What Do You Want to Know About Publishing? by Heather L. Reid

It’s Personal: What Do You Want to Know About Publishing?

by Heather L. Reid

When I asked Karen what she wanted me to tackle for my guest post today, she said, “Give me something that will help others.” That sounds easy enough, right?

I’ve been through the trenches and come out with a two-book publishing deal. I should have the answer. Sage advice should spring from my fingers and onto the page. I must possess some magic knowledge that will help others get from aspiring writer to professional, right?

It’s not that simple. My knowledge revolves around my experience, my journey, what worked for me. (You can read about how I landed my two-book deal here.)

Truth is, every bit of practical wisdom I thought to impart has been rehashed a million times by writers greater than me and would only help those who were seeking the answer to that particular question. There’s plenty of practical knowledge I could have chosen to blog about, but how do I know if any of it will help you? How do I know which bit of wisdom you need to hear today?

Each of you have different needs, different questions you want answered, personal to your journey and personal to you. What inspires you might be different than what inspires me. What’s helpful to one person might be repetitive for someone else.

Maybe you’re new to writing and have questions about basics. Or you might be in query hell, fed up with rejections and if one more person gives you query advice you might punch them in the nose. On the other hand, maybe you’re debating pros and cons of traditional publishing verses self-publishing. Maybe you’re struggling with revisions, characterization, plotting, time management, or wondering if you should give up on your dream. Maybe you need to hear a success story to give you hope.

So what do I have to offer today? Me, for what it’s worth. What would help you? What do you want to know about the process, about publishing, about my journey, or about me?

Have a question about queries?

Want to know what life is like post book deal?

How long it took me to get published?

What men wear under their kilts?

How to write great dialogue?

Want my recipe for stuffed peppers?

Where the idea for Pretty Dark Nothing came from?

How to balance a job and publishing deadlines?

Why I’m a Joss Whedon fan and still grieve over the cancellation of Firefly?

Don’t be shy. Ask me anything. Seriously. I’m not a vampire, I don’t bite.


Heather L. Reid eats mayonnaise on her fries, loves men in kilts, and met her husband playing Star Wars Galaxies online. This native Texan now lives with her Scottish hubby in South Ayrshire, Scotland, where she wanders the moors in search of William Wallace. She has been a guest blogger on Writer Unboxed and is founder of a new blog for writers Hugs and Chocolate. Her debut young adult Paranormal,PRETTY DARK NOTHING, will be released on April 23, 2013 by Month 9 Books. She loves to meet and help other writers and readers so feel free to say hello via her website, Twitter, FB, and Goodreads.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing

21 responses to “What Do You Want to Know About Publishing? by Heather L. Reid

  1. Stacy S. Jensen

    I’m at the query stage on a manuscript and wondering about a a good resource for examples.

  2. Through the course of revising PDN, when did you decide enough was enough? How do you know it when a manuscript is finally ready?

    • That’s a tough question, Vaughn. For me, it was reaching the point where I had nothing left to give the manuscript. I know that sound vague, so let me try to expand. No manuscript is perfect, you can spend hours, days, years revising and you would STILL find flaws and improvements to make. For me, before I started the query process, there came a point where I felt that I was no longer improving the manuscript. Revisions had been reduced to agonizing over the structure of one sentence or paragraph. I wasn’t adding or cutting anything significant. The manuscript had been through critique partners, beta testers, and countless revisions. I’d studied craft and used it to what I thought was the best of my ability. It wasn’t prefect, but it was as good as I could make it. From there, it’s taking a leap of faith.

      Agents and editors are looking for the potential they see in a manuscript. Yes, you need to give it everything you’ve got, but this pursuit of perfection is futile. I’m still working with my editor to iron out creases and fix flaws. The work has just begun. It was the potential in PDN that sold, not it’s perfection.

      Also, it’s not just about the manuscript. It might be ready, but are YOU ready? Are you at the point where you can let go and accept the rough ride ahead? Are you ready to get feedback, ready to fail, ready to succeed, for whatever comes from taking that leap? If you can answer yes, it’s time to let go and see what happens.

      Does that even help? I hope it does. It really is part instinct and part faith. Only you can decide if it’s ready.

  3. Love the cover and looking forward to checking out your sites listed. You mentioned a “two-book deal” and as a very small traditional publisher as well as offering book services to authors choosing the self pub route, I’m curious about your decision to seek a more traditional path. Could you share a few pros and cons,in your opinion, as well as what helped shake your choices?

  4. Hi Linda. Thanks for another great question. 🙂 Deciding to go traditional or self-publish is such a personal decision. For me, traditional was always my first choice. I’ve spent most of my life dreaming of being a published author. I started writing and querying well before e-books or the acceptance of self-publishing as a valid way to fulfil a passion for storytelling. Back then, traditional was the only choice and that’s what I aspired to. Had I knocked on every door, done everything possible to get my book published and still failed to get past the gate keepers, I might have chosen self-publishing, but for me, it was always the path of last resort.

    I want to stress that I admire those who self-publish, who work hard to forge a path and decide to take control of their own destiny. It’s wonderful to have choice, but it wasn’t the path I really wanted. As for the pros and cons of self-publishing, I can only go by what others have told me. It’s hard work with lots of different hats to wear.

    As for traditional, I had a close call with one of the big six several years ago which ended in a pass and disappointment. Looking back, I’m glad Pretty Dark Nothing wasn’t accepted. My two book deal would come to me years later through a small independent press and I couldn’t be happier. Being with a small press gives me the best of both worlds. I get to collaborate with a brilliant editor, give input about my cover, copy, and publicity. I don’t have full control, but I’m also not alone in the process. I get to work with an amazing team and we all have a common goal. To make Pretty Dark Nothing the best it can be. I still have to promote myself, but I have a marketing budget and a publicist to help me so I’m not shouldering the full burden. I get to spend more time doing what I love, writing, and less time worrying about distribution or foreign rights. As for the cons? The only con is that I don’t have full control, but to be honest, it’s enough.

    Would I ever self-publish? Maybe. But for now, I hope to have a long and prosperous career with my publisher.

    I hope this answers your question.

  5. What a great question/answer series. I need to keep all of this information in a file! Questions are good, answers are awesome. What a great day in blogging land. Heather, shouldn’t you be in bed now? (I sent this at 6:10 p.m. central time, USA.)

  6. I went to bed right after answering, Karen. 🙂 Fantastic questions from everyone. Happy to keep answering if anyone else wants to chime in over the next few days. Thanks again for asking me to guest post!

  7. Heather, how generous you are to take questions, and kudos to Karen for providing the forum.

    As a business/nonfiction writer, I’m coming from a different genre than many readers of this blog. In our world, self-publishing and digital publishing are hot, because in general entrepreneurs are after visibility more than sales. If anyone is interested in following the trend of digital publishing, I highly recommend a new site called The Future of Ink (http://thefutureofink.com/).

    Have you come across any online databases or forums you like for getting your titles in front of more people?

    Also, are there professional writing organizations for which you feel membership is worthwhile?

    Thank you!

  8. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for chiming in on your experience with non-fiction writing. That’s something I have little to know experience with. The future of ink sounds like a great site and I’ll be sure to check it out.

    As for online forums. I spend most of my days at both the Writer Unboxed blog as well as the FB group. I don’t engage in any self promotion there, but it’s a great place to connect with other writers and talk about the craft. I also think Goodreads is an amazing place for connecting with readers and gaining exposure.

    Professional organizations can be a great help, especially to newer writers. I’m a member of YALitChat and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Two wonderful organizations for anyone writing for children and YA.

  9. What a refreshing post! I love your spirit, Heather. Giving of one’s self is the soul of generosity. 🙂 Hmmm . . . I know what men wear under their kilts (lol), grieve for Firefly and Dresden Files (so I get that), and can’t eat a cooked green pepper (although the insides are yummy), but I am curious about your steps for writing great dialogue and where your idea for PDN came from.

  10. Thanks so much, Denise 🙂 I appriciate all your support. It means so much to me.

    In my opinion, writing great dialouge comes from being a good listener. Take time to listen to how people talk, don’t just listen to their words, but focus on tone and body language too. Channel your inner spy, sit in a cafe and listen to the conversations around you. Another thing that helps with dialouge is to start reading plays. Plays are ALL about dialouge. Get friends together to read the play out loud, take note of what works and what doesn’t. The most important thing about dialouge is to be true to your character. Listen to their voice, Each on will have a different cadence, they might even speak differently when they’re with their friends than they do with family. Take this into consideration depending on who they’re interacting with in the story to make dialouge sound natural. And last but not least, read your own dialouge out loud to see if it flows.

    As for where I got the idea for Pretty Dak Nothing? I think the spark of inspiration for PDN has been brewing my whole life. As a child, I suffered from night terrors and sleep walking. Although I eventually grew out of the sleep walking, the nightmares never went away. I would dream of faceless entities and demons on a reoccurring basis. I spent my pre-teen years trying to rationalize my fear while I spent my nights huddled under my covers with a book and a flash light afraid to fall asleep for fear of what would greet me in my dreams. I kept this a secret from my friends and afraid of what they would think. The dark torture of my imagination lasted through three years of middle school and finally faded. I still don’t think my mother knows how terrified I was of falling asleep and I have no idea why the nightmares stopped, maybe they were my way of coping with the stress of adolescence. I don’t know. When I reached college, I went through a particularly bad time in my life, suffered from depression, illness and the nightmares returned. I wasn’t frightened like I was when I was young, I recognized them for what they were. We all have inner demons we battle, those voices that tell us we’re not good enough, taunt us, paralyze us with fear. That’s when the idea for a novel started to form. I asked myself what would happen if those negative voices, inner demons weren’t imagined. What would happen if they were real and they started to manifest outside the dream world? What if they influenced things around us and what if you were the only one that could see them? That’s when Quinn and the idea for PRETTY DARK NOTHING was born. I didn’t start writing PRETTY DARK NOTHING right away. I did some character sketches and jotted down some notes while I spent the next several years writing short stories and articles. But Quinn’s story wouldn’t let me go. When I finally decided to give my full attention to her, she blew me away. Quinn and I battled the demons that tortured her together and in the process, she taught me how to battle my own.

    Thanks for the great questions!

    • And apparently I’m good at writing dialogue, but not good at spelling the WORD dialogue. SORRY! Just noticed the incorrect spelling. 😦

      • Wow! Channel your inner spy is going to stick with me at Starbucks from now on and the reading plays idea is brilliant. I am so happy I asked you this question. 🙂

        Aw, I had similar night terrors as a child (even hallucinated a green hand coming through my bedroom window once!), so I definitely get why you would write about it. I love how you were able to turn the tables on that dark muse and use it to forward your dream. I am really, really looking forward to your novel.

        Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I enjoyed your awesome dialogue advice and learning more about you. It felt like we just had a fun chat over coffee this AM. ❤

  11. Thanks for sharing your inspiration for PDN, Heather. And I do not worry about spelling on comments! They are not important – it’s the essence of the conversation that matters. 🙂

  12. DD/Heather – This is great – your exchange. This is just one of the reasons why I love my theme weeks … to bring people together. Awesome.

  13. Me too, Denise! Thanks for joining the conversation. Green hand coming through the window sounds super creepy! Maybe there’s a story in there somewhere. Would love to have a chat over real coffee someday. We could both spy and exchange notes.

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