Virgin Author Ch 5 She's As Good As I Can Get Her! Now What?
She's as good as I can get her!
At the time of this writing, despite all my tawdry banter, I’ve actually had the inestimable pleasure of officiating two weddings. Messing around is fun and all, don’t get me wrong, but you can find the right one eventually. Things… click. They work. You find something in someone. Something you never quite could name, but oh how they drive you crazy in all the best ways. There’s something there, and continuing to only date them won't cut it. If you know what I’m talking about, then you can appreciate the analogy. If not, well… you’ll get your day in the sun. Don’t you worry. (I said, don’t worry!) I bring up weddings because they take a lot A LOT of planning. Even if you elope, you still gotta plan the sucker. Even Vegas weddings take some sort of tacit agreement and a trip to a 24-hour chapel. But one way or another, you find yourself at the altar, standing next to your love. The person that makes you glow. The completion of you as a person. The ying to your yang… etc etc ad naseum. You got to where you’re standing at the wedding because your relationship has gotten as good as it can through dating/courtship/arranged marriage alliance. Likewise, with your story, through editing and beta reading and all that other sexy stuff we talked about for two whole stinking chapters, you eventually get to the point where you’re ready. As ready as you can be. What’s next? You propose, of course, dummy. – And then you say I Do (and really mean it, like with witnesses and your mom crying and matching tuxes and everything). Even as I write this, the writing industry is changing. By the time this sits before your eyes, it’ll probably already be slightly outdated (ah hell, let’s be honest, it’s probably already outdated… but it’s something!). Ever since the introduction and rise of self/indie publishing, Amazon, and things like print on demand, the game has irrevocably changed. Once upon a time, there were 10+ Big Publishers. They were the only legitimate way to go big with your book and they knew it. Then, a vicious free-for-all happened: they started buying each other out. When the dust settled, there were basically only 5 left standing. Today, they’re known as “The Big Five” publishers. But there’s good news for you! They’re not your only hope any more, Obi-wan Kenobi. Let me explain… Author Marketing, Choosing Your Own Publishing Route, and Illustrators, Oh My! There’s three major ways to do this thing now. Publish that is. Let’s count them together, shall we? ONE: Traditional
While the Big Five aren’t your only hope, they’re still, you know… kinda a big deal. They’re still the proverbial literary king-makers of the industry. They have deep pockets and a global reach. They have pro marketing teams, they have Hollywood connections, they have fancy high-rises in the sky. Gold and glory await! … but at a price. It’s dangerous to go alone, too. The kitch is that they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. AKA, if you don’t have a literary agent, take your anonymous ass home. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk more on getting agented later, if this is the route you’d like to go) Attracting an offer from the Big Five is also slow. I mean YEARS in the making. While this is honestly depressing, that’s just how things work when they only take half the year to focus on hundreds of thousands of submitted manuscripts. If your heart is set on this route, you have to keep writing. Keep writing until you have multiple manuscripts in the pipeline. Stephen King said, ‘your best PR is your next book,’ – and let me tell you, from experience just how true it is. Regardless of which publishing path you choose (and you can choose more than one over time – that’s called being a Hybrid Author), keep writing. Unless you wrote To Kill a Mocking Bird (and I’m fairly sure you didn’t, ok), keep writing. Write because you love your story. Write because it’s who you are and it’s what you’d be doing on a cold Tuesday morning in March anyways. TWO: Hybrid
Barring the Big Five, there are plenty of other guys out there with muscle. Plenty of other delicious ladies. Publishers. Publishers, I mean. The biggest thing to watch out for are skeevy vanity presses. Look, you don’t want someone to just tell you Yes, I’ll publish you – but first you gotta pay me a bunch of money. That’s not how the game works. If you encounter anything like that, you’re being hustled, honey. Don’t bite. However, there are good guys out there. There are mid and small-range publishers who are hungry for the next awesome book – and who knows? It might even be yours! Unlike the vaunted Big Five, these guys don’t always insist on you being agented, either. Some accept unsolicited manuscripts. But do yourself a favor, if, brave writer, this be your chosen path: actually research the publisher before submitting. Use this magical thing called THE INTERNET and read up on them. See what kind of genres they like publishing. Read how they want you to submit and when. Another thing you can do is be paying attention to the literary market. For example, in 2018 in the YA Fantasy genre that I usually write in, stories involving Witches were off the chain. So, ergo, in 2019, the market is already flooded with stories about them. This is where regularly visiting book stores over time – even paying attention to the trending stories in your genre on major online publishers can help you. New books are typically released in the Spring and the Fall. It’s those times especially when you should keep your eyes peeled. If you have a story involving whatever it is that’s trending, the odds are that if you tried to rush to submit it then and there, you’d probably get passed on. But I’m here to tell you, that’s ok. It’s not a knock on you personally (you’re still as pretty and sexy as ever) or on your precious story. Keep writing. Submit again next year. There is a publisher right for you, you just have to find them, and be persistent and level-headed in the meantime. If you’re interested in small and mid-range publishers, another excellent question to ask yourself is, what do I want this book to do? If you just want to show off a little ditty to friends and families and maybe your small-town rumor mill, you might want to consider indie/self publishing, instead. And lucky you, look! That’s what we’re talking about next… THREE: Indie/Self Publishing
First off, let’s set the record straight again (again) on indie publishing. Only snooty ass-hats look down on it. Don’t bother yourself about them. The game has changed. We don’t have to suckle at the teats of a monopolized industry anymore (thank God). If you want to get your story out now, then by all means, do it. Drop it like it’s hot. (oh geeze, I just dated myself, didn’t I?) Right now, there’s plenty of indie publishers, from Amazon to Smashwords – and they’re all great at something. Again, this is a publishing path that warrants consideration. Don’t just rush off to join the Great War of our time without realizing what it’s going to cost you. First off, if you take this route you need to understand this is just you pushing your book. You book needs to gleam (not just because you wrote it) of it’s own accord. Plot itself is not good enough. We’re talking no grammar or spelling mistakes. Your formatting for any given indie publisher must be perfect. Your cover needs to rock (use a professional). You’ll need to get a barcode and ISBN (if the indie publisher doesn’t already offer one). And, to top it all off, you have to be your own savvy marketing team, on top of continuing to write. You have to plan your own releases and get the news out successfully. You need to set up author signings local bookstores etc. Can going Indie be done? Sure. But to make it work it must be done well. No exceptions. If you’re still a braveheart on this publishing option, here’s a few indie publishers to consider: - Amazon KDP: It’s free to publish, they include free ISBN’s, they have print on demand and e-book capabilities, Romance tends to sell best on their platform. Another thing to be aware of is that while they can offer you up to 70% royalties, the trade-off is that they’ll make you temporarily hand the rights to your work over to them. They also have a lower royalty option which is nonexclusive. Also also, more and more, Amazon is becoming pay-to-play, meaning if you want your book to trend on their platform, you’ll need to pay for ads. - Smashwords: Free to publish and why look at that, they’re also the number two seller of Ebooks in the world. So that’s cool! It’s easy to upload your work and cover, plus they offer special sales you can opt in for to help push your book to new readers. Royalties are decent too, and while they prefer you to be exclusive to them, you can still publish on other indie sites too. The only drawback is that they don’t do physical books. - IngramSpark: If you really REALLY want to get your book(s) primarily into brick and mortar stores as an Indie writer, this route is for you. Ever wondered how certain books actually appear in book stores? (And no, it’s not by way of Stork, contrary to popular opinion). Every book store in the world receives catalogues from publishers pushing up and coming novels they’re betting will be the next best seller. Then, often at the prodding/extorting of a publisher sales person, the store manager chooses which titles to stock. There, now you know (*Note how many storks were involved). Ingram Spark is one of the Big Guys pushing their globally distributed, well-founded literary catalogue. And guess what? You can get your book in it through them. They also distribute your book out to other indie outlets as well. Here’s the downside, though: They can get expensive. Not only does it cost to publish through them, but it also costs to do multiple revisions. Plus, from personal experience, their support department isn’t the greatest. TLDR: IngramSpark is great if you want to get into brick and mortar book stores, but you need to get it right the first time with them and expect to fork over some money. Oh, they offer hardback creation, too. - LuLu: I include LuLu because they’re, in my opinion, a solid fourth choice. If anyone from LuLu reads this, look. You would be higher, you really would! But the fact that you can only publish books with glossy covers and not matte is real deal-breaker. Up your game and we’ll love you all the better. They’re a print on demand indie publisher who does hardbacks. Cool, right? It costs some money to go through them, and they’ll help distribute your work to other publishing channels too; however, they don’t have the same catalogue presence in brick and mortar stores like Ingram does. There’s other indie publishers too! Like I said, there’s lots of folks out there on the internet doing it – some for free, some for money. Beware of scams. There is no mythical Ethiopian Prince in desperate need of gifting his wealth to you. … Sorry? There’s also e-only communities forming all the time, too. Personally, I think the best way to hear about and vette possible new indie publishers is through well-established literary organizations. They’ve been around long enough to already know who’s on the level and who’s crazy. Writer Beware is another excellent general resource for the curious writer. A quick Google search wouldn’t hurt, either. Another resource are writer podcasts like WritePack Radio etc. (there’s a crap ton out there, just hunt around until you find one you like, then subscribe). In the next… wait. Wait. Wait just a minute. This already God-awful long chapter isn’t over yet. Crap, I didn’t even go into marketing yet. Or finding illustrators. Well, damn. Could you hang with me for another few paragraphs? Then I swear I’ll finish this one off for both of us. You have to market yourself as an author. You are the brand, and oh look, you write awesome books, too! You MUST be on social media. It’s 2019 right now. Get with it. No, it’s not that scary. Yes, you can figure it out. Start before your book releases. Get on all the major social media platforms. Get a professional author website done. Name all your sites and pages off your author name, not your book title. An excellent podcast to check out is Buffer’s The Science of Social Media – they’ll help keep you current on cutting-edge marketing trends. If you need help. If this is honestly overwhelming or you don’t want to devote the time this needs (and no, you can’t just ignore this, even if you do land a Big 5 publisher), let’s talk. I help authors of all genres. Message me at http://ryanpfreeman.com/authorservices. Get a nice head-shot – in lieu of a photographer, use a smartphone, taken with decent lighting. Portrait, not landscape. Research other author’s sites and mimic. Write up a long and short author bio. Make all your platforms and sites share cohesion with a single unified message (that’s branding 101, son). Be honest. Be real. Inspire. Entertain. Also, check out apps like Canva, Buffer, Animoto, and Feedly. Remember, no one else is going to make this happen. People aren’t just going to buy your book because you’re a special snowflake. All the same, you have a story that needs telling – so get it into the right people’s hands so they can have their hearts and imaginations changed because of your words. Getting an illustrator crash-course:
Either get personally referred to a few through that professional writers guild you joined or check out sites like Fiver or 99Designs. Finding a decent cover artist/illustrator is basically the same as finding the right editor (remember?). Yes, you need to pay them. No, you should not just have your buddy make your cover. Personally, I like working with Laura Farci or Jennifer Stolzer – they’re wonderful people and they have great style. Fast, usually in my price range, and task-oriented. Look up how to write what’s called an ‘Art Brief’, identify examples of the sort of style you’d prefer (realize that the more detailed you want things often means shelling out more cash). If you’re going indie, figure out your book’s physical size – I.E., dimensions, spine width, glossy or matte cover, hard or soft – and communicate this with your illustrator. Work with them, but also let them work. Good illustrators know what they’re doing. Trust them. Once they finish, you’ll often give the final payment, and then they’ll release the final work along with rights to it.
Whew. That was fast and furious. You ok? Need some water or something? Clean yourself up – next chapter is all about landing agents, pitching your books, writing cons… all that jazz. If you want big publishers to give a crap about you, or you want to give a crap about yourself as a writer, this next bit is for you.
Need a refresher on last chapter still?