Friday, December 12, 2008

DONE!

As of right now, I have finished all the edits on my book. I have forwarded the comments to my typesetter who has already updated the proof and sent a draft back to me. This draft had a couple of errors, but the typesetter seems to be able to turn things pretty quickly.

Soooooo...

...I am almost at the point where I can announce and lock-down a firm book launch date.

Steps I need to take to finalize a date:
  1. Finalize the proof - Today
  2. Receive final, print-quality proof - 12/16/2008
  3. Get quotes & time estimates from printers - 12/19/2008
  4. Negotiate print job with one printer - 12/22/2008
  5. Get final print schedule - 12/30/2008
  6. Announce book launch date - 12/30/2008
  7. Print the book on time!
Exciting!

Of course, this is far from all I have to do to produce the final book. Beyond those tasks, I have to:
  • Get reviews for the jacket art
  • Edit the jacket art, including adding copy about me, the price, SKU, barcode, new artwork dimensions, and teaser copy
  • Make decisions about the paper stock, cover stock, and hardcover binding
  • Find a system for hidden randomly generated barcodes to work for the "Like this section?"
  • Develop the Create Your Own Story section on the Onyx Sun site (HUGE...at least two months work)
  • Update Amazon, Goodreads, and personal web site information with correct book data including final launch date.
Still, having this amount of work to finish doesn't dissuade me so much as excite me. Feels good to be making real progress at last.

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's Taking So Long???

A few people have asked me when my book is coming out, and what the heck is taking so long. While I have been pushing very hard to get my final book out quickly, I have been extremely picky the last few months with my edits. As noted previously, I made 2,500 edits before I sent the "final" manuscript to the typesetter. Then, when I got the proof back, I felt compelled to re-read the book again and I am glad I did. I found twenty more grammatical errors.

Yikes! :)

Anyway, I know even professionally produced books have errors, but since I am self-publishing the Onyx Sun, and self-published books are generally frowned upon as "low-quality", I am being a *tad* obsessive about finding and eliminating any element of my book that makes it anything less than top notch.

The good news, is I am VERY close. I have proofread 200 of the 314 pages and am able to do about 50 pages a day lately. Which means hopefully by the end of the week, I'll have this done.

I don't want to commit to a date yet for the final book launch, because I have before, and I ended up breaking those promises. So, at this point, please know I am working as fast as possible, and I remain committed to developing a quality piece of fiction first and foremost, even if that means it takes a little longer.

Thank you all for your patience! In the meantime, please check out some of the exciting new feedback I have been getting from early reviewers by mail and on Goodreads.com. The word is spreading!

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Letter Back to My Recent New Fans

So, as noted in my previous entry, "Great Letters from Recent Fans" I have gotten a bunch of letters from a 4th grade class in New York about my book. They were very considerate to write me and tell me what they thought of my book, and I thought I'd share with everyone here my appreciative response.

Mr. Titus’ Class
Sherman Elementary School
50 Author’s Avenue
Henrietta, NY 14467

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Dear Mr. Titus and class,

Wow! Thank you for your letters! I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on my book, The Incredible Origins of the Onyx Sun. I enjoyed each of your letters and shared them with my friends and family. Everyone commented on how well written each letter is and how insightful your feedback is. As an author, nothing makes me happier than hearing from readers like you. Your feedback about what you like and don’t like gives me just the insight I need to perfect the final book and to write even better sequels!

Many of you asked if the book will be made into a movie. I hope so one day! Between us, I always had George Clooney in mind when I wrote the Commander Chase character. Wouldn’t it be great to see him in an Onyx Sun movie! Professor Goodspeed, Zack, and the other characters were more a mixture of different people I know or characters I have read in other books. I even took a bit of Grandfather’s wackiness from Doctor Brown in the movie Back to the Future. Do you guys know that movie? That’s the funny thing about being an author: as you write, movies, books, and even real people you know find their way into your story. In some ways, Zack is actually me when I was about your age. I always wanted to find a spaceship hidden in my backyard. Who do you guy find interesting from books, or movies, or your own life? How would you put them in a story? What would those characters do? Would they be weird, or funny, or sad, or athletic? What unique traits would they have? The number one thing people like to read about are people that interest them. That’s why I was so happy you liked the strange, funny, adventurous characters I created!

Several of you also mentioned that you enjoyed the Mech battles. Those were fun chapters for me to write. I’m not sure where I got the idea for gigantic robots, but I know a few video games I’ve played in the past had similar robots. I took that idea and changed it to make it unique and reflect ideas I had. It’s funny when you write that often you don’t know how things will turn out as you are writing. I generally have a broad outline beforehand, but often ideas pop onto the page as I am writing! That is a fun experience because then I surprise myself and get to live the adventure too as I am creating it!

A couple of you mentioned that I should put more pictures in the book. I agree! When the final version of my book comes out this February, it will have thirty-six original drawings: one for each chapter and a special, large picture of the Citadel Spire on the title page. The final book will also have an epilogue called The Dawn of War, which previews the action coming in the sequel. So far, I have only written seventy pages of the sequel, The Wicked Adversaries of the Onyx Sun, but I spend time each day working on it. For now, I have included in this letter a sneak preview of some of the pictures that will come out this winter with the final publication of my first book. The included pages are called “folios” since they are loose drafts of the final pages of my book. Right now, I am reviewing these folios and finalizing the images and text. Since many of you seemed to enjoy the Mech battles, Moon scenes, and struggles with Machvel, I picked folios that match your interest. You can see more on my web site at www.onyxsun.com.

I notice your school is on Author’s Avenue. That seems like a quite a coincidence for a class that is clearly talented in reading and writing! I hope you enjoy the enclosed materials, and we can keep in touch about your future readings and writings. Thank you again for your wonderful letters.

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great Letters from Recent Fans

This is just wicked, as Angelina would say.

I got a package in the mail last week from a class of 4th Graders who had read my book. Apparently, one of my early reviewers forwarded my book to a friend who teaches this class. He read the entire book to his students over several sessions (impressive) and then had each write me with their thoughts.

This is the most touching gesture yet from the growing list of people who have read and enjoyed The Incredible Origins of the Onyx Sun. I especially loved the fact that they enjoyed the Mech battles and could see my book being made into a movie. One can hope!

I have included a few of their letters below. To protect their privacy, I have blanked out some of their personal information.

To the class of Sherman Elementary: if you read my blog, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Friday, November 14, 2008

Space Exploration Today...Simply Incredible


One of the Last Space Shuttle Launches from Christopher on Vimeo.

So, typically my blog posts are about writing my book, The Incredible Origins of the Onyx Sun. But tonight it's about part of what inspired my book: space travel today.

In our day-to-day lives, it's easy to overlook or even dismiss what NASA is doing. Sure they launch shuttles and build space stations, but what do we care about that during financial crises and political debates? Admittedly our travails on Earth are often too hard to worry about our next steps in space. But if you step away from your personal challenges for a moment and consider what NASA's mission represents - our future beyond Earth - it becomes immediately amazing that we live in an age when we actually can reach the stars. One day, if we maintain the broad strokes of our current path, it is a virtual certainty that some of us will live off-planet. We will have Moon bases, and space stations, and maybe even Mars bases. Think about that for a second...in the next hundred years, humans may be born on other planets or on space stations!

What we can learn from this as humanity extends its reach is incredible. These are tentative baby steps to be sure, but they can only lead to a future where man lives on other worlds even further beyond ours. Planets that are perhaps just as habitable as ours. How then will financial crises look or political debates when there are multiple planets to consider. Surely, things will be more complex, but what we learn in that process may solve many of our current dilemmas. For instance, would the world be falling into recession right now if more of our planet was dedicated to shipping goods off world to Earth colonies that can't produce everything themselves? Would oil be so expensive if we were able to import it or other resources (hopefully clean-burning) from other planets? Honestly, who knows? But I do know we've always benefited as a species by having more options. Space represents literally infinite options.

In the end, I believe what we learn and gain in moving off our planet will push humanity to a new level of existence. Problems won't cease, but old problems will give way to new ones that hopefully will be more manageable than previous ones, just like our crises now pale in comparison with those of times like the Great Depresssion. Think about us now compared to cavemen. We clearly have our own problems, who complains about living in caves or not having fire to cook a meal anymore? If we hold this trajectory, space is the next logical step for the betterment of us all.

So space travel will one day help us move to a higher plane of existence and I was happy tonight to be able to be a part of experiencing it. I watched NASA launch STS-126 from Cape Canaveral at 7:55 PM during one of the last night launches of the Shuttle's last 10 total launches.

It was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Sadly, the humidity in the air made the video blurry, but in-person I can tell you honestly few things have touched me as deeply. And while I couldn't phrase then what I felt, I couldn't deny the significance of the moment as waves of shivers overcame me during the final countdown and launch of the next phase of our off-world explorations. This is the pinnacle of our achievement as a species. A climactic expression of our political stability, economic and technological prowess, and courage as a people.

It is partly this inspiring vision of our future that led me to write the first book of the Onyx Sun, and I already can't wait to watch future generations take up the mantle and make it a reality for us all.

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Monday, September 15, 2008

Editing Book Proofs

I got my first sample of what the book will look like from my typesetter last Friday. Exciting! It's amazing to see all the components of the book come together. At last, what has been in my mind is on paper for me to see and hold.

I included a couple of images below to show you how it's coming along. I have some feedback scrawled in the margins for the things that need to change, but this should give you the rough effect.



Kalamazoo!





Christopher

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Files Are Off To The Typesetter!

Well...FINALLY! My edits to The Incredible Origins of the Onyx Sun, Book 1 of the Onyx Sun series, are finally complete.

I finished the final edits late tonight to my 12th revision to my first book. (Whew.)

So, given the typesetter said it would take about three weeks to typeset, my files should be ready for the printer by September 29, 2008.

If that date holds, and my printer's estimation of 8 weeks for printing is correct, that would put my final published book date at November 24, 2008. Right before the Christmas holiday! Excellent.

It's amazing to feel an over three year journey come to an end. It's even more amazing...no...exciting to know now I can embark on promoting the book and working on the sequel!

Kalamazoo!





Christopher

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Three Years...

Today roughly marks (since I don't remember the exact date I wrote the first word) three years of working on my first novel, The Incredible Origins of the Onyx Sun. What an amazing journey it's been. From writing the first word in Cambridge, MA...

...to finishing the first 80,000-word draft in Palo Alto, CA...
...to nine rounds of edits...
...to soliciting eleven agents...
...to the months of waiting for responses...
...to Writers House initial interest...
...to ultimate rejection by WH and the ten other agents...
...to deciding to self-publish to prove the market demand for my book...
...to working with Rudy on the initial cover drafts and character sketches...
...to copyrighting my book...
...to getting a SKU...
...to listing my book in Bowker's Books-in-Print...
...to finding my first typesetter...
...to letting my first typesetter go after an unacceptable end deliverable...
...to finding another typesetter...
...to soliciting fifteen printers in the US...
...to narrowing the list to three and negotiating a lower price between them...
...to picking one and excitedly waiting six weeks for my advance review books...
...to losing my cool when one of the printing machines broke...
...to learning not to ever lose my cool...
...to receiving 1,000 advance review books late at night in a friend's garage...
...to beginning the onerous but rewarding process of finding 500 reviewers to read and review my book...
...to the months of sending out over 500 books...
...to receiving feedback from hundreds of readers, young and old...
...to receiving some glowing feedback on my book ranging from "One of my favorite books besides Lord of the Rings"...
...to an entire 4th Grade Class's favorable review...
...to pre-orders of fifteen books for one reader (a teacher) alone...
...to integrating this feedback into three additional full edits of the entire book...
...to realizing the Onyx Sun is the only book I've ever read twelve times...
...to also realizing I don't mind editing that much when it makes my book better...
...to working with Rudy to craft 36 new images for the inside of the book (one for each chapter and a few at the start)...
...to also working with Rudy to design the web site imagery...
...to days spent coding the entire web site myself...
...to writing a new epilogue exclusive to the final hardcover...
...to working with my advance review book typesetter to typeset the final hardcover...
...to watching my book return to me in final digital form with all the proper typesetting, SKU numbers, and images, ready for printing...
...to re-soliciting quotes from nine printers this time...
...to evaluating their responses...
...to now.

Clearly, it has been a long journey from that first word to now, where I stand on the threshold of printing my final book. Much remains...

...to finish the dynamic sections of the site...
...to finalize a printer...
...to adjust the cover to fit the new dustjacket...
...to wait two months for the printed books....
...to create marketing collateral and press releases and...
...to line up speaking engagements while I wait for the books...
...to spread the Onyx Sun as far as possible...
...to use this popularity to sign a publisher/agent and...
...to grow the Onyx Sun universe through at least four more books!

I am as excited for the road ahead as I am proud of the path behind me. This is one of the longest but most personally rewarding projects I've ever worked on. It just gets harder from here as I invest more time, money, and faith in the potential popularity of my book, but the all the positive early feedback I've received is pushing me forward. In many ways, the arduousness of this journey is solidifying my focus and passion as each milestone conquered make each future one seem more attainable.

On to a wider audience and the expansion of the Onyx Sun universe!

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Are We There Yet? Revised Book Launch Date

PLEASE NOTE. NEW BOOK LAUNCH DATE:
NOVEMBER 2008


Well, unfortunately, I have to push back the publication date of my book one more time. See, when I published my advance review books, I found a few grammatical mistakes, which is common in advance releases. However, as I went through the book picking out the bad syntactical apples, I found myself editing the rest of the prose.

All of it. 80,000 words over 265 pages.

I pruned extra sentences. I honed dialog. I tightened each phrase.

With an average of 10 sentences changed per page, that's over 2,500 edits! Yikes. I've included a picture of one example page above.

The upshot of this arduous task is that while my book should have been at the typesetter and printer, it was in my hands being tweaked one final time. Normally, were my writing a full-time pursuit, I would have finished this in under a week. But with a full-time job that has recently included trips to Japan and Korea, I have averaged more like 10 pages every other day. Hence, my two-month delay.

I apologize to everyone who has been waiting anxiously for the final hardcover books to release! I do promise the story of the first Onyx Sun book will be much better as a result of my efforts. In the meantime, I have included a couple more chapter sketches from inside the hardcover to appease your appetite.

For now, I am not committing to a specific day for the hardcover launch, because that will depend on the time frames I get from typesetter and printer (two different companies) in the coming weeks. However, I can say I am shooting for November.

If you just can't wait for the book to release and would like me to read for your classroom or book group, or would just like a copy of one of the advance review books, please feel free to email me on this page:

http://www.onyxsun.com/contact.html

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Onyx Sun Web Site

Well, I have finished the second of my three weekly goals for my working-vacation: publish a new and complete Onyx Sun web site.

Check it out at: www.onyxsun.com

Overall, I am pretty happy with the site. I have plans to add a lot more features, but since finishing my book has to be my priority right now, this site will do. I'll have more time later to update it while I wait for my typesetter and printer to finish their respective jobs (about two months of work when I can be doing other things). This site is a marked step up from the last site, which I never had time to finish and had more dead links than Larry King has guests.

Of course, the feature of the site I am most excited to develop is the "Create Your Own Onyx Sun Story" section. I've gotten a lot of great feedback from teachers, parents, and kids that this is the section they are most looking forward to. So, for my readers checking my site to find out when that feature is coming, please know I'll be working on it right after my final edits are done (hopefully this week) and should have more to report soon!

Kalamazoo!





Christopher

Monday, June 9, 2008

My First Work Vacation

I am doing today something I never thought I'd do:

I am working on vacation.

True enough. I am. I'm sitting at a San Francisco cafe down the street from my house, working on the Never-ending Book Edits. I'm sixty pages into the twelfth revision of my manuscript. Only 120 more Word pages to go.

Usually I am the guy who shuns people who work on vacation. My friends who bring Blackberries on our trip Greece..."A plague upon their white-washed house!" in the form of bad reception, I say. If you want to work, work. If you want to play, play. You accomplish neither by trying to do both. I once read that people who run with their cell phones generate fewer endorphins than those who don't. See. There's proof your body wants you to soak up your time off.

So, why am I working on vacation? Actually, I am on vacation SO I can work. This dual-life thing of putting 50-60 hours in at Second Life then working on my manuscript nights and weekends has been taking its toll. So, I took some time I've accrued (I've only taken one vacation in the last three years) and put it toward a week to myself and my book.

And I gotta tell ya, although it's no Santorini, sitting here with my coffee, my words, and the early morning mist is relaxing in its own right. The only way I can justify this time off though, when I could be visiting lands unknown, is if I deliver the goods at the end. So, this week, I have three goals:
  1. Finish the Never-ending Book Edits so I can send my manuscript and the interior artwork off to my typesetter.
  2. Finish building the marketing (non-database driven) pages of the Onyx Sun web site.
  3. (If I have time) Do all the miscellaneous tasks I've been putting off, like mailing out more of my books, contacting more potential reviewers, and updating the Pariah Publishing email newsletter list.
So, off I go!

Kalamazoo!





Christopher

Monday, May 19, 2008

Round Three: Letters to Editors and Agents

Well, it is with conflicting emotions I have decided to embark on a third round of submitting my manuscript to agents and editors. I'm conflicted because on one hand I have really enjoyed the self-publishing process, as arduous as it has been. On the other hand, having an agent or editor could really take my book to the next level.

I have learned a ton from the process of getting my own ISBN, registering my book on Amazon, promoting it with children, networking with teachers, hiring and managing a designer, working with a typesetter, etc. In many ways, I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of my own labor when the hardcover is produced. I imagine it has to be rewarding to see people react to my book, exactly as I want it to be, knowing I was engaged in every stage of the process.

Still, if there is one thing I have learned from self-publishing, it is that it's a lonely, expensive, up-hill battle to get people's attention. I think the Onyx Sun has had a positive response so far. Heck, just the GoodReads page alone makes me proud. But there's no denying an established agent or editor could scale my efforts to a level I may never be able to. That's the benefit of working within the industry, even if you have to give up a decent amount of control.

I'm probably getting a little ahead of myself. Just because I am submitting my manuscript to a new battery of people doesn't mean it will be accepted. I can always evaluate taking on an editor/agent if the opportunity presents itself. And honestly, if it doesn't, self-publishing has had enough of its own rewards to keep me pushing.

Kalamazoo!




Christopher

Friday, May 2, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Revised Hardcover Launch Date

The launch date of my book is moving back a little from May 2, 2008 to August 2, 2008 for some exciting reasons:

My illustrator, Rudy Hall, has agreed to include 35 more illustrations inside the final version of The Incredible Origins of the Onyx Sun. I can't tell you how excited I am to include more of Rudy's amazing artwork inside my book! Rudy will create one thumbnail sketch for the beginning of each chapter and one cover page for the inside of the book, all depicting more of Zack's adventures with his friends. I have included a sneak preview of his latest work here. I hope you enjoy! The wait will be worth it!

I am also adding an epilogue to the story that will only appear in the debut publication of the hardcover. For the first time readers will have the chance to learn more about what happens at the end of the story, and get a preview of what's to come in the sequel, The Wicked Adversaries of the Onyx Sun!

You can pre-order the book during the wait on Amazon. Also, for anyone who can't wait, I have a few advance review paperbacks I am happy to send people for free in exchange for a review on Amazon or GoodReads! The review copies don't have the epilogue or the interior illustrations and do have a few grammatical errors like typical pre-publication review copies. However, the story is almost exactly the same for anyone excited about getting into the world of the Onyx Sun right away. So far, in fact, I've had over 300 people read and review the book! Just contact me if you'd like me to send you, your child, student, or friend a complimentary copy!

And look for my book on retailer shelves and on Amazon Wednesday, August 2!

Kalamazoo!



Christopher

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

300 Review Copies Shipped!

Today, I crossed the 300 review copies shipped mark. There are now officially over 300 reviewers, friends, family, teachers, students, retirees, and industry press people with copies of my book in their hands.

I've already started to see some buzz growing on the Onyx Sun Goodreads page, where I am encouraging people to go until Amazon unlocks the review feature for my book. Since the copy of my book that is out is "pre-publication" (i.e. designed for reviewers, not general consumption...yet), Amazon will wait until my final, hardcover book comes out before they allow people to review my book on their site.

Thanks to everyone who had contributed so far! It is exciting to see so many positive comments on Goodreads! It's great to know you're all enjoying the book. It encourages me to send more review copies out!

Kalamazoo!



Christopher