Thursday, December 28, 2017

Beginnings, Endings, Betas and the SPCA

Wow. What a year. Many significant milestones: a 75th birthday, a couple of 50s; and a 30th wedding anniversary. Throw in a couple of out-of-town concerts and work-related travel, and we were gone more than we were here, which meant for a lot of fun visits with family and friends. Toss in a couple of hospital stays for me, and it was a well-rounded year, that's for sure.

On the writing front, I sent one manuscript off to an editor, and another out to Beta Readers. Sadly, none of the Betas got back to me (which does a real number to one's confidence. Fortunately, I've been in this business long enough to learn to soldier on). The editor, on the other hand, did a great job, and I've been reworking MS with her insights in mind, with a mind to publishing this year. I also want to get the sequel out (and in a twist of fortuitous fate, just yesterday I had an offer from two people willing to Beta read, so I sent it off to them today. Fingers crossed!), so that is my work-toward for 2018.

When not completing final polish or revisions, I'll be completing the third book in the above series, My Forever Love, featuring Maggie and Joe. I'll also be researching cover artists (or Photoshop) and developing a publishing plan and schedule, among other businessey things. I'm looking forward to it, to stretching my wings and expanding my knowledge and skill-set.

In the old days (pre-Amazon), writers working towards publication finished manuscripts and mailed query letters to editors and agents, seeking someone willing to take them, and their work on. It could take months, if not years, to find an agent or editor willing to take on a new writer, and more months if not years for that book (or a different one if the first failed) to actually make it to print. That's still true for many writers. For others, those who choose to self-publish, it's quicker.

Self-publishing offers a certain freedom traditional publishing does not. It's also brutally challenging.

Trad published writers have, as part of their royalty-paid publishing contract, no upfront costs to have in-house editors scar up their manuscripts; copy-editors proof the final version; proof-readers ensure the first few rounds of edits and copy-edits missed nothing; cover artists to create covers to House specifications; publicity arms to market the book; distributors to get it into the hands of readers. Self-published authors can get all that help, too. Provided they can afford it.

That is the biggest challenge self-pubbed authors face: upfront costs. Which is why Beta Readers are so valuable.

Having a few sets of different eyes on a manuscript before it goes off to an editor means an author has an opportunity to work out the worst of the kinks and confusion, before having to pay a professional editor to slash, dice, and dissect a manuscript. The less work an editor, and then copy-editor, has to do, the less expensive it is for the author. Betas are Golden. They see the manuscript in its fledgling form; their opinions/initial impressions/keen eyes and bewildered "huh?"s offer authors a chance to see the book as others see it. Not as the author sees it.

By the time I'm ready to send a manuscript to a reader, I've stopped seeing the problems. Otherwise I wouldn't send it. I'm too close to the story, to the characters, to the structure. I can't see the forest for the trees. I'm like the Crazy Cat Lady who doesn't notice the litter box odor permeating the house or cat hair festooning every level surface; I see only my precious kitties. Beta readers are the SPCA.

They come in, and wrinkle their nose, mutter "yuck" as they step on and around fresh and dried hairballs; collect saucers of hardened wet food and sour milk to be disposed of. They notice the big Tom lounging in the fruit bowl and skittish kitten squirmed between the fridge and wall. They see the fleas hopping in the carpet, and yellow stains on the wall where that big Tom cat marked his territory. They're the first line of defense in Cat Justice. Editors are the prosecutors. Readers the Judge. And Jury. The End, is just the beginning of a manuscript's journey. Just as 2018 is a new journey for all of us.

Whatever 2017 was like for you, may 2018 be better. May you put into action a plan to achieve whatever your heart dreams of. May good people fill your life. May you be a good people in other people's lives. May you dream a dream, and make that dream happen.





Be who you know you're meant to be.

Be awesome.


There is no advancement to him who stands trembling because he cannot see the end from the beginning. ~E.J. Klemme

1 comment:

Celia Lewis said...

Looking forward to seeing your book, Deb!! And I love how you describe ß-readers like the SPCA! So clear. Cheers, and Happy New Year to you and yours in 2018.