Monday, April 28, 2014

Small Press Publishing with H.K. Sterling

Small Press Publishing
by H.K. Sterling

So let's talk brass tacks. First, I consider myself lucky. Damn lucky. I am one of the in-house authors for a publisher who is willing to review and publish [most of] my work. Of course if I turn something in that doesn’t fit their needs, or is not of the quality they are looking for, my work is rejected like anyone else's. But in general, I have a publisher who sends me contracts for books I write that they want and I consider myself blessed. * On a side note, make sure you research your publisher before signing contracts. There are many horror stories, one very recent where a certain to remain unnamed publisher allegedly stole the authors' money and is now out of business, leaving the authors both unpaid and without rights to their own work. Make sure your publisher has a good accounting system and that you understand it. Also, beware of scams. There are a number of operations that prey on a new writer's desire to be published. A general rule of thumb is, if you are asked to *pay* something as part of the process of having your book published, you are most likely not dealing with a legitimate publishing company.

The above doesn't include marketing your book. Small publishers especially expect the author to market all they can. At minimum they expect you to have a social media platform on which you advertise your book, present excerpts, post teasers, etc. Many small publisher authors also choose to pay for cover reveals, release day parties, blog tours, etc. However, using and paying for these services is always up to the author, not demanded by the publisher. Beware of any "publisher" that tries to sell you their "marketing services."
It wasn't always this way for me. I started out self-publishing. I didn’t even bother to send anything in to a publisher. I wanted full control from the cover down to the last dotted "i".  I never even considered sending my work anywhere. I published three books that way, under another name, the majority of them poetry. Good poetry too, (5* reviews, award, etc.), but in general poetry is not what the mainstream public wants to read. So I set about writing other genres. The New Adult age range sounded good to me, although I was to find out later that everyone and their brother had a different definition of what 'New Adult' means, exactly what ages it contains, and how much romance/sex should be present. But to begin with I was happy. I planned a series (under my other publishing name). Then suddenly I had a publisher.

This publisher not only published Young Adult and New Adult, but they also published different genres and heat levels. A heat level, by the way, is basically how sexually graphic your novel is. Suddenly I was writing mysteries under this name, H.K. Sterling. The book you are seeing with this post, A Taste For Killing, is one of those romantic/suspense mysteries. I loved the characters so much I immediately wrote a sequel called A Taste For Danger which will be released this June. I also published two shorts for my publisher's anthology, My Bloody Valentine. I published a shorty called Eyes Only as well.  At the same time I still worked on my New Adult Series under my other pen name and somewhere in there I (still under my other pen name)helped to start a new online magazine called INNOVATE with five other dewy-eyed writers.

The point is, now I have a publisher. There are different expectations when one has a publisher than when self-publishing. Having driven down both sides of the road, I wanted to explain some of them. First, you need to know that small publishers often work by contract. If they like what you submit, you get a contract offer. With the small presses, up front monies, book tours, and national promotion do not exist. What exists is a streamlined way to publish your books and if you write well enough, make money at it. Now, the differences:

  • As a self-publisher I created and bought my own covers. Expressing the book in pictorial form, as a way to draw in readers, was one of the most enjoyable parts to me. As an in-house author, the publisher has artists who design the covers. At first I was wary. Then I saw the quality of the covers they made. I basically did a spit-take at my computer and thought, "wow, you know, I don't really miss paying my own money for covers that much."
  • As a self-publisher I chose to use Amazon KDP and Createspace (other choices are Lulu, Smashwords, etc.) and received the percentage of profits Amazon specified. I didn’t bother to buy ISBNs or do anything that made the process more complicated. As an in-house publisher I don’t have to worry about ISBNs or ASINs either, but I receive a larger percentage of sales *and* they have a larger number of distribution channels than were available to me as a self-publisher with Amazon.
  • Next—editing.  With the help of family, I edited my first three books. It was mostly poetry after all and not many editors even edit that type of work. It varies too much. Additionally, I figured I could do it all myself. Amazingly enough, I did not have errors in books two and three, although I did have a few in book one, which I had to quickly fix and re-upload. Can you say, 'not professional?'  Editing from scratch is also a pain in the ass. There is always another error to find. Editing a book yourself is not only a bad idea; it’s a one-way ticket to amateur city. I was lucky. By my fourth book, I knew I was licked. There was no way in heck I wanted to edit that thing and even if I did, I knew I wouldn't be able to do a good job on it, and I wanted my books to be perfect. If you self-publish I cannot give you any more important advice than 'hire an editor'. (As with publishing companies, research and investigate. Ask for suggestions from friends. Don't fall for a scam.)
So suddenly I had a publisher and with a publisher multiple editors arrive. It was a steep learning curve. First, my book (under my other pen name) was written in a point of view that is no longer used. Who knew? I didn't! When did they make that announcement? I apparently missed it. Omniscient is a no-no. Back to rewrites. Boom. My book was now in third person. It still head-hopped often but fantasy sometimes does that. My editor is a wonderful person. She never pointed out how stupid some of the things in there were. She simply, professionally said that "I might want to take another look at x." Again, I was lucky. My editor never tried to rewrite the book for me, foist her ideas instead of mine or push me to do anything I wasn't comfortable with. If you have an editor that does those things, you do not have a good editor. The job of the editor is to work with you, to guide you; changes should always be the author's decision. The book transformed. That is a great editor and a great collaboration. If you are getting pushed and feel uncomfortable with changes then you might want to take a look at who is editing your book. You aren’t tied to them. On the other hand, I am also a flexible author. I accept changes and play nice. I am not stuck in a one-dimensional stream of thought about the way something has to be. I do stand up for some things but only when I feel it is important or necessary to the storyline. Don't be the horrible author that no one wants to work with; you may find publishing becomes more difficult.

Next is the Line Editor. I have a great respect for Line Editors just as I do with Draft Editors. Line Editors mention things like: "Did you know your characters ages don’t match up and character A would have had to marry character B at age 9 for your book to work out?"  Think of a Line Editor as that hard drinker in the bar who's seen it all.  It's just a matter of fact to them. Of course as an author, you are free to hit your head on the desk multiple times, but that's just one of the side effects of being an author. I recommend a chocolate prescription.

The Line Editor may also come back with comments such as, "the word 'just' was used 434 times, the word 'now' was used 299 times, and you used 'said' 567 times." The implication is that you use crutch words. All authors have them. We may not know what they are until someone points them out. That’s why authors need someone objective like the Line Editor who is merely looking at the manuscript like a piece of meat. Is it juicy? Is there too much fat? Was it cut well? Line Editors also look for passive voice. Sometimes passive voice is unavoidable, especially when writing in certain points of view, but often passive verbs can be removed. Search and destroy.

'Said' has its own problems and you will find people that argue both sides of using 'said'. What I found is the use of 'said', though invisible and recommended, is also an art. If all you ever use is 'he said', at some point in the reader's mind it will take them out of the story. And that is the biggest no-no of all. Anything that takes the reader out of the wonder of your story must go. Sometimes it’s the use of too many non-'saids': he blurted, he bellowed, he ejaculated.... another amateurish sign of not letting the wonderfully invisible 'said' just do its work. But for the artist, too much of a good thing can also be problematic.

After your book is as perfect as it is going to be, the formatter comes in. Bless the poor formatter, for he or she must make your book accessible in combination with so many formats I can't keep them straight. It's like naming the states in the U.S. You know they're there, but for the life of you, only 46 come to mind. The formatter knows all the states and the capitals of each one too.

Finally, through the benevolence of a publisher, promotion walks through the door. There is actually someone else who wishes your book well. We don't only live and die by the quality of our writing; promotion plays a large part in the process. It works better when the author is also promoting, but with a publisher, you get another person who is on your side and hopefully some additional exposure besides your own.

Once promotion lifts its head, you are out the door with your book, just like the one you see here, and its sequel that arrives in June. A quick note on reviews: at some point you will become a member of the lone star club. You will feel heartbreak. You may feel heartbreak at three stars. Nevertheless, do not respond to reviews. Sometimes there are even trolls. Nevertheless, do not respond to reviews. Have I emphasized that enough? No matter how negative, how unfair, how ridiculous because they didn't even read your book, do not respond to reviews. A response from you only hurts one person- you.

Last, to be an author, you must multi-task. Some days you will be overwhelmed with promo and edits and the next new novel and reviews and blog tours and your family who wonders why there is no dinner. But the process will be enjoyable and you will learn more with every new book publish.

For example, who knew I could write an article on the publishing process?

I was the last to know.

A Taste For Killing
Chasing the Taste
Book 1
H.K. Sterling

Genre: Mystery Suspense Romance Thriller

Publisher: Breathless Press

Date of Publication: February 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77101-225-6

Number of pages: 48
Word Count: 14936

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Book Description:

Mystery and Romance blend together when competing detectives Carolyn Woods and Jack Heart are both hired to solve the murder of Pete Wallace, only to realize they are working the same case.

To complicate things, Carolyn and Jack have an on again-off again relationship. Then there is Evan Jones, a handsome architect— but he's also a suspect.

Can Carolyn manage to solve the case as more and more murders pile up? Will her relationship with Jack hinder their investigations? And what about Evan Jones? He seems like the perfect man, but could he actually be the murderer?

One thing is for sure: someone close to both Carolyn and Jack has A Taste For Killing.

About the Author:

H.K. Sterling is an author with Breathless Press known for stories with imagination, intelligence, a kick, and twist endings. H.K. likes to focus her writing on suspense, science-fiction, shorts, and anything that is spicy and unexpected. Sometimes her books may even go dark. H.K. lives in Virginia with her husband who graciously puts up with her passion for writing.

H.K. currently has a Mystery/Thriller out: A Taste For Killing; and two short stories in the Breathless Press Anthology, My Bloody Valentine. Her new book, A Taste For Danger has just been accepted for publication and Breathless Press also just published H.K.'s short-short titled Eyes Only. H.K.'s books are suitable for 18+.

Catch up with H.K. Sterling on the following social media:

Twitter: @HKSterling

HK Sterling "Undercover Blog":

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