Tag Archives: publishing

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.


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!


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.

Afraid of the Flush: Writing Fears

Sock Dog returned from her first hunting trip a few weeks ago.  I cannot repeat in public Dear Hubby’s choice words over her performance.  So, off she went to a different dog trainer.

The verdict?

Sock Dog, the almighty pheasant hunter, is afraid of the flush.  She’s got a great nose, she’s enthusiastic and athletic.  She’s everything a great hunting lab should be–except terrified of the birds when they flush from the tall grasses.

Ever get the feeling that writers are no different?

It’s like we’re bred to write, but we’re afraid of success.  We hear the flutter of wings in the distance and drop back behind others.  We allow fear (of success, of failure, of ourselves) to paralyze us and keep us from taking that next step.

Anyone else ever feel this way?  How do you overcome the fear of the imagined and take the next step that will lead you to the very thing you’ve been dreaming of?  How do you learn to delight in the flush regardless of whether or not you get the bird?

Curious minds want to know.

There’s More than One Writing Box

Youngest can’t play football at recess.  There are certain rules that must be followed and one (or more) of the kids playing failed to follow them.  The result was that ALL the wanna-be quarterbacks got banned from throwing the pigskin for the rest of the week.  (Tears in the morning flat-out stink, by the way.)

Hardly seems fair, that whole guilt by association, punish the masses for the destruction of the few, if-they-look-the-same-smell-the-same-act-the-same-in-the-same-box-they-must-all-go.

Yet, we writers  are just as guilty of this as the Recess Nazis are.

Newbies, we think, and stuff them all into a category of must-need-more-work.

“Agents,” we say, and dismiss them as dream killers even as we beg for their attention and mercy.

Publishers, pshaw!  We all know they hate writers and secretly delight in penning form rejection letters.

Self-pubbed?  Garbage.  All of them.

Or not.

As much as we hate to be stuffed into boxes, we should not seal another’s fate with packing tape and cardboard.  We need to remain open-minded and realize that it is the Few who give the bad name to the Many.

So, today, I ask that you break down the box and recycle it.  Let the non rule-breakers play ball.  Pick up a self-pubbed book with fresh eyes.  Encourage the newbie who might just know more than you.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t let a rejection by one agent/editor spoil your good will toward the others.

I’ll admit that I used to feel a fair amount of disdain toward Agent-Only publishing houses.  Then I learned a few things and realized just how much slush gets sent to agents and editors–and what that slush actually looks like.  My respect level rose tremendously.

I used to hate the whole vampire/werewolf thing.  Then I read Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.  Uhm, definitely out-of-the-box-amazing.

When I was a kid, I thought teachers lived to make recess as boring as possible.  “Don’t run!”  “Don’t bounce that ball!”  “Stop swinging from that bar, you’ll break your leg.”  Seriously, what did they want from us?  A little Kum ba ya?  A coma…?

What are/were some of your preconceived notions about writing, publishing and literature?  Are the judgements fair, or is it time to rethink some things?

Curious minds want to know.

News Flash: Small Fish At Your Fingertips

I just got off the phone with my big sister.  She’s at a conference in California where she’s enjoying a certain amount of celebrity among conference goers.  Googling her name gets you six full pages of all her.  The girl has platform.  She’s also building credentials, and as she does, her following in her chosen profession continues to grow.

But she didn’t start out as a big fish in a little pond.

She started out the same as  you and I and every other successful entrepreneur did.  Over the years, she’s put herself out there.  Quietly at first by being on boards and teams and teaching classes and meeting people of importance in her field.  She’s attended conferences as a student and as a presenter.  In short, she socializes with the right people, says the right things at the right time and helps whenever she can.

Writers, this is our call to arms.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  Feed your small fish and watch it swim…

Just like friend and fellow writer, Pete Morin, is doing with his debut release, Diary of a Small Fish.

While I have yet to read Mr. Morin’s novel, I’ve been around him long enough to know that before the end of the day, I will be nestled up with my copy of Diary of a Small Fish.

Pete writes with wit, humor and charm.  His words are poetic, yet honest.  If you like golf, politics or romance, I urge you to check out Diary of a Small Fish.

Small Fish for KINDLE users

Small Fish for NOOK users

Small Fish for SMASHWORDS & APPLE users

And remember, it’s okay to start small as long as you start somewhere!

Congrats, Pete.  And my big sis!

It’s Just So Hard: suppressing the inner you

This morning my Youngest Son broke my heart.  On the way to school, he began crying. 

Me: What’s wrong, honey?

Youngest: I don’t want to go to school.

Me: Why not?

Youngest: It’s just so hard.

Eldest Son has dyslexia, and I highly suspect Youngest does as well.  His reading sounds eerily similar to the way Eldest read at that age, he makes the same quirky writing mistakes and he’s missing some very basic knowledge–like how to rhyme.

Me, wanting to pinpoint the areas we need to address and work on regarding his reading: What’s hard about it?

Youngest: It’s just so hard to be so good.

Yeah, that broke the floodgate.  Youngest has a simultaneously fun-loving and extremely difficult personality.  He wants to have the most fun possible without getting into trouble.  This makes him delightful and trying on many levels.

On Fridays, a student who listens well and follows the rules gets to chew gum.  If your name appears in The Notebook, you have to stare glumly into space while your peers chomp away on Hubba Bubba.

I can only imagine how excruciating it must be for Youngest to suppress his inner urges to chat, make his peers laugh and have good, old-fashioned fun.  In fact, I expect him to be cantankerous and uncooperative at night because he’s stuffed his natural tendencies deep down inside where they can’t get out.  For eight hours straight!  School must feel like his own personal version of hell.

Gum.  Who knew it was such a powerful motivator?

Book reviews, estimated sales numbers and the acquisitions committee.  Who knew they had such power over the words we write?

If you haven’t heard the #YesGayYA scuttlebutt floating around the cybersphere, I suggest you check it out.  Blog posts abound and tweets on the topic are more prolific than the dust bunnies under my fridge. 

#YesGayYA.  Check it out.  Check out how authors are being asked to suppress their inner stories in favor of more publicly palatable writing. 

I’m not going to debate race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities or religious beliefs.  Instead, I simply want to call to attention to the very idea that diverse children are traditionally under-represented in literature.

I think these stories are being written.  I also think their perceived marketability greatly influences whether these stories make it into the hands of the children who desperately need to read about characters just like them.

No matter what your heritage, your love life, your spirituality, your mental health or your physical afflictions, you need to know you are not alone in this grim world.  You need to know that people like you flourish in fiction.  You need validation that you are inherently worthy.

Kids of all ages need to know they are accepted and acceptable.  Not just that they are tolerated, or worse yet, completely disregarded.

I agree with Youngest.  It’s just so hard to be you.  It’s hard to write what we feel.  It’s hard to publicly declare what we believe and it’s damn hard to read what might cause us pause.  

People need affirmation, and I will not stand idly by and watch suppression.  It kills me to picture little boys struggling to tamp down their inner selves so they can chew a piece of gum.  It breaks my heart to think of all the diverse children seeing themselves (if at all) as mere sidekicks and supporting characters in the novels they read.  It absolutely crushes me to think I may have a part in fostering the suppression of someone’s inner-most personality.

Today, I vow to write the story that begs to be written and not be swayed by public opinion.  I vow to support my fellow writers who write with abandon to portray diversity in an appealing light.  I vow to buy books based on the storyline and my connection to the character, rather than based on a character’s traits.  I vow to encourage children, parents, librarians and others to read diverse books instead of leading them down a narrow hallway of white-washed stories. 

I vow to accept my role in reaching all of our youth, not just those like me.  I will not play a part in suppressing the inner you.  Not if I can help it.

How about you, dear readers?  Do you feel that favorable diversity thrives in literature?  Do you believe that all types of kids are represented in the books they read, or do you think writers, publishers and parents can all be more proactive in validating every child?

Which types of books would you like to see more of? 

Personally, I like novels where the diverse trait isn’t the novel.  Rather, I love when characters are simply the sum total of their backgrounds and I can learn about their diversity through connecting with them.

When to sell your writing. When to pawn it.

Last night Igot sucked into the show, “Pawn Stars”, with DH.  It was more intriguing than the book I was trying to read.

The premise is to highlight the great treasures people bring in to sell.  The pawn shop owner seemed to have integrity and called in professional appraisers for items that might have been of significant historic or financial value. 

One guy popped in with a bar of gold.  After Granny passed away, the fam was going through her estate and found a hidden bar of golden goodness.  Pawn Shop Owner’s eyes bugged.  He held the bar and said, “Eh, you’ve got about $24,000 worth of gold here.  But…”

Yeah, the crusty white stuff on the bottom of the bar?  Coral.  The 1500’s bar was from a ship wreck.  Apparently, Granny and Grandpa hid the gold during the depression to save it from Roosevelt and his gold ban.  This little gem was found almost forty years after the ban was lifted in 1974.

The surviving family had no clue of its existence prior to dividing the estate.  The appraiser valued it at roughly $48,000.  Pawn Shop Owner bought it for $34,000–cash.  Gold Guy walked away with crisp $100 bills and a slight scowl.

Other people brought in worthless junk that Pawn Shop Owner wouldn’t touch.  Only one person with an offer walked away with her goods.  When Pawn Shop Owner didn’t settle on her price, she packed up and went home, believing she could find a more lucrative deal somewhere else.  One dude brought in his $100 artifact and walked out with a grin and $1,500.

Of course this got me thinking about the road to publication.  The process is really no different.

Fair market value (manuscript worth) is an estimate.  The real price is not known, can never be known, until the product is sold.  Anything is only worth something if someone is willing to buy it.  Period.  We might write up the cure for cancer, but unless someone will ante up cold hard cash for it, the formula remains worthless.

Take Gold Guy for example.  He wanted the entire $48,000 for his ship-wrecked gold.  Who wouldn’t?  After all, if it’s “worth” that much, why not pocket that much?

What Gold Guy needed to understand was that Pawn Shop Owner had the connections to sell the gold bar–something Gold Guy didn’t have.  Also, PSO was taking a gamble by purchasing said gold bar.  He still had to sell it and make a living in the meantime. 

Chances are Pawn Shop Owner will walk away with a hefty chunk of change for his effort.  But he has to work for that change.  He has to contact his buyers, haggle over a price and sign on the dotted line.  He may only sell the bar for 41 grand.  This can take time, energy and money.  In the interim, he has to pay for the lights, heat, rent, employees and those little trinkets that he loses money on. 

My assessment: Gold Guy wanted the full value–which can never be valued until after the final sale.  He was disappointed, yet sold anyway because on some level, he understood he couldn’t move that kind of artifact on his own.  Seriously, what’s he gonna do, sell it on ebay?  And get raked over the coals by someone with less integrity than the Pawn Shop Owner?

If we are smart, we will follow Gold Guy’s path.  We will realize our limitations within the industry and defer to the expertise of those more seasoned and better connected.

But sometimes we are like the lady who walked away.  We want what we want–ie, sell it now to the biggest publishing house in the world and get it on the NYT Best Seller List, yesterday.  We get grumpy when we our demands get turned down.  We pack up our manuscripts, shout invectives (from the comfort of our home) and covet our runaway debut novels because we know something great when we see it.  Even if the agent doesn’t.

If we are in that 2%, we are surprised to have our writing’s worth validated.  We hit the right agent who hits the right editor backed by the right marketing department that wants the publisher to print.  We hit the jackpot and end up turning our $100 worth of paper into a $1,500 advance.

Agents have the contacts that we don’t have.  They have the experience in negotiating contracts.  They have a far better understanding of the market value of our work.  Editors have a marketing department, and publishers have the cash for printing.  They can get our books on shelves where we simply cannot.

We need them as much as Gold Guy needed Pawn Shop Owner.  He could have taken his gold bar and gone home.  He could have told everyone he had a bar of golden goodness worth $50,000.  But really, until he had cash in hand, Granny’s hand-me-down gem was as worthless as our unrepped manuscripts.  

Conversely, he could have pawned it (left it sit in the shop until someone paid his $48,000 price) and paid a preset commission.  In this respect, he could have pocketed more money–whenever someone with a cool $50,000 stumbled into the store.  In other words, without active marketing, the gold could have sat unsold for an undetermined amount of time–and maybe even forever.  

Some publishing options sound frighteningly similar to this last scenario.  Unreputable agents and publishing companies can tie up manuscripts and rights and return little or no profit to the author.  Sometimes “repped” and “pubbed” manuscripts sit on the shelf collecting dust.  Self-publishing can work if writers are astute about the industry and know how to find buyers on their own.  Often, it fails and writers are left holding a gold bar with no customer base.

So, in the game of pawning your writing, how do you know when to sell or when to pack up and walk away?  At what point do we list our writing on ebay?  Do we go straight to the publishers and bypass the Pawn Shop Owner so we can keep a bigger cut, or do we trust in the value of an agent to have the better contacts?

All P’sOV are welcome here as long as comments remain respectful.


I learned something today…

I finally got into my flower beds.  I’m late and not proud of it.  But because I didn’t have the chance to dig in the dirt earlier, I learned something today.

As I reached down to tug a weed from the soil, I noticed the tiny shoot looked slightly familiar in a very miniature way.  Upon close scrutiny I noted a baby alyssum. 

No, I am not off my rocker.  I was as surprised as you are.  Everything I’ve ever known about this dainty flower screams of impossibility.  According to The Gardener’s Network, “Alyssum are tender annuals and highly susceptible to frost.”

Hello, I live in Minnesota where frost is warm and below freezing winters are long.  Yet I counted not one, but eight babies in two of my beds.  They could quite possibly be the cutest things I’ve ever seen.  The fact that they shouldn’t exist after a super cold and snowy winter makes them even sweeter.  Miraculous even.

Had I tilled my beds and planted on time, they wouldn’t have survived.  Their seeds needed to be warmed by the sun and left undisturbed so the sprouts could take root.  They grew out of my forced patience.

The writing process is a bit like these annuals.  We write, we submit, we edit, we get rejected.  We write, submit, edit and get rejected.  We find ourselves in a pattern of forced patience.  Slowly, we are warmed by the sun and our writing takes root in the fertile soil of our practice.  Our forced patience allows for the possibility of beautiful, miraculous and unexpected blooms.

The odds of getting published are about the same as an annual propagating in impossible conditions.  Yet those tiny baby alyssum filled me with hope. 

They taught me that as long as I continue writing, editing and submitting, I have the ability to succeed.  I will not give up, and I will not quit trying. 

Instead, I learned something today.  We only lose when we let the frost destroy our tender dreams and keep us from reaching our potential.  Miracles are patiently nutured, not grown overnight.

May the sun shine and your alyssum bloom!

The Grass Is Always Grayer…

I know, I’m mixing metaphors, but bear with me.

As my faithful readers know by now, I’m not a froofy girl.  I’ve been known to answer the door in my jammies–at noon.  My make up bag consists of eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara.  If it takes longer than 20 minutes to go from pj’s to out the door, I schedule an appointment with the hair salon.

As my husband says, I’m pretty plain.  To this day, I don’t know which definition of pretty he’s using. 

Enter a trip to the grocery store.  While ringing up my spaghetti ingredients, the check out gal kept looking at me.  She was a cute, little thing with naturally blonde hair and caramel highlights.  The poor girl was also about sixteen years old.

Finally, she leaned over and said, “What color is your hair?  I love it.”

To which I leaned my unhighlighted-in-five-months head close and said, “It’s gray.”

“No really, I’m not kidding.”

“Neither am I.”

I clearly pictured her mind racing as she slid the mushrooms across the scanner.  I would love to dye my hair that color.  It’s so unique.  Much better than my every day blonde.

As writers, and humans, we tend to gaze longingly over the fence–or check out counter, as it were–with great regularity.  We compare ourselves and our situations to other’s and think, Wow, Whatshertoes is so lucky.  She’s got it made.  I want what she has.

But I’m here to caution you.  Things are not always as they seem.  The grass is not always greener and the hair might be a little more gray than you’re willing to live with.

“I love your hair.  It’s such a pretty platinum.”

“Honey, someday you can have it too.”

I wanted to give Cute Check Out Girl a hug and tell her to enjoy what she has now.  But she wouldn’t have understood.  We never do.

We simply gaze into the lives of our peers and lament what is missing in our own.

Writers, do you realize that snagging an agent is the easy part?  It is not the end of your hard work.  In fact, several of my repped writing buddies often discuss the endless edits and the reworking of their entire manuscripts.  Only to be rejected by publishing houses.

Did you know that a publishing contract is not the end of our work?  More edits will be made prior to our release dates.  New stories must be written.  Marketing goes into effect. 

Publishing a novel is hard work.  It involves time, motivation, energy and perseverence.  We could live our whole writing careers wishing we were at the next fork–the one that will take us to fame and fortune.  However, this makes me want to hug you and remind you to be careful what you wish for. 

Enjoy where you are now.  Earn your “platinum” naturally.  I would hate to wake up one day with a solid head of gray hair and realize I missed the experiences that made it that way.

Think about all you’ve learned so far and the friends you’ve made.  The conferences, the forums, the waffling over sentence structure, query letters and tying up loose ends. 

If given the choice of staying the path or instantly having your book on the shelf, what would you choose?  Why?

The ABC’s of Writing

Awards, Blogs and Careers.  But not in that order.

The other night on an Agent Query chat, a few of us discussed the ins and outs of writing across genres.  It has been stated that the genre an author first publishes in is the genre that sets the tone for her writing career. 

For instance, if Author A pubs a paranormal romance, she will be expected to write more paranormal romance stories by her agent, editor and her fan base. 

Likewise, the size of the publishing house and an author’s success rate on their debut novel creates a certain career path that can be difficult to break out of.  Say Author B pubs with Small Press X.  He will typically remain with Small Press X, or similar sized presses, throughout  his career.  Unless he has a surprise best seller.  In which case, he may choose to seek a contract with Big Press Z.  A disasterous first print can relegate a writer to Small Presses or No Presses for life.

Mainly, this has to do with marketability and saleability.  Readers buy what they know (Author A), while publishers stick with what works (Author B).  This is the business part of writing that writers often fail to consider when submitting their manuscripts.

Before submitting that whimsical, one-shot-wonder of a manuscript to random agents/editors, it is imperative that we take a solid look at our dreams career in the writing field. 

Questions to ask: do I want to write manga until I die?  Do I even like the agent I am submitting to?  How respectable is the publishing house within the overall publishing climate?  Does it matter? 

If you decided that you truly wish to make a career out of writing instead of getting that one memoir off your chest, marketability becomes an issue for your future.  Some of the ways writers can promote themselves are through online communities, websites and blogs. 

Mary Kole posted a great blurb about this on her blog.  While she is an agent of juvenile literature, her blog is timely and pertinent to all writers who wish to succeed.  Her post is a gentle reminder about making ourselves accessible and interesting to our potential fan base, as well as the agents who may check up on us prior to offering a deal.

Questions to ask: who is my target audience?  What do I offer my readership in return for their loyalty?  Do I present myself accurately and honestly to my readers, yet provide them with something besides me, me, me? 

These questions have no right or wrong answers–as long as we accomplish our goals. 

For instance, I write my blog to document my journey as a writer, as well as to provide other writers with information on the process as a whole.  By definition, this makes my audience predominantly other writers, as well as those whose professions revovle around the written word.  While I try to be extremely honest (see my sidebar on integrity), I sometimes find myself stretching the truth in favor of making my writing interesting and humorous.  I also try to connect me as a person with the writing industry. 

Do I succeed?  I hope so.  Which brings me to the A in the title of this post.  Awards. 

Over my blogging career, I have recieved a few awards from my fellow bloggers.  Most recently, Roz Morris passed along The Sunshine Award (also given to me by Michelle on her blog in January) and The Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award.  In early February, TK over at My Writing Masquerade named me in her Over the Top award.  This proceeded my Superior Scribbler Award in January from Yvonne Osborne.

These awards mean a lot to me.  They are given by my fellow bloggers and cyber friends.  Each award has a special significance attached to it and is passed on to acknowledge fellow bloggers for their spirit, inspiration and/or productivitity.  I thank Roz, Michelle, TK and Yvonne for thinking of me. 

Yet I don’t want my non-award-giving readers to think I only appreciate cyber awards.  Rather, I have a deep gratitude for those who read my blog faithfully, yet quietly.  I know there are some subscribers who read every word I write, but never leave a comment.  I love that you are there, lending your support.

I also adore my commenters.  Nothing warms my heart more than logging on and finding a response to something I wrote.  Whether you’ve left one comment or 100 comments, thank you for taking the time to do so.  You are amazing.

And lastly, there are my sometimes readers, those who pop in when the weather is too cold to go outside or those who inadvertantly stumble over my blog while searching for something like snowshoeing in South Africa.  You, too, get a personal thank you.  I hope that something you read makes you want to come back for more.

Rightly  or wrongly, I think of my blog as a way to connect to a community.  My community is comprised of writers, knitters, gardeners, educators, parents, avid readers, strangers and friends.  Some blog, some don’t.  Yet you all have a place in my heart. 

I hope someday you will be able to find my books on the bookshelf.  I even hope some of you buy them.  However, my blog is not a marketing tool.  It is my journey–of which you are all a part of.

Why do you blog?  Who is your target audience and why?  Which kind of blogs do you read and why?

Thanks~ cat