Why Self-Publishing Can Be Crap

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A self-published author said to me, “My writing is crap. But people are willing to pay for my crap, so what do I care?”

EEK!!

You might wonder how the above-mentioned author sells her books if they are indeed, “Crap.” Well, the $2.99 price tag doesn’t hurt and she cranks out about 8 books a year. I know, I did a double-take, too.

But this is the type of mentality that frightens me about self-publishing. Finding a quality e-book is like shopping at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, sifting through piles of crap to find the one Diane Von Furstenburg gem hiding in the rack. The search is exhausting, and oftentimes, futile. Plus, your money is wasted on the cheap items you dared buy because, hey, the price was great. Unfortunately, though, they sucked.

My rant boils down to this: Please don’t ruin self-publishing for the rest of us. If you are going to venture down this path, please, please, PLEASE, make sure your story is the most polished it can be. Most self-publishing ventures will edit your work, but still. Before you submit, hire your own editor to give your manuscript a once-over, then HIRE ANOTHER!! Join several critique groups, too.

And realize your success is QUALITY over quantity.

Of course, there are also many brilliant authors in the self-publishing world. You’re probably one of them. And if you are, THANK YOU. I appreciate your contribution toward making the self-publishing world a quality place. Someday…

The Writer’s Voice 2013

This entry is for The Writer’s Voice Contest. Enjoy!

Dear Coaches:

Ethan Wilde is a professional wrestler who hasn’t done the moonsault since his mother died. That night, when he flipped backward off the top rope, he fell flat on his head. Now that he’s in the world’s most prestigious wrestling organization, his life is further complicated. Not only is Kid Krap gunning for him, but his drunken father tells him a disturbing fact behind his mother’s death. Ethan must find the confidence to deal with this new reality. Can he forgive his father? Will he ever do the moonsault again? In the world of professional wrestling, anything is possible.

According to World Wrestling Entertainment’s corporate website, nearly 14.1 million viewers tune into their programming on a weekly basis. Furthermore, 34% of their viewers are female. To date, no young adult fiction novels about professional wrestling have been published.

MOONSAULT dives into this untapped literary market. My 53,022 word young adult novel includes plenty of romance for female readers while keeping the pace action-packed for males.

I am a member of SCBWI and a member of several critique groups. I am prepared to send the completed manuscript upon request.

All the Best,
Heather Walters

MOONSAULT
by: Heather Walters

To the many wrestlers who’ve come and gone.
To those with names and those with none.

I step out of the car and lift a duffel bag onto my shoulder. Only a parking lot stands between me and the same arena where my father won his first championship belt. That belt has sat on our mantle for years, a constant reminder of where my path will lead, whether I want it to or not.

My dad, Shadow, holds my shoulder and guides me toward the entrance. In his other hand is an ever-present stadium cup. “Remember to stay low and use your speed,” he slurs. “If you get lost, just put him in a chin lock until you can come up with something else.”

I don’t answer.

“Do you hear me, boy?” He shakes my shoulder. “You have to be quicker than you’ve ever been before. This ain’t VFW, this is XOW!”

Yeah, I know the difference. Veterans of Foreign War has a hall where Dad’s wrestling school performs every month. The show gives his students, plus local amateurs, a chance to practice their moves and work a crowd. Both are crucial in the biz.

“XOW is the big leagues, boy!”

I yank out of his grip. “I get it, Dad. Stop preaching to me.”

He halts just shy of the door and lowers his eyes to mine. Shadow is massive, with broad shoulders and thick pork-like fingers. A mess of salt-n-pepper hair tops his head. It’s hard to believe I’m actually his son.

Writing Over the Hurdle of Life

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A friend in my Copperfield Critique Group advised me to treat writing like a job. Meaning, go to my favorite spot for eight hours a day and write, write, write. Sounds like an awesome plan. Is this what best-selling authors do?

My only hurdle, however, is life.

For one, I am a voice-over talent. Two, I am also a Realtor. Both careers are flexible, but clients need me at various times of the day, and I am more than happy to help them. But it doesn’t end there. I must also attend weekly marketing meetings and send mail-outs boasting my services. Not to mention, I am also at the tail-end of planning a humongous wedding, before heading to Florence, Italy for two fabulous weeks.

All this, and A-D-D too.

So what’s an unpublished author to do? How do we balance both life and our craft?

My thought is… the best we can. No guilt. No regret. Just push yourself through the muck of the day, every day, until your book is done.

The Red Ink, Blues?

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DO BETTER. Those were the two words scrawled on the very first draft of my young adult novel, many years ago. I was new to the craft and had yet to experience the sometimes brutal, always remarkable insight of the critique world. Let’s just say I learned the hard way, military style, with zillions of Track Change bubbles and plenty of red ink screaming at me from every direction. One particular scribble challenged me to simply DO BETTER. Imagine my horror.

But my beloved editor friend was right, and when I read my manuscript again, I did so with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. Now, I am the one with the red ink writing DO BETTER on my own manuscripts.

In other news, I left the SCBWI-Austin conference feeling more hopeful than ever about my young adult manuscript. The agent who critiqued my first ten pages/synopsis LOVED it, and invited me to send the final draft when done.

My pleasure. 🙂

I credit my friend’s two wonderful words. Now, I am paying the challenge forward to you, my new writing friends. Never fear the red ink. Instead, force yourself to always DO BETTER.

The Write Path

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A tough part about being a writer is knowing if your manuscript is on its right path. In other words, is your work strong enough to outshine the millions of other manuscripts vying to compete in the big publishing arena?

This weekend, I attended a fabulous SCBWI conference in San Antonio and had the pleasure of hearing what Folio Literary Agent, Molly Jaffa, had to say about initially impressing an agent. In a nutshell, it boils down to the first ten pages. Sometimes, even the first sentence.

Later in the afternoon, I was expected to meet with Molly for a 15-minute critique session on–you guessed it–my first ten pages!! As you can imagine, I was a little stoked (and nervous!). So, I did a checklist of the following bits Molly said she enjoys and does not enjoy when reading our first ten pages:

GENERAL:

1. Establish the stakes. What does the protagonist stand to lose or gain?

2. NO PROLOGUES!!!

3. Create narrative tension in the novel’s beginning to where the reader cannot put novel down.

VOICE:

1. Make sure voice is not too generic. Specificity in voice makes reader relate more than a bland voice.

2. Extra level of detail makes a BIG impact!

3. Avoid too much slang, jargon, and throwback and classic voices.

DIALOGUE:

1. Do not have characters constantly address each other by name.

2. Tags should almost always be “said.”

3. Avoid meaningless conversations.

4. Do not recap what another character already knows.

5. Do not info dump.

6. Avoid starting story with a dream sequence. You can do better!

7. Avoid having too many characters, especially in YA.

In the end, the critique session with Molly was better than I could have hoped for. Of course, the rest of the novel must also impress. So perhaps I should stop blogging and start writing? After all, my YA novel is not going to complete itself. 🙂

Happy Writing!