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We Want to Hear From You, Pt. 2

I don’t usually continue these sorts of posts but we had some good discussion going on Sunday and I’d like to see where it goes. I’ve started compiling the recommendations already made and, in one case, responded. I’ll expand on the response later in this post.

Most of the comments left Sunday had to do with the technical side of either preparing your book for publication or writing blurbs. So here’s the first question for you. Regarding the preparation of a manuscript for publication, do you want a checklist sort of post or do you want an actual series of posts with exercises, etc., that you can do and the rest of us can help you with? In other words, say we’re talking about setting up the first page of a chapter. You can follow our instructions and just do it or we could give you some general guidelines and you can fiddle around with them to see what you think looks best and then post a screenshot in comments and get feedback. Which would you prefer? the same questions apply to anything we do regarding cover design, so let us hear about that as well.

Something else to think about is if you want a post on different software titles that can help writers. Is that something you’d be interested in?

Someone else suggested a blurb clinic with a second commenter adding that they’d like a clinic or post on writing pitch/query to agents or editors.

There were suggestions about how to make this site easier to search, etc., and we appreciate the feedback. We’ll look into it and see what we can come up with.

Now, for those of you who aren’t writers or who don’t yet identify as writers (I know there are some of you who still think you can avoid the writing bug), what would you like to see more of from the bloggers here? Writers, as readers, what would like to see us cover more?

Finally, regarding putting together a book of posts, we could do it. The first problem, however, is that much of what we write about here has changed since we wrote about it. If you look at the various posts we’ve done about formatting, you’ll see that. While the basics remain the same, many of the limitations we had even a couple of years ago no longer apply. Conversely, others have been put in place (or look like they will be as demographics change). Markets have changed as well. So have some of the players when it comes to traditional publishing.

So any gathering of posts would have to include time to edit and bring them up-to-date. But that pales when looking at the sheer number of posts we’ve made here on MGC. As of this moment, we have just under 3,200 posts. Can you imagine having to mine those posts to find those for a book? Add to that the issue of whether we go with just posts or with comments made by our bloggers. We’d have to be careful not to include comments made by anyone else. Otherwise, we’d have to take time to check with them to get their permission to use their comments. We’d face the same issue when it comes to guest posts. To be honest, the time involved in planning out the book and its contents, then culling through posts to find those we wanted to include, plus editing and updating them could prove to be a herculean effort. It would take time away from writing for all of us, especially for whoever does the initial culling of posts. Even if we wanted to outsource the editing of it all, the original work would still fall on us. I can’t speak for the others, but that would cost me money because writing is how I make my living. I’m not saying we won’t do it. I am saying not to hold your breath because there are a lot of strings to pull and plans to make before something like that happens.

But getting back to the main gist of the post. What else would you like us to cover in a single post or a series of posts?

Until later!

  1. paladin3001 #

    I think we covered most of the stuff in the previous post.
    Thinking about things though, How about another workshop series? Could be anyone on anything that’s relevant to writing. I was reading the one linked at the top and thought it would be nice to get something going like that again. Maybe make it a twice a year feature with different writers hosting?

    September 19, 2017
    • Topics?

      September 19, 2017
      • paladin3001 #

        Great, put me on the spot like that. 😀
        Okay, topics… Character descriptions perhaps, introducing characters either main or supporting, Villains (how to craft a good one without being over the top cliche), Opening scenes, closing scenes, describing environments. And a good one that I think would we useful to explore is “Show, don’t tell”.
        All I have for the moment.

        September 19, 2017
        • It would be really nice if it made it clear that “show don’t tell” has nothing to do with infodumps. I read a really unfortunate article the other day by a professional writer who clearly didn’t know the difference.

          It’s not hard to get an SFF story published despite the infodumps. It’s almost impossible for an author who hasn’t mastered show-don’t-tell to get a professional publication.

          September 19, 2017
  2. sabrinachase #

    As far as reference posts (which would need to be updated regularly) sounds like a wiki might be the best solution. That way you can see the date-stamp for the advice, who gave it, and maybe some caveats about where it might not apply. Even as the tech changes, there are also individual preferences to consider 😀 . And it would be easier to search!

    September 19, 2017
  3. Hi all,

    I’ve been a lurker here for a while, and didn’t reply to the previous thread because “who am I to say?” runs through my head like a metronome sometimes.

    As a doesn’t-yet-identify-as-a-writer person, (with 70,000 words of a manuscript hanging together), I think the biggest thing for me is the intimidation factor. How does a new writer, unpublished, and not really sure if what she’s written is “any good” enter into an established writers’ community, get feedback, start to feel real?

    Especially if she’s already kind of misanthropic, and mostly happy to be in her own head, to begin with? And what in the world is she doing, constantly reading and enjoying the blogs and comments of writers who mostly write science fiction, when she herself writes time-travel romance?

    This doesn’t really relate to the question of what topics you should cover, as much as this post seems like an opening for the question that’s been living in my head for quite some time. I entered the manuscript in a contest at the end of May, and just got it back, bleeding. I don’t know how many of the judges’ suggestions I’ll end up using, but right now, I’m not inclined to look too deeply at it, as I’m still feeling a bit raw.

    Anyway. Not a lot of good subject matter for you there, but I suppose it could serve as my introduction.

    I’m Noreen. Or Cathy, if you prefer. I write time-travel romance, and I love reading the thoughts of sci-fi writers, though I almost never read in the genre anymore. (Have, of course read Heinlein. Because, who wouldn’t?)

    September 19, 2017
    • SheSellsSeashells #

      I’d be happy to take a look at your stuff when/if you want some feedback. I’m very good at matching the tone to the market, and I cut my teeth beta-reading fan fiction and know how to be nice unless you specifically ask me not to be. 🙂

      September 19, 2017
      • That’d be great! I can return the favor, of course, and beta read too. 🙂 I think if you click on my name, you can send a message through my wordpress account, and we can coordinate.

        September 20, 2017
    • The Highland bobcat peeks over her laptop and waves.

      Have you been lurking in my head? ‘Cause I coulda written half that. 😉

      “what in the world is she doing, constantly reading and enjoying the blogs and comments of writers who mostly write science fiction, when she herself writes time-travel romance? ” Time travel counts as SF, ask H.G. Wells. 😀

      No answers fer ya, just saying Hi.

      September 19, 2017
      • True, re: H.G. Wells, but I don’t think most people consider anything with the word “Romance” in it to be ever based in a serious metaphysical study. I really don’t understand the bad rap Romance gets, though.

        Personally, I love exploring the concepts of simultaneous time, time-line crossing, the nature of reality… what it’s made of, how it works… and all that, along with the study of human nature and automatic responses.

        September 20, 2017
    • thephantom182 #

      “How does a new writer, unpublished, and not really sure if what she’s written is “any good” enter into an established writers’ community, get feedback, start to feel real?”

      Sarah Hoyt gave out Real Writer certificates a while ago. Look it up, print it, and stick it on your wall in front of the keyboard. Did you write 70,000 words, and it doesn’t make you barf when you read it? Then you’re a writer.

      Seriously, even that guy who wrote the gawd-awful Empress Teresa thing is a “writer.” Maybe a cautionary tale of how not to do it, but still. At least he went for it.

      September 19, 2017
      • Heh. Will have to find my certificate.

        The 70,000 words do not make me barf, at all… as a matter of fact, I almost hate to have to put these characters and this story in the “done” category, because I’ll miss them so.

        I don’t think it’s anywhere near as terrible as the Empress Teresa thing sounds. So, yeah… can’t claim to be Shakespeare, but at least I’m not that guy. LOL

        September 20, 2017
        • thephantom182 #

          “I almost hate to have to put these characters and this story in the “done” category, because I’ll miss them so.”

          Write another one. ~:D [runs away giggling]

          September 20, 2017
    • Here’s what I did: I published on Amazon.
      I didn’t really join any writers groups for -years- after that event. I did find one place (that used to be friendly) in the amazon forums where people would talk about marketing, but that was about it.

      Mostly I learned by doing.

      It wasn’t until my fourth year as a writer that things really took off, but I had over a million words in print by then. I had a couple of pen names that I used as learning devices (I was writing in a different genre than my first few books).

      Now, I’m not saying my way is the best way (it probably isn’t) but there’s nothing wrong with just clicking on that ‘publish’ button and seeing how people react. For me, I was rather shocked at how many people wanted to read my stuff. But I personally am a big advocate of putting it out there and seeing what happens. You won’t be an overnight success (most likely, it does happen), but you’ll learn a lot. Then take what you’ve learned and write the next one.

      September 19, 2017
      • I’ve been thinking that’s the way this is going to go. I’ll finish up the edits from the contest stuff, tie off some loose ends, get feedback from a some beta readers, fix those bits, then let it loose in the world.

        Then get hit by nerves, and regret that I’ve been so “hasty.”

        September 20, 2017
        • The best thing to do after pressing publish is to come and look at the sales a few times a day (and commiserate that they’re never what you want them to be, no matter how good) and then start writing the next book.
          It’s always about the next book. Just like that movie quote ‘always be closing’ as a writer you should ‘always be writing’.
          Good luck!

          September 20, 2017
  4. There are a certain number of people who are not creative writers but who are good editors. Some of them might be looking for a hope of income however slight. Actually mining the 3000+ posts starts with a simple question: Where is the mine entrance? Working backwards through the pages is clunky, especially if you need to restart.

    September 19, 2017
    • SheSellsSeashells #

      What he said. I’m a reasonably good nuts-and-bolts editor and a *damn* good one when it comes to tone and characterization, and I work cheap. 🙂

      September 19, 2017
  5. My only real comment is to PLEASE tell people not to put a space between their paragraphs. It’s the most common and (to me at least) annoying mistake in ebooks. It’s like getting slapped at the end of each paragraph.
    I have no idea why people do it, you don’t see it in books anywhere else. My only guess is that they think writing an ebook is like writing on a webpage, where spaces between paragraphs are perfectly acceptable (and in many cases preferable).

    As for the rest, KISS. I format my books before I write them. My checklist is very short, and fairly simple. Don’t get lost in the weeds.

    September 19, 2017
  6. C4c

    September 19, 2017
  7. mrsizer #

    Just out of curiosity, I’m formatting this with <p> tags.Will it put in spaces or indents?And speaking of indents, using styles/templates rather than a tab makes it very easy to reformat.Let’s see what happens to this single line of text…

    September 19, 2017
    • mrsizer #

         No paragraph formatting in this style-sheet! Not even a space. It is possible to cheat, but then you end up with very difficult to change formatting.   I wouldn’t want to try to edit an entire document this way, but the <br/> tag with &nbsp should work everywhere. I’m about to find out.

      September 19, 2017
      • The standard tag behavior in a browser is a single space with no indent. To change, the easiest way is to rely on the style sheet, such as:

        p {
        margin: 0;
        text-indent: 5em;
        margin: 0;

        Which should give you a five character space first line indent and no spaces between each paragraph.

        Really, if you want to go the html by hand route, it’s best to rely on CSS for formatting, since using elements to format is apt to have unexpected results as fonts change and so forth and so on.

        FWIW, I do go the html by hand route, but I’m already familiar enough with html and CSS to roll my own without facing another learning curve. As for CSS, once you have it they way you want it, it’s best to leave it alone and simply reuse it for the same type books.

        September 19, 2017
  8. Smashwords, its writer’s guide, emphasizes, ‘paragraph indent, no space between paragraphs’ or ‘block paragraphs, space between paragraphs” as the two valid choices, the latter being used for technical non-fiction.

    September 19, 2017
  9. I missed the earlier post, so I’m trying to catch up.

    ” do you want a checklist sort of post or do you want an actual series of posts with exercises”

    I would be in favor of exercises.

    And blurbs, I am totally abysmal at that.

    September 19, 2017
  10. “How to keep your short stories short” about editing for length and narrative focus…

    September 19, 2017
  11. thephantom182 #

    1. “Regarding the preparation of a manuscript for publication, do you want a checklist sort of post or do you want an actual series of posts with exercises, etc., that you can do and the rest of us can help you with?”

    Exercises, please. I need to learn how it works. I don’t even know what I don’t know. For example, what are the industry standard layouts one finds in the average paperback?

    2. “Someone else suggested a blurb clinic with a second commenter adding that they’d like a clinic or post on writing pitch/query to agents or editors.”

    Powerful blurbs, with an emphasis on what makes a blurb -work- the best. When I don’t like a book from the blurb, -why- didn’t I like it? Function before form!

    3. I second that emotion from Paladin up at the top for some exposition on “show don’t tell.”

    As to what’s working, y’all are doing good. One thing I may have seen enough of is the Hugos. I’m satisfied all the candy is gone, there’s no point beating the corpse. To replace that, maybe a discussion of what kinds of stories have moved Western Culture in desirable directions in the past. That can be a foundation for the kind of imagining we can do now to move culture toward healthier, more expansive directions.

    Example: there’s a baby drought in Finland.

    That’s not a great situation. They bought the story of “why would you bring a baby into this cold, cruel world?” So, what kind of SF story can you tell into that environment that will A) sell, and B) SELL!!! but also C) make the stupid hipsters think about children?

    As in, structure, plotting, characterization, the mechanical shit that makes these things go.

    You want to make something big move, you use wedges. That’s us. We’re the sharp edge of the wedge.

    September 19, 2017
    • Well, that’s a plot in of itself. The problem is, the northern states have already been trying to address the problem by offering all kinds of lovely government incentives to breed, and nobody’s buying it anyway. For the most part, it’s because there’s a certain appeal to not having anyone else’s needs dictate what you do with your time or money. Not being able to imagine the good, but only being able to imagine the bad of becoming parents.

      From conversations, it seems there may be other problems that aren’t as easily visible – things like pressure to please family expectations, or marry within one’s own nationality (yes, that still happens. See: Japan or China.) Or things like expectations of what a prospective partner and fellow parent should be like, and not seeing those things in the person you already love. And then it follows with “Well, I’m already happy with this arrangement, and this person, so why change?” So from there it is easy to see why childlessness is appealing, or even if children are desired, are decided against.

      Then factor in other things, like the reality that if you do have a child, you might not be able to raise that child the way you want it to – societal pressures, for example, have of late been dictating what we can or cannot teach, or have what is taught taken completely out of our hands and we risk the threat of having our children taken away if we don’t do or agree with XYZ popular opinion of the time.

      Long story short: Why bother, when everyone is ‘punished’ for it anyway?

      (and this is as a hurdle to ‘how do you get a nation of selfish, virtue-signaling hipsters to think about having children, when nihilism is trendy’?)

      September 19, 2017
      • thephantom182 #

        First of all, let me say sorry for not thinking of you before posting. But having accidentally pushed that button…

        Personally I think most of it in Europe is economic. Couples can’t get ahead far enough that having a kid looks doable. Singles can’t get ahead far enough that pairing up looks doable. Tough to be a pair if the only place you can get any privacy is the back of a car, and you’re 30. Tough to be a parent when your savings is a case of beer and some air miles.

        The nihilism thing though, that is the place we, you and I, can push a narrow little wedge in. Write some stories where the nihilists look like what they are, deluded narcissists and poseurs. Write some stories where the father -doesn’t- leave. Stuff like that.

        September 19, 2017
        • ? *puzzled* What are you apologising for? *hug* I’m not in any way personally triggered or affected by the stuff I said above. I was thinking about all the stuff that’s been in the news lately, conversations from other folk on discussions about whether or not to have children, (and yes, the economic factor is a very big concern, but the personal reasons are just as big, just not as ‘data-relevant’) and finally, the way that parents are threatened to be deprived of their parental rights when it comes to naysaying things like transgenderism, or homosexuality in education (even if it’s protestations like “they’re too young to learn about that!”

          A great example is that uncle whose biggest concern is how to come out to his 7 year old nephew, and is dismissive of his sister’s objections on the matter.

          September 19, 2017
          • thephantom182 #

            Situation like that, where somebody doesn’t accept that -Mom and Dad- decide what’s right for Junior, sounds like brother-in-law needs to go for a drive with Dad and get the facts of life read to him.

            So many holes in the world, so little time, and ammunition is so expensive…

            September 19, 2017
            • A lot of the ‘rebuttals’ that are being bandied about by the media are people largely bitching that their families (usually very traditional ones) don’t ‘accept their relationships as real or valid’ or ‘refuse to invite their partner over for family events.’ These fools seem to think that making something legal will make their families have no choice but to accept. That’s not a rebuttal, that’s an emotive argument, and like the guy who wants to come out to his 7 year old nephew, it’s not even a valid emotive argument.


              Pretty much though, the Yes campaigners are showing that they’re well on the way to ensuring that they will brook no dissent nor opposition. The big explosion was for an 18 year old girl being fired for being a No supporter. This being in incredibly Lefty Canberra though, the business owner doing the firing seemed more surprised that instead of tons of praise, she instead got very vocally and viciously condemned (I am not pleased that some have taken to hoping her two year old son gets raped for her stance on refugees. Criticize and condemn her directly!) but for the most part, calling her names and such – what did she expect? She showed the proof of exactly what people who want to vote No worry about – the consequences of what the Yes people will do to naysayers.

              September 20, 2017
              • snelson134 #

                “These fools seem to think that making something legal will make their families have no choice but to accept.”

                And if they can trigger firing people, getting them investigated by the legal system for “hate crime”, etc., that’s exactly what will happen…. at least outwardly. Let’s not overlook all the lovely opportunities for extortion, either. “Give me $5000 or I’ll cost you $50,000 in legal fees” is a fairly common occurrence used by grievance mongers here. The mob is just beginning to recognize its’ power.

                September 21, 2017
        • I’d look deeper at the philosophy and nihilism. With the loss of Christianity after WWI and especially after WWII, a non-material future fades away. If the material world is everything, why worry about having children and looking that far? Especially once you get the “save the planet – don’t breed” philosophy making it a virtue not to have kids.

          September 20, 2017
    • Yes! Blurb clinics.

      Librarians need them, too (Annotations, baby)

      Also yes, specific exercises on how to prep a book for publication.

      Also… Cover clinics. Not for me (heh, or not yet) but for the Indy YA and kids books you guys write, and I’d like to promote.

      Kids are the most unforgiving SOBs in the world when it comes to “meh” covers.

      September 23, 2017
      • And to be really specific….”Waaaaaaah! Do I HAVE to learn vector graphics to make a book cover.”

        Not that I’ve been playing with Inkscape recently, or anything.

        September 23, 2017
  12. Reducing those 3000+ blogs to categories would help. I am reminded of the book I wrote for Cambridge University Press, which was in fair part a literature review. The reviewed technical papers fill three or so filing cabinet drawers, and for each paper I had to read the paper carefully, digitize the data, reanalyse the data, and generate a figure or three and the corresponding paragraphs. The first step was to collect all the papers and sort them into stacks by topic, one chapter for each topic. Here “collect” ahs already been accomplished.

    September 19, 2017
  13. Somewhere in the responses I just skimmed, I noticed that there’s a crying need for a “how to handle critiques” (rejections, reviews, etc.) posting. Writing groups, submissions, etc. — if you participate, you are going to get some unkind responses at some point. How do you handle them?

    September 20, 2017
    • Yes please, Powers That Be! Definitely.

      Also… finding writing groups that are actually helpful to the process and not a waste of time.

      September 20, 2017
  14. Incidentally, WordPress plugins has a plethora of index plugins, several of which indicate that they will do a lot of the donkey work of just making up a list of links to the umpteen posts. I suspect there would still be effort needed, but you can at least get the basic indexing done automatically.

    September 20, 2017
  15. Draven #

    a nice lil indie pub book called The Mad Genius Club Guide To Indie Pub

    no, i am not kidding. Divide up the topics, and if you’ve already written a post and it says “I could expand on this” then do so. WO has said he can edit….

    September 20, 2017
  16. Ashkalar #

    Hi, all! I am not a writer, but I have been reading MGC for a couple or three years. Amanda posted “We want to hear from you” and it is the perfect opening for me to say something I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now.

    My most sincere THANK YOU! to all of you who make your work available on Kindle Unlimited.

    As an avid reader (4-5 books a week or more in multiple genres) living on a fixed income, I cannot afford to buy books, even e-books. My local digital library fulfills some of my demand, but it is a royal PITA to have to wait in line for the next book in a series, or find that the first volume of a trilogy is not even in the collection. Also, very few if any indie authors are available thru the library. And none of them get paid when I borrow a library book.

    The release blurbs on MGC have whetted my appetite to read many of your books. I have grabbed stories from Sarah, Pam, and Amanda when they were offered as free promos, or thru the Kindle Owner’s Library. But there are so many more I want to read! So when Amazon ran its most current discount on Kindle Unlimited I took a deep breath and signed up for two years.

    Now, I can just squeeze out $6 a month for books. That would buy two average price ebooks. Per month. And I would have to choose carefully from among you all. And frankly, I am a reader, not a book collector, and I don’t want to have two dozen read-and-enjoyed books cluttering up my Kindle at the end of the year. I could wait for promo offerings, but then you authors would not get paid anything at all for them.

    With Kindle Unlimited, if I read 20 200-page books a month, that puts $16 dollars into the pool (a recent post says current rate is $0.004/page?) True, your share of that is not close to the royalty you get from a sale, but it is better than giving me a freebie. As I see it, that is a win-win setup. You get paid something for your work and I get a wide selection of new books to read at an affordable-to-me price.

    So thank you again for participating in the KU program, and for writing such interesting stories!

    PS. I am a creative type (I turn wood and make jewelry from some of it) so I greatly appreciate the posts and comments on dealing with time, energy, and the Muse.

    September 20, 2017
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      Welcome. 🙂

      September 20, 2017
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Welcome! Don’t worry about not being a writer – we love readers! Not only do you help support us through KU, but hey, having people enjoy is why we publish in the first place!

      Time, energy, and Muse… okay, will try!

      September 23, 2017
  17. Okay, since you asked twice:

    How to prepare a COMIC BOOK for publication.

    What are your experiences interfacing with Overdrive’s “for publishers” interface? What works? What doesn’t?

    September 23, 2017

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