On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Trick is in the Selling

Since I teach at conferences and other places, I run into many writers who want to be published. Their writing quality ranges from perfection to scribbles, but most fall into what I call the "middle writer" level -- good writers who are nevertheless missing techniques that will push their writing to a truly professional level.

These middle writers are, naturally, eager to be published, and frankly think they're ready to be published. In my opinion, they're not quite there. Rather, they're passing through a stage that all writers go through. This stage is fraught with danger with the easy availability now of publishing oneself.

I feel like a broken record with publishing advice, but can't stand to see good people taken advantage of. So here goes, one more time.

First, let me tell you my story and why I think I can give advice. A few years ago I was at the middle writer stage when I signed with my dream agent. Sadly he turned out to be a nightmare: he told me he'd showed my ms to a number of publishers, did not give me a list, then abruptly broke all contact with me. (I know he actually did show the ms since I had a telephone call from an editor asking questions). If you know anything about the biz, you'll realize I was screwed with finding another agent since I didn't know who'd seen the ms. Shortly after that I experienced a health crisis so was not able to write for a long time due to depression.

My options were to change the title and hunt for another agent, write another book with which to piggyback my ms, or self-publish. I put on my publisher's hat and looked at my ms with fresh eyes. Not only was it way too long and therefore too costly to publish with a reasonable book price, but it had many *middle writer* errors that needed to be cleared up. My friend Jane edited the durn thing and taught me through her critiques how this is done. Once she'd finished I took the next year  compulsively editing. I cut the ms from 117K to 89K, changed passive voice, got rid of adverbs, rabbit trails, and so forth. It took me five or six passes before I was  happy.

I hired a book packager (Archer Ellison, a fantastic company that I recommend without reservation) to design a cover, and hired my friend Chris to copyedit and typeset. Both companies did an outstanding job. Then I formed an LLC and put up Lever for sale in 2009. I've worked with a friend/consultant with my company but mostly do this myself. A year or two later, when ebooks started becoming big, I searched for someone to format my book but only found usurious places, so I figured out how to do this myself. I've since opened an epublishing branch of my company so that others can epublish their books without being ripped off.

By 2009 I was able to write again. My next book wasn't working out though so I took a detour to study story structure. After puzzling out story structure, then coaching would-be novelists in a class at the local high school and clients from the library, I was ready to write Template. I did this in three months (since I'd worked with this stuff for so long) and put Template up in 2011.

I have been amazingly blessed and gratified to hear from so many people who have found Template helpful. This has been so exciting for me. As a side benefit, Lever has also sold a few copies. I am happy to announce that I will be publishing another person within the year, and hope to soon develop Taegais into a full-blown professional publishing company. While I'm not yet officially looking for submissions, I always keep my eyes open for something *excellent.*

OK, so back to the middle writer syndrome. As I mentioned before, I believe 100% of people who continue to write go through this stage, and it is a noble place to be. The middle writer is a skillful writer who works hard and is beginning to see people (mostly critique partners) actually like their work. The downside is that it is tempting for the middle write to think he's better than he is. The middle writer typically sends queries and mss to agents, but has had disappointing results -- maybe a request for something, but it usually ends up in a dead end.

The middle writer then hears enticing stories about writers like John Locke and Amanda Hocking, self-publishers who have sold (literally) a million books. Come-hither advertisements for subsidy publishers in writing magazines tell this writer how he can take control to publish his book instead of waiting for the glacial pace of traditional publishers.

My advice: I am aware of only one subsidy company, my friend Chris' company Yav Publications, that will not rip you off. I've also heard good things about amazon's DIY company Create Space. You can read about what to look for in subsidy publishers in Mark Levine's book The Fine Print of Self Publishing. But if you MUST self-publish then consider forming a company to do it yourself. If you need help in getting started, please write to me and I'll set you on the right direction. It's not nearly as difficult or as complicated as you may think.

But here's some more advice: remember that it is relatively easy to package an attractive book. The hard part is selling it. If your writing is only at the middle level, your book will not give the reader as exciting an experience as he craves, and he will be less likely to recommend you to his friends. It is REALLY HARD to sell books. For middle writers I always recommend ignoring the outlier stories and keep working to make your writing fabulous. Don't prematurely publish your work, because you will damage both it and your writing reputation. Keep working till you jump to the next level. Then when it's time to publish, you'll be ready.

No comments:

Post a Comment