Writers Chatting: Chapter 9

Welcome back. I don’t have a guest today but I think there is lots to talk about. After the last writing post, I thought it would be a good time to continue to discuss self-publishing.

What are the best ways to go about finding and evaluating resources such as a good editor, a cover artist, beta readers and how best to market yourself.  Even if you’re not there yet, we’ll all need these resources eventually.

(For the posts on putting together query letters for traditional publishing, click here, looking for a literary agent, click here)

Let’s start today with a reminder of who you are and where you are at in your writing journey.

And also, a reminder, National Novel Writing month is next month. What would you like to do for it? I will be gone for two weeks in November, but I can set some open writing threads up to auto-publish if you guys have a plan.

Ok, take it way and keep it positive and fun….

 

66 replies
  1. 1
    TaMara (HFG) says:

    Hi, I’m TaMara and I finished up the first manuscript in a trilogy of romance/mystery novels a while ago and it has kind of sat around while I dithered on what to do next (besides starting the second book in the series). Finally kicked my butt into gear and am interviewing editors and cover artists with an eye to self-publishing.

    And you?

  2. 2
    Wapiti says:

    I’m likely to do NaNoWriMo next month. I took a break last year, but the three prior years I wrote pieces that featured girls that just happened to be about the same age as my niece. She’s been asking if I will be writing this year, so I think that’s a request that I do so.

  3. 3

    I recently signed a contract with a small UK press (Inspired Quill) for my third book. The owner of the press has a day job in online marketing so I’m hoping they know how to promote. My experience is that most small presses are bad at ti.

  4. 4
    jnfr says:

    I’ve been involved in self-publishing, in a very small way, for several years. I keep a page of resources on my web site. It’s not very well-organized any more as it kind of grew like topsy, but every service listed has been recommended by another writer known to me.

    Resources for Self-Publishers.

    As for how to choose, beyond recommendations it really is a matter of doing your legwork. Checking out the portfolios, getting a small sample edit, or hitting the Kboards’ Writers’ Cafe for hints.

  5. 5
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    Greetings, all. This weekend I am supposed to be editing. I have been asked to remove all sentence fragments from the manuscript, and I’m resisting. My fragments aren’t mistakes. They’re there for a purpose.

    (This is for my debut mystery.)

  6. 6
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    I’ve been writing for a long time and have a number of completed projects or solid starts. I have not done much as far as trying to publish goes. Now I’m focusing on that. It’s time to get serious about seeing if I can make a go of it as a writer.

  7. 7
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian:

    Oh, that’s annoying! Fragments can have an artistic purpose.

  8. 8
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    Has anyone self-published through Amazon or Amazon Select? Select means exclusivity but potential high numbers of clicks.

    I’m working on cover design for a project now. If you are as well, there are lots of articles on what works (and doesn’t). I’m keeping it simple but think it will be effective.

  9. 9
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: the sentence fragments might be there for a purpose, but if the purpose isn’t apparent to the reader, they are likely to just put it down and not come back (I say that as a reader, not a writer)

  10. 10
    WaterGirl says:

    @Just One More Canuck: Interesting take on that.

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: I obviously have no idea what purpose the fragments serve, but if you want to avoid the issue raised by Just One More Canuck, would it make sense to put them in a different font or italics or something? That way it would be obvious that these are special thoughts and not an indication that you are a bad writer. Just a thought.

  11. 11
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    @Just One More Canuck: That’s a possible reason for their hard-nosed policy. I’ll follow the rules, except in dialog where such rules don’t apply.

  12. 12
    Steeplejack says:

    @Just One More Canuck:

    Also, like any other technique, if fragments are overused or badly used they can drag down the story.

    But a request to remove all fragments sounds needlessly draconian.

  13. 13
    Just One More Canuck says:

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: did you have a dialogue about that with the editor/publisher? As WaterGirl suggests, maybe there’s a way of tweaking those phrases so that they are satisfied but you still convey your intent. I only write for professional purposes on an obscure technical topic, so I am always amazed at the fact that people can make up entire worlds that draw others in

  14. 14
    Steeplejack says:

    @WaterGirl:

    [. . .] would it make sense to put them in a different font or italics or something?

    No, no, no! Just no. If the “answer” to a manuscript problem is something like that, it’s almost always a sign that (a) the problem is much deeper than you thought or (b) you haven’t quite got a handle on what the real problem is.

  15. 15
    TaMara (HFG) says:

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: I suspect this is going to be a conversation I’ll be having with anyone who edits my work. All of my fragments (the ones I’m aware of anyway) are choices. I’d have to ask them what purpose removing the fragment would have, artistically.

  16. 16

    I am on my second literary agent, have been writing mostly full time for 13 years. Three of the books in my psychological suspense series have been rejected by scores of editors at publishers big and small over the years. My agent still believes in me, but it’s very discouraging. So I’m considering self publishing. the biggest issue seems to be discoverability. How to get readers and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads?

  17. 17
    TaMara (HFG) says:

    @jnfr: This was thoughtful, thank you.

  18. 18
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Steeplejack:

    In The Lotus War trilogy by Jay Kristoff (Japanese steampunk), I did find the later barrage of fragments to be a distraction. That’s the only time I’ve felt that way.

    I agree that different fonts are no fix. If the reader can’t discern meaning from the fragments, that’s a problem. OTOH, may I ask, is your editor a professional or an amateur with an amateur’s phobia of sentence structure errors (fragments, run-on’s, comma splices)?

  19. 19
    TaMara (HFG) says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER: We have some successful self-publishing in the writing threads – Werebear wrote up a nice piece on her journey here.

    And scan the Authors in Our Midst posts back when I was featuring authors there are some good resources. Hope that helps.

  20. 20
    TaMara (HFG) says:

    I have to run out…I’ll check back in a bit….

  21. 21
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): This is a recent policy change on the part of the publisher. My editor doesn’t agree, but we must obey. Another advantage to self-publishing!

  22. 22
    jnfr says:

    Amazon’s publishing interface is pretty straightforward to use. The program as a whole is something of a magnet for scammers, especially the Kindle Unlimited program which is part of Select and pays for page views.

    John Manchester is definitely correct that finding your readers is the trickiest part. Some people really have a knack for marketing and some of us are less great at that :).

  23. 23
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER:

    Create an Author’s Page on Goodreads. Consider posting a free chapter to gets eyes and clicks and reviews. Make sure, however, not to break any rules established by your publishing platform. For instance, Amazon Select allows a particular fraction of a book to be available for free for marketing purposes. I think it’s 10 or 20% of the total book length.

  24. 24

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: I would be leery of losing those sentence fragments! Successful mystery writers have been using them liberally for the decades I’ve been reading them.

    And I had the following experience: My agent submitted one of the books from my series to an editor at a small publisher. She said she’d buy it with some substantial changes, some of which seemed doable and perhaps would improve it. Others were hard to figure. But my agent sent her another book in the series, hoping it would address some of her concerns about “character development.” It seemed to. She was warming to the whole project!

    Except she’d hired an outside reader for both books, who now complained about sentence fragments. My agent and I agreed that sentence fragments are an intrinsic part of my style. And that given what small publishers pay readers, this one was likely an English teacher following very old rules. In other words, a grammar nazi.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER:

    There are lots of articles that address your questions. Just Publishing Advice features a good number!

    Categories and key words are ESSENTIAL to get Amazon’s algorithms working in your favor.

  27. 27

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): Thanks for the tips.
    I’ve also read that you can get book bloggers to review your book in exchange for free copies.

  28. 28
    oatler. says:

    @Steeplejack: a request to remove all fragments sounds needlessly draconian.
    “You’ll take the fragments I give you and like it!!”
    -Heraclitus

  29. 29
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER:

    True enough. Having your stuff available through your own blog would be good if your blog gets eyes. Cross linking also can help. Comment on other writers’ blogs and link to your material. Tweet and FB your stuff, too.

  30. 30
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    Hi, first-time writer here. I’ve been desribing my project to people as “there’s a non-fiction book I want to write” but I’ve decided the research and time committed have gone far enough that I’m actually doing this thing. So, beginning here, I’m now going to start saying “I’m working on a history of science book”. I’m telling myself I can have a book proposal Jan 1.

    The main issue I’m wrestling with right now is the sheer volume of source material. If you’re doing non-fiction, how do you divide the time between research and actual writing? I know some of my chapters, but not all.

  31. 31
    woodrowfan says:

    Can anyone recommend a good model for a cover letter to promote your book to local bookstores for book talks? My book just came out. It’s an academic history but about the local area so there is interest from local history buffs.

  32. 32

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: ALL sentence fragments? <–ones like this? In dialogue too?

    Your editor is wrong.

    The issue is how to negotiate with the editor.

  33. 33
    Steeplejack says:

    @oatler.:

    “You’ll take the fragments I give you! And like it!”

    Fix’d.

  34. 34

    @Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian: I’m still thinking about this. I usually do what the editor says even if I think it’s stupid unless it harms the work. That lets me do almost everything, and then the editor is usually willing to let the rest go, especially if I present an explanation for my choice.

  35. 35

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): When my first publisher closed its doors, my rights reverted to me and I just took the edited book and cover etc and published it on Amazon. It was easy. I also went through Smashwords and Create Space to market through other sites such as B&N. Smashwords does e-books and Create Space will do paperbacks (print on demand). If I can do it, anyone can because online stuff is not my strong suit.

  36. 36
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Ceci n est pas mon nym: The foundational problem! (I’m on my sixth book right now, and still do not have a satisfactory solution to that question.)

    My working approach: at the proposal stage you need to know enough to know that there is enough source material to complete every section of the book you’re contemplating. You don’t need to have worked through all that material with the close attn. you’ll give it as you write the full text. As you switch from conceiving of the work to executing it, then outlining in detail and matching your structure to your sources helps define what you need to have at hand as you write each section.

    For my part I try to get a synoptic view of my material before I write, and then begin writing with my material organized as above, diving deeper into the relevant stuff for each chapter. That’s the idea; like all plans, it shatters on first contact with the enemy.

  37. 37
    jnfr says:

    One of the great joys of self-publishing is that when you hire the editor, you can choose for yourself which recommendations you want to accept for your manuscript. If you love the fragments, you can keep them. In the end, the readers choose what works for them.

  38. 38
    Joyce H says:

    I’ve been self-publishing ebooks on Amazon for a few years now. Started in cozy mystery, moved to Regency romance. My latest WIP has been stalled out for waaay too long, but I wrote a few hundred words on it yesterday, so maybe it ain’t dead yet.

    Something new I’m doing is creating paperback copies of my books. I just recently went live with the paperback of the first of my Regencies, and think it looks lovely:

    A Feather To Fly With paperback

  39. 39
    Facebones says:

    I had my novel published last year through a small publishing house. I preferred that to self pub since they handled all the little details that I wouldn’t have known about as a first time novelist.

    Their editors are fantastic! Mine offered me great advice and suggestions while my book still retained its voice. They do offer editing services independent of publishing. Rates are good! Check them here. https://www.redadeptediting.com

  40. 40
    GregMulka says:

    I haven’t seen this in the comments yet. Angry Robot is doing open submissions Nov. 1 through December 31. Science-Fiction and Fantasy only. Complete manuscripts. Here be the link. https://www.angryrobotbooks.com/open-door-2017/

  41. 41
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    @Joyce H: It’s lovely indeed!

  42. 42
    jnfr says:

    Red Adept are some of the best. I’d have a lot of faith in them.

  43. 43

    @GregMulka: Angry Robot is a good house too. I believe Wesley Chu first published with them.

  44. 44

    Ooh, excited to read this thread, but I’ll check in first.

    Morning Juicers. I decided to sleep in because BOY am I beat after that week of mandatory corporate teambuilding. (A whole week!)

    My writing is proceeding apace as usual, the webcomic is picking up readers, and I’m tantalizingly close to finishing this draft of my magnum opus The World Beyond Eels. After that I think I’m going to give it a Snowflake Method once-over, which somebody here suggested.

    Otherwise I’m working on a new web application that I’m calling Pathfork which is a writing/organization tool I wanted and so decided to build. Curious if anybody has feedback. Basically, you sign up for a (free) account, and then you get:
    -At the root level, works, which contain sections, sub-sections, and snippets. You can write, edit, and reorder these, and snippets are for stuff you don’t know what to do with yet. They can later be ‘promoted’ to sections/subsections.
    -Pages for characters, settings, and objects/other, which you can fill with information about your persons places and things. Then you can essentially ‘tag’ your works/sections/subsections/snippets with them, which will give you access to what I really wanted, which is…
    -Indeces! You can view your works across all these cross-sections, such as “what chapter(s) is this character in”, “what items does this character have”, “what objects are in this setting”, “what settings are tagged with this object”, and so forth.
    I’m a digital librarian by training, so it’s in line with how I think, and I know it’d be a helpful tool for me.

  45. 45

    @Steeplejack:

    No, no, no! Just no. If the “answer” to a manuscript problem is something like that, it’s almost always a sign that (a) the problem is much deeper than you thought or (b) you haven’t quite got a handle on what the real problem is.

    Faulkner wanted The Sound and The Fury to be in four different colors, which should’ve been his first hint.

  46. 46

    @GregMulka:

    I haven’t seen this in the comments yet. Angry Robot is doing open submissions Nov. 1 through December 31. Science-Fiction and Fantasy only. Complete manuscripts. Here be the link. https://www.angryrobotbooks.com/open-door-2017/

    Question for peeps: December 31 is just outside of realistic for me to have the MS completed if I hurry; is this the sort of thing where you can submit the same work more than once, or do you really get one shot at a given publisher?

  47. 47
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    The Sound and the Fury is not a book to be put down lightly… it should be hurled across the room.

  48. 48
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while):

    Shirley Jackson, I believe, said that about something she’d read.

  49. 49
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    So nobody has any experience with Amazon Select then… rats.
    Anyone have thoughts on the easiest and best means to upload with proper formatting a book onto Amazon and/or other distribution platforms?

  50. 50

    Hey I’ve been reading BJ forever but never post in the comments. I have a couple of self-published novels up on Amazon. Both are e-books and I created a paperback of the second one as a lark using the resources at createspace.

    The more recent: https://www.amazon.com/Widows-Mite-Carlton-W-King/dp/0997017627/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508092780&sr=8-1&keywords=carlton+w+king

    I used to query agents and enter contests, but I finally decided that all that took too much time away from the writing itself. I have a day job that pays the bills, so my focus has been on producing the fiction. Publishing is a way of saying that I’m not working on something any longer and can move on.

    I’ve hired my own editor and a couple of different cover and formatting people — the freelancers keep shorting out on me, or quitting the business, or having health problems, or something. (I promise it’s not me, or at least I hope it’s not me.) I agree with whoever above said that, when you are paying the editor, you can decide what comments to tale and leave. Still, this is a professional take on your writing, so I consider the comments carefully.

    The books are in a Southern Gothic soap opera-ish style — lots of shotgun weddings, unfaithful spouses and mysterious deaths in 1970s Mississippi.

  51. 51

    @Major Major Major Major: Generally they say don’t resubmit the same thing. They’ll have another open period at some point. I’d be sure your work was at its best before I sent it.

  52. 52

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): Thanks, I know that’s the general rule… Still, “done by January” is a great reach goal!

  53. 53
    Snarkworth, short-fingered Bulgarian says:

    @Major Major Major Major: As Dorothy says, be sure your work is ready. Will Dec. 31 allow you to finish, edit, run it by a trusted critic, and polish?

  54. 54

    @West of the Rockies (been a while): All these sites have formatting guides that you can follow. It’s painstaking work, but not hard.

  55. 55
    Joyce H says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while):

    So nobody has any experience with Amazon Select then… rats.

    All my books are in KDP Select. As long as it’s been since I’ve published anything new, if it weren’t for KU page reads, I’d have no Amazon income at all.

  56. 56
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    Thank you, D. That’s good to hear.

  57. 57
    jnfr says:

    @West of the Rockies (been a while):

    I have had books in Select, but don’t currently. It definitely allows you some other marketing tools as well as the potential KU income.

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:

    Sorry I’m late — the second Sunday of the month is my RWA meeting, so I was hearing a talk about dialogue. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t skipped breakfast.

    I’ve been working on a historical romance that I’m hoping to finish the first draft of by the end of November, so I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to kickstart that. But it’s been tough, because I’m also battling procrastination and perfectionism, so I’m taking an online course through Low Country Romance Writers to help with that. The instructor is using about 5 books for the course, including Hillary Rettig’s 7 Secrets of the Productive, so I’ve been reading that as well.

  59. 59
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I do miss Hillary. She was a great contributor.

  60. 60
    Miss Bianca says:

    I know you’re supposed to work on something brand-new for NaNoWriMo, but I’m going to be taking a page from Mnem’s book (so to speak) by working on something I’ve already started. So there’s that.

  61. 61
    MazeDancer says:

    @woodrowfan:

    Make it local. Go into the store, meet the owner. A letter from you is not “local”. Though, a letter from your publisher to the owner, mentioning local author, is good idea. Surprised if that isn’t boiler plate publisher promotion. And a 100 mile radius is what the publisher likely does.

    If you go into the store, and for some reason the owner is not there that day, the person behind the counter will very likely be glad to meet you and tell you a good time to return. Local bookstores want to promote local authors. They have stickers they but on books that say “Local Author”. And will be delighted if you sign those copies.

    Also, most bookstores have emails. “Local author” in subject matter likely to get email opened

    Also

  62. 62

    apologies for arriving late to this thread.

    I will be doing NaNo again this year, and again I hope this time the 50,000 words will lead to something I can actually finish and publish.

    I am currently tripping over a short story I’m working on as an anthology submission. I hate blocking myself. :(

    I will be attending the Florida Writers Conference this Saturday October 21st. If there are any Florida writers attending that, I hope to see you there.

    One of the things they do at the writers’ conference is have agents and publishers meet with authors to let those authors pitch their stories/line up a deal. I’m sure the other state-level writers groups have similar arrangements, and can serve as a good way to introduce yourself to the market.

  63. 63

    @West of the Rockies (been a while):

    Uploading to Kindle Direct requires having your work done in basic formatting mode:
    double-spaced
    first-line indent
    basic text and emphasis (bold italic and or underline)

    Kindle Direct should be able to convert basic RTF or DOC formats into the ebook format.

    There’s a formatting guide at this link https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200645680

  64. 64
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @PaulWartenberg:

    Thank you for the link, Paul! I’ll check it out….

  65. 65
    No One You Know says:

    Participating in NaNoMo for the first time. Declaring that unemployment is good for writing, and we’ll see if it’s so. I’ve been doing research for two months and have a piece of historical fantasy in mind, a la Mercedes Lackey. So with note cards about all the things I need to get right, I hope to get 30,000 words in a month. Well see! I expect I’ll learn a lot.

  66. 66

    @No One You Know:

    good luck! pace yourself. as long as you can get to 1667 words per day you’ll get to 50,000 for NaNo. Most fellow writers I know can get to 2000 words a day (author John Scalzi noted he’s able to do that under normal circumstances).

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