Re: Ask the Editor

#1
Every time I speak at a convention, I give them a list of topics to choose from. One of them is always a general Q&A I call "Ask the Editor." It started because after every one of my talks, I'd wind up holding court in the hallway outside (assuming I didn't have to get to another panel) answering questions for usually an hour. The description I always provide for the booklet (and which has always been printed verbatim so far) is: 

Ever wanted to interrogate an editor? Now's your chance! For your convenience and entertainment, we've kidnapped an SF&F editor and put him in a room with you for a whole hour, or until the cops show up. Ask him anything!

Since my intro thread basically turned into that, I figured why not just restart it in a more appropriate sub-forum. I've never done this as anything other than live and in concert, so we'll see how it goes. 

You can still link your stories. I'll look at your blurbs and first chapter (or sometimes the first two, as I feel like it) and give you any writing advice that comes to mind. You can also ask me about editing, writing, the publishing industry, books, movies, TV shows, board games, video games, tabletop RPGs, history, science, philosophy, how to bake a pizza from scratch and what's the best salsa for your character to eat, whatever -- anything at all, with just one rule: relate it to writing as a primary topic

Remember, any responses will be the opinion of one solitary editor. Writing is an art, not a science. I will disagree with others, and others will disagree with me, and no one is a final authority on anything. 

I will reply as I'm able. If I do so and haven't addressed something you asked, it probably got lost in the shuffle (this happened in the intro thread too); just send me a private message to let me know I missed your question and I'll come back around to it in my next reply. My replies will probably be covering multiple members' posts at once, though particularly lengthy replies might get spun off into threads of their own. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#2
Thank you for your offer. I've got a question.

What sort of editor does one look for to get tips on how to take the next step to being a published writer? When your quality is almost there, but you know you're still missing a few little pieces about storycrafting, and could use an outside perspective from a professional?

I assume it's some sort of developmental editor, but I'm not talking about getting feedback on how to fix a particular story. Rather, I'm looking for a way to generalize that information to use when writing the next story. There are things that I already know, but I assume there are also things that I don't know yet. For example, I know that the first two books in my series don't have enough of a climax--that was intentional for the type of story I was trying to tell, but it's also a problem if I'm trying to sell books or find a publisher. I've made up for it in Book 3, but I fully expect to run into the same problem the next time I write a slow-building series, and I'm not entirely sure how to overcome the issue. (I suppose the obvious answer is: "Add a distinct climax for every book, one that complements the series as a whole.")

Another example is how to juggle a cast of multiple PoV characters. Most resources say one PoV per chapter, but what if you want to arrange the scenes chronologically, and it doesn't make sense to have the same PoV for each? So, an editor that can look over my current style and tell me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. I'm not looking for a publisher for my current series, but it's the best example I can provide for my writing to try to get advice for when I'm working on my next series.

And, once you know what type of editor you need, how do you find a good one? There are so many people and agencies offering editorial services out there, and I have no idea how to evaluate their quality.

Re: Ask the Editor

#4

RiverMan09 Wrote: Thank you for this opportunity! I'm working on a grimdark fantasy story I plan to query but I fear it will not reach past 50K words compared to my linked story of over 100K words. Will traditional publishers favor the smaller story or will I need to bulk it up in order to even be noticed?



There's a partial answer in something I said in my intro thread. Someone had asked about getting an agent, and I said this: 


NovelNinja Wrote: As for agents, I would recommend against that route, mostly because it's a waste of your time. Right now it is very hard to break into big-press SF&F, and with all my contacts I was unable to get anyone to take a glance at my own wife's book. Agents also take a percentage in perpetuity, but very few of them will even touch SF&F because it won't make them money. I tell every single one of my students looking at writing SF&F (which is never less than half of the class) to just expect to self-publish. The SF&F self-pub market is pretty lively, though getting noticed by paying customers is a very different beast than it is on Royal Road. 

I mentioned in a comment above that publishing has had three big changes in my adult lifetime. They were: Internet sales of print books (boosting small presses); ebook sales (convenience, as well as reducing overhead for all publishers); and self-publication (removing the middleman). All three, but especially the last, have weakened the hold that agents have had over the field, and this is a good thing. They used to be helpful, but in the last twenty years have wound up being little more than gatekeepers. They no longer support an author's cause so much as promise publishers that they're keeping the riff-raff out. With the way the big-presses are mismanaging the market, this means that agents are becoming an active detriment to the field. 

Yes, I'm opinionated on the subject. :)


SF&F has always been one of the first genres, if not the first, to change with each new technology. It was definitely the first for a change prior to the ones I listed above, namely the shift to using home computers. A home computer meant a more productive writer, because things could be changed around more easily (deleted, shifted, rewritten) than on a typewriter or by hand. Since SF&F writers are SF&F fans, and SF&F fans tend to be early tech adopters, the SF&F field was by far the first to experience change when it hit critical mass.

Note, though, that this kind of shift is a grassroots change, from the bottom up. Publishers, by and large, are a very conservative group. I don't mean politically conservative (actually, the opposite is almost always true), but rather that they are resistant to change. This can be a good thing. They've been doing things one way for a while, and it's worked; why rock the boat? They're not in the business of printing good books so much as they're in the business of printing books that will make them money.

For the last five years especially, all the major publishers have been shifting how they select those books they believe will make them money. Right now, for love or money, you can't get noticed unless you already know someone. I got my start as an editor by going through slush piles and selecting which books would make the house money (or, more often, which ones would not be worth the effort). Last year I was speaking to someone involved with a major SF&F label, and he was venting frustration over how their slush pile wasn't getting accepted at all. I won't name the house because it's hearsay, but I will say that I trust this source, and this house was previously the one that I would tell people to go try, and that if they couldn't get accepted there then they should simply self-publish.

I don't want to just say "self-publish," but that's what this boils down to. I started out with publishing houses and for the last several years (other than a couple consulting jobs) I've worked entirely with self-pub authors.

This is why, when I finally noticed web novels and the kind of support web novelists could get through Patreon and the like, I realized we might be at the start of another shift in the industry. Most of why I'm hanging out here on Royal Road is because I'm watching and learning from you. Things are definitely changing. The publishing houses are very nervous right now, and it's why they're closing ranks and going with people they know. Self-pub is exploding, especially in SF&F, and that's continuing to weaken the big publishers while also encouraging small presses to pop up. Whether the small presses will continue to be viable is yet to be seen, just as web novels have not yet proven themselves to be anything more than a flash in the pan when it comes to being a true business.

That's a long-winded answer to the main part of your question. Now for the question on length. Yes, you should have a longer book for publishing, especially in SF&F. Romances, mysteries, and thrillers tend to be a bit shorter (under 80k), but SF&F is usually expected to be longer (over 80k, usually over 100k if trad-pub). [/i][/i]

Re: Ask the Editor

#5

NovelNinja Wrote: This is why, when I finally noticed web novels and the kind of support web novelists could get through Patreon and the like, I realized we might be at the start of another shift in the industry.

From your lips to God's ear. Let's hope web novel publishing is here to stay. 

Oh. And hey. I do really need to rewrite my blurb for DOTS, as you have said. So maybe, when I do, I could bounce ideas off of you? I'm also gonna stick in an attempt on Milton's life in The Book of LIBERALITY, replacing the chapter where Hank and Milton watch a movie.

So woo-hoo on that. 😁

Re: Ask the Editor

#6
Hey. Thanks for doing this. What sort of things are traditional publishing houses looking for? You mentioned that you don't think much of agents, and you said the only way in is to have connections. Let's say I have those connections (if only). What sort of novels get picked up when it comes to fantasy? I'm interested mostly in traditional high fantasy, but also thinking of branching out into contemporary urban fantasy. I won't ask for an overview of these extremely broad categories, but what does succeed in them?

Also, I would be honoured if you could look at the start of my novel (in my signature). I already know the novel as a whole is too long-winded and meandering for most people, but I'm curious what you think of the first chapter. Is too confusing or awkward? Does it make you want to read on? Any advice would be appreciated.

Re: Ask the Editor

#7
Oddly, I didn't see this when I replied to the above post. 

IvyVeritas Wrote: What sort of editor does one look for to get tips on how to take the next step to being a published writer? When your quality is almost there, but you know you're still missing a few little pieces about storycrafting, and could use an outside perspective from a professional?

[snipped]
  • Looking for how to "generalize that information to use when writing the next story."
  • Writing climaxes in slow-burn stories; expecting the answer to be "Add a distinct climax for every book, one that complements the series as a whole."
  • Juggling multiple POV characters. 
  • How to find a good editor and figure out their quality.

I've obviously consolidated your questions.


First, technically, what you're looking for here is a writer's group or a workshop. Most editors do not teach. In fact, most creative writing teachers are authors. I've encountered editors at conventions who have gotten genuinely annoyed at the amount of work I do for authors, including teaching and research. They've never offered an explanation (just told me I shouldn't do that), so despite the fact that it sounds egotistical I can only conclude that they don't like the competition. 

I do run a workshop, though it's for one particular liberal arts college. I might start doing the same here, perhaps for donations, but first I have to be confident that I've figured out more of the nuances between trad novels and web novels. Some of my automatic editing reflexes aren't as good when it comes to the blurb, intro, and chapter transitions, and I suspect there's more for me to discover. 

Regardless, while I know a few editors who do what you're looking for, I don't know any right now who would have the time away from what they have to focus on to pay the bills. Each of us also has our own quirks; and I'm the only one I know who can easily switch between aiding heavy discovery writers versus heavy outliners (though I still bias toward outlining). 

When it comes to finding an editor and figuring out what they offer, you're halfway there because you recognize what a developmental editor is. Developmental editors are few and far between. Most freelance editors are primarily copy editors with some light line editing. 

The best way to find an editor is not through a search engine, but rather getting recommendations. I have several editors in the writer group I run on Facebook and MeWe, and many of the authors use editors outside that circle as well. We'll frequently get posts asking for advice on finding one for particular needs. I've noticed several Royal Road authors mentioning getting editorial aid of one kind or another. Be prepared to pay out for good editors, and they will give clear rates up-front (though in many cases it's a ballpark estimate until they review your manuscript).

Many editors require a nominal reading fee, between $5 and $30; this is not out of greed, but a way to determine that their time isn't being wasted, as people will usually go to more effort with their own editing if they have to shell out some cash on their own. That said, I disapprove of the practice, and instead require that authors jump through a different set of hoops that doesn't involve them having to pay for something unless they get something in return. (In a nutshell, I make them write a summary of their story under certain restrictions; anyone who refuses is clearly someone who won't want to listen to their editor. This is, by the way, why publishers have strangely specific requirements for manuscript formatting; if you don't know the term "brown M&M," look it up.)

To find out their methods, ask them questions. If they find a continuity error, what do they do? If they come across a sloppy paragraph, do they offer a suggestion on how to fix it, their own draft, or just tell you it's there? Are there any editorial practices they don't do? Will they talk to you on the phone or over webcam? What is their payment schedule? 

(My answers to those are: 1) I always note continuity errors and how to fix them; 2) I'll do all three depending on what I feel is best for the situation, unless an author specifically requests one of the three; 3) I don't personally do copy editing if I'm also doing developmental and line, though I might sub-contract that; 4) I'll definitely talk and prefer webcam; and 5) Half up-front, half on delivery, with a penalty if I'm late; larger jobs may allow for three or four payments, all of which are marked for particular milestones.)

If any editor says they do both copy editing and line editing, then you know it's only going to be light line editing. If they're providing a service to help you redraft the book, which is basically what a heavy line-edit is, then they won't be distant enough from the manuscript to provide good copy editing. If you want anything other than light suggestions for rephrasing, be prepared to get a separate copy editor. Fortunately, copy editors are easy to find; just make certain they know the difference between prose and academic English. 

When it comes to slow-burn stories, you do need climaxes. This can be deceptive in web novels because of the serial format. You can see the same weakness in old serialized novels from the early and mid 20th century. This doesn't mean you need something truly dramatic. A good soap opera can provide examples, but that's not the best source because of how they manage their narrative drive. (Narrative drive is that thing that keeps you wanting to see the next episode or read the next chapter. Soaps do this primarily by starting a secondary story while the first story isn't finished; and then when the first story wraps up, you're already invested in the secondary narrative, which now becomes the primary. Once that happens, you know a new secondary is no more than one episode away.) 

I can think of two good examples from television, one anime and one action. The action example is Dollhouse, which was honestly too slow-burn for television. Most episodes had pretty fast-paced action, but the overall story was a slow tease. Each climax, though, was carefully paced until the very end, when they suddenly accelerated the story because they were about to be cancelled. That pacing is good to learn from, as it can be easily sped up enough to matter for what you write (plus, most people read the story-equivalent of one television episode in less time than the episode takes to run). The show primarily worked through one or possibly two clues per episode, trusting that the audience was smart enough to piece it together. Each climax was also a slow moment, settling into place relative to the overall pacing. 

The anime example is the remake of Fruits Basket, which my wife loves. Here, the pacing is a bit different. The Japanese have adapted their storytelling style due to heavy influences from the West, but you can still see their jo-ha-kyu philosophy in their approach to three-act structure, and Fruits Basket shows it very well. When things begin getting dramatic, you get just enough to be caught up, and then it slows down again to explore something more about the characters. That said, this is a very faithful adaptation of the manga, and so some of the pacing is still more appropriate to manga than anime (especially in the last few episodes of the second season). It's still a good example, though, because not only do these apparent "filler" episodes still contain important information, they also help balance the drama with the slow burn, allowing for more punctuated mini-climaxes while still providing a very sedate story overall. 

Finally, the best way to handle chapters with multiple POV characters is to just to have a consistent format to denote the transfer. The dinkus (three asterisks) is the traditional method, but this isn't necessary. I've seen the following, or things similar to them, both online and in trad novels going back to my childhood: 

-----

= = = = =


~ * ~

* * ~ * *


Another approach is to provide the name of the character and location, possibly also the date and time, whenever you switch characters. My wife did this in her book, which was a sci-fi police procedural and therefore date and location was relevant; there are only two POVs in the book, and they are easily distinguished, but she did it to provide the extra information beyond whose head we were in now. A series I just finished reading, the Bobiverse series, is told entirely from the perspectives of AIs copied from one first AI that itself was copied from a human mind. While "replicative drift" resulted in various changes to each new AI's personality and each one chose a new name upon activation, the confirmation was necessary because the perspective was so similar even though they were (usually) dealing with different problems in different solar systems. 

Most of the time, though, some typographical indication of a break in scene is all you need. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#9
ArDeeBurger Wrote: From your lips to God's ear. Let's hope web novel publishing is here to stay.


The interesting thing is that the success we see with some web novelists mimics the success of webcomics making money by giving things away for free. It's a proven model, but made possible for novelists by leaning on a different format and getting funding through sites like Patreon. It's worked for some authors before, too; back when I lived in my childhood home (literally on a real-life Royal Road, ironically enough), there was a traditionally-published author who lived nearby that I talked with, who was giving away a "free" book on a blog, one chapter every Wednesday, if donations reached a certain amount. If they didn't, he'd wait until the next Wednesday, rolling over that amount. This was really just a DIY Patreon before Patreon.

Quote:Oh. And hey. I do really need to rewrite my blurb for DOTS, as you have said. So maybe, when I do, I could bounce ideas off of you?

Certainly. That's what this thread is for. It's going to wind up being a jumbled mess, but I'm going to see how it goes. :)


Strot Wrote: What sort of novels get picked up when it comes to fantasy? I'm interested mostly in traditional high fantasy, but also thinking of branching out into contemporary urban fantasy. I won't ask for an overview of these extremely broad categories, but what does succeed in them?


What a publisher is looking for will vary. It depends on their brand (each house has a particular, even if it's still vague, idea of what they want to publish), the opinions of the editor reviewing it (including how much work it takes to get the manuscript ready, as the longer it takes the longer it will be before a profit is returned), and their perception of current trends (fourteen years ago, vampires were all the rage; now, most editors don't want to see another vampire for at least another decade).

So it's really a non-answer, because "it depends." But the books that I see succeeding more often in trad-pub are "safe" and easily-marketed, regardless of genre. Like I said, the big publishing houses have been increasingly nervous about how to proceed, and the only SF&F imprint I know for certain is still strong and stable is Baen. The books that do better in self-pub can afford to take risks and offer something new, but succeed based on compelling characters more than great worldbuilding (not that worldbuilding isn't vital). Trad pub likes to stick to certain themes that the house cares about; self-pubbed books more often succeed because they focus on being entertaining regardless of theme or catching a current trend. The latter is sometimes called "writing to market," as opposed to writing to entertain.

Quote:Also, I would be honoured if you could look at the start of my novel (in my signature). I already know the novel as a whole is too long-winded and meandering for most people, but I'm curious what you think of the first chapter. Is too confusing or awkward? Does it make you want to read on? Any advice would be appreciated.


First, I need to point out a couple things in your blurb, which I'll mark with numbers.

Quote:Mages traditionally make poor fodder(1), but with proper training and motivation, possess near limitless potential. For mage teams(2), the battle camps of the Upper Realms(3) provide both, with missions ranging from orc hunts to political espionage. This tale follows one such team of four(4) who strive to prove themselves in a world that would rather overlook them. Loyalty, honour, and devotion are contrasted by avarice, treachery, and apathy(5), though at times it can be difficult to separate vice from virtue. For though all people, whether they hail from the peripheries or the kingdom capital, are subjects whose fates are bound to the stars, their choices must be their own(6).

  1. Fodder for what?
  2. This feels like a concept that needs a better introduction if it matters here. If so, then you need a brief explanation of why you have teams of mages, rather than teams of mages and non-mages. Most of your readers are going to be more familiar with the latter even if they've never played a single RPG in their lives. If it doesn't matter, then skip directly to talking about a group of four mages. 
  3. "The Upper Realms" signals generic fantasy. This doesn't mean you should just replace it with a fictional name you cobbled together out of random keystrokes. (Cough, not that I've ever used that method, no . . .) Rather, keep in mind that names in a blurb have no emotional meaning to a new reader, so you only put in a name when you need to distinguish something. Here, we have no need to distinguish what region they're in. 
  4. Is it unusual to have a team of four? 
  5. Yes, the first three contrast the second three, but that's obvious. How does it relate to pitching the story? 
  6. This is redundant, which I assume is deliberate; but in the blurb, it risks signaling "I don't know what I'm talking about." 
Your actual story is written in present tense. I'll quote myself from a reply in the old thread for context, given to another author writing in present tense as an explanation for not being able to critique it as thoroughly as I normally do.

NovelNinja Wrote: I have a hard time showing exact examples, as I normally avoid manuscripts written in present tense; I have struggled with those longer than I've been an editor. The one and only series I've ever been able to stick with that was written in present tense (and even then, only as a reader) was the excellent Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer, a traditional-novel historical fiction series set during the Napoleonic era. Truly an excellent series, which helped me get past the present tense aspect; but I think the real reason I could stand it is that it was entirely written from the perspective of a Cockney character, including Cockney grammar and syntax. Present tense fiction, particularly when editing, reads as "wrong" to me as confusing there/their/they're, so I think the Cockney slipped it past my editor brain. My wife, who hates present tense too, had the same reaction to Bloody Jack.


I can give a few specifics, though. First, you need to break up your paragraphs more. You may have learned in school that paragraphs cover single ideas. I see this come up sometimes with new authors who put one character's response to another character's dialog into the same paragraph. There are legitimate times to do that, but most of the time you're going to need to separate things more than that. Each character's action is usually a separate idea, even if they're responding to the same thing. This is a point worth expounding on, but sadly I don't have time to go through it all. If I remember later, I'll try to look through some old manuscripts I edited for examples. I know there was at least one in the last batch.

Your opening line is very passive. "The first thing Salaya wishes for is to not to have to fight. The second is for sunshine." This is a germ of a good opening, but consider something more like "Salaya wishes for sunshine, and to never fight again."

Based on what I see in this first chapter, what you said about being long-winded and meandering can be fixed, or at least mostly fixed, through fixing your prose as opposed to your story itself.

In the old thread, I had this advice for someone with a similar problem:
Quote:I know you warned in your author's notes that the story starts slow, but while that by itself is not a turn-off for me, being slow and overly wordy meant it lost my attention.

Here's a story for you, one I frequently tell my students. There's a famous coauthored sci-fi novel, The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell. For its time, it was abnormally long; today, it's just a big book. The original manuscript was almost exactly one thousand pages, and the publisher refused unless they cut 50,000 words. That was a full novel's worth. Conventional wisdom would say that they should have split the story, but instead they poured over the manuscript to remove those 50,000 words. Since it was a thousand pages, they knew they had to remove an average of 50 words per page. They kept a running tally on each manuscript sheet of what they had removed. Eventually, they got to the magic number, and it was published.

The result is one of the best examples of what's called tight writing, where not a single word is wasted, and what remains has layers upon layers of subtext. The book has basically never been out of print as a result, because it's such an enjoyable read.

Take a look at your story and ask yourself, “Can I make this sentence shorter and still tell the exact same story?” Repeat that often enough and you'll wind up with a much tighter beginning and probably retain a lot more readers.


Moving on to an obvious joke, but I'm still going to take it seriously: 
ArDeeBurger Wrote:
NovelNinja Wrote: if you don't know the term "brown M&M," look it up.

Brown M&Ms!? I love Brown M&Ms! Gimme all the brown M&Ms, you snooty sadistic publishers, and I'll format my manuscript any darn way I want.
Ha. Ha ha. Ha. 😁


The brown M&M clause is a story from a band last century, Van Halen. They were doing big productions at a time when a lot of venues couldn't handle it. Strength of the stage, adequate wiring, etc. The band, obviously, didn't want to be responsible for anything not their own fault, so they wrote contracts describing exactly what the venue needed to provide or they forfeit on the contract. 

But how do they know beforehand whether the venue's manager had actually read the contract in detail? Sure, the band might not be responsible for damages, but it's better to head off the legal fight than to actually fight it; and if the stage is going to collapse or the equipment spark and overload, that's dangerous to their members, roadies, and fans, not just to the venue itself. 

The answer is they wrote very specific instructions on what was to be provided backstage, including food. One food item was even more specific: a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. When the band came in, the first thing they'd check was the food. If they saw that the bowl had brown M&Ms, or that there wasn't a bowl at all, they knew someone hadn't actually read through the contract. It was their canary in a rock-music coal mine, and it told them they needed to check everything before going on. 

Many businesses use their equivalent of the brown M&M clause, precisely so they can watch out for trouble of one kind or another. Publishers do this with their formatting rules. If you can't read simple instructions, then they can be pretty certain you're not going to be professional enough to fulfill contracts. I've dropped lucrative contracts myself for that reason, inevitably accompanied by the author opining bitterly how the rules shouldn't apply to them. (To be fair, one of them figured this out a couple years later, though I never did pick him up as a client and he didn't ask. He just admitted he was wrong, which shows he grew as both an author and a person.)

Re: Ask the Editor

#10
I've always wondered why professional publishing wasn't moving into this space before now in some form.  

As a professional, I assume you wanna know how the money flows best on this site.  And to tell you the truth, the highest quality is far from the most profitable fictions.  

"He Who Fights With Monsters" is the highest earning fiction I know of on the site currently at $22,000 per month.
"The Legend of Randidly Ghosthound" is the next highest I know of, but can't even compare at $8,000 per month.
"The Wandering Inn" is also a standout, but hasn't posted the exact number, however, it does reveal the number of patrons and it's stupidly high.  

From what I've seen, the trend for getting the most money is consistent releases and litRPG genre.  Those two together make bank.  

I know you have criticized litRPG in your previous posts, but I think you are missing the attraction and I do believe it can be done well.  To me the attraction is the well-defined character growth.  People like seeing the numbers go up.  

Tell me, is it more rewarding to see someone say they practiced for ten hours or that they practiced and gained two levels in swordsmanship and 1 point of strength?

I think the problem with litRPG is that people dive too deep into it.  And in the end, characters end up with a ten page status screen and a long list of bizarre powers even the author doesn't understand.  That and WAY too much exposition.  

Re: Ask the Editor

#11
DarkD Wrote: I've always wondered why professional publishing wasn't moving into this space before now in some form.


Remember, much of the growth of the publishing industry, like almost any industry, has been a matter of adapting to new technology. That only looks smooth in hindsight. Today, we kind of understand what a massive change it was to have moveable type, just because it was one of the few points that we got in high school history class (or wait, it's called "social studies" now, right?) before rushing on to yet another war and king to memorize. We don't talk much about how the reason why literacy exploded in the Western world in the early 20th century was because of a publishing innovation; if that comes up, it's usually assumed that literacy drove the publishing boom. In reality, it was cheap paper, or pulp. (Thus "pulp fiction.") The very first magazine we can call an SF&F title was Amazing Stories, created by Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant to the US from Luxembourg. He's referred to as the father of science fiction because he was the first to define the genre.

In a way, web novels compare to that era. You have an extremely cheap medium here, which is generating its own demand by way of increased access. It's not a change in technology at this point so much as a change in delivery.

[/quote]As a professional, I assume you wanna know how the money flows best on this site.  And to tell you the truth, the highest quality is far from the most profitable fictions.  [/quote]

I'd noticed that. Believe it or not, this is the same as in the trad-pub world. The bestselling novels aren't always the best-written. They're the ones that either generate a lot of buzz (think 50 Shades) or entertain the most people (creating a web of word-of-mouth recommendations).

Quote:"He Who Fights With Monsters" is the highest earning fiction I know of on the site currently at $22,000 per month.
"The Legend of Randidly Ghosthound" is the next highest I know of, but can't even compare at $8,000 per month.
"The Wandering Inn" is also a standout, but hasn't posted the exact number, however, it does reveal the number of patrons and it's stupidly high.  


*spews coffee all over computer*
*computer dies*

. . . not really (I wasn't drinking anything and don't drink coffee anyway), but wow. That's incredible. Also way more than I make as an editor! :p

Quote:From what I've seen, the trend for getting the most money is consistent releases and litRPG genre.  Those two together make bank.  

I know you have criticized litRPG in your previous posts, but I think you are missing the attraction and I do believe it can be done well.  To me the attraction is the well-defined character growth.  People like seeing the numbers go up.  

Tell me, is it more rewarding to see someone say they practiced for ten hours or that they practiced and gained two levels in swordsmanship and 1 point of strength?

I think the problem with litRPG is that people dive too deep into it.  And in the end, characters end up with a ten page status screen and a long list of bizarre powers even the author doesn't understand.  That and WAY too much exposition.  


Could you point to what I said that makes you think I look down on the genre? I've said previously that I think it has great potential; I've just had problems finding stories in the genre that I enjoy. I've had a VR litRPG story in the back of my head for nine years now, but only ever heard the term "litRPG" a little over two years ago.

Re: Ask the Editor

#12
I may have misquoted you a bit.  You called the genre "weak in offerings, with lots of potential."  It was post 39 in your "Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories" thread. 

And you used "Sword Art Online" and "Ready Player One" as "the most influential" examples of the genre.  Both of which I find are actually missing the core element that makes litRPG genre so interesting on RoyalRoad.  That being well-defined character growth.  

Re: Ask the Editor

#13

DarkD Wrote: "He Who Fights With Monsters" is the highest earning fiction I know of on the site currently at $22,000 per month.
"The Legend of Randidly Ghosthound" is the next highest I know of, but can't even compare at $8,000 per month.
"The Wandering Inn" is also a standout, but hasn't posted the exact number, however, it does reveal the number of patrons and it's stupidly high.



Wandering Inn was over $10k per month back when the dollar amount was still listed. I'm pretty sure Defiance of the Fall is a bit higher than that. And Tefler's Three Square Meals (space opera harem erotica) is over $7k per chapter, but he's dropped back to mostly just doing one chapter per month. He used to do multiple chapters per month, which adds up.

But, of course, success stories like that are very rare. Most of us are sitting at a couple orders of magnitude less. My Patreon has just about covered the cost of five book covers and some software, but not the thousands of hours I've spent working on the story. Once I get more books fully (self-)published, I'll be doing some more experimenting with Amazon ads, to try to increase my revenue there. Amazon ads aren't cost-effective for a single book, and I've been lax in completing the editing process to turn my story into final books. (I do four drafts for Patreon and RR, and then three more drafts before releasing the book.)

Re: Ask the Editor

#14

DarkD Wrote: I may have misquoted you a bit.  You called the genre "weak in offerings, with lots of potential."  It was post 39 in your "Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories" thread. 

And you used "Sword Art Online" and "Ready Player One" as "the most influential" examples of the genre.  Both of which I find are actually missing the core element that makes litRPG genre so interesting on RoyalRoad.  That being well-defined character growth.



Weak in offerings, yes; but not weak as a genre. The offerings I was referring to were the large amount of litRPG stories out there that miss the opportunities of the genre to tell good stories. 

I named those two as the most influential because they were the names that kept coming up when I was searching online two years ago for a definition of the word "litRPG" that kept turning up. Everyone was defining the genre by comparing it to those two stories, whether on Reddit, on author websites, on Wikipedia, or on aggregate sites. Ergo, most influential. Similarly, The Lord of the Rings is the most influential fantasy story, even if it by itself does not encapsulate all that the genre has become. Dungeons & Dragons is the most influential tabletop RPG, and World of Warcraft the most influential MMO* for the same reason. (* Note, I am fully aware of the MMOs that WoW leaned on during its own development, but Tolkien wasn't the first fantasy author either and both of those names are what leap to most minds when talking about their genres.)


IvyVeritas Wrote: But, of course, success stories like that are very rare. Most of us are sitting at a couple orders of magnitude less. My Patreon has just about covered the cost of five book covers and some software, but not the thousands of hours I've spent working on the story. Once I get more books fully (self-)published, I'll be doing some more experimenting with Amazon ads, to try to increase my revenue there. Amazon ads aren't cost-effective for a single book, and I've been lax in completing the editing process to turn my story into final books. (I do four drafts for Patreon and RR, and then three more drafts before releasing the book.)


I took a look at your Patreon (I should really look at your story as well), and it's currently sitting at $299 per batch. I don't know how many batches you have per month, but let's say it's one per month. That's literally the amount per month that convinced me that the web novel business model was viable. Just three hundred dollars. For comparison, your average self-pubbed author has to move at least a hundred units a month to clear that, often more (it depends on how many print books versus ebooks; ebooks actually give a greater return), and that means that the actual fans are paying much more than that. 

With the web novel model, a patron might sign up to pay $1 a month, and if the author is only releasing the equivalent of one full novel per year, that's $12 for one book; but all of that goes to the author (minus Patreon's cut, but it's much smaller than Amazon's last I checked), and one thing that I've noticed a lot is that a fan who's enthusiastic will consider what venue (Amazon or another source) and format (ebook, audio, paperback, hardcover) gets their beloved author the biggest paycheck. And the faster the author writes, the more perceived value is gained by the fan, and the more they're willing to pay. 

Now, I'm sounding very mercenary here. If that were my only concern, of course, I'd quit being an editor and go write VR litRPG harem erotica. Not interested. I'm just curious as to how things shape up. There's an old model called 1,000 True Fans, and it's intrigued me since before I was an editor. I wasn't able to apply it to novel writing very well, but the web novel crowd was there years ago. I find that genuinely fascinating. I saw one new author here on Royal Road that, as of a few days ago, was pulling in just under $100 per month, and was likely to grow as that Patreon had been active for less than a week. $100 is a genuinely good return for a debut novel. $300 per month is enough to call it a true part-time job and not have anyone but a real asshole laugh at you. $1,000 per month is genuine income when added to a day job. And if you can replace the day job, well, that's what novelists dream of.

Incidentally, that's a fantastic and evocative set of covers. I've been admiring them since before I started posting, but I just haven't looked at it until now for whatever reason (I think I'm usually concentrating on whatever discussion thread I see you in, because I remember your covers but not your user name). I've added yours to the to-read list. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#15

NovelNinja Wrote:
  1. Fodder for what?
  2. This feels like a concept that needs a better introduction if it matters here. If so, then you need a brief explanation of why you have teams of mages, rather than teams of mages and non-mages. Most of your readers are going to be more familiar with the latter even if they've never played a single RPG in their lives. If it doesn't matter, then skip directly to talking about a group of four mages. 
  3. "The Upper Realms" signals generic fantasy. This doesn't mean you should just replace it with a fictional name you cobbled together out of random keystrokes. (Cough, not that I've ever used that method, no . . .) Rather, keep in mind that names in a blurb have no emotional meaning to a new reader, so you only put in a name when you need to distinguish something. Here, we have no need to distinguish what region they're in. 
  4. Is it unusual to have a team of four? 
  5. Yes, the first three contrast the second three, but that's obvious. How does it relate to pitching the story? 
  6. This is redundant, which I assume is deliberate; but in the blurb, it risks signaling "I don't know what I'm talking about." 
Your actual story is written in present tense. I'll quote myself from a reply in the old thread for context, given to another author writing in present tense as an explanation for not being able to critique it as thoroughly as I normally do.




Thanks for the insights. The advice on my blurb is especially useful. I've never been satisfied with it, but I've also never been able to come up with something better.

Since I've started writing in the present tense a few years ago, I've been surprised at how many people dislike or even hate it. I guess I always assumed it wasn't that big a deal. If I had known, I might have just stuck to past tense.


Re: Ask the Editor

#16

Strot Wrote: Thanks for the insights. The advice on my blurb is especially useful. I've never been satisfied with it, but I've also never been able to come up with something better.

Since I've started writing in the present tense a few years ago, I've been surprised at how many people dislike or even hate it. I guess I always assumed it wasn't that big a deal. If I had known, I might have just stuck to past tense.

Sadly, I've never come up with a guide to writing back-cover texts (blurbs). I've tried. I've really tried. It nearly broke my sanity . . . :p It depends too much on knowing the story in the first place, while also knowing how to market it to your audience. It's a sales pitch, so knowing how that works helps. (I've worked retail. In a LEGO Store. During Christmas. You learn fast in that kind of situation.)

Don't feel you have to change tense if you enjoy writing in it. Plenty of people have had great success in present tense, and a lot of current adult readers grew up reading present-tense YA. Write what makes you comfortable; your comfort might not be the most marketable thing, but your discomfort will shine through regardless. You can't sell anything (whether for money or just viewcount) if your audience knows you're not enjoying yourself. 

Re: Ask the Editor

#17

NovelNinja Wrote: Incidentally, that's a fantastic and evocative set of covers. I've been admiring them since before I started posting, but I just haven't looked at it until now for whatever reason (I think I'm usually concentrating on whatever discussion thread I see you in, because I remember your covers but not your user name). I've added yours to the to-read list.



Thanks!

I could justify the cost for either a professional artist (which might work better on RR) or a professional cover designer (which would compare more favorably to published novels on Amazon), but I couldn't afford both. I figured the cover designer was the more urgent need. Plus, with an artist, you might get something completely different than what you were hoping for. The cover designer promised I could get about 80% to 85% of what I wanted using their methods (which has turned out to be true, as long as the designer allows plenty of rounds of back-and-forth for revisions).

I've been happy with the result, so I went back to the same design agency for all five covers.

I did spend quite a bit of time evaluating portfolios and policies before selecting a designer. You don't necessarily want to just pick the first one you find.

Re: Ask the Editor

#19
NovelNinja Wrote: Certainly. That's what this thread is for. It's going to wind up being a jumbled mess, but I'm going to see how it goes. :)

Ima gonna prolly PM you about this, cuz by posting our conversations on here, I'd be giving away my plot. But I will definitely post the results!

NovelNinja Wrote: The brown M&M clause is a story from a band last century, Van Halen.

For some reason I always thought it was the green M&Ms that Van Halen didn't want. 
You know -- cuz they're aphrodisiacs.
I mean, have you ever seen Green M&M? She's hot! 😊
https%3A%2F%2Fwww.snopes.com%2Ftachyon%2F2014%2F03%2Fg...quality%3D65

Re: Ask the Editor

#20

NovelNinja Wrote: I've encountered editors at conventions who have gotten genuinely annoyed at the amount of work I do for authors, including teaching and research. They've never offered an explanation (just told me I shouldn't do that)

Maybe they think authors will expect teaching to be part of an editor's job description?? what an annoying and frustrating stance. If editors teach authors how to craft good sentences and stories, we can eliminate elementary fixes and get into the interesting stuff, and the world in general has better quality of work going around.