Avoiding Predatory Publishers

Today’s virtual world is fraught with danger. From the prince of a faraway country asking for money to complex computer viruses disguised as helpful software, scams and phony programs are everywhere, and the publishing world is no different.

As self-publishing and open access academic journals become more prevalent, there are publishers who have realized that there are many ways to take advantage of inexperienced authors. These writers, taken in by promises of fast publication, may be forced not only to churn out works for the publisher, but will be required to pay in order to become published. Contracts may also force authors to sign over the copyrights to their works, creating a larger profit for the publisher without requiring them to provide editing resources or peer reviews for their writers—to the detriment of the authors’ credibility and reputation. Such self-serving institutions are defined as predatory publishers.

Because there is such a vast array of publishers to be found in today’s online world, discerning which publishers are predatory and which are legitimate can be difficult. Here are a few tips to use when evaluating the legitimacy of a publisher:

  • Look at their website. Professional publishers will have a polished website free of grammatical errors or major design flaws. They will also have a clear mission statement and specific genres that they specialize in publishing. Predatory publishers rarely have specific areas of publication and often carry a range of works from a large variety of unrelated topics.
  • Watch for transparency. Good publishers are open and honest about their publication process and carry a clear mission statement.
  • Research previously published works. To get a grasp of the publisher’s quality, look at a sample of pieces that the company has published. Mistakes regarding spelling or grammar could show a lack of peer reviewed editing.
  • Be mindful of fees! Any author’s fees should be clearly explained by the publisher. Hidden fees that appear during the publication process can indicate predatory publishers.
  • Check the copyright agreement. If a publisher operates under an Open Access model, make sure they have a Creative Commons or other type of open license in use. Publishers should be clear about what rights the author will have after publication.

Authors are often approached by predatory publishers who offer to publish their work quickly. However, if an author discovers that the journal or publisher is illegitimate, the most effective course of action is to refuse the publication and withdraw their piece as soon as possible to avoid any future negative associations with their work.  In the case of finding good publishers, caution and patience are key. While becoming a published author is an exciting accomplishment, we must be sure to arm ourselves effectively against the unfortunate institution of predatory publishing.

How to Handle A Rejected Submission

As a writer, receiving a rejection is inevitable, but there is always a chance the text you have been working on still has opportunity at different publishing houses. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein were both rejected upon first review, and these two are not the only famous books thwarted by publishers. Sometimes you must submit to multiple publishing houses before someone can see the merit of your work, and that’s okay. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tactics to utilize your rejection to craft a stronger manuscript.

1) Don’t be Disheartened by Rejection

Rejection is always difficult to cope with, but the vast majority of books aren’t accepted in just one submission. As mentioned above, we are all fond of some books which faced rejection multiple times before being picked up by a publishing house. These books had authors behind them who believed in the importance of their works and so should you.

2) Don’t Stop Submitting

All publishing houses aren’t looking for the same types of works or even have the same types of people working for them. There are a vast number of publishers who specialize in different works, and you should explore all your options. Try to find publishing houses whose previous published books are similar to the book your submitting. Are you trying to publish a science fiction novel? Look for a publisher who specializes in everything science fiction. Rejection from one publisher, or even multiple publishers, isn’t a death sentence for your work. Keep submitting!

3) Listen to Feedback from Publishers

Publishers will occasionally tell you what they see as critical errors, and this can be a good opportunity to improve your manuscript. You shouldn’t expect feedback from the editors (they often don’t). If they do address problems within your manuscript, they will generally address global issues. Global issues can range from plot coherence to the constant misspelling of a word throughout your manuscript. Take it as an opportunity to improve your manuscript for other publishers, and don’t be afraid of submitting a revised manuscript to the same publishing house.

4) Objectively Edit Your Manuscript

As a writer, it can be difficult to look objectively at your work, but this is necessary to become a great writer. Try asking yourself why your manuscript was rejected. Is the writing appropriate for the intended audience? Are your characters believable? Did you follow the submission guidelines? Are you considering assumptions about shared knowledge? Look for plot holes and inconsistent formatting. These are all things to consider when receiving a rejected manuscript.

5) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

A misconception about writing is that it’s a one-person job. But typically the best, most enjoyable works are produced when multiple people contribute to the production of a work. That’s not to say you need to rewrite with a co-author, but having a third-party proofread and suggest ideas can vastly enhance your manuscript’s readability. Because writers can become overly attached to their manuscript, a third-party allows for an unbiased opinion which can help find critical flaws within a work. Just be sure to find someone who is not attached to your work already.

It’s crucial to understand that rejection is a normal part of the writing process. Every writer has confronted rejection countless times. Embracing rejection is difficult, but can be one of the most helpful tools for a writer if utilized correctly. Often times, writers will submit their manuscript for years before a publishing house accepts it. But in the end, some of the most prolific, award-winning books are rejected dozens of times before being published. If you ever feel down about your rejection, take a look at this list of some of the most rejected books of all time and remember that you’re in good company.

What is Open Education?

March 4–6, 2019 is Open Education Week. Organized by the Open Education Consortium (OEC), Open Education Week raises awareness about open education and shows how it’s important to teaching and learning. To really understand the impact, let’s first look at what open education is.

What is Open Education?

Open education refers to teachings, resources, and tools that are freely available to use and share. In addition, truly open materials allow people to modify or a adapt the original materials. These materials, referred to as open educational resources or OERs, have a specific license attached to it that outlines usage, distribution, and modification.

A chart showing the different versions of a CC license when combined with other license types.
A chart showing the different versions of a CC license when combined with other licenses.

The Creative Commons Attribution International (CC BY) license is one of the most common open source licenses. Under this license, you can share the resource in any format so long as you attribute the original creator and you use the resource for noncommercial purposes. (More details about the creative commons license can be found on the Creative Commons website.)

Open education can be taken one step further into the world of open pedagogy. Open pedagogy looks at teaching and learning from a theoretical viewpoint and works to develop open materials that other teachers can use. The world of open pedagogy is still young, but early efforts reveal a promising future.

 

Why is Open Education Important?

Education is the key to change and is central for improvement—as an individual, but also as a community. Open education provides access to education that people may not have otherwise. By gatekeeping education and limiting it only to those who can pay, we do a disservice to everyone. (Textbooks are marked up 400%. Trust us, education often costs more than it should.) Open educational resources help break those barriers, and Open Education Week helps draw attention to them.

 

How Can You Help Open Education?

The first step to supporting open education is to support organizations and business that contribute to the OER world. In addition to the OEC, Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) is working to create more OERs and even includes open courseware on their website. The UNG Press has partnered with ALG and e-core and now offers 18 OER textbooks, each with a free digital copy available on our website.

Encourage people around you to learn about and share open materials. OERs aren’t limited to the teaching world. Open sourced programs like Inkscape and Scribus are alternatives to Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Even Google Docs is an example of an open source alternative to Microsoft Word.

No matter what, don’t gatekeep education. It doesn’t help anyone and only restricts what people can learn. Open education is the forward trend in the academic world and is a welcome addition to fields of teaching and learning.

Children’s Books: Industry Standards and Resources

Children’s books can be a confusing genre. The notes below explore genre standards among different children’s books and provide resources for further research. These notes were created for UNG Press’s panel, “Children’s Book Publishing From Start To Finish” at the 2019 Dahlonega Literary Festival.

Print Version: Children’s Book Industry Standards (PDF), Children’s Book Sources (PDF), Powerpoint Presentation (Google Slides)

General Info

  • Children’s is a genre that relies on gatekeepers, even for young adult books. Teachers, parents, librarians determine what children read.
  • The Golden Rule: Children want to read stories about other children who are a little bit older than themselves. (Jenny Bowman, children’s book editor, creative writer, and specialist in Children’s Literature)
  • Children’s books are exploratory in nature

Board Books

Age: prereaders
Word Count: 300 words or fewer, may only have 10-20 words max
Page Length: 10 pages or less

  • Designed to be read by an adult to a child
  • Covers early learning concepts such as colors, counting, letters, etc.
  • Light on text, heavy on illustration
  • Made from thick cardstock or cardboard

Example: First 100 Words

Picture Books

Age: 2-7
Word Count: 500 words or fewer, max of 900
Page Length: 32 pages standard, but can be 40, 48, or 56 (at max)

  • Designed to be read by an adult to a child
  • Short on text; rely equally on illustration
  • Introduces universal theme that are approachable
  • Features one main character, one plot or idea, and one storyline
  • Should offer a (simple) question and provide the answer at the end

Example: A Bad Case of Stripes, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Easy Readers/Beginning Readers

Age: 5-8
Word Count: 750 – 1,500 words
Page Length: 32 – 64 pages, depending on the reading level

  • Written for children learning to read on their own
  • Introduction of chapters
  • Short sentences with limited vocabulary
  • Simple, repetitive text with simple sentence structure
  • Slightly more text than in an average picture book
  • 2-5 sentences per page
    Every page or every other page has an illustration
  • Topics and themes are lighthearted and usually explore one idea, subject, or theme

Example: Elephant and Piggie, Henry and Mudge

Chapter Books

Age: 7-10
Word Count: 4,000 – 12,000 words
Page Length: not typically longer than 100 pages

  • The first “real” book for children
  • Written for children becoming fluent readers
  • Protagonist is around 8 or 9 (the upper age range of the readers)
  • Contains a plot with setbacks
  • Start to see subplots and more complex story lines
  • Few to no illustrations
  • More complex sentences and plot development
  • Paragraphs are still short, about 2-4 sentences each

Examples: Magic Tree House, Charlotte’s Web

Middle Grade (MG)

Age: 8-12
Word Count: 20,000 – 40,000 words, depending on publisher
Page Length: over 100 pages

  • Longer chapters than found in chapter books
  • Often no illustrations
  • Content categories similar to adult fiction
    • mystery, adventure, humor, historical, fantasy, etc.
  • Series are popular
  • Plot lines directed to 10-12 year olds because kids read above their age
  • Intense subjects may bump the book into an older age category

US bookstores don’t differentiate between levels; must choose between MG and YA or YA and Adult. UK bookstores do differentiate and have a “between” category.

Example: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Holes

Lower Middle Grade

Age: 7-10
Word Count: 20,000 – 35,000

  • Themes will be complex but approachable: no kissing, no gory violence, subtle politics, if any at all
  • Have a subplot or two
  • Uses elements like humor, fantasy, or magic realism, or explores factual, science-based ideas and historical events
Upper Middle Grade

Age: 10-13
Word Count: 45,000 – 55,000

  • Themes are more complex and mature, explored in an age-appropriate way from the protagonist’s point of view
  • Still not as detailed or ‘angsty’ as young adult
  • Sometimes referred to as “tween” especially if the themes explicitly explore pre-tween issues

Young Adult (YA)

Age: 12 to adult
Word Count: 40,000 – 75,000 words
Page Length: varies

  • Content categories similar to and read like adult fiction
    • mystery, adventure, humor, historical, fantasy, etc.
  • Explore issues and topics that teens can relate to
  • Heavy with “Firsts”
    • First kiss, starting high school, entering the adult world, etc.
  • Characters must be 13+ for Barnes & Noble to shelf it under Young Adult and not kids
  • Includes more adult content (such as sexuality, mental illness, politics, etc.)
  • How explicit/what the message is depends on the publisher. Some publishers seek these topics out, others avoid them.
  • Emerging category of New Adult that targets readers between 18-30

Examples: The Book Thief, The Hate U Give, The Fault in Our Stars, Ready Player One

Sources

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine, ISBN: 978-0-06-236717-4

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul, ISBN: 978-1-58-297556-6

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2019 by Writer’s Digest, ISBN: 978-1-44-035440-3 (Updated yearly)

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
www.scbwi.org

Getting Started:
https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/just-getting-started/

SCBWI Blog
http://scbwi.blogspot.com/

SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for individuals who write and illustrate for children and young adults. Our mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books in every region of the world.

We give established writers and illustrators the tools and resources to manage their careers, as well as educate those just starting out. SCBWI is also proud to serve as a consolidated voice for our members within the publishing industry.

Membership in SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in children’s literature, from picture books to young adult novels. We welcome aspiring and published writers and illustrators, as well as librarians, educators, artists, students, dramatists, musicians, filmmakers, translators, and others. A passion for children’s literature is our number one criterion.

Inkygirl
http://inkygirl.com/

Advice for Young Writers and Illustrators from Children’s Book Creators
http://inkygirl.com/advice-young/

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Rob Sanders, Lauren McLaughlin, Aaron Reynolds and Colby Sharp. For more info about Debbie and upcoming projects, see DebbieOhi.com. You can find Debbie on Twitter at @inkyelbows and on Instagram at @inkygirl.

KidLit411
http://www.kidlit411.com/

Kidlit.com
https://kidlit.com/

Writing World
http://www.writing-world.com/menus/children.shtml

Rachelle Burk’s Resources for Children’s Writers
http://resourcesforchildrenswriters.blogspot.com/

Children’s Book Insider (Monthly Magazine)

Ellen Jackson, author of over 60 children’s books
http://www.ellenjackson.net/book_genres_for_children_123774.htm

Summer Edward, Children’s Literature and Publishing Consultant
http://www.summeredward.com/2013/04/types-of-childrens-books-formats.html

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Guidelines for Submitting a Manuscript

It’s time. You’re finally ready to submit your writing to a press. After many hours of researching and editing, it would certainly be a shame to see your manuscript returned to you, the dreaded rejection slip attached to the cover. In order to avoid this disappointing outcome, we’ve compiled a checklist to help make the process quicker, more efficient, and less frightening for the fledgling writer.

1. Proofread your manuscript one last time.

In the past, this was generally left to the hands of the editors at the publishing house. However, with the advent of self-publishing and many more manuscripts to sift through, well-proofread works are in demand. Your manuscript will stand out more if it is as error-free as humanly possible. It might seem unnecessary and even tedious if you’ve already performed regular edits throughout the writing process, but it’s still important. You don’t want your manuscript to be rejected over an easily corrected typo.

2. Make absolutely certain you adhere to the standard formatting guidelines.

The general expectations for a submission vary depending on the genre and audience, but there are hard rules that every writer must follow when it comes to formatting. They are as follows:

  • Your manuscript should always be double spaced. It’s easier on the eyes and more readable than a single-spaced text.
  • Consistently use a standard font size and type throughout the manuscript. When in doubt, it is always safe to use the default Times New Roman, size 12.
  • Put page numbers in your manuscript’s header. Manuscripts are big and easy to get out of order. If the editor can’t follow the flow of your writing because the pages are unnumbered and thrown together haphazardly, they will not accept it.
  • Include your last name and story title in the header as well. Ensure that the editor does not accidentally mix up your pages with someone else’s.
  • Only type on one side of the paper. Saving paper is tempting, but ultimately detrimental in the submission process.
  • If you’re submitting a paper copy of your manuscript, do not bind the pages together with anything permanent. Editors need access to individual pages.

3. Convey professionalism and keep track of your records.

Grammatical correctness and proper formatting do not guarantee acceptance. You should still present yourself professionally in order to stand out.

  • Just as one would for a job application, include a cover letter. This should include a brief synopsis of what your work is about as well as your personal contact information. Do not include any information that is irrelevant to the manuscript, such as childhood stories.
  • Always have a paper and electronic copy of your manuscript. Publishers have a significant pile of manuscripts to sort through. They might take longer than expected to send it back to you with initial proofs if it is accepted. In the worst possible case, it may be misplaced or even disposed of if rejected. Keep multiple copies on hand to avoid losing a significant amount of time and work.
  • Many editors also advise that you cover the cost of returning the manuscript. This can be as simple as paying for the stamp. Whether the manuscript is accepted or rejected, you must maintain a professional demeanor. Editors will be much more willing to work with you in the future if you make their lives (and jobs) easier by covering the postage cost of a returned manuscript.

4. Be sure your manuscript matches the publisher’s genres.

If you’re submitting a creative writing piece about a woman who hears whispers in the walls of her home, it would be best to focus on a magazine such as Cemetery Dance, which solicits and publishes only horror stories. Always make sure that the content of your work—the genre, writing style, and theme—matches whatever publisher you are considering. If you are uncertain about a press, visit their website to find out more about them. It doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with their catalog as well!

5. Keep these final words in mind: Caution, Organization, and Persistence.

  • Avoid any presses that require you to pay them. These ‘vanity presses’ tend to prey on the inexperience of new authors.
  • Create a system where you can keep track of where each manuscript is sent and what further action needs to be taken on your part. Be sure to note the date.
  • To quote every successfully published author: Never stop trying. Write every day, send manuscripts to as many publishers as possible, and learn from every rejection that you may receive.

What tips have you learned when submitting your manuscript? Let us know in the comment below. Interested in more great content? Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.

How to Measure Readability

Have you every measured the readability of your writing? We’ve all had a text to read where we didn’t understand a word it said, no matter how many times we read it. Readability is the ease with which a reader can understand a written text. You may have been perfectly smart enough to understand your biology textbook, but the readability of the information presented may have been above your level.

There are a few factors that determine a work’s readability:

  • the vocabulary used
  • the syntax
  • the sentence structure
  • the typography (like the font and its size)

But how do we take these parts and actually determine readability? There are a few different methods.

Flesch Reading Ease Test

Rudolf Flesch developed the Flesch Reading Ease Test in the 1940s. It uses a mathematical formula to determine how easy a text is to read. A higher number means a text is easier to read; a lower number means it is more difficult. Flesch’s work had a huge impact on increasing readership, especially in journalism.

The mathematical formula for the Flesh Reading Ease Test: 206.835 - 1.015 * (total words / total sentences) - 84.6 * (total syllables / total words)

Score Notes
100.00-90.00 Very easy to read. Easily understood by an average 11-year-old student.
90.0–80.0 Easy to read. Conversational English for consumers.
80.0–70.0 Fairly easy to read.
70.0–60.0 Plain English. Easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students.
60.0–50.0 Fairly difficult to read.
50.0–30.0 Difficult to read.
30.0–0.0 Very difficult to read. Best understood by university graduates.

The above chart from Wikipedia breaks down the readability scale.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula

In 1975, the Flesch Reading Ease Test was refined by J. Peter Kincaid as part of an effort by the United States government to improve the readability of technical documents. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula presents the score as a U. S. grade level. A score of 8 means the the material is understandable at an 8th grade or above grade level (but a 6th grader might have difficulty with it). Because the total words, sentences, and syllables are weighed differently than in the original Flesch Reading Ease Test, the two formulas are not directly compatible.

The mathematical formula for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 0.39 * (total words / total sentences) + 11.8 (total syllables / total words) - 15.59

The Lexile Framework for Reading

The Lexile framework was developed by A. J. Stenner and Malbert Smith III in 1989 and funded by the National Institutes of Health. The framework is divided into two categories: A Lexile reading measure (what level the reader is at) and a Lexile text measure (the difficulty of a specific text). The Lexile framework is frequently used in schools. Unlike the Flesch formulas, the creators of the Lexile framework retained their intellectual property rights, meaning that educators must pay for their services.

Readability is especially important to children’s books. Because their reading skills are still developing, giving children a book too far above their reading level can deter or confuse them. Most children’s books have a clear marker for what reading level it is on, though the ranking system can vary by publisher, such as Scholastic’s Guided Reading Levels.

No matter what type of writing you are doing, keeping readability in mind will help aid your reader’s comprehension and understanding. If you’re a publisher, make sure that your readability levels match the industry’s standards. If you’re anAn example of the readability statistics provided by Microsoft Word. Section One is Counts: Words, Characters, Paragraphs, Sentences. Section Two is Averages: Sentences per Paragraph, Words per Sentence, Characters per Word. Section Three is Readability: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Passive Sentences. author, make sure to keep your audience’s abilities in mind. If using Microsoft Word, you can even check your readability statistics according to the Flesch scales. Under the Proofing option in Word, make sure to select “Check grammar with spelling.” After you run spell check, you’ll receive your readability statistics. For this article, our Flesch Reading Ease score is 52.5 and our Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is 8.9.

If you’re a parent, don’t be afraid to encourage your child to try a book above their reading level. Because of the factors measured, a more-adult book may have an ‘easier’ score. Sometimes, the punctuation used can change a score even if the actual text never changes. We don’t want to deny books to children, so if your little one wants to explore harder texts, encourage them. After all, there are amazing stories to discover at all reading levels.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 Officially Begins!

The official logo for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). it is a blue shield with a viking helmet on top. The shield has a coffee cup, a computer, two pens crossed over each other making an X, and a stack of papers.It’s November which means it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Authors of all genres take part in the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel from November 1 to November 30. If you’re as good at math as you are at writing, you’ll realize that’s 1,667 words per day. It’s not the easiest challenge, but it is a fun one. We want to start the month off write (get it?), so here are three tips to help you begin.

1. Make a Storyboard

Write down each scene on an index card. Using a corkboard—or even some tape and a blank wall—arrange your scenes in order of how they’re presented in the book. For most of us, this’ll be chronologically, but it may not be. Seeing the scenes laid out gives you a bird’s-eye view, allowing you to see how everything connects. It’s also easier to move around scenes as you figure things out. Maybe a middle scene works better at the beginning. Just move your index card and test it.

2. Write the Most Exciting Scenes First

You don’t have to write the story linearly, even if it’ll be told that way. Start with the scenes that excite you the most. They’ll be the most fun to explore and may help motivate you to write the necessary but slower scenes that connect them. You’ll also find that by starting with the most exciting scenes, the previous slower scenes may be unnecessary altogether, and you can remove them from the story.

3. Don’t Tell Anyone About Your Project

This may be the hardest thing to do. We’re excited about our writing. It’s meant to be shared! But sharing your story too early is the fastest way to lose motivation. Set yourself a “share goal,” where you can only share the information after you’ve completed a certain amount of writing. Your goal may be “write a chapter” or “finish a scene.” Whatever it is, it’ll get you writing, instead of talking about writing.

 

If you’re in the Dahlonega area, join us for a weekly Write In, sponsored by The Chestatee Review and the University of North Georgia Press. We’re meeting every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) from 7 pm – 9 pm on the second floor of Starbucks.

 Interested in more great content? Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.