I am often sent short stories and novels, the author asking for my input and opinion, something that I have been happy to give freely, with the acknowledgement that I am rendering my opinion, based upon my experiences as a writer, publisher, editor, and reader.
For me, it is quite clear, where things “fit” within a story structure; where things are a disappointment because of lack of plotting, and also how to correct it. Quite often, the “fix” is a simple one; adjust the sequence, delete the unnecessary material, add in clarifying content, shift the dynamics of the conflict, shift the focal point. Sometime it is more complex; change the characters, change the dynamics of the character interactions so that you are writing to the audience, not to some image in your head that is more idyllic. I’ve even told authors to shift the gender of characters to better suit the dynamic of the story.
The point is, I have offered this service at no charge for quite some time, and many people have utilized that offering, often for the better. But I have done this while also encompassing the role of publisher which, honestly, is not what my original intention was. Publishing is a tough business when you are honest; which explains why there are so many crooks out there.
I am a writer. I have also self-published, and fully understand the pitfalls of doing it yourself versus the dangers of using a publisher, such as myself; most publishers turn out to be Vanity Presses of one sort or another, either with upfront charges, book purchase requirements, or some other way of getting your money up-front.
I sort of fell into publishing. My expertise is in writing, editing, proofing, graphic design, layouts, audio work, journalism, as well as a host of other skillsets acquired over the last 30 years. It is nice to be a publisher, to help others get published, especially with my business model of the writer incurring ZERO costs and royalty sharing. It is a terrific concept if I wish to be a non-profit organization; however, the business of writing really demands a different model, I believe. There is another way.
I would like to shift Alt Publish (Alternative Publishing Services, as the name suggests) to a more fluidic concept; helping authors publish THEMSELVES. This does mean there will be costs, however those costs will be moderate. Allow me to explain further.
The areas that hurt a writer self-publishing are as follows:
•Poor story structure/Plot development
•Bad editing/Poor proofreading
•Simplistic cover design
•Using CreateSpace’s free ISBN (screams AMATEUR and inhibits store placement, many of whom are anti-Amazon)
•Poor or no Marketing plan. If you write it, they do not come running.
The actual formatting and layout can be easily learned. Yes, it is a bit time consuming, especially if you lack a sophisticated program like InDesign; however, you can do it on any word processor if you take the time to learn the formatting tips.
As I detailed in my last post, there are millions of books being written, by millions of unknown authors. Chances are that someone in your group of friends is, has been, or wants to be a writer. Or, they have a story that people have told them should be made into a book, or worse, a film!
Here are some questions:
Q1: If you could self-publish your book in a professional way, with a non-CreateSpace ISBN (and without the expense of buying your own), with a professional cover, a well doctored storyline, and know exactly where and how to market your book, would you be interested to learn more?
Q2: If you had your own Story Therapist (me) to dive into the structure of your story and offer you an extremely detailed fix, including phone/video conference sessions, without spending a fortune, would that be a good value?
Q3: If I made available (at a low/reasonable cost) a detailed strop-by-step way for you to publish yourself without appearing to look amateurish (and actually look like you were represented by a publisher) would you be interested in reading it?
This is not a sales pitch. At least not yet! It is, however, the direction I wish to take Alt Publish. Here is how I envision the structure:
1) Evaluating your story/novel. This is a quick, not-detailed, look at your work and whether there is something there to work with. People I have worked with know that I will tell you if I believe the story will not work (I believe it is better to be truthful rather than pump up your hopes while I siphon your money.) If I feel there is a kernel of hope, I will say so. It is up to you if you want to redo it and try again. For this I will charge you $1. Yes, one dollar. Even though it takes time to read your work, this fee represents your commitment. You won’t go broke, and I can use it to offset taxes.
If I believe there is something that can be worked, and if I have an idea of what it is, I will offer you:
2) A detailed evaluation that summarizes the strengths and weaknesses, where and what I would change, and why, along with structural and plotting points. This will be a guide-map, of sorts, that you can use to rework your manuscript. This also includes one 30-minute phone call/video call to discuss my recommendations and answer your immediate questions. And you will, and should, have questions. For this I will charge you $250. You will also receive my e-book on self-publishing (available soon.)
After this, you go off an fix things, based on our conversation, and based on that part of it you agree with – after all, it is YOUR story. That said, assuming you make the changes and have additional questions, need additional opinions, I offer you:
3) Unlimited consultations on phone/video call at the rate of $50/hr (charged in 30 minute increments.)
I will also offer services, such as cover design, ISBN (Alt Publish buys in blocks of 10 otherwise it costs way too much.) Or you can just read the book and learn that way. I am also available for hire for Audiobook recordings on a flat rate or royalty share (depending on the book,) and have been doing so regularly.
So does this mean that Alt Publishing will no longer publish authors under the old plan, NO COST | Royalty Share? No. That option will remain, however, I will be honest. Well over 90% of material I get sent is not publishable. Of those, half hold some aspects that can be changed to improve the story.
The problem is that authors, when told – for free – that they need to rewrite their work, tend to balk at the idea, because they forget that writing really means re-writing, and that like all things, it is a lot of work. Of all the free, detailed critiques (including suggestions) that have been sent back to authors who have submitted to me, only a handful have taken the initiative to actually work through the changes. And of those, most are still revising. It takes time. You cannot just slap a bandage on it and hope that it passes muster.
Here is an example. You all have seen the original STAR WARS film, right? Well, here is a link to George Lucas’s rough draft that he submitted. The actual screenplay is floating around out there, but unless you know script format and how to read it, this is easier. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/The_Star_Wars:_Rough_Draft
You will note that this drafts is nothing like the famous movie that made it to the big screen.
I firmly believe in self-publishing; but only if you do it correctly. I know enough authors who make a decent living by self-publishing.
I also believe that this is a good direction for Alt Publish. It adds a new dimension that I believe will help the authors, and the company, to grow.
Let me know what you think and whether you would be interested in exploring this further.
Thanks for your ear!