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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

WRITING WISDOM for All Seasons

What is a Memoir?

What do YOU think?

Are they 
True Life Stories- Minus the Boring Parts!

A memoir is a narrative written from the author's perspective about particular facets of their own life. Nothing more complicated than that — so you can stop reading now if you like. But if you stick around, we’ll dive a little deeper.

Read the full nitty-gritty on  REEDSY




Scroll Down to read these 4 articles.

1- The Pathway to Writing Success.
From Published Writers.

2- Online Query Letter Information.

3- Hard-Earned Writing Wisdom


Some Agents and Publishers are Scammers!


The Pathway to Writing Success

Comments on how some writers found
their way to publication.

*Jane Yolen -
Some talent, a lot of perseverance, and a healthy dollop of luck.

*NancyCoffelt - 
I have taken classes, read books, visited websites and attended (and taught) my fair share of workshops. All of these things helped me be better informed but they weren't what made me a published author. Writing, writing often and writing about things that made me laugh, cry, and horribly irritable made me a published author. I didn't stick my big toe into the cold waters of the children's book world, I did a big old cannonball off the diving board.

The writing that I do is my commitment to myself. I know very well that everything that flies off my fingertips is not going to be published. Sometimes it's just practice but it is never a waste of time to spend energy mastering what you love. My 7th and 8th books will be out in 2006. I just sold another manuscript last week but I still receive rejection letters on a regular basis. These letters don't get me down at all. They are simply reminders that I am WORKING. Rejection isn't failure, quitting is. And that is the only no-no in writing that I can think of.
Happy perseverance!

*Cynthia Leitich Smith -
My background in journalism and law, the support of my author/husband and writing community, my "national" mentor Jane Kurtz, and a week-long class taught by author Kathi Appelt were the ingredients that led to my success.
I had always loved to write, but to me, "fiction writer" seemed like the job of a rich dead white guy from England. So as a first-generation college student, I majored in journalism, which taught me to write every day. Law school followed, and it nurtured both my confidence and my critical thinking skills. While these may have given me the necessary practical preparation, writing is still 90+% psychological. So, it was Greg and my writing buddies (locally, nationally, and online) who gave me constant encouragement each step of the way. Author Jane Kurtz "adopted" me early on, and introduced me to many more people, including a list serv of professional writers on which I met my dedicated agent. But the one experience I can set a finger on was a workshop led by Kathi Appelt at her father-in-law's ranch in Texas. I don't know exactly what it was--juggling scarves, writing to music, drinking margaritas on the back porch, but some time that week, I found my voice and a vision for my work. I hope this helps!

*Jackie Hosking -
Even though I would not consider myself to be an established children's writer, I am published. And the elements that I would consider to be most vital in my publishing success are networking; I write a monthly column on the subject for Marg McAlisters's I have also found that as a new writer I can trade my time for advice. A couple of years ago I offered my time to a very busy author. I helped her to research a project she was working on and in return, she helped me to cut through all the 'crap' (excuse the language)I cannot stress enough the importance of giving in order to receive. The more I gave, the more I received in return. New writers often think that they have nothing to offer. Not true. Market research is also extremely important and this is where networking is invaluable but again new writers cannot expect to be given such information for free. I think what separates a true professional from a hobbyist is their willingness to do the homework and to share what they learn with those who they hope will help them. The world of writing and publishing is enormous. We need to help each other. Networking and sharing are the key. I also edit a free online networking newsletter for Australian children's authors/illustrators. My mentor started it and I took it over when she became too busy. 
These are my thoughts on what helped me get published.

*Ann Herric - In writing, the number one rule for me has been perseverance. It takes perseverance to sit at a desk and write on a regular schedule until one day, lo and behold, there's a complete manuscript. It takes perseverance to rewrite and rewrite until that manuscript is polished to as close to perfection as possible. It takes perserverance to search for the right publisher. Too many writers, with good manuscripts, give up after submitting their work once or twice. Scour Writer's Market. Read The Writer and Writer's Digest for marketing news.

I sold my first two books to publishers who listed their current needs in the marketing news in Writer's Digest. I sold my next two books to a market I read about in a newsletter for writers of young adult books. I've joined several writing lists on the internet to keep in touch with current market needs. Currently, I have an editor interested in a manuscript. I'll keep my fingers crossed that she'll want to buy it, but meanwhile I will write and network and do market research. I will continue to persevere.

*Linda Singleton - My first sale was the result of hearing an author speak at a local writing workshop about her small publisher who was seeking light-hearted fiction. It took many submissions to this publisher and rewriting per editorial requests to make that sale. Nearly three years later I held my first book in my hands.
Selling that first book is hard. Continuing to sell can be harder. The key to staying published when editors changes, publishers fold and books go out of print is perseverance. Also, networking with other authors, joining writing groups and reading many books. Through tears, through smiles, you just keep trying. Never give up.

*Elizabeth O. Dulemba - It takes an unbudgeable determination to become a successful published writer. Motivational speakers say, "You have to believe in your dreams." It never occurred to me that some people don't, or that if I worked hard enough, I still might not succeed. I don't know how you achieve this mind-set, the mentality of a dog with a sock, but it is essential. For me, writing well is incredibly hard. Sure, I have lots of ideas, which I write down and then declare, "I have hung the moon!" But when it comes to prose others want to read, I have to knead, shape, and cut my words - my precious babies. It's a game. I take my idea, imagine it as a Rubix cube, turning it every which way until it comes out right. If you were as horrible as I was at Rubix cubes, you can relate to my frustration while making my words work. My husband has also been invaluable. He is not only supportive, but has the brain of an editor - a bonus discovered after I said, "I do."
He, above all else, has helped make my writing readable. My determination makes me take his advice, rework and revise, rather than quit.

*Susanna Reich - I was always a good writer but it took many years of just living my life before I felt I had something to say. I had two careers and a marriage and a child before I started to write. At first, I wrote to promote my business, but gradually I became more interested in writing for its own sake. I didn't care so much what I wrote--fiction or nonfiction, for adults or children--as long as I was writing. I joined SCBWI and started going to conferences and networking. I asked my local children's librarian what kind of books she needed. She said "biographies of women," so I wrote Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso. It sold within a year or two.

When I started working on my second book, a biography of the dancer and choreographer Jose Limon, I joined Margaret (Bunny) Gable's workshop at the New School in New York. For six years I went to that class every week and heard people's work read aloud. I found out what worked and what didn't work. I learned to listen for clarity of meaning, the right choice of words, strong characters, narrative tension. That's where I honed my craft.
Success is a tricky word. So many people define success as getting published. Getting published is thrilling, but more important is your commitment to writing. You have to see yourself as a professional. I sit down at my desk every morning and I stay there, whether I feel like it or not.

*Lea Wait -
By far the most important preparation I did for writing for children was focusing myself on what I wanted to do. First, I read books aimed at the level (middle readers) I wanted to write for. I read every Newbery winner, and a large assortment of other praised and valued books. Hundreds of books. I read books now considered classics; I read books that the Horn Book or Bank Street College's Children's Book Committee gave starred reviews. I found my own personal role models among those writers.
And then I wrote. And wrote again. And again. I edited on the computer and
on hard copies. I read chapters aloud -- many times. I thought back to the
books I'd most admired and asked what it was that made them special. I asked
the same of my own books. And then I shared my work with a small but professional critique group. Everyone else in my critique group wrote for adults; not children. But I firmly believe that the best writing for children can be enjoyed by adults,
too. My critique group helped. (And my books are now used in schools ...
and in adult literacy classes!) 
Basically, I studied and I analyzed, and I wrote until I'd found my own voice. And my 4th historical middle reader will be published by Margaret K.McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) next year.

*Max Elliot Anderson - I didn't start out wanting to be a children's author. In fact, I fought hard not to. I had grown up as a reluctant reader, had a famous author father, and a number of other reasons not to try. Then some serious business reverses, due to 9/11 and its effect on my clients, made it clear that I had to do something. That was when I decided to do a little research into why I didn't like to read. I found some striking reasons. Then, in a sort of - find a need in the market and fill it - response, I began writing for other reluctant readers. I tried for several months to interest publishers but received mounds of rejections. Then two men, with twenty-five years of publishing experience between them, approached me. As a result, they formed a company specifically for the purpose of publishing my books.

But no matter how the process happens for each of us, there is no denying the importance of hard work, persistence, and turning out the best-finished product you possibly can. Even with all the rejections, I continued turning out manuscripts. Now, with 32 completed manuscripts, and 7 published books (in 18 months), the "real" work is in marketing, publicity, and getting the word out.


Query Letter Information

WRITING for Children's Book Fiction - "Musings" Archive for April 2003, by Margot Finke. Offers sample letter, great advice, plus links to other query information. - Cover and Query Letters, by Linda Arms White. Excerpts from her book. - Bud Thaler. One sample query letter.
DOS and DON'TS: How to Write the Perfect Query Letter, by Gail Eastwood. A short list, succinct and to the point.
Writers Write - "Writing a Query Letter That Sells," by Alex Keegan. Lots of pre and post query advice and personal thoughts. Also, a great sample query letter.
Charlotte Dillon's Author Page. This writer offers fine query insights, an excellent query sample, PLUS many links to sites and articles where you can learn more about the "Art of the Query Letter."

Great Books on Queries:
Bev Cooke recommends Stephen King's "On Writing" - it has a dynamite agent letter in the craft section of the book.

Galina recommends 1-"The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days" by
Fern Reiss (website is
 ) 2 -"How to Write Irresistible Query Letters" by Lisa Collier Cool


Writing WISDOM

If a company is restricting what the author charges, then that author has picked a bad company and is giving up his right to decide on what he charges."

Also, POD means Print On Demand. It does NOT mean self-publishing. Education is needed for this growing industry. A self-published book might or might not be POD. Many authors go the self-publishing route with a small to medium print run of about 100 to 15,000 - yes, you got those numbers, one hundred to fifteen thousand. They can also do a short run of 20 or a large run of 30,000.

Writers must do their homework:
#1 - Research how to market.
#2 - Have your book edited professionally (not all self-publishing companies have good editors, though they might offer the service -- some do!).
#3 - Pay for a professional cover and interior design (which is available through these companies) that makes your book look great.

The bottom line: find the quality offers. There is dross in every field, but there are gems, too. In a developing industry like this one, it takes effort on your part.

#3 - Pay for a professional cover and interior design (which is available through these companies) that makes your book look great.

The bottom line: find the quality offers. There is dross in every field, but there are gems, too. In a developing industry like this one, it takes effort on your part.


Some Agents and publishers are Scammers!

Some Publishers and Agents are Crooks!
* Remember, Publishers and Agents are Supposed to PAY YOU!

There are a lot of so-called Literary Agents and Publishers out there panting to take your money. Does this sound familiar? They love your book, but it needs some editing, and they have just the editor for you - for an added fee. They quote you a publishing fee that makes your credit card cringe - yet every little thing they say your book needs adds on extra fees. They promise to make your book available in bookstores, Amazon, and large stores like K-Mart, etc - but no one can ever find them there.
When a publisher or an agent wants to charge you reading fees, or sends you to an editor they recommend, for a big-fee-edit, RED FLAG them. Do some serious research on the publisher or agent. This could save you a bunch of grief - not to mention money.
For Newcomers to Writing, it pays to understand that there is no fast and easy way to become a published author. Like any other profession, you have to spend time and effort in learning the craft of writing. Once you've mastered the basics, and had lots of writing practice, a little talent and luck can be helpful. The tools of the writing trade are not bestowed by a higher power, they are earned over a period of time by hard work. These scammers want you to think that they will publish anything you write and get national book chains to sell it. They prey on the dollar signs in a writers' eyes (false!), and their yearning to be published writers. 

DON'T fall for these smooth and smarmy promotions. Be a smart and savvy writer. Take a writing class if your grammar is wobbly, or it's been a long time since you took Miss Writerly's English class. Join a critique group that supports and encourages your desire to become published. Rewrite those stories and polish them until they are perfect. Then, buy the latest edition of Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market (CWIM), and SAFELY pick and choose from the many legitimate children's publishers and agents they list.

*PUBLISHERS: There are many honest vanity publishers and subsidy presses out there who will give you good value for your money. As long as you realize that YOU have to promote and sell your book, Print on Demand (POD), and other self-publishing methods ( Vanity Presses and Subsidy Presses) can work well for some people: but only if you do your homework, and choose honest and legitimate companies.

*AGENTS: Many agents are honest and dedicated to helping writers find good publishers. But an agent who wants a reading or an editing fee should raise an immediate RED FLAG. However, it is often difficult to tell the scam artists from the genuine thing. A fancy webpage, full of smooth and encouraging words, is a scammer's way of conning you into giving them your money. And don't let the words Christian Publisher fool you. Their websites will say whatever it takes to make you think they will publish your book, and live up to whatever is in the contract you signed. These contracts are worded in a skillful manner, so they are legal - barely! However, once you've handed over your money, you can whistle for their grand promises.

BELOW is a list of websites that explain the difference between a traditional publisher, a vanity press, POD, and a subsidy press. They offer insights on how to spot a scam and red flag it.

Victoria Strauss runs Writer Beware - Check her site for publishers and agents who are not legitimate. Read her articles: they are an eye-opener!
Predators and Editors Lists agents and publishers with recommendations.
THIS LINK explains the difference between the various types of publishers and how to spot the crooked ones.
Fiction Factor - Another article that tells a tale. . .
Making Light - Linguistics: How scammers use phrases that resonate


Saturday, January 4, 2020


Back to

Margot Finke



The Difference Between AGENTS
and Professional Promotional Services.
Author Margot Finke.

A Literary Agent is often staffed by ex-editors who once worked for publishing houses. Their expertise is in knowing the inner workings of various publishers, + the kind of books, genre, and topics they like to publish. If your book fits the needs of a publisher they know and is well written, they might agree to be your agent.  They will help you get the best contract deal and act as a go-between and problem solver.  They receive a percentage of what you receive from the Publisher as an advance payment, and later on, your royalties. So, to make money, they need to feel pretty sure that your story has a chance of making sales for the publisher, and for their own cut of your "book pie."

A reputable agent DOES NOT CHARGE YOU FOR EDITING or for anything else.  They DO NOT PROMOTE YOUR BOOK. Promotion is a service you do yourself, or you PAY a specialty company to do it for you.

** NOTE: it always pays to research any Agent or Promotional Service before you sign up with them. Ask for references, or ask for advice from friends. There are many scammers out there, waiting to raid your credit card or bank account.

Their websites look so professional, and they promise you everything. Yet their services are either sky high or with little to no real help or connections. BEWARE!


How to Find an Agent
by Simon Hayes 

Do you need a literary agent,
and if so, 
how do you find one?

2018 update. Because many of the links have changed or vanished, I've removed them. You can google the highlighted terms in case the page is still up.

2011 update: I need to add a quick preface to this article, which was written a few years ago. With the rise of ebooks and self- and indie-publishing, many writers are asking WHY they need an agent. And some agents are now changing their business model, offering to bring self-published works to the market for an ongoing cut of the proceeds.

For Example, I'm no longer represented by an agent, having decided to take control of my work and publish my own novels from now on. I'm employing the same cover artist my original publisher used, and a professional editor works with me on each book. The only difference is I make 70% of the cover price instead of 8%. (Okay, and my new novels won't appear in bookshops - but where ebooks are concerned, that's irrelevant.)

My background is small business, so I have no trouble dealing with all aspects of publishing a novel. If you just want to write, and would sooner pull your fingernails than deal with paperwork, I'd recommend seeking an agent. But maybe be open to the idea of combining this with self-pub. 

Now, back to the original article.
I'm going to put this bit right up front, because you wouldn't believe the number of people who find this page after searching the web for 'How much do literary agents charge?' and 'How much should I pay an agent upfront?' If you get nothing else from this article, remember thisYou don't pay agents. No reading fees, no agency fees, no signup fees. Nothing. The agent sells your book to a publisher and then earns a percentage of your royalties for that book. In other words, they get a cut of the money the publisher is paying you.

That's the other thing to remember: you don't pay publishers either. If they want your book, they will offer you a contract with money upfront. This is the 'advance' you hear so much about. Usually, it's in the range of thousands of dollars, although it can be a lot less for literary works.

What is a literary agent?

An agent will try to sell your manuscript to a publishing house, will handle contract negotiations and will stand as a buffer between you and the publisher. Without an agent, there can be a lot of friction between a writer and publisher - their primary goal is to make money, your primary goal is to get your book into print without having it butchered in the process. And you might want to make money as well.

An agent will oil the machinery: one party will moan and whinge to them, and they will magically translate this into a polite request for the other party. E.g. Author sees a first draft of the cover, and tells her agent it sucks. The agent informs the publishing house that the author was doubtful when first shown the artwork. The publishing house informs the agent that the cover is a 'take it or leave it' situation. 'You know, it does grow on you,' says the agent to the author.

Why do you need an agent?
An agent will shop your manuscript around publishing houses, using their inside knowledge to place it with the right editor. For example, they know editor X at publisher Y doesn't buy fantasy trilogies. No point sending it to them - but you could have spent six months finding that out, with only a cryptic rejection letter to show for it. Maybe your agent knows that editor Z has a full list and isn't buying at all - just saved you another six months. When Editor W agrees to take a look, your manuscript will likely zip to the front of the queue, since Editor W trusts your agent's judgment. If they don't trust your agent's judgment, you may need a new agent. So, to save yourself a lot of time sending a manuscript to publishers who cannot buy it, you just have to get an agent. Right?

Getting an Agent.
Find out who the agents are for writers in your genre and then scan the web for their home page. Are they accepting new clients? If so, submit the first three chapters, a brief (1 or 2 page) synopsis and a short cover letter asking them to represent you.

In the cover letter, you state your previous publication credits, if any, and also what other work you have in the pipeline. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for their reply. That's the general idea, but you should check their guidelines for more.

See my article on rejection for more on this topic.
The bad news is that agents are just as flooded with manuscripts as editors, and therefore they have to be just as picky. Don't be surprised if you have trouble at this stage. A lot of trouble. The good news is that there are more agents than publishing houses, and once you get an agent they can make a better approach with your manuscript than you can. If you burn up all the publishers with your manuscript, what are you going to do next?

Think of getting an agent as a step or two up the ladder of publication... an agent will only sign you up if they believe you have something they can sell. And they're in a better position to sell it than you are.

How much does an agent cost?

Up front... nothing. In fact, if an agent wants money upfront you've probably fallen into the clutches of a scam artist. Whether it's reading fees, copying fees, placement fees or a special on doctoring your book, you don't want any of them.

What does a scam agent look like? Well, one particularly nasty trick goes like this: An agent offers to represent an author, not caring what the manuscript is like. Maybe the author sent them a query, or maybe the agent sent the author an email after seeing their Facebook profile or website. The author jumps in, happy to be signed up at last.

A few weeks go by, during which the agent sends the author regular updates on fictitious submissions to various publishers (never named, because the author's manuscript never goes anywhere, or else it's sent as an email attachment to everyone in the agent's contact list without any targeting.) Next, the agent says they've had feedback from a major publisher who may be interested in the novel, but only if the author edits their manuscript into shape. The publisher recommends the author employ a book doctor to edit the novel into shape, before resubmitting.

Now remember, at this stage, the agent hasn't been in touch with any publishers... all they've done is sit on the manuscript and pretend they're submitting it. Telling the author a publisher is interested is a sure way to hook the author into the main part of the scam, which is to recommend a really good book doctor who will 'only' charge a thousand bucks or so to fix the book. The agent is on 'your' side against the evil demanding publisher, and although it's a lot of money "just imagine what life will be like if the publisher accepts the novel!"

(Remember - most agents and book doctors are legitimate, and I'm not suggesting that anyone calling themselves an agent or a book doctor is automatically under suspicion. I'm just trying to describe how one particular scam might work.)

Usually this 'book doctor' is the same agent with a different company name, perhaps registered in a different city or state, or else it's a business buddy with a commission system in place - or even the 'agent' themselves! The unsuspecting author eagerly pays up, which is precisely what the agent intended when they signed them on in the first place. The manuscript is given a hack and slash treatment, and then the fictitious submissions go on for a few more weeks before everything goes strangely quiet. Finally, when the author gets up the courage to ask what's happening, the agent responds that they've tried everyone and the novel just won't sell in the current market. They either release the author (how kind), recommend they write another book, or recommend another round of editing.

That's a typical scam and a particularly cruel one which has burnt many hopefuls. If it's happened to you, you'll just have to dust yourself off and start again. See the paragraph below on avoiding scammers.

How a Legitimate Agent Works:
So how does a legitimate agent work? They take on authors whose work they believe they can sell to a publisher, and they work hard to make the best deal they can. Each time they sell a novel, the contract includes a clause which entitles them to a percentage (usually 15%) of everything the author earns from that deal. The important thing to note is this: they don't take on authors where the manuscript needs more work. Why not? Because that manuscript might never be ready, and they don't earn a dime until a publisher buys a manuscript. That's why you only submit polished, finished work to literary agents.

Avoiding scammers
Someone once said that all you need to be an agent is enough change for a phone call. There's no agent school, agent license or agent screening service. So, here's a good rule of thumb: good agents don't need more clients, so they don't have to advertise. If an agent is taking out large 'buy one get one free' type adverts in the back of writing magazines, you probably don't want to be one of their clients. Here's another hint: check their client list. If you've never heard of any of the authors mentioned then you should google a few of the listed names to see who they are and what they've sold, or else seek another agent. Yes, you'd expect an agent to have a number of little-known writers on their books, but they should have a couple of bigger names as well.

If you live in Australia you can use the list of Agents on the Australian Literary Agents Association website.

Please note, the advice on this page is worth what you paid for it. Don't make career-level decisions without backing up my advice with other reading.

About the author: 
Simon Haynes is the author of the 
Hal SpacejockHarriet Walsh and Hal Junior series. Simon is also a freelance programmer, and he designed and wrote all the software on
 (e.g. yWriter).

** Author WEBSITE: 


Thursday, January 2, 2020


Back to Home Page.


Margot Finke

How to Self-publish -
Why, When, and How.
by Simon Hayes

People write books for many reasons, but most have a common goal: they want to see their work in print, shelved in bookstores and - hopefully - bestseller lists. The traditional method is to shop the manuscript around in the hope that an agent and/or publisher will offer a contract. And traditionally, most agents and publishers send manuscripts back with a 'no thank you'.

After a few weeks/months/years of that, many people start to look at the alternatives. Self-publishing is one of them.

First, let's clarify exactly what self-publishing is because and the term and the process have both changed over the years. Once it meant employing an editor, a book designer and a cover artist to get the work into shape and ready for press, and then employing a printer for the books, another for the covers and a binder to put it all together. Print runs were usually in the hundreds or even thousands, and the finished article looked pretty much like ordinary books in the stores. To get a book into print, self-published authors were pretty much setting up their own mini publishing houses.
Thanks to the internet, self-publishing has evolved in a big way. Writers can upload a word or a PDF file to a company who will sell and ship the finished item on their website. (E.g. Lulu, CreateSpace and others.) Authors rarely employ professionals to help with editing, proofing and layout, and unfortunately, a gigantic avalanche of such books has made self-publishing a less attractive option for everyone else.

I'm not being elitist here. Once upon a time, self-publishing cost a lot of money and paying 10 or 15% of the total printing cost to an editor seemed like a good idea. Now you can publish a book for exactly zero dollars, and paying $800-$1500 for an edit is an expense most self-published authors are unwilling to contemplate. 
More recently, self-publishing has evolved yet again. The advent of cheap ebook readers has brought electronic publishing to the fore, and many authors are skipping publishing companies like Lulu altogether and doing everything themselves. So, who does self-publishing work best for?
 Non-fiction writers with a well-defined, captive audience. For example, someone who holds seminars on specialist topics ... such as chicken racing, network marketing or building homes out of industrial waste. There are plenty of opportunities to tell your guests that copies of your book are available at the back of the room, and you have no competition. In this case, 250-500 copies of a self-published book could be a wise investment.
• Self-publishing also works for fiction writers who just want a handful of copies for family and friends.
• It can also work for established writers with one or more novels out-of-print. (This is where the publisher decides it's no longer viable to print and sell copies of a novel.)  It's also useful when your publisher cuts you off at the knees, for example, by canceling the last book in a trilogy.

Who should consider self-publishing as a last resort?

First-time writers. Unknown writers. Anyone who wants their books shelved in bookstores, or reviewed in the media. Let's break those down:

First-time writers. If you've never sold a word of fiction in your life, how do you know you've written something ready for publication? I realisze this is a catch-22, and I'm not saying you can't. I just strongly recommend you pay for an honest evaluation of your work before publishing. And don't dismiss any comments with 
fuffery about the reader 'not understanding'.

The professionals will know by page three if you really can write... and they'll often have a good idea by the end of the first paragraph. Even if you write well, the technical details (character, plot, dialogue and so on) all have to fall into line.  
What do I mean by 'Having a book-buying audience'? Well, even if you write a good book which is technically competent, it could be rejected simply because the publisher doesn't believe enough people will want to buy a copy. It may be that your novel is a science fiction thriller and a romance all rolled into one. How do they sell that? Who do they sell it to? This is where self-publishing can work, because you can survive on a small number of sales to people who have little choice of alternatives.

Having said all that ... the humble ebook is slowly changing the industry. Ebook stores have room for everyone, and a professional cover, a catchy blurb and a well-written novel can lead to big sales.

Unknown writers & optimists. If you have no presence in the market, it's going to be tough convincing readers to lay down $20 to $25 for your book. Ebooks fare better, especially if you price them right, but poorly-written and grammatically-challenged work won't find an audience even if you give it away.

I want to point out right now that I'm not trying to put anyone off. However, having self-published three books I know something of the pitfalls and the reality of self-publishing, and I don't want anyone wasting a lot of money on a fruitless endeavor.
I haven't put you off yet?
Ok, let's talk about getting books printed.
The cheapest method is to print your document, staple in the middle and fold into an A5 booklet. Countless clubs and organisations print their newsletters this way, and it's ideal for a small number of pages (16-20 sheets of paper) where the information is more important than the presentation.

At the other end of the scale,  you have hardback books with those nifty little place-marker ribbons and your name in gold foil on the cover. (They always look like Readers Digest condensed books to me, but then again I write science fiction so what would I know?) These are ideal for memoirs, where you want them to last through several generations.

In between these extremes you have a variety of sizes, from A-format mass-market paperback up to Crown Royal. A lot of self-published and small press books use A5 (which is A4 cut in half). A or B format are the most common, with 'B' format used 
 for more expensive paperbacks from well-known authors, and 'A' used for just about everything.

Often, a book will appear in trade (B) paperback size first, only to be re-released as a mass-market (A) size a year or so later. Why? Because trade paperbacks command a higher price, allowing the publisher to recoup more on each one sold. Readers won't pay big dollars for unknown authors though, so don't rush out and print your self-published title in the biggest format you can find.

Publishers use perfect binding (a kind of hot-melt glue) to hold the book together. I recommend this method if you want your book to look professional. Alternatives include spiral binding and DIY comb binding, which are okay for how-to manuals, but not for fiction. You can pay a print shop or a specialist to run your printed books through a perfect binder... bear in mind the cover flats will have to be at least 5mm bigger all round to allow for cropping afterwards. (Books are bound then cropped to size. This leaves nice even edges all round.) A typical beginner's mistake is to roll up to the binders with an A5 sized book and A4 sized covers - once wrapped around the book, the cover is too short to reach the edges, and you still won't have enough left over for cropping. The answer is to print the book pages smaller, or the covers bigger.

Get the professionals to do it.

Please bear in mind that self-published books (particularly fiction) are regarded with suspicion by booksellers, reviewers, and other industry professionals. A book from a I've mentioned binding, finished sizes and printing books out, but I haven't covered professional printers and print on demand (POD). With the former, a company will accept a file from you containing the book (ready for print) and another containing the cover. How you get the book and cover art to this stage is up to you, but I recommend professional help if you have no idea what you're doing. If you go ahead with the printer's quote, they will produce the specified quantity of books and ship them to your delivery address. You still have to sell them, which is covered in another article.

On the other hand, if you go the POD route you can expect to pay a setup fee, but afterwards you can order books one at a time. Many of these companies will also list your book with online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, giving you a way to sell online. 
Amazon's Createspace seem to be getting good press from those who have used them. And if you want to set yourself up as a publisher with your own ISBNs, your own imprint and so on, then Lightning Source
 would be my choice. (They now print in Australia, as well as the UK and US.) major publisher is guaranteed to have gone through one or more filters, even if it's just a tick in the 'Big Name Author' box. On the other hand, a self-published 'novel' could be the same shopping list printed over and over on 400 consecutive pages... and no book store owner is going to sit down and read every self-published book offered to them. Plus many of them will only deal with distributors, who in turn only deal with established publishers.

So, if you want your book stocked in more than just your local bookstore, self-publishing is not the way to go. POD publishers is a term now used to lump together all the companies which will happily print illiterate scribble provided they get paid. Cluey bookstore owners know the names of all these companies and will be reluctant to order books from them unless it's one copy for a customer who pays upfront. (One of the problems with POD is that bookstores cannot return unsold books, something all major publishers allow.)
Please remember that none of my articles are meant to discourage. In fact, they're all written for the ME of ten years ago, the writer who was ready to take the next step, but didn't know what that step was. 


 to readers about Simon Hayes 2 articles on

Self Publishing and Agents.

Simon’s website was recommended to me. And I took the time to browse around his enlightening site. That's where I found these two succinct, down-to-earth articles, one on finding an agent, and the other on self-publishing - some of the best I have ever read.

The rest of his site is well worth browsing through too - especially his free software.

DISCLAIMER: Simon tells me that ALL his articles are organic and frequently tweaked. So, if you want to make sure you are reading the latest version,

Click HERE

Click on ARTICLES top right of Simon's page, and choose The Act of Writing, for comprehensive information on
How to Get an Agent, plus other helpful articles.