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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

May the holiday be an inspiration to your writing. Or at the very least, may you enjoy an abundance of chocolate and cider! Whether you're playing tricks or out searching for treats, everyone have a very safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flash Friday On Twitter

I've discovered yet another great way to network on Twitter, or rather, it discovered me. Emma Newman started following me and I went to check out her Twitter page. Her bio said: writer of YA post-apocalyptic fiction by night, web content writer by day. I was intrigued. There was a lot of talk on her page about Flash Friday, which mentioned writers a lot. Even more intrigued. So I clicked on her link, which took me to a great page and an explanation.

First for non-Twitter users I'll have to explain what a hashtag is. When you're on Twitter's search page you can search trending topics either by words or the popular hashtag, which is basically just the words plus a # in front of them. Such as #flashfriday. Everyone who Twittered with the phrase #flashfriday will show up when you do the search. So what if flash Friday all about? Promoting your writing! Writers write a short story, Twitter the title, the link to the story, and the hashtag #flashfriday. Everyone who looks up #flashfriday and participates is encouraged to comment on the stories.

This is meant to help writers network, increase their followers/readers, and possibly attract agents and editors. You have to love an idea that's meant to do all that!

For more info on it check out Emma on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmApocalyptic
Or check out her website: http://www.enewman.co.uk/

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Know What Your Audience Wants

So you've finished your novel and are ready to submit it. Are you sure it's something your audience wants to read? That's the burning question that will determine whether or not an agent and/or publisher is going to pick it up. How are you supposed to find out what your audience wants? First you must make sure you know your audience.

Where will your book be found in a book store? What shelf will it sit on and next to what books? These are fairly easy to answer. Take my book for example. It will sit on the young adult (or teen as some bookstores call it) shelves close to (gulp) Stephanie Meyer (no pressure). Go into the bookstore and find where yours will sit.

With the easy part over, how do you find out what your audience wants? Don't leave the book store or young adult (insert your own genre) section yet. Look at the books that are hot, look at the New York Times bestsellers. What are they about? There you go. That is how you find out what your audience wants. That doesn't mean you have to be a cookie cutter writer. Just be aware of what your audience is reading. Not just the story line, but the type of voice or mood of novels that are popular. It doesn't hurt to be one step ahead of the game either. Research what agents and editors are looking for. Your book may not be what's hot now but it could be what they're looking for to be hot tomorrow!

Check out Publisher's Weekly's pole on what teens want in a book: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6703770.html

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twitter Tuesday

This week I'm spotlighting one of the first people who found me on Twitter. When I saw he was following me I stopped by his page and was immediately interested in what I read. He's a published author who's range runs from vampires to angels. Sounded intriguing. I had to know more. Upon checking his website I saw that he's a writer, producer, and ninja. What's not to love about that?! At that point I knew I had to follow him. He was too interesting not to. So who is this mystery guy?

His name is Jon F. Merz and he's an accomplished writer who has drawn the interest of Hollywood--and a nice guy to boot! Whether you read or write, be sure to check him out.

Here he is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonfmerz
And his website: http://www.jonfmerz.net/

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday's Muse

This picture is of the Aillwee caves in Ireland. They were formed by an underground river that was fed by a melting glacier. So why did a picture of an ancient cave inspire me and what could it possibly have to do with werewolves? You'll have to wait to find out! The good news is, my agent is happy with my editing and we're moving on to the stage of submitting to editors! I'm so excited I had to cut back on my coffee intake. So what's keeping me sane during the wait? You're looking at it. Writing my third book.

Check out the Aillwee caves here: http://www.aillweecave.ie/

Since it's the last Monday in October I thought I'd spotlight the books that have inspired my muse this month. I'm a firm believer that writers have to read to keep up on the trends and new voices in their genre.
This month I started with Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. Honestly, I didn't expect to like it. The cover was great but I thought the title was awful. However, after reading the jacket I chose this over the popular Vampire Diaries. This seemed to have far less cliques. I chose well! This book is great. The idea is original, the characters are original and well developed. I instantly cared about them. In fact, I'm going to have to get the rest of the series!
Check out Rachelle Mead's Vampire Academy series and her fantastic web site:
http://www.richellemead.com/books/vampireacademy.htm


My friends over at http://www.mundiemoms.com/
raved so much about this next book that I knew I had to read it. Check these ladies out if you're in need of a good book because they review honestly and support authors they think are great. I bow to their expertise because so far, they've been right!
Shiver is Maggie's debut novel and it's a very different twist of a werewolf story. Since I'm writing about werewolves I like to read everything out there involving them. Maggie doesn't disappoint. Her ideas are very different than mine but it makes me like her even more. I love originality! It started out hard to get into but once I got past the very unique style and reached page fifty I was absolutely hooked. You don't want to miss this great new author and her outstanding debut.

And have an excellent October!



Friday, October 23, 2009

News on the Book Price Wars

The American Booksellers Association is throwing down the gauntlet over the Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart's bestseller price wars. The ABA believes it's illegal predatory pricing that will hurt the book industry. They could be right.

Think of it this way. When a movie first comes out you won't find it below $15 anywhere, not even at Costco. In fact, it's quite a while before it drops below that price, if ever. Why? Because the price is controlled. All parties involved get the chance to profit off their product. Up until this announcement by Target, Amazon, and Wal-Mart the price of books was pretty steady at the release of the book. You might get a discount if you had a bookstore card or went to Costco, but otherwise not. This gave the publisher, bookseller, and the author the chance to profit off their product.

It seems odd to me that big conglomerates who don't even specialize in books are trying to seize the book industry and squeeze the blood from it. The worst part is, authors will feel this crunch the worst. Out of all parties involved in book selling, the author gets the least amount of profit off the book they wrote.

For us consumers there are other ways to get our discounts. Worst case scenario, we can wait for the paperback to come out and pay a lot less. Most of us who are in a crunch do this anyways. So me, I'm cheering on the ABA because they're standing up for not only booksellers and publishers, but the authors! Read all about their plea to the Department of Justice here:
http://news.bookweb.org/7130.html

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What If Your Agent Isn't Working Out?

Unfortunately just because you landed an agent doesn't mean that the two of you will have a good working relationship. It finally hit me a while back that things weren't working out with my first agent. But what was I supposed to do? The idea of parting ways with him made me sick. Could I get another one? Should I? There are a few other questions you should ask yourself first

What should you expect from your agent? What's normal and what's not? What are red flags that things aren't working out or legit? These are all questions that go through your mind when you're searching for an agent and after you first land one. Having had two agents I've had two completely different experiences. One bad, one good.

My first agent was for my adult fantasy series. My books would be one of their first ventures into the fantasy genre. That was a red flag but I didn't know it at the time. They had represented some excellent authors so I figured they knew what they were getting into.

I received an offer of representation through the email. For me this is a red flag because I'm all about personal communication. This is not terribly unusual I've come to learn, just impersonal. They did not have me sign a contract. Again, not terribly unusual for an agent taking on a first time author. If they're on the fence about you or your project this is a way to protect themselves if they can't sell it. Then they can drop you, which is why it's a red flag. Not to mean they aren't legit, just to mean they may not be sure they can sell your work.

Once they deemed it ready to submit they didn't tell me who they were sending it to. Red flag. After almost a year they stopped answering my emails. I wasn't a pest, one email a month at the very most. Red flag. If you're a pest they aren't going to answer them all but if you aren't they really should be answering you. I called them twice in the course of that year and they were 'out of the office' both times. They didn't return those calls. Red flag. After I pushed hard I received an apologetic email answer (we only talked on the phone once the entire time) that things had been hectic and they hadn't had time for my manuscript. Crimson flag. After pushing even harder I learned they had only sent it out to two houses over the entire year! Red flag. At this point we parted ways since he was too busy for my project (in other words had lost interest!). I wish he'd told me that six months ago.

Thankfully in the meantime I'd kept writing, had finished another series, and had been looking for another agent for it since mine did not want to rep young adult. My new agent has been completely different every step of the way and I'm loving it. Every agent does things different. Finding the right one is not easy. Best of luck!

For some expert advice on the subject from lit agent Kristen Nelson check this out: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/
A great link from the folks at Writer's Digest on how to break up with your agent: http://ow.ly/vU0x

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Price Wars

If you're a writer or a reader you've probably heard about Wal-Mart and Amazon's plan to offer new hardback books at only $9. If not, grab your coffee and sit down because you've got to get in the know about this. For readers this could be great news. For writers, not so much.

Authors only get typically 10% off the cover price of a hardback. Suddenly makes a $25 book not look like such a great profit huh? Now knock that down to a $9 book. That more than cuts an authors profits in half. Ouch. Not such a big deal for the authors who sells hundreds of thousands of books but what about for those who only sell tens of thousands, or even just thousands?

For readers this is great because everyones wallets are thin in this economy and who couldn't use a break when it comes to their entertainment costs? You can pick up some great titles at a discount price.

In the end, it's better for authors if readers buy the hardback regardless of it's discount because we get typically 10% of that price and only 6% or less of the cover price of a paperback. If more people are able to buy hardback books instead of having to wait for the paperback the profit for authors will still be better.

Will I be rushing out to buy my books from Wal-Mart or Amazon? No. I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart and there isn't one within 100 miles of where I live anyways. Considering Amazon posted only bad reviews of a friend's book (that was quite good I must add!) despite all the great reviews written, I've been boycotting them ever since. So Barnes & Noble, no worries. I'm faithfully yours forever!

Associated Press's announcement of the price wars: http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_16036/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=DyE8QsXP

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Twitter Tuesday

Today I'm spotlighting the first two people I followed when I jumped on Twitter, Aprilynne Pike and Sarah Rees Brennan. I had the privilege of attending a writer's retreat with these two fantastic ladies in 2008. They're both creative, funny, and supportive of those in the writing industry. If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting them at a signing you know how incredibly nice either of them are. And yep, they're really that way all the time.

Both Aprilynne and Sarah's first books debuted this year. Aprilynne's book, Wings, shot immediately onto the New York Times bestseller list. It's a young adult novel about a young girl who discovers she's a fairy. Disney has since bought the movie rights. Sarah's book The Demon's Lexicon stormed the European market before landing in the U.S. It's a story about magic and demons that would no doubt make J.K. Rowling envious.

If taking the literary world by storm isn't enough reason to follow these great ladies, there's also the fact that they're, well, great ladies. Check them out. I'm sure you'll love their books, their blogs, and their twittering.

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/AprilynnePike & https://twitter.com/sarahreesbrenna
Their Blogs: http://www.apparentlyaprilynne.blogspot.com/ & http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/
Their sites: http://www.sarahreesbrennan.com/ & http://www.aprilynnepike.com/

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday's Muse

Okay, so part of me picked this picture last week because of the proximity of Halloween! But for the most part I picked it because I'm at a really dark place in my book. It's one of those moments where my main character does something that will change her life forever-or so she thinks. Hard chapter to write but so rewarding and worth it to see her growing. While this book is fun it is anything but light when I compare it to the last two.

As for music this last week, I've been listening to some dark things as well. Hey, it's a theme and it gets me into the right mood for the chapter!

Here's a link on why your manuscript can get rejected to start your Monday off right: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Why+Your+Manuscript+Can+Get+Rejected+Part+II.aspx

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sequels and Submitting to Editors

Sorry about my absence this week. I've been crazy busy getting things ready for my agent!

Even before I submitted to agents I wondered what to expect if I've written a sequel to the book I'm submitting. Not much at the agent stage really. At that point you want to focus on your first book. If you don't get someone interested in it they aren't really going to care about what comes after. However, once an agent takes you on then things change. First and foremost you have to get your first book ready. Which means revision even after you get an agent. They want to make sure they have something polished and ready to go before considering more.

Once I'd got through the revision stages with my agent I asked him what I should have ready in case editors ask about the sequels. At that point he was very excited to hear about the sequels. He wanted to know how much I'd written. I've completed the second novel (and revised several times) and am about half way through the third. With that in mind he wanted not only my revised first book, but a synopsis or outline of the second, 2 chapters of the second, and the first page of the third. Since that was all already done it was just a matter of attaching those things to the email.

If you've written a sequel to your book be honest with your agent about what stage it's in. If its the first draft tell them. If you've revised it several times, let them know that. Have a synopsis or an outline ready! Most important, never stop writing. If I had stopped writing the moment an agent showed interest I wouldn't have a sequel completed and be half way through the third. I used all the nervous energy to keep writing and now I have a trilogy instead of just one book! You don't have to write a sequel though. Write another book altogether if you like!

If you have written a sequel have it ready, then once your agent is happy with the revision of the first book, mention the sequel! Both your agent and prospective editors will want to know about it. Happy writing!

For those of you looking for an alternative way to publish check this out. Here's a new publishing imprint that wants authors to take a more active role in their own promotion and are taking a different approach: http://kenatchity.blogspot.com/2009/10/morgan-james-publishing-and-atchity.html

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Progress With Editing

Today I had an excellent phone call with my agent. Sounds like I've revised to his liking! Yay! Now I have to work on a cover letter to editors. Yikes. I'm thinking a root canal might be easier. But the good news is I'll have help from my agent. And I had an idea of where to start thanks to agent Kristin Nelson's blog. Check her out here: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ She posts letters to editors that she's written, among many other wonderful things. Just goes to show, an agent doesn't have to be your agent to help you.

With the basic idea in mind I wrote a rough draft based on what I read and the material that's in my query letter. So far it seems a query letter to an editor isn't much different from a query letter to an agent. Your trying to sell the same thing after all. We'll see what my agent says when he kicks the first draft back to me!

For those who need an extra boost of confidence in the recovering literary field, check this out. My last agent said manuscripts just don't go to auction any more. He said the state of the economy just didn't allow for it. My current agent doesn't agree and I'm excited about that. Apparently he isn't the only one. Here's a success story of two books that recently sold at auction: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6701023.html Things are looking good!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Twitter Tuesday

Some wonderful friends of mine over at http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/ gave me the idea to start Twitter Tuesday. Rather than steal their idea completely I'm using the title and doing something slightly different. Be sure to check them out though. They're a fantastic group who reviews the hottest new young adult titles. The stalk Twitter for the best tweets from the best writers out there and they come up with some great stuff so be sure to stop by their page.

I'll be talking about some of the great people I've found in the writing industry, and perhaps some who've found me. If a week goes by that I don't find anyone new, I'll find something else to dazzle you with! This last week I met Kami Garcia, co-author of the soon to be released Beautiful Creatures. She's a great gal and the book is going to be excellent! Check her out on twitter at: https://twitter.com/kamigarcia and http://www.beautifulcreaturesthebook.com/

I also met the up and coming young adult author Myra McEntire. Myra is represented and kind of at the same stage in her career as I am. You can find her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MyraMcEntire and check out her fun website at: http://writingfinally.blogspot.com/

Other big news on Twitter: fantasy author Neil Gaiman is starting a story on Twitter that fans can add their own lines to. When it's finished he's going to record it as an audio book! Check him out here: https://twitter.com/neilhimself and read about his idea here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6701457.html

As daunting as it may seem for those of you who haven't taken the plunge, this is what Twitter is all about. I can't think of any other website or chat room where you can meet anyone from published authors, editors, agents, publishers, readers, to up and coming authors. This is the melding pot folks and if you aren't in it, you're missing out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Muse

I thought I'd change my weekly 'Last Week's Writing Inspiration' post to Monday Muse. It has a nicer ring to it and is shorter to type! On Monday's I'll be posting whatever inspired me the week prior, in hopes that maybe it can inspire you!

Last week my muse drew power from this picture. These are the cliffs of Mohr in Ireland. I've had this picture stuck away for some time and was saving it for when I reached this stage in my book.

The moment I saw this picture I knew I had to write about this place. It hit me on a visceral level. I started researching the cliffs immediately. The more I found out the more fascinated I became, and the richer my story became!

I posted it a while back when I first found it but now that I'm at this point in my book I just had to post it again!

As for ear candy last week, my muse has been snacking on a lot of Irish music and Loreena McKennitt!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Secret To Getting Published

That's easy, write a great book and get discovered! While accomplishing that is very complicated, the answer to the question really is that simple. So how do we achieve this? Well, relax. Great books don't start out that way. Like all things in life, it takes work to get them to the stage where they are publishable. Don't be afraid to write a rough first draft. You will be revising, a lot, so save that part for later. Get the words on paper or into a computer.

Once you've finished then you can go back and start making it great. Don't expect to do it in the second draft either. You'd better really love this book because you'll likely end up re-writing it so many times you'll lose count. I felt like my novel started out great and I've still re-written it so many times I've lost count! Don't get discouraged by the revision process. Uncovering a diamond takes time and hard work.

As for getting discovered, I've talked a lot about queries and conferences in past posts, check them out. For an absolute treasure trove of info on getting published check out this outstanding post from Jane Friedman at Writer's Digest: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/10/06/TheSecretsToPublishingSuccessJanes2009ToughLoveGuide.aspx
And if you have doubts about what Twitter can do for your writing career check this out to see what other writers have said about it: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/10/04/HowTwitterIsHelpfulForAspiringWriters.aspx

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blogger Book Reviewers Beware!

The Federal Trade Commission has just flexed their muscles to make bloggers who review things disclose whether or not they received it for free or were compensated for their review. This will include books! If you picked up an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) at a book festival for free, you'll have to disclose that! If the author sent you their book because you're a friend or 'reader', you'll have to disclose that! It is the FTC's intention to give the consumer a clearer picture of whether or not the review may be biased.

I get what they're trying to do. This works on say, diet pills. But not so much on books! Yet books get lumped into the mix with everything else. Lawsuits and fines can be involved, though I doubt we'll see much of that in the book industry. But in a sue-happy nation, one cannot count it out. There is a bit of a clause that may or may not help out bloggers who review arc's they picked up at a festival. It says a blogger who receives a freebie without the advertiser knowing won't be in violation of the FTC rules. Sounds like a gray area to me. Gray areas are never good.

I don't think the FTC's intention is to target book reviewers but any time a blanket clause is put into affect it tends to effect the wrong people. So be informed and beware! Leave me a comment, I'd love to see what you all think about this.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/05/technology/AP-US-TEC-Bloggers-FTC.html?_r=3&hpw

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More On Queries

Often the hardest part of a writer's job is learning how to sell themselves. This all starts with the query letter. It's a careful balance of professionalism, knowing your audience (the agents), enthusiasm for your work, and knowing how to put it all together. Learning how to mix all this and come out with an outstanding query letter is not easy.

Don't confuse enthusiasm for your work with overconfidence. Saying things like, 'there isn't another book like this on the market', or 'this will blow away Twilight', are red flags, not good points. If your book isn't like anything on the market then an agent is going to wonder if they'll even be able to sell it. You do want to express it's uniqueness but also touch on what it is similar too. Making a statement like the second one is arrogant and may come back to take a chunk out of your posterior. When doing comparisons be respectful of the author's work and make sure your accurate.

When it comes to the paragraph about yourself if you don't have any publishing credits, don't panic. Focus on what you've written, if there is a sequel available, or if you plan to write one. Here's some great advice from editor Chuck Sambuchino on the subject: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/What+Should+You+Write+In+The+Bio+Paragraph+Of+A+Query+Letter.aspx
Here's an example from Chuck of an excellent successful query letter: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Successful+Queries+Agent+Michael+Bourret+And+Wake.aspx

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Weekend With My Agent Critiqued Manuscript

I absolutely stalked my mail box waiting for the hard copy of my critiqued manuscript to arrive from my agent. I've never been so excited to receive a package, seriously never. Not that my life is dull, just that I was dying to see what he liked and didn't like about my baby. When it arrived on Friday I abandoned all my other worldly duties, tore open the envelope and dove in.

So what does it look like when an agent critiques your manuscript? That depends on the agent. This I must say though, they are not your own personal editor so don't expect them to catch or correct all your grammar mistakes. That wears on them and they don't like it. I always feel horrible when I read through a critique and find a bunch of grammar mistakes my agent has fixed! My first agent sent only bullet points, no printed out manuscript. Things did not work out with him but I think that had more to do with the book than with him. That book is on a shelf awaiting a serious re-write. This time and this agent were going to be different.

First was the cover letter which I read and re-read before moving on. The cover letter stated both good and bad, with emphasis on what needed fixing. I'm lucky, it was gentle and the fixes were minimal. I haven't always been this lucky though. The critique of my first book was brutal and was followed by two more brutal critiques. Back to my current book. Once I read through the cover letter I eagerly set it aside and started on the manuscript. Point to remember at this stage: your agent loves your book and wants it to succeed. Take their criticism as constructive. They only want to polish your book and make it the best it can be. Take a stand only on points you feel are vital to the story. Trust their expertise!

There were enough grammar mistakes to make me want to send the reader flowers and wine. Ugh, now I feel horrible. I had gone over this manuscript so many times I'd lost count and still made mistakes! It happens. Try not to sweat it too much when it happens to you. Do your best and be prepared. Your agent will expect mistakes to a point.

I sat down at my computer with my critiqued manuscript next to me and fixed all the grammar errors my agent/reader generously pointed out. Then I double checked the entire manuscript for similar errors. Once that was done I put the cover sheet beside me and scoured the entire manuscript for the points I needed to fix. When that was done, I went over it again, and again. I'm nothing if not thorough! Now I'm awaiting a conference call with my agent later this week. Now that my manuscript is polished and put together I'm starting to get very excited!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Last Week's Writing Inspiration

Despite being on pins and needles waiting to get my manuscript back from my agent last week, I continued to write the sequel. Idle hands would have drove me insane and writing another book seemed like a good alternative to a straight jacket. The picture above helped inspire me and keep me focused. It was taken in the Lough Key Forest in Ireland and it took my breath away when I came across it. Quite a bit of my latest book takes place in Ireland and that's all the news I'm going to dish out about it, for now! :)
http://www.loughkey.ie/

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Industry Is Recovering And YA Is Moving Front and Center

There are a lot of signs that the book industry is recovering and children/teen books seem to be moving front and center of all the talk. Even if you don't write either of these genres take heart that the next generation are reading, despite the state of the economy, and will likely do so the rest of their lives. It's one of the many reasons I write for children/teens, they're the future and our world's future has never looked brighter.

Just a week ago records were shattered at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. with over 130,000 attendees! Among the authors in attendance were such great names as Judy Blume and Holly Black. Over 70 authors attended and many of them were children/teen authors. Booths were packed! http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6699603.html

At the Midwest Bookseller Association's Meeting and Trade Show teen books stole the limelight as well. Booksellers seem to be looking for the next Stephanie Meyer as many new young adult novels are focused around the paranormal, vampires, or magic. Some great new titles were announced. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6699685.html

With record young adult and children's book sales it's no surprise that Sourcebooks is adding a young adult imprint. This is great news for young adult writers, especially those of us hoping to debut soon! They're first lineup for 2010 looks like it's going to be amazing! http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6699678.html
http://www.sourcebooks.com/independentvision/francesca-simon/2.html

Regardless of what genre you write, this is excellent news because it means children and young adults are reading. They will eventually move into other genres and hopefully will pass their love of books on to their own children when they grow up. The future is looking better all the time!