The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Getting To The Point

So I had a great experience last week Wednesday. Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles was nice enough to post my article, Self-Publishing: Your "Demo" Tape? as a guest blogger piece on LR. LR has over 400 readers and is a very informative and helpful site for would-be writers. I had written the piece for Creating Life and e-mailed her asking to check it out and if she enjoyed it to republish it on her blog. She was totally gracious and cool and said that she would. She did however mention something I found odd at the time. She said that because of its length it may not get that many comments.

It's been over a week now and it has received 10 comments (two of which are mine.) On a blog with steady readership and a pretty regular flow of traffic, I have to somewhat assume that Casey's prediction was correct. Since I believe I wrote it well and self-pub in this New World of e-books is definitely a hot-button issue, I have to believe that the piece was just too long.

A couple of lessons learned here:
  1. Casey understands this blog thing WAY better then I do!
  2. I need to learn how to get to the point! My blogs tend to be very rant-ish in style, written as opinion pieces for entertainment purposes more than to speak from a given platform (frankly, because I haven't earned one.) But I do want them to spark debate. I think debate is fun! The article in question is no exception, and my buddy Jon Gibbs started a discussion on self-pub on his blog after reading and commenting on my article, and that did receive some good chat. So that was cool to see. But his counter-opinion on my opinion was probably a third the size of mine and still he managed to make his point loud and clear! I think that in spinning my yarn - in trying to make my point - people have missed the point, or simply I've failed to illustrate it concisely and in an effective manner.
So what do I take away from this experience? No, I don't hate you all (at least not anymore than I already did. :P) What I need to be weary of is that my blog-iness doesn't transfer to my actual writing. I catch myself doing it sometimes, pontificating on something that isn't that important to the story in any way, shape, or form. Now I like detail as much as the next guy. But needless detail? My PIC Matt called me out on it once when I went off about why a character in The Sons of The Moon wore the type of clothes he did and how it circled back to what music he listened to and what "scene" he hung out in. It was interesting to me because, frankly, the character is modeled after me. But Matt was like.... "dude... what is all this?" I made it unrelatable. Perhaps I did the same thing with my article - too many references to things the LR audience doesn't relate to.

So in short, before I ramble on again in this post, I think it's important as writers to:
  1. Check yourself - Make sure you aren't tangenting off into no-man's land.
  2. Be relateable - This means knowing your hopeful audience and using language and reference they can follow
  3. GET TO THE POINT - Because that's what we write for, after all, to share a perspective. The road to reach it can be long, but it must be entertaining (and not just long because we don't know when to shut up!)
What do you think? Do you catch yourselves growing long-winded in your writing? Are there evident places you could trim the fat?

Monday, March 29, 2010

8 Months and Counting

32 weeks/8 months along today. Wow. Carter is weighing in at 4 pounds and is just over 19 inches long. I cannot believe that I only have 6-8 weeks left in this pregnancy. I am so ready physically for this to be over. Sleep is getting harder and harder to come by. You can expect that all you want, but no one can ever prepare you for sleep deprivation. lol. However, in every other way, Carter can stay inside as long as he wants! I have a feeling I'm going to miss my little nudger insider of me.

It really hit me hard today that this is happening in a shorter amount of time than I would prefer. I think it's because I had my first baby shower this past Sunday, given by my sister in law, Miranda. (Thank you again Auntie M) It was so beautiful, fun and overwhelming! Geoff and I received many wonderful gifts. Everyone was far too generous. (Thank you to everyone who was able to come!) I have one more shower lined up for April 17, and I'm very much looking forward to that as well!

Geoff and I got all of the baby furniture sanded and primed this past Saturday. We begin the painting stages this upcoming Saturday. It's supposed to get into the 70's this week, so it's perfect painting weather! I think it's going to turn out beautiful! I can't wait to get it all home and actually start working on Carter's nursery. I'm such a planner/organizer, it's been driving me NUTS not having it all prepared. All in good time. Also my cousin Emily and I are going to be working on some photography art this Friday to put up on the walls, since we live in an apartment where we're not allowed to paint. Boo. It's completely awesome what we're going to do. We're taking all of these old school toys, like He-Man, Legos, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. setting up some sweet scenes, and taking pictures. We'll use a white back drop so if we want, we can super impose a different picture in the back ground on photo shop. Genius. :D Thanks to Geoff's mad graphic design skills.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Self Publishing: Your Demo Tape?

Last post was the family hat. Right now I'm gonna put on my writer hat. Feel free to tune out if you're not interested...

But I think you should be, because this isn't only about writing. It's about art and the consumption of it. So yea, let's see if I can organize all these thoughts into something coherent! :D

As I've been diving harder than I ever have before into editing a manuscript, I've been learning a ton. But lately I've found myself wondering what to do next. I know I wish to have an agent and a publishing deal when it comes to The World Within My Walls. It's a series (a big one - four main stories and possibly four related tales, including two prequels...) and I want to make sure my rights are intact for something I feel could make a long-term splash out there in the world - if given a chance. But I've been battling with what to do in the MEANTIME, that is to say, the time when TWWMW will sit idly on my computer and its queries sit unanswered in the slush piles of agents too busy these days to dole out rejections with anything more than a form letter (if they send anything at all.)

I have myriad other ideas that could be better suited for the New World: e-books. (Eeek!) Or more specifically... SELF-PUBLISHED e-books (and non-e-books alike)!!! Now before I'm struck down by the Publishing Gods of Old, let me remind them that I did just mention that in many ways I prefer the Old Ways: A publishing house edits, designs, prints, and promotes your book and you sit back to take in the profits (hoping that it sells.) But this day and age is not for the author who simply sits back. More and more authors are relied on to almost tirelessly promote themselves. There is just far too much entertainment out there to not be active! Getting lost in the crowd is almost a given. A review in Entertainment Weekly or a positive blurb from some big wig won't alone sell your book (unless that big wig is a certain Mrs. Meyer, in which case you might as well buy your mansion right now...) Authors need to go out there and FIND their audiences, with blogging, Facebook pages, Twitters, Tweeties, Torpedoes, Tiptocksters, or any other oddly names social networking site that comes out this month. Therefor authors, especially new ones, are more responsible than ever for the success of their product. This is a good thing, I think. Who is better at selling something than the person passionate enough about it to sink countless hours, days, weeks, and years of their life into creating it?

Yet publishers, store chains, and e-book outlets seem to forget all that. They want US to do more for less (go ahead and check out this post from lit agent/blogger extraordinaire Kirstin Nelson for just one glaring example.) With more people out there writing books than ever before and new technology looming around every corner, the Big Guys hope to cling even tighter to those keys to the pearly gates of publishing heaven while squeezing as much money out as they can. I think they're afraid that their time is running out, at least their time of being financial giants. Its a pessimistic worldview, perhaps, but lets not kid ourselves. We've seen this in the music industry, an industry who continues to cry about profits dropping from 13.5 BILLION to 8 BILLION dollars since the wave of file-share and the Internet. If I ever complain about making 8 BILLION dollars, I want someone to cut my head off.

But they NEEDED to make that money, because they had grown so large under the weight of their own self-importance that every dime they made they SPENT. And now that they aren't making as much, they find it hard to pay for the things they once paid for (mainly CEO salaries. *tear*) But that's a discussion for another time.

Back to publishing. We have this model of publishing that is intrinsically designed for Gate Keeper mentality. An agent must like your work. That agent must convince a publisher to like it. That publisher must convince those who hold the purse strings to promote and present it properly (you know, as if they liked it.) How many hoops does a story-teller jump through just to REACH an audience? How much approval (opinion) must we seek before someone actually READS our story simply to ENJOY it free from the worry of if they're making any MONEY of it or not?

So it may have been all well and good back in the day to hand over so much responsibility and profit to a publishing house, seeing as they were chiefly involved in making you money and sharing your work. But now authors have even more responsibility in selling themselves. Heck, most of the blogs I follow our authors just like me, seeking an audience while having little if ANY published works to their credit. Already we're pimping ourselves. Why? Because its what you gotta do now. It looks good on your resume to have a blog and a readership, even if you don't quite have anything published. So on top of pouring over and perfecting manuscripts, synopsises (synopsi?), and query letters (*shudder*) we should maintain and write blogs, guest blog on other blogs with more readership, read and comment on each others blogs, and have a veritable blog orgy in the limited amount of time we have between ACTUAL writing, family, and (in most cases) a 9-5 that pays the bills. Why, then, would we want to do all this promotion and networking just to turn around and hand over more of our money to companies who seem to be doing less, or at the very least doing the same (while we work harder.)

Enter self-publishing.

Yar, is it easy these days. We don't even have to BUY the books first, with a little thing called Print-On-Demand (POD.) Now, it takes a lot of work and a lot of know-how. But I argue that we're already DOING most of the work. We tirelessly join critique groups. We're networking with not only authors but artists and designers and musicians and all these creative types. You mean to tell me that between all the people you know you couldn't find one starving artist who is exceptionally good as an editor (maybe even freelances or has held an editor position in the past) and would be willing to work with you for little to no money? Remember, they're a fan of you or your project already without seeing dollar signs in their eyes. And it can become a you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours scenario. Same with designers. Plenty of people in your circles I'm sure could teach you to properly create a PDF which would be the layout of your POD book. You could have illustrations! Tons of them, because a publisher isn't freaked out by how much ink it would be!

My point in saying all of this boils down to one thing: One of people's biggest complaints I've heard with the POD and self-publishing models is that "99.9% of its list is nearly unreadable dreck" because there aren't "quality checks" in place. How does that make you feel? That just because you haven't found an agent or a house whose opinion is that your story is good (and will sell) and choose instead to self-pub that you're peddling garbage? The quote above came from an anecdote by seasoned man of publishing Michael Stearns, founder and agent at Upstart Crow Literary. It was posted on the linked blog entry (read it, Upstart Crow is a pretty cool and "with the times" agency) and goes on to make many valid points about the importance of publishers and editors, including that they bring with them "those ineffable quality enhancers that make a book cost more than its printing, paper, and binding. Editing. Marketing. Publicity. Design. Attention to detail. Vision." All well and good.

But I argue that, in this new age, authors are already DOING so much of this, and that our web of contacts and networking buddies could help us with the rest. We already need to have a manuscript looking solid before submitting it. Agents want to see that we can do all those things above: self-edit, self-marketing and promotion; our attention to detail and our vision. Why? Because we are no longer simply creators of story, we are partners in selling a product. I will never sit here and say publishing houses are over and done with, or diminish the importance of a solid critique group, a skilled agent, and an experienced editor. I'm merely saying that we don't necessarily have to rely on one to get the others.

I'll equate it (as I always tend to do, because that's where most of my experience is) to the music industry. Look at it like this. No one 10 years ago thought you could make a living off original music without a label. A label, after all, fronted hundreds of thousands of dollars for you and/or your band to go to a studio, paid for you to make a music video, and promoted you (that is, if they felt like it. More bands got dropped in the 90s due to lack of promotion than I can even count...) But now, that just isn't the case. What made it possible? Technology. MySpace began dictating what was popular and put artists directly in touch with an audience. Home studios became all the rage. We can shoot and edit our own music video and have it on YouTube in a week. My former band spent a little under 3 grand to buy an entire recording studio (Mac laptop and all) which we used to produce completely serviceable recordings. Could it have gone on the radio the next day? Maybe not. But our MUSIC, our MESSAGE was out there. There are more than a handful of examples of success musicians have had with just a few microphones and a solid set of MIDI synths and beats. Adam Young, the man behind the wildly popular Owl City did just that...

Owl City was started by Adam Young in his parents' basement while he worked at a Coca-Cola warehouse,[1][2] turning to music as a result of his insomnia.[3] Young received much attention for songs he had uploaded to MySpace, the "viral popularity" of which would later result in his signing to Universal Republic.[3][4] In 2007, Owl City released an EP titled Of June, followed by the 2008 release of the album Maybe I'm Dreaming. Of June reached #20 on the Billboard Electronic Albums chart, and Maybe I'm Dreaming peaked on the same chart at #16.[5]

Owl City's first two records were released while Young was unsigned. In early 2009, music industry website "Crazed Hits" leaked that Owl City signed with the major label Universal Republic.[6]

Owl City's third album Ocean Eyes was released on iTunes July 14, 2009, with the physical release following on July 28, 2009. The album debuted at #27 on the Billboard 200. Owl City has released four singles, "Hello Seattle", "Hot Air Balloon", "Strawberry Avalanche", and "Fireflies".[7] "Fireflies" topped the US and Canadian charts and became the most-downloaded song on iTunes in the US. Ocean Eyes reached the top ten on the US album charts and topped the US electronic charts and also reached Amazon MP3's top 10 most downloaded album list. By December 2009, it was certified Gold in the United States. On 24 January 2010, Owl City reached the number 1 spot in the UK Top 40 Singles chart with "Fireflies".

via Wikipedia

See that? Adam hit Billboard's electronic charts WITHOUT a major label. He landed a deal on the STRENGTH of his own self-produced product. And then look what he did with major backing. No one told Adam he was good enough - he told THEM. And Adam didn't just cut a disk and sell a few hundred copies at a local record shop (wait, what's that?...), I'm talking national radio play (his newest single is actually on the radio in the other room as I write this), attention from the big labels, loads of MySpace fans. All produced from the kid's basement. All which he and a team he surrounded himself with worked for tirelessly. I suspect we could see the same sort of thing happen with POD, especially with the wave of e-books making access to a book quick and easy (just the way we've been trained to like it. Thanks iTunes.)

So if you're thinking about self-publishing, as I am, remember that it's not always about the glitz and gloss of the finished product. Yes, Owl City does sound more polished than a rapper's Escalade, but there are plenty of indie bands out there who actually EMBRACE the low-fi, DIY sound of a home studio and write great material doing so. There are million dollar studios trying to EMULATE that sound for their million dollar artists because they fail to see its not the presentation, its the message. The "best" isn't always better, and for me, it will ALWAYS boils down to the message and the passion. It's about the story.

So do the work, find that editor and design friend (if you haven't inadvertently already,) do your very best to present the product well. Embrace your limitations and make the most of what you CAN accomplish. And then go out and promote the heck out of it! (You're already doing it now...) Don't imagine you will sell a Rowling amount of copies and don't try to hit a home run the first time out. Just put your best foot forward and surround yourself with the tools and the people to make that happen - people who were in your corner long before an agent told them they should be. Think of that self-pub release as a demo tape, something to give the masses and to get your sound out there. Don't let the fact that there's a lot of crap out there keep you from considering producing your own work (there was and still is a lot of crap on MySpace and there was, still is, and always will be a lot of crap in Barnes & Noble) Self-publishing isn't for the Big Guys, its for us and our audience, no matter how small it is. And who knows, maybe your little book could be the Owl City of the literary world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kicks To The Head

So this is my family blog, as well as my writer blog. When I jump on here, I wear different hats.

Tonight I'm posting a quick family update, so here's this! Michelle is clipping right along! This is our photo from March 15 at 30 weeks in! I've starting talking to Carter at night before bed. Its pretty fun. I don't say much, but I pretty much have to do it once a day now since about a week ago I leaned over the belly, said hello to my son, and put my ear where I had just placed my lips. He instantly kicked in me in the head. I'd say that's the perfect way for our relationship to start! Now I'm kinda trying it all the time to see if he'll do it again. You know, because I think its funny. And he can get away with it for now, so why not let him? All in all we've been very blessed with a smooth pregnancy. I hope he's as little trouble out as he is in. :D

On a writing note I'm meeting with Matty tonight to discuss our projects (my focus of course is The Sons of the Moon, his is Disciple 6, a comic book that has been stewing in his mind since his early teens. It's mega sweet.) We haven't got together in a long time and I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully brains will be storming tonight! I'll post again soon on a longer, more official "writer's journey/rant" thing I've been working on this week. So look for that! Until then, take care!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

29 Weeks and Still Preparing

Last week Thursday, Geoff and I visited my OB for my 28 week appt. Everything is looking GREAT! I didn't gain as much weight as I thought I had, and my glucose test came back normal. I'm measuring a week a head of schedule, which made me slightly panic, but other than that, the heart rate is perfect and Carter seems to be very content in his little home. That's fine by me, I'm not ready for him to come out just yet. :D

Just yesterday I registered at Holland Hospital for Geoff and I to take a Childbirth Education class, which turns out to be a class that Medicaid covers. Whoot! Also, my good friend Kim and her husband Rick signed up for the same class, which is pretty cool that we can share this experience together! It's an all day class on May 1. I'm very excited. Kim and I are also going to a Mom-2-Mom sale this Saturday at Holland Christian. Hopefully we'll find some nice things for our baby's at a good price!

I'm getting very anxious about our little man coming into the world, which of course is very normal, but it's not out of fear of not being able to be a mom. It's more like, certain things that I'd like to have in place are not happening right now. The nursery hasn't been set up at all because deep down, I've been hoping that Geoff and I would have found an apartment in Zeeland. Or that the one we really want would open up. However, I've come to the realization that you can't manipulate anything to happen the way you want things to happen, but just have to go with the flow. That doesn't mean it's not frustrating and maddening though. I suppose the plan as of right now is that we'll stay in Grandville until October, although I have no desire whatsoever to do that. Ugh, I suppose we'll just keep praying about this entire situation and trust that God knows what he's doing. That is always a challenge for me, but I'm working on it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Other News ...

I'm 28 weeks along today! Baby Carter is 16 inches long and just over 2 1/2 pounds. He's not kicking as much as before, but I can feel him shifting around inside more. He's like a big bulge on one side of my stomach or the other. It's really weird, but very cool at the same time. We have our 28 week check up this Thursday and I'm really hoping that they're not going to tell me I'm becoming a fatty, lol. I've been doing my best to not gain a lot of weight, but I've heard that as you get closer to the big day, the bigger and bigger you get. Eeek! Only 3 months, or 12 weeks to go until we meet our little man.

I've been having a lot of strange dreams lately. I've always had weird dreams, but they're almost every night now, it's crazy. Between the dreaming and the fact that I only get 4 solid hours of sleep a night, I'm either slap happy most days, or REALLY crabby/irritable. Just ask Geoff. :D He's been so amazing. Very patient and helpful. I couldn't do this without him. He's the best.

We finally bought paint for the crib, changing table, bassinet, and dresser. It's called Dark Granite, and it's similar to a dark espresso brown color. I'm pretty excited about painting, and I think it's going to look really sharp. We can't paint until it gets a little warmer outside, so bring on the SPRING!

Geoff and I have been down to one car for almost two weeks now. His van was declared "unsafe" a while back, but thankfully we are getting it fixed this week! Thank goodness for tax money!

Overall some things are coming together, but the uncertainty of our living situation along with my job still being in Grand Rapids, things are still a little hectic.

The On-going Apartment Search

Hello everyone. It's been a while since Geoff or myself have posted anything new, but alas, here it is.

Geoff and I are still looking for an apartment in Zeeland that we can afford. With the baby on the way, and Geoff's work relocating in 4 short months we really need to be closer to our families. We need a 2 bedroom that allows cats, and only has electricity as the utilities. Of course I could go on about wanting a dishwasher and laundry in unit, but bottom line is that we need the rent to be $550 or less per month. I've been doing a lot of apartment searching online and via the classifieds and so far have come up with nothing. Every apartment that we can afford is in Holland, but we need it to be in Zeeland. The apartment can be a complex or a house, we don't care, as long as it's in a decent neighborhood. The whole thing has been very frustrating, and to be honest I'm starting to get really nervous. God has been good and has been taking care of us so far, but our financial circumstances will be changing very shortly here.

Thank you to everyone who's been praying for us. Your love, care and support mean the world to us.