I Ain’t Got No Grammar Problems

I have learned how both rewarding and difficult it is being a writer. Let me just say that it’s a good thing that I have a full time job. I won’t lie about it – there is a lot of competition out there so it is really important to write a good story and get lucky in getting a book published by a real publisher or finding an agent. Most traditional publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless you have an agent. It can be pretty demanding trying to break in.

I have self-published two novels and a couple of short stories but my goal is to get published by a real publisher. That’s a problem. I have submitted my manuscripts to several publishers and agents only to be rejected for one reason or another. If you love rejection, you can get a lot of practice at it being a writer.

Most critiques are nothing more than a form letter while some can be brutal. I had one editor who ripped me with my use of the word “parsonage”. A lot of critiques are really purely subjective depending on the editor or what mood the person is when they read your manuscript.

One thing I do not understand is when they note some grammatical errors. In the name of Grammarly and Microsoft Word grammar checker you would thing that wouldn’t happen. Somehow it slips in their (see what I did THERE?).

The publishers that send me an email who WANT to publish my book are usually what some call “vanity presses”. These are people who will publish your book but the author has to pay the publisher.

This week I sent my book “Passing Toward The Prize” to a place called Christian Faith Publishing. I had seen their commercial on TV and decided to send them my manuscript to see what they would do with it. First, my manuscript went to their review board. Two days later I get a phone call that they loved it. Now, don’t take me wrong here. I wasn’t jumping up and down about it. Of course they loved it because they want my business right? The reviewer said there were a few minor grammatical errors. I mean, they’re not going to say it was perfect. It’s their job to find something to critique.

I agreed to let them send me the information on the next step in the process. I’m sure you can guess the next step was the details on what I would need to pay. In order to have them publish my book, they want $495 now and $295 per month for 10 months. Now I ask you – who can afford additional $295 in their budget? Not many people I know. Here I am an author who has never been published so how do they think I have the funds when I haven’t made any money yet? Self-publishing on Amazon hasn’t really made it rain. My 1099 from last year of $26.42 is painful reality of that.

So what does a writer/author like me do in dealing with these setbacks? The only way I know how – keep on writing and submitting. Will I ever “hit it big” or get published by a traditional publisher? I will. I mean you have to have goals. Even without a publisher or agent I am still a writer.

I probably should brush up on my grammar to. *wink*

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Behind-the-Scenes Of Writing A Book

Tomorrow, I will be officially releasing my second novel.  I am not saying this to impress you because it really isn’t that impressive at all.  I’m certainly not a famous author by no means and I am not planning to quit my day job.  I want to tell you the honest truth about publishing a book.  The reality is that publishing a book is hard.  I won’t lie.  It isn’t as glamorous as you may think.

Let me share with you some of my personal experiences in publishing a book:

#1 – IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO PUBLISH A BOOK

My new book, “Passing Toward The Prize”, took almost two years to get to this point.  Writing the first draft was the easiest part but not as easy as you would think.  Aside from a few bursts of writing sessions, it takes a lot of discipline to actually dedicate time to write.  The best method for me is to at least write a page a day.  That way at least keeps me in the flow.   Once the story is finished, then comes the hardest part – editing.  This new book went through 10 revisions.  Every time I read through the book I would find yet another mistake or a formatting change that needed to be made.  I won’t say that the final version is completely error-free or but it’s the best version so far.  After several rounds of manual editing, Microsoft Word proofreading tools, Grammarly app and beta readers, this book has gone through more than the last book.  Why not hire a professional editing service?  That’s funny.  Look up the prices for that and you will find the answer to that one.

#2 – EVERYBODY BECOMES AN EDITOR OF YOUR BOOK

When you ask someome to take a look at your manuscript, they can’t resist becoming an editor.  I have submitted the manuscript to over 25 publishers and agents only to be rejected for many different reasons.  One rather well-known Christian fiction editor blasted me for using the term “church parsonage”.  You learn very quickly about the pet peeves and how subjective editors really are.  Some are unbending about rules of grammar or sticklers for comma placements.  Another was critical about my use of contractions regardless of how it affected the flow of the story.  You will find that your buddy suddenly becomes an editorial expert as well.  So as a writer, if you try to make the changes, you change someone else’s change to what you’ve already changed.  Confusing?  You have no idea.

Let me say to all of my beta readers that I appreciate all of the suggestions.  Please don’t take offense if I didn’t make the changes you offered but know that I absolutely considered them all.  The suggestions did make me think and I learned a lot from this process.

To the agents and publishers who turned me down – you still have a chance to pick up this awesome book.  Contact me and we will discuss it.

#3 – THERE IS A LOT OF COMPETITION

A few months ago, I attended a local book festival and was completely humbled by the competition.  There are a lot of writers out there.  I left that festival discouraged and wondered how I could possibly make any kind of impact.  I had to do some serious soul searching about what I was doing.  I had to ask myself repeatedly “Why am I doing this?”  Sure, I would like to “make it” as an author.  I want to write a bestseller and quit my day job.  I want to be successful.  Anyone who doesn’t think that is only lying to themselves.  Seeing the competition out there, I kept digging away at the reasons I do this and fleshed out the reality.  I came to the conclusion that I am simply compelled to write.  Somewhere along the course of my life, I have tapped into that vein that I MUST write.  Regardless if I ever become successful or write the best seller, I feel the need to write.  When I have tried to convince myself that this writing is just a hobby or the silliness of all this work when I don’t really need to do it, I still can’t stop.  I get sad if I feel like I must give it up.  I don’t know why I feel this way.  Maybe it stems from my introverted personality or the notion that I communicate better through writing.   Somehow from the moment a sports editor gave me my first opportunity at writing, I have been infected with the desire ever since.

#4 – A WRITER’S MOOD IS VERY COMPLEX

I have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions on this journey in writing this book.  From the sting of rejection by agents and publishers to the joy of receiving a copy of the book in print.   My feelings tend to be very sensitive during the process.  Self-doubt appears often.  When a co-worker found out I was a writer, he grilled me by asking if I had a college degree or had taken college courses in creative writing.  “Great!” I thought.  “Now I need to enroll in some classes to become a writer.”   Then there’s the person who has never been to college who wants to give me writing advice.  It’s enough to mess with my head and to completely discourage me from writing at all.  Then there is the thrill when my wife finishes the first draft and says it’s the best one I have written so far.  With my last book, I kept it a secret from my co-workers because I knew how cruel and unfiltered they can be.  Unfortunately, I have had to realize that criticism comes with the reality of making my writing public.  This is very difficult because one criticism tends to cancel out affirmations.  I’m still learning this lesson and maybe it’s something God is teaching me.

#5 – JUST BECAUSE YOU PUBLISH A BOOK DOESN’T MEAN YOU’VE MADE IT

As I stated before, this is my second book.  My first book sold about 20 copies.   It didn’t make me rich and I didn’t go on a book signing tour.  Just putting it out on Amazon didn’t change my life.  When I saw my first book in print and saw it on Amazon I felt a brief satisfaction that somehow I had made it as a writer.  That notion was short-lived after most of my family and friends bought the book.  I say MOST because many won’t buy your book.  I had to overcome that one tiny sting that some family and friends didn’t buy the first book.  The fact is that some are not readers or the subject of the book simply doesn’t interest them.  I have tried to do better about not taking offense on who isn’t buying my book and keep writing anyway.

#6 – AFTER PUBLISHING YOU MUST PROMOTE THE BOOK

I learned from my last book that buy simply putting the book on Amazon isn’t enough.  I still have to find ways to promote the book.  With this new book, I have developed a new strategy to promote it.   Since it is a Christian football fiction book, I have relied upon my contacts in ministry and sports to help me in spreading the word on the book.  I have done this by having promotional media created which can easily be passed along.   Vistaprint has been a newly discovered source for me.  Once I clarified my book was about American football, they created some quality promotional bookmarks for my book.   I have also created a PowerPoint slide that I have made available so those in media ministry can insert into their announcement slides at their church.  I am hopeful these creative methods will market it this new book more effectively than my first book.

#7 – SELF-PUBLISHING IS A GOOD OPTION

My new book is also self-published.  I know some people wrinkle their noses at this but, honestly, if it is a good story and you enjoy the book does it really matter if it was published by Tyndale or Amazon?  Honestly I have never purchased a book based solely – or at all – on who published it.  Most of my book purchases have been related to the genre, subject or a particular author.  For the reader, I don’t think it matters.  For me as the writer, the main motivator for getting published by a known publisher is ability to disbute the book more widely than I have the capabilities to do.  The manuscript for this book was sent out to several agents and publishers first before I finally returned to the self-publishing option.  Self-publishing also allows me to publish my words my way without the subjectivity of an editor getting in the way of the story.  I hate to say this out loud but sometimes editors are wrong.  So self-publishing gives me the freedom to do it my way even if others disagree.

So when I make my blog post tomorrow with the official release of “Passing Toward The Prize”, remember todays post about the process it takes to publish it.  Is it rewarding? Yes.  Is it easy? No.  Although I hope this book will be more successful than the last one I will still continue writing.  I can’t stop doing it.  In fact at this very moment, I have two other books in the process.