Three exciting things…

Three exciting things happened to day regarding my books.

1.  Dan Sinclair came over again.  He’s the 17 year old (almost 18 now!) who last time arrived on a skateboard and today arrived on a scooter.  He’s a whizz with social media and has helped me redesign my website. I completely redesigned it after he left last time (LOL) but he showed me how to use wix.com as a tool and now I can do anything I want to tweak the site.  Today he tweaked it further and even added a live chat option!  We think it’s now ready to promote, and that we will do next time he comes round, next Tuesday. In the meantime try it out for yourselves: http://www.ruthiepearlman.com

2.  I met Danielle Benson from dbPR, a PR company.  She introduced me to Dan Sinclair.  I decided to “speculate to accumulate” by employing her to use various PR methods to promote my eBook site.  I know it will leave me even further in the red than I already am (£700 from paying to have my earliest books scanned in and edited using OCR software) but I’m hoping that my sales will take off like a rocket and I’ll break even and even go into profit! That would be great!

3.  My publishers, Menucha, have accepted my latest AMI serial, Disappeared to be published as a book.  The editor wants some changes.  At first I was a bit puzzled why AMI would pass things that the publishers didn’t, but they explained that books are different and have different criteria.  So I’m going to knuckle down like a lamb and do the changes.

Three nice things all book related, in one day 🙂 Let’s hope they all bear fruit and increase the reach of my eBooks! 

 

Letting Go

This morning I made a monumental decision.  This course of action had been suggested to me previously by Raphael Freeman, but I had chosen not to follow it at the time. I guess I wasn’t ready.

It took a seventeen year old guy, who arrived at my house on a skateboard, baseball cap worn backwards, by the name of Dan Sinclair, to make me take the final jump.

Dan Sinclair had been employed by me to spend two hours helping me promote my eBook sites. 

The first thing he suggested was what Raphael had suggested a couple of weeks previously. “You have to change your website. Make it more of a portal through which people will go and buy your books, instead of just a self indulgent book about you and your family.” I am paraphrasing. No 17 year old whippersnapper would dare call my old website self indulgent.  But I digress.

My old website was wordy. It was bloated, with lots of sub pages.  I had section after section of Jewish FAQ’s. As someone said “people who want to know about Judaism and our customs, can find that out on aish.com, they don’t need your website.” And certainly the page about my long-dead hamster The Podge, could die along with the deceased rodent. He shuffled off this mortal coil thirteen years ago. His memoriam has, I think, run its course.

So all in all, in the words of my ex writing teacher Hill Slavid, “murder your babies.” In other words, edit, edit, cut ruthlessly.  Make the new website all about my writing, and sparsely worded at that.

I chose Wix.com to design the new site. It has great templates and my rather rusty HTML wasn’t needed at all.  I have had a slight issue in that my long standing hosting of my domain, ruthiepearlman.com has come rather abruptly to an end, and I had to not only design a new site, but transfer the domain.  I’m still not totally sure how the new site is going to point to my domain of ruthiepearlman.com or more importantly, how I’m going to get email through my domain, but hopefully all will be sorted eventually. 

Meanwhile, Dan Sinclair worked on one template, and left, having inspired me.  I have just spent the evening working on another. I think I like it better.  Please leave your comments.  The temporary address for my new site is http://ruthie26.wix.com/ruthiepearlman2

Oh and on the topic of covers, I have redesigned several of them.  I hope you think they are more professional too!

Do covers sell the books?

It has been suggested to me that some of the new covers I put up for my ebooks, (which I freely admit were done on Amazon’s “design your own book cover”, ) scream “self published!!” and that there are some people out there who will on principle, not even click on a book that looks as if it is self published. As I am trying to generate more sales now, do you think it would be a good idea for me to get more professional looking covers designed? Discuss!

Self publishing authors; a good or a bad thing?

On my facebook author page the other day, I wrote a post about how I had abandoned my experiment of doing review swaps with other authors.  My reason for this was that I felt with some of the books I was sent, (some were amazing…)  that I couldn’t give an honest review of their work without being somewhat critical. And as this was a tit-for-tat review thing, and the other authors had given my books glowing reviews,  I was put in a difficult situation. The other authors were self-published, e-book-only authors, and as I said then: The advantage of self publishing is that anyone can now be a published author.  The disadvantage of self publishing is that everyone can now, in theory, be a published author, and therein lies the problem. There is no one to tell them, kindly or more likely harshly: “This book isn’t something we feel we could successfully sell.  Go home and work on it, or on another book, and get yourself a literary agent, before trying again .”   (Literary agents will only take you on if they feel they can sell your work, so the acquisition of an agent is, in itself, a huge step forwards.)

Self published authors have to jump through none of these hoops. They write it, they go onto Amazon, and voila! It’s up there and for sale!

I know that one of the strongest arguments FOR self publishing, is that you avoid the snooty publishing houses who really only want to publish big name authors.  And that once they finally accept your manuscript, they could mangle it to suit their own needs and could, in theory, totally change it to something you don’t recognise.

I accept that argument. I really do. It is at least partly true.  But the other side of the coin is this.  If a publisher accepts your manuscript and doesn’t ask for you to invest your own money in it, (as some publishing houses now do, it’s called Author Invested publishing and is almost indistinguishable from self publishing except sometimes they do invest SOME of their own money in your book)….but if they are putting their money where their mouth is, then you can be confident that your book is worth publishing.  And I would even go so far as to say that any edits that they may suggest, within reason, should be accepted, for now at least.  You are an unknown…they are taking a chance on you.  I had this with my first novel “Working it Out”.  The excitement and high I felt on having it accepted was like nothing I had ever felt.  You will never get that feeling if you self publish.  I had to put up with a crappy cover, and some appalling edits, yes and even some total rewrites of a paragraph here and there, by a seemingly illiterate proof reader/copy editor on their staff. You would never get that with a self published book.  All the substance of your book is 100% yours; all the bad writing cannot be blamed upon anyone else.  You can’t blame the uninspiring cover on anyone else either.  Upside/Downside.

Once you have had one or two successes with your publisher, however, you are an established author with them.  Then you can start throwing your weight around a little.  “I don’t like the covers on the first two novels. Can I have more of a say in this third book?” Or: “I want all the rewrites and edits to be approved of and written by me, not by someone in house.  I’m quite happy to be told where editing is necessary, but you are NOT to do it yourselves.”  By the time you have half a dozen successful books under your belt, you can really call the shots.  They wouldn’t dare put out a cover you don’t like, or do any edits without your express approval.

Then, my friends, you are sitting pretty.  They are shouldering all the financial responsibility; the distribution, the marketing, the advertising.  You just sit back and rake in the royalties. They may even pay you an advance.

As my publishers were all Jewish and relatively small, I never had an advance, but I did earn quite good money, and one publisher in particular had a large print advertising budget, which was gratifying to see.

And don’t assume, just because you are an Established Author, that all your books will automatically be accepted, good, bad or indifferent.  Well, maybe some really big name authors might attain this lofty level. Not me, LOL.   But because you are a “Name”, if one publisher doesn’t think this book will do well, there are plenty others who know you and like what you do, who will take the book on.

You are home and dry.

Lonely flames: Being alone on Chanukah night.

NB: This piece is only partly fiction.  I was alone on the first night of Chanukah. My husband was in the hospital.  We hope and pray for good test results.  He came home before the second night of Chanukah and is recovering at home now. If you liked my writing in this piece, check out my e-book sites on http://ow.ly/qPTxb (Amazon.co.uk) http://tinyurl.com/pxqznpf (Amazon.com)  http://ow.ly/qJNIf (Renanabooks.com for Apple and iPad) and of course http://www.ruthiepearlman.com my own website, and you can email me on ruthie@ruthiepearlman.com. Now read on…

She buys the ready-to-light Menorah kit.  She has never lit a Menorah on her own in her life before. He has always been there. Always been there. Now he is lying in that forbidding hospital, where the very smell of it is the smell of death.  She feels it contaminates her whenever she goes in there to visit him; feels she has to wash herself clean of it whenever she emerges.

They have been married a long long time; many years, and have never been apart on Chanukah before.  Once, when the children were small, he would light the Menorah, and while they sung the special Chanukah song “Ma’oz Tzur”; the liturgical poem that lists the many times God has delivered the Jewish people from their enemies; he would take the children; form a circle in the room, and dance around with them, and she too would dance with them all.  Egypt, Babylonia, Syria and Greeks alike, had all sought to destroy the Israelites, and God had protected all of them and had brought them out triumphant from all the crushing force of their enemies.

Why can’t God protect him now?  Why is he lying in that hospital bed, so weak, so wan, so drained of all the essence that had made him dance around that room so long ago?

What is so special about this  enemy?

She looks at the packaging of the ready-to-light Menorah kit.  It is baffling. She can’t understand the picture demonstrating how to put the cups full of oil, hermetically sealed, into the Menorah.  If they are sealed, how can she light them?  She takes out one of the cups, looks at it, turns it over and over in her hands trying to work out which end she should light. Thinks about getting out a packet of coloured candles from the cupboard instead.  Giving up.

How can she expect him not to give up, if she is already giving up?

She holds the little plastic cup full of olive oil, hermetically sealed,  and thinks about  that one little flagon of olive oil found in Solomon’s Temple by the victorious Maccabees; history’s freedom fighter brothers. That had been hermetically sealed too,  and was therefore suitable to light the holy Menorah.  If Judah Maccabee had managed, so can she.  And so can he learn to fight for his freedom; his freedom from that sickness and pain; his freedom to come home and be with her again.

She is not yet ready to give him up.

She makes a phone call to her daughter.  “Can you help me with this ready to light Menorah?”

“Coming round.”

In a heartbeat; in as long it would take the blood pressure machine by his bedside to tighten and loosen again in its relentless squeezing journey round his arm, her daughter is opening her back door with her key, and coming in, leading her own small daughter by the hand.

Within a second, she shows her mother that you have to remove the blue plastic lids to the cups. Then they suddenly look like normal Menorah cups of oil, their wicks reaching for the light of the match like a flower stem reaches for the sun. She puts the two cups in the Menorah; one for the Shamash, the other for the first night of Chanukah.

“Say the beracha, Mummy,” she coaxes, “we’ll answer Amen.”

Without hesitation, without even needing to consult a text, she touches the match to the wicks. They respond with the purest light, the light that only olive oil can produce. Tears blur her eyes as she recites all the blessings over the Menorah. Hasn’t she listened to him saying it for forty five years or more? Aren’t the words of the prayers engraved on her heart? She says the words as if she is forcing them to fly through the distance between her and him, for she is saying them on his behalf.

He, who is lying there, will be listening. She is sure of that. And she is sure too, that He who is above his bed, will be listening too.

Then it is time to sing the Ma’oz Tzur.

She looks hesitatingly at her daughter.  Her daughter reaches out both her hands. One to her mother, and one to the child.  The child takes her grandmother’s hand; and they form a circle of three. They dance around, singing the words of the eternal song of victory.

A small echo of the family that once danced in this house. But a powerful message to God that, like the words of the Ma’oz Tzur, the small overcame the mighty, the few defeated the many, the weak overpowered the strong.

Her prayers would defeat this enemy too. By her tears, as she dances with her daughter and granddaughter, those tears that, like the oil in the Menorah, would go straight to their Source, and He would comfort them.