Tue Cent Twosday: The Three Answers

In publishing, (I suppose I should clarify that to be in traditional publishing and not self-publishing), there are three answers one can receive when one submits one’s book for publication:  Yes, No, and Maybe.  Here’s my thoughts on each of them, based on questions folks have asked me over the years.

1.  “Yes.”

Ask yourself if you really want to work with this house, though you probably should have already decided that before you submitted to them.  But if you’ve got simultaneous submissions out, is this your preferred house?

Read the contract!  For Heaven’s sake, don’t just swoon, say something equivalent to, “They want me! They really want me!” and sign away your project.  Chances are, this novel, novella, or other book-length manuscript took a large chunk of your life energy to write – some folks labor for a year or more on theirs, especially in the beginning.

The contract is in legal language, since it’s a legal contract.  While it’s not required, it’s recommended that you have an attorney or your agent review the contract with you.  Failing that, you should talk to others who are familiar with contracts and get their input.  Keep in mind, you’re signing a binding legal agreement to which you will be subject for a period of time.  You want to make sure that you don’t regret it down the line, to the best of your current ability.

2.  “No.”

Don’t just delete the email!  The “No’s” can be instructive.  If it’s a form letter, then perhaps not, but if it’s a letter from a real, live, human being you may be able to find out why they rejected it.  Remember:  they’re rejecting the BOOK, not YOU.  If you’re very lucky, their letter will say why they rejected it:  they just published something similar, or it’s not a good fit for their house, or the plot isn’t tight enough.  Whatever the reason, digest it and think hard about it.  Do you agree with the criticism?  Is there something you can do to improve the manuscript?

3.  “Maybe.”

In the publishing world, a “Maybe” is known by its letters, “R&R,” and doesn’t mean “rest and relaxation.”  It stands for “Revise and Resubmit.”  This is not the end of the road, not at all, and can work out in your favor if you are careful.

In an R&R, what the editor is telling you is, they like the project.  Pay attention to what they say they like.  It might be the voice, or the plot, or something else that caught their eye and made them want to spend their valuable time offering you the chance to fix it.

They will also tell you what they want you to revise before they see it again.

Stop and think for a second here.  You don’t want to just blindly rush off and do the equivalent of “Yes, sir, No sir.”  Do you agree with their changes?  Will the changes make the project stronger?

I know it’s tough to contemplate changing your project.  You’ve labored long and hard and it’s how you like it.  Here’s the thing, though:  publishers are in the business of selling books.  They know their market, and they know what their market wants.  If you agree with their changes, it will mean a book that will appeal to their market, readers whom you, presumably, want to reach.

That said, if you don’t like the suggestions, then you don’t have to take them.  You can always take your project and submit somewhere else.  Maybe the changes will make it weaker, in your mind, or you just don’t want to take the project in that direction.  Be very careful here that you’re letting your Best Self and not your Ego drive here – with humility, you might find yourself with a fantastic editor at the house of your dreams.

If you do like the suggestions, then by all means make the changes.  Many times, the editor will clarify things for you as you work so that you can hit the bullseye.

Note – if you decide not to accept the R&R, by all means thank the editor for their time.  This person clearly saw something in you, enough to take time and offer suggestions to improve your project so that they could work with you.  Respect that professionally.  Editors talk to each other.  Snubbing someone because your ego got its feelings hurt is rarely a smart move for your writing career.

Step Into the Mists with Me

Join me today at Beyond the Veil.  Our theme this month is “Business As Usual: An Insider’s Look at Publishing.”  I took that literally and shared some of my thoughts about where the industry has been and where it’s heading now, as well as some ways to keep on top of all the changes.  I hope you’ll join me!  ~more~

Tue Cent Twosday – A Guest Post with Kimberley Troutte

Speeding Down the Road to Digital Publication

a Guest Post by Kimberley Troutte

Thank you for having me here today. Noony asked me to talk about how much digital publishing has changed the publishing industry for romance writers. Boy, where to begin?

One great place to start is at the top with RWA (the Romance Writers of America). Every summer RWA has a big conference to discuss the industry, network, eat good food…you know, regular stuff. When I went this time I was struck by how different this conference was from the first one I attended in 2006. All because of a little invention called an ebook.

A mere six years ago, there was a sense that a book not published by the traditional NY Big Six Publishers was somehow inferior. Self-published books were rarely considered by editors. Most writers needed an agent to get to the big houses and finding an agent to represent a new writer was tough. Being a budding romance writer, I dreamed of one day achieving that lofty pinnacle–publication at a big New York house. I thought it was my only road to success.

And it was a rough road full of bumps, sinkholes and heavily manned gates.

In those days (gosh, I feel like I’m talking about the Dark Ages) the journey started when a writer completed a manuscript and sent letters (by snail mail mostly) to agents and editors to try to sell the story. The wait time to hear from one of these professionals was painfully long as the writer trucked pages back and forth and paid a small fortune to the Post Office. If a writer was lucky enough to score a good agent who then sold the work, the wait was a year or two before the book hit the shelves. A year or two.

That was only six years ago–before Kindle, Nook, Facebook, Twitter, and email submissions. We’ve come a long way, baby.

At the 2012 RWA conference, all the buzz was about authors who found success by publishing through small digital-first publishers or on their own. (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?) The publishers heard these success stories too and, well, they freaked out a little. Imagine the big New York watching a corner of the publishing market slip through their fingers. Not only that, many already established authors were self-publishing their own works and making , gasp, more money.

New York houses are now in a rush to catch up to the Digital Age by opening Digital lines. Editors are looking for authors to fill new spots for various genres and story lengths. Some agents troll through ebook lists looking for clients to represent. Publishers look for hot-selling indie books to publish.

Wow, what a difference six years can make.

What about those long waiting periods? Well, a writer can self-publish her own book in a matter of days. Days, not years. Publishing houses have had to reduce publishing times in order to compete with Amazon and to woo authors who don’t want to wait years. In Anaheim, Kensington said that they can publish an ebook in about six months. I heard another house say 10-12 weeks! The rush to ebook publication is on.

What does this mean to writers?

Opportunity. Faster publication. Getting books into readers hands that have previously languished on a writer’s harddrive. Possibilities.

I’ll tell you what it means to me personally.

I used to suffer from stress dreams. Sometimes in my nightmares, I’d drive an out-of-control car at top speeds straight downhill. My kids screamed in the back seat while I stomped the useless brakes and tried to steer away from the ocean looming at the bottom of the road. I had that stupid dream five or six times and understood what it meant. My desire to be published was butting heads with gatekeepers who were tough about letting a genre-mixer storyteller like me through the gates. My goal to be published was as out of my control as that darn car was. What could I do?

One day Carrie Underwood sang “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” And I realized that I shouldn’t spend so much time trying to steer that car. Instead, I needed to let go of the things I couldn’t control and focus on what was important.

Writing is one of those important things. I stopped worrying about how I was going to get published and focused on writing the best books I can. Learning, growing, digging deeper, I let my passion and love fill the pages. I found pure bliss. My stories were infinitely better.

And now there are more roads to publication. My car is zipping along and whether I’ll park at a small press, Amazon, or a big house, who knows? I have more control. One way or another, my beloved stories will be read thanks to all those indie-authors who were brave enough to pave the way and to the awesome readers who buy books.

No more nightmares, only sweet dreams and well-paved roads from now on.

Biography

Kimberley Troutte has been a substitute teacher, caterer, financial analyst for a major defense contractor, aerobics instructor, real-estate broker, freelance writer, homework corrector and caregiver to all the creatures the kids/hubby/dog drag in. She lives with her husband, two sons, one dog and four snakes in Southern California.

Tue Cent Twosday – Why “Guerrilla” Marketing?

Why “guerrilla” marketing?  It lies in the definition of the concept of guerrilla warfare. First coined to describe the rebels in South America fighting better funded government adversaries, it means a small force, well-coordinated, using every tool at its disposal for maximum effectiveness at minimum cost – of life, time, resources, and money.

Guerrilla Marketing is a term coined by author Jay Conrad Levinson in the 80’s and is a way of thinking about marketing for small businesses, as they compete against bigger, better funded corporate adversaries in the market. His books are wildly popular and I highly recommend them. The one I have in my own library and love is Guerrilla Marketing Excellence: The Fifty Golden Rules for Small-Business Success, by Jay Conrad Levinson, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 1993. It’s probably been updated since then, but the concepts are the same.

In short, it’s figuring out how to market what you’re trying to market in the most effective and targeted way possible, without spending a lot of money and time that you don’t have. How does that affect us?

What are our priorities as writers?

Writing books. Duh. You can’t market what ain’t writ.

What’s the next priority?

Work/Life balance. Why do this if we become frazzled, unpleasant to be around, and bitchy? That’s not the way to happiness – nor is it the way to continued writing, unless perhaps you’re Hemingway. And we all knew how HE turned out.

So. Here, in 5 steps, is Aunt Noony’s Guide to Guerrilla Marketing for Us Writers:

1. Figure out what time you do have. When are your working hours? An hour before you go to the office for your day job? While the kids are napping or after they’re in bed? Figure out what time you have available to you.

TIP: I recommend literally writing a list, like this:

Sunday:
Monday:
Tuesday:
Wednesday:
Thursday:
Friday:
Saturday:

Then fill in what you have as standing commitments and what time you have available for writing.

2. Realize there are two parts of being an author: part 1 is being a writer, and all the creative stuff associated with it; part 2 is being an author, which is a business and all the left-brained stuff that implies. How much of the time available to you, do you want to spend on each? 50/50? 60/40? 100/0? Then parcel out the time you’ve found in Step 1 accordingly. If you have an hour a day, that’s 7 hours a week. 50/50 is 3.5 hours on writing, or 30 minutes a day, and 3.5 hours on marketing/business/accounting stuff, or 30 minutes a day.

3. Figure out what marketing stuff you want/like to do. If you aren’t currently doing any, then pick ONE. Yes, I said ONE. Not ten. Not fifty-gabillion. Not message boards, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and Google+ and the other zillion “this is totally required for writerly success” social media whizbangs that come down the pike tomorrow. One.

If you’re already doing marketing stuff, like a website, blog, FB, or Twitter, then figure out which ones you want to focus on when. For example, in our 30 minutes a day model: Sundays and Tuesdays, blog posts; Mondays and Wednesdays, FB posts (learn TweetDeck or HootSuite, they’ll save you lots of time and energy); Thursdays and Saturdays, Twitter posts and responses; and Fridays, respond to comments (or join a social board like Coffee Time and interact with folks).

4. Once you know what outlets you’re focusing on, figure out what you’re saying. Sloan mentioned she doesn’t know what to blog about. Start with what stuff interests you. Me, it’s this: writing, editing, publishing business, marketing, character development, creativity, journaling, knitting, cats, coffee, and dark chocolate. THAT is my platform. My readers know what they’ll find when they come to a Noony post – something informative, sometimes funny, focused on writing, knitting, coffee or chocolate. (If you don’t believe me, check out my “essays” section on my website, and that’s pretty much how I’ve organized them.)

TIP: You know how to write, and you know what to write about, or you wouldn’t have started writing books in the first place. Essays aren’t any different than fiction, really, in the sense that you’re telling a story about something. That “something” just happens to be in this real world around us, as opposed to our fictional worlds in our novels and short stories.

EXAMPLE: Here is the schedule for my own blog, that I came up with myself (meaning, you can come up with one that fits for yourself):

  1. Sunday Box Talk (the 3 Boxes of Life)
  2. Monday – I have guest posts on other blogs on this day; stories and novels and stuff – NWO, Rachel Carmichael, IPO.  So keep this day for that.
  3. Tuesday – Two Cents day?  Talk about publishing and writing, and my work with it? Remember to keep it focused on the readers.
  4. Wednesday – Walking In This World.  How are things going today?
  5. Thursday – Thursday 13
  6. Friday – Flash fiction.  Use prompts?  Maybe on Twitter?
  7. Saturday – The Noonhour podcast.

5. Do what’s fun. If you like talking with others, and talking about writing or your hobbies, then do that. Don’t wait for others to tell you what’s interesting, and for the love of Pete don’t listen to those who say that no one wants to hear what you have to say (and if you’re the one saying it, tell your Inner Critic to fuck off). It’s like writing books – trust yourself, and trust your voice.

TIP: Come up with a list of five or six topics you can write about at the drop of a hat. These are the topics from which you’ll pull when you do guest posts. I might be writing M/M from a woman’s perspective, or character development, or any of a bunch of things that you’d talk about with other writers at a conference. When in doubt, here’s a list:

  • Why I write what I write 
  • How to develop a sympathetic character 
  • My four favorite writing tools 
  • Coffee and tea – which is more important for your writing? (This gets surprisingly many comments, since people are passionate on both sides of the fence) 
  • Common mistakes writers make and how to avoid them – even better if you include your own booboos and how you fixed them 
  • Research techniques you find useful 
  • Your favorite websites – no, really, the ones you go to when you’re supposed to be writing, and why 
  • Anything else you like to talk about or write about or argue about
Let me know about your own ideas on guerrilla marketing or social media in the comments!

Tue Cent Twosday

Publishing and writing are two different parts of the puzzle.  They’re not the same thing and shouldn’t be approached as the same thing.


Writing is a creative art.  It’s image-intensive, using the imagination to create stories and poetry.  Even non-fiction is as much art as science, as connections are made between facts and figures.  There are many tools to help us keep the channel clear as we create.


Publishing is a business.  It’s about producing product that customers want to buy.  It’s changed a lot in the last fifteen years, from the consolidation of traditional publishing houses to the explosion of ereaders and ebooks.  Genre definitions have blurred and fractionated because the internet allows authors to give readers many different tags for a particular book that would be impossible to duplicate in a brick-and-mortar store.  


It’s important to remember that these two “jobs,” if you will, aren’t the same and that they require different skills.  Luckily, there are many places to learn the skills that will help you succeed at both, but the firs step is to recognize the differences between them.