VANITY PRESSES: What they are and what they do

vanity presses

Vanity presses.  This is an interesting topic I’ve come across many, many times.  I’ve talked with a lot of people about it and have had some experience encountering these types of companies.  Often times aspiring writers don’t know the difference between a real publishing house (or print on demand service) and a vanity press.  So I’m going to break it down for you.

How do I know whether it’s a vanity press? In other words, what is it?

First off, how do you know when you encounter a vanity press?  It’s pretty simple.  If the company is asking for money – and I mean a large sum, not just a few bucks to pay for an ISBN – it’s a vanity press.

A vanity press is, in short, a company that acts as a publisher but charges you (the author) a large amount of money to do this for you.  I’m talking anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.  The packages vary.  To give them credit, they do take care of editing, producing, cover designing, and marketing, but in a very limited way.  Basically they do all these things that you as an author are perfectly capable of doing with a little bit of research.

A vanity press is not a publisher.

A vanity press is not really a publisher.  They do all those things that publishers do (editing, marketing etc.) but in a much more limited way than an actual publisher can do them.  And a real publisher will pay their authors, not the other way around.

A vanity press may seem like a nice and easy way to publish your book, but ultimately it’s not a good moneymaker at all.  Think of it.  How many successful authors have you heard of that have started with vanity presses?  Self-published, sure, but not many successful vanity press authors are out there.

A vanity press is not a print on demand service.

Some writers lump vanity presses and self-publishing in the same category when in reality that’s a little bit too broad of a statement.  Self-publishers do all those things on their own and they don’t spend thousands of dollars upfront on a company to do it for them.  A print on demand service, such as Lulu, Createspace, or LighteningSource charge limited fees that only apply to things that would logically cost money.  For instance, many authors are required to buy their own ISBN number depending on what they want.  Also, if an author wants to buy copies of their books, it’ll cost them a few bucks a piece.  That’s about it, aside from outside marketing costs once the book is published.  A print on demand service is a much cheaper and smarter way to self-publish a novel.

So basically, I personally don’t think that vanity presses are ever a good option.  I can see in some instances where it would make sense – maybe printing a few hundred books for a more limited and personal use without necessarily wanting to make money.

Overall, if you’re a serious writer wanting to make a career, don’t fall into the vanity press trap.  And they do try to trap you. 😉 Early on in my career I had an offer from a vanity press.  The contract and letter sounded so great and wonderful and they praised my book to the end of the earth and back.  But at the end of the day, there was still that two thousand dollar sum that needed to be paid.  So I passed.  And good thing, too.

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COVER LOVER: June

So I’m trying out this new monthly segment thing where I highlight my top five favorite new release covers in YA.  Whew.  That was a mouthful.  So anywho, I rifled through the lovely covers of this month’s new releases so go check out the beauty below!  And aside from the lovely covers, they actually look like some pretty stellar reads.

5. Joyride by Anna Banks

I really like the faded font and the people lying in the back of the pickup truck.  It’s simple and small-townsy which I think is super cute.

joyride anna banks

4. Love, Fortunes, and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius.

Just look at the cute little people in love!  I’m also a sucker for really beautifully illustrated covers.  That’s my obsession at the moment.

love fortunes

3. Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca.

Yellow’s my favorite color so it doesn’t hurt that the car is a sunny mustard. 😉  The typography’s great too.

last years mistake

2. Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat.

I was just saying how much I LOVE cutesy cover illustrations, and this one’s just gorgeous.  And the colors!  Aah!

between the notes

1. Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout.

Um, hello, I love this cover.  The people on the front look adorable and all the little illustrations and the colors and the details…just…oh my gosh!

hello i love you

So yeah, there it is.  My five favorite YA covers for the month of June!  I noticed a lot of contemporaries which isn’t too unusual for June (I mean, summer is the time for all those lovely contempts!)  Maybe I’ll get around to actually reading some of these. 😉

7 Things to Know Before Publishing Your Novel

photo provided by nuttakit at freedigitalphotos.com

photo provided by nuttakit at freedigitalphotos.com

I’ve found that during my author interviews one of the most common questions I get asked is if I have any advice for aspiring authors.  And I do!  A lot, actually.  So I thought I’d put together a list of some things I wish I’d known before taking the leap into the publishing pool.

1. You won’t make a lot of money.

Weirdly, a lot of people assume that being an author is a get-rich-quick kind of job.  Sorry to disappoint you if you’re one of those unfortunately misinformed people, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It’s a sad reality but it’s incredibly rare for an author to make enough money to live off of their book sales.  Sure, you hear of authors like J. K. Rowling and James Patterson making millions off their books, but they are some of the few exceptions.  Just don’t be disappointed if your book doesn’t sell and you don’t immediately start raking in the cash.

2. You have to market your own book.

Ugh. I know. Marketing kind of sucks.  Unfortunately, publishers don’t do a whole lot for you unless you’re (gasp!) J. K. Rowling or James Patterson.  Marketing is a task that’s often times left up to the author.  And if you’re self-published, it’s completely and utterly your responsibility.  You have to learn how to do it yourself and do it well.  It can be a daunting task but don’t be discouraged.  Now you know and can start preparing!

3. It’s hard to get noticed

This was a hard one for me.  I assumed (like many first time authors) that my books would immediately get picked up and tons of people would be reading and loving them.  Nope.  It’s hard work.  This is where the marketing comes in.  You have to market your heart out and hope, hope, hope that your book will eventually get noticed.  I’ve had books that sat around for ages before even one single sale.  So again, don’t be discouraged, just keep plugging away.

4. You won’t always get nice reviews.

Oh yes, those nasty little one star reviews.  You’ll get some.  It won’t all be praise and worship from your readers.  There will always be a reader or two who won’t like your book.  In fact, there might be a lot of people who don’t like it.  Just remember to develop a thick skin soon and DO NOT reread those pesky one stars over and over again until you’ve drowned in a puddle of tears.  Believe me, I’ve done it and it got me nowhere.

5. Friends and family will be impressed but also skeptical.

I hate telling friends/family/acquaintances about my books.  I avoid it at all costs.  From my experience, people are either really excited and want some free copies (I WISH I had access to free copies) or hand me patronizing compliments and ask me skeptically how much money I’ve made.  Seriously.  I’ve lost count of how many people have asked me how much money I make.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of family members and friends who are utterly supportive and amazing, but don’t automatically expect everyone you know to run out and buy a copy of your book.  It just doesn’t happen.  And don’t be offended if they don’t.  Not everyone is a reader.

6. Everything in publishing moves at a glacial pace.

This is more for the aspiring traditionally published authors out there.  If you choose to self-publish things can go as quickly or slowly as you want.  When it comes to publishing houses, on the other hand, things are about as fast as a turtle strolling through mud.  I don’t know why this is.  I really don’t.  The average amount of time between the signing of a contract and the actual release of a book is about one year.  An entire year.  So just be ready for that kind of time commitment.  It’s very, very slow, but also very worth it.

7. You’ll have fun!

Please don’t let any of the above tidbits scare you off.  Publishing your book is fun!  It can be scary and daunting and a lot of hard work, but it’s so completely worth it.  My biggest piece of advice to you is to just sit back and have some fun.  Interact with your readers, find marketing strategies that are enjoyable, and absolutely keep on writing.

YA SHAMING – why it’s so destructive

ya shaming blog

Alright.  There’s been something that’s been on my mind for a while now and I think now is the time to get it out.  That something is the concept of genre shaming.  To be more specific, I’m going to be talking about YA (young adult genre) shaming.

Now this might be solely from the fact that I’m growing older.  I’ve been reading young adult novels since I was eight and I’d never heard any comments about its value or place in literature.  But now that I’m almost in my twenties, I’m beginning to see the strange looks and comments thrown my way when I mention Divergent or The Hunger Games.  This year was my first year away at a university and being an English major I find myself constantly in the company of English professors and other English majors.  All those things combined leaves me in many situations where the YA genre is made fun of and looked down on.  I find myself in situations where I’m struggling to remember good classic books I’ve read to hold up as my “favorite book” when in reality those aren’t my favorites at all.  I love YA.  I love other things too, don’t get me wrong, but YA is what I love to read and therefore what I love to write.

Unfortunately, I see this genre attacked over and over again.  YA books are often discussed as complete trash and an utter waste of time.  Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent – these are all held up as the perfect example of what not to write.  In my English classes we are encouraged to become writers, to make a living, to do what we love, but God forbid we ever write something as trashy and horrific as The Twilight Saga.

I’ve put up with this for a little while now and to be honest, I’m starting to get sick and tired of it.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re all allowed our opinions and those are wonderful things, but this concept of genre shaming has gotten a little out of hand.

How is YA less than other literature?

First of all, how is YA less than other literature?  Seriously?  Sure we can hold up a copy of Gone With the Wind and compare it to Twilight chapter by chapter and come out at the end with the conclusion that Gone With the Wind may be the better piece of literature.  But by whose standards?  Honestly – and this may be blasphemous for me to say as an English major – I’m going to have a heck of a better time sitting down and reading about Bella’s romance with Edward than I’m going to have watching Scarlett screw up her life.

Stephanie Meyer wrote a novel that countless people have read and she made a fortune off of it.  She’s wealthy because of her books.  So how can someone call Twilight “bad literature?”  What are we basing this definition off of?

It comes down to opinion.  Sure there are books that have stood the test of time and continue to be read over and over again, but we’re not talking about specific books.  We’re talking about a genre.  A genre that is attacked again and again for being stupid, unrealistic, and trashy.  YA is one of the top selling genres in publishing today.  I don’t know about you, but if a genre of books is selling, I’ll bet you anything that it’s good.

What is this saying to the teenage girls who read YA?

Another destructive aspect of shaming young adult novels is the fact that we’re disregarding the audience these books are aimed at.  Young adult novels are written (mostly) for the teenage girl.  Now that’s a bit of a generalization.  I do realize there are many boys out there who read YA, but right now the statistics and the subject matter of the books tell us that teenage girls are the main consumers for this genre.

Now, let’s pretend for a minute that we all believe that YA novels are stupid, poorly written, and a waste of time.  What are we telling teenage girls by believing this statement?  What are we saying about the interests, wants, and imaginations of the girls who read YA novels?  We aren’t attacking a genre anymore.  We’re attacking those girls.

Young girls put up with enough from our media today.  Now are we going to start telling them that their taste in novels is stupid as well?

Live and let live.

I realize that most people out there who criticize YA are just stating their opinion.  I totally understand when a book or even a whole genre doesn’t sit well with you.  Believe me, I’ve had many of those myself.  The problem I see is that when we get too caught up in those opinions and start alienating an entire genre or group of writers, and all we accomplish is a division in the literary industry.

We all love books and we all love reading.  So why can’t we just leave it at that?  Sure there are genres we are going to like better than others.  But let’s respect those genres for what they are and respect the writers who put in years of their lives writing for it.

HOURGLASS Cover Reveal!

It’s been a long time coming, but the cover reveal (as well as release date information) is finally here!

So if you haven’t heard, I have a YA, science fiction retelling of Peter Pan coming out next month and the final release date is March 11th!  And here’s the twist: it’s told from the point of view of a female Captain Hook.  So there you go.

Below is the lovely, lovely cover as well as the synopsis and link to Amazon where it’s available for pre-order! Yay!

Jude Sprocket has been a pirate her whole life. Taken in by a man who found her alone on a distant planet at the age of seven, all she has to remember of her past life is the loss her hand – the vague memory of a race through the woods and a bloody aftermath.

Now, her father recently dead, seventeen-year old Jude has inherited his spaceship – Hourglass. Determined to get off Earth and continue her father’s legacy of piracy, she assembles a crew and takes to the stars.

But more than abandoned ships and hidden treasure await Jude in the vast void of space. She’s haunted by dreams of a distant land, children hiding in the shadows, and a little girl she somehow feels the need to find.

When Jude and her crew stumble across an uncharted planet, curiosity gets the better of them and they land, unaware of the dangers that wait. Suddenly, Jude’s worst nightmares are coming true. The monsters she feared in the dark, the children that haunt her mind, the little girl from her dreams – and the planet she was never meant to leave.

http://www.amazon.com/Hourglass-Pauline-C-Harris-ebook/dp/B00TTFBUW4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1424722043&sr=8-2&keywords=Pauline+C.+Harris

Hourglass

I Finished My Novel. Now What?

I finished my book now what

So you wrote a book.

First of all, congratulations!  Yay!  Confetti, chocolate, coffee, and dancing!

Now, the work begins.  I know, I know, you just wrote a book and that’s work enough.  Sadly, the work doesn’t stop there.  It’s kind of like you just hiked up half a mountain, but there still about a hundred miles to go.  But don’t fret.  At least the first part is done.

 

Editing

First off, you’re going to need to tackle some editing.  First drafts are never, ever, ever, ready for publication.  Take a week off, distance yourself from the book and then go back and read through it, just to see how the book feels.  You’re going to want to start with larger edits, such as plot and character issues, and eventually narrow down to things like typos and grammatical structures.  If you want to see some of my older posts on editing, links are below.

https://paulinecharris.wordpress.com/?s=editing

Beta Readers

Beta readers are the best things in the world.  In short, beta readers are simply people who are willing to read your early drafts of manuscripts and give you feedback.  Now, although family members and friends are easily accessible and there’s definitely nothing wrong with having them read it, you’re going to want some people who are likely to be a little more objective.  You want brutal honesty in this stage of editing.  I’ve asked people I’ve met through blogging and booktubing to read my manuscripts and that’s worked out well for me.

What kind of publishing do I want?

Once you’ve edited your book to perfection and have had multiple eyes glance through it, you’re going to want to figure out what your plans are for the book.  If publishing is your ultimate goal, you need to decide what kind of publishing.

There are many, many, many different kinds of publishing, including traditional publishing, indie publishing, self-publishing and vanity presses just to name a few.  You’ll need to pick which one is right for you.  I’ve done various posts on all these types, including why I chose to try the ones I did.  Links below.

https://paulinecharris.wordpress.com/?s=publishing

Research!

This goes along with what I just mentioned about the multiple types of publishing.  Research all of these and find pros and cons with each.  Publishing has changed so much within the last decade and might not be quite what you expect.

Once you decide the path you want to take, you’ll also need to research how to get there.  This might include things like query letters, finding literary agents, online marketing, etc.    The main point I’m trying to make is that research is the best way to start your publishing journey.

I also have posts on things like query letters and marketing – those links are below.

https://paulinecharris.wordpress.com/?s=query+letter

https://paulinecharris.wordpress.com/?s=marketing

Good luck with your publishing endeavors.  Thanks for reading and have an excellent day!

How to move past negative book reviews

negative book reviews

Yeah.  This sucks.  I’m not going to lie.  When you see that lonely little one star rating followed by some pretty hurtful words, it’s enough to bring any author to tears.  But I’m going to tell you something that if you’re published you already know and if you’re not you might as well find out now.

Everyone gets bad reviews.

Everyone.

Even the Harry Potter books have a few one star reviews scattered between the millions of five star ones.  I mean, seriously, how is that even possible?

What I’m trying to say is that when you get bad reviews (and you will!) don’t take it too hard.  This post is for those of you who have gotten some bad reviews and are in need of some serious emotional support, or those of you who are worried about getting those bad reviews when your book hits the shelves.

I recently gotten some pretty scathing reviews on my latest book that came out.  And by scathing I mean something along the lines of, “this book is awful and should never have been written.”  Now, that’s nothing any author ever wants to hear about something they’ve written.  But this type of thing is inevitable so here are some tips on surviving when those awful, nasty reviews start tumbling in.

Don’t take it too seriously

Now, I understand this is one of the most clichéd pieces of advice ever given, and it’s definitely easier said than done, but it’s true.  Remember, the reviewing isn’t taking a stab at you personally.  They’re not going, “this author is terrible, they suck, I hate them.”  No, they’re talking about your book.  And yes, you’re book is your baby, but remember that (most of the time) they are just being honest and not trying to hurt your feelings.

Ever read any books you hated?

I know you have.  We all have.  I’ve read books that everyone around me loved and yet I just didn’t see it.  Would you falsely give a book you didn’t like a better rating?  Or would you rather be honest and constructive in your feedback?  Remember, this is just the opinion of one person and we’re all entitled to our own opinions.

Since you’ve been on the receiving end of negative reviews, you have a chance to be a really constructive and helpful negative-review-writer when you come up against some books you just don’t click with.

Remember why you write. 

Take a step back and ask yourself one simple question: why do you write?  If the answer is just for glorification then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.  Writers write because they love to do it, not because they want loads of money and attention.  Sure, those things are nice, but they’re not the real driving force behind the tears, sweat, love, and frustration that goes into creating a novel.  Just remember that you write because you love it.  You love writing, you love your books, and you love putting them out there, even if there are some people who don’t appreciate it.

Revisit those good reviews

So you got some bad reviews. But you got some good ones stashed away in there too, right?  I remember getting my first one star review for my newest novel.  The one I mentioned up at the beginning, remember?  I’m going to be honest, this review nearly made me cry.  I shouldn’t have been so hurt, but I was.  And I spent at least a few days mulling over that review in my mind, wondering why on earth this person didn’t like my book and what I could do about it.  And finally I came to the conclusion that there really is absolutely nothing I could do about it.  So why worry?  Instead, I looked back on the really nice five star reviews that I’d gotten, some of them really touching and praiseworthy.  Those were the reviews that mattered to me because those were the people I’d been writing my book for.  They were the ones who mattered.

Stop reading negative reviews.

Remember how I mentioned I obsessed about that one star review for a few days?  Well, by obsessed, I mean that I read it more than once.  A few times, actually.

Don’t do that!

Now, I definitely encourage reading negative reviews that provide constructive criticism.  If they mention a character was flat or a story arc needed improvement, you can find ways to better your writing in the future.  But if the review is basically just a rant on how terrible your book is, don’t read it.  You can usually tell within the first sentence or two which type of negative review this is going to be, and if it’s the latter, stay clear.

Your worth is not summed up in that pesky one star review.

Your novel is a huge, wonderful accomplishment.  You labored over the writing, the editing, and not only did you write a novel, you published one.  There will be good days and bad days, so don’t let those negative reviews get you down.  Keep writing and keep publishing!

And remember – since there’s been a lot of hate going around, especially on Goodreads, between authors and reviewers and whatnot – we all love books and we all love to write them, read them, review them, and talk about them.  We’re not here to point fingers at authors or reviewers.  We’re here to share our love of books. We all have different opinions and it’s a wonderful, lovely thing.

Thanks for reading and have an absolutely marvelous day!