Today, we are honoured to have Hart Jonson guest-blogging for us on Authors Promoting Authors.
If you want to watch and learn while someone is actually doing this writing thing and has it figured out and if you're interested in how to build an incredible blog audience, and if you like to laugh...a lot and don't mind encouragement on getting naked, her blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart is a must read.
The Side Door
First, I'd like to thank Authors Promoting Authors for having me. I made friends with Tina-Sue early in my social networking career and I think the goal here rocks. I love the promoting and supporting atmosphere, so I feel honored to be here.
I have a number of writer sites I visit and I believe I've identified a false dichotomy, and I thought it might be helpful to give you all the shades of purple, if you will...
Big Six Traditional Publishing versus Self-Publishing
Not buying it. The reason? Because there are a half dozen options in between (a few of which actually include the big six) that can get you in through a DIFFERENT route than... write the book, query the agent, submit to the publishers... (which we all know has dozens of iterations for each of these steps, each attached to a revision, ne?)
So What are your Options?
Traditionally we've been told the route in is Short Stories...
Now I can't write a short story to save my life, but there are a LOT of literary journals and eZines that publish these, and often pay the authors for the stories... The TRICK is to find the publications in your genre, get to know the FLAVOR of each, and then submit where you feel your stories are most suited. (Heck, write to the audience you get a feel for AFTER you read a while). Yes, you need to query for this, but knowing the journals should ALSO give you a feel for the tier... some are harder to get into, some easier... work your way up slowly from easy to the more prestigious...
But what OTHER options are there?
(Tiny Press even). With the advent of eBooks, publishers are springing up everywhere who HAVE editors, HAVE gatekeepers, are intent on quality control, will help you with art, formatting, perfecting... It is sort of Buyer-Beware at the moment, as SOME just want a piece of your self-publishing pie, and SOME want to stick you with COSTS (like making you pay for their editing services), but SOME--most, even... are really intent on helping authors get good books out there. And because eBooks don't have the hard costs associated with physical printing, they can take risks the traditional houses can't (specifically unknown authors or hard to shelve genres)... The author gets a better percentage (sometimes increasing over increased sales, as they recoup their costs for editing and art)
Calls for Submission
Publishers, even BIG Publishers, put together collections... Anthologies. I've seen them in romance, mystery, horror... probably they exist for every genre. How it works is: Publisher posts—we are putting together an anthology for (often a holiday) and will be accepting submissions until XXX date. Now this requires some writerly flexibility... you need to write to the parameters THEY provide, but they are often broad. You need to write relatively FAST, as they are often only announced 30 to 60 days before the deadline... but this is actually REALLY good for learning and improving, and they are typically novellas (or shorter)--often in the 10K-20K word range. I have a friend who has had three accepted in various romance anthologies this fall (two with Samhain, one with Harlequin), and so querying her full-length novels now has real publishing credits, plus she is making some money writing.
I don't know how you get these gigs (though I've met more than a few people who got their start here, so it must work)... but it seems to me there is an audition process... and while your name never goes out to the PUBLIC as the author, you certainly get to include it on your CV or the author bio with your query.
Write For Hire
This one is near and dear to me, as it is the side door I found open. I had to get there through an agent, which meant I am ever grateful for my referral (I have a blog friendship and her recognition of my blog voice to thank, actually), But there are some genres that have REALLY voracious readers. The industry actually has to WORK to keep enough books on the shelves for these folks... and so editors put together 'bibles' with some characters and specifics for a series... then ask writers to audition. My own case is Cozy Mystery, and my editor asked my agent if she had a writer who could do it... the one the editor had in mind was too busy, but thought of ME as a person who might do it justice. I wrote the audition piece (50 pages to their specs) and got the gig.
The biggest lesson HERE was... my genre found me because I'd been myself to the Nth degree in my blog... I had no idea there was a path this way, but it worked.
I guess my point is, Traditional publishing is really hard to break into right now... and self-publishing can seem really tempting... And I think there are a lot of good reasons people opt for self-publishing—I definitely don't feel there should be judgment about the decision, but I ALSO think there are a lot of people diving there out of desperation. I just wanted to share some of the other options, because one might be right for you.
Hart Johnson: I blog at Confessions of a Watery Tart [http://www.waterytart23.blogspot.com/] and am represented by Ellen Pepus for my Cozy Mystery and Amy Tipton for my Young Adult (both of Signature Literary Agency). I write naked from my bathtub.