Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Must Do This

I just finished editing a really great fantasy novel for a friend, and the author asked my advice on getting it published. As it turns out, this author had already been trying to get it published for the past few years.

Years, people.

Being an author is not easy, but that is ridiculous. Here he has a completed, well-written manuscript. He even has a whole series that follows it.... which I am excited to read. And yet, it remains unpublished. He has sent it to countless publishers and agents, only to get rejection letter after rejection letter, or in some cases, no response at all. 

He said it was obvious most had not even read his work. So disappointing! For a book that has been swirling around in his head since he was young, and for pages that took hours and hours to write, it saddens me that it just sits.

Naturally, being in the publishing business, he asked my advice. "What do I do now?" I told him that publishing companies are in business to make money. Especially these days, they need a "for sure" book to make money. They need assurance that the book will be liked. That means you need followers.

"If it was non-fiction, it would be a no-brainer. You should build up a following via a website/blog/Facebook page by making it an information center focused on the subject of your book." Once you have a lot of followers, it would show publishers that you have people ready and waiting to buy a book. Then it becomes less of a risk. Dollar signs are there.

But his book is fiction. How the heck do you gain followers when your book is fiction? How do you prove that your fiction book will sell? Let me share with you what I shared with him.

Besides writing your book and getting it published, if you don't do anything else..... you must do this.

Get an awesome endorsement.

We're talking Oprah, a reporter at the New York Times or the Today show, or anyone equally famous. Movie stars, well-known experts, or basically anyone who most people in America would have heard of. Get them to read your book and write up an endorsement, and people will notice you. People will take the famous person's word for it and probably buy your book.

Don't know any famous people? Ask around. Mention your book to everyone, see if someone "knows someone" or knows someone who knows someone. Or knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who.... you get the idea. Don't rest until you've tried everything. Ask yourself, how badly do you want this? And then press on.

Turning up empty? Look for lesser known "famous" people too. Like already famous authors within your fiction genre. In the case of my friend, he really needs to get a good endorsement from someone in the fantasy world. Ideally, he needs an endorsement from a best-selling fantasy author. So he needs to find someone who knows one. As it turns out, I know someone who might know someone, so we're going to explore that channel.

Knowing people is really key. It is what it takes in so many aspects of our lives... why would this be any different?

So get started now. Does it take a long time? Yes. But just imagine how much good it could do. A foreword by X or a short blurb endorsing your book written by Y could give your book the boost it needs to get published and eventually make some money.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Writing Challenge -- 500 words per day

I am writing a Young Adult novel, and it's been in the works for about a year. Why so long? Well.... I write sporadically. If you are writing a book, you are probably writing sporadically, too. Here and there, when you can. Which isn't much.

Thus, my Writing Challenge! Write 500 words a day. That's it! Just sit down and type--no editing allowed. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish. Do it starting today until Friday. That's only five days, but times that by 500 words and you'll have 2500 words.

Do it!!

Update: I did three out of the five days. But on one of the days, I did 1,000 words! When you sit down to type, it seems like more just comes out than you expect. Which is why it's good to sit down often.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Am Not a Writer - Part 2

In the I Am Not a Writer Part I, I talked about how many people have ideas for a book they want to publish, but they don't write it because they are "not a writer."

Honestly, do you know how many non-writers have written books? Probably a book you are reading right now.

Very few people can call writing their profession (journalists, etc), and few people who aren't professional writers consider themselves to be "writers" per say... and yet there are millions of books out there. How did they all do it?

First, they came up with a concept. Then they ellaborated. If you have a good concept, that is half the battle right there. What is a concept?

A concept is the meat of the book. Explain the book in a few words, and that encompasses your concept. If it really captures people's attention, you might have something.

Now, if you have an awesome concept, the only thing that lies between getting it published is writing the darn thing. And if you are not a "writer" there are ways of getting your concept to print.

Dictate Your Ideas. Maybe typing or the physical act of writing doesn't work with your brain. If speaking is better, get a recording device of some kind and start talking.

Hire a Ghost Writer. Basically someone else writes it for you, but you retain the credit.

Hire a Writing Coach. If you simply don't know where to begin, this is your option. A writing coach is someone, perhaps an editor or another writer, who can help you write it yourself step by step. Picture them sitting there with you, asking questions and helping you form ideas, but you are the one actually writing. I like this idea best, because during the process of working with a coach, through the discussion and exchange of ideas, the creative process flows and amazing things can happen.

Write What You Can, Then Hire an Editor. This is what a lot of people do, and it really works. An editor has some sort of natural ability to see what a manuscript needs and make it better. But how do you find a good editor? Hmmm I think I'll write up a post about that...

Forget About Your Concept. This makes me sad. A great concept is not being written! You owe it to yourself and to the world to publish a book on your awesome concept. Don't let the fact that you aren't a "writer" hold you back.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How Do I Format My Manuscript?

You had a great idea for a book, and then you started typing.... 1,000.... no, 5,000.... no, 10,000.... wait... 50,000 words later it occurs to you to check your formatting. You panic for a second, then think am I doing this right?

Writers, don't worry too much about this. The words themselves are the most important thing. Formatting a document is relatively easy, and it is secondary to your masterpiece of ideas. That said, there are a few things you can do to make things easier when it comes time to submit/publish.

Use Microsoft Word. It's pretty universal.
Use a basic font in 12 point.
Don't do anything crazy with the margins.
Don't add a line space after every paragraph (just go to the next line).
Don't type in page numbers.
Use only one space between sentences. A simple "find and replace" can help if you've already used two spaces.
Put all of the book parts in one document. One exception is photos/images--best to keep those separate for now.

Now, when you are done with your manuscript and find an agent or publisher to work with, you'll need to check out their specifications on submissions. Each company should have its own, so pay attention to what they are looking for (single vs double spacing, file type, etc.). But hopefully, after following some simple ideas above, prepping your manuscript will be a breeze.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Snippets from The Chicago Manual of Style - Copyright Permission

From page 143:

"In the course of writing a book or article, the author will do well to keep a record of all copyright owners whose permission may be necessary before the work is published."

If you are an aspiring author, you may not know that in many cases, you may need to ask permission from others in order to quote them, including information you quote from other books, or poetry, photos not owned by you, etc.

As the CMS further explains, for a book that contains a lot of outside information, obtaining permission could take weeks or even months. In some cases, copyright holders will require a fee be paid (usually by the author), or they may not grant permission at all. Keep that in mind as you write, so you can plan ahead in case you have to take some quoted material out.