The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 160
I really am . . . problem-free, I mean. I’ve really got no reason to complain at all. I have great health, I have love, and I’m doing something for a living that I’m passionate about. Oh, sure, there are everyday bumps in the road, a flat tire, dead animal, never enough time or money, but those really aren’t problems unless I elevate them in status.
And today I don’t choose to do that. I’ve lived through real problems, so the daily stuff of living just is not worth mentioning or giving importance to.
Instead, today, I choose to publish The Mailbag, and interact with all you fine folks. So thanks for stopping by. Get comfortable and let’s find out what our fellow writers are thinking about.
From John: “Do you know if the process is much different publishing a children's picture book to the others? My wife has been in my ear to stop ghostwriting kid's books for other people and to publish my own. I have a ton of rhyming kids stories I could use and seem to write them easily for others. I also know an artist who I could possibly hire to illustrate them. Maybe I just have to stop procrastinating, but I'm good at that :)”
John, I’m not sure what you mean by “the process.” If you are talking about the nuts and bolts of downloading the book onto CreateSpace, or some other self-publishing site, then my quick answer is no, the process is pretty much the same as downloading a novel. CreateSpace has a template which allows for pictures as well as text, and it’s really as simple as clicking “download.”
The illustrations would seem to me to be the biggest problem….getting someone to do them for a decent price, because that can be a pricey adventure.
Anyway, John, I think your wife is very smart, and I agree with her totally. It’s time to stop straddling the fence and start listening to your wife. You have far too much talent to spend it ghostwriting for others.
Expanding Short Stories
.From Chris: “Do you have any thoughts about expanding short stories? I don't necessarily mean expanding them into a novel, but that, of course, is always an option. I suppose not every story needs to be longer. There is something exhilarating about a flash fiction story that races along but doesn't show signs of being stuffed into a space too small. My goal is to try to sell my stories to online magazines. There is a wide range of story lengths which the publishers are looking for. I've seen requests for stories as short as 100 words and others as long as 20k. That leads to another question. Is this a better way to go than publishing my own book of stories? Any book I put together, if it's going to have any length at all, will be a mishmash of genres. So online magazines or a self-published book, which is the better course in my situation?”
Congratulations, Chris! This is a first. We’ve been doing the Mailbag for over three years now, and this question has never been asked. I wish I had a door prize for you.
Tricky questions, Chris! All you are going to get is purely subjective answers. I personally don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this.
The first question I would ask is this: what is the purpose of expanding your short stories? If a short story is complete then no, I see no purpose in it. Never add fluff just for the sake of increasing word count. You’ll do more harm than good by doing so.
If you are serious about magazine submissions, and I know you are, then don’t expand a story unless the magazine submission guidelines call for a longer story. So many different magazines have different length requirements for submitted work. I sure wouldn’t go through the work of expanding to 20,000 words when the next magazine is asking for 15,000 words max, and then the next magazine wants 10,000. That seems like a whole lot of work chasing your own tail. Tailor stories to a certain length when you are required to do so by a magazine, and for God’s sake, keep a copy of the shorter version as well as the longer version of the story. You never know when you will want to submit that shorter version to another magazine. You might as well have it waiting in the bullpen if needed.
The second question is a tough one, Chris, and the final call is yours. I think, and remember, this is just my opinion, you stand to make more money in the long-run by submitting to online magazines. If you are a good writer, and you are, once you get accepted by a magazine or two, you’ll find it easier to get accepted in the future, and that will mean a semi-steady income. All bets are off on self-published books. Once you give that book away to friends and family, and once your twenty close friends buy it, the chances of continued sales are very, very small, especially for a collection of short stories.
But if you do choose to go the self-publishing route, be prepared to market your butt off, because that’s what it will take with a collection of short stories. In the book marketing field, a collection of short stories by an unknown author is the closest you can come to Mission Impossible . . . not impossible, but sure as hell not easy. Even for a good writer like you!
Favorite Victory Dance?
From Eric: “But combining all those brings me to a question of no real import just interest. Which is your favorite Victory dance? When the idea gels? When you feel satisfied it is written just right? Or are sales the biggest charge? (I leave out the positive feedback that we give each other around here - which surely ranks)”
Another first-time question, Eric! You get the same prize as Chris received. Enjoy!
If sales were my favorite victories I’d be in big trouble. LOL
No, seriously, I get high from a well-crafted story. When I finally finish a book, and all of the rewrites, and I can pick it up and be satisfied with it, that’s when my chest swells and I feel damned good about it. I love the process of writing a novel, and positive feedback is nice, but it is my inner “book critic” who will let me know when I can celebrate.
More on Book Organization
From Rasma: “Another interesting mailbag with lots to think over. As you know I am getting closer and closer to finally getting my book of poems together. Is it a good idea to first get the book in form on Word so that I have an idea of what it will eventually look like and should I have someone take a look at what I have put together before I actually begin the process of getting the e-book of poems published?”
Rasma, here are my thoughts. I’m no expert on poetry, although I have read several compilations of poems over the years, so at least I have that background. This is about the organizing of the book, though, right? If it were me, I would organize all the poems on a separate Word Doc, and have several people look it over for continuity. Just a simple list of the poem titles and maybe a one sentence summary of each; once you and your friends can agree on an order, then start transferring the poems to Word in preparation for self-publishing.
I only suggest this approach because I’m basically lazy and like to find the easiest solution. I don’t like to copy and paste any more than I have to, so figuring out the order of the poems ahead of time will save you some work.
But perhaps that is a stupid suggestion, and one of our readers will have a better one.
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Great Questions This Week
Really, this was a fun one. Several new questions pushed this old man to his limits, and that’s a good thing.
Thanks to you all for the questions and for stopping by to read. I hope you have a terrific week of breathing in and breathing out. For those of you with “real” problems, best wishes.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”