tagged with: publishers

I received a very distressing e-mail from one of my writer friends and a member of my critique group the other day. She has written a series of three books so far and is working on the fourth, but she doesn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for it. My friend, Yvonne Anderson, is an excellent writer and she has helped me a lot in my development as a writer, so when I read that message, I felt an ache inside. For her, for myself and for all the authors having to deal with rejections and little or no advance.

Yvonne published the first two of her Gateway to Gannah series with a traditional publisher, who doesn’t pay any advance and does not assist with publicity. Therefore, she is left to handle all the marketing herself and as a relatively new author, book sales are slow. Not an encouraging picture, is it? In today’s publishing world where closures and mergers are the order of the day, and agents only seem to accept queries by referral only, new authors are having a hard time cracking the proverbial glass ceiling.

However, every now and again I come across a blog post that gives me a bit of hope. Julie Isaac, author and book coach, whom I follow on Twitter, wrote about Dr. Richard Carlson, now famous author of Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff. One evening, Dr. Carlson was discussing with his wife that he was thinking of quitting writing because he had received such a small advance on his book, You Can Be Happy, No Matter What, when the phone rang. It was Oprah’s producer calling to say that she was just in their library looking for a book on stress management when the book fell off the shelf and hit her in the head. (If I wrote that in one of my novels you would say it was contrived, wouldn’t you?)

But anyway, the lady wanted to know if Dr. Carlson could fly out the next day to be on the Oprah show. And the rest, as they say, is history. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff has sold over 25 million copies. What are the chances of your book falling off a shelf and hitting Oprah’s producer in the head? The same as lightning striking on a clear, sunny day. But if you don’t give into discouragement, doubt and fear and keep on writing, you can eventually succeed in the writing business. Don’t give up!

You can view Yvonne’s blog (and buy one of her books!) here: http://yswords.com.

We live in an age where new words keep popping up faster than microwave popped corn. A lot of this has to do with the internet. Words such as blog, webinar, branding, social media were either not known, little used or meant something entirely different before the turn of the century. Now I’ve come across another one: blovel. This means a blog that has been turned into a novel or vice versa, I’m not sure which. However, some people think that writing a blovel can help an author build a platform, leading to a book deal with a major publisher. After all, that’s the reason many of us write, isn’t it?

One advocate of book blogging says it’s very easy to turn your blog into a book. Simply write a short blog post every day starting from the beginning of your book and at the end of a year you should have a book, er, blook. I’m sure you can figure what that is. While she admits that blogging your book lends itself best to non-fiction, she thinks it is also possible to turn out a good blovel. She advises that you
a) plan your story arc well,
b) divide your chapter into mini-scenes,
c)decide how you will weave your posts into a manuscript that flows.

These all sound plausible, however Jane Friedman, professor, media professional and former publisher of Writer’s Digest pleads, “Please don’t blog your book.” While Jane agrees that some blogs may make for excellent books, these are the ones that fall in the information category or are memoirs, like Julia and Julia. Jane’s reasons for not blogging your book are also straightforward and plausible. They are:
a) Blog writing is not like book writing. Think SEO, keyword etc.
b) Blogs can make for very bad books – unless it’s an e-book or an illustrated book.
c)If a book sounds like a series of blog posts, she considers it a failure.

In some of the forums I visited on the subject, one author brought up the very important of original work. Publishers tend to shy away from anything that’s considered already published, and if it appeared on your blog then it qualifies as published work. Another person said he has been blogging scenes from his book, but he has yet to acquire a readership.

I’ll continue this discussion in another post. Meanwhile, drop me a line and let me know if you think blogging your book is a good idea, or if you have done it what kind of results have you had.

My post in the A – Z challenge is going to be a short one on querying. If you are an author or freelance writer, you have no doubt researched the art of writing the query letter, or may have attended workshops on the subject. Therefore, I will not bore you with writing what you already know. The query letter is one of the ways you get an agent or publisher to take notice of your work. If you get it right, you could be on to something, get it wrong and your excellent work goes unnoticed.

What if you could find a list of suitable agents, get some help with your query letters and keep track of where you sent them? I just signed up for Querytracker, a site which does all that and more. When you join Querytracker you become part of a community of writers who share the same goals and who can help you get your foot in the (agent’s) door. Sounds worthwhile? Check out Querytracker.net, or if you are already a member, drop me a line and let me know what your experience is like.

In my day job as an occupational therapist, I come in close contact with many doctors, and while I have the greatest respect for the majority of them, I never relish the idea of making a visit to one of them. Worse yet, I dread the medications they prescribe. However, recently, a friend of mine recommended me to her doctor, and after seeing him, I came away with the impression that doctors aren’t so bad after all. In fact, my visit reinforced what I already knew – that doctors are necessary to my health and well being.
Which brings me to book doctors.

In this day and age when everyone, including Aunt Lucy, is writing a book, if yours is to be successful, you may need a check up from a book doctor. But before you see one, and make your first co-payment, know what to expect. Your ideal book doctor should be able to:

1. Give you an honest and professional evaluation of your project.

Like a “real” doctor, a book doctor will first evaluate the health of your book. He will look for things like viability or salability of your idea. Is it the kind of thing that will catch an agent’s or publisher’s eye? Is it well written? Does the story flow logically? Does it have a satisfying conclusion?

2. Begin treatment

Once the results of the evaluation come in, your doctor begins treatment. He may have to cut you open and remove some things that are not working. Oh, how you dread it! As a writer, you have labored over those parts for months, but they may be the reason you keep coming down with rejection after rejection. Once the treatment is finished, your book will pass all the tests and you may get the much-coveted contract.

3. Make recommendations

Now that your idea is working smoothly, your book doctor will recommend the right markets for you to submit your work. He will also prepare a winning proposal that will ensure your project doesn’t end up in the slush pile. Your project will live!

So if you have been putting off that visit to a book doctor, don’t hesitate. But don’t just close your eyes and pick one out from the yellow pages. Get a recommendation from a trusted friend or from your writer’s group, and then go with confidence. Your book will thank you.

This post really belongs in the category, Guess What I Read This Week, a post that I started last week, however I couldn’t use the same title twice, so I decided to use the next best thing, which is the title above. If you’ve been following this blog, you may have read my post some time ago on famous authors who suffered rejection. You may recall that Jane Austen was one whose famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, formerly called First Impressions was rejected by the publisher and subsequently accepted after some revision.

That was centuries ago. The famous scribe was once again rejected in this century, according to an article in Writer Beware Blogs, but this time the person submitting the manuscript was not Jane Austen, but a writer named David Lassman. How did this come about? Well, it seems that Lassman, frustrated with all the rejections he was receiving for his own novel, decided to pseudonymously submit chapters of Ms. Austen’s books to several publishers. The result? Rejections galore. Why did he do it? He wanted to test whether the publishers and agents could recognize great literature. You can read more about it at this link: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/regencyworld/pdf/rejecting28.pdf.

So, what do you think? Should Lassman have played that hoax? According to WBB, submission hoaxes have been around for some time, with even the UK’s Sunday Times getting in on the act and achieving the same result as Lassman. Of the 18 publications that he submitted to, only one responded, letting him know they recognized what he’d done and warning him of the consequences of plagiarism. But hoaxes aside, what lesson can we as writers, desperate to have our works published, learn from Lassman’s folly?

I think the first one should be, never plagiarize, whether seriously or in jest. Think of how you would feel if someone plagiarized your work.

Second, always research your markets carefully before submitting. Apparently, Lassman did not. He subbed romance manuscripts to houses that do not publish romance, and to publishers who do not accept unagented submissions.

Third, be prepared to wait. And while waiting, continue to sharpen your writing skills. It will all pay off in the end.