19 January 2012

Aunt Noony's Inside Look at Publishing

It’s funny, I don’t really think of myself as being “inside publishing,” or inside the ebook publishing industry, but since I have a book out with a major digital-first press I suppose to others that I might be considered at least “published,” if not on the “inside track.”

So how’s the view from here?

The more I know, the more I learn that I need to know. As much as I know about writing (active voice, action tags, story craft), I find I still have more to practice. Each time I go through a manuscript to edit, I think, “This is the time, it’ll be so clean I won’t have to touch a thing.”

I’m wrong. Routinely.

Humbling experience, that.

Each time I think I “know about the ebook publishing industry,” someone will mention a new-to-me publisher that’s been in business for years. It’s not that they’re so small I’ve never heard of them, it’s that I’m not well versed enough on the businesses playing in the industry yet.

So here’s what I do know:

Concentrate on the basics and on what you can control.

1. Write daily or as often as you can. There are many prompts available on the internet (type “writing prompts” into Google and poke around). Experiment with a new one every day for a month. Write with a pen and write on the computer, see how the different mechanics work with your creative process.

2. Practice your writing skills. Get a book on grammar from the library or buy yourself a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. Wrestle with comma usage and the dreaded semicolon; become an expert in verb tenses. Learn about the “story arc” and the seven traditional plots. Get yourself a copy of Fiction Writers Workshop by Josip Novakovich or take a fiction class through a local writing group.

3. Meet other writers. Find writing friends online through magazines like Writer’s Digest or The Writer, and make local connections using your local newspaper or Meetup. Exposure to others working on the same things you are is helpful for the learning process and can also inspire you to try new things.

4. Attend regional writing conferences or even a national one. My own writing organization, Evanston Writers Workshop, holds our annual conference very year during the third weekend of August. We bring in authors, publishers, agents, and have an awesome time learning and playing with words for three days.  There's a lot you can learn about traditional publishing and the ebook publishing industry, and how the interrelate and augment each other from the authors' perspective.  It's no longer enough to ignore ebooks; we as authors need to understand it because that's how a lot of newer authors are being published.

5. Stay humble. No matter how much you know or learn, remember there’s always someone out there that can teach you something. Be teachable.

6. Keep writing. Through it all, remember to keep writing. This is surprisingly easy to forget, in fact. I meet writers through Evanston Writers Workshop who have all sorts of dearly-held opinions about publishing and writing, but when asked what they’re working on, the answers “oh, this manuscript I’ve been writing for twenty years.” One manuscript for twenty years is not a good track record for knowing the publishing industry. One of our speakers, author Jody Lynn Nye, has published over forty books and over a hundred short stories.  I think THAT is the track record of someone who knows the publishing industry, don't you?  Everyone has opinions, and it’s easy to forget that our job description is “writer,” not “pontificator” or “prognosticator.” If you have the urge to do either of the latter two things, DO IT ON THE PAGE! Whatever you do, write.

Lots.

Write on!

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