Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Negotiating your own publishing contract

Negotiating your own publishing contract doesn’t sound intelligent, does it? Don’t worry, it doesn’t sound all that brilliant to me either, but I’m doing it anyhow. For the most part, I gave up on finding an agent for the first book. Believe me I tried. I have approximately 32 different queries saved to this computer. Crazy huh? As I am entirely too impatient, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to sell this novel on my own.

Here’s what I discovered after I gave up:

1. Queries that do not interest agents can interest publishers.

2. It is easier to get a small publisher to read your full manuscript than to get an agent to read a partial. (Especially if you write about vampires and werewolves.) The majority of publishers I queried requested fulls. Some even before requesting partials. Every publisher I queried requested at least a partial. (That’s great if writing queries is not your cup of tea!)

Although I’ve received rejections from some of those publishers, I’ve also received invaluable insight. With the exception of one, every rejection letter received has offered advice on plot development, character development, even genre issues.

One editor told me she enjoyed my story, and that it was well written, BUT it was not a paranormal romance, instead she‘d classify it as more mainstream horror or straight urban fantasy. According to online definitions, my book is a paranormal romance. Now I didn’t agree with that definition because there really isn’t all that much romance in it. That little tidbit she gave me has helped tremendously! (It’s always best to send your work to someone who actually publishes your genre. Lol)

I am not in any way shape or form advising you to be your own agent or attorney! Believe me; I’d be happier if I’d acquired an agent. However, should you find yourself in the same predicament there are some extremely helpful articles on the internet you can utilize. This link is from Publishing Central. Although it isn’t intended to take the place of an actual attorney, there are a plethora of listed things you should know before signing a contract. This link from absolute write has also been exceedingly helpful. There are many more you can look up simply by searching publishing contract negotiation.

If you find yourself in a situation where you must do your own negotiation, do your homework. Research every aspect of the offered contract. Do not under any circumstances arrive at this knife fight with a spoon! And it is a knife fight; make no mistake about that.

Publishers, like writers, want to make money. You have the right to ask for things they don’t offer, and they have the right to tell you NO!

Read through the offered contract carefully. Small clauses that do not make sense to the average person and seem of little consequence can cause you big trouble later.

Keep a realistic perspective on what you will receive. Remember, although we all think we’ve written the next big thing, it hasn’t been proven. Don’t expect a publisher to bend over backwards for a debut author. Most don’t.

By the way, if you haven’t visited P&E, or writer beware, you should. Whether you are trying to find an agent or a publisher, it is important to know you are dealing with a reputable business.

Good luck and happy writing! I’ll let you know how this plays out!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A book for Christmas?

Well the turkey and fixings’ have been put away, brought out, reheated, put away again, and now have been thrown away. And it’s that time again. Christmas! Shopping, more shopping, and oh dare I say--shopping!

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on helping your fellow writers out. Giving books as presents seems to be a nice way to do that. But if your son wants a new Ipod does it make good fiscal sense to buy him a set of books? I’d rather him read than listen to music, but will he? Or will they just sit on the bookshelf gathering dust while he complains about his buddy getting the exact Ipod he wanted?

Although I have some doubts, I’m on a mission to expand the minds of those I’d like to influence. I’m going to try to find the perfect book for each of my children. (Even the ones that don’t like to read.) No expensive sets, just one solitary book that I think will peak their interest. A good steam punk romance will do for the oldest. The youngest loves animals so something along those lines for him, and the others? Well I’ll have to do some digging and figure out which genre they’d most likely read.

If my experiment goes well, I’ll have the pleasure of knowing that this one particular present will be around for a while. After all, how many times will you read a favorite book? I have several in my library that I’ve had since I was thirteen. I still enjoy them. I wouldn’t even consider getting rid of my Wind in the Door, or any of my LOTR’s. And my Shanara series? Touch it and die!!!! (I don’t even loan that set out.)

If you decide to have your own reading experiment, here are some things you should know. First off, don’t buy used books. Writers don’t make any money off of used books. (Remember we have two goals here.) Secondly, if the book is part of a set, buy the first in the series. Third and most important, don’t assume. Look through each book. Just because your daughter loves the Twilight Saga, does not mean that other paranormal romances will be appropriate for her. I’ve read many that are filled with vivid sex scenes and although I enjoyed them, I wouldn’t want my thirteen-year-old reading them.

Well that’s it! Good luck! Should you decide to embark on this quest, let me know how it panned out.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Deciding between wants and needs.

I’ve been absent for a while. Sorry about that. (again.) Life took over and so many things were going on it was hard to choose between what I wanted to do and what had to be done. It’s funny how often that happens.

Today it’s raining. A dark dreary day that screams, “Grab a good book and read all day!” Except I really can’t do that today. There’s this blog that needed to be written weeks ago, I have a new book I seriously need to work on. And of course, there are agents to research and queries to send out. Not to mention I haven’t written the synopsis for the second book yet.

I have one free day this week. Today. My new story has filled my dreams for the last week or so. My fingers are twitching to hit the keyboard and allow the words to escape. So I’m asking myself what the smartest course of action would be. With book one on submission, and book two close to being submission ready, should I really take the time to work on book three? Or would it be prudent to complete the synopsis for two and send out more queries?

While I’m trying to figure this out, time is passing. They day is growing shorter. My gut says to do what the heart wants. Write. There is time for the other. I don’t have to get published this year. I don’t have to find an agent today. And I sure don’t have to figure out a way to break into the writing world this morning. I don’t have to write either, but I want to.

So for today, want supersedes need. Today, I’m going to allow myself the pleasure of putting words on paper. How do you prioritize? If want is the inner child, and need is the grown up version of your psyche, how often to you allow the inner child to play?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rebuttal to Esquire article (of sorts)

I took a break from work to look over cutie, and agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford’s blog. In his post, he referenced Esquire’s post about vampires and gay men. Of course, I had to click over and read it. Gotta say, I'm not agreeing with this man’s opinion.

Why do so many want to turn genre fiction into a platform for religious or economic crisis? Can't we just like scary stories for the sake of a good scare? I'm curious what those of you who are interested think. (I’ll wait while you read………)

Okay ready?

I really get frustrated when people turn everything into a platform with religious connotations. Now, I’m not saying that he’s doing that per say. What I am saying is that many people do. Stating that woman like vampire stories because most secretly desire to have sex with gay men, is ridiculously equivalent to saying Men play sports because they’re in the closet and like the physical contact with other men. I’d bet money that several large, professional football players would kick your ass if you mentioned that to their faces. Anyone game to try it? (Not this girl!)

So many things are continuously taken out of context. The article implies that fascination with vampires is a result of another round of sexual revolution. Maybe so. But then again, aren’t we in a perpetual state of sexual revolution? In the last several decades, we’ve gone from do anything and anyone, to abstinence, and back again. Do I like gay men? I have several good friends that are. Do I want to sleep with them? Well I have enough lost causes going on, adding one more seems a bit masochistic.

In addition, the article discusses the rise and fall of vampire fiction coinciding with the rise of Aids and other socioeconomic events. My take? The world is a messy, scary place. To see that, all you have to do is turn on the news. Any station, any channel. It’s terrifying. I’d much rather go to sleep worrying about, "What if a vampire showed up?" Instead of, "What if I wake up and all the banks are shut down?" (I'm not nearly as worried about the vampire.)

I think most people want to escape from reality. Sci-fi/fantasy provides it. Not everything has to equate to sex or god. Sometimes a tomato is a nice, plump--wait for it--tomato. End of story.

What do you think? I’m curious to read your comments and hear your ideas. Are people looking in the wrong places for answers to unnecessary questions?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Writing Purgatory

Your first novel is finished and with several publishers waiting to be read. One is showing great interest! Your second novel is finished, and is in the revision/editing process. A third and fourth novel are in the early stages, but you’re optimistic they’ll both be good. So how does it feel?

I’m in publishing purgatory. Now I’ve been here for a while, but some days (like today) are worse than others. Many days, you wonder what in the heck you’re doing and why. Why did I decide at 39 yrs old, I wanted to become a writer? I honestly don’t know. Someone put me on a path, and the story happened. Why did I think it needed published? Well…wouldn’t it be a waste of time, not to mention completely self-indulgent, to make no attempt to profit from all the time and work invested? Don’t I owe my family that?

There are mornings I wake up, plagued with doubts and questions. I religiously scan blogs from other writers and agents, always in the hope that I’ll find another soul with similar misgivings. Many say, “We write because we must.” I agree with that. Writing became an addiction for me within three days of starting the first novel. How healthy can that be? If there is one thing you do (addictively) that interferes with real life, can it really be good for you?

A cardinal rule of writing is: Do not trust the opinions of friends and family when it comes to your writing. I comprehend the concept of this, but how likely are you to send writing samples to people you don’t know? How likely is it that they’d want to read them? Where do you find said people? “Writing critique groups,” says those in the know. Really? Wow! We don’t have any real life writing groups here. I live in small town Arkansas for Pete’s sake.

In the few writing forums I go to online, there is constant repetition of one phrase to new writers asking for critiques: “You just want someone to tell you how great you are.” I have a two-word response for that---WELL DUH!!! Who doesn’t want to be told how great they are? Some will venture to say the writing shows promise, but they never say exactly what is wrong with it. Oh, you’ll hear things like punctuation and grammar, that’s easy. I only know of one person that I consider the grammar police. (And she knows who she is.)

Much doubt, work, and even denial is involved in writing a book that might not make it to bookshelves. In the mean time, you have moments of mild freak outs, you constantly second guess your motives and abilities, and most importantly--you keep doing what you’re doing and strive to master the craft. Why? Who knows!

I could be in the next room holding my new grandson. I did that a lot last week and can tell you it was wonderful. Closets could be organized, floors could be scrubbed, toilets always need cleaning, but I’m here. Right here in front of the computer. Drinking coffee, preparing my mind for surreal locations, and planning once again, to write a story that very few may ever read. I can’t say why anyone, including myself, keeps trying. Validation? An extreme belief you have something to contribute? Money? I write because it makes me happy. It thrills me. Allowing my thoughts to spill out in type, gives me a sense of wholeness. After all of this, the doubts have settled. Paranoia has receded. I’m not wasting my time. I write because I must.

Where are you right now? Are you in your own brand of purgatory? Are you still plugging away at a dream? Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up! ‘They’ might not come when you build it, but YOU built it. At the very least, you can take pride in that. When you quit, you fail.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monster love

So I noticed today’s date. (I know I’m not terribly observant.) And immediately upon seeing said date, a song began playing in my head. Six more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween…. Remember that? Excitement ensued.

I’m all about Halloween. I love the parties, dressing up, handing out candy to tricker-treaters. It’s my second favorite holiday. (Christmas comes in first.) Halloween is the only holiday that you don’t have to be ’good’ to receive gifts. You can dress how you want, you can prank people, you can be a monster, and it’s perfectly fine.

It is no secret that I love monsters. Especially those misunderstood, trying to be more, monsters. Let’s face it; we all have a bit of monster in us. Don’t believe me? Here is a short quiz that will tell you which kind of monster hides beneath your strikingly human exterior.

Have you ever talked someone into doing something they didn‘t want to do? (vampire, witch)

Put your own needs ahead of others? (all of them)

So needy that you sucked the life force from someone you love? (vampire, siren, medusa, ect.)

Appeared to be something you’re not? (vampire, werewolf, shape-shifter, witch, ghost)

Here’s a big one: Been in love, know that your actions are hurting the one you love, and continued with said actions?

Those of you that can answer NO to the preceding questions are really wonderful beings. Those that can’t--well you’re human, and have a bit of monster in you. Don’t feel bad we all do. That’s why we love a good monster flick or book. The love affair with monsters is really our own need to see someone else act in a fashion we would never consider. They make our ‘good’ seem really good, and our ‘bad’ seems much more humane.

The best monsters, the ones everyone loves, are noble monsters. Those that will kill an entire village to save the one he/she loves. Is it right? Well of course not, but as humans we can watch from afar and feel a sense of justice in the evil. Who hasn’t cheered when a werewolf transmogrified and killed someone, thinking, “Man, that chick had it coming.” Or thought, “I hope that dude gets it first!”

We love it when the big, scary monsters take out the bad guys. Some monsters deserve a stake through the heart, but others--well they are heroes. We want to know them, we want to love them, sometimes, we even want to be them. Deep down inside we can identify with many of them. So celebrate your inner monster, keep it under control, but celebrate it, because it’s just a few more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween……..

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vampires, dead or undead?

Today’s topic (and maybe the topic for the week) is vampires. Now I know I tend to go on and on about them, but that’s only because they are my favorite non-human entities. I’m still reading on agent/publishing blogs that vampires are dead…again. My problem with what I’m reading is that I don’t believe a word of it.

This might be wishful thinking on my part. After all, I don’t think anyone loves a good vampire story more than I do. According to many (who are supposed to be in the ‘know’), today’s media market is ubber saturated, and readers/viewers are sick to death of it. This reader has to disagree. For the first time in a longggggg time, I have a reason to pay my dish bill. Why? Because there is finally programming I enjoy.

My question for all the in-the-knowers is this: If the market is over saturated, why are people still tuning in? Why are Grandmas walking around the local Wal-Mart with I heart Vampire shirts? Several vampire series that have been out of print for years are reprinting, and once again becoming popular. Why is that powers that be?

Several sources have claimed this is the first time vampires have hit it big in the U.S. Again, I disagree. Vampires have been at the top of the proverbial monster list since Bram Stoker’s time. Every so often, a new writer will come along and even more readers/viewers will join the fangbanger ranks. All this shows me is that those that love them, do so unconditionally. I’d rather watch a B movie about vampires (regardless of how crappy the effects are) than watch a romantic chick flick. ICK! I can’t be the only one that feels that way.

What do you think? Are they dead? Are you sick of them? Should publishers and Hollywood leave them in their coffins?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 348

Day 348

Okay where were we? Oh yeah, the hard part…

I can look back on this now and laugh, but at the time I did not find it even slightly amusing. Like many who know nothing about the publishing world, I assumed that editing was combing a manuscript for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. (Like that’s not hard enough to do. Especially when you aren’t the grammar police. Just for clarification…I‘m not.) The day after I finished The Bright Side of Darkness, I began my quest to edit and rid my story of mistakes.

Now I took this task quite seriously. I did a quick search online about editing and one of the noble advice givers claimed that you needed 6 people to help you edit. After those 6 had returned said manuscript, and mistakes repaired, you needed 6 more. (Yep. That’s what I thought too! Where in the heck am I going to find 12 people to read this?) Regardless of my trepidation, I set out to find 6 people I knew would be honest with me, no matter what. Lucky for me, I had 6 willing and able people to help me on my journey.

I promptly sent them copies and they picked the manuscript apart. (You can’t imagine how many spelling and punctuation errors there were. And I have and USE spell check!) For two weeks straight, I read, fixed, re-read, fixed, and so on. At the end of that two week period, I knew my book so well that my ‘editors’ could send me the page number and sentence and I knew exactly where to find it.

(Side note: At this point, I seriously started disliking my book. We began to have a strained relationship. You see, I wanted it to be good and behave. And it…well it wanted to be stubborn.)

I have actually dreamed of sitting at the computer combing line upon line of my story. Sometimes, I even woke up exhausted from working in my sleep all night. But that’s not even the hard part. We still aren’t even close to the really really hard part.

In the process of all this editing, I decided it was time for me to research this publishing thing and figure out how I was going to get this book from my home to Barns & Noble. Let me tell you, if I had done that before writing the novel--it would never have been written. I’m not even catholic and I crossed my chest after finding out what I needed to do to become a published author.

If you watch much TV or movies, you’d think that selling a book is fairly simple as long as it’s a good book. WRONG! The ‘simple’ part is sitting in a chair for hours working up a good case of carpal tunnel and restless leg syndrome. Everything after that is insanity!

It was at this time that I discovered a thing called ‘show don’t tell,’ and that revising and editing are no where close to the same monster.

Editing: Searching for mistakes in sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and extra words.

Revising: Ripping your manuscript to the bones and making it salable.

And guess what? There’s more. (I know, that’s what I said too! More? Are you freaking kidding me?) If you really want to get a good book deal, you need to have an agent. If you want to get an agent, you need to know how to write a killer query.

Query: A one-page letter written to an agent in which you personalize a greeting to each agent. Tell them the genre, word count, and title of your book. And then the biggie…In one small paragraph, give them an interesting, compelling synopsis of your story. Oh yeah, and you have to have a ton of double spaced lines between items so it can easily be read.

“Just awesome. No really, it‘s great. Someone just shoot me,” I mumbled as I beat my head against wall.

I almost quit right there. In fact, I made several tearful phone calls to Vanessa justifying why I just couldn’t do this.

“I don’t think I can do this, it’s too hard.”

“Of course you can, hun. Don’t be ridiculous. This is a great story. You’ll get it figured out,” she said.

A few of those turned into this: “Get a grip, girl. You can do this.”

I’d have been lost without my friends. They nudged me at the right times in the right places to keep going. She‘s never steered me wrong, so I listened.

By the middle of February, I was sending out queries. My first rejection didn’t shock me at all. I’m a new writer; I didn’t expect everyone to want my story. When the tenth rejection came--well--that one kind of hurt my feelings. I mean really! This is a great story. Vampires, and ghosts, and witches and a druid sorcerer? Sword fights, demon battles, magic…Who the heck wouldn’t love that?

I’m digressing because in the middle of all this mess, I was revising my book. Holy crap! Talk about work. You know all those freaky English rules you had to learn in high school? Remember senior comp or American Lit? Or better, the School House Rock songs? Conjunction junction and Lolly get your adverb? Does not even remotely prepare you for writing/editing/revising a novel.

Believe it or not, after all this yammering, I’ve finally gotten to the hard part. But unfortunately, that will have to wait till next time again. Because as usual, I’ve been long winded and I don’t want to get blamed for bottoms going numb and headaches.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 347 in my writing career.

Day 347 in my writing career.

I began this whole writing thing nearly a year ago. I showed a friend a short story I’d written and she said, “This is really good! So why don’t you make it a book?”

I laughed. “A book? I don’t have time to write a book!”

She smiled and shook her head. “Hun, you sit at the computer and clean your house. What do you mean you don’t have time?”

For three days, I pondered her statement. I really did have time to write a book, but holy cow…a book? That’s a ton of work and I’m not creative or overly intelligent. I’m just me. Writers are really smart people! Aren’t they?

On the fourth day, I sat down with my two-page short story and decided to give it a whirl. It was just one day after all, what could it hurt to try? I re-read what I’d written and suddenly words poured out of me. I’m talking tons of words. Those two pages became an entire chapter that day. When the kids got home from school, I put it up and did my normal after school thing with them.

All that night I had an intense feeling of satisfaction. My laundry didn’t get washed that day, and the living room needed vacuumed, but I felt like I’d really accomplished something.

The next morning I woke up at 5:30 like usual. (I know it’s an ungodly time, but my body is just used to it.) I made my coffee, checked my emails, read my horoscope, and opened my story. The kids almost missed the buss because I lost track of time and forgot to wake them up. After I got them off to school, I went at it again and wrote all day.

That was all it took, two exquisite days of bliss. I was completely hooked. I didn’t know if it was any good at all, but I couldn’t stop. It was my drug of choice. I worked like that everyday. Some days I’d write until nearly midnight. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want too! (Can you say obsession?) In January, I finished. I sat here typing out those last few paragraphs and cried like a baby. It was over. I had given birth to a thing that had taken on a life of its own.

And that was when the really hard part began…