Hello there! First off, let me introduce myself politely. My name is Alvaro Bayona, and I am an Independent author. Now sit back, grab some food or dynamite, and let me spike up a tale of my experience as writer so far.
I believe the first time I ever started to write stories on my own was when I was 17. I would go to my room after school and get out a journal and write away. Day by day I would come up with ideas that sparked my enthusiasm to keep going. However, like all journeys, struggle always snakes its presence in the most destructive sights ever.
Once I graduated High School, I right away figured out what I wanted to be: an author. I had it in my mind that I was going to make fictional stories way beyond the human mind. Worlds and characters like never before, and with imagination that has never been tested. So I set myself on the quest to my career, and nothing was going to stop me, no matter what!
During that first summer break before college, I tried to figure out how to make a book, but that was rough. A lot of people I asked for help really didn’t understand how, so I kind of was left alone. I had to think of a way to get myself a publisher.
Once I got into College, my main focus was to find at least a group or two to help me out. I went through my English professors, and I was given the same response. They as well didn’t know!
As time went by, I knew that I needed to be author, but where would I turn to? Where did I have the sanctuary to run to?
Now this might sound rude, and I apologize for this, but while at College, I was wondering why I wasn’t getting ahead of being an author. Day by day I would sit in my classes thinking about making my book already. I just thought, “So when am I taught to write the book?”
To be honest, I knew what I wanted to do, and I wanted to get to the point of it. No messing around, because my mind was set. I was pretty much stuck in classes that I disliked because they weren’t anything I wanted to do. No, I don’t want to be a doctor; I want to be an author!
In fact, I was told to stop and only focus on school, but what’s there to focus on if they’re just going to put me down. No one even helped me make a book, until one day.
I have a friend, an amazing author, and I asked her how she got her book published. She told me she went through this magnificent website called: CreateSpace, and I knew that I had another step to go. So I went to that website one day and I got straight to the point. I found my sanctuary, but I was not done yet.
Finally at around March of 2015, I sat my ass down and started to type away my book. That was the first time that something was finally getting published. Everything in my mind was finally coming together, and what wave of excitement it was. However, school took a hold of me, a lot.
Most of the time I would go back to do homework, but I took a few minutes to write. Then, after a while, I decided to put my career as priority as I discovered something….something that really made me think. School was holding me back. School wasn’t helping at all. I always felt so alone there, but never when it came to writing.
Now I’m not a normal fiction writer, I’m a weird one. My influences were far from normal. My influences were pretty much from comic books. I’ve always loved reading comics and it left a big impact on me.
I was influenced a lot by Batman, Spawn, Sin City, , and a lot more. However, I later on passed over the American comics in favor of the Japanese side. When I was around 13 or 14, I got into a lot of what’s called “anime” which are Japanese comics that turn into animation. Such examples like Dragon Ball Z, Hellsing, or Sailor Moon. A lot of scenes in my book were really influenced by that stuff, especially the fighting and scenes.
However, if there was one thing that influenced me more than anything else…then it was music. Not just any music, but my favorite one of all…Rock ‘N’ Roll. I love Rock ‘N’ Roll, especially Heavy Metal, and I’ve always wanted to welcome it in my writing. Bands that really influenced me were the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Bathory and so on. So one day I thought: I have an idea. Why not combine all of it together? I’m going to combine all those influences into one single object.” That object is my book.
Oh, now that was driving force that kept me going. I know for sure that there’s a bunch of fans of each of those different things that like more than one, so why not give it to them with a surprise? Have the fighting and power scenes from anime, with the kind of courage and justice from Superheroes, and the design and attitude that Rock ‘N’ Roll had. I knew that it would be the perfect collaboration.
Therefore, each one was divided up equally. My characters fight with these cool godly powers while trying to save the world, and still looking good with that tight leather on.
In fact, here’s a trivia. My main character, Stacy, was influenced and based on an amazing musician. Stacy was influenced the Heavy Metal female guitarist, Kelly Johnson from the all Female Heavy Metal band Girlschool. It was before I started writing that I got really into that band. I still like them to this day, and they’re freaking awesome. Originally, Stacy was going to be a boy that resembled Lemmy from Motörhead. Of course I could go on, but I rather go back to my experience as an author and keep the story of book for another post.
Day by day I would spend my entire break inside the computer lab at school, trying to finish the book. Later on I realized that it kind of got in my studies and my grades went a bit down, but still good enough to pass. It didn’t bother me because this was something I’ve wanted to do since forever.
At around the summer of 2015, that’s when hell broke out to me! One day while I was writing at home, my computer randomly shut down at the moment. The screen went black like the darkness that surrounded me and died. I screamed freaking loud that day with rage growing inside.
“No! NO!! Don’t you dare do this!! How dare you die before me?” I screamed high tot the sky with rage I never knew that dwelled in me. That was it. It was over. For a moment there, I kind of panicked since I didn’t save my story onto the hard drive I was using. I thought my journey was over. I thought I lost it all. Even at that state of disappointment and failure, I stood back up and knew it wasn’t over. I figured a plan.
Next day I went to my library and decided to finish working in there. As I walked in confident as ever, all the damn computers were taken. Each one of them was overruled by another being. Panic rushed through my mind as I tried to calm down. I couldn’t believe that I had nowhere to work, until a light bulb shined above my head.
I raced to school, and well, history does repeat itself. Pretty much every day, both places were filled with people taking over all the computers. Whether it is the library or school, I had no spot available. It was as if I felt a huge force of disappointment ram me though, leaving me in a pit of failure. The voices would speak to me gently: I failed. There was nothing I could do. Just give up, it’s better that way.
Finally after a month, there was a spot at the Library for me. I raced to it and plugged my device in, but that really ticked me off. I remember it like yesterday when the computer told me my file was lost. It was gone…forever. I struggled for day to find it, but there was nothing to receive.
One day came and I gave it one final try. Thank god for that day. I opened the computer at the library…and it was there. I found my story at last. I opened it right away and worked like no tomorrow. Never had I felt joy racing through me like that before. Now I was getting somewhere, but it was still taking forever.
One day at the library, the file was lost, again. I banged my head to the desk in frustration. Weird was that I was able to get it back, and then I discovered something. Maybe there could an alternative to my files, but where?
It hit me like a brick when I found it. Google Docs! I moved all my information there at the last moment before my hard drive decided to finally die. It broke at that very day, right after I move everything. Phew.Now I was back up stronger than ever. I knew nothing else could stop me, except for the school computer lab still being packed.
Fall came down like a meteor shower and I knew the only way to finish this was to take any computer that was open, no matter how long. I would at least spend three hours writing. It was going so well, but I still needed to beat my deadline. I wanted to unleash the book to the world by 2015, and I was eager to do so.
During that time, I decided I still needed a good cover, but I couldn’t decide who to get to draw it. I’m no artist, but I needed a good cover. I searched and I could barely find any artists, and when I did, they charged so much. Even my wallet felt that one. I knew I couldn’t spend money, so I did it on my own. I drew the entire book and logo.
Day by day, I tried to learn how to draw, but that was going to take too long, so I did a small DIY technique. To this day, the drawing could have been way better, but I’m glad I did it. I took the challenge, and I took it all the way.
Finally I was at my final days or writing, and it was time to find an editor. Of course just like before, my wallet jumped right back in my pocket. I was in no position to pay an editor to edit my book. Damn.
Yes, I edited my own book. I will admit that it wasn’t a smart move, but I wasn’t going to pay. Besides, I wanted to do it.
Around December of 2015, I was officially done. The artwork, the story, the editing; all of it was finally completed. Now it was time to show it to the world. At December 27, 2015, my book was finally born. The title is: And Now Ladies And Gentlemen...Stacy!
Then came the moment that really put me down and I still am going through. Bookstores. As desperate as I was at the time, I didn’t realize CreateSpeace doesn’t store books into bookstores. That really slapped me in the face. So I decided to do this whole book selling myself. I won’t lie; most of the bookstores have turned me down. It felt as though I wasn’t wanted.
In addition, Barnes And Nobles actually turned me down a few days ago. Kind of sucks, but that ain’t stopping me at all. Sure it’s tough, but I know I’ll get there.
Furthermore, I’m also the one in charge with all my promotion, and it really gets to you.
I made a facebook page about a month ago and I have a good number of likes. After all, I’m just starting and I wasn’t expecting a lot. Still, I’m confident that I can still make it. After all, I’m only 19 years old and I still have a long way to go.
My journey still is in its infancy, and I welcome any new challenges that I’ll face head on! For the rest of the Independent Authors out there, I welcome and hope good wished to them all!
My advice to new authors is to always be your best and write day by day your heart out. However, if there are errors, feel free to get family and friends to give feedback on it. It really helps. Never give up and keep striving for good! That’s my experience and advice for you all so far. Keep up with me, thank you for letting me talk, and good luck to all the Independent Authors out there. Trust me, you’ll do better than me.
Cards on the table, I’m an English teacher. 11th and 12th grade to be precise. Thane, due to this (amongst other things, such as our friendship), asked me to give some insight into the world of writing, which terrified me. To be fair, it’s summer break and procrastination is my modus operandi at this time, but just the thought of giving advice to whoever chooses to read something like this is enough to make me stammer just a bit.
So here we go, my advice on writing. By the end of this piece, you’re going to get the most important rule for writing. This is the best rule for anyone wanting to write, whether academically or for their soul or to publish. This will be the best advice I can give.
In the third grade, I began to learn cursive. In Ohio, students dread this. Cursive is weird, it’s unfamiliar, letters are connected and sometimes changed, and we’d only just mastered printing three months prior, so why change it? We didn’t have a choice, though, because we were third-graders, and that’s what we learned.
To put it bluntly, my cursive sucked. To be fair to my cursive, my printing sucked worse. Or maybe they sucked equally. I’m not really sure, because I got dreaded check-minuses on my grade cards. My parents took it stoically, maybe hoping that this meant I was to become a doctor and allow them to live in the lap of luxury during their golden-years while I was performing brain surgery on famous people and driving a Porsche. Imagine their surprise when 13 years later I became an English teacher and drove a Mitsubishi. Sorry mom and Dad.
I soldiered on through primary and secondary school until 11th grade when one day we had a substitute teacher in English class. She was in her late eighties, with a tiny, grandmotherly voice and a sense of love that emanated from her as she paced the rows to make sure we were doing our work. Although I don’t remember the lesson, I do recall that we were writing extended responses; in cursive. She came up over my left shoulder and looked at my work and said one of those teacher-esque lines that I’ll never forget, “Oh, Michael, your handwriting is beautiful.”
It can be assumed that I stared at her with incredulous wonder, looked back at my chicken-scratch cursive, then back to her. I faintly remember snorting out something like, “really?” and thinking to myself that her eyesight must be going now, she was pretty old. She smiled and reaffirmed her statement before reminding me that all of my letters should touch each line on the paper, lest the r’s get jealous of the e’s and whatnot. Now, I’m not sure if that’s true, since I’m vaguely aware that mechanical pencils don’t imbue their scratchings with life, but her small compliment and kind criticism stays with me to this day, some 13 years later.
I went to college two years later, and unlike my peers, I still used a notebook and pen to take notes. Laptops were too distracting to use, but a notebook was fine, even when the margins were filled with doodles and little lines of poem. I printed my notes, though, forsaking the beauty of my cursive for the swiftness of printing and quasi-shorthand.
This method of writing continued into my early teaching years, too. But, as I graded assignments from young men who reminded me of myself at that time, I saw the ugliness of their handwriting and compared it to mine. What was I doing? Was I willing to set the example that lazy handwriting was okay? Is that who I was going to choose to be? All over simple convenience?
One day, during a creative writing class as I set my students to working, I started writing in cursive in my journal. I wrote, over and over, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” My cursive was poor, unpracticed, not remotely polished. But, I stuck with it and began integrating such writing into my personal and professional work. Over time, it grew stronger.
I knew I was doing well when, while writing a check to my mechanic, he said, “Man, your handwriting is good.”
Damn right, I thought proudly as I signed my signature with a self-assured flourish. I’m an English teacher with good writing. Look at me now, Mom and Dad! No more check-minuses in my future.
I noticed though, something odd happening as I wrote. I’d slowed down. My cursive writing forced me to pause a bit as I wrote and consider each word. And due to that, I noticed that transcribing my work to electronic formats, it was much easier to revise because I’d taken such care in initially writing it. In some ways, this is backward. Cursive writing is supposed to speed you up, and I can say that I’m slowly getting quicker, but the speed at which I write in cursive is nothing compared to my printing, when I have to subject myself to such plebian levels of scrivening.
This brings me to what I want to teach you, now. To paraphrase Stephen King in his book 11/22/63, every English teacher has a book hidden in their desk that they’re waiting to finish and publish. And I’d expand that to many more professions, to be honest, because we all have a story to tell, we’re just unwilling to do so. But now, when I put pen to paper and write for me, I take my time and write whatever comes to me. Most of the time it’s terrible, barely fit to line a hamster cage with, but with some work, some revision, and some grit, it can become something passable.
I haven’t written a book yet, but I’m working on it. I’m listening to all of the advice from greats such as Mark Twain (“write what you know”) and Hemingway (“Writing is easy, you just sit at a typewriter and bleed.”). But I’ve found that the advice I give to creative writing students, born of necessity because I had to give this advice to myself once upon a time as I was relearning cursive, is the most important.
That’s it! That’s all of the advice you need. Write and write and write and write! And when you’re stuck, restart and write some more! Because it’s not important to get it right on your first try, that’s what revision and friends and editors are for. Getting it one paper is the first step. So, quit making excuses, quit beating around the bush, quit saying to others that “I’ve got a novel in the works, I just don’t know where I’m going with it right now.”
-Michael Eyler (English Teacher, King of Plundering)
I have been reading and supporting self-published authors, especially local authors, for a long time, and as a librarian, often struggle to get self-published materials added to our collection. I am not alone; there is still controversy over quality concerns, financial aspects, and bias when looking at self-published work as part of library collections.
I emailed our own collection development manager this week to get her perspective on why it is so difficult for us to get self-pub titles. She explained that she believes it is a lack of exposure. We receive so many catalogs and promotional materials from publishers that we have to wade through that to dig around and find self-published work is impossible within our time constraints. This is understandable, I can assure you, as someone working in the field. Most of our self-published acquisitions are from patron requests, so as an author, your best bet is to have friends or relatives request a purchase. You can also donate a copy, but there is no guarantee that it will be added to the collection. If you are an author approaching your local library, odds are that they are interested in you as a local author and may add your work to their local author/local history collection. You have a better shot at gaining their interest if you are willing to speak at an event, do a booktalk/question and answer session, or better yet, offer to teach a writing workshop for adults or children or perhaps another program or course that you feel qualified to teach – for free. Establish your connection to and interest in the community that your library serves and they will be more willing to work with you in acquiring and featuring your books.
As with traditionally published work, we look at reviews for quality, so if you have good reviews posted anywhere, especially Amazon, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal – and no, it is not always easy to get into those publications, but definitely worth it – call attention to them. If you can afford to use Netgalley or Edelweiss, I assure you that we use both to search for quality material. Both are easy to use and free for us (librarians), and our reviews and ratings are used in all sorts of publicity materials.
Overdrive, which many libraries use as their e-book platform, has an agreement with Smashwords to provide access to self-published materials, but only top sellers:
On a positive note, Overdrive recently reported that library patron use of self-published and indie books are on the rise:
American Libraries magazine reported not too long ago that libraries are, for the most part, interested in the self-publishing phenomenon and recognize that quality work is out there for their patrons to read from self-published authors:
And finally, a piece from the Independent Book Publishers Association on the difficulties of purchasing self-published materials from the librarian end:
Obviously we have a lot of work to do as self-published authors, from writing to marketing to accounting, but taking the time to establish a personal connection to your local library just might pay off in interest from librarians and patrons. We have patrons tell us all the time that they make purchasing decisions after reading a book they checked out from the library and decided that they had to own. The library isn’t just for those readers who can’t afford to buy the material they would like to read, but also a way for those who can make purchases to try before they buy. Time spent at the library, speaking, teaching, connecting – is time well spent towards a potentially exponential payback in purchases, reviews, and future goodwill. As a librarian new to the world self-publishing, I am able to see both sides, and hopefully can help other self-published authors navigate this resource.
-Cecily Wolfe (Author, Librarian)
There is a perception that a Literary Agent (Agent), is the door to an author’s big break. An agent is expected to market a manuscript/book and possibly bring the author some measure of success – maybe even stardom.
I must make it clear at the outset that there is a need for an Agent once they represent the author well and will deliver as an agent is expected to. However I have observed a certain arrogance and rudeness from agents that in my view seem to make them believe that they are an indispensable species, maybe even a god.
The plethora of self publishers attests to the fact that the self publishing industry is a lucrative and growing one. From my reading these self publishing companies have very attractive packages for prospects and often provide substantial after-publication services to self published authors. The self publishing firm seems to have taken the place of the traditional literary agent, to a certain extent. Their functions seem to have some elements of a literary agent.
These Agents often seem to focus heavily on a query letter as well as if the prospect is already a published author with a “name”. The way these agents focus on a query letter is almost as if this letter is more important than the plot in the manuscript. I find it an interesting read when I browse the profiles of agents and the submission guidelines on their websites. Generally, for fiction the guideline states that query letters should be a page and that a brief bio is to be attached.
On June 21, 2015, I took this from Andy Ross Literary Agency’s website which states;
“Queries should be less than half page. Please put the word “query” in the title header of the email. State in the first sentence the category of the project. Give a short description of the book and your qualifications for writing.”
An email from Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency stated;
“ … start with a description of the book, a few paragraphs … query letter description and bio should be no more than 1 page if it were printed out.”
If a query letter is so important, then how much information can be provided to sufficiently pique the interest of an agent? How can an author seriously be impactful in representing himself based on the requirements of Andy Ross and Jill Marsal. It’s a gamble and a joke!
A lot of agents in addition to the brief query and bio as well, also require the first 10 pages of the manuscript. This I think is reasonable. I understand that the primary reason for their preferences for short query letters is because of the vast number of letters that each agent receives each month. That is not a proper excuse in my view as short changing an author is the end result of compromising a properly written query letter of about two pages by using volume as an excuse.
The fact of the matter is that for an agent to be effective and thorough in their job requires that they painstakingly go through maybe a query letter of about two pages and the first 10 pages of the manuscript.
This is not a case of sour grapes but agents seem more interested in a query letter than the actual story in the manuscript. As what exists now is that an author has to pass the query letter stage and also pass the bio stage before any portion of the writing style of the author is examined and before the plot is reviewed. I am sure there are instances where the query was so well polished only for the agent to later discover that the story lacks a good plot and/or is poorly written. The reverse I believe is also possible. After all, it’s the book that is published and bought by readers, not the query letter. So why is such a monumental focus on the query letter? Why is it that there are so many articles and books on “How to Write a Query Letter” to be found all over the internet and in bookstores?
I saw one which said something like; “How to write a killer query letter.” It is laughable, as it seems that the query letter is more important in the long run rather than the actual manuscript. A two or three page synopsis/summary in my view would be more realistic and practical. Agents do their profession a bad rap when they make these guidelines so impractical. How can they represent their jobs effectively if they demand so much in a one or two page query letter to include; bio, outline and pitch.
Another laughable article I come across is; “How I Landed My First Agent.” I can understand why it calls for a celebration and more ridiculous to write an article on it. Authors see that as a major achievement to pass the acid test; of passing the query letter test.
Articles and books have been written on “How to approach an agent”. The operative word “approach”. This can be likened to a bomb agent in which that agent needs to know how to approach a “suspicious bag” at an airport wondering if it has a bomb that soon will be detonated. Agents are revered, they are demigods that are expected to take an author to stardom so one needs to “approach” them carefully. Are they human beings?
There are lists of “dos” and “don'ts” all over the internet and in book shops. It seems that speaking with a literary agent is not like the typical business or professional conversation.
The profile of some of these agents display such arrogance and rudeness that I think that’s the genesis of those articles.
The replies that these agents send out; e.g. despite the body of the reply being generic, some agents don’t even have the courtesy to address their email responses with your name on it.
This one was received from Eric W. Ruben;
“Thank you for sending me your work. Unfortunately, it’s not right for this office. I wish you the best.”
Mr. Ruben didn’t even think he could properly address his rejection letter.
I got this from Paul S. Levine,
“Not for me – thanks anyway.”
I got a very respectful response from Diana Finch Literary Agency;
“Dear Garfield Whyte,
Thanks you for the query. I’m sorry to report that I don’t think that I’m the right agent for the novel. I do appreciate having been offered the chance to consider your work.”
That’s a respectful agent who despite rejection still shows some respect and class.
There are websites which state that agents will only reply to work that they are interested in. What does it take to send out an email with a one or two line courtesy rejection reply? An author sends in a query that has a potential if accepted, it can be a mutually beneficially relationship. Yet the agent doesn’t even display the basic courtesy of replying.
Some of these agents require a superb letter from authors yet they cannot even address a one sentence response to authors showing a little dignity and respect.
An agent cannot survive without authors but authors can operate without agents. In today’s technologically advanced world, many authors are now going the route of self publishing and either using a marketing consultant to market their books or put their own marketing machinery in motion.
An agent obliged when I asked her if she could be kind enough to tell me what’s wrong with my query letter. She replied and said I should not include that I did a survey seeking to find out which would be the preferred topic for my book. I had included in my query letter a sentence that I had done a survey with about 30 persons. I had provided a list of titles asking which title would be their preference. The reason for that was to get a feel of which titles resonated with those persons. In my view it was one way of doing my research. The agent said I should not have included that in my query. Clearly, she used that as an excuse to pass on mine. She clearly hasn’t gotten a clue about marketing. That information in my view is not detrimental to a manuscript, the plot and the writing style for the novel, as the query letter is not for the public but simply between the agent and an author.
If these agents demand the perfect pitch, the perfect synopsis, the perfect first five or ten pages, then why aren’t they writing the next best novel … the next best movie script? If they can’t, then should we trust them with our careers as an author?
My feeling is that getting an acceptance on a query letter is a game of chance. There is no magic spell, no special word, no guarantee of success whenever a query is sent out. An author being successful with their query letter has to be a game of chance since the situation is a subjective one, as going through a pile of query letters many times is dependent on what is going on within the agent’s world at that time. The agent maybe having a bad day, personal issues, maybe distracted by chatting on the telephone while reading a letter. Very subjective. In some ways like the lottery.
There is a perception that self published authors are the rejects of the literary industry because they opt not to succumb to the epidemic that some agents are demigods and are indispensable. Generally, inherent in most success stories are two factors; dedication and hard work. As long as an author can rise above rejection, with work hard and remaining focused, dedicated and innovative/creative then success will come even without an agent.
Technology is now making literary agents fast become a dying specie. The vastly growing options for making one’s book available through online stores, a host of websites (even one belonging to the author), ebooks, book fairs, media marketing, direct marketing.
There will eventually be agents searching for jobs very soon, that’s if some are not already doing so.
Self-publishing companies are making agents irrelevant. Some agents will soon be unemployed and unemployable. Technology has changed the face or every industry, so why should the literary industry be immune? It’s just a matter of time.
-Garfield Whyte (Indie Author)