Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Library Love


On Wednesdays, while I wait for my kids to get out of their judo lessons, I decided it would be easier and more economical to stop at the public library instead of going all the way home.  I mean, there’s internet access. And a decent children’s department with toys and little bean-bag chairs and enough books to keep my kids occupied in between driving around (with the added bonus that they keep their shoes on and their coats close and can no longer trash the house in the 30 minutes we’re home between lessons). In fact, all this place really needs is a coffee machine and it would make a great second residence. 

Maybe it’s the smell of these musty books (don’t you love that smell?), or the Halloween weather (my library used to host an annual haunted house) but I find myself thinking about the little town public library where I grew up. 


Unlike a lot of the bigger, more modern libraries in the surrounding districts, Aldrich Public Library first opened its doors in 1896 and, while the main Victorian-style building has undergone various paint-jobs and renovations, the truth is it hasn’t changed much in the last 116 years. 


I loved this library. The structure was so old, with sharp angles and shadowy corners and that lovely  smell of old books. In the summer, I’d participate in all the reading contests; devouring whole series of The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, and RL Stine’s Goosebumps. 


And when I was thirteen-years-old, I began working there (for free). I shelved books, organized the catalogue and prepped newly received books for service for about two years until I was old enough for a real ‘paying’ job and started working at our local video store. 

Throughout all that time, the place totally gave me the creeps.  And I totally LOVED it. The best part of this creepy old library was the creepy old librarian.  Actually, she wasn’t that old, if memory serves. But she was petite and soft-spoken, and had that haunted, never see the sun or change with the times look (long, dark 60’s style hair, powdery pale skin)- like she had just stepped out of a Jane Austin novel and would be totally out of place outside the late 19th century library dwelling. 

So tell me peeps, what do you love best about your local library?  Is it different from the library of your childhood? Do you get to spend any time there? And for all my East Coast friends and followers, I hope you stay warm and safe during the monster storm ahead.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wait- That Can Happen??

Maybe I’m naive. But I never really thought about the dangers of sharing one of my book ideas on the internet. To be honest, I don’t usually share ideas for my work-in-progresses. -Not because I’m wary, but because I never know if the idea will actually turn into a real book until the book is completely written. 

I do, however, often share pitches, queries and blurbs for my full manuscripts. Because, what are the chances that someone takes that information and writes a whole new book using the same premise? Or actually pitches that book? And gets an agent with that book before I do? Or an actual BOOK DEAL before I do, using that premise? After all, I’ve got a head start and have put my blood, sweat and tears into that book. No way could someone just come along and write a book from scratch using my premise and get to the finish line before me. Right?

I didn’t think the chances were that high. But apparently, it can happen!

I read this post over the weekend that had many writing bloggers shocked and appalled at a situation that arose when the author discussed a premise, outline, and partial manuscript with an online friend. The friend then cut off contact for awhile and when she re-appeared, it was with an agent and book deal in hand...using the original author’s premise and pitch! 

Holy Crap!

I mean, of course I’ve experienced idea envy. There were a few queries up for WriteOnCon that had me salivating at their premise, thinking ‘OH! Why couldn’t I have thought of that!’. But to then go on and write a whole new book using their premise and pitch it to agents would be theft, really.

In the situation above, it wasn’t a full manuscript in question but a pitch, unfinished partial, and discussion of the premise. Writers will write, and sometimes, especially if you’ve been in a rut, it can be tempting to jump on someone else’s idea if it finally gets you writing again. I think, though, if  you find yourself really really really inspired by someone else’s idea (like, it keeps you up at night and has characters talking to each other in your head) then you should, at least, approach the original author. 

Be Honest.

There’s no shame in asking.  Or just letting the author know with a ‘Hey! Your book idea really has my creative juices flowing and is keeping me up at night and is basically writing itself in my mind beyond all control. I may or may not write a book using the same idea, but in any case- I just wanted to be honest and let you know.’

Or

‘If you ever decide not to go through with writing the book about _____, or are moving on with something else, or putting it on the back burner, please let me know because the idea has really taken hold in my mind and I’d like to write about it.’

There’s no need to put on your sneaky, devious, guilty pants and go behind a fellow author’s back. We are all in the same boat and struggling with the same things. This community is about support and even though we all want to climb out of the pit and into the light, stepping on a fellow writer in order to get closer to the top isn’t the way to do it.

What would you do if you found yourself with an all-consuming desire to write using someone else’s premise? Ignore the impulses and try to move on? Write the book as long as the creativity lasts but never pitch it? Would you tell the original author or just keep it to yourself?  Are you guys wary of sharing your book ideas on the internet before they’re written? What about after you have a full manuscript in hand?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back to School Resolutions Revisited


Before the beginning of the school year, I wrote this post about my school year resolutions. Basically my back-to-school goals were to:


*File for French citizenship
*Find a job
*Finish writing and revising my current wip in time to start something new for nanowrimo
*And find an agent

Just to show how much some things can change in a month’s time, I decided to revisit this sad little list.

Filing for Citizenship.  I’m getting closer to this goal every day.  I completed the prerequisite French proficiency exam in Paris at the end of September and scored two levels higher than what was needed to pass (yay me!), which meant I could finally move on with the process. I’ve since sent out for all the necessary documents from back home and I’m really hoping to get the whole thing in before Christmas. 

Finding a Job. This goal, however, has been left to the backburner for the moment. Not a lot of employers are looking to hire someone who’s visibly pregnant. And, after working part-time for the last four years, I can’t imagine diving into a full-time position only a few months before baby arrives. As long as I’m still covered financially by unemployment, I am accepting the title of domestic consultant and grounds keeper (otherwise known as a stay-at-home-mom:).  And, of course, a full-time writer. Once my citizenship is squared away, I plan on enrolling in a teaching certification program and passing the exams to become a full-time English teacher here in France. (you have to be a member of the European Union to acquire teaching certification here. Which is why I need to get my citizenship done first.)

Finish writing and revising my current wip in time to start something new for nanowrimo. Yet another goal left to the backburner. But with good reason. I’m currently working on revisions on an older manuscript for ‘zee agent’.  And while I have no idea if this will lead to representation, I’m actually enjoying the process (gasp!).  In the last two weeks, I’ve added nearly 10k of new material and will soon be ready to attack the overhaul of the last half of the book, bringing in a new plot string and changing the ending.

Finding an Agent. Well, I guess you could stay I’m one step closer to this, even though there are no guarantees. I continue to send out queries for FOSSERIM and KISSING FOR COFFEE whenever I happen upon an agent who looks like they might correspond.  

What are some of your goals for this school year? Have any of you come any closer to reaching them in the last month and a half?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stranger Than Fiction


Something a little different for you guys today. With Halloween right around the corner, I couldn’t help clicking on the link for ‘a creepy story’ when someone mentioned it on another forum.  I’m all about creepy and I was expecting ghosts or goblins. What I found, however, was much more terrifying and tragic: 

‘On August 2, 2011 our 19 year old daughter’s stalker made his presence known to her. He was a stranger stalker, he did his very best to never be seen, and never tried to directly communicate with Morgan. We don’t know how long he had been surveilling her before that date, but from then on all he did was to try his best to terrorize her.

On December 2nd she was found dead. Her death was declared a “mystery” by the investigating officers. Many mistakes were made and her family has been on a path to correct these mistakes.’  - morganingram.com

After her daughter’s death, Toni Ingram began blogging about the episodes that preceded the event. Her story is like something out of a suspense mystery, with surveillance footage revealing a hooded figure, the possibility of untraceable gps trackers, noises and tapping on the windows at all hours of the night and the following inability of the police to find any trace of the stalker, putting Toni and her family's mental health into question. Lurking in every scene is the ominous presence and looming fear of whoever was following Morgan’s every move. But it’s the reality of what this family went through that’s the true source of everyone’s goosebumps. 

Toni’s story brings to light the seriousness of stalking, the trauma it can inflict, and encourages more effective measures to be taken by law professionals. Thanks to her blog, the affair has received international attention and the sheriff’s department is keeping the case open. But several mysteries remain:

Who was stalking Morgan Ingram? And how did she really die? At first, the medico legal doctor declared natural causes. But just how does a healthy 20-year-old girl die of ‘natural causes’? After further prodding from the parents, a toxic amount of Amitriptyline (an anti-stress/depressant) was detected and the doctors then ruled it a suicide. 

But Morgan was never prescribed nor was she ever taking amitriptyline, according to her parents.

Did Morgan really kill herself in an attempt to end the day-to-day terror and paranoia that accompanied her stalking? Or did the stalker somehow manage to administer the drugs the night of December 2nd 2011 and put an end to his victim? I, along with so many others, am praying the family will someday have answers...

Until then, this story unfortunately remains stranger than fiction:(

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are Agents Still Worth It?

Let’s face it. Being in the query trenches...well, it sucks. Yup, that’s the word. It totally sucks. It’s time consuming and chuck full of highs and lows, (okay. mostly low low lows) rejection and disappointment.

And sometimes I wonder: why do I do this to myself? Why do I bother? I’ll never get an agent. Especially now that publishers are cutting down their lists, and agents are taking on less clients. And with all the options writers have today- an agent isn’t even essential anymore if you want to be published! So, why put myself through this torture?

Sometimes I feel naive, or pig-headed in my determination to find an agent. I wonder if I’m being old fashioned or that my quest could be detrimental to my career, especially when I see other self-pub authors coming out with two or three books a year and already making a living self-publishing. That could be me!- if I’d just give up the ghost and concentrate on making a self-pub career happen. 

 In today’s publishing climate, it’s true that agents, editors, and traditional publishing houses may be losing some of the power they once wielded. Authors can take things into their own hands now a’days and publish their books, however and whenever they want. They have the option of contracting out copyediting, formatting, and cover design or going it themselves. They can choose the price of their books, how much they want to market and what avenues they’ll use for such. 

And just like in traditional publishing, there are ‘break out’ novels and bestsellers, and authors who are able to gain a decent wage writing books, which is all any author can really hope for. So why bother with an agent at all?

I’ve heard it said that signing with an agent isn’t worth it anymore. And for some authors, this might be true. Why pay someone 15% of your profits when you can publish your books without their help? Why go traditional when you can earn a higher percentage of royalties through self-publishing?

Well, despite this logic, I’ve come to the conclusion that having an agent is worth it, especially after reading this post by Kristi Helvig, YA writer. 

And it’s not just because I hope to publish traditionally one day. Like most other writers out there, I’ve given self-publishing some serious thought. But after contemplating both sides of the coin, I feel that having an industry professional in my corner has so many more advantages than disadvantages. It’s what I want and it’s what I’ll continue to strive for, even if it means feeling like I’m voluntary wading through writer’s purgatory for a few more years (God, please don't be more than a few more years!:).  For those of you like me, determined to find an agent come hell or high water, please check out Kristi’s post. It definitely gave me food for thought and renewed motivation.

Does still being in the query trenches and looking for an agent ever make you feel like a boob?  If you've decided to jump start your career without an agent, do you think you'll still pursue an agent in the future for things like rights negotiation or a tradi contract?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Are Blog Tours Losing Their Promotional Power?


When I first started blogging three years ago, I witnessed firsthand the power of the blogosphere promotion

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you may remember the massive community machines that pushed books like Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY, Elana Johnson’s POSSESSION, Beth Revis’ ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and Lisa & Laura Roecker’s LIAR SOCIETY out into the world.

There were twitter wars, contests, vlogs, prizes, and blog hops galore and it seemed as though everyone and their mothers were a part of the festivities, all sincerely excited for the fellow blogger who made it into the big leagues. 

In just a few short years, however, self-publishing and small publishers have made book launches and releases so much more frequent! Instead of one book-release a month, or every few months, to support and celebrate: there are now several book launches throughout the blogosphere a week. 

More and more writers are taking the leap into self publishing. Small publishers are putting together their ebook releases a lot faster than traditional.  Established indie writers get a groove going and are able to come out with four, five, even six books a year! 

And, of course, we as a community want to offer support and positivity to those authors however we can. 

The problem is, the magnitude of book promotions happening every month makes it hard for any one book to really achieve the recognition it might have gotten three years ago. You know the old adage: ‘saying everyone’s special is another way of saying no one is’? Contests, free books, interviews, bloghops, etc…they may still spread the word, but I fear they’ve lost the originality and enticement they once held. Promotional posts are getting less and less comments. Contests are earning less entries. The buzz is feeling more and more forced.

We've got to face it- blog-blitz enthusiasm has wained:(

In the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that having everyone post about one book or the author all at the same time gets old for readers fairly fast. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve seen the blurb and the cover once, most often my mind is made up about whether it’s a book I’d like to read based on genre, premise, characters, and yes- if it’s a writer I’ve been following or an author I’m friends with, that definitely counts for something too! That said, I’m afraid the repetitiveness of the run-of-the-mill blog tour often defeats the point, since a reader is more likely to pass over blogs that are re-sharing the information or have the same theme as a million other blogs that week. 

So where does that leave authors hoping to promote their new releases? If blog tours are losing steam, how else can an author create a buzz? I’ve come up with a list of things I’ve seen working these last few months despite the recent decline in enthusiasm for ‘another new release’. 

* Cover reveals taking place on one major site, and only one site, with authors asking for a twitter, or facebook mention and prizes to be one. (like an arc;)

* Vlogs are still cool ways to promote, especially if they’re unique or funny. They aren’t over-done (yet) and it helps build a connection between the potential readers and the writer behind the book.

* Book trailers. I actually like seeing a book trailer for an upcoming release featured on a bunch of blogs at the same time, as long as the actual posts have a different theme (ie- don’t just focus on the trailer or the blurb for the book) I like to be surprised and have the choice about whether I click on the trailer or not, so it’s not the same as a regular blog tour promo. And having the actual posts differentiate makes the reader less likely to skip them over.

* On that note -Related bloghops with a fun theme still work, imo. Is your book about a character making a big-fat mistake and the consequences? Invite everyone to share their biggest 'oopsies' and how they overcame. Got a futuristic theme? Create a blog hop where everyone shares their dream-gadget. Setting a theme that relates to your book gives bloggers a chance to do what they do best, all while second-handedly promoting your new title. 

* Promoting your book only AFTER release. I’ve actually seen this work for a lot of authors recently. Instead of the buzz created before hand, it’s like BOOM! The book is HERE! Positive reviews speak so much louder than the blurb or cover or a bunch of people promoting your book weeks before hand. The option to BUY is already there, so it doesn’t get pushed to the back of the reader’s mind like ‘oh, yeah, I should think about ordering that when it comes out.’

Do you feel like blog tours are slowly losing their promotional power? What other forms of promotion would you recommend to modern-day authors? Author friends out there, what do you think has made the biggest difference in sales for you when it comes to promotion?  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stage Fright!


So, I’m not officially signed up for Alex J.’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, but with the amount of posts dripping in self-doubt that splatter this blog,  I might as well be.

In Monday’s post, I announced I was going to dedicate this month to reworking a manuscript for an agent. 

Yesterday I took the first step toward revisions.

And froze.

Holy hopping hell hole! I could't help thinking -'It’s too much! I’ll never be able to make the changes and somehow mold this novel back into a coherent, well-paced, flowing story.' 

I feel like I’ve gift-wrapped a present and handed it over to someone who undid the paper, cut the ribbon and really liked what they found inside, at the heart of the gift.  But now they’re asking me rewrap the present in a new way, using the same crinkled paper along with a few new strips. And, at the same time, make the whole package gleam as though it was never opened at all. 

Gah!

 I can’t help feeling like no matter how tirelessly I iron out the pieces, and try to match the old paper with the new, the wrinkles will still be there, marring the package as visible evidence of my total and complete inaptitude. 

Now, deep down I know this is ridiculousness- insecurity talking, pure and simple. Plenty of writers manage to do revisions and have a better, stronger, novel for it and I will too! Right? Right! *averts conviction-less gaze* 

It’s daunting, and painful and scary. But, despite all the emotional turmoil, I have a plan. And I’m going to follow it, one step at a time, and do my best (because that’s all we can really do, right?). 

As of right now, like many writers, I feel like my best will never be good enough.  But I guess the important thing is to keep trying, despite those feelings.

 I’ve always envied people who get passionate about revisions and feel comfortable and confident in their ability to make efficient changes in their work.  I, on the other hand, am the kind of writer who is constantly wondering if ‘I’m doing it right’. How do you feel when presented with revisions? Do they bring out your love of a challenge? Or do they place a direct call to Madame Insecurity?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hard to Swallow


Pride, that is, for those of you who’s thoughts immediately turned pervy (you know who you are:) A few of you might remember this post from several months ago in which I manifested my grief at being passed over by an agent after multiple revise & resubmits. I was, in a word, devastated.

And even though the agent had showed interest in some of the other projects I’d mentioned while in contact with her, and told me to re-query with anything in the future, it took me a long time to actually take her up on that offer. 

Because, to be honest, I felt like I’d been left at the altar. And wasn’t sure if re-querying that same agent would make me dumb, or na├»ve, or a glutton for punishment. The emotions were still raw and it took lots of sushi, wine, querying, revising old projects, starting new projects, oh, and day dreaming of self-publishing and by-passing the crummy querying trenches all together, for me to finally cool down enough to realize that I wasn’t left at the altar at all. 

While it’s hard to cut out the emotions that go along with exposing your work to professionals, the emotions really do need to be put aside. The relationship between a writer and their agent is a professional one. There’s no crying in baseball, people. And as a professional, the agent gave me a lot to think about. She challenged me and made me delve into revisions, reworking my manuscript in ways I’d never had to before.  She made my book stronger, in the end; saw something in my work and went the extra mile to help me make it better, which is more than any other agent has done for me yet. 

I finally decided to submit an older manuscript the agent had shown interest in. It took her awhile to get back to me, but when she did, she’d read the manuscript in its entirety and wanted me to think about rewriting and resubmitting-  turning the book into a stand-alone novel instead of the first in a trilogy. 

Now, these aren’t your quick-fix type of revisions and I was hesitant at first, since I was hoping to do more with the story in future novels. But she answered my questions, gave me her professional insight into why she thought it would work better as a singleton and I had to admit, she was right. 

I swallowed my pride and did what was in my work’s best interest, professionally. And I encourage all of you to do the same. Has your project or query seen revisions? Don’t be afraid to re-query agents on your list who turned you down before. You might be surprised. Does an agency have a ‘no from one is a no from all’ stipulation? Query a second agent in the agency anyway, especially if there was more than one that looked right for your work. 

As for me, this month will be devoted to completely revamping the novel with the agent’s suggestions in mind. Will this lead to a contract? I have no idea. But, the bottom line is, revising and editing according to professional feedback is something every published writer needs to be able to do, no matter where they are in the process; agented, un-agented, out on submission with publishers, or getting a book ready for the printing press. It’s something I need to learn to do, and do better, if I ever want to make it. 

Have you ever had to swallow your pride for the sake of your manuscript? Did the outcome result in a stronger project and/or a stronger you?

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