The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Posts tagged ‘disabilities’

H is for Handicap

Right off, let me acknowledge that “handicap” is an archaic and politically incorrect term unless you’re talking golf or horse racing. But I wanted to talk about my character, Liz Gearhart, who is a person with a disability. And I already did “D.”

I used to think disabilities happened to “them” until I woke up in a hospital bed with a brain injury after a brief encounter with death. While most folks would never notice the disability now, almost 10 years out, it’s still very much there. Just ask my partner about last night. I was a beast.

No, that’s not my disability. I do not turn into a monster by the light of the moon. But if I get tired, or my brain gets overstimulated, or I push myself too far (which I do way too often), I become cranky, I pull to the left when I walk, I trip, stumble, and fall, and I whine. Oh, do I whine. I also set things down in thin air, usually things filled with liquid, and I close my eyes to shut out the environment.  Not a good thing if you’re driving. And, yes, I have done this while driving. So, in the last 10 years, I’ve had to learn a lot about living with a disability.

I chose Liz’s disability because it is visible. She’s blind. I’ve had several friends over the years who were blind, deaf, paraplegic, or otherwise visibly disabled. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with them, and as a former reporter I tend to ask LOTS of questions. And, invariably, I’ve been impressed with how, well, “normal” they all are. Well, except my blind friend who once drove from Moscow, ID to Pullman, WA with a bunch of drunks yelling “A little to the left.” “A little to the right.” He justified this behavior as being sober and therefore the designated driver. He’s just crazy.

Having a disability does not suddenly make you stupid, incapable, or somehow less than. That’s hard for me to remember when I’m feeling my worst. But, despite a disabling condition, I manage to work more than full time, travel, play, preach, write, and generally enjoy life. Yes, I do sleep more than I’d wish. My brain gets tired and knocks me flat on my back.

But back to Liz. I wanted to write about a person with an acquired disability who manages to keep doing the things she’d done before, albeit modified or in a different way, and who is not some sort of fictional “Wonder Woman” with hyper senses to compensate, able to see better than sighted people. I wanted a complex, multifaceted, sometimes angry, sometimes brave, sometimes quirky, often intelligent, sometimes stupid, and mostly just plain “normal” person. Who just happens to be blind.

And I wanted to explore the reactions and feelings of the so-called “normal” woman who falls in love with her. Hence, Erik.  A strong, capable, neurotic woman who has to wrestle with her feelings for a) this particular woman and b) the fact that this particular woman is blind.

I guess it gave me a chance to explore more of my own feelings, about being disabled and about how we all treat folks with disabilities. And I’ll be exploring it even more in coming books about the duo. Stayed tuned.

Blind Leading the Blind is available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords for the low price of just $4.99.


This post brought to you by the words handful, hurricane, heart, hell hound, and heavenly. Also by the numbers….hm, are there numbers that start with “h”? Maybe in Japanese, but I can’t remember. Please advise.


E-books? So What’s In Them for the Author?

Well, lots. Now, remember from last post, I’m not talking about self-publishing. I’m not dissing it, I just think that the writing community has to build credibility for e-books by making sure that only quality e-books get published. If you can do that yourself, great. If not, maybe you should look for some help. But first, why would you want to e-publish your book?

Let me give you numerous reasons why you may want to rethink traditional publishing:

  1. Traditional publishing has controlled the gate for too long. Very few new authors get published, and if they do, very few earn out their advances.
  2. Even if you get an advance, chances are it will be miniscule. And it can be years before you see the first royalty check. If your book doesn’t get remaindered first.
  3. It takes a long time to find an agent, more time to make the rounds. If you’re lucky enough to get a contract, you’ve got a long wait until your book gets published.
  4. Then you may get 5 or 6 percent as your royalty.
  5. Unless you are the next J.K. Rowling, you’ll still have to do most if not all of your own marketing.
  6. Publishers used to be in the business of selling books to readers. Now they are in the business of selling books to bookstores. And even the mighty Powell’s, with numerous floors covering a full city block, admits that they’re making their money on tchotchkes rather than books. With fewer bookstores, and more space going to cards, journals, games, toys, and other non-book items in the ones that remain, your chances of getting on the shelves, or staying there for any length of time, are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Now, a new model of e-publishing: (Disclaimer: I am co-founder of a company that works on this model. However, we’re not taking submissions right now so I’m not soliciting books. You can follow us on Facebook at Puddletown Publishing Group if you want to know when we open the doors to submissions again. But we’re pretty busy right now so it may be awhile.)

  1. E-books are the wave of the future. Even kids are getting in on the ride, and parents and teachers support this. Kids love gadgets. If it takes a gadget to get them to read, why not?
  2. Indie e-books are inexpensive. Since our overhead is low, we pass that on to the reader. While the Big Six have set roughly $9.99 as their low price, so as not to compete too much with the much more expensive trade paper version, indie e-book publishers can set their prices much lower and still make money. When we launch in March, our books in our initial catalog will all cost around $4.99 or less. That’s one grande latte. People are more likely to buy a book for $5 than one at $10. And more likely to take a chance on a new author.
  3. Indie publishing royalties are higher. If you grant e-book rights to the Big Six, you’ll get 17.5 percent and your agent gets a cut. If you grant them to us, or folks like us, you’ll get a lot more. And here at Puddletown, our royalties go up with sales.
  4. You’ll never get remaindered. If your book doesn’t sell a kazillion copies the first month, nobody’s going to ship it back to be recycled. It will stay for sale as long as you want.
  5. E-books have an indefinite shelf life. Once it’s out there, it stays out there.
  6. Authors start making money sooner.  It takes us about two months to get a book to market. Compare that to the year or more it takes traditional dead-tree publishing.
  7. If you don’t want to give up the dream, you don’t have to. Puddletown, at least, buys e-rights and POD rights only. One of our authors is going to have her book in our March launch AND is also negotiating with a traditional publisher for the trade book rights. We’ll even give up POD rights if an author wants. But, while she’s waiting for that trade book to come out, she’ll be making money with us.
  8. We don’t lock you into an exclusive contract. Our contract is for one book, for two years. If you want to try your luck elsewhere, we’ll part friends.
  9. We know the importance of social networking to book sales, and we’ll not only help you set up your own campaign, we’ll do one for you off our platform. We have no front-, mid-, or back-list. Every book gets the same treatment. We realize that if you aren’t making sales, we’re not making money.
  10. E-book publishing is author-centric. We are in the business of making sure we all make money. Since our overhead is small and our time-frame is fast, we don’t have to wonder what’s going to be hot two years from now. Vampires hot right now? We can have that book out in a couple of months.  Alien swamp monsters the next big thing? We have an app for that.
  11. One of our authors has written a great YA book about stock car racing. The Big Six tell her it’s a great book, but they don’t see an audience. Excuse me? Ever heard of NASCAR? We’re able to target market to speedways, NASCAR fans, and others. And she’ll sell a lot of books. But the Big Six can only see the BIG books, the ones with generic appeal. So if you’re quirky, or a bit odd, your book will probably never get sold traditionally.
  12. I write lesbian mysteries with a blind protagonist. My books will be marketed to the LGBT community and the blind community. The cool thing? For only a very small investment, we’ll be able to produce books that can easily be converted for use on Braille readers and computers. And we’ll also produce a recording. How many new authors get an audiobook right out of the box?
  13. I could go on and on. But the real hurdle we have to jump is the idea that an e-book is somehow not a real book and that being e-published is just not the same. Let me disabuse you of this right now.
  14. Yes, there are vanity presses posing as e-publishers. They want your money up front. Avoid these like the gimmick they are. Puddletown, and others like us, use the same system traditional publishers use. Even my book was sent anonymously to a reader who has never met me and never heard of me. She had to approve before I went any further. (She doesn’t like one of my books…I’m going to have to do some serious rewriting if I want that one published.)
  15. Once we accept a book, we do substantive edits, copy edits, send it back for rewrites, and edit some more. Our reputation is on the line as well as our authors’. We won’t publish dreck.  And, did you notice, we still didn’t ask for any money?
  16. We also pay for your cover  and all the other aspects of design, including POD formatting if you want some print copies for your mother and the other Luddites in your life. The only cost you have to pay is for your copyright. $37. Because you want to own your own book, don’t you? And you don’t pay that to us. It goes to the government. BTW, did you notice this? Some publishers are trying to buy all your rights, including  your copyright, for exclusive rights to your sequels. That means they own your book.
  17. All we ask of our authors is that they participate in their own self-marketing, which we help them set up. They don’t have to, but that’s their loss. We don’t know their social networks and connections. If they choose not to use them, then they don’t make as many sales.
  18. Oh, and once we earn back our expenses, the royalties we pay start going up.

So do you want to spend years querying the Big Six, searching for an agent who may or may not do much to sell your book (and then takes 15 percent if it does sell), all for a measly 5 percent for a paperback or 17.5 percent for an e-book? Or do you want to publish within a short period of time and earn a whole lot more?

Your choice. And the choice of the future.

PS  We love bookstores and will be partnering with them to make sure they don’t fail. We are under no illusion that everyone will want to read books electronically. Which is why all our books have the POD option.

The Virtual Publishing House . . .

Do you have any idea how important things like the subject line in an email can become? When you’re running a full-scale publishing business by remote, you learn fast. Imagine having to reread 300 emails to find the one that discussed a contractual issue when they all have weird names like “Read this.”

We even had to come up with a way to draw attention to important time-sensitive issues. On a recent jaunt to Canada, I got one on my smart phone with a title that started “STAT.” We solved the problem (a contractual issue on one of my projects) before I crossed the border and had to shut down my phone to avoid extortion by T-Mobile. (We now use 911 as our emergency signal. The things we’ve had to decide!) I was able to check in throughout the next few days by Internet on my laptop.

This virtual office model suits our nascent publishing company. If our product is digital, just electrons floating around “out there,” why shouldn’t our office be?

Puddletown got its start in a friend’s living room, was incubated at a Willamette Writer’s group, named over the phone, and birthed at a kitchen table. We have no offices. We see each other face-to-face once a week. The rest of the time we rely on email, the occasional phone call, and social networking.

Our filing cabinet is a donation-ware software called DropBox. It works on multiple platforms (two of us are Mac users, one is still living on the dark side). Part of the fun of DropBox is we can see when others in the group move things around in the shared folders. It’s almost like having a cubicle next door. What it really does is cloud computing at its best.

The three of us are also terminally different in lifestyle. As far as I can tell, Renee stops for the day around 8 or 9 pm and is back up at some ridiculous hour. Lisa keeps later hours, but is still up in time to see morning hours. I only see morning from the dark side most days, sleeping until noon. But I work until 3 or 4 am, sometimes later. My partners know that in a real emergency, they can call and wake me up.

This is a great way to work. As I mentioned in my last post, I am disabled. Part of that disability takes the form of exhaustion. There is no way I can work a typical 8 to 5 job because I may need a three hour nap in the middle of the day. But I can put in 12 hour days (and do) if I can just sleep for awhile. Something I could never do in a “real” office job.

Virtual work has the most benefits for the disabled population as far as I can see. It allows folks like me, who otherwise would be forced onto disability, to be fully and gainfully employed at good livable wage jobs, something seldom possible in the past. This model fits varying lifestyles, varying levels of energy, and even allows us to tend to the needs of kids, grandkids, and partners.

It’s also flexible for things like travel. I was able to work via phone and computer while I was en route to Canada. In a couple of months, I may be heading off to Texas to chauffeur my oldest grandkids to school, track, football and whatever else, while my daughter recovers from a planned C-section and takes care of my newest granddaughter. Her husband, an Army pilot, is being deployed to Afghanistan 10 days after she gives birth. I can take a laptop with me and work while the older kids are at school. How cool is that?

But we are having to learn new systems, new ways of doing things. However, that seems only fitting as we’re setting a new model and a new standard in publishing all the way around.

Tag Cloud