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Booktrope: The Situation So Far…

closed-door-sign-closedAs some of you may know, my publisher has decided to close its doors as of May 31, 2016. I was completely heartbroken when I received the news and have been trying to figure out how best to move forward. Of course, in all situations such as this, there were legal questions involved with whether or not our books would be allowed to move forward at all. I was happy to see that at least they had the forethought and the decency to close up shop without leaving all its authors out in the rain. That being said, there were still many logistical questions that needed to be answered as well. It seems I faired the weather better than some given that I own the rights to my cover. I had to pay out my creative team, but that’s the cost of publishing.

My biggest concern was my creative team. Laura Goodwin and Jenna Roundy have done such amazing work as my editors. I didn’t want to lose them. Fortunately, they both agreed to continue forward on the projects. I say all of this to say, I’m not bitter or angry—a bit emotional still—but I’ve realized this may have solidified my original decision to do this work on my own. I am still not sure how this will affect others on my team. April Gerard was definitely a huge supporter and great Book Manager.

My experiences with Booktrope have not been the best. Whenever a publisher is involved, decisions are made that you don’t always feel are in your best interest. Yes, the road forward will be difficult. A lot of places still don’t welcome indie authors, but my goal was never to be a rock star of the book world. I just wanted to write books people will enjoy.

So my decision is this: I’m moving forward and not looking back. SALLY SINGLETARY’S CURIOSITY will be re-published (once again) on June 1st with a new cover based on MY specifications and design. Also, on June 1st, SALLY SINGLETARY’S DISCOVERY will also be released for the first time. I really think you’ll like this book. My editor raved about it each time she did another pass. And I’m also happy to announce that SNATCHED will be released later this summer.

Just to whet your appetite and get you excited, I’m releasing all three covers right now!

Sally Singletary - Book           Sally Singletary's Discovery - Book            Snatched - Book

Aren’t they beautiful? I’m so happy with these designs! They take the best of the originals and still give it the look and feel they need.

Be looking for CONTEST information soon. For everyone you share posts with and  encourage to sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get an opportunity to win not one, but TWO signed books, a bundled set of CURIOSITY and DISCOVERY. Don’t forget to tag me in posts you share so I know how many times you’ve shared and can keep track of how many times to put your name in the drawing.

You can sign up for our email list here.

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Tools for Writing

As a teacher of students with special needs and an author, I’ve been asked a few times what tools have been useful both in the classroom and for writing in general. This post is dedicated to sharing some of the best tools and strategies that I have found for writers who struggle with the task of writing and organization. I, myself, have ADHD and it wasn’t until later in life that I began to explore medication as an option to treat it. It opened new doors for me as I never thought that I could concentrate long enough to write. Even with medication, the task of writing is difficult. Keeping scenes and story-lines can be a daunting process. Fear not, for I have found some great tools and strategies that have made me a better writer and to achieve my dream of a published novel.

First, let’s address writing in general. There are several helpful programs that can help both students and adults to produce better written compositions and manuscripts. One of the most popular used in school is the SOLO Suite software developed by the Don Johnston Company. This is the leading software for students who struggle with DyslexiaDysgraphia, and other disorders which make the task of writing difficult. The software addresses two major areas of concern for most writers with disabilities, or even those without. It provides word prediction as well as text-to-speech audio feedback that can assist students and adults who struggle with spelling, phonological processing, auditory processing, or other orthographic disabilities. The software is easy to install and easy to use. While typing it gives the composer word choices that are both phonologically sensitive as well as context bound to ensure that the most likely word the writer is going to use will appear on the list of choices. This is essential to writing. Most word prediction software uses a similar approach; and word prediction is becoming more common place on mainstream devices. In time, the use of software such as SOLO Suite may become obsolete as these features will be built in to your devices by default. Until then, this is a great solution for written compositions in the home and at school

The use of tablet computers, such as Apple’s iPad is revolutionizing the way that teachers are able to teach and the way students are able to access information. In a past post, I illustrated the way that technology is providing opportunities for kids and students like never before. It has opened the doors for kids who otherwise would have been unable to perform on a given task. Because tablets like the iPad have many accessibility features built-in, it enables students to access information in a way that is natural and effective. The iPad has text-to-speech built right into iOS. This means that you don’t need to rely on 3rd party software to access this amazing feature. Jump into the settings under “Accessibility” and you can enable text-to-speech very easily. The voice is natural sounding with realistic inflection. This keeps it from reading like a monotonous computer and provides accurate auditory feedback for students.

I have also found this to be an indispensable tool for me as a writer. After I have completed a chapter or scene, I can easily go back and read the scene on my iPad, enabling text-to-speech and it forces me to read (or at least hear) everything I’ve written in a scene. I catch far more errors this way and it allows me to focus better on my writing. Without text-to-speech, I find that I “insert” words into my writing that aren’t there only to realize later that the sentence sounded nothing like I had read it in my head.

The iPad, of course, already has built-in text prediction as well as spell-check which are also essential tools for any writer. While the text prediction on the iPad is not as accurate or helpful as SOLO Suite software, there are 3rd party applications in the App Store that provide similar benefit. Abilipad and Typ-O HD are examples of two really good writing applications on the iPad that provide very similar features to SOLO Suite.

For organization of writing it doesn’t get any better than Scrivener. This word processor was designed from the ground up to be the perfect writing tool. And as someone who has tried many many writing tools, I can assure you Scrivener is by far the best. It offers a level of customizability that you won’t find in any other software. While some of these features may be a bit on the complicated side, the average user can function with the software just fine without ever even knowing they exist. It offers an outstanding organization feature that saves oodles of time. If you’re like me and have big aspirations for creating a plan for a story only to find that your scenes have gone off in completely different directions, you’ll appreciate the ability to move scenes around easily in Scrivener. It gives you the option to view scenes as notecards that can be rearranged on a whim which will move your scenes around in your manuscript with ease! It’s incredibly helpful even for the most devout plotter. You can build your scenes as a stack of notecards or an outline, make notes about scenes and characters, color code scenes based on whatever helps you keep track of things, and even add tags to help search for things in longer manuscripts. You can copy and paste research right into your Scrivener file so that everything you need for your manuscript is right at your fingertips! I can’t say enough about how wonderful Scrivener is. My only complaint is that they have not yet released an iPad app, however, it syncs very well with Plaintext (which is how I can easily read what I’ve written).

screen-shot-2013-04-01-at-12.25.19-pmIf you haven’t figured out the beauty of document syncing between devices, this is probably the biggest benefit I have seen with the modern push into the tablet world. I find it to be a very comfortable and effective workflow to type my story on my laptop, pick up my tablet and go read over what I wrote on the couch while I listen to it using text-to-speech. This not only breaks up the monotony of sitting in a seat (or wherever you type your stories) and then reading over it in a more natural way. Reading on a small tablet is like reading over your work in a book. It’s just one of those things you’ll have to experience for yourself. There are many many tools for effective document syncing: iCloudDropboxBoxSugarsyncSkydrive, etc… The list could go on and on. There are more and more solutions, each offering their own mixture of user experiences and usefulness. The two I rely on most are Dropbox and iCloud.

Whether you are comfortable with Mac or Windows, iOS or Android, there are many options out there that can help with improving your experience or your child’s experience with writing. It can make the difference between being able to write and not for some kids with disabilities and can enhance the writing of those who do not have disabilities. It’s all about finding the right tools for you. If you have any questions or would like more knowledge about how these software options can help you, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to offer any advice I can give.

Happy Writing!!

If you have specific questions that you would like to have answered that are related to this topic, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. For more information about the author, please visit: J.M.Cataffo’s Author Website

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More Thoughts on Self-Publishing

As I move forward with my plans for my writing, I continue to contemplate about the virtues of self-publishing and what it means to me. In the past, self-publshing has always been looked at with negativity, as if those who self-publish are impatient and unwilling to follow through with the prescribed process. I challenge this position and give the following thoughts:

 

Self-Publishing is Lazy!

It has been said on many occasions that self-publishing is for those who are too lazy to go through the process of querying, that they somehow lack the drive and ambition required to go through the vetting process of traditional publishing. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only have I engaged in the querying process for nearly 6 years, I have been told by numerous agents and publishing professionals that my work is noteworthy, but they are increasingly limiting their selections due to market response. So to say that I chose Self-Publishing because I was lazy is both wrong and offensive. In fact, I find that self-publishing requires a new level of discipline that I had not experienced previously. I have had to go through the process of finding an editor, cover designer, beta readers, and other supports to ensure that the product I am putting out would appeal to readers. These are all services offered through traditional publishing and are generally included when you are contracted. In addition to this, however, is the much more difficult task of marketing, social networking, building a platform, and gaining an audience. This is the core issue that I would like to expand on in a moment. It is also something that authors are finding that they are responsible more and more even if they follow the traditional path.

The purpose of this post isn’t to argue that one path is better than the other, only to point out the misleading fallacies that some would have you believe.

Self-Published Authors are Impatient!

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Granted, some self-published authors are impatient and have released inferior products that are not fit for the paper they are printed on (assuming they are actually printed at all). Ebooks have created a unique market where anyone can publish a book. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that literally anyone can and will publish something into ebook format. Is this to say that every book released by the big publishers are pillars of perfection? Far from it. I can’t tell you how many published books that I’ve read were far worse than the random John Smith novel on Amazon. The point is that a book is a book. It’s only as good as the amount of time the author puts into it, and even then audiences will choose what they like to read. What may be a treasure trove of literary goodness to one person, may be a litany of tragic musings to another. People will judge your work based on what they like to read and their own opinions before they will care who published it. It takes an enormous amount of time to build a following whether you’re traditionally published or not. The difference is that you don’t have the resources of a big publisher to help you. You’re on your own, which means it will take longer for you to see success with your work. So to say self-publishers are impatient is an unfortunate untruth that many believe.

Self-Published Books are Crap!

I will refer to my previous statements on this one. A book is only as good as the amount of time put into it. If an author rushes a manuscript to print days after it’s been written, chances are it’s not going to be a very good novel. I’ve been working on my books for 10 years, honing my writing skills, researching my audience, finding the right fit for releases, and making sure that what I’ve written is what people want. All of this takes time. If you’re unwilling to put the time into it, then perhaps self-publishing is not the right path for you. Putting out works that are rushed and incomplete only hurts the community as a whole. Put your book aside, write another one, talk to some people, find an editor, find some beta readers who are not friends, find a cover artist, take the time necessary to make sure your book is as good as it can be before making the decision to publish.

Self-Published Authors are Defiant!

This statement amuses me the most, as though the decision to self-publish is somehow driven in vanity, that authors just simply would rather shut down the big publishers and take over the industry. Are there some who believe this? Sure. There are also people who believed that the world would end last December. Personally, my decision to self-publish was rooted in much research. The publishing industry is changing. Accept this or don’t. But if you choose to ignore the inevitable, you’re likely to get left behind. Publishers are hesitant to buy books from unknown authors because they want to hold onto as much of their profits as they can. Some would say this is unethical or an excuse for them to control the industry. They might be right, but it’s what businesses do. They’re entire purpose for being is to make money, so of course they are going to do whatever it takes to ensure their bottom line. Over and over I hear that publishers are looking for authors with a platform, writers with a following, a reason to invest in new talent. How can you prove that you have these things if you have nothing out there with which to accomplish these things. Amanda Hocking didn’t write a book and the next day became famous. She put a lot of time into her work and even then was criticized for not putting in enough. But the outcome was clear. She wasn’t chosen because she was an amazing writer, or because she had more talent than anyone else; she was chosen because she had a product that came with a following. She used her resources to prove to a publisher that she was worth the risk (even if this wasn’t a conscious decision at the time).

In Conclusion

If you’re even considering becoming a true writer, you have to understand this new market. Publishers don’t want the next J.K. Rowling; they don’t want an unknown author whose books no one cared for, at first. Her story was a fluke and one not likely to be repeated in today’s market. If you want publishers to pay attention, you’ve got to prove that you’re worth the risk. Sure, some people will still get lucky because of who they know or who reads their work. But it still boils down to the same thing it always has, you won’t get noticed if you have nothing for people to read.

That’s the bottom line of why I chose self-publishing. How can I prove to publishers and agents that I’m worth a damn if I have nothing to show for it? I need to build an audience, find a following, foster some fans; but I can’t do that if I have nothing with which to fan the flames.

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