If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Publishing Before Your Time

I’m unpublished in the novel market, and I’ve wondered what I will do if my WIP is rejected by agents and big six publishers. There are many reasons why a manuscript doesn’t sell to this market. One reason is a product that doesn’t categorize onto an easily recognizable shelf such as maybe the case of cross-genre novels. Another reason, the subject matter doesn’t fit the current popular market craze.

If those reasons alone keep an unpublished author’s book from New York fame and fortune, the e-publishing route is the logical means to get it to the marketplace. The problem of course is that unless those entities give a writer a clear-cut reason for rejecting a manuscript, the writer has no way to know. It’s rare when an agent takes the time to give criticism or advice. Their replies are usually the preprinted, form rejection letter (or email).

I’m well aware of the change in the market away from big six publishing and yet, I respect those publishers because of the publication quality. Although I may not like a book, the reason for my distaste isn’t the writing or the lack of editing or artwork, it’s usually just me not relating to the author’s work—and there is no accounting for taste—appropriately so.

My reading list is mostly comprised of midlist authors of mystery series. Reading many series, tends to make my reading list short and deep because of limited reading time. However, I recently started varying the novels I read by including bestselling authors and newly published authors by small press or self e-publishing venues—two ends of the publishing spectrum. I’ve read some wonderful books by accomplished writers in both categories, but of the latter group and perhaps because of the contrast between the two ends of the spectrum, the imperfections of newly published authors by small press or self e-publishing venues appear starkly to me.

I tend to be a forgiving reader, but it occurs to me that perhaps these writers have been published before their time. It’s hard for writers to admit that they have been rejected by agents due to their lack of mastering craft. I found the following faults in the latter groups’ writing.

• Breaks in POV and head hopping
• Omniscient voice creeping into narrative
• Overly verbose language (especially in genre novels)
• Inappropriate tense switching
• Use of impressive grad school words
• Lack of voice and characterization
• Unprofessional editing

Yes, the reasons are typical, and I’m sympathetic to these writers because I feel that although I’m a good conceptualist, I am still improving my craft, but unsympathetically, I won’t don blinders and negate reality. If I am rejected by the big six, I will seek critical and professional criticism of my work to find the reason for my rejection. If the reason is my writing, I’ll work on craft rather than lose readers because I’ve published before my time.

How have you determined to self e-publish your work?


Warren Bull said...

This is a timely blog for me. I recently put up on Kindle ABRAHAM LINCOLN FOR THE DEFENSE, which was already published as a paperback; HEARTLAND, which was a finalist in a national contest; and DEATH IN THE MOONLIGHT. All were professionally edited and dragged through critique groups. Still, I hesitated until I felt that all three would be good for my reputation as a writer.

I am still working on the formatting for Kindle but I have no doubts about the quality of my writing. I have been published so I have changed my goals from having a book published to having a career as an author. I would not publish just to be published.
Although there are wonderful self-published novels, there are still many books that show the flaws mentioned and others.

E. B. Davis said...

That's the key Warren--you have no doubts about your writing and shouldn't because you are an awesome writer. How do you know? Because you have been published professionally numerous times. I'm sure the blog made you second guess, and yet I don't think you fit the category of writer I'm talking about.

If I can't raise interest in my work by the big six, I think entering contests is a great way to find out where you stand among the competition--a route I will go, but a route you have already taken and have proven skills.

Self publishing for you, wasn't really taking a risk.

Steve Liskow said...

I agree with E.B. that all those errors in self-pubbed work shows that the writer wasn't really ready. I also agree with Warren that you know when it's time to take that step.

I've published a novel and several stories through traditional channels but 40 agents turned down my roller derby novel, the last one saying "I don't see anyone except the participants having the slightest interest in your story."

I self-pubbed the book two weeks ago. If you go that way, DIY editing and formatting are HUGE concerns. The positive side is that you have no deadlines and can take your time to do it "right." It also means that if you have other material ready to go, you don't have to wait a year to put that out there, too.

I pubbed my book two weeks ago and donated copies to the local roller derby auction Saturday. Now I have a signing at the November bout, and people are already contacting through my web site for more details.

Sometimes, you just have to jump into the deep end. But be sure you know how to swim before you do it.

E. B. Davis said...

That's another problem Steve. Multiple books sell better, so self published authors have an incentive to rush the second book into the marketplace. It's tempting to rush when you know the marketing statistics. Of course--having a short published in a MWA anthology--you have proof of your writing abilities--so I putting you out of this category with Warren.

Susan Schreyer said...

I guess I'll step up to the comment box, E.B., and offer my experience. I have never been professionally published and I have never won a contest. If you take those two as "requirements" for being ready to self-publish, then I jumped the gun.
Obviously, I don't believe they are requirements -- for reasons too lengthy and off topic to get into here. What drove me to self publish was not just one or two things -- like having a completed manuscript -- but exponentially more reason to do it than not. Did I have utter confidence in my writing? Heck, no. But writers, as are people in general, are full of self-doubt. Why did I put my book "out there" when I wasn't fully certain, then? Because "wait until it's ready" became an excuse. Because I loved my story, because I'd worked hard at improving my craft and because comments from readers, critique partners, agents & publisher who'd rejected it, and a professional editor or two made me think that it was a good story.
Essentially, a year ago I took a sweaty-handed leap of faith. As it turned out it was a great decision. Readers and reviews love Death By A Dark Horse and the two stories that have come after.
I don't regret my decision at all, and looking back I believe it was the best decision for me and my work for many reasons I never anticipated.

E. B. Davis said...

Susan, did you have your books professionally edited-as Steve suggested, and now that they are published, have they been professionally reviewed?

I'm glad you're comfortable in your decision, and that there were many factors in your decision. Having a completed manuscript though, doesn't mean anything. How many writers have them stacked in their cupboards (I have two!).

Even the best of writers revise and aren't satisfied with their work. But usually they are concerned with perfecting--being well past the basics, and my laundry list contains basics.

I wonder though, if there are self published authors who could kick themselves, realising only after the fact that they made the wrong decision. Of course, you can always don a pseudonym and try again!

Susan Schreyer said...

E.B, I did (and continue to)have my books professionally edited. It's necessary, regardless of how good you are. You'll miss all kinds of things because you're too close. Even professional editors miss things -- I think we can all agree to that.

My books have been reviewed. I haven't paid anyone to do it, if that's what qualifies as a professional review, but I do actively seek out reviewers.

I disagree that having a completed manuscript doesn't mean anything. It means a lot. I have heard (and believe it to be true) that of all the people who start writing a novel, only a very small percentage finish. It's that kind of persistence and determination that lead to success. Are you a better writer for having 2 manuscripts in the drawer? I'd bet good money on it. Are you ready to self publish? That I can't answer.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, I probably am a better writer for having gone through developing and writing two mss. Completing a ms means that you've been through the process and had the sticktuitiveness to finish. But that's all it means.

It doesn't mean that your writing is good, that your plot is flawless, that you've mastered pacing and characterization, in short it doesn't mean you are ready to publish.

And therein lies the problem. Too many writers think that just because they have finished a ms, it means it should be published.

I know I have a confidence problem, and yet, I'd rather err to modesty and err on over estimating my abilities.

Gigi Pandian said...

I recently made the decision to self-publish my mysteries. I made the decision after my first mystery won writing competitions, had multiple agents interested, and made the rounds of big publishers who had positive comments but decided my book didn't "fit" standard genre lines.

I knew it was important to work with a professional editor, so that's what I'm doing right now. It's the biggest start-up cost, but definitely worth it! Even though I love my critique partners, I believe an editor is essential for most of us.

I've set a publication date of August 2012 for my first mystery, ARTIFACT. That gives time both to do promo and also to get additional mysteries polished and can release them soon after one another.

E. B. Davis said...

Gigi-I put you in the same category as Warren and Steve. You've received professional feedback that your writing is worthy as assessed by agents/publishers and have won contests. Ann Charles did the same thing after winning the Daphne and having an agent. In both your cases--it probably was a no brainer decision-which is what I surmized when it doesn't fit on the "shelf." What subgenre or cross genre is your book?

Gigi Pandian said...

Thanks, E.B. That was my thinking. I write in a cozy voice, but multiple publishers said my mystery wasn't "cozy enough." I don't write craft mysteries, which are quite popular in the subgenre right now. Instead, I write international treasure hunt adventures. It's a combination I love, so it'll be fun to see what a wider audience thinks of it!

Susan Schreyer said...

Still disagreeing, E.B.. Writing is a process, and with each effort something is learned. But we're not talking about writing, per se, we're talking about publishing, and the reasons to self-publish. I can't honestly say that too many writers think they can publish because they've finished a manuscript. Certainly some do -- I don't have to be a mind reader to know that. But from discussions I've read on different sites, more people fall on the side of reluctance to publish than over-enthusiasm.

E. B. Davis said...

Your feedback from publishers is telling. The problem was obviously not in the writing. Which means that you probably are ready for primetime. Even if it fits onto the shelf, it may not be perceived as not quite enough this or that--it means they won't risk money on you. So I understand why you are self publishing, and it probably is a good decision.

Heather Graham wrote a treasure hunt novel based in Key West that I read. Is yours a mystery or suspense, and long is the ms?

E. B. Davis said...

Susan, yes we're talking about publishing. The problem though is that if the writing isn't to a professional level, a writer shouldn't be publishing because in the long run it will be detrimental to the writer's career. Better to wait and perfect, than publish too soon and perish.

I'm glad that most writers are relunctant to publish--they shouldn't rush into the game if they really don't recognize that their writing isn't on a professional level.

What I can't understand is why a small press will publish a book that isn't polished, making me wonder if even though their name is on the cover, if they have been paid by the author. Many are "full service" publishers. If you get my drift.

KB Inglee said...

I self published my first kid's novel in 2004 because I wanted a fast alternative to traditional publishing, and complete control of the manuscript. I wanted to have copies of it by tourest season 2005, and the characters and situations were historical, so I didn't want to argue with an editor.
A gazillion people read it for errors and I had the gallies back before someone noticed that the father was aged 4 when his son was born.
I was roundly criticized for self publishing, but it did what I needed. KB

E. B. Davis said...

Why was getting it out by the 2005 tourist season imperitive, KB?

The editing error though wasn't fatal. Yes, these things happen, but one mistake doesn't invalidate a publication if the rest is well written and the plot holds. It was also a mistake that wouldn't mislead readers. Obviously, the father couldn't have been 4 when he fathered a child.

Pauline Alldred said...

Will badly written books be rejected by the majority of readers? I'm not sure if all the numbers are in on that yet. Will younger readers buy books that have less than perfect prose because the theme or subject matter interests them? I'm not rushing to publish just to say I'm published but if writers publish without sufficient editing, that's the way it goes. How do non-writers see their books?

E. B. Davis said...

Good questions Pauline--and maybe I am overly sensitive since that's my medium.

I'm not talking "proper" English--but writing that doesn't have the obvious flaws that I listed in the blog. There are many authors who write on a professional level-but the writing isn't "proper," if you know what I mean.

Any readers out there?

Polly Iyer said...

Interesting post, EB. I admire all those who've taken the leap. I have two books published in another genre under a pseudonym, and I learned a lot from the four edits I received on each one. I have two excellent critique partners, both editors and teachers, who have worked with me endlessly. I hope I've offered them in return as much as they've offered me.

I'm ready to take the leap into self-publishing with my more mainstream books. I had a terrific agent for two years who loved what I wrote, but because I write edgy and my work didn't fit into what editors wanted, they were rejected with compliments. I've gone that route and am too old and cranky to go through it again. Besides, I have a number of books to put up independently that will need a little updating but are sold, imo and those of my critique partners. I can do my own covers--20+ years in advertising taught me something--if I can master Photoshop, a program certainly designed by sadists--so I feel like I can take the step. I'm still editing the first one I plan to put up.

Good for you Susan, Gigi, and Warren. I'm delighted to follow.

Polly Iyer said...

I mean updating but SOLID. I wish they were sold.

E. B. Davis said...

But Polly--you had an agent who loved your writing and you were a contender for the Dalphne Du Maurier award--you had confirmation that your writing was at a professional level. So, yes I think more power to you go self publish. But then, your writing has also sold to publishers, though in a different genre.

Get in Warren, Steve and Gigi corner. You are not in this category!

Unknown said...

I recently made the decision to self-publish, too. The more I investigated the indie avenue, the more I realized that it is an option, a deliberate choice that I can make for my career.

As writers we often exist in a bubble that only looks at how the publishing industry is changing, but consider another creative industry: fashion. A designer won't sustain a career from one dress or one collection. Some very well known designers started by making samples and giving them to models in exchange for work - and that's how they gained notice. I think it's important to polish our work and make it the best we can, but I also think there's a risk in allowing fear to keep us from actively pursuing the goals we've set for ourselves.

Like others, I gained feedback from contests and critique groups. Prior to publication I'm working with a professional editor. I plan to release DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY in 2012.

E. B. Davis said...

Did you try the query route first with agents and publishers, Diane? What about small press?

Unknown said...

My decision was as much based on what felt like near-misses with agents as it was on contest wins and consistently high scores. I queried one small press who changed to an agented/invited submission policy soon after. I was published by a small press in an anthology, but the creative control of indie suits my personality, which helped me make my ultimate decision.

Kaye George said...

There are two authors who have won Agathas (one of them multiple Agathas) who head hop within paragraphs. I've had to refuse to review several books put out by major publishers because they're so badly written. So, sorry, I don't agree with your list, E.B. Bad books are found everywhere and big house publishing is no guarantee! They've had to cut editing staff to the bone, from what I've heard, and a lot of books are suffering from that.

I think many indie publishers are going that route for the control they'll have over their product, not because they've been rejected everywhere. Some of them haven't even submitted. Because of all the changes in the industry, self-publishing is now an attractive option and something to consider at the outset, IMHO.

E. B. Davis said...

So how do you know, Kaye, if you are ready to be published by anyone, including yourself?

Kaye George said...

That's a good question, E.B. But when you see books being published and praised and you know yours is better, that's an indication. The publishing industry isn't really interested in GOOD books, they're interested in books they can sell. It's a business and art is secondary.

Polly Iyer said...

I thought I was sending a comment to the blog, but I think it went to Kaye. Sorry, Kaye. So I repeat:

There's a major best-selling author in the paranormal romance genre that has been lambasted by readers because of sloppy editing. I've read what readers have written about that and was shocked. I mean name changes, tense changes, etc. Don't think the biggies get away with it. They don't. You can carry your only reputation so far. And once your fans notice the sloppy work, it takes a lot to bring them back to you.

For new authors to attract readers, it comes down to price. People will take a chance for a few dollars. Any more and you'll never get them to try once let alone twice--unless you have spectacular reviews from those who've read your book and people think it's worth taking a chance. Another thing is be ready with a second book so readers won't think you're a one-book wonder. Memories are short, especially with all the indie authors trying for the same readership. Good luck to all. See you out there in cyberspace.

Warren Bull said...

There are, of course, professional publishers for e-books too. A friend of mine had a number of e-books published and got wonderful feedback and editing, which helped his writing skills. Untreed Reads is one of many.

E. B. Davis said...

At least one author agrees with me. This is from Libby Hellmann's October 15th blog:


"There’s one more part to this prediction, btw, which stems from the complaint that the quality of indie books is sub-standard. Much of it is, and Amazon is already dealing with that by sponsoring periodic promotions of traditional publishers’ books."

Libby doesn't define in what way the books are "sub-standard," but I'd hazard to guess that my laundry list goes into that definition.

E. B. Davis said...

Libby Hellmann actually defined for me what she meant by sub-standard.

"E.B., I can only speak from my own experience, which is limited to crime fiction, since that’s what I read and write. But there’s no question there are writers self-publishing today who have not studied the craft of crime fiction, or fiction in general. I see problems with point of view, passive voice, participle phrases used indiscriminately, telling not showing, illogical conclusions, and limited character development. On the other hand, there are occasionally gems to be found."

For those of you who have had positive feedback from the industry, I applaud your indie publishing efforts. But otherwise, I stick to my blog. A whole lot of writers are in denial.