I’m back! Beta Request and “The Publishing Process”

Hey Everyone!

I’ve been gone for quite a while. For the last few years I have been swamped with manuscripts to edit for my small publisher, but I hope to come back to some form of regularity. For those of you who followed along when I was blogging, we spent the better part of a year blogging the journey of a steampunk book (our bestseller hopeful), and I regret that I never followed up on that. The Clockwork Pen got an R&R from an imprint of Macmillan, but I was already writing the next book, which was better, and so I “shelved” it. But, I plan to have a few readers go over the manuscript, then re-edit it, and hopefully release it next year.

The book after it, Hierarchy of Blood, is on preorder now, with a cover reveal coming in a few months. More on that later. (Here’s the link to the preorder. I’m working on the description now. Currently, it’s more like a synopsis. www.amazon.com/dp/B0B66H85VS)

I have decided to set aside my publishing house job (Associate Editor for Touchpoint Press) for now and I am focusing on my own editing business (www.frontpageediting.com) and writing my own books. I am hoping to have ten books out in the next three years. It’s a good goal. It makes me a little sick to think about it, but if your goals don’t intimidate you, they aren’t big enough. Right? Right. After releasing Hierarchy of Blood, I will be launching The Clockwork Pen and working on sequels to both books, as well as a new series. I have a post-apocalyptic standalone that I want to put out next year, too.

Hopefully, I will have more time and can pick up the weekly blog again. There’s still more to tell, and more new authors who haven’t heard it all. Once again, please put ideas in the comments, or DM me if you have questions about writing, editing, or publishing, so I can make posts that are relevant to you. I have some marketing know-how, but it’s nowhere near guru-level.

In my time with the publisher, I have edited 68 books so far. I will stay with my clients who are in a series, though, until they are finished. I have so enjoyed getting to know my clients and learning more about the editing world. I am confident that if any of you need professional editing help, I can offer my services at the website above. Whether you are querying for the Top 5 or self-publishing, you NEED an editor to take a look at your novel.

Other than that, I’m going to be a writing machine. I have three of the ten books written so far, so I’d better get on the ball.

If you’d like to help, I will need readers for The Clockwork Pen before I edit it, and right now, I have people reading Hierarchy of Blood before my final edits. If you have a desire to read for me, I would appreciate your input—especially teens or those who regularly read YA books. I have learned so much since I wrote The Clockwork Pen that I believe I can go back and make it a much better book now. I want the opinions of others, though.

Both books are for Young Adults and are science fiction/romances. Here are their descriptions:

The Clockwork Pen

WYLL is looking for an adventure to take his mind off his home life, when he stumbles upon a secret, shadowy world of clockwork captives hiding a Resistance, and their beautiful badass leader, SIRA. Nothing has ever mattered to Wyll more than himself—he’s no hero. But when the mad king visits him in a dark cell and implants a tracker in his arm, he realizes the Resistance makes a whole lot of sense.

Now Wyll’s on the run. Knowing no one, and with no resources, he leans on the Resistance members for help, knowing the king will infiltrate, but unable to admit his betrayal. He learns there’s only one way out of this gear-filled world. If they can find a way to steal the king’s magic clockwork pen, they’ll form a new government and Wyll can go home. Ready to fight back, he has a cause to get behind—for the first time.

And then, there’s SIRA—dressed like a steampunk cowboy with a body that won’t quit, rough around the edges, but all girl on the inside—Wow. Luckily, she wants to get back to the real world even more than Wyll does. If he rides on her coattails, maybe she can get him home. She’s unlike any girl he’s ever seen. He starts to fall hard for her rampant generosity and her fiery spirit, and thinks he might have found a reason to fight for someone other than himself.

An attraction grows between Wyll and Sira, but anxiety threatens to cripple him. If he keeps the secret that the king is using him to betray her, they’ll both be captured and she will hate him, but if he tells her the truth, he loses everything.

If you like to be drawn into dark and dangerous worlds of mystery, with brave characters and four-alarm chemistry, then you’ll love this wicked action-meets-fantasy series.

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

Hierarchy of Blood

The Selection meets The Hunger Games in space•

Living inside the dwarf planet Haumea, just outside Pluto’s orbit, means existing is only easy if you are one of the privileged. Life in the outer limits is cold and dark. When Marishel Vance’s name is drawn in the lottery of seventeen-year-old girls chosen to compete—to the death—for the title of Ambassador’s Bride, she is terrified and in denial. A seamstress by trade, Marishel has no knowledge of weapons and no desire to fight.

Over the month of preparation at the Leader’s estate, Marishel makes friends and pours herself into training. While searching for a way to win, it becomes clear that her efforts are in vain. She is going to die unless she discovers a way to stop the Blood Match.

Quin, also known as The Ambassador, might be handsome, and he might be pretending to be callous, but in Marishel’s mind, he’s nothing worth dying for. Her attempts to help one girl escape the walled compound have dire consequences, teaching her that no one can be trusted. She enlists the help of the show producer’s husband, and an old friend, sharing private details about the other contestants with the public. She tries to humanize the girls but her every effort is thwarted.

Becoming friends with Quin, she hopes she can convince him to intervene on their behalf. But when she develops confusing feelings for him, it only complicates her fight. Intrigue, danger, punishment, and secrets swirl around her and Marishel is willing to break every rule to find a way out, not only for herself, but all sixty girls sentenced to certain death. When she trusts the wrong people, Marishel is set up to fail and carry the blame herself, but she never could have expected the results of the Blood Match.

If either one, or both, trip your trigger and you think you’d enjoy the story, please contact me and I will send you a free copy to read and/or edit.

I hope you have found this blog to be useful and informative so far. I’d hate to throw all this beta info at you and not give anything of value. So … let’s talk about publishing…

I saw a woman author posting the other day and she said, “All done with the book, now I want to publish so I guess I need an agent.”

Wait a minute.

That depends on what you want to do with the book. First, do you care if it’s traditionally or self-published? Do you want control of your information? If you want to go traditional, are you aiming for a Top 5 house or one of their imprints? Or are you thinking of a small publisher? Do you know how to self-publish? (I recently taught a video course on self-publishing through KDP. Would you like me to make a series on the blog about it?) Let me explain where I’m going with a picture here:

You ONLY need an agent if you are going for a Top 5 house or one of their imprints. Some Top 5 imprints do not require an agent, though, so make sure to check. And remember, not all agents can get you a Top 5 contract. So, if you want to go with the Top 5 (or imprints that require an agent), you must vet your agents well. I can’t stress this enough. Double check them on Publisher’s Marketplace or click here.

If your book is good enough to be published by a Top 5 house, it shouldn’t take you 100 queries to discover that. J.K. Rowling was said to have been rejected 12 times. Twelve times. Not sixty-seven or eighty-two. If you have been querying agents at high numbers with no luck, this book may not be Top 5 material. Yet. That is not to say it isn’t good or that it shouldn’t be published, or that readers won’t LOVE it, but the Top 5 have a set of standards and qualifiers that they use in choosing their material.

And I’ve said it many times, that some 80% of rejected books are simply 3 or 4 drafts away from being accepted. If your book has potential, a small publisher may take it. If it is liked and accepted by an agent, they will expect it to be one draft away from print. Books that still need 2 – 3 drafts are more than the agent has time for. That might get you an R&R and the opportunity to do another draft with their suggestions, but any more than 3 drafts needed, gets a pass.

Of course, it is different with every agent, just as what is accepted is subjective to the agent’s taste. Which is why if you want to succeed in getting an agent, take your time and make sure you query exactly the right ones. Don’t query like you’re spreading chicken seed. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and it turns into scores of rejections that hurt your very soul, even though you should have known this agent hates your genre.

And let me add, getting a nice personal response from an agent is always a bonus, but expect a form rejection. Agents who aren’t planning to accept you, don’t have to tell you why. If an agent goes through seventy-five queries in a day, they don’t have time to tell you every reason why they didn’t choose your book or write you a personal note, and since they only need to tell you, “Sorry, it’s not a fit,” (and not all agents do that) it’s easiest to create a personal-sounding form letter to tell you just that, and probably personalizing it, so they can get on to the next possible bestseller. It’s not personal. I promise it’s not.

Agents don’t actually enjoy sending you a rejection. Especially if it’s someone who clearly should have known that you don’t take their genre. Those made me feel terrible because I knew I was adding to their “rejection list” when there was no need to. But it’s a business. Agents have to pass on 80-90% of their queries. (That was the one sucky part of my job when I was agenting.) They want your book to be “great” as much as you do. Trust me, they hope you have the next bestseller. But they can only take on books that they believe they can sell to a Top 5 publisher or one of their imprints. That’s why you need to know your agent can. Because even worse than a rejection, is for an agent to bring you on and not be able to sell your book.

And personally, if they then asked me if I wanted them to try small houses, I would say, “No, thank you,” and then start sending my queries out to small publishers myself. The contracts are standard non-negotiable, so they are pretty much a “sign or don’t” with a little leaway on percentages and how many books provided, etc. Then, I would get to keep an extra 15% of my money for the exact same experience as if I had an agent. Authors with agents don’t get a “better deal” or receive preferential treatment with a small publisher. That wouldn’t be fair to the majority of their authors, who don’t have an agent. They just get 15% less.

Once an agent has gotten you a small publisher deal, they will hold your hand through “the deal” from signing with the publisher through rounds with the editor and formatter, etc. And then, from the time of launch on, you will be in contact with the publisher for anything you need. In a small publisher setting, agents just aren’t necessary.

If you are querying and aren’t getting bites from agents, but you still desire to be traditionally published and you’re ready to give up on the agents, just look up some small publishers and start sending your queries to them instead. Their nets are wider and they will often take a story that “has potential.” The Top 5 will not. THEY want a book that is one revision away from printing to the masses. A small publisher may see the promise in your story and hook you up with an editor (like me) who helps you shape it up a bit into your best story. (If you are interested in my help, you can see what my clients have to say in the Referral section.)

To find the right small publisher for you, I still suggest Publishers Marketplace to check, but just like you looked for an agent’s specifics, make sure you are querying small publishers that will take your book. It’s not usually a problem, though. You can also ask published writer friends who they chose and if they felt they were getting a good deal and enjoyed their experience so far. Now, no one is perfect, there will always need to be some grace with publishers, but overall experience is a good judge of character.

If you see a small publisher that you like, do a little digging and contact a few of their authors to see what they think. Most authors list an email or a website, so get a couple of opinions. You can ask the publisher for a few authors, but they will send you names that are cherry-picked to give a positive testimony. It’s normal for any business, so it’s best to choose random authors in your genre.

And before you ever sign on with a small publisher, take a look at their covers. If they are mostly terrible, so will yours be, unless you can afford a separate cover designer. (My covers cost me $400 each right now.) If the covers are mostly horrible but you really like some of them, those are the ones that were paid for. The other majority were done by the publisher’s cover artist and yours would be as well. So know this ahead of time. Aside from peoples’ personal experiences with small publishers, the rest is the same: Non-negotiable contract, 30-40% royalties, some deal regarding books, in-house editor, in-house formatter, in-house cover artist, and whatever they do for marketing. So, my advice is to see who does what for marketing (ask around), and go with the best one with the best covers, or the best marketing and buy a cover. Having good marketing help is worth the payment for a better cover.

If you don’t have luck with small publishers, I do not suggest you just go ahead and self-publish it. If the small publishers don’t see the potential in it, or don’t take it because of a lack of editing, or more drafts needed, then there are things that need to be fixed before you self-publish it anyway. It may need editing, it may need story development, it may have plot holes, or mixed tenses, etc. A good editor can tell you these things.

And remember, for your next book, if you’d like to try another shot at a Top 5 house, they will take a look at how your first book is doing. If it’s not doing great, that may weigh into their decision on whether to take you on. If you put out a book that you know is sub-par, it can kick you in the butt later.

Also, Top 5 publishers will NOT take a book out of series. If they don’t have book one, don’t even try to pitch book two, unless book one is making money hand over fist, and they ask to publish your whole series. But just dropping in on book 2 or 3 will be a time waster for you. Small publishers, again, will have more leniency in their acceptance of serial books, though.

So, take a hint. Revise, repeat. If you really want a Top 5 house and the agents aren’t biting, but you really don’t want to give up, then don’t. But stop and take a minute to reevaluate your manuscript. Re-edit, then get some new beta readers, edit again. THEN send to new agents.

Once you’ve gotten a “no” from an agent on a book, you can’t just re-edit and send it back unless they tell you exactly that. If it has enough potential, the agent (or small publisher) may give you an R&R (revise and resubmit) and then follow the directions above: edit, beta readers, edit, send back. But if it was a solid “no” from that agent, and sometimes for the whole agency, you have to mark them off your list and find a new one. This is why the spreadsheets I made in this post are so necessary. And then, this post explains where to get your information and HOW to fill out the entries.

If this is your first time reading my blog, I urge you to scroll through the titles and see if there is anything here that can help you. I will try to be more regular about posting my launch process for this next book, Hierarchy of Blood (which has just won an honorable mention in 2022’s New York Book Festival). I have a posterboard on my wall with post-it-sized boxes for each week, and I write down the activities I have for each week. If you are about to launch, feel free to join me in my continuing journey. I am planning to make up a launch binder with all the info I have. So, if you’re doing this with me, I made a folder in my computer called: Book Planning.

In that folder, I made the following folders: writing, editing, formatting, beta readers, awards, launch, promo, and an excel spreadsheet documenting the books I have planned and their expected phase times. I am gathering all the best advice I’ve gotten on each of these subjects and keeping it in these folders. These folders are for the tried and true lessons I’ve learned that really work. The 20% of work that has 80% effectiveness. Then, when I am gathering beta readers (and hopefully future reviewers), and people who want to be on my street team to help me with promo, I can keep my spreadsheets handy.

*If you know someone who would be interested in Young Adult books and would like to join my team, just have them contact me.*

I am excited about this new journey into full-time writing, and happy to have editing customers. I need to edit to afford my cover artist. Lol. Join me here to see how it’s done. And let me know where I can shed light on the publishing process for you. Do you need help with an aspect of writing? Self-editing? Querying? Launching? Promo? Get as specific as you want, and I’ll tell you everything I know on the subject. We’ll get there together! And if I have helped you, let me know that, too. I love success stories.

Until next time,


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