Archive for July, 2010

STORY – Flowers and Thieves

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

People have been trying to steal the flower box outside my house.

There used to be a flower box set outside my window ledge facing the street where pedestrians pass. It was long and it was full of pretty things. Indeed, the point was to pretty up the neighborhood. But some passing people would pluck out the flowers, roots and all for, one imagines, their own home use, leaving gaping holes. I replanted the missing flowers with just basic leafy greenery reducing the plucking thievery, making it, one would think, no longer such an attractive steal. But someone was not happy with this solution. One deep night someone or a couple of someones pulled the flower box off the ledge and it free fell to the sidewalk where it fractured, splitting in half. It was discovered the next morning, dirt spread across the pavement, people stepping over it like some new obstruction that’s none of their business. So one cleans up and disposes but does not give up, damn it. One puts out a pentagon cement box full of tight smiling flowers right on the sidewalk, right next to the front door, insisting on bringing a little damn cheer to this damn neighborhood. Still, still, unknown people pluck at it, as though trying out pick-pocketing skills on the inert and attractive. So, sinking to their level, getting crafty, I planted some wall-aimed though hidden sticks usually used for skewering meat, deep in the ground, sharp points behind the leaves, so when an evil hand reaches in to thieve a plant by its roots, they get their greedy little fingers and/or palms jabbed. As a result, becoming frustrated and lightly wounded, they now kick at the cement box by my front door, jarring it out of its snug place. Every morning I put it back in its place, defiant, determined. They leave coke cans in it. Sometimes cigarette butts. Plastic wrappers. Last week someone laid a steel portion of a shower pole across it. Some foolish one actually tried to take the whole heavy flower container last week. But it had been tied to a steal horseshoe shaped shoe scraper embedded near the front door, left from the days when this city street was part of the outlying fields (I don’t live on rue de l’Agriculture for nothing). But when these determined plant robbers lifted it, the two wires encircling the box held it secure, so they could only get it off a ground a tiny bit. They must have jerked at it, hoping brute ignorance would help, and it wouldn’t give because I’m smarter and so it slipped from their grip (or they just gave up) and it fell to the sidewalk, yet, a sturdy construction, it did not crack and smash. It was left right in the middle of the sidewalk as the unsuccessful thieves drifted back into their empty-handed night.

Yesterday, someone tied across my front door some plastic police tape that had “Police” stamped repeatedly in black on yellow, the kind of official narrow strip found at crime scenes or accidents, to seal off the area from a curious public. It was tied at a slant right across the bars protecting the window of the front door, with some excess tape stuffed firmly in the keyhole, blocking my ability to lock or unlock my door to the world outside.

The flowers now look nervously up and down the street to see who or what might be coming next. A sensation of paranoia has begun seeping in from the flowers outside to the life within. The next assault is awaited….

Man, this one-man indie publishing business is a time suck yet leaves a smile on one’s face.

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

I knew coming in to this publishing business it would not be a barrel of laughs or necessarily a thing a beauty, but it could turn into a joy forever.

Having spent a decade in international publishing, and over a couple of decades outside looking in the traditional publishing houses, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. But it’s always more than the carefully researched, optimistic planning allows.

Since publishing my second book (really, re-issuing “Self-Portrait of Someone Else”), these are most of the steps I’ve needed doing since:

1.) Tidying up next book (the novella “Brussegem, a snug hell”), getting its ISBN number, and registering it with my print company. Then working the cover. Requesting feedback from trusted folks. Re-briefing designer. Announcing a February launch date that came and went, because….

2.) I needed to stand back and understand what I was supposed to be learning from my first two book launches. I had my 26 steps check-list from book inception to continuing promotion, but the timing was off some because of the unexpected making itself known. This was…

3.) I should be releasing three formats for a single title simultaneously: the print book, the ebook, the audio book, so readers had a choice from the get-go. I had mostly concentrated on the print, knowing I’d be playing catch up with the other two formats. Which meant….

4.) Recording and editing the audio books, which takes up humongous amounts of time. To get it right. It’s a lot of fun, the performance and interpreting,but it’s second-by-second work, that leads to days and weeks. And since I do this as a professional voice over, there’s the happy work of getting it right. And so there follows….

5.) Ebook (Kindle & iPad included) that are a pain to format properly. Especially as I had lots of footnotes in “How to Find Yourself (or a reasonable facsimile)” that are just not respected or possible in most ebook formats yet. And that means reformatting, giving the book a slightly 2nd level feel to the read than the print version, then re-reading, checking, and for a low-grade proof-reader such as myself, it’s not easy going.

5a.) Researching where to place the ebooks as there are a dozen and so much more ebook sites, and then promoting on each (jump up and down saying Look at me!) like mad, or at least consistently.

6.) Getting time to investigate different online book clubs to introduce the novels to, and then promoting on each (jump up and down saying Look at me!) like mad, or at least consistently.

7.) Making the video(s) to attract happy attention, as opposed to old style Buy This Sucker commercial videos, of which I have no interest. And as someone who has made his living in marketing communications, I know the edge between selling and its possible ugliness. But each video meant coming up with the idea, writing the script, shooting the video, editing it, adding the right soundtrack, posting it on YouTube, letting people know, and then know some more. And then repeat, time after time.

8.) Research various free newsletter lists so I can offer opt-in/opt-out choice so people who want receive regular updates concerning my work can, or refuse. I have a number of sites I need to check out, some cost, some don’t, and need clear understanding before committing. Nothing worse than creating an email list, then have to change for a negative reason.

9.) How to embed a click-able web site link in videos to allow anybody who sees the wonders of a book I have described in a video I made, click right to the publishing page and buy it. Have half a dozen YouTube How To on that I need to find time to review, then implement.

10.) Review tons of sites on ebook developments and new sites to sell my stuff on. I have 40-50 of these to review. Just can’t throw them everywhere, because some are quality, lots ain’t.

11.) Research sites where I can post my audio books when they are completed. Again, new ones, learning from old ones, pop up and need exploring. And exploring, again, needs time, time, time.

12.) Get more fans, or Like people, onto my Facebook site. And view some How To videoing in personalizing the Facebook page.

13.) Write some fiction, do some storytelling, because that’s what it’s all about in the end.

14.) Continue developing relationships with seven different graphic designers the world over to launch a line of fabrics for fun, stories on stuff. Which means, beside developing ideas, also checking the various POD sites for t-shirts and spin-offs, and making the contacts and then contracts. Again, who is great, who is environmentally great, which have international print outlets, and so on.

15.) Look into authors’ exchange efforts.

16.) Write a blog. Then another. Repeat. Stick to a schedule.

17.) Take looks at the 100 blogs I follow.

18.) Check my Twitter feed. And Facebook updates.

19.) Get closer with Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Book, Book Depository, et al.

20.) And write more fiction, develop scripts, work with illustrator for my children’s book, another for the upcoming illustrated version of How To Find Yourself, and others for one-offs and series…

21.) Jobs outside publishing that come in and need fairly immediate attention that throws all the above back a bit.

22.) I am also the reader acquisition go-to guy.

23.) Look around my room to see whether there’s anyone I can delegate any of this to. See no one.

24.) Review and comment on play representation scripts.

25.) Also make the tea.

And that’s a hint of what’s involved, mostly, in running a this independent online publishing company on the run, eight months from opening up shop.