Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why, yes, I really SHOULD pay those writers!

When I started working on the Revisions book, I had no idea what changes lay ahead – nor did I foresee any contributors to this book going above and beyond what I was asking for. Eventually, this played a role in me coming to a decision I only wished I decided on much earlier.

The one manuscript ended up being turned into 3 (my publisher was kept updated on the book’s progress as I worked on it and after I mentioned it was over 500 pages, she suggested we break the one into three). Additionally, I asked contributors if, in addition to being interviewed and sharing their revision advice, they wanted to contribute any short pieces for end-of-the-chapter features. There was no obligation for them to do so, of course. I just threw that out there. Nobody was under any pressure to submit anything. For the most part, I gathered those items myself – sending out requests to authors to include their book excerpts or writers of blog posts for permission to reprint their posts. I also wrote many of them myself. For one feature, I even included a writer’s comment left on my blog!

At some point, I “came to my senses” and realized that something was missing from this equation: Payment for original material. This especially became a concern for me after one contributor sent me a 19-page feature he labored over for one of the chapters. My heart sank, knowing I made it clear I wasn’t paying anybody for anything. But the fact that he did this stayed with me. It had a very profound effect. I hadn’t expected something so long and thorough, yet there it was.

So I started thinking. I thought maybe it would be a good idea to pay those writers. After all, they were taking the time to write ORIGINAL work for my book. And who was receiving the royalty checks from book sales?? ME! That’s not fair. It’s just not fair that I would profit off of their hard work like that. No, something was VERY wrong with that arrangement.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this. (I’ve been at this project for 2 years!!) But I’m just glad I realized this now. I think I finally woke up to this after a writer ranted at me after I told her I don’t pay for interviews. (Never have and never will.)

But before I could tell everybody, I had to figure out HOW I was going to make this work.

I didn’t see much sense in paying for things like blog posts and book excerpts. I also didn’t think I was obligated to pay any of the writers for including their before-and-after samples. That didn’t make sense to me. No, I realized, I will pay the writers who write something just for this book. This led me to my first decision:

1. I will be paying writers for ORIGINAL material written just for this book.

So what kind of “original material” qualified? It wasn’t quotes or interviews. I decided on exactly what I meant by “original material” in this second decision:

2. I will be paying writers for success stories and end-of-the chapter features.

My next task was to figure out how I was going to make this work. There are over 100 contributors to this series. I could not afford to pay all of them in one full swoop! No, that’s not going to work. I am on a fixed income. I have only so much available to spend each month, though I DO try to earn extra money with my writing. I had to figure out how to do this within my budget.

The first way to figure that out was to tally up how many items in the book qualified as paid work. So I went through the three manuscripts and counted them all up.

Next, I started with a figure and added that up to see if each payout was affordable. Fortunately, it was – on ONE CONDITION: IF I pay those writers after the book is published. To pay all of them right now is just not possible for me.

So I arrived at the third decision:

3. I will be paying writers when the book they appear in is published.

So it looks like I am paying writers for contributions after all. Hooray! I feel better, I have a clear conscience, I won’t look like someone taking advantage of hard-working writers, the book will have straight-on solid and helpful material useful from experts in the know, and everybody will be happy – including the writers.

I e-mailed the writers who qualified for payment and I let them know that I was NOW paying for contributions to this series. So far, none have complained about the amount (which is two figures). They were mostly grateful and appreciative that I was putting in an effort to pay them, and that they were receiving some kind of financial compensation for their hard work after all.

On the other hand, I considered the possibility that certain writers would not want payment from me. That COULD happen -- and, actually, it DID happen. I was prepared for this. I said that if the writer insisted on not receiving payment from me, then at least allow me the chance to take what I would pay them and donate it to their favorite charity. If they didn't have a favorite charity, or couldn't think of one, I said I would make the donation in their name to LiveStrong

This experience made me marvel over why on earth I didn’t think of this sooner. WHY hadn’t this struck me? After all, I agreed to pay contributors to the MIDNIGHT OIL book a portion of royalties. (Sadly, sales of that book have been insanely low. One writer said not to send him anything until the dollar amount he was entitled to reached $5, and it isn’t even yet at that amount even after all these years!) I really don’t know why I didn’t think about this sooner. I guess I needed that writer reading me the riot act to get me to take another look at what was going on here.

In any event, I am only relieved that I have finally understood the importance of paying the writers for their contributions to my book projects. They’ve earned it – and they are worth it!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Editing mistakes

One thing I have learned to live with as a book reviewer is that, sometimes, editing mistakes happen in books. There is nothing I can do about it. The missing period or the dialogue missing an ending quote mark are little things I have no trouble overlooking, but some mistakes just seem to stand out.

Recently, Saga Books has contracted to publish the haunted houses book I have co-authored with Martha Jette. We have been performing surgery on this manuscript before it goes to print. Martha noted to me that, as she has worked on this manuscript, she has found mistakes we missed when we took it through the editing rounds with the last publisher we had this book with.

That is disheartening, but not surprising.

When I edited the BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL manuscript, I read it several times. I read it until my eyes started to bleed. Yet even after it was published, I caught a few mistakes that slipped through. This probably would not have happened had an extra pair of eyes given it a read, so I’m grateful that, this time around, this book has been edited by more than one person. I’m especially confident about this since Martha is also a professional editor.

All the same, editing mistakes tend to slip through. The occasional mistake is forgivable. It’s the mistakes that happen over and over again, however, that drive me batty.

This is something Martha can relate to. “I review many books that are basically good reads but all the errors just drive me crazy.”

Errors that keep showing up in a manuscript are the ones that I have gripes about. For example, one book I am currently reviewing has characters noting whether it's a.m. or p.m. when they give the time. This is a bad idea because, first of all, people don’t say “it’s 5 p.m. “ if you ask them the time. They just say “it’s 5” or “it’s 5:00.” The first time this happened, I rolled my eyes. The bazillionth time it happened, I was ready to tear my hair out. It was especially annoying when a character said that it was “10:30 a.m.” and, in the same paragraph, noted that a particular character was still in school.

Well…duh. Of course it’s “a.m.” if someone is still in school. Teenagers don’t normally attend school in the evening.

What’s worse is that this book is NOT an ARC. It is not a manuscript. It is a final release.

I mentioned this to an editor I know and it seemed to touch on a nerve. She complained about “lazy editing” in so many books.

This also reminded me of something I have heard a lot. A lot of publishers and editors won’t exactly take it upon themselves to “edit” an entire manuscript they are going to publish. These days, that responsibility rests on the author. An author must have their manuscript as print-ready as possible in order to pass the scrutinizing eyes of an agent or acquisitions editor. It must be as complete, revised and edited as it can be. One editor at a publishing house I know mentioned to me that she can tell when a manuscript is a first draft. Sadly, it’s manuscripts like these she normally rejects.

In my Revisions book series, I encourage writers to get their manuscripts edited by a professional editor. Or at least have a fellow writer look it over. Yes, editors are expensive, but trust me, they are so worth every penny they charge. Of all the editors I have worked with, I thank my lucky stars for all the mistakes they have caught in my manuscripts. As it is, one editor pointed out a glaring POV mistake I made on the very first page of a novel. After I saw that, I slapped my forehead and wondered how on earth I missed that. (A short story I recently had published also had a POV mistake which I didn't catch until after it was published. Whoops.)

This is how those mistakes happen. Sometimes, we miss things. But if we have a professional editor help us with our manuscripts, chances are good the amount of things we miss during our own edits will be smaller.

This is something that Martha likewise encourages. “I keep reminding authors that they MUST review their work many times and/or get a professional editor to do it for them because most publishers today simply do not do it.”

At least this book is in the hands of two different professional editors. You can't accuse us of "lazy editing" here! Still, mistakes tend to slip through. And that might happen even still, with this book. That's just the way it is. The most we can do is give our manuscripts the best editing work we can.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Q & A with Shanta Everington

Shanta Everington is a writing parent who lives in the UK. Her new book, The Terrible Twos: A Parents Guide, was just released on the first of September. She took the time to answer some questions for this blog.

1. When did you become a parent?

My son was born in June 2006. I was totally unprepared for the reality of parenting, despite working with children and families beforehand!

2. How have your experiences as a parent influenced your writing?

After becoming a parent, I also became fascinated with reading parenting books. In the first year, I spent a lot of time thinking deeply about the relative merits of different types of parenting approaches and I spoke to a lot of other parents. A lot of my creative energy became focused on parenting. The first few years are so intense. When my son turned three, I felt that I wanted to use my own experiences and research to start writing parenting books of my own. :)

3. How did you manage getting commissioned to write The Terrible Twos: A Parent's Guide?

It happened in a roundabout kind of way. I sent in a proposal for something else that the publisher turned down. But they liked my writing style and sent such an encouraging 'rejection' that I thought I'd keep an eye on their website with a view to trying again. One day I noticed that they had posted a list of topics that they were seeking authors for and one of those was the 'terrible twos'. Everything just fell into place and I thought, 'That's the book I'm going to write!' So I worked up a proposal and sent it in and luckily they accepted!!

4. What can you tell me about this book?

The book covers all aspects of parenting a two-year-old, from dealing with tantrums and faddy eaters to potty training to sleep issues. Every chapter includes a real life case study. The book doesn't tell parents what they 'should' be doing. Rather it is a collection of ideas and strategies. The book will help parents to understand why their child is behaving the way they are and to explore a range of parenting approaches. I am a qualified early years teacher and a parent, so the book draws on personal experience and professional training.

5. What experiences with your own child contributed to your work on this book?

The whole book was inspired by my trials and tribulations with my son. I hadn't really worried about the terrible twos when he was a baby. But suddenly when he turned two and a half, we were called into nursery to discuss his behaviour. It was a time of huge anxiety. I felt that the fact we were being called in must mean something was very 'wrong'. But in reality it was nothing to worry about at all. Just all the normal stuff, like huge tantrums.

My son was very verbally articulate from a young age and because he could express himself, it was expected that he would have less tantrums than a child who couldn't. Of course, it is not that simple. He wasn't frustrated because he couldn't express himself. He was frustrated because a two-year-old's world isn't always in their control and this can result in overwhelming emotions. I wanted the book to help other parents understand their two-year-old's needs, emotions and behaviour during this developmental phase.

6. Did you ever "test out" anything in your manuscript with your own child before submitting it? What happened?

I didn't test anything out. I was never really comfortable with a lot of the simplistic approaches advocated by parenting gurus, like the 'naughty step,' so I did a lot of research into different approaches. By the time I actually wrote the book, we were over the 'worst' of the terrible twos with our son.

7. How has your work on this book affected you as a parent? Have you come out of this project a little wiser?

I think it made me observe my child more closely, to really pay attention to what he was experiencing rather than look for 'quick fix' solutions. I find it sad that we live in a culture where parents have lost touch with their instincts and rely on TV ' parenting experts' (who don't always have children of their own) to tell us what to do. Writing the book has made me more confident and more able to challenge received wisdom and think for myself. I hope reading it will do the same for other parents.

8. Your other books are fiction. Was it a challenge to work on a nonfiction book? How was it different?

It was refreshing change actually. I think I was ready to try something new. It was much more of a collaborative experience and I enjoyed that. Writing fiction can be very solitary and intense. It was also the first time I wrote a book knowing from the outset that I had a publisher, which was a wonderful feeling. :)

9. What other kind of writing do you do?

Any and all! :) Poetry, short stories, novels, life writing, articles, educational resources, charity publications. I just love to write! :)

I have two 'day jobs', one teaching creative writing with The Open University and one as Deputy Editor of Disability, Pregnancy and Parenthood International journal.

10. What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

I have two short stories appearing in two different anthologies shortly - 'Yasmina's Elbow' in Even More Tonto Short Stories (Tonto Books) and 'Graft' in Mosaic Open Anthology (Bridge House Publishing).

Need2Know have commissioned me to write a second book, Baby's First Year: A Parent's Guide, which will be published in 2011.

Bridge House Publishing: http://bridgehousepublishing.co.uk/

Tonto Books: http://www.tontobooks.co.uk/

Need2Know Books: http://www.need2knowbooks.co.uk/ (direct link to The Terrible Twos here)

Amazon page here

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Friday, September 03, 2010

September business

September is here! I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of September 1st, because it meant there was just one more month to go before Spook City comes out! I am so excited about this book and can't wait to see it finally appear in print! Hard to believe I got started on that book nearly 2 years ago. And all it took to get the idea for that book was an article I started to do research on. The article never happened, of course. The book happened, instead! (I ended up having too much material to fit into one article.) That is ONE book that I have coming out in October, but it's not the only one.

Yep, that's right. I have an additional book scheduled for publication in October: The revised version of Topiary Dreams! My original venture to try to publish Topiary Dreams myself after Evil-Book.com shut down ended up failing miserably. One reason why is because, in my naivete, I tried to do something special with the font to make the book stand out. Unfortunately, while it looked good on screen, it did not look good on paper. It ended up being too hard for many people to read. (I didn't get any print galleys to review before printing.) Another reason is because of no EAN bar code or ISBN. Fail!

So I'm taking it through CreateSpace this time. Self-publishing is just not for me at this point in time. However, to make this version even better than the last, I added new poems, had it professionally edited and I am currently seeking some blurbs from fellow horror writers.

That's one thing I had to remember to do this month. While September has gotten me all excited in getting just one month closer for the release of new books, it's also gotten me busy doing some legwork! I finally remembered to submit Topiary Dreams to a writer who agreed to provide a blurb for it (and I am hoping to find one or two other writers who will do this as well). I also had to remind my publisher about getting the cover done for Spook City. (She informed me the cover artist is working on that.)

Aside from the book business, I'll have to get ready for these releases! There's promotion to do and book reviewers to find. As it is, I have been sending out emails and press releases to book reviewers for Love is Like a Rainbow, but only one person has replied with a request to review. Thank goodness for Night Owl Reviews! I have the opportunity to have my books featured on there and review copies are uploaded into their system. So, at least there is that. I don't know if Topiary Dreams would match with what they review. It is horror, but....horror poetry. Well, we'll see!

So aside from the normal writing stuff I do each month, I'll be putting extra focus on getting ready for these book releases. The good news is that at least I am almost done prepping the second and third books for the Revisions book series, so I won't have to stress out so much there. I just need to find short fiction writers to interview and obtain quotes from on revising short fiction! The second book is heading off to my publisher this month. Yay!

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