Archive for the ‘editors’ Tag

What Is Your Dream Worth?   6 comments

Hi, Gang.

You know, as writers and aspiring authors, this is a question we should often ask ourselves. Some of us do, I’m sure, but all too often I have a feeling we tend to answer it with a get-the-pain-over-ASAP answer instead of giving it the attention it deserves. You know, one of those quick, “Anything! Now, let me get back to my life,” answers we tend to forget all about just as soon as the dog craps on the carpet. Or until the latest episode of our new favorite popular TV show comes on. Truth is, they’re both about the same in value.

This kind of answer, in and of itself, is a perfect clue as to how much we really think our dream is worth. For one thing it’s absurd. I would give all I can for my dream of making a living writing fiction, but certainly not everything. It’s definitely not worth my family, my good friends, and if you think I’d give up the family jewels, guess again, chuckles… It ain’t about to happen. I’m too fond of the old boys for that.

So, now that we’ve established that the standard answer is a huge pile of steaming horse nuggets, let’s give the question the consideration it deserves.

In many ways this is a question that we must, and will have to answer for ourselves. The funny part, at least to this long-haired country boy, comes when we believe we can put next to nothing in, and get tons back in return. Where this notion came from I can’t begin to say, but I know it’s yet another outright lie. The amount of fuel needed to keep your body running for a month outweighs you by quite a few pounds, and don’t get me started on the internal combustion engine.

Now I’m not saying we have to spend a fortune to make one. But the plain fact is, we are going to have to invest heavily in our dream if we really want it. And some of the areas we have a tendency to waste our resources in can only make an outsider shaker their head in wonder when we give that standard answer, “Anything.”

We all know of aspiring writers who will say that, spend $85.95 on The Super Season Sports Package, and go for a ‘free’ site to set up their author’s web page. Or the wan’na be writer who will think nothing of spending $50.00 on the latest Playstation 3 game, but can’t seem to find the extra cash for a $24.99 book on how to write fiction that sells.

I don’t know about you, guys and gals, but it looks to me like that, “Anything,” is quickly turning into an, “Anything, but.” And you have to wonder just how seriously to take that answer, or the person making it. Worse, you have to wonder how seriously the people who count, (Agents, editors, readers.) are taking him/her?

Particularly when you consider the fact that neither one of those examples helped the writer so much as a micrometer towards their dream of becoming a successful author. But the latter of those two choices could have brought them one step further towards that cherished goal.

Those, of course, are just two of a blue-million other examples I could go on about. And the truth is, all of them are leaching precious resources away from your dream. The odds are, you might not even be aware of them. Thanks to the impulse buying, keep up with the Joneses attitude that our consumer culture has ingrained in us, they’re almost a knee-jerk reaction. But, fortunately, it is one we can take control of. Or I should say, those of us who really do want to make it in this business can take control of.

At least we can if we are aware of it, and that is the point to this whole post. Now, you are aware of it. The only question is: “What are you prepared to do about it?”

Before any of you smartypants out there start leaving comments about my being hypocritical and giving out advice I don’t follow myself… this post was inspired by exactly what I’m preaching above.

The reason my blog has fallen by the wayside more often than not was dial-up. I live in the country, there is no cable, and satellite internet is expensive. At least for me it is. But, I could not get away from the fact that the writing game is fast becoming dominated by the Internet. And if you don’t have broadband on the ‘Net, you just became a push-cart trying to win a NASCAR trophy. Ain’t a gonna happen.

Given that, I scrimped, saved, and was finally able to get broadband. It wasn’t easy. I had to deny many of the luxuries I hinted at above, but you know what. I thought about that question long and hard. My answer?

My dream is worth anything I can give to it, and those needless accessories are not.

Later, Gang. 😉

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Rejection Inspection   Leave a comment

Is there anything as frustrating as having a partial request, or a full for that matter, form rejected by an agent or publisher? Well, if there are, brothers and sisters, I sure as Hell do not want to know about it. This business is rough and depressing enough without you lot making things worse by introducing my virgin sensibilities to the negativity I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid so far. So there! 😛

Now, truth be told, we all know just how much of a pain in the ass the above question is. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if the gatekeepers would just give us a hint as to why they didn’t want our story… or at least come right out and tell us we suck mountainous rocks. But, no. For the most part they just leave us to twist in the wind like an old plastic bag that got caught in the limbs of a dead tree.

To be fair, though, you’d have to know how busy agents and editors really are. And I’m not even going to go into how much they actually have riding on the decisions they make daily. Agents a little less so than an editor. All the agent misses out on with a bad decision is a potential commission. The editor risks their job if they make too many gaffs and start costing the publisher money.

Ok, you caught me. I did it anyway. But you can’t begin to understand why you may have gotten that form rejection without understanding what the other guy has laid on the line.

Quite honestly, almost every rejection you get will be a type of form rejection. Face it, brothers and sisters, your manuscript is one of hundreds that come in the P.O. box, or e-mail, daily. The gatekeeper’s ‘to do’ box grows at a rate that would make a politician’s bank account jealous. Odds are, unless the ‘personalized’ rejection was hand written expressly to you; it’s just a gentler form rejection that has probably been sent to quite a few other would be authors, verbatim.

Like it, or not, we’re just another faceless manuscript in an ever growing pile of manuscripts. If you have ever done a well thought out critique, then try to imagine doing that for several 100,000 plus word stories a day. Starting to see why you get a form rejection instead of a personal response that will take twenty or more minutes to write, yet?

Hell, it takes me a whole day to do a critique of one chapter for one of my crit partners. I can’t even imagine trying to do it for a whole novel with a hundred more waiting for me to get to them. And we want an agent to drop what they’re doing and give us detailed reasons for our rejections? Would you, if you had all that work to do? (For those of you who said, “Yes.”, I’m Henry the Eighth… pleased to meet you.)

So, I’m going to let you in on a big secret in the publishing industry. When you have a polished story that has been put through all the proper channels of beta reading, critique partnering, revisions and rewriting, then still get a form rejection. The most likely reason is this: The agent, or editor did not think they could sell it.

It’s actually that simple. This is a business, and if they don’t believe they can make a buck or two off the work they are going to reject it. None of the gatekeepers are in the business to give you, or me, writing lessons. That is our job, not theirs.

If you suspect it is your writing, then you need to get busy with your end of the deal and work on your art. If you do have a good story that the gatekeepers don’t think they can sell, then you have two options. Trunk the book as a non-commercial idea whose time has not yet come, or prove ‘em wrong and put it out there yourself. After all, the reading public is the only critic whose opinion is worth a damn, anyway.

If you can sell it big, I’ll personally guarantee the agents and editors will be beating a path to your door to represent your next book. As I said, this is a business, and you just proved beyond doubt that you are a saleable commodity.

Does the post seem a bit cold so far? That’s probably because this is a cold business to try and break into. It always has been, and a little research into the struggle of famous authors will prove it. But, I am not a cold person, and neither are a lot of other writers I know of. So, in that spirit, and being true to my real nature, let me offer you some help in getting where you want to go. (If your still reading this, that is.)

There is wonderful on line community of writers in all phases of the publishing experience known as AgentQuery Connect. You can find all sorts of help on every phase of this job there. I warn you though, it is an addictive place to be.

Another fantastic on line resource for writers is WritetoDone. I would also highly suggest downloading their free EBook, The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing. The link for it is on every page there, so you won’t have any trouble finding it.

Ok, so much for the free resources that can help you cut your odds of being rejected. Time to see just how serious you are about becoming a published writer. How bad do you want it, and how much are you willing to invest in yourself, and your craft? I’m not talking a fortune here, but if you are unwilling to spend a little on yourself and your craft, then I have to question just how badly you really do want to be a writer.

There are two books from The Writer’s Digest that are really helpful. Bargain hunters can probably find them cheaper on Amazon, but however you get a hold of them, by all means, stop being so cheap and get them. They are:

No More Rejections: (50 Secrets To Writing A Manuscript That Sells), by Alice Orr

and

Writing the Popular Novel, by Loren D. Estleman

Google both titles, or follow the above link to The Writer’s Digest, and acquire them both. At the worst you’ll spend about $45.00 on yourself and your craft. Surely you’re worth $45.00? Well I think you are, and you’ll be very happy if you think so, too. (C’mon, be honest. You spent at least that much in one month on entertainment that didn’t do a thing for your career.)

Best of luck, and…

later, Gang! 😉

Digital Self-Publishing and DYI   Leave a comment

Keeping up with the changes to the world of writing over the past couple of decades or so, seems daunting enough. Between Print On Demand technologies, Epublishing, Kindle, Mobi, Barnes&Noble getting in on the ebook reader bandwagon, as well as the ever shrinking advances and support from the traditional publishing houses; it can feel more than a bit overwhelming for the aspiring author. Particularly if you happen to be completely new to the business.

To make matters worse, if you do decide to go the self-publishing route you will discover that everything is left in your hands. This means that you are responsible for Graphics, (your cover art); Typesetting, (the look of your book), Proofreading (finding all those niggeling little gaffs that people will point to and say, “What a dumbass.”); Editing, (I don’t really have to explain this one, do I?); Marketing, (Advertising, promoting, etc.); and Formatting, (making certain your ‘baby’ looks just as good in Kindle as it does in Mobi, etc.).

Unless you happen to have major bank to hire a pro to do these jobs for you, you are stuck with Do It Yourself, (DYI). The problem here is, not all of us are Graphic artists, Salesmen, or typesetters. (Plus one points if you know what kerning is. If you have to look it up, then you know what I’m rambling on about.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a big bankroll to spend on any of these necessary endeavors. To be honest, with my medical bills I’m doing well to ensure we get to eat something besides soup beans once a month around the old homestead. That fact alone leaves me in pretty much the same situation as most of you out there.

And lets face it, most of us are not computer programmers. So formatting in different reader languages holds the same frustration as trying to write a gaming program in C++, Pascal, Cobal, and Assembly simultaneously. Which doesn’t take into consideration that most programs are notoriously stubborn about reading another programs files. In fact they’re downright prejudiced about it. One of the reasons that webpages view differently between browsers.

But, take heart. Although this all seems to be akin to climbing Mount Everest with nothing more than a bag of rosin and a pair of tennis shoes for equipment, there is much we can learn to make the task easier. We might not be able to do every one of those tasks that go into publishing a book, but what we can do will go a long way towards “rolling our own.”

For this round let’s focus on formatting. Since most of us are trying to make a living as writers, we need to build as large a readership as we possibly can within our chosen genres. This means that we can not rely on Amazon, or Smashwords to do the job for us. Well, we can with Smashwords, to an extent. But that seems akin to allowing someone else to breathe for us. It might work, but it probably won’t work as well as breathing for ourselves.

Unless you are proficient in HTML, XML, or Mobi, you’re going to have to find a way to accomplish this task for ourselves. As you probably guessed, this means a couple of programs to do the job for us, and a way to check our results.

First off you will need at least two separate ebook reading programs, one for Kindle and one for Mobi, (Barns& Noble use the Mobi format). The Kindle reader program is free for your PC, and can be found here from Amazon. Mobi format reader for PC can also be downloaded for free here. And if you want to make certain that you have as many possible versions to cover as many bases as you can, here is where you can find out about The Top 4 Free ePub Readers for PC.

Ok. Now that we have a way to actually see what our ebook will look like in pretty much all the top ebook readers, it’s time to get down to some serious DYI formatting.

The easiest way to get this part of the job done also involves two free programs. One is Sigil, a What You See Is What You Get, (WYSIWYG), ebook editor; the other is Calibre, an ebook manager capable of doing a pretty good job of changing an ebook’s format without messing up the book’s look… most of the time. To fix any problems you may have in this, and other areas of useing these two programs to format your own ebooks for self-publishing, here are some links to a few tutorials that can help you over those rough spots:

IT Connect/Creating ePUB Ebooks.

How To Easily Write and Publish Ebooks with Sigil.

Getting Started with Calibre.

Now, before you get to thinking this is easy, don’t. It is easier than learning HTML, or Mobi coding language, but your still going to have to do some serious work. The upside is, you will know for certain how your book is going to look to the reader. The more proficient you become in using these programs, the more professional your ebook will look.

Good luck, and I hope this makes it easier for you to get the results you want.

Ever;
Pete

The Easy Hard Way   8 comments

When I was studying stage magic there was an observation that most of the best writers on the subject made. Magic tricks are separated into two general categories: Easy hard tricks, and hard easy tricks. What this means in explanation is; there are illusions that appear to the audience to be very hard to pull off, yet are so easy you could teach a chimpanzee to do them in about a half hour. There are also illusions that look easy to the audience which actually take months to master, if not years.

A nice bit of trivia, but what does this have to do with storytelling and writing? Quite a bit. Especially in today’s convoluted landscape of opportunity.

When I first attempted to make a career as a storyteller the opportunities were rather limited. An author attempting to enter the speculative fiction market was pretty much limited to short stories in magazines, or novels. The last assuming that you could land an agent and sell something to a publisher. Considering the immense number of potential authors out there, neither option was an easy break. Just as they are today.

Self-publishing was an option, but for the most part the vanity press, as it was known, was a dead end fraud. The vanity press made good money off of want-to-be authors who had a bit of cash to spend, but the author still remained an unknown. They also found themselves stuck with a few hundred unsalable books.

Then the digital revolution and e-books struck. Today anyone, and I do mean anyone, can publish a story; either electronically, or as a print on demand physical book. The cost, if any, is miniscule at best and well within the reach of nearly any aspiring author. But, just as with the easy hard tricks of the stage magician, it really isn’t as easy as it looks. This is particularly true if you are serious about being a author.

One of the down sides of the e-book revolution is that there is a lot of delusional crap flooding the market. This is brought about by the aspiring author who believes that they can write as well as anyone else, and after a series of failures they turn to e-publishing. Never mind that they rarely check their spelling, or that they never bothered to have anyone beyond their family and good friends read their ‘work’. They are a good wrighter an they knows it. Them other poeples just don’t have no taste. (See what I mean?)

The ‘writing is easy’ crowd aside, at first blush the e-book market does look like an easy alternative to traditional publishing for the aspiring professional. In truth, it is not. In fact it is actually the harder market when you consider what it will take for the serious author to garner a readership.

First, and foremost, you will lack the services of a good editor. Unless you have a few thousand dollars laying about, you are on your own in this particular spectrum of the writing business. Even if you do have the extra cash to spend for one, it’s still no guarantee anyone is going to notice you. The odds are; you just blew a couple of thousand bucks for a return of thirty, or forty bucks and about as many readers. No matter how you tally that, it isn’t a wise investment.

This means you are going to have to find a way to be your own editor. The problem there is you are too damn close to your own story. You are going to miss things like pacing, story flow, plot holes, and clumsy sentences that you thought were aerial lines of prose. Trust me, no matter how good you think you are, they weren’t.

One of the best remedies for this is to garner a few beta readers. Preferably other writers who are working for the same goal you are. Most writers are avid readers, and they will notice the things that you missed. A harder method is to enable yourself to look at your own work as if someone else wrote it. This is near to impossible for most aspiring authors. It requires a discipline that most of us lack. It also doesn’t take into consideration the fact that human beings are notorious for our ability to lie to ourselves.

But, if you are one of the few who is serious about your craft, then I do have good news for you. There is a way to develop those all important beta readers, and critiques. Join a writer’s critique group where you can make friends in the industry. AgentQuery Connect is one, Critters Writers Workshop is another. Although there are hundreds more on the web, these are the two best.

Oh, and before you get the wrong idea, allow me to give you one piece of advice. Neither of the two I have mentioned is a quick fix. Your going to have to put forth some effort. To gain a friend, you have to be a friend. So, don’t just run in and immediately start looking for people to help you out. That approach is both rude, and self-serving. You’ll be spotted in a moment.

Offer to help others out first. Make friends. Be a friend. Be ready to accept criticism, and take advice. Not all of it will fit you, but it’s better than trying to go it alone.

Since most of what I’m musing about here can’t be done in a single blog post, I’ll let things go and continue with the other aspects the ‘easy hard way’ will throw at you in future posts.

Perhaps between all of us we can find a better method for the serious author to get their work noticed. At the least, we can try. 😉

Ever;
Pete

Taming the Wild Cliché   3 comments

There is probably no greater temptation for the aspiring author than that of the wild cliché. That is with the exception of selling your soul to the Devil for a best seller, of course. The plain fact is, clichés are just too easy to use. You know that nearly everyone, and their uncle, reading the darn thing is going to get the point. And let’s face it, our lives are simply riddled with clichés. We can’t seem to live without them.

Clichés also seem to breed like cockroaches under a damp sink. Every time you turn around there’s another one taking its first steps into the collective consciousness. On the internet they are called memes, in business they are called catch phrases, in linguistics they are known as slang. But, make no mistake, all of them will grow up to become full fledged clichés sooner, or later. Words and phrases that were at one time popular are now looked at like something the cat dragged in.

Even presidents have used clichés. My fellow Americans can remember more politicians than you can shake a stick at asking, “Where’s the beef?”. Not to mention, the examples of presidential speech writers using clichés would fill several blogs. But, let an aspiring author use just one in a query letter, or a manuscript, an it’s Katy bar the door. Agents, and editors will drop you like a hot potato. They despise clichés with a passion.

I don’t care how many clichés you find in a published author’s novel, do it while your trying to get your foot in the door, and your ass is grass. Of course, when we look at all the rule breaking that seems to get by in the publishing world, it’s hard not to think that you can’t win for losing.

But, I am a sneaky cuss, so let’s put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with a solution. Let’s see if we can sneak in the back door, and tame the wild cliché.

There is the slick-it-by method, but you really have to toe the line to make this one work. In this method you are taking a gamble and putting all your cards on the table. Let one, or two clichés pass as is. The idea here is to teach an old dog a new trick. You carefully choose a cliché that’s old as the hills, one that hasn’t been used in ages, but is still young enough to be remembered with nostalgia instead of nausea. After all, agents and editors are human, too. A cliché that can invoke a bit of nostalgia can have the same effect on them, and they let it pass. After all, you only did it once. Who knows, you might just get away with murder here.

The second method of taming the wild cliché is the fix-it-later technique. While effective, you have to watch this one like a hawk. I have good news and bad news about this method. The good news first; it will not interrupt the flow of your writing. When you decide to use a cliché, you just go right ahead and use it. Don’t worry about it. The bad news is that you have to go back through your story and reword all those clichés you just used. Every single one must be reworded so that you say the same thing but it doesn’t look like you used a cliché.

Since there is no risk of actually using a cliché in the second method, unless you accidentally leave one in, the agents and editors will be none the wiser and you get to use all the clichés you want. Just make sure you have an eagle eye and reword those suckers before you send your masterpiece off.

Sneaky, huh?

Now, incase you haven’t noticed, this post is up to its eyeballs in clichés. I had to shut the cliché finder off on WordPress just so I could write the thing. To any agents, or editors out there who notice all the god awful clichés that I riddled this article with: I can assure you it was deliberate, and I don’t normally write this way. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Clichés are a subject we have discussed many times at AgentQuery Connect, and I’m sure we will discuss them many more times. To use them, or not. Are they effective, or not. But, what the hell. When it comes to getting published, we’re all just squirrels trying to get a nut.

Ever;
Pete