Tag Archives: Jane Friedman

Path to Self-Publication

The Hematite Horses

Prior to applying to an MFA in Creative Writing program, a certain university to which I was looking to apply required that I submit an artistic resume, one that showcased my creative credentials, of which I had few. In an effort to give myself some “street cred” as a writer, I decided to self-publish an e-book. I had written a young adult science fiction novel, The Hematite Horses, and undergone an extensive workshop process, and many revisions and edits along with it, during my undergrad studies. I took it off the proverbial shelf, wiped off the proverbial dust, and went to work to get it self-published.

Even if your manuscript has been peer reviewed, revised, and edited numerous times, the main additional role an author takes on when they chose to self-publish is that of the owner of a publishing business. Your business will only make money if you successfully publish your book as a quality product for sale, then market your product so that readers find it, and then hopefully the readers will buy your product.

In the publishing stage, you need to research and finalize the title of your book. Then it would be a good idea to find a professional editor to catch everything your classmates missed, and then work through revising all the suggested edits until you have a final version of your book. Next, plan your cover by writing a creative brief, and then it is probably best to hire out the cover design of your book or figure out a DIY option if you are good at that sort of artistic endeavor. Write the book description and back cover copy. Write your author bio, dedication, and acknowledgments. Then you need to create an EPUB or MOBI file, which is what I did when I decided to use Lulu Press’s free service for conversion, publishing, and distribution of my novel. Lulu Press is listed as number nine on Editage.com’s article “Top 10 Self-Publishing Companies: A 2018 Guide for First-Time Authors.” Due to time constraints, I went with a stock cover and did not get one professionally done or even DIY designed. At the time, I wanted to be published more that I wanted to attract buyers with a professional and/or flashy cover.

In the marketing stage, Lulu Press also provided me with an ISBN and helped me determine my price point for sale. I researched and determined my sales categories, keywords/tags, and upload my final version e-book file to Lulu. They sent my book to Amazon, iBook, and a number of other retailers and distributors I ticked off on their list. A few weeks later I got an email that my e-book had been approved and could now be found on Amazon. I created a log in with Amazon and created my Author page.

For me, marketing to promote my book to generate sales is the hardest part for which an author takes responsibility when they decide to self-publish. You need an author’s website, and you really need to participate in social media, join into the writing community, and gain a following. You need to collect endorsements, and you need to advertise your book anyway you can. I chose to just tell family and a few friends about the availability of my book on Amazon and iBook, and I did not do any other advertising. I sold five copies and honestly, I was thrilled. I set up a PayPal account and collected my royalties. I updated my artistic resume to say that I was now a self-published author.

This time around, if I decide to embark on the self-publishing journey for my thesis novel, now that I am enrolled in an MFA program and have contact with a writing community, I would look to that community and our shared resources to provide me a referral to locating editors and designers that I can trust. Also, it is a good idea to go to a professional editing organization, such as the Editors’ Association of Canada, to look for a professional editor as I live in Canada.

The cost of editing will honestly depend on what level of editing you (or the editor you have contacted) decide you need. According to Corina Koch Mcleod and Carla Douglas’s web article, “4 Levels of Editing Explained: Which Service Does Your Book Need?” the four levels of editing are the Big-Picture Edit, which covers developmental, structural, and substantive editing. The Paragraph-Level Edit, which covers stylistic and line editing. The Sentence-Level edit, also called copyediting, which covers grammar, usage and consistency issues. And the Word-Level Edit, also called proofreading, which addresses typos, repeated words, spelling, punctuation and formatting issues. Ultimately, what I need will depend on my strengths as a writer, how much self-editing I am able to do, and, add in the advantage of being in an MFA program, how much workshopping my manuscript will have undergone. However, in an MFA program, the expectation will be that paragraph-level, sentence-level, and word-level editing will have already been done, leaving the workshop process to look at developmental, structural, and substantive editing.

Mary Cole’s web article, “How Much Does an Editor Cost,” estimates pricing anywhere from $.01 to $.02 per word for proofreading, for which a 100,000-word manuscript would cost $100 to $200, all the way up to $.12 per word for developmental editing, ($1200). And then there would be a revision rate to look at it again after you have made all your edits.

Jane Friedman’s web article, “The Self-Publishing Checklist: Editorial, Production, and Distribution,” says sending your work out to an editor could take two to four weeks, and then you should allow three months to complete the edits before your publication date. Of course, prior to any or all of this, you should have completed your own revision process, which may or may not take almost half as long as it took to write your book in the first place. Scary thought, but in my experience, it is true. It took me about nine months to write one of my novels, and then I spent almost four disciplined months scheduling and forcing myself to read through the whole thing and make my own first edits and revisions. Of course, this pace was my own, based on working full-time and writing part-time. Every writer is going to have to learn to set and gauge their own pace.

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If I Was Going to Try and Get an Agent


The Other Grace (1)

A little more than a decade ago, when I completed my first young adult science fiction novel, I faced pressure from family and friends to “get it published.” In terms of what a statement like that really meant, I did not know even the first step to publishing, nor did the people suggesting it. And I had no one to ask. In Jane Friedman’s web article, “Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published,” she states, “It’s easy to take validation from family and friends as a sign you ought to write and publish. Has your family encouraged you? Have your friends told you that you’re a brilliant writer? Do your children love your stories? While you need support, you also need to ignore what these people are telling you. They’re not publishing professionals. You need to write because you can’t do anything else. Because you would suffer if you didn’t. Your motivation to write has to come from within.” Jane mentions that family and friends may be encouraging you to write and publish, but then aptly points out they are not publishing professionals.   Back then, I decided that I did not want to publish at all, and instead I wanted to fulfill a life long desire to get into the field of teaching. In 2017, in anticipation of applying to an MFA program, I self-published an eBook of that first novel.

My love of writing has been life long, therefore my short-term goal is to continue to pursue the pleasure of writing my current work in progress, which has become my thesis novel. Additionally, I have a short-term goal of designing a cover using Canva for my self-published eBook and republish the new version as a second edition. My long-term goal is to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with an Online Teaching of Writing Certificate.

A sizable component of my MFA program includes finally answering the question of how one goes about getting published, including the possibility of getting a literary agent. My Thesis novel, The Other Grace, combines elements of contemporary women’s fiction with science fiction. Because the best comparison title to my thesis novel is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the fact that Wikipedia reports that as a first-time author Audrey had trouble finding a literary agent, I first considered using the independent publisher who accepted her manuscript unsolicited. However, Publishers Weekly reports that MacAdam/Cage filed for bankruptcy in 2014. Perhaps an agent is a better idea.

Even if currently my publishing preferences lean towards self-publishing, my foray into which was motivated by the desire to simply see my works in electronic print and not by expecting a certain number of book sales, SFWA’s web article “How to Find a (Real!) Literary Agent,” by A.C. Crispin, includes an enlightening section entitled, “Agents—When Do you Need One?” I believe a first-time author can find success with a smaller, more personal agency, although when it comes to selecting an agent in which to send a synopsis and query letter, Crispin mentions sub-genres. He suggests trying to narrow down your search for comparison titles to the type of novel you’ve written, and look for the publisher, imprint, and author’s notes or acknowledgement section to see if the author thanks his or her literary agent. I believe my novel is best described as a genre blend, but more research is needed. It is possible that a reputable literary agent mentioned in a comp title to my novel would know which publisher would be the best fit for my blend, giving me a better chance of acceptance for publication. Additionally, if I did decide to pursue the traditional publishing route, I would be looking for an agent with the marketing and promotional know-how that I lack.

Writers are expected to wear many hats far beyond just the work of writing these days. As a writer, I expect to be involved with a certain amount of self-promotion and connection with my audience via social media, for example. And I am completely comfortable communicating via email. Thankfully, I am not desperate to get published, as I have satisfied the desire “to be in print” with my self-published eBook. Self-publishing has taught me that organic sales (other than to the family and friends that were nagging you to publish in the first place) do not happen automatically without promotion. If a writer can successfully query an agent, and that agent can sell your work to an established publisher, I believe traditional publishing is a path to having your marketing and promotion done by professionals, leading to the successful launch of your novel.


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Blog or Newsletter, You Do You Boo Boo

I love to talk (blog), so I am going to tell you about the difference between sending out newsletters and just blogging.  Is there a difference?  Yes.  Does there have to be a difference?  In my opinion, no.

This week, two author newsletters hit my email inbox.  The first one was from Kirsten Oliphant from her website Create If Writing.  To be honest, I follow and read a lot of blogs, but I have not wanted to read anything called a “newsletter” before now.  At first I did not understand what I was reading.  The title of the email was “Should You Ditch Mailchimp,” but the body of the email did not contain the answer to the title.  After reading Jane Friedman’s article, “What Should You Put in Your Email Newsletter,” I understand now that Kirsten was distributing a kind of email newsletter that Jane describes as “Category 2: Teaser to a Blog Post.  This is an email that lets readers know a new blog post (or content elsewhere) has been published.”  Personally, I do not like this approach, because it means I have to hope my reader followers read enough of the newsletter so that they find where to click the link to actually go read my blog post content elsewhere.  Whereas a blog post automatically goes to a subscribers’ inbox, without having to write a separate newsletter to attempt to entice them to click to go “elsewhere.”  There is no extra link somewhere in the email newsletter for them to find, instead, the title is enabled as a direct link to my blogging website.  My content is right there in the email if they do not want to click anything at all.  Just like tweeting interesting commentary regularly will gain followers, blogging often about interesting things will gain followers.  Therefore, I prefer to cut out the newsletter “middle man.”  If my blog post title is provocative, as it should be, then I do not need to tease (and maybe annoy) my reader followers with a newsletter.

The second author newsletter to hit my inbox was actually from a blog I had subscribed to last year.  At some point over this last year, this author had obviously been encouraged to change their blog to a website and send out newsletters instead of blog posts.  Sadly, her website is now a mess, with no clear home landing page, and no way to find her recent blog posts.  Her website no longer contains what I love about blogs in general, a clear way to follow her story.  I want to know what has happened in her life leading up to her sending out her newsletter/blog post rant entitled “Marketing Sucks.”  I really sympathized with some of the points she was making in the email newsletter I received, but sadly, it appears that she has not been able to glean what works for her, and what does not work for her, from all the advice for new authors she is getting.

In the nineties, blogs started out as online journals.  They were personal, could be chronologically followed so that the reader felt ‘up to date’ with the author’s personal narrative or story at all times, and they also could be highly informative with the sharing of information.  However, if the blog topics were not of interest, the reader would simply lose interest.  In addition to Category 2: Teaser, Jane Friedman has this to say about the cons of Category 4: Personal, “Can take time to write. If not compelling or well written, people aren’t compelled to read.”  Blogging (or tweeting, or Instagram Stories, or YouTube videos, find whatever works for you) is just one of the ways to get an author’s personal narrative in front of their readers, who, in theory, turn into fans and buy their books.

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