Category Archives: Publishing Industry

Cast Away the Norm and Survive Outside the Writing Box

Last night I watched Cast Away with my three boys. This classic movie incited tears and general wailing by Youngest at Wilson’s epic final scene and renewed Middle’s fear of flying. It also sparked an interesting conversation. Who, among us on the couch, would survive a four-year stint on a deserted island?

Hands down, Eldest won.

Surviving with next to nothing means a whole lot of ingenuity. We decided that his dyslexia–which translates into the fact that his whole world is outside the box in how he perceives things–sets him up nicely to excel with a handful of random objects.

In Cast Away, ice skates became knives and dental appliances. A little bit of blood and a ball became a best friend.

These are the kinds of innovations necessary to survive outside the normal conditions we call life. Some of us are more prepared to do so than others.

The same is true in writing. It is easy to get hooked into writing the norm. Some novels are very formulaic. Some very trendy. Some are very every day.

A handful of novels, however, thumb their noses at the norm and jump out of the airplane before it ever crashes. They want to survive in the wilds with a unique character and a few random objects.

There is a fine line, however, between surviving and committing suicide. Publishers may be afraid of taking on outside-the-box books, and readers may not quite be ready for a castaway novel to grace their beloved book shelves.

One of my very astute, successful and prolific writer friends recently said that she loves the freedom to write what she wants. But, she’s noticed a definite connection between her book sales and her willingness to toe the line. The further her books veer from the standard expectations, the less sales they get.

Until–or unless–a novel breaks away from tradition and creates a whole new norm. Hunger Games, anyone?

So, how can we tell the difference between just edgy enough and too edgy? How can we ensure that the twist we give our novels will help it swim rather than sink? What tips do you have for walking the line, toeing it or stepping over it into unchartered lands?

Curious minds want to know.

Writing Is Exactly Like Heart Disease

My Dear Hubby has a heart defect. All his life, he’s known something wasn’t quite right with his heart–“he’ll never play sports,” said one doctor–“you have no superior vena cava,” said another–“a heart murmur, that’s what he has,” was a sentiment echoed by several other professionals.

Yet, no real diagnosis was ever provided, nor was any believable prognosis ever made. Despite being told he’d never play sports, DH vigorously competed all through high school and works out nearly every day as an adult.

He was never limited physically, though the emotional toll has grown over the years. You can’t hear, “We have no idea what the long-term effects of your condition may mean,” without stressing over your future just a little bit.

Writing carries it’s share of stress, too.

  • Who will love my writing?
  • Who will hate it?
  • What if nobody publishes it?
  • What if somebody publishes it?
  • I can’t self-promote. It’s too scary.
  • I’m afraid to query.
  • I’m afraid not to query.
  • I have writer’s block.
  • I sent my query yesterday and haven’t heard back. Now what do I do?
  • I can’t stand waiting.
  • I. Can’t. Stand. Waiting!

Writers can nearly cripple themselves with fear of the unknown. Like DH’s medical problem, writing has no clear diagnosis or prognosis.

Just because you find an agent doesn’t mean you will get published. And even if you publish one novel, it doesn’t mean you’ll hit the best sellers list. Heck, it doesn’t even mean you’ll be able to complete a second, cohesive manuscript. There are no guarantees in writing.

None.

But there is one certainty.

If you let fear rule your writing, you will never get published.

DH went to the Mayo Clinic this week. After getting checked out by a cardiologist, he finally has a clear diagnosis. He has a rare heart condition that affects roughly .4% of the population. In a way, one of the doctors was right. DH didn’t have a superior vena cava. He had two of them. He’s also 100% healthy and doesn’t have to worry about his ticker unless he undergoes heart surgery for something else altogether.

Imagine if DH’s mom let fear change the course of his life. If she had refused to let him play sports, his heart would have weakened from inactivity. He would have failed physically without even trying.

How do you stay inspired to write? In what ways do you let fear rule your writing? Has anyone ever told you your heart was too weak for writing? How did you prove them wrong?

Curious minds want to know?

Who’s Reading You? Juvie LitTrends

According to an article in Writer’s Digest, the biggest sales increase of 2012 was for juvenile lit.

That’s right, juvie lit writers, our audience is buying books. In fact, The Association of American Publishers tracked a huge jump in digital book sales for children and teens. To the tune of 475.1%.

This is something I’ve seen first hand while presenting in the classroom. A large portion of kids have e-readers available at home. Many are exposed to them in school. Still others are provided with personal e-readers by the school for the duration of their education. Granted, they are part of the bigger picture for learning in this technological world, yet it does translate into greater access of e-books for kids.

Note to self: e-MG and e-YA is A-OK.

And while the debate continues on the effectiveness of blogs and tweets as a viable marketing tool, one thing is certain: kids use facebook and twitter to connect and share. If we write great books and build a rapport with our young readers, they will joyfully spread the word, making juvenile lit the perfect age group to target with technology.

But let’s take this marketing idea one step further. Who is buying the 80.5% more juvenile lit books sold in 2012 compared to those bought in 2011? I can’t be 100% sure, but I suspect a large number of buyers come from the school itself. To learn more about the Market Within, hop on over to From the Write Angle for a look at what that potential buying power looks like.

But before you go, consider one more thing. Gift cards are handed out at birthday parties, in Christmas stockings and as graduation gifts more readily than politicians pass out handshakes. This instant access creates greater buying power in youth. All they need to download their favorite song, game or book is a gift card and a computer/e-reader/handheld gaming device. For the young bibliophile, it’s akin to books-on-demand. No longer do they need to make that special trip to the brick and mortar on Mom and Pop’s time. No longer does Grandma have to buy “safe” books that kids don’t want to read. No way. Because thanks to the gift card trend, kids can–and do–buy the books they hear about during lunch as soon as they get home. They are firmly in the driver’s seat of their reading tastes.

Does this mean we should all start writing for kids? Heck no. I would be sad if we did. However, it does mean that the market for this age group is flexible and strong. Good products can equal good sales for the savvy writer.

How does the convergence of technology and youth impact your writing/marketing plan? Have you ever considered e-MG before, or are you still reluctant to try digital only for youth? How does a traditionally lower e-price affect the sales potential of books for kids?

Curious minds want to know.

Hurricane Sandy Delays Apocalypse for Local Author

Okay, that local author would be me, and I don’t live anywhere near the East Coast. However, my publisher, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, was hit hard by the hurricane that ravaged areas of New England, effectively bumping The Fall‘s birth date by nearly a week.

Slated for release on October 29, a power outage for the indie publisher put the brakes on the release of The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. This collection of short stories features everything the end of the world should feature: zombies, war, plague, human sacrifice, a heavenly mistake and a short story by me.

Thirteen talented writers from across the globe contributed to this stunning compilation of post-apocalyptic tales written for mature YA readers and adults.

Get your copy of The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse here.

 

Licking the Air

I don’t want to say my dog is retarded, but I think she might be. Every morning when Dear Hubby and I enjoy our coffee together, she licks the air. She’s a hunting dog, and her trainer said she has an amazing nose–one of the best he’s ever seen. Apparently, it’s so amazing she can taste our coffee fumes. Someday I’ll capture this on video and amuse the entire world with her quirk.

This morning, I’m sipping vanilla hazelnut coffee, which seems to be her favorite. Tasting the air appears to be a near-super power for her, and she’s been licking so hard for the last ten minutes her nose is starting to chafe.

Lick. Lick. Lick. Lick. Whine.

I think she whines out of frustration over not being able to fully satisfy her desires by tasting the air. I imagine it’s a bit like letting a chocoholic lick a chocolate silk pie and leaving it right in front of him. Unfair and frustrating.

Just like writers can feel when their hard work is denied a place in the publishing realm over and over and over again. We can just barely taste the air, but we can’t quite get full. Ugh.

So, what are your near-super powers when it comes to writing? What aspect of storytelling do you rock at? Is your nose getting chafed yet, or are you still able to stand up against the frustration that is the publishing arena? Are you ready to knock over the coffee mug or dive into the silk pie?

Curious minds want to know!

 

Turning Over the Reins: Education and E-Pubbing

Eldest left the home this weekend. As he begins college tomorrow, he will be firmly in control of his life. Successes and failures will be his. Choices will be made–sometimes impulsively, sometimes not. And while they will not always be the choices I would have made, the outcome of these decisions will be entirely his. He controls his future.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s why we have kids in the first place. It’s why we mold them gently, challenge them and teach them as much as we can in a few short years. We want them to become viable members of whichever community they decide to inhabit. We want them to earn their freedom.

Writing used to parallel parenting. Writers toiled over their pages and perfected their manuscripts. We then turned over the reigns to agents and editors and marketing departments. They controlled the final output. They shaped our careers and decided which books to print or not and who best to market them to. It worked out really well for a lot of authors for a lot of years. And still does, for that matter.

But, this traditional method isn’t always used in today’s publishing world. In fact, it’s not always desired. Some writers have taken publishing matters into their own hands and maintained control of every aspect of their novel’s successes or failures.

Take Ruth Cardello, for instance. This entrepreneurial dynamo tackled self-publishing and took charge of her writing destiny. Roughly one year ago, she struck out on her own and e-published her romance novels.

She put up with readers and writers believing she wasn’t a “real” writer because her books were not traditionally published. Instead of giving up, she persevered. She worked harder and smarter. Good, bad or indifferent, she took responsibility for the choices she made.

Ruth Cardello just turned down a seven-figure deal with a traditional publishing house. I repeat, “She just turned down a seven-figure deal.”

Seven figures.

Yeah.

All so she could remain in control. All so the responsibility of failures or successes would rest on her effort, not on the decisions of someone else.

Ruth has become the parent and the child. The writer and the publisher. The agent and marketing director.

I can only hope that Eldest’s transition into adulthood will follow a similar path. I hope he takes up where we left off and strives to give himself the best possible future. I hope rebellion isn’t just around the corner and tightening of the reigns in ours. I hope we can work together to make him a viable and successful member of whichever community he chooses to inhabit.

Dang, I miss him already!

Faith and the novel: how much is too much?

The other day our local pool shut down for a few hours after someone mistakenly used it for a toilet.

Right now, I’m currently involved in a debate between several writers  regarding religion in mainstream fiction: is it okay to mention it, and if yes, to what degree? After all, we don’t want to push our audience out of the pool by filling our stories up with too much…

Well, you get the picture.

But seriously, for writers with faith who are not writing inspirational novels, the question of how much is too much can cause us to question our stories and our characters. Will the very mention of God make readers toss our novels?

I am a Lutheran by choice. I pray for my friends and family, though not all of them believe that prayers matter. I do this because I love them, not because I want to convert them. I don’t back down and hide the fact that I’m a believer, but I try very hard not to shove it down anyone’s throat. I respect that everyone has their own set of core beliefs and values and that we are free to live our lives without being heckled because of them.

Yet sometimes when I write, my characters are believers as well. They live their lives with their faith as a part of who they are. Quite simply, religion is a part of their make-up, be they flute-playing short girls going into the tenth grade or muscle-bound seventeen-year-old boys who play soccer, eat an entire pizza for snack and attend church on Sunday with their families. My references to religion fall within the scope of my MCs’ personalities and experiences. They are most definitely not a sermon.

So my question to you, as readers, is this: how does the mention of God, faith or religion enter into your decision to read a book or keep reading it? Do you read books that challenge your beliefs, or do you try to read only those that align with your core values?

In other words, if my MC says “a quick prayer”, would this be considered too much reference to religion to be mainstream? If it is mentioned that he goes to church, would this change your impression of him–make you like him more or less? Or doesn’t this type of faith reference impact your overall feelings?

Curious minds definitely want to know.

*As a side note: Healthy discussion is encouraged and all beliefs and responses are welcome as long as they remain respectful and contribute something useful to the discussion. Those that attack–either for against religion–may be edited or deleted altogether. Thanks for adhering to this policy.religi

 

Growing Up Too Fast!

My baby girl turned sixteen yesterday. Lucky for me, she’s not a debutante kind of gal, but a fun-loving, young lady who asked for a Hello Kitty cake instead of a car.

Yet, despite holding onto her childhood, she’s talking college. Obviously she’s figured out how to balance growing up with staying young.

Writers, yeah, you know. You can go far by learning some balance on your writing journey. And if you don’t believe me, head over to From the Write Angle and check out Sophie Perinot’s post.

Hugs to you all~

Don’t Assume Anything: Ask Everything

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting with my little sister over lunch. We made our way to Dear Daughter’s must-visit eatery: Buffalo Wild Wings. Ordering was easy, as our tastes run so similar.

Getting the right order was not.

Instead of receiving traditional wings, our waitress had brought us boneless. In our mind, all parties were to blame. We never specified which type of wings we wanted, nor did the waitress ask.

We all just assumed: us because we only eat traditional, and she because the boneless were on sale.

An honest mix-up that was quickly remedied.

Yet, not all assumptions are as easily taken care of. In writing, assumptions can get us in a boat load of trouble.

  • Never assume you know something as fact. Ever. Remember how people used to believe the world was flat? They assumed, and they were wrong. When I write, I check and double-check even simple things like how many kids play on a baseball team. I don’t want to lose readers because I didn’t have my facts straight and therefore lost all credibility with them.
  • Never assume you know what a crit partner meant by a comment–especially those that sting. If appropriate, ask for clarification, particularly before doing a rewrite based on the comment.
  • Never assume you know what an agent or editor meant on something that seems a little fuzzy. Agents don’t bite. Well, some might, but I hear rabies’ shots are required for the higher-ups in the publishing biz. It’s okay to shoot off a quick email as long as you do so appropriately.
  • Never assume all agents and editors are the same.
  • Never assume submission guidelines are the same across the board for all houses.
  • Never assume that a rejection means you’re a crappy writer.
  • Never assume that selling a book means you can quit your day job.
  • Never assume you know anything, let alone everything, about the world of writing.

Instead, check things out. Ask around. Read yourself sick on the topics you write about. Become besties with professionals who know what they know and can make your writing accurate.

And probably the biggest and best advice I can give: research your options and topics from all sides, not just from the POV you want to be true.

On our way home from lunch with Little Sister, DD and I talked religion. She finds it infinitely intriguing that (in her experience) people who don’t believe in God are more well-versed in the Bible than the people who live their religion on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of truth in her observation. Those who cut their teeth on Faith typically assume what they’ve heard in church and in their homes is correct. Those who were never immersed in it as a way of life will often seek to find the truth behind the Faith.  They actually dig into the nitty-gritty of it all. They ask questions and challenge the answers. They research all points of view and probably have a more well-rounded understanding of religion as a whole than those who have never read outside their Faith teachings.

We can learn a lot from this method of asking, not assuming. We have a better chance at succeeding in the publishing biz if we research our options and make informed decisions.

In what ways have your assumptions been challenged as you’ve walked your writing (or life) path? What things did you really know and which assumptions were proven faulty? How has this changed the way you’ve approached your writing/publishing (daily living) endeavors?

Curious minds want to know.  And if you’re still curious, you can check out my post on From the Write Angle regarding bios and bylines.

 

A Few Things of Writerly Interest

Remember The Skeleton Key Blogvel? Well, Michelle, AKA Greenwoman, has started another one. If you’d like a serial read for the next few months, pop on over to Greenwoman’s site and start reading Bloom. Each Monday, a new chapter will be posted on various blogs around the net. Mine will hit cyber space on July 9th.

Remember Possession? Elana Johnson’s YA debut? The second in her series was just released and is available for your reading pleasure. The Fourth of July vacation is a great time to pick up a new book, so give Surrender a try.

Remember Spring Fevers? That awesome anthology on relationships with a short story pubbed by you know who? Well, publisher Matt Sinclair is working on a second one.  Titled The Fall, this newest anthology will focus on the end of the world (as we know it) and is slated for release in time to be used as a handbook for 2012 survival!

Submissions of fewer than 7,500 words in any genre except erotica are being accepted until August 17. For more details, email Elephant’s Bookshelf Press at antholsubs@gmail.com

You do know I’m kidding about the survival handbook thing, right? I mean, the world really isn’t going to end. Is it?

But, if it does end, what will you miss the most about our world as you know it? (indoor plumbing) What will you miss the least? (television and all that implies) What is one thing you’d need a lifetime supply of to make it through an apocalypse? (tampons and toilet paper–I know, I said one, but it’s my blog so I can cheat.)

Curious minds want to know.