Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, November 12, 2007

An Actual Publishing Q&A (Rob)

LDStorymakers in addition to putting on a wonderful conference every year, and hosting the Whitney Awards, also published a couple of great books on publishing in the LDS market. Publishing Secrets and Writing Secrets. Other than a lame chapter or two by James Dashner, they are very helpful books. The soon to be released: Shadowboxing Secrets 1 & 2, Moon walking Secrets, and Secret Secrets should be just as good.

After reading Publishing secrets, a lovely ex-supermodel, professional parasailer, and shadowboxer, named Elizabeth had some questions. (Notice that I am answering these and not that CPA turned children's author, Dashner. He'd probably just provide you with a spreadsheet or something.) [For those of you new to this site, I only mock Dashner when he hasn't taken me to lunch recently]

E: First of all, I'd love to express my gratitude in regards to your book, "Publishing Secrets". Thank you! I do have some questions that I believe would help with publishing and more importantly, my career plan.

6: Ask away. (Note this is a real Q&A and not some made up silliness like other authors who I will not name try to pass off as actual blogs)

E: Is it possible for me to have my works published by both LDS and national?

6: Depends what you are asking. If you want to know can an author publish in the LDS market and the national market? Sure. The LDS market is just like any other smaller market. It has its pros and cons. In the national market you have more potential upside, but you may suffer from the small fish in a big pond syndrome. For me, as soon as I began publishing I knew I wanted to succeed in both markets.

If, on the other hand, you are asking whether or not you can publish one novel in both markets (i.e. with two different publishers) at the same time, the answer is probably no. There are many reason for this, but suffice it to say that no national publisher is going to want to co-publish a book, and they definitely don’t want to re-publish a book that is out of print with an LDS publisher. In order to pull something like this off, you’d have to either sell well over 20,000 copies of your novel in the LDS market, or be a really big name.

On a side note, I’m always confused when authors are so anxious to get the rights back to a book that is not selling well. What do you really think you’re going to do with it? Take it to another publisher and say, “Hey my book sold so poorly that it is no longer in print with publisher x,y,z, but I know it will do better with you.” Not going to happen. The only exception to this would be if you sell a ton of books with publisher a,b,c and they can remarket your old books because of the heightened publicity.

E: What are (or where can I reference) the standard lengths of pages of each genre?

6: First of all, forget page lengths and focus on word count. Page length can be manipulated a lot by size of font, size of page, etc. Editors care about word count. While word counts do vary by genre, the real focus is usually on what age level you are writing to and whether or not this is your first book. Also, people break the rules all the time, so really I would concentrate more on how long the book needs to be, not if it fits a slot.

That being said, here are some ballparks. Middle grade books are usually no more than 40k words, YA are typically 70k but can go much higher. Typically books that focus more on character are longer than books that focus on plot. So a mystery might be 75k, a thriller 90k, and a romance 110k. Fantasies and historicals are often well over 120k words. However, publishers are often less likely to accept an adult first novel that is much less than 70k words or much over 120k words, so try to stay in that range.

E: What is the recommended length of pages for an average chapter?

6: remember, word count, not pages. This can vary a lot by writing style, age of the target audience, etc. James Patterson and Dan Brown tend to favor shorter chapters that move the book along more quickly. They can have chapters as short as a couple hundred words. Others may go 10k words or more. I think most adult novels are in the 1500-2500 word range, but it’s really a personal choice. Too many smaller section breaks and readers may put your book down, too short or having chapters that really don’t need a break and readers may feel you are breaking the flow. Obviously the younger the audience, the shorter the chapters.

E: When I print up my manuscript when asked for, do I start each new chapter at the top of a new page or double-spaced from the previous chapter's end?

6: Insert a page break for each new chapter. Technically chapter 1 should be half-way down the first page, but lots of people don’t adhere to that. Then again, lots of people read Rob’s books, so what do they know?

E: To start marketing myself (though I am not yet at the agent-searching stage until my synopsis is done), would it be foolish to start a website? Which would you recommend? Google's Blogger or MySpace? Or any other suggestions?

6: Definitely start a web site. You don’t need to hire a professional designer, but an agent or publisher will often check out your site if they like your work. Be aware that a web site is different from a blog. Blogger is a blog. MySpace is a community site. LDSpublisher gives some great advice on this here.

E: The last but not least... I live in a rural area where it is most difficult (I have four children under the age of ten) for me to get together with other writers in a critique group. Is it unheard of to start up a new group of my own? If not, what is the basic schedule of these functions?

6: If you don’t know of an established critique group in your area, definitely start your own. Begin by finding people at a similar level to you. Obviously you won’t all have the same strengths, nor should you or what would be the point? But if the others are way above or below you, some people will get more out of the group than others. A good place to start is by checking for local writing groups, classes, or conferences. If you are really rural, you may even look at some on-line critique groups. Orson Scott Card’s web site has a pretty good forum. I think Latterday authors used to have something called shred and dread. I’m sure others can make suggestions as well.


At 11/12/2007 5:13 PM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Why must you always pick on me? What have I done to deserve this? All I want is to be loved.

At 11/12/2007 5:18 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

What has Dashner done to deserve this? Oh, we could all count the ways . . .

Seriously, great answers, Jeff.

At 11/13/2007 2:00 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks for this, Jeff.

Let me just add my two cents. If E wants to start up a blog, Blogger is the most user-friendly, in my opinion and what I've heard from others who've tried both.


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