Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers


Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers

My Experience

Before a brain aneurysm I worked in several different job areas. While I did some technical writing as a result of my engineering work in the form of manuals, protocols, and ethics, I also did comic books, graphic novels, and a variety of other work. Some of my writing did become well known and did transition to other media types. However I don't intend on making a plug for it here and I also haven't written in over 50 years now. But I felt I still have some useful tips to pass on to people who are interested in publishing their art or written work. I know something about artists rights, contracts, submissions, how to lay out a story, and how to develop story ideas.

Some Basics

As we all know facts make for realism or ability to relate to a situation or character. So my first tip is use notebooks. Mark them for a different them of details they keep. "Locations" which should include not just descriptions of areas but may contain interesting facts you have learned. Locations you may want to also keep some pictures in or make it into a type of scrapbook with pictures, details and possibly info on streets or businesses, or cultural info(like festivals) you have found in newspapers, magazines, documentaries, etc. Make sure you put in the back of the book or a sheet you keep with your notebook the source of the "facts" that you found.

If you include these in a story for legal reasons you might wish to have a footnote or note in the back of the book otherwise you may need a general disclaimer. You will also want to keep books on interesting slang terms you found, animals, plants, well known buildings, tech or science facts, weird or scary facts such as crime or anomalies in things, story ideas, and a book for personality types and your characters outlines. Though it might sound like a bit much to start if your serious about writing in the long run your notebooks will save you a lot of time and help you with ideas of how to handle something in your story. Remember though if you found facts through a particular source(that has already been publicized) you want to have a list of where you got that information and the date of that.

Stories as we know have 3 main sections and all of these are again split into three areas. While natural writing doesn't word count publishers do or at least in past it mattered. Different word counts put the writing into different categories and some do not like to publish short books or really long books. So while I find it good to keep a hard copy of notes sometimes using a word processor to gain word count is quite useful. In the old days of press every 5 characters equaled a word and you were paid by the word count. For newspaper stories or magazine articles they have a maximum and minimum word count they will take. But if they like you a lot and it's more than two pages they may let you do a special 4 page item or have their person edit it down.

Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers

The first section of the story you will have to have of course your starter sentence. Some people get anxiety over this and constantly fiddle. It doesn't have to be perfect though being a cliche can be funny or endearing sometimes. Its what you say after that first sentence that counts and within the first 3 paragraphs. Most of the time if you don't have their attention by the first or second paragraph an editor or reader will put it down and walk away. If someone toughed it out and recommended it to the reader stating how far in it took to improve you might get that other reader back but sometimes it is too much effort to give their attention to.

In this first area you need to introduce them to the main character or situation at its start. Anyone can pump out dry facts and presentation is everything. Which is why out of the useful books you will need: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Other Language Dictionary, Slang word list and definition(if you have made up your own or dictionary of existing ones), Confusables Book(this helps with common language errors as some people are picky on that), Encylopedia, and Writers Guide. The Writers Guide gives submission outlines, publisher addresses, and a bunch of other useful information. While there is the general Writer's Guide Book there is also variants of it aimed at specific subject matter and those contain publishers information for those interested in only that subject matter. The general book lists a variety of publishers and contests and sometimes its better to aim for the ones with a target audience.

The notebooks you have created or lists of "things" will help with each section of the book you write. By the end of the first section people will have a basic idea of what the main character or situation is like and the path it starts to take will be shown at the end of that. The middle section has most of the meat of the story and is the longest part. This section you will want a few twists and turns though some use a simple build up pattern. The thing about this section is if it has too much ups and downs you get see sick(tired of reading it) not unlike how someone gets seasick and wants off the boat. Usually 2 to 3 big events would be the maximum you want to go through though smaller events might be part of those.

In this section the notes will give you a richness of detail that makes the person identify with the story, feel part of it or drawn to it. At the end of this section it might seem like things are calming down and your in a transition again. However you now move on to the final section of which you will have a hive of activity. Either things happening to the character or the aftermath of what happened to the characters or location. In the very end you will have to decide if you want to wind it down or leave it as a cliffhanger. An important lesson I learned for action type writing years ago was offer the editors an alternative ending.

When you have the middle section done you insert a page that simply says "First Ending" and then have the last part of the story behind that. Then you insert a second page stating "Alternative Ending" followed by the option you are giving the editor. Editors sometimes vote with others in the publishing company as to if a book gets published or not and the alternative ending might get it published because they saw the one outcome as more promising in readership.

Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers

If you offer it before they say something you have the creative freedom to chose what the other path to the end will be otherwise an editor might reject your work or suggest to you a rewrite with the idea of how they think it should work. How they think it should work and how you feel it should sometimes are very different things. You can also offer alternative art work such as two versions of a cover.

Certain types of writing have different formats. If your writing a recipe book it is categorized by the way the meal would be served, then alphabetical recipes, ingredients, servings, method, and optional diet information. When submitting one of these give the editor one or two of your favourite recipes or if you can send something prepared in a tin with the submission that also goes over well as long as you have an allergy warning or list of ingredients. Technical books also have a different format but the Writer's Guide series should clarify what you need to do for those.

How To Submit Your Work

You have two choices in making a book. You can come up with a story idea and a abstract description to pitch the idea to the editor to see if they would be interested in something of that nature. Even though some publishers are general publishing sometimes they want something new or are needing to stimulate a different part of the book market. This saves you time if you don't feel like writing without a direction or a feel that there is a market for it. But realize when the editor offers an option they may give you a date before things might change(in the publishing market).

So in a sense they say "Yes that is a good or interesting idea but if you do it I'd need it by this date or I'll have to go with something else." This is due to market trends and sometimes you catch the trend at the wrong end and you are in a rush because of no time. Though some people work well under pressure depending on the length needed to submit the work it might be too short to get things done. The second way to submit your work is to finish the book after finding out the length requirements of the publisher.

The second method of submission calls for you to write a summery of the novel without giving away the ending or the whole story. You want to intrigue them and do it in what will fit on one page or within 1-3 paragraphs. Another page you will include states the type of story it is ie Sci Fi, Mystery, Horror, etc and your word length, if it contains any graphic adult material or explicit language. You may include your own artwork or photography with a sample book cover you have made or wish to include in the book and other sample art.

Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers

Such as if the one page talks of a location then the other has artwork of the place you describe. Don't give them all full color samples and make sure you watermark them. You wish to send "roughs" and include one more polished stand out picture in color(low color) also watermarked. If you don't have artwork that is ok but the editor may hire or have a staff artist do some as book covers or promotional posters. One more page you can give a brief introduction of yourself, say you hope they enjoy the sample of your work and hope to hear from them soon regarding if they are interested in publishing. Include on that sheet your contact information. It is optional to also include a sheet signed by a friend as a witness to your art work or writing and also optional to include references people have given you.

One last sheet should include any sources you used for the facts in your story. You don't need to list them all at this start point but you do need to list the big ones that stand out such as something from a University, Museum, or Government Organization. Then the waiting begins but usually you hear back within a few weeks to 3 or 4 months. It depends on how busy they are and isn't always a reflection of your work.

Legal Things

You should know your rights. There is information online about copyright and patenting ideas. If your someone from a technical background or not that comes up with something unique or useful you might want to protect yourself. In past I had an incident where someone tried to steal one of my ideas I talked about. The understood part of the work but not all of it. They misused my information and tried to create a device. But them lacking knowledge and not having my permission they built something flawed and incredibly dangerous. So dangerous I got a call from a government and asked to help them. The details of which may still be classified.

However the man was arrested not only for trying to steal my idea and work but for presenting something fraudulent to the government that they had not enough professional understanding of it to make it safe. The man put peoples lives in danger for his greed and theft of part of my science. My science on the other hand was sound and I fixed the problem they had and explained to other scientists what the man had done wrong and how he came to know my idea and theory. Most people don't get knocks on their door like I got that day. But variations of what happened to me could happen to you.

If you wish to freely share an idea or science you can do so with specific types of copyrights or patents. But if you don't and you wish to protect yourself and any possible business you might have from it you should look into proper registry. In the USA copyright is about $35 to $55 dollars but a patent might cost you $200 to $15,000 depending on the lawyer and what it is you are doing. At the time I had the experience to draw up and file my own documents. Some countries offer "kits" that you can pick up from Federal or local court authorities or they can refer you to another place that might help you. These kits can be much cheaper.

Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers

When submitting your artwork you want to give them rough's and one nice picture in 256 color. Though many printers more easily print in high color now the standard used to be 256 grey or color unless it was a glossy front page. If you're doing comics sometimes the inks you use might have to be translated into similar colors due to the choice of inks they have in their printing process. Make sure all sample images are watermarked. If they like it and want to use it they will tell you and if they turn it down they will offer their own artist doing some pictures based on the editor's suggestion and some description of events or characters in the book. Watermarking protects your work but you are also open to copyrighting them or patenting any concept pictures of a device that might work.

If they accept your work they will send you back a package of things. There will be a contract, copyright publishing agreement, agreements for any artwork, possible non disclosure agreements and representational agreements. Non Disclosure is used if it as a sensitive topic or if working around people you might run into things they don't want you to mention. Such as other writers real identities. Sometimes you will fill out Writers Guild registration or registration of your pen names or alias for business. This protects your privacy and also your work.

Representational agreements take two forms. One is you have someone be the face of your book because you think it or their personality of the actor might make sales. In public they are your pen name. I have done this because I was busy and couldn't be everywhere so someone got hired to do it. They also have to sign a agreement to protect your identity. The other representational agreement notes if you are working for them your code of conduct will not adversely affect the company image or they can fire you. So in a sense you become a rep of the publishing company. Sometimes they may also want to hire you as an editor and there will be a different contract for that as their would be if they want to hire you as an artist to do other work.

You should be aware that while fame might seem cool often it isn't. Sometimes you have problems going out and just doing normal tasks people would take for granted. People go out of their way to invade your privacy and might even become stalkers. I didn't just see people dealing with this because I was a writer and artist I saw it because I was in military and emergency services. So think carefully about pen names and possibly using a representative especially if you have a family or any health issues. I suggest this for your personal safety.

Getting Your Foot In The Door

Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers

A good way to start work isn't full submission and trying to get your own things in your own name published. It is doing holiday or sick day work for the original artist who is taking some leave. You will need to register at the Writers Guild in your country or region when doing this. Once you do this you can submit your sample art work(rough's) or story outlines or summaries direct to movie studios, magazines, greeting cards, ad companies, and comic book publishers.

You will want to include in anything you send them a cover letter and a sheet with references to any articles you've had published in a local paper, awards you have one, contests you placed in, etc. You also may want to include 1 or 2 references from people as to either your character or what they think of your writing or art. If you specifically would like to write for a title such as X-Men and Superman of Comics or Wired or Cosmo Magazine you want to give them a hypothetical sample article. With the comics you will need to know the artist's work and be able to duplicate their style in both writing and art or one of the other same with the magazines style of presentation. This will give you a chance at being a Ghost Writer.

While it might not seem glamorous because other people take the credit publicly for what you wrote. It can be a steady job and a chance to improve your skills, your connections, and your reputation. But as I've mentioned you'll have to swallow your pride about who takes credit publicly though behind the scenes people will know you did it you will likely have to sign a nondisclosure agreement. I ghosted a few comic books and advice columns. But I also got approached to do my own work and let them see if they liked it. It is a good thing when they do this and it shows they have confidence in you.

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Publishing Tips and Advice for Aspiring Novelists and Writers
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