This was forwarded to me by a former colleague who attended a course on how to publish/edit a book. You probably already know most of these tips, but there might be something you’ll find helpful, who knows…
QUESTIONS TO ASK DURING FIRST PHASE OF EDITING
GENERAL STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK (what the story is and how it is being told):
What is the book about? What is the driving force behind the narrative?
Who is the audience for this book?
Is it based on real experience?
Does the story work? Are there any parts that feel unconvincing or where the narrative drags?
Are there any parts I don’t understand?
What is the trajectory or the shape of the story?
Does the story start in the right place?
How quickly do I become immersed in the book?
Are there any points where my immersion in the story is broken, or I lose interest?
Do I believe in what I’m reading?
How satisfying is the ending? Does it feel inevitable?
Does it feel like anything is missing?
Is there anything extraneous (characters, detail, unnecessary plot points)?
What is the narrative point of view (first person, second person, third person)? Does it change? Is it consistent? Does it work? What might be lost or gained if the story were told another way?
Is the tense consistent? If it changes, is it necessary?
Does coincidence feature as a plot device? If so, is there another way to engineer the same events?
Folks are always talking about things in video games that only 80s kids remember. I thought I’d try my hand at a version of that list that’s actually accurate. So without further ado:
Video Game Things That Only 80s Kids Remember
In-game NPCs shilling for pay-per-call hint lines
Being legitimately unable to tell whether what just happened was a bug or an intended gameplay element
The last level being unbeatable due to an obvious game-breaking glitch
that went unnoticed because none of the playtesters made it that far
Having to navigate certain rooms in your favourite FPS blind not because it’s dark, but because the primitive lighting engine conspires with ill-considered level design to render the walls and floors visually indistinguishable from each other
Artists and programmers sneaking their names into the finished product as hidden Easter eggs because publishers would deny them credit for the games they’d worked on in order to deliberately damage their work histories and prevent them from seeking better offers
Hey kids! As anybody who’s been following me for a while is probably aware, my first novel has been picked up for publication. As you’re also probably aware, I’ve been annoyingly reticent about what that book is called, who’s publishing it, when it’s coming out, and where to find my author blog. I’m sure a lot of you have started to wonder whether I just made the whole thing up. Well, I didn’t, and I’m just about ready to spill all the juicy secrets.
So: keep an eye on this blog between 2-3pm EST on Friday the 13th of January, and all will be revealed.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about and need to be brought up to speed, browse through this tag and all your questions shall be answered.
The Pros and Cons of Publishing with a Small Press
The great publishing question… Traditional or
We all want to land a huge publisher so we can sit back on
our laurels, but anyone who’s thrown their hat into the ring knows it’s a hard
road to being accepted… and an even harder one negotiating a contract that
gives you decent royalties, plus enough control over how your book is edited,
what cover it’s given, and how it’s advertised.
On the flipside, being self-published is easy, but when it
comes to hiring a cover artist, managing social media, holding marketing
campaigns, trying to get into your audience’s ever-changing mind… You feel like
giving up, and even if you don’t, there’s no guarantee you’ll make it out
But who said it was an either-or?
There’s a third option for those putting the final touches
on their manuscripts: A small press. Authors like Carolyn Mathews, author of Transforming Pandora, used a small
press to benefit from the experience of a large publishing company and the
control of going it alone. This middle ground means you don’t have to grovel or bash your head in.
You Have a Whole Team of Eyes
You’ve read self-published stuff before and you know what
I’m about to say. Some of it is utter BBQ’d garbage, and unfortunately no one
had the heart to tell them so. There are also some books with excellent
potential, but who never really reached it. No author is safe from this mistake.
Whether it’s bad typesetting or glaring plot holes, nothing is more valuable
than an honest and objective eye to make sure your book really is as good as
With a small press, you don’t have to cross your fingers and
hope for the best. You have an entire team of eyes on your work to ensure every
comma is in the right place, the chapter structure isn’t confusing, and that
your character hasn’t suddenly switched personalities with someone else. This
gives you peace of mind that the work you send out into the world really is the
best it can be, with plenty of insights to back you up.
Fewer Start-Up Costs
With self-publishing, the costs are high. You have to hire a
proofreader, an artist to create a cover, a typesetter, someone to critique
your work, and someone to manage your social media (if you’d rather not do it
yourself). That’s not including the price of printing and distributing, purchasing
advertisement, etc., etc. You have to spend money to make money, and while the
reader might only spend a few dollars for your book, you have to spend a
notable amount to create something worth reading and then getting it in their
With a small publisher, these expenses are theirs, and they
also have the connections to ensure the money goes to the most profitable
places. In some cases, your small press may negotiate for you to contribute to
the cost of publication, but in any case, choosing the right publisher will
ensure you get more for your money than self-publishing.
There’s Less For You to Manage
Publishers exist because, like it or not, publishing is a
full-time job. You may check your social media every day, but there’s more to
it when you have to hold marketing campaigns, interact with followers, create
newsletters, make guest-posts and content for your blog, and tailor your
website to actually catch the attention of your audience.
A small press can handle this for you, putting people on the
job with the experience and education to not only take this burden off your
shoulders, but do it better and more regularly than you.
You Have More Control
As already stated, traditional publishers call all the
shots. Do you like your current title? Too bad, it’s being changed. Hate that
color scheme of this cover? Sorry, it’s what the genre likes. Think this
section of your story is valuable? It can still be cut.
Small presses are more flexible when it comes to the
decision-making process, giving you more freedom to keep titles, revise
chapters, and put your foot down about keeping a certain character. Mathews’
book is a late coming-of-age novel about spirituality, hard choices, and lost
loves, and she received some resistance on the spiritual element. However, with
a small press, she was able to keep what she sees as one of the most valuable
parts of the book. Even if they drive a hard bargain, smaller publishing companies
will at least put more serious consideration into your suggestions.
Royalties Are More Evenly Divided
On average, a traditional publishing company will offer
5-15% royalties to authors, but some small presses will offer up to 50%.
The author of Transforming Pandora made a deal
with her small press to “contribute towards the cost of production and [not]
get any royalties for Transforming
Pandora until 1,000 copies [were] sold.” However, “The contracts for the
next two books, Squaring Circles and Pandora’s Gift are better. I get
royalties from the start.”
You can negotiate with your small publishing company to make
a deal that best works for you, with a lot more promising results than you’d
find from the traditional route.
You Won’t Control Your Prices
Unfortunately, a publishing company is still a publishing
company, and they only succeed if they’re able to make back the money they’ve
invested in your work. This means most small presses don’t give authors control
over the price their book is sold as.
Carolyn Mathews said, “I don’t have any control over the
price of the paperbacks and ebooks, and can’t do any cut-price promotions –
that’s all in the hands of the publishers.”
Mathews’ publisher has put her book on sale on Amazon
for 99 cents until July 15th, but other ideas have had the
breaks put on them. This is a gamble, since maybe you’re in the right – and
maybe they are.
You Still Need Permissions
You wake up one morning with a brilliant idea of holding an
author interview with your favorite podcast. It’ll drive sales; it’ll get your
name out there! Hold the phone; don’t make contact with the podcast hosts yet.
You still need to ask your small press for permission on things concerning your
book, even after it’s been published. Running out there on your own will muddle
their efforts and yours, and even if it’s a great idea, you still need to check
in with the team before going forward.
You’ll Have Disagreements on What is “Necessary”
That podcast idea? Your small press might turn you down.
Like any cooperation, there’s going to be disagreements.
While you’ll have more control over some elements of your book, your publisher
may decide that a second round of proofreading isn’t what your book really
needs. You need to be prepared to make compromises and accept some losses.
Trust me, no author has ever been 100% happy with every element of the publishing
We’re right to push for diversity, we have to, but it is only step one of a long journey. Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism. It walks hand in hand with sexism, cissexism, homophobia, and classism. To go beyond this same conversation we keep having, again and again, beyond tokens and quick fixes, requires us to look the illness in the face and destroy it. This is work for white people and people of color to do, sometimes together, sometimes apart. It’s work for writers, agents, editors, artists, fans, executives, interns, directors, and publicists. It’s work for reviewers, educators, administrators. It means taking courageous, real-world steps, not just changing mission statements or submissions guidelines.
Maybe the word hasn’t been invented yet – that thing beyond diversity. We often define movements by what they’re against, but the final goal is greater than the powers it dismantles, deeper than any statistic. It’s something like equity – a commitment to harvesting a narrative language so broad it has no face, no name.
We can love a thing and still critique it. In fact, that’s the only way to really love a thing. Let’s be critical lovers and loving critics and open ourselves to the truth about where we are and where we’ve been. Instead of holding tight to the same old, failed patriarchies, let’s walk a new road, speak new languages. Today, let’s imagine a literature, a literary world, that carries this struggle for equity in its very essence, so that tomorrow it can cease to be necessary, and disappear.