Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Administration, Yippeeekkk

Today I thought I'd briefly discuss the horror, I mean, several points of publishing that writers and aspiring authors don't normally mention, because they're rather mundane. The administrative aspects to editing.

These detailed necessities make selling the book possible. But I'm honest to admit I loathe having to do them. I'd much rather be writing my story, not encapsulating it into a 100 word blurb.

I call these items administrative, for lack of a better term, because many of them have to do with marketing and distributing the book, not writing or editing it.

Art work, blurbs, bio's, and excerpts--those things that are vital to the art of selling the book. Much of it goes on the publisher's website to promote and distribute the work. (I'll talk website because I'm familiar with small press and electronic books, as opposed to larger scale print-only publishing.)

Once I've completed a manuscript, sent it off to my editor, had it accepted, and signed a contract, I'm supposed to fill out several forms. Every publisher calls them something different, but they basically fulfill the same needs: cover art, blurbs, excerpts, author biography.

Cover Art forms are terribly important because the author actually has input on what the book will look like. I guarantee 98% of romance readers out there will look at the back of a book based on cover. An ugly cover can kill your chances to find new readers. Since the publisher is nice enough to ask for my opinion, I must fill out minute details about my characters, setting, the synopsis, what I want to see/don't want to see, and anything else I can think of to make the cover reflect the actual writing.

I love the fact that my opinion of the cover counts, but I really hate the work that goes into the form. Half the time, I have to reread sections of the book to get answers to what the artist might need to know. Trust me, I'm not complaining about getting input on my cover--at all. I'm just saying it's not my favorite thing in the world to do.

Many people have asked, how much input do you get? Well, I've had to tell the publisher on quite a few occasions that the hero is too wimpy, the heroine too weird looking, blonde instead of brunette, or some such. They can change some things to a degree, but at some point they give you choice A or B. Pick one. End of story. Still, if you don't ask, you won't get the chance to change what bothers you.

Next, there's the blurb sheet. The publisher needs to know, in X words or less, what the story's about. There's the hook, the one liner that grabs a reader's attention. "In a Decision between fight or flight, love makes the final decision." From In Plain Sight, by book about raptor shapeshifters.

Then there's the hundred word blurb, for advertising and marketing.

Shapeshifter Cullen Whitefeather has been in love with Sarah since he first laid eyes on her. But despite his brawn and sharp talons, Cullen gets tongue-tied around the beautiful woman. When circumstances throw them together to ride out a storm, the gruff man tries to show Sarah the truth – she is his mate. He does his best not to scare her away. Then his dysfunctional family returns from a trip abroad, and the raptor clan tries to punish Sarah for his interference. But if there's one thing Cullen's good at, it's a fight. And he's not letting Sarah go without one. (In Plain Sight)

And the actual blurb, the meaty summary meant to entice a reader to buy, which can usually be found on the publisher's website detailing the book, or on the back cover of a print edition.

Cullen Whitefeather is Ac-taw--a fierce golden eagle shapeshifter. The ultimate predator, he doesn’t shy away from confrontation…unless it involves one tempting, smart-mouthed woman. The woman destined to be his mate. The woman who doesn’t even know he’s alive.

Sarah Duncan made one mistake years ago and hasn’t stopped paying for it since. Tired of the town’s treatment, she finally tells the truth about what really happened and pays a hard price. Her clan wants to silence her. Permanently.

Rescue comes from a completely unexpected source—Cullen, a man who can barely seem to string two sentences together. Yet his fierce protectiveness, compassion, and bewitching touch are worth more than a thousand words.

With Sarah so close, Cullen is losing his mind—and his heart. She says she wants to leave, and the raptors want her gone. But if there’s one thing Cullen’s good at, it’s a fight. And he’s not letting her go without one. (In Plain Sight)

Once the blurb sheet is done, there's also the author biography sheet. This usually only has to be done once, the first time you sign on with a publisher. My bio is short and sweet, and hasn't changed in several years. I still read paranormal, I still realized romance was my first calling. Right.

And finally, I finish with the excerpt. Usually, the publisher will mandate that an excerpt not exceed so many words (in the contract.) Some publishers want no mention of that "climactic" moment, if you know what I mean. Other publisher ask for two excerpt, one PG and one R rated. Personally, I like to give a sexy excerpt, but not one that lets the reader have juicy details or sexual culmination. The excerpt should tease the reader into wanting to read more.

These are the nuts and bolts behind the actual writing. I didn't delve into contracts for several reasons. I'm not a lawyer. Most contracts are confidential. Not every contract is the same. But one thing I can state, unequivocally--No matter how many contracts you've signed in the past, you need to read through each and every detail of whatever's put in front you before signing, and that's just good business sense.

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