Friday, November 4, 2011
I was originally told that my illustrations would start in December, but I was pleasantly surprised when my illustrator called me last week and said she was ready to begin illustrating my book! Yesterday, she sent me the character sketches of my little boy and girl, and of one of the animals in the book. Don't worry, they are a lot better than my little lion here. This is why I aspire to be a writer, not an illustrator! I will share them as soon as I am allowed to.
The illustrator sent me character sketches for my approval, and a list of the illustrations she plans to make for the book. There will be 10 full-color illustrations. I have a short window right now in which I may request changes. Once she starts work, the illustrations will not be able to be changed. She believes she will be finished by the end of November, and my book will then be ready to move into Layout!
As with the editor, I am pretty much trusting the illustrator's judgment on these drawings. If I really want to change something for some specific reason, I will ask her, but for the most part, I figure she knows more about this than I do. This is her full-time job, she knows what sells, and I have never illustrated a book. In my 8th-Grade Creative Writing class, the teacher told us that if we had a children's book published, the publisher would use their own illustrator and we would not have much of a say in the illustrations, so I was prepared for that and did not have a definite picture in my mind of what my characters should look like. That said, the illustrator did call me before she started and asked me what ideas I had. It is a bit of a give-and-take. I sent her photographs of animals that I had taken at the zoo, which I used when I originally wrote this book about animals for my own children.
Thankfully, I believe I have a good illustrator. I like the sketches she sent me. She seems to be as excited about illustrating my book as I am about writing it. Perhaps she is acting excited because that is her job! I think, though, that she truly is enjoying this process, and it is fun for me to see that someone else is enjoying my project as much as I am. I can't wait to see her finished product!
If you are just now finding this blog, click "Join This Site" over there in the "Followers" section of the margin. I'll be sure to let you know when the illustrations are done and we move into Layout. I can't wait to show you the whole book - it won't be long now!
Friday, October 21, 2011
This is an exciting day: I just sent my final edits back to the publisher for my book! We have sent the manuscript back and forth a few times and several editors have looked over it in the past couple of months of Copyediting and Conceptual Editing combined. The changes were minor, and they are done now. I just signed the "Content Approval Form," which means that the content of the book is set in stone, and it will not be changed again other than the minor spacing or other things that must be changed during layout. The words and sentence structure will not be changed. This feels significant and permanent!
My children are equally as excited. My ten-year-old has been reviewing the final manuscript to give her approval, and she wants to know if I know the name of my illustrator yet!
That is the next step, if you are following my journey to publication here on my blog. An illustrator will be contacting me shortly, and we will begin working on the visual designs to accompany my story. I can't wait to see those drawings materialize!
Oh, and have I mentioned more than a few dozen times that there will be a version of this book with 3-D illustrations, and 3-D glasses to accompany it? You know you want one!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Now, however, we are deep into the gory, painful process of EDITING!!! If you got through 5th or 6th grade English class, you know how painful this is. You spend hours and hours writing your masterpiece, and your teacher hands it back to you with - RED INK! He has the gall to expect you to rewrite some parts, after all the effort you've already put into it. He wants you to cut your favorite joke from the essay because it wasn't appropriate or didn't have anything to do with the subject. Are you kidding? That joke was great! That's what everyone will want to read!!! Of course, in 5th grade you are always trying to make your essays longer: "This summer was very, very, very, very, very, very hot." Yes! I have exactly 200 words now! What is even more painful is when you get to high school or college, and you have learned to do research and wax eloquently about your favorite subject for page upon flowery page, and your professor wants you to cut it! What?! Yes, it's too long now, not interesting. You must cut 500 words out of this paper. Yes, you know what this feels like!
The truth is, though, a good editor will make your book great. Learning to cut what is not needed is essential. A good editor knows what is publishable and what sells, so listen to her! Here are my tips for Less-Painful Editing:
1) No pain, no gain. Oops, I just violated the important rule of not using cliches in writing. Oh, but it's so true in this circumstance. If you don't do some cutting and changing, your book will not achieve its full potential.
2) Accept that there will be changes. Your editor knows what sells. He's been around the market for a while. Trust him. When you submit your book to a publisher, do so knowing that it's just a draft and there will be changes. If you don't get too attached to every little phrase, you will be able to let go and make the painful changes that need to be done.
3) Maintain your vision. On the other hand, your editor is not omniscient. You do not have to accept every change she suggests as written in stone. If there is something you really, really do not want to change, don't. The editor is not there to rewrite the book for you, only to suggest improvements. You are still the author, and you still maintain control of your work.
4) Edit, Edit, Edit! I have had a lot of training in writing and language arts, and I make it my sincere goal to not submit anything that has common errors, such as spelling or grammar problems, that I should be able to catch and correct on my own. My husband is better with developing original ideas than I am, but he does not catch spelling and grammatical errors as well, so when he wrote an article for a magazine a few years ago, he asked me to edit it. I also edit his sermons, his newsletters, and I even edited a lot of his Master's Thesis. Two heads are better than one (oops, another cliche!)
When I wrote this children's book, I had my husband edit it for me, but I also reached out to some friends. I specifically asked several friends with children to read the book with their children and tell me what they thought. I wrote this book about Intelligent Design, and I have already discussed Intelligent Design with my children. Therefore, they understood the concepts and terms before I read my book to them. The average child of their age, who has not had the benefit of living with the author while she writes the book, may not understand these things. By incorporating young editors, I was able to find some of those confusing areas and fix them for my target audience.
Now, a lot of your friends will say "great job!" and hand your work back to you. They mean it. They are legitimately proud of the work you have done and may or may not be experts on your subject. One of my friends in particular, however, sent me back a ton of edits! She had a list of places where she questioned awkwardness, grammar, words her kids didn't understand, and redundant material. Then she apologized because she really did like my book and didn't want to hurt my feelings! Did it hurt my feelings? Not at all. She is a GREAT friend! If she hadn't caught all those things, the professional editor would have. In fact, the company may not have wanted to publish the book in the first place. Friends who can be lovingly honest are a great asset in this work!
5) DON'T get your feelings hurt!!! When I began working with my husband (then my fiance) on his Master's Thesis, we had to have a pact. We still make jokes about my red pen (which I still really do like to use because you can see what's been done so much more easily). You could see him cringe when I handed it back to him with entire pages marked out with a big, red X. He doesn't get his feelings hurt easily, however, and we agreed that I would be completely honest and he would not be hurt. The result? His professor was impressed with his work and handed back very few edits of his own. My husband decided that it had been worth it to do some extra cutting and rewriting before even turning in the draft. He knew he had submitted the best product that he possibly could.
I think this may be hardest for us as female writers. What we have written is practically a piece of our very soul on paper. We have opened ourselves up, and we are vulnerable. As hard as it is, male or female, separate yourself from your work so that you will not take anything personally during this process. If a friend or spouse editing your work could destroy your relationship, skip that step and let the professional editor (a stranger) do the dirty work. If your book was not good, the company wouldn't want to publish it in the first place. Any suggestions the editor makes are to make your book BETTER, and most of the suggestions are probably good ones. So put your nose to the grindstone, leave a few pages on the cutting room floor, and make the hard changes, without taking any of it as a personal slap in the face. Like gold refined in the fire, your finished product will be worth the work!
So this is where my book is now. My editor sent me a copy with suggested changes several weeks ago. I accepted most of them, but chose to keep one place the same. I sent the copy with my revisions back to her. By this time, it is a very marked-up copy! She will send me a clean draft to approve later this month. I am happy to report that she did not suggest very many changes, so having my "pre-editor" before I submitted the book paid off. (Thanks, Judy!) Most of the revisions she did suggest centered around cutting words to make the story fit better on the pages. I had to cut the number of my original words when I first submitted my manuscript. Then, when the publisher accepted the book, they asked me to cut 300 more. Now in the editing phase, my editor asked me to cut another 100. Whew! It is hard to cut all those words I so carefully wrote! But I did it. And I think the finished product will be worth it!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
One afternoon in June, as I was getting ready to take my kids to karate class, the phone rang with a number I didn't recognize. Being in a hurry, I normally would have let that go to voicemail, but because my husband was out of town, I wanted to answer in case he needed to call me from somewhere other than his cell phone. I answered, heard the word "publishing" in the greeting, and almost tuned the rest out. Thinking it was yet another self-publishing company, I explained that this was not the best time, as I was in a hurry to get my kids somewhere. As the gentleman said he would call back and hung up, I realized that he had not said one word about self-publishing. He had said he was from Tate Publishing and that he wanted to publish my book! But there seemed to be a small catch - or was there?
As I drove my kids to their karate class, I thought back through the things I had already researched about Tate Publishing. (I had spent quite a bit of time researching all the different publishers at this point.) Tate was trying to help new authors get published, but of course they wanted to minimize their own risk at the same time. One of their marketing strategies is to require that every author has a publicist and is willing to do things like book-signings to help sell their book. If you do not have a publicist, you can sign up with Key Marketing Group, which has a partnership with Tate Publishing. Tate pays the publicity fees - quite substantially, actually. They do, however, require first-time authors to pay a one-time setup fee of $3990 to Key Marketing Group. This lets them know that you are in it for the long haul, that you are committed to making your book a success. Hmmm. Was this just another blanket for self-publishing, calling it by a different name?
The answer is "no." From what I can tell, Tate actually has a pretty good business model, and I will explain why I think so. First, let me debunk a few things I've read on the Internet. When I first tried to Google Tate Publishing, I started finding entries about "Tate Publishing Scams." So I read them. I certainly did not want to send in $4000 and be taken in a scam. None of what I read, however, convinced me that there was a scam. I saw several arguments:
1. Some people felt the cost was exorbitant and that no publisher should be asking you for money to publish your book. While it is true that that's not how traditional contracts have gone, we are looking at a new model here. This money, according to the contract, goes to Key Marketing Group for publicity. If you look at the costs of marketing and publicity, whether you self-publish or hire an agent, they are steep. This fee of $4000 is actually quite low for the amount of publicity that is being promised in the contract.
2. One person complained that the $4000 fee was a "secret," and that Tate did not reveal it openly. I did not find this to be the case. It is not advertised on the front page of their website, which I can understand. This would make them look like a self-publisher, and many people would turn away without finding out what the fee covered. As soon as I submitted my query, I received a list of things to expect should my manuscript be accepted. It included the amount and the purpose of the fee. The Acquisitions Editor who called me also made sure I knew about all the stipulations of the contract, including the fee, before I made a decision. Far from trying to hide it, they seemed to want to make sure I knew what I was agreeing to so that there would be no problems later.
3. Some writers seemed to simply be upset that their books did not sell well. Well, no publisher can make any promises about how your book will sell. It's not a "scam" unless the publisher fails to do what they have promised to do in the contract that you sign. If that happens - if Tate does not do what they've said in my contract and provide the publicity we have agreed upon for the fee - you will certainly find that out in this blog! Tate Publishing has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, with only 6 complaints in the last 3 years, which were resolved. If they are scamming people to the tune of $4000, those people need to start filing complaints with the BBB!
4. One writer complained that Tate claimed to sell a lot of books with Barnes and Noble bookstores, but that he had not found any of their books at that store. Well, check it out for yourself. Go to Barnes and Noble's website and put "Tate Publishing" in the search box. Today I pulled up 6,540 titles, which is several hundred more than they had when I checked last month. These include both titles on the shelves and electronic downloads. Every Barnes and Noble store does not carry every title. To make sure your book is physically carried in the stores near you, your publicist should call them and set up a book-signing!
So now to dispense with all the negatives, I did also find people who had positive things to say. And these were people who had actually worked with Tate, not people just observing from the outside.
RRBookwyrm has several posts dedicated to "The Tate Publishing Question." She started out skeptical but changed her mind after some research and interviews.
Jennifer Pereyra is a recent Tate Author interviewed in the RRBookwyrm Blog.
New Tate author Patricia Kubus.
Tate author Kathy Truitt.
Tate author Nancy Dane.
Jerry B Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, visited Tate Publishing and agreed that what they were putting forth was a good model. Having sold 70 million books, he still hires a publicist and is actively involved in promoting his own books.
In conclusion, from all my research, I really haven't found any reason not to trust Tate. Some people may simply not want to pay the $3990 fee. If that's the case, they should keep looking. If you are trying to decide between self-publishing and traditional contracts, though, I think it is important to understand the difference with Tate. They are starting a new business model, creating their own little niche.
Here's Tate's business model in a nutshell. They accept 3-7% of the manuscripts they receive each month. Each new author either provides documentation that he already has a publicist, or pays a fee of $3990 to get set up with Key Marketing Group. Once the book is published, the author works closely with the publicist on websites, book signings, speaking engagements, even television commercials if they wish, in order to market the book. The book is sold in physical form in bookstores, as an audiobook, and as a PDF download. Tate and Key Marketing try to find the niche markets that are most likely to purchase this book and saturate them. They seem to be doing everything they can to help their authors succeed. (Incidentally, once you sell 5,000 books, you get the $3990 fee back, and you may or may not have to pay it again on getting future books published. This is worked out on a contract-by-contract basis.)
I've cast my lot with Tate Publishing. I signed a contract on my children's book with them in June, got everything properly formatted and accepted, and production started this month. Production should take about six months, after which I should be able to purchase some of the books, and it will take about another 90 days to get them printed en masse and distributed to bookstores. If you've followed me this far and are still interested in the process, follow this blog as I take you through the journey to publication with me.
Next we'll be talking about Copyediting. Ooo, it gives me chills just thinking about it!! :)
Saturday, July 30, 2011
The second question people ask me when they find out I am getting a book published is how I chose, or even found, a publisher. I think a lot of people have something in them they'd like to write, or communicate, or see in print. While of course I hope that you will all buy and read my book when it is published (!), I think this blog is more for people who would like to write their own work.
The answer to finding a publisher is quite simple, and it's the same thing I learned when I was applying for college scholarships and when I was working in sales. You apply everywhere!! Some writers choose a publisher, submit their work, receive a rejection, and that's that. When you work in sales, you send direct mailers, sales flyers, and coupons to as many people as possible. You hope that a percentage of them will come in and buy your product. Finding a publisher works the same way. Some publishers do not accept "simultaneous submissions," which are works that have been submitted to other publishers at the same time. Some publishers will accept them but require that you let them know your work is a simultaneous submission. You will need to read the guidelines for each publisher. Even if you submit your writing to one publisher at a time, though, do not accept a rejection as the end of your dream. Keep submitting! Some best-sellers were rejected a number of times before they were finally put into print.
To begin, simply Google "publishers," along with the genre you wish to publish. After unsuccessfully submitting my book to several publishers with which I was familiar, I Googled "publishers Christian children's books." You may search for "publishers children's books," "publishers romance novels," "publishers historical fiction," etc. Once you have a list, check each website and look for submission guidelines. Many publishers now take submissions online. Make sure your writing has already been edited to the best of your ability and formatted correctly. Depending on what type of work you are doing, you may also want to search the Internet for sample query letters in your genre. Some publishers require a query letter first, while others will take your submission immediately if it is ready. All this information can be found in the submission guidelines for each publisher.
It may also be helpful to understand the different types of publishers in today's confusing market. Once upon a time, publishers accepted a manuscript, published it, and paid royalties to the writer. This traditional publishing contract is, of course, what we all want. If you can get it, more power to ya! Now that everybody and his brother has a computer on his desk and a couple of laptops strewn about, publishers are inundated with manuscripts. They might have the next best-sellers crumpled on their floors, but they don't know it because they simply don't have time to read them all. You may want to hire an agent to help you get your book noticed.
Another avenue that is gaining momentum is self-publishing. Basically, you pay the costs of publishing and they publish your book. This method has its place, but if you are not careful, you could spend a lot of money without gaining much. Self-publishing is useful for several reasons. For one, you may be a grandparent who has written a story for your grandchildren, or a public speaker who has written a book for a workshop. You do not need the distribution and marketing that a large publisher would provide; you just need your book printed in a professional manner. You can self-publish (just Google "self-publishers") and use your copies however you see fit. Self-publishing can also be a way to get your "foot in the door" with the big publishers if you are sure you have a winner and you can do your own marketing. Be aware that if you wish to sell large numbers of your book, that in addition to paying for the self-publishing, you will probably need to pay a publicist and/or some type of marketing agency to advertise your book and sell it in the public sector. These contracts will run thousands of dollars. Self-published books can be sold on the Internet, such as through Amazon, but to get them into bookstores you would also need to have contracts with distributors and the stores. I say this not to discourage you, but to make you aware of what you may need to put into this endeavor in order to get something back. It will require an investment of time, effort, and money. The payoff comes when you either sell a large number of the books yourself, or are picked up by a large publisher with a traditional contract.
Some large traditional publishers have a self-publishing arm. The top sellers among the self-published authors each year may be offered a traditional contract. This could be a way to get your foot in the door.
One publisher has offered another solution to help new authors get published - a compromise between the two former methods. Tate Publishing specializes in offering contracts to new authors. They do, however, require that each new author hires a publicist to help ensure the success of both author and publisher. To some, this looks like self-publishing, or even a vanity publisher (that is, a publisher that will publish anything for anyone if you pay them enough money). I was surprised to see how much controversy this has generated among writers' blogs on the Internet. Well, Tate Publishing offered me a contract, and I have cast my lot with them. I am confident that they have a good business model, and I am excited about our future together. If you have questions about them, though, especially if you have been offered a contract and are trying to decide whether or not to accept it, click "follow" over there in the margin and stay tuned to my blog. I will cover more about Tate Publishing in my next blog entry. As I said in my beginning post, you may read this blog and share the ride with me, pass or fail. If I have placed my trust where I shouldn't have, you will discover that along with me, right here.
Join me for the ride!
Saturday, July 16, 2011
You should absolutely read this entire book, but for the purposes of this blog, I will just say that the title about sums up what you need to know. Before Peter could walk across the water to Jesus, he had to take a step out of the boat into the raging, stormy sea. He had to fix his eyes on Jesus. When he looked away from Jesus in fear, he began to sink. (Matt 14:22-23)
In the same way, if you have a dream of something big you'd like to do for God, you must take the first steps. Take a risk. Don't take foolish risks and squander your family savings. But pray and research and take a risk on something God has put into your heart to do. Dare to fail. This was the theme of a Sunday School class I attended in 2010.
Well, let me back up a little. This started before 2010. It probably started in, oh, I don't know, 1980 or so. When I was in elementary school, we learned about poetry. Then we moved onto short stories and creative writing. I loved this stuff. My best friend and I said we wanted to be writers when we grew up. We wrote notebooks full of poems and stories and traded them to read each other's writing. In the 8th grade, I took a Creative Writing class. In the English Seminar my Senior year, I worked harder and learned more than I ever had about writing under a fabulous teacher who instructed us to just call her "The Queen," or "Your Majesty." I worked on the school literary magazine, and was the editor of the magazine my last year of Junior High and my last year of High School. I even submitted a few poems to miscellaneous anthologies, where they were published (yes, they were pretty much vanity publishers, but my name was in print).
So then, you would expect that I majored in literature in college and went on to become a great writer, right? No. I did take a Creative Writing class my Senior year in college under another great instructor, who encouraged everyone in the class to submit at least one book for publication, but I kept my writing a hobby. I satisfied the requirements of the class by getting some items published in the college's literary magazine. I have made my own greeting cards for people's birthdays and told stories to my own kids through the years, and I've had articles published in a few newsletters. The dream of being a real, published author continued to hang on in the back of my mind, though.
About three years ago, I was looking for some books on the theory of Intelligent Design for my children, whom I homeschool. There were a few books for teens and upper elementary students explaining the theory, but while I taught the subject to my oldest son, I needed storybooks for the little ones. Sure, there are storybooks about Creation and about God making the animals, but I wanted a storybook for small children that talked about the scientific theory. (If you are not familiar with the theory of Intelligent Design, click "follow" over in the margin - we'll be talking more about it, I assure you!) I couldn't find any books like this. So I wrote one for my kids. Then I thought, if I'm looking for a book like this, I wonder if other people are, too? Maybe I should try to get it published.
So then, you are expecting that I began bombarding publishers with my fabulous new book and made millions, right? No. I still sat in the boat, thinking maybe one day I could be published, but taking no risks toward that goal. My husband and kids were very supportive. They kept asking me if I had sent my book to any publishers yet. I kept saying I would get around to it.
Then came the Sunday School class. "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat." The teacher asked us each to write a dream we had anonymously on a slip of paper. I wrote that I would like to get a children's book published. He took all the slips and wrote the class's dreams on the whiteboard. Then he said, "Now take one step toward that dream. Do one thing. See what happens."
That was it. I had to submit my book. I did receive one more swift kick, which God must have sent lest I back down again. I told my aunt, who also enjoys writing, about the class and about the book I had already written. She wasn't just a little encouraging. She practically yelled at me. "You have a talent that God has given you, and you are not using it! I didn't know you had already written a book. You've got to get that published. You are like the wicked servant who took the talent his master had given him and buried it instead of investing it!" (Matt 25:14-30) I did not want to be a wicked servant. She continued, "Now submit that book to a publisher, and let me know where you are submitting it so that I can pray about it!"
I submitted my children's book to a publisher. I received a rejection. I submitted it to another publisher. I never heard back from them. I submitted it again. I received another rejection. I lost count of how many publishers I contacted and how many rejections I received.
Finally, last month, I received a call from Tate Publishing (we'll review Tate Publishing in another blogpost as well). MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED! IT IS GETTING READY TO BEGIN PRODUCTION! I AM AN AUTHOR!!!!
In case you can't tell, I am quite excited about this. I am - well, let's not discuss my age or how long I have taken to get to this point. Let's just say, I could have done it a little earlier. But that doesn't matter. What matters is, I'm doing it now. God put a dream in my heart a long time ago, and I finally took a step out of the boat. I took the risk, and God blessed it. Amazing Animals By Design is being published!
Yesterday, I received an email from a magazine to which I had submitted an article, and they will be publishing it in October. Woo-hoo! Two publications. I'm on a roll now!
So, why am I creating this blog? Well, when I tell people I'm getting a book published, they say, "How did you do that? What publisher are you using? What about illustrations?" Many people have a story inside them they'd like to tell, or another dream they'd like to pursue. Now, I'm no expert - yet - but I've taken the first step. I could sell thousands of copies of this book or only dozens. I may write more (that's my plan) or this may be a one-hit wonder. The pages of this adventure are not yet written. I am inviting you to come along on the adventure with me. If you are interested - and perhaps would like to embark upon such an adventure yourself - click on the "followers" tag over in the margin, and join me as I continue to climb out of the boat and try to keep my eyes fixed on the Great Author of my faith. Success or failure, join me in the journey. (For the record, though, no matter what happens, I will consider myself a success just for getting it published.)
I can already tell you the first step you need to take. Get out of the boat.