Monday, November 10, 2014

8 Agent/Publishing Facts

Did you know that signing with an agent doesn't guarantee your book will be sold to a publisher? 8 True and Hard Agent Facts.

1. At the querying level...get ready: 99% of manuscripts are rejected by agents. Through talking with a few agents and assistants I have found that most stuff in the slushpile are novels that have not been polished. Contrary to popular belief, although agents work with clients to get their book ready for submission, they want polished work. Which means getting at least a beta reader or critique partner and an editor in most cases.
2. Of those agents that have signed you as a client, typically they sell three out of five projects which means that only 60% of the signed clients find homes for their book. This means just because you find an agent doesn't mean you find a publisher. Agents sign you for the potential of you MS.

3. An agent sells to editors but editors also have to "sell" the books to their teams which includes the publisher itself, possibly a sales or marketing team and many others who have to be on board for transaction.

4. There is no guarantee which publisher will take you on once you have an agent. It could be a small or mid size press you could have acquired on your own or a big publisher.

5. Your agent will take between 10-15% of your already low royalties. "Literary agents exist to get you into big presses that require one. After all, most small presses pay in royalties only, and those agents will be taking a chunk of those royalties."

6. You’ll have to wait twice as long before your book is published, because an agent "...will make you jump through some hoops before sending your book to a publishing house, which will make you jump through some more hoops."

7. Don't quit your day job. If you do sign you are not getting money right away. Any advances will be against future royalties and on average are between $1,000-15,000 for debut authors and usually nothing for small/mid size presses.

8. Reality check: 95% of published books sell fewer than 5,000 copies.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why, Hale, Why?

I read the long Guardian article by Kathleen Hale and posted the short of my opinion to twitter. I thought the topic deserved a blog post, which I am sure there have been plenty of since the guardian article shed light on this blogger/author debacle.

Mrs. Kathleen Hale you earned yourself a nifty twitter hashtag , a few rounds of twitter trending and a lot of press. I don't know whether this is good or bad for a first time author whose book No One Else Can Have You came out from HarperTeen in January 7, 2014 but it is a argument we will continue to discuss because of the issues it brings up with social media, privacy, trolling, stalking and bullying.

Some of you might or might not remember Kiera Cass's (author of The Selection series) run-in with her blogger. Cass and her agent got into it with a reviewer from Goodreads because they didn't like her review. In Mrs. Hale's situation, I find myself asking:

1. Why would the Guardian print this? It is awful, one-sided and somewhat rant-ty too. I can't believe both sides weren't given equal time in a matter that really pulls at social media issues. 

2. Isn't this the true definition of stalking? Did you not think that at any point during your research of your blogger?                                                                                                                                         

3. Why go this far? Why, why, why? You could have written a blog post about it, how it's unfair how public opinion affects people wanting to read books and people should read or try things on their own. You could have used your platform to shed light on a number of issues, let's say; public opinion, blogging, bullying, catfishing or the blogger/reviewer/author relationship.

4. Was it that serious for you to do #6 and #7 on my list? Seriously?

5. Were you trying to make enemies? Your response was so unprofessional and as a now published author could have been handled in better way.

6. $19 for an internet background check? Seriously? It truly doesn't matter who the person is on other side of the computer, yes there are people that listen to them in your case but you have people too because you got published by one of the Big 5 (counting Random/Penguin as one) and you wrote for the Guardian.
7. Really a rent-a-car? This is when you should have sought professional help. Why would you think it was ok to visit anyone after getting their address online. That doesn't make sense.

8. You called  (fan-girling-how did he sound?) Seriously though? If someone was catfishing you then you probably should report it and move on. Don't request to do a blog interview with them and then proceed to find out where they might live, call someone who might or might not be them and visit their possible home. LET IT GO.
9. Your visit was a "sort of" personal rock bottom? Sort of? Your choice of words baffles me- "sort of rock bottom," that's like a drunk saying their "sort of drunk". Be real with yourself. Admit you went to far, fix it and move on. Hopefully you can recover from your actions both personally and professionally. The Kiera Cass Debacle was off-putting but it made me want to read her book in order to form my own opinion. However despite mediocre reviews Kiera Cass has successfully published 5 books plus novellas (2014). And a caveat - Cass also apologized for her behavior and I think she meant it. Still I feel sorry for Wendy Darling (blogger extraordinaire) who continues to be attacked for her opinion.

10. DO NOT ENGAGE. Don't you wish you listened? Public opinions vary that is the beauty of us being different. This is advice I will take to heart. I wish there was a program authors could let bloggers read their books as part of editing process and then glaring issues could be addressed early. No - writers can't make everyone happy nor should we try to but if there are fundamental issues in a novel that a blogger could help with before publishing, I'd welcome the challenge.                               

Now in Mrs. Hale's defense I understand how one could go too far when looking at people's reviews and opinions online especially about something as personal as a novel. Believe you me I dread the day but also welcome the day when my novel is in the public eye. I feel that once you put it out there, you have to stop letting public opinion matter. This is where we take a page from the famous stars who get followed and hounded and talked about all day every day by the media and everyone else who has an opinion. Live your life and do what you an on other ends to make people still want to read your book and be interested in you.

Trolling, cyber bullying and stalking on the internet sucks. It sucks. People have killed themselves because of it. It is not a light or funny issue. Let me tell you how many hateful messages I have read about stars, novels, current issues, the president, races, regular people...

People hide behind the computer. That's technology for you - that's anonymity. I think technology protects and it also allows some really cruddy people to make hateful comments to people they don't know, it isn't fair. But life is not fair. I learned that from my parents repeating it over and over again and then through living life. Life is not fair, so don't expect the internet or the people on it to be.

DO NOT ENGAGE. Words to live by.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Authors - Wondering who will accept you without an agent?

Who will accept your novel without an agent? 
Here is my list with links for all you authors out there.
Boy, I would have liked this list when I started researching.
1. This list is not a complete list of all the options.
2. I'd advise you to research ALL publishers on & other sites. Some publishers don't have favorable opinions/experiences recorded from some authors & bloggers on the web so bottom line - DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.)

Small & Midsize Press Publishers
Chronicle Books since 1967 (Ivy & Bean children's series)
Kensington Publishing since 1974
Saddleback Edu. Publishing since 1982 (Won 2014 Moonbeam)
Algonquin Books since 1983 (Published Water for Elephants)
Blushing Books  since 1991
Quirk Books since 2002 (YA author Ransom Riggs)
Skyhorse Publishing since 2006
Spencer Hill Press since 2010 (YA/NA author Jennifer Armentrout)
Black Opal Books since October 2010 (Won 2014 Moonbeam)
Alloy Entertainment Collaborative since 2012 (Won 2014 Moonbeam)
Vamptasy Publishing since 2012 (author Kenya Wright)
Hot Ink Press since 2012 (Imprint of 2 aforementioned Pubs.)
Headline Books Inc. (Winner of IPPY awards from 2010-14) 

*Also check Published to Death blog for great info about publishers.


Send your query to HarperCollins Publishers in The Wednesday Post (Tuesday in the states) where
they accept un-agented authors:

SWOON READS: Crowd sourcing publishing model of Young Adult books. You join, upload your novel, readers will read, comment and rate it and the big wigs publish only the books that people love. 

KINDLE SCOUT: "Reader-powered publishing platform that offers authors an opportunity to earn a guaranteed advance, a decision on publication in 45 days or less, the ability to retain print rights, and Amazon marketing for published books."

Digital Only or Digital First Imprints
Random House since 1995 - Flirt (NA), LoveSwept (Romance), Alibi (Mysteries/Thrillers), Hydra (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror)
Ellora's Cave since 1997
Carina Press since 2000
Samhain Publishing since 2005
Pants on Fire Press (Award winning press) since 2007
Avon Impulse (Romance) and Harper Impulse (both HarperCollins imprints) since 2011
Curiosity Quills since 2011
Crimson Romance since 2012

Self-Publishing Options (25 Things You Need to Know)
Smashwords "Smashwords is the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks, publishing and distribution of ebooks to the major retailers."

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) "Amazon's KDP is a fast, easy and free way for authors and publishers to keep control and publish their books worldwide. Ability to publish your eBook worldwide, at no cost, when you waive signup fee. Choose the option that makes the most sense for you and your book. "Self-publishing for print-on-demand books, ebooks, music, images and custom calendars. Authors set their own royalties and control the publishing process." "Self publishing/indie publishing platform, make your own book with Blurb's creative publishing platform, the best publisher for first time authors."

Vanity & Subsidy Press/Author Services Companies
                   Amazon CreateSpace (merged w/Booksurge)
Outskirts Press


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Internet Surfing

You click one link after another after another and so on and so forth and before you know it's four hours later and you have conceded that you probably won't accomplish much today. Well I had one of those days but it was very positive experience because I learned a lot. I was researching self-publishing. I came across the authors Brenna Aubrey and HM Ward who turned down traditional publishers to self-publish and of course their success stories intrigued and inspired me. More intriguing was the fact they broke down everything they went through. Their experiences and opinions on the subject prompted me to put together some more CONS about traditional publishing.
Signing with a Traditional Publisher CON list:
  1. Little to no control of rights for 35 years (print, e-book, audio, film, etc.) which means no control over re-print runs, movie/TV casting, scripts, budget, etc. Courtney Milan breaks down costs here.
  2. Little to no creative control/freedom (title, cover, edits, marketing and placement, pricing) which means you could end up with a cover you don't like or a marketing plan that does not work to your novel's strengths.
  3. Authors do not know the budgets and marketing plans "of any given book before agreeing to sign a contract" per HM Ward.
  4. Little to no control over release date/timetable, since you are working with publisher who has other books and priorities.
  5. Little to no advance for debut authors. Any advance is against royalties. Usually one half of the total advance is delivered upon author signing. The remaining amount divvied into payments distributed upon delivery of edited manuscript and again upon publication. Once you sell through advance the royalties diminish to about of 7% on print books and 25% of the net on eBooks.
  6. If there is an advance, you don't see any cash flow until the advance is repaid, this is a loan by another other name.
  7. Amount of royalties paid are very little with traditional publishing, especially for debut authors.
  8. Possible lower involvement in editing/revising of book.
  9. Non Compete Clause means that you cannot publish or authorize publication of any book-length credited under your author name. People have gotten around this by publishing under pseudo names.
  10. Require rights to print and ebooks which means you can't reprint excerpts on blogs or in articles without permission.
Bottom line is control here. Relinquish control for possible success and money? Or keep control for possible success and more share of money?
This is a personal decision of course.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is Dystopian a Publishing Trend?

Does dystopian have staying power or is it a publishing trend that will soon come an end? First off, I think that vampires, demons/angels (supernatural), super-powered humans, werewolves, witches, aliens and zombies are trending themes in novels and on the screen. Some are "out" right now and some are "in".

On the heels of Twilight we had Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Dracula that were adapted on TV & the big screen. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was quite big too in its hay day too. However Vampire Academy, a popular YA series, bombed in the theaters so did Beautiful Creatures...and a slue of other book adaptions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Humans with super powers is a reaching trend made famous by comic book adaptions. Comic books have been around for decades and this trend is here to stay.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The Supernatural trend has been alive in the 10 seasons of Supernatural on the WB network. However Mortal Instruments totally bombed in theatres.
As far as I know there hasn't been a Werewolf book adaption to blow up this trend unless you count the old and new versions of Teen Wolf and Twilight. Shiver is a bestselling book series about wolves (I did not like) so maybe there is some traction hope not.        
Witches made famous by The Craft, Practical Magic, The Harry Potter Series, Charmed and now American Horror Story: Coven, Salem & Witches of East End, is a trend that seems to always stick around in my opinion. However The Secret Circle and I am Four did not do so well in their adapted forms.

Aliens - this is an ongoing trend in and outside of the YA genre: Ender's Game, X Files, The War of the Worlds, Zathura, The Host, The 5th Wave, Roswell, The Lux Series, The Last Year Series...all have helped keep this trending theme in the forefront.

That brings me to zombies which is alive and well I think, there is Warm Bodies, The Walking Dead, World War Z and probably some bestsellers I am forgetting.
My conclusion is...
There are over 60 novels (and probably lots more not on this list) that have had the film rights bought, some deserving some not so much and what will make money is really a toss up in the air. There is no cookie cutter formula to what is trending or if a trend will have staying power and adaption power.
Some publishers and agents will tell you that dystopian is a hard sell. When querying, 4 agents told me that it is. And it might very well be for them but I say, if a story is entrancing, well-written and captures the eye of someone in the position to move it along then there you go, it's not such a hard sell. People are still buying dystopian after Hunger Games and Divergent. There are bestsellers that support this fact Delirium, Matched, Legend, Under the Never Sky, The Selection, Uglies...I could go on and on.
I think the reason the dystopian genre has staying power in the YA market is because teens often feel marginalized and misunderstood. They feel like they are treated unfairly and in a dystopian society these elements are Omni-present.
I see the next trend that has staying power as "aliens" (but this is probably because I've been writing an alien/witch/supernatural story since 2011. Now run tell dat. (*Drops the mic and steps off soap box).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Musings - On Self-Publishing (Indie) vs. Traditional Publishing

Do something until you can do something else. What I mean by that is write as a hobby (this is how you build a backlist and improve writing) until you can write for a living. If you really love it that much you will find a way to make it happen. It might be through the traditional route (including digital first) the lucky few take or the self publishing route.

Beverley Kendall has a survey that about self-publishing that is awesome. She says, "The more books you have and the more professional your book is–amongst various other things–the better your chance at for finding success self-publishing." Also self publishing is a decision that is personal like any other big decision, you have to take into account your own talents and situation.

My ultimate goal has always been to find an agent who will find me a publisher. Or find a publisher that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. However as I query I am beginning to look at the other option: indie (small press) or self-publishing. In making this decision, I have to feel that I have tried my best for the first route. But then again do I even want the first route now?

My goal is now to get my book out there and make money and fans. Ideally I'd like to be a hybrid author - I want to self-publish and traditionally publish. Either way, I refuse to not try my best at this goal so I will strive to look professional if I do self-publish.

I have broken down the pros and cons of both. It's a lot to think about and I'm sure my list will grow with time.

1. Have full or more creative control/freedom.
2. Smaller budget. Little to none usually in self publishing.
3. No advance money to "sell/work" off, the money you make is just that.
4. Royalties are higher in every format.
5. RETAIN YOUR RIGHTS!!! Make sure you publish under your own ISBNs don't let the others buy/provide you with one because then you don't own full rights. With indie publishing you will not retain rights.                                                                                                                                            6.  Instant publishing capabilities for self-publishing. Small wait time for indie nowhere near the up to 2-year wait for traditional publishing.
7. You can print on demand which saves money or print small runs and sell on your website or at author signings. (Small investments at a time.)

1. Have to do all work yourself or hire others to do it. (cover, editing)
2. Little to no budget. 'Cus let's face it most of us are starving artists.
3. No advances so you can't quit your job just yet.
4. Royalties are higher depending on who you publish through. On average about 10-80% on print books and 50-90%  of the net on eBooks. The numbers definitely vary so it is important to research the company royalties and fine print.
5. "Being in the top percent of self-published authors takes time." per Courtney Milan, this is oh-so-true, the reason why self-published books make little to no money is because people don't have the marketing strategy behind it or the will to promote themselves/books.
6. Have to establish a web presence. (website, blog, twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, tumbler, Google plus and whatever other companies are popular). In this day and age, you have to do this regardless.
7. Bare the upfront costs of everything*.
8. Will take time to make money back or make money just as it takes time and money to publish.
9. Some "indie/self-publishers" still ask for non-exclusive worldwide license to print, publish, distribute and sell your work which means you are transferring your rights when you agree to publish with them, read the fine print.
10. Watch for "vanity" publishing or fully assisted packages from companies like iuniverse, outskirtspress, authorhouse - you often pay high prices for their help and give up your copyrights.

1. You have a professional and experienced team working with/for you, which means you don't have to do everything.
2. Level of credibility when publishing with the BIG 5.
3. Bigger overall budget.
4.  Broader distribution, especially in brick and mortars like Barnes & Noble & Books Inc.
5. Advances, maybe?
6. Have the marketing breadth to reach a bestseller list quicker and at all.
7. Have a better chance of the rights being sold to foreign countries, film & TV studios and audio.
8. Have an agent that is going to look out for your best interests when signing a contract.

1. Less creative control: the team working for you has most of the say-so in all things* relating to your book.
2. Usually you're given a reasonable budget that will produce a professional and marketable book.
3.Advances are against future earnings.
4. Significantly less royalties (about 7% on print books and 25% of the net on eBooks).
5. Still have to establish a web presence.
6. You have imposed deadlines to make. You work for them.
7. You have signed a contract and must produce. You work for them.
8. You are 1 author out of hundreds they work with. You are at the bottom of the long list that includes bestsellers and books that have longevity.
*Everything/things: Cover, print run, digital first decision, marketing, cost of book=formatting, printing, etc.

Self Publishing Tips 
Ultimate Tip: Look professional!
1. Create a great book as part of a series by working on it until it is great (bet-selling books are usually part of a series).
2. Create a website and blog. (Especially if you have won/placed in any contests)
3. Create a professional cover.
4. Professional Editing - At least 2 editors, 2-3 rounds each. Do developmental/content editing as well as line and copy and proofreading. Get more editors if you can afford it. The more professional eyes the better.
5. Marketing - Create Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, etc. and gain followers.
6. Promo - If you can afford it - participate in blog tours, giveaways, online promos and create a book trailer- all of this can be low cost all can be done for under $500 depending who you go through.
7. Make first series book free or 99 cents. The goal is to get people to read the first book and possibly the series because of no cost/low initial cost. However I know some will shudder at this idea, "Give my work away for free? I work too hard." But how do you gain a fan/customer who might be pulled in many different ways for reading. they already have favorite authors and the big companies and best seller lists are at the forefront, they have the most advertising space. How else can you compete? We can't all be Amanda Hocking and upload books with insta-success with no marketing plan, track record or fan base.
8. Network with other authors and bloggers.
9. Get Reviewed by reputable companies (publisher's weekly, kirkus). This does cost money but it can help promote your novel, assuming you receive good reviews. Some reviewers like the Indie Book Reviewer's List focus on Indie authors. Reviewers have so many requests that the chances of being reviewed are slim. You must also send a request 3-6 months ahead of release date.
10. Price books to maximize profit. At first start low 99 cents, $1.99, $2.99, then make prize commensurable with sales, $2.99-7.99 seems reasonable.

I conclude by saying you can make a living off of self-publishing if you work hard at it. For further information, the author Beverly Kendall also did an intensive survey on self-publishing that gives you more about earning factors of the self-publishing road. Also the Key Publishing Paths from Jane Friedman also breaks down more paths people can take.

Self Publishing Resources:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why YA?

Unequivocally My Favorite Genre                                                                                                         YA is my favorite genre and sometimes when I tell people, I get: "You don't like adult books?" or "Isn't that for teens?" or "You aren't a 'serious' reader". To those people I say, I have always liked this genre and just because I grew up doesn't mean that I'm to old to read young adult or ANYTHING I want for that matter. I enjoy Children's, Middle Grade and Adult categorized books as well but YA is my absolute favorite. Of course I am an adult and not by far the same person I was when I was a teen reader but that doesn't mean that my tastes have to change or reflect my intelligence or growth. I grew up but I still like chocolate chips cookies, The Little Mermaid (I know all the words to Part of Your World), night lights and red vines - do I have to give up these things too because I'm grown? I love YA and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

A book's genre classification shouldn't mean that it is "less than" other books in the market or strictly for a certain kind of person or a specific demographic. Remember that YA is written by mostly adults Three of the younger authors writing YA were 21-23 years old when they first got published, Stephanie Diaz's Extraction, Veronica Roth's Divergent and a new author, Lindsay Cummings who is bursting on the scene with several debuts (The Murder Complex & Balance Keepers). Therefore knocking a genre that is written by adults in which 28% of all YA sales are from adults between the ages of 30 - 44 is plain ignorant. It's not like YA is child porn or adults reading YA negatively impacts the world - it is a personal preference that does not constitute a reader's level of intelligence - to each its own. To those who ask and write articles debating this issue where they practically shake their fingers at adult YA readers, I ask, why do you care what I read?   

My Background on Genre
I fell in love with Young Adult literature while reading the Sweet Valley High series and then later the Harry Potter series (I know it’s part MG & part YA and that’s debatable) and never turned back. I always felt that there was a lack of color in YA that did not reflect the colorful world we live in and that made me want to write stories that reflected the world. From this standpoint I evolved into wanting to give teen’s material they could relate to as well. I enjoy the components of YA books the most because they have pure rawness. The love story (usually a first love), self-discovery, the newness of first time experiences, rapidly growing memorable characters & the innocence of youth. It’s a phenomenal phase in life that I love to capture with my mix of science fiction and fantasy plots and characters.

YA Endings & Trilogies
What's this about the endings of YA books? Do adult books always have ambiguous endings--really----always? Come on, I don't think this is true for the range of adult books out there. The Giver, a book that has been out for a long time and had a movie adapted in 2014 had the most ambiguous ending. And the Divergent series and Hunger Games series don't totally wrap those dystopian worlds up in a neat bow.

One trend I am SUPER SUPER tired of is trilogies-especially when the second books (in most cases) have become fillers. It's like you meet the characters in book one and get attached (maybe) and then the author thinks it's ok to write a book where we sit and watch them do nothing and bam book 3 wraps it all up. Next time you find a mediocre trilogy skip book two, you'll save yourself hours of reading and you won't miss a thing.

The YA Wave
I think there are several adult authors riding the wave and cash train of the genre like James Patterson who truly don't understand the category although they are masters of their previous categories. I think those that write the genre should only write a YA story if they can truly write from the perspective of a teen in a way that is not condescending, preachy, cookie cutter-ish or cliché. There are also many young adult authors who don't get this write (yes I meant to spell it this way). Writing for young adults is about tone and style, the ability to place yourself in the mind of someone who is learning and establishing who they are in the world. This has to been done through believable/relatable characters, dialogue and choices. Whether it's done in a contemporary setting, made up world involving teens that shouldn't be a reflection on the seriousness or quality of the writing.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What's Your Magic Number?

Everyone has a magic number because everyone gets rejected. This magic number equates to the number of times an author was rejected before they got someone who believed in them enough to give them a chance.

J.K. Rowling's magic number was 12 for Harry Potter.

Alex Haley's magic number was 200 for Roots.

Madeleine L'Engle's magic number was 26 for A Wrinkle in Time.

Kathryn Stockett's magic number was 61 for The Help.

Stephanie Myers magic number was 14 for Twilight.

Nicholas Sparks's magic number was 24 for The Notebook.

Margaret Mitchell's magic number was 38 for Gone with the Wind.

Jack Canfield's magic number was 140 for Chicken Soup for the Soul.

In addition the Da Vinci Code, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Princess Diaries and The Diary of Anne Frank authors all suffered through years of rejection.

Each author on this list of bestsellers has sold millions of books. Think if any of these authors had allowed rejections and negativity to roll them back down the hill, admitting defeat, we wouldn't have these stories which in some cases are American classics.

Every writer knows the road to publishing is an uphill battle filled with rejection. But I am here to tell you (even without a contract yet) that the hill gets less steep and even flattens out in some spots if you keep on trekking up. Sometimes you see a home on the side of the hill, sometimes you make a home on the side of the hill, sometimes the hill plateaus and you have to figure out another way to get up it. Eventually if you keep trying you will make it to the top.

In 2013, I queried a book that got about 50 form rejections. I knew something was wrong with the way the story was unfolding on the pages because I received the same sort of feedback from beta readers and contests judges. This is where my novel plateaued. However after hiring a new editor, I got my work critiqued and went back to the drawing board with the book improving my writing through constant practice and reading. After a huge rewrite, this book is now being re-edited. I think my biggest mistake was querying when neither the book nor I was ready.

Since April 2014, I have been querying a YA dystopian series told from a male perspective called Golden Dreg Boy. I took time to edit the book myself, revise and work with a freelance editor in order to polish my work. It is not perfect, but I think it's good enough to garner a deal. What has reaffirmed my belief in my book/writing are my beta readers, contest feedback and the more personal lines in the rejection letters I have gotten. This is where I have seen a few homes on the side of the hill but none has been right for me. A couple positive lines I received rom agents for Golden Dreg Boy pretty much said my story was interesting but not for them: "I think you have an interesting story here, I didn't quite fall in love with it in the way that I need to in order to take it on." AND "While I think that your idea is very interesting, unfortunately I could not connect with the material in the way that I need to in order to take it on." This is about as positive as querying responses get unless you are asked to submit a partial, full or a revise. Therefore I'm still going to trek up that hill until I find a home for my book. Update: It is now on, a MacMillan crowdsourcing publishing platform so I am crossing my fingers on this new endeavor.

In 2015, I am also close to querying three more novels vastly different from Golden Dreg Boy, one is going to be revised and resubmitted to an agent per request in about 6 months. Another I had edited and am now revising again. And the last I am being coached on (hands on editing) and will be done revising in a few months. So you see after my first book failed to impress I went back to the drawing board and continued to work that book and write other books. It is a fact that is not always your first book that sells.

Final Thoughts  to Remember When Querying:
1. When making changes to your novel to ready it for querying, don't listen to everything, listen to your gut and what you think will make the story better. Some suggestions may be contradictory so decide what works for you. This is a frustrating and looming process so do it until you can't do it anymore and are happy enough with what you have.

2. Obtaining an agent is very subjective, process. What one agent likes (just like readers) another agent will hate/dislike. I think 99% of obtaining an agent is about finding the right fit. It takes three factors for an agent to give you a chance:

♥ They like your story enough to represent you.
♥ It's a good fit and doesn't conflict with their existing project list.
♥ They see potential in the project and author. Some agents will ask for heavy revisions in rare cases where they really connect with the story.

3. All you need is 1 yes! Forget all the naysayers...let the rejection letters pile up, print them out (since it's mostly emailed rejections now), put them in a bag and place the bag in your closet or under your bed like Meg Cabot (author of Princess Diaries series who received 3 years of rejection letters) until it becomes so heavy you're unable to lift it. Recycle it, or keep it when you find the right fit. If that's not motivation...I don't know what is.

4. The alternative to finding an agent is self-publishing or small press publishing which is becoming more commonmany have championed this road too.

Keep your eyes on the prize and remember if you are an author and want to be published, there is a magic number for everyone. Don't give up!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Musings - How Do You Come Up With Ideas?

FREE your imagination, give it permission to wander.

Ideas come to me all the time. From small details of the plot, to the characters to the scenery. It's like a really rough dream sequence that has no regard for the time or place of its arrival. I've gotten ideas in the shower, at 3 AM, coming or going places, while running errands, watching a movie, reading a book, drinking, listening to someone talking... the brain never stops creating and imagining. You ask yourself "what if" a lot when you're a writer and you allow yourself to answer, to truly imagine whatever images, people, settings and phrases come to mind. These initial ideas become the building blocks of my stories.

I cannot force ideas and I don't need inspiration to write. What I mean is, I can't sit down and say I'm going to plot out a book...but I can free write in order to build on my original ideas. I also don't need to write at a particular time or feel a certain way to write. Because I plot beforehand I know initially where the scene and books are going, therefore don't need inspiration to write them. I don't allow pre-plotting/outlining to be a crutch to writing. I listen when additional plot points or new ideas come along, this to me is as organic as it gets. I am not good and just writing and not thinking. That's why in yoga I have a hard time bringing my brain to a calm and relaxing point, there is always something or someone shouting at me to do something.

A tool for plotting I've used is courtesy of Alicia Rasley called Outline Your Novel in 30 Minutes. I used this when I outlined my urban fantasy novel. I had an idea of a loose plot before I started so this helped greatly and I used her outlining tips to flesh out the story. Once I have a pretty good outline, I plot all the scenes (or the major scenes) on the Traditional Plot Storytelling Story Board, created by Carolyn E. Copper in 2008. The reason I use this as a tool is because it goes through the stages a story arc contains and becomes my check off list.

Happy plotting!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Musings - My Editing Process

Hard work makes things happen.

I have been focusing on editing and revising my books in 2014 since the years before I was focused on merely writing books. I now have 6 books plus a novella. I am happy to say I have given my third book to my editor and will soon give her the novella and the last book for this year. The remaining 2 books are sequels so I am holding off on putting any money into them until I secure publishing deals for the first book in that series.                                                                                      

I have trained myself this year to work as if I am publishing the books myself so I go through a whole process where I edit, revise, re-read (several times) and then hand off to the editor. Then once I get the edit back, I accept and discuss corrections I need clarification on and revise according to the corrections. I send it back again for another edit and again I accept, question and revise and send only changed parts to the editor. Then I re-read once or twice to see if I can clean up any sentences that stick out to me.                                          

Finally I print up to 15 copies to give to beta readers, family and friends and I keep 2 for myself. I started this because as a writer who is unpublished no one really gets to see your work so this is a way for people to get what I do. To know what I am up to when I am holed up in my room turning down events to write. To me printing out books that actually have covers and binding is also validation of my goals. Holding a real book in my hand, unpublished or not feels really good.      

This process has helped me drastically. It has helped me make and meet goals, write faster and it has also helped me improve. In addition, I have formed a great relationship with an editor who makes my writing better because she sees and points out my habits and ways to make writing better. I have improved tremendously under her care. It has also helped me see my books as malleable stories that can be improved constantly.                                                                                                               

Although I am writing this is August 2014 - the last third of the year, I see good things in the very near future. I just have to keep up my strenuous writing schedule because if I don't push myself at this point no one else will.

This is also a good editing resource for drafts: Layered Editing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Benefit of Contests

I have a new found love for entering contests for unpublished authors. I couldn’t believe that there were so many contests available. The reason I would recommend contests are because this can add weight to query letters. You can also  receive valuable feedback that will help you revise and learn to receive critiques in a helpful way. The drawbacks to entering are the fees, rules and if I must say the waiting time to find out who won! Some contests ask that you not shop your novel for a specified amount of time so make sure you read the fine print, and know the benefits and drawbacks to each contest you choose to enter. Here is a great table of contests created by author Stephie Smith. Also another list of contests can be found on the Funds for Writers website along with writing grant opportunities. 

The following list of companies/websites is from my own experience entering their contests (except for the Leap Frog and Amazon):

Romance Writers of America (RWA) has a cool and long list of contests from all their chapters for unpublished and published writers where romance is a part of the story. Below are 4 of the contests I liked the best because of the value I got from entering them. First Kiss/The Smooch (New England  &  Yosemite  Chapters) in which I missed the deadlines but so wanted to enter! Fool for Love Contest* (Virginia Chapter) in which I decided to revise my first edited draft of Destiny Chronicles based off of the fabulous critiques I received. And I also must mention the Great Beginnings Contest (Utah Chapter), Winter Rose Contest (Yellow Rose Chapter) and the Four Seasons Contest contests in which Golden Dreg Boy was a finalist in 2014.
Although these contests cost ($15-35 per entry) and for some you have to be a member of RWA, they are worth it. The RWA provides feedback from judges who are usually established authors, editors or agents. If an agent happens to read your work then you’ll get feedback from that agent (which is near impossible to get on your own) and in some cases they request partials or fulls of work they've read. Awards are usually contest winner logos, a gift card or a refund of contest fee.                                                                                                                                
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is an annual award that gives the biggest cash prizes for the winners. 50,000 advance and publishing contract for grand prize inner and 15,000 royalty advance for finalists. Open for entries from February to March each year or until 10,000 entries is received, the winners are announced in August. Benefit: Hugely recognized contest and great platform (Amazon) for selling books. Drawbacks: Your entry is subject to each judges standards and likes on a particular day which means one round you might get through because a judge favors vampires and YA while if your entry was given to another judge they could be sick of both and pass. The contract is "standard" and as far as I know non-negotiable - which never favors both parties. but 50,000 that is an unheard of advance for a new debut author.
Writer's Digest is a great too because they have various categories to enter (crime, horror, sci-fi, romance, thriller, self-published, poetry). Usually you have to enter at the end of previous year to be eligible for their contests. The winner announcements seem to fall in May/June. Again there are fees for these contests as well. There are many awards and perks for just entering contest. 
The Great Novel Contest for unpublished authors by Columbus Creative Cooperative is a good contest to enter too for unpublished POLISHED novels. The prize is a contract or money (currently 1,000). The deadline is in the end of January for that year and there are fees as well. Winner receives choice of a Columbus Press publishing contract or a $1,000 cash prize and public recognition for their achievement                                            
Leap Frog Press has a contest for unpublished authors for Adult Fiction and Children's Fiction (middle grade and YA only). They accept "any novella- or novel-length work of fiction, including short-story collections, not previously published". Currently the cost is $30 and contest is open from January 15 to May 1. Awards for finalists are money, critiques from contest judges; permanent listing on the Leapfrog Press contest page. Winner gets a publication offer from Leapfrog Press, with an advance payment, plus the finalist awards.                  
Maine Media Workshops & College is a contest that is based on "Portraits and Stories that Reveal the Human Condition where writers, photographers and videographers are invited to share prose, poetry, pictures or a moment on video that reveals the essence of someone's life." This contest has one of the shortest time frames from entry time to the time it takes for the winner announced. (2014, enter June-Sept and winners announced in October.) Grand price is $1,000 (2014)! Currently the cost is $20.                                          
Chanticleer Book Review & Media has plenty of contests to offer. I was surprised because I only knew them as book reviewers. They even have an after NaNaWriMo writing competition. Currently the costs range from $15 - $45.                                          
Writers Type has 3 contests (flash fiction, short story and first chapter) which are offered quarterly (Jan - March 2 --- Apr - June 3 --- July - Sept 4 and Oct - Dec) giving writers 4 times a year to enter vs. most contests that offer only annual entries. "The winning author names, websites, and the text of their submissions are published on website". A contests top 6 ranked winners are automatically entered into annual contest. The benefit of entering these contests is for exposure.
Women on Writing (WOW) promotes the communications between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers. They have a flash fiction contest which is offered quarterly (March-May, June-Aug, Sept-Nov, Dec-Feb). The prizes are pretty good and the fee is $10 ($20 if you buy a critique with it).

InkTears is a U.K. contest open to all. They hold 2 annual contests, one for flash fiction (runs until  July 31) and one for short stories (opens Aug 1). There are six prizes awarded by the InkTears judging panel: Winner: £250, Runner-up: £50 and 4x Highly Commended: £25 and the stories (*in print) and BIOs (*online) are *published. The benefit of entering these contests is for exposure.

Pipeline Contest 1st Annual Book Contest was first conducted In 2014. "Connecting authors and playwrights with Hollywood." They are searching for material "well-suited" for film or TV adaption. This contest is great if you own your rights and think you book/script has potential. Winners and finalists get airfare and entrance to Pipeline event where winner is announced, $1000 cash prize, meetings with 4 companies to discuss "further development'". Pipeline launched in 1999 for scripts and has launched the career of Snow White and Huntsman writer Evan Daugherty and they are responsible for the adaptions of major projects Divergent, Ninja Turtles and GI Joe 3. Also a short turnaround from entry to winner announcement (September 15th- November 15th). Currently the cost is $50. I decided to enter this contest because I figure if I can get a movie or TV deal then a book deal will definitely come AND I'll have much more control of the deal at that point. Backwards, I know but we don't all have to follow the traditional path to publishing.