In which I detail my adventures in writing and publishing

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Have You Ever Been Flogged?

It just occurred to me that the title of this post may get me noticed for reasons I didn't intend. Oh well, why not live dangerously? Flogging rhymes with blogging. The best in the business is a guy named Ray Rhamey. He is a novelist/editor who writes a blog called Flogging the Quill:

The key feature is a challenge by Ray for aspiring writers to submit a first chapter and have him critique the first page. He is looking for writing that compels him to turn the first page, in other words, the proverbial hook. The result is a "flogging," although Ray wields a rather gentle whip. Readers are invited to vote on whether or not they would turn the page and to offer their own critiques. I have been flogged three times and am proud to report on the third go round I got Ray to turn the page.

His blog also is chock full of great editing and writing craft tips, well worth perusing the archives. Ray has written a thriller: We the Enemy, a feline Vampire work: The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles and an urban paranormal thriller: Finding Magic. All are available through this link: . You should check him out. Seriously.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why I Won't be Sending a Query

Anyone who has tried to get a book published in the traditional sense knows about queries. A query is the first communication between author and agent. A brief but succinct whiff of prose that communicates the author's voice and a sense of theme and plot. Literary agents receive hundreds to thousands of queries every year. According to the agent blogs I read, every year there are more and more first time authors seeking representation.

When I began my writing career three years and a quarter million words ago, many if not most agents considered only queries that arrived by the US Postal Service. Before long, most joined the electronic age and began considering queries and manuscript submissions sent by email. An already daunting problem became worse now that the authors could fire off queries at less cost and less hassle than before. The agents now had to spend less time responding to the queries that didn't appeal to them. Form rejections became the norm. Some agents began to not send anything if they passed on a query.

Try as they might to assure everyone that it was business, not personal, the take home message for a lot of writers was negative. Legends have existed for years about famous authors rejected by numerous agents and publishers. Part of the process of becoming a writer was the boot camp shared suffering of rejection. Agents and publishers alike continue to try to reassure the majority of writers who are destined never to get even a request for a partial manuscript that their travails are not in vain. If, they say, you persevere and improve your skills, sooner or later we will discover you. Well and good. But what then?

The economic truth is that blockbusters and book club selections drive the traditional publishing business. In the movie Sideways, the main character is a middle school English teacher who has written a lengthy semi-autobiographical novel he is desperate to see published. At least he has gotten far enough along to have an agent. He patiently waits for an answer to the latest submission to a publisher called, ironically, Conundrum. His agent finally returns his call with the bad news that although the novel made it through several levels of editorial review, eventually they passed on the chance to publish.

"I think it's one of those unfortunate cases in the business right now -- a fabulous book with no home. The whole industry's gotten gutless. It's not the quality of the books. It's about the marketing," says Evelyn the agent.

I don't want to be harsh. Publishing is a business. It doesn't exist to make authors feel wonderful or reward them simply because they have spent many hours writing. I get it. I also understand the belief, communicated directly or not by agents, that self-published books are pretty much trash and that the agents are gatekeepers for traditional publishing. Bad books never make it out of the slush pile. Good books are sometimes not recognized at the outset, but cream rises to the top. I have enough ability to self-reflect that my books are not going to be best sellers. Depending on how hard I work at marketing and publicizing them, they might not even be mediocre sellers.

I am a believer in the wisdom of the marketplace. Self published ebook authors are the literary entrepreneurs of the 21st century. The investment in dollars is modest. Time is the largest factor for us. It doesn't cost much to hire a graphic artist, editor and formatter to prepare an ebook. Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and others allow for electronic browsing to help readers pick out what they like. If they want a good beach read or airport thriller, they will find what they want in short order. My goal is to produce a novel that entertains readers. If I succeed, readers will buy my books and tell their friends. I will be motivated to finish my second, third etc book. If I break even with my production costs I will be ecstatic. Perhaps I will be able to afford to have some paperback copies printed and sell them over the Internet. I'm keeping my day job regardless.

All of this would be impossible without the increasing numbers of ebook publishing platforms. The traditional publishing industry will continue as before, although their margins are going to decrease further. More and more new authors will ignore them completely unless they, like Amanda Hocking, become so successful that publishers have bidding wars for their work. I foresee agents being in the middle of the squeeze and having fewer and fewer clients. At this point, why would I want to participate in a process that has such a bleak future?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home Stretch

The arrival of my cover concept energized the editing process and I have made a quantum leap forward. I have eleven pages left to cover in my latest edit/rewrite of Win or Go Home. Word count stands at 87,500 and will pretty much remain there.

What next? I have yet to sit down and read the work from cover to cover. I am literally praying I won't find any major goofs, just typos, tagging inconsistencies and so forth. If there are worse errors, OK, I'll fix them.

Can I do that on my vacation in April? Hey, I want the book to be a good beach read, so what better than to test it on an actual trip? After that I need to confront the likely need for a professional editor to have a go at it. Yes, it will cost money, but if it improves the readability of the book, so be it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cover Time

It's been awhile since I last posted. No, it's not because I've been too distracted by the NCAA men's basketball tournament to do anything, although my bracket is holding up reasonably well, thank you.

Nope, I've just been keeping my nose and shoulder to the wheel, grinding out yet another re-write/revision of Win or Go Home. I'm within 50 pages or so of that milestone, after which I will attempt a cover to cover read of the manuscript wearing my consumer glasses. Then more re-write revision work.

Speaking of covers, I just received the initial concept image of the cover for Win or Go Home from graphic artist Carl Graves. Here is his website :

I found him through author JA Konrath at His prices are affordable and his work is stunning. Check it out.

Now for the cover itself: it's in the upper right hand corner of the post. I'm pretty happy with it. I've asked for a small revision and I'll post the preview when it's available. meanwhile, back to March Madness.