Turning Down a Contract by Kristina M. Serrano

Turning Down a Contract by Kristina M. Serrano

I bring to you a guest blogger named Kristina M. Serrano, who so graciously decided to take my offer up on what it’s like to have to turn down a contract despite high hopes and expectations. Enjoy!


It’s so, so hard. It really is. But sometimes, it’s necessary. You can envision it: book signings, interviews, sharing a story from your heart and soul with the world. The power is in your hands. All you have to do is sign.
And yet, you don’t.

Almost two weeks ago, I was offered a contract for SLOW ECHOES by a small publisher, but after seeking counsel from several knowledgeable sources in the writing/publishing industry and thinking long and hard, I turned it down.
The days it took me to make my decision were torturous. “Published” and “contract” rang through my thoughts, taunting, seducing. I’d waited years for those words, and they were finally here. I could finally act on that detailed marketing plan I’d whipped up ages ago. I could tell all of my friends and family I was finally an author, a novelist, not just aspiring. I could share my characters with the world. Almost. Almost… A signature away…

And then a polite e-mail of thanks and decline.

Aside from feeling like I’d flushed an accomplished dream down the toilet, the hardest part about walking away from the contract was how sweet the publisher/editor was and how strongly the publisher/editor felt about my book.
So why did I turn it down? Well, one, different publishers prefer different policies in their contracts, and I felt there were too many clauses that didn’t appeal to me to negotiate. Also, while the publisher’s in-person marketing plan was awesome (attending multiple events promoting their books throughout the year), it wasn’t coupled with a strong online presence, which is important to me and the failure or success of sales for any book.

Basically, it just wasn’t the right fit, to me, for SLOW ECHOES. If anything, this experience taught me that the publishing industry is subjective in more ways than one. If agents and editors reject fantastic books because “they’re just not the right fit,” authors should feel comfortable rejecting a contract from an accomplished publisher that is “just not the right fit.”
My faith has gotten me this far, and I’m confident it will carry me even further as I reassess my writing and publishing goals and continue the querying process.

Another important thing this has taught me: DON’T RUSH. I have been rushing since I was eighteen, and I’m twenty-three now, almost twenty-four. A lot of non-writers think books are born overnight and, however innocently, prod you with “you’re STILL not published?” It’s hard, I know (believe me), but take a deep breath, don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions, do what’s best for you as a writer and your precious book(s), and be proud of yourself! Publishing is definitely not a race against the clock. It’s a waiting game of patience and the right timing.

A successful author I know told me to enjoy the writing process before publication, because that’s when things REALLY get hectic. And that’s what I plan to do. Read great books. Have a ball writing. Dream of landing the right agent and/or publisher and attending my first book signing while researching and querying.
But, my, I’m getting ahead of myself again. Patience, dear child. Patience.

Kristina M. Serrano is an aspiring YA fantasy and paranormal romance novelist, singer, homeschool/college graduate, and ex cowgirl who has been thrown five times. To read more about her and her writing, visit her website (http://kristinamserrano.wix.com/author) where you can also find links to her Twitter and Facebook pages.

“The Truth About Publishing”

“The Truth About Publishing”

The title has been borrowed from Ian Irvine’s website, which all of you should thoroughly read.

So a lot of writers go into publishing believing they have realistic expectations (I am not talking about the ones who go in and think they’ll be bestsellers or millionaires because they’re with a major publisher). I, too, thought I went into publishing with realistic standards, until I realized my standards weren’t realistic at all, which did depress me for a few days–but I was also depressed about something major that happened in my ballet life; however, rest assured, I haven’t quit ballet, and it didn’t have anything to do with my questioning whether or not I was good enough to continue on doing ballet. So two depressing things thrown at me made me feel depressed again–and heartbroken, mainly a bunch of pointe shoes stabbing my heart. Monday and Tuesday, I didn’t even get out of bed until 10:30, and I just could not bring myself to write. I’ll tell you that ballet was the biggest part of it, though. Publishing was only a small factor. But this post is not about ballet. (I know I deviate a lot, don’t I?)

This post is about having to almost severely lower our standards for what we should expect in terms of book sales and publishing itself: with both small and large presses. I know I have had to lower mine, and I have found myself being able to accept selling X number of books per month; however, I do expect that as I go on, I should be selling more. I have high expectations for a reason, so that way I can strive toward where I want to be. Thus, I am going to use Mr. Irvine’s article to highlight some major points about the truth in the publishing world, a truth that even veteran authors seem to have become jaded to. So you can read the article, but I’ll just make it easier for you by highlighting the major stuff.

  1. You’re not considered published until you’re in print. Sadly, a lot of authors get their hopes up that when an editor falls in love with their manuscript, that they are considered published authors. I think I considered myself a pre-published author upon inception to AEC because I knew any number of things could happen, like, for whatever reason, they could drop the project. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But, in short, and this is for both small and large presses, if your editor gets fired or leaves the job, and your manuscript is passed on to another who hates it, don’t expect publication. Having an agent or a publisher doesn’t guarantee anything. I know one person whose agent never found a house for her book. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from this person in a while, so I’m not sure what happened, but her book seemed awesome. In any case, I want you to be downright realistic upon landing an agent or a publisher because ANYTHING can happen that could lead to heartbreak, for whatever reason. Sometimes an editor puts too much hope in a manuscript and the sales department thinks it’ll be a liability, and, just like that, your chance at publication is gone. Read Lesson 10A for more detail.
  2. Print runs. I can’t say too much on this because I have no idea how much Lightning Source prints for my book, but even with a major publisher, you’re an unknown author with no platform, so don’t expect a large print run. A great author could get a 200,000 run, and you’ll receive an astonishingly low number. Read Lesson 11 for more detail.
  3. You might hate your book. This often isn’t so with a small press, because author, cover artist, and publisher work hand-in-hand to create a cover that satisfies all parties. My former contract manager had her own ideas, my publisher had his own ideas, and I had my own ideas, and all of our ideas copulated and made something wonderful and awesome. Unfortunately, for those at a large press, you generally have no such input on the cover art process, unless you’re a big-time person, like John Green, who is a RARE commodity in publishing. So there is a chance you might hate your cover, and essentially you’ll be embarrassed by it and absolutely terrified to have it on the shelves–or anywhere, for that matter. Read Lesson 12.
  4. Uh…promotion. For big presses, your book might only end up in a book catalogue as far as promotions go: for a newbie author with no established sales record. If a publisher can’t stock your book in a bookstore, chances of sales are low. Remember, there is limited shelf space, and it costs money for your book to be in stores. If you are stocked, book quantities may be low, and your book might be facing spine out. At my B&N, bestsellers make up the brunt of the YA shelf space–or bestselling authors, at least. For a small press, the only person who is probably going to make it in a bookstore is someone who is a bestseller, often with a big publisher previously, because that bestseller alone bolsters that small presses’ brand. But don’t be impressed. Until a small press can get a non-bestseller book into bookstores, then, in my opinion, you can be impressed. Read Lesson 13.
  5. Read Lesson 14. I can’t explain this point that well.
  6. Book reviews. Veteran authors like to tout that books with big presses are going to get reviewed by something big and awesome. Unfortunately, a good amount NEVER get reviewed. Even a great review usually doesn’t bolster sales. Newbie writers simply don’t have the audience to warrant a review by some big newspaper or other review source. One review in a big-city paper could bolster sales, but that’s no guarantee. Really, it’s an ego boost. Read Lesson 15.
  7. Sales. Drop your expectations. Now. Especially drop them with a small press. 15,000-40,000 of mass paperbacks are good with a big press, but most books aren’t going to sell that much. With a small press, selling 1,000 in a year is basically an invitation to a ritzy party. There is also some myth out there that says if you write a trilogy, by the third book, you should be doing well. Not true, at least for some. Your second book will probably not sell as good as the first, at least until you can get a lot of people to love your first book who will then read the second, love the second, and will buy the third. Otherwise, your series will be in trouble. I mean, you can make more sales combined, as well as money, but you ultimately want a successful trilogy. Believe me. I have this fear. I have 51 reviews so far for When Stars Die, and most love it, but there are a tiny few who will not stick around for the sequel. Read Lesson 16.
  8. Literary awards. If your book is literary in nature, really, don’t expect great sales from this because it doesn’t fit with popular tastes. In fact, and I can’t remember where I read this, bookstores were reluctant to stock John Green’s TFiOS because of its pure literary nature. So having a literary award is great and all, but, again, it’s simply an ego booster, not really bought by the public but those in academia. Read Lesson 21.
  9. Years. I have to constantly remind myself that I am not one of the lucky 5% whose book ran out the gate as a bestseller. It’s especially harder with a small press. Even so, you can still find success. It just takes years. Stephen King took years. Look how big he is now. The authors that persist and sweat despite the initial lousy sales are the ones who make it. I had to remind myself that yesterday because I was frustrated with my own sales. And years can pass by much faster than you think. I mean, I don’t want them to because I don’t want my days to speed by, especially because every moment in life is precious, but, again, years go by us at light speed. Before you know it, your persistence could make you as big as Stephen King. Read Lesson 22.
  10. Success. When you do become successful, that’s probably more stressful than being not successful, because now you have to work even harder to stay successful, to make your fans happy, to make your publisher happy, and so on and so forth. Read Lessons 22, 23, and 24.
  11. Royalties. Holy monkey riding a banana. This is my first time reading this, and I am now BLASTED happy about my royalties. Granted, this takes into account possible agents in other countries. Also, I’ll admit that I wished the chart showed more, such as how many books sold to earn said royalty amount. In any case, read lesson 30. Net profits are a good thing with a small press. Trust me on this one.
  12. Just read lesson 30A.
  13. Changing publishers. After reading this, I realized sending ASO off to another publisher isn’t exactly as great of an idea as I thought, especially because I don’t have a good reason, other than AEC having their hands full with The Stars Trilogy (and they probably won’t get the book until 2015–or 2016–anyway!). My PA wasn’t going to talk me out of it, but she thought it strange, too. Now, however, I understand. The explanation presented in Ian’s lesson isn’t why I think it’s a bad idea. It’s just my own reasoning, and why I think it is a bad idea for newbie authors or those with small presses. My publisher is a brand. My book is under that brand. People who subscribe to AEC and are supporters of AEC and buy my book under that brand will expect more from me under that brand, especially if they become my fans. If I publish my book under another brand, there is a high possibility that it could do worse because it is not under my publisher’s brand, nor will it be in their newsletter. For example, if I got accepted by Spencer Hill Press, they’ll include my book in their newsletter; however, my fans will not know I have this new book under a new brand unless they’re actively seeking new books from me that are not in my trilogy. Readers can be fans of a trilogy, so they might expect something similar from an author for another book, as each publishing company caters to a certain taste. For example, I loved Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty Trilogy, but I haven’t bought another book from her since that trilogy, because her other books are not in my range of taste–although I will buy The Diviners eventually because it’s closest to her first trilogy. It explains why there are authors who have books with different publishers, but one book is doing a lot better than some other book. It also explains why a certain press has a bestselling author whose book isn’t even selling in the midlist range. Those fans probably just don’t know about it because that brand isn’t in a bookstore! Anyway…for the other reason, read lesson 31.

After reading all of this, especially Ian’s entire article, if you’re discouraged and want to give up, you probably weren’t meant to be a writer. In fact, this article encouraged me because it made me realize that I AM NOT ALONE. And that is always heartening, isn’t it?

I have no idea what my next post will be, but consider me The Dancing Writer, Undercover Agent for All That is Publishing.

Publishers DO Market Books

Publishers DO Market Books

This is going to be a short post.

Lately there has been a myth among the self-publishing community that publishers do not market books, and because of this many feel they might as well self-publish. Now let me say that self-publishing, in my opinion, shouldn’t be used as a last resort, because that is insulting to self-publishing itself nowadays. But it should also not be used because you think having a publisher isn’t going to add any value you to. (In reality, we should just ditch the term self-publishing and just go with the indie label, which I think many are doing anyway.)

Rachelle Gardner is an excellent voice among the publishing community. I do not like to read articles from self-published authors that tout self-publishing as the way to go, and I do not like to read articles from experts in the publishing business who say self-published authors are doomed to fail and are only adding to the crap storm of books burying all the gems.

But she is an excellent voice because she is both in favor of self-publishing and traditionally publishing. So you can read her article here. This is also an argument for small presses, because they do marketing, although they may not be able to do it in the way legacy publishers can.

The Sloppy Sentamentalism of the Anti-Ebook Crowd

The Sloppy Sentamentalism of the Anti-Ebook Crowd

tumblr_mqr0j979nC1s538hbo1_500Owning paperback books has become a novelty thing for me. The last book I read, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, was a paperback, but one I received free from Running Press in exchange for a review. Before that, it was Paper Towns by John Green. Currently I am struggling through the paperback version of Entwined by Heather Dixon. The only reason I bought the latter two as paperbacks is because I was waiting for my Kindle Paperwhite. Reading became way too distracting on my tablet because of the millions of other things that I could do, like the internet and little game apps, so I decided to buy a Kindle to kill those distractions. Otherwise, I primarily read ebook because of the price and how fast I can receive the book. As someone who reads books like candy, ebook makes sense because as soon as I’m done with one book, I can get another without a trip to the bookstore–and without paying taxes.

I still do love going to the bookstore, but it’s more for the novelty experience than anything else. And the only time I do go to the bookstore is when I’m on break at work. I don’t go there anymore outside of work.

There are only two bookstores in my area. One is B&N and the other is The Book Tavern. While I like both and am glad both are here, The Book Tavern is very expensive. Neil Gaiman’s newest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is 26 bucks! It’s so short I can read it an hour! So ebook version for me. There are also a lot of other new books there that are expensive, so I didn’t buy any books there when I made a trip on a whim because getting them on Amazon is so much cheaper (which isn’t exactly a good thing, but might as well take advantage of the price cuts while they last, right?).

I am not a sentimentalist. Physical copies of books are cool because people get to know what you’re reading and it’s indirect advertising for a book, but words are words are words, no matter how they are bound. I receive the same experience from a paperback as I do an ebook, despite what studies say about retaining information more in physical copies than in ebook copies.

It’s fine to prefer the paperback over an ebook, but it’s sloppy sentimentalism to swoon over paperbacks.

Ebooks have given new authors a chance. When a small press launches, they primarily sell online and so are contingent on ebook sales to make them money. A lot of small presses do have paperback counterparts, but when I look up the books of new authors who are primarily online, it is their ebook sales that are crushing their paperback sales simply because of price difference. I also think ebook sales crush paperback sales because people don’t have to wait for the paperback to come into the mail. They receive the book in a matter of seconds.

The picture above is very insulting to authors who have made their debut through ebooks. Not all of these authors are going to have paperback counterparts, so people who scoff at ebooks could potentially be missing really good books because they hang on to paperbacks for no other reason than plain nostalgia. Of course, not everyone has an e-reader, and that’s understandable, but it’s ridiculous to shun ebooks and come up with such trite statements as the one above.

So I care about the words of a story. I do not care how they are bound.

Guest Blogger Mary Cote-Walkden on Indie Presses

Guest Blogger Mary Cote-Walkden on Indie Presses

So I’ve blogged on traditional houses and the self-publishing route, but what about micro publishers? Well, Mary Cote-Walkden decided to comment on this, so here is what she has to say.

 

Indie/Micro Publishers vs Traditional Publishing Houses or Self-Pubbing:

It’s an interesting discussion, and one that really has no right answers. It depends on what you’re looking for, both for you as a writer and for your work, and what your expectations as a writer might be.

I should start off by saying that, yes, I am a bit biased when it comes to publishing. I have tried the other routes, and they were absolutely wrong for me. I am not one who wants to be just a number on a ledger sheet, and as far as self-publishing, I learned the hard and expensive way that good freelance editors are a rare commodity, and that no one should be allowed to edit their own work. Suffice to say that marketing and editing on your own, or through services claiming to do that sort of thing, has its own special set of challenges.

So, what is micro-publishing? It’s a small house that publishes fewer than 20 books a year. We don’t compete with the big houses, but we are not shackled as they are. I often think of the big publishing houses as real estate agents. When you go to buy a house, they tell you what areas are good, what are bad, which places are the ones where you really need to be…sort of like telling us which books are good, which ones are marketable and which genres are passé. (There are no passé genres). Because micro doesn’t have the huge overhead, and are not tethered to a corporate demand for shareholder dividends, we can look at those genres that are not currently deemed hot by the big houses. You can write a book that doesn’t have a werewolf or vampire in it, or that is not intended for a YA audience, and still get published. That doesn’t mean that a micropublisher will turn down a book with vampires or that is a YA novel, but it means we have the ability and the flexibility to showcase those genres that big houses won’t take a chance on, and there are a lot of very good books out there that are passed on because of this. We are able to say that the quality of the writing and the content of the story matter more than giving the public what they already have.

We also have the ability to be more environmentally friendly than the big houses. That’s because traditional publishers will tell you there is a stigma attached to using POD, just as there is a stigma attached to adding that you self-published on your writing credits. For us, POD was a conscious choice. The waste that is the publishing industry is phenomenal. They do massive runs of books, to make them profitable. Those books are printed, stored, shipped to warehouses, stored, shipped to stores, set out on shelves for 60 days, have the covers ripped off, are shipped to warehouses, are stored and, finally, they are destroyed. The carbon footprint is massive for each book. The other drawbacks with the traditional print distribution process is topic for many more blogs, but let’s suffice to say that the consumer and the author, as well as the environment, pay dearly for it, while corporate pockets get lined some more. Don’t ever kid yourself: the big publishing houses are in this for the money, and nothing more than that.

The biggest plus to micropublishers is that they are able to get the books into their finest duds, can give a better payoff to the authors, can help to get the books out there, and can do that while maintaining a more personal connection with the writers. We can take the time for each, work with them, work around their other lives. We work to head a team of writers who support each other, help promote each other, and encourage each other. Idyllic? No, not always, but having tried the other routes, this is the right one for me.

You can find Mary Cote-Walken here: www.writersamuseme.com