Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday's Focus: Things About Publishing I Wish I'd Known

You know, once you have reached a publisher and had your manuscript accepted, you are prone to think...The worst, the hardest part, is over. My manuscript has found a home, it's going to be published, and now I can relax and get back to work on my current WIP.

WRONG! Here are some of the things I wish I had known ahead of time:

1. Patience! And more Patience! I used to be a very patient person when I was teaching, but this past year has brought out a demon that has little to no "patience" in her body. The first thing is, you sign a contract and send it back. Breathe a sigh of relief. Okay, what's next, editors? I know you're out there, when are you going to tell me what I have to edit, revise, or rewrite to get published?...Hello?...Hellllooo? You wait. And Wait. And Wait some more. You begin to wonder, I have a contract, what did they do, lose my manuscript? WHERE IS MY EDITOR?

2. You don't have just one editor, you have two. One is for Content, and she tells you what is inconsistent with your characters, where your dialogue is off, what she thinks this character should say instead of what he/she is saying, where your descriptions go off on a tangent, and what is just too much...or not enough...backstory. You can disagree with her...after all, this is your story, not hers. But you had better have a logical reason. After all this back and forth, she accepts the manuscript as Content Edited, and you go to the next phase. After WAITING, of course. Eventually, your Line Editor sends you an email, introducing herself, and then you WAIT some more. Finally, the manuscript arrives with everything the Line Editor has found wrong: commas in the wrong place ( I must be in love with commas), a period missing, do I really mean "and" here, or would some other word be better? The Line Editor is just that: she goes line by line to poke out the smallest and most unnoticable errors on your part. Finally, you and she agree, you send back the manuscript, and figure, all is done, now I can sit back and wait for the publishing date. WRONG!

3.  One of the things I didn't know and wish I had was that the Cover Artist who designs the cover for your book doesn't have to read it before. My CA didn't even know the book for was kids, so her first cover, while beautiful, was so esoteric I knew kids from 10 to 14 would not get the message. So we had to dicker back and forth on that issue, and since I didn't have the option of suggesting what I'd like to see on the cover, I finally had to go with what she produced. It's okay, but not a cover I'm in love with, or would have wanted under different circumstances. So it takes some time for the CA to get around to doing what you want, or at least, what you will settle for, and again, that takes PATIENCE.

4. I think all writers have at least heard about galley sheets. But do we all know what galleys entail? I sure didn't. You get your manuscript back from the editor, with a note saying these are the galleys, and here is what you do: You go through your book, LINE BY LINE, and note everything that is possibly wrong, not there, or there but it shouldn't be. And make no mistake, there WILL be things missing, or inserted where they didn't originally exist. Why? I have no idea. After all, this manuscript has gone through multiple edits and revisions by TWO separate editors, as well as yourself, so how could there possibly be things still not right? Yawn. Trust me, things are still not right. So, you mark every error you find. But, that's the least of it. Now, you have to copy the ENTIRE sentence plus often the sentence before or after, in which the error occurred.   In essence, you have two galleys: one for each page of your manuscript, plus one more for each page where you have to copy the entire sentence where the error occurred. It is agonizingly slow, painstaking, frustrating work. BUT! you must go through this whole process very, very carefully, because when you do send the galleys back, this is how your book will look when it is published.

5. long last...eventually...everything is done and sent back to the publisher. Now what? Now you wait...patiently...for the publishing date to roll around, right? WRONG. Now is where the real work starts. Oh, you thought all of the above was the "real work?" Sorry, not so. Now is when you get to start planning your LAUNCH EVENT. This is what you do to announce the published birth of your baby, your novel. It can be a party, a book signing, a press release to the local papers and TV/radio stations, or all of the above. Whatever you plan, you must realize that all it is going to get you is heart burn and nausea. Why? Because you have no idea how anything is going to turn out, how many people are going to be on hand...if any...if your press release is significant enought to warrant the media...any even announce it, much less give you any real time, and most of all, you have no idea what effect any of this is going to have on sales. Or if you are even going to have any sales.

6.  So...the launch event is over. People are oh-ing and ah-ing over the fact that you are now a published author. Now you can relax and rest on your laurels, right? WRONG. What laurels? Have you become an overnight JK Rowlings? I didn't think so. Now is where some of the hardest work begins, that of marketing and promoting your book. OH? You didn't expect this? What, you thought the book had some kind of genie in it that was going to make sales come from out of the blue? No, it is up to you. Not the publisher. Not the editors. YOU. Just your little ole' lonely self, out there working your butt off in cyberspace, trying to find the right places to promote your book. Time Consuming. Frustrating. Patience Destroying. Time to write on your WIP? Forget that. Your whole life becomes one of social media, social networking, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and I'm sure there are many more I have not even heard of. You network and promote
until you are nothing but a promoting robot with a million things to do and only enough time in the day to do twelve. Barely.

This is the hardest thing I have had to learn, and I'm still only slightly more than a D student...I hope it's as much as a D. This is the main thing about publishing I wish I had known. Of course, I did know that I had to do some promoting, just not anywhere near what I am supposed to do, and still haven't done, to get sales for my book. I just didn't know that it was going to consume my life for months on end. I didn't know the extent to which I would have to do this.

Oh, I've heard people say , well, next time, go with one of the Big, Big Five, and this won't happen. Excuse me, but I know authors who've gone with one of these big guys, and still have to do a LOT of their own promotions. The big guys don't do for their authors what they used to, they have neither the time, the money, nor the manpower to do so. Yes, they do a lot, but the authors no longer sit back and "let the money roll in." It doesn't roll if you, the author, don't do your part.

So, authors: be prepared! Certainly be better prepared than I was! These are the things I wish I had known about publishing before I was published. What about you? Are there other things you wish you had known about?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday's Musings: The Backstory of The Freedom Thief, Part Two

After I finished the first novel course with ICL, I knew that I still wanted to pursue my historical novel. I thought the best way to do this was to take still another novel course with ICL, but this time, ask for someone who wrote historical fiction.

Because I was a long time student (by this time) with ICL, they sent me a list of instructors who wrote and liked to teach historical fiction. So I had a choice of instructors...but not knowing any of them,  I definitely chose the wrong one.

At first, she was very interested in what I had already written, but then her comments grew longer and longer and more critical. After a few assignments, it was obvious that the story was not going in the direction I wanted. I tried to explain things to her, what I wanted from her, where I wanted the story to point of view. All to no avail. My husband told me I should ask for a new instructor, and I probably should have, but I just didn't want to go through this whole "introductory" period again, get a new perspective that may or may not go along with mine. So I stayed with her, and that was a big mistake on my part.

I finished the course in 10 months instead of a little more than a year, which the previous course had taken me.  I was profoundly disgusted with the instructor, and everything else. I put my story away, started writing non-fiction articles for pay for an on-line educational site, wrote a couple of short stories that I got published, and tried to forget the whole experience. No such luck. Ben kept haunting me, telling me that I had to write his story...but MY way.

So I dug "Escape..." out of the files, and reread the entire manuscript. The first five chapters were what bugged me the most. My instructor had insisted that there had to be a "backstory" for Ben...FIVE CHAPTERS worth! That was ridiculous. Any agent or editor reading the first three chapters they normally ask for would still not have any idea of what the story was really about. I had gone over this with my instructor until I was blue in the face, but she was adamant.

Those five chapters contained nothing but setting the stage for the reasons Ben hated slavery, and his parents and two older brothers believed in it. They told in detail why the relationship between Ben and his father was a sore point for everyone. They went into detail about his arguments with his brothers. In other words, it was an information dump of the worst kind. I hated writing it then, I hated it now.

Those five chapters had to go. I deleted every word, and started over. After a few days, I stopped. Another big flaw: Ben had too much knowledge for a boy of his age about the Underground Railroad. Worse, he had learned this information by overhearing conversations in did he get to town, and why would he be overhearing that kind of a conversation in a town that supported the institution of slavery?... and between his grandmother and her friends, all secret Abolitionists. It was all wrong. This was not the story I wanted to tell. It was what my INSTRUCTOR had wanted me to write. Once again I was going in the wrong direction.  Back to the drawing board, and more research.

Several months later, I hit upon a piece of research that was like a dash of cold water in my face. Of course! This is where you're supposed to be headed, dummy! From that moment on, everything changed, and the story began to flow. I'm not a person who uses outlines for my work, I simply sit down and let my imagination take over. This time, I was in high gear! Over the next couple of months, my thoughts came together: I edited, revised, rewrote, edited some more. A few more revisions, and The Freedom Thief was born and baptized.

In my next post, I'll talk about some of the things in real life that I incorporated into this story, as well as how the name The Freedom Thief came about...for once, the title did not come from my imagination, but from real life research on the Civil War.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.