Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Supporting Our Craft

Do you support the craft of writing? 

Recently I attended a writer’s conference where an agent suggested a writer should buy books. Buy books for birthdays and anniversaries, for special occasions and for pleasure or research. Buy books for the fun of it or to read to your children. She said we should walk into a bookstore and purchase the several-hundred-page vestiges…ones you can hold in your hand…that have pages you can actually turn. She and the other agents and authors on the panel hinted that we should avoid the new Kindles and ban the ease and cost-saving effectiveness of Amazon and other online bookstores. “Bookstores are closing all over the country and that should strike fear in all writers’ hearts,” they said. I left the conference concerned for the future of our industry and feeling a little guilty for patronizing such establishments. 

Should writers fret over the redirection of buying entertainment? Should we run out and purchase half the bookstore and frown at our children for investing in the newest technology? Could the wave of automated purchasing in our bathrobe and slippers be just as lucrative for a writer as buying books in a bookstore? People still have to buy the downloads they read on their Kindles, right? They still have to purchase the online copies they have sent to their homes. Unfortunately, there are more disadvantages to a writer in the impending wave of book buying than one would expect.

E-Book Publishing:
Sell self-published books. More and more authors these days are gravitating to the self publishing market. All a writer needs to do is create a website, format and pre-publish the book, and then put it up on his website, right? Well, that’s not all this form of publishing requires. If a writer desires to present a quality product, he’d have to hire an editor, a cover designer, and then spend a certain amount to market his book. Do you know how to format a website? If not, add the cost of a website designer and a person to maintain the site. Pay Pal also requires a fee to collect the money. 

Sell through one of the booksellers such as Amazon: In this method you would have to pay the costs of producing the digital book as well as pay the bookseller for storing and selling your book. The bookseller will then pay only once per month whatever is left over…that is, only if you've sold enough.

Sell through a traditional publisher: the third method of publishing a digital book is through a traditional publisher. A publisher assumes most of the risks and the costs of publication therefore rewards its efforts with a greater percentage of the proceeds. A writer would receive an advance on his royalties and then a small amount for each book the publisher sold. 

Online Dangers:
What about the Library e-book checkout programs? This is an online check-out program similar to purchasing a book from Amazon.com. However, the reader can check out the book they want to read, minus the charge. What does the author get from that? Zilch, Zero. Nada.  The UK has it right. They passed the Public Lending Rights Act  mandating that authors receive a royalty every time someone checks their book out of a public library. 

Then there’s piracy and the numerous ways the public can read an author’s work online without paying for the privilege. Considering the hours and blood it takes to right a book, I have to ask, does this seem fair to you?  Maybe instead of fighting the inevitable, authors should spend their energy finding ways to make online purchasing more advantageous or invoke online protection and penalties for unlawful access. Weaknesses in any system can be turned around for the benefit of all. At least I like to think so. 

The payment process is far more complicated than I have explained here, but you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. Buying books at a bookstore far exceeds the benefits of buying them online. And either we accept the way the trend is headed or we can change that process and find a way to make it work for us.  

Call me a dinosaur; I’ll still buy books from the bookstore. A Kindle isn’t research-friendly, and I like the feel of turning pages, the smoothness of a paperback, not hard plastic, nudging the side of my nose when I wake up in the morning and discover I lost consciousness sometime during the night. And I don’t like the inconvenience of having to recharge devices. A book is self-contained, easy to store. Besides, purchasing books supports my craft and that has to be a good thing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What a Character Looks Like

Writers not only have to think of ways to make their characters’ personalities come alive on the page, but they also have to devise a look that will help the reader envision them. In my last post I described the four basic personality types I learned in a company that trained me as a color analyst. As promised, I will now describe what these four personalities tend to look like. Hair color is less an exact science than eye color and skin tone due to a variety of hair dyes on the market, but unadulterated, hair color will tend to have specific characteristics among the four personality groups.

People who express themselves have a light tawny complexion or a suntanned look with yellow undertones. Their cheeks turn rosy following exertion or embarrassment. Some in this category have pale skin, but they often have a yellowish cast to their complexion. Eye color is clear and usually blue, blue-green, grey or grey-green. If you look closely, these may even have mustard color surrounding the iris. Brown eyes are rare in this group. People who express themselves can have any hair color, but red heads may possess a bit of sandiness and blondes may have a taffy-colored appearance.

Overall look: These people look radiant and alive.

People who analyze possess a skin tone that is cool with rose undertones. Some may possess an opaque whiteness or an olive complexion with a blue cast under the skin. Eye color can be any color, but usually not green. Often those with brown eyes have eye color almost black brown in appearance. Blonde or brownette hair is possible among these people, but most in this category have brown, dark-brown to black-brown hair.

Overlook look: Icy, elegant, regal

People who are driven possess yellow undertones to their skin, however they have more gold or orange tones in their cheeks and more bronze in their overall appearance than do those in the first group above. Their eyes can be any color, however those with brown or green eyes might have gold and brown flecks. Most in this group will have gold or brown coloring around the iris. Their hair will tend to have bronze or metallic characteristics, although the hair can be any color.

Overlook look: Tawny, coppery, metallic, and dramatic

People who are amiable are often quite pale and their skin is transparent in appearance. They don’t hold a tan well. Usually their eye color is light blue, grey, grey-green or hazel. Rarely will they have brown eyes. These people tend to have light brown or blonde hair.

Overlook look: Colorless, soft and delicate, comforting

The look and character of the four personality groups, although as variable as the leaves on a tree, are more accurate than not. A study of the topic may surprise you. A person who falls under one of the four groups will possess at least 50% of the characteristics I have described above. Maybe you aren’t as detailed in character descriptions as this, but the information might provide you with some guidelines as you create believable heroes and heroines.