Archive for the Self-publishing Category

More on Self-Publishing: Chapter PLEASEFORTHELOVEOFGOD, EDIT!

Posted in Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , on May 27, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

The other day I wrote a post called “The Self-Publishing Myth”. For those interested, it can be found here. It turned out to be quite a  popular post, which of course made me happy. That said, when I re-read it to myself I realized that I accidentally downplayed something pretty important — editing.

Here’s the insidious thing about self-publishing — anyone can do it. Now I’m all for inclusion and caring about my fellow humans and supporting dreams and all that rot. I really, truly am. But just because you can self-publish, doesn’t mean you should. At least not right away. And I very much hope that my previous post didn’t give you the impression that self-publishing is an easy-in to trade publishing, because it’s not. Whether your story is in manuscript form or book form, no agent is going to be at all interested in shoddy work. In fact, a shoddy manuscript might get a once-over if you’re lucky, but a shoddy self-published book? Not a chance.

When I’m asked how long it took to write Dr. Fixit, I always give an answer that surprises people: It took me about six months to write the story… and three years to edit it. And even now, the finished version has small, aggravating mistakes that I am still finding (which is why I would love to work with a professional editor, hint, hint). Most of my editing was storyline-based, as I’ve been diligently working on planning ahead for a while now to avoid sticky knots of oxi-morons and redundancies, so three years of editing is a bit long. That said, you still need to go over your entire manuscript at least four times yourself, then give it to others to help you find mistakes you’re too close (or cross-eyed by then), to see. Then go over it again. And, for good measure, again. Editing alone should take a minimum of six months of part-time work, or three months of full-time. And that’s the minimum.

There are far too many people out there who believe that editing is only for editors. “Why should I waste time fixing my work when an editor should do it for me?” is a very average complaint amongst the unpublished masses. Well, from one “unpublished” writer to my fellows, here’s why — because the job of an editor is not to take your rough draft and turn it into a best-seller. The job of an editor is to work with you to polish and sell the manuscript you have already perfected as much as you possibly can. This is your work. Nobody is going to see what you see in it until you make them see. You can describe a grand painting all you want, but don’t expect someone else to paint it and give you all the credit for the idea.

Also, if you’re still in the querying stage, whether you’re self-published or not, don’t do this. Just… don’t.

Writing is a profession. Be a professional. That is all.

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The Self-Publishing Myth

Posted in Publication, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , , on May 22, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

gavin-self-publishing

Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest here: There is one myth going around about self-publishing vs. trade-publishing that I am tired of reading. Seriously tired of it. So today I am going to give it to you straight:

No, self-publishing a book is NOT an automatic death-knell for any writer who wants to be trade published.

Yet AbsoluteWrite is still insisting that it is to anyone who asks, and most of the writers asking are brand-new to the game, so they willingly believe it. A large majority of established authors will also agree to this assertion if you ask them, and there are plenty of blogs and articles out there that continue to agree.

Now, this is mostly because it used to be true. I’ll freely admit that. But if you still believe this, you haven’t been paying attention at all. And if you are perpetuating it, you’re going down the wrong road… the road to the past.

I recently posted about an agency that has my full… for Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine. Yes, THAT Dr. Fixit. The one that’s been self-published and which I am selling right now. So what did I do? Did I conveniently leave that fact out of my query letter? Did I lie and tell them it wasn’t published? Did I somehow find a portal to a parallel universe where agencies don’t care about that? Is the agency even legit?

In short: kind of, no, no, and yes.

The original query to this agency did not mention my manuscript being self-published… because it wasn’t yet. Between the time I queried and received an answer, I made a gut-decision to self-publish for many reasons, none of which were easy. Then I got this full request, and was faced with a decision: ignore it and keep going with my own thing since it was obvious they wouldn’t want it anymore after finding out anyway, send the full without even mentioning the publishing (and attempt to erase all traces of its publication from the interwebs… yeah… sure), or… tell the truth.

I never once even considered the second option, but I’ll admit I thought long and hard about the first (except I wasn’t going to ignore it — that would be rude — I was going to write to them and apologize for self-publishing at least). Like so many other unpublished writers out there, I had done my share of research about self-publishing and found the same line spoken over and over again: “if you want to be really published, don’t do it yourself”. I knew from countless forums, blogs, and writing events, that no agent worth anything would ever ask for a manuscript that’s been self-published (unless it’s sold HUGE numbers anyway).

But this wasn’t just any agency. This was a major agency. In fact, it’s the tip-top of my choices. It’s so prestigious that I only queried them on the off-chance that maybe they’d say no to me nicely. Seriously. It was a crap-shoot.

And then they requested a full.

In the end, what choice did I even have? And what did I really have to lose? I sent the full, along with a short message that it had since been self-published.

Less than a week later I got a short reply, thanking me for letting them know, and telling me they were looking forward to reading it and would get back to me with their thoughts asap.

I. Was. FLOORED.

In one very short email, everything I knew about self-publishing vs. trade was obliterated. They still wanted to look at it? How? WHY? I was happy, for sure! But I was also very confused. How could all of those writers and other publishing professionals be wrong?

That night, I Googled for all I was worth. Here’s what I found:

According to Forbes, more and more literary agents are opening their doors to self-published writers. More and more authors, too, are finding a new way of querying by self-publishing. And PBS reports that some agents are even taking on self-published authors as their consultants.

These are only a few examples of the up-and-coming change in attitude, but you get the idea. Are all agents willing to look at a self-published book? No, of course not. But some are, and that number is growing. As it is with everything else digital, from e-mail queries, to e-book publishing, to online platform building, the savviest agents are changing with the times. Self-publishing might not be the wave of the future for all books (and in fact I don’t want it to be — there are still far too many self-published writers who don’t know the difference between editing and a blank page), but it is becoming a phenomenon that the trade publishing world can no longer ignore.

I don’t know yet what the verdict is for Dr. Fixit, but the agency has had it for seven weeks and counting now, since that initial confirmation e-mail. The website says that they reply within eight weeks, so I haven’t nudged, and I’m not planning to. At least not right now. Am I nervous? Duh. Are some days so long with the waiting that they feel like they’ll never end? Sure. But one thing every writer worth that title has to learn is patience.

Or, at least the semblance of it. 😉

One thing is for certain, though: when I hear back from them, I’ll let you know. Whether it’s a rejection, an R&R, or (holy grail of holies), an offer, I’ll post it. And you will be impressed by this agency. They have undeniable clout. And they don’t care that my book has been self-published.

Let that sink in a bit, then do your own research. Listen to your gut. Edit, edit, EDIT. Then make the choice that’s right for YOU. The future offers more forks in the road to publication than we have ever seen before. Maybe yours is a new way, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.

I’m Gonna be on the Radio! (Take Two… er… Three!)

Posted in Books, Family, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

Spokast-Logo-Generic

Some of you may remember way back when I was a guest on Miraj’s Metaphysical Madness, talking about my middle grade kids’ fantasy series “The Elementals”, and its first book, Song of Spirit (which is now available to read online. ;-)). Then I got to guest on the morning show I grew up listening to (“The Breakfast Boys” on ZZU, which is now called “Dave, Ken and Molly in the Morning”), talking about my middle grade science fiction book, Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine. And that was so great, even if I can’t give you a fancy link to that particular archive, seeing as it doesn’t exist (poo).

Well it’s happening again! I swear, I never thought I’d be writing a blog inviting you to listen to my THIRD radio interview. I’m giddy!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

*Ahem*

ANYway, so this time it’s a local podcast called SPOKAST. Just like Miraj’s Metaphysical Madness, SPOKAST is online! So you can listen no matter where you are. MAN I love technology (sometimes). Anyway, so here’s the pertinent info already:

Live Stream: http://spokast.podbean.com/2013/05/16/036-hey-kids-jessi-the-writer/

From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Spokast?fref=ts

You can always return to those links to listen to the archive at any time.  And, as always, thank you for your amazing support!

My Top Five Reasons for Self-Publishing

Posted in Publication, Publishing, Self-publishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on February 21, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

There seems to be a general attitude among many (read: not all), in the professional writing community that those authors who self-publish are “giving up”, “lazy”, or simply “not talented enough to make it in the real publishing world”. Miraculously, none of these reasons came into play when I made my particular decision on the matter, and this got me thinking: what if these scoffing writers  are just misinformed?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am well aware there are many self-published books out there that make us all look bad, and self-publishing certainly doesn’t automatically turn a writer into a Newberry-Award-winning-genius. That said, there are some very compelling, legitimate, and yes, even professional reasons why serious writers are taking their publication into their own hands these days. I can’t speak for everyone, but for this SCBWI member and Master’s student of literature and writing who has been putting pen to paper for over two decades, I can assure you that my own reasons were quite  sound:

5) People wanted my book. 

Not a million people, of course, but I did have fans who were sad to find that not only couldn’t they read my next book, I couldn’t even tell them when it would be possible to do so.

This is not good for one’s career.

Anyone who has had any kind of experience in this field knows that it’s not easy to accumulate initial readership, so the very last thing you want to do when you gain readers is to alienate them. Can we say death-knell?

Of course, not everyone has readers beyond their family and friends (who will usually understand if it takes some time), and even I don’t have quite a large enough fanbase for that to be the one and only reason I chose to self-publish…

4) I wanted my book.

I’m not going to pretend here. I wanted my book. I wanted to hold it, feel it, and yes, smell it. Maybe it’s not the most professional reason on my list, but there you have it. I, too, am human.

3) Having a paper-and-ink book is a great way to advertise.

Blog tours are a blast… as long as you have a book to promote. Similarly, talking to bookstores about doing a reading is a lot easier when you actually have a  book to read from. When you’re a writer, you really need physical proof of your art. Poets have chapbooks. Journalists have magazine articles.

I’m a novelist. I need a novel.

Still, I have self-published before. So why did I have to do it again?

2) Three and a half years of work deserves closure.

“Guts and Glory” was awakened in me as I was falling asleep one night in 2008. Since then, I have written five versions of the same story,  had countless scenes critiqued and criticized, had the whole thing workshopped, received advice and compliments from two New York editors and their readers, and edited and revised so much that it’s made me dizzy (literally, at times).

I have also been rejected by agents and editors. A lot.

Now,  I know this is all part of being a writer. I’m not at all complaining — it’s to be expected, and I had years before “Guts and Glory” of the same. You kind of get used to it… mostly. However, I came to the conclusion that the story I worked so hard on for so long would never see the light of day if I didn’t do something about it… and after all that hard work, I wasn’t about to just let it die.

That may sound like quitter talk to you, but remember — I’m a professional. That means that I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. The fact of the matter is…

1) The Market Rules All

In the end, this is the number one reason I chose to self-publish. Above wanting to see my book in print, above rejection and hard work and hope, I had to self-publish because the market wasn’t going to allow my book to be read any other way.  How do I know this?

Simple: the industry told me.

See, when you get nice, personalized rejections from agents and editors, it’s usually a good sign that you’re headed in the right direction. Just a little more tweaking, a bit more editing, and your masterpiece will be accepted! But my personalized rejections were a little different. Comments like, “this is a phenomenal story, but we can’t accept it at this time”, and “I absolutely love your voice and energy, but this story isn’t for me”, mixed in with sometimes paragraphs-long replies of the same, told me that my problem wasn’t the story. It wasn’t my voice, or my characters, or any other in-text reason a writer gets rejected. Everyone loved all of that. So why was there a problem?

I turned to some of my published writer friends, who confirmed my worst fear — the 2013-14 market was already flooded with dystopian science fiction.

My book, if accepted by a publisher, wouldn’t be out until 2014-2015 at the earliest. They thought my story was awesome. They felt that my characters were great. But by the time a trade publisher got to it, nobody would care anymore. That is a problem that only has two solutions: give up over three years of hard work and dedication… or get it out now, when the genre is still hot, all by myself.

As you can see, it really wasn’t a choice at all.

As I said, I can’t speak for all self-published writers. But for me, it was neither an easy choice, nor a rash one. As for future series? You bet I’m going right back to querying and editing.

After all, I haven’t reached my personal goal yet. Someday, I will write for Scholastic. 😉

Overhaulin’

Posted in Books, Publication, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , , , on November 10, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

So, you may have noticed a few changes going on around here. Don’t worry. It’s just a bit of site overhauling I’ve been doing in order to streamline my dual publishing careers.

I will continue to self-publish some titles under Morgan Marshall, including “The Elementals” series. But for “Guts and Glory” and any future trade publishing work I want to do, I will be using my real name of Jessica Rising.  For now, I have changed the site to reflect the Jessica Rising brand in order to better present myself and my work to agents and editors. The site will continue to change as my career on both sides progresses, depending on editor feedback, trade advertising, and independent sales, among other things. It is possible I will have to split it entirely, depending on how things go. I am willing to do so, if need be, but for now I believe this is still a good medium in which to discuss and promote both.

I don’t know exactly where my career will take me, but I am thankful you are all here for the ride, too! Thank you for your wonderful support!

“Song of Spirit” is Now Available!

Posted in Books, Family, Fantasy, Kids, Middle Grade, Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

Okay, so I jumped the gun a bit and got Song of Spirit published before Monday. Hey, what can I say? I’m excited!

Click here to buy your copy!

Right now, only the paperback edition is available, but the Kindle edition will be available tomorrow (it’s currently in review). I’ll be buying some copies for promotional purposes (and for my kids, who are excited to have their book(s) finally published), soon. For now, you can buy your own copy, then come back and tell me what you think! For those of you who don’t want to just buy a book blindly (and I don’t blame you), you can find a synopsis of the story and more information here.

EEE! This was so much fun! I’m thrilled that there are four more books in this series to do this with! Woohoo!

Rethinking Everything or Critique Hell 101

Posted in Books, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , , on December 1, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Note: Please read all the way through this blog before deciding that I’m a whiny emo kid in a 34-year-old woman’s body and should never, ever be a writer. Thanks. 😉

I have recently returned to the wonderful forums at AbsoluteWrite, where writers of all kinds go for support, laughter, encouragement and critiques. Just the other day I finally reached fifty posts, the magical number which a member must have in order to post their work for critique. Unlike many writers, I was not at all concerned about posting my work. After all, I’ve been very good about receiving constructive criticism for a long time now. In fact, I wanted it so that I could make my book even better. I welcomed it. I was excited.

But then I got what I asked for.

Now, I expected specific comments on certain areas: pace, dialogue, syntax, etc. Things I could go in and fix fairly easily. I even expected people to be somewhat confused, and, in fact, hoped they would be so I would know what needed more explaining and/or what I forgot to mention because I’m too close to the story. What I didn’t expect, however, was to be told I needed to change things integral to the story, such as making Trevor and Tabitha older, or making Tabitha younger than Trevor (“twins are confusing unless one is a mute”), or that the twins weren’t worried enough / there wasn’t enough tension / there wasn’t enough action. The latter issues I have been concerned about f0r a while and was very proud of upping the ante of in my latest chapters (which were the ones I posted). And lastly, they said not to make it a series… not… to… make… it… a… series…

AAAAHHHHH! I can”t make the twins older! That would ruin everything! Kids and Teens are at war in Nil, and the twins are supposed to be KIDS! And I suck at writing for teens! It always feels too immature or too mature no matter what I do!This isn’t YA for Pete’s sake! And I have to make them twins. I mean, they are twins! They told me that from the very beginning! Heck, everyone at the conference I went to in September said that twins was a great idea, even one that they liked the most! As for my tension, well damnit! I already jacked it up tenfold! What do you people want from me? And-it-has-to-be-a-series-because-there’s-too-freeking-much-to-pack-into-one-book-and-that-would-bore-me-to-tears-because-I. Only. WRITE. SERIES!

AAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that, my friends, is what we call a total critique breakdown.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly quiet about it either. While I didn’t scream and yell at my gracious critters, I did ask a few too many questions in a little too much of a defensive tone. (And for that, AbWrite fellows, I apologize… and have… profusely.) I can say I was tired or stressed or moody, and that would all be true, but knowing that, I should have also known better than to go over critiques in that frame of mind.

Now, a couple of days, a few more hours of sleep, and a gallon of Yerba Mate later, I can sit back and think about these critiques in a much more productive light, and as the gifts that they are.

And I can remind myself that I don’t have to take all of the advice I am given, either.

So what about making Trevor and Tabitha a little older? Is twelve really that old? Would it, in fact, possibly add to the tension of the story to have them be so close to turning Teen? And is it true, as my wonderful critter said, that middle grade readers would much rather read about a 12-year-old than a 10-year-old? Things to ponder…

And what about the twin thing? Nah… I think I’ll pass on that particular suggestion. Especially as it was given by only one critter.

And what about my tension? I feel I have upped the ante, but apparently not enough. Unfortunately, this issue is one I can’t fix alone as I myself can’t see it. I’ll need some help with it, and so I will ask of the critters who mentioned it, graciously and in the least defensive way I can (and in PM), how they feel would best raise the tension. This one might take a while… I’m almost certain it’s the whisper of a ghost that’s been haunting me since I started writing, one that says something is wrong but I can’t figure it out. Maybe this is the beginning of finally capturing the ghost.

Finally, I can’t make my entire series into one story. I have worked too hard and planned too much to do that. But what I can do is let The Crows’ Nest stand alone. My current ending gets close to that —  each book is already planned to be its own story-within-the-story — but the cliffhanger is a little too series-ish. I can pull back on that and sell the book to a publisher as one title. And if I believe in it as much as I need to, then this won’t harm the series at all. In fact, Book 1 will pave the way of interest for the rest!

And they did say nice things which I buried under my hurt at first: “it’s interesting”, “it’s exciting”, “it’s different and unique”, “I would keep reading”… Not to mention my current wonderful readers who love the first edition! I can’t forget you!

All this rambling about my own issues is to say, no matter how far along you are in your writing career, no matter how hard you work and how thick your skin grows, there will always be days where it feels best just to give up and walk away.

Never do that. You are a writer. You must write. No matter what.

And now I’m off to edit and make my already wonderful book a masterpiece… all thanks to a few wonderful critters who took the time out to backhand my ego. 😉

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