Sunday, February 5, 2012

The secret to getting published...


     This was going to be in response to a comment, but then when it started to turn into a novel, I decided it would be better as a post.  And a free post because I think everyone has a story to share...

     Getting published in book form was really the easy part because I self published all of mine through CreateSpace.com for the hard (paper) copies.  So the cost ($850+) was all on me.  They do print on demand and e-books for Kindle.   If you do a search for self-publishers, you will get a ton of them.  You just have to research to see which one offers you what you want for a price you want to pay.  With CreateSpace, every book automatically is part of the Amazon.com site which was a plus for me (apart from being a closet cheeseaholic, a closet Hallmarkaholic, I'm also a closet Amazon.comaholic.  Thank God there are no 12-step programs for any of those yet).

     For free e-pubs I would recommend Smashwords.com.  But you can find others, just research whether or not it will cost you anything to use them.  Smashwords you just have to upload to them.  Period.  No cost to you.  They in turn make them available to other e-readers (like Nook or Sony) & e-book stores (Barnes & Noble).  You set the price, they take a small percentage, then you sit back and watch.

     The challenging part is getting the word out about your book without breaking the bank.   Some self-publishers offer packages that come with advertising/marketing campaigns, but it all depends on what your budget is, and who your market is to determine if it is worth the cost.  Trust me, they won't do it for free.

     For my first book, (My Best Friends Have Hairy Legs) I advertised for a while in the magazines that were dog related.  I also put up a booth at a local street fair.  Occasionally Amazon.com will run a special where they offer e-books for free, but they still pay you your full royalties (I really scored big on that one).  Self-publishing means that it is all on you to get the word out.  I got postcards of my cover with the description of the book on the other side that I mailed to everyone I knew, and even people I didn't know.  I contacted the local newspaper's lifestyle editor ~ if your paper has a section for books find out who edits it ~ and sent them an email asking if they would feature my book in the next week's paper.  They will do that for free.

     The really, REALLY hardest part is the writing.  Deciding if you are going to write non-fiction, or fiction, then putting in the time (and it takes a lot of time) to get it to a length that will be affordable to print, and not too "War and Peace" to read.  If you've never done a NaNoWriMo event, look for it in November.  They set a pace for you to write a 50,000 word book in a month.

     Editing is difficult because if you try to edit your own, you will miss things.  You "know" what you are trying to say, so the brain compensates with that knowledge and glaring errors will become invisible.  Find a neutral someone to read your words and edit them for whether or not they make sense.  Most writing programs now come with spelling and grammar checks but those still won't catch whether or not you meant weather, or if their they're there is what you were trying to say.

     If you choose to put out a non-fiction memoir, I'd recommend using a pen name and changing names of the "characters" because you don't want to get slammed with slander, or have someone claim they have rights to royalties.  Keep in mind that when you put your life out there, just like blogs sometimes do, there will be readers who never seem to have anything nice to say.  You have to grow some thick skin, be a duck and let it roll off your back, and consider how ignorant the source of the comment probably is.

So much fun to write...
     Fictions are fun, especially for me, my two suspense novels (Trooper's Run and Eagle Visions) were very gratifying.  You can rename a character, but in your mind you can have that ex-husband's face assigned to that character and trust me, there are some very satisfying ways to kill of an ex without getting into any legal trouble for it or worrying about how to dispose of the body and clean up the mess.

     I joined a writer's club in Florida, went to several writing conventions, and listened to famous authors speak who had been published by "big houses."  I learned a lot by what they said... and didn't say.

     When you find a "big house" publisher who wants to publish your book, here is something to remember.  They are buying all rights to your words for the term of your contract.  Which means that they can change, edit, delete any part of it.  They can chop out chapters, change the title, and pretty much do whatever they think will make it an affordable book to print, market, and sell for they money they are about to give you.  And there isn't a damn thing you can do about it because you signed on that dotted line and cashed that whoppin' big check.

     When you see a book come out in "unabridged" form (Stephen King does this a lot, his book The Stand is one that comes to mind right now ~ my absolute fav book of his) what that means is that the rights to his book reverted back to him and he is re-releasing it at his own cost without any of the edits that the big house did.  So he can elaborate more on characters, put back in parts that were edited out, and even change the ending if he so desires.

     Big house publishers are all about the money.  So you really have to have something awesome (and incredible luck like J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer) for your manuscript to make it all the way to the hands of someone who can make a decision to print it.  And even if they do decide to print it, they are going to make sure they get all your blood, sweat, and tears for their investment.  You'd have better luck buying a lottery ticket, especially in this tight economy.

     Big authors think that self-published authors are "less than."  They think we are just "vanity press" authors.  I think they are just jealous because we still get to write because we love it... and not because there is some book editor monkey on our back demanding the next top ten bestseller.

     So there is my "lesson" in getting published.  If you think it was worth some money to you, let me know and I'll send you my PayPal addy.  Every little bit helps, you know, and maybe I'll even write you into my next novel... in a nice way, of course.

     Post Script... this post was made part of the inspiring and wonderful Jaime Ridler Studios Christmas Day Annual Hands Up How to Series.  If you did not find my blog from her site, please go check it out for other helpful ‘how-to’ posts.
     

3 comments:

  1. Thank you. I don't know anything about where you live, but I do know that here in Oz you could give this as a talk and charge people a small fee to attend. Some churches and community groups would be happy to give you a room for nothing - and would publicise it for you too.
    For the moment playing in the blogosphere is the extent of my ambitions.

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  2. Thanks for the info Ci. I have had two books published by a big publishing house, back in the seventies and have had two self-published. I'm not anxious to go self publishing again because I have absolutely no interest in the marketing and adverizing side. I have one book that a big publisher kept for a year and one of their editors actually was so apologetic he brought it back to me at my house (imagine that!)himself and said they couldn't get it past their top reader or editor. That was also in the 70's. This book I know is worth publishing but I never followed up on it after it was returned -- got too busy in raising a couple of teenagers. The problem is that is now not in the realm of today's young people's taste and I don't want to go self publishing. It's very much like an Enid Blyton book, if you know her --40's and 50's UK -- so I know it is old fashioned but I also don't know what to do with it. I've thought of opening up a blog just to publish a chapter a week. It has about 20 chapters and is a full length juvenile mystery. (Ages 10 -14) but not for today's kids. I hate to let all that good writing sit around. It's a good story but just not marketable I'm afraid and if that style ever comes back I'll be long gone.

    Thanks for replying.

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    Replies
    1. ChrisJ,
      I think you would be surprised at what today's kids are interested in... and today's adults. I think that creating a blog for it is a good idea. My latest creation is now becoming a blog - there is a link to it at the top of my page, it is called "On the Road to Somethin' Better." I tried it as an eBook on Smashwords for a while, but never really had the ability to market it.
      Create Space does offer a marketing package where they will send out announcements to all of the big houses about your book, and to major newspapers, etc. (https://www.createspace.com/Services/TotalDesignFreedomMarketingPro.jsp) You would get the best of both worlds with that... not have to wait for a big publishing house to pick it up, but still have some of the marketing and advertising advantages of a big publisher.
      Best of luck in whichever direction you choose, but don't ever feel that your words will not be read or that you are out of style. Aren't hip-huggers and platform shoes back in style? The old is new again, and there are new generations of readers to entice!

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