Category Archives: Publishing

#amwriting: the role of the #proofreader

I am nearly at the end of the editing process on my new novel, Billy Ninefingers, a tale set in Huw the Bard’s world. When I am finished with the revisions, I will format my manuscript to be uploaded as both eBook and paper books. At that point, I will be looking for proof readers.

This is where it gets sticky. At some point, I must draw the line and say this book is done. I want no more changes, no more fiddling with it. Thus, when the manuscript is as polished as I can possibly get it, I have one final step—the one that can either ruin a formatted manuscript or make it great: proofreading.

While some people will dispute this, proofreading is not editing.

Proofreading is done after the final revisions have been made, and hopefully it is done by someone who has not seen the manuscript before. That way, they will see it through new eyes, and the small things in your otherwise perfect manuscript will stand out.

Anita Campbell, in her May 28, 2015 guest post for the SBA’s Blog-Industry Word says: “The first step of effective proofreading is understanding that not every typo or issue is alike.  Each needs to be attacked in a different way.” While she is speaking of editing blogposts, and short works, that profoundly true of longer manuscripts.

Even though an editor has combed your manuscript and you have made thousands of corrections, both large and small, there may be places where the reader’s eye will stop. Words have been left out, punctuation is missing–any number of small, hard-to-detect things can occur even after the most thorough of edits.

After the final edit, we go over our work with a fine-toothed comb, trying to proof it ourselves. We read it aloud, and we read it from the bottom up, but our eye sees what it expects to see. We catch many things, but we don’t catch it all.

This is where the final person in the process comes in–the proofreader.

In case you didn’t see it when I mentioned it above, I will say it again: proofreading is not editingEditing is a process that I have discussed at length elsewhere, and is completed long before we get to the proofreading stage.

At the outset, the proofreader must understand that no matter how tempting it may be, they have not been invited to edit the manuscript for content. That has already been done and done again. If they cannot refrain from asking for large revisions regarding your style and content, find another proofreader.

What the Proofreader Should Look For:

Spelling—misspelled words, and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). These are words that spell-checker may or may not catch, so a human eye is critical for this.

  • Wrong:  Bobby wint out the door, slamming the screen.
  • Right:  Bobby went out the door, slamming the screen.
  • Wrong: There cat escaped and he had to chase it
  • Right: Their cat escaped and he had to chase it.

Repeated words and cut-and-paste errors. These happen when making revisions, even by the most meticulous of authors, and the editor won’t see any errors you introduce after they have completed their work on the ms. These are insidious and difficult to spot, and spell-checker won’t find always them. Sometimes they seem like unusually garbled sentences.

  • Wrong: First of all, First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.
  • Wrong: First of all, it is accepted practice to practice thoughts.
  • Wrong: First of all, it is accepted to ot  thoughts.
  • Right: First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.

Missing closed quotes:

  • Wrong: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man? asked Officer Shultz.
  • Right: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man?” asked Officer Shultz.

Numbers that are digits:

  • Wrong: There will be 3000 guests at the reception.
  • Right: There will be 300 guests at the reception. (For notes and emails, we can use digits.)
  • Right: There will be three hundred guests at the reception. (In literature, we write it out.)

Dropped and missing words:

  • Wrong: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table me gently while I made hot water for tea.
  • Right: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table grilling me gently, while I made hot water for tea.

Each time you (or a well-meaning editor) tweak the phrasing or create a new passage in your already edited manuscript, you run the risk of creating another undetected error.

Do not ask an editor to proofread your manuscript, as they will be unable to resist tweaking the phrasing and will ask for more changes, because it’s their nature and their job. This can go on forever, and you run the risk of

1. Ironing the life out of your manuscript and losing the feeling of spontaneity, making it feel contrived.

2. Putting up a manuscript that looks unedited because of the flaws that were introduced in the proofing process.

Don’t allow someone else, even an editor, to make the changes for you. Editors are human and can inadvertently make mistakes—after all, the eye sees what the author thinks should be there. Any person who makes changes to the final product has the chance to inadvertently ruin it.

At some point your manuscript is done. You have been through the editing process, and the content and structure is as good as you can get it, but you need one last eye looking for small flaws. Before you upload that masterpiece to Kindle or wherever, do yourself a favor and have it proofread by an intelligent reader, who understands what you are asking them to do and who is willing to do only that.

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#amwriting: Identifying Genre

When you write a lot of different short stories, you really get to explore all aspects of your creative mind. You never know what will fall out of your head, so you find yourself writing in a wide variety of genres, things you never thought you would find interesting.

But they consume you, and you can’t stop writing.

So now you have this wonderful backlog of short and novella-length stories to enter in contests and submit to various publications–but now you find that this contest wants general fiction, and this one is fantasy. And this one is sci-fi only!

Dude–how do I know what tale to send to who?

If your work is nonfiction, it’s no problem because your work is targeted to a magazine with a specific readership, so the sub-genre will be clear and where you should submit it was likely evident the day you decided to write it.

Where this gets dicey is when you write short fiction with no specific contest or magazine in mind. When you sit down to write a short story with an open mind, random ideas flow, and because you are working within the limits of 3000 to 7000 words, your stories are creative and stretch you. But they will be widely different from your normal work, and will not always be in a genre you can easily identify. You have all this work, but no idea where to submit it.

Mainstream (general) fiction–Mainstream fiction is a general term publishers and booksellers use to describe works that may appeal to the broadest range of readers and have some likelihood of commercial success. Mainstream authors often blend genre fiction practices with techniques considered unique to literary fiction. It will be both plot- and character-driven and may have a style of narrative that is not as lean as modern genre fiction but is not too stylistic either. The prose of the novel will at times delve into a more literary vein than genre fiction, but the story will be driven by the events and action that force the characters to grow.

Science fiction–Wikipedia says:  “Science Fiction is fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life.” BE WARNED: the internet is rife with purists and impurists in the sci-fi field, snobs and folks with their heads up their anachronisms. Anyway, if you use magic for any reason you are NOT writing any form of sci-fi.

Hard Sci-fi is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in the physics, chemistry, and astrophysics. Emphasis is placed on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible. Soft Sci-fi is characterized by works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology.

Other main sub-genres of Sci-fi include Space-operasCyberpunk, Time Travel, Steampunk, Alternate history, Military, Superhuman, Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic.

The main thing to remember is this–Science and Magic cannot coexist in the Genre of Science Fiction. The minute you add magic to the story, you have Fantasy.

Fantasy: Wikipedia says: “Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are sub-genres of speculative fiction.” 

I’ll be truthful–fantasy has its share of snobs and damn fools when it comes to defining the sub-genres:

High fantasy–High fantasy is defined as fantasy fiction set in an alternative, fictional world, rather than the real, or “primary” world, with elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume narrative. Often the prose is more literary, and the primary plot is slowed by many side quests. Think William Morris and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Epic Fantasy–These stories are often serious in tone and epic in scope, dealing with themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces. Epic fantasy shares some typical characteristics of high fantasy includes fantastical elements such as elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume narratives. Tad Williams’s Memory Sorrow and Thorn is classic Epic Fantasy.

Paranormal Fantasy–Paranormal fantasy often focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from all the speculative fiction genres. Think ghosts, vampires, and supernatural.

Urban Fantasy– can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Horror–Wikipedia says “Horror fiction, horror literature and also horror fantasy are genres of literature, which are intended to, or have the capacity to frighten, scare, or startle their readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon has defined the horror story as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.

Romance– Novels of this type of genre fiction place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

I’m discussing Literary Fiction last because it is the most complicated and least understood genre of all. Literary fiction tends to be more adventurous with the narrative, with the style of the prose taking a prominent place. Stylistic writing and the exploration of themes and ideas form the substance of the piece. Writer’s Relief Author’s Submission Service defines literary fiction as “…fiction of ideas. While the story must be good, emphasis on action is not often as important as emphasis on the ideas, themes, and concerns of the book. Literary fiction tackles “big” issues that are often controversial, difficult, and complex.”  (end quoted text)

One of the problems in the perception of what constitutes Literary Fiction is this: A book like Alexander Chee’s Queen of the Night is a historical fantasy–BUT it is the style and VOICE with which it is written that makes it a powerful literary work. The same goes for much of George Sanders work. The Tenth of December is technically scifi, but it is the style and voice that makes George Sanders literary. The same with Neil Gaiman’s lovely work on the book, Stardust, which is a lightning rod for the “that’s not literary–yes it is” debate.

But think about this: an editor at Harpercollins once told me (at a conference) that literary fiction is anything that is well written with intentional prose, is character driven, has a compelling story, and doesn’t quite fit into any other category. A friend of mine in an online writer’s community said in a thread, “Intention, approach, the way resolutions happen, and the ideas explored help create these distinctions.”

Now that you know what the genre of your story is, you can seek out magazines and contest looking for that sort of work. Choose carefully who you submit your work to, carefully follow their submission guidelines, and only submit the work you have that best fits what they publish.

Never submit anything that is not your best work, and do not assume they will edit it because they won’t. And let’s be real–no one will even consider publishing work that is poorly written, sloppily formatted, and generally unreadable.


Parts of Identifying Genre were first published here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy under the title, What did I just write? Labeling short fiction, by Connie J. Jasperson © 2015-2017 All Rights Reserved.

How Do You Know If Your Novel Is Literary Or Mainstream Fiction? How Long Is A General Fiction Book? Posted on July 22, 2009 by Writer’s Relief Staff, accessed 11 June, 2017.

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#amwriting: submissions: discovering who wants them and how to manage your backlist

I’m a member of several author groups who regularly meet in online chat-rooms to talk about the craft. Every member of these groups are published authors, some traditionally, and some Indie. Many are hybrid, with work both traditionally and Indie published.

Much of what we discuss involves the problems we face in developing marketing strategies. While we all agree that only publishing work that is of the highest quality is of paramount importance, one thing is clear: the greatest hurdle Indie authors face is getting our work in front of readers’ eyes.

Therefore, we write short stories and submit them to various anthologies, magazines, and contests. Those of us who write in less popular genres have fewer sales of our novels through Amazon and other eBook sales outlets, which makes it even more important for us to submit short stories to the many contests and publications that are out there, and who are open for submission. However, finding these contests and publications can be challenging, as often by the time I hear about them, the closing date is approaching which means I may not have time to get a rough piece into the right shape for submission.

But even that is becoming less of a problem for me, because I have found an App for that.

The Submittable App.

Many contests and publications use the Submittable platform to accept and review the large volume of manuscripts they received from writers. When a publisher uses this platform, it’s great for us as authors because we can use the app to keep track of what we have submitted, and where it currently is in the process. This is a screenshot of the PC app, but the phone app is just as easy to read.

On your personal page, Submittable lists four stages in the process:

  1. Received
  2. In process
  3. Declined
  4. Accepted

It is the responsibility of the contest manager or publication to notify Submittable as to the status of their entries and submissions, and while most do, some contests managers aren’t as diligent about that. I assume that if it has been more than year, they didn’t want that piece.

But, even better than being able to track your submissions, all the contests that are currently open via Submittable are listed on the Submittable Website in one place on the “Discover” tab, so the question of where to submit your work is easily answered. Every open call for submissions is listed, and any entry fees are clearly shown.

At the top are the contests and calls that are closing that day. But if you scroll down to the bottom, you will find calls closing thirty days from now and beyond.

Just click on a contest or publication that looks interesting and a screen will pop up. Each pop-up tells you what is required for that contest or publication:

When I first began this journey, I didn’t understand how specifically you should tailor your submissions when it comes to literary magazines, contests, and anthologies.

Go to the publisher’s website and find out what their submission guidelines are and FOLLOW THEM. (Yes, they apply to EVERYONE, no matter how famous.) If you skip this step, you can wait up to a year to hear that your ms has been rejected, and they most likely won’t tell you why.

I’ve posted this link before, but it bears repeating: an excellent article that addresses that well is  “What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines.”

Because I have so many short pieces floating around in the ether and most are not through Submittable, I keep a list on a spreadsheet, organized like this:

I can’t stress this too strongly: only submit your best work. If you have a well-written piece that reads smoothly when read aloud and is rejected for whatever reason, examine it once more with a critical eye and then find a different magazine, contest, or anthology to submit it to. Chances are it simply didn’t resonate with the editor at that place, and who knows–it may be exactly what the next place is looking for.

I like submitting my work to places that use Submittable, because when you can see where your work is in that process, you can better decide what to do with each manuscript. After all they have room for only so many pieces. This means that sometimes your good work is rejected in favor of another author’s good work. Sulking over a rejection doesn’t advance your career, so promptly put that manuscript back into circulation.

When you have a great story that you believe in, you must find the venue that might be interested in your sort of work. This means you must buy magazines, read them, and write to those standards.

If you are stumped for places to send your work and don’t see anything that interests you on the list at Submittable, there are several sites that offer classified ads calling for submissions:

NewPages Calls for Submission

Every Writer’s Resource

Let’s Write a Short Story

The important thing is to write and write and write.  When you are stumped for ideas on a longer piece, writing a short story often fills the gap and keeps you writing. Write that short story, then set it aside for future use. Build a backlog of flash-fiction. You never know when you’ll need a piece for an anthology or magazine.

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#amwriting: action and introspection

All works of fiction, no matter what their genre have several commonalities. Protagonists and side characters begin in a comfortable place. An incident/event occurs, throwing them out of what they know and into disarray. This is the inciting incident.

Once they recover from the first stumbling block, our protagonist realizes they want or need something: an object or person that will resolve the situation they are in. This is a moment of truth, a point where the protagonist realizes they could lose everything.

To resolve their situation and acquire what they need,  the protagonist and their companions must enter unfamiliar circumstances. They will flounder and make mistakes until they become accustomed to their new situation.

In my own work there have been times where I was so busy setting traps and roadblocks for the protagonist and their nemesis that the story line wandered off and got lost.

For a particular event to have a place in the narrative, it must fulfil several requirements:

  • It must entertain the reader.
  • It must enable new circumstances.
  • It must force growth on the character, for good or for ill.

We do not insert random incidents simply for the sake of action. The events the protagonist experiences must be there to facilitate change. The action must force personal growth or otherwise affect the characters involved in it.

When we are deep in the creative process, it’s easy to forget that characters must evolve. Morality, love, coming of age—these ideas can be found in nearly every book on my shelves or in my Kindle.

Perhaps you are experiencing writer’s block. Inspiration has abandoned you, and you become desperate to get your narrative moving again.

It may be that you have lost track of what you originally imagined your story was about, and your characters no longer know what they are fighting for. Was it love? Was it destiny? Was it hope?

When you first imagined you had a story to write, you had an idea of what the characters would be like. Did you picture them fully formed? At the beginning, we must leave room for growth and change, for us to show the character evolving, growing to that finished state. This is how we involve the reader in the hero’s journey.

When an author becomes desperate and inserts outlandish events or conversations “just to show they are human” it disrupts the story arc. At that point, the author frequently loses interest in the story and believes they are suffering writer’s block.

Think about novels you may have read where the author became too focused on the action and neglected to devote a few sentences detailing the character’s introspection. Their protagonist went from one death defying incident to another, without a pause or a moment to catch their breath. The protagonist may as well have been a crash test dummy, ricocheting from one event to the next with no thought or feeling.

The constant onslaught of random action became a loud noise that didn’t make any sense because there was no chance to link the events together and put them in perspective. Events inserted for shock value  and with no pause for reflection don’t show personal growth. This can make an otherwise good character two-dimensional.

This need for pauses between the action has been referred to (by better educated people than me) as: writing the way a skater skates: “push  – glide – push – glide.” Action – reflection – action – reflection. These small pauses give the reader a chance to breathe and process what just happened.

What will the protagonist gain from the experience? Action, deeds, and accomplishments are necessary to force change and growth on the characters. When you write a scene, ask yourself, “How will their fundamental ethics and ideals be challenged by this event?” If there is no personal cost, the scene is a side trip to nowhere and should be removed.

Writing these blind alleys is not a waste of time. You never know when you will need those ideas, so don’t throw them away—always keep the things you cut in a separate file. Remember, just because that idea doesn’t work for this book, doesn’t mean it won’t work in another book.

I label that file “outtakes,” and believe me, it has come in handy when I need an idea to jump-start a new story.

In the greatest, most memorable novels, the reader experiences the characters’ lives as they react to the events and setbacks.

This is what we want to achieve in our own work. The genre and the setting in which these characters react to the wider concepts are just a backdrop. The world they are set in is the picture-frame, a stage upon which the themes of the story play out, and characters are shaped by a force beyond their control—the author.

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#amwriting: Update, and the Room of Shame

I work in a room officially designated as the Room of Shame. It is not a room of shame in a dark, Fifty Shades of Gray way.  No. That would be interesting, which this particular Room of Shame is not.

This room is a boring office that could be owned by hoarders. I’ve mentioned before that it’s haunted by the Ghost of my Feline (Past): Yum Yum (the demon-possessed cat). My little companion died died in 2009, and I’ve never had the heart to replace her. Despite my oft-repeated intention to clean this toxic waste dump out, her ghost still manifests in the fur that still lurks behind the sagging bookshelves and boxes of papers dating back to the Bronze Age. Plastic bins filled with my books, ready to take to a show or signing, are stacked atop dusty crates still bearing her furry imprint. The disgraceful carpet is proof that to clean the floor, one must be able to find it.

Somehow, despite the embarrassing chaos, I do manage to crank out the work.

Last month I finished the second draft of Billy Ninefingers. He has been through the beta reading process and is currently fermenting in a dark place while I wind up some other projects. I received excellent feedback and have a firm idea as to how I will structure the final draft.

I am making headway on the first draft of Eternity’s Gate, a new novel in the Tower of Bones series. This is the ‘how it began’ story, and it features Aelfrid Firesword, Edwin’s many time’s great-grandfather, and the unintentional founder of the College of Warcraft and Magic. Even though it is set in an established world (Neveyah), planning this novel presented an unusual problem in that the magic system had to be redesigned as much of what is canon in the later books doesn’t exist during the time this story is set. New maps have been drawn. Alf is a Barbarian, so I have learned a great deal about his culture in the process of creating this early, far wilder version of world of Neveyah.

Knight’s Redemption, a novella featuring Julian Lackland, Golden Beau Baker, and Huw the Bard, is in the final stage of the revision process.

As always, I am working on flash-fiction and poems as the mood strikes, some weeks more than others. Flash-fiction usually happens when I’m at a stopping point on my other projects and my mind just wants to roam free. This is always a good time to think about possible blog posts.

And finally, I’m in the process of rewriting a short story for an editor who likes the overall premise, the protagonist, and the way the story ends, but wants me to make some fundamental changes to the way I am telling the tale. In my opinion, any interest from an editor should be celebrated, and their requests and suggestions should be given my full, immediate attention, so that will be an ongoing project over the next few weeks.

Not being rejected out-of-hand is good, in my opinion. I see this type of interaction as an encouraging thing. The door is open to an opportunity I might not have again, so I try to make whatever changes they request. The trick is to make the changes with your own flair so that you don’t lose what they liked about the piece in the first place. Either way, whether they ultimately reject it or not, I will gain something out of this.

Also, I have been cooking. I’ve found some more wonderful food ideas to take along when I am on the road. Traveling as a vegan can be quite dicey, unless you carry your own food. Once I leave the Northwest, restaurants don’t offer vegan options. Rather than go hungry, I make my meals ahead. I’m always looking for tasty treats that travel well, and are satisfying.

Today is a good day to write. I intend to make the most of it, working on whichever project is inspiring me. Having more than one project going at a time allows me to stay productive because when I can’t think what to do next in one manuscript, I’ll know exactly what I need to do in another.

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#amwriting: proofreading vs. editing #NotTheSame

The last stage of getting a manuscript ready for publication is critical.  This is where the final person in the process comes in–the proofreader. Perhaps you have volunteered to proofread a friend’s book. The friend arrives with the proof copy (or maybe you have been sent a manuscript). They ask you to look for typos, cut-and-paste-errors, or autocorrect errors. These are things they and their editor may have missed.

Before we go any further, proofreading is not editing.

Editing is a process that I have discussed at length elsewhere and is completed long before we get to the proofreading stage. A good proofreader will understand that the author has already been through the editing gauntlet with that book and is satisfied with it in its current form. A proofreader will not try to hijack the process and derail an author’s launch date by nitpicking his/her genrestyle and phrasing. 

The proofreader must understand that the author has hired a professional line editor and is satisfied that the story arc is what they envisioned and the characters are believable with unique personalities. The editor has worked with the author to ensure the overall tone, voice, and mood of the piece is what the author envisioned.

You will note that I have used the word envisioned twice in my previous paragraph. This is because the work is the author’s creation, a product of his/her vision, and by the time we arrive at the proofing stage, it is intentional in the form it is in.

At this point, the author and his/her editor have considered the age level of the intended audience, so if you feel their work is too dumbed down or poorly conceived and you can’t stomach it, simply hand the manuscript back  and tell them you are unable to do it after all. DON’T go through it with a red pen and mark it up with editorial comments, or critique their voice and content because it will be a waste of time for you and the author.

But what if it is your manuscript that needs proofing? What should you ask from a proofreader?

Even though an editor has combed your manuscript and you have made thousands of corrections, both large and small, there may be places where the reader’s eye will stop. Words have been left out, punctuation is missing–any number of small, hard-to-detect things can occur despite the most thorough of edits.

If the person who has agreed to proof your work cannot refrain from asking for large revisions regarding your style and content, find another proofreader, and don’t ask the first reader for help again.

The problem that frequently rears its head among the Indie community occurs when an author who writes in one genre agrees to proofread the finished product of an author who writes in a different genre. People who write sci-fi or mystery often don’t understand or enjoy paranormal romances, epic fantasy, or YA fantasy.

These are genres with specific styles and reader expectations, and many authors don’t understand this. For this reason, some otherwise wonderful people become terrible, arrogant readers, when they have been asked to proofread in a genre they don’t care for, or for an author whose voice they don’t like. They can’t proofread because they are fundamentally driven to critique and edit.

It is your task to ensure that your intended proofreader is aware of what they are to look for.

In the publishing industry, proofreading is done after the final revisions have been made, and hopefully, it is done by someone who has not seen the manuscript before. That way, they will see it through new eyes, and the small things in your otherwise perfect manuscript will stand out.

What The Proofreader Should Look For:

Spelling—misspelled words, autocorrect errors, and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). These words are insidious because they are real words and don’t immediately stand out as being out of place.  A human eye is critical for this.

  • Wrong: There cat escaped, and he had to chase it
  • Right: Their cat escaped, and he had to chase it.
  • Wrong: The dog ran though the house.
  • Right: The dog ran through the house.
  • Wrong: He was a lighting mage.
  • Right: He was a lightning mage.

Repeated words and cut-and-paste errors. These are sneaky and dreadfully difficult to spot. Spell-checker won’t always find them. To you the author, they make sense because you see what you intended to see. For the reader, they appear as unusually garbled sentences.

  • Wrong: First of all, First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.
  • Wrong: First of all, it is accepted practice to practice thoughts.
  • Wrong: First of all, it is accepted to ot  thoughts.
  • Right: First of all, it is accepted practice to italicize thoughts.

Missing punctuation and closed quotes:

  • Wrong: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man? asked Officer Shultz.
  • Right: “Doctor Mendel, you’re new to the area. What do you know about the dead man?” asked Officer Shultz.

Numbers that are digits:

Miskeyed numbers are difficult to spot when they are wrong unless they are spelled out.

  • Wrong number: There will be 3000 guests at the reception.
  • Better number (but still written wrong): There will be 300 guests at the reception.
  • Right: There will be three-hundred guests at the reception.

Dropped and missing words:

  • Wrong: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table me gently.
  • Right: Within minutes the place was crawling with cops, and Officer Shultz was sitting at my kitchen table grilling me gently.

Make your corrections with care. Each time you create a new passage in your already edited manuscript, you run the risk of creating another undetected error.

At some point, your manuscript is done. The line editor has beaten you senseless with the Chicago Manual of Style. The content and structure are as good as you can get them. At this stage, all you want is one last eye looking for small flaws that may have been missed.

Before you upload that masterpiece to Kindle or wherever, do yourself a favor and have it proofread by several intelligent readers who understand what you are asking them to do and who are willing to do only that.


Credits/Attributions:

The Passion of Creation, Leonid Pasternak [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Writing letter, By Kusakabe_Kimbei [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#amtalking: #interview with @authorLeeFrench, Ghost is the New Normal

Author Lee French is a prolific writer, with more than twenty books to her credit. Her work is featured in many anthologies, and she is a driving force in the Pacific Northwest Indie author community. She is a strong proponent of NaNoWrimo, and works with me as Co-Municipal Liaison for the Olympia region. Her insights and commentary regularly crack me up, but more than that I really enjoy her work. Two of her series, The Greatest Sin and Ilauris, have become favorites of mine. Her YA series, Spirit Knights, is an excellent adventure series, completely appropriate for teens and readers of all ages.

CJJ: Your new book, Ghost is the New Normal, is the fourth installment in the Spirit Knights series. This series is set in Portland, Oregon, and features an unusual cast of characters. Claire is sixteen and is in foster care. Her new family has connections to her deceased parents, and this unusual connection is the core of the story. Claire’s father was a Spirit Knight, a member of a group dedicated to hunting ghosts in Portland. Tell us about the Spirit Knights and the story so far.

LF: At its heart, the Spirit Knight series is about the same thing all my books center on—family. The people in your family, whether it’s the family you were born with or not, are the people who affect you the most throughout your life. All three of the primary characters, Claire, Drew, and Justin, have lost their parents, and all three are affected differently by that. It’s how they deal with those issues, feelings of betrayal, survivor’s guilt, abuse, and loneliness that makes their stories worth telling.

CJJ: Claire is a unique girl. She is fun and feisty, a girl who makes mistakes along with her successes. But even when she has stumbled big-time, she picks herself up and keeps going. When did you have the idea to write her story in the first place?

LF: Claire began life as a Werewolf: the Apocalypse character. That’s one of White Wolf’s role-playing games. Her humble beginnings as a relatively dumb, brute-force werewolf provided a foundation for someone who solves problems by punching them in the face. At her core, she’s an exaggeration of the “strong” female character, softened into realism by adding layers of humanity over that.

CJJ: You write in several different genres. As an Indie trying to carve a niche for your work, has that presented a challenge for you?

LF: With work in five different subgenres now, it’s challenging to find readers who like all of it, which means I have to approach each subgenre’s books as a separate entity. I can get crossover between epic and sword & sorcery fantasy, and between superheroes and urban fantasy, but never the twain shall meet, and nothing else intersects with cyberpunk. As a result, my fans are in three disparate groupings. Marketing to one grouping is time consuming and often expensive. Marketing to three is more than I can handle, so I try to take turns with each thing.

TL;DR: Yes, and I don’t recommend it. Stick with your genre until you achieve success in it.

CJJ: You have an eye for graphic design and have done covers for several books. You have also worked with several professional designers. What should the cash-strapped Indie consider when looking and budgeting for a cover designer?

LF: Pre-made covers are economical, and you can see the quality before you buy. If you don’t personally have design skills and software, it’s a good route to take for your first few books. If you do have the skills and materials, it’s important to understand the specific market of book covers in your subgenre. There are expectations about covers, and there are techniques specific to covers that should only be subverted once you understand them. Just like with writing. Research your subgenre and fit into it.

CJJ: If you could go back to your first books and do anything differently what would that be?

LF: At this point, I look back at that first year of publishing and wish I’d known someone who could’ve given me good advice on what to do with those first 5 books. I read lots of advice, but have come to appreciate that some of it wasn’t good. Most specifically, I think I would’ve dumped a lot more money into the first few books, for editing, covers, and initial roll-out. I’ve since gone back and had the editing and covers redone.

CJJ: What has been the greatest hurdle for you to overcome in your career?

LF: Meeting people. I’m horrible at remembering names, I have a hard time digesting information I only get aurally, and I have anxieties that kick in around large groups. Attending parties where the purpose is meeting people in the biz is a special form of torture. As my own sense of personal success builds, I’m getting better at it, but the socializing will always be my least favorite part of this job. After writing blurbs. Blurbs suck more.

CJJ: What has been the biggest happy-dance moment for you as an author?

LF: Joining SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, was always a sort of pie-in-the-sky thing for me, up until I did it as an indie last December. The moments that allowed it to happen—hitting #1 on Amazon in multiple high-level subcategories—were pretty good too. Those kinds of moments help create a sense of legitimacy in my own mind, which helps me convince others I deserve a seat at the table.

CJJ: You and Indie author, Jeffrey Cook, wrote Working the Table, the Bible for Indies who intend to have tables and sell their books at conventions. Tell us a little about that book and how it came about.

LF: Jeff and I worked 32 shows in 2016, plus another dozen or more in 2015. Between the two of us, we climbed the learning curve pretty fast. Watching others work and settling into what we found both comfortable and successful has given us a reputation in the Pacific Northwest among a fair-sized swath of indie authors. A few people suggested we should write a book with all our tips and tricks, which we brushed off because neither of us felt especially wise or learned in the subject. At one show, a friend issued the ultimatum that if we didn’t write it, she would. I did some research and discovered Amazon had no such books, so we wrote it. That book took about 3 months to produce and was probably the least stressful authorial experience I’ve ever had.

CJJ: Where will readers be able to find you this spring and summer?

LF: This is my current schedule through August, but more shows may be added:

  • Wen-Con—Wenatchee, WA
  • Norwescon—Seatac, WA
  • CapitalIndieBookCon—Olympia, WA
  • Miscon—Missoula, MT
  • GEARCon—Portland, OR
  • MALCon—Denver, CO
  • GenCon—Indianapolis, IN

>>><<<

Lee French can be found blogging on all aspects of her writing life at Scripturience, www.authorleefrench.com

Follow Lee on Twitter: @authorleefrench

Lee’s Facebook page can be found at:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLeeFrench

You can find Lee’s books on Amazon. Her books are also available at Barnes and Noble, Kobo,  and  in all other digital formats as well as in print, and as audio books.

Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending too much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.

She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the Olympia Area Writers Coop, as well as being one of two Municipal Liaisons for the NaNoWriMo Olympia region and a founding member of Clockwork Dragon Books.

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#amreading: Stephen Swartz, EPIC FANTASY * With Dragons

Today I am talking with a dear friend of mine, author Stephen Swartz. Along with myself and twenty other authors, Stephen is a founding member of Myrddin Publishing. We have been down a great many rough roads together since those early days of taking the plunge and leaving our former publisher. Not a day goes by that I don’t communicate with him in some way, and he always has a way of making me laugh.

His most recent novel is an ambitious project called EPIC FANTASY *With Dragons which was just launched. I had the opportunity to be a beta reader and liked the book in its proto version very much. I am enjoying the book in its final form immensely. The world it is set in is barbaric and exotic. Corlan is a solid character, a great protagonist who is unlike most squeaky clean, modern heroes. In a purely human way, Corlan has faults and blind spots. But he attracts an odd assortment of people, wonderful characters who force him to see the world more realistically. In his travels, Corlan becomes a worthy hero, but never loses his human nature.

CJJ: EPIC FANTASY *With Dragons is an awesome title for the book. Your dragons are most definitely not the friendly sort of dragon Anne McCaffrey wrote about. How long did you toy with the idea of this book before you began writing it, and what made you decide to embark on such an ambitious project?

SW: The fact is the title was the first thing I thought of. Because I was challenged to write an “epic fantasy” I started with that as the title, more of a spoof, I suppose, but also a focus. I imagined poking fun at the tropes of the epic fantasy genre. Of course, that’s not what I ended up with: it was not a spoof but a serious work of daring-do over a harsh landscape.

I had never been a fan of dragons as a story element. Too many dragons were cute, affectionate, like pets to humans, or the opposite: dragons hoarding gold, talking to humans. I couldn’t deal with those. So I went full biologist and reimagined dragons as perfectly wild beasts following the laws of physics and biology. Then I let them be nuisances, then terrors. I imagined a life where dragons constantly flew overhead, snatching children and livestock, setting thatch roofs on fire, depositing their waste everywhere. People would not put up with that for long. Hence, the need for “gamekeepers” to keep them in check.

As is often the case for me, I had an image in my head, the opening scene. It had to be a fantasy world. Some guy doing his thing in that fantasy world. So I thought of dragons flying by and there is our hero, sitting on the side of a cliff shooting them down. And then what happens? I thought for about a month, then continued: he goes home and faces all kinds of trouble, a bad weekend in the city which ends with him being banished by the prince.

Now that I’ve finished Epic Fantasy *With Dragons, I’m finally reading McCaffrey’s books. Long ago, when I was a child, I showed my mother a story I had written and when she said it reminded her of The Hobbit, I swore never to read The Hobbit so nobody could say I got my story idea from Tolkien. Now, however, we do research. Even so, I don’t think my take on a dragon tale is like any others that I’ve read or heard of.

CJJ: The works of yours I am most familiar with, Aiko, After Ilium, and A Girl Called Wolf are contemporary fiction, set in our real world, as is your vampire novel, A Dry Patch of Skin. You’ve also written an epic Sci-Fi series, The Dreamland Trilogy. This book is a real departure from those novels, as the prose is far more formal and literary. Corlan is a compelling character, and the story moves along at a rapid pace, but I would say it is not a quick read. What kind of reader were you writing this for?

SW: I began writing science fiction, which was what I read as a child and teenager. I transitioned into magical realism by the time I entered an MFA program in college. There we were supposed to write literary fiction, introspective stories of real people in a real world. So that became my focus. There are good things and not so good things about each genre, something that satisfies me when writing each but also challenges for each genre. It comes down to the story: Is it better as a real story in a contemporary setting or as a sci-fi story in an invented world? I usually do not have the choice; the story comes to me already set in the genre it wants to be.

The novels you mention had some basis in my own reality. For Aiko I lived in Hawaii and then in Japan. After Ilium began with me studying Classical rhetoric and the epics of Homer; I transported Homer’s ancient tales to a modern setting. A Girl Called Wolf is really the biography of a friend; I felt her story of hardship growing up in Greenland would make a great novel. I encouraged her to write it but she gave up and insisted I write it for her.

One thing I did learn in that MFA program was that all stories are about people – not the setting, or the technology or the aliens or the dragons. That made a big difference in the writing I’ve done since then. So in Epic Fantasy *With Dragons I focused on my protagonist, making him a real person with real problems but also, as per the epic fantasy rules, some dark secrets, some stubbornness, and some talents. The Dream Land Trilogy, although sci-fi, also focuses more on the characters and their relationships than on the interdimensional doorway and the world they discover and come to rule. Perhaps it is all a matter of growing older myself and experiencing relationships. Who knows?

With the epic fantasy genre comes the criteria: a strange landscape, a variety of odd characters, a quest, and a lot of words to get the reader to the destination. When I began, I decided to aim for 200,000-plus words. I was half joking at first, just like with the title. But it really did not take so long or was too much effort to put that many words on paper. As a quest tale, the right number of episodes would naturally add up to the designated word count. I wrote quickly and did not linger to write lavish descriptions of places or a character’s fashion; I kept my focus on action, dialog, and moving to the next scene.

Like everything I write, I try to do two things, with regard to readers: give them a story that is compelling and within the criteria of the genre, and do something different, enough different, to make it not the same old thing they have read before. I think I’ve achieved that with Epic Fantasy *With Dragons. There is a deeper story that gradually boils to the surface by the end. I hope readers will enjoy the familiar elements of an epic fantasy and then appreciate how I’ve toyed with those elements to make some new and different.

CJJ: Now we get to the question I really want to know the answer to. At what age did you start reading, and what books influenced you most as a young reader?

SW: Being the child of a pair of teachers, I began reading at an early age. It wasn’t too soon after I began writing my own stories. They were comic strips at first: drawings with dialog. Then I dropped the pictures and added more words. All my teachers liked the stories I wrote, often having me read them for the whole class. In 7th grade I invented a superhero: Micro Man who could shrink himself to get out of tight jams. Everyone awaited the next episode every Friday. As a teenager I read sci-fi and fantasy…as well as some of the unabridged Classics on the shelves of my house. Ben Bova, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Michael Moorcock, Damon Knight are the authors I remember always reading. Plus Homer, the Russian novelists, especially Dostoevsky, and some Italians like Dante. And I tried to write better stories than what I read. Or at least as good: “Write the stories you want to read.” That’s what I do.

CJJ: How did these books influence your early writing?

SW: Aside from some stylistic tricks and some phrasing quirks from the authors I named, I was shown many (more) ways of seeing the universe than I ever could in my simple world of Missouri. And that’s the reason we read, especially sci-fi and fantasy. Technically, I still use the “two-fer phrase” (He dipped the cup into the stream, drank it.) that I learned from reading Zelazny. I got a literary lesson on how, in a conflict, the side that seems morally right at first glance is not always morally right, courtesy of Moorcock (The Eternal Champion). As an only child who spent a lot of time entertaining myself, I loved reading and writing. Now I teach others to enjoy reading and appreciating literature and to write academically and creatively.

CJJ: I like that. In the opening chapters of EPIC FANTASY *With Dragons, Corlan is possessed of that raw self-centeredness that many of Roger Zelazny’s protagonists embodied. Do you ever take a vacation from writing? Do you have a current work in progress?

SW: The only vacation from writing I take are the agonizing weeks between projects. I might slip into a depression, fearing I’ll never write again. Maybe I’ll have no more ideas. Gradually an idea will emerge from the vagaries of daily life and once again I become excited at inventing something that did not exist before. I’m in that slump presently but I will soon be able to get back to work on something.

Work-in-progress? I hesitate to mention it because that in itself might prove to be a spoiler, but I have ideas and a plan for a sequel to Epic Fantasy *With Dragons. I have tentatively titled it Epic Fantasy 2 *Without Dragons. Now that the dragon situation has been resolved, our hero will turn to problems in the north. We will also learn more of the War of the Five Princes…mapped out in 1973, long before George R. R. Martin thought up his Game of Thrones.

CJJ: What would you like to say in closing about EPIC FANTASY *With Dragons?

SW: EF*WD started as a spoof, then became a serious tale of a quest. Then began the painting of patina of philosophy under many of the scenes, letting characters discuss the issues relevant to them and by extension to all of humanity. That is why I remarked at the close that I had said everything I wanted to say. And that, I believe, is something of the requirements of the epic fantasy: to make a statement about the human condition (without being preachy, of course) that gives the reader far more than a simple quest tale with action and romance. Perhaps that’s what I like most about writing fiction: juxtaposing the mundane reality of our present world with the vivid possibilities of the fantastical world and finding somewhere between them, in the cracks, a few universal truths. Then I can sit back and muse: “My work here is done.”

Stephen Swartz, thank you for stopping by and talking about your work and especially about this wonderful new novel.

Stephen can be found blogging regularly at Deconstruction of the Sekuatean Empire, where he discusses all aspects of his travels and writing life and also illuminates the darker corners of the craft of writing.

>>>|<<<

EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS

CORLAN, MASTER DRAGONSLAYER, the best in the Guild, the best in the Burg!

And yet, returning from his latest expedition, Corlan discovers jealous rivals have conspired

with the Prince to banish him from the city.

Sent into the Valley of Death, Corlan conjures a plan. He and his new sidekick, a runaway boy

from the palace kitchen, will trek the thousand miles to the far end of the valley, where a vast marsh provides nesting grounds for the dragon horde. Once there, Corlan vows to smash dragon eggs and lance younglings, ending dragon terror once and for all time.

And yet, as dangers, distractions, and detours harry him along the way, Corlan learns ancient secrets that threaten to destroy everything in his world. Even with the aid of wizards and warriors, he must use all his guile, his bravado, and the force of his stubborn will just to survive – and perhaps return home – no matter how the gods challenge him with their harshest tests.

Stephen Swartz grew up in Kansas City where he was an avid reader of science-fiction and quickly began emulating his favorite authors. Since then, Stephen studied music in college and, like many writers, worked at a wide range of jobs: from French fry guy to soldier, to IRS clerk to TV station writer, before heading to Japan for several years of teaching English. Now Stephen is a Professor of English at a university in Oklahoma, where he teaches many kinds of writing. He still can be found obsessively writing his latest manuscript, usually late at night. He has only robot cats.

CONTACT Stephen Swartz at:
BLOG

http://stephenswartz.blogspot.com/

TWITTER

@StephenSwartz1

FACEBOOK

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Stephen-Swartz/149555308427639

STEPHEN SWARTZ BOOK LINKS 

Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/Stephen-Swartz/e/B007391TQK

Goodreads Author Page:

EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS (Mar. 2017)
paper https://www.amazon.com/dp/1680630253

kindle https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XF5FQ57

A GIRL CALLED WOLF (Dec. 2015)

A BEAUTIFUL CHILL (Feb. 2014)

paper http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296307

kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I6M4R9Y

A DRY PATCH OF SKIN (Oct. 2014)

AFTER ILIUM (2012)

paper http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296218

kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009SDW1KC

AIKO (May 2015)

THE DREAM LAND TRILOGY

BOOK 1: Long Distance Voyager (Sept. 2013)

paper http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296226

kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AH1V78Q

BOOK 2: Dreams of Future’s Past (Nov. 2013)

BOOK 3: Diaspora (Dec. 2013)

paper http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939296277

kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVJGP9E

 

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#amwriting: publishing overview, Indie vs. Traditional

Who are youThe publishing industry is in a state of growth. According to the annual report of the Association of American Publishers, published July 11, 2016, the  U.S. publishing industry’s annual survey revealed earnings of nearly $28 billion in 2015. The market showed an increased return to print purchases, and a significant growth in audiobook sales while the growth of eBooks sales lagged compared to previous years.

“The area of largest growth for the trade category was Adult Books, which grew by 6.0% from $9.87 billion in 2014 to $10.47 billion in revenue in 2015. For the second consecutive year, Adult non-fiction books, which includes adult coloring books, was the category that sold the most units and provided the most revenue in the trade category. Within the Adult Books category, the fastest growing formats in terms of units sold were downloaded audio (up 45.9%), hardback (up 15.1%) and paperback (up 9.1%).” Ebooks still comprised 17.3% of the market.

In this publishing world, what share of the market is claimed by Indie book sales? In October 2016 Author Earnings reported that overall, Indie sales were down. In my view, this is to be expected, because eBook sales were down, and most Indie sales are in eBook format. It is the availability factor—Indies have trouble getting their work into places like Walmart and Target, which are the big booksellers in America, right behind Amazon.

Author Earnings reported:

Amazon’s 2016 online print book sales are nearly 18% higher than they were in 2015.

When we integrate the area under the two curves, we find that:

Amazon sold over 255 million print books in the US in 2015.

Amazon is on track to sell well over 300 million print books in the US in 2016.

The above totals include at least 13 million annual print sales of non-expanded-distribution CreateSpace POD books by self-published authors, which Amazon does not include in the numbers they report to Nielsen Bookscan.

The implications are numerous:

In 2015, more than 40% of Nielsen Bookscan’s 652 million total reported annual US print sales–and the majority of Nielsen’s Retail & Club sector–were online print sales from Amazon.com, rather than brick-and-mortar bookstore sales.

The fact that Nielsen Bookscan reports only 5% growth in the “Retail & Club” sector, when Amazon’s half of those “Retail & Club” numbers is up 18%, can only mean one thing:

The other half of the Bookscan Retail & Club sector, US physical bookstore sales, must be down by at least 8%.

What do these numbers mean when you are trying to decide whether to self-publish or attempt to go the traditional route? In my opinion, they really mean nothing. Authors, either Indie or traditionally published, rarely earn enough in royalties to support their families. Publishers, large and small, don’t waste budgets promoting work by unknown authors the way they do the few who have risen to the ranks of their guaranteed bestseller lists.

This means you will be doing the work of getting your name out there regardless of whether you choose the traditional route or not. What are the perks of going traditional if you’re an unknown? Why go to the trouble of wooing an agent and trying to court a publisher?

  • The traditional publishing industry offers many valid perks to those who get their foot in the door.
  • Once you are in their flock, you have an editor who works with you personally. Most of the time you can forge a good working relationship with this editor. If you go Indie, you must hire a copy editor, which is not cheap. (And should not be.)
  • While they may not treat a new author the way they do Stephen King, traditional publishers will dedicate a small budget to marketing your work for its launch, and it will be more money than you might be able to pony up as an Indie.
  • Traditional publishers can get your work into markets like Target, Walmart, Costco, airports, and grocery stores. That is a huge thing, assuming your publisher considers your work worthy of such a commitment on their part. Their confidence will have to be earned. You must expect to find your work on the slow track for a while as the publisher tests the water and sees how well your work is received at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
  • Once you are an established author, you will have a wider distribution, make far more sales. With those sales, your work will meet the criteria to be considered for industry honors and awards, which will help sell your books.
  • There is an air of ‘respectability’ that still clings to being able to claim you’re traditionally published.

These are all extremely valid reasons for attempting to go the traditional route.

However, there are equally valid reasons for going Indie:

  1. Your book will be published. If you seek a legacy book contract, you must pass a gauntlet of gatekeepers: literary agents, acquisition editors, editorial committees, and publishing-house CEOs. These people must answer to the international conglomerates that actually own the majority of American publishing companies. This is why you are most likely to be stopped by a rejection letter. It’s not the quality of your work, it’s their perception of what the reading market will purchase and what it means to the accountants, who in turn must answer to their share-holders.
  2. You may not become a bestseller, but you’ll make more money on what you do sell. In most standard book contracts, royalty terms for authors are terrible, and this is especially true for eBook sales. Most eBooks are sold through online retailers like Amazon. If you’re a traditionally published author, and your publisher priced your eBook at $9.99, this is how the Amazon numbers break out (and remember, Amazon is still the Big Fish in the Publishing and Bookselling Pond):
  • Amazon takes 30% of the list price, leaving about $7.00 for the publisher, agent, and you to split.
  • The publisher will keep 75% of that $7.00, or $5.25.
  • The publisher will pay you 25% of that $7.00—just $1.75.
  • You then must pay your agent his 15% commission—or 26 cents.
  • You net just $1.49 on each $9.99 eBook sale. This is assuming your publisher honestly reports your sales and royalties and in my personal experience, some do not.

If you self-publish your eBook at that same price, for each sale of your $9.99 eBook, Amazon takes its 30%, leaving you $7.00. I don’t recommend such a high eBook price, but at  $4.99 or even $2.99, you stand to sell books and make a decent profit.

  1. You’ll get paid quickly. When a publisher accepts your book, he offers you an advance against sales. These are often paid in installments stretched out over long periods and are tied directly to how well or how poorly your book is doing in real market time. Publishers report sales and pay royalties slowly, as royalty statements are usually issued semiannually. Your royalty checks arrive later, so you can’t rely on this income until you have become an established author in their world.

Conversely, most eBook distributors like Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit, and print-on-demand services such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, report your sales virtually in real time. Best of all, they pay your royalties monthly, with just a sixty-day lag from the time sales began.

Finally, and from my point of view, most importantly:

  1. Quill_pen smallYou retain all rights to your work. Legacy book contracts are a terrible danger zone for the author. The sheer complexity of negotiating a contract can be confusing and intimidating. You must hire a lawyer specializing in literary contracts, or risk unwittingly signing away secondary and subsidiary rights to your own work forever.

Quote from the Authors Guild post of July 28, 2015

Diamonds may be forever, but book contracts should not be. There’s no good reason why a book should be held hostage by a publisher for the lifetime of the copyright, the life of the author plus seventy years—essentially forever. Yet that’s precisely what happens today. A publisher may go bankrupt or be bought by a conglomerate, the editors who championed the author may go on to other companies, the sales force may fail to establish the title in the marketplace and ignore it thereafter, but no matter how badly the publisher mishandles the book, the author’s agreement with the original publisher is likely to remain in effect for many decades.

As I said before, you must do the work of getting your name out there regardless of whether you choose the traditional route or not. You must still work your day job to feed your family either way. Both paths are valid, and both have positive reasons for choosing that direction, as well as negatives. This is a critical choice for an author to make and is one that deserves deep consideration of all the many pros and cons.


CREDITS & ATTRIBUTIONS:

Annual Report, Marissa Bluestone © Copyright 2016, The Association of American Publishers http://newsroom.publishers.org/us-publishing-industrys-annual-survey-reveals-nearly-28-billion-in-revenue-in-2015, accessed March 5, 2017

A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever, The Authors Guild, © 2015 https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/a-publishing-contract-should-not-be-forever/, accessed March 5, 2017

Do I Really Need A Literary Attorney, Arielle Ford, © 2011 Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-ford/do-i-really-need-a-litera_b_927120.html

Image: Quill Pen, PD|by author, BWCNY at English Wikipedia.

Image: Who Are You © Connie J. Jasperson 2011-2017 Life in the Realm of Fantasy

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#amwriting: thoughts on the industry

IBM_SelectricThe ease with which anyone possessing the ability to access a computer and use the internet can publish their work independently has sparked a revolution in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, revolutions are NOT easy nor are they bloodless and pain-free.

For every book I feel good about recommending, I see on average 6 that are just plain awful. I’m not only talking Indies here–some are books that should never have made it past the gateway editor of a large publishing house, much less an agent.

It’s true that some indie books are so abysmally edited it is apparent the author is the only person who has ever seen the manuscript.

Others are moderately edited but not by a professional, or someone who knows how to write. This is a flaw that can drive away of all but the most determined readers, people who would ignore most typos and slight inconsistencies for a really good tale. For these books, the unbiased eye of the editor could have made a great novel out of a promising tale.

The core of this problem lies in the incredible number of people who are writing but have no concept of what it takes to write a good novel. Once they have rewritten the rough draft to their satisfaction, they believe they are done.

Then, they publish it.

Sadly, this sometimes happens with traditionally published books as well. I see this as evidence that editing and proofreading by the large houses for many successful traditionally published authors is sometimes overlooked in the rush to cash in on a commercial success. These publishers set impossible deadlines and race to launch what they hope will be a follow-up best seller, but because they were rushed, these books sometimes fail to live up to the hype.

The Novel Meme LIRFAnd while this means that they publish crap too, the stink washes off the traditional houses but clings to the Indie industry as a whole.

This brings me to my point: The big 5 traditional publishers pretend everything they publish is sheer magic, while loudly pointing out the faults inherent in self-publishing. And, while it makes me laugh that they decry us as worthless but leap to publish us the minute we show any sign of real success, there are hard truths here we indies who are committed to the craft of writing must face.

First off, I feel strongly that we shouldn’t rush to churn out more than one or two books a year. Romance novels can be a different kind of animal, but unless you are producing pulp fiction, the same applies. (Click here to read an article by romance novelist Merry Farmer on this subject.)

Traditional publishers fail us (as readers) by pushing successful authors to spew several books a year, beating dead horses and creating long-winded series that lose the way after the third book. We Indies have the luxury to take our time to craft a good book, as we don’t have externally imposed deadlines.

Some of the worst books I’ve read were written by traditionally published authors who also wrote books I loved. But their best (in my opinion) books were written in the early days when they weren’t book-producing machines.

Some general things for any author to do when they are first starting out:

  1. Learn the mechanics of how to write in your native language. Grammar and Punctuation are essential, even in modern literature.
  2. Join a writing group and meet other authors, either in your local area or on-line. This will help you with steps 3 and 4. Enter writing contests and participate in the boards and threads. Ignore the trolls; they pop-up everywhere (usually with badly written ego-stroking crap to their publishing credit.)
  3. Develop a thick hide, and find an unbiased eye among your trusted acquaintances to read your work as you are writing it, so you can make changes more effectively and not be overwhelmed at the prospect of rewriting an entire manuscript from scratch.
  4. Lose your ego. Your ego gets in the way of your writing.  Are you writing for yourself or for others to read and enjoy your work?
  5. Find a good, professional editor. There are hidden aspects to every great book, and they are all centered around knowledge of the craft. An external eye is essential to the production of a good book. Check their references, and when you do engage their services, do not take their observations personally. This editor must be someone you can work closely with, who makes suggestions and lets you make the changes on your masterpiece yourself. They must understand it is your work and you have the right to disagree with any suggested changes. If you have this symbiotic relationship, you will turn out a good final product.
  6. Don’t give up your day job. Even authors receiving hefty advances have to struggle to make ends meet. (Read Thu-Huong Ha’s article, A New Book Shows the Financial Cost of Leading a Creative Life.)

EDWAERT_COLLIER_VANITAS_STILL_LIFEIt’s far more affordable now for a dedicated reader to buy enough books to keep themselves happy, but making your way as a reader through the many offerings in our eBookstores is a perilous journey, and you can’t always trust the quality by reading the publisher’s label. You just have to realize that whether a novel is traditionally published or Indie, some books are frogs, and some are princes.

You may have to read a few books you wish you hadn’t on your way to finding the book that sweeps you away. For me, that’s just part of the journey.


Sources and Attributions:

How Many Books Should You Write Per Year, by Merry Farmer, Nov 13, 2013

A New Book Shows the Financial Cost of Leading a Creative Life,  by Thu-Huong Ha, Jan 11, 2017, Flipboard

IBM Selectric, By Oliver Kurmis (Self-photographed) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Still Life, By Evert Collier (1642-1708) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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