Thursday, July 29, 2010

On quitting

We've all been there. We write, we revise, we query, we get the email rejection. At some point we finally admit that we've been kidding ourselves and that we actually suck at writing. Even though we don't think that's true. We think about giving up. But, as writers, we can't. Because we love writing.

I wanted to pass along a GREAT POST from Jodie Meadows that says the whole thing a lot better than I can. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wow! It's been a while.

One of the main problems with alien abduction is that you lose all sense of time. Relatively speaking. My apologies for being gone so long, but there was a great deal the aliens wanted to show me. I'm not at liberty to discuss any of it now, but perhaps in the future I'll spill a few of the beans. Maybe I won't, though. Perhaps I'll save it for my next middle grade adventure. We'll see.

Seriously, though, in my trip through the universe, I've been searching for publishers who accept manuscripts directly from writers. Directly from writers translates to writers without an agent. I've discovered there are a lot of indie publishers who do this. Most of the ones I've found specialize in the romance genre, erotica, general fiction, and non-fiction. Here's a GREAT SITE, with bunches and bunches of indie publishers listed. It has info on the genres they publish as well as links to their websites. You may want to bookmark it.

In the children's and young adult arena, I've only found one so far: Milkweed Editions. So if juvenile fiction is your cuppa tea, you might wish to check them out. You can submit your manuscript online, quick and easy, with the form on their site. I actually decided to upload STAR WISHES to see what their response would be.

As always, if you find a publisher you're interested in contacting, be sure to check the Preditors and Editors site first just to check things out and make certain who you're dealing with. I'm confident there are readers out there who are aware of other indie publishers. If you're one of those readers, feel free to add any info in the comment section below. I'm sure other readers would be appreciative. So, comment away.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Young Writers – Listen up and pay attention!

Once upon a time there was a publishing company. A company that was somehow associated with the Wrigley fortune. A company known as Medallion Press.

From what I’ve read, they are somewhat new as publishing companies go (4 years), but appear to be reputable. Absolute Write has a long THREAD about them going back to July 2006. According to Victoria Strauss, the quality of their product is reportedly good, although their marketing activities are a bit weak. So, a little good, a little bad. But here's the newsworthy part of this story: Medallion has announced that they will be venturing into unfamiliar territory with the launch of a new line of fiction and nonfiction for young adult readers ages 13-18. The new line is called Ya-Ya.

The cleverness of the name becomes obvious when you understand what it is: The products of this new line are not only intended for teen readers — the titles in the imprint will actually be written by teen authors. Helen Rosburg, Medallion’s publisher, wants to provide a platform for young adults to tell their stories to others in their age range.

At first blush it sounds like a novel idea. But let's think about it. When you consider an 80,000-word manuscript written by an inexperienced writer, the potential for significant revisions and editing seem overwhelming. Naturally, it will probably be done by experienced editors — experienced adult editors. So what is Medallion going to end up with? I'm thinking the finished book isn't going to be significantly different from a novel written by an adult writer. Of course, they could always utilize teen editors to keep things fresh and true to the original feel without adult intervention. Provided they can find experienced teen editors. It should be interesting to see how this idea plays out and what they end up with.

But the plot thickens! (Don’t you love a thickening plot?) There’s more to it. Do you recall our recent posts regarding agents and the value they bring to the party? Well, here’s an opportunity for a neophyte writer to venture boldly into negotiations with the publisher and take their chances on their own. I'm not certain how that's going to work either if the writer is under legal age to sign a contract.

Medallion is currently accepting submissions for its new Ya-Ya line. The guidelines are posted on the company’s Website. No announcement has been made at this time regarding how many Ya-Ya titles are planned each year or when the first book will be released. I'd be willing to wager that the first book's release date will be after December 21, 2012. Medallion may be hoping that the Mayan calendar is correct and they won't have to bring this idea to its ultimate conclusion.

But the Mayas could be wrong. So, if you're a teen writer, check out the Medallion site. Polish up your query letter. And send your work to them (according to the instruction on their site) if you'd like it considered for their new Ya-Ya line. He who hesitates is lost. This could be your golden opportunity!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Publishing

Since we have been talking about the future of publishing and the always-available-option of self-publishing, I thought we might dig a little deeper into that subject and take a look at the journey your darling manuscript takes when you hand it over to a traditional publishing house. Although a lot of the steps involved in traditional publishing can be eliminated if you decide to self-publish, some of them need to be included in order to produce the highest quality product that will compete favorably with a traditionally printed book.

The processes and procedures listed below are merely an overview. Typically, there are additional steps and many more people involved (sometimes gumming up things more than helping), but the steps listed are closely related to similar steps required in self-publishing. So, let’s send your middle grade fiction manuscript off to the traditional publisher and follow it through the major production phases.

We’re striving for perfection, and long before the pages of your book are printed, there are several steps required to make certain it’s perfect in every way. During that metamorphosis from manuscript draft to print-ready copy, your work must undergo some severe scrutiny and modification before the ink hits the paper. Here’s a typical flow that your work might take before your words get into your reader’s hands.

Developmental Editing (Recommended for Self-publishers, too.)
You’ve given the publisher the best you have to offer. It’s been edited to death and read to pieces by your beta readers. Everything has been corrected and altered until it’s as perfect as you can make it. But it’s not ready to print yet. It’s now in the publisher’s control, and developmental editing is the first step. This involves making certain the concept and scope of the book are properly developed for the intended audience. It also involves checking the plotting and the way the elements of the book are arranged so the story unfolds for the reader in the right manner with no plot holes and no consistency and flow issues. Self-publishers who make use of this type of editing will hire freelance editors to help with the development of their project.

Copy Editing (Recommended for Self-publishers, too.)
When the developmental editor and the author have finished organizing the manuscript during the developmental editing phase, it will pass on to a copy editor. A copy editor is like a Buzz Lightyear version of an uber spellcheck program - with a turbocharger. This editor will peruse the manuscript, line by line and word by word. Nothing escapes their laser vision. Copy editors have an excellent familiarity with the English language, vocabulary, and usage. Their job is to examine the manuscript, paying particular attention to correcting any errors involving punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar, usage, consistency, style, formatting, ambiguity, and any other areas that require correcting. If your infinitives are split or your participles are dangling, they will catch it. They are the final word in accuracy and perfection. When the copy editor’s work is finished, the manuscript goes back to the author for clarification or approval, and the revisions are edited into the manuscript.

Production Editing
The manuscript’s next stop is the production editor. Typically performing the role of a project manager, this person schedules the project and tracks its progress. They typically assign the book designers, illustrators, proofreaders and other professionals needed to produce the book. This is the stage in which the overall format of the book is determined, along with the typography, folio style (page numbers), and any other repeating graphic elements. In addition, the production editor may be responsible for requesting estimates from printers or print brokers for the print production and bindery processes.

Proofreading (Recommended for Self-publishers, too.)
The last stage in the editorial process is proofreading. In addition to checking for typographical errors, the proofreaders are also watching for inconsistent line, word or page spacing, improper word breaks, widows and orphans, page numbers, and correct abbreviations and acronyms.

Print Ready
After the final proofing and correction of any errors, the book is ready to go to press.

Obviously, if you decide to self-publish, you won’t need to utilize all of the human resources listed, although the services of a good developmental editor, copy editor and proofreader would be money well spent prior to publishing.

Regardless of the direction you take, be sure to investigate the legitimacy of any individual or organization you deal with in your journey toward publication. Here is a great site that provides a valuable service to writers in steering them away from those who might take advantage of them. WRITER BEWARE.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The numbers are worse than I realized.

I don't have a crystal ball or a Ouija Board, but I’ve been doing some additional research regarding the trend of traditional publishing and the growth of the POD industry. What I'm finding isn't boding too well for the former, but the latter seems to be sitting in the "catbird seat" as James Thurber would say. It’s no wonder literary agents are perhaps getting a bit worried about their future. Of course, writers may need to be a bit nervous as well, since we're all in this together. One hand clapping makes no sound.

Here's the skinny: According to a May 19, 2009, report from Bowker (the global leader in bibliographical information management solutions) the statistics are as follows for U.S. book publishing for 2008, compiled from its Books In Print® database. Based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers, Bowker is projecting that title output in 2008 decreased by 3.2%, with 275,232 new titles and editions, down from the 284,370 that were published in 2007.

Interestingly, this decline in traditional book publishing is offset by another extraordinary year of growth in the reported number of “On Demand” and short-run books produced in 2008.  Bowker projects that 285,394 On Demand books were produced last year, a staggering 132% increase over last year’s final total of 123,276 titles.  This is the second consecutive year of triple-digit growth in the On Demand segment, which in 2008 was 462% above levels seen as recently as 2006.

Those numbers are not promising for traditional publishing, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate those percentages and determine the ultimate result when the lines cross on the X-Y axes chart.

According to Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for Bowker, “Our statistics for 2008 benchmark an historic development in the U.S. book publishing industry as we crossed a point last year in which On Demand and short-run books exceeded the number of traditional books entering the marketplace. It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench. If you look beyond the numbers, you begin to see that 2008 was a pivotal year that benchmarks the changing face of publishing.”

I must agree with Ms. Gallagher that it looks like On Demand printing is, indeed, changing the face of publishing from the traditional publishing model. A few more years with the numbers continuing in the same direction may result in a huge consolidation of the remaining traditional publishers or a complete revision of the business model that will incorporate the POD technologies. We've already seen some of this change by the decisions of traditional publishers to offer digital versions. But that's a can of worms I'm not going to address in this post.

Retrenching, as Ms. Gallagher calls it, is not uncommon when technology changes the playing field. A similar consolidation took place a few years ago in the commercial printing industry. Digital printing and CTP (computer-to-plate) capabilities opened new markets for the larger commercial printers. Consolidation resulted, making the large printers larger, and the smaller ones were either absorbed or driven out of the business. Could this happen with traditional book publishing? Unfortunately, yes, it can. And it may be heading in that direction at lightspeed. With today’s ever-changing technology and the ability of any writer to take advantage of those services, traditional publishers, editors and literary agents are no longer necessary in order to get a writer's work to market and to the end user in either a hard copy or a digital copy format. It could happen. It's happening right this moment.

So there you have it. It appears that things are changing. What do you think?

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Publishing Universe

Scientists tell us the universe is expanding. And that's especially true in the world of publishing. At the core of this expansion, there are well-known, ancient planets that have been governed forever by powerful agents, answering to editors at publishing companies. They are the leaders of the old world that has long been ruled by tradition and protocol, where everyone marches to the same drum beat. These are the entities that determine what will be published and what we will be allowed to read.

Many of the old publishing houses are still around. They will probably remain for a while longer, continuing to provide their services in their present capacity. In time, they will pass into history like buggy whips and vinyl recordings. Nothing lasts forever.

New worlds are evolving and challenging the tradition long thought to be the only route to publication. These outlying planets are new — rogue empires that are a haven for rebel writers. All are welcome and none are turned away. I'm referring to the world of self-publishing, also known as POD (print on demand). This new route to publishing is actually not as new as it may appear. Evolution and consumer demand have morphed the old vanity press industry into something much more desirable, respectable, and viable for today's writers. Although some may consider the POD destination to be a black hole that an aspiring author should avoid at all costs, others see it as a way to achieve their publishing goal. As the publishing world cuts costs and becomes increasingly more digital, the options offered by POD are becoming even more feasible for writers. In fact, more light is escaping from these black holes every year and illuminating new publishing success.

Some literary agents don't appear too fond of self-publishing or the value of self-published books. Perhaps it's because of the freedom it gives writers, or the control it takes away from agents. In fact, some recent posts on agent blogs have been quite enlightening, as are the many comments they've received, a large portion of which disagree with the opinions of those agents. Obviously, agents need to justify their existence as the gatekeepers for what material will be printed and passed along to the readers of the world. I don't devalue that duty in the least. I'm just not certain that's working out very well these days, because I've read a lot of published material lately that I would consider inferior to the excerpts that have been submitted to this blog by unpublished authors.

But aside from the control issue, there is another obvious reason that agents are not keen on the self-publishing option. If writers suddenly decided to take publishing into their own hands and stop submitting their work to literary agencies, more than a few agents would be looking for new jobs. So, it isn't surprising to hear an agent denounce self-publishing.

However, more and more writers are deciding that an agent's opinion is not the only opinion, or the final opinion, or the opinion that should determine the fate of their manuscript. Some writers have become weary with the rejection, have changed course, and have taken the self-publishing route. Many have gained more success with this new approach than their years of determined effort in traditional publishing ever brought them. It's a whole new world out there, and writers now have options other than turning their future over to an agent with no vested interest in their success.

But as a writer, you must determine the final fate of your story. If you decide to set your course for the POD Galaxy, the better-known outposts include Create Space, Lulu, Xlibris, and iUniverse, to name a few. These options allow a writer to bypass the traditional routes to publishing and just get on with it under their own direction and control. Your book can be published with generally no, or very little, upfront cost. It can be available to your readers in a short time in printed form on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or it can be downloaded in seconds to a Kindle or other digital reader. And if you think digital publishing is just a flash in the pan that's going to disappear, just ask literary agent Nathan Bransford.

If you haven't investigated this option for publishing your work, you might want to take a look, just so you know what is currently available in today's high-tech world. And if any of you have gone that route, please leave a comment and let us know how your journey went and whether you returned home safely or not.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quitting? Will you? Can you?

I just finished reading Authoress's wonderful blog post today about giving up on writing. Her words really hit home with me, and perhaps they will with you when you read them. I must admit that I've considered writing a post on this very subject, but she has done a much better job of it than I could ever do.

As she says, writing is an addiction. It fills us with wonderful expectations of what might happen. And, at the same time, it pushes us down to the very depths of our soul when the things we hope for don't occur.

If you've ever considered giving up, putting your muse to rest forever, and never writing another opening line, you owe it to yourself to read her words today. Click here: Miss Snark's First Victim.

Thanks Authoress for bringing it home and sharing what we've all felt. Feel free to leave a comment here, and on her blog as well if you'd like to share your own story.