BookTV Panel Discussion on Publishing

BookTV LATFOB publishing panel

 

I missed the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend, but I was able to catch a few interesting panels on BookTV on C-SPAN2, particularly this discussion on Publishing with Maris Kreizman @mariskreizman (Publishing Project Specialist at Kickstarter), Isaac Fitzgerald @IsaacFitzgerald (Editor, Buzzfeed Books), Oscar Villalon @ovillalon (Managing Editor, Zyzzyva Magazine) and Johnny Temple @AkashicBooks (Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Akashic Books).

This video is worth watching several times.  Frank talk about the reality of publishing today. A great kick in the ass for writers (like me) who balk at self-promotion. Opened my eyes.

“Panelists talked about book publishing. Panelists included Isaac Fitzgerald, editor of BuzzFeed Books; Maris Kreizman, publishing outreach lead for Kickstarter; Josh Raab, founder of theNewerYork; Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books; and Oscar Villalon, managing editor of Zyzzyva magazine.

Publishing Industry: The New and the Now was a panel from the 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and took place at the Hancock Foundation building on the campus of the University of Southern California.” – BookTV C-SPAN2

To view the video, click on photo

To Be or Not To Be: Reissuing a Novel

With the rise of Indie publishing, authors are able to re-issue their back list of books that have the rights reverted to them from the original publisher. I’m one of them. Some of those older books of mine had great editors. Others didn’t. I refuse to disclose which ones required more editing. But I will say a book published by a major New York publishing house does not mean it can be formatted and uploaded to Amazon without a second look. Or third.

1997 That Wilder Man, Harlequin Temptaion

Original cover of That Wilder Man (1997)

So the rewrites begin. Historical novels don’t have the same issues as contemporary novels that will be outdated. Not may be. Will be. I have heard arguments for and against updating a book for re-issue. There are readers who couldn’t care less when the story takes place as long as it is a great read.  Others refuse to read an older book. Believe it or not, most literary agents reject manuscripts set in the 1980s and 1990s, claiming “publishers aren’t interested because readers won’t buy them.” (No need to raise a hand to dispute this claim.  This was my experience querying over 100 agents for LOSING LISA:Intuitive Investigator  Series, Book One.)

The questions to ask are: Do you have a legion of fans who would object to changing a favorite book on their Keeper shelf? If so, you might leave well enough alone. However, I recall a much-loved, award-winning author whose early works were reissued by her NY publisher. Her fans were thrilled. Newer members of my writers’ organization had not read the author when they bought the re-issues. One book, in particular, was met with criticism because the hot good-old-boy hero was a chain-smoking, beer-drinking reckless driver with a volatile temper. Of course, this character evolved by the end of the book but he didn’t turn into a saint. The Bad Boy image was not only politically incorrect (driving while drinking!) but the “It” factor had become an “Ick” factor.  If the author would have been willing to update the story—I do not know whether or not she had the option—would editing have wrecked the book? I think so, but that’s just my opinion. I wasn’t offended by the chain-smoking, beer-drinker when I read the first edition. Re-reading it years later, I am aware the story takes place during the time when that behavior was acceptable.

Reissue - That Wilder Man (2015)

Reissue – That Wilder Man (2015)

Another question an author needs to ask: Is this older book representative of my current style and quality of writing? If not, do I rewrite it? When I read my earlier books, sometimes I cringe at the head-hopping points of view or awkward transitions of scenes. Other times I am pleasantly surprised that I could still hold my head up with pride of authorship.  If you aren’t sure, if you feel you are still too close to your book to know if it needs work, hire a freelance editor to check it.  Then, if it requires extensive rewrites, have it professionally edited afterward. This should go without saying but, hey, I’m saying it.

Last but not least, a big pet peeve with readers is buying a book, assuming it is new, only realize they had already bought and read the earlier edition! Don’t make my mistake. I did not intentionally try to fool the public by omitting the word “re-issue” in the book description. I assumed I had covered that point with the two publication dates and two copyright dates in the book details. Wrong.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, do you want an older book rewritten to be politically correct or let it reflect the era in which it was originally written?

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HeartsAndHeroesGroup3DBoxSet_1400pxI am happy to announce THAT WILDER MAN (reissue) is in the new HEARTS AND HEROES box set with the award-winning contemporary romance authors, Patricia Thayer, Mindy Neff, Sandra Paul and Lyn O’Farrell.

 Available now on Amazon.com for 99¢!

 

 

 

How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life – Part 2

I have been writing in some form or other all of my life, primarily personal journals, but my biggest adventures and life lessons came from stumbling into the world of novel-writing. And I do mean stumble.

I am an Accidental Novelist. (See previous post here.)

I wish I could say I went on to great fame. But I didn’t. (No yet, anyway. <g>) I have had a lot of crazy, disillusioning experiences. Promises made and broken by literary agents and publishing house editors. My style of writing does not fit perfectly into the marketing niches of romance, sci-fi, women’s fiction, mystery, you-name-it. Agents pressured me to “write funny” because that’s what sells. Editors said my writing was wonderful if only . . . If only it was shorter. If only it was longer. If only it was a family saga. If only it wasn’t a family saga. If only it didn’t have paranormal elements. If only it had a vampire. I managed to sell a couple of time-travels before my editor asked me to submit ghost stories. Every time I wrote a proposal to fit an editor’s specific request, I failed miserably.

I walked away from the business many times but I didn’t stop writing. I continued to attend conferences all over the United States. Travel has been one of the highlights of being a writer. So many times I have said, “If I never sell another book, I will always be grateful how writing has taken me places and expanded my life beyond anything I imagined.” Even though I dreamed of publishing again someday, I was not eager to deal with the New York houses. I couldn’t jump through the hoops. Many writer-friends managed to play the game successfully. Sometimes a slot would open in the publishing schedule that needed to be filled ASAP. Their editors would ask them to shorten their deadlines by weeks or months to satisfy the publishing machine. They missed family trips, celebrations and graduations because they needed to turn in their manuscripts early. And how many times have I heard of manuscripts being turned in by the deadline but the editor was too busy to read it to approve release of the acceptance check? Too many. (In all fairness, editors are overworked and underpaid!)

As years passed, I watched some of the best romance writers in the business hit difficult times—a family crisis, divorce, cancer, caring for an elderly/dying parent—resulting in a slowed writing schedule. Or completely stopped. Their dedication and loyalty to their publisher meant nothing. If they missed a deadline or their latest book didn’t sell enough, they were penalized in one way or another. Payments delayed. Contract negotiations stalled. Sometimes the author was unceremoniously dropped. Coincidence? I don’t think so. After all, publishing is a business. But all those tightened deadlines to fill an empty slot meant nothing in the end. Many of the authors were so disheartened they quit.

But I kept writing.

When digital books came on the scene, I balked. Not that I looked down my nose at self-publishing! No, the real deterrent was the mind-boggling amount to learn, not to mention production money and hours of PR that were required to self-pub. No, that wasn’t for me. I’d rather spend my time writing.

I continued to submit book proposals and enter contests. I thought my dry spell had broken when I won a contest and landed a reputable New York agent. But he sat on my book for two years, making excuses every time I asked for updates. When I decided to sever ties, he said it was just as well because he no longer represented category romance or unpublished authors. (My book was mainstream women’s fiction and I am a published author.)

Unable to sell my own work to a New York publisher, I accepted an invitation from a friend to help her write true crime stories about her experiences as a private investigator. Not an easy transition. But it was writing. I learned so much along the way. However, as with my own novels, I could not find an agent to represent the narrative non-fiction.

Romance Writers of America Conference - Chicago 1992 (L-R) Gillian Doyle, Mindy Neff, Charlote Lobb (w/a Charlotte Maclay & Charlotte Carter), Jackie Radoumis, Sharon-Brevik

Romance Writers of America Conference – Chicago 1992 (L-R) Gillian Doyle, Mindy Neff, Charlote Lobb (w/a Charlotte Maclay & Charlotte Carter), Jackie Radoumis, Sharon-Brevik

Then, two years ago, a prolific writer and long-time friend was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away within a few short months. Charlotte Lobb wrote romances and mysteries as Charlotte Maclay and Charlotte Carter. Long ago, I mentored her for two years before she sold her first romance to Harlequin. She also had some ups and downs in the business. And yet she authored over fifty novels. As her books sales far surpassed mine, she expressed her exasperation about my own career. She kept telling me I was the better writer, which was very kind of her. But, deep down, I didn’t have her fierce determination to damn the rejections and forge ahead. I let a few deceptive agents and editors undermine my faith in myself.

Charlotte’s death was my wake-up call. At that time, I realized I was the same age she was when she sold her first book! She would say, “I write faster than you because I don’t have time to waste. I only have so many years left and I have to make the most of them!” And she did! She loved nothing more than to be home at her computer writing those books. If we were at a writing workshop that was not meeting her expectations, she would not waste time waiting until the end. She would quietly slip out the back door and go home to write. After her husband, Chuck, retired, the two of them took “research trips” to Europe and South America that she would turn into another book.

At her memorial service, I was ashamed of myself for wasting so much precious time. Char was one of my biggest cheerleaders and she was gone. It was too late for me to be able to call her on the phone to tell her I finally sold another book.

That day I felt as if she was whispering in my ear, “I don’t give a damn how you do it, get back out there and publish again.”

I started with online classes covering the basics of self-publishing. Daunting? Oh, hell-yes. I also hired a professional editor. I hired a cover artist. I hired a web designer. I learned how to format manuscripts for eBooks and print-on-demand. I took more classes on social media.

I formed Sweetbriar Creek Publishing Company, published two of the narrative nonfiction true crime novels and re-issued some of my back-list books. I have new manuscripts to polish and send to the freelance editor. With luck and a few more hours in every day, I will see the new books published within the coming year.

How the hell I got here is anyone’s guess. It’s a miracle I’m still writing. I am, as I said, an Accidental Novelist. Now I am also an Accidental Publisher. But the places I have been and people I have met along the way have been the biggest, most positive influence on who I am today.

And I owe it all to writing.