Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The First View...




Finally we get to see the cover design. Not at all bad... and, they actually got the author name correct. (On the Amazon page they have the author title as "David Mace.")

Unfortunately, there is another established author in the UK, named "David Mace," who writes S.F. Novels.

As I said previously... no-one said this authoring game was going to be easy!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

8. A little extra something... because I can't be assed to edit the previous post.


Just stumbled on an extra Fantasy Sub-genre... are you ready for this? Are you really ready for a new Buzz-word?
OK... you asked for it...

WAINSCOT FANTASY.
Wainscot is a term used in fantasy fiction to describe societies that are concealed... (hidden in the wainscoting) and secretly working in the real world. It was first coined by The Encyclopedia of Fantasy in 1997.
For an accurate definition of "wainscoting"... look here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panelling

Such concealed societies typically have a special insight into the mechanics of the world, such as an understanding of magical forces or knowledge of supernatural beings.
Wainscot societies may seek to hide this information from outsiders, or they may be disbelieved due to ignorance, conspiracies, or because people choose not to believe in their existence.
The over-riding feature of wainscot fiction is that it does not take place in fantasy realms only accessible via some kind of magical portal (e.g. Narnia). Wainscot fantasy involves hidden parts of the familiar, mundane world.

Typical examples include:

The Harry Potter series. by J.K. Rowling. (Now reclassified from "Contemporary Fantasy.")
The Borrowers. by Mary Norton.
The Carpet People. by Terry Pratchett.
Power of Three. by Diana Wynne Jones.

Now, hopefully, you have all you need to know to choose which genre your baby falls into.





7. What's a Genre?... Am I Heroic... or Hack n' Slash?

OK, reader:

If all this hasn't popped your bubble; It's time to decide which type of Fantasy you intend to write... or have written; and study the different types of Fantasy which are all lumped together under the somewhat insipid noun: "Genre." This is important information which should be decided before the first paragraph is even written.

Fantasy afficionados have an overwhelming desire to pigeon-hole fantasy subjects into specific sub-genre categories. Why?... I haven't a clue; but it's a fact of life, and you'd better be damn sure your masterpiece is targeting the correct niche audience.

Just to confuse the issue a little more; there is yet another category: Cross-genre... (Also known as Hybrid.) These include:
"Romantic Fantasy" where the romance is most important; and "Fantasy Romance" where the fantasy elements are most important.

(As you can see from the two examples above; it really isn't rocket-science... just common sense.)

Then, of course; there is:
"Science Fantasy;" which is either a science fiction story that has progressed far enough from reality to "feel" like a fantasy: or a fantasy story that is attempting to be science fiction. This can be broken down further into: Fantastic Science Fiction or Scientific Fantasy.

OK; Confused as to what your masterpiece is? Here are the main sub-genres:

ACTION/ADVENTURE.
A rip-roaring, fast-paced story with lots of action as the main character faces a series of difficult challenges. It will often, involves a CHASE or a QUEST. Adventure is more important than the struggle between good and evil; and there's not much in the way of world building.

ALTERNATE HISTORY.
A believable historical fiction where something happens... or does not happen; resulting in a totally different outcome. It might include fantastic elements, or be wholly unrealistic, except for the end result ; e.g: Germany crushed Britain in World War II, due to Occult intervention, and won the war.

ALTERNATE/PARALLEL WORLD.
The central characters are transported from this world to another, where magic works and other fantastic elements are present.

ARTHURIAN.
Stories about King Arthur, Merlin, Knights of the Round Table. (Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley; Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff are good examples.)

CHRISTIAN FANTASY.
Fantasy with a Christian theme or focus. ( Lilith by George MacDonald; and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are examples.)

COMIC.
Stories that poke fun at typical fantasy conventions.

CONTEMPORARY OR MODERN FANTASY.
Fantasy story set in our world in contemporary times, often in an urban environment, but may be anywhere. Can be humorous or an adventure story. May also be dark or urban (see below.) JK Rowling's "Harry Potter" series is a "Hybrid"... (see above)... within this sub-genre.

DARK FANTASY.
Since horror has negative associations/connotations, some authors and publishers prefer this phrase instead. Often, the horror here is not as horrible as that found under the horror category. Stephen King is considered by many, to be a dark fantasy author.

EPIC FANTASY.
Also sometimes called HIGH FANTASY or HEROIC FANTASY. Fantasy stories of heroes in imaginary lands with complicated world building, many characters, and focussing on the battle between Good and some Enormous Evil. The hero usually has unusual and perhaps, unsuspected strength, but it takes time for this to be revealed. Often, the hero is involved in some sort of quest. Tolkien's Lord of The Rings is the model for all of this sub-genre. Popular with readers, several authors have written and continue to write these works. Many are derivative. Robert Jordan is perhaps, the best known current writer in this category. It is the most popular part of the whole Fantasy genre.

(My novel: "A Bright, and Shining Land" falls firmly into this sub-genre.)...

(One more Shameless, Self-publicity plug... but, why the hell not? It's my Blog!)

But, I digress...

FAIRY TALES.
Stories based upon folk or fairy tales, normally European; but, not always. A novel based on a retelling of the tale of Beauty and the Beast would be a good example.

HEROIC. (Sometimes called SWORD AND SORCERY; but, see entry below.)
Traditional fantasy stories focusing on a hero who overcomes all. Beowulf could fit into this sub-genre. Typically, it contains less world building and more action/adventure. Note that the boundaries between different fantasy categories are often very fuzzy.

HISTORICAL.
The story takes place in a reasonably accurate rendition of a real time and place, but with the addition of magical elements.

HUMOROUS FANTASY.
Fantastic story with notable humorous elements, often satirical comment on society and manners. May also be called LIGHT FANTASY. Terry Pratchett is the best known current author. Robert Asprin is another.

LEGENDARY FANTASY.
Fantasy story based upon legend, myth, or folk tale.

MAGIC REALISM.
Fantasy stories where the laws of magic receive considerable attention. These laws impact how magic is practiced and the results of that practice

MILITARY FANTASY.
Fantasy story focused on war and warfare, often in a medieval setting. Here, warfare with its strategy and tactic is a primary element rather than being part of the story.

MAGIC.
Magic may be good or evil. It usually requires special abilities from birth, and rigorous training. SORCERY is usually evil and blood-thirsty.

MYSTERY FANTASY.
Fantasy built upon suspense and a mystery. For example, the detective might be a person in a world where crimes are committed via magic.

PARANORMAL FANTASY.
Fantasy story with emphasis on mind over body power such as telepathy, telekinesis, shape shifting, and immortality. Some of these stories may be better placed in the horror or dark fantasy category. Werewolf and Vampire stories are well-known examples.

RELIGIOUS FANTASY.
Fantasy story built upon religion or religious practices. This may include conflict between gods or characters who are members of a religious order.

ROMANCE FANTASY.
Fantasy story using many of the elements and conventions of the romance genre. Here the romance is more central to the plot than the fantastic elements.

SAGA, MYTH, LEGEND.
Fantasy story based on myths, legends, and sagas, usually European. Examples might include stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood as well as Greek and Roman Mythology.

SEXY FANTASY.
Fantasy stories that include explicit sexual scenes similar to those found in romance novels but involving fantastic characters and situations. Laurell K. Hamilton is a well-known author. Sometimes, these are called "Hot and Dark Romantic Fantasies."

SWORD AND SORCERY. (Sometimes called "Hack n' Slash.")
Fantasy story with a hero or heroine, usually darker and more brutal than the HEROIC FANTASY. The hero excels at swordplay and uses a variety of weapons with unusual skill. The hero faces sorcery and triumphs because of strength of will and unusual good fortune. The setting is usually medieval with limited science and technology. Howard's Conan the Barbarian is the archetype. A fast paced plot with underdeveloped characters is typical. Often rooted in the pulp fiction conventions of the 1930s. Lacks the "serious purpose" of HEROIC FANTASY.

TALKING ANIMALS.
Fantasy story limited to animals who act like humans; or with talking animals... (who may communicate telepathically)... playing a major role. Watership Down, about the rabbit civilization, is a classic example.

URBAN FANTASY.
Gritty, often dark stories set in an intensely urban environment where contemporary ordinary people do what they do, but fantastic creatures are there as well. Vampires are popular in this sub-genre.

So; that just about covers the sub-genre minefield. Your masterpiece may fit seamlessly into a specific pigeon-hole, but more likely... it will fall between two... or, perhaps, even three.
No-one said this game was going to be easy!

Next time:

One day, I'll actually get to see My Copy!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

6. To Boldly Go...

OK; so you've reached the heady heights of being published... so what now? Of course, you've coerced all your friends, acquaintances and family to buy a copy of your masterpiece; you've stocked up on some copies to spread around various potential outlets as freebies.

Take heed of the following, dear, newly-published author...

As you dip your toe into the cyber-soup, you will probably encounter a term "Author platform." This is one of those really annoying Buzz-words that sounds technically erudite...
but, actually means "a ready-made audience."
Gone are the days when publishers were solely responsible for the marketing of a book.
People have more options for their leisure time than ever before - myriad channels on television, movies on demand; video games; Wii, etc, etc; and then of course, the Internet. It's harder than ever to attract people to books.
The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.

It has never been more crucial for authors to play a major part in marketing themselves, BUT it has never been easier. Where are readers hanging out these days? The Internet. That's the best place for you to find readers for your books.
With a well-written and interesting blog, you have the potential to build a significant "Platform." If you take the time to research website optimization and do everything recommended to build traffic on your blog, you can build a sizable audience in a matter of months.

Now, a Heads-up...

The paragraph that follows, is typical of the twaddle your publisher will tell to you, if they really can't be assed to promote yet another new author... whose potential for swelling the Corporate coffers is minimal...

"Good places to start promoting your book are in the local media and book stores. Local press are usually very keen to publicise interesting local news stories, and many new writers have featured in press items and achieved local book shop signings in stores such as Waterstones; Barnes & Noble, and others. Many local book stores take an interest in local author signings as it encourages readers to their stores."

Just try wandering into one of the eminent Literary Emporiums in the posher parts of my home town, Cheltenham, and trying that one on.

The most likely scenario is:
The manager will ensure that you will be intercepted by some vast, flinty-eyed, shaven-headed, security guard (Probably named Wayne)... poured into an ill-fitting uniform stretching over his beer-gut, and emblazoned with American-style shoulder patches denoting that he is a hired heavy of some insignificant local security firm with the impressive name of something like: "XXX Security Solutions"... and you will be unceremoniously frog-marched to the door.

So; you need to put yourself around. A good start is a blog. An even better start is to link your blog to a site like Zimbio.

Zimbio is an online magazine publisher that allows users to build interactive "wikizines", or web magazines, on whatever topic they choose. It is one of the fastest growing community sites on the internet and is one more easy to use tool to help bring your blog the traffic it needs!

A few pointers for a decent Blog:
1. Don't take yourself too seriously. Blogging isn't Booker Prize stuff.
2. Don't get pompous or overbearing.
3. Never lose your sense of humour.
4. Always try to develop your own style and personality online.
5. Use bold text and italics for emphasis on words and phrases.
7. Is your topic clear to someone who only reads the headline?
8. Have you sprinkled the headline and the body of your post with Keywords and Phrases that search engines will find irresistible?

Space is your friend. It makes reading from the screen easier. Nothing is harder to read than a solid block of copy on a computer screen.

Remember...
To use subheadings every few paragraphs. Big, unbroken blocks of copy makes a reader glaze over and move on elsewhere.
(Imagine you are trying to attract a surfer who has the attention span of a cabbage-white butterfly.)

To liberally sprinkle your blog space with relevant graphics. (This one isn't... because, as yet, it's not that kind of blog.)

Finally: before posting the blog you must ensure that it is well written. Read it thoroughly and also check your facts, spellings, sentence structure etc.
This is important to do because once you post your blog, it is displayed globally via the internet. (and you really don't want the world and its dog to write you off as just one more thicko with an IQ marginally less than his shoe size.)

Other cunning ploys to get your baby into the spotlight...

Social Networking...
MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Look for niche sites that fit your target reader profile. There are social networking sites for almost every shape and size of reader, To find them, just Google “Social networking.”
Create an interesting profile and get active in on-line communities. The biggest cost here will be in your time so spend it wisely, and identify the best opportunities to expand your reach. Host or join groups on these sites to gain additional exposure.

Launch a Website...
to showcase your talents. Use it to build an audience, share samples of your work, and lure buyers.

Host a Blog... (See above.)
With a good one, your audience will find you.

Publish a Newsletter...
Build loyal fans for life by publishing an interesting electronic newsletter with content related to your book(s). Get started with the free program:

"Email marketing pro" at
http://www.emailmarketingprofessional.com/

Form Online Partnerships with like-minded souls...
Seek out people who already reach your target audience, and devise ways to promote each other. You could publish articles on each others websites or newsletters, or share a blog.

Participate in Online Forums...

Find online communities where your target audience lurks, and make a name for yourself by sharing information. If you really want to stand out; start and lead a group. A good place to start is:
http://groups.yahoo.com/
(Be very selective with this ploy... there are a lot of card-carrying nuts out there who will flock to your group and contribute virtually nothing useful.)

Police Your Postings...
Everything you do on the Internet will live forever in cyberspace. Consider the image you want to portray and make sure everything you do and say reflects that.

Use a Decent Photo...
(Not one that granny took with her Kodak Pocket Instamatic... or the slightly suspect one from the last hazy, boozy night with the lads.)
Post it on all of your profiles so visitors can feel like they know you. (This actually works.)

Create a Biography...
Many sites allow you to post a bio with your public profile. Make sure you have several versions of your bio readily available in short, medium and long formats. This will not only save you time in having to rewite it each time, but it will also ensure that your message is consistent.

The goal when building a platform online is to get as much exposure as possible... for the least possible cost.

Next time...

"What's a Genre?"

Sunday, 21 June 2009

5. Peer Critiquing... or, How to check on how robust your self-confidence really is.

Once you have exhausted all the friends, relatives, and general acquaintances that you can cajole into giving you an opinion on your Masterpiece; (which, invariably will be positive... because they don't want to upset you by giving you an honest opinion)... it's time to launch yourself into the world of Literary Piranhas.

But, firstly... a Heads-up...

Are you of a nervous disposition, or prone to:

1) The onset of a touch of the vapours at the slightest criticism?

2) An inclination to throw your teddy into the corner if it doesn't all go your way?

3) Susceptible to doing a "Violet Elizabeth" if you don't agree with what your critics say?

(For those not familiar with this expression... Violet Elizabeth Bott is a character in the "Just William" series of children's short stories by Richmal Crompton. She is the lisping precocious, simpering, seven year old, spoiled daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire; whose companionship William reluctantly endures, to prevent her carrying out her threat of... "I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick.")

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_William

If you answered "Yes" to any of these three questions, then perhaps you are not really cut out to be an author.

Now to the main subject... Critiquing.

This is defined as: “to review or discuss critically." Critique is still regarded by many as pretentious jargon. What it really means is this:

All writers at some point need critiques by their peers. After working on a piece for so long, it's really easy to miss seeing its problems. Writers need to see their work through fresh eyes. All manner of things will become apparent in your work that you never considered. Good feed back will point you to problems other people discovered. You will also discover how it affected them. Did it touch them, make them laugh; make them sad? Did it draw them into the plot? Did it affect them at all?

This is where the Peer group comes in. Be prepared; if you choose to use a forum or any social networking group, you will get all manner of opinions on your work; ranging from... on the one hand; the fixated reader who sounds as though he/she will probably start stalking you and wants to have babies with you; to the supercilious, self-styled, literary virtuoso who pompously rubbishes your work, as "Nescient Drivel." (Crap; to you and me.)

The Australians have the perfect saying for one of these latter types:
"he's really up himself"... ( to have a high opinion of oneself .)

Sensibly; you should try for one of the places where ordinary people like you and me want to have their work reviewed by ordinary, struggling writers, in exchange for reviewing theirs.

One to try is "Free Stories Center" at www.freestoriescenter.com/

I put chapters of my published book on there a while ago, and received several useful reviews.
So; you ask ...what happens if the story I put on there gets published later? Easy! Email the webmaster Sean Bryant, and he will remove the story. He even put the back cover blurb of the book, and a link to Amazon on the site for me. Nice Guy; and well worth thinking about.

The other is "YouWriteOn" at http://www.youwriteon.com/

This one is a MUST. They published my first novel through Legend Press and their imprint New Generation Publishing. Edward (Ted) Smith at YouWriteOn is also a really helpful guy.

So; the moral is:
Be brave! You have nothing to lose but your anonymity!

Next time:

To Boldly Go... ?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

4. Writing the Dreaded Blurb... or; "Judging a book by it's cover."

Just before we proceed to the subject of tearing each others masterpieces to shreds (otherwise known as Peer Critiquing;) A quick heads-up on what is probably one of the most important aspects of getting your baby off your hard drive and into the bookshops.

The Dreaded "Blurb."

No-one ever said this was going to be easy. You will have to work hard to make the 30 seconds someone spends looking at your book cover turn into the decision to buy that book.

When you submit your work to a Literary agent or Publisher; depending on their criteria; your submission will usually include:

1) A query letter composed of a blurb of the book... which is usually called "The Hook."

2) Some information about the book; which usually includes genre, word count, etc.

3) Possibly, some sample chapters, if requested; and

4) a short author biography and/or list of writing qualifications... (previous publications, awards, degrees; articles, reviews; etc.)

The blurb really is the one thing that will attract an Agent's or Publisher's attention. If you can't hook them, you won't land them. Your cover letter and synopsis may be Literary Gems; but are of little more value than scrap paper unless you catch their attention with "The Hook."

The blurb is the short narrative on the back of a book which tells a reader what the book is about. A great blurb can make the difference between a customer taking out his/her wallet to buy your book... or putting the book back on the shelf. Great blurbs really do sell books.

The blurb for my novel: "A Bright, and Shining Land" goes like this:

The distant Eastern Kingdom of Astalan has fallen. Falanholme... The Bright, Shining Land; stands, encircled by the most dreadful peril. The Forces of The Darkness have now subjugated almost all of her surrounding neighbours. When Falanholme falls; Baelar...The Lord of The Underdark; will invoked his terrible, creeping "Night of the Shadows Rising." All will be plunged in back into Chaos, as it had been, long ago, in The Age of The Beginnings.
The great plumes of smoke rising in the east bear silent witness to the terrible fate of Astalan, as, what can only be minions of The Darkness, sweep up from the south; pillaging and burning that once-idyllic Kingdom. Falanholme now stands alone; the last beacon of hope left for the subjugated peoples of the West. Falanholme steadfastly refuses to yield.
Against overwhelming odds, nine Guardians of The Light, and a Wraith-Hunter Warrior maid; though, so far outnumbered in warrior and sword; will not go down meekly, and quietly into the Darkness. They will wager all... without question; to preserve such truths and freedom as their peoples hold; no matter the odds arrayed against them. Inspired by their stubborn resilience, the Realms and Kingdoms of Falanholme rise together; casting aside such petty differences they hold; and united, fight as one, for their right to live.


Go here to get some really helpful advice on writing blurbs:

http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/blurb.html

The perfect scenario that you are striving for, is...

whoever picks up the book, reads the blurb, and thinks "I must read this book." They open the cover and read the first paragraph. This is where the real hook lurks in waiting. If your first paragraph makes them think "I must have this book in my life... I cannot possibly live without this book... I must buy it Immediately"... you've hooked them!

If you can do that; then you're on your way.


Next time:

Peer Critiquing... or; What the hell you you know, Smart-ass?... I'm the author!

Friday, 19 June 2009

3. Editing... How to completely screw your "Field of Dreams."

So; you're ready to become your own Editor? First things first. Disconnect your smug drive. You might think you've just written the best thing since sliced bread, and you're bound for the dizzy heights of Tolkien and J.K. Rowling; but...
What you have just completed is probably just marginally better than something your pet tom-cat could dash off. You now have to go into Jack the Ripper mode and cut all the crap out of your masterpiece.

The best course of action is to lock it away for at least a month and try to forget you ever wrote it. With luck, when you eventually decide to give it an autopsy, you will have gained a little distance from your work and will have a fresh, more objective perspective when you finally do pull it out and attack it.
Pretend you've never read this stuff before. Print the whole thing off... it's much easier to pick out mistakes from print than it is from a monitor screen.
Have a notepad and pencil handy, and start reading from the beginning. Of course you know the story... but do you? You have written it, so you must do... right?

WRONG. There will be mistakes in continuity. Are the characters consistent through the book? Do the events follow on from each other? (Flash-backs are fine; as long as they are kept within the context and framework of the plot.) There will also probably be lots of commonly over-used words and clichés.
(We all tend to write in the same manner that we speak... everyday clichés are almost guaranteed to sneak in.)
Consider whether each cliché you find has any real literary or informative value. If you have used it merely as verbal shorthand, replace it with a more original and descriptive word or phrase.

A good source for alternative words are any one of the several on-line thesauruses... or, if you really are serious about your writing; the program "Babylon" is one of the best. Here's a screen-shot:




http://www.babylon.com

While we're on the subject of software; you might need something to sort out your punctuation. Some authors have written countless books using only commas and full stops... (periods; for our American friends.)
Additional punctuation... (Semi-colons, apostrophes; hyphens, ellipses; etc)... break up long passages, and give the reader a chance to gather their thoughts before ploughing on.

A good guide to correct punctuation is here:

http://www.correctpunctuation.co.uk/

I use a nice little program called "Grammar Expert Plus." It is written in American English, which means it picks up on British English spellings; but it still has many uses. For example; you paste your chapter in; set which parameters it should pick up, and press go. It's very useful for catching repeated words...
eg: "the the"... very easy to do when you're pressing on towards your word-count goal for the night.
Here's a screen-shot of it in action:




http://www.wintertree-software.com/app/gramxp/index.html

The one thing I NEVER use is MS Word spellchecker. I call it "Bill Gates' Gremlin Factory."
It will pick you up on all manner of irrelevant errors, and will also try to sprinkle your work with "Curly Quotes" when you really wanted good old, plain quotation marks. It also has an annoying habit of trying to change the first letter in every line to a capital... (and all the red and green squiggly lines under words it has picked out, eventually make your eyes go funny.)

As you read your masterpiece; fix one thing at a time. A really useful way to find problems that you probably would not otherwise see, is reading it aloud. (The whoopsies will stand out like the proverbial Tom-cat's doodaa's.)
When reading words out loud it is far easier to hear the awkwardness of a wrong word; sentence, or phrase. OK, so you might feel a total idiot if your partner walks in whilst you are in mid-flow; but, if it helps to avoid the slush pile, a red face is a small price to pay.

Save your earlier versions of the book. Hard drive space is cheap... and you might just need to refer back to an earlier situation or character, if the one you've replaced it with, doesn't quite work out.
Don't be afraid to use the "Find button." You might have inadvertently mis-spelled the name of a character or place, somewhere along the line. Once you have found the wrongly-spelled word(s), you can correct them all in one hit with "Replace with."

Now we arrive at the point at which you have to get brutal. Red pen any passages that begin to drag and make the reader lose interest in wanting to turn the page. Everyone... even the famous authors sometimes pad out the storyline to get a decent word count. The trouble is; "padding out" doesn't add anything, it can actually detract from the storyline by slowing down the action. You don't have to tell the reader in great detail, where the main character went to school, or what the parents did in their spare time.

Just as an example of "Hyper-padding" go to the very funny:

http://www.scary-crayon.com/misc/50k-novel/

and enjoy!

Line editing is exactly what it says on the box... reading each line and correcting as you go; checking for grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Before you reach this stage in your editing, you will have probably done a fair amount of rewriting, so line editing really should be the last type of editing you do.
A lot of this is really tedious work, but it is important. A clean manuscript tells editors and publishers to whom you are submitting your work, that you are serious and professional. It tells them you are someone they can probably work with. Publishers will often make decisions based on the first few pages, and a tidy, professionally written submission could make all the difference.

A final heads-up... you really should line-edit your masterpiece at least THREE times. If the phrase "Sod that for a game of Tin Soldiers" springs most readily to mind... then you might as well hit "Delete" right now... for you are heading for the slush pile as surely as night follows day.

Next time...

How about a bit of mutual ripping to shreds? (Critiquing; in polite company)... and the most vital component of all... The Dreaded Blurb.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

2. Swimming with Sharks... or, The oozelum bird syndrome.

(oozelum bird... see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oozlum_bird)


So; there's this big folder on the hard drive containing three word files making up the fledgling Trilogy. Time to start sniffing around the web to gather a few clues, hints, and ego-dents, with regard to whether it ever sees the light of day.

It really didn't take too long to realise that the chances of Literary kudos for an apprentice novelist were marginally less than the likelihood of striking a match on a jelly. The general concensus was:

1. Find an amenable Literary Agent. Publishing novels is nigh on impossible without a literary agent, most of whom will not even consider newcomers. Even those literary agents who claim to be open-minded about beginners generally are not, and usually, will not even bother responding.

The usual reply, (If at all... and after about a month)... was: "Sorry; I don't represent un-published authors."

2. Try the publisher direct... (The usual reply... if at all, and after anything up to three months)... was: "We don't represent un-agented authors."

So; pick an Agent... or a Publisher, and write a synopsis. Synopses are far more difficult to write than the novel ever was. It's not easy condensing 120,000-odd words into a few pages. But it is really important. You have to tell the entire story in your synopsis; and this one piece of writing the only thing that might make the Agent/Publisher decide to look a little further into your sample chapters.

A really good guide to writing synopses can be found at:

http://www.writing-world.com/publish/synopsis.shtml

Even with the most polished synopsis in the history of the written word; your chances are still pretty thin.
You will soon get used to the standard reject letter, or, if your Literary Nemesis is in a good mood that particular day; something personal and friendly, like...

"An interesting concept, but, unfortunately not quite what I'm looking for at the moment. I wish you the best of luck in placing your book."

Nice and friendly; not ripping your baby to shreds... but still, a resounding raspberry.


Now; come the first of the sharks;

Vanity publishing.

Starry-eyed authors, who want nothing more than to hold their published books in their hands, are prime targets and easy pickings for these predators.
Such publishers often misleadingly refer to themselves as 'partnership', 'self-publishing', 'joint venture', or 'subsidy' publishers. But however they may refer to themselves, and however much they may deny that they are - if they charge you to publish your book - they are a vanity publisher, and make their money not by selling copies of a book, but by charging clients as much as possible to print an unspecified number of copies of that book. They may even claim to market them. Most major bookbuyers and acquisition editors will not buy copies of books centrally from vanity publishers, leaving the poor author to market them as best he might.

First major heads-up... ALWAYS check out an agent or publisher in "Preditors & Editors." at http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/

This site recommends accredited Agents and Publishers, and blows the whistle on the sharks.

Also worth checking out:

Absolute Write Water Cooler at http://www.absolutewrite.com/

and:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Publishing-Scams:-Six-Red-Flags-That-Scream-Rip-Off&id=81336

The good guys can be found in:


Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2009 at http://www.writersservices.com/agent/

or for those in the USA...

Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc. at http://www.aaronline.org/

So; that's the first of the sharks harpooned.


The next one to watch out for, is...

Self-Publishing.

Self-publishing should really be seen as a last resort. It is better to get your book published and distributed at someone else's risk and expense, and to have the process handled by experienced people with adequate staff and equipment, than to struggle with it yourself.
Even if your book turns out to be a big success, it is highly unlikely that you will do better with it in terms either of sales or of profit by publishing it yourself than you would have done with an established publisher. The rule of thumb with this type of publishing is the same advice as for playing the Stock Market... Don't risk more money than you can afford to lose.

Probably, the best self-publishing site is Lulu, com at:

http://www.lulu.com/publish/index.php?cid=uk_brangclid=CIOHuNLZlJsCFZ4U4wodATqKpg

If you decide to go down this route, remember, if you want to get your book onto places like Amazon, you must have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) allocated.

How do you get an ISBN?

In the United Kindom, contact:

The UK ISBN Agency
12 Dyott Street
London WC1A 1DF
Phone:(+44 )0207420 6008

In the United States, contact:

R.R. Bowker
121 Chanlon Road
New Providence, NJ 07974
Phone (908) 665-6770 Fax (908) 665-2895
You can download the application form or apply online here:
http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/secureapp.asp

In Canada, contact:

The National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
Phone: (819) 994-6872 Fax: (819) 997-7517
Email: isbn@nlc-bnc.ca


The cost of a block of numbers depends on the country in which you're applying. Generally you will receive a block of 10 numbers, but larger blocks are available upon request.

Generally allow 10 business days from the time an ISBN application is received at the agency (not from the date sent by the publisher.) Priority processing is available in two business days from receipt of application. Express processing is 24 business hours.

The ISBN should be printed on the copyright page, and in the lower right hand corner of the back cover of your book. You should use a font size between 9 and 12 points. The number should also appear on the upper edge of the left hand flap of a dust cover. For disks and cassettes, the number should be printed on the label. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused.

As you can see; its real fun stuff... and that's BEFORE your lovingly nurtured baby even thinks about turning itself into hard copy.


Next time:

Editing... Your Field of Broken Dreams.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

1. In the beginning...


First things first.

This is the story of how a simple request turned into two years of keyboard thumping, and eventually resulted in a published novel. If I can do it... you can probably do it too; but there are things you need to know. But first; a little Shameless self-publicity...

The novel is the first book of an Epic Fantasy Trilogy titled:

"The Eternal Watchtower."

The book title is:


and is available from:

http://www.amazon.com/Bright-Shining-Land-Eternal-Watchtower/dp/1849238162

and
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eternal-Watchtower-Book-One-Shining/dp/1849238162/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246048241&sr=1-1


Details are as follows:

Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: YouWriteOn; 1st edition (June 13, 2009)
Language: English

ISBN-10: 1849238162
ISBN-13: 978-1849238168

Price: $12.99 (USD) or £7.99 (GBP.)

----------------------------------------




One evening the phone rang. It was Sarah.

"Hi, Dave; sorry to bother you, but I have a real favour to ask. You're quite good at writing. I'm a little concerned about the kids progress with their reading, and wondered if you could write them some sort of Fairy tale to maybe spark their interest."

Being a soft touch; I agreed. What sort of thing was she wanting? The kids were aged seven and eight. She said she wanted something not too violent, but not too childish. Oh good! Plenty of scope, then.
I said that she should leave it with me and I would get back to her.

Being born in the heart of rural Gloucestershire, I grew up surrounded by myths and legends of "What there might be in the woods"…"What were the things that went "Bump" in the night?"… "Was that really a screech owl … or something else?" I decided to draw on the imaginings of my childhood.
It would be a take on the well-worn "Good versus Evil;" but, just to give it a twist; why not pitch it as if the reader was sitting in the presence of an old storyteller; listening to the tale being read? This might work... and it would give the kids imaginations a little exercise... and it wouldn't be populated with Elves, Dwarves, Orcs; or any other worn-out stereotypes.

So; the tale began. The first title, when researched, was too close to a publication by an American Authoress... as was the main character's name, to yet another publication's main character.
Moral: Always research every character name, place-name, and situation used, to avoid accusations of plagiarism!

45,000 words later; Sarah phoned again.
"Sorry Dave; you might as well forget it. Their father has just brought them home one of those damned hand-held computer games... sorry!"

I read the emerging story once more, before it went into the recycle bin. There's something there... I'll carry on, and see where it leads.
(Probably, not very far... who publishes unknown authors these days... unless they have silicone-enhanced chests, or can kick a football?)... and besides which, the original was written in close-couplet verse form... and that really is a big No-No for publishers.
So, with great encouragement from a very special American Lady, I proceeded to convert it into prose, and press on, regardless.

An example of the close-couplet original is as follows:


The Old Storyteller sat warm, in the fire-glow, surrounded by children he held in his spell,
the weaving of magical tales of imagining, mystery, fable, such things he could tell,
and, wide-eyed, they listened, and drank in the magic... such things that the grown-ups no more, understood,
of Dragons and Princes, and Maidens and Darklings; the simple told difference t'wixt Evil, and Good.
He read from a Mighty, and Leather - bound volume embossed with Gold leaf slowly fading with age,
these, then... The Chronicles of Falanholme; enchantment, adventure on each Vellum page.

Fine for kids... but...
Re-written, it read like this:

The Old Storyteller sat in his great, oaken chair close by the hearth, where he was warm in the glow of the great log fire. He sat, surrounded by younglings he held firmly under his spell as he wove his tales of Imagining, of Mystery and Fable. Such wonders he could weave about them; and wide-eyed, they listened, and drank in the magic of such tales of things that the grown-ups no longer understood. 

He told tales of Wizards and Warriors... of Dragons and Princes; tales of Fair Maidens and Unicorns, of Darklings and Ogres... the simply told difference between Good and Evil. He read from a mighty leather-bound volume, by the flickering light of the fat, honey-wax candles. The great volume was intricately tooled about with Leaf of Gold… with age, now fading dim. This then, was volume, the first, of The Chronicle of Falanholme... Enchantment, Adventure on each Vellum page.

That's better!....

Eventually; it ended up as a 400,000 word Epic Fantasy Adventure, and bore no resemblance to a fairy tale... it was more akin to Tolkien on Steroids.
Who would want a brick of a novel like that? Probably no-one, unless they were very bored... or suffered from insomnia. So, I arbitrarily chopped it into three parts, re-wrote the endings of the first two parts to link them all together; chose suitable titles for the three books, and a title for the trilogy, and jumped into the shark-infested waters of Literary Agents and Publishers.


Next time:
Swimming with sharks.