Hi guys! Thank you for having me back! So in my first blog, I spoke about the nuts and bolts of writing. For this installment, I’d like to take a look at some of the next steps. So, your story is written! Congratulations! Now what? So that’s what I want to talk about today: What to do after you have your first draft, the decision to publish traditionally or to self-publish, and the pitfalls that new authors need to watch out for.
So step one: Edit. After you’ve written your first draft, it’s going to be tempting to go back to page one and edit immediately. I would tell you to wait a bit. For me, I set my manuscripts aside for 2-4 weeks. This allows me to come back to the story with fresh eyes. What happens when you try to edit immediately, is you’re too close to the story to actually see your mistakes. Imagine walking in a forest for 2 months. After a while, everything is just trees. You stop seeing the small nuances of anything. Your story is no different. You’ve been staring at it for a long time. So step away and come back with fresh eyes. Then make the corrections you need to.
Now you’re book is ready! You’ve written it! You’ve edited it! Let’s publish! …Hold on there Tiger! I know. You’re excited to show the world your beautiful story, but it’s not ready for the bright lights just yet. So here I’m going to talk about self-publishing and traditional publishing. I’ll address traditional publishing first as it’s what most new authors aspire to. So when I was first querying, I had a bad case of wrong thinking, and I don’t want you guys to make this same mistake. My wrong thinking was this: If an agent likes my story, they are going to have it edited anyway. So I don’t need to have it perfect before a potential agent sees it. Oh how naïve I was.
Here is what is wrong with this thinking: Imagine your story as a resume. Because that’s what it is to an agent. You’re applying for a job, and a potentially high paying one at that. Would you send in your resume filled with typos? I imagine not. So my input here is: it isn’t a bad investment of time or money to have an editor look at your MS before you submit. Get it back. Make corrections. Have it proofread again after those corrections. Make final corrections. Now, you’re ready to submit a query that isn’t going to be disqualified on a technicality. Seriously, if you misspell prologue, the agent is never going to even read the first word of your story. And look at it this way: IF, heaven forbid, you don’t find an agent, your book is edited and you have a self-publishable MS ready to go. Do you need to have it edited before you submit? No. You can submit a query written in crayon if you want to. But I promise you, editing is not going to hurt your chances of getting a request for a full manuscript.
A brief aside before we go back to talking about queries: If you do decide to self-publish, editing is only one part of the equation. First, let me encourage you, if you want to be traditionally published, don’t give up. Stephen King, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling all have something in common: They were ALL widely rejected by agents. They persevered until they finally got a yes. You only need ONE yes. Ten-thousand no’s and one yes, is still a yes. If you want to be traditionally published, don’t give up! If however you have decided to self-publish (and there are good some reasons to do this) you will need to have a cover made and have your book formatted. My advice to you is, don’t skimp on the money here. This is your baby. It deserves the best. Pay the money to have a professional cover made and to have it professionally formatted. You will have a book you can be proud of. I know it’s tempting to maybe make your own cover and save some money, but I implore you to resist this temptation. You wouldn’t ask a race car driver to be your mechanic. You wouldn’t ask a horse jockey to be your veterinarian. In that same guise, an author shouldn’t be a cover maker. You don’t know what’s trending. You don’t understand what makes a reader pass up one book and pick up another. You don’t understand how colors and combinations can create a certain mood and feel for a story before the reader ever opens the book. Another thing to consider is many promotional companies won’t allow you to promote through them without a professional cover. Bookbub can make an author’s career in a single day. Want to promote through them? You need a professional cover. Do some research. Find a cover maker you like. Get a cover that will make your baby shine!
Ok, so back to traditional publishing and the seemingly daunting task of querying: Research potential agents before you query them. Agents are looking for very specific things, so before you query, go onto Publisher’s Marketplace, and find out which agents are looking for the type of story you write. Frequently, the potential agent will tell you exactly how to query them. These are not polite suggestions. Follow their instructions exactly. And if you don’t know the difference between a blurb and a summary, go online and look it up. Failing to follow instructions can get you disqualified immediately. Another thing to mention here is, know what type of story you have. Is your manuscript a MG or a YA novel? Failing to submit it correctly can get you disqualified. So if you don’t know the difference between a MG and a YA, look it up. This will help you target agents who are looking for what you have.
Not all agents are created equal. If you find an agent who is accepting queries for your type of book, look and see who they represent. Then go on Amazon and check those books sales. This will tell you a lot about the agent. Believe it or not, there are a lot of unscrupulous people who prey on authors. Let me give you an example: Hi! My name is Rob and I’m a literary agent. I can get your book tons of exposure! For only $1000.00, I will guarantee you thousands of views on your book as well as a full fb and twitter campaign! This is a scam meant to make ME money. I get $1000.00. You get, essentially nothing. I share your book on my twitter page a bunch of times and on fb. But does that actually lead to sales or get your book published by any of the big publishers? Nope! I (in this scenario) would be a scammer. And believe me, there are TONS of them out there. Many go by the name of a “vanity press.” Avoid these completely. If an “agent,” ever asks for money from you, run far and fast. Real agents make their money off of sales, and will never ask a dime from the author. There used to be a site called, Predators and Editors that would tell authors who these people are. It’s since been shut down. There is however a blog called, Writer Beware that has taken up the torch. Do your research before you query. Choose the agents you really really really want to work with. It can make the difference between you flipping burgers, or writing for a living.
Ok, finally; learn how to query before you write your query. There are quite a few resources on query writing, most of which can be found by a quick internet search. My personal favorite is literary agent Kristin Nelson from Nelson Literary. On her site she shares a ton of information on how to write a quality query, and also includes query letters from books she chose to represent, and why she liked them. Again, think of your query as a resume. There are very real do’s and don’ts. So learn them up front. Then take what you’ve learned and write a quality query. Then edit it. Then take your query to beta readers and get feedback. Then rewrite it. Just like your MS, it needs to be shiny. This is true of your summary as well as anything else the potential agent asks for. Shiny.
I think this is a good place to stop for the day. It’s enough to get you started and help you avoid some of the pitfalls. I know I said it before, but I’m going to say it again: Don’t give up! If you forget everything else I wrote here, please remember that. Don’t give up. If you want to be traditionally published, keep at it. If you’re being widely rejected, you can always make changes. You can rewrite your query or your summary, or even the novel. But keep trying. You only need ONE yes. Until next time, metaphors be with you!
Please check out my new release, The Bookshop and the Junglest, available now through Amazon!
How Can It Be Real?
As an author of supernatural thrillers, it’s a question I’ve heard a time or two before. In my experience, the single most important aspect to good storytelling is what I call the “Reality Factor.” We’ve all read a book, seen a movie, that should have worked but didn’t. There are a ton of factors that may contribute to its failure, but at the core, I’m confident you’ll find a lack of reality as the main culprit.
You may have seen a similar idea floating around–suspension of disbelief. The term suspension of disbelief is defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.
While in the ballpark, I don’t altogether agree. Terms such as unbelievable, and sacrifice of realism and logic come down to one’s point of view. Where our viewpoints intersect, what we have in common, is in fact, reality. Reality is a point of view, nothing less and nothing more. Our viewpoints can be experienced, shared, and broadened by communicating our reality to others—in short, good storytelling.
To that end, ALL my stories are steeped in reality. At least, reality from my point of view.
Oh, Ye Of Little Faith
Allow me to elucidate. My most recently published Lance Underphal Mystery, Grey Daze takes on an eclectic variety of subjects. Not the least of which is the rise in crimes against the elderly. In and of itself it’s nothing new and about as real as it gets. Unfortunately, for my family and I, it came much too close to home.
My elderly uncle was in his mid-eighties at the time, living in his home alone in San Bernardino, CA. He was my mother’s brother, a teacher in the San Bernardino school system, and a bachelor all his life. He would make the trip out to visit us in Arizona during the holidays. Age slowed his step and we all noticed the slight diminution of his mental faculties. Otherwise, he seemed to be doing well. Little did we know.
Alarmed, my uncle’s financial adviser called my father out of the blue, concerned about large withdrawals from his retirement accounts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short period of time. Out of character for my miserly uncle. Hell, we had no idea he had that kind of money saved up. More alarming, his financial adviser reported he was getting married, and that he’d been seen at the bank with a young Latino woman withdrawing large sums of cash from his checking account. This made no sense. My uncle was gay.
My father was bedridden at the time, suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. He called me and my brother to his bedside to inform us. We went to work. The first call I made was to my uncle, who vehemently denied everything and told me it was none of my business—a wildly uncharacteristic response. I heard the woman in the background coaching him. Next call was to the San Bernardino Police who claimed their hands were tied. It got worse, the situation deteriorated. We became concerned for his life when we found out there were attempts made to change the beneficiary on his life insurance policy to his supposed wife-to-be.
Eventually, I managed to convince my uncle that my mother, his sister, needed to see him. We immediately sent a private investigator to my uncle’s home to pick him up and bring him to Arizona. By the time we convinced him to stay with us, more than six hundred thousand dollars of his retirement savings had been stolen. He was left almost penniless, but at least he was alive and safe. He spent the rest of his days near my mother, in my brother’s home.
Of course, the uncle character depicted in Grey Daze is very different. After all, I write fiction, which is to say I embellish to my imagination’s limit and get to call it artist license. Yet as a starting point, the basis in reality is there.
Create Your Own Reality
I invite you to explore my stories for points of reality we can share. And just perhaps, you’ll take a small portion of my reality on faith.
Michael Allan Scott
The cross-genre supernatural mystery/thriller books, Dark Side of Sunset Pointe, Flight of the Tarantula Hawk, and Grey Daze, are available on Amazon. Cut-Throat Syndrome, the next book in the series, is due out soon.
You may also check out the book trailers for Dark Side of Sunset Pointe and Flight of the Tarantula Hawk On YouTube.
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For more on Indie Author, Michael Allan Scott, and the Lance Underphal mystery series, visit michaelallanscott.com
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