The Following Will Shock You
This is for all creators who use Kindle Unlimited – don’t!
By Doug Owen
Okay, got that off my chest. I guess you’re wondering why I’m screaming that at the top of my lungs. Well, let’s go over what KU is, for those who don’t know.
KU, or Kindle Unlimited, allows readers to read as much as they want for a small monthly fee. Authors add their books to KU and, when a reader starts to read it, the author starts to get paid. On a 300 page book the payout is a maximum of $1.50 per book if it is read from start to finish. If the book is only 50% read, then they get $0.75. Nice system, and all you have to do is advertise your book.
Knowing the world we live in, there are people out there who’ve figured out how to scam the system. They get people to create multiple new KU accounts (free for the first month), download the book and either flip through it quickly or just skip to the end. So, for each individual scammer, the author has the ability to make $15. Do this enough and you could make a few bucks, but not until you have finished hiring a lot of people and losing those bucks.
So why is this bad?
Ask Pauline Creeden, author of the Chronicles of Steele. A while back, Pauline received a generic email saying her KDP account was closed due to a violation of the terms. Like most of us, Pauline sees a majority of her sales through Amazon in ebook format. She is a mid-range author, like many of us, and the closing of her KDP account cut off a large portion of income for her. It took a lot of emailing back and forth, and pain, but her account was reinstated.
Why did Amazon close her account?
Here is the email message she received:
We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts. While we support the legitimate efforts of our publishers to promote their books, attempting to manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs is not permitted. As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account and your KDP Agreement effective immediately.
As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account(s) and remove the books you have uploaded through KDP from the Kindle Store. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royalty payments. Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open new KDP accounts and will not receive future royalty payments from additional accounts created.
She’d received no advance warning, no information, nor anything to tell her there was a problem.
Basically, when you limit yourself to KDP and the KU program, it means you have the possibility of losing a lot. Pauline advertised this book like she did any other, but maybe the cover art (impressive when you look at it) enticed a number of people to join the KU program and grab her book. Maybe there was an influx of people who joined KU at that time and picked her book to read. We don’t know (and neither does Pauline). All she can tell you is it shocked her, and took a great deal of time to resolve.
Note – the payout for KU usually works out to $0.005/page.
Ouch! Really? Yes, they do, but that shouldn’t stop you from dealing with them indirectly. Here’s why. Warning, I may get a little racy on this one.
Ingram tells you when publishing through their Lightning Source, that book stores like to have the ability to return books that don’t sell. It means limited liability to them (really, no liability). They also tell you that bookstores like to make 40 percent of the sale as profit.
Okay, let’s look at the numbers. A book sells for $20, the bookstore gets $8 and you get $12, right? No. In order for the bookstore to get 40 percent you have to mark your payments at 55 percent (40% to the bookstore and 15 percent to Ingram as the distributor). So now you have only made 45 percent or $9. Then you have to remove the print cost of the book as well, say $4.55, leaving you with $4.45. Okay, I can see that.
Returns kill your income
Ingram, when handling returns, charges you for both the printing of the returned book and their distribution charge. So, you are out the actual distribution fee of the book, or $11. And to add insult to injury, they also charge a $2 fee for handling the return.
That’s not all. If you request for the books to be returned, not destroyed, they charge you $2 per book for delivery—is if you live in the United States. If you live in, say, Canada, they charge an extra $20 per book for the return.
Is your wallet crying yet? There’s more.
Depending on when the return is done, you could be out a lot of money before you see one dime of royalties.
Say it isn’t so, Doug. How could they do that?
Easy. You go to the bookstore and arrange a signing and you live in Canada. They LOVE your book and see you have lots of sales, so they order 200 books through Ingram to stock the shelves and make money. You show up, slogging through the snowstorm to end all snowstorms. The store is open and you wait, hoping to sign and sell at least 100 books. You advertised the sale to all the people following you on Facebook and Twitter. Many people said they would be there.
At the end of the day you’re dejected, and have sold only ten books. Okay, not bad, but horrible for royalties (use the prior financial information to show you made $44.50 from the sale).
Now, the manager at the bookstore shakes your hand and says, “Tough luck with the weather, right?”
You smile, nod, and collect all your things in order to brave the raging storm outside.
Unknown to you, the bookstore packs up all 190 remaining books and ships them back to Ingram that very day, shaking his head at another wannabe author, not realizing the storm caused the lack of sales.
Ingram receives the books back, and promptly checks to see you have return marked on them. They smile, package them up, and send them to you. Your royalty report shows the following:
Sales – $90
Print costs – $910.00
Total Royalties – ($820)
The signing now cost you a lot of money, and they hold that against you, deducting it from royalties owed.
Now, when you get your financial report at the end of the month you’ll see the return of the books, and a fee imposed called “Other”. In this case (we’ll call the author Bill), Bill gets his monthly Ingram statement that shows he owes $820 in royalties and an “Other” charge of $3990 ($2 per book return shipping charge and $20 per book return out of US). Bill closes his account and stops writing. What a shame.
Ingram mentioned two months ago that they are rewriting the ‘agreement’ to remove the charge, but everyone asks, “What agreement?” In fact, there is no actual formal agreement between Author/Publisher and Ingram Lightning Source. Figure that out. So how can they actually hold you to that charge? Well, if you are smart you’ll realize it is a charge from Ingram Distributing, not Lightning Source. You could always say you don’t have an agreement with them—only Lightning Source—and see how that works. Until Ingram gets their heads out of their proverbial ass, I’ll never deal directly with them again.
If you decide to do signings, ask the bookstore if you can supply the copies of the book for sale. Let them know that as a self-published author, it is important you control all returns. Tell them you’ll gladly take back all the books that don’t sell at no cost to them and smile. If you’re a small publisher, make sure your website explains this as well. They should know you accept returns on your terms. And never let Ingram destroy the books.
Follow Doug at: http://daowen.ca
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By Doug Owen
What makes a story have instant reader appeal? Is it the author’s name? Could there be some secret message buried in the artwork that might cause a normal person to pick it up? Is there some secret formula used to put the correct words together to form that special message somewhere?
Instant reader appeal is one of the greatest literary secrets out there.
Never mind the first line in your story. Hell, it could be something that rages off the page, leaving an “I gotta read this!” feeling in the person browsing the bookshelf. What more could there be?
When you wander through a book store, check out what people actually take off the shelf. Most pull out a book that only has the binding showing. So it has to be either the title or the author that gets them. It couldn’t be the publisher; no, people don’t even recognize half of the logos out there. What caused them to pick that book over the even better one below it?
Look at the cover design. Yes, I know everyone has grown up with the adage not to judge a book by its cover (cliché, by the way). Everyone does. One of my first books garnered a spot in “Terrible Book Covers” because of that. When I saw it, the cover was instantly changed. Another couple of hundred down the tubes.
So, what is it that grabs the reader? Good artwork? Original designs? Maybe the font told them?
Oh, what’s that you said? You’re not in it for the money? Sure. I bet you don’t need to eat. Everyone is in it to make a splash, get their name out and put a few shekels in their pocket. If not, why write? Unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to just sit back and watch interest do its work.
And imagine the effect an author’s name has on how it sells. The name splashed across the top ¼ of the cover while the title is just a little splash underneath. Does that tell us how recognition drives sales?
But most of us don’t have that godhood draped about our shoulders. We belong to the real world, where the mention of our name usually gets, “Who?” We are not a mainstay on the list of literary giants. Does that mean a catchy title and cover design is our only way to salvation, if not publication?
Consider the amount of time you spent on your manuscript. The tears, cried into your pillow because the words would not come out. About the endless trips to the bottle just to get the courage to write that first line. How you hid in the closet so your better half would not see you. Imagine if you composed the cover as well. All the images would come directly from you, not some haphazard artist halfway around the world. No stock photos for you!
Oh ye of little faith.
There is help. It is a simple template that can make your book stand out. And we have the romance sector that pumps out novel after novel to thank for that simple formula.
Stand back now. We are about to reveal the simple, yet effective, way to make sure your novel sells (or, at least, gets picked up to look at. We are not, of course, fixing the writing, just helping get it picked up).
The torso of an impossibly toned man and the overflowing bosoms of a beautiful woman are coupled with some generic title tilled with care through a title generating machine kept out back. Titles like Summer’s Found Passion or Love’s Destiny. Just look in the airport lounges and you’ll see what I mean. And the two people on the cover don’t even have to look the same!
Flip this to my favorite genre, Sci-Fi, and see what is on the cover. Robert Heinlein gave into the publisher when he wrote the amazing novel, Friday, and let them put a large-breasted woman front and center with the zipper on the front of her suit pulled down to her navel. Spider Robinson’s Stardance, with a woman in a skin-tight space suit, is another one.
Want to get the women involved in buying your books? Take a walk through GoodReads and see the covers of the books they rate the best. I just did this for giggles while writing the article and 90 per cent of the books that have models showing some type of skin on the cover are rated at five stars, only 10 per cent at four stars or fewer. But that same person rates a book with no model on the cover at three stars. Maybe it was the writing, but when you see the pattern, what you need to do to generate interest becomes very straightforward.
But what about titles?
Just for giggles, here are some very… interesting titles:
Castration: The Advantages and the Disadvantages by Victor T. Cheney
Games You Can Play with Your Pussy and Lots of Other Stuff Cat Owners Should Know by Ira Alterman
Still Stripping After 25 Years by Eleanor Burns
Eating People is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury
The Missionary Position—Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens
Reusing Old Graves by Douglas Davies
How to Succeed in Business Without a Penis by Karen Salmansohn
The Pocketbook of Boners by Dr. Seuss
Images You Should Not Masturbate To by Graham Jonson
A Passion for Donkeys by Dr. Elisabeth D. Svendsen
Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
Pooh Gets Stuck by Isabel Gaines
The Best Dad is a Good Lover by Dr. Charlie Shedd
Scouts in Bondage by Geoffrey Prout
Some of these… Well, you’ll have to see the covers to understand. But they are just a few of the titles that do not come over well.
Most of the time, you want your title to reflect what the story is about. So when you come across Jaws you can sort of understand what the novel is about just by the title. All Quiet on the Western Front tells you something about the content of the novel, and so does War and Peace. You don’t have to turn a page to understand what the main content of those books will be.
But there are some that are not really that revealing, like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, or John Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, or Alex Revell’s A Fall of Eagles (But the cover art explains it all).
Your reader is a visual creature. They look at the cover, they read the title and back page, glance through a few pages and, if you are lucky, they read it. And while an established author can get away with a black cover with lettering (The Road by Cormac McCarthy—over 472,000 ratings on GoodReads and counting), you cannot afford to be so standoffish to your audience. Put a lot of thought behind your cover. Shelf Appeal is everything, because most people DO judge a book by its cover.
When I was young (yes, they had printed books back then, as well), I would pick up a book and look at the cover, deciding if I wanted to even think about glancing at the back. The look of a cover can appeal to a reader or dissuade one from even picking up your book.
Image and typography have a lot to say. They need to capture the heart of the reader, intrigue them, and captivate their imagination. Once the prospective reader picks up the book, the writing must do the rest. But getting the book picked up is the one thing you have to work on, and that is where these things come into play.
It takes me a while to decide what type of cover I want for my book. My YA series almost died because of a bad cover choice, but the new one (the design of which I follow throughout the series) has been a hit. Now, as a publisher, I hear authors describe covers to me and just nod. Having read their books and knowing the industry it is very important that not only that the author’s vision gets laid out, but that the marketing guys and artists take the time to tell me what it really needs. Heck, one author hated the cover so much that he almost decided to take the work to another publisher until I showed him some test market research.
We all try to have our novel outshine the novel next to it. So, here is how you do it:
- The title you thought of first, after writing your novel, is probably the best
- Make the title relevant to the story, or at least intriguing
- KISS—Keep It Short and Simple, so people remember it
- Shelf Appeal is GOD—how does it stand out?
- Who will read the book? The cover should be targeting them
- Make the title easy to read (font choices). That does not mean boring
So, think of this after you have written your masterpiece and remember: they judge a book by it’s cover.
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By Doug Owen
Self-Publishing has been around for a long time, but never to the extent it is today. CreateSpace, Kindle, Kobo, and now Blurb are pushing for your business. When you look at all of the avenues available and what they say you must do to promote your own work, it is staggering.
The biggest ‘Must do’ out there is an Author Platform. This usually helps you sell your book(s) to the public. Many lists can be found on the net for your author platform. All appear long enough to boggle any new writer. How do you navigate them? What are the pitfalls if you don’t do one of the steps? That is something to look at closely.
So never fear: here is how you should build your platform and start selling books. (Note: this applies to self-published, indy-published and traditionally-published works.)
- Website! If you don’t have a website yet, get one. Make it stand out with your name. For example, I use DAOWEN.CA. It is my name. It is recognizable. It is set with a .CA extension in order to designate my location (Canada). This is important. Don’t use [name].wordpress.org for your blog; it screams, ‘Don’t take me seriously’.
- Social Media. Facebook, Google+, Tumbler, and so many more. Each will allow you to have a ‘Page’ for yourself. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be the same as your personal page. Make it good with graphics and pictures. You’ll be pushing to it from your website. You fill in your blog post, and the program used to display your website will post forward to the sites for you. Takes away so many steps.
- Who’s your audience? Figure it out. Teenage girls or adult men? Narrow down the field and make sure you make blog posts for them. If you target teenage boys, you’re not going to talk about makeup in your blog.
- Budget. Figure it out. You need to know how much to spend or determine the max you can spend. If you don’t know, it is a gamble.
- Marketing. You need to have a definite plan in place. Marketing is what will get people to see that you wrote a book. Anything else is just a crap shoot. This step covers how you market, what themes you use, and so forth. Marketing is enormous when it comes to advertising.
- Your author story. You need to tell people who you are and why you write what you do. An author story will connect audiences to you, make them understand where you are coming from, and maybe, if luck holds out, make people want to purchase the books.
- Notification lists. Your social media generally handles this, but for those potential buyers who don’t have such, a notification list is important. Try newsletters, combining your words with links that show how to buy your work; those are always good.
- Easy to buy. Many do it. They create a link to the ‘buy’ page that spans three lines in their posting. Use TinyURL or something similar to link to the actual ‘buy’ page for your book, whether it is the publisher’s page or your own site. Don’t make it hard to find or read, or decrease the font size. Make it so they will click on the link.
- Link your book. Do you write articles? If so, put links in them referring readers to your book and website. Don’t forget the social media links that will sell your book as well. Every little bit helps.
- Schedule. Don’t just post whenever something comes to mind. Post your information at certain times of the day. Check your media to see when people are actually viewing your site and time your posts accordingly.
- Promote for free! Yes, there are places you can promote your book and people will look at it. There will be a list of sites following this article. I’ll post it on my website for you to look at.
- Goodreads. Though I’ve never had any success with them, a Goodreads give-away is another avenue to get your name out there. Get your author profile and claim your book.
- Time your release. Make sure it matches something special that is coming up. Be it a vacation or an anniversary, just make sure it matters.
- Create a ‘Must Read’ guide at the end of your book. Advertise your other books (if you have any) or promote other authors. Make sure you are exchanging such with them and they’re doing the same.
- Photo. Get a good, high resolution photo of yourself for the book and pages. Make sure you smile in it.
- Press releases. Get those going. Nothing says ‘professional’ like a good press release.
- Guest posts. One of the greatest ways to get your name out there is to guest post on other blogs. There are several of them and they are all looking for people to post.
- Pre-release reviews. Yes, it is nice to get someone to read your book, but how will others know how that person enjoyed it? Get reviews fast. This can happen with give-aways and other promotional releases. Hunt for them and ask those who read the book to help boost your sales, for if they like what you wrote, there is a good chance they would like you to write more.
- Cool bookmarks. Yes, it is old school, but very effective. Make sure you print out a bunch of them for people to have. If they see your book and website printed on it, they are more likely to check you out and possibly buy from you.
- Be nice. Reach out a hand and shake it with the public. Most people will buy a book from an author who is genuine and smiles. Talk to them about the book, but don’t give too much away. Would you buy a book from someone who just dismisses you when they see you?
- Tempt your readers. Insert sample chapters from the next book in a series. Put it at the end of your current book or include something when they buy the first. It will spike their interest, and possibly generate more sales.
- Categories are your friends. Make sure you place your book in the right area of Amazon, Google, Kobo and all the other retailers you list with. An incorrectly-categorized book will not sell, for no one wants to read science fiction when they are looking for memoirs.
- Write series. Not every story can have a second or third book, but some can. Take the time to carry on the story of a hero or their sidekick. The possibilities are endless when you can push out three or four books on the never-ending adventures of the characters people love to read about.
- Advertise back. At the end of your book, make sure you list the titles of books that you have previously published. The chances are if they like your writing, the reader will want to seek out other books that you wrote, so help them find those books.
- Promo kits. Graphics, images, links, and excerpts are great when trying to sell what you have. Make sure they are on other blog sites, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
- Podcast tours. Yes, the podcast is a great way to get yourself noticed. Take the time to connect with someone and have an interview done online. You will be surprised at how many people will seek out your writing if they like what they hear.
- Networking events, expos, and conferences. Make sure you write a proposal to present at an event. Gain connections and increase your credibility. This will develop networks and possibly influence others to buy your books.
- Email signatures. Every email you send out is a call to buy your book. Others will see a link to your blog and click it out of curiosity. Once they are there, you have them.
- Workshops. Non-fiction writers can teach others about what they have in their books. This is a good way to generate sales. Just think of all those survivalists who teach others how to do what they do. Every one of them has a book to sell, and most people who attend their events will buy that book.
- Redesign your book cover. If you find the book cover is not attracting attention, then redesign it so it does.
- Launch strategy. A book launch requires a lot more prep and strategy than just a few posts on Facebook and a couple of tweets. Plan your launch and get a plan put in motion. Don’t just rely on word of mouth; get to it with your author platform.
- Affiliates make money. Sign up for an affiliate program with other book sellers. Get a plan, offer a commission. Make sure they work for you and you work for them.
- Contact. Add a way for people to contact you at the end of your book. It could be as simple as your website, and it can have a ‘contact me’ page on it, or a link to your social media page.
- Write like it is your business. Your website and social media pages are your outward-looking face to those who will never meet you. Make sure they are professional and don’t portray you as a hobbyist or wannabe. You are committed to selling your book; make it look like that. You are a writer; make it professional.
- Urgency. Use time-limited coupons, giveaways, and other contests to get people interested. Do this on your website and use social media to point to it. The more clicks you get, the better off you are.
- Use local merchants. Get a number of copies of your book and ask local stores to carry it on consignment. Make sure they can capture 40 percent of the sales for their profit, and you have more books out there for the public to read. This generates a relationship with a retailer who can be your best friend.
- Become an expert. Make sure you tie your books in with something that you know. You are an expert of something and if it’s in your book in some way, it’s a jumping off point. Use it. Exploit it.
- Fiverr. Yes, it is cheap, but there are sellers out there who will submit your book to many free websites and push your press releases to the world. Use them.
- Connect with readers. Yes, online is great, but in your face is better. It is easy for someone to ignore an email, but when you are there talking to them, it is magical. Make sure you put forth a good face.
- Skype a book read. This is easy. Arrange for someone to record your thoughts and read excerpts from your book. Sometimes, all it takes is a few lines to perk someone’s interest.
- Vacations that work. Going somewhere? Take your books with you. Sometimes all it takes is someone asking you what you do. You’re a writer? Yes. Have a book ready, for they may find it interesting enough to buy a copy. When that happens, others may ask them where they got it. That person will point to you. Who doesn’t want their book signed by the author?
- Promote others. Get friendly with writers in your genre. Promote them and they will promote you. This is an easy way to make money and friends who will praise your work.
- Advertise. Facebook ads are not as expensive as you think. Google ads can boost just about anyone. There are so many ways to advertise, it is not funny.
- Free is bad. But sometimes, a free giveaway will generate sales later on, especially if you wrote a series.
- Bundles sell. Take it from your telecommunications or cable supplier. Bundle your books with a small discount and people will by two, instead of just the one.
- Fans are great. Talk to your fans about spreading the news of your books. Get them to talk to others about the great author they just purchased a book from.
These are the top 46 things you can do to get your work out there. How many are you doing?
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By Doug Owen
Everyone does it at one point or another. I do it all the time just to piss off my wife. We all try to talk with an accent or use the dialect from another country.
It’s fun, I’ll admit, to try and make yourself sound like William from Newfoundland, Billy from Ireland, James from Manchester, Ivan from Russia or Eddie from Jamaica. But how do you convey this in your manuscript?
Here are the most common pitfalls when writing dialogue—and how to avoid them. Needless to say, you will come across A Clockwork Orange every once in a while, which defies what I am about to say, but generally, you will want to follow these rules. Why, you may ask? Well, here is the answer, but it comes in a strange way.
Have you ever watched the show Swamp People? Have you found it strange that they are speaking English but there are subtitles at the bottom? It’s so you can really understand what they are saying. If we cannot understand the main character(s) in a show or novel, we will not watch or read it. Everyone wants to understand what is coming from the other’s mouth. More on this below.
Keep a lid on profanities
Have you ever watched a comedian on stage and all they do is swear every other word? After the performance, the main complaint of the audience is, “They did swear a lot.” Writing is the same way. Yes, people do swear (you’ll find that out if you watch UK Reality TV), but no one wants to read it in their novel. Okay, maybe the occasional F-bomb is okay, but not every other word. They stand out on the page, especially when a potential reader is doing the finger flip to see if they want to buy the work. Save your swearing for the time your character needs to really be intense with their words. This will show the reader you care about them and are not just out for shock value.
Sling the slang away
Every good author knows when to use a little slang. But, like profanities, you want to use this sparingly. So make sure the people in your work actually speak English (or whatever language you are writing in). Now, of course, there are exceptions to the rule. A Clockwork Orange uses slang with propensity, so how did Anthony Burges get away with it? He developed an integral slang not used at the time and made sure his prose showed the reader what it meant. The novel was also written during the height of his career and examined ad infinitum by the masses. Want to write like him? Read all his work first.
Reproduction is for the birds and the bees
When I talk about reproducing a conversation that takes place between two people, I mean every part of it. Try this. Grab your cell phone and set it to record. Have a conversation with someone about anything; just make it a real life conversation. Talk about the weather, a sporting event, the latest celebrity gossip—it doesn’t matter what, just talk. Don’t tell them you are recording it, you need this to be a candid as possible. Now, later that day, have your smart phone convert the recorded discussion into text. Replay the conversation and write out everything (and I mean everything) from the first ‘um’ to the last ‘‘kay’. Once you are finished (and the smart phone beeps it is done), read the conversation out loud, as if you were proofreading the work. Heck, even wait a few days in order for the words to be lost from your mind. Now, how does it sound? Crap, right? So, why would you make your reader sit down and try to understand that conversation?
Take out all the idioms and your conversations will still feel natural.
Mangling is for the antagonist
Raise their hand if, at one point, you wrote the dialogue of a character who could not pronounce the letter H the following way:
“‘Ello, Joe. ’Ow’s it been? ‘Aven’t seen you in days. Wife and kids doing well I presume?”
Okay, my hand is up as well. I have been known to do it in the past, but not anymore.
This is a mild case of mangling dialogue. Don’t do it. Just tell the reader how they speak and let them fill in the blanks without wondering what the heck they are saying. Remember, the easier it is for the reader to read your work, the more they will enjoy it. Ultimately you want the reader to say, “I read it and enjoyed it, even with the guy that could not pronounce his H’s.”
Summing it up
As a writer, your job is hard enough without putting yourself through the wringer. Make it easy and write the way you want to see it done with the works you read. Don’t make your reader struggle when they pick up the book.
When you think there is an issue with your dialogue, the best way to figure it out is to have someone read it out loud. If they struggle (and not because of the actual words but the flow), you know there is work to be done.
Follow Doug at his website: http://daowen.ca/
Okay, so you have written a story and want to submit it to a magazine or publisher. Before you scour your records for the email address and send in the work, take a deep breath and read this.
Besides the obvious, there are some things to look for. Let’s start with the first few things and move forward.
How do they want that story submitted? You need to know this right away. Do they want the story in a .DOC or .DOCX? Maybe they say .RTF. You have to verify which one, because if you submit an .RTF and they want it in .DOC, the story will go right to the recycle bin. Why? Because you didn’t follow the instructions. Believe it or not, they can be that petty. But from their standpoint, if you don’t follow one simple request, what else will be wrong? Why should they continue? So look for that required format.
So, they say to attach the story and a letter that includes a synopsis of the work and a short bio. You put it all in one. So why did you not hear from them? Your story was amazing. But you forgot to follow the instructions. They only saw one attachment and off to the recycling bin it went. Remember, they asked for two attachments: the story and a letter of introduction. You didn’t submit two, so they deleted your submission.
This is a test. It is the first thing they open in order to see if they should delete your story. Is there a bio that makes sense or did the writer make a funny story? If it’s a funny story with, say, a disclaimer stating that some of the bio may be fictitious, then into the recycling bin it goes. Make sure when you submit a bio that it is real and not a “smartass” response. Your ego may land you in the recycling bin.
See what they want. One paragraph? Then make sure you only submit one paragraph. Any more than that and they story is in the bin. Make sure it is a synopsis, for if it is not, into the bin it goes. Make sure you deliver what they want.
Yes, here you make sure everything is real. This is where you brag about publications and awards you have won. No publications? Don’t list any. No awards? Leave it blank. Are you really a writer? Make sure you write. Find a magazine that is looking for writers, even if it is free. Having that on your brag will make you look better than the one with nothing. Even a short list is better than nothing.
Okay, so everything is done correctly now, but the story needs to be adjusted. Why? Because you want to follow the submission instructions. Even if they say the font does not matter, you still want to revisit it. Your favourite font makes you happy, but not everyone likes Goudy Stout. So stick with the standards: New Roman, Cambria, or Garamond. Want some advice? If the editor is older, use Garamond; it is the old standard that we old guys love.
Oh, don’t forget to stay within their word count.
But did you make one of the big mistakes? If you’re not sure, here are the ones to look out for.
- The Far Hook
You sink the hook in the first paragraph, so why does it take you until the hundredth page to show a dead body? It is now far too late. Time to cut out a lot of words to get to the point.
- Tags Ahoy and No Substance
Is every line of dialogue tagged in your work? “He said… She said… John said… Bill said…” Oh, please, break it up and do something else. Have someone move or pick their nose. Give me something other than a tag. And make sure you describe things correctly. “He looked about the living room, powder blue and green, landscapes framed in oak, a porch through double doors…” Ready to eat a bullet for just a little excitement?
- Name Dropper
Don’t have a lot of names in your story, especially not in one scene. If you do, don’t have them talking at the same time, for it will confuse the reader. Three, maybe four talkers at the same time, maximum.
Remember the golden rules: Introduce no more than three named characters per scene. If a character is not important, don’t name them. Period. Give each character a name that starts with a different letter.
- Verbal Pyrotechnics
Please don’t do this in your narrative. Martin Amis from the UK does it and for some reason he has a following. Tell me what you think?
“But I go to Hollywood but I go to hospital, but you are first but you are last, but he is tall but she is small, but you stay up but you go down, but we are rich but we are poor, but they find peace but they …” (The start of Yellow Dog)
I don’t know about you, but I would not read on. The book would land back on the shelf.
- Protagonist Hate
If your protagonist is not lovable, then why would anyone care for them? And why would anyone read a story about someone they cannot connect with? Make your protagonist lovable in some way.
- Dangling Modifier
Starting a sentence with a word ending in “ing” is frowned upon. Why? Because it is, potentially, a fragmented sentence. Don’t do it.
If you are going to take away anything from this article, it is to read what is needed when submitting, and always polish your work before you do.