Saturday, May 25, 2013
Feverish Diligent Photography eBook Authoring
"Feverishly?" He asked with a chuckle and in that all-too-common, slightly mocking tone that many teenage kids are apt to use with their friends... and parents. "I wouldn't use that word for what you're talking about."
"What word would you use?" I asked.
"Diligently," he said.
So, I've been diligently working on my new ebook, "Flash-Free Portrait Photography." I was calling it "Flash-Free Model Photography" but decided that sounds too focused on models. The book is about shooting all kinds of people for all kinds of portraits, albeit in natural light, and not just models. I want to avoid any possible confusion about the book's intent and its contents. I might even add a sub-title to make it even clearer regarding the book's contents.
Unfortunately, I've been having some gnawing doubts, some genuine insecurities about my voice, my writer's voice. Specifically, the writer's voice I was using for this new ebook. Just so you know, I can write in more than one writer's voice. I'm like a writing impressionist or ventriloquist or whatever that would be. Sort of, at least. Anyway, I sent off some of the book's freshly written text to a friend, another photographer and ebook author, and asked what he thought. Specifically, regarding the "voice" I've been using to author the book.
My friend wrote back. Here's what he said: "I sometimes struggle with my writing voice too. While I think it's important to be yourself in your writing, it's also important to write in such a way as to make it easy on the reader and their expectations for a text. This is an instructional text, so there might be a little less room for humor, lengthy asides, or sentences that look like they're transcribed from actual speaking. I'm not saying that most of your writing sample here is like that, but there are hints of it and some phrasing that would be easier to hear than to read."
That's what I like about having friends and associates who are honest and straight-up with their answers and opinions. What my friend said has now motivated me to go back and re-write everything I've written so far. While I don't particularly relish doing so, his words validated what I was already feeling, thinking, and fearing: That I had veered off course, style and format wise. In the end, before its release, I likely would have altered the book's current tone, style, and format, hopefully for the better, but not after going through a lot of writer's angst. (Not to mention re-writes and re-writes and re-writes.)
Bottom line, my friend likely saved me from what could have been a fairly lengthy (lengthier) process of settling on a style and format that better serves the contents of this book as well as its future readers. Writing can be lonely. It's just you, your brain, the keyboard and the screen. I have a cat who is my near constant side-kick while I'm at my computer. Unfortunately, she's not a very good editor or writing critic. I sometimes ask her what she thinks of something I've written. You know, I read it to her. It's usually then that I realize I need to take break, get another cup of coffee, or maybe call a shrink.
I'm not going to take the "me" out of my ebook. It will still have a touch of humor and a slightly conversational tone. But, at the same time, it will also have more of those traditional instructional qualities, voice-wise and in other ways. I want the book to be what it needs to be to help people learn and develop their skills and abilities shooting in natural light. I want it to be easy to digest and its contents and techniques just as easy to put into practice. I want it to satisfy its readers' expectations for it. I also want it to be successful from a commercial perspective. (Duh, right?)
My friend also suggested, "You might want to approach all of this differently... A very successful writer I work with is big on bullets, photos, tables, etc. He and the publisher figured out what people wanted a long time ago and it works. In an instructional/technical guide, get to the point, don't try to entertain, and use plenty of illustrations. As they say, my two cents."
Actually, his two cents probably saved me a lot more than that in time and effort and, possibly, will turn out to be worth much more in terms of sales. I have no intent of writing a bland technical manual. There's plenty enough of them in the world of photography instructional books. There will still be some amount of humor as well as a slightly conversational tone, but I will find the balance between those elements and, in the end, I believe a navigational course correction, one like my friend suggested, will yield a much better text and make for a better, more helpful ebook than the one I've been feverishly writing.
Alrighty then. Time to get back to some ebook authoring on this beautiful Southern California day. I hope everyone has a terrific Memorial Day weekend. If you don't live in America where Memorial Day is celebrated this weekend, I hope your weekend is just as terrific.
The pretty girl at the top (click to enlarge) reflects all natural light. (i.e., Daylight only.) As you can plainly see, the sun is behind her and somewhat to camera right. I employed two reflectors, either side from the front, to light her up.