Archive | March 2012

I’m a Winner in the Short Story Competition!

My short story, “Final Judgment,” placed fifth out of 110 entries in the Writer’s Platform Building Campaign’s Second Writing Challenge. If you didn’t get to read my story the first time around, you can read it here. And if you’d like to see who the other winners are, you can find them here! I placed in the judged category, not the people’s choice category, so you’ll have to scroll down a little!

Thanks again to Rachael Harrie for hosting the competition!

Update on another Request!

Okay, Okay, I know. Two posts in one day. But I just had to share! I sent my partial to the agent that requested it today and an hour later she emailed back and asked for the full! Not only that, she said it was “absolutely beautiful writing!” She is also one of my top choices for an agent! The last few weeks have been crazy! Did you notice all my sentences ended in exclamation points? 🙂

I’ll try not to bother everyone again until tomorrow! Have a good weekend!

Another Manuscript Request and an Amazing Find

Not only did I get another manuscript request from an agent today, but I made an absolutely amazing discovery. While out in my yard, lining my flower garden with rocks, I found something wonderful!

Don’t know what it is? I didn’t either at first! It’s an inkwell from the 1860’s-1880’s! I love it! My mom said it’s a good omen, that it means I’m meant to be a writer! What do you think?

 

In case you are wondering, here are my request stats as of today:

Heaven on Earth (my romance novel) – 1 full request from a publisher.

Drive Back the Darkness (my YA fantasy) – 2 full requests from publishers.

Below the Surface (my edgy, contemporary YA) – 5 full requests and 2 partials (one of which turned into a full request) from agents.

Do Agents Understand What a Writer Goes Through During the Query Process?

You know, I’m not really sure they do. I follow a bunch of literary agents on Twitter, and yesterday, one of them was saying that you shouldn’t tell the agent that you’re going to be waiting breathlessly by the computer, hitting the refresh button every two minutes because it makes you sound desperate.

So, I can see why you wouldn’t want to say that to an agent. It’s not professional. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to do it. And honestly, it’s not desperation, at least not for me. It’s impatience. I imagine I’m not alone in this, but for me, being published will be the culmination of an almost life-long dream of being an author. I’m justifiably impatient when waiting for an answer that may or may not take me further down that road. If someone is ever given permission to incessantly hit the refresh buttons on a computer, I think it should be us writers.

I know agents say they get it because they feel the same way when they start to submit our projects to publishers, but honestly, do you think they feel the hope and fear at the same level that we do? When their projects get rejected, does it sting as much as when our projects, those manuscripts we’ve slaved over, writing and polishing until our eyes threaten to bleed, get rejected? I don’t know. Maybe they do. I don’t know any agents personally (not yet anyway!) so I guess I can’t really say.

What do you guys think? Is it desperation or impatience for you? Are any of you going through the same thing?

In other news, I received another full request from an agent yesterday. This one is one of my top choices, and I’m extremely nervous about it. I would love love love an offer of representation, but honestly, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed with a revise and resubmit from her. At least it would be the next step forward!

Also, I’m wondering if you guys like the interview series I’ve been doing. This week’s Saturday Poll will be asking for some feedback from you, so help me out and vote and leave comments!

Interview with Melissa Blue: Her Secrets to Successful Self-publishing

It’s time for our next installment in our Author and Editor Interview series, although I think I’m going to have to change the name to Author, Editor, and Agent Interview series! (More on that later.) Today, I’d like everyone to Welcome Melissa Blue.

Melissa Blue

 She was published through a publisher for her first two books, and then chose to self-publish after that. And guess what? Her self-published books are doing better than the one that was though a publisher! I know you’re anxious to hear her secrets, so let’s get to the interview!

Me: Melissa, Thank you so much for being here today! I know you were published with a publisher before you self published. How did you become a published author? How did break into the publishing business and what processes did you go through (querying, pitching, conferences, etc). Did you get “the call?” What was that like? How long did you write before you became published?

Melissa: The honest answer to how I became published is blind luck. I’d written three books. Queried the same amount of times. The fourth time I received a request for a full and then a contract. I did not expect that at all. I’d heard so many war stories about querying for years and years. The mountain of rejections. I mentally prepared myself for the long haul. And then my fourth time out, during my second year of writing, I got the email with Contract Offer in the subject line. I was over the moon. Completely and utterly. Unfortunately, I was completely and utterly not ready.

The business side of writing i.e. publishing is a different animal. There are a million things you have no control over. I wasn’t even in the same area code of the things I needed to have an understanding of. This, I think, was the biggest thing I had trouble reconciling. Still do sometimes. Although I do have a better understanding that writing is not publishing. These two things are only connected by six degrees of separation.

Me: Tell us what a day for you is like, in terms of writing. What’s your schedule like? Where do you write? Do you have any weird quirks or habits?

Depends on the time of the year. I spend half the year revising and then the other half writing like a demon. I’ve tried to break myself out of this habit, but it’s like trying to make the ocean go against the natural tide. It ain’t happening. As for where I do most of the grunt work ( writing or revising), I’ve recently purchased a laptop. I’m too lazy to move the old computer so I’ve been writing in the kitchen. Where there’s a ‘fridge within arm distance. This move has not gone well for my waist line.

Hmm, any weird quirks? Not really. If I’m writing in the morning coffee is a must. If I’m doing a first draft I need to listen to the book’s soundtrack I created to get my head into the story. Other than that it’s a pretty boring process. One word. Then another. Then another…

Me: Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be a self-published author. Who are you self-published through? What is their publishing process like? What do you like best about being self-published? What is the hardest thing about being self-published, if anything?

I never thought I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. Apparently I do and all of them are tired at the moment. But, here are a few things I’ve learned that I was not entirely aware of:

1. There isn’t just one place to self-publish. Matter of fact it’s not very savvy to publish with just one bookseller, because you are likely to lose out on sales. So, right now my books are available through B&N, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, and Smashwords. And with Smashwords I’ll have access to Kobo, Diesel, Apple and through a digital library.

2. Everything, absolutely everything, is left to me. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. This is a blessing and a curse. I can choose my own prices. I can choose my own cover. I get to say who can sell my book. Yet those things have to be done. Either by me hiring someone or doing it myself. The promotion is endless, but it’s about the same on both sides of the publishing wall. It involves crossing my fingers and doing all the things I have time for. And running ads, which just makes my pocket-book growl at me. This comes down to any and all successes and failures can be attributed to one person–me.

4. Lastly, formatting is evil. It was created by chapped butt chimps who think they are on the right side of evolution. All humans must suffer for that one gene that mutated and turned into an opposable thumb. This is fact. I’m sure you can find the correct reference on Wikipedia.

Me: What made you decide to self publish instead of continuing to work with a publisher? What are some of the differences between working with a publisher and being self-published? How do your self-publishing sales compare to those with a publisher?

Two important things I need to say first–One, I haven’t turned my back on working with a publisher. I really don’t understand this either/or mentality that’s popular. I walked away from my publisher for many reasons. I’ve been hitting the pavement so to speak to have another publisher behind my name, if not more than one. Yet it takes time. Something I was able to skip the last time around by sheer luck.

Two, I wanted to self-publish because I believed in the books I’d written. I not only believed they were good books, but that they had an audience. I probably won’t believe that about every book I write and those books will stay growing dust on my hard drive.

And because I think it needs to be said, publishing is a business. They are not looking for the books that will sell a few hundred copies. They are looking for books that will sell in the hundred thousands and millions. I think that is the biggest difference between “traditional publishing” and self-publishing. A publisher could lose their shirt with just a handful of titles selling less than 200 hundred books a month. A self-publisher could go dine and stay a week at the Ritz if they managed to sell the same amount on a handful of titles.

Now for me, I just wanted to do something more with the books I’d published. They were sitting on my hard drive collecting digital dust. And something wonderful is going on right now–an e-book revolution.

I got my first contract in late 2007, and I was screaming from the roof top I’m PUBLISHED!!!! People would ask me, oh what bookstore is your book going to be in? I’d have to answer it’s an e-book and then describe what an e-book was. Yeah, not a great sales pitch. In 2012, people have e-readers or smart phones. They have programs downloaded on their computers that can read all types of e-book formats. It’s a great time to be an e-published writer.

So, I made a decision to self-publish. My hope was simple, to do better than I did the last time I published. And those first numbers, with my publisher, were dismal. Even for someone without a name. Dismal. My books were out for close to two years and I hadn’t sold more than 100. (I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw off the floor.) Now the self-publishing numbers wouldn’t make the average writer go out and celebrate. I’ll just say, they are much, much better than my previous numbers. Much, much better and my books have only been out for weeks. Closer to two years, I bet they won’t be nothing to sneeze at.

Me: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for my readers hoping to publish a book? If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were just starting out, before you had any success, what would you say?

I’d tell myself overnight success is a fluke. Everything takes hard work. You won’t be the exception. You are the rule. You are the rule in every aspect of your life, this won’t be any different. And the key to success is patience and endurance. Maybe I’d also say that famous Pooh Bear quote to Piglet, “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Since it comes from a cartoon I think the younger me would believe it’s me from the future giving the advice. Lastly, success cannot be defined by numbers. It is defined by what you do. The rest is just icing on the cake.

You can find more salient and witty wisdom from Melissa Blue on her blog: http://melthegreatest.blogspot.com

Thank you so much for being here today, Melissa!

You can find Melissa’s books here.

I Need Advice: Moral Dilemma Related to Blogging

When I started writing a blog, I never thought that it would lead to an examination of my morals. I thought it might be fun and a good way to get in touch with the writing community. Being in touch with fellow writers means that I’ve gotten requests to host blog book tours, etc. And while I love to help and support my fellow writers, I’ve come across a dilemma. I could use some advice. Here is my problem:

I’ve been approached by a YA author who would like to make a stop on her book launch tour at my blog. I was excited to read her book. I sat down, read a few pages in, and went, “uh oh!” There was a very graphically described, very violent scene; one that I don’t think should be included in a YA novel.

This author was quick to point out that The Hunger Games books are very violent as well. That’s true. But here’s my dirty little secret; I think that The Hunger Games series is really an adult series masquerading as a YA series. I recently heard the books described as “blood-drenched,” which I think is accurate. Yes, I love them. Yes, I own the books. Yes, I plan on seeing the movies. But do I think they’re YA books? No. I think they are adult books, about a teenage protagonist.

This author seems like a very nice person, and I hate to disappoint her, but I don’t want to be seen as endorsing a book that I feel is too violent for YA readers. I just don’t know what to do. What do you think? Have any of you experienced anything like this? How did you handle it? Help! I need advice!

On a different note, we’ll be interviewing a self-published author on Wednesday, one who is doing QUITE well. Stay tuned to learn her secrets!

I’m on Twitter! And Some Other Updates…

@TheLiteraryMom if you want to follow me, hang out, participate in a #1k1h challenge, etc.

By the way, I’m having a moral dilemma relating to my blog. Has anyone else had that happen? More details on Monday.

Also, I got another request from a publisher, this time for my romance novel! I go months with a few requests and then BAM! It’s like being hit by a train! 🙂 Definitely not complaining though. I can only hope it leads to something…

Interview with USA Today’s Best Seller, Jennifer Probst

I’d like to welcome USA Today’s Best Seller, Jennifer Probst, to the Authors and Editors Interview Series here at The Literary Mom.

Jennifer Probst

Jennifer’s latest book, The Marriage Bargain, was published by Entangled Publishing a small press/eBook publisher.

It has sold over 43,000 copies in the first month alone. Jennifer is here today to tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with Entangled Publishing, as well as discuss her work as a writer. Thank you so much for being here today, Jennifer.

Me: Can you tell us a little bit about becoming a published author?  How did break into the publishing business and what processes did you go through (querying, pitching, conferences, etc). Did you get “the call?” What was that like? How long did you write before you became published?

Jennifer: I have always known I wanted to be a writer since I was twelve. I wrote my first manuscript by hand and brought it into my school to read to my friends! It was a teen romance, so I knew that would be my genre of choice. When I was in my early twenties, I penned my first adult romance and sent it off to an agent for representation. I had no idea she’d say no. Fortunately, this was the first in many steps for me to learn how hard the field is, and how I needed to dig deep and believe in myself. I revised, then sent it off to Harlequin – the whole manuscript – and waited 9 months to hear back. I received an excellent rejection letter – they didn’t want to buy it, but loved my work and encouraged me to send something else.Then I joined my local RWA chapter, the Hudson Valley RWA, and began learning much more about the business, contacts, and my craft. That was a turning point for me. I wrote another book, and sent that off. Again, Harlequin loved my query and asked for the whole. I waited almost a year, my editor left, and I received a rejection. So, I kept writing. I joined a local critique group. I read a lot of writing books. I pitched to agents. I pitched to editors. I got close several times but never made a sale. This went on for several years and four manuscripts.

I finally got a call from LionHearted publishing (who is no longer here) that they wanted to publish my first book, Heart of Steel. I remember when the editor called me, I told my parents my book was going to be published and they didn’t believe me! They kept gazing at me in shock, because it had been such a long process! I waited two years for the book to come out, but was finally able to hold it in my hand. It is an experience like no other – simply surreal – and an author will never forget that first time.

After that, I published an erotic novella with Red Sage rather quickly, and then my life exploded. I got married, had a baby, had another baby, and pursued a master’s degree with two young toddlers and a day job. Whew! Finally, I received my degree, kids got a bit older (at least potty trained – lol!) and I went back to writing like a demon. That is when I started to sell.

Me: Tell us what a day for you is like, in terms of writing. What’s your schedule like? Where do you write? Do you have any weird quirks or habits?

Jennifer: Schedule? Oh, boy, I wish I had a schedule! When I was working full-time, I stole time to write. I wrote on my lunch hour, into the late hours of the evening, and weekends. I wrote in fifteen minute stretches. I learned that is what I had to do to produce. I do much better with long hours to write uninterrupted, but that will not happen in my life, so I learned to make do with what I can! I write in my office which is a cluttered mess. My boys share a room because I’d never give up my writing space! I write now when my little one is in school for a few hours, evenings, early mornings, whenever I can! I was once writing a literal love scene while my kids were chasing each other around my chair and crawling under my feet and I never even paused -lol! And, no, no quirks or habits. Boring, huh?

Me:  Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be an author for Entangled Publishing. What is their publishing process like? What do you like best about working with them? What is the hardest thing about working with them, if anything?

Jennifer: Oh, I’m so excited to talk about Entangled! First off, The Marriage Bargain got rejected numerous times, but I believed in this book like no other before it. I kept polishing and researching to see where it could fit. Entangled was new on the block but had gotten some good press for the quality of their work, so I decided to submit. This, as you know, changed my life!

First off, the process is immaculate. The publisher and the editor conferenced me in to let me know they wanted to buy my book and how much they loved it. They saw all the wonderful things in it that I did. Then my editor ripped it apart! In a good way, of course! She made it so much better and made me re-write until it was perfect. The process goes through several intense re-writes. I received a publicist! How cool is that? I was so used to doing everything by myself, that it was such a treat to have one person help me do guest blogs, schedule things, line things up, and always check in if I needed something. Every time I emailed someone, they got back to me ASAP. I never felt alone in the process, and that’ s a big thing to an author. Another strong positive was their enthusiasm about a long relationship – they wanted more work from me and looked toward the future. And information is always shared, the authors are very supportive and cheerlead for everyone in the group. Honestly, it feels like I belong to a family!

Me: I’m planning to cover large publishing houses, exclusively E-Book publishers, and self-publishing in addition to small publishers/e-book publishers like Entangled. Do you have any thoughts/ideas on these other forms of publishing? Am I right in thinking that your book, A LIFE WORTH LIVING, is a self published book? Can you tell me some of your experience with that? How doe sit compare with the books you’ve had published through Entangled?

Jennifer: Really great question! Yes, I dived into self publishing for one particular reason. I haven’t felt strongly enough yet about one of my romance novels going Indie since I like the support of a publishing house backing it, along with a strong editor and team to push it ahead. That’s my personal opinion. But while I was writing my romance novel, the voice of a dog haunted me for over two weeks. I am a strong animal advocate and volunteer at my local shelter, along with owning two rescue dogs. I finally gave in to the voice and wrote a story about a shelter dog, coming from a dog’s point of view. And then I had no idea what to do with it! I had a few people edit it for content, and sent out some queries to some dog magazines, but nothing came of it. I decided to self-publish and give half of the proceeds to the animal shelter. I did it all myself, found the cover, uploaded it, and finally published it. I did some local advertising on social media and slowly, the sales began to build. After I did a presentation for the local library, sales began to increase steadily, and I began receiving some amazing fan letters on the short story. Then it hit #1 on Amazon in Pets/Animals category and I’m thrilled to report I am now able to present a nice check to the shelter every month, which has made a huge difference!

So, it’s definitely a different experience, but I followed that path because it was out of my usual genre and I wasn’t sure how else to get it into the public’s hands. I think every avenue is worth considering depending on the author’s comfort zone and what they expect out of their book. My main motto is always one thing though: quality. Don’t just put anything out there and think it will sell. If it’s low quality, you can lose readers forever.

Me: You’ve sold over 43,000 copies of your book The Marriage Bargain. That’s Very impressive, especially for a smaller publisher like Entangled. How do you think that number was achieved? Was it purely through the marketing strategies of Entangled, or did you hire a publicist, do social media tours, etc?

Jennifer: I’m so excited about those figures I didn’t sleep for a week! Honestly, I think it was a good combination. Entangled did some pre-publicity on the launch of the Indulgence line, my publicist lined up guest blogs and spots right away, and I think they had built a solid reputation on quality books that buzzed some interest. I did not hire my own publicist, and I did not do anything out of the ordinary. I did a 20 stop blog tour to get my name out there and used social media as much as possible. I had made some solid contacts in my previous book with reviewers who loved my work, so I told them about it.

My publisher was also pretty savvy though – when it launched and she saw some solid numbers – she immediately purchased a Goodreads ad to see if sales would spike. They did, so she quickly followed through with the other books. This is a sign of a good publisher – she didn’t just sit back and tell the author to promote. She was pro-active about the book, which I loved.

Me: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for my readers hoping to publish a book? If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were just starting out, before you had any success, what would you say?

Jennifer: When I am asked this question, I always answer in the same way, over and over. Do. Not. Give. Up. Ever. I have no regrets in my journey. No matter how many rejections I received, I pushed onward, and tried to believe in myself. I learned my craft, spoke with other writers, and kept writing new manuscripts.

I will share this tiny story that could have defined me. I had an English teacher who at the end of the year, came over to my desk and literally told me she didn’t think I could cut it in the honors English class and that I’d never be a writer. Yes, I know, horrible right? In the same vein, I had other teachers who supported and encouraged me. But, the moral of the story is this. I went home and almost decided to give up. After all, this was a professional telling me I wasn’t good enough, right? Instead, I dug deep and decided to prove her wrong. I even dreamed of writing a dedication to her one day in one of my books as my revenge – lol! I could’ve let her win, but I didn’t. Life is always going to knock you down. You need to just get up. (Yes, I have a thing for the Rocky movies, sorry.)

It’s a very hard journey for most of us. You have a dream and you don’t know what’s around the next bend. Many need day jobs (I did) to pay bills, because the writing isn’t enough. The good news? It can always happen – it can be the very next book you write that makes all of the difference. My close friends cannot believe my book hit the USA Today bestseller list. They tell me they remember how I always dreamed of this and never gave up, and it makes it that much better. Remember, we write because we have to – it is a part of us that will not go away. Don’t ever get into this business for the glory – there rarely is glory – but the satisfaction of seeing your dream on paper in the world cannot be explained. It is pretty much one of the greatest things on earth!

Me: Thanks again, Jennifer, for being here today. You can find Jennifer at various places throughout the internet:

Website and Blog: http://www.jenniferprobst.com
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2965489.Jennifer_Probst?origin=
Author Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/jenniferprobst.authorpage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/jenniferprobst

Buy The Marriage Bargain here:
Barnes and Noble:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-marriage-bargain-jennifer-probst/1108825359

Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/The-Marriage-Bargain-Billionaire-ebook/dp/B00790TI0W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332376074&sr=8-1