Publishing: what a nightmare

 

We had talked before about how difficult the “publishing step” might be, the problems with the publishers, the doubts… should I choose self-publishing? Online? Should it be a physical book or just an ebook? Perhaps both?

When our story is done, the worst part of being an author begins. And many times, you don’t even know all the options or even understand them and all their nuances. So I researched a little and tried to make some sort of summary of each option together with its pros and cons.


Traditional Publishers

When I started writing, this seemed to be the safest course of action, but is it really? Let’s see.

We all probably understand that it’s a huge step to get published by a big company, one that everyone knows. That will be good on your resume, maybe change your life as a writer (trust me, not exactly), but it’ll definitely make you feel great about yourself! Yes, you are allowed to feel that. Competition is hard and you still got it. It’s amazing. So the pros are probably easy to understand, right?

So now, let’s focus on the cons. You’ll face many problems with them. First of all the great amount of rejections that seem, so very often, to come down to a very unfair decision, especially in the giant publishers, where you’ll probably receive a rejection form which just goes to show you that they don’t read more than a couple pages or perhaps even the synopsis (if they read anything at all, you’ll never quite be sure).

They still rely on you for the marketing of your own book. Yes, it’s true. If you are as naive as I was, you’ll probably be thinking that it’s their job to promote the book, right? It’s the best part of having a big publisher on your back, you’ll have more visibility. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true. I mean, they will promote your book, IF, it’s already going well…

And, let’s talk about those contracts… You usually receive an advance for them to publish your book (they are smaller and smaller nowadays), you are the one in charge of the marketing, as we have seen in the previous paragraph, and there is, almost always, a clause to the contract that stops you from publishing with another publisher form a certain amount of time or that all but forces you to give them your next book. You probably don’t want this…

In any case, I still think that they can make a real difference in your career, especially with a little bit of luck to dodge any of the worse contracts. So, if that’s what you want, you probably need to put yourself out there. One of the best things you can do, conferences, also have a downside to them. They are amazing opportunities to connect with other writers and publishers, but they tend to be expensive, so it’s something to think about carefully.

 

Self-publishing

Self-publishing has been growing in the last decades, mostly because of all the problems and difficulties I mentioned above with traditional publishers and especially the lack of opportunities.
What most authors say is that they have more control over their work and they receive more for each book they manage to sell. Even if they sell fewer books, sometimes it’s financially better anyway and thus an appealing choice.

Obviously, it also has plenty of cons too. First of all, the prejudice: for many people, if you go for self-publishing, this automatically means you just weren’t good enough to make it in the traditional environment. Promotion is also a problem, but it is a problem in any case…
With all the evolution surrounding it, you have now so many different options and platforms that can help you do this online (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Google Play, etc…)

 

Vanity Publishing

There was a time that vanity publishing was considered self-publishing, but there is a huge difference between them. In vanity publishing, you pay someone to publish your book. You take all the financial risk, the other person has the work and, obviously, a cut of your profits.

As you might imagine this is an amazing open ground for abuse of the system, in a myriad of ways. First of all, because of the way the profits are split and some other details such as not caring about the costs, they never end up conducting a good market study to prevent spending unnecessary and frankly absurd amounts of money.

Many people have tried this kind of publishing, but almost every author will tell you: it’s a terrible idea.

 

Hybrid Authors

This kind of publishing choice is very simple to understand, the same author has some books traditionally published and others self-published. Technically it’s the best of both worlds, but sometimes, you might face problems due to the publishers’ demands for exclusivity.

 

Small Publishers

This must sound the same as traditional publishing, but I decided to separate them because there are some significant differences between publishing with a small publisher or publishing with a big company.

Small publishers have few employees and usually give more attention to new authors. Besides, most of the time, they give you better royalties on e-books than bigger publishers.

However, there are fewer and fewer of these small publishers, they seem to be disappearing as more and more authors go for the self-publishing.

 

E-books and Print-on-Demand

They are two different things, but I put them in the same category because they both have no costs for you and most of the authors that go for these options, decided to do both of them.

The e-books, as you probably know, are sold and delivered electronically. Despite the fact that many writers still prefer the physical paper book, for some fiction categories, most of the sold books are e-books.

Many times, the author gives the readers the opportunity to get the paper book, through the print-on-demand option, meaning that the book will be printed only after an order is placed, which makes each book costs a higher amount than it would otherwise have to, but there are zero risks involved.

The publishing world is changing fast and the options tend to grow with all the technological advancements in our society. Keep updated and choose what best suits you and your work.

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No conflict, no story

The conflict is the center of any story. You have a conflict, and subsequently a story but NEVER, ever, the other way around.

When you’re thinking of writing a story, the first thing to think about is the conflict and your plot is to be built around it. If there is none if it seems not to be ideal for whatever you were imagining, then think again. You might not have a story there.

Usually, you have this sort of structure: you have a main character that has a goal, but there is something keeping him from reaching it, a problem to solve, then your character will take action to solve the aforementioned problem, usually other issues and difficulties will be showcased along the way (most provoked by his actions to solve the first one, the big one), then he solves the main problem and the story ends. Simple.

The “problem” might be something as simple as an argument, unrequited love or someone just trying to sabotage your character. It doesn’t need to be (but could very well be) a world-changing problem.

So, how to do it?

It’s actually quite simple and you don’t need to have a tremendous epiphany to start. Usually, when you’re thinking about a story, you have a character in mind. Now, think about a goal for that character. Something that makes them move, tick, or something they otherwise want very much.

Now, the problem. What will actively try or passively keeping him from reaching that goal? Or who? How? What is going to happen?

Now that you have the main part, you just need to think, about what your character is going to do to solve the problem or get rid of their obstacle. These actions will most likely raise new problems and new actions need to be taken to solve them.

And, with this, the hardest part of your job is done! Next, you develop your scenes, starting from this last point onwards to the main goal.

How should I present myself?

If you want to be an author, this is a question which you’ll sooner or later you’ll have to deal with. The name you choose might make a huge difference in the success of your body of work, even if you’re not aware of it, and the most important thing is that you should never change it. It’s your brand, for the long run, so you must choose wisely.


Nowadays, this is an even more difficult task, since you have to think about not only the name as it will appear in the published book, but also in social media and the increasingly fundamental website or websites that back it up. They will help you establish your own brand and they are quite important marketing tools.

So, choosing your author name might be a huge problem without a single specific and correct answer.

Three different platforms, three different names. Now, put them together.

According to Randy Ingermanson in his amazing advancedfictionwriting.com, there are 3 different situations you must think of, before choosing your name. Let’s think about each one of them.

Published books

Unless you want to use an alias, you probably are thinking about using your real name, even if you need to make some alterations to it. There are many names that are common, so if you’re using your first and last name, there is a big possibility of finding another author with the exact same name.

As much as you dislike it, this, usually, is not a big issue, unless we’re talking about an extremely famous author or if you both write the same exact genre. In these cases, you might consider using another name.

Social Media

The name you choose to use on social media doesn’t have to be exactly the same as you use for your published books, but should obviously be related and clearly identifiable as being the same person. That said, you might change a few things that don’t make you go off-brand and remember, short strong names tend to work best on social media platforms.

Website

There is another problem. You must have a website, as it’s quite important for your brand and work. In my opinion, for the website domain, you should have the same name that appears in your published books. However, that might need some adaptations.

It’s important for it to be easy to write, when you listen to someone mention it or hear it on the TV, without needing anyone to spell it out for you and without too much confusion between similar words.

 

After this, I’m pretty sure you have a lot to think about. Just pay attention at each of the things you must consider and try to find a good in-between that works for you. You’re a writer, think of it as another creative task and I’m sure you’ll figure it out!

Dialogue: bringing characters to fruition in 5 tips

The dialogue between characters is one of the most important parts of a novel or short-story and it’s important to get it feeling just right.

When someone is reading a story, the ways in which characters express themselves and what they’re saying is very important for the reader to feel like they’re getting to know them and to build some empathy with the characters. When writing, you should always remember how you’d feel as a reader as well.

Feeling natural

For the dialogue to feel natural, it can’t just be comprised of a couple sentences that someone said. You must create a sort of movie in readers head, helping them understand the character and feel what they might be facing. However, you should be very careful not to use language that might be too polished or poetic, as those tend not to feel natural at all.

Voice

Each character should have a different voice and it must show through what they say. Different people use different kinds of sentences and vocabulary, and so should the characters.

It’s important to give them a unique voice, but it’s also important to remember that a conversation might have a lot of repetition and that it could prove boring to read, so you can add some summary into your dialogue, shortening the parts of it that your readers might not need to read in a tremendous level of detail. The reality is that most people would not go to such depths while elaborating or explaining themselves, at least not at first glance. This will also make the character appear more realistic and grounded.

Importance

As I said before, some parts of the conversation might become boring to read. You must decide what’s really important for the story and things that are just normal, boring chatter. If your character is a mechanic, it might be important for the story to know what’s going on with the car he is fixing, but you probably wouldn’t place him describing meticulously what he is doing with all the steps, for each of his tools, right? Good dialogue works vaguely in the same way.

What you say and what you think

In real life, you don’t always say everything you’re thinking (as many times, that wouldn’t be correct, or polite, at all). Your character shouldn’t neither.

To feel natural, your dialogue must contain hints of what your character is really thinking or what he or she would like to say, but sadly can’t or somehow struggles to. Give your readers something to think about.

Silence

What can you say about silence? Well, it can say as much as words, for starters, right? So, in order to enrich your scene, interrupt the dialogue sometimes, describe a character’s body language and you’ll have a richer picture and a greater scene to present your audience with. This might actually paint a fuller picture than some additional lines of dialogue ever would.

Rules: Is this OK?

I could fill this post with an enormous amount of rules that mostly work for any novel you want to write, but that isn’t the point here.

Any writer, especially the ones who are just beginning, ask themselves now and then: Should I do this? Is that allowed? Can I write this scene like this? This is amazingly good and will help you a lot in order to build your story and give your work some quality, but let’s talk about writing rules in general: they are guidelines, not rules!


You can, if it works

No matter how peculiar your ideas might seem, if they work for your story, then you can use them. This is the only actual rule.

Do you want to tell your story from the flea point of view? You can, as long as it makes sense in the context. Now, you are probably thinking: OK, so how can I know if it works? The answer is easy: try it. Experiment, write different versions of a scene, for example, to determine who should be telling the story, if the narrator is sarcastic, funny or serious, if the narrator gives its opinions or merely describes what is taking place. You decide.

Flashbacks

One of the major problems a writer faces is how to tell background story and flashbacks are a commonly known way of doing it, however, most people would say “no” to it. So, are they allowed?

The reason flashbacks seem to be so hated is because you’ll need to stop telling the main story, to introduce the ancient story and most of the time, it’s not worth it. Again, these are guidelines, which work most of the time, but your story might very well be the exception and that is OK!

If it is, in your particular case, so important to describe something that happened before, do it! And that goes for any other guidelines too. If your story works best by breaking a rule, then please do it!

Experiment! Have fun! Try new things! Maybe you’re a visionary making something new and amazing, or maybe you’ll fail and need to start all over again. It doesn’t matter. There are so many options out there to be explored! Just enjoy yourself and never stop writing!

Fantasy Worlds: how to make them work?

Writing about some fantasy world can be a lot of fun, as is reading about them. I’m sure you’ve already read many a book containing descriptions of worlds that don’t exist at all, yet still managed to feel so amazingly real! You almost wanted to live in them.

However, when you’re creating a whole new world, you might face some challenges and sometimes end up feeling that it’s not as “real” as others you might have read about. Don’t know why? Well, the rule is simple: make up the underlying reality inside your mind, before putting it into words.

 

Imagination is the key

Imagination is like a muscle you can, and should, train and you must use it as much as you can whilst creating your stories. It’s the perfect tool!

Sometimes, though, building something out of nothing might be difficult, so you need a starting point, such as places and people you know, a crazy dream you had or even a strange idea on your mind. Pick it and work on it. Always remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try.

What you need to do is to make it real in your mind and then, you’ll more easily put it into words, in order to showcase your world to your readers. Make them see what’s in your mind as if they were watching a movie.

 

It has to have some rules

No one finds a random place, where everything is random, believable, so coherence is absolutely required. For example, if in your world people can read someone else’s thoughts, it can’t be always good or always bad, right? And if it’s something normal, or usual, there, they will probably deal with it much more easily than we would in our real world, right? No matter how crazy it might sound, it has to make sense inside the world you have created.

Another important question is the background. Unless you’re creating a new world, that had just appeared (and, like that, it would have its own consequences for the story), your world has a history. You don’t need to tell everything, but it has to be in your mind, because the past always has consequences in the present behavior, for example.

Lastly, if you’re still not sure of what you’re writing, there are some question you can ask yourself which might help:

How would it be if…?

How would I feel if…?

How would most people react to…?

In the end, I’m sure you’ll have a very interesting world to read into, talk about and fall in love with.

This blog serves the purpose of helping all of those who likes to write to get technical information as well as, having a safe harbor to discuss ideas.

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