The Mets: Three straight shutouts

Shutting the Phils out three straight times was remarkable. I understand the Mets also did that in 1969. Now we're going on the road, including a quick coast trip for the Padres.

A sportscaster asked the Mets' manager, "Don't you think everything is coming together right now?"
He answered: "We got good pitching." I agree.

The Mets' new knuckleballer (when have they ever had a knuckleballer?) presents an unusual enigma, even for the Mets: if he's really any good, why was he in the minors? On the other hand, 35 isn't old for a knuckleballer; he could have ten good years.


The Mets: Winning Streak #2:

Here it is late May, and the Mets are winning again, looking really solid. Ha. Here are four excellent interpretations of what the Mets are up to:
  • Their new Pitching lineup is going to work; they’ve got it together.
  • Statistical Fluke; random fluctuation.
  • When the manager seems about to lose his job, the Mets win a few. (What a terrible reason to keep the manager.)
  • Yawn; a winning streak at home.

    Time will tell, but I think this is just another short, impressive winning streak.

    By the way, the Mets’ new catcher, Barajas, was a terrible batter before he joined the Mets. He has posted great stats in home runs and RBIs. Perhaps we should credit the Mets’ batting coach.
  • 5/23/10

    Raven: No Word of Mouth yet:

    I would dearly like to get to the point where there my book sells a little, even when I do nothing to publicize it. Such sales could be the result of lucky web searching, but I will assume they are word-of-mouth sales. Recommendations. Yes!

    But not yet. After a very busy week in which I managed to do no publicity at all, guess what? No sales. Or to put it another way:

    'No deed' goes punished.


    And now, I have published Electronically:

    I spent days editing the text of Raven’s gift to make it suitable for electronic text versions (for computer conversion to Kindle, iPhone, Palm, etc). I submitted my book to Smashwords, an eText publisher. Their website has an extensive manual about formatting a book for eText. (In essence, they tell you how to REMOVE almost all your formatting, to avoid the vagaries of eText readers, and to allow your text to flow down the tiny screens.) They accepted my formatting, and wow, people are downloading my book. Smashwords publishes in many formats: Epub (Nook, etc.) , Mobi (Kindle, etc.), PDF, RTF, FLR, Palm Doc, and plain text. I’m hoping to get my text accepted into the Apple world as well. There’s yet another approval process for that.

    Each step I take just leads to more steps. I need to read up on how Smashwords distributes their books. And they have yet another marketing guide that will tell me more ways to publicize my novel. And of course, I must update my own Raven’s Gift website to point to the new electronic versions.

    Here is Raven’s Gift at Smashwords.

    And here is my Author Page at Smashwords.


    Mets: Fire the manager??

    The Mets are playing like a team whose manager has to be fired. This may not be the manager’s fault. But it is so obviously the case, that I expect to see a new manager soon.

    The Mets are not playing the way that – I’m sure – the manager wants them to. They are not battling hard all the time to make up for their weaknesses. Even if their many mental lapses come from trying too hard, those lapses suggest a lack of concentration. The manager does not want his batters to keep flying out on the first pitch of an at-bat. There must be a tremendous desire to buckle down, to play hard and win coming from the manager. But the Mets aren’t getting it.

    This is all a shame, because the Met’s bedrock problem is the way the team was built before the season. If they had started the season as a very powerful team, then the failure of a few key players would have left them a still powerful team. Instead, they began the season as a team that would be impressive if everything fell into place. Everything hardly ever falls into place, and the Mets are rickety. Hard to watch, too.


    How I Did It: Part Two: The Aftermath.

    Now that I know how to use CreateSpace, I am thinking of other things I can publish. Doing these books in the conventional manner would wear me out, but I think they will self-publish easily. Neither is a money-maker, but I want to get them out there:

    My grandmother’s charming memoir of growing up in Manhattan in the 1880’s.

    My own idea for a self-help book, a dynamite idea that makes, sadly, a very short read.


    Status of the Mets (May 12, 2010):

    As the Mets fight for first place, let’s remember that they had another losing road trip. Road trips are going to define their abilities this year. I’m not worried about Mike Pelfrey. I expect him to be a good (but not near-perfect) pitcher.

    Forget Beltran. When he does finally return, he will be older, less powerful, and soon injured again. It’s a shame.

    David Wright has remembered that he does not have to swing for the fences on the first two pitches. He even had a good hitting streak. Eventually, he’ll be fine. Geez, I hope so.

    At first, I thought that Johan Santana was hiding an injury. Or maybe, he had adopted a bad habit that was weakening his pitches. But the Mets have decided he was “tipping” his pitches. You could tell whether he was about to throw a fastball or a changeup. That’s really bad, since the goal of these pitches is to upset the batter’s timing. I’m not sure that this is the entire Johan story, though. It appears that he always tipped these pitches; he has just gotten more obvious about it. I worry that his fastball is too easy to hit because he has lost some ball motion, and there is still a bad pitching habit to be found, to restore his ability.

    Ike Davis is going to be something! Unless...unless...the league figures him out. Some rookies die in the dust once a pitcher finds his batting weakness, and word gets around.


    How I Did It: Part Two: More on the Cover.

    My fine artist, Mary K. Dolan, refused to read my book. She just wanted me to describe a scene to paint, and give her enough background info so that she could paint accurately. You might say that I should have taken that as a warning flag, and walked away. An artist who wouldn’t read my book!

    In fact, I doubt I will ever allow that again. But I decided to do it her way, and the results were unexpectedly good. I had to explain the scene, and my main characters, in depth, in ways I had never thought of. I had to answer artist’s questions about how my people and things looked, and these were questions whose visual impact was far deeper than anything in my imagination. I learned something about how twelve-year-old girls look different from adults, something that fired my imagination. So it all worked out.

    For my second novel, I am going to make my artist (whoever it is) read the book. And for a different reason. Once again, I wrote the book without thinking up a scene that belongs on the front cover. But I did go through the book, looking for a scene that would be good. And here’s what I said to myself, about eight times altogether: Wow, that would make a great scene, but I don’t think it can be painted....Wow, (etc.)
    The bottom line is very simple. A good artist will know how to draw at least one of these fine scenes. The artist has to read my book and chose. That’s all there is to it.

    If Mary Dolan paints my second front cover, that’s all I’ll ask of her. I plan to do a simpler spline, and I now know how to do the back cover, and how to fit the full cover together. My first book needed a map, but I plan to do the second book without a map. That way, I’ll ask less of my artist, and – I hope – I’ll pay less for the art.

    My third novel already has a scene that is paintable, and I know it will make a good front cover. Whew!


    Self-Publishing: How I Did it: Part one.

    Believe it or not, people – writers especially – ask me, how did you self publish? Here’s the barebones answer. It’s important to bear in mind that we each face this task with some partial understanding and some terrifying ignorance. The problem is to bridge a solution over our weakest skills. Everyone’s experience will be different, and your ideal company to self-publish with may not be the same as mine. Check them out!

    I published through CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon.com . They offer many alternatives in self-publishing, and I will only mention a few of them.

    My greatest ignorance was how to do a cover. I knew that somehow I was going to send them a pdf file consisting of one digital image that would, in some vague sense, be “just right.” I set out to find a digital artist who could illustrate my book and set the cover up in digital form, since obviously, I could not. Instead, I found a wonderful artist who painted (as in oil on canvas) my front cover, map, and the background for the back cover. She also advised me regarding the entire cover, and forced me (because this was not her thing) to learn how to deal with that digitized cover on my own.

    The artist was my greatest expense, because I spun her wheels in my ignorance. For my next book, I will ask much less of my artist, and spend less. There were other remarkable advantages to working with a local artist who asked good questions. I’ll return to this in a separate posting.

    You can find artists inexpensively on the web, and you may be able to get an entire digital cover done for around $100. One good place to look is the DeviantArt artist community. Look for something you like and email the artist about fees. Alternatively, look for book covers you like on the web, and email the author if you can’t find the artist. Fees will range from very high to low, so don’t get discouraged.

    CreateSpace offers many options for covers. You can use one of their templates and add little more than the book’s name and your name; or you can do just the front cover, etc. I opted to provide a full cover. For a book that is 9” high and 6” wide, the cover is 9.25” high (you can’t predict exactly where the edge of the book will cut your picture). The width is 6” plus 6” (for the back cover) plus that 1/4” slop, PLUS the width of the book in pages and cover. (CreateSpace will help you calculate that width.) You then need to figure these widths in pixels (at 300 per inch, usually) to lay out your cover correctly.elf-Publishing: How I Did it: Part one.

    By the way, as soon as you start reading the CreateSpace web pages and requirements, you’ll see that there’s some complexity, and there’s room for you to err. But fear not! They provided me with excellent customer support. They even pulled my book back from full publication when I “published” an early proof by mistake.

    I made my final digitized art by taking my artwork to Staples. The cost was nothing (less than $7), but I had to prayerfully trust two young men to be gentle with the canvas and do a good job, because I was not allowed to examine the result in the store. (But it was good.)
    I used a free program, Paint.net, to lay out the digitized full cover. It took me three proofs to get everything lined up right. One hard part was getting exactly the right pixels on the book’s spline (the part you see when it’s in a bookshelf.) One of my text edits added eight pages to the total, and I had to recalculate the spline’s width in pixels. Meanwhile, my artist helped me with two corrections, of types she expected as part of the deal: she moved one element of the picture so that it would fall in the front cover instead of being partly cut off; and she adjusted a false-color problem: her method of shadowing a lightning-stroke with oils produced an incorrect greenish white in the first digitization.

    The back cover of a paperback should have a picture of the author. I lucked out here by taking a remarkably useful pic of myself, in my back yard. Otherwise I would have imposed on a skilful friend, or even paid for a digital portrait of myself.

    The back cover usually has a short, striking quote from the book. I never thought about that while writing the book! I was lucky to find one without much trouble. In my future novels, I will make sure to write a phrase I want on the back cover.

    The back cover requires a rectangular space where the ISBN will go. I had to plan my layout, knowing where CreateSpace would slap this rectangle on top of my backcover design. It wasn’t hard.

    How did I select the scene to go on the front cover? I know now that one ought to plan this in advance. When writing, imagine a scene that will belong on the front cover! I didn’t plan for that either, but I easily thought of a scene I could ask the artist to paint. (For my second novel, it will be much harder to find the right scene. I’ll speak of this in my next post.)

    Each time I had a good cover, I used other free programs to turn my jpeg image into a pdf file as required by CreateSpace. (They have webpages to explain their requirements.) Then I was ready to upload my pdf cover. (You upload the cover, and the book’s contents, separately.)

    I “joined” CreateSpace. They have an optional fee per book, which was $49. If you pay this fee, your other CreateSpace costs (including the costs per proof and per selling book) are lowered. I would pay this fee unless I was using CreateSpace only for a few rare proofs. This fee was crucial in keeping my list price down.

    You have to decide what your list price will be, and you can change your mind. It has to be high enough to cover CreateSpace’s costs. It has to be a bit higher than that, if you want your book to be for sale in the routine way that independent book publishers and schools and libraries order. It may have to be a lot higher than that if you want to cover costs quickly and make a profit. My own goal is to get readers, not to make money, so I set my list price at $14.98. Here are the implications of that price, considering the shipping cost to where I live:
    I earn $3 per sale on Amazon.com . I will cover all my costs if, somehow, I sell hundreds of books, and if publicity is cheap. (In comparison, over 1,700 people are listening to my book at the PodioBooks Website.)
    I earn about $7 for books I sell in person. (These are books the author buys direct from CreateSpace and sells to friends, or at book-signings.)
    I bought 25 copies direct from CreateSpace. If I sell half and give half away, I will cover their cost.
    I will earn $0.01 for each book that a library or school orders from CreateSpace. (I told you, I want readers.)

    When the cover was settled, I proofed the hell out of four proof copies. I did not want to proofread too fast, in order to catch mistakes. This process took about four months. It’s a cycle: Approve the proof, wait for the book to be shipped to you; read carefully; correct carefully; proof your corrections; upload the new text; and start over.

    My proofreading was driven by a simple, demanding goal: I wanted my book to be as free of errors as the carefully edited books you can still buy from some publishers. The greatest lack a self-published author has is the lack of professional editing. (Today, many published books still do not get good editing.) I was amazed, as I made my corrections, to see that I was also finding tiny logical errors in my story, so the proofing was very valuable. As I said, it took MONTHS, but the resulting quality was worth it.

    When you think the book is right, you make a pdf of it and upload that to CreateSpace. It’s very important to understand what that means: I made an exact image of what I wanted the book to look like, and then I pdf’d it. The printed book looks exactly like my Open Office Writer file, including fonts, margins, pagination, bolding ... everything.

    I paid about $11 for each proof copy. You won’t do this very often, and you can think of it as the equivalent of a few boxes of cookies. CreateSpace offers very expensive overnight shipping. I always took the least expensive shipping cost, and never waited more than a week for my proof.

    Eventually, I was happy with both the cover and the text. I approved for publication, and in about three days, the book was on Amazon. Now I have to publicize it, as best I can. I will be writing about publicity in a few months, but here’s one bit of advice: Every time a person says they will buy your book when you publish it, add their name and email address to your notify-on-publication file.

    Here are my remaining self-publication costs:
    You will need a website for your books. I pay godaddy and 1And1.com . I use Kompozer (a free program) to write my website. The next cost is very important: you are going to GIVE some copies away: to friends, and to potential reviewers, etc. Bear this in mind when setting the list price.
    CreateSpace seems to have a $5 yearly fee to keep your book up. They waived the fee for their authors in 2010. I got my ISBN from CreateSpace. I can’t remember paying for it; it might have been free.
    I expect to pay some money to do publicity. I will certainly have to invest my time. More about that in a few months.


    Why did I write a long novel?

    I was proud to write a long novel. I believe I got a good pace going, and I hope that I created a world that readers will be sad to leave. So that’s good, right? My next novel is likely to be equally long, unless I come to my senses.

    My first misgivings about writing so much came while I was recording the (free) Audio version. If the book had been half as long, it would have taken months less to record.

    Then there was the painstaking proofreading, to get the book really accurate and consistent. I made almost 400 edits to several proofs. I reproofed my changes to make sure they didn’t introduce new errors. And – I’m sure you’re way ahead of me by now – each of those proofreadings could have taken half the time, if the book was half as long.

    Then the book was published! I ordered 25 copies so that I would have a few handy to sell, and more to give away for publicity purposes. The box came to my door: I couldn’t lift it. I slowly emptied its contents onto my piano.

    Last night when I walked to my writers group meeting, I took a few copies along in case anyone wanted to buy one. Every step of the way, I wished the book had been half as long. Pages aren’t free! They have weight!


    I'm Worried, because I watched too closely:

    I can easily check how many copies of Raven's Gift have been sold. I've got to break the habit of checking daily. Someone emailed me that they were excited to hear about the novel, and they've bought it! Only my sales total didn't change that day. I fear they've bought some other book by mistake, and by the time they get that straightened out, they won't care any more.


    Publicity for Raven’s Gift: I’m not jumping in big.

    I’ve been discussing how to publicize my novel with friends – please add your suggestions to the comments here – and I’ve been getting a lot of ideas about how to expand in a fairly big way. I’m starting very small, emailing people that I know are interested, and posting a few notices about publication. I think I’m right not to jump on my friends’ larger ideas too fast. Here’s why:

    First, I have no timetable. I’m not trying to catch a wave. My book isn’t about vampires, so it doesn’t have to get notice during the vampire book craze. And I’m not trying to support myself; I just want to reach readers.

    Second, I have to understand what I’m doing. I will get experience from every effort to publicize my book, and as a result, I may be ready to do and say the right things when I’m reaching for a larger audience.

    Small first steps, why not?


    What should we do with David Wright (Mets)?

    David Wright ought to be the Met’s great, feared, clutch power hitter, but he isn’t. He’s a streak hitter with occasional, awful slumps, so maybe there’s nothing wrong with him right now, but he looks like something’s wrong. There are too many atbats where he takes mighty swings at the first pitches, gets right to that 0-2 count, and then he really starts to bat. Wright is a great, great two-strike pitcher, but it’s risky to battle the pitcher with two strikes. Any time his judgment doesn’t quite match the umpire, that’s strike three. As I see it, the problem is Wright trying, on those early pitches, to knock the fences down. Here’s how to make him calm down and bat from the first pitch:

    Make David Wright bat leadoff for ten games. That’s right, leadoff. His power won’t be very useful there, but if his job is to get on base, he’ll do it. And he’ll fix his overswing at the same time. Then let him pound the ball.

    Working Independently:

    I am a “publishing” author, but not a “published” one. I still have the feeling that nothing compares to getting your book accepted by a genuine publishing company, a company that then takes the lead in getting one’s book cleaned up, ready for publication, shipped and publicized. I also know that the great days of author-coddling are over. Unless you’re a very successful author, you may have to kow-tow to your publisher a lot; you may have to let the publisher rename your book; and you may get little editing and hardly publicity. Getting published means that money comes to you. Maybe not a lot, but the costs of publishing are not yours.

    I took the other route. I spent some money on an artist, on the cost of proofs, and on copies I can cart around and sell on my own. (I do expect most of the sales to occur at Raven’s Gift, Amazon.com. Considering the sales possibilities and my expenses, it’s reasonable to say that writing is my hobby.

    Now that we’ve gotten the downers out of the way, let’s look at the positives. I made the book the way I wanted. Its future is under my control. I can publicize it any way I think of, at whatever pace I make time for. I’m an independent.

    That’s the key phrase: I’m an independent. That phrase explains why, when I tell fellow writers that I’m self-publishing, they just don’t seem to get it.

    My actual career lay in writing software. For many years I worked for other companies as a full-time employee. But then I was forced to work for myself, to be independent. The second day of my independent programing career, I discovered how incredibly wonderful it was. When you’re independent, your career is much more in your own hands, much less dependent on the judgment and timing of others. But I couldn’t see how wonderful that was until it was thrust on me.

    When I was a full-time programmer employee, I had a friend who went independent. He had a lot of trouble getting started, and in the long run he only built up a small (profitable) business. He used to tell me that if I ever had a taste of independence, I would never look back. And I just used to stare at him in total incomprehension.

    It’s hard to understand how satisfying it can be to upend the world order, to go against the grain of “how it has always been.” I don’t know what my sales will be, but they could be dreadful in any case. I’ll have fun seeing what I can do. The novel is my baby, and: I’m an independent.

    (I can’t resist adding a few numbers to this blog item: Book sales since April 29, 2010: 2; chapter downloads of the audio version of the novel: 48,000. Somebody out there knows me.)

    tag: Robinson!

    When you publish a book, you can publish some tags with it, to help people find it. I supplied some obvious tags like 'Raven' and 'nose', but it never occurred to me to tag the book: 'robinson'. It's probably too late now.

    My interesting challenge is how to tell people to search for the book on Amazon.com. They will not find it if they search for my name, mis-spelling it Robinson instead of Robison. That's because I didn't 'tag' the book 'Robinson'. (Or maybe it's because I failed to take my mother's advice. She told me to change my name to Robinson.)

    Not so good, those Mets:

    My plan this season was to really concentrate, get into ML baseball, and root for those Mets even if they stunk. When they were 4 and 8, it looked like I was being put to just the test I intended. And then they had that home stand, 9 and 1. They vaulted into first place, and it looks like I’m rooting for a winner.

    I know better.

    The Mets have had great homestands before, when they weren’t very good. They’ve had great winning streaks in bad seasons. What made this streak so great was relief pitching that was impossibly good – it won’t keep up – and excellent starting pitching – it won’t keep up – and some stellar hitting – it won’t keep up.

    The Mets have 2.5 starters, and to be a great team they need four or five. The real relief staff may be good; we’ll see, when they show up. The batting order is a collection of near-stars and journey men; not the batting order that terrifies good teams.

    In order to be a fine team, the Mets have to win on the road. Before the current roadtrip started, I expected them to have a rocky time. They have split two with the Phillies. It’s going to be an interesting road trip. Let’s think about whether the Mets are any good, after they’ve played 48 games.

    Got to brush up on my handwriting:

    When I sell a copy of Raven's Gift at Amazon, I earn three dollars. But if I meet you in person and sell you a copy I just happen to have with me, I earn seven. But there's a catch: you're likely to want me to write something in the book.

    My handwriting is beyond terrible. For years, nobody has had to read it. I stopped caring that I couldn't even read my own handwriting. But just imagine the embarrassment if I write a short message in your copy of the book, and it looks like I couldn't even spell your name write.

    Got to brush up.


    I must.

    What Th'?

    This is my other blog. Normally, I comment away at precision-Blogging. But I decided to park my observations on publicizing my fantasy novel, Raven's Gift, and my comments on baseball, over here. I'm a deeply astute observer of both topics, so I hope you'll stay around for a good read. This blog is not set up yet, but let's get some words in it before we tinker with its style.