What's at stake?
Last week, I mentioned I wanted to discuss Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel. I'm reading it as part of my never-ending effort to further improve my craft.
I haven't finished Maas's book yet. So much to do, so little time. You all know what I'm talking about. But one of the things that struck a cord with me is his reference to constantly raising the stakes.
It's an obvious question. What's at stake? What does your heroine/hero have to lose? Upping the stakes at each turn increases the tension and suspense. Let's take a look at this technique, starting with Angela's The Company You Keep, the first book in her Kendra Clayton mystery series.
In The Company You Keep, Kendra wants to find out who killed her best friend's boyfriend. So what? What's at stake, you ask? Kendra's best friend is at stake. The police like her for the murder. Angela raises the stakes several more times, but I don't want to give too much away.
We'll move on to my recent release, On Fire. What's at stake? The heroine's career is at stake. Along the way, I raised the stakes to public safety by adding a serial arsonist and made it personal by introducing you to one of the victims. Then I raised the stakes a couple more times, including framing the hero for the crimes.
In my debut romantic suspense, You Belong to Me, I raised the stakes several times as well. First, by placing the hero on the brink of financial ruin, then endangering the project that's supposed to rebuild his company, and a couple of other things that would give away too much if I mentioned them.
You may remember I'm a copious plotter. I've added asking, "So what?" when I outline my plots now, just to make sure I don't forget to raise the stakes. In your latest book or work in progress, what's at stake?
Happy 2008, everyone! I wish us all great publishing success.
Monday, December 31, 2007
What's at stake?
Monday, December 24, 2007
I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.
I'm taking the week between Christmas and New Year's Day off to jumpstart a few projects. My goal is to outline my current story ideas so, with the new year, I can start writing them.
What are your writing goals for the New Year? Or, like me, do you prefer to plan six months at a time? If so, what would you like to accomplish by June? I'll start us off.
While writing the contemporary romances for which I'm contracted, my goal is to complete the proposal for the romantic suspense trilogy I've mentioned. I want to always have at least one project making the rounds with publishers.
I'm also going to spend more time studying the craft of writing. To that end, I'm reading Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel. Have you read it? I hope to discuss it with you next week.
And, of course, it's always important to study the industry. What are editors looking for now? Which editors are moving to which publishing houses? What lines are launching? Closing? Cutting back? Are any publishers in financial trouble? It's important to know what's going on with the people and companies in the industry so you can target your submissions accordingly.
So, what are your writing goals for 2008, or at least the first six months?
And merry Christmas, everyone!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
THERE’S A BOOK IN YOU!
WEEK EIGHT: PUBLICITY AND PROMOTION: PART I: WORKING WITH YOUR PUBLISHER
It’s finally arrived, the day that you’ve been waiting for: you’ve got the release date for your book and soon, very soon, it will be on the shelves. So what now, start on the next book, wait for your royalties, wait for your publisher to start setting up the nationwide book tour, tv, radio print ads, reviews etc. etc. Now, welcome to the real world. First, waiting is something that should never do, whether it’s waiting for your publisher to do something or simply waiting for your royalties. This phase of your journey is about being active, getting out there, telling everyone about your book and essentially being shameless in your self-promotion. Because the unfortunate reality, is that except in rare cases, a publisher will spend limited if any significant dollars on promoting a first time author. Because of the cut backs in publishing and the consolidation of the industry it’s become as hit driven as Hollywood. They lavish promotional dollars on tent pole projects and generally have limited resources left for others. So what do you do? It’s up to you to be your own PR agent.
Your promotion is in two phases: the first which we’ll talk about this week, is to concentrate on working with your publisher to see what if anything they’ll do. This is key since certain types of publicity, only they can do. Essentially you have to promote your book to your own publisher. This may sound odd since after all they are the one publishing your book. However, your book is not the only one that is coming out on their list, so you want to make sure that someone focuses on your book. First, determine what if anything, your publisher will do for you and stay on them, be proactive in contacting them and making sure that they follow through. At a minimum, your publisher should: (1) submit your book for reviews to magazines (such as Essence, Ebony), local newspapers, on line reviews and (2) submit your book to major book clubs , depending upon the genre of your book, there are book clubs that have tens of thousands of members in some cases and where if your book is accepted this can mean substantial sales.
To clarify, these are not the book clubs where a few friends get together, but rather the book of the month type of clubs controlled by the major publishers, where members pay a fixed amount to receive a choice of certain books each month. In most cases only the publisher can submit a book to these book clubs so very early on, you should do the research and find out which book clubs would be a possibility for your book. One such book club is Black Expressions, this book club is owned by one of the major publishers and is very influential in getting black books out to their readership (3) Submit your book to on line book clubs such as Barnes& Noble.com and Borders.com. Again, only your publisher can submit to these book clubs but if your book is selected this can be invaluable PR and sales (4) if your publisher has a booth at BEA (the major book sellers convention, held each year in different cities, 2008 it will be in Los Angeles) see if they will invite you to have a signing at their booth. While these are not book that will be sold, a signing at BEA can nevertheless be important exposure because most professionals in the book industry (including librarians, academics and others) attend the convention.
Many of these suggestions are things that I unfortunately found out about after my book was published and so was not able to fully take advantage of them. But I pass these ideas on to you so that when your book comes out, you can be aware of these opportunities before the book is on the shelves and you can really profit from them. Next week, we’ll talk more about promotion and about some of the things that you can and should do.
If you’re interested in more information about my book A DEAD MAN SPEAKS, check out my website at www.adeadmanspeaks.com or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
In The News
Lots of interesting book and author stuff in the news lately. Check it out!
Goodbye Easy. Hello Leonid?
Author Walter Mosley inks a deal with Riverhead for new mystery series featuring Leonid McGill, an African-American private investigator in New York ( first introduced in his short story Karma).
Essence Literary Awards/Library Campaign
Essence Magazine will honor African-American writers and help public libraries by launching two overlapping initiatives this winter: the Essence Literary Awards and the Save Our Libraries campaign.
Buyers Aware: Inside the Black Book Market
In Publishers Weekly, author Felicia Pride talks to seven book buyers about African-American book buying.
The Brown Bookshelf
5 authors and illustrators have joined together to form The Brown Bookshelf to highlight the best voices in African-American children’s literature.
Life Imitates Art
Remember the Shawshank Redemption? Well, these guys obviously do.
Have a great Holiday!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Are we there yet?
Last week, I mentioned I was waiting for my editor's feedback on my second contemporary romance synopsis. The first one had been rejected, even after the revision.
I received my editor's feedback mid-week, and she requested revisions for this second synopsis.
Now I won't lie. I'm a little frustrated because I'm not moving forward. (Hey, I'm human.) This journey is taking longer than I anticipated. I hear the question, "Are we there yet?" playing in my mind. However, I also realize, succumbing to frustration isn't going to get the story accepted or the book written.
My editor listed the elements she wanted me to add. When I got home from my day job, I took a closer look at my synopsis and was dismayed to realize the elements my editor requested - subplots and secondary characters - were already in the synopsis. I obviously hadn't brought out those points well enough. In a way, this was a relief. I didn't have to reconstruct the story; I just needed to flesh it out. A much easier fix.
The lesson I learned from this experience is try to remember your editor isn't in your head. Give as much detail regarding plots, subplots, secondary characters, etc., as possible. I'll remember this lesson as I work on my romantic suspense trilogy.
Friday, December 14, 2007
THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE ...
That phrase just popped into my mind when trying to come up with a way to describe the relationship between a writer and his editor. You love your editor, but there are times when you could throttle him. Sometimes what he says is soooo right on the money; at other times, it makes you wonder, "Am I hearing right? You're telling me to change that? Why, it's the one thing I can't change. It's the heart of the story."
Last week, I urged you to listen to your editor, to be open and receptive. I did not advise you, however, to suspend your sense of critical judgment. In other words, listen but always realize that the decision as to how and when to "obey," the freedom, and the responsibility, of selecting which changes to make -- or not make -- remains with you, the author.
Let's just take a step back and look at the word in quotes: obey. The fact is, a writer's decision to follow, neglect or outright reject his or her editor's suggestions should never be thought of in terms of obedience. A good editor cares about you and your work, and views your working relationship as that of a partnership, not as one of commander and commanded.
And sometimes, oh every once in a while, an editor will insist on some obtuse change that makes sense to him, but in fact is short-sighted and downright whimsical, like altering the age or ethnicity of a character simply because your current setup doesn't agree with his preconceived notions about a certain age or ethnic group. What do you do? First you ask for an explanation. Then you consider it.
Does the change, for example, pander to certain chauvinist or mildly racist notions? It could be something very simple or subtle. Your editor says he doesn't hold with certain ideas, but believes "the public" does and that a certain change would "make your manuscript more appealing and marketable." He urges you to "be realistic." You think about it. You make a decision. If that decision is a no, then feel calm about saying it, and be prepared to explain it.
A request for a change that reaffirms prejudices is easy to scope out and, I hope for you, easy to reject. But what about those changes that really seem to be harmless?
It's important to remember that a change to any turn or twist of a manuscript could cause ripples like a pebble dropped into a pond. With mysteries, especially, a writer should be careful. The structure of a mystery novel can be likened to a house of cards. Fiddle with one card and the whole thing might collapse. Take the following instance: Your editor has made a suggestion and it seems to be quite helpful. It concerns some little turn of phrase or the physical location of a scene or even whether the scene is at all necessary. The scene is so brief. Why not take it out? We need to cut 10,000 words. Why not start there? The suggestion seems both logical and harmless.
But your inner gut tightens and some small voice tells you to hold on. Something about the phrasing or the location or the very brevity of the scene itself is significant. What could it be? You don't remember. It's been months since you worked on that particular bit of plotting, and you've started work on another manuscript since then. You're appalled to find that you've actually forgotten or even blanked out parts of your own book.
So you sit down and think about it, and it comes to you. Yes ... that's why you put that there, arranged matters in just that way. Following the editor's "innocuous" suggestion would've resulted in an inconsistency that would've emerged later, at some critical moment, undermining the logical and emotional wrenching ending you worked so hard to create.
You gather your courage and tell your editor that you think it better not to make the change. You outline your reasons and you're surprised to find that he thinks that his reasons outweigh yours. Hmm ... What to do?
(1) Discuss it some more.
(2) Tell the editor to go take a flying leap. (But do it much more politely, of course.)
But seriously, if the editor is a book doctor you've hired, then simply tell him, "Nope. I don't think so," (pay the bill) and go on your merry way. Matters become a bit more complicated if it's an agent or an editor within your publishing house who wants you to make some oddball change. Writers often feel themselves powerless against such gatekeepers and power brokers.
My advice: If it's an agent, whether it's one you're with or one you're thinking about working with, then consider the larger ramifications of the disagreement. Maybe you two are not a good match, or are no longer a good one. Maybe it's time to get different representation.
But you love your agent, you say, and don't want to change? Then think about shopping the particular manuscript without her or through someone else. No matter how much you like your agent, you have to understand and accept that an agent is unlikely to do a good job of selling your manuscript if she doesn't believe in it.
What if it's a big, important agent you're desperate to please? The agent has a reputation for getting six-figure deals and this is your chance, your one chance, to join the big league! Well, you can make the change against your better judgment and sneakily hope to undo it once the agent has found you a major publisher. It wouldn't be my way, and I wouldn't recommend it, but it is one way and some folks would feel no scruples about doing it in order to survive.
If it's an editor at a publishing house with whom you're in disagreement, then you might talk things over with your agent. In the classic setup, your agent acts as mediator. He or she can smooth out wrinkles and keep matters rolling along.
The worst thing you can do is to keep mum. If an editor makes a suggestion that truly sticks in your craw, say something. Editors and agents read fast. They reads stacks and stacks of manuscripts and they don't always read them thoroughly. They'll miss things described in terms bigger than life smack dab in the middle of page 21 for goodness sakes and tell you with a straight face that the information just wasn't there.
In the end, you're responsible for your story's content. And it's on you to know it better than anyone else, your editor included. His or her suggestions are always worth listening to because whether right or wrong, they indicate areas of possible misunderstanding. Furthermore, the editor's solution might not be the right one, but it could urge you in the right direction.
My last comment: Don't fear the editorial process. Engage in it! Embrace it! You're finally not alone. You've slogged your way through this manuscript, dedicating months, maybe years of your life to it, spending hours in self-enforced solitude. Now, finally, someone takes it seriously enough to read it, praise it, critique it and tell you how to make it better. View this as your time in the sun! And enjoy it!
Until next week then. Best wishes for the holiday season!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Expect The Unexpected
I guess this must be the season to not make too many plans and to never get too comfortable in your own obscurity. I’d started to put together a marketing plan for book four in my mystery series, which I assumed would be released next summer, when I got word from my editor last week that the release of book 4 has been pushed back to 2009.
My publisher, Kimani Press/Sepia, has cut back on the number of books they are publishing per month, which I had noticed. If you go to the Kimani/Sepia website, you’ll see there've been no new releases since October. The entire publishing schedule has been rearranged. I won’t lie. I was a little bummed when I heard the news. It will be strange not to have a new book out next year. Although, I’m fairly certain Diva’s Last Curtain Call will be re-released in mass market paperback sometime next year. But on the bright side it will give me time to finish up book 5 and my standalone mystery.
And speaking of the unexpected, last week I was invited to be a guest on Dayton, Ohio’s Fox 45/ABC 22 Morning News show. I was on last Friday. It was a brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interview of a couple of minutes, but it was an excellent opportunity to talk about my books and writing. I still have no idea how they found out about me, since I’m far far from being a household name, and I never approached them about being a guest. But it doesn’t matter. This is the kind of promo opportunity you don’t question, especially when it falls in your lap. You just go for and don’t think twice about it.
But let me tell you, seeing yourself on TV is a shocker. Anyone who knows me or has seen a picture of me knows I’m not a size 0. I’d never been on TV before but I’d always heard the camera adds at least ten pounds. That was an understatement. TV is not kind to curvy gals like myself. Long story short, I looked like Jabba the Hutt’s little sister. Not a good look, people! YMCA here I come. And don't go trying to find the interview online. It's not there. Thank God!
Monday, December 10, 2007
I finished the synopsis for my contemporary romance. I don't remember whether I mentioned the first contemporary romance idea was rejected. I came up with another idea and finished the synopsis last night. What a relief! It felt like a load was lifted from my shoulders.
But, as we all know, there's never any time to rest. At least not when you're starting your career. As soon as you've finished one project, you've got to move on to the next.
(I did take time to do a little celebratory dance around my living room, though. Quite fun.)
While I'm waiting for my editor's feedback on the contemporary, I'm going to work on the romantic suspense trilogy idea I've been kicking around. Based on my experience with the Fire trilogy that never was, I want to shop this series as a set. Lesson learned.
Well, I'd better get moving. No rest for the wicked.
Friday, December 07, 2007
I'm very happy to be joining the Crime Sistahs. Like Angela, Pamela, Gammy, Patricia and Lisa, I write about murder and mayhem, with my stories set in the glittering 1920s. My latest book, DARKNESS AND THE DEVIL BEHIND ME, features a society reporter who covers a young woman's disappearance and the million-dollar heist that occurred after it. Visit my website to learn more.
In addition to writing, I also edit fiction for up and coming authors at Gentle Pen Editorial Services, and so for my debut column on Crime Sistahs, I'd like to don my editor's hat and write from the point of view of someone who works with authors and tries to help them strengthen their story presentation.
"BUT YOU JUST DON"T GET IT!"
What editor hasn't heard that cry? It's usually delivered by an irate author at the tail end of a conversation about areas in which the author's manuscript needs serious revamping. When I tell an author that his or her manuscript is unfocused, for example, and the response is that I "just didn't get it," I'm tempted to respond, "No, I didn't, because it just wasn't there." But since it's Gentle Pen Editorial Services, I press my lips together and smile.
Yes, you might have the misfortune of having an inept or ignorant editor, someone with such a narrow breadth of taste, interests, knowledge or experience that he or she really is incapable of understanding what you're writing about. That does happen. But it could be that your editor is right. In short, if your editor didn't "get it," then Dear Reader might not either. Even when your editor is wrong, he or she has given you valuable information about where your manuscript could be misinterpreted or falls short in credibility.
What provokes the author's cry? It's usually when I've conveyed that there's a fundamental problem with the initial concept, or mentioned an underdeveloped or unfocused plot, or unmotivated or stagnant characters. Or I might have said that the concept was strong, but the execution weak. Somewhere, on the journey from mind to paper, the images, the pathos that so gripped the writer's imagination and made the story vibrant have become faded or blurred. They've lost their crispness, their edge.
Sometimes, the "don't get it" cry follows criticism not about the entire manuscript, but a specific scene. The editor really didn't "get it," and it was because the author left out relevant information that he or she assumed was common knowledge. In such instances, both sides need to sit down and figure out what details -- sometimes, it's only two or three -- must be inserted.
There are times, of course, when an editor's question really does seem to reveal dazzling, inexplicable ignorance. Never mind. It's worth your while as a writer to listen.
In one of my books, for example, there's a horrific lynch scene. My sleuth/hero witnesses it. Worse, the victim is someone he cares about. One of my readers wanted to know why my sleuth didn't intervene and "save" the friend. That my hero would "just stand by" and let his friend die wouldn't do, this reader said. Well, I was incensed. To intervene would mean death, I responded. If the character died, then of course, the book died with him. Privately, I muttered, "How can she even ask that? Doesn't everybody know what lynch mobs were like? Why would anyone suggest that I have my character intervene?" (This reader, as it happens, had partly grown up in England, and probably didn't know the history of lynching.) I dismissed the criticism with an "Oh, but she just doesn't get it!"
But then I thought about it. The fact is, heroes are heroes because they rise to the occasion. They don't listen to common sense. They are, in fact, uncommon. So ... maybe she was right. My hero couldn't follow the common sense path. He had to be heroic. But how to implement that logically? How to make sure he survived? I thought about it and a solution did come, and I daresay the story was better for it.
More recently, a writer approached me about her work, saying that she was having a lot of negative feedback about the heavy use of dialect. She'd indicated the dialect through the use of misspellings, odd punctuation, etc. She said that people in her writing workshop "just didn't get it." Of course, they didn't, she said. They were very different from the characters in her book. Why should she listen to them?
Hmmmm ... I read an excerpt and promptly told her I agreed with her readers. I also told her that the best stories, the ones we remember, rise above restrictions of class, race, gender, religion and nationality. They speak to the human condition. She should strive to tell a story that everyone would "get" because it spoke to their hearts, and not to sabotage that effort by use of systematic errors in her copy. She was a very talented writer and understood.
In summary, your editor could be dumb or ignorant or both. He or she could be a frustrated writer who is simply power-tripping and just loves to tear apart other writers' talented work. But it's more likely that he or she really does love books, really does want to be supportive, and has a width and breadth of knowledge that makes him or her a good test subject.
So please, if you're tempted to simply dismiss an editor's comment out of hand, don't. Pause, take a deep breath, and listen. You're very likely to hear something quite worthwhile.
Next week, I'll talk about when to listen, but not necessarily obey ...
In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me through this long entry! I look forward to filing again next week.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
THERE’S A BOOK IN YOU!
WEEK SEVEN: THE EDITORIAL PROCESS
Now that you’ve got the deal, you should be able to relax and just wait to see your book in the book stores! Unfortunately, not quite. This is where the second part of the major re-writing begins, the editorial process. This is when your publisher takes what you are convinced is a completed manuscript and starts shaping it according to their vision of what will make it more marketable for their readers.
Editors usually have very specific ideas of the types of books that will sell to their readership. Clearly they believe that your book is one of those, otherwise they wouldn’t have given you a book deal. But often much to the chagrin of the author, this doesn’t preclude often extensive editorial changes. In many cases this is helpful and in fact does make the book better, in other cases, the author feels as if their work is being compromised by an overly aggressive “red pen.” My feelings on the editorial process are to assume that the comments are given with the desire to make the manuscript as good as it can be, but by the same token, to decide what you will agree to and what you cannot. It’s usually a balancing process where you have to compromise but where you also must determine which comments, if any, go to the heart of your book, and if accepted could severely compromise your vision.
Usually you will go through several rounds of editorial comments before your book is completed and ready for the copy editors. Copy editing is a critical part of the editorial process and ensures that your book has all of the proper grammatical and other editing and stylistic changes. Often, with a smaller press the author does essentially a lot of the copy editing, but it is preferable to have it professionally done. It’s very difficult to copy edit your own work because you are so close to it. Overall the editorial process can be gratifying as you see your book shaped into something even greater than you had imagined or frustrating as you see your vision chipped away, but either way it is a critical part of getting your book out there.
Next week we’ll talk about marketing your book and some of the things that authors can do to get the widest possible audience. For more information on my book A DEAD MAN SPEAKS, check out my website www.adeadmanspeaks.com, or you can email me at email@example.com.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Letting you know I’m b-a-a-ack! Where have I been? In book hell, trying to finish up my suspense thriller. Well, I did it, I’m done. I titled it Dead Stop--found out there’s a film with that same title. Boo. Which just means there’s nothing new in the universe, especially titles.
FYI I’ll be blogging on Sundays and will be slinging tidbits around relating to all things theatrical, ‘cuz that’s my special interest. Will be doing film reviews, interviews, and keeping an eye out on the book option market, and noting who's selling what. Would welcome additional tidbits!
In the meantime, read below and laugh. This compilation of Worst Analogies appeared on the yahoo listserv of fellow writers, all graduates of my alma mater, Seton Hill University and its graduate Writing Popular Fiction Program.
~ He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the
~ Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only
one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
~ The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil,
this plan just might work.
~ The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating
for a while.
~ He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but
a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or
~ McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled
with vegetable soup.
~ Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides
gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
~ She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was
room-temperature Canadian beef.
~ She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes
just before it throws up.
~ The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg
behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
~ He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as
if she were a garbage truck backing up.
~ She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
~ It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to
~ The brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.
~ I felt a nameless dread. Well, there probably is a long German name
for it, like Geschpooklichkeit or something, but I don't speak German.
Anyway, it's a dread that nobody knows the name for, like those little
square plastic gizmos that close your bread bags. I don't know the name for
~ He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
~ The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you
fry them in hot grease.
~ The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr.
on a Dr Pepper can.
~ He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a
guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high
schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it.
~ The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a
bowling ball wouldn't.
~ From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie,
surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy"
comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.
~ Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
~ Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the
~ Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a
movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall
~ Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the
grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left
Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19
p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
~ John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had
also never met.
Hope your holidays are happy.
Gammy L. Singer
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Here three things you usually don’t find out until after you’re published.
1. Not all authors are created equal.
There are three main levels of authors in the world of publishing, and for the record, I’m not referring to talent. I'm referring to sales. At the bottom of the heap you have debut authors who've yet to make a name for themselves, at the top of the heap you have what are referred to as top tier authors a.k.a the ones who's books sell like hotcakes and who get big royalty checks and attention, in the middle you have midlist authors, which accounts for 99.9% of all authors, myself included. Being a midlist author just means your books sell consistently but you’ve yet to reach top tier blockbuster sales status.
2. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.
Most authors have to do their own book promotion. Some are more successful at it than others. I once heard about an author who spent over $30,000 promoting a book without much luck. I’ve heard of publishers spending big bucks on promotion for a book they’ve deemed the next big thing only to have it flop. No one really knows what works when it come to book promotion. It’s usually not one thing but a combination of many things. Just do what you can comfortably afford to do because the rest is really up to chance.
3. Beware of the Green Eyed Monster.
One of the most self-defeating things authors can do is to compare themselves to other authors. Every author’s situation is different. For example, author A and author B both write in the same genre and have books that came out the same time. Author B is jealous of author A because A got a bigger advance, massive publisher support, and has sold 25,000 copies, while B got a much smaller advance, minimal publisher support, and has only sold 8,500 copies. But what B doesn’t know is that A’s print run( how many books printed upfront by the publisher) was 150,000 copies. B’s print run was only 10,000 copies. In the publishing world, selling 8,500 copies out of a 10,000 copy print run is considered a success, while selling only 25, 000 copies out of 150,000 copy print run is considered a big flop. Guess who’s career is in jeopardy? And it’s not author B. Don’t be so worried about how well you think another author is doing. You may not know the whole story and the time you waste worrying could be time spent writing.
Monday, December 03, 2007
I heard from my editor last week. You may recall she's contracted me for two more books, this time contemporary romances. I sent her a synopsis for a story, but she requested a change that would impact the plot so greatly that I shelved that story and started a new one. I'd really grown to like the first story idea, although I admit I like this new one even better.
The story idea rejections I'm accumulating makes me wonder about the number of untold stories floating around out there. Counting my ideas alone, we have the two sequels to On Fire, my September 2007 romantic suspense; the first contemporary idea, which my editor just rejected; the sequel to You Belong to Me, my November 2006 romantic suspense; an epic fantasy trilogy; and my island mystery series, which is generating rejections as we speak.
It's not my intention to throw a pity party. Honestly. I know it may sound that way, but that's not my intention. I'm truly fascinated by the fact that we may have millions of orphaned story ideas hovering around us.
I'm obviously incredibly naive. All this time I thought, as writers, we'd come up with ideas and, as long as we told the story well, it would find a home. But this experience has shown me, the market has much more to do with the stories I sell than I originally thought.