File Backup – Flipping the Bird to Your Computer

October 9, 2012

I’ve always loved my computers because they hold globs of magic; my passport to the entire world, my recipes (for dishes I’ll never cook), my exercise plan (which I do plan on using), Behler files, and my writing. Since my computer holds my life in its dainty cyber fingers, I treat her like one of my children, so if she threatens to crap out on me, she’ll give me some warning.

Sadly, my computer doesn’t hold the same feelings for me as I do for her because when she does crap out, I have no warning. I dutifully press the ON button and await my morning magic – only she doesn’t greet me with her usual beep. Instead, I’m greeted with a blank screen (cyber humor for flipping me the bird). My computer knows me well. She senses my rising panic and chuckles softly to herself, thinking she’s really uncorked my bottle (which, of course, she has).

My latest dalliance with being uncorked was a few months ago. Oh, she thought she got me good. B*tch. But I one-upped the rancid wench by having a file backup system. When she blew, I sent that ungrateful ratbag directly to Computer Heaven and stole our family computer…and rescued my cyber life from my offsite file backup system.

Every author should have some sort of file backup system. Whether it’s a backup hard drive or offsite system, you need one. A couple of our authors have written us in a panic because their computers decided to take a dirt nap, or their computers were stolen – and took their manuscripts with them. They didn’t have any backup system in place and, luckily, I had a copy. But what if I hadn’t? I hate to think of the hysteria in the author’s office…and mine. The beagle would have had to perform emergency CPR. Patooi.

I hear this problem all the time – author has a deadline, computer senses fear and flips its lid, renders author clinically insane. Dear authors, save your sanity and deny computers their propensity of dying when it’s least convenient. Get some sort of file backup in place. Once it’s gone, it’s so hard to re-write or replace. Preferably, get a backup system that writes in the background and works automatically. I used to save to a zip drive, and I’d forget to back up. My computer knew this and went kablewie after I’d written five chapters and hadn’t saved them. I. Wanted. To. Die.

Flip your computer the bird and revel in the fact that you’re smarter than that bucket of bolts and sand by having a backup system. There is no better feeling to create, knowing that it’s preserved forever. And….your editor will really appreciate it, too.


How to shoot your own foot

July 11, 2010

There are many queries that make me wince. Not because of the material, but how the authors present themselves and their story. Here are some of the ways authors can shoot themselves in their own foot:

I’m not much of a promoter:

Eeek. Editors aren’t going to jump for joy to see this in a query letter. In this age of tanked economies and dwindling budgets for bookstore buyers, it’s harder to send books out into the world and keep them sold. Sure a publisher can get the books shelved, but what’s going to create demand? Genre buyers have one question that is tattooed on their tongue: “What’s the author doing to promote the book?”

If the answer is, “Sitting at  home crocheting toilet paper doilies,” I can guarantee the genre buyer will pass unless the publisher is doing co-op marketing – which is basically a shakedown that says, “I’ll stock as many of your books as you want as long as you fork over some big buckeroos.”

So the publisher who does this is at double jeopardy; they hand over a chunk of change in the hope that it pays off. If the author isn’t out there, those books can easily sit on the shelves because there is no demand.

And what goes out can easily come back in the form of returns. This means that the publisher not only paid the bookstore shakedown co-op marketing fee, but they wasted a small fortune on a large print run.

So if your query letter says that you’re not much of a marketer, get out the Glock and take aim. If an editor has a choice between an author who understands the need to promote and is actively engaged in a solid promo plan versus an author who “isn’t much of a marketer,” who do you think the editor will pick? More than likely Ms. ShyPants has sealed her fate and will be receiving an instant rejection.

My e-book version has been up on the various sites for free:

So you’ve given away thousands of free downloads of your e-book version [and keep in mind that we have no way of verifying those “thousands” you’re claiming to have sold]? That cuts out an editor’s chance for the e-book rights. Will this diminish your chances for a “send me pages”? Maybe.

Personally, I don’t want to be competing against you – which is what I’d be doing if you retain the e-book rights and I have the print rights. An editor is going to edit your book, so you’d have two versions of the book on the marketplace. You’ll also have two different cover arts.

It’s not uncommon for people to like the e-book and buy the physical version. I just had a lady do this with one of our books. She called and ordered ten copies of a book that she’d read on her Kindle. There is a possibility that your version is in need of serious edits, which means readers will read the Kindle version and not be moved to buy the physical copies. That means lost sales for the publisher.

Most of us want the physical and e-book rights. If you’ve been giving it out for free, then you’ve possibly hit a large populace that we can’t recover. Might as well pull back the firing pin and hold up your foot.

“I’ve never cared about being published before.”

I hear this more often than I care to. It’s one of those, “gee, if it weren’t for all these people telling me I should publish this book, I wouldn’t be querying you.”

Gah.

Why would you tell this to an editor? First off, there are thousands of wonderful authors for whom writing is akin to breathing and who take their craft very seriously. How does this information convey that you’re a player? Times are tough, and editors are looking for the g0-getter – the author who may be a debut author but who understands how the biz works.

Even if you hadn’t thought about being pubbed before, you don’t need to reveal this tidbit. It’s not a selling point. Rather, it makes many of us want to drink Draino.

As I’ve written before, the idea of the query is to sell yourself and your story to an editor. It’s a job application, so it’s important to ask yourself whether your query puts you and your story in the best light. Telling an editor that you’ve never really cared about getting published, you don’t really like to promote, and that you’ve already sold freebie e-book copies is not the way to capture an editor’s attention. More than likely, they’ll help you take aim and steady your firing hand.


Latest reason to lay my head on the railroad tracks…

January 19, 2010

Rejection letter: Thank you for your query. Unfortunately you haven’t given me any compelling elements as to what makes your book unique, outstanding, and marketable. I have little choice but to decline to review this further. Best of luck to you.

Reply: I would be happy to send you the first twenty pages.  If it works for you I would send more.

Oy veh.


Save me from the FTC, and pass the chips

October 7, 2009

Warning: This is a commentary, and Lynn is breathing fire.

Oh dear god. Once again, our government works its magic in order to meddle in affairs for which it has no experience or knowledge. What am I talking about? I’m talking about how the Federal Trade Commission has seen fit to revise their “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials.” It states that bloggers who review books or video game systems must now disclose if they got those books or video games for free. Why the necessity for disclosure, you ask?

Because the FTC trembles in fear that those freebie copies we send out – called Advance Reader Copies – are the equivalent of an endorsement – that we send out books with the “expectation of a favorable review.” If these idiots at the FTC knew anything about publishing, they’d realize that we have absolutely zero expectation of a favorable review. Heck, we don’t even know if we’ll even get reviewed. It’s a crapshoot.

I’d sure like to see the FTC’s proof that freebies = favorable endorsement because I don’t know of a single publisher who has seen this be the case at all.  In fact, I’ve seen any number online reviews that were anything but laudatory about books they’d read, and we all know the books were sent for free.

This is just all kinds of stupid because it lacks any scintilla of logic. For one thing, book review bloggers are no different from the trade magazines and newspapers who review. But Bureau of Consumer Protection representative, Richard Cleland, insists that newspaper and magazines are exempt because “the newspaper receives the book and it allows the reviewer to review it, it’s still the property of the newspaper.”

Now Cleland has no problem with a blog review provided the blogger doesn’t keep the book after h/she’s done reviewing it. In Cleland’s mind, hanging on to the book is paramount to the blogger being compensated, and this requires a disclosure. Good grief, I can see bookslut.com saying, “Hey, dudes, we got this book for freeeee…” Well no shit, Sherlock. Every reviewer gets free books, and no one is complaining. If no one cares, why does the FTC? Furthermore, why won’t they even listen to those who are in the business?

Does the FTC presume to know more about the publishing/review business than we do? Apparently so, since he told Edward Champion in an interview, “You simply don’t agree, which is your right.” Well, dang my buttons, Mr. Cleland, thanks for at least allowing us to disagree with you. But I’d like to know why is it when someone disagrees with a government action that we are dismissed, rather than consulted as to why we don’t agree. We don’t agree because we know our business – something Cleland clearly lacks.

And get this; if those bloggers don’t comply, they can receive an 11K fine. I’m curious as to how the FTC plans on implementing this policy. Have they hired a bunch of brown shirts to invade the homes of thousands of blog review sites and verify whether those books are sitting on the shelves or have been properly disposed of?

Who the hell is the FTC to make distinctions about what is “compensation” and what is simply going about the course of performing one’s job? You want to talk about an industry dirty secret, let’s talk about magazines who strenuously peddle their ad space? It’s a well-known fact that buying ad space increases your chances of getting a book review. Ad space is far from free. But do we all go running to the government because we don’t like it? Of course not. It’s the nature of doing business.

Just who is getting hurt here? If Cleland spent a week sitting in my chair, he’d realize that bloggers are as far from paid endorsements as the beagle is finding sobriety.

And speaking about those newspapers and magazines; does he really think those books don’t disappear off the shelves once they are reviewed? Puhleeze.

Why is the blogger injudiciously accused of being compensated when there are very big trade magazines that offer paid reviews? They don’t disclose which reviews are paid for, so anyone reading the review section is none the wiser. All the publisher or author has to do is fork over some hefty cash and get a guaranteed big-name review. To me, this is far more compensatory than some blogger who keeps a freaking book because the author or publisher does have the expectation of a favorable review.

Lastly, I wonder why the FTC cares? Cleland’s answer to this is predictably anemic.

“If a blogger received enough books,” said Cleland, “he could open up a used bookstore.”

I really, really want what this guy is smoking.

My god, when I think of all the paid graft that takes place in the entertainment industry, attacking bloggers makes as much sense as sending the beagle to the Betty Ford Clinic. They have some real problems to deal with, like e-book piracy. Attacking a segment of the review industry for some trumped up grievance is pathetic at best.

Why does the government feel the need to “fix” what ain’t broken? I know, I know, the answer is “because screwing things up is what they do best.”

There are some very good articles that articulate the facts far better than I. I excel at righteous outrage.

http://www.edrants.com/interview-with-the-ftcs-richard-cleland/

http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/lit_crit/ftc_blogger_rules_carry_11k_fines__139253.asp

After reading about this latest gasp at government intrusion, I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines; who is John Galt?


Choosing those files wisely

October 25, 2008

So I’m in the middle of writing a wonderful book, and something goes blooey with my computer. I didn’t notice it until the following morning when I booted up my computer and opened up Word. A window popped up that said something had happened in closing out the program, but we are oh so nice that we have two recovery files for you. Choose the one you want.

How I wish it had said, “Choose wisely, dumbsh*t.”

I chose the wrong file and ended up losing an entire day’s worth of writing. I blame the computer for putting me into these straits. Don’t they realize I know enough to be dangerous? To this day, our web designer has no idea how I managed to blow up our website for an entire day. I maintain all innocence. I was only putting up a review on one of our author’s sites. She, of little humor, has forbade me from touching anything.

Wise web designer. But I digress…

The problem with losing my writing is that I now have to create my literary wheel. I’m finding it as hard as saying no to a fresh box of Twinkies. Brilliance only strikes once with me. I belch it out, and then I’m done. Spent. Kaput.

I thought about drinking heavily, but it would only give me a hangover, and my corrupted file would still be sitting there. Mocking me. So I did what any writer would do. I cried like a baby and threatened to throw myself under a bus. I’m only halfway done with the rewrites. If I could just let go of the fact that I really loved the first go ‘round, I’d probably get done faster, but I’m still in mourning.

I decided I need to outwit myself so I got hooked up with Carbonite. It backs up all my files offsite. That means I can resume being a complete idiot and choose the wrong recovery file and still not lose anything. I can also nab my files from any computer.

I’m sure no other writer is this devoid of luck or common sense, but if you are, I swear this Carbonite is the best danged fifty bucks I’ve ever spent. Now if I could just do something about my secretary…


It doesn’t pay to turn my back

October 18, 2008

Okay, so the beagle is reading the Water Cooler. Normally it’s porn.
And she should be filing.


What’s wrong with this picture?

October 14, 2008

“Dear Literary Agent,”

Okay, no flies on any of my twelve readers. You guessed the problem: I’m not a freaking literary agent. And I have no name other Literary Agent. When was the last time you appreciated being called Dear Author in an email? The author, upon my pointing out not only that I have no name but the wrong job, offered this:

Sorry to have mistaken you for a literary agent instead of a publisher.

Blink. Blink. Mistaken? That’s like my trying to tell hubby that I mistook a tire iron for a hammer when trying to pound a nail into the wall in order to hang his velvet painting of the dogs playing poker.



How can our site possibly be confused as being a literary agency? Go look at our index page. Go on, take a peek. Here’s the link. I’ll wait…



So what’s the first thing you saw besides the girl reading on the beach? The upcoming releases. Very good. What else do you see? Rrrright…our name – Behler PUBLICATIONS. That should be a clue that we’re not a lit agency, yes? Yet for the third time in two weeks, I’ve been asked to represent someone’s work because they heard about what a great agent I am. My suspicions of the new alter ego go directly to my secretary, the unreliable beagle. This is just the sort of thing she does. I cut off her daily margarita intake, and she starts swapping me out on the internet as either a porn star (that was last month) or a literary agent.



This author and the other two from last week may have written a terrific book. But I’ll never know because I didn’t read any further than Dear Agent. Snobby? Probably. But geez, folks, if you can’t get the basics right, then chances are strong that I’d have to follow you around with an extra diaper in case you make another mess. Pah, I don’t have the time for it.



I realize how this happens. Authors get a database of agents and publishers and begin spitting queries out like sunflower seeds at a baseball game. They don’t bother with the niceties of, say, using someone’s name or, heaven forbid, knowing the difference between a lit agency and publisher. No thought or care goes into this, and while it’s aggravating for me, it’s downright dangerous for the author. What if that query lands in the inbox of a scammer? The author has already proven themselves to be devoid of common sense, and scammies love this. It’s fresh meat for grill. Please, dear authors, behave the way you would like to be treated.



I can see I need to borrow Ms. Snark’s cluegun again, but she’s still sore at me from the last time. Again, I blame the beagle for not replenishing the glue sticks and drinking all the gin.



Yes…she looks innocent, doesn’t she?
What you can’t see is the pitcher of margaritas behind her.


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