Content Overload

Blog29I’ve been fighting content overload.

My gen used to find information in newspapers and books, and occasionally on TV. Often, for a particular subject, there wasn’t a lot. Like many others, I embraced the online world and, more or less, got used to a wealth of new sources.

However, after I got interested in writing a few years ago, I found a bunch of websites and blogs for newbie writers. I also started following a group tweeting for the same audience, usually linking to other sites and blogs. And I haven’t really touched Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram.

The overload came from trying to wrap my head around all this content when I’m also trying to write and promote. I’m guessing you know the feeling.

So here’s what I did with blogs.

Followed consistently useful blogs. Some blogs almost always give useful information. Many, however well-intentioned, are less consistent. And some pretty much recycle information. I narrowed the blogs I follow to the first group.

Followed blogs with short, easy-to-read posts. I chose blogs with posts that get to the point fast, and use helpful titles and subtitles as well as short paragraphs.

Followed blogs on certain topics. The more I get into writing and self-publishing, the more I’m interested in promotion and technology. I preferred blogs on those topics. At the same time, I culled blogs that post about grammar or writing tips. For those topics, I put more faith in practice, my style guide, and my editor(s) and beta readers. I also dip into Stephen King’s On Writing from time to time. I’ll monitor if I have the right approach.

Understood that most blogs offer suggestions, not rules. I used to read blogs on writing and feel pressure to implement all the points immediately. So, not only was I spending time reading a blog, I was reworking a chapter or my schedule or something else afterwards, and burning up more time.

Now I tell myself that blogs generally offer suggestions to apply to my circumstances if they’re useful. There are exceptions, of course. Getting spelling and grammar right is essential. But a blog that tells me to write mornings, or end every chapter leaving the reader guessing, is offering guidance I can quickly choose to take or leave.

Promised myself to use the same approach with other social media.

I’m feeling more relaxed already.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).

Time to Market

Blog 28In my posts about a first-time writer deciding between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I’ve recently been discussing non-financial considerations. Today I’m writing about the time it takes for the writer’s book to come to market once the manuscript has been completed.

Since The Case for Killing was self-published, I’ve learned about “time to market” for traditionally published books through blogs and speaking with a few publishing industry veterans.

My conclusion is that, from the time a manuscript has been completed and accepted by a publishing house, a writer should plan for at least a year before his book comes to market. Obviously, though, this will vary between houses. This time arises from the many decisions a house makes about packaging and marketing a book, the demands of a full publication schedule, and staff being overburdened. And that one year can stretch if the house sees too much competition for a book or simply identifies other priorities.

Compare that conclusion to self-publishing. Once a manuscript is in final form, a self-pub can get a cover design in a month. Add another few weeks to learn the in-and-outs of preparing files for eBooks, and how to upload the manuscript and cover to the online distributor, and the writer can have his book available in five or six weeks.

Of course, a publishing house produces print books as well as eBooks. However, a self-pub can also handle this in a short time by using a print-on-demand service. So, all in all, the time to market for a self-published book seems much better.

So the question becomes, does faster time to market make any difference?

If the author has done all his other work right, it certainly can. The sooner a book is released, the sooner it can make it into the hands of readers, and hopefully generate word-of-mouth support and reviews. A writer who is traditionally published must hope that the cachet of his publishing house, and the house’s input into the publication of his book, compensate for the later release.

The phrase “has done all his other work right” is important. What it means—and I’m saying this as much for me as for you—is that the author’s research is complete, his book is properly edited, and his marketing plan is in place. And, even more importantly, the self-pub has to put in the work to execute that marketing plan.

Reducing the time to market for a first-time writer’s book is a plus, and self-publishing helps that. Rushing the time to market is not, and a focus on marketing is a must.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).

Working With a Book Cover Designer

Blog 27Last post in my series of blogs on how to self-publish, I wrote about what a book cover design should achieve. As an author, to get the best result for your cover, it’s useful to know some tips about the process of working with a designer. I’m assuming here you’ve hired someone to create original art for your cover.

First off, if you’re expecting your designer to read your book as part of the design process, don’t. She’s unlikely to have the time (or interest), and depending on the schedule for your book release, your manuscript might not be in proper shape anyway.

Instead, be ready with a good, short synopsis, preferably written. Also, be clear about the book’s genre, mood and tone, perhaps comparing them to those of well-known books.

Next, have some ideas ready for her. In my first book, The Case for Killing, an abandoned railway track features (have a look at my post about it). My designer ran with the idea, and came up with five designs for it. Take some time at a book store to see what the current trends in book design are.

Now, be aware as an author that your designer might resist your ideas. Yes, I know, we understand our book best. However, sometimes we’re just too close and lose perspective. Listen to your designer’s ideas for your cover. A good designer knows the book market well and has experience with many other covers. You could be much better off following her ideas.

After exchanging ideas with your designer, what you’ll get back is a work-up of two or three designs for each idea. It can be hard to pick. Leave yourself enough time to deliberate, and get input from others.

After you select a basic design, to hone in on the final product, there’s lots of work with details like colours, type font and size, and image positioning. The details can be maddening for both the author and designer. Again, leave the proper time.

Two final points. In the world of eBooks, you need to be sure that your book design looks good online as a thumbnail. Think big type and catching colours here.

At the same time, you may offer your book in print. So also ask your designer to help with a snappy look for the spine and back cover of your book.

Above all, enjoy the process. Your book is coming to life!

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).

New York City Inspires

photo 6Writers are drawn to New York City.

Many visit, as I did last week to research locations for my third book. Others choose to live there, or having been born there, never leave.

Take just one small neighbourhood, tony Brooklyn Heights (pictured) across the East River from south Manhattan. There I communed with the ghosts of Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Paul Bowles. And that’s a short list of the greats who have lived there (see here).

Some kind of inspiration is at work.

It must be NYC’s famous, abounding energy. The incessant flow of people and vehicles;  the services available any place, any time; the look in so many people’s eyes that shouts, “I got to get this done”. Whenever I’d walked close to the point of exhaustion, I tapped into that energy for an instant dose of revitalization.

Or maybe it’s NYC’s tenacity. Strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge, I tried to imagine the effort that went into the bridge’s construction before completion in 1883. Or the will in 1898 to consolidate separate counties into one city with five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island – with the City of Brooklyn choosing to join by only a few votes. Or the determination to build world-class art collections like the one at the Museum of Modern Art. Example after example of tenacity, wherever I looked.

Probably above all else, it’s how NYC embraces creativity. Creativity that’s beyond the standard and accepted, that’s experimental and jolting, sometimes commingling with the mundane and decrepit. It’s the creativity that’s seen at the High Line, a renewing park in the Meatpacking District with a walkway along an abandoned, elevated train track now enveloped in regional trees and plants.

New York City. Loud, in-your-face, exhausting. Sure. But also energetic, tenacious and creative.

Qualities to inspire writers.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

Buy The Case for Killing here (Canada) or here (U.S.).