Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I’ve Been Busy

I have been away from here for a few days because I have been busy finishing up my book. It is a children’s picture book (originally written by my daughter) about a baker who turns into a superhero. It’s titled, appropriately enough, The Adventures of Dough Girl.

 It’s an e-book formatted exclusively (for now, at least) for the Apple iPad. It’s in what Apple calls its “Fixed Layout EPUB Format” which displays a two-page horizontal view that is not changeable by the viewer. There is no changing of type size to re-flow the text. However, you can zoom the pages in and out, and scroll around.

It’s wonderful for picture books because you can have an illustration that goes the full two-page spread with the text blocks fixed—in position and typeface—anywhere on the page. That means that the book’s designer has as much freedom as with a paper-&-ink book.

My book is also enhanced with dialog and sound effects, which the viewer plays by touching the audio player controls on the page.

I will be telling more about it here as it gets closer to publication (sometime in May). Right now I’m getting my iBookstore account set up. I got the approval from Apple Monday, and I will be selling books directly through Apple’s iBookstore app. iPad users with an iTunes account can go there, buy the book, and download it immediately.

The plan is to also re-format it for the Kindle, the Nook, and other e-book readers. I’ll tell you more soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“…an actual book.”

My teenaged daughter is a snob… sort of.

I’m not speaking here of Hope Edwards, my almost-fourteen-year-old whose cute-and-quirky comic strip, The Adventures of Dough Girl, I’m formatting into a picture book for the iPad. I’ve mentioned her elsewhere and will speak further of her upcoming book in a future post. I mean her twin sister, who is also a writer but who hasn’t chosen a pen name yet, whom I will refer to here as “Daughter.”

I was taking Daughter to tennis practice this morning and I asked how her writing was coming along. She said, “Fine,” so I mentioned that, whenever she felt that she had a book ready, I could publish it as an electronic book for the Kindle, or the Nook, or the iPad.

Her reply set me back:

“I’m not going to publish it as an electronic book before I get it published as an actual book.”

Well, that was the end of our conversation about writing; we went on to other things until I dropped her off at practice.

Frankly, I was surprised at Daughter’s response, at her seeming to be put off by modern technology. After all, we are a fairly technological family. We have our share of computers and cell phones, with which we are all quite comfortable. My wife and children, especially, do Facebook and Gmail and texting and all of that. So, yes, I was surprised.

I was a little saddened, too, because her remark expresses the all-too-prevalent view that a mass of writing is not a legitimate book unless it is printed with ink on paper. To be fair, Daughter may be a “monster of my own making.” We have tried to instill in all of our children a certain reverence for books. They are to be treated with respect as physical objects of value—don’t tear the pages, don’t throw them around, keep them clean—but also respected for what they contain: exciting and enjoyable stories, and also important and useful information. What she said, about the two paths to publication available to a writer today, clearly shows the strength of the grip that the traditional one still has on many writers. She said, in effect:

“I’m not going to publish it myself before I convince someone else to legitimize it by publishing it for me.”

Now, there is something to be said for a certain degree of “legitimization,” at least in the form of proofreading and editing (and virtually all self-published books could use a much heavier dose of proofreading and editing than they have been getting lately), but to think that it’s not a real book until it exists as ink on paper is shooting yourself in the foot, because any form of publication is better than none at all.

As other people have pointed out, writers are not makers of books, they are tellers of stories, either true stories or made-up stories. Furthermore, merely creating the story is only the first half of storytelling; the story has to reach an audience, either by being read or heard, for the act of storytelling to be completed, and denying yourself the ability to reach that audience because you believe that you have to wait until someone else says, “yes, you are allowed to pass this story along to others,” is not merely foolish. It’s sad.

It’s foolish because of the financial (or quasi-financial) aspect of it all. If the story doesn’t get published, the author gets no return, either of actual money or of something else of value: prestige, name recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.

It’s sad because, if that someone—that keeper of the publishing gate—says “no,” all of the writer’s effort—all of the “blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” as it were—that it has taken to get to that point, where the story is ready to make its way out into the world and rise or fall on its own merits, all of it will have been wasted.

Because a story never published is, in effect, a story never written.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The iPad and Children’s Literature

I believe that the iPad, from Apple, has the potential to be—if it is not already—a major platform for storytellers to reach children directly, bypassing the traditional, curated (and slow) publishing cycle.

I used to be the children’s department manager at a Barnes & Noble, my wife is currently the Lead Teacher at the Infant/Toddler Head Start program here where we live, and five of our children have been childcare workers of one kind or another (three still are, one at a Montessori school). We all believe that telling stories to, and with, children, starting when they are very young (even while prenatal), is the single most helpful activity that can be done to facilitate their language development.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 99¢ Book

Joe Konrath on his blog today set his horror novel, Trapped, to 99¢ as a promotion so his fans could force him donate to the “First Book” reading program. In his blog he tells a little about “First Book” (looks like a great program), then he tells a little about Trapped.

You know what? I stopped right there. I didn’t read anything about the book.

Why? Because I don’t have to. I just went ahead and bought it. I don’t want to know anything ahead of time. I want the pleasure of the discovery. And how can I just go ahead and buy this book, about which I know nothing? Not because it’s only 99¢, but because the first book of Joe’s that I read was 99¢. He offered a teaser price on one of his books and that’s what got me. I said, “He writes in a genre that I often like; I'll try this one for 99¢” And I did. And I liked it. (It was Serial, by the way. *Content Warning* [sex, violence] for those of you who don’t know anything about it.) And I will buy more of his books. Not because of any particular price that they are now, but because Joe had the good sense to let me discover him at a bargain price, and now he has a paying fan. And isn’t that what all writers strive for?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

On Language

Precise language—good grammar and spelling and punctuation in our writing; clarity and proper pronunciation in our speech—these are the elements that make up the target at which we should all shoot. The closer we get to the bullseye the better our communication will be, to all readers and listeners, not only those who are highly educated. Few of us hit that bullseye with any regularity, but that should not stop any of us from taking aim.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Writer’s Voice

Every writer has a voice; every voice has an audience. When the two find each other, it’s magical, like lovers, and it can last a lifetime.