Archive for Publishing

Not Enough: Four Reasons why I Can’t be Satisfied with Self-Publication.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on September 27, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

“Why waste your time and energy on querying when you can self-publish?”

It’s a question I’ve grown used to over the years as I’ve posted on Facebook about my querying adventures… which always end in seemingly-obligatory rejection.  Because they love me, fellow writers, family, and friends all want to know the same thing:

“Why do this to yourself?” they ask. “It’s the digital age! You don’t have to deal with agents and publishers anymore!”

Actually, yes: I do. But it’s not always easy to explain why. After all, many writers have found great success in self-publishing, and it’s no longer a huge no-no even among the well-read.

Heck, I actually have self-published, even writing quite a few blog posts about my adventures. In fact, my self-publishing career has spanned longer than most know, as my very first self-publication came out way back in 1998: a story called The Veiling Society, which I wrote as a sophomore in high school (and — warning — reads like it). When print on demand came out, I was shocked and ecstatic, and jumped on the opportunity to show my stuff with Song of Spirit, and of course the “Guts & Glory” books.

But over the years I’ve found I have a few problems with the whole thing that I cannot shake. Maybe others have felt the same, I don’t know. But with so many asking the question, I feel the answer needs to be given in a detailed, rational way. So here goes: four reasons why I can’t be satisfied with self-publication.

1) I SUCK at Sales

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

Seriously. I couldn’t sell a glass of water in the desert. (I’d end up giving it away; people need to drink!) For this reason, my sales have never been anywhere near where they need to be in order for me to write full-time, and that is my goal. More than that, it’s my life’s dream. In order to make that work in self-publishing, I’d have to have a completely different personality — one that can sell — and I simply don’t.

There is one other way to sell enough books to make it viable — write a lot of them. The problem I have with that, to be perfectly blunt, is it’s simply not quality writing if I’m throwing out books every week like a machine. And I can’t put my name on something I’m not proud of.

2) I Write Kids’ Books

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

QUICK — think of a well-known children’s author whose stories are self-published.

Got nothing? Yeah, me too.

Most of the fellow writers who ask me about self-publication have one other thing in common: they write for adults and/or teenagers. And when it comes to publishing, their world is very different than my own.

Most self-published authors promote their work through social media and/or blogging. They can also go on small book tours, book groups and/or conventions where they can talk to their readers about the stories they both love.

My audience is a BIT harder to reach.

Children don’t read blogs, and while I can reach them through conventions, with a full-time job that has nothing to do with my writing, I honestly don’t have the money or time available to do as many as it would take to really get my name out there. Online, kids spend most of their time either on hugely corporate (AKA Disney) or educational websites, both of which are monitored and trusted by parents — and like Fort Knox to small-beans writers like me.

In order to reach my particular audience the way I need to, I have to have my books in libraries and schools.

School districts don’t trust self-published books (and as an educator myself I don’t blame them; there’s no regulation whatsoever and therefore no guarantee that the books are quality or even appropriate) and they don’t invite self-published authors to school visits, which are a huge source of revenue and promotion for kidlit authors. Unless one knows a librarian, public libraries aren’t much better.

In other words, if you write for kids, you’d better have a skeleton key of great magnitude in order to break through all of the doors between you and your readers. More often than not, that key is a big-five publisher.

3) I Still Need to Pay the Bills

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

I’m about to say something antithesis to many artists — including writers:

Money matters.

And self-publishing doesn’t make most people much money at all.

Now, I’m not talking about making billions of dollars. While that would be nice, it’s not really a huge item on my list. But what I DO want is to write… while keeping my electricity on. To write… while feeding my kids. To write… preferably under a roof of some kind.

Many of the writers who ask me about self-publishing are self-supporting. They either make enough from their books to pay the bills, are married to someone who pays the bills, or are content with writing on the side while they… pay the bills. I could go into this subject in an entirely different blog post, and maybe I will sometime, but for now I’ll leave it at this: in the end, I still need to pay the bills.

4) It’s Simply Not My Goal

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

When people ask me how long I’ve been writing, I honestly can’t tell them. Writing for my whole life is impossible, of course, but for as long as I can remember I’ve told stories, and for almost that long I’ve dreamed of a career in writing.

Not a hobby. Not a small business. A career.

For me, that means book tours and big name publishers. Children all over the world reading and talking about my books. And my biggest bucket list item: a Newberry Award.

Self-publishing has taught me a lot, and certainly by way of conventions opened up a wider gate into the publishing world than I had access to before, but it’s not my end goal. It never has been.

To be honest, it simply will never be good enough for me.

My goals have not changed: Scholastic or Penguin publication. Newberry Award-winner before I die. I have wanted these things for as long as I can remember. I still want them. I don’t see that ever changing.

I hope this helps, and that those of you who choose to self-publish aren’t offended. Some people are happy self-publishing. There are a lot of pros to it, for sure. It’s just not for me. How about you?

Finally! A Simple Synopsis Generator!

Posted in Literature, Publication, Publishing, Writing with tags , , , on October 16, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

We’ve all struggled with it — the dreaded synopsis. I, personally, have such trouble with them because I tend to make my plots too complicated. Erm… well… convoluted is probably a better word.

ANYway, so most of you know I teach college composition. In the advanced comp class, I teach Toulmin’s Model of Argumentation. It’s a fill-in-the-blank, simple way to form a simple academic argument that’s easy to defend with reputable sources. I taught it last night for the millionth time, and on my way home from class I started to think: what if Toulmin’s Model was implemented for a fiction plot instead of an academic argument?

It’s now 6:30 AM, and after a full night of work, I have a synopsis generator that has worked, in the most simple form, for every story plot I’ve thrown at it… including my own. You can choose between a character-driven or plot-driven story. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!


I’m pretty happy with my own results… even if it doesn’t really resemble Toulmin anymore. 🙂

Click Here to Download: PlotGenerator2015

The 2015 International Science Fiction Convention, Update Numero Uno

Posted in book signings, Books, Comics, Fantasy, Fiction, kidlit, Literature, Publication, Publishing, Sci-Fi, scifi conventions, Spokane, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

You know what Worldcon is, right? That obscure science fiction con where the Hugo Awards are presented? You know, the Academy Award for Science fiction that writers like Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin and Arthur C. Clarke have won, among others? Oh, you HAVE heard of it?

Awesome, because it’s coming to MY hometown.

Spokane, Washington isn’t exactly the hub of Western Society. We’re not even the hut. Spokane is, honestly, much more like the Bermuda Triangle of Washington State. People heading to Seattle on the bus wonder if they’ve been abducted by aliens when they find themselves on a layover in Spokane. When I was a kid visiting Jacksonville, Florida and people asked me where I was from because I didn’t have a southern accent, their first thought upon hearing my answer was that I knew the president.

“No, Washington STATE,” I’d inevitably say.
“OH! Seattle!”
“Oh… what’s it like to live on a farm?”

And yet, thanks to a series of very fortunate events, Spokane won the prestigious 2015 bid to host the biggest science fiction convention in the world.


I’m not going to actually STATE that this was a gift from God dropped directly into my lap, but it certainly feels like it.

It’s like the middle of nowhere was suddenly invaded by the first aliens ever, and I’m that yokel with so much potential and zero opportunity… until the face suckers come and I get to be a REAL hero.

All that is to say, I’m going to be at Sasquan: the 2015 International Science Fiction Convention in Spokane in August. I’ll be hosting things as the Spocon head of Literature, speaking on panels, and reading and signing books just like a real boy! Erm… writer. And I’d sure love to see you there. I’ll update as things progress.

Wheeeee! Go Sasquan 2015!

My Top Five Surprises about Signing with a Publisher

Posted in Publishing, Writing with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by Jessica Crichton

Trade publication.

It’s the Holy Grail of career advancement for many writers. I’ve personally dreamed of it for as long as I can remember. While most little girls around me where playing out their future princess wedding, I imagined my published masterpieces in bookstores, libraries, and homes all over the world. I chased that dream through elementary, middle school, high school, marriage, motherhood, college, divorce, remarriage, and graduate school.

And now — after more than three decades — my lifelong passion has finally come true.

When you dream of something your entire life, you generally bounce back and forth between two highly conflicting thought processes. On one hand, my hopes could soar higher than the moon. I imagined myself as a super-star author, my books beloved my millions, spending the rest of my life cozy with my royalties, free to do nothing but write forever. On the other hand, I tried to keep myself grounded. I researched formal manuscript format, query packages, publishers, agents, and the publishing industry as a whole. I knew from a very young age that trade publication would not happen fast or easily — and that it most likely wouldn’t be lucrative enough for a full-time career — but I was persistent. Even if it didn’t happen today, it would someday. That was enough.

When someday finally came on April 16th, 2014, the reality was somewhere in-between my fantasies and my logic… and all of it was a surprise. For example I learned that…

5)  Publication isn’t Scripted

I knew exactly how it would go. My careful research had told me the steps:

  • Query an agent
  • Get a full manuscript request
  • Send the full manuscript
  • Get a contract
  • Get a publisher
  • Become a rockstar writer

Not so much.

This may still very well be how many writers step into trade publication. Not me. My steps turned out to be a bit more… wobbly:

  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Repeat for a few dozen years
  • Query
  • Get a partial request
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a full request
  • Wait with baited breath for six months
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Query
  • Get a rejection
  • Rant on Facebook about how frustrating it all is
  • Get a PM from a mysterious fellow writer, suggesting you query their publisher
  • Shrug
  • Query
  • Get a full request
  • Sent the full manuscript
  • Get a contract offer back, along with a confession of headhunting all along on Facebook

A publisher. Headhunting. Me? I’d never even considered that! Of course, when something like that happens, the first sane response is cynicism. I didn’t enter into my contracts lightly. I did my research. Predators and Editors said they were legit. AbsoluteWrite said they were legit. Their current authors (with whom they got me in contact just for this purpose), said they were legit. I was floored!

This was not how I expected to make my dream come true, but it didn’t dim my joy in the least when I signed those contracts and sent them back. Finally, all my hard work was paying off! Little did I know that…

4) It Doesn’t Get any Easier

I didn’t expect that I would be rolling in money; I’ve been in the biz — albeit the far side — for too long to be that silly. However, I DID think that at least most of the work was behind me. Like most modern writers, my first publication was self-wrought. With self-publishing comes the arduous task of marketing your own books. At least, it’s arduous to me. I love speaking and signing at cons, but travel is often very difficult for various reasons. As for blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc., I would honestly much rather just be writing my fiction than promoting it. But I did it, because my work is important to me. Now, with a publisher to do that for me, I was sure I’d finally be free.

Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, my publisher certainly promotes my work. Every time I Google Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine I find new websites where Second Wind has placed it, much to my delight. (I’ll admit sometimes I even squeal like a little girl.) But in this day and age of e-books, blogs, and author websites, the author is expected to do more self-promotion than ever before. My job isn’t finished when I send my manuscript off, it just changes from one who creates to one who promotes that creation.

I’m still not too great at that end of things but I think I’m getting better. Time will tell. For now, I’m still chugging along because my writing is still one of the most important things in my life. Well, when I say chugging along I really mean trudging. You see…

3) It Feels Even Longer than it Takes

Everyone who has studied the publishing industry even a little bit knows that for us, a minute is more like a day, an hour is like a month, and a month can be years. I’ve known this for a very long time, first by way of research then with querying experience. I know that publishing a book can take more than a year from manuscript to shelf. I wasn’t expecting overnight success. Still, I did think I’d be in regular contact with my publisher in order to know what was going on while I waited.

Not so much.

As a professional, it’s expected that I can keep a schedule and make deadlines without someone holding my hand. Can I email or text my publisher if I have questions? Of course. Does he email and text me every day to keep me updated on my own progress even while handling the careers of all my fellow Second Winders?


Months can go by when I hear nothing, then one day an email might come discussing a million details that have come up during that time, then nothing again for another long stretch. This can make a long wait feel even longer. But that’s really okay in the end, because…

2) It’s Never About the Present

I’m thrilled that Dr. Fixit is officially published for the first time ever. I’m ecstatic that Zombies is undergoing its own transformation as I type. I’m chugging away to complete Numbots and finally finish the trilogy as my very first truly published work.

Still, as far as I’m concerned, the “Guts and Glory” books are all but complete.

When you work in a slow industry like publishing (even self-publishing and e-books are slow; if they’re not, you’re doing it wrong), you have to learn to live in the future. Living in the past is never a good idea for anyone, as various memes, sage advice, and mothers everywhere have told us over and over again. It stunts growth, steals hope, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure you’ve heard it all, as I have. But living in the present isn’t much better when you’re a writer. It can seriously  make you go mad waiting and wondering and hoping, not to mention the fact that if you’re worrying about a present manuscript, you’re not writing the next one.

And that’s what I’m doing now; writing the next one.

Blight is my new YA book which I am very excited about. I’ll tell you much more about it as time goes by, I’m sure. Writing it helps me not think so much about the progress of “Guts and Glory” but it won’t be ready for querying for at least a few months, let alone publication. I’m looking at the future with my new story, just as my publisher is with “Guts and Glory”. This is a very good thing, because…

1) It’s Not a Single Great Leap into Dreamland

Okay, I’ll admit, I’ve dreamed of it often.

THE moment.

That shining beacon of victory, when everything comes together, when my rockstar agent signs me with a major publisher from the Big Six, and my work becomes a New York Times Bestseller. Then, and only then, will I be a real boy — I mean writer — at last.

I still dream of it. It’s the winning lottery numbers, the Holy Grail, the moment of release.

And it’s probably never going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from a defeatist. In fact, my sisters will tell you I can be unrealistically optimistic at times. (Okay. pretty much all the time.) But I have learned in my three decades of writing that it’s a series of baby steps, not one great leap, that will take me to the success I dream of. I took those baby steps up to this point — reading, writing, studying, querying and self-publishing — and I have only taken one more now with my small press publication.

Who knows what the next baby step will be? Might there come a moment when I can’t breathe from the amazement of what has happened in my career? Maybe. For now, though, I’m looking to the future, waiting on the present, working very hard, and expecting the unexpected.

Because in the end, all that really matters is my stories themselves. Everything else will come in its own time.

Introducing: Generationlism Literary Theory for Children’s Books!

Posted in Books, Kid Lit Reviews, kidlit, Literature, Reading, Scholarly, Writing with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

After two years of stress-ball work, my master’s thesis is finally APPROVED!

And the heavens and the earth weep with joy. Cue angelic choir…

Anyway, as promised, I have posted my master’s thesis introducing literary theory here as a static page. To read it, just click here. My hope is that this new theory will bring the prestige and honor to children’s literature that it deserves. Please feel free to share and use this theory!

And now, on to The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc!

Cover Reveal: “Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine”!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 24, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

After working for almost three days (and nights) straight, I have just finished a revamping for the cover of Dr. Fixit. Before I pass out for a few days, I wanted to share it with you! Please let me know what you think!


Oh, and when I wake up, I’ll get right back to work on The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc!

Jessi’s Five Simpl(ified) Steps to Signing with a Big-Name Publishing House

Posted in Publishing, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on May 30, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

I’m at the end of my eight-week wait to hear back from the uber-awesome-this-could-change-my-life agency about Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine. Monday will mark the first day I can nudge them according to their website, and each day that goes by has my gut in a tighter vice, as they could literally answer any moment.

If you’ve been there you know that right about now, my sanity is about to implode.

So to try and distract myself from the inbox, I’m writing a quick guide to trade publishing for new writers. If you’re wondering about self-publishing (AKA independent publishing), I’ve written a bit  about that, too. Just click here. 😉

And now, without further ado…

Jessi’s Five Simpl(ified) Steps to Signing  with a Big-Name Publishing House

  1. Write a book.
    Just that. You have an idea for a story? Then write it. That’s really all there is to it for now. Spend as much time as you need to get that story down. Period.
  2. Edit the book.
    Edit. Please edit. Pretty-please edit. Agents and publishers all over will thank you. Plus, without this step there’s really no point in going any further. Trust me on this.
  3. Write a Query Letter.
    This is a query. This is NOT a query. Don’t get them mixed-up.
  4. Send the Query Letter.
    Bur first, research the agents. Make sure they actually want to read what you wrote, and learn how they want to read it. Then, and only then, send them your query letter.
  5. Wait.
    This is pretty much the entirety of writing. Especially at first. Learn to wait.
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