KDP and Publishing – a Noob’s Guide Part 3

It never ceases to amaze me how people (often quite intelligent people) don’t bother to read things beyond what they want to see. Where I work (won’t mention the name) I’m forever yelling things like RTFM (read the f*cking manual) as no one has bothered to read past the first line of the email telling them what is needed, and more importantly how and when. And public wise – honestly – read the bloody info!

KDP-wise – check out the forums BEFORE you ask that question that has been asked a thousand times before. I’ve said it before READ THE FAQ. PLEASE. Years ago when I ventured on the Lulu forums as a noob I got totally roasted as I asked noobie questions and certain folks there really were NOT helpful. Anyway general the KDP folks are but it becomes very tedious with newbies asking the same questions as the person 30 seconds before.

Also if you want advice – then don’t fly off the handle if you’re given it and don’t like what you’re told. There are hundreds of threads asking about why books don’t sell, why the reports are ‘lying’, why the big bad Zon are diddling hardworking authors out of their money and mostly it’s bollocks. There are a number of active forum members who are happy to offer advice, point people towards the relevant FAQ area and try and help, but bitching to them as they’ve told you your book needs more work, or you haven’t registered your bank account etc, and getting snarky is likely to piss people off and remove said advice in the future.

So why isn’t your book selling? There are millions of books available on Kindle, and thousands more are uploaded every day. Why should anyone look at, or even find your book, or mine for that matter?

Reasons:

Promoting and marketing are not Amazon’s job – it’s yours. And it’s hard work, it takes time, patience and a certain degree of luck. There are tons of threads asking for advice on how to go about this. What works for one person might not work for another so there is a lot of trial and error. Here are some of the tactics I use and have used but there are plenty of others:

Author interviews. Get yourself on blogs and spotlights. There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs that will offer interviews, features and spotlights either free or at low cost. (This one for a start).  Obviously, there is some effort in this – you have to search around to find suitable blogs – genre related is better but some people do offer to any genre. Ask the host what their following is – what you get – especially if you are expected to pay.

https://princessofthelight.wordpress.com/ – is a great promotional site. The hosters are friendly and although the author does have to pay, it’s worth the money. At roughly $11.50 a shot, it’s within the budget of newbies.

Get your own blog/website. Currently, we are working on a website to companion the blog and promote my books. It’s useful to have a website – especially if you have more than one book. You can pay, or try and make your own for low cost  Try WordPress.com, Wix.com or squarespace.com. I think a blog of some sort is a must. For a start it allows you to network – and this is really important. Generally, indie authors are a supportive lot and will reciprocate.  Also, a blog is a space for readers and followers to get to know you (ditto author interviews). It’s not just about the books.  Some people say it takes time away from writing – well yes and no. It does take time away from stories but you are still writing, and honing skills. It makes you think about what to write, who your audience is, what is interesting, what isn’t. Of course, many bloggers use their space to share research or topics that interest them. I’m big on research and I think this also gives the reader some confidence that the author knows what they are talking about.

Facebook: It’s worth getting an author/book page on Facebook.

Here’s mine https://www.facebook.com/LightBeyondtheStorm

Recently I took a foundation diploma in social media marketing and one of the modules dealt with Facebook and ads. I haven’t used a paid ad there yet (I may next year) but there are plenty of free groups that allow promotion. Some people say FB isn’t a good platform – I disagree. I’ve bought books directly from FB promotions and I’ve made good friends and good contacts from FB.

Twitter: I wasn’t a fan of Twitter and held off getting an account for some while. Does it help? Yes, I think so. It’s a good platform to get the word out.

Why else might the book not be selling?

It’s crap. Of course ‘crap’ is a relative term but generally, I mean it’s badly formatted, badly written and well, bad. We’ve probably all seen them: those books in which the English language and grammar are distinctly lacking and a plot is absent or scraped from the internet. Now every author thinks their book is great, but it’s worth making sure it’s well written, formatted properly and (preferably) edited.  Do you have a decent cover? A decent synopsis?

KDP don’t have a quality check – that’s your job as well, at least in part. Formatting guidelines can be found here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A12NQC9HQPI9CA

I find formatting for Kindle a lot easier than the other formats but with a decent knowledge of MSword it’s not that tricky. If you don’t have a good grasp you may be better to hire a formatter. (That might be a service on offer from us next year) or search the interweb for sites.

It’s worth remembering it takes time to build a following. Very few indie authors release a book and it’s a best seller in a week. It can take years.

There’s a particular poster on the KDP forum who tells newbies to write what sells. If you’re like me you can’t simply sit down and say ‘ah romance is hot this week – I’ll write a romance novel’. Well, I can but no one would want to read it. Besides what is popular changes. Tastes change.

It annoys me – substandard ‘popular’ trash uploaded quickly with no care for the reader. There’s a reason indies have a bad rep. Grr.

What I’m rambling about is basically – it takes time, patience and works to sell books. The writing is easy (sort of). Do the best you can with the resources you can spare.

KDP Support Contact https://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us

KDP and Self-Publishing – a noob’s guide

There are many people who aren’t fans of Amazon for one reason or another, but it has to be said publishing-wise they have a large chunk of the market and should not be ignored.  From my own perspective I sell far more on Amazon than it’s competitor, but of course, there are other authors who’ll tell you they sell well on Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.

I lurk on the KDP forums (Kindle Direct Publishing) and every day the same questions/complaints get posted. It never ceases to amaze me that newbies can’t or won’t read the FAQ and TOS and then whine when they get stung for something they claimed they were unaware of. When you log in or sign up the help and terms pages are handily down the left-hand side and thus, easily accessed. They aren’t hard to find.

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A32I2OF1510VZV

So here’s a quick breakdown for newbies:

  • Read the FAQ and TOS. Really. This is a contract – you agree to it when you publish there. If you don’t like the terms then don’t sign and don’t publish with KDP. There are other sites – Lulu  https://www.lulu.com/ for example. They publish to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I-books and, of course, their own site; Smashwords, Draft2Digital and several others. These sites have their own rules too.
  • Payment – make sure you are clear on the terms of payment (which are listed in the FAQ…). No publishing platform is going to pay you the instant you sell that book. If you want that sell from your website – and good luck to you. Amazon’s payment terms are 60 days after the end of the month of sale. So I sell a book in May I get paid at the end of July.  The minimum price you can sell your book for on Amazon is 99c (which is about 77p in the UK). For 99c to $2.98 you receive 35% royalties, between $2.99 and 9.99 that goes up to 70% in most stores. Keep in mind, however, any country without its own base store which must use Amazon.com pay out only 35% – due to taxes and transfer costs apparently.  So some .com sales will show as 70% and some as 35%. Amazon is not trying to con you.  They pay out monthly and with EFT for any amount. There is no minimum. You must supply bank account details. For cheques, they pay out when you hit $100/£100 etc. (per store as these are paid individually for both EFT and cheque) so if you only sell a few now and then in some stores you’ll be waiting a long time. Amazon does not pay to Paypal.For comparison, Smashwords pay out 60% from their own store sales and slightly less from affiliates. They do pay to Paypal but they pay out quarterly for Smashwords sales and the affiliate stores report on different timescales so some appear more quickly than others, which can be confusing.

https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#Royalties

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AE24XS35AM53P

  • If you don’t get paid when you think you should read the FAQ about payment – in case you decided to ignore point 1 and 2. It may be the case the bank details are incorrect (it happens). Check them carefully. You will need an IBAN and BIC for accounts not in the USA, these can usually be found on your statements and are different to your regular account number. If needed your bank can supply them.  If your bank account details look alright then check your sales. Orders and sales are not the same – see my next point. If you need to contact Amazon then use the ‘Contact Us’ link in the bottom right of the screen. Give them time to investigate.
  • Sales and Orders – KDP issue reports (second tab – the one after Bookshelf on your account page). A lot of people get confused here. There is a graph which shows ORDERS. This covers all your titles in all the stores – so everything is lumped in together. It’s on a rolling 30 days so every day it changes slightly. It looks nice but it isn’t actually that useful. Orders do not always turn into sales – payment might not go through, the buyer might change his or her mind or somesuch.  Then we have ‘Month to Date’ report. This shows actual sales. It’s done per store (so Amazon.com, then Amazon.co.uk, then Amazon.de and so on). It also shows refunds, freebies and price matching. This is the most accurate report (usually) and is updated daily (usually). A sale can show up in a couple of hours or a couple of days.  There is the prior six weeks report – which personally I don’t see much use for, and promotions – which reports any promotions you have going.  It is up to you to tall the payments up. They are produced in Excel so download them and add them up (or copy them into Excel and let that do it. There is NOT a running total of sales. Smashwords does this (which is useful) but their reporting is confusing as the affiliate stores report on different time scales and eventually, the reports of books per store get huge.

One thing that comes up a lot  – ‘I know my friend bought the book but the sale isn’t showing up’. Unless they actually show you the sales receipt then you cannot guarantee it was an actual sale. People lie (often with good intentions) and say they have bought the book when they haven’t. They may have downloaded the sample, or are intending to buy it but they haven’t actually done so.  I always buy a copy myself when I publish something – if the sale shows up then it’s all working fine. Honestly, if you think Amazon (or whoever) is trying to diddle you out of your money you probably shouldn’t be doing business with them.

  • Bad reviews – they happen. Deal with it. Someone somewhere won’t like your book. It will have too much sex/not enough, too much violence/not enough, too much world building/not enough and so on. Some folks say what they think and damn the consequences. Remember reviews are for readers not authors and any vindictive review is going to appear as just that – vindictive. Give readers some intelligence, many will just scan the reviews for ones which have a similar view to themselves, or look for key points. There isn’t much the author can do. Don’t respond, don’t attack the reviewer (at least not in public). Move on. Do you like every book you read? No. I thought not. Amazon’s review policy is what it is. You can’t change it no matter how much you shout.
  • Reviews. Amazon has cracked down on reviews as of late. Many authors complain about reviews being removed – there is not much to do about it. If Amazon deems there is a relationship between reader and reviewer then there is a chance that review will go. How Amazon finds out or thinks it finds out is anyone’s guess. Theories are same IP addresses (so living in the same household), facebook friends, and such like. Officially family and friends are not eligible to review your book as it’s deemed a biased review.  It is a bit zealous – someone who shares a group with you on facebook or happens to know someone you know might get their review removed. Then again they might not. There’s not really any rhyme or reason to it. Only the actual reviewer can request the review to be reinstated.
  • Contacting Support. If you have a problem then us the ‘contact us’ link. You will need to be logged in with the correct email account you originally used to sign up. If not Amazon will not help (after all you could be someone else). Support usually get back to you within 24 hours. Now often the replies are ‘check the FAQ here’ or similar and a bit…vague. If this is the case reply back on the same ticket and ask for clarification. It might take a bit of back and forth so be patient and polite. Getting abusive to the KDP reps is going to get you nowhere.
  • If you make changes to your manuscript, such as fixing typos or whatever and reupload it don’t unpublish. Just upload it to the current ASIN and mark it in the edition with a code (I put V3+date) so I can check on the look inside. Readers who have already bought the book will NOT automatically get the update, even if they have the auto update enabled.  If the changes are substantial you can ask Amazon to push out the new copy and then readers who already own it can download it if they wish. It’s a pain to do and the changes really do need to be pretty major – new chapters or such like. It’s not worth doing for the odd stray typo.  The auto updater not working is a known bug which Amazon don’t seem keen to fix. Oh and don’t bother deleting the book from your kindle and re-buying it. That doesn’t work (trust me on this I have tried).  I think I’ve been sent an email about twice for all the books I own stating there was updated content (and both really needed it – one was pretty much unreadable).
  • KDP Select. This confuses a lot of people. Basically KDP SELECT is the promotional aspect of KDP publishing. You can easily publish to KDP without being in Select. KDP Select has some strict rules and people how transgress then risk at best having their books removed from the program and at worst having their account terminated.

If you opt to enter KDP Select by ticking the little box you CANNOT offer the digital version of your book ANYWHERE else. So not on your blog, not on Barnes and Noble, not anywhere else. KDP will find out, the big bad Zon check. You are locked into a 90-day term (rolling unless you uncheck the box) and even if you leave early then you are bound by this. I know an author who flouted this and Amazon threatened to close her account unless she removed the books from the other sites until the term expired.  What does Select actually offer? Promotional tools. All the advertising such as the 5 days Free, Countdown deals and the Amazon ads are only available to Select. Your book will also be in the KENP program (basically, someone in the Amazon Prime program can borrow your book for a couple of weeks and you get paid per page read.). There are lots of complaints about this new system as authors used to get a percentage of the KDP fund if their book was borrowed – so a 200-page novel would get the same as a 40-page novel. Pages read favours longer books, and is, arguably, fairer.  Some authors do quite well on this scheme.  Do I use it? Not really. I’ve had freebies for Warrior’s Curse, and a Countdown for Stolen Tower but neither netted much traction. That said I did little to actually promote them.  As promotional tools, they CAN be useful – but it must be remembered for the free books many people download them BECAUSE they are free. Reviews are even less likely and many authors and readers believe it degrades authors and their books. (See my guest posts on Mythic Scribes.)

Great Free Book Debate – the Readers

Great Free Book Debate – the Authors

More to follow another day.

 

Happy writing.

 

 

 

 

Editor Interview Number Seven – Jillian Leigh

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Thanks for having me!

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Jillian Leigh. Like Batman, I have two identities: one is as an author of historical romance, the other is as an editor. Unlike Batman, I don’t wear a tight-fitting suit to fight crime. Instead, I get to fight word crimes in my pyjamas (sorry, bad joke, I know). I work with several publishers as a content and copy editor, as well as providing freelance editing and formatting services for indie authors.

Perhaps I should point out that I don’t actually work in my pyjamas—though I could if I wanted to. That’s the beauty of this job!

How did you get into this line of work?

Going through the process of being edited myself—and seeing editors at work—served as a catalyst for getting me started. I’m also an ex-English teacher and I’ve been writing, critiquing and judging contests for a long (long!) time. I’d always been interested in editing, but once upon a time, opportunities to have a career in publishing were rather limited. Fortunately, changes in the industry over the last decade have opened up things for editors as well as writers. I’ve been lucky enough to slide in sideways, so to speak.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Do you have any you love?

I never say never. If I turned something down, it would most likely be because of graphic physical or sexual violence, or because I found the content offensively discriminatory in some way. Thankfully, that situation hasn’t arisen yet. While I’m open to all genres, I do have my favorites, of course. I particularly enjoy all sub-genres of romance as well as erotica, women’s fiction, historical fiction, New Adult and Young Adult fiction. I think my understanding of romance makes me better suited to that genre as well.

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor?

Yes, I’ve been writing for quite a while. My work goes through a publisher, but if I were to self-publish, I would definitely hire a freelance editor. Everyone needs another set of eyes on their work, because even the most careful and talented of writers still has ‘blind spots’—problem areas they don’t even know are a problem.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors?

Every writer has to do some editing—i.e. revising and redrafting in order to make the book stronger. It’s a pretty rare author who can whip up a first draft and call it a day. But I know you’re talking about authors who publish their books without having them professionally edited. I believe that authors who choose to do this are missing out on some major benefits:

  • Professional editing can save the author from embarrassing bloopers or needless typos (and the harsh reviews that often result from either);
  • It makes the book (and by extension, the author) look more professional;
  • It’s a valuable learning experience for any writer, new or experienced.

I understand that sometimes authors are reluctant to seek out an editor. One reason often cited for this is the cost involved. But I would argue that in this competitive environment, editing is more affordable than ever before, and there are ways to find funding for this purpose if money is tight. Another reason some writers forgo professional editing is that they’re afraid the editor will butcher their book. This is why getting a sample edit is so important. Authors should also remember that, whilst they are paying for the editor’s advice, they aren’t obliged to take it if they feel it interferes with their voice or style. Look at the issue behind the advice, and see if there’s another way to fix it—one that you feel comfortable with.

Have you ever refused a manuscript?

On a couple of occasions, I’ve turned down a copy editing job because I felt the manuscript needed more structural work first.

Have you ever had an author refuse your suggestions/changes? If so how did you deal with it?

Not that I’m aware of. But, as I said above, ultimately, it’s up to the author to decide what’s best for the book. I always tell authors that I’m happy to discuss the reasoning behind my suggestions. An author is more likely to agree with my suggestions if s/he understands the rationale behind them, agrees that there is an issue to fix and figures out the best way to fix it (whether that’s the way I suggest, or something even better).

Editors often receive a bad press in the writing community, what are your thoughts on this?

Yes, I’ve noticed this. We do get accused a fair bit of being frustrated writers on a power trip! I have to say, though, sometimes this distrust of editors is merited. I think we’ve all heard horror stories about the editor from hell who rewrote the book the way she wanted it, or who apparently couldn’t find one thing she didn’t want to change.

On the other hand, sometimes that distrust is founded on ignorance or inexperience. Some authors are surprised by the extent and scope of their edits, particularly if they’ve never been through the editing process before (e.g. through traditional publishing), they haven’t been exposed to intensive critique by others, and they haven’t yet learned to separate their product from themselves. (I don’t mean that to sound patronizing; it’s hard for any of us to separate our ego from our work. However, professional writers must do it to a certain extent if they’re going to survive in a harsh industry.) Receiving a lengthy editorial letter or mark-up on every page can be an uncomfortable, humbling experience for even the most confident of us, and especially if the author isn’t accustomed to receiving impartial feedback.

And, as if that isn’t enough, the relationship is further complicated by the fact that, except in rare circumstances, pretty much all communication is conducted long-distance. Take away body language and tone of voice, and what sounds matter-of-fact to one person might sound harsh to another. There’s an art to writing comments that are neither too long-winded nor too curt. I don’t know that any of us manage that 100% of the time.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word Manuscript.

If I’m doing substantive (aka content) editing, the first thing I do is read the entire book a couple of times. At this point, I don’t do anything with the manuscript. I’ll jot down notes, but basically my role is that of a reader. After I’m familiar with the story, I’ll consider where, in my opinion, the book could be made stronger. Usually I’ll write a summary for the author with specific examples, and provide suggestions or alternatives to assist in fixing the issues I’ve raised. If the author agrees with my assessment, s/he goes ahead and revises as needed. After we’re both happy that the basic structure of the book is solid, I’ll look at things line by line—the logic of cause and effect/stimulus and response, sentence construction, word choice, POV violations, showing vs. telling, and whatever else crops up. All changes are tracked so that the author can accept or reject changes and see the comments I’ve made.

When I’m copy editing, I’ll read a portion of the manuscript to get a feel for how the author writes, but then I basically start at the beginning and go through it line by line. I make sure that the basics (spelling, punctuation, grammar) are correct, but I also check for clunky, overly long or repetitive sentences, I make sure that the right word is being used in the right place, and I do some basic fact-checking as well.

What is the difference between proof-reading and editing?

Proofreading, whilst its meaning has become more generalized over time, is essentially about checking for errors. Editing goes beyond that, to look at clarity, conciseness, and matters of style and technique.

Do you have a part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t?

I must say this is the most enjoyable work I’ve ever done. Some manuscripts are harder work than others, but even the toughest one is still a lot easier to whip into shape than a hormonal teenager who hates writing essays!

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? What genre do you enjoy the most?

I read a lot. I can’t imagine an editor (at least a fiction editor) not enjoying reading, not loving language and books and stories that take you out of yourself and into another world. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I particularly enjoy romance (contemporary, historical, erotic, NA). On the other hand, I also love an interesting biography, and I enjoy true crime, history and historical fiction as well.

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?”

It really depends on how much there is to edit J. A few typos here and there don’t worry me too much. I’m more likely to be pulled out of the story by the constant misuse of words. When an author—who is a wordsmith by trade—can’t be bothered to choose the most exact word, or even one that makes sense, I have to wonder what they think writing is about! I must admit I also find it difficult sometimes to finish a book that is obviously someone’s first effort at writing and isn’t ready to be out there yet. That’s when I really wish the author had received some helpful feedback and advice, if not from a professional, then from a writing group or critique partner.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor?

Be patient and start slowly. Don’t be disheartened if the world doesn’t come knocking on your door right away. As with authors, discoverability is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face. Try to find some opportunities to get your name out there. Do your best work.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit?

Don’t.

OK, I realize that may not have been the most persuasive argument, and not particularly helpful advice. So, for anyone who wants to go it alone, here are some things you can do to prepare your book for publication:

 

  • After you’ve written the first draft, set it aside for a time and work on something else. Then come back to the manuscript, preferably after a month or more (you’ll have achieved a bit of mental and emotional distance from the book by this stage), and read it through. You’ll be amazed at how many things you see that need fixing.
  • Look at the book scene by scene. Is every scene pulling its weight? Does the book begin and end strongly? Is there rising tension? Are your characters’ goals significant enough? Are the conflicts, whether internal or external, serious and complex enough to sustain the plot? Could you eliminate or consolidate sub-plots/characters/scenes? Have you used the most effective point of view in each scene? Does the pacing vary throughout the book—quicker in scenes of action or tension, and slower in love scenes or moments of introspection? Have you ‘shown’ the story rather than ‘told’ it? Is your writing vivid, with strong verbs and specific adjectives?
  • Invest in one or both of these books: Getting the Words Right by Theodore Cheney and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Both are well worth buying for their in-depth advice.
  • Find some beta readers who enjoy your genre. Rather than inviting them to give their general impressions, ask them to answer specific questions about your book. Then use the information they give you to make further improvements.
  • Use some of the free online editing tools available. You can find some of them at http://editminion.com, https://www.autocrit.com, and  http://prowritingaid.com. They’re not infallible, and they do limit how much text you can have analysed at one time, but they will help you to see where you’ve overused words or used clichés.

Tell us a silly fact about yourself.

I have no spatial awareness or map-reading skills whatsoever. I can turn the map 360° and it still doesn’t help. My husband would actually rather ask for directions than rely on my navigation!

 

Please add any links to your blog/website etc.

Thanks for having me! If anyone is interested in getting touch with me, please visit http://firstlookforauthors.com or email me at info@firstlookforauthors.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post – London Author Fair Experience by Travis Casey.

Today I’d like to welcome a friend of mine – Travis Casey, author of a series of romance novels who has recently attended the London Author Fair.

Travis over to you….

I attended the London Author Fair 2014 on Friday, February 28, 2014. The aim was to put authors in direct contact with literary agents and experts in the publishing industry to learn more about how it all works. This was my experience:

London was stupidly busy as I expected. When I got the London Victoria train station, the first thing I did was pay 30p (50 cents) to pee. Welcome to the big city. Next, I quickly looked over the routes for the Undergound and made my way to an escalator heading for the Piccadilly line. The moving staircase was extremely long and steep — like taking a ride into the bowels of hell. Adjacent to my downward spiral were two escalator going up. The thousand faces going the other way hardly looked angelic on the way to heaven, but at least they were going toward street level. Halfway down my descent, an announcement was made that the Holborn Station was closed due to a person under the train. There are times I think it would be wise for the London Transport Authority to lie.

I made my way to an inconspicuous building, The Hospital Club, in Covent Garden. I looked smart in my baby pink sweater with black pants, complemented with my newly highlighted hair. If I didn’t get a publishing deal I still might have gotten lucky in the men’s room.

As I checked in, the organizers insisted I don my pre-printed author identification tag, but I was reluctant. After all, I was there to learn and absorb information and didn’t want to be distracted by an endless stream of autograph hunters. Fortunately, everyone respected my privacy and I was not hounded or asked for one autograph the entire day.

The fair was spread over three floors with various workshops and seminars such as: Marketing Your Book, Discoverability, Working with a Literary Agent, Book Cover Design and much more spread throughout the building. Because of the logistics, it was difficult to judge, but I would guess there were somewhere between 300-500 people in attendance.

I grabbed a free coffee and stuffed two free coffee mugs in my free “London Author Fair” canvas bag before heading to the seminar room in the basement. Black velvet curtains blacked out everything around the audience except for the panel of literary agent on the stage. They each spoke about the changes in the book industry and the rise of the self-publishing market. The more they spoke, the more my heart sunk.

Superb writing is not the most important element in the publishing industry. An amazing story, is. They still expect anything submitted to them to be error-free, but story concept may outweigh the odd missed comma. But an agency receives circa 100 submissions A DAY. So what makes your story so AMAZING? And that’s what one has to convey in one page.

Besides being an amazing story (they did use those exact words repeatedly), it has to be marketable. If the publisher doesn’t think they can capture 5% of the market with it, they’re not interested. They all confessed that there are some fantastic stories out there, but no place in the market for them, so they get passed over. Celebrities get rushed to the top because publishers know that will sell. The already have a “platform” so it’s far less of a gamble. Even if you would manage to get picked up by a mainstream publisher, they still choose to put their marketing money into a name where they know will get a return.

When an agent takes on you and your story, it may take him or her a year to sell it to a publisher. Then it may take another year to get it into print, and the chances of striking it big are slim. It is a slow process unless you happened to be lucky enough to sleep with Mr. or Mrs. Obama —  in that case they would rush you into print the following week.

My moment of glory came from stumping the panel — but I didn’t want to stump them, I wanted answers. When they asked for questions from the floor, I raised my hand and I was identified as the man in the back wearing the pink sweater, and invited to ask my question. I rose and took the mike.

“Most submission guidelines request a one to two page synopsis. So if I have to whittle my 80-90,000 word manuscript into 200-400 words, what is the most important thing to focus on and what can be left out?” The man in the pink sweater sat down as a collective gasp rippled through the audience.

The panel remained silent. Really silent. Finally, the chairperson commented, “Well, that shut them up.” One of the agents remarked, “I hate questions like that.” After more humming and haa-ing from the panel of experts, it was agreed that writing a synopsis is an art and skill in its own right. They conceded that it was not easy, then admitted that many times they don’t even get read unless they are excited by the covering letter and the first three chapters. So the man in the pink sweater still doesn’t know how to write an effective synopsis.

I requested early, and was granted a slot to try and sell my book idea to an agent for her to take me on as a client. After causing disarray to the panel, it was time to go make my pitch to the agent. This would be my defining fifteen minutes of fame. I was pleased to have a woman agent to pitch to. I usually connected well with women. We sat down and I handed her my presentation: Cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters of my latest published novel, Forbidden Trouble.

As she looked over my papers, I remained respectfully quiet. “Go on,” she said, “we only have fifteen minutes, start making your pitch.” Damn multi-tasker. It was a little unnerving to talk about my yet to be discovered bestseller while the master of my destiny was not looking at me. My blue eyes are my greatest asset above the belt. You should see my legs. Anyway… I pitched. By this time, she had made it to the first paragraph of the novel.

Why I remained heterosexual was beyond me. I found the good looking chicks, but they either turned lesbian on me or wouldn’t leave their shithead husbands. At least gay guys didn’t have women trouble.”

Her jaw dropped. “That’s some opening,” she remarked, yet void of any reaction. I couldn’t read her.  So I shrugged. “It was either that or ‘It was a dark and stormy night.'”  I smiled. She didn’t. Oh shit.

My time with her went quickly. Perhaps she was in shock by a guy in a pink sweater writing about a heterosexual. Then she gave her advice:

I shouldn’t have been pitching that novel, I should have pitch my current WIP. My current work should cut all ties from my past books to prove I can write fresh material and not count on past characters or settings  to fall back on. Write third person, not first. I took exception to that advise. She kept repeating how difficult and limiting first person is, which I realize. That’s why I have studied it in-depth and am well versed in the pitfalls and traps, as well as the do’s and don’t’s. But she seemed to be making the assumption without reading my work. And 108,000 words was far too long. I should be aiming at 70,000.

My time was up and I felt slightly more dejected, but I was there to learn, not to be discovered — not yet, anyway.

So, that leaves self publishing. Being a self-published author means one has to be an entrepreneur: Marketer, Salesperson, Twitterer, Goodreads Reader, Facebooker, Public Speaker, Blogger… who the hell has time to write?

So my journey to enlightenment ended in the conclusion that there is no easy way — which I knew.  But after speaking to the experts, it seems to have become even more difficult.

At least the conductor smiled at me when I boarded the train for the journey home. Then I noticed the pink handkerchief streaming from his back pocket…

TC002

 

 

 

Editor Interview Number Two – Teresa Kennedy

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. I’m Teresa Kennedy and I’ve worked in publishing for most of my adult life. I’ve served as a Senior  and Acquisitions Editor for a number of publishers and worked as a literary agent and scout. In addition, I did a lot of contract work for packagers and private clients, as well as having authored over 30 of my own books under my own and various pseudonyms. I then worked for a number of years for various editorial firms. In 2011, I partnered with a former client who appreciated my experience to form Village Green Press LLC, which offers a range of editorial, publishing and marketing services for independent authors.

How did you get into this line of work? I had quite a few stories published as early as college, so when I moved to New York in 1975, I naturally gravitated to the industry. I got a job as a Production Editor and moved up the ranks.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Hard science fiction or highly technical thrillers tend to go a bit over my head. I’m not well-versed in some of the sciences, so I just feel another editor might be a better fit.

I believe you are also a writer, do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? Do you find yourself being very critical of your own work? I always use the services of another editor. Most authors don’t understand that editing and writing really do comprise different skill sets. An author can read his or her own work a million times and still not see errors or inconsistencies. Some writers make good editors, but not all of them. As for being critical of my own work, I consider that the most important part of the writing effort is getting it done! That’s one of the reasons I rely heavily on editorial feedback, because when I’m writing, I’m not terribly critical of my own work.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors?  That’s a pretty broad question! Let me say that it depends on the author, their level of experience and their talent for writing. While self-editing is certainly important, I rarely see a self-edited work that can’t be improved in some way. Too, while it’s important to write for yourself, it’s equally important to write for your potential readers. A lot of what I do is to play the role of a professional reader; I ask lots of questions, I tell them when something’s not working or the pace is off, etc. A lot of self-edited writers aren’t going to see the same things that I do.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word manuscript. Again, that pretty much depends on the shape the manuscript is in when it first comes to me. Basically though, there’s an initial read through with light edits, questions about plot or character; notes on where the story development or plot may be weak, as well as comments about how well a book may fit its genre and eventual marketing. That’s usually done for a flat fee and depending on the author’s level of experience involves a fair amount of coaching and what is known as content editing.

After it has been revised, I’ll usually do a line edit, which is a line by line, in depth process. I’ll rearrange paragraphs so that the prose flows more smoothly, clean up excess verbiage and correct any obvious problems with syntax, point of view, etc.

Finally, proofreading will check for spelling errors, correct punctuation and clear up any remaining inconsistencies or mistakes before publication. It’s basically the final polish. Many authors these days are in something of a rush to publication, so I do offer an editing package that combines all 3 services, but only to those clients whose manuscripts are in pretty good shape to start with.

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? I have to say that I really enjoy the more collaborative aspects of editing that involve story and character development. Plot and character are really so intimately related; you can’t have a great plot without great characters and vice versa. So when I see opportunities where one or the other can be strengthened to the point where a good book becomes a really great book– that makes me happy, because I know the author will learn things about their craft that they will always carry with them. By the same token, it can be difficult to offer an author advice he just doesn’t want to hear or who doesn’t want to do the work necessary to improve his craft. I’m never out to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I told an author his work was wonderful when it wasn’t.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? Of course! The only reason to stay in this business is because of your love of books.

If so do you find yourself editing the book as you go or are you able to “switch off” as you read? Reading for pleasure is just that, reading for work is editing.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Be aware that it’s difficult and competitive and that editing is a lot more than correcting punctuation and running things through a software program. It involves developing real relationships with your clients and earning their trust. Intern at a traditional publishing house if at all possible. You can’t help an author achieve a professional standard in their work if you don’t know what those standards are.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Self-editing is an important skill because it makes the writing process easier. You learn to identify your quirks, your weaknesses and your mistakes. Every draft should go through a self-edit. But every book should also be professionally edited. Because when it comes down to making the hard decisions, self-editing is a lot like taking out your own appendix. It can be done, but it’s awfully painful!

What advice would you give to new authors? Love your work and keep at it. Don’t expect it to make you rich, famous or an overnight success. Get lots of feedback from friends and other writers and hire the best professional help you can afford for editing, design and marketing. Always be willing to learn.

http://www.villagegreenpressllc.com/

http://villagegreenpressllc.blogspot.com/.

Indie Block Party Post 7 – Writing Tips and Advice

Indie block party small

This week focuses more on sharing advice and resources than actively promoting our own books. Hopefully we can all learn from these tips and find useful links and suggestions. Most of the authors I meet are a supportive and helpful lot, which is just as well as writing itself can be quite lonely and frustrating. I have learned a great deal, and made new friends within the writing community. Shared information is valuable, knowledge is power.

Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?

New writers are given an awful lot of information, much of it contradictory and it is very difficult to know the good advice from the bad. Experience is a great teacher!

Here are my top 6 tips:

1)    Keep writing. This is seems to be consistent advice from all the sources I have seen. A single book is great but it is hard to build a fan base with just one title and if readers like your work they may well look out for other articles and stories. I do as a reader. As your writing experience grows you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Write for anthologies, write for your blog or someone else’s or write for research. Yahoo Voices have many interesting blog-type articles and it is a way to build a fan base. Researching for your novel? Great, use that research to help others. There are lots of anthologies looking for submissions (see links below) and some pay, although some don’t. Even the free ones are useful in getting your name out there and are writing practice.

2)    Have a thick skin, you will need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book, will be offended by it, hate the characters or simply not get it. We do not all like the same things, if we did the world would be boring indeed.  Bad reviews hurt, but most books have at least one and unless the reviewer has a personal issue with the author (which occasionally happens) then it is one opinion. Reviews are just that – opinions, which can be as varied as the books they discuss.

No writer likes to be told their book sucks and it can be hard to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice is don’t comment, or if you feel you must then be polite, thank the reviewer for their comments and move on. Commenting, especially negatively will do far more harm, go and rant to your best friend, yell at the wall, go for a walk and release that is one person’s opinion only. The next reviewer may love the book. Even negative reviews, except the spiteful ones, have useful advice.

It is hard to work out how much store readers put on reviews, many do look and most simply filter out those which either say nothing or the obviously spiteful or overly gushing ones, but in a couple of studies I have done reviews are surprisingly low on the scale. A good cover, a synopsis which pulls in the reader and recommendations from friends seem more important. If the book is selling don’t worry too much.

3)    Write the book you want to write. Now I am sure other writers might disagree with this tip but not all. Forcing a story to work, editing out important plot ideas or making characters do something they wouldn’t do may well make the story weaker. Write the book YOU want to read. Would you enjoy it? If the answer is yes then go with it. A forced plot will show itself to be just that.  It may depend on whether you are intending to self-publish or whether you are intending to submit to a publishing house of course and whether you intend to get an editor.

4)    Write the best book you can. No book is perfect. Even best sellers have typos which slip through, weak plots or naff characters. However if you are an indie the threshold seems to be higher…there are plenty of posts and threads berating indie self-published books as being substandard. In some cases this is true, we have all seen them but there are very many books which are great, yes some may be a little rough around the edges but the good stories and talent are out there. There are plenty of traditionally published books which are awful. That said releasing a book full of typos, terrible grammar and weak plot/characters is not advisable. Spellcheckers are useful, but invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing guide. If you can find beta readers or critique groups then do so.

If you decide to self-edit then put the manuscript aside for a while and write (or read) something new. You will see the work with fresher eyes. I know from experience I see what I think is there not what IS there. If you can afford an editor then it is advisable to consider it, but there are great books which have been self-edited. If you choose this route be thorough, it may take several passes through. Although earlier I said write the book YOU want you do need to be strict when editing. It is easy to get carried away and go off on a tangent. Does the scene add to the story/characterisation/world-building? No – then lose it.

5)    Research and plausibility. This is rather dependent on genre of course but willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Fantasy gives a lot of scope, especially magic but it still needs to be consistent. Research gives the writer credibility, if you say something works which we KNOW doesn’t work in that way then at the least back it up in the story with some plausibility, or better still find something which people know does work that way. Gravity is gravity. Research medieval battle, weapons and armour, field medicine, herb-lore and such like if you are planning a fight. Movie fight scenes look great visually but aren’t really that accurate. What damage DOES a long sword do? What IS the range of a long bow. You needn’t go into too much detail in the book, but knowing if your archer can hit that bad-guy lurking in the Dark-lord’s tower is helpful. Books can educate, and encourage people to research for themselves, especially if set in a certain time period but accuracy is the key. Of course many readers won’t go on to research or have any interest in the origins of the long bow, the war horse but some might. Besides research is great, it is amazing what you can discover!

6)    READ THE DAMN MANUAL! Really I mean it. Spend a bit of time not only reading writing guides but the FAQ of KDP, Smashwords, Lulu or wherever it is you choose to publish. It will make life a lot easier. There are several free books available – ‘Publish your work on Kindle’, ‘How to Publish on Smashwords’ for example. Most of the sites have extensive guidelines and forums. That is another thing most people have struggled with whatever it is you are struggling with so search the forums for answers. You are now a business person as well as a writer and it helps to know what to do.

What do I wish I had known at the beginning? Marketing is HARD. Where is the line between being a spammy needy author and promoting in such a way that people will check out your books and not be annoyed? Well that depends on who you ask…some people hate any mention of the product, some don’t mind a small amount and some say as much as you can do is the way to go. If I find the right level I will let you know.

World Building:

http://audenstreasury.blogspot.co.uk/p/writing-fight-scenes-resources.html?showComment=1369324942695

http://foilandphaser.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/tips-and-tricks-for-using-science-in-fiction/

http://cbmccullough.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/domesticating/

http://mythicscribes.com/world-building/adding-depth-to-a-fantasy-world/

http://voices.yahoo.com/world-building-costs-benefits-writing-outside-12007265.html?cat=38

http://audenstreasury.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/dark-fantasy-world-building-names.html

http://profantasy.com/

Writing generally:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9764931/The-101-best-pieces-of-advice-ever-received.html

http://robbgrindstaff.com/2013/01/why-are-verbs-so-tense/

http://lissywrites.com/2013/06/28/back-cover-text-book-blurbs-and-other-fun-stuff/

http://venturegalleries.com/blog/writing-short-stories-for-anthologies/

http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/tips-for-self-editing?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tips-for-self-editing

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/07/13/rethink-advice-to-writers/#more-41613

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