Monday, June 22, 2009

The Different Ways to Publish

I recently heard about a new writer who is considering going the self-publishing route because in doing so, he would rake in all the profit. After thinking about his reasoning, I decided to offer my perspective on the three big ways to publish a book, based on what I've learned over the years. This is only meant to be a guide. Be sure to research each option on your own (that's a nice way of saying don't hold me accountable for anything I say here).

There are three major ways to publish your book:

1) Via a big publisher
2) Via a small publisher
3) Self-Publishing

All ways have their positives and negatives.

1) Publishing via a big publisher:

The advantages:

a. More knowledge - Big publishers know the trends, the markets, the way things are done. They know what sells and how well it will sell (for the most part). They have the editors, the artists, the layout team, the sales team. You won't be going it alone, that's for sure.

b. More reach - Big publishers are established all over the country and throughout the world. People know who they are and, as we all know, half the battle is name recognition. Readers sometimes base whether or not they'll buy a book based on who published it. I don't do this, but I've seen other, weirder, people do it.

c. Better access to bookstores - Bookstores typically don't want to take on self-published or POD books. Why? Because they can't send them back to the publisher if they don't sell. That means, they aren't as likely to take a risk on you.

The disadvantages:

a. Very hard to get a deal with one. Everyone and their mother wants to be a published author (seriously, my mother is a writer, too). There's a lot of competition out there and you are one of thousands and thousands, maybe billions.

b. New authors don't get much of a marketing budget, if at all. Better established authors are doing more and more of their own marketing, as well, these days. So if they aren't getting much, you probably won't get bupkis. In fact, you might have to contact bookstores and ask them to order your book. I met an author who realized this the hard way. Her book was released through a relatively major publisher on a certain date and she was all excited so she walked into a local bookstore on that day to find her book, only to discover the store didn't have it. Nor did they know it existed.

c. Less money off the deal. More people work for bigger publishing companies, and they want a piece of the pie, too. If you have an agent, you get even less.

d. Less personal attention. Face it, big publishing companies are like any big company. It seems that the bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain that one on one devotion to the individual. Plus, they're dealing with a lot of writers, each of whom wants the best for their book.

2. Publishing via a small publisher

The advantages:

a. Easier to get published through one. Simply put, there's less competition, and for the obvious reasons (basically in that they don't have the same advantages as larger companies).

b. More of a personal touch. If you show promise as an author, small publishing companies are going to want your business. They also have fewer authors, so they have the time and energy to devote to you. It's a nice feeling.

c. More say and control in final product. This goes along with the personal touch. Small companies have a lot to learn, especially when starting out, and still believe that the author might have something important to contribute, beyond writing the book.

d. You don't have to have an agent. Well, you don't need an agent with a big publisher, either, but smaller publishers are simply more accessible (especially via their website) so you don't need your agent to take one of their representatives out to lunch. You can contact them yourself!

e. Some small publishing companies really rock - they're just small! I'm learning more and more that smaller companies put more effort into everything they do, at every level. Maybe it's the, "We're small, so we have a lot to prove." I'm small and I feel that way sometimes. But smaller companies also tend to hire people who are passionate about their work. They still believe they can make a difference and are in the business for the love of it. You'll probably find these people in bigger companies, too, but I imagine, like any big business, individuality/creativity can get stifled in exchange for the almighty dollar.

The disadvantages:

a. Less outreach. Not to beat a dead horse, but small companies just don't have the long arms. Not in the beginning anyway. Often, they're just starting out and building contacts. That means your book is going to see fewer stores.

b. Books are more expensive to publish, therefore more expensive to buyers. I've seen some regular-sized, paperback books selling for between $20 and $25. People might pay that for a hardcover, but they're much less likely to do so for a soft cover by an unknown author.

c. Bookstores are typically not interested in taking on your book if it's POD (unless local and you take the books back after a certain amount of time). As I said earlier, they don't want something they can't give back. There are ways around this, however, for some bookstores. You will simply have to do the legwork to find out for sure.

3. Self-Publishing


1. Anyone can do it. That's right. Anyone can publish their own book. You, me, a four-year-old. Even a monkey.

2. There are sites set up to help you do it, like, or Very convenient.

3. You can publish whatever you want, with however many pages you want. You're the boss. If you want to publish your 150,000 + book, you can!

4. All the profit is yours! Nuf said.

5. Good way to make a memento for family and friends. If you aren't interested in numbers, but would like to have your book in print simply to say you did it, this service is invaluable.


1. You pretty much do all your own marketing, even if the site says they help with that. You have to make your book stand out. Of course, you are more than likely going to have to do marketing with the bigger companies, so this could be good practice.

2. It's costly. Self-published books (also POD) cost a lot of money to print. That means, to make any profit, you have to charge the reader a lot of money. Especially nowadays, people just don't want to take that risk, or don't have that kind of money to spend on a book.

3. The end results can be amateurish, at best. Editors exist for a reason. Self-published books are often the work of writers who aren't their own best editors, don't have readers, don't fully understand the writing process, etc. Self-published books are more likely to contain numerous typos and the book covers are often done by amateur artists or the writers themselves. Books really are judged by their covers, so yours has to be great. Often, they're not.

Now, before you go getting all mad at me, not all self-published books are poor quality. Just enough of them to give everyone else who self-publishes a bad rap. So know that you are fighting that battle. You're going to have to worker harder and longer just to sell a few copies.

4. There's a stigma attached to self-published books. Why? Read number 3. People definitely have that stigma and it isn't going anywhere any time soon. Again, be aware of this before deciding on the self-publishing option.

5. The process can be confusing. You're going to have to know your computer and how to do certain things on it, beyond typing words onto a blank screen and pressing save (creating and uploading book covers, for example, can be very challenging). Self-publishing can get rather technical and I found, after researching it a while ago (it may be easier now), that I may not have been able to figure it out on my own.

This short blog might seem like basic knowledge to seasoned authors/writers, but to newcomers, the differences can be confusing, or learned too late. Obviously, each method has its positives and negatives. If you are struggling to get a book deal and are considering self-publishing, consider this first. Have you done everything you can to improve your writing skills? Attend workshops, get readers, join a writer's group, garner more experiences, edit, edit, and do more editing, and be open to constructive criticism/advice. You may simply need to grow in your skills first before writing that great novel. The first few books you write might even be practice runs.

On the other hand, self-publishing can be a wonderful way to go. You don't have to deal with all the politics and rules of larger publishing companies, you're your own boss. Just make sure you know all the facts before going in. It can be an expensive, time-consuming and disheartening process, especially when you look on Amazon and see your book at 2 million (that means 1,999,999 books are selling better than yours). That's rough.

So do your research, decide why you're doing this and whether or not you're willing to put in the work, then go forward from there. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs (even for best selling authors - how many times has J.K. Rowling had to go to court?), so be persistent.

And remember...

"You won't ever fail if you don't try, but you won't succeed, either. Me, personally? I'm okay with failure. I've failed everything I've ever done and I'm okay with that. Heck, I'm more than okay with that! I'm proud of my record. Hey, you know what...I'm number one at failing! I'm a winner at losing! So just forget the rest of what I said about being a failure. Because I'm not one. That will be fifty cents, lady."

-Hilario Rukus, local crank.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What You Put Into It

The saying get out of it what you put into it. Wise words, I'm sure you will agree. And mostly true. Except when it comes to my pets.

Over the years I have learned that while I like animals, pets are not the wonderful 'blood pressure lowering,' 'always giving,' 'lovable' creatures they're made out to be. I call it the pet owner conspiracy.

Case in point: My pets. We have 3 cats, several goldfish, and a dog. They are all a big stressor in my life. I have tried to get the benefits I'm supposed to get out of them, starting with petting the furry creatures (the fish don't seem to like this so I've given up on them). Seems like a win-win situation, doesn't it? I get to relax with the soothing motion and they get, well, petted. Except...every time I pet my cats, my allergies kick up. So I startle them with my sneezes and then I get claw marks all over my body as they briefly freak out. Then I have to get up and blow my nose, which ruins the whole relaxation effect, as well, because now I'm standing up and the cat has fled the scene. And every time I pet our one cat, Beanie (we used to call her Sabrina - but that's just too nice a name - now she's Needy Beanie), it just kicks in her neediness and she gets all clingy and the claws come out so she can cling even better and she goes nuts if you try to stop petting her. When I try to pet our lab, she ends up chewing on my hand.

And what about that joyful greeting when we get home that other pet owners have said is so great? Well, we definitely get that from our spades. But we don't want it. She jumps up on us, scratching our arms or backs with her toenails because we can't fight her off as our hands are full of groceries, then she sniffs our behinds and crotches as much as she can before we push her away (what is that with dogs, btw? other than the obvious...). And then there's the licking of any exposed skin. Gah!

My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it...

So what do I get out of my pets? Well, noise, for one. They meow or bark or gurgle throughout the day. They also leave me lovely messes around the house (except the fish, who I'm kind liking more and more as this blog goes on), from regurgitated matter to clumps of fur to backend deposits (especially the dog, who gets into dead things and gets sick and has to get outside fast in the middle of the night but doesn't wake anybody so it ends up on the floor). I get claw marks on my furniture and doorways and clothes. My kids have holes in their shirts from when Dorrie was a puppy. The carpets are permanently stained.

So maybe I do get out of my pets what I put into them. Because I put food into my pets, so what I get out of them is...

_ _ it. You fill in the blanks.

I want to be an animal lover. I really do. I want to sit with my cats and pet them and they purr peacefully. I want to be able to play frisbee with my dog without the danger of losing a finger when I try to get the frisbee back to throw it again. Yet my fantasies of pet enjoyment just don't ever seem to play out the way I think they're going to (I blame commercials and advertisements, oh, and other pet owners who love everything their pets do - kind of like my mom).

So what does all of this have to do with writing and being an author? Besides the fact that I can relate everything back to those two things... Well, you get out of writing and publishing what you put into it. Blood, sweat and tears. Um, yuck. Why am I doing this again? I guess because I'm an optimist at heart, and a masochist, I suppose. Maybe I like to suffer. Or maybe my pets are sadists and they want me to suffer.

What's that Dorrie? You just ate a dead bird? On purpose? After you dug another hole in the yard and peed on my carpet? And then puked up the bird?

Oh, dear Lord, I think my heart just exploded.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Okay, I'm Cheating...

I was finishing up an edit today and then had to take my son to get his braces off, so my blog consists of linking you to an interview (of me) at my publisher's website.

Variance Interview

So, yes, I'm cheating today. If you have problems with this, take it up with Bop:

Or Beep:

Both are pretty tough, but Beep is particularly bad.

Talk at ya next week, peeps.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Three R's of Editing

For the past several years, I have been trying to live a greener life. Lately, I've been getting so green, I've started recycling my own underwear. On a lighter note, I've also started greening up my editing. My new editor has been working with me on Anaedor and I found that much of what I do in the editing process can be put into three categories, which I like to call the Three R's:

1) Reduce
2) Reuse
3) Recycle

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Actually, it can be, but you've got to want it. Anyone who has tried to edit their book knows that it can be a difficult and emotionally taxing endeavor. While my editor might make suggestions about what I need to change, it's up to me to figure out how I'm going to implement those suggestions. Thinking in terms of the three words listed above is a good way to clean up your book so that it flows, doesn't waste any word, sentence, space or thought, and keeps your plot on track. It also helps you to avoid a nervous breakdown (after you get done cursing out your editor when he/she doesn't praise you as the genius that you are and tell you to not touch a thing).

So here's what I'm talking about:

Reduce: You'd be amazed at how many unnecessary words and thoughts you use. Print out your book and go through it with this thought: Does this drive the plot forward? Is this repetitive? Can the book survive without this word, sentence, paragraph, character? If you answer yes (be objective now!), then ditch the unnecessaries. Cross them right out. You'll find that eliminating 5,000 + words is actually not all that hard. Actually, I was shocked at how easy it was. Sometimes I fought letting things go, but in the end, when they were gone, I didn't miss them. I'm trying to convince my children to apply the same concept to using toilet paper (you really don't need three feet to do the job), but they aren't yet buying into it. We'll see how it goes when I make them switch to leaves.

Reuse: A lot of what you write is reusable, just as it is. Say hurray! might need to rearrange it, use it in a different way. Yes, that's a funny joke, but not right for this character. I love this phrase, but it doesn't work here. Put it here and it has much more impact. Recycling example: Milk jugs can be used for milk, but they also make great water containers for my plants, or chew toys for my dog after she steals them.

Recycle: Here is where you can use what you have, but it needs an overhaul. This is when you have the right idea, but you're not saying it the way it needs to be said. Melt it down and reform it. Perhaps you have a scene that's necessary for the book; however, it's just not coming out right. Scrap the words and rewrite the scene. Same idea, different look. As it is, this empty pop can has no use. Recycle it and voila! you have a new roof. they turn soda cans into roofs? I don't know, but I think you get the idea.

Like writing, editing is a process with definite rules. I am still learning them, rule by painful rule, and not always very gracefully. So whenever I find methods that help me maintain my sanity in this 'interesting' process, I pass them along. Give the three R's a try. You won't just be contributing to a better world, you'll be making a better book and keeping your health at the same time.

So make this your new motto: Live Green, or Die a painful, horrible death from radiation poisoning and/or an editing aneurism! Or, just live green or die.

Side note ~ Update on agent search: Stagnant. I have my new manuscript out there, but am hearing nothing back (other than the quickie rejections, which leave me feeling very unsatisfied). Remain hopeful. Have yet to resort to cannibalism.