Warning: Rant Ahead
I’ve been seriously writing for seven years, and I can’t tell you how many friends and family members have been there offering support and encouragement. For the last year, since I graduated for my M.F.A. with two novels completed they have all continued to urge me on with enthusiasm, promising to purchase a book if I get published and inquiring about getting on pre-order lists. I felt myself fortunate to have so many staunch supporters.
I’m not talking about all those folks out there that ‘like’ your posts without actually following the link and reading the blog posts, or buying the book. That kind of thing happens all the time and is to be expected, because these folks don’t really know you. No, who I’m talking about are those who actually know me, people I felt I could depend on to be there and back me up in all circumstances.
So, maybe you can see why I might experience confusion when, after my western novel, Delilah, was finally published, I expected to have a few sales, not hundreds or anything, but at least a few. When checking on it’s progress, I found Delilah had two reviews so far, with a four star rating, which pleased me to no end. In fact, one of the reviews compared me to a feminist Louis L’Amour, which is pretty high praise for a western.
However, when I inquired as two my sales, my publisher informs me that I have only two. At least both buyers wrote reviews. So where are all my avid followers who love me and couldn’t wait to buy my book? It seems all of my supporters have disappeared into the woodwork, so to speak. Not one has honored their vow to buy my book, not even my own family members.
I think the thing that makes me the angriest is the fact that they all know how hard I’ve worked to get this far, but as soon as they are asked to fork out some cash, and we’re only talking ninety-nine cents here, they vanish. I don’t see or hear from them anymore, or if I do, the subject of the book isn’t mentioned, but rather, it is skillfully danced around. And now it is apparent, they are not willing to spend a buck on my book, the work they claimed to have so much faith in. Am I wrong to be hurt and disappointed?
Since the publication of Delilah, I have worked hard to promote the book and stir up some sales. I have made blog posts talking about it, shared them all over social media like crazy, sent out ARCs to be reviewed. I did an interview with author Dan Alatorre on his authors blog, which can be viewed here. My publisher even set up two days, where readers to get the book for free, and still only two sales.
I wasn’t expecting to be an overnight best seller, and I suppose I need to keep in mind that those two sales produced very good reviews. I want to take time out here to thank those two readers who actually bought Delilah and took the time to write a review. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, these days, reviews are everything. Not that good reviews will bring increased sales, but they do make a difference.
According to Amazon you have to have the magic number of fifty reviews before they will deem your book worthy of their promotion, and I’m learning fast that fifty reviews will not be easy to get. I’d venture that most books available on Amazon don’t make the grade, and that marketing and promotion can make or break a book, because to gain readers, people have to be able to find your book and want to read it. Because they can’t write a review, if they haven’t read the book.
I imagine many authors go through these same feelings. It’s all a part of the writing game. Now that I have that out of my system, I’ll get back to the business of writing, and promoting my writing. So, wish me luck, and if you like gritty westerns, spend a buck on Delilah.
The exciting news this week is, Delilah is now available in digital format! It’s something I’ve been waiting for for quite a while, so of course, I am ecstatic. But, something many aspiring authors may not realize is that publication isn’t the end of the road. No, it’s actually just the beginning of a new chapter in the book of writing, this one titled Sell that Book.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my road to publication, I started Delilah back in 2012, when I entered the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University. The assignment given by my instructor, Russell Davis, was to write an excerpt in a genre outside our comfort zone. I was assigned to write in western genre, and low and behold, I found not only am I good at it, but I like writing western. Four years later, that small excerpt, grew into a 60,000 word western novel which I’ve been trying to find a publisher for over the past year.
You see, writing the book, while a great accomplishment unto itself, is only half the battle. It doesn’t do any good to write a story, if no one ever reads it. In order for that to happen, the book must be published, and while I could self-publish, (I had considered it), I held out hope of finding a publisher, and in the end my persistence paid off.
So, now that I got Delilah published, with the help of Dusty Saddles Publishing, I must get the word out through marketing and promotion. I must get people to read, and maybe more important, write reviews.
Reviews are where it’s at these days. According to Amazon, reviews are how you get your book promoted, and I just read somewhere that Amazon has recently increased the number of reviews needed for them to promote your book, from thirty-five to fifty or one hundred.
The question is, where do I get reviews from? Although I do honest reviews here, on Writing to be Read, I don’t know many other bloggers who do. So, it comes down to appealing to you, my readers, to buy Delilah, read it and then go onto Amazon and Goodreads, (Delilah will be listed there soon -another thing I still need to do), and leave a review.
If you are willing to go to the trouble of doing all that, I thank you, but I also ask that you leave a review that is honest. While I would love you to leave a review which sings Delilah’s praises, I want it only if it is heartfelt. If you see problems with my story, I need to know what they are, in order to improve my writing of future books, so I am asking for honest criticism, if you are kind enough to leave a review at all.
In the end, it’s up to you, the reader, how successful Delilah, or any book, will be. So, buy the books you want to read, (which I hope includes my debut novel), and be kind. Leave an honest review.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
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There are many measures of success, especially in writing. Readers may look at whether or not an author has made any of the best seller lists. Authors may look at the number of books published, or number of sales, or even positive reviews. For rising authors, who are trying to get a foot in the door, like me, finding a publisher willing to publish even one of your books may be all that is required to consider yourself a successful. That’s where I’m at right now, as I just signed a contract for my western novel Delilah. But the point is, that success is subjective and there are many different levels involved.
You can see what I mean. My little contract for Delilah wouldn’t be a big deal for someone like Stephen King or Anne Rice, who sell books faster than they can write them, but for little old me, it’s a very big deal, even though it isn’t with one of the big five major publishers and there is no advance that comes with it. Although those things would be nice, signing with my small independent publisher, Dusty Saddles, makes me feel plenty successful.
What’s great too, is that it doesn’t end there, because of those different levels I was talking about. Sure, I feel successful now, with book contract in hand. But, I also have a feeling of success when I check my blog stats and discover that my readers are increasing. I feel it every time one of my poems, or short stories is published. I felt it when I earned my M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I’ve no doubt I’ll feel it again if Delilah starts selling copies and I find people are reading it, or when the next book contract comes along, or if I sell a screenplay.
Success is what we, as writers, all strive for, although your definition of success may be just finishing the book. That was my definition while I was earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but after completing two novels, working on both simultaneously, I know I can finish a book, so I’ve moved on to the next challenge. Selling the book, and now it looks like I have achieved that success, as well.
But we have to be careful not to want that success so bad that we allow ourselves to be taken. There are a lot of scammers out there, who will try to steal your book right out from under you. Although I was excited about being offered a contract, I didn’t just jump into heart first, but used my head and went over it with a magnifying glass, being on the look out for all the fine print. I questioned different clauses and negotiated on any that didn’t serve my best interests, until the publisher and I came to an agreement that was fair and served both our interests. Although having a knowledgeable attorney or agent look over all contracts is always recommended, as a striving artist, I had no access to that type of professionals, but I did have someone knowledgeable in the business look it over. He confirmed that I was reading it correctly and helped my identify a couple of problems with it. Fortunately, none of them were deal breakers and the publisher was willing to be flexible.
Now, I’m ready to embark on a new publishing adventure and looking forward to in anticipation. Signing the contract holds a certain level of success for me, but the next level of success may be just over the hill, so I must press forward. My readers can help by buying the book, because the ultimate goal for me is for people to read what I write, (and the money from the book sales will be nice, too). Of course, I’ll keep you updated as to when it will be out. After all, I strive to create Writing to be Read.
How do you measure your success?
Want to know more about Delilah? Visit my Delilah Facebook Page
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Last week, I received a rejection letter for Delilah from a publishing house I submitted to back in October. Although I know it sounds odd, I was elated. “Why?” you may be asking, and with good reason. Rejections are not something writers are usually pleased about. In fact, just the opposite. But I was pleased with this rejection letter for one reason. It was not a form letter. In fact, the editor took the time not only to read the sample I submitted, but to give me constructive criticism and suggestions as to how the manuscript might be improved.
As a graduate student, my professors drilled the idea into our heads that a personal rejection letter, means your manuscript made it past the slush pile and actually received some attention from the editor. It was good enough that they actually read what you sent. And a rejection letter with personal feedback is even better, because then you don’t have to wonder why they rejected your work, and you can strive to fix anything that needs fixing before sending it out again.
My rejection letter was personal, rather than form, and it offered feedback. How sweet is that? I mean, I’m not happy the book was rejected, but I am happy that somebody read at least part of it, in this case, the first fifty pages. My reaction to this rejection is to study the personal feedback and then really look at the manuscript to determine the validity of the comments. Then revise and resubmit to the next publisher on my list for Delilah.
For those not familiar with me or my writing, Delilah is my 60,000 word western novel about a strong willed young woman, who served two years in the Colorado Territorial Prison, in the late 1880s. Delilah thought that time had hardened her against the cruelties of the world, but she wasn’t prepared for the trip back home and the hardships of the Colorado frontier. She heads to her home in San Luis, with sixteen year old, Sarah. An encounter with two outlaws, who take the girl captive, sets Delilah on a journey into the high country of Colorado mining towns. Along the way she faces wild animals, outlaws and Indians, makes colorful friends, and learns to love again. Delilah is a novel with the true flavor of the Colorado frontier.
A while back, I also had a hybrid publisher, who expressed interest, but wanted me to provide other western authors that would be interested in publishing with them. (To get a better idea of what I’m talking about when I say hybrid publishing, see my article, Hybrid Publishers – What are they all about?). I posted in a few places on Facebook, but did not come up with any other interested authors.
So, this is actually the second personal, (non-form) letter that I’ve received on Delilah. Of course, it would have been better if I had received an acceptance letter, but I believe in myself, I believe in my writing, and I know that one day, that acceptance letter will come. And, if not, I am not beyond the idea of publishing her myself, because I know she is that good.
To learn more about and read updates on Delilah, go to my Delilah Facebook page.
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There is no one writing process that’s right. Writers all use different methods to get to the same point – a finished manuscript of a publishable quality. Some writers binge write. I had a professor who writes this way. She locks herself in a room and puts out a do not disturb sign, then writes until she’s given birth to the story. She claims she doesn’t stop to eat, sleep or shower, and when she comes out of the room, she may seem a little crazy, but with full manuscript in hand.
In one of my Facebook groups, members invite one another to join in writing sprints, where they start writing and keep going non-stop for a designated amount of time. The duration that I have seen is mostly about twenty minutes, but this varies depending on which member extends the invitation. This is kind of a nifty way to write, using the encouragement of others to keep you on track writing, but it’s not for me. I work on multiple projects concurrently and I can’t wait for a group sprint, or limit myself by one. As a graduate student, I had a professor who liked to give us timed free-writes, which was okay except that if I wasn’t finished when the time ran out, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to finish expressing my complete thought or idea. Once I’m on a roll, I want to keep going. I can sprint when I have to, but I think I’m more of a long distance writer.
In another of my Facebook groups, I saw a post where a writer outlined his very structured writing process. In his outline, he showed how he wrote chapters one through five and then sent them off to his alpha readers, then rewrote those chapters using their feedback before proceeding forward. My comment to him was that even though I liked his structured approach, I just can’t write that way.
Once I start writing, I listen to my characters, and keep writing until the story is told. I’m not as emphatic as my professor, I do take life breaks, but even then, the story is swimming around in my head while I tend to other tasks which life deems necessary. That’s what I mean when I say I’m a long distance writer. Once the idea takes hold, I jump in and just keep going until I’ve expended all of my creative energy. And I write fast. I once wrote the first draft for a thirty thousand word romance story in nine days. It wasn’t perfect. It was a first draft. But the story was all there, waiting for revisions.
But there are drawbacks to this method. Only when the first draft is complete, do I send it off to alpha readers. After receiving their feedback I revise the story, sometimes in its entirety. With Delilah, once I got the initial feedback from my alpha readers, I utilized said feedback to do revisions.
On the next read-through I decided that there just wasn’t enough at stake to make readers care whether Delilah would be successful in her quest. So, I went back and wrote in a teen girl, Sarah, and placed her in Delilah’s care at the beginning of the story. Then I rewrote the scenes that came after that, because everything changed once Sarah was in the picture, and we’re talking major revisions. But they added to Delilah’s quest for revenge, a quest to save Sarah, which raised the stakes, hopefully causing readers to want Delilah to succeed.
I’m also one of those writers who, despite all the warnings from my professors about editing as you write, does it anyway. I correct my typos and misspellings as I go, so after the first few chapters, where the story is set in motion, most of the revisions necessary were mostly minor tweaks, but they were required throughout the story. It necessitated going over it with my editor’s eye and reading it aloud.
Once the second draft was complete, I did a read-through before sending it off for feedback once more. About half-way through, I came to a part where the story was dragging for me. Now when your own writing drags for you, that’s not a good thing. Something needed to happen to keep my readers, (and myself), awake and interested. So, I rewrote the scene and had Delilah run into one of the outlaws she is seeking, resulting in a shoot-out that kills off a character that had previously had a big role later in the story. It solved the boredom problem for that scene, but required a rewrite of the rest of the story, because things could no longer go down that way I had originally written it.
You can see the drawback to my writing process. Waiting until the first draft is finished can entail some major rewrites. Sending it off for feedback a small chunk at a time, and then revising bit by bit seems like it might be a better process to practice, but I can’t get my mind to shut down once the story starts flowing. It’s all got to come out. That’s just how I do it.
Delilah is an example of my normal writing process. I took that first excerpt and wrote. I’m not a plotter. I get an idea in my head and let the words fly to the page. But in my M.F.A. program, they tried to turn me into a plotter. For my thesis novel, Playground for the Gods: The Great Primordial Battle, I was required to make an outline before I started writing. In truth, I needed to take that approach with my thesis, because my original science fantasy idea is broad enough to encompass four novels, and in fact, my thesis turned into the first novel with plans for three other novels to follow. My original idea will become the third novel in the series. I needed two books worth of backstory to tell my tale. But that much information, that much plot, that much story needs to be outlined. You can’t just blunder along blindly writing whatever comes into your head, because what you write at this point must fit in, not only with this story, but with the other three in the series. There are a lot of writers, and many of my M.F.A. cohorts, who prefer to outline and plot before writing.
With my thesis novel, I did send chunks off for feedback instead of waiting for the whole story. There was just too much story to fill in and I needed to know it was all there and flowed smoothly. It’s a good thing I did, too, because I am still waiting on the feedback from my thesis advisor. Quite frankly, I’ve been considering pulling this one back out and doing some revising, even now.
I know how my writing process works, but it’s not the only way, or maybe even the best way. It’s a way that works for me.
What is your writing process? Are you a sprinter? A long distance writer? A procrastinator, who puts the writing off until right before deadline and then crams to get it done? A plotter, who outlines and plots the whole story before ever putting down the first word?
I recently sold I Had to Do It, a flash fiction story of the western flavor, to Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. And of course, my regular readers know I’ve written a western novel, Delilah, as well, for which I’m diligently seeking a publisher at present. It might seem that I am leaning toward becoming a western writer, and I’ll admit, I do enjoy writing western.
But I’m an eclectic kind of gal by nature. My palate savors many cuisines, although I’m partial to Oriental and Latino foods. I listen to various genres of music, being heavy on the rock, but also enjoying metal, hip hop, country, pop, and even classical. I watch a wide range of movie genres, as well. On that same note, I read most of the genres, and seek opportunities to try genres that are new to me, but horror has always been my favorite. In fact, in 2012, when I began my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University, western was one of the few genres which I hadn’t read.
In that first class, the first thing my instructor asked was, “In what genre do you usually write?” I considered the short stories I had written to date, many of which, I wasn’t sure what genre they fell into. The only experience I’d had with western was 850 words worth, I Had to Do It, and it hadn’t sold. But the idea was for us to write outside of our comfort zones, and western was the genre I was assigned for my first excerpt.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think I would like writing westerns. I’m a native of Colorado and proud of that, but I’ve never been a cowgirl per se. I enjoy western films. Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns are the best, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Quick and the Dead are right up there, too. But as I said, I hadn’t really read much in the western genre. But then, I wrote the excerpt for Delilah. After that first semester, revising my excerpt according to the feedback from my instructor and my cohorts, I started thinking that I might not be too bad at writing in the western genre. Three years and several rewrites later, Delilah is a story I’m rather proud of. The rejections do sting a bit, but I’m confident that if I endeavor to persevere and keep submitting it, eventually it will land with the right publisher, and it will be accepted. And if not, well, there’s always independent publishing. Delilah is a good story, and it’s well written, and I want very much to be able to share it with the world. One way or another, I will get the book published.
And yes, there will probably be other westerns in my future. I seem to have a knack for it, at least, so I’ve been told. I already have an idea for a western romance, although romance is another genre I never thought I’d find myself writing. I guess we’ll see.
After the publisher I was so sure would take Delilah, didn’t, I did what I was taught in my M.F.A. classes and turned around and sent out another query to another publisher. I didn’t want to leave it sitting idle, so I turned around and sent it out again the same day to the first publisher I found that looked like they might be interested in a Western with a female protagonist. In a little over three weeks, I received a request for the full manuscript and was, of course, elated. The thing is, this publishing house isn’t one of the big 5, or even a small independent publisher, but a hybrid publisher.
We had discussed briefly hybrid publishers in one of my classes on the business of writing, but as I am now faced with the possibility of being offered a contract by one such entity, I felt it might be a good idea to delve a little deeper in order to understand what publishing through a hybrid publisher might entail.
I had a hard time finding anything recent on the subject, with most articles dating back between 2012 and 2014. It seems the term “hybrid publisher” can mean either an author who has works published both traditionally and self-published, or a publishing house that “splices” together elements of self-publishing and small press traditional publishing in any number of ways, according to published indie author and blogger, A.K. Taylor, in her August 6th, 2012 article on The Newbie Author’s Guide, “Rise of the Hybrid Publisher”. For our purposes here, we are talking about hybrid publishing houses rather than hybrid authors, although if they accept Delilah, and I accept their terms, I may someday be one of the later, as well.
According to Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press, in her April 9, 2015 article on The Blog at HuffPost Books, “Hybrid Publishing: Getting a Handle on the New Middle Ground”, hybrid contracts are nothing new, they just aren’t widespread knowledge. Many traditional and independent publishers have been cutting hybrid deals where the author pays all or part of the publishing costs up front for years. What Warner calls partnership publishing allows authors to pay up front for publishing costs and receive a high percentage of the royalties, while the publishing house offers traditional distribution and qualify to submit books to traditional review channels to aide in marketing and drive sales.
Hybrid publishing work in much the same way. I found that there are several hybrid publishing houses out there. All offer some combination of traditional publishing services and benefits of self-publishing. According to Taylor’s article, there are certain things all hybrid publishers have in common:
- Author is involved in the whole publishing & marketing processes.
- Publisher offers traditional publishing and traditional marketing channels
- Royalties from 50 -100% (considerably higher than royalties offered by most traditional publishers)
- Quality craftsmanship
- Shorter contract duration (1-5 years) than traditional publishers, and then rights revert back to author
All hybrid publishers have some type of submission process, but some offer a traditional-type publishing contract, with only a small advance, if any, while others require authors to pay all or part of the publishing expenses up front. I suspected this would be dependent on whether they are a P.O.D. publisher, (publish on demand), or do a traditional print run, although according to the former publisher of Writer’s Digest, Jane Friedman, there are hybrid publishing houses who do not require the author to pay up-front expenses, although the do provide a traditional print run, and even traditional marketing services. In her Publishers Weekly article, May 15, 2015, “Not All Hybrid Publishers are Created Equal: How Authors Should Evaluate Their Choices”, she states that the services offered, as well as royalties and costs vary. It’s important to be sure that the publishing route you choose is going to produce a high quality product.
The publishing house that is considering Delilah may go either way once they have assessed my manuscript, assuming of course that they love it and can’t wait to offer me a contract. They may opt to offer me a contract similar to a traditional contract with no up-front cost to me, or they might chose to offer me a contract more like a self-publishing contract, requiring I pay all or part of the publishing expenses out of pocket.
As far as I could determine, when considering a contract with a hybrid publisher the following five areas should be kept in mind when determining whether the publishing house is right for you. These are the areas I will look at if I am offered a contract for Delilah.
- Speed of Publishing Process – I’m not a patient person, so quick results are appealing to me. I backed out of a contract with a P.O.D. publisher for one of my children’s books, after five years with no results. I like to make things happen and be able to see my hard work come to fruition, preferably before I’m dead.
- Type of Income/Out of Pocket Expense – I’m a starving artist, so of course, an advance would be preferable to covering the publishing expenses out of pocket. The cost was one reason I have shied away from self-publishing models. The idea of larger percentages in royalties is also appealing.
- Traditional print run or P.O.D. – I like the idea of the traditional print run, because it allows the author access to copies for review or to have on hand at signings and other writing events. With P.O.D. publishing, that stuff can get expensive. Plus the above mentioned experience with P.O.D. publishing has made me leery of it.
- Editing services – I believe one thing that gives self-published authors a bad rep are the authors who don’t think they need to have their manuscripts professionally edited before publishing, therefore putting out a poor quality book. Every book should be well edited before publishing, so I feel having editing services available could be invaluable.
- Marketing and promotional services – This is an area where I’m not great at. I’m a writer, not a sales person, although if I believe in something, I usually have good results when selling it, and I do believe in my writing. None-the-less, this is not one of my strong points, so I would take all the help I can get.
It appears that today’s author has three publishing choices, which is two more than author of the past had. More choices means more opportunity for success. In a January 8, 2014 Forbes article, “How Hybrid Publishers Innovate to Succeed”, David Vinjamuri gave this breakdown of the differences between traditional publishing, independent or self-publishing, and hybrid publishing.
- Traditional publishers pay big advances, but move like sea turtles on land. Extremely long process. You have to move at their pace, (a year or more from acceptance).
- Self-publishers/Independent publishers – Large royalties, P.O.D. Author pays all publishing costs up front.
- Hybrid Publishers – Better royalties than traditional publishing, but not as good as self-publishing. Much faster publishing process than traditional publishers, (4 to 6 weeks). Although generally do not pay large advances, many don’t require any money up front from the author. Hybrid publishers pay few if any salaries.
Every author dreams of being traditionally published, but traditional publishing is tough. You have to have thick skin and be able to handle repeated rejections. The only thing I have against self-publishing is the expense. I write to make money, and I have to sell something before I have money to spend. Hybrid publishing seems to me like it might be the best of both worlds and definitely something to consider.
During my M.F.A. courses, I wrote with the belief that I would find a traditional publisher for my work. Although we briefly discussed hybrid publishing and self-publishing, both were glossed over, leaving the impression that they weren’t really options for professional writers. But now that I’m faced with trying to get my work out there, I’m learning that they might be options I should consider. (I’ve already experimented with self-publishing with my short story, Last Call, in e-Book format on Amazon, but haven’t seen a lot of results from it.)
Many of the students in my classes were young, in their twenties and thirties. They may have time to build a career and wait to be discovered, but I am fifty-two years old. I don’t have all that time. I want to make my writing work for me while I’m still alive to enjoy it. So, if this publisher does come back with an offer for Delilah, I’ll consider it. You bet I will. Now I have enough knowledge about hybrid publishers to make an informed decision. Wish me luck.