Monthly Archives: September 2011

Survival…

Perhaps it’s that I’m as crazy as people think I am, but I’ve recently started attending local writers group meetings and admitting I own a publishing company. I make sure to bring a lot of business cards, and usually post a comment the next day about having “made it out alive” or “surviving another one”…

Survival is actually a big thing for small presses. Last time I checked, Bowker estimated that 80,000 new publishers start up each year; this is based on the number of requests for new ISBN blocks. It is also estimated that 50% of these businesses close within the first year and that 95% of all new publishers fail within 2 years. This is the reason most advice columns for authors suggest that authors wait until a publisher has proven it is going to be around for a while before submitting manuscripts to a publisher.

The reason these statistics are significant (to me, anyway) is that Divertir Publishing was incorporated on September 16th, 2009 (yes, I did open a bottle of home-made chocolate orange Port to celebrate). Thus, we have officially hit our two year mark. I think we’ve come a long way in that time:

  • In July 2010 Elizabeth Harvey became our Acquisitions Editor, and we shifted out focus from publishing only nonfiction to also publishing our short story collections and fiction in certain genres.
  • Our first short story collection came out in December 2010; our 4th collection is slated to be release in November of this year.
  • Our first novel, Hurricane by Jenna-Lynne Duncan, was published in August of this year. Our second novel, Dragon’s Teeth by Suzanne van Rooyen, will be released in October, while our third novel (Fugo by Elizabeth Young) is scheduled for release in December. We have signed contracts with six more authors and will be releasing those books within the next four to eight months.
  • We have an arrangement with a local charter school to provide all of their custom textbooks.
  • Divertir Publishing was featured in the article “Keys to Cracking 10 Top Markets” by Adria Haley which appeared in the September issue of Writer’s Digest. I have to admit this is probably the one thing I have been most proud of; for me it was validation that we’re doing some things right.

We have a lot of exciting plans for the coming year, including the launch of a free magazine (one way we plan on more actively marketing our short story collections) and a more interactive web site where readers can communicate with their favorite authors. We have started reaching out to local authors both so we can can feature more local authors in our short story collections and as a way to help local authors get their work published, even if it’s not with us (thus my “adventures” attending writers group meetings).

I want to thank all the authors who have worked with us, both on our short story collections and full-length manuscripts, for putting their faith in us. Also, without the efforts of the people who have worked with us as editors (Beth Harvey, Lisa Keele, Mel Ngai, and Elisa Nuckle), we would not be where we are today. Thank you for all of your hard work as we were starting out.

The changes which have resulted from the “digital revolution” have made this an exciting time in publishing. I’m looking forward to the next year and the exciting things it will bring.

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Proofreading…

Good Moaning. This week I won’t to continue my discussing of common writing errors us see in submissions. First let me kneecap my past few dogs. Make sure your readers know who you’re pronouns refer to, because if she says to him while talking to her “Butt, the time travel clock has stopped and now I must await the next dick” it’s really necessary for the reader to know who she is talking to. Next, Chekov’s Gun suggests that 1 should not include any unnecessary elements in a story. So you should not mention the pecker shaker unless it’s impotent, in which case you should shake it for all it’s worth. We then talked about why you need to vary your sentences length and not to use too many long very complex sentences, because if you write like that too often your reader might get confused, and then they will have to go back and reread your righting over and over and over again, and they may get lost and not recall what was following the butt because it was following just too close with no brake in the action as it waited for the next dick from the time travel clock. See Ken prattle. Prattle, Ken, prattle. Finally we talked about levels of diatribe.

“You shouldn’t use said too often to say what a character has said when he is saying something, especially if you can identify the speaker in another way,” Ken said smugly.

“Is it better if find other words for said?” the editor pontificated questioningly.

“No,” said Ken knowingly, “it’ll just sound like you broke out a stegosaurus to try and help your writing; right after you mentioned the pecker shaker.”

“I guess I’ll just go back and try to figure out what followed the butt before the dick of the time travel clock,” the editor mused confusingly.

“Oh, and be careless when using adverbs because that’s not really showing, it’s still telling” Ken said approvingly.

I know this may sound dominating, but when submitting yourself please use goof grammar and punctuality. Pooper writing shows you are a professional whom takes your writing serially. Also, manuscripts with a large number of errors are a distraction, just like the dick of a clock…

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By the way, the above did pass the spelling and grammar checks for Microsoft Word. Also, with the exception of “Good Moaning” (which is from the British comedy Allo, Allo), most of these are mistakes I’ve actually seen in manuscripts. In case you’re curious, the current record for a submission is 147 words in a single sentence.

First impressions are everything. You always want your work to be portrayed in the best light, and a manuscript riddled with errors like the above example doesn’t do that. If a publisher needs to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what an author meant because the manuscript contains too many errors, there is a good possibility the publisher will just reject the manuscript. As I’ve stated before, it’s hard to enjoy a manuscript with so many with errors—unless it’s written that way on purpose.

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He said, she said…

Where’s Ken: I’m currently sitting in the Boston Billiards having a few pints. Guess I should just apologize now for the typos.

For the past two blogs I’ve been talking about common mistakes we see in queries sent to Divertir Publishing. This week I wanted to continue that discussion by talking about dialog. First, let me say that I understand why writers try so hard to include large amounts of dialog in their manuscripts and why they have such difficulty. One of the first pieces of advice for writer’s that I read was that one should always “show, not tell”. The article then went on to say the easiest way to do this was by using dialog. The problem is that the article never connected the dots; how does one use dialog to show and not tell?

This brings me to something I call the levels of dialog. Consider the following exchange:

“I think you’re a very attractive woman,” Ken said half-drunkenly.
“If I had a dollar for every guy who told me that I wouldn’t have to work anymore,” Linda said, rather frustrated.

Let ignore the poor use of adverbs for a moment. This is what I call level 1 dialog and is the way we learn to write in grade school. The problem is that a page filled with short choppy dialog including the word “said” 13 times followed by your favorite adverb isn’t really very interesting and can actually be distracting. At some point authors realize that pages and pages of the above dialog is not very good, and they correctly deduce it is in part because they have overused “said”. Unfortunately, their solution is to break out a thesaurus and start looking for substitutes. The result is what I call level 2 dialog and looks something like this:

“I think you’re a very attractive woman,” Ken offered half-drunkenly.
“If I had a dollar for every guy who told me that I wouldn’t have to work anymore,” Linda sighed, rather frustrated.

Better? Not really. The problem is that, even though I am using dialog, I am still telling and not showing. When an author shows his readers something, the author is inviting the reader to become part of the scene – to be an observer of the action. So how does one do this? That brings us to what I call level 3 dialog; it’s when authors realize that they can identify a speaker without resorting to “he said, she said” and where the author writes so that the reader can visualize the exchange.

As Linda passed Ken sat up straight, feeling the courage his fourth pint had temporarily loaned him. “I think you’re a very attractive woman.” He flashed his best half-drunk smile for effect.
Linda put both hands on her hips, ready to let Ken have it. But something about the smile was far more sincere than she was used to. She sighed as she took her hands from her hips and leaned against the bar. “If I had a dollar for every guy who told me that I wouldn’t have to work anymore.”
”Well then, for the first time in a while I must be right, huh?”
Linda couldn’t help but laugh as she picked up Ken’s phone from the bar and entered her number.

Corny, yes – but I hope the above examples make my point. Let’s hope, if nothing else, your dialog is as amusing…

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