Distorted Words

Distorted thinking. Most people hear this term and think some type of mental dysfunction is at play. But in reality, we all are affected by distortion in our lives.

These windows distort the light, so images cannot appear true when viewed through this distorted lens.

These windows distort the light, so images cannot appear true when viewed through this distorted lens.

We get so used to it, however, that after a while, we don’t see it or even notice it.

So, what does this have to do with writing? First of all, when writing, it is very easy to “get lost” in the story, the characters or even the setting. We see our work as “complete” when in reality it may be missing key pieces, such as words, punctuation, or even information that was intended to be included but left out.

Writing distortion can happen to anyone. You don’t have to be a new writer to suffer from it. In fact, seasoned writers may be more prone to distortion since they have developed a routine of writing that causes the brain to develop a picture of what is perceived and therefore makes it harder to detach from that picture and actually see missing words or words that are out of place.

It is frustrating to read works that are well thought out, executed and meaningful only to see the word that should have been deleted, or is the wrong tense, or uses the wrong “two” instead of the correct “too” glaring at you. It’s like an email you get that tells you “your” going to love whatever it is they are selling. Instead, most likely “you’re” going to by-pass that message, dismissing it because of the glaring mis-use of a word. I could just scream!

I recently read an excellent, fast-paced, and thrilling novel. It was truly one that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The problem? I lost count after finding thirty-five “distortions” (words missing or unnecessary, ones that made no sense, or had the wrong spelling) in the first chapter alone. I enjoyed the book but let the author know that a good and thorough copy edit was needed.

And this brings up the whole point of editing. We all need it! We need someone other than ourselves to carefully read through and check for these types of mistakes. In this day and age of computers, spell checks and even predictive text, it is easier than ever to overlook these distorted words.  It happens to every writer.

Yeah, I know. Not every writer can afford a professional edit. But the truth is, even if you get picked up by a traditional publisher, most authors, unless already well known, are responsible for the edit. So, how does a writer deal with such things?

Get a friend to read your manuscript. Be open to any suggestions made. If you have a friend who teaches or is a big reader; especially of the genre you are writing, even better. Again, it may not be the high priced edit, but it will help you get your work to the place you want it to be.

Another option is to put your manuscript in a drawer or somewhere that it won’t constantly remind you of its presence. This only works if deadlines are not in play! After your work has aged appropriately, pull it out and savor your words. Look at each one slowly and without haste. Judge it as if it is a fine wine that only gets better with time. Imperfections will show up easier and you won’t be as likely to overlook them. Even with this route, it is still a great idea to have another person read it, preferably someone who did not read it earlier.

None of us is perfect and that will never change. We can work to be the best we can be, with each attempt improving us and our talent. Even though we all know we won’t achieve perfection, we can reach for this goal and that makes for work that is worth attention, good, positive attention. We want to be noticed, but for all the right reasons.

Go grab that glass of wine. Swirl it about your glass. Notice the fine details. Consider how the meniscus marks the side of the glass. Study the clarity of the liquid. Inhale the vapors and savor the aroma. Don’t be afraid of age, both in the wine and in your work. Both can produce an even better product. Cheers!

I Gave up on Traditional Publishing – Am I Crazy?!

Sales, Sales, Why am I so Stressed?

Sales, Sales, Why am I so Stressed?

More and more authors now agree that traditional publishing is not the same lofty goal and heavenly realm that was held as the ultimate achievement for one wanting to write the great American page-turning book. It no longer guarantees success for the author, or that a published author can sit back and watch her bank account grow daily. With the exception being that known authors get more, most authors on a traditional royalty paying program, especially those first time writers, receive often paltry payment, the sums sometimes as little as cents on the dollar earned. So, what is a new author to do?

Okay, I have to ‘fess up. I’m one of those authors who left “traditional publishing”. Gaining my independence wasn’t entirely stress free, however. I was chided for “daring” to leave the structure of the traditional program. I was told I was crazy to give up guaranteed publication. There was no mention of guaranteed sales, however! And that was the kicker. I had little to no control over the cover, the design or editing. Despite begging for changes and pointing out mistakes, etc., it seemed nothing happened to rectify these things. So, I jumped and made the plunge into the turbulent waters of doing it on my own.

I have control over all aspects of my work, from cover, to fonts, to design, to even how long I keep it in print. I decide how it is released and how it is promoted. Going independent opened up new horizons for me. I began to see the book selling world differently and slowly learned that getting pushed outside one’s comfort zone wasn’t a bad thing. What I was doing was for me and my success, not someone else’s.

Okay, so those are the positives. There were negatives as well. Like so many writers, doing sales was and still is “not my thing”. Talk about intimidation and total paralyzing fear! Help! And, that’s what I got. I selected a company that offered a full range of services that were designed to get authors up on their feet and running toward success. Services covered all aspects of PR campaigns, to websites, and even doing book trailers. These were the items I felt I could use successfully. There are many others offered that I didn’t select. Some authors may not need these extra features. Some don’t need content or copy editing. They are confident in their work and its appearance. Some have relationships with book sellers and can utilize this to set up their own sales strategy. That’s the beauty of it all, use what you need, not what you don’t. One word of caution based on personal experience; don’t be too confident in your work’s appearance, editing or style. After all, we’re the creator and sometimes we’re so emotionally attached we cannot see the faults in our own work. Regardless of experience, get some honest evaluations of your work before going forward into publication.

Regardless of experience, get some honest evaluations of your work before going forward into publication.

For those of us on limited budgets, much can be learned from those who have already traversed this sometimes scary path. Information on what formats are best, to the best prices, to who is reputable can be found all over the net. And that is a good thing. Reading what others have to say about a company, product or service is invaluable. I cannot encourage one enough to do their homework. Check out others’ comments that have used a particular service. Compare packages and prices from company to company. If there are negatives listed, are they ones that would likely impact your project? Even after finding the perfect plan and provider of service for your project, there still is no guarantee there won’t be some hiccups along the way. Just don’t let them distract you from the ultimate goal, sales and recognition of your work.

After getting past this step comes the all important marketing of your product. This is daunting, even for seasoned sales people. I’ve told many others that writing a book and sending it to market is like giving birth to a child and watching him mature and go into the world. It is a personal part of your identity and when it is not received favorably; for whatever reason, it feels personal. Heck, it just plain hurts! Authors have to learn hard lessons in this realm just as others learn hard lessons in the fields they have chosen to pursue. We all have to pull ourselves out of our comfy slippers and flannel robes and go out and face the world and pitch ourselves, uh our work, to strangers.

Although, this is merely a short summary of my experience, I can say, I’m glad I took this route. Are there things I would do differently next time? You bet! Would I do it again? Certainly!

What are your ideas on this subject? What have your experiences been like? What would you do differently next time around? We all have to make hard choices. But, Destiny is in our grasp and we will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

Yes, I would rather have my head in the sand!

Yes, I would rather have my head in the sand!

Alternatives to Traditional Publishing – Self-Publishing; is it a Dirty Word?

We're not in Kansas anymore!

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

As discussed before, traditional publishing is starting to take a back seat to new alternatives. The old stigma of never paying for publication and the often negative association with the terms “vanity press” causes many authors to avoid these options altogether. But, today is a new day, Things are changing in the world of writing and publishing, in some cases quite rapidly. As new technology grows, changes in attitudes toward these new options are growing as well. Authors now have more opportunities to get their work in the hands of readers. This is truly good news.

Independent and self-publishing platforms are rapidly becoming the new norm for today’s authors. I read an article just last week about a main-stream author who has been writing in excess of 20 years. This person has written numerous books that were published by traditional presses. Even with “success” in the traditional publishing realm, this author felt there were greater opportunities to be had by switching to independent publishing; which this person has done with success.

Going the independent route for authors offers a sense of control over the project. Depending on the company and the package of services the author acquires, the levels of control may vary. Still, authors have a say in most every step of the process. If you have strong opinions on a cover design, how the book should be formatted, or even as to which color the ink should be, these are options where the author is in charge. The book size, the paper used for printing and word length can be chosen by an author. Another area of control is the timetable. How quickly an author wants to release a book can be tweaked, depending on the author’s schedule, and other factors. Pricing is another area of input. Some companies leave it entirely to the author what to charge; others “suggest” a price and others give a minimum price which reflects costs and the author can determine how much mark-up is needed.

For those independent spirits out there, this path seems like an ideal approach to get one’s work in the hands of the public. However, for all the positives, there can be negatives. These can be minimized or avoided if the author does the homework and considers all potential variables that will affect how successful the results are. The costs involved are not just financial, but personal as well. Writers who choke and stammer with fear at the thought of speaking to a literary group or book club must realize they will have to do things outside their comfort zones. If you’d rather cower in a corner with green gills and streams of sweat running down your temples than hand out book marks at a writer’s convention and tell others about your work, you may have trouble getting significant sales with this method of publishing. Those with marketing savvy most likely will find the sales pitch a bit easier to swallow. But, even for those with marketing backgrounds, the process can be daunting. Let’s face it, we authors are much more comfortable sitting in front of a laptop screen than standing before a crowd of strangers telling them why they should read our books.

Some of the bigger independent publishing companies have figured this out. They’ve capitalized on the demand for help in marketing and put together various packages to help authors promote and sell their work. This can be a great way to go for some authors, but not all. Not every one of us has thousands of dollars to spend on marketing and we must make our money count!

Authors are creative and this evidence shows in some of the ways they devise to attract attention to their books. Anything from email “signatures” with links to their book, to social media campaigns that offer something unusual in exchange for a review or other promotional considerations; the sky really is the only limit.

Finding success with independent publishing requires commitment, determination and a “failure is not an option” mentality. We have to come out of our comfort zones, shove those bookmarks in readers’ faces, “brag” about our work and never be afraid to tell others that we’re an author, a published author! Yes, I include myself in that demographic! I’m the one over there, huddled in a corner, a nice shade of green creeping up my throat and sweat running down my temples as I hear my name being announced as the next speaker at a literary event. How bad do you want it? That’s the question. As for me, I carry extra bottles of TUMS in my pocket. After all I’ve shoveled down my throat, I think I should buy some stock in the company, but I’m not giving up. Neither should you! In this new world of publishing I think Dorothy said it best, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

Next time I’ll discuss some of the companies offering publishing packages and give my two cents worth on what an author should look for when considering these options.

A Better Way to Publish – maybe?

Authors are not limited in their choices; we can choose the process that works best for us.

Authors are not limited in their choices; we can choose the process that works best for us.

 

Last time I wrote about the downfalls of traditional publishing. This time I want to begin to look at some alternatives to the traditional model.

Anyone who is serious about their writing most likely has had some experience in attempting to gain a publishing contract. If not, then the author probably most likely, has had other relevant experience in entering writing contests, or attending writing conferences and even networking with others to find an agent or publisher who might be interested in their work.

I followed this same path of frustration. Oh, not that I didn’t learn a lot along the way. I made some good contacts, garnered various tips and tricks to try, but possibly more importantly, I learned how to approach and adapt other methods to gain publication.

When I first started writing and had a completed product to sell, I was told absolutely to go the traditional route. And I did. Eventually, it seemed the best I could do was to go with a small, start-up, independent publisher. They were a royalty-paying group, but were small, with no resources to help promote the books they listed and the authors were pressured to devise their own marketing and promotional campaigns.

You may or may not be a marketing guru, but I am not. This was all strange to me and I struggled with the entire process. But hey, I could say I was published. And, I did sell a few books and get some royalty checks. I knew, however, that this was not my ultimate goal and that to get to the place I wanted my work to be, I had to step out and be responsible for my own destiny and not wait for a publisher to make it for me.

As I researched the topic, speaking with other writers, looking at different types of publishers, and reading the latest articles on how the industry was moving forward, I saw the changes moving forward in the publishing world. The independent model, the self-publishing programs and other similar types of opportunities for authors were beginning to grow, and not just grow, but take off astronomically. What great news for authors!

With opened eyes, I realized that my first experience with a publisher had prepared me to accept the new norm, that I would have to do things on my own initiative. I began to hear the success stories of unknown authors doing some creative things and coming up winners in the market.

Currently, I am out in this new book-selling world. The verdict is still out, but at this point, I can encourage every writer to look past his or her boundaries of what you are willing or able to do to get your work out there. If you can do that, you can succeed in publishing and selling your work. Don’t doubt yourself or what you have produced. If you feel uncertain about your work and its value, then get some professional help with critiquing, editing, or even a content edit. There are well-qualified people out there who can assist in this process, and if you get the right person, it is well worth any money spent.

So many things to think about, I know. Next time I’ll discuss more on this topic of where to find the right people to assist you in the process, some things you can do to garner the support and enthusiasm of others, and even what to look for when looking to publish independently or self-publish. Meanwhile, dig deep into your writing heart and ask yourself, is my work worth it? Even if it is not as complete as you or a reader would like, it can be determined if it is worthy of pursuit. If you want it bad enough, it is worth whatever it takes short of robbing a bank, to get your work in the reading public’s hands. So pat your back and start typing!

How maybe to possibly, hopefully, sometime soon, get published!

Nancy Livingstone discusses her book, Against Their Will with host Sue Lucey

Nancy Livingstone discusses her book, Against Their Will with host Sue Lucey

Last week I was the featured speaker at a writer’s festival in our town. While the questions the moderator asked me were about my recently published book, when it came time for audience questions, they seemed much more interested in how I got my book published.

Now, I’m fairly certain there’s not a one of you writers out there that hasn’t given some (okay maybe a lot) of thought to the part about getting your work published. And you’ve probably figured out by now that the traditional way of publishing is pretty much gone, unless you have connections, are a star or have done some outrageous thing that put your name in the headlines and therefore created enough name recognition to carry a book. Unfortunately that leaves the other 98 percent of us out there struggling, trying to determine what to do to get someone to read our number one bestseller. After all, we wouldn’t be writing if we weren’t certain that our story is the best, the most unusual, the most gripping, terrifying, funny and tear-jerking story ever written. Why can’t those publishers see that right away?!

The traditional query to the agent or publisher can still be sent out, however the rate of return on that investment is rarely more than zero. Yes, there are those few who get past the censors and land their manuscript on a decision maker’s desk. That is absolutely the exception and not the rule. The first line of defense in a publishing house are the readers, those who screen through the stacks (physical, but more and more electronic) of queries.  In this case the writer must come up with a good hook, something short, sweet and sums up the story in an appealing way in just two to three sentences. Sadly, even with the best hook ever, some manuscripts are never seen. There are just too many of them for assistants and others assigned the task to determine the fate of those poor souls whose work is siting in front of them. It becomes easier for them to just stick a pre-made little note in your SASE and toss your work in the trash. Some queries land in good hands and may genuinely strike the reader as great material, but the timing is wrong. You’ve written a detective novel, but they’re looking for true detective works. Do your research and send your query to the right house and person. Even though the odds are most often against you, if you believe in yourself and your work, then don’t stop!

If you want to pursue the traditional route to getting your work published, go for it. The key is persistence. Keep at it, even when the rejection slips exceed the storage limit of your email account. It is not impossible to get published going this route, but it is frustrating and sometimes, downright depressing.

Today, most writers are getting creative in their efforts to draw attention to their work. And creative they are. But hey, aren’t writers supposed to be creative? Whatever route you use to get published, you need to generate interest in your work. Your goal is to make readers run to grab a copy of your latest. Next time, I will discuss some ways authors have succeeded in getting their work recognized.

Audience questions

Audience questions

Until then, keep those ideas flowing!