Author Etiquette - Contracts: Why You Need Them and What to Watch For

by Jennifer 10. May 2016 08:35

Good day readers. It’s time for another Author Etiquette. We started this little series because we love authorswe wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human and sometimes make mistakes or don’t understand some fundamentals in the writing world. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.

If you’ve been in publishing long, you’ve probably heard stories about authors who have had issues with their publishers, editors or other people associated with getting books into the hands of readers. It can be as simple as a missed deadline or as complex as many thousands of dollars in lost royalties. For some, the situation is easily handled, but for others it’s an ongoing nightmare. Many of the issues do point to publishers but the issues can be on both sides of the publishing line, meaning sometimes authors are just as liable as publishers when it comes to making a mess.

So when an issue comes up who is to blame? And how does it get fixed?

The answer is in the contract.


Contracts

Any time you work with an editor, publisher, promoter or even artist, you should have a contract.  No if, ands or buts. No verbal agreementsunless it is a prelude to a contractor “gentleman’s agreements.”

Contracts are written documents that outline the duties and responsibilities of each party. In the case of publishing it should include what rights are wanted by the publisher, when the story is due to the publisher, publication date, payment, when royalty payments go out and other features. It can vary from publisher to publisher but every contract should have the same basic features.


When there’s a dispute, authors and other parties can look back at the contract and reach a resolution. That would happen if everyone lived in a fair world. But not all contracts are the same. People don’t read what’s in a contract and some publishers take advantage of authors and artists. That’s why it’s important to read it and understand what you are agreeing to.

Do Your Homework

Before you even submit to any publication do your homework.*

  • Read guidelines.

  • Ask authors affiliated with the publisher if they are happy. Listen to both the good and bad.

  • Find out rankings on Amazon and look at sales.

  • Research the company. How long have they been in business? Has there been any controversy?

  • Where can you find their books at? Conventions? Online? Bookstores?

  • Who is the publisher? How long have they been in publishing?

  • Who is their editor, publicist, art director? What are their backgrounds?


These are all good indicators of the health of a publisher. If authors are generally happy, it has decent sales, has a professional website, has been in business for a few years, and you can find their books easily, it’s a pretty good indication that the publisher
could be the real deal.


But don’t let your guard down. Some predatory publishers can disguise themselves very well.

READ IT

After you submit and get accepted you get to the next hurdle. I can’t stress this enough.


READ THE CONTRACT.


Don’t just glance at it.
Read it.


Many contracts are straightforward. An honest publisher simply wants your story so they and you can make money. But not everyone is honest. It is your job to protect yourself. Even agents can miss something, so don’t rely on everything they say.


If there’s a clause or line in the contract that you don’t understand, ask about it. Ask the publisher and ask a more experienced author. Ask two or three if you are really concerned. Maybe it’s nothing to worry about. But better to be safe than sorry.

Know the Terms

Like many legal documents, contracts can be confusing. The longer the contract, the more terms and clauses and subclauses which can lead to an author with glazed over eyes signing on the dotted line. Here are some that you need to watch for.


Rights

There are all sorts of rights in publishing. Print rights, electronic rights, English rights, Foreign language rights, video, audio, and many more can be given away with the stroke of the pen. Be sure that you are giving only the necessary rights away with the contract.


Exclusivity

When a publisher purchases rights they expect that no one else will be publishing the story in the preferred format during a reasonable amount of time. Don’t sign a contract with an open ended exclusivity.


Original work/Reprint

If you are claiming your work as original, make sure it’s not been posted to your blog, other public form that isn’t password protected or already printed elsewhere.


Byline

This is the name you want your work listed under. Publishers should be aware if you are using a pseudonym. (just for legal purposes such as earning reports)


Publication date

The expected publication date of the work should be in the contract. This gives you and the publisher an idea of when the story will be available for viewing. It also starts the countdown as to when the exclusive printing rights will be released. (yes this can be revised if things go wrong but still read the amendments carefully.)


Termination/Breach of Agreement

These clauses will outline what and how to proceed when things go wrong. Depending on who is at fault, it could result in a return of prior payment or having rights reverted back to the author.


Non-Compete clauses

This one can be tricky. Some publishers put in a non-compete clause so that they can have first look at new works. While this might seem like a good thing, some contracts bind an author to ONLY working with this publisher. In other words, once the contract is signed, an author cannot work with other publishers until the contract expires.


Payment

A contract should outline how an author gets paid, how much and when. It should include how often royalty payments should be received--if that applies.

Ask for Changes

If any clauses of a contract make you nervous, ask for changes. A contract, even with a large publisher, shouldn’t be set in stone. A few changes here and there to accommodate both parties can make a business relationship run much smoother. Outline your concerns and suggest changes. Publishers can resist, but if you have good reasons then it shouldn’t be an issue.


However, when there are several clauses in a contract that do not favor authors and the publisher declines to make changes, it’s probably best to walk away. Better to search out other publishers or even self publish rather than be locked into a contract that takes away your rights as an author for years down the line.


It’s easy to fall into the desperation trap and look for anyone to publish your work. Predatory publishers trap the unwary and desperate. Clueless publishers trap authors into bad contracts even though they have good intentions. Vanity publishers talk up their products often asking for money upfront for things like editing, book covers and promotion. It’s up to you to make informed decisions about where and how you publish.


Read your contracts carefully. Know what is being asked for. Do your homework. Ask for changes but be prepared to walk away if you aren’t positive this is a good decision. It’s up to you to make the best decision possible for your work.

 

 

*You can find a lot of great information on contracts, publishers and complaints at Writer Beware.

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Author Etiquette: The Editor is Your Story’s Best Friend

by Jennifer 5. April 2016 20:43

Welcome back to Author Etiquette. We started this little series because we love authors--we wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human and sometimes make mistakes or don’t understand some fundamentals in the writing world. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.

 

Writers write stories. That’s their job. They take little pieces of this and that and mix it together and somehow come up with stuff that other people like to read. There’s a lot of different processes that stories go through from beginning to end but one of those steps should at some point include an editor.

 

To some people, an editor is normal part of the writing process, but to others having an editor look at your work seems like an unnecessary step. To listen to some authors, editors are scary beasts that tear up your precious manuscript. They don’t understand how unique and special your work is. Plus, they cost money. Those who feel this way seem to think that beta readers and self editing is good enough.

 

Sorry, but no.

 

Misconceptions


There’s some misconceptions about editors especially among new writers. Whispered rumors about stolen ideas and stories have always existed. Horror stories of editors that flay stories, and authors, drift around. The words “harsh but fair” is often met with skepticism. It’s understandable that some people, especially those who are new or are uninformed, see editors as unnecessary or even the enemy.


Editors aren’t the enemy in fact, they are your story’s best friend.


They aren’t going to steal your ideas or your story, but they will tell you the truth. Isn’t that what a best friend does? They will tell you what parts of your story works and what doesn’t... in order to help you. They will spend hours reading and commenting and searching out links to help you. They want you to succeed. They are there to support you and point you to the tools that will make you a better writer.


Why You Need an Editor


When you are writing, there are blind spots that your own mind glosses over. You don’t see those information gaps or plot holes. Passive voice sneaks into chapters. Character or location names get mixed up. Pacing can drift and lose ends can trip up even the most devoted reader. Overall, your story might drift around aimlessly. The characters might not follow a definite arc. Even if you’ve read your story several times, you aren’t going to catch all of them. You might never even know those issues exist. That’s why you need an editor.


An editor’s job is to refine a story so that it’s the best it can be. What some authors don’t realize is they are too close to the story and often can’t see certain issues. This could be because the author knows all of the backstory, or knows something that happens off scene that’s important later. Sometimes, it’s habits that the author hasn’t broken yet, like overusing adverbs. These and many other issues are the kinds of things an editor will look for. They want your story to be better.


But sending your story or novel to an editor is scary. Even I admit that. While you are waiting there’s a lot of anxiousness that builds up. Then when you get that email back, it’s just as nerve wracking and often disappointing.


Sometimes hearing the truth hurts. You’ve worked hard on creating a world, characters and a story line. You have done the best you can to put all of your ideas on paper. To hear that it’s not working and things need to be torn apart can be devastating.


Your Story’s Best Friend


There’s lots of places where your work will cross an editor’s path. When you submit short stories to publications, if your story is accepted, an editor will look at it and make suggestions. Agents submit novels to editors at publishing houses. And again, if it’s accepted, you will receive your manuscript back with lots of red marks. At a convention, you might strike up a conversation with an editor or two. Online, in forums, and in everyday life, you can find editors. They are normal people with a particular set of skills that is valuable in the publishing world.


There are lots of ways to become an editor. Some people have college degrees in English or Literature. Others have spent a great deal of time reading, but have always loved the structure and flow of words on the page. A few have started at different areas in publishing and have gradually worked their way up from being a slush reader or a reviewer.  The ways of becoming an editor is as varied as the ways of becoming an author.


While there are editors all over, you might not work well with everyone. When you submit to a publication, you don’t have a choice on who you work with. But if you self publish, you have plenty of choices. One thing to remember is, an editor doesn’t work for free.


You Get What You Pay For


If you look on writing forums or writing groups, there are many people offering to edit your work for either free or for a very low cost. Some of these could be fresh out of college professionals needing some experience, but sometimes it’s just someone wanting a quick buck. Often these lowball offers result in poor quality work that doesn’t help you improve as a writer.


As you go up the ladder, you find more experienced editors. Ones who have had several years honing their craft. Some charge a flat fee for working on your story while others charge by the hour. The best known editors charge a hefty fee, but again, they are the best in their field.


When looking for an editor, look at your budget, look at the credentials of those in your price range. Pick the one you think you can work with. Many times, you can ask for a chapter review, so that both of you can gauge what kind of editing you will need. This gives you and the editor an idea of what to expect.


For the Love of Stories

What would our world look like without editors? Remember the very first story you wrote? Have you pulled it out lately? Do you remember cringing?

Without editors, most of what we read would look similar to those stories. Sure there’s some authors out there that write cleanly and have very few errors. But for the most part, everyone needs an editor. Whether you use one in the developmental stage, content stage or line edits, is up to you.

Just remember, while some of their comments might hurt or make you angry, an editor is there to help you make your story the best it can be.

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Author Etiquette: Follow the Instructions

by Jennifer 9. March 2016 09:09

Congratulations!

We see you’ve just written a novel, a short story, or flash fiction. We know you are eager to find a home for your work, you’ve looked at markets and found us.

While we are honored to have you submit to us, please do your homework and follow the instructions listed on our submission page. Please note: our submission guidelines are not optional fields.

1. We want to see your best work. While a few writers can write cleanly enough to submit a first draft, most writers really should set a manuscript aside at least for a few days (while working on something else) and then edit it. If you have beta readers, please seek their assistance in refining your work. Read the story out loud and look for misused or missing words. Check for plot pacing, flat characters and continuity errors. Take the time to create the best story you can. Sure, it might mean missing a submission window, but it might make enough of a difference between an A or and R later on.

2. Please check the dates on the submission window. Not all publishers are open to submissions year round. Sure your story might be a perfect fit, but if we aren’t open, your submission will be deleted unread. The only reason you should ever submit outside of the window is because you have permission from someone in that publishing company. If so, then in the cover letter, you should state details of why you are submitting outside of the regular window, who you spoke with and where.

3. A properly formatted manuscript is like looking at someone who is dressed appropriately for an important meeting. The slush readers and editors can’t look at you face to face, but they can look directly at your work. Formatting your manuscript in the style a publisher wants gives them an indication of how you work with instruction. While some publishers require specific formatting most use the William Shunn method. Free advice: Learn to format every manuscript this way. It will save you many headaches later.

4. We do not want fancy fonts. First of all they are distracting and difficult to read. Second, they may not show up properly on our computers. Generally, Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier in a 12 point type are best. If we need to you to format in another font, we will have instructions on what one to use. Use of other fonts such as Papyrus, Curlz, or Comic Sans MS will result in rejections. Also, trying to use a tiny font to conserve paper is commendable, but with electronic submissions not necessary. Double also, use only a black font on a white background. Anything else kills our eyes and will kill your chances at publication.

5. Please, for the love of Pete, use paragraphs. Because our readers and editors enjoy reading and not having headaches, big blocks of texts is not preferred. A page full of text where there’s no relief is very intimidating to many people, and when a writer doesn’t use paragraphs, the lines tend to blur causing eye strain and stress. Break things down some. When there’s a new thought, or if someone else is doing something, start a new paragraph. Don’t worry the reader will not get lost.

6. Read the guidelines as to what type of spacing the publication requires. A publisher might request double or even triple spacing of a manuscript. Conversely, they might not want that extra space at all. Some want a double return after a paragraph. If a publisher does not specify, use of the Shunn manuscript format is always appreciated.

7. In some cases such as flash or micro fiction, headers and footers are not necessary, but for most manuscripts it’s pretty useful in determining if a manuscript is yours and to have an area where your pages are numbered. This is really important when an editor or publisher has a pile of manuscripts on their desk and the cat decides to teleport suddenly in the middle of it. If your manuscript is numbered and identified, it’s much easier to put it all back together. Please read the guidelines as to if the publisher wants headers and or footers on the submission.

8. Now we come to the final pieces of a submission. Your cover letter should be less than a page long. For novels, a synopsis may be required but for most short stories, please leave it off. We also do not need to hear your life story--interesting as it may be. Two hundred words (or less) that say a little about you is fine. We also do not need your entire list of publishing credentials. Your most recent or most important three are just fine. If you have a tiny bit of information relevant to the story or publisher you may add that too but please be very brief.

9. This last step is very important. Take notes if necessary. Make sure you attach the right file to the submission. If you’ve taken the time to properly format your work, go ahead and save it as a separate file with your last name, title and market. This way you’ve got the right file going to the right place. You’d be surprised how many submission are received without a story or how many emails have been received stating that they sent the wrong file.

So if you feel as though you can follow these steps, we welcome you to submit your work to any publication we are in charge of. While we love the variations in stories, having guidelines helps us read and critique the work we receive. We want to give everyone a fair chance so here’s your sign.

Follow the Instructions.
PLEASE!


Signed,
Slush readers, Editors and Publishers

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Author Etiquette: Refilling the Creative Well

by Jennifer 9. February 2016 09:10

There’s a plethora of ideas out there to write about. We come across them every day. That little snippet of a conversation at the grocery store. The way the sun glares through the winter trees. The sound of the tires on the highway. The feel of a well worn flannel shirt. There’s a story in each of those ideas, but sometimes your mind just comes up blank.

 

That’s when you know, it’s time to fill the well.

 

The creative wellor the muse as some people call itis the repository of ideas that creatives dip into when they write a story, paint or create any type of art. An idea or segment of the idea can be used over and over, but these sparks dry up or get stale and then the author or artist is left staring at a blank page struggling to move forward. Sometimes it appears in the form of writer’s block or lack of inspiration. Other times, an author will look back on their work and realize they have been producing the same thing over and over using a formula that works but isn’t appealing anymore. Even worse is when it’s lack of desire to create anything at all.

 

But having the creative well run dry isn’t the end of the world. It can be fixed, but you’ve got to put in a little bit of effort.


Stepping out of your comfort zone

One way to refill that creative well is to break out of your comfort zone and do something different. Many times we get in a creative rut because we do the same thing over and over. Schedules are nice, but they can become counterproductive to being creative.

Once a month try something new.

  • A new restaurant featuring a cuisine you’ve never tried in town? Try it out!
  • Never been to a musical or opera? Well there’s a wonderful opportunity to enrich yourself.
  • Always wanted to learn to make pottery? See if there’s a pottery store nearby.
  • Read something out of your usual genre.
  • Go to a sports event.
  • See what kind of history your area has and visit the sites.

Trying something new often breaks through that creative slump and refreshes you with new ideas. See something interesting?  Try it out!

 

Exercise

Great ideas often come unexpectedly and two of the biggest places where great ideas strike are: in the shower and while exercising.

 

While exercising, you are often concentrating on the physical movements of the body. That leaves your subconscious room to put ideas together. Sometimes it comes up with surprising combinations that you would never come up with during your normal writing sessions.

 

Exercising doesn’t mean going to the gym every day though. You can reap the same benefits by taking a walk, doing a workout video or working out in your home. While you exercise, don’t focus on your idea, concentrate on moving your body and let your mind put the pieces together.


Meet the great outdoors

While we are touching on exercise, another great way to filling the creative well is to get outdoors. It’s easy and in many cases (though not all) it’s free. Many local parks have walking or hiking trails where you can get some exercise and fresh air. Most states have state run parks and some have national parks. These offer unique opportunities to experience nature up close and personal (though hopefully not dangerously).

 

Some unique opportunities include: caves, canyons, wildlife, lakes, rivers and streams. Each place has unique features and educational experiences. If you find you like being outdoors, try hiking, fishing and photography. You can even begin to geocache if people in the area participate. There’s lots of wonderful things you can do outdoors. Hopefully, when you come home you will feel exhausted yet refreshed.


Be social

Okay so this one is probably the least appealing for many. Writers tend to be loners who spend a lot of time playing about with ideas that no one else has access to. Many are introverts who feel a great deal of stress when around other people. Yet, social interactions can lead to some great projects and new ideas.

 

Having other writers to talk to about projects can sometimes restart and refresh your ideas. Joining a writer’s group in person or even online can help you refine your ideas. Discussions are often a great way to get excited about writing again when you feel blah about everything. A critique partner might find where you are stuck and give you suggestions on how to fix it. Other ideas might come from other people tossing out ideas they just can’t use.

 

But not all interaction has to be with other writers. It’s a great idea to go to a backyard barbecue and just hang out with friends. Going to a family gathering might reveal some interesting ideas for characters as people talk about history. A lecture or a local discussion on a pending issue might jumpstart creativity even if it has nothing to do with what you write. Take a few hours away from the computer and relax and have some fun.


Taking a break

Sometimes none of these options work. You’ve found out you didn’t like kimchi but loved opera. You’ve walked at least three days a week for the past six months and happened to lose some pounds. You learned that fishing takes a lot of patience and always bring sunscreen. Even joining a local writer’s group hasn’t helped you be productive. You are stuck.

 

Maybe it’s time to take a break.


Pressure and stress are two factors that affect creativity. Sometimes it’s positive such as looming deadline; other times it’s not. Often it builds until the well dries up to a trickle then nothing at all. And the more you try to open it up the worse it gets.

 

Taking time to step away from your work for a short time really is okay. Sometimes it’s the only thing that works. But don’t stay gone for long. The longer you are away from your work, the harder it is to get back into it. Take just enough time to get the energy going again and jump back into it.

 

Ideas are infinite, yet sometimes our ability to use them isn’t. Everyone’s well runs dry at some point. At times you need to step away and experience other things to help you fill the creative well. While we hope you have feel that kind of emptiness, we do hope our suggestions are useful.

Thanks for reading and if you have other suggestions, please feel free to comment below.

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Author Etiquette: Author Care - The BAD side of Creativity

by Jennifer 12. January 2016 09:11

The life of a creative might seem like a dream job come true. For some, I guess it can be, but for the majority of creatives I know, it’s a very careful balancing act between good and bad things that many of us experience.

On the good side, there’s a rush of excitement in completing a good story. When you get a good review a pleasing vibration of good thoughts and a great deal of satisfaction seems to surround you.The challenge of pushing your boundaries and learn new skills is addictive.

 

But it isn’t like that all the time.

 

Self doubt often eats at your confidence. Imposter syndrome raises it’s ugly head. Other people get breaks that you’d love to have. Things like this can weigh you down especially when you’ve tried your hardest and you still don’t feel like you are getting anywhere. At times, you sleep in late, or not at all, have trouble concentrating and are unsociable. Most of the time we bounce back and our good mood returns. But sometimes it doesn’t.

 

This is where the concern starts. Feeling down, tired, irritable for months at a time is a signifier of a bigger problem, namely mental illness. Chemicals in your bloodstream, changes in the way your brain functions, genetics and reactions to the world around us are the biggest culprits in a range of diseases that cause a multitude of problems. And while thousands suffer from it, it’s still grossly misunderstood and often unrecognized until it’s too late.


Three of the most common mental illnesses that creatives face are the BADs - Burnout, Anxiety and Depression. Often they overlap, one rolling into another like a tide leaving the sufferer feeling alone and unable to deal with what is happening.

 

Burnout

We’ve all felt like not going to work, hate our job, and can’t focus on what you need to do. Sometimes this is a result of not being a good fit for your job or being in over your head. Usually you adjust, learn the skills necessary and things are okay.

 

If you are a full or part time creative, there’s always worry about whether your work is good enough, if your clients will pay you on time and where the next job is coming from. Deadlines approach at warp speed even if you have been working steadily on your project. Clients demand last minute changes that put you behind. Toss in real life issues such a family, friends, and another job it’s no wonder your brain finally says “ENOUGH!” and shuts down for a while. Feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and frustrated, are very common feelings from burnout. It can happen in many types of jobs, but especially those where you feel you have no control and a high amount of stress.

 

Anxiety

You know that queasy feeling you get right before you stand up to speak in front of strangers, go for a job interview or go on a blind date? That’s anxiety. It’s a little rush of adrenaline that gets your mind and body ready for the unexpected. Usually it’s short lived, but some people experience heavy amounts of anxiety in common situations. Panic attacks, social anxiety and phobias can keep people from doing things they enjoy as worry and fear overwhelm them.

 

It’s not a simple thing as worrying about whether you turned off the faucet at home before you went to work. Instead it’s an overwhelming feeling of dread, fear and sometimes panic that has you clutching your chest or feeling as though some heavy weight is sitting on you. It’s unending and relentless.

 

Trauma and stressful situations are often the root of anxiety, although genetic disposition also seems to play a role. But anyone who has experienced stressful events can develop anxiety disorders. Sometimes severe enough that you don’t feel able to leave the house.

 

Depression

When people think of depression, they often think of someone sad and crying, but most depressives experience a wide range of symptoms. Changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping more or insomnia are common along with weight gain or loss. Those suffering from depression often feel lost or hopeless, even empty, not just sad. Fatigue is often accompanied by restlessness and dissatisfaction. Making decisions are often difficult as concentration falters. And, much as I hate to point it out, thoughts of suicide begin to intrude into the lives of those suffering from this disorder.

Depression is a sneaky illness. Sometimes it lifts and you feel fine, and at other times you are feel hollowed out and empty. Feeling down for a short time is normal but when a person feels that nothing will make them happy it’s time to get help

 

The good news is burnout, anxiety and depression are treatable. Medications, counseling and lifestyle changes can and has improved the lives of thousands. For some, taking some time off (yes that means a vacation or at least scheduling time away from work) can help recharge and allow a person to have a better outlook. Sometimes, getting more exercise or more sleep can help alleviate the problem or changes in diet. In anxiety, identifying the cause can help sufferers avoid unpleasant symptoms. But the first step is to identify that there is an issue, and start working from there.

 

In the mean time there are things you can do to help you cope. For some people making a schedule or list helps them get through the day. Relaxation techniques can help alleviate some anxiety symptoms. Exercise and fresh air can also help.

 

If you are experiencing any symptoms of mental illness including thoughts of suicide, please get help. There are many toll free numbers you can call. Lines are open 24/7 even on holidays. These are just a few places that can help.

 

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

 

Trans Lifeline

US: (877) 565-8860           Canada: (877) 330-6366


Teen Line

(800) TLC-TEEN


Crisis Text Hotline - for those who would rather text than speak

741741

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Author Etiquette: Hold that Novel!

by Jennifer 1. December 2015 12:36

I’ve enjoyed watching many of my writer friends post updates on their NaNo progress this month. It’s exciting to know that new novels are being written and maybe in the future I’ll be able to read them. However, I don’t want to read them too soon.

 

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo) or NaNo for short. It’s 30 days of word madness as writers keep a grueling pace of about 1,700 to 1,500 words a day to produce a 50,000 word novel. There is a website dedicated to this event and in some cities write ins and other social events to encourage writers to do what they do best. (And there’s even a kid’s version of the challenge, too!)

 

Thousands of people a year all over the world sign up for this event. Some authors blow the word count out of the water while others don’t quite make the proposed count. Whether you make it or not, there’s lots of encouragement, great advice from top authors and lots of fun.

 

But as the month winds down, and many authors proclaim they’ve won this year, seasoned authors, agents and book publishers know the hardest part is about to begin.

 

While NaNo encourages writers to BINFOK (Butt In Chair Fingers On Keyboard) and in most cases forget about everything you’ve learned about writing a proper story. The focus of NaNo isn’t to write an immediately publishable story, instead it’s intention is to get a draft or at least most of one on the page.

 

Some authors forget that.

 

Riding on the rush of completing 50,000 words in only 30 days, some authors do a quick editing pass on the novel and then begin to shop the story around. While some editors don’t take submissions during the holidays many others are open and I suspect there’s always an influx of submissions around December. Most of which are given a rejection.

 

Very few authors write cleanly on a first draft, especially on a novel. Even with a detailed outline and all of the research done beforehand, there are often glaring errors in a brand new novel. Characters might be flat. The plot line might be weak. Sometimes you have an unexpected character that demands a spotlight. These and many other things create a mess that has to be straightened out before even beta readers should read the story.

 

The biggest issue with NaNo is in order to get that 50,000 word story finished, most authors need to turn off the Inner Editor. An Inner Editor is that little voice that insists that we correct all of the imperfections that happen in a first draft. Many times it’s difficult to turn that voice off and some writers spend unnecessary time going over and over a single chapter. But NaNo encourages you put a temporary gag on that voice and not listen to it for a couple of weeks. The results can be interesting to say the least.

 

Sending in manuscripts that have been hurried through the editing process doesn’t make you look professional. It is possible to receive a revise and resubmit but not likely unless you’ve given your NaNo project a good editing.

 

So to increase your chances of getting your NaNo project published, here’s a few steps to increase your chances.

 

Set it aside

First, set the novel aside for at least a few weeks. This allows you to distance yourself from the rush of a completed project. During this set aside time, it is important for you to write something elsea short story, an outline, the chapter of a different novelto help cleanse your mind of your NaNo novel. You will need that distance.

 

Read it through

Before you dive into editing, read your novel. This gives you a “whole picture” view of the story. It’s easier to see where your plot arc begins to fail or where you accidentally rename your main character. Make notes of things you notice so you know what to work on during the editing phase.

 

Edit, edit, and then edit again

Using your notes on the read through, begin to revise your story. Don’t worry if you scrap out chapters or completely rewrite most of the book. That’s actually normal. First drafts are where you put all the ideas you want onto the page. Your editing drafts are where those ideas all come together. Once you are done with a first pass, go back and check for spelling errors, misused words, and passive voice. Then go over it again, tightening up the prose.

 

Beta time

Through your eyes, every story is the best ever, but that’s because your mind plays tricks on you. All of those great ideas you thought you put on the page might be glossed over or miscommunicated through word choices. To have a better idea of how other readers will respond to your story, have some people (writers and readers) who are willing to read through your book and make suggestions. You might find that there’s confusion about your character’s past or that the ending seems weak. You might even find some unintended theme in your work that your beta readers pick up on.

Oh and while your story is being read by beta readers, start working on another story or even your synopsis. That way you’ll have a head start on things later.

 

Revise again

Yep that’s right. You get to revise that story again. Taking suggestions from your beta readers, you might have to do more revisions. Depending on the issues they pick up, you might need more work on some sub-plots or characterizations that need attention. But you don’t have to change everything even if a beta reader makes a suggestion. Sometimes a suggestion will go against the direction you want the story to take.

 

One last pass

Before you send your novel off, take the time to give it one last pass. You know, just incase your file didn’t save the changes you made or you make a glaring error on page one. Also make sure your manuscript is formatted properly. It’s the biggest reason for most rejections.

 

Once you have given your novel several editing passes, had it read by a select group and edited again, your novel is ready for submission. That is if you have the summary, synopsis and agent and publisher wish list ready.

 

Good luck!

~The Shadow Minion

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Author Etiquette: Do You Need an Author Platform?

by Jennifer 26. October 2015 11:50

Authors are given so much advice it’s easy to see why they get confused and frustrated. How often to write, what toor not towrite, and where and how to publish. Everyone has a different opinion and if you look at different writers and their advice, it can get confusing quickly.


One of the more confusing bits of information that is passed on is the question of whether an author needs a platform or social media presence. Many new authors feel pressured to have a presence in every type of social media. But to fully utilize social media and connect with readers, a writer has to carve out time to not only update statuses but respond to people who ask questions or make comments. When you have a regular job and are in the process of writing or editing, you just don’t always have time for everything. It can be very frustrating.


But do you really need a platform? Well, the answer is yes and no.


First of all, we need to explain what a platform is. An author’s platform is a place where an author and viewer connect. The platform can be a website, blog or other social media site. From the platform, an author can notify people of new releases, progress on stories, and respond to comments and questions. Not only is social media a way to connect with friends and family, it’s a marketing tool. A platform is necessary on the internet to become and remain visible to potential readers. Being visible can lead to sales which is very important in publishing.


Word spreads quickly and a single post has the potential to be seen all over the world. The author’s platform is the centerpiece of the market you create. The question for many authors is how?


With all of the different types of social media, an author’s platform isn’t a one size fits all. One of the most important pieces of an author platform is a central location where people can find out more about you and your work. Most authors create a website or blog for this purpose. Even if you are just starting out, you can set up a free blog to use until you can purchase a domain name and set up a website. Important things to remember to set up are:

  • An About Me page that tells viewers a little about you

  • A way to contact you

  • A bibliography or list of books or stories and where to find them.

 

It’s also a plus if your site tells the viewer a little about your. For example, if you write military fiction, your site might have artwork that features soldiers, weapons or has a military theme. This gives the viewer an immediate indication of what to expect.


Your main platform should be the place where you share big news first. Links to new work, reviews, and where you will be (if you attend conferences--please don’t post your normal itinerary) are great things to post about. But don’t just create updates about writing. Share a video you enjoyed, photos of your vacation, or that recipe you tried that turned out so wrong.


While websites and blogs are great for being a main platform, they are often very static. The information stays up for long periods and unless you update often, posts can get stale. People may forget that your site is on the net unless you remind them.


Other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used along with your website to connect with readers. Social media sites allow users to follow or friend people that interest them. Friend and follower posts create a stream that users read through. Each platform has a unique style. LinkedIn is more business related. Twitter is very quick. Facebook can be very cozy. Depending on your personal preferences, you may like one or the other more. For beginning writers, a Facebook or Twitter account is enough to start with. But if you already have an account, congratulations you already have a platform to work with!


One of the great things about social media is sites can be linked so that a post on your website or blog will filter through your other accounts. You don’t have to take the time to create a post for each platform. With widgets and plugins or even a social media management program, you can hit everything at once.


The biggest thing to remember about your author platform and social media is to be you. Yes you are excited about your new work and really want to post every hour about it. And for the first day that might be okay, but after that, posting once a day or once a week really is enough. Instead, tell your followers about the silly thing your cat did this morning or that fabulous meal you ate. People are much more interested in being human than being spammed.


Having a platform is an important tool for a writer. A website or blog allows readers to learn a bit  more about you and find your work. Other social media places help bring in traffic and potentially grows your readership. But remember you don’t have to do it all. Use what is comfortable for you and just be yourself.

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Author Etiquette: Dealing with Disappointment

by Jennifer 28. September 2015 12:00

Apocalypse Ink Productions started our segment on Author Etiquette earlier this year and it has been a great success. AIP loves authors, we wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t and we want to do our best to help support authors.

Almost every author I’ve encountered has had a dream of being on the NYT Best Seller’s List and earning a six figure income. It does happen sometimes, but for the majority of writers, it’s a struggle to keep going forward. Most authors have to split their time between a day job that pays bills and the quest of writing the breakout story. Over time dreams begins to fade as the rejection pile grows and many authors begin to wonder if their stories are good enough and even if they should be an author in the first place.

Being an author is possibly one of the most difficult occupations out there. If you ask for advice you will find there’s a thousand ways to write a story and none of them are right and none are wrong; every author follows a different path to success. What works for one won’t work for another. It’s difficult to point at a particular road a new or struggling author should take when they are feeling down.

It’s normal to feel disappointed when you get a rejection. But sometimes it weighs on you. After a while many authors begin to feel as though they are imposters
people who pretend to be in an occupation. It’s a very common form of doubt that plagues many creatives.

So what can you do about it?

Let Other People Know

For many authors, it’s difficult to let other’s know that we are feeling down. Afterall, we get to play in these interesting worlds and let our characters do amazing things—what do we have to be sad about?

Plenty, but we don’t have to hold it in. Confiding in a close friend, family member or even an open post on social media, can let others know that you are struggling. Establishing a support group is essential to help creatives handle the ups and downs of what we do.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes we get so caught up in the process of creating, editing or rewriting, that we forget that there’s a lot more going on in the world. Take a night or weekend off away from your story and even the internet. Go outside for a long walk in the sun or go out with friends for a fun evening. Even a short break such as watching a show with friends or family can help set aside the disappointment and give you a new outlook.

Sometimes you might even have to take a longer break. A short recharge might help for a little while but sometimes an author might need to set the writing aside for a week, a month or even longer, before they feel ready to face submissions and the results. It’s okay to feel you need a longer break. It’s necessary sometimes but don’t forget to come back.

Try Something Else

I know many authors who are creative in other fields as well. Some like to knit and crochet, while others draw or create jewelry. By changing your focus to another outlet, you sometimes get a different perspective on those rejections. You might just let your subconscious work out an issue or figure out what story will be next.

If you aren’t sure you have other creative skills (and yes everyone does they just may not want to let other people see them) then volunteer for some slush or beta reading. Look at your own bookshelf for something you’ve not read yet. Stop worrying about your own writing for a little while.

Talking with a Professional

But sometimes talking with your support group or even taking a break doesn’t relieve the feelings of disappointment. Sometimes those feelings get deeper and darker.

If you, a friend or relative, is dealing with more than simple disappointment, then it may be time to talk to a professional. Depression is a very serious health issue that can be helped by physicians and counselors. Sometimes medication is the answer. For others counseling makes a difference. Getting help is the first step to relieving that dark weight that looms over you.

Disappointment doesn’t have to strangle your creativity. Asking for some support, taking a break, doing something new and sometimes contacting a professional health provider can help you when you are feeling down. A

The bad news is we all suffer from disappointment at some point or another.  The good news is, we’ve all been there before.

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Author Etiquette - Promoting Without Annoying

by Jennifer 25. August 2015 09:48

Welcome again to another edition of Author Etiquette. Apocalypse Ink Productions started this segment a few months ago and so far it’s been a great success. AIP loves authors. We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t; but we have seen situations blow up that could have been prevented with just a little bit of patience, communication and common sense.  Whether you are a new author or a pro, it’s sometimes handy to have a small reminder on how to handle a situation before it it gets ugly.

It’s exciting when you receive an acceptance and even more exciting when that short story or novel goes live. In order for those sales numbers to rise, it’s important that as many people as possible are aware that your book is out. It’s very tempting to make several posts about your new work on every social media site and spam your followers, but that’s not a good idea. Many people get annoyed if you are continuously promoting your new work without a break.

How do you balance the excitement but not annoy people?

There are several things you can do to help you promote your novels, short stories or other projects. Most are simple but they do take a bit of effort and planning. Some of the most popular are blog hops, book review sites and giveaways. These events are fun and often draw in more readers than you could on your own.

Blog hops and tours
Many writers have blogs of their own and are always searching for content. Most are amiable to allowing other writers to post about themes, writing styles and new works. By asking a group of authors to allow you to post on their blogs you can schedule several in a row and create your own book tour without leaving home. This is often referred to as a blot tour or blog hop. In many cases, several authors agree to post on each other’s sites. New readers are drawn in and many times you can pick up more followers and new fans. This works best when you pick authors who write within the same genre or subgenre as you do but sometimes crossing genre boundaries does work well too.

Book Reviews
Getting your book on a review site takes more work. Review sites often have large, dedicated audiences. Some readers follow reviewers religiously and consider reviews when picking up new books. It’s a great way to connect with new readers but it has drawbacks. While many reviewers are happy to have your book, they are often overwhelmed with the amount of requests for reviews. If you are lucky one out of twenty will get to your book at some point. In some cases, it could be months before you get a review.  On the other hand, even if they can’t write a review, review sites often post author reviews and guest posts so it is worth it to contact them.

Giveaways
Everyone likes winning, that’s why giveaways are very popular events. Planning a giveaway event can be as simple as having people comment on a post or as complicated as following a blog hop to gather clues for an entry. Apps such as Rafflecopter can make your life easier by collecting names and email addresses. Or you could go with simple and pull a name out of a hat. No matter what type of event you plan, make it fun and exciting. For best results, combine a blog hop or a post on a review site for a giveaway. And if possible, have several smaller prizes and one big prize.

There are other ways of promoting your work such as cross promotions with other projects, establishing a team to assist you or even hiring someone to handle promotion. All of these take time and coordination but they are successful ways of reaching more readers. No matter what direction you take, your goal is to reach people not annoy them.

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Author Etiquette: Be Careful What You Say

by Jennifer 21. July 2015 08:44

Welcome again to another edition of Author Etiquette. Apocalypse Ink Productions started this segment a few months ago and so far it’s been a great success. AIP loves authors. We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t; but we have seen situations blow up that could have been prevented with just a little bit of patience, communication and common sense.  Whether you are a new author or a pro, it’s sometimes handy to have a small reminder on how to handle a situation before it it gets ugly.

The past year has been difficult for a lot of authors. We’ve witnessed several situations where writers have found themselves cornered by either what they’ve said, what they’ve participated in (willingly or not), and what they’ve done. Not all of it has been intentional and some of it has been carefully orchestrated to put the author in a bad light. But friends have been put in the spotlight and it hasn’t always been comfortable.

Some authors are very open with their opinions and post them regularly on social media and their blogs. They feel comfortable with their views and want to share them. Other authors purposely pose discussion topics on their feeds to encourage discussion especially with current hot topics. These authors understand that these discussions can cause backlash and are prepared to deal with it. Not all authors are.

Even though authors use words, what we put on a page on the first round isn’t always what we want to say. Most authors write several drafts of a story before sending it out for publication. By then we’ve carefully picked words and phrases selected to clarify our meaning. However, posting on the internet, especially social media can leave the author open to uncomfortable, embarrassing and sometimes damaging discussions and arguments simply because they posted a comment that wasn’t clear or touched on a hot topic and may not have thought out what they want to say.

When an author shoots from the hip and makes a quick comment, they may not always be as clear as they would like to be. This can lead to misunderstandings as to the intent of the post. Compound that with social media—where a discussion could be broken up by several posts and conversations—things can get taken out of context or completely misinterpreted.

This is why every author should think carefully about what they say and how they say it especially when dealing with touchy subjects, prickly people and delicate situations.

Usually you are safe posting about neutral things such as pets and kids and normal daily activities. But other subjects that have the potential to cause trouble such a personal opinions must be handled more carefully. Even choosing to participate in a discussion that someone else has started can be a point of potential trouble. A seemingly innocent question could be a baited trap, to either test out the social or political position of the writer or to lead into an argument. It’s a common ploy especially in the age of internet trolls. And you never know who’s watching.

Some authors choose to lay low and not participate in many of the volatile discussions. It can be safer that way, especially if the author does not feel comfortable engaging in arguments. But sometimes you do have to respond. If you feel you have a position where you need to make a comment do it carefully. Write out your response before hand. Craft it to say exactly what you mean. Use clear and concise words. Keep it short. Then set it aside.

Most authors will admit that they’ve wanted to join into an argument or discussion, wrote out a post then waited for a few hours or days before deciding whether to post or to delete it.  Sometimes the discussion dies down on its own and no other action is needed. Othertimes the post—with a few revisions—is necessary to either keep the position fresh in people’s minds or make your position on the subject clear.

But even if you are careful, sometimes either you slip up and say the wrong thing or someone misinterprets what you wrote. What do you do?

First of all, own up to a mistake. If you owe someone an apology, do so as quickly as possible and preferably in private where you can discuss the situation. If you’ve posted the wrong information, make the effort of correcting it. Post an edit comment to the post where you apologize and try to make corrections. Don’t just edit the post so that the incorrect information disappears. This can lead to a lot of confusion as people try to find out what triggered the argument in the first place.

Second, don’t engage with trolls. There are people out there who simply want to start an argument and keep it going. There are several tactics that they use to do this. Learn to identify them and either ignore the argument or learn to evade the discussion.

When fronted by a trollish question or behavior, the best advice is avoidance. By not engaging in arguments and not answering baited questions you aren’t putting yourself into a position where your words can be twisted against you. If necessary you can block the posts so that you no longer have to see them.

Third, learn when to disengage. At times you will need to step back from the discussion. With certain topics, things can get heated very quickly. If you feel overwhelmed, back away. Let things resolve itself. If you need to engage again later, make sure to read through all posts so you can follow the entire discussion. If the discussion has concluded, don’t revive it unless you are prepared to handle a new influx of arguments.

Lastly, try to promote discussion. Hot topics can get heated very quickly and sometimes you will get caught in the middle between two sides. If you can, direct the argument into a discussion so that both sides can lay out the issues.  Don’t expect a resolution but hope for understanding.

We hope that none of you are put in the hot seat in an argument on the internet, but realize that it’s not always avoidable. We hope these tips help you when you are posting on the internet. Always remember that what is posted on the internet can be seen by thousands in just a few minutes. Be aware of what discussions you are participating in. Choose your words carefully.

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