Sep. 21st, 2017

jpskewedthrone: (Default)
Plot Synopses

First off, there are two types of plot synopses: the one written AFTER the novel is finished, and the one written BEFORE the novel is finished, both used to send to the agent or editor in the hopes they’ll buy the novel. I’ll start with the one written AFTER the novel is finished, since this is typically what happens for a writer who has yet to be published.

Writing a Synopsis AFTER the Book is Finished )

In any case, here’s my sample plot synopsis, for the first book in my Throne of Amenkor series, published by DAW Books, called The Skewed Throne [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy]. Keep in mind that if you haven’t read the book, this synopsis will reveal all of the major plot twists and turning points in the novel, so spoilerage is possible. Well, not possible. Spoilerage is DEFINITE. I think you’d still find the book enjoyable even after reading this though. In fact, it might be an interesting exercise to read both the synopsis and the book itself so you can compare them and see what I put in the synopsis and, more importantly, what I left out. You certainly can't put everything in the book in the synopsis.

After the sample, I discuss writing a plot synopsis BEFORE the book has been written.

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Skewed Throne Plot Synopsis (spoilery if you haven’t read the book) )

***********************************

Ok, that’s what the beast looks like if the book has already been written. However, once you’ve been published, the agent or editor is more willing to work with a book that hasn’t been written yet. At this stage, they’ll likely demand a plot synopsis, and sometimes they’ll want a plot synopsis and the first few chapters (even if the rest hasn’t been written). I find this a much MUCH harder beast to tame, because of the way that I write.

Writing a Synopsis BEFORE the Book is Written )

So here’s my sample of a synopsis written BEFORE the novel was written. It's from the second book in the Throne of Amenkor series, called The Cracked Throne [Amazon; Mysterious Galaxy]. Again, if you read this, it WILL spoiler the book. (But also again, it might be good to read the synopsis AND the book so you can see what was included and not included . . . and also what I thought would happen and what actually happened.) You’ll notice some differences. I didn’t capitalize the characters names when they first appeared in this one, for example. Some editors/agents like them to be capped, some not. You should always read and follow the guidelines for the publishing house or agency where you’re submitting in order to see what kinds of rules they like you to follow. You’ll also notice that the synopsis doesn’t read as smoothly as the previous one; that’s because the novel wasn’t written and I was flailing around in the dark while writing it. And for those that have read the book already, you’ll notice that the final version of the book had some serious changes (the part about Erick and Baill leaps to mind). The end product didn’t follow this synopsis exactly. Editors and agents know this might happen, and they generally accept it.

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Cracked Throne Plot Synopsis (spoilerage ahoy!) )

******************

So that’s my take on writing plot synopses and a few examples to give you guys something to work from. Hopefully you found some helpful advice in there. But my way isn’t always the best, and doesn’t always work for everyone, so take the time to read some of the other authors’ posts about their process and see some of their examples. I think what you’ll find is that there isn’t one set way to do these things, and there’s not one set road to publication. Some include synopses and some don’t. Some synopses are 1 page long (if that) and some are 10 or more. It depends on the editor’s and/or agent’s preferences.

And keep in mind that you can have the perfect synopsis but if the STORY ITSELF SUCKS, it won’t help. You have to have a good story to tell. And if the story is good, most editors and agents will cut you some slack if your plot synopsis isn’t perfect.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

PORTALS: In the blink of an eye, the familiar disappears as you step into the unknown. What new creatures will you meet? What strange planets will you explore? Will you find happiness, or doom? Open the pages of PORTALS, the newest anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains, and you just might find out. From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when--by accident or design--characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. Edited by S.C. Butler and Patricia Bray, PORTALS will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of up to 6,000 words each. It will include short stories by: Jacey Bedford, F. Brett Cox, James Enge, Esther Friesner, Nancy Holzner, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Jaime Lee Moyer, and Ian Tregillis.

TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED: In our spam boxes today, we both received notices that our bank accounts required resolution, and the content of the spam contained the following sentence: "We have noticed that you need to resolve important security issues on your account to prevent temporal deactivation." Of course, our immediate thought was of a new anthology called TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED! For this follow-up to 2015’s TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, “temporally deactivate” it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. “Temporal deactivation” should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc. Edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: C.S. Friedman, Faith Hunter, D.B. Jackson, Gini Koch, Stephen Leigh, Misty Massey, Jenna Rhodes, and Edmund R. Schubert.

ALTERNATE PEACE: All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence. Edited by Steven H Silver & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: D.B. Jackson, Stephen Leigh, Ian R. MacLeod, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kari Sperring, Harry Turtledove, Rick Wilber.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"Portals" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog has changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I'd run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today's authors. So for three days, I'll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Plot Synopses:

Here are some thoughts on how to write plot synopses from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I'd suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is not the first time I've done a plot synopsis project, so some of these posts are new and some are from the previous run-through. Also, I'll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there's a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

Here are the links:

Chaz Brenchley: http://desperance.livejournal.com/254192.html (Originally posted 3/17/2008)
S.C. Butler: http://scbutler.livejournal.com/23177.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
David B. Coe: http://davidbcoe.livejournal.com/29443.html (Originally popsted 3/18/2008)
Harry Connolly: http://harryjconnolly.com/how-i-write-a-book-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Jennifer Dunne: http://jennifer-dunne.livejournal.com/244403.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
S.L. Farrell/Stephen Leigh: http://sleigh.livejournal.com/187253.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Gregory Frost: http://frostokovich.livejournal.com/19384.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Jim C. Hines: http://jimhines.livejournal.com/355241.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Elaine Isaac/E.C. Ambrose: https://ecambrose.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/pitching-a-novel-nailing-your-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Kay Kenyon: http://www.kaykenyon.com/2017/09/21/writing-a-novel-synopsis/ (Added 9/21/2017)
Jackie Kessler: http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/2008/03/18/the-plot-synopsis-project/#more-178 (Originally posted 3/8/2008)
Mindy Klasky: http://mindyklasky.livejournal.com/135970.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Misty Massey: http://madkestrel.livejournal.com/64716.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Kelly McCullough: https://kellymccullough.com/synopses-a-lengthy-discourse-on-a-pithy-topic/ (Added 9/23/2017)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2017/09/18/literary-pitches-and-timing/ (Added 9/21/2017)
C.E. Murphy: http://mizkit.livejournal.com/339428.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Naomi Novik: http://naominovik.livejournal.com/34610.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Joshua Palmatier: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493561.html (Added 9/21/2017)
Phyllis Irene Radford: http://www.radfordeditorial.com/?p=104 (Added 9/23/2017)
Jennifer Stevenson: http://smokingpigeon.livejournal.com/15208.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)
Michelle Sagara West: http://msagara.livejournal.com/37498.html (Originally posted 3/18/2008)


And check out the Elevator Pitch Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html, and the Query Project here: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/493069.html.

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

PORTALS: In the blink of an eye, the familiar disappears as you step into the unknown. What new creatures will you meet? What strange planets will you explore? Will you find happiness, or doom? Open the pages of PORTALS, the newest anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains, and you just might find out. From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when--by accident or design--characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. Edited by S.C. Butler and Patricia Bray, PORTALS will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of up to 6,000 words each. It will include short stories by: Jacey Bedford, F. Brett Cox, James Enge, Esther Friesner, Nancy Holzner, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Jaime Lee Moyer, and Ian Tregillis.

TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED: In our spam boxes today, we both received notices that our bank accounts required resolution, and the content of the spam contained the following sentence: "We have noticed that you need to resolve important security issues on your account to prevent temporal deactivation." Of course, our immediate thought was of a new anthology called TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED! For this follow-up to 2015’s TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, “temporally deactivate” it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. “Temporal deactivation” should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc. Edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: C.S. Friedman, Faith Hunter, D.B. Jackson, Gini Koch, Stephen Leigh, Misty Massey, Jenna Rhodes, and Edmund R. Schubert.

ALTERNATE PEACE: All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence. Edited by Steven H Silver & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: D.B. Jackson, Stephen Leigh, Ian R. MacLeod, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kari Sperring, Harry Turtledove, Rick Wilber.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"Portals" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios
jpskewedthrone: (Default)
This is the tenth of a series of blog posts that I wrote last year in order to show how I create the anthologies for Zombies Need Brains, the small press that I founded in order to produce anthologies. It's basically a behind-the-scenes look at the process, which will be covered in multiple parts. Obviously, this is only how I produce an anthology and there may be other roads to follow in order to produce one. Keep that in mind.

Here are the previous parts of the series:

Part 9: Design: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492092.html
Part 8: Cover: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491810.html
Part 7: Copy Edits: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491738.html
Part 6: Table of Contents: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491496.html
Part 5: Editing: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/491105.html
Part 4: Slush Pile: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490870.html
Part 3: Funding: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490583.html
Part 2: Authors: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490491.html
Part 1: Concept: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490112.html

At this point, you should have everything you need to send your book out into the world—a cover flat file, an interior print file, an ebook file, and a cover file (either taken from the cover flat, or designed specifically by your cover designer for the ebooks). All that’s left is the distribution.

There are many different options and outlets for distribution. Some of them allow you to distribute to many places through one portal, such as IngramSpark. Some of them let you distribute to selected places through one portal, such as CreateSpace. Most who have multiple outlets let you pick and choose where you want the anthology to be available. And then, of course, you can choose to go directly through particular places with your own account at each one, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lastly, perhaps you just want to get a set number of copies of the book printed by an offset printer and then store them and sell them yourself, either by hand or through an online store.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every option, so you really need to sit down and do the research for each one, perhaps create a spreadsheet so you can compare them all, and then you can focus on what you want for your books. Each place will have a different royalty rate, perhaps even two options for royalties at one location. For example, CreateSpace has multiple royalty options, where you trade a lower royalty rate in order to get better advertising or a larger distribution network. If you’re going to do your own advertising, then you can pick a higher royalty rate. Each usually has other options that may get your book in their newsletter, or allow your book to have a fire-sale at a low rate for a specified period of time, or allow you to make the price of your book whatever you want. (Kindle requires that your book be within a certain price range, for example, unless you give up some royalties to make it lower). All of these options at the various places are changing constantly, so you need to look into it yourself.

As you can see, it’s already gotten complicated. But the real issue is how much of the marketing for your book you’re going to do yourself, and how much you want your distributor to market it for you. How much marketing you want someone else to do depends on how wide an audience you think you can reach with your book and name alone. Someone like Seanan McGuire has a large fan base already, so she probably doesn’t need the marketing machine to get her fans to notice a book she puts out herself. My own fan base isn’t quite that large, so I may want to invest in a smaller royalty rate from the distributor in order for the distributor to help me reach people I wouldn’t be able to reach myself. It’s all a balancing act—how much of the royalties are you willing to give up in order to sell more copies of the book? Keeping all the royalties means you may sell X books, making $Y amount of money. But maybe if you give up some of the royalties you’ll sell A books (A>X), and make $B amount of money. Is B higher than Y? In some situations it will be, which means accepting a lower royalty actually increases the money you make. The REAL problem is that there’s no way to tell whether B will be higher than Y ahead of time. Absolutely no way. Because no one can predict marketing. Advertising your brains out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make more sales. This is the most frustrating part of the business: you will never know how effective your marketing is. Even if you sell really well, you can’t pinpoint what it was that you did that made the book sell well. It just did. For some reason. None of it quantifiable.

In any case, you need to choose: distribute yourself (offset printing, ebook sales online), distribute through one agency that distribute to multiple places (IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.), or distribute by setting up your own account at multiple places (Kindle, Nook, B&N, CreateSpace, etc.). Distributing the books yourself means all of the work is put on your—for marketing and sales—but you’re probably going to get a much larger cut of the profits. Distributing through someone like IngramSpark, CreateSpace, etc.) allows you a wider audience reach immediately, but they’re going to take a larger cut of the profits, especially if you select the option where they do more marketing for you. But you’re getting a single check each month from one source. The last option, where you set up accounts at multiple places, usually gives you a higher cut of the profits (not as high as distributing yourself, though), but now you’re dealing with multiple checks every month from multiple sources, so it’s a little more complicated to keep track of the finances for tax purposes and such.

Zombies Need Brains does a mix of two of the options. It has accounts set up at various places so that it gets a check directly from those distributors, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc. The rest of the ebook options are handled by a single distributor, where I can select which places get to sell the ebook and which don’t. And the print versions are run through CreateSpace with a fairly wide distribution network, but not as wide as it could be. I was trying to balance the marketing a distribution options, while mitigating the amount of work I’d have to do in terms of bookkeeping.

And that’s how ZNB produces their anthologies. I didn’t cover absolutely everything. There are a few other things I could have talked about—such as advertising, marketing, etc.—but this gives everyone who might be interested in producing an anthology at least a rough framework for how it’s done. Again, you may need to alter and change and personalize this so that it works best for you. I hope you’ve learned something from this blog series! Thanks for reading!

And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************

Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

PORTALS: In the blink of an eye, the familiar disappears as you step into the unknown. What new creatures will you meet? What strange planets will you explore? Will you find happiness, or doom? Open the pages of PORTALS, the newest anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains, and you just might find out. From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when--by accident or design--characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. Edited by S.C. Butler and Patricia Bray, PORTALS will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of up to 6,000 words each. It will include short stories by: Jacey Bedford, F. Brett Cox, James Enge, Esther Friesner, Nancy Holzner, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Jaime Lee Moyer, and Ian Tregillis.

TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED: In our spam boxes today, we both received notices that our bank accounts required resolution, and the content of the spam contained the following sentence: "We have noticed that you need to resolve important security issues on your account to prevent temporal deactivation." Of course, our immediate thought was of a new anthology called TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED! For this follow-up to 2015’s TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, “temporally deactivate” it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. “Temporal deactivation” should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc. Edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: C.S. Friedman, Faith Hunter, D.B. Jackson, Gini Koch, Stephen Leigh, Misty Massey, Jenna Rhodes, and Edmund R. Schubert.

ALTERNATE PEACE: All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence. Edited by Steven H Silver & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: D.B. Jackson, Stephen Leigh, Ian R. MacLeod, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kari Sperring, Harry Turtledove, Rick Wilber.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"Portals" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

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