Are you in the publishing business? Are you hybrid, indie, or self-published? Do you have some advice you think might help others in the business or would like to share your experience? A new page on the website has opened for you to find all you need to know to submit your articles to the website so that we can continue to share and help each other! All these submissions will be found under The Word: Writing Advice category upon publishing.
This isn’t just limited to writers/authors. I’m welcoming formatters, editors, designers, artists, publishers, podcasts, and all those that want to take part to submit. The only limitation is that you must be in the publishing business!
Edd Sowder is the type of man to not hold back his thoughts or feelings when it comes to business and thus he was the perfect person for me to ask. He’s been publishing for many years and brings to this Q&A his experience and expertise.
I hope in some way that those that read this gain a perspective and insight they may not have had before on things behind-the-scenes of publishing. So many of us go into submissions unaware of what may be going through the mind of the person we’re sending a manuscript to. This is inside one such mind.
In your opinion, what should someone know before submitting to a publisher?
My opinion varies from day to day. Recently, well…when our submissions were still open, I noticed that a lot of authors were submitting first drafts, if not second. I feel that if you are an author, and have written the next great novel in history, you should have someone beta (prior to submitting your books a “beta reader”) your novel from one end to the other and help you with suggestions on fixing plot holes. Additionally, if you could allow time from when the novel was submitted, many publishers have what’s called a “slush pile” of books to read and yours is just as important as the others, so if they say it will take at least three months, don’t email them a week later and say, “did you like my book?”
I feel that if you are an author, and have written the next great novel in history, you should have someone beta your novel from one end to the other and help you with suggestions on fixing plot holes.
Many believe the publisher should take on full responsibility for the marketing of a project where others believe in splitting the responsibility, what should people know on this? I have read where some will do all the marketing for the author and others will do zero.
Ours is somewhat in the middle of that. In today’s world, an author should be just as proud of their book as the publisher is. Now if the idea of marketing your books is just completely devastating to you, guess what? If you self-publish it, you will still have to do that as well but you will not have the same amount of reach, you will have to come out of pocket for the edits, cover, interior, and deal with the business side of being published. It is not as glorious as some think. Here is a piece of real information, NO book is accepted by a big five publisher anymore without a marketing plan submitted for approval by the author. I have heard this and read it in several areas. Will my company do it for you? No, not exactly. We will do some light promotional posting, some follow up after the book is out, a few posts on social media a few times a year for you but that is about all the time I have. I actually expect my authors to do the bulk of it themselves. It does show when they, and/or I, do find a few minutes to post something about the back catalog. There is no reason why it would not show something if the author did it as well. Each author is different though. And to ask if an author will or will not, well… most will at the beginning of the life of the book, but soon after it has come out, they discontinue to do so. I have seen it a lot. It is unfortunate but we all get pretty busy.
Here is a piece of real information, NO book is accepted by a big five publisher anymore without a marketing plan submitted for approval by the author.
From an active publisher, what is your take on what you see authors doing wrong?
think I just answered that in the last question but I can elaborate one that I
have seen all too often that burns me, and many other publishers up. You have a
book with a publisher, and one with another, and you have self-published a few.
Great! Good for you! We could not be happier for you and if you ask, I am
certain that we may even help you spread the word on your newest book that was
self-published as we have the time… just don’t forget that this industry does
not revolve around the last book you let out into the world. It is hinged upon
all of your catalogs. You have a book
here, there, and now a new one but when did you stop loving that first one you
have with the initial publisher who took a huge risk on your name, book, concept and put their funds into it to make
your dreams come true? Is that now the step-child you never liked? It happens
all the time and it hurts not just the publisher but you as well as nobody
remembers the first books you put out because you are spending so much time
promoting the newest one. Bundle it, ask for a sale to help promote it, make
sure that you are not bastardizing the prior catalog you have just because the
newest book is ready. They all deserve equal attention.
…just don’t forget that this industry does not revolve around the last book you let out into the world. It is hinged upon all of your catalogs.
The situation is a newcomer/green writer to the business doesn’t know what to do, they’ve got a bunch of things done, ideas, and no networking. Advice for those people coming in and unsure what to do and what not to do?
Ask questions. Each publisher, author, editor, graphic artist, will have ideas of what you should and should not do to get things rolling. Join a couple of groups online that are primarily other authors and be certain you join a few that are readers too. You will need beta readers. Those that will read your book before it goes to print and help you mold the idea. These people are just as important as the ones who publish it for you. I cannot express to you how important in today’s world social media is for sales. Everyone behind a computer screen is anonymous and nobody knows more about your story than you do. So, share it with friends, family, and loved ones online in excerpts. Don’t give them a whole chapter but give them a part of the book, a passage, that you are particularly fond of writing. Do some interviews. Get on some podcasts as a guest, start an online blog, guest write on a few. It will keep your name in the spotlight and when your book comes out, people will be looking for it.
I cannot express to you how important in today’s world social media is for sales. Everyone behind a computer screen is anonymous and nobody knows more about your story than you do.
You’ve gone to many conventions, met a bunch of celebrities. What can you share for an author starting off in conventions? What should they remember about dealing with celebrities?
Be yourself, be gracious, and be thankful. If you are an introvert, as most authors are, take someone along with you who can help liven up the table a bit for the passersby to talk to. If you are an extrovert, like me, go out a few times a day and walk the area to see who all is there. Meet other authors, artists, and for Pete’s sake, get bookmarks, business cards, or something else that will tell others who you are in case they do not buy today. New authors going to cons are hard sells. But sometimes, if you can get in good with a neighbor, they will point people in your direction for you. We have done it for others and likewise, others have done it for us. As far as dealing with celebrities, if there is an after party to go to where they will be there, do it. No excuses. Just go. They will be more relaxed, likely having a drink, chatting with others, and less in the mindset of having to make money. We have met some incredible people on our journeys and many of them are still friends with us to this day. Some have even brought us into cons with them as we get along with them so well. Remember, at the end of the day, we are all just people. Being in the place of a celebrated actor/actress, remember to respect their privacy, ask for permissions, and be cool. All of them like to get something cool from fans (many are readers too), and if you can get a photo op at the end of the con with them, all the better.
Be yourself, be gracious, and be thankful. If you are an introvert, as most authors are, take someone along with you who can help liven up the table a bit for the passersby to talk to. If you are an extrovert, like me, go out a few times a day and walk the area to see who all is there.
What’s your take on the saying ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? Some don’t submit to more than one publisher whereas some prefer doing this?
While I would like to have exclusivity on all published works, that is unreasonable. We suggest—since we know we are not the only publisher out there—to shop around. If you tell us that your book is being submitted to other publishers, as well as ours, we will understand. It will not speed us up in getting to your potential work but we do want to know ahead of time. Submitting to a publisher and then not submitting to others while you wait seems like you are willing to just wait and see. I suggest, weighing the options and looking for who seems to be the best fit for you. Much like we are implementing new tactics for new submissions, we expect that you, the author, are willing to look to not just reputation of the publisher but also ask questions to authors that are with that publisher. If the overall atmosphere seems good for you, and you are willing to wait on them, then by all means submit and be inquisitive but if you get an overall bad feeling from them, or their authors are highly dismissive of how they work with them, walk away. Keep in mind that not all authors will feel that they are getting a fair shake from the publisher, and not all publishers will feel that the authors are doing their fair share of working with the publisher. So, take all info with a grain of salt, so to speak, and weigh the pros and cons of each decision.
If the overall atmosphere seems good for you, and you are willing to wait on them, then by all means submit and be inquisitive but if you get an overall bad feeling from them, or their authors are highly dismissive of how they work with them, walk away.
Pet peeves that authors should know about publishers?
Well, that is a good question. That list can grow substantially daily and shrink just as fast depending on the schedule, the stressors of the day, and the attitudes of those involved, myself included. One thing that publishers hate is for someone to refer to themselves as the “next Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Patterson, Lovecraft, Wells, Harris, etc.” Let us make that determination for you. No, on second thought, let your readers and reviewers do it. If your style is much like Koontz, or Rushdie, your readers will notice. Don’t make the assumption that you are the next anyone. Be you. Be honest. If you are influenced by those prolific authors, then, by all means, state it in interviews that you enjoy their works but if you are trying to be the replacement for Gaiman, you need to have the clout to back that up. Another pet peeve that publishers, well I personally hate, is an unedited manuscript sent in with credits installed in the file that says who edited it. Now, all editors will see a sentence differently than the next but if you have several hundred mistakes per chapter in your submission but it was supposedly edited prior to submitting, and you named that person, as the editor, we already expect a very clean version of the MS. When we get in there and start reading only to find these mistakes, missing words, sentence structure that is horrific and not in any way ready to be considered… it slows us down. If we really want to know if the sub is worth it, we will read on trying to ignore the issues but sometimes, the issues will outweigh the story. This is where beta readers come in handy. Additionally, never submit a first draft. I think I said something about this earlier… or a second. Revisions are your friend. A submission is a piece of your soul. You are baring it for the other world to see and it is also a career path. Treat it as such. Never get too upset if you get a rejection. It comes with the territory and developing a thick skin as it takes to handle it will go further for you than wallowing in self-pity. Hopefully, the rejection that comes back will have some creative ideas to help you grow. I know when I send one back, it has ideas in it to help the author but many other publishers will send a form letter. Those are too impersonal and it’s like they never read through your submission. Why waste your time like that? Keep in mind that most publishers work on a release schedule and many times it has to fit with their preconceived budget to operate for the year. If they tell you the book is accepted and will not release until such and such date, ask them what you can do in the meantime to help them and yourself in potential sales. They should have some good ideas to get your name out there. Remember, your name is now a brand, the book is a product. You need to sell it as much as the publisher will, if not more. You are competing with over one million other books a year to get a piece of the proverbial pie in sales, although other authors are not your competition by any means.
One thing that publishers hate is for someone to refer to themselves as the “next Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Patterson, Lovecraft, Wells, Harris, etc.” Let us make that determination for you. No, on second thought, let your readers and reviewers do it. If your style is much like Koontz, or Rushdie, your readers will notice. Don’t make the assumption that you are the next anyone. Be you. Be honest.
We’ve all been there, at least us writers. We are somewhere between the beginning and the end of a story and find ourselves not wanting to go back. We hover with the taunting blinking icon awaiting those words that never come and we ultimately find ourselves on social media distracting from the story that needs to be written. It’s common place, but what to do? What to do? I decided to share my top 10 ways to keep going and getting it done.
Some of these may work for you and some of these may not work for you. I listed what I know has worked for me, some times one or two will work and sometimes just one, but this is my personal list rewritten for this post.
12 – Set a goal: Giving yourself a target to aim for is utterly helpful. How else will you get from A to B? I’m not saying know instantly how the story will end, just know you want to end this story by -insert a date-. When given a deadline it’s setting a goal, but sometimes deadlines can be hard to meet. A publisher will put a deadline on a project, but you can put a secondary one just for yourself to finish by. You can set different goals, that’s just an example of one you can do. Another goal that’s common is completely x-amount of words a day, week, or even monthly.
11 – Reading the work as a reader: While writing we don’t listen to what we’re doing. This is something I do during revisions and editing, don’t do it when you’re writing it’ll become a complete cluster**** if you do it during. This is a hard lesson I had to learn, but it’s an important one. Take time, if you can, to read the work or have your program read it to you. You’ll start hearing for yourself when things don’t sound right, catch errors, and give you a good first impression not as the writer, but as a reader.
10 – Take a break: Sometimes we work so hard we have written ourselves into a rut. Taking a break is not only good for the story, but good for the writer. Too long in one place is bad on the body, especially the legs, and if you’re hurting you will be even less likely want to write. Just walk away for awhile, but return!
9 – Don’t edit while you’re writing: This can be hard, but it will interrupt a creative flow. Revisions can come after getting the story out, they should come anyways because no one should ever publish a first draft of a manuscript or send that in to a publisher.
8 – Why so serious?: Though the work is considered important, don’t take it so serious. You’re going to add pressure on top of whatever negativity that is bubbling and that’s no good. Write, take your time, and pace yourself. Too much too fast may overwhelm you very quickly, especially if you’re working on multiple projects and everything is on deadlines.
7 – Write what you love: If you’re writing something you don’t enjoy my question is why? If you don’t have some passion for the project you’re involved in it will reflect in the final piece.You’ll also most likely never attempt whatever you were trying to do again.
6 – Don’t quit: Remember its a marathon not a sprint. If you are rushing a project just to get it done it’ll show. If you’re doing something you don’t like it’ll show. No matter what you’re doing don’t give up! Giving up is never the answer to anything, trying and finishing is better than telling a publisher that you ‘just couldn’t do it’. If you are unable to meet a deadline you can request an extension, but repeatedly missing extensions will reflect badly upon you, the kind of person you are, and the kind of career you’re wanting for yourself. Write the story, finish the book, and don’t give up!
5 – Stop while you still want to write: I know this sounds weird, but it works. If you have yourself on a time limit, emergency, or something else and you cannot write anymore get to a point where you want to keep going with the story and step away. You’ll be eager to get back to it and most likely return to the project refreshed. It’ll also be easier to return to a project that’s proving difficult.
4 – Remember you’re in control: Many writers will joke that the character(s) are ‘not letting them’ write the story they way they want, but realistically we know (or hopefully many know) that we control things. We create the characters and the world. I’ve come across writers becoming frustrated because -insert character name- isn’t letting them do the scene properly. I’ve said it, others have said it, but I’ve always joked blaming that as the reason my story frustrating me, but the truth is it was well overdue for me to step away. Remember you control the story, if it isn’t working step back to a point that it was working and start again. I’ve deleted entire chapters that weren’t working, it has helped me greatly!
3 – Have you purged?: I believe strongly in writer’s block being real. I had no ideas and had no want to begin even though I’d try. I didn’t have a creative burnout, I was doing other things creatively. (Though I have had a burnout) I eventually got frustrated and in this frustration I opened a word document and began writing all that I wanted in one book, then another, and another. I eventually purged all my ideas out for two series, short stories, and ideas for things that could fall into any category. I wrote about this method for Horrortree and it still is something I have used to this day when I’m having a moment. Read The Purging Methodarticle for more details on this and see actual pictures of what I did.
2 – Organize: Some people don’t do this, but it is pretty important. I use a program called Scrivener to keep things organized in stories. I don’t use it for writing, but I know many do. Ever been writing and realize so and so suddenly has blue eyes when they were suppose to be green? That’s due to disorganization while writing and forgetfulness. It can cause frustration and if it’s bad enough a complete writing breakdown leading to not wanting to do the work.
1 – Don’t be lazy: Just not doing the work will hurt the work, obviously. Being lazy on the job is bad, any job really. Being lazy can lead to writing becoming an issue and you ultimately hating it when you realize the deadline is coming. The book isn’t going to get to the publisher and get published by itself! Putting in the work makes those rewards so much more delicious.
I’ve said it many times before, too much perhaps, how writing began as a therapy for me. I came across a blog post that made many good points toward the subject of writing and therapy. I’ve never hidden that I have been in therapy, I call it mental maintenance, and it was suggested to me and others have shared they were suggested to write as well. It’s an emotional purging.
I began writing in my youth as an attempt to control a world I had no control in. I wrote about famous people liking me and thus those around me would too. I know, it’s almost sad, but I was little and in all honesty, I can’t hide my roots, I’ve chosen to embrace them. It’s where my writing began, my trying to help myself began, and it really did a lot for me at the time that has trickled through even to this day.
Some of our best ideas, as writers, come in those moments as our eyes are drifting and we’re about to fall asleep. BAM! The muse has hit us and we scramble for the nearest writing anything to scribble it down. It can be a bit of dialogue or merely a concept, but it must be written down. We have also felt that horrible gut feeling of forgetting if we haven’t written it down as well.
I’ve written about a purging method (check it out at Horror Tree) toward writing that has helped me. I’ve never been an ‘outliner’ type of writer. I have come to learn that I’m not alone with that when I took the workshop held by James Patterson (read the post here).
My best tips are:
Always park a notebook and pen/pencil for emergency muse wallops.
Writing can be therapeutic, write down EVERYTHING! You never know what could be used.
If you want to organize, keep a notebook separately for your thoughts, dreams, and story ideas. Even though at the moment they may seem different you just can never tell where and when inspiration may come to you. Lots of nightmares have helped me fill in the gaps of plots and stories.
Don’t force anything (unless you’re on a deadline then get that shit done!)
Keep private thoughts as private as you want if you’re doing it to work out some things in your life. Remember you DON’T have to share anything with anyone, you don’t even have to tell someone if you’re in therapy. Heck, if you don’t want to you don’t have to even publish something if you don’t feel its to the best you can.
Before you ever step forward with your finished manuscript there are choices to be made. Are you going to self-publish or submit to a publishing house? What the hell does it mean to be a hybrid? What’s a vanity press? I hope today’s post helps answer some of your questions.
Self-publish: Self-publishing means you’re putting up the funds to pay for the work required before publishing and ultimately publishing yourself.
Independent-publish/small publisher: Being ‘indie’ means you’re publishing through an independent publisher. An independent publisher will usually publish your book if they think it’s good enough, fits under their umbrella of genre(s) they publish, or if you’ve published before with them. (This can vary greatly publisher to publisher so don’t go saying I gave a definite in for you because it won’t work). They are not associated with the ‘top five’ or the bigger publishers, for example, Random House. They will help fund some of the cost or even all of it depending, but you may be asked to carry some of the weight if you want something special, for example hiring that one artist that does cover work you love so much.
Hybrid: A hybrid is someone who is publishing both ways. You can do this and it’s common for many authors to be this, having titles with publishers and titles they’ve self-published. It’s not a bad thing.
Vanity Press: These are where many want-to-be published fall victim. I’ve seen it many times. Vanity Press prey on the naivety of those new coming to the industry. They’re also referred to as ‘pay to publish’ because that’s how they work. You will fork up a bunch of money to ‘be published’ when the reality is a publisher, that’s legit, will be investing in you and your work, not the other way around. I really hate this kind of publisher cause in no way should it be considered a legit or viable way to be published. It’s a big ol’ scam.
Things to consider or remember:
To agent or not to agent? Many that want to go the route of ‘the top 5’ need an agent. Agent inquiries really are the only way to be considered for a bigger publisher. Smaller or independent publishers don’t require this, just keep your eyes peeled for when submissions open up on their websites or social media.
Indie or self remember: You’re going to always have to be promoting your work. Some small publishers will help and some will not. Shouldn’t matter if they are or aren’t you should be out there nevertheless. If you aren’t doing it how can you ever expect anyone else to do it for you?
Believe in your work: You’ve put all the work into it so far, belief in yourself and what you’ve created will reflect in how you talk about your work, your projects, and people will want to check out what’s to be believed in.
Did any of this help you? What has? Share your story in the comments!
It’s not just this book alone that is important, but the entire Crossroads in the Dark anthology series, that is. Why? They are charitable. This edition marks the fifth installment of the series and it’s raising money for St. Jude’s Hospital. All the work that goes on behind-the-scenes (cover services, formatting, editing, and any/all that goes into the production of publishing) are donated to help the cause, taking nothing from it.
This edition includes stories by: Jim Master, Kerry Alan Denney, Josh Matthews, Nikki Mewha, Veronica Smith, Lloyd Kerns, David H. Johnson, Joseph J. Madden, Edward Kenyon, Frank Martin, Brian G. Murray, Carol Browne, Jeffery G. Jeffrey G. Roberts, L. Bachman (that’s me!), Jeff Prebis, David Solar, & Donna Marie West.
The next anthology in the Crossroads in the Dark series is coming soon. I submitted my story O.W.L.S., which is a sci-fi story. I’ve wanted to do something dealing with aliens for a long time but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to, but I made it work.
This particular story revolves around a woman being torn between reality and her belief she’s losing her mind. It’s a short story. You will find yourself questioning just along with her. You may even feel for her if you’ve ever had similar things occur. I wrote this inspired by how many alien experiences mentioned owls, yes the bird, or seeing them. The large eyes of the bird mimic the same description of the large-eyed greys.
There are tons of theories that are on the internet, some connecting owls to aliens and then on to Atlantis. Some say aliens shapeshift into owls to watch over humans. Some even say it’s just the human mind becoming confused with what the being is experiencing, blurring the birds and the well-known description of greys. Whatever the case may be, I was instantly inspired when looking around the net and my own library researching for what I could do.
Let me begin with introducing who E.E.Cummings is, first. Born on October 14, 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, E.E.Cummings went on to become an innovative poet known for his lack of stylistic and structural conformity, as seen in volumes like Tulips and Chimneys and XLI Poems. After self-publishing for much of his career, he eventually found wide recognition. A playwright and visual artist as well. He died in 1962.
So what or how did he do anything to me? Well, it’s not so much the way one may think. He didn’t hit me, he didn’t talk to me, and I never even knew him. He did, however, open my eyes to a nonconformist take on poetry. I came across his poem: r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r , a work that takes understanding the movement of a grasshopper to read it. My first impression, as a young teen, was that it was bizarre and interesting. I had, up to that point, in my life never seen a poem done in such a way. It was just so visual!
I learned more about the man over time, when the internet came into the world and eventually took over. He did so much in his life. I could see myself, a few years back, in a position he and many others had been in. Struggling. I had found a publisher, but my own self-doubt killed my attempt to contact them. (I’m not going to repeat that story as I’ve talked about it a lot over the years and just don’t feel like doing it again.) I then decided, like Mr. Cummings, to self-publish.
His visual take on poetry has been labeled witty or even whimsy, but for me, it broke down walls. What he taught me coupled with advice I came across from author Anne Rice on Youtube, I began writing what I enjoy. Writing what I want and need to write. Readers will eventually find my work and enjoy what I’m producing. This took a great deal of pressure off of me, personally and professionally.
So again, what did Mr. Cummings do to me? He helped me find courage, he helped me see things from a different perspective. He also allowed me to see more than ‘I can be just a writer’. He helped me start on a journey of really enjoying poetry.
I’ve been popping by Twitch here in the last few weeks. I go through fazes. I’m there watching art and gaming and next, I’m gone. I was told there was a new podcast/Twitch channel that focused on being creative, for writers, the industry of writing, and it featured actual authors, publishers, and even you guessed it…writers!Of course, I had to check this out. Here’s a list of reasons why you should be checking it out as well.
It’s new. Giving a new podcast or form of media like a Twitch channel is a really good way to connect live with others.
It deals with writing and things that go on within the writing/indie/self-pub community. This is great for those that are interested in this field or are currently in it!
You can ask questions and get answers! Sometimes we have questions we just can’t find answers for or while watching something we develop questions and want instant information, this provides just that.
Features persons from the writing industry. That’s right, not just writers. I’ve already seen publishers. I’m sure I’ll see all reaches of the industry the longer its on.
You could be on it or see someone you know! They have openings to be a guest. Find a date that is full? The perks of this and others like it being new or in the beginning is there’s always plenty of options for booking. I couldn’t find one for myself so I’ll have to wait, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see me down the road!
Here’s what they have to say about themselves: Writer Imperfect will be launched in 2019 as an expansion of the #Author365 hashtag that Joshua Robertson began in 2018 in hopes of shining the spotlight on the vast talent and knowledge of other writers/creatives in the industry. Taking place up to three times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), Joshua will be hosting a live broadcast on Twitch with writers to speak about the craft, the industry, and their own personal journeys. While some shows might have specialized topics, Writer Imperfect will be focusing more on natural conversation and interaction–which may prove to be as imperfect as the name suggests. It might also prove to be rich with content. You will have to tune in to find out!
Harvest went live on September 4th, 2018. The republication of this work was a long time coming, but a short time prep. Just under two months ago, roughly a month, I was notified that my story was bumped up in the queue to be released.
You can buy this new edition of Harvest here. This is out in paperback and in digital formats.
Check out my Amazon page for all the works I’ve been either included in or have published for purchase.