These are both exciting and frightening times with the multitude of changes occurring within the publishing industry. New houses seem to pop up over night while brick and mortar book stores are closing across the country. Self-publishing is no longer the red-headed stepchild. We have options now that lean away from traditional publishing. But all these options can be confusing. So before dipping your toe in the waters, I would suggest formulating a clear set of goals.
Now these goals aren't set in stone. They will likely change over time. And they can be extremely personal. What is right for you might not be for me. My goals still include acquiring an agent and a NY contract and I have always planned on the slow and steady route to achieving this.
I think each of us have mentioned the importance of a back list. Most authors do. But until recently, I could not speak from personal experience. The second in my Watcher's series released mid-April and I did indeed see a spike in sales on the first book. Multiply that by five, ten, or twenty book and suddenly you are looking at a substantial check.
Many an author has toted the phrase I don't want to keep all my eggs in one basket to explain their reasons for subbing to multiple pubs. And if it is a small or relatively new house, I would totally agree. Because while this writing thing is something most of us are compelled to do, we are ultimately in it to make money. But I would argue that once you have attained an editor at one of the bigger houses, it is really in your best interest to develop that back list.
I know not to go searching out reviews. Truly I do. It was a harsh lesson to learn. With my first published release, the response was wonderfully positive. At least those who left comments really seemed to like it. The second, now that was a whole other can of worms, a love it or hate it situation so I learned very quickly not to look.
Well yesterday I made the mistake of doing a name search. I do this periodically, searching for links where my books might be being pirated. It's a necessary evil of the job and something I know has all ready been discussed here by my fellow Muses. Anyway, as I said, I was doing a search and came across a link I shouldn't have followed. Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded review. Now I've had the typical 5 stars "It's the bestest book ever", the 4 stars "It's great", the 3 stars "Blah", the 2 stars "I just don't get it" but this was my first 1 star (Yah me!).
And what did I get for my one star? An "I would have liked it better if it had been longer" (I'm paraphrasing). Yes, I'm going with sarcasm here. Because it's better than crying.
Please don't take this as a bash on reviews or reviewers. It is not my intention or the reason for this post. They are more than welcome to their opinions. Only I don't need to know them.
Positive reviews are great. They help bolster an author's ego. To know someone out there really gets what we are writing is what keeps us doing what we do. Writing. But the negative reviews, those are the ones that stick with us. They swirl around our heads, buzzing in our ear that what we're writing is crap, that we shouldn't even bother. And the more we swat at them, they louder they buzz until it's the only sound we hear. If we let them.
So how do we fight it? Simple. Don't look. Once the seed has been sown, it's damn impossible to stop it from growing. Just like the crab grass I can't seem to get rid of in my front lawn, it will stifle all creativity for days or possibly even months. Because the truth of the matter is we all want to be liked. Even when logically we understand that is not possible. Not everyone is going to like what I write. Just like I don't like everything I read. But emotionally, it can pierce your soul.
I wish I had answers on how to move on from a bad review but I am just now starting to emerge from a writing funk due to a snarky review from almost a year ago. It didn't totally stop the process, only seriously hindered it.
How do you get over a bad review? Leave a comment and let me know.
Yesterday, Jaime mentioned her struggle in trying to decide which route was best for her, agent or no agent. This very personal decision is getting even harder to make with the ever changing publishing industry. And these changes are not exclusive to the Big Six. With the influx of so many smaller e-pubs and indie houses, many are scrambling to fill editing jobs. Others are growing so quickly that they seem unable to keep up and their authors are getting lost in the shuffle.
I doubt there has been a bigger eye-opener than the shut down of Borders stores. Just where I live, the three closest to me have closed, along with a couple hundred others around the country. This was taken at a Border's in Chicago.
Rumors only a couple years ago speculated Barnes and Noble was headed for the same outcome and then they came out with the Nook. While many still seem unsure of the future of digital publishing and e-readers, I wonder if Borders hadn't hid their heads in the proverbial e-book sand, would they be on firmer ground now? It certainly made Amazon the giant it is today.
We've talked a lot here about the changes in publishing. The decisions can be overwhelming, and not just for those getting started. I talk with my crit partners all the time about where to go from here. None of us have the answers. We're just going to have to hold onto our seats and hang on for the ride. Cause I think it's only going to get more wild.
Yes, it has happened again. Another author has opened her mouth and created a shit storm. Only this time, she decided to go out in a blaze of glory. In her own terms. Now, I'm not condoning what she said. But neither am I going to jump on the recent bandwagon of slicing and dicing the newest author who is "behaving badly".
Authors Behaving Badly. It's not new. Nor is it all that surprising. We see individuals say and do thoughtlessly mean things on the internet all the time. But authors are supposed to, for some reason, live to a higher standard. We are supposed to turn a blind eye to the snarky reviews that not only trash our work, but us as people. At least if we want to sell books.
But what nobody tells you about this business is how HARD it is. How disillusioning. And what I've heard from others who have been in it far longer than I, it doesn't get any easier. Sometimes it just seems easier to say, "This is it. I quit."
So I challenge you all, when you see these kind of rants, to consider that maybe, sadly, that author has no place else to turn. Instead of spewing words of hate and then going to Goodreads and Amazon, making up reviews to further the discord, offer that author a small bit of kindness. Even if it is by not pressing the comment button. And then say a small prayer of thanks that you have those around you to whom you can turn when things just seem to get to be too much.
I know I do. And to my fellow Muses, I can only say thank you. For being my rock. My friends.
Recently a NY Times bestselling author that I very much admire had a release and not long after, comments were left on her forum regarding this latest work. I'm not going to name names because (1) I can only imagine she has been hurt enough by what has been said and (2) it isn't the point of this blog. What was all the hoopla about, you are wondering? Editing.
Now I will agree on some of the things that have been said. There were errors throughout the entire book, things a good editor should have caught. Since I have never been NY published, I do not know firsthand the editing process at the Big Six but I can't imagine it is that different from places like Loose Id or Samhain. There are multiple rounds of edits, line edits, post-proof reviews, and for print, galleys. Multiple eyes comb through a manuscript before it goes on sale.
What I did find interesting and completely unfair was the castrating of the author on both Amazon and Goodreads and I'll explain why. It is very easy when going through your manuscript to miss things. Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you, substituting the correct word for the error written on the page. And sometimes you are just too close to the ms to see the flaws. That is why we have crit partners and editors. To lay the blame on the author alone is hardly fair.
And this author is not alone. I have noticed, especially recently, the decline in editing at the Big Six. Now have these problems always been there? Or am I just noticing them because I have been through the editing process myself (with a quite wonderful editor, I might add)? I am curious. What do you think?
I'm going to piggyback off Jaime's blog yesterday and talk a bit more about events. Besides Epic, I've attended three others in the last two years: Lori Fosters, Lora Leigh's, and RT. Each had a much different feel and offered unique opportunities.
RT or the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention is a yearly event that in my opinion has two downfalls. It is rather costly, around $500 just to register for the conference. Add the cost of food and hotel and you are looking at better than $1000 for a five day event. For many, especially ebook authors just starting out, we are lucky to get paid that much in a year making the cost far outweigh any possible benefits. Secondly, it is a huge event. Promotional opportunities are there -- you can purchase a spot on the many tables lining the halls to place bookmarks and such -- for those who have a difficult time socializing in large crowds, it is quite easy to get lost in the sea of authors.
But the information available at RT, in the form of the many workshops offered, more than makes this event worthwhile. Not only are you able to rub elbows with authors you admire (and wanna be like when you grown up:), you can learn some valuable insight on the industry. Who better to learn from than those who have already tread the path? My only wish was that I'd known about RT before being published. The workshops geared toward aspiring authors (info on publishers, how to write a query letter and synopsis, etc.) would have saved me hours of scouring the internet.
The Lori Foster event, held in Columbus, is much more informal than RT. While there were a few workshops, I can't really say much about them, as I did not attend any. Most of the authors camped out in the ballroom, either sitting at one of the tables or just walking around the room mingling. It was a comfortable laid back environment and the purpose, IMO, is not so much to sell your book but to sell yourself. Not only do you have an opportunity to connect with readers, with the technology available to us these days, you can make life-long friendships.
Lora Leigh's event is held every year in Huntington, West Virginia. This event is catered much more towards the reader than it is toward the writer. All of the writer's attending the signing have to be invited, so if you go to this event, most likely you will attending as a reader. But that is okay. Like Lori Foster's, you can still promo yourself and your work just by getting out there and meeting people.
While the conferences vary widely in price and offer different opportunities for you as an author, I would highly suggest checking some out. Writing can be such an isolated occupation -- especially for those just trying to get their start. Attending a conference can help you gain a foothold in the industry, not only through information gained but the friendships you acquire.
Have you attended any conferences recently? What were your thoughts?
I know I have touched on self-publishing in the past but a recent USA Today article caught my attention and it got me thinking. Authors like Amanda Hocking may have numbers that make you say OMG! as your eyes bug out of your head. They are having amazing success self-publishing. But how much time is invested in marketing and promotion to acquire such sales? And what about the ones who are not finding success in self-publishing?
As I've stated before, promotion is my enemy. I have read on many occasions from many different authors that the best way to sell is to write that next book. A large backlist is your friend. And this has become my motto because quite frankly, self-promotion is just not my forte. So I want to know more than just how many books Amanda Hocking sold in one month. How much initial capital was required to get the manuscript ready for self-publication (editing, cover art, purchasing an ISBN number, etc.)? How many hours a day are those who have found even moderate success having to spend promoting their books? The article states "Hocking credits her success to aggressive self-promotion on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter". But how aggressive? And when does it cross the line? Because there is a point where self-promotion can turn off readers.
What I want are facts laid out nice and neat, not big numbers thrown out toting the wonders of self-publishing. Because for every dozen successful self-pubbed authors there are hundreds who are not. And while price point might have something to do with initial sales (cause I think most people are willing to fork over $.99 to try a new author out), in this business it's all about repeat sales. I'll pay $.99 but if it's crap, I'm not going to buy the second book, no matter how cheap it is.
So is success based on good writing, price point, aggressive marketing, or all of the above? Are those not finding success failing miserably at one of the above? Or is it all just a crap shoot where you have to cross your fingers and hope your book sells?
I wish I had the answer.
Shiloh Walker posted on her blog several months ago about her foray into the self-publishing market. It's an interesting read not only for those thinking of dipping their toes into the pool of self-publishing but for those involved in more mainstream publishing.
But here's some food for thought. Not long ago, e-publishing was considered the bastard child of the publishing industry (and in some minds, probably still is).
Oh -- and one last thing. And Stephanie Laurens has started a interesting blog hoping to bridge the gap between all authors no matter which side of the fence you fall. Check it out.
Every year I come up with a few resolutions. Sometimes they're personal (I need to exercise more) and sometimes they are work related. This year will be the year of social media and name branding. At least for me.
What is name branding, you ask? Like any other commodity, your name is your brand and many readers, if they like your work, will buy your next book just because your name is featured on the cover. I didn't realize the importance of this until after my first release, so for those aspiring writers, I say start now.
1. Get a website or blog. I know the website can be an expensive expense, especially if you don't even have a contract on the table so I would suggest starting with a blog. Set one up. But don't just stop there. Actually use it. Blog about the trial and tribulations of an aspiring author for example, anything to draw readers.
2. Then Tweet about it. Facebook it. Get your name out there. But you have to be careful. Don't flood the market or you can turn people off, which you don't want to do.
3. Join author groups. Not only is this a good place to meet other authors and learn the trade, authors are in affect readers. You can make some wonderful friends who will grown to be your greatest companions.
Now for me, I have done all the above but unlike my fellow Muses, I am kind of a social introvert. So back to my New Year's resolutions, blogging, Twittering, and Facebooking, I'm going to do all three more consistently. Really:)
There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to being a writer. I have heard an array of horror stories from a variety of authors. One of the most common seems to be epublishing is so easy to get into anyone can do it. All you have to do is write something.
For those of you who know how false that statement is, here's a little bit of humor (or cause for major depression, you choose:)I found on YouTube.
In last weeks post, I talked about some of the more obvious things to look for when editing your manuscript. Now I'll point out some of the issues that can be harder to spot or seem to go against how as children we were trained to write.
First off, all the unnecessary wordage that when cut can clean up your manuscript:
1. Directionals: up, down, and out; words that imply direction aren't needed. Example, she sat down should be she sat. These can be overused.
2. Could: She could hear change to she heard.
3. Redundant words: she nodded her head, he shrugged his shoulders, her heart beat in her chest. These are all obvious when you think about it but it is something you might have a tendency to automatically add without giving it any thought. So, she nodded, he shrugged, her heart beat.
4. Wandering body parts: these can be a little harder to spot. Body parts cannot move independent of the character. Eyes can't roam, hands can't move, etc.
5. Dialogue tags: first time writers especially can be susceptible to the pitfalls of overusing said and asked. Instead of he said, have the character perform an action to show he is the one speaking. And if you end the sentence with a question mark, it's kind of self-explanatory. Also watch for impossible dialogue tags. Voices don't shout, people do.
6. Felt, heard, know: you might find yourself relying on these words to express POV. Here is a wonderful example from my editor, Heidi:
She could hear the sound of rain pattering on the roof, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.
She heard the rain pattering on the roof, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.
The rain pattered on the roof overhead, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.
The last sentence is the tightest with the deepest POV and practically drags you into the scene.
Lastly, keep a lookout for repetitive words or actions in a scene or throughout the manuscript. Does your heroine like to toss her hair a lot? Or your hero fold his arms while arching his brow? And does she giggle or he drawl through half of the book? Correcting these simple and common mistakes can tighten your story and hopefully help you get that publishing contract you've been striving for.
Stop back by next Thursday. I'll be going over some of the tricks in using Word that might make your writing experience easier.
Before I started the editing process with my editor at Samhain, she sent me a pre-editing guide of common mistakes. I thought over the next couple of weeks, I would share with you some of them because getting published is difficult enough. Why make it any easier for them to reject you?
1. Numbers within the manuscript should be spelled out. This includes chapter headings.
2. Garbage words: so, that, then, and then, just, really. These tend to get overused. I know I have to keep an eye out for just, I seem to like it a lot.
3. Watch for multiple as, and, then, and while phases in a sentence.
As Jack turned away, Judy frowned, folding her arms across her chest and watched him move across the room as if he were mad at her while she could think of nothing to have drawn his anger.
A sentence like that has too many actions happening simultaneously; therefore, they lose impact on the reader.
4. This leads to one of my favorites, the simultaneous action.
Walking across the room, Jack opened the door and drove downtown.
You might see this quite often, especially in much older romances, it is a big no-no.
5. The use of he's and she's: when you have more than one person of the same sex, you need to be really careful it is obvious of whom you are speaking. The last person mentioned is the one who gets the pronoun attributed to them. If you have more than two individuals, you should probably stick to using their names.
Well, there are a few. Next week, dialogue tags, redundant actions, and the dreaded wandering body parts.
First off, let me state quite emphatically, writing is a business and while most publishers are not out to screw you, their number one priority is what is in their best interests. Not yours. So I cannot stress enough, please, please read your contract. No matter how exciting a first publication can be, do not just sign on the dotted line and expect everything to be great. It can cause problems later on down the road.
Here are some things to consider. I write strictly paranormal and while each of my publishers own the rights to my work, they do not own the world I've created. Nor do they own the rights to any of my characters. While I have no intention of attempting to sell a Grigori book anywhere but Loose Id, biblical myth plays a huge part in my writing. If I'd signed away my world, I never would have been able to publish My Avenging Angel with Samhain as the story of Lucifer's insurrection and Michael's role in his fall play a large part in the world I have created.
Some publishers want first right of refusal. This is fairly standard. If you write the sequel, they want to see it before you send it somewhere else. Rumor has it there is a publisher who wants first right of refusal for the next thing you write, no matter the subject. This I would be very hesitant to sign away.
Which brings me to my next point. Contracts are negotiable. After you've read every word of your contract and you discover something in it that makes you uncomfortable, contact the publisher. If they are unwilling to work with you that should be your first sign to run the other way. Even if they are not willing to change the terms, they should be willing to talk to you about them. From there, only you can decide how important the issue is and whether or not to sign.
My advice, hire an attorney familiar with digital rights to go over the contract. I know this can be difficult. Attorneys cost money and if might be hard to come up with the funds. But like I said, this is a business and all businesses require start-up capital. There will be other things you'll need to do once that contract is signed; purchase domain names, set up an author website, etc., but making sure you are legally protected is the most important. It just might save you a huge headache later on.
This is an exciting time to be in digital publishing. With the changes going on in traditional publishing, like Dorchester dropping their mass marketing for digital, the digital side of the publishing industry is only going to continue to grow. Though this is great for those of us already familiar with this side of publishing, for those new to e-publishing, this can be problematic. New e-pubs seem to be popping up all over the place and unfortunately, not all of them are going to have your best interests in mind. So how do you avoid the pitfalls of the unscrupulous e-press?
1. RESEARCH! I can't stress this enough. Do a Google search. Read everything you can find on the publisher, especially blogs and forums. If an author has had a bad experience with a publisher, chances are he or she has mentioned it somewhere. The e-pub community really is smaller than you would think and this kind of stuff does not stay quiet for long.
2. Contact some of their authors. While an author might not be willing to discuss any problems they might be having with the world, most will not hesitate privately. And if they are happy, they will definitely be sure to let you know.
3. Now keep in mind, even if after all your research, you find nothing but glowing praises about a publisher, it still might not be the right place for you. Make sure you read a good sampling of what they publish. Some genres sell better at one pub than they do at another. Look at their newest releases and you should be able to quickly determine if your ms will fit. But make sure you actually read some of what they are selling. Not all e-presses are the same when it comes to editing, cover art, and content. Now imagine your name on one of their covers. If you don't get a sudden case of the heaves, add them to your list of possible pubs.
4. I cannot stress this enough. If the pub is new, please proceed with extreme caution. Personally, I would hold off all together. Too many have folded and while a year under a pub's belt isn't proof of success, the last thing you want is a pub folding, taking your ms with them. While the contract might say you retain your rights in the case of a pub folding, 9 times out of 10 your ms will get piled in with the companies other assets in bankruptcy proceedings.
After all your research, you will have a small list of pubs you are interested in but please keep in mind, just because a e-pub as been around years does not exclude them from questionable practices. I can think of three that I would run far away from, so like I said, RESEARCH. Please. The information is out there and as long as you don't jump into this business feet first, you should do fine.
Check back next Thursday, as I'll be discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly; the dreaded contract.
Since Jaime mentioned Romance Divas, I'm going to jump in with this. This was a thread started over there. I've changed it around a bit and added my own, cause I think they can be helpful.
1. Don't give your hero/heroine a pet. I did this once, the hero's opening scene was with his dog. About halfway through the book, I realized I'd never mentioned the dog again. Oops.
2. Be careful mentioning specific days or dates because there is a good chance you will forget. But I can guarantee someone else won't and they'll call you out on it.
3. Remember where you've put you're secondary characters. You can't send the hero's best friend out of town only to have him appear in the next chapter.
4. On a continuing thread to #3., why have secondary characters at all if they are only going to disappear in the second chapter? I've seen this happen far too frequently and wonder why bother.
5. A good critique partner is worth her weight in gold. Seriously. Writing can be a very lonely business and while your family can sympathize, they can't truly understand. Your crit partner will not only make you a better writer, she will be your lifeline, your bitch buddy, and if you are lucky, your best friend.
6. Your editor is always right. Well, not always right, lol, but she is not your enemy. If she is asking for changes, there is probably a reason. Listen to them and if after, you still think she is wrong, calmly explain why. Your editor wouldn't have agreed to work with you if she didn't love the manuscript and she is only trying to make it better.
7. Always be professional. Not everyone is going to like your story. Telling them why they are wrong (even if they are) is only going to bite you on the ass.
8. Readers are allowed their opinions. You are not. I know this doesn't seem fair (and sometimes, especially when it's your work being trashed, it's not), but it's the way this business works. It's always best to just shut your mouth and smile.
9. Sometimes readers just don't understand the industry. I got some flack with my last book because it wasn't long enough. What most didn't understand was there was a word restriction, I was only allowed a maximum number of words. I see readers complain about sex scenes being too graphic in erotic romance, complaining about the pricing of e-books, book covers, blurbs, book formatting, editing, where it is being offered, etc. Many of these things are beyond an author's control, so back to #5. You can commiserate together. :)
So what have you learned in this business they call writing? I'd love to hear what you have to say so add it to the list.