Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I think this might be a scam....

Dear O'Abby,

I am a self-published author with a couple of books available and recently I received a very nice email from a publishing company saying they had really enjoyed my books and would like to professionally publish them.  They promised great distribution and increased sales through their excellent marketing team.

Now, my books haven't sold well.  Marketing isn't really my strong point, and getting my books noticed when there are so many other self-pubbed books out there seems to be nearly impossible.  I've spent money on ads and blog tours and spent far too much of my writing time chasing reviewers. So this offer is tempting.

It just feels off... Am I being paranoid, or is this a scam?



Dear Fearful,

I'm afraid to say, it's probably a scam.  Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to tell for sure until you see a contract from this organization.  But the way they are operating makes it sound like one of the growing number of predatory organizations that are preying on self-pubbed authors.

These 'publishers' promise high quality books, great distribution and guaranteed best-seller status on Amazon.  And on the surface, they look like legitimate publishers.

They're not.

Once you dive into their rabbit holes, they are a giant money-sucking machine that will not generate anything like what they have promised.  You will be faced with fees for your cover design, your edits and possibly even required to buy a certain, large number of your own books at a 'special' price.  And often the contract they offer won't make any of this obvious, obscuring exorbitant fees behind language like 'reasonable costs' and 'author contribution'.

It's important to do due diligence any time an offer comes in.  In every case the money should be coming to you as the author.  If a publisher asks you to pay for anything up-front, they are likely to be a self-publishing company masquerading as something else.  Publishers take a share of the sales of your book to cover their costs and it doesn't always pay off.  That's a risk they take.  These scam publishers ask authors to cover costs so it doesn't matter to them if the book never sells.

Before signing anything with any publisher, check them out.  Writer Beware has lists of scam publishers that grow weekly as well as a blog full of horror stories about them.  Preditors and Editors also offers red flags on publishers that may not be legit.  And the Absolute Write Water Cooler is another place to find out what kind of experience authors have had with given publishers, although you often have to wade through a lot of comments before you find something useful.

The takeaway here is to remember that old saying: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is...

X O'Abby

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On Rejection

Like a lot of us here, I want to make writing a career. But because I’m at home 24/7 with so many other things calling out to me, I get distracted. So…I spend a lot of time playing video games. For a while, I was in a pretty bad rut – lights off, shades pulled, drinking beer and eating Belgian Doritos while slumping in an Ikea chair and hunting down bandits in some cave in Skyrim. But then I had this great idea: I should try to become a writer for video games!

Yeah. Yikes. Like I said, it was a low point.

I applied to my favorite game studio on a whim with a simple open application – “hey, if a job comes up, I’d like to be considered,” that kind of thing – and, amazingly, after a couple months I got a follow-up email asking me to do a writing test! So I did it, sent it in, and then heard nothing for another few weeks. Right at the point where I thought they weren’t going to contact me again, I did get a response, and they wanted to interview me! I couldn’t believe it. I thought things were finally turning around.

Narrator: Things were not finally turning around.

I didn’t get the job. It was a really tough rejection, because it felt more personal than getting a rejection email from an agent. With agents, most of those rejections are after reading five or ten pages, hardly anything. I could get over those because…well, they didn’t really know me or my writing. But with this, I’d spent a lot of time and effort getting to that point with the tests and the interview, and it felt more like I was being rejected and not my work, if that makes sense. It felt so much more personal, and that was crushing.

Getting over that rejection took more than a month. This year hasn’t been particularly easy – I feel like things have been going downhill since April – so it was just one more thing that firmly cemented 2018 in its place in the pits. One evening when I was crying in the bath, I realized that maybe being at home all the time was the problem. It was giving me the time and space to wallow, encouraging me with its cupboards full of bread and beer. (Yes, I have fully embraced Belgian life.) So I planned a trip for myself, just to get away. I had no real plan other than “not here.”

Weirdly, it worked, but not for the reason I thought it would. I stayed in this really sketchy AirBnB in Vienna, which focused all my energy on “Jeez, am I going to get murdered in my sleep tonight?” instead of “Man I wish I’d gotten that job.” I went to coffee shops and museums, doing anything I could to get out of that AirBnB. And somewhere in there, I found other things to think about. It dulled hat knife and helped me realize that I’d gotten through hundreds of other rejections from jobs and agents and schools, I could get past this too.

I’m still not really over this – I mean, it was basically my dream job, and now that opportunity is gone – but I’ve also been rejected from my dream school, my dream agent, and so many other lesser things along the way. And I’m still here. I'll make it work.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I'm not sure where my book starts

Dear O'Abby,

I just finished NaNo (I won), and now I'm reading back over what I wrote in November's frenzy, and feel like more than half my words happen before the book really starts.  I'm not sure how that happened because I planned everything out really carefully before I started writing.  Is it just me being stupid?  Or did I accidentally write a prequel?


Not The Beginning

Dear Not The Beginning,

Firstly, congratulations on winning NaNo!  Whatever ends up happening with them, you wrote 50,000 words in 30 days and you should be proud of yourself.

As for your question, without reading your words, it's difficult for me to know if you're right, but my instinct is always that you should trust your intuition.  If you feel like the story actually starts more than halfway through what you've written, you're probably right.  I had exactly the same issue doing NaNo a couple of years back.  I realized when I hit the 28K mark, that the story really started at that point, not way back where I started it.

But all is not lost.  Some of that stuff you wrote at the start is likely to be able to be used somewhere later in the book.  In a flashback maybe, or single scenes may slot in elsewhere.

But even if you can't use any of it, those words helped you find the story and your characters' voices.  They brought you into the story and gave you backstory for the events that happen in the book.  Whatever you write from here on will be informed by those words you may never actually use.

And don't forget, those words helped you figure out where your story actually needs to begin.  A strong opening is crucial, and needs to be as close to the inciting incident as you can get without confusing the reader, or leaving them unsure who the protagonists are.

So don't feel like you wasted time in November.  You didn't.  Just keep writing until the end, knowing everything you now know about the people and the world you created.

X O'Abby

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

November Pass or Pages Update

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we unfortunately have to cancel the November Pass or Pages. We'll be back in 2019, so keep an eye out for the first Pass or Pages of the new year!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Best of luck!