Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Treat yourself; free downloads of two wondrous new MG fantasies

Just in time for the holidays, two of my editing clients are staging a joint book launch on November 22nd.

It has been both my privilege and my pleasure to be a guide along the way for these two marvelous middle grade authors, and if you love magical fantasy and stories about worlds-within-worlds, you owe it to yourself and to any young readers in your life to download these books–and indeed, all the titles in both series.

Emma Warner-Reed is launching Book 2 in her Calendar House series about Welsh orphan Dotty Parsons in Dotty and the Chimney Thief. In this tale, Dotty has to track a missing friend, in the process uncovering new clues about herself, her late mother, and the world of magical chimney sweeps hidden inside her Great-Uncle Winchester’s labyrinthine old house in Yorkshire. A perilous new threat menaces them all—and Dotty cannot be sure who is friend and who is foe.

Marc Remus is launching Book 3 in his award-winning Magora series about young Holly O’Flanigan [who coincidentally is also an orphan] in The Bridge in the Fog. This series brings to vivid life the world of Magora—a place where art and magic are one in the same, and where voracious creatures called the Unfinished are both feared and persecuted. In this installment, Holly and her three best friends at Cliffony Academy of the Arts must tread a fine line between helping the Unfinished and potentially unleashing a nightmarish danger upon Magora.

Both series have proven popular on Amazon and I think if you download them, you will see why. And today the downloads are free!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Size does matter: keep an eye on manuscript word count

I write long, especially on first drafts—and I am not alone. I see the same dangerous prolixity in the manuscripts of many of my editing clients and writing students. It’s easy to understand why we all do this—we ramble on, blundering about in the uncharted darkness of our own imaginations as we try to find the right path into the heart of our stories. And the more we ramble, the higher our word count creeps.

I’m struggling with that now on my ghost story. Intended as a middle grade novel, at the rate I’m going, I’m worried that it’s  going to top out at over 70,000 words. And although it’s true that the first Harry Potter novel was about the same length—77,325 words, to be exact—my projected 70,000 words is still on the long side for a middle grade book.

“Hold on a minute,” you may be thinking. “Are you actually obsessive enough to count every word in 'Sorcerer’s Stone?' "

No—but the Accelerated Reader program did. And they have a free tool that you can use to learn just how many words a published book contains.

Why should you care? “My book is special,” I often hear. “Sure, it’s on the long side, but 'So-and-So' is long, too. I’m sure it won’t matter to editors that my picture book is 2,000 words instead of the 500 to 800 they are asking for these days, or that my YA paranormal is 120,000 words when they expect 70,000.”

Don’t delude yourself. Whether we like it or not, size does matter to prospective publishers. The longer the book, the more it costs them to print it, and the more they have to charge for it. And this in turn increases the risk that the book will sell fewer copies due to price resistance on the part of parents, schools, and young readers.

So yes, a proven writer with a successful sales record and a built-in audience of fans frothing at the mouth for the next book can write as long as she wants. That’s why the fifth book in the Potter series, Order of the Phoenix, was a whopping 257,154 words long. But don’t expect any publisher on the planet to give the rest of us mere mortals the same perk.

To estimate how long your manuscript should be, I think it’s helpful to make up a list of several titles in the same age range for which you are writing, then go to the AR book finder site to see what the word count of those books is.

Do a search for the book you want to check, then click on the blue underlined title in the result that comes up. That will take you to a window where you will find the word count. See what the median word count is for all the books you check, and aim to hit that mark in your own manuscript. For most of us, that means streamlining—for me, too!

There is of course another compelling reason to streamline your manuscripts: the tighter you write, the more powerful your prose and the more gripping your story will be.

Remember, especially you first-time authors, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the length of a manuscript and its chances of finding a publisher. In other words, the shorter the better.

PS: Many thanks to Katie Davis at the Institute for Writers for sharing this site with me.