Category Archives: publishing

To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question

At a recent book-selling event that was a topic of conversation among many of the local authors.  We had time to talk because a snow storm put a damper on sales.

Given the opportunity to self-publish thanks to companies like Create Space, Book Baby, Lulu and more, authors can put their books into print, at least print on demand. This route is the alternative to the more traditional one of seeking an agent who will negotiate a sale of your work to a larger publisher.

As a writer who has gone both ways, there are pros and cons to each.

Make no mistake; the largest obstacle to the more traditional route is getting an agent because most of the very big publishing houses won’t look at you without one. Your writing and/or subject matter (hopefully both) must be compelling to get their attention. Once you land an agent, they will do the work to present your book to a publisher. Publishers will provide editors to make sure your work is the best it can be, as well as cover designers. Once published, they roll out their formidable marketing machine.

With a publisher you will get a percentage of the profits from book sales, and don’t forget the cut to your agent. But hello, an established publisher had enough faith in you to publish your work. I felt very, very proud of that when a New York house picked up my children’s book, “Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentos.”

More and more writers, even ones who have been published by traditional publishers, are looking at self-publishing. In this route you will have to take care of the things publishers do from editing to cover design to marketing to distinguish your book from the many, many more books there are out there because of self-publishing. That is a downside because the time you spend doing this takes away from your writing time.

If you take this route, my best advice is to spend money on an editor. Readers usually don’t care who publishes a book, but they will care if it’s poorly written and full of grammatical errors that bump them out of the story. Then they’ll ask, “Who the hell published this book?” On the plus side, there are lots of editing services and cover designers available and plenty of advice online about how to market. All the profits from the sales of your book go to you.

The end product is also a published book.

So when asking the question to publish or not to publish, remember both ways mean work. Ultimately, you will never get paid for the hours upon hours you put into writing and rewriting your book unless it makes the bestseller list and you sell the rights for a movie starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock.

In the end, no matter what route you pursue — love the writing.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

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What does a room of my own mean to you?

When asked what one needs in order to write, Virginia Wolf said she needed “500 pounds and a room of my own.”

What do you think she meant? Was she saying that she needed exactly “500 pounds” as money in her day was measured? I do not think so. I think she was saying that she needed an income comfortable enough that the basic necessities of life were covered. Enough money that she did not have to worry where her next meal was coming from, or wonder if she could pay the rent. After all if I am always hungry and worried that I may be thrown out into the street and be homeless at anytime, I’m not going to be able to focus on similes and metaphors.

I believe “A room of my own” could mean a whole house or just a small corner of a room. It doesn’t matter. Many years ago I was sorting boxes of old magazines I wanted to keep for reference, into order by date of issue. I had so many magazines that I had to spread them out on the living room floor. It was the only space large enough. I’d spent an entire afternoon lining them up into rows and moving them from one area of a row to another as I worked through many years and months of dates. I was about halfway through when I had to stop to get dinner for my family.

When the evening dishes were finally done and the kitchen back in order I returned to the living room to resume my sorting. My magazines had been gathered up and thrown into a huge heap in the corner of the room. Nobody would admit to the deed, but I knew then the living room was not “my room.”

In my room or my own space I can spread out my projects and nobody will bother them. I can lay my papers and books on a table or on the floor if I wish and leave them there all strung out and in disarray. If this is truly “my own room” when I come back my papers will be exactly where I left them. Nothing will be touched. That I believe is what she means by “A room of my own.”

I recently staked out a room of my own from vacated rental space that the tenant no longer wanted. It is 20 feet by 22 feet with a huge storage area. It is in an area where I do not think I will be able to re-rent it easily, So, it is mine.

In my room I will put my favorite books, a library table, a music maker of some sort, my computer and printer, plenty of reference books, a big easy chair or recliner, reading lamp, coffee table, inspirational pictures on the wall, and enough shelves in my storage area to hold paper, ink supplies, glue, staples, paper clips, pencils, notebooks, paper cutters, laminating machines. I want plenty of daylight and maybe even a dorm sized refrigerator and microwave for snacks. The room will be comfortable enough that I will want to spend time there.

Who knows I may even store some folding chairs in the closet for friends or students, in case I decide to invite someone over or host a seminar in my space.

Right now I am measuring for carpet and plan to put a curse on any who disturbs my space. There will be an amulet above the door.

Dixie Thomas Reale

QUESTION OF THE MONTH.

How do I get my writing published?

So, your story is finally finished. Each phrase is a polished gem that contributes toward the final climax. No word is wasted. Now, you need a home to showcase your masterpiece.
First, study the market place. Focus on subject matter, length of stories preferred and whether or not the intended market accepts unsolicited and/or unagented submissions. Follow the rules. Send your story only to publishers or agents who deal in your particular genre or subject matter.
Include a one page query letter with your manuscript . This is your sales pitch for both the story and you. The query should contain a brief synopsis of the story and a short biography with publishing credits and experience. If you do not have writing credits, be sure to include your background that relates to the story. Remember every published author started somewhere.
Double check. Do not send negative or self defeating messages in the correspondence. For example — “This is my first attempt to publish.” “I am not an expert.” “I am a really a poet but wanted to try my hand at fiction.” You get the idea. Include some facts about the story — “The title of your story is a 95,000 word mystery novel.”
Polish the query as you perfected your manuscript. If you belong to a critique group, critique the letter. Remember the query is the potential editor’s or agent’s first impression of you. If it is a bad impression you will probably not get a second chance.
Also, many beginning writers use the copyright symbol on their correspondence with potential publishers, editors and/or agents. They do this in an effort to protect their work.
Unfortunately using © in letters and cover sheets of a manuscript sends a negative message. You are telling the person reading the letter that you suspect he wants to steal your story. When writing to an agent or potential market, writers need to make a good impression. Put yourself in the editor or agent’s place. If someone told me even indirectly they suspected I was a thief, I would not want to deal with that person and would probably reject their story without even reading it. And, if an editor or agent is dishonest, all the ©s in the world will not stop him/her from stealing.
Remember, you can’t copyright an idea, only the telling of it — the arrangement of words on the page. All stories are old ideas recycled through a new author’s mind. There is no new idea. Writers steal ideas all the time.
If you are really concerned about theft of your story, print out a copy. Put it into a large manila envelope, take it to the U.S. Post Office and mail it to yourself via registered mail. When the envelope arrives in your mail box, do not open it, but put it away in a safe place. If anyone ever does steal your version of the telling of the story, you have dated legal evidence of ownership. You can then take them to court. But do not insult a potential business ally.
Good luck!

Dixie Thomas Reale

Agents do consider self-published authors

This article has mostly good news for writers of self-published books.

http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/09/25/literary-agents-open-the-door-to-self-published-writers/

Random Readings January 30, 2010

The publishing world is changing daily, it seems, and there’s a lot of interest in the area of non-traditional forms of publishing. As “Writers Working for Writers,” the Idaho Writer’s Guild is proudly launching a new series called “Random Readings” on Saturday, January 30th from 1-3 pm at The Cabin, in Boise. Featured writers will share their experiences, from writing to publishing.

Here’s what you can look forward to: authors will read from their books, with commentary. Afterwards, there will be time for asking questions and sharing thoughts about the nuts and bolts of a variety of publishing processes. Not-to-be-missed refreshments will be served.

Southern Idaho residents Bonnie Dodge, Dixie Thomas Reale and Patricia Santos Marcantonio wrote and published “Voices from the Snake River Plain.” A collection of short stories, poems and essays, the book has been described as “a small treasure….we learn there is beauty in the landscape around us and people with stories to tell.” Some of the tales by these award-winning writers include a jackalope, an old Mexican ghost story, haunting landscapes and a road trip with Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.

Val Robertson was the former president of The Couer du Bois Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and the founding and current president of the Popular Fiction Association of Idaho, which produces the Murder in the Grove mystery conference. She is also the organizer of the Boise Speculative Fiction writer’s support group. Her debut novel is entitled “Blade’s Edge.”

Also from Boise, Ken McConnell is both traditionally published and self-published. A Software Test Technician, Ken wrote and published “Starstrikers” in 2008. His first novel is “a military space novel that takes place between two galactic civilizations.” He also wrote “Null Pointer,” a mystery novel about a programmer sleuth.

“Random Readings” will take place in the Jean Wilson Reading Room, on the basement level at The Cabin, 801 S. Capitol Blvd, Boise. Admission is free. For further information contact Diane Graham at diane@idahowritersguild.org.

Thank you, Magic Valley

On November 6, Pat, Dixie and I enjoyed reading excerpts from Voices from the Snake River Plain to a standing-room-only crowd in Twin Falls, Idaho. A heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who helped celebrate the launch of our new book. If you missed the event, copies are still available at the Magic Valley Arts Council, 132 Main Avenue South, Twin Falls, Idaho. They are also available at the Log Cabin Literary Center, 801 S. Capitol Boulevard in Boise, Idaho.

Voices from the Snake River Plain is here!

Voices from the Snake River Plain is a collection of short stories, essays, and poems written by Bonnie Dodge, Dixie Thomas Reale, and Patricia Santos Marcantonio. Edited by Jennifer Sandmann, the anthology includes tales that range from humorous to haunting, poignant to tragic. Sometimes the stories rise out of the landscape and from dreams. Sometimes they reach into the past, or into the future, but mostly, the stories echo the human heart. Many of the selections have been printed in other publications or have won writing awards. With a foreword by Diane Josephy Peavey, author of Bitterbrush Country: Living on the Edge of the Land, this is a book you will want to add to your collection.

Voices from the Snake River Plain was made possible in part by the Embodiment Grant of Boise.

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ISBN 978-0-9627690-1-6

$15 plus tax, shipping & handling

To order contact Bonnie.