Self Publishing: Even with a network, you must invest in your process

Comments Off on Self Publishing: Even with a network, you must invest in your process

Third in a Series

Creative Coaching Series

Creative Coaching Series

A book is an effort of mighty collaboration. It probably doesn’t seem that way while you’re alone in your chair with the door closed on your writing space, revising what’s written or facing the blank page with your visions. But it takes a village of helpers to make a book. As a self-publisher, you will learn to rely on many people.

Viral-Times-gasmask-cover blogIn my acknowledgements for Viral Times, I listed 17 people who had a direct contribution to my debut novel. From early reading groups, where the content editing was free, down to the creative coaching, editing and proofreading, and finally to my most trusted reader Abby — my wife and the inspiration for the book — there were many people to rely upon.

Finally at the last, just before my proofreader Leslie Nail and my printer’s account manager Terry Sherrell helped make these words ready for press and ebook, my beloved bride Abby read through these people, the places and all the dreams that she has inspired and nurtured. Making a book can feel like making a movie once you write down all the names who have midwifed it. It’s been my joy to deliver this story at last—and also as the first book in my life as a novelist.

The first book in that life required an investment in paid editing, in due course. For me it was content editing and  proofreading, but for some writers you might get content editing for free — if you have experienced writers or language arts teachers in your network. But nearly everyone needs to pay for copyediting. Altogether the editing is probably going to look like $3,000 in budget. It did for me, and I applied my 30 years of copyediting to my final draft before Leslie Nail took after it with “light copyediting” alongside her proofing. The book contains about eight errors anyway, but that’s out of 98,000 words. No typos — but I can live with that percentage.

Guy Kawasaki, one of the founding Apple Computer gurus and now an expert on SelfPub, wrote a superior book with Shawn Welch on the creative magic of making your own book. In APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur; How to Publish a Book, there’s good advice on editing: It’s a stupid mistake to skip paying for the work, done by a pro.

The third challenge is figuring out how much to pay a content editor. The going rate for content editors is $50 per hour. Figure that content editing will take 20-30 hours, so you’ll be spending $ 1,000-$1,500 for these services. The going rate for copyediting is $35 per hour, and copyeditors can work their magic at the rate of roughly 10 pages per hour (although this can vary depending on the complexity of the material), so you’ll pay approximately $ 1,000-$1,500 for a 300-page manuscript. This is one of the dumbest places to try to save money, because poor copy editing destroys the quality of your book.

These are not really writing mistakes, are they?

Comments Off on These are not really writing mistakes, are they?

On a short tramp through the Website glade, I found a popular list of mistakes in writing English — but they’re not actually mistakes.

The writer, Univ. of Washington professor Paul Brians, calls these bits of English non-errors on the Web page.

Many of his explanations take note of metaphor, conventional writing, or common use, to justify things like using “over” when the writer means “more than.”

The Web page is fun, yes. But on the other hand, the argument for explicit language — using exactly the best word or phrase — protects a reader’s right to meaning. As in, “what exactly do you mean?” You may or may not consider these mistakes in writing. We’ve all read these words so often we have built an instinct for what they mean.

Mistakes in writing take place when a reader doesn’t understand, loses the thread of the story’s dream state, drops the passion to pursue the plot through its characters. Even using the wrong command in a computer program is a result of a writing mistake.

Have a look at these “mistakes that are not mistakes” list and see which ones you’re using in your writing. You can break any rule in writing — if you can get away with it to make the writing do its work. But the truth is that you can’t get away with as much as you’d like. I would say allow these mistakes into your writing if the soul of the prose demands them. Always look for a unique usage make writing “fail upwards” as your goal.

No MFA, you say? Not so, Dr. Magnuson

Comments Off on No MFA, you say? Not so, Dr. Magnuson

Last month the director of the Michener Center for Writers, James Magnuson, spoke to members of the Writer’s League of Texas. Magnuson began with a bit of errant information, a fact that suited his talk, “Graduate Writing Programs: Worthwhile Or Waste Of Money?”

“Did you know,” he asked, “that no Nobel Prize winner in Literature ever has come from an MFA program?” He went on to add that he wasn’t even sure if a graduate writing program had ever produced a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Well, the Pulitzer part was easy. I reminded Magnuson from my front-row seat that the Pulitzer Prize has gone to Michael Chabon, who wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for the 2001 award. Today I was researching a novel from the syllabus for the Novelist’s Tools seminar on my schedule at Iowa this summer. The 12 of us in the class been assigned The Bluest Eye, the first novel from Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, who’s been through an MFA program. Morrison won her Nobel Prize in 1993, 38 years after she took her MFA from Cornell.

There’s bound to be other MFA prize winners, but Magnuson was making a larger point with his errant report. An MFA will not ensure your critical acclaim or commercial success. Writers who judge themselves ready for the rigors of an MFA program sometimes look for such confirmation, usually as a result of what they learn about their writing. They also seek a secure place in life with a teaching position. But the advice from the Writer’s League audience assured us that even an MFA doesn’t automatically lead to a teaching job. “You really need a book as well,” offered one of the Michener grads in attendance.

So the MFA is only one means to the end: writing the book. And Magnuson said that an MFA program had better give you time to write that book, or you’ll be better served by avoiding the massive loans and years out of your life. “If you really have a life, there’s a question of whether you should take the time out of it” for graduate writing, he said. “If the program demands 20 hours a week teaching writing, plus three classes, there’s a question about whether it’s better to work for the post office and get up early every morning to write.”

He added that there’s a good alternative in learning from your peers, by sharing books. “There’s too much emphasis placed on the MFA in the culture,” he said. “We teach, but only to a degree,” he said — meaning not only that the MFA’s object is the degree alone, but also that much of what makes a writer succeed can’t be taught in a classroom.