Thursday, November 29, 2012

What I’ve learned since the release of “I’m One”

I released I'm One! a few weeks ago and saw it soar up the rankings when I announced a free day promotion. Unfortunately, the surge only lasted that one day and I saw exactly one sale since. But I am also guilty of not following up the promotion with more promoting nor utilizing more free days.

One big problem that I think occurred is that I selected the wrong category. Amazon's category selection is not consistent with the way categories are treed on the main site. The first book would have been very deserving of the "Baby-3" sub-category in Children's eBooks, but that was not an option on the KDP dashboard. I am actually still trying to get Amazon to correct this problem and get that book into the right category, but since I published it and launched a free day promotion under different genres, it messed everything up.

Advice: find the categories you want to be in before publishing. Follow the instructions on the site for requesting specific categories. You have to select NON-CLASSIFIABLE and then contact Amazon to determine where you want to put it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Santa Is Coming

Pleased with the outcome of I’m One, Cecilia Potts sought out another project. She had been working on a Santa book that explores a child’s fear of the big guy in red. She brought me the idea for illustrating ideas and I said, “if you want a creepy Santa, I’m your man.” After a few test sketches, I think I came up with a perfect character design that makes Santa out to be the disturbing and miserable soul you be if you only got out one night every year...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back to editing

After a nice diversion (illustrating a children’s book), I jumped back into my review of the Seefer Elliot. It took me a few days to read it (what with all the red ink I was tattooing onto the page). I was glad to pick it up after such a long break. I was able to distance myself from the project a little. I came across sentences where I said to myself, “What the hell does that mean?” I’m sure I thought it sounded incredible when I wrote it, but it didn’t hold up well to my reader voice.

I picked up a tip somewhere that said to read out loud in a British accent when editing. I don’t know if the comment was a goof or a serious advice. Either way, I heeded it and read most of the book as if I were James Bond. I can't believe how well it worked! Wherever my horrible impression stumbled over a word, I knew that the sentence needed restructuring. Whether it was the accent or not, reading aloud is a definite advantage because it limits your ability to gloss over the words. You are responsible for every word on the page.

As I read over the manuscript, I noticed inconsistencies. In some places a character's thoughts were in italics. In others, they were in quotes. In some places, I abbreviated 7th, while in others I spelled it out as seventh. I had 93 uses for a semi-colon. Which was correct? I didn't know. I was referred to The Chicago Manual of Style for help. While verbose, this manual has just about everything you need to know about grammar, style and punctuation. It may not have been the best style-guide to use, but it a)kept me consistent, and b) was free (with a trial membership).

FYI, this blog post has a lot of good information on formatting your manuscript in preparation for a professional editor or publisher. It came in handy when setting up my Word doc's line spacing, margins, font sizes, etc.

Now I have to take the redlines and actually make the changes. Fun fun.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Published!

I'm Oneis now available on Amazon! It feels so rewarding to have something published and available for all to read. For the last few weeks, I have been relentlessly drawing the illustrations for this book. I wrapped up about a week ago and started assembling the layout of the book and the cover. In one very short month, a book came together and went public. How wonderful is self-publishing?

The marketing duties were placed in my hands, so I decided to give the book away for free for today. Through KDP Select, you can promote the book on five selected days to help get the word out. Well, that's what I did and if you are reading this, maybe you'll want to click on over and download a copy.

Because I found it difficult at times to find answers to questions about children's books, here is some info of my own I can pass along:

  • Design your book with both print and digital formats in mind. I chose an 8.5" x 8.5" layout for the print book, but eReader screens are not square. I had to be cognizant of where content lied on the page. I kept margins of 6"x 8" overlayed on my workspace in order to remind me of how things will look when cropped on Kindle. I went through 10 pages of the book before realizing this, and reformatting for the 6:8 ratio was a pain.

  • With a children's book, you will likely upload your book to Createspace as a PDF. Because of this, it is not recommended to allow CS to automatically generate your KDP version. It will royally F it up. Upload your own KDP-ready file.

  • See this reddit thread about KDP image formatting. This was the simplest and most effective template I found. Other templates would produce strange characters throughout the book or space things out oddly. His template was clean and perfect. Also, the recommendation to have images at 600x800 pixels seems to work well with all of the devices I tested it on.

  • Use KDP's mobi creator. Make a zip file containing the HTML and images, then upload it to KDP. It's free and easy. I found little need to buy a third party mobi creator.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Illustrating a Kid's Book

I finished my read-through of my Seefer Elliot novel. Before I engage myself into the re-edit, I thought it would be a good idea to distance myself from the project a little. This way I can go back to it with a fresher mind.

I was approached to illustrate a children's book about the joys of being a one-year-old. The book isn't titled yet, but it will contain many pictures drawn to four line paragraphs of rhyme. It's geared toward toddlers.

My experience drawing cartoons will come in handy. The book needs to be colorful and fetching. I'm looking for a palette rich with a few primary colors.

This is going to be the perfect project to take on because it will be using an entirely different part of my brain. After months of laboring over word selection and usage, it will be a relief to draw worthwhile pictures. I'll be sure to update on how the book is panning out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wrapping Up The First Draft

I started outlining "Seefer Elliot" in February/March by compiling a bunch of random ideas I had written on post-it notes. My goal at that time was to create a story about a child who had some type of superhuman ability. The story would be geared toward younger readers and would take place in a world they could relate to. Throughout the following months, my discombobulated notes formed into a pretty tight outline that I was able to use as a road map to write to. In June, I got started.

It has been three and a half long months, but I finally put the last period on the last page. It feels great. I hope my next effort doesn't take this long, but I guess I will now know how to budget my time better. There were days (weeks even) where I didn't write a thing. That's not good. But then there were days when I would spew out 2000 words in four hours (pretty good for me). When I wrote consistently, that's when I felt the story was at its best. It may have been a reverse cause and effect though, because the best part of the story was what got me so excited to write each day.


So what do I do now? I must go back and re-read this project and see where I fell off track with my writing and see where I did well. I'll need to be critical of my work and not be lazy about correcting it. It will be too easy to say, "I can live with that." But I need to be prepared to edit the weaknesses in the story. It sounds easy in practice, but I too many times I lived with "good enough." I don't want this book to be "good enough," I want it to be great.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Night Was Moist...

I decided to start this blog as a way to follow share/vent/chronicle my delve into writing. As an infant writer, I thought that my mistakes and (hopeful) achievements could provide people with useful information and inspiration on what to do and not to do.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Patrick Mallon (as you may have guessed from my blog’s name and url). I am a part-time artist and humorist who ran a mildly successful webcomic called Milk for Dead Hamsters between 2011 and 2012. It was a very fun time in my life making jokes and comic strips on a semi-weekly basis, but I got burned out when children came into the picture. I couldn’t keep up. Since there were only 24 hours in a day, I had to decide how to best use my time between the job that paid well, family, and the cartoons that consumed a lot of time gave back little in return. It was an incredibly hard decision, but eventually I decided that the cartoons couldn’t make the cut.

Soon after that decision came, I still had an itch to create. All of a sudden, I had too much time. When the kiddies went to bed, I had nothing to do. Yeah, TV’s nice, but you don’t come away from it with anything. I needed something to work toward.  I had always wanted to pursue a grand topic that spanned longer than just 4 comic panels. I thought about spinning off m4dh with a comic completely dedicated to Killbasa, a 6-ft tall Polish sausage who has super-powers. But then I would have just painted myself into another rut that I didn’t want to be in.

After putting some more thought into it, I came up with a story for a book that I felt I could handle slowly on my own time. The idea of not having a twice-a-week deadline was very appealing. When I had ideas, I jotted them into an outline. I used scrap paper, my laptop or cell phone. Whenever inspiration hit, I inputted the words. By June of 2012, I had a full working outline of the novel that I saw in my head. I was very proud that I developed funny, engaging and admirable characters that I could invest some time writing about going forward. I put the pen to the paper (but really, my fingers to the keys) and started writing away.

By October, the first draft was done. 60,000 words spilled out onto a Word document. That might not seem like much for the time I invested to some of the pros out there. But I used most every chance I had to complete this draft. (I’ll talk more about this book later).

After the rough draft was complete, I needed to free myself from it so I could re-read with a fresh mind. I picked up my art kit again and worked with Cecilia Potts on some stories she was working on. My experience in illustrating her books has given me some insight to the self-publishing world that will hopefully help me when it comes time to publish my book.

So that’s what I’ve done and that’s where I’m at. I made comics, I currently write and draw books. I also sunlight as an engineer, father to three and husband to one. My dream is to write and draw for a living and maybe someday this blog will be a fun read on how that came to fruition.

Now I’m going to shut up and write.