Tag: traditional publishing

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part Two

People want to know what it’s like to be an author. What it takes. How do I stay on track. It’s neither science nor magic, but it does take work.

On Monday, I listed five things to know about being an author. In case you missed that post (or you don’t remember), I’ll recap them.

  1. Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published
  2. Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers
  3. Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know
  4. Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story
  5. Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves

To discover the ins-and-outs on each of those, read the full post here. Then come back to find out the next five things to know about this author gig.

Success as an indie author is ninety-nine percent connecting with the right audience.

I still haven’t found my tribe. But success can be measured by markers other than copies sold, numbers of social media followers and earnings.

Define success. Make this part of the business plan mentioned above.

Find promotions you can join that help you build your email list. Yes, you need one. Even if you don’t want to mail a regular newsletter, you need a way to let your readers know that a new book is coming, to ask for reviews and to sell copies. (This goes for traditional or indie published authors.)

The project that had me pulling my hair out was one I tackled for the sole reason of having a stand alone romance novel in print. This is the “entrance fee” for dozens of promotions I’ve seen. I couldn’t join them because I didn’t have a print book.

Building my tribe is also why I decided to write in the First Street Church Kindle World. The owner of that world is a marketing powerhouse. She leveraged her thousands of followers for us, and that’s worth signing over full rights to KDP for a few stories.

Some markets take longer to break into.

Young adult fantasy and any form of young adult literature is one such “competitive”market.

This is why I haven’t written any young adult fantasy in two years. I want to. I’m considering polishing up one of my manuscripts and submitting it to a small publisher I’ve been following for several months.

But I have to decide if that’s in the best interest of my business. If I love telling the stories I’m writing and they are connecting with readers, why shouldn’t I keep writing them?

To succeed, you need to partner with one or more influencer.

This is where I will praise Melissa Storm. She has a huge reader group that she mails to on a weekly basis. Other authors pay her to be promoted to her group.

I’m getting access to these groups just because I’m writing in her Kindle World. Since my first novella was published there in November 2017, my email list has grown from 39 to 185. Every subsequent title I publish in that world nets me more followers.

And many of these readers are connecting with me so they can review the books. Book reviews are the foundation for online sales.

The author gig requires business and marketing (sense)abilities.

Marketing. The thought makes my skin crawl. My introverted self retreats like a turtle in its shell.

Traditional publishers expect you to market your book by posting on social media, making appearances and having an email list.

You’re nothing but an amoeba in the sea as an indie author. There are plenty of readers. You don’t have to compete for them, but you do need to connect with them.

Ads on Amazon, Goodreads and in reader newsletters give you exposure to readers. Some of them want to chat with you online, and that’s what Facebook is for (as advertising here nets sketchy results compared to ads on sites where readers already visit and are looking for book recommendations).

Hire a marketing firm if you have the budget. I’ve bought several nonfiction books that outline the best practices and with each new book, I try to add another level of marketing.

It’s not my strength. I don’t even like it. But I can do a little and if I invest in the right areas, I’ll get a decent return on my investment,

It will take more than four years to “succeed” in either traditional, indie or hybrid publishing.

I haven’t arrived. I’m not a success, not even by my own flimsy definition.

July is the four-year mark of my author career. I still don’t have my first 1000 followers (what pros say you need to have a successful book launch).

I do have an impressive list of published titles. Check out my Amazon page to see them all.

Most of them don’t have enough reviews so I can join advertisers with huge lists, where indie authors find big sales and garner new followers.

I’m not giving up the dream. I have a plan and I’m working it. I’m learning to network more and refine my brand so it’s identifiable to the readers who are looking for me.

This list could continue. Each of these “lessons”could turn into a blog post. And there are dozens more things to know if you intend to be an author.

Four years ago, I claimed the title of professional writer, but didn’t see myself as an author. After all, an author needs to have a published book. An indie title that sold fewer than 200 copies didn’t count.

But it did count. All it takes to be an author is published work and the guts to own the title.

Author friends, what would you add to this base of knowledge? Reader friends, how do you prefer to connect with the work of an author whose stories you enjoy?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part One

Since shortly after I was old enough to read and imagine my own stories, I wanted to be an author. My first story was penned in a spiral notebook when I was in third grade. The past four years that I’ve been living the dream doing this author thing have been amazing.

And instructive. And painful at times. Filled with discouragement and despair at other times. Even wrought with excitement to the point I soared above the clouds.

The higher you go, the further you have to fall.

And falling from such heights hurts. It might even kill you(r dream).

Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published.

By slow I mean, it takes years if you pursue one of the large publishing houses (which means you have to find an agent first). After you spend months writing, revising, editing and polishing your manuscript, the journey of ten thousand miles begins.

It starts with research. Which agents are looking for your style and genre? Which publishers would contract it?

Then the rounds of submission begin. Most of this is done electronically. This speeds the process of notification to three months instead of six to twelve. Many agencies won’t respond unless they’re requesting pages.

Talk about disheartening. It feels like tossing my life’s work into a black hole.

I wanted this for myself. I needed the validation. I wanted a publishing professional to confirm that my work was of a quality to be read and circulated.

Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers.

Even though it was a small publisher who gave me my first fiction contract (and all my subsequent contracts until I began writing for Kindle Worlds), it didn’t feel like traditional publishing to me.

First of all, the submission hoops are simpler to understand and jump through. The turnaround time for notifying you of acceptance is shorter.

I started with short stories in answer to specific submission calls. This is the only way I’ve managed to publish in my dream genre (young adult fantasy).

The contracts are long but straightforward, and most of the small houses don’t offer advances. They split the royalties half and half, though, which I understand is a substantial raise over big houses.

You still get the benefit of several editing passes (story development, line edits and proofing) and a professional cover. On my stand alone titles, I’ve been consulted about the title and my thoughts and opinions were considered and employed.

Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know.

Slush pile. I’m not sure the few manuscripts I’ve sent, although requested, actually met up with the agent or editor. Getting a query past this point is something I’ve only managed with small houses.

Could be my queries are weak. Or the agent wasn’t looking for the kind of story I was telling.

All I know is that hearing nothing is more depressing than a rejection. It’s like all your effort is meaningless to the agent or editor. Sure, they have a ton of work, but does it really take so long to send a four line email saying you aren’t interested?

If you can get an author to recommend you, I understand the odds increase exponentially in favor of a contract.

Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story.

It will still take effort to locate the right press for your story. More small houses appear every month. Many of them will disappear within a year or two. I don’t send anything to a publisher that’s been around for less than a year. And I always check out their current and past titles.

I’ve started reading some stories from a small press that weren’t all that great. Then I see that the author is also the editor-in-chief. This looks like a new form of vanity publishing to me.

They started up the press so they could publish their own books.

I’ve also read a few fantastic stories that come from the same situation. The difference? I didn’t take a poll, but I think it involves professional editing and more skilled writing.

I don’t want a bad story to be published. This is what kept me from subbing manuscripts for years. I wasn’t good enough. Even reading the first fiction short that Roane accepted makes me cringe a little.

Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves.

Independent publishing makes you the boss of it all. You’re the captain of the publishing ship.

If you want, you can churn out a story and upload it to Amazon with a thrown-together cover. Maybe you’ll sell a few copies.

But if you want to be a professional author, act like one. Make a business plan. Plan a production schedule. Give yourself deadlines and then meet them.

To succeed, you need to learn the business. Locate professional editors and hire them. Listen to their comments and improve your stories.

If you don’t know design, hire a cover designer. You can hire someone to format the interior of the book. You can even hire a publicity representative to plan your marketing campaign.

All of that costs money. Plan on investing anywhere from $500 to $1500 from your savings per book. Then do the math and find out how many copies you have to sell to break even and make a profit.

I still haven’t broke even on my indie novella Reflections from a Pondering Heart.

This is only FIVE things you need to know about being an author. I’m guessing 900 words is more than long enough for most of my blog readers.

Come back on Thursday to learn the other five things.

Which of these seems most obvious? Most important? Most discouraging?

Why Every (Newbie) Author Needs an Editor

I’m a newbie novice when it comes to writing novels. Not an ounce of shame taints this admission. If I send sub-par work into the world of readers because I don’t see the need for an editor, that’s when I’ll be ashamed.

In the past fifteen months, I have completed five first drafts. This amounts to about 350,000 words. I should be getting the hang of this writing thing after all that, shouldn’t I?

If I compare the first novel with the last, the improvement is easily identifiable. To me, anyway. A professional editor might see things differently. This is the reason you should hire one before you publish your “masterpiece.”

Lucky me, I won a 25,000 word critique from the amazing Jami Gold. As full-time writer who has not sold a single story, I appreciated this windfall more than a winning Lotto ticket. After experiencing Jami’s professional white glove treatment, I can recommend her services.

What I expected

  • A thorough critique of the manuscript – written within the document so examples of the flaws were showcased
  • Advice about my characters
  • Analysis of my story structure: the first turning point at least
  • Identification of recurring writing weaknesses
  • Discussion of my overall writing voice and its effectiveness
  • Confirmation that my story premise worked
  • Discussion of the story problem and stakes

What she delivered

  • A thorough critique of the manuscript. Besides lengthy notations within the manuscript, Jami provided four pages of explanation about the larger issues – good and bad – in the story
  • Advice about my characters. She analyzed the character arc of both protagonists, discussed their shortfalls, remarked about how to improve them. In short, I saw my characters in a different spotlight after reading her comments.
  • Analysis of my story structure. Jami identified the story problem but couldn’t pinpoint my character’s driving needs. Because of this, she didn’t see the first turning point the way I had when I wrote the story. Obviously, this is an issue – with my writing, not her editing.
  • Identification of recurring writing weaknesses. Do I really need to list these? Suffice it to say that I’m still doing more telling than showing. My descriptions are over the top (quite surprising) and often unrealistically delivered. Too many participles. Not enough strong verbs. Even a grammar issue (when to use ‘the’ rather than ‘a.’)
  • Discussion of my overall writing voice and its effectiveness. My third person POV didn’t go deep enough. My characters could be heard loud and clear in only a few sentences. If I want my readers to buy in, I need to delve more deeply into the psyche of these people who tell this story.
  • Confirmation that my story premise worked. Right off the bat, Jami raved about how well I nailed this. My thanks to Larry Brooks and Kristen Lamb. I learned the importance of this from them. Looks like it penetrated my thick skull and became a part of my writing arsenal.
  • Discussion of the story problem and stakes. Again, I managed to strike it rich. Of course, the lack in my characters rubs off on the overall story problem. Since their motivations are unclear, it holds readers at arm’s length.

My revised opinion

I have seen recommendations from authors who are traditionally published. They tell you not to spend the money on an editor for your manuscript before shopping it with agents and editors. I sighed hugely when I read this advice.

Now I’m going to refute it. Time to face facts: you won’t hook an agent or editor with a manuscript that doesn’t shine. No matter how great of a writer you are or how many degrees you possess, you aren’t the best critic for your written work.

I can slash in red with the best of them (ask my sons who have experienced my unforgiving editing for more than a decade). With a critical eye, I can spot plot holes, weak characterization, telling passages and other major flaws.

No matter how much I squint, I’m too close to my own story to recognize most of these shortcomings. I know what I meant. The characters are my intimate friends so I read between the lines. I see subtext that doesn’t exist. Caricatures are the invisible woman.

If you’ve shopped your story and no one is biting, take the plunge. Spend the money on a developmental edit to ensure your manuscript is sound of structure. Look at it as an investment in your career – like workshops, craft books and conferences.

In the end, your manuscript will shine. You will learn how to write a stronger story. Best of all, your name will appear on the cover of the book you’ve envisioned. And you’ll be proud to have people read your work.

Have I convinced you? Great.

One more thing. Do you have an extra $1000 I can borrow? Really, my friend. Help me get a much-needed developmental edit on my manuscript.

What are your thoughts on critique groups, beta readers and professional edits? Do they all serve the same purpose? Do you believe spending money on an editor is a waste if you’re a newbie seeking traditional publishing?

An Update on the Progress of my Manuscript

I hope someday to connect with my readers on this blog. As of this moment, I know most of my faithful followers are family, friends and other writers. Thank you for your support.

According to Jedi Master of Social Media, Kristen Lamb, I shouldn’t write about writing on my blog. My readers don’t care about it. In theory, I agree with her expert advice and follow it to the best of my ability.

However, I’m breaking her rule today. (Just this once, Master! I promise!) As an unpublished author, I don’t have the type of “readers” who only want to learn about the writer behind the story yet. In fact, some of you have actually asked how the manuscript was coming along.

For those of you who want to be “in the know,” here’s a rundown of my novel’s life:

  • Book one in the series started the beginning of September 2013.
  • Book two was written in 23 days during NaNoWriMo, November 2013
  • Book three was finished by the end of January 2014 (which was a miracle as far as I’m concerned, considering what was happening in my life at that time)
  • Read-through and rewrite of book one took most of February
  • Stage one revisions were completed by March 21
  • Manuscript sent to six beta readers for return by April 15, 2014 (Tax Day: a happy coincidence?)
  • First week of May spent making changes to the manuscript based on feedback from the beta readers (They improved the story so much. I love them!)
  • Stage two revisions finished by May 21
  • Read-through and final touch-ups
  • Manuscript to proofreader by May 30
  • First query letter to top agency of choice with sample pages sent June 6, 2014
  • Submit first 20 pages (and a synopsis) for critique by Alex Hughes at Willamette Writer’s Conference by June 18

What I hope happens next in this process:

  • An agent asks to see the whole manuscript
  • When I meet with Katie Reed of the Andrea Hurst agency at the conference in August, she asks me to send the manuscript
  • One of these agents loves my story and signs me up
  • They help me edit and perfect the manuscript (Yes, I know it isn’t perfect)
  • A publisher picks it up by the end of October, and I see my first book in print by October 2015

I know that’s a crazy long timeline. This arduous process is one thing that makes indie publishing look more attractive and self-publishing amazing. I need the traditional route for my first book. If it gets picked up, I know I’m ready to be read by the general public.

When the time comes, this website will light up with release dates, promotions and events. My life will get crazy because the publisher will be demanding the next two manuscripts in the series. Hopefully, I will be able to get them perfected in the year it takes for the first one to find the shelf at your local bookstore and on Amazon, of course.

Thank you for encouraging me to stay the course toward seeing my life-long dream come true. I couldn’t have done it without you!