According to my enumeration, this is post number 1000 on Flogging the Quill. Which causes me to
think about the blog’s beginning and the things that have happened as a result.
I started it on October 3 of 2004 on Publishers Marketplace,
beginning with articles about writing compelling fiction. I had a page there
for my new editing services and I converted it to a blog when they offered that
format—I think that, along with author M.J. Rose, I was one of the first.
Because Publishers Marketplace limits the number of blog
posts it shows to seven with no real archives, I simultaneously started a mirror site on Typepad,
which is what you’re reading now. I launched with an audience of zero and, according
to the stats page, there have been since 442,490 page views since then (which
does not include the thousands that saw the Publishers Marketplace version—now discontinued--which
would bring the total well above a half-million hits).
According to the little poll in the upper part of the right
sidebar, 82% of readers are unpublished and working on a novel. 11% are
published writers, 5% are published novelists. Interestingly, 1% have been
While you’re here, why not add your answer to the poll?
In 2009 I adapted a bunch of posts for my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that
Sells, which I self-published. Since then I’ve sold between 500 and 600
copies, which I understand is above average for a self-published book. Sales
still trickle along on Amazon, and I’m pleased with how many writers have found
it helpful—Amazon reviews average a little above 4.7 stars out of 5—and none of
them are by friends or relatives (review are here.) I usually
sell copies when I do workshops at writers conferences, too.
As a result of starting this blog, I now do workshops at writers
conferences—I have two already booked for 2013 and think there will be more. I was
first contacted by a reader to do a workshop in 2005 at a new conference, Writer’s
Weekend in Seattle. I’ve since done workshops at some of the top conferences in
the Pacific Northwest, and am doing one at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference
in Mexico this February.
My first and still very successful workshop, Crafting
a Killer First Page, is the Flogometer in a class—the class critiques
and votes on first pages. More than once a writer has come up afterward and told
me that they voted down their own page because of what they’d learned.
Last year I added Crafting Killer Description and Dialogue
to the repertoire, and that’s been well received. This year I’m offering
another new one, How to Create a Book Cover for Less than $50. I love doing the
conferences and talking about writing. If you’re interested in a workshop for a
conference, please email me.
Origin of the
Back in 2005 a literary agent started the Crapometer—critiques
of query letters—on her blog, Miss Snark, the literary agent (the
blog is still up though she stopped doing it years ago, and still holds
valuable advice and learning for writers who submit to agents).
Her work inspired me to launch the Flogometer in December of
2006 and, as of today, I (and you, dear readers) have critiqued 647 first pages
of novels (mostly), memoir, and short stories.
I know I’ve learned and grown over these years, and a large
part of that is due to the hundreds of critiques I’ve done and insights given
by readers on submissions. I’ve self-published four novels after years of
receiving praise for my writing from literary agents along with their admission
that they didn’t know where to sell my cross-genre stuff.
And my editing business has finally grown to the point where
it more than pays for the blog (though it isn’t enough to live on). And I
started designing book covers and interiors a year or so ago after a small publisher
(Fuze Publishing LLC) like the design of one of my books and asked me to do
theirs. I’m now their go-to designer, and freelance Indie authors are starting
to come my way. I really like doing cover designs and hope that business grows.
So, in the (egads!) 8+ years since I started the blog, I’ve
grown an editing and book design business, published five books, done a bunch
of workshops at writers conferences, and made friends around the world.
I’m happy with that. I hope that FtQ has been helpful to you—if
so, how about letting me know in a comment?
I hope you're having a good holiday. I'm out of town and on the tired side, so I'm taking a day off from the blog. Not taking the day off, though, still flogging--I have an edit that needs to move forward today.
I'm so disheartened by the tragic shootings in Colorado this morning that I'm postponing today's critique. Shootings like this are what made me pour so much of myself into We the Enemy in hopes of starting new thinking on how to cure this cancer in our country.
If you have a half hour, this is an interview I did in May with Jody Seay on her Back Page program for Oregon State University. Jody interviews Indie authors in the Pacific Northwest about their books. While the focus of the program was ostensibly We the Enemy, in a wide-ranging chat we touch upon two others—The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles and The Summer Boy. Jody is a writer as well, a fellow Texan, and a very sharp woman.
I’m offering free shipping, a 10% discount, and optional signing for my paperback books, including Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. This actually puts my prices lower than Amazon’s. Paperbacks and ebooks are at my bookstore.
On September 22 I’m going to be doing a workshop on Crafting Killer Description and Dialogue with the Write on the River folks in Wenatchee, Washington. This is an interactive writing workshop with at least three writing tasks and critiques during the session.
And on October 7 I’m doing the same workshop at the Write on the Sound Writers’ Conference in Edmonds, Washington. It would be great to see you there. This is my fourth workshop for WOTS, and the first that’s back-to-back with the previous year’s presentation, Crafting a Killer First Page. The Conference has a policy of not repeating presentations within one year, so my workshops have been every other year until now because this is a different topic. I love this conference—it’s well done, and has excellent workshops; I attend all that I can.
I’m privileged to be a regular contributor to the Writer Unboxed website, and will have my monthly post up this coming Thursday, the 19th. I wish I knew what it was going to be about. It’s excellent company to be in, with daily articles on craft and the business by talented authors and others such as uberagent Donald Maass.
Call for floggees. Running low again. If you'd like to start the New Year off with an insightful critique of your opening prologue or chapter, please see the submission directions at the end of this post.
Save on an edit or book design. I’m offering a 15% discount on editing services for qualified manuscripts or chapters, and a 10% discount on book cover and interior design services for contracts initiated between now and January 31, 2012. See more about rates here and visit the crrreative.com website for descriptions of services, samples of work, and testimonials.
Get your book cover in 3D Like to see your book cover in striking 3D? Use the image for your blog or website, or print it on business cards or bookmarks. $15 or $20, depending on what you supply for a graphic. Check it out here.
I mean the kind of luck that comes from hard work and perseverance, two main ingredients of success in publishing. May this new year bring to you the publication you’ve worked for. It can happen.
Yes indeed, as long as you fine folks send openings to lash, I’ve got the whip to do it. As a reminder of why we’re doing this, I’m going to quote extensively from the Superhero Nation blog written by a former assistant editor at a publishing house. Note the last thing he says in this quote.
Surviving to page 2
Many manuscripts get nixed on the first page. Here are a few things that publishers want to see early on.
1. Is it easy to read through? If your first page introduces many characters, fictional words, place names and the like, the story is probably a slog. If your first page is hard to understand, your manuscript is dead on arrival.
2. “Do I care about this story?” The easiest way to make a reader care is to give urgent, pressing goals to a likable protagonist. If nothing’s at stake, readers will probably find the story boring. If the reader doesn’t care on page one, your submission is in grave danger.
3. Does the author have a professional grasp of English? If the author has glaring grammar or punctuation problems on page one, they’re just going to assume you’re an amateur and move on to the next manuscript. Making a good first impression is important.
4. Does it look like the plot is going somewhere? If the first page gets bogged down in a geography lesson, or a winding prologue, or a lengthy exposition, the answer is probably no. Pacing the first page well is extremely important.
Publishing plans from FtQ Press
I’m going to give a try at the ebook/paperback market with two of my books, We the Enemy and Finding Magic. The plan is to create standard trade paperback versions for sale online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but to also see if it’s possible to build an audience through inexpensive ebook versions.
To that end, the ebooks (Kindle, Nook, and others) will be priced at $1.99. I’m going to lower the Kindle/ebook price for The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles to $1.99 as well.
Why the teensy price? These books are, to many who have read them, good reads. I’ll be the first to declare that they’re not for everyone, but no novel is. The thing is that they’re not doing any good sitting on hard drive, and it doesn’t cost a lot to do this kind of publishing.
Karen McQuestion, a longtime friend of the blog and a very talented writer, writes that it’s a good way to interest readers in your writing because it’s pretty low-risk for them. Karen has an interview here about how this low-end self-publishing was the key to a breakthrough for her.
Don’t be surprised to see a call for reader/reviewers for Finding Magic, and perhaps for We the Enemy. Please email me if you might be interested in reading either novel. If I do, I’ll provide more info here, including a sample chapter or so, later. Finding Magic is aimed primarily at the women’s audience, though male beta readers have really enjoyed the story, and We the Enemy more at a general audience, although I have seen it have special appeal to women.
Another exciting prospect is a version of Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells for kids. In a recent discussion with a middle-school language arts teacher, she voiced the difficulty of teaching her students about using strong verbs in their writing (she felt she had to go the route of colorful adverbs instead), I showed her the chapter on adverbs in my book. She thought it would have been a big help, and spoke of the need for such a coaching guide in the classroom. We’re now talking about collaborating on a version aimed at middle-school students and language arts teachers. Could be fun.
And, if I get my act together, I’m overdue for something new. I have a sequel to The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles in the works and hope to muster the gumption to tackle that. I have a concept for a YA novel wandering around my mind as well, not to mention a desire to do a graphic novel starring an actor pig character I created a few years back.
May each of us be hoisting a glass of bubbly this year to celebrate our publication.
All the best from Flogging the Quill.
For what it’s worth.
Submitting to the Flogometer:
Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred):
your 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
Please format with double spacing, 12-point font Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins.
Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
And, optionally, permission to use it as an example in a book if that's okay.
If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
If you rewrite while you wait you turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.