Tag Archives: Publishers

The Power of Kickstarter and Other Links

I’ve been swamped with writing and editing work, so that’s why I’ve been so quiet here on the blog for a bit. But there’s some links I want to share before I forget.

Everyone has probably heard all about Kickstarter (the funding platform for creative projects), but if you haven’t, go and check them out! Kickstarter is proving to be a great way for professional artists to get the start-up funds they need and for people to support favorite artists and web shows. For example:

A writer friend of mine, Annie Bellet, was able to successfully use Kickstarter to help fund her tuition to Clarion this past summer.

The web show Put This On just successfully raised over $70,000 to film Season Two.

Travis Hanson, a fantasy/comics illustrator I got to meet briefly at Albuquerque Comic Con, has successfully raised the funds he needs to print his web comic in book format.

Money has always been an issue for artists, especially filmmakers and illustrators, so the rise of crowd-sourcing such as Kickstarter excites me to no end.

In other news, Dean Wesley Smith has an important technology blog post on how writers, publishers, and booksellers can use Book Cards to market an e-book cheaply and attract readers into independent bookstores to buy e-books for their e-readers. WMG Publishing and Lucky Bat Books were passing out the first ever e-book cards at Worldcon to show off this brand new marketing idea.

And 20+ year pro Bob Mayer has some blunt, quick advice on how to be a fiction writer that has a career that lasts for decades.

Writing the Unmarketable Novel

Almost two years ago I finished a YA novel, Soul Cages, that I knew in my heart of hearts was going to be a nightmare for an editor to get past the sales & marketing department of a traditional publisher.

That’s because in my gut I knew it was going to be difficult to get any readers to even want to pick it up. I knew the book was in trouble sales-wise as soon as my usual first reader burst into tears while reading the synopsis, and then refused to read the manuscript. I had to get other readers to take over for that book. Most ended up loving the story, but I never forgot the response of that first reader.

Seeing your first reader cry in sorrow really sucks.

Let’s face it. Most of the time, readers are coming to a story to mentally relax for a while. They’re coming for entertainment. I’d written a story that was a weird horror/romance/special issues tribute to Judy Blume, C. S. Lewis, and Stephen King in one go. It dealt with ugly nasty stuff like family abuse, the way kids with Asperger’s sometimes get treated badly, the abuse of Scripture in the Bible to justify cruelty, and anti-Semitism…among other things.

None of that stuff is appealing for entertainment. Ugh, who wants to read all  that after a bad day?

The novel went through several rounds of editing, but there comes a point when you realize as a writer that you can only make a weird “Frankenstein” novel  marketable by censoring your protagonist and mutilating the story by chopping it up. Chop out the romance, or chop out the horror, or chop out the Asperger’s.

In the end I decided to leave the main character alone. It was her story, not mine, and I decided to let her story stand as she’d told it to me, and I went on to write new stories.

And it was the best decision I ever made. I’ve written another novel and many  short stories since I put Soul Cages to rest, and a lot of exciting things have been happening behind the scenes these last six months. Things that would not have happened if I had attempted to keep rewriting Soul Cages to death.

Soul Cages itself has been released in e-book form, and it is still under consideration with a certain midsize traditional publishing house (though I suspect in the end the editor will fail in getting it past marketing).

I’ve done no email blasts, no blog tours, no ads, no book launch party, no “push” of any sort. And I don’t intend to. My limited work time is better spent writing new stories to improve my craft, and some of those new stories will prove to be more marketable–i.e. more appealing to readers–than Soul Cages is.

But am I sorry that I wrote Soul Cages? Do I feel I wasted my time by working on an unmarketable novel?

No.

I think it’s good for an artist to write at least one story where it feels like you’re spitting in the eye of the market. Writing that unmarketable novel made me a better writer by making me a gutsier writer, and I think I’ll be reaping the benefits for decades to come.

A Blog Post to Give Comfort in Rough Times, and a Few More Links

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has gone and written a blog post for all writers who are suffering through rough times right now due to the upheavals in publishing, “You Are Not Alone.” If you know a writer friend who is thinking of quitting writing or suffering from severe depression due to publishing industry changes, this essay is a must.

I also found out about a website that has various posts by pro writers (such as David Morrell) about the publishing industry.  It’s called Backspace – The Writer’s Place.

Another great resource is the NINC blog. Members of NINC have to be multi-published in order to join, so I find the information and blogs professional in tone and attitude.

Also, there’s Bob Mayer’s blog. He has 20 years of experience as a fiction writer in traditional publishing, and 2 years of experience doing indie publishing, so I find his posts have a lot of depth to them.

Terrific posts by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and David Byrne

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a terrific post this week on the business changes happening at light speed right now, “Writing Like It’s 1999.” Publishing contracts are changing FAST and it’s important to be aware of what is going on if you want to make a living in this industry.

Also, I found out from a comment by LP King on her post, that David Byrne did a great article back in 2007 on changes in the music industry entitled “Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists–and Megastars”. Considering that the music industry technology shift happened about eight years before it started in publishing, this is a terrific article to help get a feel for what might happen or be possible for writers. I made a cup of tea during a work break and read it in one sitting. Great stuff to ponder.

Getting Beyond “Yes or No” Thinking in Writing, Part Two

So, last time I wrote about tips and techniques I’d learned from others to get past seeing rejections as personal (“My story sucks”), pervasive (“I’m a loser”), and permanent (“I’ll never sell a story”).   Rejection is a fact of life for writers–the rate of rejection will go down as one gets better, but it will never go to zero.  Even the best writer produces a lousy story on occasion.

Chances are, you’ve noticed how binary humans can be in their thinking, i.e. that attitude of “It’s either Yes or No.”   So this week I want to go into more depth about getting comfortable with searching for the wriggle room between the “Yes or No” mindset.

Since we’ve been discussing the pursuit of publication through a traditional publisher or magazine, let’s use it as an example of the wriggle mind game.

Playing Mind Games with Rejections

On the surface, it seems so straightforward when a story is submitted to an editor–it’s either a sale or no sale.

But if we dig a little deeper, we find that not all No’s are equal.   There’s:
1) “No, but please send us your next story.”
2) “No, but interesting story.”
3) “No.”
4) “No.  This story is not to my taste.”
5) “No.  The craft in this story is poor.”

That third “No” can have a lot of hidden background that the writer doesn’t see.  It might just be a plain old “No, this story is no good.”   But, it is also possible the editor was swamped with stories and had to do form rejections for everyone, even the ones that were liked.  Or a story was recently published that was very similar to yours, so they had to pass on it.   Or the editor wanted to buy it, but the sales and marketing department rebelled.

Too often, writers see all No’s as exactly the same, because they’re focusing on selling one particular story instead of focusing on establishing a relationship with an editor.

I’m sure you’ve heard salespeople talk about cultivating clients.  Writing is no different.   Over time, as they submit story after story to an editor, writers have the chance to cultivate an editor by showing what they can do.   Stephen King did not sell the first novel manuscript he sent to William Thompson.  Nor the second, nor the third.  It was on the fourth manuscript, CARRIE, that he finally made a novel sale.

That’s why pro writers with 20+ years experience making a living as writers emphasize the importance of “keep submitting a work,” and “keep writing new work.”    A “No” isn’t about “No,” it’s about cultivating potential business relationships that may result in a sale a few years later.

The Wriggle Room Between “No Control” and “Absolute Control”

So, we’ve seen that when we look closer at rejections there’s more going on than a simple “Yes” or “No.”  Another example of that binary attitude at work is when we see a situation as having “No Control vs. Absolute Control.”  Oftentimes, there’s wriggle room if we look closer.

This is probably best explored with an example.  Let’s take the example of … book covers in publishing.

It’s rare that a writer gets absolute control of his or her book cover unless the book is indie published.

But often we go to the opposite extreme in mindset, and assume we have no control at all when our book is traditionally published.  But if we sit down and brainstorm ideas, sometimes we can come up with ways that can “tweak” what is going on with a book cover at a publisher.

Okay, so I’m going to take a moment and try to brainstorm ways I could wriggle past “No Control” on book covers with a publisher.  There’s no guarantee that any of them would help, but I wouldn’t know unless I tried.

Brainstorm Ideas to Get Past “No Control” Over Book Cover

1)  I could learn more about book covers in publishing.  Laura Resnick has a great series of articles to read on covers.

2) I could make a collage of favorite photos and pictures about the book, and send a JPEG copy to my editor to share with the art director and/or book artist.

3) I could ask for “cover consultation” in the contract if I have some clout; if I have major clout, “cover approval.”

4) I could demand a particular cover artist in the publishing contract if I have enough clout.

5) I could ask for final approval of the cover artist chosen written into the publishing contract if I have the clout.

6) I could provide a list of cover artists I admire (with their website gallery addresses) to the editor.  The editor and art director might throw the list out, but there’s a chance one of the names might catch their interest.  Can’t hurt to try.

7) I could politely ask the editor for a chance to see the cover sketches and layout before the final cover is done.

8) I could take a class on Photoshop, graphic design, or illustration so that I had a better understanding of what a book cover artist does.

9) I could go to bookstores to study covers, and browse through e-bookstores to look at thumbnail-sized covers.

10) I could find out who has won awards for their cover design work, and study the award-winning covers.

I could go on, but I’m certain you all see the point I’m getting at.   Sometimes even in situations where the writer officially has “No Control,” there’s wriggle room IF the writer is pleasant to deal with.   Woo, don’t whine.

So, to reiterate, remember that there’s more to a “No” than just “No.”  And keep an eye out for ways to wriggle out of a “No Control” business situation in publishing.   Good luck!