Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Advice for Newbie Authors

A few of Susie's pics from her recent jaunt to London. And yes, she got home with all the "treasures" she picked up mudlarking near Tower Bridge and London Bridge.

Perhaps not everyone's idea of fun, but . . .

Susie & other "Tech wives" at Kensington Palace while husbands worked.

Susie & Mike on the Regents Canal, one of my favorite things to do in London
 ~ * ~


I'm sure I have given this advice more than once since I began Mosaic Moments in January 2011, but the subject came up again over the last couple of weeks, once from an editing client and also from a couple of visitors to our local chapter of Romance Writers of America. So for those who are at sea about What's Next . . . And those who need a reminder . . .

"I've finished a manuscript," the newbie wails, 
"but what do I DO with it? What's next?"

My answer is—and regular readers will groan over this because I've said it so many times in so many ways . . .

EDIT what you've written!
Do not, under any circumstances, run Spell Check and think you're done. Go back over that manuscript. Find the sentences that don't make sense. The paragraphs where you wrote all around the point, but never actually made it clear. Find the places where you left an important plot point in your head instead of putting it on the page. The characters you failed to identify or describe, leaving them as little more than talking heads. Did you use twenty words when you could have used ten, completely obscuring your point in verbiage? 

The list of what you can do with self-editing is endless. And it must be done! Do not let anyone see your manuscript until it is the best you can make it. If you are unable to see your mistakes, then hire an editor. Do not add to the mediocrity (and worse) currently passing for a novel or novella on the Internet!

Your choices after Editing:       (ms = manuscript)

1. Traditional Publishing. 
This is the one that's been around for years. When I began writing, there were still publishers who allowed Direct Submission from an author. These days, it's almost unheard of in print publishing. As far as I know, Harlequin/Silhouette, who primarily publish short, simple romances, are the only major publishers who still allow Direct Submission. Guidelines can be found on their website.

If you want to submit your ms to other major New York publishing houses, you will need an agent. There are many lists available. I usually recommend Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. This book, or something similar, is also available in the Reference section of most libraries. Do your research carefully, selecting only agents who handle the genre you write. Go to their websites and follow their instructions for submission exactly as outlined. As when you were in school, following directions counts!

Warning: This is a long, frustrating process, which is why so many authors have turned to e-publishing (some, alas, way before their work is ready). 

If you are accepted, your publisher will edit your work, arrange for a cover, and probably change the title. Also on the upside, major print publishers will distribute your book through traditional bookstores, though very little marketing is done for any but the most prominent authors or most sensational books. In most cases royalties are paid every six months.

2.  E-Publishers.
I was in on having a book published by an Electronic Publishing Company at the very beginning of this new era, when the infant Starlight Writer Publications asked if they could publish my RWA Golden Heart winner, Tarleton's Wife. Interestingly, my mother, who had been a highly successful children's book author (Wilma Pitchford Hays) had given me an article she'd read on e-publishing, so I was prepared to consider a venture into this new milieu. Tarleton's Wife came out in December 1999, was taken over by two more e-publishers after that, and when the rights finally returned to me about two years ago, I published it through indie publishing on Amazon and Smashwords. It continues to sell even after almost twenty years.

So what does an e-publisher do for you? 

Almost exactly the same as a New York publisher. You submit your manuscript, according to their guidelines. (And yes, they accept Direct Submissions.) Your ms is then accepted or rejected. If accepted, it is edited by the publisher—and frankly, I found my e-editors better than the ones I had at Signet or Kensington! You submit your ideas for a cover, to which they are more likely to pay attention than most print publishers. (Again, I had nine NY-published print books before I turned exclusively to e, so I have some experience in these areas.) Royalties are a higher percentage than those paid by major NY print publishers (which makes sense, as costs are less).

Most e-publishers make your book available in print, as well as online through the process known as Print on Demand (POD). The books are larger than standard paperbacks and much easier to read.

Drawbacks:  With E-publishers you do your own marketing. Authors who spend a good deal of time, effort, and money on marketing have been highly successful. I have no suggestions on marketing as it is not one of my skills. (I just want to be left alone to write—not a good strategy if you want to make a lot of money.)

Also:  E-publishers tend to go in and out of business with all the alacrity of a bouncing rubber ball. So try to get recommendations from other authors of which companies are the most reliable. Certainly, among them would be the e-publishing divisions of the major New York print publishers—divisions they were forced to create after the popularity of e-publishing cut into their profits. These e-divisions of the major publishers accept Direct Submission from authors - see each publishers' Guidelines.

I asked my Author Facebook groups for recommendations of current e-publishers and received only a few responses. That doesn't mean there aren't more good ones out there, but here are the ones mentioned:  Entangled, Soul Mate, and Lyrical Press, the e-division of Kensington.

3.  Indie Publishing.
This is the Bold New World of the last decade, made possible by companies such as Amazon and Smashwords. I have, at this point, gotten the rights back to all the books I've written over the years and have published around forty books to Amazon and Smashwords. 

So how do you go about it?

Both Amazon and Smashwords post guidelines for their indie-publishing process. Smashwords, in fact, has a free online book with excellent details. (Other online publishing venues probably have guidelines as well, but I prefer to confine myself to Amazon and Smashwords, letting Smashwords deal with all the other online publishers, including Barnes & Noble.

For How to Get Started on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, click here.

For Smashwords Guidelines, click here.

Both Amazon and Smashwords provide guidelines for publishing your book in print (POD) as well as an e-book, but I can't advise on this as I have not used these services. I am happy to be part of the new world of reading, using nothing but my Kindle since 2011 (except for reading old favorites off my bookshelves).

It should be noted that Amazon also publishes Short Stories and Non-fiction. (I have not researched the genres published by other online indie publishers.)

For Indie Pub, you will need an edited and polished manuscript, plus a good cover. I have a cover artist who does my books, but Amazon has a cover service if you'd rather go that way (but that cover will not cross over to Smashwords). Again, if you are unable or unwilling to edit your own work, you can hire someone to do it for you. There are also formatting services, but that's really not necessary. It's not that hard.

I have to admit, however, that the first time you go through this process, it can be a bit daunting. Even after 40 books, I still make a face before beginning to fill out the necessary forms, but basically AFTER METICULOUS EDITING, which also  includes centering your chapter titles, justifying your right margin, reducing your tabs to .3, aligning your Date & Location lines with the left margin, etc., etc., you need to create a blurb according to the publishers' guidelines and select Keywords that readers can use to find their favorite genre. At both Amazon & Smashwords, royalties are paid monthly. For Amazon, the rate is 30% for books priced at less than $2.99, 70% for books priced at $2.99 & up.

Please note:  I did not include formatting your ms into anything other than MS Word. It is not necessary. Both Amazon and Smashwords accept uploads in MS Word. Why should you go to the trouble of formatting your ms in anything else when they will do it for you? (Naturally, if you are technically inclined and want to handle all the tech aspects yourself, or hire someone to do so, this is an option. I prefer to stick with Word and let my publishers handle the tech details.)

Marketing. Obviously, you're it. You spend as much time, effort, and money as you're willing to do. As in most marketing, the more you do, the better your sales. 

And that's it—the bare bones of "What's Next?" No matter which publishing approach you choose, you have to do your homework, make decisions, work at something beyond putting words to the page. No one is going to know you or your work exist unless you tell them. So suck it up, buckle down—whatever cliché works for you—and do the work necessary to put yourself out there. If you create a good product and let the world know it exists, you can make money!

~ * ~

Christmas Novella - available November 2, 2018*
 *A revised & extended version of The Last Surprise (2012)

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


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