Head in the Clouds

FTI Wordcloud resized website

This is a wordcloud for my book Funny Thing Is: A Guide to Understanding Comedy


“A perceptive dissection of the science and philosophy of comedy and comedic writing…one with a heartfelt message”. Foreword Clarion Reviews


“Anyone who wonders at what makes us laugh is certain to enjoy Funny Thing Is.” —BlueInk Review


If you're curious, click your heels three times and say "Funny Thing Is".  Or you could just click the picture. Though if you did click your heels three times and say "Funny Thing Is", you're definitely curious (I would know).



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Last week saw me up in Portland for the Willamette Writers Conference. I arrived Thursday. By Saturday afternoon, I was worn as a river pebble, tired as an ancient wheel, spent as last century's money, and suffering from AWLI - a whole lotta information. In my room that night, I edited a few pages, added a few more and considered myself fortunate. Sunday was much the same. My writing efforts were temporarily secondary. I was there to learn, I had to remind myself.

It was good, good information, the sort of offerings that trigger stimulating excitement flows. I focused on seminars regarding pitches and self-, or independent, publishing. Writing and preparing pitches reinforces the advantages of thinking about how to explain your book. Writing a pitch with the intention of telling someone about it in one to eight minutes, depending upon the pitch's circumstances, helps clear the turbidity. 

Self-publishing in all its forms becomes an interesting exercise. No, you may not end up with a best-seller - or you might. Why try to predict it? You can kill yourself with stress and despair following that route. Self-publishing through multiple venues creates several small activity streams. Many of these develop a market, help establish your brand, and may create revenue for you. The revenue may not be much, certainly in the first several months, but persistence and multiple streams, with multiple books and series, can provide an income. What level of income depends on too many factors to predict. 

Following that intention to become more knowledgeable about self-publishing, I attended seminars in cover design. Like most marketing engagements, there's a lot of resource and data behind cover design. It varies between fiction and non-fiction, of course, but also across genres and categories. The cover design won't sell your book but it can capture attention and perhaps entice people long enough to go in for a closer look, an important matter when starting out. Book cover colors affects moods and expectations. Title placement and font size and color are critical when considering it as a thumbnail in an ePub offering list. And fonts are surprising influencers in different genres. 

Naturally, copy editing and proofreading are critical. So is getting good feedback for the novel in progress from people outside of your friends and family. My friends and family have high regard for me but are still astonished that I can write. It's sort of an amusing paradox. But strangers, people with nothing vested in you but the thrill of reading someone else's offerings aren't invested in your emotional development or your feelings. They'll give you the truth. Ensure it's in the right genre, though, as expectations vary among genres. What writer doesn't know that? We're all readers first, aren't we? We see the differences between business writing, young adult romance and young adult fantasy, sure, but we also see the differences between true crime, mysteries, cozies, thrillers, and that broad category, 'literature'. 

So find readers in your genre. Look at covers that your book will compete against. Know what the others look like. Know what you like. And be prepared to throw that away. Again, writers shouldn't be surprised with that advice. What writer hasn't come up against the painful decision to cut a favorite scene or a beautifully turned setting or scene because it just no longer works? Likewise, we invest in our ideas for covers. We don't want to let go of our babies. That's why outsiders and pros are useful, to help you realize that you're the ruler in your internal empire, and you're naked as birth. 

I preach like a convert, don't I? 

It does cost money to publish a book, whether you're paying for it or a publishing house pays for it. Book cover designs cost money. Formatting can cost. Editing. It costs money to acquire ISBNs for your books. ISBNs are an entire other category of requirements. Each book - ePub, hard cover, soft cover, audio, PDF - requires its own ISBN. And no, you don't necessarily need them. It's a little short-sighted to me to not have them but authors achieve without them. Yes, you can use those ISBNs assigned by the publisher 'for free' but the ISBN includes a code for the publisher. I'd rather that points to me rather than them. As Rosy graciously pointed out in comments to a previous blog post, there are terrific organizations out there that can help you intelligently spend your money. Rosy pointed me toward ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors. It's good to know what grounds others have already covered, that you are not alone and that you can build and grow with the help and knowledge of those who forged the paths and avoid scams. They provide forums where questions can be asked, assistance provided, and so much more. The IBPA, Independent Book Publishers Association, is another useful source. They sponsor the Franklins, judged awards given to the best book cover designs so you can see what works in book covers, and why. 

And here is the beautiful thing, in alliance with existing protocols and laws. As an independent publisher, you are a business. Take the steps necessary to be a business. And once you have, take advantage of the tax rules to join organizations such as ALLi and IBPA and write off the expenses engaged. 

Yes, it was exciting. Like other steps in the writing process, it was another arena to learn, and I resisted learning it for a few years. I took time out to wait, and I regret that. I was naive and obstinate. I'd learned to write and publish short stories, then I'd learn to write a novel, then wrote a novel (always learning, forever learning), learning everything involved in writing fiction from the basics of story arcs and plotting to point of view, setting, and show, don't tell, among a myriad of lessons, and then learned to create query letters and a synopsis and proposals. I was a bit weary. And yeah, I was intoxicated with my writing, believing it to be so beautiful that surely all agents and publishers wanted my work, not realizing that their rejections are often for business reasons and frequently have little to do with my book except that I'm not an established novelist. Being established can help but guarantees nothing. 

Don't take this wrong, either. Publishers, editors, copy editors, developmental editors, marketing experts, book cover designers, along with many more people and functions in the publishing industry, have brought us to this point. I am grateful to them. I'm not going to spit on what they've done and I'm not interested in arguing about how much they help or hinder new writers sell their books. I'm instead taking an optimistic view that this is an exciting new time in publishing, where we have a remarkable variety of venues and formats available to help us take our writing efforts out to the world. There's a wonderful writing and publishing community out there. Thanks to organizations like ALLi, Editors and Preditors, Writers Beware, IBPA, Bowkers, and others, we've matured to a new level. Perfection is elusive, but isn't that always true, in every endeavor? 

Okay, the preacher has finished his sermon. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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When Your Dreams Put On Work Clothes




A year ago today we set sail, a varied collective of writers who find inspiration for living and writing in community...

It's been a great adventure so far...!  




The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.
Carl Gustav Jung


Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.
Anne McCaffrey


Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.
David Sedaris


No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
Robert Frost


Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what's wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
Neil Gaiman


A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
Kenneth Tynan


Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.
Benjamin Franklin


I have written - often several times - every word I have ever published.
Vladimir Nabokov


The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
Tom Clancy


And, finally, some insights from the practitioners of three different arts who were born on this day, July 7th


I can read Middle English stories, Geoffrey Chaucer or Sir Thomas Malory, but once I start moving in the direction of contemporary fantasy, my mind begins to take over.
David Eddings


Work isn't to make money. You work to justify life.
Marc Chagall


It is strange how one feels drawn forward without knowing at first where one is going.
Gustav Mahler




Here's to the next leg of the voyage...!


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© Copyright Rosy Cole 2015

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