Category Archives: Publishing Options


I received many comments on the last post regarding prequels and back-story. Many authors express the belief that prequels tend to be an author’s saved up back-story. If that is the case, it is unlikely that a compelling prequel will follow. There is a quite a bit to consider as we discuss prequels.


As the authors, we know what happened before our published work; where our characters came from, what makes them do the things they do, why this one is afraid of the dark or that one has an aversion to apples…we created these personality quirks and the reasons behind them. A prequel does not have to be the “why” of the already published work. Honestly, just because one reader wants to know why John Doe flinches every time the doorbell rings, does not meant that EVERY reader wants to know the story behind that quirk. We need to ask ourselves, is our story idea compelling enough to interest a reader in spending his or her hard earned cash on a book? A prequel should be a standalone story that just happens to be inhabited by one or two (or maybe all) of the characters from our current novel. It’s not there to explain the entire back story; it can, however, support character traits or give deeper insight into certain characters. So what’s all the fuss about prequels?


Problem number one, as I see it, is the story map. We have a perfectly good published novel with a sequence of events that is set in stone. Now, here we are later, writing a novel that leads up to that sequence of events – we have to make sure we don’t contradict ourselves or send our characters so way off the beaten path that it’s just not a plausible story to bring them back. The sequence of events in the prequel must logically lead up to the sequence of events in the published work, even if the prequel takes place many years earlier when the main character is just a child (or in the case of Star Wars, before the main characters are born). For example, if in the already published story, our main character mentions that she lost her parents in a fire when she was 20, we can’t possibly have her ask her mother for advice in a prequel that takes place when she is 25. The story map must be consistent and lead the main characters to the path of the already published novel, or at least to a path that the readers can believe will put them upon the path they will travel in the published novel.


Facts must be checked and double checked; even the most seemingly innocuous comment made by a minor character in the first book must coordinate with the storyline in the prequel. If there is an inconsistency in even the minutest detail, we can be sure that a reader will notice it and it will become a thorn in that reader’s side. Every character counts; we need to make sure a minor character doesn’t push a main character off track. If the story line of the prequel is gleaned from an event the main character mentions in the published work, we need to make sure that any character mentioned in the existing work now exists in the prequel. For example, if our MC mentioned in passing that she had a college roommate named Donna at the time her parents perished in that fire and our story takes place during that time frame, we need to make sure Donna exists. No Donna – no continuity. Worse yet, we need to make sure we don’t call the MC’s roommate Rachel. Check the facts, check the facts, check the facts! Did I mention we need to check the facts?


As authors we must make sure that nothing in our prequel negates the novels that are already published—character traits and motivation must be consistent. However, in my opinion, in order to be a successful prequel, the story should be about our characters at an earlier time– a separate stand alone story that will captivate readers not just a pre-shadow of our other novels. When we are writing a prequel, we need to travel back and forth between the published work and the work in progress; making sure that the events occurring in the prequel do not deter the events of the already published work. Some may liken this to time travel stories where the characters are warned to not alter anything in the past because one little stone out of place can set a chain of events that changes the already established present and future. There is a lot of backtracking and double checking to be done when attempting a prequel; the webs must be woven carefully and delicately in order to create a consistent and believable storyline.

What other issues stand out when you think about prequels?


Publishing Options

We labor over our books, our stories; our fertile imaginations sowing the seeds deep within our subconscious, and we labor to bring forth our characters so they can tell their stories. Once we have given birth to this masterpiece and raised it to be the best story it can be, it is time to send it off into the world. The burning question at this point is…to whom should we send it? Should we send it to one of the big six traditional publishers, where we will definitely need an agent?  How about a smaller, Independent Publisher, which may or may not require an agent? Here, our book may or may not be wanted or could get lost in the slush pile. An agent or publisher must love (not just like) our book in order to sell it. Maybe we should send it to a small, vanity printer, which may cost more money than perhaps we can afford? How about sending it to a POD publisher where we know it will not be rejected; where it is definitely wanted since POD publishers make their money by publishing rather than selling books.  Or, worst case scenario – we lock it up in the attic to mold and mildew in the hopes that some future relative of ours might discover it and read it and actually enjoy it.  So my question to you is….what ARE you going to do with the fruit of your hard labor?

The traditional publisher route is an arduous journey for any writer. The big publishing houses seldom accept unsolicited manuscripts.  On the off occasion that they do, unless we have made a personal connection, the manuscript will be among the masses and masses of those being flung onto the desks of the assistants to the editors whose job it is to wade through the slush pile and pluck out what they feel the editor would want to see.  That is not to say that it is not possible for a story to make it through to the correct editor who will read it and be completely blown away by the brilliance of the author; but those are tough odds. In a traditional publishing setting, the manuscript you labored over may sit in the slush pile for months waiting to see the light of day. Once the first assistant has read it and loved it, it goes to an editor, who must get fellow editors to read it, love it, and support it for publication at an editorial meeting.  On the more positive side, without new material and new voices publishers would cease to exist. They are always on the lookout for a good story.  If this is your goal: Don’t give up.  Go for it!

Another route to go is to send your work to an Independent Publishing house.  Independent Publishing houses are smaller than traditional houses and may accept unsolicited manuscripts. However, most prefer agented material. When an author sends a manuscript to an Independent house, it is much more likely to be read by an editor and it is more likely that the response will be more than a form letter. The difficulty with a smaller house is that the number of manuscripts accepted is much smaller and most have limited funds for author promotion. However, since the larger publishers spend 90% of their PR dollars on 10% of their bestselling authors, a new author must do most of their own promotion. On the plus side, small publishers generally are more nurturing with their authors. The competition is just as fierce, but there will always be a market for a great story.

A Subsidy Press or Vanity Publisher is yet another choice. With a Vanity Publisher, an author can expect to pay for services such as editing and cover design, and is unlikely to receive any help with marketing or promotion. This is an expensive alternative but can be worth the expense depending on your purpose. This also includes a subset of Print On Demand Publishers who will only print a copy of the book if it is ordered. The price is generally higher than printed books.  These alternatives will not lead to a spot for your book in a large bookstore such as Borders or Barnes and Nobel, since booksellers do not stock book that are not returnable. Many POD companies offer a paid returnability option. However, I have found (particularly in this economy) booksellers still fail to order these books. Not only have they have gone through no selection process; they must be paid for up-front.  It is wise to research any publisher well, but when it comes to the above it is imperative. Do not be taken advantage through lack of knowledge or research. There are several with excellent reputations but it takes some research to find them.

A Partnership Publisher shares the expense of publishing the book with the author and receives a piece of the profit in return. They may pay for services such as editing and cover design as well as distribution, marketing and promotion. Usually there will be a creative director who will help assess what services are needed most and how much money needs to be allocated to which service.  This type of publisher also tends to be an expensive alternative with up front, out of pocket costs, but again, it is worth it depending on your purpose and your financial situation.  Reputable partnership publishers who produce quality books are highly selective~they publish only what they feel they can sell since their major revenue is derived through the sale of books not the printing of them.  Because of this selectivity, they have an excellent reputation with booksellers and their bookstore distribution is excellent.

Self-Publishing is fast becoming a popular choice as competition in the big publishing houses gets more intense. With Self-Publishing, the author does everything him/ herself. The author must find a professional editor and cover designer. They must develop a marketing plan, get their books input into the on-line bookseller locations, and find a distributor if they want their books in the book stores – it is all in the hands of the author.  If your do not desire to be a publisher as well as an author, there is an alternative to going it all alone. You can hire a book shepherd.  A book shepherd has experience with the publishing industry and can help guide our courageous, creative genius through the details that he/she doesn’t really know about or want to get involved with.  A reputable book shepherd can save an author time, money and frustration by guiding him/her through the publishing process. However, these services do not come without a cost.

There is also a lot to be said for the new opportunities available for E-Book publishing, but that is a whole different subject. Jerry Simmons covers this type of publishing in depth at

As the saying goes: “different strokes for different folks”. There is no sure-fire road to success when it comes to the publishing industry. The best bet for any author is to be knowledgeable about the process and to surround yourself with supportive, helpful people who have a desire to see you succeed. Go to writers conferences and join writers’ organizations. There is a lot of help out there, and I have found writers to be a generous group who do their best to help each other. Don’t let rejections get you down; most of our bestselling authors have a drawer full of them. If their story was compelling, their manuscript well edited and still they were rejected, it may have been that they hit the reader on a bad day, it was not that readers cup of tea, they had read or published something similar recently–a whole host or reasons. Few authors succeed the first time around. However, the only way to fail is to not try or to give up.

Suggestions: A wonderful  gift for any aspiring writer this Christmas could be  Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead: The Bumpy Road to Getting Published, in which Maralys Wills gives a candid view of the road to publication with her  multi-gene books.  She brings writers in the picture and suggests what to do and things to avoid.

Wait….Don’t send that out yet!

I started out writing this blog about how to find a literary agent and whether or not it is your best route.  To help those of you who are wondering if getting an agent is worth the time and effort or if you should just go ahead and send out your manuscript and hope for the best, I want you to have all the factors.  While writing about this, a funny thing happened- my blog morphed.  I found myself talking about the different kinds of publishers, the things you should do before sending a manuscript to a publisher or agent, and also whether or not I felt an agent was necessary. I found I was writing a book instead of a blog! So I decided to write a series of blogs on publishing and agents. Your individual goals will dictate the best route for you, and learning about today’s publishing world is key to making an informed decision.  Since there are certain things that need to be done before you even think of sending out your manuscript, I thought I would start with that. So without further ado….

Wait…don’t send that out yet!

Congratulations, you just completed writing your novel! So now what? Well, after you heave a sigh of relief at having finished and maybe have a celebratory glass of wine, it’s time to decide on the next step. There are many routes you can go, so how do you decide which path to take? Do you submit to the big publishers and hope for the best? Should you go with a smaller print? How about an eBook? Self-Publish? POD? An author’s head could spin with all the different choices! There are several questions we need to ask ourselves before we start sending our manuscripts out, whether it is to publishers themselves or to literary agents we hope will represent us. The first question to ask is: is it really done? I find that when I finish a manuscript, I need to put it down and walk away for a while before I can go back and edit. If I try to edit it right away, I am too close to it and tend to not see the flaws that will inevitably be in it. If I wait for a while, not just a day or two, then I can look at it with fresh eyes and maybe see changes that need to be made. Once I have edited and rewritten, and I truly believe it is ready to go, I have one more thing I need to do before I send it out to anyone. The next step I take is to have it professionally edited.

Is professional editing worth the time and money? In my honest opinion, YES! The last thing we want to do as authors is send out our sweat and tears manuscript and have it discounted without even being read all the way through. Why would that happen? Well, if it has a lot of typos, the formatting is incorrect, if the grammar is incorrect in spots, if the timeline doesn’t work, if the continuity is off…I could go on and on, but I think I have made my point. A professional editor will not only check for grammar and sentence structure; he or she will check for continuity, pace, and flow as well. Writers Conferences, associations, and clubs are an excellent way to find a reputable editor. I also highly recommend Jeff Herman’s book: Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents. Once you find an editor, make sure that your editor will work in the world you have created.  Ask for references and check them out –talk with authors who have worked with that editor. There are many people out there who fancy themselves editors and will truly try to do a good job for you, but just don’t have the experience you want in an editor. Would you trust your baby to an inexperienced caregiver? Then why would you trust an inexperienced editor with your labor of love? While a new editor may be good, a proven track record is a plus. Having your manuscript professionally edited greatly increases your chances of publication, but it does not assure it. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors to consider in today’s world of publishing. Keeping that in mind, I will continue this series on publishing and agents as quickly as possible.



Printed Books vs. eBooks

For new authors and experienced authors alike, it is imperative to keep honing our craft and learning new things. For this reason, I recently became active in a writing group on one of the social sites. I was interested in getting their opinion on a certain subject, so I posed a query to the group: What are your thoughts on eBooks vs. printed books? I was quite surprised by the amount of responses I received. It seems that for most, there is an emotional connection to the printed page. After reading the responses, I thought it would be a good idea to address the subject further.

As authors it is our job to express ourselves in words, to craft a story with the flow of beauty and to paint a picture in our reader’s minds. It is our passion, it is our life. Does it matter what venue our labor of love is presented on? With the advent of eBooks and growing industry surrounding them, will our beloved books be preserved on paper?

How many of you swore when you were younger that you would never give up your vinyl records and albums?  Most of us thought the CD would go the way of the 8-track tape. None of us could imagine listening to this impersonal piece of metal. There was no character to them, no vinyl smell and limited artwork; yes, the sound was better, but it was the whole experience we wanted. The scratches added character and richness to the music. Will this be the path of eBooks?

Will eBooks replace the paper books we love? They certainly have their merit, such as the CD over vinyl, yet the experience is totally different. A bound book, with a worn spine and the yellowed and torn pages, can it really be replaced by a piece of machinery? EBooks enable us to carry as many books as we would like without having to labor under their weight. We can download a book over the internet and not have to leave the comfort of our homes. On vacation we don’t have to seek out a local bookstore in order to have something to read when we finish what we brought with us. In our homes, our bookshelves do not have to be cluttered with copies of our favorite books.  Then of course there is the matter of trees; conserving our resources. Yet there is another side to that conservation. Technology itself is taxing on our resources, so which is better? Do we save the trees and deplete our other resources in the name of convenience?

Those of us who love the feel of a book in our hands may have strong feelings about eBooks vs. paper books. There is an emotional connection to a paper book that is lacking in an electronic copy of the same work. There is nothing like the weight of a beloved friend in our hands, the well worn pages of a truly loved book, the smell of the paper and the silken feel of it between our fingers as we turn a page.  Seeing your own book on the shelf of the library or bookstore invokes an emotional response. There is a feeling of satisfaction and a thrill of seeing your work on that shelf. Will we still feel that way when we are looking at a digitized copy on a computer screen? Probably not; how sad it will be to lose that experience of walking into a bookstore and browsing amongst the shelves for just the right book, the one that jumps out at us asking to be read as we sit by the pool, on our deck or in our favorite comfy chair.  Yet for our children and their children, the experience of the printed page is not as important as it is to us. The readers of the future are growing up in a digitized age.  Computer screens are replacing textbooks and workbooks in the schools just as the ipod is now replacing the CD. We authors need to realize that the future may lie with these electronic versions of our work.  The eBook market is expanding rapidly (currently it is 8% of book sales, but it is expected to rise to 25% by 2012) and it is foolish, in my opinion to ignore it.  Printed books may be going the way of the vinyl album, but I do not believe it will be a quick death. There will always be printed books, just as there are still, in some instances scrolls of papyrus in existence.  I don’t believe that we will see the disappearance of printed books in our lifetime, yet at some distant point in the future, the printed book will become as scarce as that scroll of papyrus that you see in the museum. There will always be connoisseurs of the written word whose shelves will be lined with leather bound copies of the classics; but for the common consumer, the reader we are trying to reach out to and whose hearts and imaginations we are trying to touch, the eBook will be the norm.

It is the age of computers and digitalization and we need to consider that this may be the future of the written word.  I personally do not own a kindle nor do I intend to read my books on that format.  I do embrace the future in that my books are available on all three formats: hardback, paperback and electronic. I for one do not wish to ignore a growing segment of the market. Those who are already buying electronic versions will wait until the book they want to buy comes out in that venue and then they will buy. If you do not publish in this sector, you are missing a growing part of your audience, and what author wants to miss out on that chance to touch someone’s heart?  Why deny the public what they want when it is our job to give them exactly that?



Importance of an Author’s Support Team

With the release of Twisted Webs, the sequel to Webs of Power, just around the corner and my administrative assistant, Kathy Porter, in Las Vegas promoting her own novel, Earths Ultimate Conflict, at the Star Trek convention, I am taking time out to write a blog about something near and dear to my heart–The Importance of a Writer’s Support System. We have a strong community, and most of us strive to help one another. (I write novels, not short stories, so please forgive the length of this blog)

The time of a successful author writing in isolation with a realistic expectation of having a publisher or editor pour over their manuscript until it is just right for publication is as distant a memory as that of the manual typewriters. We all need help. (Writers Conferences, writers meetings, critique groups.. .) Writers (published as well as unpublished) who ignore these networking opportunities are out of the loop and generally make costly errors in time and money. There are all kinds of scams out there for unsuspecting writers. Many uninformed writers have paid to have their manuscripts printed by publishers who do not do their work justice. There are far too many publishers who produce poor quality books, many with unattractive/ ineffective covers: novel backs (and/or the front flap of a hardback) copy which does not hook the reader, interior copy which has not been professionally edited (the kiss of death for a novel). . . . . (Example: Some so-called publishers of novels have posted an author’s bio rather than a story hook. And yet, what buyers of  novels care about is the story, not who the author is or what he/she has accomplished–Nobody buys Grisham because he was a lawyer, Robin Cook because he was a doctor, or Wambaugh because he was a cop. And how many people knows what James Patterson did before he became an author? What novel buyers want is to escape into a compelling story–In Real Estate it’s Location-Location-Location. In Novels, it’s Story-Story-Story. If there’s a compelling story, some novel readers might care about your knowledge, expertise, or credentials) In non-fiction, the reader wants to know what they will learn or gain from your insight–the non-fiction author must establish credentials. Meticulous research can often make up for what the author lacks in past experience. Platform is important and necessary, but Story (in a novel) and Content (in-non-fiction) is King. Without that, the best thought-out platform will neither get your book published or sold.

There are so many good ways to be published today that it is sad to encounter writers who have been taken advantage of. Like it or not, do not ignore the e-Book explosions. It is the fastest growing segment of publishing. Although it accounts for only approximately 8% of the current book sales, it is predicted to grow to 25% by 2012. However, I will not address this issue since Jerry Simmons does it so well–

Major considerations: Why you want to be published and your budget-(available finances and time). Only then can you make an intelligent decision in regard to how you want to be published.

The two main extreme in Fiction and Non-Fiction (with numerous alternate routes):

Writers who just want a book for family and friends or desire a professionally formatted book as a calling card for business (one which can be sold at seminars or other speaking engagements) who are unable or do not wish to go through a traditional publisher and do not want the hassle of self-publishing (which entails getting an ISBN number, cover and interior designer, warehousing, distribution. . . .)  have a number of options. A POD (print on demand) publisher may work well for these authors—Generally this can be done in less time and is one of the most cost-effective since there are no warehousing costs. The greatest disadvantage of PODs are that they are printed one at a time and therefore more expensive to purchase than traditionally published or printed books and are seldom carried in book stores since they must be paid for up-front. (If you are technically adept, there are do-it-yourself uploads available on line which are even less expensive–but if you do not have a great deal of professional expertise, BEWARE, especially when it comes to the editing of a novel–we are all too close to our own work to see the flaws.)

However, if like me, you want to see your books in book stores coast to coast, that is not the way to go. Bookstores do not buy books that are not returnable and without a publisher or some sort of trusted selection process, and a reputable distributor, it is an uphill battle to establish credibility. (It can be done through self-publishing, but you need an extremely strong team of knowledgeable professionals to work with and must have the willingness to act as a publisher as well as an author. This is an easier task for a non-fiction than a fiction writer.)

If you decide to self-publish, check with reputable book Shepard’s, such as Jerry Simmons, Ellen Reid  or Sharon Goldinger  These are some I have faith in but I’m sure there are many others. Know the right questions to ask and get specifics. Hire no one without checking them out and getting references. 

I encourage anyone who is serious about being published to attend conferences, meetings, and carefully selected critique sessions with other writers. Check out the following links: The next conference is at the Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach, CA—September 24-26, 2010. (I will be giving a workshop on “What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Published Writer” on Saturday the 25th–My sequel is a year late due to all the things I didn’t know–be better informed) Also at the Crown Plaza in San Diego, CA over President’s Day Weekend, February 18-21, 2011. Their next conference is at the Paradise Resort and Spa in San Diego, CA—November 5-7, 2010.

If you are unable to attend a full conference, attend as many days as you can.

The following writers groups present professional, well-informed speakers and panels and run credible critique groups as well: Los Angeles, CA at 3:00 PM on the third Saturday of each month, unless it is a five week month–Check the schedule for date and location. First time guest are free. There is no charge for members) Fountain Valley, CA. Meets on the third Saturday of each month. 9:30 AM Networking 10:00 Speakers–Includes lunch. (Members with reservation $25–$30 without, Guests $30 with reservation–$35 without) California Writers Club, founded in 1909, is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating writers in the craft of writing and the marketing of their work. CWC has 18 branches throughout California, including Orange County and Long Beach CWC evolved from a group started by Jack London.

There are a number of first-class writers conferences and associations across the nation. However, since I live in Southern California, these listed above are the ones I can vouch for. If the above do not work for you, google writers conferences and writers associations in your area.  

Be an avid readers. Since none of us create in a vacuum, to continue to grow as authors, we must continue to reader the works of other writers–not just your own genre. When life gets hectic, and I have no time to sit down with a good book, I turn to recorded books which I listen to while I am driving, taking a walk on the beach, getting dressed . . . It’s not as good as sitting down with a book, but it’s better than neglecting the works of other authors. The biggest disadvantage to recorded books is having a that inevitable thought pop into you head and having to rewind—a real pain on the Playaways. Recorded books can be rented for very little (about $1.00 per week) from your local library.

Once you are published the real work begins. You have a product which must be sold and no one buys a book unless they have heard or read about it. But that’s a whole new topic.

I am particularly blessed with a fantastically supportive husband (whom I became acquainted with at our high school reunion five years ago) and an incredible assistant who is a good friend as well as an award winning author. Kathy Porter and I have a win-win working relationship. She is the perfect assistant for booking author signings and speaking engagements and has developed a high degree of on-line savvy. At the same time she is learning the ropes of effective book marketing for her own series.  A fellow writer, Brennan Harvey keeps my website as up to date as possible.  Although, I have no intention of turning this into a commercial, I must add that since I switched to EMSI, I also have a fabulous PR firm (contact information in the press room of my website). After investing in a publicist who worked on a dial-a-prayer basis, had a high monthly retainer, and sent books with pitch letters rather than when requested (turning them into junk mail) I so appreciate this fabulous group of professionals. With this group, I now pay for services rendered, and know up-front what to expect (Example: x number of radio shows for x number of $, etc.) with no nickel and dime postage fees. An award winning journalist writes the copy for my pitches, and when I have a question, the specialist in charge of (Radio, TV, or Print) either answers the phone or calls back. I no longer need to communicate with my publicist in e-mail bullets. Oops, I guess this does sound like a commercial, but I love this perceptive group of wonderful humans-beings. No one could ask for more professional or responsive representation. I am also with a terrific publisher who has accessible professionals as each phase of publishing and marketing. (This did not happen overnight. I began writing novels in 1986 with my first novel accepted for publication in 2007.) I have indeed been very fortunate and appreciate the help of so many caring people.

None of us can do it alone, but there is a lot of help out there. Tap into our wonderful community of writers and the multitude of computer savvy kids.

Confession: If you receive our good news more than once, I apologize in advance. I am an on-line novice. Kathy is my on-line expert for spreading the word, but in her absence I began exploring. When she returns I will see if she can remove any duplication since I don’t want to bombard you with repetition. However, Kathy will be working on our next book tour which begins October 8th on the East Coast when she returns, so some things might slip through the cracks. Please ignore and forgive any duplication we fail to remove.

Here goes: Good news which I believe is new to most of you:

An encouraging Google alert came through last week: Although, I consider my novels mainstream fiction, rather than thrillers, they are page turners, and since I am in such good company, I have no complaints, in fact I am thrilled. And for anyone in or around the Long Beach area, we would love to have you join us for the Twisted Webs book launch: Sunday. Sept. 12th at 3:00 at B&N in Marina Pacifica.  Reviews from some who have read an Advanced Readers  Copy of Twisted Webs are on   More will be posted on this and others websites soon. Amazon has not yet accepted reviews on the pre-order site of Twisted Webs, but should any day and will hopefully have my e-books relisted (the Kindle of Webs of Power fell off when they were up-dating their site a week ago, and Twisted Webs has not yet been input). The reviews currently on Barnes and Noble and about 25 others should be posted before the release date.       

The next blog I will personally pen, will be titled, “Drop the filters and write from the heart”. This will be written and posted after I finish the first draft of Irreversible Webs.

Disclaimer – Blogs have not been professionally edited. There may  be, and most likely are, some grammatical, syntax or spelling errors. I apologize in advance.