Writers: Steps to Traditional Publishing

This article would have saved countless hours of research and discovery for me, having taken the long road to finding out the below information so well said here. Don’t let the fact that there are 25 steps to follow dissuade you from reading. It’s an honest and worthwhile education if you’re on a path to traditional publishing. Enjoy!

25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author: Lazy Bastard Edition (Guest Post By Delilah S. Dawson)

Excellent post from Chuck Wendig’s site: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/ August 13, 2013

So, here’s the deal — August for me is, as the kids say, “supa-cray-cray.”  I’m working on like, 17 novels and two scripts or something like that. As such, I have put out various tendrils and pea shoots and solicited the aid of various Friends of Terribleminds (TM) to drop in throughout the month and plaster their guest posts on the walls here. Today is the Mistress of Bludbunnies, Delilah S. Dawson, author of the Blud Books and also writer of one of this site’s most popular guest posts, 25 Humpalicious Steps For Writing Your First Sex Scene.

This is like that Couch to 5k thing people do to gear up for a marathon. Except you can do it without leaving your couch. And for me, a book is a better souvenir than a popped-off toenail.

What follows is the quickest, dirtiest, most simple route to writing a novel and getting it published by a traditional publisher, which I accomplished from my own couch in Atlanta while nursing a baby and having neither an MFA nor any previous contacts in publishing. The following advice is based on my own personal experience that began with writing a seriously shitty book (about accidentally banging Zeus) in 2009 and seeing my third book (about steampunk vampire circuses) on the shelf in B&N in 2012. Everything I learned came from Google.

Is this advice perfect? No. Is it gospel? No. Is it universally applicable and the same for every writer, ever? JESUS, NO. Will your mileage vary? Yes. Widely, even with Chevron with Techron. But if you’ve never written a book, hunted for an agent, or signed a contract, I hope it will be a good place to start. If not, just read… oh, Chuck’s entire blog. And then hit Google.


Seriously. Writing is a ton of work. No one, not even Stephen King, spits out a first draft that’s worth reading. If you think being a writer is all about dicking around with a Moleskine at Starbucks for two months, just GTFO. Writing a crappy book is hard as hell, and that’s the easiest part of the process.


This is no secret. Writing is a hugely complicated casserole of grammar, rhythm, vocabulary, pacing, plot, character, word choice, and time spent on task. You can’t edit, revise, or rewrite a blank page. So no matter how good you are, no matter how much you doubt yourself, no matter how elusive your saucy minx of a muse might be, sit your ass in that Ikea Poang chair and write like a mofo. Whether you go by Malcolm Gladwell and Macklemore’s proclamation of 10,000 hours or Stephen King’s avowed 1,000,000 words, you have to put in the time and effort to learn how to write with any skill. You must squeeze out one complete book before most of this advice applies at all. See rule 1.


When I started writing my first book, I stopped reading. And it was a huge mistake. Although it can be intrusive to read books that share extreme similarities with what you’re writing, you should always be reading. It helps keep your mind nimble and constantly growing new neural connections. What the author did right, what they did wrong—your brain just soaks it up like Kraken rum in a sponge cake. Read other genres, read the popular books that you think probably suck just to see what makes them so appealing. Read nonfiction. Read writing books. When you’re getting ready to revise or query, read books similar to your own to finesse what makes yours special. But always be reading, or Tyler Durden will punch you in the junk for being an idiot.


If you want to finish the first draft of your first book, you must think of it like skiing downhill. There are lots of different paths you could take, but once you pick one, you need to buckle down and ride it to the end. You’ll never learn anything if you don’t finish a book. At first, you might not know what your process is. Are you a plotter? Do you ride by the seat of your pants? Do you like Scrivener or longhand or writing on your bathtub wall in pig blood? You’ll never know what works until you’ve written one complete book. Your process might change later. But for now, focus on writing a really crappy first draft in whatever way appeals and don’t stop until until the ride is over. And it’s going to be crappy. Because…


Any author who says their first drafts are fantastic is either lying or highly delusional or John Scalzi, who is neither. A first draft is meant to be a malleable chunk of clay that you barf out onto the worktable. If you keep reworking that first sentence, first page, first chapter, you’ll never get to the end. So just barf it all up. Without judging yourself. Without showing anyone. Without rereading it. Without thinking of genre or sellability or trends. Tell your story in any way you can, in whatever way feels best. Does it change POV or tense in the middle? Do aliens land in your historical romance? WHO CARES? KEEP WRITING. Don’t look back. You can fix it later.

Looking for a leg up on improving your writing at any point of this writing thing? Go read ON WRITING by Stephen King, which is a game changer and, for me, a life changer. Then read BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott. Then read SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. Go to a writing conference. Join a writing group. LEARN HARDER, MOTHERFUCKER.


Congratulations!!! And BOOMCAKE!!! And you should definitely go out to celebrate with shrimp tacos and margaritas. Hell, I used to go celebrate every time I passed the 100 page mark. Finishing your first book is a major victory, and you shouldn’t let the fact that there are 19 more steps terrify you. Even if you put your book baby in a drawer and throw the dresser into the Grand Canyon, you will still spend the rest of your life knowing that you are capable of writing a book, and that is A Big Deal.

So celebrate. Look at your book. Stroke the screen. Tell Twitter. And then, like a hot steak in a cast iron skillet, let your book rest for a while by itself, preferably with a slab of butter melting on top. Because getting some distance from your work is an important part of this process.


I didn’t understand this one for the longest time. I would hork up a first draft, turn back to page one, and start hunting for typos, feeling smug.

Guys, don’t do that. That’s like digging up a lump of coal and spit polishing it in front of Tiffany’s.

After you’ve shat out a first draft and let it rest –BECAUSE YOU DID LET IT REST RIGHT BECAUSE LET IT REST FOR CHRISSAKES GO READ A BOOK– then it’s time to save it under a different name and get out your red pen. Don’t read it like it’s your precious perfect baby darling. Read it like it’s your worst enemy’s magnum opus and your job is to expose its every tragic flaw. Are the characters flat? Does the dialog pop, or is the dialog just you using the characters’ mouths for your own assplaining? Is there purple prose? Does the action compel you to keep reading? Is there a satisfying story arc? Do you switch POV or tense? Because, honestly, I do that all the damn time. If you get bored reading it, so will your audience.

If you see something in the text that needs changing, change it. But keep a piece of paper beside you to make notes on the larger issues, too. This is the time to get macro and look at the big picture, not just the difference between magenta and fuchsia. That’s what persnickety copyeditors are for, later.


So you cracked open the ribcage and gave your book a baboon heart. Good. Now go over it with a lice comb, inside and out. Read like a critic, and if a phrase or paragraph makes you wince, cut it. Change it. Massage it. Polishing isn’t just looking for typos; it’s making sure that every single sentence says exactly what you need it to in the most beautiful and exacting way possible. Kick out the cliches and say it in a new way. Drop “I saw” and “I smelled”. Get rid of very and a little and some kind of. Make every word count. If your character is scared, don’t say, “Her heart beat like thunder”, because anyone can say that. Say, “Her heart banged against her ribs like a junky’s fist on a dealer’s metal door.” Make it your own. Don’t be lazy.

Still think you’re done? Wrong again. Print it out and give it to a beta reader you trust. Emphasis on TRUST; they need to be smart and sharp, someone who reads widely, who reads your genre, and who you trust do be honest and help you improve. Tell them to go nuts. Take their opinion very seriously. Polish again.

Now, how do you know you’re ready to move to the next step?

You wrote a first draft. You revised and looked at the big picture, ripping it apart if necessary. You polished it. You sent it to at least one person, possibly more, and they liked it and had no huge issues. You made changes based on informed feedback. You polished again. You honestly can’t think of another thing you could possibly do to improve the damn thing. And you feel, deep in your heart, that it’s ready.

That’s when you’re ready.

Don’t get caught in a loop and never send it on, but don’t jump the gun and send out an error-riddled hot mess. It’s a delicate balance that you’ll begin to figure out, in time. The first time, though? You’re going to botch it up. Everyone sends out their first book before it’s ready. And that’s okay, too. DO IT ANYWAY


A query letter, like a unicorn, can be one of two things: a beautiful and elusive dream that will grant you wishes or a dangerous monster that wants to eat your virgin ass. It’s basically a pitch for your book that will let an agent know in 300 words or less exactly why they want to represent you and your book. Here’s a little secret: everything you need to know about writing a good query can be found by reading the Query Shark blog (http://queryshark.blogspot.com) of literary agent extraordinaire Janet Reid. Read the extensive archives—yes, all 200+ of the queries submitted by real writers and critiqued in real time by a true pro who wants writers to succeed. And then you’ll be ready to write your own.

In short: use 250 words about your protagonist and story that will make an agent pee themselves to read your book. Note: it’s not a synopsis; make them care. Follow that up by stating the book’s title, genre, and word count. If you have extremely relevant bio information, such as awards the agent has heard of, traditional pub credits, self-publishing successes of over 10,000 books sold, or a fact from your background that makes you the center of every party, tell them here. Do not mention how long you’ve been writing, how many cats you have, or the 17 sequels you’ve already written. Once you’ve got what you believe to be the Best Motherfucking Query Ever, have someone who has never read your manuscript read it and tell you if it makes any sense whatsoever and if they want to read the book. If the answer to either question is EFF TO THE NO, keep massaging it. Submit it to the Absolute Write forums (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php) for opinions. Rinse, repeat until your query is AWESOME.

In short: be compelling, be professional, don’t be crazy. And read Query Shark before attempting your own query.


Close out your writing program and start a spreadsheet called AGENTS WHO ARE GOING TO FUCKING LOVE ME. Here are the columns I used for my two rounds of querying:

rating – name – agency – agency website –  email – Twitter – details – sub guidelines – date sent – response – response date

The rating column divided agents into three groups: (1) Big Deal agents or those with whom I imagined a perfect fit, (2) agents who were awesome and would be great, and (3) agents who weren’t at the top of my list, whether because it wasn’t a perfect fit or they were closed to submissions or they were super new or with a very small agency. The thing is that you want to mix it up and send your work to big dogs, medium dogs, and little dogs all at once. You never know who will be the best fit for you, so it’s good to aim lots of arrows.

The other columns are to help you keep track of who you’ve queried, why you queried them, and what the end result was, because there’s a lot of potential for looking like a complete moron if you don’t. The details column is for anything that will get you a leg up: things they love or hate, what they’re looking for, interactions you’ve had on Twitter that they might remember. You’ll need that later, when personalizing your query email.

Oh, wait. You need to find agents, don’t you? Put out a big pile of cronuts and coffee and get in a deer stand… KIDDING.

Go to AgentQuery.com or QueryTracker.com and do a search by genre. Start putting people into your spreadsheet. Look at their sales records, their clients, their agencies. Look them up on Publisher’s Marketplace, check out their agency websites, and follow them on Twitter. Double check them at Preditors and Editors (pred-ed.com) and read this guide to bad agents from SFWA (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/agents/). The key here is to be EDUCATED and follow your gut. A bad agent is 1000 times worse than no agent.


Okay, look up at the top of this post. This is about TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

Do you want to see your book in a bookstore? Do you want someone watching out for legal legerdemain in your contracts and sending your work out for foreign sales (aka FREE MONEY) and doing the dirty work for you? That’s why you have an agent. My agent took the first offer on my book, nearly tripled it, and then worked it into a three-book deal that sold at auction between three major houses. So that’s more than SIX TIMES the original offer, plus she whittled the rights down from WORLD EVERY LANGUAGE EVEN ESPERANTO to North American English only. And then she sold two books to Germany. I can’t do that myself. Unless you’re a savvy contracts lawyer, neither can you.

So if you want to do something other than traditional publishing with Big Six/Five/Random Penguin Club, I wish you well. But I can’t help you. Because much like building a car from the ground up, I don’t know how to do that. And judging by Amazon, only 10 writers out of every 1,000,000 do.


For many people, this is the hardest part of the publishing journey. It’s basically sending a complete stranger an email that says HERE IS THE BEST WAY TO BREAK MY HEART FOREVER. Because you’re going to be rejected. Everyone gets rejected. JK Goddamn Rowling got rejected. Every author you’ve ever loved has been rejected. You’re about to be rejected, too. And that makes you mighty.

I started on the balls-out offensive and sent my very first query for my very first book to my very first choice agent. I was rejected within three minutes. AND I LIVED. Everyone has different query strategies, but I recommend sending queries in bursts of three or four to a variety of agents in your 1 and 2 categories; I had 57 agents in my spreadsheet. While you’re doing this, you should be following agents on Twitter to get a good feel of what they’re like and what kind of books they like and weighing if your personalities would be a good fit. A pertinent little detail or interaction is a nice way to personalize a query, but it has to be genuine.

For example:

BAD: Dear Agent(s), I see that you represent romance fiction novels, and I’m going to be the next Nora Roberds.

GOOD: Dear Ms. Smith, Per your recommendation on Twitter last week, I started my pug on a raw diet. He already snorts less, so thank you! I’m such a fan of your client Jane Doe, and I thought you might be interested in a similar historical romance based on a bluestocking pug breeder in 18th century Scotland.

Each agent will have their own submissions guidelines, so be sure to adhere to them when querying. Some agents want just a query. Some want 5 pages, 10 pages, the first chapter, etc., whether inline or as a certain kind of attachment. Most agents want a very specific subject line in the email that will allow them to sort your query correctly. Following the rules is your friend. Be a rebellious weirdo once you’ve got the book deal.


No one watches an inbox as creepily as a querying writer. Every ping, every refresh could be the answer to your wildest dream. Or a soul-crushing form response that subtly indicates your general suckitude. If you just sit there, waiting, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Go out in the world and do something worth writing about. Start writing your next book. Read something so engrossing that you don’t even hear that adorable whistling sound my phone makes when I get an email. Go hang out on Twitter and yap it up with other writers, never ever mentioning that you’re querying or that you just got a rejection and can’t stop chewing on your beard.

Remember how I told you you’re going to get rejected? You totally are. When you get one, just mark it on your spreadsheet, pick another agent, and send off another query. One comes in, one goes out. Simple as that. Keep the hope flowing. And if you get something other than a form response, no matter what it says, FEEL PROUD. Your immediate reaction might be anger at the criticism, but agents don’t generally risk a personal note unless you’re getting very, very close. Never argue with an agent who has gone the extra mile to provide you with notes. If what they’ve said has been helpful, a brief and professional email of gratitude is acceptable.

And if someone asks for revisions, repeat after me. WAIT TWO WEEKS. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when an agent shows the slightest amount of interest is to freak out, change three words in your manuscript, and send it back as if you’re on that bus in SPEED. Publishing is very slow. Agents want to see clients who can absorb criticism, think about it wisely, and apply it to their work with careful intention and finesse. I blew several chances with awesome agents by making a tiny change and zipping it right back out instead of really digging deep to show my chops. Delilah is a dumbass.

Correction: Delilah WAS a dumbass.


Now comes the tough love. Sometimes, no matter how much you love a book, it’s not going to get an agent. When you’re out of names on your spreadsheet, that’s not a sign you should quite writing. Do you hear me? DO NOT QUIT WRITING. That’s a sign that you need to put that book away and write the next one. It hurts, but you’ve got to pull up your big-kid pants, wipe off your nose, and move the fuck on.

Every book you write makes you a better writer. And almost every professional writer I know has at least one book that went nowhere. Hell, some people write a trash book between their real books just to let off steam. My first book was rejected 37 times before two agents gently explained that although the writing was intriguing, the concept was tragically flawed and it would never sell. So I scrapped it and opened a new document, and it was a huge relief to do something brand new. The next book? Got my agent.

In the current publishing climate, many people decide that traditional publishing is dead and editors are snobby gatekeeping assholes and self-publishing is the way to make a quick million dollars overnight. And this is the place where I tell you that for 99.999% of books, you’re just asking for a world of disappointment. If you self-publish, please do so because you are well-versed in marketing, graphic design, and editing. Do not self-publish out of rage, jealousy, or impatience. Because while you can quietly retire a book that didn’t get an agent and start a new one with a clean slate, you can’t kill numbers. Self-publishing takes a ton of work, and there is no easy way to the top.

So write that next book. Revise the crap out of it. Make another list of agents. Write a new query. Hit send. Repeat. And then…


If you keep sending out queries and polishing your query and massaging your manuscript based on agently feedback, you’re eventually going to get a YES. The agent will most likely ask for a certain number of pages, called a PARTIAL REQUEST, or if you’re very fortunate, a FULL REQUEST, which is the entire book. You are allowed a minor freak-out at this point, but don’t show the world or tell social media. Keep your cards hidden. You might only get one chance to hold this agent’s full attention, so make sure your manuscript is at the absolute pinnacle of perfection before sending in exactly what they ask for in exactly the form and manner they request. Google “proper manuscript format” first, and remember not to use Comic Sans or another kitschy font.

Know how to celebrate that request? By sending out another query. Just in case.


This is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Someone has read your full manuscript and would like to speak to you on the phone. In shorthand, that means “I really like this book but need to make sure you’re not batshit crazy.” Because the agent needs to grok your work, and you need to trust her wisdom. You don’t have to be BFFs, but the hope here is that your agent will sell your book and help shepherd your entire career as a working author. And a phone call is your chance to ask your own questions about the changes she’ll need in your draft before it goes out, your ideas for sequels or future projects, and if you think this is a person who will honor your book baby. Write up a list of questions, because you will forget ever single thing you wanted to ask the second you hear a real, live agent say, “So I loved your book…”

If the agent offers representation, it’s customary to ask for one to two weeks to think it over. After all, if other agents are reading partials or fulls, you owe them the courtesy of a heads-up. A quick email with subject: [Book Title – Author name] – OFFER RECEIVED should go to any agent reading part of your manuscript. Do not name names. Simply mention that you have been offered representation and will be deciding in a specified time period. These agents will either politely demur or move your book to the top of their reading stack to see if they want to throw their hats in the ring. Which is awesome and also horrible, because after working so long and hard to find an agent, it’s weird to have to turn one down, especially one you love. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

Also of note: If the agent is in any way sketchy, demands a reading fee, or says they like the book but you need a professional editor and oh, by the way, here’s my wife’s editing service… run. Again, a bad agent is worse than no agent. Trust your gut. You don’t have to take the first offer.


You have accepted an agent’s representation. You have celebrated with steak. Mmm. Steak. And now the real work begins.

Your agent will want changes before taking your book out, which means you will probably get a horrible document forged in Hell and called an EDIT LETTER. It will basically be a compliment sandwich much like an Oreo Doublestuf with 97 extra stufs in the middle. And your job will be to decide exactly how to implement these changes in your book. Some of it will hurt. You might have to kill off characters, murder plot lines, cut wide swaths of beautiful words. And you must tell yourself that it’s for the best, that you are learning, and that you’re a major boss who doesn’t cry onto her beignets.

You turn in your new draft to your agent, and depending on how well you did and what her timeline is, you could have more rounds of edits or copyedits. Before, you were on your own schedule. Now, you’re just another feisty pony in the stable of an agent who might have 30 different feisty ponies. Your attitude and willingness to learn and grow will not go unnoticed during this process, so keep a brave and tenacious face on, even when you’re dying inside.

Eventually, your agent will prepare a list of editors to whom she will send your book and will write a query letter of her own. Depending on how you and your agent work best, she might share these things with you and ask your opinion—or she might not. Y’all should have talked about this in that phone call. You might also change your book’s title. But here’s the thing, chicken: GET USED TO IT. Once you sell your book, it will be even less yours. If you want to be a traditionally published author, you need an agent who knows the business and who will hammer you and your book into the shape that will get it on the shelf. Unique snowflakes are going to be stomped. Become an ice cube.


When your agent has sent your book off to editors, you are considered ON SUB. Your job during this crucial time is to tell no one. Don’t mention it on social media or your blog. Don’t go after the editors on Twitter like a leghumping dog. Don’t call or email your agent every day for updates. Believe me: when she hears good news, you’ll know.

Most agents put a cap on the submission period; I think my agent gives 30 days. Depending on what you and your agent agree on, she might tell you as rejections come in or pass on editorial commentary, or she might hold it all until the end, especially if you’re still a tender snowflake with feelings. You will jump every time your cell phone rings. You’re going to be crazier than a longtailed possum in a room full of rocking chairs tipped with Mad Max spikes. That’s just part of it. You might hear something the next day, although it’s rare. Or you might hear something two days after the deadline, after your agent has nudged the last editor off the cliff. The point is, every book and every submission period is different.

Confession: I’ve had two books go to the editorial table with an editor’s heart on ’em and still not sell. It’s about more than you and your writing. It’s about trends, what’s selling, other books in the house’s catalog, timing, and money. Your book might not sell. Your agent might have you make some changes based on editorial comments and submit to another round of editors and possibly smaller publishing houses. Or you might mutually decide to shelve it and get to work on your next project. This is an issue that can only be decided by you and your agent, and it’s crucial that you understand that the only way it’s over is if you stop writing. As always, keep moving forward. Communicate honestly with your agent, decide on the right path, and get back to writing. Your chair misses your butt. We all do.


And then one day, after your first submission period or your tenth, you’ll get a phone call. You know who it is, because your phone has a Contacts list, and your voice is way too squeaky when you say HEY, DUDE!, and your agent pauses smugly in her office in New York and says, “So I have good news!” And then  you freak out in the carpool line and almost forget your kid. Or maybe that’s just how it happened to me.

The point is, you have an offer on the table. Your agent will explain it to you, focusing on the figure, the number of books, the house and imprint, the editor, and the rights currently on the table regarding languages, foreign sales, e-book, and audio. And you will probably flip out completely. But you will not say yes, because now your agent gets to do to your editor what you did to your agent.

She gets to send all the other editors on her list an email with subject OFFER ON THE TABLE and then see if any of them want to hop into the chum-gargling pond with the other sharks. For my first book sale, we had three different editors go to auction. That means that each one made an offer, then we told the other ones the offer and allowed them to either top it or fold. An auction can happen many different ways, and your agent is there to shepherd you through it wisely for the best deal. Oddly, money isn’t always the end-all of the decision, as each publishing house has different perks they can offer, such as lead title space or hardcover printing or a publicity push you might not see from another house.

Or you might have one offer, and your agent will make it the best offer you can get, and you accept it and freak the hell out, because BOOK DEAL.

Either way, you now have your first book sale. As soon as everything is finalized, you’ll get the official go-ahead to trumpet it at the top of your lungs. You will soon be hoarse.


Oh, honey. It’s only just starting.

At first, you were the boss. Then you and your agent were partners in which she was the grizzled beat cop and you were the starry-eyed rookie. And now you have a new boss, and that boss is your editor, and your job is to make her happy while not selling your soul.

You will find out a release date. Then (according to my experience; YMMV) you will wait for yet another EDIT LETTER that’s got 160 stufs instead of only 97 between the Oreo cookies. If something really crazy happens, always go to your agent with your concerns instead of barreling up to your editor like a rabid bull. No one wants to work with a megalomaniacal crazy person with a knee-jerk reaction to change.

In the next year, you will receive several rounds of edits, then copyedits, then line edits. You will see your book design evolve to the point that you’ll run fingertips over your font and your layout and your wingdings. You’ll see a cover, possibly before they’ve ever asked for your input. You might love it or hate it or gently request changes—through your agent, of course. You’ll be asked to supply or proof the cover copy. They’ll want a bio and a professional headshot. They might ask for your input on blurbs, and you might find yourself crossing your fingers to see if the people you respect will say something nice about you. And through all this tumult, your job is to remain personable, sane, and accommodating but assertive, because no one wants you to hate what you or your book have become. It’s all about balance.


Simply put, release day is like your wedding day. Exciting, terrifying, and no matter how well you plan and hope and dream, completely out of your hands. You will never feel ready. You will never feel as if you’ve done enough. So you just hustle your ass off and then… let go.

Your publishing house will assign a publicist to you, and she may be super helpful or close to useless. Your publicist might ask you for a list of bloggers and reviewers to whom to send galleys, or she might help set up signings or blog tours or get you guest blog placement and interviews. BUT! She is not the end of your publicity. No, snowflake; that’s up to you. It’s time to think out of the box and werk it inside the box. Get your name out in any way possible—outside of getting arrested or embarrassing your publishing house. Talk to local papers, try to get on radio shows and podcasts, apply to be a guest at local conferences or to speak at schools and libraries, depending on your strengths. Make friends online and look closely at what other authors are doing to successfully get their name out there. Make it easy to find you. And above all, with anything regarding publicity, be a pleasant and professional person to work with.

Also, if you sold a series, you should have a timeline for deliverables on your other books. Deadlines are a big deal in publishing, as missing one can push back your release date and generally muck up everyone’s life. Make sure that you’re taking care of business in all the other facets of your writing life. It’s easy to forget everything but BOOK OUT SOON.

You’re also at a golden time for networking. More experienced authors are generally happy to offer advice or answer questions, especially on Twitter. You can join author groups to share each other’s book links and publicity. You can go to other authors’ book launch parties and meet people and see how it’s done. You can go to writing conferences and go to panels on marketing for the new author. In short, get your Twitter bio current and prepare to be friendly, because you now have colleagues.

Unless you are A Really Big Deal, don’t expect to be sent on a book tour, flown around the country, or to see a lot of media buy. If you find a time machine to the 80s, let me know. I want my own bus, too.


Your book launch party, if you want one, is your victory dance. Find a great venue like your local indie bookstore, set up a time and place, and work together to publicize it, including keeping your publicist updated. Buy a new outfit. Order a cake or a box of wine or whatever, to you, says CELEBRATE MEH. If you want a party but aren’t sure you’re ready to be the center of attention, you can invite other local authors to read a few pages of their books or have a musician friend play music or, if you’re me, invite a fire spinner to juggle flame on the town square.

The point is that your book launch party is YOUR party, so live it the eff up. I remember standing at the counter of my favorite cake place, and they asked me how many people would be at the party, and I said, I DON’T KNOW AND I DON’T CARE AND I WANT HALF A DAMN SHEET CAKE WITH ALMOND BUTTERCREAM ICING. And there was cake left over, and I froze it and ate it for breakfast every morning for two weeks. And every bite tasted like VICTORY.

This is the time for no regrets. You will stumble in your writing life. Everyone does. But you’ll remember your first book launch party forever, so go all out. And make sure someone is taking pictures. Because you won’t have time.


Bad news: there is no certain path to success. There is no secret to bestsellerdom. No matter what you tell yourself, you’ll spend the day staring at Amazon to see how high your book can climb, which isn’t necessarily healthy for you but can’t really be stopped. Enjoy your release day, thank everyone who tweets a link or wishes you well. And then move on.

The only way to stay sane in this profession is to keep. moving. forward.

So when you come out the other side of your book release, get back on the writing horse. Start something new. Distract yourself with a good book. Whatever you do, try as hard as you can not to compare yourself to other authors, because you will, and chances are… it’ll make you feel like shit. There’s always someone selling better and getting better numbers, whether they’re a young upstart or a seasoned pro with a backlist and a street team. And you can’t pay attention to that noise, because that’s not what it’s about. That’s not why you opened that first document and started typing. At the end of the day, at the end of the party, at the end of the Amazon numbers, you are a storyteller sitting at a keyboard and dreaming, and so long as that’s what it’s about, you’re going to be fine.

Oh. And don’t read or respond to negative reviews. You will always look like a raging douche. Let reviews be a safe place for people to talk honestly about a book, and let your brain be a place to ignore the haters. Criticism from your agent, editor, or writing mentor is a great gift. Criticism from HOTGIRLREADER286 on Amazon is the personal opinion of a stranger who’s possibly uninformed, unintelligent, unqualified, or unbalanced

What? I said possibly.


FUCK YOU. And congratulations. And can I have a blurb?


FUCK YOU. We are all disappointed. This business is tough. Don’t whine. Art harder.

Seriously, though. Just as you must accept that writing is hard and first drafts are crap and revisions are like cutting out your eyeballs with a spoon and publicity is like a baby mole squeaking in the Thunderdome, so must you accept that being a writer can be filled with disappointment. With yourself. With your book. With how well your book did.

Much of publishing is completely out of your control. The only thing you can control is the power of your storytelling and the professionalism with which you deliver it, and that means tuning out the noise, putting your butt back into the chair, and getting better.

Once you’ve mastered any part of this process, it’s SIGNIFICANTLY EASIER the next time around. Although every book is different, for the most part, you know what works best for you while writing, and now you’ll have an agent to gently nudge you in the right direction from the very beginning. You will also, hopefully, have a publishing team willing to tell anyone what a joy you are to work with and an army of colleagues, acquaintances, and fans who are willing to cheer you on, even on those tough days when you think about quitting.

Take from this list what you will and throw the rest down the penmonkey Port-a-potty. Every writer’s journey is different. Every writer’s process is different. Every book is different. Every market is different. Just keep moving forward. Keep learning. Keep writing, even when it doesn’t come easily. You have to push through, even when it’s hard. You have to get up when you get knocked down. You can’t stop. You can’t give up. You have to remember what’s important: the passion and joy of storytelling.

You can’t be a lazy bastard if you want to be a writer.

* * *

More questions? Ask in the comments or on Twitter, @DelilahSDawson. Need more links? Check out the Resources page on my blog at www.DelilahSDawson.com, which encompasses everything I used to go from couch-squatting stay-at-home mom with no writing chops to published writer in less than three years. And if you want to read some of my kickass stories, check out my steampunk paranormal romance books WICKED AS THEY COME and WICKED AS SHE WANTS, my story in the CARNIEPUNK anthology, or my Amazon Kindle Worlds e-novella with Valiant Universe, SHADOWMAN: FOLLOW ME BOY.

Walk With Me

grayscale photography of brown and black bench

Photo by Paweł L. on Pexels.com

Why should I care that you sit huddled in a chair?

Chains around my heart and vision blocked by my own despair

My needs, my wants, my ego haunts and leaves me unable to care


I’ll leave this world, my pain unfurled, cast upon those who dare to ask

For I, too, cannot hold the weight that binds you to that chair

I will not turn to others for comfort nor the answer hidden in the bottom of this flask

I’ll not bare my soul to any sort, for the judgment that waits with promise of rot

Rather, I’ll expel such grievance as I see fit, upon the likes of you for a bit

For at least that alone is within my control…or so I’d like to believe

I’ll not let the pain take me down, not like you huddled in that chair

Consumed and shaken, world rocked and soon to be taken


You’ll not be judged by the world around you

You’ll not speak, for what good will it do?

Though they try, not a soul will understand the veil over your heart, mind and spirit

There you sit, locked in an invisible prison of darkness—the reason left for all to guess

“It will do no good,” you cry, “to tell of such horrible pain. For how can anyone care whose heart is chained?”


My wrath unleashed upon the world is how I know of the burden you feel

For the bind around my heart tightens with each expression of words

How to break the bonds that hold me prisoner, too, like you huddled in that chair?

Iron can be cut but not the invisible shroud that builds each link and covers me in darkness

We are one in the same. You, a mirror image of my very soul beneath the chains


“Rise up. Rise up,” I say. “And walk with me far away.”

We can leave the room of the invisible shroud and hope for vision that is more clear

To tender silence of the early morning sunrise and its burst of colors bright

To the clear blue radiance and whispers of storms aside

And later, into the peaceful realm of evening shadows at dusk, as they invite the stars to guide our way

Though that veil may follow you still, each inhale of breath and look to the sky will help to see beyond the illusion of black and gray

For in that walk your vision is clear and my heart with its chains will no longer fear


–Dana Alexander





Personal To Me, Shared By Many

Before reading the following post, please note this information contains subject matter that may cause a deep emotional response. It is provided as an informational look into the findings, as well as assistance to those who have endured childhood trauma or who know of someone who may be in need of assistance. It will be the only post like it on my page, because while I support causes that work avidly against any form of abuse and neglect of children, I also support the joy of writing and reading that comes from the growth and experience of moving forward. That said, there are resources provided at the end of the post for those seeking such assistance.

It’s obviously a very personal decision to share a story regarding trauma. It puts anyone who chooses to at the mercy of their audience for immediate judgment and the risk of losing relationships. It also makes some people uncomfortable to hear such stories because not everyone can empathize or understands how to sympathise with someone who has experienced childhood trauma. It’s like a different world, an island of isolation, to the ears of someone who doesn’t understand the effects of abuse. But it’s worth hearing the stories of others, because it’s exactly those experiences that connect us as human beings, and the more we know, the better people we can be to one another.  After all, we are human before we are what we label ourselves as; Mom, Dad, Engineer, Mechanic, Advisor, Doctor…you get the point.  The purpose of posting this message is to express that a positive and beautiful life is possible after surviving such experiences, often in cases of multiple ‘assailants’.

I’ve been told twice in my life, “You should be dead in a ditch, or strung out on drugs wasting away.” My reply: “Well, that serves no purpose. I can forgive them, I just don’t want to feel their pain anymore.” For me, the issue of trauma resolved years ago, but scars remain that come to the forefront at times in my life and urge me to address them, so that I can continue the life I want for myself, a positive and healthy life that my family and I deserve, and most importantly to absolutely not be mired in the atrocities carried and inflicted by others, even if they turn out to be our own parents.

Let’s be clear, most parents are loving, caring and interested in their children’s lives and welfare. Yes, as parents no one is perfect no matter the front you see. And, in fact, we all get busy and find that we don’t always have enough time for our kids or always say exactly the right thing when we’re supposed to. But that isn’t what this post is about; the imperfections of being a parent. This subject is about parents who ignore their children, leave them for days even as young children, don’t show any interest in them, have no care to hear their concerns, or attend to their basic emotional needs. Or, what is sometimes referred to as willful neglect. It’s also about different types of abuse; emotional/psychological, physical and sexual and its effects. Some of the data won’t surprise you, but some of it very well might. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the attached study (PDF). You may agree or disagree with certain points. That’s just fine. If you decide to delve a bit, please do so with an open mind, leaving judgment at the door.  For those who’ve suffered from such victimization, please stop reading at any point where you begin to feel uncomfortable. Remember, the aim of this post is to inform, to create a bridge from unknowing to better understanding in the effort for heightened awareness. That’s all. And if none of it appeals to you, that’s okay, too.

Where to get help (courtesy of the American Psychological Association):

Several organizations can provide information and advice about child abuse and neglect:





Egyptian Afterlife, Not Death

This fun post from Notes from the Urn Diva covers an Egyptian concept known as “westing” applied in book four of the Three Keys series. I hope you enjoy.

Credit: http://urnsbyartists.com/no-death-in-ancient-egypt/

  • Silly Wabbit, I’m Just Westing

    How can a culture so focused on life after death, have no actual word for death in their language? Such is the case with the ancient Egyptians. The concept of death as we know it did not exist. When one left one’s body, the spirit transitioned to the afterlife traveling west with the setting sun to the underworld. In fact, they never spoke of death, but rather of “westing”, reflecting the paths of our sun and stars” Here’s a short clip featuring Egyptian Archeologist, Abd’el Hakim Awyan on the ancient Egyptians : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoAxs1i9Jyw#action=share


    Egyptians believed that humans possessed ‘Ka‘ or life-force, and  ‘Ba‘ that remained with the body after death. The fact that death was inconceivable to the Egyptians speaks volumes. Westerners tend to see things as an either or situations; life and death, black and white; on or off. For the Egyptians, the transition must have been almost seamless; simply the beginning of a fantastic journey. The absence of the word ‘Death’ leads me to believe that their spiritual life was just as real and integrated in the physical. Imagine what it would be like to live with no distinction between life and death. What would it be like to live your life looking forward to your most fabulous adventure?

    Westing; A Seamless Transition.

    I love the concept of Westing. My mother died just a few years ago. For Mom, the concept of death was nothing like Westing, it was instead the inevitable ‘Dirt Nap’ as she called it that haunted her. For Mom, it was the end of the line for her, lights out, but the Dirt Nap made no sense to me.

    This was frequently a point of debate for my mother and me; her question was “So, how do you know God exists?” I would counter by asking if she really could imagine we had no spirit. This was usually where the conversation ended. Mom wanted concrete answers. She always prided herself in being an agnostic. I respected that. She questioned things, and I question her.

    Regardless, I’m going with Westing and dumping the Dirt Nap idea. I think the Egyptians were on to something there. I love to travel and I’m preparing myself for a  journey of transformation beyond all my wildest adventures here on earth. While the concept of death provides a reference point for our conduct and endeavors, the idea of a magnificent journey is far more intriguing for me. So, for the time being, don’t worry, Mom. Silly Wabbit, I’m just Westing!

    Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 11.53.14 AM




April Is National Autism Awareness Month – Kieran’s Story Sheds Light On An Often Misunderstood Condition

With my son recently being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, after years of seeing doctors, it was a relief to finally get a diagnosis, specifically Asperger’s. Kieran’s story below sheds real insight into this condition, that often is misunderstood because the difficulties these sensitve, intelligent kids experience are not so visible on the “outside”. Thanks to Kieran, Ambry Genetics and author Tiffany Au for providing the interview.  http://blog.ambrygen.com/post/176/what-is-life-like-for-someone-with-autism-part-1-of-2

What is Life Like for Someone with Autism? (Part 1 of 2)

  • Tiffany Au
  • April 6th, 2017
58e4116779609.pngEditor’s Note:

To help support National Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing our interview with Kieran Best, a 14-year-old young man with an autism spectrum disorder.  Kieran graciously shared insights into what his day-to-day life is like and offered words of wisdom to others who may be in his situation. Check back in two weeks to read our interview with Christina DeRochemont, Kieran’s mother, who also spoke with us. She’ll tell us about what life was like early on with Kieran, and how they received his diagnosis.


Ambry: Why are you excited to share your story?

Kieran: I have never done one of these before, so that’s neat. It’s nice to be a voice for people like me. I want to share who I am to show people at the end of the day – I am a regular teen with a good heart, I just experience difficulties in certain areas.


A: Where did you grow up?

K: I was born in Burnsville, Minnesota. I came to California when I was three and then moved back to Minnesota for six months. I came back to Los Angeles when I was 11, and here I am.


A: What’s something exciting in your life right now?

K: I am going to Japan with my classmates. This will be my first time going abroad.  We are going for 10 days and will be leaving towards the end of June. I am also going to Catalina [Island] for three days. I know it’s a lot of travel and being in the outside world… are you proud of me?


A: I am envious of your adventures! Outside of travel, what are some of the things you enjoy?

K: I enjoy video games, mostly the older varieties. I collect them. Now, I am into all sorts of media and analyzing them. For example, video games are a work of art. I play them for fun, but I like to learn the history of the game and understand the complexity of its makeup. I like to read. However, I will only read classics; I have not picked up a book that isn’t famous. By famous, I mean that everyone knows the author. For instance, I am reading Around the World in 80 days, The Picture of Dory and the entire Sherlock Holmes series. I watch movies and television. Just like my books and video games, I love older forms of media.


A: It’s wonderful that you are able to appreciate so many forms of media and have such a curiosity in complex messages. What are some areas of your life that you like to keep simple?

K: I keep my foods pretty minimal and simple. I am not a vegetarian; I just don’t like meat. I don’t like the texture. I am sensitive to texture when it comes to food. Vegetables are hard for me to eat, as well. I am not the proudest of my diet, but I am getting better. A year or so ago, I noticed I am more willing to try new things. I mean, I am going to Japan so I need to force myself or I may starve. Oh, one last thing: My favorite dessert is macaroons – vanilla. I only like vanilla because it’s well on its own and it plays well with others.


A: Sounds like something a chef would say, would you ever consider being a chef? If not, what do you want to be when you grow up?

K: No! I would never be a chef. I am not even proud of the three things I eat. I see myself in the gaming industry, but I’m not sure what I would be doing. I truly enjoy video games. I wanted to be an artist, but I realized I can’t draw. It is probably because I have shaky hands. I found out I’m half-decent at writing. I started my blog, www.tehyoshiking.com, and figured out that it is fun to make. I know I needed to do something with my life, so I started the blog. I don’t know if I really want to do this for the rest of my life, but it’s fun for now.


A: Now that we know a little bit about your background and interests, would you like to share about what it is like to be a young man with autism?

K: There is a stereotype for everything and everyone now. People think that having autism will harm your quality of life. When they hear “autism,” they think people like me are overly excited, act differently, have a hard time focusing, and lack social skills. In my eyes, it is nothing like that; it’s just a mild annoyance. I take medication, mainly during the week, so I don’t act strange. Other than that, I feel pretty normal. When I am on my medication, I have a harder time adjusting, but can focus better. When I am off it, I can’t focus, but can do more things at once.


A: How does this affect your life at school?

K: I do have some social issues when I am on my medication, but like I said, I can focus a lot more and do my school work. When I don’t take my medication, I am more social. Also, when I’m not on my medication, I am more confident, or at least feel it. There are more people like me at my private school, and it makes me feel more comfortable because we have similar interests and speak similar terms, if that makes sense.


A: How does this affect your life in relationships with your friends? How about family?

K: It doesn’t change much in my eyes. I suppose starting relationships with friends is a little more difficult. I am an emotional person, but it is not easy for me to talk about my emotions. I don’t like sharing them with other people because I don’t want to cause emotional distress for other people. I don’t like making people feel sad.


A: You are quite empathic! What other areas in your life do you feel most confident?

K: I am most confident in academics, knowledge of historical events, and video game knowledge.


A: What areas in your life do you wish to improve?

K: I always feel like people are judging me. I assume that everyone judges, but I know they don’t. I think that it’s a personal thing. I want to feel less judgement.


A: Do you have any advice for others who live with autism?

K: Sure! Stay in school, don’t do drugs, and drink your milk. Try and think positive in life-that is really how you end up on top. Try and be more social because I promise there are people that are like you, even if it doesn’t seem like there are. Try and reach out to other people who have similar interests. I started a video game club in middle school and had to turn people away because it got too big!  Most importantly, never try to be someone you are not.

The Cast and Crew of ‘Outlander’ Reveal Their Favorite Filming Locations

From my favorite book series by Diana Gabaldon to the t.v. version of “Outlander” that makes me want more from these talented actors…Take a peek at a few of these gorgeous on-site filming locations provided by the Travel + Leisure site.  http://www.travelandleisure.com/culture-design/tv-movies/outlander-cast-and-crew-favorite-locations?iid=sr-link1#intro

Kindle Scout: Yay or Nay?

Get the straight scoop on the program from author Victoria Strauss below, and decide if this is the best route to publishing for you.

Kindle Scout: The Pros and Cons of Amazon’s New Crowdsourced Publishing Program

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Yesterday, Amazon’s brand-new crowdsourced publishing program, Kindle Scout, opened for voting by the public.The concept is pretty simple:

Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

Authors can submit their full manuscripts of 50,000 words or more (including cover art, various metadata items, and an author photo), about 5,000 words of which are posted on the Kindle Scout website for a 30-day “campaign”. Readers can then browse books and nominate their favorites. If a manuscript they’ve voted for gets published, they receive a free ebook.

Things authors should note:

  • Amazon provides no editing, copy editing, proofreading, or cover art/illustration. Your book will be published exactly as you submit it.
  • Submissions are exclusive for 45 days from the date you submit your manuscript. No shopping your ms. elsewhere during that time.
  • Submitted manuscripts must meet content and eligiblity guidelines. Currently, only Romance, Mystery and Thriller, and SF/Fantasy are eligible.
  • Crowdsourcing? Not so much. Authors are encouraged to mobilize their networks for voting (which kind of undermines the notion that manuscripts will rise to the top on merit–a perennial problem of crowdsourced ventures, along with the potential for gaming the system). Mere vote numbers, however, don’t determine what gets published. Per the FAQ, “Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.”
  • If you’re attracted by the promise of “featured Amazon marketing”, here’s what it actually consists of: “Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.” Key word here: “eligible.” In other words, no promises.
  • If you’re not selected for publication, you must request removal of your work from the Kindle Scout site. Otherwise, your campaign page will remain online.
  • By submitting, you agree in advance to the terms of the Kindle Press publishing agreement. These terms are not negotiable. So before you submit, be sure you’re comfortable with them. (If Amazon chooses not to publish your ms., you’re automatically released).

So, what about that publishing agreement?

Overall, it’s decent. The grant of rights (for ebook and audio editions only–though see below) renews every five years, but you can request reversion at the end of any five-year term if you’ve earned less than $25,000 in royalties during the term, or at any time after your two-year publication anniversary if you’ve earned less than $500 in the previous 12 months. Royalties are 50% of net for ebooks and 25% of net for audiobooks, paid within 60 days of the end of the month. And of course, there’s the $1,500 advance.

Things authors should note:

  • The grant of rights is a bit more sweeping than it appears:
    • The grant of rights includes translation rights. If these are exercised by Amazon, your royalty drops to 20% of net. (On the plus side, if Amazon has not exercised or licensed these rights within two years, you can request that they be reverted.)
    • Amazon can license to third parties any of the rights you’ve granted. You get 75% of net proceeds for foreign-language books licensed to third parties, and 50% of net proceeds for any other format.
    • The grant of rights allows Amazon not just to publish and/or license ebooks and audiobooks, but to “create condensed, adapted, abridged, interactive and enhanced editions of your Work, and include your Work in anthology or omnibus editions.”
  • For “subscription or other blended fee programs” (for instance, Kindle Unlimited), net revenue “will be determined in accordance with the standard revenue allocation methods for that program.” So be sure you’re aware of what those are.
  • Amazon “may” register copyright for you, but is not required to do so.
  • As always, Amazon maintains complete discretion and control, and can make decisions and changes without telling you. “You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.” (my emphasis) These are not sentences you’ll find in a typical publishing contract.

So should authors rush to submit their unpublished novels?

On the plus side, there’s the advance (money up front is nice), the possibility of subrights sales, the promotional boost that published books will receive from the selection process–at least while the program is new–and whatever promotions Amazon may (not necessarily will–see above) undertake for individual books. Amazon’s on-site promotions (as distinct from its email promotions, which can be spammy; you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten an Amazon email promotion for your own book) are incredibly powerful, and can have a huge impact on sales numbers–though that effect doesn’t necessarily last past the promotion itself. It’s possible, also, that gaining a toehold in Amazon’s publishing ecosystem could eventually open the door to one of Amazon Publishing’s traditional imprints–for some authors, at least.

On the other hand, Kindle Scout seems to occupy an uneasy middle ground between publishing and self-publishing, embracing characteristics of both while offering the benefits of neither. As with a traditional publisher, you must agree to an exclusive contract that takes control of certain of your rights–but you don’t get the editing, proofing, artwork, or any of the other financial investments that a traditional publisher would provide. As with self-publishing, your book is published exactly as you submit it, with no developmental input or support–but you don’t have control of pricing and you receive a smaller percentage of sales proceeds than you would with KDP.

For Amazon, Kindle Scout is super-low risk publishing with the potential for substantial yield–not just from books that prove popular but from the influx of new users to its website. For authors, it’s the usual dilemma: does what you may gain outweigh what you don’t get, and what you must give up?

As always, don’t rush in. Read and understand the Kindle Scout publishing agreement, and be sure you’re comfortable with the other conditions to which you’re agreeing by submitting your manuscript. Be realistic in your expectations–not just of the possibility of publication, but of what might result if you’re selected.

And please–don’t spam your entire social network with requests for votes.

UPDATE, 10/30/14: Amazon’s right to ebooks and audiobooks is exclusive, but I’ve been asked whether the Kindle Scout publishing agreement would allow authors to self-publish in print. The answer would appear to be “yes”. Here’s the relevant language (my emphasis): “All rights not expressly granted to us in this Agreement (including the right to publish print editions) are reserved for your sole use and disposition.”

Also, here’s author Benjamin Sobieck’s first impressions of his Kindle Scout campaign. He makes some interesting observations.

UPDATE, 12/3/14: Just four weeks after Kindle Scout officially launched, the first books have been selected for publication. That seems incredibly fast. I wish Amazon were more transparent about stats, so we could know how many books were submitted to the program and how many readers participated.

UPDATE 1/20/15: It’s been confirmed to me that at least some Kindle Scout winners do receive editorial suggestions and cover assistance.

UPDATE 7/16/15: Still more on editing: according to author Victoria Pinder, whose book was chosen for the program, “The Kindle Scout winners all talk to each other, and we’ve all received edits. Some people received some heavy developmental editing. Truthfully, I didn’t….The team still found quite a few things I needed to do to polish and clean in the manuscript so I still had editing. I can also say more than one set of eyes read my manuscript from the Kindle Scout team. The editor comments were done on different dates with different names.”

Are we All Right or Alright?

A Merriam-Webster post

All Right or Alright?

Which is Correct, and When?

All right, everyone: listen up.

If you were listening when your English teacher said that, you probably learned that all right is the only way to write the word that is also sometimes spelled alright. Pete Townshend preferred the tighter version when he wrote the lyrics to The Who’s famous song, The Kids are Alright, and James Joyce thought alright was better (in one instance out of 38) for Ulysses too.

Pete and James weren’t trying to impress your English teacher, obviously.

If you are, you’ll do as most writers do and stick to all right. It is by far the more common styling in published, edited text. But alright does have its defenders, and instances of alright abound in informal writing.

And what’s not to like, really? It’s an efficient little version, and it looks right at home with a bunch of other common words — already, although, altogether, almost, always. What’s up with the lack of English-teacher love for alright?

It’s all about history: English spelling was fluid for a very long time, and the words all right, already, although, and the others had various forms over several hundred years — with spaces, hyphens, alternate vowels, one l, two l’s — until the 18th century when they settled into the spellings that we recognize today. Only all right developed a variant modern spelling after that settling. Alright dates — in literature anyway — to Mark Twain circa 1865. Which makes it a bit of an upstart. And lexical upstarts don’t tend to win popularity contests.

Some people assert that there’s a difference in meaning, that “The answers were all right” means that all the answers were correct, and that “The answers were alright” means that the answers were adequate or satisfactory. If you like that distinction you can use it, but the fact is that “The answers were all right” can mean either that the answers were all correct or that they were satisfactory. All right can — and does — do everything that alright does, and it has the added bonus of making your English teacher happy.

Which leads us to this concluding recommendation: use alright if you like it and don’t care that it’s not the favored form. There’s nothing essentially wrong with it. Use all right if you need people to know that you know what’s all right — at least according to your English teacher (and a lot of other folks).

A “Mandate” To Keep Distance From Self-Published Authors?

Will Traditional Publishing Retain Its Dominance by Mandating That Its Authors Keep Their Distance from Self-Published Authors?

Imagine my dismay this week to discover that one of the Big Five houses has a policy that bars its authors from endorsing print-on-demand books. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Traditional publishing actively works to position itself against nontraditional publishing yet has no issue whatsoever with scooping up self-published success stories. Double standard? Yes.

I’ve written previously about discrimination against POD here, and against independently published authors here, but this takes things to a whole new level.

That a traditional publisher would institute a policy against blurbing POD books suggests a few things:

1) They’re equating print-on-demand with self-publishing. Inaccurate. Many self-published books are not print-on-demand, and many traditionally published books are flipped to POD status, oftentimes as soon as a year following publication. During my years at Seal Press, I sat in on countless meetings where we decided, based on sluggish sales, which books should become print-on-demand, since it makes no business sense whatsoever to reprint 500 books (what offset printing requires to benefit from economies of scale) for titles that aren’t moving. And I know for a fact that the big houses practice this as well.

2) They’re operating from the worst kind of scarcity mentality. They must believe that endorsing POD (or self-published) books will shine a negative light on their authors. Guess what, Big Five—you are shining a negative light on yourselves with your own acquisitions choices: turning Duck Dynasty into a literary dynasty and publishing such standouts as Growing Up Duggar (even before the recent scandal, this should have been red-flagged as a problem book) and Fifty Shades of Grey (which admittedly made Random House tons of money, but does anyone really think this was a good series?).

Peruse the deals listed on Publishers Marketplace any given week, and you’ll cringe at some of what the big houses are buying. I’ll never forget what one New York literary agent said to me back when I worked for Seal Press about a book she’d sold to a big house that she knew had little literary worth: she called it “cannon fodder.” So help me, god, I thought, the day I acquire something I consider cannon fodder should be the day I get up and walk out. To this day, I’ve never felt that way about any book I’ve acquired or published.

3) They’re distancing themselves from their own bad decisions. Simon & Schuster has a self-publishing imprint called Archway, run by Author Solutions (of very questionable ethics who’ve been sued by authors and whose track record you can Google), which, awkwardly and oddly, is owned by Random House/Penguin. (Apparently Simon & Schuster has no qualms about the self-publishing arm of their business being owned by their biggest and direct traditional competitor.) One of the great promises of Archway is that you might get published by Simon & Schuster—if your book sells well enough. But their traditionally published authors apparently can’t and won’t blurb you. So there you go—you’re the pissed-upon little sibling. They happily run a self-publishing imprint, but they do whatever they can to distance that “subset” from the preferred children.

I wish I could just take a breath here to calm myself, but I’m angry. Why? Because this information came from a traditionally published author after she’d already agreed to blurb a She Writes Press book. She checked in with her editor, who pulled the plug. And it’s clearly not because the book (which, she said, “should have been traditionally published”), which we intend to print offset, is POD. Instead, the traditionally published author said, it boils down to a difference in values, because she fundamentally believes that publishers should invest in authors, and that authors should not invest in themselves.

Kamy and I started She Writes Press with the goal of being transparent about what we do and how we do it: the author pays to publish but retains drastically higher royalties. For years I have witnessed traditional houses cutting all kinds of creative deals—where authors pay production and print runs; where creative royalty splits are negotiated. This is not new. And yet being up front about it automatically classifies us, in some people’s minds, as “vanity press,” a term I despise, by the way. That traditional publishing is actively engaged in undermining emerging and valid models by slandering them propagates a lack of transparency in the industry. As one fellow publisher (who cuts hybrid deals) recently told me, “We don’t like to advertise it, because, you know, of the stigma.” I suppose the author who invests in herself behind closed doors qualifies for endorsement consideration without having to justify her process.

I’ve been arguing since the conception of She Writes Press that what should matter about a book is how well written it is—not the author platform or brand or how many followers a would-be author has. And yet, from a business perspective, of course it makes sense that this is what publishers today must focus on—or risk decimation. I left traditional publishing after a particularly symbolic experience, when I was actively discouraged from acquiring a book I believed in wholeheartedly but then met with excessive enthusiasm (and a large advance to back it) for a proposal propelled by a fancy agent, celebrity endorsements, and a whole lotta hot air. It wasn’t cannon fodder, and it ended up doing well for the company, but I’d compromised. I left three months later.

If you are asked to blurb a book, what should matter is whether you believe in it. If you don’t, you don’t blurb it. If you care enough about the author or the book, you offer your endorsement. End of story. It’s your choice. A blurb is a gift to the author. Authors do not pay for blurbs. They work hard to get them because the industry tells authors that they matter, that they sell books. She Writes Press authors have scored amazing blurbs—blurbs from New York Times best-selling authors and champions of people’s dreams. A publishing company, in my opinion, does not have the right to mandate whom its authors advocate in an attempt to control its reputation or to distance itself from “the other.” To do so smacks of elitism, one of traditional publishing’s lasting and detrimental flaws. We’ve already arrived at a place where people judge books on the writing, not on how those books make it into the marketplace. It’s time for traditional publishing to catch up, to pull its head out of the sand. That it’s lost sight of publishing’s mandate—to champion good books—speaks to its values. And those are values I certainly don’t share.

Expanding Your Creative Ability

Writing Exercises That May Help You to Become More Creative

Posted: 19/12/2013 10:53 GMT Updated: 17/02/2014 10:59 GMT

As writers there are times for all of us when we hit that brick wall formally known as writers block. No matter how much work or studious contemplation you push onto a page, it just doesn’t seem to be working. If you spend lots of time agonising over every decision in your book, maybe you’re over-thinking it. If you have trouble finding the path, perhaps you need to shake things up.

Well, never fear. Writing should be a labour, but a labour of love. You should at least enjoy some degree of your writing so here are some quick exercises that may help you to become more creative. Find your writing space, wear whatever you’re most comfortable in…

Go out and do a spot of people watching
Sit yourself down in a cafe (or a bar. Caffeine, alcohol, pick your drug of choice) and take a notepad and pen or a laptop, however you prefer to write. Then look at the people around you. Try to think up their story. Ask yourself some questions. Why are they there that day? Are they alone? If so, why? Do they look happy? What does the way they drink or eat their food say about them? Very soon you’ll be whipping up a character around these strangers that you can easily transport into a book. Looking at someone and thinking of their little idiosyncrasies and some sort of back-story may help to really enrich your characters and make them seem more human.

Trying too hard to create the perfect ending?

Why make it perfect? Why tie up every loose end when that’s just what the reader expects? Why not shock the reader (and yourself) by ending it in some brutal, cold fashion out of the blue. I mean, let’s be honest… it’s a method that seems to be working well for George R.R Martin. This may make the book marketable because the ending is so different and it may even force you to want to write a sequel as your mind tries to solve the damage that you yourself have inflicted on the characters and your audience.

Get a little experimental

Was your story promising to start with but now dwindling? Why not do something interesting? Play around with the timeline or format. Introduce unexpected images and twists that seem arbitrary and, as time goes on, find ways to link them into some sort of similar theme. Why not change genre half way through? Start it as a rom com that then turns in to a thriller unexpectedly mid sentence to keep yourself and the audience guessing. If you’re excited about the plot, you’ll want to write it and keep writing. Draw out mind maps and try to really visualise where you’re going and how to get there. Try to experience some of the things in the story (as long as they’re not dangerous to anyone or illegal) and try to get a real feeling for what’s happening in case it beings about some inspiration.

Stranger than Fiction

If you want to write but have trouble finding something to write about I can honestly recommend that the news is a great place to find inspiration. There are so many wacky news stories that come out each day just waiting for you to come along and inject a little imagination into.

Are your plot lines too thin?
If you’re someone who has lots of different novel ideas, almost too many, then why not try to think of ways to cram them together. Do you feel there’s not enough action? Is there not much going on in your current novel? Why not consider the possibility of joining your current story with old, abandoned drafts of other stories you’ve worked on. If they can work within the same narrative then this may be the key to helping you create a well-rounded story.

Write regularly, write often.
The more you write, the better you’ll become. When you’re not working on a story why not try your hand at blogging or poetry writing. Why not write short stories on simple themes. Write the story of your name and how you came to be called that. Write about the best moment of your life. Write about the last thing that made you laugh. Maybe you’ll find that you can use bits of these short stories in a bigger story.

Create a back-story for every major character
Think your characters seem a little one dimensional? Well before writing why not sit down and write a page or two in your notes about that character. Where were they born? What childhood experiences have made them who they are today? What are their fears? What is their favourite food? What are their little idiosyncrasies that make them unique? So they have a stutter? Do they “um” and “ahh” when they speak because they’re anxious about what they say? Do they start tapping their fingers on the table when they begin to feel anxious? Always remember to make your characters human so that when your reader is reading the text they feel like they’re almost interacting with real people. It makes for a much better read than cardboard characters. Even if it’s just you who knows the back-story it can deepen a character. In fact, here is an excellent questionnaire that I found on Tumblr that may help you to form fully rounded and interesting characters.

In answering the above questions it may help you to really shape your characters. You can make things up or base the character on someone you know. Once the characters really feel human and have their own characteristics this may make them more interesting to write and certainly more interesting to read.

Sit on that brick wall: ignore your work for a while.
Why not try avoiding your work for a while? As we all know, inspiration hits at the strangest of times. Maybe if you’re forcing yourself to write then it’s not going to come organically. Do other things and maybe inspiration will come naturally to you in time.