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This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation. My author page is www.facebook.com/lindafausnet

15 Weeks Until Publication

Introducing my new Wannabe Pride logo!! The flames are an homage to Back to the Future, which inspired me to become a writer. (I was a screenwriter before I was a novelist.)

 My Love Letter to Back to the Future on Its 25 Anniversary

 

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Logo designed by Evan Lerman.

 

Self-Publishing Means Never Having to Say Goodbye

 

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Manuscripts that are written for only traditional publishing have a sell-by date. It doesn’t matter how long you spent writing the book. Once you’ve exhausted the lengthy yet finite list of literary agents and publishers to submit to, it’s game over if nobody bites. All that work and the book is shelved forever, never to be read again.

When it’s time to permanently shelve your unpublished novel.

It’s a hard thing, letting go of a story. Nobody but the writer will ever really know what it was like to write the book. What it was like to come up with the idea – that moment when you light up and realize you’ve suddenly been grabbed by your next big idea. The hours that it took getting to know the characters and breathing life into them. The songs that you listened to that fit with your story and will always remind you of that book whenever you hear one of those songs for the rest of your life. The moments of the story that made you laugh, made you cry, made you feel.

It’s hard when the day comes and you’re forced to accept that the characters you loved and the story you slaved over are destined to exist only in your mind and heart. The final agent has rejected the story. There are no publishers left on the list anymore. It’s time to say goodbye to that book forever.

I’m preparing to go through that with my latest middle-grade novel. It’s nearly impossible to market a book to younger children online via self-publishing, so it’s traditional publishing or nothing for this one. There is one literary agent reviewing the story now, but I’ve been doing this writing thing long enough to know how this story is going to end. And it’s going to end soon. I was working on this baseball book last summer as my son played little league for the first time. It’s a baseball novel about a female coach managing a bunch of lovable misfit players, and I had a blast watching my son play and feeling inspired about my book. There were lots of great baseball songs I loved to listen to, as well as general rock songs that fit well with my book. The main character’s theme song (in my mind) is SHE’S SO MEAN by Matchbox Twenty. It’s been wonderful listening to those songs while I went on long walks, brainstorming about my book. It was especially fun blasting those songs at full volume in celebration of finally completing the novel. Now, hearing those songs is tinged with sadness. I’ve sent out 70 queries with one acceptance and 21 rejections. Many of those other agents will simply reject the novel with their silence.

It’s almost over for this novel. My son starts baseball again soon. As I watch him play, I’ll remember my novel, the characters, the story, the experience, knowing that few other people will ever know anything about it.

Very special thanks to my parents and sister who are always quick to read my books. My mother, in particular, breaks speed records when it comes to reading my novel the moment I send it to her. She pretty much gets the final draft, since I know she will tell me it’s wonderful no matter what and won’t tell me the truth about it (that’s okay. That’s her job as my mom, and I love her for it!).

My husband and kids are a different matter.

My wonderful husband is generally supportive, but hates to read (odd couple much??) and won’t even make an exception in my case. Seriously, this last book is for nine-year-olds. He can’t even handle that? I read my last middle-grade novel, RAIN ON THE WATER, out loud to my son and daughter. Though they claimed they wanted me to read this one to them, when the time came, they decided they’d rather play Minecraft…

Not gonna lie. I cried over that. A lot. My husband comforted me and told me “They’re just children”. I don’t care. It hurt. When I wrote this novel, I had my kids in mind. There are jokes in there that I knew they would get when I read the book aloud to them. Now I’ll never get that chance.

Times like this make me want to shake my husband and children by the shoulders and cry out “Don’t you get it? You might be the only people who will ever read this! All that work and now it’s all over!”

They just don’t get it and they never will. I have no choice but to accept that and move on.

I get tired of saying goodbye. QUEEN HENRY was the first story with characters who really grabbed me by the heart and absolutely refused to let go. You are not shelving us, they told me. Not this time. QUEEN HENRY was the one story that I just could not let go of.

Why I decided to self-publish my novel. 

That’s why was my debut published novel.

I’m pretty sure THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX will be my last middle-grade novel (unless, by some miracle, an agent decides to represent it). From now on, I’m going to focus on writing adult fiction.

It is my hope to never write another novel that I don’t plan to publish. Stories are meant to be shared, so thank goodness for self-publishing. I’ll do my best to promote my books and get them read as far and wide as possible, but if only a handful of people purchase and read them, at least my stories have reached out to others in some small way.

I don’t want to say goodbye any more.

 

–       Linda Fausnet

 

There is a P.S. to this story : Since writing this article, my son decided to start reading THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX. He is supposed to read for 20 minutes a day for homework, so now he’s reading my book. He’s read the first chapter so far. He sat at the kitchen table reading it, and then looked up at me with surprise and said “this is funny!”

So I guess there is kind of happy ending to this after all…

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Traditional and Self-Publishing – There’s Room for All of Us on the Shelf

 

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There’s no question that there are pros and cons for both traditional publishing and self-publishing. With traditional publishers, you have the validation of a big publisher and all the publicity and exposure that goes with it. However, you also have a very short shelf life. If your book doesn’t sell well quickly, it may be pulled from the shelves within a matter of weeks. Not so with self-publishing, where you have all the time you want for book to gain traction. It may not sell well at first, but within a year or more you could be quite successful as word of mouth spreads.

There are some in the traditional publishing world who look down on self-published authors, while there are those indie writers who think traditional agents and publishers are snooty and antiquated. My feeling is that there really is room in the book market for both types of writers and publishers. Traditional publishers are very much bestseller-oriented because they have to be. It’s the nature of the business. After all, they have to pay the agent and the distributor and shoulder the costs of cover design, multiple edits, publicity, and so forth. If they don’t sell an awful lot of copies, they will simply lose money. That being said, just as not every Hollywood movie is destined to be a blockbuster hit, not every book is going to be a bestseller. A bestseller has to appeal to the masses, and not every book is designed to do that.

My debut novel, QUEEN HENRY is all about LGBT equality. Sadly, an awful lot of people aren’t going to like that topic. Certain types of Christians and super-conservative people aren’t going to want anything to do with my book. If you watch the news, you’ll see that number hovers close to 50% of the population at times, though support for equality does continue to rise. Still, traditional publishers wanted no part of my book because they knew it was not likely to be a huge bestseller.

It’s unlikely that I will sell millions of copies of QUEEN HENRY, but as a self-publisher I don’t need to. I don’t have anywhere near the overheard for my book as big publishers do. Sure, I paid for a professional cover and an editor, but I don’t have to pay for a bunch of copies of a book that may or may not sell. That’s what POD (print on demand) is for. I’m not paying an agent (sorry ladies and gents. You had your chance…) and I will keep a far higher percentage of the sales than I would with a traditional publisher (though in the case of QUEEN HENRY, all of the proceeds will be going to the Harvey Milk Foundation).

The fact is, there is room on the virtual shelf for both the James Pattersons, the Danielle Steeles, and for my little gay book that nobody wanted. There are lots of LGBT people and allies out there who would be happy to read my book (I hope).

Ideally, both traditional publishers and self-publishers can learn to coexist peacefully. The best advice I can offer is to respect traditional agents and publishers because they’ve been doing this a lot longer than we have, and for the most part, they are quite knowledgeable of the literary field. For self-publishers, commit yourself to excellence. Don’t be a hack. Study. Learn the craft. Revise, revise, revise. Respect traditional publishers, but don’t sit around waiting on them to tell you that you’re good enough to publish your work. 

– Linda Fausnet

 

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Critiques – You CAN Handle the Truth – The Road to Self-Publishing

The single most important thing that separates professional writers from amateurs is the willingness to have their work critiqued. It’s the hardest part of being a writer and it’s also the most important step toward completing a well-written book. When I pick up a book from the library, I know that the book has been through dozens of revisions and has been seen by many pairs of eyes. When I pick up a self-published book, I have no idea how many times the book has been edited or even if it has been reviewed or edited at all. I can tell pretty quickly, though, and so can the rest of your readers.

It’s not just about the grammar, though. I recently read – or at least I started to read – a self-published book that was perfectly grammatically correct, but it was almost entirely telling and not showing. At least the entire first chapter was like that and that’s when I gave up on reading it. No editor or beta reader worth her salt would have let that slide. The story had a good plot to start off with – a bride-to-be was left at the altar when her fiancé ran off with her best friend.

Good drama, right?

Except the author forgot one thing.

The drama.

The author glossed over all of the action of the inciting incident. She just described it all as if it was something that happened already, robbing the reader of the chance to go through the emotions – and thus empathize – with the main character. The rest of the chapter went on the same way. The character told us how she had to cancel all the wedding vendors and then went on her honeymoon alone. That situation is so rich with potential emotion and drama. What would it feel like to have to call and cancel the church, the caterer, the flowers for your wedding when you know the groom left you for your best friend? Show us! Have us go through those agonizing phone calls with her. Make us feel something!

This author has talent and definite potential, but she really needed to flesh out the story. Grammar and spelling errors are always the most obvious mistakes, but editors and beta readers also help point out plot and character problems that you as the writer cannot possibly see, no matter how experienced a writer you might be.

Being told the harsh truth about what’s wrong with your manuscript and then putting in a lot of hard work to fix it is the only way to produce a truly great story.

Read that last sentence as many times as you need to in order to be convinced.

The bad news is that sometimes those critiques are going to hurt. They’re going to force you to see weaknesses in your writing that you were completely oblivious to before. You might find out that your characters aren’t quite as lovable as you thought they were and your exciting plot might actually be slow and predictable. Frankly, it sucks to be told that your story isn’t working.

There is good news, though:

1. First and foremost, know that you can handle the truth about your writing. Yes, it will hurt, but you will get over it.

2. Stressing over getting critiqued is often worse than getting the actual review, even if the review isn’t great.

3. You only have to implement the changes that you really believe need to be made. Reviewers are human and they are prone to subjective views.

4. You will not believe how much better your manuscript becomes after revisions. After you get over the sting of the negative comments and you start revising, you’ll get excited at how much better your book is getting.

5. In the end, you’ll likely not even remember what was initially said about your manuscript after you’ve made lots of revisions. If you show trusted editors and reviewers your manuscript before finalizing the story, it simply doesn’t matter if they hated it at first. That was then. This is now. The final, vastly improved manuscript is all that matters in the end.

6. If you subject yourself to the scary process of inviting a few people to essentially tear apart your work, thus allowing yourself the chance to rebuild it again, you’ll feel much more confident when submitting the final product to agents, publishers, or when you publish the book yourself. Tastes vary and you won’t be immune to bad reader reviews, but you will greatly reduce the chances of getting negative reviews of your work. You will also vastly improve your chances of getting glowing reviews, which will make all the hurt and pain well worth it.

If you want to be considered a professional author, you must be brave enough to submit your work for honest and potentially brutal critiques. You’ve put a lot of heart and hard work into creating your story and characters, and you owe it to yourself to make your story the best it can possibly be.

Believe me. I’ve been there. It took me a long time, but I took Queen Henry from being a terrible story to being a writing contest finalist story. I loved my story and characters, and i refused to do anything less than my absolute best.

You can handle it.

I believe in you.

You’re stronger than you think.

– Linda Fausnet

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