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Let the writers write!

Anyone who knows me, knows that one of the main reasons I started Higher Ground Books & Media was to encourage people to write their stories. While I do believe that everyone has a story; I do not believe that every person should be a writer. Everyone has a story to tell and each person’s experiences are worthy of being shared, but they just might not be the best person to put that story into its final form.

And everyone isn’t capable of putting together stories aside from personal accounts of their own experiences. For example, it takes a special set of skills to be able to write a book about a specific topic. It takes special insights and abilities to be able to put together a children’s book that kids can actually read and understand. Only those who are willing to research their themes and topics should endeavor to build a complex mystery or thriller. Don’t get me wrong, there are those who have a natural flair for storytelling and who are able to think on their feet when writing about something that they haven’t personally experienced. But it is a rare thing to find a writer who is talented enough to weave a story that both entertains and enlightens.

Many best-selling authors would probably tell you that it was a long and difficult process to put together a book that was worthy of being published. Years ago, the late Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone detective series, wrote me a letter after I had eagerly sent her a copy of my very first book. I was so upset by what she had said to me at that time that I failed to see that she was actually encouraging me to take myself and my craft seriously. She said that I needed to be sure that I took the steps to learn more about the kind of writing I was doing. I needed to be sure that the information I was giving was accurate and that my writing had more to it than just ink. I never forgot what she said, and the advice has served as one of my greatest sources of motivation.

Sadly, there are many people out there who are looking to make easy money from putting books together and selling them online. They have little interest in writing as a craft and big dreams of being known as a best-selling author simply because they have followed a few algorithms or paid for a few “special” services to boost their books to best-selling status on Amazon. Although I appreciate having the ability, as a publisher, to quickly and easily prepare books for sale on Amazon, I do believe that our professional status as writers is threatened by those whose posts about releasing their first, second, third or tenth book are fraught with misspellings and grammatical errors. It is disheartening to see individuals promoting their work without having the foresight to polish their communications. If the posts are this bad, how must the finished book look?

I know that this may sound negative to some, but as a writer and publisher, I’m invested in creating quality products as well as coherent communications about those products. Consumers and readers deserve good books that are written by authors who care what they are putting out there and that is why I run Higher Ground Books & Media the way I do. We don’t do Kick-Starters or GoFundMe campaigns. We don’t attempt a full-scale polish on the work our authors submit. We are looking for a certain level of writing in the submissions we receive. We want QUALITY work and that’s what we are publishing. We are not in the business of providing parade-level marketing for our authors. We expect them to be as invested in their writing as we are in our publishing. So, if you don’t have a platform for promoting what you write, why exactly are you writing? If your only desire is to see your name on a finished book, then we are not the place for you.

We still believe in old-school values and part of that is encouraging our authors to find new and creative ways to promote their work while we also seek out the most cost-effective ways to make people aware of all of our books and the authors and illustrators who created them. With that said, we have also come up with some advice for those who are scrambling to put together their first book. If you’ve read this far, we hope you’ll consider these things while preparing your book for submission:

1. As a writer, you need to have a strong grasp of the language in which you are writing. If you are writing a book in English, please take the time to learn the language so that what you are writing makes sense. If you are writing in Spanish or another language, please make sure that you understand what you are writing. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to read through a poorly written manuscript and knowing that whoever wrote it had absolutely no idea what they were saying. Just do your homework.

2. Brush up on your letter writing skills before submitting your work. Sending a publisher an e-mail with your manuscript attached is fine, but please go into slightly more detail than simply saying, “Please read my book,” or “I hope you will publish my book.” Of course, we know that if you are sending us something you want us to read it and possibly publish it. What we don’t know is why we should. Help us to understand what you’ve written so that we can be better equipped to review it and consider it for publication.

3. Be professional…even if you get a rejection. Especially if you get a rejection. Don’t burn bridges with publishers. Small, independent publishers are usually working on a shoestring budget and have to choose their books carefully. Unless you are submitting to a vanity press, please don’t expect that you are guaranteed a contract. There are still some of us out there whose criteria do not depend on how much money we can make from the author. HGBM is interested in providing stories that uplift and inspire. So, if you submit something that is negative and hateful without the promise of showing some major transformation, don’t expect that we’ll be signing you.

4. Lastly, if you do enter into a contract with a small publisher, do not let them get all of the hard work done and then decide to terminate the agreement. Once a publisher has invested the time, energy, and resources into getting all of the formatting done, designing a cover, checking for errors, uploading the book, and preparing all of the release information; a very significant amount of work has been done. Many publishers will charge an early termination fee if you fail to honor the terms of the contract.

I don’t say all of these things to discourage you. I sincerely encourage you to write if writing is your passion. And if you want to share your story but aren’t sure how to go about writing it; by all means, hire a professional writer to help you with the finer points of crafting your story. Writing is not meant to be cookie-cutter simple. Writing is meant to touch people’s hearts, to enrich their lives, and to inspire them to action. If it’s something you truly want to do, then do everything you can to prepare for writing. Let people read your drafts, get constructive criticism, and seek out opportunities to learn how to be truly good at it. But please, stop perpetuating the myth that being an author is some kind of puppy-mill profession. If you aren’t serious about it, then leave it to those who are and find another way to share your unique talents with the rest of the world.

Higher Ground Books & Media is an independent publisher operating out of Springfield, Ohio. We accept submissions year round and seek out manuscripts that are inspirational, educational, & motivational. Please check our submission guidelines if you are interested in submitting your work for consideration.

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