Announcements for 2017

Suzanne will no longer be offering discounts for first-time clients as of 2017. She has now been with us for two years, and has built up a solid reputation as a whipsmart, savvy, and knowledgeable editor. We are considering offering genre-themed sales for a smaller discount at points during the year (possibly in the realm of mystery and LGBT manuscripts).

Due to her more recent promotion at her day job (now the store manager of an independent bookstore in Worcester, MA), Suzanne is currently tackling one round of copy edits every two weeks and developmental edits in one month. She is working to take on only one large project and one small project a month (one large novel and one short-story novella) until she can finally come back to working for us full-time, which she hopes will be one day very soon. You can follow her on Twitter for updates and publishing news, or on her own blog, An Andro Named Sue, where she writes about mental illness, folklore and paranormal studies, gender and sexuality, and the publishing community.

We are also working to keep a regularly updated page for Convention Appearances. Suzanne loves to go to conventions all around the North East coast. She is currently planning to attend Boskone, NECON, Readercon, and Howlercon. Last year she was given a place on a small panel discussing independent publishing, and is looking forward to getting more involved this year. You can also find her at events with Writer’s Coffehouse New England, run by River City Writers, as well write-ins with Worcester Writers Collaborative.

That’s all folks! Hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a great start, and we look forward to seeing all of your marvelous stories in the months to come.

Advertisements

Small House, Big Competition: the evolution of publishing as we know it

Before we begin the learning portion of today’s exercise, I would like to open with the following statements:

If you think e-readers are the downfall of civilization and the writing industry as we know it, turn back now.

If you think self-publishing is only for People Who Can’t Write, there’s the fucking door.

If you think getting published is a lot harder today, sit down, grab a cup of tea – we have a lot to discuss.

dis-gon-be-gud

For those of us new to the world of publishing, the grand scheme works something like this. You, the author, write things. You go out and find a literary agent, whose job is to help you make money from these things, because they don’t make money until you do. They try to find your book a home at a publisher. The publisher’s job is to make money, regardless of whether you do or not. The publisher then has to get a distributor to actually create your book and spread it amongst book stores, shopping centers, etc.

As a diagram, it would look something like this:

Author -> Agent -> Publisher -> Distributor -> THE WORLD (hopefully).

As with much of the world’s industry, the Powers That Be of Publishing are down to the Big Five. These guys have gobbled up most of the underdogs, including a major merger four years back of Penguin and Random House. Many of the presses you’ll see on books are imprints owned by one of these conglomerates. For example, Delacorte is a big name in young adult titles, and is part of Penguin Random House.

Due to this shift in the publishing industry and the rise of e-readers, I hear  authors complaining constantly at conventions and meet-ups that it is next to impossible to become published today.

Dylan eye roll

It is not impossible. It is harder to be published by a Big Five publisher, but Big Five is not the end all be all of traditional publishing.

What?! But in school, I was taught that there was only Big Publishing, evil Vanity Publishing run by Satan, and You’re Better Off Not Bothering Self Publishing.

I know – I was taught the very same thing. But I graduated in 2012. The world of publishing is a very different place today. Thanks in part to the challenges surrounding the Big Five of NYC, middle-sized, small-press, and independent publishing houses have risen up to take it upon themselves to change the face of publishing. These houses are unique in that they will often focus on the niche of your novel, such as sci-fi and fantasy publisher Angry Robot, or the young adult audience of Leapand of course, the godfather of independent US publishing: Kensington.

But how can a small or middle-sized house reach people like a Big Five can?

Easy – they use the same distributors as the big guys do. That means your book can still get into Barnes & Noble and everywhere else fine books are sold, without having to sacrifice a new born to get into a Big Five house. Not all major publishers have great promotional teams, and a big house does not mean a safer or better contract. (Seriously. Don’t sign the dotted line until you’ve read every square inch of it.) The key to selling a book well is not necessarily to get into a Big Five publishing house, but rather to have an excellent PR rep and a great distributor.

Now here’s the part where I ask of you, dear reader, to drink deep of this fine, indie publishing Koolaid and tell you one of two things.

First – you don’t need an agent to get into a small or mid-sized house. Many of them don’t require one. All you need to do is do the work of the agent yourself – that means going over your contract with a fine-tooth comb, and maybe contacting an author-friend or two before you sign anything.

Take a sip, and let that sink in.

Are you sitting? Have you tried the Koolaid? It’s actually herbal tea, but who needs the sugar really and all that fake coloring is just – I digress.

I’m going to tell you about a book. A very special book for many, many reasons. It’s a book I don’t order for my little book store through MacMillan or Edelweiss, aka the long arm of Penguin RH (brownie for you if you say Edelweiss with a heavy german accent). I have to go through Bookazine to get it because it’s published through an independent house. It’s gone again in three weeks or less, and I order them all over again like clockwork. Fabulous, profit increasing, indie bookstore supporting clockwork. The title is a middle-grade to young adult series called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The author is Ransom Riggs. The publisher is Quirk.

You don’t mean the new Tim Burton movie that’s coming out this summer!

Oh, I do.


Because of this one book, Quirk, who primarily doth not tread in younger audiences, is now taking on middle-grade and YA titles.

So before you give up on publishing that book, before you heave that big ol’ melodramatic anti-hero sigh and decide that maybe getting published traditionally just isn’t for you, consider all of your options first.

I sense a change in the Force dear reader, and it’s bad news for Big Five and fabulous news for the writer’s market. Because if stories like Miss Peregrine become A Thing, stories where books from non-NYC based houses are given their due diligence, Big Five publishers are going to have to change the way they do things.

I see a better world for writers, one where alternative presses and small/mid-size houses actively compete in the land of publishing.

Think I’m crazy?

Keep drinking the Koolaid, and talk to me when Miss Peregrine hits theaters.

cheers McFassy

Review: A Lovely, Indecent Departure by Steven Lee Gilbert

51LNWMb7gDLReview by Manda Disley

Anna Miller is a mother who is desperate to be with her young son, Oliver, and keep him safe. Unfortunately, her abusive ex-husband has primary custody of him and does everything he can to keep them apart. The court system has failed her, and on one of her days with Oliver she decides to take drastic measures – they flee the country to live in Italy, where Anna is from. A Lovely, Indecent Departure tells the sequence of events that follows this decision.

The book is written in third person and switches with each chapter between three characters: Anna, her ex-husband Evan, and Monroe, the town sheriff. Gilbert’s writing has a lot of promise; his sentences flow together easily and the overall writing style stays consistent through the book. One of the first things the reader will notice, however, is that the dialogue lacks any quotation marks. If this is a stylistic choice that the author has made, it’s not a very good one. There is a reason we use quotation marks to denote dialogue. Without it the book reads like endless prose, and endless prose can get quite tiresome. The lack of quotation marks also makes it difficult at times to tell what is and isn’t dialogue, while also making whatever is being said seem unimportant. Quotation marks are a type of punctuation, and punctuation tells us how significant something is – without it, the dialogue falls flat.

Another issue with the book is its wordiness. While some readers might enjoy the extra descriptions, this book has a lot of extraneous details that just aren’t important to the storyline. You could argue that these details add to mood of the book, but mostly they just take away from the actual plot.

The story itself is interesting, though; a great exploration into the tragic privates lives of this family. The characters are complex and read like real people. Although Anna technically kidnapped her son, seeing the situation through her eyes gives us the chance to recognize that she only did it out of love. We’re also get to be inside of Evan’s head, and it becomes very clear, very quickly that he is not the kind of man you would want to leave your child with. It’s hard for the reader to fault Anna for what she did, despite breaking the law.

Overall, the book could have used some work, including the addition of quotation marks, but it’s not a bad piece of fiction. Gilbert’s writing has a lot of potential and he writes characters very well. It will be interesting to see what he writes in the future.

Title: A Lovely, Indecent Departure

Author: Steven Lee Gilbert

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publication: Steven Lee Gilbert (March 23, 2012)

Price: $2.99 (e-book, all formats), $9.13 (paperback )

Author’s Website: http://stevenleegilbert.com/

An Introduction to our New Editor, Suzanne Lahna!

SUECROPSuzanne Lahna:  Suzanne has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Fitchburg State University, and has spent the past three years working as a technical writer for large and small businesses as well as medical practice, but her true love is fiction writing. She spent her formative years working as a copy editor for her college newspaper, interning at the Sentinel and Enterprise newspaper for the city of Fitchburg, as well as assisting students with all manners of scholastic essays as a writing associate. Her preferred genres are Urban Fantasy,Fantasy, Horror, Suspense, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, andDystopian Fiction.  Her e-mail address is suelahna@gmail.com.

When did you get your start with writing?

Writing got in my blood at a young age, and it’s a passion and obsession which has never let up. I first started when I was nine, and I’ve never really stopped. Many of my public-school years were spent getting lectured for working on my novels in class, instead of doing my homework. By thirteen, I had a 485-page high fantasy novel written. By eighteen, I’d finished the fifth draft of an urban fantasy novel which I’m still reworking today. In college I would jot down story ideas in class and write in the small hours of the morning and just before bed.

There’s nothing more thrilling for me than the process of story development, fostering these ideas and watching them come to life. There’s something magical about the whole process; how a single idea becomes thousands of words, characters and worlds, and sometimes entire new universes of existence. In the time I spent writing and talking with other writers, I developed a knack for improving my own work and others’—from cleaning up sentences to plot and character development. I had no idea that this was what an editor did until my undergrad years.

When did you first decide to become an editor?

I’ve wanted to be an editor since I was nineteen years old. I’ll never forget the look my college advisor gave me when I told him I wanted to switch my concentration from Literature to Professional Writing. He blinked at me over his desk and grinned through his massive ginger beard. “But Suzanne, you don’t have any interest in journalism!” And it was true, I didn’t. I still don’t, despite working and interning in that line of work. But I sat down, looked my mentor in the eye, and told him simply, “No, but I want to be an editor.”

What jobs have you worked since then that lead you to your new home at Word Vagabond?

Well, that day was six years ago. Since then, I have worked and interned in a slew of jobs, from the boring and technical to the truly bizarre. In college, I was picked to be a Writing Associate, assisting students with papers, and worked at the only place a beginning editor can—my college newspaper.

I went on to intern at the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, which taught me more about politics than actual editorial work. I came in second place in a campus-wide writing contest, losing the title and trophy by just one vote. I’ve had my work featured in the Fitchburg State University literary magazine, known as Route 2, and I’ve published a snippet of my main, pet-project novel in an online magazine called Strokes.

I worked at a printing press for a while to pay the bills, and I’ve written content for websites of all shapes and sizes, from medical practices to exotic dancers. I signed up for an oDesk and took any editing job that would have me, which included children’s fantasy stories. Then one day during a usual chat about the boredom of my work, I asked Alexis if she needed any extra help with work. This lead to a quick proofread, which became the job interview that brought me here.

What can clients anticipate when working with you?

You can anticipate a passionate and dedicated wordsmith who truly wants nothing more than to help you bring your ideas to life. From bouncing ideas around to cleaning up a troublesome piece of prose, I look forward to it all, and it’s that excitement that has always helped my clients to think in ways that often surprise themselves. Whether you’re having issues with pacing or simply need your manuscript proofread before you send it out into the world, I will be there with you every step of the way to bring your stories to life with you.

Review: Overcast by Ryan O’Riordan

Review by Manda Disley

OvercastWhen Rebecca Conner loses her brother, presumed dead, in a surfing accident, her family moves back to their hometown and they must learn how to continue their life. Rebecca copes by creating an elaborate made-up world inside her head where her brother is still alive and they are working together to take down a well-known crime lord. Her world is filled with guns, high tech devices, and secrets. She maintains her fantasy world for three years, and that’s when things begin to change—the people she’s been conjuring up in her head are starting to appear in real life.

The premise of this book sounds more interesting than it actually is. For the first few pages, things are okay, but it quickly goes downhill after that. The story is told in third person through Rebecca’s head, but her character is flat and so are all the characters surrounding her. Teenage girls are certainly hard to write, especially if you’ve never been one, but Rebecca reads like a stereotypical background character on a television show geared towards teenage boys. She has no defining characteristics and little to no believable emotions. As a reader you feel no connection to her and are not given any reason to care about her or her story.

On top of this, the writing is not great. The grammar was a nightmare to navigate, so if you are the kind of person who is picky about that kind of thing, steer clear. The descriptions of things were also very messy; they were either too vague or made no sense. Rebecca seems to jump to a lot of strange conclusions about things with no evidence to support them, which is frustrating to read. The setting was also unclear. We know that Rebecca’s family moves back to Matlock after the accident, but it wasn’t until I was halfway done with the book that I realized it was set in England. That is a major writing flaw.

When it comes down to it, this book could have used a lot more help in the editing process. The plot is interesting but incredibly weak, and the writing needs a lot of work. You kind of get the sense that the author may not actually read that much, which is disappointing as reading is one of the best ways to learn to write. There is a second book to go with this one; I will not be reading it.

Title: Overcast

Author: Ryan O’Riordan

Genre: YA Adventure/Mystery

Publication: Hook Books, November 11, 2011

Price: $0.99 (Kindle)

Author’s Website: http://ryanoriordan.com/

REVIEW: Funeral with a View by Matt Schiariti

funeral with a view“Thirty-two-year-old Richard Franchitti didn’t believe in love at first sight until he met free-spirited Catherine and started a brand new life. A devoted father and husband, Richard fought to keep his family together when it would have been easier to walk away.

Tragedy left him with unfinished business.

Now a disembodied spirit, Richard relives his most important days. From the beginnings of unconditional love, to the joy of his daughter’s birth, and all of the difficult times in between, each treasured moment brings him closer to answering the question: ‘Why am I still here?’

He was born Richard Franchitti, but his friends call him Ricky. Welcome to his funeral.” –Amazon.com

As I read the opening scene of Funeral with a View, I braced myself for a depressing read. After all, it’s hard to expect a happy ending when the main character starts off the book by dying. But Matt Schiariti’s second full-length novel surprised me by being both less gloomy and more heart-wrenching than I expected.

Ricky and Cat are ordinary people, and their story is an ordinary one, with a few twists. What makes it extraordinary is the way it’s told. Ricky is the narrator of his own story, from beyond the grave—or, to be more accurate, slightly above it. The chapters switch between scenes of Ricky observing his own viewing and graveside service and extended flashbacks of the years before his untimely death-by-beer-truck. Schiariti ties each flashback into the current events in such a way that the story flows smoothly: past and present each inform the other, adding emotional depth to the story as a whole.

Another distinguishing feature of the narrative is Ricky’s voice. Even when he’s observing the events taking place rather than participating in them, it’s impossible to mistake him for some nondescript voice-over; his individuality comes through in unique speech patterns, expressions, and metaphors that both fit the character and enrich our view of him.

By the end of the book I was invested, engrossed, and, as Schiariti no doubt intended, a bit wrecked. The story did manage to end on a slightly uplifting, even hopeful note, which somehow made it all the more gutting. In the hands of another author, this tale might have fallen tragically flat—in Schiariti’s, it’s one that I’ll no doubt pick up again the next time I need a cathartic cry.

Title: Funeral with a View
Author: Matt Schiariti
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Price: $3.99 (Kindle)
Author’s Website: http://mattschiariti.blogspot.com/