TIPS

Here are some tips for you:

  • Self-Publishing Tips

    • We get many submissions each month. And we read each of them, even if we know they will not make publication. As time has passed we know that there are at least FIVE deadly mistakes that new writers make, disqualifying them from serious consideration by most reputable publishing houses. Why do we read them? Because we deal with a lot of new writers, where suggestions can be offered, where encouragement can be given, we like to do so. Often a story comes through that has the potential to be publishable. Perhaps it lacks in just a few areas. We like to offer the writer a chance to resubmit (often more than once), until we reach a point that we can accept it. Sometimes, we still cannot accept it after revisions. Many writers do not like the idea of rewrites and often fail to resubmit.  New writers are enamored with their work. An amazing number of first drafts are submitted riddled with spelling and punctuation errors, poor sentence structure, contradictory tenses. Below are the five deadly mistakes we see the most. #1 POOR PLOT: Stories that begin at the beginning of a story arc, slowly and without a sense of urgency, often fail to make a reader continue. Your story MUST grab from the first page, the first paragraph, and, if possible, the first line. Why would a reader waste time having to decipher your story? #2 ALL NARRATIVE: Many submissions come in as stories told, as though a narrator was reading. These stories have no dialog, no character descriptions, and with no dialog fail to show character traits through the dialog. These stories are the most boring. As a reader I want to be able to “see” the story in my mind’s eye. Void of anything substantial from characterization and dialog, it is just like listening to someone talk endlessly. #3 NO CONFLICT Like the last complain, a story without conflict is just not a story. Conflict is a difficult concept for new writers. They create their world, fall in love with their creation and hate to destroy it or change it in any way. As a result, with no conflict, nothing happens. Again the reader yawns. Yes, you may have created a lovely world, but it is also a boring world.  All stories need conflict, must be driven by conflict and should start with the conflict right there. Grab your readers and hold them. Add more layers of conflict so that the plot thickens and the reader is compelled to finish. Do not be afraid to break your world, hurt your characters. Through the story they will rise to the challenge or perish. Either way the reader will feel satisfied. #4 STUPID CHARACTER NAMES Unbelievably, many stories are submitted to us with character names that are ridiculous. Intended to be funny, light-hearted, or amusing, treating your characters like this destroys any interest the reader has to invest their time. Pola Rosensplatt, for example, or Harold Puffswiggins.  The power of your character lies in their backstory, their ordinary name that becomes extraordinary when they rise to the conflicts, and in their transitional story arc.  #5 POOR RESOLUTION/NO RESOLUTION Inasmuch as a character must have a conflict, a story must have a decent ending. This does not mean your story must resolve, but the character must reach a point where the story can be stopped, told, handled, and with that part resolved.  Look at movies with sequels. Where did each end? Was it sequential or did it treat each film as a standalone? Your characters do not have to live happily ever after; but they must do something that indicates the story arc has been completed and this part closed. There is nothing worse than a weak, or absent ending to your story. It leaves the reader feeling cheated after all the investment of their time.  These are just five of many problems that can result in your story being rejected. Have you noticed any of these in your stories?  If you enjoy these tips, and would be interested in receiving more, please sign up for our newsletter at http://bit.ly/BandPMailingList  AltPublish also holds Online classes to help writers (and students) refine their work, obtain feedback, learn marketing techniques (not Facebook or Twitter), and more. If you are interested in more information please email us at info@altpublish.com ~William

    • Let’s face it; editing your work can be a time-consuming, and costly exercise, although one that is vital to successful writing. There are a few things you can do to jump-start your edits. Obviously start with the spelling and grammar checkers that come with most word processors. While simplistic, it will catch some basic errors. There are also a number of FREE Online programs that are extensions to browsers such as Chrome. Many of these can scan your document and point out the obvious mistakes. These include After the Deadline, Grammar and Spelling by Ginger, Slick Write, Language Tool, and many more. There are also some low cost options out there as well. Before undertaking any self-editing, you should put your story aside for a few days (at least), so that the familiarity of it diminishes slightly. While it is still imprinted in your memory, a little distance allows you to catch things you missed the first few read-throughs. Depending on your computer system; your computer should also be able to read your work back to you in a voice of your choice. Hearing your words read back to you make it much easier to catch mistakes and poor sentence structure.  Even better is to ask a friend or family member to read your story aloud to you. There is a huge difference in how the brain identifies speech through auditory processing versus how the brain identifies speech through visual pathways. My opinion as to why this happens is based on the three to five year gap between a baby/child identifying sounds heard, versus learning to read. Your ears have so much more training than your eyes, or at least your brain has more training through those pathways. Even after you know how to read, you listen far more than you read. Your Eyes Lie to You! Here is a test for you: Read the following out loud at normal speed. Did you read it? Did it say: PARIS IN THE SPRING IS LOVELY TO SEE AND TO VISIT? Are you sure? Read it again. Aha! Did you catch it this time? Some of you are still not sure what I am talking about. Let me help you.  It does not read: PARIS IN THE SPRING IS LOVELY TO SEE AND TO VISIT! Honestly, it doesn’t. There are TWO “THE” words. It reads PARIS IN THE THE SPRING…. The point is that YOUR EYES LIE TO YOU! As a writer you must understand that your brain edits everything you see. It ASSUMED you meant only one THE and so it edited out the second one. It is a brain trick. What it confirms, however, is that you cannot believe what your eyes show you.  And that is why using your EARS is an excellent way to catch many errors. It is also why YOU should not read aloud. If you read the story, your eyes will see errors that your brain will edit (again) and pass over. You need to HEAR your story from someone else. That is why the computer voice works just as well. Once you have passed through these few suggestions, you can re-read your work using a RULER so you are focused on line-by-line reading. This way you are focused on the pieces of the line/sentence, rather than reading for pleasure, a more generalized, and higher speed, reading. In a future article, I will discuss various paid editing services that are affordable and effective. Let me know your thoughts on this tip and other tips you have learned. If you want to stay updated with more tips, sign up for our free newsletter (monthly) > HERE Enjoy, ~W

    • We get many submissions each month. And we read each of them, even if we know they will not make publication. As time has passed we know that there are at least FIVE deadly mistakes that new writers make, disqualifying them from serious consideration by most reputable publishing houses. Why do we read them? Because we deal with a lot of new writers, where suggestions can be offered, where encouragement can be given, we like to do so. Often a story comes through that has the potential to be publishable. Perhaps it lacks in just a few areas. We like to offer the writer a chance to resubmit (often more than once), until we reach a point that we can accept it. Sometimes, we still cannot accept it after revisions. Many writers do not like the idea of rewrites and often fail to resubmit.  New writers are enamored with their work. An amazing number of first drafts are submitted riddled with spelling and punctuation errors, poor sentence structure, contradictory tenses. Below are the five deadly mistakes we see the most. #1 POOR PLOT: Stories that begin at the beginning of a story arc, slowly and without a sense of urgency, often fail to make a reader continue. Your story MUST grab from the first page, the first paragraph, and, if possible, the first line. Why would a reader waste time having to decipher your story? #2 ALL NARRATIVE: Many submissions come in as stories told, as though a narrator was reading. These stories have no dialog, no character descriptions, and with no dialog fail to show character traits through the dialog. These stories are the most boring. As a reader I want to be able to “see” the story in my mind’s eye. Void of anything substantial from characterization and dialog, it is just like listening to someone talk endlessly. #3 NO CONFLICT Like the last complain, a story without conflict is just not a story. Conflict is a difficult concept for new writers. They create their world, fall in love with their creation and hate to destroy it or change it in any way. As a result, with no conflict, nothing happens. Again the reader yawns. Yes, you may have created a lovely world, but it is also a boring world.  All stories need conflict, must be driven by conflict and should start with the conflict right there. Grab your readers and hold them. Add more layers of conflict so that the plot thickens and the reader is compelled to finish. Do not be afraid to break your world, hurt your characters. Through the story they will rise to the challenge or perish. Either way the reader will feel satisfied. #4 STUPID CHARACTER NAMES Unbelievably, many stories are submitted to us with character names that are ridiculous. Intended to be funny, light-hearted, or amusing, treating your characters like this destroys any interest the reader has to invest their time. Pola Rosensplatt, for example, or Harold Puffswiggins.  The power of your character lies in their backstory, their ordinary name that becomes extraordinary when they rise to the conflicts, and in their transitional story arc.  #5 POOR RESOLUTION/NO RESOLUTION Inasmuch as a character must have a conflict, a story must have a decent ending. This does not mean your story must resolve, but the character must reach a point where the story can be stopped, told, handled, and with that part resolved.  Look at movies with sequels. Where did each end? Was it sequential or did it treat each film as a standalone? Your characters do not have to live happily ever after; but they must do something that indicates the story arc has been completed and this part closed. There is nothing worse than a weak, or absent ending to your story. It leaves the reader feeling cheated after all the investment of their time.  These are just five of many problems that can result in your story being rejected. Have you noticed any of these in your stories?  If you enjoy these tips, and would be interested in receiving more, please sign up for our newsletter at http://bit.ly/BandPMailingList  AltPublish also holds Online classes to help writers (and students) refine their work, obtain feedback, learn marketing techniques (not Facebook or Twitter), and more. If you are interested in more information please email us at info@altpublish.com ~William

    • Createspace has started phasing out of the self-publishing business, shifting to the Kindle Direct arm of the business, and in the process, changing up the costs and royalties involved. With some variations for book sizing, the calculations for deciding how to price and what you will get as a royalty are based on a formula. The royalty rate is a fixed 60% for standard, and 40% for expanded distribution. But that is, of course, not including deducting for the cost. Calculating the cost is straightforward: A flat $0.85 fixed cost is added to (page count x $0.012).  For a 350 page book the cost would be $0.85 + (350 x 0.012) =  $5.05 Cost The minimum list price for this book would be the cost divided by the royalty. In this case $5.05/60% = $8.41 Minimum List price. Your Royalty is your (List price x 60%)- Cost.  In this case, if I choose to list my book at $12.99 my royalty would be ($12.99 x 60%)- $5.05 = $2.74 Royalty In some cases this is slightly higher or lower than the old Createspace royalties. Using the same process for calculating Expanded Distribution you get the following: Cost = $5.05 Royalty is ($12.99 x 40%) – $5.05 = $0.15 Royalty So clearly the pricing must be higher in order to reap a decent royalty. According to some industry sources, most average-sized trade paperback novels fall into the $13.95 to $17.95 price range. Interestingly, a look at Amazon shows list pricing in this range, however, one of the perks of Amazon was that they could elect to reprice your book to enhance sales, while still paying you from the list price royalty. Bearing that in mind, it makes more sense to overprice your book on the premise that the royalty is higher and that Amazon may, in its infinite wisdom, elect to lower the selling price. Similarly, you should note that the average Kindle book list price has been increasing, often close to the selling price of the paperback novels. Since the statistics show that eBook sales are still the mainstay, despite a slight resurgence in paperback books, it makes sense to maximize the royalties from that. For example: Kristen Hannah’s “The Great Unknown” is listed at $17.69 for paperback and $14.99 for Kindle. It is a 435 page novel, so let’s see what that reaps based on the above calculations. Paperback cost: $0.85 + (435 x 0.012) = $6.07 Royalty: (17.69 x 60%) – 6.07 = $4.54 Kindle Royalty is 70% x $14.99 = $10.49 It’s clear which route works best here. Interesting articles suggest that there is a huge market for print sales out there; one even suggests the sales ratio of 70% print (combined print markets) to 30% (digital); however this does not account for the royalty discrepancies that the author receives for a print sale versus the increased workload to produce a print book. One such article is HERE. But what goes into a print book, aside from an extra back cover and spine, an ISBN number ($295 for 10 unless you are fine using Amazon’s freebie marking you an amateur), layout of pages, stylistic elements, and that’s not including hardbacks with dust-jackets. From the numbers above from Kristen Hannah’s novel, you can see the profit from paperback is close to the profit from the Kindle edition. Many authors swear off print editions. My personal opinion is that there is a place for print, especially as a tangible product that can be used at book signings and placement locally, if you wish to add an extra layer to your workload. And there is still a print audience, as the statistics show, so why lose that added revenue? I would focus on the digital format first, then work toward a print edition so that it is out there, so that you have copies for your own promotion, so that the authenticity a physical book brings is available when needed, perhaps more so than worrying about those sales.  And don’t forget that mom and dad want to proudly send copies to your relatives, family friends and childhood teachers who thought you’d never amount to much. So with the changeover to Kindle Directs’ printing process, I hope this offers a clearer view of how much it will cost and how much you will get paid when the royalties come in. And let’s not forget the third layer: Audiobooks account for some 40% of sales from some reports. Do add your thoughts in the comments. And happy writing, and selling! ~William

    • Have you ever wondered how one gets on the bestseller list, whether the New York Times, USA Today or even the Amazon list? Simply put — every bestseller list is a lie because no bestseller list measures the best selling books. Let me repeat that, so you can grasp the gravity of what it means. No bestseller list measures the actual best selling books. Tucker Max, co-founder of Book in a Box has a lot to say on the subject. In his editorial in Entrepreneur Magazine, he details all the reasons why you should avoid the goal of these lists. Read it at https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/280520 Thoughts? I wonder whether authors on the bestseller lists feel that they are anything but valid. After all, there should be a correlation between sales and bestselling lists, although Amazon would have a variant on that. What has your experience been?

    • If you’ve spent any time reading up on other writers and how they manage their work, you probably have an idea of how to arrange, organize, manage the elements that are involved. Certainly, it is easier to manage a short story––although it is more difficult to write a good short story than a novel––than it is to manage the elements of a novel. You might write a short story quite quickly, a short enough time period to be able to remember all the parts in your head; however, a novel, which extends over vast pages and time frames, character arcs and so on, it is easy to get lost. A famous ball pen drawn grid from author JK Rowling, shows how she plotted the elements for her Harry Potter books, using each box to capture relevant information that she could then use as reference in order to stay on track. Nice! My problem is finding one thing that I can stay with, given the plethora of apps, programs and other tools. I prefer notebooks, but find that I always carry one with me, often jotting down odd things without a set format—more a free flow thought palace. There are many apps that will help you to arrange things, including the very popular Scrivener app that will allow you to have all your notes, imagery, scratchings and more, all in folders, apart from the main writing area. At the end it compiles for you. And voila…. I have Scrivener, but find that I have to have my thoughts immediately handy, with me at all times, even when there are no electronic devices with me. But that’s just me. I know authors who write their points on Post-It notes and stick them on a wall or mirror, moving them as needed. I tried that once; but my wife was not so impressed, especially when a few would peel off and wind up on a floor, later vacuumed up––gone! And then there are the choices of notebooks available. I collect fountain pens. I also find that, just as my mood changes for the pen of the day; so to does my notebook choice. Something small, but not too small. I used to like the cheap notebooks used at schools everywhere, but found that certain brands absorbed my fountain pen ink into blotchy messes. I tried small pocket-sized notebooks, but find that I have to write small to they everything to fit; quite annoying and also not conducive to fountain pens. Barnes & Nobles offers a variety of hand-crafted leather notebooks, some with leather strip-ties you wrap around; all too fancy and pricey for the scribblings I have. I certainly don’t want something that says WRITER across it. Too amateurish. These days I use a 5×8 hard cover notebook. These are available anywhere for a decent price. With a hundred plus pages there is a lot of room for whatever I wish to write. I segment the book, find the mid-seam and use that as a natural book break. I can scribble pieces of the story there. So far it works. As for plotting, I still like index cards, each numbered in order (and renumbered when the order changes.) I can keep them with me, elastic band-wrapped. No pencil – just fountain pen with redundant items single-line deleted. It’s neat, ordered and works for me. What works for you? Let me know if you have any good ideas that you’ve found works. And don’t forget to submit short stories to B&P Magazine – we do pay for the stories we accept. Click the SUBMIT tab for more information and guidelines.

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