Category Archives: Nancy Greene

Celina Summers: Different Paths to Publishing

When we started discussing the idea of a publishing themed month, we talked about the different types of publishing. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a wonderful E-Publisher, Musa Publishing. Celina Summers, the chief editor and founder of Musa, often talks about how she was frustrated that people equated E-Publishing with Self-Publishing. As a result, Celina was a natural choice to be our first guest poster this month. Writers have more options than ever to get to the reader. For a general overview of those options, read on and see what Celina said.

So take it away, Celina.

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It’s a great thing to be able to tell your family and friends that you’re published. After all, you’ve achieved a lifetime goal. Millions of people have written stories or novels without any of them seeing the light of day. But in the last couple of decades, the publishing industry has changed significantly. With the onset of digital publishing, self-publishing-once an outlet only the financially well-endowed could consider-took off. According to The Bookseller (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/publishing-proliferates-thanks-pod-and-digital.html) :

Nielsen 2010 book output figures show that 151,969 new titles were published in 2010, a leap of 14% on the output number given this time last year. The figure is derived from the number of ISBNs Nielsen issues over the year. However, the 2009 figure, of 133,000, has since been increased to 157,039 because of the late addition of digital titles in that year, a factor that may also further increase the 2010 figure. It means that year-on-year book production fell 3.2%, though the trend shows that output has soared: since 2008 it is up 13%, and since 2001, the market has risen by close to 40%.

Once upon a time, there was one way to get published. You wrote your novel, typed it up, sent it to an agent, the agent loved it and submitted it to a traditional print publisher, who bought it and then published it. But now, things are a lot more complicated. E-publishing has taken off, with thousands of young publishing houses releasing digital-only content. At the same time, self-publishing has exploded, with authors publishing their own books directly to the reader. And of course, lurking around the sewers of the industry, vanity presses are always eager to prey upon the uninformed author.

But these four terms are not synonymous. There’s a lot of difference between traditional publishing, electronic publishing, and self-publishing. (And vanity publishing is, at its heart, a scam) Where this becomes a problem is when the writer announces “I’m published!” but doesn’t distinguish between the different types of publishing. Because unless your self-published book sells millions of copies, chances are that an agent or book industry exec isn’t going to be interested in that publishing credit-or a bookstore. Regardless of what folks might think, there is a big difference between landing a multiple book deal with Random House and self-publishing a book through Lulu. So in order to avoid trouble down the line, it’s important for an author to self-represent correctly-and, more importantly, to use the different avenues in publishing wisely, to build a foundation for a writing career.

So, let’s take a look at each term separately.

Traditional publishing-Print. To most writers, this means New York. These are books that are represented by agents (most likely) and subsequently published by a major house-known as the Big Six-and any of their imprints. These books are released in paperback. Some come out in hardback. These books (usually) are where the legitimate bestseller lists originate. The author receives an advance for her book(s), and her titles are found in brick and mortar bookstores. In the past couple of years, the Big Six have jumped on board and begun to digitally publish their titles-at much higher prices and a much smaller royalty rate.

Let me interject that there are hundreds of legitimate, reputable, outstanding small presses out there-independent publishers that have nothing to do with New York or the Big Six. Indie presses are a fantastic place for a young writer to start out, especially genre writers. I’m going to put indie publishers under the traditional publisher title because they, too, publish primarily in print.

 E-publishing-These publishing houses are digital first. They publish e-books primarily, although some are moving into POD(print on demand) availability for their books. An e-publisher is a genuine small house, following the same submissions, acquisitions, and editing processes as traditional publishing. Five years ago, e-publishing wasn’t considered a legitimate publishing credit by agents and New York publishers. That mindset is changing as the popularity of digital books increases.

 Self-publishing-This is when a writer circumvents the publishing industry and releases his work himself. That also means the writer is completely responsible for making sure the book goes through all the proper processes-editing, typesetting, cover art, formatting, uploading, publicity and marketing. Unfortunately many self-published authors don’t do this. They release the book and then wait for the millions of dollars to roll in, which, unfortunately, rarely happens. For every self-published author like Amanda Hocking, there are tens of thousands of authors who never sell more than ten copies of their book.

Vanity publishing-Where an author pays to be published. Any time a publisher (or agent) asks for money up front, run away. Run fast. Yog’s law: money flows TO the author.

In the past six months, I can’t tell you how many people have told me their book was e-published, attempting to hoodwink me into thinking that another publisher had signed their book, put it through the processes, and released the book-only to find out later that in fact, the writer had self-published. (And no, making up a publishing company that only publishes one author’s work really doesn’t fool a publisher. If you’re self-published, just admit it.) Some come to me only when their book didn’t make money and they want to try again. Usually, those writers don’t know why. I do know why.

You see-there’s a reason for the ‘gatekeepers’ in publishing. The agents, the slushpile readers, the acquisitions assistants all have the same goal in mind: they are looking for publishable books. Books that are strong technically, that are engaging and entertaining. In other words, books that people want to read. When I am reading through submissions, I might ask to see one manuscript out of fifty. That’s not because the stories are bad, but because the story is not publishable in its current condition. Occasionally, however, I will be tempted to put more work into a manuscript because of the writer’s publishing history-her resume. And this is where the correct publishing types really makes a difference.

In publishing, as in any profession, people need to be accurate and honest about how they present themselves to others. If a writer’s book was self-published, it does no good for that writer to claim they were e-published. Sure, the author electronically published his book, but the book never went through any kind of evaluation, most probably wasn’t edited (because many self-published authors wish to retain all creative control over their book) and more than likely didn’t sell more than a hundred copies. If that book was e-published, to me that means that the author is familiar with the publication process-namely editing. And that right there predisposes me to look upon that submission more favorably, because I know that I won’t be having to drag an unwilling writer through the process that will make that particular book better.

And of course, once you start talking traditional publishing, unless your books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, it doesn’t matter very much if you’re e-published or self-published or published-by-your-Uncle-Vinnie-in-Des Moines published. To a traditional publisher, it might as well be your first book. However, among the gatekeepers to traditional publishing, e-publishing is no longer considered the red-headed stepchild of publishing. I asked an agents’ panel three years ago if they considered e-publishing a legitimate publishing credit. About 70% said yes.

Since we opened Musa Publishing, agents are now submitting to us.

It makes sense, after all. With e-publishing’s higher royalties, lower overhead and international availability thanks to e-tailers like Amazon, authors and agents are intrigued by the possible financial rewards of a popular e-published success. Publishers like Musa Publishing are able to create a high quality product that readers enjoy, at a price readers appreciate. A lot of writers are making the same decision I made too-to begin my writing career in e-publishing. I could make better, immediate money while learning my craft and improving my work.

And the readers are reaping the benefits, as anyone with a fully stocked Nook or Kindle will tell you.

So there are sizable differences in the different types of publishing currently available, and it behooves the author to self-identify correctly. As a writer, it’s important to understand the differences-and to use those differences wisely as you plot out your career.

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Thanks for that great insight. Celina. For my short story collection, Paths Less Traveled, my collection releasing today, Shots at Redemption, or a host of other amazing stories in just about every genre, please check out Musa Publishing.

 

 

It’s almost like being in love. . .

Why do we write?

Well, I can’t answer that question for the world at large. I can, however, answer that for myself and the other writers I’ve asked that question. We write because we have to, and because we love it.

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of overlap between my day job as a lawyer, and my night and weekend job as a writer. As a lawyer I write nonfiction (although some detractors of the profession might claim what lawyer’s write can only loosely be labled nonfiction). The lawyers I know who are in the profession for the money, because someone thought they should be, or because they want the prestige of those three magic letters (“Esq.”) after their names are miserable people. They are burnt out; they fight for the sake of fighting.

The writers I know of who write because they thought it was easy, or easy money, or because they wanted the prestige of being an “author” are miserable. They are burnt out; they are depressed, and they give up. They are overly critical of others’ stories.

Now let’s look at the lawyers who aren’t burnt out, depressed or on the verge of quitting. While they may hate a particular part of the process, they love the overall system. I love being in court. I love researching and finding new ways to combine existing law to my client’s benefit. I love helping people. My practice reflects this. I don’t sleep or eat much the week before trial. I do my best work when I’m passionate about my client’s position. I’ve jumped up and down behind counsel’s table when arguing a point (my husband, who was observing that argument, had to fight laughing out loud as I bounced around).

The last statistic I heard was the average advance from a traditional publisher is about $8,000. E-publishers pay better (up to 50% of net sales), but they don’t generally pay advances. It takes the sale of many thousands of 99 Cent e-books to lift you above the poverty level, much less replace most people’s regular income. Self-publishing means you spend a lot of upfront money hoping you can recoup it and make a profit. Except for the precious few, writing will never be a “get rich quick” career.

So, why do we do it?

Love.

In the movie Shadowlands, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays C.S. Lewis, tells a fellow Oxford Don that he (Lewis) can’t stop praying because the words pour out of him. He could have been speaking for any writer. The words pour out of us. Stories beat on our minds and distract us from other concerns.
I love filling the screen with words; creating new worlds; and that moment when a character is real enough to talk to (and fight with) me. When a story first takes hold of me, my hands shake, my heart races, I have trouble sleeping and I’m constantly thinking about my new world and characters. Sounds a lot like a first crush, huh?

That someone else likes reading what I write is amazing. That someone is willing to pay to read my stories is humbling.

This business is hard. We hear a lot of “no” before we hear “yes.” If you aren’t passionate about writing, you won’t write. It’s just that simple.
Find the story that makes your heart race, and get writing.

Thoughts From The Slush Pile ““ Success

I’ve recently become a slush pile reader for Flash Fiction Online. In my opinion, good Flash Fiction (a complete story of 500 to 1,000 words) is harder to write than a complete novel. In one of the slush rounds – reiewing stories their writers hope to have FFO publish – I moved two of the stories to the next phase of consideration. Why?

One was science fiction, and one was fantasy/slipstream. Even though the two stories were nothing alike, they had some common traits that helped them move to the next round. So what did they do right?

(1) The prose was clean – no typos, no major grammar problems.

(2) The main characters were well-defined and interesting.

(3) Each character had an interesting problem to solve. One wanted to go home, and the other had a major decision to make. The second story violated my withholding “rule”. It didn’t tell me something the main character would know – what the decision was. I didn’t mind the withholding this time because the point of the story wasn’t the decision, but how the character makes it.

(4) The writers had strong “voices”. A writer’s voice is different than technical proficiencies. It’s a little hard to define. Voice is the personality of the writer coming through his or her words. It makes the story unique. Five people can write a story about a werewolf’s first transformation. While the plotline will be the same for each, the stories will be told very differently because of “voice”. For these submissions to FFO, the fantasy’s voice was a bit irreverent and humorous. The science fiction voice was curious and intelligent.

(5) They were complete stories with beginning, middles and ends. Rust Hills said “a short story tells of something happening to someone” in his Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Submissions that aren’t complete are character sketches or scenes. While they may be fabulous, they aren’t what FFO is looking for.

(6) Setting. It’s difficult to convey a full setting in 1000 words or less, but both of these stories gave me enough of one that I could see where the characters were. One in deep space, and one in a somewhat run down kitchen.

Note the order I put the above-list in?

I did for a reason.

Your story might have all the other elements, but if it is riddled with grammatical errors, I won’t read on and find that out. If the story is readable, I look for a character to care about. And so on. My list isn’t absolute. I might pass on a story with grammatical errors if the voice or characters are stunningly fabulous. Don’t put the bar to publication any higher by making technical errors.

What am I looking for as a slush pile reader?

The same thing I’m looking for when I buy a novel. A great story told well.

Keep writing, and keep submitting. I hope to see you all over at Flash Fiction Online.

Superstars Week, Day 3: Confessions of Repeat Offenders

Hello, intrepid readers, this is Leigh, and I’d like to welcome you back to the Fictorian Era’s Superstars Week! For the last two days you’ve gotten an idea of what you can gain by attending the Superstars Writing Seminars, but today, Nancy, Clancy, and I will be telling you why we felt the need to go back for more. Yes, all three of us are Repeat Offenders, having attended both previous seminars.

So, why return to a seminar you’ve already attended?

For me, there were a number of reasons, but today, I’m going to talk about how, by returning to the Superstars Writing Seminar, you’re not just revisiting something you’ve seen before. The seminar is dedicated wholly to learning the writer’s place in the publishing industry. And let’s face it, people, that place is changing fast. This seminar is a true insiders look at what any writer looking to make a career publishing can expect, and the options available to get there.

As an example, in the first Superstars seminar, we had the core five authors, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Brandon Sanderson, and David Farland. Across the board, they said that traditional publishing was the way to go. Then, Amazon unveiled their e-publishing program. Self-publishing wasn’t the pariah it previously was. The next seminar dedicated an hour to self-publishing and e-books. As part of that panel, Moses Siregar, a previous Superstar attendee, had a heated discussion with Eric Flint over e-publishing, and David was heavily leaning toward self- publishing. Since then, David’s written a post on this very site stating that he believes self-publishing to be the future of the industry, and this year, Superstars has brought in Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, two vocal authors on indie publishing issues. Clearly things have changed, and Superstars is keeping pace.

Yet, as with any seminar, there are portions that are repeated every year, but as Clancy will tell you, even that can be a good thing.

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Clancy here. And here’s why I’m a repeat offender: I signed up for my second Superstars seminar unsure if I would hear much that I hadn’t learned the year before. But I wanted to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon (a guest speaker) and see my alumni buddies, so I decided to go. Color me surprised me when I learned as much, if not more, as I did the first time. During the year between the two events, I had changed. Where I was with my writing and my career had also changed, and I was hearing different things even though much of the content was similar. My mindset tuned into completely different points made.

I wanted to give you an example, but I can’t think of one. I know… challenged. Anyway – I remember sitting there during a presentation that I’d heard before and thinking to myself, I know they discussed this last year, but I was hearing the content through a different filter and what caught my attention were not the same things that did the year prior. I wish I had an excellent example to share. Just know that it was a profound ‘a-ha’ like realization. So, I wish I could go again this year because I know I would, yet again, learn more and different things than I have already.

Read on to see why Nancy is right and the contacts and friends I have made during both seminars are still with me, still in contact, and are still impacting my life in ways I will forever be grateful for.

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Nancy Greene, on the issue of “Contacts and Kismet”: We attend conferences to make contacts including the conference speakers, vendors, and participants. I confess to being a Repeat Offender at Superstars Writing Seminars for all the reasons you’ve heard about over the last few days and for the people I meet.

Approximately 20-30 attendees at the 2011 Superstars were Repeat Offenders. I’d guess the number is about the same for April’s session. The Superstars crowd isn’t cliquey. We go out enmasse. The “we” is the Repeat Offenders, one or more of the speakers, and anyone we can convince to join us. Dinner and late night drinks at the hotel bar are similar affairs. Because we’re a social group, there’s a lot of extra time with the speakers, which is something that often doesn’t happen at other conferences. The social aspect’s a great way to forge long-term friendships. After all, we’re all writers, and can help each other after the conference ends.

I’ve written about the benefits of writers helping writers before in the Benefits of Holding Hands on this blog. Because of Superstars and the friends made there, the Fictorians have:

(1) Participated in this blog (all members are Superstars attendees),
(2) Received weekly encouragement and accountability checks,
(3) Received advice and critiques from some of the presenters,
(4) Edited or beta read novels written by the presenters,
(5) Assisted other Fictorians in getting short-stories published,
(6) Been introduced to other fabulous connections, including agents and publishers, and
(7) Advertised or promoted the other writers on the site.
The list contains the things I can think of off the top of my head. There’s more.

The writing industry is small. The way to “break-in” is to have a great product, and an even better network. We might have made the contacts and achieved the same results without Superstars, but the process would’ve probably been years longer.

Kismit happens.

But you have to ensure you’ve done your work and made the contacts you need to be “in the right place at the right time.” Superstars is an excellent place to make those contacts, and it’s why I’m a Repeat Offender.

So, if you’re a Repeat Offender, feel free to let us know why you keep going back to Superstars. And everyone should stick around for tomorrow and Friday for a two part interview with two of the founders of this fantastic seminar, David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson. See you in April.