Tag Archives | publishing

Otherwhere: Unusual Monday Edition

typewriter_machine_write_266203_lIt has been a good week for interesting links around the web, and I have saved several in my travels.  As regular readers know, I usually do this post on Saturday.  But this week on Saturday, I was co-leading a workshop called The Ins and Outs of Publishing, which was held at an awesome bookstore, Another Read Through.  And then yesterday was one of those days when I just didn’t get near the computer much.  Which brings us to Monday.  And a wet and dark Monday it is, at least in Portland. So here are some links to brighten your day:

I really liked this prompt from Janice Hardy.

Typewriters are hip again! (My grandchildren love banging away on the antique typewriter that sits in my living room.  They are going to be waaay ahead of their time.)

The role of hope in writing fiction (this is about the actual writing of fiction, not the hope you have while trying to sell it).

Why can’t our fiction be as strange as real life has gotten?

Hate Twitter? Here’s how to master it in 15 minutes a day.

One way to up your productivity as a writer.

And Jane Friedman’s take on her own level of productivity.

The future of publishing remains bright.

“I’ve been hearing about the demise of publishing since the first day I stepped through the doors of a publisher back in 1978.”

And, finally, look at the good you can do when you become the most bestselling author in all the land!

 

Photo by wax115, found on everystockphoto.com.

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A Brief History of Publishing (And Publishing Workshop Info)

So, I found the cool infographic below in my travels as I searched for information on the history of literary agents. Because, of course that is what one searches for in one’s travels.  No, really, it is because I’m co-leading a workshop on publishing this weekend and since Thanksgiving was so time consuming, I’ve not told you much about it.

If you’re in Portland and you want to learn more about publishing, here are the details:

The Ins and Outs of Publishing

Friday, December 4th, 6:30 to 8:30 PM and Saturday, December 5th, 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Another Read Through, 3932 N. Mississippi, Portland, 97277

Cost is $107, which includes a fabulous boxed lunch from Elephant’s Deli.

If you’re interested, contact me, okay? It’s going to be a lot of fun.

And here’s that infographic.  It’s a little dated, but interesting nonetheless:
A Brief History Of PublishingInfographic by Finvy

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Book Review: Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents

Cache_240_240_0_0_80_16777215_jh-guide-2015-frontSo, there's this thing called the internet.  And we use it for nearly all our research into anything these days.  This is especially true for research on topics that have to be current, such as, well, agent and editor listings.  When you have a story or novel to submit, you hit the interwebs to find a spot for it, right?

Believe it or not, back in the old days, writers had to rely on books for such research.  Like real, physical books.  And most of the time when you were doing research the books you needed to reference were huge and unwieldy tomes housed in the library.  There were also books published by Writer's Digest and others, extensive, expensive listings of publishing contacts that were out of date by the time you bought them.  Overall, it was a royal pain. So, thank God for the internet.  When I was submitting Emma Jean to a gazillion publishers I used internet agent listing sites extensively.  

(Alas, I'm having a hard time finding any current ones I can link to.  There used to be an amazing one that listed everyone, compiled by a guy with a serious case of sour grapes, who posted every single rejection letter he ever got, and the agent contact info, too.  It was a fantastic resource–but also bordered on libelous at times.  I suspect he got shut down.  Anybody remember this site or have a link for it? NEWS FLASH–I found it!  Here's the link to part one, of seven.  Check it out.  The guy is relentless.)

Anyway, I digress.  I hadn't paid much attention to agent listings lately (this will change soon, as I'm finishing the rewrite of my second novel–agents, I'm looking at you, yes, you, soon) and had assumed that the big guidebooks were a thing of the past.  But, oh how wrong I was.  Because towards the end of last year I was offered the chance to review Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents.   And, having my own agent search in mind as well as the needs of my loyal readers, I said yes.

I have to say, the book is pretty great.  The bulk of it is a directory of publishers, literary agents and independent editors.  Since I'm most interested in agents at this point, that's what I focused on perusing.  And what I like about the listings is that besides the basic info about email and address, they also include a Q and A interview the agent has filled out, which really gives you more insight into them.  

And that's not all–there are numerous essays throughout the book.  These are written mainly by Herman and his wife Deborah.  Some, like the one on digital marketing, are useless.  But others, like the chapter on how agents work and how to find one are quite good.  (I'll be talking more about that chapter in a future post, because as I was writing this up it occurred to me that a How to Find an Agent post would be an excellent idea.)

There's also info on writing book proposals and query letters, definitions of publishing terms, insider tips, and so on.  It's quite the comprehensive book.  And it's got a price tag to match–$29.99 (a bit less on Amazon).   

So, the question is whether or not I would recommend this book.  And the answer is….yes, if.  What I mean by that is yes, if you are a newbie to the writing and publishing world.  (Though do bear in mind that Herman approaches these worlds with a very particular mindset.)  There's a ton of information here that will give you a good grounding in the industry.  If you have more experience in these worlds, check it out from the library.  Because it is fun to leaf through and read and of course, the directory part seems to be quite extensive.  (But also remember that the publishing industry is notoriously fluid.  You'd do well to double check any information in the book with a look at the internet.)

Do you have an agent?  Did you use a directory to find one?

(For the record, I received a copy of the book in order to write this post, but no other compensation.) 

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How to Submit Your Work to Publishers (A Review of the Process)

Magazines_volume_perspektive_227795_lSo, this blog has been around for awhile, like seven years, and because of that I've amassed a lot of posts (over a thousand of them) which is something the Google loves and thus I get some traffic through here. Because I get traffic, I also get people pitching ideas to me for the blog.  These are for ads, for posts, and sometimes for links.  

I also get tons of requests for guest posts.  Most of these are thinly disguised ads or link bait and the articles are so poorly written I won't run them.  Not only that, they are completely off topic!  They'll be on real estate or automotive stuff or raising children.  Clearly, these people have not read this blog, they are just working off a list somewhere.

(Do let me be clear that I love running guest posts and if you have an idea for one that is related to writing or creativity, don't be afraid to pitch me. Most posts that I accept are from readers who know the topics I cover here well.)

And then, a few days ago, I got a lovely, long submission from a writer who was an expert in a classic literary figure.  This person wanted to come present her lecture at my workshop.  Yeah, that's right–the workshop where eight people sit around a table in the south of France and talk about their writing. Not a lecture hall in sight.  Clearly no research had been done for this request.

All this reminds me of the tried and true guidelines we've read over and over again about submitting your work.  Let's review:

–Do your research and make sure you are submitting to a publication that runs work on your topic.  If you're submitting to a literary agent, read their website and ascertain that they actually represent fiction if you want them to rep your novel, or non-fiction if you're sending a book proposal.

–If you can, take it a step farther and read the publication you're submitting to.  Peruse the blog's archives.  Look through a few issues of the magazine. Read a book repped by the agent you're pitching.  Or at least leaf through it at the bookstore!  This is the biggest problem I see.  I get these requests from people who clearly have never laid eyes on the blog and have no idea what I write about.  

–Do not send out a blanket email without personalization.  I get emails from people who are obviously just working from a list (like the literary expert mentioned above).  I especially love the ones who compliment me on my wonderful blog and then go on to suggest a story about animal care.

If you just follow those three simple guidelines as a starting point, you'll at least get your query read. Oh, and here's one more piece of advice:

–If you have a recommendation from a fellow author, as when querying an agent, put that author's name in the subject line.  As in, "Recommendation From Famous Author."  That will get you read much faster.  Come to think of it, this applies to other submissions, too.  Always write why you are emailing them in the subject line, as in "Guest Post Submission," or "Article Query," or whatever.

And, as mentioned above, the guest posts I accept are often from regular readers.  I don't have a formal policy for accepting or rejecting, just that the post be well-written, vibrant, fun, perfect in every way–kidding!  But I do like to run lively pieces that will be of value to my readers, and I also run author interviews and the occasional cover reveal.  So hit me up.  Just please don't ask me to run a piece about mortgages.

What are your experiences with submitting to publishers and agents?  Please share the good, the bad, and the hilarious!

Photo by mgelinski.

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Aiming High or Over-reaching?

Kenneth-armitage-sculpture-123578-lThis is one of those posts that I write because I don't know the answer and I'm trying to figure it out. (Ha! Like I ever know the answers.)  So bear with me as I sort it out.

Imagine:

–a writer, talented but still raw, without a lot of words beneath her belt, finishing a short story and submitting it to the New Yorker.

–an under-achieving professional applying for jobs–and assuming he'll get them–way beyond what his experience warrants.

–an entrepreneur starting a business from scratch–and setting a goal that she'll reach one million in sales by the end of her first year.

Or how about the emails I get on a fairly regular basis that go something like this: I've got an idea for a book, how do I find an agent?  Note, the writer has an idea only.  Hasn't written a word of said book, but he/she is already looking for an agent.  Or the writers I used to meet whose main goal was getting on Oprah, still without having written a word? (I still remember one such woman, who had seen herself sitting on Oprah's couch in a vision.  She was certain it was going to happen.  Writing the book that would get her there was just a pesky nuisance in between.)

Sigh.

What do all of these people have in common?  

Over-reaching.

But you could also call it aiming high.  Having confidence.  Who's to say it won't work out?  Who's to say that story won't be accepted, you won't get the job, you won't win the millions?  One of our enduring cultural zeitgeists is the exhortation to dream big, to reach for the stars.

And who am I–or you–to dash the hopes of our strivers by pointing out the reality of the situation?

Yet I'm certain all of us have heard such stories and rolled our eyes.  Tut-tut-tutted at the silliness of these over-reachers.  

Which is a terrible, toxic reaction that shows more–perhaps–about ourselves and how we're not going for our own dreams that anything else.  However, part of that reaction is grounded in truth.   And I think I'm starting to figure out why we bristle when we hear the unrealistic goals of these dreamers:

Because they want to skip steps.  They want to go from zero to 90 in one second, without any work in between.  

And those of us who've been working towards our goals for a long time know that doesn't happen. 

Usually.

When it does–such as when a college student gets a big book contract, or an obscure blogger catapults himself into the spotlight, or, you fill in the blanks–we feel a bit like they've cheated.  And skipped the steps that most of us have to take.

There's also, I think, a sense of entitlement inherent in over-reaching:

–Give me this job because I deserve it, even though I've never done anything like it before, ever.

–Publish my story because I wrote it, even though I've not rewritten it and worked to get it right.

–Buy my product because I made it, even though I've not done the market research to know if you'll want it.

Aiming High

On the other hand, it's good to dream big, right?  It's good to imagine the job, the publishing contract, the massive business success.

Yes, it is.  We humans live on hopes and dreams.   So there's absolutely no harm in imagining the big payoff.   Think about it every day, and see it happening.

And then forget about it and get down to work.  Because that is what is going to make it happen.  

Those folks who get the publishing contract while they are still in school, or make the product that nets them a million?  Outliers.  And yeah, it could happen to you, or to me, but in the meantime let the universe decide and keep at what you're doing.  Behind most overnight successes you'll find years of toil.

Reach, match, and safety.

So here's what I tell my students and clients.   When you're ready to submit a story–after you've written and rewritten it, and then gone back and rewritten it yet again–make a list.  At the top, put your pie-in-the-sky places (The New Yorker and Tin House come to mind).  Then choose some middle-ground publications.  And then, opt for a long list of publications that will be most likely to want to publish your stories.  Send them out.  And keep writing.

This is much like the advice given to high school students applying to college.  Opt for reach, match, and safety schools.  I think it's a good policy for us as writers as well–go for reach, match and safety publications, or editors, or agents.  

(This list is a great starting point for those of you submitting to journals.)

This way, you can aim high and not over-reach.  Because as long as you continue to work and hone your craft, one of these days you'll get your ambitious goals, I'm sure of it!

Do you have experience with over-reaching and being disappointed?  Or are you a big believer in confidence?  Please comment!  And feel free to share on your social media of choice.

And don't forget–tomorrow I pick (by random selection) the winners of the blog birthday giveaway! You have until the end of today to enter, I'll choose first thing tomorrow morning.  (And, also, for a mere 99cents, you can buy my new short story on Amazon.)

 Image by kloniwotski.

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This Series on Writing Fast Will Blow Your Creative Mind–and Inspire You

This morning, thanks to Karen Woodward, I was introduced to a series on ghostwriting a novel in 10 days by Dean Wesley Smith.

Yes, I said 10 days.  As in, writing a full, complete novel in 10 days.

Dean Wesley Smith is ghosting a novel contracted by a major publisher for an author who is a bestseller and whose name would be recognizable to all of us.  (Yes, the world of ghostwriting is sometimes a shady place.)

He's set himself the goal of finishing the novel in 10 days, and along the way, he is documenting his progress with regular updates to his blog.  It's really worth reading.  Here are the posts so far:

Day one.

Day two.

And you might want to read this one as well:

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Writing Fast.

When Smith says he writes fast, he means it–he gets up, gets to the computer (he uses two–one with no internet access and thus no temptations) and gets to work.  It appears that he writes in bursts, knocking off a 1000 words or so before taking a break to eat or answer email (at the second computer) or what have you. And then he rinses and repeats, on and on throughout the day.

But here's the deal: he's writing.  Not endlessly revising, not thinking about writing, not wondering if his work is any good (confidence is not this man's problem), but writing. 

I think we can all learn a lesson from this.  I know reading his posts  inspired me and afterwards, I polished off the first draft of a short story I'd been agonizing over.  I'm sure I spend way too much time pondering deep thoughts and not actually writing. Even if we don't want to emulate every aspect of his practice, we can learn from parts of it.

Oh yeah, and guess what?  He starts out with no idea where he's going.  And he doesn't rewrite.  This draft will be it.

Freakin' incredible.

Here are things I noted/wondered about as I read:

–When does he take a shower?

–When does he exercise?

–He has a wife to cook for him.  Or someone.  Dinner magically appears.

–He probaby has a house cleaner as well.  There's no attention paid to such mundane matters.

–He's able to set his own schedule (stay up until wee hours of the morning, sleep until 1 PM).

But even with all that being said, his accomplishment is amazing.

What do you think?  Does this appeal to you or do you think he's a hack (he's got a gazillion novels to his credit)?  Do you write slow or fast?  I'd love it if you left a comment.

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A New Wrinkle on a Lifelong Love Affair

School-study-person-10504-lI've been a reader all my life.  I'm sure you have, too, since if you're reading this blog, it's because you're interested in writing.  And if you're interested in writing, odds are good that you came to your love of writing through reading.

Maybe you, like me, usually have something like five books that you're reading at one time.  (I always have at least one novel going, maybe two.  And probably for sure something on spirituality.  Maybe another on self-help, and often a business or other non-fiction book as well.)

Perhaps you, like me, enjoy nothing better than an afternoon spent reading a juicy novel by the fire, or a late night when you're kept awake turning the pages of a mystery.

I wonder, too, if, over the last few years, you've not had as much time to read.  It's been the case for me.  Life got busy with children, then grandchildren, career, friends, housework, you name it.  And my lifelong love affair with reading was threatened.  It wasn't that I wasn't reading, because I always, always, always have a book going.  It was just that I wasn't reading as much.

But all that has changed.

Because I bought a Kindle. And it has revolutionized my reading world.  Already, since just last week, I've finished one full novel and am halfway through a second.  Plus, I've read sample chapters of two others and begun another one.

I've done more reading in the past few days than I've accomplished in the last month.

There's something amazingly simple about picking the little tablet up, turning it on, and reading a few pages when I have a spare five minutes.  The device makes me read faster.  I'm a visual scanner, meaning I take in a whole paragraph or sentence at a glance (which is why I'm worthless if someone spells a word or reads me a string of numbers–I need to see the whole), and something about the size of the Kindle's screen enables me to inhale words in huge gulps.

I love it.

And it is good for my writing, as well.  Reading is part of the job description for any writer, and it is an excellent way to teach yourself to write.  You could do worse than to begin your education by sitting down and reading 100 works in the genre you wish to write in.  When I read, it's almost as if the words I inhale rearrange themselves inside me and spit themselves back out on the page.  I think I've written more on my novel in the few days I've had the Kindle than I have this entire year.

Words in, words out.  It's magic. 

It puzzles me why the publishing world is so threatened by the digital revolution.  Anything that makes people read more should be considered a good thing, right? One would think so.  Another benefit to the Kindle or its pals is the ease with which you can order books.  One click and there you are, ready to read.   This is a fantastic, thing, people.

I bought the absolute cheapest Kindle available, the one with special offers and ads on it, because I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  Turns out I even love the ads, which have introduced me to a new author already.  For the record, the special deals generally feature classic authors like Paul Bowles or C.S. Lewis, so its not a bunch of crap by any stretch of the imagination.

One caveat: think hard about what you want your tablet to do.  After much thought, I realized that what I really wanted was to read on the device, period.  Which is why, despite the siren song of the Ipad, I didn't bite.  And now I'm glad, because if I had a full-fledged Ipad, I'd be checking my email or reading HuffPost.  I know myself.  I am weak.  I succumb to such temptations easily.

So that's my story about my new love affair.

How do you read–on an Ereader or with a traditional book?

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Publishing Really Is Worth It

Flower_soft_play_250199_lTo paraphrase the immortal words of Sally Field:  I like it, I really like it.

What is it that I like so much?

Being an author.  Let me explain with a couple of stories.

Story #1. Years ago, I began working with a coach.  I told her that my deepest desire was to publish a novel.  My coach mentioned that she'd worked with another client who had published a book and decided she didn't like it.  Didn't like the hoopla that went with it and decided to not write any more books.  I took this under advisement, willing to be open to the fact that I might not like being published. 

Story #2.  Also years ago (I've been at this game a long time), I read an interview with a best-selling author, whose name now escapes me.  She said something to the effect that she really liked–and missed–the "scrappy little life" she enjoyed before she got published.  Once again, I was willing to be open to the fact that this might happen to me, too.  That I might prefer my life before I was published.

Not.

I adore being published.   I love reading reviews of my work, and I love hearing through tweets and emails that readers have enjoyed my book.  Unlike that client my coach told me about, I'm loving this stuff.  I loved my virtual release party and my in-person party.  I loved signing books.  I've got a reading coming up and I anticipate loving that. 

Let's be clear: I still have a "scrappy little life," one that I love.   But publishing a novel has just made it a better scrappy life.  Because, here's the deal: writing is an act of communication and when nobody reads the words we write, part of the loop is missing.  Which is why, I believe, we worry so much about publishing.  Why some writers put the cart before the horse and worry about publishing before they've finished writing.

Because we yearn to communicate.

And let me tell you, it is worth it.  So for those of you in the middle of writing a novel, despairing you may never get to the end: keep going, it's worth it.  For those of you sending out query after query, and piling up the rejections: keep sending them out, it's worth it.  For those of you who've had blips in your publishing process (I've heard of two recently): keep going, it's worth it.

For anyone struggling to get their creative work out in the world: take heart, it will all be worth it.

I promise.

Where are you in the creative process?  Starting out?  Finishing a project?  Marketing?  Leave a comment, I'd love to hear about it.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Publishing

Okay, it's not exactly everything, but it's a lot about what I learned in the process of getting Emma Jean out into the world.  And it is–you guessed it–another interview.  This one is over at Patrick Ross's blog, the Artist's Road.

I feel a bit smug about Patrick because I was one of the first to discover his blog, right after he returned from a cross-country road trip to interview creatives of all stripes.  He's shot right to the top with his blog, being chosen last year as a Top 10 Writer's Blog.  And it was all because of me discovering him.  Actually, we all know that is not in any way true.  It's because he writes an awesome blog, which always features thoughtful posts.

So head on over there today and read my thoughts on all aspects of the current publishing world, including the big New York houses, indie presses, and self-publishing.

And by the way, I just found out that I'm having trouble with comments going into a spam file.  I kept wondering why I wasn't getting any comments and then I found a ton of them stashed there.  So if you've commented in the last couple weeks and haven't seen it post, that's why.  I now know to look in the spam file while Typepad works to fix this problem, so please, please, please feel free to comment again!

 

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5 Tips To Getting Published

 

EJBook

The advanced proof of my novel!

So, as most of you know, my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, debuts on February 12th.

 

The road to getting published was long.  Veeeeerrrrry long.  And I learned a few things along the way, like what it takes to get a book out into the world.  So today I look at 5 tips that allowed me to finally succeed at that. 

Here's the deal: you all know the basics of how to get published, right?  You research agents and publishing houses that might be a good fit for your book, write a stellar query letter, and then you send it out.  And send it out again.  And again.  That process hasn't changed, even with the advent of indie publishing (which is a whole different process), and it's not likely to any time soon. 

But what you might not know is what lies beneath the above process, the mindset that you need to develop in order to find success in the publishing marketplace. And that, my friends, is what this article is about.  This mindset is in some ways as important if not more important than anything else, because developing a strong underpinning to what you do as a writer will carry you through your career.

So, here's to a publishing mindset, which takes:

1.  Willingness.  You need to be willing to do the things you think you don't need to do–like establish an author's platform while you are writing the book.  You need to be willing to master social media, start a blog, begin connecting with your future audience.  Long gone are the days when all writers had to do was sit back, write and let their publishers do all the marketing.  You'll be expected to participate, and it's going to be a lot easier if you get a head start.  Agents and editors look at things like your blog, and your social media presence these days.

2.  Consistency.  There's nothing sadder than coming across a blog whose last post was six months ago.  Or a year ago.  Start your blog and be consistent with it.  Get on Twitter, and keep tweeting.  Polish your query, and keep sending it out, even after you've been rejected a gazillion times.  Work on your WIP regularly, as often as you possibly can. It's the writers who keep at it who eventually get the win.  I know, I'm one of them.

3.  Determination.  Are you going to quit the first time it gets hard to accomplish your daily quota of pages or word count?  Are you going to stop the second you get a rejection?  Are you going to give up when you can't figure out how to format your novel to indie publish it?  You better not, because both of those things will happen a lot.  To be a successful writer takes determination and perserverance in spades. If you don't force yourself to do whatever it takes to send the work out, your words will remain stashed in a drawer.

4. Creativity.  You can be the most lyrical writer in the world, but if you don't
find ways to plant yourself in front of the computer, the words won't
get written.  It all begins and ends with the writing and if you put the writing first, everything else will take care of itself.  Master techniques to get your butt planted in that chair.

5.  Craziness.  To commit yourself to a writing-centered life and vow to get published takes a bit of craziness.  It just does.  It's ever so much easier to be content at a 9-to-5 job, come home, eat dinner and turn on the TV.  Not you, because you come home, eat dinner, and turn on the computer to write, with no guarantee that anyone will ever see those words.  That's crazy, isn't it?  So be it.  I happen to believe it's also the most important thing you can do, crazy or not.

How about it?  What do you think is the most important mindset a writer needs to have?

**If you're interested in learning more about publishing, I'll cover what I've learned in the bonus session of my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  Registration is now open, with early-bird pricing in effect until the end of the month.  Register now.

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