Since launching myself onto the turbulent waters of the book business, I have ‘met’ dozens of other new authors. Not new writers, as most of us have been writing since forever, but newly emerged as authors. It takes a certain amount of courage to ‘come out’ and admit to your secret vice. Not only admit to it, but show others, complete strangers, what you have been up to all these years.
It is Mother's Day weekend and today is one of those days when I am so glad I write poetry. I am blessed to be able to put my feelings to lines and publish them here at Poetic Parfait. Today's poem is for my mom.
The wording of the first verse was inspired by the daily prompt post at terry1954…
Back in the days when I was querying a single book, it was easy to become consumed by the process of writing letters, emailing agents, and receiving subsequent rejections. Requests for partial manuscripts created the ultimate high, while “sorry, this isn’t the project for us,” sent my spirits spiraling into the abyss. While researching agents and reading tips on how to craft the perfect query letter, I stumbled upon a bit of advice to help authors survive the querying process. Actually, I saw this advice in more than one place and I’m going to share it with you:
Write another book.
Pretty simple, really. While querying The Claiming Words, I was writing the second and third books in the series, so I figured I was doing a pretty good job of following that advice. When the querying process got tough, I could distract myself by immersing myself in my fantasy world. Once I’d racked up twenty rejection letters, my other works-in-progress weren’t doing a very good job of distracting me, because what’s the point of writing an entire series of books if you can’t get anyone to publish the first one? (Back then, I thought the only path to publication was the agent/traditional publisher route. I didn’t even consider self-publishing. I was innocent and foolish back in the early days. )
I still think “Write another book” is good advice for the querying writer; however, I think it’s important to write a totally, completely different book. Don’t get too caught up in one series. Even if you land that agent or publisher, those other books in the series could take years to see publication—if ever. Write your series—but write other stuff too.
“Write another book” is great advice for any author, whether published or unpublished. Not only can writing another book distract you from the querying process for a book you’re currently pitching, it can distract you when sales aren’t so great for a book you’ve already published. Writing hones your skills—the only way to become a better writer is to write. Writing (and publishing) another book builds your resume. It’s easier to gain a following when you have more than one book under your belt.
Here’s how writing another book helped me. I wrote The Fifth Circle for two reasons: because I’d been writing books in the same series for so long, I wanted to see if I had what it took to write an unrelated book AND because it was a good distraction from the endless rounds of writing/editing/querying of The Claiming Words. When I realized a few months ago that The Claiming Words series was a total loss (for now), I was able to self-publish The Fifth Circle. When one book (or in my case, series) didn’t work out, I had something to fall back on. I have other books too, finished and unfinished. I can always write more.
A real writer writes. It’s as simple as that. I’ve seen writers who finish their first book and become so caught up in querying/self-publishing/marketing, they never seem to find the time to write another. If all your time is spent promoting one book and you don’t have time to write, you’re not a writer anymore—you’re a salesperson. Cut back on marketing and get back to what you love. Write another book. Rediscover your favorite characters or create new ones to fall in love with. Just write.
My last post was doom and gloom, so today, I thought it would be nice to post something a bit more positive. Things remain the same in regards to my publisher situation, but I’m taking active steps to resolve the situation. I’m cautiously hopeful.
What else have I been doing? Reading. Lots of reading. I’m a book reviewer for a few different blog tour organizers, so I have constant access to amazing books–sometimes before they’re even released. In the past week, I’ve reviewed The Dark Citadel by Jane Dougherty and Saint Sloan by Kelly Martin. Both books are excellent and I would highly recommend them.
I’ve also been (slowly) working on the first draft for a chick-lit manuscript. When I’m finished with that, I have a YA paranormal manuscript to edit. Or, maybe I’ll edit the YA paranormal first and then finish the chick-lit. We’ll see.
I’m also still on the job hunt. I have a couple of good leads and a possible interview. Yippee!
In other news, the kids will be out of school for summer break soon. One daughter has her first formal dance to look forward to, while the other daughter is looking forward to turning seventeen.
Things are looking up. Life might not be all unicorns and cotton candy, but that’s…well, life.
Here’s a feel-good song we can enjoy together…
A couple of weeks ago, I reblogged an article by John Lucas Hargis about agents and how they stalk us on the internet. Guess who else stalks us? Potential employers. I’ve been out of the work force for a few months, but I’m trying to find a new job so I can afford book covers and shiny things and sparkly shoes for my daughter. And food and stuff too.
Anyway, when looking for jobs today, I came across a posting where the employer asked applicants to forward a resume along with links to Facebook and Twitter. Now, it’s not exactly a secret that employers do some digging into a potential (or existing) employee’s background. I don’t have a problem with this. Like I tell my kids, if it’s on the internet, it’s on public display. Whether or not an employer can fire an existing employee for internet shenanigans is a legal issue I’m not qualified to comment on, but I can understand why a company would do a bit of cyber-stalking prior to interviewing a candidate for employment. After all, the wise job seeker researches the company they’re applying for before interviewing, right? So it stands to reason an employer would want to do the same.
Before I began writing, I was practically un-google-able. I didn’t have a Facebook or a Twitter. Flash forward three years and I’m everywhere. Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin… everywhere. I have to wonder what potential employers will think of me if they Google my name and see a million-jillion pages of stuff. Every interview I’ve posted on Authors to Watch, every blog post, every Tweet, every Facebook status update–it’s all out there on display. I’m okay with that. I don’t have anything to be embarrassed about.
But, what will people think? Will potential employers be impressed I’ve kept myself busy during the eight month gap on my resume? Or, will they be afraid to hire me? Maybe they’ll worry that my writerly pursuits will interfere with my ability to give one-hundred percent on the job. Or, maybe they’ll worry I’ll write a book about them if things go bad. There’s no point worrying about it. And, really, I’m not worried. It is what it is.
I’m sure there’s a job out there for me. Somewhere, there’s a boss who is looking for an employee who has a good working knowledge of social media. A boss who is willing to overlook the big old gap in my resume where I cast aside accounting and played with words instead. Somewhere, there’s a boss who will stalk my Facebook page and be impressed by the sheer number of Grumpy Cat pictures I’ve posted. Everyone likes Grumpy Cat, right?
Okay, so maybe it only takes an author to write a book, but it certainly takes a community of beta readers and editors to make a book publishable. A small percentage of authors say they can self-edit and publish a book without any input, but that is a very small percent. Most authors rely on writing communities, beta readers, and editors in order to craft a flawless novel. Though writing is largely a solitary pursuit, once the first draft is finished, it’s important to reach out to others.
I rely heavily on beta readers. Without my betas, I’d be completely lost. With each beta, I look for something a little different. Some are great at finding plot holes, while others critique from an emotional perspective. Are the characters likable? Dialogue realistic? Are all the loose ends tied up by the end of the book? With my YA series, it’s especially critical to have beta readers. They can pick up on inconsistencies and continuity problems I miss.
Beta readers come in all shapes and sizes, and I’d recommend finding at least one who will be brutally harsh with you. If all your betas are related to you by blood or marriage, it’s unlikely you’ve found a good mix of betas. I think it’s essential to have a sister or cousin in your cheering section to boost your self-esteem and tell you how proud they are of your endeavors, but it’s equally important to find someone who will be brutally honest. While your sister might lift up your spirits when the going gets tough, your harsh beta reader is the one who’ll really hone that manuscript. And, since opinions may vary, I recommend getting more than one harsh beta. The more the merrier, in my opinion.
What’s the difference between a beta reader and an editor? Your beta is focusing on the story–characters, plot, overall enjoyment. An editor focuses on the construction of the manuscript–grammar, repetitive words, spelling. You might get some crossover. I have a couple of betas who will do some light editing by pointing out obvious errors, but what I really want from my betas is their overall impression of the story. What worked? What didn’t?
Once you’ve hammered out your story, you’ll want to work with an editor, especially if you’re self-publishing. There are different types of editing, some more involved than others. A substantive editor will work with you to develop the story, but this is generally a very expensive service. Your best bet is to swap critiques with a few good betas so by the time you get to the editing stage, you’re just looking at proofreading services.
Here’s a list of helpful sites if you’re looking for a beta reader, critique partner, or some writerly folks to chat with:
- authonomy (by Harper Collins)
- The Next Big Writer
- Ladies Who Critique
- Book Country
- Critique Circle
- Look for local writers groups on Meetup.com
- Try your area writers guild or local chapter of professional writers groups such as RWA or SFWA
Did I miss any good critique sites? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list. How many villagers do you have? How do you find your betas? Leave a comment and share your tips and advice.
Happy Friday, my lovelies. <3
Today is a good day!
I’m happy to announce that I have severed ties with the company Red Rose Publishing, and that they are no longer distributing my books. Believe it or not, this was a long time coming. ;o)
I received many emails from fans with questions on why I hadn’t released another novel for the Dragon Queen series.
All querying writers research potential agents.
Oh? You don't? tsk tsk
What a naughty, naughty writer.
Submission guidelines and genre preferences are important, but we should totally research, investigate, and weigh our findings against our own personality and professional goals. By learning as much as we can, writers can focus our search on lit agents who would truly make a great fit.
Teenagers get a bad rap. They really do. Oftentimes, there’s a good reason for this. You see–I know teens. I’m the proud mom of an ex-teen, two current teens, and a preteen. I write books for teens. I used to be a teen. So, yeah. I know teenagers. I know why they get a bad rap. Because sometimes they lie. Sometimes they get into trouble. Sometimes they screw up and make bad decisions and do really bad things. But, sometimes adults do these things too.
So, why do teens get such a bad rap? Why do we assume they’re liars, thieves, bad drivers, and general miscreants? Just because some of them act that way?
Yesterday, one of my children witnessed an exchange between a friend and a police officer. According to my child’s story, this police officer overreacted. (I can’t tell you the story, but I wish I could. I have to have some respect for my children’s privacy.) According to stories I’ve heard from my children–and things I’ve seen with my own eyes–teens are regarded with suspicion. Teens are judged (and misjudged) differently from those in other age groups. If there’s a car accident, it’s automatically assumed the teenage driver is at fault. If a group of teens walk into a convenient store, they’re regarded with suspicion and watched closely by the clerk. Teens aren’t considered reliable witnesses, and in a world where it’s-his-word-against-mine, the word of a teenager means nothing. Who would believe a teen over a teacher? A police officer? Or, a parent? No one.
This seems to be the general attitude in the community where I live. I hope it isn’t this way everywhere, but judging from posts I’ve read on Facebook, comments I’ve read on news forum threads, comments I’ve heard on radio talk shows, and comments I’ve heard from real live people, teens in the United States seem to be regarded with distrust. Many US malls have implemented a policy where teens are not allowed to be there after 6:00PM without a parent or guardian. Police officers are assigned to middle-schools, high-schools, teen dances, and libraries during after-school hours. While I appreciate the extra security, I can’t help but feel these policies are put in place not only to protect our teenagers, but to protect us from them.
These are some of the comments I’ve heard: “Teenagers today have no respect or appreciation for anyone,” or “We’re raising a generation of delinquents,” or “All these teenagers do is play on their cell phones and ignore the world around them.”
Yes, I’ve watched the news–teens and young adults involved in shootings, theft, gang activity, sexting. I know it happens. But, where are the stories about teens who have gone out of their way to help others? Teens who plunge into a freezing cold lake to raise money for the Special Olympics? Teens who work in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving? Teens who are active in church and community organizations? Where are those teens in our news stories? I know they exist–I’ve met them.
Why do we lump all teens under the broad category of “these damned teenagers?”
Do you want to know how to turn an entire generation into unreliable, irresponsible criminals? Treat them like unreliable, irresponsible criminals. If you expect teens to be delinquents, a good percentage of them will work hard to live up to your expectations. Either that, or they’ll use your poor expectations as an excuse for their bad behavior. Show them they aren’t trusted, and they will exhibit untrustworthy behavior. Tell them all teenagers are lazy, ungrateful druggies, and they will assume there isn’t any point in striving for anything better. Expect the worst–and you’ll get it.
Can we as a society do a better job in raising our teenagers? Absolutely. But, in addition to instilling good moral values, disciplining children when necessary, and supervising them a little better, maybe we should raise our own expectations. If we expect this generation of teens to be the rising stars of this century, they’ll live up to it. They’ll cure cancer, stop world hunger, and save the environment.
Expect the best–and you just might get it.
I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this, but there’s a war going on. Waged on the battlefields of Goodreads and Amazon, it’s a war between readers and authors. Well, actually, it isn’t quite that simple. Authors seem to be split–some side with the readers, some side with the authors crying ‘bully,’ and others choose to stay out of it altogether.
You see, there’s a group of authors out there (many who happen to be self-published) who have a very difficult time handling unfavorable reviews. That’s putting it mildly. Let’s be honest–there are authors out there who throw full-blown tempter tantrums when they receive a bad review. They’ve commented on the review, hurling insults and obscenities. They’ve even tracked down the reviewer’s email address or blog and pursued them on Facebook. In an extreme case, a few of the authors got together and started a website aimed toward outing the real identities of these ‘bullies.’ (True story)
Now, these authors will claim the reviewers are the real stalkers. They claim other authors one-star their books in order to knock out the competition. There are accusations of sock-puppetry on both sides. To sum it up, it’s a hot mess.
As authors, what can we do to keep from becoming embroiled in such a battle? What can we do to ensure we won’t end up on an Amazon or Goodreads Authors Behaving Badly List? Well, here are a few tips…
- Don’t freak out over bad reviews. Every author will receive at least one bad review. It’s inevitable. Don’t argue with the reviewer. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t comment on the review and try to explain where you were coming from. You’ll just sound like a whiny baby. Accept bad reviews with grace.
- Don’t argue with readers or reviewers over anything else. A forum post about how badly your book sucks. An accusation that all your five-star reviews came from sock puppets. “But, Tricia, I didn’t do anything. I don’t know why they’re targeting me.” Maybe someone took offence at a review you posted on another book. Maybe someone saw you were a Goodreads-friend with someone they hated and they decided to extend their hatred to you. Maybe someone just hated your profile pic. Whatever. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. I know an author who ended up on a Badly Behaving Authors list because he tagged books in a way some readers didn’t approve of. There was an Amazon forum post…and before he knew it, there was a whole, big, huge issue–all over something he didn’t realize was wrong. Did he argue? No. He stayed out of it and it all blew over pretty quickly.
- Don’t treat your writing like a hobby. (Well, unless it is a hobby.) Here’s the deal–the moment you decide to publish your work, you have entered the professional arena and your book will be judged alongside the works of other authors who are writing as a career. “But, I’m just writing because I love it. I don’t care about grammar, and besides, I’m too poor to hire a professional editor. And, I need new glasses. And, I’m tired because I work full-time.” As a poor, tired author who needs new glasses, I can totally sympathize with all those excuses and more. But, guess what? The reader doesn’t care about your excuses. Whether they paid ten dollars or one dollar or uploaded your book for free, it doesn’t matter. You made the choice to place your book in a professional arena and the reader has every right to critique your book accordingly.
- Don’t be an author if you want to live a quiet, private life where no one ever criticizes you or talks about you on the internet. Being an author involves an emotional risk. You’re putting your book–and yourself–in front of the world to be judged. Prepare for people to say things about you and your book (good and bad). It’s nothing personal–it’s just comes with the territory of being an author.
Author of Paranormal & Mainstream Fiction
Hi, I'm Tricia Drammeh, a wife and mother of four children who lives in the St. Louis area. My published works include The Claiming Words and The Fifth Circle. I'm currently working on my seventh novel. When I'm not writing, I can be found devouring books, interviewing up-and-coming authors, and drinking vast amounts of coffee.