So You Write: A webcomic about being a writer

Published June 10, 2012 by swankivy

This is my webcomic about being a writer.  It’s very silly, with autobiographical details about my life as a writer and what sorts of things we creative types deal with while interacting with the outside world.

There is no update schedule planned; I’ll add a new one whenever I feel like it.  It’d be too demanding for me to try to keep this one regular too since I already have another webcomic that has been updated every Friday since May 20, 2005.

Please send me a message if you’d like to leave private feedback or ask questions about any of my projects.

Prints available

Published March 25, 2014 by swankivy

Just so y’all know, you can actually buy prints of any of these comics if you want them, fairly cheap through DeviantART.

My shop

Most of them are available in little 5 x 5 prints and a few are 4 x 5, 4 x 6, 8 x 10, or 8 x 12.

 

Networking

Published March 23, 2014 by swankivy

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Word to the wise:

STAND OUT WITH YOUR WRITING, NOT WITH GIMMICKS OR GIFTS.

Seriously, agents are not going to make a decision between signing you and not signing you if your paper is colorful or if you sent them chocolate. They will probably be more likely to think your writing is poor if you are resorting to attention-getting techniques that have nothing to do with your ability to entertain or inform.

Most agents are taking their queries through e-mail nowadays, and some take them exclusively that way. If you decorate your e-mail message with silly backgrounds or animated GIFs, you will look like you don’t understand that this is a professional proposition to work together. You will also be drawing attention away from your ideas/your writing and toward whatever non-standard fonts or goofy headers you picked, and they do NOT make the agent think you are clever. And if you send a paper query, yes, there’s a chance your paper will get seen sooner if there is something unusual about its presentation, but getting them to look at it isn’t the problem here. It’s getting them to like it.

And yeah, they’ll probably remember you. But not in a good way.

(And yes, listen to people who have actually done the thing you’re trying to do. I can’t even tell you how much bogus advice I’ve gotten from people who think their comments are innovative or revolutionary. No, man. Sit down and let people who know this business tell other people how to get what we have.)

 

Priorities

Published February 28, 2014 by swankivy

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I’m the busiest slacker there ever was. I’m not even kidding.

My publishing contract decreed that my deadline to turn in my manuscript was March 1. I’ve known this since the end of 2013. And all I wanted to do was go through the book a couple more times, fine-tune it even more, and apply some “house style” and coding. It wouldn’t take long, right? I’d get down to business once I had a month to go, right?

And then my February proceeded pretty much like the picture above.

  1. I blogged. A lot. Fifteen blog entries in the month of February, plus a blog interview on another blog.
  2. I laughed it up on Twitter. (Mostly on my author account.)
  3. I read. Not much reading got done, but I finished Dance of the Dissident Daughter and am almost finished with Austenland.
  4. I baked cookies for my brother-in-law’s birthday.
  5. I did a ninety-minute talk at Princeton University’s IvyQ Conference.
  6. I chatted on Skype (and in other ways) with my critique partner from Pitch Wars. I kind of spent a bunch of January helping him get an agent and stuff.
  7. I made a couple videos. I did one on education for writers for my writing channel and one where I read an ignorant letter and laughed at it on my asexuality/personal channel.
  8. I did a bunch of karaoke on the Internet. I do it every week. Performed “Disarm,” “Back in Business,” “Luka,” and “Taylor the Latte Boy.”
  9. I posted some rants and arguments and conversations and silliness on Tumblr.
  10. I submitted some short stories to magazines. I’m not good at short stories. Maybe these magazines will disagree with me.
  11. Funny how I’m willing to edit other people’s books, letters, pitch materials, and correspondence, but I’m procrastinating on my own editing, eh?
  12. I go out to dinner and hang out with my friend Jeaux once a week. He gets Wednesdays.
  13. I watched some American Idol. I’m still very far behind, but what do you expect?
  14. I started putting some reviews on my author account on Goodreads, finally, and I started with the books from my childhood. I seem to have reviewed 60 books so far, and I haven’t gotten past the stuff I read in 1986.
  15. As you can see, I drew this comic. I also draw Negative One, and did so every Friday of the month.

And I edited my book twice, applied the necessary coding, created a style sheet for it, and compiled footnotes. Sent it off to my editor shortly before completing this comic.

I swear I’m usually good with deadlines. . . .

 

100% Legitimate

Published January 31, 2014 by swankivy

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Here’s the thing, new and naïve authors who want to get into publishing: Rip-0ff artists like some vanity publishers will do ANYTHING to get you to believe it’s normal to pay huge sums of money to get published.

1. They’ll bad-mouth “big” publishers, claiming those jerks only want commercial, low-quality writing. Good thing they, the good guy, are here to give you a real chance. Down with the man!

2. They’ll claim your “deposit” of thousands of dollars will be given back to you “when” you’ve sold X number of books. And then they’ll proceed to advertise your book to you and nobody else (despite claiming they’re “marketing” for you). When they sell your own book to you, those copies don’t count toward the grand total.

3. They’ll praise you highly if you send a submission and make you think the contract they’re offering is something you’ve earned rather than something you’ll have to buy.

4. They’ll play up how low the chances are of getting published the “traditional” way and make you think there’s no way to get published without “knowing someone.” They may make outright false statements about how “all” new authors have to get their start by paying for a contract.

5. They’ll have tons of testimonials from their clueless authors going on about how excited they are to be published with a Real Book with their Real Words.

But here’s the thing. You do NOT have to pay to be published. In fact, the publishers who do charge to be published are out to make money OFF OF YOU, not off of the consumer buying the product. Mainstream publishing invests in your work, uses their extensive network and know-how to market you effectively, and makes their money from selling the book to people who want to read it. They do not repeatedly advertise your own book to you. They do not have a submissions page that reads like an advertisement. Certain shady vanity publishers are very good at making naïve authors think they don’t have a chance to get published any other way while praising their skills and talents, and their whole business model is built on trusting you to NOT do your homework.

The authors whose books you see in the bookstore did not pay a company to get there. They were chosen by publishers who paid THEM. Know what your work is worth and don’t let the professional scammers trick you into thinking paying for publishing is normal and necessary.

That’s Rich

Published December 23, 2013 by swankivy

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So, in case it wasn’t clear: No, most writers don’t get a lifetime supply of cash on their first book deal.

First off, we get an advance from the publisher. If we’re lucky. Advances tend to be pretty small, and if the book sells enough that the publisher makes back what they spent on paying us an advance, only then do we begin to receive a percentage of the sales. Some authors get a tiny advance and still don’t earn it out, so that’s all they ever see before the book goes out of print. Others are lucky enough to make some decent cash and keep the book in print for a few print runs or even over a long period of time.

But very few get rich off their books. And even those who do generally don’t do so at the advance stage.

Publishers Marketplace speaks in code to tell readers approximately how good somebody’s deal is. You’ll see them saying things like nice deal, significant deal, very nice deal, etc. These actually mean something, as per the following chart:

“nice deal”: $1 ‒ $49,000
“very nice deal”: $50,000 ‒ $99,000
“good deal”: $100,000 ‒ $250,000
“significant deal”: $251,000 ‒ $499,000
“major deal”: $500,000 and up

I got a nice deal for my book. You do the math. No, I’m not rich.

(And oh yeah. I got a book deal. Woo-hoo!)

At Least You’re Not Me

Published November 20, 2013 by swankivy

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So I promised every tenth comic would be long. I didn’t think they’d be this long, though.

This of course refers to how J.K. Rowling pseudonymously wrote a book called The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith. She claimed she wanted to do so because she “was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback.”

She had already tried once to release a book unrelated to the Harry Potter series with her adult novel The Casual Vacancy, but of course she couldn’t escape comparisons to her previous work and complaints about not living up to whatever people expected.

In releasing The Cuckoo’s Calling pseudonymously, with even the publisher who accepted it not knowing that it wasn’t really by a man named Robert Galbraith, Rowling got to prove that she really could do this, that it wasn’t a fluke, that everything else she does isn’t just riding on her own coattails. But the book didn’t sell fantastically–it sold better than she’d expected, but there was no huge explosion until the real author was revealed.

She wishes she hadn’t had to admit she is Robert Galbraith. I guess even being one of the biggest authors ever has its drawbacks.

Be Honest

Published October 31, 2013 by swankivy

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The ugly truth of why you should never ask me to read your first draft. (Or, realistically, your second. Or maybe even your third. Maybe I just shouldn’t read books.)

I’m really not an absolute ogre–I can deliver bad news with grace!–but I’m extraordinarily picky and have trouble being lenient even if something is early in the process. But on the other hand, I’m not the only one to blame here. If you ask your beta readers to be honest, you’d better be ready to take their advice and make your work better. If you’re not going to listen, you don’t need an editor. You need a cheerleader.

Gimme a Bad Book Any Day

Published September 29, 2013 by swankivy

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Do yourself a favor. Don’t read excellent books while you’re on submission. ::sigh::

Yes, we really are this insecure sometimes. But in all seriousness, we’re also inspired to do our best by reading the greats; it’s just not super great for our self-esteem when we’re trying to talk ourselves into believing we’ll get there one day.

Feeling a little unconfident about your writing abilities? Read a really crappy book.

Creating a Buzz

Published August 31, 2013 by swankivy

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This comic was partially based on this conversation I had, in which a strange person told me that I would be more likely to get an agent if I put my book up for sale in PDF form through my website. (I seem to have managed to sign with an agent without doing that, y’all.) For the record, folks, most agents and publishers are not out looking to discover authors. They want you to come to them. With a book you haven’t already put on the Internet.

When you hear those stories about people getting discovered for their blogs and getting a book deal, it’s almost always nonfiction (a field in which Internet popularity and “buzz” DOES matter). When you hear about self-published books getting mainstream deals, they’ve sold an unusual number of copies (5,000 in six months gets their attention; 500 does not). The ones you hear about are exceptions. They’re lottery winners. They’re not an example by which to model your own career, because the likelihood of it happening to you is slim.

If your GOAL is a mainstream book deal, chances are much better for you if you query agents and keep the book you want to sell off the Internet!