Publishing Options for your Novel

This post is the thirty-seven in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

We have covered writing and editing your book. But you aren’t done yet. You still need to publish and market your book. And those are the topics we are going to cover over the next few weeks.

But before we begin, I want you to caution you to make sure your book is ready to be published. As authors, we are sometimes under pressure to get out another book or you are just so excited and ready to publish your first book that you are in a hurry to get it out there.

Let me say this clearly – Don’t rush through the editing process.

It can take countless hours to weed out the inconsistencies, fix timelines, refine word choices and do all the other editing jobs that need to be done before you publish. So, don’t rush and publish a mediocre story. Take your time to rewrite, to edit, to polish and to proof your novel until it is ready for all those hungry readers out there.

Ok, so you believe you are there. It is ready to be published. There are two options for you. You can go through a traditional publishing house or decide to self-publish.

Traditional Publishing Houses

Traditional publishing is where a company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Usually, an agent representing the author, negotiates a deal with the book publisher for the publisher to print and distribute the book.

The first step would be to research the publishing company or agent to make sure they publish the type of book that you have written or are writing.

If you hire an agent, they will use their contacts and knowledge of the publishing world to match your writing with a publishing house. Or you can contact the publishing house directly though you will probably have a better success if you have an agent.

Remember that both agents and publishing houses receive thousands of query letters and manuscripts each year. Some may send back a stock rejection letter but there are quite a few that won’t respond at all.

The benefit of traditional publishing is there is no out-of-pocket expense to the author. The publisher will make their money from the sale of the book. But they select so few authors that you may send out many query letters, and months or years later be no closer to getting published. Many famous authors were rejected many times before finally landing a book deal.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to go the traditional road and be published by a major publishing house. But it is a hard road so many authors choose to self-publish their own work.

Self-Publishing

As a self-published author, you have complete control over what you publish and when. You retain all rights to your book, and you receive 100 percent of the profit. The main drawback is that you have to do all the work and pay for any expenses yourself.

You have several options when it comes to self-publishing. You can opt to publish just an electronic copy of your book (an e-book), or you can actually print a physical copy, or you can do both.

Let’s look quickly at the options for physically printing a book.

Vanity

In this option, you pay for all the services to print your book but own the book and receive the profits. You are in charge of distribution. This is best for the hobbyist or those who just have a goal of seeing their work in print. (Hence the reason it is often referred to as a vanity press.)

Subsidy

While similar to a vanity press, a subsidy publisher contributes toward the cost of editing, distribution, warehousing and marketing of the book. Typically, the author pays for the printing and binding of the book and will receive royalties.

Print on Demand

This is a good option for someone with a limited audience. You use your own money to produce the book and then have a company (such as Amazon’s Createspace) print them one at a time as they are ordered. The plus is that you don’t have any books that you need to store.

Self-Publishing

You pay to produce, market and warehouse your books.

With all of these methods, the majority of the work and expense of publishing falls on the author’s shoulders. And as hard as it is to find a traditional publisher, it can be equally tough to find physical retail location that wants to showcase your new novel.

But often with today’s technology, many readers no longer buy physical copies of books. Many readers now have e-readers or e-reader apps so authors need to determine whether they even need physical copies of their books to sell.

Next week, we will look more into self-publishing an e-book.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

Reading Aloud as a Proofreading Method

I wrote last week about proofing everything you write even the simplest Facebook post. Proofing what you wrote whether it is a simple email or blog post to your actual full-length novel is extremely important. One of my favorite methods is to read your writing aloud.

Often when we read silently, our eyes skip small errors and typos. Reading aloud forces you to notice every single word. It can help you notice run-on sentences, missing words, awkward transitions as well as other grammatical or organizational issues.

It also lets you hear the dialogue allowing you to determine if it sounds like two (or more) actual people holding a conversation. (This is actually the best way to have natural sounding dialogue.)

The key to reading aloud is to make sure you are reading exactly what is on the printed page (or computer screen if you don’t want to print out your text.) You may want to follow along with your finger, pointing at each word. This helps you stay focused and not skip anything. Or you may want to cover up everything but the section you are currently reading so you concentrate on just it and not what is to come.

Another option is to read your work backwards, sentence by sentence. This helps you focus just on the text and not the ideas. It can be especially helping you catch sentence fragments.

Methods to reading aloud

Read aloud to yourself – Reading aloud encourages you to actually read each and every word.

Read to a friend – This can allow a second pair of ears to hear the prose and allow for additional feedback on what is missing or needs improving.

Have someone else read aloud – Allowing a friend to read to you lets you concentrate only on what is being read. You can note where your friend stumbles or gets lost. You do not necessarily need to follow along as they read but can certainly do so to make notes and corrections as long as you don’t start reading ahead.

An alternative to this would be to have the computer read to you. This works great as the computer will definitely read EVERY word.

For those of you who use Microsoft Word, this feature is already available to you. If not you can find many web-based services that can help you get your computer, smart phone, tablet or e-reader to read your work out loud for you. (Search ‘text to speech’ or ‘text reader.’)

For MSWord – At the very top of the screen is your Quick Access bar (circled in the below image). Click on the down arrow (Drop Down Menu) on the right. Select More Commands.

quickaccess1

On the left side is a list of features/tools you can add to your Quick Access Bar. Go down to Speak and click the button to add it to your bar. Click OK. quickaccess2To listen to your text, highlight the text to be read and then click the Speak icon (now located on your Quick Access Bar).

No matter which method you choose to use, reading your text/novel/post aloud will be beneficial. 22

 

Publishing a book: Part 1 – traditional publishing house

Last week, I wrote the steps for writing a novel. This week I wanted to address what to do with that completed novel.

So you have completed your novel and are ready to publish it. What do you need to do now?

Alternatively, if you are planning to write a non-fiction book, you may want to look for a publisher ahead of time. Why spend the time writing the book if no one wants yet another book on pregnancy, exercise or whatever topic you pick? But if you have a non-fiction book with a fresh angle, you may find a publisher who encourages you to write.

When looking into publishing you have two options – go the traditional route of finding a publishing house (or an agent and then a publishing house) or the decision to self-publish.

Because these are two totally different routes, I will address them separately. First let’s look at traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing is where a company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Usually, an agent representing the author, negotiates a deal with the book publisher for the publisher to print and distribute the book.

The first step would be to research the publishing company or agent to make sure they publish the type of book that you are writing. You can also find out the guidelines to contacting them on their website.

If you hire an agent, they will use their contacts and knowledge of the publishing world to match your writing with a publishing house. Or you can contact the publishing house directly though you will probably have a better success if you have an agent.

Fiction Books

Once your book is complete, you will send a query letter, a sample of your writing and a synopsis to the publisher per their requirements. It doesn’t help your case to send more than what is required.

Non-Fiction Books  

You need to submit a book proposal that includes the proposed chapters and a sample of your writing. You would need to explain your expertise in the area.

Remember that both agents and publishing houses receive thousands of query letters and manuscripts each year. Some may send back a stock rejection letter but there are quite a few that won’t respond at all.

If you are lucky enough to get a contract from a publisher, they will then have their in-house editors work with you to refine your writing. They will be in charge of the marketing, distribution and warehousing of your book.

The benefit of traditional publishing is no out-of-pocket expense to the author. The publisher will make their money from the sale of the book. But the chance of getting published traditionally is hard and time consuming. You can send out many query letters, and months or years later you can be no closer to getting published. Many famous authors were rejected many times before finally became published.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to go the traditional road and be published by a major publishing house. But that is a hard road so many authors choose to self-publish their own work. I will address the steps of self-publishing next week.

Investing in a professional-looking, eye-catching book cover

Two weeks ago I revisited one of my first posts about writing (Freezing time) or probably more aptly about finding the time to be a writer. Well, today,  I want to revisit one of my first posts on publishing – the all-important book cover.

SummonedFINALThe cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book (or in the case of e-books click on the image).

The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

The SearchIf you have the know-how, there is nothing wrong with designing your own book cover as long as it looks professional and eye catching. I actually have the skills to do my own cover (and did the cover for The Search) but for my other four fantasy novels, I have left the cover design up to someone with a little more experience.

You may go in knowing what you want or you may want to give the cover designers a few chapters to get an idea of your style and story. One way to get an idea of what you like, visit Amazon and see what grabs your attention.

Now unless you are willing to pay someone to draw you a cover, most designers are using stock photos and graphics.

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverThe problem with writing fantasy is that many of the models in those stock photos are wearing modern clothing. Even the ones in “medieval” garb are not wearing what those in my story wear. It makes selecting artwork hard. If you want an idea of what is out there, check out at stock photo sites such as istockphotodreamstime and bigstockphoto.

There are several websites that offer cheap book covers that they have pre-made and just drop in your title and name. I am not saying these are bad if you just happen to find something that fits your book perfectly but in general, I would rather have something designed for my book that won’t be seen elsewhere.

To find a list of cover designers, check out this list on Smashwords.

Things you want in a cover:

  • Simple, easy to understand
  • Having an impact or something that grabs the reader’s attention
  • If it is for an e-book, make sure it looks good at thumbnail size.

Things to avoid:

  • Too many things on the cover/clutter
  • Bad layout where title and author names are in bad location or size. (If you are famous, your name could be bigger than the title but typically you want the title to stand out more than your name.)

Just remember whether you use a “stock” cover, design one yourself or have an expert design your cover, the main goal of the cover is to generate interest and excitement. The time and effort that you devote to designing your cover will definitely pay off in the end.

My top 5 writing and my top 5 publishing posts from 2014

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

As 2015 begins, I wanted to take a moment to list some of the better blog topics from 2014…Since I do both writing and publishing topics, I picked five of each to showcase – listed in no particular order. If you want to check out these blogs, simply click the “more” link next to that topic.

Top 5 Writing-related blogs

1.) Writing a novel with multiple points of view – Last year, I wrote a blog on deciding which point of view – first, second, or third-person – to use in your novel. One thing I didn’t address is writing your novel from multiple viewpoints – using one or more characters to tell the story. (more)

2.) 9 ways to brainstorm story ideas – Many authors are teeming with story ideas, so they just need to pluck one and develop it into a novel. But newbies and even a few veteran authors sometimes falter when finding a story to write. (more)

3.) Beware: Too many or too few speech tags – A speech tag lets readers know who is speaking. She said, he snapped, Aunt May whispered. But using a tag on every line gets to be cumbersome to read. (more)

4.) Killing off your characters – No matter what type of novel you are writing – thriller, mystery, romance – there may come a time when you need to kill off one or more of your characters. This is challenging for some writers who grow attached to their characters. It can be equally hard for the readers when a favorite character dies. (more)

5.) Conflict drives your story – Every story needs some form of conflict. Without conflict there would be nothing to drive the characters and plot forward. It is the character overcoming obstacles that supply the drama, the suspense, the tension in the story. (more)

Top 5 Publishing-related blogs 

1.) Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone? – You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you? (more)

2.) Most authors won’t earn a living as an author (at least right away) – When I first self-published my fantasy novel, Summoned, I had no delusions that it would be an immediate “best seller.” Heck, I knew from the start that it would be hard to find readers when there are so many other books vying for their attention. It is a daunting task for any new indie author and one that I think many are unprepared for. (more)

3.) Promoting your novels within your (or someone else’s) book – As an independent author, promoting my books is always high on my list of things to do. One of the easiest ways – and sometimes the most overlooked – is promoting within your published book. (more)

4.) Don’t be in a rush to self-publish – You’ve dreamed of the day when you can hold in your hands a copy of your own book. You imagine showing it off to friends and family as you proudly declare you ARE an author. But as you are preparing to self-publish your own book, I urge you to make sure you – or more importantly your book – are ready. (more)

5.) Tips to improve your author website –  Every author should have either a website or a blog to promote themselves. Here are some tips for those of you who choose to set up an author website. (more)

And here is to another great year of blogging about being a self-published author. If any of you have suggestions for topics, please leave them in the comments….after doing this for three years, I can certainly use the suggestions.

Publishing your novel recap – part 2

I usually like to have my week’s post done at least a week in advance but last week I struggled to write something for today. My dear friend passed away on Monday, August 25, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. You can read more about her (and my fundraising efforts for her family) here.

So I am taking the easy way out this week and posting a recap of some of the posts that I have written about publishing your book. You can check out my first recap done in June 2013 by clicking here.

Tips for choosing your novel’s title – Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover. Your title is part of the overall impression about the book. It sets the tone and creates an expectation. (To continue reading, click here.)

proofEditor or proofreader – which do you need? Many people confuse copy proofreading and copy editing. So what is the difference and which do you need to hire? (To continue reading, click here.)

Selecting an Author Photo – Last May, I wrote a blog with tips for drafting your author bio. Because I feature authors on my blogs, I see all types of author bios – some good and some really bad ones. (Remember – short and relevant and above all don’t list every book or award you have ever published or won.) Now while not all authors supply me with an author photo, I get bad and good ones of those too. (To continue reading, click here.)

Choosing to self-publish an e-book over a print book –  When I first decided to self-publish, the obvious choice to me was to do an electronic book. E-books are inexpensive – no press costs, no worry about storage, inventory or shipping.

But I admit it would be nice to hold my own book, feel the smooth cover or the pages as you flip through it. And it would be awesome to see it on an actual bookstore shelf. (To continue reading, click here.)

Promoting within your novels within your (or someone else’s) book – As an independent author, promoting my books is always high on my list of things to do. One of the easiest ways – and sometimes the most overlooked – is promoting within your published book. (To continue reading, click here.)

Don’t be in a rush to self-publish – You’ve dreamed of the day when you can hold in your hands a copy of your own book. You imagine showing it off to friends and family as you proudly declare you ARE an author. But as you are preparing to self-publish your own book, I urge you to make sure you – or more importantly your book – are ready. (To continue reading, click here.)

Hopefully, you will find some useful information in these posts. And I promise a new post will be up next Thursday.

Editor or proofreader – which do you need?

Many people confuse copy proofreading and copy editing. So what is the difference and which do you need to hire?

Proofreader

proofA proofreader is someone who looks over your manuscript for grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. A proofreader should see your manuscript AFTER all the editing, and beta readers have made their suggestions (and you have made all your changes). Basically, they should see your manuscript when it is ready for publication. Their job is NOT to make revisions but to make corrections.

In the world of publishing paper books, a proofreader was one of the last to review the book. They would be looking at the final copy as it would print. If there were too many end-of-line hyphens in a row or a blank section break at the top of a page, they would correct those and other esthetic issues in addition to checking grammar and spelling.

Nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes. In fact, I have mentioned before that I don’t hire a proofreader but use the software Whitesmoke for my proofing needs. This is a comprehensive grammar checker that will blow away what Microsoft Word does. Of course no software can completely replace having someone proof your work.

Many proofreaders charge by the hour while others charge by the word. And many copy editors also offer proofreading as part of their services.

Copy Editor

While proofreading is done at the end, an editor may work over long periods of time with a writer until the manuscript is perfected. It is a much more involved process that can take months. And while some may argue editing also refers to finding typos and grammar errors, editing involves one major factor that proofreading does not: content.

A copy editor reads your work and makes corrections so it follows the conventions of good writing. They can find flaws in your story or help you flesh out a sub-plot.  They refine word choices and make sure the manuscript’s syntax is smooth. The copy editor may suggest reorganizing, recommend changes to chapter titles and call out lapses in logic or sequential slip-ups. They will ensure continuity through chapters and ensure dialog is believable.

If employing both, use an editor first and then the proofreader afterwards.  Editors may charge by the hour, by the page or even by the word.