Archive for June, 2015


June 26, 2015

Last week I made a disparaging comment about self-published books.  No I’m not going to take it back, but I will clarify it.  I’ll start by saying that sometimes self-publishing is the right option.  If you have written a book about something in a niche market, you probably won’t find a large royalty house who is interested in publishing it.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t a book worth of publication.  You might be able to find a small publisher interested in taking the book on if you can convincingly pitch them on the potential market.  However the most likely scenario is that very few publishers will see the viability of the book.  Now is the time to consider self-publishing.

If you decide to self-publish, do a little research before you jump into the project.  Self-publishing used to cost between $1,000 and $10,000, now it can be printed for less than $100.  If you have a company pitching you on spending more than $100 run the opposite way.

Here are a few tips on self-publishing:

  1. Study some royalty books from large publishers like Simon and Schuster, Knopf, and Random House.  Just stroll through the books at your local library.  Make some notes on how the title and copyright pages look and the information they contain. Make sure your book has these two pages and that they look similar to the professionally produced books.
  2. Get an ISBN. That stands for International Standard Book Number. I’ve had people tell me they just made one up.  Don’t do that!  Every publisher has an identifying number which is contained in that ISBN.  Ask someone at Lightning Source or Create Space about these numbers and how to get one.
  3. Get a UPC code. This is a barcode which is almost required by retailers to sell your book. In most cases the UPC contains the book price.
  4. Get a professional edit. No author finds all their own mistakes.  You really don’t want your reader to find the mistakes.  Normally not only is it distracting for a reader to find mistakes, it makes the author look ignorant.
  5. Get a professional cover. A professional graphic artist can design a cover which makes the reader eager to snatch your book from the shelf.  It is well worth the money.
  6. Be proud of your book and make it a book you can be proud of. Self-publishing will require a great amount of hand selling.  You shouldn’t have to apologize every time you sell a book, so make sure your book is outstanding and market it with pride.


June 19, 2015

The above statement may sound ugly, but it’s true. In this age of CreateSpace and Lightning Source, almost anyone can be published. You don’t even have to be good to be published. What I’m telling you is that much of what is out there may be good, but there’s a whole lot of bad floating around, too. I hate to say this, but not all publishers produce only great material. This is really a caveat emptor business.

The possibility that you slogged through some 700+ page published book because it was on the best seller’s list and then decided it was terrible is a real, and happens with frequency. You may have decided that your kindergartner could write better and that  is also a possibility.

You may be wondering why this stinky book got published and yours is languishing in a drawer. Many times the answer is as simple as—NAME. Editors may not know your name but they recognize that “John Doe” wrote a great book two years ago, so they buy it. They may not know that “John Doe” has picked up a drug habit and is now writing junk. Mr. Doe has a reputation for selling through and making a company millions or at least the advance back, so they take his book instead of your brilliant new novel. This is the system and occasionally the system can be crummy and unfair.

True confession time—I wrote my first two published novels thirty years before they were published. The time wasn’t right for them; I always say. Whatever the reason, the books didn’t find a home the first time around. So persistence is key to getting published.

Yes, you can self-publish. To be honest, although the reputation for self-published authors has improved in the last ten years, if you want to be respected in the field find an excellent editor and make sure you’re putting an outstanding product out there. Junk is still junk.

My fervent wish is that every writer get published—the reality can be that sometimes it is a long process. So be patient and aim for greatness.


June 12, 2015

Just when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle. Just when you think you’re done with your writing. I know you’ve starved, sacrificed, and made nearly everyone you know angry with you, but you’ve just started. You want a break, I realize that. However if you intend to have a successful career, you need to market the product. Marketing is the nastiest word in a writer’s vocabulary, but it is the necessary one.

“I don’t know how to market.” Is the cry of every new writer. “Where do I begin?” or what should I do?” are common warcries. But you must begin and you must succeed or all that starving and sacrifice was for nothing, The common answer is that you should have started long ago, but I’ll cut you some slack.

Here a few tips to get you over the loathing and fear of marketing.

1. Decide where your piece will go before you start writing. Whether your piece is a book, article, short story, or poetry piece decide who publishes pieces like yours. As you write, keep a list of possible markets for your product. (Yes, it is a product despite the fact you feel you’ve bled over it.)
2. Write a few queries while you’re coming down from the writing high. A query is not as scary as it sounds. Use your writing piece hook in the query. The first paragraph is to entice the editor to read on. Then use several brief sentences to give the editor an idea of where the piece is going. Give them the facts: This is a —-word (novel, article, nonfiction book.) And finish off with your credentials, if you have them. Don’t make anything up, editors will know. Make the final paragraph a brief thank you giving the possible market an idea of when the piece will be available. Keep it to one page, and one side of the paper.
3. Take a field trip to your local bookstore and library to determine what else is out there. You really need to know whether there are other pieces out there and why yours is better or different.
4. Approach agents carefully. Most beginning writers think the minute they finish a piece they should begin to contact agents. This is usually folly. Most agents are interested in a writer with a body of work. (Read that as more than one piece.) They want writers who are devoted to their craft and want to make writing a serious career. Agents also do not usually take poetry, short stories, or articles. They love working with writers who know their market.
5. Polish, Polish, Polish! Edit, re-read, and proofread. If necessary ask a writer friend or a professional editor to make sure you’ve found all the mistakes. A sloppy piece will get an immediate rejection and may close the door at that particular market permanently.
6. Be patient and professional. No editor wants constant calls or e-mails regarding a submitted piece. Waiting a couple of months isn’t an odd occurrence.
The key to a writer’s success depends on marketing.


June 5, 2015

Most writers know that writing doesn’t pay the bills. In fact I’m always surprised that history doesn’t record a string of writers who starved to death trying to make a career. In most cases, writing won’t feed you until it is too late. Writing feeds your soul, not your body. So why do we write, because we are compelled. A lot of people walking around on the street with that haunted look are just writers who think they need to work a “real job” to put food on the table. (A majority of them sneak into secluded spots in the dead of night to write.)

Here a few tips for subsisting while writing:

1. Marry well. If you can find someone to support you financially while you write, do it. I was fortunate to have a husband who I supported through graduate school, who felt an obligation to reciprocate.
2. Take the odd jobs. Most companies can use a person who knows how to string words together to make a point. Whether it is writing a bit of advertising copy or helping with a website. If your grammar skills are acceptable, offer to proofread—that usually pays well.
3. Don’t be afraid to get paid in copies. I know you can’t eat them, but they can segue to paying jobs. You need a writing portfolio to advance in the business, so use those copies for your resume.
4. Stick to a schedule. I know there are children, school programs, soccer games, and a wide variety of distractions from your writing, but try to stick with a schedule. Don’t miss the events in your child’s life, but try to add a few minutes where you can to make up for missed time.
5. Teach a class. You have a skill. I know a million times a day someone says to you, ”Oh you’re a writer? Some day I’m going to write about my great-aunt Tillie or______”(insert name here.) here is the opportunity to say, “Well, I’m starting a writing class at the local recreation center on (date). Why don’t you come join us?” You’ll learn a great deal from teaching and it will help with the bills. I wrote a book doing just this. It keeps you on track and helps other writers along the way. Yes, you’ll have some dropouts but we both know only a few of those wantabe’s really were serious anyway.