Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't Sabotage Yourself!

Mental Mondays

Don't Sabotage Yourself

I bid you welcome once again to MM! Today along with my excerpt post from Final Deceit, I'm going to muse a little on several points on submissions by authors that puzzle me. Now, if you're a writer of fiction and use a Twitter account you should be following agents' and editors' Tweets as well as your friends and fellow authors. Many editors and agents are now on Twitter and post regularly with tips and instructions on submitting your work. Here's where the puzzlement comes in: why do authors still commit obvious, grievous to your manuscript "should have known better", mistakes? Now, I put in this disclaimer: I am not agented. However, I am multi-published via ebook and print publishers. I take this seriously. And if you plan to get published, so should you. Again the head of puzzlement pops up. Those editors and agents I mentioned? Well, most of their Tweets point out those mistakes; you should be paying attention. Prior to the Internet, there was little information on submitting your novel to a publisher or agent; now there is no excuse for unintentional or intentional unprofessionalism. Not only is there a wealth of information on how to submit, but those very editors and agents are telling you what mistakes to avoid!
Certain things should go without saying such as politeness & respect no matter what the decision is on your work. Unfounded bragging or exaggerated comparisons to ridiculously famous and talented authors makes your submission seem pretty ridiculous too. Yes, I know it sounds like a broken record, but check out Twitter to see how many ridiculous mistakes authors still make to this day, every day!
I understand the great frustrations of writing in general, including writing and then polishing, the dreaded synopsis and the query letter. But that's still no excuse for anger and or aggression toward the people who can help you now or especially in the future. Most of the agents and editors want to find the next big thing and from what I've seen they are now so much more open to new authors. Rarely do they ask for referrals any longer.
My solution? You may not like it but the list goes like this:

1)Do your homework! Check out agents' and editors' sites, blogs, working experience at various publishing houses or agencies. Find out who reps what genre' and what they are looking for. Not only will this save you an immense amount of time, it will save your intended agent or editor probably more!

2)Pay attention to what they say. These professionals are not "trying to hurt you, they're trying help you" as Gandalf says to Bilbo in LOTR. Read their websites completely if you need to and check back frequently to make sure you're on course with them.

3)Learn agents and editors' pet peeves: Small things perhaps but as they say the devil is in the details. If you're not committed enough to pay attention to the little things, then you're not committed to getting published.

4)Adhere to the requirements: Again, there is no excuse for not leaving anything out or putting anything in that they don't want. If their instructions are not explicit enough for you to understand, check out the hundreds if not thousands of writing websites that spell out how exactly how to write and present your submission or join an online writing group who will painstakingly give you help and advice that can be priceless. You should be tracking these anyway.

5)Leave your ego in hibernate. I’m constantly reminded of a quote by Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister: "If you have to tell people you're a lady, then you're not." Same principle applies here. If you have to tell people you're a magnificent writer and a future bestseller, then…well you know the rest. They will tell you. Now there's nothing wrong with being confident. In fact you have to be to a certain extent. There is however something wrong with rampant egotism. Agents and editors look at hundreds again if not thousands of manuscripts per year and have probably done so for years as well. This is their job day in and day out and they can pretty much recognize a bestseller or even a potential great piece of work quickly. They don't have time or energy to deal with someone who may be "difficult" to work with or who may refuse to work within the parameters of publishing standards. This sounds incredibly basic but the number of times I see editors post complaints, these are in the top 10. Speak softly and carry a big pen is my advice.

6)Do not berate other agents, editors or authors! Just as Hollywood, the publishing industry is a very small town so to speak. Most of the players know each other or know of each other and many of them are or were co-workers. They talk. All the time. You can get a bad reputation faster than you can type The End and trust me you do not want that—ever. Plus, while one agent or editor may not want your work for whatever reason, another might and again, they talk. Besides, if you are serious about writing and getting published, you need to appear as professional as possible. The pros are pros for a reason.

7)Realize you are not the only author in the writing universe. This goes back to the ego hibernation, but just as I realized when working in Hollywood one day, standing on the roof of a famous music company overlooking Los Angeles, there are a million + authors (musicians in my case) ready, willing, and waiting to take your place. They will have checked their egos, perfected their manuscripts, query letters, synopsis and will show confidence, humility and respect to agents, editors, authors, PR people and cover artists, in fact, to everyone who works hard to get their novels out there for the public to read and respond with sales. Every one of those people who work on your project deserves respect and gratitude, even after your book skyrockets. They helped get you there.

8)Keep it short and to the point. Agents and editors have thousands of submissions constantly and they don't have time to be reading tomes of your work or submission material. Anything to help them save time will not go unnoticed. You don't have to use one liner funny jokes or leave out important aspects but you do need to know how to get to the point without jeopardizing your submission.

If you're rolling your eyes at this point thinking that this is all useless repetition go and look at agent & editor Twitter Tweets. The whole reason I wrote this list is directly due to those Tweets. Editors and agents get just as frustrated in the process as well, especially with repeated submission offenses. I'm fairly sure that they experience the same astonishment that these simple, obvious errors just keep occurring! Besides, if you're rolling your eyes, you're probably one of the ones who listen; those of you who aren't; this post's for you! Go forth and submit!

That all being proselytized, here's the excerpt from my Future Imperfect series' last book: Final Deceit:

"Dispatch, can you hear me?" Charlie's voice rang through the command center hushed
and sounding odd as if something stunned him.
"That's affirmative, Chief."
"Okay, I want some type of... I don't know... conveyor belt or something rigged up."
"I want something that can carry something… horizontal out."
"Sir, I'm not sure I understand. You want some way to bring something out of the crater?"
"Let me talk to him!" John Long yanked the earpiece out of the dispatcher's ear and
pressed the talk key. "Charlie, I want you to get the hell up here now! This is completely
uncalled for -- you are wasting the city's money by putting yourself in unnecessary danger and I
won't stand for it! What the hell do you want to bring up from this catastrophe?"
A long silence hung in the air.
"My homicide detective, Gavin McAllister," Charlie said, voice cracking. "I'm not going
to have him dragged up there like a side of beef. Now, you rig me up something that will carry
him up with some dignity, if you still know what that is, John."
No one spoke. It was one thing to think about cops dying in the line of duty; it was quite
another to see the body. Everyone in the command center looked at one another for a long, long
moment and then the dispatcher picked up a mobile microphone.
"That is affirmative, sir."
No one bothered to look at the mayor.


Vamchoir said...

Natasha ~ Why don't you hire an editor and self publish? The way I saw it ... with all that soliciting required to find an agent, then an editor, then the ridiculous work involved in negotiating contracts ... well ... I could put all that energy toward marketing my book instead. Even if a publisher does pick you up you're still gonna have to do all your own marketing and then? It might take the publisher three years to get around to finally releasing your book. You and I could DIE before then.

That's just how I was feeling when I decided to self publish.

~ Tami

Natasha Larry said...

Tami, I'm actually signed with a royalty paying E-publisher, Penumbra Publishing. I decided not to self-publish because I'm horrible at editing and my current editor is a godsend, my manuscript would still be crap without her. But, I am learning for her sake with the subsequent novels.

Oh, and I didn't post this, one of the blog authors did, P.I. Barrington: a very talented author who posts every Monday! =)

Melissa Bradley said...

Great advice and something every writer should read up on every now and then. Even though we should know this, we often forget in the hustle and bustle of trying to get our manuscript out there. Thanks for the reminder and now I need to get out there and start following more agents and editors.

Bradley Convissar said...

I never considered going right to a publisher... what do the hell I know about negotiations? I considered looking for an agent since they generally handle the negotiations and set up book signings and that kind of stuff. I imagine there is a comfort level working with an agent. But from what I understand, you still need to do a lot of marketing by yourself.

Now here's the catch... if you get published by a big publisher, your e-book will cost $10. Say Amazon takes their 30%, that leaves you with $7. Then the PUBLISHER, who has actually done relatively little for you (except provide you with an editor and cover art, which you can hire yourself all told for $2000-$2500, and some marketing)takes at least 50% of that, leaving you with about $3.50. If you sell it independently, you can charge $3-$4 and make $2-$3 per book. It may be a little less, but if you're a relatively unknown author, people will be much more willing to pay $3 for your book instead of $10. You may get less per book, but you may sell a lot more because you are charging 1/3 the price.

Of course, print is a whole different matter, so I won't go there. But there are a lot of smaller publishers out there that can get your name out there for minimal cash.

Since I was published in Suspense Magazine, I was considering using them to publish my first real book. They charge between $1000-$2000 I believe, and then take 20% after Amazon takes their 30%, but they will get your name out to the people who, in this case, read suspense and horror.

P.I. Barrington said...

First of all, thanks for the comments everyone! I appreciate it so much!!Actually I was addressing the Twitter posts of agents and editors on the most obvious submission mistakes that authors STILL make even when editors/agents give them the the basic do's and don't's. I am continually amazed that authors still do these things with the wealth of information out there on how to do EVERYTHING from query letters to contracts.
Also Bradley, you do not need a negotiator unless you are signed with a massive publisher. Most smaller presses use standard contracts.
As for going directly to a publisher, that's what I and a lot of authors do and have done. It's relatively painless and they are very open to new authors. You probably need to get a few more shorts published just for the experience and resume'. That is exactly what I did although my publisherd was not as concerned with my background. She is also a royalty paying epubber.
You do do most of the promo stuff just because the smaller, ebook pubs don't have the money to do so. I am currently entertaining the idea of self publishing for the exact reasons you give. I wouldn't count out a smaller press nor self publishing. Both have worked for authors.
And Melissa thanks for your comments as well!

Bradley Convissar said...

So let me ask you a question... what are the advantages to signing with a small publisher? Do they provide an editor? Cover design? Marketing? What are you getting in exchange for giving up a certain percentage of royalty? Obviously, large publishing houses take your book, edit it, format it for whatever their needs are, have a cover designed, publish it, and maybe do some marketing. What does a small publisher do for you?

Natasha Larry said...

I can't speak for all of them, put my publisher provides an editor, cover art, formatting, sends out review copies, and helps with marketing. They also meet with book sellers, on a much smaller scale, obviously because they don't have the corporate backing of the big guns.

P.I. Barrington said...

My publisher like Natasha's is a royalty paying epub house and provides Editor (usually Editor In Chief with a staff of under editors now since it's grown fast!), cover artist (partner in company) and sends out to like four review sites. We are expected to do almost all our own marketing and publicity which can be exhausting at times, worth it in investing in your work (over 1/2 online promotion is FREE)as well as a major confidence booster when you get a glowing review! The royalities are based on how many books you sell, which can be miniscule at times.
A small publisher does many things for you: they teach you how to go through edits and revisions that you need to understand and experience if you go to a major later; you learn how a cover is created for your book and how to communicate w/the artist via "Cover Art Input Sheet" (I just did a blog on this last week?) and that sounds easy, it is really not; most importantly, they give you credence. An agent is more likely to look seriously at your work/submission if you have an history of publication as will a major pub house. Do not expect a million dollars overnight. You are building a brand and that takes time and mucho effort just like anything else. Basically, you're cutting your teeth with smaller publishers in terms of learning what you need to know about publishing to be able to approach the majors either agent or editor. While it is more difficult to have an ebook as opposed to a print book which is a physical object & is easier to use, I in no way regret going with a small publisher.

P.I. Barrington said...

Oh and DUH everyone, my latest short story (like Bradley!)is in the April Issue of Suspense Magazine!! It's entitled The Cougar's Tale and it's the first story in the mag on page 3! See Bradley, this is lesson one of doing your own PR--announce announce announce! LOL!

Bradley Convissar said...

Now let me ask you one more question... do you feel that if you published independently, paid for editing and artwork yourself, and were able to price your books for less, like around $3, the lower price would eventually bring in more readers? You may have to to pay more out of pocket for the services a publisher would provide, and each book may bring you $2 instead of $4 (less than that I guess, though I don't know how much the publisher takes after Amazon and other distributor take their cut), but would a cheaper price give you more exposure to more readers who may be wary about paying more than $3? Just curious about your opinion

Natasha Larry said...

My publisher prices e-books at 2.99, I think (while I can't be certain) for this very reason.