Guest Post: Kai Strand’s Takes on Publishing

Today, I’m very lucky to host one of my friends (at least in the online sense of the word) who happens to be one of my favorite authors. Shortly after I signed the contract for my book, I started cyber-stalking. No, not in the creepy, obsessive, you-need-to-get-professional-help-before-you-hurt-yourself-or-someone-else sort of way. Instead the subtle, and more socially accepted, way of passively observing what other authors were doing. When I cam across Kai, her book Beware of the White caught my attention. First, it had an outstanding cover (CK Volnek, who did Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud’s cover, also did Beware of the White). The story also sounded interesting, so I read it. Not only did I enjoy it immensely, when I finished it, I realized it also had the same editor as my book, Katie Carroll. Maybe that’s just one of the fun quirks of being with a small press. I’ll let Kai tell you more.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny Moe – Today’s Publishing Options

It used to be that you could be a fantastic writer, but if none of the big six publishing houses or any of their imprints wanted to publish your work, your story was dead in the water. Today there are more small presses than ever before, including many that are taking advantage of electronic publishing and doing a good job of it, and there is accessibility and affordability in self-publishing. It is a great time to be a writer. The power of publication has shifted more into the author’s hands than ever before.

A book is a collaborative deal regardless of which route you take. With a small press, the collaboration is more intimate than if you were with a large publishing house and less over-lording than if you self-publish. You usually have good communication with your editor, input into your cover design, and can get answers to your questions from the senior editors or the publisher.  Though it is less likely you will get an advance from a small press, your royalties might be slightly larger, especially on the ebook. Their overhead isn’t as big as a large publisher, so they tend to give more back to the author where they can.

Of course there are drawbacks. Because small press keep their staff lean, the employees are often overburdened and might miss deadlines, pushing back your release date. Small presses often don’t even provide a solid release date because of this, leaving the author unable to prepare a ‘launch’ for their book or having to postpone a previously planned one (that can be embarrassing). Small presses usually don’t provide much support for promoting your book. Sometimes not even a Facebook page or Twitter, which costs the company nothing if they can get their authors to add the content for them. While small press can be the answer for publishing a niche story, they can often be limiting for the author as their career progresses, which is why I am published with four different presses. Not one press I’ve published with publishes all the books I write because their line up is more specialized than a larger house. And finally, small presses go out of business frequently, which can result in your book rights bobbing around for a while or your publication never coming to fruition. Do your homework on the company before submitting to them and if you choose to accept a contract and the company isn’t what you thought…move onto the next book with a different publisher. You usually will have a chance to snag back your rights after three years and then you can take the book elsewhere or self-publish it.

Small press fits my current publication expectations. I like working with people who know more about the aspects of publishing a book than I do. I love that I can have multiple books being prepared for publication at the same time while I keep writing new stuff. Last year I had two books publish within a few weeks of each other and this year there were only a couple months between book releases. It is much harder to do that if you are self-publishing, because it is all up to you.

Going forward, I don’t know that I will only publish with small presses. I hope my career will be long and fruitful, and my goal is to hit all the options eventually. However, I am enjoying my experience publishing with small presses and I’m learning a lot about the business of writing for children.

Thanks for joining me today, Kai. I had hoped to finish reading King of Bad before this went live so I could spend a paragraph saying great and wonderful things about it. Alas, I failed. But I will say I’ve enjoyed the first quarter of the book before moving on to your blurbs.

Beware of the White FinalBeware of the White: middle grade fantasy adventure

As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

Buy It:

MuseItUp, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Or look for it on iTunes

King of BAD COVERKing of Bad: young adult fantasy

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

Buy it: Whiskey Creek PressAmazonBarnes and Noble Add it to Goodreads

Kai StrandAbout the author

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died, the end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for younger children Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Visit Kai’s website, www.kaistrand.com, to browse her books, download companion materials or to find all her online haunts.

My Thoughts on Alan Moore’s Advice About Publishing

You don’t have to spend much time on social media sites frequented by authors, most notably Twitter, before you discover a rift between traditional publishing and self-publishing. A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “Can Self-Publishing Authors Destroy Literature?” It came in response to a blog post I read where the author tried to claim just that. His argument had some serious loopholes, but what really upset me was his accusation that everyone using social media to promote their book has written a piece of garbage (I’m generalizing here). In my retort, I tried not to minimalize the role of self-publishing while still stating that my personal goal, as an author, was to have a publishing company accept my work. Basically, anyone can self-publish a book, but I needed someone else to say my work was good enough they would publish it to achieve my goal of becoming a published book author (I had already published several short stories and articles).

This was the right decision for me, and I’ll never question the route I took. But the other day I came across a video of Alan Moore, an author I hold in the highest regard, addressing unpublished authors. His advice is to self-publish, and he lists sound reasons. He states that being published doesn’t mean anything. To prove his point, he lists some authors who have sold millions of copies of their books, but who, according to Mr. Moore, aren’t talented writers. I could put together my own list of talentless bestselling authors–but I lack the confidence in my own work to make my opinions public.

Knowing what I do about Alan Moore, I would say he has an aversion to most things mainstream. It’s an aversion I don’t share. Although I mentioned my list of bestselling authors lacking in the talent department, one of my favorite authors is about as mainstream as you can get: Stephen King. And he’s certainly no stranger to voicing his opinion of pop-culture he thinks fails to pop. But something Stephen King frequently does, and this practice I have tried to mimic in my young career, is praise his editors for their hard work in making his writing better.

I’m sure this four-minute video of Alan Moore is incomplete, and maybe he goes on to stress the importance of editors. He does tell writers to go over their work and make it better, then go over it again and make it better (I’ve seen some self-published work I suspect is a first draft). I think part of the reason (possibly even the main reason) self-publishing is receiving such a bad reputation is the frequent lack of editors. I’ll read this post three times before I hit the publish button, and I’m certain I will still miss errors. You cannot undervalue the worth of another set of eyes on something you wrote. So this is my public service announcement: If you’re going to self-publish your work, please hire an editor. And I’m not talking about your mom or your favorite uncle, I don’t care if they are high-school grammar teachers. I mean a professional editor, trained in writing styles and grammar, and willing to give you constructive criticism. And then take that criticism. Remember, the editor’s always right.

Can Self-Publishing Authors Destroy Literature?

Two events happened June 17 to inspire this article. First, I read Michael Kozlowski’s post “Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature.” Second, I talked about publishing to a “Writer’s Free for All” group at my local library.

Mr. Kozlowski’s article implies there are two types of books on the market: large publishing house masterpieces, and self-published garbage. To take it a step farther, the authors of the self-published garbage pollute social media and online bookstores so much, a person can’t even wade through to find the masterpieces. I almost read this article without giving it a second thought. But as an author with a small publisher (Muse It Up), I became upset; not by his attack on self-publishing, but his ignorance of working with a small publisher. Remember, I’m signed to a publishing company (good, according to Mr. Kozlowski), but I have to help promote my book with tools such as social media (bad).

Mr. Kozlowski also complains self-publisher’s devalue the work of “legitimate published authors”:

“One thing indie authors have done is devalue the work of legitimate published authors. You know the type that write for a living, who have an editor and are considered accomplished, or at least well-read. The average indie title is $0.99 to $2.99, and the average publisher price is $7.99 – $12.99. Book buyers have been so conditioned to pay as little as possible that often they will not even consider a more expensive book.”

I could say so much about this one paragraph, but I think I’ll leave it at this: Why should I pay as much for an eBook as I’d pay for a paperback, regardless of the author?

Before I get into my publishing opinions, I’ll start by defining self-publishing and differentiating it from “traditional publishing.” A self-published book is produced by the author. He or she typically pays a company to print books, or produce an eBook. The author either self-edits, or hires an editor. When the book is complete, the author commences promoting the work every way possible. Any author, regardless of talent, who can afford to self-publish, can have his or her own book on the shelf, or eReader.

Traditional publishing differs in many ways. A publishing house, be it large or small, agrees to produce the book for the author. The publisher pays for an editor(s), pays to produce the book, and pays to promote the book. In this case, anyone can publish a book if he or she can find a publisher who thinks the work is good enough to invest the publishing house’s time and money on the project.

There are also hybrid situations where the author and publisher split the expenses, but I’m going to ignore that for simplicity. I’m also going to ignore authors who have always been with a publishing house, who, for their own reasons, decide to self-publish a book.

When I started writing I had not heard of self-publishing. While paging through a writer’s guide, I came across a publisher to whom I thought I could market my book. I ran the idea past an acquaintance of mine, who was a published author. She explained the publisher I had chosen was a self-publishing company. She went on to say I should avoid self-publishing as traditional publishers looked down upon prospective authors if their writing credits were from self-publishing. I don’t know if this was accurate at the time, but a large number of former self-published authors have moved to traditional publishing.

I decided self-publishing was not for me. As much as I wanted to see my book in print, part of my dream was for an editor to read my submission and see enough potential to commit the resources of the publisher to produce my book. Some people just want their book produced and they are willing to pay to have it. Some people have written several books this way, and they have no desire to have a book traditionally published. If this completes their dream they should go for it, but that’s not what I wanted.

Mr. Kozlowski also leads the reader to believe all self-published work is garbage, and all traditionally published work is good. I don’t think I should have to address this, but I will for the sake of completeness. This is asinine. Who hasn’t read a book by at least one established author that was terrible? If you haven’t here’s how to find one. Watch the bestseller rack. If you see an author there more than twice in the same calendar year, start with one of his or her books. It’s not guaranteed to work, but the chances are good. Likewise, if you read enough self-published authors, you’re bound to find a good one. Sorry, I don’t have any tricks for this, but you could start with reviews. If the book has positive reviews, and the reviews themselves are well written, it may be worth a shot. If the reviews appear to have been written by a kindergarten class, you may want to stay away.

I have not read every book; I just haven’t had the time. But I’m willing to bet there are more self-published pieces of garbage than traditionally published garbage. When I hear self-publishers say they got tired of being rejected by publishers so they decided to self-publish, I get very leery about reading their books. Maybe there is a reason, or reasons, the publisher’s wouldn’t accept them.

Having worked with several editors, I’m a firm believer of the power of an outsider’s eye to catch mistakes and see areas where the story can be tightened, expanded, or otherwise improved. And when I say an outsider, I mean a professional editor, not your mom. (Even if your mom is a professional editor, this may be an area to avoid close friends and family).

I do think self-publishing has a place. Books with a limited interest are perfect for self-publishing. Authors of family histories and small town histories would struggle to find a home at a publishing house, unless the family or town were already famous. But even limited interest books don’t necessitate self-publishing. Many states have small publishing house willing to produce a limited run of exactly that sort of book.

What I’m trying to say, and I hope I’m fair to self-publishers, is self-publishing cannot destroy literature. In fact, it could make literature better if an amazing story comes out of the blue–though I have a hard time believing a publishing house wouldn’t pick up a truly amazing story. If you’re a writer, decide what your dream in publishing is, and go for it. But don’t sell yourself short. You’ve already put in the hard work of researching, writing, re-writing, revising, now it’s time to put in more hard work and find the right publisher for it.