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Source: (consider it) Thread: Publishing ... pitfalls, pratfalls and potential
Brenda Clough
Shipmate
# 18061

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Whew, glad to hear it. If Dumas pere is on the job then I don't need to step in.

That's a common barrier for SF and fantasy writers. Nobody has met a Martian, nor ever talked to one. So, how to tell a novel from the Martian point of view? A further complication is of course that your readers are all reading English, and will surely never buy a volume in a language that nobody knows. Tolkien had pages and pages of fun with this one, back in the appendices to LOTR.

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Zappa
Ship's Wake
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A somewhat tangential issue (actiually utterly tangential, so maybe it should be on another thread, board or even website) is that of identity. My two books are published under my own name. (Yeah, I keep outing myself but My Self isn't very important so meh).

But the parenthesis is the point. Like the anonymity of the nommes de Ship. I don't really care if you know who I am because I'm not (surprise surprise) Justin Welby and I don't say anything shipboard that I don't say publically.

But if my current novel were to be published some advisors are saying it should be under a pseudonym, a la Robert Galbraith. Possibly a bad example or possibly not, as that's a very thin pseudonym.

I think the theory is that my main characters say "fuck" a lot and have sex and stuff. Whereas the main character in my theological books is God and he/she probably does say the former but it's not on record and tends to eternally self-perpetuate rather than shag. Though Muslims question whether that is what we really mean but that's another story.

My problem with pseudomnymity is that the novel and the books address the exact same problem: being human when there may or may not be a redeeming hope.

So I tend to think the same person (referred to predominately by the perpendicular pronoun) wrote about God and about someone who says "fuck" and occasionally engages in fucking (actually not gratuitously, and by allusion rather than explicit narrative voyeurism, that's not my style) so I should stick without the pesudonym.

Besides Zappa is such a catchy name.

Oh well, just musing. But I guess it's another pitfall, pratfall and potential.

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Brenda Clough
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A pen name is perfectly OK. It's just marketing, and people do it for all kinds of mundane reasons. Romance writers use them all the time, merely to distinguish between their different flavors of romance novel. Those who are a fan of Louisa Author's hot sexy bodice rippers would be disappointed with her sedate Regency romances that conclude with a chaste kiss. So she does the latter under a different pen name and everybody's happy.

I have a friend who teaches seventh grade. She publishes all her work under a pen name, simply to save on the difficulty of kids (or their parents!) googling on her name and kicking up all these awful vampire novels.

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Doc Tor
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I taught Y6 for about 8 years. That I was also a published author was a five-minute wonder for the kids, and if any of the parents complained about the amount of times I used "fuck" in my books (and also, much, much worse), it never got back to me.

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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My friend was also including lesbian material in her work, and she was teaching in a quite conservative district. So it was sensible of her, all around.

The other good reason to use a pen name is if your own name is either too bland (John Jones, perhaps) or too easily confused with someone else. Everyone with the last name 'Rowling' whose first name begins with J probably should rethink. It would work in your favor, you say. Not if she sues you, it won't.

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andras
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Lesbianism, various swear-words and the like - which used to be absolute no-noes in books although Heaven knows they were certainly present in 'real life' - are fine in books written these days, because public attitudes have shifted, though of course some places are more conservative than others.

Conversely, a lot of attitudes which were quite normal in, say, the 1960s or earlier are now regarded with so much disapproval that it's just about impossible to put them into a character's speech when writing about that era.

To describe a mean person as a jew (note the lower case!) was perfectly normal in the 1920s and later but a modern writer who put tha expression into a historical character's mouth would be open to accusations of racism, stereotyping, arousing racial hatred and the like.

So we self-censor. Crazy, but there we are!

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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I would say rather that you are writing for readers of your time -- just as that author in the 1920s was. You can do no other; we are creatures of our time the way fish swim in their water.
Historical novelists wrestle with this all the time. You have to show the offensive period behavior as historical. It would be inaccurate, to leave out the anti-Semitism in your Nazi Germany novel. But your work might indicate that it is awful, in the past, and not to be emulated. If you fail to do this, you might have a problem.

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andras
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# 2065

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
I would say rather that you are writing for readers of your time -- just as that author in the 1920s was. You can do no other; we are creatures of our time the way fish swim in their water.
Historical novelists wrestle with this all the time. You have to show the offensive period behavior as historical. It would be inaccurate, to leave out the anti-Semitism in your Nazi Germany novel. But your work might indicate that it is awful, in the past, and not to be emulated. If you fail to do this, you might have a problem.

That's certainly true as far as it goes, but - for instance - a novel set in Imperial Rome doesn't need to point out the horrors of slavery because the modern reader can be expected to take them for granted.

On the other hand, poor old Mark Twain regularly gets it in the neck for his free use of the N-word in Huck Finn because so many of his modern readers are so lacking in nous, common sense, education, wit and the intelligence that they were supposedly born with to grasp what Twain is really doing.

Heaven preserve us all from the literally-minded but ignorant reader!

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

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Paul.
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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
To describe a mean person as a jew (note the lower case!) was perfectly normal in the 1920s and later ...

And earlier. My favourite Shakespeare play is Much Ado About Nothing which contains this line when Benedick "discovers" Beatrice loves him:

quote:
If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain; if I do not love her, I am a Jew.
I recently re-watched five adaptations of the play (I was/am planning to do a blog series comparing them) and it was interesting to see what they did with this line. The earliest (a BBC one from 1984) keeps the line as-is. The Brannagh movie cuts it. The others change it to either 'dog' or 'fool'. This includes Whedon who keeps the following line when Claudio is asked if he's ready to marry Hero's "cousin" instead of her:

quote:
I'll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.
Given that it's set in current day L.A. that's a bold choice. Though he undercuts it by having an African-American actress do a double-take to camera as the line is spoken.

I think unless you handle it like that these lines jar the modern viewer out of the moment so cutting/changing them seems reasonable.

Which sort of brings me around to the point about getting period details right. In fact this applies to any technical details. Let me put it this way. There's the setting and there's the story. You can diminish the enjoyment of the story if you get the setting details wrong, you can only enhance it so much by getting them right. Fundamentally if it's a mediocre story, but you got the details about Victorian fireplaces right, well that isn't going to make anyone love it.

And if it does, maybe your book should be non-fiction.

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Brenda Clough
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There's a point of diminishing returns, too. Yes, you know everything there is to know about how Augustus Caesar's cavalry trained their horses in the year 2 BC. But not one person in a thousand can tell if you're right or not. And if you insist on telling us, to show that you're a master of all the details, it just loads the story down with unnecessary and dull exposition.

Thus the rule must be, that the story wins over everything. If it doesn't make the book better, don't do it. And this gets you off the hook about Caesar's cavalry training as well. If you're sufficiently good a writer, the quickness of the hand deceives the eye. Nobody will care whether you're right or wrong, because the book's just too thrilling for anyone to notice. Mug up the historical minutiae later. Make the book superb, now.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
If Dumas pere is on the job then I don't need to step in.

Dumas pere is rather obviously a nineteenth century Frenchman, from before Flaubert, James, and Show not Tell. So there's room.

I also don't know whether anyone has ever written a historical novel about Dumas grandpere. It's the kind of thing that if you wrote it as fiction your readers would dismiss it as too unrealistic.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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georgiaboy
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
There's a point of diminishing returns, too. Yes, you know everything there is to know about how Augustus Caesar's cavalry trained their horses in the year 2 BC. But not one person in a thousand can tell if you're right or not. And if you insist on telling us, to show that you're a master of all the details, it just loads the story down with unnecessary and dull exposition.


I completely agree! Knowing my interest in the period, my son gave me a door-stop-sized novel set in consular Rome. (Sorry, can't recall either title or author.) It was exhaustingly researched, well written, and had a good plot-line. Unfortunately, the tons of historical data so completely swamped the narrative that bits of that data are all I can recall. IIRC the book was 1000+ pages and the author indicated that there would be more than one sequel. (I did NOT search them out!)

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Brenda Clough
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The term for this is data-dumping. You are -going- to hear about Caesar's tacticians, whether you want to or not, and the data is dumped, like horse manure from a truck, into your driveway.
The allied flaw is the as-you-know-Bob, which is how you try to veneer over the naked data dump. "As you know, Bob, these carpets are made out of polyester." "Really, Linda? Isn't polyester a byproduct of the petroleum industry?" Nobody talks like that in real life, but if the reader -has- to be told about petroleum byproducts then Bob is the sock puppet that lets you dump your knowledge.

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andras
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Yes, what a historical novel (well, any novel really!) needs is just enough realism / adherence to known fact to make the fictional side of things go with a bang - what Pooh Bah calls Corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

Where it gets worrying - for the author at least - is finding that what was made up out of whole cloth actually turns out to be historically accurate but the writer had no way of knowing that when it was written. That's an experience I've had several times, and it only gets more spooky as time passes, not less.

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Adrian Plass

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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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The ancient convention of the Muse is helpful for that. You can blame the Muse for everything. She has charge of the entire business; you're just sitting there pounding the keyboard. She knew, even if you did not, that Queen Victoria never wore the same pair of drawers twice. (True -- there's tons of them stored away, hand-stitched linens that touched the royal hindquarters only once.) You do these things in your own manuscript, and it's not a surprise. The work is larger than you, with its own reality. You're flying over the landscape on big feathery wings, but you didn't make the mountains and the oceans. You're just discovering it.
Here's an interview with an author (free!) articulating this better.

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Zappa
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul.:

quote:
If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain; if I do not love her, I am a Jew.
I recently re-watched five adaptations of the play (I was/am planning to do a blog series comparing them) and it was interesting to see what they did with this line. The earliest (a BBC one from 1984) keeps the line as-is. The Brannagh movie cuts it. The others change it to either 'dog' or 'fool'. This includes Whedon who keeps the following line when Claudio is asked if he's ready to marry Hero's "cousin" instead of her:

Of course, one could argue that an editorial decision over which words more accurately convey the slur of the replaced synonym is more revealing of racist intent than using the ancient form ...

I'll stick to my character and her predeliction for emphatic expletives. If that's not a tautology, which I fear it is (but it sounded good and my Ship posts don't have to run past an editor. [Biased] )

Next step, soon: finding an agent and editor. And money to pay them. [Tear] Anyone know any poorly secured banks nearby?

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and mayhap this too: http://broken-moments.blogspot.co.nz/

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Brenda Clough
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quote:
Originally posted by Zappa:


Next step, soon: finding an agent and editor. And money to pay them. [Tear] Anyone know any poorly secured banks nearby?

OK, stop.
Quick discussion. A literary agent works on commission. She flogs your book off to Random House, and takes ten or fifteen percent of what they pay you. That is how she makes her living. Never pay an agent; if she demands cash in advance move on immediately, because she's not a real agent. Do not just sign on with anybody who announces they're an agent; check their credentials. On the internet nobody knows if you're a dog; there are a lot of complete amateurs out there.

Editors. I assume you're talking about getting someone to vet your ms. It is not a bad idea to get your ms into as professional a shape as possible. But before you do this be certain that you've carried it as far as you can yourself. No point in wasting money paying a pro to find your typos. Select this service as carefully as you would select someone to repave your driveway or fix your car. Get other writers to suggest people; don't just google it. Check their credentials (again it's easy for someone to just set up shop on line) and be certain that their editorial vision, and what they're offering to do, matches up with your expectations.

Have I mentioned before, that at one point I had a secret crime-fighting identity? We were combating writer scams with these people. I've written ten or twelve articles on the subject. Victoria Strauss runs Writer Beware. If you're contemplating signing on with a publisher or agent, it's worth asking her if she's heard of them. Writer Beware keeps tabs on all the major villains.

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Zappa
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All of which is exactly the opposite to what I've been advised! [Ultra confused]

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shameless self promotion - because I think it's worth it
and mayhap this too: http://broken-moments.blogspot.co.nz/

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andras
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# 2065

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Zappa, Brenda has spoken words of wisdom.

Heed them!

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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Zappa

In general, Brenda is right; see this piece by a publisher. They do say a small fee may be charged for reading, you do not pay agents for representing you ever, they take commission. There are also publishers who take submissions directly from an author. However, you really need to start thinking why should they read this particular manuscript. You need evidence that you take writing seriously, you have a good story and can tell it well.

Jengie

[ 29. September 2017, 11:54: Message edited by: Jengie jon ]

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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I acknowledge that the last sentence sounds like it is a chicken and egg situation. The aim is to deal creatively with it:
  • take writing seriously - writers groups, courses on writing, retreats
  • create a narrative - have you got a short story published or one a competition with one.
  • write it well, perhaps demonstrate with published articles or nonfiction books
They will also ask how commercial is this book?

Jengie

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"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

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andras
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# 2065

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Poetry, of course, hardly ever makes money for anybody - except publishers of anthologies aimed at first-year college students, of course!

So new poets do sometimes have to put their hands in their pockets to get published - but even then there's a world of difference between paying a vanity publisher through the nose to crank out a few poorly-done copies of your verse, and working hand-in-hand with an established and sympathetic publisher of new poetry who will give your work a fair boost.

But it's worth repeating that writers' groups are an excellent place to get going, as they frequently publish anthologies of their members' work. It's as good a way to get noticed as any and better than most, and probably won't cost you anything at all.

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God's on holiday.
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Adrian Plass

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Brenda Clough
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The agent/editor/publisher track is only of interest if what you want is to be traditionally published. Do not believe this is the only track; these days there are plenty others.

Publishers, and agents, are not in the business for the improvement of humanity. They need to make money. They seek works that can sell. If your work cannot clearly and quickly offer that, they won't be interested in you, and you will petition them in vain. (This is why all the sensible advice does not apply to Prince Harry, Michele Obama, Beyonce, etc. People will buy a book written by Prince Harry even if all he did was transcribe a McDonalds menu.)

Poetry is a slightly different animal simply because it -never- makes money. I can't remember the last time a poetry collection was a best-seller. That's why poets have no agents; ten or fifteen percent of nothing is nothing.

There are vast huge realms of criminal activity revolving around preying upon writers (or musicians or actors or whatever). We could discuss, but it's an enormous subject.

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Zappa
Ship's Wake
# 8433

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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Zappa, Brenda has spoken words of wisdom.

Heed them!

I'm sure that's true ... but the two new authors who advised me said that the best thing they'd done was select an agent ... and they were absolutely adamant.

One I think has published both poetry and short stories before, but the other seemed to come out of left field entirely.

I haven't put alternative publishing processes out of my head entirely (Dickens, after all ...) but it's not my reading practice to e-read or subscribe read etc so I'm keeping them down the thought process ... so far.

Anyway, before an evil host slaps me [Paranoid] don't let this become a homework thread for me [Roll Eyes] ... PM (thanks, You Who Know Who You Are!) any ideas though ... I'd really appreciate it. I might even clean up my in-box so I don't end up in that All Saints' Thread For The In-Crowd™ [Biased]

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shameless self promotion - because I think it's worth it
and mayhap this too: http://broken-moments.blogspot.co.nz/

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jedijudy

Organist of the Jedi Temple
# 333

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quote:
Originally posted by Zappa:
Anyway, before an evil host slaps me [Paranoid] don't let this become a homework thread for me [Roll Eyes]

Evil? Us? [Angel] You know better than most, Zappa, how sweet and kind Heaven Hosts are! [Two face]

jedijudy
One of the awesome and angelic Heaven Hosts


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Brenda Clough
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# 18061

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You could ask for more information. What exactly did this agent do for the author? Have the books been published, and with whom? What else does this publisher publish? Would the author do it again?
I know of agents who for a kickback steer the author to a vanity press, in which you pay for the publication. Or who funnel their clients to 'editors' or 'book doctors' who have all the expertise of my cat. It is very possible to acquire an agent who does not make you any money -- au very much contraire.
In the final analysis you have to decide: what exactly is it that you want to achieve? How much are you willing to put into achieving this goal? If you are well content to pay $3000 to a vanity press to print up your work, so that you can hold the bound volume in your hand, then there's not much to be said. You are the final arbiter. (Although I can tell you how to do it cheaper.)

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Zappa:
I'm sure that's true ... but the two new authors who advised me said that the best thing they'd done was select an agent ... and they were absolutely adamant.

Brenda's advice isn't not to get an agent. It's that you should get an agent (and a publisher) who doesn't ask for money from you up front. You want one whose business model depends on them selling your books. If your agent or publisher gets money for letting your manuscript sit on a shelf gathering dust you don't want that.

[ 30. September 2017, 08:40: Message edited by: Dafyd ]

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Trudy Scrumptious

BBE Shieldmaiden
# 5647

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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
quote:
Originally posted by Zappa:
I'm sure that's true ... but the two new authors who advised me said that the best thing they'd done was select an agent ... and they were absolutely adamant.

Brenda's advice isn't not to get an agent. It's that you should get an agent (and a publisher) who doesn't ask for money from you up front. You want one whose business model depends on them selling your books. If your agent or publisher gets money for letting your manuscript sit on a shelf gathering dust you don't want that.
Yes, that's it exactly. Make sure any agent or publisher you deal with is legit.

Also, make sure you actually NEED an agent for the type of work you want to do. For example, I have my books published by a smallish local press because they have strong regional interest and aren't likely to sell terribly well outside our region. The regional presses here deal largely with un-agented authors, as do most small presses. So if your work is most likely to be of interest to a small press with a specific niche market (whether that's writing about a specific region, or a very narrow topical range, or whatever), you'd essentially be paying an agent 15% of your royalties to do something you could have done yourself for free.

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Books and things.

I lied. There are no things. Just books.

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andras
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Ditto, Brenda, as it happens; and small local publishers can be very helpful to deal with. A good one is worth its weight in rubies!

That said, if a book does happen to 'take off' then the small publisher may not be able to cope with it. That's in effect what happened with Pratchett's Discworld books - the print-run for the first of them was something just over 600, if I recall correctly, and his publisher subsequently had to pass him on to a much larger concern.

Wouldn't that be a nice problem to have!

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Brenda Clough
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I wouldn't invest valuable and scarce brain cells into worrying about that. You could of course also hit it on Lotto. Sufficient to the day is the jackpot thereof.

It is well worth seeking out other writers, in your genre or field or area of interest. This is very easy nowadays with the internet. Simply going onto a discussion board and posting, "I've heard good things about Snickerdoodle Press, has anyone had dealings with them?" will help. People will either reply, "Oh, that's Jeremy's bunch. They're small but honest, as long as you don't demand speed" or they'll say, "Fly, fly! Save yourself, you fool!"

I know mostly the ones at my end of the literary universe, but
here's one.
There are also literary agent associations, with codes of ethics. Editors and book doctors can be found by asking your fellow writers as well. In union there is strength.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Zappa
Ship's Wake
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Oh, I don't think was planning on being that dumb that I would pay a moonlighter or similar charlatan up front! With a couple of books already under my belt I know the difference between vanity publishing and other forms, traditional and otherwise.

But yes, all salient warnings. Still undecided about the non de plume though. Anyway ... back to another read-through and precis writing - another art to master!

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shameless self promotion - because I think it's worth it
and mayhap this too: http://broken-moments.blogspot.co.nz/

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andras
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Although I understand the term 'traditional publisher' the fact of the matter is surely that since Caxton first put ink to paper there have always been a number of different routes from pencil to press.

These include - but are not limited to - author-funded (Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam is one well-known example; subscription (very common in the 18th. Century and still occasionally used today); serial publication (almost the norm in the 19th. Century); and probably many more.

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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Actually I would say subscription is becoming resurgent with the rise of Crowd Funding Options for authors.

No experience but note the similarity.

Jengie

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"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

Back to my blog

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Brenda Clough
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Oh yes, the number of options now are very great. Just go over to Amazon and look for books that are free -- there are millions of them, and most of them worth every penny you will pay. Anybody can drift on up with a screed or a nutty manuscript and shove it on up there.
That's not the difficulty, any more. The difficulty is getting readers to find you -- to distinguish your book from the gazillion other ones out there.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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andras
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All very true, Brenda - but as I understand it, the suppliers of the free and 99p stuff set their own prices, and seem to have a pretty sharp idea of what it's actually worth!

(Actually there's some good stuff around for free as well, as referenced in this month's Book Group. Certainly I've found Amazon's freebies very good for getting copies of books I read as a young adult and want to read again, such as RLS' Catriona).

One route to getting a book actually noticed is to set it in a very recognisable locale, and rely on that to drum up local business, which then often spreads well beyond the 'home' area. I instance the various Aberystwyth books by Malcolm Pryce (Aberystwyth mon amour and the rest) which even figured in a Mastermind question a couple of years back.

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Brenda Clough
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I was on a couple of writing panels yesterday at a local conference, and we agreed that there is no set formula. Nobody really knows what works, or if it works why.
Nor is the amount you probably will earn ever likely to amount to much. You can of course write what you do not like, and if you write presidential press releases, advertising copy, PR material for loathsome products, etc. then you can at least get salary and benefits.
And so we agreed that you should only write if you really want to write, and if nothing else will content you. Do it for yourself, not for the vast lucre or worldwide fame. Any fame or fortune that accrues to you is a bonus, but should not (because it cannot) be the main thing.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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