“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” ― Mary Harris (Mother) Jones

Archive for July, 2014

How Not to Get Happily Published

Education Concept. Read Books Sign.Now that what used to be sneered at as vanity publishing has been embraced by the mainstream, one thing that has been lost in all of the discussions that have gone before is that there are other options besides the two that have been the center of attention for all this time. By that, I refer to a fair number of digital presses that operate using the best elements of traditional publishing while adjusting their processes and their relationships with authors so that the end result is to everyone’s benefit.

However, all too often, writers who are interested in doing all the work of publishing themselves but who, for whatever reason, aren’t all that interested in seeking the attention of the Big Five have some misconceptions about how the digital publishing industry does business. Some of this is in the form of myths I will attempt to clear up.

If you think you might be interested in working with one of the small presses, look for the Digital Publishers Association page on Facebook.

1. The publisher is not your enemy. To listen to some people, many of them self-published authors who either gave up after their book was rejected over and over and/or decided they’d make more money doing it themselves, publishers are all crooks who steal the bulk of the sales money and are determined to screw authors any way they can. This is a lie. Not that there aren’t crooked “publishers,” or (more often) people who thought they knew enough to start calling themselves publishers but end up tanking for lack of business skills. However, the publishers I know are in the business because they love books and want to help authors get published.

2. The publisher is not your friend. Since the early days of the independent ebook industry, circa 1996, it was repeated frequently how much more author-friendly they were than the major publishers. This mantra has led to a belief that a small press, whether print or ebook or both, is willing to let an author dictate such things as cover art and editing. Wrong. Publishing is a business, and the publisher is the final authority with regard to how that business operates. If you can’t accept that, then self-publishing is likely a better option.

3. Small presses are desperate for manuscripts, so you can ignore their guidelines. Oh, lordy, I wish. With the exception of ebook-only presses with large monthly publishing schedules, small presses almost always have more queries for submission than they can deal with. They also are nearly always run by a handful of people—sometimes only one person—so they are going to be particularly fussy about having those guidelines followed.

4. Small presses are more willing to accept first-time authors. True. However, that doesn’t mean you can type “the end” and send them your first draft. Or worse, send them the first three chapters of a work in progress. What—do you think they’re going to provide you with a free critique or editing service. Dream on. The standards at small presses are no different from the ones you would apply before approaching an agent or a traditional house. They expect well-written, professionally prepared manuscripts. That means either finding a good critique group or paying someone qualified to edit your work. Your high school English teacher may do a bang-up job correcting your spelling and grammar and punctuation, but unless he or she also teaches creative writing—and maybe not even then—he or she isn’t qualified to edit a manuscript.

5. You don’t need to know grammar and such to be a writer. Right. And you don’t need to go to medical school to be a doctor or take flying lessons to be a pilot. I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who think they can be the next best-selling author without ever mastering the tools and rules of the writing trade. Because it is a trade, people. It’s a job that requires very specific skills that must be learned the same way a musician learns to play the piano—practice. This bit of nonsense is usually accompanied by the belief that as long as the writer has a great story idea, the publisher will take care of editing it into shape. If I ever lay hands on the moron responsible for that misinformation, I will squash him/her between volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

I may add to this list as life progresses, but based on my discussions with other publishers these are the top five. That is, the ones that will get your query or submission deleted or tossed without hesitation. Ignore them at your peril.

Book Review: Nobody’s Child by Libby Fischer Hellmann

I promised Libby Hellmann a book review in exchange for a free download of an ARC. It’s taken me far too long to make good on my promise, for which I apologize to Libby.

This is the fourth book in the Georgia West series, of which I have not read the first three. So, this was my introduction to the lady, and I must say I’m very glad we met. It’s quite a complex story, but then, when should hardly expect anything else from such a complex character. Although there are times when I find Georgia irritating, it’s the kind of irritating when experiences with a really good friend who happens to have a number of personality quirks that seem to always be getting in their way. In Georgia’s case, the biggest quirk is the all-two-common one of not trusting other people to do things the way we think they should be done.

Briefly, this novel is something of a story within a story within a story in which a number of apparently disparate situations and issues are discovered to be not as disparate as they looked at first glance. Complicating them is Georgia’s receipt of a note purporting to be from a sister she never knew she had. When a DNA test of a spot of blood found on the paper indicates that it did, in fact, come from someone very closely related to her, Georgia is determined to track down this young woman calling to her for help.

What ensues is guaranteed to keep you reading… And reading… And reading. In fact, anyone who, like me, tends to lack any sense of self-discipline when it comes to reading had better just set aside a day or three to get through this book, because you are not going to want to put it down. It is a complex and engrossing story of fascinating characters involved in dangerous situations that will keep you turning pages until you reach the end. My only nitpick was that it was sometimes difficult to keep track of the chronology, as sometimes days and even weeks would pass without that passage of time being quite as clear as they could have been. However, as I said, it’s a nitpick, and it wasn’t a sufficiently noticeable issue to be more than irksome.

So, but this book on your must-buy list, even if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series. Trust me, this is not only a perfectly fine place to start, but it’s guaranteed when you’re done, you’ll want to go back and read the first three, if you haven’t already done so.

My Opinion:

Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended