A Tale of Two Publishing Conferences: Part Two – Belfast

The second self-styled publishing conference I attended in recent weeks was in Belfast, organised by Writers & Artists/Bloomsbury Publishers and the Open University.

This one was different in a number of ways to the Dublin event. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. There were fewer people involved, for one thing; fewer attendees and fewer speakers (the event made up more of talks rather than panels), but still just as rich in terms of content.

The focus, I found, was actually less about publishing and more about writing. Paul McVeigh (author and playwright) gave a fantastic talk on ‘how to build a narrative’ by crafting the very best sentences, using foreshadowing and backstory; Garrett Carr (lecturer of Creative Writing at Queens) spoke on how to research a book (something I’m going to come back to and talk about in a separate post), and Geraldine Quigley (author of ‘Music Drugs Love War‘) gave us insight into how she creates her main character(s).

Lots of practical advice from all of them but, as I said, mostly focusing on writing rather than publishing. That came a little later, in the form of a joint talk by literary agent Laura Williams and editor Patsy Horton.

A while ago on this blog, I said that writing and publishing were practically two different animals, and I stand by that, but at the very heart of publishing is good writing. Therefore, I do not mean it as a criticism when I say the focus of the conference was here rather than on submission tips. You could follow all guidelines to a tee, but if your story isn’t up to scratch, you’re not going to get very far.

And speaking of submissions: one note I made to myself during the event is that, although they’re often called ‘guidelines’ they should be read and followed as rules. Agents and publishers get so many manuscripts they can barely read them all. Don’t screw yourself over by making yours an easy pass.

A Tale of Two Publishing Conferences: Part One – Dublin

In recent weeks, I have attended two publishing conferences: one in Dublin, and one in Belfast. Below, I’d like to compare and contrast what happened at each.

I’ve already touched on one particular take away I had from the Dublin conference in my previous post, so you might want to read that here first, but – putting that aside – the first event was part of International Literature Festival Dublin in association with Writing.ie. There was a ‘Date With An Agent’ element to the day for selected people, but I’m not going to cover that because I wasn’t one of the chosen few.

The day itself was split up into four main slots (not accounting the aforementioned DWAA) topped and tailed by comfort breaks and question & answer sessions. There was a panel with agents, one with editors, one with traditionally published authors, and a slightly more general talk by literary scout Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin (who runs Writing.ie and Inkwell Group).

Vanessa was the event coordinator throughout the whole day. Her talk covered lots of practical tips about the submission process, particularly writing pitches, covering letters, and synopsises.

It was really interesting to hear the perspectives of agents, editors, and authors to see where they agreed and where they didn’t, but I think what was most interesting was not that the different groups had differing opinions with the others (agents with editors, or editors with authors), but that there were differing opinions within the groups, particularly the agents. This really underlined how things can be entirely different for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all path to publication. Continue reading

On Patience and Publishing

For some people, writing is an endurance sport. They wait around for inspiration to strike, then labour over the words, writing and rewriting and editing.

I’m not someone who’s ever really experienced writer’s block. I practically have ideas queuing up, yelling at me to hurry up and put them in order. Drafts also don’t tend to take a long time for me, once I get past the nonsense of procrastination.

Regardless of how long the writing takes, though, I think it’s getting published where the real work is. Being the best writer in the world won’t prepare you for it. It’s a whole different ball game and takes a whole different set of skills.

I’ve recently gotten some new perspective on this, having attended International Literature Festival Dublin‘s Getting Published conference last weekend.

One of the notes I took during the agent panel simply said, “Don’t rush.”

One of the agents elaborated on this saying, (and I’m paraphrasing here) it can take years to write a book, don’t get to the end of that and then screw up its chances by only putting five minutes effort into submitting it.

I needed to hear that. I get way too caught up thinking (and worrying) about time and how there’s not enough and everything takes too long. Part of the conference touched on the process of publishing. I’m going to write another post about the day more generally but, for now, it’s important to note the use of the word process. It’s not a one-time event. Continue reading

On Impatience and Self-Publishing

When I first found out I could produce a book and put it out into the world all by myself, I got so excited I jumped at the chance. Then I jumped a second time, and a third. Suddenly, I wanted to self-publish everything. Within a few months, I had several projects planned and– yep, I basically got wayyy ahead of myself.

Not all of the projects I planned saw the light of day, in the end, and I think that’s for the best.

As I said in my previous post, I wasn’t ready to self-publish when I first did. I just didn’t know enough to realize how much I didn’t know.

In part, I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve joined the recently formed Irish Independent Authors’ Collective. It’s also on my mind because I’m trying to get traditionally published at the moment as well.

At some point, I started thinking a bit more long-term and realized that all of my impulse publishing decisions might have hurt my writing career in the long run, which – oops?

Let me not beat around the bush: the very first books of mine ever printed were sub-par quality, and I’ve had to spend a LOT of time and effort re-doing them in the years since. The editions available to buy now I’m mostly okay with but, if I could do it all again, I’d have brought out fewer titles and spent more time over each of them.

I would still have self-published Juvenilia (the bind-up of my teenage poems), brought out a poetry chapbook as a stepping stone to submitting a full-length poetry collection to traditional publishers, and maybe released a short story collection (that just had stories and was not mixed in with poems) as I worked towards my novel, which I would aim (and still do aim) to get traditionally published.

I like the idea of being a “hybrid” author – having a foot in each camp – a lot. In the modern day, I think it makes sense to try and build an audience while you’re trying to attract an agent.

BUT – and here’s the kicker – only if you’re ready.  Continue reading

How to Get Your Poetry Published, the Traditional Way

When I had been writing poetry for a few years, had a decent sized bank of poems built up and felt ready to share it with the world, I turned to the internet to find out how one went about being published.

Google was not kind to me.

What my limited research told me was that my dream of being a published poet was just that – a dream. That there was very little point in trying, as only people who were already famous stood a chance of getting published. And even then, it was a small chance. “No one reads poetry,” said one reply.

Well, that was that then. Or so I thought. I accepted my findings and, although I kept writing poems, I gave up on the hope of seeing them in print.

It didn’t occur to me that the research might be wrong. That I, in myself, was proof that it was. I mean, I must have known that at least people read poetry, because I was one of them.

But the people of the internet seemed convincing and I took them to be experts. Before I joined Women Aloud NI, I didn’t know any other writers. I didn’t have their experience to compare with what I’d been (wrongly) told.

You might ask why I was misled in such a way, and I think there are a few reasons for that. Partly, it was because what I was told wasn’t entirely wrong. Like any good lie, there was an element of truth to it. Matched with other’s anecdotal evidence and my own insecurities, it seemed like a closed case.

So, what’s the truth? You can get published – it is possible – but it’s also difficult.

To make it just a little easier, I’m going to outline how it’s (usually) done. Continue reading

Addendum

Things I Wish I'd Known About Self PublishingIt’s just over four years since I published the first ever edition of Still Dreaming, and I’ve learnt a lot since then.

At the time, I boasted about how I could do everything myself – editing, proofreading, cover design, etc. – and, as such, that I was saving so much money.

Older me knows better.

Twenty-seven-year-old me knows, for example, that you can read over the same document three hundred times and still miss a typo that a different person, with a fresh pair of eyes, can pick up in moments.

Proofreaders and editors are worth their weight in gold, and if you want your book to be the best, it’s a good idea to invest in hiring one (or both).

Editing and proofreading are skills that I now offer other people (having now learnt the skills, myself), but I no longer rely solely on myself to do it for my own books (as per the reason mentioned above).

I’ve also learnt a fair bit about formatting and cover design since two-thousand-twelve.

Still Dreaming (and all the rest of my books) have been updated a few times since then, and I’m a little bit embarrassed about the earlier versions, truth be told, but I’d probably do it all again, if given the chance.

I mean, sure, if I was doing it again I’d do it differently, but the only reason I know what changes to make is because I went out there and tried. I made mistakes, I learnt from it, and now I’m better at what I do. I’m even able to help other people, which is great.

As for the money thing: I couldn’t have afforded to hire an editor back in 2012 even if I wanted to, but I have paid the literal price since, ordering new proof copies each time I updated anything (which was often).

If I’d been more patient and less arrogant, I’d probably have waited until I could have afforded to work with professionals, but then, as I say, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I’m very happy with where I now find myself.

I guess the main thing to take away from this is to be wary of advice from newbies – especially if that newbie is yourself.

Lulu Junior, but for Adults?

Comic Book Front CoverApparently it’s been around since February 2014, but I’ve only just heard about this thing called Lulu Jr.

Lulu.com (the parent company), for those who don’t already know, allows people to self publish using the print on demand model, meaning there’s very few overhead costs to releasing a book. As a big fan of this M.O., I’ve used Lulu to create the paperback versions of all of my books.

So now there’s this new thing – essentially Lulu for kids – and it sounds so cool! (No, I’m not getting paid to say this.) Lulu Jr’s book making kits come with everything needed for a child to draw out pages of a book, which they then send to Lulu via the included envelope, and then Lulu compiles the pages into a proper printed masterpiece and sends it back. I told you it sounded cool! WHERE WAS THIS WHEN I WAS A KID?!

Ahem.

Don’t judge me, but I find this so awesome that I’m tempted to do it myself. Yes, the kid’s version and, no, I’m not joking.

As and adult that shamelessly reads children’s books, and enjoys a good spot of coloring in, this is right up my street. But here’s what I’m wondering: why isn’t there a Lulu Jr, but for adults?

Okay, okay, I can practically hear you rolling your eyes at the screen. There’s already the main Lulu service, I’ve already said that, I know. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about a third option, in which adults who are not professional artists but who like to doodle as well as write can, not only self publish a book, but can illustrate one too.

In 2014 I made a comic for 24 Hour Comic day, and that resulting comic is available through Lulu’s main site. But let me tell you, it was not easy getting it there – I fought with my printer/scanner for three hours straight!

What I’m essentially saying here, in my perhaps not so humble opinion, is that Lulu is great, and Lulu Jr is a stroke of genius, but I want more. I want to be able to draw out pages to accompany my text, and then have Lulu put them into a book for me, no stress of misbehaving scanners whatsoever. Now, wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas gift?

Thoughts on Kindle Worlds

As I said in a previous post, I write a fair bit of fan fiction. I also said I had no intentions of publishing it for profit, mainly because doing so wasn’t really an option. The copyright issues are unclear to say the least, and making money off fanfic is not why I write it. That said, I recently was reading about Kindle Worlds, and it changes things, slightly.

Now, Kindle Worlds has existed for about two years, and apparently there was a big uproar about it in the fanfic community in general, and on Tumblr in particular, when it was first announced. Don’t ask me why I’ve never heard about it before, because I’m as baffled as you.

For those who, like me, don’t know what it is, basically Amazon have a branch of the Kindle store specifically dedicated to paid, legal fan fiction. The catch is they only have permission to do this within certain “worlds” (i.e. fictional universes, or fandoms). Oh, and you also need a bank account in the US.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Self-Publishing

I’ve self-published a few books, so far, and I intend to release more in the future, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the topic by any means. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from both A. having opinions, and B. wanting to share those opinions, which is what I’m going to do here. If you want to read more about the actual process I went through in making my books a reality, you can do so over here.

So, what are my overall thoughts on self-publishing? It can be great. Key word: can. It can also be awful, if you do it wrong. But, generally speaking, I’m in favour of it. I like the opportunities it gives to people who – for whatever reason – can’t or don’t want to be traditionally published. That’s not to say I’m not in favour of traditional publishing, because I am. They’re both good, for their own reasons, and in their own ways. I think some types of books are more suited to one particular publishing method than the other and, when it comes to my novels, I want to go down the traditional route, only using self-publishing as a plan B.

I self-published ‘Still Dreaming’ and ‘Wake’ because it suited the books and it suited me, at the stage of my writing career I was at (i.e. the very first stage). Traditional publishing wasn’t a real, tangible option for them at that time, mainly because they were works of poetry and short stories, which are also known as ‘things most reputable publishers won’t touch with a barge pole unless the author is already very famous’. As sad as it is, that stance is completely reasonable for publishing houses to have because the chances of them selling these types of books in large enough quantities for them to break even – let alone make a profit – are very low.  Continue reading