Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drowning in Information

One of our great blessings is the internet and its infinite data base. Now, we can instantly call up bits of information, tutorials, advice and lessons. Basically, we have information for every step of our writing, from researching story info, to the basics of writing itself. Of course, once we’ve completed the manuscript we add tips on final preparation, submissions and follow-through along with the marketing and promoting of our work.
We faithfully subscribe to daily tips, blogs and writing sites. We set aside time to read and apply newfound information, but at some point, we open the inbox to find more than we could possibly read in one day…and tomorrow, just as much will be arriving.

I love the sites I have subscribed to over time, but lately all I seem to do is stack information for later. Marketing and promoting my book is taking up a lot of my time and I have less and less time to sort through my once loved sites. Why? Well, because I have a life. I have a three-year-old, a part-time job, I’m taking another writing course which has me writing a book, I’m writing yet another book to go with the one I’m busy marketing (Amethyst Eyes), and I have a household to run…sleep will just have to wait.

My suggestion or advice to you…

-keep the sites you NEED active,

-reference the ones you LIKE, putting a hold on daily emails, (go to them when you have time or need something),

-cut out those that are not part of your present situation.

If you have to spend hours going through your inbox, then you are wasting precious time. Time that could be spent writing, marketing or dealing with everyday life. I guess you can compare it to editing your manuscript…at one point you have to cut away what bogs you down.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Publishing Your Book

If you’re like me, the last thing you want after having spent all that time writing, revising and editing your manuscript, is to have to wait to hold your book in your hands. When I was looking at my publishing options, I sent out letters to agents and publishers (A&P’s) and then I waited for a response. I didn’t sit back and do nothing while I waited. I read, researched and continued to work on my pitch.

As I researched A&P’s I couldn’t believe that some asked me to give them up to six months to answer my query. Some of these asked to be exclusive, now my thoughts on that were this: If I send it and have to wait six months for a NO, then I’ve wasted six months. So, I skipped over those A&P’s.

I was even more surprised (and disillusioned) when I found out that once my manuscript was accepted, it took an average of 12-18 months before the book was in print. (I’ve even seen 24 months).

OK, so worse case scenario 30 months…and that is if I didn’t get continuously rejected.

There had to be another way.

I looked at self-publishing and assisted-publishing options. After having read some self-published books, I decided to stay away from that format because of the way some of the books turned out. I turned to assisted-publishing. I had been having regular conversations with a rep from the time my manuscript was finished (first draft) up until I was ready to submit it. (I had had my manuscript professionally edited, checked every line and paragraph to make sure it was properly formatted).

I was offered an amazing selection of publishing packages, from ‘just print my book’ to the complete package including editing, reviews, marketing packages, a publicist, book signings, etc.…well, you get the idea. Yes, the more you took, the more it cost, but I quickly learned that even with a traditional publishing deal, the author had a lot of work to do in the way of marketing the finished product.

I did not have an endless budget, so I went the less elaborate route, choosing a reasonable package and adding a few extras. I was offered assistance throughout the process and there was always someone available to answer my questions. I purchased my package on Aug 8th, submitted my manuscript on the 17th, and on Aug 31st the title went ‘live’. Somehow the author copy took its sweet time getting to me, and so some of my friends who had purchased copies through Amazon, Chapters and a Finnish bookstore, received their copies before I did.

I was surprised and thrilled to find my book popping up in online bookstores all around the world. I’ve counted over 100! I am still in contact with the marketing department and continue to review my options for promoting my book. So even now, months after my book has been released, there’s someone there, offering assistance.

There’s one more thing, in choosing my publishing format, I own the rights to my book.

My book is offered in either paperback or e-book format and I am satisfied with what I got. For the record, I chose iUniverse, and I plan on using them again in the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Giveaway

For a chance to win a copy of the Amethyst Eyes book, just go to and sign up. It's free and easy to participate.

Contest runs until Jan 31st 2012.
Once you've created a goodreads account, you can participate in hundreds of book giveaways.
Good Luck!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Keeping Track of Story Details

I read a series of eight books recently, and was mortified when a whole bunch of inconsistencies came up. The dark haired middle son was now blonde…and we’re talking about a kindergarten level child, so I doubt if he’s already into a drastic change in his appearance. Three years after the couple had been together the youngest son had only aged 18 months…
Unfortunately, (in this case anyway) I have a good memory and these things bug me. When I am writing I want to make sure I get my details right. Allow me to share my work method, and please feel free to share any suggestions.

I use the computer, but on occasion I jot down things in a notebook I keep on hand, and in a pinch I have used my e-reader and phone.

In my story file I have a character folder, in which I keep track of each character’s physical description, quirks and habits, as well a brief description of attitude and personality. In some cases I develop a family tree if I have to.

I also have research files for geographic location, and other elements pertaining to the story, like legends, language and so forth.

There are times when I end up with pages of interesting information, even though I only use a line or two in my work. I don’t mind either, because I like to learn and I want to make sure my facts have been verified.

In Amethyst Eyes I kept a folder for the new technology, words, food and items that had to be created for the story. It only took a moment to check back on the information and make sure my writing remained accurate.

If there is to be a second book in the story, then I have taken a chunk out of the preparation and I can fall back on my notes to make sure I remain faithful to what has already been written.

How do you do it?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ahh, the Query Letter

I believe that a lot of novels miss their chance because the query letter didn’t do them justice.
How are you supposed to take your novel and present it a few sentences?

Practice helps, but if this is your first novel, it can be one of the most overwhelming steps in the process. Taking time to read successful query letters is a good idea, especially if you have had the chance to read the novel in question. This will allow you to review the query vs. the novel and see what elements were left out and what the author deemed essential to present.

Many agents have blogs and offer advice on writing a good query, but even then, what might please one agent, could turn another away. You can check out Pub Rants, Kristin has covered query letters in the past.

Learning how to present your work in a few short sentences is the first step. Go look on Amazon or Goodreads (or any publisher site) and read as many book synopsises as you can. Now it is important to note that a synopsis and a book pitch are two different things. But at this stage, we want to learn how to efficiently capture someone’s curiosity in as few words as possible. Most agents, or publishers, offer specific guidelines on how to present a query letter. Here again, what works for one will be turned away by another.

 Test out your blurb on friends or writing group (if you have one). Take their input into consideration and don’t forget to take a break once in a while. Coming back with a fresh mind will make the task a little easier to handle. Write as many different versions as you can, go at it from different angles and have fun in the process.  You can make a list of elements found in your book, including character traits, obstacles, genre etc. then mix and match to get different kinds of query letters. This can help you present one that will be ‘tailor made’ to a specific agent’s or publisher’s guidelines.

Now, go get creative!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bringing Life to Your Writing

Today, let's talk about writing. For without writing, there would be no books, publishers, editors or book stores…to name a few.

Whatever may motivate one to write is as different and varied as the end result. Anything goes. Yes, there are courses and classes, seminars and webinars, magazines and online gurus to consider and consult. But in the end, if you cannot get into the right mode or mind set, writing can be a tedious task. (Just think back to high school when your book report or composition was due).

So, what works? How do you do it? Where do you turn?

As a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, I was offered all kinds of help. I can even suggest you look up ‘writer’s first aid’, a blog by Kristi Holl, that is chock full of wonderful material.

In the end, it all comes down to YOU and your WRITING.

I found that what worked best for me was ‘getting into’ my story. (At this point I am referring to a set idea or work in progress. We’ll cover story ideas another time). First, I would read the last few pages of my story. Second, I would observe as the yet unwritten story played out in front of me…I kid you not. Third, I would write it down WITHOUT trying to control or censor the train of events.

If I try to censure or control the material as I am writing it, I end up hindering the creative flow and it shows. Once the sequence has been written down, I will be free to edit and revise it, making sure key elements haven’t been left out. Usually, they make their own way in.

If you are not able to ‘get into’ your story, maybe something is missing. Are you characters alive? Can you feel what they are going through? Can a friend describe your setting, or does it lack in detail? Have you used all your senses…? How would you feel in the imagined situation, have you conveyed these emotions?

A good way to develop writing skills is to narrate life around you, either on paper or in you head. Go to a park, a mall or library and observe…(now be careful not to come across as some kind of stalker ;o). Describe setting one time, human interaction another. Focus on emotions one day, movement and mannerisms the next. Pick up on dialogue, speech patterns, expressions and accents, all which come in endless variations.

Most of all, remember to have fun. Enjoy every step of the process. Bringing a character to life and creating a world is an amazing experience.