Thursday, May 5, 2016

When Pitching, Be Ready To Submit A Full That Day!

When you submit a project to an editor or an agent, your story needs to be finished. 


End of story.

No exceptions.

And, when I say finished, I am not saying that you got to the point that you have typed THE END. Finished means that the story has been written, you aren't planning on reshaping sections of the story, The story has been edited. The story has been through your critique partners. I think you get the idea. 

I do think I understand why many of you feel you can submit a project that isn't finished yet. You have the assumption that it is going to take a long time for the editor or agent to get back to you. While this might be the case, you cannot gamble on that. When we read projects, we are already thinking about where we would place the story. As agents, we might be out looking for projects for editors and know of an immediate demand. When this happens, we will jump on a project and want to see it right there, and right then. 

I think it is also important to realize, if you pitch a project that isn't finished yet, that story could go through a lot of different changes by the time you finish it. A lot can happen in those final chapters and that will certainly have an effect on what we want to do with the story.

I will be very honest. Rushing to submit a project is not going to help you a whole lot. Take the time to make sure the story is good and ready to go. I promise, if the story is good and the premise is awesome, there will be someone out there who will want the story. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How Will Your Readers Find You In Today's Market

Bookstores are gone.

Amazon is flooded with hundreds, no, thousands of authors giving away their books for free.

Stores such as Walmart, Safeway, Fred Meyer are cutting back their bookshelf space for room to sell "Seen Only On TV" items such as the Ninja pro.

Publishers are no longer going to print your book in select markets (Harlequin Historicals for example will not be selling print books in the North American Market through retail outlets).

But, to be successful, you need to get your books out to the public. If your readers cannot find you, then sales will simply decline and your career will go the way of so many other authors. You'll likely just give up.

You can certainly try Social Media, but that market has a limit. Your book title will only get out there IF you have followers, and those depend on having the readers the first time around who loved your book. We also know that for many of us, we are flooded by so many messages on social media that we end up missing the majority of the posts.

The book signing option worked in the past, if there was an outlet, but for many authors, they knew those were limited success. If you sold 10 or 15 books, that would have been a banner day. Besides, sitting in Costco trying to sell your book was tough because people were more interested in the free food samples and buying cases of toilet paper.

You can try the digital publishing route, but then you are back to fighting the crowds on sites such as Amazon and even then, you have to get the attention of the readers.

So, we are back to the initial question: How will readers find you?

In reality, I do believe to solve this issue will require a rethinking on the part of all of the major publishers. To make money will require spending money. Sure, the digital approach is cheaper. Less books to print because essentially everything is print - on demand. But that is not the only answer. There is nothing wrong with keeping the books in digital format, but it has to be only part of the equation. Books have to be available for people to buy the darn things.

Until that time, it is up to the authors to figure out how they will get those sales going. I know my authors at Greyhaus are working hard to get the word out. They are aggressively going after those readers. But will this be enough?

So I ask again (and this is also going out to the publishers out there):

How will the readers find your books so that sales can increase?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Queries - When Do You Follow Up?

This is always a big question for writers. After submitting a project to editors and/or agents, when is it appropriate to follow up on the query? The answer, all too often, is right there in front of your face. For most agents and editors, there is a statement in the submission guidelines of how long it takes to hear back. In the case of submissions for me, I state, that it can take up to three months to hear back (although I am someone who stresses when it is over a month to reply).

So, when you submit a project, mark that date on your calendar and then set a date in your calendar for when you should hear back. Now, with that said, that does not mean you email the moment the clocks hands hit that date. That date is a "guesstimate" on the part of the editor or agent. It is nothing more than a rough time frame. I would say, give that person another week or so and then just follow up.

When you do follow up, keep it polite!

Dear Mr. Eagan,

I submitted my story, THE RETURN OF ALIEN VAMPIRE BUNNIES, a paranormal romance to you on Jan 31, 2016. I just wanted to follow up and see if there is any additional material that you might need, or if you have made any decision.

I know that sometimes email submissions can get lost either on the part of the sender, or the mail was accidentally placed in the SPAM folder. For this reason, I am attaching the original submission of the synopsis and first three chapters for your review.

I look forward to hearing from you soon....

There are several things that you accomplish by taking this approach.

  1. You are keeping it professional This is not a situation of placing blame but making sure to show the editor/agent that you are someone who keeps records and will follow up when necessary.
  2. You have not placed blame By noting that email is unreliable, you have removed the potential criticism of the editor/agent. You really don't know what happened.
  3. You have made it easy for the reader to review your work When you attach the document, you can reduce the stress of the editor or agent having to go back through all of the records just to find the document. It is right there and they can often get to it immediately.
What a lot of writers fail to remember is that submissions flood our emails. We get a lot of these (some more than others). We do try to get to the stories, but sometimes clients, other projects and so forth do get in the way. In my case, I read submissions in single sittings. Sometimes, I will record the submission in my database, but get distracted by a phone call or something and then delete the submission without a reply.

Sometimes, when I am clearing out emails, I will accidentally delete a submission along with the other junk mail that shows up. This is not because I hate the author, but simply an honest mistake. And yes, I know all of you have done this before!

Now, there is one additional factor I should bring up. There are some out there who only reply to the stories they are interested in. The statement "No answer is an answer." is something I have heard more and more when I attend conferences. Take the time to review your research on that editor or agent. If that is something you have heard from reputable sources, then don't harass the person. Doing so might burn a bridge later on.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Keep A Spare Story In Your Back Pocket

This industry moves at lightning fast speed. We have all seen it. Suddenly an editor stands up at a conference, or there is a PSA sent out that says the company is looking for a specific type of story. At that point, many writers immediately run to their computers and attempt to write that story to be one of the first to the editor. The problem is, by the time that story is ready to go, they are already behind the times.

Another scenario is when changes happen and now you are madly scrambling to move to another publisher or another agent. You can't necessarily market things that are currently under contract and if all you have been doing is working on that next project in that series, that probably won't help you much either. So now what?

You really don't have to sweat it, IF, you have some other projects you have been dabbling on in your spare time. Having those spare projects might just be enough to get that editor or agent interested in your work enough to save a space for you, or even contract your book on a partial as they try to build that line. You will at least be several chapters ahead of those who have to still come up with a story idea.

There is another benefit for "dabbling" in those other projects as you work on your main genre story. This gives your brain a break, while at the same time, allowing you the chance to try out new techniques on stories that really don't matter at this time.

I am working through this with one of my Greyhaus authors now. In her case, she had a desire to boost some sales so we sat down and discussed some career options. The decision was to try a slightly new genre. I knew this wasn't going to be a major issue because this author was always someone dabbling in those other genres. When I made the suggestion of looking to spin toward inspirational and/or contemporary, her answer was great! "That's perfect because I have some things that would potentially work!"

This is just a way where an author can remain flexible with their writing. That flexibility will carry you a long way.