Saturday, April 14, 2012

Now What?

Okay, now you've got the attention of a publisher. You've followed the rules, sent them what they wanted in the correct format, and you've been patient. They wrote and asked for three chapters, then the entire manuscript, and then they called and said they'd like to offer you a contract. Wow. You've made it much further than most people do. A contract! How cool is that? But here is where it gets even more complicated. There are rules that you should follow and we've listed just a few
·         Never scribble out things in the contract and write over them in red ink. If you have a question or concern about something, talk to the editor about it. Chances are if it’s a simple point, they will compromise with you. But you have to remember, it’s their standard contract. They don’t have to change the way they do business with an author just because you say so. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a larger royalty, but don’t expect to get it.
·        Never just show up at the publisher’s door. Never ask if you can visit their workplace or office. Don’t call them after five in the evening, or before nine in the morning. Never call on week-ends or holidays. Do not call collect from jail, or from a bar at midnight. Please respect their privacy and remember they have lives and families and like to keep regular work hours if at all possible.
·         You are responsible for keeping your own records and unless your house burns down, there is no reason to request another copy of anything from your editor.
·        Do not send your editor daily e-mails just to ask how things are going. Don’t send them pictures of your family reunion, or chain letters telling them that unless they forward it on to 25 people they will get run over by a garbage truck. And don't send them political or religious forwards.
·         When you are requested to make changes to a galley, do it exactly as they ask you to. Do not draw smiley faces in the margins. Do not reprint it with special purple paper, and do not tape extra pages to the back of it to better explain things. If you are making the changes directly onto the galley, write legibly and please do not write so small that it would require a magnifying glass to read. Do not use a special code that you created, use standard symbols for editing. You can find them online.
·        You will probably have very limited control over the cover, sometimes none at all. Don’t expect to have your 93 year old grandpa’s picture on there unless it has something to do with the book.
·         If your editor asks you to reconsider the title, seriously think about it. A bad title can sink your entire book.  The original title of Jaws was Amity Cove. The editor changed it, and in the opinion of many, changed it to a title that helped it become a bestseller.
·        If your contract states that a galley will be corrected and sent to you for final approval within ten weeks, don’t ask if they could make it three because you'd love to have the book by your high school reunion to show all those smarties that you did indeed become a writer. If it says 3 months, live with it. The editor has a lot of clients and a lot of books to work on. Often they have small staffs or none at all. Don’t push just because you’re impatient. Patience is a must in the world of publishing.
·        If you were told that your book might be out by a certain date, please don’t set up signings. Wait until you have a book in your hands before you do that. There are a million things beyond an editor's control that can delay the release of a book. Again, be patient.
·        Don’t expect your publisher to give you free books. Especially with a small press. Even the New York publishing houses make the author purchase any books that they might want to sell on their own. And it’s common knowledge, that in most cases, that’s the only way you’re going to sell. You should receive a substantial discount, but you will have to purchase books.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Let's Talk Queries

When we started our High Hill Press blog we were initially doing it to promote our authors and their books. But lately we’ve decided we could also use this format to let you know how it works behind the scenes and what you should and shouldn’t do when dealing with queries and submissions and the whole process of getting your book to actual publication. We’ll open this page to comments too. And feel free to ask questions.   

Here’s a bullet point list of things that you should never do. (And FYI, I’ve had all of these things happen to me, or to a friend.)
·         Never, ever, push your manuscript under the bathroom stall and tell an editor it will only take them a minute or two to read the first chapter.
·         Never chase an editor down a hall while jabbing your finger into their back and yelling “Hey, Miss. Miss. I need to talk to you about my book!”
·         Don’t stand across the room from an editor and perform a Vulcan mind meld in the hopes that you can get them to read your manuscript.
·         Don’t interrupt an editor in the hall if she is talking to someone already. Would you want someone to interrupt your time with her?
·         Don’t send an e-mail to an editor to ask about the query you sent a day ago, or a week ago, or a month ago, or even 4 months ago. If you haven’t heard from an editor after 6 months, it’s perfectly acceptable to write a polite e-mail asking if they’ve found time to look over your query, but not one day before then.
·         Don’t send an unsolicited manuscript. It doesn’t matter that you thought you’d save some time, or that you knew they’d like it so you sent the whole thing, or a friend told you since it was a “small press” you didn’t have to query first.
·         Never call an editor to discuss your query. And never call them to ask if they’ve received your query. In the query stage, put your number on your correspondence and let the editor know it’s okay for them to call you if they have any questions. Also give them the best times to reach you.
·         If you are asked to send chapters, or an entire manuscript, send it exactly the way the editor asked for it. And while you’re at it, take the time to learn about formatting. If an editor requests a manuscript, there is nothing more aggravating than one that isn’t formatted properly. You can find formatting guidelines anywhere, but later we’ll post them on this blog.
·         If an editor requests that a manuscript be sent in hard copy, do not send it express with a signature requirement. If they miss mail delivery and have to drive to the post office to sign for your manuscript, they aren’t going to be too happy. And there’s nothing worse than starting off an editor/author relationship when one of you isn’t happy.
·         If an editor asks for three chapters, don’t send the whole thing saying that they can’t get the complete story without reading it all at once. Don’t say you sent five chapters because the real action doesn’t start until then. Send three chapters and not one word more. If you’re book doesn’t get exciting until chapter five, then perhaps you should delete the first four chapters. Do not send anything else unless the editor asks for it. Don’t send sketches of the way you see your characters. Or the world they live in. Or your vision of the cover.
·         Lately, one of our pet peeves is the bio. Bios should be written in third person. Never in first person. There is no I. There is only she or he. When we get a bio that starts out with “I’ve been writing my whole life.” We cringe because we’re almost positive the author has either not been around the writing world very long, or hasn’t paid much attention to how things are done. It should always read, “Stephen King has been writing his whole life.”

Just remember that this whole business is like playing the lottery. You aren’t going to win unless you buy a ticket. But there are rules. You wouldn’t print off your own lottery ticket and if your numbers are drawn expect to win. You have to do it the way they expect you to. So if you want to win the “Big Publishing Lottery” play by the rules. And if you don’t know those rules, then you either haven’t been attending conferences, or you weren’t paying attention when you did. Don’t expect an editor to make an exception for you because you don’t have time to participate in a workshop, or conference, or read a writing how-to book. It’s not as hard as you might think to become familiar with the way this business runs, you just have to try.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Find Bigfoot

High Hill Press is excited about a new book from Pamela Foster, author of Redneck Goddess, published in 2011. Pamela has again written a masterpiece.

Instead of Georgia, Bigfoot Blues is set in the mysterious Northwest, where everyone has an opinion about the hairy man of the forest. Publication is set for the summer of 2012 but before then we're going to have some fun. We have two contests planned for the release of the book. One allows you to go on your own Bigfoot hunt. On our Advanced Reader Copy, we have hidden five Bigfoots in the forest. Be one of the first ten people to find them, and you'll receive an autographed copy of Bigfoot Blues. And very soon we'll announce the guidelines for an anthology that we plan to release along with Ms Foster's book. Bigfoot Blues Confidential: The Truth Revealed will showcase both fiction and non-fiction stories. Watch this site for more details. But right now start your own Bigfoot hunt. Find the five hairy beasts lurking in the forest on the cover of Bigfoot Blues. Just print a copy of the cover, circle the Bigfoot lurking there, and send them to High Hill Press  2731 Cumberland Landing  St. Charles, MO  63303. And leave us a comment or two. Have you had your own encounter with Bigfoot. I have, and I'll post that story here soon.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Read a Small Press Book Today.

I know this editor is a little biased, but I truly think that some of the best books are coming out of small press now. New York has, for the most part, abandoned great stories in exchange for the flashy unauthorized tell all, the political bloviating disguised as literature, every new diet craze to come down the pike, and big name authors who sometimes appear to be doing nothing more than fulfilling a contract.

Eudora Welty

I'm not complaining as much as it may appear, because I still browse the aisles of Barnes and Noble  to find a new Stephen King book, or a book that promises to slow the aging process. But the great writing of old seems to be beyond the radar of New York. I know it has to do with the dollar, and the fact that young people don't know what good writing is, and maybe because the Eudora Weltys of today can't take the pressures and heartache of trying to sell a novel in New York City. And what am I complaining about--many of these great writers are sending me query letters. The editors at High Hill have desks filled with amazing manuscripts.

Flannery O'Connor

But it is sad to think that because we're small and maybe not as well-known as St. Martin's Press, we might not get a query from the next Flannery O'Connor because she doesn't know we exist. And instead of persisting, this new Flannery might quit writing and take up knitting instead. Or worse yet, she will write her wonderful prose and stick it in a box under her bed never to see the light of day, or a Barnes and Noble shelf, or a blurb on Amazon or a fleeting mention in Twitter. And then there's the possibility that the lack of good publications coming out of New York, and the surge of low quality e-books, might make the readers of the country even less apt to buy a novel written by an unknown author than ever before.

Jacqueline Susann

It's all new territory, and publishing is going through a pioneer stage that we haven't seen since the 50's. I always tell my audience at a conference or workshop that we're back to the days of Jacqueline Susann, where an author has to fill the trunk of his car and hit the road in order to sell books. Jacqueline sold Valley of the Dolls to truck drivers and nuns as she drove from the east coast to the west. She was a genius at marketing and it slowly pushed her book to the top of the best seller list. She did it all without the initial help of New York.

A good thing to do is browse the pages of Amazon, find small presses that sell books on their websites, often at a discount price, and ask at the bookstores for small press books. That is where the treasures are sometimes hidden. I love the business, and I'm quickly realizing that there are too many great stories and not enough time. But until I can no longer work, I'll be publishing great books by terrific authors in the hopes that their work won't be lost. I have several authors now that have crumpled up their rejection letters and pulled those dusty manuscripts out from under their beds. We're publishing their books because they're good. We're publishing them because we're trying to keep great literature alive. Of course if anyone out there has a book that proves you can reverse a persons age by 20 years and give them the brain and body of a thirty-year old, I'm interested. 
Just a hint...this is what I want to look like.

Happy Writing!