Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grammar-licious: Making Grammar Fun - February

Let's talk about gerunds, those identifiable words with –ing tails. The recipe for a gerund is simple: take a verb, attach –ing and then use it as a noun. Baking is not required. Did you catch that? Baking is not required. A gerund is born!

How simple was that? And that’s all there is to it. Okay, well, not so much. The rule is: every gerund ends in –ing, but not every word that ends in –ing is a gerund.

A gerund always functions as a noun, so you’ll find them as subjects, objects, and subject complements.

Examples are always great, with some details, so here you go:

As the object of a preposition:
Before brushing her teeth, she washed her face.
After reading the details, he could make a decision.

Object of a verb:
She loves playing in the mud.
He enjoys climbing up the tree.

Subject of a verb:
Writing is difficult.
Winning is fun.
Since she was four, dancing has been her passion.

Subject complement with a linking verb:
Her complaints were making him crazy.
His favorite hobby is drawing landscapes.

After a preposition (a verb after a preposition must be a gerund):
Please water the plant before leaving.
Wash your hands before eating.
We are sharing information about writing.

This month’s recommended grammar book is: The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.

I like finding ways to remember the ‘rules’ and hope you can find something helpful. It’s my hope the monthly grammar techniques and usage examples will make grammar a lot less frightening and potentially enjoyable (can you imagine?) for you.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or email me!

(originally published in The TWC Spotlight for December,2008)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Okay, so it's a rant on unscrupulous authors.

There's a disturbing thing happening among authors which affects us all. I doubt it is a new phenomenon but seems to happen more with the smaller press. A few authors are going through the submissions and acceptance process, the editing, getting their cover...everything. They're being easy to work with and then within a week or two before the release date, they pull their title and self-publish it in it's new polished form.

This is wrong on so many accounts. Many of the editors, who work on royalty percentages of books sold, are completely screwed over. Some of the artists are finding their artwork bastardized or in some bold cases--outright used as is with no compensation. In my mind this is akin to theft. The publisher staff, editors and artists work in anticipation of being paid when the book starts selling.

Now I do know not all publishing houses work this way. Many small pubs do. They cannot afford to hire on staff and editors and pay them wages or flat fees for services. I'm lucky enough to have a mix of the two: Damnation Books pays flat fees for art but everyone else works on royalties. Eternal Press is royalty based for everyone.

So, how does this affect us all? It makes for tougher decisions for everyone involved. The one solution I see is publishers including early termination fees in their contracts. It's not a tactic to screw the author but to protect themselves and their staff from those few who want to abuse the services they provide. At least those persons who have put work into the book get something for their efforts.

Additionally, publishers are including a clause in the termination section of the author's contract which guarantees a work will not be republished anywhere in any form for 6 months to a year after the story rights are returned to the author. That's skirting a fine line with author rights but one that's sadly become necessary to discourage the unscrupulous few.

How prevalent is this? I can speak from my own experience in that in the year I've been a small publisher, I've had it happen twice and believe I have warded off one more. I have also lost good authors with incredible stories because they wouldn't sign a contract with early termination fees or no publishing guarantees included. We all lose in the long run.

Even the authors who pull their titles and self-publish lose. Most of them are not taking account promotions, publisher reputation and distributions...all of which will become stumbling blocks for them if they are not careful. The publisher won't ever take them on again and others will see what happened and avoid the author as well. I'll never understand someone hurting their own future in publishing that way but it's happening. A lot.

I'm counting on you not being one of those few. I did want to discuss the subject to explain why fees and guarantees are now showing up should you run across a contract with them. As a publisher, I don't want authors to terminate their contracts. I want to publish and sell the books.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Traditional vs Self-publishing

Traditional vs self-publishing. It's a tricky subject. Let's take a moment to define the big four types of publishing.

Traditional big press: These are the 'Big Guys'. The ones most authors dream of getting into and making millions with. Often you need an agent for them to consider your work. They edit, they take care of the costs, covers, listing the book and getting it into stores. Most of them have arrangements with the stores to carry their books. That kind of thing happens when you've been around a long time. They can afford to warehouse, thus making mass market a viable option for them.
Big press tends to pay an advance. Advances are a whole other discussion because it must be earned back before you ever see a royalty. If you're lucky or famous enough, they'll do more than minimal promotion for you. They set the price, book size and type, distribution points, get the isbn (under their name). A successful author still needs to promote.

Traditional small press: Small press has gained a lot of popularity recently. Some pay advances, some not. Most ebook companies fit into this category. Small press often focuses on particular markets where they specialize. Like the big guys, they edit, pay for cover art, obtain the isbn(in their name) and format the books. They send them to a printer, which can be a print on demand arrangement or regular warehouse arrangement. Print on demand makes good business sense for small press since there isn't a big inventory to house and they can drop ship books to stores, authors or customers. Being small, they cannot afford to mass market produce books either.

Small press does have its distribution points, though more focused on the specialty (or genre). They do contract with bookstores to carry book and with the online retailers like Amazon, B&N, Chapters, and others. They often sell books from their website too.

Most small press do some promotion, though it will tend to be more about the press or the latest releases since their promotion dollars are smaller than the big press. Authors still are expected to be active in promoting their work.

Subsidy: I found it interesting that when googling 'subsidy publisher' the one on top of the list is Amazon's BookSurge (CreateSpace). The fact that Amazon will list your titles done through this program makes them subsidy, rather than self-published? Subsidy is when you pay for a book to be published--by pay I mean the publisher requires a minimum amount before they will publish you. This is often explained as set-up fees, formatting costs and sometimes additional money for 'enhanced' promotion. IUniverse and Lulu are two examples. Last I heard Amazon Create Space isn't charging set up fees, though they keep saying "yet".

You must do all of the editing. A subsidy publisher prints it exactly as you send the file in. You must do your formatting according to their guidelines and still purchase the cover art. They will provide the ISBN number for you.

The Subsidy publisher will list your book in their database which gets picked up by some of the online stores like Barnes & Noble. They will do little to no promotion. This part is all up to you.

Subsidy publishing is not for every author or every book. It's good for something that has a small niche and an author willing to push it within those confines. I've noticed many of those who offer seminars, workshops or webinars use this because they can sell copies through their appearances and websites. In nearly every case, the author offers ongoing information to potential readers from their lectures. This is indeed a type of promotion, albeit a teaching promotion where people feel like they get something useful before they buy the book. It's probably not a good venue for fiction though.
Self-publication: This is when you take your edited and formatted book to a printer and have X number of copies printed out. Keep them in your garage or closet. You have to hand sell these babies. Sure it can be done via a website, which you still have to promote along with the book. Plus you get to do all the shipping, taxes and marketing yourself. You have to buy the ISBN number, buy the cover art and do all the editing yourself.

Now if you love doing things yourself, are extremely self-motivated and like selling, this might be the route for you. Most of us don't have the time, energy or money to spend.
As you can see, there are a lot of differences. You have to choose which route you'd like to pursue. Many writers, like myself, tend to move amon g the options. It's possible with hard work to start out smaller and build readers (meaning a fan base) which you can use to pitch your next book to the larger folks or an agent. Like the quote from says, "Choose wisely."