I Don’t Write That

Since I’m a published author, occasionally I’m contacted by people who are writing books, or who know someone who’s writing a book. Usually they want advice on how to get that book published. Even though sometimes, the book isn’t even started yet, let alone ready for publication.

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The thing is… I’m published in young adult fiction. My publisher only takes LGBTA+ young adult fiction. I don’t have a mental database of knowledge about every publisher of everything ever. So when someone comes to me to ask about getting a memoir published, or a picture book, or a nonfiction book about magic, I’m not going to be much help. I don’t know how publishing those things works, nor do I necessarily know publishers who take those things.

When I tell people that, though, sometimes they don’t take it well. “What do you mean, you don’t know? It’s a book! You write books! How could you not know?”

Easy. All books are not the same. All *writing* is not the same. I write pretty darn good YA fiction, but I’ve tried writing picture books and can’t do it to save my life. Sometimes I can manage writing nonfiction, but if it’s something that involves research, it probably isn’t something I’ll do well with. And most nonfiction involves research of some kind.

All publishers are not the same. Many of them, especially smaller presses, specialize, the way Harmony Ink Press specializes in LGBTA+ young adult fiction. They aren’t going to look at a memoir, or a nonfiction book, or a picture book, because that isn’t the kind of thing they publish.

Sometimes my “I don’t know” response is met with, “Well, can you find out and let me know?”

Um…no. Because I’m not willing to do *your* research and *your* legwork to get *your* book published. I have enough to do with my own books. You have access to the same resources I do. Look at books similar to the one you’ve written or want to write, and see who publishes them. Find those publishers online and see how to submit books to them. Join an author community either online or in person, or both, where you can find out more about how the process works. If all else fails, Google is your friend.

Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing that someone is excited about something they’re writing, and if they get it published, I would love to know that. But generally, the most I can do, and the most I’m willing to do, is give general advice about writing and about avoiding publishing scams, and steer people in the direction of some of the resources I mention above.

Writing is work. And some of that work is finding out for yourself *how* it works.

Rejection

Recently, I got a rejection on another novel. This would have been the re-release of one of my past novels, one that I rather like and would love to see get a new life with a different publisher.

Rejection happens when you’re an author. It’s a normal thing. When I first started writing, I got a bit spoiled because I pretty much never received a rejection on anything. That wasn’t so much because I was an amazing writer whose stuff blew people out of the water, though I suppose that might have been the case with some things. Mostly, however, my stuff didn’t get rejected because some of the publishers I worked with didn’t always expect great quality. If the idea was good, they accepted it.

That isn’t anything against those publishers. If it weren’t for them, I might not have started getting published in YA at all. But it is a facet of working with small, digital-first presses.

This novel was my second to be rejected by the same publisher this year. When the first one was rejected, after I’d taken time to revise it according to feedback they’d given me the first time I submitted it, it hit hard. I thought I’d done a good job, but they pinpointed some of the same problems as the first time. I almost didn’t send them anything else.

But this time, the rejection didn’t matter so much. It was partly about the story, though one of the biggest things they didn’t like was something the original publisher and some reviewers praised me for when it was published several years ago. Mostly, though, it was about the genre. This one, like the one that was rejected earlier this year, is paranormal, and the publisher wants more contemporary fiction at this point.

It’s hard to take that personally. It just means I need to work on something different for a while, and that isn’t a bad thing. I enjoy writing paranormal and urban fantasy, but I can deal with writing contemporary. Meanwhile, now I have one book I might self-publish, and another I can submit elsewhere or to an agent, once I polish it a bit more.

The Waiting Game

Another book has been submitted. And now the waiting begins again.

Waiting is a necessary part of the whole “being a writer” thing. You have to wait for the book to be finished before you can revise and edit it. Of course, in that case, you aren’t just waiting. You’re writing. At least I hope you are, because if not, the book isn’t ever going to be finished.

You have to wait until you have the revisions and edits finished before you can submit the book. Once it’s submitted, you have to wait to find out if it’s been accepted. If it’s been accepted, you have to wait for edits. And cover art. And other things the publisher will send you. You have to wait what might seem like a really long time for the book to see the light of day.

If the book is rejected, you have to wait to find another publisher or agent to send it to. Or wait until you decide not to try it again. Or wait until you do another bunch of revisions and edits to try to address whatever made the first publisher or agent reject it.

When it’s published, you have to wait for reviews and royalty statements and checks.

A lot of things in life are all about waiting. Writing isn’t any different. Every good thing takes time, and having a book out there in the world with your name on the cover is definitely a good thing!

One Publisher Basket…

Currently, I’m only working with one publisher. They’re a great publisher, but sometimes I get a little worried about having all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. On the romance side of the publishing business, I’ve been watching a number of publishers, including two that were at the forefront of digital romance publishing, go out of business, and take authors’ dreams, money, and books along with them.

I haven’t seen that as much on the YA side of things, other than YA imprints of the aforementioned romance publishers. And I know my current publisher is solid. But I was burned by three of the publisher closings I mentioned above, and two of those were ones I thought were solid. So I’m a little more cautious than when I first started out.

I definitely plan on writing and submitting things to my current publisher as long as they let me. But I’m thinking it might be a good idea to try getting in with another publisher as well, maybe with the book that was recently rejected. (I can fix things…)  That way, I wouldn’t have everything in one place.

Then again, with so many small presses and digital publishers falling apart lately, I don’t know whether I would be able to find another publisher that I could count on.

It’s something to think about, especially because I really like the book that was recently rejected and I’d like to keep trying to find it a home. But I’m not going to make a snap decision about anything.

Self-Publishing vs. Vanity Publishing

I’ve recently had to explain the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing. This is not the first time I’ve had that kind of discussion.

Both forms of publishing might involve paying someone else. But in self-publishing, *you* are the publishing company. Any expense you go to might be for things like professional editing, or cover art, or printing if you choose to have a print run done rather than print-on-demand. (Print run means you have a certain number of copies printed and try to sell them; print-on-demand is things like CreateSpace, where no book is actually physically printed until someone orders it.) But at the end of the process, *you* have published the book. You just paid for services you weren’t able to do yourself.

Vanity publishing, on the other hand, means you send your manuscript and a bunch of money to a company, and they take it from there—to an extent. They might handle the printing and cover art, but there is probably no editing done. You’re still responsible for marketing the book and making sales, just as you would be if you self-publishing. But the publisher of the book isn’t you, it’s Vanity Press Inc. (or whatever the name of the company happens to be.)

In self-publishing, it is entirely possible to do the whole process without spending a cent. Go with a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace; it’s free. Make your own cover if you’re good with digital graphics, or have a friend do it if you know someone who can. Or barter for it; offer to trade proofreading for cover art, for example. I wouldn’t recommend editing the book entirely by yourself, because it is easy to miss things, but you could also barter for editing, or have someone you trust read the manuscript carefully and call things to your attention. Not the ideal, but it is free.

In vanity publishing, you don’t have a choice. You pay, they do a book, and you have to run with it from there. You might not sell enough to recoup the cost. You might, as a friend of mine did, find yourself having paid $5000 for a box full of books you can’t do anything with.

However you choose to publish is your choice, but it’s important to know what you’re choosing. I’ve encountered a number of people who think that paying a company to publish your book is the *only* way to get published. I’ve also encountered a number who think paying a company to publish your book is the same as self-publishing. Make sure you know what choice you’re actually making.

How Should You Publish?

Sometimes other writers ask me whether they’d be better off self-publishing or working with a publisher. This is a response I often give.

Which is best depends on how wide an audience you want to reach, how much control you want to have of the finished product, and how much you want to earn. If you publish it yourself, you’ll have to *spend* some money, though if you do it through something like Amazon, the initial expenses are low, usually just the cost of having someone make a book cover and someone edit. You have full control over the book, but you also have full responsibility if something’s wrong with it. And you have to be really good at marketing and business to be able to manage that side of things, or you won’t sell many copies, if any.

Going through a publisher, there is no expense up front. (Some “publishers” will try to charge you money. They’re vanity publishers; they’ll print anything someone pays them to print. Steer clear of them, because a lot of people consider them not legitimate since there’s no quality control.) A publisher will pay you; you might get an advance of money when they accept the book, and you’ll get royalties. The publisher takes care of having the cover art done, takes care of all the editing, and does at least some of the marketing and nearly all of the business stuff; you just have to keep track of your own earnings.

With a publisher, you don’t have as much control over the finished product; you might not have any. You earn less, because the publisher only pays you a percentage of what they make from the book; the rest goes to paying cover artist, editor, marketing expenses, etc. And it’s harder to get in with a publisher, because they have high standards. You might have to try several before you find one that will publish your book, and it can get discouraging. But they also will usually be able to get your book available online and sometimes in stores.

Self-publishing, you’re responsible for every single bit of getting the book out there, and you might not be able to get it into stores because some places won’t even consider carrying self-published books. But you keep all profits from the book. I know some authors–mostly romance authors who also have a background in business and marketing–who are earning well over $100,000 a year self-publishing.

Sometimes the best way to find a publisher is to find an agent. Agents will take a percentage of your earnings but aren’t supposed to ask for money up front. They act as the middleman between you and publishers; you submit your book to an agent the way you would to a publisher, and once the agent agrees to take you as a client, they take care of sending the book to publishers for consideration. Some publishers will *only* accept books from agents, not directly from authors.

The Story Behind Where No One Knows

My newest YA novel Where No One Knows released on Thursday from Harmony Ink Press. I say “newest,” but actually, this novel was published before, in 2013 by Musa Publishing. In 2015, Musa sadly had to close its doors, and the rights to the novel were returned to me. I thought the story seemed like a good fit for Harmony Ink, and fortunately for me, they agreed and were willing to re-release it.

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I wrote the novel originally because of a challenge I received in fall 2012. I was at the GayRomLit convention, which that year was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My Featherweight Press editor was also there, and was talking with someone from Musa about possibly taking on an editor role there. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned my books.

The woman to whom he was speaking had just started a new imprint at Musa, aimed at publishing LGBTA+ young adult fiction. My editor introduced us, and the woman asked whether I would be able to write a novel with a transgender main character. I said of course I could, not actually knowing whether or not I would be able to. This is the danger of issuing writing challenges to me…

A few months prior to that, I was on a bus from Philadelphia back home to Boston when the phrase “In the United States, you can go almost anywhere by bus if you have enough money” floated through my brain, along with the mental image of someone running away from home–or maybe running away *to* home. I’d stored that snippet in my memory, knowing it belonged to a story somewhere. When I was asked to write a novel with a transgender main character, I knew I’d found the story in which that snippet belonged.

And so I created Kellan McKee, a transgender boy whose family had accepted that he was transgender, but couldn’t accept his psychic powers. Forced out of his home, underage and with no ID, Kellan had to travel by bus to find a new, hopefully safe, place to live. It took a bit longer to figure out exactly what Kellan had done to cause his parents to kick him out, but the answer came soon enough.

Although Where No One Knows didn’t find as much of an audience through Musa as I’d hoped, those who read it liked it. I’m hoping more readers will find–and enjoy–the novel now that it’s available from Harmony Ink.

What’s Coming Up

I have a few things in the pipeline that I wanted to tell my readers about…

First of all, my next book from Harmony Ink Press is releasing in exactly one month! On June 2, Where No One Knows will be available, though it’s already up for pre-order on the Harmony Ink Press website. This is a re-release of a novel that was originally published in October 2013. Rights were returned to me when the original publisher went out of business a little over a year ago, and I thought it would be a good fit for Harmony Ink. Fortunately for me, they agreed! It’s about a transgender boy who is kicked out of his home–for having psychic powers.

At the beginning of April, I submitted Midnight Chat, the novel about a girl whose best friend tells her he’s planning a school shooting. I’m waiting to hear back from the publisher on that.

I spent the past few weeks taking a look at some old manuscripts of a series I wrote about a decade ago. Some of the books were previously published under the series title The Dark Lines (now all out of print), but most of the series was never published. It occurred to me that I might be able to rearrange some characters and plotlines and develop a newish series using pieces of the old, so that’s what I’m currently working on.

After a lot of brainstorming and spreadsheets and family trees (the original series was confusing!), I’ll be starting work on the first novel, Turnaround, later this month. The series is about a group of teenagers with psychic abilities who are drawn into the universal war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

So that’s where I’m at right now with upcoming projects and things in progress, and I’ll keep you posted!

Promoting Books

I’m sure I’ve blogged before about the difficulty in promoting my books. I’m very fortunate to have a publisher who makes sure my books are visible to readers, get reviews, and so on, but I still have to do some of the work myself. It’s a joint effort.

It isn’t exactly easy figuring out what to do for promoting, though. Things that work great for other authors don’t seem to work as well for me. And of course some things, like bookmarks and other “swag,” cost money. I try to avoid spending money I don’t have available.

I’ve talked to a number of authors who have similar issues or concerns. I don’t personally know any authors who would say promoting their books is easy, or is their favorite part of writing, though I’m sure there are some out there who would say those thing. But part of the problem, at least from my perspective, is that it’s difficult to know what will work to get word out about a book, which way will reach the most readers and result in the most sales. You don’t know how it’s going to work out until you try it, and sometimes you spend time trying things that just don’t work.

Note that I’m not complaining–well, not much, anyway–about having to promote my books. It’s part of the job of being an author, and I definitely enjoy being an author.

Looking Ahead to 2016

Last week I did a brief overview of what my 2015 was like. This week, I’m talking about some of my hopes and goals for 2016.

I don’t set resolutions for the new year. I’ve found that those almost never end up happening, and then I get down on myself for not accomplishing them. So instead of resolutions, I make plans, and I always keep in mind that those plans are not set in stone. If something doesn’t work, I can try something else.

My main goal, of course, is to keep writing. I’m planning to submit books in April, August, and December; I’ve already committed to my publisher that those will be arriving in their inbox. I might write other things and submit them to other publishers. I probably will continue writing short stories to use as free reads, because that’s kind of fun and it’s a lot less pressure than writing something I plan to have a publisher look at.

I’m planning to keep posting on this blog twice a week. I’m *planning* to vlog once a week, but I’ve been kind of failing at that lately because I’ll have people around, so I can’t record the vlog, and then by the time I could record it, I’ve forgotten that I need to. So I should work on that.

Musically, I’m planning to finish–hopefully this week!–my vocals for “Break the Fall.” Throughout the year, I’m planning to complete the other songs for which I’ve written lyrics. I’m planning to keep improving my bass skills, and to stop being afraid to try to learn the bass line for other songs besides the three I’ve been working on for a year. (Not my songs. Other people’s.) I’m planning to keep working on learning guitar as well, and by the end of the year I hope to be fluid enough with it to actually play stuff. I’m planning on relaunching my band, Dichotomous, with the restoration of the Facebook and Bandmix pages and setting up a website.

Mostly, though, I’m just hoping to have a positive year. And I hope you do as well.