Tag Archives: traditional publishing

Sail To Success – a unique Writing Workshop

Any of you trying to decide whether to take that cruise to the Bahamas or attend a writing workshop?  Well, now you can do both!  The Sail to Success writing workshop combines the awesome vacation experience of a Bahamas cruise with a professional level writing workshop.

I attended this year’s first-ever workshop, and it was well worth the cost, which was higher than some other venues, given that we combined a vacation with a small group workshop with top talent.

When I heard about the Sail to Success writing workshop, I had to go. Not only was the venue uniquely enticing (I’d never cruised before), but the line-up of faculty presenting to the small group was outstanding. Presenters included:

Wow. And the reality lived up to the expectation.

The workshop proved extremely productive, although being on a cruise ship proved to be a challenge as well as a great benefit.  It was a little difficult to focus on class time while the ship was docked in Freeport or Nassau.

The class schedule was intensive: from 8 AM to noon, and from 6 PM to midnight most nights. We managed to slip ashore in the afternoons, but lacked the time for extensive excursions like scuba diving (we had to return to the ship by 4:30). Luckily, my wife came along since the purchase included cruise for two, and she vacationed for both of us while I sat in class.

I didn’t mind. The classes were excellent. Not only did we receive excellent instruction on craft from Nancy Kress, but we learned from these long-time, successful professionals about the nuts and bolts of the publishing business.

The highlights of the class were the critique sessions from Nancy Kress and Toni Weiskopf. Nancy reviewed samples of our writing from an editor’s perspective, and provided wonderful feedback. Toni reviewed other samples from her perspective as a purchasing editor. What a rare opportunity to sit with a publisher and see exactly how they look at your work. It proved enlightening, and a little scary.

Toni receives over a thousand manuscript submissions per month. When she considers those submissions, she’s not looking for reasons to like a manuscript. She’s looking for any excuse to stop reading, and to give that submission the dreaded “red mark of doom’. It might come in the first paragraph if she sees it’s not the type of story they’re looking for, or it might come on page two when she finds herself confused, or sees too many grammatical mistakes. If she can’t find a reason to throw the manuscript away quickly, then it just might be a work she’d consider reading further.  Of the fifteen students in the class, only three of us earned that distinction, which was a rare moment of validation.

The only complaint about those critique sessions was the lack of time. Given the time constraints, feedback was limited to 7-10 minutes per manuscript. It just wasn’t enough time.  However, in 2013 the program will be structured slightly different.  Each student will select if they want a critique from Nancy or from Toni, not both, although all students will get to sit in on both critique sessions and hear the reviews of all of the submitted works.  That should allow for more time per submitted work.

So overall, this workshop proved well worth the investment in time and money, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s a serious aspiring writer.


Is it still worth trying to get an agent?

This month we’re talking publishing in all its shapes and sizes.  Like many of you, I am an author struggling to reach that huge milestone of my first published workd.  I’m very optimistic this is the year it’s going to happen.  I’ve been writing for seven years, and although I have two novels I could self-publish, I’ve opted to sign with an agent and pursue a traditional publishing route, if possible.

Several people have asked me why bother?

With the advent of ebooks and the ease of self-publishing novels, why not just throw my manuscripts out into the ether like so many other people?  Maybe I could become one of those few to really succeed with it?

Maybe I should.  Perhaps I still will.  The publishing industry is going through very difficult times, and there are many people who argue an author is doing themselves terrible damage by signing a traditional publishing deal.

I’m not convinced it’s all bad.  First, I want confirmation from industry professionals that I’m really ready, that I’ve mastered the craft to the point where I can approach publishing a work with confidence that it can compete and not waste my time, or the time of my readers.  Having an agent say, “Yes, I love this manuscript and I believe it is written to a professional standard and is ready to submit to publishers” is a huge milestone in my career.

Now it’s no longer just me and my close circle of relatives and friends who think I’ve got what it takes.  I need that confirmation.  Without it, how do I really know I’m ready?  After four years and several drafts, I completed my first novel, a 300,000 word behemoth I was convinced was awesome.  Thankfully the e-publishing bubble hadn’t hit yet, so rejection letters from agents started piling up.  Eventually I progressed in my mastery of the craft to where I could recognize the novel’s flaws.  I made the hard choice to throw it away and re-start from the ground up, saving only some of the worldbuilding and characters.  The resulting novel is worlds better than the original, and that’s the one my agent accepted.

So yes, the first huge benefit of agents is that confirmation by the industry that I’ve at least got a shot at a deal.  Another undeniable benefit to traditional publishing is getting your physical book distributed to physical book stores, hopefully around the world.  That distribution has value, and especially for a new author, I’d love the help of a publisher in getting my book out to readers.  I know there’s still tons of work to be done to market it myself, but at least I’d have a physical product to sell.

We all know authors who have self-published, and most of them sell few copies, despite how well deserving their books may be.  So, a traditional publishing deal might help establish a reader base to build off of.  I know it’s not guaranteed, but it’s something worth investigating.

Another big reason I am still pursuing a traditional route for my first book goes back to my agent.  John Richard Parker with Zeno Agency knows the industry and players far more than I can since he’s worked with them for many years.  His expertise is invaluable, and even though we have not landed a deal yet, working with him has already brought valuable insights I could not have gained otherwise.

The other reason I’ve hesitated to self-publish is that after working for years on my books, I want them to be the best they can be.  I’ve read e-books that could have been great, but fell short of their potential because their authors failed to wait just a little longer and complete a rigorous editing process.  Landing a traditional publishing deal, and working with the professional editors there, will be wonderful when it happens.  I am eager to learn from them all I can.

With all this said, I am not ignoring other publishing options.  My YA fantasy novel, which my agent is reviewing now, is scheduled to be professionally edited by Joshua Essoe (see his post on editing here)  later this year after I complete a third revision.  If the traditional route falls through, that novel is a prime candidate to be e-published through an e-publisher like MUSA, or directly self-published after it’s fully vetted and ready to go.

And while I complete preparing my two novels for some type of publishing, I’m busy writing the next one.  I also plan to explore e-publishing for a novella and related short story I wrote.

It’s an exciting time to be an author, with so many options out there.  I encourage everyone to learn as much as you can about each avenue, and explore multiple options.  But whatever way you choose, make sure your finished product is the best it can be.  Anything less is nothing short of a tragedy.




Sunday Reads: 24 June 2012

Well, Publishing Month is drawing to a close.  We’ve got just one week left to go.  Stay tuned for our  final Publishing Month guest bloggers, Brandon Sanderson and Gini Koch.

In the meantime, here’s 10 reads worth your time:

Rachelle Gardner talks about what to expect from your agent in Understanding Your Agent.

Also on the topic of agents, Red Sofa Literary lists some basic mistakes writers make when approaching an agent in How to “win” over an agent.

Lois H Gresh discusses the necessity of submitting your work in Rewriting Treadmills: Traditional Publishing versus ePublishing.

Philip Goldberg talks about the benefits of traditional publishing in Who Needs Publishers? We All Do!

Writers In The Storm discusses how a writer’s business needs should affect his choice of publisher with Gettin’ Busy With It.

Dean Wesley Smith dispells a few common myths in The Secret Myth of Traditional Publishing.

The Intern discusses Five Signs You’re About to Land an Agent.

At The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively, Cheryl Shireman guest blogs about the prejudice against indie writers with Dear Traditionally Published Writer.

Rainy of the Dark looks at Just What Percentage of Book Sales are eBooks?

Ashley Barron discusses lessons learnt during the indie journey with A Self-Publisher’s Dilemma.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Moses Siregar III – So, You’re Considering Indie Publishing…

Nancy DiMauro and Colette Vernon – Women Writing the Weird: Publishing in an Anthology

Joshue Essoe – Editing Saved My Life. And It Could Save Yours


Women Writing the Weird – Publishing in an anthology

Nancy:  Welcome back to The Fictorian’s Publishing Month. Colette and I wanted to talk a little about our experience with the Women Writing the Weird (WWTW) anthology published by Doghorn Publishing since participating in an anthology is a bit different than other forms of publication. So, Colette, what did you think about the opportunity to participate in an anthology?

Colette: I was thrilled when you told me about the upcoming anthology, in part because of the publishing opportunity, and in part because it consisted entirely of women speculative fiction writers. I was excited about that opportunity. I’ve always meant to ask, how did you find out about it in the first place?

Nancy: Accidental networking. Seriously though, I met the editor, Deb Hoag, through an online writing group. Deb approached her publisher – Doghorn – and asked if she could put together an anthology of genre defying stories by women writers. When she got the go ahead, she contacted a group of writers she wanted to work with. Fortunately, I was in that group. Deb later opened submissions up and I sent an e-mail to the Superstars Writing Seminar group to see if anyone had a story that might work. When you said you thought you just might have a story if Deb was willing to accept previously published works, I put the two of you in contact.

Colette: Even though my story, Beneath the Skin, was published in SNM Horror magazine under the title, Becoming, it seemed like the best of my current stories for an anthology called Women Writing the Weird. A were-beetle burrowing into your leg with nefarious purposes fits weird. I was very flattered that despite it being a reprint and one of my earlier stories, Deb still accepted it. Of course, it’s definitely a different tone than a guy in a monkey suit.

Nancy: Yea. The Gorilla in the Phone Booth was definitely very different than your story. The idea for the story came out of a Writing Excuses episode where they were talking about the promises we make to our readers. Howard Taylor mentioned that if you put a gorilla in a phone booth you’d better have darned good reason for it. So I spent the weekend figuring out why. I came up with a twist on the genie story and some land selkies. One of the fun things about WWTW is the stories cross a lot of genre lines and, at least one of the stories, defies classification (in a good way) in my mind.

Oh, and because Colette’s too modest to mention it, I should tell you that Beneath the Skin got a really wonderful review at http://www.kathulhu.com/2011/11/women-writing-weird.html

Beneath The Skin, by C.M. Vernon gives a different twist to the were-creature tale and I think this story would make a great movie. I also couldn’t help but think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis while I was reading it.

You have to love being compared to Kafka.

I won’t put Colete on the spot and ask her about the review. But I will ask her about her thoughts on this publishing experience. So . . . ?

Colette: I thought it was amazing that even though the book didn’t come out in hardcopy until last month, you put together a book promo at World Fantasy Convention in October, 2011. I couldn’t believe what a great job you did with posters, flyers, food…the whole deal.

Nancy: Thanks. Putting together the book launch was a lot of fun and a bit nerve wracking. World Fantasy is a huge writer’s and agent’s convention. Tor hosted a huge party in the suite we used later that evening. For the book launch, Doghorn printed a small number of the book so we could promote it at World Fantasy. Adam Lowe (the head editor at Doghorn) sent me the artwork so I could make the posters, postcards and flyers. I’m not sure the postcards were effective swag, so I probably won’t use them as promotional items again.

We were also lucky enough to get a lunch-time slot to promote. There were no competing lectures. We were also next to the hospitality suite, and when it ran out of food, they directed people to us because we had food. We probably had an extra thirty people drop in because of the food. And they stayed for the readings.

Of course, the book launch wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t sweet talked you into helping. Your reading was great.

Colette: I’ve read in public before, but never my own piece. I was so nervous, but once I started, I have no idea if I did a good job, but I loved it. I would love to be an author who does presentations in schools, book readings, signings, the whole deal.  I look forward to that part of publishing. Speaking of which, it seemed rather odd that you had the book in October, but it didn’t come out in bookstores until May. I haven’t heard much buzz on it, either, but I haven’t been in this business long enough to know if that’s just normal.

Nancy: The book’s been available at the publisher’s website since October, but for some reason the general release was delayed until May, 2012. I’m not sure why Doghorn decided to stagger the release or if the delayed release was just part of its agreements with Amazon and Lulu. Amazon’s currently out of stock on it as well.

I know with the two short story collections I’ve published through Musa Publishing (yes, I had to get them into this post) , Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, Amazon had the book within hours of it going on the Musa site. But then, the Musa collections are e-books and that might make a difference.

Colette: I have no idea if the book will do well from this point on, but it’s been a fun ride, don’t you think? I wish I had researched the anthology a little better before I jumped on board, not because it isn’t top quality, because it is, but I’m afraid that my participation in a book fondly called by our friends, “the booby book,” is a bit of a misrepresentation of my name as a brand.  I don’t write erotica, and the beautiful cover suggests there’s a fair amount of content in that category. That’s something I’ll pay more attention to in the future, so I don’t confuse any readers as to what they might expect from my writing.

Nancy:  Ah, yes, our cover. One of the things you often can’t control as a writer – what your cover looks like. Coming up with a cover that captures the scope of the anthology would have been tough, and I understand the decision to base the cover on the short story by the best known writer.  But I’ve had web designers decline my job and promotion sites decline the listing because the catfish girl on the cover has very prominent and very naked breasts.  And don’t get me started on telling my folks about the anthology. The artwork is gorgeous but, in accurately rendering the light coming from above, the artist placed a lot of emphasis on the breasts. It wouldn’t have been my choice of a cover if we’d had any say in the matter, and my story did have erotic elements. I think this is one where a bit of strategically placed seaweed would help attract more people to the anthology.

Colette: More than anything, I’ve enjoyed the publishing experience and the chance to interact with fellow writers and readers. I also loved the launch party you put together at WFC.  I may not make any money from this particular sale, but I’ve learned a lot from my experience. I’m grateful for that.

Nancy:  WWTW made me realize how difficult putting together an anthology is.  We have a lot of short stories in the anthology from very different genres.  Deb did a great job bundling them into the three sections based on the type of weirdness. If you’re looking for stories that balance on genre edges, this is the anthology for you.

It’s definitely been fun. I got to know a lot more writers than I would have if I hadn’t participated. I wouldn’t turn down another opportunity to work with Deb or Doghorn. Being invited to submit to the anthology was an honor. Having Deb select my story for it was amazing and my first professional sale. So, WWTW will always have a special place in my heart.