NaNoWriMo – Winners Badge – But what next?

Hey there dear blog reader, today is a happy day!

I’ve just had my NaNoWriMo novel validated and received my certificate and winners badge! Woohoo! So I’m all smiles today! I’d like to say a huge thank you to NaNoTeamIndy and everyone involved for their support, late night word sprints and high spirits. I wasn’t worried about reaching the 50,000 word chequered flag but without good folk to share the journey with it would have been a rather dull experience.

As it stands my novel, Shadowrealm Stalkers, is at 80,000 words and not yet finished. I had hoped to finish it by the end of November then start work on editing The Range in December. And when that was done I’d return to Shadowrealm in January and edit that one with fresh eyes.

Instead I’ll keep the momentum going and finish Shadowrealm by the end of December. After that I’ll edit The Range. My plan is that by January I’ll have The Range ready to submit to publishers and work on tidying up Shadowrealm. I’ve never had writers block and feel blessed with being able to churn out the words at a steady pace, or as Evelyn at Filling A Hole says: “Dave’s a writing machine!” I guess the problem I have is never being 100% satisfied with something and not feeling confident enough to send my work out to publishers etc.

Questions, even now!

In the last 2 years I’ve leant a lot about writing and publishing, and how it’s changing so rapidly. But I’m still in the dark somewhat. I’m old school enough to want to see my novel in print on bookshelves in shops, but I’m keen to embrace the eBook world too.

The problem is not really knowing where to start. I have a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook that has a decent amount of resources. I read a lot of articles about publishing, eBooks, contracts and the like but how do I really know where to start? For me the prospect of earning money from my writing is an exciting one, it’s the fact of seeing my book in print that goes beyond cash.

So I have many questions.

How do I know who to trust?

There are tons of online publishers to choose from, and they talk the talk, some better than others, but I feel an element of trust is needed before you hand over your precious manuscript. In an online world this is more of an issue. If an author meets someone from a well-known publishing company, Random House for example, or Hodder & Stoughton, you’re much more certain of their validity. The same goes for an agent.

Am I going to get ripped off?

Let’s say you engage with an online publisher, via Twitter, email, Facebook, whatever works for you. You provide extracts, synopsis (oh the dreaded synopsis!) and then agree terms and conditions. How can you be sure they won’t do something dreadful, like edit the hell out of your book without your input, or renege on their deal because it doesn’t work out financially for them? 

Long term relationship?

You go to a place of work every day, build up relationships with your co-workers and boss. One day you ask your boss if you can do a Health & Safety course or something similar, you want to improve your skills and be an asset to the company. You’ve known your boss for X number of years and you’re both comfortable with each other. Your boss says yeah, no problem, sounds like a good plan.

That’s the kind of thing I’d expect to be able to build up with a publisher or agent. From the nervous first handshake to the solid rapport after so many years. Can this be achieved without face to face contact? I understand it’s not always possible and digital communication makes things easier, but to me there’s a lot to be said for meeting someone, gauging their personality, finding out if you click, if you’re going to get on, if they’re professional.

I’m not naive, far from it. I have a thick wedge of cynicism running through me that is often my best pal and worst enemy. However, I would prefer to seek out the best place I can to submit my hard work than take an unnecessary risk. Even though there’s risk in everything, that can be reduced can’t it? Well, to a certain degree. And I think the risk factor is higher when you don’t know who you are dealing with, not really, not in the digital world.

It’s not about the money!

I dare any writer to say they haven’t wondered what it would be like to earn a living from writing. I’ve been writing since I was a nipper because it’s ace fun! When I wrote short stories in my youth I didn’t sit down and write the first line with the aim of publishing it and getting rich. Bob Mayer recently stated on his blog Write It Forward:

If you desire to write a novel because you want to have a bestseller and make a bundle of money, my advice for you is to play the lottery; it will take much less time and your odds will be about the same, if not better, and I can guarantee that the work involved will be much less.  The publishing business makes little sense and it’s changing faster than ever before.  However, I do believe that the more you know, the greater your chances of success.  The vast majority of writers are flailing away at the craft and the business blindly.  Armed with knowledge, you greatly increase your ability to rise above the rest.

But surely every writer, once they reach a certain level, starts to think about being published, right? So if it’s not about the money then what is it that makes us want to be published?

  • A sense of achievement?
  • Fame?
  • Recognition?
  • Praise?
  • A dream realised after much hard work?
  • To see your book on the shelves of a book store?

Or, if you’re like me, a much smaller reason.

Let’s say I’m out somewhere – a park, cafe, airport etc, and I spot someone reading my novel. For me that is the real reward, not the royalties or an advance for my next novel, but that quiet moment where I watch a reader turning the pages of a book I wrote. How cool is that!

Or do I take the plunge and go digital?

You’ve written your book and poured your heart and soul into it. Do you even bother sending it to an agent or publisher? Or do you stick it on Amazon or Smashwords as an eBook? I read how many writers are cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with the important issue, the reader. Is this the way things are going? If so then why bother going through the pain of rejection at all?

Publishers take a cut, and rightly so, they need to pay for editors, marketing, cover design, the physical cost of your novel, and a whole list of other things before your novel reaches the shelves. But not only that they work to ensure your book is the best it can be. After all they need to make money from it as well as pay you, so they invest in you and your work.

Amazon’s Kindle has a massive library of free eBooks written by amateur and professional authors alike. I’ve read a fair few penned by amateur writers and I have to say I’m not that impressed. The layout of some free eBooks is simply appalling. And the quality of writing is often quite poor, with spelling errors, grammatical errors, even basic things like correct use of commas, speech marks and dialogue.

It seems that many amateur writers are willing to put their work out there, regardless of its quality, in order to say they are “published” and feel a sense of satisfaction, pride (and smugness too maybe?) For me that isn’t reason enough to publish my work.

So it’s no wonder that amateur writers are using the eBook platform to reach an audience. And given that so many free eBooks are riddled with errors, would publishing my own eBook undermine my credibility as a solid writer? Not that mine would be the same, but it’s the stigma attached to free eBooks that I don’t want to be tainted with. Considering that no one knows who I am how can I expect someone to pay for my eBook? Sure, Terry Pratchett can charge £8.95 for his latest book because he’s established, but I can’t expect the same.

Therefore is it acceptable to charge a few pounds for my unknown novel?

Or do I stick it in the free list?

Or try to the longer road of traditional publishing?

And if I do will it have any impact on finding a traditional publisher? If I sell X number of copies of my eBook will that impress a publisher? Will it encourage them to take a chance on me based on the number of sales or free copies read?

I’m in no hurry to be published. I’d rather find a traditional publisher or agent than get instant gratification via eBook publication.

It’s a nightmare!

So there it is, dear blog reader, a few of my burning questions about publishing. I’ll leave you with this little thingy I noticed the other day that has nothing to do with publishing whatsoever. If you use WordPress you might find this intriguing! Take a look at the picture below!

What’s with the little smiley face? I didn’t put it there. It doesn’t matter if you expand or collapse any of your WordPress menus on your dashboard, that smiley face is always there at the bottom.

How weird is that!

I hope someone else can see it on their dashboard because if they can’t it makes the smiley face a little worrying, like someone is watching me!

 

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22 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – Winners Badge – But what next?

  1. i Dave,
    No I don’t have a smiley face on my wordpress dashboard. Looks like the gods are looking down on you. congrats on completing the challenge and good luck on overcoming the future challenges re. publishing!

  2. Congrats on getting your NaNoWriMo novel validated and receiving your certificate and winner’s badge Dave! No wonder you are all smiles – I am too, for you! Keep up the good work.
    I don’t have that little smiley face on my WP dashboard either, I just checked. You should write to WP and ask them about it. What happens if you click on it?

    • Thanks Barb! I’m sure I’m being wound up over this! Someone else must have a little smiley on their dashboard like mine! I can hover my mouse over it but it doesn’t do anything. It just sits there smiling at me!

  3. Dave,

    A lot of your concerns are addressed in multiple posts by Dean Wesley Smith in his blog at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com. I mainly recommend “The New World of Publishing: There Are Suckers Born Every Minute and They Are Writers” http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=5855 and “How Traditional Publishers Will Get Rich” http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=5849

    Dean also touts Lee Goldberg’s post “Sucker Country” http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2011/11/sucker-country.html which is a response to Penguin’s new release “Book Country” for Indie publishers.

    I hope these help!

    • Thanks for your comment Raven. I didn’t see it straight away as it was stuck in the Pending folder. I’ll check out those links this weekend. Appreciate you sharing them!

      Thanks again!

  4. The smiley cracks me up. No, I don’t have it on my screen. Maybe it’s because you are one of wordpress’s favorite writers and they’ve secretly awarded you with the “you make me smile” award.

    Now, with regard to publishing.
    I haven’t read your novel but I read your blog. And you’re blog is made up of consistent, solid, good writing. If you never have writer’s block and can crank out the words like you did in nanowrimo on a regular basis, then you should consider making the professional switch to writing novels at some point and pop’em out like Danielle Steel. In that case I think you are best advised going the traditional route, with a traditional publisher. The established houses continue to have the pull and the direct line into the newspaper editing rooms the same way you have a hot wire into your sales clients. All they need to do is make a call, and you have 60 lines somewhere, and then somewhere else, and so on. And that’s all their PR people do, all day long. They work the phones and send out little blips and blobs until their ears and fingers go on fire (well—if they’re good….so yes, meet them!). Anyway, that’s a fulltime job. Do you want to work in PR or do you want to write? And, yes, meet the publisher, meet the agent, meet them all. Meet as many publishers as you possibly can. Your instinct is bang on that if you click and they believe in you they will go the extra mile.

    With the first book I probably wouldn’t bargain for a massive contract. Just make sure it doesn’t get linked to all your future work so that you can renegotiate with the next novel when things go well. If you’ve sold 100000 copies, you’ll be in a better position to sit down and say, hey, look, what’s in it for me. Also try things like to get as many copies pre-sold on Amazon as possible, with friends, whatever, because if I’m correctly informed, a thousand copies that get sold off the manuscript at Amazon get you on the bestseller list of the New York Times. Find out stuff like that. Then you’re off to a good start. The writer of the new book on the Obamas, Jodi Kantor, has been beating the drums all year long and her book isn’t out until next year. She’ll spend the better part of next year travelling from reading to reading, event to event, bookstore to bookstore. That’s what I mean with “pull”, her publisher has “pull”. Then, further down the road, it’s about money of course. But I wouldn’t bother. You’ve got your sales job that you seem to like. Stay in it. Until you don’t need to.

    The writers I would advise to go the self-publishing route are the ones who have books that sell themselves: you wrote the only guide-book in the market complete with addresses and phone numbers for middle class peanut container shipping upstarts? That’s all you want to write and talk about? and you are prepared to spend whatever time it takes to keep the ball rolling? Self-publish! The 437 people in the world who want to do just that will buy your book. You’ll be the peanut-container-shipping-upstart god. But if you want to be the next Daniel Silva or better yet, John Grisham, you’ve got to paddle free from the ocean of wanna-be John Grishams first. Go traditional publisher, go as *big* a fucking publisher as you can possibly get and make sure they believe in you—in that combination.

    Does that help? I wrote a book for exchange students a while back. Granted, it was before e-books; but I think the underlying concept is the same. It was one of two books in a market for 20 thousand German students aged 15 to 17 a year who consider to participate in a very standardized program of high school exchange every year. I met with several publishers who were interested and then decided to publish it myself. It sold ten thousand copies very quickly. And then it died. Because my life moved on and I didn’t have the time to do the part of the work that a publisher should do for you. In the short run, it was awesome. I had my market, I knew exactly how to address and reach it. 2000 copies sold off the manuscript to specialized exchange student travel agencies. But in the long run, it was probably a mistake. I wanted to focus on other projects. When I tried to circle back from my mini garage sale operation to place it with another publisher, it was lightyears harder than it would have been if I’d gone that route in the first place. To start with, you have to turn the ship of distribution channels around. Very few publishers (probably only the very big ones) will hesitate and think eight times before they do that. That’s where the clean deal suddenly has the root system of an onion attached to it: you have to cut through eight layers of roots before you get back to level one. Journalists don’t pick up a reprint either. Have you ever read the op-ed that goes, “xyz’s book bladeeblah that we didn’t write about when it first came out is now big news because the second edition is coming out at TickleMe Publishing, hooray!” That’s not news. That’s a press release that sails from the pile of 300 press releases a day from the desk of the journalist straight into Le Bin. Maybe with the next book. All I’m saying is that it becomes a massive uphill hike. It didn’t work for me. My book is dead and it stays dead.

    And, say, your second novel does become a bestseller and you still have book one limping around in your little publishing company, that’ll always slow you down. That’ll hang there like an oozing appendix. You’ll have 2000 hardcopies sitting in your hallway and 200 emails in your inbox with orders that need processing, bookkeeping that needs to be done, accounts that need to be checked….you will want to bite yourself in the arm. All you want to do is write and go “kaching” when you count your commissions. My suggestion for *you*, a promising, talented, fast-writing hard worker, is to do it right the first time round. We wouldn’t know Coldplay *existed* if it wasn’t for Brian Eno.

    That’s me with my very limited experience and one-sided view of the world. Anybody else out there have better advice?

    • Gosh. I reckon that’s the longest and most information packed comment anyone has ever made! And I deeply thank you for the time it took you to write it out. I admit I have been seriously tempted to go the route of ePublishing because it gives instant results, in a strange way, from the point of view of seeing my work available to the masses.

      But beyond that I couldn’t see a good enough reason to do it. I’m so grateful for your advice, and along with Mike and Joss (below) I’ve made the decision to find a publisher rather than plumb for the easy option.

      I’m well aware of the struggle and potential for plenty of rejections but traditional publishing is a more appealing option, and like you say do it right the first time round. Now the only real barrier is one of confidence. Can I tweak my words a little more? Does that sentence read okay, or make sense? It’s silly things like that which I’m sure most writers have a problem with. And there has to be a cut off point where I say “Okay, enough, let’s see where this can take me.”

      It seems your experience isn’t so limited compared to my own anyway! And this is the kind of thing I was hoping for when I wrote this post, someone who had your experience that could help make some sense of those niggling questions burrowing away at the back of my mind.

      As far as actually being ready to send my work off or meet agents etc, that’s still some way off, a couple of months at least being realistic. I like giving myself deadlines but only ones that are achievable otherwise you feel that twinge of failure if you don’t meet them.

      After that, who knows how long it may take for someone to like my work? I’ve been happy enough writing for my own satisfaction for years so waiting isn’t a problem. And as for rejection, well that’s part of every day life so I’m not going to cry when that happens.

      So thank you again for taking the time to write your comments, I really do appreciate it. Things are certainly clearer now than a few days ago!

  5. Sorry to add to your paranoia but I don’t have a smiley badge on my dashboard either!
    A great post Dave.
    I agree with everything you say especially about the excitement of seeing someone else reading your work – money couldn’t buy those feelings.
    I like the idea of how easy it is to self publish on something like the Kindle but, also like you, I’ve read some awful stuff that people are flooding that particular media with. I suppose that can only change in time when more writers like yourself start putting good writing up there.
    As NaNo finishes (I’m almost there!) my mind is turning to what next. At the moment I’ve only three ideas:
    1. Writing again on my somewhat neglected blog.
    2. Not looking at my NaNo ‘Novel’ until the New Year. I feel as if I need to get it out of my system and come back to it with a refreshed pair of eyes so that I can do some quality editing.
    3. In the meantime I don’t want to lose the NaNo habits I’ve got into – so During December I’m setting myself a challenge to write 15 short stories (1,500 – 2,000 words) in the month. Like NaNo I hope to polish each one off in a day and then park it away somewhere and review and edit it in 2012.

    • I’m just glad I saw Joss’s comments below before I wrote this reply! I was starting think something was very different to my dashboard!

      Kindle and Smashwords etc have made it very easy for amateur writers to put their stuff out there, but then because there’s no editing or opinions from those who know what they’re talking about, there’s a lot of dross coming through. And that is why free eBooks have a bit of a reputation for poor quality.

      I suppose as you say that in time that may change as more writers who take a lot of time over their presentation and writing as a whole put their work up for free.

      Glad to hear you’re almost there with your NaNo novel! I had given a lot of thought to the “post NaNo” void before I started. I had finished a 3rd draft of my novel The Range, and was waiting for December before I gave it a final edit. I didn’t want to stop and start though so it’s best to keep that momentum going and finish this one off first.

      Leaving a project alone for a while is a good habit because when you look at it with fresh eyes you’ll see the errors clearly.

      And short stories are a good way to keep your writing moving forward, not only to keep your brain active but they are a different style of writing, and force you to be more choosy with your words. I tend to switch back and forth between my longer projects and short ones, but for the time being the short stuff will have to wait while I concentrate on my novel.

      Having said that, it’s good to take a break and look at something else too. I still have the concluding parts of Arcane Insane to finish, along with a bunch of ideas for short stories that I just keep jotting down ideas for. Imaginationland has never been so busy!

  6. okay Dave, you can start breathing again – I scrolled all the wayyyyyyyyyyy down and yep, I have that little smiley face too! So either everyone else needs to scroll right down to the bottom or you and I are members of some yet unknown exclusive club. Either way, you are alone no longer!!
    And Dave, as I tell people my advice and a token will get you a seat on the subway but seriously, you are one of the best! I’ve been reading fiction all my life and you are right up there with the greats of our time. So, don’t settle – pick the publisher you most want to publish your work and go for it. And go for it with the knowledge and attitude that YOUR books are going to be on the bestseller lists for many many years. You are that good, my friend.
    As for free Ebooks, I’ve downloaded a few and although one or two have been worth the read, the others are filled with spelling and grammar errors. Soon as I see that, I delete the book. I don’t care how great a message you have to convey, or how awesome a story you want to tell, if you can’t do the hard work of writing properly, I’ll find my message somewhere else.
    Happy weekend to you as you bask in the glow of your winners badge. Onward and Upward!

    • Yay! I’m so happy someone else spotted the ever present smiley face! It yes, it does appear way down there near the bottom too, depends on how your menus are expanded or collapsed.

      On my own the smiley face was kind of unnerving, but now I know someone else has it too it feels more like a special club! WP must like us!

      Aside from my writing the rest of my life I’m pretty confident smiling kinda chap. I’m confident in my writing because it’s a passion and I learn as much as I can all the time, but it’s that teeny tiny doubt demon that keeps talking: “Are you sure it’s good enough? Maybe a little more work? Yeah, that’s the best thing to do, don’t send it anywhere just yet.”

      So when good folk like yourself give glowing feedback like that, the doubt demon fades slowly away. I can’t express how grateful I am for your comments, Joss, it really means a lot to me that there are people who like what I write.

      Today is indeed another smiling day! Have a good weekend too, and thanks again!

  7. Great news David well done. So proud of you our kid! You’re such an inspiration. I just know you’ll go far which ever route you take. You’re quite right to have so many questions around publishing but sometimes you just have to believe in yourself and trust your inner guidance. As long as your intentions are true and honourable your passion will shine through and you will succeed! You’re already a star in my eyes. Love you loads, sis x

    • Thanks little Sis! Hey everyone, did you see that? I’m a star! Woop! I guess it really does boil down to self belief. honour and integrity and if they’re values you hold in your every day life then they’ll be evident in other pursuits and activities too.

  8. Funny that you would write this article now – your timing is impeccable. I’ve just started sending my manuscript out – a slow process indeed. Three days ago I sent it to someone who let me know within 50 minutes that my manuscript has been accepted. What was supposed to be a YAHOOOOO! moment turned into a HMMMM?….. How do you decide that in under an hour?

    I did some homework on the company and it turns out they are more known to many as merely printing your work – minimal (or no) editorial services, no marketing, and often not paying royalties. How sad. Yes, to find out as much information as you can is wise, and it is certainly not a sprint.

    I was feeling my way around some but I can definitely read more of what you’ve mentioned here. I agree: knowledge is power.

    I have felt tempted to go the shortcut route of e-publishing, but yes, I agree with the sense of it having been tarnished. Unless you’re not so serious about the publication. In that case, who knows? You might just ‘play’ around and land up hitting the jackpot! These things happen, you know? But even if I ever did consider the e-publishing I would contract someone to do the editorial services with me – integrity (for me) is very important. After all, your product says something about you.

    Oh, by the way, Dave: I’ve changed my blog a little: the title and the appearance. Can you let me know what you think? I’d like that! 🙂

    • I’d very much be hmmmm about that too, 50 minutes is certainly too short a time so it’s good the alarm bells started ringing for you. I wish you all the best luck for your manuscript, judging from your blog you have a great way of sharing your experiences and adventures, the passion is very evident in every line.

      I have read about people who published on Amazon just to see what happens, only to find a publisher find them and offer a deal for their next book, so it could happen. And yes it is about integrity and your writing is who you are.

      I’ve just had a look at your new layout. Very nice. I’ll miss the jazzy background on your old style, but this one is much easier to read and take in. And you have a range of articles on the one page, whereas before you had a longer post that stretched down a long way. I think visitors now will be more likely to view your others posts as they’re easy to see.

      The only slight problem, and it’s not really a problem as such, it the banner at the top, it looks ace by the way! But the white font gets a little lost set against the colour of the banner. However, it looks more kinda grown up now! And much better layout too!

      • Thanks for the feedback, Dave 🙂 I’ll look into the title. You have a valid point. I really appreciate that you point out how I can make it better. If you want to do something great but no one tells you ways to make it better than it is, that can be difficult to achieve.

        I really think that you have an awesome creative ability and I do believe that you will have books published in your lifetime! Keep chipping at finding the right path to get there. Sometimes it is almost sad for me how much good work you’re putting online for everyone to see for free (ha-ha). If your work was a book I’d buy them for sure!

        I hope you find that relationship that you’re looking for in a publicist. I suppose that is how I’ve always thought of it too, rather than something impersonal with little or no involvement from you as the creator of the work. Keep reaching for it! 🙂

    • I feel that face watching me even when the browser is closed! I can’t tell if it wants to give me a sly wink every now and then or what! Or when I’m not looking it sticks it tongue out!

  9. Pingback: Will you be boarding the NaNo Train? « Dave Farmer

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