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I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy of Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, DECISIVE: How to make better choices in Life and Work. You may know the Heath brothers from their previous books, SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard and MADE TO STICK: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They are adept at taking massive amounts of research on topics with widespread appeal and distilling the information into something that can be used in daily life. In DECISIVE, they discuss decision-making and make it practical. Here, I have applied many of their ideas in a simple checklist: What manuscript should you write next?
Courtesy of the Heath Brothers amazing insights into the applicability of much research, these are practical ideas to help you make the best decision possible. If you want to know more, DECISIVE will be released on March 26, available now for pre-order.
You just wrote, “The End.” And you hit the SEND button. The manuscript is off to the editor.
What now? How do you decide on the next project?
Build a Career
An agent once asked this question: What is the next logical book for you in terms of building an audience that will support your career?
Do you see the criteria embedded in that question:
- Build an audience
- Support your career
Is that what you want? A career with a growing audience? Then, you probably need to stick with the genre of your first book, and turn out a second book that will appeal to the same audience. If you wrote a mystery and it sold well, write another mystery—different, better, but definitely appealing to the same audience.
But it may not be that easy. Maybe several genres interest you and you want to try something new. But that might risk your career, because you aren’t building a consistent following. How do you sort out all your ideas and commit to the next project? Here are 15 questions to ask yourself.
15 What Next Questions
- Don’t Get Trapped in Too Small a Framework. The decision is rarely one like this: Should I do Mss A or not? Instead, try to look at a range of options. Here are ideas that I have, A, B, C, D, and E. Which of these would appeal to the same audience as my first success?
- What else you could write in the same time period. If it takes you six months to write a novel, what else could you get written in that time period? What project deserves that time commitment?
- What if you couldn’t write the Mss you had planned to write next? What would you write then? For example, if you were planning a picture book biography of Shirley Temple and one was just published to great acclaim, maybe it’s not the best time for this story. So, pretend something similar just happened to your pet idea. What would you do then?
- Could you write the openings of several different manuscripts and THEN decide which one excites you the most? Multi-tracking sometimes allows the cream to rise.
- Look at the career of someone you admire and want to emulate. At a similar point in his/her career what was the next book published? Or, look at a musician or actor/actress and find parallels in their careers. For example, Sean Connery could have gotten stuck in the 007 role and never found his way to new projects. Instead, he has regularly “reinvented” himself by taking risky roles that led to an expanded career. Is it time for you to write that “breakout” book you’ve been planning?
Looking over all the possible manuscripts and ideas—what has you the most excited? Which one are you scared to write—and therefore, will push you to write your best?
Ask the opposite question: if you have been writing mysteries, what if your next novel was a romance? Is this the time to make a switch or not? Can you carry any of your audience over to a new genre? Is there a way to work more romance into your next mystery, so the transition isn’t total, but pulls in readers from both genres?
Could you test new waters with a short story or a short ebook? Is there a way to TRY something new, without doing damage to your current audience? Once you decide on a new mss, you’ll have to commit wholeheartedly to write the best possible. But maybe you can take a couple weeks and try out a new market.
Are you too attached to the status-quo? Your publisher wants more and more of this one type story and you get paid. But somehow, you feel your passions are lessened. At what point do you need to shake up the status quo?
What would you tell your best writer friend to do in this situation?
What are you passionate about? What are your core values? Does Mss A or B or C or D allow you to express that passion better?
If you write this book and a year from now it fails(either not published or published to poor reviews), can you think why it would have failed to reach your audience?
If you write this book and it succeeds, can you discuss why it would make your readers excited about your work?
Do you set goals for your books? If this mystery doesn’t sell 10,000 copies, then I’ll try a different genre for my next project. Would a goal like that help you make the next career move?
Are there deadlines for this project, or can you create a deadline? You’ll devote six months to this fantasy story, and then, you must write your next mystery.
You have a choice to make and the choice will affect your future and your career as a writer. What will you write next? There are no right or wrong answers, only answers that please you. You’re in control. I know–that’s scary! But that’s another post.
Hey, Chip and Dan–What will YOU write next?
Reading would be boring, except for the person behind the writing. YOU make it interesting. Your voice.
Even the federal government recognizes the importance of YOU: ideas can’t be copyrighted, rather, the particular expression of an idea. What you copyright is your voice. You.
This means several things:
Voice. As you write, be aware of your particular ways of thinking, of what you notice, of how you express what you notice. Try to foster those interests and expressions. Of course, this isn’t a call to be sloppy in grammar or word usage or sentence structure. Just as a jazz player plays a riff on a song, so you must experiment in your writing, while still making sure the song is recognizable.
Match voice to genre. Your voice–who you are–will also determine the types of writing at which you can excel. Nonfiction or fiction, horror or romance–you need to find a place where your voice fits naturally and allows you to exploit your voice. Experiment with genre, style, length, and venue (online v. print, for example), to find the “highest and best use” of your strengths.
Editors. We all need feedback and early editors. Be careful, though, of line editors, those people who think something must be said their way. Unless they are extremely skilled, line editors mess with voice. And you must not allow that.
Stick with a genre, character, series. If and when you find that sweet spot, stick with it. Careers are built on returning readers, who become fans, who faithfully buy everything you write and furthermore, they tell friends to buy them and they give your books as gifts. Early in your career, don’t worry about bouncing around and writing everything you might want to write. If you are lucky enough to find success in one area, stay there long enough to build a readership that you will take with you to the next step.
You. Your lens, the way you see the world, the way you express what you see–that is what keeps reading from being boring. Let me see the world the way YOU see it. And I’ll keep reading you.
Click on the image to read the photographer's description of the difference in lenses used.
What are you writing that someone will want to read in 10 years? In 50 Years? In 100 Years?
We all write grocery lists for ourselves, trash as soon as our shopping cart is full. To-do lists are crossed off and tossed as soon as you can. A letter or email lasts a bit longer, but the pleasure in these is usually short-lived. The results of our writing can be short-term or long-term. But we hope that something we do is longer lasting. The idea is scary: what could I write that someone would want to read 100 years from now?
Like Ray Brandbury's Fahreint 451, we want our stories to be the ones people choose to keep in their hearts. How do you write for posterity?
Passion. First, find something for which you have passion. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was written over 60 years ago, but today we recognize it as the beginning of the environmental protection movement.
Emotion. Find emotional connections to others that will resonate with the time and period in which we live. Charles Dicken's story, "A Christmas Carol," is about the poverty of his times and how stingy characters can be turned around. But it's also a timeless story of the power of love to change a person. Look for strong emotion in your life or surroundings and trust that those emotions will resonate across the years.
Voice. Most important, be who you are. Write it your way. Who cares that first person POV, present tense apocalyptic stories are popular. If you write in verse, then write in verse. If you write in 3000 word chapters, do it. If you like jargon, dialect, do it. Or, like Hemingway, maybe you tend to write in simple sentences and vocabulary. What tpics do you love, what storytelling techniques turn you on?
Practice. Of course, saying that you need to use your own personality and voice doesn't let you off the hook. You still need to practice and learn and find ways to write stronger. It may modify your working methods and voice some, but hopefully, you'll find ways to satisfy general aesthetics about writing, but with your own twist.
I like watching shows like HGTV's "Design Star"or any of the other competition shows on these days. Because so often, it is about Voice. You'll hear the judges say things like, "Show us more of who you are." "We want your take on things, not just an imitation of other people."
It's a struggle to be original. Judges urge contestants to relax, to be themselves.
If you want to be read a hundred years from now. write something true to only you, something that no one else could have written.
What is that story or piece of writing that you have been scared to write because you didn't think you could ever write? You should do it. No one else can. And it's just possible that it is the one thing that will still be read 100 years from now.
STATUS: Another phone conference in 20 minutes! Must blog quickly.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LOWDOWN by Boz Scaggs
Blog readers, have I got special treat for you today. If you ever wondered what the editor rejections looked like for a book that has shown every sign of coming out of the gate wildly popular, well today is your lucky day.
Today is the official release day for Kristen Callihan's FIRELIGHT.
I've blogged before about the fact that I almost could not sell this book. And today, Kristen has given me special permission to share her rejections.
But let me preface this.
This debut novel has received two starred reviews (Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) and top pick at any number of romance sites, too many to list here.
When we sent the novel out to already established and successful authors to read with an eye for a possible blurb, we had our fingers crossed that maybe we'd get one or two responses.
Every author on our list read and blurbed it:
"Callihan has a great talent for sexual tension and jaw-dropping plots that weave together brilliantly in the end.”
—Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander
"A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent." —Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Rider
"Evocative and deeply romantic, Firelight is a beautiful debut. I was fascinated from the first page." —Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of the Guild Hunter Series
“Passionate and sizzling, beautifully written and dark. This unique paranormal twist on the beauty and the beast tale rocks!”
—Elizabeth Amber, author of Bastian The Lords of Satyr
"Kristen Callihan delivers a dark, lush offering to fans of gothic and paranormal romance. With a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page, Firelight is a sexy, resplendent debut. I can't wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!"
—Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke
"This book has everything: sword fights, magic, despair, a heroine with secret strengths, a hero with hidden vulnerability, and best of all, a true love that's hot enough to burn the pages. I couldn't stop reading. This book is utterly phenomenal."
—Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Unraveled
A couple of months into myRLF Fellowship at the London College of Fashion, I mentioned to a friend howmuch I was enjoying it. It reminded me of how much I love teaching – the chanceto make a difference in a pupil or student’s life, to share in their learningand help them reach their full potential. Teaching, I declared, was myvocation. She was surprised. To be honest, I surprised myself. Where does mywriting fit into this? Is it just a job; another career I’ve moved into or isit something else entirely? I’ve been thinking about the answer to thisquestion – a lot.
As a bossy little girl,press-ganging my friends into an audience to listen to the poems and stories I’dwritten, I was often told by adults that I would probably grow up to be ateacher. There was certainly never any mention that I might grow up to be awriter. I don’t think that early ‘encouragement’ pushed me towards a teachingcareer, but I did train and work as a teacher for many years. The genuine encouragementcame from a careers advice teacher at the FE college where I was hurtlingtowards a job as a shorthand-typist or, at best, a private secretary. She stoodover me while I filled in the university clearing house forms and – by happy accident– found my vocation as well as a fulfilling and relatively well-paid careerwith great holidays. She was everything a good teacher should be – inspiring,challenging, supportive – and she made a huge impact on my life. I owe her ahuge debt of gratitude, although to my sadness and shame, I no longer rememberher name.
At the risk of soundingconceited, I believe I was a good teacher too. I honed my bossiness into theability to encourage – OK, push – my students to be the best they could be andI hope some of them remember me positively. I remained in education until I was eventuallypromoted to a job for which I was not suited and which I loathed. Budgetmanagement just wasn’t my thing – and I bolted.
Amy Lamphere, writer and senior team leader for Jockey Person to Person, was worried she didn't have a retirement plan, as she supported her writing career--waiting for her big break. She had been working retail to "support that habit" when she decided to go for something with more security. This is when she got into "social selling" with a company you've probably heard of before--Jockey. I'll let Amy tell you in her own words about her business, about her writing, and about how you can get super comfy clothes or even a new career to support your writing until it takes off. WOW: Hi Amy, I know that you have a business and a writing career, so we'll talk about both today. First, please share with The Muffin readers about your business, Jockey Person to Person. What is it exactly?Amy: You know the underwear company, right? Person To Person is their leading direct-to-consumer division. We have shaken up the social selling marketplace with a super functional, super fashionable line of clothes that women love to layer on. I am a sales rep and coach for a national team of fabulous women who have found great money and great balance between their Jockey business and their life passion--whether that's family, education, volunteering...or writing!WOW: So, what are some Jockey styles that you can suggest for writers? Do you have any particular pieces that you LOVE to write in?Amy: My blog is The Lady in Leggings, so you know what I like to wear! Jockey P2P's active wear is simply the best, perfect for yoga class, then settling down to the computer. I love our Convertible Wrap Cardigan--it can be worn twenty different ways, and the fabric is delicious. And our Modern Pants--fondly known as The Butt Pants (because they make EVERYONE's butt look good)--and Jacket are my writing "uniform": I put them on when I need to get some serious pages done, and the fact that I FEEL great really comes through in how I approach my work.WOW: Some people think it doesn't matter what they wear when they write. Do you agree with this or do you think the way you look and/or feel makes a difference for your creativity?Amy: I swing a little old school on this topic. I was brought up with "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" mindset, and that sentiment has served me well. I don't think you have to obsess or overdo; but if you are confident in your appearance, it does reflect in your work, whether it's alone with your laptop or at a conference with potential colleagues, readers, or collaborators.WOW: Or what if some of our writers are also speakers? Do you provide some good wardrobe choices for speaking and presenting, too?
2 Comments on Jockey Person to Person for Writers: Wardrobe and Income, last added: 8/31/2011
STATUS: I'm feeling this strange desire to belt out Men At Work songs. Wait, that's because I'm jet lagged and actually in Australia!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK by Sting
Last Thursday, Angie and I got a chance to do informational interviews at the Denver Publishing Institute. As 2002 grads (and I can't believe it's been that long!), we were happy to give back by chatting with the graduating students looking for careers in publishing and specifically those who were interested in agenting.
I did about 15 interviews and during the day, I have to say that something completely crystalized for me.
Q: What does it take to be a good literary agent?
A: The ability to handle conflict.
Q: What does it take be a happy literary agent?
A: The ability to be sanguine about all the conflict you deal with on a daily basis.
I know. This should have been obvious but I had never boiled it down to the above. Ninety percent of agenting is troubleshooting and do conflict resolution.
And I'm not exaggerating.
An agent's job is to be the author's advocate. Plain and simple. And that means it's the agent's job to sometimes be the "bad guy" so the author can have a warm and fuzzy relationship with his/her editor and publisher.
The agent is the person who says the tough things when they need to be said.
So if you are by nature, a conflict avoider, then being a literary agent is not going to be a happy job for you. It's not like anyone loves conflict (or maybe some folks do!) but some folks are more hard wired to deal with it with equanimity.
Definitely something to keep in mind if you want to pursue this particular career.
I have a friend who runs a retail store, and in the course of a conversation I asked what her bestselling items were. She laughed and said that until recently she would have been convinced it was the red bracelet, but after running reports just the night before she was shocked to learn that not only was she wrong, but so wrong that the biggest seller wasn't even on her radar.
The only thing she could attribute her mistake to was perception v. reality. Because she had recently sold two red bracelets and heard many other customers comment on how lovely it was, she was convinced it had to be a hot item. Thanks to inventory tracking software, however, she's always able to keep on top of the truth about her business, something that makes the difference, a big difference, in success versus failure. If she had ordered based on perception she would have a backlog of red bracelets and hardly enough yellow necklaces, her true bestseller, to meet demand.
Understanding the importance of reality is important for any business owner to be successful, and that means you too, authors. It's so easy to get caught up in the letters we receive from readers and the good reviews for our books. Those are the things that keep you writing and excited about your work, but five people writing to tell you that your series is amazing and asking for more books does not mean your series is a bona fide success. It's simply your perception of how successful the series is, or should be. The reality can only be seen in your numbers. Five people aren't going to make a book a bestseller. Heck, they aren't even going to make it worthwhile to self-publish. However, it is quite possible that five people could write to you, begging for more, and 50,000 more buy your book. Now you have numbers and numbers are reality.
Let's face it, reality is often one of the hardest things to face, but facing it head-on is what will help you achieve the success you want. Facing reality means you know what your career looks like, and knowing the truth can help you make decisions, the right decisions, about your future.
As Grace reported a few weeks ago, I was promoted to the position of Fiction Editorial Director. I've been asked by different people what this means in terms of my day-to-day job, so I thought I'd briefly outline it here.
-I am now overseeing our Middle Grade and Young Adult lists. The "Fiction" in my title is a bit misleading, as technically I would also oversee MG and YA nonfiction, but as we publish very little nonfiction at Little, Brown in general, we thought it was cleaner to just say "Fiction". This means running the novel portion of editorial meeting, approving which projects go to our acquisitions meetings, and then giving my recommendation at that meeting. Overall, I'm tasked to help shape our fiction list in terms of balance of titles (literary vs commercial, MG vs YA, making sure the books we sign up don't compete directly with each other in terms of subject matter, etc.).
-I will still be editing picture books (I couldn't give that up!), but my focus will be on MG and YA.
-Instead of just one person (my assistant) reporting to me, I have three other editors as direct reports. This means approving more paperwork (expense reports, contract requests, etc.), reviewing copy and P&Ls, etc., more annual performance reviews, responding to MG/YA-related requests/questions/emails, and so on.
-In general, I have more meetings, including attending jacket meeting in its entirety (rather than just for my individual titles), list planning meetings, and weekly updates with each editor.
-Because of my increased administrative duties, I may eventually have to tighten my own title list, and potentially acquire fewer books. I haven't passed any of my books on to other editors yet (I love all my books, so it's hard to give any up!), but I may in the near future. I do want to say that when deciding which projects to pass on, I'm mainly looking at which books are a good fit taste-wise with another editor, and which projects I feel another editor could manage as well or better than myself, especially considering my own increased workload.
I'm excited about the challenges of the new position, but I will say that I never really had this job as a career goal (and those of you who know me know how much I love goal setting!). There are some editors who want to be publisher some day. I've never been one of them. To be perfectly honest, I would have been happy being at the Executive Editor level for a long time--maybe for the rest of my publishing career, because the editing part of my job has always been my favorite. But at the same time, when this opportunity presented itself, I weighed my options, and it felt like a good move for me, a job where I could still do the editing I love, but also learn the business side a little more, to mentor more, and to help shape a list.
We'll see what this new position will bring!
Cartoonist Ivan Brunetti in his studio
Kidd, who says Brunetti’s relative obscurity is due mainly to the fact that he’s not much of a self-promoter, has been badgering the cartoonist to submit a book proposal for more than a decade. “He doesn’t have a defining book. That’s a big moment for a cartoonist,” Kidd said. “And Ivan has a masterpiece in him; it’s just getting him to do it.”
Last night my partner brought me flowers and tools: diagonal pliers to replace the ones he broke, and joint pliers because mine do not work very well. Another woman might have offered an evil eye for a gift of tools, but for me it was perfect.
Embrace who you are.
I learned a long time ago that I don’t fit in the usual boxes. To some people, like my sister, my having nine careers in thirty-four years seems flighty and unfocused. Others see my ability and willingness to shift lanes as adventurous. For me, it has just been the natural progression of my life.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller
So often we become stuck in society’s boxes of what is acceptable or what is required of us to move forward. Almost every writer experiences these judgments at some point. When leaving a well paying corporate job to work from home. The stigma of following a creative passion versus a good business position. The credentials needed to fulfill a dream.
A friend once told me, “If God gave you the inspiration you are already qualified.”
The world is in a topsy-turvy state. We are in a flux where no one decision is the “right” one. Work for yourself or someone else? Stay in the business world or pursue creative drive? Print publications or eBook? What kind of platform works best and is FaceBook really necessary? With the economy constantly shifting, the benefits of long-term employment no longer secured and conventional marketing loosing ground society has no choice but to roll with the shifting sand.
Don’t be stressed, be happy!
This chaotic state offers us the gift of choosing our own way, the space to create new paradigms. It is as if a big, dry-erase pad is sweeping through all the old, tired models and leaving us with a big, blank board. The only question is…
What will you place on it?
by Robyn Chausse
So far this week I’ve covered why people might want to self publish (and when they shouldn’t), and I’ve offered a step-by-step guide to the process. One big question remains—how can you turn a self-published book into a success story?
Since I just released my books, I can’t claim success yet. If you want to follow along with my story, I’ll be reporting updates on my personal blog on Wednesdays.
In the meantime, I can tell you my plan. First though, some comments from experts:
On the Behler Blog, Lynn Price acknowledges changes to the industry, but offers a warning to self-publishers: “The big advance money is drying up and the big guys aren’t buying the kinds of books they did years ago.… [However] It’s one thing to heed the call to the battle cry and chant ‘death to publishers!’ and quite another to actually go out and do it. And be successful.”
Self-pub superstar Amanda Hocking adds her own warning: “Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren’t all that different, and I don’t think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren’t. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it’s harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.”
On the other side, Joe Konrath writes adult mysteries. He started in traditional publishing but has become totally gung ho about self-publishing. He sees no reason why anyone would want a traditional publishing contract today. On the other hand, he fully admits that success takes a big dose of luck. He often features guest authors sharing their success stories. These are primarily adult genre authors, but it’s still interesting to see what people do—and often how little difference a big publicity plan makes.
Along with luck, Joe says you need a well-written book, a great cover, a strong blurb describing it, and a good price point. He considers the e-book ideal $2.99, the lowest price at which you can get Amazon’s 70 percent royalty rate (it drops to 30 percent for cheaper books). You can judge my covers for yourself and check out the description and sample chapters of the writing at my Amazon page. Now let’s run some numbers to figure out that price point.
I can price my work as a $2.99 e-book and make $2 per book with Kindle’s 70 percent royalty rate. My traditionally published books are available on the Kindle, but at $5.99 for each of the Haunted series (the paperback price) and $8.80 for The Well of Sacrifice (hardcover price $16). I don’t get many sales that way, but many people complain that e-books are overpriced. (For an explanation of why, check out this post by former agent Nathan Bransford.) With The Eyes of Pharaoh and Rattled, people may be more likely to try the lower-priced books.
POD copies will be priced higher, because of printing costs. I can price Rattled at $7.99 which earns me $.92 for
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Look for an "American Idol" (greatest hits album to drop on March 15, featuring popular singles from stars that got their start on the show — Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, and more…though unfortunately missing is Jennifer... Read the rest of this post
STATUS: I think my telephone’s handset is permanently glued to my left ear. Way too much phone time over the last few days.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE LOVECATS by The Cure
Wrapping up the fun facts tonight!
Mari Mancusi—It took me over two years to convince her publisher to buy the fourth book in the Blood Coven Vampire series. Then they did, repackaged the back list with new covers and now the series is doing great and we are up to having recently sold book eight!
Lisa Shearin—who has well over 100,000 copies in print for her Raine Benares series had a ton of passes while on submission for MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND because the editors didn’t like the “fun voice.” It wasn’t the “norm” in fantasy.
Shanna Swendson—Gets regular royalty checks for her Enchanted Inc. series even though the first book published more than 5 years ago. Talk about evergreen!
And I have a ton of other facts that will probably never see the light of day but this has been fun to recap.
STATUS: Today was a whirlwind of good news and I actually knocked 2 things off my To Do List. I’m flying high tonight.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE WEDGE by Dick Dale
Courtney Milan—next to Chutney, Courtney has the cutest dog on the planet! Seriously, most of you know that Courtney came my way via a recommend from Sherry Thomas but then I met her in person and the Chicago Romance Writers Conference. I was impressed on many fronts.
Paula Reed—is the only client where I found her! I read an article about teachers and Columbine High School in the Denver Post and she was profiled. In the article, she mentioned she was writing a romance so I reached out to her. Now she writes literary historical fiction.
Sarah Rees Brennan—I was the only agent she queried for The Demon’s Lexicon series. Every day I’m thrilled and amazed that it was so!
Kim Reid—I met Kim at the Pikes Peak Writers conference and I think I physically groaned when she said she had a memoir to pitch (she won’t let me live that down!). Her memoir NO PLACE SAFE is one good reason why I’m proud to be a literary agent.
STATUS: Hey, winter decided to show up, briefly, in Denver today. It snowed. I already miss out near 60 degree weather already.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GIVE PEACE A CHANCE by John Lennon
The Gals of Killer Fiction (all former Dorchester authors) are giving away free eBooks because finally, it’s their books to give away. (For the history, click on this link.) Two of my authors, Jana DeLeon and Leslie Thompson are participating. Nothing wrong with the word “free” in this case so you might want to check it out.
And that leads me to back to some more fun facts to share.
Lucienne Diver—was already publishing under a pseudonym when I convinced her to do the Vamped Series in her own name.
Carolyn Jewel—has never missed a deadline (which has me convinced that she has mastered the art of cloning)
Leslie Langtry—was skeptical of literary agents and gave me the most detailed questions I’ve ever received when offering representation. And if you know Leslie, who is probably the author most likely to buy you a beer and hug you, you’d realize just how strange that is!
Marie Lu—was an attendee I met at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. She submitted sample pages to her first novel which I passed on (sensing a theme here!). Then I took her on for a novel that I wasn’t able to sell. Now her debut YA, LEGEND, is one of Penguin’s big books for this fall. Talk about paying some dues.
Time for bed but more tidbits tomorrow!
Frequently I receive requests for interviews from writers, newsletters, and students working on papers for class, and I do make an effort to answer as many as I have time for. Luckily, many of the questions are the same from interview to interview, so I can reuse material. Recently, though, I did an interview and wondered why I wasn’t sharing this same information with my blog readers. So from time to time I’m going to post the interviews I’ve been doing here on the blog.
The first is a request I received from a student at Eastern Michigan University. The student was doing a class project on careers and was interested in literary agents and publishing, so here’s what I shared . . .
What's a typical day like for you? I don’t think there is a typical day for me, which is one of the things I love about my job. I don’t think I would do well in a job that was even the least bit predictable.
Each day takes shape depending on the emails and phone calls I need to make or receive. For example, if I get a call from a publisher offering a contract on a book, my entire day, and all my plans, will likely be placed on the back burner as I communicate with the author and editors about the book and begin contract negotiations.
If I receive a panicked email or phone call from a client I could spend the rest of the day working with that client to smooth out the wrinkles in her manuscript or work on revisions.
If I hear from an author who has an offer of representation or a contract offer from another agent or a publisher and I want to get in the game, I will likely have to drop everything to read that material and consider it for representation.
If things go smoothly and I am receiving few emails or phone calls, I could actually spend my day answering interviews like this, reading queries, or catching up on proposals.
Typically, though, I start the day by reading email, checking up on industry news through various different formats like Publishers Weekly, Publishers Marketplace, blogs and Twitter, and then base the rest of the day on what I find there.
What kind of writing do you do as part of your job? I honestly don’t think I do that much writing, but keep in mind I work with writers. It’s hard to say you write when you work with people who write thousands of words a day.
I do keep an almost daily blog, I send emails, I write revision letters to clients and, most important, I write pitch letters to editors to sell the books I represent. These pitch letters, or query letters, are really marketing pieces and can sometimes take hours to craft.
What kind of information do you typically look for on resumes and is there a specific format you prefer candidates to use? I look for experience first. I think one of the biggest mistakes candidates make is assuming their education is the most important thing they’ve done. If you’ve done internships of any kind I would put that at the top of the page; experience shows me that you’re different and more ambitious than anyone else I’m interviewing.
I also look for candidates with an interest in commercial fiction. I think that for many students there’s a prejudice against commercial fiction or genre fiction. You’ve been engrossed in reading literary books or classics for years, which are great, but as an agent who represents commercial fiction I need someone who loves romance and mystery, young adult and anything that’s new and different.
What is your favorite part of the job? Brainstorming with my clients. There’s nothing I love more than helping shape an idea and create a book.
How did you become interested in this field? The love of words. I studied journalism in college and worked on the college newspaper all four years. I really thought I wanted to be a reporter, but by the time I graduated I knew the newspaper business wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t sure where I belonged
STATUS: First day of fall. Makes me kind of sad. I want summer to stay awhile longer.
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WONDER by Natalie Merchant
…for bankruptcy, what is the best thing an author can do?
My answer? Get your rights reverted before the filing so the books aren’t tied up indefinitely by the court as non-reverted titles will be deemed assets of the company.
By the way, this is true even if you have a bankruptcy clause in your contract specifying that rights automatically revert. Bankruptcy courts don’t perceive it that way and they trump contract clause.
I also suggest you get a full accounting, if you can, of what is owed to you. You want this for several reasons: 1) if you have to file a claim as a creditor in the bankruptcy, you’ll know for how much. 2) you might be able to take the amount loss as a tax deduction (but ask a tax expert first).
I can’t believe I almost forgot to tell this story!
Two years ago, two and a half actually, we had an intern named Holly. Holly was (is, actually) smart, ambitious and loves publishing. We really enjoyed having Holly around. Even better for us, and hopefully for Holly, she was here at a perfect time. Near the end of Holly’s internship our assistant announced she was leaving for another job. Since Holly was here, graduating, and looking for a job, it seemed only natural to offer it to her. Unfortunately, at the time we couldn’t bring Holly in full-time and, frankly, I’m not sure she wanted to be an agent. While she enjoyed (I hope) working for BookEnds, she really had dreams of working in Manhattan as an editor for one of the bigger houses.
So we made a deal. Holly would take the job part-time while looking for a gig in Manhattan. We would work together, honestly and fairly. She knew we were looking for someone to take on the assistant role and we knew she was looking for something more permanent. And then I heard of an opening at St. Martin’s, so I sent out an email to the editor. I told the editor of Holly’s brilliance and passed along her resume. In just a few short weeks Holly had the job.
Like many interns and assistants, Holly made sure to load up on books before leaving, taking along books by one of her favorite BookEnds clients, Angie Fox. When Holly started her job she told her boss about Angie’s work. The boss read The Accidental Demon Slayer and fell in love. She called and talked about Angie and I promised that when Angie had something new I would keep her in mind. And I did.
Just this summer I finalized a deal between Angie Fox and St. Martin’s for Angie’s fabulous new series (and yes, I’m purposely keeping you in suspense). Even more exciting, we’ve actually done another deal with Holly for another client. I feel like a proud mama watching her little chick leave the nest.
By: Darcy Pattison
Blog: Darcy Pattison's Revision Notes
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What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Always. But wanting to be a writer is probably a lot like wanting to be a baseball player. Or a movie star. A lot of people want it, but most will settle for something else.
One thing that sets me apart from other people is I’m determined. Some might say stubborn. I’m also relatively patient. When I want something, I go after it. And I don’t give up until I get it.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. I’ve had a lot of doubts about my writing through the years. There have been times I wondered if I was wasting my time…times I considered giving up…times I wished I could look into a crystal ball and see whether I was ever going to get anywhere. Would I ever get published? Would I ever publish a book? Would I ever publish a book with my name on it rather than someone else’s? Would I ever publish a series? That’s what I really wanted to do…publish a series of my own.
Now that I’m more than twenty years into my writing career, I know the answers to those questions. If I could actually talk to a younger version of myself at various points my life, and offer some advice, this is what I would say:
Dear 21-year-old Dori,
Dori at 21
You’re just starting your adult life. You’re married, but you don’t have any kids yet. You’ve just made the decision not to go on to graduate school. Instead you’re going to be a children’s book author! Part of you is wondering if you’re making the right decision. Don’t worry…you are. But you won’t really know that for a while yet. And even when you do know it, some of the reasons why it was a good decision will surprise you.
So what are you working on? An eight-book picture book series called Plato Goes to Obedience School. Wow. Eight books, huh? All about a cocker spaniel who goes to obedience school. You don’t realize this yet, but you don’t have enough story there to sustain one book, much less eight. You’ve got the start of a character, but no plot. No. I’m sorry, you really don’t.
Let me ask you this: What does Plato want? What is he willing to do to get it? What is he going to DO in each of these eight books to move the story forward? Where’s the conflict? Where’s the adventure? Where are the high stakes? You need to read A LOT more picture books if you think you want to write picture books. You need to learn the elements of a good story. In fact, maybe you should think about writing just one good story at this point. It’s too early to be thinking about a series.
I know you really want to write a series. But trust me, you’re not ready. And Plato Goes to Obedience School is NOT series material. By the way, six-year-olds don’t even know who Plato was, so you might consider changing the name of that dog. Yeah, I know…that’s really your dog’s name, but nobody cares. Please, do me a favor. Don’t send that series proposal out. Just keep reading, keep writing, keep learning. One day you will publish a series of your own. It’ll even be a series about dogs! But it’s not going to be Plato Goes to Obedience School. It’s just not. Put this away and don’t ever show it to ANYONE! You still have so much to learn…
Attempting to build a career out of kids' writing sometimes seems like a folly, especially when I receive a royalty statement like yesterday's. Ack.
But to offset that:
1) The practical, prolific Jan Fields has an excellent article up called,"When You're in This for the Career." It's full of great reminders and tips about being flexible and surviving industry turndowns like the one we're in now. Thanks, Jan!
2) Congratulations to Lisa Willman, who followed the approach in my self-paced workbook, Writing Children's Nonfiction Books for the Educational Market. She's got a contract writing materials for Carson-Dellosa (and with the number of packets she sent out, I won't be surprised if she has more contracts soon). And congratulations to Lisa Amstutz, who took my online class on the same topic and now has two books coming out with Capstone.
3) I recently sat in a bookstore paging through a bunch of great children's magazines, reading all the poetry. So many great pieces, and I was especially pleased to see a lovely one in Cricket called, "When I Knock on the Sister Door, It Opens," by April Halprin Wayland.
I am recharged. At least sort of. :>)
I finished my first novel, a humorous women's fiction (chick lit), earlier this year and began querying agents. I received my fair share of rejections off the bat, and I began to think that part of my problem is that chick lit has taken a drastic dive in popularity. But, as I had spent a year of my life writing the blasted thing, I persisted. In the meantime, I started and almost finished my second novel, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde that would probably appeal to the YA market.
In recent weeks, I have had several agents respond to my first query, asking to see partials and fulls, and one offer of representation.
My question is this: Should I abandon my second novel for now and start writing some more humorous fiction in order to build a following? Or should I finish my YA ms. and then switch back to chick lit? I hate being confined to one genre, because after spending a year writing in one style, it is very tempting to try something new. But I don't want to confuse my fans (assuming, of course, that I get any).
The simple answer to this question is that you need to talk to your agent if you choose to sign with one. Personally, I think there’s definitely a correlation between what was once chick lit and what people are writing as YA now. We’re seeing a lot of former chick lit authors go in that direction. However, yes, it could be a problem if you’re published as a women’s fiction author and suddenly switch to YA, unless you feel that you could write two books a year, let’s say, and do one of each.
If you choose to sign with an agent, or are considering signing with one, this is a discussion you should have before signing. Find out how the agent envisions your career and what she thinks about your two directions. Having this discussion may help you decide if she’s the right agent for you or what you should be doing.
Yesterday I shared some of my thoughts on unpublished authors self-epublishing as a way to launch their careers. Hopefully I was able to present a fair and balanced portrait of my thoughts on the subject. Today I want to continue that discussion by looking at what self-epublishing can do for published authors.
Just as unpublished authors see Kindle and other self-epublishing opportunities as a way to launch a career, published authors see self-epublishing as an opportunity to keep books that might have gone out of print in print or publish books that haven’t yet been published.
There’s no doubt this can be a wonderful opportunity for many, and we’ve seen some of those success stories right here at BookEnds. Angie Fox posted about her own experience in her blog post Taking Charge of Your Career, and author Bella Andre has responded to her readers by self-epublishing some of her erotic romances. That being said, neither of these authors made the decision to self-epublish lightly. Both carefully considered why they were doing it and worked very, very hard to ensure that the product they were putting out was just as good as, if not better than, any book they’d ever written or published traditionally. Most important, they have continued to keep their author brand in mind and are always working to make sure that their next book is always better than the last, whether it’s been self-epublished or traditionally published.
When it comes to readers you are only as good as your last book, and by last book I mean the last book they read. So even if your most recently written title is the one coming out from Big Name Publishing House, the one readers will remember and base future buying decisions on is the one they last purchased. So while self-epublishing can be an exciting way to move those books out from under your bed, you need to consider whether that’s the best decision for your career.
Let’s look at it his way: You have a series of historical romances you’re publishing with Publisher XYZ and they’re doing great. Your career is on the rise and readers love you, so you start thinking of all of those paranormal romances you wrote years ago. You still love those books and why wouldn’t your readers? They’ve made it clear they can’t get enough of you. So you dust them off and send them out to self-epublish. But those books aren’t as good as your historical romances. You might love them, but let’s face it, you’ve grown a lot in the last 10 years and the reason you are having so much success is because you’ve worked hard to perfect your craft. You also have an editor who works hard with you. You constantly praise her for her brilliant mind and editorial eye. You can’t say enough about how good she makes you look, but obviously if you’re self-publishing she won’t be involved with this book. And it shows. Of course readers snatch up your books because they love you, but they’re disappointed. The books aren’t what they’ve come to expect from you, and now they feel like they’ve wasted their hard-earned money and time reading books they found unsatisfying. Your next historical romance is published and sales drop. Your publisher can’t figure it out, they blame it on the cover, but the truth is that the readers have moved on. They don’t want to risk wasting more money or more time so they’ve found another author to follow.
Is this a doomsday scenario? Yes, it is, and I realize that, but it seems we’ve read so many stories lately about authors making millions by self-epublishing that I wanted to use an extreme example to remind you not why self-epublishing is bad, because I don’t think it is, but why you need to carefully consider what you’re putting out. It’s not the fact that you self-epublished your paranormal romances that’s the problem, it’s the fact that you’ve decided to put out a product that simply wasn’t as good a
I’m curious about the opinion you and Kim have about the rise in e-books and the rights therein. Is this an issue authors should pay closer attention to, or is it strictly agent territory—or perhaps, is it the responsibility of both parties?
There is nothing in this business that is “strictly agent territory.” As the author and owner of your business (your author brand), it is imperative that you learn about the business and keep yourself apprised of what is going on. When I look at those authors who have truly achieved success, there is one thing all of them have in common, and that’s knowledge of publishing as a business. That doesn’t mean they necessarily understand every clause in a contract (a smart author also surrounds herself with smart people), but she does make an effort to understand the contract as a whole, the rights she’s licensing to others, and what the options are for her career. She works as a team with those smart people she’s hired, which means she has conversations with her agent about the contract and the rights that are being licensed, she discusses design and style with her website designer, and she works hand in hand with her publicist to come up with the next brilliant publicity idea.
So the answer is a resounding: It’s the responsibility of both parties to understand and seek knowledge about not just digital rights, but all rights as they pertain to the book.
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STATUS: Ack! Can’t believe it’s 5 already. Where did the day go?
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALLING ALL ANGELS by Train
Once an author is established, it’s kind of hard to think of them as having a beginning but every successful author has a fun fact about their beginning. I thought it might be fun to share today.
Gail Carriger—Four years before she sent me SOULLESS, I had read a YA novel from her, passed on the manuscript but sent along a letter with feedback. She remembered that fondly and so queried me with SOULLESS.
Ally Carter—I signed Ally for a novel (adult) that we’ve never shopped.
Sara Creasy—(who by the way was just nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award—HUGE!!!) I made her revise SONG OF SCARABAEUS twice before I signed her and then went on to sell it.
Jana DeLeon—For her first book, RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU, had an editor who so wanted to buy her. Got shot down at her house. It sold elsewhere but just recently, this editor asked for every book she’s written since so she would have them on her vaca. Oh yes, we obliged@
Simone Elkeles—had only one offer to buy PERFECT CHEMISTRY. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to sell it!
Jamie Ford—When he first submitted HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, he had the manuscript entitled THE PANAMA HOTEL. Sounds like it’s set in Latin American. We went through about 100 titles before settling on the one it was published with before submitting it to editors. Now people can’t imagine any other title for it. One bad suggestion was Burning Silk—after the one scene where Japanese women start burning their wedding Kimonos after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Janice Hardy—Sold me on her manuscript during the 10-minute pitch session at the Surrey Writers Conference. Right after the pitch appt. I called my assistant (Sara at the time) and asked her to send it to me the minute it came in. She did. I read it and immediately offered rep for it. It’s rare to take on a novel from a pitch session but it happens.
More to come tomorrow!