Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG: Guide to Publishing and Beyond

It's finally October and in celebration of the third anniversary of IWSG we're putting together a free ebook titled, IWSG: A Guide to Publishing and Beyond. Today on our usual first Wednesday posting of the month, the group is sharing the post we've submitted to the book. You should know by now that the entire IWSG universe is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. You can find the entire list of participants here and if you haven't joined by now, what are you waiting for? 

Are You Ready to Submit?

The time has come for you to send your creation out into the world of publishing. Before you submit a query or pitch to an editor or agent at a conference you need to be prepared with your sales pitch. In the world of publishing, there are four general pitches you should prepare ahead of time.

The Logline.
This one sentence pitch should include five key factors. The who, the what, the when/where, the how and the why. Use this example sentence and fill it in with your unique information and then work with it to make it more sensible and interesting.
In a (setting/when/where) a (protagonist/who) has a (difficulty caused by an antagonist/the what) and (faces the conflict/how) as the tries to (achieve the goal/why.)
In a face to face meeting, this simple line could lead to a lengthier interview or request for a longer description.

The Elevator Pitch
This is the nickname for a five to six line pitch such as you might use at a conference if you luck out and run into an editor in the elevator or at the bar. The easiest way to do this is expand on your logline. A sentence with the setting, one about the protagonist, another about the difficulty or challenge, the fourth about facing the conflict and the last should be why facing it is important or the protagonist’s goal.
The elevator pitch also comes in handy as a guide to the short paragraph usually requested in a query letter to briefly describe your story. Make each sentence count.

Short Synopsis
Often times an agent or publisher will ask for a one page summary of your novel. Include the five elements mentioned above for the shorter pitches and give each a bit more attention. This is a chance to add all those unique elements of your setting, your characters and the difficulties facing them. Even though a page might seem very long compared to the elevator pitch, make each sentence count. You’ll also be judged on your writing. Are you using active verbs and avoiding those adverbs? Include anything that makes your characters different and compelling. Don’t forget to include the ending or conclusion of the story. Editors expect to find out how the conflict is resolved when reading a synopsis.

Longer Synopsis or Outline
Sometimes an editor will put a page count on this request. It might be five to six pages or even as long as twelve. Or they might not specify on the length. The easiest way to do it is make each chapter a short paragraph. If the paragraph for a certain chapter seems frivolous or uninteresting that may give you a clue that you should cut some scenes from your book. Even in a long synopsis you don’t have to include everything or mention every secondary character. Again remember your writing style and voice are being judged at the same time as the content of your story is. Don’t make your outline a dry dissertation of facts. Remember when you were in school and had to give those dreaded book reports. Report with all the enthusiasm of sharing the most favorite book you’ve ever read.

Be prepared with all four types of pitches before trying to sell your book. Chances are you’re going to need them sooner or later. The logline and the elevator pitch will come in handy at book signings when readers stop by and ask what your book is about. Once you’re prepared your pitches, impose on your critique partners to evaluate them and make it as perfect as you can.

Are you experienced writing pitches? Do you find them difficult? Have you submitted your article to the book?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sprints or Marathons?

First things first. This Wednesday is IWSG posting for October. And it's the day to post your offering for IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. In my duties as human spell checker and minor editing details, I've read some terrific posts that are going to make this book very special. It's a great way to get your name out there in the nonfiction market too. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for being the creative genius behind the idea and the leader in bringing it all together.

I was very busy last week editing a book for my romance publisher, New Concepts Publishing. It was that final read through to search out any misspelled words or misplaced commas. I always take my time with that because it's so easy for one's eyes to skip over those when you're reading a book for the fifteenth or so time. Every time I go through the editing process I appreciate my small publishers more. When it comes time to submit your book to a publisher you have to decide whether to go the small press route or submit to one of the big traditional publishers. Many, probably most, of the published authors I know are published by small publishers. Working with a small publisher puts your career on the marathon path more than the quick sprint to glory path.

Many small publishers offer either no or very small advances. If you're looking for dollars in the bank as a measure of success, you might not get that immediately with a small publisher. The income may be spread out over years and slowly build up to equal the advance you might have received from a traditional publisher. Earnings come strictly from royalties. If you receive an advance from a publisher, they will keep a reserve of earnings toward paying back that upfront money. Unless your book sells well, the advance may be the only money you ever see from the book.

Small publishers are likely to pay your a greater percentage on sales than a big publisher. Most will pay 25-40% on digital books. A small publisher usually lets an author have more say on cover design. A big criticism of traditional publishers is the length of time between contract and the actual publication date of the book. Small publishers having a much shorter turnaround time. I usually expect six months or less from my romance publisher.

Often small publishers are started by a writer who loves books and authors. When working for such a company the author can develop a very personal relationship with the owner, the editors and the other people working in the small company.

One of the dangers of a small publisher is that they can go belly up. I went through that a number or years ago. That bankruptcy clause in your contract will not prevent your books from getting tangled in the legal process. It can take years to get your rights back. It's important to investigate a small publisher before trusting them with your hard work. Also with a small publisher you're less likely to see your book on the shelves at the local B&N but most bookstores will arrange booksignings if you want to do them. When it comes to promotion, both small and big publishers expect most of the work to be done by the author.

So I'm involved in a marathon of a writing career. No big advance checks but I'm slowly developing a small steady income from the three small publishers I work with. Looking for a small publisher? Here's a list of 700 book publishers. Here's another list of the top 101 Independent book publishers. You might find something you like.

Are the other advantages you can think of for authors pubbed by smaller companies? What do you think is a reasonable percentage for authors to earn on their published books? Have you prepared your post for Wednesday's IWSG?

Friday, September 26, 2014

First Friday of the Fall

The week flew by wit lots of work to be done. I had a book to be edited and I'm still working on it. I polished up my article for IWSG: Guide to Publishing and Beyond. Don't forget to get your post ready. Next Wednesday is our regular posting day and I know all members of the group have received instructions. We all know something, big or small that could be helpful to others.

Here's some weekly wisdom from my Old Farmer's Almanac. If you sing before breakfast, you will have bad luck. No problem for me. I like a day where I don't have to say anything until afternoon.

The sword wounds the body, but words wound the soul. -- Arabian proverb

It is not enough to be industrious; so are ants. What are you industrious about? -- Henry David Thoreau

A little Tolkien to get us through the weekend though maybe I should have saved it for the next Hobbit movie.

I'm enjoying some new fall TV shows. I liked the first episode of Scorpion. We'll see how it goes. Glad to have Sleepy Hollow and Person of Interest back on with new shows. Syfy's Haven is also back on for a short season. Supernatural will be back on soon and Once Upon a Time starts this Sunday. That's enough TV for me. Not quite an hour per day on average. Upped my jogging time to 90 minutes four or five times per week. For some people that might be half a marathon but I'm really, really slow. It does cause me some consternation when those turkey buzzards circle over my head. I'm not that slow.

Do you have your IWSG post ready? Any of the Old Farmer's wisdom hitting home this week? What TV shows are you enjoying this fall or do you skip it altogether?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Write It By Hand

A while ago I mentioned in a post how studies had shown that writing by hand helps keep your mind. Last Sunday, Parade Magazine published a short article in their Stay Healthy column about this very idea.

Except it's not just an idea. A psychologist, Karin James, Ph.D., shared results of studies she and her colleagues had performed. They found that five year old children practicing writing letters by hand used regions of the brain involved in mastering reading skills. Children typing the letters they were learning didn't not fire up that section of the brain. College students who take notes by hand answered conceptual questions better than students who typed their notes. Study after study shows that we process what we write by hand better than what we type.

I bring this up again because of another item mentioned in the article. The Common Core State Standards that are supposed to guide education curricula only require schools to teach writing in kindergarten and first grade. Schools are then directed to concentrate on typing. Since many students come to their first day of school without being able to even write their own names, its seems a little more time is needed to work on this skills. According to James, "in children, writing by hand helps improve letter recognition which is the strongest predictor of reading success." Follow this link to find lots more facts about handwriting and its connections to reading and learning. If you have young children, you really should read this.

I don't usually get involved in political things, but I think many people, including me, have no idea of the nitty-gritty details of Common Core. I won't share any more of my opinions on it but the facts back up that we all should do some of our writing by hand.

I do my book outlines by hand and often write scenes when I'm editing. I write out post outlines for my blogs and of course, endless lists of things to do. As I mentioned last week, I write twitter posts on a tablet and then use them during the next week. Usually I do that while watching the news or a TV show. When I'm preparing a blurb or logline, I write many versions of each by hand.

Do you write a lot of things by hand? Do you remember those penmanship lessons in grade school? Do you agree with the importance of learning handwriting for children?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Underrated Treasures Blogfest

Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh leads us in another creative idea blogfest. Today around 100 bloggers or more will post about a movie, band/artist, TV show or book that they feel hasn't received the love and attention it deserves. Have a look and you might find some treasures you want to experience for yourself.

If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you probably know my family is very much into sports both as participants and fans. We've watched our share of sports movies but there are a few we can watch over and over again. One that we love but that received some scorching reviews during its time is The Air Up There. This movie was criticized for just about everything except the wonderful location filming in Kenya.

In the movie, a has-been arrogant assistant college basketball coach (Kevin Back as Jimmy Dolan) is challenged to prove he's head coach material by recruiting a very tall and talented young man (Charles Gitonga Maina as Saleh) from a small village in Africa. Film critics harped on the stereotypical depiction of the natives but hey, it was a comedy movie. Instead of Saleh being grateful and impressed by Jimmy Dolan's sales pitch, the mature young man teaches the arrogant coach about what is really important. The critics complain about the cliches in the movie, lots of them, but that's what sports movies are. Fans watch them because they love the game but the story is always that other things are more important than the game. In The Air Up There, family values, friendship, teamwork and the idea that sports are only a game are the centers of an entertaining movie that will leave you feeling good.

I'm not surprised this movie didn't rate well in reviews but it's not the first and only film my family loved that others didn't love. But if you loved movies like Cool Runnings and The Sandlot, I think you'll like this one.

Don't forget to get your post ready for IWSG book, Guide to Publishing and Beyond. Please don't include quotes from others in your article. Do you have a favorite underrated entertainment to share? Have you ever watched this movie? Did it deserve the unkind reviews?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The End of Summer

Difficult to believe it's the last weekend of summer though the cool night temperatures is proving the calendar correct. The days are flying by. I felt like a I did a lot of work this week but then yesterday I decided my WIP was missing the mark somewhere. My characters need some work if I want readers to care about them. So I'm starting OVER. And I feel like I'm doing the right thing. Some scenes will remain mostly intact but most of them are hitting the trash.

A fall fact from my trusty Old Farmer's Almanac planner. The average person eats about 19 pounds of apples each year. Seems like a lot to me but I do almost always have some in the house.

And a Chinese proverb. Teachers open the door, but you must enter yourself.

And in case you think you're not getting paid enough for your writing here's a fact. Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk Jacob Shallus was paid $30 to pen the Constitution.  This past Wednesday was Constitution Day in case you missed that.

Today's quote about writing. Apologies to my California readers but this is a little bit funny.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.
- Terry Pratchett

Are you eating your share of apples? What would you have charged to write the Constitution? Do you believe in writer's block? Ready for fall?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In a Land Faraway

Technology had made the world smaller but virtual travel will never replace actually being in a location. I mentioned my daughter is studying in Morocco. Though an open society compared to many countries in that part of the world, it's a way different world from the one most of us live in. To share her experience, my daughter has started a blog. Her topics are quite varied and wildly interesting. Especially to me. The Open Roof is Kelley's blog. I hope you'll take the time to hop over there and leave her a comment as she perfects her Arabic and studies the culture of Morocco.

I'd also like to thank Lori L. MacLaughlin. She gifted me with The Versatile Blogger Award. I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself and then pass it on to 15 bloggers.
1. Despite having knew replacement surgery 10 years ago, I still jog 3-5 miles most days.
2. I grew up on a dairy farm but never drink milk, then or now.
3. I have an inherited blonde streak that runs down the back of my head. It will never turn gray. Looks a little like a skunk.
4. I grew up in a two hundred year old farmhouse with a b&w TV that got one channel.
5. I didn't learn to swim until I went to college.
6. My fraternal grandfather was a bit infamous during prohibition. Can't say anymore than that.
7. I donate blood six or seven times per year.

I'm not going to pass this on to anyone in particular but I challenge anyone to share seven interesting tidbits about yourself.

I hope you've prepared your contribution to The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. If you're still undecided, the book has received lots of writing articles. If you have an idea about publishing or promotion, that would balance the numbers out a bit.

Have you sent in your IWSG post yet? What do you think of Kelley's blog? Have any infamous ancestors like I do? Are you a blood donor?