Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Go, get Casey or Lucinda!

The ebook formatting service I settled on is called Ebook Formatters.  I'll tell you about them, then offer a second name I also recommend strongly but which I couldn't use for this book because of scheduling conflicts on both sides.

First up, the awesome Casey Babylon.  For a book of under 100,000 words, Casey charges $25 to format for Kindle or Nook.  She requires prepayment, by PenPal only.  And she pledges to stay with her clients until they are satisfied.  The initial turnaround is surprisingly quick:  24 hours.  In a ms. of 44,000 words, I found only three very small issues arising at their end:  e.g., a space omitted between a chapter number and the text beneath.  Though I'd proofed the manuscript throroughly, I found two slipups on my part:  A missing opening quotation mark and a single typo.  All of these issues were addressed immediately. 

Where Casey really rocked for me was in her willingness to check small discrepancies between her formatted Word doc and the Kindle preview screen:  e.g., lines of dialogue that looked indented by a couple of extra spaces and didn't 'wrap' on the preview page.  Casey explained that different viewing devices yield different displays on occasion, but that--as long as the Word doc was accurate--all would be well in the Kindle ebook final form.  Still, she agreed to go through a detailed list and double-check each item.

She's courteous, he's fast, and she likes helping writers get their books into dream shape.

Also recommended:  Lucinda Campbell at design.lkcampbell.com.  Lucinda's in the same price range as Casey, but booked for a couple of weeks in advance.  That said, I was blown away by the first email from her--in which she advised me to try resaving my troubled ms. as a HOTML document before I spent a penny.  For the record, this solved about 80% of my formatting problems. 

Contact both and decide for yourself if you'd like to spend 25 bucks to save yourself a world of formatting woes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Fast Can Your Mind's Fingers Fly?

A good man knows his limits, as Dirty Harry said.  And sooner or later we each find our own.  I found my own, damned rudely, when I previewed the finished copy I'd just submitted to Kindle:  formatting nightmares I couldn't resolve.  Now, I can read most Roman classics in the original Latin--but if you show me a list of computer instructions, I break out into a cold sweat.  Techno-dyslexia. 

Michael Prescott responded to an e-mail with a wonderfully detailed note that left me with an even greater sense of my severe computer skills limits...and the sure knowledge that, on my own, the challenge might take weeks.  Or months.  But he did suggest the possibility of getting pro assistance.  Others I'd reached out to were less helpful and less kind.  Handicapped and knowing it, I said Yes to Michael's suggestion and liked it a lot better than running around with my hat in my hand and risking a wad of cold phlegm in the eye.  What I liked even better than the sense of self-reliance was the extra time I'd gain.  I could be getting the next e-book ready instead of fixing bum indents, etc.

I set my mind's fingers flying.  How could I get myself out of this jam?  Who did formatting for ebooks and how much would it cost?  And, oh, what about getting a cover?  Come on, keyword searches, what can you do for me?  My hands' fingers couldn't keep up with my mind's!  What was out there on the subject of promotion?  And, wait a second, what is this--this nifty little tip about moving the Acknowledgments to the back, so that readers who check out free samples aren't put off by 'fluff'? 

The lesson I learned was a great one:  Let the mind's fingers fly at their speed where they will and be less quick to ask for help.  But, oh yeah, add this lesson too:  Remember how the bum's rush felt and somewhere further down the line, be like Michael Prescott to some lost soul who needs a hand.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I eat, I ate--I Tweet, I...Twate?

Tweeted, I believe.  But I do have a lot to learn--make that almost everything--on the whole subject of Twitter.  And that's okay by me.  I've always been an explorer and I look forward to the trip.  This is my prelim report after only a couple of days.

1)  There's really nothing to setting up a Twitter account.  Deciding how to use it becomes very quickly a matter of both time and energy.  You'll need to make Follow choices in order to get your name out and about.  But Follow unwisely and you'll pay a price.  E.G.:  Within minutes of Following Huffington Post, the 'internet newspaper', my screen began flooding with hundreds of news links.  Dozens...then hundreds.  Likewise, when I Followed an online writer who'd elected to Follow me, I received more Tweets from him than from Huffington Post.  I had no choice but to unFollow both fast.  On the other hand, I had to reach out...so I decided to try my luck keywording writers and subjects of real and sincere interest to me.  This will take time but I took the right path.
2)  A few examples will suffice.  I keyworded Prison Break, my favorite TV series--and was able to find Tweet links to several major players, ranging from one producer to a couple of the stars.  My immediate goal is to say Hi There and Thanks for that terrific show.  Nothing more.  But in good time, I may have a project of interest--and just possibly an open door.  Established writers, on the other hand, are hit on from all sides by fools asking them for favors, although they've never met.  Twitter allows us the chance to enjoy limited personal contact with writers we admire.  We get to introduce ourselves.  And if our company's found to be cool, these old pros may care to check us out when we've battled our way through the arena and made our way into print.  Till then, how much cooler can it get than to be able to Tweet Peter Straub, David Morrell, Joe Finder, etc.--and be Tweeted in return?
3)  Keywording 'manifestation' resulted in some leads that I intend to follow--since the subject of my first ebook, THE VANISHING MAGIC OF SNOW, is one man's attempt to manifest his way out of The Great Recession. 
4)  Meantime, it's also wise to pay attention to the pros.  50 Cent, predictably, is Tweet-drumming up a tidal wave of interest in his new album in July.  New novelist Peter Farris is cannily Tweeting his first book, LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING.  David Morrell makes magnificent use of both Twitter and Facebook to strengthen a personal bond with his fans that few other writers can rival.  Joe Finder's breathing down his neck.  And so I watch as I stumble.

An update will follow soon.  Meanwhile, gotta Tweet away!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reb Baby Learns to Boogie--Yeahhhhhhhhhh!

Dressed in my cozy old slippers--old ways--I found that I'd started to drift from my aim:  to learn how to get down and dance on the Web.  True, I'd learned a few cool tricks since starting:  I'd got this blog's heart beating...I'd started to network on Facebook...I'd even tried out a free website and committed to getting my backlog into print as ebooks.

But today I shucked off the old slippers and asked:  What am I still not doing?  What do I need to do better?  What new grooves do I have to train my old brain to get into? 

Today my brain started to party.  For starters, I took the plunge and connected this blog to Google-plus.  Until today, visits here have ranged from one or two up to a high of 8.  Today, within an hour of connecting with Google, there've been 9 visits.  Inspired, I drew up a list of the books that I wrote in the Desert.  I divided these into two camps:  dark Christmas and crime thrillers.  Question:  How could I present these to readers as a  single 'brand' from Reb MacRath?  How could I clarify the 'Southern Scotch' tag that I've clung to for years?  How could I tell readers what Southern Scotch can DO for them and how delicious bit tastes?  And how could I hustle the hell out of the first ebook at a cost even I could afford?

Right.  You guessed it.  Reb MacRath, Southern Scot, wended his electro-footed way around the Web...and found a site for cool, cheap cards.  But-but-but-but...could this old coot REALLY dance and design a card that was sooooo smokin' hot it would leave people screamin' to have one?

Excuse me while I boogie on.  In a world where we're all hot for answers, the excitement begins with the questions:  bigger and bolder and better.  Getting back to Southern Scotch...what if I added this tagline:

Targan goolies, Dixie soul.

Let the new footwork acquire more dazzle, young Reb!

P.S. 7/1/13: Since this post was written, all-time visits to the blog are about 8000--with 1500 of those being in the past two months. 

7/29/13: Total visits have soared to 10,000--with 2000 of those in the past month.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Ebooking of Reb MacRath/Or: Playing Cards With 50 Cent, Part 2

A great agent is reading The Big One.  No guarantees but fingers crossed.  Still I've been changed by playing cards with 50 Cent for six good months.  (See the earlier post on this subject.)  The three key lessons learned by letting rap's Napoleon whip my butt night after night have been these:
--The imperative of training, all day long and every day, to grow bolder and more fearless.
--The need to advance daily toward ownership--of both my work and my independence.
--The three-alarm essentiality of becoming more fluid and more creative in the compromises I allow to circumstance.

Well!  What's all that leading up to, you ask.  The traditional publishing fate for The Big One is out of my hands for the moment.  This is the time to stay cool and have faith.  That said, I'm left with a tower of books that I wrote in my years in the desert.  They were written for love, not for money.  Composition time ranged from one to three years, no deadline pressure over me.  I set out, in each of these, to meet the following goals:  to delight, astonish, amuse and inspire readers to want to read more.  The books are short by most standards:  50,000-70,000 words.  And they're long on discipline, fiery passion and faith.  None ever had its chance in court--the real court, of public opinion.

Now that's about to change.  Reb MacRath's Desert Storm is finally about to begin.  The first, trial entry, called THE VANISHING MAGIC OF SNOW, will be available for the first time...as soon as I can master Amazon's formatting challenges.  That done, I'll release eight or nine more over the next 18 months, if readers are open to stories that are more than a little bit different.

So, thank you, thank you, 50 Cent!  Let's see how well your student's learned--and, for God's sake, let me win a hand.