Old Moon

Saturday, March 14, 2009


A recent happy surprise has set me thinking (not for the first time!) about the Writer and the Reader. I got back a critique from a judge in a contest to which I submitted a short story.

Even more than with the horse and carriage, you really can't have one without the other -- the Writer and the Reader, that is. Never mind all that stuff (I've already commented on it) about writing for yourself. The reader is the gem we're seeking.

Twice in the same six-month period, I've had comments on something I've written that made me do a kind of in-the-mirror double take. Luckily, I liked what I saw.

Have you ever been fortunate enough to have someone read your story, essay, poem, whatever, and respond with a comment that makes you wonder what you missed when you were struggling through making the thing up? It's awful when that turns out to be one of those unintended consequences that highlight something badly expressed or imperfectly researched...but once in a while, someone sees a metaphor or a moral or an idea that you comprehend yourself only after a new pair of eyes and another brain have seen what you thought you understood better than anyone else could. If you realize the words on the page do, indeed, enforce that (to you) new territory, it's like getting a prize.

Even though you suspect it's undeserved, may any writer reading this be lucky enough to find a dozen such Eureka moments!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Was It Something I Said?

As a writer, I'm discovering that what I always knew was hard is made harder by a gaggle of unexpected stumbling places where you can trip and fly through the literary air like a full balloon someone has just let go of without a knot at the opening. It's been a series of "bad hair" days around here.

I thought I could put up a few cautionary remarks for the benefit of others who might be venturing into the murky (sic.) waters of eBooks.

Bear in mind is that it's going to be extremely difficult to find reputable reviewers (by which I mean those who have a website or a name that identifies them as professionals). It isn't easy with a print book, but it's a true challenge for one that is awaiting its hard copy. And it's less likely to get to that if it doesn't generate a few online sales. Maybe a friend will read the thing, or has already and will willingly write a compliment and post it on Amazon.

The second thing you need is the cover illustration. Mine has not appeared in over a month. Amazon doesn't bother to reply to my complaints, and I've gotten tired of uploading it for them without having it appear where it's necessary if anyone is going to spend even the paltry $4.40 it costs to download the book.

If you are going this route, bear in mind a couple of things my publisher neglected to mention to me. First, be sure you know what format (file extension is the key) your reviewer wants. The publisher who puts my books online sends files as .pdf, .rtf, and .wpd. She never mentioned that only one form is universally readable, and that isn't the first one listed (which I chose because it's first on the list and is common on the Net.) One reviewer requested none of the above. Second, be prepared for requirements that could surprise you, as I was when I found a reviewer who asked for "verification" of my book's ISBN. Since it appeared on the verso of the title page, I had no idea where else to look for it. One place proved to be the website of the publisher. I sent the URL to the reviewer. When she said the book didn't appear there, I was flummoxed and emailed the publisher. Never mind what happened next. The publisher was infuriated because it is there. The upshot was that the reviewer got mad and refused to accept the submission, which, naturally puts me back to square one.

Maybe there would be comfort in the fact that a reviewer (who says she reviews eBooks) demanded the file "in Word." Of course, the files for the pulished book aren't in that format, so I copied my corrected ms., put it in Word, and sent it to her digitally, pointing out that it didn't have the usual front matter of a published book. But no, she is recovering from surgery and informed me she couldn't possibly sit at a computer reading a book. She assumed (though I had told her otherwise) that I had a print copy available. So there went another chance at a review.

I had suggested to the publsher that this might be a problem when she put the book online and listed it on Amazon. (Incidentally, I don't see ISBNs on Amazon anywhere.) She pooh-poohed such an idea and sent me her website's list of reviewers. Unfortunately, she's redoing her website, much of her infrmation isn't on the new site yet, and at least two links from the old one are broken.

So now my publisher is more than irritated with my ignorance (some of it owing to the fact that she didn't tell me which file I had to use), and two reviewers, one of whom thinks I'm stupid to think she would review an eBook in a digital format, and one who thinks I'm just rude and obstructionist. No matter how I try to be friendly but professional via email, I can't seem to get it right.

Anyone out there want to read the book? Do you own a Kindle, iPhone, Sony reader, or have a cast iron derriere so you can look at a computer screen for long periods of time?

[You should know that if I could get a review, even just a "reader review" somehow, the publisher has said she will get the book out in hard copy in the fall. My weary fingers are crossed!]