Writers’ Mill Minutes 201705

Writers’ Mill Minutes 5/21/2017

Numbers were down at this month’s meeting, with only 14 people present, but the sudden onset of summer was a likely cause. Please mark your calendars for next month—Father’s Day—when Sara Hall will give her much-anticipated multimedia presentation on the DIY book launch.

  • Not got a book to launch yet? Then read this month’s minutes and learn from how Jim Elstad got his books from computer to paper.
  • Not written your book yet? Then read last month’s minutes and try out those writing exercises.

As most of you have heard by now, Minnie passed away in her sleep the night of Wednesday, 5/3/17.  She was sick over the weekend with what she thought was food poisoning, but felt she was some better on Monday.  She was planning to leave on Friday for a 3-week road trip, but wasn’t in her usual place at Wednesday night prayer meeting and was found by her daughter on Thursday. “Lying in her bed, I almost thought her asleep until my touch to her cheek let me know she had gone to sleep and awakened in the arms of Jesus.” The policeman who came to the apartment conferred over the phone with the Medical Examiner.  They determined that Minnie’s age, and the lack of anything suspicious was sufficient evidence to rule it a natural death.

Saturday, June 10th, at 10:30am is the date for Minnie’s Memorial service, at Westgate Baptist, 12930 Scholls Ferry Rd. Tigard, OR97223. If you have favorite memories to share, either take them to the memorial service, or email them as soon as you can to SheilaD or JamesE at Portlandwritersmill.org. Next month, during our Father’s Day meeting, we will take a collection to send to Wycliffe Bible Translators in memory of Minnie. If you’d like to donate something and can’t attend that day, please send a check beforehand to Sheila or Jim (same email address as above to ask where to send it).

We opened May’s meeting with memories of Minnie,

  • the box where she rested her feet,
  • her wonderful sense of humor,
  • our ever-increasing amazement at the things she’d done in her life,
  • and her “muscles”

 starting with Mary Jane who shared a lovely poem she wrote after visiting Minnie in her home.

With two new members attending, we introduced ourselves and our current projects while passing around the clipboard. Members are engaged in activities as varied as writing, editing, getting our art displayed (the docent art show opened this morning at Artist’s Repertory Theater (15th and Morrison, downtown) and has pieces displayed free to the public all month in the lobby; Karen has a piece in the show called “Jade Waters” which sold immediately! Congratulations to Karen, and don’t miss this chance to see her art before it disappears into a private collection), formatting for Amazon (Roland would like some help with this), researching publication parameters, interviewing, collecting, and, of course, submitting poems, stories and novels to the wider world of publishers. So it was perhaps appropriate that our speaker’s topic was how to choose your publisher.

Jim Elstad needed little introduction as a member of the writers’ mill. He has sold over 3,000 books to date at 50 events in 13 states (but don’t worry—he’s our only member with anything like that record!) In Jim’s last talk, he taught the gentle art of carrying your books, signs and giveaways in a suitcase with wheels. This time he offered advice and an Excel sheet to help in choosing a publisher, agent or self-publishing program. See below for notes. And contact Jim—JamesE at portlandwritersmill dot org—if you’d like the original Excel file and advice on how to work with it.

After wonderful snacks from Karin, Karen handed out prizes for this month’s Unspoken Bonds contest.

  1. First place Matthew for Across the Wall
  2. Second place Sheila for She used to talk too much, and
  3. Third place shared between
    1. Jean for Points of view on a café meeting, and
    2. Robin for Secret Lives

Other entries were Karin Krafft — “Karma,” Sheila Deeth ”Kitkit and Joe,” Lauri Leonetti — “Local Headline,” Jean Harkin — “Siblings” (poem), Jessie Collins (Sheila’s Mum) — “Unspoken Bond” (Poem), and “Rojo Toro” by Peggy Swafford

Upcoming contests (all entries to JudyB at portlandwritersmill dot org) are:

  1. June: Sheila’s topic: Water water everywhere: Be inspired by ocean, flood, rain or bath. Word limit 1250. Deadline end of June 4th
  2. July: Jean’s topic: For Art’s Sake: Be inspired by any single work of art. Word limit 1200. Deadline July 2nd
  3. August: Karin’s topic: What if … I’d finished writing that contest entry, never left the country, taken that other job, etc. Word limit 1100. Deadline August 6th
  4. September: Matthew’s topic: Unattainable… where your protagonist fails to reach their goal by the end of the tale. Word limit 1200. Deadline September 3rd

(Don’t forget, we also have a deadline at the end of July for submissions to the Writers’ Mill Journal—see after Jim’s talk for more details.)

Ria’s first chapter for critique grew out of a writers’ mill contest prompt—two chairs on a beach. So we really do inspire each other write! Sheila led a critique of the piece—first chapter to a novel; a little over 1,000 words (which seemed a perfect length).A wide-ranging, lively discussion looked at:

  1. What makes you feel like you want to read the complete novel?
    1. A good range of unanswered questions and unresolved topics
    2. Interesting characters and relationships—why are they still friends after…?
    3. A desire to know how the author will bring the threads together
    4. An emotional attachment—sense of tragedy—relatable experiences…
  2. What makes a location or time seem real?
    1. Details—for which a wide-ranging critique group provides an invaluable resource.
    2. Not everyone needs to “get” every detail.
    3. Details that are relevant to the speaker/protagonist.
  3. How to use flashbacks
    1. Create background to relationships
      1. If they raise a question, do they need to answer it? Probably not, as long as the voice feels real.
      2. What’s not told can fill in the character just as much as what is told.
    2. Set up times and places for events, so reader looks forward to learning more
  4. What makes a chapter ending work?
    1. Voice
    2. A rounded feeling—return to the catalyst mentioned at the start perhaps?
  5. How to split paragraphs
    1. In general, each new speaker starts in a new paragraph
    2. In flashback, where the narrator is “speaking” to the reader, might use a new paragraph for each new thought.
  6. How to split dialog
    1. In general, might detail what the character does rather than saying he/she says.
    2. In flashback, it’s more a case of what the narrator will have remembered, and might well just be words.
  7. How to create voice
    1. Choice of words and phrases that fit the narrator
    2. g. working mom, various and sundry, etc
    3. Might not precisely follow rules of grammar when you’re looking at sound of voice.

Having definitely talked too much in this meeting, Sheila would greatly appreciate a volunteer to lead next month’s critique of Jim’s piece. PLEASE REPLY TO THIS EMAIL AND HELP SHEILA TALK LESS.

Useful links from Joe:

Things to remember:

  • Father’s Day meeting,
  • Watery contest prompt
  • memories of Minnie
  • Journal entries, and
  • Keep Writing!

How To Choose A Publisher/Agent with Jim Elstad

For anyone using editorsandpreditors.com to check up on publishers, don’t. The site is going/has gone down. Other sites you might use are:

Jim’s Excel file (you can pick up a copy from the free table next time) includes some natural choices for self-publishing, wise questions to ask any publisher/agent, and space for your own publishers and answers. Jim’s advice is

  • Do your research before you commit!

In longer form, here are the things you should look for:

  1. Does the publisher have a website?
    1. How does it look?
    2. Do you even want your book advertised there?
  2. Does the publisher give you one-on-one support?
    1. Do they have a phone number?
    2. Do emails vanish into black holes?
    3. What do other clients say about them?
  3. Do they charge you to publish?
    1. Will they hook you with cheap offers then charge the earth when you go “over your limit”?
    2. Jim paid $2600 to publish his first book, including editor and art work. The second and third cost $1500 and $1800
    3. By carefully self-publishing, Jim controls the costs—
      1. he decides how much to spend on editing—
        1. $1.50 per page is good
        2. Look at how much per word and work out what you’re in for.
        3. Edit it yourself first.
          1. If there are lots of errors, an editor will miss about 30%.
          2. If there are few errors, the editor will only miss 10%
      2. on cover art (say $250)
      3. on conversion to audio (he can hire and fire his actor… or himself)
  1. Do they provide custom covers or just retouched generics?
  2. What packages do they offer?
    1. How expensive are the packages?
    2. How inclusive are they?
    3. How easily will you be dragged into spending more than you want?
    4. Make sure you know what the packages are called, so you can refer to them if you phone for help.
  3. How do they provide the ISBN?
    1. Do you have to buy your own?
    2. Can you ask them to reserve a set of ISBNs for your series?
  4. What kind of proof do they provide?
    1. Do you have to pay for print proofs—the costs can mount?
    2. Do they allow you to proof electronically first—cheap?
    3. Do they offer proof-reading services? (say $50 per hour)
      1. You should look for widows and orphans, badly hyphenated words, poor page endings, unmatched page lengths etc.
      2. Doing some yourself gives you confidence and saves money but
      3. You still need another pair of eyes (not computer eyes)
  1. What sort of distribution do they provide?
    1. How much will online distribution cost you?
    2. Can you get books into a bookstore?
      1. Do they have a return program—i.e. do they buy back unsold copies?
      2. Otherwise the bookstore will only take them if they know and trust you enough to buy directly from you, on consignment.
    3. Do they offer world-wide distribution?
    4. What royalties will you get?
      1. And what currency will you be paid in?
  2. Do they provide professional marketing consultation?
    1. Do they help you with bookmarks, business cards, posters and flyers?
    2. How much does it cost?
    3. You might pay $50 an hour for someone to help design marketing material, or $175 for 500 business cards
    4. Or you can do it yourself, much more cheaply
  3. Do they provide complimentary author copies
    1. How many?
    2. Bear in mind, if you’ve already paid them, they’re not really free!
  4. How much do they charge for ebook conversion?
    1. And how much profit will you make from ebooks (with no print costs)?
  5. Will they give you a website?
    1. And will they help you with it, or just leave you to watch the YouTube video?
    2. Website services might cost $500 for initial setup, then $50 an hour for maintenance
  6. Will they help you with copyrights and library of congress?
  7. What control will you have over the back cover information?
    1. Can you choose the photograph?
    2. Can you choose what to say about your book?
  8. What’s the quality of their product?
    1. Createspace produces good quality books.
  9. Can people “look inside” your book on the internet?
    1. And can you control what they see? (Just a table of contents might not be productive)
    1. Will they help you take advantage of search engines so your book can be found?
  10. How much will a book-signing kit cost?
    1. And what will it contain?
      1. Display posters
      3. Business cards
      4. Giveaways
    2. Or you can design your own, email the design to Office Depot, and get it printed on the spot.
  1. Do they provide social media help?
    1. Facebook groups
    2. Help finding editors online
  2. Can you buy your own copies?
    1. What discount per copy?
    2. What volume discount?
    3. Will they help if copies are damaged in the mail or go astray? (Createspace will)
  3. Are you signing a non-exclusive contract?
    1. Can you take your work elsewhere later?
    2. Can you take your cover elsewhere later?
  4. Will they archive and protect your work?

Jim chose 21 companies, made notes, narrowed the field to 7, then spent an hour on the phone to each of those 7. He settled on Createspace because:

  1. The book price (to you) is the same whether you buy 1 or 101—all that changes is the postage. This makes prices your books easier.
  2. Shipping is prompt and not overly expensive
  3. Quality is good
  4. Responsive people at the end of the phone line (Jean can attest to that too)

Sheila likes Createspace too because

  1. it connects to Amazon for online sales,
  2. it allows for easy connection between the kindle and print versions,
  3. the book price to you is relatively cheap, even compared to the discount prices offered by other companies.
  4. You’re free to pay for as much or as little help as you want.
  5. The eproofing system is great – you can even download a pdf proof.
  6. Uploading covers is easy
  7. Free ISBN (perhaps not ideal in general but great for Writers Mill Journals)

And… thinking of the Writers’ Mill Journal, here’s the timeline for our 2017 edition

  1. Deadline for submissions: last day in July
  2. Deadline for edits: last day in August
  3. Deadline for formatting: last day in September. Then eproofs will be posted to website.
  4. Deadline for orders: October’s meeting—October 15th. All orders must be paid by then.
  5. Delivery at our November meeting, Nov 19th, or make alternative arrangements.

If you’ve entered or will enter a Writers’ Mill contest between last August and this July, you already have a piece of writing ready for submission to the journal. If you’ve not, please consider this your chance and inspiration to WRITE. Don’t forget, we love to include pictures as well so start looking through your phone/camera/computer.

Topics (based on contests) are:

Please think about whether we need more topics, or what might be appropriate limits (or if we need limits) for the following:

  • Maximum word-length for each entry.
  • Maximum number of pages per author.
  • Maximum number of entries per author.
  • Maximum editing requirements for entries.

Also, please consider whether you would be willing to volunteer as an editor. Thank you.

Let’s make this journal another book to be proud of!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *