Monday, May 31, 2010

Rainy Weather? Who Cares?

My hubby and I are currently on a San Juan Islands vacation. It's pretty much rained the entire time with the exception of a few sun breaks.

We don't really care. In fact, while sun would've been a nice plus, we really didn't expect it.

One of our favorite places to stay, Rosario Resort, re-opened recently, and we jumped at the chance to stay there again. Not to mention, the reasonably rates attracted us, too.

So here we are on our last full day here, unless we decide to spend one more day tomorrow. We're playing that by ear. I'd like to share a few pictures with you of our trip.


This picture is of the rowing pond at Rosario. Robert Moran built it for his guests to enjoy about eight-plus years ago.

 We witnessed this sunset on our ferry trip over. I wish the colors would have come out better. They were much more vivid than this.

This is a view looking out at Cascade Bay from the Rosario Marina.

I'll post more pictures on my Facebook. If you aren't a friend, you can friend me at:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where Were You When...

There are certain events in our lives which will always be remembered by each of us answering the question: Where were you when...? September 11 is one of those. The Nisqually Earthquake is another for those of us who live around South Puget Sound.

If you're a native Washingtonian, and you've been around a while, you probably know what May 18th means.

It's the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Since today is the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, I thought I’d go out on a limb and date myself by telling you what I was doing on May 18, 1980.

It started out as a hot, spring Sunday morning in Pullman, Washington. My roommates and I were students at Washington State University. It was almost finals week. All four of us hit the books that morning and didn’t turn on the TV. Oblivious to what happened that morning, we noticed an odd-shaped storm cloud heading our way. The thing was huge and black and angry looking.

Mitzi decided to call her parents to check in. The first thing she mentioned to them was our impending store. To which they replied: Mt. St. Helens blew today. Turn on your TV.

We did and studying was put on the back burner. The emergency broadcasting system was activated. Fire station vehicles with loud speakers drove through the parking lots and warned students to stay inside. Breathing ash into your lungs wasn’t something any of us planned on doing. So we hunkered down and waited for the cloud to arrive. Before long the skies were black, the street lights came on, and the ash started to fall like dirty snow. Eventually you couldn’t even see the light from the streetlights. Our balcony was covered in about six inches of ash, which we collected in jars. I still have a few jars full of ash.

For the next few days we stayed inside a stifling hot apartment until we ran out of food and alcohol. We donned our masks and ventured out into a world very different from the one of a few days ago. This new world was shrouded in gray. Everything was gray. Mt. St. Helens had left her mark and saved us from finals, which we were allowed to skip.

It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Publishing Alternatives for the 21st Century--Part 3: Choosing a Small Press

Not all small presses are created equal or EVEN close to equal. Beware when picking a small press. Some are run as professionally as any large NY press, while others might be anything but. The owner may not have any background in publishing or even business. She may not have a penny to invest in the company, which means royalties may be late or non-existent. Protect yourself and do your homework before signing with any publisher. I hope the following suggestions will be of some use to you.

Choosing a Small Publisher (ePub)
There are a mind-boggling amount of small presses in cyberspace. Each day brings several new ones. At the same time, several existing presses close down and leave authors without a home for their books and often without the royalties owed to them, not to mention a long struggle to get their books rights back.
I’m going to assume you have a preliminary list of publishers you’re considering.
How does a person go about choosing the small presses that they wish to submit their works to?
First of all and foremost: RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. I can’t stress this enough. Here are some great ways to find out about a small press that interests you:
  • Google them. Do a web search on this publisher. Read everything you can find.
  • Ask for recommendations from writers loops and author friends.
  • Check out their website and contact authors published with them. Include authors not just at the top of their bestseller lists, but at the middle and bottom. Most authors will give you the straight scoop if you ask the right questions. If one author expresses displeasure with a publisher, but the majority love that publisher, don’t put much weight on one disgruntled author. If you find several unhappy authors, I’d approach with caution or not at all.
  • Run a business background check. Several Internet companies will do this for you for about $25-40. You’ll need to be able to find the publisher’s name and a physical address in order to do a background check. Check the background of the company and the owner. If the company doesn't make its physical address available, proceed with caution.
  • Buy a few of their books, again, not just from their top sellers but from their mid-list and lower authors. You may find the editing very different for a top-selling author as compared to a beginning author. Also take note of how easy or difficult it is to buy a book from their website.
  • Find out about their editing process. Do you get assigned the same editor for one book or all of your books? Do you have contact with this editor to discuss improvements needed in your manuscript? How thorough is the editing? Do you see tons of errors in their published books?
  • If this small press offers print titles,  buy a few to see the quality of the print books.
  • Checkout review sites to see what kinds of reviews their books are getting. This may give you an idea of the quality of book they publish.
  • Do you like their covers? Covers sell. That's a fact. If their covers are bad, chances are editing is substandard, and everything else about the company may be less than stellar.
If they pass your initial background check, consider what you want from a publisher. Some questions to consider:
  • What kind of distribution do they offer?
    • Are their books available from major distributors, such as Fictionwise, MobiPocket, Amazon (Kindle), Baker and Taylor, Ingram Book Group.
    • Do they offer print books? If so, are they available through major distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble?
  • What do they offer financially to an author?
    • Do they pay an advance? This is very rare in ebooks and not a necessity.
    • What percentage of sales does the author get for each book? What do their books sell for?
    • How often do they pay royalties? Can you find out if they pay on time?
  • Do they offer any type of promotion?
    • Do they have a marketing department? A few small presses do have a marketing person available to assist authors?
    • Do they offer any free promotion, such as advertising?
  • What do you think of their website?
    • Is the website attractive, easy to navigate, quick to load?
    • Go through the process of buying a book. Is it straight-forward? Or is it confusing and awkward?
  • What about their publishing process?
    • How many months/years out are they scheduling slots? How long do you want to wait to see your book in print?
    • What do you think of the quality of their editing? Buy a few of their books and see for yourself.
      • What is their editing process? Do you get to work with the same editor all the time or do you get a different editor for each book? There are pros and cons to each. It depends on your preference.
    • Can you get a copy of their contract?
      • How many years is your book under contract? Five to seven seems to be the average. What happens to your book rights if the company is no longer in business? Do they revert back to the author?
      • Are you required to give them first right of refusal on any subsequent manuscripts? On books in a series?
    • How do they handle reviews?
      • Who’s responsible for soliciting reviews? Do you need to send your own book out for reviews? Do they send to a group of reviewer for you?
    • Are you provided with free copies for contests and to submit for reviews?
      • How many and what kind?
    • Do you get any input into the covers? How much do the covers reflect the story and the characters?
When I was doing my research, I made a spreadsheet of which items were important to me. Then I checked off which small presses offered what I wanted.

From there I read their submission instructions and submitted to the ones that interested me.

I hope this series has been useful to you. Please let me know if I’m missing anything or if you’d like me to cover other topics in the future.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Seattle Examiner

My series on publishing is also being published at the Seattle Examiner:


Publishing Alternatives for the 21st Century--Part 2, Pros and Cons of Publishing with a Small Press

First of all, you need to understand some terminology (at least how I use it), such as small press, large press, vanity press, and print on demand. In the interests of saving space, I posted this terminology in my Part 1 post at this blog.

We'd all love to sell to a large publisher with a huge advance and be on Good Morning America and Oprah. The chances of that happening are slim to none, especially if you write out of the box. Large publishers are reluctant to take a chance on books which don't fit into one of their established slots.

So, you wrote a book and now you want find a home for it. Let's assume you're not interested in self-publishing. Let's also assume you've tried the large publisher route, you're writing something big publishers won't take a chance on, don't have the patience to wait on a big publisher, or you believe ebooks are the wave of the future.

Should you consider a small press or e-publisher and why? Here are some of the pros and cons of small presses to help you make your decision. In this case, I'm referring to small presses that are primarily epubs, as opposed to small presses that do print runs.

Pros (What working with a small press can do for you):

  • Provide a viable option for books that don’t fit into a New York slot. (Small pubs can afford to take risks). Many small presses concentrate on niches which aren't served by NY publishers. Equestrian fiction definitely fits into this.
  • Gain valuable experience (which can look good to a large publisher).
  • Learn to promote your book and yourself.
  • Gain experience working with editors and publishers on professional duties such as cover art and edits.
  • Prove you can meet deadlines.
  • Provide encouragement to finish the book and write more books.
  • Build name recognition the publishing business.
  • Improve writing and editing skills by working with other authors and your editor.
  • Reduce the number of discarded and destroyed paperbacks. GO GREEN!
  • Make valuable contacts with other authors and the book publishing industry.
  • Build confidence in your writing.
  • Enjoy less pressure.
  • Enjoy more creative freedom.
  • Allowed more time to develop as an author even if your book sales are slow initially.
  • Receive more personal attention from publisher and staff (depends on the publisher)
  • Easier to find your books, longer “shelf” life, don’t go out of print.
  • Have a quicker turnaround from submission to publication.
  • Write shorter works so you can write more books. You're not expected to write a novel-length book every time.
  • Provide another publication outlet for category novels.
  • Build a reader base.
Cons (Disadvantages of a small press):
  • Low pay and royalties, in many cases, considering the time investment by the author.
  • Risky if the small press isn’t stable and established. Yet, in this economy, NY is risky as editors move around and lines close all the time. They may tie up your book for a few years and never publish it.
  • Time-consuming, as you often perform the tasks large publishers would do for you, such as promotion, blurbs, cover art suggestions, etc.
  • Lower quality of editing in some cases.
  • Limited chance for the book to be in bookstore because they're usually print on demand and not all small presses send their books to print.
  • Requires extensive research of different companies. (Not all small presses are created equal in royalties, editing, and business practices. Talk to authors, do a background check, search the Internet)
  • Limited possibilities for booksignings.
  • A smaller market of people to buy your book. Even though the Internet should be a large market, it's very hard to target your promotion to the right readers.
  • Limited distribution for your book.
  • Lack of respect in many circles, including professional writing organizations. You may not be taken seriously by fellow authors and considered more of a hobbiest than a professional author.
  • Limited reviews—may be harder to get reviews
  • Exclusion from many contests, as you may find yourself in a no-man's land between not published and published.
  • Print-on-demand books costs 2 to 3 times more than regular pocket novels.
  • Expectation that you will write more books than you would with a larger press.
Does anyone have more to add?

Next week, I'll discuss how to pick a small press.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Publishing Alternatives for the 21st Century, Part 1, Definitions

Do you write off the beaten path? Is your book a hard-sell to New York publishers because it doesn’t fit? Did you write a book for one of Harlequin’s lines, make it all the way to the final editor, only to have it rejected? Should you put that book under your bed or in the dusty recesses of your computer and forget about it?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Today's authors have a great deal of publishing options at their disposal. Well-written books which don't fit in the mainstream are finding niche markets and small presses are eager to satisfy those niches.

Two years ago, I posted a series on Publishing with a Small Press. I'm going to repost that series under a different title and expand it. Next week, I'll post Part Two.

Please post your comments, additions, corrections. This is a collaborative post.
First, I want to start with some definitions:

New York Publisher (large press): These publishers typically have offices in New York City. They do large print runs for their author's books, which are distributed to book stores. They pay royalties (a percentage of the book's cover price, usually about 6-8 percent). The author gets paid an advance before the book hits the shelf.

Vanity Publisher (Self-Published): These presses typically publish anyone if you have the money to pay them. You will be expected to pay for things or provide your own, such as cover design, editing, and marketing. They may have limited distribution, if any. They're good choices if you're publishing something for a targeted group of people, such as a family history.

Small Press (epub or Epublisher): These presses operate like NY presses. They do not charge any fees to the author. They provide editing, cover art, and distribution. The distribution varies between publishers, as does the quality of editing and amout of marketing. Small presses are becoming a home to niche markets. Fiction which only serves a specialized group of readers isn't a good risk for large publishers. The writers might be as good or better than writers for big publishers, but they've chosen to write in an area which is not popular with the masses.
I find that there are two primary types of small presses:

Electronic or ePubs: Their books are primarily available electronically. They usually do not pay an advance unless it’s quite small. The author earns royalties (usually about 30-40 percent) from the cover price of the book sold in the small press’s bookstore and royalties from the distributor (usually a percentage of what the publisher receives). Many of these presses also offer their books in print via print on demand (see definition below) and through distributors such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Traditional Small Presses: These presses do small print runs. Their books may or may not be available via other distributors. They may or may not provide an electronic format. They may pay a small advance.

Other Definitions:
Print Run: NY pubs do a print run of each book published. The books are then distributed to bookstores. Unsold books can be returned to the publisher for a refund. Returns of fifty percent or more are not uncommon.

Print on Demand (POD): This is a green alternative to print books. Over half of the books printed by NY pubs are not sold and are destroyed. Print-on-Demand books are printed when the buyer places an order, usually in a trade paperback format. At this time, they're more expensive to buy as the process is more expensive than a print run. POD books are rarely available in bookstores because in most cases they are not returnable. Small publishers and vanity publishers often uses a POD press to print their books.

My next post will include the pros and cons of small presses.