Has anyone notice the accelerated efforts of VANITY PUBLISHERS and self-pub hype, appearing as ads to unpublished, new authors, and featured in glitz, at the HEAD of prominent book discussion forums?
Is anyone ELSE bothered about this?
Yes, getting picked up by a major house is competitive, and yes, there is a HUGE trend, internet driven, toward people leaping straight into "self publishing" and more, hyping this route as the ONLY or BEST thing, with passionate, "apparently" informed expertise. I could show you the boxful of business cards such authors have handed me, at public venues...so....
Why am I disturbed?
Because a lot of these companies advertising are PREDATORS, after stealing your cherished dreams and your shirts, and poised to take advantage of total ignorance. They are after your pocketbooks, folks, and you will never, ever make the springboard to where you want to go, from there. In fact, the opposite.
And ALSO - because many of the people hyping self-publishing as the means to your ends actually haven't an honest clue.
There was an article written in the SFWA Bulletin, recently, about several old hand pros on a panel, being hotly contradicted by self published *clueless* authors - in effect, preaching that the way to be "noticed" by a big house was to sell books behind a table at SF conventions and book fairs, and doing this behind a stack of your titles, until you get approached by a "real" editor and invited with a contract to a major publisher.
Wrong steer! Yes, I have heard the myths and the stories "out there" - but in fact, the real route to a paying contract is NOT selling books off your tailgate at malls!
Publishing is a legitimate business, and there is a professional way and manner in which to apply for SERIOUS success.
Now, before the knee jerks, I am not condemning ALL comers to self-publishing - particularly those writers who have been published professionally and cannot (after trying) get a new house to show interest...those writers HAVE a readership, presumably, to which to target their efforts.
I am not saying "all" self published new books by unknown names are without merit. I haven't read all of them to generalize in that way.
There are genuine small presses and independent publishing houses, too. I am NOT referring to these!
BUT - my beef is over the enormous ignorance about how the industry DOES work, and the whacked "advice" being disseminated on the internet that is getting too many young talents FLEECED.
Please, open a discussion if you have questions, VISIT the Writer Beware site on the SFWA page (we are linked on the tips page) and look up the site, Predators and Editors. If you have dreams of writing, by all means pursue them with your whole heart, but get EDUCATED and know what route you are taking, first!
Don't plunge into the morass of internet myth, and cost yourself money, or your hopes of a career! The tag line, that implies, in effect, "connect to mega tons of readers" is not necessarily what it's cracked up to appear.
I happen to be one of these hopeful writers and I did have some questions. I actually tried to write you an email about it but it said that the email couldn't get to you.
First of all, I agree with you about the self publishing thing. Unless you have an audience it doesn't work.
My question is, where should I look for good and accurate information on how to get published?
No one seems to agree.
Do I need an independant editor or can I edit it myself and then send it into the publishing company?
I guess I'm saying, HELP
This is not a new problem, either. There were "publishers" in the past who would accept manuscripts, print the book, and then send the author a bill for the entire publishing run. The writer thought they were being accepted by a legitimate publisher, but then had the rug ripped out from underneath in a very dastardly manner.
Back in the 70's, when The Waltons was TV's most popular show, there was actually an episode about John Boy (the aspiring author) getting published, and then upon receiving his box of books for sale at Ike's store (why do I remember this stuff?), he finds a big bill.
If something is too good to be true, IT IS. This is nothing but a scam for these so-called publishers to fleece aspiring writers, but it is not illegal, as the fine print will undoubtedly say exactly what the young writer is getting into. It is the hype that is really troubling, like the old patent medicine thing all over again. They are really selling lies, and I wonder how many budding talents are going to get their dreams crushed in this craze.
I wonder, too, how many good books that will never get written as a result?
Oh, believe me, the Dorrances and the Viking Presses are NOT "things of the past!!!" They are very much alive and advertizing and collecting bucks to publish your book! IF YOU PAY FOR THIS SERVICE, that is what a VANITY PUBLISHER is!
And while these venues may have fine print protecting THEM from YOUR IGNORANCE, many of these wolves, and "agents" and "POD" houses are IN FACT scammers! Actionably so. But catching them up can be hard, as they just change name, and go right back at it. Others are fleecers, just as misleading and hurtful!
READ WRITER BEWARE, and PREDATORS AND EDITORS!
A lot of the info you want is already posted there.
Rule #1: The money flows TO the author FROM the publisher or agent. If you are paying for a "service" like being published, paying for readings and "evaluations" - that should ring an alarm, because that is NOT flowing payment TO the author!
Rule #2 - learn your Craft, it's up to you to create saleable work! If you do, the publisher pays YOU, and, they will pay to Edit and Copy Edit and advertise the book as their part in production. They will distribute it to the major chains, and handle all of the selling. If you learn your trade properly, you should NOT need an "editor" to submit and sell your story to a PROFESSIONAL NAME HOUSE. If you can't write a story, if you don't know what STORY is, (Story, by McKee will clue you) if you don't know the difference between "narrative voice" and dialogue - then you need to get a GOOD book on craft - Scene and Sequel, or Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer. OR - try one of the very long established REPUTABLE workshops - the SHORT LIST - like Odyssey or Clarion, and learn to write fiction. These two are well known, and have years on years of reputation for teaching writers who go on to sell their works.
Can't afford a workshop? How serious are you - you'd go to college to get a degree for any another professional job! Can't afford to buy two or three BOOKS? Do what I did, then, use an inter-libary loan service!
You're underage? Stuck on the wait, while you save money for the above? MINE PRO WRITER's WEBSITES for info....many of us post tips, post links, post free advice. A day of google searches and web-surfing may turn up a LOT of solid, sterling info...speaking of which, did you read MY tips and pursue the suggestions and links there? Did you look at how your manuscript should be professionally formatted for submission? You would be AMAZED how many irresponsible people write me asking about breaking in, and HAVE NOT EVEN BOTHERED to read that tips list, far LESS crack open a copy of Swain's book!
There is a WEALTH of how to in that little volume that will save you a world of hurt and rejection!
GO WHERE YOU CAN MEET AUTHORS - there ARE conventions that are oriented with panels to HELP YOU - invite you to hear advise from KNOWN AUTHORS who are ALREADY PROFESSIONALLY ESTABLISHED. You can ask questions, directly - even hear editors in the field speak....DragonCon has a writer's Track, World Fantasy Convention has a huge pro attendence, Readercon in the North East, same thing....listen to the REAL pros, and folks speaking for actual publishing houses -
Can't go to a con? Then go to a signing at a specialty store, where an ESTABLISHED author is making an appearance - ask them questions if the line peters out. Many of these independent stores have author appearances - attend them!
Live in the middle of Nowhere - Go join Baen's Universe, which actively holds topics and discussion and critique areas for new talent - read what's being said - look at certain author's forums, where new writers tend to gather - search and READ the blog posts on Miss Snark - which is written by a pro agent - entertaining, bitterly brutal, but very much on the mark about the realities and falsities of cracking a difficult field. Disabuse yourself of the idiot illusions, that Greatness Waits Without Effort and motivate yourself !!! to learn to tell a dynamite story, and strive for excellence - and what that means in terms of DISCIPLINE.
Kristen Laurelle Wallace - welcome here, and I'm HORRIFIED to hear you could not get an e mail through...can you give details so the Webmaster knows what may have gone wrong???
Keep this discussion going - because yes, a LOT of talent gets wrecked by scammers - and there is no excuse for that.
I do not know of a good book about the particulars of submission - policies change - but - anyone at all can purchase a non-pro membership to SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) and that membership will give you issues of the BULLETIN - all solid articles on the business, written by active professionals, that will stand you in good stead!
I actually did most of the things that you suggested, but I was uncertain as to what was truth and what wasn't. I wanted to hear it from a published author that I admired. I have no problem with forking up money to get myself to the publishing stage. As I was saying, most of my confusion stemmed from the argument between what to do between the stage of, the book is written, I've edited it and now I want to get it published and sending it into the publishing company.
I researched for about a week but the internet was the whole problem. There were too many differing opinions. I finally broke down and tried to email you. Honestly I'm not sure what happened. It said that the email account was inactive.
Anyway, thank you so much for responding to my questions so quickly and honestly. I was really worried about asking you. I didn't want to take up your time when I'm sure that you get asked these types of things all the time.
I believe that I have my book as top notch as I can make it and, honestly, I believe it is ready send in. We'll see what happens. I'm not afraid of rejection. My understanding is that it's pretty standard to get turned down by the first several, if not more, publishing companies. Hopefully I'll learn from the experience.
You have no idea how happy your response has made me and how much confusion and worry has just washed away.
Thanks again. I'd already found Writer's Beware but I hadn't come across Preditors and Editors. Both sites are extremely useful.
Anyway, I thought that I would let everyone know that Predators and Editors is being sued for giving away secrets of the trade.
Kirsten - so sorry, I see I carelessly misspelled your name.
How sad, that Predators and Editors is being sued - one wonders who is bringing the suit, and who wants who kept like a mushroom in the dark!
The fact you are SO willing to put out money to make your goal - that is such a part of the problem! Too many hopefuls part with money in the wrong direction - they don't put it into learning about the REAL STUFF - like how to write, and how to sell your manuscripts - they put it into getting the END product, their books, before they even know what they're about.
Swain's little book would have had me in print FIVE YEARS earlier - and saved me a lot of rejections for stupid reasons...I had the ideas, and a decent natural sense of story - just needed tighter detail on the actual nuts and bolts of HOW to assemble sentences to create fiction.
General note: people who "think they are ready to submit" - do yourself a FAVOR and read this book first!!!!!! It could save you a royal heap of time and wasted effort!
More, yes, you will collect rejections. That's NORMAL. There are many many reasons why stories are sent back....many of which have nothing to do with the quality, but whether the editor's list is full, whether its balance is more to fantasy or SF, or if they already have a slot with work near to yours, or enough new writers for the moment...if you can't bounce, you're in the wrong field.
I should also warn: NOT ALL WORKSHOPS ARE GOOD, and, even, COLLEGE WRITING COURSES MAY BE A LOAD OF BULL CR#P. "Literary" fiction, and teachers thereof are likely to send you in all sorts of directions other than what you'd need to crack a good fiction market. When I suggested Odyssey and Clarion, THOSE are taught by selling pros, and geared for breaking in.
Not everybody wants to write "commercial fiction," as it's called by the snooty. I'd point out, if you want to make a living at it, you have to receive an adequate paycheck, and if you have ALL of your life to hone your craft and create a body of work - that could add up to a lot of merit.
You mentioned the opinion of some that it's "commercial fiction." I ran into exactly that problem with some of the workshops in my area. I've been told by teachers, friends and writers that fantasy writing isn't writing. They call it "story telling" here, but it has the same negative connontation.
I'll definately look into Odyssey and Clarion. I think that the reason I haven't found a good workshop is because I've been trying to find something in my area. A lot of the writer's in Iowa won't even look at a fiction work if it falls into the category of Science fiction, Fantasy, Mystery or Romance. It has to be "Contemporary Fiction."
I also agree about the writing courses. I've taken several and so have a couple of my friends. We all came back with the same opinion. The classes were designed to help someone copy another writer's writing style. I'm not sure how helpful it was in the long run... beyond the fact that it does try to encourage writers to use style to their benefit and to think outside of the box.
Anyway, thanks again for the advice.
Oh, and thanks for noticing that my name isn't Kristen. I'm so used to being called it that I don't even correct people anymore.
I just got the "Techniques of a Selling Writer."
It's a wonderful book. Thanks so much for the recomendation.
Yay Kirsten - good for you, and you're welcome. Be sure to cheer here, when you make your first sale!!!
I do wish more aspiring writers actually TOOK that bit of advice....sigh. The ones who have know what we're talking about...
Hi Janny (and all),
I bought Techniques... a while ago and have read it several times now, learning more with each re-read, thanks for directing me to it! I saw above that you mentioned "Scene and Sequel" but am having difficulty finding any books with that title, by Swain or otherwise... closest I found was Bickham's Scene and Structure. Any clarification or further information you could offer? Cheers
Matt - someone mentioned that title as the "successor to Swain" - so I haven't actually looked at it....hard to believe it could top the nuts and bolts address of structure any better than Swain.
I will see what I can find, or whether the Bickham book was the one that recommender intended.
The Swain book is JUST BRILLIANT - also, we now have -- a long term pro copyeditor's page of suggestions regarding COMMON MISTAKES in the TIPS section. Check it out, all you aspirant writers.
I just want to say that I've received some of the best advice about writing and the business from this website - thank you Janny and all of you that raise questions and give suggestions.
I'm up to my eyeballs in two very different writing projects (meanwhile - trying to make enough to pay the bills!) and to see that Kirsten - you have finished a story! (that was a different thread - I know) Congratulations! Persist ... you'll find the right agent. Good luck to you !
BTW - I have to mention, Swain also has a book on characterization (story people) that is fabulous. (can't pull the name out of my poor brain right now but I'm sure you can google it).
Thanks for the good wishes, Iris. Same back at you.
Hi Iris - you're welcome!
the Swain book you mention is: Creating Characters: How To Build Story People.
It's a good book - the other on techniques is better, if you have to choose between them and spring for only one.
My best wishes to you both.
For anyone interested, I'm pretty sure it is Bickham's 'Scene and Structure' to which Janny was referring earlier. I just bought it and the book is dedicated to Swain, Bickham citing him has "writer, teacher and friend" which seems to fit with the "successor to Swain". Will let you know if it's a helpful read or not
A report on this book would be excellent, Matt Roper, please do post back what you think of it.