Publishers, Authors, and Agents…OH MY!

If you are a new author, moving into the publishing world can be a daunting ordeal.

Rejection is the name of the game and depending on your name and talent—this doesn’t always go hand-in-hand, by the way—trying to get published can be traumatizing.

I know it’s true.

There are many myths swirling around this industry that are based, primarily, on word of mouth and we all know how that goes.

Here are two that, as a publisher, I can dispel:

You need an agent to get published by a traditional publisher

This is both true and false. Publishers known as the ‘Big 5’ require agented submissions. You can imagine the amount of submissions they received and agents field the manuscripts for them. Agents with a true relationship to these companies are the only agents necessary. Beyond that, plenty of publishers—medium and small—accept non-agented submissions.

Cactus Moon accepts both agented and non-agented submissions according to our guidelines. One reason we do not require agented submissions is because we aren’t large enough to require them. Not only that, but in our experience, we have received great manuscripts directly from authors and very poor manuscripts from agents representing an author.

You need a traditional publisher if you want to make your novel count—

First and foremost, the word ‘traditional’ in this industry no longer carries meaning. The word hybrid-publisher is inaccurate as well. If a publisher is a hybrid, it implies a splice from the root of another publisher into the stem of the current publisher. What is that? Every publisher does this, even some of the biggest.

The best advice I can give is to love your work. If you want to be published by a large publisher (more accurate label), plan to do the work. Find two or three of them—then find agents who truly have a relationship with those companies. Finally, revise…revise…revise. You will need to display top-notch work for a large publisher who has a large pond from which to fish. Agents worth their fees know this.

Not all agents have relationships with publishing companies. Like vanity-publishers, there are also vanity-agents. Do your homework.

With this industry as in anything else – buyer be aware.

Lily Gianna Woodmansee is executive editor for Cactus Moon Publications, LLC

http://www.cactusmoonpublishing.com

 

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Anyone Can Bait a Hook

But it takes a fisherman to catch a fish.

Writing a novel or non-fiction title requires a bit of psychology if you want to catch a reader.

I think it is easy to believe that you can pen a novel, put it on Amazon for millions of readers and think you won’t miss one. Like I said, anyone can bait a hook.

Readers are like fish and right now, it is a reader’s world. There is no shortage of books out there just waiting to be read. With that much bait floating around, reader’s can afford to be picky.

As an author, you will have to be clever if you want to offer the right bait to the right readers for your novel. Otherwise, your title will float around in the water until it falls off the hook and floats to the bottom. Forgotten.

When I took a non-fiction writing class, one exercise included imagining what your reader looks like. Imagine them perusing the web or cruising through the bookstore. How will you snag their attention?

Knowing what your reader looks like will help with the plot, the book-cover, and the marketing. If you design a plot that would attract two different styles of reader from opposite sides of the personality-spectrum, your book will hang in the balance.

Here is an example – The novel you wrote is psychological fiction with a real gory bent. Your characters are complex and the plot is like a puzzle the reader will have to put together. . .then you add green slime coming out of the walls and when the characters go outside, they burst into flames or explode with their entrails flying everywhere.

Think about my example and imagine which kind of reader your book will attract. The thought I wanted to convey-your reader will be split in two – one loves the mystery and psychological complexities but what does green slime and exploding bodies have to do with it? That reader moves on. On the other hand, someone who loves reading about mysterious happenings creating a world where we have to start over – they will love the atmosphere blowing up humans and how they survive. The psychological puzzles may turn that reader off.

There will always be a few readers who will like both ends of the spectrum in my example but that is the point. A few. Sales for a few will not sustain you and it might not be a real motivator for a second novel.

Writing for fish that swim in different schools and waters will make it difficult to sell your novel. Be more cognitive of your plot and characters. My example could easily be made into two novels if the writer imagined which fish he wanted to catch before writing.

Give more thought to the readers your book will attract and market where they congregate. The easiest chance to catch a fish is to drop the appropriate bait into a school. You will still have competitive bait but at least you can catch a good haul of your own and most of all, know you are fishing in the right waters.

By: Lily Gianna Woodmansee – Executive Editor for Cactus Moon Publications, LLC

Reading History in Old Books

“There is some advantage in having imagination, since that visionary faculty opens the mental eyes to facts that more practical and duller intellects could never see.”

Southworth

― E.D.E.N. Southworth, Capitola’s Peril

While on vacation in Boise, Idaho, I stopped by an antique store in the Hyde Park section. I wander antique stores when I am feeling nostalgic for the past. At my age, some of the items I found were items I’d had as a child.

Perfume bottles from Avon®, Gunni-Sax® dresses, and huge leather purses with a mountain scene and initials. I had to laugh at myself when I saw a clown that I remember having when I was around three. I even have a picture of me holding it. Nostalgia.

As I wandered through the store, I found a stash of books, all written over one hundred years ago. I immediately picked one up titled, The High Priestess, and opened the cover. Inside was a note that read: To Jess, X-mas – 1915. Love, Jack and Marge. The cost—one dollar and twenty-five cents and the cover was an immaculate red cloth with perforated pages.

Insight as to how we conversed and processed information. Values and turmoil from an era I can only witness through the author’s words.

My curiosity over humans of the past started with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Call me naeve but I never imagined the conflict one would have living in Puritan times while thinking in a very different manner. Clearly Hawthorne had witnessed the battle between good and evil continuously challenging us. I used to wonder what he was trying to convey; was he on the side of the Puritans or Hester Prinn? Did he despise the minister? Or blame Hester’s husband? Lastly, I could see into the eyes of someone who witnessed that era and the paradoxes of the time.

Next, I picked up Cruel as the Grave, by Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth and was instantly smitten by the author. She passed away in 1899 right before this novel was published. I read the first few pages and I wanted to know more of the protagonist and her struggles written at the turn of the twentieth century.

These books are history books to me. All we can do today is create a theory from the writings and news of those times. I want more than that, I want to see from the author’s eyes—through fiction—the attitudes, emotions, and values of another period in time. To hear about the lives of everyday people from their own point of view.

Did Mrs. Southworth ever wonder if a woman in 2016 would be reading her book written before 1900?

Knowledge is truly timeless. No book is ever written in vain; sometimes it is just written for people whose time has not yet come.

Lily

 

Persuasive Non-fiction

Lily.2016My second attempt at writing a persuasive argument in college wound up changing my perspective about the topic. I say second because my first attempt received a very low grade. This was my first journey into writing so my understanding of a persuasive argument would be to persuade my reader. Right?

I went to my professor to complain about the ‘D’ I received on my paper. In the moment, I assumed she graded me according to her own view on the subject and I marched over to her office.

I knocked pleasantly on her door with the rage of a Tiger brewing inside. Banging on the door was what I really wanted to do but that was beneath my behavioral standards. When she opened the door, in a calm voice, I asked to speak with her about my paper. By her demeanor, I believe she was already waiting for me.

I ranted, “You asked for a persuasive argument. I wrote one. It meets all of your criteria so what is this ‘D’ for?”

She looked at me and said in a tone not far from my own, “The fact that you followed my directions and wrote from a persuasive standpoint is why you got a ‘D’ and not an ‘F’.” She quickly explained, “In a persuasive argument, you want your reader to be persuaded but first you must present the contradictions and variables that persuaded you of the topic’s validity. Otherwise, it is just you writing about what you know in your own opinion. That isn’t a persuasive argument if you haven’t researched the topic from other angles, including viewpoints that contradict your own. This is necessary for persuasion. Present as many angles as possible, then present the evidence that supports your view. “

I won’t go into further details of the conversation but I sat in her office for quite a while learning the value of a persuasive argument that has been thoroughly researched.

Simply put, if you are writing a non-fiction title intended to persuade the reader, be prepared to thoroughly support your topic. The best persuasion is a persuasion that includes other facets presented through solid research. This builds credibility in the eyes of the reader as it proves you are not afraid to explore other viewpoints and evidence. If we really want a reader to believe what we write, we must be confident in the material. To be confident in the material, we must know it from every angle.

Writing persuasive non-fiction from only one perspective will draw readers who already agree with that perspective. You don’t need to provide evidence or research from opposing angles when it isn’t required by your audience. Where is the challenge in persuading readers who already agree with you? In fact, that isn’t persuasion at all.

After my discussion with the professor, she advised that I could re-write the paper and turn it in for a better grade if I present material from the opposition, as well as evidence to support my claim.

When researching as she requested, I found my original perspective crumbling under the evidence presented by the opposing view. In my case, I wound up writing a persuasive argument over the need for research in writing. I didn’t get an ‘A’ but I did get a better grade.

Not every non-fiction writer will consider researching another perspective. It isn’t against the law, or particularly taboo by today’s standards, to write on a topic from only one point of view. There are plenty of non-fiction titles available that prove this is so.

From CMP’s point of view, non-fiction titles need to be fully researched to the best of the author’s ability. If the topic is a theory or experience that cannot be proven with physical evidence, researching from angles that oppose your theory is a way to present in lieu of physical evidence. Variables are part of research in any theory or hypothesis and should be included for the reader.

Ultimately, for the success and credibility of a non-fiction title, present the whole and let the reader decide whether they are persuaded or not. To CMP, this proves the author is confident in the material they are presenting and a confident author will not cringe under opposing reviews.

Authors are not required to agree with opposing material and I encourage this truth to be stated. Perhaps the evidence says something completely different to you, as an author, than mainstream society. This is transparency in writing. Let the reader know your truth throughout and it will be broadcast through your voice.

Be confident, transparent, and thorough in writing your truth for persuasive non-fiction.

Remember: Truth is subjective.

By: Lily Gianna Woodmansee; Executive Editor for Cactus Moon Publications

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Once upon a time two kingdoms fought furiously over a garden, rich with beauty.

On this land grew the most beautiful flowers, vivid colors seemingly floating from their petals. Artists, displaying their creations while the peasants basked in their message and story, dropping gold pieces into their baskets to show appreciation. Many peasants would visit this garden to escape their mundane lives and soak in the deep blue pond while admiring their surroundings.

Two Kings saw the value of this garden and sought to take it for themselves and their subjects. If one King could seize control over this garden and the artists dwelling within, they could charge peasants pieces of gold to enter. Keeping a margin of this gold for themselves and with the rest of the gold, lure the artists to swear fealty.

King Conglomerate approached the artists in the garden and said, “We are in a better position to service the peasants when they enter. We will ask for less gold thus attracting more peasants paying to enter. With so much gold, our kingdom will be far more luxurious and we will pay the artists more gold as well.”

The artists were tempted by this King. Truly, more gold and a large kingdom would bring more peasants to enjoy their art. The artists gladly swore fealty.

King Conglomerate began to charge the peasants as they entered the garden. Many peasants questioned this and asked why they must pay to enter. King Conglomerate advised they no longer have to pay the artists as the king now pays them a royalty to display their art. Some peasants willingly accepted, paying gold and entering the garden.

Some peasants felt this unfair to their favorite artists. “Why should we pay you, King Conglomerate? We owe you no fealty.” They gathered to confer and find a way to challenge King Conglomerate.

They sought another King for advice. King Independent, or ‘Indie’ as he is known, heard the peasants. King Independent thought to himself, “So, King Conglomerate has taken control of the garden. I shall challenge him to a battle. I too have interest in this garden’s gold.” Stroking his long beard, he began to scheme.

King Indie paid his gold piece to enter the garden. He saw the artists painting and writing, some read aloud to a group of peasants. He approached an artist whose peasant gathering seemed the largest. “Your painting is beautiful but why are your colors less vivid than I remember?”

“My lord, King Conglomerate has taken our baskets. I thought I would make more gold by swearing fealty to this King. But alas, I have to share my gold with the King and I can no longer buy the most quality paints.”

This angered King Indie. This popular artist should not be making the same pittance as the other, less popular artists. He decided he must fight King Conglomerate for the most popular artists. They should not have their gold taken from them and now the colors are no longer bright. In truth, as King Indie looked around him, he saw the garden was no longer as vivid and thriving as before.

King Indie gathered his loyal subjects including the artist from the garden. “Today I shall declare war on King Conglomerate. We will battle him here in the garden.”

King Indie’s army still being small, he recruited peasants. King Indie and his subjects began to tell the peasants of King Conglomerate’s evil scheme to take gold from the most popular artists. King Indie accused King Conglomerate of lying to the peasants when he said all would benefit from the gold being made by the King. Many peasants noticed the garden in decline and their favorite artists making less gold, thus less beauty and chose to fight with King Indie’s army.

In the garden the battle raged. Many peasants could see how this battle destroyed their beautiful garden of retreat and the artists no longer displayed their beauty to give them  relief. They only wanted gold.

King Indie laid a siege around the garden, not allowing his subjects to display their art or loyal peasants to pay their gold to enter. King Indie told them that King Conglomerate ruined the garden and his subjects should have nothing to do with peasants or other artists wanting to enter the garden. King Indie declared that he could better serve the peasants and the artists. Therefore, none of his loyal subjects should entertain the idea of entering the garden even to see the artists who have not sworn fealty to either King.

Thus, a horrible divide occurred in the artist community. Soon, they fought among themselves, forming groups swearing a fealty to one or the other King. The divide became a crevice as more and more artists were forced to swear fealty to a King in order to earn  gold pieces.

The crevice widened into a deep chasm. On either side were loyal peasants and artists swearing fealty to King Conglomerate or King Indie.

This battle rages madly to this day. Artists swearing fealty to whichever King will give them more gold pieces.

While many of the peasants lamented the loss of their garden, they couldn’t agree about which King was responsible and which King to swear fealty. Some peasants completely abandoned the garden to follow their favorite artists. They saw no hope for the lost garden so they chose to follow their favorite artists and swear fealty to the artist’s King.

For many peasants, this war disheartened them. The garden, still controlled by both Kings, is no longer the beautiful, peaceful place it once had been.

The disheartened peasants chose to leave the garden entirely. They would build their own garden and no longer allow fealty to either King. This garden would be for the artists to once again create their beauty. To give the peasants the escape they seek and artists can display a basket where the peasants can choose to give them gold. No King to make demands and no artists to service only the peasants loyal to either King.

This beautiful garden is forming again with peasants and artists refusing to swear fealty to either King. As more artists enter this garden, more peasants are drawn to the pleasure and escape this garden offered before the war.

The World of ‘Free’lance

Semantics can be tricky. The meaning of a word as defined by one, may be different to someone else.

I believe this is true of the word freelance.

To me, freelance is an employment path. The prefix being the operative term – freedom. Working freelance, I can work the hours I choose and be as creative as I wish with my company. Choosing freelance employment, I am looking to escape the monotony of working for a hive-mind corporation. This is more difficult for artists than others, believe it or not.

The downside of freelance employment – the sacrifice of certain benefits. Primarily, an hourly wage. That is what I believe, but I’m learning that for some freelance services, the word freelance means one is free yet still expecting to collect the same hourly wage. This seems like an oxymoron to me and certainly doesn’t fit into the freelance model as I understand it.

Cactus Moon Publications started out as Kal-Ba Publishing. An author and I decided to form a company modeled after a new capitalist idea. Collaboration vs Dictation. Certainly, our idea was risky. No collaborative model has been able to withstand the tidal wave of the current capitalist philosophy. Our idea sprang from the three-sided triangle or pyramid. All sides are equal, if not, the shape is no longer equal and no longer a pyramid. Our sole income would be made through our hard work and fair play with others.

Shortly after Kal-Ba was established, I lost my partner. In a very competitive and suspicious world, I sat on a life preserver with two authors; wondering whether I should sink or swim. If I chose to swim, it would be very difficult and risky. If I chose to jump, the authors will be let down and my reputation damaged.

Though a traumatic experience, I have learned much. I am a survivor above all else so I chose to swim. In this process, I’ve learned many lessons. One – freelance services are not what they seem and as an author please shop around.

My first experience with the current freelance model came when I sat in negotiation with an illustrator. My authors were debut and I, a brand new publisher with a maverick model. During the negotiations, the illustrator remarked, “I’m taking quite a cut in pay for this. Thirty dollars an hour is pretty low.”

Wait. An hourly wage? I didn’t know this was included. I want to pay for illustrations, not the hours it takes to create. And, who decides the hourly wage? Out of curiosity and frankly, shock, I asked what he was used to being paid. His response was equally stunning. “When I worked for the last company, I made fifty an hour.” Again, freelance. Are you working for that company now? And what makes you believe as a freelance illustrator you should be guaranteed the income you received when working for a large company? Maybe I am naïve, but I believe this expectation is crazier than starting a grassroots company, dwarfed by hundreds of others.

Authors are not paid by the hour. If they were, only the wealthy could afford to read their books. Truth. I guess this doesn’t occur to most as they read a delicious story or a very inspiring self-help. Including freelance illustrators and editors.

A good novel requires collaboration. Creativity is made more beautiful when others agree to offer their special talent. Nothing is free and no one should expect something for nothing. Authors should not expect services for free and freelancers should not expect the same hourly wage they received while working for The Man. I believe this and I am not ashamed or even worried it will affect my reputation.

CMP works with amazing illustrators, editors, and other collaborators all working for the same goal. Promotion and repeat clients. This is the Spirit of our company and as such, we will not compromise this model for anyone.

Listed on the bottom of our website is a tab for Collaborators. A list of collaborators who are working freelance for others as well. This is CMP’s idea of giving back. This is collaboration not dictation. A model where everyone shares to enhance the art of another.

Feel free to peruse our collaborators and connect for your services. I don’t put just anyone’s name on that list.