New? Begin with lesson one.
So you've made your way through writing, editing, proofing, and publishing your work. Now what?
First off, congratulations. Now you get to start dividing your attention. You might think now's the time to kick back for a while, but it's not if you want a career in writing. If all you ever wanted to do was have a book in print, maybe, but don't expect to make much if any money from it. The upside of the self-publishing bloom is the market is wide open these days, but this also means each individual sale is more difficult to make than ever. You not only need to get the attention of potential readers, you need to earn their trust in order for them to take the risk of buying your book.
Let's say you've decided to go it alone when it comes to publishing. The thought of having complete control over the design, layout, cover, print size, absolutely everything appeals to you, and you aren't frightened by being the sole person responsible for how your work does in the open market. Where do you start?
Well, first you need to realize and acknowledge self-publishing isn't an easy way out or a quick route to stardom. It can take just as long if not longer than traditional publishing, and a lot more of the work is on you. The earlier you prepare yourself for this, the better your experience will be.
To be quite honest, with everything that's happened this past week, I completely forgot I was supposed to post a lesson on the self-publishing process this morning until about five minutes ago. Thanksgiving week was good but a bit on the rough side this year, and I'm almost ready to drop this morning. So I'm here to announce this week's lesson will be postponed until Monday, December 7.
I apologize for any inconvenience this causes, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to do a good job on the article today. I'm exhausted, beyond scatterbrained, and verging on being ill, and I never want to publish anything for you that isn't the very best I can give you.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. I'll see you next week.
So you've decided the traditional publishing route is for you. What do you do now? Today's lesson is an overview of the basics you'll need to know.
Write a tantalizing query letter.
No matter which way you go about it, you're going to need a good, clean query letter to get anywhere with traditional publishing. It's the standard way of submitting to agents and the publishing houses that accept unsolicited queries alike. It's your chance to show them your ability to write clean, clear prose and outline your story.
Unless you have previous publications or other credentials relevant to the piece you're submitting, it's generally considered best to leave them off. Keep it as short and to the point as you can without becoming so stiff and generic you sound like an android, unless of course, your book is written from an android's point-of-view.
You've written and polished your work to a fine gloss, and now you're ready to begin thinking about publishing it. Today's market offers a variety of options. It's important to consider the pros and cons of each. We'll take a look at one of the biggest divides in today's lesson, whether to go the traditional route or become an indie author.
Both have their good points and their bad ones. Different genres do better with different mediums, and one direction may work better for your life or business model than the other.
Some grimace when the word "business" is applied to writing, but when you get to the publication stage, there is a necessary bit of business about it unless you're simply ordering copies for your personal collection or to give as gifts. If you want to try and sell your written work either to a publisher, magazine, or as an ebook, you essentially begin to build yourself as a brand. Even if you decide to go with a traditional publisher as a novelist, you will be expected to at least help with the marketing by building an author's platform and making appearances.
You may believe you completed this step when editing, but take the time, and you'll find proofreading your finished and polished manuscript is still needed. You may be amazed at how many nit picky things slip through the cracks during the editing phase. Proofreading is where you go through your manuscript with a fine toothed comb to find all the grammatical, formatting, and spelling errors left in it.
Once again, there are no short cuts for this, admittedly tedious, task. Skipping it isn't a good idea at all. Modern tools such as spell check help, but you cannot rely on them to find all your mistakes and typos for you. However, there are some tricks of the trade to make things easier and maximize your efficiency.
If you can find beta readers you can trust to give you honest and full feedback, between finishing rewrites and beginning edits is a good time to do so. If not, I would suggest setting your manuscript aside for a week or so again before making a couple of read throughs. This will once again give you time to clear your mind and take a step back from the story, thus preventing your mind's autocorrect from overwriting the things you hope to find and correct.
The last time you went through your manuscript, you were looking for the big issues. This time around, you need to still keep those things in mind to make sure they were fixed, but you should be ready to start looking at the details: phrasing, typos, redundant text, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word choice. These things might be small, but lots of errors sprinkled throughout your work can add up to a big problem. You want to clear your text of all the errors you can find. Otherwise, they can distract your readers from the story.
There are a couple more things you need to keep an eye out for when you're in the rewriting phase: dropped plot lines and info dumps. Even though we've talked about what info dumps are before, they can be sneaky things that pop up even when you've been trying to prevent them. Not to worry, rewrites are a perfect time to correct both issues.
How do I know if I have a dropped plot line?
Is there a part of your story left hanging at the end? If so, you have a dropped plot line.
When it comes to handling the rewriting phase, issues don't come much easier to fix than inconsistencies and repetitive material. Yet, they can cause a lot of problems if left unattended because it can give the reader a sense the author didn't care enough to double-check their work.
But what if I need them to serve a purpose?
To be clear, I'm not talking about things like an unreliable narrator, red herrings, themes, or any other instances where these things are included purposefully. The inconsistencies and redundancies I'm talking about today are the ones that happen by mistake. Changing your mind while drafting a story, having new ideas that don't mesh with established material, or simply forgetting you've already included something happens. It's part of the writing process. It's just one reason the rewriting and editing stages are so crucial.
The biggest things you will need to fix during the rewriting phase is filling in plot holes and correcting sequences that are out of order. No matter how throughly you planned out your story, they're still bound to turn up during the drafting phase. As you write, new ideas form, old ones shift, and characters take off in unexpected directions because your subconscious mind is always working ahead and making connections you might not see consciously.
It is to be expected, especially when writing your first few stories. It's a natural part of the creative process, and this is one reason rewrites and edits are essential steps. Plot holes and trouble in the sequence of events aren't disasters at this stage. All it takes is a keen eye to find them and a bit of work to make these changes fit into your narrative without lapses in logic or flow.
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