Monday Musings: Bad Mojo Part I

Just what is "Bad Mojo?" The dictionary defines mojo as "finding the magic in what we do." Therefore, bad mojo would be the direct opposite of that, losing the magic in what we do.

What does this have to do with a blog on writing?


I became the Editor-in-Chief of Summer Solstice, an imprint of Solstice Publishing, in January. Since that time, I've run into many, many instances of bad mojo. So many, I have begun to wonder what happened to all the advice more experienced authors have made available on the World Wide Web for those looking to break into the world of publishing.

Here are a few steps many authors should take note of, and follow in order to have their book seriously considered.

You have that book finished. It's glorious, the next Great American novel. Oh yes, we all feel that way. We all believe that our book will soon grace the number 1 position on the New York Times Best Seller List, and then will garner millions in sales. Someone, a fellow writer, your neighbor who has read the manuscript for you, an author friend with a whole lot more experience than you have, has suggested that you do some editing and revising, or join a critique group to work out the kinks, or even find some beta readers to let you know when things don't work. Not you. Yours is the best book this publishing company has ever seen. They'll sign you up and have you on a tour in no time. Right?

Nope. Your book is an unproven quantity to any publisher, be they part of the Big 5 or an indie publisher. The only way this myth holds water is if you self-publish. Be aware, self-publishing involves a monetary output for a good cover. Most of those who successfully self-publish also employ a plot editor, a line editor, a final editor, a cover artist, and they also have beta readers. Those editors and that cover artist all cost money. Sometimes a great deal of money, depending on just how much work has to be done.

You're going with one of the Big 5 or an indie publisher. Hey, let them handle all the hard work. I can just sit back and pop open the champagne. Hey, I can have all those things I’ve ever wanted. I can tour the world, pick up that cool car I’ve always wanted, even quit my day job.

Great. You've decided to use the route that doesn't require an output of money. After all, we're all in this business to make money.

Sit back and drink champagne? Just how will you do this? Or that huge advance you're expecting? The reality is that most of the Big 5 no longer offer those 5 and 6 figure advances, unless you're a proven best seller. If you do get an advance from them, it will more than likely be in the low 4 figures.

Most indie publishers don't offer advances at all. As for quitting your day job, might want to rethink that. It’ll take a little time to start earning enough to replace that money.

You're finally ready to submit your work to the publisher you've decided on. You looked over their website, like the other books they've published. So what if your book doesn't fit the line they have. Yours is so good that you don't have to worry. They'll sign you right away. Or you look at the submission guidelines. Those are so bogus. They'll take what you send them. After all, they're lucky to get anything from you.

Looking at a publisher's website is important. It's even more important to read every step outlined in the guidelines prior to submitting. You'll find things like book length, manuscript formatting, if you should submit a query (with synopsis and 1-3 chapters), or a full manuscript. Paying attention to those details and complying with them is very important. It's the first clue the publisher has as to whether or not you'll give them grief during the pre-publication process.

Okay, hey, someone actually likes your book. That's a contract attached to the email they've sent you. Wow! Gee! Someone loves my book. You might even do a happy dance, celebrate a little. You hurriedly sign the contract, without reading all those boring details and send it back. Then comes the rest of the process. You're suddenly inundated with multiple requests to provide information, to talk about what you think your cover should be. Bogus, right?

Wrong. What this Editor-in-Chief is asking for is all part of the accepted process of preparing your book for publication. Preparing a back cover blurb for your book prior to submitting it will save you hours of work. Having a tagline (5-10 words to grab the reader's interest) ready shows you're really willing to help sell your book. The bio is required of even well known, bestselling authors. We actually rework those bios quite often, to keep them up to date and fresh. Who do you think writes the dedication and acknowledgements in those books you've read for years? Certainly not anyone not associated with the process of writing the book. This is your job, along with writing your next book.

An editor? Why do I need an editor? My book is fabulous.

Uh, okay, I won't argue that point, but editors are necessary to making sure a book is the best that it can be. You certainly don't want the embarrassment of a reviewer pointing out the bad grammar, misspellings, and missing punctuation. So, don't argue with the editor. Don't tell them that they don't know their job and have to listen to you. More importantly, don't insult the editor and attempt to bully them. All that will do is give you a reputation as a troublemaker and possibly get your contract cancelled. Remember that fine print you didn't read. Bet you are now.

Then you're griping about a proofreader, once the editor is done. What a waste of your time. You want this book published now. Whoa! Hold on there. Proofreaders are vitally important, to catch the things your editor missed. They are very good at what they do. So, give your proofreader the time to painstakingly read your book, word by word and then line by line. You'd be amazed at all the little things they catch.

Finally, your cover art comes in. You open the file only to find that it's not at all what you envisioned. This is garbage. This is not what people want to see when they click in the link for your book. That damned cover artist will get it right or you'll keep on returning this cover until they do. It doesn't matter how much it costs you want your cover hand drawn to your exact specifications.

Your book cover is probably the most important thing a buyer considers once they click on the link to your book. If they hate the cover, some readers have been known to keep on looking. That being said, here's the reality check. Most cover artists now work with stock photos that have to be purchased and have a watermark removed. They then do what tweaks are possible and add your title and name. A hand drawn cover costs thousands and takes a long time to do right. With every publisher working hard to get the finished product out for the public to purchase, the time and cost involved with a hand drawn cover is not a viable option. Of course, if you'd read the fine print in the contract, you might have seen where you have the option to contract your own cover artist, at your cost. Remember, the publisher won't pay you back for this expense. It's from your own pocket, and you might not like that cover any better than the one from a stock photo.

Come back next week for part 2 of Bad Mojo.