I know that people are visual and that they usually are only hooked by a picture or video.  But as the title implies, it could go either way…and I don’t have time to sift through pictures of happy or sad puppies/kittens to use to lure you in.  Especially considering a reader may become confused by seeing both a sad or happy creature to represent one story. Maybe my next blog post, the one that details the outcome.

For now, all I have is words…and all I’m here to do is describe the experience.

I have written past blogs about the self-publishing experience; how I’ve settled on Ingram Spark as my American on-demand printer, and how each book costs at least 9.00 to produce, plus shipping.  Once you resell, add in web costs, advertising, and shipping out, yet again…well, you pretty much figure out quickly that you need to join the rest of the big-boy publishers in choosing to print your finished work overseas.  Otherwise, there is no money to even make back what you have spent, much less “make” a living at trying to write.

But while you are trying to make a living at writing, you need to keep spending, to advertise what you have written, to keep websites up and running; to pay copy editors and book design teams.  Kickstarter seemed like a great idea…we could pre-sell our books, gather the monies needed for a first run…and go from there.

We did want to offer cool “rewards” in exchange for pledges and donations though, especially as we hate the idea of seemingly being beggars.  I had to talk my artist/illustrator friend into the idea, as she had no taste for it at all.  She and I have been co-partners in this since the beginning, sharing words and pictures, and equal monetary investments, as well as time towards our first two picture-books.

So we spent even more! A limited-run 200 count of 2015 calendars…at a cost of $1,600 just for the printing (Proudly done in the good ol’ U.S.of A.) The design production alone was $500.00…but you have to pay to play, right? The quality is as fine, if not better than what you find in stores.  And even though it was created using paintings based on a children’s picture book, it has appealed to every adult who has seen it.

Next went more money, spent on producing giclees (highly advanced ink techniques, on a canvas-wrapped frame, made to appear just like the real painting, and meant to last without fading, like forever…) of the actual paintings.  Ready to hang, no framing necessary!

Then came a video shoot…which cost roughly 3K.

Then a book launching/Kickstarter promotional party…to offer up a presentation of our physical wares.  It was a success, the food and wine outstanding…and only cost $900! Serving roughly 40 people, even fancy jumbo prawn cocktail, endless wine, and champagne…a very good deal! And let’s not forget the miniature cupcakes, and cookies…O.K., delicious, but yeah, another $100 bucks…

I then started self-promoting, when my publicist’s bill came to almost 3K owed…still…she takes payments, so even that’s cool…but here’s the thing about these “free” kickstarter events.  They are not really free, or easy to run.

We are taking orders to be able to produce two books…the cost at printing both, at only 1K copies each…is about $6,500.00 depending if we ship them all to one place or not.  Or air-drop some ahead of a three month shipping time.

Just the cost of having brought the paintings into a viable, digitized form, and the books into a published form, ready for instant printing, has cost roughly $8,250.00.

We decided to shoot for a seemingly reachable goal:  $7,850.

Our early test markets and printed batches have met with very rewarding praise.

And almost everyone knows about Kickstarter now…including the other 3,900 (I believe) self-published efforts, offered up as projects on the site.  I have witnessed the absurd, “Please donate money, I have connections in the publishing industry, so only need your money so I can buy a camera and then write a book!” Which was a total fail, with not one donor amused, or moved by her plight.

To the amazing, a real (and by that I mean, already big published children’s author) writer asking for the whole enchilada…she too was asking for funds to go towards the development of a new children’s series, and an app, which we too have eventual plans for…but was asking for 100K! I was, like wow! She had amassed 48K in ‘pledges’, and had only 4 days to go, but did not get past $55,824! But had actually almost raised 56K! Wow!

The thing about Kickstarter though, is that unless you reach your funding goal, which for her was 100K…none of that money can go towards you or your project! I felt sick to my stomach just watching her clock run out on her campaign.

And here I am, at having reached 38% of our goal, but like with eleven days to go!

Bottom line, Kickstarter is not an easy nut to crack, especially at Christmas time…and especially if you have friends and family (the main contributers to any Kickstarter event) who are old-school, not up to speed technologically, or are just plain busy…but “I’ll get to it soon!” A lot of these same people kind of even led us on, at our Kickstarter launch party, bringing two to three, or even more…of their friends to “sample” our wares, give their opinions, and promise to buy, at the very least, a $20 book, or calendar.  (Shipping included!) They have not, thus far!

If I had a twenty for each time someone asked me, “Where can I buy your book?” our campaign would be funded already!

It’s also frustrating when a friend tells you, “I just bought it on Amazon!”

People have told me that others can be jealous and not want you to succeed…they really want you to have to do it the hard way, all by yourself…I even read that that’s what happened to Anthony Robbins, when he first started his business, even coming from his own family.

I’ve learned through the years just to plow ahead, get the work done and just get it (or yourself) out there…and not worry about the outcome…so it will be interesting–and if it turns out we picked a wrong time of year to approach Kickstarter, I guess we will just pick a new date, like the maker of ‘The Coolest’ did…who failing the first attempt, netted close to 11 MILLION in his second go-around, the highest grossing product ever to date in Kickstarter history.

*Our two children’s picture books are ‘Spoiled Pink, and ‘The Treehouse Treasury’, portrayed in our awesome video by a videographer who has worked for both Disney, and Dreamworks.  The first book is primarily for girls ages 3 – 8, and the second for both boys and girls ages 3 & up…It’s at Kickstarter http://tiny.cc/the-treehouse-treasury

Info also available at http://www.thetreehousetreasury.com

Laura Sidsworth

Its been exactly twenty-two days since Anthony Ghiossi’s memorial service held at St. Francis Cabrini’s church in San Jose, California. It was just prior to that when I started Part One of this blog post. I wanted to write about dark days and more promising light-filled ones.
I thought I had seen clear through to the end of the story but the days have been dragging on…sometimes it’s hard to see any rays of light after the trajectory beams of the afterlife have pulled our loved ones from our sight. That scant visibility as it is, obscured by swollen, tear-filled eyes.
It does not feel good being stuck either…unable to move on, move forward, or even move at all. So for the purpose of moving this blog along, I shall try to find words that are luminous.
The Reverend Michael Hendrickson did an excellent job at handling the ceremony, and he tried his best to bring hope to those mourning a very dark day. He spoke of how we humans, despite our best medical interventions and technological advances, still are not infallible beings. We still can not fix everything. We can not save everyone. We can not thwart death. We, quite simply, are just not in control of these things. These things that go awry, those things that delve deeply into the night.
Life is about birth. About living. And, yes, about death. It goes on about this, endlessly…for as long as we have been aware of our existence here on this earth.
There is nothing to celebrate in death. But perhaps were we to be sure of heaven, of endless love and light, we might.
There are however, endless things to celebrate about life, about living.
The Reverend called out to Anthony’s two sons, sitting small, and up front. He bade them look around them, take in the entire church full, every last pew full, of people who had loved their father; people who had admired the way he treated life, his loves. He told them to always remember this day, and all of these people who had come to respect their father. For in seeing, and remembering, they could keep that love alive.
For those who must continue on, who need to feel love, who need to see light, and promise, and continued hope in living…it is around us.
I see it in a picture; his two sons, faint smiles while the sun gleams on their blonde heads as they play in the surf at the beach. The waves wash over them, hopefully cleansing them of their sadness…with the salty seawater so similar in composition to our tears.

RANTINGS AND RAVINGS OF A SCREENPLAY READER Now Available Through Amazon.

This morning I awoke even earlier than usual, at 3 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.  A lot of people have been having trouble sleeping, I’ve noticed…based on my casual interpretations of fellow FB friend’s nocturnal musings.  There are all kinds of reasons I awake.  It’s hot.  The neighbor’s dogs won’t shut-up.  The pool pump in the adjoining yard just has to come on at 2 a.m.  The dream I just had, which re-articulated for me, in great detail, the falling out of my crown, which of course had just occurred that early evening.  

There are helpful tips in life of course, how to fall asleep, stay asleep, get back to sleep.  But what of the musings which arise in the middle of the night?  My emotions these days are pretty stable.  Scarily so.  Like, I didn’t even cry last year at my own daughter’s wedding.  

I think we, as a society are being numbed so much these days, that we think the real goal is only to fall back asleep.  And stay asleep.  It doesn’t seem to be working for me.  So today, I did not worry that I was awake.  I stayed awake, thinking thoughts of darkness and light.  When I knew for sure that sleep would prove a struggle, I decided to be open to what my mind wanted to think about.  And so it thought, and I listened.

It thought about one of my daughter’s best friends, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, an aggressive stage two prognosis.  Then it thought about other women I follow on FB, and these friends public journeys of battling breast cancer, bravely outlined for us to follow their daily struggles. We are able to assist only on the periphery, by offering words of support and sending out messages laced with love and prayer.  

My mind then thought about a very close friend of mine, who lost a son-in-law just a little over a year ago.  A young musician away from his family on the road on a musical tour, who never came home, just died in his sleep, leaving my friend’s daughter and two little girls, bereft and torn asunder.  I had been at the couple’s wedding.  Later, my friend and I laid on his gravesite, looking up at the  clouds…wondering why now, this year, her other son-in-law was diagnosed with cancer.  He too, young and vibrant, handsome, intelligent and fit.  A wonderful father to his two young sons; a loving husband to his wife, whom I used to babysit when she was only 7 years old.  The clouds floated overhead, but gave no answers.

Now my mind wanted to think about things even closer to home.  I allowed it.  It thought about my step-daughter’s husband, who after a bad bout with a VA hospital over an ankle injury, wound up losing a leg.  His leg.  Not just a leg.  There are really no words sometimes.  Just gaping holes, just loss.  Just dark thoughts…

My own eldest daughter announced this week, after awaiting MRI results, the results still not forthcoming after 2 months of waiting, that she personally thinks the latest brain lesions are indicative of M.S.  I denied it of course, telling her that lots of tests would have to sway that verdict, but did say that newer medications were showing amazing promise at halting the progression of this particular disease in this miraculous day and age.  I could offer nothing more, so at the time I offered up medical marijuana grown by her step-sister’s husband.  It seems to have helped him.  

I, of course, notice many people’s struggles.  To not become overwhelmed with grief, I know I have shut down.  I have battened the hatches and braced for events, just hoping to ride out the storms.  The victims of life’s frailties and assaults are of course not the lucky ones.  But for the survivors who witness this torment, who endure the torture of sometimes watching their loved ones suffer mercilessly without the divine intercession from a God who seems not to be listening to our whispered prayers, our shouted rage, and then our quiet whimperings in the night…for them, when does this suffering end?  Death comes quickly, or slowly, offering a peaceful refuge for those who have suffered so…but it does not provide immediate relief to those living, and still loving, nearby.  And now, finally, I cry.

(To be continued)

 

 

 

 

Last Spring, somewhere near Knoxville, Tennessee, my sister-in-law decided we should go biking.  It was an overcast day and scattered snowstorms were forecast for overnight; but getting out of the house sounded fun.  I helped to load all of the bicycles into the back of my brother’s truck, and we set off.

When we got to Milton Lake, the bikes were quickly unloaded, and Jamie set out down the path with the attached contraption that held my comfortably-seated niece, Liv, 2.  Hallie, 7, took off after them on her newly acquired bicycle.  She did her best to keep up with her mom.  I trailed behind as slow as I could go, not wanting to leave Hallie behind on her own, as she swerved back and forth unsteadily.

We biked along the wind-swept lake, on a wonderfully paved trail that seemed like it could go on forever. We swooshed past ducks, geese, fields-for-play, and a still-wintry landscape.  Hallie was quickly getting tired.  Her mom decided to hang back, and told me to go on ahead and enjoy myself, full-throttle for awhile.

I was happy for permission to do so, and quickly biked ahead of the now-lagging group.   As I continued on deeper into the woods,  the scenery took on a surreal hue.   Skeletal trees were caught up in each other’s arms on the banks of the lake, contorted into anguished-looking beings, as they stretched and competed years, for the sun’s light and warmth.  The sky overhead was darkening ever so slightly towards dusk.  Riding through a semi-clearing, I noticed what could have been the set for ‘Friday the 13th’, the movie.  I chuckled to myself about my imagination, rolling on past the ramshackle cabin and open clearing.  A rusty gate once securing the property, now hung slightly open.  An invitation, I thought?  I continued on.

I finally decided to stop and wait for my kin to catch up to me.  I would enjoy some quiet repose before the group caught up.
I parked the bike off the path next to a bench, which faced away from the lake, and sat down.  I faced a thicket of trees. I breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh air and view.

No sooner had I sat down though, that sure enough, someone came hiking up the path, using a tall walking stick to guide them surely and quickly my way.  It seemed to be a man, seemingly with his full attention fixed upon me…and I begged silently for him to just keep walking past, hoping he would not stop to talk.  All I wanted was a minute or two of alone-time.  He stopped in the middle of the trail, facing me.  I sighed inwardly.

Not wanting to ignore him, as this would seem rude, I said politely, “Hello.”

He looked me over, as if determining whether I was worthy of saying hello to…and then came closer, still not saying a word.  My high-alert-readiness-mode kicked in just then, and I wondered why, oh why, I always had to meet strange people.  He took another step in my direction.  Finally, he deigned to speak.

“Look at me!” It wasn’t a question, it was an order.  I acquiesced quickly, wanting to assure him he had my full attention.  I already was taking him all in, looking him over thoroughly for tell-tale signs that I was hopefully dealing with just a regular ol’ hiker…and not the type of man he looked like – the guy on the bike who warns those kids in ‘Friday the 13th.’ 

“Can you see it?” he asked, still not giving even the most rudimentary of hello’s.  

I had still been doing a check…khaki pants, hiking boots…oversized hat, huge sunglasses (even on a day with no sun) which still looked normal…and I was just beginning to breathe comfortably again when he said, “Well, do you see it?”

Just then my attention had been drawn to the end of his walking stick — and the huge spike embedded into the top end.  Shit!  Was this what he was referring to, did I see this?  And was I to take that as a challenge, a threat?

Someone had warned me once to never run from strange animals…so I held stock-still as he leaned another step closer, now taking off his sunglasses.  He had a huge black eye, which totally had been hidden by the large sunblockers, and as soon as he lowered these, I understood it was this he was referring to…so I answered quickly to break the tension.

“Wow, that’s a beauty…” I whistled appreciatively, as if genuinely both impressed and interested.  He stood there, judging my sincerity.  I decided I had to go all in.  “How’d that happen?”  I dutifully asked.  He smiled crookedly a bit and stepped back, which I took to be reassuring…for a second, until I noticed it was just for him to be able to bring his walking stick, slash weapon, into nearer proximity to me.

I held my ground, and readied my muscles silently for a quick beat out of there…I was pretty sure I still had game over what appeared to be an old guy in his 70’s…but, you never know.
“O.K., so you see this here?”
I guess he had meant to wave it towards me, as he continued doing, brandishing the walking stick.
“Yes,” I responded simply, holding my breath.

“So,” he said, “I use this for reaching plastic bottles and glass.  I stick them like this,” and here he made a jabbing motion towards the ground, after he had turned the walking stick around to have the spike fully on display.  I nod, thinking to myself…and how does that work on glass?

“I went out on that dock right there,” he continued, “because they float up to that place and collect,” and he nods in the direction I’m supposed to look, just a bit past us up the path.

There is a dock on the lake, no boats tied up to it; no one sitting at the lone bench attached to it.  Just a grey dock, on a grey day.
I look…and I nod for him to go on.

“Well I was reaching, trying to get one…and I slipped, fell, and hit my face right on that dock!”
“Oh, my!” I exclaimed, truly sympathizing.
“Yeah, it was bad!  And look!  Right here!”  He motioned to the right side of his forehead, where I could still see a nasty cut, bruises, and stitches. “Seven stitches! Good thing my son was in town!”
“Oh, my…” I repeated, relaxing into the listening of just a lonely man’s tale.
“That is horrible…good thing your son was in town to take you to the doctor’s!” I was very relieved he wasn’t a complete kook, and listened for awhile as he talked about the lake, his son, and then the weather.

My clan was just cresting a small hill in the path, and I could see that they would be near us, in like, under a minute.
“So, you know all that rain we got last night?” he was saying as my attention drifted back to him.  “Yes, that was a killer storm,” I answered.

“Well, guess what?” he asked, smiling a little wider now.  I was happy for him that his story was no longer dwelling on his injury, so I asked innocently and politely, “what?”

My sister-in-law and her girls were rolling up to us now, and came to a stop.  

He lowered his voice just a bit.  “My blood is still all over that dock…the rain did not wash it all off yet!”

I took this in, shocked at the change that had come over the man, who now…that an innocent mom and two little girls had shown up, was regressing back into creeper land.  Jamie probably thought I was just chatting up some harmless old hiker.  I shot my sister-in-law a glance, a glance that I think only moms who have learned to read danger signs, as a result of protecting their brood, could interpret.  She understood me immediately, and I was grateful for her intelligence, and quick wit.

Mr. Creeper spoke. “I’m going to go home and get clear pol-y-ur-e-thane…and I’m gonna paint that deck, so my blood is there forever…”

I was done listening and I motioned for everyone to just turn around and start pedalling.

“This is MY park,” he said loudly, not liking that he was losing his audience so quickly.  “I want my blood to be a part of it!”  

We were heading away from him now, me saying “go, just go!”  And Jamie saying, “what was that all about?” She pedalled quickly, and I urged poor Hallie, who hadn’t got to rest at all, that she could do it.  She could make that crest of a hill again.  We all pumped our feet faster.  

Over our shoulders he yelled now.  “Hey,” he called, “Hey, look at this!”

I filled Jamie in on what the creeper had said, and we glanced over our shoulders, watching as he walked quickly after us, still yelling, and then ordering, “Hey! Come here!”

Soon we had a good distance between us, and he was left way behind.  Night-time was closing in quickly, and we put the girls in the truck, loaded our bikes, and headed for home.  We were all thankful to leave the lake, and the creeper, far behind.  

O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published.  Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it.  You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published.  However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.

This is what this post is about then:  self-publishing.  Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project.  My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim.  So I didn’t bother going there.

But let’s get to the heart of this post.  I found a printer.  Ingram/Spark.  Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings.  Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network.  Their claim is 39,000 distributors:  like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell.  Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!

But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive.  My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!

So, here’s what I have done:  I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package.  I disallowed any return policy.  This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut)  and to allow just the base printing price to be covered.  I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share.  Because that’s our shared business-plan.  For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright.  So I know that’s never going to happen.

What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of.  Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website.  The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing:  print it overseas.  During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.

Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers.  You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! :)

Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format!   If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best:  writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.

When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China.  Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!

The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book.  It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them.  And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!

 

 

 

 

A-hunting we will go…

A-hunting we will go….

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