Friday, September 28, 2012

Are Serials the New Thing?

Tip of the Day: No one notices the dust in your house except for you. If someone does notice, hand them a feather duster. ;)

Last year, my good friend Karly Kirkpatrick came up with this revolutionary idea: we should write serials, like a TV show, then release them every couple of weeks.

I respected Karly's opinion, but I thought it would be a TON of work for little payment. A serial is short (7,500 - 15,000 words), so it's not worth pricing above 99 cents. For self-pubs, a 99 cent sale on Amazon garners just a 35 cent profit.

I filed the idea away  in the back of my head. I hadn't written short stories in years, even though in the late 90's I'd sold quite a few (under my real name - lol, yes, I have more names than I can keep track of too) to magazines. Short stories weren't my favorite medium. Karly had an interesting idea, but not one I was ready to pursue.

One year later, I'm doing just that. Working on a set of five novelettes. Each has its own storyline, but they are part of a bigger story that spans all five books. Starting October 23rd, I'm going to release my mini-series.

The debut is 10/23, then every two weeks through 12/18 I'll release another story.

It's been quite an adventure. I never announce release dates until I'm done editing. With this series, I have deadlines imposed on me that I must keep. It's good motivation to write, if nothing else.

And yes, I'm doing this under another pen name - Isobel Lucas. Why? The books have more language and sexual content than my readers are used to. The last thing I need are 12-year-olds picking up these books. The mom in me can't stand the thought.

Okay, so back to serials. A couple of weeks ago, Amazon announced they're starting up a serials imprint. More and more authors are taking this path. It should be interesting to see if the reading public enjoys the concept. ePublishing is a really fluid place - the rules change all the time. I'm just having fun experimenting with the medium.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, September 27, 2012

If It's on Wikepedia then...

Tip of the Day: Add my forthcoming book, THE PAPARAZZI PROJECT to your "to-read" list on Goodreads.

It must exist! Ok, something rather cool popped up on Wikepedia this week. An entry for New-Adult Fiction. Maybe you've heard the term tossed around between your cool author friends and wondered what the heck is New-Adult? I know I did the first time I heard it. According to Wikipedia:

"New-adult Fiction or post-adolescent literature is a recent category of fiction for young adults first proposed by St. Martin's Press in 2009.[1] St. Martin’s Press editors wanted to address the coming-of-age that also happens in a young person’s twenties. They wanted to consider stories about young adults who were legally adults, but who were still finding their way in building a life and figuring out what it means to be an adult.[2]"

I remember a time, not terribly long ago (about 2006), when I was querying agents with a book about a college freshman and was told several times that no one would ever buy a book with a main character of that age. That I either had to jack up the ages of my characters and make it an adult book or lower the ages and make it a young adult. I'll tell you that I made the characters younger and went along with what I was being told. But I often wondered, why don't people want to read about characters in college? What do the readers who feel young adult books are too young for them (and I don't know what age this happens at as I've yet to reach it myself) and don't want to read adult books read?

And finally there is a genre! New Adult is getting increasingly popular with stand-out self pubbers like Jessica Park and Jamie McGuire.

And you may have noticed that traditional publishers have taken notice of these NA self-pubbers and are snapping up their books left and right.  

And finally Wikepedia has given the genre their own entry!

What do you guys think about New-Adult Fiction? Would you read it? Would you give writing it a try?

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Learning From Lost (or The Power of the Cliffhanger)

Tip of the Day: Sweet potatoes make delicious, healthy baked fries! Cut into strips, bake at 450 for 10 minutes; flip and cook for 10 minutes more. Dip in BBQ sauce. YUM!

Prior to August of this year, I had never seen an episode of the TV show LOST. I know, I know, I'm way behind the times. I'm caught up through season 2 now though so give me some credit. (But nobody tell me what happens!)

What I've noticed by watching these first 50 episodes is:

1. the cliffhanger episode endings leave me clamoring for more.
2. the better written episodes make those that are weaker stand out so I know which episodes I can skip over.
3. well-developed character motivations and backstories make me like those with whom I did not previously sympathize.
4. it is frustrating to the viewer when the characters don't ask the right questions for the sake of secret-keeping.

So when I read through my thriller again with a look towards epubbing it next year, I am going to make sure:

1. most of the chapter endings are on action-oriented or "big reveal" type cliffhangers.
2. every chapter is written to its fullest potential so they don't seem weak compared to those around them.
3. each character is intriguing and more and more likable -- even the "bad guys" -- as the story goes on and their motivations/backstories are revealed.
4. the characters are smart and don't hide information from the reader without reason.

Thank you, LOST, for making me think about story writing in a different way, and with a clear model that works.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can you manage your time?

Tip of the Day: want some tips of time management for writers. Check out this site. It even has a survey where you can find out if you are a Time Waster.

Last week at my day job, we had an in-service on time management. Normally, I'm decent at managing my time. I'm not great by any means and often become the Queen of Procrastination, but everything always gets done on time and usually fairly well.

However, when it comes to writing, I am Horrible (yes with a capital H--because I'm so bad, I had to go old school with my words) at managing my time.

I never get anything done in my target time. It feels like I have been working on the same chapter for three months with absolutely zero progress. And with my finished works, as soon as I tell myself I'm going to submit a query, it takes me months to actually complete the task.

Most days, it honestly feels like I'm living in a time warp.

It didn't used to be this bad. Part of it has to come from not having any desire to get rejected. Because who would willing want to have mean things said about them or their work...even when they know it's not personal? Knowing rejection is part of the process definitely slows me down. But I just have to keep telling myself that it's natural and part of the process. And then I have to focus on the task at hand.

If you are like me and also need help managing your time and completing a task, here's a summary of tips that I gathered from my in-service (paraphrased, of course):

  • Turn off my email when trying to work (or really the Internet in general). Because someone actually studied people multitasking and found out a person loses 10 IQ points when trying to do multiple tasks at once. Basically, the same IQ drop that occurs when a person hasn't slept. wonder my emails keep reading as if a first grader wrote them. At least my IQ probably isn't nearly as low as Ryan Seacrest's is by now.
  • Re-write your to-do list EVERY day and prioritize what you want to accomplish. I seriously have no idea who has time to re-write and prioritize a to-do list everyday. And this comes from a person who loves lists!
  • We spend 30 percent of our time at work looking for lost documents/items, etc. I find this statistic to be completely insane. My desk is filled with stacks of papers that need to be filed and my computer desktop looks like someone threw up icons on it... and even I don't spend that much time trying to find stuff. I'd love to see the desks of the people they observed for this study. But...yes I agree, organization does help!
My thinking...the people who write time management training sessions clearly have too much time on their hands. For me, I usually get more accomplished when I give myself some slack and allow myself to be lazy in some areas, so I can focus my attention on the most important task at hand. And just do, instead of keep planning.

But those Time Management People do make some fair points on things to try. Guess I better get cleaning my desk.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, September 24, 2012

Writer's Fear #71: Fear of Sloth

Tip of the Day: Fear of success for the win. J.K. Rowling admits to post-Harry Potter therapy. If someone expected me to write the next Harry Potter, I'd be in therapy too!

So this week my husband was hospitalized after being bit by a stray cat. All he did was try to feed a starving kitten. Result: 3 days in the hospital, minor surgery, and tons of IV antibiotics. I guess we dodged a rabies shot series. Usually, my teen daughter helps out with her little brother when I'm away from home (such as stuck in the emergency room trying to explain to doctors that my husband passed out because they didn't give him food for three days). However, she came down with bronchitis at the same time.

What am I doing about this one-two punch? Beating myself up for not getting any writing and critiquing done, of course!

I'm so lazy! Another writer--let's face it, a real writer--would have started a new novel in the hospital. It's not enough to think that someday, some romantic lead needs to be bitten by a stray cat. I should have that outlined. I should have done something. This is what separates the successful from the slothful! After I got home from the hospital, dosed out the girl's antibiotics, walked the dog in the rain, washed the dishes, cooked dinner, did laundry, and visited the hospital again, there were two hours before I fell asleep I could have used for writing.

And what did I do when I got my husband home from the hospital? I watched Star Trek all day on Netflix with him. OK, that's sort of an example of studying good writing. But you know, not really. It's not like I did anything.

It's the work ethic, that's the point. Plus now I've been out of my story groove forever. I couldn't have spared 15 minutes? I am a terrible person.

I have a huge fear of sloth, a constant, nagging feeling that I'd be a real writer if I wasn't so lazy. That in the end, I prefer to do nothing rather than work, and it will be my downfall. Motivation has always been the hardest part of writing for me. I've got a pretty darn good excuse this week, but what about next week? What will be the excuse then?

Eventually I feel so bad about it that I have to do something. And then I think, Wow, I'm pretty awesome. Look at me, Miss Accomplishment. But that mean girl voice inside my head is always ready to say: It wasn't enough, lazy pants.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm Boring ... and Sick

Tip of the Day: My friend Sarra Cannon is celebrating 100,000 sales of her Peachville Demons series. Check out her contest!!!!

Sometimes I think  writers are supposed to be glamorous 24/7. Who else gets paid for making things up (other than politicians)?

This past week, my life has not been glamorous.

I've been sick - fever, cough, congestion, etc. I spent the better part of three days in bed, moaning and whining. It's not attractive.

The best part is that I can still work from home! YAY!

The worst part? I can still work from home. Boo. :p

Next week my newest release, The Sundering, goes on tour. I had planned to start writing my guest posts last Friday, but that's the day I first felt crummy. I thought, Hey, I'll just do them Monday. No big deal. I already knew what I wanted to write about it - and, for me, the writing is the easy part.

So by Monday and Tuesday, I was running a low-grade fever. I dragged myself to my computer and it took me hours to write what normally would have taken less than an hour. It was painful - mentally and physically. But, I got it done.

What's the moral of the story, kids? Get your work done early.

Usually I have this blog post written and scheduled on Monday or Tuesday. Today, I'm writing off the cuff. I'm still sick, but I'm well enough I have to resume my normal mommy duties, like shuttling the kids to school, doing laundry, etc., while still feeling crummy.

And this blog post? Sigh. It's boring and a bit lame, but it's real life, yo. Besides, there's nothing interesting in the epublishing world this week. Nothing controversial to post about.

I'm giving y'all permission to take today off. Do something fun. Play with your new iPhone (mine is supposed to arrive on my doorstep within the next few hours). Lay down in bed and read a good book. Enjoy today!

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blog Hops

Tip of the Day: Did you catch the news about my forthcoming release? Check it out here. And then add it your book shelf on Goodreads. :-)

Under the advice of our fellow A2Agirl Megg, I recently took part in a blog hop hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer. I'd never even heard of a blog hop before Megg told me about them and now that I've done it I'd totally do it again. It's such a clever idea. Basically the host gathers together people with a similar sort of giveaway and using linky, links their blogs together. So, the one I did was for clean reads and I gave away a signed copy of Just Your Average Princess (which really anyone 11 and up can read). There were over 100 participating blogs and people wanting to partake in the contests just hopped from blog to blog entering the giveaways.

So why did I love this blog hop so much? Because it was the best giveaway I've had to date. And I've been doing giveaways for over three years now. Normally I get anywhere from 5-20 entries in any given giveaway. Even when the stuff I'm giving away is really good. For one of my earlier contests that I did, I gave away a signed book, bookmarks, chocolate covered espresso beans, and a $25 gift card for a bookstore. I also had second and third place prizes. Guess how many entries I had? Three. Yep, everyone was a winner. But doing this blog hop I had 373 entries! Talk about a big boost. I also gained a large number of followers both on my blog and twitter. And I saw lots of tweets about my giveaway that week too. Definitely a worthwhile way to promo your blog/books.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! (or Love Being in the Middle (Grade))

Tip of the Day, Libarian Edition: If you are an adult and think the teen library employees are "cute," keep it to yourself. Better yet, keep it and your eyes to yourself, Mr. Creepy McCreepers.

Marcia Brady was the beautiful older sister, the one with silky blond hair, groovy boyfriends, and wisdom over her younger sisters. The one who made Jan envious.

And sometimes, when I'm working on my MG novel, I think how my YA WIP is the "cooler" older sister to my MG; how if I sold a YA over an MG, I'd belong in the club.

Maybe it's because I'm a YA librarian. Or maybe it's because I read many more YA novels than MG. Or maybe it's because my author friends are known for their YAs.

Perhaps it's because the first manuscript I wrote was a YA and I can't let go of the dream that I am a YA novelist.

Then again, the two times I've signed with agents, we connected over my MG novels, so I must be doing something right for that age group. And I do adore some MG novels to no end (RULES by Cynthia Lord is an all-time fav, and recently FLYING THE DRAGON by Natalie Dias Lorenzi and LIAR & SPY by Rebecca Stead). Plus writing more "innocent" characters who believe anything is possible is fun and refreshing for me.

I've also heard for the past couple of years that MG is highly sought after by editors and publishing houses, so I should embrace what the pros are asking for. Besides, working in the Children's Center at the library is more fun than in the adult reference area.

I need to embrace my Jan Brady manuscript, polish it to a shine, and get that baby out there. Because the middle children are loved and needed too.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing (a middle child)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trying new genres and age ranges

Tip of the Day: enjoy all the new fall shows. Here's a good list.

I've found in general there are two types of people in this world (or at least the Midwest): those that hate change or those that crave variety.

I definitely fit into the later category.

In life, I get bored fairly easily. Some people like to eat the same meal everyday or always choose the same drink from Starbucks. And while I get why that's comforting to a lot of people, it's just not the way I live. I'm not an extremely adventurous person, but I like to mix everything up enough that things don't get boring. Because too much of the same bad in my opinion.

Last week I talked about branding yourself as an author and how important it is to stick with a similar writing style.

For someone like me who likes to mix things up, it can be challenging. So that's why multiple pen names can become your best friend!

There are two new categories of books that I would like to try writing in the next year or so: adult fiction and picture books.

It will definitely push me outside my box, and actually force me to think like a grown up on occasion. And I think trying picture books will help tremendously in learning to streamline an entire story. 

After writing three YA novels, when I tried my hand at Middle-grade, I found I loved the freedom to be completely silly with my writing. And I think I'm ready for a change again. Maybe I'll even talk myself into writing in third person this time around.

Who knows. But the thought of the unknown seems very appealing right now!

So what about you? Do you like to write similar books? Or are you craving for some variety in your writing?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, September 17, 2012

Making a List of Agents

Tip of the Day: Publisher's Weekly is gathering information for an upcoming story on African-American publishing. If you have information for them, check out their request.

I'm researching agents. Yay me. Actually, this isn't a difficult task, just time consuming. Inspired by my crit partner Lisa Tiffin, I set out to list 30 agents for my first round of queries. So how did I come up with this list?

1. Agents who have said nice things about my writing. Or just something. :) I save my submission logs from previous novels. If an agent requested a full or complimented my pages, I'm querying them again.

But wait. It's not that simple. Some of those agents are very busy with clients now and are no longer taking queries. Others have changed agencies. So I looked up each agent. If he/she is no longer taking queries, he/she may have a fellow agent at the same agency who is looking for my genre. So I googled each agent and each agency. That formed the basis of my list.

2. Agents of happy friends. Of course. For example, at MiGWriters, we recently ran a series of interviews with the agents of MiGWriters. Naturally, I'll be querying the agents in our blog interviews who are accepting queries.

3. Agents I researched through Literary Rambles's Agent Spotlight. Casey McCormick gathers all the online information she can find about agents accepting queries so you can decide if they're a good fit for your writing. I still looked up each agency's website, though. Even agents here who sounded great sometimes had fellow agents more open to speculative YA.

4. Verla Kay's Blueboards. Check out the Agent Response Time boards and then research the agency's website.

It's safe to say that I didn't choose any agent without seeing their agency website. That's how to find the best agent to query, get the guidelines, and find the email addresses. I added email addresses and submission guidelines to my Excel spreadsheet for submissions for this novel. Save those spreadsheets for the future!

I wasn't very impressed by Agent Query or Query Tracker. I found missing agents and outdated information. Your mileage may vary, but I say, always check the agency website. I'm not a very good Twitter stalker, either. Mostly, I find out about agents through other writers as I outlined above. But we'll see what happens when I expand my list past 30.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Friday, September 14, 2012

$100,000 or bust?

Tip of the Day: Considering self-publishing? Hang out for a while at the Writer's Cafe on the Kindle Boards. It's like a crash course in self-pub.

Remember back in June when I said I'd pull down $100,000 this year, but that I wouldn't consider quitting my day job?

"Publishing does not guarantee you a steady income. I know self-pubbers who were hitting big numbers last year, numbers that still beat my current sales, who are now languishing in the low-sales club.

If they had quit their day jobs, where would they be today? Frustrated with publishing because they can't seem to get their sales off the ground? Likely. Looking for a job in a crappy economy wishing they'd never quit their perfectly fine day job the year before? Definitely."

Wow, am I glad I'm a boring, practical person. I was easily on track to pull down big numbers in 2012. On August 6th, my Amazon sales were cut by 60%. Literally overnight. And I never got up that high again. The first seven months of year were incredible for sales, then faster than Batman's dialogue bubbles can say "Boom!" "Crash!" "Smash!" my sales took a nosedive.

I wish I knew why. Maybe then I could fix it. I've tried blog hops, ads, giveaways. Nothing worked and August ended up being my worst month in more than a year. Talk about painful...

Publishing is not a guaranteed stream of income unless you find someone to offer you a salary. It has its glorious up and wicked downs.

I didn't curl up in a ball and die. I kept writing. I have a new series coming out this fall under my other pen name Isobel Lucas.

I still love writing. That doesn't change no matter how many books I sell. I hope that you feel the same way about your writing.

As for hitting the $100k mark? There's always next year! ;)

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tips for My First Writing Conference?

Tip of the Day: Have you guys seen Nathan Bransford's Publishing Process in GIF Form? SO FUNNY.

I've kind of done things backward in this writing career of mine. Normally people join SCBWI and critique groups and work toward getting an agent and publishing. I sold my first book in 2007 and joined SCBWI-IL a few years after that. I've only just recently have started being more active with what it has to offer. I went to my first SCBWI-IL event over the summer at Chicago's Printer's Row. And I've never attended a writer's conference as an attendee before. I've been to conferences as a speaker or panelist or just to sign books. But not just to learn and work on my writing. But this all changes in November. I'm so excited to finally be going to SCBWI-IL Prairie Day! I mailed my entry on the day registration started so I even got all of my workshops and breakout session picks! Yay!

So tell me, what do I have to know? Got any tips for me to make this a great first writing conference? I know I should carry things like business cards, pens, a notebook, my bookmarks, and a bottle of water. But will I need anything else? Do people carry their writing samples on them? I'm not sure why I'd need to do that actually but I thought I'd ask. Any networking tips? How do you dress for an all-day writing conference? I'd love any advice!

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Popularity Contest (or Give 'Em What They Want)

Tip of the day: See what your library is doing for Teen Read Week (October 14-20)!

Summer is over and the YA books at my library that were checked out by teen readers all season are making their way back onto my shelves.

Based on the displays I did over the past three months, what were the types of books checked out the most?

Here they are, from the most popular to the less popular, though the books know I love them all.

1. Dystopian. I put up a display of "If you like The Hunger Games, try these" books in preparation for my showing the The Hunger Games on DVD -- and the shelves were cleaned out daily. A mix of light sci-fi made its way onto this display too and was very popular. While I am close to done with reading new books in this genre, I think the teens still love it because they haven't been reading them as they were released all year; they were catching up this summer. Is there room for more on the shelves? It will take a unique premise for me to buy them as they come out in 2012/2013.

2. Paranormal Romance. Zombies and angels and mermaid oh my! Like with dystopian, I have no shortage of titles to put on this shelf featuring these creatures, but the teens seem hungry for more. And I have to say, the mermaids went super fast, even though in my opinion, those are the stories that feel the most similar to each other. With Amanda Hocking's new mermaid series, I'm sure these books will continue to go out even if new titles wane as publishers are filled up.

3. Even More Paranormal Romance. The vampires didn't fly out the door the way the faerie books did (I had them paired together), but they still hold appeal to the teens.

4. There Be Ghosts. To promote my ghost hunting program, I pulled books I loved that have ghost hunters and just creepy ghost stories. Unfortunately the program had to be cancelled for lack of registrants, but the books were still popular.

5. GLBT Fiction. I love that these stories, mosty contemporary YAs, find an audience. There are some awesome titles in this category.

6. No More Bullies. Novels about bullies, the bullied, and the affects of bullying again primarily feature contemporary YA plots, and again I like seeing these titles checked out amongst the otherworldly books.

7. Realistic Historical Fiction. To promote our Civil War 150-Year Commemoration Week at the library, and then to promote a Veterans Memorial Essay Contest for my town, I did a display of books that take place during pivotal points in American history. I think maybe one book was checked out. Historical fiction that depicts reality without any paranormal or fantastical elements are a very hard sale right now.
What books have the teens you know been clamoring for?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Branding Yourself as an Author

Tip of the Day: "The Creative Penn" gives a good summary on creating your author platform and branding yourself as a writer.

In my day job, I'm in the midst of doing a rebranding for our library, so I have brands, brands, and more brands on my mind. In terms of the library: branding seems to be a bit easier for me to understand. All your design elements, such as: your logo, website, flyers, etc. need to fit together and emphasis your brand. If you want to be fun, then everything should look fun. We want to be seen as a go-to spot, so we are incorporating that idea into all of our graphics and our general message. Including literally showing dots (or spots) in many of our marketing materials to reiterate our brand. That way people are constantly hit over the head with our library brand. And hopefully they'll remember to stop by and see us. Or at the very least, recognize one of our flyers based on looks alone.

In terms of author branding it's a bit different. Your brand includes not only your website, bookmarks, and design elements, but it also includes the nature and style of writing in your books.

I would imagine if you go to five different fantasy author sites, the design is going to look completely different than going to author websites for literary fiction. The design of everything needs to reflect the style of books you write. Because just like your cover has to reflect your book, so does all your other marketing materials that you might create for yourself.

In the same vein, all of your books should have a similar writing style, to further reiterate your brand. Do you write humorous mysteries? Or deep-thought provoking literary styles? Good! If you write more than one, then people will know where to go when they are looking for that perfect read.

Does this mean you can only write humorous mysteries from now on?

No...but you do still need to stick somewhat in your category and writing style. Otherwise, you'll confuse readers more than you'll bring them in.

Most of us don't have that luxury of being so famous that readers don't expect anything from us but a great story. They find comfort in knowing what type of story we will deliver to them. With twists and turns, of course!

So until we become famous, if we want to try our hand at a different genre or completely different style of book, we'll have to be like all the other authors who write under different names. Or just stick with similar types of books. At least until our readership has been built.  Then when we've become so big, that brands no longer matter, then the publishing house will release anything we write under our names :)

So in my opinion, branding is important for writers. However, I don't think we should be so overwhelmed to let it rule how we write. Since a good story trumps all, and most of branding happens naturally. Because if you write light, fluffy books, I guarantee most of you are also attracted to the color pink (or at least fun looking covers).

Do you agree with that? Or disagree?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Much Cursing?

Tip of the Day: Have you seen Debbie Ridpath Ohi's cartoons on our site? Well, I'M BORED, the picture book she illustrated, released this week!

So check out this picture of a heatmap showing how much Americans swear on Twitter. In Rochester, NY, I apparently live on the corner of F and U.

From The Atlantic:
So how much swearing takes place in your manuscript?

I don't like to drop the F-bomb. I don't say it myself and I don't think it fits most of my characters. It would be totally gratuitous. Having said that, it is REALLY hard to write from a teen or adult's perspective and not curse at all.

Not everyone considers the same words to be swear words, though. I use hell and crap, and I consider that cursing, but I know a lot of people don't think those are swear words.

Now I don't mind reading a manuscript that has a lot of cursing. I love Stephen King. I've read one or two published books where it didn't fit--the F bomb was thrown in to make it sound more "authentic teen voice," and it fell flat. But the exceptions to the rules usually stick out, and most of the time, reading curse words flows right and doesn't bother me a bit.

The thing is, when I'm really upset, when I'm feeling at the end of my rope and I can't figure out how to get out of a situation, it's natural for me to cross a blasphemy with a curse. Goddamn. That may be one of my favorite words. I don't say it much (I have kids) but I think it all the time. I differentiate my characters by the ones who curse and the ones who blaspheme. I feel more comfortable taking the Lord's name in vain when I'm emotional. I try to write around that, but sometimes it just fits, you know? My main character really does want to know why God hates her. (Sorry, honey, it's not God, it's just me.)

Are there any words you really want to use but find yourself holding back? Is it because you think editors won't like them? Or because you don't want all your characters to sound the same? Or because you don't want to lean on curse words like a crutch? After all, we're not all from Rochester.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, September 7, 2012

Authors & Sock Puppet Reviews

Tip of the Day: "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda Apply this to everything in your life and you'll discover how to use the force...or at least do your best and succeed. ;)

The big news this week in publishing is sock puppet reviews. John Locke, who sold over a million ebooks did it. Stephen Leather did it. Now RJ Ellory has been caught doing it.

I have used for years. How many? I think they went live when I was in college, so nearly fifteen years now. Those customer reviews are important to me as a reader and consumer. Did I believe every single review out there? Of course not. I'm not gullible. But I'd like to think most of them are real. Now I'm not sure.

Locke paid a service to buy his books and then review them. Reviewers were paid more for 5 star reviews. Leather and Ellory have fake accounts that they use to review their own books highly and then leave horrible reviews on other people's books.

What's even more scary? I know other authors who've done this. Who've outright admitted to me that this is the way to get sales. Any way to game the system to make more money, right? Needless to say, I've worked hard to disassociate myself with these authors.

What have I done for reviews? I have given free copies of my books to bloggers for totally honest reviews. No money involved. No promises of compensation. I've gotten some pretty horrid reviews off of those I can't pay for that kind of abuse. ;)

For my latest release, The Sundering, I paid The Bookish Brunette to run my blog tour. She's finding the bloggers who will participate and coordinating what goes on what blog which day. The fee I paid isn't for positive reviews. I'm paying her to be my organizational guru for a few weeks. I've organized my own blog tours in the past. It's a relief to outsource all the work involved (and until you've done one, you have no clue how much time and effort is put into coordinating a tour).

Not all the bloggers on the tour are reviewing my books, but those who are got coupon codes for free downloads on Smashwords. It doesn't even count toward the all-important Amazon sales algorithms. Again, there's no guarantee I'll get a good review. I get what I get and that's okay with me. The point of a blog tour is exposure. Besides, there are plenty of NY Times Bestsellers I've read and hated...not everyone likes everything.

How do you know if a review is real or fake? Sigh...I wish I could tell you there was a reliable litmus test. Some people suggest looking at the reviewer's other reviews. OMG, do you know it could take hours to sort through that? I suggest talking to your friends or you'll end up like the girl in this State Farm commercial who says she believes everything on the internet:

What irks me most about this topic that is publishing has more drama than The Bold and the Beautiful (which I watch religiously). I enjoy soaps on TV because they aren't real. Why people purposely want to inject this kind of drama into their lives and the lives of others is beyond my understanding.

Work hard. Earn your accolades. If you get it honestly, good for you. But guess what? You aren't entitled to 5-star reviews just because you wrote a book. You only deserve them if the reader truly loved your novel and gives them to you.

The ONLY sock puppets I want to see from now on better look like this:

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On Serial Querying

Tip of the Day: I'm giving away a signed copy of Just Your Average Princess via the I Am a Reader, Not a Writer's Reading Clean Giveaway Hop. Stop by my blog to enter and then visit the other great blogs in the hop.

A link to this post on Serial Querying popped up in my facebook feed this week and since I'd never heard of the term I clicked on it. In the article the author says not to serial query agents. She says if she rejects your book then you need more time to become a better writer. This may be a phase or two or three further down the road. But don't send a query for another book when you're still in that same phrase as a writer. 

On one hand I can see how it would be annoying for an agent to get rapid fire queries from the same author. No one should ever pester someone that much. Agents aren't alone with this being an annoyance. But something about her saying to give it time until you've grown as a writer bothers me. I guess what it says to me is if I send you book A and you reject it, then I'm a weak writer. That we can't assume that Book A is just not right for you, or the current market, but that you're rejecting it solely because I'm a weak writer and need more time to develop my craft. So if I send you Book B, I'm only going to irritate you because I didn't take an additional 6 months to a year to improve my craft. 

Huh? I don't get this. I think every book is different. To me, I would think it would be fine to query various projects. You never know which is going to work. And if it's that you truly are a weak writer and truly need time to develop your craft, well then tell the writer that clearly so that he or she doesn't waste time querying you again. Anyone who has ever queried an agent or publisher knows there is a list of common phrases they use ("This isn't right for my list." "I don't think I could effectively place this in the current market." etc.) that they use over and over again but that don't really give guidance in why you're being rejected (unless you're lucky enough to get a personal rejection).

I've traditionally published three books. In that same time frame I've also had at least 4 additional books submitted to publishers that had been rejected. Should I not have tried other books? Other ideas? Should I have given up at the first rejection and worked on my writing for a year so I could grow? I don't think so. Not every agent/publisher is going to love every idea. I say throw the spaghetti. When I queried for my first agent I queried (not all at once, but in batches of 10-15) 100 agents. I signed with agent number 87. She sold my first book at auction for a two-book deal. I've since had the book translated in 6 different languages and sold film rights. Glad I didn't take a year off of querying to work on my craft.

Kristina, Miss Author in Action

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Setting the Table (or Keeping the Business of Books Hospitable)

Tip of the Day: Taking a trip to Burlington, VT? If so, you must stay at this B&B! The Willard Street Inn is the epitome of fabulous location, grounds, staff, breakfast, and cookies. Total hospitality.

After reading Kate's post from Monday, I was inspired to blog about an adult non-fiction book that I am reading (a recommendation from my sister Andrea Lipomi, author of AMERICAN SPASPITALITY):

Danny Meyer is the successful restauranteur of 11 restaurants in NYC, and this book talks about how he got to where he is -- and the secrets to his continued success. Namely, hospitality.

Now I haven't finished reading it yet, but based on the first half and the words of my sister, Danny's thoughts on hospitality can apply to any business or service you offer -- not just food service.

For example, at a public library, the service you expect is checking out the materials you want. But extra hospitality in the library is when the library staff is happy to serve you, sees what you enjoy reading/viewing and recommends additional choices, tells you about other events coming up that you may enjoy, and genuinely wishes you a good day and thanks for their patronage.

If the library cannot give you the materials you seek, the staff focused on hospitality will offer options to get the items in as painful and quick a way as possible.

Now replay this scenario in a bookstore. Hospitality keeps people coming back. Booksellers who handsell midlist authors or other books the customers may not have picked up themselves show personal attention; they don't just point customers to the bestseller tables at the front of the store.

I'm not sure what my total point here is, lol, but I do know this:
1. We need bookstores and booksellers to talk to potential customers about books (ditto for libraries/librarians/patrons);
2. We need e-retailers to sell ebooks for immediate customer satisfaction (ditto for ebooks available through libraries);
3. The combination of (1) and (2) above is probably the best (a bookseller talks up Book A, customer is excited, bookseller sees the hard copies are sold out, customer can still immediately buy a copy for her ereader).

We need everyone who loves books to work together (read Megg's post from Friday for more on this) and keep the book buying/lending businesses/services hospitable to all.

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A2A Chat with a Writing Coach (Victoria-Lynn Winning)

We are excited to chat with Victoria-Lynn Winning today on Author2Author. Victoria contacted us awhile ago to let us know she is starting a new venture as a writing coach. Since we were intrigued to learn what exactly a writing coach is, we invited her to chat with us about what she will be doing.

A2A: You are starting a new venture as a writing coach, tell us exactly what you will be helping writers with.

It will vary from writer to writer.  With a writer who has productive writing habits but can't seem to get anywhere with their current WIP, we would look at each aspect ~ characters, setting, plot, etc. ~ to see where the deepest tangles lie.  Say they had a good sense of the characters and liked writing snippets about them but weren't sure how to sustain that for an entire novel. The next steps would involve looking at the fundamentals of plot and pacing, and using a combination of prompts and brainstorming to figure out the underlying motivations of the characters and what's really driving the story.  One writer I've worked with had two POV characters but struggled with how to switch back and forth smoothly, especially as she wanted to stick to a more intimate, first-person viewpoint.  I suggested she look at Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, which starts from one character’s POV, then switches to the other partway through – right as an earthshattering event has occurred.  Everything we see from the second POV completely changes our perspective on what we already saw.  Paradigm shift!  It made for a very powerful story, and the writer I was working with was inspired to take a similar approach to her own novel.

Now, with a writer who knows what they want to write about but can’t bring themselves to sit down and do the work, it’s again a matter of examining different aspects, both of the story and the writer’s habits.  It might be that the story mechanics are sound but, after a long time away from writing, the writer's brain is no longer hard-wired to get the words down: maybe perfectionist tendencies are kicking in, or self-doubt.  Maybe the writing itself is challenging them in some way (using a POV they haven’t used before, or switching genres).  Again, we would combine brainstorming, prompts and discussion to figure out the issues and how to move forward.

Each writer will bring their own individual quirks to the mix, as will each story.  My goal is to work with these quirks and help the writer discover what it is that's holding them back, and give them the skills and tools they need to move forward independently.

A2A: This is an interesting option in the writing field, how did you come up with the idea and what inspired you to want to coach other writers?

I’ve had wonderful experiences coaching young actors and fellow dancers, so I decided to try and combine my love of mentoring/teaching and writing.  That, and I am a bit of an anomaly: writing is a very creative field, but I have always been keen on using the more logical, problem-solving side of my brain just as much as the more free-spirited right side.  I love coming at a challenge from an unusual angle and seeing just how to break it down, and in a way that makes sense for all involved.

A2A: Tell us about some of your experience with working with writers in the past.

Together with another writing friend, I read and critiqued chapters of a friend’s memoir on an ongoing basis.  We looked at both micro and macro issues, and brainstormed with her when she hit a standstill.  I find I get quite attached to projects I work on, even when they’re not my own, and it was so rewarding when she would email or call to say, “I had a good writing day today!” because there was that sense of progress that was so encouraging.  Even when things went into a slump, I thought of it more as a pause than a setback,  because in discussing with her what went wrong and figuring out how to get her moving again, we all learned something, and whatever it was would stay with her as she went forward, making her a stronger writer in the long run.

Another experience that comes to mind is the work I did - and am still doing - with a writer who had been writing snippets and coming up with vivid, fascinating ideas for years, but struggled with turning an idea into a story.  I think we forget sometimes, when we’ve been writing fiction for a while, how overwhelming it can be in the beginning.  In working together, she chose the idea that appealed to her most, and for which she already had a fair amount of notes: the first thing we did was figure out an organizational system to corral everything.  We then looked at how to take her character/plot/setting notes and transform them into a story.  The more time that passes, the more she takes to problem-solving independently, and problems that would have seemed insurmountable at one time now show themselves to be puzzles--puzzles with solutions.  It's so rewarding to see her move forward, now at a more consistent rate than ever.  She loves to write, and that’s really coming across in her work as it becomes stronger and stronger.

A2A: Will you be mentoring authors over all different types of genres or focusing on a few select ones?

The genres which lie deepest in my comfort zone are historical fiction, fantasy (urban, historical and traditional), contemporary fiction, chick-lit and mysteries.  Thrillers, science fiction, memoirs and romance are not quite as familiar to me, but I am learning fast.

A2A: What are some of your favorite books? This might help some of our blog readers that might be interested in a writing coach get to know you better as a writing professional and connect with what you like in your own reading.
I love that you used the phrase “some of”!  It would be so hard to narrow down the list otherwise.  Some of the ones that come to mind right off the bat are:

-          Maggie Stiefvater's Mercy Falls series
-          Audrey Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife
-          Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
-          Louisa Edwards' Just One Taste
-          Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life
-          Melissa Anelli's Harry, A History

A2A: What's your favorite piece of advice for new writers? Same question for more experience writers?

For new writers: try not to get overwhelmed by all the different things there are to know and learn about writing.  You’ll drive yourself crazy and it may even make you want to stop writing altogether.  Instead, focus on one thing at a time.  If you’re struggling with pulling a cohesive plot together, read a book specifically on story structure (James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure is one of my favorites) and look at some of your favorite books – the ones that keep you turning pages long past bedtime – to see how they build and sustain a satisfying plot.  Better yet, pick out something from the children’s section (I like using Joan Bauer's Rules of the Road), even if that’s not what you’re writing.  No matter what age you’re writing for, the essential principles of a good story still apply, and you may be more inclined to read and study the entire book than if you were leafing through an 80 to 100,000 word tome.

For more experienced writers: don't be afraid of change.  The writing routine that’s worked for you for the last two/three/seven years may not work anymore, and that’s okay.  Try something new.  If you've always written in one location, move around: sit on a bench, go to the beach, hike a mountain (and don’t forget to take your notebook with you!).  If you’re used to writing in silence, create a soundtrack for your current project, and listen to it every time you write until just hearing the opening notes makes your fingers itch to get typing.  And, when all else fails, talk to your characters.  They can tell you virtually anything you need to know about the story if you know how to listen.  Not sure exactly what your main character’s parents are fighting about?  Ask both of the parents – individually – what they would never tell the other person, and write the answer in first person, starting with, "I could never tell you …"  A heated confrontation is exactly the place where this kind of thing would come up!  (This is adapted from an exercise from Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's Pen on Fire.)

I'd also like to thank my wonderful hosts at Author2Author for allowing me to take the virtual stage for a day!

*** If you'd like to find out more about Victoria's new venture as a writing coach, she welcomes you to her websiteShe is actively seeking new clients and would be delighted to hear from you.  You can also find her on Twitter and Blogspot.

Thanks for stopping by Victoria!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious and the A2A Girls

Monday, September 3, 2012


Tip of the Day: A huge thank you to everyone who's liked our Author2Author Facebook page!

I've been reading Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom, all about why we buy what we buy. He has some interesting thoughts. Basically, consumers are overwhelmed by choices. Marketers spend a lot of time narrowing down our choices so we'll buy more. That's the point of a bestseller list. It gives you the illusion that there are really only 20 books you need to worry about choosing from. It's also the point of e-book sites' "Top Staff Picks" (usually the top staff picks are the songs, movies, and books who have PAID to be the top staff picks).

In one experiment, Lindstrom went into a major bookstore chain and asked the employees to get rid of six of the seven display tables up front. Within a week, sales went up by 2%.

People want to buy curated things, things that have been approved, and no amount of corporate money carries the weight of good recommendations. People trust consumer recommendations more than anything else. No wonder we've been hearing about book recommendation scandals.

So what are we supposed to do to market ourselves? We can't fake scarcity in the e-book world; there will always be enough copies. But we can get people talking about us. We can tweet our good reviews and get people to like us on Facebook. (Lindstrom is huge believer in the power of Facebook.)

But I'm very, very curious to know if it's better for an author to have all her books on sale or just one of them. Sometimes B&N offers an author of the month (Nook Spotlight), and all of his or her works go on sale electronically. (Again, B&N is narrowing choices and creating the illusion that everyone will be reading these books.) Sometimes they only offer one of the author's books on sale. Right now their Spotlight author is Lynsay Sands, and it looks like her first book is on sale for 99 cents and her other books are on sale for $4.99. So it looks like B&N is hedging their bets: all her books are on sale but one is really, really on sale.

Also, e-book or ebook? I'm happy either way.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages