Saturday, June 27, 2015

Basics of Traditional Publishing

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Last time I talked about self-publishing, which is considerably easier to carry out. This time I will talk about traditional publishing, which, though easier to wrap your head around, is much harder to accomplish. Either way, success is very difficult, but traditional publishing gives higher chances, which is why it requires more effort to even begin.

     A traditional publisher is one that accepts manuscripts from authors (sometimes through agents or by request), works with them to improve the manuscript, provides a cover, marketing, printing, and distribution, and then pays the author royalties, and occasionally an advance.
     Getting accepted by a publisher is a rather complicated process, and you can expect it to take several years (or decades, if you are unlucky) and dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of rejections. Here are some tips to improve your chances and shorten the process.

Have a good product

     I mentioned this in the last one too, but it is very important. Don't send them the first book you write, and preferably not the second or the third, until you have written several other books as well. Rewrite your book several times. Send it to friends, maybe even an editor, preferably a developmental editor.
     Continue to work on your book as you submit it. A book can always be improved. This becomes especially important if you get something other than a form rejection letter. That is a good sign, it means that you are getting close.

Have a good cover letter

     Hardly an easy thing to accomplish, but this is your first impression. If your cover letter isn't good, your novel won't even get a glance. Keep your cover letter short and informative. Do not use a form letter. You will probably want to use the same synopsis each time, perhaps tweaked for the particular publisher, but the rest of it needs to be made completely new for each one. Use the editor's name, say why you think they are a good fit, name some of the novels that they have published recently that have similarities (but aren't too close!) to your book.

Choose the right publisher

      Please, please, please do your research. There are lots of companies that look great that you should never go near. If they ask you to pay them (aside from, maybe, a reading fee) then they aren't good. That means that they don't have enough confidence in your book to take a risk.
     In the part about cover letters I said to include why you think that your book is a good match for them. Well, you should actually believe that you are a good fit for them. Otherwise, what is the point of submitting to them?

Get an agent

     This is optional. Agents are kind of odd, because they make getting published easier, yet to get an agent requires the same process, just to the agent's company, rather than the publisher's. However, the truly important thing that agents do, is they negotiate the terms of publication. They will get you a better deal by far than you can get yourself. In fact, if you decide to forgo an agent during the hunt for a publisher, once a publisher accepts you, go find an agent. They will jump at the chance to represent an author whose book is already accepted.

Build an author platform

    An author platform is essentially your following. Building a following while you still don't have anything published can be difficult. One of the most commonly recommended methods is to make a blog, though I would say that the most necessary is a website. A website won't really build you a platform, but it is a place for people to look you up at where you can put your contact information.
     I would recommend also using one or two social media websites, like Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr. Experiment with different ones and find which you will be able to keep doing. Pinterest tends to be a favorite with authors, and it is the easiest one to advertise with that won't annoy people, but is also the least direct. Don't go overboard with building your author platform, but don't neglect it, either. This is one of the things publishers look at when considering a book.

     Traditional publishing is a hard route, and there is less creative control, however, you have much more assurance that you will end up with a fantastic product, and once a publisher accepts you, your chances of success skyrocket. Don't think that once you're accepted that you can quit your day job, though. Writing for a living is a hard job, no matter what way you go. The publisher will take most of the profits in exchange for the work and money they put into it, so you will need to either because a huge bestseller, or, the more likely, publish a lot of books.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK and on Tumblr here:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Self-Publishing Basics

Post by co-founder, Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley

     I asked some people if they had any questions about publishing, and the answer was "How do you publish?" So I'm going to cover self-publishing this week, and traditional publishing next week. I will also expand on certain points I will touch on at some point.

Have a Good Product

     Pretty obvious and basic, but something that people constantly complain about self-published books lacking. Your book is not good enough. When you have gone through several drafts, edited it, perhaps given it to some friends to read, it is not good enough. If you published this traditionally, at least one editor would work with you on it for at least one more draft, probably more, in order to make it a product that will hopefully sell. So, how do you make it a good product?

Do several rewrites

     An important beginning point, rewrite it several times, and leave space in between them. It is important to look at it with new, critical eyes and to do your best to make it the best book you can make it. It will be hard, it will hurt, but some things will have to go, and some things will have to be added. You will need to make major changes and minor changes. Write the first draft with that in mind.

Find beta readers

     This is very important. Get the feedback of several people. Friends an family will do, but make sure to stress that you need them to tell you the problems. Remind them that if they don't tell you now, it will end up in the finished book, which is hurting you rather than helping you. Listen to their feedback, respond well, consider it, then decide if you want to use it.
     Beta readers who are writers are very helpful as well. You can trade beta reading, as well as pay professional beta readers.

Send it to an editor

     Do NOT publish your book before sending it to an editor. First get over-all, character, plot, and logic editing. Make sure that the base book is good. Be willing to listen to your editor, they know what they are talking about. However, you do not have to do everything that they tell you to do. Next, get an editor to do proofreading. One of the most frequent problems with indie books is grammar and spelling mistakes.

Have a good cover

     Not exactly a part of having a good product, but you should have an eye-catching, fitting cover. You can usually tell the genre of a book at a glace, without the title. I could tell you one of those erotica "romance" books through frosted glass, and I don't even read them. You want your cover to make sense to your genre, but not be so close to others so as to look like a part of the mass.
     Also, don't copy popular books. The main reason that I never read Divergent was because, on top of the similar setting, the cover looked so close to The Hunger Games. Seriously, a bland, dark background with a circular symbol? A bit familiar.

Choose a Good Platform

     One of the most important factors for visibility and profitability is how and where you self-publish. There are two types of platforms, print and electronic, and two forms within them, hosted and self-hosted.


     POD is the easiest, though least profitable, method of selling print books. You find a company such as CreateSpace, upload your document and cover, set your price, and they take care of the rest. Once someone orders your book, they print a single copy of it and ship it. Because of the one-at-a-time printing method, they are more expensive to make, which is why it will be less profitable.  But still, you don't have to take care of it yourself.

En mass printing

     Another option is to pay a printing company to make a large number of your books (the more they print, the cheaper per book) and then sell and ship them yourself. This involves more effort (and storage space) but you will earn more money.

Mini publishing company

     The last printing option is to purchase your own printing equipment and do the whole process yourself. This has a huge start-up cost, but would eventually get you more money, if you sell enough books.

Hosted ebooks

     There are a variety of places that will host your ebook, from Amazon's KDP to Smashwords. These work pretty similarly to POD, in that you just upload everything, and the they sell your book, while taking a cut. The cut is generally smaller than with print books due to there being no printing costs, but the price of ebooks are usually cheaper too.

Self-sold ebooks

     You can make your own ebooks (as PDFs or mobile files) and sell them on your blog or website. This generally has less visibility than when they are hosted and is harder to do, but you get more money per book.

Market Your Book

     Marketing is one of the things that most authors hate doing, but it is extremely important.  There are infinite ways to market your books, so I'll just give some tips on how to go about it.

Begin marketing before your book is ready

     I used to think that I didn't want to market my books until they were released so that people could buy them immediately. However, marketing your book before it is out allows you to build up interest before the big day. Don't market too early, though, or people will forget about it.

Use free methods

     There are lots of ways to advertise your book for free, and many of them are very effective. Pinterest is a great one, if you already have it, as well as Tumblr, Twitter, etc. A blog or website is great too. (You should probably have at least a website, even if you don't pay much attention to it.) They are more natural ways of getting your book out there. People tend to ignore ads, knowing that they are ads, and thus not actually of interest to them.

Don't be obnoxious

     It is easy to fall into the trap of posting a bunch of "Buy my book!" tweets/blog posts/etc., but in the end this will just annoy people. Be nice, think of your customers, and keep promotional posts of any kind down to 50% or less.

Find the good paid services

     There are certain paid things that are completely worth it. Whether this is a book tour, an ad in a big magazine, or paying to get an awesome website, is dependent on your book, platform, and who is offering the service. Be careful with this, you don't want to go overboard, but do keep it in mind. A few good paid services can really help to launch your books.

Bonus tip: Paying for followers, likes, subscribers, etc. is never a good expense.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK and on Tumblr here:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Write What You Need to Learn

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

We've all heard the phrase "Write what you know." It's a bit of a controversial topic in writing circles. I agree with it to an extent--writing something you know about is definitely easier than writing something you've never experienced.

But what if it's something you want to experience?

That's a tricky phrase. I deleted it a few times before I decided that it's what I really mean. Because, really, who wants to experience Nazi Germany? Or losing both of your parents? Or being governed by a cruel, dystopian government?

(If you're like me, you might almost be able to risk it, just for the adventure of the story.)

As always, I'm focusing a little more on the characters-and-emotions side of the coin with this post. Because, really, isn't the difference between a good book and an okay book how it made you feel?

Even on this side of the phrase, it's a little tricky. We don't want to feel heartbreak, or grief, or betrayal, or go through all of the problems you put your poor main character through. (Or do we? There's a reason we read, after all...)

What we do want to feel, though, is the joy, the strength, the unnameable-feeling when the hero wins. When she survives despite the odds. When the theme is proved true after all.

We want the hope of knowing that, even though life is dark and times are hard, we can still win.

Sometimes, we forget about that. I know I do. I get lost inside my cynical, pessimistic mind, and I lose sight of hope, lose sight of joy. I'm so caught up in my own problems that I don't see the way through them.

This is where my writing comes in for me. When my main character (who, oddly enough, tends to reflect myself at the time of writing) makes it to the end of the story and finally figures out who he is and why he's been chosen, and then decides that it's been worth it all along, I decide that it's worth it for me, too.

Life is hard. But I'll get through it.

I write a combination of what I know--the problems--and what I need to learn--the hope at the end. And somewhere between "once upon a time" and "the end," I end up a little stronger than I was before.

Do you write what you know, or what you want to learn?