Wanna See a Publisher's Rejection Letter?

Saturday, May 30, 2009
It starts off with the usual. I'm skipping to the good stuff.

We've had a chance to read your manuscript (any letter that doesn't start off with "We love it. We'll take it." is a bad sign), and we've discussed it with our review committee and many others in the publishing department. It is obvious you have invested a considerable amount of time and energy into this project (can you feel it coming). Our publishing schedule is quite competitive, however, and as we look carefully at all the issues involved in publication, we are forced to be extremely selective in our publishing decisions. Reluctantly (and here it comes!), we have concluded we are not in a position to pursue publishing (an alliteration! they just can't help themselves!) this manuscript. (I'm pretty sure this part was part of a form letter.)

This rejection is certainly not about your ability to write. You are a very talented and we would encourage you to check out other publishers such as (names retracted). Information on all of them can be found (the rest is rather mundane).

All in all, a very nice rejection letter. (Kinda like being slain with an ornate sword. You're still dead, but at least it was with something pretty. :) ) Give me a few days to be miserable, drown myself in self-depreciation, and I'll bounce back with a vengeance.

In the meantime, anyone wanna go shopping?

Dear Agents Everywhere Part 2

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Signing with an agent is a lot like getting married. You make the most educated decision you can, trust the other person, and jump. And I mean jump. (Fortunately, my agent has been great so far.)

So what does an author want/expect? I can't answer that for everyone, but I'm going to give a general list. (Unfortunately, agents expect you to ask these questions. IMO, we shouldn't have to ask. After all, they're the expert.)

1. Tell us what you'll do up front. Really. Vague isn't helping anyone. Are you planning to do an edit? If so, how extensive? What houses/editors do you plan to send to? How many do you plan to send to in the first round? Second (if there is one)? How long should I wait for a response from you? Would you like to work with me on more projects, or are you a one night stand type of man? Nothing sours a relationship faster than colliding expectations.

1.5. Answer our questions.

2. Tell us what you expect from us up front. As far as contact goes, how often is too often? How often do you want to see another MS? Do you prefer we call, email, stop by your house with a cattle prod and a horse whip?

2.5 Answer our questions in a timely manner.

3. Expect to "be there for us." Especially if your taking on a newbie. While you might be a seasoned pro, we aren't. Expect to teach us a few things about the industry. Don't like it? Tough. It's part of your job.

3.5 Answer our questions completely.

4. Give us some idea of what to expect. By the time we've put our MS in your hands we're feeling way overdue anyway. If we have realistic expectations up front, it won't be so bad.

4.5 Answer our questions. Really. If it's stupid, answer it anyway.

Notice something? Most of this boils down to communication. So treat it like a job interview. Tell us your part of the job and ours. Negotiate any stalemates.

And answer our questions!

Dear Agents Everywhere

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I've seen lots of posts by agents in what they love/hate from potential clients. So I thought I'd turn the tables. For all agents, here's an author's Do's and Don't list from all those unagented authors (many of these are from personal experience--not from my agent ((love ya, Al)) but those other, nasty, no good stinkers).

1. Do: Be nice. It's really very simple. No one likes rude people. Newbies might make a mistake and fail to follow your guidelines. Shrug it off and move on. Don't post and rant about it on your blog. There really is another person on the other side of the computer. Be polite and professional.

2. Do: Post your guidelines. If you're a stickler for how, when, what, etc: POST IT on your website, blog, guidelines on all the different agent search sites (agent query, publishers marketplace, etc.) The harder it is for us to find you and your guidelines, the more random your queries are going to be.

2.5. Do Post your preferences. ie--If you're not taking any more epic fantasies, post that on your guidelines. You'll save us both time and money. (This one happened to me).

3. Don't: Get our hopes up only to smash them into the ground. Really. You may think you're being encouraging. You're not. If you're loving a book and you tell an author that 3, 4, 5, or 6 times and then end up not taking it, it's like counting down for Christmas and then telling your six-year old Santa decided to cancel this year (yes, this happened to me).

4. Don't: String us along. Either take the MS or don't. I'll relate it to proposing to your girlfriend and her answer is: (drum roll) MAYBE. It's really not fair. I understand that there may be exceptions, but understand, you're on precarious ground (Please see #1). And yes, this happened to me.

5. Don't offer to take on a client if you plan on moving to another agency or quitting altogether in a week (Yup. Happened to me.)

So what to you all think? Did I forget something (when don't I ;) ).

Next, I'll post Do's and Don'ts for your agent.

I'm infected.

Saturday, May 23, 2009
My computer bought the farm. I opened a link from a friend on facebook. It infected my computer. When we have the money to fix it, I'll be back. Until then, I'll only be on when I can use my friend's computer--and she's moving.

Stupid computer geek with too much time on his/her hands. I have a name for you. But I'm not going to use it. I'm better than that. If, however, I ever meet you, know that I grew up on a ranch. I have intimate knowledge on how to castrate you.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

POV and genre

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
This is such a complex, fascinating issue. I'm loving it.

Okay, so the question is does POV matter per genre (different genres favor different POVs. As I mentioned before, speculative fiction uses 1st a lot. Epic fantasies use deep 3rd--I can't think of even one example of an epic in 1st).

I asked a writer friend of mine, Dave Wolverton (w/a Dave Farland ). Here's his answer: "In most genres, third person with deep penetration is the best way to go. Rarely do we see fantasies in first person."

BUT WHY! I've already speculated that it's because the characters lives are so different that 3rd feels more realistic. So what do you think? Would 1st in an epic fantasy throw you off, or would it be different enough to draw your interest?

If you want to be the recipient of Dave's years of experience for free email him at dwolvert@xmission.com and say, "Kick me!"

POV differences per genre

Monday, May 18, 2009
Have you ever noticed that some genres favor one POV over another?

Speculative fiction, for instance, seems to gravitate toward first person. My genre, fantasy, seems more 3rd person oriented.

Why do you think this is? The only conclusion I can come up with is that first person feels more intimate, while third can step further back, but I could be entirely wrong.

Right now, I'm working on a fantasy based off of something similar to Scotland in the 1400's. And I'm writing it in first person. I'm not sure if I'm breaking some unwritten rule, or simply doing something that doesn't work.

So I'd love to start a discussion here. What POV do you use? Do you think one POV is better for one genre versus another?

Literary Talk Show

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
From my agent:


(HOUSTON, TX April, 2009)

–Two bestselling authors with extensive media experience, ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Pat Tucker have joined creative forces to launch From Cover to Cover Literary talk show. The show, which is designed to help authors promote their work, and explore aspects of the literary industry, will debut on Houston Radio Station, KPFT 90.1 FM, on April 22, 2009 from noon to 1p.m. CST.

From Cover to Cover will provide a venue for authors to expand their audience and readership through the powerful medium of FM Radio. The show’s format will be a combination of informative literary news stories, topic-driven segments, live author interviews, and good old fashioned product description and exploration. In addition to author interviews, the show’s stories will cover a wide range of topics and issues related to the literary industry, including the exploration of new trends like the rapidly-expanding digital market, the trials and tribulations of publishing, and much, much more.

The show will educate readers and consumers alike with topical discussions, like how electronic readers such as the Amazon Kindle and the Sony eReader, along with smart phones, iPods, PDAs, will impact the industry. Recognizing the changing climate of the literary industry Pat and ReShonda want to utilize their combined literary and media experiences to make a positive impact on the industry.

Through the show, the producers will reach out to publishers, booksellers, bookclubs, distributors, and others to create a dialog among those directly related to the overall success of a book. “We’re entering a crowded arena, but we have a competitive advantage due to our unique media experience as well as our location on an FM station in the 11th largest media market in the U.S. We believe our media background and experienced support team dedicated to the show’s success will set us apart from many of the blog radio programs currently in existence,” says co-host Pat Tucker, who also pointed out the void of shows like this on FM Radio.

Together, Pat and ReShonda have over 35 years of experience working in radio and television news. Both have worked as television news and radio reporters after receiving broadcast journalism degrees from their respective universities. It’s this background, coupled with the duo’s extensive literary experience, that ReShonda believes will make From Cover to Cover a viable force in the literary industry. “We are looking forward to producing exceptionally high-quality programming, while offering authors the ability to help spread the word about their work. In today’s literary market, authors need every advantage available. A well-produced show, with quality content at no charge to the authors, with direct access to a firm listener base and the potential to reach others through live streaming on the station’s website, will make a huge impact. That’s what From Cover to Cover will deliver,” added co-host ReShonda Tate Billingsley.

From Cover to Cover can be heard on Houston’s 90.1 FM and streaming via the World Wide Web at http://www.kpft.org/. For additional information on From Cover to Cover, or the co-hosts and their credentials, please visit our website at http://www.fromcovertocovershow.com/.
If you are an author or represent an author who would like to be featured on From Cover to Cover please send an electronic press kit to the show’s Executive Producer, Ron Reynolds, at CovertoCoverShow@aol.com.

If you are a bookclub member or have a business related to the literary industry, please forward contact information for our building rolodex so that we may call upon you for research, possible interviews, or sound bites for upcoming show episodes.

Trudging through Titles

Monday, May 11, 2009
Let's face it. Wandering readers pick up a book based on two things:

1. Cover
2. Title

As writers, we have little control over the cover art. What we do control is a title that will catch a reader's attention. It's like fishing. We need to have shiny, tasty looking bait.

Unfortunately, I suck at writing titles. It's something I've never had a knack for. With The Priestess Prophecy, I went through dozens of titles before settling on the one above. At first, it was Aria, until I realized that another author had used the same name for his heroine. I changed it to Nighstar (I explain the reason behind the spelling in the book), but everyone kept inserting a t and making it Nightstar. It was confusing, so I changed it to Chosen. I researched it on Amazon. Taken. I tried The One, and The Prophecy. Eventually, I added Priestess and refused to look back. I'm still not sure it's shiny enough to hook a bookstore patron by the jaw and reel them in, but it will have to do.

The Last Witch was originally Witch Song, but feedback from my readers revealed that they didn't like it. I still don't understand why. It's one of my favorites. So I decided that Witch Song would be the name of the series and The Last Witch the name of the first book.

With my last MS, I quickly came up with a title I loved: Winter Queen. Finally! Catchy and concise. I was as proud of that as my toddler who figured out how to climb the pantry shelves to reach a forbidden cookie. Until I searched the title on Amazon.

Taken. Again.


I'm hoping some of you have the secret and will share.

How do you find time to write?

Saturday, May 9, 2009
It's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. For me, writing is like taking a shower or eating. If I don't do it every day, things stink and I get cranky. But finding the time with 3 kids (7, 3.5, and 2 months), clearing, my jewelry business, cleaning, errands, cooking, cleaning . . . I could go on, but it makes me tired just thinking about it.

I've tried taking a step back and thinking, "What can I cut so I have more time for my family and writing?" I could stop sleeping, but I only get four hours as is. I refuse to stop exercising. In the end, I compiled a list of things to eliminate:
  1. TV. No arguments. It's a waste of time.
  2. Superfluous activities. You know what I'm talking about. I'm not saying that you cut every second of TV, every single girl's night out. But if you're seriously crunched for writing time, you might have take a long look at your extracurricular activities and decide which ones could be trimmed down and which ones need to stay in place for your sanity and relationships.
  3. House cleaning. I clean every surface once a week. Kids take a sack of fishy crackers and stomp them all over the floor-they clean it up. If floor needs mopped, I think to myself "I mop on Wed. It can wait until then."

In the end, it's all about balance. Like all things, busy times come and go. If you're in one of those busy times with me, take a deep breath, prioritize, and simplify.

Easier said than done, but you can do it. Let's do it together (goodbye Lost, The Office, and SouthLAnd. :( I will miss you, but it's for the best).

I'd love to hear any ideas you have for saving time.

Happy writing!

The Answer to "What is a Story?"

Monday, May 4, 2009
Okay, you wimps. Only Lady Glamis, Becky, and B J Keltz had the guts to really chime in. JK ;)
Glamis said a story is overcoming conflict. Becky agreed with her. Beautiful, precise, and accurate.

B J Keltz also said it needed an awakening or a change in understanding.

So, which is right?


Why? Because the answer varies according to the individual. Different people like different kinds of stories--that's why books are so varied.

So, what's my answer? (drum roll, please): A story is a satisfying emotional journey.

Again, what satisfies you and what satisfies me is different. Not a big fan of horror (I have way too much imagination). Nor do I like tragedies. Poetry is okay, occasionally. Why? Because they don't satisfy me. Tragedies have sad endings. Horror makes my scardycatitis into scardypantheritis. After about two poems, I fall asleep (There's not enough tension, no character to fall in love with, and don't get me started on meter). But the key is, if a writer can take their audience on a powerful/beautiful journey and drop them at their destination with a feeling of satisfaction, people will buy it.

Your mode of transportation = emotion. The destination = satisfaction. Having trouble figuring out the what your mode is? Write down your top 10 favorite books, figure out what emotions they provoke, and you'll have your map. If you find out what you want out of a story, you'll be able to write it into a story.

And that, my friends, is vital to being a good writer.

For your own sakes, figure it out and let it guide you.

So share, what's your favs?

Forgive typos. I wrote this whole thing while propping my daughter's bottle with my chin. :)

What is a story?

Friday, May 1, 2009
It's a question we all need to answer in order to write at the highest level.

So I'm asking you to really think about it and give me your answer. Try to keep it short--a synopsis of sorts. After you've all had a chance to chime in, I'll tell you what I think a story is and we'll see how close our conclusions come.
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