Publishing: Where Art joins Business

by Carolyn O’Neal

UPDATE:  Celebrate Earth Day with KINGSLEY!  

 

Enter for the chance to win a copy, shipped to your doorstep, for FREE.

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https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/182002-kingsley

 

 

 

Writing a novel is a long, meandering journey, more akin to kayaking  unexplored waterways than jetting to a known destination. Carolyn Kayaking Writing KINGSLEY took years.

Plot and character.

Revising and editing.

Critiquing chapters with my writing groups and sifting through their suggestions.

 

A thoroughly enjoyable adventure from start to finish.

That was writing.

Publishing is a very different adventure.

Publishing is where art and business join …  and I knew I needed help.

Let me back up a bit.  It was clear from the first time I met Bethany Carlson that she was a rare talent.  Not only did she have the rich imagination of an author but she also had a practical head for business.  I remember one writing group meeting several years ago in which I prophetically told her she should go into publishing.  That’s why I take partial credit for the success of her company, The Artist’s Partner.

The Artist’s Partner is a coach for artists becoming entrepreneurs. We provide crowdfunding consulting, and have helped artists raise over $90,000 for their creative projects through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

We work with arts companies and non-profits, authors, musicians, filmmakers, theater production companies, crafts persons, and other artists who seek to raise funds to professionally produce and distribute their own work.

 

One of her first Kickstarter campaigns was for  Bob Perry’s biography Bowling for the Mob.  Not only was his Kickstarter campaign a stunning success –  complete with a professionally produced video to entice backers – but his book, now renamed Redemption Alley, How I Lived To Bowl Another Frame – was  picked up by Rodale Books!

I had seen Bethany’s work ethic and her insightfulness.  I had seen her honesty, her deep patience, and her eternal optimism.  These were the qualities I needed if I intended to go from private writer to public author.  When I felt ready to publish KINGSLEY, I contacted Bethany.

Bethany Joy Carlson

Bethany Joy Carlson

First thing she did was establish a clear timeline.

Bethany guided me through how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.  We discussed the intense prep work needed, then blocked out the time  for editing and cover design, and then we set a target date for proofing the final drafts, distributing the books to my Kickstarter backers, and finally, publication.

As I began prepping for the campaign, Bethany set up a meeting with local director Michael Duni to shoot my promotional video.

My Kickstarter campaign ran one month, raised over $5000, and presold close to 100 copies.  Even more important, the campaign spread the word and built excitement.

KINGSLEY was coming!

Bethany put me in contact with Graphic Artist Mayapriya  Long of Bookwrights  to discuss the cover.  Honestly, that may have been the best part of the entire process.  Here are a few of the iterations…

Cover design

 

 

 

 

KINGSLEY is available on Amazon.com

Final cover for KINGSLEY. Now available on Amazon.com

She contacted copy editor Betsy Ballenger for the final review and then, KINGSLEY hit the presses!

The launch party for KINGSLEY was held on November 8, 2015 at Over the Moon Bookstore.Over THe moon Logo

It was a huge success and a wonderful experience!  Here are some fun photos from the launch:

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Submission Services from a Writer’s POV, Part 1

You know how it’s hard enough to find time to write, not to mention time to research your best-fit agents, journals, or magazines? Author submission services make a living by performing some of the research and administrative work for you. There are several resources about author submission services, including some helpful warnings about particularly scammy situations. This post is not about those topics. Instead this is Part 1 of 2 about submission services from an individual writer’s POV. I’m working with Writer’s Relief, est. 1994, but this is not meant to be an endorsement.

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

If you want the quick take-away, it’s this: I haven’t convinced myself that this is the magical path to publishing because, well, it’s not. But I am feeling renewed motivation knowing that some other professionals are involved in helping me navigate the crowded and constantly changing publishing world. I’m also using the experience to further develop how I market and communicate about my work. Now for lessons I’m gathering about Writer’s Relief, Q&A style:

1. How did you learn about Writer’s Relief and decide to submit? Several months ago, I heard that a co-worker’s wife used Writer’s Relief services for her poetry, and is pleased with the results.

  • TIP: If you’re considering author services, look for a testimonials page on the website. Writer’s Relief posts a range of feedback—from dripping enthusiasm to a pretty bland “I got an agent, so I guess you could say they helped me.” This honest representation of what different clients thought helped convince me of their sincerity. I also liked Writer’s Relief because they have a review process: they don’t accept all writing that authors submit, only work they think they has a reasonable chance of moving to the publication phase.

2. How did you become a client? When I visited their website in July or August 2013, I learned that Writer’s Relief was reviewing essays, poetry, and novel/memoir. My memoir wasn’t done, so I decided to submit three chapters adapted from my memoir into essay form. I don’t recommend this approach, because after 2 weeks, I received this reply:

Thank you for sending your work for our review process. Unfortunately, we are not able to invite you to join our Full Service client list. Because we do not charge a fee for Review Board consideration of your work, we cannot offer you specific critique. That said, we do invite you to send different or revised material in two months.

I then wrote to inquire about what this meant–was 2 months all I needed to become a polished author? (No.) I learned that they review material in 2-month cycles, officially. Which means any writer at any level can submit as often as every two months. But then:

3. What did you learn that’s not on the website? In early November, I noticed their official “deadline” to have work reviewed had passed on Oct 16. But when I emailed, I learned from Daniele:

Or next open call is in December. But if you’re ready now, we are still accepting new clients on a very limited basis. We’re not advertising this anymore, but we are allowing people to submit when they stumble upon our site. So, if you’d like to send your work along, I’ll be glad to have your submission read for you within the next week!

This perception of exceptionality—I assume calculated to make me feel special—nonetheless motivated me to prep my work for submission, this time in its proper genre of memoir. I submitted these elements:

– First 15 pages of book (required)
– Proposal (required but left open), which I interpreted as a 170-word author bio, 4-page synopsis, outline of chapters, and 3 pages about the market titled “Who will read this book and why”
– Mini ~150-word book synopsis (required)
– Short answers to several questions, including “What do you hope to achieve by working with Writer’s Relief?” (required)
– Sample query letter (optional)

Going through this submission process was valuable by itself. If I want to be a published author, I should be able to easily come up with all this.

4. How long did it take to have your work reviewed? I was impressed at the turnaround both times I submitted. The first round, the unsuccessful essays, took less than two weeks: from submission on Aug 13 to the form letter reply on Aug 26. The second round, the successful memoir, took less than a month: from submission on Nov 9 to an acceptance email on Dec 5.

5. What happened after your work was accepted? What does it cost? On Dec 11, I received a paper packet with a thorough description of a “Full Service” option. In the fine print and through a phone call, I learned that there are actually three price points:

  • Option 1, Full Service: they research agents and appropriate publications, prep your query (or write it for you), send you submission materials that you then mail out yourself*, and track your replies from agents, I presume on a fancy Excel-style spreadsheet. This costs a $250 administrative fee plus a first-time cycle fee around $400, plus a regular 2-month cycle fee around $300 –the exact amount depends on your genre, and books are the priciest. If you want to take a cycle off, it still costs $150 in case agents reply during that off-cycle.
    *This is because agents don’t want a middleman to deal with on top of the thousands of author emails and queries they handle. The fact I’m responsible for my own queries led me to choose the next option:
  • Option 2, A la Carte, Research + Query: This is the option I chose, for $250. They research 25 agents that are likely to be interested in my work, and they also write the query letter. This option still required an extensive additional set of materials from me, including:
    – One-sentence book description, e.g.: Anna, a young scientist, transforms the way she approaches life when a mysterious acne condition and a fear of Accutane lead her to seek the help of a local acupuncturist.
    – A list of genre and topic descriptors; they provide the list, you select the ones that fit
    – the region, religion if any, and demographics of characters in the book
    – Previous publication credits
  • Option 3, A la Carte, Research Only: For $150 I get the list of 25 agent names that they’ve researched.

I’m currently awaiting the agent list and query letter. Even though I have a query letter that I like, I’m eager to see what people who have seen and written tons of query letters will write.

Look for Part 2 in 4 months or so, after I’ve queried the first round of agents I get from Writer’s Relief. And keep writing…that’s what I’ll be doing with the time I’m not spending on research.

– C. E. Cameron

The Stories We Tell

I loved to make up stories when I was a kid. It seemed a simple, easy thing to do, back then. As I grew up, I stopped writing stories. Later, I committed to other art forms, and when I wrote sentences, I wrote nonfiction, not stories. Not long ago, I began again. I dared myself to try making up stories, by signing up for classes at WriterHouse.

Since then, I have slowly gotten more competent through practice, practice, and practice. My writer group, BACCA Literary, is one reason why. We first met, in fact, in a fiction class at WriterHouse.

This writer group has provided me with a monthly deadline for producing – well, something. We’ve been sharing work with one another for at least thirty months. I’ve emailed a Word document out to the others by the late-Friday deadline, every darn month. Well, there was one exception, when my family life was too chaotic, a couple of years ago. So let’s say I’ve been sharing work for at least 29 months and leave it at that.

Good Enough?

Sure, I recognize that I haven’t always sent my best work to the other three writers in the group. “Best” is relative, measured on a sliding scale. Over time, I raised my standards for what’s good enough to send out to the writer group members. After I allocated more time each month to work on writing, I became dissatisfied with my earlier stories. Now I can predict with confidence that the stories I am pleased with now will one day look a little shabby to me.

Your Best doesn't always look the same

Your Best doesn’t always look the same

Meanwhile, I have become less able to turn off the inner voice whispering, “Go ahead. Send something out and see if it gets published.” It was easy the first couple of years to hush that voice. I knew my work wasn’t ready to travel beyond the writer group.

For new-ish writers like me, hushing that voice gets trickier over time. We want to believe we’re improving. We want to believe there’s going to be an audience one day, however small or particularly quirky that audience may reveal itself to be. We want to nourish the creative spirit that energizes our whole enterprise. We want to begin to send work out to people – strangers – not in our writer group. I considered how to start.

The P-Word

To prepare to send work out into the world, I set up a spreadsheet to track my efforts to get published. Then I let the spreadsheet sit for quite a while, untouched. Later on, I added a tab to my spreadsheet with key facts on the publications that most appealed to me – things like deadlines, formatting preferences, lag time before they decide what to publish, method of submission, categories they favor, contact information, etc. The enhanced spreadsheet sat again, for a long break. More recently, I actually sent a few things out and made entries into the spreadsheet. I’ve heard back with two rejections, which I dutifully entered into the appropriate cells. I’m waiting for replies from the others.

I hesitated to send out my work until I felt satisfied enough with it that it didn’t feel too embarrassing. I chose carefully the places I sent those first few submissions – not too grandiose, and yet consistent with who I am as a writer.

And that just begs the questions, doesn’t it?

Questions

Who am I, as a writer, and why am I doing this? Author Dan Holloway, in his recent essay, What Do You Want from Your Writing in 2014 and Beyond? at Jane Friedman’s blog, says:

“If you don’t know what you want from your writing, what on earth are you doing writing anything? How can you possibly tell whether your words do what you want them to?”

It’s actually not that hard a question. It rests on a more fundamental one. Why do you write?”

Please don’t tell me the answer is “I make art because I must.” To me, that feels lazy and self-aggrandizing in a “poor-me,” humblebrag kind of way. Besides it ignores free will.

the words, Why Write?

Oh. THAT question.

I could tell you I write because I’ve engaged with the challenge to improve my work. The challenge is difficult enough always to involve real effort, yet rewarding enough, because of the progress I am making, to continue to motivate me to get better at it.

I could tell you I write because my life with music was altered when hand surgery made playing instruments too difficult. I could tell you I write because I’ve grown old enough to take a longer and more loving view of life. I could tell you that there’s plenty to love about writing for its own sake. Polishing a story can make my day, even when no one else has seen it yet.

Also, the most fun I’ve had with my writing lately was when some visiting non-literary friends asked me to read them a piece after I cooked them dinner. That was a blast. My fellow BACCA-ite, Claire Elizabeth Cameron, touched on this recently when she wrote,

“People are doing work for free, work for fun, work for creativity all over the place, and it’s making this world a better place. Success [in writing] is making a connection.”

So why am I writing? To get better at it. To see how much I can improve. To see if my embarrassment-meter gives me the green light to send out stories to more publications. To see if I receive a green light in return. And, in the meantime, to keep telling stories.

#amwriting

A M Carley

A M Carley is a co-founder of BACCA Literary. She owns and operates Chenille Books where she works with nonfiction authors.