Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

It’s Okay to Self-Publish

Okay, squiders, we’re back in the old blog post drafts again. This one comes all the way from 2010, almost a full (yikes!) decade ago.

Back when self-publishing was, while not the weird and stigmatized thing of elder days, still not as accepted as it is today.

Here are the notes I left myself:

  • Doesn’t mean you’re a failure
  • Put out the best product you can
  • Be aware that you’re fighting an uphill battle
  • Harder to get traditionally published

Let’s unpack this while I channel Kit of nine years ago. Man, that was a very different life.

Doesn’t mean you’re a failure

Interesting. Was I assuming people were only self-publishing because they hadn’t been able to get a traditional deal? Back in 2010 I’d participated in…at least two indie-published anthologies. Was I defensive? Maybe so. Or maybe I was trying to let other people know that it was okay, that traditional publishing wasn’t for everyone or everything, and that each project should be evaluated individually.

Now, of course, some people actively choose to self-publish without considering traditional publishing, since you retain greater creative control and better royalties.

Put out the best product you can

Still true, of course. A well-prepped self-pub is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. Yet I still pick up books all the time that I can tell are self-published almost immediately. The most common indicator I see is grammar–bad punctuation, run-on sentences, clunky writing. All stuff any editor worth their salt can help clean up. Then there’s general bad writing, inconsistencies throughout the story, and bad plotting. Haphazard covers. Awkward book descriptions.

I’ve heard it said that you have to either put in time or money, depending on what’s easiest for you. But you do have to put something in.

Be aware that you’re fighting an uphill battle

Hm. Did I mean because you don’t have a marketing team behind you? Maybe. But a lot of traditionally published authors these days still have to do their own publicity.

Did I mean in terms of legitimacy? (i.e., whether or not you’re a real author, if a self-published book is a real book) I’m betting that’s what I meant. I think, if you put in the time (or money) mentioned above, this is less of an issue than it used to be.

Harder to get traditionally published

I’m not sure this was true back then, nor now. Someone probably has numbers somewhere.

Publishing is such a weird industry and really anything could happen. Is a publisher really going to turn down an excellent book because you self-published some cringe-worthy badly-disguised fanfiction five years ago? Probably not (though maybe they’ll ask you to use a pen name).

Alternately, people have gone on to traditional publishing deals because they’ve self-published. So it really seems like you should do what it’s right for a particular project and not worry about it.

Thanks for joining me for another addition of “Kit digs out half-written blog posts from the past,” squiders! Thoughts on my thoughts?

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Landsquid Picture Book Progress

Seasons are weird, aren’t they, squiders? Sometimes they make no sense, like when it’s October and 80 degrees and could be summer except the leaves have turned, or when it snows in June.

But spring has come in right on schedule. The weather changed. The flowers came up. The birds came back. All literally starting on the equinox. It’s kind of freaking me out.

I am not being productive, which is a combination of all the not-writing things I need to do and the fact that I want to write, so consequently nothing at all is getting done. But I did force myself to walk to the open space this morning (there’s a convenient picnic table not too far in) to do some drawing on the landsquid picture book I’ve been very slowly working on. (My spouse pointed out that we’d outlined it last summer. Har.)

(Have not called the medical people or done anything for the consignment sale, aside from looking at the facebook page.)

I came to the realization earlier that I was actually sabotaging myself by doing picture book publication research. First of all, it was taking time away from working on the story itself, and second of all, it’s a bit premature. Why do we care about publishing when we don’t have anything to publish?

(The Childrens’ Market book thus far has not been extremely valuable. I have not learned anything I did not already know.)

I think the idea was that I didn’t quite know what I needed to publish a picture book, when we got to that point, and that I didn’t want to be missing something. But I really should just leave it alone for a bit.

So I’m currently working on what I guess is called a “dummy,” which is essentially a sketched-out version of the book. My process thus far has gone like this:

  • Outline the book (basic phase outline using bullet points, one of my favorites)
  • Do length research (I went through a bunch of the small, mobile ones’ picture books and looked at how long they were, and how many pages were sundries–title page, dedication, copyright, etc.–versus story pages. Almost every book I looked at was 32 pages long, with somewhere between 2 and 4 pages being sundries, with most of the stories being 28 pages long)
  • Write a first draft by pages (Example: 1. On a bright, sunny day, Landsquid invited his friends to a picnic in the woods.)
  • Create a dummy (draw and write out story in a non-polished manner, in this case, in an old lined college notebook using a pencil)

I guess the dummy is not traditionally something that is done–that you submit the words to a publisher and then they or their chosen illustrator do the page layout–but I’m finding it’s helping immensely for story flow and plot progression. A lot of the first draft pages are more stage directions than words, and that’s changing as I work through the dummy.

Whatever, this is a learning process, and everyone has to find the process that works for them anyway.

And if nothing else comes of this, it was nice and relaxing to sit in the open space and draw, even if it was windy.

Page 13 of the dummy

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

So, both the Landsquid books and the nonfiction books are lower down in the priority for the next week, since the Fractured World anthology is coming out in about a week and I have Things That Need Doing (I am in charge of the back cover copy, the inside formatting, and the cover, and somewhere along the way here I have obviously taken on too much responsibility).

But that doesn’t mean I’m not working on them still. I finished the rough draft of the Landsquid book and have drawn most of the pages, and I started researching how one goes about submitting a picture book to publishers, and I have learned things.

I have learned that, apparently, you take the text of your picture book, put it in manuscript format, and send it off. And…that’s it. No artwork. No illustration notes.

Which…what? What? There are a ton of books written and illustrated by the same person–how did they submit? I have pages in my book where there are just pictures and no text–how is that represented in the manuscript format? Is it? Or does what text there is have to stand on its own?

I guess the idea is that publishers want the option to hire their own illustrators for projects, and so they’re more likely to accept a book without any artwork baggage. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind someone else illustrating. I am a competent artist but I’m under no illusions about being amazing. I just can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do.

(If anyone knows, please share your wisdom! I’m also going to look into my local SCWBI chapter–it’s been probably 5 years since I last did anything with them and I don’t remember anything–and see what’s what there.)

The journal class continues to be MIA. I emailed a follow-up last night but have not heard anything. Bah. Bah, I say! Meanwhile I’ve gotten a ton of emails from this company advertising OTHER classes they want me to buy, and I can’t say I’m motivated to ever buy anything from them ever again.

(I have Lifetime access on another class I bought from them four years ago, and I went back through it last week, since I also bought that class for the nonfiction series, and it’s not in a great state. Links going to the wrong information, missing information, etc. So.)

I did find a possible alternative, if it comes to that. The other teacher I follow who’s offering a journal/workbook class has a standalone workbook on the subject for $10. It’d probably be better than nothing, but I am waffling. It sounds like part of her class/workbook is figuring out what the workbook should be about, and I’ve got that part down. I mostly want formatting info.

Also, I’m working through How to Think Sideways, which is a class offered by Holly Lisle. I bought it for a lot of money a long time ago (probably 10 years) but never got all the way through it, and I’ve always wanted to get my money’s worth out of it. So I’m going through. I’ve made it past the lesson that tripped me up the first time, and have a ton of new story ideas, which is…well, not terrible. But I’ve got to get some stuff done before I start new things.

(Now, Holly is a woman who maintains her lifetime access in a way that is actually useful. Plus she updates the courses instead of making a new course and then expecting you to pay again.)

(I’m sorry, I’m just really Not Impressed with journal class company right now.)

But, yes, the anthology must be done. If I can swing it, I hope to finish the print formatting today and get the cover done. We’ll see, though, because everything is taking longer today than it should.

How are you doing, squiders?

Plugging Along

Well, squiders–Lord, is that more yellow? auuughhh–there’s been nothing past the initial contact on the journal class. How long do you think before I ping them? Tomorrow? Or do I need to wait until next week?

(I did check out the other teacher’s class, but it’s $100 and I’m especially not spending $100 on something I have already paid for.)

(Also, it’s my turn to make playdough for the smaller, mobile one’s class, and Goddess, there is nothing I hate more in life than making playdough. We picked yellow, which was a mistake.)

(Also, how am I allowed to make playdough but I am no longer allowed to make cute snacks? Is it because we can pretend the kids aren’t eating the playdough?)

I mean, it’s probably no skin off their backs if they ghost me. It’s not like I can call my credit card and ask them to take off some charge from two years ago. Also, I think I paid with Paypal.

So cross your fingers for me, squiders, that I hear from them soon and that it is good news.

I’ve also collated the posts for the first three books (story ideas, common writing mistakes, and outlining) and put together a list of other things to do:

  • Cover design
  • Find reviewers
  • Create freebie for email list (if you want on my author-specific list, it’s here)
  • Check picture permissions and make sure to attribute them
  • Add thank you pages to the backs of the books
  • Research categories and pricing

I’ve been so busy thinking about writing/revision I forgot about the publishing aspect. Ahahahaha. Ha. Ha. Except now I’ve done that, hooray.

I mean, I still need to do the writing/revision but now I have the big picture in mind.

(If you’ve made workbooks/journals previously, squiders, what software did you use? And did you use normal binding, or a coiled binding, and if you did a coil one, where did you publish it?)

(Stupid missing class.)

Also, it’s the end of February and so I find myself needing to think what I want to spend the next month on. The nonfiction books, yes. They will get done come hell or high water. Four years is more than enough time to spend on a project. But then there’s so many other options–the landsquid picture books (going okay, just procrastinating, which is silly, because it is silly to procrastinate things that are your own ideas that you want to do), maybe a new adult project. I should do some editing on other books, but I’m not feeling motivated. And I’d like to get more feedback before I do anything drastic.

Things to ponder.

Spring looms, squiders. Any plans?

Announcing the Necro-Om-Nom-Nom-Icon

Hey, remember last year when I told you guys I’d been invited to submit a story to a Lovecraftian-themed anthology? Well, I can’t remember if I told you the story got accepted, but it did, and now the anthology’s coming out on Saturday!

Necro cover

They’re doing a release party in a town about an hour from here (convenient!) so I’m going to go. I’ve never been to an in-person release party (though I have done virtual ones) so I am equal parts excited (networking! books! coffee!) and terrified (aaaaah I will have to talk to people).

Each story in the collection has a recipe paired with it, which is silly and I had entirely too much fun making mine.

And now that I’ve seen the galley for the anthology, there’s some authors included that are up the success rung from me, so that makes me feel nice and fuzzy too.

ALSO I have a story in this quarter’s edition of Bards and Sages Quarterly, so April is very exciting here, and then I shall have nothing until the fall, unless someone buys a short story with a short lead time.

(It’s been a year on The Necro-Om-Nom-Nom-Icon and six months on Bards and Sages, which I know is fairly typical, but I think last year’s story that went into Spirit’s Tincture was accepted, like, two weeks before the issue came out. So things vary wildly.)

Anywho, links:

The Bards and Sages Quarterly issue is available here, and there’s a nice write-up about the anthology over here.

There will be more later after the anthology goes live, and the editor from B&S did email to say the issue would be available through other avenues soon, but I’ll probably just update next week as necessary.

Tips for release parties, squiders? Anything exciting happening on your end?

Pondering Pen Names

Ah, the pseudonym. Something to hide behind, for whatever reason. Authors as varying as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and C.S. Lewis have used them over the years.

As I ponder trying out new genres, I find myself returning to this topic. (Of course, depending on the quality of the finished product of said new genres, it may all be a moot point.) And also on how different a genre has to be from your original genre to warrant a pen name.

(For example, I’m plotting out a cozy mystery series with paranormal elements. Do the paranormal elements link it close enough to my normal fantasy/scifi/horror to keep using my same name? Or does the mystery structure move it far enough away to consider using a different one?)

There are various arguments for or against pen names. The reasons people typically use them include:

  • To protect one’s identity (especially if one is writing erotica or something controversial)
  • To confuse/hide gender (female authors might take on a male or gender-neutral pen name, such as using initials instead of a first name, or a male author might take a female or neutral pen name if writing in a women-centric genre)
  • To make things less complicated (if a real name is hard to spell or pronounce, or if a real name is identical or similar to a famous author’s)
  • For co-writing (two people writing under one name, ala Magnus Flyte (my favorite example))
  • To separate themselves from previous work (if they want to try something new or experimental, or just something different)
  • To separate different genres (such as scifi and romance, mystery and children’s, etc.)
  • To hide from past failure (if books sold under one name haven’t done well, an author can re-invent themselves under another and hopefully do better)

If any of the above are an issue, then it can be beneficial to have a pen name. But there’s also arguments against using a pen name, such as the fact that any audience you may have built up won’t follow you to the new pen name so you’ll have to start over audience building from scratch, processing royalties and other payments becomes more difficult, there becomes complications with copyright and rights sales, and things along those lines. There is also an argument that openness is highly valued these days, so using a pen name can seem dishonest to some people.

There are also bad reasons to use a pen name, such as believing that not writing under your own name will allow you to commit libel, or thinking that money earned under a pen name doesn’t have to go on your taxes, etc.

(As a side note, I have learned that some “authors” are really company-owned pseudonyms, meaning any number of people could have written under them. These include V.C. Andrews, Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon. Wild. Also, now I know I could potentially write a Nancy Drew novel, which is somewhat exciting.)

I go back and forth on them myself. I’ve looked into people who have successfully published in more than one genre under their own names, and most are big name authors that could probably write down their shopping list and have them published (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, etc.) or are authors that mostly write/wrote a single genre and then had one or a few random things. (Did you know Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?) But there are some–Lisa See is best known for her historical fiction, but also has a mystery series, and Emma Donahue is all over the place (though hers are all standalones, best as I can tell).

There is also the counterargument that you don’t need a pen name for different genres, especially if they are wildly different, because it will be obvious. If you write both scifi and romance, for example, one of your romance readers can probably look at your spaceship and alien-infested cover and figure out that it’s not a romance title. (Which goes into the importance of title/cover matching genre expectations, I suppose, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.)

What do you think, Squiders? Pen names or no? Under what circumstances would you (if an author) use one, or would you (as a reader) want an author to use one? Examples of people who have or have not used them to successful or disastrous consequence?

And don’t forget to vote in Tuesday’s poll!

Useful Link Round-up

Okay, Squiders, I want to be able to do the idea generation posts in a row, so for today, I’m going to share various links that I’ve been hoarding that other people might find interesting. Monday I’ll have a review/promo for you, and Thursday is, in theory, the first discussion post for the Finnbranch readalong (though I will need to read faster than I am because I forgot when in June I set the discussion for). And then we’ll head back into nonfic territory.

For Readers

Does anyone else just find themselves on random email lists they don’t remember signing up for? That’s the deal with me and BookRiot, which is a website about books, mostly speculative fiction. But I dig their newsletter, so I don’t really mind that it seemingly came out of nowhere.

I normally forget, but it’s never a bad idea to stop by sites like StoryBundle or Humble Bundle and see if you can get a ton of themed books for cheap. Normally they donate the money for a good cause.

For Writers–Writing

I don’t know about you guys, but I am terrible at conlanging and yet, since I write high fantasy, sometimes it is necessary. That’s why I’m super interested in Vulgar, which is a language generator. I haven’t given it a try yet, but you can do a demo on the website, and the full version is only $20.

For people who like to have an idea of story structure before they go into a novel, you might try Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot Structure. It’s the one Siri and I used for City of Hope and Ruin. You can find a good overview over at Fiction University (which is a useful website if you are not already familiar with it.

For Writers–Learning

If you have enough time to fit in some learning, I recommend checking out sites like SkillShare and Udemy. I’ve taken a few classes (mostly marketing related, but also ones about how to use email lists) and recently signed up for one focused more on traditional publishing. You can buy memberships or classes flat out, but I like that you can see reviews and curriculum before you shell out money. There are probably more websites out there that provide a similar function, but I haven’t tried them.

(I’ve also considered making a course for one or both, but not sure what would be a good topic. If you know something I should go for, let me know!)

For Writers–Publishing

Since I’ve been putting together submission materials for my YA paranormal (all ready now! Just need a healthy dose of getting on with it), I recently wrote a synopsis for it. This blog post proved invaluable and took a lot of the guesswork out of the process.

For Writers–Marketing

Here’s a very interesting post on why it’s a bad thing to encourage your friends and family to buy your book when it first comes out. Good stuff to know. I recently found this blog through Siri and it’s been very interesting (also apparently I have done everything wrong). (Which I kind of knew.)

I also recently found this website called Hometown Reads that connects readers to local authors. I haven’t signed up yet but it looks like a cool idea, and my city is one that they’ve already developed, so woot.

Anyway, I hope you find some of these helpful! And let me know if you’ve found some place cool lately!