Four Things You’re Doing to Ruin Your Self-Publishing Career

 

Papa

There is an immense freedom that comes with self-publishing your work. You can write whatever the hell you want and publish whenever the hell you like. You don’t have to wait for the approval of an agent or a publisher. You are in control of your own writing career!

To paraphrase a quote from a certain arachnid-themed superhero film, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

I repeat – You are in control of your writing career. You are also capable of ruining it before it begins. Here are some ways you may be sabotaging your chances of success:

1. Editing the Book Yourself – I don’t care how well you write, you are incapable of seeing all the errors in your own work. You know what you meant to write – readers will see what you actually wrote. It’s so easy to omit simple words in a sentence because your writing brain mentally fills them in when you’re reading your own work. As for grammar and punctuation rules, there are millions of them and you’re likely to get lots of them wrong. I know I do! I would be terrified to publish a book that hadn’t been professionally edited.

2. Improperly formatting the manuscript– Formatting is something you may be able to do yourself. I can’t. I am utterly techno-phobic and wouldn’t even attempt it. It is possible to teach yourself how to properly format your manuscript for eBook and/or paperback, but don’t do it unless you’re sure you can do it 100% correctly. Don’t kid yourself by saying things like “Ah, the formatting’s only slightly off, nobody will notice.” Yes. Yes they will. It’s the first thing I look for in a self-published book. If it looks unprofessional, I won’t download it, even if it’s free.

3. Ignoring page and word count guidelines – If your book is fewer than 150 pages, it’s not a novel (at least not an adult one). I don’t care if it’s a free giveaway. If a reader settles down with a book you’ve marketed as a novel and finds it’s only 100 pages, he’s going to be disappointed. Angry, even. Angry enough to give you a bad review on Amazon. Writing shorter works is great! Just market them honestly as short stories or novellas, whatever the case might be. You also may want to price the story accordingly, perhaps .99 or 1.99.

4. Having a Bad Cover – This doesn’t just refer to the professionalism of the cover, though of course that’s critical. If you’re not good at art and graphic design (I’m not. As you can tell, there’s a long list of stuff I suck at…) don’t attempt it yourself. Whether you do it yourself or not, make sure you do your homework. An attention-getting design isn’t always better, believe it or not. Your number one goal is to attract the right readers –those who read your genre. If you’re marketing a romance, it’s important that your cover screams – this is a romantic book! That way, it will catch the eye of readers looking for a romantic read. If your cover grabs attention but doesn’t make the genre clear, readers will pass on it. Likewise, you want to make sure the cover matches the story. If the cover is pink and bright but the story is tragic and violent, your reader will be the one who’s dark and stormy.

I hear lots of self-publishers making excuses for not following these common sense rules of professional writing.

But I got good reviews! – If you have only a handful of reviews, enjoy them. You won’t be getting many more. When your book first came out, you may have had a few readers willing to overlook your errors, but this good fortune won’t work long-term. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and most readers will not recommend poorly written or badly formatted books. Also, no professional book blogger is going to bother to review a book that is incorrectly formatted. Sure, you’re not getting bad reviews that complain about that badly written book – that’s because most people won’t buy or read the book in the first place.

I can’t afford an editor, a formatter, and a cover artist! I filed for bankruptcy the year I published my first book .Guess what I did first? Paid the editor, the formatter, and the cover artist. I worked too damn hard on that book to make it look unprofessional. Times are tough, no question about it. But you’re tougher. Sell your blood, have a lemonade stand, I don’t care what you do. You owe it to yourself to do right by your book. Don’t sabotage yourself by taking shortcuts.

I know some of my Wannabe Pride articles sound harsh sometimes, but it really is because I care about indie writers. I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED.

I’ve dreamed for twenty years of being a published writer, and I finally made it happen with my debut novel in 2014. So far, I’ve gotten a positive review on the front page of an LGBT newspaper as well as several great book blogger reviews, been invited to give two public talks about the book, sold about three times the number of books that I had expected, and got my novel accepted into my local public library system.

I teared up as I wrote that last paragraph, because I still can’t believe that all that happened.

No, I’m not a huge success and I’m not ready to quit my day job, but this whole experience has been a dream come true. I want all this and more to happen for you.

None of this would have happened if my formatting had been even a touch off the mark or if my book contained grammatical errors. The library would have rejected it, no professional would have reviewed it, and I would have only gotten a handful of book sales.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Push yourself to be the very best you can be.

I believe in you.

You need to believe in yourself.

– Linda Fausnet

 

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Revising and Rewriting Your Manuscript – the Last Checklist You’ll Ever Need (until you find a better one)

 

Yes, you have to revise your manuscript. Many, many, many times. You can either accept that fact of life now or you can:

A. Send out (or self-publish) your first badly written, error-filled, dreck of a first draft and watch the bad reviews/rejection letters pour in and/or listen to the sound of crickets when professionals in the industry won’t even bother to dignify your hack of a manuscript with a response.

B. Give up now, deciding that becoming a fry cook on Venus would probably be easier than this whole writing thing.

 

If you’re still reading, that means you’re willing to do what it takes to be a real writer.

REWRITING IS WHAT MAKES YOU A REAL WRITER.

Hear it, learn it, live it.

Though hashing out a first draft of a novel is hard work, rewriting is truly what makes you a REAL writer. It separates you from the hacks. Anybody can write down a story, slap on a title, and rush to try to sell it. You’re better than that. You’re serious about your craft.
First drafts are often awful. That goes for New York Times bestselling authors and people who are just starting out. Rewriting is what makes any piece of writing great. No exceptions.

On the plus side, if you love writing, rewriting really can be fun. Stop rolling your eyes and making snarky comments. I promise, it’s not like when your math teacher told you that math can be fun. I don’t care if she did bring a pizza into class that one day. Fractions still suck.

This is different.

It’s really very rewarding to see your work get better and better. If you love your characters, think of rewriting as getting a chance to spend more time with them. Though going over each sentence, each paragraph, and each word a bunch of times can be exhausting, it’s a great feeling when you finally get it right. Trimming paragraphs, carefully selecting the right word, and developing that perfect line of dialogue will tighten your work and turn a rough draft into a piece of really great writing.

Do the work. It’s worth the effort.

If this sounds like too much work, do it anyway. If you still hate it, you can always quit writing and do the fry cook thing. The one thing you CAN’T do is get out of rewriting and revising your manuscript numerous times if you want to make it as a writer. Lots of wannabe writers choose to stay in denial about this fact for years before they finally give in to the truth and realize that, no matter how carefully they outline their story and characters ahead of time, rewriting is crucial to success as a writer.

Lots of writers waste years of their precious time denying the necessity of rewriting their work. You’ll be way ahead of the curve if you skip those years and get right to work.

I said GET TO WORK!!

Checklist for Revising

** Wait at least two weeks after you finish a draft before you start revising.

** Read the whole novel from start to finish and record your gut reaction. Don’t censor yourself and try to be as honest as possible. Were there parts that bored you? Did a character get on your nerves or not seem fully fleshed out? Note what you think needs to be fixed but don’t try to fix it yet. Just jot down notes and keep reading.

** The next step is macro edits. You need to fix the big things. This can include fixing things in the plot that don’t make sense or are just not believable, strengthening the characters, and cutting parts of the novel that are redundant or just unnecessary. It helps to have a specific goal in mind for each rewrite. For example, for this first rewrite the goal is to strengthen the main character’s motivation. The next draft might be to fortify a specific relationship between two friends or maybe the goal is to add more suspense. The final revisions should be the ones where you really focus in on specific details like grammar and punctuation.

Beginnings

** Did you jump into the story right away or did you begin with lengthy description or boring exposition?

** Does your opening scene begin with a problem for the protagonist? Does it open *with* the protagonist? The story should almost always begin with the main character.

** Do we know what your characters are after and why? Remember that the more a character wants something, the more compelling the story will be.

** If at all possible, provide at least a hint of what is to come in the opening even if you can’t reveal the whole problem just yet.

** Cut out anything that doesn’t move the story forward or reveal character.

** Be sure to clearly describe your characters so your reader can see what you see. A few concrete details are better than a lengthy description.

** Remember that action can usually reveal character better than a physical description. When the phone rings, does the character rush to answer it or does he roll his eyes and ignore it? Little actions can say a lot about a person.

** Did you set the scene so the reader knows where the action is taking place?

** Reveal setting through the character’s eyes and viewpoint (whoever’s POV you are writing in).

** Be sure that important events in the story are revealed in a scene. A scene means people in action. You don’t want to gloss over the good stuff by simply telling us about it. Conflict is the heart of a good story and scenes are the only way to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

** The characters should enter the scene with a goal, struggle for it, and then end up either achieving little or none of it. Otherwise, why should we keep reading?

** Save most of the backstory, exposition, and character thought for the “sequel”, which follows the scene.

** Are you going too easy on your characters? Make it difficult for them to get anything they want.

** Make sure each chapter ends with something to keep the reader turning the pages.

POV

** The POV you chose should be clear and consistent throughout.

** With first person, try to sneak in some kind of physical description, though it can be tricky.

** If you chose Third Person POV, where you pick one character’s viewpoint, be sure you only show what this character sees, hears, feels, and knows.

** Multiple POV allows you to reveal action that doesn’t always take place within sight of the main character and enables the reader to experience the emotions of more than just one character. Be sure to make it clear when you are switching to another character’s POV, either by adding multiple spaces or starting a new chapter.

** Omniscient POV is when the writer sees and knows all and therefore can show the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. Be sure to be clear about whose consciousness you are in at any given time. Be wary of too much “head-hopping” when the POV changes too rapidly, which can be annoying and difficult to follow for the reader.

** With the Objective POV, you can only show what can be observed from the outside. Instead of she felt angry and bitter when her Cheetos got stolen, it would be she looked angry or she grabbed her Cheetos back and slammed the door . Objective POV is extremely limiting, but can be useful for stories in which revealing a lot of thought and emotion would give away the plot.

Dialogue

** Read dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds authentic and true to the character. Omit boring pleasantries and unnecessary chatter. Get to the good stuff, the conflict.

** Use said as your dialogue tag about 95% of the time, preferably before the character’s name. People rarely say things like said she in real life and words like grunted, hollered, and muttered can be distracting and unnecessary. Also, people can’t laugh and talk at the same time. Instead of she laughed, write she said, laughing.

** Be sure to use dialogue tags frequently enough so the reader is clear on who is talking.

Style and Language

** Limit adjectives – one is usually stronger than two or three. Sometimes none is the right number.

** Watch for adverbs, especially those ending in “ly”. She angrily and forcefully grabbed the umpire is not as strong as she grabbed the umpire or she grabbed the umpire with great force. Use adverbs sparsely.

**Choose a strong, specific noun or verb instead of several weaker ones. Consider the difference between the word ran and the words sprinted,dashed, darted, and fled. Make each word count.

** Active voice is usually best.  Watch for passive voice words like was,were, here, there, and that. There were two drunk guys building a pillow fort vs. Two drunk guys built a pillow fort.

** Keep an eye out for words that you tend to overuse. Do a search to find them and weed them out.

** Omit redundancies like screamed out loud or quickly dashed.

**Watch for “weasel” words that are unnecessary. These include words like about, actually, almost, basically, just, here, there, really, practically, simply, suddenly, utterly. Consider the difference between:When they finally arrived there, it was already too late. She had already gotten a tattoo of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow is not as good as When they arrived, it was too late. She had gotten the tattoo of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow.

** Avoid “filter” words that seek only to distance your reader from your character’s experiences. These include words like: see, hear, think, wonder, realize, watch, seem, feel or feel like, decide, sound or sound like. He felt hot and looked down. He realized his underwear was on fire.  Heat burned his face and he looked down. His underwear was on fire.

** Seek and destroy long passages of boring description.

** Don’t overuse the past perfect verb tense, as in would  or had. When writing a paragraph in this tense, begin in the past perfect : Right before his father had become a drag queen in Vegas, Robert would have long talks with him  when they would go to the mall to buy high heels, then switch to past tense – They mainly talked about makeup and glitter instead of continuing in the past perfect: They had talked mainly about makeup and glitter…

** Make each sentence as strong as possible, keeping in mind that the end is the most powerful part. “I’m leaving you for my chemistry professor,” he said as he put down his rapidly melting lab beaker is not as powerful as He put down his rapidly melting lab beaker and said, “I’m leaving you for my chemistry professor.”

**  Avoid overwriting. Trust that the reader is at least as intelligent as you are.  They will be able to figure out what you are trying to say without hitting them over the head with it.

** Reading out loud is the best way to hear the rhythm of the sentences.“The Phelps family sounded like bigoted idiots” might look okay but try saying it out loud. “The Phelps family sounded like ignorant bigots”sounds much better. At any rate, both sentences are true…

Grammar and Punctuation

** Carefully proofreading for typos and grammatical errors should usually be one of the final steps in revision. There’s no sense in spending a long time perfecting a paragraph only to cut the whole thing out later.

** Use a Comma:
– To separate items in a series: She gathered her baseball,her glove, and her dose of steroids.
– With a small conjunction, such as and, but, for, nor, yet, so, to connect two independent clauses, as in She liked the guy, but she kicked him in the head with her cleats.
– For introductory elements, such as Before joining the circus, he worked as a stock broker.
– With parentheticals (a parenthetical could be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence) He put on his floppy shoes, which were completely unnecessary, for his prostate exam.
– When both the city and the state name are mentioned together, it is considered a parenthetical element. We saw the Orioles kick some major Yankee posterior in Baltimore, Maryland, last summer.

** Use a Semicolon:
– To separate two main clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction.  Those in glass houses who throw stones don’t need windows; those in stone houses who throw glass do need shoes.
– To separate main clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb, such ashowever, consequently, otherwise, moreover, nevertheless. Many people think it is necessary to go to college; however, it’s not so if your dream is work at Chuck E. Cheese.

** Use a Colon:
– For a summary or a series after a complete main clause: They were a ragtag team of misfits: a circus clown, a stock broker, an angry female baseball player, and a guy from Chuck E. Cheese.

** Use a Dash (–)
– For a short summary after a complete main clause: At the bottom of the backpack was a surprise—used chewing gum.
– In place of a pair of commas to set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence with additional–but not vital–information: Of all the well-known Muppets—Miss Piggy, Scooter, Rowlf, Fozzie—great as they were, Kermit made the most money.

Fine, Have It Your Own Way.

This revision list was compiled from a bunch of different books and websites and I find it helpful for my revisions. If you’ve got a better way that works for you – go for it! Just make sure you rewrite and revise as many times as it takes to make your writing as good as it can be. Otherwise, brush up on your short order cook skills.

-Linda Fausnet

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What To Do If Your Book Sucks

 

mryucksalmon

We’ve all been there as writers. You write a bunch of chapters or maybe even the whole damn book, only to be struck by the sudden realization that you think the entire thing sucks. You get that awful, sinking feeling that the story is terrible and predictable and the characters are one-dimensional and boring.

Now what?

You may just need a little distance from the work. Your story may actually be pretty good but you just can’t see it anymore. Step away from it for a bit. Take a breather, and then go back and reread it to see what you really think of it as a whole. You’ll never be able to be totally objective, but it helps to get a little perspective when you walk away for a while.

So, say you’ve already done that. You still think it sucks. Or worse, your beta readers tell you it sucks. Now, you’ve got a problem. Just like your mom told you about your dinner choices – take it or leave it — you’ve got two choices for your book. Fix it or trash it.

Both options are difficult. If you trash it, you’ve wasted all that time with nothing to show for it but lessons learned. There is something to be said for a lesson learned, but trashing a full-length novel is a painful way to learn it. After all that work, you’re not going to have a book to self-publish or to market to agents or publishers. If you choose to fix it, you’ve got a long road ahead of you. You may need to start completely over from scratch. In a sense, you’re trashing it to fix it, which is kind of the worst of both worlds.

Kind of a bummer, huh?

Hang on. I’m going somewhere with this.

Though it sucks to trash your work or to start over, it really is much, much preferable to publishing or marketing something that’s just no good. You won’t feel good about it and it won’t be successful, thus you’ve wasted even more time. The question you have to ask yourself is – am I still interested in this story? Do I even want it to work anymore, or am I just so damn sick to death of it that I’m ready to move on? It can definitely be a relief to decide to let go of a story that’s just not working, thus allowing yourself to move on to a fresh story and new characters that you can get excited about. However, if you find that you still want to make the story work, you must resolve to do whatever it takes to get the story right. If that means trashing the book and doing a page-one rewrite, then that’s what you’ve got to do.

Believe me. I know. I’ve been there.

(forgive me, regular readers. I know you’ve heard this story before. Probably more than once…)

I got the worst reviews of my life on my absolute favorite story. QUEEN HENRY started life as a screenplay. A bad, bad screenplay. It started with a fun, unique idea. Homophobic guy becomes gay and learns an important lesson. That is the story I really wanted to tell, but I executed the tale badly on the first try. Then the second, then the third. I loved the story and the characters so much, but it just wasn’t working. People hated it. HATED IT. People called it boring, said it had no stakes and contained “ham-fisted stereotypes”. One guy said it was “okay I guess for a first screenplay.”
It was my ninth….

I think the lowest point came when I had the stomach flu, was completely nauseated, and opened my inbox to another bad review. I never ever wanted to give up on writing, but I specifically remember thinking If I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t be in this pain right now.

Even in my darkest moment, I recognized that moment for what it was. A crossroads. A turning point in my so-called writing career. I really had three choices that day. Give up writing altogether (no chance. I never even considered that option. Never.), market the screenplay the way it was, or trash the whole damn thing and start over. I knew then what I was going to do. I literally put the whole damn script in the recycle bin, sat at my computer and typed “FADE IN.”

I was gonna fix that goddamn story if it was the last thing I did.

I wrote and rewrote and rewrote. I paid a very nice script analyst who charged a very reasonable rate to help me (I found out later that he used to be the head script reader at Miramax. He charged only $60 for notes. The man was a saint..). He supported me through draft and after draft after draft. He kept saying things like “it’s getting there” and “you’ve almost got it”. I finally got the story to a point where I thought it was really, really good.

I submitted QUEEN HENRY to a screenplay contest, which was terrifying. It was one of those contests that provided feedback. For better or worse, they were going to tell me what they thought of it. The pain from all those bad reviews fresh in my mind, it was horrible to have to wait for their critique. I kept getting messages from them saying that they got more entries than they expected, thus the delay in providing feedback. The wait was excruciating When, I FINALLY heard back from them, I got word that QUEEN HENRY was a Finalist.

It was a small contest to be sure, but I was a Finalist nonetheless. I’ll never forget how exhilarated that made me feel. I just couldn’t believe it.

Years later when I decided to try novel writing, I knew QUEEN HENRY had to be a book! It wasn’t difficult to write the novel version, since I’d worked so hard to perfect the screenplay. It’s amazing to me to think of all the changes that took place in the story during all those rewrites. The core story remained the same – Straight homophobe turns gay and learns a lesson – but just about EVERYTHING else was radically altered. At first, Henry was an ordinary guy who was engaged to a woman and had become gay through supernatural means and simply learns how it feels to be treated badly when he was gay. BLEH. AWFUL. In the final version, Henry is a womanizing, major league baseball player who becomes gay due to an experimental asthma drug and falls desperately in love with a wonderful man named Thomas. MUCH BETTER.

As of this writing, the book has been out for two months. Though bad reviews are absolutely inevitable, I haven’t gotten one yet. (YET.) To date, I have 14 good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. A blogger from Baltimore OUTLoud reviewed QUEEN HENRY. The review was featured on the front page of the newspaper, and included the following statements:

“Glorious, deliciously-written work of fiction…

Fausnet’s writing is extraordinary in this fluid, fast-paced tale…

Queen Henry is a truly well-written novel with potent drama and campy humor laced throughout. Though it contains messages to LGBT folks and others, it is also a gorgeous love story and one that should not be missed. Fausnet swung and hit a home run.”

– Steve Charing, Baltimore OUTloud

In addition, I was recently invited by a local chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to do a book reading. The idea of sharing my words, my story, out loud thrills me behind measure.

The great reviews I’m getting now are so powerful and mean so much more because of what I went through on the earlier drafts. I can hardly believe how something that was once so terrible ended up turning out so good. I can’t tell you what it means to me to finally have people know and love Henry Vaughn, Jr. the way I have loved him from the beginning.

If I can do it, I know you can, too.

Does your book suck? Do you still love it? Then FIX it, and DON”T STOP UNTIL YOU GET IT RIGHT.

To this day, people tell me QUEEN HENRY would make a great movie…

 

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My Horrible Formatting Error…A Cautionary Self-Publishing Tale

 

Comma

It was a pretty scary day when I sent my final draft of my first novel to the formatter. I’d had it professionally edited twice and read through it myself who knows how many times, so it was as perfect as I could possibly get it.

Or so I thought….It was so weird to think that it was finally locked down. No more changes, no more adding lines, tweaking words, or rearranging sentences. This story started life (as a screenplay) in 2005, so I’d made an awful lot of changes to it in in the years since then. Not anymore. It’s done.

It was scary, exciting, exhilarating. It cost about $300 (!) to get the book formatted for Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace (for the physical book). It was a small fortune to me and it’s money I won’t get back – ever – since I’m donating the funds from QUEEN HENRY to the Harvey Milk Foundation. Still, it really was a small price to pay for peace of mind. Many self-publishers format their own books, but it’s tough to do. You have to carefully format your manuscript to fit for each device that it can possibly be read on – with wraparound texts and other stuff that makes my head spin. I wouldn’t even think of trying it myself, for fear of my precious book looking amateurish and awful.

Speaking of amateurish and awful…

After I sent QUEEN HENRY to the formatter and after spending $300 non-refundable dollars (well, non-refundable if I’m the one that screws up) I realized one minor detail.

I never spellchecked my manuscript.

I’ll say that again, people.

I NEVER SPELLCHECKED THE MANUSCRIPT.

I realized this as soon as my completed, expensively-formatted Kindle document arrived in my inbox. Of course, I’ve had the book professionally edited, then re-read by other people for further proofreading, and then finally proofed it one more time myself. Of course, even during my final proof, I was still tweaking stuff, adding words, etc.  It only takes about five minutes to run a spellcheck and I simply overlooked that item on my agenda. Several times in the past, I’d found something weird like- 000035 – right smack dab in the middle of a document. That means I leaned my elbow on the numberlock keys… That was one of my biggest fears about my manuscript. There’s really no fix for that if it ends up in your final document. After all my painstaking editing, I just simply forgot to do a simple spellcheck. Sure, I noticed all the underlined words as I edited and fixed any that were wrong, but spellcheck underlines so many things that are actually correct (words like wanna, gotta, gonna etc in dialogue) that your brain kinda tunes them out sometimes. The biggest danger is when you make a “tiny change” in a line to make it sound better – AFTER the professional edit is done. If you’re not really careful, you’ll miss a word or a letter, then you’re done for.

Enter spellcheck.

Unless you forget.

As soon as I realized it was too late to do a spellcheck, I did what anyone else would do.. I did a spellcheck.

I spent the next excruciatingly long five minutes spell-checking QUEEN HENRY now that it was too late to do anything about it. It was terrifying.

In my 100,008 word document, I found one word that was incorrect. It had a missing letter.

I can live with that.

Whew.

This publishing stuff ain’t for the faint of heart…

– Linda Fausnet

 

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Why I Won’t Read Your Self-Published Book

It’s heartbreaking to me when I hear self-published authors wondering why no one is reading or buying their books when the answer seems so obvious to me.
It’s usually because your book is, quite simply, not well-written.

 
As a supporter and promoter of indie authors, I do try to read as many self-published books as I possibly can. I often find out about these books on twitter and then I follow the link to get more information about them. The first thing I do is read the description, or blurb, of the book. I skim it first to see if it sounds like it was written by a professional. If it the writing is choppy or contains ANY grammatical errors, I click off the page and don’t look back. If I know there’s no way I will be able to give a book a good review, I simply won’t bother reading it. I won’t give any book fewer than three stars because I want to help writers and not hurt them. I won’t publish a review of two stars, but I also won’t bother to buy or read a two-star book if I can avoid it.

 
Your book MUST be written and edited professionally or it won’t be taken seriously. It’s as simple as that. Readers are savvy, and they can tell if you didn’t bother to get your book professionally edited and they can tell if you are a newbie because your book reads like it. I don’t care if it is your first book – I shouldn’t be able to tell that from your writing. With traditionally published books, you usually only know it’s a first book because it has the word “debut” somewhere on the cover.

 
One of the most common mistakes I see in a book’s description is run-on sentences. The writing is choppy, unclear, and in need of editing. For example:
Rebecca Miller is seeking answers to her past because she was abandoned as a baby and has heard rumors that her parents were unicycle-riding clown performers in a traveling circus and she has always wanted to be in a circus so she needs to unlock the truth of her past before she has to take the bar exam and spend the rest of her life as a tax attorney in Las Vegas.

 
VS:

 
Rebecca Miller has always longed to entertain. Abandoned as a baby, she’s heard rumors that her parents were unicycle-riding clowns in a traveling circus. She embarks on a quest to find her parents and unlock the truth to her past, lest she be forced to spend the rest of her life as a tax attorney in Las Vegas.

 
Ludicrous plot aside (well maybe it’s not that bad after all…don’t steal my idea!), the first plot description needs serious editing for clarity and readability. If the plot description doesn’t sound like it was written by a professional author, you can bet that the rest of the book will be no better. And there is absolutely, positively NO EXCUSE for typos in the plot description. NONE.  In a 200-400 page book, the occasional typo is inevitable no matter how many editors you’ve hired. It’s human nature to make mistakes, and you will even find the occasional one in traditionally published books. However, there is no reason on the planet why you should have typos in the plot description. That’s like having a typo on a movie poster. You CANNOT allow that to happen.

 
If the book description passes the test, my next step is to download the sample. Same deal. If it looks poorly written or contains typos, that means I will pass on it.
I almost feel bad for traditionally published authors.

 
Almost…

 
It used to be a very big deal if you were an Author. Being an Author meant you were represented by an agent and/or your book was good enough to pass through a bunch of gatekeepers. It meant a publisher was willing to spend a lot of money on it to get it into libraries and bookstores. Nowadays, there are absolutely no barriers, no tests, no obstacles to getting published and calling yourself an author. Absolutely anybody and everybody can do it. Though I believe you should spend YEARS learning your craft before you publish, nowadays you don’t have to. You can publish a crappy first draft without editing it and Boom! Congratulations, you are now a Published Author without having to pay any dues whatsoever! No learning curve, no rejection, just publication!
But it doesn’t mean anybody other than your mother and a bunch of writer friends are going to read and review your work.

 
I know I sound a little harsh here, but believe me. I WANT you to be successful. I just want you to work for it like everybody else. I’d like to say “If it were easy being an author, then everybody would do it”, but sometimes I feel like everybody DOES do it, but not everybody works for it.

 
The truth is that many self-published books are as good or even a lot better than traditionally published ones. Always remember that traditionally published authors don’t have to prove that their books were good enough to get published. YOU DO. Like it or not, you already have major strikes against you as a self-published author. People are looking for a reason not to read your books. Even pro-indie people like me are looking for those reasons. I read the book description on books in the library to see if I like the story idea, but I’m not scanning for typos and choppy writing because I know I don’t have to. I know that a team of people have already corrected anything that might be wrong with the writing. I want to be able to do the same with self-published books. Don’t let any errors stand in the way of your story.

 
So, if you find that nobody is reading your books, take a good hard look at your description and your sample. Does it read well? Are there errors? Did you get it professionally edited? It’s not easy to accept that you may have made some major mistakes as first-time author, but it’s not too late. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you published too soon, before you were really ready, pull the book. Fix it. Publish it again and this time do it right.
Once you do that, I can’t wait to read it, review it, and share it on my WannabePride blog.
Good luck and Happy Writing!

–          Linda Fausnet

 

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The Verdict is In and This Time I Don’t Suck – The Road to Self-Publishing

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.

47 Weeks Until Publication

Okay, so after all my whining and moping and gnashing of teeth, I got the review back from my editor.

It was better than I could have imagined. It really was. Sure, there were some things that needed to be changed, but nothing really major at all.  This was what I was really hoping for, but I’ve been a writer long enough to be realistic when it comes to critiques.

I’m relieved that there shouldn’t be anything major that needs to change. Please understand that this was far from the first draft. It wasn’t the second draft. It wasn’t the ninth draft. It is what is known as the “umpteenth” draft. Seriously, I have no idea how many times QUEEN HENRY has been written and rewritten. Most of these drafts were in screenplay form, but it was the same story. I did several page one rewrites.

SEVERAL. PAGE ONE. REWRITES.

Meaning I literally dumped the entire script in the recycle bin, rewrote it from scratch, screwed up that draft, recycled the pages again, and started over. Though I truly believed I got the story right this time, I was still really scared to get my critique back. I remember all too well the pain I went through during those early drafts of the screenplay when I really thought the story was good and I was very, very wrong. However, I also knew that I’ve come a long way since then. I didn’t give up when the going really got rough and I sure as hell wasn’t going to give up now. If there was still a lot left to be fixed, I would simply get to work because that’s what writers do.

The best thing about my editor’s reaction to QUEEN HENRY was that it was exactly the reaction that I was shooting for with this book. She said she laughed out loud in spots and nearly cried in others. She said she found the main character “loveable”, which is exactly how I see him. That’s how I’ve always seen him, but he didn’t always come across that way. My intention was that his main character flaw is his homophobia, but he’s a great guy otherwise. In the early drafts, he wasn’t so likable and that’s why I needed critique partners to point out what I was doing wrong. In my mind and heart, this was supposed to be a sweet and funny story about love and acceptance. That story was always in there somewhere, but I had to go through a LOT of drafts to find it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what’s in your mind and in your heart does not necessarily translate to the page. That’s why you must have other people read your work and tell you the truth.

This victory is much, much sweeter because I had to go through so much pain and hard work to get there. The first draft was written in 2005 and it’s been through lots of changes since then. That’s one thing that I think many self-publishers are missing out on – the chance to fail before they publish. So many books are published by brand-new writers who really don’t know what they’re doing. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn to write really well. I started writing in 1994. In MY day we didn’t HAVE self-publishing as a really viable option so we had to work really hard to try to make it in traditional publishing. Back then, it was really the only main option so you really had to push yourself to compete and to be noticed by the big publishers. Nowadays, anybody can publish a book without any training and without learning and trying and screwing up and learning from their mistakes.

You’d be amazed at how drastically your work may need to be changed and you’ll never know unless you seek out the criticism. It’s hard to hear the truth sometimes, but it will make you a much better writer and dramatically increase your chances of success. QUEEN HENRY is about a macho, Major League Baseball player who takes a pill and becomes temporarily gay. In the beginning drafts, he wasn’t a baseball player. He was just a an ordinary guy who was engaged to be married to a woman. My editor said “Who cares? What are the stakes? His life doesn’t change enough so who cares if he’s gay? You’ve got no story here!” He was right. Henry didn’t have anything at stake. Through many many MANY drafts, I made life tougher on Henry. Instead of being engaged, he was big-time womanizer and a pro athlete with a very homophobic father. If he is suspected to be gay, he could lose his job, his family, and life as he knows it. He begins to really believe he is gay and falls very much in love with a wonderful man. He faces a terrible choice – come out as gay and lose his career and family or stay closeted and lose the love of his life. Much more exciting!

One of my other successful stories is RAIN ON THE WATER. It was optioned twice by two different movie production companies and nearly landed me a literary agent (I Have A Strong Chance of Being Published.)  RAIN ON THE WATER is the story of two girls who discover an ancient, magic cave and communicate through drawing on the walls with the ghost of Native American boy as they try to figure out why his spirit is trapped in the cave. In the early drafts, there was no Native American ghost. There was just a boring old cave. See? DRASTIC changes. And definitely for the better. These are all changes I wouldn’t have made, wouldn’t have discovered, if I had just published the first, second, third, or even tenth draft. Quality writing takes time and experience. It just does. You can take shortcuts. You’ll publish earlier – you just won’t succeed.

I really don’t know how QUEEN HENRY is going to fare once it’s published, but I can tell you it would have been an absolutely spectacular failure if I had published any of those early drafts.

Take a lesson, writers. Learn from my failures.

– Linda Fausnet

FUN WITH PROPER COMMA USE

If you’re like me, you could use a refresher on the proper use of commas. I hope you find the following examples helpful in your journey to grammatical correctness.

Use a comma when a conjunction separates independent clauses (independent clauses  express a complete thought and can stand on their own). For example :

Amy and Shaun attended their 15th high school reunion, and they were thrilled to see that many of their former classmates had gotten fat.

If the subject does NOT follow the conjunction, omit the comma. For example:

Amy and Shaun stole expensive outfits and planned to return them after the reunion.

When the conjunction and is followed by the word that, no comma is used unless that is used as the subject. For example :

No comma :

Shaun was sure that Amy was unaware of his affair with Jill Peterson and that she would never  find out.

 Comma :

Shaun could not have been more mistaken, and that was the reason for his black eye and swollen lip.

No comma is needed to separate compound subjects that refer to the same verb or compound verbs that refer to the same subject. For example :

Amy and Shaun yelled and screamed about the alleged transgression with Jill.

 In the above example, Amy and Shaun is the compound subject, yelled and screamed is the compound verb, and Jill is  a tramp.

Commas are needed if a dependent/subordinate clause (a phrase that is an incomplete thought) appears at the beginning of a sentence and it is NOT the subject of the verb. This is an introductory clause. For example :

Although Jill is a tramp, she is not the only guilty party.

A comma is usually not needed when the dependent clause appears at the end of a sentence. For example :

Jill is in for a thrashing from Amy if she is not careful.

No comma is needed when the dependent clause is the subject of the verb. For example:

To cheat on a woman who knows karate is unwise.

Commas are needed to offset unnecessary words (parenthetical expressions) at the beginning of a sentence. For example:

As a matter of fact, it is unwise to cheat on any woman who has access to your bank account.

Commas are needed to offset parenthetical expressions that interrupt the main thought but are nonessential. For  example :

Shaun noticed Amy looking seductively at Brad, who had been the school’s quarterback and was dumb as a brick, and he wondered what was up with that.

Use commas to separate three or more items. For example :

Brad had always been arrogant, unintelligent, and quite greedy, so it was unsurprising that he was now a member of Congress.

Don’t use a comma to separate only two items.

Amy was also trampy and deceitful.

 Commas are used to separate two or more adjectives that modify a noun. For example:

The angry, devious woman was a hypocrite.

Tip – You can identify two consecutive adjectives by mentally inserting the word and between them. Amy was angry and devious.

Commas are generally needed with appositives. An appositive is a word or phrase that describes the noun preceding it. For example:

Shaun, a man who can only be described as delicious on the outside and hollow on the inside, couldn’t decide between Amy and Jill.

If the appositive word or phrase is essential for clarity purposes, omit the comma. For example:

The backstabbing slut known as Jill would soon get her comeuppance.

Commas are needed to set off items in a date. If the complete date is given, a comma is needed before and after the year. For example:

On August 30, 2012, the you-know-what hit the fan when Amy, Shaun, Brad, and Jill all attended the ill-fated high school reunion.

If only the month and year are given, don’t include a comma after the month.

August 2000 would prove to be an expensive month, given the upcoming divorce proceedings, physical assault charges, and other litigation expenses.

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT SAGA…COLON AND SEMICOLON USE!