The steps to getting published, and avoiding the traps!

I’ve said this before, in fact I’ve said it several times, but apparently it needs repeating because over the past few days I have seen numerous posts on social media from unpublished authors who have been offered “contracts” by “publishers”. Why am I using speech marks? Because you have not been offered a contract by a traditional publisher, you have been offered a service by a vanity press, and yes, there is a HUGE difference.

I’ve been in this industry for a long time now. I’m published both traditionally and self, and the only time I have had to pay for anything to do with getting my book published, is when I did it myself. I work with three traditional publishers: Tirgearr Publishing, Totally Bound Publishing, and Evernight Publishing, and not once have I had to pay for anything other than private marketing, which I have done off my own back.

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So what should you be paying for? Well, when it comes to publishing a book there are several steps that need to be taken before it gets put on a shelf:

Write your story

Now write it again. Honestly, the first draft should never be the one you send out. To anyone! The first draft of a novel is a secret that only you should read. Why? Because it’s likely to be filled with unnecessary paragraphs, chapters and even characters. Read over it, and you will probably stumble into a plot hole along the way. Write your story, leave it for a few days, then read over it and fix everything you can.

Self editing

If you’re experienced in editing, you might find this stage slightly easier than other writers. Don’t rely on spellcheck to pick up on all your mistakes. There are plenty of apps and software out there that can help. Personally, I use Grammarly to go over my work and pick up on typos and misplaced commas. Whatever your process, self editing your work is a skill that develops over time and will improve with practice. You need to be harsh with yourself and try to read your book through different eyes. If you picked this book up and had paid good money for it, does it meet up to your standards as a reader?

Beta reading

Time to get your book out into the world.  A lot of authors rely on their mums or best-friends, which is where they fall. People who know you and love you, and want you to succeed, are going to tell you it’s great. You need to find a beta reader, or four, who has experience reading your genre, and can look it without bias. I highly suggest joining your local creative writers group. Read snippets out and get their advice, or buddy up with another writer and ask them to look over it.

Edit it again

Now it’s back from your beta reader, it’s time to take their notes and re-edit. Did they pick up on grammatical errors? Was there a plot hole you missed? Was there something that jarred with them? Fix it, because if they picked up on it, agents and publishers will too.

How are you publishing it?

Do you want to self-publish or find a traditional publisher? Speaking from experience, both routes are hard work, but self-publishing is definitely harder. If you self-publish, you will need to pay for everything yourself. You will need to be ruthless when it comes to editing and fine-tuning and cover design. You will need to understand the industry, know how to market and promote your book and monitor sales records. But, if you want to be traditionally published, then you will need to grow a thick skin and be prepared for rejection.

For the love of all that is good, do not go down the self-publishing route because you’ve been rejected. If publishers and agents said “no thanks”, it’s because your synopsis didn’t catch their attention or your opening chapters weren’t up to par. People will tell you not to take it personally, but you should. I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but the fact is that your book just might not be good enough and sellable. Of course, it’s possible that it hit the slush pile and you got a form rejection letter, but take another look at it. Can it be improved? Don’t give up, just don’t throw your toys out of the metaphorical pram and decide you know better than people who have been working in this industry for a hell of a lot longer than you.

However, do not fall into the trap of vanity press. If your chosen publisher says they’d love to offer you a contract, and you only have to pay £X, run. Run fast and don’t look back. No good publisher will ever ask you to pay for editing, cover design, or put money towards printing/publishing costs. EVER.

Editing

Yup. Time to edit again. Traditional publishers will assign an editor to you, who you will work with for several weeks until it is polished and scrubbed. If you’re self-publishing you’ll need to find someone to do it for you. DO NOT do it yourself. DO NOT let your best-friend do it (unless they are trained and qualified). Pay for it. Don’t be an idiot and think you can do it without help, because you can’t. I’ve been working as an editor for 11 years. I spent four years doing my degree, on top of several years of training, CPD, and work experience. I still wouldn’t publish a book that hadn’t been edited by someone else, because there will always be something you miss.

Trust me, I’ve read self-published books that have been self-edited, and I can tell within the first chapter. I don’t care if you think you’re good or if you’ve been doing it for years. And I don’t care if I personally know you. If you think you can self-edit and have a well-polished book at the end of it, you’re an idiot, and an arrogant one to boot. Self-editing is why the self-publishing industry has such a terrible reputation, because people write a book, stick it up without a thought, and readers cry into their cornflakes at all the terrible spelling mistakes, excessive use of commas, unnecessary description, repeated phrases, and massive plot holes. Floating body parts, jumping POVs, and simultaneous actions are distracting and proof of bad-writing and a lack of editing. I know, because these are all things my editors pick up on, every single time I write a book, and they are things I’ve come across that have made me send a book back to Amazon and demand a refund.

Cover design

Again, traditional publishers will have this covered. And, again, don’t do it yourself unless you are actually good at it and experienced. If you do, you’ll end up on Tumblr’s list of bad covers. I’ll admit, I did do my own cover for ‘Later‘, but it took me a bloody long time, and I have done work as a cover designer. I’ve been using Photoshop for several years, editing images for my husband’s photography company. I’ve watched hours and hours of YouTube videos and studied books back-to-front. I’m still not 100% happy with it.

And, you have to pay for licenses to use images, fonts, brushes… the list is endless, and expensive. Oh, did you think you could Google an image and use that? Sorry, but no. Copyright laws exist, and using an image because it’s on Google is not good enough. As the wife of a photographer, I can tell you how heartbreaking it is to see an image that has been worked on, and posted on a public forum to show off your skills, to then be used by someone without your permission. Particularly if that person claims it as their own. Taking images you don’t have the right to use will lead to your book being taken down from sales sites, and your backside being sued by the original artist/photographer. There are sites you can use for ‘free for commercial use’ images, such as Pixabay and Pexels, but you still need to be careful and check the licenses.

It’s much easier (although more expensive) to hire a cover designer. They are professional and experienced. If your cover looks like it’s been made by a five-year-old using Paint, it won’t matter how good the story is, it won’t sell.

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Publishing

A traditional publisher will sort all this out, without charging you. Go and sit down and have a cup of tea. If you’re self-publishing, you need to look at your options. KDP is by far the easiest, and if you’re using Kindle Unlimited, you literally upload it to Amazon and boom. Done. Otherwise, upload to Amazon and somewhere like Smashwords, which will then upload it to sites like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, etc. Self-publishing an eBook is not hard.

Print, is slightly more difficult. Personally, I just use Amazon. You will need to order proofs, which again costs money, to make sure your cover is straight and the words are in order, etc. But there are other options, and it really is best to look around. You’ll need to purchase an ISBN for print books, which is provided for free through Smashwords and Amazon, but many self-published authors prefer to buy their own.

Getting your book actually onto physical shelves is not so easy. In the UK, bookshops rely on Betrams and Gardners. If your book is not listed with them, it’s unlikely to be ordered by bookshops, and will remain online only. You also need to comply with UK law by sending a copy to the Book Depository in Edinburgh. See HERE for more details. This is a legal requirement, and not something you can skip around, if you’re based in the UK. Research your own country for their laws.

You will also need to price your book. Don’t be ridiculous and think your 30k novella is worth £4.99. It’s not. Equally, don’t price your 100k novel at 99p. This devalues all the other titles on the shelf. Price appropriately, and in according to other titles in your genre of similar size.

Marketing & Promo

Even if you’re traditionally published, you will need to pay for some marketing and promotional work. Some authors are able to hire a PA to help with this, but it is possible to do it yourself. Look around for sites like BookBub, eReader News Today, eBook Discovery, and Book Barbarian, who are all good, reputable sites, with guaranteed sales. Fussy Librarian and eBook Soda used to be good, but their reputation has dropped of late, with less sales during promotional periods. Remember you get what you pay for, so if you use free sites, it’s likely that you won’t see anything come back.

You can also use services that do blog tours and review tours. These, again, cost money, but guarantee reviews and a blog spot. It’s unlikely these reviews will be placed on Amazon though, and you do run the risk of being put on an unseen blog.

Marketing and promotional work should be done continuously. It’s not something you can do once and then forget about.

Getting published is hard work, and anyone who tells you it’s easy is either lying or has never been published. Do not fall for the lines of “oh, you can edit it yourself”, or “but all publishers charge”. If you truly want your book to be read and enjoyed by others, work your backside off, and don’t let your baby go until it’s wings are fully developed.

Coming Soon: A Sneak Peek #amwriting #romance

A few months ago, I announced that I was taking a break from writing romance to concentrate on my fantasy books and pen name. Well…

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LATER is another erotic romance that surrounds the blossoming relationship between Claudia Martins and her boss, Elliot Shepherd. They’ve worked together for five years, and have become close friends. After her boyfriend cheats on her, Claudia turns to Elliot for support. But, she’s been offered a job with a rival company – one that comes with the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder and make something of herself, and one that means leaving Elliot behind.

Would you pick a man over your dream job?

EXCERPT:

She stared at the computer screen and the letter that stared back. Her finger hovered over the mouse; the white arrow-shaped cursor sat on top of the button marked ‘PRINT’. She took a deep breath and clicked it. The office printer whirred into action. It groaned loudly at having to work so late at night, blinking a single green light into the darkness. Claudia stood up when it finished and retrieved the paper. She folded it into a neat rectangle and pushed it into an envelope, scribbling Elliot’s name on the front. She went into his office and placed it on the keyboard of his computer. It was an impersonal way of handing in her notice, but she couldn’t face giving it to him in person, and it had to be done.

Her phone sang out, alerting her that she had an hour until Charlie’s gig started. It was more time than she needed. She checked her bag to make sure the VIP pass was still in her wallet.

“You’re working late again.” The sound of his deep voice made her jump. She glanced up to see Elliot leaning against the doorframe. He was still dressed in the same dark trousers and white shirt he’d been wearing all day, although he’d shed the jacket and tie. The top two buttons of his shirt were undone, and his sleeves had been rolled up to his elbows, yet he still managed to look smart and professional, where a lesser man would have looked unkempt.

Claudia’s breath caught when she remembered the letter she’d left on his desk. She’d hoped that he wouldn’t find it until morning, when the office was a little bit busier, and he wouldn’t be able to make too much of a scene. “I…” She stumbled over her words, her tongue tied into knots, searching for a reasonable lie.

“Go home,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “Get ready for Charlie’s gig. I don’t want him blaming me for keeping you here.”

She tucked a stray hair behind her ear and felt her cheeks heat. Standing up, she hoicked her bag onto her shoulder. “You’re right,” she said. “I’ll see you in the morning.” She walked towards the door, but he blocked her path. He had a good eight or nine inches on her, and she had to glance up to look at him. Elliot stepped to the side. She felt his stare burn into her neck as she walked out of the office. She wondered if he’d already found the letter, if he knew that she planned on leaving Aries Limited within the next four weeks.

‘Later’ is due to be released at the end of October.

www.charlottehowardauthor.co.uk

 

Self Publishing IS NOT Bad! #selfpublishing #amwriting

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What is it about social media and the need to drag each other down? Seriously people, get a grip!

I recently joined a Facebook group that shall remain nameless. It’s not awful – there’s a lot of support in there, and you can promote your own books, helping you get seen. But, there is a lot of bitching as well. Recently, I commented on a post stating that even the likes of JK Rowling were not over-night successes. I dared to suggest that Harry Potter might not have become the franchise that it is without the aid of Hollywood. The lesson I learned was to not piss off a Potterhead/phile/fan/whatever, because I was absolutely flooded with insults, both publicly and privately. Most of it just rolled off my back – writer’s have to have thick skins – but what pissed me off was the idea that I might not have a clue what I was talking about because… wait for it… I self-published a book. Not only that, but my traditionally published books are done through small publishers and without an agent.

I think my favourite private message was:

You’re nothing but a f***ing self-pubbed c***. You probably don’t even own a DICKtionary. People like you are why real authors can’t get contracts.

Oh ha ha, you’re so funny. You’re also wrong and very, very blocked.

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To suggest that an author isn’t really an author because they’re self-published is… well… it’s bullshit. Sure, there are some seriously crap books out there, and sure there are books out there that really shouldn’t have been published. I’ve been guilty of self-publishing a God-awful book that should have been burned (it’s not available any more, I learned my lesson). But that doesn’t make the writer any less of an author! They published a book, and whether it’s a crap storyline, full of plot holes, never seen an editor with a cover was made using paint, or not, is irrelevant. It’s still a published book. And let’s face it, the people who are saying this shit haven’t ever downloaded that book and read it anyway so they really don’t know what they’re talking about.

How do you know that book is a pile of crap if you haven’t done anything more than checked out who the publisher is? What is it they say? Don’t judge a book by its cover… And, if I’m honest, there are some traditionally published books out there that have got covers my nine-year-old could have made.

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Yes, I self-published by book STRANDED. No, I don’t have an agent, and no, none of my books are published by any of the Big Five / Six / However many big publishing houses are left. But they are published. They are professionally edited, with professional covers. I paid to publish Stranded. I did not just throw it up on KU (it’s not available on KU, but it is still free) without thinking about it. I have worked in this goddamn industry for ten fricking years now, working as a freelance writer, editor, proof-reader and fact-checker before I started writing for myself. DO NOT tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing and publishing.

I stand by my comments, even though some high-and-mighty admin saw fit to delete them and back-up their precious little clan. JK Rowling was not an over-night success. Stephen King was not an over-night success. EL James was not an over-night success. These writers are where they are through hard work and luck. You’ve heard of them because they’ve made a franchise out of their books. But there are hundreds of authors out there that make a living from selling their books, and you’ve never heard of them. There are hundreds of self-published authors who have never even considered getting an agent or a traditional contract, who are doing very well for themselves.

Sitting on social media, slagging off self-published authors for ‘taking the easy route’ is not big, is not clever, and is not nice. Instead of hiding behind your screen, try congratulating them. Try being happy for them that they’ve reached a goal, followed their dreams.

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At the end of this rant, and having read back over what I’ve written, I’ve come to realise that I actually feel quite sorry for these idiots. It’s very sad that they feel threatened by someone else’s success. Trust me, my self-published short story did not stop you from getting that coveted your contract. It was probably your attitude.

A Saturated Market

OR Why I Won’t Self-Publish a Self-Help Book

About a week ago I decided to set up a new company – RW Literary Services – offering editing, proofreading, manuscript assessment, CV writing, and freelance article writing. (www.rwls.co.uk) I was asked by a couple of people why I think I have the experience to set that company up, after all I’m just an author and I have a team of people who do all of this for me. If I can’t do it for my own books, how can I do it for someone else?

Well, for a start, I wasn’t always an author. In fact I started out as a freelance writer, creating articles on pet care, beauty, and parenting. This developed into advertising and eventually a full-time job in editing and fact-checking. I was on good money. But it wasn’t where my heart was. I wanted to concentrate on fiction, so in 2013 jacked it all in and decided to throw myself into promoting Seven Dirty Words and Four Letter Words, and writing more novels. So I do have the experience and skills to set up the business, but it got me thinking – why was I asked that in the first place? If someone opened a restaurant, you wouldn’t say “oh I guess anyone who cooks can run a business like that”, would you?

It should be well-known by now that authors tend to have a real job as well as writing, but most of us want our novels to be full-time and paying the bills. So we look at ways to support our work. Some have written non-fiction books on how to write books, how to get published, or how to get an agent. Some (and it has to be said, mostly self-published) authors have set up publishing companies. Through a little bit of digging and research, my opinion is because setting up a house and then publishing under that name gives you a little bit more credibility when it come to marketing to readers. It also allows you to reach a wider market, getting your book listed with the likes of Gardners and Bertrams. After a few books have been self-published, a few of these authors decide to help others and publish their books as well, and voila! A new publishing house with multiple authors is born. Some of these have worked and gone on to become sought after houses, others have flunked and struggle to pay their debts.

Other authors, like myself and quite a few friends, have gone into editing, offering literary services to help develop unpublished works and get them polished and ready for submission. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop using each other. Yes, I run a business that edits, proofreads, and gets your book to the best it can be. But I still email my editor with manuscripts and hand over my cash. Yes, I offer advice on marketing and PR. But I still email my publicist and say “What the hell am I doing wrong?” Does this mean I’m crap at my job? No. It means I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’m the best in the biz and don’t need help.

Recently I’ve been asked, if I can edit etc., if I have the experience in self-publishing, why don’t I write a self-help book for new authors? Why don’t I set up a publishing house? Why? Because the market is saturated with authors who have done exactly that, and all these self-help books say the same thing, which I can do for free:

  • Have a blog
  • Keep writing novels
  • Join social media and interact with your readers
  • Network with other authors, editors, publishers etc.
  • Invest in marketing tools and an author kit – business cards, Facebook banners, postcards, posters etc.
  • Go to events and organise book signings
  • Spend money and use companies like ENT, ReadCheaply, BookBub, and Fussy Librarian.
  • Talk about yourself
  • Have a street team who talks about you and hands out bookmarks
  • Give your book away every now and then – run a competition on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter
  • Make sure your novel is professionally edited and proofread and has a professional jacket

Done. Did that take up 15,000 words or cost you a penny? Nope.

I won’t set up a publishing house because, while I did self-publish a novella back in 2010 (no longer in print for a very good reason), I’m not a publisher. I have never worked with a publishing house. It is not my area of expertise. I’m not saying I’ve never considered doing either of these things, because it did cross my mind that I could. I’m saying that I won’t add to an already over-flowing market, and I won’t risk losing the time to write books by concentrating on other ventures.

I started RW Literary Services because I want to run my own business, and editing and proofreading is something I’ve been doing for almost 10 years under a variety of websites and for other authors, so why not start charging an actual fee for it? I can do it in my own time, pick and choose work, and still find time to write my own books and look after my family.

So yes, please, look at my website and email me for a quote. But please, don’t for a second think that I’m over-priced or under experienced – you get what you pay for and quality costs money. And please don’t ask when I’m going to write that self-help book or set up a publishing house.

Guest bloggers, interviews, and reviews

Writer / Author friends – please share!!

I’ve decided to start doing guest blogging, interviews, and reviews on my blog. I’ll be doing one a week, which will then be linked to my FB page, Twitter feed, Google+, and LinkedIn, which will get you a whole load of coverage! Unlike some who claim to ‘help authors’, I will not be charging you. All I ask is that you place a link to your guest post on your social media page. (Book reviews will need a copy to be sent to my Kindle.)

If you’re interested send me a message through my Facebook page with your email address and I’ll send you the details.