Techniques to Edit

Here’s a few ideas on how to help you edit!

1. Create a reverse outline

This will help you create a summary of your story and to examine each piece to see if it helps with the overall theme. This is good for those people who don’t create an outline to start and instead just write, and write, and write…

2. Read it out loud

If you’re socially awkward, that’s okay. Do this in your own home! The point of this is because we learn language first through speaking, there is this ingrained correction feature when we say it out loud. (This works best if you’re a native English-speaker.)

3. Have a friend read it

Remember that comment I made how if we write it and then it’s hard to see its flaws? Kind of like how you have a child and you love them but it can be hard to admit they’re not perfect – yes, a lot of parents will disagree with me here. Well, by having a friend read it, they can give you all sorts of feedback on features you might able to see! Always helpful.

Note: Parents are helpful but can also be too close to you!

4. Step away from the story

Drop it. If you really want to, chuck it in a dark corner and come back to it later. The point is, give yourself time before editing.

5. Create biographies for your characters

Similar to #1, using your book, construct a biography filled with all the details and history you gave about “Billy Bob.” If something doesn’t match, or you’re missing information that’s still in your head, then you know what to correct!

6. Play the ‘What if’ Game

This is actually from Chuck Wendig, but I really like his suggestion. And, it’s a good way to vocalize what I do when I edit. Ask yourself ‘what if…’ for every situation. What if the reverse situation were true? What if something else happened instead? This will help make sure you pick the strongest (or most evil) trajectory for your character as possible.

7. Rewrite

I’m doing this with one of my stories now. It doesn’t mean you necessarily change anything, but just rewriting it without looking at your work sometimes brings a new perspective and life, especially if it’s been sitting there for a while and parts just feel dead.

8. Change the medium

I like the point Jenny Hansen makes. I find it difficult to read and edit on screen, and it really makes a difference to print it out and mark it up with a pen. You can color code for different kinds of tracking or edits. And, changing the look can help as well, such as changing font, size, spacing, etc.

9. Change your environment

Again, another good point by Jenny Hansen. By changing your surroundings, you can help yourself focus, or give you an environment more conducive to ideas rather than sleep.

10. Write 10 summaries

By Bryan Hutchinson, he said it’s good to write a summary in different ways. To quote him, “By telling a summarized version of your story ten different ways, you get new ideas about your book’s core essentials, who the main important characters are, which ideas are most central, and how to structure your book in the most interesting way possible.” Although it may feel repetitious at times, how much will you learn by re-examinations?

11. Hire a developmental editor

If you’ve really hit a wall, you can hire someone to help you look at your book. But, as I’ve mentioned before, these editors require money since they’re open for hire. And, this payment can vary in prices.

12. Draw a timeline

I’m going to take this idea and build on it a little bit. Bubblecow suggested we should write a narrative arc to see the clear framework of the story, but to expand upon this, I’m going to suggest that everyone write a timeline. If you want, create a timeline for every plot – but keep the same time frame for each of them. This help you examine what pieces add to the story, and what you may still be missing.

13. Do passes, not drafts

Suggested by Sullivan, I really like this for the fact it creates focus while you edit. There’s so much stress regarding editing because we’ve been taught that you should check everything at once. But, by breaking this into passes, similar to how all English teachers taught us CUPS, you will become less stressed and more focused.

If you have any more suggestions, please throw them by!

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How to Edit

If anyone looks forward a post, they can see I mentioned “CUPS” – the acronym used by English teachers in elementary school to encourage proof reading, which I’m sure I will mention again in the near future. Well, CUPS is basically a ‘pass’ process, not by drafts, that encourages readers to examine their paper through different lenses. We can do the same for editing!

1. Character consistencies

When your characters first appear, just like with real life, they come across with first impressions and appearances. These should remain constant throughout your story. If Bob appears grumpy, he should remain grumpy, not suddenly become ecstatically happy, unless you gave him a reason to change. Your story is basically a persuasive essay. You have to justify everything.

2. Action, reaction

This may seem silly to include as a separate dimension of editing, but to me this is one of the most important. Your story must have emotion and affect your reader in some way. If your reader isn’t feeling anything, then you haven’t hit that point yet. A good way to start is to make sure your characters are feeling it first! Refer to the previous post on action, reactions.

3. Plot construction (and purpose)

Just like with characters, your plot should remain consistent, which will be harder and harder to track as you add sub-plots, but this means you have to examine every dimension of your story and see if it answers the question, does this add to my theme or conflict? Because everything has a purpose. And if it doesn’t, consider cutting it.

4. Style

This is one of the most common thoughts for editing. Your style must encourage readers to keep going. It must feel natural, not forced. This is not grammar editing, only overall stylistic edits. The difference between ‘he hit a wall’ and ‘when his car smashed into the wall, the front crumpled on impact’.

5. Singing Senses

These are not my own thoughts, but those of Elissa Field, and I am including them here because I feel they are an important part of the editing process. As Field said, writing is related to sight, and we should include as many sensory details as possible. But, what I love most of all is her conciseness, that “writing is overly preoccupied with details related to eyes and unnecessary sight direction. ‘He turned and looked toward the dock. The boat was on fire,’ is a great example of unnecessary sight direction. Better: ‘The boat was in flames.'”

As I mentioned, we can make this into an acronym to encourage a pass process, not a draft process. And if you look at my ordering – each first letter – this will make ‘CAPSS’. Not too far from CUPS. If you print out your manuscript like me, you can write this in the top corner and use each of these acronyms to remind yourself what to check for. It certainly will help me in the future!

Action, Reaction

I was reading this post I found – between my research for scene and summary – and while I was reading it, it’s like this light bulb went off inside my head, glowing with this superb luminescence. But, being distrusting as I am – always requiring proof that technique works – I have to test this theory. Is this really how to write great emotion? Great character voice?

Let me refer to the rule in general. As Swain described (as cited by Ingermanson), smaller parts of scenes are made up of multiple units, called motivation-reactions units (MRUs). These units focus on two parts: a motivation and the reaction of your character. Motivations are extrinsic forces within your story while the reactions are intrinsic and extrinsic responses. Ingermanson breaks the reaction down even further, separating it into 3 parts: feeling, reflex, action, emphasizing this must always be used in this order although each piece may not always appear. With the repetition of these MRUs, you eventually make up a scene. But, let’s test this and see how this theory holds. This is a rather long passage, so I’ll only use a part. This paragraph is about a boar running at the characters.

Nothing about its muzzle or broad, long face looked at all extraordinary, and yet I had the startling impression of some presence in the way its gaze seemed turned inward and its head willfully pulled to the left as if there were an invisible bridle. A kind of electricity sparked in its eyes that I could not credit as real. I thought instead it must be a by-product of my now slightly shaky hands on the binoculars. (Vandermeer 12)

Let’s break this down step by step, and examine each sentence for its purpose. Similar to what I’m doing in class when I define each purpose of the process of discourse.

First sentence:

This sentences shows the character reflecting on the motivation – the boar crashing toward the bushes toward them.

Second sentence:

The second part of the combined sentence shows the character’s feelings on the board, her impression of it.

Third sentence:

This is still feelings. She does not think it’s real.

Last sentence:

Her reaction as she tries to dismiss it – a product of her shaking hands.

Focus on the operative verbs within all these sentences. Reflect, feel, feel, react. There is a reflex we missed in here – her hands shaking – because it’s taken out of order, mentioned as a last thought, so let me go ahead and include it: reflect, reflex, feel, feel, react.

This means I disproved Ingermanson in the sense that these actions have to be in a specific order, but I supported him in his theory that some or all of these verbs may be present. And, I believe this is okay. Writing does not follow a specific rule, even though we try to define it, give it some sense of order even though that’s all it is – conscious feeling. Always a running sense of action and reaction, just like forces. If something happens, we react.

Use this as a simple tool to help refine your writing because I do support Ingermanson in this specific sense: actions and reactions are some of the most important pieces of writing, and without this, your story will fall flat.

Vandermeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print.

The 5 Senses: See, hear, taste, smell, touch

Good imagery is hard and not that hard to replicate. Let’s look at a specific example from my current reading:

That winter morning, the wind was cold against the collar of Saul Evan’s coat as he trudged down the trail toward the lighthouse. There had been a storm the night before, and down and to his left, the ocean lay gray and roiling against the dull blue of the sky, seen through the rustle and sway of the sea oats. Driftwood and bottles and faded white buoys and a dead hammerhead shark had washed up in the aftermath, tangled among snarls of seaweed, but no real damage either here or in the village.

At his feet lay bramble and the thick gray of thistles that would bloom purple in the spring and summer. To his right, the ponds were dark with the muttering complaints of grebes and buffleheads. Blackbirds plunged the thin branches of trees down, exploded upward in panic at his passage, settled back into garrulous communities. The brisk, fresh salt smell to the air had an edge of flame: a burning smell from the nearby house or still-smoldering bonfire. (Vandermeer 367)

From these paragraphs, I learned it is winter and the character Saul is on the coast, specifically by a lighthouse. There was just a storm and apparently also a fire. Even though these paragraphs richly define the scenery around me, giving me a lot of location and time details, the phrases that matter most to me are driftwood, shark, and blackbirds. These gave me a lot of specific visuals that my mind can attach to, and based on my earlier research, the more specific details you give your readers, the easier they can create an image in their minds – as long as they have that specific detail. (Refer here)

Other details include the muttering complaints of grebes, exploding blackbirds. Here I can hear the birds in his surroundings, and the vocabulary Vandermeer uses gives me the exact conversations he hears – complaints, garrulous communities. There’s a lot of chit chat. So, not only do I get a lot of sound context for the scene, I get the tone of the birds and the character’s interpretation of them as well, giving a lot of voice to the story.

There’s one more detail I want to highlight – the brisk salt and burning smell. These emphasize the third sense in these paragraphs. So far we have encountered visuals, sounds, and now scents. This means the more senses we can incorporate into our imagery, the more realistic scene we create. This is because humans experience their surroundings through a variety of perceptions and shows why this scene is so strong for me.

But, there’s one more dimension to this imagery that a lot of people may overlook. The vocabulary, which can be the hardest part. For this, I wasn’t a big biologist so didn’t catch on to all the different species, but this helped reflect the type of character Saul was. SPOILER: Being the man in charge of the lighthouse, he has to keep watch of his surroundings, looking for fires and animals interfering with his garden or such. That is the type of person he is, which is why he focuses on the fire, the animals.

To summarize our discussion, good imagery includes specifics, it uses as many of the senses as possible, and includes what the tone and analysis of what your character focuses on. If you have a fashion-focused character, she’s not going to be looking at the birds, but what someone may be wearing.

Vandermeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print.

Point of View

By now, most everyone realizes there are three basic points of view: I, you, he/she/they. Also known as: first, second, third. And while we write, we mostly use first and third person. It feels the most basic, the most natural. But, while I was reading Area X, I noticed something in the third book. Vandermeer used second person.

Most authors don’t use this for the same reason directors usually don’t have actors look at the camera, or through the screen at the audience. It’s jarring – it breaks you out of the world you had just built for your audience. But, I did not feel this way when Vandermeer at all. Actually, it was really subtle, and it really put me in the perspective of the character.

“As the conversation unspools, you keep faltering and losing track of it. You say things you don’t mean, trying to stay in character – the person the biologist knows you as, the construct you created for her. Maybe you shouldn’t care about roles now, but there’s still a role to play.” (363)

For me, this chapter really helped me sympathize with one of the characters I thought was crazy, more than a little eccentric. I got a peek to why she may be behaving in this manner and how much suffering she still has to go through.

Pity is such a strong emotion. So is empathy. This chapter was short enough that the ‘you’ didn’t bother me. It was subtle enough that I barely noticed it. And, yet by the end, I felt like me and the psychologist were intertwined. I knew how she felt and I could sympathize as to why, how all this came to be.

This could be a good technique for writers to try, to see if they can bring their readers closer to their characters this way. But, be careful not to start with you every sentence. It can get distracting. And, by continuing this perspective for too long, if the reader loses interest, they lose interest quickly. I see this as a technique as an extreme on either end, either really good or really bad, where other POVs can have more middle ground.

So be careful while you experiment, and drive safely!

Vandermeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print.

Writing Summaries

If summary means a concise paragraph of information, then why would we write summaries? As Dave Hood said, summaries are a different type of writing style, in contrast to scenes, they tell us what’s happening rather than show us. But, what is seriously the point of this? How do authors use this?

It’s a good way to overview the most important facts of a character’s history. As an example of from my favorite book as of late:

“Spiff’s flying saucer crossing alien skies, the little astronaut in his goggles under the saucer’s glass dome. Often it was funny, but also it was beautiful…She started thumbing through an old Calvin and Hobbes, and thought, this. These red-desert landscapes, these skies with two moons. She began thinking about the possibilities of the form, about spaceships and stars, alien planets, but a year passed before she invented the beautiful wreckage of Station Eleven.” (88)

Here, Mandel reviewed the origin of Miranda’s graphic novel, and it was so simple. Something reminded her of the idea; she reflected how she invented it; and then Mandel stated that this led to the creation of the story. In this case, summary was used to summarize the length of time, the series of events that spurred her imagination and led to the creation of her story.

Another example is from a good friend’s book. Here, summary is used to describe part of a scene and help introduce the reader to the setting.

“The shop was a cavern of a place. Wire mesh and glass and plastic formed twisting passages, all reverberating with the squawks and squeal and screams of their trapped inhabitants. / A dog here, a fish there, those were the mostly normal ones. Other genesplics represented more ambitious endeavors. A horse the size of a wolf with the head and neck of a giraffe.” (17)

Busemi did a good job of setting up a story before we’ve fully been integrated into the scene. What this does is help create an image within the readers mind, and gives us something to imagine while we read along with the story.

And at the same time, it doesn’t have to be limited to just setting a scene. Writers can easily integrate a character’s emotions within it as well, meaning summaries can be used to summarize a character’s internal reflections.

“At first, only I saw it as a tower. I don’t know why the word tower came to me, given that it tunneled into the ground. I could as easily have considered it a bunker or a submerged building. Yet as soon as I saw the staircase, I remembered the lighthouse on the coast and had a sudden vision of the last expedition drifting off, one by one…” (5)

What a beautiful way to lightly touch upon the thoughts of the main character from Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. By giving the biologist’s perspective of her surroundings, we know not only what the scenery looks like, but we are given the exact set of feelings and thoughts that we as the reader should be feeling, helping us align with the mood of the story so far. (Which, from my experiences, seems to teeter between science fiction and suspense.)

Summaries have multiple purposes, and even though I have only given a few examples, I encourage readers to find more, and to really examine what makes a summary such an effective tool. I definitely will be coming back to Area X by Vandermeer. This is my current read, and it has proved to be quite interesting.

Mandel, Emily. Station Eleven. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Print.

Buscemi, Matthew. Lore & Logos. Seattle, WA: Fuzzy Hedgehog Press. Print.

Vandermeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Print.

In Summary

There’s something I want to talk about today, but before I do, let me divulge for a moment and do something I never do – let me tell you about my day.

So, it’s been inside me and my boyfriend’s head for a while that we should rent a tandem bike. I don’t know why. Maybe we supposed it would be the next step in our relationship, elevating us to the next possible tier. Maybe it seemed like an accurate activity for both of us to do, being we both like the outdoors and continuous movement. But, let me just start by saying that this was the worst. possible. idea. ever.

Not that tandem bikes are bad. I’m sure there are one’s that are enjoyable, and not utterly frustrating and painful for every microsecond that you are sitting on the bike. But for every second I sat on that bike, that specific tandem road bike, I alternated between thoughts of how the seat felt like it was jack-hammering the bones in my butt, shoving a stake into my *cough* woman parts, and putting the full weight of my body upon my two child-like hands. Trust me – they’re small and wimpy and can’t support the full weight of my 150-pound body when you’re leaning over your handle bars.

Now I’m sitting here while typing, and I’m still sore. It hurts to sit. My hands seem frozen in that permanent crippled-old-person claw, and I can’t do anything but theorize on different plots of revenge. Not that I didn’t do this while biking. There were multiple times I wanted to get off the bike, rip the gears off the side, toss them on the pavement, take out a flame-thrower miraculously hidden in my back pocket and burn the thing until it melted alongside the pavement, creating a uniform, if somewhat rippled, surface on the road. And this is before bring a cement roller and run over this bike, then back over it, then run over it again, and repeat this multiple times until the bike is a thing of sheet metal. Yes. I wanted and still want to murder this bike. I have the scratches to prove why.

Now, I’m not telling you all this just to complain – which I am, but mostly out of our road bike ignorance and my hatred for my body’s continuous rebellion against exercise – but this all has a point. What I did just there was summarize my day, which was mostly about bike riding and my continuous hatred of this exact bike.

I have a friend that said he struggles to write summaries, and I feel like a lot of people can find themselves with this opinion. But, summaries don’t have to be a wall. You can easily break them down by thinking of them as a sort of diary. How do you summarize your day? Your past? Summaries are those times when you want to convey information without going into the whole scene. Maybe the scene is boring, maybe it’s unimportant, besides that single fact.

Either way, I encourage everyone to practice their summaries. Write about your day or something that happened. You don’t have to go into detail. But, by providing enough anchor, you give the summaries their own weight. By capitalizing on this skill, you can elevate your skill as a writer. After all, stories continuously alternate between summary – scene and scene – summary. If you can get comfortable switching back and forth between the two, writing will feel much easier, at least in that way.

Designing Covers: Part 2

Yesterday we discussed the different components of covers and how they all have one goal – to attract a reader to buy the book. Hopefully to read it, although we can all admit to letting a book sit too long on our bookshelf. I won’t admit this will be a perfect dissection, but let’s look at an example. I just bought this book, and I really like its cover design.

“Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (New York Times, “The Best Book Covers of 2014”)

What drew me initially to this cover?

It was simplistic. It abandoned the normal conventions that defined a book cover – it got rid of the title, the author. Everything but this one image. I had no idea what it meant besides a cross through a feather.

And, this is one thing I admire about covers. If I got to design all of them, I would choose something simple, either metaphorical or definitive – I would still focus on a few simple constructions, nothing as complex as a drawing or a photograph. Because what I would hope is that through cover design, we can ask the reader to think. And, that’s exactly what this cover did.

What did I think?

Well, if I blur my eyes or zoom out, I see an ‘X’. ‘X’ usually is found on a pirate’s map as buried treasure, and it can also be interpreted as a location that is either unknown or off limits. We usually seen these on road signs that say something along the lines of ‘keep out.’

Orange is usually also connotative of hazardous. Brings you back to think of the x in terms of ‘keep out’ instead of buried treasure. (The vibrancy of the orange would have something to do with it. Remember to keep in mind different hues will evoke different memories or feelings, which is why some colors on cars will always be reminiscent of puke.)

Now, where does the feather come in? Is it a feather? Or, does it resemble a fern more? Initially I thought it was a feather, which would make sense since the main character is a biologist. But, if it’s a fern, this would also make sense since Area X is an off limits area that is described as a mish mash of different ecologys, specifically their habitats.

But then why do the feather fall? Why are the leaves falling off a plant? Whenever we see this in nature, it usually means something is dying. But, who’s dying? I know nothing of the characters yet. All I did was pick of the book!

(If you could look at me now, I’d be smiling. I’m already a few pages in, and I can tell you who died. Spoiler alert: me.)

Cover Design

What’s makes a good cover? Scratch that. Before I go there, let’s first look at what makes a cover.

Cover Content: 

  • Title
  • Author
  • Picture/Design
  • Publisher Insignia
  • Back Blurb
  • Barcode
  • Optional: Reviews
  • Optional: Author Bio

Now that we’ve summarized what’s on a book. Let me ask you this. When you are standing in a book store, perusing books, why do you pick one up? Because this is a book cover’s goal – to be picked up. Let me explain.

Title: Summarizes your story

I feel like a lot of times this can be abstract, but they can be literal. I read a book a while back, called The Chronology of Water. It was accurately named because throughout the story, she referred back to how her life was similar to the title, her overarching thematic metaphor. But, not all titles have to be like this. As long as they summarize your story.

Author: Attract your attention

If you’re popular, you have a following. If you’re not, the publishers are trying to start your following. The idea is to associate your name with a type of work, a style of work, a sense of quality. Try looking up ghost writing. A lot of famous authors will use this and don’t actually write as many books as you think. This was disappointing for me to hear, but it explained why they put out so many a year or why quality seemed below average.

Picture/Design: Attract your attention/Emotize the story

There’s no set rule for cover designs, but the ultimate goal is to attract you. It’s supposed to reflect the plot of the book, show its emotion or genre. But, the thing to remember is that they all will want to look pretty. They’re going to appeal to your eyes and there’s numerous tricks on how they can do that.

*Emotize, it’ll become a thing. Definition: Evoke an emotion

Publisher Insignia: Attract your attention

These insignia are similar to a publisher’s icon or logo, usually representing their imprint, and publishing houses usually have multiple, which are simply different names for different genres that they print, each with their own customer base. This means that they believe the readers will come to recognize their imprint with a level of quality and type of books. One example is Pelican Books, an imprint by Penguin that is used to educate the reader.

Back Blurb: Attract your attention

The goal of every blurb is to excite you. It’s basically the equivalent of a fish hook dangling the most tempting bait they can create, but converted into words. If they can’t catch you here, you probably won’t buy the book.

This is the main purpose of a cover: to attract your attention. There’s no simpler way to put it. Every book is a pretty, nicely written piece of paper whose goal is for you to purchase it. Every publisher and every author would celebrate with the spirit hands, spirit fingers, however, if you simply spent money on their book.

Keep this in mind when looking at books. Why did it attract you? Who does that type of cover attract? They’re all targeting different audiences, and if you don’t believe me, go to the young adult aisle and count how many books have pretty faces on their covers. It’s almost as bad as looking at magazines.

Traditional Vs. Self-Publishing

Let me say this first. This is not a how to for either of these. This is the pros and cons of each. And, each of these criteria will have different weights of importance for each of you.

Content

Traditional Self-Publishing
  • If you have an agent, they will give you feedback to edit your book, usually before they will advertise it
  • If you’re published, you will have an in-house editor that will give feedback to improve your book
  • Because the publishing house pays you and the team for personal feedback, they usually have the last say on what goes on in your book
  • Since you published it, you get the final say on what goes on in your book.
  • If you hire outside editing, you will have to pay for it, but you don’t have to use it.
  • If you use outside editing, such as friends, you don’t have to pay, but it may (not) be as professional.

Effort

Traditional Self-Publishing
  • After finishing your book, you will have to write a query letter and possibly chapter summaries.
  • You will not get accepted on the first try, you will have to send it to multiple agents, multiple publishing houses. This will require some initial shipping fees (though there are discounts for writers).
  • Upon acceptance, you will have a publishing team that will do most everything for you: an editor to give you feedback, designers for covers, outside printers, marketers, distributors.
  • Publishing houses will receive sales data on your books and will determine when to print or pull it off the shelves, based on these numbers.
  • The tendency is that with your own publishing team, usually works produced are higher quality.
  • Most of the time, editing will rely on you. You will have to do a lot of passes to get it to a high standard.
  • If you want outside editing, designing, you will have to research it, find it, and pay for it. But, the nice part is it’s voluntary, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. (Emphasis on research.)
  • You have no printers, so you will have to find and pay for routes to publish, meaning either choosing digital distributors like Amazon or printers like Lulu.
  • Because you’re on your own, you will have to market your own book. You will have to find and organize advertisements, commercials, events, publicity stunts, etc.
  • Depending on your popularity, you will have to find your own distributors (like bookstores), and not everyone accepts self-published authors on their shelves.
  • Because your sales are mostly through you, you may not sell all the books you paid to print. It will take more effort to get them out of your closet.

Time

Traditional Self-Publishing
  • If you send copies to an agent, it will take time for it to go through review and acceptance (or rejection). This could be a few months to more than a few years for someone to take this on as a cause.
  • Agents are like hiring an employee. You should spend time reviewing their background and making sure they have a positive reputation with their customers and publishers.
  • Even if you send it to a publishing house, it can take over six months for your book copy to make it to someone’s desk for them to read. Not to mention the time it takes to find someone to accept it.
  • Once accepted, the whole publishing process can take from one to three years. This includes editing, designing, printing, etc.
  • Editing can take multiple months since there are a variety of people reviewing and giving feedback to your book. Don’t forget how long it takes for someone to read and write those corrections.
  • Depending on your contract, different publishing houses can keep your rights for different lengths of time. Make sure you review these criteria!
  • The time you spend on the publishing process is ultimately up to you. If you want to edit for a day, then you can. If you’ve already made several passes and determine it’s done, then it’s done.
  • Depending on your level of experience, different parts of the process can take longer or shorter amounts of time, depending on if you do them yourself.
  • If you bring in outside help, the length of this process is dependent on them. Take this into consideration if you have your own personal deadlines.
  • Printing can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on your format (paperback vs. hardcover) and depending on your vendor.
  • If you choose digital, you can publish your book within a day.
  • You put in as much time to market and distribute as you want.
  • You keep all rights over your book. You never have to worry about your contract!
  • (If you’re worried about copyrights, make sure to send it to the US Copyright Office – I’m not aware how long this takes.)

Cost

* As a note, I would like to define an advance. An advance is how much of the royalty you will be paid ahead of time. This means that if you receive $10,000, the publisher has paid $10,000 of your royalties ahead of schedule. You will have to wait to pass this mark before you begin to receive royalty checks.

Traditional Self-Publishing
  • There’s an initial fee to mail your book out to companies/agents, but make sure you ask for the media charge. I believe it’s usually cheaper.
  • Good agents should not charge you fees, but they will take a commission upon your publication, usually around 15 percent.
  • If the house takes it, they buy rights and pay you with an advance and future royalties, either based on “cover price” or “amount received by publishers,” which will vary with the company. Maybe, maybe the royalty will be between 6 and 18 percent.
  • Keep in mind different companies, and their variety of sizes, will pay you different ranges. Usually authors get a few thousand to tens of thousands from a book deal. It is rare to get offered hundreds of thousands.
  • Because your publishing house is a company, they already have editors, designers, marketers, distributors. They will be paying for all of this.
  • You will pay for outside developmental editors, copy editors, cover designers, production editors…Keep in mind each of these will cost a few hundred. Each.
  • You will pay for printing, and depending on the format, it will vary.
  • Don’t forget that the cost of shipping will be included! Take this into consideration when choosing your vendors.
  • If you go digital, there’s no more printing or shipping to pay for!
  • A lot of people don’t think about this, but once you distribute books, bookstores may charge you for returns if they don’t make a sale. This is all based on the cost to stock.
  • You may not sell all the books you paid to have printed, so they may take up room in your closet for a while.
  • The nice part is you get to keep most of what you make. You’re your own publisher.

Control

Traditional Self-Publishing
  • This sounds silly, but only reach out to agents or houses that you believe in. Only accept offers that you like. It’s going to be hard to follow the advice of someone if you don’t like them.
  • Also silly, but you do not have control who will accept it and who will reject it. Not unless you’ve suddenly gained some form of hypnosis or telepathy.
  • If a house publishes your book, keep in mind they bought your rights, and will get the last say on your content. You have have some say, but in the hierarchy of control, you’re below them.
  • Since the house also pays for designing, printing, marketing, and distributing, they usually also get the say of what your book looks like, how it’s printed, how it’s marketed, etc.
  • You have no control on how fast your book will move through the publishing process. Keep this in mind if you’re an impatient person.
  • A lot of the times, publishers figure out your payment based on algorithms: what’s popular, what format, how many are going to be printed. They have control over your paycheck.
  • Be careful with your contract because some publishers will have you sign over the rights for audio books, movies, TV, foreign languages, etc. Watch out for this.
  • Publishers will know when to take it out of print, based on their sales data.
  • Less than 1% of authors are traditionally published.
  • Because you publish your book, you have all the control over the piece, over the process. You can decide which feedback you’ll use or keep. You can decide the timeline of your project. At the end of the of day, you’re the boss.
  • Since you pay for all the outside help you want, you get control over who to hire and whether you’ll accept their work or not.
  • Again, you get to choose your printer, and as friends have showed me, this means you get to choose the quality of your book. The kind of paper, the kind of cover or binding. Feel free to experiment! Bind them yourselves! It’s up to you.
  • Unfortunately once you go digital, you will give up some of your control to your digital publisher. Unless you want to send your PDF out by hand. Haven’t heard of that yet. You could just publish it online through blog though.
  • Even though you have to pay for a lot of services here, you get to choose what you’re willing to pay for and by how much. You write the checks.
  • At this point, you get to choose your audience and market. If you decide you want certain customers, you can customize it for them.
  • You get to keep all rights over your book!
  • You get to see how your efforts affect sales, ex: you can see how blog posts can affect sales.
  • You control your appearance and performance, so put your best foot forward and do your best!

Please keep in mind there are stereotypes and stigmas of each route of publishing. Because we are individuals, we each follow a route for our own different reasons, and although each route may come with a different negative/positive stigma, these only reflect your own experiences and opinions. Feel free to express them but be receptive of others as well.