Archive for the ‘publishing’ Category

Interview With My Editor, Melissa Johnson

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!

Categories: Editing, publishing Tags: ,

Why Good Consumers Become Bad Pirates

All the talk about how publishers attempting to charge hardback book prices on ebooks, plus the frustrations of DRM, plus geographical limitations put on digital books (?!) equals frustrated customers who are tempted to create and patronize BookNapster? It reminds me of an image my husband, a devoted movie lover, sent me a few weeks ago:

Yep. That’s about the size of it, right there.

We buy movies and books in this household, but let me tell you something. I bought a laptop from Craigslist last year, and when I told the seller I’d be bringing a DVD to test the drive, told me not to worry about it, he had one he’d throw in with the computer. I met up with him, tested everything else, and then hit play on the DVD program.

A movie that had opened that day started playing. Arr, me hearties. I still bought the computer – he had original discs and reg codes for the software.

But I didn’t throw out the pirated DVD. Actually, I forgot about it until my little guy figured out how to start the movie on my laptop, and then he got interested. Now it’s one of his favorites, and I swear I meant to buy a legit copy. But something bad happened. When my kid wants to watch one of the movies we’ve bought, it can take up to ten minutes – TEN MINUTES – to get the stupid thing playing. When my kid wants to watch the movie the nice Craigslist pirate gave us, we press play. I have four different jobs, and I don’t have a nanny. That ten minutes can be the difference between a deadline met and a deadline blown.

I won’t say I’d pay *extra* to be able to cut straight to the movie – a DVD is already twenty bucks at Best Buy – but I’d make a point of buying from a company that let me skip everything that wasn’t the movie.

I’ll post more on this topic eventually, but for now, I’m just going to say that I bitterly resent the fact that content companies, be they movie, book, or music, have gone so far around the bend trying to keep people from stealing (that’s what piracy is, stealing) that accessing and sharing your own material is a giant hassle. I honestly think Carina’s lack of DRM is going to help me, not hurt me, as an author.

That’s How You Know It’s Fantasy

My editor on Her Heart’s Divide, who is seriously the most fantastic editor I have worked with in ten years (go ahead, ask me about insightful criticism that turns a passage from acceptable to the high point of my writing day), is nearly as overscheduled as I am. Multitasking, fragmented scheduling, the whole caboodle.

She mentioned in the context of a promotional thing that she had some really specific things she loved about my book. Now, in an attempt to spare her my deep seated neurotic tendencies, I had never asked what she liked about the book. She’d given me plenty of positive feedback, but it was all about my writing, and not really the story.

I asked her if she’d mind sharing the specifics. At the exact moment I asked, she was on her way out the door, so she had to be pithy. She said she “loved how Lila was married but horny, and how Ryan had thick muscles, black hair, and he runs errands.”

Hey, who doesn’t love a dude who runs errands?

iPad Options, Bookstore Apps, and Me

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 😉

“Covered” In Happy

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.

Categories: publishing Tags: ,

Deciding On Your Five Markets?

March 16, 2010 1 comment

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.

Bewares and Background Checks (specifically, look here in the index)

Piers Anthony’s Internet Publishing

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.”

Categories: publishing Tags: ,

PSA: Publish America…

March 11, 2010 2 comments

…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.