Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Writing 101 - Publishing

The question I probably get asked the most is why I self published and if it was difficult.

For me, the reasons were simple. But for you, the choice between self publishing or going through a publishing house may be much more complicated.

Self publishing used to have much more of a stigma surrounding it. It was generally believed that self published authors couldn't make it through the big publishers and had to be substandard. Because if nobody wanted to publish them, their work had to suck, right?

This isn't the case anymore. Many self published authors have made it big and even got as far as movie deals. (The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini and the Spud books by John van de Ruit are good examples)

I personally believe it's a question of personal preference. Just as I don't like books in the first person, you may not like books in the third person. And that's why you'll probably love some self published books that I just won't. It's just not right or fair to decide beforehand that self published books are below par with the rest of them.

But let's start with working with a publishing house.

There's a lot of merit to this path. Your books will be professionally edited, your cover design will be by people who make covers for a living and your book will be spread far and wide. The publishers will handle the publicity, so you'll have one less thing to worry about. And your agent will try to get you the best deal possible, because their commission depends on your book doing great.

Speaking of that deal. You'll either be paid a lump sum for the novel up front and then lose all rights to it, or you'll keep the rights and be paid in royalties. The lump sum will depend on the publisher, but it can be a lot of cash. Problem is, if it should happen that your book goes big and there is movie deals and merchandise because of it, you won't see a cent, because you sold your rights to it.

The royalties option is more complicated. Some publishers will hold you accountable for some of the expenses up front. AKA, you'll need to pay for whatever part of the editing, printing and distributing process beforehand, which can amount to a lot of money. Other publishers will carry the expenses themselves and just subtract your share of the cost from your royalties. So your book could be selling millions of copies and you won't see any of the profit until your debt to the publishing house is paid off. Some will pay you more royalties and others less, this can start at around 30%, but it can also be less if you're a first time author. The bigger name author you are obviously, the more you'll get out of the deal.

Of course, this all depends on your publisher, agent and the deal you manage to broker.

Agents take anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of your royalties. Again, this depends on the agent and what their services include.

Do some research about all of this before you just sign up for something. There are really informative sites all over the internet where you can find out more.

Why is the agent important? Well, very few of the big publishing houses accept unsolicited work. This means no agent, no accepting of your manuscript. Of course this isn't true for every genre of work. If you write, say, a Mills and Boon style novel, you'll be able to send your work in without an agent more often. But other genres have other rules.

The manuscript itself is another thing to consider. Those houses that do accept unsolicited work have very set rules about the layout, font and amount of pages / words they accept. Some houses only want the first three to five chapters or about 50 to 100 pages. Others will accept complete manuscripts. The same can be said for the format in which you send it. Some houses want the complete, printed work, others will accept digital copies, though those who do take digital copies seem to be getting less, because people spam them. Their websites usually have the exact specifications by which they work.

After you've sent in your work / your agent has sent it, the waiting begins. This time depends on the publisher, as does everything else, but is usually between 6-8 weeks. If they like it, they'll contact you. If they don't there is a chance you may not hear from them. Not all publishers come back to unsuccessful candidates.

The editing, layout and cover design are often in the publisher's hands completely. The author seldom has say about how it should look, except, once again, when they're bigger name authors.

When you self publish on the other hand, there is no one to get you a deal, to help you with publicity or layout. Sure, you can pay people to help you with these things, but you're still in charge of it at the end of the day. Which means you'll be paying for everything personally, but you'll also be getting back 100% of the revenue.

The route I took was publishing through Amazon. It's painless and completely free. Since I designed my own cover and maps, and did my own layout design, I didn't have to commission anyone else at any point of the process. My editors of both novels are freelance, and I had family and friends proofread.

Why didn't I work with a publishing house? Well, there are a few reasons. A lot of people in South Africa read fantasy and sci-fi, but not a lot of them write it. So there aren't a lot of resources or services available to people like me here. Also, the brunt of our local publishing houses don't accept work in my genre. Those few who do, won't distribute the books worldwide. I couldn't send in my manuscript to most international publishers, because I don't have an agent and, in many cases, because I'm not a US citizen.

There were a lot of reasons why I chose Amazon.

* It's easy for one. With the click of a few buttons, you can upload your entire novel.
* It's free. They do offer services to aid you in basically every aspect of creating your book in both printed and soft cover format, but these are optional.
* The books are available across the globe. I have people in Japan who have downloaded Exile Queen. That seems almost impossible to me.
* People who have read it can instantly like and review on Amazon's page. They can share my books on social media.
* I can see all of my statistics directly on the Amazon page too.
* Revenue is paid into my account (once it's built up enough)
* They handle the taxes etc on my behalf.

For me, self publishing was the most obvious route to take. And I'm seriously not even a little sorry I did it.

It is a lot of work. I'm in charge of every little aspect of getting the novels promoted and seen by people. But there's also something satisfying in doing it. You can see the sales pick up when you actually promote the book. I gave away EQ free a lot of times. Over 1000 copies have been downloaded on promotions. But the great thing of doing that is that I could see Song of War's sales start off much quicker than EQ's had, because those people who have downloaded book one, wanted to buy book two. Hopefully, book three will do well too.

I also love the creative process of promoting! I'm working with Rita-Mari from Good lookin' on getting book trailers made. A friend of mine, Lizanne, who is a freelance composer and muso, is working on putting one of the songs from SOW to music. I mean, an original song for a book trailer! O_O That's amazing! And because I did it all in my own way, I can continue to do that.

I really hope you can take something from this post. Whatever you decide to do, just do a lot of research beforehand. The internet is an amazing place, where you can learn all kinds of awesome things without too much effort. So learn. Read up and make sure whatever choice you make will suit you.

Yolandie

Friday, 7 November 2014

Writing 101 - Research

Research is more important than you imagine. Especially if you plan to write something.

No matter if your world is magic-oriented, people want to read things that make sense. In my browser history, you'll find everything from how long it takes a corpse to decompose, to how blunderbusses worked and the parts of medieval armour.

I wrote a scene where one of my characters teaches another to shoot an arrow from a bow, which meant heaps of research. Your larger demographic probably won't know all out every subject you write. But there will be those who do understand the inner workings of it. And while you'll probably never be 100% accurate with everything you write, as long as you have the base down, it'll be OK.

Why is this important?

Well, you DO want your story to be believable, don't you?

Included in research, I like to throw in things like character sheets and maps.

You want to know your characters before you begin. Their flaws are important too. You want to map out beforehand how they're prone to react, what they like, love and hate, how you plan to have them grow and what they should achieve. Important here is also their physical appearance. Make sure to write it down and consult it when you describe a character. This will prevent them from looking one way the first time you encounter them, and a different way the next.

Maps. You need them. This will help you plan the route your characters travel, if they travel. It's great when you can add a scale to it. It'll help you know your world, plan out where you want big things to happen and work on distances. This may sound stupid, but distance is fairly important, especially when characters will travel.

If you can work out that it takes a group of fit people about a day's march on foot to complete 20 km's, you can calculate how long a journey of 500 km will take, for example. Then you can accurately say how much time passed on their journey, throw in some days for battle, subtract some when they get to horses etc.

The point is this, especially while you're planning, but also while you're writing, you need to research everything you can. If you know what you're talking about, your book will be much more believable.

Happy writing!

Yolandie