Monday, December 27, 2010

Guess there's no Santa

For the five of you that actually follow me, you'll recall that last time I posted of my desire to get a huge publishing contract for Christmas. Of course, it was tongue in cheek. That being said, I would've loved to at least get an offer of representation or a bite from an interested agent.

I'm here to say it should come as no surprise that I didn't get either. My email in box was pretty quiet those few days. I can't say I'm surprised.  Besides the fact that most of the agents I've queried have already rejected me, I hear this time of year is the worst to submit. Many agents are taking extended vacations to spend much needed time with their families. Even then, they're working tirelessly to get caught up on those backlogged submissions and can't make time to get to new ones. Having been in this business so long, I understand the process. Still, it would've been nice.

So I didn't get that lucrative contract or offer or nibble, but I did have a nice time with my family. I set aside my writing and let some dust collect on my lap top in favor of enjoying the company of my husband and kids and other family members. It was just what I needed. The old fingers are itching to hit the keyboard for my latest creation.

Maybe not getting what I wanted means there's no Santa, but that's okay. Time to say goodbye to 2010 with the hearty promise that I will make 2011 a fruitful year in all aspects of my life.

Happy New Year, all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Let me just start off by saying the title of this blog is misleading.  It sounds as though there's only one thing I want.  Truthfully, there's a series of things I want, but it starts with just the one thing.

First, I'd like to receive an offer of representation from an agent who loves my work and believes in it as much as I do.  After I find that agent, I'd like him or her to have the perfect contacts in the publishing industry to get me in front of the best editors.  Then I'd like the right editor to fall in love with my book and offer me a lucrative contract that includes a sizable advance and a fifty thousand first copy run of my book. Once those copies hit the book stores, I'd like to hit every conceivable best seller list and get rave reviews around the world. I'd like my book to be made into a movie that spawns all kinds of toys and accessories and the like. With that, I'd like to make enough money that I can support my family just by doing the thing I love, which is writing.

I suppose all of that's a tall order, but to be honest it's every writer's big dream. On a smaller scale, I'd just like to find an agent and a publisher who believe enough in my books to give me a shot. Then I'd like to be able to touch the hearts of my readers and give them a story they can relate to.  I've always prided myself on creating characters that are so believable readers see themselves in them. So, I don't really care if I get rich.  Okay, I care a little, but I'd rather touch a few with something meaningful than sell out and appeal to the masses. 

Anyone with the power to grant me these humble Christmas wishes, please contact me. If not, enjoy your holiday all the same!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Go Big or Go Home?

Go big or go home.  I've heard this phrase or one similar on television, in movies and even in songs.  While I understand the point people are really trying to make, it occurs to me this can be applied to the literary world.

As you know from previous posts, I'm actively seeking a new agent. I'm looking to get a new book out in a new genre so I want a new agent.  Having been burned early in my career by a rather unscrupulous character, I'm much more careful about who I submit work to.  I'll query anyone, but the skeptic in me always does a lot more research if they ask to see more.

Recently, I had an agent reject me in an unusually nice way.  She told me that while she liked my writing style and was enjoying the story, she felt it was too long to interest most publishers.  In case you're wondering, the story is around 133,000 words long which equates to around 510 typed double spaced pages. Now, when an agent rejects me, I either cry or curse or shake it off.  It all depends on the day. One thing I typically don't do is reply to the agent.  This time, I decided to send a quick thanks for considering my work and for giving me the kind words. Not too much later that day, the agent replied to ask me if I had any other projects she could consider.  I sent her a summary of five and she asked to see a sample of four. That's a lot and raised a bit of a red flag for me.  So, off I went to do my research.

In the course of my research, I discovered the agent is new to the business.  It appears she's been in business for no more than two years.  In that time, she's made some sales mostly to smaller houses and has more pending for the future. Despite that, there were quite a few posts on an author assistance web site that made a point to say an agent that can't make huge sales isn't worth your time. This site also had several posters who seemed to feel that a writer should never go with a novice agent.  In the midst of all of this skepticism was one voice of reason who kindly pointed out we all have to start somewhere and even went on to say that it hardly seems fair for novice writers to rule out novice agents and then complain that no one wants to sign them. You can imagine the flurry of posts to the contrary this elicited.  The general consensus among the writing community is to go for the bigger more well known agents so you can get the bigger better deal.

The idea of the bigger, better deal led me to the thought go big or go home.  Do I decide I don't want to work with this agent because she's not going to net me a major deal with a huge advance?  Or do I take a chance because my craft means more than money? Ever since I started out in this business I've said I never wanted to sell out to sell.  I still believe that.  For me, that means I'd rather take a chance on a lesser known agent as long as that agent believes in me and works hard to get my product out there.

Go big or go home? Not this novice writer. Say what you will, but I'll take my chances. Someday, I'll let you know how it turns out. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shameless Marketing at the Holidays- Too Far?

When my first novel, Letters from Linc, (shameless plug number one) was released in 2006, I made sure I learned all the marketing tricks that were supposed to make me a bestseller. I pursued both the conventional avenues and the questionable in an effort to get the word out. The one thing I did do, and still do to this day, is send an email to everyone in my contact list, whether we're good friends or not, to announce the release. Those I didn't have an email address for got one of my post cards.  Side note- post cards are not a good idea, and I will tell you why another time. I honestly don't know if any of these tactics helped me sell any of my books like the self-help book said they would, but I tried.

In order to try and up the odds, I also subscribed to a marketing web site for writers.  As part of this wonderful service, I get weekly marketing tips. Some I use and some make me scratch my head and wonder who came up with that idea.  The other day, I received an email suggesting I use my book cover as a Christmas card cover. This one put me somewhere in the middle of are-you-sure-this-will-work and that's-the-worst-idea-I've-ever-heard.

With the holiday season suddenly thrust upon us, I find myself getting ready to send out the annual Christmas cards complete with the family photo. I suppose it isn't accurate to say the holidays are suddenly thrust upon me when Christmas comes on the same day every year, but that's a rant for another time. As I was saying, it's time to send out three times the Christmas cards I receive. In preparing to do so, I find myself wondering: should I use this as a chance to plug my book? The angel on my shoulder is telling me that's not what the purpose of the card is while the devil opposite him is reminding me how commercialized the holiday already is. I'm not sure who to listen to or how to do this if I decide to go for it.

There is a part of me that likens using my Christmas card to plug my book to including an annual newsletter in the Christmas card. Don't do it because now is not the time to tell us all how great or not so great your life is. Then there is the other part of me who is clearly considering this as I've devoted a whole blog topic to it. In my consideration of the idea, I'm trying to convince myself that while it's self-serving and a little cheesy, the starving writer must do all she can to feed herself.

Will this net me any new book sales? Possibly not since most of the people I send cards to have either bought my book or found an excuse to avoid doing it.  Will I use my Christmas cards as another marketing opportunity?  I guess you'll know in a few weeks when you get my card.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It was bound to Happen

If you've read even one of my blog posts, or one of my tweets, or one of my Face Book rants, you've no doubt discovered I'm an aspiring novelist. I would say writer, but since I've managed to wrangle a couple of freelance credits, I like to think I'm already a writer. 

For many years now, I've been trying in vain to get my foot in the door with the next great novel.  I've been close a few times, but I've never made it to the show as baseball players say.  A couple of those close calls left a bitter taste in my mouth and almost made me consider packing it in altogether. One such close call involved a less than scrupulous literary agent.

Though it's been a few years now, I can still recall how excited I was to get that request for a partial that was followed by a request for the full manuscript. Then came that day every budding author dreams of.  The agent offered representation, and I signed a six month contract. This turned out to be the worst mistake of my career, but I was too green to know it.  Sure, some things seemed a little off.  The agent only wanted to communicate by email and only wanted to sign for six months.  I told myself these little quirks were because I was an unpublished and unproven investment.  The day she asked me for $200 in materials fees, I knew again something was afoot, and it wasn't good. I knew it, but I ignored it. I kept telling myself I didn't want to alienate the only agent who'd shown an interest in me.  It wasn't until later that I found out she was a scam artist and had even landed on a list of the top twenty worst agents of all time. After stumbling on that information, I decided to get smart for the next time.

With a little web research, I discovered some rather wonderful web sites that educate authors on literary agents. This inspired me to write the article, Beware the Bad Agent, that was published in the March/April 2009 issue of Writer's Journal.  I also decided that from now on when an agent asked to see my work, I'd do my research before I got sucked into any excitement. I should tell you it's probably a better practice to do your research before you send a query, but I find my way easier.  Thus far, I've been lucky.  The few that have asked to see a little more of my project have been above board.  At least they were before it happened.

I got a request from the assistant of an agent I'd queried telling me they were excited by my pitch and they wanted to see more.  Having been rejected so much, I'm always leery of any positive response, but something about this one didn't sit right with me.  The first tip off was the fact that she misspelled my book's title.  I guess that's not a horrible sin, but I was right to be concerned. It seems this agent has an editing service on the side, which is a huge conflict of interest.  She's also had no recorded sales this year and only a few in 2009 and was listing some authors on her web site who were no longer clients or weren't at the time some of their work was published.  Needless to say,  I deleted her email and didn't send a damn thing to her.

Still, I'm a little miffed about this. It seems like a horrible thing for some low life money maker to prey on your dream. With so many agents out there, I guess it was bound to happen. The difference this time is that I'm not the same ignorant kid I was when I started out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

For those of you who actually read my blog (all one of you), you know that in one of my earlier posts I touched on rejection etiquette writers would love for agents to follow.  Of course this was all tongue in cheek and done in jest.  I know there is no realistic way an agent can personally respond to every query they receive. And after a rejection letter I received over the weekend, I don't think I want those personal responses.

In the last four weeks, I've been inundated with rejection letters from prospective agents.  Though I haven't counted in a while, and yes I've counted before, I'd estimate I've sent out nearly sixty query letters.  This is all electronic queries only.  I like to start with those agents who take email submissions as it's a bit of a time and postage saver. With all these queries going out, the more likely it is that I'll be rejected.  In the past few weeks, I've received many form letters.  Some have even started with "Dear Author", which I'm not ashamed to say miffs me a little since many agencies include the guideline that querying authors must address the agent by name and cannot resort to "Dear Agent".  However, I digress as usual. The point is I get a lot of rejection that's bland and impersonal.  Before it even started this round, I posted an article saying that it would be nice to have some idea of why I was being rejected.  Nothing irks me more than:

"Dear Author, Please forgive this impersonal reply, but as you can imagine we receive so many submissions that we haven't the time to offer a personal reply to each of those. We have carefully evaluated your submission and do not feel the project is right for us. Do not let this discourage you as this business is subjective and another agent may feel differently. We wish you all the success in your work."

Now, I have to wonder how carefully my submission was evaluated when the intern they're probably not even paying to send out the rejections hasn't even included my name in the reply. Again, I'm getting off track. Just a thought though.

So, we get to the heart of my rant this week when the impossible happened. I actually got a letter from an agent who told me exactly why she was passing on my project.  In her words: "The YA market is very competitive, and I don't feel your work can compete in today's market." If this response was based on my query letter alone, I'd offer her the one finger salute and go on another rant about how unfair it is for agents to pass on projects based on queries alone.  I'll save that rant for another time. Instead, I offer you this little nugget.

Be careful what you wish for.  Ever since I entered the professional writing market I've been insisting that agents owe it to writers to explain the real basis of their rejection. This past weekend, it happened for me, and it stung.  Maybe those "Dear Author" replies aren't so bad after all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Changing Genres

Can a writer change genres and still succeed?

This question's been on my mind a lot lately because I'm trying to do it, sort of.  I say sort of for a few reasons. First, I'm not a mainstream published author.  I'm self-published.  Second, I'm going from contemporary adult romance to young adult romance, which doesn't seem like a true change of genres.

It's not like I'm trying to pull a James Patterson and go from crime to romance novels, which he does really well by the way.  However, I am trying to go from romance to romantic fantasy.  My new novel features some characters and themes that are likely to stir controversy.  Those of you who know me know that I'm not shy about tackling tough subjects, but those subjects have always been gritty and true to life.  At the moment, I'm working my tail off to try and secure an agent for a work that has a strongly religious theme and features Satan and his children as sympathetic characters. How's that for controversial?

While I believe in my work and feel it's a well told story, I know it's sure to strike a chord with some. It will be especially difficult for my few fans that have come to expect a different kind of story from me.

So I say again, can a writer succeed at changing genres?  I sure hope so because I'm giving it a good try.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do Contests Help a Writing Career?

I've always wondered if entering writing contests helps your writing career or not.  Every writer's reference book I've ever bought, and believe me that's a lot of them, advises fledgling writers to enter them.  I suppose they might be a good tool for those who win the grand prize and get a huge cash payment and a dream writing contract.  What about for the rest of us who enter and place but don't win?

I have no confirmation they help one way or another, but I include them in my author's biography when I query an agent.  To date, my claim to fame is a tenth place finish in the genre fiction category of the 2005 Writer's Digest annual fiction writing contest.  I like to put a little more of a positive spin on it.  When I query agents I say I was a top ten finisher.  I do have a win in the romance category of the 2009 Reader View's Literary Awards that I'm particularly proud of and always include.  Finally, I've made the quarter and semi finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. 

Does this help make me more attractive to perspective agents?  I don't know, but at least it gives me something to include on my resume as an unpublished, waiting to be discovered new author. 

Will they help you? I don't know, but I say go for it.  Just try not to get too emotionally invested in it.  I hear these contests are as flooded with entries as agents are with queries.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Formulaic? So what!

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I'm on the lookout for a new literary agent. Wait, that's not exactly an accurate description.  That makes it sound as though I'm just waiting for one to fall into my lap when the reality is that I'm sending out anywhere from one to twenty query letters a day.  The point of this is to set up what today's blog post is about.

As you know, with queries comes rejection. It's inevitable, and for me it feels more inevitable than for others. Last week, I alluded to some of the standard responses agents send out that can tend to drive writers over the edge. I'm no exception to those responses.  I've also been accused, both by agents and publishers, of being too formulaic.  For the first time ever, I'm here to publicly ask: what's wrong with that?

Being formulaic has netted some writers some big sales. For instance, I can tell you that Lurlene McDaniel will always write about teens facing life changing issues such as cancer or drug addicted parents.  The teen characters will always be wholesome and never promiscuous yet she'll sell tons.  Okay, she's a little outdated. Let's take Nicholas Sparks.  Not only do all of his books follow a very distinct formula, but so do his characters.  There's been a teacher in more than one, a law enforcement officer in more than one, a veteran of the armed forces in more than one...  I could go on and on, and I'm not just talking about bit characters. These are main characters, but his books sell big time. Why?  Readers want the formula.  They like it.  It comforts them and makes them feel safe.

So hear this.  The next time I get accused of being too formulaic I'm going to challenge you to tell me why that's so bad.  Good luck.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rejection Guidelines for Agents?

Disclaimer: The following idea is coming to you fresh off four consecutive rejections in my email in box.

Having just finished my newest novel, I decided to jump back into the fray and try to secure an agent. I haven't tried this in about a year so I'd forgotten how bitter that rejection pill could taste. Like I said, I've been through this many times so I know what the cycle is going to be. At first, I start out hopeful. Then I get those first few rejections and a little of the hope fades, but I take it with a smile. By the end of the next round of rejections, I'll be alternating between crying and cursing. At the moment, I'm in the semi-hopeful, taking it with a grain of salt and sort of amused about it stage. In this stage, I hit on what I thought was a brilliant idea. Why not have guidelines agents must follow when rejecting writers?

Think about it. As writers, we're expected to follow an agent's submission guidelines to the tee or our project will be automatically eliminated. And no two agents want the same thing. One wants a two page synopsis while another wants a ten page synopsis. One wants the first three chapters, synopsis and query letter while the other wants the first fifty pages or first three chapters or whichever is less. Some even go as far as to have formatting guidelines- typed, double spaced, one inch margins on all sides, Times New Roman font, etc. If we have to follow their guidelines, maybe they could follow some for us.  Here they are:

1) Do not use form letters or canned responses when rejecting an author. As a courtesy, please address the specific author you are rejecting along with the title of the rejected work.
2) Do not use standard phrases like "not a good fit for us" or "doesn't fit our current needs".  This is really just a canned response that you've copied and pasted from thousands of rejections you've sent.
3) If you use the phrase "keep trying because another agent may feel differently", please be advised that you are expected to recommend the other agent whom you feel would be a good fit. In fact, you should get the ball rolling by forwarding the project to the potentially interested other agent.
4) You must give a brief summary of the reason for rejection as it relates to the novel. Canned responses will not be rejected. See items one and two.
5) Finally, when rejecting an author, please include a SASE so that the author may contact you to discuss the rejection.

Okay, there they are. Please take this as it is, a joke. Of course agents are inundated with submissions and can't really be expected to follow something like this and properly serve their clients.  Still, on those days when I'm wallowing in the self-pity brought on by multiple rejections, it makes me smile to think about it. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Celebrity Writers? Are you kidding me?

Tyra Banks, Snooki, Rick Springfield, Forrest Griffin, Justin Bieber, Lisa Rhinna, and Hillary Duff.  What do these names all have in common besides the fact that they're celebrities? They're either published or about to be published authors. That's right. They're using their names to cash in on getting a book deal, and the publishing industry is letting them. Actually, the public is letting them too. Because these people are famous, we want to devour everything they have to offer us, whether it makes sense or not.

As a writer, I find this deplorable. Every day that I hear about another celebrity getting a book deal, I die a little inside. I'm a little more forgiving when it comes to autobiographies, but I have absolutely no tolerance for singers, dancers, actors, athletes, etc, penning fiction novels and expecting us to read them and like them. Explain to me how Tyra Banks being a supermodel and talk show host and reality host makes her qualified to write young adult novels. Why would we want to read a book about a spray tanned heroine and her catty conquests? I'm talking to you Snooki. Rick Springfield is one of those in the autobiography category. Though I said I'm a little more forgiving of this, I find myself wondering one thing. Um, how long has it been since Rick Springfield was relevant and interesting?  And don't even get me started on You Tuber turned boy wonder Justin Bieber.  What business does a sixteen-year-old have writing about his life thus far?  None!

Whenever I go off on this rant, my husband always tries to reign me in by telling me it's part of the celebrity culture and I just have to accept it. Of course he's right, which I find as irritating as I find the concept of celebrity turned author. In this business, the unknown aspiring author will hear no a thousand times more than she'll hear yes. Writing articles on spec and begging agents to read our work only to be shot down is all part of that thing called paying our dues. Not only are celebrities not paying their dues, but they're shutting out fledgling authors who may have true talent. No wonder the rest of us can't get invited to the party.

I'll close with this.  I'm sure there are some celebrities turned authors that do have literary talent. I'm thinking of Jaime Lee Curtis and her great children's books here.  However, it's my firm belief those are the exception and not the rule. So famous people, if you're listening, please do the rest of us a favor and stick to what you're really good at. If you do, the rest of us born to write may have a shot at getting that publishing contract you took from us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Inaugural Blog

Welcome to the official blog of Trish the Writer, AKA, Trish Edmisten.  For many months now, I've been listening to my dear friend, Patrick Hester, extol the virtues of having a blog.  Supposedly, this is going to set my writing career on fire and gain me legions of fans. I thought Twitter would do the same thing, and so far I'm stuck in the double digits with followers. Of course, I suppose it would help if I updated my Twitter account more often. Trouble is, I'm so busy having fun being a writer, I forget to do these things. Keep that in mind when you don't see my blog updated very often. That being said, I thought I'd give this blogging thing a try and see if anyone is interested.

Those of you who are reading this are probably my dear friends and family, the same ones who buy my books as conicidence would have it. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a fledgling writer trying like heck to break into the young adult field. I've been toiling away for years at this writing thing with only modest success. Depending on the day, or maybe even the time of day, I either love or hate being a writer. I have to warn you most of my posts will be about being a writer and the ups and mostly downs of this job.

So, welcome to my blog and happy reading new friends!