Tag Archives: traditional publishing

And Now for Something Completely Different

When it comes to giving advice regarding plot structure, I have found that most everyone seems to focus on the time from the beginning of the book to the climax. In a way, I completely understand. After all, that’s where the majority of your story happens. However, I find that some people seem to forget that after the climax the story must come to a graceful ending, and that this resolution is as essential to the story as any other part. You’ve made the characters struggle and suffer for their triumph, so they deserve a little time off right?

The denouement is more than just sympathy for a cast you’ve spent years torturing. It’s a matter of practicality. The climax of a story is supposed to be the defining challenge of the protagonists’ life and potentially for the entire world they live in. It doesn’t matter if the story takes a single volume or a twenty part series to tell, once the climax is resolved, the story is done. Young authors need to learn to let go even when, or perhaps especially when, you don’t want to.

I really admire a storyteller who knows when to take their bows and move on to the next work. After all, we are writers people! We are not limited to a single story. Sometimes the best endings for an old story is the beginning of a new one. The more one writes, the better the stories get. Often it is best for our career to work on something else for a while and then return to an old project when the time is right.

Over the past couple years, I’ve been pursuing a deal in traditional publishing. For the first time, I’ve had a story that I knew was good, and that friends who I trust to be honest with me say is near publishable. I’ve devoted all my time and attention to this single story. Not just drafting and editing, but also networking and promoting myself in an attempt to secure a traditional publishing contract. I’ve been obsessed with the idea, and in my attachment forgot to move on.Don’t get me wrong, the story’s not dead to me. I still believe in its potential and will continue to shop it until I find a good home for it. Publishing takes a long time. With eight months to a year between submitting the story and hearing back, I just can’t afford to wait for it anymore. It’s like trying to fish with only one line in the water. You might eventually catch something, but you may be waiting a while for that first bite.

So, in 2016 I’m going to work on something completely different. Up until now I’ve written fantasy, both the sword & sorcery and urban varieties. In order to force myself to grow as a writer, I am trying my hand at a bit of science fiction. So far, it’s been a fun ride and has forced me to rethink many of the assumptions and tropes I had grown used to relying on. Even better, once I finish drafting and polishing this new manuscript, I’ll be able to cast a second line into the pool. Then I’ll start again. And again. Eventually, I’ll get a bite.

Dispelling the Myths, Part Two

A interview post with Jen Greyson.

Yesterday, I posted the first of my two sit-down posts with author Jen Greyson, author of Lightning Rider and Shadow BoxerHer publishing story began a couple of years ago upon selling her first novel to a publisher—and not just any publisher, but The Writer’s Coffee Shop, the company behind Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s the interview’s conclusion.

EB: What kind of marketing went into your book’s release?

JR: Press release and a blog tour, social media on launch day. I devoted a ton of time into finding bloggers to review/tour for this book, so both sides worked pretty hard on this launch. I also did a big launch party and the publisher sent me bookmarks and fliers for advertising.

EB: What were your biggest turnoffs in the traditional publishing experience?

JR: In a nutshell, I gave up a lot and got very little in return. I bought into the myth of traditional publishing (though I’m not sure if I can even call this a “traditional” deal, because they were basically a small-press). I figured once I had a contract I’d ‘made it’ and everything would be a piece of cake from there. Boy, was I wrong. I still had to devote a ton of time and energy into sales. As I did the math, it became obvious very early on that I could do the same amount of work as an indie and make a lot more money. (This was a royalty-only deal.)

At the time I released Lightning Rider, NA (new adult) was really gaining traction and the publisher didn’t know how to market NA (or fantasy) because they’d never had one. They were really open to my suggestions, and that was great, but I’d chosen them because I thought they had some marketing “secret.” In the end, I picked a publisher that was a bad fit for my book, but I wanted to be published so badly that I overlooked a lot of red flags.

EB: After the release, how were your sales?

JR: Sales were nowhere near the Fifty Shades numbers I’d hoped for! 🙂 That ended up working in my favor, though, because of a clause I negotiated that specified that if I didn’t sell a certain number of books within the first six months, the contract could be terminated.

EB: Did you take any “missteps” along the way that you would caution other writers about?

JR: Don’t be so eager to get published in the short-term that you overlook the long-term. One book is nothing in terms of a writer’s career. (I’m hoping for another thirty-five years!) It was really hard for me to be unbiased about the deal, and if I’m truly honest, I don’t think anyone could have talked me out of signing with them. I wanted to be published. And because of that craving/desire/crippling need, I wasn’t as smart as I should have been. I wasn’t realistic about what a first book by a first-time author was going to do. I believed I was the exception to the rule.

EB: After having pursued traditional publishing, what are you doing now? How has the experience influenced your career path?

JR: Right now, I’m self-pubbing all my titles, and that’s probably the plan for 2014. Interestingly, the workload hasn’t changed, but my royalty checks have! And because I’m trying to expose myself to readers in a genre dominated by indies (NA), I need to be able to drop titles every three months. I can’t afford to wait eighteen months for a traditional deal—not right now, and not with my NA titles.

I’m definitely not opposed to doing a traditional deal in the future, but now that I’m out from under the myth of traditional publishing I think I can make a much more educated decision. I also have a better understanding of what goes into getting each book into readers’ hands, and I know how to budget and value my own time in the equation.

My path isn’t necessarily what’s right for anyone else. Writers need to do their homework. Talk to other authors who’ve been there, seek counsel, be smart. And in the wise, wise words of James Owen: “Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most, for what you want the most at that moment.”

Jen Greyson picGuest Bio:
From the moment she decided on a degree in Equestrian Studies, Jen Greyson’s life has been one unscripted adventure after another. Leaving the cowboy state of Wyoming to train show horses in France, Switzerland, and Germany, she’s lived life without much of a plan, but always a book in her suitcase. Now a wife and mom to two young boys, she relies on her adventurous, passionate characters to be the risk-takers. Jen also writes university courses and corporate training material when she’s not enjoying the wilds of the west via wakeboard or snowmobile.

Literary Agents are Still a Good Idea . . . Sometimes

ebook vs physical bookWhen the ebook revolution first began a few years ago, people rallied into two very distinct camps: one was the camp of the revolutionaries who pomoted the ebook-only route and
proclaimed the death of traditional publishing and teased those who still believed in the ‘old ways’ of being dinosaurs.

The other was the traditionalist camp scoffing at the young upstarts and their wild west approach to books, promising that no good end could come to those who started down that dark and unproven path.

It was a pretty exciting (some might say nerve-wracking) time, and no one was sure which camp would ultimately win the war of words.

ReesesThe situation reminded me of the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup commercials arguing about chocolate vs peanut butter. And like the commercial, reality seems to have found a way to bring those two great approaches to book publishing together.  It is no longer an either/or discussion.

The most recent evidence suggests that the market is stabilizing. Ebooks now make up a large part of the new landscape, particularly the US market, while traditional publishing has survived the coup and has stabilized. The good news is that more books are being sold through both mediums. As of today, neither ebooks nor traditionally published physical copies appear to be heading the way of the dodo any time soon.

That’s great news for writers.

But the world has definitely shifted and writers need to approach this new world intelligently. The two markets are different, and different types of books tend to fit better in different slots, so writers need a plan.

As Brandon Sanderson, best-selling fantasy author recommends, it is a good idea to take shorter novels that can be produced more quickly (every 6 months max) and publish them as ebooks while taking longer novels like epic fantasy and publish those via traditional publishing, probably at the rate of one book per year. It makes so much sense that most of the authors I speak with are considering or actively pursuing the Reeses Approach, trying to establish a presence in both markets to leverage different strengths in each.

That is the approach I am taking.

Last year I entered the ebook world with an urban fantasy novella, Saving Face. This year I will complete and e-publish a trilogy set in the same urban fantasy setting. Those books are the beginning of my indie publishing market penetration, the chocolate in my Reeses.

At the same time, I still chose to secure the help of an agent, and am working with him to find a traditional publisher for my big fat epic fantasy novel, and another large YA fantasy novel. The signs are promising, so hopefully deals will be struck with both of those series this year. These are the beginning of my traditional publishing market penetration, the peanut butter side to the equation.

Some people ask, “Why do I need an agent now that we have ebooks?”

The answer is, “You may not.”

If you are convinced your only road to publishing is to directly e-publish your own novels as an indie author, or perhaps go with an ebook-only publisher like Musa Publishing, then an agent is not going to be able to add any value to you.

But in the traditionally published book world, agents still make a lot of sense. They not only have access to many publishers that authors just cannot reach, but they have established relationships with sub-agents to sell their authors’ works internationally.  Those international sales can provide a huge advantage for authors, as the ebook revolution has not made such inroads in much of the rest of the world and physical copies still make up the majority of book sales there.

So when a writer decides to pursue traditional publishing for some of their works and they find an agent who extends an offer of representation, the next step is to establish the writer/agent relationship.

This generally results in a short legal document that both parties sign that lays out the agreement between them. It should include the percentage commission the agent expects to receive from the various types of media through which the books can be marketed. For example, a common commission rating is:

  • US Rights: 15%
  • UK or Foreign Rights: 20% inclusive of sub-agent’s commission.  15% if direct.
  • Translation Rights: 20% inclusive of sub-agent’s commission.  15% if direct.
  • RADIO 15%
  • THEATRE 15% Subject to negotiation
  • TELEVISION 15% Subject to negotiation
  • NEWSPAPER & MAGAZINE ARTICLES, S,SHORT FICTION,ANTHOLOGY 15% when applicable (7.5% when contract vetting only)
  • FILM 15% Subject to negotiation

The agreement should also include a termination clause, which allows for either party to terminate the agreement, usually with a month’s prior notice. Generally the agent still collects commission on those works which were sold through them, and will collect commission for any works sold within a set period of time after the termination of the contract if they were the ones who submitted those works to publishers (usually 90 day window).

Given that many authors now follow the hybrid Reeses Approach, it is a good idea to include a clause in any agreement signed that explicitly states that those books which the author directly e-publishes on their own instead of traditionally publishing through the agent and a publisher who will produce physical copies are exempt. But any ebook royalties on the electronic sales of those books published through traditional publishers and negotiated with the help of the agent are included in the commissions they would expect to receive.

The agreement should be short, simple, and clear. I am not a lawyer, but that is my opinion.

So yes, I am a believer in the Reeses Approach to book publishing. I did sign with an agent and I am anxious to sign that first deal with a traditional publisher that he is working to line up for me because I see value in getting hard copies into bookstores and gaining access to the international markets that would be difficult to penetrate as an indie-only writer. I am also loving the indie publishing route and am looking forward to completing the new trilogy, getting those books online, and participating in all of the exciting marketing opportunities for indie writers.

Working with Editors

Working With EditorsAs writers, we love to focus on writing, on creating that next great story.  It took me a while to realize that typing “The End” is only the completion of the first part of the process.  Once we finish that first draft, get the story out to beta readers, compile all the useful feedback, determine edits, and finish subsequent drafts, we finally have a story we feel rocks on all levels and is ready to go.

That’s when we need editors.

Some indie authors try to claim they don’t need an editor, but I’ve never seen any such story turn out well.  Not as well as it could have been.  Not as well as it should have been.  Not well enough to compete in today’s market with well-read readers who can spot an unedited story fast.

A book without an editor is like a theatrical production without dress rehearsal.  You’ve got the characters, the dialogue, costumes, and a setting, but the whole has not been polished to where an audience can enjoy it.

Why invest so much time in producing a book only to undermine the finished product?

Usually the reason is one of two things:  Time or Money.

Time:  with the internet making it so easy to get books available to readers, it is so incredibly tempting to skip the careful edit and just getting it out to readers faster.  Why wait when you could be selling copies already?  The truth is taking a little more time and polishing the story will result in far better reviews and far more copies sold.  I’ve started reading books that skimped on final polishing, and I was universally disappointed and usually threw the book away without finishing.

Money:  Editors are not free.  Yes, they’re an investment and authors need to find a way to cover that investment.  If you don’t believe in your story enough to make that investment, convinced you’ll sell more than enough copies to still profit, then how are your readers going to believe in it?

Then again, with avenues like Kickstarter available, it’s often now possible to raise the money to cover such costs up front instead of having to fork over all the cash yourself.  I plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign for one of my stories next year.

How do you find a good editor?  There are lots of editors out there, and just like anything else, there are good ones and bad ones.  Here’s where networking comes in.  Talk with other authors about editors they liked and ones they didn’t.  Good editors will provide a listing of stories they’ve edited, and that can provide great insight into whether or not they might be a good fit.

Once you find an editor, you’ve got to get on their schedule.  Good editors are sought after and usually their schedules are booked out weeks or even months.  Get on the list early, and don’t be late with your work.  If you miss your deadline, it may be a while before they can fit you in again.  If you see you’re going to be late, notify the editor as soon as possible to make it easier for them to rearrange their schedule with the least amount of disruption.

I worked with our own Joshua Essoe on the manuscript for Set In Stone, a YA Fantasy novel currently in the hands of my agent.  I realized I needed to make some significant changes to the manuscript prior to sending it in, so we had to reschedule a couple of times.  Joshua was very accommodating, but I tried to warn him far in advance, as soon as I realized I was going to be late.

That brings up another point:  make sure your book is really finished prior to hiring an editor.  If you’ve just completed your first draft, I’d recommend you take the time to have some beta readers finish it and compile their feedback.  It’s likely you’ll need to make some changes.  Go through it a couple more times to ensure it’s really where you want it, and that the book you wrote is really the book you thought you were writing.  Only then will you be able to maximize the benefit of an editor.   If they’re so busy giving you feedback on major structural issues with the work, it’ll be harder for them to help you really polish it.  And if you want to go back again to hire them for a second pass, that’s going to cost more since they now have to invest more time in the project.

Even when your book is DONE and ready to go, you’ve found the editor you think will be perfect for the work, and you’ve sent it off to them, there’s the question of style.  Some authors and editors just don’t see eye to eye on matters of style.  There’s no way I know of to completely protect yourself from running into a situation like this.

Working with Joshua, I was extremely pleased.  His comments were spot on, thoughtful, and insightful.  I agreed with his approach to editing, and almost universally applied his suggested changes.  With a different manuscript (also in the hands of my agent), I wasn’t quite so lucky.  The editor was very experienced and well respected in the industry, and much of their suggestions were beneficial.  However, we differed over some aspects of style.  At first this worried me, and I wondered which of us wasn’t getting it.  That’s where working with a second editor on a different work proved beneficial.  I could compare the two editors’ styles, and realized they approached the same questions sometimes from very different points of view, with very different resulting recommendations.

So I had to make very conscious decisions regarding my own style and how I wanted to apply tone and voice to each story.  I had made some of those decisions while writing, but hadn’t clearly defined it.  The editing process forced me to choose specific stylistic approaches in each story.  Only then could I see clearly which advice to accept and which to ignore.  In some cases, the editor didn’t understand the style, and gave bad advice.

Just like everything else, it’s a learning process, and I consider the funds spent on editing both manuscripts well worth the investment.

Take away:

  1.  Prior to engaging an editor, make sure the book is really done.
  2. Find an editor you feel you’ll be able to work well with.  Use advice from other authors, and do your research.
  3. Get on their schedule well in advance, and don’t be late with sending them the manuscript.
  4. Notify them early if you fear you’ll miss a deadline.
  5. Study their feedback carefully.  Some of it may not be right.  In the end, it’s your book and all decisions are your responsibility.
  6. Don’t ever release a novel without a professional edit.