Publishing Tips: What Are Indie Publishers? Part 1

Publishing Tips: 

What Are Indie 
Publishers? (Part 1)

Recently, I went on Twitter and posed a question about indie publishers to the #WritingCommunity which is made up of aspiring, self-published, and traditionally published writers. As we are a procrastinating bunch, playing online instead of writing, responses are usually immediate. However, my question of "What is your perception of indie publishers?" met with resounding crickets (even after a retweet). I see all these aspiring authors stressing out about trying to query agents and wondered through this silence if they believe it is the only way. In the beginning, I did. I though it was agent or self publishing, but there is something wonderfully in between: indie pubs.

So let's tackle this elusive "indie" term. Most people heard the term "indie" applied to actors who work for small, independent film companies, or authors who represent the self-published industry. But what is an indie publisher? When we apply the term to them it is kind of self-explanatory: they are independent publishers. But what does that really mean? It means they are not part of those huge publishing powerhouses--Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. That's them, a whopping five, the Big 5 as they're often referred to. Note, the Big 5 have sub-presses and imprints that are part of their conglomeration under different names which does make it seem like there are more large publishers out there. To crack into these puppies, you usually do need that agent. This is the big leagues, most authors' dream. But if you are new to the scene, should you "Go big or go home"? Or should you take a more humble, more likely successful approach?

Every other legitimate publisher and press outside these Big 5, excluding vanity or a self-published labels, is considered an indie publisher. That is a lot. I'm having trouble finding a current stat on how many there are, but I think that's because they are cropping up like mad every day and the statistic is ever-changing. Most sources say they're too hard to measure but most likely tens of thousands. One source boasts there are 100,000 publishers in the US, only a small portion of those being the Big 5 and their imprints.

Hold up though. Stats like this skew things, making it sound like getting published should be easy, unless we look at them in perspective. The Big 5 put out loads of books, small presses put out few but there are more of them. When it comes to small presses, most do not represent all genres, but usually have a focus, or if they do it all, they must be highly selective. Most indie presses only put out a book or two a month. So finding your exact genre limits this list a little as does the amount books they take. What the stats do prove, if we assume about 50 of these 100,000 belong to the Big 5, is that indie publishers have become popular. And the great thing is they are a perfect in between for aspiring authors, not the big leagues, not self publishing.

I have two books on my roster and a novella, all through these indie presses. I'm glad I went this route and do not think I'm ready for the big leagues at this stage, nor do I want to be. I see many advantages of small presses over "going big," the main one of actually being published. Stay tuned. In a few weeks, I'll take a closer look at indie presses.

YA Book Review: Red Queen

YA Book Review: 
Red Queen

Red Queen is a nail-biting tale of intrigue, mystery, and betrayals. Amazingly written, Victoria Aveyard spins an exciting tale of fabulous characters in a world so different, yet so very like our own.

Red Queen follows the happenstance journey of Mare Barrow, a poor red-blooded thief, from the Stilts where she fears conscription (draft for the army) to the palace of silver-blooded nobility where she must playact to survive and betrayals are a given. In a world divided by blood--Reds are mere human, while Silvers are like supernatural gods--Mare has no place. She is not all she seems to be but bleeds red with powers of a Silver. To hide this "flaw," she is forced into a fabricated role of a lost noble and engaged to one prince (Maven) while battling feelings over the other prince who got her into this predicament (Cal). Throughout all this, the Reds are rising in a rebellion that will forever change the land as they know it, a good thing for the suppressed Reds but not necessary Mare who is walking on a tightrope and at any moment could plummet to her death.

The world building of the land Norta is exquisite as a universal dystopian future land that we could imagine is our very own in hundreds or thousands of years from now. The characters are well-developed, believable, and Cal is simply irresistible, in the quiet, stoic, manly, Byronic hero way. Maven is well-rounded, interesting, with the boy-next-door looks, and lovable, puppy-dog adorable personality. The plot itself is intriguing with twists and turns, but with enough clues hidden in for things to not be overtly surprising. What was interesting was the author's attention to minor character's personalities and how they all come to be intricate parts of the plot. It is a complex read, but never hard to follow. In short, it has the best plot and characters in a book that I have read in a while.

The chink in the Red Queen's armor is the Red Queen herself. Perhaps it is a personal preference, but I neither liked nor sympathized with Mare. She uses people and then is upset when they do the same to her. Then she admits she deserves it, but repeats the behavior. She is selfish, not thankful, and unkind, and I think we are to believe this is justified because she's had a hard life, but I can't quite buy into that. I'm hoping this is the beginning of a character arc, but I found myself rooting for other characters and quite apathetic to her situation.

Another problem is I thought this was a dystopian romance, meaning they usually have some moments of romance and flutters of hope. From beginning to end, it has that depressingly hopeless tone that some dystopian novels bear. Personally, I need some hope. The romance is hardly there. It starts, but there are very awkward cuts right after kisses. I felt like I was robbed of the characters' reaction to the kiss. They kiss, then literally it cuts to another scene in the next sentence (or even moves to the next chapter). No words of admission, no one interrupting, no explanation of how they parted or looked or even felt. Strange and unsatisfying.

Overall, despite the lack of romance and likability of the protagonist/narrator, the plot and world that Aveyard builds makes the book worth the read, with an addictive, nail-biting ending that makes you want, no need more.

Stay tuned as I fulfill my craving with the next book.

This book can be purchased here.

Tales in Publishing: The Dreaded Pitch

Tales in Publishing: 
The Dreaded Pitch

When you talk to authors, it seems like there's something they dread most: writing any kind of synopsis. A synopsis is difficult. How do you condense an entire book into a paragraph effectively? The thing they seem to hate as much as synopsis crafting is the pitch. If you think condensing a full-length book to a paragraph is hard, trying condensing it down to a sentence.
What is a pitch? In writing, an elevator pitch is a very short blurb, usually a sentence or two that answers an important question: what is your book about? It must capture the premise, give us a feel for the novel such as main characters, point of view, genre--whatever the most important and obvious selling point of the novel hinges on. The pitch is intended to sell your book in a very short span. They can be used at conferences where agents will give you one minute to sell them your book, the beginning of query letters as a hook to get the agent reading, on online pitch days where agents favorite pitches to ask for queries, or in the advertising for the book.

Writing a sentence sounds easy, but when asked the infamous "What is your book about?" question, usually a writer needs a few minutes--a couple paragraphs--merely to give the story justice. It is difficult to cut it down, but here are some tips, followed by a model of a pitch that worked for me (meaning the pitch itself led to a query request, manuscript request, and then representation).
  1. Write the query synopsis before the pitch. Trying to boil down 200 hundred pages to a paragraph is hard, but condensing down a paragraph to a sentence is much easier. I honestly don't have an issue getting the plot down to a sentence if I do it in this order. 
  2. Word choice is everything. I make a limit, such as 40 words or 200 characters. If you plan to use this pitch for a Twitter pitch day, it'll have to be even shorter. First, avoid wordiness; a lot of the time we use too many words to get an idea across that a simple vocabulary word could replace. I spend the most time on this stage. I spend about five minutes a day trying to cut, replace, and pick succinct words. 
  3. Pick enticing, "selling" words, words that make someone want to buy it. This is sometimes hard for writers because we're better at crafting than selling. One way to sell is through hooks, a short provocative statement or question that engages the reader, or some authors compare their book to well known novels.
  4. Do not write it in a day. Come back with fresh eyes each time and repeat the cutting and replacing of words.
  5. Create three of them. Two reasons--practice makes you perfect and you might need three if you get to pitch to someone more than once. How embarrassing would it be if asked to pitch more than once and you simply repeat yourself or scramble around trying to quickly craft another one? Having three will also help because one will end up shining through as the best.
Right, so all good advice, but if you never saw one, what do they look like? Here's one of my pitches.

What happens if bees go extinct? In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind.

Certain key things to look at here. The hook is a question that shows the complication of the novel, as well as an eco-fiction genre since the honey bee is endangered. "Not so distant future" shows the relevance of this issue and hints to a dystopian genre--it's a real-world, pressing concern. "Scientifically modified" points out a sci-fi theme and that the characters are different. The rest of that statement gives the premise: because of who they are they can save the world, but also could mess up and kill us all. It hinges on their "tenuous relationship," which shows us another complication and that the book is a romance novel. So in total, I was able to get in the two conflicts, two main characters, a little about the world, and most genres and themes (YA is missing but was elsewhere--in a hashtag or followed after in my query letter). 

I have many more pitch examples and will release them once these books are safely under copyright. But if you are interested in purchasing this novel, you can buy it here.

YA Book Review: Starstruck

YA Book Review: 

Starstruck, by Brenda Hiatt, struck me as interesting with its stellar plot and premise and character development. But I just couldn't fully board the series' ship due to the eye-rolling-weak female protagonist that never grows from her experiences.

The story starts off with Marsha Truitt (known as M), the pimply, bespectacled, insecure nerd of the school lusting after the new drop-dead gorgeous, quarterback Rigel Stuart. Although Rigel seems out of her league and her nemesis/bully Trina has set her cap on him, Rigel chooses M. To both of their surprise, their connection is electric--literally. This bond they form, her sight suddenly becoming 20/20, and her acne clearing up, not mention how they accidentally zap a bully, all make M press him for answers. Those answers are way too difficult to swallow, though, since he professes to be a martian and then drops the bombshell that she's the martian princess. It takes some convincing but once she's on board, she realizes that a martian princess has a lot of enemies and a duty to her people who are on Earth and Mars. Waiting for impending doom is not M's style, so she decides to take her fate into her own hands even though it could get her and Rigel killed.

I loved the premise and the overall story, but were two cons for me. First, there is a bunch of info dropping. Even though the author took strides to divide up conversations where the characters unload the truth onto M, it was overloaded with details. Second, I despised M, the narrator. She begins out super insecure with an inferiority complex and I held on hoping for a character arc, but it wasn't enough for me. Aside from standing up to bullies a bit, she still has thoughts that make a reader roll her eyes. This insecurity may ring true for some teens, but I don't think this allows the novel to cross over to adults nor is the level of inferiority healthy for young precocious readers. To paraphrase, M constantly thinks thoughts such as how she doesn't deserve him, he can't possibly love someone like her, how she cannot live without him, believes herself pathetic, and even when he hurts her she forgives him easily. Being a fan of confident, strong heroines (or ones that start weak and self-conscious but change), this was not my cup of tea.

However, the book does have many redeeming qualities. The premise of martians--humans living underground on Mars enhanced by an alien species--was unique and refreshing. The sub-characters were well-developed and Rigel is gaga gorgeous and actually overall a sweet, wholesome guy (who is realistically fallible, he does mess up). Even M does have some amiable qualities. She doesn't get revenge on her bullies or wish ill will towards them, nor does she allow herself to get sucked into the popularity bandwagon.

Overall, I was content with the book, especially because it was free on Amazon, due to the premise and plot being interesting, and the characters well-developed. I just really wanted to see M's self-esteem improve by the end of the book. Let's hope book two has M grow into a more role model worthy character.

I suggest getting this anthology which I downloaded for free off Amazon so you can give this one a chance as well as six other novels I'm reviewing.

Buy Spark Anthology here


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...