Thursday, March 5, 2015

On Choosing Who To Submit To

Determining the right fit for your project is tough for any writer. Heck, it's even tough for agents when we consider placement of stories. It is not so much of the issue of the editor or agent open to submissions in a given genre. It is also about how well the story fits with that person. One approach I see author make with queries, that might not be as successful as they think, is to compare his or her work to that of the clients the editor or agent already has.

This is what it would look like:

I am submitting my project, THE VIRGIN RAKE AND THE HORNY COUNTESS because you represent some of the best historical writers in the business including Ann Lethbridge, Bronwyn Scott and  Lois Templin.

Now, while the author might show he or she is doing their research, the problem is that the author now has to compete against these other writers. The author has now put into the head of the agent that this new submission has to compete with the authors already in the agency. This is going to be tough.

Yes, seeing that you have similar writing as those the agent or editor already has under contract is great, it is your job as a writer to show you have a completely different niche to fill. You are similar in voice but different in the brand you bring to the table.

And yes, this also works with the publishers out there. If they already have a great group of authors making them a lot of money, adding one more person who is doing what they already have is not going to do anything for them. They want something slightly different.

I remember several years ago I submitted a story to a publisher and they passed on the story for just the same reason. The response was something like: "While your author has an amazing voice, and is certainly equal to [insert their current author] we can't make an offer because we already have an author doing that." (yes, I am paraphrasing here, but you get the idea).

When you hear editors and agents speak of finding someone with a great new voice, this is what we are talking about. Show us you fit within the agency (or publisher) but show us you have that something different to create your own niche.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tidbits About Scott - The Horse and Dog Take Over

 Sharper Eagle - Agent Assistant

 Apollo - Agent Assistant

We have each taken over one time before, but we figured we would get in here together, before Scott got to the post and do another take-over. We know he is always talking about the importance of getting to know an agent before you send your work in to that person, so we thought we would give you some insight.

That's right Sharper! I don't know how many times he complains to me as we are reading submissions together about the authors who really don't know who Scott is.

OK, Apollo. Let's get started. We are simply going to make a list of his likes and dislikes. 

Born in Santa Monica California. 
Favorite place to visit: Disneyland
You do know Sharper, that he met his wife at Disneyland.
Places he has visited: France, Ireland, Slovakia, Austria, Italy
Tell them how many kids he has Apollo...
He has three and they keep him pretty busy. One swims both for a club team and the school team. The middle one rides you on the jumper circuit, and the youngest is on a dance team.
I was nosing around the garage one day, Sharper, and did you know that Scott used to do theatre? He says it was BC (Before Children)

Actually Apollo, I did know that. He started in high school and continued in community theatre. His favorite roles were:
  • Romeo
  • Benvolio
  • Lorenzo (Merchant of Venice)
  • Orsino (Twelfth Night) 
  • Oberon (Midsummer Nights Dream
  • Capt. Von Trapp (he did that one twice)
Favorite food: pasta and seafood
Other careers: teaching middle school, high school and now does some part time work at the college

Does he have favorite music Apollo?
  • Jazz
  • Classical
  • Country
  • But mostly loves 80's music
Favorite sport: Baseball and the Seattle Mariners
Favorite TV Channels: Food Network, Travel Channel
Dream job? Surprisingly Apollo, I do know Scott has talked about wanting to do editorial work, but his big thing right now is to work for Disney.
Favorite Book: The Ascent of Rumdoodle

You know, I think the two of us have done a really good job of getting this going. Here is the challenge though. If you want to know more about Scott, send us your questions and we will try our best to give you all of the juicy inside news. We can't promise we will answer everyone, but we will do our best!

Apollo and Sharper Eagle

Crockpot Oatmeal and Writing

I have been meaning to do this for some time and it wasn't until last night that I finally took the plunge and did it. Others had talked about how great it was to cook your oatmeal in the the crock pot. Before you go to bed in the evening, you prep that crock pot and wake to something warm and delicious. I have to say, I am now hooked. It only took one time, but this is indeed the way to go. 

What made it so great? Obviously the flavor wasn't different. In the end, oatmeal is oatmeal. What made it though was the fact that, after a few minutes in the evening, taking the time to just do that prep work, made the morning go by so much faster. I didn't have to prep breakfast. I didn't grab and "eat and go" meal for the ease. I didn't just get "something to get by." I had a great breakfast.

So what does this have to do with writing? You know that I am a big fan of plotting. I know there are a lot of you out there that complain over and over again that plotting ruins your creativity, it ruins your voice. In all honesty, I think these are nothing more than excuses. You don't want to change what you are doing. I get it! Change is tough. But the benefits so out weight the negatives.

One of my clients just signed her first contract. Up until now, we have been lingering over stories. We get to the project when we get to it. She is also someone who was always writing from that pantster approach. She just let the story evolve. But now that approach might have to go out the door. With the deadlines of new projects on the horizon, waiting to see what will happen next in her story isn't going to work. 

During this transition from pantster to plotter, we talked about her upcoming projects. As we "plotted the story" she saw how meeting that deadline wasn't going to be an issue. Please understand that by plotting, we did nothing more than identify a premise, create a beginning middle and end, and really work out what the conflict in the story would be. That was it. We weren't outlining chapter by chapter. We weren't creating story boards. We just needed a vision of where to go with the story.

The other benefit to prepping the story in advance, is the time it saves having to go back and edit again. Those writers who did the NaNoWriMo are probably feeling that as they are sorting through a huge mess of a story. Seeing that project before they started writing would have saved them a lot of time.

Look, I can't tell people what to do. Like the oatmeal, people have told me the great benefits but I always complained that "I didn't have the time in the evening" or "But what if I wanted something else in the morning." But I tried it. I took the plunge. And it worked.

Now, will I have oatmeal every day? Probably not. Will there be days when I wake up and think I want an Egg McMuffin instead? Probably. But that doesn't mean the benefits of that oatmeal are not there. 

I dare you non-plotters. Try it. You might like it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Inspirationals: Don't Force The Message

This Sunday I was sitting in our Bible Study at church as we were focusing on our studies for Lent. Now let me first state, I have not, nor will I ever likely enjoy working with those devotionals many of the churches use for their studies. It was actually this grumbling I had running through my head that got me thinking about the topic for today.

The problem with these devotionals is simple. The editors of these collections are trying too hard to
get their message across. They force the issue. They take passages from the Bible that are pretty random and pretty general, and then, often through a manipulation of words and phrases, try to turn the passage into something much larger. For me, it is just this reason that I turn away so many inspirational romances. The authors are trying too hard to force the "message" and "the word" down my throat.

Let me first state that I do believe writing inspirational romance is pretty tough. There are a ton of restrictions put on the author based on the publisher's guidelines as well as the audience buying the books. But there is also the issue of balance. Somehow the author has keep the romance as the central story arc, and yet, at the same time, weave in that inspirational message for the reader as well. Remember, it is the romance and use of "faith" that brings the characters together, and, in many cases, bringing one of the characters "back into the light." This is simply a tough balance.

I am working with one of my authors on just such a struggles. We are constantly having to go back and find a way to "back off of the preaching." The goal is simple. We want to see the characters with the faith demonstrating that behavior and thought that the other characters might be lacking. We want to see through action, and not so much talk, a transformation and teaching moment about faith.

Whenever I speak of inspirationals, I always return to one of my favorite authors from the Bible - Paul. He frequently spoke about the concept of "justification by faith" and not by "works". In essence the ideas was not so much about telling people you were a person of faith. It wasn't about going to church so many days, or following certain rituals. It was living in a life of faith and those "actions would just follow." Gal 3:11: "The law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: "the righteous man finds life through faith.."

For those inspirational romances, the relationship will be found through faith.

Just some Lenten thoughts mixed in with some publishing this Monday morning.

Friday, February 27, 2015

When It Rains, It Pours - This Is The World Of Publishing

We have all heard the common phrase, "when it rains, it pours" and I have to say, publishing is clearly one of those businesses where this phrase feels common pretty much every day. Editors,
agents, writers, art directors, line and copy editors, contract departments, you name it, all feel this on a pretty regular basis. If you are an author feeling exceptionally stressed right now and want to scream, "You just don't get it!" believe me, we do!

I have had friends ask me how things are going and a common response is, "I think my authors know when the other authors need something because they all start asking at the same time." As I write this, I have revisions for one author, contract reviews on 4 others, submission material that is due to an editor ASAP and another full manuscript that needs to be read with editorial notes. For me, reading late into the night sucks because my brain is too tired. I honestly tried last night but I dozed off.

Of course there will be other times when things just flow perfectly. You have time to write. The kids don't bug you. Your writing is coming out of your brain and on to the page like a fresh moving mountain river. Enjoy it.

As some of you know, I teach some adjunct classes at a local community college. I had a student who, through her lack of computer knowledge, turned in an assignment with a file that I couldn't open (don't even get me started on Freeware software). In any case, that was 3 days ago. When she turned in the assignment the first time, I immediately got back to her to have her resubmit it. She finally did yesterday afternoon. I opened up my email this morning (5:15 am) and she had emailed by 6 pm yesterday wondering what the delay was for getting the grade completed. REALLY?

My response was that the grade would get done AFTER all of the other work that was due today would get finished. In other words, she got bumped to the bottom of the pile.

Why do I bring this up? No, this is not an issue of not following directions, it is, instead, an issue of how we all have piles of work to get through and we will get there, when we get there. If you are an author who does complain, or has complained about the speed of publishing, remember that those editors and agents are frequently in the same situation you are in. We all have those days, weeks and months where we feel our "TO DO LISTS" are endless.

But we will get through it. I promise you.

As for me, I am off to the next item on my list.