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!

Externally Imposed

Published July 31, 2013 by swankivy

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I’ve had people actually laugh at me when I expect them to respect a deadline I chose myself. Apparently some people think it’s not really important if someone else isn’t making you do it or waiting for your product. I’m the opposite: I think it’s kind of sad if the only deadlines you respect are the ones imposed upon you by someone else.

Sorry man, my writing is serious business, and if I treated it like it was a low priority based on other people’s impositions on my time, I’d never get anything done!

First Novel

Published April 30, 2013 by swankivy

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Seriously. I thought it would be hilarious to read over my first novel and giggle over how adorably incompetent I was. Let’s just say there was nothing cute about it whatsoever. It was blisteringly, depressingly, horrifyingly bad, and to be honest if I’d read a freshman work of this quality by a teen today, I’d be tempted to say “this person has no future in writing.” Happily, even the most embarrassingly awful writers can become accomplished novelists if they practice (and, as always, if they keep reading). I’m living proof. I think.