I interrupt your day with some news. Although I have been quiet online I have been very busy doing that thing writers are supposed to do…writing.
I have a double dose of news to share with you all.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.
I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.
Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.
*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*
😼 😼 😼 😼 😼
Today I have the pleasure of a well-known author’s company. I have been a fan of her’s for just almost 3 years now. When I picked up her book, Sea Glass, I was captured by her writing style, her incredible world building and her exquisitely crafted characters. I couldn’t get enough of her other books. If you are a teen or have a teen in your house, you will know exactly who I am talking about. If you love reading books written by story-weavers then you will know her too. She has carved a niche in readers’ hearts all over the world. She has written 3 successful series of books and many short stories. From when her first novel, Poison Study, was published in 2005, nothing has held her back from creating new worlds and weaving new stories.
So make yourselves comfortable as the talented Maria V. Snyder and I have a conversation about Publishing.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about you as a beginning author and can you tell us the best advice you ever received before being a published author?
Maria >> I started writing because I was bored at work (shhh…don’t tell!). I’ve always enjoyed reading and being creative and I had dabbled with painting, acting, and dancing, but lacked the confidence to pursue any of those for my career. The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting. Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything. But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!
2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.
If you were starting out now as an author, would you still have made the same choices in publishing that you have made?
Maria >> Good question! At the time I was sending my first book, Poison Study around there were other options like self-publishing, digital formats, and print on demand available, but I really wanted to be published by a traditional publisher and if I hadn’t sold the book, I wouldn’t have pursued those other options. In today’s market, e-publishing is more popular, but I think it’s very difficult for a new author to stand out without spending lots of time and energy on marketing. If I was just starting out, I think I would still try to find a traditional publisher first before looking into e-publishing, but I wouldn’t rule it out like before.
3. How long did you spend in the pre-publishing trenches before you got an agent?
Maria >>About four years.
4. Rejection comes with the territory in the publishing industry.
Did you receive many rejections before signing with your agent? How did you persist submitting in spite of the rejections?
Maria >> I received 40 rejections from agents for Poison Study. After I exhausted all the agents who represented fantasy, I submitted the book directly to the publishers. I had a list of 20 publishers and I was determined to send the book to all of them before putting it away. While all this was going on, I wrote another book, Storm Watcher for kids ages 8 to 12. When I finished that book, I sent it to 20 agents and actually found one who wanted to represent me. When Poison Study found a publisher (#18 of 20), I called my agent and asked her to negotiate the contract. She asked me why I didn’t send her Poison Study when I was searching for an agent. I told her she hadn’t listed fantasy as one of the genres she represents and she said, “Oh, I take anything I like.” Sigh! This was back in 2003 – she never did sell Storm Watcher, however, I recently sold it to a small publisher (Leap Books). Even after 9 years, I didn’t give up on it. It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.
5. Many unpublished authors believe that the golden ticket to success is signing with a top literary agent. Would you agree and why/why not?
Maria >>In my case, I sold Poison Study on my own and my agent helped with the contract. However that was 9 years ago and many publishers were still accepting unagented submissions – I found 20, but today a writer might only find 5 as editors are relying on agents to pick the gems from the slush pile. An agent is very helpful and I always suggest you try to find one first, but if no one is interested, then to go ahead and submit on your own. Be careful about which agents you query – not all are reputable. I’ve an article about finding agents on my website here: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice/findingL.php
6. Do you get nervous when a book submission and a new contract is under way, worrying whether it will be accepted or not?
Maria >>Yes! During contract negotiations, I’m always so thankful to have my agent. He (my second as my first passed away) loves to negotiate and I can hear the glee in his voice as he reports to me on how it’s going. He also gives me feedback on my novels as I working on them so I know if I’m in the ballpark or not – since he’s been in publishing forever, he knows if one of my projects won’t fly with my editor.
7. Can you share with us the process you go through once you have finished writing your book up until the time it is published?
Maria >>After I send off my book, both my agent and editor read it and send me comments. I revise based on their comments and re-submit. Then I get the copy edits and a few more comments from my editor (or her assistant). I revise again, and either agree or disagree with the copy edits then re-submit. Then I get the galley proofs and I have to go through every single line, looking for errors and typos (not fun) and then type up ALL the changes on the Author Alterations (AA) form (which is hell on earth) and send in the form and the pages with the changes. About six weeks before publication, I receive a box of books in the mail (always fun!). During this time, I’m also making up bookmarks with the cover art of the new book, updating my website, writing newsletters, preparing for blog tours, sending out review copies to bloggers and media, and doing a ton of other marketing and promotion. With Touch of Power, I had two blog tours (one in the US and one in the UK) and did a number of events for the Australian release.
8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet and readers/fans can now have and often demand to have more direct access to authors. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?
Maria >>Social media is wonderful! I always encouraged my readers to contact me through email, but I noticed once I had a Facebook page, the number of emails I received went down. The trap is spending too much time on these sites and not enough writing your book. I’ve fallen into that one many times. If you’re a new author, I’d suggest that before your book is released, that you set up a website, blog and make a Facebook page at the least. Some authors also do Twitter and Goodreads and other sites, but I think if you have too many, it’ll suck up all your time. I use Facebook, Goodreads, my blog and website and I’m barely keeping my head above water (and I have a quarterly e-newsletter, too). The nice thing about my blog is – it will automatically show up on my Facebook and Goodreads pages, saving me time. I’d suggest you set aside a certain amount of time each day for social media and stick to it so it doesn’t dominate your life.
9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in the Publishing Industry, and what has been the greatest challenge for you?
Maria >> The biggest lesson was that not all books/authors in a publishing house are equal. Certain titles and certain authors get more support and more marketing dollars because their books sell like crazy. It’s not personal, it’s business. The greatest challenge for me is to say no. I really enjoy marketing and promotion and visiting schools and answering emails, and doing Q&As, that I don’t write as much as I should. Plus my children are teenagers and will soon be off to college and I want to spend time with them – so juggling all my commitments is a constant challenge.
10. One of the most important relationships any author has is the one with your editor.
Have you had one trusted editor for the length of your writing career or have you had a few different editors?
Maria >> My very first editor, the one who called me to offer my first contract left the company six months later. I’ve heard horror stories about orphaned authors and I would have had a heart attack, except my new editor called and told me not to worry since she was going to take me on. And I’ve had the same editor at Harlequin since! Love you Matrice!
11. There is a lot of talk about how Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing are at loggerheads with one another.
What are your feelings about the rise of Indie Publishing and the digital book format?
Do you believe it can work alongside traditional publishing or is it a threat to traditional publishing?
Maria >> I believe the rise of Indie Publishing is great for authors. It gives authors more options and greater control over their stories and more control over what type of stories they write. I think it will also lead to changes to the traditional publishers’ contracts that will be better for authors. They’ve always been the gate keepers and authors had to agree to their terms in order to see their books published. This isn’t the case anymore. I think most publishers are adapting to the changing climate and both Indie and Traditional will exist together in the future.
12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?
Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about Publishing and your writing journey. Thank you for the many generous tips and advice you gave. I know, that you made the Traditional Publishing process much more transparent for me and many others. I think we can all relate to you when you tell us “It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, butI was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.”. Rejection is a really difficult pill to swallow and the literary world is such a subjective world that it is hard to know what the perfect formula is for acceptance. “The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting. Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything. But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!” – I have to agree that is Brilliant advice. Persistence in writing and determination in seeing your book published is key. Thank you again Maria. It was a true pleasure to hear your views on the “many ways to skin a cat” in Publishing. ~ Kim
Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to fantasy novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster. Born in Philadelphia, Maria dreamed of chasing tornadoes and even earned a BS degree in Meteorology from Penn State University. Unfortunately, she lacked the necessary forecasting skills. Writing, however, lets Maria control the weather, which she gleefully does in her Glass Series (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass). Maria returned to school and earned a MA in Writing from Seton Hill University where she is currently one of the teachers and mentors for the MFA program. Her published young adult novels include Inside Out, and its sequel, Outside In, both are about the dystopian and fully-contained world of Inside. Her latest release is Touch of Power, which is about healer dealing with a plague stricken world.
You can find her at:
Her Website: http://www.MariaVSnyder.com
Her Blog: http://officialmariavsnyder.blogspot.com
Of course in the world of publishing we know how incorrect that statement is. Publishers judge books by their covers. Publicists and reviewers judge books by their covers. Buyers and retailers judge books by their covers. Most importantly, readers judge books by their covers. So the oft unnamed cover artist is a vital and integral part of the publishing and marketing process. This is one of the reasons why I love the world of Indie or Independent Publishing. In the land of gatekeepers, the BIG6, very rarely do the cover artist/s and author ever meet or have any contact with each other. However in the INDIE world to find a cover artist you can connect with and foster a relationship with is like finding a nugget of gold in a mound of rock and sand.
I have found that nugget of gold. For me the cover of a book is almost as important as writing the book is. I am a very visual person so for me to have a visual symbol of my imaginings is very powerful. But though there are many cover artists out there, it is a harder task to find a cover artist who can see what your words should like in a picture format. So I have been searching for over a year, trawling through various art communities but more often than not trawling through the artists on Deviant Art. Until one day I came across an image from one of the deviant artists that just took my breath away. This was the image that hooked me: Enslaved by her song. I knew I had found my cover artist. I emailed her to find out if she was available for commissioned work and whether she would be interested in working with me on my manuscript. Within 3 emails I had her eager agreement and I had met a twin-soul in her love for dark emotional subjects and a love of the paranormal. So as much as I would love to keep this artiste’s talent all to myself, I realised that I needed to introduce her to those I know. I am very excited to feature this emerging cover artist on this blog. I am thrilled she agreed to sit down and have a chat with me about what got her into art, why cover love, and the inspiration behind some of her most popular images.
So as much as I would love to keep this artiste’s talent all to myself, I realised that I needed to introduce her to those I know. So here she is.
Meet my Cover Artist and Artiste Extraordinaire…Silviya Yordanova.
1) Introduce us to Silviya Yordanova. Who is she?
My name is Silviya Yordanova and I am a 21-year-old self-taught digital artist from a very small country called Bulgaria. I’ve always wanted to find a way to create beauty and letting the world know my story and this is where digital art came! I have been into it for a few years now, started in the early 2008. Since then I can honestly say that I believe I’ve found my own style – depicting the reality through a twist of imagination. My works are always a mixture of concept, emotion and a drop of darkness. Photo manipulation has since then become a very important part of me and since I began doing it I’ve been trying to evolve my skills as much as I can. At first it all started as a hobby but in time it became much more. I found that through it many doors of opportunities were opened for me when I was first contacted for a commission, then for another one and with time it became my own little business and I hope for all the best in the future. I am currently a student in the University of Economics in my home city – Varna but being an economist is not what I want to be, there is no beauty in it …My passion lies in making art, trying to make the world a better and beautiful place, into expressing myself through it. My dream is to keep doing what I love for a living. I wish that someday I could be able to share the knowledge, experience and passion I have to others and help them discover their hidden talents as digital art was for me!
2) What type of art inspires you?
I love all kinds of art but mostly art pieces with an interesting concept, beautifully made with a lot of skill that has amazing impact on the viewer!
3) You have been featured in many interviews lately, which one were you most thrilled for?
I’ve been most excited about the features in big magazines like Photoshop Creative and Advanced Photoshop. Also at the end of February and March I am expecting 2 more features in such magazines but won’t reveal anything yet! If you’d like to be updated with news about me and my work feel free to like my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MyBeautifulDarkness
4) What awards, if any, have you won for your work?
Well I haven’t won many awards but the one I am most proud of is getting a “Daily Deviation” award at deviantART.com that I received for my interpretation of the story about Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs – “Snow White Strikes Back”. For me this is a huge deal and to be chosen is a great honor! Another award that I was very thrilled about is getting a “Featured Portfolio” award at Shadowness.com and also receiving 2nd place at the “Digital Artist of The Year” competition at ModelMayhem.com
5) Tell us a little about your background in art. How did you get into it?
I’ve always loved art since I can remember. I admire people who have the talent to create beauty and I’ve always wanted to be like them. I really like the traditional art of pen and paper but digital art is where my passion lies. I can’t define exactly where my love of art itself came from, I guess it was something I’ve always carried within me.
6) You have said before that you want to make a living designing book covers. What about designing book covers appeals to you?
I was actually talking to my friends the other day about that. The thing that most appeals to me is being able to recreate the author’s vision for the cover that would best fit their story! I can’t imagine something more rewarding than making their wish come true. I see how important this is because despite the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” people actually do it. No matter how good the story is, for those who choose a book just by how good the cover looks, it is the only way to grab the viewer’s attention sometimes. What appeals to me also is someday to be able to look at my bookshelf and to see books whose covers I created – this would mean I actually left a trace in the world, even a small and maybe insignificant one, but it’s there and I did it! 🙂
7) Do you have a favourite genre you like to design for and why?
My favorite genres are those that have something to do with darkness, the paranormal, emotions and such, I love stories about the creatures of the night – vampires, werewolves, witches etc. I also really like love stories, mysteries.. I think you get the picture Which is another reason Silviya’s images stood out to me above other cover artists.
8) How many book covers have you designed?
Well I have only designed covers for e-books and so far I’ve designed 5 for author Joely Sue Burkhart, she is fantastic, we correlate so well! You can check them on my Facebook page. Plus my book cover which we are in the process of designing. Ebook version complete and now working on the print version…. watch the space on this blog for the teaser reveal of my cover later on today.
9) What is your favourite art image you have designed and why?
Actually yes, there is one piece that is exceptionally important to me and it’s called “Reborn”. As you see, the title clearly reveals the concept of this piece. I wanted to portray the feeling of letting go of the past and embracing the bright future. You may be wondering why I chose to portray this exact feeling. Ever heard the saying “Let go of the past and embrace the bright future?” Well that about sums it all. This is what inspired me to create this image and why I chose this title. This work of mine is very important to me because of its meaning. What a beautiful inspiration for a haunting image. Another winning image from you Silviya.
10) You work mostly in photo-manipulation. Is there a reason why you prefer this medium to any other?
I guess it is because photo-manipulation offers you more control over the image, you can easily fix any mistakes, try different things and if you’re not happy just remove the element that bothers you and try again Besides I’m really into technology so these are two passions fused together! An artist after my own heart. I love art in all its forms but digital art is the way of the times.
11) How would you describe your art style?
My works are always a mixture of concept, emotion and a drop of darkness. This is what stood out to me in Silviya’s images when I first came across her profile on deviantART. This rare combination of darkness and emotion was something that I wanted to capture for my covers as this echoes the premise of all my mss. Her images will haunt you and the longer you stare at them the more they draw you into their depths. Talented is an understatement here. Artiste is a more appropriate description.
12) If an author wanted to commission you, how would they go about this?
If anyone is interested in having me design a cover for their book the first thing they need to do is contact me at my e-mail email@example.com , let me know whether you’ll need only a cover design or a whole book layout, your budget for the book cover and then we’ll be able to discuss a price and continue further Don’t fear a long wait either when contacting Silviya. I emailed her one day and that evening I had an answer in my inbox and from there the ball got rolling very quickly.
13) What sort of working relationship do you like to foster with the clients who commission your art?
I’d really like to keep in touch with them, to be aware of their accomplishments, to see whether they are happy with my work for them. I can definitely vouch for her keeping in touch. Not only is she my cover artist but she has become a hugely collaborative part of this ms. She has also become a good friend.
14) How long does it take you to complete a commissioned image?
Each time it is completely different, for example with sometimes the working process goes on very smoothly and easily, I manage to do exactly what they want without the need of many corrections and changes but there are times when probably because the image the client requests is very different from what I’m used to do or because the client doesn’t really know what they actually want and keeps changing their mind about it, the working process can be very difficult, time-consuming and even frustrating at times.
15) What is your process, in short, from start to finish when you have been commissioned?
The process is as follows: first you tell me a little bit about the image you want me to create, what you will be using it for, then we should discuss the price, discuss and find the right stock images so that I can get an overall image of what I should create and after this I can start working. Then I keep you updated regularly with screenshots of the working process. At the end when you are satisfied with the final image I put the finishing touches and after receiving full payment via PayPal I send you the high-resolution image and we’re done! Talking as one of Silviya’s clients – she does indeed keep you regularly updated. I saw every single shot and edit that was added to my ms’ cover. At no point did I have to chase her up. In fact I was bowled over with her speed in both creating the cover and communicating every detail of the process to me.
16) What are your tips on creating a strong book cover image?
My only tip is to know how to or to find someone who knows how to create an image that will catch the viewer’s attention, books are just any other products when it comes to selling – the packaging is very important! Very good advice Silviya – books are a product. As much as to us writers they are our babies, once written and sent out into the big bad world they become a marketable product. This is when the cover becomes so vital to a well written book.
17) Writers get very attached to their stories and nowadays with the rise of ebooks we all realise how strong a good cover is. How do you work with a writer when designing the cover?
Process is the same as I described above in the question about commissions, the difference is that we need to talk a little bit more about how the image will look like, what story it should be able to tell and the impact you’d like it to have. I can say that Silviya is exceptionally prompt and professional. It is very important for her to work closely with the author.
18) Are there any book cover designers you consider your mentors or coaches and why?
No, not really, I am all self-taught concerning photo-manipulations and everything related with that so I guess I am self-taught cover artist as well, I guess I have an eye for the beautiful things Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say.
19) Where can people find you on the internet?
My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MyBeautifulDarkness
My deviantART profile http://morteque.deviantart.com/
My Shadowness profile http://shadowness.com/morteque
My ModelMayhem profile http://www.modelmayhem.com/1043696
and of course my e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
20) Are you working on anything at the moment?
Actually yes, I am thrilled to say that currently I am working on my first ever cover for a printed book for a publishing company in my country and I am so excited because this could be my big chance at breaking through in this business! The cover I am working on is for book 8 of The Vampire Diaries! Wow! Can’t wait to see the finished cover.
“Black Widow” – Here I wanted to express my idea about dolls – for me they are both beautiful and scary at the same time. You stare at their beautiful faces and then realize that although they look perfect they are hollow and dead inside. I have always thought there is something frozen and chilling about doll’s faces. Silviya captured this sentiment beautifully in this image.
“Awaiting the Night” – For this particular image my inspiration came from my love of the dark mystical creatures that walk in the night and my love of wolves. I love the sense of fear and power in this image. Then girl should be afraid but she has a power in her that comes across in her stance and her eyes. Who does not love wolves?
“Equilibrium” – Have you ever felt the warm summer rain on your skin? This is actually the feeling I wanted to portray in this image. I am always drawn in by images with water. This image feels so real you think you can feel the water on your own hand and feel the raindrops on your skin.
“Snow White Strikes Back” – This is my take on twisting a fairy tale – what if Show White wasn’t awaken by the kiss of the prince… but by his bite! And now she will have her revenge… I’d love to have such a tale. Wow – what an original spin on such a well-known tale. Snow White has never quite looked like this. Very original.
“The Quiet Place” – Everyone has their own special place, their happy place – this is mine. This is another favourite of mine of all your images. It is absolutely ethereal and haunting. An image that stays in the mind for a long time.
“Reborn” – As you see, the title clearly reveals the concept of this piece. I wanted to portray the feeling of letting go of the past and embracing the bright future. Beautiful.
“Take My Pain Away” – When your soul and heart hurt and you’d give anything to make the pain go away…You can feel this girl’s sorrow and broken heart almost as if it was your own.
“Enslaved by Her Song” – A beautiful girl with a wicked gift of a beautiful song that enslaves the soul of every person who has ever heard it…This was the image that first hooked me. Look closely at the violin. Incredible image Silviya.
“Death, come near me” – Inspired by the beautiful sad song by Draconian – Death, come near me..You have made death look beautiful. Very haunting Silviya.
Thank you Silviya for taking the time to answer some of my questions. It has been a pleasure and my honour to have you featured on my blog. I am also very proud and honoured to say that such an incredible ARTISTE is my cover artist.
Talking of my cover art…Watch this blog for a posting later today where I will tease you with a small reveal of part of the amazing cover that Silviya has created for me.
First Impressions Count
In life everything we see makes an impression on us. Both the really good and the really bad stick in our memories. We also make impressions on others. But there is only one first time, there is only one first impression. It is true that if your first impression was not that good, you may have a chance to make a better second impression but the first impression is the one that will also stay in the memory bank.
You wouldn’t go on a first date looking “regular”. You wouldn’t go on an interview looking “average”. You take the time to look your best for “first impressions” in your daily life. You take the time to look your best for “professional first impressions” in your daily life. But often you want to go a step further and look better than all of your competition. You want to look the best in a crowd. You want to stand out from a crowd.
What is the first thing you see when you browse a book store, traditional or online? What makes you stop in front of one book rather than look at the one beside it? What attracts your attention enough for you to pick up the book and read the back blurb? What is your first impression of a book controlled by?
Cover me Irresistible – You had me at first sight
Time and time again I pick up books because of their arresting covers. I might never have heard of the book or the author but if the cover wows me, nine times out of ten I will buy the book. The cover is a book’s greatest first sales tool. It is the packaging of the writer’s project. It is the silver platter that your work is presented on. It can make or break your sales. It can win you new fans and lose you potential readers. Covers are what people buy when you are a new author or an unknown talent. Bookstores will decide on the shelf placing of your book by your cover. Readers will want to know more about your book and pick it up off the shelf if your cover arrests their attention.
Traditional publishing companies pay departments of art and sales people thousands of dollars to make a cover as irresistible as possible in order to make your book a bestseller. Books covers count towards sales. eye-catching covers can make an unknown book a bestseller and bad covers can make well written books difficult to sell.
In Indie publishing – both small press, self-publishing and e-books – covers can make or break a book. Poorly designed covers can make a book look boring, uninteresting, unprofessional and uninviting: all of these points are negatives in selling the product = the book.
So what makes you love a cover? What makes a cover stand out from hundreds or even thousands of similar covers in the same genre? What makes a cover stand out from a crowd of covers?
If there were a golden rule of thumb I am sure many writers would make millions and follow it to the letter. But choosing books is a subjective industry. It is based on personal opinion and personal preference. A cover that i would love might not appeal as much to Jill and a cover that Jill loves might not appeal as much to Joe. There is no “perfect cover” but there are a few key points that the best selling books use for their cover art and cover designs.
These are some of the top selling covers over the last few years. Let us see if they match all the above points.
These are some of my favourite covers that had me enticed…
So tell me which are your favourite covers that have made you pick the book from a hundred others?
Why? What attracts you? What makes a cover irresistible?
One of the most underused and abused of the social networking/media sites is Twitter. I will admit that Twitter completely overwhelmed me and baffled me when I first heard about it. Someone suggested I should sign up as the only way to understand Twitter is to dive right in. Well I signed up. I was lost. For the first couple of months my account remained inactive. So did the conversation. I was not talking to anyone on twitter so nobody knew I was there. I decided I needed to educate myself. I quizzed friends already on Twitter, I read up blog posts on Twitter and then I started a conversation. Someone tweeted something that interested me and I responded. Within seconds there was an echoing response from the tweeter and they had started following me. So I continued talking. Before I knew it I was involved in multiple conversations and had more than a few followers who I followed in turn.
Suddenly a lightbulb had been turned on and I could see the whole room. It was a room full of people talking and connecting over shared interests. I turned around and saw a whole lot of smaller groups. Over there, there was a crowd talking about publishing, just across from them another crowd spoke about music, just across from them another crowd spoke about politics. Turning around I also realised there were celebrities in the room but they didn’t have any “minders” or “publicists”, they were just people like you and I talking about things that interest them.
Twitter is a social tool that breaks down all barriers of fame, wealth, class, age, geography, language in one huge online room full of people having conversations. That is the trick of Twitter if there is a trick. You have to engage in conversation with another person. There is no way that being a wallflower is going to get you into Twitter. But in Twitter there is no need to be a wallflower because conversation is easy. All you need for a conversation is at least two people and a topic that connects them. That is the great secret of Twitter. You need to be part of the conversations in the room to be accepted, followed and friended.
Yes Twitter can be a great marketing tool in that you can tweet links to your blog – to draw in new readers – or you can tweet links to your upcoming products and a site where people can buy them. But if you are only tweeting links to blogs or tweeting product promotion and self-marketing, you have lost the point and the true charm of twitter.
Think of Twitter more as a cocktail party you have been invited to by an acquaintance. Why did they invite you? Did they invite you so that you can climb aboard a pedestal and promote who you are and what you do? Or did they invite you because you peeked their interest and they want to learn more about you, the individual, the person? When you think of Twitter in these terms you will see Twitter in a different light.
However there are so many different conversations going on in the rooms but you may want to leave the main party room and enter a smaller party room to zone in on one specific conversation/debate. This is when Twitter chats come in play or as they are known on Twitter as # (hash-tag chats). For instance if you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this month, if you sign up to a TweetChat account like tweet chat or TweetDeck and enter #NaNoWriMo, you will enter a room where everyone is chatting all things NaNoWriMo. To continue in this conversation, you tweet as normal but make sure that somewhere in each tweet there is the same #NaNoWriMo, this means that all your tweets will be seen by the people in the smaller #NaNoWriMo room.
As you explore more in Twitter chats you will realise that there will be regular chats in your industry throughout the week. Now for writers, twitter is a perfect hangout and brainstorming session with fellow wordsmiths. There are weekly chats on the craft of writing, on the marketing side, the creative side, the brainstorming side and the critiquing side. You just have to search them out. If you have not joined in on one of these chats, I urge you to do so. Not only will you meet many like-minded people but you will learn a lot too. On my writing blog, Wrestling the Muse, I have a page devoted to the different Twitter chats called #Twittertalk. On here you will find the most regular and popular twitter chats targeted towards writers. Try one of the chats out. You may just enjoy the conversation more than you thought and start understanding the unique charm that is Twitter.
I hope that this post breaks down Twitter in simple terms for you as one more great social media tool. Remember that people will take more notice of your blogs, websites, products and talent if they like talking to you anyway. If you can interest them on Twitter, they will follow you to your other places in social media. Try Twitter out if you have not had the courage to yet. If you have and have been overwhelmed, break it down. It is just a conversation after all. You have those all the time every day. Good Luck with your twittering.
Tell me how you find Twitter? Do you enjoy it? Has it baffled you? Will you give it a chance if you have not yet? I would love to hear about your TwitterTalk. Tell me something. Better yet: tweet me @last_lines or @AuthorKimKoning . I look forward to having many conversations with you in Twittertime. Don’t be shy. It is just people talking.
Join me here tomorrow for Part 3 on social media…Tomorrow we are going to talk blogging.
In real life you may fall into one or the other category but what about in the virtual and digital world of social media? Are you a shy and retreating Wallflower or are you the life of the party and a Social Butterfly? You may wonder what it matters whether you are shy in social media or not but if you want to network and you want to make connections – you need to become a social butterfly if you aren’t already.
Social Media is called “Social” for a very good reason.
You must be social for it to accomplish its task.
Not only has social media changed the business world but it has changed and continues to change our personal lives. If you meet someone new at a party and you want to meet up later in the week, how do you get in contact with them? You ask if they are on Facebook. There are two reasons why people are more willing to give out their Facebook profiles rather than their home address or even mobile phone number. If you friend request them they can learn all about you from your Facebook profile before choosing to accept. Secondly it is safer to give out your Facebook profile than it is to give out more personal information, like your home address, to a virtual stranger.
In this modern day and age more networking and more connections are made and forming through the social media and social networking sites. There is no point in being an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand hoping that life will just go back to being simple.
Most industries rely on marketing savvy and promotion savvy. Everyone and every business has something to sell. Whether this be a service, their name or a talent. The way this is accomplished in 2011 is through social media and social networking. It simply has the largest exposure without a very high monetary cost. An effective and engaged social presence on the internet is more beneficial and powerful than advertising copy in a magazine or on tv.
So what is your presence in social media? Do you have a presence or are you scratching your head as you read “social media”? If you do have a presence, is it effective and engaging? Are you using social media to your best advantage? Do you know why you need social media and what you want from it?
If you are a creative; a musician, an artist or a writer, social media can be either your friend or your foe. This is even more important for a relative unknown or an up-and-coming-not-quite-there-yet star. The creative industries are one of the most difficult industries to get a foot in the door. They are completely subjective industries where most times you are judged on yourself and the impression you give before they will give you a chance to be judged on your talent. This brings us to the old scenario where a young and hopeful graduate is ready to enter the work-world but in countless interviews is told that though they have the qualifications and the look, they don’t have the experience to get the job? This always leaves the young graduate despondent because how does he/she get experience if they can’t get a job in the first place?
So as a creative wanting to break into your chosen sphere, how do you get the bigwigs – these are usually corporates who think with their wallets and guard their time jealously – to sit up and pay attention to you?
You get online! You could do a number of other cost and time consuming activities to engage their attention but at this point your cost and your time is probably limited. So the easiest way is to build an effective and engaging social media that is market-savvy to your specific industry. How? Below is the set of tools available to you in social media…
Now you may be looking at this and think there are way too many options up there and counting away the hours it will take to build a social presence in each of these media tools…Fear not! These may be all the tools available to you but you do not need to use every one of these tools. You need to choose which are the best tools. When considering that, you need to focus on these factors:
So before reading on, take a notepad and a pen and write down these 5 factors. Then answer them.
Are you starting to form a picture of your social media presence yet?
I am going to tell you about what I use in social networking. I am a writer and my product is my words. So the social media sites are perfect for someone in my industry. I am however also an experienced sales and marketing manager so I have a little more of an insider track on how to sell a product and how to market it.
The social media/networking sites I am listed on are, from longest running to newest:
Now from the above you will see that I have two Facebook profiles and two Twitter accounts. I also have 4 WordPress blogs. Now although writers and most creatives can be accused of having multiple personalities this is not the reason why I have different profiles / sites on the same social media/networking sites. I have a private life and a professional life. I use my personal profiles for personal networking with friends and family and not necessarily friends who are in the same industry as me. I use the professional profiles for anything and everything related to my writing business.
“Writing business”? But you thought writing was a “creative” industry and not sullied with the muddiness of “business”? Wrong! If you are writing as a hobby then yes it is purely creative. But if you are in this for the long haul and hope to make a living from your creativity than you MUST look at writing just like you would any other job or any other Business. Believe me if you want to get noticed and make it in this business, you will need to work harder than at anything else you have ever worked at.
For me the most effective methods of getting noticed and building a readership/following as well as networking with decision makers has been Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Facebook is still one of the most preferred and effective tools out there. As we hear constantly in the media, if Facebook were a country it would have the third highest population in the world. The next effective method, especially in the writing and publishing world is Twitter. With Twitter you can reach hundreds of followers as well as follow and connect with the who’s who in whatever industry you want to break into.
Then there is blogging. Blogging is incredibly effective to market your actual product – which in a writer’s world is our words and our ability to hold a reader’s attention so that they keep coming back for more.
I have 4 separate blogs that are all writing related but differently marketed. This blog is my creativity and inspiration blog. I blog here on creative exercises, creative tips and tools as well as spotlighting up and coming authors and creatives in the industry. In my other blog, Wrestling the Muse, I blog about my lessons learned while undertaking the adventures of full-time writing. Then I have a poetry portfolio blog, Soul Photographs, where I blog poetry and all things related to poetry. Just recently I started my fourth blog, Amazon Wanderings, where I will be blogging about my adventure traveling. You probably wonder why I need 4 blogs and why don’t I use one blog with 4 different uses. I have done it very specifically to create niche blogs and niche readerships/followings for each blog. Yes it means I have more blogs to upkeep but this is when a blogging schedule comes in handy.
So in answer to my initial question: If you are a Wallflower when it comes to social media, why are you retreating? How are you planning on getting noticed in your industry?
Watch out for Part 2 coming tomorrow on how to stop retreating and how to become an effective social butterfly…
Tell me in the meantime: What social networking do you find works best? What social networking baffles you? What social networking do you dislike or find unnecessary?
Join me here tomorrow when I share with you how to effectively market yourself. Remember writing and publishing is big business. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are. It is time to get market-savvy in social media….
On Tuesday I posted on The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel where I told you there were two words that struck fear into a writer’s stalwart heart: Synopsis and Query. I posted on how I write up a synopsis and promised you that today I would post on the second part of that post.
This brings me back to knowing your peers. Your WIP is finished and is perfectly edited. It is submission time. First you look for an agent. Do you approach any agent? Do you hold a lucky draw for the agent that will love your work? If you submitted your YA fantasy to an agent that specialised in medical thrillers, do you think your bait would take? In all probability, even if the agent is intrigued, the agent will reject your WIP. So how do you know which agent to submit to?
You research. You compare. You do your homework. It is safe to be said that the largest accomplishment of actually finishing your WIP is the hardest part of writing. Suffice to say, the creative end of the process is basically complete but now the business end of the process begins. Your precious WIP that you have spent hours of grueling energy over is now just a “product” in the “shop of publishing“.
You have made a choice on which agent you will be pitching to. Now comes the query letter and the submission.
This query letter is your first rung on the sales game. You have to consider that your prospective agent has very little time to waste on reading every submission on the “slush – or unknown writer’s – pile”. So this is your chance to sell your novel.
In this query letter it is important that you not think like a writer but that you think like a salesman.
If you are planning on securing a literary agent for your work, you will need to know the ins and outs of queries. Agencies are very helpful in that they put up submission guidelines on their website telling you how they want you to submit to them. Each agency has an individual approach to submissions but one thing they all share in common is they want to be hooked by a great query.
So the question is: How do you Hook that Agent?
or should the question rather be:
How NOT to Hook that Agent?
Don’t ignore the submission guidelines on the agent’s website.
Do not submit the incorrect genre to an agent.
Do not query a manuscript that you have not completed and polished.
Do not address your letter with: Dear Sir/Madam / To whom it may concern / Dear Agent
Don’t bribe the agent with food/alcohol/vouchers/money.
Don’t tell the agent your life story starting when you were four and started reading.
Don’t tell the agent that your family and your friends think you have the next bestseller in your hands.
Don’t “pretty” your query email by inserting pictures, font colours and/or emoticons.
If it is a manual query: don’t send on pretty pink paper with stickers on.
Do not write a 10 page essay as a query letter.
Do not include attachments or links to Dropbox (or any other online storage facility) where they can download your novel.
Now: How do I HOOK that Agent?
Do your homework by checking out the agent’s website/blog.
Always follow the Agent’s submission guidelines.
In an email query: In the subject write – Query: (insert your ms title)
Use the standardized 12 point for font size.
Personalise your query letter by addressing the Agent by their name.
Write a strong first sentence hook.
Always include your title / word count / genre.
Write 1-2 paragraphs on the main premise of your manuscript.
Write 1-2 paragraphs on yourself: Give only the relevant writing credits/background that is pertinent to the story you are submitting.
End by thanking them for their time and consideration.
If indicated by their submission guidelines, include your 1 page synopsis.
Always check your grammar and use spell-check.
Keep the letter professional, clear and concise.
If your query is not successful. No matter what response you receive: Do not take it personally. Respond professionally and courteously.
Remember, you are using this query letter as a cover letter, not as a resume or a short story on yourself, to sell the Agent on your Manuscript. This is not an opportunity that you want to miss because you have not done your homework on either the Agent or how to write queries. I like to think of a query letter like a short advertisement.
It must entice, intrigue and grab the Agent.
The query is important because within the first few lines the Agent will decide if they want to know more about either the manuscript or the writer or not.
This is your first impression. No matter what you think, First Impressions can happen only ONCE and it is ALWAYS the first impression that counts.
Make this First Impression be the BEST Selling tool for your manuscript.
The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel | Part 1 (kimkoning.wordpress.com)
Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync? (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Publishing your book: Be market savvy. Be reader savvy. (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Query, query. (leighevans.wordpress.com)
Publishing Simon Says… (writeami.wordpress.com)
Before Ever After (kikiandlalaland.wordpress.com)
The Art of the Query (writeami.wordpress.com)
Help Yourself (madgeniusclub.com)
- The Two Best Websites (of all time) for Writers Seeking Agents (donweston.wordpress.com)
This evening, I received one of my daily emails called: Thought for Today. This is an email sent by the Oprah website and which I get every day. It has a mesh of little tidbits of advice, ranging from physical to mental tips, along with a daily quotation. I have realised that today’s one could be reworked and adapted to a writing-focused tips post. The original post, 4 Time-Saving tips to Start your day, is from a series called: How to have more productive mornings.
So this is my adaptation to – 4 Time Saving Steps for your W(ork)I(n)P(rogess)
- Work before Networking/Marketing
- Get Publishing focused
- Prep your Manuscript
- Buddy up with Writing Partners
Work before Networking/Marketing
Your actual writing and editing must come before everything else. Anything else is procrastination. This means that updating your Facebook/twitter is procrastination. This also includes chatting in your numerous online writer groups. Yes – this is harsh – but if you are not going to hold yourself accountable to being a producing writer, who else is going to?
Get Publishing Focused
Work out a progression plan for your writing. Even if you are only writing part-time, you still need to have a progression plan for the future. Work out your goals. You can break them up into small goal increments, I am not talking a 10 year plan here. But write from where you are right now to where you want to be in 3 months time, then where you want to go from there in another 3 months ect. The most important part of this plan is to Write It Down. A plan that is written down has far more chance of success than one that is just spoken aloud. Then once you have written down your plan of attack, print three copies. Tack one to an area that you will see at most times while working. Then give one copy to your writing partner and another copy to a non-writer who is very close to you: this may be a best friend, a spouse, a sibling, a child. That way you know that they have your goals and can hold and will hold you accountable to accomplishing them.
Prep your Manuscript
Do all the prepping you need before you start writing. Whether this be research, lucky charms, muses aligned, negative thoughts released; do it all before you start writing. That way you will not need to procrastinate by suddenly remembering you forgot a key element of research and then get sucked into the vortex of browsing in your local library or online. If you are like me, this could save you hours.
Prepping your manuscript also includes a backup plan. If you don’t know what I am talking about here, take notes and follow instructions post-haste. There is no point in getting all this lovely writing done and then losing it all because of a computer glitch or a finger-error. This is where you need to take Backing up into your prepping list. Dropbox comes in very handy for this part of prepping. In Dropbox you can create an account then backup your writing files to this online account that then syncs to all your systems: laptop/desktop/phone/pda/iPod. It is also worthwhile investing in a portable hard-drive at this point where you can also store and backup your writing.
Buddy up with Writing Partners
Whether you are writing part-time or full-time, it is vital that you have a writing buddy/partner. This person is there to hold you accountable, to be harsh with you when you need it, to be encouraging when self-doubt wants you to butcher your WIP, to give you a second pair of trusted eyes on your WIP and to word war with. So if you don’t already have a writing partner/buddy, get one and fast! These gems of critters will save your butt countless times from throwing yourself out the window or throwing yourself into a vortex of procrastination.
You may be asking what the prerequisites are for a writing partner/buddy. First, they must be willing to be one. Second, think of them like a sponsor in procrastinators’ anonymous. Third, they must be a writer. This is for your own safety. A non-writer may want to commit you to a therapist’s couch after the first week. Fourth, you must trust them implicitly and vice versa. Fifth, you must ensure they realise their role is not a cheer-leader. At times you are going to need, you will not want it but you will need it, them to be brutally honest with you. They need to be comfortable with that and you need to comfortable enough with them to accept that honesty. Do not fear if your writing partner lives in a different city, country or continent. I use Skype with my writing partners and find it works tremendously. You can also have more than one writing partner/buddy. In fact sometimes it is even better to have a couple or so. The more people to kick your butt into writing gear, the better!
So now: Go forth!
B(utt) I(n) C(hair)
- Thursday Tip ~ Stop Time Takers (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
- Thursday Thoughts on the WIP (lizakane.wordpress.com)
- Writing for the future. (dwwriter.wordpress.com)
- Cast Away! or Silencing your Inner Whiny Child (annstephensromance.com)
- The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit (copywrite1985.wordpress.com)
- My Ten Commandments of Authorship (marcia-richards.com)
- BackUp Your Life (susansheehey.wordpress.com)
- Stuck, Redux (lizakane.wordpress.com)
There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.
Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.
So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.
Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.
girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?
Susan: I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.
girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter. Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?
girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?
Susan: Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.
Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color. Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend, CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books. Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.
girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?
Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine. One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time.
girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?
Susan: When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be. Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!
girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?
Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks. I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three. My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers. I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them. And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete. I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years. Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.
girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?
Susan: It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run. We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.
girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?
Susan: I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.
girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Susan: Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years. I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.
girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?
Susan: Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.
girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Susan: I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time. Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.
girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Susan: I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing. It’s almost like mental illness.
girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?
Susan: A pantster, for sure. I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing. Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.
girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?
Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.
girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.
girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book. The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.
girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Susan: Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…
girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Susan: Hmm. I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.
girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?
Susan: Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks.
girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?
Susan: I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.
girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Susan: I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.
girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Susan: Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Susan: Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters. Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy. Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Susan: Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness. God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her. Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink. Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.
girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.
girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.
girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.
girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?
Answer: HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup”http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup
Blogs: HYPERLINK “http://puddletown.wordpress.com/”http://puddletown.wordpress.com
Twitter: HYPERLINK “http://www.twitter.com/susanls”http://www.twitter.com/susanls
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver
“Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.” – Margaret Atwood in The Times
Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. – Ray Bradbury The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home. – John Campbell There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing — to find honest men to publish it — and to get sensible men to read it. – Charles Caleb Cotton An artist’s sensitivity to criticism is, at least in part, an effort to keep unimpaired the zest, or confidence, or arrogance, which he needs to make creation possible; or an instinct to climb through his problems in his own way as he should, and must. – Christopher Fry I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out. – Erica Jong You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer… – Stephen Leigh
To submit or not to submit…that is the question of the week?
It is one thing to decide to write a story, it is another thing to finish this story and still a completely other thing to submit the story to a professional. It takes courage to do all three but I believe the greatest accomplishment and most courageous of these three is: to finish this story. Of course there is nothing stopping you from then putting your completed manuscript in a hidden drawer with the secret knowledge that you have completed a book.
Is this why you wrote your story? To hide it, unacknowledged by any but you. Perhaps this is your reason. For that I, nor anyone, can judge you. But what happens if there is a fire and your manuscript burns before you can free it? Then you would have put all that work and courage, all those tears of frustration and smiles of joy, into something that has become nothing. Soon, you will forget your story and then it will disappear like a thread on the end of a zephyr’s tail.
What is your other option? You are then faced with the quandary at the beginning of this post:
To Submit or Not to Submit
Now you wait. From some agents you wait for weeks, some days, some moments. But eventually answers will start trickling in. Some of them will be non-committal. Some of them will be bland refusals. Some will be harsh. Some will be filled with constructive criticism. But all these first ones, if you are like most authors both known and unknown, will be rejections.
But are they rejections?
Yes, they have refused to take your book under their wing. At first, your initial reaction will be like that of a parent being told their kid was the only kid not picked for the sports team. You will feel personal anger, even irritation. Then you will feel doubt at your own ability.
Again I ask the question, are they all rejections?
Perhaps the question should be why am I being rejected? You may get the answer to that with the rejection slip or you may never know. But you must remember one very important fact: Agents / Editors / Publishers are all human beings. This means they are fallible. They are subjective. They are emotional beings. They can make mistakes. They have personal likes and dislikes. Second important fact: As a first time submission, they do not know you personally. This is not a rejection of YOU.
Here are some important rejections you can take heart from:
Emily Dickinson: Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.
Theodor Seuss Giesel: Today nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss‘s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.
J. K. Rowling: Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.
Jack London: This well-known American author wasn’t always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.
So the question is: After submitting and after rejection do you give up?
Do you give up after 5 rejections?
Do you give up after 25 rejections?
Jack London did not give up after 600 rejections. You may say: I am not Jack London. No. Quite correct. You are not Jack London. You are YOU. As such you have a unique story all of your own. Do you hide that ability, do you deny that story to the rest of the world just because some people do not want it? There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of agents and editors in this industry. The right one will come along. It may take you years. But if writing is your passion, your focus, your purpose: Do you dare give up?
Now I leave the question with you:
To submit or Not to submit?
To give up or To PERSIST?
Only you can be your guide.
© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.
In July last year I started this WordPress Blog and not long after that I signed up to Twitter. Since then I have joined 4 online writing / creative groups. I remember wondering how I would develop any sort of following either through this blog or through my tweets. But I have a following and I have learnt a lot about myself as a writer the last 6 months.
I have been reading a lot of blogs online from agents, editors, publishers and writers that developing an online presence is essential to the success of any pre-published writer. I had heard about it quite some time before deciding to build an online presence myself.
Initially I was fairly resistant to the idea. For me it seemed improbable that I would be able to build any sort of following. I also did not know anything about being a blogger let alone about being a successful blogger. Yes, I had a Facebook profile but that was for personal use. I knew that my blog would have to be at least interesting and maybe even useful. The other deterrent to starting a blog was that it felt like I was throwing a very small pebble into a very large ocean. With so many blogs out there, why would people choose to come to mine.
Eventually though I signed up to WordPress and I wrote my first post. I remember being absolutely amazed when people commented on that first post. By then I had signed up for twitter and after following a few people who returned the favour by following me, I had a small following.
Since then my following has grown. I am more confident in the direction that I want my blog posts to go. I am also more confident on Twitter. Although I must admit, it was quite addictive just sitting watching tweets from all over the world. It fascinated and amazed me, sometimes even shocked me, what people were willing to tweet about.
I mentioned the 4 online writing / creative sites I joined. They are:
I have grown to enjoy blogging and tweeting but it is these 4 groups that give me the most joy in my online presence. I have “met” friends through these sites and found mentors. I have been inspired, supported, encouraged and always felt included. Any creative pursuit can be very lonely. As much as your friends and family want to support you, sometimes they have no idea how much energy your creativity can take from you. The people in these 4 groups do know and understand because they are in exactly the same pathway in life. It is through these online friendships and mentorship that I have both grown as a person and a writer. I am still growing and learning more each day.
So yes I would say that building an online presence is vital to the success of a pre-published author. But I am not saying yes for the same reason so many other people say yes. I am saying yes it is vital because of the support, the networking, the friendships and the mentorship that you gain through an online presence. For me this was the impetus to take up the challenge of NaNoWriMo 2010 in November. I knew that I could do it because at any time of day or night somewhere in the world I would have a supportive voice who understood my frustrations, my excitements, my stresses and my wins.
NaNoWriMo also brought me into contact with another inspiring group called:
The Word Warriors
This was a group formed by the creator and developer of Scribblerati, namely an amazing dynamo of a lady called Lia Keyes. Through the drive of this group I managed to complete NaNoWriMo in the first 2 weeks of November. Many of the writers/members of this group have become firm friends and beacons of inspiration and creativity.
I am a firm follower of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. In her books she talks about the importance of forming creative clusters. In this spread out world we live in, it is sometime difficult to form creative clusters in the real-time. The wonder of this age is that it has become such a digital driven world. So I am proud to say that 2010 I took up Julia Cameron’s wise advice and now belong to 5 successful creative clusters.
I have a feeling though that 2011 is the year when I am going to really be leaning on these inspirational and creative friends. 2011 is a year that is going to be devoted to creativity and branching out into more and newer forms of creativity. For this I am going to need the support, encouragement, challenging, critiquing, mentoring and friendship of my creative clusters.
So I am taking the time to tell you – no make that to urge you to develop an online presence this year. It may take some time and effort on your part but at the end of it the reward of having the support of people who are creative too far outweighs any effort it will take you to build that online presence.
Thank you to my creative clusters and to all the members of the 5 groups I belong to: You have my appreciation and admiration. Thank you all for pushing me on and encouraging me these last 6 months whether it was for Blogging or for NaNoWriMo or any other creative ventures and goals I set myself. You have all become friends of the truest nature. I treasure and cherish my creative clusters. I look forward to many years of friendship,mentorship and support.
Make 2011 the year of the Online Creative Clusters.
© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.
This week I have been considering the reader which brings me to consider the writer. Too often as a writer, we tend to underestimate our reader. We do this by adding too much exposition in our dialogue or by explaining feelings. Sometimes you have to give the reader the benefit of the doubt. To be a successful writer you need to remember the skills you have learnt as a reader. (Please tell me that you do read!)
I have spent the last couple of week’s, since the Writers Conference, editing. I have been editing and cutting a lot of my own WIPs. I have also been editing and critiquing my critique partners’ WIPs. To be able to edit, you need to put on your reader’s eyes. As a writer it is so easy to get caught up in the story you are telling. It is too easy to forget, that if publication is your goal, strangers not familiar with your thought processes will be reading your story with the hope of getting caught up in it as well. Since they are not familiar with you as a writer, how will they be judging or critiquing your WIP? They will be judging from their experience as a reader of other writers. In the end, they will be holding up your story in comparison to other stories they have read.
As a fledging writer, you often read and hear, via blogs or direct advice, that you need to know your peers: your market. Does this mean you must copycat other published authors? No. But for anything to be saleable it has to find a market in which to base its pitch.
Think of a bookshop. Is everything just alphabetically arranged like a library? No. The books are arranged by genre and comparative authors/storylines. I love libraries as much as any reader but I do get frustrated when I am just browsing the books without knowing where the genres that I love are placed. If a bookshop were like a library, you would have very few sales in books.
In my day job, I work in sales management. In my daily day-to-day duties, my whole goal is to maximize both the buying experience for a customer as well as maximize my profits by increasing salability. No matter how great a product may be, if it is not marketed correctly – through visual merchandising and advertising – it will not a find an appropriate market for customers. This is particularly true with a brand new product. The customer needs to know what this product is comparative with. Once they have something known to compare the unknown with, you have hooked them much like a fish on a hook.
This brings me back to knowing your peers. Your WIP is finished and is perfectly edited. It is submission time. First you look for an agent. Do you approach any agent? Do you hold a lucky draw for the agent that will love your work? If you submitted your YA fantasy to an agent that specialised in medical thrillers, do you think your bait would take? In all probability, even if the agent is intrigued, the agent will reject your WIP. So how do you know which agent to submit to?
You research. You compare. You do your homework. It is safe to be said that the largest accomplishment of actually finishing your WIP is the hardest part of writing. Suffice to say, the creative end of the process is basically complete but now the business end of the process begins. Your precious WIP that you have spent hours of grueling energy over is now just a “product” in the “shop of publishing“.
Firstly you need to have decided which market you are writing for. Hopefully this thought entered your mind before starting your WIP. So you have decided that your book is going to be the next “Harry Potter” of the publishing world. You need to approach the agent that took on JK Rowling. You will not be approaching John Grisham’s or Danielle Steele’s agent.
You have made a choice on which agent you will be pitching to. Now comes the query letter and the submission. This query letter is your first rung on the sales game. You have to consider that your prospective agent has very little time to waste on reading every submission on the “slush – or unknown writer’s – pile”. So this is your chance to sell your novel. First you have to give them a marketable audience. Tell the agent whose writing you most compare to. Then give the agent a killer sales line that will make them sit up and take notice. In this query letter it is important that you not think like a writer but that you think like a salesman. If you have followed all the rules of submission for the particular agent, you can leave the rest up to them. If they decided that yes, you may have a story that will market to Harry Potter fans but is a different enough story line that it will leave the reader entertained and not bored, you will have hooked your first customer for your book. It is then up to a collaboration between agent and writer to take it to the next level and submit it to a publisher.
Each step of the publishing game from submission to an agent to being accepted for publication is a sales game. It takes market savvy to be able to market and sell your book. You have to realise your prospective reader is going to put down hard-earned dollars to buy your book. Give him something he recognises and then WOW him with something fresh. Think like a reader throughout the entire process of writing your WIP. Are you talking down to the reader? Are you entertaining/boring the reader? Are you antagonizing the reader? Are you leading the reader into a maze in your imagination or are you giving the reader tools to solve this puzzle? Are you giving away too much/not giving away enough of the story? Are you giving the reader the benefit of doubt? Are you respecting the reader?
The reader is ultimately your customer in the business of publishing. Do you want your book to be published and sold? Then respect the reader’s credibility as a customer first and a reader second. After all they have to buy your book before they read it. Writing your book is a creative and personal process. Submitting your book for publication is a marketing game. Publishing your book is a sales game.
Give them something they recognise but give them a new way of looking at a familiar subject. Be market savvy. Be reader savvy.
© All rights reserved Kim Koning