The Path to Publication

 

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Imagine from pixabay.com

What does it take to get published? Does a writer try the traditional route or go Indie? And what is given up and or gained by choosing? It was a crossroad I faced after completing my children’s chapter book, Pink Sneakers in Space.

 

The most successful authors such as JK Rowling and Stephen King were unknown at one point. Ms. Rowling started writing her first book in about 1990 and didn’t get published until six years later. Stephen King’s first novel Carrie was rejected 30 times before it hit the bookstores. But they were lucky with traditional publication.

Traditional publishing has been around for centuries controlling what was printed and left many writers out in the cold. But self-publishing has also been around a long time too. Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Edgar Allan Poe self-published, and just think what would have been lost if they didn’t.

Getting something into print is not easy no matter the path chosen. If the author wants to go the traditional route, the manuscript must grab the attention of the targeted literary agent. Does this work? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough. The slush piles are high and maybe the agent is looking for something else.

I feel too much control of the author’s work is lost publishing traditionally. There is little to no say in the editing process or cover art. Is advances and prestige of proclaiming to having a literary agent worth it? Not sure.

However, with self-publishing, the author has a direct line to the publisher. No writing and sending the query letters. No disappointment when the rejections roll in. And the Indie Author has no time constraint on when the next book is ready for publication. You write when you want. But it’s a double edge sword. No book equals no sales.

One drawback with self-publication is editing. Every literary work needs it. Authors try to do it themselves and few are good at it. A writer will read and reread a WIP (Work-in-Progress) and not see all the grammatical errors or plot issues. Indie Authors need to pay for a good editor which can cost a lot. However, I find critique partners and using Grammarly works well.

Another thing to consider is the book cover. They are probably the most important thing about a book. It is what captures the attention of the reader as they skim Amazon or walk the aisles of a bookstore. If it isn’t compelling enough to make a reader pause, the book will sit. To me, having control with the cover is important. The story inside is mine, and I should have a say what’s on the outside.

There is a bottom line to business. With traditional publishing, the average percentage of sales that goes to the author is about 15%. They also give up the rights to their book. The literary agent gets their cut. The publishing house gets their cut. Of course, the author didn’t have to front any money, but exactly who is profiting on the creativity?

On the other side of the coin, the Indie Author receives 100% of the sales and holds all the book’s rights. This includes movie rights. It’s a long shot for a new author’s book to be made into a movie but think about the book, The Martian. The author Andrew Weir, self-published the story, but after selling 30,000 copies, it was noticed by the publishing world. Weir sold the rights for $100,000, and I hope he retained the movie rights.

Today, the traditional publishing world is trying to reinvent itself while holding onto its old ways and habits. The all-inclusive club that controls what the public reads has been threatened by the explosion of self-published books. Smashwords, Cafepress, and CreateSpace are a few tools used by Indie Authors populating Amazon and cutting into the traditional publications profits.

Traditional publishing houses are losing market share to Amazon. There has been a downward trend over the last few years, and because of this contracted authors are being offered less and less.

Indie Authors are expected to market their books and build a fan base. However, contracted authors are expected to do the same. Yes, all authors must have a social media presence. Yes, all authors need a website. But is the author ready to give up control of their hard work?

This was my dilemma. Do I try traditional publishing or go Indie? I weighed the pros and cons of each and decided becoming an Indie Author was best for me. It has taken me years to push the button, and I wanted control of my work. I’m not saying it’s an easy path, but it’s my own.

Saturday, October 8th is Indie Author Day. Please join me in supporting the mavericks of the publishing world by visiting,  <https://www.pinterest.com/kathrynrbiel/indie-book-day-2016/&gt;

Garage Sailing

Sale

Imagine from pixabay.com

Like most people, I love a bargain. Garage sales and thrift stores are the best places to find the odd must have. This week I decided I needed to replenish my yarn stash so on the way to the market, I planned on stopping at a few garage sales. Saturdays are great for this and most times I’m not disappointed.

 

As I left my driveway, I saw a sign for an estate sale. I hurried inside the small house and noticed a familiar smell. It was a mixture of mustiness and age. There was a feeling a history in the tiny abode. Birthdays, Christmases, and happy times. I walked through the house and there was something else. The loss of family.

It was sad to see strangers paw through a lifetime of things. I looked at the costume jewelry and thought of the person who had worn the pins, necklaces, and earrings. So much sparkle and elegance.

A woman stood in the kitchen and was talking to a friend. She said the house was going on the market next week. The woman was probably the daughter, and her parent must have died recently.

I didn’t buy anything. I don’t know why. There were some yarn and a pair of size 11 knitting needles, but I didn’t feel it. Maybe it was the karma in the house. The person that lived in the house was still here. I could feel her.

With my mind still on the estate sale, I was empty handed after a few stops. Is this what’s going to happen when I die? I kept thinking when I’m gone strangers will be parading in my home rummaging through my things. But I won’t think about it today. Tomorrow is soon enough.

Internet-Free Day

What a spectacular day! After a few weeks of oppressive weather, mid 70’s and low humidity was a welcomed respite. There was even autumn clinging to the breeze’s tips promising pumpkins, apples, and the change of seasons.

I adore days like this. It makes me think of sweaters and fires in the woodstove. So I thought, I need to seize today. My hubby was home, and the writing could wait.

We packed a lunch, put on our swimsuits and went to the state park. I haven’t been to Grafton State ParkGrafton in I don’t know how many years. It’s only 20 minutes from my house and as we drove in, I wondered why we haven’t visited this hidden jewel sooner.

There is a sandy beach for the sunbathers, walking trails, and even a boat launch where you could rent canoes and kayaks. There is little to no cell signal in the park and to tell you the truth, I didn’t even check. It was my husband that mentioned it. Why would someone want to check social media or emails when there was so much beauty surrounding them?

Everyone needs an internet-free day. Reaching out and connecting with nature is almost an ethereal experience. It recharges your soul and uplifts your spirit.

As we sliced the paddles through the water and glided the canoe across the 2 ½ mile lake, inner peace descended. Neither of us spoke as we watched a heron take flight.

After the internet-free day, I was ready to get back to work. The scent of the woods and the sound of twigs snapping under my step will stay with me. Let’s hope it doesn’t take years for me to go back. Maybe I need to buy a kayak.

The Slopey Room

The house I live in is old and was built before closets were fashionable. It’s a challenge to find places to store the vacuum cleaner and Christmas decorations or hang up coats. So the slopey room upstairs (named because of the slant of the ceiling) became the catchall. Boxes of forgotten clothes, furniture we no longer use, and things we just had to have is stored here.

Each time I passed the slopey room, I’d tell myself I need to go through the clutter. Well, this week I bucked up and opened the door. The room was hot and the air stale. Staring at the sea of boxes and a lifetime accumulation of stuff, I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in. But after only fifteen minutes, I didn’t think my idea was as brilliant as first thought.

I was about to give up when I stumbled across a box sitting on top of a trunk hidden in the corner. I opened the cardboard flaps and wonderful, fabulous memories stared back at me.

 

Spiderman

Spiderman @ the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade taken by me at Times Square

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at Times Square. New Orleans. Florida. England. Germany. My brother’s wedding.

 

The forgotten pictures from years gone by were a pleasant surprise. I’m not someone who takes a lot of pictures. My friends have albums filled with vacations, parties, and special occasions but not me. Print pictures are nice, and unfortunately, it’s a dying practice. With iPhones, Instagram, FaceBook, and other social medias, our memories are digital and saved forever on the web. It’s sad that we are losing a tangible connection to our past.

After spending the day visiting happy times, the slopey room is still cluttered. I really need to get rid of most of the stuff in there but not today. I have a smile on my face and there is always tomorrow.

Free Writing

Free Writing

One of my favorite writing exercises is free writing. It’s a great way to break through writer’s block. At first, it is hard to grasp but once it takes hold, wonderful things will spill out from the tips of your fingers. Give it a try. It will surprise you.

How to free write

Sit somewhere, anywhere and let your mind wander. Release each cell of your body so it can roam, touch, feel and experience with your mind following close behind. Each thought, sound, and smell becomes a new discovery. It’s similar to meditation but instead of looking for inner peace, you are exploring your environment.

Below is a free write I did while sitting at the kitchen table one night. I transformed it into the beginning of a short story and a poem.

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Lizette’s Free Write at the Kitchen Table

Sitting on a chair at the kitchen table, I watch and listen. Stillness. No, that is not true. There is movement. The clock pendulum swings back and forth. Tick, tick, tick with each arc.

The air doesn’t stir. Stuffy and stagnate. A whiff of toast lingers and reaches my nostrils. It invokes memories of my toasted tomato sandwich I had for dinner.

Humming from the refrigerator is low and constant. A cacophony of night sounds drifts in from an open window. Chirping, trilling, and clicks. Tires rolling over the road pavement from a passing  car.

The lighting is low, only the light over the sink is on. I need to vacuum the floor. I need to wipe the counters.

I focus on the clock, it draws me. The rhythmic movement is soothing and hypnotizing. I feel somewhat anxious and at peace at the same time. My mind is combing through the list of things I need to do tomorrow but the ticking of the clock draws me back.

The Intruder

By Lizette Strait

Sitting at the kitchen table, I watched and listened. Stillness. The light over the sink cast shadows throughout the dimly lit room. De Ja Vu swept over me as the day’s events flooded my mind.

I focused on the mantle clock. Tick, tick, tick.  The rhythmic movement was soothing and hypnotizing. I felt anxious and at peace at the same time. How odd.

The rustle of clothing drew me away from my thoughts. I looked down at the man lying on the floor and watched him stir. It surprised me he stayed unconscious this long. I didn’t hit him that hard, did I?

 

The Kitchen

By Lizette Strait

 

Sitting at the kitchen table,

I watch and listen

Stillness

 

No, that is not true

There is movement

Tick, tick, tick

 

Time slips by

You are not here

Where did you go?

 

The air doesn’t stir

A whiff of toast lingers

Memories

 

Your toasted tomato sandwiches

The taste of summer

Tick, tick, tick

 

The refrigerator hums

low and constant

Why did you leave?

 

Night drifts through an open window

A cacophony of sounds

Chirps, trills, clicks

Past the house, tires fly over pavement

Waiting for you to come back

Tick, tick, tick

 

The clock draws me

Rhythmic, soothing, hypnotizing

Anxious yet at peace at the same time

waiting for you

What to Write….Plot Ideas & Characters…

I love fiction. Paranormal, sci-fi and fantasy stories are my favorite. Stepping into another world, to experience a tale through the eyes of the protagonist will take me away even if it’s for a few hours.

Where do writers come up with their ideas? For me as a writer, it’s easy for an idea to cross my mind, but to get it down on paper is another thing. However, that’s only half the battle. What’s just as difficult is to come up with plot twists, characters, and congealing it into a story someone wants to read.

One way I find ideas is to use generators. Scifiideas.com is a great site for writers and has a brilliant generator,

http://www.scifiideas.com/story-idea-generator/

The ideas will be a sentence or two but it’s enough to nudge you in the right direction. Some of the ideas are strange and bizarre but to find something new, you need to reach out to the obscure.

Another way I get ideas is from everyday life. People watching is one of my favorite past times. It’s amazing the drama playing out right in front of you. All you have to do is be observant and listen. The stories of ordinary lives with a little twist and dark shading can be the next best seller.

Characters too. Everyone has a friend or relative that needs their story told. Even the person on the street has something lurking in the dark corners of their mind. I was sitting in Starbucks waiting for a friend and a little old man walked in. He was short, probably in his eighties using a cane. After getting a cup of coffee, he sat across from me and pulled out a tablet. His smiles and laughter were priceless as he read whatever was on the screen. I would have loved to go over and talked to him but I thought it would have been intrusive. There was a special gleam in his eyes that lit up his face. This man had a story.saipan-703463_1280 (2)

I can imagine him a sailor in WWII. Fighting on a PT boat in the South Pacific was tough and one night on patrol, he and a few others were marooned on an island. At one point the men thought all was lost. What they did to survive is to be revealed by the last survivor, the little old man.

So the next time you read a story, take a moment and think what the author had to do to get the book in your hands. You will be amazed how authors come up with their ideas.

Pink Sneakers in Space

Pink Sneakers in Space

What do you do when your character takes over?

As a writer, I sit down in front of my laptop and tap away. I usually have a clear idea where the story is going. Most of the time, the hardest thing I have to deal with is drinking my tea before it gets cold and keeping the cat off my keyboard.

But that was before Bobby. I’m writing my second book in the Pink Sneakers series, and I plotted for Princess Ally to be the heroine. It was in the back of my mind even as I wrote book 1, Pink SBobbyneakers in Space. But sometimes things don’t turn out as you plan.

Bobby the Blobarian tromps on the scene and takes over. He is an impish boy from Nebia IV who takes my words and rearranges them.  I have no say in the matter. Bobby is determined to meet the Earthling that defeated his dad in the video game, Cyber Ice and nothing will stop him from getting a pair of pink sneakers.

I’ve talked to some of my writer friends about this phenomenon and they laughed because it has happened to them too. Even with an outline, stories still have a way of running amuck and not turning out as planned. So what do you do? Absolutely nothing. One thing I’ve learned is you can’t stop your characters once they are set in motion. I never know where they’ll lead me. It’s what makes writing so exciting and addicting. Try it sometime. You’ll be surprised not every road leads down the expected path. Sometimes you end up in Oz.