Frequently Asked Questions from Writers

by Marg McAlister

 

1. What Is A Premise?

A premise is the point you have to prove in your novel. It is not a universal truth; it is true only for the particular situation of this novel. For example: 

"a love of power leads to disgrace"

"a crime of passion destroys two lives"

"greed leads to loss of a great love" 

In his "How to Write a Damn Good Novel", James Frey says: "There is no formula for constructing premises, but according to Egri, every good premise should contain an element of CHARACTER which through CONFLICT leads to a CONCLUSION. A coward goes to war and becomes a hero. A brave man goes into battle and becomes a coward. A dramatic story is the transformation of character through crisis; the premise is a succinct statement of that transformation."

2. How Do You Get The Copyright Symbol On Your Computer?

This depends on which word processor you use. In Microsoft Word, you can type a 'c' in brackets like this: (c) and it instantly transform into a copyright symbol.

Another way of doing it is to go to the 'insert' menu at the top of your screen, click on 'symbol', and choose the copyright symbol from the selections that pop up. Click on 'insert' and you're done.

3. How Do I Fasten My Manuscript When I Send It To A Publisher?

This depends on the thickness of the manuscript.

  • If you have a very short book or a short story, use a paper clip. Make sure your pages are numbered, and that your surname or story title is on each page. (Do this using the 'header' function on your computer. If you're not sure how to do that, click on 'help' and type in 'header'. Follow the instructions.)
  • If you have a thicker manuscript, use a hardier clip (like a clip with fold-down snaps) OR put a sheet of cardboard at the front and back of your manuscript and secure it with large rubber bands. 

DO NOT bind the manuscript in any way. No ring binders, no plastic folders (an editor will surely want to behead you if you send each page enclosed in its own plastic sleeve a display folder) and no holes punched and threaded with ribbon.

4. How Much Will I Earn From My Book?

How long is a piece of string?

Your income will depend upon things like:

  • your track record as a writer (do you think J. K. Rowling earns more than Ms. New Writer from Nowhere?)
  • How many people buy your book (usually this is an unknown quantity)
  • How well your book is promoted (YOU can have an influence on this by your own actions and ingenuity)
  • What competition you have when your book is released
  • Your level of talent
  • The following you have from previous books... if any
  • The size of the publishing company 

...and, for all I know, what the editor had for breakfast that morning. It's a bit of a lottery. Just concentrate on doing the best writing you can, and focus on continually improving your craft. Cream rises to the top.

NOTE: Some editors do tell you in advance what they'll be offering for a certain type of book (this often happens with educational publishers). They'll sometimes offer a FLAT FEE for your work: which means you won't get any further income. Sometimes publishers will tell you what the upfront payment is (that is, the payment against royalties) and the percentage of royalties you can expect.

5. Can I Send My Work To More Than One Publisher At A Time?

The publishing world is changing (and not before time, most authors would say). In the past, the 'rule' was that you should send your precious novel to only one publisher at a time. Too bad if each one took 4-6 months to get back to you, so two years down the track you were only up to Publisher No. 6.

These days, many publishers acknowledge that it is not fair to expect authors to wait for such a long time for a 'yes' or 'no'. (Some still insist on being the solo submission - so leave them until last.) Send your work out to those who are OK with simultaneous submissions, and if you get rejected by all of those first, THEN send it to the one who insists on being the 'only'.

If you send your work to more than one publisher at the same time, let them know that you are doing this, and assure them that you'll let them know if you receive an offer from someone else.

The easiest route is to secure an agent, and let the agent worry about sending it out to all and sundry.

(c) Copyright Marg McAlister

 

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