Podcast: Bailey’s Writing Tips ep.48 – John J Hohn guest blogs

Mixed episode 48 of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast went live today, Sunday 19th February. In episode 47 I’d read out a couple of guest blog posts on eBooks from Paul Hurst; this podcast featured two posts from John J Hohn on the topics of story editing and publishing.

Story editing – originally posted on 13th November 2011.

Writers Are the Market for the Publish on Demand Industry – originally posted on 15th January 2012.

A Midwesterner by birth, John J. Hohn claims Yankton, South Dakota as his hometown. He graduated from high school there in 1957. After four years earning a degree in English at St. John’s University (MN), he became a teacher. His first wife, Elaine Finfrock, also of Yankton, and he had five children; four sons and a daughter. They divorced in 1977.

In 1964, John joined The Travelers in Minneapolis, MN and began a 40-year career in the financial services industry. During that time, in addition to The Travelers, he held positions with Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Minnesota, Wilson Learning Corporation, and Wachovia Bank and Trust. Hohn retired at the end of 2007 after 17 years as a Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch in Winston-Salem, NC.

In 1986, he married Melinda Folger McLeod and gained a stepson. Currently, the couple divides their time each year between a cabin near West Jefferson, NC and a cottage in Southport, NC. In addition to writing, Hohn enjoys golf, music, and reading history. He has already begun work on his second novel, a sequel to Deadly Portfolio: A Killing Hedge Funds. As yet no title has been announced for the new book.

John’s website is http://www.jjhohn.com. You can also read John’s guest blog re. poetry, interview and poem.

If you have any feedback or areas you’d like covered in the hints & tips podcasts, do email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com. In the meantime, thank you for downloading or clicking on this podcast and I look forward to bringing you the next episode next week which will be three Flash Fiction Fridays short stories.

The podcast is available via iTunesGoogle’s FeedburnerPodbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

Guest post: ‘Writers Are the Market for the Publish on Demand Industry’ by John J Hohn

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of self-publishing is brought to you by multi-genre author, guest blogger (twice)interviewee and poet John J Hohn.

Writers Are the Market for the Publish on Demand Industry

163, 036 self-published titles were launched onto the market in the United States in 2010, an increase of almost 260% from 2006, according to Browker who track trends in publishing. Nearly the same number was published in Great Britain. Amazon lists 3,000,000 plus titles available for sale. 288,355 new titles and editions were published in the United States in 2009.

Self-publishing makes it possible for anyone to break into print. Agents and editors at one time controlled who was admitted into the ranks of the published and only writers who brought either great talent or great ideas (if not both) were considered. Once a writer’s work was accepted, rounds of rewrites followed before the final draft was approved. Agents and editors are still their desks, but writers by the thousands stride right past them into an arena where they are fair game for printers, publishers, publicists, reviewers, web site designers, seminar moderators, consultants, how-to gurus software merchants, graphic artists, layout specialists and who knows what else. Writers, not the reading public, have become the market for the publish-on-demand industry. There is blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

The first thing the unpublished writer must do is back out of the word-processing program and slow down. Finishing a book is exciting but the eagerness fanned into impatience is dangerous. The minute writers finish a manuscript, like it or not, they become business owners. They need to get quickly up to speed on running a small business. Bad decisions waste precious time and capital, and can be a drag on the creative spirit.

Bringing a product to market involves several critical steps, not the least of which is quality control. Publishers who print on demand do not proof read manuscripts. They don’t even read them. Any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage will pass directly into the finished product only be cited by reviewers to the author’s embarrassment. Catching copy edit errors is the job of a good proofreader, a professional, and yes, they charge for their services, sometimes as much as $.02 a word or more. A 90,000-word novel can cost $1,800—more than the cost to print the book.

There is little point in subjecting a manuscript to a proofreader if a story editor has not read the manuscript. Story editing is a specialty. A good editor will look for the chronology of events in a story, the credibility behind what occurs, the thoroughness of character development, and may extend a critique to include writing style, dialogue, and descriptions. Story editors are expensive. Good editors charge more and have plenty of work on their desks to complete.

Publishers may provide both proofreading and story editing service for an additional charge. The fees, however, may not be the most competitive. It pays to shop around. Publishers also often offer layout and cover design services. Again, it may pay to shop to at least substantiate that a competitive price is being offered.

Once a book is produced, the hard work of promoting it begins. Many publishers, often for an additional fee, will send copies out to reviewers with established internet sites—like Norm Golden’s BookPleasurese. Reviews do not necessarily sell books, but it is far better to have them published, especially on Amazon, than not. Some reviewers, including venerable Kirkus, now charge for reviews. Writers need to decide whether the expense is worth it.

As for distributors, John Kremer writes, “Most distributors… aren’t likely to take on distribution of a single POD (printed-on-demand) book. POD does not lend itself to distribution via distributors, except in the case of backlist books that are being kept in print only via POD.”  POD publishers may list several well-known names in the distribution field such as Ingram and Baker and Taylor, but it is window dressing. Distributors of good standing offer larger retailers the privilege of returning volumes that do not sell. POD books are not returnable under most of the programs of this type. One publisher, Outskirts Press, charges writers $499 per year so that retailers can return books. The writer who pays the fee can kiss the money good-bye because retailers will not carry POD books as a matter of policy. Placing a call to a retailer in search of a POD book meets with the reply that it is not in stock but can be ordered. The records that the retailer has available on computer designate the book as POD which automatically means that no return privilege is extended—even though the author has paid the publisher a fee to make it available.

It is the author’s job to get books on bookstore shelves, either on consignment or the rare storeowner will buy volumes at a wholesale price. Consignment agreements, the most popular format, usually split sale proceeds on 60/40—60% to the author and 40% to the storeowner. Most bookstores are eager to help a local author on consignment. They typically will have a consignment agreement under the counter ready for signature and willing take on four to six volumes, often with the suggestion that the author schedule book-signing in the store.

The economics of self-publishing are daunting. In shopping for a publisher, authors need to keep any eye out for profitability. Several cost factors need to be considered. The most critical is the price the publisher charges the author, especially if the author wants to sell most of the books online. The second important consideration is the price at which the book will be offered to the buying public. Writers should work with a worst-case scenario. Only a handful of POD books each year will sell more than a few hundred copies. The majority will sell less than 200, which means that most writers will fall far short of recovering expenses. However tempting it may be, it is a mistake to think in the thousands because it will lead to overspending on expenses.

Writers may choose to sell books personally to family and friends because the margin is higher when they do. Other costs are involved, however. The author pays to have books shipped from the publisher, perhaps as much as $.90 per volume. If the author is mailing books out to buyers, those shipping costs also become part of the overhead.  In the United States, the lowest rate for media mail at the time of this writing was $2.78 and the cost of a padded shipping envelope somewhere in the neighborhood of $.70. If a writer is traveling to place books on consignment with dealers or appear at signings, the going rate is $.40 per mile according to the IRS. In short, unless a writer hits the jackpot, he or she is working for less than minimum wage.

This posting, because of space considerations, touches lightly on the issues for the writer in self-publishing. More information is available online and writers, especially those who are just entering into the field, are urged to research the topics introduced here more thoroughly on line. LinkedIn is home to several groups for writers that routinely address issues for the beginner. John Kremer has a free web site that is a wonderful forum for writers to share experiences. Prededitors is a web site that provides background on publishers and editors. It is a critical site to visit before hiring anyone for any task in the publishing process. There are no easy paths. Shortcuts lead to disappointment and heartache. Good luck.

Thank you again, John, this is brilliant! I’d always welcome a part two (and three… and four… :))

John

John J. Hohn is the author of two five-star literary mysteries, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, 2011 and a sequel, Breached, 2014. As I Was Passing By, a collection of poems, was published in 2000. His prize-winning poetry appears frequently on his web site along with articles on a variety of subjects. He plans to publish a book of selected works later in 2017.

BreachedHe contributes to various web sites dedicated to writing and publishing. His own website, www.jjhohn.com, features articles on a wide range of topics including book and drama reviews, autobiographical sketches, financial planning, and civil rights.

Born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota, USA, John graduated from St. John’s University in 1961 with a degree in English.

He is the father of four sons and a daughter, a stepfather to a son, and has resided in North Carolina since 1978.

He and his wife Melinda divide their time each year between their home in Winston-Salem, NC and a cabin near West Jefferson, NC.

You can also read John’s guest blog 1, guest blog 2interview and poem.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with prolific thriller (and vampire!) novelist Stephen Leather – the two hundred and fiftieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Post-weekend Poetry 003: ‘For She is Younger’ by John J Hohn

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the third poem in this new weekly series. This week’s piece is entitled ‘For She is Younger’ by John J Hohn, inspired by personal experience.

For She is Younger

I am as strong today,
As you will ever know me—
My stride resolute, as I encircle
Whatever I can of joy;
And wise, more gentle I may become
As you watch me glide
Down the inexorable corridor
That dims into fragility,
Until confusion mounts my high bed
And invades the flesh as vigor ebbs.

And for my turn,
I will see you rise
To your expanse of years;
In the rigor women know,
A generation bred and nurtured,
Care overtaking early morning hours—
The hollyhocks beside the Saturday door—
Late afternoon ripening
Into hurried dinner rituals.

Things being as they are,
Those honored rings of yours
Will clink one day
Against my stone.
Though not my choosing,
I won’t be gleaning
Among the abundant rows
Of your autumn years.
 

Thank you so much John.

John

John J. Hohn is the author of two five-star literary mysteries, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, 2011 and a sequel, Breached, 2014. As I Was Passing By, a collection of poems, was published in 2000. His prize-winning poetry appears frequently on his web site along with articles on a variety of subjects. He plans to publish a book of selected works later in 2017.

BreachedHe contributes to various web sites dedicated to writing and publishing. His own website, www.jjhohn.com, features articles on a wide range of topics including book and drama reviews, autobiographical sketches, financial planning, and civil rights.

Born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota, USA, John graduated from St. John’s University in 1961 with a degree in English.

He is the father of four sons and a daughter, a stepfather to a son, and has resided in North Carolina since 1978.

He and his wife Melinda divide their time each year between their home in Winston-Salem, NC and a cabin near West Jefferson, NC.

You can also read John guest blog 1, guest blog 2 and interview.

If you’d like to submit your poem (40 lines max) for consideration for Post-weekend Poetry take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with historical romance Grace Elliot – the two hundred and thirty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: ‘Contemporary Poetry 101’ by John J Hohn

I’m delighted to welcome back John J Hohn who brings us tonight’s topic of contemporary poetry.

Contemporary Poetry 101

At one time, in order for a composition to be considered poetry, it needed to be rhymed and presented with a consistent cadence. Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Wood on a Snowy Evening” is a fine example.

                  Whose woods these are I think I know,
                  His house is in the village though,
                  He will not see me stopping here,
                  To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Frost’s revered poem is accessible, a quality often lacking in contemporary poets. Contrast Frost’s verse with Dylan Thomas’s wonderful reverie, “Fernhill”.

             And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
               In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
                Before the children green and golden
                   Follow him out of grace.

         Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
         Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
            In the moon that is always rising

Paraphrasing Frost’s poem is easy.

I know the guy who owns these woods. He lives in town so he can’t see me stopping here to watch the snow falling into his woods. 

Paraphrasing Thomas’s work is a bit more difficult. But attempting it might yield something like the following:

When I was a young boy playing around the farmhouse and fields near it, I didn’t realize that I was growing older and moving on toward adulthood. I didn’t know that process could not be stopped no matter how delightfully I was spending my days. The days of childhood are limited and all children eventually must bid them farewell. When that happens, life becomes less carefree. It happens in a way that is very gentle but nevertheless delivers all of the young ones to the busy, sometimes frantic world of adult life where the moon still shines as a reminder as it did in childhood.

Frost spends three lines out of the twenty talking about the man who owns the woods, and yet for all that, the man is not mentioned again. Thomas packs more meaning into each line, but in doing so, become less accessible to the average reader. Further, Thomas repeats the theme of a carefree and innocent boyhood several times in words and phrases like “my sky blue trades,” “so few and such morning songs,” “children green and golden,” and “lamb white days.”

In the opening line, Frost forces his syntax to meet the demands of his predetermined rhyme scheme and set iambic cadence. Thomas has a rhythm to his delivery also, but it is not an inflexible regimented pattern. The rhythm, or flow of his lines, reinforces the meaning of the words and phrases being used.

Finally, both poets use numerous poetic conventions such as alliteration, consonance, metaphor and personification. Both deal with the universal mysteries of the human condition; Frost with the inevitability of death and Thomas with the inevitability of the end of childhood. Yet the character of each man’s creation differs radically with that of the other.

The writer who wants to compose more in manner of Thomas needs to be guided by a more demanding and subtle criteria. The old guidelines have not been replaced with new. Instead, they have redefined. Rhythm is an example.

Contemporary poets will not subordinate the thrust of a line to an imposed cadence, except for Rappers who make it obvious that rhyming and iambic pentameter should have be outlawed ages ago. The rhythm in contemporary poetry supports the feeling or thought being conveyed. Thomas’s lines are languid and rolling—carefree as childhood itself. Congruency of rhythm to a line is like a drumbeat in the jungle or a strumming bass in a jazz combo. Meaning and feeling is intimated. Rhythm is the body language of the piece. The poet’s intention would be intimated even if the language of the line were foreign to the listener.

Contemporary writers will reject rhyme when it distracts from the thrust of the line. To illustrate this point, I quote a couple of lines from one of my own poems.

            Until confusion mounts my high bed,
            And invades the flesh.

Initially, the lines read:

            Until confusion mounts my high bed
            And invades the flesh from which vigor fled.

The rhyming of “fled” with “bed” created a couplet, which, while satisfying to the ear, was nevertheless inconsistent with the feeling and thought. There is nothing neat or complete about being on one’s deathbed, as a couplet would suggest. Instead there is a slow physical deterioration, and often a terrible wait for the family, until the end.

What sets Thomas’s work apart from the traditional is his imagery. The reader is asked to take in the meaning of “lamb white days” and “the shadow of my hand” as immediate statements with an impact that overrides cautious analysis. Thomas did not what the reader to stop and think, “Oh, yes, lambs are innocent. White is the color of purity, so he must mean that his boyhood days were pure and innocent.” He wants the impact of “lamb” to be immediate and to carry all the connotations that spring into mind. Thus wooly, dirty, braying, and warm, become associations.

Likewise, Thomas wants the reader to grasp “by the shadow of my hand” for all its richness. The impact of this wonderful line is lost if the reader resorts again to analysis. While the example of the lamb is prosaic (lambs have been symbols of innocence for centuries), the shadow of my hand is fresh with the poet. The reader who has seen the shadow of his or her own hand in the moonlight will have the memory invoked instantly and the mystery, the gentleness, and the inevitability of what is happening (for the moon makes the light not the boy), is all embedded in the phrase.

It may seem that contemporary poets are breaking all the rules. Instead, they are extending and refining them. Economy of expressing, congruent rhythm, immediacy of imagery, and word choice are as important as ever, if more subtle. The contemporary poet wants the reader to share an experience as a phenomenon, as one would react coming upon something for the first time. The initial reaction is feeling—attraction, fear, revulsion, intrigue—and it is felt before the rational process overtakes perception. The poet wants the reader to react as the poet reacted. To feel as the poet felt. Contemporary poetry induces rather than explicates. It demands more of the reader. Readers are invited to make themselves available.

Thank you (again) John, this was great!

John

John J. Hohn is the author of two five-star literary mysteries, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, 2011 and a sequel, Breached, 2014. As I Was Passing By, a collection of poems, was published in 2000. His prize-winning poetry appears frequently on his web site along with articles on a variety of subjects. He plans to publish a book of selected works later in 2017.

BreachedHe contributes to various web sites dedicated to writing and publishing. His own website, www.jjhohn.com, features articles on a wide range of topics including book and drama reviews, autobiographical sketches, financial planning, and civil rights.

Born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota, USA, John graduated from St. John’s University in 1961 with a degree in English.

He is the father of four sons and a daughter, a stepfather to a son, and has resided in North Carolina since 1978.

He and his wife Melinda divide their time each year between their home in Winston-Salem, NC and a cabin near West Jefferson, NC.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with Listen Up North’s Rachel Cochrane – the two hundred and nineteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: Story editing by John J Hohn

I’m delighted to bring you tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of editing, by novelist John J Hohn.

Story editing

Story editing is an impossible task for an author to complete alone. It requires a professional. It may be expensive to employ one, but it will pay for itself in the long run.

Writing and editing are two very separate activities—involving different parts of the brain. Don’t think about editing while you write. Don’t think about writing while you edit.

Editing begins with a good outline of the book. If an outline is too confining, write a treatment—a narrative that covers the story from beginning to end.

The treatment will pry out the technical issues that need research. Getting the research completed at this stage is very important as it may dictate a change in the plot or the manner in which a character is presented. When the treatment is complete, the writer should know where the story is going, how it will develop, and how it will end. When this point it reached, it is time to begin writing.

The story belongs in the hands of the characters. The writer needs to suspend concerns about relevance, plot line, and economy, and write as the subconscious releases ideas, descriptions, and actions to the imagination. A good writer will have a powerful imagination, one that makes full image dreaming possible without being asleep. To tap into this flow of creative juices, the editor in the author needs to back off. The author should follow every impulse. Saving time doesn’t matter. Getting back to the plot doesn’t matter. Write! Go down every avenue, street, alley, and path. Find out what awaits with each excursion. Enjoy it. The results will be surprising and exciting. They will help to fill out each character’s personality and make even the most minor character credible.

The end product should be an immense manuscript. To illustrate, Deadly Portfolio was a 167,000-word tome in first draft. It was pared down to 93,500 words when published.

Finishing a novel feels great. But a lot of work lies ahead. The first thing an author needs to do is walk away for at least a couple of weeks. That seems counter to everything a writer feels at this time, but it is mistake to ride the surge of energy that always follows on completing a book into the editing task. Defensiveness and bias will interfere with the difficult decisions that are essential in editing. Leave the manuscript alone.

Once the simmering period is over, print out the manuscript. Word-processing is great, but editing on the CRT screen is too limiting and awkward. A printed manuscript is far better. Then chart the story.

A chart is the critical path along which the events of the story take place. Chart every sidetrack taken at the point at which it enters and concludes in the story. Count the pages, if necessary, to determine how much of the reader’s time is taken up at different points along the way.

Check that events are taking place in chronological order, or if not, that the transitions are clear to the reader. Graphically, the chart will quickly demonstrate where things bog down. In Deadly Portfolio, I wanted to demonstrate how arrogance contributed to the downfall of the first murder victim. I had her best friend deliver the eulogy at the funeral. It was great fun to write—the feminist manifesto applied to an insecure, grasping woman. My chart showed me that the story was losing time between the victim’s death and the next critical event. Cut!

At another point, I wanted Matthew Wirth to express his disdain over the piety professed by a neighbor. Again, it was fun to write. But ultimately, as in the previous case, too much time was lost on the subject and very little, if anything, contributed to the plot or the depth of the characters. I found more efficient ways to portray the female victim’s arrogance in her dialogue and actions. The same held true for Matthew, an idealistic agnostic.

This trimming removes the branches of the story that block the overall shape and flow of the story. The work needs to difficult, even painful, to be good. If it helps, save a cherished segment with the thought it can be reintroduced later if needed. At least a third of the original text should be cut. Save the computer copy of the first draft. Then make the changes to create a first revision and print out copies for friends to read.

Friends can be a great help. Make it comfortable for them to be critical. Assure them that the flow of the story is most important and not individual word usage or grammar. One reader told me, for example, that she thought there was too much police interrogation of suspects. I love writing that kind of dialogue, but upon reviewing the passages, I agreed and found other ways to reveal the characters’ thinking.

Compile all of the criticism into one master printed copy and evaluate each contributor’s suggestion. Full segments may need to be cut from the first draft. Pride of authorship contaminates editing judgment. The author needs to work against it. When all the friends’ advice is weighed, decide on the changes to the script, make them, and print a second revised version.

Use the second revision to prune the text. Examine each sentence—one at a time. Decide whether it is as clear as it needs to be. As short. Perhaps a character trait can be best illustrated by a better verb choice. Demonstrating the characters’ personalities in dialogue and verb choice is more powerful than any amount of description. Make sure the text is alive with color, sound, scent, and sensations of hot, cold, moist, dry, etc. These may be a matter of style but deserve consideration at this point.

The changes this sentence-by-sentence pruning works into the manuscript is a final step. Submit a third revised manuscript to the story editor you have chosen. Your baby will be in good hands.

167,000 to 93,500 – wow, that’s some doing. I thought my 117,540 to c.105,000 was tough, and yes, I’m a print-it-out-and-hack-it-with-a-red-pen editor. Thank you John!

John

John J. Hohn is the author of two five-star literary mysteries, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing in Hedge Funds, 2011 and a sequel, Breached, 2014. As I Was Passing By, a collection of poems, was published in 2000. His prize-winning poetry appears frequently on his web site along with articles on a variety of subjects. He plans to publish a book of selected works later in 2017.

BreachedHe contributes to various web sites dedicated to writing and publishing. His own website, www.jjhohn.com, features articles on a wide range of topics including book and drama reviews, autobiographical sketches, financial planning, and civil rights.

Born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota, USA, John graduated from St. John’s University in 1961 with a degree in English.

He is the father of four sons and a daughter, a stepfather to a son, and has resided in North Carolina since 1978.

He and his wife Melinda divide their time each year between their home in Winston-Salem, NC and a cabin near West Jefferson, NC.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with historical, romance, paranormal novelist and writing guide guru Smoky Trudeau Zeidel who guest blogged for me recently – the one hundred and eighty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.