Posts Tagged 'Fiction'

A Primer on Types of Books

As I was clearing out my personal library, the variety of books I owned became abundantly clear. I thought about how many people are writing books, maybe even publishing their books by themselves or using a service, and decided to give you a primer so you can make good decisions along the way when you work with your book professionals.

  • Fiction books are easiest to design because they are straight text.
  • Non-fiction books include any of these elements:  different levels of headers, charts, references, photos, illustrations, and quotes. The designer has more work, as does the editor and proofreader, than with fiction.
  • Memoir books typically use shorter chapters, lots of photos, and perhaps copies of materials such as letters or clippings. Again, these are more work for your designer than fiction. Your editor may challenge the clarity of the writing, too, since you know the subject matter so well.
  • Children’s books involve getting appropriate illustrations, placing the text strategically in relation to the illustrations, and using lots of color. Of course, children’s books are also age sensitive.
  • Gift books range from basic to ornate, from inexpensive to expensive, and often use special treatments in publishing that your designer needs to consider when doing the design.
  • Art books can be color intensive or black and white, depending on the art. The paper used in printing art books is also critical to creating a beautiful art book.
  • Educational books use various types of text, sidebars, exercises, application suggestions, and graphic elements such as tables, figures, etc. Sometimes photos are used to underscore a learning point.
  • Scholarly works require several levels of headers, citations within the text, and footnotes or endnotes.

Use this short primer to help you find the right designer for your book if you self-publish. If you work with a publisher, you’ll be better equipped to work with the publisher’s designer. But, beware templates and make sure you’re getting the right design for your book.

Happy writing!



How NOT to Approach a Publisher

Most of the time new authors approach our publishing company via email asking what we’d like to see from them. They’ve been to our website,, and they’ve made a decision to submit their work to us for consideration. We offer feedback on the first chapter of their manuscript at no charge so we can see if their book is something we want our name as publisher associated with, and they can see if they like the way we edit. It’s a win-win.

This week the phone rang and I answered it and young man asked, “Do you publish books?” Although I was thinking “DUH,” I responded in the affirmative and asked him what his book is about.

He responded that he’s a very talented writer and that he writes everything but right now he’s looking to get his novel published.  He continued, “Are you a sales publisher?”

I told him we were an equity publisher and that  I wasn’t familiar with the term sales publisher. I asked what he  meant.

“I mean, do you pay writers, ‘cuz I don’t wanna pay nobody. My stuff’s too good and I’m gonna make millions on my book.”

You can probably see where this is going. I get a couple of these calls every week. Authors imagine themselves as the next Stephen King, Joel Osteen, J.K. Rowling, etc. They’ve heard about the success of these authors’ books and believe they can do it too. Well, they can, but they’ll have to work harder than they ever imagined to make it happen.

Back to the phone call.

I told the budding author that he could indeed sell his novel to a publisher, but he’d most likely need a literary agent to do it. Since literary agents don’t make money unless they sell an author’s work, getting a good agent to represent you is almost harder than finding a publisher. One of the best ways to get an agent is to have another author connect you to his/her agent.

I asked him, “What are you doing to connect with other authors? Do you go to writers conferences? Do you belong to a writers group?”

He sounded a bit deflated and in a low voice said no.

I suggested he get the latest Writers Market and look for publishers who accept unagented fiction submissions.

He had an old Writers Market and thought he’d use that. I suggested he get a current one, but left that up to him.

He thanked me and the conversation was over.

What was wrong with how he approached this publisher?

  • He hadn’t done his homework regarding the publisher.
  • He didn’t have the basic terms mastered (sales publisher versus royalty publisher).
  • He hadn’t researched the book publishing business to see how it works.
  • He used bad grammar.
  • He wasn’t current in his research regarding customers (aka publishers) he was trying to sell his writing to.
  • He wasn’t connected to a writing community in any way.

I could go on, but you get the idea. When you decide to approach a publisher, make sure you’ve done your homework about the publisher and what they publish. Know (or connect with them to find out) what they want to see. Submit your proposal according to their instructions so you don’t give them an immediate reason to discard your submission. Publishers are bombarded with submissions, so don’t make it easy for them to say no to you.

Happy writing!

So You Want to Write A Story

Here at Expert Publishing, we often get calls from authors who’ve written fiction and are looking for a publisher.

We have published fiction under our imprint et al. Publishing, but we have to absolutely love the story to publish it. Why? Because people don’t purchase fiction the way they purchase nonfiction.

If you don’t believe me, make a visual study of your big chain bookstore. Estimate what percentage of that expensive real estate is dedicated to fiction and what percentage to nonfiction. They use the majority of their precious shelf space to hold what sells–nonfiction.

Another test is your own behavior when someone asks to borrow a novel you’ve read versus a nonfiction book you’ve read. You probably don’t hesitate to pass along the novel, but tend to not let go of the nonfiction book. Every book you pass along is a book that doesn’t earn money for the author.

Still, authors are in love with the idea of writing fiction, so here’s a tip on where to start.

Start with what you’re interested in–it could be a place, it could be a character, or it could be an incident. All are equally good places to begin.

Remember those old open-ended journalist questions from high school English class? Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Once you’ve decided your starting point for your story, brush off those open-ended questions and challenge yourself. Be sure you journal your answers so you don’t forget them.

  • What is the story about?
  • Who is the story about?
  • Why are the characters in the story (their purpose should always be to further the story along)?
  • Where does the story occur (setting)?
  • When does the story occur (time)?
  • How can the story be told best (first person point of view, third person)?

Now that you know writing fiction isn’t your best option for making money, if you still want to do it, there’s nothing stopping you from getting started. Happy writing!

Conversation or Dialogue?

There’s a good chance you’ll incorporate dialogue into your writing at some point. Unfortunately, writing dialogue requires good writing skill, for it is one of the most difficult challenges any writer faces. Perhaps that’s because writers don’t distinquish between conversation and dialogue.

Conversation is the way people talk (not very dramatic). Here’s an example of conversation:

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“Not much.”

Here’s an example of dialogue:

“Any great plans for the weekend?”

“Not unless you call babysitting my neighbor’s dog great.”

What’s the difference between the two examples? Conversation is boring, exchanges information. Dialogue is dramatic, leaves an opening to further the story.

So, what does it take to write good dialogue? You need

  • the voice to be specific to the character (so the reader knows who’s speaking without a tagline),
  • the setting surrounding the dialogue,
  • some tension or conflict embedded in what’s said,
  • the dialogue should further the story, so may offer some foreshadowing,
  • another tool that works in furthering the story is explanation, so the dialogue could explain something that wouldn’t otherwise be known.

Practice writing dialogue to show character traits you can’t physically describe–maybe your character is cynical or maybe your character is gullible, for example.

Make sure you have a reason for every piece of dialogue you include in your writing. If there’s no reason for the exchange between two characters, don’t write it.

At the risk of too much repetition, I’ll finish with this. If the dialogue doesn’t move the story forward, don’t include it–period. Happy writing.

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

This week Harry and I had the opportunity to make a presentation on authorship and book publishing to a group of public speaking apprentices–people exploring the career of public speaking.

One question we got was about what types of books sell.

My initial response was business, self-help, and inspirational books (the three categories we publish at Expert Publishing}. But I also acknowledged people like to read fiction and we’ve published two young adult historical novels under our imprint, et al. Publishing.

Why don’t we publish more fiction? The answer comes more clear if you think about your own personal library. You populate your library with both fiction and nonfiction books, I’m sure.

What happens when you finish a novel and tell someone how good it is? Often they ask to borrow it (or you offer to lend it to them). Either way, that’s a book that doesn’t get sold! Neither the author nor the publisher (nor the bookstore) receive any income for that book.

On the other hand, what tends to happen when someone asks to borrow your nonfiction book? If you lend it at all, you do so reluctantly. There’s a much better chance the other person will purchase their own copy or you’ll purchase a copy to give to them for their birthday or Christmas or some other occasion. Well, that’s another book sold and the author receives some sort of payment (royalty or profit, depending on how the author was published).

Another quick way to determine what sells is to look carefully around the big bookstores. They pay a lot of money for that real estate and they stock it with merchandise they think will sell. They want their shelves to hold merchandise that moves, not to serve as storage space.

What percentage of the books in the big bookstores is fiction? Nonfiction? Without doing a scientific study or taking an actual inventory, I’ll bet the percentage is somewhere around twenty percent fiction and eighty percent nonfiction. You’ve got memoir, cookbooks, popular reference, religion, hobbies, computer, and, of course, there are business, self-help, and inspirational books too.

Yes, you’ve got genre fiction (mystery, romance, sci-fi, western, etc.), and literary fiction, but most of the shelf space (that hold the titles with the longest staying power) contain nonfiction books.

Publishing is business, so as you think about what type of book to write, think about writing books that sell.