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Results 26 - 50 of 195
26. WOOL – Self-Publishing Success

WoolWe have been discussing Self-Published books for the last few weeks and we have been talking for months about how the publishing industry is changing, so I thought I should make sure you don’t miss this article written by Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Alter. It is an excellent article and one you really should read (the whole thing). It is long, but worth the five minutes of time. If for some reason you can’t take the time to read it, click on the above link and at least listen to the interview with Ms. Alter about her article.  But in the article, she talks about how Hugh Howey got his book off the ground.

This just might be the article that keeps you going when things seem bleak. I just ordered Part One  of WOOL on Amazon.  It is free for download to your Kindle.

Simon & Schuster has put down six figures for print rights to a post-apocalyptic thriller called “Wool” that it believes could draw the same readers that made “The Hunger Games” trilogy a success.

Simon & Schuster’s print-only editions of Hugh Howey’s Wool, which brought in over a million dollars as a self-published ebook was published yesterday. Howey’s long holdout for a traditional publishing deal came a reality and allowed him to keep his ebook rights.

Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott. And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.

“I had made seven figures on my own, so it was easy to walk away,” says Mr. Howey, 37, a college dropout who worked as a yacht captain, a roofer and a bookseller before he started self-publishing. “I thought, ‘How are you guys going to sell six times what I’m selling now?’ “

It’s a sign of how far the balance of power has shifted toward authors in the new digital publishing landscape. Self-published titles made up 25% of the top-selling books on Amazon last year. Four independent authors have sold more than a million Kindle copies of their books, and 23 have sold more than 250,000, according to Amazon.

Publishing houses that once ignored independent authors are now furiously courting them. In the past year, more than 60 independent authors have landed contracts with traditional publishers. Several won seven-figure advances. A handful have negotiated deals that allow them to continue selling e-books on their own, including romance writers Bella Andre and Colleen Hoover, who have each sold more than a million copies of their books.

Print-only deals remain extremely rare. Few publishers want to part with the fastest-growing segment of the industry. E-book sales for adult fiction and nonfiction grew by 36% in the first three quarters of 2012, compared with the previous year. Mass-market paperback sales shrank by 17% in the same period, while hardcover sales declined by 2.4%, according to a recent report from the Association of American Publishers.

When “Wool” hits bookstores next Tuesday, publishing industry insiders will be watching the experiment closely. Simon & Schuster will release a $15 paperback and a $26 hardcover simultaneously, competing directly against Mr. Howey’s digital edition, which costs $5.99.

“We would have preferred to own all the rights, but that wasn’t going to happen,” says Simon & Schuster President and Publisher Jonathan Karp. “It was a very unusual circumstance.”

“Wool” became a viral hit last winter, a few months after Mr. Howey began publishing the five-part series on Amazon. The novel takes place in a postapocalyptic future where a few thousand remaining humans live in a giant, 144-story underground silo. Couples who want to have a child have to enter a lottery; tickets are distributed only when someone dies. Citizens who break the law are sent outside to choke to death on the toxic air. Those who are sent to their deaths are forced to clean the grime off the digital sensors that transmit grainy images of the ruined landscape to a screen inside the silo. The images are meant to remind residents that the world beyond the silo is deadly, but some begin to suspect their leaders are lying to them about what’s outside and how the world came to ruin.

Mr. Howey says he was watching cable news one day when he came up with the idea of a future where people get all of their information from a single, unreliable screen.

“Wool” landed just as the entertainment industry was searching for a high-concept, dystopian hit like Suzanne Collins’s young-adult “Hunger Games” trilogy or Justin Cronin’s postapocalyptic vampire novel “The Passage.” (Mr. Cronin blurbed “Wool,” calling it “an epic feat of imagination.”) The serial format helped build buzz and anticipation among binge readers who were desperate for the next installment, while the 99-cent price tag made each installment an easy impulse buy. “Wool” was the most favorably reviewed book on Amazon in 2012, with an average rating of 4.8 out of five stars. The novel seems to appeal to both men and women, and has attracted hard-core science fiction fans as well as general readers, much like “The Hunger Games.”

Mr. Howey comes across as a charming, self-deprecating goofball (he posted a video of himself doing ballet on his lawn on YouTube after he signed his publishing deal), but he’s proven to be a savage negotiator and slick marketer. He sent free copies of “Wool” to book bloggers and reviewers at Goodreads, a social-media site for avid readers. Early raves prompted more people to try the book, and the reviews snowballed. “Wool” now has more than 12,500 ratings and around 2,200 reviews on Goodreads. He hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on the popular website Reddit, fielding users’ questions for more than 12 hours. He encouraged fan art and fan fiction set in the “Wool” universe; his readers have designed book covers and written their own novella-length takes on the story. He conscripted 30 of his most ardent fans to be “beta” readers who edit early drafts of his books for free.

Mr. Howey grew up in Monroe, N.C., the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher. As a teenager he devoured popular science fiction books like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Ender’s Game,” and always had a wild imagination. He studied physics and English at the College of Charleston, but dropped out his junior year to sail to the Bahamas. He cycled through a series of odd jobs, working as a yacht captain, a roofer, and a technician for an audio-video company. Four years ago, he decided to give writing a shot. He and his wife were living in a 750-square foot house in Boone, N.C. He was unemployed; his wife, Amber Lyda, was working as a psychologist. He had an idea for a story about a young spaceship pilot who travels across the galaxy in search of her missing father. He sold the novel, “Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue,” to a small Indiana publisher for less than a thousand dollars. Sales were meager.

“When he first published ‘Molly Fyde,’ I’d call his wife and say, ‘How many books has he sold? Should I go to Amazon and buy three more?’” says his mother, Gay Murrill, who owns a yarn shop in Charleston.

Mr. Howey kept trying. He got a 30-hour-a-week job at a university bookstore that paid only $10 an hour but gave him some flexibility. He got up at two or three in the morning to write, and wrote through his lunch hour and after dinner. He designed his own cover art, enlisting his wife and sister to pose in photos. He would often jolt up in bed in the middle of the night to scribble down ideas.

“It was almost a compulsion for him,” says Ms. Lyda. Ms. Lyda said she pleaded with him to leave his pen open on his nightstand, because the clicking noise of his pen kept waking her up.

“Wool” started as a short story that Mr. Howey dashed off in three weeks. He posted it on Amazon for 99 cents in July 2011. Within three months, the story had sold 1,000 copies. Mr. Howey was stunned.

“I told my wife, ‘Baby, we’re going to be able to pay a couple of bills off this short story,’ ” he said.

Readers begged for a sequel, and in November, Mr. Howey released another installment. He sold more than 3,000 copies that month. The next month, he released two more installments and sold nearly 10,000 copies total. In January, he released the final installment, for $2.99, and published all five as a single volume, for $5.99. Collectively, he sold 23,000 copies of all the editions that month. “Wool” shot up Amazon’s science-fiction best-seller list. Mr. Howey quit his job.

Literary agents started courting him. The BBC proposed a television deal based on the series. Most of the agents wanted to auction off print and digital rights to the highest bidder. Mr. Howey wasn’t interested. One agent, Kristin Nelson, said she didn’t think he should sign away digital rights, but that she could help him with foreign rights and film and TV deals. He signed with her in January of last year. They sold the series in 24 foreign countries. Several British publishers bid on the book, and Century won rights for a high-six-figure sum.

Ms. Nelson also sent “Wool” to U.S. publishers, and received a few low six-figure offers. Mr. Howey turned them down. Through Amazon’s self-publishing platform, he was collecting 70% of royalties, which amounted to nearly $40,000 a month. Most publishers offer a digital royalty rate that amounts to 10% to 15% of a book’s retail price.

That spring, Mr. Howey began selling the books on Barnes & Noble‘s BKS -2.57%Nook and Kobo’s e-reader and through Apple’s iTunes store. An agent at United Talent Agency began shopping film rights. Three studios bid on the book. 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott, director of the blockbuster science-fiction films “Blade Runner” and “Alien,” optioned it. Indie writer and director J Blakeson is writing the screenplay.

After news of the movie deal broke, publishers pounced again. Mr. Howey flew to New York in May to meet with five major publishers. Four of them bid. Mr. Howey, who by then was making $120,000 a month, wasn’t swayed. Some of the publishers wanted to change the book’s title, a proposal that Mr. Howey called “comical,” since it would sabotage his online branding efforts. Others insisted that he immediately take down his digital edition, which would erase all records of the thousands of five-star reviews the book had accumulated, forcing him to start from scratch.

One meeting went better than the others. Mr. Howey sat down with Mr. Karp, the head of Simon & Schuster, who had heard about “Wool” from two of his top editors and from Dave Cullen, author of “Columbine,” a 2009 book profiling the shooters behind the 1999 mass killing. “When I read more about it and saw what a culture phenomenon it had become, I realized it was something we should take seriously,” Mr. Karp says.

Mr. Karp was unusually solicitous, asking Mr. Howey what kind of deal he would accept. Mr. Howey said he wanted a co-publishing deal, where he kept digital rights and Simon & Schuster held hardcover and paperback rights. Mr. Karp was noncommittal, and said he’d be in touch.

Sales soared over the summer. Mr. Howey and his wife moved to Jupiter, Fla. and bought a slightly larger house—900 square feet. Mr. Howey continued to write and self-publish new books, including a zombie novel and prequels to “Wool” that explore how and why the silos were built.

In October, Amazon discounted “Wool” for 24 hours as part of its Kindle Daily Deal, a discount program that highlights select titles. Amazon dropped the price on the “Wool” Omnibus, which has all five stories, from $5.99 to $1.99. Mr. Howey sold 20,000 in a single day. New offers from publishers poured in, some in the low-seven-figure range.

Then Mr. Howey’s agent got an email from Mr. Karp, asking if they would consider a print-only deal. Ms. Nelson says she wrote him back, “Is this for real?” and he wrote back, “Yes.”

Simon & Schuster now has to transform a digital hit into a traditional print blockbuster. The publisher is sending Mr. Howey on an 11-city tour, and has planned a bold six-figure marketing campaign that will capitalize on the film news and online reviews. They are releasing the book simultaneously in hardcover and paperback in an attempt to capture both the library and first-edition collectors market as well as retailers like Target and Wal-Mart WMT +0.85%. Much of the online marketing will fall to Mr. Howey, who has proved himself to be adept at digital self promotion. He’s still selling 50,000 e-books a month.

“A lot of the things we normally teach authors to do, Hugh has been smart enough to do himself,” says Richard Rhorer, who oversees marketing at Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Howey just returned from book tours in Germany, Scotland, Wales and England, where “Wool” recently hit the best-seller lists. He’s starting to feel more like an established author. “Publishing is changing so quickly that we are all equal experts,” he said. “We’re all trying to figure this out.”

Mr. Howey recalls feeling anonymous at a science fiction conference last summer in Chicago. He got excited for a moment when a woman approached him—he thought she wanted his autograph—but she was looking for the bathroom.

Nearby, fantasy writer George R.R. Martin, author of the best-selling series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” was signing hundreds of books. Mr. Howey went up and introduced himself. When it became clear that Mr. Martin had never heard of him, Mr. Howey told him his novel was No. 6 on Amazon’s list of science-fiction and fantasy best sellers, behind Mr. Martin’s five books. Mr. Martin gamely signed a book for Mr. Howey, inscribing it “To # 6—Keep trying!”

A few months later, Mr. Howey landed at the top of the list, just ahead of Mr. Martin.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: article, authors and illustrators, Book Contracts, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing, success Tagged: Alexandra Alter, Hugh Howey, Wall Street Journal, WOOL

8 Comments on WOOL – Self-Publishing Success, last added: 4/7/2013
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27. Books, Promotions, & Kudos

a_ CoopercroppedSr. Editor Alexandra Copper at Simon & Schuster has moved over to HarperCollins as executive editor position.  She will be working on YA and middle-grade novels and some picture books.

At HMH Children’s, Mary Wilcox has been promoted to the newly-created position of vp, editor in chief.  In addition,  Adah Nuchi has been promoted to associate editor.

Christa Heschke has been promoted to agent within the children’s department, handling all foreign, domestic and subsidiary rights for children’s clients while actively building her own list.

At Penguin, Katherine Tiernan McCahill has been promoted to assistant director of the digital products group.

In Canada, former senior executives at D&M Publishers Chris Labonte, Peter Cocking and Richard Nadeau have founded Figure1 Publishing, devoted to books in the art & architecture, food & wine, lifestyle, illustrated history and business book categories. The reason I point this out is because of this quote: “Our goal is to become the premier publisher of high quality illustrated books in the country.” Think Chronicle Books, or Rizzoli.” Even though they are not invloved in children’s books, it might be a good place for illustrators to query for work. Cocking has been named creative director.



Hazel Mitchel who was featured on Illustrator Saturday http://wp.me/pss2W-2pf 

has a new picture book “1, 2, 3, By the Sea” is available to buy on line.

Hazel is having a book give-a-way, too.  Use this link for a chance to win: http://tinyurl.com/c8donqt


ballad of jesse pearl

Shannon Hitchcock debut YA book The Ballad of Jesse Pearl came out in February – Published by namelos.



If you follow this blog and would like to announce a success or book coming out, please let me know.  If you sent me an e-mail and I missed it, please remind me.  I get hundreds of e-mails everyday.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, authors and illustrators, Editor & Agent Info, Kudos, Publishing Industry, success Tagged: Alexandra Copper, Christa Heschke, HarperCollins, Holt Mifflan Harcourt Children's, Simon & Schuster

1 Comments on Books, Promotions, & Kudos, last added: 3/5/2013
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28. Kudos – Opportunity – Vote

parenting%20march%202013Christine Brower-Cohen sent me this good news and nice note today. I thought I would share it with you:            

A while ago you advised blog readers to find a niche and try getting published in a national parenting magazine to build an audience with moms. Well, I followed your advice and my first article in a national parenting magazine appears in the March 2013 issue of Parenting- School Years edition. I’ve also sold them a second article to be published at a future date, and am currently researching a third piece for them. Thank you for this great advice. For more info on the article which appears in the current issue, click the link to my blog below post below:


Illustrator Russ Cox, who was featured this year on Illustrator Saturday has been hired by Island Port Press to illustrate author Lynn Plourde book ”Merry Moosey Christmas” that is slated for release in 2014. Read the full release here: http://www.islandportpress.com/news.html.

Simone1You have the unique opportunity to have a one hour critique consultation with an experienced children’s book editor, Simone Kaplan at Picture Book People. Simone had a deal that I missed sharing with you, so I asked her if she would extend her $50 off a critique consultation with the visitors to my blog. She said she would extend it for a week to anyone using the Coupon Code KathyTemean. Simone has two decades of insider experience at Henry Holt and Company and HarperCollins Publishers during which she’s personally accepted, edited and rejected hundreds of children’s picture books. She knows, from beginning to end, how the words and pictures of your manuscript can jump off the page. You’ll find out where your manuscript is, where it should be and how you can best get there and spark the interest of an editor or agent.

To take advantage of this offer, simply use this link: http://bit.ly/XJu3HJ and the coupon code: KathyTemean March 1st to March 8th to receive your discount or LOVE2013 if you do it today Feb. 28th.

crystalkiteaward logo

PLEASE VOTE: The first round of voting continues until midnight (PST) today. The top 5 titles that receive the most votes in each Regional Division will advance to the semi-final round of voting which begins on Monday, March 4, 2013 at 9am PST and closes on Friday March 15th at 6pm PST. You will be able to vote for a winner from these 5 titles.

To cast your vote simply log in to the www.scbwi.org website, click on the See what’s going on in your region, click on your regional page, then click on the Crystal Kite tab. Read through the list and then cast your vote for your favorite book.

The votes will then be tabulated and the top vote getters put on a short list for the next round of voting. Round Two voting opens on Monday March. 4th

Below are the books that were published in 2012 in the Atlantic Region (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland) Note: I listed all the books for the Atlantic Region, because the list is very impressive and it should give you inspiration to keep moving forward. Just imagine how long the list would be if I had the time to list all the regions. There are a lot of picture books on this list, so things are looking up in that area, too.

Elaine Allen
Mallory the Forgetful Duck
Gregory Allen
Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism
Gigi Amateau
Come August, Come Freedom
Mary Amato
Guitar Notes
Kell Andrews
Beth Arnstein
Cyn Balog
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Pirate Princess
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Half-Pint Pete, the Pirate
Gene Barretta
Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives
Charlotte Bennardo
Sirenz Back In Fashion
Kathy Beynette
When Your Porcupine Feels Prickly
Ann Bonwill
I Don’t Want to be a Pea!
Alfred Bortz
Meltdown: The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy FutureJacqueline Boulter
Where Horses Fly
Monica Carnesi
Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic
Angelique Clarke
Boomer Explores Annapolis
Daryl Cobb
Pirates: The Ring of Hope
Carol Cole
The Penguin Lady
Debbie Dadey
Trouble at Trident Academy, Book one in Mermaid Tales series
Debbie Dadey
Battle of The Best Friends
Lorraine Dey
The Rain Forest Party
Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Frederic Durbin
The Star Shard
Ame Dyckman
Kelly Ehasz
Anna Abel Takes a Tumble
Marty Figley
Emily and Carlo
Kelly Fineman
At the Boardwalk
Elizabeth Foley
Alison Formento
Jennifer Gladen
Angel Donor
Cynthia Grady
I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery
Jean Heilprin Diehl
Three Little Beavers
Wendy Higgins
Sweet Evil
Jennifer Hubbard
Try Not to Breathe
Ana Jennings
Gopher to the Rescue, A Volcano Recovery Story
Catherine King
Santa’s Glee
Alethea Kontis
Alethea Kontis
The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABCs and What She Found There
Lana Krumwiede
Karen Leggett
Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books
Kristin Levine
The Lions of Little Rock
Maggie Lyons
Vin and the Dorky Duet
Maggie Lyons
Dewi and the Seeds of Doom
Dionna Mann
Freedom Pen
Donna Mayers
Wish Upon a Chil.d
Donna Mayers
My Pets Are Always Getting Me Into Trouble!!
Margaret Medina
The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind
Jodi Moore
Good News Nelson
Dorothy Morrison
The Lapis Key
Michael Muller
Mirabelle and the Butterfly
Michael Muller
Mirabelle Goes for a Walk
Michael Muller
Mirabelle and the Bouncy Red Ball
Kim Norman
Anna Olswanger
Anne Marie Pace
Vampirina Ballerina
Sydelle Pearl
Hope Somewhere in America: the Story of a Child, a Painting, and a President
Mary Quattlebaum
Jo MacDonald Had a Garden
Candice Ransom
Rebel Mckenzie
Candice Ransom
Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World
Ron Rauss
Can I Just Take A Nap?
Catherine Reef
The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
Brian Rock
Mara Rockliff
My Heart Will Not Sit Down
Mara Rockliff
Me and Momma and Big John
Luis Rodriguez
The Klampie Mystery
Madelyn Rosenberg
The Schmutzy Family
Madelyn Rosenberg
Happy Birthday, Tree: A Tu B’Shevat Story
Rachel Ross
Tiffany Schmidt
Send Me a Sign
Tracy Searight
Images in America Salem Township and Delmont
Marilyn Shank
Child of the Mountains
Jason Smith
Shoo Fly Please Bother Me
Jessica Spotswood
Born Wicked: Book 1 in the Cahill Witch Chronicles
Ann-Michele Sproviero
Caution: Under Construction
Vesper Stamper
The Night the Tooth Fairy Didn’t Come
Laurie Steckler
Lewis the Lamb
Mark Steensland
Behind the Bookcase
Lois Szymanski
Wild Colt
Audrey Vernick
Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team
Audrey Vernick
So You Want to Be A Rock Star
Kristin Walker
7 Clues to Winning You
Sara Walsh
The Dark Light
Kate Walton
Mark Weakland
Sports Illustrated Kids Football ABCs
Mark Weakland
Sports Illustrated Kids Football Opposites
Stephanie Weis
The Star Child
Timothy Young
Shadows On My Wall
Timothy Young
They’re Coming!
Natalie Zaman
Sirenz Back In Fashion
Glenn Zimmer
Dollars and Sense

Hope to see your name and book on this list next year!

Timothy Young posted in I Hate Picture Books! Book Launch Party! at Books of Wonder Saturday with cupcakes!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: awards, inspiration, Kudos, opportunity, success Tagged: Christine Brower-Cohen, Crystal Kite Awards, Parenting Magazine, Russ Cox, Save $50 on one hour picture book critique, Simone Kaplan

3 Comments on Kudos – Opportunity – Vote, last added: 2/28/2013
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29. Ally Condie - overnight success?

When Matched came out and almost immediately became a bestseller, a lot of people thought Ally Condie was an overnight success. Many people thought Matched was her first book.

But neither of these things was true. “So, with three best-selling books in three years, it appears that Ms. Condie, 34, has just suddenly hit the jackpot. In an interview before a recent program for teens in Bethesda, Md., however, she is quick to correct the record, noting that she earlier had published five novels for teens with a small, religious-focused publisher, Deseret Book Co., in her home state of Utah before even beginning "Matched."

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/books/childrens-corner-ally-condie-reached-for-success-and-finally-got-it-665817/#ixzz2GU54UNra

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30. A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff

"Haven't you ever had anything you loved doing, Mom?...Something that was worth getting in real big trouble for?" ( Will Asher - arc p. 200)

This is a world where people either have a Talent or are simply Fair.  Talents can range from the ability to knit anything at a quick pace (Mrs. Asher) to the ability to spit with choreographic grace and accuracy (Zane).

Cady lives in an orphanage in Poughkeepsie New York with Miss Mallory.  Each of them has a talent that drives their lives.  Cady has a talent for baking.  She can size up a person and know exactly what kind of cake to bake that will bring them the most possible happiness.  Miss Mallory has a talent for making matches, which has led to her matching countless parentless children with the right families.  Even though Miss Mallory has attempted to match Cady in the past, it has never been the perfect match.  The tug in her chest hasn't been enough to place Cady with the right family.

Meanwhile, in town, the Owner of the Lost Luggage Emporium has been on a lifelong quest.  He believes that a piece of lost luggage holds the secret to his success.  He has been trying to track down the powder blue St. Anthony suitcase that he lost 53 years prior.  The loss has turned him bitter, and Toby who works with the Owner, is subject to his random temper and tirades.

Also in town are the Asher family.  The aforementioned Zane hasn't always yielded his talent for good, and the words of his school Principal haunt him, as his misguided attempts to help his family bring him nothing but trouble.  Zane's sister Marigold is desperately searching for her own talent, as she tries to keep not only Zane, but little brother Will (who has a talent for disappearing) out of trouble.

Add a bake-off, recipes, attempted adoption, archeological crime, a mysterious wordless stranger, a wayward ferrt and an in-and-out narrator dressed in a gray suit, and you have A Tangle of Knots.  I know I haven't done the best with plot summary, but that is because Graff's story defies description.  Story-lines dance and weave, short chapters keep the forward motion, and the reader finds him/herself trying to predict what will come next.  That said, I can't help but throw in the idea of the mash-up/remix with titles like Savvy, The Westing Game and Pie coming to mind.  Not bad company to be in.  While A Tangle of Knots most definitely pays homage, I do think Graff has made this all her own.  The moment I finished reading, I wanted to go back and re-read to fit the pieces together.

2 Comments on A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff, last added: 2/6/2013
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31. Rejection is Everywhere

lincolnsmEven Steven Spielberg can get a rejection letter. It seems that Daniel Day-Lewis—who plays Lincoln in Spielberg’s presidential Academy Award Dominated movie, originally did not want to play Abraham Lincoln. Spielberg didn’t let the rejection letter go to waste, he stowed it away for safekeeping and the letter showed up at the awards-podium as reading material last week.

Julie Miller reporter for Vanity Fair wrote, “Before presenting Day-Lewis with the New York Film Critics Circle award for best actor, Speilberg read aloud the Oscar winner’s thoughtful brush-off.”

Here is Steven’s Rejection Letter:

Dear Steven,

It was a real pleasure just to sit and talk with you. I listened very carefully to what you had to say about this compelling history, and I’ve since read the script and found it in all the detail in which it describe these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principal characters, both powerful and moving. I can’t account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore life as opposed to another, but I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there is no choice; that a subject coincides inexplicably with a very personal need and a very specific moment in time. In this case, as fascinated as I was by Abe, it was the fascination of a grateful spectator who longed to see a story told, rather than that of a participant. That’s how I feel now in spite of myself, and though I can’t be sure that this won’t change, I couldn’t dream of encouraging you to keep it open on a mere possibility. I do hope this makes sense Steven, I’m glad you’re making the film, I wish you the strength for it, and I send both my very best wishes and my sincere gratitude to you for having considered me.

Daniel Day-Lewis

teamrivalsWhat can we learn from this? Well, Spielberg didn’t give up. After receiving the letter, he recruited Tony Kushner to pen a new screenplay from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals—one that would earn Day-Lewis’s approval. Apparently he did, because Lincoln is positioned to run away with the Oscars in February.

So the next time you get a rejection letter, keep this story in mind and revise your manuscript. Revision does improve our work and sometimes we just need someone to pull our best out of us.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: News, rejection, revisions, success Tagged: Daniel Day Lewis, New York Film Critics Circle Award, Steven Spielberg, Team of Rivals, Tony Kushner, Vanity Fair

10 Comments on Rejection is Everywhere, last added: 1/15/2013
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32. 16 Self-Published Books Make Top 100 Kindle List

hidinginthesnowThis December illustration titled, Hiding in the Snow was sent in by Summer Hart. Perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of self-published books coming out of their hiding, too.

There’s been a lot of talk about self-published bestsellers, Amazon’s own publishing lines, and the disruption of “gatekeepers” in 2012, so I was interested when Publisher Marketplace reported what Amazon’s own lists show (below).

For the “announced” lists of 2012 books only, leaving aside EL James, by our count the top 100 Kindle list includes 16 titles that were originally self-published. But only 5 of those books are still self-published (The Secret of Ella and Micha, by Jessica Sorensen; Down to You and The Wild Ones, by M. Leighton; Blood Stained by CJ Lyons; and The Unwanted Wife, by Natasha Anders).

And of those 5, Leighton’s two books are also moving to Penguin Group’s Berkley–and Berkley/NAL now publishes 7 more of those originally self-published books on the Kindle bestseller list:

Sylvia Day’s Bared to You and Reflected In You Samantha Young’s On Dublin Street Tammara Webber’s Easy Sydney Landon’s Weekends Required Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Rapture Sydney Landon’s Not Planning On You

Amazon’s imprints accounted for 4 books: The Long Way Home, by Karen McQuestion (Encore) Hidden, by Kendra Elliot (Montlake Romance) Thicker Than Water, G.M. Ford (Thomas & Mercer) Dead Weight, by T.R. Ragan (Thomas & Mercer) and two of them are Kindle single exclusives — Snatched, by Karin Slaughter, and An Unexpected Twist, by Andy Borowitz.

On the “actual” list of 2012 Kindle bestsellers, regardless of when published, the highest-ranking self-published title is Stephanie Bond’s OUR HUSBAND (at No 29–though Penguin’s Sylvia Day editions are at No. 7 and No 8.) This list has 15 books that were originally self-published, 4 Amazon-published books, and one Kindle Single exclusive (Karin Slaughter’s).

More Self-Publish Success:

Author of self-published NYT and USA Today ebook bestseller WOOL Hugh Howey has made a print-only deal with Simon & Schuster, which will release his title in both hardcover and paperback editions simultaneously in March 2013 while Howey continues to control the ebook version. He had already made a traditional publishing deal in the UK (with Century) and agent Kristin Nelson and her sub-agents have already licensed the book in over 18 territories.

Spokesperson for the Simon & Schuster Publishing Group Julia Prosser told us, “Not one size publishing fits all, and Simon & Schuster wants to publish the most talented writers out there. We’re thrilled to be able to bring WOOL to a larger audience.” In 2011 Simon& Schuster agreed to distribute print books for another successful self-published ebook author, John Locke, and that unit also provided full-line distribution (this time including ebooks) to Tucker Max’s Blue Heeler Books for his latest book, HILARITY ENSUES.

Print-only deals remain rare, though not singular (and they may become more common as the 21st-century version of the old paperback license). Mira licensed print-only rights from another self-published author, Bella Andre, in September. And Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s New Harvest imprint issues Amazon Publishing books in print only, and when they first licensed two Oliver Pötzsch books from Amazon Crossing it was for print only. Other one-offs include Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit and the NYT’s WikiLeaks book OPEN SECRETS, which Grove/Atlantic published as a trade paperback.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: News, Publishing Industry, success Tagged: Amazon, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kindle, Penguin Group's Berkley, self publish book success, WOOL Simon & Schuster

1 Comments on 16 Self-Published Books Make Top 100 Kindle List, last added: 12/17/2012
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33. Kudos and Publishing Industry News

I am happy to announce that Katia Raina sold her Historical Young Adult novel titled, Castle of Concrete to namelos - pub. date TBA.  This was the first book she wrote and is her debut novel. I remember reading this manuscript at one of our New Jersey Writing Retreats.  It is set in the collapsing Soviet Union and is about a shy Jewish teen who falls for a boy whose political convictions make her question her own identity.  I am sure you will all join me with congratulating Katia.  Just goes to show if you don’t give up and you work hard, it will happen!  Wishing Katia more published books to come.

Harper Announces Paperback Mystery Line, Bourbon Street

Harper Collins will launch Bourbon Street Books to publish “all types of mysteries,” featuring paperback originals, reprints, backlist titles, and reissued classics. The line starts with fall with two paperback originals: British author Oliver Harris’s debut THE HOLLOW MAN and Lynda La Plante’s seventh book in the Anna Travis series, BLOOD LINE, both publishing on October 23. Also in October they will bring back into print Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey with Harriet Vane series and in winter they will reissue four Mary Kay Andrews novels — Happy Never After, Homemade Sin, To Live and Die in Dixie, Every Crooked Nanny ― all originally written and published under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

As part of the Harper Paperbacks imprint (it has a logo and a list, but it’s not an imprint–just a “line”), Bourbon Street will draw resources from the Perennial staff and any Harper Collins editor will be able to acquire for the line. It falls under the direction of Jonathan Burnham and Cal Morgan.

Former Harper UK executive John Bond and former Harper Press senior editor Annabel Wright have formed Whitefox Publishing Services. They “deliver bespoke, cost-effective and flexible creative excellence to help publishers, agents and writers to solve every publishing challenge.”

Eric Winbolt has been promoted to the newly created role of digital creative director at Harper UK, reporting to group publisher Belinda Budge.

Alice Rahaeuser has joined Random House Children’s as production associate, reporting to Timothy Terhune. Most recently she worked at Neuwirth and Associates, managing book production for customers including Tor, The Experiment and Pegasus Books.

At Harlequin, Emily Rodmell has been promoted to editor at the Love Inspired imprint.

Annie Stone has joined Harlequin Teen as associate editor. Previously she was an assistant editor at Harper.

Laura Hopper has joined Hyperion as editorial director of franchise publishing, based on the West Coast, focusing on identifying, developing, and editing new print and digital projects within the Disney/ABC Television Group for Hyperion. Hopper was vp of the motion picture department for Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, and most recently she represented writer and director clients on various film and television projects.

Victoria Comella has joined HarperCollins 360 as publicity manager. Previously she was a publicist at Putnam.

Jeanette Shaw has been promoted to editor at Perigee Books/Prentice Hall Press.

Cengage’s Gale has sold Sleeping Bear Press to Minnesota-based Cherry Lake Publishing. Sleeping Bear and their staff of 10 will remain in their Ann Arbor, MI offices.

Graphic Arts Books has acquired the trade titles and publishing rights of Pruett Publishing Company in order to build and expand its imprint, WestWinds Press. Pruett, based in Boulder, CO, was founded in 1954 and , specializes in western regional publishing.

Filed under: publishers, Publishing Industry, success Tagged: Harlequin Teen, Harper Collins, Hyperion, Katia Raina, Namelos, Random House, Sleeping Bear Press

5 Comments on Kudos and Publishing Industry News, last added: 9/10/2012
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34. How’s the Work Going? It All Depends

We commonly ask other writers, “How’s the story coming along?” or “How’s the work going?”

What exactly do we mean by “work” when we ask that?

Now? Today? This Year?

It usually means one of three things:

  1. We may be talking about our work right now. Right this minute, the writing is going well–or it’s dragging or we’re blocked.
  2. We may be talking about our creative work on any given day. We decide the writing is going well if we meet our goals for the day. (e.g. to write 1,000 words, or to revise the story ending, or to research a character’s occuption) It doesn’t matter what the size of the goal is. But as long as we meet whatever goal we set for ourselves, it’s a successful writing day.
  3. We may be talking about how our writing is going in general. It covers a length of time, like, “How has your writing gone over the summer?” Or “How is your writing career going?”

Criteria for Successful Work

“To feel as if they are measuring up,” says Eric Maisel in Fearless Creating, “artists must meet their own standards in each regard.”

So, how do we decide how the writing is going? How do we measure success in these three areas?

It’s personal. And it’s totally up to you.

  1. Is your writing going well right now? That depends on what makes a successful writing experience for you. Is it flowing? Are you having fun? Are you producing at least 500 words every thirty minutes? Choose your own criteria for success.
  2. Did your writing go well today? Did you meet your quota of words or pages by the end of the day? Did you have fun? Did you persevere despite interruptions? Choose your own criteria for a successful writing day.
  3. How is your work going in general? Are you getting better (deeper characters, snappier dialogue, whatever) with each book? Are you getting bigger advances? Are you winning awards? Choose your own criteria for a successful writing career.

Bear in mind that you can be UNsuccessful right now, or have an UNsuccessful day, but overall have a successful career. There can be any combination. Sometimes my writing is going well right now (I’m having fun, and the words are flowing), but later I get interrupted and don’t meet my daily goal, so I don’t feel I had a successful day.

I’d be interested to know how you judge your work in these three areas. How’s YOUR writing going?

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35. Jeanne Balsam Kudo’s and Publishing Industry Changes

Since 2006, the artwork of SCBWI member and writer/illustrator Jeanne Balsam has graced the pages of Just Frenchies magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to the French Bulldog. Towards the end of last year, the publisher and editor of the magazine submitted Jeanne’s artwork to the DWAA, (Dog Writers Association of America), for consideration of an award.

Much to Jeanne’s delight, (and surprise, as she didn’t know she’d been submitted), she was announced as one of 5 finalists for Excellence in Illustration or Painting, competing against artists featured in Dog Fancy and the AKC Gazette. This little Frenchie with her flower hat was the image submitted on her behalf by Just Frenchies. Although she did not win her category, Jeanne was honored in being named a finalist by this prestigious national organization of writers and artists whose only subject is dogs.

Jeanne thought others may also enjoy the pup with flowered hat and created the image into blank notecards available for purchase on her web site, www.jeannebalsam.com. ( http://jeannebalsam.com/shop/item.asp?itemid=186&catid=35).

Below are two other recent illustrations Jeanne did for Just Frenchies, one for a Frenchies tracking article and another for an article on French Bulldog collectibles, where a puppy is featured with a Steiff pull toy.

Congratulations Jeanne!  We love your bulldogs.  Glad to see you being rewarded for your talent.

Jeanne suggests that children’s book illustrators may also find opportunities to have their art published by contacting publications that focus on areas of special interest and/or expertise of the artist, as she did.

In the Publishing Industry:

Publisher of the Golden Books Young Readers Group Kate Klimo is stepping down as of March 31, Random House Children’s president and publisher Chip Gibson announced internally on Friday. Gibson notes, “she is certainly a towering figure in the world of publishing, and over the course of her 40-year career, Kate has changed the face of children’s books.”

Editor-in-chief of Random House Books for Young Readers Mallory Loehr will add to her responsibilities as publishing director of the Golden group on March 31, reporting to Gibson. She will manage both the editorial and art departments for both groups.

Golden Books editor-in-chief Chris Angelilli will be promoted to editor-in-chief, executive director, licensed publishing. As part of his new duties he will also oversee Random House Children’s new partnership with Nickelodeon, where it will be the television company’s primary book publisher as of spring 2013.

At Bloomsbury Children’s and Walker Children’s, Katy Hershberger has been promoted to director of publicity.

Writers House founder and chairman Al Zuckerman is stepping down from his leadership position. President Amy Berkower will take over as chairman and Simon Lipskar will serve as president of the agency, which employs 43 people. Zuc

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36. How a self-pubbed author nabbed a six-figure deal

One self-pubbed author nabbed a six-figure deal with a traditional publisher, but it’s probably not anything others can replicate.

- Are you the managing editor of American Cheerleader or another magazine that appeals to the same audience you’re writing for?

- Have you already written six unpublished novels?

- Are you active on YouTube?

- Do you have a blog?

- Are you active on Facebook?

- Have you made a trailer for your book?

- Have you gotten Publishers Weekly to run several articles about you:




Well, then you might be out of luck.

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37. Failure and Hard Work Equal Success

"Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price."
~ Vince Lombardi

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
~ Colin Powell


Maggie Stiefvater author of the best-selling series Shiver failed to get into a creative writing class in college because she was told that her writing wasn't promising enough. Thankfully for readers, that didn't stop her. Many writers believe that they need a writing degree in order to purse a career as a writer. According to Maggie no formal degree is required. What is required? Many hours of hard work.

Shannon Messenger's (one of the founding members of WriteOnCon) inspirational post on the hard work and failed draft attempts that finally got her first novel published.
20 ways to NOT write your first book

Inspirational video by muscleprodigy.com. Great quote from the narrator, "You will always pass failure on the road to success."
Failure Before Success

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38. Another self-pubbed author hits best-seller lists

The Wall St. Journal says that last year, 133,036 self-published titles were released. And that about 30 people sold more than 100,000 copies of their self-pubbed books on Amazon. So a lot more folks are putting out self-pubbed books than are making huge amounts of money from it.

But then there's Darcy Chan, an author whose book got turned down by many agents, and then when she got an agent, by a dozen publishers.

This past May, Ms. Chan decided to digitally publish it herself, hoping to gain a few readers and some feedback. She bought some ads on Web sites targeting e-book readers, paid for a review from Kirkus Reviews, and strategically priced her book at 99 cents to encourage readers to try it. She's now attracting bids from foreign imprints, movie studios and audio-book publishers, without selling a single copy in print

Read more about Chan's story here.

Publishing is changing so much. Sometimes I wish I was 10 years older or 10 years younger, so I didn't have to straddle the change.

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39. Publishing Industry Kudos

At Simon & Schuster Children’s imprints Simon Spotlight & Simon Scribbles, Siobhan Ciminera has been promoted to executive editor; Lisa Rao moves up to editor; and Beth Barton has been promoted to associate editor.

Congratulations to everyone!  What a great way to end the year.


Diana Patton has launched her first picture book titled, Charlemagne to the Rescue.  Diana decided to self-publish the book, which she has written and illustrated.  Right now, she is busy setting up book signings. 

Click here to “Look inside” and see Diana’s book cover and a picture of her with a seal at the end of the book. 

Or stop by www.Charlemagnethefish.com to watch some videos or play some games.  Good luck, Diana.

Are you busy getting all the food ready for tomorrow, or are you one of the lucky few who were invited out?  Either way, hope your Preparation Day goes smoothly.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Editors, News, Picture Book, Publishing Industry, success Tagged: Beth Barton Associate Editor, Diana Paton, Editor Lisa Rao, Executive Editor Siobhan Ciminera, Simon & Schuster
3 Comments on Publishing Industry Kudos, last added: 11/23/2011
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40. How one woman found success through doing it herself

I’ve known CJ Lyons for a couple of years online. And at the 2010 Writers Police Academy I got to meet her in person. One night we had a not-so-good dinner and a great conversation. At the time, CJ was about six months away from publishing a book she had written with Erin Brockovich. Given Brockovich’s high profile, she hoped that book would hit the bestseller list.

It didn’t.

But not long afterward, something funny happened. CJ, who had published several books traditionally, hit the big time by publishing books herself.

You can read her account of how it happened here.

I’ve put all of my out of print books back up as ebooks, although I haven’t had near the success CJ has. Here are links to all my ebooks: April's ebooks

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41. Baby and Blue Bonnet Kudos

Baby Zachary made it into the world safe and sound at 7.9 lbs. and 21 inches long Thursday evening. This picture was taken shortly after birth. Can you believe how good Steph looks? I doubt if I would have let anyone take my picture that soon after childbirth. Now David is going to have a lot more writing inspiration. I’m sure all of you will congratulate the Caruba family.


Muriel Weinstein received great news this week. Her book Play, Louis, Play: The True Story of a Boy and His Horn was put on the Texas Blue Bonnet Master List. If you are not familiar with the Texas Blue Bonnet List, it is a list that can really help make your book and will land you an order of 22,000 books – not too shabby.

The program is aimed at students in grades 3-6. Participating students must read a minimum of five books from the current master list before they may vote for their favorite title. Teachers and parents are encouraged to read some of the books aloud. The author of the book receiving the most votes statewide is declared the winner of the Texas Blue Bonnet Award.

The Texas Blue Bonnet Award committee is responsible for selection of the books on each year’s Master List. Suggestions are solicited from librarians, teachers, parents, students and other interested persons. A new list of no more than twenty books is released each year by November.


Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, awards, children writing, News, success Tagged: Bloomsbury, David Caruba, Frank Morrison, Muriel Weinstein, The Texas Blue Bonnet Award 2 Comments on Baby and Blue Bonnet Kudos, last added: 10/30/2011
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42. Achieving the Writing Life of Your Dreams

Achieving the writing life of your dreams–is it possible? Are you closer to it than you were a year ago?

Here are some great articles to read and consider if you hope to make the dream of a writing life into a reality.

“Are You Living Your Own Life or Someone Else’s?” If we are not careful, we can unconsciously be following someone else’s agenda for our lives. This may be your first step toward achieving the writing life of your dreams.

“Novelists: Stop Trying to Brand Yourselves” is a refreshing and hopeful post for fiction writers. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief with this one.

“The Power of Incremental Change Over Time” Most people underestimate this. They think they have to take massive action to achieve anything significant.

“4 Reasons It’s Easier Than Ever to Be an Author” “When I started writing, it also seemed like everyone else was in control. I prepared a book proposal, then waited for a publisher to offer me a contract. I wrote the manuscript, then waited for booksellers to order the book. I published the book, the waited for the media to book me.” Not anymore, says this author, former publisher, and former editor.

“The Writing Journey: Author Beware” is one agent’s warning about using self-publishers and what to look for in the way of scams and unethical practices. She makes a good case for having an agent, but as you may know, landing an agent isn’t necessarily easy. You could do what I do: make an agreement with an agent to look over your contracts for a flat fee with an eye to marking questionable phrasing and things you could negotiate for.

“Write with Flow Workshop” is added here because I happen to use the Fractal Method of organization and I love it. Whether you sign up for the workshop or not, the article is a good read. Enrollment ends on Oct. 30.

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43. Lots of Kudos

This week we had a lot of success stories. It shows that working on your craft and coming out to writing and illustrating events clearly play a role in future successes.

I know everyone will be happy to hear a few success stories.

Sladjana Vasic won the September 2011 e-Book Cover Design Award, for a Nonfiction e-book.


I could not find a picture of Beth Ferry, but Beth has a big feather in her hat. She signed with agent Elena Mechlin at Pippin Properties for her Stick and Stone story – a direct result of attending our June conference.


Here is Tara Lazar with her Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette. If you attended the 2011 June Conference you most likely met Ammi-Joan. Tara sold her first book, THE MONSTORE, at the end of last year. Now Ammi-Joan at Erin Murphy Literary Agency has sold Tara Lazar’s second book, I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK to Alyson Heller at Aladdin.


Darlene Beck-Jacobson signed with agent Liza Flessig at the Royce Agency for her historcial novel – a direct result of attending our June conference.



Jody Staton’s story won her a spot in the “Writers at Camden” Community Workshop in conjunction with Rutger’s University.


Congratulations everyone! Something good is waiting for the rest of you reading this – I just know it!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, authors and illustrators, Book Contracts, News, success Tagged: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Beth Ferry, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Jody Staton, Sladjana Vasic, Tara Lazar
6 Comments on Lots of Kudos, last added: 10/25/2011
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44. Finding Margin

solitudeThe last two posts, I talked about overload, how it happened, and the effect on writers’ lives. Although certain Type A personalities seem to thrive on overloaded lives, most writers don’t.

Our best ideas - and energy to write about them - require some peace and quiet, some “down” time. To get that, we must rebuild margin into our lives.

Defining Margin

What exactly is margin? According to Richard Swenson M.D. author of Margin, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is something held in reserve for unanticipated situations. It is the space between breathing freely and suffocating. Margin is the opposite of overload.”

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

You might wonder at what point you became overloaded. It’s not always easy to see when it happens. We don’t have a shut off valve that clicks like when we put gasoline into our cars. Stop! Overload! Usually we don’t know that we are overextended until we feel the pain and frustration.

We would be smart to only commit 80% of our time and energy. Instead, we underestimate the demands on our life. We make promises and commit way more than 100% of our time and energy. Consequently, we have no margin left.

A Simple Formula

What exactly is margin? The formula for margin is straightforward: power - load = margin.

Your power is made up of things like your energy, your skills, how much time you have, your training, your finances, and social support.

Your load is what you carry and is made up of things like your job, problems you have, your commitments and obligations, expectations of others, expectations of yourself, your debt, your deadlines, and personal conflicts.

If your load is greater than your power, you have overload. This is not healthy, but it is where most people in our country live. If you stay in this overloaded state for a good length of time, you get burnout. (And burned out writers don’t write. I know–I’ve been there.)

The Answer

So how do we increase margin? You can do it in one of two ways. You can increase your power - or you can decrease your load. If you’re smart, you’ll do both.

Many of us feel nostalgic for the charm of a slower life. Few of us miss things like outhouses or milking cows or having no running water. Usually what we long for is margin. When there was no electricity, people played table games and went to bed early, and few suffered sleep deprivation. Few people used daily planners or had watches with alarms, let alone computers that beeped with e-mail messages and tweets. People had time to read–and to think–and to write. It happened in the margins of their lives.

Progress devoured the margin. We want it back. And I firmly believe that writers must have it back. Next week we will talk about ways to do just that.

PLEASE SHARE: What do you think so far about this week’s discussion of margin and overload? Do you identify? What does that mean to you as a writer?

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Katie's graduation from Pierce College.

Katie's graduation from boot camp.

As a mother our jobs are to raise our children to be self-sufficient, and ready to go out into the world and be successful. Well, I did do that. Now I'm not sure I'm ready to let them go! My sweet Katie did running start here in WA, that is were she did high school and college at the same time. OMG she did so well. A week after she graduated she left for the Navy. She is so strong and determined, I wish I had half of her strength and brains.
Now my son goes off for his junior year of college, he is doing a dual major of Physics-Engineering. I will only have one child left at home. My career as a stay at home mom is about to be finished. This has been one of the most rewarding careers of my life. Yes, I loved aviation, I actually wanted to be an airline pilot, but ya know, motherhood was and is far more exciting than I could ever have dreamed.

Here's the key, "When you know who you are and recognize the gifts you have been given, it is easy to make an impact on the world. Yet, when you can see potential in others and play a role in helping them grow..... it is exponentially rewarding.

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46. Inner Critics and Time Wasters

criticWriters are opinionated people.

Our brains never seem to stop. We criticize because we “know” how things and people should be. This “critical editor component” of our personality is absolutely invaluable to the editing and revision process. If you can’t spot what’s wrong with a manuscript, you can’t fix it.

However, this same critical ability can cause writers to actually lose focus, allowing their writing hours to slip away with little or no work done.

Think About It

Many of us go through our daily lives with our internal critic or editor in charge. We don’t see the person right in front of us as he or she is (which may be perfectly fine.) Instead, that person reminds us of an ex-spouse, and we “see” characteristics that aren’t there. Stress!

Conversely, we think the person in front of us is “supposed” to be kind and supportive (our inner definition of parent/spouse/child/sibling). And yet many such relationships are anything but, leaving us hurt and upset because they should be supportive. More stress! Life rarely satisfies a person who lets the “shoulds” run his life.

Do we spend our time “shoulding”? We don’t see a child who is happily singing at the top of her voice. (That child should be more quiet in the store!) We don’t see an interesting shade of purple hair. (That teenager should resemble a miniature adult instead.) We don’t see the predator or user sometimes either–because trusted family members shouldn’t be such things. Our “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” color everything we observe.

Change Your Perspective

Our inner editor sometimes keeps us from seeing what’s in front of us. We are constantly “revising” the facts. So what’s the problem with that? You can’t accept–and get peace about–what you can’t honestly see or face. You stay stirred up–a condition rarely suited to being creative. Sometimes the simplest solutions evade us because we’re all riled up inside.

It reminds me of a story (you may also be familiar with) about “The River and the Lion: After the great rains, the lion was faced with crossing the river that had encircled him. Swimming was not in his nature, but it was either cross or die. The lion roared and charged at the river, almost liondrowning before he retreated. Many more times he attacked the water, and each time he failed to cross. Exhausted, the lion lay down, and in his quietness he heard the river say, “Never fight what isn’t here.”

Cautiously, the lion looked up and asked, “What isn’t here?”

“Your enemy isn’t here,” answered the river. “Just as you are a lion, I am merely a river.”

Now the lion sat very still and studied the ways of the river. After a while, he walked to where a certain current brushed against the shore, and stepping in, floated to the other side.

Control What You Can: Yourself

We also can’t gain peace of mind and the ability to focus unless we’re willing to give up trying to control everyone and everything in our environment. We spen

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47. Communication Breakdown

After the day I experienced yesterday my theory about what is wrong with the world was solidified.

Most people cannot communicate well.

The inability to communicate wreaks havoc on all that could otherwise be good. And as a writer/author/speaker, who makes a living by communicating, I am all the more frustrated by people who do not communicate well with me. To communicate is to share information. If you are the only person who knows something, you are not sharing anything, so you are certainly not communicating. Family feuds, divorces, job/client firings and even wars are often the result of poor communication.

So enough with my rant. Let’s talk solutions. You cannot change the way others communicate, but you can change what you do to improve your own communication habits:

  1. Cover Your Bases – Assume the person you are communicating with knows nothing about what you are thinking or doing. Explain it all. Don’t patronize, but be clear.
  2. Cover Your Ass – Put your important words in writing and email/mail/fax them to the recipient. People have a tendency to forget what you say verbally, but once it is in writing, it cannot be disputed later. You cannot be accused of not communicating.
  3. Be a Good Listener – Don’t ignore what others tell you and assume it is okay to do what you want without repercussions.
  4. Ask the Right Questions – “Are you saying that you want me to ____?”
  5. What is Not Said is as Important as What is Said - If you are meeting in person, look ticked off, yawn through a meeting or show other negative body language, your listener will know. On the other hand, if the person you are meeting with shows negative body language, be aware of what that person is trying to tell you.
  6. Don’t Assume Anything – Just because you may have been clear about what you said, don’t assume the “listener” heard you correctly or even comprehends what you said.
  7. Encourage Feedback – “What do you think about that solution?” This way you’ll know if the person you are trying to communicate with understands what you said.
  8. Repetition is Your Friend – It is okay to repeat yourself (in non-annoying ways) to make sure your voice is heard. This is particularly true when you need to communicate events that are going to take place in the not-so-near future.
  9. Kindness Goes a Long Way – Above all else, be kind. People don’t want to be friends/married to/related to/do business with nasty, combative people. If you have ever been unkind, especially in business, and told yourself “people will get over it,” you’re only fooling yourself.
  10. Dig Out Your Sense of Humor - No matter how careful you are at communicating, there will be times when confusion ensues. When you get over the frustration, find a way to laugh about it. After all, there is nothing you can really do about it after the fact.

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48. Drains in Disguise

messI was wrong–again.

For twenty years, I’ve told students and wannabe writers that you have to put the writing first! Do it before other things take over your day.

Fight the impulse to clean your kitchen first, or straighten your office, or clean up the mess the kids made before leaving for school.

“But I can’t work in chaos,” writers protest.

You know what? Neither can I anymore–at least not well! And when I force myself to, the work is doubly tiring. Doubly stressful. Much less satisfying.

Energy Drains in Disguise

Something I read today made me realize my advice might be a tad off. Not wrong altogether, since if we don’t make writing some sort of priority, we won’t do it. However, to eliminate energy drains in your life, you need to look at the whole picture. Certainly all the things you do in a given day take your energy. Every action you take on your lengthy “to do” list uses energy.

What you may not realize is that actions you don’t take use energy as well. Your disorganized office, the piles of laundry on the bedroom floor, the stack of bills to pay, the two birthday gifts to buy, the clothing needing repair–all this drains your energy reserves as well. It happens whether you are looking at the unfinished business or just thinking about it.

It siphons off energy that could be used in a much more positive way. “These items on your mental ‘to do’ list, the ones you’ve been procrastinating about, distract you or make you feel guilty and drain the very energy you need to accomplish your goals.” (So says Cheryl Richardson in Take Time for Your Life.)

NOT an Excuse to Procrastinate

Taking care of the unfinished business that nags at your mind–and keeps you from feeling like you can settle down to write–may be necessary before you can tackle your writing assignment. Don’t go overboard though, or you’re just procrastinating. Washing the dirty dishes is one thing–taking time to replace the shelf paper in your pantry is something else.

Figure out the things that you MUST have done to feel at peace in your environment, and do those things ONLY. (It helps to do as many of them as you can the night before too.)

Eliminate the chaos in your environment, and you’ll eliminate a LOT of the chaos that blocks your writer’s mind. Now…off to clean my office.

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49. Finding–and Maintaining–Passion for Your Writing

enthusiasm“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality…Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

~~Ralph Waldo Emersonson


Where do you get this enthusiasm? It comes from having passion for your writing.

How does a writer act who is passionate about his writing? He can’t wait to get up in the morning and get started. He is eager and energetic. This comes from loving what you do, and doing what you were born to do or feel called to do. Feeling this passion for your writing keeps you going. Quitting is no longer an option. When you’re passionate about your writing, perseverance is a given.


This brings us to two main questions:

  • How do you develop passion for the most important areas of your life?
  • How do you maintain that passion during the inevitable tough times?

First: Find It

Are you doing what you really want to do in your writing career? Are you doing it at least part of the time? (I know that for most of my writing life, it was half and half. Half the time I was writing what I really wanted to write–fiction usually–whether it sold or not. The other half of my writing time went to work-for-hire projects, teaching, speaking or whatever brought guaranteed income.) Ask yourself: Am I truly doing what I want to do?

If you’re not skilled enough to do the work you’d love to do, make time to educate yourself so you are. While maintaining your current job (either outside the home and/or raising children), do whatever it takes to prepare for your dream writing jobs. It’s very difficult to create passion for doing something you don’t want to do or a job you are “settling for” because you don’t feel skilled enough to do what you’d really love to do.

Do whatever you need to do to overcome those lying voices in your head that say you’ll never be good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not whatever enough. Read inspirational books, read author biographies about how they got started and grew as writers, and say “no” to whatever is eating the time you need to study and read and write.

Second: Maintain It

Passion for your writing makes your days fly by (in a good way!). It helps you get more done in less time. That being true, it deserves whatever time you need to keep your writing passion alive. If your passion for writing dies, then writing just becomes another drudge job.

So how can you maintain passion and enthusiasm every day? First–and maybe most obvious–is to spend more time actually doing what you love to do. What is your pet writing project, the one that may never sell but you love it? Spend more time each day working on it. Even if it’s only an extra fifteen minutes or half an hour, it will remind you why you love to write.

Another key to maintaining passion for all your work is to reconnect with the purpose underlying everything you do. For example, I don’t enjoy running until it’s over and I’m in the shower. But I run my miles in the morning because the weight-bearing exercise is critical to staying “recovered” from my osteoporosis, which means my bones stay strong, which means I can still upright at the computer (hopefully) for decades to come and still have energy at the end of the day for my grandkids.

The same goes for giving up sugar finally four months ago. For a gal whose blood type is Hershey’s, that was a big deal for me. But more and more, sugar was making me si

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50. Kudos and Update

Don’t forget you can use children’s magazines as a way to make some money, get you name out there, and have your writing noticed. 

Laurie Wallmark, who is the ARA for the New Jersey SCBWI has done just that with her many magazine articles in children’s magazines. Her lastest an article, Lost in a Corn Maze, in this month’s issue of Spider Magazine for children.

Don’t forget to send photos.  Laurie says she got more for the photos than she did for the article.

Congratulations, Laurie!

You may remember Ellen Jensen Abbott from the conference in June. She taught a class on Characterization. At the bookfair, I purchased Ellen Jensen Abbott’s fantasy novel titled, WATERSMEET.

When I e-mailed Ellen to tell her how much I enjoyed the book and how I thought it was very well-written, she got back to me to tell me that the second book titled, THE CENTAUR’S DAUGHTER, (the second book to the trilogy) just hit the bookshelves.

I know everyone wishes Ellen much success with her new book.

Then today, I received an e-mail from Kitty Griffin Lagorio. She came to the June conference and it really paid off, because she ended up getting Natalie Fischer from the Bradford Agency to represent her.

Congratulations, Kitty.

Please make sure you let us know when you sign your first contract.

Yvonne Ventresca won the Writers’ Retreat Prompt Contest at this weekends Writer’s Retreat.  Her prize, a free year’s membership to the SCBWI.  Everyone else who participated received a signed book.

Here is Yvonne’s first page winning entry:

I had never thought about good-bye sounding like a river, the rush, rush of the water as it flowed away. And I’d never realized my sister could keep a secret even from me, the one she trusted most.

But I see these things now, as clearly as the clues she left behind. Would it have changed anything if I’d paid closer attention? Like the day of storm, while we were hurrying to finish our chores in the chicken coop.

“I won’t marry that man. They can’t make me.” Sis picked up another egg and nearly threw it in her basket.  “Are you listening? James?”

I nodded as I swept, but my mind was on our cow. Abigail had been pacing around the pasture. I worried about her out there, having a calf alone in bad weather. Maybe I could lead her to the barn before the thunder started.

“Pa doesn’t remember love,” Sis said. “All he thinks about is corn. What should I do?”

Her pause meant she expected an answer. “Um, Tom doesn’t seem that bad.”

She stomped her boot, and the chickens fluttered to the corners of the hen house. “Tom Kelly’s too old and ornery. I could never love him.”

I laid the broom down gently and tried to soothe the frightened birds.

“I don’t feel anything for him.  Not like—”

“Daniel,” I said. We often finished each other’s sentences. Ma used to call it a twin thing.

“Yes, like Daniel.” She wiped at her eyes, smearing dirt on her nose. “To spend the rest of my days keeping Tom’s
house and raising his babies! Ugh.”

Sis’s face got re

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