Are You Ready To Publish?

The world of publishing is changing. And you know this unless you just awoke from a long 10 year nap.

There are more options available to writers today than ever before. 
The e-publishing entrepreneurs have changed the way we see book publishing. 
Writers around the world rejoice. Authors with no platform, or with a stack of rejections can publish their books on their own.
Long time authors holding rights revisions can now do something affordable and effective to revitalize their out-of-print books.
And the publishers can do the same. There’s new life to backlists. I recently had a four year old title, The Wedding Dress, hit the New York Times Bestseller list.
If you’re not published yet, traditionally or independently, you have all kinds of options. But you must ask yourself, “Am I ready?”
Just because you can be published doesn’t mean you should be published.
I know, I know, it’s so hard to wait when you’ve been working on a book for months or perhaps years. 
You’ve edited that thing to death and your crit partners have read ad nauseam and refuse to read it “one more time.” 
You are ready to get your book out there. After all, you love your story. It’s your baby. But traditional publishers have failed to see it’s merits. So, you sneak over to Amazon’s CreateSpace and think, “Hmm.. I could just publish it myself.”
I love your entrepreneurial thinking. Going outside the box and finding a way to tell your story is key to being a great author. 
I did something similar back in ’02 when I sold my little romance, This Time, to an e-publisher. No one had ever heard of a Nook or Kindle back then but I thought, “Even if one person reads it and enjoys it, one person outside my circle of friends, then it’s worth it.” 
While it’s a sweet story, it’s not my best writing. It was only the second book I’d ever written. I’ve learned so much since then.
There are more things to consider about writing than “being published.” Or that the publishers just don’t “get” or like your story.
Publishers have to consider their market. They must give something to the sales team that they can pitch to a bookseller in a few short minutes. If that.
Publishers have to consider their own business goals and brands. Your story might be fantastic in every way but not a product that fits the vision and goals of a publisher. 
There are times I’m not sure I can come up with a high concept, pitchable story idea that will fire-up a sales team. So I consult with my writing partner, my agent, my editor and on occasion, my dog. She’s a good listener.
For every indie success story such as J. A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking there are a hundred Noname Jones and WhoAreYou Smith with books languishing in e-publishing la-la land.
Indie books, above all books, it could be argued, need to be a cut above. Why? Because the competition to be seen is incredible. 
If you are considering independent publishing, or even going with a small publishing house, consider these things:
  1. Rewrite your book. Serious. Don’t just edit and “fix.” Rewrite. Books need to be crafted. And they are not written, they are rewritten. Fork out the money for a substantive edit. Then for a line edit. What’s the difference? A substantive edit is also called a macro edit. It’s a wide review of the story and characters from a trained eye to see if all the components work. You need more than advance readers in order to craft a good story. Readers often don’t have a critical eye. They overlook inconsistencies. They don’t understand craft. A skilled editor can help with characterization, plot, symbols and metaphors. But again, a macro edit is a sweeping, top-down view of your story.  I once worked with a private client who’d been through many professional “editors.” While they helped her with grammar and perhaps some minor elements of the story, they provided no services to her with story crafting. Her story and premise were riddled with holes. So find someone to help you craft your book. 
  2. Hire a good line editor. Also called a micro editor. I love line editors. They really get into the “weeds” of the story. They focus on sentences and words where a substantive editor focuses on scenes, chapters, story and characters. Line editors can really help shore up a story and fine tune minute details.
  3. Hire a good cover artist. Unless you’re a skilled artist, don’t try to do the cover yourself.   I hate when I see a poor quality cover on an indie book. It makes me not want to read it. There are a lot of skilled artist who will create a cover for a reasonable price. Also, research components of a good cover. Writers usually want way too much detail. But covers are really visual concepts of what the story is about. Covers should convey a feeling. It’s true, books are judged by the cover.
  4. Pricing. The free verses cheap debate. Should authors give their work away for free? Aren’t we worthy to be paid for our labor? But free often gets the consumer’s attention. But so does cheap. Latest news I’ve heard is $.99 and $1.99 are fair and solid prices for new indie authors. But do your research. 
  5. Build your tribe and social media platforms. Build relationships with other writers, with readers, with publishers. Be a friend. Be a fan. Be a supporter. Talk about others as much as you talk about yourself. I know when readers or other writers shout out to their social media venues about my books, I’m more than happy to do it for them in return. If I like a book, I post about it. I write a good review. Get involved in the writing community. Networking is the key to just about everything. Publishing, especially indie publishing, is no exception.
  6. Set aside at least $1,000 to $3,000 for promotion. You just have to do it. Network with indie authors who have experience with promotion. Consider Book Bub and other indie promotional sites.
  7. Pray. Be patient. Trust the Lord’s timing is perfect for you.
I hope these help to help. Remember, no book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble is better than a bad book. 🙂

*** 

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.
Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel, The Wedding Chapel landed on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.
Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

Crafting The First Line of Your Novel

By Rachel Hauck

There are times we don’t want to craft a novel. We just want to write one and be done with it.

But those books are closet books no one wants to buy or read. Those are the books that draw rejection slips. 

Books are crafted. They have to be thought out, at some level, and orchestrated to some glorious, perfect end.

Books must be a continual flow of the story with daring obstacles that knock the protagonist off course, that challenge is resolve to get to the bottom of the story problem.

In the midst of the story there are overarching themes and questions. The infamous “story question” is the rudder to you vessel.

Will the heroine achieve her dream to star on stage and screen?

Can true love last through the decades? Or will it fade away?

Can one wedding dress be worn by four women and never fade, wear out or need to be altered?

There are other questions I ask as I’m writing:

What can the protagonist do in the end she couldn’t do in the beginning? 

What does she want? 

What is this book about? 

Why? I ask “Why?” a lot. When ever I make a declarative statement I follow with a why to get to the deeper meaning.

But all of these MUST be asked and answered in some form to really craft the best possible opening line.

The opening line must indicate some truth, problem or question about the story. It must set the hook, draw the reader into the story.

Far too often I read opening lines that are merely a physical action to begin the opening scene. 

“Judy waved to her neighbor as she walked into the house.” 

Okay… unless she’s in garden wars with the neighbor and the next line is, “She dreamed of haunting that woman on a dark and stormy night,” waving to the neighbor isn’t all that engaging.

It doesn’t draw me into the question, the emotion of the story.

Let’s look at Judy in the midst of a yard war with her neighbor.

“Judy waved to that crazy Linda as she made her way inside the house. If that woman stepped one foot in her yard this gardening season, she’d haunt her like a ghost.”

Now we get a sense that something has gone on between the two women. And frankly, I’m a bit intrigued. What’s going on? 

Opening lines must set the emotion and feel for our books. 

From Conversations with a Book Therapist, Susan May Warren offers this advice:

A Voice. I don’t love starting with Dialogue, because we don’t know who is talking, but sometimes it can be effective in first person.
For example, “Call me Ishmael.” (Moby Dick), or maybe something from contemporary literature, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into if, if you want to know the truth.” (The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger).
This works because we are immediately introduced to the character and get into their head. Ultimately, we are wooed by their personality.
Rachel Here: I’m not a fan of opening in dialog either, but I opened Once Upon A Prince with, “What did you say?” because I felt like it drew the reader in to the same question as the heroine. “Yea, what did you say?”

Author great Gabriel Garcia Marquez said this about the first line:

“One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph.. in the first paragraph, you solve most of the problems with your book. The theme is defined, the style, the tone. At least in my case, the paragraph is a kind of sample of what the rest of the book is going to be.”  Gabriel Garcia Marquez…1992 Nobel Prize for Literature (100 years of solitude).  Sold over 10 million copies.

Persona. Start your story with the description of someone iconic. Someone that stands out in our minds.
“There once was a boy name Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it.” (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis.)
RH: Isn’t that a great line?!
Or, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell).
Note that both these voices are omniscient, but you could build a strong character introduction through the voice of a POV character.
Consider the opening to John Irving’s, A Prayer for Owen Meany. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God.”
If the character will have a profound impact on your story or your POV character, perhaps start with a snapshot of that character.
Reminiscing.  Many coming of age stories start with a step into the past, some statement that sums up where the character finds themselves today.
Susie did this in Everything’s Coming up Josey. “It’s important to acknowledge that Chase was right and if it weren’t for him I might have never found my answers.”
Basically, it’s a summary of the past, spoken from the present. And the rest of the book is about proving or revealing the impact of this reminiscence.
Here’s one from The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. “In my younger and my more vulnerable years my father gave some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
A Statement. I like to start stories with a sort of starting place. A statement of opinion or fear or hope.
Jane Austen does this in Pride and Prejudice, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
When you make a statement, you are setting up the story question in a novel. You’ll spend the rest of the book making a comment about or proving your statement.
 I did this in How To Catch A Prince. My opening line, “With each passing day, she remembered she had a secret,” set the stage for a huge secret the heroine harbored in her heart.
Secrets always draw us in, don’t they? What is the secret! We want to know. 
In Princess Ever After, my opening line was a statement and it indicated exactly what I wanted the reader to know about my heroine at the beginning of the story:
“She’d found bliss. Perhaps even true love. Behind the wheel of a ’71 Dodge Challenger restored to slant-6 perfection.”
This line says my heroine wants for nothing. She’s found her passion, her life’s goal. Why would she need anything else. Why would she want to go anywhere else? 
Well, the story is about challenging that very same opening line!
Let your opening line set the tone of your book. It should grab hold of the theme, the want, the story question in some way. 
Change up the way you do it now.
Instead, open with what they are thinking, feeling, experiencing. 
I’ve bought books based on the opening line. And rarely am I disappointed. 

Here are a few first lines from some award winning authors:

“She’d come 3000 miles to burn to death.” by Susan May Warren
Susie says, “I like this because we are immediately worried, but also, wonder what she’s doing there.  It makes the reader want more.” From Where There’s Smoke—out in June. 
“Gabe Talmadge felt the backside of his navel rubbing against his spine. An interesting sensation, he thought before losing consciousness.” by Robin Lee Hatcher.
Robin says, “I think it works because the reader knows in a few words that Gabe is in desperate circumstances. I love it for that same reason.” From The Shepherd’s Voice (winner of the RITA Award) 
“The Kansas sky matched Piper Kendall’s mood—gray and stormy.” by Deborah Raney.
Deb says, “We learn where the story is set, what the day is like, how the character feels, and I think we also learn a little about her just by hearing her unusual name.” From a work in progress, Going Once, Going Twice.

“Annabelle Grayson McCutchens stared at the dying man beside her and wished, as she had the day she married him, that she loved her husband more.” by Tamera Alexander.
Tammy says, “It encapsulates the heroine’s dire circumstance and her most urgent regret in that moment.” From her novel Revealed.

“When it comes to burning bridges, I am the Queen of Kerosene.” by Julie Lessman
Julie says, “I like it because I think it’s somewhat funny and pretty much sets the tone for the rest the book as far as being a story about forgiveness.” From Isle of Hope

“There was a time in Africa the people could fly.” by Sue Monk Kidd 
Great opening—sparks interest and makes you want to read on to see how the author answers that unspoken question. From Invention of Wings.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
—George Orwell, 1984

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
—Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)


*** 

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.
Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel, The Wedding Chapel landed on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.
Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

Writing the Pain

by Marcia Lee Laycock

Anne Rice wrote – “When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.”

But why do it? Why go to places in our lives that are painful. Why put it on the page?

I recently attended the First Nations Christian Writers’ Conference in Winnipeg Manitoba. The first of its kind in Canada, it was attended by aboriginal people from all over the country. The First Nations Christian Writers’ Anthology was launched and several of the authors published in it were there to read.

There was a lot of pain in their stories. A young man wrote about the abuse he suffered in a foster home. A woman wept as she described finding her sister hanging by an electrical cord in a bathroom. Yes, there was a lot to make one shudder. But there was also hope in those stories because they did not stop with the pain, they went beyond it.

Several years ago I heard Eli Wiesel tell the story about the catalyst that made him write about his experience during the Holocaust. After WW2, he had gone to Paris to try and find surviving members of his family. He got a job as a journalist and on one occasion had to interview Francois Mauriac, the famous Christian writer.

When Mauriac spoke about Jesus Wiesel exploded and told him to stop. He said that not far from where they were sitting atrocious things had happened to his people. “And we have to words,” he said. “We have no words.”

Mauriac was deeply moved and responded – “You must find the words. You must write this story.” Wiesel began to write and the result was some of the most powerful writing produced about the horrors of that era. Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for that work.

Francois Mauriac was right. We must find the words to express those things that are ugly and evil in order that they do not defeat us. We must get to the other side of them. This is the writer’s acknowledgement of stewardship – the stewardship of his/her gift and talent. 1Corinthians 4:2 says – “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” I believe we have been given a trust as writers and we must be faithful to it. To make our lives of use to others we must be willing to touch those parts of ourselves that are universal – the pain and the joy of being human.

Madeleine L’Engle once said – “It is not that what is, is not enough, for it is; it is that what is has been disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place.”

We do not write about the ugliness, the darkness, the things of despair, in order to glorify them, but in order to put them in their place and to recognize that there is redemption of all that is ugly and evil in this world, because of what happened on a cross at the base of a hill in a tiny country then called Palestine.

Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian song writer and poet said it well: “you’ve got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” 
****

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central
Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult
daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award
for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed
in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has
contributed to several anthologies, including the Hot Apple Cider books. Her
work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark
Buchanan. 

Abundant
Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords
or on Amazon.
It is also now available in Journal
format on Amazon. 
Her
most recent release is A
Traveler’s Advisory
, Stories of God’s Grace
Along the Way.

Sign up to
receive her devotional column, The
Spur

Guest Post – One Form of Heroism by Jane Kirkpatrick

I’m sure you’ll be blest by this guest post by Jane Kirkpatrick. Be sure to check out her wonderful historical novels.
“And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.” Dean Koontz, The City.

For a long time I’ve avoided Dean Koontz books. I thought they would be so suspenseful I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night but my writing friends said he was a classic writer. Deciding that the new year means doing new things (“you must do the things you think you cannot do,” Eleanor Roosevelt) I decided to take the plunge and read a Dean Koontz book. The City was wonderful. And the quote above had me closing the pages and pondering.

I know so many “heroes” that meet this criteria. Most of them lived a hundred years ago. Emma Giesy whose husband drowned before her eyes while rescuing a stranger. It took her awhile, but she began to live without bitterness. Letitia Carson, a former slave who persevered despite the unlikelihood that she would win her lawsuit against a white justice system. Jane Sherar who found meaning through children, her neighbors, the Warm Springs people, when her hope for children of her own was never realized. Each of these and many more have taught me much about heroism as defined by Koontz.

I know such men and women are out there today, too. Some call them hardy; others call them pioneers. But enduring a hard time isn’t enough by this definition of heroism. It’s the state of mind that makes the difference, the courage to live without bitterness; the strength to persevere without reward, the resolve to find meaning when meaning seems most elusive.

New Year’s resolutions have never appealed to me, but I’m going to hang on to this particular definition as I write about the people who populate my days. And I’m going to remember these words when my mind might dissolve into bitterness or I’m too tired to persevere or when life seems meaningless…and yes, sometimes it does. I’ll remember that many have gone before me (you as readers, I might add) and as a result, I will take a deep breath, look out my window at my labyrinth and speak a Mary Oliver prayer of gratitude: “It is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in a broken world.”
****

Jane Kirkpatrick is the NY Times bestselling author of 29
books, most of which are based on the lives of historical women. A Wisconsin
native and former mental health director, she’s a two-time Oregon Book Award
Finalist, A three-time WILLA Literary Award winner, a CAROL Award winner, Spur
award finalist and winner of the Wrangler award from the Western Heritage
Center. Many of her titles have been Book of the Month and other international
book club selections. 
Her latest novel is TheMemory Weaver based on the life of Eliza Spalding Warren, a Whitman Mission
Massacre survivor. After 27 years on a remote homestead in Oregon, Jane and her
husband Jerry now live with two dogs outside of Bend, Oregon. 
See Jane’s other books at www.jkbooks.com.