Publishing your book

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about a scam publisher and warning people not to get suckered. But I think it would be a good thing to also talk about legitimate alternatives to small, insignificant rip off artists that will never amount to anything more in the publishing world than the worst joke told around the water cooler. You don’t have to fall for that.
For starters, I’ll talk about the options of seeking traditional publishing and a couple self publishing options. So let’s take a look.

TRADITIONAL
There’s always the route of trying to get published by a traditional publisher. It’s not an easy market to break into, but it can be done.
Write a quality book.
That doesn’t mean hammering out your first draft and calling it a masterpiece. It’s called a first draft for a reason: because more drafts are supposed to follow.
Outlines
Some writers like to start with an outline. I’m one of them. I like to know the story line from start to finish before I get started on the prose. I compare writing an outline and then adding the prose to building a trellis first, and then letting the flowers grow on it.
Other writers like to start writing with an idea and see where it goes. They let their characters decide what’s going to happen as they go along, just letting the story unfold. I call that daisy-tripping, and I find that it creates more work in the end, having to go back and fix daisy-paths that didn’t really go anywhere in retrospect.
But to each their own.
Rewrite
Do it. Never, ever think that you’ve sat down and written the next contemporary instant classic. You didn’t. That’s not an insult to your writing skill or talent. It’s simply a fact. No first draft in history was ever print worthy. So after you’ve written it, take a day or two to celebrate the effort – you deserve it. But then go back and read it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find mistakes. That’s not a bad thing. Everybody makes ’em.
I suggest copying and pasting the entire book into a new document for your rewrite. Keep the original, intact, for posterity. Later, you can look back and see how far you’ve come. With the new document, do your second draft. Then do your third. Be careful not to overthink yourself, but be honest about what needs to be changed.
Editing
Every name you see on the bookshelf at the store was edited by somebody other than the author. Stephen King has an editor. James Patterson and Nora Roberts have editors. You need one, too. A good one, not some inbred, hijacked author wannabe that’s no more qualified for the job than you are, unless you’re a professional. And even if you are, still hire somebody else to do it. Surgeons don’t operate on their own kids for a reason. Hire an editor. A good one. I can’t repeat that enough.
Even if you’re submitting to a traditional publisher, don’t think “Eh, they’ll do the editing.” Those people get hundreds, if not thousands of submissions a day. You want yours to be the one that stands out to them based on the quality of your work. Sure, they’ll probably have their own editors go over it, but only if it’s selected in the first place.
Presentation
Once you think your manuscript is ready to submit, make sure it’s in the proper format. No fancy fonts, no cutesy squiggles around the page number. No colored paper, no handwritten notes in the margins, no illustrations of any kind on the cover. Use Courier font, size 12 with 1 inch margins printed on one side only, with the page number centered at the bottom. That’s it.
Query
More daunting than writing the book itself is writing the query letter. A query is a letter introducing yourself and your work to whomever might read it. It’s usually just one page with a few paragraphs, and no more. The first paragraph introduces your book. Just one paragraph. That’s it. You need to be able to introduce your book in just a few short sentences. You should be able to break it down into one. And I don’t mean a huge, long run-on with fifteen commas.
Dorothy Gale is swept from Kansas to Oz by a twister and discovers that there’s no place like home. Simple. Concise.
The remaining paragraphs are for you to introduce yourself, who you are and what qualifies you to have written this book. If you’ve served in the military and your book is about fighter pilots, include it. If you’ve written a thriller, it might not be relevant to include that you won last year’s bake sale with aunt Martha’s cherry turnover recipe. Unless your villain is a pastry that eats people instead of the reverse. Don’t embellish to impress. Just say who you are.
Don’t ever include statements like “Everybody that’s read it LOVES it!” Nobody cares. And don’t say “It’s the next Harry Potter or Twilight. The publisher or agent will decide for him or herself whether or not they like it, and what it will become.
Synopsis
You can go ahead and describe your book in a little more detail with a synopsis, but don’t go crazy. This should fit on one page, too.
Agents
Most publishers won’t even read an unsolicited mms. It goes straight into the garbage or gets deleted without a single page being turned. The best way to break into the business is by getting signed by an agent. They have the contacts and stand the best chance of getting your book picked up by a trad publisher.
My suggestion for finding an agent is to pick up a copy of the Writer’s Market. It’s an invaluable source of information about agents and publishers, arranged by subject in the index. It’ll save you a lot of time, and a lot of postage. There’s no sense in sending a DIY gardening book to an agent that handles children’s picture books. Also, the agent listings in TWM tell you exactly what to send to each agent. Some want sample chapters while others only want to read your query. It can’t get more basic than that. Which agents represent what type of work, how to contact them and what to send. Get it. If you can’t afford it, they keep ’em in the resource section in the library. Sit down with a notebook and copy the listings you like, or plug a few nickles into the copy machine.
Wait
When you’ve written your book, gotten it properly edited, hammered out your query and sent your stuff out to agents, wait. Chances are you’ll get rejections. Everybody does. Stephen King did. He got rejections and threw Carrie in the trash. If his wife hadn’t fished it out of the garbage and made him press on, we might never have heard of him. Same thing will happen to you. Keep submitting your work. In the meantime, while you wait, you can be working on the next book. If the first doesn’t get picked up, the second might. Just don’t give up.
And no matter what you do, don’t be so eager or starry-eyed that you fall for the line of some scam small publisher that will promise you the moon but ends up doing you more harm than good. You can do much better, baby, on your own.

SELF PUBLISHING
Traditional publishing is a tough racket to get into. Some authors get their start by self publishing. It’s tricky business and you need to be careful about how to approach it.
Vanity presses
There are companies like iUniverse that offer publishing service packages for authors that want to go that route. They’ll get you an ISBN, barcode, format your book, create cover art and put your book on the market for you. These are all steps you’re going to have to take in publishing for yourself anyway, so consider carefully if you’re willing to pay the price to have it done for you this way. It’s one-stop shopping, and that convenience might be appealing on the surface, but think about it carefully. These places are expensive, and they’re not going to do any of your marketing for you. I’m not going to call vanity publishing a ripoff, but be very careful about what you’re getting and what you’re not.
Editing
See above. If you’re self-publishing, it’s even more important to get your work properly edited. This is not an area you want to skimp on. It might, in fact, be the most important thing you do for your book.
Cover art
Your book is going to need a cover. You can slap one together yourself in any paint program with stock images from the web, or you can hire an artist to do it for you. Whichever you decide, remember that the cover is the public’s first impression of your book. That’s what they’re going to see first, and based on that, might choose to skip right over to the next if they don’t like what they see, without reading a single word. So make sure your cover is a good one.
Copyright
Find out everything you need to know at Copyright.gov.
ISBN
The International Standard Book Number is used to identify your book in the literary world. Every book needs one, and every version of a book needs its own. You can buy one, or a number of them, from Bowker.com.
Bar code
Every book needs an individual bar code on the back cover. You can get those from Bowker too.
Createspace
Any author can self publish on Amazon’s Createspace. They make it easy. Create a free account, upload your manuscript, throw together a cover using their handy little cover creator, and that’s it. They assign your book a number and a barcode, and before you know it, your book is on Amazon.com and Kindle. And it’s free. Can’t beat that price with a stick. For many self publishing authors, this is all you need. Have fun.
But here are also services you can make use of through Createspace, for a price, including editorial services, professional cover design, expanded distribution. It all depends on what your budget is for creating your book.
The down side to Createspace is that the book number they give you can only be used on Amazon and Kindle. You can’t take it to any other place or service. If you want a nook boo, you can’t use your kindle book number. It’s best, in my humble opinion, to go ahead and get your own number. That way, you can use it no matter where you go, and you own it for life. You can still use Createspace with your own number. You just plug your own ISBN when you’re setting up your project, that’s all.

There are a lot more options for writers striking out on their own, and I’ll investigate those in the days to come, as well as expanding upon some of the points I’ve brought up here today. But I think this is enough to start with. Probably more than enough, as long-winded as  I am. I just wanted to show that there are alternatives to getting scammed. A lot of them. A bright-eyed, eager new author has options. So there’s no need to be suckered into falling for a scam. Just don’t.

Advertisements

Recycle

I wondered why Tabetha’s been trawling my page today. Now I know.

Tabetha posted a retort on her page this morning in response to somebody here on my blog saying that she’s planning to close down PF like she did MP. I guess she thought she was being clever or witty, but failed as usual.

But that’s not the interesting part. What’s curious is that somebody named Brandy Cowan replied to the post three times.
brandycoway3282014

Now, just a little while later, it looks like those comments are missing.
brandycommentsmissing

But then Brandy came back a little while later.
brandybackoncomments

According Brandy’s page, she joined in Feb.
BrandyjoinedFBinFeb

Is from and still lives in Waco, TX.
BrandyfromWaco

Here’s a little history lesson for anybody that hasn’t been with the Tabetha Jones train wreck from the beginning.

In January of 2012, Wendy Hunyor and Brandy Cowan starte Mystic Press. Less than a month later, they took Tabetha on, and made her co-owner of their company, no less. Not long after, Brandy and Wendy handed over the keys to the shop and bowed out, leaving Tabetha and her fiance Eric as co-owners.  By September, Tabetha had been reported to the Texas Attorney General by several authors that she conned, and closed Mystic Press Down. By the end of that year, Phoenix Fire Publishing took its place.
Any time somebody brought up Mystic Press, Tabetha and her alts went out of their way to blame everything that was wrong on the original owners, Wendy and Brandy.
Here are just a few of their greatest hits. With links, so she can’t say I photoshopped them.
brandyblameandtimeline
Linky

Brandypreviousowner
Linky

brandyWendyandKjohnblame
KjohnaltblamingBrandyandWendy
Linky

namingandblamingpreviousowners
Linky

Last year, I posted a blog called Lunacy cycle about how Tabetha had brought Cindy Carlo back into the company as senior editor and personal assistant, even after allegedly botching Thea’s contract so badly that she got fired for it. That was the post that scared Tabetha so shitless that she BEGGED me to take it down and inspired her to finally Pay Thea back what she owed her. Well, it looks like TJ’s up to the same old tricks now, recycling people/alts back into the company after an extended hiatus.

If this Brandy is a real person, she must have selective amnesia.Either that or she’s just really, really stupid. Who in their right minds would return to a company that blamed them up, down and sideways for ruining it?

Who here thinks that this Brandy’s being reinvented/set up to take the blame when PF folds, just like she was when Mystic Press fell to ruin? Anybody?
Yup. Me too.

Jone

Take a look at this.
From Faith Bloom’s Relentless listing on Amazon:
name
Tabetha Jones, editor extraordinaire, spelled her own name wrong. On an author’s listing. That’s seen by millions of people around the world.

Yeah. That’s who I want handling my books.

The bait and switch

I’ve blogged before about how illegal Phoenix Fire’s contracts are, but I’m hearing some things that warrant a new post.

Not only are PF’s contracts illegal to begin with, Tabetha’s got a nasty habit of switching them out.

I’m hearing from more than one soon to be/ex PF author that Tabetha sends them a new version of the contract they originally signed, re-worded, and with their signatures “electronically” transferred to the new document. The new contract, it states, voids out the previous version and takes its place. In some cases, more than one new contract is sent to an author, each version “voiding” out the version before it.  With that same electronic signature transfer. In almost all cases, the changes are made by Tabetha without the agreement, and even without the knowledge of the author in question.

Gone is the 30 day loophole that tripped Tabetha up when trying to insist that Thea breached the contract. What remains in the new versions is the statement that Authors must comply with the publishers (editors, artists, etc) or they, the author, is in breach of the contract. That’s it. No timeline, no specifications. Just that they must comply. Then, if the author doesn’t meet some outrageous demand, like to have a complete rewrite done in a day, Tabetha can say that the author is in breach of the contract. The contract is void, then, and Tabetha is no longer obligated to fulfill any of her “publishing” duties. But if the author wants the rights to their work back, they have to pay for it. Out comes the famous Phoenix Fire release form, which includes a “no retaliation” clause that says that the authors aren’t allowed to talk about Phoenix Fire.

In short, she:
Switches contracts without the author’s permission or signature.
Sets the author up to breach it.
Charges the author money to get their rights back.
And bullies them into silence with a “no retaliation” clause in a release form that the author has to sign if they want the rights to their book back.

Sound familiar?

I cannot even begin to tell you how illegal all of this is.

If you have ANY contract from Phoenix Fire, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on in the first place. Illegal company, illegal contract. Still, some of her authors believe that they’re bound to it. It’s so LEGIT and all. But I can guarantee you that if you’ve received a new contract that you didn’t ask for and/or didn’t sign, IT IS ILLEGAL and you are not bound to it.

If you’re a Phoenix Fire author that wants out of your contract, you can walk away from Phoenix Fire and take your book with you. Period. You do NOT have to sign any bogus release form. And, more importantly, you do NOT have to pay any money to get your rights back. They’re yours. She never had them to begin with. She just wants you to think she’s got you by the short and curlies so that you’ll pay more money, and so that she can bully you into thinking that you can’t talk about what she did to you.

Don’t fall for it. Don’t let her bully you. Don’t let her take a single dime more from you. Take your book, take your talent, take your dreams, your dignity, and your power and walk away from that thief.

If you feel that you’ve been scammed (which you have) and want to do something about it, you can report her to the Texas Attorney General by filling out a form online here.
If you feel that you’ve been ripped off by way of fraud (which you have), you can file a report with the McLennan county District Attorney by calling their office: (254) 757-5084

Don’t be a victim. It’s your destiny. Own it.