecca Williams

Dreamer-in-Residence

I’m in one of those reflective moods (again). Every now and then, the modern world gets to me (read: incessant noise) and I must remove myself from the droning, deafening sounds of our modern, so-called civilized society. I crave quietude and solitude so I can hear myself think. And see the stars in the night sky – I found Polaris tonight, twinkling a dull blue in a misty indigo sky.

In these reflective moments, as I meandered the “mean streets” of Midtown Sacramento (and quieter as I strolled in a direction opposite the interstate that cuts it in half), words visited then filled out my thoughts, such as: what are words but one’s daydreams put on paper?

As fellow writers, surely you can identify.

Thinker

I once again find myself craving something different, to move (read: run screaming) away from the status quo (who decided this was so great to begin with?) to find my place, my unique place, in this writing/creative world, a place which belongs only to me (and I to it). It’s a desire to grab that brass ring, the one that’s been just beyond my reach for as long as I can remember. It’s a signal to me that my life is out of balance and I’m still working on how to put it right. Writing helps.

Does this make sense to you? I ask you, how can I/we freely write/create when held in place by burdensome responsibilities so much of the time? Held by the chokehold of corporate America – the dangling of the corporate carrot (climbing the “ladder of success” only to find out someone’s removed the top rungs), learning how to lie with a smile on your face, learning that people are expendable, replaceable (so much for being unique and valued) … the corporate mantras memorized, recited, regurgitated … leading to feeling institutionalized.

How do I/we break free?

My guess is, to write, as a writer must.

Writer

How many of you dream of the freedom that comes with being a writer/thinker/dreamer-in-residence? I’ve had to redefine the word freedom multiple times, as it can have different meanings in different stages of one’s life. That stream of thought brought me to this:

IF

If we dream, we must write.

If we write, we must imagine.

If we imagine, we must create.

If we create, we must give a bit

of the best of ourselves to the world.

Dream. Write. Imagine.

Create.

We must not forget; it’s who we are, not just what we do. We can’t deny it, avoid it, or squirrel it away for a rainy day. We must go out there, into the world, with pen (or computer) in hand and blaze our own trails.

Institutions be damned.

Post Script

hemingway app

Source: Google Images

Post Script:

I couldn’t stop thinking about that Hemingway app. Curious about my nonfiction writing score, I added portions of my nutrition book to the editor. I first downloaded a section from the beginning, The Qi of Life, and here are the results:

Hemingway app1Hemingway app2

So my nonfiction scored much higher in readability than my fiction. Hmm…

When I added in another section, this one from the first chapter, the readability shot up to Grade 10! Whoa! I’m practically a NYT bestselling author (snark snark)!

When I added yet another bit from a later chapter, the readability went up to grade 11 but the app still recommended I lower my readability to grade 9. This makes no sense to me. I thought my writing was clear and concise, and readily understood. Guess not. Guess 10th and 11th graders can’t read my book. Not without 9th graders to translate and explain. 🙂

Hemingway app3Hemingway app4

Perhaps the Hemingway app is another of those online tools that has its used but is taken with a grain of salt? Not sure how I feel about it, just that I need to use it a few more times to see if it’s a helpful tool.

What were your scores? Did you try it? Might be fun! Maybe your book is too smart for 11th graders too!

 

Fall Into Your Writing

 

autumn2

Source: Google Images/ townandcountrymag.com

T’is the Season

Last week came the first tease, the first hint that autumn was on its way. I love the word autumn more than fall; to me, it connotes a subtle changing of the guards, so to speak; that those hot summer days are mostly behind us and crispy, breezy, sweet-smelling days lay ahead. We even had to wear jackets for a few days last week, with the morning and evening temps getting pretty low. Some leaves have already begun to change, thanks to those cooler-than-usual nights. I can’t yet smell autumn in the air as the warmer summer weather is upon us once again. Autumn officially arrived yesterday and I wait with baited breath for the scent of those brilliant autumn colors.

Days become shorter this time of year and an indoor activity like writing (plus the PR and marketing) is a great way to stay busy without burning up too much energy. I love to write later in the evening, from around 9pm to 1am, this time of year; it seems everyone gets home and settles in earlier than usual so my corner of the world goes a bit quieter. Does yours?

Ready for the Holidays?

This is also a good time of year to gear up your PR and marketing for the holidays. I’ve published a nutrition book, so it’s a good time of year to get on an anthology list for holiday purchases to help people eat better during and after the holiday binges.

Alli – Alliance of Indpendent Authors – has some great tips for DIY PR for us Indie authors in a post written by Helen Baggott. She posts some sensible advice on pre- and post-publication PR (even though she’s in Great Britain, I’m sure much of this applies here in the U.S. as well). Try contacting magazines related to your book’s topic (hers was genealogy and hand-written postcards); check out trade journals as well, as they are often a good source for some free (or affordable) advertising/PR.

If you utilize Ingram Spark, it’s a good time to check whether your book is getting into libraries (locally and nationwide).  She recommends contacting Resource Managers at the library’s headquarters (or main branch here in the states). Have a 60-second pitch ready in case they don’t yet have your book on their shelves. Another option (which is a bit more costly) is to donate some of your books to your local branches. I did that with my first book and it turned out to be pretty popular, especially with high school kids doing book reports.

Hemingway – A Funky New App

And if you haven’t tried it yet, check out the Hemingway app. Dr. Judith Briles, The Book Shephard, highly recommends it as a way to ferret out bad verbiage, grammar issues, etc. It’s free and easy to use and it provides you with a readability index, meaning at what grade level you’re writing. She suggests hovering around a sixth grade level; sadly, this is the average literacy level in the U.S.  There are color-coded phrases that pop up and suggest fixes.

When I popped in the first chapter of my in-the-works novel, it came up with good readability … but at a grade 3 level. Sigh. Evidently I used a few too many adverbs but only three of the sentences were judged as hard to read (by who, I wonder, if I’m writing at a 3rd grade level). I think I will spend some more time with this app to see where I can improve my writing and the story. I’d even like to get a little above grade 6, in the hopes that some readers are more literate than that.

As I said, now is the time to ‘fall’ into your writing. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so sharpen your editing pencils, your writing mindset and get your desk in order – it’s time to write!

Serendipity

serendipity

Source: Google Images

Serendipity, defined as fate, destiny, luck, kismet, fortune, coincidence or karma – if you believe in that sort of thing, presented me with an interesting (and not coincidental?) meet this morning.

But first, let me back up.

Last night, the little red battery on my Jeep’s instrument panel popped up while driving home, around 10:30pm. Once parked, I perused the 500+-page manual (a huge pdf on my phone) to find out why. Seems it was telling me there was an issue with low power. Okay… I was taking the car to the garage this morning anyway for an oil change and figured I’d have them check it out.

battery light

The car started no problem this morning and the little red battery didn’t come on. Okay, I thought, maybe it was just a fluke or an electrical fart, used cars can have these issues. About ten minutes later, there it was, taunting me, daring me to continue driving. I arrived at the parking garage of the local Co-op where I have breakfast when I realized I hadn’t had my lights on while on the highway (it was around 7am and still a bit dark). I turned them on just to make sure there wasn’t an issue and BOOM – dashboard lights went crazy and the car died in the parking spot. At 7:15am. When I tried turning the key, all I heard was a ‘click’ sound – oh, joy; that  likely meant the alternator was the culprit and had eaten up the battery power (which would explain the little red battery on the instrument panel).

I called my insurance company and requested a tow – a 45-minute wait. I was surprisingly calm, considering the situation. I decided to forego breakfast and instead gathered a few things from the car that I would need while it was getting fixed at my regular garage, luckily not far from where I was stranded. The tow truck showed up almost exactly 45 minutes later, a jovial fellow at the wheel. The sticky problem was that he couldn’t get his flatbed tow truck into the parking garage, so he had to push my car with me behind the wheel steering, out to the road. (Poor guy; awfully early for that kind of physical demand but he managed wonderfully.)

Fast forward:

I knew there was a Starbucks up the street from my garage so I made for it with the intent of getting an overpriced breakfast and latte. Being a Saturday morning downtown, it’s usually slow (it’s more of a Mon-Fri business district) but hordes of women were piling in and the line came close to running out the door. While waiting for my order, a woman standing nearby struck up a chat with me. Turns out they’re here for a health and wellness convention and she’s a certified nutrition counselor. Hmmm…..

Needless to say, we got to chatting and I told her about my nutrition book, that I’d published three books, taught nutrition classes, etc. She told me that she’s writing a nutrition book (outline complete and chapter 1 in the works) and speaks about her personal experience (she’s lost over 200 pounds) at universities and other small venues. When she explained she was considering self-publishing, I launched into a short explanation of the self-publishing process and offered more information if she had any questions down the road.

We ended up talking for about half an hour and exchanged emails with a promise from her that she’d contact me. I offered proofreading and editing services and also offered to provide her with more in-depth information about self-publishing and traditional publishing based on my twelve years of delving into it. She also gave me the title of book she highly recommends I read, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. I recognized the title but forgot that I’d perused this book when it came out and found it to not be a good fit for me. It’s a good book and I recommend it if you haven’t read it; it just wasn’t for me. Maybe something about his writing style, but I found his information useful only if you have a strong financial foundation (meaning you’ve got a good amount of money in the bank to invest or available credit cards with high limits, and I have neither at the moment) and a strong support base (which is important for success in any venture).

Serendipity, For Sure

Anyway, I felt it was a serendipitous meeting for both of us, as it lit a lightly dampened fire within me in regards to marketing my nutrition book and finishing some projects and, it motivated her more to complete her nutrition book. Her light and enthusiasm were genuine and contagious and I hope to make contact with her again. Who knows what the outcome can be, but I’m sure it can only be good. People like her are destined for success and I would consider myself fortunate to be able to go along for at least part of the ride.

Has karma surprised you lately? Have you had an unexpected but positive meeting or conversation with another like-minded writer/artist? Like attracts like, after all; perhaps some folks are just meant to connect.

May you have serendipitous moments in the near future to help move you along your writing path.

The Devil’s in the Details

writing a book_jerryjenkins

Source: Google Images/ jerryjenkins.com

Finally, Back At It

I’ve finally gotten back to working on my unfinished novel, a second book in what might turn out to be a series, since I carried my protagonists from Rescue on White Thunder over to my current in-the-works adventure. But I noticed something is missing in some of the chapters – the descriptive details, especially in the surroundings, locations, and buildings in various scenes. I didn’t leave them out completely; I just didn’t build much detail into multiple scenes, which I noticed during recent edits. I fondly remember picturing then describing in detail such scenes in my first published work so I’m not sure where or why I strayed. The following is from a scene I set up where I visit to a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and my impression of his office:

“He led me from the reception area to a room decorated with antique Asian décor; the scent of sandalwood swirled about the room. In the far right corner sat two camelback chairs upholstered in a bold, China red silk fabric embossed with gold Chinese characters. A simple wooden table placed between them held little clutter: a metallic miniature desk lamp, a small red statue of Buddha, and a jade green Chinese teacup containing several pens. On the opposite wall stood a handsomely carved mahogany bookcase crammed with textbooks and other academic works. Some of the books were at least three inches thick and I wondered if he’d read their contents. Most likely. Okay, I’m impressed, I thought. The area rug covering the polished wood floor was noticeably Persian; its earthy tones complemented the bolder colors of the furniture. Placed on top of that striking rug, in the center, was the treatment table. Light in the room glowed softly from a torchier lamp in the corner behind one of the chairs.” (Excerpted from A Bump in the Road, 2007, Lulu Press, Inc.)

You can picture the office decor and layout, right? 

Those Devilish Details

In the current book I’m reading, The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry, all of his scenes are written so vividly I feel I’m there, even though I’ve never been to any part of Russia. This is central to a story’s success – the settings, the backdrops, where characters interact, where antagonists meet up with protagonists, where protagonists escape antagonists, where locations change or merge, etc. Cityscapes, landscapes, seascapes, weather patterns, popular locales – these hold up the story as it moves characters through the plot. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have forgotten that, focused too much on the plot itself and not the intricate details of where events are taking place.

What can make those all-important details a bit difficult is unfamiliarity with certain subject matter, say, architecture or aviation. Some research is necessary to learn the lingo and how to describe them in such a way that every reader can clearly picture where your characters are, what they’re doing, etc.

This is a small example of an architectural description from Steve Berry’s The Romanov Prophecy:

“The Russian consulate was located on a trendy street west of the financial district, not far from Chinatown and the opulence of Nob Hill. The consulate, a red-brown sandstone two-story with an end turret, sat on the corner of a busy intersection. Balconies lined with richly scrolled metal balustrades adorned the upper floor. The roof was trimmed in a cast-iron cresting.”

Even though I’ve been to San Francisco only once, I can picture exactly what this building looks like and I might even be able to find it just because of the detailed description (especially since I looked up the words turret and balustrade and realized I’d seen them before but didn’t know what they were called). This is one of many descriptive paragraphs in the book. I can picture exactly where the characters are, what the weather is at the moment, what they’re wearing, driving, etc., all while watching the plot unfold.

Detail Detail Detail

Attention to detail is the hallmark of a good writer. Noticing this absence is part of my learning process and I fill in the spaces when I edit chapters. It’s a work in progress … in many ways.

My advice? Don’t be afraid to under- or over-describe a place, person, or action; you can always go back and add/remove the adjectives or adverbs. Just make sure the finished product is vivid enough for readers to ‘see’ where the story goes.

The devil is in the details but those details make a successful novel!

In a Competitive Mood? Get Your Write On!

Came across this nifty bit of information in my weekly emails from The Book Designer. If you like writing contests or would like to try one out, here’s a good list for fall 2019 writing contests from Writer Unboxed.

What have you got to lose?

https://writerunboxed.com/2019/08/23/fiction-writing-contests-worth-your-time-in-fall-2019/

Will Illegitimate Books Tip the Scale Back to Traditional Publishing?

copyright2

Source: Google Images/eff.org

Counterfeit Books on The Rise

An article on Twitter by Publishing Perspectives caught my eye today while reading posts from Writer Beware®. Written by Porter Anderson, the article outlined and discussed illegitimate online book sales and Amazon’s response (since so many of these deceitful sales take place in their bookstore). It all started when journalist David Streitfeld of the New York Times wrote in June that “Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore” in reference to the surge in counterfeit books on Amazon.   

In his article, David recounts his purchase of “numerous fake and illegitimate Orwell books from Amazon.” I’m not surprised; the advent of the Internet brought with it a host of ne’er-do-wells intent on making money off the backs of legitimate authors. The global marketplace is vast, to say the least; tracking a counterfeit copy of one of your books (or by someone famous like George Orwell) can be time-consuming and expensive, and many authors simply don’t have the resources. It’s a Digital Wild West – every man (or woman) for himself (or herself). The digital gold rush is ON.

After reading this article, one question that concerns me is, how can we be sure that what we’re buying is the real deal?

Make the Old New Again?

In trots the old workhorse: traditional publishing. I believe that at some point, authors and their readers will tire of the con jobs, counterfeits, price gouging, and other deceptive practices running rampant online. Perhaps going back to the way things were with traditional publishing, at least to some extent, can possibly protect authors from the shady side of self-publishing in a digital world.

“While Amazon is the company that has, he’s right, made it possible for even the most marginal books to be suddenly available to everyone everywhere from the most earnest but artless authors (self-published or from the trade), it can also enable the chicanery of ruthless forgers.”

I personally have had my first fiction novel illegally downloaded and offered for free (not illegitimate but definitely illegal) and it was difficult to get the cons to stop, especially since they know there’s not much we can do about it other than request a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown. To my knowledge, my book was not forged in any way. However, deceit is deceit and authors can lose royalties and fan bases as a result of these illegal acts, especially if the thieves are halfway around the world.

The integrity of the written word is under attack and we must diligently protect our works.

 

Copyright Issues

Amazon responded by stating there’s an issue with the “differing copyright timing between countries and sometimes even different titles within the same country.” They also wrote that “there is no single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country that retailers could use to check copyright status.”

Should there be a central body where authors can list copyrights for their intellectual property (IP)? What do you think? Amazon is at the forefront of this issue because they created it to begin with – they gave access to everyone (too much of good thing, perhaps), including liars, cheats and counterfeit thieves looking to make a quick buck.

As written in the article, perhaps there is a need for a “central international registry of published works’ copyright status that can support the burgeoning book publishing industry with a reliable test of copyright status.” Would that mean they’d catch all the illegitimate books? Maybe some, maybe not. It would be naïve to expect that every book thief/forger intent on making money from our work would be caught. Part of the problem is the absolute explosion in book inventory. Once a manageable almost one million titles in 1998, according to Bowker’s, there are now more than 40 million titles to track.

We’re needles in a global haystack.

The Bungling of Bundling Book Reviews

Another problem is that Amazon bundles its book reviews together, David writes, “regardless of which edition (legal or not) they were written for. That means an unauthorized edition … can have thousands of positive reviews, signaling to a customer it is a valid edition.”

I can’t help but think that this illegitimacy issue might work in favor of traditional publishing, that it might strengthen their stance in the global and online publishing worlds. It might even help cull the aforementioned “earnest but artless authors” inundating self-publishing book sites. Perhaps traditional publishing will once again become the vanguard and the proverbial measuring stick.

Someone needs to be.

 

To read the Publishing Perspectives article in full, click here.

Where Art Thou, Art?

create quote1

Source: Google Images/sclance.com

I was right.

That Saturn Opposition Moon kicking my butt through November? Evidently it’s an opportunity (though inconvenient, as usual) provided by the Universe for me to get off my butt and make art. Write more, paint more, create, create, create. On a whim, I recently sat down with a reader, Debra, who used Tarot, Numerology, and palm reading to give me some perspective. She validated and reinforced that I have an opportunity, in the midst of a difficult and emotionally charged personal crisis (yep, another one, sheesh), to create whenever I have free time. She explained how my parents set me up to be someone else (and it’s NOT working, I’ll tell you that)…and maybe yours did, too.

Debra also told me that selling/sales (my current gig) is the ‘lowest form’ of vibration and I should be doing the higher form, which is making and selling my art, possibly even starting my own company. Hmmm…seem to remember that Redbubble site, with some of my artwork on it, not doing so well (maybe the wrong format, is all). But I get what she’s saying…I’m under-selling my skills, my art and myself by not actively creating.

Are you guilty of this as well? How many of you are following your true path? How many of you are following a path set by your parents (and their best intentions for wanting us to succeed according to how they defined success)? Artists, painters, writers, and such didn’t raise us all. Most of us were raised by parents who set us on that conformist path of ‘success’: college (Bachelor’s), then more college (MBA), then off to a swanky white collar job that is sure to suck the life out of anyone with even a hint of creativity because we were taught that art is NOT a way to earn a living, that art is NOT for serious-minded folks.

Hmmm…

No wonder there’s so much unhappiness in the world. We’re living false lives. We’ve been deluded into believing there isn’t a place for our art, so we trudge on to the respectable, reliable job to pay the bills and bury the artsy stuff in a box in the back of the closet behind an outfit that hasn’t been worn in three years.

The tricky part is getting back on track after being off that track for so damn long. If you veered off your artistic course, what did you do to get back to your calling? What did you risk? What did you lose or gain?

Saw a sign somewhere today…it read:

“Success isn’t the road to happiness. Happiness is the road to success.” (Buddha)

Happiness in the form of creating our art, perhaps?

 

Getting What We Want, Getting What We Need and a Leap of Faith

believe in yourself

Source: Google Images/ successserieslic.com

Pondering

Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell the difference between something that feels good and something that feels right.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to distinguish between something that I need and something that I want.

So when a serendipitous moment or situation arrives, is it truly so? Or am I too focused on it being something I want? This is what scares me: that I will make a decision because I believe it to be an opportunity when really it’s not, when it’s something I want over something I need. Or just the opposite, when I make a decision based on believing it’s something I need over something I want.

I believe the Universe gives us what we need, not what we want (wouldn’t that cause a host of problems in already too-self-centered world), so maybe all situations are serendipitous, and how we respond is where we succeed or err.

Saturn Opposition Moon is still kicking my ass but has backed off somewhat since Mercury (the planet of communications) left retrograde on August 2nd and is moving forward again (big sigh of relief; no more miscommunications, misunderstandings, for a few months). I still feel philosophical, though I’m working more hours and writing/creating less – which means more money but less time for creative projects. My mind is constantly wandering off to some creative adventure I’d like to begin or complete.

Reviewing

I like to reread my posts; they can often inspire a new blog topic. As I reread my July 12th post on freely living a creative life, one of the quotes I included in the post bothered me. Author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that whether or not we earn a living from a creative life isn’t the point.

I suppose it’s easy for her to write that, since she does earn a living from her writing.

How many writers/artists/creatives would agree with that statement, I wonder?  

Are you truly happy just creating? I am, to a certain extent, but I admit I’d like to be able to rely, at least partially, on my creativity to support me (I’ll bet many of you would as well). Because creating something (a new novel, a painting, refinished furniture, a sculpture, etc.) is important but to earn a living from that creativity would allow us to be self-sufficient, independent, and not reliant on some J-O-B (with idiot bosses and stupid rules) so we can live our lives as we choose. Earning a living from our creativity would provide the freedom to work to live, not live to work, as so many Americans stuck in the daily grind must do.

Fear of the (Necessary) Big Leap

My biggest fear is to make the leap into 100% creativity, 100% of the time. When I think about it, I question whether I want or can create 100% of the time, since creative juices naturally ebb and flow. Caution in making deep-dive decisions come with age; thirty years ago I would have leaped into the unknown without thinking twice. Now I have responsibilities. Yet something continues to gnaw at me deep inside (could be that Saturn Opposition Moon thing). I’m not living an authentic life because I’m too concerned with that “just get a job” mantra drummed into me by my parents (that I cannot seem to let go of, for some insane reason).

What I want, then, is perhaps exactly what I need – to live creatively, freely, without doubt, without fear, always creating, always moving forward without regrets.

That is the leap of faith I (and you) must take.