Traditional Publishing

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Forty-five percent of book sales on Amazon last year were written by self-published authors.

That’s getting close to half—and predictions are for that number to keep going up. 

Still, there is an honor attached to being accepted by a traditional publishing house. These authors are viewed by some as being “real” authors—although that viewpoint is rapidly changing.

There are not as many big publishing houses as there used to be, making it even more difficult for a writer to get a book deal from a publisher. If they do, it makes it all the more prestigious. 

So, what is it that a publisher might do for an author that they cannot do for themselves?

Well, first of all there’s the imprint of the publishing house on the book cover that is akin to getting a gold star on a spelling test in elementary school (at least that’s how it was “way back when” at the school I attended).

Then, there is the fact that major publishers pull a lot of weight with the brick and mortar bookstores and are much more likely to get their authors actual shelf space.

Finally, traditional publishers may get some of their most popular authors cash advances in some cases and they often have in-house editors. 

In days-gone-by, traditional publishers did a lot of marketing for their authors, but don’t count on that in today’s world. These writers are finding the greatest responsibility for advertising their books is being placed on their very own shoulders.

So, I ask, again, what is it that a traditional publisher might do for an author that he/she cannot do for themselves?

In my humble opinion, not much.

However, if you are young and have time on your side so you can afford to wait for a traditional book deal and/or the points I’ve mentioned are important to you, then by all means polish up your query letter.

We’ve talked about the query letter before, but for those who haven’t been following this blog for a lengthy period of time, I will touch on the subject next week.

 

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It’s Decision Time

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Will you self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?

These are two different roads, to be sure. You may choose to self-publish if you want to retain more control in the process. Along with that is the fact that you will also do most of the work yourself, which includes the cover, interior formatting, obtaining your ISBN’s, marketing, etc. One hundred percent of the financial burden will be yours, also.

The internet is full of self-publishing options, so read everything you can about them. Talk with other authors. Ask what they chose to do—and if they would do the same thing, again. 

Some of the options offer as little or as much guidance as you’d like and vary widely in costs. Your budget, time available to work, and your technological abilities may dictate which is the best course of action for you.

I published my first three fiction books through Author Academy Elite. You can find out everything about Kary Oberbrunner and his team on the internet. Sign up for a free webinar to determine if this—or a similar self-publishing group—is the course of action for you.

My two interactive picture books for Alzheimer’s patients, I Remember the Seasons and I Remember Bible Stories were totally self-published under my own imprint, Connections Press. 

I made both decisions by listing the plusses and minuses of each option. I weighed them until I was sure that one was the best choice for my situation.

Once I made my decision, I moved ahead quickly. I got the job done.

I still go through the same process each time I am ready to publish a new book. Things in the industry change, my skills improve (or at least I’d like to think they do) and finances are always a consideration. I use what I’ve learned to help me make the best decision for each book.

Next week’s blog post: traditional publishers.

2019 Is Your Year

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Editing is the polishing before your book is published. It is at this point that you place your manuscript in the hands of your editor.

So, what are you looking to get for your dollars spent?

Well, it depends on how much you have done on your own prior to this point. Some writers will need proofreading for typos and grammar, others will want a more in-depth analysis of their story to make sure that it rings “true” with the time period in which it takes place. The editor will make sure that clothing, automobiles, literature, expressions of speech, political references, inventions, references to movies, and so on accurately reflect the calendar year (or decade) as precisely and truthfully as possible.

In one book, I researched “rabbit ears” for television reception. In another, the year of the first Cadillac Coupe de Ville was the issue, and so on.

Some editors will also see that your book is correctly formatted. Others will leave that entirely up to the publisher.

Each kind of editing has a fee attached to it. You can contract the editor to do as much—or as little—editing of your manuscript as you deem helpful.

It is at this point, while I am waiting to get my story back from the editor, that I spend time on my cover image and copy. I usually select three covers I like and then run a Facebook contest to chose the winner. This process stirs up some publicity about my upcoming book, which is a bonus.

At whatever point in the writing process you are now working— prewriting, drafting, revising, or editing—I encourage you to keep on keeping on. 

2019 will be your year, if you don’t let anything distract you and you keep moving ahead toward your goal.

Looking Back and Going Forward

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Looking back over your last year of writing, have you made adjustments or have you kept doing whatever it was that you were doing on January 1?

My guess is you’ve made changes along the way, learned things, broke some bad habits, and put into practice new techniques.

You are looking at the craft of writing in a much different way than you did a year ago. 

The overall goal of writing is improvement. So is the goal of revising our manuscript once the draft is complete. 

I view revising as dissecting—just like we did in science class in high school.

It’s taking my story apart and looking at/improving each individual section, and then putting it all back together again.

It may have been impossible to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but not so with your writing. It can be changed, reworked, rewritten, reordered until it looks much different than it did in draft form.

I begin by either selecting my known weaknesses to work on or, just what I deem important.  I go through the entire book (focusing on one at a time) looking for those things and “fixing” them. In my first book, for instance, I noticed that each chapter began with the main character’s name. So, I rewrote each beginning paragraph.

You’ll need to determine for yourself just what things are necessary. Here is the list of what I go through:

Repetitious words, past tense verbs, emotions, descriptions, flow.

I check each character’s description against my master list. If Sally has green eyes in chapter one, they’d better be the same color in chapter fourteen.

Quotation marks, italics, indentations, misspellings, etc.

Last lines of each scene (I make sure they entice the reader to keep turning the page).

Timeline/order (I once read a book where the girl’s cat died in chapter 14. Then, in chapter 15, the cat was very much alive and purring on her lap!) You don’t want huge mistakes like this to spoil your story.

Seasons/holidays (If these are mentioned in the book, they need to be in sequence) Ages (pay attention to age progression throughout).

As you can see, the list is long. I add to it for each new story, it seems.

No book will be perfect, but look especially for the mistakes you know that you tend to make over and over again. Keep polishing until your story gleams!

Next week, editing. 

 

Drafting Can Be Rough

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Drafting is the next step in the writing process. Whether you use a computer or a steno pad, whether you write with a pencil or pen, call it a “sloppy copy” or use another form of reference, you cannot escape this step in the writing process.

Using what you’ve accomplished so far in the prewriting process, drafting is the actual writing, chapter by chapter, of your book.

With a few tweaks here and there, all writers vary this stage of writing to end up with what works for them. Whether it is a program, such as Scrivener, or your own version of something else you’ve seen out there, now’s the time to get the old creative juices going. You can use a combination of approaches. After five books, I am still changing mine. 

What I am going to share, now, is how I approach the drafting stage of writing. If it is helpful as a whole, or only in part, use what makes sense according to your writing style, your organizational methods, and so on.

I use my computer at home almost 100% of the time. I found, early on, that using Mac’s “Pages” wasn’t the universally accepted format. You’ll need WORD. You can purchase WORD for Mac from the internet or Apple store, if you, too, own a MAC.

After closing my office door to insure quiet, I consult what I accomplished in my prewriting. I used to use giant Post-it’s of about 18” by 30” or so to keep my timeline,  characters and their descriptions straight. I have recently found it just as effective to use a spiral notebook and list these important details chapter by chapter. Clutter on my walls tended to make me nervous, whereas a simple notebook can be closed and stored in the closet for the next writing day.

Next I write … and write … and write …

I may finish and entire chapter or not, depending on the amount of time I have allotted. But, here is where I differ from most writers. After taking a short break for lunch or even overnight, I re-read my chapter, doing a quick edit of anything that stands out to me. These may be typos, mistakes in point-of-view, changes in scene order, or even sometimes deleting entire sections. These pre-edits serve two purposes: 1) Reading through the chapter gets my head back into the story so that I can continue my writing and 2) Just like the Post-its that previously cluttered my walls, it is a way of reducing what isn’t needed and getting down to story basics. 

(Most writers will tell you to keep writing all the way to the end of the book before going back to tackle any kind of editing. That would be ideal, if I could do it, but I just cannot…sorry, my mind just won’t get going unless everything else is cleared up, first).

Although I might do a little revising in the drafting stage, I find that it is wise to wait to do anything major until I have finished the entire book. Too many things can happen in the course of writing that might seem wise to revise early on; however, lots of difficulties will work themselves out in the course of writing. Save yourself a lot to time and work by sticking to your outline closely. Let your story “simmer” for awhile.

Before closing, I want to mention that I give my book, chapter by chapter, to my critique group. I rely on their comments heavily when editing. If there is something that these other writers do not understand (or like), then I am certain that my readers will not, either.

Next week- revising.

The First Stage of Writing: Prewriting

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So you are a new writer. You sit down at the computer, or you grab a yellow legal pad, and you freeze. “Just how does one get started?”

Well, it’s not as hard as you think. Remember your school days and what you did when given a writing assignment in English Composition class?

There were four basic stages to the writing process that you learned: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. (Nowadays, I think we could add publishing, but we will save that topic for another time).

Since prewriting is the “generating ideas” part of the writing process, it just well may be the most important. It is here that the writer determines the topic of the book, the message he/she wants to convey, the characters, the  point-of-view, and so on. 

If we polled authors, we might find that each uses different prewriting methods. They may use what proved to be comfortable in the past, try methods suggested by other authors, or come up with unique methods of their own.

Let’s look, briefly, at various methods and see what might be workable for you.

Prewriting Methods: The following are the methods I use. Remember, writers all work differently. I am simply sharing what works for me.

1-Brainstorming: This is the process of coming up with a list of as many ideas as possible without being worried about whether an idea is realistic or not.

After brainstorming, I go directly into the next pre-writing method. This could be hours—even days—later, however, since this is a long process.

2-Mind Maps: This method makes the most sense with the way my own brain works. It is also easy and visual. It also keeps me organized.

You may have learned this as “webbing” in school. It consists of drawing a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. (This is where I write my character’s name, perhaps draw a stick figure, being sure to leave space inside the circle to add characteristics that are dominant). Then, I add lines to other, smaller circles around the main circle. Inside these go supporting characters, and so on. On the lines connecting them, I write the relationships of each one to the main character (hero). 

I actually start writing following mind mapping. However, I do want to share three other methods of prewriting which can be used separately, or in conjunction with each other.

3-Freewriting- This is when you write whatever comes into your mind for a specific amount of time. When using this method, you don’t concern yourself with punctuation, grammar, or even spelling. You just try to get down as many ideas as possible. Then, you choose one and get started writing. (You may need to repeat this process several times until you come up with a winner!)

4-Drawing/Doodling – Sometimes combining words and drawings can really open up lines of creative thought. (I’m no artist, so I often use stick figures with mind mapping).

5-Outlining – Some writers use traditional outlining to organize their ideas (I find this especially useful when planning my chapters). These writers start with their main ideas and list the supporting details underneath. The more detailed the outline, the easier it is when one begins to write.

My next blog post will be on drafting. Writing that rough draft can be just that—rough. The idea is to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible.

New Information on the Ellipsis

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In a much earlier post, we talked about the ellipsis and its function. However, I recently learned a couple of technical points I would like to pass along.

First, to review, an ellipsis ( … ) indicates that something has been omitted in the text, usually because the author doesn’t deem it necessary or in order to save space. (I often use one at the end of a sentence to show that the character’s thoughts are trailing off … ) Sometimes they can be used to show hesitation (I didn’t mean … oh, well, it doesn’t matter) or that the character has lost his train of thought.

Beware, however, that just like the exclamation point, the ellipsis can be overused. And that can annoy the reader.

Recently, I have found that there are rules to the exact placement of the dots.

When using an ellipsis in conjunction with other punctuation (commas, semi-colons, question or exclamation marks) treat the ellipses as if it is just another word in the sentence.

For example: “I didn’t know the iron was hot! … I was fortunate not to get burned.”

Here’s a case of other portions of text being eliminated: “I didn’t see the car coming straight at me. … I turned the wheel just in time.”

So, let’s look at the execution in the last example, above: The end of the sentence gets a period. Then, leave a space. Follow that space with the three dots. Finally, leave a space before starting the last sentence.

Remember, there are really only three dots. In the example above, what is shown may look like four, but in actuality, it is a period, followed by an ellipsis. 

Using an ellipsis is one case where spaces, and their placement, are very important.