In the past I had a difficult time knowing when my book was ready for the eyes of a professional. Even after beta readers, my gut would send ten thousand different signals that there was still something wrong with the book. I could just never get my book to the point where I knew it was ready to be sent out. I would always find some way to make something better, but I also never completely re-wrote. I was an amateur. I refused to believe that I might have to completely re-write in order to make the book better. So of course my past projects were failures.
With When Stars Die, I just took a chance. My gut wasn’t screaming at me, my beta reader loved it, and I was tired of sitting and waiting, so I said ‘Screw it. Life should be about chances.’ And I was surprisingly not disappointed. Depending on how the edits for the book go, I might have to start listening to my gut more often, but it’ll probably still be difficult to tell when a book is ready.
How do you guys know when your book is ready to be looked at by an agent, editor, beta reader, or even freelance editor?
Or do you sometimes just wing it even through uncertainty?
Since I’m a novelist, I am not terrific with poetry, which is why I got Executive Editor, Mariah Wilson, to do a guest post on it. She helps me out with The Corner Club Press and is my overall supporter and cheerleader. Here is her post, and I hope you enjoy!
I’ve written poetry since I was 10 years old. I was introduced to it by my fourth grade teacher. Though I have composed a handful of sonnets, I mainly write free verse. The constraints of form seem to hinder my ability to make sense. Wait? Poetry makes sense? Isn’t it all just abstract thoughts and random flowery passages that we are supposed to decipher and try to figure out what they really mean. Yes and no.
Good poetry makes sense, it speaks to the reader and ignites something inside of them. It could be a feeling, or a memory, or something else entirely. The experience is different for us all. The poet that has been able to move me the most has been Shane Koyczan. I fell in love with his work with ‘We Are More,’ and his poem ‘To This Day’ makes me cry nearly every time I hear it. He speaks to me. He affects me and that is the purpose of poetry. Whether you are reading it or writing it, the purpose is to affect and be affected.
So go forth, pour your soul onto a scrap of paper, or a napkin, whatever is handy, and affect someone. Show the world what you’re made of, what you’re afraid of, and what you can’t let go of.
To close, I leave you with a couple poems that I wrote, in hopes that they affect you.
Blonde hair a tangled rats nest.
Dirty hands, feet and knees.
Messy business this
building an empire of sand.
Sun pouring down in buckets.
You stand staring at me,
wearing your blue swimsuit
that emphasizes your pot belly.
I’m afraid, try as you might,
digging as deep as you dare-
The Lost City of Atlantis,
is not up your nose.
I reach over,
scratch my sleeping kitty.
His fur is soft
on my skin.
I like to catch him
while he sleeps
rough up his fur chanting
“dirty, dirty, dirty!”
I have disturbed him
he sits up and cleans
where I touched.
I have soiled him.
In my last post, I wrote about the expectations for traditional publishing. As promised, this post will speak of the expectations you as a writer should be aware of should you decide to self-publish.
Self-publishing allows you to bypass the long process of trying to find an agent who then has to find a publishing house for you. However, this does not make the process any easier and it should not be any easier.
When you decide to go at it alone, you should expect to be doing most things on your own. If possible, do the cover art yourself. You can find fabulous stock images that are either free or you may not be paying that much for a stock photo. Do some research on how to do attractive cover art for self-publishing and just do it. Have others involved in the decision of what type of cover art you should go with and what the design should be like. This will at least save you money–because you will need it for other things.
Beta readers are great to have, but they’re really only critical if you’re going the traditional route, as they help you prepare your book for the eyes of an agent–who will then do the heavy editing if said agent offers this service. Skip the beta readers and go right toward an editor. You will need one. Traditional houses have editors for a reason and so should you.
I have had beta readers before, and they were good, but they cannot do what editors can do. Beta readers are trained readers. Editors are trained, well, editors. They will, more often than not, be able to see what beta readers often cannot catch. They know grammar to an absurd degree (as an editor myself, I am often shocked by the lack of grammar knowledge within the average person) and they can shred your story to pieces and make it much stronger than many beta readers can. Editors are great for hacking and slashing because they will find things wrong with your story that beta readers cannot. Beta readers are great AFTER the editing, but it’s best not to use them before. Beta readers can pick up on the excess dirt that needs cleaning, but if you’re going to self-publish get an editor. You can find reasonably-priced editors, and then there are your editors who are not so reasonably priced. Do your research before choosing. Your editors who charge a lot have experience. Your editors who don’t charge too much are trying to build rapport, but this does not mean they are not qualified.
I myself have a reasonably-priced editor, but she was recommended to me by a friend who has used her services before, and her qualifications are satisfactory. I also had a previous editor who charged $1.00 a page, and she was fantastic. But she already had a reputation, was trained by someone highly-qualified in the field, and was recommended by many. She just did not charge more because she wanted to build rapport. So if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced editor because you can’t afford more, make sure you do your research on this person.
Overall, as far as editing goes, I don’t care if your beta reader is an English teacher or professor. If he/she has never had experience editing a novel, get an editor. There is a world of difference between editing an essay and editing a novel. Seriously. I can’t stress how crucial editors are for those going the self-publishing route.
Book formatting is also crucial. If you can format the book yourself, great, but realize if you’re going the e-book route, you’re going to want to format for the Nook, Kindle, and possibly Kobo, so don’t just do PDF. I know how to format books, but I’m going to pay for someone to format it for me because formatting is like tearing out my teeth. I already do it for The Corner Club Press and hate every moment of it, so I’m going to take a break. I can afford it just fine without running my bank dry.
Should you also decide to self-publish, marketing is all on you. Unless you hire a publicist. But publicists are expensive and I would recommend just doing intense research and doing it all yourself. I already mentioned the many ways you can market in my last post, so no need to reiterate here.
The last thing you need to expect when you do self-publish is that, for some reason, your reviewers are going to be more critical. There are plenty of traditionally published books with typos and myriads of other errors, but reviewers don’t really point those out. They stick to the story. However, if the same thing occurs in a self-published book, reviewers are quick to jump on those and point them out. I’m not sure why this is. I suspect some want to prove that the traditional route is still the best way to go because an editor would have assured those errors would not have existed in the first place. But that isn’t the case because, as I’ve said, such errors can occur in traditionally published books. Perhaps not to the degree of self-published, but there are more people self-publishing than traditionally publishing because they don’t have to wait on contracts or edits. They can just do everything themselves and get things done when they want to. I’m certain if the traditional route were churning out just as many books as the self-publishing route does, we might see an equal number of books littered with typos and other errors. Just my guess.
So expect to go over your book with a fine-tooth comb if you want to prevent reviewers from jumping on only your errors–because they will point out only those and ignore the story entirely.