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March, 2011

Tricksters as a Counterforce in Fiction

by Bruce L. Cook


To every protagonist an antagonist - the standard formula for fiction. But the term “antagonist” is unclear..... (Continued below...)


Ten Qualities Of A First-rate Self-publisher


by Stephen G.


You're a writer but you're afraid of the self-publishers because you've heard that some are not worthy. Don't sign with a publisher without assessing them by the following important criteria:

They’ve got a Good Reputation: First things first: you’ve got to find a publisher with quality and integrity. Ask acquaintances who have self-published. Go to writers’ forums and websites and ask people about their publishing experiences. Then go to publisher websites and read the testimonials. But, remember, they will not print any of the critical author emails they’ve received. And, by all means, Google a publisher too. Don’t take all the positive reviews seriously and don’t believe all the cries of “Scam! Scam!” But thoughtfully consider all the reports and balance them out against each other.

You Aren’t Just a Number: When it comes to excellent customer service, again, it pays to ask former authors about their experiences. Also, note carefully when you ask questions on a publishing site or mention interest in filling out an application---what kind of attention do they promise? Too many publishers are wonderfully attentive until you sign on the dotted line and send your cash. Then, suddenly your manuscript is just an item on an assembly line. Will they offer you a real live author rep to accompany you patiently throughout the entire publishing process? Can you actually reach the rep by phone or email or do you have to wait days or even a week for a response?

Their Prices Are Decent: Isn’t “reasonable” a somewhat relative term? After all, to some people $100 is a lot of cash and, to others, $1,000 is pocket change. However, perhaps we can at least settle on a happy medium. Tate Publishing’s lowest priced package is about $4,000. Dorrance charges you $7,500 but you get 550 copies of your book. Book Pros charges $13,000 and that’s their low-end price. In spite of all the book copies, Dorrance offers the least bang for your buck. And, admittedly, Book Pros includes a huge publicity punch with their package. There are probably some writers who’ve had good experiences with these publishers.

However, there are print-on-demand (self publishers, by our definition) companies that offer packages ranging from $199 to $1,500. Of course, for $199, you’re not going to get much more than your book in print. But for $1,000-1,500, a number of publishers custom-produce your book with a surprisingly impressive list of perks to go with it.

They Offer Effective Publicity: Five hundred bookmarks and a few postcards does not a PR campaign make. Does the publisher help you get your manuscript out to book reviewers? Do they give you a custom book cover that will really grab readers? Do they help you advertise your book to targeted blogs, ezines, and directories that cater specifically to your topic or genre? Do they set up your book for Google searches and do they include benefits such as the “Search Inside” feature on Amazon? Do they have an active distribution program through a reputable distributor such as Baker & Taylor? Do they offer such features as the religious publisher that offers contact information to thousands of pastors and churches? These are truly valuable publicity methods that can really help.

They Coach their Authors Long-Term: The typical commercial publisher tends to push a book hard for 1-3 months. Then they have to move on to other books.

Most print-on-demand publishers don’t individually publicize a book for much more than one week. They primarily set certain features in place that enable the author to help publicize it. However, there are a few publishers that truly assist authors for months or even years after they’ve published. One such publisher is Outskirts Press, which offers an email coaching program that continues for at least two years after publishing. This is invaluable to not only inform writers but also motivate them toward success in a very tough and competitive field.

Author can Buy Copies at a nice Discount: For a 200-page book, a Dog Ear author will pay $5.28 per copy, and an Outskirts writer will pay $6.16. For the same book, an Xlibris author will pay $13.19, and a Publish America author will pay a whopping $15.96. Now that’s a huge variance, and guess who pockets the extra money in these little transactions?

Retail Book Prices Are Not Over-Inflated: Let’s stick with our handy 200-page paperback book and see what several different publishers charge in the retail market. Aventine charges $12.95 per book, Xulon charges $14.99, Trafford charges $17.59, and Universal charges $19.99. If the retail price of your book is too high, even your most loyal fans may flinch when they go to buy. So make sure your book is going to be affordable in the marketplace.

UPC Bar Code, ISBN,and Distribution Through Retailers: The ISBN and UPC bar code are required if your book is going to be offered in bookstores or online outlets such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Most print-on-demand publishers include this, but you may have to pay extra if you’re using a “desktop” publisher such as Lulu or CreateSpace. It’s also nice if your publisher registers your book with R.R. Bowker’s Books in Print and at the Library of Congress (LCCN). As I’ve mentioned before, it is also a sign of professionalism if the publisher offers distribution through one of the biggies such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or Spring Arbor.

Equitable Return of Book’s Original Production Files: If you ever decide to switch publishers or, for some other reason, you wish the return of your book’s production files, how easy or difficult is it to obtain them? If you terminate your contract within 18 months, iUniverse makes the author pay $750 for the PDF press-ready book cover file and another $750 for a press-ready PDF book interior. That’s a lot of money. BookSurge refuses to give departing authors their production files. And Aventine gives authors a digital copy of cover and interior production files as part of their package. Go figure.

Quality Extras Like Professional Editing: Lastly, it’s nice if your publisher offers extras such as an editing service. A select few publishers do offer free light editing, but it may well not catch all errors. If you need editing, it shouldn’t cost more than $.03 to $.05 cents per word. If it’s much above that, you might consider finding someone on your own. Some publishers appear to make more money editing authors’ manuscripts than they do publishing them. So, my friend, if a publisher checks out to your satisfaction in these ten ways, you have found yourself an exceptional company, and I would stick with them.

    Stephen has a Ph.D. and is a professional writer and free lance editor. He has researched self-publishers and his website compares and grades them. The site is invaluable for writers. His publisher-comparison website is: http://www.seeyourselfinprint.com

    Contact him at: sfort1222@msn.com
    Article From Article Directory



Tricksters as a Counterforce .... (continued)

To some writers, the presence of an antagonist may seem optional.  For them, hope and optimism is best, and the main character simply leads all forces, convincing every one of the legitimacy of his or her goal. This is our ideal, although it falls far short of realism.

The opposite view is the traditional one – that any protagonist worth the salt faces a formidable antagonist and eventually emerges victorious. But sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a character who stands firmly against the story’s moral or message.

For a solution to this quandary, search the oldest of tales – world myths.

Here we find pantheons of goddesses and gods, often at cross purposes, and a startling variety of other characters. There are the Greek gods, of course, but one also finds the coyote, snake, spider, and many other forms. Why consider these? Well, if they interested people in distant lands and cultures, for centuries and eons, chances are they can be interesting today.

I’m not suggesting that we introduce mythical beings in our fiction, although that would indeed be fun. My point is that antagonists can take forms that differ from simple opposing forces. And they can get away with a lot.

Myths are similar to fiction. In fact, it could be said that fiction is the precursor to legend, while myth is legend that has fermented. Like fiction, the myths have clearly identifiable antagonists and protagonists. But they also contain tricksters which make a game out of outwitting humans, gods, and monsters of all kinds. Perhaps a trickster would successfully stand as a substitute (or complement) to the antagonist in current fiction.

For example, if we are writing a story about a policemen specializing in drug offenses, we would traditionally pit the fellow against the drug-running gang in the city. Let’s look at the trickster myths for ideas on how we might make this story more interesting.

Perhaps the policeman passes a homeless man sitting on a bridge whenever his beat takes him to drug-running neighborhoods in the city. Each time he passes, he hands an apple from his lunch to the beggar.

Now, the beggar could represent the drug-runners, and even be the boss of drug transfers. But think how much more fun the reader (and writer) can have if the homeless man takes an action to trick the policeman. Perhaps he reveals the location of a gang headquarters. When the policeman arrives there for a drug bust, with 20 backup agents, he finds the location is a brothel.

Disappointed, the policeman turns away, only to discover a basement room there with a map to all gang headquarters in town. As in many myths, the trickster has fooled the protagonist, but helped him at the same time. Celebrating, the policeman returns home only to find that the trickster has visited his home during the day and cut off his wife’s hair.

Enraged, the policemen returns to the bridge where the homeless man used to sit. In the man’s place he finds a golden Cadillac with his own name emblazoned on the front door. He enters the car and reaches for the key. Suddenly <poof!> there's an apple tree growing on the curb of the busiest bridge in town. The Cadillac has turned to dust. Onlookers gape at the policeman, for he is now dangling from the tree.  And, as the slogan says, the story goes on.

My example might seem a bit whimsical, but I do suggest that, the next time you create an antagonist, consider a spot of comic relief in your novel. Create your own trickster.

Dr. Bruce Cook

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Publishing New Writers,

March, 2011 (no. 1203)


Dr. Bruce L. Cook
6086 Dunes Dr,
Sanford, NC 27332

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