Excerpt: Guidebook for Working with Small Independent Publishers

from Chapter 5: The Editing Process
"Small press publishers get into the business because they love books, so much of the time they’ll spend more time on editing than any other function of the company. This works in your favor because at the end of it all, you will most likely have a good product to sell. And that’s a great first step. You won’t be embarrassed to hand the book over to another publisher or agent.

But even this step takes work on your part to make sure that the editing enhances the book. Just because a person has the funds and passion to publish doesn’t always mean they’re good at it. This doesn’t mean that the person you’re working with is a good editor either. Perhaps they just love books. Small publishers can be mechanics, chemical engineers, or English teachers. It’s always good to find out their background to learn how well they’ll perform each of the jobs they do — and again, read their books.

"I suggest you have your book reviewed by book lovers and editors alike long before you send it out for publication. This assures you that most of the mistakes have been caught. I’ve talked about hiring proofreaders even after the book has been edited, which is always a good idea.

Small publishers tend to want to work with you, the author, to strengthen the manuscript based on your combined vision for the end product. This means that they’ll opt for your take on the book. If they make a suggestion that you don’t agree with, they’ll often let the work stand. Because their goal is to publish something original, you get the benefit of the doubt. Many authors long for this kind of control of their work. I’ve heard a lot of authors say that their editor has made their book better, no doubt, but I’ve also heard the opposite. The small press editor/publisher puts a lot of the decision power into your hands. That can be good and bad depending on how flexible you are, but for most authors you can’t beat that kind of relationship with an editor.

"The good thing about working with a single person from the press is that in most cases the project will go much faster and smoother. Small publishers can get a book through the system in a few months. Larger publishers can take from 18 to 24 months. This speed to press has to do with several things, the most important being the number of titles the press publishes per year. If they’re trying to get four or five projects completed then they’ve got to get through your project quickly. If they only publish one book per year, which is the case with literally hundreds of small presses, then they have all year to work on it.

"Another concern for small publishers is how many copies of the previous book sold. Chances are the book, or books, that were published before yours (whether your title or someone else’s) will be paying for the publication of your title. This is just one more reason why you might want to buy a few small press titles before you submit to a house. That’s how you support the publisher. If authors don’t support small publishers they’ll go away, which will only make it more difficult to get published.

"What I’ve done for years is purposely buy small press titles that offer a synopsis that reads like something I might have written. Not only do I get to know the publisher’s likes and dislikes through this type of research, I support those same publishers which in turn increases the chances of them staying alive and possibly reading one of my manuscripts. Such books are often some of the best books I’ve read. They are fresh, different, and truly enjoyable."

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Reprinted from Guidebook for Working with Small Independent Publishers, by Terry Persun © 2010
Used with permission; all rights reserved
Originally published by 22Press, Chimacum, WA




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Indie Authors, Please Rise to the Occasion

It's Time to Change the Image of Self-Publishing

I’ll admit that I fully understand. When I first started mailing out my writing in the 1970s, I couldn’t wait to get published. I believed that what I’d written was really good, emotional, intelligent, and grammatically correct. That’s when the first of many, many rejection letters came back, all to remind me that I wasn’t so great at writing after all.

The first thing I did, of course, was to complain that editors didn’t understand my work. That’s it. I was too smart, too good. And it’s easy to find anecdotes about prizewinning authors who had been rejected twenty, fifty, a hundred times only to be praised afterward. That was me…until I began to study more deeply. Then I realized that maybe I wasn’t as good as I’d thought. After a year or so of taking classes, reading books, and writing every day, I remember picking up one of my old manuscripts and wondering who the idiot was who had written it. I had some things to learn.

So, thank God I started writing then instead of now. Now, I probably would have been an indie author after my first few rejections – maybe not even that, because I just knew I’d written the next Pulitzer Prize winning book. Thinking about it, I don’t know which would have been worse, getting all those rejections or losing my audience with poorly written books that were published long before they should have been.

Although there are some good writers putting out indie books, the majority of writers are what they are: self-published, with all the pitfalls that came with self-published books in the past. I urge indie authors all the time to help change this general view of self-publishing. (You can change the name, but you can’t change the truth.) The biggest pitfalls are poor editing, weak design and layout, and not making the first pages perfect. Below are some suggestions on how to be the best indie author out there.

First off, think about how a book is published by a reputable publisher, whether a small press or a major New York publisher. The book comes in and is read by several people who have to agree that it’s a worthy project. This means to start out by getting outside readers who will be honest with you. Once a book is acquired it’s edited.

Here’s the first pitfall of indie authors, they don’t get their books professionally edited. I don’t mean edited by a teacher who’s a friend of a friend. They don’t edit books to make a living. I mean pay a real editor. In fact, you may want to have several different types of editors go over your work. A developmental editor will look over your plot, character development, and scene setting, whereas a proofreader will look for those nasty misspellings, dangling participles, syntactical errors, and punctuation mistakes. Yes, this can be costly, but that’s what the big boys do, and that’s why they’re so picky.

A weak design and/or layout can make any book look as though it was produced by an amateur. I try to remember the first rule of purchasing that says you get what you pay for. I’m always hearing about $40 cover designers. These people use templates and buy their photos from the cheapest online photo galleries. Originality and a comprehensive understanding of your book are not included. Most of the covers I see from indie authors look cheap and poorly thought out. I can’t tell what the book’s about by looking at the cover. There are so many qualified artists and layout designers freelancing that there simply isn’t any excuse not to find one. And, for heaven’s sake, let them do their job. Don’t tell them what you want on the cover, let them get excited about producing something really god. Just because an author knows what he or she likes in artwork and design doesn’t mean that they are experts. Remember, professionals act like professionals and charge like professionals.

Finally, we come to the most important part of this equation, your writing ability, which includes your sense of suspense, mystery, and pacing (along with a shitload of other things). I’ve opened the “Click to Look Inside” button on a lot of Amazon books, have downloaded samples from Smashwords, and I’m here to tell you that a poorly written first pages will turn me off in a second. If you want me to buy your book, make sure that the first few pages are perfect. That means no mistakes, plenty of information about what I’m reading, and a hook that will have me wondering what’s coming next.

After all, a well-written book is probably the reason we came to writing in the first place. Make sure what you publish is good enough to inspire the next bestselling author. Make the first pages perfect, the cover beautiful, and the rest of the book as error free as possible. When this happens, and only when this happens, will the perception of indie authors change. Yes, there will always be that talented handful, but there are literally a million others who could easily have a chance to rise to the top if they only put in a bit more time, effort, and money for a professional job.

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Terry Persun writes across many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. He owns and operates a PR agency in the Pacific Northwest, and teaches business and creative writing at conferences across the U.S. His latest novel, “Cathedral of Dreams” is a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalist in the science fiction category. His novel Sweet Song just won a Silver IPPY Award, too. Terry’s website is: www.TerryPersun.com or you can find him on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Terry-L-Persun/e/B004NV8Q4Y/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0