Friday, October 6, 2017

Be Original...

During the last U.S. presidential campaign season there was talk about plagiarism in speeches. I read an article that Dr. Martin Luther King plagiarized his dissertation. Maybe both are true statements, maybe they are not.

Speech writing and dissertations aside, there is a code among fiction writers that you write your own stuff. If you read it or heard it, then don't use it. Use your own voice and imagination. 

Be original. 
Be authentic.
Readers deserve no less than your best.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Re-Writes

It's inevitable that the time will come when re-writes are requested. It is a fact of writing life. Your head gets into the story so much that you can't see the trees for the forest.

My friend's big-time publisher asked her to fully remove one character from her manuscript. Imagine the thought of that task. Like a true professional writer, she faced the task and did it without complaint.

We get a variety of reactions when we request changes to the story line in a manuscript. We've requested to delete the final chapter -- the story had ended, stop writing. We've requested that the last two chapters be swapped with each other. And of course, we often request that the vulgar words be eliminated or reduced to one character's dialogue and greatly diminished.

Sometimes it is as simple as changing the title that the author has embraced for years of writing the piece. Failure to be adaptable is the wrong move. Most of the time, the writer knew in their heart of hearts that there was something amiss and welcomes the guidance.

It is important to remember that you're writing for the reader, not for you. If that isn't true, then put the finished manuscript in a drawer and let them sell it at your estate sale.

You're not alone. Read the article below.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Self-publishing

When should a person self-publish their work?

Anytime they want to, of course.

Here are some specific situations when self-publishing might be the best option for a writer:

  • When the writer wants complete control over the title, content, layout, and cover. (Most pay-to-publish companies do not waver from their process and allow customization, so this may not be the best route for someone who MUST have total control over the production of their ms into a book.)
  • When the work is to be used for seminars on a topic that the writer is deemed an 'expert' in the field. These books are usually non-fiction and the price is higher than fiction because the value added by the author's expertise.
  • When the work is to be used to accompany another product, similar to a manual for the user of the product. Have fun with this if there are lots of schematics to add to the text.
  • When the writer can afford to hire experts to create an industry quality book or is competent in the required skills and doesn't care whether it bears the stamp of approval that comes with being vetted and published by a traditional publisher.
Before submitting a query to a publisher or literary agent, a writer should be able to affirm within their heart that they have done the best they could and they are now willing to let it go and let someone else take it to the next level.

For some people, letting go of their work is difficult. If that is the case, the writer should consider self-publishing the work or simply remain a writer and never become a published author. I'm not sure that this is a bad thing. It depends on each person's goal or vision of the future for their works.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Sample Chapters

Your manuscript is finished. It is no longer a first draft. You've gone over it a couple of times. Your friends and family have gone over it. Together you toast the thing and proclaim that it is ready.
 
Hopefully, that is true.
Just to be sure PRINT it and read it ALOUD. 
 
The internet is full of literary agents, small publishers, pay-to-publish outfits, and do-it-yourself sites. There are print directories to buy, should one choose. Just like we will do with your submission, sort through them and find the 'best fits' for your work. 
 
Whatever method you use to develop a list of places to query, the main thing to do is to follow the submission guidelines completely.
 
What we are expecting for sample chapters at Cactus Rain Publishing:
  • Manuscript format
    • full page - 8.5" x 11"
    • double spaced lines
    • standard font -- I'm going to change it to Tahoma, because that is more readable for me (remember that I'm dyslexic?)
    • standard form for fiction -- no space between paragraphs, that is for non-fiction. Fiction indents each paragraph. Start a new paragraph (with quote marks) for dialogue. We accept the non-American single quote marks or the American double quote marks -- be consistent throughout the sample.
  • No front matter -- you are way head of yourself doing this
  • No cover -- you are way head of yourself doing this
  • ONLY the first three chapters
  • A prologue is not a first chapter, don't send it to us.
The fastest route to a rejection letter is to stand out in a bad way. We don't advertise. We don't need to advertise. If we published all of the queries we have right now, we have enough for the next 5 years. It is truly survival of the fittest, not the quirkiest.
 
Send us something that meets our submission guidelines and you are highly likely to see a request for the full manuscript.
 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

First Impression

Because of the agreeable weather, Phoenix frequently hosts car shows. Unofficial previews are available on the road, whether the car is driven or trailered. Singularly, they are impressive. At the show where they are parked next to each other a pecking order of quality emerges.

The same is true of submission packets. While friends and family [usually] shower the writer with praise, at our end of the process where they are lined next to each other is where the quality differences is obvious.

There is only one opportunity to make a good first impression. One. Late at night with a glass or two of wine or whisky is not the time to decide the work is ready for the light of day.

For Cactus Rain Publishing the three elements of the submission packet are: 1) a query letter; 2) a synopsis; and 3) the first three chapters of the ms.

We see query letters that range from ridiculous to amazing. A query letter is a business proposal. It needs to sound professional, pitch the project, and include any specific information the publisher has listed on their submission page.

Attitude speaks volumes. Sending a query email that says, "Here you go. I've sent my fiction novel for you to publish," is not a good idea. First off, "fiction novel" screams that the person is clueless. Novels are ONLY fiction. If it isn't a fiction, then it is non-fiction, poetry or who knows what.

A synopsis is a one page summary of the story, single spaced, and written in third person. The synopsis summarizes the story's main character's transit through the story. It is not the back of the book tease. It is the whole story, including the ending.

The last piece of the packet is the first three chapters of the manuscript; nothing more or less than what has been requested. Sending different chapters and telling us that the first three chapters don't show the awesomeness of the manuscript should tell the writer that those chapters need reworked or deleted.

Not following the instructions on how many chapters (or some publishers want the first 50 pages) tells us that the writer doesn't follow instructions. Whether they are simply arrogant and don't think rules apply to them equally or they are special [for some unknown reason]. It tells us "This person is going to be difficult."

The sample chapters should be in manuscript format: Full size page (8.5 x 11 inches) -- not a simulated book-size page; it should be double spaced; it should contain computer functions (use the center button to center things like the title, end the chapter with a "page break" command, not several "enter key" strokes); and dialogue should start a new paragraph and have quotation marks.

Compared to 50 other queries, how strong is yours? It is easy to weed out the ones we aren't interested in. Sometimes I won't read the sample chapters if the query letter and the synopsis are bad. What would be the point?

First impressions are a one time occurrence.