Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ready to Publish: Strategies for Authors

I wish I could say I’ve never submitted any of my work before it was ready to publish. In truth, I’ve done it more often than I care to admit, especially in my early days of publishing.

Some “too soon” submission, or even “too soon” publishing, is unavoidable, and perhaps even necessary to a writer’s development. It’s hard to judge your own work, and in fact you may be better off submitting too soon than holding your work back indefinitely because you’re holding it up against potentially unreachable standards.

But you don’t want to keep doing that forever. Of late, markets have become less forgiving. In traditional publishing, agents and editors rarely take time to “grow” authors the way they used to; Big Five publishers in particular are looking less and less for the slow-build author and more and more to the smash-hit celebrity. In indie publishing, authors who haven’t already built loyal followings are finding it harder to get noticed with projects that don’t shine in one way or another.

It’s for these reasons, along with the challenge of navigating an ever-changing set of publishing options, that I wrote What Every Author Should Know: No Matter How You Publish, along with its companion volume, Write Your Best Book (February 2015).

It’s also why I agreed to teach a six-hour “Ready to Publish”workshop for the 49 Alaska Writing Center. The workshop is activity-based; during our session, participants will create several documents, including an action plan, to guide their thinking about whether their writing projects are ready and what to do with them once they are.

In particular, workshop participants will:

·         Examine their writing process as a way of assessing where they are with their work
·         Clarify what success means to them
·         Use query questions to better understand their projects
·         Use “also boughts” (aka comps) to better understand their readers
·         Write back copy as a means of refining their approach to their projects
·         Create individualized “ready for market” surveys
·         Assess ways to use early readers to the benefit of the work
·         Apply the psychology of revision to the creation of “best books”
·         Draft a publishing strategy for their work
·         Draft a query or sell sheet
·         Create an action plan

If you’re in Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 7 (9 am – 4 pm), I hope you’ll join us. Advance registration is required. A copy of What Every Author Should Know is included with the registration fee. There’s also an optional “first pages” critique; for this, be sure to register sooner rather than later, as I’ll be preparing the written portion of the critiques in advance of the individual consultations, scheduled during the lunch hour and aftermath of the workshop.

Workshop participants always benefit from interacting with other authors and the instructor. But if you’re not able to attend, take the DIY approach—grab a copy of What Every Author Should Know and use the bulleted list above to create your own “Ready to Publish” workshop.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored fifteen books. Her most recent are What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion, and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works as freelance editor and coach on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. A version of this post also ran at www.49writers.blogspot.com