Books on writing I read in 2015

Every year I try and read a couple of books on the writing craft. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but,  honestly, I love reading stuff on how to write fiction. Here is what I read in 2015:

2940151898539_p0_v3_s192x300Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
by Hank Quense
Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. What I want is something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over?

9780985780401_p0_v1_s192x300Structuring Your Novel
by K.M. Weiland
Weiland shows how to make the most of using the three-act structure as you write your novel. She has become sort of an online tutor/mentor to me because books like this one answer my questions about writing fiction.

51QhpMsap6L._UY250_Your Guide to Scrivener by Nicole Dionisio
Scrivener is a program to help writers organize their projects, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t praise the software enough. There are dozens of books out there to show the writer how to use Scrivener, and I picked this by Nicole Dionisio. I admit I selected because it was the cheapest ebook on the subject I could find. But it’s all okay, because she did a great job and the book is short, so you can learn Scrivener quickly.

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The answer to the question

face-questions-1567164As a fiction writer, I have always wondered how to break into the publishing companies that announce on their manuscript submission guidelines:

“We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. We only look at manuscripts through an agent.”

Then when trying to find an agent — a legitimate agent — the agents are only looking for established writers. Published authors.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But I think I found an answer the question that has plagued me as long as I have considered becoming a published novelist; a way out of the publishing labyrinth; a solution to the book marketing problem.

Self-publishing.

It used to be looked down upon. But now thousands of people are doing it and saying things like:

“Have more control over your book.”

“Get more sales profit.”

“Why put up with the (insert profanity) of publishing companies?”

It’s true. We live in an age where it’s easier to publish our own books without going through a traditional publisher. It’s an age of social media (which helps with some of the marketing that wasn’t available outside of a traditional publisher). There’s print on demand (which means a book doesn’t have to be printed by the thousands and it doesn’t have to go out of print). And anyone can learn to make an e-book out of their manuscript.

Traditional publishing has it’s own merits, but to answer my earlier question: how can I get an agent? Well if you self-publish you don’t need an agent. And you can establish a platform, an audience, and show potential agents that you are published and already have a built-in following.

So if one can successfully self-publish, why even think of going the traditional publishing route? Publishing your own books through Amazon or SmashWords is part hard work, part luck, but the potential for success outside of traditional publishing is better than in past decades.

One argument I’ve heard against self-publishing is:

“There’s so much garbage out there thanks to self-publishing.”

Here’s what I say:

“There was already plenty of garbage being put out by traditional publishers.”

So I say go for it.

Go for it.

A question about agents

36319_3148How do I get an agent?

“I’ll tell you why this is the wrong question. It’s not because self-publishing is the future or because you don’t need an agent in 2014 or blah blah. There’s plenty of room for those discussions elsewhere. It’s just the wrong question because asking it means you think the process matters.”

Read more “How to get a book agent” from the Thoughtful Catalog.