Click to download a pdf of the Plotting, Pantsing, & Poetry workshop notes.
And here’s the video of the workshop. 60 minutes.
Click to download a pdf of the Plotting, Pantsing, & Poetry workshop notes.
And here’s the video of the workshop. 60 minutes.
When most people think of publishing they think of two options:
1. traditional publication by either a large publishing house or a small press. In this method a publisher purchases publication rights, edits, designs a cover, and markets the book. Large houses offer advances. Small presses rarely do.
2. self-publishing . The author pays for editing, covers, and marketing themselves. Usually they contract individuals for each of these tasks. (There are self-publishing companies like Lulu or Bookbaby that you can pay to do everything in a package deal, but I’ve yet to meet any successful professional who has used them more than once. They tend to be expensive for what they offer. They’re fine if you are only going to write one family history book to sell to your relatives. Otherwise, there are better options).
What is hybrid publishing?
Hybrid authors are BOTH traditionally published AND self-published.
Why would you do it?
Traditional publishers offer a sense of legitimacy, and in theory, a marketing machine. However, with millions of books submitted to publishers each year, only a handful are going to meet the specific niches a publishing house feels are viable investments. Your traditional publisher may not be interested in all the books you’ve written. Rather than sitting on those works, you can release them yourself. Because you don’t have the tight margins those publishing houses have, you don’t have to sell as many books to make it worthwhile.
Self-publishers earn significantly more per book (30-70% retail) that those who are traditionally published (10-15%). Those who master marketing can do very well.
Authors own their name and their brand. They don’t have to be stuck in only one model to sell their books.
Examples of hybrid publishing:
Your publisher may be contracted to release your book in the US. You retain rights for the rest of the world. You will have to get a different cover and a new ISBN, but then you can release your book everywhere outside your traditional publisher’s jurisdiction. Robert Sawyer and C. C. Humphreys are authors I know who do this.
You may be well known for one genre and traditionally publish in that genre, but if you’d like to branch out and try something different, your publisher may not be interested. Eileen Cook is a traditionally published YA author, but she writes non-fiction writing guides which she self-publishes. Craig di Louie is a traditionally published horror writer who self-publishes his World War II historical fiction.
Publication contracts are dated. A publisher has publication rights for a certain amount of time. When the contract runs out, the rights revert to the author. The author can then self-publish these pieces from their backlist (i.e. previously published works). For example, Diana Gabaldon writes short pieces for anthologies or magazines. When the rights revert, she self-publishes them as ebooks.
You may choose in your contract not to give all rights to the publisher. For example, Jonas Saul’s Sarah Roberts print books (paper back or hard cover) are traditionally published; however, Jonas retained the ebook rights and self-publishes the ebooks.
Flexibility is the key to success. Today’s writers are learning that it is unwise to put all their eggs in one basket. Hybrid publishing gives them the opportunity to have a variety of income streams.
All the authors I know who are hybrid publishing tell me they’re delighted to have more control over their income.
Yesterday I posted an interview with Josh Pantalleresco about his book of narrative poetry called Alice Zero. Today, Josh shares a snippet of the book for your enjoyment.
(You are late.)
can I just sleep?
Dream my dreams
for in them I see…
The loud clanging of the cell
brings me to attention
I am here
I see him and go pale
Ace watches me
his black heart etched on his sleeve
Letting me know
he is in charge
(I want to punch him on the face)
he’ll hear us
(I don’t like him looking at us. Do you?)
my meal is delivered through the small door
(I wonder what drugs are in here)
I don’t argue any more
some days just blur on by
others are just nightmares
rage and pain and anger
unjoyous madness boils inward
I have to eat the food
I need to drink the water
so what if there are poisons in here
(Lithium gives you nightmares)
It does not!
I said that out loud
he is staring
before long I see the men in white
wearing hearts on their sleeves
carrying needles on their sides
and sticks on their backs
I shouldn’t fight
should be quiet
they’ll go easy on me
(If you won’t fight for you, who will?)
I say no more
the first one tackles me
Eight shoots for my legs
and trips me
the ground feels unyielding
I hit it and struggle to breathe
I am turned onto my stomach
hands bent behind my back
I brace myself for the liquid
I hear a voice stop them
halt! She booms
the guards stop
I know that voice
(Out of the frying pan. Into the Fucking fire.)
my hair is pulled
blood trickles from my face
I look up and see her
she wears red
her lips painted black
her raven hair braided
her eyes cold and merciless
she grins at my moment
relishing my torment
I am swarmed by white
I feel the prick of a needle
and see a shade of crimson
before all goes black.
Ooooooh! Did it give you shivers? Here’s the link if you’d like to read more!
Hi Josh! I know you mostly from your Just Joshing podcast, but I was excited to hear you’ve written a book! What’s it called and what is it about?
Alice Zero is my second release this year. It’s an epic poem that mashes up Alice in Wonderland and Greek Mythology. Alice is Pandora and she opens the box, and her last hope has a Cheshire grin.
My first novels, the Grace Awakening books, also had poetry and Greek mythology woven through the narrative, but it’s not a common combination. Adding Alice in Wonderland adds a surreal element! What led you to this idea?
A hot girl in a bar. I wish I was kidding. I wasn’t. I was out and I met this striking woman, who had a gorgon tattoo on her shoulder she drew herself. I was already contacted by Colleen Anderson to do a Lewis Carroll poem of some kind, and I promised to use her. So Medusa found a cool way to come into this, and then I realized after that that Alice and Pandora aren’t that different, and suddenly I had my story.
What’s your favourite Greek myth and why?
Pandora for sure. I liked the idea of Jason and the Argonauts. As a comic book junkie, I recognize the original Justice League when I see it. But I actually dig the concept of Hades and Persephone. It’s an interesting take on death. Death as lover is not something you think of when you come to the end.
What do you like about Alice in Wonderland?
It’s whimsical and pure chaos. It can be literally anything you want it to be. It’s a Jungian experience each and every time.
You’ve interviewed some amazing people on Just Joshing over the years. Did any of your guests inspire you in the creation your own writing project? If so, who?
You all do. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned from each of you. For this project, Colleen Anderson and Vanessa Cardui shaped it a bit. Colleen from her request and Vanessa for her expertise. I can’t wait to pick Vanessa’s head a bit for the sequel.
What was your favourite part of your book to write?
The Cheshire Cat. He’s inside Alice in this story and always seems to say the one thing that will set her off.
Where can readers find your book?
For now, it’s going to be Amazon exclusive. Next year I hope to do something very original with the physical release. Something most books don’t do. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t make promises I can’t keep.
Tomorrow, we’re going to share a snippet from the book here on ShawnBird.com. Can you set up what we’re going to read?
How Alice is rescued by a certain gorgon knight and her vorpal blade from the shadows of chaos. I think I’ll let the poem speak for itself.
Awesome! Can’t wait!
Josh’s book Alice Zero on Amazon
My podcast interview with Josh as Nikolette Jones and I discuss the Nikki Knox books.
I keep running into people who have big plans for their retirement. They’re going to move somewhere with less snow. They’re going to get serious about that hobby. They’re going to start writing that book.
I ask them what I asked myself in 1998: Why wait?
One Spring Break when I was in my thirties with two pre-teen kids, I’d driven south with the kids to see my parents. I went to Vancouver, and sitting in the Water Street station, I looked around at the blooming tulips and plum trees and pondered the foot of snow in my yard back home.
On our 800 km journey back home, we drove past lots of schools. I looked at those schools and had an epiphany. There are teachers working here. Why wait thirty years to move? Why not have the life we want to have NOW?
I returned home and had a chat with my husband. I sent out applications. He interviewed for a transfer in his government job. He had a few offers around the province that he turned down. I was called to an interview in Salmon Arm and subsequently accepted a position. Two days later he was offered a position in Salmon Arm, too. Serendipity and synchronicity. Two months later we were living in a beautiful community that actually had four seasons that appeared when they were supposed to on the calendar (instead of two seasons: ‘winter’ and ‘bugs’). That was twenty years ago.
I dreamed of being a writer, but thought that in my forties, it was too late to start. Then my school hosted the BC Book Prize tour, and I discovered that every author visiting us had written their first book after fifty.
I started writing just after Thanksgiving and the week before Easter I finished Grace Awakening. The week after the following Thanksgiving at the Surrey Writing Conference I pitched it to a small publisher, which subsequently offered me a contract. A dream come true.
This October was ten years after I pitched that first book. I was offered a table to sell my books at a signing event at the Surrey Writers Conference, alongside some of my author idols. I am working in my dream job, teaching English & Creative Writing in an amazing school in a beautiful place, WHILE writing books! It couldn’t be more perfect!
I still have a few years before retirement.
I have retirement plans. When I retire, I plan to write a lot more books, and visit schools to teach a lot more teens and adults how to bring their dream stories to life. I will travel and write and read. It will be awesome.
A year and a half ago, I received a brain injury. Out of no where, in my own home, BAM: Life changed.
Words swam on a page. I couldn’t decipher hand-writing. The computer screen hurt. Crowds hurt my ears. Lights hurt my eyes. I had head-aches and eye-aches. I was dizzy. I was nauseous. For MONTHS.
I told my doctor that he needed to figure out healing quickly, because I needed to go back to my dream job and keep working on my books! He said, “Shawn, you might be retired now.”
That scared me. The idea that I might enter retirement unable to read, unable to write, and unable to teach or travel was horrifying. What a bleak picture! On the bright side, I thought, at least I have been able to have this wonderful job, teaching teens to write, and to inspire them. At least, I have published nine books.
Thankfully, I had excellent concussion therapy and I have recovered enough from my brain injury to work part-time again. Despite my injury, 6 pieces were published last year. Some had been written years ago, some were short articles or stories that took me weeks instead of a day to write. Slow progress is still progress.
My injury wasn’t the end of my dreams, but it could have been.
Wouldn’t it have been horrible to have all my plans completely unreachable due to poor health? Wouldn’t it have been a hundred times worse if I had saved all my dreams for retirement, and not have the health to attempt them? I had two colleagues who were in good health when they retired, but were dead six months later.
If you have a dream, don’t wait for retirement.
We only have today.
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Diana Gabaldon once told us that she doesn’t believe in Writer’s Block; she thinks it’s more about Writer’s Inertia.
An object (writer) at rest remains at rest.
An object (writer) in motion (writing) remains moving (writing).
So what is the solution when you are writing and come up against a brick wall? Just because it feels like a block, doesn’t mean it is. You may need to give that project a rest from your conscious mind and let your subconscious work things out. To do that, you may need to distract your conscious mind a bit. You may not need to keep moving forward, so long as you keep moving.
Don’t fret about it or dig yourself into a quicksand state of mind when you’re really just walking on the beach. Yeah, it may be a bit of a workout, but it’s not killing you.
Here are 5 suggestions to deal with Writers’ Block:
1. Write something else.
Stuck with your novel? Write a short story, maybe in your novel world, maybe something completely different. Write a poem. Write an article. Writing is writing. You’re still making progress even if it’s not on your main project. If you step away, eventually you’ll see something from a distance that you missed while you were too close.
2. Put the problem that’s stymied you into your subconscious.
Before you go to bed, think about the issue you’re struggling to resolve. Consider each character and what the problem is, and often in the morning you will wake up with a solution.
3. Just write ANYTHING about those characters.
Ignore the main project and just play with your characters. Conduct an interview with your protagonist, your antagonist, a minor character or two. Write a letter to their grandmother, their fourth grade teacher, the kindergarten best friend, etc as a way into their psyche. Bonus! These sorts of things are awesome bonus material for your newsletter subscribers!
4. Pick up a Writing Thesaurus
These amazing resources by Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi are fantastic. Everything is at your fingertips! Go through the thesaurus, noting character traits that are relevant to the character you’re dealing with and consider how the traits could impact characters’ choices. (I use Emotional Wound Thesaurus. Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition. Negative Trait Thesaurus. Positive Trait Thesaurus) These seem to always give me lots of ideas to resolve whatever stalls me.
5. Timed write
Set the timer, start writing and don’t pause or overthink. Put words down for 10 minutes on anything relating to the characters, their living situation, their past choices, their wishes, their families, etc. Write out possible endings. Imagine a character telling their therapist about what’s frozen them and why they (their story) aren’t going forward. Free write in stream of consciousness. Usually something shakes loose and you’ll get some direction for your project. Oh- and if something comes to mind that you instantly think “NO! You can’t write THAT down!” that is ABSOLUTELY something you NEED to write down! THAT thing is probably the plug causing all your trouble. PULL THAT PLUG!! Write it down!
I think a sense that you’re ‘blocked’ is often your brain falling for the ‘this isn’t good enough’ lie and getting all caught up in getting something ‘right’ on the page. A first draft is about finishing, not about perfection, so tell that inner critic to shut up while you power through your crappy first draft, and promise to let the critic work out all the issues in the second draft, when you need a critical eye to get things cleaned up. You can’t edit a blank page. Even the worst writing can be fixed. Get writing!
Sometimes it’s okay to realize you don’t know where the story goes next. This is a common pantser problem! We write ourselves into corners and need some ingenuity to work our way out. Sometimes we need to erase the trail and go back a scene or two to change direction. Sometimes we just have to wait in our painted corner until the resolution appears (or the paint dries!). In the meantime, keep writing. When you’ve forgotten that troublesome piece, when you return to it, often the solution pops up as you re-read it! Time is a cure. Just work on something else while you let that project simmer. Simmering isn’t a block. Things taste better if they’ve simmered a while.
Enough clichés for you in this? 🙂
Go forth and write. You’ve got this.
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Here are my notes from Diana Gabaldon’s Managing a Mob workshop:
ten years ago
dream in pocket
learning to pitch a book
awed by everyone
Today, I pull a bin
to my own author table.
I am awed at everything.
It’s just ten years.
Same space I pitched!
ten books to spread
for this event.
My words searching for homes.
A blink of time
I just realized that this month is the 10th anniversary of my first writing conference. I bravely registered for one day of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, took my husband and our exchange student to Vancouver. While they spent a day exploring, I pitched my first book to the publisher who would eventually offer me a contract for it and had my first blue pencil with a professional author (Meg Tilley). Ten years later, I’ve been invited to sell at a Guest Author table, in the very same room I pitched in, and I will have ten books on my table to sell and sign. How astonishing. How quickly a decade passes! How amazing to see what happens when you take the risk!
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
How profound is this? And what a truth! Some of the most powerful literature is written for kids. It challenges thinking and shines a light on what the world is like, encouraging them to question the status quo and make changes to improve society.