Friday, April 27, 2012

Revision: links to authors who share early drafts

I'm always fascinated at how different writers revise their manuscripts.

I gave examples in a past post about Lewis Carroll and also shared my rainbow manuscript revision technique.

I recently found out that CBCC of University of Wisconsin placed Ellen Raskin's drafts of The Westing Game online. (The Westing Game won the Newbery award in 1979.)

Here's a link to the drafts and to the audio of Raskin talking about her manuscripts! 
The information and background about the book design (Raskin was very involved) is fascinating. (The first printing was shredded.)
The working notes and intro to the project are also excellent.

Deep revision for me often means cutting characters, adding characters, changing plot points, strengthening desire lines, and once *gasp* changing the premise, which meant rewriting that entire novel. Deep revision also includes cutting chapters and writing new chapters and scenes.

Below are links to other authors who share their revision process. All their examples are excellent.

Janni Simner posted various versions and an excellent analysis of the opening paragraphs of her short story, "Song for Two Voices" in 2005. In this post she also talks about finding the right voice for this story. She often shares thoughts about revision on her blog.

Melissa Marr shared early drafts from pages in her notebooks in 2009. See here and here.

More recently, earlier this year, Maggie Stiefvater shared her some of her revisions on her blog.
She also asked other authors to share their revision thoughts and process: Stiefvater gives links on her blog to ten authors who share their drafts.

Cheryl Klein talks about the Process of Publishing Second Sight

Photo by Cal Werry
It’s a treat to visit with Cheryl Klein today in my third of three interviews with authors and publishing professionals about indie-publishing. She joins me to discuss what was involved in publishing her book, Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults.

Cheryl Klein is an Executive Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and is the author of Second Sight. Her website is filled with information and resources for writers.

[This interview is also simultaneously posted on Through the Tollbooth, a group blog by VCFA alumni.] 

[Sarah] How did you prepare your book, Second Sight, for publication? What extra steps did you need to take because you published it yourself?

[Cheryl] I write my talks in outline form to keep them and me loose as I speak, so first I had to revise them for print — which involved a lot of revising altogether; I think I more or less rewrote my speech on voice completely. After that, I sent it to a freelance book designer I’d hired, and she came up with a sample interior design, which I approved. She and I then went through two rounds of proofs (which sometimes involved me rewriting more than I should) before finalizing the interiors. It was all very much like the standard editorial process we use at Scholastic.

The designer and I also collaborated on the cover, with both of us generating ideas, settling on a concept, and then tweaking the details until we had something I liked — something I love, actually. My personal style — in everything from the clothes I wear to the art I love to how I edit my books — emphasizes very classical, clean structures and lines combined with bright colors and textures and patterns, and this book cover is a wonderful example of that.

Finally, I registered for an ISBN so the book could be included in various online systems, and a bar code so it could be scanned and sold in stores. And I researched book printers and distributors online, and reached out to a number of services for quotes.

[Sarah] Who else was involved in the publication process?

[Cheryl] My designer was named Whitney Lyle — she’s now a full-time book designer for Scholastic. The books themselves were printed by McNaughton & Gunn in Michigan. Several of my editorial friends consulted on the copyediting and flap copy.

[Sarah] What are the advantages of publishing your book in print form? What were the biggest challenges you faced?

[Cheryl] I never considered publishing it solely in e-form — in part because I grew up on real, physical books, and I love them madly, and I wanted to have one of my very own. So one great advantage was just to be able to hold a book I’d written in my hands. . . . It was really satisfying, if that doesn’t sound too egotistical. On a practical level, the biggest advantages are probably having something physical to sell at my speaking appearances, as I do a fair number of those, and that the book can reach an audience beyond people who own e-readers (as that’s still just a limited subset of readers, and will probably remain so for quite some time to come).

The biggest challenge was trying to figure out the proper distribution for the books — how many books should go where, and which were the right services to use that would answer the particular needs I had.

[Sarah] You used Kickstarter as a way to raise money to print your book. Why did you choose Kickstarter?

[Cheryl] At the time I did it (July of 2009), Kickstarter had just opened for business earlier that year, and it was the only crowdsourced-fundraising website for artistic activities that I knew of.

[Sarah] You started your own small press: Asterisk Books. Could you talk about how this was helpful in publishing Second Sight? Also, how have you distributed your book?

[Cheryl] Well, I have to confess that Asterisk came into existence basically because of Second Sight — I wanted to have a proper imprint name to put on the spine and title page! I chose “Asterisk” because I love stars and punctuation, and because I love the additions and amendments and digressions the mark represents.

Second Sight is available online through’s Advantage consignment program and through, an independent distributor out of Minneapolis. Working with Mybookorders was really important and useful to me early on because (a) I wanted a non-Amazon option for people who are concerned about the company and (b) I needed a distributor that could handle discounts at various levels, so the people who sponsored me on Kickstarter could receive the proper credit for their sponsorship (for instance, a $10 sponsorship = $10 off the book), and Amazon doesn’t offer such an option. The book has also been for sale at my local independent bookstore near work, the wonderful McNally Jackson Booksellers, and I’ve been selling it at my various appearances since it’s come out.

I owe my mother a HUGE thanks here, as she and my dad are not only storing over a thousand books (at present) in their garage, she’s also been shipping books to Amazon and to my appearances as necessary. (They know her really well at the local FedEx.) Thanks, Mom!

[Sarah] The Asterisk graphic and name “Asterisk Books” do add a nice touch to the spine and title page! One last question: Second Sight is a popular book and is now in it’s second printing. Do you plan to release it as an e-book?

[Cheryl] At present, I do not have plans to release it as an e-book.

[Sarah] Thank you, Cheryl, for a great interview!

Be sure to visit Cheryl at her useful website (that includes many of her craft talks) and her wonderful blog. Cheryl is also on twitter. (There is important info on her website about the various option of placing orders for her book, Second Sight. Her book is an excellent resource for writers, one I highly recommend.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Debi Faulkner on the Teamwork of Indie-Publishing

It’s a pleasure to visit with Debi Faulkner today as I continue my series of interviews about e-books and indie-publishing. Originally from Detroit, Debi has lived in Europe for over ten years.

Debi is a poet and the author of four novels, including the chapter book, Lilypad Princess, and the young adult novel, Summoning. Her middle grade novel, Year of the WereCurse: WereWhat?, was recently released in its print version.

[This interview is also simultaneously posted on Through the Tollbooth, a group blog by VCFA alumni.] 

[Sarah] Publishing a book is always a team effort. Who did you choose to help prepare your books and what did they do?

[Debi] While I’ve always relied on my wonderful and talented critique partners and writing buddies to help me prepare my manuscripts in the initial stages, going past that into the indie-publishing field has been a real learning experience.

My first novel, Summoning, went through several rounds of revisions with my own writing circle, then several more based on advice from agents who’d suggested changes. Though none of those agents ultimately took on the book, I believed that it was a story that deserved a chance.

My husband was the one who convinced me to publish the book myself, and when I discovered that it was possible to publish electronically, I tried to learn everything I could about the process. Having a small (extremely small) bit of experience with digital photography and art, I made the original cover myself. Formatting was a bit trickier, because each of the venues available to create and sell an ebook has its own methods and its own formatting rules. For this book, I took on the (sometimes very frustrating) task myself.

I pushed the “publish” buttons on the various sites, and viola! a book was born!

It didn’t take long for me to learn that my cover was amateurish and that some of the paragraphs on the Kindle edition did not format correctly.

It was time for help.

A fellow indie author on the Kindle Board’s Writer’s Cafe, Thea Atkinson, created the current cover and various other members helped me correct the formatting errors.

But I’d learned my lesson, and I’d found a wealth of resources including Editor Extraordinaire, Lynn O’Dell, and Cover Artist to the Stars, Glendon Haddix.

[Sarah] You chose an experienced and well-known editor to edit your books. What was it like working with her?

[Debi] One of the main criticisms of indie-books is that they are poorly edited. Unfortunately, that statement can be all too true. It’s possible to write a horrible first draft, decide it’s pure gold and hit that publish button before a book is ready.

But writing is my career. My reputation is on the line every time someone samples or downloads my books. I wanted them to be the very best. I wanted them to be professional. As every serious writer knows, professional editing is a must in producing a professional book. And getting the right editor is important.

That’s where Lynn O’Dell of Red Adept Publishing Services came in. This woman is amazing. Not only does she have a copyeditor’s eye for all things grammatical, but her ability to analyze story arc, characterization, pacing, plot holes – everything a good editor needs to help an author fine-tune a manuscript – is spot on.

I hired her to work with me on Year of the WereCurse: WereWhat?, and it was definitely my best decision in this entire journey so far. She is tough, and she knows how to motivate a writer to work harder, dig deeper and find a story’s underlying “truth.”

Because she is so good, and because she is extremely popular with indie-authors, I booked a place on her schedule for my next book before I’d even started writing it!

[Sarah] How involved were you in choosing the covers for your books?

[Debi] As I described above, Summoning‘s original cover was my own. While it no longer has my cover, I did learn quite a bit creating it and through the criticism of it. On my second book, LilyPad Princess, I took the lessons I’d learned and designed the cover myself.

One of the biggest issues with ebooks is making the cover completely legible in a thumbnail format – that’s the size prospective buyers see, so making any part of the title or author name too small, or adding too much clutter that is not easily distinguishable at a small size, is counter productive. What works well for a print cover doesn’t necessarily work for an ebook.

For WereWhat?, I chose to hire a professional cover designer for two reasons: the story did not really lend itself to a photo-centric cover, and the genre/age-range (mid-grade paranormal aimed at boys) seemed to scream for something hand drawn. That’s when I found Glendon Haddix with Streetlight Glendon and his wife, Tabitha, were extremely accommodating, but it’s Glendon’s vision of Jack Henry’s world that is on the cover of the book. He took my suggestions, my concerns and the main themes of the story and worked them into a fun, attractive cover. When something didn’t quite match my vision, he revised it. For me, it was an amazing process to watch – and have input on – my characters coming to life visually.

When I chose to add a print version of WereWhat?, Glendon expanded the cover to include the spine and back, too.

Streetlight Graphics also did all of the formatting for WereWhat?, both in all ebook and print versions. Glendon also included the lobsterclaw from the cover at the beginning of each chapter, which I absolutely love.

[Sarah] Which e-books formats did you choose? Why? [Did you need a company to help with publication and distribution?]

[Debi] This is another one of the ever-changing aspects of indie-publishing. When I began with Summoning, in October of 2010, there were three main venues: Smashwords (which distributes to various outlets such as Apple, Sony and Kobo, among others), Amazon for the Kindle and Barnes and Noble for Nook users. There seem to be more options now, though to be honest, I’m not as versed in them as I should be.

One of the areas of flux for this particular issue has been the addition of Kindle Select through Amazon. An indie-author can achieve higher rankings and visibility by choosing to include a book in the Select program, which is a plus, but in order to participate, the book cannot be offered in ebook format on any other site for the duration of the commitment (which is 90-days at a time).
The arguments both for and against this practice are lengthy, and I won’t go into them. I will say, though, that I am currently experimenting with Select, and both Summoning and WereWhat? are signed up in the project. For the time being.

[Sarah] What advantages do you see with e-books?

[Debi] For me, there are two major advantages and one really nice “perk” ebooks have over a printed book. First is the ease of reading and storing entire novels. My Kindle is much easier to hold than a 500-page hard cover, and it fits easily into my purse, so I almost always have it with me. Of course, I no longer have to beg to buy more book shelves, either. I have to admit to loving the feel of a new, hard-bound book in my hands and smelling that new-paper smell, but when it comes to really diving into and living in an imaginary world with well-written characters, I can do that just fine electronically!

The second major advantage for me is the ease of purchasing books. Believe me, that’s a big one, too. I live in a non-English speaking country, and while I can find English books in the local store, they’re not usually the ones I’d like to read and the variety is very small. Ordering books and paying for the overseas delivery is also very cost prohibitive. Even ordering books through the local bookstore has proven out of my price range, because the stores must charge me all the additional costs they incur in getting the book. With my Kindle, I can go online, choose a book and start reading it within seconds.
That same ease of purchasing is one that I hope translates to buyers of my own books. Anyone can go online, find one of my books and be reading it without ever leaving the couch. Of course, getting the visibility for my books has proven to be the challenge.

The “perk” is that the cost of most ebooks is less than the print versions. It means I can buy more books!

[Sarah] Your book, Year of the WereCurse: WereWhat? was first released as an e-book. Recently it became available in a print version. What did you need to do to prepare it for print publication? Why did you choose to take time and effort so it would also be available as a paper book?

[Debi] You’ve hit on one of the pitfalls of ereaders for me – not many kids have them yet. Sure, as parents upgrade to the newer versions, kids will get the hand-me-downs, but right now there are just too few kids, 9-12 years old, who have their own Kindles. Or their own Kindle accounts.
I decided to add the print option to WereWhat? mostly due to the age range. I want to make it more available to my target audience. This is a new venture for me, but the print books are available on Amazon and can be ordered through bookstores, which should make it more available to the kids who may want to read it.

As of this moment, I have not begun the process for my other books, but if WereWhat? does well, I would definitely consider adding print versions of them all.

[Sarah] What are your plans for future books?

[Debi] In the long run, I would like to pursue both indie and traditional publishing. They each have their strengths, and I believe pursuing both is the best strategy for authors at this point.

Of course, one of the biggest things about traditional publishing that holds appeal for me may be an emotional one: validation. Having someone read your work and believe in it enough to want to invest time and money into putting it out there into the big, wide world…well, I’m sure there’s no feeling like it.

But I also know that I have other options. I don’t have to place all of my worth as an author on what a particular imprint is looking for at any particular moment or whether or not my manuscript is commercial enough or too commercial or if it can be easily categorized. If I truly believe in a story, and if I can work with a team of professionals to put out a professional product, then I have that choice and the freedom, knowledge and resources to do it.

Whether a book is indie or traditionally published, it still comes down to story – whether the book will attract and engage readers. If it’s a good story well told, I believe people will want to read it.

[Sarah] Thank you, Debi! It's been so fun to learn about your publishing journey.
You can find out more about Debi and her books by visiting her website.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Margaret J. Anderson on publishing out of print books as e-books

It’s a delight to visit with Margaret J Anderson today! It is really cool to talk with one of my favorite childhood authors! I discovered her books when I was in middle school, and I loved reading them over and over again. Her historical fiction books swept me away on adventures to foreign lands and earlier times. (Searching for Shona is a book I still vividly remember today.) I particularly loved her fantasy time travel books.

[This interview is also simultaneously posted on Through the Tollbooth, a group blog by VCFA alumni.]

Margaret J Anderson has been writing for publication for over thirty-five years and has published 12 novels. Her nonfiction books include biographies and science books. Her most recent books are Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification and Bugged-Out Insects (2011).

Her out-of-print novel, In the Keep of Time, was recently released as an e-book.

[Sarah] Did your rights revert back to you or did you work with your publisher to regain your rights to your books?

[Margaret] Years ago, after my early fiction books had been out of print for a while, I asked my publisher (Knopf) for the rights back. I had the idea of getting a regional press interested in publishing some of them as paperbacks that I could sell when I was giving school presentations, but I was too involved with new projects to follow through. This was before the era of Nooks and Kindles, so I had no thought of issuing electronic versions of the books – and neither did Knopf. I’ve heard that publishers aren’t so quick to relinquish rights these days.

[Sarah] Could you explain the process you went through as you prepared In the Keep of Time to be published as an e-book?

[Margaret] Six years ago, I wrote a historical novel called Olla Piska about the botanist David Douglas (of the Douglas fir). A couple of months after it was published by the Oregon Historical Society, they went out of the publishing business, leaving Olla-Piska as an orphan child. They returned all the rights, so with the help of Ellen Beier, who had done the cover, I began to look into publishing it as an e-book. We learned the names of companies like Smashwords and BookBaby, but the big question of how you let people know the book is out there hung over us. In the end, I decided to get my feet wet by publishing a book that already had potential readers. I get quite a number of e-mails from people who read In the Keep of Time and my other early books as children and are sad that they can’t find copies to read to their children.

When I decided to start with In the Keep of Time, I was faced with a problem. The book was published in 1977 before I owned a computer, so I had no digital version. I would have to retype the entire book into Microsoft Word. Somewhere I’d read that scanning the pages could introduce mistakes that are hard to fix. Besides, I’d have to tear one of my few copies apart to scan it and I wasn’t sure my scanner was up to the task. On the upside, retyping meant I could avoid the five most common formatting mistakes cited in the Smashwords style guide. (Don’t use the tab key to indent a new paragraph, etc.) By the time I was finished, I had a new admiration for my younger self – hammering out all those long-ago books on a typewriter and correcting mistakes with whiteout!

[Sarah] Which e-books formats did you choose? Why?

[Margaret] I chose to go with BookBaby, though I can’t claim this was the result of extensive research. It was mostly based on their response to an email I sent them asking (among other things) what was the advantage of using BookBaby rather than one of the other companies out there. Someone named Meghan wrote back saying, “I believe that the best part about using BookBaby is that if you need help, you can pick up the phone and dial us and a real live human being will answer you!”  That’s very reassuring when you’re dealing with all this uncanny stuff like an entire book arriving on your Kindle with the click of a mouse! I’ve already talked to Meghan a couple of times. Also, BookBaby is located in Portland, so it feels local. As well as formatting the manuscript for all the popular reading devices: Kindle, i-Pad, Nook, Kobo, etc., they handle the financial dealings, collecting royalties and sending them on to the author.

[Sarah] Why did you choose to release In the Keep of Time first?

[Margaret] As I mentioned earlier, In the Keep of Time has loyal followers—if  I can find a way to reach them. Although the book was written years ago I think it will connect with today’s children.  It is a time-slip adventure in which the key to Smailholm Tower unlocks the past, taking four children back to 15th century Scotland, where border raiding was a common practice. The next time they use the key, the children find themselves in the 22nd century in a post climate-change world—a world without technology. Today’s kids are aware of climate change, but it wasn’t on many people’s radar back when the book was published 35 years ago.

[Sarah] You chose a photograph you took of the tower for your new cover. Where did you take the photo? Did the photo require any editing or photoshopping?

[Margaret] The photograph on the cover is of Smailholm Tower, a Scottish border keep near Kelso where my parents lived after I’d emigrated to Oregon. It’s the setting that inspired my story, and I worked in some legends associated with the tower. We always visited the tower when we went back to see my parents, and I’ve taken dozens of pictures over the years. Laszlo Kubinyi, who did the original cover, based his artwork on a photo I sent him. I couldn’t use his cover for the e-book edition because of copyright restrictions, but I did choose a similar view of the tower.

Ellen Beier helped me design the cover.  Yes, we did do some photoshopping. The first step was to straighten the tower. Ellen pointed out that my photo had a slight leaning-tower-of-Pisa slant to it that I hadn’t noticed! Then we changed the background colors to give the picture a more interesting science-fiction look. Finally we picked the font for the title, which was hard because there are so many choices.  I’m excited about what finally emerged.

[Sarah] What other books do you plan to release as e-books? When?

[Margaret] That depends on how long my enthusiasm for typing lasts! And also how the current project fares. I feel as if I’m climbing a fairly steep learning curve! But I’m already more than halfway  through typing In the Circle of Time, a sequel to In the Keep of Time, which focuses on the future people.  There’s a third book, The Mists of Time, but before I do that one I want to do my earliest novel, To Nowhere and Back. It has also generated a lot of letters and was a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year in 1975.  After that, I may do Journey of the Shadow Bairns, which is based on my husband’s family history in northern Saskatchewan. Next in line is Searching for Shona, a World War II story that draws heavily on my own background.  And somewhere in between I’ll do Olla-Piska.

[Sarah] What advantages do you see with using e-books?

[Margaret] It will be interesting to see how this technology evolves, but I do think it’s a great way to make books that might have a limited audience available to readers. It’s hard for publishers to justify the production and storage costs for a physical book that isn’t going to jump off the shelves. E-books don’t take up space in warehouses or on bookshelves. They can also be sold at a much lower price. I’ll receive a 70% royalty for In the Keep of  Time from most reading devices, so I can price it as low as $2.99, which will give me $2.00 per book, the equivalent of a 10% royalty on a $20 book. The buyer benefits from the cheaper price as well.

Like most authors, I’ve always been in love with books and have a whole wall of them behind me as I write. But when I look at my grandchildren I see the writing on that wall! They like their electronic devices!  It used to be that the paperback edition was the poor relative of the hardbound book. Then readers wanted the lighter, cheaper paperbacks. Pretty soon they’ll all be turning pages on their Nooks and Kindles with their busy thumbs.  Personally, I still love the look and feel of a book, but I do like being able to adjust the font size on my Kindle!

[Sarah] Do any of the e-book formats allow a reader to order a print copy of the book? In other words, is there a way for a reader to buy a paper copy of the book?

[Margaret] There are ways to publish your book in a format that allows the reader to buy a print copy, but I didn’t go that route, partly because there still are a few physical copies of my early books out there through Amazon etc. Though the prices can be crazy! I just checked Amazon and a used hardback edition of To Nowhere and Back sells for anywhere from $39-$319! In 1975 it sold for $5.50.

[Sarah] When you were retyping the story, did you ever have the urge to change anything?

[Margaret] I have found myself doing some tweaking and editing! I’ve had 35 years of writing experience since I wrote In the Keep of Time.  I was a bit too fond of run-on sentences in those days, so I have eliminated some “ands.” I’m making a few bigger changes while re-typing In the Circle of Time, where Robert and Jennifer find themselves two hundred years in the future. The present time in the book is around 1979, the year I wrote the book, and I haven’t changed that. There is, however, mention of something that happened in 2010, which must have seemed quite far into the future back then. Seeing it didn’t happen in 2010, I’m jumping the event forward to 2050!

[Sarah] How does it feel to work with this book again?

[Margaret] Re-reading a book I wrote all those years ago is a bit like a time-slip adventure! It takes me back! Some of the incidents in the story were triggered by real events. One evening, when we went into the tower with our four young children, a black bird fluttered down from somewhere up near the roof and fell dead at our feet. I used this incident in the opening chapter of In the Keep of Time. The characters in the book weren’t based on my own children, but they do bring back happy memories of those visits to Scotland. And the book also brings back memories of children’s eager questions in response to the many slideshow presentations I’ve given over the years.

I really am enjoying re-visiting these old books. It’s a dark day when you get word from your publisher that your precious book is going out of print. I started this project thinking that turning my books into e-books would confer some sort of immortality on them! It turns out that isn’t the case. I have to pay BookBaby $20 per year to keep a book alive!  And the real truth is that a book is only alive when someone reads it. So I hope my old titles will spring to life again when today’s kids reach for their Sony or iPad, their Copia, Kobo, Nook or Kindle.  I love those names!

[Sarah] Thank you, Margaret, for visiting with me today. Now I have a great reason to buy an e-reader.

You can find out more about Margaret and her book on her website.
In the Keep of Time is available on Kobo, Kindle, Nook and other ebook formats.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Doors--like the cover of a novel--are an invitation to look inside

 I always wonder what is behind closed doors—especially fascinating and unique doors.

Door in Bruges, Belgium
Art Nouveau entrance in Brussels, Belgium

This long cord makes me want to pull on it and hear what the doorbell sounds like.
Long cord, to left of door, is what one pulls to ring the bell.

Some places don't have doors, but only openings, such as this stick house in Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. It reminds me of the story of the Three Little Pigs.

Stick House--I'm in the photo so you can see the scale
This door leads directly to a canal.
 Photo taken in Bruges, Belgium.

Just like a great cover or opening page of the novel, a door is an invitation to peek inside.

Front of Art Nouveau house in Brussels, Belgium
Detail of door. I'm standing in front.
 Occasionally, we are invited inside when we don't expect the opportunity. The inside can be even more amazing than we could have imagined.

Stained glass windows from inside of house.
The owner of the Art Nouveau house (pictured in the 3 photos above) saw us and invited us into his home! The windows are so clear and almost glow when seen from inside! They are gorgeous!

I took these photos on a recent trip we took to the Netherlands and Belgium. (Neither country is that far of a drive from Frankfurt.)