Wednesday, October 30, 2013

For Aspiring Authors - My First Mistake

It's confession time. When I first finished my debut novel Keir, I didn't have a clue about publishing. No, really! I was totally and utterly clueless. Faced with either sticking my MS in a drawer or doing something with it, I decided to look into publication. I didn't know where to start, so I looked up things on the internet.
And one of the very first things I did, and soon realized was a mistake, was request a brochure from a publishing company interested in all types of fiction and non-fiction.

Y'see, I'd never heard of vanity press (sometimes calling themselves subsidy publishers, but generally making out they are some kind of legitimate publisher like the Big 5 - they aren't!). Luckily, I recognised my mistake on receiving the brochure and having done some more research. A writing site had guided me toward the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, the must-have guide for aspiring authors in the UK (I was going to say at this point - get it! But I've seen via Writer Beware that vanity presses like Author Solutions are now being allowed to promote in this once great institution, so I will no longer recommend it. A damn shame. Use Preds & Eds instead). Go to Writer Beware and check out agents and publishers on the Preditor and Editor website too. But now that company had my phone number, and for several months after they persisted in ringing and emailing me, pushing for me to contact and submit to them. Eventually they quit it, and I've steered well clear of any since, being somewhat the wiser.

So when I woke at an annoying 4.30am one Tuesday morning to find an email from another vanity press in my inbox, I was livid. These parasites had discovered I'd registered my latest novel at the Library of Congress, and 'offered' to publish it for me (apparently this is now a regular occurence if you register a manuscript - check out this Writer Beware post here - that's exactly what I got, and luckily I knew exactly what kind of company they were). The bloody nerve of it! The email also said at the bottom that I'd agreed to receive their emails. No I didn't! I'd never contacted them at all.

I know how vanity presses work, and I'd heard about this one. So I knew to steer well clear (although the MS in question is already published, so they're way too late). But the email reminded me of those days when I knew nothing. What if I'd got that kind of email then? Full of self doubt and ignorance, I'd have been flattered to be approached by what looked like a bona fide publisher. I might have responded. And if I might have done, so might others.

Be wary of things like this. I don't want to preach to aspiring authors, but I certainly don't want anyone's publishing dreams to become nightmares with predators like these on the prowl. If they have free access to resources like the copyright office, they can contact anyone. So when you get emails like this, be suspicious. I always say research is one of those essentials for authors, new or experienced. Check the company out. Ask around. If, for whatever insane reason you decide a vanity press is the way you want to go, be clear on what you're paying for and what you're liable for. Their aim is to make themselves money, not the author. They won't care if you go into debt rather than profit. If you complain your book isn't doing well, chances are you'll just be offered another overpriced package of more or alternative marketing. And seriously, you're better off finding those services elsewhere and self publishing your work. Find a good editor, get a decent book cover, and go indie. Don't use a vanity press. I can even recommend some way better resources for you to use if you want me to. Find and join writing groups. Try the Kindle Boards or, or look for indie publishing/book groups on Facebook. Don't believe the claims or testimonials on the publisher's page - I always, always go by personal recommendations by people I trust - friends, fellow authors and work collegues.

Things to watch out for -
1. Someone contacts you out of the blue, offering to make you a published author, even when you haven't looked into becoming published.
2. No example or given terms for the contract you'll be offered.
3. The mention of promotional or publishing packages that you'll be 'offered'.
4. No online store of their own.
5. They will publish ANYTHING. What, even without seeing your MS? Plus most small presses focus on a main genre, like specualtive fiction or romance and its sub-genres. The Big 5 generally have separate imprints that focus on specific genres, and these often work as separate divisions.

There are other things to look out for, but I strongly recommend you go to the Writer Beware website and read up. Be careful out there.

Pippa's Journal

I am close to strangling my muse. After completing my Halloween story, I started work on a winter solstice story (inspired by one of the pre-made covers created by the talented Gayle Ramage here), only to then be distracted by an undead/zombie story. This is once more taking me from my scifi homeland into new and somewhat scary territory. Of course, it won't be a horror story - I'm not into frightening or gory - but at the moment, straying into new genres like this is both exciting and terrifying for me. Despite its zombie theme, this will not be horror. Although how exactly I can market a non-horror zombie story is a conundrum...


Military SF writers: Apex is accepting submissions through Nov 31 for new anthology War Stories #scifi #writers

Brigader Kimber An has started a new book review site...and science fiction romance is one of the topics! The site officially launches on the 1st November, but you can check out her wish list of books here.

This week a digital format of my YA scifi Gethyon and a $10 gift card are up for grabs at Long and Short Reviews here. The giveaway ends on Friday. From next Monday, it's anti-bullying month, and for the whole of November I will be donating all royalties from the sales of Gethyon to Childline, a UK charity that provides support to children being bullied and abused. Since my MC is bullied at the start of the book, it seemed fitting, especially since my eldest child went through two years of being bullied at school.

Ping Pong

Laurie, loved the post on command presence. There are people who can walk into a room and speak in a soft voice who command more and instant respect than someone who marches in and shouts. Maybe I should try cultivating that attitude with my little monsters. :D

Donna, I've never read Card, and in light of recent revelations, I'm not sure I want to, or to see the film. Which is sad, but sometimes I can't close out the personal aspects of an author from their work. Hubs is planning to take our eldest boy to see it, and that's fine because I believe in letting them make their own choices. Will be interesting to hear what they make of it, and if that will change my mind.

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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.