Responsibility

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Something has been nagging at me since I watched the news the other night – the concept of crowdfunding. It’s strange to me that it has become acceptable for so many people, including writers and authors-to-be, to ask for free money from strangers to help with a book/situation/health condition. (I get asking for help with disaster relief.) But is that money truly free? No. You have a responsibility to spend that money on what you campaigned for and nothing else (or you might end up in legal trouble). I don’t understand how people  can ask for money to help publish a book, then ask them to spend more money to buy the book. 

There are so many affordable and even free options out there; you just have to do the research: Lulu Press, Amazon KDP, Lightning Source (Ingram), just to name a few; these are great options. Check their criteria to see which one fits your needs best. I’ve always used Lulu Press and have had good results. They pay me on time every month, without a hitch. To get your book into bookstores, libraries  and other public venues, Ingram Spark is the way to go. There are a few up front expenses that you must budget for: book cover (eBook or hard copy), editing (developmental or finishing touches), and layout. And there are so many options out there for these, you certainly can find what you need to fit your budget.

On the news the other evening, there was a blurb about a new website, GoFraudMe. Its purpose is to expose fraudulent crowdfunding campaigns, mainly on GoFundMe. I searched through the site and read about several campaigns where people have fraudulently collected a lot of money (one was for over $400K for a homeless guy who never saw the money) and spent it NOT on the issue of the campaign or just plain faked the health issue or situation. Luckily, the folks at GoFraudMe are bringing these cases to law enforcement and many are or have been charged with the crime of fraud, some as felonies. So be careful where you donate your money. 

That said,  if you have a campaign to help with publishing your book, make sure that money only goes towards publishing and keep receipts/details of your expenses. I’m thinking that because others have paid for the publishing and other miscellaneous expenses (editing, layout, etc.), that you cannot claim them on your federal taxes, as these were not paid for with your money. Might want to check with a tax specialist to be sure, or call the IRS, to be safe. 

I did read about a new crowdfunding option to publish one’s books on one of the author blogs I follow. A new site where crowdfunding campaigns can lead to a publishing contract is Inkshares. This is a legitimate site where, if you navigate their process successfully, you can land a publishing contract. After a quick read, I surmised that this might be a more plausible option; they will offer a publishing contract if you can secure a pre-order of 750 books. According to their FAQs page, they write: “We publish any work that successfully hits a pre-order threshold on our platform.” Sounds like a good deal if you’re on SM and have 750 friends who might be willing to ante up. Certainly is worth looking into, don’t you think? 

Inkshares appears to be a safer, smarter crowdfunding option for those who choose this road. I still question the integrity of asking the public to pay for both the process and the finished product. When it comes down to it, as writers, we have a responsibility to be both self-sufficient (to earn a living this way) and to provide work that is worthy of the price we charge. That, in my opinion,  is our responsibility. 

Graphic Un-Design

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Memorial Weekend loomed and my anticipation escalated; I’d been looking forward to this for a long time. Over the past year or so, I have contemplated changing the eBook cover to my fiction novel, Rescue on White Thunder. I knew the basic, cheesy cover was not really helping sell my book and I obsessed over making a change. I also discovered a few writing errors I missed with my hundreds of previous edits, so I set about making those changes to the manuscript but delayed a new book cover due to budget constraints. With all the options out there on the World Wide Web, surely there was someone I could afford to have design a new cover for my eBook. Or so I thought.

Alas, it was not to be. I stupidly went to Fiverr to get an affordable book cover since I’d had good luck with my nutrition book there (well, sort of…long story that ended in my favor). I located a young woman here in the U.S. (which is difficult, since many of the people on Fiverr are not). After reviewing her book cover portfolio a few times, I made the decision to purchase a book cover from her. Sadly, it did not go well. First, the order arrived later than promised. When I finally saw the email that my work was completed, I anxiously opened the message, anticipating a sparkling new cover that would now sell gazillions of copies of my book. The new cover looked NOTHING like the book summary I’d sent. Did she even read it? I asked myself. I sent the cover back with a revision request, my hopes dashed in an all too quick moment of ecstasy. I waited for a response. And waited. And waited. By now, Memorial Weekend was almost over and still no response. Perhaps she’s working on the revision, I tried to convince myself. It is a holiday weekend, maybe she’s out having fun, I excused. By the end of the fun-filled (for someone else, I’m sure) weekend, still no response. With great regret (and an imagined loss in gazillions of book sales dollars), I cancelled the order and requested a refund. Oddly, she responded to that request within twenty-four hours and agreed. Hmmmm…

It made me rethink the whole eBook thing. With scammers on the rise and sites offering free copies of eBooks illegally (I had this problem and it was a pain to clear up), I made the decision to take my book off Amazon/Kindle, at least for a short respite while I re-evaluate. Instead, I’m going to invest in a new book cover for a hard cover print book because I think that will serve it better than even a paperback style. Seems to me that print books still sell better, as people like to curl up with a good book and a hot cuppa. I know I do (just today finished a fabulous read titled Three Souls by Janie Chang – a must read). And I’ll have better control over scamming issues, since it’s harder with print books. I imagine I’ll still have to deal with the occasional idiot third-party seller on Amazon trying to sell my work for an ungodly amount.

Part of what bothers me is how devalued graphic design work has become with the advent of the Internet and the multitude of websites where we can find these so-called experts in graphic design. I’ve reviewed many portfolios and I see a pattern: each graphic designer has a singular style that they seem to use for all their projects, changing only color, font, and background as dictated by the genre. Even the young woman who created my nutrition book cover falls into this repetitive pattern as a blueprint for all her works (which I didn’t notice until after the fact). It’s bad enough we have additives in our foods to make them all look and taste the same in every bottle; now graphic design is following suit. Conformity, lack of style and originality; unless we can afford only the best of services, many writers are doomed to copycat book covers with little novelty. 

Caveat emptor, my fellow writers – Buyer Beware. And, lest you forget – you get what you pay for, so make it worthwhile.

Book Sales Fraud or Smart Marketing?

Today is a day off for me so I decided to catch up on some online work and update my books’ Facebook, Lulu, and Amazon pages. I came across something on Amazon that I have encountered there before; I wasn’t happy about it then and I’m not happy about it now. Have you (authors) found someone, a third party seller, trying to sell your work for an unreasonable (and I mean ungodly) price? I published my first book, a creative nonfiction, back around 2007. A few years later, I retired the book (it was a personal memoir and I’d moved on by then) but Amazon never completely removes the page (their policy). There are probably two dozen or so copies of the book (yeah, I was a monster publisher back then, ha ha) in circulation, most of them signed by me at a book award ceremony back in 2006 (yes, I actually won an award for that little book). Not that my “autograph” begs that kind of money, mind you, but I do have to question the veracity of the seller when my simple paperback is available for ONLY $629.81!!!!!!

Red Rhino Fraud Book Price 09.11.17

Unbelievable.

When I encountered this issue with my nutrition book (a third party seller was offering it for a huge, unrealistic amount, again on Amazon), I contacted a publicist and book marketing expert I’ve been following for some time now. She was nonplussed about the situation and told me I already got my money so don’t worry about it. Am I worrying too much about this? Or is this fraudulent activity? At the very least, it’s misleading since the seller lists the book as ‘new’ and there are no new copies available. What would motivate someone to price a book at that level? Have any of you experienced this? What did you do? Were you successful or not? I’d love some advice here…maybe it’s just me but I’m perturbed about some greedy idiot trying to overcharge for one of my works…and offering it as ‘new’ when it’s not. Not that anyone’s buying it at that price, I’m sure…but I did contact the seller via Amazon so we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, it’d be nice to hear from some of you about your experiences and how you handled them. In this Digital Age, I think, some illegal activities will be beyond our control…including when it affects one of us personally. Like I don’t have enough stress in my life…

Sheesh.

Update 09.18.17: the fraudulent offer has been removed! It’s sad to have to monitor our work so closely in this Digital Age; lots of scammers out there and people who ruthlessly take advantage of hard working writers. A flick on the forehead to them.

Learn From Your Book Reviews

Hi all, I’ve been out of touch the past couple weeks – no excuse, really, just no desire to sit and write another blog on writing. I mean, how many topics can there actually be? Yet here I am, with another blog…

So I’m going to cheat a little and let Sandra Beckwith, owner of Build Book Buzz, share some neat tidbits on how we can all learn from negative or not-all-that-nice reviews of our work. I’ve been lucky so far; all my reviews are 5-star – then again, I only have THREE of them for my fiction novel. I’ve asked people to say something nice when they finish reading the book, but they do seem to forget or get distracted elsewhere. 

I’ve never written a negative review; if I can’t say something constructive, why bother? Then again, perhaps some positive critiquing is necessary from time to time, as we often can’t see the weak spots in our work as easily as the reader. So don’t take it personally. Use it to your advantage, as an opportunity learn where you may have missed something – with characters, dialog, or scenes/chapters – and go back to the original work with fresh eyes.

Why Authors Shouldn’t Obsess Over One-Star Reviews

Authors, prepare yourself for the inevitable one-star review. In the publishing industry, one-star reviews are practically a rite of passage.

And no one is immune. Whether you’ve got 10 best-sellers to your credit or it’s your first book, you can expect at least a single one-star review.

There are the one-star Amazon reviews that make you roll your eyes.

“If possible, I’d give this pile of garbage zero stars.”

“Not really of much use for me. Seems like just a lot of useless information to fill up a book.”

“The best part of this book is the cover photo.”

https://buildbookbuzz.com/one-star-reviews/

A Writer’s Legacy in a Digital World

I’m not trying to be morose but something has been nagging at me for some time now, and it’s important to discuss with all of you. I’ve been wondering what to do with my intellectual property (as well as my material property) once I’ve walked on from this life (or become incapacitated in some way). Perhaps some of you have pondered this as well if, like me, you’re in the second half of life. I perused a few articles and even asked an acquaintance, who happens to be a lawyer, about this issue. He mentioned that since this is such a new situation, it has presented some difficulties and obstacles when drawing up the paperwork for a client’s estate: Will, Power of Attorney, Health Proxy, Advanced Directive, etc. Did you know that most Americans don’t even have a Will? They figure the family will somehow work it all out. Believe me, they couldn’t be more WRONG. (I would’ve had a nightmare situation with my family if I hadn’t taken my mother to an attorney to complete all the paperwork years before her death.)

Attorneys refer to these as your Digital Assets (DA). Do you trust someone enough to have access when you’re unable or gone? Need to think about this one, because not everyone’s as trustworthy as one might think, especially if money or personal information is involved. First step is to take an inventory of your DA:

  • Do you have a Paypal or any account that has monetary value? Who will have access in case you’re incapacitated? Or worse, if you die? What happens to the money? Who benefits?
  • What about email accounts (personal and/or business), blogs, and podcasts? Personal and business websites? Do you want them up and running for people to read your when-you-were-a-breathing-starving-artist work?
  • Do you keep a list of logins and passwords to all the accounts you use? I do, and I update it regularly. But I abbreviate the logins so no one else will figure them out if they get their hands on the list. I also keep an updated copy in one of those many cloud accounts in case something happens to my computer. The list is getting longer, though, since one can’t shop on sites as a guest anymore. I just cleaned out my list and it’s still a full page of two columns (it had been two pages)! 
  • What electronic devices do you own that need a password for access? Do you have a laptop, smartphone, tablet, DVR/Tivo, or a home burglary system?
  • Do you bank online? What about mortgage payments, investment banking, utilities, or airline memberships?
  • Do you have any online accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube? Any accounts to e-commerce sites (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Ebay, etc.)? You also need to check the policies of these companies regarding access by another person – which is why you will need to legally designate someone  if you want that person to clean up your online mess.
  • How much of your writing is unfinished? Do you want someone else to finish it? Or would you prefer your Executor/Executrix just heave every incomplete project, every potential novel/poetry book/best-selling short story into a shredder (digital or physical)? What will you do with the work you have completed? Published? Who gets the royalties? It’s a bit mind-boggling to think about it. But you MUST think about it – and DECIDE.
  • What about cleaning up your personal information collected by those data-mining companies? If you think it won’t matter once you’re gone, you’re wrong. Someone could use your identity and then perhaps gain access to your DA and online life – and then your hard-earned money.

Whew. This is not an exhaustive list but it will hopefully get many of you thinking more about your DA and how to protect it (in perpetuity) or do away with it. It’s a sobering experience to think of your life in these terms, but in the long run you’re doing your family or loved ones a favor by setting it down on paper. If you’re not sure you can trust someone to take care of everything, why not designate your attorney? They’re legally bound to follow the client’s directives, so your DA would be protected or disposed of according to the terms of your Will.

I’m planning to do this; at least then I’ll have some peace of mind about what happens to my work when I’m gone. Perhaps I’ll set up some sort of trust so that revenues (royalties) from my books will be donated to nonprofit organizations of my choosing. That will be my legacy.

What will your legacy be?

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