The Awkwardness of Having a Book Out There

I’ve only written one book. That makes me pretty much a novice at the whole book writing thing. So I imagine there’s a lot I still don’t know about writing and publishing.

But I know this.

It’s awesome to have published a book.

It’s also kind of awkward.

It’s great because getting a book out there is the culmination of a lot of time and effort. It’s the realization of a dream. People are happy for you. Some even like the book, and that makes you feel good. You think, I wrote one, I can write another. So you’re hopeful, positive, optimistic.

But it’s also awkward.

It’s awkward because you’re expected to sell the book. Selling things is awkward when you’re not a salesman, when you don’t own a store, when you don’t have a lot of experience at selling, when you’re not even really interested in selling, you’re just interested in writing, and not-so-secretly wish the damn thing would sell itself.

It’s awkward when you rent a table at some event and sit there for one, two, three days in a row with copies of your only book artfully arranged in front of you, trying to make it look appealing (which would be a lot easier if it were made of chocolate), trying to make eye contact with people walking by who are just as fervently trying NOT to make eye contact with you so that they don’t get roped into buying a book they don’t want. And you’re trying to strike a balance between being too nonchalant and too eager, trying not to appear too desperate, never quite getting the balance right, because let’s face it, you ARE desperate. You want to sell enough copies to at least pay for your table, to make the days you’re sitting there feel at least a tiny bit worth it.

And it’s awkward because once you do sell a few copies, you inevitably sell some to people you know. And that’s terrific because it means your colleagues are supporting you, and sometimes it’s really great because they come to you after they’ve finished the book to tell you how much they liked it. Sometimes they come to you afterward to tell you that they liked the book and ask if you wouldn’t mind a bit of constructive criticism, to which I always reply, “No,” because there isn’t actually much I can do about it now, but we laugh, because of course I’m joking (sort of) and then they give me the constructive criticism, and I really don’t mind because I’d like to make the next book even better, and I have a pretty thick skin by this point in the game.

What’s particularly awkward is the people who’ve bought the book who you see around but who kind of avoid eye contact or head in the other direction when they see you, and you’re not entirely sure why or whether you’re just imagining it. Sometimes I assume it’s because they simply haven’t got around to reading it yet, which is absolutely fine. I always tell friends when they buy the book, “You have ten years to read it, and I’m very good about extensions,” because I know what it’s like to have piles of books at your bedside, many of them written by friends. We all have enough stress in our lives that the last thing we need is people bugging us to read their books. We’ll read them when we have the time and the interest, thank you very much, a philosophy that certainly extends to any books written by me.

And then there’s that rather more exquisite awkwardness. The one you experience with those who have started your book (you know this because they told you they did), but who have never mentioned it since. And this (you suspect) is because they simply couldn’t get through it. Or worse, they did suffer their way through it, but didn’t like it, maybe even hated it. You don’t know because you’ve never actually discussed it with them. It’s never come up in conversation because they’ve always successfully avoided you, or skillfully danced around it in conversation the one time they failed to avoid you.

But that’s okay too. There’s no law that says everyone has to like your book.

Maybe they’ll like the next one.

And I would tell them that if I could ever figure out a way to bring it up that isn’t painfully awkward.

Joe News

The latest in Joe Mahoney news…

A few bits of news to share:

This coming Tuesday, Sept 25th, I’ve been invited to participate in an open mic at the Parliament Street Library branch in Toronto.

The event starts at 6:30pm and goes until 8pm

I’ll be reading from my novel A Time and a Place. It looks like I’ll have time to read up to an entire chapter. I’ll try to pick a particularly interesting one…

And if that isn’t enough to entice you, fellow writer (and editor of the newly re-launched Amazing Stories magazine) Ira Nayman will also be present. His material is very funny, so if you don’t show up for me, at least show up for him!

I do believe there’ll be some other writers present to read as well.

In other terrifically exciting news, A Time and a Place is now available for your listening pleasure on Audible.  But you know that already because of my last post.  (Two posts in one day… haven’t done that in a while!)

I should also mention that my recent interview with Christine Cowley of Storylines on Hunters Bay Radio is now available online. You can check it out here.

Probably worth mentioning as well that  my interview with Jessica Sanders of Jessie’s Coffee Shop is still available online here.

And that’s quite enough news for one day…

 

A Time and a Place Available on Audible!

Lot of work went into this puppy…

I cannot tell you how pleased, relieved and excited I am that A Time and a Place is finally available on Audible.

Those of you who have read about my adventures turning ATAAP into an audiobook know that it was a lengthy, educational experience that took a lot longer than I expected.

But now it’s done, my publisher Five Rivers is pleased with it, and Audible’s giving it prominent billing in their SF/Time Travel New Releases.

Now to see what everyone else thinks of it!

Further Thoughts on Audio Book Production

Cover Art by Jeff Minkevics
A Time and a Place

I thought I had finished the production of the audio book of A Time and a Place.

I had submitted the files to my publisher, who had forwarded them to Audible (ACX), only to have them rejected because they were less than 192 kbps. This didn’t make any sense to me as I was sure that I’d exported them from Audacity properly. When I checked the files out, though, I discovered that I’d actually accidentally exported a couple of files at 32 bit sample rate. It’s weird this only happened to a couple of files; why would the settings change for just a couple of files?

Anyway, I figured this was the problem, so I corrected those files and resubmitted them.

Audible still rejected the files.

Embarrassing.

So I went back and had another look. I thought I had the settings in Audible correct, but my mistake (well, one of my mistakes) was that I hadn’t actually checked the files themselves. This was really sloppy on my part. The reason I hadn’t checked the files themselves was because, well, I had checked the files, but I’d done so on a Mac, which doesn’t tell you the bit rate. It tells you a lot of other stuff, but not the bit rate, unless you jump through a few hoops, which I hadn’t done. I’d simply assumed that Audacity was doing what it said it was doing:

It says it’s exporting 220-280 kbps. So isn’t it? Nope!

Turns out I should have selected “Constant” Bit Rate Mode, which would have resulted in a guaranteed Bit Rate of 192 kbps.

Live and learn.

Because of this mistake, I had to re-export all my files at the correct bit rate of 192 kbps.

This meant finding the original sessions of each chapter. Doing so, I discovered another bit of sloppiness on my part: poor file management. I’d carefully saved each session using a specific naming convention, but I hadn’t paid much attention to where I saved the files, other than ensuring they were saved on a hard drive somewhere in, say, my house.

Well, at least I knew all the sessions were saved on a hard drive attached to my MacBook Pro. Fortunately, my searches usually managed to locate the required sessions. Unfortunately, they didn’t  always do so. I could not find the final sessions for about four chapters. The good news was that I was able to find and re-open at least the penultimate session for each chapter. This resulted in a bit more work than I would have liked. And I became paranoid that I wasn’t re-exporting the absolute final version of each chapter. Because of this paranoia, I decided I needed to re-listen to every second of every chapter to ensure that they were in fact the absolute final, pristine product.

This cut into the writing time of my second novel, which I usually worked on during my commute, and so was a bit of a drag, but it had to be done. Fortunately, I was able to download the files from Dropbox onto my Smartphone, which meant that I could listen just about anywhere I went. Unfortunately, this usually wound up being in rather noisy environments, which meant that I could confirm the proper pacing of the sound files, and that there were no missed edits, and what the chapters would sound like in the real world, but I couldn’t really tell if there were any little clicks or pops or mouth noise etc.

So I listened to all twenty-seven chapters this way, and during the course of this exercise discovered several chapters that weren’t quite up to snuff. In the case of some chapters, it was because I hadn’t been able to find and export the absolute final version, but in the case of other chapters it was because the absolute final versions themselves just weren’t quite up to snuff.

By “up to snuff” I mean mostly that the pacing was off. The way I had read and edited them had resulted in readings that were way too fast. My brain couldn’t keep up listening to them. They threatened to ruin the entire product. Even if listeners couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, what was irritating about the product, I was pretty sure that it would still bother them. All of these chapters needed to be re-edited. There were a few other minor issues too that I took the opportunity to correct, mostly sloppy enunciation, and some minor issues with the levels.

If I hadn’t exported the files at the wrong bit rate to begin with, I probably wouldn’t have discovered these other issues until it was too late, so I was glad about that.

Looking back, the single biggest hurdles I encountered during the production of this audiobook was the fact that I performed it myself, and did the whole thing all alone. There was nobody to tell me I was reading too fast, and I was too close to the product to realize myself where I was going wrong. I didn’t actually even clue in that there was a problem until after I’d finished recording the entire novel and completed the initial edit of the first chapter. Listening back to that initial edit, I was horrified at the pace of my read. So I re-edited the entire chapter and it was STILL too fast. It wasn’t actually until a few weeks went by and I listened to the chapter again with completely fresh ears that I was able to tell what the proper pace should be. So I edited it AGAIN and finally got it in the ballpark (I hope!).

I made the same mistake with several other chapters, thinking as I was going along that I was getting the pacing right, but again I didn’t have sufficient distance to be able to tell for sure. It was several chapters before I acquired enough experience to know to insert far more space than I thought I needed. Doing so made it  far easier on subsequent passes to edit the material correctly, tightening it up a bit.

Had I been a seasoned performer, I would have been able to get the pacing right in the performance, which would have resulted in one heck of a lot less editing.

At least one chapter (Chapter Four) was so bad that I was forced to re-record the entire chapter. But by then I had a much better idea what I was doing, resulting in a performance  that was much closer to the mark, and that required only a light edit.

Bottom line: it’s mostly about the performance. If you get the performance right, post-production becomes infinitely easier.

I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t read and record their own novels. But I am saying that if you do, have a second set of ears present—preferably, somebody who knows what they’re doing—so that they can set you straight during the recording, which will result in a whole lot less post-production time.

If you can’t have someone else present, maybe just do one section or chapter at a time. This should reduce the learning curve, and maybe by the end of the book your performance which be much closer to what it needs to be.

Still, despite having created a whole lot extra work for myself on this audiobook production, I’m fairly happy with the final product. I did not release it into the wild until I was satisfied with it. I’m also really happy to have this one under my belt. With what I know now, if I ever have to do this again, it should (theoretically!) go one heck of a lot faster.

But then, I have always been an optimist.

A Time and a Place, published by Five Rivers Publishing, is now available on Audible.

Q & A with Fellow Writer and Word Nerd Nicky Borland

My friend and fellow writer (and editor and proofreader and transcriber and discerning reader) Nicky Borland just did a Q&A with me on her blog Finding the Words,  The Q&A is mostly related to the writing of my novel A Time and a Place.  Nicky’s blog is devoted to, as she puts it, “bookworms and word nerds.” That definitely describes me!

I really appreciate Nicky taking the time to feature a Q&A with me on her blog. I hope she doesn’t mind me mentioning that she’s also working on a novel herself.  I’ve read an early draft, and it’s really good. Hopefully she will get it out into the great wide world soon so everyone can enjoy and appreciate it.

You can find the Q&A here.

« Older posts

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑