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Use a typewriter, like a real man

Real paper, real words, real wood box: reading (and writing) a work-in -progress.
Real paper, real words, real wood box: reading (and writing) a work-in -progress.

I read a blog post the other day about how writers need to, well, get their game on. For a lot of writers, just plain old writing is the problem and the solution. A tough way to go, that. You might call it a Catch-22. You want to write, you don’t even start. You want to finish what you started, you can’t make yourself sit at the desk and do it, for love or money. The blog post asked a lot of things (are you writing the wrong book for you? is that why you aren’t doing it??), but mainly, it asked: did you finish your last book? If not, why not? If yes, HOW?

I sent a comment that, yes, I finished my last book, but it may have been easier for me than it is for many others. I have written four previous books and completed my new one, the non-fiction “Finishing Year” (about going on a student exchange overseas – at age 48 – to finish my first university degree) last year, a year after completing my degree in art history. I was a University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) student and graduated from there, although I last studied in Europe.

But even for me, it is not all fun and games. It still took about a year to write it, although I had none of the work a fiction author would face. Where the blog post noted “write the best chapters you possibly can – but in terms of what happens in them, not necessarily the line-by-line language,” I rejoiced that, as a non-fiction author, I get to spend all my time concentrating on that language, because the story is complete – at least, chronologically or event-wise, it writes itself. The incidents happened to me, or I caused them to happen, through my unintentional bumbling or my insatiable desire for a life filled with adventure, take your pick. This is truly the wonderful benefit, for a writer, of not having to make things up.

I write screenplays and find that to be much tougher. The only way to get through those is to do absolutely nothing else at the time and just force your way through. You have to do it. Who cares if you do not shave during this time? Who is going to see it anyhow?

Still, I had not written a book for quite a few years, and I felt like it was quite a task producing this one, even though I worked on it from about the second or third month of my one-year overseas exchange. It should have gone easier. The thing is, I worked as a journalist for several years at the beginning of my career, and followed that up with years of marketing writing. So the writing chore is perhaps not so much of a burden for me as it might be for others, but I still found it like rolling a rock uphill, at least at times.

The other thing the blog noted was, “print out your book as you go,” which is golden. It is one thing I learned to do right at the start of this new book and will do for all the ones that follow, because I write them on a typewriter. In case you are not too familiar, a typewriter is a device that works like your computer keyboard attached to your printer. You write and voilà, the device instantly prints your pages. I pile the pages in an old, wooden artist’s paint box, which equally suits North American or European standard paper sizes (try it). And, I figure out the word count/finished book length simply by typing a few pages from someone’s finished book, the size and layout of which impresses me as being about what I am aiming for in my self-printed form, and each page I complete equals almost exactly a page of final, printed book. This helps me know when enough is enough.

The greatest thing is that, after all this (and after you shave), you have a product, you sell it, and you make someone’s day brighter, possibly even your own.

My Hermes Baby. It also addresses envelopes.
My Hermes Baby. It also addresses envelopes.
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Finishing Year on Reading Recommendations Today

The site, Reading Recommendations, is run by a fellow Canadian book blogger, promoter, and author, Susan M. Toy (isn’t that a great name?) . You can check out her work here:

https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/about-susan-m-toy/

If you go to the top of the blog, there I will be today (Wednesday, March 4, 2015):

https://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/bentley-bryce-finley/

Uh, you know I have posted about the book blogs out there that ARE NOT USEFUL before; this one does what it says it will do: it lets you know about authors and their recent works. So hurray for that!

One that I saw there that fits my kind of quest for adventure in this life is by author Neil Bennion. Check out his book about his wanting to learn to dance… like a Columbian:

https://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/neil-bennion/

Non-fiction, stangely, needs your boost.

Book sites that frustrate

I might keep updating this one, rather than make new posts all over the place.

Websites are often set up to help authors promote their books online. Promoting a book online doesn’t seem to be easy. Cheap, sure. Fast, sure. Fun, sorta. Easy, ummm. So people look for advice and lists of places they can send their books to. (You know I have said promoting a book offline is a cinch. And you’ll notice a clear lack of web sites dedicated to offline book promotion, because it… is… so… easy.)

So, there are at least two kinds of websites dedicated to helping you promote your book: sites that tell you what to do and list other sites where you can actually do it, and then those other sites where you are supposed to list your book so that readers might be able to find it.

Sometimes sites in both categories don’t offer a very good service. A list of places to promote your book is not so useful when the sites you are sent to no longer exist or don’t work or you can’t figure out how they do.

A site called Buckbooks.net is in the second category. It is listed as the first site to promote your book on at another site selling book publishing information called TrainingAuthors. Buckbooks in turn looks like it is run by a company that sells services to self-publishers, and it has a page that lists 99 cent books, but please let me know if you think there is a way to get on it. I wrote the company (no answer). I clicked on the appropriate link, buried on a page within one of their blog posts. It leads to this http://archangelink.com/promote-your-book-buck-books/.

Nice. It is not important (what is important?), but better lists of these resources, and better functioning places once you get there, would be nice. Both are certainly doable, anyway. And if you are going through the effort, why not make sure the links work or that the service is still even in business?

What’s happening these days?

I am looking for the places authors publicize their books online. It is a strange process. I understand traditional public relations completely, but it seems authors today should promote their books on review sites and book blogs and on their own online platforms.

The problem is, a lot of it doesn’t seem to work. Authors need to find some thread that runs through their books or promotion efforts, in order to even begin to place their book info somewhere on the web. One of those threads can be the book’s content (well, of course). One of them can simply be its price.

Places like this (http://www.trainingauthors.com/places-to-promote-99-cent-ebooks/) promote books of a certain pricing nature, but often seem to contain dead links or present places that authors can pay to have their books reviewed or listed in. What a strange world we have come to inhabit.

Some of the sites that DO function present book information in an awful, convoluted, hidden manner such that you wonder why they try at all. I can only guess that readers don’t want to drill down through pages of content to find out about a book they were not looking for in the first place.

There may well be rewards in publicizing books online, but so are there rewards in promoting in normal media, and those are clear and present.

Every author will experience different results. Slightly on a tangent, I still sell far more paperbacks of my new book than I do electronic copies (I just don’t find them interesting, and I guess I convey that pretty clearly without saying such). You can get Finishing Year in ebook format for 99 cents (for now) at http://www.amazon.com/Finishing-Year-48-year-old-university-international/dp/B00PYJZOYO/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1418062478&sr=8-1&keywords=finishing+year.

But the nifty, Moleskin-like paperback edition (which costs more but feels so cool in the hand) outsells it https://www.createspace.com/4516080.

….

On another note, I like tracking what is being written that incorporates art history. I saw another book today with a bit of my angle in it: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23164913-how-to-be-both.

A spoonful of art history

Adoration_cover_Jun18.indd

I recently found fellow Vancouver Island writer Veronica Knox on the web. She is an artist who moved to the island (I left to settle in Europe). She – like me – just happens to write books that are based on her background and studies in art history. I dropped her a line, so I could prove there is someone else who thinks writing – at least in part – about art history (and in a different, interesting way) is kind of cool. You can see Veronica’s books here: http://veronicaknox.com/books/ Adoration – loving Botticelli is one of them, a paranormal love story between Sandro Botticelli and a retired art history professor who is drawn into his 1475 painting, The Adoration of the Magi. Synopsis: a retired woman in 2014 embarks on a journey of sublime intimacy as a thirty-five year old, transported to Italy’s fifteenth-century after experiencing a supernatural connection with Sandro Botticelli’s self-portrait in this modern version of a feminine Dante in search of her star-crossed beloved. Veronica has posted the opening of the book as a sample, here:  https://adorationthenovel.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/adoration_excerpt.pdf I’m just saying: if you like museums and art and great background stories from the world and the times that created the masterpiece of the ages, you can’t go wrong with a book that has art history as a main ingredient. Veronica adds imagination and elements of the supernatural to premise what happens when people interact with famous (and often, missing) works of art. What stories could they tell? I interviewed her to find out: Are you from the island? I was born in England, brought to Canada when my parents emigrated, and lived in Alberta until after high school. I attended an art school in England, age seventeen, where I was coerced into taking graphic design and dissuaded from fine arts. I returned to Canada (Alberta) and worked in television (graphic design at CBC in Edmonton and CKVU Vancouver, and eventually art director of CITV Edmonton) as well as several local advertising agencies (graphic design). Many years later (after a career in graphic design) I flaunted my past and entered the University of Alberta as a ‘mature’ student and completed a Fine Arts degree in oil painting with classical studies and art history as minor subjects. How did you first get interested or involved in art history?  Studying art history textbooks and continually coming across the words ‘now lost.’ So, my characters tend to find them (the lost works) with supernatural assistance, ie: lucid dreaming, reincarnation (sort of) and time travel. Sounds bizarre, but it’s the only way I can travel and unravel the past and have fun. When did you first write a book?  Second Lisa, the fanciful biography of the ‘Mona Lisa’ (Leonardo’s kid sister), took three years to write although I began in 2006. It was published in 2011 and broken it into a trilogy in 2012. Did you write any books before print-on-demand? No. I joined the self-publishing throng even though I found an agent. We parted company after a year of non-communication. If an agent doesn’t bother to connect once in a while or read subsequent novels in the same genre, the rapport isn’t there. Who do you listen to in terms of getting publishing insight? Donald Maass and a few other authors of writing books. On Writing by Stephen King is great. Nathan Bransford’s new book How to Write a Novel is brilliant, as is Les Edgerton’s Hooked. How do you go about publicizing your books? I’m still working on that. Any day now… Is book writing and publishing and marketing a sideline for you, or is it a central focus? Or do you work at something else? Writing is my fulltime business. I am also a freelance editor. What do you think is the best part of the process (the writing, the publishing, the contact with readers, or something else)? Definitely, the writing. More specifically, the final draft. Writing a sentence one can’t improve upon is a thrill, and the more one writes, the more that happens. Is there anything else you would like to add on this blog post?  Just to say thank you. It’s a small club we art history enthusiasts belong to which is sad because there are so many stories in paintings and the lives of artists. I hope you will allow me to ask you some questions for my own blog. Veronica Knox’s books and paintings can be discovered at: http://www.veronicaknox.com Veronica Knox

Who are you?

There are a lot of Bryce Finley’s in the world these days. I use my full name on anything official (thanks 9/11) and even on Facebook now, to make sure you are getting the real deal when you need me. If you search for Bryce Finley on the Internet, though, you get all sorts of quasi/pseudo/beginner Bryce Finley’s. The same happens when you view the images. Almost none of those people are me. That has to stop. In order to bring back the balance, I need to post a pic or two of myself once in a while, so the search crawlers can go out and get them and display them under my own name, gosh darn it. Oh, and I’m not a student anymore, so they need to look a teensy weensy bit like a grown up. That explains the cardigan, and it’s warm.

CV photo 3

Bookselling weirdness

As much as I love selling my new book Finishing Year on Amazon and other online retailers, the only place I hope anyone ever buys the paperback copy of it is at Amazon division Createspace. There, https://www.createspace.com/4516080, they pay me nearly two times as much as when they sell it on one of their many Amazon sites around the world.

How can that be? Who knows, but it works. I guess when someone goes to buy my book at Createspace, it is because they have been sent there or stumbled upon the listing, but when Amazon sells one, they feel it is as a result of their marketing exposure.

I really don’t know, but if you want to read about my adventures of finishing my first university degree at age 48 by being an exchange student overseas, I only hope you’ll pick it up at Createspace’s eStore, at https://www.createspace.com/4516080.

Mayne Island writers a tough act to follow

Being from Mayne Island, and being a writer, is getting to be a hard act to follow. Better said, it has been for a while. There are many writers from my British Columbia island home, but I never really noticed them until Vancouverite David Scearce (and some-time Mayne Island weekender) got noticed for adapting the screenplay for the Tom Ford film A Single Man from Christopher Ishwerwood’s book. He has since adapted at least one other book into a screenplay. Of course, it will be a movie.

You can read about his story here: http://www.straight.com/movies/vancouverite-david-scearce-succeeds-single-man-screenplay. Wikipedia also has some info on him.

And now a few other things have happened: Vancouver-to-Mayne-Island transplantee Grant Buday has written a book I could have just stayed home to write, instead of hauling myself off halfway around the globe to study art history in Europe (and write the resulting book about it). But, he wrote it instead.

It is a slim volume (at 80 pages) but just an excerpt from it makes me miss my island home. You can read about it here: http://www.newstarbooks.com/book.php?book_id=1554200571. And here: http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/08/05/open-book-stranger-on-a-strange-island-by-grant-buday/.

And now Mayne Island cottager and Victoria resident Arleen Paré has won the Governor General’s Award for poetry. Originally from Montreal, she now spends some time on Mayne and says she will also spend some of her GG prize money buying a heat pump for her cottage.

Besides the fact I think the GG award prize should be a much higher dollar figure, at least it will help her keep warm if she visits the island this winter. Read about her plans here: http://finearts.uvic.ca/blog/?p=4510.

Who shall lead us?

Back when I wrote my first books, I used American Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book for advice on how to publish, promote, and sell books. It was the most solid work out there and perhaps one of very few available (at that time).

There are now newer versions of the book, and I got the latest one, but it was disappointing. Publishing has really moved along in all those years, and I don’t feel the book has kept pace. The problem is, I feel like I need to find a new, near-perfect source of publishing advice, like Dan Poynter was (he really was) and now, there are way too many people wanting to be the next Dan Poynter.

I just don’t know how to judge these books from the outside, and there are far too many to have a closer look at. The authors (often) don’t seem particularly well-suited to writing about publishing (whereas, if you remember Dan Poynter, you will recall he was pretty darn successful at publishing and selling books and probably still is).

The new gurus usually write books, sell a few, then (much too soon in their careers) write a book about how to publish YOUR own book. Their book about how to publish YOUR book invariably sells far more copies than their actual ‘writings’. Their blogs and websites aren’t so much about their ‘writings’ as they are about their handbook for publishing YOUR book.

Not that this is all bad (well, it isn’t all terrible, anyway), it has just produced (like so much self-publishing has) a slew of books on the market. Now the topic is crowded and polluted, and there is a lot of junk floating around.

So I am wondering, who do you turn to when you are looking for advice about how to publish in today’s world?