Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part III

Being an independent author-publisher isn’t for everyone. I chose that path, but my path is mine. You must choose your own path. If you are weighing your options, this “Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published” series may help. Part I and Part II discuss big picture issues to consider. This is part III, the last post in this series.

Photo taken looking down at a manual typewriter with a man's hands at the keys, hope he's read the things I wish I knew before I published so he's prepared.

The full version of this post is on Writers in the Storm.

If you are not a writer and want to read something else, may I suggest you prepare for my late spring launch of If I Should Die by reading or rereading the sneak peek or character reveals.

Things I Wish I Knew About Rules 

The advice you can find about the “rules” of writing and publishing goes from one extreme to another. Some say there are no rules. Others give you a list of rules. 

Image is a view of a circular maze from slightly above it and far enough you can see the opposite edge. A female figure peers in the entrance. The rules of writing and publishing can appear to be a circular maze like this, and are one of the things I wish I knew before I published.

Traditional Publishing

When you consider traditional publishing, remember that these big publishers are corporations and they have both public and more private rules. They call their public rules “submission guidelines.” Often those guidelines are about how to format your manuscript. 

The harder to find or see rules are those common to corporations. Certain departments handle certain things. One publisher may tolerate stories that include guns or sex scenes. The next one won’t. Often these corporations do not share internal policies such as risk tolerance or political leanings or their alignment with causes you care about. 

Even the editors you submit to have rules. They don’t call them rules, yet they have certain expectations. They expect stories to be entertaining, to progress from beginning to middle to the end. Each editor has genre expectations and life events that influence their interpretation of your story. Some editors are flexible and open to having their expectations exploded by a skillful author. Others will not be.

What can you do? Know what’s important to you. Research the publishers and editor you’d like to publish your work. Ask questions of authors, agents, editors, and librarians. Can’t do it in person? Try social media.

Don’t be so eager to be published that you sign your first contract without knowing what it means to your book and to your values. Decide which issues are a no-deal for you in advance.

Rules in Independent Publishing

You may get the impression that there are no rules in independent publishing. You’d be wrong. 

Read the full blog post on Writers in the Storm.

While there are rules for just about anything in life, there are no rules about whether or not you like a blog post here.

What would you like to know about independent publishing or writing?

Image Credits

Top photo by Vlad Deep on Unsplash

Second image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. This multiple part series of posts originated last month on the Writers In the Storm Blog with Part I. Part II continues with big picture things.

Photo taken from above a manual typewriter looking down on a man's hands on the keys symbolic of things I wish I knew before I published

Motivation

You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?

Motivation for the Traditionally Published

A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract. 

These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.

Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher

When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done. 

Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.

What I Wish I Knew About Motivation

I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning…

Find out what I wish I knew about motivation, about copyright, protecting your rights, and on knowing your reader over on the Writers in the Storm Blog.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part I

I am an independent author-publisher. I love what I do. But there are things I wish I knew before I published. 

Things I wish I Knew Before I Published by Lynette M. Burrows is illustrated by a photograph looking down on a man typing on a typewriter.

I spent years learning how to write a story. Having listened to more than a few science fiction authors, I knew more than the average person about the book publishing industry. I tried the traditional publishing route. My two literary agents were superb at their jobs. They landed me a couple of “close but no thanks” responses from trad publishers. A friend urged me to go the independent route.

I did a great deal of research about traditional publishing vs. independent published. Finally, I decided independent publishing was best for me and my book. Despite all my research, there are many things I wish I knew before I published my book. Today, I’ll discuss the big picture ones.

It’s A Business

If you want to make money from your books, writing is a business. The choice between traditionally published or indie published is a business decision.

Use the resources of writer organizations like the Authors Guild or Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) to educate yourself on best practices. Here on Writers in the Storm, there are many posts to help you decide. John Peragine discusses Six Self-Publishing Considerations. Piper Bayard’s three-part series, Indie Publishing 101, is also very helpful.

The Business of Being Traditionally Published

The big 5 traditional publishers are relatively big business. But even traditionally published authors need some business skills.

For most traditional publishers to consider your book, you will need an agent. Which agents are best for you to query? Do you sign a contract? Or have a verbal agreement? Know the advantages and disadvantages of both. Be very clear on what the agent will do for you. Make certain you understand the agent’s commission and charges. What if you or your agent decide to end your relationship? How do you do that? What happens to your books?

If the agent sells your manuscript, you will sign a contract with the publisher. Not all agents are savvy about contracts. Make sure you understand what contract clauses you should avoid. Know what rights you sign over to the publisher.

Curious About the Indie Author Side?

In this post, I compare and contrast what the traditional published author might need to know with what the independent author-publisher might know, plus a short paragraph about a few things I wish I knew before I published. 

Despite my lack of knowledge that would have been helpful, I wouldn’t change my mind or my love of the life of an independent author-publisher. 

Read the rest on Writers in the Storm.

Image Credits

Photo by Vlad Deep on Unsplash

35 Tips to a Healthier Writer You in 2022

It’s the holidays and your non-writing mind may be on giving gifts to others. That’s wonderful, but consider giving a writer-centric gift to yourself. Writers are often workaholics to their physical detriment. This holiday season, give yourself the gift of better health. There are 35 tips to make you a healthier writer in 2022 on the Writers in the Storm Blog. This is a sample of that post.

Image: for the blog post called 35 tips to a healthier writer you in 2022 this image Has:  sitting on the right corner of a wooden table top is a package wrapped in black paper and a teal blue ribbon. On the right are the words, Health is a gift that gives all year.

Please note that this is not medical advice. If you have symptoms of repetitive stress injuries or any chronic medical issues, consult your personal health care provider before changing your work environment or habits.

For Your Eyes

Focusing on the computer screen makes the user blink thirty to fifty percent less frequently than normal. This causes dry, red, gritty-feeling eyes, and eyestrain.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has a lot to say about how to avoid eye strain. The essentials are:

  • Keep the computer 25 inches (an arm’s length) away from your face.
  • The top of the monitor should be at eye level.
  • Reduce glare by repositioning lights or using an anti-glare filter.
  • Give your eyes a 20-20-20 break. Every twenty minutes, look twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
  • Use a desktop humidifier or artificial tears.
  • Natural lighting is best. A combination of natural and artificial light will also work.
  • Adjust the brightness of your room (or screen) so your screen is less bright than the room lights.

For Your Hands and Arms

  • Find a keyboard that allows your wrists to be in a neutral position (not flexed). 
  • Your mouse should be in easy reach of your dominant hand. Or you can use a foot controlled mouse.
  • Try to keep your arms parallel to the floor.
  • Avoid resting your arms on the edge of the keyboard, desk, or table.
  • Elbows should be at 100 to 110 degrees. This means your keyboard should be slightly higher in the back of it, so use those little feet on your keyboards.

Please read the remaining 23 tips to a Healthier Writer You in 2022 on the WITS blog.

Image Credits

Top Image by Harry Strauss from Pixabay 

Better Characters through Lies, Secrets, and Scars

This week I’m revisiting and improving a post I wrote in 2019. Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters appears today on the Writers in the Storm Blog. You may remember this post but it’s been improved with examples. If you check it out on the WITS blog, please say hi. 

Image of a train coming around the mountain full of fall foliage is one kind of train that depends on rails to keep it moving like lies, secrets, and scars keep your character and story moving forward.

Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters

Many writers spend days, weeks, months, even years creating characters using complex character profile worksheets. The best characters aren’t a collection of data points on a worksheet. Depending upon data points like the genre, physical attributes, favorite desert, or what he’s wearing may disrupt story flow even to the point of what many call writer’s block. Not that those data points are unimportant, but focusing on the lies, secrets, and scars of your characters will give your stories power. That emotional journey ties everything together into a book your readers can’t put down.

The Why

Lisa Cron calls it your character’s misbelief. KM Weiland calls it your character’s lie. Brandilyn Collins calls it inner values. And Donald Maass says it’s how we get readers to make their own emotional journey. What are they talking about?

Most people have morals, values, or other belief systems that guide them in their choices. It’s the reason they choose B over A when A and B are equal. Call it an inner guidance system. Most of us don’t think about it much, it just is.

When we read a story or watch a film, we connect with characters whose inner guidance system is like ours. Choices the character makes, and the possibilities rejected by that character, fascinate us. The more we wonder, “would I have done that” and “what’s he going to do now,” the more we are hooked….

The Rest of the Story

To read more of the updated the Lies, Secrets, and Scars Create Better Characters post, go to Writers in the Storm. I hope you find it helpful.

Image Credit: Balazs Busznyak on Unsplash