Archive for the ‘publishing’ Tag

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! 😉

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Swigging The Muse, Fighting The Urge   Leave a comment

Nope. Sorry to disappoint, but this little post is not about the hazards of addiction, or alcoholism in the writing profession. Well maybe one addiction, but we’ll get to that in a moment. As far as alcoholism goes; I take the fifth. Maybe the pint, but that’s another story. 😉

This post is about the most insidious addiction any aspiring author can face: The desire to get published. Like all addictions this one has more hidden traps than a politician has lies. If we’re not careful it can also land you in a hole that Betty Ford can’t dig you out of.

Besides our love of storytelling, and much like a drug, there are few things that will give a writer a bigger high than when the muse is pouring out full force. Hence the first half of the title. When we are hitting the groove, and the well of clever creativity seems bottomless, that’s when the addiction to publish rears its ugly head. We become as desperate as a heroin junky to have our baby shown to the world. If Satan showed up at that moment with a contract in hand, we would jump at the chance, or at least seriously consider it. The problem is he often does, but doesn’t look like himself so we’ll be more likely to take the bait.

By now, most of us know about the land sharks that swim through the business of writing. If not, then I suggest bookmarking two sites that can help the newbie to identify these publishing leeches. One of the best is Predators and Editors. The other is, Writer Beware by the SFWA.

However, these are not the only forms the publishing addiction devil can take. One of the worst, and most devious is when he takes the form of YOU. When Louis Binstock first said, “Very often we are our own worst enemy…”, he wasn’t lying, and that little cliche deserves a place carved in gold.

A true story, and I’m not naming names because this can happen to anyone and I don’t want to embarrass, only illustrate. A very talented writer I know recently epublished a very good novel. Thinking that they had exhausted their list of agents, and none of them were interested they decided to go to the readers with their book. Normally this is a very good tactic these days. You have to work your tailbone off to get some recognition, but your story has a chance of gaining a audience and you have a chance to gain a career. All in all it is a smart move. Unless, as in their case, an agent you forgot about suddenly pops up asking for a look at the manuscript.

Yep, that is just what happened, and my heart goes out to them. Most agents won’t touch a story once it has been epublished, and neither will most publishing houses. The possible exception being a story that is raking in the bucks. Even then, they would be likely to offer publishing your next book instead of going with the epublished one. In a way it’s not really fair, since you did all the work gaining a readership, and now they want a piece of your pie, but that’s the way it plays out most of the time.

Let’s face it; epublishing and POD (Print On Demand) publishing is something of a godsend to a struggling author. But, if you allow the addiction of getting published to drive you like a mule team, it can also be your worst enemy.

Another way this “golden goose” can trip you up is by turning out bad writing. As hard as it is to live down a bad reputation in the real world, it can be a thousand times worse here in cyberspace. Especially if that rep goes viral. At that point your probably better off turning to a pen name and starting all over again from scratch.

This is why an editor or, a whole trailer truck of beta readers, is so important in serious epublishing. Even then there are no guarantees, but at least your not putting the noose on yourself, and jumping off the gallows on your own.

The point to all this drivel? Haste does indeed make waste. Being in a rush to publish is usually a suicide charge into a machine gun nest. If your very lucky, you might only get wounded, odds are your gonna get cut in half.

This is a slow business, no matter how you approach it. Take your time, get it right, and most of all do not jump at the chance to get published in any form. You have all the time that is left to you. Make it work for you, instead of against you, and keep that addiction locked up tight in a little cell somewhere.

In the end, you may just be glad you did.

Later, Gang.

It’s Not What You Write About   7 comments

I’m pretty sure most of us have heard that old saw, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Well with that in mind, because it is true more often than not, let’s apply that to writing. It’s not what you write about, it’s how you write it.

Let’s face it. Ebook publishing, and POD publishing, has made it easy to get a story out there to the public. For serious writers who sweat and toil over their craft, trying to turn out the best product they can, this is damn good news. The downside, (There always seems to be a downside.), is that same ease has opened up a flood gate of pure garbage from the get-rich-quick writing-is-easy crowd. Anyone who thinks that has never tried to seriously write a grocery list, much less a novel.

The result is; there are a lot of Tara Gilesbies putting out feature length versions of My Immortal, or pretty close to it, every day. If you don’t know what, or who, I’m referring to here count yourself lucky. If you happen to Google My Immortal or Tara, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My good friend, and fellow writer, Darke Conteur, assures me that eventually these characters will fade from the scene. I hope she is right, but I don’t think she’s considered the fresh crop of Taras popping up daily. (BTW, Darke has two ebooks published, and I can 100% guarantee you that both are well worth reading. Darke is very serious about her craft and how well her stories come out. Darke writes some damn good Paranormal Fantasy and you can check her work out here at Smashwords.com. At $.99, and $1.99 neither novel will break the bank, and you’ll more than get your money’s worth.)

Our mission as serious writers/storytellers is to make certain we put out the best we can do. The truth is this has little to do with genre, or idea, but it has everything to do with how you tell your story.

To illustrate my point, what would you think if I told you I had an idea about a full length novel involving rabbits. I would even give them their own pseudo language, and there wouldn’t be a human being in the whole story. Sounds like a silly idea for a novel, or a children’s book doesn’t it? But that is exactly the idea Richard Adams had when he wrote the best selling classic, Watership Down. And it certainly isn’t a children’s book, it’s classified as a heroic fantasy.

Now, on it’s own, most agents, publishing houses, and editors would dissmiss such a concept for a novel out of hand. Naturally that didn’t happen, and the reason was because Mr. Adams knows how to write a story. It wasn’t what he wrote about that made Watership Down a international best seller for thirty years, it was how he wrote it. There in lies the rub.

All too many future authors spend too much time trying to pin down the next trend in writing, or follow the current trend all too closely. Instead they should be working on how to tell a good story. How to write fiction that sells.

True it is scarier to do so, your taking a risk. But, no more so than the risk we take by just being another faceless member of the follow-the-popular-trend crowd. Even then, if we work hard on how to tell a good story, it is possible to upset the current King/Queen of the hill, and take their spot for ourselves. Actually that last part is even harder than striking out on your own literary path. The odds of being dismissed as a “copycat writer” are better than the ones you’ll face in blazing your own trail.

So, how do you learn to write a novel that sells?

There are plenty of “how to” books out there that can tell you just that. All you have to do is be willing to listen, and apply what they have to teach. Writer’s Digest has a slew of them, and it’s worth the small expense to pick out one, or two, and learn the craft. Even the poorest of us can put a buck, or two aside a week. Maybe even hint at a birthday, or Christmas present. And there is always the library.

Either way, it’s a small investment that will pay you big dividends later on. It may also save you from becoming the Tara Gilesbie of the E-publishing world. Well maybe not that bad, but would you even want to be considered a close second in that contest? 😉

Later, Gang;
Pete

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

What Red Flag?   12 comments

A strange malady that seems to infect aspiring authors is a form of color blindness. In particular a blindness to the color red. Often when a red flag shows up in their story they have an immediate tendency to turn it into a transparency. This usually manifests itself as having to explain/defend large parts of the story.

I’m not saying that there won’t be a handful of people who don’t get it, you can’t please everyone. But when there are a significant number of folks getting stuck on the same thing. Something is wrong and explaining/defending it isn’t going to make it go away.

It should be obvious at this point that for your story to work, you are going to have to follow every copy around and explain the same points to every reader. Now, I’m not the smartest guy slogging through life, but I’m pretty sure that is not a viable option. I’d also be willing to bet that the average reader isn’t going to wait for you to show up to explain your genius to them. Their just going to dump the story, experience buyer’s remorse, and cross you off their reading list.

As I said, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that just doesn’t seem like a sound business strategy to me. And make no mistake, dear readers, unless you are just writing to please yourself, this is a business. A business that depends as much on repeat customers as it does on new ones. Deliberately sacrificing repeat business for the sake of your ego is a sure trip to has-been land. If you ever make it out of never-was land in the first place.

There is a wonderful little business book by F.J. Lennon called; Every Mistake In The Book: A Business How Not To. (Yes, I read business books as well, because this IS the publishing business, and I want to succeed at it.) Mr. Lennon has made just about every business mistake you can think of, and a heck of a lot that you haven’t. So when he says to do, or not do something, I have to bow to his experience. After all, he has already paid the price for that mistake… damned if I want to pay it too!

Hear are just a few pearls of wisdom he learned the hard way, but they apply to the business of writing as well as any other. Ignore them at your own peril.

Give the people what they want, not what you think they should have.

In other words, if you are ignoring the red flags, explaining/defending every little point YOU want to keep in your magnum opus, you are giving the people what you think they should have, not what they want. Mr. Lennon lost his first company doing this, you’ll lose your career. If you ever get one in the first place doing this.

Make money, then art.

This goes right along with the above. Before you begin to make these fantastic art driven vehicles for your amazing prose, you better be a brand first. To do that you have to garner a reading public and hold onto them. Otherwise, consider a career writing fan fiction for free. (To be honest, I personally wouldn’t risk it then. Readers do not have to stay with you and there are literally millions of up and comers waiting to take your place.)

Above all else, don’t make crap.

This should be self explanatory, but I’ll bet that it isn’t. If you are just starting out, not a brand name author, turning out what you want, and shooting for high art that has to be explained/defended to more than one person… you ARE turning out crap. It’s that simple.

Readers want to be entertained. They do not want to have to scratch their heads, wonder WTF you mean by those new words you made up, or where in hell your going with this. They want you to guide them through your story as effortlessly as possible.

If you find yourself having to explain/defend large portions of your story, that is a big red flag. Pay it heed, or ignore it as you will. It’s your story, your career. Believe me, the big name authors won’t really care that much, because you won’t be taking any readers away from them any time soon.

Ever;
Pete

Who’s Working For Who?   2 comments

Recently AgentQuery Connects own AQCrew, (Our version of The Dread Pirate Roberts.), posted an article from The Telegraph about author J.K. Rowling’s decision to dump her long time agent.

After reading said article, I had to take a few hours to cool off before blogging about it.

First, let me state beyond contention that I am the last person to diss having a good agent. In my own humble opinion, a good agent is nearly indispensable, and landing one is the whole point of AgentQuery Connect. However, this particular article had me as pissed off as a Hebrew man at a Neo-Nazi rally. And, for me, that’s saying a lot.

To read the article you would think that Ms. Rowling had done little more than write a NaniWriteMo piece, and her agent did all the work on the novel. That HE was the one who made Harry Potter the mega success it became. This speaks volumes for the illusion of the agent’s role in the literary world, and like it, or not, I’m about to shatter that illusion into teeny-tiny little fragments.

The agent’s job is to find a publisher willing to take a chance on your book, and negotiate the best deal they can get for the author. That is IT! The agent does NOT sweat over plot. They DO NOT stay awake at night searching for the right scene to make the novel something special. They DO NOT spend years polishing a manuscript until it shines enough to be accepted by another agent. They DO NOT bust their brain into Excedrin headache #1,426 coming up with unique plot twists to entertain the reading public.

To imply that the agent is the person who made a writer’s career a success is not only insulting beyond belief, it is akin to saying that Leonardo Dicaprio’s agent did all his acting FOR him.

Now, I don’t know if this blog is going to totally ruin my chances at landing an agent, or not. But I can, and will say; at this point I’m not sure I really care. The only time in my 50 some odd years on this planet that I have felt this insulted was when I was working as a graphic artist.

True Story:

Like all graphic artists I also held the dream of one day having my paintings hanging in a gallery somewhere. Of turning out art that would pay my bills, and maybe leave a legacy to make my small mark on the world. A long shot, I know, but one worth taking, at the time.

One day, while channel surfing, I was halted by a news report of a brand new artist who was commanding an average of $15,000.00 per painting. I had to stop. To know that there was hope for me. To applaud another artist who had made it. Until the story revealed the artist in question.

A raccoon!

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to kicking in the television screen. It also marked the downfall of my desire to be a gallery artist, and probably my career as a graphic artist as well. The life just drained out of the whole scene for me that day.

Giving an agent, no matter how talented, kudos for an author’s success with the public is dangerously close to the same thing. I don’t care how good an agent is, if the public isn’t buying the story they are not going to be able to change that. In fact they are not even going to try. They will simply move on to the next client, and the next commission.

I’m not saying this is bad, it’s just how the business works. If an agent doesn’t earn any commissions, they can’t feed their children. They are, for the most part, hard working, intelligent professionals. But, to give an agent this much credit for a writer’s hard work is unconscionable, and in damn poor taste.

The story lives, or dies by the writer who penned it, not by the will of the agent. The agent is a broker, not the product. And that is all there is to it. No more, no less.

Besides, without a writer’s manuscript to sell, I seriously doubt the agent would be in business.

So, let’s give credit where credit is due. It was J.K. Rowling’s considerable skill as a storyteller and writer that conjured up those millions for her, not her agent.

Ever;
Pete

Marathon Mania   14 comments

In just two short days from now the Summer posting marathon of the Speculative Fiction Group at AgentQuery Connect begins. To say the least, I’m as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs over it.

For those of you who may not know; The posting marathon is actually a beta read/critique of a polished work in progress for those of us who belong to the group. In short you end up with several different authors critiquing your story one chapter per week.

Now I am certainly not opposed to critique by my fellow writers. As I’ve often said, I can’t fix what I don’t know about. And with several different authors, from several different levels of publishing experience, I’m sure to get a good cross reference as to what I can do to make the story better. After all, that is my main goal as a writer; to turn out the best possible work that I can.

So, why should I be nervous?

In short, good old fashioned self-doubt. Sure, I like the story. Sure, I think I have been clever, and wove together a tale that will keep the reader turning pages. Sure, close friends and family think its one of the best things they’ve read. But, if all I was after was ego massaging, I wouldn’t be bothering with editing, revising, throwing out old sub-plots that didn’t drive the story, etc,etc. I’d just keep bugging friends and family so I could hear them say, “You should publish this.”

(Bless their hearts, but they have said that about any piece of garbage that I’ve concocted over the years. And, believe me, there were more than a few stinkers in that mix.)

No, what’s keeping my shaky meter in the red are the same old nagging thoughts that plague any wanna-be author. What if the premise of the story isn’t as hot as I think it is? What if my characters are not properly defined, and my plots are actually juvenile, and tripe? Worse yet, what if my storytelling is boring?!

In a couple of days, I’ll find out.

Now, just for argument’s sake, let us suppose that the worse proves true. What then? Should I just chuck the whole mess, and start thinking about a career flipping burgers, or asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

Maybe. But, my gut reaction is, “OH, HELL NO!” No way am I going to blow an opportunity like this by turning belly up over some bad reviews. What I am going to do is learn from the experience, work on my weak areas, and take yet another running shot at it. Perhaps with a new story, if the current one is unsalvageable.

Does it bother me that I may have wasted three years on this particular story? A little. Still, it isn’t the end of the world. If the tale isn’t what I thought it was, at least I’ll know why, and that is worth its weight in gold to an aspiring writer.

All too often I’ve seen new writers who believe that their story is akin to the wealth of the Indies. They seem to pin all their hopes on a single story, and God help them if so much as a single sentence is looked upon in a negative light. Speaking for myself, this appears to be the most egotistical approach to writing that anyone could take. Just who are these people trying to please? The readership, or themselves?

If they are trying to please themselves, congratulations, they already succeeded. If they are trying to please a readership, I think they have a long hard road ahead of them.

It is true that you can not fill a cup which is already full. More often than not, this particular cup is full of itself. Hopefully, I can remain the kind of writer cum author who checks their ego at the door when it comes to the story. Fully knowing that not everything I put down to a word processor is genius.

All rambling aside, like anyone else, I’m hoping that the story will be well received. I certainly know that it isn’t perfect. Perfection is an impossibility. Yet, I would like to get as close as I can. At least I’m lucky enough to have a place where I can get plenty of feed back, and that is a good thing. 😀

I’ve two more days to polish the story a bit more, then comes the acid test.

Wish me luck, if you will.

Ever;
Pete