Archive for the ‘Industry Expertise’ Category
~ Interview by Kimberly Farris
Today we’re very lucky to have Lindsay and Madeline from Beyond Novel visiting the blog to share their thoughts on the publishing industry.
1. What is your opinion on some of the publishing houses telling their clients not to worry about going outside of their comfort zone by utilizing Facebook and Twitter?
While we completely understand authors not go wanting to go out of their comfort zones, the reality is that the industry is constantly changing and you have to change with the times or be left behind! The industry isn’t what is was ten years ago, or even five years ago. What we recommend, if you’re introverted, or just not completely at ease with social media, is to create a persona that you’re comfortable sharing with your readers. You don’t have share too much if you don’t want to, perhaps stick to five to ten topics you feel interested in discussing and run with those. While being online is essential, when you do commit to social media, it is important to maintain consistency. Stay active; it’s part of the role of being an author in this day and age.
2.What are some mistakes or missteps you’ve seen authors make while promoting their books or networking?
A misstep we see consistently, is authors filling their post with relatively empty content. It is easy to fall into this trap, specifically on Twitter where it is so easy to just re-tweet. Taking the extra time to add thoughts of your own is crucial. Make sure to add original content that people will want to see. Don’t bother with blank statements such as, “Check out my blog post.” Aim for your posts to be 80% content and 20% push, asking your readers to do something, go read something, go vote on something. Stay active and maintain engagement by being active and offering a glimpse of the person behind the screen.
3. How soon should an author start promoting an upcoming release? For example, if the release date is more than three months away?
Major planning should be started around around 5 months before the release date. By three months before you should have a plan in place, a thorough strategy, and a true understanding of what’s going on. Something to keep in mind, even if you don’t have a release, you always have to maintain your presence. Never disappear!
4. What social media tools do you recommend writers use? Avoid?
If you are going to choose three social media sites to be on absolutely, without a doubt, go with Facebook, GoodReads, and Twitter. That’s where people are and in our experience, those are three most comprehensive and easy to use. Just be careful about linking everything together. Your message on Facebook should be different from what you are saying in 140 characters on Twitter. Also, the biggest advice we can give to you about social media, is when someone writes to you, respond. It is really important, though, to know your reading community and know where they spend their time online. If your readers are hanging out on Shelfari, then by all means, you should be there too!
5. Are newsletters effective at all or are they just a waste of time?
We are personal fans of newsletters and believe they can absolutely be effective. However, the content has to be worthwhile, and the subject line has to be catchy, or else no one will ever open them!
6. Blog tours– yay or nay?
Without a doubt, yay! Participating in a blog tour gets your name out there, lets your engage with your readers in a unique way, can allow you to tap into new audiences, and maintains engagement. When planning a blog tour, do your research, or hire an expert, who knows the community, knows which blogs to tap into, and can offer some sound advice on where your time will be best spent. It’s important that the author feels as though they have had a strong ROI (return on investment). Meaning the time that they have spent to create the original content is then actually read by a decent amount of people, and that some of those said people respond back with thoughtful comments or questions.
7. Are there any promotional items writers should not waste their time or money on?
Book trailers, hands down. So not worth the time, energy, or money. With that being said, remember you know your audience/readers best. If this is something that you have had success with in the past, go ahead use what works.
Thank you Lindsey and Madeline.
When working with clients, Beyond Novel takes into account who you are, your brand, and where you are in your career. We specifically and meticulously tailor every campaign to be a completely unique and personalized package. The answers provided here are based on our general industry prospective, rather than from an individual client basis.
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~ By Angela Kay Austin
When I tell people I’m a published author, they ask “Where can I buy your book?” Proudly, I say “Amazon, All Romance eBooks, my publishers’ websites.” They respond “Can I buy it in a bookstore?” Before my short story, My Son, was released in print, my answer to their last question would be no. Because all of my stories were available only in eBook format.
This, instantly, changed the tone of our whole conversation. At that moment, their body language and questions cued me that they see authors who are electronically published differently from authors who are published through New York houses.
Avon has Avon Impulse, Harlequin has Carina Press, and of course there is Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, my own publishers: Red Rose Publishing and Vanilla Heart Publishing, and so many others.
According to TechCrunch, Amazon Kindle sales have eclipsed both hardcover and paperback sales. The NY Times recently reported that 180 Kindle books were sold to every 100 hardcover copies. The author continues to quote Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, who predicts that fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be in print in less than 10 years.
Due to devices like Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, iPad, and more The Los Angeles Times writes that in 2011, total eBook sales are expected to reach $1 billion!
But, still, today people do draw an invisible line of distinction between authors published through the different venues. And I have to admit before I was published by an epublisher, I probably drew the same line. Asked the same questions. Do epublishers have good editors, cover art, who will buy it, how will they know it’s available? I quickly found out that the answer to all of these questions and more was, yes.
Epubbed authors have led me to cyber conferences, which have taught me to pitch, and as a result, I’ve had two short stories, and two novellas published by epublishers.
Through groups like RWA’s Electronic and Small Press Authors’ Network, authors are able to network and educate others about epublished books. Hopefully, through authors networking and pressing forward, it will open up more opportunities for readers to be exposed to rich new stories told through voices that may not have otherwise been able to tell them because they were too “different” or just didn’t “fit.”
The next time an author tells you they’re epublished, tell them you’ve got your electronic reader and you’re ready to buy!
Do you still draw the line between epublished, small press, and New York published authors?
After twenty years of practicing marketing: writing copy, designing layouts, developing advertising campaigns, Angela realized each piece of the plans she put together eventually told a story. And, since she was a tween reading her mother’s Reader’s Digest, and every teen magazine she could find she’d dreamt of telling stories.
Her first book, Love’s Chance stayed on Red Rose Publishing’s Best Seller list for 10 weeks. Her second release, My Son, is available from Red Rose Publishing. And was a best seller at All Romance Ebooks. New releases: Sweet Victory and Scarlet’s Tears are available from Vanilla Heart Publishing.
Angela has written for the Ezine Rithm ‘n Blues.
~ By Anne Kemp
There once was a little girl who dreamed in Technicolor of the life she wanted when she was older. The best and most favorite of her dreams were the ones where she was running away to an island so she could write a book. She knew it was hokey and farfetched, but one cannot help what they dream, or as they say, “the heart wants what the heart wants.”
This same little girl had a vision of her life on the island. There was a small, crooked bamboo shack right on the beach, flip-flops freshly kicked off tanned feet and tossed haphazardly by the front door, askew in the fine powder-white sand. And just a few steps away from her front door were the crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean. To the left of the little shack was a hammock strung between two palm trees, joined at the root in a perfect union. It was there the girl knew she would rest while swaying in the breeze and brooding over her next projects, while on break from hunching over her typewriter working on the next great American novel.
Now, let’s fast-forward 30 years:
The same little girl with the big dreams has packed a bag, sublet her apartment and has clutched in her grasp a one-way ticket to St. Kitts. She’s moving in with her 26 year-old nephew who’s going to vet school while she figures out her next steps after being laid-off right before the Christmas holiday. She’s also still freshly bruised from a relationship that ended quite suddenly and out of nowhere just a few months prior. This girl with her big dreams had strayed somewhere along the way and needed to find them again.
So she went to the islands, because for once…she just could. It scared her to leave the familiar but she needed to get out of her comfort zone and take a risk in the unknown. What she got there was like nothing she ever imagined.
Instead of a little shack on the beach, she was staying (gratefully) in a one-bedroom apartment on an air mattress – at 36 years old, this was quite the bold move on her part. Next to her air mattress, which was in the middle of her nephew’s living room, was a litter box that said nephew had issues with cleaning. It soon became part of her daily chores to make sure it stayed fresh.
Now, since it’s 2012 and there really aren’t any typewriters handy these days, she packed her MacBook in her carry-on bag and proceeded to begin her newest chapter. (Traveler’s side-note: thank goodness she didn’t have a typewriter she needed to haul from LA to the Caribbean. Considering the price of extra baggage these days, her severance pay would have been spent in line at the ticket counter!)
Her new residence wasn’t a few steps from the beach but close enough to get to it on foot. Even in the most terrible heat or on the worst of days, she knew she had that gorgeous Caribbean blue water oh-so-close-by in case of an emergency. There were even a few nights were she ended up swimming in those gorgeous waters with fun new friends until the wee hours of the morning…a feat not attempted since the 90s. It was to the point on one occasion that her obviously more responsible nephew was found on the shore begging her to “please come in! It’s 4 AM!”
There was a hammock and it was amazing. The girl loved to sit in it and think…until it broke while she was swinging in it one day, spitting her out of it’s woven embrace like a scorned lover and knocking the wind from her lungs in the rudest fashion. While still loving hammocks and swings and such, the girl vowed she wouldn’t lie in one again…unless it was super-glued for stability.
Her lesson? That life is never what we think it’s going to be. While she was making other plans, she forgot to sit back and let the fates take their course for her.
Life is more than a daily to-do list. Instead it’s a day at a time, and it is made up of a series of beautiful accidents that if we were to attempt to plan them, we’d never see those plans come to fruition.
The girl always wanted to write a book while living on an island. And guess what?
Anne Kemp is the author of the Abby George Series, which includes her debut novella, All Fruits Ripe, and first novel, Rum Punch Regrets, which is out Friday May 25th! Please visit her at www.AnneKemp.com for more information. You can follow her on Twitter: @MissAnneKemp of become a fan on Facebook.
And How Real Virtue Came To Be
~ By Katy Lee
Thank you for inviting me to your virtual home today to talk about the gaming aspect of my novel, Real Virtue.
Did you know video game addiction is becoming an increasingly difficult problem with the youths in America today? It can affect the everyday life and social situations of children through young adults. Video game addiction can hinder a child’s learning skills, cause real life problem solving to become more difficult, and cause a child to spend far less time with family and friends.
In Real Virtue, the story opens with my heroine, Mel Mesini, reaching the highest level in this online interactive game she plays. A game that promises her a life she can love. She’s playing while she is supposed to be working. She plays because she doesn’t feel so great about her real life. She plays because it’s a world she can control.
Or so she thinks.
During my research, I read many interviews with gamers, mostly teens and young adults, where they admit to preferring their virtual lives over their real ones. Video games can become super appealing, especially if their real life is not so great. In a game, a player can zap out of a situation they don’t like. They can’t do that in real life. In a game, a player is rewarded for beating the next level or quest. In real life, it’s hard to accomplish things, and even when you do, people don’t always notice, or for some, care.
So there I was, flying cross-country, when the older gentleman to my right asks me if I have a virtual life.
“A virtual what?” came my reply.
He then continued to explain the details of his job of creating virtual possessions that gamers on interactive game sites can purchase for their avatars.
“Seriously? People spend money on a fake character?” And apparently enough for this guy to make a living on.
So, the remainder of my long flight was spent plotting out the story that would become Real Virtue.
My questions to myself were what would happen to someone who took their virtual life just a little too far? What would happen if that said someone lost all these possessions to, say, a villain bent on revenge? How far would someone go to protect their virtual life? Would they be willing to give up their real life for it? Just what would drive a person to do it? Who would this person be?
And since I write romance, my next question was just what kind of person would be their perfect match? And Voila! Mel Mesini and Jeremy Stiles were born.
Thank you for having me on your blog! Readers, I love comments and would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment here and let me know what’s sparked the ideas for your stories, and how you’ve woven real life issues into fictional stories.
Katy Lee writes higher purpose stories in high speed worlds. As an inspirational author, speaker, home-schooling mom, and children’s ministry director, she has dedicated her life to sharing tales of love, from the greatest love story ever told to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. Her fresh and unique voice brings a fast-paced and modern feel to her romances that are sure to resonate with readers long after the last page. Her debut novel Real Virtue is a finalist in many writing contests, and took second place in the 2011 Georgia Maggie Award of Excellence. Katy lives in New England with her husband, three children, and two cats.
~ By Maureen McGowan
These days, writers have options to get their books into the hands of readers, but many are still looking for something resembling the “traditional” publishing experience. And the simple fact remains, to up your chances of getting your manuscript read by editors at the big publishers, you need an agent.
Since I’ve done the agent hunt thing, twice, I thought I’d share a few thoughts for those of you on the hunt, to put it in perspective, or at least to offer a slightly different perspective. I hope an empowering one.
Yes, while on the hunt, often it feels like agents have all the power. Even once you’ve got an agent, it can take a while before that power imbalance starts to stabilize (depending on how your respective careers are going). But one thing writers often seem to forget is who works for whom.
To remind us, I thought it might be interesting to boil the agent hunt process down to the business basics.
First, at the risk of going all Econ 101 on you, the reason the power feels out of balance is a matter of supply and demand. That is, there are more aspiring writers and manuscripts, than there are qualified agents. Ergo, agents are a scarce commodity, and even if they’re looking for new work, many can afford to be picky when choosing new clients. The more successful they are, the pickier they can afford to be.
But the scarceness of the supply, doesn’t change the substance of what’s going on when a writer is agent hunting. It doesn’t change the fact that the writer is the potential employer and the agent the potential employee, essentially making the agents job applicants.
(Okay, the writer/agent relationship is more of a business partnership, where success is in both party’s interest… but for my analogy to work, let’s pretend it’s an employer/employee relationship… go with me…)
Let’s say you’re a writer with a manuscript in need of a publishing contract, (and it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a manuscript in possession of good words, must be in want of a publishing contract), and let’s say you’re not currently represented by an agent. If you’re in this position, you’ve got a job that needs to be done–the job of shopping your work and landing a contract. Some writers will chose to fill the agent position themselves, instead of hiring from outside the firm, so to speak, but savvy writers will have noted that the chances of landing a great publishing contract goes up if they hire an expert, a sales specialist, to handle the part of the transaction.
So, let’s say you’ve decided to find an agent. To attract qualified applicants for this position, you need to advertise. But because you’re picky, and smart, and don’t want to waste your time interviewing just anyone, you don’t put it out on Craig’s list, you target your want ad directly to those people you hope will apply for the job.
These specialized want ads are called “query letters”. Agents currently looking for more work, who were lucky enough to receive one of your ads, and who think the job sounds like one for which they might be qualified, will respond, effectively applying for the position.
But before the applicants can be seriously considered for the job, each must pass a test administered by the potential employer. To pass this test, the agent-applicants must demonstrate they understand and love the employer’s product and have a plan to find an editor who will feel the same way.
This test is administered via something called a “submission”, and typically the potential employer lets the applicants choose whether to complete this submission test in a one-stage or two-stage process. For example, less confident applicants (or applicants whose offices are particularly cluttered) might chose to start with a sample of their potential employer’s product, often called a “partial”, while others may decide to take the entire test at once by requesting to review a “full”.
Some applicants are so eager, and/or competitive, they ask the potential employer to take all the other applicants out of consideration for a set period of time. This is commonly referred to as an “exclusive”, and employers may choose to accept or reject an applicant’s exclusivity request.
Agents who pass the submission test are granted the privilege of moving on to the final interview stage, often conducted over the phone, but sadly, many agents fail the submission test.
Why the high failure rate? Can we assume the quality of the agent applicant pool is low? No. It’s more complicated than that.
Selling works of fiction is a passionate process, passion’s a tricky thing, and sadly some applicants fail to find the requisite level of passion for all the products they apply to represent. Some discover they don’t share the same taste as the potential employer, and didn’t enjoy the product as much as they’d hoped. Some reach the conclusion that the quality or uniqueness of the product is such that they fear their sales skills will prove inadequate to place it. Still others might fall in love with the product, but don’t believe they have the specific abilities and/or contacts with the right editors to do the product justice.
Yes, there are many reasons why agents fail the submission test, but there’s no reason for agents to feel ashamed about this, or take it personally. Sometimes the fit simply isn’t right.
Agents who fail the submission test send a letter to the potential employer to announce their withdrawal from consideration for the position. Occasionally, if the agent feels particularly demoralized, he or she might fail to withdraw their application in writing. In these cases, the dejected agent sends out passive-aggressive signals, such as breaking off all communications and/or not reporting their test results for an extended period of time, assuming the potential employer will deduce the agent’s failure to pass the submission test.
But most agents will send a written notice of their submission test failure, and these letters are often referred to as “rejection letters”. This term is highly misleading slang as they rarely, if ever, contain the word rejection. The letters are simply the agents’ notification that they no longer believe they’ll be able to adequately perform the job for which they’d applied.
If a large number of applicants fail the testing portion of the interview process, or if few potential applicants respond to the initial want ad, it can be frustrating and disappointing for the potential employer. At this point, the employer will have to round up another group of potential applicants, perhaps by using a revised version of the initial want ad, or by widening the pool of applicants to consider.
If a writer has already widened his or her agent search net to include every applicant who shows potential, but has not yet found anyone qualified to hire, the writer has at least three choices.
- He or she might choose to let some time pass and then try to identify more applicants at a later date.
- Or, the writer might choose to consider the reasons for feeling unqualified that were offered by the past applicants’, and then revise their product to better suit the tastes and skill levels of the available pool of applicants.
- Or, the writer might choose to return to the research and development stage and create an entirely new product. Then, with a new product in hand, they may return to the want ad stage.
Often agents who felt unqualified to represent one particular product may feel better qualified to represent another product produced by that same potential employer — perhaps using refined production techniques, or a with more inventive overall design concept. Statistical evidence has proven this last option has the highest probability of success.*
Bottom line: no reason to be angsty while trying to find the right agent. As clearly demonstrated by this analogy, we writers are in charge.
Okay, I’m not that deluded, but maybe if writers thought of it more this way — trying to find the right person for the job — it might relieve some of the angst?
Who am I kidding? We’re an angsty lot.
* You want a reference for the statistical study? Sorry. Umm… It’s confidential. Yeah, confidential.
Maureen McGowan is a two-time Golden Heart finalist. Her Young Adult Sci-fi Thriller, DEVIANTS, Book One of The Dust Chronicles, will be released in hardcover and e-book formats on October 30, 2012, by Amazon Children’s Publishing. Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer and Cinderella: Ninja Warrior are available now.
~ Interview by Melina Kantor
We’re extremely fortunate to have Sue Grimshaw, Ballantine Bantam Dell’s Category Specialist & Editor At Large, visiting the blog today.
Q: How did you become involved in the publishing / book industry? Have you always been a fan of romance novels?
A: Oddly enough, I did not seek to be employed in this crazy biz, initially that is. Fresh out of college I was hired by Kmart & managed a few of their stores prior getting involved in the merchandising and buying end of the retail business. I was part of the organization for fifteen years – can you imagine? Cosmetic buyer and all – loved it. The company, industry, was going through some transition (similar to what the book industry is feeling today) and so I started interviewing around to see what else I could find. Borders had just merged with Waldenbooks & was in the process of doing an IPO with Kmart ,which was about the time when I accepted a buying position in children’s books! Then onto non-fiction, then Romance – interesting career path, but in the end I found my niche, my passion and have been greatly blessed ever since.
I’ve always enjoyed reading . . . but it took me a few years (I was in my late 20’s when I confessed I was a romance reader) to realize the key element for me in a story is the characterization, and if an author has nailed that they’ve hooked me forever.
Q: You’ve got quite a job title: “Category Specialist & Editor at Large.” What exactly does your title mean?
A: LOL – I don’t know, but I’d like to think it means I’m special and a large editor, although I hope that doesn’t mean in size . . .I will have to ask my boss about that!
Q: What are some of your major responsibilities?
A: Ok, seriously, my job involves a few more things than what the editing job description defines. As Category Specialist & Editor at Large for BBD/Loveswept I work with our internet team hosting our website Romance At Random, which by the way, is a community site for all romance readers, authors, everyone. As Editor at Large I work with our associate publisher to acquire, edit, promote, and manage the Loveswept line. I love it all – I really do.
Q: What are the differences between selecting a book for a major bookseller, selecting a manuscript for publication, and selecting a book to read for enjoyment?
A: Great question! Having been on the forefront of the business, interacting with customers and seeing trends and what sells certainly has been a help when reviewing many of the submissions we receive for the Loveswept line. Fortunately, what I enjoy reading has been similar to that of what readers enjoy, so my reading for enjoyment and work are now one in the same.
Q: You’ve been part of many online romance reader communities. Why are these communities important to readers?
A: That’s an interesting question and I hate to put words in reader’s mouths, however, from my standpoint, as I am a reader too, I believe the online community, like Romance At Random (www.romanceatrandom.com) is a place for people to get together and enjoy views and insights about books. Romance At Random is a romance community that hosts posts from authors, bloggers, readers, editors, narrators, publishers, booksellers . . really everyone. It is a lot of fun & because of its diversity it is never boring <G>
Q: What is your opinion of the term “chick lit?” What do you think separates chick lit from contemporary romance?
A: Let me just clarify my comment by saying, ‘this is Sue’s personal opinion’, not her employers or anyone else’s. The term “chick lit” seems a bit out-dated to me . . . .sorry! If you listened to just me you’d end up changing the title of your blog! However, that said, I think the definitions, descriptions we put on things to merchandise the bricks and mortar bookstores are no longer relevant in the ‘cloud’ world. There are no bookshelves, or departments or areas in the clouds that make me have to identify my book or segment myself from other readers . . . as a book, electronically, anyone can find you anywhere. But now, this does create another challenge for the author, and that is identifying yourself in that sea of e-books now available in the clouds. Now you’ve got to learn new strategies and techniques to identify yourself and your books to readers. So, in answer to your second question, does chick lit become separated from contemporary romance? Not really in the readers mind, no (especially if you include that HEA); in bookstores, yes, as they do merchandise these categories separately; in the clouds – no.
Q: Recently, I’ve come across several articles that claim that although chick lit sales are down, the genre is still doing relatively well. What do you make of this news?
A: That’s exciting as the new good is down – as, everyone is down. The economy and technology have really made us learn some new tricks. Bottom line, this too shall pass so I would not worry about it. Keep writing the best books ever and readers will keep reading them, no worries. Even if you do worry it never changes anything (lord, I sound like my mother).
Q: What advice do you have for the unpublished members of our chapter?
A: Unpublished authors rock! We need you J You are the fresh voices of our industry & very important to romance and reading in general. I know this sounds like a cliché but, write the best book you know how. Make the reader feel what you are writing; hook them in the first chapter so they don’t want to put that book down; create believable characters, people that they want to get to know; and if you’re writing romance, give me that happy ending. Very basic advice but very true & whatever else you can add to the mix is gravy.
Read the rest of this entry »
~ By Sandy James
Thanks so much for having me today!
My books have been reviewed by several different review sites, and I’m always grateful when a reviewer takes the time to read and comment on something I’ve written. Yet no matter how often I’ve had fantastic things said about my stories, like most writers, I focus on the less complimentary write-ups. I don’t mind good constructive criticism—in fact, I look at it as a learning experience that might make my next book stronger. But one particular comment that I’ve received more than once on my book, Turning Thirty-Twelve—and am likely to receive on my new book, Twist of Fate—baffles me. Some reviewers don’t like to read about older heroines.
When I write, I tell the story that is screaming in my head, regardless of the age of the characters. I had never considered that younger readers might not appreciate heroines in their thirties and forties or that young women might not be able to empathize with the lives of more mature women. (Funny, but reviewers never mention the hero’s age, and often say how much they are drawn to the “mature” heroes. Nice double standard…)
Perhaps I lost my own frame of reference when I crossed the boundary into middle age. Now that I’m thirty-eighteen <g>, I look at the world through different eyes, which also draws me to writing about heroines who are more seasoned. My critique partner, Nan Reinhardt, is also writing fantastic stories with older heroines. As the cliché goes, you write what you know. These heroines have lived through so much, and those experiences make them vibrant and interesting. At least they are to me—less so, evidently, for younger readers and reviewers.
My new book, Twist of Fate, has a thirty-nine year old heroine whose husband has fallen into a typical midlife crisis. Since I teach psychology, I’ve studied this a lot. (Imagine trying to explain what a forty-year-old is feeling to a classroom full of teenagers—a challenge in and of itself.) When men hit that magical age of forty, some suddenly feel assaulted by their own mortality, and they often realize that they only have so much time left. As a result, some men who are married consider their wives part of the problem since they’ve also aged, their signs of aging reminding the man of his own mortality. If the couple doesn’t weather that storm, the relationship could end. Where does that leave the wife? That’s where this story begins.
Susan and James Williams, my heroine and hero, face this life-changing time, and I chose to really crank up the internal conflict by showing it through an external conflict—I throw them back in time. To portray how a real couple handles a rocky relationship, I have Susan and James deal with the obstacles of trying to solve their problems in a new place in a new time. And just like real men facing a midlife crisis, James finds himself at a crossroads—one that leads him back to Susan and another that leads away from his twenty-year marriage.
I suppose the ultimate irony in this older heroine issue is that I enjoy reading about younger heroines, and I can appreciate their adventures, trials, and tribulations. So why can’t the opposite be true?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter!
* Sandy has kindly offered to give away an ARC of “Twist of Fate” to one lucky commenter! *
Look for her two new books coming soon – Twist of Fate (Damaged Heroes 5) from BookStrand on Oct. 25, 2011 and Rules of the Game from Carina Press in April 2012.
I’m a romance writer—as yet unpublished—and I just finished working on revisions to my first novel. My critique partner and I have gotten through all twenty-seven chapters and ironically, there are more things to fix/revise that either of us imagined. Not dramatically changing the story line at all, but rather tightening up language, creating more tension between my characters, just making it better. What I’m learning about my writing is that I may not actually be a straight category romance writer. I thought that was what I wrote, but I don’t think it is. I think I’m simply a story teller. My writing doesn’t fit in a specific genre, except perhaps maybe women’s fiction.
I don’t seem to be able to write to a template or formula–I thought I was doing that, but I’m not. I’ve read tons of category romance and when I started the first book, I believed I was writing category with my own personal touch. I’ve been discouraged because category pubs aren’t accepting my work, but I’m beginning to see that maybe I’m not the writer for that particular genre of fiction. In a way, that makes me sad because I love category–I’m a huge fan and it made sense to me that if I love to read it, I should be able to write it. But, I can’t stay in the mold–no news there. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t fit a mold since I was born.
I’ll keep writing what I write, the stories of the people in my head. These folks knock loudly, anxious to be out of my head and on paper where they believe they belong. Hopefully, my dear agent and I can figure out where their stories will be published. Hold a good thought, mes amies, and when we do find my publisher, check the Midwestern skies for the biggest fireworks display you’ve ever seen!
Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to one aging bunny and a golden retriever named, Lily. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, she’s earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. She has completed two novels and they are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March (Little Women), she writes late at night in her upstairs garret, after the editing gig work is finished for the day and her household is asleep.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not really a chick lit author. I’m published in mystery, and I’m not sure if the romance/coming of age story I’m shopping at the moment would qualify as chick lit. Not that it really matters, because when it comes to getting attention for our books we all need help. It doesn’t matter if we are self published, with one of the big publishing houses, or with a small one, until we start selling really well we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to the publicity budget. Why is it that publishers throw money at books that are already selling well? I don’t know but I don’t fret about it. It is what it is.
I’ve heard it said that making it big in writing – becoming a bestseller – is a crap shoot. It’s all luck. And that may be true, but I believe we make our own luck. What am I talking about? It’s hard to describe but I’ll try…
Have you heard the saying “insanity is repeating the same behaviors but expecting a different result?” There are things we should do over and over again. Writing really good books is one of those things. We could probably add washing the dishes and taking care of our health to that list, but unless you live next store to Oprah or Ellen you probably need to get out of your rut if you want to get your book noticed.
Unfortunately, getting out of our ruts is uncomfortable. We like our comfort zones. (Okay so I’m assuming you like your comfort zone, most people do, but if you are a daredevil or extremely outgoing you’ve got the edge on the rest of us.) I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. But I do want people to know about my books. So here’s what I did:
I volunteered for a makeover spread for a national magazine. I was hoping that maybe they would put Author, Kate George, in my caption. They didn’t, by the way, but something better happened. I figured at the very least I might get to talk to a handful of people who hadn’t read my books and maybe I’d come away with one new fan. We’ve all heard that we build our readership one person at a time. So that was my goal.
I had to drive myself to New York, pose for the camera, get my hair dyed, go through styling and makeup, and pose for the camera again. All those things were way out of my realm of experience, but I have to say driving in New York City was the worst part. I live in a place with virtually no traffic. New York freeways are intimidating to me. The people at the photo shoot were really kind to me – that part wasn’t nearly as bad as the driving.
Anyway at some time during the day we were all talking about what we did, and when the editor in charge of the photo spread found out I wrote books she offered to read and review one for me. I jumped on that offer, let me tell you. Six months later the review came out and my sales started climbing. Yay!
Would this have happened if I’d stayed in my safe and rural part of the world? No it wouldn’t have.
So am I recommending that you all run out and volunteer for a makeover in a magazine? No. Let me say that again. No. It worked for me, but you need to do what works for you. What I’m saying is get out of your comfort zone. Do things that put you in contact with people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. If you only reach one person, that’s okay. Your best fans will be people you really connect with. Those are the people that will talk about you, and your books. They will start the word of mouth thing going.
Here’s the hard part. After you do that once – go and do it again. Volunteer to be on talk radio. Organize a reading for a group of authors at your local library. Dance at the local park. Not everything will work, but those experiences that don’t create new readers will probably make really good material for your next book. Walk out the door and talk to someone new.
Go forth and make your own luck – you can’t lose either way.
When Ms. George first discovered Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie she realized that she could use her own off-beat sense of humor in her novels and she began writing seriously. Ms
George has always loved animals and they find their way into her novels on a regular basis. The dogs are often based on her own canine children and their fictional antics are usually rooted in the truth. The incident with the crazy skunk in California Schemin’ (March 2011) is not fictional, and although Ms. George did not actually tame the skunk in question, the attack is a true account and her house stank for days. For the record, the dogs would rather stink than be washed with peroxide, baking soda or dishwashing soap ever again. Moonlighting in Vermont is Ms. George’s first book.
The Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest is directly or indirectly responsible for a few of my milestones. I love this chapter’s contest. I’ve acted as entrant, judge and coordinator over the years.
The first time I entered, I believe it was in 2004, it was with a very early draft of a darkly funny women’s fiction manuscript with an older heroine and two alternating timelines. It wasn’t exactly chick lit, but I figured it was close enough to enter. Back then the entries were longer, the same length as Golden Heart entries, and I remember trying to get far enough into my WIP to have enough pages to send by the deadline.
My entry was rough.
But I indirectly got my first agent because of that contest entry. No, it didn’t final. Not even close. But my judges’ scores were so wildly different from each other, and the comments so disparate, that the contest coordinator that year, Diana Peterfreund, read my entry to see what was up. The judges weren’t crazy about my entry (one was encouraging and helpful, the other hated it), but Diana loved it and contacted me. The next summer, when I had finished the manuscript, I introduced myself to Diana at the chick lit chapter party, she introduced me to her agent and pitched my book to her. I’ll never forget that. She didn’t know me from a hole in wall, but she remembered my contest entry well enough to spontaneously pitch it. About seven months later, (I still had to submit a partial and wait, then submit a full and wait) I had an agent.
That manuscript went on to final in both the 2007 Golden Heart and the inaugural Amazon Breakout Novel competition. But in spite of its contest success and accolades, and coming close at several houses, alas, it has not yet found an editor who loves it enough to convince her publisher to put it under contract. It definitely suffered from hitting desks in NYC just as publishers were telling their editors, “NO MORE CHICK LIT.” But I do hope it will find its right time. Even if I have to rewrite it. Now is a way better time than 2005….
Switching Sides is my manuscript that was a finalist in 2009. That manuscript was also a Golden Heart and Golden Pen finalist. Although it’s a body swap story and a little “out there”, I consider it even more chick lit than the first one, and it has actually never been shopped to NYC, with the exception I suppose of the editor who requested a partial after the 2009 Stiletto. That editor requested the full after reading the partial (!!), but ended up passing. And by that time I’d already been offered my first contract to write YA fiction and decided to concentrate on teen fiction for the time being. Switching Sides is sitting on my hard drive, waiting for the right time.
While I don’t think aspiring authors should take every word offered by contest judges as gospel–most judges are also aspiring authors, and some know more than others–I do think that one can learn a lot from entering contests. I know I did. One of the hardest things to learn as an author is how to not only accept criticism with grace, but to parse through conflicting opinions and decide which pieces of advice to accept and which to reject. There’s nothing better than having several anonymous opinions, say two-three judges from two-three contests, to separate the advice wheat from the chaff so to speak. It can be confusing the first time. But the more you learn about writing and the more you hone your craft, the easier it will be to glean great advice and insights (and reject silly advice and biased opinions) from contest judges.
I also love contests because of the positive reinforcement when you final, or even get some positive comments from the judges. The publishing business is so full of rejection and disappointment, I think we need to grab accolades whenever we can. Even if your writing is publisher-ready, you won’t final every time, but a first chapter strong enough to attract agent/editor attention is bound to final in some contests. I’d say I made about six-seven contest entries after I had an agent but before I was published (counting the GH and Amazon contests) and was a finalist in better than half of them. I also did spectacularly badly in a few–with the same pages–which just goes to demonstrate how highly unpredictable contests can be. But I don’t think that unpredictability means contests are invalid or a waste of time. Au contraire. I think they mirror the publishing industry well: unpredictable and subjective, but the cream eventually rises to the top. As do some strange twigs and other random floaties.
Maureen McGowan’s first two novels, Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer were released on April 1, 2011 by Silver Dolphin Books. She’s in discussions with a major publisher for her YA post-apocalyptic-set thriller trilogy, and hopes to announce exciting news in September. Born and raised in Canada, she currently lives and writes in Toronto.
Wish you were in author Maureen McGowan’s fabulous shoes? Enter the 2011 Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest for unpublished manuscripts. Deadline for electronic entries is Sept. 6.