Monday, March 17, 2014

All Good Things in One Place

This week I'm taking a break from the "Top Five" to discuss a few things that have become much more important over that past month.
There is a writers conference coming to town and in preparation, I decided to brush up on what getting a book published actually involves. 

Let me tell you, it's no small task.  The learning curve on this one has been unexpectedly gimongous.   To demonstrate my point I have include some pictures of other huge, giant and enormous things. 

And now, so all you other aspiring authors don't have to scour the interwebs like I did, here is a collection of very helpful information. 

All good things in one place

Number the first:

The difference between self publishing (or indie publishing) and traditional publishing.

The simple answer is this. With self publishing, you pay a publisher up front to put your book together for you. You get exactly what you pay for (and nothing more).  Depending on the company you hire to publish your book, you may have extra options available (for purchase) such as paperback and hard cover, full color or black and white, help with marketing, etc. It is generally your job to market your own book: setup your own radio interviews, schedule your own book signings, make your own school visits, hire your own marching bands, design your own parade floats...  (i.e. - more money up front and more work).

     So what are the benefits?  

Royalties are higher. The timeline to publish is MUCH (much, much) faster. And the big one - You own your own materials. There are no contracts, and no obligations. This seems to work great for authors who have already made a name for themselves. Or actors who have decided to moonlight as authors.

With traditional publishing, a publisher decides they love your book and works with you to mold it into what they want it to be (hopefully without compromising your story). You pay nothing up front, but it takes months or years of putting yourself out there, sending letters, asking (begging) someone to give you a chance and publish what you know is going to be the next Harry, I mean Larry Potter. 

The benefits: you pay nothing up front and someone else deals with the marketing end of the industry. You get to focus on writing or illustrating, and still have time for your day job. 

Luckily, there are people that can help you with this tough journey to greatness, they are called agents.  These agents know the industry inside and out. They know which of the thousands of publishers are looking for a romance, meets sci-fy, meets teen vampire thriller picture book for ages 13-47. 


Why you might want to hire an agent:
     See previous paragraph. 
They are awesome and once you prove yourself and find one you love, you'll be besties forever. (or so I assume.) After self publishing my first book, I've decided to go this longer, more difficult, and seemingly more profitable direction. 


finding the right agent
Google has served me fairly well, but is very time consuming.  It's shocking I know, but it seems that the more people you talk to, the more conferences you go to, the more classes you take, the more you learn. There are agents hiding in the woodwork and they will reveal themselves once you know where to look.  
The problem is, only 2% (not a real number) are actually looking for the book that you are trying to sell.  However, the biggest waste of your time is sending book proposals (i.e. query letters - see section "not to B".) to agents who do not represent what you are trying to sell. 

Not to B

writing a query letter
This is where I'm at today. I have query letters written to each of the two agents that I will be approaching next month - yes, customize your query letters.  You are trying to sell your book and yourself.  You need to prove that you are not only serious about the industry, but that you can write.  
     You have one chance to prove all of this: your query letter. 
A query letter is an agents first glimpse into if you can write. This may come as a shock, but not everyone who wants to write a book, can actually form a complete sentence. 

For a good PG-13 rated laugh, click here.  

There are dozens of sample query letters out on the internet. But I will once again direct you to one of my favorite bloggers/authors, Nathan Bransford (i.e. Vicky)

I'll let you know in a couple of months if this advice gets me anywhere. 
(wish me luck!)

More you say? You got it: here for your reference is an ongoing post by the Writer's Digest with examples of successful query letters. 


pitching to an agent
(not this kind of pitching)

This may be the hardest most intimidating part of getting your book published. If you have the chance to pitch your book, live, to a real agent sitting in front of you, you should absolutely take the chance. I figure it's harder to reject someone who is sitting directly in front of you, so you already have that going for you before you even open your mouth. 
The problem is, we are writers (not actors) for a reason. The best advice I have gotten so far is that passion is contagious.  If you are passionate about what you have written (and finished), if you really know your characters and your story inside out, If you are dreaming about the future adventures of your characters and cannot wait to tell others about your book, then you already have half the battle won. Your passion will be infectious and even if you stumble over every other word, the agent will see that this is something you believe in and have put a lot of thought into. People (even agents) want to be involved in a good thing.  Your honest passion for your story will make it hard for them to say no.  And that is great for you. 
YouTube is full of great examples of how to pitch to a literary agent, and this is one area that behooves you to do some actual interwebs research.

To get you started however, here are two more helpful website I found on the topic.

And a few more helpful things:

Two things that I had a hard time finding reliable data on were word count and page count. I figured there had to be industry conventions that were followed and if I didn't figure it out and tried to pitch a book that turned out to be waaaay outside the realm of reality, I'd get laughed at and rejected and have no idea why. So, to save the rest of you from certain embarrassment, here's what I have found. 

Word count:  
Picture books average 1000 words, though many are shorter. 
Easy readers for ages five to nine are 50-2500 words depending on level of reader and publisher.
Chapter books or short novels for ages seven to ten run between 10,000 - 12,000 words. 
Middle grade novels for ages eight to twelve come in between 20,000-25,000 words and 
Young adult novels round off the pile at 35,000-45,000 words.   (this is another extremely helpful website that falls into the helpful tips and tricks section of this blog.) 

Page count
The best resource I found on page count and layout was on a this website:
Tara's website is also one of 2013's top 10 blogs for writers.  (see link below for the full list)

These graphics are in fact stolen directly from Tara's website - so thank you Tara for being so helpful!

And finally, the 2013 top 10 blogs for writers to follow.  Every one is worth checking out at least once.

Next time I'll get back to the Top Five with "What is your main message".  Here I'll give you the first glimpse at my current plot and some of the issues that I am encountering along the way.

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