Thread: Publishing ... pitfalls, pratfalls and potential Board: Heaven / Ship of Fools.


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Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
I know a number of Shippies are writers, editors and the like.

I can remember a few threads about publishing/self-publishing and so on but have probably been too preoccupied in Purgatory to take too much notice.

I do remember a juicy quote, though, 'How to make a small fortune: set up a publishing business using your large one ...'

[Big Grin]

Now, for my sins, I'm putting out feelers with a view to setting up some kind of social-enterprise publishing stuff for community groups.

I'm already producing an anniversary anthology for a regional arts festival that has a poetry competition element. I'm also toying with the idea of a pamphlet of poems/short reflections on the theme of Memory to help raise funds for a very worthy Dementia initiative in these parts.

I'm also writing a sample chapter for an established publisher for a possible book that tells the story of a remarkable initiative an old friend runs that has helped introduce proper adoption and fostering procedures into developing countries.

If nothing else, these would be better uses of my time than arguing with people in Purgatory and Hell - although I'm not abandoning Ship.

So, you experienced writers, literary agents and publishers out there, what are the main things I need to watch?

I'm not expecting to get rich but I do want to cover costs.

I'm intrigued by the number of small, independent presses that have sprung up in recent years. I'm sure they find it heavy going though ...

I can share more but this is simply a punt for some simple practical advice.

Am I being foolhardy?

Are there genuine opportunities?

Should I turn back before it's too late?
 
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
 
This is precisely what mght be covered in a new writers board....
 
Posted by Rossweisse (# 2349) on :
 
The first thing to watch out for is to get paid. Beware the "This doesn't pay anything, but it's great exposure" bit.

I agree: This would be something for a writers' board.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
So, how does one ensure one gets paid? The margins are likely to be so modest that it's going to have to be s profile-raising or get the ball rolling type of thing ...
 
Posted by sabine (# 3861) on :
 
Thus might give some info...a site listing their too 10 choices for self-publishing.

sabine
 
Posted by Pangolin Guerre (# 18686) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
So, how does one ensure one gets paid? The margins are likely to be so modest that it's going to have to be s profile-raising or get the ball rolling type of thing ...

Well, this will sound harsh, but until you're established, don't do any favours for free, because it will be expected that you'll always do it for free. If they can afford to pay, make them pay. Once the dough starts rolling in, then you can start doing favours for widows and orphans. as the good doctor said, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

I'm currently chasing down a client, who is not yet overdue, as I gave him a week after I had sent my copy to come back to me with any desired revisions (deadline tomorrow). He was once six weeks late, and I vowed never again. Then he came to me with a job, and it's been a slow summer, so I took it, to my inevitable frustration.

Doing work for a reputable publication does not guarantee prompt payment. I left the roster of a reputable magazine over this issue.
 
Posted by Rossweisse (# 2349) on :
 
Pangolin: [Overused]
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
Yes, that's great advice. I'm going to add--quote them your rate very early in the conversation, particularly if it's with friends or connections, as this will flush out the ones who just assumed you were going to do it for free. (This is especially important for anyone operating in a nonprofit context--it's amazing what they think you'll do "for the ministry".)

If you do a great job, your first few clients will recommend you to others. I got a lot of business this way, as well as two-three full-time jobs at different points.

If there is a local writer's group, join it, even if it's completely amateur. I found that our local meet-up group (since defunct) was so impressed by my ability and willingness to proofread (a tiny one page article!) that they gladly referred paying people my way, God bless them. And they had some contacts.

If you are dealing with amateurs (read: people who have never paid a writer/editor/publisher before), spell out exactly what services you will provide. I had an actual (small) commercial outfit demonstrate to me vividly that they didn't know the difference between proofreading and copyediting. They asked for one and expected the other. You might very well find "clients" who believe that the publisher will do proofreading, fact checking, etc. for free as a sort of all-in deal. Brrrrrrr.

If you have specialized skills (like my ability to read several languages), by all means mention them. You'll be surprised who comes knocking when they find out about you. I've had someone from Beijing University as well as a university press in Wisconsin doing an Ancient Middle East atlas.

Tell everybody and sundry what you are doing for your new business. I added a short signature line to my daily email account when I was looking for work. Quite odd people (a church guy looking to set up a Vietnamese photo shoot?) noticed and it led to work.

Be prepared for the income tax. Our first year my family (which had several sidelines in self-employment then) was not prepared, and Uncle Sam took about half our income--all at once. Didn't realize the rate for self-employment was so much higher. Ouch.

[ 15. September 2017, 06:57: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
No, I didn't think you were harsh, Bellicose Scaley Tree-dweller, but yours is advice I haven't taken in my 7 years of self-employment ... I do as much, if not more voluntary / free stuff as I do paid.

During lulls in freelance work and to keep myself from going rusty (or getting depressed), I got involved in all sorts of voluntary and community stuff with the intention of monetising some of it later on ...

Guess what?

That didn't work, but I feel I'm a more-rounded and fulfilled person as a result. At least, I hope so.

The kids are older and at college, we've paid off our mortgage and my wife has retired through ill-health - she has incurable cancer - and so we have a lump sum from that and, in the UK at least, cancer is one of those conditions that is well supported. Thank God for the NHS.

I'm still working freelance, mostly marketing research projects I can do from home for various clients and associates (mostly agencies who outsource the work to me when they need extra help).

I sometimes get involved with proofing and copy-editing and am active with local writers groups - hence my interest in trying to develop that area further. I used to do some interim project-management in various parts of the country but with my wife's condition don't want to spend much time away from home.

There aren't many job opportunities in this area of the kind I used to do when I was a full-time employee and I'd have to commute for an hour or so a day if I were to find that kind of work in a large city.

My wife doesn't want me to do that, she wants us to spend at least a day a week doing things together - having meals out, visiting places she likes until such time as she is no longer able to do so.

That seems very little to ask.

So, some kind of cottage-industry seems the best option. My existing sources of regular work are fragile and my freelance earnings have declined year on year over the last 3 or 4 years. I was below the tax threshold for personal income last year and the year before that, but my wife working full-time then ...

We're seeing a financial advisor later today to discuss aspects of my mother-in-law's finances, she has Alzheimer's and my wife deals with all of that on her mum's behalf.

We're also going to discuss our own situation. Setting money aside for the girls, establishing how much I'd have to live on should the end come for Mrs Gamaliel sooner rather than later - etc.

That'll help but I can see that I'll have to make adjustments too - I've drifted into doing things for free mode - town council, running voluntary/community arts events, trying to be a nice guy ...

I'm not the most entrepreneurial of people, at least not in a hard-nosed commercial kind of way - but I have got worthy and well-meaning initiatives off the ground locally.

Good for thought ...
 
Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :
 
What Lamb Chopped said.

I work out a payment rate based on my level of skills and experience with regard to the kind of work proposed; and

1 how much of a role I play in conceptualising the project

2 how much project managing I am expected to do and how many production meetings etc I am expected to attend, how much liaison work needs to be done with designers and printers etc. I always check whether or not I need to buy or upgrade software, if we are all using InDesign, Adobe, QuarkXpress or some other programmes.

3 how much text I will be generating and the research, travel, interview expenses involved in preparing for writing up copy

4 whether or not I will be involved in fact-checking copy for co-workers

5 what the editing involves (manuscript assessment, over-seeing rewrites, restructuring text, ghostwriting, content editing, proofreading, indexing, sourcing graphics or images)

6 helping with promotion, distribution marketing, online social media publicity.

Gamaliel, if I do work pro bono as it were, waiving a fee, that is because the organisation can't afford to pay me. Community organisations, literacy groups and church groups often fall into this category. I do it because the projects mean something to me and I want to contribute to their success. I do ask at times for a nominal or token fee because people take projects more seriously when they are paying for them.

If I do free work for friends, helping with website content, helping to generate promotional copy, reading manuscripts etc, that is done on a reciprocal basis. They would do the same for me.

[ 15. September 2017, 08:43: Message edited by: MaryLouise ]
 
Posted by sabine (# 3861) on :
 
I do strictly creative writing, so maybe my experience doesn't relate to your situation. However, I do hope you will consider the copyright protection afforded to what you might be writing if it's a significant project. I've found, through bitter experience, that in these days of social media oversharing many people don't understand what it means (and the potential risk) when they start passing around something another person crafted.

sabine

[ 15. September 2017, 13:19: Message edited by: sabine ]
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Yes. The great divide is between fiction and non-fiction. If you are writing non-fiction, get an idea of the project and its pay before you get too far in. Three chapters and an outline are industry standard. Make every possible effort to not write that nonfiction on spec (i.e. In advance of knowing if or how much they pay).

If you are writing fiction, the first rule is, finish it. No one will buy half a story. Very occasionally you will get fiction purchased before it is ever written; this is always when the author is J.K.Rowling or Fergie or Michelle Obama. If you do not have a ready-made market for every word that drops from your well-manicured finger tips, finish it first.
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
I'm editing a ms at the moment (ie, bored stupid) so...

If you going to be acting as a publisher, you will indeed *be* a publisher, and you need to fully aware of what it means to be a publisher. This means your obligations to the British Library, getting ISBNs, drafting water-tight contracts, how to format and print and, critically, distribute, books, and how to format and distribute ebooks. There will be certain sunk costs - art, editing, proofs - before you'll earn so much as a penny, and the old adage
quote:
How do you make a small fortune publishing?

Start with a large one.

still holds true.

If, on the other hand, you intend to act as an editor/author, who will approach an already-established publisher with a project, things will be different but no less complicated. You will unlikely make much, if any, money. I make, on average, £10k a year, writing full time. And that still puts me easily in the top 10% earners in the field.

Do it because you want to, because you think it's worthwhile, because you have something to say. If you need a bit of ready cash, do a couple of shifts a week behind the bar at the local pub, because unless you're really lucky, it'll pay more.

*grumps*
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Words of wisdom. Write only if you cannot be happy in any other way. There are easier ways to earn money, like prostitution.
A friend of mine was teaching writing at the New School in New York City. (A not-for-credit institution). She had the habit of asking her pupils at the beginning of every session what they hoped to get out of the class. Her favorite response was the young woman who intended to be a star on Broadway, an intended to support herself with writing until then. She still tells this to gatherings of writers, and never fails to lay them in the aisles.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
That all makes sense.

Thing is, I'm hardly earning bugger all at the moment so it's unlikely that I can do worse ... Although I wouldn't bank on that.

What I have in mind is ancillary to my main and already irregular sources of income and more social enterprise-ish than a ready Warner ... But I don't want to lose money ...
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Until you've spent the money, you haven't lost it. I assume that you are going to leave the value of your time out of the equation. This is bad economics, of course (in the ideal universe you are calculating a fair, not to say handsome wage in for yourself) but is very liberating. Because then you can invest as much time as you need, to make it right. You never punch a clock, because there is no clock.
The moment you fork over an actual penny, then you are spending money. Until then you are free.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
Sure, I do lots of things for free, town council, voluntary arts events ...

So why not publishing stuff?
 
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
 
OK, my insights here.

I have self published work using Lulu. It does fine for me. The advantage is it is free, and I get what I pay for.

The real problem in producing writing works is not the publishing. That is dead easy. The problem is selling. The problem is getting your brilliant pieces out to a buying public who will be prepared to spend money on them.

If you are not an established name - of some sort - this is incredibly difficult. If you take a look, for example, at the sci-fi shelves of many standard bookshops, you will find half a dozen authors occupy most of the space. Breaking into that is really hard. Other areas are as difficult - becoming more so, I think. So many "celebrities" who have a name that can sell just enough to get publishers and bookshops interested.

The sort of social publishing you are looking at is really hard to make money on. You tend to have a limited audience, many of whom will not want to spend the sort of money that you would need to cover costs. It is OK sinking £100 of your own money into a project once in awhile, but it is not a viable long-term option.

A colleague of mine in our writing group has had a reasonable success with her book - she got a publisher, and sold a good number. However, her publisher doesn't want her latest book (it is not quite fitting with their style), and she has spent all of her time promoting her book - radio interviews, signings. It is incredibly hard work, a full-time job for her.

So the answer really is - don't. As with all aspects of writing, there is no good way out. It si all bad, all hard, and (ultimately) all very unfulfilling.

And I have taken to writing and recording music, which is the same, only worse and more so. I must hate myself quite intensely.
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
[slightly more cheerful]

There is actually quite a good market out there, just not for the things most people want to write. I mean, forget trying to sell poetry and most fiction and so on, unless you're a glutton for punishment, but when it comes to nonfiction, especially the necessary-but-overlooked stuff, there is money out there. Trouble is, we're talking financial stuff, computer manuals, how-to etc., legal docs, medical, and so forth.

Nobody with sense writes to make a living. [That's me out, then.] But by some miracle I actually have a full-time salaried writer's position doing everything from video study guides to devotionals and online learning courses. You can bet I'm going to do the absolute best job I can here in hopes of hanging on to this plum of an impossible-to-find position, after years of freelancing.
 
Posted by Rossweisse (# 2349) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
...Nobody with sense writes to make a living. [That's me out, then.]...

You and me both. But having a Real Job at a word factory makes it easier.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
Sure.

I don't reckon on making a living out of it, but perhaps doing this stuff alongside other things, if at all possible.

I know it's impossible to make a living out of this stuff.

For the time being, we're alright for cash but longer term the situation might be different. We've got my wife's pension early and as a lump sum, with some enhancements. My occupational pension was frozen in 2010 when I was made redundant. I'm 11 years off state pension.

I've done reasonably well some years with my freelance work but for the last two years haven't earned enough through it to reach the tax threshold.

No bugger wants to employ you when you're in your 50s so part of me thinks I should say, 'Sod it' and just do want I want. My wife's going to die.

I don't want to sit moping around waiting for that to happen.
 
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
 
I've published a couple of books (see my tagline advert advert ha ha ha) and have I think earned about $US53.72 ... they would have cost me in fiscal terms alone about 100 times that, and my publisher is (arguably!) not even a vanity publisher.

My greater frustration though is distribution and networking. I have no skills in networking myself, telling the world I'm fantastic, nor even believing it. I was naive enough to believe that because I buy books at the drop of a hat so would others. It seems not. Having a US publisher for an OZ/NZ audience wasn't smart, either. [brick wall] I'm not the brightest hamster in the sandwich.

I am currently working on a novel. Of course I really doubt it will ever be published, though I am working on as if I had no such doubt - working now at polishing every sentence so that it eventually gains that wow-factor that gets it over the line. Two of my friends have published novels recently - I don't think they're quite the next Graham Greene either - and they assure me selection of an agent is the most important step. Forget money, of course. Except out-going (and again - not strictly "vanity", just realistic). But I have to wow prospective agents, and know that too is all but impossible. They are inundated.

But of course, I am brilliant. [Disappointed]

Or deluded. [Tear] [Waterworks]

So those of us embracing this madness ... let's support one another!
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Ah! Distributing and marketing is usually the bugger factor; very few people who can write can sell. They are two entirely separate skill sets.
It helps if you can find other like-minded people. The internet makes this easy. You want to write dystopian fantasy involving sex with unicorns. There is, I assure you, a web page somewhere about it (it is surely NSFW) and there's your fan base. Or you want to write about mead production in medieval Armpit Abbey. The natives of Armpit village will be happy to help you promote, and you might rake in the regional Armpit County tourist authorities, and there must be a mead interest group.
It is unfortunately true that promoting takes vast time and is uncongenial. Suddenly you find that you're not writing, you're slogging away at marketing. And the vast, incredible number of books out there (go to Amazon an search for free ones; wear galoshes) is discouraging.
 
Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :
 
Some more options, Gamliel. Don't sell yourself short.

Once when I was going through a very tough time in my early 30s, a good friend suggested I learn how to do financial editing. I edited and proofread annual reports for a fairly prestigious company and after a while I learned how to edit legal contracts. It was extremely demanding work (a decimal point in the wrong place would be picked up by accountants or auditors, footnotes and references had to be cross-checked in the university law library) and often mind-numbingly boring because I don’t have enough interest in that kind of editing. It paid very well. Later I specialised in editing texts to do with constitutional law and that gave me steady work over many years.

What I like to do now is find work that coincides with my own enthusiasms and passions because that is what I do best. For example, as an amateur botanist I spend a great deal of time growing indigenous plants or wandering around the veld looking at plants in the wild. So if someone sets up a website for a plant nursery and lists aloe species that need identification or needs copy on propagating rarer succulents, I’d feel confident working on that. After writing and publishing a number of lifestyle features on emerging architects, I contacted architectural journals and offered to edit text because I was interested in contemporary architecture. I contacted art gallery owners and sent in proposals for monographs on artists whose exhibitions I had followed for years. Word-of-mouth recommendations followed.

Anyone who wants to set up a professional website or launch an e-zine will need a designer and either a writer or an editor, or both. Most of them will be prepared to pay the going rates for those services. It’s worth looking around and finding online sites looking for writers and editors.

The plum editing job for some of us is fiction editing. This isn’t well-paid because it usually involves manuscript development and a long period of calling for rewrites. Publishers would ideally want novels in manuscript that arrive on their desks with compelling synopses, dazzling polished writing, all the plot holes and character motivations resolved, the grammar and punctuation perfect. That never happens. Because the editor is working with highly skilled, creative, sensitive [insecure] writers, it requires diplomacy, hand-holding and ingenuity. You need to be a reader who loves and understands the genre you edit, you need exceptional close language skills and you have to believe in the emerging novel and be patient as it develops. It helps if you’ve gone through the agonies of writing fiction yourself.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
Ok.

Good advice, folks.

I'm under no illusions. I was interested in the first pamphlet of a poet I know in Yorkshire, published not that long ago. I finally tracked it down online and purchased it for a penny (plus post and packaging).

I've won about £2,500 in poetry prizes in my time, some £2,000 of that in one fell swoop.

I've probably earned another £350 or so giving work shops.

A good friend of mine made around £110 on sales of his latest poetry collection.

There's no money in poetry unless you were Seamus Heaney and won the Nobel Prize.

I like MaryLouise's approach but I'm in my 50s not my 30s. If I can do something publishing-ish in the time I have left it'd probably be for some cause or other.

But yes, I hear you, MaryLouise on not selling oneself short.

I do have ideas for a novel and if I keep going with my poetry then I reckon someone will publish a collection of it sooner or later.

I've had encouragement on that score from a high level ... But I won't name-drop.

It's just that although I still have to eat, what's happening with my wife is making me more carpe-diem. More conscious of how little time any of us have.

How do I want to spend that time? Can I help people tell their stories? Can I make a difference, however small?
 
Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :
 
But doesn't carpe diem have be part of our attitude, not the whole? Many of us will live into our 80s and 90s, which gives you another 30 or 40 years to develop another career and retire from that. Penelope Lively, was it, published her first book aged 70. Shouldn't we both refuse the give up and seize the day? live each day as our last and follow our dreams?
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Every person has one novel in them. You become a professional writer when you have more than one novel in there.
The problem is that you get good at it by doing it -- just like tennis, or baking meringues, or changing tires. Thus, your first novel tends not to be very good, any more than your first cake or your first painting. If you have only the one book in you, this can be a problem. If you have more than one, it's easy -- that first novel gets shoved into the trunk and never appears in the world. (You remember recently how someone dug out and published Ernest Hemingway's trunk novel? Bad move, did not improve his rep.)
It is my personal opinion that you should take care to write that one novel, either right away or when you feel you are good enough to write it. (Neil Gaiman famously wrote his GRAVEYARD BOOK after years of cogitation giving upon it; only when he felt he was good enough did he put it to paper.) Do it, soon, before it's too late. That book in your soul is yours, and if you die before it gets out into the world, it goes into oblivion. We have no guarantee that there are word processors and decent publication fonts in Heaven; you may not be able to write that novel there. I personally also require a broadband connection, for research, and that unlimited access to the Heavenly library. One cannot make bricks without straw.
Although we are reliably informed that there is a rock & roll Heaven. And I am certain that the white robes of the Heavenly host will need mending, redesign, and possibly knitted-lace collars; if God will undertake to restore my eyesight I undertake to produce them.
 
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
 
I had some stuff published by a 'proper' publisher (Ashgate) - but reckon I spent more time checking all the footnotes than writing the darn thing in the first place.
 
Posted by Stercus Tauri (# 16668) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
...the first rule is, finish it. No one will buy half a story. Very occasionally you will get fiction purchased before it is ever written; this is always when the author is J.K.Rowling or Fergie or Michelle Obama. If you do not have a ready-made market for every word that drops from your well-manicured finger tips, finish it first.

I don't know if others have found the same thing, but it's more than that for me. If I show a piece to anyone before it's finished, it kills it and I can't finish. I don't mind a rewrite if an editor insists and I agree with him/her, but I'll never submit a sample to see if they're going to like it. I suppose my simple mental processes can't pick up after a break.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
That's a separate issue: what you have to do to get the work written in the first place. I know of writers who post it, paragraph by paragraph, on their blogs or Patreon page. I could never do this; I need the entire work, under my hand and complete, so that I can buff it and squeeze it down into a steely mass of perfection.
And of course the number of mind games you can play with yourself are infinite. I went to Athens once and stayed in a B&B. A fellow guest there was writing a novel about the Trojan War. He was in town to do research. I was very impressed until I learned he had been spending every summer in Athens for the past 8 years. Was he ever going to finish that novel, or was it an excuse to get away from the wife and kids every year? Unclear, but I have never seen the book.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
Brenda is absolutely right (in all her posts on this topic so far, I think!) - the mind games that writers play are never-ending, and there's a horrible urge to assume that everyone else is as interested in what you're writing as you are.

Paragraph by paragraph posted on the net does seem a horrible idea (and might perhaps raise interesting questions of copyright?) Although it's true as Brenda says that everyone has a novel in them, by no means everyone has a good novel in them, and some people just can't write for toffee, just as others can't draw or sing (just two of the many things which I'm blissfully incompetent at).

As is true of all businesses, publishing requires ferocious control of costs, and writers almost always end up complaining about their publishers and vice versa - hence Byron's infamous Now Barabbas was a publisher.

But there's nothing on God's good Earth to equal a bonny book, so go for it!
 
Posted by Lyda*Rose (# 4544) on :
 
If stories didn't need plots, I'd be set. That's why I got into writing a little fan fiction. I took a series of TV episodes and filled in their back stories and developed a little more arc to connect them. That way I let other people figure out the plots. And my publishers were other fans. The pay was crap ($0) but it was fun to dabble in for a while.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
Plotting? Used to cause me tons of trouble when I tried to do it Thomas Hardy style by working it all out first and then making the characters do what I had planned.


Guess what - get half a dozen interesting characters and throw them together and the plot will write itself!
 
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
 
There are different ways of writing. I tend to identify characters, and a basic plot that will enable them to interact. It makes for a whole lot of fun writing, and, I think, reading, because you can do something surprising that you hadn;t entirely considered earlier.
 
Posted by Lyda*Rose (# 4544) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Plotting? Used to cause me tons of trouble when I tried to do it Thomas Hardy style by working it all out first and then making the characters do what I had planned.


Guess what - get half a dozen interesting characters and throw them together and the plot will write itself!

Sounds like "The Breakfast Club". If it was good enough for John Hughes...
 
Posted by Moo (# 107) on :
 
Shakespeare had no problem borrowing plots and modifying them to suit his purposes.

Moo
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
Depending on who you ask, there are only a limited number of plots anyway: The Quest (The Odyssey), Defeating the Monster (The Hobbit - which has elements of The Quest as well!), Rags to Riches (Oliver Twist), and a few others.

What makes them special is the characters in them, which is why character-led novels beat plot-based ones every time, at least for me. The Small House at Allington is superb in every way, though really almost nothing actually happens at all - but the character of Lily Dale stays with you for the rest of your life.

Incidentally, as regards making money from writing, Trollope said plainly that he'd have made more money from breaking stones than he did from The Warden. Even in the Victorian era, writers often struggled to get by, and he was lucky to have the day job in the Post Office to pay the bills.
 
Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :
 
Plots are a little like 'ideas' for novels. It's all about the execution and quality of the writing, the energy and subtlety. The capacity of renewal and vision, holding it all together. Telling details, sharp dialogues, pace.

Something the reader can't quite put a finger on that makes this fiction unforgettable.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
The how-to-write spectrum is a wide one. Over at the far end are people who outline it, create spreadsheets and time lines and whiteboard diagrams with swoopy lines in different colors. These are the people who do worldbuilding and combat analysis in advance, or who work out how the FTL drive's physics operate before writing the story. Or who go to Athens for 8 years to research. These people are the plotters. I knew a writer once who laid out the work not only chapter by chapter, but paragraph by paragraph. It would kill me, stone dead.

Over at the far other end of the spectrum are the seat of the pants writers -- the pantsers. I am a pantser born. I do not create characters, cook up a plot, lay out magic systems, or draw up time lines. I just step up to the edge of the cliff of the novel, and over the edge: write the first sentence. I have no idea what will happen after the period. And, as I fall into the uncreated void, the wings unfurl, big feathery wings. I'm flying, and the story's rolling right along, sentence after sentence, chapters piling neatly up, fast, flowing by under me. Perfectly easy -- if that's how you were born.

There is no way of knowing upon which end of the spectrum you fall, except by stepping up to the plate and swinging at the ball. Any way to get it done is, for you, the right way. If you can only write by engraving the words with a stainless steel burin on the side of a late-model Mercedes, then that's the right way for you. (But save this try for late in your writing attempts.)
 
Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :
 
And then there are the legions of us wannabe proto-novelists who love the research more than anything else. We draw coloured maps of islands, medieval villages, interplanetary neighborhoods, we look up street names and check what the weather was doing in the late afternoon of June 23rd 1957, we build word glossaries and work out detailed biographies for even the most minor of characters. We spent weeks if not months or years inventing new languages or working out orbit deviations for Saturn in the year 3521. World-building! Getting 18th-century wigs and fichus right! How to perform successful trepanning on a loved one's skull if you find that you and your space crew have time-travelled back to the Stone Age with only a sharpened flint to hand!

This isn't plotting, it is an irresistible distraction.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
I suppose I'm personally at the Brenda Clough end of things - you need someone to hold a horse and happen to make her a woman, so you write her in. Later you find that she's got more to her than that, and by the end of the book she's somehow elbowed her way into being a major character. Some characters do have very sharp elbows!

Like composers who each have their own way of writing music (Eric Coates apparently had to wear a three-piece suit and sit at his desk to do it, or the inspiration didn't flow) so every writer has their own ideal method and environment.

But it does help if your ideal environment isn't too restricting - if you can only write with a black fountain pen loaded with blue ink, on cream-lined paper and while sitting on a leather chair with Gregorian Chant playing on the radio, then you're going to restrict your writing opportunities more than somewhat.

I'm lucky - I can do it almost anywhere and at any time, but that's because I think that writing is just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. For some people it's just a horrible drudge, despite which they still have to do it.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Oh, of research there is no end. There are masses of writers who never begin, because research is not yet complete. And it is a particularly cruel dead end, because NO research can guarantee that it'll be a good book. Only plot and character and theme and tone can do that. I am sure we have all read the novels in which the author had done, dammit, so much work on the tactics of the English Civil War that you are -going- to hear about it whether you want to or not. Or those books in which the story is a thin batter, to hold together large lumps of discussion about Regency hat trends/sex in Cliassical Athens/laser rifles in the wars near Antares.

One of the great historical novelists was Mary Renault -- remember THE KING MUST DIE or her Alexander novels? She never did research. First, she wrote it. Only then, with the manuscript in hand, did she do the research to back it up.
 
Posted by Gamaliel (# 812) on :
 
Yes.

I've got some novel/short-story ideas but get bogged down in research ...

Which is why I've written more poetry, I think. Lots of revision but the initial ideas flow quickly.

On the 'have to' aspect ...

I was once at a writing workshop with the very excellent Glyn Maxwell.

He said, in an almost 'charismatic' kind of way, 'Some of you here would be physically ill if I told you were never going to be able to write another poem ever again. Just suppose that something were to happen that would render you incapable of doing so. Some of you here would be physically ill. I guarantee it. I won't tell you who you are. You know who you are ...'

I knew.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
Not all writers can do everything. Like horses -- some are bred to run the Derby, and others are bred to pull beer wagons. To hitch that Derby winner to the beer wagon will only lea to misery. So: you find what you were born to write, and you write that.
This does involve dipping your toe into a lot of things, but it rapidly becomes clear what you can and cannot do. I just had a short story appear in an erotica anthology. I do not write erotica, I thought. But when this market appeared, it came to me. I never argue with my Muse, do you? The story turned out fine and the editor bought it, but I don't think there's another one in there.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
Mary Renault, of course, had the benefits of the sort of classical education that many these days sadly lack; research for her meant dotting the i's and crossing the t's, because she already had a good notion of what archaic Greece might have looked like. So while I agree that over-researching the subject can be a wonderful displacement activity to take someone away from writing, it's a good idea to have at least a solid basic understanding of the period that you're writing about, whether the distant past or the distant future.

A book I have lined up to write a couple of years from now will be set in the 1960s, a period I ought to know well - heck, I lived through those days! But do I know what the cinema smash hits were in 1962? What topped the charts that April? Was that before or after the execrable Beeching smashed the railway system? So I'll need some solid reading time to make sure I don't get those details wrong, although I'm sure I can recall the zeitgeist pretty well.

The greatest help for a writer is people to tell you what you've done wrong, and a good writers' group is invaluable here. NOT the sort where everyone says, Wow, you've got that just right but the sort where they say, I can't work out who's supposed to be speaking here and You've said 'push' when you should say 'shove'. The first sort of group isn't much use for anything except polishing the ego; the second sort is bruising but wonderful.
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
An author I like is James Hamilton-Paterson. However to my mind he came a cropper with "Under the Radar" which is about life in a 1960s RAF bomber crew, simply because the book reads more like an aircraft enthusiast's guide than a novel. There is a huge amount of detail about RAF life and aircraft technical stuff, but I feel that the plot is predictable and the characters a bit cardboardy - others may disagree of course!

The research is impressive but allegedly J H-P still got some small details wrong. I much preferred hi "Empire of the Clouds" which is a journalistic account of where the 1950s/60s British aircraft industry got things very wrong.

Mind you, "Under the Radar" would make a great (if expensive) TV series, using vintage footage and interior shots of preserved aircraft (sadly the last Vulcan no longer flies).

[ 21. September 2017, 13:17: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]
 
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
 
Andras:

Good luck in your 1960s writing. But make sure you get the dialogue right - too many TV dramas, at least, set in that period have immaculate set dressing and then spoil things by using out-of-period words and expressions. I vividly remember a programme set in a Lancashire village c.1960 where a character was set to lose his job through his form "downsizing".
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
I went to France this month and stayed in the medieval village of Severac-le-Chateau in the Averyon district. Just strolling around the narrow streets and reading the historical placards was enough. This town was the Peyton Place of the 15th century. Murder, adultery, nunneries in which to park your obstreperous female relations, narrow cells under your feet, accessible only by iron gratings -- the trilogy practically writes itself. I hesitate only because this is such a natural, such low-hanging fruit, that somebody probably already has written the books (probably in French).
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Andras:

Good luck in your 1960s writing. But make sure you get the dialogue right - too many TV dramas, at least, set in that period have immaculate set dressing and then spoil things by using out-of-period words and expressions. I vividly remember a programme set in a Lancashire village c.1960 where a character was set to lose his job through his form "downsizing".

Indeed, this is a horrible pitfall yawning in front of everyone who writes about - especially - a time which is still in living memory. Julian Fellowes got much of the language horribly wrong in his Downton Abbey series - car instead of motor, boy-friend instead of young man and so on. It's much easier to write about a period when people weren't talking English at all, but then you need to find reasonable approximations in, say, Latin for common English expressions.

Fortunately Latin usually obliges rather well: Talk of the Devil is simply Lupus in Fabula, for instance.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
I went to France this month and stayed in the medieval village of Severac-le-Chateau in the Averyon district. Just strolling around the narrow streets and reading the historical placards was enough. This town was the Peyton Place of the 15th century. Murder, adultery, nunneries in which to park your obstreperous female relations, narrow cells under your feet, accessible only by iron gratings -- the trilogy practically writes itself. I hesitate only because this is such a natural, such low-hanging fruit, that somebody probably already has written the books (probably in French).

Brenda, Dumas (père) mined this particular vein - or something like it - for many years, but I'm sure there's still a lot of gold to be found there!

Go for it!
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Doc Tor (# 9748) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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!
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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!
 
Posted by Paul. (# 37) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by georgiaboy (# 11294) on :
 
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!)
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
 
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?
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
 
All of which is exactly the opposite to what I've been advised! [Ultra confused]
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
Zappa, Brenda has spoken words of wisdom.

Heed them!
 
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :
 
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 ]
 
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :
 
I acknowledge that the last sentence sounds like it is a chicken and egg situation. The aim is to deal creatively with it:
They will also ask how commercial is this book?

Jengie
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
 
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]
 
Posted by jedijudy (# 333) on :
 
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

 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.)
 
Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :
 
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 ]
 
Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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!
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
 
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!
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :
 
Actually I would say subscription is becoming resurgent with the rise of Crowd Funding Options for authors.

No experience but note the similarity.

Jengie
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by andras (# 2065) on :
 
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.
 
Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :
 
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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