Monday, December 19, 2011

A Familiar Ring

Well, here are with the holiday season upon us again. I have to confess with as busy as I've been with preparing for the upcoming holiday, as well as the sixteenth birthday of my firstborn, I haven't had much time to write lately. Until a few hours ago, I'd even forgotten I needed a topic for my weekly blog. As I contemplated this, I came to a somewhat sobering realization.

I've been writing this blog for more than a year now. If you've read it since the beginning, you know it was the encouragement of friend and fellow author Patrick Hester that motivated me to do so. That alone isn't the sobering thought. The more sobering thought is that a year has passed and I nearly wrote the same topic today that I wrote this time last year.

At this time last year, I was wishing for one thing. I wanted a literary agent to extend an offer of representation or a publisher to agree to publish my latest novel. I didn't get what I wanted last year, and it appears I won't get it this year.  I have only a few queries outstanding, and this is the time of year when most literary operations slow down.

Thinking about this makes me realize, I'm about to enter my sixth year in the professional writing industry, and I've yet to break mainstream's glass ceiling. The industry has also changed a great deal from the time I started.When I first started out, the e-book was still an innovation of the future. Now there are fewer brick and mortar bookstores as more authors go strictly digital. Case in point, my friend and fellow author Erica Stanciu just had her first novel Electrify Me released last week, and it's digital only. As a purist, I'm a bit sad to see books going the way of the VHS and beta tapes, but I understand. I understand and I digress.

Let me make one thing clear. While I'm sad not to have mainstream publication, I'm grateful for the success I've found on my favorite online site. Still, as the years pass, it feels a bit like my dream slips further away. So, I have to make a choice. I can either allow my dream to evolve with the changing of technology, or I can lament about what I think will never be.

Whatever choice I make, one thing is still true. I want the same thing for Christmas this year that I wanted last year. Hence, the familiar ring, which seems appropriate for this time of year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I am not Alone

Last week, I wrote about a contest I'm planning to enter. The deadline is this week, and I'm in the final stages of polishing my entry so I'm feeling good.  It seems I'd no sooner posted last week's blog than a new contest presented itself.  This contest is one I'm most excited about because of its rules.

The contest is being sponsored by an Australian publisher and is open to young adult writers world wide. The entry must be in English, which is standard for a lot of contests.  Even better, the entry cannot be a fantasy novel. It must be a young adult novel that addresses issues being faced by teens and can include swearing and sexual content provided it's not gratuitous. The publisher sponsoring the contest feels the young adult market is overrun with fantasy novels and it's time to give teens characters they can relate to.

Finally! Someone else feels the way I do. For those of you who know me personally or have had a chance to follow this blog or check out my web site, you know what my dream was when I started writing young adult novels. I wanted to have a line of books that featured disabled teens in leading, romantic roles. I believed (and still do) that it was an area being largely overlooked by authors and publishers. Most agents and publishers I approached with my first offering didn't think the concept would sell.  One agent took a chance on me only to be told fantasy novels were the next big thing and I should write a vampire novel.

You know what? I wrote that vampire novel. I wrote a sappy, sentimental four book series that follows the new formula of vampire boy falls for human girl. When my agent started pitching it, publishers said it wasn't sturdy enough to compete with the likes of Twilight or True Blood.  They agreed I had talent and suggested I try an original fantasy concept.  I not only took their advice, I took it to the extreme.  I penned a trilogy that features the son of Satan as a leading and sympathetic character.

Given the boldness of the concept, I had some reservations about how it would be received by readers. Imagine my surprise to learn they love the story. They've embraced the characters and are clamoring for more each week.  They're open minded enough to realize it's only a story and by no means an expression of my actual belief system. With the support of a fan base that's more than sixteen hundred strong and growing every day, I've developed a real love for writing this genre.  I've even started a new novel and have another concept ready to go as I know I've mentioned before.

Despite the success I've seen with this, I've often thought of my original reason for entering into the young adult genre. In my more melancholy moods, I accuse myself of selling out to sell. I usually let go of that idea pretty fast because I have no right to complain. My fans are supportive and have made me feel good about my work and discover a love of writing again. They remind me writing is more than a business which keeps me writing.

Fan support and success aside, I'm excited for the opportunity this new contest offers. I plan on throwing my hat in the ring and waiting to see what happens. As with most contests of this nature, competition is stiff so chances of winning are slim. Still, it'll be fun to get back to my roots and it's nice to see I'm not alone in thinking the young adult genre is about more than fantasy novels.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Here We Go Again- Part II

I’ve heard it said that contest placements can help boost a writer’s credibility with potential agents and publishers. I don’t know if this is true or not, and I’ve in fact discussed this very issue in a prior post. 

Setting aside whether having a contest win or even modest placement makes a writer more attractive to agents and publishers, there are some contests with rather lucrative prizes. I’m not just speaking in monetary terms either. While some contests do not offer cash prizes to the winners, some offer publication in their magazine or on their web site or both. In lieu of a cash prize, some offer valuable feedback from an agent or editor, which can be instrumental in improving the writer’s chances of publishing that or even another work in the future. There are those organizations with a bigger budget who offer bigger prizes. They offer not only exposure to a larger audience but publication of novels and the cash advances that go along with that.

The size of the contest or the budget of the organization sponsoring it can often determine the amount of the entry fee. Writer’s Digest has rather reasonable entry fees for all of their contests which isn’t surprising considering how well known and respected they are in the industry. For its annual breakthrough novel award contest, Amazon has yet to charge writers an entry fee. Again, this makes sense as they have more capital than the smaller groups who host contests to support writers and gain exposure for them.

It’s often the amount of the entry fee in conjunction with the timing of the contest that drives my ability and willingness to participate. For instance, I always participate in the annual Amazon contest due to its lack of entry fee. That being said, I’m always on the lookout for contests because I’m of the mind that any exposure is better than none.

Last week, on the Amazon discussion boards, I had the good fortune of stumbling across an upcoming contest for young adult writers. Even better, this contest is geared to female authors in the young adult field. As excited as I was to discover this, I was a little leery of participating when I realized the deadline was December 15, 2011. With a deadline so close to the holidays my knee jerk reaction was to say I wouldn’t be participating. After doing a little more research on this contest, I was pleased to discover the entry fee is nominal. Based on this, along with the fact that the winner will have an excerpt of her novel published on their web site and will also gain feedback from three leading agents in the industry, I’ve decided to go for it.

For those of you who don’t know, competitions like these can be stiff.  There are a lot of good writers out there who aren’t getting the recognition they’re due. I like to think I’m one of them, but I won’t know if I don’t try.

So… here we go again! Wish me luck.