Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thoughts on Being a Hybrid Writer by Elizabeth S. Craig

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

A hybrid writer (a term coined by author Bob Mayer) is someone who is both traditionally published and self-published.  Sometimes this is in reference to writers who started out traditionally published and then self-published their expansive backlists. But there are also writers who started out self-published, developed a strong audience, and were picked up by traditional publishing houses. 

Pros for being a hybrid writer: 

I received a solid introduction to my genre’s readers and some name recognition from being traditionally published that helped readers find my self-published books.

I received free editing from (usually) skilled editors as a traditionally-published writer. What we learn from them can help us write better books.

Being traditionally published means distribution to physical bookstores and libraries and the chance to connect with readers who don’t use e-readers (to me, this is becoming less-important as more readers go digital).

Prices for our self-published books look fantastic next to our more-expensive traditionally-published books at online retailers.

Since traditional production can take as long as a year or more, this makes a good opportunity to write a self-published book.

The times I’ve been invited to speak at libraries or conferences or other events, Elizabeth the Trad-Published Writer is usually the one who is invited. It annoys me, but frequently I sell my self-pubbed books alongside the trad-pubbed ones after the event. 

And some cons:

If we’re not yet published, becoming a traditionally published author means a time-consuming process of querying (agents and/or publishers), rejections, contract negotiation, and a long production period usually spanning the length of a year. 

Traditionally-published projects can and do interrupt self-pub projects because deadlines are in the contracts.

Royalties are smaller for traditionally published books. Advances are paid in installments, not all at once. In addition, you may have an agent if you have a traditionally published deal…and the agent will take 15%. I think of the lost income as advertising costs (since those books help with visibility and discoverability).  

We have no control over the finished project for traditionally published books.  We have little input on covers, formatting, whether DRM is on the digital books, print runs, etc. 

Ways to make it work:

If you’re writing series and switching back and forth between series, consider outlining the next book in the series as soon as you’ve finished a book in that series (and while your mind is still in that story world). 

Be somewhat vague about the release dates of your self-published books.  There can be delays from interruptions by the trad-pub production schedule.  Better to say “to release fall 2015” instead of “October 1, 2015.” 

Newsletters inform readers of our traditionally published books that we have other, self-published, books. 

Some of the profit from self-publishing results from getting our books on as many platforms as we possibly can.  It can be tough to juggle two or more series and we need to make sure our content is working as hard for us as it can.  Explore audio (through ACX), print (CreateSpace and Lightning Source are two popular print platforms), and ebook retailers beyond Amazon. 

Be diligent with your trad-published contract.  Search for non-compete terms, which attempt to shut down self-publishing.  If you have an agent, you still need to read your contract to make sure that these phrases aren’t in there. 

A reminder:  If you go the hybrid writer route, you don’t always have to stay a hybrid.  If you feel you’ve gotten all you need from the experience, you could stop pitching publishers and just continue self-publishing.

Are you traditionally published? Self-published?  Both?  How do you make it all come together? 

Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin/NAL, the Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin/Berkley, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently.  She blogs at  Elizabeth makes her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband and two teenage children.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Simply Novice Mistake

In 1992 I wrote a political thriller called Kiss of the Assassin. One of its subplot centres around the Soviet Union's involvement in the Vietnam War and later the union's eventual collapse.

After months of research, years of editing, six workshops, revisions, and help with my query letter, I submitted to every agent/publisher in my genre. The response back was the same, “Sorry, no one's interested in Vietnam.”

This year, because of a renewed interested in the War, I pulled Kiss from the shelf and subbed a few chapters to my online writer's group.

Footnote: In the 90s if you told me what company you served with in Vietnam, I could estimate where you were and what major incidents you may have encountered during your tour. 

Twenty years has passed since I began Kiss, fifteen years since I set it aside. Why couldn’t I, considering the initial response of my writer’s group, do a quick proofread and start querying?


One of my beta readers read an article recently first published in 2006 by a Russian defector on the killing methods of the KGB. While my research on the Soviet Union was thorough in the 90s, that article alone proved I no longer had command of my subject matter.

Information revealed in the article stated that the KGB assassins used undetectable radioactive compounds that mimicked cancer and killed within days. My assassin in Kiss of the Assassin uses an empty syringe. This is not a huge blunder by itself, but coupled with the two other inconsistencies he found would have shattered my credibility as a writer.

After two published novels, a collaboration, a silver medal for my 2nd novel, I know I can write. But had I sent out this manuscript without fixing the inaccuracies, I would have either ruined my chances of finding a publisher or proven I was an unreliable storyteller.

Before assuming your edited, critiqued, revised manuscript (no matter how young) is ready to submit, always, always, always seek the help of beta readers you trust; or better, if you can afford it, hire a professional fiction editor.

Don't allow even the smallest of novice mistakes to ruin your chances. Never submit your manuscript too soon. 

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Late Blooming Novel by Janice Hardy

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

There's a lot of advice and support on how first drafts are supposed to be messy. It's just a brain dump onto the page, and after we get the story down we can figure out how to make it "perfect."

I wholeheartedly agree with that, but just because we've gotten one draft done, doesn't mean we can perfect it in a single round of edits. Most drafts take several passed before they're ready, and trying to be "perfect" while you're still figuring out how a story works puts undue pressure on a writer.

Truth is, a novel will take as many drafts as it needs. For some novels (and writers) that might be one, for others it might be twenty. No drafting process goes exactly the same every time, and it's unrealistic (and unfair) for us to think so.

If you're faced with a novel that needs multiple drafts to get right, don't feel bad about it, or feel like you've failed in some way. You haven't. Some novels just take more time than others.

I like to call these novels late bloomers.

They often start out ugly, stumble along and can't really figure out who they are or where they fit. They make us doubt their worth, we try to change them or force them to fit what we think they ought to be. Then one day, the right pieces fall into place and everything works. The novel becomes beautiful, rich and vibrant, and everything we always knew it could be.

How can you tell if you have a late bloomer novel?

You love the idea, and you refuse to give up on it just because something isn't working yet. 

A late bloomer novel resonate with you on a deep level. It's often the book of your heart and you know if you can just get it done right, it will be an amazing book. Trust that instinct.

You have a nagging suspicion you're still missing something important about the story.

Odds are you're right, and your subconscious is working like mad to figure out what. Sometimes you need to step back and let a manuscript sit for a while until you find that missing piece that makes the novel work. 

You sometimes want to set it on fire, but you still go back and work on it after that urge has passed.

You hate it. You love it. It makes you cry. But you can't shake it and you refuse to give up on it.

You're trying to force it to be what you think it is vs what it actually is.

Some late blooming novels know exactly what they want to be if we'd only listen. Maybe you don't think you can write in that genre or for that age group, or maybe you always thought it was about X character instead of Y character, but something you don't want to let go of is what's holding the novel back. Embrace the core of that story and see where it leads you.

If you truly feel a novel is worth and the pain and frustration, you might have a late bloomer that's worth that pain and frustration. Believe in yourself, believe in the story, and enjoy the beauty when it's finally ready for the sun.

Do you have (or have written) a late blooming novel?

Looking for more tips on revising or planning your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions! 

Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She is also a contributor at Pub(lishing) Crawl, and Writers in the Storm

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rewrite an Old Manuscript or Let it Die?

Should I rewrite that old manuscript or let it die? This is a question many of us writers ask ourselves because the first book—or even the first couple of books—end up being a trial run. It may not feel it at the time of writing, but it’s where we first implement the storytelling rules we thought we’d learned, or ignore them completely out of ignorance rather than genius. More often than not, the first book doesn’t end up getting published. We move on to original ideas, we develop our skills as storytellers, our characters start to breathe realism. But those early manuscripts often stay in our hearts and sing sweet nothings to get us to work on them again.

If you’re tempted to listen to the croon, then be aware that it can often be harder to fix the broken has-been than to start a new project. Of course, it depends on the state of its brokenness. I tried to rewrite an old manuscript but it didn’t turn into the gem I know it could be. At the time, I hadn’t realized how much extra work was required to spit and polish the tarnish off, how flat the characters were, or how stiff the dialogue was, or even how hard it was to kill those darlings.

There’s a certain brutality required to work on an old manuscript. First we need to scrub off the rosy tint on our eyes, then we need to delve in where it matters most and ask those difficult questions:

Does the manuscript need a new foundation? That is, is the story as a whole original enough to be worth salvaging, or are there now a gazillion and one similar stories out there already? If it doesn’t stand on its own in the crowd, then can I come up with a twist or a change big enough to give it the strength it needs to shine?

How strong am I when it comes to killing my darlings? Because many darlings will have to die in the reshaping of an old manuscript. Those gorgeous page-long descriptions will have to go. That quirky dialogue that has no real place in the story will have to go. That awesome character who adds nothing to the plot will have to go. That wonderfully hilarious scene that no longer fits will have to go. If you have a powerful attachment to those darlings and aren’t willing to let them go, then it might be best to let the manuscript languish for a while longer.

How much time will it take to fix and how much time am I willing to give? If you’re looking for a quick project to knock off during a short break and think resurrecting an old manuscript is the trick, think again. Reworking an old manuscript can sometimes take as long, if not longer, than writing a new project. For starters, there’s all that pulling apart and putting back together again. Go in with your eyes open.

The little stuff is easy to fix—the weak grammar, the typos, the descriptions that don’t quite capture the moment. However, you’ll need a special passion to shape up those deeply-loved-yet-often-sloppy early creations.

Have you ever tried to resurrect an old manuscript? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Publishing in the International Market by Alexander Slater, Literary Agent

Publishing in the International Market
Literary Agent, Trident Media Group

Think of the world as your marketplace. If your book has an audience in the United States, it can likely find an audience in other countries as well, and the possibilities for growing your career on an international scale are strong when you have an enthusiastic representative with the right connections acting on your behalf. The process is simple on the surface, but the dedication it takes to make the best foreign deals seems more and more uncommon as the industry evolves. Recognizing the importance of that dedication is simply the first step.

To give you the basic rundown, when a publisher buys the rights for your book at home, they can make any number of different offers for your property. If you sell them the world, all language rights, you are trusting the US publisher to be that enthusiastic representative and to take the material to houses in the UK, Germany, Japan, etc. If you keep the translation rights, then your agent will use their skills to submit and negotiate, hopefully, deal after deal after deal. The acquisition process you just went through in the US will then repeat again in an office in Munich or Paris or anywhere: acquisition, offer, agreement and acceptance. Then an entirely new office in a foreign land will prepare your work for their specific readership, and that means hiring a translator, preparing art and catalog copy to suit their specific tastes, and bringing to the public the words you may have never even dreamed would one day be in Chinese. Or Arabic. Or Tagalog. However, it doesn’t, and shouldn’t end there. Just like your career at home, your work abroad needs to be managed, molded, and fought for. It can take upwards of two years from accepting a foreign offer to actually holding a translated edition of your book in your hands. Foreign publishers are known to be slow, but getting fan mail from Brazil, or touring bookstores in Sweden, make it all worth it.

All markets are different. Not many foreign publishers jump at the chance to invest in books about American football or presidents. The US cover art that perfectly encapsulates your story or brand at home might be rejected outright by the publishers in Italy or Poland. It’s usually best to listen to them and trust their expertise. When the world is your market, you must subscribe to the idea that new eyes will approach your story in a completely different way, and an open and accepting mind will always allow for the learning and growth that comes with travel.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Working with Small Publishers - Twelve Pros and Cons

Working with a small publisher can be both rewarding and frustrating. We didn’t need an agent (for the most part) and we didn’t have to learn the ropes of self-publishing. But there are limits and we have to weigh our options.

I invited twelve authors to share the best and the worst thing about working with a small publisher.

Michael Offutt
Double Dragon Publishing

What's the best thing about working with a small publisher? I've only published two books with my small pub. I think the best experience was the amount of freedom I had in helping design the cover art. It's pretty much spot on for the feel I get from the book.

What's the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Again with my small pub, the only negative thing has been lack of support in the marketing department. Marketing though is pretty hard to do with books (a thing I've learned over time), so I don't blame them at all. Any and all marketing rests with me.

Donna K. Weaver
Emerald Arch Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? My publisher was wonderful to work with. They knew me like a large publisher never could. They solicited my input and listened if I had concerns. I felt respected and valued as an author. Since, for me, it was very much about the experience, this was just the way I should go.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? A small publisher doesn't have as many connections or as much pull as a larger publisher. They're less likely to have much, if any, marketing budget, so the authors have to do most of that. Of course, anymore, even if you publish with a large publisher you have to do a ton of marketing.

Jamie Ayers
Curiosity Quills Press

The best thing about working with a small publisher is the smallness! I remember the excitement my editor had for my trilogy from the moment she offered me representation and thought there was no way I'd get that much enthusiasm for a debut author such as myself at a big publisher. I'd have been a very tiny fish in a HUGE sea. Less authors also meant my first book would get published in eight months verses a couple years.

The most negative thing for me is not being stocked on bookstore shelves across the country . . . it makes visibility difficult and the job falls almost completely on my shoulders to get my name out there.

Charity Bradford
WiDo Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? I loved having a team of people help me improve my novel. Knowing that I wasn't doing it alone took a lot of pressure off of me. The editor was wonderful to work with and I ended up with an amazing cover.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? For the most part I loved every aspect of the process. One negative is that sometimes I don't receive answers to my emailed questions. They are busy working on the upcoming books, and I often don't feel they have the time for me. A large publisher would be the same way though.

Susan Gourley
New Concepts Publishing, Crescent Moon Press, and Musa Publishing

For me, the very best thing about working with a small publisher is the personal attention I receive. The editors take a personal interest in not only my current books but my career and future books. Their quick attention to my questions and concerns makes me feel like I'm important part of the company and not merely an employee or the producer of a product they sell.

On the negative side, though my books can be ordered in brick and mortar stores, I've seldom seen my books on the shelves of a physical store. This used to bother me more than it does now. Most of my sales are in the digital market any way.

Heather Gardner
InkSpell Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? - The individual attention. I'm on a first name basis with the CEO of my publishing company. I send an email and they send one back. We work closely together to create the very best product for publication. They want me to succeed because it benefits them as well.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? - The constant fear of them closing their doors unexpectedly. Small publishers don't have a lot of capital backing them up. A few poor sales months could have them closing their doors. It's in my best interest to support the publisher, by doing as much self-promotion as I can, so they will be successful, then I will benefit as their client.

Nicki Elson
Omnific Publishing and Swoon Romance

A pro of small pub vs. big pub is that small publishers tend to move faster and get books out to market sooner. I suppose a con would be lack of distribution and shelf space at brick & mortar stores, but I don't see being in a brick & mortar as important in today's book market.
The pro of a small pub vs. self-publishing is having free access to the publisher's team of editors, publicists, and publishing expertise to ready your book for the world and help shepherd it out there. The con is that you give up control on choices on things like book cover, pricing, timing, etc.
What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? My favorite thing has been the camaraderie with other authors at the publisher. We look out for each other and have been great supports for one another.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Like with any small company, some small pubs don't gracefully transition into a bigger business. Some handle growth better than others, and sometimes growing pains are..well, painful.

Tara Tyler
Curiosity Quills Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? The best thing is I got published! But also, I think I have a lot more say in cover design and content. Plus a lot more contact with upper management, and they answer questions quick.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Drawbacks would be not having the shelf space or advertising contacts and prowess of a big publisher. Here famous reviewer, read this book and give it a critique in a popular magazine... now that would be awesome!

Patsy Collins
Creative Print Publishing and Alfie Dog Publishing

Pro - There’s likely to be less competition, so your work is more likely to be read and it’s more likely you’ll get some kind of feedback even if your work isn’t selected for publication. When your work is published you’re more likely to have input into things such as cover design, release dates and title. You get more individual attention and build a relationship with the publisher, rather than just being one of many authors who is handled by a whole team of employees.
What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? You get to speak directly to a person who can make a decision and can form a relationship with that person.

Cons. Much smaller budget for marketing etc. It’s less likely that your books can be offered for sale at the large discounts demanded by many bookstores, so your books won’t be so widely available on the High Street.
What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Much smaller budget for marketing etc. It’s less likely that your books can be offered for sale at the large discounts demanded by many bookstores, so your books won’t be so widely available on the High Street.

Donna M. McDine
Guardian Angel Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? I’ve enjoyed the “family” feel of working with a small publisher. The publisher and the fellow authors are always there for moral support and to answer questions.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? In my opinion there is still a stigma that a small publisher is self-publishing. Not that there is anything with self-publishing. There have been many successful authors that have self-published. I’d also say not having a marketing team behind you is a downfall. But from what I understand even the big publishers don’t provide them as in-depth anymore. A lot of the marketing fall solely on the author.

C. Lee McKenzie 
Evernight Teen

Pros: It's quicker with the small publishers. You don't grow gray while waiting for your book. If you find the right one, they provide excellent covers and some marketing/promo.
They're accessible. I usually get answers to my questions within a day.

Cons: You have to be more careful about editing the book yourself. Double check and when in doubt, hire an outside editor.
You have more and more marketing to do with a small publisher. I'd book your own blog tour at the get go.

Alex J. Cavanaugh
Dancing Lemur Press LLC.

Pros: They’ve been willing to stick with me and continue promoting my series. I know that with bigger publishers, the marketing timeframe is small. And if I’d self-published, I would’ve given up ages ago! They've continued to market and support me though.

Cons: There are a lot of sites and venues that my publisher can’t access. Some I’m sure they just can’t afford. But it limits my books’ exposure to readers.

Those are some of the positive and negative aspects and from people who’ve gone down the small press path.

What are some of your pros and cons working with a small publisher? Would you consider going that route now?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day and IWSG Critique Circle

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax!

One of the advantages of belonging to a group like this is the connections. You have a common ground with other authors and can easily find those who write in your genre.

If you are looking for a critique partner, cruise through the IWSG list and visit members’ blogs. (We also have the IWSG Facebook Group with over two thousand members.)

In addition, we paired with another group and started the IWSG Critique Circle. This group is dedicated to matching people up with the best critique partners possible. If you’re looking for partners or will be in the near future, please join this Facebook group as well.

Anyone looking for critique partners? If you have some, where did you find them?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Beauty Of Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a form which is deceptively complex.

The beginning of every flash piece is like setting down an untravelled path towards an unknown destination. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, yet you have no idea what’s around the corner.

What triggers the story: a line of dialogue, a picture prompt, a single word, the line of a song?

What genre will emerge? A slice of humor, a slip of fantasy or a sliver of horror?

Whose point of view? A child? An object?

What types of ideas will come out? Extended sentences, like a throng of impatient learners, rushing through the school gates at the end of a long and tiring week. Or short phrases. Tip toe. Wary. Exploratory. Scanning the corridors of a new flash adventure.

Who knows? Writing flash fiction presents infinite possibilities which outnumber the sand grains scattered across Arabia.

And that is what I love about flash fiction – the unknown, the thrill, the risk.

In good flash fiction, most of the story occurs in what isn't there. We are talking about fiction that utilizes negative space. It’s a beautiful enigma that hints... leaves you wondering...

Expect to be taken by surprise as you savor this tasty morsel which is short on words but long on depth. It’s concise. Squeezes out any excess, yet maintains the succulence. Hacks away at the clutter until the core is revealed.

If you’ve hit a dry spot, it revs up your creative processes. It’s easier to maintain your focus for tiny word bites, than over a full-course meal of chapters and verses.

Language becomes precise and sparse. When we are forced to write within a limited frame every word becomes charged with intention and meaning. Pay close attention to detail and examine every single syllable in every word.

The fiction reaches out and grabs! It can be a gut punch or a passionate kiss, but the reader must feel something.

Imagine this scenario. You experience a fleeting moment of inspiration... maybe you’re in the shower, or just relaxing at the beachfront, minding your own, and an idea sneaks in. You plan to ignore it, but it anchors itself firmly. It refuses to disappear. However, you have no desire to extend this into something longer.

Don’t disregard it.

Seize the moment. Jot down the idea. See where it takes you.

Enjoy the ride!