[Elderhostel Mysteries & Fiction Writing Techniques]

BookMarc © #1
Basics Before Getting Started

     This BookMarcs is based on my book, Easy Reading Writing, easy reading about writing easy reading. They are adventures into fiction writing, a series of discussions on some of the problems and solutions the fiction writer faces in trying to bring about a publishable manuscript. As adventure implies, I'll try to keep everything light and breezy because most books on fiction writing are hard to read. Does that make sense?

     So, as your humble jungle guide, let me invite on this fiction-writing journey, to hopefully solve some of the problems of which Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” All aboard.

     When writing about writing it's tricky to figure what order to introduce each subject. I chose to introduce subjects as they would normally arise for me in writing a story. Some subjects may seem elementary, but on this journey we have to consider even the newest tenderfoot. If you've been on this trail awhile, hang on and hopefully we'll get to something of interest before long. But we start first with the dangers lurking in fiction writing in the hope it may save us from slipping into a black-hole.

     Warnings: I feel like I’m writing a disclaimer for a pack of cigarettes. Before I lead you down this thicket of words and images, I must issue two real warnings.

     First, writing fiction is addictive. You laugh, but once I started building worlds on paper I found there was always a force calling me back. It didn’t make any difference how many failures I had, how many rejection slips I collected--more than my share--or how many times I smashed typewriters to smithereens against the floor, I could never turn off that seductive siren-call that still wafts across the trouble waters on my brain, whispering of how BIG my next novel will be.

     Notice the two cliches: smithereens and troubled waters? Those are some of the sharks lurking in those troubled waters we must liquidate if we want to polish our stories.

     Second, there are many real live sharks waiting to prey on our fiction-writing addiction. It is way too early to talk of submitting for publication, but not too early to warn about those waiting to take advantage of our desperate desire to be published. These often skirt the edge of the law, and sometimes overstep it. There was a felony case against a New York company that charged big bucks for amateurish critiques, and they got their clients from less-than-scrupulous agents in return for kickbacks, agents who said our manuscript just needed some editing polish. There are also those who will charge you to list your name and stories on their web pages where "hungry agents? come looking for new writers. Agents hungry for new writers? I don't think so. Beware of those who promise the moon least you end up with a firefly.

     Mainly let it be said, a reputable publisher will NOT charge you for publication. A reputable agent will NOT charge you a reading fee, nor recommend a high priced company to edit your manuscript. And a reputable agent will NOT charge you hundreds of dollars for up front expenses.

     Reputable agents make their money through commissions on selling your writing. Reputable publishers make their money through book sales. Up front money is a scam. I don't care what they call it, handling fee, reading fee, cooperative publishing, you can bet you are putting your dollars on a one way ride to Indiana Jones' Lost Temple of Doom. Repeat after me, up front money, all up front money, is a scam.

     Speaking of cooperative or subsidized publishing, if you pay big bucks to have your books hard-copy published, you'll end up with a cellar full of books. If you are so determined to see your book in print that you are willing to pay for it, then try one of the electronic Print On Demand (POD) publishers who will print only what is ordered, one, twenty, or a hundred books at a time. The costs range from a high of six or seven hundred dollars down to pocket change, so it pays to shop around. Some names, iUniverse and Xlibris on the high end, to Lulu, Lightening Source, Book Surge, Book Locker, Create Space, to name a few, on the lower end. I've taken to using Create Space, which is owned by Amazon.com, because I have a fan base, because I can get my books in print in a matter of days rather then months or years, and because the royalties are rather nice. But I caution you against starting out this way for two reasons.

     There is something to be said for going through the painful process of rejections. It requires us to better our writing. If we arbitrarily say our very first effort is good enough to be published, chances are we will never improve our writing. If we keep doing the same old things, we'll keep getting the same old results. I don't know where I heard that quote, I think Stephan King, but I believe in its logic.

     The second reason is with POD publishers, everything depends on the writer. Few people will review POD books and few books stores will stock POD books because most time they can not return unsold copies, although the publishing industry is in a major flux right now, and there are a few who will take returns, so take all this with a grain of salt. But I know the hunger to be published and the frustration of rejections slips--I had written eight books before I made it to print–-so I understand why writers feel compelled to take this route.

     I need to also mention there are a few Independent Publishers, small presses, who use the POD technology, but who do indeed take books back. Seek them out first.

     One final caveat. There is an exception to the up front money business. Freelance editors, sometimes referred to as book doctors, charge a fee to go over a manuscript and point out pluses and minuses in the writing. Good ones are worth every penny. It's something we'll take up down the line, but if you need one now, e-mail me for a copy of the BookMarc on using freelance editors. Like this BookMarc, it's free.

     With the all the warnings and caveats out of the way, and if you're still game, in BookMarc #2 we'll plunge into Brer Rabbit's thorn-thicket and weave our tortuous path through the briers and brambles of fiction writing.

     If you would like to personally receive BookMarcs when they are issued, send an email to Peter at easyreadingwriting dot com taking out the spaces and changing the at and dot for the symbols, That mail thingy doesn't work right now and I'll have to fix it when I get a chance. You may stop BookMarc at any time by replying with an unsubscribe.

     And remember: it's always better to light a candle in your mind by reading [Easy Reading Writing] than to curse the darkness of rejections. There is an easy order link to B&N to purchase the book.

© Peter E. Abresch - BookMarc ©
February 13, 1998

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