Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Edition

Because it is so easy to self-publish, both ebooks and paper books, people leap before they look. The only problem with that is if the work isn't professional level, it won't gain traction.
I casually collect first editions. It is all the better if they are signed. While getting a personalized signature from an author seems the way to go, unless the author and I know each other, I'd just as soon that they don't personalize it to me. But that is my preference. I'm not a serious collector, so I'm free to do it my way.
Nonetheless, as a publisher, I'm less enthused about publishing a second edition than a first edition. Of course, it depends on the circumstance of the first edition, but it does weigh heavily in our decision to move forward on a project.
What is a first edition? It is the first publication of a book. These days, that includes ebooks, though I find ebooks a bit difficult to add to my library of first editions because they fall over on the shelf (kidding), so they don't interest me (true).
Obviously, a first edition is not the first version of a book. They start as a manuscript and hopefully by the time it is submitted in a query, it is not the first draft.
After the ms is under contract, depending on the publisher, a galley copy will be printed; printed, not published. This is an extremely small print run; extremely small. This copy is sent to book reviewers and sometimes to book purchasers for major book retailers. It is a rough copy of the book with the purpose of introducing the work to reviewers who will later help "put the word out" about the book that is timed with the actual publication.
The reason that Cactus Rain rarely prints galley copies is that very few small time reviewers, bloggers, or even book reviewers for hire, understand that this is not the finished product. They may comment on the grammar or some other non-item for a galley copy, whereas professional book reviewers understand that the purpose is to get the basics of the story into their hands. It is like tasting the cookie dough. It isn't a real cookie yet, but a preview of what the cookie will taste like when it is baked.
(If you're interested in collecting galley copies of books, some can be had at used book stores in NY City.)
Fast forward through a lot of dusting and polishing of the manuscript (ms) and designing the cover art, and a proof copy is printed. After revisions or corrections, ta-da! the real book goes into print and that is ... the first edition.
Querying a work that has already been published is a bit like going to the dealership to buy a new car and being shown the used car section. You might find a good car, but it isn't a new car.
Want to know more about first editions? Look here:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Synopsis Writing

Quite a few people are realizing their dream of writing a novel. We have been inundated with queries in the last three or four months.

There are two things that beginning authors fail to do before they query:
  1. Dust and polish their ms. (I have written several blogs over the years about this, and no doubt, I will write about this again.)
  2. Write a professional grade SYNOPSIS.
After hours, days, months, and often years writing the ms, it is worth the time to research what comes next. I just googled SYNOPSIS and found many useful links regarding synopsis writing.

Here is my version of the basics to a synopsis in a nutshell:
  1. A synopsis is a one page document
  2. It is single spaced lines
  3. It is written in third person
  4. It tells the summary of the whole story from beginning to end
  5. Yes, it tells how the story ends
  6. It introduces the main character
  7. It tells who the antagonist is
  8. It tells the conflict that starts the story for the main character
  9. It tells what the goal is for the main character; what they need to resolve and why
  10. It tells the barriers to reaching that goal; the antagonist's actions
  11. It tells the setting
  12. It tells the time period
  13. It tells the genre
  14. It tells the word count
What a synopsis is not:
  1. It is not a vague paragraph about why the ms was written
  2. It is not about the author or their writing experience
  3. It is not the back of a book blurb
It has come to the point that we are not responding to queries that do not have an adequate synopsis. Previously, I wrote a reply asking for a synopsis. Sometimes the person would respond that it was in the query letter -- um, no it wasn't or I wouldn't have asked for it and it is a standalone document.
Since we are receiving so many queries that we could spend the whole day with that one task, we are not moving past the inadequate synopsis to read the sample chapters. We are a small publisher. We don't have time to spend on an incomplete querry -- sorry. I think of Cactus Rain Publishing as a proving ground for the writer to gain experience and move on to bigger and better things.
We are not a "for hire" publisher. Our money goes into publishing our books. Honestly, writing to us that your lover, parent, or high school English teacher loved your ms isn't the same as them putting their money and expertise into your project. I don't care who else loved your ms, what has to happen is that Judith and I love your ms.
We don't publish a ton of books a month. We don't crank them out like some sort of paper version of a puppy mill. What we publish is damn good. We contract out some pieces of the process to experts in that area. Again, what we publish is damn good.
We are looking for writers who read the submission requirements on our website:
We are happy to work with first time novelists. However, we do expect that person will present us with their best, professional quality work. 
Write your best work. Give it your best pitch to us, another publisher, or a literary agent. You can do this. This is the next step.