Publishing progress and other comedies

Today, I have an update on the progress toward publishing my novel The Brevity of Roses. I certainly can’t say the process was painless, but I’ve finished formatting the print and Kindle versions. Next up is the version for Nook. I hope I’ve learned enough from the mistakes I made working on the first e-version that I’ll be able to breeze through the next, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’ll share my hilarious adventures in a future post or page. Oh yes, I laughed—hysterically, but still. I love the layout of my print version, but e-reader formatting leaves a lot to be desired. It’s just not very pretty. The least they could do is let you select your own title and chapter heading fonts. Oh well.

Barring a total mental breakdown from formatting for Nook, I’ll soon order a proof copy of the print version. If that looks good, things will move quickly after that. Brevity will definitely be available sometime in April.

It’s also time to get into promotion mode—past time, probably. A few friends have signed up to help promote my book on their blogs with an interview or guest post and a book giveaway. I’ll also host a giveaway on Goodreads. And I’ll have a special contest here on my blog. I hope to announce more as the big day grows closer. So stay tuned!

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In search of the confident writer

Lately, I’ve been reading more than writing. I generally read fiction and non-fiction simultaneously. This time, I was about halfway through a novel when I picked up a memoir in the morning and finished it by the end of the day. Then, instead of going back to the half-read novel, which was a bit depressing, I started reading a different one.

Both these novels are debuts, one published in 1989 and the other in 2009. Rule breaking is one thing they have in common. You know, those carved in stone Writing Rules, the ones debut authors must follow to have even a hope of being published.

One of these books starts with seven pages of description and history of the town and its residents before the first line of dialogue is recorded. I would say most of the book is telling, not showing. As for the protagonist, well my sympathy and patience wore thin midway through. The other novel starts in media res, as The Rules state we should, but half the story is told in flashbacks, which is supposed to be a big no-no. Also, so far, the author has used one dream sequence—another instance of so-called bad writing.

Of course, twenty years ago as now, if your story is fantastic, those Rules don’t necessarily apply. These authors apparently felt confident they had stories so strong they were free to tell them their own way. And they were justified. The older book was awarded a Pulitzer; the newer one was a bestseller.

Is this post just another rant about The Rules? No. Am I writing this post to justify my own rule breaking? No again. I’m thinking about confidence. Specifically, confidence in your writing. Does this confidence come naturally to some writers or are they just better at hiding their doubts?

I just beta-read a friend’s book, and though I, and another beta judged both the writing and story as wonderful, she still doubts. (Though I can’t believe she has that much doubt.) But I wondered, what will it take to give her solid confidence in her book? Will an agent’s offer of representation do it? Will publication be the key? Will the praise of the reading public finally convince her?

Your turn: Are you a confident writer? If not, what do you think will make you one?

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Can we get together and discuss this?

I know very little about self-publishing or e-publishing—or even small press publishing. I wanted to get that out of the way, so you understand I’m asking for information and discussion today, not stating an opinion from a knowledgeable viewpoint.

I do know that vanity publishing (where the author pays money to the “publisher”) is NOT something I’m interested in. But the longer I travel this agent query road, the more I find myself wondering about other publishing options. I haven’t given up trying to find an agent to represent my novel to a big name publisher (I have queries and partials out) but when I allow myself to read agent statistics, I tend to question whether I ought to face those facts with my head rather than my heart.

Consider this: established agents receive a conservative average of 50 queries a day—that’s almost 20,000 queries a year—but during that time take on maybe 5 new clients! Sobering odds, huh?

If you’ve ever looked up the agent who represented your favorite author, chances are you found that said agent “does not accept unsolicited queries.” The fact is the best way to get an agent to consider your query is by client referral. How many of you know an author offering to put in a good word for you with their agent? Show of hands.

For the most part, I search for new agents trying to build their client lists. They are just as hopeful they’ll discover the next best-selling author as we’re hopeful we are that author.

I know I’m not the only one who’s curious about the other publishing options. Natasha recently wrote a post about this. And super agent Nathan Bransford has written about e-publishing and self-publishing options.

So now, I’d like to know your thoughts. Have you considered (or chosen) one of these options? What do you know about the pros and cons? Do you think what you write should be a consideration? In the end, does it come down to a simple decision of why you write, whether you write just to share a story vs. writing to make money?

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A view from the train of eternal optimism …

In a typical week, I may spend as little as 30 waking hours in the company of another human and 14 of those are on Sunday. I might live on the extreme edge, but it’s the nature of writing that requires we spend a good deal of time alone. Some of you are able to write in Starbucks—I stand in awe—but I must write in isolation, and yet, I don’t feel isolated at all.

Through a kind of magic I don’t attempt to understand, I’m connected to The Internet. That situation is both good and bad for a writer. Good because I’ve found a lot of other writers more or less as isolated as I am, which is a joy; I’m able to do a lot of research for writing projects without leaving my seat; and I can learn about the publishing business—but  that last one can also be a bad thing.

When I started writing seriously, I did so in a state of ignorant bliss. My train of thought rumbled along this track: I love books … I can write … I’ll write a book … I’ll get it published. As simple as that. And so it began. Sometime during the writing of my first novel, I realized I didn’t know how to write as well as I thought, so I bought a book on writing, then another … or six. But still, I didn’t know anything about publishing, and though I had an internet connection, I never thought to research that aspect. Or maybe at that time, agents, editors, and publishers had not yet availed themselves of the technology. Whatever. I remained blissful.

Then, real life interrupted and I, for the most part, let my writer’s life slip away. When I returned to it, I discovered that agents had blogs, editors had websites, and magazines published digitally. My writer’s world had opened up. Unfortunately, this new fount of knowledge informed me it doesn’t matter how much you love books, or that you can write—or even write well—your chances of getting a book published are slim to none. POP! My bliss bubble burst.

And yet, I continue to write with the goal of publication. As you may know, if you’ve followed this blog awhile, it’s not easy for me to maintain a balance between adequately informed and blissfully ignorant. (Witness: Beware the Blue Muse.) In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But what else can I do? My train hasn’t reached its destination. I love books … I can write … I’ve written a book … I’ll get it published. Miracles happen.

If you’re riding this train with me, how’s the view from your seat?

Photo credits: Richard Heeks – Richard Heek’s photo stream at Flickr

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Publication Passion

Passion flower
Passion flower

I had a different post written for today, but then decided the topic wasn’t really what was on my mind. What I really want to talk about is passion. Actually, I want to talk about two related passions. The first is the passion for writing. Most of you who read this blog share that one. Some of you participated in my recent survey. One of the questions was whether you feel you were born to write. Some of you said yes. My answer was no.

I’ve always made up stories to amuse myself, but I didn’t feel a compulsion to write many of them down until ten years ago. I wasn’t sure what changed. I was older and had more life experience? My children were grown and I had more free time? I had cycled out of one obsession and needed a new one? Whatever the cause, suddenly I felt a compulsion to write. The more I wrote, the more passionate I became about writing.

But I don’t think the world needs to read my stories. I don’t believe any of my books will ever be considered great literature. I won’t die if I can’t write; I’ll just go back to keeping the stories in my head.

For nine years, even though I loved writing and believed I was good at it, I never sought publication. Now, in the last year, I’ve developed the passion for publication. I want to be published. I really want to be published. Not for money, though of course a little monetary profit would be a definite plus, but I’ve researched enough to know that as a new author, I can expect to make very little money.

What I want … what I need is validation. Here’s the problem: I feel foolish admitting that.

Why should I need validation from the powers that be? I’ve spent my whole as a very private person. In that life, I’m loved and respected. I’m secure in that life. So why open myself up to public judgment? I joke about it, but I have no illusions that I’m writing the next BIG novel. My name will not become a “household word.” Yet, I push forward. This passion mystifies me, yet I can’t deny it.

Do you have the publication passion? Do you know why?