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.

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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

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.