Archive for 30 December 2012

Shredding The History Of Old Manuscripts

Shredding Documents For RecyclingAs a teenager destined to write the next Great American Novel, I wrote for history and saved every single page (including pages I should have crumpled up and tossed into the waste basket). Generations of English majors would toil to trace my inspirations through the voluminous pages of my old manuscripts. And then the REAL WORLD™ intruded. Becoming a writer became a childish fantasy. All those old manuscripts from my teenage years were lost when I became an adult. The story ideas from that time continued to bang around in my head for years, which drove me crazy at times.

When I became serious about writing in my mid-thirties in 2006, I still wrote for history and saved every single page (except for those that I crumpled up and tossed into the wastebasket). I eventually wrote 80+ short stories, a 25,000-word novella, a 120,000-word unpublished first novel and several aborted novels. This filled out a four-drawer filing cabinet in my office and four storage boxes in the closet. I also have stacks of file folders with unfinished manuscripts on a back table in my office area.

Keeping paper manuscripts made sense back in the snail mail submission days when I had 50+ manuscripts circulating in the slush piles, spending $100 USD a month on office supplies and postage, and visiting the post office every six weeks. Drowning in paper came with the job. A successful writer would have numerous filing cabinets lining a long wall in his office.

When I stopped writing literary short stories and started writing speculative short stories in 2009, snail mail submissions gave way to email submissions. Soon I had 30+ short stories published in anthologies. Those published short stories later became ebooks. I slowly embraced the mythical paperless office as I used paper less often for editing my manuscripts.

After my father passed away from lung cancer this past May, I went through and tossed out 98.8% of his stuff. A sad reality when you consider that we go through life to accumulate stuff that our heirs will toss into the dumpster after we die. I brought a heavy-duty paper shredder to destroy his financial and medical paperwork.

I recently realized I was no longer writing for history but for business. As a small business owner, I have numerous problems with writing new content, publishing ebooks and maintaining websites that needed solutions now. Writing the next Great American Novel was no longer a practical business goal. History can sort itself out and generations of English majors can suffer without my help.

Besides, if my heirs will be tossing out 98.8% of what I owned at the end of my life, I might as well get a head start by shredding my old manuscripts. Before I shred a set of manuscripts, I made sure that I consolidated all the electronic files into my DropBox folder. I’m planning to move the file folders off the back table into the filing cabinet and destroy any working papers after a year. The mythical paperless office might become a reality in 2013.

 

A Fraudulent eBook Purchase At Smashwords

Fraudulent Credit Card Purchase At Smashwords

I get email notifications whenever someone purchases one of my ebook titles at the Smashwords website, which is less common than the sales I get from Amazon. About 99.98% of my sales on Smashwords come through the third-party premium catalog (i.e., Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and many others). I was happy to have a sale. And then I read the notification email. Five copies of my newest flash stories ebook in a single transaction. This was a fraudulent ebook purchase.

How did I know that this particular transaction was fraudulent?

All my direct sales through the Smashwords website are single-copy orders for an ebook. Although it’s possible to purchase multiple copies of a single ebook to gift to other Smashwords readers, five copies in a single transaction was irregular. Even more so when I don’t have a large enough fan base to send copies flying off the virtual shelves. If I did, such a transaction would be buried—and perhaps undetectable—in a lengthy sales report.

If you’re a Smashwords author, you have to read the site updates on a regular basis. Reports of credit card fraud appears from time to time when such activity impacts numerous writers, usually after the sales reports gets updated and prior to the quarterly payments being paid out.

Why would someone use a stolen credit card to buy ebooks? The two most common reasons are:

  • Buying single copies of numerous ebooks to post on an illegal download website for others to read for free.
  • Testing the buying limits of the stolen credit card by purchasing multiple copies of a single ebook.

After I logged into the Smashwords website and clicked on the comments link at the top of the page, I reported the transaction as being suspicious. My sales report got updated forty-eight hours later to reflect that the original transaction voided due to a fraudulent credit card payment and the $4.05 USD I earned from the sale reversed.

Traditional authors were often advised to go through their quarterly royalty statements with a fine-tooth comb and report any irregularities to their agent or publisher. Indie authors must do the same with the sales reports from the ebook retailers. Credit card fraud hurts everyone in this business.

How I Slept My Way Through Kevin Pollak’s Book Signing

Kevin Pollak At Barnes & Noble San Jose

Kevin Pollak was at Barnes & Noble for his new book, “How I Slept My Way To The Middle.” I never heard of him. According to my roommate, Pollak’s has the best impersonation of William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk. Ho-hum. Stand up comedians put me asleep. When Pollak mentioned Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger in one breath, I woke up to realize that he wasn’t only a stand up comedian.

The staff at Barnes & Noble, for whatever reason, set Pollak up on the storytelling stage inside the children department. Not the most appropriate place for an adult to read an adult book full of adult words about working in Hollywood. He did his best to hem-and-haw his way through the various cuss words as parents and children drifted in and out of hearing range. I’m sure some parents didn’t want to explain to their young ones what the letters D, F and S really meant when not brought to you by a Sesame Street character.

Pollak told several stories about working in Hollywood, including a few he read out of the book.

My favorite story was Pollak working on the set of “A Few Good Men” with Tom Cruise, who had a $500 pen from a New York City specialty store to write notes in the script. After he tried out the pen and commented how nice it was, Tom Cruise gave him a $500 pen as a present. He couldn’t use the pen since it was really nice and he might lose it. Tom Cruise sent him another $500 pen with a note to use that pen. The same pen he took out to sign the books.

A ghost writer helped Pollak write the book in a rather unorthodox way: they had 15 two-hour Skype (online video) sessions recorded that the ghost writer transcribed and printed out for him to edit into finished form. This worked will for him since he didn’t have to write anything and the transcriptions caught his storytelling voice that he uses for his stand up comedy.

The biggest surprise was to discover that Pollak was born in San Francisco, lived in San Jose as a kid, and moved down to Los Angeles. Not often do you hear about a local boy making it big down in Southern California. Despite being a local boy, only 15 people came out to the book signing. A book signing at a Barnes & Noble store in Kansas City brought out 75 people, probably because the book signing was in the front of the store and not inside the children department.

Pollak claimed he hasn’t had a REAL JOB in 20 years since he starred in “A Few Good Men” in 1992. It’s the ambition for every actor to get hired without having to audition for the part on the basis of their past work. An ambition I think every writer wants to have in regards to their work.

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