Today, we have a fantastic guest blog post from Becky Parker Geist. She’s been working on audiobook software and interesting options for audiobooks for a very long time. Now all that work has been distilled into a webinar authors can benefit from. Here’s what she has to say:
Interview with Christopher Zoukis, prison rights advocate and author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?
When it comes to those new to professional writing, I would say that you need to read what you want to write and also read a lot about how to refine your craft and market yourself. It’s hard to get going in this industry. But with a lot of time and effort, it is certainly possible to make a name for yourself. The key is in understanding the type of writing that you want to write and how to market your brand within that arena.
As for those who have been in the industry for a while, the game is changing. It used to be that if a book wasn’t published by one of the Big Six that it didn’t stand much of a chance. Now, even if a book is published by a large publishing house, it still might not stand much of a chance. New technologies and avenues of connecting with readers are the wave of the future. Harness these tools, think outside the box, and figure out how to get your expertise (or flavor of fiction) to the end user in a manner that they want. The current era is that of the hybrid author — an author both traditionally published and self-published. There is a strong argument for pursuing the hybrid path in today’s market.
When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?
As a writer I feel that I’m an odd sort. I’m all on or all off. So, when I’m all on, I write like my life depends on it. I outline, create a self-imposed quota system, and muscle to the finish line. I’ve found that when working this way it is important to take time off. This is why I try to vary my tasks, and to cycle whenever I can. I go from books to articles to book reviews to interviews and so forth. I also try to build in projects that aren’t writing-related. I work out, play Ultimate Frisbee, and try to schedule a little time each evening to hang out with a friend to decompress.
One word of wisdom that I would offer aspiring book writers (and those who have already published their works) is to really think about what type of book the world really needs. I always have five books in the back of my head. They are all worthy, at least in my not-so-humble opinion. But when it comes to devoting a year of my life to something, I need to select a project that is going to succeed. So, when deciding what to do next, a writer should really think about the reader and the industry. What is missing? What do readers crave? And is there a book that readers don’t even know that they want, but won’t be able to live without once they have it? This is the book that you need to write next.
From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?
Making money as a writer is a challenge. Most of us will never be New York Times bestselling authors. That’s the truth of it. So, we need to find a way to make our writing work for us and pay the bills. As a nonfiction author, one way to do this is to use your book as a business calling card, which draws attention to your primary product — which may not be your book. Writers who want to live a comfortable life need to plan on not making a whole ton of money on their books, but to structure their books and businesses in such a way that a revenue channel can be capitalized upon.
What books are you currently reading?
I tend to read a lot of school books these days due to being a graduate student at Adams State University. So, typically I’m reading a lot of business textbooks. I just finished a book on organizational behavior last week and am about to start a book on managerial finance shortly.
I also engage in a healthy amount of non-school reading. Right now I’m reading the Magisterium series of novels by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. These are phenomenal books. They remind me a lot of Harry Potter. I’m also reading Journalistic Writing by Robert M. Knight to help hone my craft a bit and Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews to upgrade my fitness knowledge.
Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?
I try very hard to cycle my projects, because I find that I get burned out very easily. So, the best “get writing” technique that I have is to vary my projects. A close second is to outline and implement a self-imposed quota system. If I’ve outlined a 20 chapter book, then I might push myself to complete a chapter every week or two. Then, after the rough draft is down on paper, I might set a quota of polishing one chapter every week. This quota-based system helps me push myself to project completion. In this respect, I’m very business-like with my writing projects. I like to think of myself as a project manager who needs to ensure that the writing project is done on time, at an appropriate level of quality, and that it fulfills my readers’ needs.
Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?
Sure. If you swing by PrisonerResource.com you can check out my Federal Prison Handbook. In this book I’ve tried to answer all of the questions that a new or seasoned federal prisoner, as well as their loved ones, may have. You can also use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. This provides readers with a sample of the book prior to purchase.
Tor moved into publishing novellas. Here’s the press release listing brief descriptions of their first ten books:
New York, NY – Tuesday, February 3, 2015 Last summer Tor.com announced the formation of a new
publishing program, dedicated to publishing the best novellas and short novels from emerging
writers as well as established authors. Following an extensive period of reading and
commissioning, we are excited to announce our inaugural list.
All of the books published under the new program will be made available in ebook, print on
demand, and audio formats via online retailers. Your local brick-and-mortar store will also be
able to order these for you.
We will be publishing three to four books a month beginning in September 2015, and these
The Last Witness
by K. J. Parker
When you need a memory to be wiped, he’s the one you call. Transferring unwanted memories to
his own mind is the only form of magic he’s ever been good at. But now, he’s holding so many
memories he’s not always sure which ones are actually his, any more. Some of them are
sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who would kill to access the secrets
he’s trying to bury…
A classic Parker tale with a strong supporting cast of princes, courtiers, merchants,
academics, and generally unsavory people.
Every Heart a Doorway, Every Word a Prayer
by multiple Hugo winner Seanan McGuire
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under
a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging
somewhere… else. They have their adventures, live out their stories, and – if they’re lucky –
die before they reach the end. Because magical lands have little use for used-up miracle
children, and those who win find themselves spat back into a world that isn’t theirs anymore.
But what happens to the children in fantasy stories, when their tales inevitably end?
Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
by Kai Ashante Wilson (DEBUT)
The Sorcerer Demane bears the bloodline of the long-departed Gods, granting him the strength
and grace to pass through a troubled world. Still, he longs for more, for the love of his
Captain and the freedom to express it. Horrors stalk the road they travel in this dark—but
joyous—epic fantasy from an exciting new talent. Tor.com has been proud to publish Wilson’s
short fiction in the past, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to bring his work to a
by Daniel Polansky, author of the Low Town series
A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.
The last job didn’t end well.
Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s
company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget
the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the
Of Sorrow and Such
by Angela Slatter
Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a
word—Gideon has been good to the community, and it’s always better to keep on her good side.
Just in case.
When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very
publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the witches in
their midst; Gideon and her like are captured, and tortured, bound for a fiery end.
Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or is there a way to turn the
situation to her advantage?
A tale of loyalty and betrayal, of hope and everlasting damnation from a World Fantasy Award
The Drowning Eyes
by Emily Foster (DEBUT)
When the Dragon Ships began to tear through the trade lanes and ravage coastal towns, the hopes
of the archipelago turned to the Windspeakers on Tash. They could steal the breeze from the
dragons’ sails and save the islands from their wrath. But the Windspeakers are gone, leaving
only the young apprentice Shina to bring their magic back and save her people. The Drowning
Eyes is the debut release for Emily Foster, who we discovered during our open submissions
With additional stories from:
Mary Robinette Kowal
Alter S. Reiss
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Michael R Underwood
and many more…
Senior Editor Lee Harris said, “We’ve been working hard to find some great novellas to launch
our line, and we’ve been delighted by the quality and breadth of the stories we received. We
can’t wait to share them with our readers.”
The Tor.com novella program is headed by Publisher Fritz Foy and Associate Publisher Irene
Gallo. The editorial team is led by Senior Editor Lee Harris, with Carl Engle-Laird, Editorial
Assistant, and support from a team of commissioning editors, which includes Jonathan Strahan
and Justin Landon.
Tor.com publishes original fiction, art, and commentary on fantasy, science fiction, and
related subjects across all media by a wide range of writers from all corners of the field—
including professionals working in the genres as well as fans. The aim of the site is to
provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and among our
readers. Tor.com debuted online July 20th, 2008 and currently reaches 1.5 million readers a
Tor.com’s novella project acquires worldwide English rights in print, audio, and ebook formats.
All other rights are retained by the authors.
Note for Editors
Every Heart a Doorway, Every Word a Prayer by Seanan McGuire was acquired from Diana Fox of Fox
Literary, along with an as-yet unnamed second book.
The Shootout Solution by Michael R Underwood was acquired from Sara Megibow of KT Literary
Agency, along with a sequel, The Absconded Ambassador.
The Bookseller and Publisher’s Lunch reported recently that HarperCollins is returning to agency pricing on ebooks.
Agency pricing means that the publisher has the right to set the price for its ebooks. This means no deep discounts on Amazon…or anywhere else. It’s likely that ebook prices will remain high generally, with publishers experimenting with sales and promotions either through their own channels (the direct-to-buyers channels they’ve been opening up over the past year or so) and through third-party distributors.
This is good for them because it allows them to experiment with different release windows, different pricing structures, and even bundling to find out what works best. That’s great news for heritage-published authors. The stronger publishers grow, the more likely it is that advances will rise.
The same approach means that indie authors can continue to reach readers directly through pricing that is lower than the average price point of the big publishers. And because it’s expected that traditional publishers will keep prices high (at or above $9.99), this means that indie authors will be able to boost their own prices to as much as $8.99 and still be viewed as a bargain.
So, hurray for agency pricing!
The AWP held their annual conference earlier this month. Among their other great offerings was a panel focused on children’s publishing.
One author stated that characters are paramount in children’s and YA stories. The plot comes from the characters. Who each person is in the story creates the story. Each is presented with challenges or obstacles they must overcome. From that comes the different plot points and thus the entire story.
Another point was that there are no pointless characters. If one shows up but never plays an important role, that character should be struck.
A different author noted that “rumination” is part of the story. That is, the characters have to have backstories, histories that detail where they come from and why they’re motivated to act certain ways.
Finally, in response to a question about how to write for the market, one author said to write what inspires you. From there, you can determine how best to pitch and place the work in the existing market.
All of these points apply equally to adult fiction. Characters do create the plot and impact the story. They should have backstories. No character should ever be pointless, and the author should always write what interests them rather than what they think will sell.
The only difference is that in children’s and YA publishing, the author utilizes different language, changes sentence layouts, uses less complex storytelling structures, and of course mostly will write shorter manuscripts.
Everything else is just quality fiction.
So often I see ads from book editors that proclaim “Editor of (fill in a number) New York Times bestsellers!” Here’s why most of the time, that’s just hype.
Book editors at publishing houses are mostly in acquisitions. That means they acquire books by finding stuff in the slush pile then bringing it forward for consideration among other acquisitions editors, the marketing department, etc. etc. They’re good at finding quality.
Note that: finding quality. Not making quality.
If a project is too rough or just isn’t to their taste, they pass. And they pass a lot.
What they do select out of the submissions pile tend to be already fairly strong. The editing they might do usually is pretty nominal…tweak a personality trait here, change the order of events there.
They don’t do a lot because they don’t have time to do a lot. It’s fairly rare these days for publisher’s editors, who are skilled in acquisition, to do much actual editing.
There are exceptions, of course, but that also isn’t common.
So, “editor of X NYT bestsellers” might mean they said, “Hey, author, chapter one drags too much. Please rewrite it.”
Or, “Hey, author, so-and-so’s dialogue is stilted. Please adjust.”
Or, “Hey, author, I’m (or more likely, my freelance copyeditor is) going to do a little polishing on your project to make everything pretty.”
So beware too much of that NYT bestseller hype. Most of the time, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.
After for so long being a small, very small, market, fantasy has come into its own.
Thank the likes of Neil Gaiman and George R. Martin (and, of course, Game of Thrones’ show) for boosting this deserving category into the limelight.
And now that Britian’s leading literary author, Kazuo Ishiguro, has released what some call fantasy (and others, who aren’t willing to release their notions about how far literary is from fantasy call a fable, a folktale, or etc…anything but fantasy…), we’re seeing a new world of opportunity for authors.
Now is the time to take advantage of this movement. I’ve been looking at agents quite closely over the last several months and have found so many more that now represent fantasy. It’s a leader in publishing, and everyone involved is hoping to find the next huge hit.
And remember that there are many subcategories of fantasy. If you’re working with soft fantasy (as am I) or alternate history fantasy, throw your work in the ring! You’ll be able to stand out from the epic high fantasies that are getting so much attention right now, and you’ll offer the market something unique. That’s always a plus.