It goes without saying that, first, you have to write the book. But if you are at that glorious stage where the book is actually written (and edited, and redrafted) then you might be asking – now what?
So, here is some handy info to help you answer that question:
Stage 1: Submission
- Read the subs guidelines! I know they’re annoying and it’s a pain to have to format (I submit too, so I have a lot of sympathy for the never-ending task of re-formatting things) but it really does make reading easier.
- And on the same note, please send the amount asked. If the guidelines wants 10,000 words, a little under or over is fine…but don’t send your entire manuscript.
- Having a synopsis is nice; it gives the reader some idea of how the story unfolds. They often won’t have time to read the entire thing, so the first 30 pages and a synopsis is excellent.
- Tell them something about you; you don’t have to seem quirky, but just some insight into who you are is nice. However, your work will speak for itself, so if (like me) you’re fairly self-conscious when it comes to showing off, you won’t miss out by not giving a huge bio.
- And lastly (again) – read the guidelines! You want to make the publisher’s job as easy as possible – and that means sending what they’ve asked for. Yes, it sucks when every single submission wants a different style and set of information, but them’s the breaks. Just do it.
Stage 2: Waiting. And waiting. And more waiting.
However, there is quite a lot going on behind the scenes…
- Slush-pile read; this is simply someone working through the submissions. At this stage, if you get rejected then you’re likely to get a form rejection. It sucks, but take it as a learning opportunity. Was there anything you could have done better? Did you submit to a publisher who might not want your genre or type of story? Are there better forums for your work? Or, put bluntly, does your work stink? (Most awful writers seem to believe they’re amazing, so if you’ve got a healthy dose of self-doubt then you’re probably fine.)
- The deafening silence. If you don’t get an immediate rejection, take heart; they’re considering your work. Most publishers will have guidelines for when you can bug them; please do remember that reading takes time, and the publisher might have 50 or 100 things to read!
- Request for a full manuscript. Yay! They liked it!
- Acceptance or rejection! You may get more feedback at this stage; most publishers are too busy to go into much detail, but they won’t lie – so if they say they liked it, then they liked it. Usually the choice simply comes down to tone or style. Again, treat it as a learning opportunity; was there anything you could have done better? What could you improve?
Stage 3: Editor’s read
Your story will get read by The People Who Matter – usually the editor(s). The manuscript may come back to you with comments; you might need to change a lot or a little, and then it goes back to the editor. This could be repeated multiple times, and you might find that it’s a repeat of your alpha- and beta- process…but this is up to the individual editors, and up to you how much you want to change your story. Again; you are the author, and you have the final decisions on changes. Take their comments into consideration, and weigh up how much you want to be published against how much your story is changing. Hopefully, your story is good enough that the edits will be minor!
Stage 4: Book creation
This involves quite a lot of administration, usually involving external services. The big publishing houses will have in-house copy-editors and cover-artists, and it’s rare that the author is involved here. With a smaller indie press, more of this work is done externally, and there’s more chance for the author to be involved.
- Copyedit & proofread (again!).
- Typeset – and you’ll usually get a PDF proof at this point to check on the typesetting.
- Cover produced.
- Manuscript sent to printers, and – if you’re doing hard copy – a proof is produced.
Stage 5: Publication!
Hard copies get distributed to shops, and records get created in electronic stores. You’ll be given a release date and whatever copies you’re entitled to; you may get paid at this stage if it’s a flat fee, or if you’re getting royalties then they will trickle in. And you get the wonderful satisfaction of seeing your book in print or on the screen; it’s out there for everyone to read.
And if you’ve got this far, congratulations! You’ve got a piece of your writing published.
Everything you need to know about Self Publishing, right here:
In Part 1 we had a little self-publishing history and info. In Part 2 we start to drill down to the nitty-gritty. So for the specifics and some recommended providers, read on.
Designing an E-Book Cover
There are a number of special considerations for e-book covers, not least of which is how little control you have over how the cover displays. People may see your cover in black and white, grayscale, color, high-resolution, low-resolution, thumbnail size, or full size. It needs to be readable at all sizes and look good on low-quality or mobile devices. For these reasons (and many more), it’s best to hire a professional to create an e-book cover for you. One designer I frequently recommend is Damon Za.
Maximizing Your Sales
With print books, your success is typically driven by the quality of your book, your visibility or reach to your readership, and your cover. With digital books, the same factors are in play, plus the following:
- If you check the e-book bestseller lists, you’ll see that independent novelists charge very little for their work, usually between 99 cents and $2.99. Some argue this devalues the work, while others say that it’s appropriate for an e-book from an unknown author. Whatever your perspective, just understand that, if you’re an unknown author, your competition will probably be priced at $2.99 or less to encourage readers to take a chance. Typically, the more well known or trusted you are, the more you can charge. Note: Nonfiction authors should price according to the competition and what the market can bear. Sometimes prices are just as high for digital editions as print editions in nonfiction categories.
- As of this writing, Amazon Kindle accounted for at least 60–70% of e-book sales in the United States. Your Amazon page (especially as displayed on a Kindle) may be the first and only page a reader looks at when deciding whether to purchase your book. Reviews become critical in assuring readers of quality, plus the Kindle bestseller list is watched closely by just about everyone in the business and can be a key driver of visibility and sales.
- Price + Amazon. Amazon is well known for paying 70% of list to authors who price their e-books between $2.99 and $9.99. The percentage plummets to 35% for any price outside this range, which is why you find authors periodically switching their price between 99 cents and $2.99. They maximize volume and visibility at the low-price point (and attempt to get on bestseller lists), then switch to $2.99 to maximize profits.
This is but a scratch on the surface of the many strategies and tactics used to sell and market self-published work. Read these guides for in-depth coverage.
Should I Set Up a Formal Imprint or Publishing Company?
Much depends on your long-term plans or goals. You don’t have to set up a formal business (e.g., in the United States, you can use your Social Security number for tax purposes), but serious self-publishers will typically set up an LLC at minimum.
For the basic information on how to establish your own imprint or publishing company, read Joel Friedlander’s post, How to Create, Register, and List Your New Publishing Company. It also discusses the ISBN issue.
What About Agents Who Offer E-Publishing Services?
Increasingly, agents are starting to help existing clients as well as new ones digitally publish their work. Help might consist of fee-based services, royalty-based services, and hybrid models.
Such practices are controversial because agents’ traditional role is to serve as an advocate for their clients’ interests and negotiate the best possible deals. When agents start publishing their clients’ work and taking their 15% cut of sales, a conflict of interest develops.
In their defense, agents are changing their roles in response to industry change, as well as client demand. Regardless of how you proceed, look for flexibility in any agreements you sign. Given the pace of change in the market, it’s not a good idea to enter into an exclusive, long-term contract that locks you into a low royalty rate or into a distribution deal that may fall behind in best practices.
How to Produce a Print Edition
There are two primary ways to make print editions available for sale:
- Print on demand (POD)
- Traditional offset printing
As described earlier, print-on-demand technology allows for books to be printed one at a time. This is by far the most popular way to produce print copies of your book. If you’ve investigated services like AuthorHouse, iUniverse, or any of the many subsidiaries of Author Solutions, then you were looking at services that primarily offer POD publishing packages. Traditional publishers also use POD to keep older titles in stock without committing to warehousing and inventory costs.
Pros of print-on-demand
- Little or no upfront costs (if you avoid full-service packages)
- Your book can be available for sale as a print edition in all the usual online retail outlets (Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, etc), as well as distributed through Ingram, the largest U.S. book wholesaler.
- Most readers cannot tell the difference between a POD book and an offset printed book.
Cons of print-on-demand
- The unit cost is much higher, which may lead to a higher retail price.
- You may have very few print copies on hand—or it will be expensive to keep ordering print copies to have around!
Most books printed by U.S. traditional publishers are produced through offset printing. To use a traditional printer, you usually need to commit to 1,000 copies minimum.
Pros of offset printing
- Lower unit cost
- Higher quality production values, especially for full-color books
- You’ll have plenty of print copies around.
Cons of offset printing
- Considerable upfront investment; $2,000 is the likely minimum, which includes the printing and shipping costs.
- Increased risk—what if the books don’t sell or you want to put out a new edition before the old one is sold out?
- You’ll have plenty of print copies around—which means you have books to warehouse and fulfill unless you hire a third party to handle it for you, which then incurs additional costs.
Important: While it can be fairly straightforward and inexpensive to get a print book in your hands via print-on-demand services, virtually no one can get your book physically ordered or stocked in bookstores. Services may claim to distribute your book to stores or make your book available to stores. But this is very different from actually selling your book into bookstores. Bookstores almost never accept or stock titles from any self-publishing service or POD company, although they can special order for customers when asked, assuming the book appears in their system.
Also, think through the paradox: Print-on-demand services or technology should be used for books that are printed only when there’s demand. Your book is not going to be nationally distributed and sitting on store shelves unless or until a real order is placed.
Should I Invest in a Print Run?
The 3 key factors are:
- How and where you plan to sell the book. If you frequently speak and have opportunities to sell your books at events, then it makes sense to invest in a print run. Also consider if you’ll want significant quantities to distribute or sell to business partners or organizations, stock in local/regional retail outlets or businesses, give to clients, etc. I do not recommend investing in a print run because you think bookstores or retail outlets will stock your book. If such an opportunity should arise, then you can always invest in a print run after you have a sales order or firm commitment.
- Where you’re driving sales. If you’re driving your customers/readers primarily to online retailers, you can fulfill print orders with less hassle and investment by using POD. Ultimately, you do have to use POD regardless if you want to be distributed by the largest U.S. wholesaler, Ingram. (More info below.)
- What your budget is like. Not everyone is comfortable investing in a print run.
You also need to anticipate your appetite for handling the warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping of 1,000+ books, unless a third party is handling it for you, which will reduce your profit. When the truck pulls up to your house with several pallets piled high with 30-pound boxes, it will be a significant reality check if you haven’t thought through your decision.
The majority of independent authors report selling about 100 e-books for every print book. Much depends on the genre, but in the U.S. e-books represent 30-35% of all books sold. So also keep this in mind as you decide how many print copies you need.
If you choose print-on-demand, then I recommend the following:
- Use Ingram Spark to produce a POD edition for all markets except Amazon. By doing so, your book will be listed and available for order through the largest and most preferred U.S. wholesaler, Ingram.
- Using CreateSpace (a division of Amazon) to produce a POD edition for Amazon sales. For many authors, the majority of sales will be through Amazon.
I recommend using both Ingram Spark and CreateSpace to maximize your profits and ensure that no one is discouraged from ordering or stocking the print edition of your book. As you might imagine, independent bookstores aren’t crazy about ordering books provided by CreateSpace/Amazon, their key competitor. However, if you use Ingram Spark to fulfill orders through Amazon, you will reduce your profits because Amazon offers more favorable terms when selling books generated through CreateSpace. So it’s much more advantageous financially to use CreateSpace—but limit the scope of that agreement to just Amazon orders.
As soon as your printer-ready files are uploaded, POD books are generally available for order at Amazon within 48 hours. With Ingram Spark, it generally takes 2 weeks for the book to be available through all their channels.
Wait, How Do I Get Printer-Ready Files?
As with e-book retailers/distributors, Ingram Spark and CreateSpace may offer you fee-based services related to editing, design, and marketing. These package services may work OK for your needs, but try to hire your own freelancers if you need someone to produce printer-ready files.
I Still Have Questions
I would expect so! This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can read more on this topic at the following posts:
- How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors
- The Basics of Self-Publishing by David Gaughran
- 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service
- 4 Key Book Publishing Paths
- Mick Rooney’s Independent Publishing Magazine offers in-depth reviews of just about every publishing service out there. Read his review before using any service. You can also hire him for a consultation if you need expert guidance.
I Want to Pay Someone to Self-Publish My Book
Here are high-quality, full-service publishing provider recommendations.
And that concludes Part 2, hopefully this will have helped you consider your options. If you decide to go ahead with self-publishing – best of luck!
Everything you need to know about Self Publishing, right here:
The following post is an introductory guide to the major self-publishing options available to authors today, and how to choose the right service and approach for you.
But first, here’s the “I don’t have time to read the whole post” version if you’re simply looking for service recommendations:
- CreateSpace: for print distribution to Amazon (zero upfront cost)
- IngramSpark: for print distribution to non-Amazon universe ($49)
- Amazon KDP: for ebook distribution to Amazon (zero upfront cost)
- Draft2Digital: for ebook distribution to everyone else (zero upfront cost)
These services provide little or no assistance. That means you have to do all the work of preparing and uploading your files for publishing and distribution. If you’re looking for a fair service provider (or a one-stop shop) to help with print and ebook formatting, design, and distribution, try BookBaby.
Now, to get down to Self-Publishing 101.
First, A Little History
For most of publishing’s history, if an author wanted to self-publish, they had to invest thousands of dollars with a so-called “vanity” press (or otherwise study up on how to be an independent publishing entrepreneur, a la Dan Poynter or Marilyn Ross).
That all changed in the late 1990s, with the advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology, which allows books to be printed one at a time. As a result, many POD publishing services arose that focused on providing low-cost self-publishing packages. They could be low cost because—without print runs, inventory, and warehousing—the only expense left was in creating the product itself: the book. Outfits like iUniverse, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse (which have merged and been consolidated under AuthorSolutions) offered a range of packages to help authors get their books in print, though most books never sat on a bookstore shelf and sold a few dozen copies at best.
What’s Changed Since 2007
Just as traditional publishing has transformed due to the rise of e-books, today’s self-publishing market has transformed as well. E-books comprise 30-35% of all US book sales. Furthermore, 60% or more of all US book sales (both print and digital) happen through an online retailer, primarily Amazon. You can make your book available for sale in the most important markets yourself, without a third party helping you.
That means the full-service POD publishers that used to make a killing are now largely irrelevant to most self-publishing success, and make little or no sense if you’re focused on publishing and marketing your e-book. However, because of self-publishing’s history, you may still think they offer something you need. For most authors, they do not.
Today, you can get access to the same level of online retail distribution as a traditional publisher, through services such as Amazon KDP, Pronoun, Draft2Digital, CreateSpace, and IngramSpark. One could say that distribution through these channels is free. You don’t “pay” until your books start to sell. Every time a copy of your book is sold, the retailer takes a cut, and if you use a distributor, they’ll take a cut, too.
First, I’ll address how the e-book side of self-publishing works. Then we’ll return to the question of print.
Before You Digitally Publish
Even though e-books are skyrocketing in adoption, ask these questions before you begin:
- Do your readers prefer print or digital?
- If you don’t know what your readers prefer, is it common for authors in your genre to release e-books only? If digital-only publishers exist in your genre, that’s a good sign.
- Is your book highly illustrated? Does it require color? If so, you may find there are significant challenges to creating and distributing your e-book across multiple platforms.
- Do you know how to reach your readers online? People who buy e-books will probably find out about your work online.
An author who is primed to succeed at self-publishing has an entrepreneurial spirit and is comfortable being online. Ideally, you should already have an online presence and an established website. You also need to be in it for the long haul; sales snowball over time, rather than occurring within the first months of release.
How E-Publishing Services Work
The first and most important thing to understand about e-publishing retailers and distributors is that they are not publishers. That means they take no responsibility for the quality of your work, but neither do they take any rights to your work. Here are the characteristics of major services:
- Free to play. You rarely pay an upfront fee. When you do pay upfront, usually in the case of a distributor (such as BookBaby), you earn 100% net. If you don’t pay an upfront fee, then expect a percentage of your sales to be kept. However, there is even one ebook distributor that charges nothing upfront and still pays 100% net: Pronoun.
- At-will and nonexclusive. With all e-book retailers, you can upload your work at any time and make it available for sale; you can also take it down at any time. You can upload new versions; change the price, cover and description; and you can sell your work through multiple services or through your own site.
- Little technical expertise required. Major services offer automated tools for converting your files, uploading files, and listing your work for sale, as well as free guides and tutorials to help ensure your files are formatted appropriately.
Again, it’s important to emphasize: By using these services, you do not forfeit any of your rights to the work. If a traditional publisher or agent were to approach you after your e-book has gone on sale, you are free to sell rights without any obligation to the services you’ve used.
I should also acknowledge here that some of these retailers/distributors may have services they try to sell you—for editing, design, and marketing. When possible, I recommend authors retain their own freelancers rather than hiring through a middleman. You want to know exactly who’s doing work on your book and have them be accountable to you, not the middleman service.
Two Key Categories of E-Publishing Services
Most e-publishing services fall into one of these two categories:
- Single-channel distribution. These services—which are retailers—distribute and sell your work through only one channel or device. Examples: Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press. Single-channel distributors do not offer any assistance in preparing your e-book files, although they may accept a wide range of file types for upload.
- Multiple-channel distribution. These services primarily act as middlemen and push your work out to multiple retailers and distributors. This helps reduce the amount of work an author must do; instead of dealing with many different single channel services, you deal with only one service. The most well-known distributors are Draft2Digital, Pronoun, BookBaby and Smashwords.
Multiple-channel options are multiplying, and each works on a slightly different model. Some act as full-service publishing operations, requiring no effort from you, the author. However, in exchange for the services of a multi-channel distributor, you typically have to pay an upfront fee and/or give up a percentage of your sales.
One popular approach for independent authors is to start by distributing through Amazon KDP, and to then add multi-channel distributor Smashwords, which has no upfront fee and distributes to all major devices and retailers except Amazon.
A note about ISBNs: While an ISBN is not required for basic e-book distribution through most retailers, some distributors and services require one. Therefore, to maximize distribution, you’ll need an ISBN for your e-book. Some self-publishing services will provide you with an ISBN as part of the fee for their services, or you can obtain your own ISBN. (If you’re US-based, you can buy through MyIdentifiers.com. Unfortunately, US authors pay a lot more than authors in other countries for their ISBNs.)
Converting and Formatting Your Work
Nearly every service asks you to upload a completed book file that is appropriately formatted. Services vary widely in the types of files they accept. Because standards are still developing in the e-book world, you may find yourself converting and formatting your book multiple times to satisfy the requirements of different services.
Here are the most commonly used formats for e-books:
- EPUB. This is considered a global standard format for e-books and works seamlessly on most devices. While you cannot directly create an EPUB file from a Word document, you can save your Word document as a text (.txt) file, then convert and format it using special software.
- MOBI. This is the format that’s ideal for Amazon Kindle, although you can also upload an EPUB file.
- PDF. PDFs can be difficult to convert to standard e-book formats, and do not display well on grayscale reading devices.
Many e-publishing services accept a Word document and automatically convert it to the appropriate format, but you still must go through an “unformatting” process for best results. All major services offer step-by-step guidelines for formatting your Word documents before you upload them for conversion.
Important to note: There is a difference between formatting and converting your book files. Conversion refers to an automated process of converting files from one format into another, without editing or styling. It’s often easy to convert files, but the resulting file may look unprofessional—or even appear unreadable—if not formatted appropriately.
Useful tools for formatting and converting e-books include:
- Calibre: Free software that converts and helps you format e-book files from more than a dozen different file types.
- Sigil: Free WYSIWYG editing and formatting software for e-books in the EPUB format; you can start with plain text files saved from Word.
- I’ve listed more tools here.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of converting and formatting your own e-book files, then you may want to use a distributor or service that’s customer-service oriented in this regard, such as Draft2Digital or BookBaby. If your ebook has special layout requirements, heavy illustration, or multimedia components, you should probably hire an independent company to help you (eBookPartnership is one option).
But if your book is mostly straight text – such as novels and narrative works – then you might be able to handle the conversion and formatting process without much difficulty if you’re starting with a Word document or text file.
And that concludes Part 1, check back tomorrow for Part 2.
There can be many reasons why a book fails to grab readers, and while this post concentrates mostly on the technical aspects and marketing side of publishing rather than the actual writing process, the choice of book genre can have major implications on both writing and marketing.
Writers often start writing a novel without giving their end product much thought, so when finished, it may sometimes be difficult to find a precise category or book genre for the book when it comes time to publish.
So here is a useful guide which explains with absolute clarity what the major genres represent, and what readers expect from each genre:
Often begins with the crime as the inciting incident (murder, theft, etc.), and the plot involves the protagonist uncovering the party responsible by the end. The crime has already happened and thus your goal in plotting is to drive toward the Big Boss Battle, the unveiling of the real culprit.
Mysteries have a lot more leeway to develop characters simply because, if you choose, they can be slower in pacing because the crime has already happened. Mysteries run roughly 75-100,000 words. Mysteries on the cozy side that are often in a series commonly are shorter. 60,000-ish. I’d recommend that you consult the Mystery Writers of America of more information.
Generally involves trying to stop some bad thing from happening at the end. Thrillers have broad consequences if the protagonist fails i.e. the terrorists will launch a nuclear weapon and destroy Washington D.C.
Suspense novels have smaller/more intimate consequences. i.e. The serial killer will keep butchering young blonde co-eds. It is easy to see how thriller, suspense and mystery are kissing cousins and keep company. The key here is that there is a ticking clock and some disastrous event will happen if the protagonist fails.
So when plotting, all actions are geared to prevention of the horrible thing at the end. Thrillers can run 90-100,000 words (loosely) and sometimes a little longer. Why? Because some thrillers need to do world-building. Most of us have never been on a nuclear sub, so Tom Clancy had to recreate it for us in The Hunt for Red October (Clancy invented a sub-class of thriller known as the techno-thriller).
Pick up the pacing and you can have a Mystery-Suspense. Think Silence of the Lambs. A murder happens at the beginning, and the goal is to uncover the identity of the serial killer Buffalo Bill (mystery), but what makes this mystery-suspense is the presence of a ticking clock. Not only is the body count rising the longer Buffalo Bill remains free, but a senator’s daughter is next on Bill’s butcher block.
When plotting, there will often be a crime (murder) at the beginning, but the plot involves a rising “body count” and a perpetrator who must be stopped before an even bigger crime can occur (Big Boss Battle). These stories are plot-driven. Characters often do not have enough down-time to make sweeping inner arc changes like in a literary piece.
Pick up the pacing and raise the stakes and you have a Mystery-Thriller. Think Killing Floor by Lee Childs. The book begins with a murder of two unidentified people at a warehouse, but if the killers are not found, what the killers are trying to cover up will have global consequences. And I am not telling you what those consequences are because it would ruin the book… 😀
When plotting, again, there is often a crime at the beginning with rising stakes, and the protagonist must stop a world-changing event from happening (Big Boss Battle). The focus of your plot will be solving the mystery and stopping the bad guy.
For more information on this genre, consult the International Thriller Writers site.
Guy and girl have to end up together in the end is the only point I will make on this. Romance is all about making the reader believe that love is good and grand and still exists in this crazy world. The hero cannot be your Big Boss Trouble Maker. Yes, the guy will likely be a scene antagonist, but that is different.
Romance, however, is very complex and I cannot do it justice in this short blurb. If you desire to write romance, I highly recommend you go to the Romance Writers of America site for more information. This is one of the most amazing writing organizations around and a great investment in a successful romance-writing career.
Word count will depend on the type of romance you desire to write. Again, look to RWA for guidance because there are SO many categories of romance that it could make a book.
Is character driven. The importance is placed on the inner change, and the plot is the mechanism for driving that change. Literary fiction has more emphasis on prose, symbol and motif. The events that happen must drive an inner transformation.
Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Road is a good example. The world has been destroyed and only a few humans have survived. The question isn’t whether the man and the boy will survive as much as it is about how they will survive. Will they endure with their humanity in tact? Or will they resort to being animals? Thus, the goal in The Road is less about boy and man completing their journey to the ocean, and more about how they make it. Can they carry the torch of humanity?
When plotting for the literary fiction, one needs to consider plot-points for the inner changes occurring. There need to be cross-roads of choice. One choice ends the story. The character failed to change. The other path leads closer to the end. The darkest moment is when that character faces that inner weakness at its strongest, yet triumphs.
For instance, in The Road, there are multiple times the man and boy face literally starving to death. Will they resort to cannibalism as many other have? Or will they press on and hope? Word count can vary, but you should be safe with 60-85,000 words (The Road was technically a novella).
Note: Literary fiction is not a free pass to avoid plotting. There still needs to be an overall plot problem that forces the change. People generally don’t wake up one day and just decide to change. There needs to be an outside driving force, a Big Boss Troublemaker, and a tangible physical goal. Again, in The Road, the man and boy have a tangible goal of getting to the ocean.
The only difference in literary fiction and genre fiction is that plot arc is now subordinate to character arc. In commercial genre fiction the plot generally takes precedence. In Silence of the Lambs catching Buffalo Bill is top on the priority list. Character evolution is secondary. In literary fiction these two arcs reverse. The character growth and change is of primary importance and plot is merely the vehicle to get them to change.
For instance, in Joy Luck Club, June’s impending trip to China is what brings the women together and what forces each of them to change the patterns of the past. The trip is irrelevant save for two purposes: 1) bringing the women together to face their demons and 2) when June actually makes the trip to China to meet her mother’s twin sisters (the lost babies) we know the change has occurred and the chains of the past have been loosed.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Will involve some degree of world-building and extraordinary events, creatures, locations. In plotting, world-building is an essential additional step. How much world-building is necessary will depend on what sub-class of fantasy or sci-fi you’re writing. Word count will also be affected. The more world-building, the longer your book will be. Some books, especially in high-fantasy can run as long as 150,000 words and are often serialised.
In regular fantasy, we will generally have a singular protagonist. In high fantasy, the various parties each become protagonists. Think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.
Consult the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for more information.
This is another genre that breaks down into many sub-classifications and runs the gambit. It can be as simple as a basic Monster in the House story where the protagonist’s main goal is SERE-Survive Evade, Rescue, and Escape. The protagonist has only one goal: survive. These books tend to be on the shorter side, roughly 60,000 words.
Horror, however can blend with fantasy and require all kinds of complex world-building. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a good example. Stephen King’s horror often relies heavily on the psychological and there is weighty focus on an inner change/arc. For instance, The Shining chronicles Jack’s descent into madness and how his family deals with his change and ultimately tries to escape the very literal Monster in the House.
Horror will most always involve a Monster in the House scenario. It is just that the definitions of “monster” and “house” are mutable. Word count is contingent upon what type of horror you are writing. Again, I recommend you consult the experts, so here is a link to the Horror Writers Association.
I won’t talk long about YA, since YA beaks into so many subcategories. Often YA will follow the rules of the parent genre (i.e. YA thrillers still have a ticking clock, fast pacing and high stakes just like regular thrillers). The differences, however, is that YA generally will have a younger protagonist (most often a teenager) and will address special challenges particular to a younger age group.
For instance, in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Tris is taking on a very real political battle between factions. But the plot also involves her evolving from child to adult, how she defines her identity aside from Mom and Dad and forging a new romantic relationship with Four. These are all prototypical struggles for someone in that age group.
So there you have it. A quick guide to book genre’s, which I hope has made things a little clearer for you. Picking a genre is actually quite liberating. Each genre has unique guideposts and expectations, and, once you gain a clear view of these, then plotting becomes far easier and much faster. You will understand the critical elements that must be in place – ticking clock, inner arc, world-building – before you begin. This will save loads of time not only in writing, but in revision. I hope you found it useful.
Best of luck x
A recent report from Author Earnings confirms that self-published titles are gaining enormous traction in the book market, and in particular, e-book sales. From humble and amateur beginnings only a few short years ago, Indie publishing has reduced the Big Five publishers to only 16% of the Amazon e-book market. While the data is only drawn from Amazon sales, their market dominance is so large that one can easily believe that it represents a trend across the whole publishing industry. But does this mean you can write a book, get rich and say, ‘I’ll give up my day job?’
With this information, it might be easy to conclude that self-publishing, or Indie publishing as it is often called now, is turning into a gold mine for authors. So should you give up your day job, write a book, and instantly become a rich Indie author? Well, no, yes and no.
Self-publishing isn’t easy to define
Self-publishing is not a singular definition. There are many so facets to it and while there are certainly a number authors who work all day and write all night and make a decent side income from self-publishing, there are also those who have tried to make it a full-time career, but failed to make more than a few dollars a month in their first year, so gave up. There are the hobby authors who appreciate the opportunity to publish, but are not dreaming of making a lot of money from their passion but do make a little money each month. Then there are those who think that by tapping out a few words and loading it up onto Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) will make them a killing. Within this group are scammers, Internet marketers and dreamers, and without being unkind, writers who have trouble even spelling the word, writer. Yet they are a very real and important component of self-publishing, as it is the freedom to publish that is at the very heart of this new form of publishing.
At the top of the list, though, are the professional self-publishers, who are a different breed of author to those I listed before. They treat it as a business and invest heavily in book launches, promotion, advertising and media placement. They are often authors who have been published traditionally in the past but have grasped the opportunity to earn far more than was being offered by their agents and publishers, by using their established author brand to self-publish and self-promote their new titles.
Then there is the new grey area, which is Small Press. These can range from well-established specialist traditional publishers, down to one self-published author who uses his or her knowledge and experience of publishing a few books on KDP to help other authors to self-publish. This is becoming more and more common, as those who often have little or no computer knowledge seek free or inexpensive help in getting their book published.
While the report by Author Earnings paints a very rosy unit sales picture of self-publishing against traditional publishing, it doesn’t offer any real information regarding Vanity Publishing.
As the Big Five all have vanity publishing wings now, are these books classed as self-published? There is also no breakdown of the sales data to know which segment of self-publishing is making the most inroads. My instinctive gut guess would be that those who have considerable publishing industry knowledge and acumen would stand the best chance of success. Self-publishing may be new, but publishing is not. The basics remain the same.
So by all means, take the opportunity to use self-publishing to express yourself, get that manuscript that has been gathering dust for years out into the marketplace, and when you have finished, write another book. But give up your day job? No. Not if you only plan to open a Twitter account, a Facebook Page and then believe that your book will sell like hot cakes, without a pound of investment.
Self-publishing is now a very big business with huge potential market. Don’t get too carried away by the suffix in front of the word publishing. Self-publishing is still publishing and that has always been a tough business, even when you know what you’re doing. Just ask the Big Five.
1. Selling books is harder than writing them. There are 300k books published in the U.S. every year. And 30% of Americans read only 1 to 5 books in 2014. Writing a book is purely up to you. But getting other people to buy and read your book is another matter.
2. Everyone obsesses about titles and covers but it’s hard to prove their impact beyond above a basic level of quality. It’s easy to find popular books with lousy titles and covers, and unpopular books with great titles and covers. There are too many variables for magic answers. Publishers exert more control over titles and covers than you’d expect: often authors have little say.
3. Some books, like The Great Gatsby or Moby Dick, don’t become popular until decades after publication. It’s a strange world. Books have lives of their own, typically quiet ones. We judge success by sales, but many factors that have nothing to do with the book itself impact sales. Bestseller lists are not a meritocracy. Sometimes a book is on the bestseller list for a week and never heard of again. Other times a book has steady sales for years but never makes any lists or wins any awards.
4. Your reasons for writing must transcend fame and wealth as neither are likely from writing alone. Most books you read are written by writers who pay their rent through other means. If you want fame and wealth from writing be committed to the long term. This takes the pressure off each book, and you’ll be open to learning instead of foolishly trying to hit a grand slam on your first try.
5. Fame will likely ruin your writing or your life. Study the history of famous writers if you doubt me. Fast fame is a curse, or a trap, as everyone wants you to repeat exactly what you did before.
6. The publishing industry is slow to realize authors need them less than ever. Unlike 20 years ago, you can do much of what a publisher does yourself, perhaps not as well, but that depends on how entrepreneurial and self aware you are. Learn about self-publishing simply to be informed about your business end to end. Some publishers do great work, but many are stuck in an antiquated notion of their value.
7. Many authors are lazy. They’re arrogant too. They don’t want to do PR, they don’t want to do their homework and they are in denial of how many other authors there are. They, like some publishers, believe in romantic notions of how publishing works.
8. Some publishers/editors/agents are amazing. Some are bad and incompetent. YMMV. Don’t judge them all by the one you worked with. My agent, David Fugate, is awesome.
9. A great editor at a mediocre publisher can be a better situation than a mediocre editor at a great publisher. Editors represent you for dozens of decisions the publisher makes for your book that you can’t participate in.
10. Many editors don’t “edit”. They’re more like strategic project managers. There are three roles editors play, often played by different people. Acquisitions editors sign authors. Development editors help you draft your book. Production editors are the ones who spend the most time with your words, and even they depend on copyeditors and proofreaders. Many people will touch your book.
11. Don’t believe everything depends on finding agents or publishers. They both want you to already have a fan base, which is a paradox. There are many paradoxes to face in trying to break into any field that many people want to be in (e.g. being a movie star). To find an agent requires hard work and this is on purpose. There is a far greater supply of people writing books than demand from publishers.
12. Always remember you can upload a PDF of your book to Amazon and have it on sale on Kindle in minutes. Don’t get lost falsely depending on others. No one can stop you from writing a book and selling it except yourself. Promoting a book well is another matter (see #1), but publishers struggle with that too.
13. No one will come to your book reading/signing unless you are already famous. The packed author readings on the news are only packed because the author is already very well known. It’s another paradox related to #1. Read The First 1000 copies by Tim Grahl, or APE by Guy Kawaksai for a good start on how to market books. Book readings at bookstores are among the worst uses of time for a new author.
14. Publishers only invest in big PR for famous authors. For new authors there’s little reason to believe the investment will pay off. Would you spend 50% of your annual marketing budget on an unknown? Neither would a publisher. Publishers do love authors who invest their own time and money in marketing, and will help with and add to your investment.
15. Most people think they want to write, but really they just like to think about writing. If you have a 6th grade education you know how to write. The question is are you willing to put in the hours?
16. You can spot these people because they spend more time complaining about how hard it is to write than doing it. Or they endlessly stroke their idea as if it can someday magically transform itself into 300 pages. Don’t complain. No one is making you torture yourself but you.
17. Distractions say more about your lack of commitment than anything else. Learn to concentrate. Concentration is a skill anyone can develop and if you are serious about writing you should see this as central to your ambitions. If you were starving to death and writing a book would get you food, you’d write. We are all capable of writing if suitably motivated.
18. Which means that anyone with sufficient commitment can write a book. It might not be a good book, but most books by published authors aren’t that good either. What makes for a good book is highly subjective anyway.
19. A publisher is a venture capitalist. They are giving you money before your work is done. Before you complain about the size of the investment they are willing to make (or not make) in your book, are you are willing to make the same financial investment? Few authors are. It’s a business. They owe you nothing beyond what they agree to.
20. Your friends, family and colleagues are you best assets for finding an audience for your writing. Everyone has friends and family. Ask for their help. Make it easy for them to help you. Reward every new fan as if they were your only fan (because at first they will be).
21. Learn to take feedback well. By this I mean you want to be a better writer on the next book than this one, yes? That only happens if you listen for ways to improve. Arrogant writers, and they are legion, rarely improve.
22. Learn to take rejection well. It will be everywhere. If you think rejections from agents and publishers are tough, wait till you get rejected by reviewers and readers (e.g. The Great Gatsby has 235 1 star reviews). Look for a nugget of merit in every mean-spirited critique you hear as the mean people might have more honest insight into your work than the nicer people. Be grateful anyone read your book at all.
23. Stop looking for secrets and tricks. You’re a sucker if you think there’s a trick as every great writer in history never found one that let them skip the work. Tips only help if you are writing every day and can put tips to use.
24. You build a following, or in publishing jargon, a platform, by publishing regularly. There is no magic place where people will come to you just for showing up once. It doesn’t matter where you publish, but put something into the world regularly. Be willing to learn as you go and experiment. There are many ways to build an audience but they all require effort.
25. Publish once a week on a blog. You want to build an audience before your book is finished, not after. Write briefly about topics that relate to your book. Share excerpts and ideas you’re working on. Read other bloggers who write about subjects like yours and get to know them. Invite people you know to be interested to follow along. It will feel weird at first but work to get comfortable with being visible and making connections, as you’ll need those skills when your book is out in the world.
26. Don’t be precious. No one is going to steal your ideas. Ideas are easy, it’s the work of delivering on an idea in 300 pages that’s hard.
27. Get feedback on your ideas and drafts early. Find people who are honest with you – they are hard to find. Grand praise of your drafts does not make them better. Separate useful critiquing (“this section didn’t work”, “you should read Rushdie”) from the moral support your friends give over beers (“you can do it”, “keep going”). Get the tough feedback early enough that you can still do something about it.
28. Only your name is on the book. Your publisher will publish dozens of books every month. You will publish one book every few years, or maybe just once in your life. They will never care as much as you do about your book. You have the right to veto and argue, politely, with anyone who works on your book. Stand up for yourself, but earn that right by taking writing and publishing seriously. Do your homework. If you don’t take shortcuts, no one will try to take shortcuts on you.
You may be familiar with the phrase “we don’t take unsolicited manuscripts” on publishers’ websites. It can be a disappointing sight for an aspiring writer yearning to be published. Fortunately, publishers are always soliciting; you just need to know how to get your work into that category.
1. LITERARY AGENTS
While many publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, some literary agents do. Literary Agents are there to connect writers with publishers and to help handle the legal documents regarding copyright (including print, film and radio) and royalties.
Entering writing competitions is a great way to get your name and work in front of publishers. Winners and those short-listed are often named in literary media—the same media that publishers read.
In addition to the publicity, some competitions also offer publication as a prize. The publication could be in media such as a magazine or newspaper, or it could be as a printed anthology or book. Manuscript competitions and awards have also helped many first-time writers publish.
Publishers and editors may not have time to read manuscripts, but they do have time to listen to pitches. A pitch is a short, sweet and powerful way of sharing your manuscript. If you can capture the essence and selling points of your story in a quick and compelling way, you could get someone willing to read your whole manuscript.
A portfolio is a collection or sample of your work. If you are a long-prose writer it might be beneficial to work on your short-prose skills, as portfolios usually aren’t made of novels. Portfolios can be attached to your resume, but if you want a publisher to notice you, you want it out in the world.
Lastly, but certainly not least, you need to know the right people. If you want a publisher to hear about your manuscript, you want to tap into that publishing network. Pitch your manuscript to the right people, and they might know a publisher who could be interested and pass it along.
For more tips and tricks on how to get your foot through that door, visit the rest of the article here: http://writersedit.com/5-simple-ways-take-manuscript-unsolicited-solicited/