Monday

Finding Success As a Novelist – A Bestselling Author's Realistic Five-Step Guide towards Nailing that Book Deal



It Lies in your Lost Half


You’re a splendid writer. And you have a breakout novel at the ready. But, these are just half of the ingredients for perfecting your recipe and nailing that book deal. So, where’s that other half? What do you think that other half might be? Take a guess before reading any further.


Well…it’s delusion!

That’s right. If you’re convinced that you were put on this planet to be a writer, it helps to be delusional. Being delusional does not mean being “crazy.” Delusion is a way of being true to yourself. And that involves breaking free from your past – aspects of your childhood, cultural upbringing and various forms of social conditioning – that may be holding you back from the true essence of yourself and the life you want to create today. Being delusive means honoring your feelings, daring to dream and exploring the forbidden. And that is your lost half.

Landing a Literary Agent: Authors as Entrepreneurs

Finding a literary agent and/or publisher cannot come from a place of desperation. It comes from a place of being connected to yourself. And that’s where your role as an entrepreneur – or authorpreneur – comes in.

Let’s say you are writing a love story set in the future. There are thousands of love sagas and sci-fi stories out there in the form of novels, memoirs, films, documentaries, TV shows and more. What makes yours different and unique? How are you going to get literary agents and publishers to read your work? One answer to that question lies in thinking about why your readers should care about your novel and your characters. Perhaps, you want your readers to see a bit of themselves in your protagonists. This kind of thinking goes a long way in setting you apart from the rest of the tribe. Getting a good book deal today involves exploring multiple avenues. But you are now exploring each of those avenues with the aid of your lost half a.k.a from a place where you know you are being true to yourself.

Avenue 1: Building your voice across multiple online platforms

One day, you want your novels to grease the wheels for social, cultural, economic and political change, whether said change involves a ban on at-will employment clauses or a policy to check price increases on life-saving medicines. That’s what literary agents are looking for too. The legwork for that starts now.

You have to be out there on social media, contributing to ongoing debates on every issue that you think is pertinent to your lifeblood as a writer. It is true that your follower base is one of the metrics that literary agents consider in deciding whether you have enough of a foothold that gives you the kind of credibility that will elicit their interest in representing you. But, you want an audience of people who will buy your next book. That does not mean your audiences have to run into the thousands either. It could be as low as a hundred real followers who will read your next book. A real literary agent will understand that.

Simultaneously, you need to be seen blogging on your author website and, where applicable, other relevant platforms and websites you’re writing for. It is also helpful to submit your fiction writings and/or poetry to various literary journals.

Avenue 2: Stay on the radar outside social media

Networking isn’t about attending wine-soaked book launches and book-readings or ponying up in registration fees for literary events…only to beg for an agent or publisher. It’s never about begging or asking. It’s about connecting with people whose interests mirror your own as a writer. That involves dropping all your masks and building sustained relationships with each of those people. Sometimes, they could be book-lovers whose day jobs involve medical imaging or writing about municipal bonds. They could be your friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, former classmates and/or their significant others. It’s important to think laterally and see how you can tap into your own networks, while connecting with other newer people at writers’ conferences, book fairs and literary festivals.

Avenue 3: Connecting beyond the physical

People like to be heard and feel understood. Be quiet and listen to them when they open up to you. Those are the moments they would remember if they decide to move mountains for you. And give gratitude when they have helped you in some way.

I found my own literary agent roughly five years ago through Sage Publications India’s CEO Vivek Mehra, who is an alumnus of my alma mater, Columbia University. At the time, I was leading a public diplomacy mandate for the UK government as an Associate Director at a consulting group (and yes, that was a full-time job!). Vivek, who has a passion for fiction, offered to introduce me to his friend, Anuj Bahri who, he said, might be interested in my work – a novel called Falling Bridges that I had completed writing as what I vaguely labeled a psychological thriller. Anuj Bahri leads India’s legendary Bahrisons Booksellers and runs the Red Ink Literary Agency, which is India’s top literary agency and one of the top ones in the world. Falling Bridges was evaluated by three editors at Red Ink before I was offered representation.

Falling Bridges, reborn as Victims For Sale, was released worldwide by HarperCollins as a crime and suspense thriller to become a paperbacks bestseller in India and one of only two fiction books on HarperCollins’ list, which was getting repeat orders from hundreds of bookstores and multi-product retailers across the country, less than three months after its publication. By then, it had sold in thousands, far superseding the average 300 books-per-year sales mark recognized by Publisher’s Weekly. Through this all, I have not forgotten Vivek. We continue to meet up. When we can't, we communicate over phone or email. We have had several conversations about our respective lives and what we continue to make of it.  

Avenue 4: Recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript

There are tons of services out there, which charge hefty fees for the “perfect, professionally edited manuscript.” Signing up for such a service will not only likely yield no returns of any sort for you, but is also an action, which reflects that you do not believe in your work and your talent. Every good novelist is a writer, researcher, editor and proofreader rolled into one.

Write. Edit. Restructure. Edit. Repeat the cycle. I write and edit simultaneously, scene by scene, and I was particular about using this approach while completing my next novel, TWIN FLAME, in roughly seven months amid two overseas book tours and tons of domestic travel. I have found that this approach works well for me because it is efficient. Not that it may work as well for everyone else. But, the key here lies in finding your own balance with the writing and editing process. Keep the proofreading and word-length trimming to the end. You first need to believe in your manuscript for an agent or publisher to get hooked to it. That brings me to my fifth point.

Avenue 5: Recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect query letter

A query letter is as perfect as it feels to you. Do not pay for services that promise you the perfect query letter. That will not guarantee an agent or publisher.

The essence of a compelling query letter lies in the log-line of the novel you are seeking representation for.  A log-line is the elevator-pitch for your novel – in one or two lines. My log-line for ‘Victims For Sale’ was: “An aspiring TV reporter fights to expose a crime ring where mentally challenged women are being sexually abused.” A log-line must be addictive. It helps to think about the key elements of conflict and/or exotic appeal embedded in your narrative, and cull them out for your log-line! And  the blurb of your novel is no more than an extension of the log-line. The purpose of the log-line and the blurb is to entice the literary agent or publishing editor to read further or ask you for more. Offering a snapshot of your background in a distinctive voice will be a huge shot in the arm. This isn’t the same as your bio, but it should point to other relevant works of fiction that you’ve published in other journals, and/or those fiction titles that have fetched you awards, as well as authors you have admired, and most importantly, what personal and/or professional experiences you’ve undergone, which inspired the novel in question.

Finally, if you know that you’re in it for the long haul, it helps to be realistic about the landscape out there and explore all five avenues simultaneously while being delusional enough within yourself to visualize – and know – that you will make it. 


Nish Amarnath is an award-winning American author, journalist and speaker based in New York. Her latest book, Victims For Sale, published by HarperCollins, is a bestselling crime thriller. Nish has written for The Wall Street Journal and was Managing Editor at one of Europe’s most prolific magazine publishing groups. She holds post-graduate degrees in media communications and journalism from the London School of Economics and Columbia University, where she was a James W. Robins Reporting Fellow. You can learn more about her at www.nishamarnath.com.
You can also follow her on Twitter at @nishamarnath and on Instagram at @themillennialchick, which is a brand new page for writers, authors, novelists and poets. 


Friday

Interview with Warwick Gleeson, Author of "Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker"

The following is an interview between Charlene Castor of WE and an SFF author from Del Sol  Press, Warwick Gleeson, discussing the debut novel in his upcoming series: Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker. DSP requested this interview, and we couldn't be happier about it after reading the actual novel.

May the best evil win.

Beta readers were floored by this unique, face-slapping, mind fuck of a novel. As a writer of fantasy, or science-fantasy, you've birthed from the void, or so it seems. What is the origin of Warwick Gleeson?

I've been writing screenplays, short and long fiction, and poetry for many years. I've used various pseudos, lived in LA, NYC, worried about being homeless, the usual. Much of my work has been published, most was never published. I love SFF in all its forms, especially work that pushes us out of the solar system for a few thousand light years. I was the major writer, creator, and senior story editor for another project published by DSP called War of the World Makers that debuted a couple years ago. It has since won four national novel awards (two first place and two place) for SFF.

How did you invent the unpredictably bizarre world of "Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker"?

A synergy of things seeking resolution at the right time. The AOZ represents my need as a writer and reader to explore something wildly new in the context of an old trope that I dearly love--Oz. Thus, we have the setting of AOZ, its beings, lands, beauty, and terror. Piper Robbin, on the other hand, represents my need to develop a fantasy heroine with a unique spin to her past and psychology. She's youthful and ancient at once, sprightly and stately by turns. She wants a new life in old New York. She wants to try out for parts on Broadway, and work to willfully humble herself. She desires to forget her past, at least temporarily, but fate dictates otherwise. Her father returns from deep space with a homicidal alien on his tail. She must once again assume her old role as Grand Sorceress and once again fight to save the world.


THE LAST ONE TO GO WILL SEE THE FIRST 
76,984 GO BEFORE HER!


Do you see Piper Robbin as primary heroine for a series going forward, your Harry Potter or Percy Jackson so to speak?   

Yes, and as a matter of fact, I want Piper to be the adult version of Potter, and then some. She and the novel are meant to appeal to an older SFF readership, for the most part (even though some of my best fans are young adults), the kind of reader who grew up with Potter and the Hobbits, Narnia and the like, but who now desires something refreshingly complex, less predictable, and more mature... more thematic, however you wish to put it, and yet, without neglecting to contain an insane cast of characters, dark atmosphere, cool magic, and thriller-like action scenes... the kind of elements we SFF fans love.


The novel's action scenes are mega intense. Did you draw inspiration from SFF films or television?

Absolutely. I drew inspiration from a variety of film and TV sources, everything from Terminator II to Gotham. One scene towards the end might even remind you of old Doctor Who, that is, darkly ridiculous yet effective. Both the novel and film versions of War of the Worlds played a role, plus various space-aliens-attack-California flicks, and good space opera or military SF like The Expanse... And of course, a primary inspiration during the actual period of writing was Emerald City, and not just for energetic scenes, but in terms of dark tone and narrative verve... God how I miss that show. I was shocked when NBC pulled it.


What do you see as the theme of this novel?

The search for true human utopia is a worthy goal and must be pursued whenever and however possible, but in reality, can only be achieved in part, and for a relatively brief interval of time because on a cosmic level, the universe isn't sympathetic... A major form of entropy--in the context of the psycho-social condition--creates circumstances that perpetually erode peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in any given human society. Specifically, these erosive circumstances are caused by an established and identifiable set of disruptive human personalities who by means of greed, hubris, and callousness work relentlessly to tear down the world around them in order to force adaptation to their selfish needs. They're like viruses always attacking the human body, causing illness and disease for their own gain. When the smoke clears, ambition and power are far less important to survival than the human virtues of wisdom, courage, and compassion. These virtues are the strongest antidote to the viruses (known as "Deplorables" and "assholes" in the novel).

Would you say a horror element exists in your narrative, perhaps even in your major sex scene?

Interesting question... in the sex scene? If you mean the long sex scene that involves Piper on the methane planet, then no, that is unless you believe heterosexual sex is evil or the existence of it in fiction is horrific by default. However, I'd say that certain scenes contain horrific elements, yes, such as the mass killings on board the New Humanity ships. They're rather grisly.

Who are your literary influences?

My comparables right now are NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman meets OATHBRINGER by Brandon Sanderson, but this paring is rather arbitrary. Overall my influences begin with authors like H. G. Wells and R.E. Howard, phasing to the likes of Ray Bradbury and Joe Haldeman, then soaring madly into the J.K. Rowling and Sanderson era. I can't honestly leave out Frank Baum. How could I? He is the father of Oz. What I don't like are the one-trick ponies of contemporary fantasy we see so much of today, the same type of heroine and love story, again and again, and if I have to read about one more wizard school I'm going ballistic.

Can you give us any spoilers for the next book in the series?

Earth's "left behinds" and old political systems, still existing outside the confines of the Seven City-Worlds of Oz, will demonstrate a dystopian transmogrification which will evolve as the series moves forward. The enemy will use the "left behinds" and their growing hatreds, murderous religions, and seething resentments in order to fashion a guerilla resistance movement.

_____________     

Tuesday

The Literary Review - Great International Literature From Fairleigh Dickinson and Editor Walter Cummins

The Golden Years of The Literary Review

In the mid nineties, The Literary Review, edited by Walter Cummins and published on Web del Sol by Michael Neff, held the distinction of being the second traditional literary journal to ever be published on the Internet--the first being Mississippi Review edited by Frederick Bartheleme. Like Barthelme, TLR editor Cummins was a visionary, and unlike most of his contemporaries at the time, quickly saw the value in making the superb and varied international literature of TLR available to the world via the Internet.

As you will see below, we are linking here to as many of these TLR golden age issues as we can discover, now all web-archived (thank God!). And why the web archive, you ask? Well, the originals, over a dozen issues, suddenly vanished overnight from the mainstream web once Walter Cummins retired from TLR. It was as if they never existed. The former editor, contributors, and web publisher were never notified. Though  a shock to all at the time, this disconcerting event is old news, and the time to rectify is at hand. We hope you enjoy these fantastic collections of a bygone era.

Special thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine! And thanks to the tech guys for their skill and foresight. If not for them, this small miracle of rescue would not have been possible.

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The Literary Review: An International Journal of Contemporary Writing has been published quarterly by Fairleigh Dickinson University since 1957. Its many special issues have introduced new fiction, poetry, and essays from many nations, regions, or languages to English readers. Issues focus on such topics as contemporary Portugese literature, Iranian exiles, the Jewish diaspora, North African authors, and Russian women writers. Works from issues devoted to writing in English have won awards and been reprinted in many collections. A good sampling of these issues, recently recovered, are featured below.

The Literary Review, Winter 96

Sample:
Opening Night in the Capital
IHARA SAIKAKU

      In the cities under the shogun's rule, townsmen flourish. Like the words to the song, "Prosperity reigns." The merchants of the capital are an exuberant lot. They can afford it, for reckoning to them is second nature, and frugality has become a way of life. (*1)
      Last fall, when the Konparu school of no actors performed in the capital, not a seat remained in the house--though a box for the four-day performance cost ten silver pieces, and all tickets were cash-in-advance. To add to the furor, the old favorite Lady Komachi at Sekidera was on the bill, whetting everyone's appetite. Problems arose with the drum, alas, and the program was changed at the last moment. Even so, crowds thronged the theater. From the night before the opening, people piled upon people like a mountain of humanity...

________________________________________________  

The Literary Review, Spring/Summer 96

Sample:
Stone Daughter
DEBORAH LEE WESSELMANN 

 I moved to Japan because my husband's father and elder brother Jiro had died in an early morning fire that destroyed the family house. A nephew, two years old, whom I had never met, had also perished, virtually wiping out the male line of the Tanaka family. The day after we had received the news, my husband woke me before the sun had risen. "Ellen," he said, "I must return to Kasama." I knew he meant for good, though he was afraid to say it. For six generations, his family had been making pottery in their sloping kiln built up the side of a hill; without him, the dynasty would end. His mother feared losing the business to a distant relative, one who did not understand that her husband lived on in his clay.
        "We must return," I told him.
        Relief unfurled his dark eyebrows, and I kissed them. I had come to think of a life as a series of little string pieces knotted together, one at a time, to form a misshapen doll. This journey, I knew, could be another bit of string attached to myself, or it could be the first piece of a new doll, one that perhaps would not end up as deformed...

________________________________________________  

The Literary Review, Summer/Fall 96

Sample:
The Death Trap by the Bikin River
ULLA LENA LUNDBERG 


      The hunter blows the dirt off the sugar lumps in the open box and mixes Grusian tea into the bog water boiling on the open fire. He knocks the dead insects off the bottom of the enameled cups and pours. "Drink," he says.
      We could use a fortifying drink, because one of us came within a hair's breadth of ending his days in the death trap right behind us...

________________________________________________  

The Literary Review, Winter 97

Sample:
The Rendez-vous
AZADEH NADERI 


WHEN THE WOMAN WOKE UP, she remembered it was July 14, 1986, and she had to keep a historic appointment. Her husband was up, and the sound of the water in the bathtub left no doubt of his location. Instead of the morning roosters and singing birds, Mahmoud was the herald of the new day. Familiar sounds followed one upon another: The slippers scraping against the floor; the opening of the bathroom door, razor and brush, toothpaste and cup, clattering out of the medicine chest. If she had had a few drinks the night before, or had finally overcome insomnia, or was sound asleep for some other reason, he still had other devices. He would clunk the kettle down on the stove, or call loudly to the kids. He would never shake her awake; politeness was still the order of the day. But one of his arrows would eventually hit the target...

________________________________________________  

The Literary Review, Spring 97

Sample:
Bedloe's Island, 3 A.M.
BARBARA F. LEFCOWITZ 
    So many names without faces,
    shoes without feet,
    darkened market stalls.
    I walk past the wrecked tower, the bands
    of electronic headlines
    pulsing out news of Pearl Harbor, Bataan;
    walk past the museum of failed marriages
    without looking inside; past the black-eyed
    school of no lessons;
    the shrine for lost raptures & products of conception...
________________________________________________  

The Literary Review, Winter 97

Sample:
Sketching
HOUSHANG GOLSHIR 

WHEN WE ARRIVED, there in the approaching bend, a woman riding a bicycle was passing by. She passes still, her torso following a curved line, garbed in a shirt, short-sleeved and white. She pedals on, her hair wafting seaward on her shoulders, looking toward the street we later saw, when the woman was no longer there; the street that parallels the harbor, and then turns left into a place that exists still, but which we never got a chance to see. She was gone. It was not our fault that we did not see her again, though when I saw that she was not there, I thought perhaps Shirin had intentionally prevented it. Nevertheless, I see her still, with the corner of her shirt floating in the air. Her pants were of black cotton. I can also see the sandal on one of her feet, the one with the back lace untied. She pedals and holds her face straight into the wind and she goes. For a moment, we parked near the sidewalk, so that Shirin could step out and light us both a cigarette, and I could only get a glimpse of her slightly bent torso and her uptilted head, facing into the wind, with her brunette hair, all with the backdrop of a calm blue sea.
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The Literary Review, Spring 98

Sample:

First Book of the Moon
    RENEE ASHLEY
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night . . . .
--Genesis 1:16
New Moon

(Moon as Utterance)I can't remember the first time we said moon. We were
         lightheaded by then,
dizzy: moon-drunk. And then it was gone--the oddest thing,
          the new moon,
no moon at all, that slipping back and stunned again, and absence
          vast as a sun,
vaster, and everyone naked as fish in the black room of our
          dream. We spoke
in whispers. We crawled on our bellies through that hollow vowel
          as if
we believed we could breathe there, as though our whole lives
          were suspended, 
__________

Useful Links re TLR and Walter Cummins

Friday

An Interview with Michael-Ann Ward, Author of DEVIL'S BAY or BEST SERVED DEADLY

Michael-Ann Ward
The Writer's Edge will periodically be interviewing undiscovered writers who are looking for that big break into New York publishing. Our first author in this series, Michael-Ann Ward, hopes to be a rising star on the women's suspense and thriller novel scene. She's been writing for over ten years with most of her successes being in women's fiction, including romance. Devil's Bay, or Best Served Deadly, is her first foray outside the romance arena. She is also a former editor for Champagne Books.

Log line for Devil's Bay: Known in years past as a courageous whistleblower who exposed billions in corporate corruption during the Iraq War, a high school teacher living a new life in small town USA finds her reputation smeared and her loved ones threatened after the corporate CEO she sent to prison begins to enact her merciless revenge.

WE: Thanks for the interview! So what made you decide to move into women's suspense or thriller fiction with Devil's Bay?

MW: I was looking to write something different for a change, plus I'd heard the genre was a hot one for writers, but most importantly, the concept of a female version of Cape Fear was too good to pass up. The idea actually came up in a conversation at hotel bar in Seattle during the PNWA Conference... Matter of fact, the idea was so good I was astonished it had never been done. I jumped on Amazon that night and fished around for it, or something like it, but came up empty handed.

WE: What better time for a novel like this, especially now that women have far more presence in the corporate world?

MW: Precisely, and IMO, the novel has more depth than the original because the story and theme involve a large infrastructure of corporate villains who have their talons in the government--a bit House of Cards in that way. There is more than one antagonist, but the primary one, Macalister Stone, is a super bitch worthy of challenging the Robert Di Nero or Mitchum character in Cape Fear. Being an ex-CEO of a defense company, she's shrewder and inspires more psychological terror.

WE: Well, we've read Devil's Bay, and it is fantastic. At the risk of sounding boilerplate, the story does seize you by the throat and squeeze tighter as each page turns. We adore the heroine Lexi and despise the corporate bastards out to destroy her and all she loves.

MW: But we never leave the Cape Fear setting behind. She's living in a small town, trying to reinvent herself and escape her past.

WE: Why did you choose a small town?

MW: I like the Cape Fear setting, it was far away from Washington. She could get a job as a high school teacher there, reinvent herself and start over, plus it was cheap to live. As you know, her husband is ill and can't be a bread winner.

WE: By the way, we understand you're represented by Talcott Notch. 

MW: That's correct. Paula Munier is repping the work even as I speak. I couldn't have a better agent for this novel.

WE: Thank you for talking with us about Devil's Bay, and we wish you best of luck! Also love the title, Best Served Deadly.

MW: Thank you!

Saturday

Timeless and Valuable - Editor's Rejection Bullets


Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey, imprint of Random House, was inspired to look at the numbers and reasons she rejected the manuscripts submitted to her.  Betsy’s tally starts with March of 2009 and runs to the end of the year.  During that time she passed on 133 manuscripts.  I found it very interesting.  Just remember not to let it get you down.
 
Here is her list of reasons why:

  • Not what Del Rey is looking for (meaning we had enough on our list already of whatever subgenre was on offer): 22
  • A good manuscript but not right for our list (included a couple of nonfiction SF-related titles more suitable for a small press, the odd children’s book, etc.) 14
  • Not a genre that’s doing well right now (horror, mostly; some foreign novels being offered for translation, anthologies whose concepts weren’t strong enough) 18
  • Simply not good enough (a combination of mediocre writing and/or storytelling) 43
  • Contains major plot flaws (the story was too predictable, or the author made a choice I didn’t agree with which affected the entire manuscript) 5
  • Main characters not strong or likeable enough 3
  • Needs too much editorial work (a manuscript has to be 95% of the way to book-ready for me to be willing to take it on) 7
  • Falls between genres (these were some of the most frustrating ones I had to reject; several were quite beautifully written but would be hard to promote in such a tough marketplace) 14

Sunday

Manuscripts to Market - An Interview With Michael Neff of "The Novel Editors"

    by Connie Chenowith of Author Salon
_______

Q: What made you guys decide to start a novel editing service?

It's a natural outgrowth of the writer conferences. Writers are always asking for something like this, especially following the New York Pitch Conference. Overall, I've spent many hours helping alums get published, all pro bono, and now I feel it's time to parallel that with another more methodical and goal-defined process. Besides, we can justify far more dedication to any given project over a longer length of time if actual remuneration is involved. 


CC:  That makes sense, of course, but seriously, does the world need another novel editing service?

Yes and no. The world does not need another commonplace editorial service. Ours is unique, indefinite in length, customized for each writer, and finally, structured more productively than other novel editing services--the condition we're striving for in terms of methods and final results.


CC: So how does "Manuscripts to Market" really differ from other novel editorial services?  I'm skeptical.  There's a hundred of them out there, or more.

We provide a three-stage review of the manuscript. First, a preliminary analysis of the story premise and other major elements that might well necessitate rewrites from the start. Why begin a read of the manuscript if we know from the onset, for example, that crucial elements of plot are missing? Second, the core developmental review of the manuscript itself takes place, from first page to last, resulting in ms notes and a separate editorial report. Weeks or months later (depending on the author and ms) it is followed by a third and final review once the author has completed the necessary restructure and rewrites based on the core developmental review.

Once the above is complete, we assist with the search for agents and production of a superlative query letter. We also stick with the writer through the query process for an indefinite length of time, reality checking as appropriate and necessary.

Overwhelming evidence shows that one-shot reviews rarely, if ever, result in greatly improved or publishable manuscripts. You see writers pay gobs to freelance editors only to get the ms back and later go through even more rewrites. Follow-up is always necessary. The writer must be guided as needed, depending on their skill set, and the project itself developed in stages. 

We also differ from the many editorial services in other ways. For example, our own combined skill set exceeds that of most freelance editors. Unlike the academic types, we've actually worked with commercial publishing house editors and agents, we have a track record, and unlike the majority of ex-editors from publishing houses who left the business to freelance, we are actual writers, published authors of fiction. I recommend a perusal of our website for more on this particular issue


CC: Why do you feel your viewpoint on novel editing more valuable, or realistic than that of an academic MFA instructor? I know you're not keen on advice that emanates from MFA programs.

For the most part, no, exceptions being Robert Olen Butler's program at FSU and a few others. I totally reject the Conroy philosophy and approach began at Iowa decades ago and later cascaded into the bulk of MFA programs throughout the United States. They preach that writing can't be taught, and in keeping with that disproved absurdity, therefore eschew notions of discussing plot or story premise when it comes to writing a novel. What could be more ridiculous? Craft becomes a whisper after dark and the word "market" gains the status of Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter books, i.e., becoming a word which must never be spoken on campus, or even in the presence of ivy.

An academic whose beliefs about novel writing, or fiction writing in general, are rooted in that culture should never be consulted. It's a little like consulting with a home builder who doesn't believe in the basics of physics. If  nothing else, the "professors" fail to understand the demands of various genres and their readerships, and that's just for starters. 

Necessity, experience, and common sense demand that we be the polar opposite.


CC: Do you offer guarantees to writers? I mean, do you assure the writer they will be published as a result of utilizing Manuscript to Market services? 

No editors, no matter how brilliant, by contract or otherwise, have sufficient control over a work to engineer it to guaranteed commercial publication. Why? Because no matter what you do, no matter what services you provide or what you say, it is ultimately up to the writer to rise to the challenge. At the end of the day, the writer must actually write or rewrite the manuscript. Also, given the reality and ease of social media interaction, you sometimes find yourself as an editor in a struggle to be heard over the din of readers and writer groups interacting with your clients--often telling them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. 

Any number of things will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I've witnessed long slogs to brass ring territory only to see a history of titanic effort go whooshing into the sewer because one single player in the writer's life, sitting beside her one evening at a theater, told her that her novel was perfectly wonderful, no more changes were necessary, and to just "follow her heart" to certain success.

A tragic event for that writer, though it seemed so right and blessed with divine good feeling.


CC: Anything else you would like to add on the subject?

Yes, I want to tell everyone out there to ask themselves the following questions before they ever decide to spend a penny on novel or nonfiction editorial services. As follows:
  1. Do you get to review the credentials of the individual who will be working on your ms?
  2. Do the person's credentials include any real-time experience working in tandem with the New York publishing business, or at least with mid-sized or quality independent presses?
  3. Is there a demonstrable track record of commercial or literary publication of any kind associated with past clients of this person? Is the track record relatively recent or really old news?
  4. Is the proposed editor person an actual writer of narrative nonfiction or novels? Has the work been self-published or published?
  5. Are accolades or testimonials about the business itself focused rather on buzz phrasing than pointers to actual results, i.e., contracts with major houses or agencies?
If you get positive answers to the above questions, you know that you and your manuscript might have a fighting chance.

CC:  Thank you for the interview, Michael. It all sounds sensible. 

_______________________________

"All The Dark We Will Not See" - Is it Okay to Search For a New Publisher?

ALL THE DARK WE WILL NOT SEE, published by the distinguished Serving House Books, first appeared as "Year of The Rhinoceros," published by a popular and respected literary press in LA known as Red Hen Press. The initial birth of this story, fallen to earth as a big cracked egg, never possessed the proper edits or even a suitable cover. Not only that, but the lamination peeled easily, type was smudged in quarter-sized spots throughout the book, and the presence of it was generally rendered odd by "burn victim" artwork I was forced to swallow in order to prevent an even worse cover from potentially manifesting itself. But my intention here isn't to bitch about the staff of chickens at Red Hen, it's to make sense out of the emergence of a new edition of the novel now entitled ALL THE DARK WE WILL NOT SEE.

As time passed, I became more and more determined to get my rights back and land a new publisher, and I was eventually successful. The new edition now possesses everything I wanted for the first, and more, including an author preface, new cover, substantive edits, and text sans scores of typographical errors.

I have to confess that I'm lucky. Most authors don't get a chance to do it over, but I did. My new press, Serving House Books, is both brilliant and led by a fantastic editor, Walt Cummins. I can't thank or praise the press enough. I am surrounded by great writers, poets and authors, and in a company I respect.

So what's the bottom line here? I encourage all serious writers to strongly consider quality independent presses like Serving House. The literary history of the world is written by presses such as these, and by presses like Algonquin Books and Copper Canyon, among many others.

Larger publishing houses in New York have their place (especially when it comes to big genre books), and their advantages, but the quality independents will more likely treat you with respect and make a home for you in a way that many overworked, underpaid New York publishing house staff cannot even imagine much less engineer (usually through no fault of their own). 

Tuesday

13 Ways For Authors To Avoid Being Blacklisted


As someone who organizes readings and a large literary arts festival with workshops, author appearances, and exhibitors, over the last ten years I have developed a list of writers who I will not work with again. And rest assured, I’m not the only one who does this.

Why? Because they didn’t follow directions. It’s that simple. Who's on it? Writers who acted like the organizer/staff were their personal assistant/manager. 

Take note of the following ways to avoid this blacklist and be a true professional!

KNOW YOUR OWN SCHEDULE

Double booking is such a big no-no we can’t believe you’re not aware of this already yourself. Whatever you have to do to make sure you know the days you are already booked: DO IT. Back out of our event at the last minute because you “forgot” you already had a gig? You’re on the list.

SEND THE REQUIRED INFORMATION

It should be no surprise to you that we need your bio and right away—possibly a short one and a long one. We also need a high resolution digital photo of the appropriate size with good lighting, not a selfie taken in the bathroom with your cell phone or with the light behind you. We need ordering information for your book. Possibly your dietary restrictions or lunch/dinner order. Special seating or parking needs. Have that at the ready to send right away. Don’t have them? Get them together and email them to yourself now so you will.

Have a publicity team? Great! They are usually more organized than authors. But pick only ONE person for us to work with.

SEND THE REQUIRED INFORMATION AS REQUESTED

If we ask for your short bio, we mean about 100 words. Not half a page, a full page, or two pages. Put your current, key publications, awards, job in there and include your website so people can find out more. You should not send a link to your website or write back “it’s on my website which is in my signature block.” You will be asked again to send the bio and if you again don’t comply, you won’t have a bio listed. Same with the photo and book order info. If we give you the format in which we want these and you send a link to your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your publisher’s website you will be asked again, etc. If you're a "famous writer" we will chase you for the info but you'll go on the list.

MEET THE DEADLINE

When we tell you the deadline by which we need the information we are not picking a random date. We have a deadline for ordering your book and/or getting it to the host so he/she can read it before your reading or interview. We are collecting information to layout and send to the printer for marketing materials: brochures, programs, postcards. For posting on the website and social media.

Decided at the last minute you want to change or send your picture now that it’s too late? Yeah, no. Not changing the program which is already at the printer and would incur fees.

PUBLICIZE!

Organizers count on participants publicizing the event they are part of, which helps extend the organization’s reach and hopefully means high attendance on the day/evening. Post our event on your website, your Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/wherever pages. Follow our social media pages and share info from them. Let people know about your part, but also share the info about other writers, exhibitors, etc. if it’s a larger event or festival.

DON’T EMAIL WITH 101 QUESTIONS

We are aware of our own schedule. We know when we want to release final details to authors, etc. Don't stalk us for weeks before asking where you’re parking, what building/room you’re in, or asking if your book has arrived yet. We will send out the logistics email when everything is finalized and in plenty of time.

Please don’t “check in.” If we wanted to check in we would have. Basic information is, by now, on the organization’s website: location, day, time, parking. Do your own homework until you hear from us. That’s what websites are for. If it’s a few days before and no email, check your spam folder, then call.

How a reading works or an interview or a Q&A is not rocket science. You shouldn’t need a minute by minute breakdown of what is expected.

BE ON TIME—NOT EARLY AND NOT LATE

On the day of the event, don’t show up two hours before your reading if you’re part of an event that runs for several hours, or a festival, wanting to check in or with questions. Check in at the appointed time—an hour before is best. Wait until the session before yours has started so it’s quieter and we can focus on you.

Don’t wander off to other sessions, to lunch, whatever, and not be there on time for the start of your event. Keep track of the time and return at least fifteen minutes before your part starts.


CHECK IN

Always check in! Otherwise, you are considered a “no show” and we are scrambling to figure out what to do without you, sending people to look for you, spending time calling/texting you when there are ten other things requiring our attention.

NO TEXTS/CALLS WITH QUESTIONS ON THE DAY

We simply do not have time to take your call. The ringer on our cell is mostly likely turned off. If you want to reach us because you’re going to be late due to traffic or a car breakdown, text us and give us your name and ETA. If there is a host for your session, text them as well. Don’t text us and ask us to tell them. We may not see them in time and guess what? We have ten other things requiring our attention. What? You don’t have their phone number? You know my response to that.

DON’T GO ROGUE

If we didn’t offer or ask about your tech needs then please don't email asking if you can show a short film the day before the event. Or even weeks before. Tech has already been decided. We’ve had the final walk-though. We would have to hire a tech person at the venue which is not in our budget. You also may not call the venue yourself and ask for them to do this for you. We have a contract with them and you are not part of it. Put whatever you want to show on your website and have people view it on their smartphones during or after the session.

STICK TO YOUR TIME LIMITS

We probably gave you a time limit for your reading or, if you’re a host of a reading/session at a festival for us, how long your session is. If you’re a writer, choose appropriate material and practice reading it to make sure you are just under your time. So if we said seven minutes that’s what you prepare. Not three minutes. Not nine minutes. Your running under/over screws up the schedule. Minutes add up.

If you’re a host, don’t run over. Manage/track your time. If the host of the session before you didn’t do that and their session ran into yours, let us know later (they will go on the list!), but that doesn’t mean you can do the same to the session’s host and authors after you.

STAY THE WHOLE TIME – PARTICIPATE!

Go to other sessions if you’re at a festival. Stay the whole evening if it’s a larger event/reading. Take pictures. Post on social media using the event hashtag and quote writers/speakers. Tag people. Share other people’s posts.

If you just do your part and leave you were not really a participant making a contribution to our event and community.

IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, BE GRACIOUS

Organizers are juggling more than you know depending on the size of the event: partners and their expectations, venues, catering, audio/visual recording, marketing, publicity, security, tech, tables, chairs, signage, exhibitors, book orders, the schedule, volunteers, parking, transportation/hotel for visiting writers, walk-throughs, last minute changes.

We are horrified that your name was spelled wrong or the parking lot was closed or someone else took your vegan lunchbox. We didn’t do it on purpose and we can’t fix it now. Don’t call/text us asking for restaurant recommendations or the nearest parking lot. These are all accessible to you via your own phone.

BOTTOM LINE

We are doing our best to make everyone comfortable and happy while dealing with the banner falling off of the front of the building, microphones with dead batteries, a famous writer needing directions over the phone instead of using their GPS, volunteers who didn’t show up, the session room that’s locked so no one can get in, obvious questions from people who could answer them by simply opening and reading the program or checking the map.

There are plenty of people ready to criticize every aspect of an event with massive amounts of know-it-all disdain. People who have never organized anything in their life but who think they’d be geniuses at it.  Don’t be that person. You have no idea what was discussed, promised by venue/partners/caterers/etc., not allowed or not available, or didn’t work on the day.

Be a help, not a hindrance. How? Remember that the event is not about you (unless you’re the headliner, in which case, still be gracious, not a diva). Do your homework. Do your prep. Bring your own water and a granola bar, just in case. Leave early, map out additional parking, check in, tweet about how much fun you’re having, smile.

We are excited to have you at our event! We think you’re fantastic! But be responsible for yourself. If you can’t be, hire someone who will be able to handle your needs/details or risk not being invited back and word getting around that you are not a professional or too much work.

Your call.


Chris Stewart is Editor-in-Chief of Del Sol Press (@DelSolPressBks), which has a First Novel Competition deadline this Friday, May 13th. Judge is Madison Smartt Bell.  Prize is $1500, 20 copies. Second and third place winners receive free tuition to the AlgonkianNew York Pitch Conference. Published already but retained the copyright? You’re eligible! Check it out:Del Sol Press First Novel Prize

Chris tweets @EditorStewart and provides manuscript editing and critiques. Find tips, tools, information, and inspiration on her website: The Real Writer