Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I'm running around like a madwoman today, but I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Halloween weekend! Have fun, watch a few spooky movies, eat some candy. But most importantly, be safe!

Tune in next week for more insightful posts from the authors of Romancing The Muses!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One of the unfortunate evils of publishing

One of the unfortunate side effects of being published is piracy, and I'm not talking about the black skull and crossbones, Jack Sparrow and a boat. In the publishing world, piracy is the term used for someone freely sharing the work you've spent months, if not years, slaving over without compensating you financially. It is something that truthfully until I was first published I had not known was going on. Since then, I have had my fair share of dealing with this issue.

The reason for this illegal behavior (and per copyright laws in the US, it is illegal) are a dime a dozen. I've probably heard them all uttered at one time or another, and while some of these reasons might seem more legitimate than others, I am not writing this blog to get into a debate on the why's. I'm not even going to give them the satisfaction of mentioning by name any of the places where file sharing is occurring. Believe me, as soon as you log into your first author's loop, you'll find them bandied about. Instead, I'm going to discuss what you can do once you've discovered your work on one of these sights.

The DMCA or The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 1998. What is it, you ask? The DMCA is the circumvention of technological measures used by copyright owners to protect their works and one on tampering with copyright management information—and adds civil remedies and criminal penalties for violating the prohibitions (for more info, follow the link). So now that you know what the DMCA is, you're safe, right? The government's got you back.

If only. The DMCA is a nice little law with no real backing. So what do you do now? Well, ask any published author and they'll tell you, here comes the fun part (insert tons of sarcasm). You get to send of DMCA notices. What are DMCA notices, you ask? Basically it is a letter you send to the file sharing site as proof that you are the copyright holder of the work being illegally shared and asking them to remove it. Where do I get one of these letters, you now ask? I'd post one here but it's kind of long. Ask your publisher or any fellow author. They'd be more than happy to share.

Okay, so you're ready. You have your letter, it's all ready to send out. Now what? Most of these site have a DMCA policy and a place to send these letters but some don't want to make it easy for you. The ones that do, you'll see a DMCA Policy notice at the bottom of their site. Others, you can hunt around for minutes or hours, trying to no avail to find where to send your notice. If you are having difficulties, ask around. Just like the pirates are more than willing to share your work, fellow authors will be more than willing to help you stop them. Someone will have the correct place stored in their email and will be eager to pass it along.

You've sent out your notice. What's next? Sadly, you wait. Most of these sites will take the file down within 24 hours. If they don't, keep sending the notice until they do. It might take several frustrating hours or days but I've yet to find one who hasn't eventually complied.

Well that's the end of it? Right? Sorry. My laughter is not at you. Really, I promise. I just wish it were that easy. But it's not. More often than not, your book will reappear within hours or days, right back on the same sight. Why? Because these pirates can. Either these file sharing sites really don't give a damn about the law or they just are too busy to pay attention to repeat offenders (I'll let you decide which but I think you can already guess where my thoughts fall).

So what do you do? You get to repeat the procedure all over again. WTF, you ask again in dismay? Yeah, I know. All I can say is welcome to publishing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Your cover letter

This week’s post will be short and sweet.  For two reasons, first it’s about the cover letter and it’s more about fact than creating a fabulous blurb or detailed synopsis.  Second, I have an insane week lined up for myself and just found out today I have to fit all of that in with work as well as a wake and funeral. So I promise to babble more next week.

Now it’s time to get that cover letter put together. 
While it sounds relatively simple keep in mind that this is the first thing the editor will see when you send in your submission so you want it to be something worth reading. Most important thing (again) make sure it is error free.
Each publisher will list what they want to see in the cover letter, and it varies so I won’t write it step by step.  Most important thing – make sure it is error free.
This is where you can brag a little.  If you’ve had something publisher before, put it on the cover letter.  It got a five star review, list that as well.  It’s your first time submitting your writing – that’s okay too.
I usually introduce myself (if you have a pen name put that in too) and then give them the facts about the book.  Genre, word count, heat leave.  This is a good place to put your tagline if you have one.  The brief description of the book is usually my blurb.  (all the details are in the synopsis, so there’s no need to go on and on in the cover letter)
Many publishers will now ask for your promotional plan.  Telling every person you see is not considered a plan – while word of mouth is a great way to promote, it’s not really what they’re looking for. 
If you belong to writer’s / reader groups or are a part of an organization, this would be the place to list that.  I list what groups I’m in, my website (yes you need a website) my blog.  As a part of my promoting I do Blog tours for the release of my new books.  Setting up chats is another great way to get your book out there. If you have an opportunity to do a book signing once you have said book, regardless of how small, add that to your plan. 
Bottom line with this area of the cover letter is, the smaller publishers will promote their company, but do not have the budget to promote each individual author.  No one will know about you and your book unless you start the ball rolling and jog along beside it to keep it moving.

Until next time...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Blinking Cursor

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve talked a lot about how to get a manuscript ready for submission, contract negotiations, how to deal with rejection, how to respond to negative reviews, and all the effort that goes into the ever-important release day.

I’m going to pull everything back for my topic today. Before the production wheels can even consider turning, you must have a product to sell. In this case, our creativity is on the market.

One of my favorite writers is Aaron Sorkin. He doesn’t produce traditional material, but some readers might be familiar with his writing through shows like The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and movies such as The American President, and most recently, The Social Network. Sorkin has always been an inspiration to me; his dialogue has an almost Shakespearean cadence that can get stuck in your head like a catchy song. On writer’s block, he says the following:

I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, "You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I'm not your agent and I'm not your mommy. I'm a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?" And I really, really don't.

I’ve made no secret of this: the past year has played me like a yoyo. To anyone who creates, the inability to do what you love, regardless of the objective, is absolutely devastating. In my case, my inability to put words on paper had a variety of causes, a terrible work-environment and battling my obsessive compulsive disorder at the top. Among other things, once the dust has settled and you have a book out there—in the general vastness of the thing called the Internet, or life as we know it—pressure to reproduce can drive you crazy. I started a new project, one currently stalled for the want of other things, but couldn’t make much headway because my mind wasn’t with the story, rather with what would happen after the story’s completion. What would an editor think of my writing? Would this novel stand a chance among the dozens upon God-knows-how-many others up for consideration? Why in the world did I think I could write, when I could barely choke out a hundred words? I started and stopped more times than I care to consider, but it all harkened back to a simple inability to focus.

I spoke with friends about my predicament, but that didn’t help. What could people offer aside from sympathy? Words simply wouldn’t come. I closed the document and waited.

After a few months, I started dabbling with a few side-projects to see if I could coax the creative juices to flow again. I revisited old stories, wrote fan-fiction, and did pretty much anything I could to write for the sake of writing, rather for the sake of publication. This, alongside quitting my hellish job and working out some of the insanity that occasionally screws with my head, enabled me to push past the Block. I’ve written a lot recently. It might be bad. Hell, it might ALL be bad, but I finished something, and that feels damn good.

The point I’m getting at is this: for writers, the inability to do what we love feels like drowning. There can be many symptoms, least of which the environment outside your writing sanctuary. If you do encounter such demons, don’t run away. They don’t deserve your anger. The Block will alleviate, if not sooner than you hoped. In the meantime, try a few writing exercises, or read a good book. The best authors will inspire other writers. This is one of the many reasons we read—to be inspired.

The most important thing: when writing, never second-guess a word or mull over a phrase for too long. You can always go back and revise. Nothing is ever set in stone anymore. There is time to worry with that, and it’s not during the process itself. For me, this is often easier said than done, but it won’t keep me from trying.

In the end, doing what you love, and loving what you do, is worth the frustration and the wait.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writing Blurbs, part two

Melissa commented on my Writing Blurbs post last week, asking for more hints and techniques on writing queries along with an example of a great blurb. When choosing one, I didn't hesitate. As anyone who knows me has heard umpteen times, my favorite book is Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost. Bones and Cat are the ultimate hero and heroine in my eyes and I think this blurb (along with the gorgeous cover) is what drew me in first.

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.

In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner—are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side . . . and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.  

Standard blurb advice is to write one paragraph about your heroine and one about your hero, while nicely - and briefly - showcasing their conflict. Here both Cat and Bones are introduced in the first paragraph in dramatic fashion. Descriptive tags help a lot - "half-vampire" and "vampire bounty hunter" immediately show that these two could be at odds. Or if your hero is an arson investigator and your heroine an arsonist - boom, instant conflict, easily illustrated.

In the second paragraph, we get a short synopsis of the plot. From the word choices used, we get a sense of the author's style, which is imperative. Picking words with a lot of impact is so important. By mentioning how "sexy" Bones is, we learn this probably won't be a sweet romance. Phrases like "battle reflexes as sharp as his fangs" and "she's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner" help show that Jeaniene's writing will likely be fun and maybe a bit sarcastic. (Two reasons I love her!)

The blurb ends with the all-important conflict - Cat having to choose a side. That's why blurbs are SO crucial to selling a book to a reader. If there's nothing at stake for your characters in your blurb, there may not be much conflict in your book. And conflict is what makes a reader eager to flip pages.

Hopefully this helped a bit. I'll be revisiting this topic again, as it is one of my favorites. Thanks so much for the question, Melissa!

Contracts: are they set in stone?

First off, let me state quite emphatically, writing is a business and while most publishers are not out to screw you, their number one priority is what is in their best interests. Not yours. So I cannot stress enough, please, please read your contract. No matter how exciting a first publication can be, do not just sign on the dotted line and expect everything to be great. It can cause problems later on down the road.

Here are some things to consider. I write strictly paranormal and while each of my publishers own the rights to my work, they do not own the world I've created. Nor do they own the rights to any of my characters. While I have no intention of attempting to sell a Grigori book anywhere but Loose Id, biblical myth plays a huge part in my writing. If I'd signed away my world, I never would have been able to publish My Avenging Angel with Samhain as the story of Lucifer's insurrection and Michael's role in his fall play a large part in the world I have created.

Some publishers want first right of refusal. This is fairly standard. If you write the sequel, they want to see it before you send it somewhere else. Rumor has it there is a publisher who wants first right of refusal for the next thing you write, no matter the subject. This I would be very hesitant to sign away.

Which brings me to my next point. Contracts are negotiable. After you've read every word of your contract and you discover something in it that makes you uncomfortable, contact the publisher. If they are unwilling to work with you that should be your first sign to run the other way. Even if they are not willing to change the terms, they should be willing to talk to you about them. From there, only you can decide how important the issue is and whether or not to sign.

My advice, hire an attorney familiar with digital rights to go over the contract. I know this can be difficult. Attorneys cost money and if might be hard to come up with the funds. But like I said, this is a business and all businesses require start-up capital. There will be other things you'll need to do once that contract is signed; purchase domain names, set up an author website, etc., but making sure you are legally protected is the most important. It just might save you a huge headache later on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time To Read

First, I need to apologize for the length of this blog entry. Due to family obligations, things have been rather chaotic, which brings me to my advice to all the aspiring authors out there.  Writing, while important, is only surpassed by reading. I've always believed that the best way an author can grow is by learning what else is out there.  Reach out, explore material outside your comfort zone. Consider it a new form of research.  For example: I'm not a chick lit fan.  However, I do make room on my schedule to read at least one or two books in the genre per year. 

Today I have two appointments (and tomorrow I have three), and I plan to use the time I have as I sit in the waiting rooms to finish up a few books I've had sitting around.  One is for review, the others are some YA's I've been anxious to get to.  My hope is that I can become inspired to return to writing my own things, as well as enjoy the journey fellow authors have created.

So that's my advice for the day.  When you're too busy to write, find the time to read.  It's a win-win.  I'll be back next week with a better, more informative, blog.  Have a happy hump day!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Putting it together - formatting.

Okay we’ve got the dreaded synopsis all finished and polished up; we’ve found a publisher (following the great advice of Madelyn) not what?  The next step to sending this is of course reformatting according to the publisher’s guidelines.  You want the manuscript to be laid out the way the editors want it to be.  If they want Times New Roman 12pt, double spaced, no indents at the start of paragraphs and one inch margins with no blank lines after scene breaks, than that’s exactly how you need to do it.
Make sure you send it in the format they prefer as well.  In most cases this is DOC or RTF, a simple ‘save as’ in your writing program takes care of that.
This is a tedious process, I know, but a very necessary one.  The submissions editor will be constantly distracted from what they are reading if they are stopping to grumble about a writer that can’t follow simple instruction.  I have done some submission reading and it is really hard to follow a plot when one chapter is double spaced with perfect indentation and then the next is single spaced with no margins at all.  I’m sure the writer was wrestling with the reformatting, and I understand that part having done that at few times myself – but will the editor understand when they have many submissions to get through?
Another way to grasp what I’m saying is, if you ordered a burger with no ketchup, lettuce or mustard and asked for the salad instead of fries and upon getting home and opening the bag you found french fries and a burger with only ketchup, lettuce and mustard on it ... how likely are you to enjoy eating it?
Follow the guidelines.

Monday, October 18, 2010

No Means “Not Right Now”

One of the most difficult words to hear, much less accept, is “NO,” especially when you put everything you have into a project or manuscript. You might have done everything right. Your characters are well developed, your dialogue is smooth and authentic, your plot progresses naturally, and your conclusion leaves no stone unturned. Publishers can say NO for a variety of reasons. The important thing to remember is NO doesn’t mean NEVER, and it’s hardly the end of the line for your book.

Every author is intimately acquainted with NO. NO can shadow any author’s doorstep. Once NO turns up, however, the ball returns to your court. How will you receive NO? And how will you turn NO into his foil, the almighty YES?

I’m going to illustrate my point with some suggestions of what NOT to do, using a personal example. I submitted a manuscript—one I deeply cared for and believed would make a good addition to any publisher’s roster—to a number of publishers, particularly those I truly wanted to call home. One publisher’s requirements were the standard first three chapters with the synopsis, blurb, and other usual suspects. The first three chapters were received with enthusiasm, and the publisher quickly requested the rest of the book. I sent it in and started daydreaming about how the cover would look, how well it’d be received, and hoping I’d get along with my editor.

Of course, this story has a predictable ending. After six weeks of impatience, the publisher contacted me and said thanks, but no thanks. I was devastated. I quickly sent the manuscript to another one of my dream publishers, and they sent back a rejection letter as well as advice on how to improve the book for possible future consideration. I read over the advice and agreed with everything said, but I was too eager to see the book published. I’ll blame this on being a twenty-something who’s wanted to have a print book since she was nine years old, and hadn’t the patience to do it the way it ought to be done.

Did I get this book published? Yes. Did I make sacrifices? You bet. Do I wish I’d followed the advice presented by the second publisher? Oh God, yes. I feel like I compromised my integrity by being eager and selfish, which didn’t harm me so much as it harmed what the story could have been. As it is, I ended up rewriting most of the book, anyway. When someone tells you NO, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad manuscript, and there are ways to turn a no into a yes.

Don’t sell yourself short in order to see your book published. When you get the dreaded NO, ask yourself “why?” Have a third party, someone you trust as well as someone who will give an honest, impartial opinion, look over your book. Is it something you would buy? Is it something you would enjoy? What changes could you implement to make it more accessible for readers? Don’t settle when it comes to your work. NO is the gateway to improving yourself. Take it as a blessing. After all, NO isn’t permanent in this industry. What happens after NO is up to you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing Blurbs

Thanks so much for the questions posed last week for my Ask An Editor segment. I'll probably start answering one a week here on the blog very soon, so keep the questions coming! Every publishing house and every editor is different but I'm hoping my experiences will be informative.

This week, however, my topic is one of my favorites. Writing blurbs. I love, love, love writing blurbs! I know that a lot of writers don't enjoy them but I sometimes find them even more fun to write than the book. My advice for writing a strong blurb is pretty straightforward.

* Try to match the tone of your book with words that pack a lot of punch. Is your book sexy? Make sure your blurb oozes heat. Does your heroine have a quirky sense of humor? Try to convey that through your word choices.

* Show off your voice with action words. You're selling your book in the fewest words possible and this is definitely the time to skip the passive sentence constructions if you can. Make sure each sentence does double duty. Most epubs that I know of want your book's blurb to be 200 words or less. Sounds daunting, I know, but practice really does make perfect (or closer to it!) in this case.

* Save the in-depth story for the synopsis. Think of your blurb as the ultimate tease. You're trying to "pick up" your reader, so just hit the highlights while focusing on showcasing your voice.

One more great thing about the blurb? For a non-plotter like me, writing the blurb before I write the story has become a micro-capsule way for me to see where I might have a hole in a manuscript. Since I like ending blurbs on a "cliffhanger" - will she marry Bob or will she decide her life in Montana is all she needs? that sort of thing - I can sometimes spot where I have an undeveloped conflict between the H/h. If I can't find a way to make the conflict dramatic enough for the blurb, I might have a problem.

Since writing queries and blurbs are one of my favorite subjects, I'm sure I'll be visiting this topic again. Happy blurb writing!

This is an exciting time to be in digital publishing. With the changes going on in traditional publishing, like Dorchester dropping their mass marketing for digital, the digital side of the publishing industry is only going to continue to grow. Though this is great for those of us already familiar with this side of publishing, for those new to e-publishing, this can be problematic. New e-pubs seem to be popping up all over the place and unfortunately, not all of them are going to have your best interests in mind. So how do you avoid the pitfalls of the unscrupulous e-press?

1. RESEARCH! I can't stress this enough. Do a Google search. Read everything you can find on the publisher, especially blogs and forums. If an author has had a bad experience with a publisher, chances are he or she has mentioned it somewhere. The e-pub community really is smaller than you would think and this kind of stuff does not stay quiet for long.

In an earlier post, Jaime mentioned Absolute Write and Piers Anthony. I would like to add The Passionate Pen, EREC, Dear Author, and Smart Bitches. Believe me, if something is going on with a publisher, there will be information about it at one of these places.

2. Contact some of their authors. While an author might not be willing to discuss any problems they might be having with the world, most will not hesitate privately. And if they are happy, they will definitely be sure to let you know.

3. Now keep in mind, even if after all your research, you find nothing but glowing praises about a publisher, it still might not be the right place for you. Make sure you read a good sampling of what they publish. Some genres sell better at one pub than they do at another. Look at their newest releases and you should be able to quickly determine if your ms will fit. But make sure you actually read some of what they are selling. Not all e-presses are the same when it comes to editing, cover art, and content. Now imagine your name on one of their covers. If you don't get a sudden case of the heaves, add them to your list of possible pubs.

4. I cannot stress this enough. If the pub is new, please proceed with extreme caution. Personally, I would hold off all together. Too many have folded and while a year under a pub's belt isn't proof of success, the last thing you want is a pub folding, taking your ms with them. While the contract might say you retain your rights in the case of a pub folding, 9 times out of 10 your ms will get piled in with the companies other assets in bankruptcy proceedings.

After all your research, you will have a small list of pubs you are interested in but please keep in mind, just because a e-pub as been around years does not exclude them from questionable practices. I can think of three that I would run far away from, so like I said, RESEARCH. Please. The information is out there and as long as you don't jump into this business feet first, you should do fine.

Check back next Thursday, as I'll be discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly; the dreaded contract.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting it together

If you recall last week I said I was going to help in the organizing area of things – or try to.   
A good place to start would be after your manuscript is complete... 
It’s finished and you are more than happy with everything your mind and muse have come up with to complete it.  So now what?  You proof it and then proof it three more times!  Is it ready to send?  No.  Even if you’re an editor, proof-reader or whiz with grammar you still need to take a short break from it (at least a week) and then read it again or send it off to a crit partner(s).  I have even used friends and relatives in a pinch (those that are going to give me more feedback than “It’s great.”)  Why do this?  You are too close to the story and while reading it your brain is automatically going to insert the correct words whether they are actually there or not.  I have laughed myself silly when someone has pointed out the messed sentences I have written and read more than ten times without seeing the mistakes.  One story of mine made it all the way through submission read, contracted and to the editor before a name error was noticed.  I had put the name of a character from one of my other stories in it instead of my main characters name!  Having someone else read it will also confirm that those quirky lines and complex scenes make as much sense the way you wrote them as they sounded in your head. 
What next?  You get your synopsis written and polished up.  I keep waiting for the publisher that will say they really don’t need to see one – but I think that’s one of those fantasy moments my imagination has, because it’s never going to happen!!  I dread the synopsis.  I can write 200+ pages without missing a beat, but trying to summarize it all in 2-5 pages is worse than doing !  If you plotted your story and stuck to the plot before writing it, then you’re half way there when it comes to the synopsis ... however if you are anything like I am and are a pantser that has no definite plot or a muse that takes your characters far away from the idea you had plotted out, then you have some work to do. During the 5th to last read through of my story I jot down points that I’m going to put in my synopsis from each chapter.  After this it’s a matter of writing it in a way that makes sense.  It doesn’t have to be a literary work of art, the publisher wants the details not a ‘left hanging’ kind of summary – generally its 2-5 pages but the length will depend on how complex the story is.
Polish this up and make sure it is error free and you’re only a few more steps from submitting to a publisher.

Until next time...

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

All right, so you’ve written a book. You love the characters, the story, the direction, and you’re excited when a house sends you an acceptance letter. In my case, this doesn’t matter if this is your first or hundredth book. No author is above getting told no, which makes that all important “yes!” so meaningful.

You go through the motions of publication: revisions, rewrites, and sometimes sacrifices on how you originally envisioned your book. The release day arrives. Suddenly, your book isn’t just a subject of email exchange between you and your editor. It’s now available for mass consumption.

This is when you cease owning your novel, sorry to say. Once it reaches the hands of a reader, you’re not there to explain why Bob said that terribly hurtful thing to Suzy, or why she took him back so swiftly. You can’t control who sees your work anymore than you can control how they react. You might please nine out of ten readers, but it’s that elusive tenth that takes to the Internet and posts a less-than-flattering analysis or reaction to your work.

Where do you go from here?

First of all, you have to accept and understand that no matter how personal your writing is to you, it isn't that to the reviewer, and their comments aren't about you at all, rather their reaction to your book. You will never be able to write the book everyone will like. Sometimes, the most for which you can hope is that people will at least appreciate what you accomplished.

People have different tastes, different thresholds, and after the book is released you have no control over who reads it or how they'll react. Some people will review it negatively because it simply wasn't the sort of story they enjoy. That doesn't mean it's a bad story, and that's what you have to take from reviews that reflect the reviewer's personal taste. Most good reviewers, however, will raise legitimate questions when issuing a less-than-positive review, be it about character development or your writing itself. The key is to try and take something from what was said and keep it in mind for future projects.

Don't react negatively in public. It’s hurtful—of course it’s hurtful, but lambasting the reviewer won’t do anything but make you seem small and petty, and being a writer means taking the good AND bad. Don't become defensive and don't attack the reviewer. They're just doing their job, just as you did yours. Saying nothing won’t hurt your reputation. Saying something might.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Welcome to Romancing The Muses!

I hope you've enjoyed our first week of posts! We're just kicking things off and can promise if you stick around, the fun (and hopefully learning, too) is just beginning. This is a fabulous group of authors that I'm really honored to be a part of and I know I've already learned a lot from the posts so far.

For my first post at RTM, I'd like to throw out a request. We've all talked about different features or certain elements we feel we can bring to the blog, and one of the posts I'll be doing often is called Ask An Editor (thanks for the idea, Jaime!) I was a historical editor for two years with an e-publisher and saw a lot of different manuscripts cross my desk. As an author myself, I know how useful it can be to have help deciphering what exactly it is that an editor might be looking for in a submission. While I certainly can't speak for all editors, I know what made the difference when I was reading subs and trying to see which ones would make excellent additions to my line. That's the kind of information I hope to share here.

I'm hoping to kick off my first Ask An Editor feature here on the blog in the next few weeks, but it would be a big help if anyone with questions they'd like to see addressed would either leave a comment on this post or contact me at my email address: I'll probably start with just a couple checklist-type posts of what to be thinking about when you're readying a story for a publisher, but I'll be collecting questions too that I can answer here on the blog. So please, ask away!

Happy writing!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Things I've learned

Since Jaime mentioned Romance Divas, I'm going to jump in with this. This was a thread started over there. I've changed it around a bit and added my own, cause I think they can be helpful.

1. Don't give your hero/heroine a pet. I did this once, the hero's opening scene was with his dog. About halfway through the book, I realized I'd never mentioned the dog again. Oops.

2. Be careful mentioning specific days or dates because there is a good chance you will forget. But I can guarantee someone else won't and they'll call you out on it.

3. Remember where you've put you're secondary characters. You can't send the hero's best friend out of town only to have him appear in the next chapter.

4. On a continuing thread to #3., why have secondary characters at all if they are only going to disappear in the second chapter? I've seen this happen far too frequently and wonder why bother.

5. A good critique partner is worth her weight in gold. Seriously. Writing can be a very lonely business and while your family can sympathize, they can't truly understand. Your crit partner will not only make you a better writer, she will be your lifeline, your bitch buddy, and if you are lucky, your best friend.

6. Your editor is always right. Well, not always right, lol, but she is not your enemy. If she is asking for changes, there is probably a reason. Listen to them and if after, you still think she is wrong, calmly explain why. Your editor wouldn't have agreed to work with you if she didn't love the manuscript and she is only trying to make it better.

7. Always be professional. Not everyone is going to like your story. Telling them why they are wrong (even if they are) is only going to bite you on the ass.

8. Readers are allowed their opinions. You are not. I know this doesn't seem fair (and sometimes, especially when it's your work being trashed, it's not), but it's the way this business works. It's always best to just shut your mouth and smile.

9. Sometimes readers just don't understand the industry. I got some flack with my last book because it wasn't long enough. What most didn't understand was there was a word restriction, I was only allowed a maximum number of words. I see readers complain about sex scenes being too graphic in erotic romance, complaining about the pricing of e-books, book covers, blurbs, book formatting, editing, where it is being offered, etc. Many of these things are beyond an author's control, so back to #5. You can commiserate together. :)

So what have you learned in this business they call writing? I'd love to hear what you have to say so add it to the list.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Helpful Resources, Pass It On

After weeks/months/years of working on a manuscript, you've finally finished. Congrats! I know just how long the journey can be, and you should be proud of yourself for accomplishing something that many people aspire to do, but never see through to fruition.  Writing a book is something you should be proud of, regardless of where it goes after.  With that said (and if you're reading this) there is a very real possibility that you want to do more than keep your hard work to yourself.

When I decided I wanted to submit my material for possible representation/publication, I had no idea what I was doing. I did do some research, but since I'm not very techno savvy, most of the good stuff remained out of my scope until after I'd signed my first contract.  This isn't something I'm ashamed of, but it does go a long way in showing you how naive some new writers can be. Google searching doesn't always get it done. There is so much information floating around out there, and I found it difficult to sort through which places were helpful and which weren't.

Which brings me to the focus of today's blog.

At some point in the future, I'll cover query letters, synopsises, etc.  For now, I'd like to direct you toward something you should really start delving into before you finish typing the words, "The End," if you're considering publication. Nothing compares to first hand experience. However, it doesn't hurt when you're pointed in the right direction.

Below are five websites I've returned to time and again. In fact, I still visit them on occasion, as it's the best way to learn what's what in the community before it spreads around.   I'd like to challenge you to add your own links to the list via a comment.  When finished, I'll compile all of them into a future blog that can be bookmarked and passed along to up and coming authors who are daunted by the task and need reassurance that it can, in fact, be done. ;-)

**Please note that I'm only covering free resources. While places like Writer's Market are great, most people can't invest money into something until they start making it.  These are not the only places you can go when you're trying to decide what is best for you and your writing, but it's my hope that in some way that they can help you when you're forced to make the tough decisions.**

My list:

Agent Query: A great place to start looking for agent representation.

Absolute Write: This forum is a must. Not only can you find out everything you possibly want to know about the industry, you can also do a check on the publishers/agents you are considering.  I can't tell you how important this is.  Before you even consider sending out a query, do a full investigation into who you are offering your material to. 

Author Link: Great for up to date news about the industry -- also covers e-books/presses.

Piers Anthony's Internet Publishing: As an author who supports author's rights, Mr. Anthony shares what information he receives about presses in this venue.  There is no sweet, sugary coating.  He provides the information he's been given and allows you to to do your own research on the matter. 

Romance Diva's: Granted, I only "lurk" on the forum, but there is a lot of information if you're willing to search through the threads. Not only do authors discuss the industry, but editors and publishers also post when they are seeking new material to represent.  It's a great way to stay abreast of what you might miss otherwise.

I've shown you mine. Time to show me yours.  ;-)  Share the love!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing is just the beginning

When the five of us tossed around the idea of putting together Romancing the Muses blog – I jumped at the idea.  Working with these ladies, who’s writing rocks my socks was so exciting.  The blog was designed and of course our amazing avatars were created – it was all very exciting.  It took us more months than we had planned to hammer out the when and what of it, so many schedules to co-ordinate took a bit of planning. 

When we finally had the game plan all penciled out, I was totally gung-ho and ready to go ... then my brain kicked in and I sat here trying to figure out what my strength was in all of this.  Each of the RtM authors have areas they excel in and I was left wondering where mine was.
Then it hit me.  Organizing is my strength.  Taking all the things that have to be done and getting them done on time without missing out on something is what I do best. 

Am I qualified to do this? You betcha!  I am a mother to five (four of my kids still live with me) - a grandmother to one – I work 60-80hrs a week managing a cafe with a staff of roughly 15 to serve over 2000 customers a month – I hit the writing industry at full speed ahead having eight books written before I ever submitted one ... and of course instead of submitting one at a time I sent them all!  The last year has been a whirl wind of editing, promoting and trying to learn all of the things I need to know. 

With all of that being said, here is a post I put in my own blog almost a year ago – it’s all the things I’m going to be discussing in the next while (of course some days I’ll just be posting rubbish also, but it will be helpful rubbish as well).

Writing is just the beginning...

So you have this fantastic idea for a story. It takes a few days to jot down all possible ideas, figure out character names and fill in all the blanks in the plot.

We won't even discuss complete scenes popping into your head when you've finally remembered where your bed is - scenes so good you feel around for your note book and pen in the dark (the one that lives beside the bed) and start scribbling this scene down (so you can SLEEP), figuring out what you jotted down in the dark the next day is always an adventure. 

You write in note books, on the back of pages, type for hours and more hours and THERE! It’s finished your awesome story! Of course the first three times you read through it, you find humorous typos, missing words and endless pieces that seemed like a good idea at the time, but not so much now. So that's it, it's done!

Wrong! Now you need to go through it AGAIN and figure out a summary (synopsis = bad word) to send to the publisher. I do my synopsis after the story is finished, because my characters NEVER behave and do what I've plotted them to do. I'm not sure if it's easier to do it before you write or not ... hmmm.

It's sent to the publisher, you're done! Not really! When a contract is signed, after you're finished the happy dance and telling E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E you possibly can. Your begin edits. These are much different than your own personal way of doing edits, these are the proper edits. It's entertaining at times to see how someone else interprets what you've written, mostly in a good way. Edit 1 , 2 and 3 is done! (sometimes this turns into 4,5 and 6...)  Whew!

Hopefully somewhere in all of this you get the proof of your book cover - which becomes your new picture on facebook, myspace and pretty much anywhere you can put it! The cover artists are completely brilliant and have with one picture made your story real to you! You take your fantastic cover and turn it into bookmarks, posters, ad's ... anything you can come up with that will help at some point promote your book.

Excellent! But we're not finished yet ... final edits, more changes and fixing really silly (aka stupid) lines that aren't right, but were right in your head at the time...

YES! We're finished. The book is released. Kick back and relax ... not! Who is going to know that YOUR book is out there to buy if you don't tell them? P-R-O-M-O-T-E  anywhere, everywhere and then promote some more.

This has been a whole new learning experience for me. I am great at jumping in and helping any author I've read or talked to, promote ... but promoting my own that has been interesting to say the least.

I've managed to find the places, or some, to do the promoting and let the readers know that my book is now available. Book chats, loops, blogs and pages. Not to mention book stores and libraries. We can't forget facebook, myspace, twitter and Ning either. There are websites for books, for trailers and for authors too. The lists are never ending, the updates never stop.

ALL of this and its only for ONE book so far, there are more on the way... you have to stop and wonder how authors that have a long list of books out there do it. When do they have time to write the fantastic stories that they write? The fantastic stories that I need to absorb like most people do sunlight? Truly, they are amazing people!

I only hope I can live up to the title of "author" in comparison to the brilliant people that I've met in the past few months that have welcomed me and encouraged me when I jumped in without looking ahead.

Now that I've got all of that out, I think I'll go do some writing. Just remember the next time you read a book that you loved because it made you laugh, or cry or both - drop the author a thank you note and tell them about it. They're writing it for YOU and working hard to get it to you.

Until next time...

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Official!

It's taken a few months to get there, but we finally seem to have all our eggs in a basket.  Starting today, Romancing the Muses is live.

When we all got together and discussed having a blog (Cari Quinn, Rosalie Stanton, Jacqueline Paige, Madelyn Ford, and I), we had one idea in common -- sharing the knowledge we've learned on this precarious road to publication.  Everyone starts somewhere, but finding the information you need might not be as easy as you imagined.  Our goal is to provide resources you can use to make informed decisions as you begin your own journey.

You can learn about each of us by clicking the buttons to the left (our "toons" in the banner give a little insight as to what you can expect) or you can hang around for a while and see if we share something that interests you.  All that we ask is that you give us some time to get things properly organized (some of the features on the blog are also under construction, so bear with us).  Since each of us has chosen a day, there will never be a lack of material on the blog. I can tell you that we are all very excited  to finally have things underway.

We have a Twitter account we've neglected (but will begin updating as new posts become available), so if you're interested, you can follow us: @RomanceMuses. It's great to see you here! Pull up a chair and stay for awhile.  ;-)  I hope you find the blog as informative, helpful, and fun as we intend it to be.