Thursday, March 29, 2018

Should You Indie Publish Your Novella?

Recently, I came up with an idea best suited for a novella-length story. I started researching my options and was surprised by what I discovered. So if you've ever considered indie publishing, especially a novella, read on!

Years ago, indie publishing carried a stigma--both to readers as well as to traditional publishing houses. Typically, indie books were lower quality. But times have changed. And industry professionals have come to see successful authors who are either hybrid, or who began their careers indie. The stigma has faded, and in its place has come a unique opportunity for writers struggling to break into the industry.

(Now, quick side note while I have my English teacher moment for the day-- bear with me! I am not suggesting you jump to indie publishing because the editors at traditional houses have told you that your first novel/novella is not ready yet for publication. If anything, in many ways, indie publishing is harder, not easier, than traditional publishing, and I have loads of respect for authors who do it well-- looking at you, Melissa Tagg! You need to know, that you know, that you know this material is top notch, because if you go indie, you won't have a gatekeeper as you would at a traditional publishing house. Aside from a freelance editor. But still.)

So here is what surprised me the most about my research. Provided that you 1) pay for a professional cover, and 2) pay for professional editing, traditional publishing houses are not going to look down on your indie sales numbers. They understand that you are giving this a go without the support of a professional marketing team. So in all likelihood, because you are doing this alone-ish (again, with the help of a freelance designer and editor) you shouldn't expect epic sales numbers. But the flip side of that is that editors no longer have these expectations either.

Shannon Marchese, Senior Editor at WaterBrook Multnomah, says this: "Traditional houses are getting accustomed to novelists having some indie career before selling traditionally now. The key is in how one presents the data when pitching, and how what you are writing for a traditional house is similar or different." Be ready, in particular, to explain how your indie audience can be expanded upon when you make a move to a traditional publishing house.

Shannon also has important advice about pricing. High sales numbers that are driven by very cheap pricing will not matter to a pub board. Instead, Shannon suggests pricing a novella between $1.99- $2.49, and making sure you advertise the story is a novella rather than a novel so that readers do not criticize the shorter format in their reviews.

Amanda Luedeke, Vice President at MacGregor Literary agency, puts the price even higher at $2.99 per novella copy. Amanda also suggests that would-be indie writers consider the persuasive role of pre-sales. Typically, a pre-sale reader who is willing to buy the novella at a fair price point is the type of reader who publishing houses like to see. In other words, a reader who will come back to read more of your stories because of you as an author rather than a price that is cheap.

Amanda says that 1,000 pre-sales, or 5,000 copies sold in a year make for strong numbers. But if your sales numbers are but a tiny fraction of those, don't despair!

Shannon suggests framing your novella experience when pitching to an editor so that you highlight the most persuasive information. Maybe you only sold several hundred copies. But five star reviews on Goodreads, or a blurb from a very well-known author, according to Shannon, can go a long way.

So, let me hear from you! Have you ever published an indie novella? What was your experience? If you're considering becoming an indie or hybrid authors, what concerns or questions do you have about the process?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Revisiting the Revise + Resubmit Request

Today on The Writer's Alley, we're revisiting an oldie but goodie (because I, Laurie, really need a refresher!) Whether you're revising a contest piece or a manuscript for an editor, I hope you find something helpful here. Let's do this! 

You're waiting for news from an agent or editor, and that anticipated name finally appears in your inbox. But what if it isn't a yes or a no? Besides the obvious answers, there's a different option: A revise and resubmit request.

Whether there's an element of your story that needs to be tweaked or a structural component that doesn't meet the requirements for a particular line, this typically means they see promise in your project but would like to see how you change certain things before they commit. Sometimes this happens in a pitch meeting or query response. Other times, they will send full editorial notes like they would for one of their own clients.

Since I'm working on one as we speak, here are my top tips for dealing with a revise and resubmit request:

Number one and most important, this is -- more often than not -- a good thing. Nothing to be upset about at all. Yes, it's more work to put into a project you've probably already spent a considerable amount of time shaping up to send off in the first place. But it will be worth it. Remember that this means your story made this agent/editor think and that he or she is invested in the idea enough to respond thoughtfully to you out of the hundreds of submissions in any given week.

But you don't have to take the advice. Revise and resubmit requests are great opportunities to show how teachable and creative you are with constructive criticism (an editor's dream author). If you've made every attempt to be open-minded and discussed it with trusted people who know your work and you still feel these suggestions don't seem like a good fit with your vision, then it might be best to move on. If their suggestions are so extensive that the structural integrity of your story is lost (and it's no longer your own story), then maybe you'd be a better match with a different agent/editor.

But more than likely, a reputable industry professional will give you suggestions to bring out the best in your story and make it a mutual fit, especially if you know this individual has worked with authors whose work resonates with you. Don't be afraid to ask if it's all right to run your revision ideas by the agent/editor before you begin, but make sure you have a good handle on them first to present them cohesively. (And if you have an agent, make sure to get his or her approval to contact an editor first!) Experiment with the changes. See if they resonate with you and give your story life. Then proceed accordingly.

When undertaking this kind of edit, you can never go wrong with a good checklist. If a revision request seems daunting (Mine was two pages long!), make a list with each change plus action items that can accomplish it. What backstory and plot points need to be changed? Does any of this change your characters' essence or how they would react to things? What questions need to be answered as these changes unfold? What plot points will each change affect later in the story? Having a roadmap or sorts is a tremendous reference as you implement these changes in each chapter and a great way to keep things organized! Plus, the accomplishment of checking things off never gets old.

Here's what mine looks like:

Edited to add: Now that I've done this once (which became my May 2017 release, With No Reservations), I would also recommend reading your revised manuscript on a different medium, such as printed out or on a Kindle screen, to ensure continuity throughout the revised manuscript. Are the new details the same throughout? Does your character behave the same in the beginning, middle, and end of the story? Does that added scene fit well in the flow of your plot? Reading it from a fresh angle will help you catch stubborn inconsistencies. 

Have you ever gotten a revise + resubmit request? What are some ways you know an editor/agent/critique partner's advice will benefit your story? How do you tackle a big rewrite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

#TipfulTuesday: Robert Frost

This last week I read through my manuscript for a final edit. Sure enough when I landed on the scene where the MC's friend throughout the story, one who was near and dear, who had been like the perfect sister and listened, one who protected her ... died ... I cried. What had happened wasn't right. I found myself feeling sad for a time afterwards. This had to be at least the 30th read through of that scene since I first wrote it and still... I needed a tissue.

In other books, I've reread a scene and laughed...again! Because the words built to a funny moment. Even though I knew the outcome, I still laughed. Mary Connealy's writing is an example of this style. There isn't always a single joke, she builds an entire scene around the humor.

If a writer isn't fully engaged in the story...we're talking laughing out loud, unsure who hid in the shadows, jump at a creepy sound--that in reality came from some appliance in the house or a tree outside--surprised when the phone rings, and yes, tears flowing, then most likely the reader won't be either.

These are ingredients that make stories worth reading:

            *  Vivid imagery and emotions.
            *  Characters so fully developed we definitely would recognize them on the street.
            *  Pace that feels real.
            *  Concerns so deep they rip our hearts.

Find a powerful scene from your story. Reread it. Did you feel the emotion, the power, the call to respond?

I have a cyber tissue for those who wept. A pat-on-the back for the successes. A guffaw for the humor. A swoon for the kisses. A hug for the scared. Which did you need?

~Mary Vee

photo credit: Pixabay-Lukasbieri

Mary Vee -  Mary Vee - Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary’s list of ways to enjoy a day. She was homeless for a time, earned her MA in Counseling, and married an Air Force vet.  Mary has been a finalist in several writing contests and writes for her King.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tipful Tuesday: Words and Reality, Edgar Allan Poe

I am here, right now, in my manuscript, with Mr. Poe whispering these words in my ear. Writing, editing, dissecting the deepest, darkest wanderings of my heroine's heart, and terrified that I might fail at writing words that are reality yet fiction. 

Perhaps I've chosen a quote by the grim Mr. Poe that sends us down the darker path on this #tipfultuesday, but it has struck me as a powerful truth that is close to describing what I must do for my story to thrive.

 I would like to suggest that, no matter how made up our story worlds are, we should always strive for words that explore the reality of the human condition...whether it be in describing something as sweet as a lover's first kiss, or as heart-wrenching as the grief of losing someone dear...

Let us as authors tap into powerful writing so that we leave readers with meaningful, truth-filled words that not only end when they close the book, but power their minds to experience life to the full.

Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in Cambridgeshire, England. Now living in the U.S., she's an ACFW member, a blog contributor to the Writer's Alley, a baseball mom, and a self-proclaimed foodie. Two of her historical romance novels comprise her Fall 2017 debut: The Outlaws Second Chance, Love Inspired Historical, and My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah, Barbour.