Someone on a writer board where I hang out recently heard back from the publisher he really wanted… after a year. And after that long wait, the answer was “revise and resubmit.”
Okay, R&R is a good thing, not a bad thing. But a year? I know publishing moves slowly. I know things take time. I know an editor’s focus must be on contracted books, not slush.
But a year?
That’s… disrespectful. If your own guidelines say four months (which is already completely insane), and you realize you’re going to miss that mark, maybe… close submissions? Hire interns? Do something that acknowledges the value of the writer’s time?
The usual choice is even more rude to the author in the long run, and that’s to not accept any but agented submissions. The writer must find someone who will take 15% (and I am old enough to remember when it was 10%) in return for… well, still waiting for months to hear if a book is going to be bought or not. 15% of potential future earnings in return for what amounts to a foot in the door. The talented will still get through, but circus poodles have to jump through fewer hoops.
And at the same time that I’m completely disgusted with the sheer rudeness of it all, I am reminded of a quote from Terry Pratchett. When I first read this, I was still working in theater, and I laughed out loud in recognition. I find I laugh even harder now, and it’s very difficult to be disgusted and laugh at the same time. I prefer laughing.
“The money in the chorus isn’t very good, is it?!” [Christine] said.
“No.” It was less than you’d get for scrubbing floors. The reason was that, when you advertised a dirty floor, hundreds of hopefuls didn’t turn up.
There is an argument, oft-made by pirates, that by offering an artist’s work for free, that artist is gaining wider exposure and possibly more paying fans than might have otherwise encountered this artist.
I have made the argument before that the only thing an artist gets from exposure is death by pneumonia, but I will say that in the realm of music, this argument has proven to be at least somewhat true.
Here’s why I don’t think it applies to books. If you get a bit of a song in your head, you’re going to go looking for the rest of the song. And then the rest of the album. Songs are discrete elements, complete in and of themselves unless we are talking about Pink Floyd concept albums. A single pirated song could well serve as bait on a hook that, if taken, will result in the listener going out to get the album.
The parallel case in books is not pirated books – it would be single chapters or other kinds of excerpts. And those do work quite well as bait. My book contract specifically says I can use nearly a quarter of the whole book as an excerpt, just to make sure you as a reader reeeeeeeeeeeally want to pay the three bucks to find out how it ends. But no pirate site *I’ve* ever seen does chapters. No one is getting a sample of writing that inspires them to go buy the writer’s book. They’ve got the whole book, right there.
Does that possibly lead to future sales for that writer? It might. But here’s the problem with that for first time writers – if you pirate a first timer’s book, there won’t be a second time.
Sales figures are watched very closely. If someone’s book doesn’t sell, it’s an easy call for the publisher to not extend another contract. But most writers fall into a gray area. Not a runaway success, but not a failure. There’s a line, not a hard and fast one, but definitely a line between someone whose sales aren’t quite good enough and someone whose sales are nearly there.
The hundred pirated copies might have made the difference between a second contract and oblivion.
In conclusion, please don’t pirate my debut novella, or the kitten gets it.
If you are not a friend of Carina Press on Facebook (or of me/my page), then you haven’t seen my cover. My beautiful, beautiful cover:
If you do follow CP on Facebook, then you already saw my comment.
If not – look at the dude on the left. That looks EXACTLY the way Jack looked inside my head. Now look at the guy on the right. Yep, looks exactly like Ryan. Ryan has a hairy chest, but hair on covers is not fashionable. Still, I like men with secondary sexual characteristics, so I’m glad they didn’t twink the model out. Plus the back turned to the viewer looks so protective and sexy to me.
The woman looks like Lila, but Lila is a jeans and bandanna country girl, and would only wear that much makeup to the office party.
The river represents the New River, in southwestern Virginia where our tale takes place.
The swirly thing is the gateway to the parallel universe, the one that poor Jack accidentally steps through. I say poor Jack, because in Jack’s world, he’s married to Lila. In this world, Lila is married to Ryan. In both worlds, Jack and Ryan are best friends…
Overall, I could not be more pleased. I really feel like the artist nailed the cover, a real home run. Also, it proves that artists are better at covers than writers, because the fact sheet I turned over talked about afternoon sunlight, even though the climactic (no pun intended) scene happens by moonlight out on the deck overlooking the river.
I can’t freaking wait for launch! I don’t know how I’m going to survive two more months.
Two months? Well, that’s what it says on the ad banner they gave me:
I have a pair of jeans in my closet, one I bought five years ago or so. I usually buy classic cuts, but in this one case, I bought a trendy style. I really did love them, and when they started getting that velvety horse nose texture on the knees, I stopped wearing them regularly. That was to save them for special occasions, like nights on the town or meeting new people who wouldn’t yet realize I didn’t have a trendy bone in my body.
Then they went out of style, and became errand running pants. But my brain was used to grabbing them for special occasions, and between that and other things, the pants were completely forgotten until I was purging the closet. When I found them, I was briefly confused – why did they look so unfamiliar while at the same time bringing up happy memories? Then something clicked, and I remembered, oh, hello favorite jeans. I’d put them in the wrong part of the closet when we last moved… two years ago. Also, the jeans are closer to ten years old for all I thought it’s only been five years.
At any rate, that feeling of “huh? Oh, YOU, I used to love you” washed over me when I got my copyedited manuscript back from my editor. (Her Heart’s Divide, on sale this June ;)) It felt familiar, comfortable, wonderfully fitting… and like it belonged to someone else. Seriously. I could have been approving changes to a stranger’s manuscript, and at the same time I know I loved this story and these characters like no one has ever loved before. That bit of distance made me fly through the final edit copy.
I’ve read on various writer workshop sites that it takes six weeks for the forgetting/distance process to happen. According to the time stamps on my computer, it took me five. I wouldn’t have believed I could forget one of my children so easily, but not only is it possible, but it’s better for the story. I’m glad I didn’t do that between draft one and draft two – knocking the rust off the part of my brain that lived with the characters would have taken ages. But the next time I get stuck on a story that I want to save, I’m totally going to do what the experts have always suggested and trunk it for five weeks.
The Carina Press blog is hosting various author interviews with CP editors. My turn was posted yesterday afternoon, and I’m all a-squee about it. Here it is!
I can’t say enough good things about her. Having never been through the edit process with fiction, I wasn’t sure what to expect. (With non-fiction, it can go in multiple ways. With some fields, I’m well-known enough that my material goes up without any question or review. That is unfortunate, actually, because I’m as prone to typos and repetition as anyone. With other fields, I’ll get the paper or the magazine to find that my material has been printed with a new title and six missing paragraphs even though I was under the required word count. Eh. It happens.)
The experience I had was so easy that I’m spoiled forever. All of her developmental edits vastly improved the story, as did the line edit. It was quick and easy. Her turnarounds were fast as hell, even though she has a huge number of writers to deal with. Our margin notes read like a sitcom script, only funny.
Her real genius came through in the revise and resubmit letter I got for my second novella. Anyone can edit something that is essentially done (although not everyone can put on a high shine). If the second one sells, it’ll be because of her suggestions.
I’m not her only writer to feel this way. The comment thread on the interview has a bunch of her writers popping up to cheer. Go cheer for her!
I’m a little crazed today, but I hate making the three of you click on my URL in vain. So here’s a link about how the iPad isn’t going to preinstall any particular bookstore, but allow the user to install her favorite app.
Me, I hope readers go directly to the publisher’s website to buy my book, because I will get twice as much money. And by “twice” I mean “nearly a dollar” instead of “not quite enough to get a soda from the machine.” That is true of every digital publisher I know of, by the way. The author’s royalty is double if the buyer got the book from the publisher, because distributors take such a huge cut.
I just wrote to the editor to ask if there was going to be a Carina Press app ;)
I got a preview of my first published novella’s cover last night. /shrieks in glee
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the cover design process – how authors have no input, how art directors will instruct artists to put on certain components because those things sell and not because they are in the story, nobody working on the cover even read the story, and so on.
Also, and you guys know you’ve thought the same thing, there are a lot of baaaaaad covers out there in digital publishing.
The Carina Press blog has been revealing the launch covers one by one, so I was reasonably confident “bad with six As” wasn’t going to happen. Also, I don’t know how this works anywhere else, but I had a “cover fact sheet” I had to fill out describing the setting, the characters, the mood, etc. (More on that in a second.) So I certainly got an opportunity to influence the process.
This fact sheet, by the way, was the same form all Harlequin writers get. Carina is a totally independent part of Harlequin, if that makes sense. My stuff won’t be sold on the Harlequin website, because it doesn’t fit in the very precisely defined parameters for a Harlequin story. Harlequin makes money because their readers have expectations that are consistently met. But Harlequin’s established publishing machinery, such as the team creating the covers and doing the marketing, is being put into play for Carina.
But back to the cover. I’m dying that I can’t post it yet. What I saw was an advance copy, one that is not final because there are still some tweaks to be made. Again, the “authors have no input” meme comes from somewhere, I don’t doubt that, but I was given the opportunity to give feedback on the cover.
Not that I had anything bad to say. It is so perfect, y’all. The one thing I didn’t love was the thing they’ve already decided to tweak. Everything else is terrific. In every way, it evokes the best parts of the story. The models look like my characters to a freakish extent. One of the men looks precisely like I imagined him. So does the woman. The other man has chest hair in the story, and the artist posed that model so that his chest isn’t visible. I had read that hair on cover models doesn’t sell books these days, and I really want to sell books, so I was braced for the idea that both males would be as hairless as twelve year old boys. So you can imagine how excited I am that they represented my character as he was, but in a way that might… sell books.
Now here is the funny thing, for me. The cover depicts a night scene. I just checked my fact sheet – when I mentioned the visual hook, I mentioned the quality of the afternoon light. Most of the scenes happen during the day, in early summer. I talked about how much these characters love the outdoors and they’re always hanging out on a deck overlooking the river.
I conclude either the art team read the book, or my wonderful editor was closely involved. The river is there, but the lighting is moonlight. Two of the most important scenes in terms of showing the dynamic between the three people are at night. This cover gets to the heart of my story in a way that my own fact sheet completely missed.
They need to make the planned tweaks, and then the Carina blog has dibs on the cover reveal before I can post it. I’m just too excited to not post about it this morning, and I thought all three of you would enjoy hearing about the process. Now I’m going to go celebrate by putting down some words on the NEXT story.
I said that one of the things I do to ensure I get paid for my work is to identify five prospective markets for my work right up front. I try to do that before I start writing, and then I finalize the list once I see how the story ended. There are lots of reasons you might change your mind about how suitable a market is – length, smut quotient, etc. Even the stories that start out as general fiction seem to go smutty with me. That’s why I stopped fighting the sex and started submitting it. Anyway.
When you identify your markets, look them up in two places before you start formatting according to the market’s guidelines.
The latter is of course entirely epub, but if you’re not looking to ride the coming digital wave, well, why aren’t you?
I say do this before formatting, only because I once did up a manuscript in an ugly font with bizarre margins, fixed all the chapter breaks, and then I looked it up and realized I was about to submit to someone who’d been sued for nonpayment of royalties. There’s an hour I’ll never get back.
I also mention these helpful links because I keep seeing these little spats here in Authorland about who is and who isn’t signed with a vanity press/author mill/publisher teetering on bankruptcy. Don’t argue about it – look it up. Preferably before you sign away your rights.
As a side note, when I see someone (who invariably cannot write) raging about how Deadbeat Press X is actually this really wonderful place that REALLY CARES about their authors, I make a mental note to strike that publisher from my list of potential options.
We’re supposed to be writers. Posting and blogging are forms of writing. Typos and other kinds of first draft slop are one thing, but I cast a gimlet eye at those unable to maintain a thought for an entire paragraph without changing subjects and verb tenses. I believe that sort of thing is a hint that the writer of the post isn’t ready for professional publication. Anyone who said he *is* ready is a scammer, or at minimum a publisher I’d be ashamed to be seen with in public.
Readers will judge our books based on the company they keep, especially romance and erotica. Try this – go to a message board forum where readers hang out, not other writers. Ask them how often they buy from various publishers. Be sure to include the name of Deadbeat Press X. You will hear in blunt language that they never even look at Deadbeat Press X, because the stuff there is all poorly written, half edited crap.
Being an unpublished writer is better than being “published ugly.”
…is not a publisher in the sense that you would be considered published if you used their services. From an agent blog (the post is old, but I have a reason for bringing it back up):
“You told me that you were previously published by someone like PublishAmerica… and meant it. This is akin to telling me that you would consider yourself previously published if you had Xeroxed pages of your manuscript and stapled them together.”
This applies to Author House as well.
Self-publishing is fine for some purposes. That’s where you retain all copyright, get 100% of the royalties, and do all of the work. It’s a straightforward transaction – you pay to have the book put together, and then if any books are sold, you get all of the money. This sort of thing works well if you want to do a cookbook of Grandma’s recipes and get a copy for everyone in the family. It also may work for established, business-savvy writers with a following and a backlist to reissue. If you are brand new to writing with no established reputation, your average sales numbers will total less than a hundred copies. You don’t have to believe me. This is public knowledge.
Please note that if your one and only book was self-published through Lulu, you are not “published” in the sense that most people mean the word.
Vanity publishing is when you pay the “publisher” for editing (which is optional – they’ll publish anything you write) and what have you, and they pay you a percentage. Typical sales are still under a hundred copies, but it cost the writer more money up front, and he’ll get less from what he does sell.
I’m a little frustrated about this today. I was looking up local writing groups, hoping to find one to join. One group that meets quite near my house has their member bios on the website. I checked the credits of the authors listed as published.
All but one was “published” via vanity publishing. That last one had her first novel “published” through Lulu.
I’m sorry. None of those writers are published, and I can’t imagine spending hard-earned money to join a writer’s group that would think that way.
I have spent years researching the publishing process, agents, professional organizations, and more. I know there is quite a bit of drama over some elements of publishing – for example, I recently learned that my sale to Carina doesn’t count as being professionally published in the eyes of some people because Carina doesn’t pay advances, just royalties. (I’m trying not to rant about that one, though I’m tempted!) I know what the scams are, and I know some basic rules. But when it comes to publishing, what I don’t know would fill a very large library.
It is *my* responsibility to learn. I owe it to myself and to my career.
Giving someone money just so I could say I was published would be pissing all over my dream.