Wednesday, February 29, 2012

OMG! I Really Have To Do All This To Publish A Book?

This post is a continuation from Indie Publishing - What Not To Do & What To Do - So if you have not read that yet it would be a good idea to read it first.

So let us get down to some basics.

Writing The Book
  1. You have to write. Think I am joking. Think again. You first and foremost have to write. Interesting concept there. You have to plan out your book, know where you will start from, understand the message you want to convey, and have an idea of who or whom your audience is. That is not a simple task.
  2. Then You have to actually sit and write the book. Or stand and write it. Or watch TV and write it. I do not really care. You do have to write the book though. Spending time in forums asking for names of characters and other such things, may be fun, but it is not writing.
  3. You need to familiarize yourself with tools. Like for one. You need to understand the nature of a sentence, a paragraph and when to break things up and yes, even when to break the rules. 
  4. Going into this part too deeply, if you do not understand it already, is futile. Obviously, if you want to publish a book you know you have to write it first.
  5. This part of the process, believe it or not costs you the most money in many ways. Why? Because if you are writing you are not doing other things. Like work, like paying attention to the family, little things like that. It can have a great cost both in monetary means, friendships and in relationships. You need to be prepared and actually committed to the sacrifice you are going to make. If you are not prepared to do it, do not start it. Bad Karma that one.
  6. Some tools that may help you. 1. Chicago Manual of Style or another accepted style book. 2. A spell checker 3. A Grammar checker. 4. Grammerly (but that costs money). and its companion USE THEM.
Now you say, "Okay big mouth, Teddy. Now I really have finished my book. So now all I need to know how to upload and get it into Kindle and/or Smashwords and/or some other places. Right?" And I smile sweetly and say, "Oh so wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong."

Planning your next stages:
  1. So now you finished the book. You probably read it over once or twice. Good. Now make a backup copy and put it away. That is right. You did not misread that. Put it away for 10-14 days. Do not look at it. Do not show it to anyone. Do not tell anyone you just finished your book. Do not start anything on that book. Not yet. Do not even get into a forum and say "OMG I am so happy. I just wrote my last paragraph!" Keep your mouth shut and your eyes away from the book and use your computer for other things or your next book.
  2. Now you need to be ready to spend some money.Take a deep breath. Because this is reality folks not a world of wishes and dreams. You will have to be ready to spend that money. In this article and the one that comes after it the amount of money will be up to you and exactly what you expect from your book and your writing. But despite everything you have read it is my contention, and this is based upon research, that you will not get away with a decent book and even mediocre sales if you are not going to spend what is needed. (And please do not fall for all that BS and hype of I wrote my book, I self-edited it, I made my own cover, and I gave away 15,000 copies for free on Amazon and it is now a best-seller. Do not fall for it, cause it just in the end will not be true.)
  3. But now you say "I do not have the money to spend on anything." Fair reaction and probably true. Most Indie authors do not have money lying around. So in this case you have a few options.
    • You can go the route of reading all that well meaning material of how to become famous and great and sell a zillion books through the use of Social Networking (rolls eyes here),  put up your FB page, get on the twitter lists which will twitter your posts to authors in your position (kind of worthless), get into LinkedIn join the proper groups, post there, start a blog, start a web site, join 10 forums, and spend the next year trying to get people to buy your book. After all you have nothing better to do than marketing all day - like writing another book. Right?
    • Or you can just skip over all the other information here go to Kindle and/or Smashwords and upload your book and say your prayers
    • Or you can face the facts and realize being an author and publishing your book is just not for you 
    • Or you can figure out how to get that money that you need to continue. And this depends on how much you do believe in yourself and how much you believe in the Fairy Godmother.
Now comes the part where you have divide your mind into a few compartments. And depending on your capabilities and your past writing experience and financial wherewithal will determine just what has to be done and what you need to plan on.
So let us deal with them one at a time shall we?

Edit & Proofread:
If you think you do not need an editor, I just throw my hands up. You prove everything that has been said about the "bad" in the Indie industry. If you think you can write, self-edit your own material, and create a great book cover and then sell it, why the hell are you not on the top 10 best-seller list already?

If you do not know the difference between the stages of Editing and Proofreading ask around. Look it up. You need both. So when you are looking for that editor make sure they know you are requesting an edit and a proofread.
  1. If you have an editor that you know, trust and already used then schedule a manuscript to be sent to her 1 month from the time you finished your book. Remember we put away the book for 10-14 days. Then go open your computer and start writing your next book.
  2. If you do not have an editor, do research on the net and in all the forums you already belong to. Remember there are scams out there. You need to get people who will recommend the editor and not just read what is on their website and the testimonials. You need to garner a list of at least 2-3 editors. You need to send them an email with who you are, your book, word count and ask what the process editing with them entails. You need to wait for all the answers. READ THEM. Because a lot of your choice will depend on how long it will take for someone to get back to you and how professional their answer will be.
  3. You must be incredibly careful if you belong to a forum where you are known, if you wish to pick an editor in that forum. If something does not work out, if even you both are not on the same page, or the editor does not like your work or you think they destroyed your book...kiss goodbye to that forum and that friendship. So be really sure you want to go that route if the editor is in your forum or even worse, someone you know in real life. Be real careful. MHO - your editor is not your friend, just like your literary agent should not be your friend. If a friendship develops that is wonderful. But this is not something to pick based upon friendships or witty comments in a forum. This is serious business, and should be treated that way.
  4. Money does matter. This will cost you. Some people offer to edit for free. But free also means that you are on the back-burner if something else happens in their lives. Take out your calculator. Do a word count by the charge per word. And then add like 10-20%. Why? Because there are always the fixes you did not think of which cost even more.
  5. Some people like the "farms". These are a business with professional editors and proofreaders and quite a few good ones out there. There is some personal contact but not a whole lot. They do work fast. Some others like the "personal touch". An editor you can write to or call, and expect an answer from. Also quite a few good ones. This all depends on you and how your personality works. In both cases, make absolutely sure they are not scams.
  6. Make sure that your editor also understands you want a proofread as well as that costs more money. (I will get to these in the next post and tell you not such a funny personal story on that one - cause yours truly decided once to skip the proofread step.)
  7. As "snobby" as this may seem, an editor should actually have finished some type of University or have some type of degree that is not related to "underwater swimming". I will even accept here self-educated. But I would not rely on it for my own books. Editors need to know language, grammar and proper constructs. They are not just readers. They are editors. Education here is a must as well as the eye for editing. (Shoot me later for saying this, but this is what I believe.)
Remember your book is still tucked away. You have not yet looked at it again. Right? Right! Next planning stage:

Book Cover:
At the same time we are looking for that editor, we are also going to look for the book cover artist. But a few words of introduction. I have seen in my short time, more discussion on book covers than content of books. That is very sad and even creepy to me. Yes, a book cover needs to be decent. Yes it needs to express something. No, it does need to be the Mona Lisa. No, it does not justify hundreds of posts in 10 forums asking for ideas and compliments and critique. No, it does not justify spending more time on the cover than you did on your book. And certainly, it does not justify nor prove that a book is judged by its cover. So you sucker in 500 people to buy your book based upon the wonderful cover. And one of those people just happens to know a legitimate and influential book reviewer. And that book ends up in the hands of a book reviewer. Guess what happens next? Beautiful book cover, no more suckers buying your book. Or even more realistic, 10 of those 500 people absolutely trash your book in reviews on Amazon & B&N. So yes, "we do NOT judge a book by its cover". Despite what you read on all the wonderful forums touting the "stunning" book covers.
  1. If you plan on doing your own book cover, you can and should start working on it. Whatever you chose here, that too will have to sit once you think you are done, so you can come back to it with some perspective. 
  2. If you plan on finding a book-cover artist once again there are many ways to go. Research, email, price, and see real book covers this person has done. Price is really crazy here. Some people will charge you $50. Some $1500. Depends on what you want and what your tastes are.
  3. If you have any plans of producing a Paperback or Hard Cover, a book cover is NOT a simple picture. There is a spine and a back. Believe it or not the spine and back are your big problems if you are not a graphic artist. So make sure the quote you get is for what you need.
  4. Make sure you own the full rights to that cover. Period. NO ands, ifs, or buts about it.
  5. You can also use Create Covers in Amazon, or use their service where you put out an idea and have people bid on it. The choose. You can pick a private person. 
  6. A lot of what you do should have also thought involved as to if you can lay out your book yourself for either Ebook or Paper publishing. If you cannot do that, you are going to need to plan on that as well (but that is the next post!)
  7. Your book cover is important. It is not your book. It is a cover. This is not rocket science here. Spend what you can or create it yourself. Do not delude yourself into thinking that if your book cover looks nice in a thumbnail you will have a best-seller.
  8. Once your decision is made on who will do your book cover, then just go ahead and do it. If you have a spine, you will need to know roughly the approximate of pages that will be in the printed book. That may demand you lay it out for print beforehand. If you do not know, or cannot lay it out, you will need another service to do that as well. So you will have to hold off on the book cover.
Now your 10-14 days are up. Now go open up your masterpiece and start reading. And then read it again and start correcting. By now you should have a date from the editor you chose. You have that much time to do the best reading and editing you can on the book. Use it well. Do not try to read 500 pages in one day and edit them. You need perspective and sleep. You need to make that book as good as you can BEFORE it goes to the editor. Like cleaning the house before the cleaning crew arrives. 

So far we have covered just two topics. The next posts will deal with what else needs to be done. Scared yet? If not, you should be. This is serious business. You can, if you wish, ignore all the advice here. But remember:

All illustrations above are from the All hyperlinks on the posters will take you to their original page @

Don't like what I said here? Leave a comment. Trash it. Prove it wrong. My next posts will be be a continuation of the steps of what you should be doing in the process of getting your Indie book to succeed.

Books by Ted William Gross
Available in Paperback & Kindle Formats

Monday, February 27, 2012

Group Mentality - Dissenting Opinions Are NOT Allowed!

I promised to continue in my last post from Indie Publishing - What Not To Do & What To Do - the actual process of what you really need to do to get your book published. However due to something that occurred...we interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this post.

Before I begin let us throw up a picture.

Now down to our story folks, and what you should really be aware of. There will be no names mentioned here. I will not give you any names in email either. As I mentioned while researching out the Indie market, on purpose I sought out some of the groups and forums out there to see what people were saying about this market. Most of these forums and groups are fairly good for information, and again, I repeat, you should not waste too much time in them.

One such group is owned and run by a wonderful woman, who really does it for the good of the community. She is cordial, nice, professional and she is not a writer. What her motivations are to put oneself into a position like that is beyond me, but I am sure she is well aware of all the pitfalls and problems involved. It makes no difference how I found this group, but in the course of natural events I did find it, and was invited to join it.

This group has many members. Around 50-100 are really active (that is truly being above fair with the numbers.) They are a group of Indie authors, (though the group is open to all authors), and like most groups has its own rhythm and movement. It is also well-run by the administrator mentioned above. Most of the posts are not up my alley so I read and ignore. There are of course the posts that you will find in every group:
  1. Name My Character
  2. Do you like my book cover?
  3. Is this a good first paragraph?
The reason I ignore such posts and those like them is simple. My immediate reaction would be "name your own character - it is your book for goodness sake". You have to like your book cover - not 300 other people who all have different opinions. (Unless of course you are a book cover designer, but then again they do not usually throw out book covers and ask if people like them.) And if you need opinions on your first paragraph you need to go back and take a creative writing course. But those are cynical and sarcastic statements - true - yet cynical, and thus I just ignore such posts, and do not comment. I also do not comment on posts like the above that are clearly just put up in very "clever" ways to get people to download a book. 

Of course there are the ones that make you spit coffee over your keyboard. Like the "book reviewer" who said "I never bought an ebook in my life". Makes you wonder just how "literate" this book reviewer is. Would you want your book reviewed by someone who knows how to put up a blog, but does not buy books but only reviews those they can get for free? I do not know about you, but that is some scary stuff. You are comparing the writing to what, may I ask? I was tempted to ask the person who said that, if he had a University Degree, but I desisted. Because, well, in a group you have to be real careful what you say. Right? Right!

I also ignore those authors and people who call themselves "publishers" who rave about YAVB and YAZB. (You get 10 gold stars if you figure out those acronyms, but they should be added to the official Oxford English dictionary.) Not my thing.

Now to the part of the story which I must share with you. Indie authors are sometimes a "pack". What seems to have happened is since Amazon has done some amazing things with publishing, and allowing people to put out their own books (a good thing), they are feeling their oats. Now they feel it is time for revenge on the literary agents and publishers that would not look at what they wrote if they got down on their knees and begged. And let us face it folks. Time for the truth. To be sure, some wonderful authors have been discovered with this route. To be sure, there are many more who will be discovered. And to be sure the "some" here makes up maybe 5% of what is written by Indie authors is worth the electronic symbols they use up. (Some of you may say 10%, some may actually quote the correct statistic of 1.8%, but I will happily agree to any statistic you chose for your own measuring stick.) I want to make this clear. Not all books published the traditional route should be published either. They do not deserve the paper they are printed upon. But we are talking about Indie authors here. 

Amazon of course, in its marketing genius (and it is genius no kidding) to goad on more and more people to write hangs up the "success stories" for everyone to see. And of course, every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally and Jane are sure they are the next great success story. That is fair to be honest. It is important to believe in yourself. What they do not take into account is a very well-known statistic.

Amazon also recently introduced a KDP program. A lot of discussion has gone into the plus and minus of this program. But one very specific aspect of this program is as follows:

If you join KDP in a period of 90 days you are allowed to offer your Ebook for FREE on 5 days of your choice. In other words within 90 days you can chose 5 days in consecutive order or 5 days on a calendar and the book will magically be offered for FREE. Not only that but Amazon in another piece of marketing genius, now places two Best Seller Lists. One is Normal paid for books (which you can guess are 95% occupied by non-Indie authors,) and another list which the FREE Best-Seller list.

Many people use the Free days to get themselves known to readers. I have said this in 2 previous posts, and it is a legitimate and smart way to make use of this perk. For the most part you will get compulsive addictive freebie hunters (such as the "book reviewer" above) who will download anything and everything as long as the word "FREE" is attached to it. Others claim that once they offer their book for free then people go ahead and buy it when it is off the free days. (Possible, maybe even probable, but the statistics they claim, let us just say do not make sense. More on that later.)

Now up until this point it is clear. Where I come from, and in the English language that I learned, the word "Free" and the word "Sale" are two different animals. If you get something for free you did not pay for it. And if you pay for something you did not get it for free. That seems to be fairly logical, at least to my mind. 

So along came a post where the OP ("Original Poster") asked about this practice of free and did it not hurt other writers who were trying to "sell their books". This is a fair, logical and important question. Something I would think every single Indie author should want to look at, think about, and discuss. This was the only post I saw. I did not look down the page, (my mistake), and find that a few posts before someone had posted that they are a "best-seller" because they had just given away a few thousand books for free and posted a picture of the Amazon page to boot. My bad! 

So I gave my opinion and here it is:

I just do not know how to say this in a more clear manner:
  1. Free Books are simply NOT sales. 
  2. I challenge anyone who puts out their book for free and even hits #1 to paste the same exact book and its position in Amazon KDP - 7 days later. In other words let us see how far your book "dropped" in the "real" world. It is getting real old to see people claim "best sellers" based on freebies. 
  3. If you bother looking at the lists, either Amazon or NYT best sellers, you will find a great many Kindle books priced at anywhere between 2.99-9.99 and people are buying them at a rate that keeps them in the best seller lists. 
  4. The one thing a Free giveaway will you, is possibly acknowledgment of your name as an author - which I admit is important and critical. 
  5. If you want to give your books away for free and claim best-seller status, open a blog, post a download of a PDF and then voila, it is free. 
  6. If you are serious about writing, and maybe have the ability to break into the big leagues, prove it with "real sales" not with 5 free days on Kindle. (And to be clear I have used these days as well, but am dropping out of KDP after the 90 days are up.) 
  7. To prove a free giveaway works you must show the stats a week and 2 weeks and a month later. And your "real sales". I apologize for being "cruel" here but again, giving away something for free is simply NOT selling it. And there are tens of thousands of people who hunt free stuff all over, almost as a compulsive addiction. So telling us that if you give away 10,000 books that 2,500 people will read in my opinion malarkey. I would say maybe 500 people MAY just open the book and maybe 50 people will try and read it. And that is on a good day with the angels smiling at you.
You do not have to agree with the above. That is the point of a post. You offer your own opinion. Well, dear people, all hell broke lose. It seems pack mentality took over. How dare I imply that giving away free books does not make you a best-seller? I was called a "pompous ass" and other such nouns, adjectives and adverbs for daring to suggest that something like giving away books is not sales. A publisher of Indie books, even claimed 10,000 free downloads which of course helped with their YAZB. And then the attacks came. I stood on the side and laughed. And I realized these people are truly headed for oblivion. It did not stop for 24 hours. The same people over and over again, who did not even bother reading the original set of posts, showing how giving they were to the Indie community, how they edited books for free, how they wrote book reviews, how they did this and did that. But interestingly enough not one person was willing to publish their statistics! Not one person was willing to show how their book did and where it dropped to AFTER they had stopped giving it away for free. Not one person was willing to say my check after the free giveaway for that month was $X which means that I sold Y amount of books. NOT ONE!

Around 10 posts later (in the same section which is around 15 minutes) when I realized that people simply would not think for themselves or allow a dissenting opinion this is what i wrote:
But enough is enough. I respect your right to totally disagree, and I understand your position, completely. You made your point clear and I made mine. Let us just agree to disagree and see a year from now if the market proves you right.
But you cannot beat the pack. You really cannot. But then of course the person who had posted the picture of their book in the best seller list (FREE best seller list) - decided that I had something to do with them, even though my post was not even in their original post, and went into a long speech about support and help of each other and pulled out the "drama queen" act and said they would leave the group. Rolls eyes. You got to love drama queens.

Now if you are halfway familiar with a computer mouse, you do know how to click, find the person's book, look it up on Amazon and see its current standing. So why did I not do that? Because it would have embarrassed the hell out of the people who were claiming such numbers. Because it would have just added fuel to a fire and would have proved futile. Because that is "flaming" and I do not flame or call names.

So I stayed away. Why waste time? I offered an opinion, not a popular one, but a legitimate opinion. Pack mentality took over. Why? Well I have my suspicions that I did hit a very raw nerve. That these authors are not as successful as they want everyone to believe or they are deluding themselves, (and their stats in Amazon lists do prove my point fairly well.) I also think that they know deep inside that if the playing field were level, and they had to vie for the "real" best-seller list, where people actually read books and buy them and download them, or buy the paperbacks, they would no longer be writing especially those YAVB and YAZB.

So what are the lessons to be learned:

  1. Groups & Forums should be approached by those who want to write with a great deal of caution.
  2. If you are looking for popularity, nod and keep your mouth shut. And a forum or group is not the place to look for popularity but for information.
  3. If you are looking for knowledge - read, absorb, and try not to drink anything while you are reading (otherwise you may need a few new keyboards.)
  4. Pack mentality is scary and dangerous. It is something that has been written about often, and exists within groups and forums. So chose if you are a member of the pack or you are an individual with your own brain, and then act accordingly.
  5. Indie people have a lot to learn about publishing and the real reading public. Putting up a blog does not make you a book reviewer. Writing words does not make you an author. Being a best-seller means you "sold" those books, you are being reviewed in traditional areas and your major area of concentration is - Writing Not Posting.
Oh and one more lesson! How did I forget?

Don't like what I said here? Leave a comment. Trash it. Prove it wrong. All comments will be published except spam. Because I happen to respect dissenting opinions!

All illustrations above are from the All hyperlinks on the posters will take you to their original page @

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Indie Publishing - What Not To Do & What To Do

There is change in the air that is for sure. The lists at Amazon grow larger. The lists at B&N grow larger. Names like Smashwords have even gotten their own initials - SW - which everyone understands. Kindle, IPad, Nook, CreateSpace, LSI... the list goes on and on. A whole new lexicon has been created for the Indie Author.

For a month now, after purposely initiating myself into this community, I have listened, watched and taken notice of forums, chat boards, Facebook pages, Facebook Groups, Twitters and God only knows what else. I have also carefully watched, sometimes even sneakily trolled and checked Indie authors claims of success (which to no surprise were almost 95% false.) I read the blogs, read the web sites, made a list in my head and in One Note, wanting to know what is right and wrong.

The next articles will be what I have learned. I have no doubt they will be controversial. I have no doubt the Konrath lovers out there will beat me down with their proverbial stick for even suggesting some of the things I will suggest. I also have absolutely no doubt anymore that Indie authors are doing something very wrong in a market that is ripe for change and ripe for what they may have to offer. In short they may ride the wave for a bit, but they sure as hell are heading towards being torn apart by the jaws of defeat.

So here goes some very preliminary thoughts:
  1. 0.01% of Indie Authors will have the luck of not having to do a thing and putting books out there and having them bought up by the public at a rate they can make any living off of.
  2. Indie Authors may think they do not have to check Grammar, syntax, spelling, proofread and other such "mundane" things .. but they are making a grave mistake.
  3. Putting out books because they are made of words and sentences and paragraphs in no way makes you an author. It makes you someone who can type.
  4. Vampires and Zombies do not deserve their own genre.
  5. Book covers are critical. But actually, what you write between the covers will make you or break you.
  6. One great book cover will sell your book until a few people come along and say WTF? and then have the nerve to trash it in a review.
  7. Twittering and Facebook your page and book and links 10 times a day .. pisses people off. 
  8. Giving away free books on Amazon KDP is NOT selling your book though it is a good way to try and "brand" your name as an author.
  9. However poor and destitute you are, if you have put out a book, you have an internet connection. Save some more money and hire an excellent, - not good not mediocre not free - editor and proofreader. Your "Significant Other" does not count.  Neither do your children or friends. Too bad.
  10. Spend 100X more time on what you have written than how your book cover looks.
  11. Do not put down traditional review sites.
  12. Do not put down book publicists who are good.
  13. Do not jump on the "I hate traditional publishers" bandwagon just because they would not look at your book.
  14. Do not plan that Amazon will always be on top of the market (did I actually say that?) Oh my gosh - I did! Someone (probably a lot more that just one person or company) is out there right now watching and planning and figuring out ways to beat Amazon. They may not do it, but all eggs in one basket is really just making it easy for someone to come along and step on the basket and smash all the eggs at once.
  15. There is a process if you want to succeed. That process will cost you money. It will not come easy or free. Unless of course, you are touched by angels and have the fairy godmother on your side. (Which has happened to some - I admit it.)
  16. Research and have fun in forums. BUT forums for writers are not going to get your name "brand" or sales. They are there for information sources, and maybe friendships. 
  17. Use traditional and non-traditional ways of getting your book into hands of people. Believe it or not, the very old and traditional network of friend-tells-friend actually does work. 
  18. Do not offer anyone who can afford to pay for it - your book for free. Period. Would they give you their CC for free? (This obviously does not include book reviewers, book interviews and all areas where you need to get your book out and read and discussed.) --> KDP I discussed above. But the scenario of a friend saying "Oh Wow! You published a book! Can I read it? Can you give it to me?" Say "Sure. Here is the Amazon or B&N Link." and smile sweetly.
  19. Think past Indie. Yes think past Indie. Think about actually writing a book worth reading and preserving. You succeed and want to stay on the Indie path...Great! You want to move to traditional publishers...Great! Do not disallow something just because they ignored you at first. The traditional publishers are going through slow, painful and radical change. You snooze - you will lose.
  20. Decide if you are writing to actually say something, entertain, or make money or a combination of all. Then decide how much your self-esteem and self-respect is worth. Then decide just how you plan to do it. 
  21. As much as I believe in Peter Pan..wishing just is not going to make it happen. 
  22. If you build it...99.99% of the people will not even know it is there.
As I said, I am real new to this whole Indie market. I lived by agents and traditional publishers. Indie has a lot to offer. It also has a lot to lose.

Don't like what I said here? Leave a comment. Trash it. Prove it wrong. But check your spelling first. And my next post will be what actually you should be doing in the process of getting your Indie book to succeed.

Good Luck!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ancient Tales, Modern Legends

Free Today THURSDAY 02/16/2010
"Ancient Tales, Modern Legends", a short story collection by Ted William Gross presents the reader with engaging and thought-provoking stories spanning the ages. Covering subjects of love, loss, pain, desire, need, frustration and hope these stories are meant to entertain as well leave an indelible impression upon the reader. Ted Gross cleverly combines ancient lore in his "Tiny Slivers From A Silver Horn" weaving Unicorns, the story of Adam & Eve and the modern world into a tale of lost wisdom and gained hope. "Love In A Cafe" moves the reader within the soft aura of love until the surprise ending. "Elijah's Coins" leaves us wondering about the great "what if" of life and just how blessed or cursed it would make us to change the future. "Reverieing" is a glimpse of the slow descent of one individual into his own personal hell. "Addiction, Obsession, Love", "Tenuous Webs" & "And So They Danced" look upon love and loss from different perspectives. "A Tapestry Of War" is a real war story and the consequences of war upon the psyche of the soldier. "The Sunflower" portrays how hate can insidiously seep into the heart of man while "The Heretic" will leave you wondering who the real heretic actually is. "Kapparot" will let you delve into the mystical world of Hassidic philosophy while looking upon man's relation to God. "Jacob's Ladder" will introduce you to a world of angels and their mission of silence.

The Following Short Stories Are Contained Within Ancient Tales, Modern Legends
Ancient Tales, Modern Legends

Love In A Café
Elijah's Coins
The Sunflower
Tenuous Webs
The Heretic
A Tapestry Of War
And So They Danced
Jacob's Ladder
Addiction, Obsession, Love
Tiny Slivers From A Silver Horn

Read it. Enjoy it. Grow with it. You will in turn, be haunted by it and the stories will remain with you long after you have closed the pages.
As almost all authors will tell you, their work in writing is a labor of love. "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" is a collection of stories that were written over many years, sometimes in great pain, sometimes with great joy and certainly is a labor of love for both the author and the reader. As colleagues read them, and some were published, I was prodded to publish the rest. I am the first to admit some of these stories are not "quick reads". It is my hope that they will make you, the reader, stop and think, perhaps just about they waywardness of life. They all are short stories in the pure art form of this genre.

In the case of a short story, the rule "less is better" should most definitely apply. Here too, I will apply that rule and let you peruse the description to get a feeling for the stories contained within "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends". I do hope you enjoy them.  

From the Reviews:
"Each of these stories are an incredible gift. They will remain with you long after you turn the last page and I believe this book is one you will read again and again. When we were children, many of the books written for our specific age group, came with a lesson or something to reflect upon. Many of those stories remain in our hearts forever. Ancient Tales, Modern Legends will do this for you, in an adult fashion."
"Lyrical and moving, these short stories open a window into various lives and situations, allowing the reader to feel the depths of emotion of the various protagonists. It presents a broad spectrum of life written in a clear and precise literary style. I look forward to reading more by this author."
"With the completion of each story, I couldn't wait to begin the next. My favorite, "And So They Danced", filled with so much hope and pathos. Kudos and five stars to the author."

Books by Ted William Gross

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Writing & Despair Happy Hour (Part 9)

It has been a couple of years since I presented my last Writing & Despair Happy Hour (previous ones can be found here on the blog: Writing & Despair Happy Hour . So I think it just may be time for another installment.

The saga must continue....
Welcome to Part Nine of the Writing & Despair Happy Hour!

Where We Present

So You Decided To Self-Publish 

Who Put That Idea Into Your Head!

So there you were, 400 query letters had gone out, some by email, some by snail mail. You waited four years for the answers to roll in. After all everyone told you to have patience and knowing you were an impatient soul, you let time go by. Meanwhile you kept on writing and found yourself with no less than 30 books, all of which you could not get an agent to read.

Being a positive person full of the joy of life and writing you knew that this too was just a small obstacle in the road to becoming a famous author. So what if out of 400 queries, only 10 agents bothered to answer you? So what if your sent email folder had tons of emails which had no "continued conversation". These were just small, petty, little footprints in the map of your life. You will overcome!

Hey, Nutcase. Obstacles are there for a reason and guess what?

And so you searched and searched. What you found out was that today you can actually publish the book you have written yourself, without having to wait for an agent and publisher. The Forums were full of authors who claimed to have made a killing and become best-selling authors at that. The secret? All you had to do was believe in yourself. All you had to do was regain that self-respect. "Believe in yourself," they said, "and you shall overcome!" 

Yeah, right! And exactly what planet are you living on?

You also knew you had something unique. A new story to tell the world. After all, you told yourself, every writer has a special, unique and diverse style. And it was just a matter of bad luck that you have not been able to enter that vast pool of published authors until now. You were unique! You had an amazing ability to be different. You knew you stood out among the crowd of all that came before you.

So diversity was your friend. You knew how to overcome it. You would succeed and show them all just how great your writing is. You painted words with colors of the rainbow! And boy, was your rainbow ever messed up!

And there you were. Knowing that it was just a bit more work to get that magnum-opus out to the world. You were full of rejuvenated energy. To hell with agents. To hell with publishers. To hell with reviewers. Hope was your friend. You felt your whole soul fill with it. You basked in the light of hope. You reveled in the new found feeling. Your family and friends saw your face turn into one big smile all day long. You were full of renewed hope! 

Umm, I really do not want to rain on your parade here, but...

So you decided to do it right this time. You went to the forums and listened carefully to what your fellow authors had to say. They discussed their problems of writing, submissions, publishing, covers, design and all the rest openly and softly. There was wisdom. They wanted you and everyone else to persevere. They were a very motivated group of people. Each with a story to tell. Each with determination and fortitude. So you all joined together offering advice and tips and hints on how to reach the best-seller list. On how to grab the reader. On how to write that opening sentence.

Problems were surmountable. They became opportunities!

So you went ahead and took your stand. Oh boy, was it fun. This time you would do it. This time you would burst out into the wondrous air of glory and fame. This time you were smart and who needed all the other garbage anyway? You designed your book. You uploaded it. You proofed it. And then you had to just "click" to make it available. That little voice inside of you, the only one left with a bit of doubt, said "Yes" then "No". It did this a couple of thousand times, before you just clicked and that was that. You released your book to the world. 

You finally took your stand!

Well, the first few weeks did not work out like you thought. Even when you offered your book for free there were very few willing to take a chance. But take heart! Because you have another 30 books inside of you and on your hard disk. One of them has to succeed. One of them has to throw you into the limelight. One of them will surely make you the famous author sitting on all the talk shows. It will just take time and patience of which you have a great deal of. It will work. You will leave your legacy to the world. It will remember you just for who you are.

There is hope. There are possibilities. The great and the famous have done it before you. 

You will Persevere!

Stay tuned for our next installment to the Writing & Despair Happy Hour!

All illustrations above are from the All hyperlinks on the posters will take you to their original page @

Books by Ted William Gross

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Free-For-All Mess In Authors, Books & Publishing

The other day I was perusing a forum and then a few blogs of some "Indie" publishers. I looked at their profiles, tried to guess their ages, and then looked at how many books they have published. Now either a great many of these people are simply whizzes at the keyboard and in their own minds, and have no need to edit a book or even go over what they wrote, or else they are up 22 hours a day just writing. I mean, come on. 10-15 books to your credit in 2-3 years?! Something is off here, and sadly enough this time it is not the agents nor the publishers nor the market. It is the authors themselves.

What many of us fail to take into account, especially authors, is that market is in flux and re-birth. The amount of "formats" out there for books, the way people will read books, the future of the actual book store, the need for more and more technology to be ingrained in an author's head so they can get a book or the need for the author to lay out more and more money to those that do it for a business is astounding. Don't think for a moment this is more expensive than going the "traditional" route. It is not. Couple the time, the seeking for an agent, the publisher, the ulcer, etc and etc well you do have the same investiture if not more into writing. Of course afterwards there is a marketing as well. A whole new can of worms.

But let us return for the moment to the authors. The world of POD and self-publishing opened up and with it a tiny trickle of words and ideas turned into a river and then an ocean of books. (Actually I believe technology historians will point straight back to the "invention" of the blog for this phenomena.) And what an ocean it is. A vast sea of words and ideas put out day after day in the form of books. And the question is just how much is worth reading? Just how much is worth putting into the brain?

As in all discussions of this type there are many answers. However I really find it hard to believe that a person can put out 10 books in 2 years unless they are writing from some type of format laid out next to them. And in that case there goes literature and originality.

However, let me be the mean guy on the block and beg authors to do the following:
  1. Edit what you wrote. 
  2. Spell Check it.
  3. Grammar check it.
  4. If you can in any way afford it give it to a professional, well-respected editor, and pay them. Not every word  you write is gold. Not every sentence is correct. Not every paragraph is set up correctly in tenses and sentence structure.
  5. READ IT for all that is holy. Read it and figure out if anyone else would want to read it. 
  6. Published it? Gave it away for free on KDP or on some other site? I dont want to bust your bubble, but giving away books does not mean you have hit any best-seller list or that people love your writing. It means simply that freebie hunters are in every part of society. Some may read your book. Some may even like it. But until you actually "sell" tens of thousands of copies, please resist the temptation of calling yourself "a best-selling author". Because you are not. You are a whiz at handing out free products. (Yes, I know you hate me now for this. Shrugs.)
If you are going to use your book to present your "originality" to the world, then don't you think it deserves a reading and re-reading and professional edit? I have seen much more discussion on what a book cover should look like, than on what your words should convey to the reader. That is sad, and a sign of the times as well.

I do not imply that editors at the traditional houses are all great either. Sometimes you fall into the hands of a great editor, and sometimes into the hands of someone who is in that position because his Uncle knows the boss. But a good editor is something every single one of your books needs.

And let us face it. Not everything you write should be published. Not everything is worth reading. So if a manuscript is not going anywhere, or it does not feel right, file it away or junk it. You may find a few out there who will read it, but you have to learn to be honest with yourselves as well. And that honestly is, I admit, very hard, very unrelenting, and very difficult on the ego.

Or you may not be cut out to be an "author". That too is something one has to consider. That too must be looked at from all possible angles. That too must be faced. The moment I see some author who has self-published 10-20 books especially fiction books during a period of 1-2 years, I have to admit I am very suspicious. Either you have been writing from the age of 5 until 60 and then published all your books at once, or you simply are throwing out first edits to the public. Shrugs. I guess it is all sales in the end or you have an incredible gift at the keyboard, and should be publishing with the Big 6.

I do rest assured that sooner or later the market will find the correct balance between formats, books, suppliers, publishers, agents and all the rest. It will look like nothing it was 3-4 years ago that is for sure. It will be interactive, prettier, more entertaining. Will it produce great literature? Will it produce decent if not great writing? Only time will tell, but I think the market too will somehow find a way to weed out the bad from the good. At least I hope it does.

Because I find it hard to believe that my children and grand-children will look at the million books on "vampires" that have been published and think, "Wow, Dad. Your generation really knew how to write!"

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Revolution & Evolution - The Publishing Paradigm

This is a continuation from my previous post: "An Open Letter To Barnes And Noble"

Recently in a discussion on a forum board I noticed a post by an author which set my mind in a whirl, as I began to wonder how many people seem to be stuck in a total misunderstanding of what the "Publishing Paradigm" has become. Words and terms which once meant and implied one thing are now totally different in their meaning. Even and most importantly the word "Publisher" especially when it applied the realm of "book publisher" has totally changed focus and meaning. (To be honest Magazine publishers are also suffering from the newly created paradigm, but in a much different manner.)

Just a few short years ago the word "publisher" implied something clear and specific. A person wrote a book. They would do their best job, write the query letter, get an agent, agent would sell to a publisher, and publisher would publish the book. That is basically the scenario. That scenario though has many "ifs" embedded within it. Let us for a moment look at them from the point where the Author actually has a book or an idea for a book to sell.

1. The query letter had to be written, or you had to know someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, unto and into infinity, who could get an agent to read that query letter. (Or perhaps go straight to the publisher, but in any case if your book does get accepted you still had to go back to the agent stage.)
The staggering amount of literature and people that made a living and still do on "How To Write The Perfect Query Letter" still boggles my imagination. But then, agents were the queens of the block. They were the first required step in getting a book out to market. Without an agent you had little chance of going anywhere.
The agent was dependent on two factors.
1: they had authors who were sending them query letters and they could actually find books within the pile that they could possibly sell to the publisher.
2: They were dependent upon the publishers and editors they knew to actually sign contracts for the books they presented for their clients. The second aspect, the fact they are dependent upon the publishers is what has led to an incredible revolutionary process in the industry. Because just like the publishers, agents did not wake up fast enough to see the writing on the wall.

2. So now you have an agent and the book was actually contracted to a publisher. Then came the problems. From what everyone knew and expected there would be an editing phase, an advance (which became smaller and smaller for new and not-so-new authors as time went on), a production stage, a release date and a marketing stage. But lo and behold, publishers began years ago crying that they were not as profitable as they once were. They told all their authors (except the mega-authors) that their marketing team would be at disposal, BUT authors must essentially market their own books. This I think, if one looks in hindsight, was perhaps the first evolutionary step to the revolution in the Publishing Paradigm.

The publisher would then contract out the book to a "book printer" or perhaps own their own printing house, and the new book would then be up for sale in the book stores and market. Whatever that market was.

Let me make this clear. This system existed, we were told and believed, as a series of "checks and balances" so that the books offered to the reading public were viable and good. In truth, this system existed to make sure that the agents and publishers alike, could make a living and even a good living by doing things that a "writer" could not do. In effect, an agent was and still is a very specific and targeted PR person. They like your book, they believe in it, they know the editors at the publishing houses, they present the book, they go through all the contract negotiations..agents do an incredible amount of work. They are very important to this system. I think they still are but the publishing paradigm has changed so much on them, that agents now have to keep up or get out. They must redefine their roles in the Author---Publishing experience. (Which is certainly not the subject of the post, but a later post in this series.)

So back to the term "Publisher". Then came the digital age. The Technology age. The advent of computers. I do not care what you call it, but whatever term you wish to insert here, it was swift and unforgiving. 

So a company calling itself "Amazon" came to the market and said: "You know what? I will aggregate all the publishers on to one web site, and introduce the idea of buying books on the web." And the publishers loved the idea. And even more importantly the public LOVED the idea. Wow. A book store on line with all the books available! What an idea. Perhaps at that time there were very few who foresaw this beginning as the death of the corner bookshop. Perhaps there were some who envisioned the electronic age as it has panned itself out today. But the publishers did not. They loved the idea of making more sales happily forking over a pittance of their profits to have Amazon deliver the product.

So far everyone lived in peace. There were the agents, the publishers, the printers, and the sellers. Everyone had a piece of the pie. Right? Well there was small little part of this pie, an inconsequential part actually (that last part was cynical), that of course everyone forgot about. Well two parts if you look at it correctly. They were simply put, the buying public and ummm...guess who? the authors themselves. Especially the authors who could not write that perfect query letter even after spending hundreds of dollars on books on how to write it, and finding out agents were so "overworked" (poor things) it took them 6 months to get to a query letter, and yikes, after all that, in the age of email, most places still insisted on snail mail and an SASE (remember that term - SASE?)!

And so things went. Amazon grew and Barnes & Noble got in the act. And it was such a cozy nice thing. Everyone was happy. The party kept going on and on. Except, there is always an "except" right? Except Amazon realized that this was really just the first step. While the others were working on the salad, Amazon got up, excused itself and went back to the office.

And they watched very quietly. Companies like Lulu and others advertised "Self-Publishing", "POD" and "Vanity Publishing". Call it what you will that is what it was called in those days. The term "Indie" did not exist. And it was "self publishing". And while the publishers and agents were waiting for the soup to be delivered at their little party, Amazon went ahead and started watching the growth of these companies. The public began to vote with their wallets. Sure, 99.9% of those books were not used for anything and never got read, but, and this but is huge, people were saying, "I don't care! I want my book published, and waiting around to try and find an agent and a publisher is futile." Is Lulu and others like it, a publisher? Or are they just glorified printing machines? Hmmm....well we will look at that further in this article.

And we all, including myself, turned up our noses. We snubbed this. Agents who were at least savvy enough to have a web site or blog, and few of them were, took great pains to write, "If your book is self-published do not send it in. Do not list it. Do not send us to your blog. Do not tell us a thing about it." They were right of course. Self-published books were not part of the game. You want to be an author? Well we have a system. These are the rules. Follow them I may look at your query, on a shining day when the angels are dancing. Don't follow them, tough. No go Joe. And the publishers and agents smiled and laughed in glee, and patted themselves on the back because they were now able to get to the online public through Amazon and B&N and they could increase sales and brand name. It was really an ideal process.

And as time went on, they moved with it. Wait a sec? There is something called a PDF. Which Adobe had been advertising for years as the answer to the paperless office. And there were other small companies sprouting up saying we have formats you can use to put a book into the electronic medium and read.

Up until this moment, the appeal of publishing within the rarefied atmosphere of Agents and Publishers was basically the only way to go. Up until this point you went their way or the highway. Or you self-published yourself out of existence.

Then came the electronic possibilities. Ebooks were born. And for a while it seemed these Ebooks would be the wave of the future and another great source of income just for publishers. Actually, most agents would not look at your work, if you published anything and I do mean anything of that book on the web. Ebooks looked like they were going to belong to publishers. For a moment in time.

And then the customers stepped in and spoiled the whole damn party. And Amazon & B&N watched real carefully what would happen next.

No doubt about it when  you put a tool like a computer and the internet in the hands of the public you had better watch real carefully what happens.

Ebooks took off. To make matters even worse you could use a cellphone to read a book. Imagine that! And of course tablets. And of course your computer screen. And someone out there realized that all those people who were paying to be "self-published" would love to put their books in Ebook format. And to sell them or give them to the public. But during this time the "real" publishers and agents were still just sitting and talking and eating their soup as the second course. "Nothing to worry," about they said. "Just a handful of frustrated wannabes are going to try and do it. And besides, who is going to sell their stuff?"

Well, it turns out that at this juncture Amazon said to itself, that they were not just distributors. They realized this was not a handful of people wanting to do ebooks. They realized that this is one huge market. And honestly, why be just tied into the normative publishers? By that time the publishers had become so dependent on Amazon and B&N that they could not afford to live without them. Book Stores closed up by the hundreds. People bought books with one click and an address for Fed-Ex or UPS. It was that simple.

Amazon before all the others realized its position in the market. It was no longer a middleman but a mover. It was indeed a power to be dealt with. B&N did not wake up fast enough, that is for sure. But Amazon did. Amazon changed the whole paradigm. Amazon actually changed the way we see the industry today.

It had help of course. Ipad, Android, Kindle, Nook. All names that came into being by the vision of those that understood the market and where it was headed.

And so Amazon and B&N said we will publish your Ebooks. They did not say that to the publishers. Amazon and B&N became publishers. Hey! Did I make a mistake? Amazon and B&N are not publishers, right? I mean they don't use only agents, they do not sign contracts, they do not give advances. So what makes them publishers?

Well, that is just the thing. The "Big 6" as the traditional publishing houses are being called today (you must couple this with the hundreds of imprints that are spin-offs from each publishing house), kept to the old formula. Of course, if you were a new author your advance was minimal, your PR was basically up to you, your contract was good but it would take a year from the time you signed it to get your book out, and you came with an agent of course in 95% of the cases. Returns from booksellers are accepted.

And if you published with CreateSpace, KDP, Nook Or PubIt or Smashwords (and some of the others) you had no advance, your PR was up to you, you had no contract, your book never went out of print, and you did not need an agent. No returns are accepted and many book shops wont hold your book unless there is a neighborhood demand for it.

So if you kind of compare the two in a chart, guess what? The publishing paradigm had changed. Amazon was not just an an aggregation of books for publishers, it was not just a distributor it was not just a re-seller - it was a publisher! So was Barnes and Noble.

But you ask what about this POD thing? Amazon uses it and Barnes and Noble uses it. I mean isn't that like "against the rules?"  Well, got news for you. Any of the "Big 6" who says today they are not moving in the direction of POD is outright lying. POD allows them to cut drastically on costs of inventory. It allows them to produce on demand. It allows them to know exactly just what is going on  and it allows them to give out serious inventory and publishing and royalty statistics. In other words, it saves them money. Big money.

So there was the rub. Amazon turned from plain distributor to book publisher as well, and said to its public "You choose". Barnes and Noble developed with less vision and scared for whatever reasons of loosing the "backbone" of the traditional publishing houses, did not cater to the newly formed market of Indie. They made it somewhat difficult to publish, and they also applied some incredibly arcane structures to their rules. True, if you go through Smashwords, you beat those rules both for B&N and for Ipad. Indeed Apple, on its page, almost asks you to go to one of its official partners and do them a favor by not going through their specific process.

So now you have it. Is Amazon a publisher? Well go look at Amazon. Books are listed as being published by CreateSpace and lo and behold with an ISBN number as well. B&N books are PubIt, (or have been published through PubIt with their own ISBN and publishing house name.) No agents, no advances, no contracts. But no year of waiting, no cancellation of contract, books always available, and no query letters and agents at first. (Of course if your book does succeed you will definitely need an agent or lawyer in the long run for other rights.)

Ebooks went the same way. Even before the paper books. And no matter what they actually demand, Ebooks do not really need an ISBN (though it may be good to use one, no matter what).

Now the Big 6 is hopping mad. Why? Because they cannot live without Amazon and Amazon wont fall into line like Barnes And Noble has played along. Amazon does what it wants in a free market. And the Paper books and the Ebooks flourish, and people actually get to search for and buy what they want to buy. Amazing concept!

And yes, sure many of those self-published books those Indie books are horrible. And got news for you. Many of the books done by the Big 6 are just as bad as well. Their editors are horrible. Indeed sometimes I wonder if the editors at the Big 6 are not more than first year college students. They print books based upon name-fame not upon content. So they cannot point fingers here.

The Publishing Paradigm has changed. Drastically. And It will continue to evolve now. It will continue to grow. And simply put, if the Big 6 and the agents refuse to read the writing on the wall, they too will find themselves fighting for every client.

So now I ask you. Is Amazon and Barnes And Noble a publisher? Or are they just book re-sellers?

P.S. If anyone today asks you for a printed ms. delivered via snail-mail with an SASE - well laugh. It is truly funny.

Books by Ted William Gross