I’ve read articles like this before; this one is clear and useful to remind us all why it’s important to keep doing what we love. As is so often the case these days, it’s an indirect plug for self-publishing. I hope you find it helpful.
Just a quick share this morning—I’m deep in editing (I really will publish again soon!). But this is a post everyone can use. Share it far and wide. Thanks again to Chris the Story Reading Ape for making this kind of information available to us all.
Now that we’re a few weeks into 2021, let’s all breathe a deep sigh of relief together for overcoming what has to be one of the hardest years we’ve experienced in modern times.
And you made it through! That’s a victory worth celebrating, especially with the people who helped you navigate the chaos with websites filled with guides, tips and tricks, blog posts, podcasts and newsletters to help get better at the one thing you love the most: writing.
If you wrote a novel while under lockdown, good for you! And if you didn’t? Good. For. You.
When it comes to writing, output isn’t the only critical part of the process — it’s just as important to reset, refresh and reinvigorate your writing brain with new techniques that help you write better.
Wherever you’ve landed in your writing journey, we have just the websites that’ll help…
Here’s a very helpful post from that wizard, Jane Friedman, via Chris the Story Reading Ape (also a wizard). I am not a wizard, but to this comprehensive description of the ways you can publish, I must add this: If you really want to publish, don’t go on Facebook or Twitter and ask, “Can someone tell me how to publish a book?” Your respondents would have to spend the rest of their afternoon telling you what’s available on sites like Friedman’s—she’s an excellent portal. Check through my posts for links to many, many other terrific sites for directions and advice.
My point is, if you really want the answer, it’s out there. Do your research! You can jumpstart your process by following Chris and Jane.
Since 2013, I have been regularly updating this informational chart about the key book publishing paths. It is available as a PDF download (from Jane’s original blog post)—ideal for photocopying and distributing for workshops and classrooms—plus the full text is also below.
One of the biggest questions I hear from authors today: Should I traditionally publish or self-publish?
This is an increasingly complicated question to answer because:
This column reminded me how I’m constantly surprised by some of the questions aspiring writers ask on self-help Facebook sites. Yesterday, is grammar important? Today, should an author get a web site? This column offers some advice I think everyone hoping to publish needs.
Me included. Realizing that writing is a business—never a comfortable home territory for me—but also that it really has to be something you just can’t help doing: These are the reminders I need.
There are a few folks I consider treasures for the #writingcommunity. If you’re not familiar with Jane Friedman, take the time to learn about her. (And make sure you subscribe to Chris the Story Reading Ape, a terrific curator of posts we all can use.)
Over the weekend, you might have seen a writing-and-money topic trending on Twitter, #PublishingPaidMe, where authors started publicly sharing their advances. Such transparency is long overdue and—in this particular case—is meant to reveal stark differences between what Black and non-Black authors get paid.
Amidst these tweets, I saw a repeated call to action for Black authors: Before you agree to a deal, ask your publisher about their marketing and promotion plans for your book. Ask how they plan to support you.
Ask, ask, ask. (Because their support falls short of where it needs to be, and publishers have to be pushed.)
To assist with that call to action, I’ve collected and expanded information from my past books and articles to help authors ask questions of their potential or existing publisher. I’ve tried to also include indicators that will help you notice and challenge unhelpful answers. If you have an…
I’ve also found that members of one of my writing groups struggle with this distinction between publishers, packagers, and distributors from Sarah Bolme. There’s also some great information about Amazon’s imprints. Enjoy!
I often feel like a Grinch when I respond to these discussions and questions by saying, “Go online. Google ‘How to.’ There are many wonderful people out there providing solid advice and authoritative, expert guidelines.” Yes, there are also scammers, but if you follow the admonition not to pay anyone anything until you have investigated a wide range of options—and to take the same basic precautions you’d take buying any product—you won’t fall into any serious traps.
I found sources like these the way I suspect anyone builds a personal knowledge base, by clicking on intriguing articles and subscribing to bloggers whose advice seemed relevant to my goals. Compilers like Chris the Story Reading Ape have also given me lots of trails to follow.
Comment and turn all of us on to your favorites. To whom do you go for expert advice on the many aspects of publishing, both traditional and indie? I am always up for learning more!
The very first line of your query has to tell the agent or editor how long your book is.
The execrable fact is that they expect certain genres to fall within certain limits.
When you’re an overwriter, like me, always able to stroke out one more metaphor, one more lilting phrase, one more neat character detail, hitting those word limits can be a challenge.
The problem intensifies when your writing groups and betas want “More! More!” Or when they push you to look at issues in your story that you glossed over before but now can’t leave unresolved.
So I faced querying a psychological-suspense manuscript at 107,000+ words and an accidental-detective mystery at 106,000+. I’m here to report that both books are now under 100,000 words.
I’ve read enough submissions in writing groups to know that I’m not the only one in need of a repertoire of tricks (okay, strategies) for corralling a manuscript that has bolted for the hills. I needed “Power Cutting” skills.
I know what a lot of us would say: Cut 7,000 words?!? That will destroy my book! My brilliant writing will win over readers no matter how long it is.
Maybe, but you have to get an agent or editor to read your brilliant writing instead of thinking, “That sounds way too long.”
In fact, my efforts taught me strategies, many of them simple fixes, that actually improved my books rather than devastating them.
Not only will these strategies help you catch bad habits, they’ll force you to think hard about your story: What is it about, what belongs and what doesn’t? At least, that’s what Power Cutting did for me.
Here are some of the big-ticket things I learned.
Have a word-count goal. Until you make up your mind that you MUST cut, you won’t. Watching that number at the bottom of the screen sink and sink inspires!
Cut hard now, reconsider later. You might cut too hard and scrape off too much voice, but storing your cuts in a separate, renamed file saves your original language, ready to reinstate after you’ve exceeded your goal.
Remember that no one but you knows what you took out. No one else will miss your golden imagery or your delicate dialogue exchange.
Cut via a complete read-through. You’ll spot problems like repetition that would not show up if you dove in at random, and you’ll maintain the continuity of your story.
Throughout, remember that clarity comes first. Always make sure, for example, that it’s clear who’s speaking before you cut a dialogue tag.
Ask first and last, what does this scene/paragraph/line add?Three cuts to look for:
Work you’ve already done. Yes, certain themes and events should be kept before your readers, but when you find yourself thinking, “Didn’t he already say this?”, he probably did. If there’s no new twist to a scene or interior monologue, it can go.
Dialogue exchanges that don’t further the plot. Banter for banter’s sake, no matter how scintillating, takes up real estate. Dialogue cuts better when it’s sharp.
Piled up details/metaphors/images. In literary fiction, you can interweave whole pages of lyrical description with luscious introspection. In commercial fiction, most paragraphs drag after more than one detail or image, no matter how powerful. Pick the one that does the most work in the fewest and/or most evocative words.
I found some more specific strategies as I progressed with my cutting. I’ll share some of those in an upcoming post.
Thanks to Chris for this piece from Jane Friedman’s blog. It says some things that are always good to hear. For example, that you didn’t get that agent doesn’t mean your writing is no good. . . . Take heart!
Almost anyone who has spent time in the query trenches knows how challenging it is to capture the attention of a literary agent.
Most agents, even new agents eager to build their client list, pass on over 90 percent of the queries they receive. In some cases, the reason is obvious: The agent doesn’t represent the writer’s genre; the writer has written a synopsis rather than a query letter; the agent isn’t accepting queries, at all.
In other cases, the writer might be doing everything right—researching agents, following submission guidelines, querying only once they have a polished manuscript—but still experience radio silence. Or, maybe they are receiving requests for pages, or feedback from the agent along with the opportunity to resubmit, but an offer of representation just isn’t coming through. If the writing is good or at least shows potential—how else would they have come this…