How to build a team

E is for Book

More and more traditionally published writers are moving to self-publish their own ebooks, and as ebook numbers rise, everyone is watching the trend and wondering when it might be best to bite the bullet and jump in. I certainly am. The numbers are looking good, and it’s all about the numbers. But there is still a lot to consider if you’re going to self-publish. You may think that getting a book onto the Nook or Kindle is a simple matter of this:

Write the book –> edit the book –> format the book –> send the book to the millions of ebook buying masses!

But it’s really more like this:

Write the book –> find a professional editor to edit the book –> rewrite the book –> copyedit the book –> format the book –> work with a professional designer to create a cover — > send the book to the millions of ebook buying masses –> market and promote the book

Building a team

Doing all of this on your own isn’t wise. You really need fresh eyes, professional eyes to take care of some of the heavy lifting. So you’ll need to put together a team. You need an editor, a copy editor, a designer, and if you’re not good at marketing, you’ll need someone to help you with promotion. Finding the right people may be a job in itself, and you will be paying them up front before your book has made a dime. But now you’re investing in yourself and your work. So you have to know whether or not that investment is worth it.

Are professionals worth it?

Do you really want to turn off readers because your book is a minefield of errors? Don’t let this happen to you. Hire an editor and a copy editor.

Covers are billboards advertising your work. You definitely want to shell out the money for a good one. Because people still judge books by their covers.

If you’re shy, you want someone else stomping the virtual pavement for you to promote your book. Because if nobody hears about it, how will they buy it?

And finally

The main reason for spending money on a good team is this simple fact: your current book is the best ad for your next book. If this one fails to please, what’s the likelihood of anyone picking up your next offering? Like I said, it’s all about the numbers.

When you just hate that book

“This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” — Dorothy Parker

Sometimes you read a book and it frustrates you. The story’s just bad. Or the story’s bad AND it’s a best-seller. Or the main character is whiny and needs a slap in the face. Or it’s offensive. Or worse: it’s boring. You want to wring the author’s neck for wasting your time, or the editor for not slapping the author for you, or the publisher for making it look so appealing. And since none of them are available for neck-wringing, you do the only thing you can. You throw the damn book across the room. (Preferably into a corner for maximum damage as my Twitter friend @robynmcintyre brilliantly suggests.)

I recently had an experience like that, only I was reading on my Nook. I lifted my hand and eyed a spot on the floor. And just as I was about to throw, I remembered that I wasn’t holding a paper book and that my husband had paid a lot of money for my pretty little Nook. So I just put it down.

Where’s the satisfaction in that?

Weeks later, I’m still pissed that I bought a book that offended me. And since I never got to release my pent up frustration, It’s just sitting there. Inert. Annoying. So what’s a girl to do?

1. If you can’t toss the one you hate, toss a substitute. Consider keeping a copy of a book you really hated for tossing purposes. It can be a proxy for that ebook you just can’t stand.

2. Bad mouth it. One of the advantages of being on sites like Goodreads is that you can review books you’ve read. Sure clicking that one star isn’t as satisfying as tossing the book, but at least you’ve said your piece.

3. Read something better. The best way to get over bad prose is to read good prose. Preferably one of your favorite books. The comfort of words you already like will smooth away all the unpleasantness of the last book that got your goat.

Good luck, guys. And may all your future readings be good ones.


Some drafts are just bad

Yesterday I began to read a first draft that I put aside during NaNoWriMo. I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found. It’s definitely a mess, but the potential that I envisioned months ago when I first conceived of the story is clear.

This isn’t always the case. I’ve run into a few discussions lately about the worth of first drafts. I had a Facebook tussle with the NaNoWriMo RA from Northeast New Jersey over whether or not any piece of writing can be considered “unsuccessful.” She was relentless, and I decided to end the argument by politely accepting her point of view though I still think some writing really is just bad. Then yesterday there was this post by Josin McQuein who says that first drafts are “raw,” not “crap.”

McQuein’s point is that everything needs work. That’s true. But some things need a total overhaul, plastic surgery and divine intervention. And it’s your job to know when a piece of writing is not worth the effort.

There’s a danger in thinking that there’s potential in everything. And while I don’t advocate bashing yourself and your own work because you’re having a bad day or you’re dealing with poor self esteem (which are pitfalls that we all deal with), just remember that if you’re not ruthless with your writing, someone else will be.

Sometimes you do yourself a favor by just moving on. And that’s OK too.

Friday round-up

Adventures in Children’s Publishing has a very comprehensive list of great articles this week, but they don’t have this stuff! Enjoy.

Confessions of a no-good writer

I’ve been holding this secret for a long time. It embarassess me. It makes me feel terrible even though I know it’s pretty common. Or people have told me it’s pretty common. But maybe they were just being polite. I’ll tell you what it is anyway. I need to get it off my chest. Ready? Here it is: After nearly five years, my first novel has still not earned out it’s advance.

Ouch! That was like ripping off a band-aid. I thought it was going to be worse than it was. Actually, it still feels pretty bad. My chest hurts. I’m totally serious.

Two weeks ago I got a statement from my publisher. It turns out that I’m VERY close to earning out my advance. I actually should do it in the next quarter. But then you know what happened? The books were released on paperback and for Kindle. That means, rather than $15.95 a copy, they’re now $9.99 and $8.99 a copy respectively. So I’m going to have to sell even more books to earn it out. I feel like it’s never going to happen. I might cry.

This is yet one more of those things I’ll use to put pressure on myself. And here’s how:

I haven’t earned out my advance = I am useless as a writer.

I have not been able to sell a new work of fiction = I really suck at writing.

Writing the Stephenie Meyer biography made me want to hang myself = I am a bitter, jealous little writer.

Researching the Sharon Creech  biography makes me anxious = I am a talentless, pitiful writer who should probably go back to a day job.

I can’t figure out my next novel = I couldn’t write my way out of a greasy paper bag with a sharp-nibbed pen.

So what’s a talentless hack to do? Go back to writing I guess. What else is there besides writing? True, not everybody can be as fantastic as Sharon Creech, or Jerry Spinelli, or Madeleine L’Engle or Christopher Paul Curtis. But Goddamn it, I am going to work so hard I’ll be good someday. I swear.