Guest Post: JD Miller on Meredith Morgenstern’s blog (Love you, Mer!)
As we know, writing can be a lonely, solitary process. Thanks to the magics of the interwebs, writers have more ways than ever of connecting with one another, learning from one another, and finding our “people” out there in cyberspace.
For these past three weeks, I’ve introduced you to three of my writing people: my critique partners. I like the number three for critique partners; if just one person disagrees with me, I’m never sure whether they are right and I should change something, or whether they just didn’t “get” it; with two, they may completely disagree with one another (“You should totally cut that scene out,” “You should totally make that scene longer,”); with three there is always a tie-breaker, and if more than one — or all three — say the same thing about a particular scene or short story, I know I can trust them.
Having a good critique partner isn’t easy. It’s a give-and-take process that requires an enormous deal of trust, communication and respect. The three people I’m spotlighting are writers whose work I genuinely enjoy reading, who are somewhere around the same place I am with regards to experience and position in trying to get published, and whose advice I take to heart.
Two weeks ago I introduced you to my longest-running critique relationship, and last week you met my newest critique partner. Here to wrap things up is my middlest critique partner, JD Miller, aka Lady of Kaos. I had the pleasure of critiquing the second novel in her BLOOD OF KAOS series, DREAMREAPER, and in return she’s given me tremendous insight into world-building, continuity, and character development. (She also keeps my sentence lengths in check because I once called her the Queen of Run-On Sentences. Turnabout is fair play.) Her world of fairies is well-built, well-thought out, and those fairies? Are anything but twee.
JD has some experience in indie publishing, which she’s going to discuss here. You can find her on Twitter at LadyofKaos or on her blog at https://ladyofkaos.wordpress.com.
In the beginning, my book series was not a series. It was merely an indulgent whim, an opportunity to try my hand at writing. The idea of turning it into a published piece of work was…inconceivable.
Enter a handful of diehard fans. That’s diehard Blood of Kaos fans, not Bruce Willis Diehard fans…although I do love those movies. At the behest of my diehard fans, I began to think that perhaps they were right and I could turn the story into something more than mere ramblings of a fantasy enthusiast. Jump ahead six years and here I am…with a published book…and the second in the series in the works. The journey has involved hard work, a lot of reading, tons of writing, and listening to professional advice. May I add, there is a ton of professional advice out there. It can literally drive you mad. My unprofessional advice is to consider what they have to say, because they do have many valid points, but, in the end, no one knows your work better than you – make your own decisions about your writing and how to handle it. Don’t short change yourself by listening to bullshit about how a first fantasy novel should be limited to 100,000 words or less, if possible. Fantasies are epic for a reason. If you are writing fantasy and it takes 150,000 words to tell the tale then use 150,000 words, but you have to make damn sure those 150,000 words are worth reading.
Now, when you’re ready to actually publish your book (after many beta reads, critiques from amazing writing partners (I have my own personal Writing Dominatrix) [You’re welcome. – MM.], edits, rewrites, edits, and more rewrites, which then should be handed over to a qualified editor, which will naturally lead to more rewrites, edits, and rewrites. Never fear, it’s normal, something I didn’t know at the time. I’ve learned many things since Blood of Kaos was published) be very choosy about to whom you release your Precious. I submitted my manuscript to dozens upon dozens upon DOZENS of literary agents. I fine tuned my query letter and my synopsis (bane!) and submitted to every fantasy literary agent I could find.
Then I read somewhere that a writer doesn’t necessarily have to have a literary agent to be successful.
By the sea and stars! A writer can submit direct to publishers!
Hold up little darlin’ before you get too excited.
The big publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. They require all submissions come through a literary agent.
Plan B. Thus, I submitted my Precious to smaller publishing houses. Reject, reject, reject, and, oh, look! Reject! Mumbling to myself how J.K. Rowling suffered her fair share of rejections before finding the holy grail of publishers, I continued to submit, always with the positive belief that all I needed was ONE to see the genius in my work. Amidst all the rejections, most of which came right off a computerized rejection assembly line, there was one angel of mercy, a bright shiny light of encouragement, my bridge over troubled waters. A gracious woman from The Wild Rose Press actually read my first three chapters and responded with valuable feedback; feedback that I will never forget. Her suggestions changed everything.
Of course, it meant I had to regroup and rethink the flow of the story and do the rewrite thing. I wasn’t successful with The Wild Rose because Blood of Kaos is not a romance novel. It has romance and a little erotica, but it’s not the driving force of the story. But not long after, I found a publishing house that was willing to take me on. I thought the sun, the moon, and the stars had aligned and Fate had finally smiled on me.
Funny thing about that smile – it was more of a smirk – no, not even a smirk. It was a twitch – an evil twitch – at the corner of her wicked, black-lipsticked lips. Euphoria had tainted my vision.
Hear me well, there are publishing houses and there are publishing houses.
After this venture it’s the Indie author train straight to self-publishing. It will take a lot of hard work, but, at the end of the day, the profits will be mine. I won’t have to give the lions share to someone who does nothing to promote me as an author other than tack my picture, a bio, and a snippet of my book on their website (all of which I created myself). Yeah, that’s worth 60% of whatever I sell, she says with a roll of her eyes. As a result, I have absolutely no control over my book for five years, no say in the pricing, no free copies, no mobi versions (even after I specifically requested one), no marketing assistance, no help with reviews, no guidance and no advice WHATSOEVER for a novice author, BUT I did get a single .pdf file.
Hallelujah, shall we dance in the streets for that small concession!
Silly me thought it would be a 50/50 type relationship. I thought publishers invested time and effort into their authors to help them towards success. Does a successful author not make for a successful publisher? Why take someone on and leave them to flounder in the deep end? Do you really expect to make money that way? I don’t get it.
Perhaps I think too logically, too Mr. Spock. I am a Ned Stark amidst the Ramsey Boltons and Tywin Lannisters of the publishing world. Fortunately, unlike Ned Stark, I’ve been able to keep my head and am able to take a new path.
As Jamie Fraser would say, “Je suis prest!”
Or, at least, I think I am…