Posts Tagged ‘novels’

Self-Publishing Novels (ebooks)

Aw, squiders. Sometimes it’s too cold in the morning for my computer to start up, and then sometimes, when it finally starts, your web browser freezes and eats your half-written blog posts which were apparently not saved all the way despite what WordPress promised.

So, self-publishing novels! A lot of the self-publication information for novels is the same as it was for short stories, as most self-publishing venues allow for any length of product. That’s an argument for making a single self-published section in the book, which I shall ponder. But, for now, we’ll go back over the options, though in less detail. If you’d like more detail, feel free to pop back over to the Self-Publishing Short Stories posts.

I am, however, going to break the information here up into self-publishing digitally vs. self-publishing paper or hardbacks. Today, we’ll talk the digital side.

Here are the methods available for self-publishing novels:

  • Blogs/websites
  • Newsletters
  • Online fiction websites
  • Online retailers/book distributors

Blogs/websites

The easiest way to self-publish a novel is to make it available on your personal blog or website. For a blog, you can post a chapter a week (like I’m doing with this nonfic book) or along whatever schedule works best for you. It is, however, recommended that you not put the book in a single post, since that can make it hard to read. Many blogging sites have character limits on their posts anyway.

NOTE: Posting a novel serially can be a good way to help you build readership should you intend to collect the book into a single manuscript and sell it later, or if you want to sell sequels or other related books.

Some authors also make books available to download from their websites. Often this is the first book of a series so readers are encouraged to buy later books if they like the first one. Most often, the reader has to exchange something for the free book, which is usually signing up for the author’s newsletter, which we will discuss in a moment.

You can also sell your books on your own website. There are different ways to build a storefront into your site, which allows you to take payment directly from your readers without worrying about a retailer or distributor taking a cut of your sales.

NOTE: For best visibility, it will help to have multiple ebook formats available for purchase/download. The majority of ebook readers will use the following formats: mobi (Kindle), epub (pretty much everyone else), or PDF.

Newsletters

As mentioned above, many authors offer a “freebie” as an incentive for joining their mailing list. This freebie can vary depending on what the author has out, what they write, and what they’re willing to give away. Authors I know give away everything from a short story to a novel, but there is a lot of variation and a lot of schools of thought on this one.

For example, some people write a brand new novella or short story related to a series of books they write so that subscribers get something no one else gets. Other people offer a story that a subscriber would otherwise have to pay for, so they feel like they’re getting a good deal. Several people will change the subscription incentive periodically.

You should do your research about what will work best for you and how you want to implement your newsletter.

NOTE: In most cases, unless you’re providing exclusive content for your subscribers, this should not be the only method of distribution.

Online fiction websites

Sites like Wattpad and FictionPress allow you to post full-length novels in a serial fashion. These websites often have a community aspect to them, and readers can leave comments, favorite, or otherwise “like” (terminology varies by website) individual sections or the work as a whole. They can also bookmark your story so that they’re notified when you post an update.

This can be a good way to build readership, depending on how much time you’re willing to put into the community. In some cases, people have received traditional publishing deals if a story has done well enough, but you shouldn’t go into this method expecting that to happen.

NOTE: This does count as publishing your novel. If you’re hoping to try for a traditional deal later, some agents/publishers may not consider work that has been previously published unless you have impressive numbers to back it up.

Online retailers/ebook distributors

This is the most common method to self-publish an ebook. These websites allow you to upload your manuscript and cover, add in a book description and categories, and set a price. Your books will show up next to traditionally-published books and, if you do a good job with cover/formatting/etc., are indistinguishable from them.

Most ebook retailers allow you to upload your book directly to them (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo), though others will require or be easier to access if you use an ebook distributor. A distributor, such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital, will convert your ebook into different formats and distribute them to different retailers of your choice. Many authors prefer to use ebook distributors because it simplifies the process of keeping track of sales, and because changes only need to be made in one place.

Right, so there’s the low down on that! Am I missing avenues, Squiders? Let me know! Tuesday we’ll talk about paper/hardback publishing, and then I think we may be done with the content that’s going on the blog–no, wait, I was going to do troubleshooting. Right! So novels Tuesday, probably a break Thursday, and then troubleshooting.

Publishing Novels Traditionally: After the Agent

Okay, squiders! This’ll wrap up traditional publishing for novels, and then we’ll take a bit of a break before we jump into self-publishing novels.

So let’s say you’ve gotten an agent if you wanted one. Your agent may work with you to revise your novel, depending on its state. Once you and the agent feel it’s ready, the agent starts approaching publishing houses and querying your novel.

Depending on the publishing house, there is a differing number of people who need to be convinced to buy your book. A small press may have a single person in charge of acquisitions (normally known as an acquisitions editor), whereas a large house may have an entire acquisitions team. In some cases, even if you have an acquisitions editor who loves your novel, if they can’t convince their team/their manager to buy your book, they may be unable to do so by themselves.

Interested publishers offer you a book deal. If there are multiple publishers that are interested, your novel may go to auction, which is coordinated by your agent. There are different kinds, but essentially each interested publisher offers a book deal for your novel, and the best one gets the publishing contract.

NOTE: If you’ve gotten a book deal sans agent from a publisher, the following steps are more or less the same, allowing for variations within different companies.

Once your book is with a publisher, it will undergo an editorial review, after which you’ll get an editorial letter, which is essentially a letter with everything that needs to be changed. Some of this might be more major, like structural or pacing changes, or it might be more minor. You’ll have a deadline to complete the changes by. Copyediting is also usually done at this point.

NOTE: If there’s something major in your editorial letter that you strongly disagree with, you can discuss the issue with your agent and editor. Just make sure it’s worth fighting for. You don’t want to fight everything because 1) they probably know what they’re talking about in most cases, and 2) you don’t want to get a reputation for being someone that’s hard to work with.

Once you’ve turned in your edits, the book goes into the final publication phase–it gets typeset, a cover is designed, a title is solidified, marketing is done, etc.

WARNING: With a traditionally published book, the author often has little control over things such as titles or covers. Additionally, traditional publishing can be a long process, with it taking over a year between acquisition and a publication date.

How does payment work?

There is a two tier payment system for traditionally published novels. Some authors are paid an “advance” where they are paid some amount upon signing their book deal. Not all publishers offer these, however, and in these changing times, advances now are smaller than they’ve been traditionally. It’s not uncommon for a debut author to only get an advance of $5000 or $10000, if they get any at all.

The second part of the payment process is royalties. Royalties are a percentage of the sales of the book, generally somewhere between 7 and 15%. An advance is technically an advance against royalties, so if you get an advance of $15,000, you won’t actually start earning royalties until you’ve made $15,000 in royalties. So when someone says a book didn’t earn out its advance, it means the book never sold enough copies to make back what the author was paid in advance.

All right! That should be it for traditionally published novels, squiders. Please let me know if you think I’m leaving anything out! Or if you have questions, or comments, or anything along those lines.

Publishing Novels Traditionally: The Submission Process

Continuing on from Monday’s post about the ways to have a novel traditionally published, and Wednesday’s post about agents. If you haven’t read those and also aren’t familiar with those topics, you might want to start there.

So, let’s say you’ve decided whether you’re going to approach publishers directly or work on getting an agent (or a mixture of both), that you’ve made a list of publishers/agents who you think will be a good fit for your novel and that you know are reputable, you’ve done your research so you know what material each publisher/agent wants with your query, and you’ve put together your query, synopsis, sample pages, and whatever else you might need.

NOTE: You may find it helpful to run your query letters/synopses by other writers. Many writing communities offer forums for this purpose. In exchange for looking at your materials, you’re expected to look at other authors’ and help them out as well. This can be especially helpful if you are new to querying. These forums also often include a place for other members to post their queries when they get an agent and/or a book deal so you can see what’s working.

After you have everything ready to go, you can start sending out queries, making sure you are following the literary agencies/publishing house’s submission guidelines as to where to send it and what to send.

Many authors wonder how many queries they should be sending at a time. This is a personal decision. It can run the gamut from a single query at a time to an author’s entire list, but many authors like to send out 5 to 10 at a time so they can gauge how their query letter is performing and whether they need to change anything before sending things out to the next batch.

WARNING: Make sure you personalize each query to the agent/publisher! Mass emails to several people at a time are an almost certain way to get yourself rejected. Besides, since many agencies and publishers have different submission guidelines, it can be near impossible to match things up properly. Each agent/publisher gets their own email, and make sure you’re spelling people’s names right, and that you have the right gender. (No one likes to get an email for Mr. Smith if they’re a Ms. Smith, for example.)

NOTE: Response times for queries can vary wildly. Some agents will get back to you within a week or so; others may take months. Some agents/publishers never respond if they’re not interested. You can send an email asking for status if it’s been a reasonable amount of time (often several months–agencies’/publishers’ websites might include how long their response times are, and if you’re past that, you’re generally safe to ask) but this is why many people prefer to send out a few queries at a time.

If an agent or publisher is interested in your novel, they’ll generally ask for either a “partial” or a “full” manuscript. A partial is generally the first three chapters or the first 50 pages, though this depends and the agent/publisher will generally tell you what exactly to send. In some cases, if they haven’t asked for it already, they’ll ask for a partial plus the synopsis. A full is exactly what it sounds like–you send the entire thing.

NOTE: An agent or publisher may ask for an “exclusive”–meaning that they want to be the only person looking at your manuscript until they make a decision. It’s up to you whether or not you want to grant this; if you’re getting a lot of interest in your manuscript, it might not be worth it. Whatever your decision is, make sure you let the agent/publisher know. Most won’t reject a manuscript just because you wouldn’t go exclusive with them.

If an agent/publisher likes your partial, they will generally ask for a full. Decisions are then made off of the full manuscript. An agent/publisher may reject at this point, usually with the inclusion of details of why, which can be useful to the author for revising the manuscript if they deem it necessary. They might offer what’s called a “revise and resubmit (R&R)” where they’re interested in the book, but would need some revisions done before they offer representation/a book deal. The author can make the decision about whether or not to do so–if the changes seem like they would be beneficial to the story, it usually doesn’t hurt to make them. However, if you’re getting interest from other agents without the changes, it may be best to leave the story alone.

Representation/a book deal may also be offered at this point. You may have a single offer, or you may get many. It’s important to make sure that the agent/publisher is someone you are comfortable working with. Several websites and books offer lists of questions to ask potential agents/publishers to make sure you’re making a good choice.

Tuesday we’ll go over what happens after you’ve got an agent/publisher. Questions, squiders? Comments? Cheez-Its for the Landsquid?

Traditionally Publishing Novels: Two Paths

Okay, moving on to novels! (If you have any suggestions or questions on short stories, please let me know!)

There are two routes one can take when publishing a novel traditionally. The first method is to get an agent, and the second is to deal directly with a publisher.

NOTE: Not all publishers will take submissions from an unagented author. It may be a good idea to look at major publishers in your area and see what seems to be the norm.

A publisher will note in their guidelines whether or not they accept “unsolicited” submissions. It is more common among smaller presses, or those that specialize in nonfiction, but some larger publishers also accept them.

The initial process for submitting a novel to either an agent or a publisher is essentially the same–you will need a query letter to introduce your work to the agent/publisher. Some agents/publishers will also ask for additional materials, such as a synopsis (which could be between 1 and 4 pages, depending on preference, so some experts recommend having multiple versions of yours available of varying lengths), the beginning pages of your manuscript, or, in rarer cases, a marketing plan.

WARNING: There are several “publishers” out there that might not be legitimate. A good thing to remember for traditional publishing is that the money flows to the writer. If an agent or publisher asks you for money up front, such as a “reading fee,” they may just be a scammer. There are websites where you can check to see if an agent/publisher is legitimate, such as the forums at Absolute Write or Preditors and Editors. (Note to self: P&E is currently down, looking for a new caretaker, so do not include if it doesn’t go back up.)

There are several books, websites, and articles available on the proper way to put together a query letter and/or a synopsis, so we’ll just touch on the basics here. A query letter is a short letter of 200-300 words that acts a lot like a cover letter for a job application. If you have a specific reason for querying the agent/editor (you talked to them at a con and they asked you to send them something, you looked at their wishlist and your story will be a good fit, etc.), you start your query with that. Then you spend a few paragraphs hooking your story (it shouldn’t be a summary, and it shouldn’t reveal the ending), and you finalize with a short, relevant bio (which includes previous publications, if any, awards won, life experience that might show that you’re qualified to write this particular story). You also include the title, word count, and genre of your story.

A synopsis can be of varying lengths and is a recital of the events of your story from beginning to end. Depending on the length you’re trying to hit, you may have to leave out some characters or subplots. You do include your ending in the synopsis–agents/publishers that ask for them are often using them to make sure the story makes logical sense all the way through.

If an agent/publisher asks for pages to be included, you send the beginning of the book. Some people consider sending what they consider the “best” pages for this, but this is frowned upon for a few reasons:

  • Agents/publishers may be unable to get into the pages because they lack the context for them
  • Agents/publishers may assume that you didn’t send the beginning because it isn’t good

The main point of your query letter is to garner enough attention that the agent/publisher is willing to look at more. The rest of your work will need to stand on its own, so make sure you’re only querying a finished, edited, and polished manuscript.

On Wednesday we’ll look at the querying process, as well as the rest of the submission process. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on the basic set-up of the querying process for novels, or if you feel like I’m leaving anything out!

Working Past the Beginning

So I’m finally getting to work on my chainsaw edit, but, like all my stories, I started in the wrong place and have to write a new beginning. (I know, I know, I’m so backwards. Most people start too early, I always start too late. Go figure.)

I was really excited about getting to work, so I sat down, got out my new outline, started to type, and…was unimpressed.

Beginnings suck. For some reason, they always feel bad. Either they don’t work the way you plan, or you feel like you’re writing crap, or, especially in a first draft, your characters just aren’t jelling.

And then you get frustrated. And you either give up, or you keep trying to rewrite it until it doesn’t suck, and either way, it is a huge time suck.

Here’s a secret…your beginning doesn’t have to be perfect.

So, how do you get the motivation to move on?

You tell yourself whatever you need to. Tell yourself that you’ll come back to it, that it’ll read better when you’ve got a little distance. Tell yourself that you can have a cookie. Tell yourself that your family will still love you.

Tell yourself that you can come back and fix it after you’ve written the rest of the story and know what the beginning should be.

Me, I’m not worrying too much right now. Yes, this is a second draft and I know what my beginning needs to be, but I’m still keeping my options open. Aside from the straight opening, I also have flashback and in media res openings if the straight one doesn’t work.

Don’t let your beginning get you down. There’s so much story awaiting you, if you let yourself get there.

How to Finish a Novel

As you may or may not know, March is traditionally National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo). If you participate officially, you need 50 hours of editing throughout the month to win. I find it’s easier for me to participate unofficially (and it just so happens that this year it actually lines up that I am editing in March, huzzah).

But no matter what, in order to edit a novel, you have to have finished a novel.

Do not edit if you do not have a complete draft! Hey you! Yes, you. Put down the red pen. I’m watching you.

If you edit in the middle of a draft, you tend to fix superficial things, like grammar, dialogue, typos, maybe the flow and direction of individual scenes. But you can’t edit for big picture problems successfully without the complete picture. So finish the draft first.

I know it’s hard. I know you get bogged down in places that feel like crap. I know that sometimes you get halfway through and realize you could have done something differently or better. Stop. Write down your thoughts. Then keep going.

All a first draft has to do is exist. It does not need to be perfect. It does not need to be polished. It just needs to be complete.

If you find you can’t finish a draft because you keep going back and tweaking things, repeat after me. I can only move forward. That means you do not go back. You do not re-read earlier parts of the story (unless you are like me and can’t remember what was happening). You most certainly do not change things. If you write a scene and you immediately realize it will not work, you may cross it out and write something different. But otherwise you LEAVE IT ALONE.

It’s hard, I know. But when you do have a complete draft, you can go back and read back over it, and you will find that some of that stuff that felt like junk coming out is actually great. You may find that you need less tweaking than you thought, that that weird throwaway in Chapter 2 actually strengthens the plot in a way you didn’t realize, in a way that never would have happened if you hadn’t left it alone.

And then you can change what needs to be changed, knowing the entire plot, the themes, the overall arcing premises of the novel. If you know where your characters end up, it’s easier to know where to start them.

Any other tips you’d add in, Squiders?

Shorter is Sweeter?

Sometime last month I mentioned that I was going to attempt kitlitart’s picture book challenge. I like children, writing, and drawing, so I thought it would be fun.

Oh Batman, it is so hard.

You’ve got to make sure you’re telling a complete, easy-to-understand story in a very few amount of words. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not using any words that are too big. (Something I suspect I am failing at greatly.) And you’ve got to make sure there’s something in the story that the child can identify with.

I got writer’s block 123 words in and spent some time attempting to draw a station wagon. It turns out that I cannot draw station wagons. Alas. If this story ever sees the light of day, I hope they hire someone else to draw the final pictures.

And I got to thinking that, for me, shorter is harder. Those six-word stories? Can’t wrap my brain around them. I can manage a twitter story every once in a blue moon, and flash fiction is something that continuously eludes me. Once we get into short story territory, I’m fine, though I do tend towards the longer end (3-8K).  Succinct just isn’t in my blood.

It’s somewhat bell curvy, because there’s an upper limit (about 100K) that I can’t seem to get past either.

Any tips for picture books, Squiders? Do you find shorter works to be easier or harder? Where’s your comfort zone?