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Posts Tagged self-publishing
You know The Undercover Soundtrack? The Alliance of Independent Authors got curious about it and asked me to write a post. Why did I set the series up? What do I get out of it? What do the participating authors get, aside from a singular blogging challenge and another place to get their work seen?
I’m musing on these questions and others at the ALLI blog today. And if you’ve been wondering if you dare ask for a spot, I talk about that too. Do come over. (Or if you’ve wanted to ask but are shy about doing so in public, email me on rozmorriswriter at gmail dotcom…)
Alliance of Independent Authors, authors, book marketing, book publicity, Fix and Finish With Confidence, guest post, guest posts, how to find readers, how to get book publicity, how to market your book, how to write a novel, interview, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, publishing, pulicity for books, reaching readers, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
I’m delighted that this week’s guest has included Olafur Arnalds’s album Living Room Songs in his Soundtrack. I discovered it from another guest here, and it got me like a snakecharmer’s pipe. While I’ve been mainlining it to brainstorm The Mountains Novel, my latest guest has been using it to create an environment of conspiracy, calm and sexual tension for his novel Red Lory. He says he puts music on to act as a metronome, guiding his voice while he concentrates on the sentence formation and world-building. He’s also inspired by the way songwriters pack so much into a tight space, which drives him to make his prose more vibrant and potent. He is literary novelist Dave Newell and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, Dave Newell, deepen your story, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, how to write a book, how to write a novel, literary fiction, literature, Living Room Songs, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Olafur Arnalds, publishing, Red Lory, Roz Morris, self-publishing, snakecharmer, songwriters, soundtrack, Southern Gothic, Southern Gothic literature, The Mountains Novel, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing life, writing routine, writing to music
What is too long?
In commercial publishing there are accepted lengths for books, ranging from 70,000 to 100,000 according to genre and audience. These conventions are created as much by the economics of distribution as reader preference, but they are pretty entrenched and can be dealbreakers. And if you’re self-publishing a monster epic in print, you might start to understand how paperback costs escalate as those pages pile up.
Too long for who?
You’re right. A book should be the length it deserves. As a reader, that’s what I want. As an editor, that’s what I strive for. And here’s the good news: I usually find when I tackle a manuscript that there’s enough redundancy to fillet the wordcount easily and painlessly. When I edited My Memories of a Future Life for publication, I found I’d been a bit generous and meandering. My ruthless eye took it from 152k words to 102k. Yes, with all the important story elements still intact.
So before you sacrifice a subplot, extract a much-loved set of characters, look at this list. It might do all the cutting you need.
1 Have you crammed too much of your research in? You need a lot of research to get comfortable with a subject, geographical area, historical period or life situation, but you don’t need all that in the book. And I see a lot of writers who can’t decide what to leave out. Or they’ve got carried away inventing atmospheric details, and have brought the story to a standstill (like my friend in the picture). Whenever you’re introducing details for this reason, consider whether the story has stopped for them. Choose just a few to make your point, and keep the rest for deleted scenes to delight your fans – seriously, you will make good use of this material and it’s never wasted.
2 Examine your descriptions for extraneous adjectives and adverbs. Often writers pile on several when one will do – ‘thick black hair’, ‘brilliant bright moonlight’. Sometimes they use a simile when a more exact verb would be crisper – ‘he threw panicky punches like a child’ might be better as ‘flailed’. (It might not be, of course. Fiction isn’t like instructions for plumbing a washing machine. Sometimes the luxuriant description suits your needs.)
3 Throat-clearing before the meat of a scene. Sometimes a writer seems to be warming up before they get to the important part of a scene. They might footle around with unnecessary details and internal dialogue. Of course, you don’t want to neuter all the atmosphere and panache, but ask yourself if you’re stating points we’ve already grasped, or if you could wind the scene forwards and start further in.
4 Watch for dialogue that is going nowhere. Often, characters dither and chit-chat before their dialogue gets interesting. Can you start at that point and still keep it natural?
5 Make your characterisation scenes do double duty. Scenes that display character traits, attitudes and relationships are very necessary, but they can be static. Can you incorporate them in a scene that also pushes the plot forwards?
6 Take out all the back story (don’t panic; we’re going to put some of it back in). Writers often cram in far too much back story. Like research, you don’t need to display nearly as much as you’ve prepared. Consider what the reader needs to know at each stage of the story and what you could reveal in more dynamic ways – eg scenes where characters bond by sharing a confidence.
7 Make a beat sheet. This is – and probably always will be – my pathfinder through a novel. Briefly, it’s an at-a-glance plan of the novel that shows the entire structure and the emotional beats. It has lots of uses, but if you need to shorten a book it will show where scenes are repeating parts of the story that you’ve already covered, or scenes that could be spliced together and achieve the same purpose. It’s explained at greater length in Nail Your Novel (original flavour)
NEWSFLASH This Wednesday I’m speaking at the GetRead online conference, which is all about marketing strategies for writers. Other speakers include authors Joanna Penn, James Scott Bell, Bella Andre, Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth S Craig, Barbara Freethy, MJ Rose, Therese Walsh, the literary agents Rachelle Gardner and Jason Allen Ashlock, book marketing experts and entrepreneurs Dan Blank and Kristen McLean, industry commentator Porter Anderson, and senior figures from Goodreads, Wattpad and Tumblr. It’s online, so you can join from your armchair. More here (and in the meantime, wish me luck – I had no idea it was so big!)
Back to important matters….
Do you have any tips for cutting without sacrificing story elements? Have you had to hack several thousand words out of a novel? Let’s discuss in the comments!
adjectives, adverbs, authors, back story, editing, editing tips, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, how to cut a novel, how to edit a novel, how to write a book, how to write a novel, language, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, polishing, publishing, research, research for a novel, revising, Rewriting, Roz Morris, self-publishing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel
My guest this week is another old-timer on The Undercover Soundtrack. She returns with a playful story about a dishonoured cop and a pulp fiction writer who investigate a series of murders. Her soundtrack is sassy, full of fun and energy, but also undershot with an awareness of the tragic and macabre. She is Joni Rodgers and she’s on the Red Blog with the Undercover Soundtrack to her hardboiled mystery homage, Kill Smartie Breedlove.
authors, Dashiel Hammett, deepen your story, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, hardboiled detective, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Joni Rodgers, Kill Smartie Breedlove, murder, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, noir, novels, publishing, pulp fiction writer, Raymond Chandler, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
My guest this week says he’s always been particularly sensitive to music. Watching a film, the soundtrack won’t be background, but a commanding force. He spent two years studying at the Academy of Contemporary Music, hoping for a career as a performer. When that didn’t pan out, he returned to his other creative love, writing – and music helped to fuel his writing mood and suggest ways a story could go. He even has a ‘swagger track’ for days when he needs to drum up confidence in a scene or plot development. He is fantasy author and self-publishing zealot Ben Galley and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, Ben Galley, deepen your story, Emaneska series, entertainment, epic fantasy, fantasy, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, indie authors, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, Pale Kings, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, selfpublishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
I first discovered this week’s guest when a Google fairy revealed she’d written a novel about reincarnation and music. I had to try to recruit her. She turned out to be even more suitable for the series than I could have guessed. Her mother was an opera singer. She wrote her first novel to help her son understand the stories of his ancestors in China through connections to music. Her second novel deals with ideas of past lives and ethnomusicology. Her name is Denise Kahn and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
ancestors, authors, books, China, deepen your story, Denise Kahn, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, google, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, ideas, inspiration, music, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, Peace of Music, publishing, reincarnation, romance, Roz Morris, self-publishing, Split-Second Lifetime, The Undercover Soundtrack, timebending, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
My guest this week grew up on classical music. Childhood piano lessons inspired her latest novel, Feral Youth, about the relationship between a troubled teenager and a piano teacher. One pivotal scene came while she was listening to Wagner; the surging music seemed to insist she create a dramatic bonding moment between her two principals. She herself is no stranger to drama; she made her name with a semi-autobiographical novel about life in London’s Square Mile, then famously went indie because her publisher, HarperCollins, tried to brand her books as chick-lit. She is Polly Courtney and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, Childhood piano lessons, classical music, deepen your story, entertainment, Feral Youth, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, HarperCollins, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inspiration, London riots, music, music for writing, musicians, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, pianist, pianists, piano teacher, pivotal scene, Polly Courtney, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, troubled teenager, undercover soundtrack, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
Tomorrow (or maybe today or last week, depending on when you’re served this post) I’ll be taking part in a Book Industry Communication debate on the future of ISBNs. I’m providing the author perspective, so as part of my research I canvassed opinions to see what the mood is.
Much of the feedback centred on whether authors should buy ISBNs or use the free ones from CreateSpace, Smashwords et al. There were sound arguments on each side. But what emerged for me was the way self-publishers view ourselves. It’s a snapshot of our times that goes a lot further than a little piece of industry bureaucracy.
For and against
Julia Jones, one of my co-conspirators at Authors Electric, said she bought ISBNs ‘to behave like a publisher in every way’ – a view shared by many. Plenty of authors feel to have their own ISBN is more professional, lets you be seen and counted, and gives you control.
Other writers – among them author-entrepreneur Joanna Penn – feel having their own ISBN makes no difference: ‘I can’t see any benefit, or evidence that having a paid ISBN helps you sell more books’. As Joanna sells whopping numbers of her novels and non-fiction books, we certainly can’t argue with that. (I agree with her. Personally I’d rather put the money towards a better cover or more editing time.)
But it was a comment from Michael N Marcus, who writes and publishes books about self-publishing that hit a bullseye for me: ‘If you want to be known as an author, the ownership of the ISBN is unimportant. If you want to be known as a publisher, own the ISBNs you use.’
Now that’s a very interesting view. We’ll return to that in a moment.
But look, no ISBNs at all
Most striking was Dan Holloway, who publishes experimental fiction and poetry – both his own and that of others. He doesn’t use ISBNs at all – even for printed books. He says: ‘I write and publish for a niche, dedicated audience, providing an experience they can’t get elsewhere. I work with selected independent bookstores and galleries and send customers to them for my books, rather than having my books available everywhere.’ He’s not even on Amazon.
Dan is a firm believer in direct selling: ‘We should be trying to get our fans to buy direct from our websites if we can to foster community – we want to nurture fans with stickability, who will become our bedrock over the years, and the best way to do that is to have a hub that exposes them to us, our ideas and worlds, and all that we have to offer. I buy all my music direct from bands, for example.’
You might think this is a recipe for obscurity. Au contraire, Dan’s ISBN-free books have twice received special mentions for the Guardian‘s first book award, been shortlisted for the Guardian‘s Not the Booker Prize, and been voted ‘favourite Oxford novel’ by readers at the Oxford branch of Blackwell’s.
Author or publisher? Or something else?
I keep coming back to Michael’s interesting distinction and I think he’s nailed something important. Certainly I put most effort into building an identity as an author rather than a publisher. Like Dan, I am most keen to find people who like my imagination and preoccupations, my way of thinking. Having said that, I like publishing and I want to publish myself; I enjoy the control and creativity. I can also, if needed, wave a CV that demonstrates years as a production editor/chief sub/editorial manager, so perhaps that’s why it’s no big deal for me and you should discount my view as I’m not typical of self-publishers.
Other authors feel ISBNs are an important part of their brand and image – one of many signifiers of their professionalism.
Now, more than ever, there is no ‘one right way’ to self-publish well. We’re all finding our own paths. You might be a Dan, a Julia, a Roz, a Joanna. Most probably you’re something else again. I’d love to know. Oh, and wish me luck tomorrow.
What kind of self-publisher are you?
author platform, authors, Battle of ISBNs, BIC, BIC battles, Blackwell's Bookshop, Book Industry Communication, books, bullseye, buying ISBNs, conspirators, CreateSpace, Dan Holloway, Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?, Eight Cuts, Fix and Finish With Confidence, free ISBNs, free ones, Golden Duck, how to write a book, how to write a novel, independent authors, indie authors, ISBNs, Joanna Penn, Julia Jones, Kobo, Michael N Marcus, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, non fiction books, Oxford, publishing, Roz Morris, self publishers, self-publishing, Silver Sands Books, Smashwords, sound arguments, The Creative Penn, The Guardian, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, writing life
I’m slightly early with my post this week. On Saturday I’m an author in residence at Barton’s Bookshop as part of the national Books Are My Bag celebrations this week. After that, Morris HQ is on cyber-shutdown for the weekend as we celebrate a friend’s 40th. Just as I was wondering what (on earth!) to post about, this question popped into my inbox:
‘I have to give a presentation about my novel at college. Could you give me some tips on what to talk about? Thanks, Fahim’
Thank you, Fahim. Since I’m going to spend the day explaining my books to complete strangers (and hoping not to frighten them) I could do with thinking about this. So whether you’re wooing a class, an agent or just one interested book lover, here’s an express guide to pitching your book. It’s a brief post, but attention spans are short… ooh, tree mammal.
1 The novel in a nutshell
First, they want to know what it’s about. Orientate them with a polished one-liner that gives a clear idea of the kind of characters and the story – eg ‘it’s a novel about five friends at college who murder somebody and have to live with the consequences’.
2 Get the title in early
Make sure your one-liner explains the title, or makes the title intriguing. Your audience will probably remember no more than a couple of details. You want one of them to be the title and its tantalising promise.
3 Get personal
Tell them why it became your personal mission to write the book. If you have an anecdote about your initial inspiration, that helps pull the audience on board. Hint about where your research took you and why there’s much, much more than you could say here. Single out key characters with strong dilemmas; people are more memorable than themes. Weave in comparisons with other novels or films if they’ll help make your point more strongly, but they’re not essential.
4 Is there scope for a reading?
Obviously you won’t give a reading if you’re buttonholing an individual. But if you’ve got a bigger audience, it might be natural to round off your talk with an excerpt. If so, context is everything. It’s hard for listeners to plunge into the middle of action, or adjust their minds to a section of dialogue. Whatever you choose to read, make sure it continues the threads you’ve been tempting them with so far. Perhaps a tricky, cruel character, or the awesome difficulties of spending the night in the same house as a dead Mafia boss. You can find more tips here on choosing a passage to showcase your book.
It’s a national campaign to celebrate bookshops. If you’re in the UK, drop by your local bookseller and see if they’re breaking out in bunting, orange cake and sloganed T-shirts. Chances are, if you buy some books, they’ll give you a smart tote bag. If you don’t, they’ll probably set their pet authors on you…
Thanks, Fahim, for the inspiration. (And thanks Alexisnyal for the pic) Do you have any tips to add?
agents, attention spans, authors, Barton's Bookshop, book marketing, Books Are My Bag, express guide, Fix and Finish With Confidence, how to pitch your book, how to sell your book, how to write a novel, initial inspiration, marketing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, personal mission, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, what on earth, writing business, writing life
Before words. Before thought or language. My guest this week spends his professional life challenged by the reflexes and intricacies of the long-ago brain. By day he is an anaesthetist; an inducer of sleep and guardian of the unconscious. Sometimes that’s more eventful than you’d think. By night he is a poet and a playwright. His latest book fuses night and day in a memoir of his profession. He is Wolf Pascoe and he’s sharing his Undercover Soundtrack at the Red Blog.
anaesthesia, anaesthetics, anaesthetist, anaesthetists, authors, Breathing for Two, deepen your story, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, hospitals, how to write a book, how to write a novel, inducer, intricacies, literature, medical, medicine, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, OR, pascoe, physician, playwright, poet, poetic meditation, poetic memoir, professional life, reflexes, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, Wolf Pascoe, writing, writing life, writing to music
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As @NailYourNovel I post 4 to 5 useful writing links per dayMy Tweets
Off duty I tweet as @ByRozMorrisMy Tweets
- ‘Music to make a creative space’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Kirsty Greenwood December 4, 2013
- How to write down story ideas so you can remember why they were brilliant December 1, 2013
- Could The Undercover Soundtrack help you reach readers? Post at the Alliance of Independent Authors November 30, 2013
- ‘Sex, drugs, metaphysics and rock’n’roll’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, David Biddle November 27, 2013
- How do I develop something special in my writing? November 24, 2013
- 2 Tone Records and two cities riven by conflict – The Undercover Soundtrack, Catriona Troth November 20, 2013
- Social media: a message in a bottle November 18, 2013
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