134. The Long Road to Cyan (2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. The writing of Cyan began about the time Jandrax was published. Why it took so long is a tale for another time, or maybe never, but the mechanics of bringing it into the twenty-first century will be of interest.

I followed the rise of OCR (optical character recognition) technology as it became available, but didn’t have a functioning system until about 2008. By that time I had two novels in published form, a novella in Galaxy, and five novels in typescript. I also had two other novels which were born on the computer. About half of Cyan was still in typescript and half was digital.

OCR is wonderful. It scans in text, flyspecks, pencil corrections, stray pencil marks,  coffee stains, the shadows from clumps of white-out, the shadows of paper creases, and an assortment of self-generated fantasy marks. Afterward, you have to read the result side by side with the original and make lots of changes.

Actually, scanning dismembered paperback books and magazines is relatively accurate. When I scanned To Go Not Gently before including it in Serial, OCR only made about a dozen mistakes per page. But when it scanned old typescripts . . . well, it took months to undo the curse of the typewriter. Then I was ready for final correction and polishing before Cyan could go out into the world.

Publication in the age of Cyan (2016)

Writer’s Digest and all its daughter publications used to be the bible for authors. Now they are only a place to begin generating lists. You have to go to the publishers’ and agents’ websites for details, or you’ll be lost from the outset.

The digital age has empowered publishers and agents – to be picky. They used to be happy if you typed double-space in pica instead of elite. Now they specify, and nobody specifies the same thing. Some want Times, some want Verdana, some want Courier – or was that Courier New. Some want .rtf, some want .doc, and some want .pdf.  Some still want paper, believe it or not. If they want paper, they don’t want return postage. It’s cheaper to shred at their end and print fresh at yours.

So, let’s say magic happens. Your novel is accepted. Now things really become different from the old ways.

Early in your search for an agent or publisher you were not allowed to send attachments to your emails. That will probably change now, and you will send your ms. formatted in the manner they prefer, as an email attachment. Just like the bad old days, you can pretty much count on months of no contact. Email makes it easier for them to contact you, if they need to, but it also makes it easier for everyone else to contact them. For agents and publishers, being too busy never seems to go away.

In the old days, you would spend this time writing your next novel. That is still true, but it is also the time in which you start preparing to promote your novel when it comes out. Once upon a time you didn’t promote your own novel because you couldn’t. Now you can, so you have to.

How? I can’t fully tell you because I’m still learning, but you can find a thousand people on the internet who think they know. Be careful; some of them charge money. For me, the main thing was to start this website. It has been going for eight months now. You are reading post 134 on this blog, with even more on the sister blog Serial. That’s a day job in itself.

You can get a business page for your Facebook account. I did, but it didn’t work for me. I was already saying everything I needed to say here, so Facebook was redundant. I am getting ready to tweak my author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. I may even try Twitter, but I’m not sure. I don’t think I could clear my throat in 140 characters.

Cyan is coming out from EDGE, a Canadian publisher specializing in science fiction and fantasy, as an e-book. It has been sixteen months since it was accepted, which I understand is not a particularly long wait. Since I’m writing at the end of March, I will probably know the release date by the time this goes online.

In mid-March I got the proofread manuscript back from EDGE and had to learn a whole new set of skills. Change tracking is a function shared by Pages (the word processor I use on my Mac) and Microsoft Word (used by the business world, including publishers) which allows an editor to make changes which are tracked and identified as hers in a sidebar, and allows her to make boxed entries in which she can ask questions, make suggestions, and share concerns. As author, I can then either accept or reject her changes. I can also recognize good criticism, but rewrite a segment in my style instead of accepting her changes. I can make notes in the sidebar for her attention, especially since format changes are better made by her than me. I can even explain the reasoning behind some decisions that might seem arbitrary.

Change tracking is one more reason why these are the good old days. Thanks, Michelle at EDGE, for a great job of proofreading.

About the first of March, I received a questionnaire for the publicity department which asked for such things as an imaginary interview with me, and imaginary interview with one of the characters in the book, three blog-entry style pieces, and the story behind Cyan. They also asked for a one paragraph, a two paragraph, and a four paragraph excerpt from the book, and for a 10 word, a 25 word, and a 75 word statement that might be used for cover blurb. I also received a questionnaire on cover design which asked for a physical description of the main characters, and gave me a chance to suggest a scene for the front cover.

They are still free to make any decisions they choose, but I am hopeful. EDGE seems to want to do things right.

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