Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Land of Nobodies

Rest assured in the weeks to come I will discuss other types of publishers and the steps after convincing someone of your brilliance. But we shall take a brief detour this week to talk about a depressing reality in the writing world – it’s tough out there.

As I told you in my first post, I’ve written plenty of books, but I am unpublished. To those in the publishing industry, this means I am a nobody. Until my first book is published and sells to X number of people who are not friends and family, I will always be a nobody. Does this affect me as a person? No. It is just the way of the publishing world. Once you’ve made money off complete strangers who turn around and love your book, recommending it to everyone else, then you will be a somebody.

Being a somebody means publishers will see your name with dollar signs attached. You will have agents ready to offer their services to get you better publishers. And eventually, being a somebody means you get more money.

But, back to us. For every writer that you can name off the top of your head, there are ten other published people who have not reached that level of success. And there are a hundred other nobodies below them, madly writing, editing, blogging, and crying over their unfair position in the writing world.

Alas, we cannot change the writing world easily. But we can acknowledge the fact that the world of publishing is a harsh reality where we all need friends.

I urge you this week to explore the writing world this week. There are tons of free sites where writers can band together and discuss the intriguing lives. You will laugh. You will learn. You will occasionally get mad. But in order to be a writer, you must befriend other writers to learn from. Find people who think differently than you. Though they may get on your nerves, they will see things you don’t. If you need suggestions on such things, I will recommend both the NaNo site and the forums for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (fondly known as ABNA). Even if you have not entered the contest or tried NaNo before, both are welcoming to newbies and are full of great advice.

Embrace the Land of Nobodies. We will live here for a long time, much longer than any of us will like. But you will grow to respect other writers who achieve success you do not. You will make new friends. And you will all dream together of joining the Land of Somebodies.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Wonderful World of Publishing

I’ve been working on getting published for several years. Now, if you are not a writer or new to the writing world, you may not realize how difficult/frustrating/virtually hopeless this process is. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the path to publishing can be a maze.

There’s self-publishing (costs money), POD publishing (print-on-demand, another form of self-publishing, but cheaper), and traditional publishing (where the author makes no money until they sell a book. Depressing, really, but these publishers don’t want your money when they say yes.)

There are also agents who search for the best publishing house for your manuscript. Once you land a contract, the agents get paid a commission of your sales. They have, after all, helped you make that money.

I will be talking about various forms of publishing (as I understand it) for the next few weeks. Alas, there are people masquerading as those who will sell your book, but only want your money. We’ll talk about what to watch for later on. But before we do any of that, we must discuss how to make someone want your book.

Step One: Convince The Publisher You Are Brilliant

Once you’ve written your book, edited it, had a friend read it and tear it to shreds, cried, and then fixed said shredded book, it’s time to send it off so someone will read your masterpiece. The reaction you’re hoping for after you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into this story is for someone in the publishing world to recognize your brilliance and offer you a contract. Signed contracts, so I’m told, lead to advances in the traditional publishing world. Once your book sells, your royalty payments start adding up. When your royalty payments exceed your advance, you get another check from the publishing company.

But payments are the last step in the long road that is the publishing world. First you must convince someone of your brilliance. To do this, you must catch a publisher’s attention in a good way. Don’t misspell things. Use the right words. Use proper grammar. Finally, you must send them what they want.

Some publishers want a query first – one page telling them who you are, what your book is about, and how it’s going to make money. Other publishers want the whole manuscript, a cover letter, a chapter by chapter synopsis, and an author resume. What they want varies. What genre the publisher takes varies. Who the publisher takes varies.

After you’ve studied the guidelines of this particular publisher and have assembled exactly what they want, you bite the bullet and contact them. Then you wait for a response. It will most likely be “no.” Some publishers send out their answers in as little as two weeks. Others take six months to respond. Some don’t respond at all. If you don’t hear back after a certain amount of months, they aren’t interested.

When contacting traditional publishers, keep in mind that only some of them allow simultaneous submissions – contact with more than one publisher at a time over the same manuscript. Others want exclusive rights while they’re thinking about the manuscript and don’t wish for you to contact anyone else about it until they’ve given you their answer.

Sure, you know that you’ve written the next bestseller. But you have to tell the publisher that in a way that doesn’t come off as arrogant, naive, or stupid. Published authors merely have to quote what they’ve done and how well it did. Unpublished authors have to convince the publisher of the need to speak to their target audience on this particular subject, give an air of authority on said topic without being arrogant or naive, and write each sentence flawlessly.

After that (yes, there’s more), you must then pitch your book. Your idea for your entire book needs to be whittled down to a short and sweet summary that leaves the reader wanting to know more about your characters and book. If the reader is intrigued with your idea in a few hundred words, they’ll likely want to read more. Once you have this summary down, you just have to worry about following the publisher guidelines in the initial contact and hope you don’t somehow look like an idiot while doing so. If your summary rocks, your other material is spot on, and you have managed not to land in the “arrogant idiot” pile, you may have convinced your first reader that you are brilliant.

There are more steps and more kinds of publishers. We will talk about them in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Looking Back: NaNo 2012

I wrote a little bit about my NaNo book in early December. I’ll share what I thought of it then and what I think of it now, after reading it through twice.

Early December Thoughts

I was aiming for a personal best of 100,000 words in November. I shattered that record and kept on writing, trying to finish my story. It took until almost 11:30 pm on November 30, but I finished the last story of the princess books. I ended at 127,739 words.

Why did I write that much? The story wasn’t done. I wanted to pen it all in a single month as my own personal challenge. It took me until the very last day, but I did it!

I also managed to cross some other hurdles. I was able to write a convincing villain. This is hard for me to do, but the villains in these books come out rather well. Considering this particular bad guy was a familiar character, once I knew what made him evil, I was able to take off with it. I won’t know for certain until I hear back from other readers, but I think I was able to conceal who was behind everything rather well.

I wrote some very tough scenes. Bad, bad stuff happened to my main female character. Most of the time, I know as I’m writing it why it’s happening, and how it will help. This time around, I wrote it because I knew it needed to happen. I knew who the villain needed to be. I considered changing it to a different character, but I didn’t. I’ve learned to trust my writer brain. And though I’m not 100% clear on why this stuff happened to this girl, the characters grew from it. This book turned out to be more about the King and how he responded to it than the girl who carried the last story. It’s rather interesting.

Other personal bests: I was able to come up with a last name off the top of my head without looking anything up. Twice. Granted, they’re weird last names, but this is progress for me.

I was able to concentrate better during noisy times. I love our local write-ins, but they can be loud. The last night of NaNo, I was there on a mission. I had to focus. Despite how rowdy one end of the table was, I was still able to write.

NaNo 2012 was a victory for me in many ways.

Early January Thoughts

The first time through, I reread the book in about 24 hours. I liked the story line. I knew it, but I liked reading it. I caught some minor errors and hilarious typos. I correct the typos I see as I write, but the last ten chapters of the book came rather quickly. I didn’t catch everything. It made for some entertaining reading. I now cringe thinking of what my one beta reader must be thinking as she reads through my rough NaNo draft. Oops.

I had been reading the book before my NaNo story off and on. It’s a massive book, putting this one’s length to shame. That book is full of typos from the transcription phase, facts I wrote, forgot, and rewrote with different rules, punctuation errors, and generally needs a nice polish before I can smile when I think of the book.

This story is a put together a little better than its predecessor. It does have a few rewritten facts, most of which I did not catch until my second read. My best example was setting up that my soldier character would head back to watch the walls after something took place. In the same chapter, I rewrite the facts so he can come back whenever he feels like it. Oops.

My first read was rather enjoyable. I read it going, “I did that. Wow! That’s really good!”

My second read was more painful. I saw more errors that I usually catch as I write it.  My consensus now is that this book needs to be edited. I need to fix the facts and clean up the errors and reword several poorly worded sentences.

But before I do that, though, I will let it sit. I plan to fix the other stories in this series before going back to that. Alas, a writer’s work is never done.

I heard something at a writer’s conference that I shall share with you. “There is no such thing as a ‘finished’ draft. There’s just the draft that’s pried out of the writer’s hands.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Revisiting Your NaNo Story

A few days after I announced that I wasn’t going to read my 2012 NaNo, I spent an hour or two rereading the last few scenes. I wrote them so quickly, it was kind of a blur. I wanted to read through them again. I did. They were good. I wanted to keep going. But I stopped myself. I focused my attention back on my first princess story, The Test of True Love. As I pen this entry, I have passed the halfway mark in the book. I am making a round of edits and sending it off to beta readers in hopes that they will all love it and find very little wrong. They won’t, of course, but there’s no reason not to hope for mostly awesome feedback.

But, back to you. It is now a new year. Did you make a resolution about writing? Editing? Whatever your resolution, today is the day to make good on your promises to yourself. Most of us are back to work today, with the long holiday season behind us. It is time to start our routine again that will have us writing or polishing on a continual basis.

I’m feeling the pull now to go back and rediscover the world I created back in November. I want to reread the awesome parts again. That might be because I’m in the dungeon section of the novel I’m editing, and I hate revisiting those tough scenes. Or, it might be because enough time has passed that I can look on my NaNo 2012 with fresh eyes and see more than typos. Now, I should be able to see plot problems, conversations that don’t click, rambling descriptions that have little place in the current slot, and words I accidentally left out while madly typing away.

Whether or not you’ve already returned to your NaNo novel, whenever you begin the journey, good luck. Find the good and the bad in your story. Laugh at your mistakes. You’ve written a story. Enjoy it as a reader. You will be amazed at what you find.

How to fix what you find is a topic for another day. But for now, no matter how many things you find wrong with your NaNo novel, have fun reading it over again. You wrote that story. Enjoy it as a reader. Revel in the awesome feeling that can only come from being a writer reading over your newest creation.