Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lessons Learned... by J. E. Taylor, Guest Blogger

Today I'd like to welcome J. E. Taylor to the Thursday "My Writing Life" series. Jane's experience with nontraditional publishers will be helpful to those still trying to decide whether to hold out for that agent/publisher deal or go it alone.

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Lessons Learned. . .

Hi all! My name is Jane E. Taylor and last month (July 2010) I had two books released, both from small e-publishers, and I thought it might be beneficial if I relayed my experiences leading up to going this route versus the more traditional agent/publisher route.

I made mistakes, burned bridges by being a babe in the publishing woods and ran through my most wanted agents list before I was ready. I’m hoping that sharing my experiences will spare those standing in the starting gate from making the same mistakes.

First and most important lesson I learned: MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT A QUERY LETTER IS BEFORE YOU START SHOPPING FOR AGENTS!

I look at those early letters, and I just want to hide under a blanket in the corner in shame. My first attempt at the query-go-round was a business letter that introduced me and then went on to say I had four complete manuscripts with a brief, badly written description of each. What a nightmare.

Another mistake is the rush to get the manuscript out there. In my case those early versions were definitely not up to snuff - but being such a novice, I didn’t know that. I’m a visual creature, and those first drafts were written like I was watching a movie - only scratching the surface and absent of any iota of depth in character or emotional connections.

Then I found the forum at Backspace: The Writer's Place.

That was the rock salt I needed to polish the rough prose into gleaming gems.

I learned another invaluable lesson from my Backspace brethren -- patience. Jumping the gun before you are ready is another way of shooting yourself in the foot. As writers, we need to put both time and distance between us and our writing in order to get a grain of objectivity. The longer the time away, the sharper your editor’s eye will be. DO NOT RUSH IT. It’s worth taking the time to make the story stand out -- to make it sparkle.

Another nugget of gold I found on the Internet was Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing courses. She teaches the EDITS system which helps writers find the gaps in their writing. Not only did her courses offer great editing tools, but they also hooked me up with some of the best critique partners I could ask for. Between my critique partners and those I met on Backspace, I found a community that enabled me to grow as a writer.

I knew SURVIVAL GAMES was a candidate for small or specialty presses just by way of the content, and after being turned down by several online romance publishers, I toyed with self-publishing. While researching SMASHWORDS and e-book publishing, I did a search on the most popular e-publishers and found eXcessica. They didn’t shy away from subjects that push the envelope and they offered both e-books and trade paperbacks. I took a gamble, thinking if they said no, then I’d just go the self publish route through SMASHWORDS.

Needless to say, I was dancing on the ceiling when they accepted SURVIVAL GAMES. They also picked up the following two books in the GAMES trilogy, and I have three short stories coming out in 2011 and 2012 eXcessica anthologies. When eXcessica announced an affiliation with a new mainstream e-publisher-- FIDO Publishing-- I submitted.

My paranormal suspense DARK RECKONING was released on my birthday - July 5, 2010. I’ve had such positive experiences with my publishers and a stellar royalty deal that I’m no longer chasing the traditional route.

The question I ask myself these days: if they came knocking at my door - would I trade the creative freedom and high royalty payouts for a spot on the shelf in Supermarkets and Walmart and other mass-market distributors?

I don’t have an answer for you.

Thanks for indulging me.

JET

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Thanks for being here today, Jane. I enjoy seeing the different paths writers take to publication. The publishing world is changing so fast it's hard to keep up. The main thing we all have to remember is that good editing is key to success. If your publisher doesn't have editing services included as part of your contract, you need to hire an good editor to go over your manuscript before you publish.

To learn more about Jane's books (which could be described as edgy, maybe even from the dark side), please visit her website. And take a look at the cover art Jane is working on for her short stories. Find them by scrolling down the blog section of the website's home page.

17 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

Some really good questions you ask here. Every writer has to decide it today, too. In the past, you had to go through a tradition publisher...not so today. Today, many paths lead to the same place.

Great post.

CD

Margot Kinberg said...

Patricia - Thanks for hosting Jane.

Jane - Thanks for sharing your path to publication. There really are lots of ways to get something published, and many, many decisions to make. The more the writer knows about the options out there, the more empowered s/he is.

Karen Walker said...

Thanks, Patricia and Jane. This is interesting to me, because I self-published, but haven't gone the e-book route - yet. Still pondering.
Karen

JETaylor said...

Thanks Clarissa, Margot and Karen - for swinging in and commenting.

The journey has been interesting to say the least and I don't regret my decision to go with a small publisher one bit.

Terry Odell said...

Patience--such good advice. It's a slow process. Too many authors can't wait to get published, and while they used to turn to vanity presses, I think now they're inundating the digital sites like Smashwords and Kindle that don't require any quality control. There's good stuff out there (at least I like to think so, since I've put a few short stories up), but there's also a lot of chaff.

Don't risk ruining your chances and reputation as a writer simply because the process 'takes too long.'

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Kay said...

Thanks, Jane, for giving us an example of how e-publishing works.

Patricia Stoltey said...

You make a good point, Terry, but with all those options available and more showing up every day, many writers are going to go it alone (but "alone" should always include that all-important editor).

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you for the post. I think I'll check into Fido.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think we all jump the gun. Nothing wrong with starting with a smaller publisher - I did.

Talli Roland said...

What an interesting post with great tips. When I think back to my first query letter -- God, my cheeks are going red just thinking about it!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve discovered that there was much to learn on the rocky road to publication and about the ever-changing world of publishing in general. However, I think the best thing a writer can do for themselves is to make sure their work is professionally edited.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thanks for a wonderful, wonderful Blog.

Yvonne.

Ann Best said...

As usual: an informative and interesting guest post, Pat.

A good editing job on a book is the crucial thing - and knowing what good writing is. So reading widely is crucial too.

Thank you, Jane, for sharing your story to publication. I'm interested in reading your books.
Ann

Stephen Tremp said...

J.E.Taylor is a talented author. And she helped me format my MS as an eBook for either Amazon or Kindle. Best wishes for her continued success.

Stephen Tremp

JETaylor said...

Thanks everyone! I do have to agree with both Patricia and Jane in that an editor sees things we as writers are blind to. So hear, hear on finding a fantastic editor that gets you!

Helen Ginger said...

Thanks Jane. Your story of your journey to publication was inspiring and very interesting. You edited, you rewrote, you found critique partners and you took the path you wanted. Congrats.

Helen

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks again for being here, Jane. You were a super guest.