Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Publishing - A Basic Primer - Part Two

by Janis Patterson


Happy New Year! Hope your year is starting well and that all things are good with you.

As promised, this column is going to talk about the newest iterations of publishing - Self and Hybrid.

Self publishing has been around for centuries. Some of the very earliest novelists - such as Fielding and Richardson - Self published, but that was a very different time and a different business model. In the last century Self publishing was pretty much limited to Vanity publishing - see last month’s column - but thanks to the technological revolution Self publishing has become its own respectable and sometimes very profitable industry.

Ebooks have changed the face of publishing. No longer do writers need the heavy hand of a Trad publisher to shape and validate their work, nor do they have to put up with the Trad’s domination of the distribution system. Someone can write a book and put it up by themselves on several electronic vendor platforms. Easy-peasy! That is not to say, however, that they should.

A Self publisher is exactly that - a publisher, and he should take on the duties of a publisher - all the duties. Get a good editor and cover artist and, if putting books out to a lot of vendors, a formatter. And yes, you will have to pay them money, because professionalism and quality are not free. 

Ah, you say, didn’t I tell you that money should always flow TO the author, not FROM the author? It’s still true - but when you are publishing your book you are the Publisher You, not the Author You. Publisher You is responsible for everything, from getting a very good editor to make Author You’s book the best it can be (and no one should ever put out a book without having an editor look at it!) to getting a cover artist to getting a skilled formatter to uploading to the vendors to doing the publicity necessary to get the book in front of the public. Now there are those who are talented enough - or have friends/family who are - to do the covers and formatting and publicity themselves. Most of us are not. Don’t rely on a friend or relative to do your editing, though; get a professional.

Publisher You also has to take charge of the niggling but oh-so-important details of publishing - do you need an ISBN? Should you copyright through the government? Do you go exclusive with Amazon/KU or do you go wide? Should you put out a paper version as well as an ebook? And those are just the beginning of the decisions you need to make. Are you going to use your name or a pseudonym? Do you/should you have a website? What kind and how much publicity should you do? Do you hire a publicist? And the list goes on...

I will admit that I am a great fan of Self publishing; it takes you out of the unholy circus of rewrites and endless edits to tailor your story to the (occasionally unreasonable) demands of traditional agents and publishers and all too often leaves you with a product that has only a passing resemblance to your original work. You also make a great deal more money per individual sale than with Trad publishing. The downside is that whatever is done has to be done by you - or at least, by someone you hire. All the responsibility for quality and opportunities for success and failure resides squarely on your shoulders. 

People beginning in the Self pub market now are so fortunate - there are books and groups and FB pages and eloops centered on the Self pub industry from which the novice can learn just about everything necessary. When I first Self pubbed in 2013 I couldn’t find any of them; there may have been some, but I couldn’t find them, so in my usual heedless fashion I jumped in feet first and forged on. Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned. And some of my ‘mistakes’ turned out to be blessings in disguise. Some turned out to be... not. Still, I am glad I went ahead.

Above I said ‘opportunities for success and failure’ because there is always what Mary Roberts Rinehart called the Blind Villain - chance. You can do everything just right - writing, editing, covers, publicity - yet still there is the possibility that your book will just lie there like a dead flounder while other books, not as good in any or all ways, will take off to the stratosphere. Just do the best you can and accept the chance of this outcome, because there are some things in this world that are uncontrollable. It’s sad but very true, and must be accepted. The only answer I know is to keep going on and write more good books. 

Most of Self pubbing is relatively simple - mechanical and very picky, but still basically simple once you understand and accept the principles. I believe that anyone who really wants to do it can master the production end. And probably the publicity end, too, though that is my personal bĂȘte noir.

You see, with every other aspect of Self pubbing, each task is finite - writing, editing, formatting, cover selection - but publicity is ongoing. Sometimes I wonder how some writers manage to do all the publicity they do and still have time to write, let alone have a life. Yes, some do employ Virtual Assistants or Public Relations companies, but the affordable ones are so booked they have waiting lists of potential clients and others are so expensive they are out of reach of anyone but the highest of best sellers.

Not long ago I looked into a PR company to boost the sales (embarrassingly small) of my favorite book, perhaps the best book I’ve ever written. Not only was the basic campaign eye-wateringly high, but it cost more for one month than that book had earned in the past year! Needless to say, it was beyond my means and I politely declined. That said, I am blessed that my newly-retired, science-oriented husband has stepped in and taken over my publicity, learning the job as he goes. It is an interesting journey!
So - if anyone is looking for a ready-made niche, a true bird’s-nest-on-the-ground, may I suggest starting an AFFORDABLE publicity firm for writers. They will have potential clients lined up out the metaphoric door.

Ooops! I have made a mistake - something you get used to when you Self pub. Last month and even above I said I would cover Self pubbing and Hybrid pubbing in this post. Well, this post has gone on much too long, so I will save Hybrid for next month. Hope your New Year is starting out well, and 2021 is the best year ever for all of us! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021



Yes, I heard what some of you said about not wanting to read a book with Covid 19 in it and others saying they would never write a book that had the pandemic in it. 

None of the remarks mattered, I knew I couldn't ignore what was going on in the world when I wrote the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.The series is set in real time, and who knows how long this mess is going on? Not I. 

So despite the warnings that I might not have any readers, I plunged right in. And believe it or not, I had fun doing it.  I knew what was happening with my friends and all their different views about what was going on. When I visited my police officer grandson, he told me what was happening in his department, plus some other things that were happening.

Two of my-granddaughters-in-law are nurses and I asked them questions. So I really felt I had the information I needed to show how the virus was affecting the police officers of Rocky Bluff and their families. 

And the vindicated part, I just finished reading Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly and guess what, his character, Mickey Haller recognizes the threat of the illness coming from China. And not to spoil a great ending, he shelters in place with loved ones. (Someone complained this was a spoiler--but Haller has lots of loved ones--so I don't think it really is a spoiler.)

I hope some of you will try Not as We Knew It

So far those who've read it have liked it. 

And remember, I wrote this one as F. M. Meredith.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Merry Christmas to all--and I'm Starting a New Book

 This is a different Christmas for many. In my case, I'm missing the usual celebrations from Christmas Parades to our writers' group annual Christmas dinner. However, our family Christmas will be much the same as usual with the addition of a three guests--also relatives.

Despite what all is going on or not I've started planning a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. In the last book, Tempe had decided to retire. When I wrote it, I thought it might be the last in the series. However, a trip to visit my eldest daughter gave me a great idea, so once again I'm in the planning stages.

No, I don't write an outline, however this is what I usually do when I'm beginning a new book:

First comes the setting. In this case, it will be a new place for Tempe. I've ordered a couple of books about the history of the town she'll be in, as sometimes historical facts give me ideas for the plot or side-plots.

Next, come the characters. Who is going to get murdered and why? I need a name, personality traits, physical description,  and of course all the people who might want to see this person's demise and for various reasons. Which means developing more characters.

Oh, yes, I must not forget how the person was killed. Was there a weapon to be found? The crime scene, any clues?

I'm not very far along in the planning process, but I'm excited that I get to be with Tempe and her husband, Hutch, once again.

Have a great holiday no matter how you celebrate.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Already?

by Linda Thorne

How does Christmas get here so fast? When I was a kid, my father used to say the older you got the faster time went by. I didn’t understand. Back then, all I knew is Christmas seemed to take forever to come around.

When I became a young adult, my dad told me this again, and I still didn’t get it, although I’d noticed it didn’t take quite as long for Christmas time to arrive. I asked him why he thought this was so. He told me it was because we have more years behind us, and the more years packed under our belts means the coming years speed up. This didn’t answer my question and back then we didn’t have the internet. I remember blowing him off and thinking, whaatteevver.

Since then I’ve researched this online, finding that it's a scientific fact having to do with our memories. When you’re a kid many things you do, go through, experience, are for the first time, making new memories each day. From what I’ve read, when anything becomes routine, you just sort of pass through it unknowingly, and that time seems to disappear from your time frame, shortening it, so that major event reminders like the annual holiday season can seem to be here sooner than in the past. By the way, when I talk about Christmas and the holiday season, this can be any holiday event of any kind.

I also read online that if you want time not to go by so quickly, keep having new experiences. I’m sure that’s accurate, but not so easy when you’re older. Most of the things we do in the later years will be repetitive. As I move through my 70s, I see people my age strapped because of finances (the reason I don't quit my day job). My husband is alive and well but has not been physically mobile for making trips with me for a long, long time. Also, even for those folks who can move around easily and have plenty of money, still have fewer opportunities for new experiences. Even if they take trip or a cruise to a place they've never been, they've already had the experience of a trip or a cruise. 

Here's a picture of my husband and me taken earlier this month to use for Christmas cards. We tried a selfie, but our glasses fogged up because of the masks. A neighbor appeared and volunteered to help. 

Hey all, have a great holiday and a Happy New Year and make a new happy memory.

My book: Amazon Buy Link

Linda Thorne website

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Publishing - A Basic Primer

by Janis Patterson

I’ll admit it - 2020 really snarled up my life. I lost the best publishing opportunity of my career, missed a lot of really fun trips and fell victim to the endemic malaise that seems to be affecting everyone. Instead of doing my regular three to five books this  year, I barely finished two. What’s worse is that I have five full manuscripts, all professionally edited and lacking only formatting and covers, ready to publish. And yet they sit (metaphorically) on my desk gathering dust. The dust, by the way, is unfortunately all too real. I don’t need a pandemic to help me skimp on housekeeping!

However - things do seem to be a-changing! I’ve seen a definite uptick in professional talks among writers. I’ve seen more interest in marketing techniques and websites and craft than I’ve seen in months. It’s like after a long enchanted (cursed?) hiatus the industry is coming alive again, bringing with it a steady stream of newbies or close-to-newbies eager to be published.

Many of the questions they ask (and there are NO stupid questions, by the way) show their ignorance about the most basic part of getting a book published - publishing itself. What kind, what charges, what to expect. 

So, as a battle-scarred veteran of many decades of publishing, I’m going to give a nutshell course about the basic types of publishing. Unfortunately there are no clear-cut dividing lines between the major types of publishing today; every form is blurred slightly or complicatedly with the others. The main thing is, what kind of publishing do you want and what will you do to achieve it? Make money? Be famous? Print your family history for your relatives? Just have the ego stroke of being a ‘published author’? Whatever you want there’s an outlet for it. Just know what you are doing and why - and be prepared to pay for it in some kind of coin.

Traditional publishing - this is the Holy Grail for many authors. A big publishing house which gives you an advance, takes care of all the expenses such as editing and covers, gives you lots of publicity and sets up booksignings and tours, and helps you make best-seller lists is every writer’s dream. The house will take writers under their wing, manage, guide and promote their careers and allow the writer to concentrate on writing. Yeah. Sure. Indeed, that’s the dream of many authors and - except for a miniscule few - it’s pretty much just that... a dream. 

Trad publishers these days in general offer small if any advances, all too often have pathetic edits, uneven quality of covers and do little advertising support other than put out their new release list and maybe a couple of press releases, as they now expect you to do almost all your own publicity. All for low-single digits percentage royalties per copy. The dream scenario does happen, but so rarely a lot call it the Cinderella Syndrome. Still, there is a cachet to being published by one of the Big Five - or maybe now it’s the Big Four; the number changes with unsettling regularity as the large publishers buy, overtake and generally cannibalize each other.

However, Trads have always and still do have the magic ingredient - distribution. In the days of paper-only books whoever could get them to the book outlets (bookstores, drug stores, wherever) held the whip hand. Those who self/vanity published often ended up with a garage full of books which they could sell only by contacting each outlet individually. Trads still have the advantage here, but with Print On Demand and a more savvy buying public the balance of power/distribution is slowly shifting. As long as there are paper books, however, I believe that as long as they control the major distribution networks Trads will always have a place, albeit a small one.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Vanity publishers. These in the main are predators out to make money from wide-eyed writers with stars in their eyes. It sometimes takes a sharp eye to tell a Vanity from a Trad, as their appearance is carefully crafted to appear as legitimate as the Trads, like the innocent-looking camouflage of a lurking predator. They don’t offer advances (but so few legit publishers do these days, either) and their ‘editing services’ are either pathetic or non-existent. The biggest tell that they are a Vanity is that they ask for money, and lately the contacts for all your friends and relatives as well. Heaven only knows what they do with the contacts, for the full responsibility of selling your book falls directly on your shoulders. Basically, you are paying an astronomic amount (often in the double-digit thousands) for a couple of hundred mediocre physical books delivered to your house to take up residence in your garage until you sell them. In these days of electronic publishing, the Vanity house might throw up an ebook on one or two of the main retailers, often for an extra fee.

As sales depend on distribution, those who control the distribution networks control the industry - and the Vanities don't have any distribution facilities or networks.

One very important thing to remember is that in this industry whatever the publishing model the money should flow TO the author. These Vanity companies make their money FROM the author. If they have no investment of their own in your book they sure aren’t going to push it. They’re getting their money from you, not from sales of your book.

That said, I will add one caveat - there is a single small niche where Vanity is not only acceptable but often desirable. If someone writes a family history, for example, or a collection of Grandma’s recipes - something for family and friends only, something they are not interested in putting out on the open marketplace, Vanity publishing is a viable option. Just be very careful in choosing which company you decide to business with. A very few of the Vanity publishers are trustworthy and provide a good product. Do your due diligence. Then just to be sure, do it again.

Next month I will discuss the newer incarnations of the industry - Hybrid and the 800 pound gorilla that started the revolution in publishing, Self. We’re still in the Wild West in this area, though things have begun to settle down a little because of - or perhaps in spite of - the constantly changing landscape of technology.

Now I wish to give each of you a personal good wish for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Good Yule, Happy Kwanzaa, or whatever else you celebrate, and a very Happy New Year. I think we all deserve them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

MAKE A WISH by J. L. Greger

Today, I'm hosting a guest instead of doing my own post. Please welcome, my friend and fellow author, J. L. Greger. 


Do you wish you could travel to exotic spots? Is the Taj Mahal one of the places you dream of seeing? I realize many of us during the pandemic would be thrilled to travel safely even to Peoria, Illinois. But let's focus now on travel to real tourist spots.

I admit the Taj Mahal was breathtaking as it appeared among the mists rising from the Yamuna River at sunrise. However, as the sun rose I also saw and smelled the polluted Yamuna River. Indian politicians have described it as an "open sewer."

My other problem with the Taj Mahal was the crowds. Think of the crowds leaving the stadium of a Big Ten school after a football game. I saw the Taj Mahal during the Diwali (a Hindu festival) holidays several years ago with more than twenty thousand people. I hate the suffocating feeling of being pushed along by crowds, especially in warm humid weather.

Now comes the surprising part of my wish to see the Taj Mahal. The best part of visiting famous sites in India wasn't the sites but the school children at the sites. The children were in groups of fifty to three hundred. Each clump of children were identifiable by their clothes, particularly the girl's uniforms. For example, one group of several hundred girls wore leggings with long jumpers almost to their knees in shades of green. Although all the groups were noisy when they left their buses. They were quiet and organized and with the smallest in front and the tallest at the back of the group by the time they reached the entrance to the sites. When I made the mistake of saying hello to one particularly cute little girl in a pink uniform, I was swamped by children taking my picture and asking questions. 

My advice is if you aren't an experienced traveler, skip an expensive trip to India and read DIRTY HOLY WATER, a romantic mystery with realistic depictions of India—good and bad. If you're not into India, you'll still enjoy this mystery in which it's difficult to distinguish villains from victims.

 Consider an alternate wish

Maybe during this holiday season and the rest of the pandemic, many of us should wish to be more helpful to those less fortunate than ourselves. For example, many children desperately need on line tutors. Local teachers and school districts could put you in contact with one of these children. Patients in hospitals are often not allowed visitors now, and they're lonely and scared. Volunteer offices at many hospital will accept handmade (knit, crocheted, sewn) baby blankets and afghans. these offices can also describe how to construct care packets that can be given to incoming patients. Homeless shelters and food banks need volunteers and contributions.

 Why should you consider an alternate wish? Because your wish for happiness and relief from the boredom induced by "stay-at-home" orders is met by fulfilling the wishes of others. Then too, you won't feel guilty when you snuggle up under a warm afghan and read DIRTY HOLY WATER.

 Blurb for DIRTY HOLY WATER: Sara Almquist is about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India with her boyfriend when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a friend. It's unnerving for Sara because she's used to being a trusted forensic investigator with answers, not a nervous suspect. Surprisingly, Sara finds insights into her feelings and those of the dysfunctional family of the murder victim as she becomes immersed in Indian culture.

 The Kirkus review is: "A thought-provoking, disturbing, and engaging mystery with a likable, strong-willed female lead"  

DIRTY HOLY WATER (paperback or ebook) is available at:

Bio: J.L. Greger is a biology professor and research administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She has consulted on scientific issues worldwide and loves to travel. Thus, she likes to include both science and her travel experiences in her thriller/mystery novels in the Science Traveler series. Award-winning books in the series include: The Flu Is Coming, Murder: A Way to Lose Weight, Malignancy, Riddled with Clues, and A Pound of Flesh, Sorta. Learn more at:



Friday, November 20, 2020

Writing, Pandemic, Loss of Logic and Normalcy

by Linda Thorne

Author of forty-five or more books, Marilyn Meredith recently posted on the Make Mine Mystery Blogspot the topic, How has Covid 19 Affected Your Writing? She responded to a comment I made that she doesn’t let it bother her much since she can’t do anything about it. A wise way to handle the situation, but not something that works for me. I am drained by all of it.

Are we ever going to see normalcy again? Are you feeling stressed, desperate, frustrated,
mad, or plain worn out? I suddenly recalled a forty-year-old movie, Private Benjamin, and Goldy Hawn popped clearly into my mind in army clothes and helmet, marching in the rain, airing her frustrations loudly. “I want to go out to lunch! I want to be normal again!” I thought to myself, I get it Goldy, I really get it.

The last time I went out to dinner was on my husband’s birthday, Friday the 13th of March. We stopped by Great Clips afterward to get haircuts. So many months have passed since then.

Things closed soon after that, but the partial reopening has not gone well. I started cutting my husband’s hair even though the hair salons and barbershops had reopened here in Nashville, Tennessee. I hazarded hair appointments with my regular beautician. Twice. But as I was leaving the last time, I saw that the hairdresser next to her didn’t wear a mask, so I never went back. What I learned is the other beautician had a doctor’s excuse for not wearing a mask, so I have been cutting my own hair since with the help of my husband.

Where’s the logic in an employer allowing someone to work directly with the public without a mask when there’s a mask mandate? A mask is to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The doctor’s excuse is meaningless in a sane world. Yeah, maybe she couldn’t find a mask that allows her to breath or doesn’t irritate her skin (even though they are out there), but she still needs to stay home, doctor’s excuse or not.

The Pandemic has been bad enough, but during the skyrocketing increase in the number of cases, we had a Presidential election. Historic during a Pandemic, but the election is being drawn out, adding more stress.

Look at the rallies for Biden and protests against Trump not winning. The CDC is against any large gatherings, but it seems too many people feel like it has to be okay when there’s a cause they believe in. Whatever their cause, these things have no logic concerning wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Where’s our logic and common sense? And by the way, what about social distancing?

Then there are those who must show they have their rights not to wear a mask. Why? Why not help our economy and others’ safety?

At least we have one huge positive on the horizon. We are obviously going to get a vaccine.

Happy writing even during the Pandemic. If you can make it work for you, congratulations and keep going.

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