Indie Author Services

Independent authors are a lot like baby sea turtles. I’m not saying they move slowly or that they carry a burden on their backs. But they must cross the exposed sand. They are yummy to seagulls and other predators. There are tons of them, but only a few will survive.

Yet somehow, they just know they are heading in the right direction, despite watching their sisters and brothers getting gobbled up.

Indie authors don’t have Random House or Penguin copy editing, formatting or marketing their books. So they must rely on independent author services, like developmental editors, copy editors and proofreaders, formatters, cover artists, printers and marketers, maybe even publicists, and definitely third party advertising sites for promos.

Many who provide these services do a great job, are honest, and add significant value for their writing clients.

But some are predators. And it’s not always easy to spot them in the tall grass.

In addition to writing novels, I provide a variety of editing services for indie authors. And one of my clients was recently offered a publishing deal with a small publisher. I asked what this publisher was selling her, and it wasn’t clear what they would actually do. They said they had a small store and would carry copies there. They would create a cover and help my client develop an online presence, and they indicated they would market her work.

After several months, they had provided her with a very nice book cover, but she told me the font they used for the book was too light. I ordered a copy and agreed. It was practically unreadable. She complained, and they responded by saying she was impossible to work with, and that, because of her lack of effort, not a single copy of her book had sold, other than the one I bought.

They said they would not work with her, but she could not get out of the contract with them unless she paid them more than $1000.

Be sure you know what you are getting. If you are being offered a book deal, find out who else they represent. How are their sales working out? Contact the authors they currently carry. Did they have a good experience? Make sure any contracts are clear and concise. Make sure you understand what the expectations are on either side.

If it sounds too good to be… well, you know.

Editing and Writing

I have been copy editing for some really talented writers. I love the work. So I have been trying to approach my own writing with the same objective eye as I have the works of others. My newest project has been less about trying to be cute or profound, and more about telling a story. It has ghosts, Alzheimer’s, romance and sex. That’s really enough.

So I have been going over yet another of my older projects, trying to see how I can make it better. Turns out it’s chock full of cute and profound, but not as much about telling a story. This one has, as it turns out, nine story lines. So today I did the logical thing. I broke it into nine stories. Edgar Lee Masters did it with Spoon River Anthology, right? Yes, I know those were poems.

This way the main story line won’t be cluttered with eight other plot lines.

Modes of Writing

This post is more for me than anyone else. When I sit down at the computer to write, I sometimes sit here for hours and the story is no longer than it was when I started. But that’s not always a bad thing. Editing is an important mode of composition.

My first mode is Conceptualization, where I jot down crazy notes to myself about what I think might make an interesting story. It’s shorthand, choppy, not really good English. It has to come out, though, and I tend to type 100 miles an hour in this mode. Spell check is off.

The second mode is Outlining, where I use stream of consciousness and jot down everything I think this story could be about. But I try to organize it into chapters. I don’t hold myself to that format, because later on there may be 6 new things that deserve chapter breaks between chapters 9 and 10. But Outlining gives me a map to follow. In this mode, I try to keep to the rule of three acts. In the first act, all the primary characters, their hopes, dreams, flaws and conflicts have to be revealed. We’re introducing the ingredients, even though the reader has yet to learn if we are making pizza or soup. In the second act, everything has to fall to pieces. Best laid plans, and all of that. The conflict and tension need to grow in the second act. Be aware, though, that the second act does not have to be a full third of the book. It can be smaller than a third. And then the third act is the resolution. This is where the heroine or hero are revealed. The clues have to be presented in the first act, as far as what the hero or heroine might be capable of. But the third act is when they really impress. Most of the conflict has to be resolved. And the bad guy or bad thing has to be vanquished. The only way the bad guy can win is if the book is part two of a trilogy. Even if the hero or heroine dies, their death has to somehow change the world and be a type of victory.

The third mode is Composition, where I write the dialogue and the initial narrative. But it’s mostly dialogue and blocking, almost like a stage play. I try not to get bogged down too much in details about the story, as much as I focus on who the characters are and why they are doing what they are doing.

The fourth stage is Self-Editing, where I get out Excel and track what I’ve done (Jill was born in 1956, so she was a child of the late 60’s and early 70’s, but Dave was born in 1975, and was a child of the Reagan years). That way I don’t mess up later and describe the party Dave went to in 1972, which would be impossible. This is also the stage where I get ideas for motifs. What if I put a bird or a dragon in there? Where could these images or symbols fit into the story without appearing obvious? What would they represent? And if Dave has a superpower, and yet does not use it until the end, where is the best place to tease this idea? Of course, the tease has to go in Act 1. But how to introduce it in such a way that the reader sees it, remembers the reference later, but does not completely expect the surprise at the end?

In the Self-Editing stage is when I write most of the non-dialogue narrative. This is when the narrator gets a voice, instead of just directing the stage play.

There’s a Fifth Stage, but it’s the one writers hate the most: What do I do with this manuscript now? That’s a whole ‘nother post.