Sunday, November 23, 2014

Slush Pile to Delete Button

I've written several times about what I look for in an ms. This time I thought I'd write about what I don't like.
Before we get to the manuscript, let's have a serious conversation about calling me, "Dear SIR" in the query letter. Please do the slightest research. It has never been a secret that I'm a woman. In this digital age, when you cut and paste the query letter into 1,001 websites, at least change the greeting to fit the circumstances.
Again, more research -- follow the query guidelines on the websites where you submit. For goodness sakes, you're right there finding the "contact us" or "submit here" link. Try reading the page and seeing what the guidelines are.

Here is a little insight into my thinking when I open a submission that doesn't follow the guidelines: 1) this person is as dumb as a rock (sorry to all the rocks out there) and can't follow instructions; 2) this person thinks that rules apply to everyone except them. The song is Hello Dolly, not hello diva. Delete. Delete. Delete.
It really doesn't impress me to be told in a query that we are lucky to get to publish said ms. If it is that good, go get a lit agent. Or spend YOUR own money and publish it. The way that I deal with divas is to delete the email without looking at the ms sample, if they bothered to sent it.
Next is the synopsis. There are specific elements to a synopsis. I've blogged about it and it is all over the internet and in every writing course, but the basics are: One page, two, tops; single space lines; written in third person; tells the story, the whole story, of the main character and possibly the secondary character. By whole story, I mean from the beginning of the book to the end. Yes, tell the end. This is not the place to be coy. How can I judge the story if it is a secret?
If I get as far as reading the sample chapters, let me make this clear -- start the story in the first line. Here is the logic of that statement: 1) people who buy books always read the first paragraph -- hook them!; 2) after the book is published, even if you DIY the book, when you do a public reading, you start at the beginning. That means, you don't say a few words about the beginning and start reading Chapter 3. If Chapter 3 is where the story really starts, delete chapters one and two, and make Chapter 3 become Chapter 1.
Personally, I am not a prologue fan. I understand its function. I just don't like them. If this information is important, then put it in the story. That is not to say there are not prologues in Cactus Rain Publishing books, there are. I just don't like them in general.
Next comes the request for the full ms. Whether Judith or I read the ms first depends on our workload at the time. I should have asked Judith what are her no-pass items, I didn't. I'm into this post now, so here are mine: I don't like rants, especially religious rants. There are tons of religious books on the market. Someone seeking spiritual answers is going to go to one or more of those books. I get the same creepy feeling reading political rants.
Skip the rants.
Vulgarity. I understand that the majority of adults cuss, at least a little. Writing peppered with cuss words, especially those that start with "f" is almost always a sign of a weak writer. You can bet if I love everything else about the ms, the f-words will disappear, before CRP publishes it. Any cuss words in the ms better be needed to advance the story. "Shock factor" isn't good writing.
Senseless violence. The first clue is the word "senseless." Every single word, scene, character has to advance the story. I have no use for violence and considering the number of times I read an ms throughout the publishing process, you can bet I don't want to read junk. I don't want to read (even one time) about violence toward women, children, or anyone handicapped. Why is rape in the news so often? We have not said often enough to our children that it is not okay. RAPE-IS-NOT-OKAY.
Sex. I've never read erotica, so can't commit on it. But sex is like every other element in the story. It has to be well written and advance the story. I'm 100% not interested in reading about adultery. Thank you - no!
We have nothing against non-fiction, but we don't have the resources to fact check it. Don't submit it to us.
This isn't necessarily a call for submissions, especially with the holidays around the corner - we do plenty of goofing off this time of year. If you do submit to Cactus Rain, at least do it right.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Price of eBooks

Wouldn't it be nice if we could purchase the things we want at cost (below wholesale). Just imagine paying only the cost of the materials for a new house. However, the reality is we pay for the craftsmanship, the general expenses for the business to build said house, in addition to the lumber, the location, and we rarely think twice.

But my goodness, expect to be paid for the craft of writing an engaging story or the research and knowledge to publish a credible non-fiction, that is simply absurd. After all, books cost little to produce and ebooks even less, and we shouldn't expect to pay for the expertise to make a manuscript into a publish-worthy book, nor should we expect writers to be paid for their craft after all the hours they put into the manuscript.
An ebook is simply a digital file, so why should it cost more than a few pennies?
For one thing, the format is not the same as the manuscript or the print book, so there is time and expertise to format the book. The line editor has to look through it. The publisher has the expenses of running a business, or there is no business to publish the ebook. Besides, the author should get paid for writing the story -- every time that it sells.
The host site, such as Amazon Kindle should get some money -- maintaining their website isn't free (neither is maintaining my website free; domain name, hosting, web designer.) Some of the publishing expenses, besides the staff time to format it, include the cost of the ISBN, copyrights, graphic artists, computers and other business machines, space rent, plus the business licenses to put the "officalness" on the work, and more. You get the picture.
We expect to pay when we attend the theatre, cinema, concert, ballet, museum, and so much more that we have nothing tangible when we leave. Or do we? I still remember books that I read as a child and that was a very long time ago. I don't remember all of them, of course, but the ones that resonated are remembered. One of my co-workers and I quote lines from moves in our verbal interactions. Surely, we did take something away from the experience.
Nonetheless, I still get asked about Cactus Rain Publishing's position on the pricing of ebooks. Go figure.
Actually, go write your best work.