What You Should Know About Self-Publishing

By Anna Parsons

So you finished writing your book and want to publish it—great! Completing a manuscript is an accomplishment you should be proud of. The next step is deciding how to pursue publication.

The-Shack-Hardcover-Front-CoverOne mistake authors can make is to self-publish a book with the intention of “really” publishing it later on with a traditional publishing company. The problem with this is that self-publishing is a legitimate form of publication, and many agents and publishers will not take on previously published manuscripts. The main reason for this is that if a book is available to the public and is not already selling thousands of copies, it indicates to publishers that there may not be a market for the book or that the author will not be able to help them sell it. There are, of course, exceptions where agents seek out self-published books or these books are picked up by traditional publishers (such as The Shack, Eragon, or Fifty Shades of Grey). But these exceptions are just that—special cases that aren’t the norm, and books that make the transition are usually self-published successes in which the author has invested a great deal of time and money.

While transitioning from self-published to traditionally published is not entirely impossible, authors who wish to work with publishing houses should pursue this option first. Here are some factors to think through before deciding how to publish your book.

What is your goal?

What do you want to accomplish by publishing your book? Do you want to start a career as an author or earn additional income? Maybe you have an important story that others need to hear, or you simply want to share your creativity. No matter what your answer is, deciding why you want to publish a book is an important first step.

What are your strengths?

olu-eletu-13086Publishing is more than posting a book online, and authors who simply list their book and wait for sales are often disappointed. Self-publishing means becoming your own publisher, and the process continues long after releasing the book. Marketing, publicity, sales, and distribution are vital for making your book stand out from the millions of available titles. If you already have a large platform, are skilled in these areas, and are willing to devote a significant amount of time to promoting your book, then self-publishing might be for you. If marketing and sales aren’t your strengths or you want to focus more of your time on writing, you may do better working with publishing professionals.

2010_nba_winnerKeep in mind that there are some things publishers can do that you may not be able to achieve on your own. For example, most chain bookstores will not sell self-published books, and many media outlets and bloggers will only review books from publishing companies. Publishers can submit your books to national awards, participate in trade shows, and store and distribute large quantities of print books. And agents can help you create audiobooks, pursue foreign translations, and sell film and theater rights. If you can accomplish your publishing goals without these measures, then self-publishing could be a strong option. If not, you should pursue traditional publishing first.

Financial Considerations 

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A benefit of self-publishing is that you keep a larger percentage of your book’s profits. If your book is especially successful, this means more profit for you. The other side of this is that you only make money if your book sells, and you are also responsible for all of the costs, such as hiring editors, printing physical copies, or seeking marketing assistance. With traditional publishing, you receive an advance up front for selling the book to the publisher, plus royalties on any additional books you sell. This means sharing the rights and profits with your publisher and agent, but the advance provides immediate profit and can be more than you could make selling the book on your own. Furthermore, the publisher can help you sell more copies and bears all of the costs of creating, promoting, and distributing the book.

Creative Control

stefan-stefancik-2576251.jpgSelf-publishing means you are in complete control of your book, including the cover design, the price, the metadata, and every word on the page. The downside to this is that unless you are an expert in all these areas, doing it yourself means your book could be lacking in quality or discoverability. Partnering with a traditional publisher means you will work with editorial, production, design, and sales experts who will help make your book the best it can be. But this means you have to be willing to make changes to your book. And while publishers want authors to be happy, the final decision is not always up to you. If you’re not open to compromise, self-publishing may be the better option. But if you’re willing to collaborate to create the best possible book, traditional publishing could be the best choice.

Whatever you decide, think through your resources and goals to before taking action to find the best path for you and your story.

Please note: Holloway Literary does not represent self-published material.

 

Anna is an intern with Holloway Literary Agency.

Contemporary Romance Author Natalie Charles Discusses Finding Your Voice In Fiction

By Natalie Charles

Agents and editors often say they’re looking for a fresh voice. Author, Natalie Charles discusses what this really means on Writer’s Digest. Read the full article here.

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Natalie Charles is the author of three romantic suspense novels and four contemporary romance novels. Her latest book, Seeking Mr. Wrong, is available now. To learn more about Natalie check out her website and follow her on Twitter @Tallie_Charles.

 

Building Your Author Platform

Contrary to popular belief, building your author platform is not the same thing as marketing. It’s all about networking and creating a community of people who believe in the same things your book is saying. If you were to write a young adult contemporary romance, your community might contain young adults with a belief in love at first sight or a weakness for a good ol’ fashioned love story, publishing professionals who specialize in young adult romances, and other authors in the same genre.

When agents or editors are looking at your author platform, we are basically just looking at how visible you are to your target audience. No matter how outgoing you are on social media, if your followers are all outside of this group, it won’t help you sell more books. Ask yourself who you know who will be most interested in your book? Publishing professionals? Other authors? What media outlets are you connected with? Blogs? Newspapers? TV? Radio?

millennials-networking-ftrGrowing your network

When I was first trying to break into publishing I had no solid connections to draw on. Being from middle of nowhere, USA, I had to get creative in finding ways to reach my goal of becoming an agent. After dozens of internship applications proved fruitless, I went through the list of people I already knew to see how I could use the connections I already had to find work in editing. Long story short, I ended up working as the editorial intern at a special needs nonprofit, which gave me the much needed experience on my resume to land me my first internship at an agency. If you’re feeling like you have no connections to draw on, I definitely suggest trying something similar.

Are you part of a writers group? Who do you know at your local bookstore? Library? School? There’s no harm in asking friends and family if they know of anyone you’d be able to connect with. Finding out that your aunt’s co-worker’s cousin published a novel in a genre similar to yours could lead to a fantastic connection for your platform, and a mentor to help you through the publishing process.

Make every effort to attend conferences and talks in your area. You’ll meet some awesome people who will, more than likely, support you as you move through the publishing process. You might also learn about writing organizations that connect writers and will help and support you as well.

Once you have a book published, make it your goal to get out and communicate with your target audience. Book signings at your local bookstore, talks at community venues, and interacting with readers on social media are all great options for being accessible to your readers.

Your online presence

Notepad, laptop and coffee cup on wood table. View from aboveIf you do not have a book published  yet, it can be hard to create an online presence as an author, however you can establish yourself as a writer.  Start out by finding two social media outlets that you enjoy being on. While Twitter is the major social media outlet for publishing, you do not want to select a certain social media outlet only to let it lapse because you do not enjoy spending time on it.

And while it may be tempting, do not post covers, excerpts or titles of your work-in-progress. Once sold, a cover will be created for you, your title may change as well as some of your content. You do not want to post a rough draft of your work online for your readers before your work is ready.

But do write about your writing process and journey to publication.

You will also want to create a website or blog to link your social media profiles to. If you are concerned with content for your website, try starting a blog. If you do not have a book published yet, write about what interests you, or write about subjects that will be featured in your book.

For published authors, a blog is a great place to express your thoughts related to your book, writing, publishing, or whatever topics you want to write about. For example, if your book is centered around food, post your favorite recipes, review your local restaurants… or interview local chefs. If your book is sports related, share interesting sports news and your thoughts on what’s happening. Content ideas for your blog is only limited by what you can imagine.

Every author platform is different, find what works for you and run with it.

Consistency is key

No matter what you’re doing with your author platform, you have to remember that it isn’t something you build in a month or two and then leave alone. Maintaining your platform is part of your job as a writer and so my suggestion is to schedule it into your day as you do with writing or other tasks. Yes, adding yet another thing to your daily to do list sounds daunting, but its a necessary task for getting your message out.

Get your name out there

author-61So, you have some wonderful social media profiles and a website or blog, but how do you draw people to them? Here’s where your connections will really come in handy. Partnering with another author in your genre is a great way for both of you to extend your visibility. You can boost each other’s posts on social media or guest post on each other’s blogs. Your readers can see her name and her readers are introduced to you.

If your book has a set release day, contact your old schools or other places who might benefit from the publicity that comes with having a published author listed among their ranks. Another great option to make sure you’re open to is other media outlets such as interviews, radio, or television. Get creative in utilizing your connections to get in touch with your target audience.

A solid author platform can give you that boost to make agents or editors say yes to your story. Publishing is a business and so if a book or author doesn’t show promise for sales, it’s less likely to be published by a large publishing house. Whether you’re already published or just starting your journey, you can always benefit in building a solid platform through professional networking, social media, fan engagement and online presence.

 

 

 

Six Tips for World Building in Your Fantasy Novel

If you’re a writer of fantasy, you know that world building can make or break your story. Oh, it can be so much fun to create an entirely new world from scratch or just modify an existing world with elements from your imagination. YA fantasy author, Amber Mitchell is a pro at world building and wants to share some of her favorite tips with you!

Read the article in its entirety on Writer’s Digest.

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Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing. She likes crazy hair styles, reading, D&D, k-dramas, good puns and great food.

When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.garden

 

Amber’s first novel Garden of Thorns released on March 6, 2017 with Entangled Publishing. For more on Amber visit her website and  follow her on Twitter @Amberinblunderl.

 

What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

One of the biggest issues writers seem to face is writer’s block. Everything might be going great; words are just flowing through your fingertips and onto the screen (or paper, if that’s what you prefer), when suddenly your muse abandons you like the power in your house during a storm. What was once so clear is suddenly a pitch-black room where your toe keeps finding every piece of furniture, and you can’t find the flashlight. Little did you know, the repeated toe stubbing caused the flashlight to fall from the table and roll under the couch. Of course. It is the luck of many a person and figuratively thousands and thousands of writers. Don’t despair in your dark room though! The power will come back on at some point! But do you really want to wait?

If you are reading this, I assume that you are one of the antsy and impatient fellows How-Freelance-Writers-Can-Overcome-Writers-Blockwho don’t want to wait. Great! You shouldn’t wait! If you let writer’s block stomp all over you all the time, you’ll never get your writing done. While perhaps waiting a day or two won’t hurt and might make things better, but don’t wait more than a week. Anything after that is just precious writing time being thrown to the wind. It’s time you stand up to that bully known as Writer’s Block and win back your muse! Ironically, this blog post is the result of overcoming writer’s block. If I can do it, then so can you!

So what to do now? You’ve waited a few days, and there’s still nothing. Exercise of some sort is always a recommended remedy. But if you’re like me, you’ll find that it only leads to more eating and sleeping and still zero ideas. Showers or baths are also possible cures, but perhaps you’ve already taken a shower today or don’t want waste any more of your writing time. If that’s the case, here are two writing ideas to help get you going on your novel in no time.

Be Silly

Maybe the reason you have writer’s block is because you’re taking your writing too seriously. This is the most common reason for why I get stuck. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you get your idea on paper. In all likelihood, it will be horribly, horribly flawed but fixable. Only fixable at a later date though! Don’t correct your writing as you go! For majority of writers, correcting while writing will only slow you down or bring you to a stand still. I understand that this is easier said than done. There are apps out there like Write or Die that are made just for those struggling to write continuously and without going back to correct things. This app is great, but may not help if you’re already partially through a manuscript and have hit a road block.

This is where my advice to be silly comes in. Wherever you are at in your manuscript right now, throw in something ridiculous. Say your main character’s mother just died, and you’re stuck; nothing you write fits how you think the scene should go. Add in a flying, pizza-loving pig wearing Dorothy’s ruby red slippers singing ABBA. Yes, you read that correctly. I want you now incorporate a fabulous flying pig into that scene. How would that work? Does the pig just crash through that hospital window and just keep on going? Perhaps the pig is a dear friend of the mother’s. Maybe the pig is secretly the doctor who has been disguised as a human all along. How do your characters react? Go nuts with it! The crazier you make it, the better! The only rule while doing this is that you can’t go back and change what you’ve written. If you go back in your writing, the pig will eat one of your characters! Do you want your characters to die? If yes, maybe you should be killing off more of your characters. Start channeling George R. R. Martin! If not, That’s good! You like your characters. No killing needed.

19614154_m           If this is a little (or a lot) too crazy for you, you can tone down this exercise. In place of a flying pig, you can instead have a more realistic surprise play out. Either way, this exercise should get you writing and take off some of the stress of having everything be perfect. You may learn a whole new side of your characters from this crazy encounter that will get you over this block and change how you envisioned the scene/story playing out.

Once you’ve finished this exercise, don’t delete the craziness that you’ve written. Copy and paste the section from your manuscript into a blank document and hold on to it. You never know when that craziness will be needed again. You may even have written something in there that is secretly brilliant and gets incorporated into your novel later on.

 

Side Stories

Another exercise to try is to write side stories as short stories! Is there some event, something, somewhere, or someone in your novel that you wish you could’ve gone into more detail on? Now’s your chance! Write a short story in your novel’s world following one of your characters and incorporating whatever you feel like you’ve missed or were unable to include in your novel in such detail. Perhaps in your novel, your characters were stuck on a ship for a few months. Obviously, you couldn’t include everything that happened over those months in your novel. Write a short story about that. It doesn’t need to be too over the top. Perhaps one of your characters pulled a prank on another character. What happened? How did the prank play out? How did the characters react?

Side stories are a great way to think about the world your characters live in and learn more about your characters and their interactions. Your extra “research” into this world may be what helps you overcome writer’s block.

 

 

 

What Are Agents Really Looking for in Partials and Fulls?

Lots of writers ask why agents bother asking for a partial manuscript. After all, what can agents really find in those fifty pages? Wouldn’t it save a lot of time if agents just asked for the full?

Short answer? No. Not at all. Aside from just saving a lot of time, agents are also looking to see if they want to read more of your work. It’s much easier to give an interesting idea a fair shot when agents know they are only going to be committed to a shorter read. You’ve piqued the interest of the agent in your original query and now they want to see what else you’ve got.

Unfortunately, this seems to lead to heated debates with writers questioning whether or not agents can glean enough of the story to decide whether it’s good or not with only fifty pages.

the-best-note-taking-software_evodify-com_How can an agent fairly judge a book by its beginning? Shouldn’t they just go ahead and commit to reading the whole thing so they can see how things play out?

Another short answer: No, but there’s also a longer answer. Aside from making it easier to process the amount of submissions an agent gets in a day, each stage of the submission process also tells us a lot about your story and how it’s crafted. So what are agents really looking at throughout the query process? Everyone has their own preferences, but generally speaking, agents look for the following:

Requested Pages In Your Query

Now this is not about the query letter. If you want more information regarding the query letter you can look here. This is about the sample pages you copy and paste in the body of the email. With only fifteen pages, agents understand that they’re not going to get much story content here. So what these sample pages boil down to are two things; writing strength and style.

“You mean you’re not looking for clichés and an active beginning and an engaging voice?” I hear you ask. Well yes, but realize all of those things tie into whether or not you can write. And knowing an author can write well is absolutely the first thing an agent needs to establish. One could assume that the “why” is pretty self-explanatory, however I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there are many writers out there who believe that bad writing can be fixed with an editor. I am here to tell you this is not the case. Far from it, in fact. Agents can help edit a manuscript for problems in story-telling, a good round of line edits can help recast minor flaws in sentence structure that impede clarity, copy edits can fix grammatical issues, and proof-reading will make sure all your syntax is in its final place. But if you don’t have the writing basics under your belt, there’s no amount of editing that can fix that. At least, not without resorting to hiring a ghost writer.stock-photo-101277739-woman-using-notebook-computer-taking-notes-at-cafe-working

Partials

Time to start getting a little more picky. Now, agents aren’t just looking at your writing. Now they’re looking for the hook and the heart of your story. I know that for me, personally, if I can’t tell what the story is about within the first 30 pages without re-reading the query, I will recommend a pass. The heart of your book should be apparent by this point in the book. Readers should be able to see a rough outline of the journey they are in store for whether it’s solving a murder, trying to escape a captor, seeking a new life in a new place, or a character’s road to self-discovery; whatever that hook is, readers should have it. You cannot expect anyone to keep reading in hopes that the book will get better. Every page matters, but especially in the beginning when the plot is first starting to come together.

In addition, here are some specific things agents may look at:

  • Pacing (Are we getting bogged down in exposition or a huge info dump?)
  • Characterization (Are they relatable? Can readers get emotionally attached to them? Do they sound real?)
  • Dialogue (Is it reading cheesy? Does it accurately reflect how the character would speak?)
  • Conflict (Are we getting the catalyst that sets this book into motion?)

Fulls

Fulls are fantastic! At this point agents know you can write well, you’ve hooked them into the story, and now they get to sit back and actually READ it and see how everything comes together. The most important thing to look at when reading a full manuscript is how the story works overall. This ranges from how it’s organized and structured to how well both the story as well as character arcs are developed and how plot devices are used. Are there any loose threads left untied at the end of the book? Was each page just as compelling as the last? How much editing does this book need before it’s polished enough to pitch to an editor? And even if all these things are perfect, there is still one last item to check off the list: Chemistry.

Imythofthespoiledchildebookparentingnotesintentionalmamat’s important to realize that there are still a million and one reasons why an agent may still decline representation at this point. You can have the most perfect, well-put together book, and still get a rejection because chemistry is really important. Agents have to LOVE your book, not just like it a whole lot. This is because selling is very hard and if an agent isn’t completely over the moon about it, it makes pitching it to a publisher that much harder. Your book could be completely perfect, but it just may not be perfect for that particular agent.
Rejection is never easy. Agents know and understand how much time and effort it takes into creating a book. No matter what happens, don’t give up. What may not work for one, may work for another. Keep revising and keep querying.

 

 

 

 

Amber Mitchell Discusses Her Journey To Becoming A Published Author

Today we’re talking with Amber Mitchell about her journey to publishing her first novel, Garden of Thorns, hitting shelves on March 6, 2017. Amber graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing. She currently lives in a small town in Florida with her husband Brian and their four cats.


Starting from the very beginning, what inspired you to start writing Garden of Thorns?

Every time I see a movie where there is a big ball room scene and the women are twirling around in their ball gowns, I always thought they looked like flowers. It was one of those things I filed away for a later date.  While I was editing a supernatural novel that I was working on, this voice kept tempting me. It grew so loud that I opened up a different Word.doc and I started writing in Rose’s perspective. Her situation, being trapped where she was, resonated with me so strongly that I had to keep writing to figure out exactly what she was so afraid of. That night I came up with the concept of the Dancing Flowers and the Gardener and never looked back. GARDEN OF THORNS was one of the few books I didn’t plot out completely before I started writing. After I got stuck, I started to plot, but I was surprise at how natural it came to me.
 
What were some of the edits you made in order to polish your manuscript before submitting to agents?
 
I went through a lot of rounds to edit GARDEN before I considered it ready. I knew I had something special with the concept and world but I had a lot of problems with the middle half of my book. After getting some feedback from beta readers I was able to refocus the plot and felt the book was much stronger. I also needed to add more world building in. I’d had touches of Delmar’s religion and culture but I needed to amplify it even more before I sent it out.
 
When you decided to submit your work to agents, how did you narrow down the hugeamber-9491 list of agents to a list of those you wanted to query? How did you keep yourself organized throughout this process?
 
My saving grace was Querytracker.net. I lived on that website. It’s really useful because you can track which agents you query, the status of your query and on what day the agent responds. I updated it every day and spent hours reading the comments people posted and what other agents had requested and rejected. When I felt I was ready to start querying agents, I looked at what they represented first and foremost. I was not making the mistake of sending out a query to someone that didn’t represent my genre. Since I was writing a YA fantasy, an agent that represented both of those genres became a must for me. I shied away from those that liked YA but weren’t into epic fantasy since I wanted to save myself as much heartache as possible. After that, I looked at which agents were the most active, who they represented and sent out my queries.
 
Speaking of queries, what tips can you give other writers who are faced with the daunting task of writing their query letter?
 
Do your research. This is such a big one. And after you’ve done your research, make sure you are personalizing every query you send out there to the best of your ability and following guidelines to the tee. Don’t get disqualified before an agent even lays eyes on your work! The other major thing that I find helpful is to give your query to people that haven’t read your book and ask them if it makes sense with their limited knowledge. That will help you weed out those generic phrases and confusing sentences.
 
gardenYou were signed by Nikki Terpilowski and have been working with her ever since. What is it like working with an agent? Was there anything that surprised you?
 
It’s really nice having someone in your corner that will help you navigate the maze of the publishing world so you can focus on the things that matter (like writing). Since this is my first publication, I had so many questions and Nikki has happily answered every single one. She has always been an awesome advocate, giving me great advice, celebrating my victories and also advising me when to take a step back and let things play out naturally. Even now, I have a hard time letting go of control, not because I don’t trust, but because I care so much. However, I’ve learned to breathe easier knowing that Nikki is on top of things.
 
After your book sold to Entangled Publishing, did you have anything that surprised you about how a publishing house operates?
 
Working under deadline has been a completely new experience for me. I’m a slower writer (I used to think I was pretty fast but I’ve come to reconsider that opinion) so while I would always set myself deadlines, it was nothing like what was expected of me during the editing phase of publication. Then there was the added pressure of knowing that people are relying on me to get my job done so they can complete theirs. I loved the back and forth of completing edits and then receiving comments from my editor a few weeks later. It made the novel feel alive, always changing, always new.
 
The other thing I didn’t expect was how many rounds of edits it would need. I was prepared for the developmental and line edits but the multiple rounds of copy edits took me by surprise. I actually found the copy edits to be the hardest because I could no longer move things around and suddenly, I had to justify why I was changing a word or taking one out.
 
When the edit notes came in, did you have any obstacles that seemed insurmountable? How do you approach editing your story?
 
The first round of developmental edits were big and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t scare me. When I first opened up the email, it felt like I needed to rewrite most of my book, which was only partially true. After re-reading the email and speaking with my husband, what I began to realize is that I needed to re-think all of the decisions I’d made and really figure out what made sense. I needed to reanalyze character motivation and relationships to figure out what all of my main characters wanted. After I started thinking about motivation and how that affected everything in the world, the rest sort of flowed onto the page naturally. It helped that I got permission not to worry about word count!
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What is one “writing tip” you learned from editing Garden of Thorns?
 
The question that kept coming up in editing was what was keeping Rose and Rayce from their goals. Was it just for plot’s sake or did I create an underlying reason for them to be unable to obtain their goals (and each other) in the beginning of the story? When I approached the story for that angle, scenes that were lacking tension suddenly sparked off the page.
 
So the biggest trick I’ve learned from editing GARDEN, is to really dig deep and figure out what is keeping your characters from reaching their goals emotionally, physically, spiritually and societally. Points if you can come up with something that does all four! Make them want whatever they want badly, make it impossible and then join in their triumph as they strive, bleed and stretch to reach the unobtainable.  
 
You mentioned in your earlier interview that you found out how impatient you were during the slow moving process that is publishing. Any advice to writers who find themselves staring at their computer screens?
 
Is there any advice they would like to share with me?
 
I kid, I kid. Mostly…
 
The only thing that has helped me besides very cheap champagne and expensive chocolate is to focus on your next project. I hate this advice because it’s literal torture to follow it, but if you really do unplug yourself from the internet, even 10 minutes at a time to fall in love with something else, it will get easier. Not a lot easier, but enough to function.
 
It seems that publishers and agents alike are always advising authors to be building their author platform. How did you approach this?
 
This is something I’m working on even as I’m typing this interview. I started out in the book blogging community so that is proving helpful. It’s also very prudent to test several different social media sites so you can find out which ones are enjoyable for you to use. Personally, I really like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads so that is what I’ve been focusing on. Try to be active, don’t make every tweet, update or blog post about writing. People want to know the person behind the words.
 
walt disney world - magic kingdom castle fireworksAny exciting plans to celebrate your book’s publication day?
 
I’m going to Disney World with my hubby and friends! No, seriously, I am. Which isn’t a super huge deal since I live in Florida but it seems like a good way to celebrate the fruition of a lifelong dream. I might even get that Gaston plushie I’ve been eyeing and if I want to get really crazy, we might even go to meat sweats (we call Brazilian steakhouses by this lovely moniker) for dinner.

 

For more about Amber and Garden of Thorns check out her website or follow her on Twitter @Amberinblunderl.