Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Reasons to Have an Agent

This has been a hot topic of conversation among the writers I know for quite some time now. 
With a lot of unpublished hopefuls, we want to know if it's worth getting an agent.  

They get 10-20% of your book deal depending on what you employ them to do.  Maybe even a little more if they are helping you sell your book internationally.  And the question has been, "what exactly do they do for me?"  

So for those of you who aren't sure, here's what I've discovered:  

1.  An agent believes in your work.

2.  An agent helps get your manuscript ready to send to a publisher.

3.  An agent peddles your book around to the right people.  They know what publishers are looking for and they have the contacts to get your book into the right hands of larger, legitimate publishers.  An editor is more likely to notice the work of someone who has an agent, and even more likely to read the piece if it's an agent they know. 

4.  An agent negotiates your book deal.  They understand the ins and outs of the publishing world much more than we ever could.  The very first writer's meeting I attended, the leader of the group said that even if the agent doesn't initially get your manuscript into the publisher's hands, that they are still worth their weight in gold in the actual negotiations of the deal itself because they know about contracts and how much your book is worth to them.  

5.  An agent helps their authors have a voice.  I was just reading a post on Nathan Bransford's blog about book covers and how authors usually don't have a say of what their cover looks like.  This brings up an interesting point that once the publisher purchases your book, they own it and from what I've been learning, they could make edits to an author's story without their knowledge or approval.   

There are agents that aren't so good, of course.  And some that are downright con-artists.  The best thing to do is research before you sign with anyone and make sure the agent you're considering actually has a track record, and isn't making money by charging you fees, but by selling your book.  A great place to start is here, on the Writer Beware site.

After you've become your own, successful brand, you may not need to have an agent to represent you.  But for a first-time author wanting to be represented by a big publishing house, it's essential. 

The more I learn more about this strange world of publishing, the more I will share with you. 
What do you want to know about?  

Thanks for reading! 

I'll also do a follow up blog on reasons to go with a publisher- rather than self publishing or partner publishing as a new author.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Author IS a Brand

Okay, so for those of you who have been following the blog, you know that my day job is as a Brand Wrangler (Account Manager) for a company called Brand Iron.  This means the strategy behind branding is a huge part of my life and I find that it's applicable in many ways. 

One thing that I think will be to my advantage as I finish my book and begin to peddle it around to agents and publishers is that I understand that my book is a product.  

Now, I know.  Authors are artists and they want their book appreciated for the masterpiece it is.  But let's face it, the publisher wants to make money - and they want to continue to make money in the future with the new author they pick up.  This means when they sign a new author, the publisher is making an investment.  When this happens, the author themselves becomes a brand.  That is to say, they should become a brand.   

How can a person be a brand?
Well, I'll tell you.  It's the same as any business. 
It takes research and attractively packaging products and services, or in this case, your abilities and assets in such a way that differentiates you from the competition, other authors.  

Once you have a niche or have found that sweet spot of "white space" for yourself (and this could include a unique writing style, a specific topic or audience you focus on, etc.), you position yourself as an expert to your target audience.  

If you write about teenage werewolves, or historical fiction or you really understand the dynamics of generation Y, you probably have a specific group of people who love to read what you are an expert on.  Some groups are larger than others, but if the group exists, they will read what you have to say.  And once you have a captive audience, keep writing to them.  

Now does this mean that you're stuck writing the same thing forever?  No.  That could get old really fast.  But if the "you" brand is to be a strong one, stick with it for a while.  Be consistent.  Give the readers what they want.    

As an unpublished hopeful, be the most appealing asset to publishers as you can possibly be.    

1.  Be an expert.  

2.  Be consistent.

3.  Know how to promote yourself.  Whether in person, through a query letter or through social media, you should know what makes you and your story special and how to communicate that.  

4.  Educate yourself on publishing so that you come across as a confident, educated author that can just dive right in. 

5.  Be ready to pitch at all times.  You never know who you'll meet or when.  Preparation is what most people mistake as "luck."

6.  Consider taking some public speaking classes and get good at being off the cuff in front of a lot of people or cameras.  With some practice, this shouldn't be too difficult- and this also helps further differentiate yourself from the competition because many people have a debilitating fear of speaking in public. 
"So mister publisher, you could actually put me on a book tour or a talk 
show and I won't freeze.  I can personally promote my book."  
Extra brownie points.       

7.  This is all on top of having a great story to tell that is well-written.  Because we all know that a brand is nothing if the product isn't good.  

A callous way of looking at it?  Or realistic?  Let me know what you think.  

Please vote on my book poll if you get a chance. 

Thanks for reading, 




Friday, July 10, 2009

My characters are pieces of me

Ava is the main character of my story. 
She is quite different from me, but there are definitely relatable parts of her personality.  
There's a scene where she meets a cute surfer, and well, I think she is an average teenager - it was fun remembering that phase of life- the butterflies, the awkwardness...  She is trying to deal with things that many teens go through and at the same time, she is dealing with some that not very many people experience until much later in life, (like the death of a close family member).  

I mentioned in my last post that I personally was holding her back from doing what she should because it wasn't what I would do.  It was a growing experience for both of us, and sort of like allowing my child to make her own choices.  Pretty scary and cool at the same time.    

I also have this character that's very bulbously pregnant, but she's still this amazing fighter even with her humongous belly.  I love her.  She's strong and crazy and - well, I'm not much like her, but there are some things that I really envy in her personality which is why I think I like her so much.  

It's strange how my characters are somehow all pieces of me or parts of me that I wish I had.  

The relationship that I've depicted between the brother and the sister is derived from my own experience with my brother.  Of course, it's different enough that I'm not re-telling our own stories, but that emotion is still there, that connection is still there, even though they are twins. 
I think that's why the siblings had to be a brother and a sister for me to really get it right.  

They say "write what you know," and there's little things in all of my scenes or characters that are a very real part of me or my life.  

My husband started reading my story without my knowledge.  He told me something interesting.  That the Grampa character I've written reminds him of Robert Redford -that's who he visualizes when he reads the part.  I thought "that's awesome!"  It was not at all what I intended, but I see where he's coming from.  It's really cool to have someone else's experience and thoughts meld with my own and create this very real experience for Matt that is unique to him.  
Who knows?  Maybe we can persuade Robert Redford to play the part in the movie!  Ha!  I would just die of happiness.  

The character is really caring and involved.  Both of my biological grandfathers passed away some time ago and I don't really feel that I was mature enough to know them truly well.  It's sort of the relationship I would have liked to have had, I think.    

There's also several characters with accents.  Anyone who knows me from way back when would probably know that I'm obsessed with accents.  In fact, when I started writing, the voice I wrote in was not my own, but an idealized one - one that sounded smarter and much more articulate.  It's funny to me - I think I was not sure of myself and really lacked confidence at the beginning of writing the book.  Again, a growing process.  

Last weekend I had my second story/writing critique.  It's all going well.  People were actually asking to see my rough-draft manuscript because they didn't want to wait to find out what happens.  I am totally floored and really very flattered.
One group member, who I had never met before, said the piece was really well written and easy to read.        

Of course, I think I need to go through at least one round of revisions to each bit before I can let people read it.  There's too much going on in my head that isn't on paper, or in my case, on screen, just yet.  There are still things that people pick up on that are not consistent or that require a little more thought.  Gosh, I don't know what I would do without the group's help. Really is a top-notch bunch of writers and I really respect their opinions.     

Anyway, there are definitely things that are opposite of my life in the book, but I think people who know me will be able to have plenty of "Aha!" moments and may even find bits of themselves within the pages.  

The way the book is now, the mother character is really quite cold - which is absolutely opposite of my Mom.   So, Mom, when you read the book, THAT character is not you!  

 Thanks for reading! 
Let me know your vote if you get a chance.  


Thursday, July 9, 2009


Procrastination is an ugly little habit many writers deal with in their careers.  
And yes, I do believe it is a habit; which means that ultimately the pattern of waiting until the last minute to finish something or never doing it at all can be broken. 

I have warring tendencies in my nature that a) want to plan everything out and be prepared for every scenario possible in as many areas of my life as I can and b) wants to put everything off until...well, forever really.  It's really quite confusing and a bit embarrassing that I seem to be a walking contradiction of myself.    

It depends on the activity of course that determines how much procrastination takes hold.  
If I ever feel as though I HAVE to do whatever it is, the more likely I will put it off until the last possible moment.  If, of course, it is an extra curricular activity that I really WANT to do, it gets done first, and then I regret having finished it so quickly and not taking my time to savor the moment.  

Three weeks ago, I volunteered to submit a piece for my writer's group for critique.  Since I began, no one has gone twice, and I submitted my first time somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I volunteered because our numbers have dwindled a bit during the summer months and no one else was willing to put their hat in the ring.  So I thought "this is great," we're skipping the weekend we would normally meet due to the 4th of July weekend and I'll have an extra week to really have a stellar submission - really knock their socks off."
Oh, you think I would know myself by now...

I had so much time to do everything right and you know what happened?  I had a recovering puppy with his hurt leg and vet appointments, family in town, brand new job, 4th of July plans, helped paint my friend's condo, read a couple of books, worked on our house reconstruction, our 3 year anniversary, birthday parties, copywriting for the new job...
A WHOLE LIST of things I either had to do or that took the place of sitting down and working on my critique submission.  
Was there time in the midst of all of this to write?  Of course there was.  And what did I do?  Write a little, but not focusing on the task at hand. 

I had initially set out to finish this book, get an agent and get a publisher all before the end of the 2009 calendar year.  A goal that I think I should still shoot for (so I have a deadline), but one that I am quickly beginning to realize is almost a laughable feat.  Can it be done?  Sure!  Can I do it is an entirely different question.  One that we will just have to see about. 

So - that is what I'm struggling with currently.  And it seems that when I air out my difficulties, it motivates me through shame and the fear of failure to actually turn myself around.  So here goes nothing - I hope this works!  

Here's my current situation:  
I am hovering at right around 52,000 words at the moment.  My goal is to reach around 90,000 words in my rough draft and then whatever the final word count is, I'm fine with.  
To finish the rough draft alone in 2009, I need to be writing around 2,000 words a week.  
That's 400 new words a day, if I write 5 days out of the 7.  That's totally doable, right??  I think I can do it.  But that's just the rough draft.  Polishing the book is going to take a significant amount of time and stick-to-it-iv-ness, as my Mom would say.  

Okay.  That's enough of that for now.  

Here's some other life-updates: 

Axle doing his silly "Pooh-bear sit"

-Axle is healing quickly and doing really well.  Matt and I took him to the vet today to get his stitches out and the surgeon who performed the surgery praised him on how well he was doing. 

-My new job is as a Brand Manager with a company called Brand Iron.  You can check out what we do here:

-Matt is working almost every night on the house and it's slowly getting done.  The downstairs bath is almost complete (minus the baseboards, crown moulding and the mirror).  We've taken inspiration from a photo my sister-in-law took while she and my brother were in Greece.  It looks great.  I am so proud of Matt and can't wait to share some pics of it when it's complete.  Our house is going to look amazing.    

Pistol, in a reusable grocery bag

-Our youngest pet, a 2 year old short haired tiger striped tabby named Pistol was picked up by a hawk this week.  I was outside clipping the hedges when she spontaneously fell from the sky.  Matt saw her land in an area that was not exactly a normal place for her to fall from (no trees overhead).  The hawk glided up into a nearby tree to wait as she scampered off into the bushes.  The hawk glided off his perch and headed straight for Matt, or so it seemed:  Ty (our 4 year old cat) was in the grass behind him.  
If the bird thought he could pick him up, he is crazy, or really really hungry; either of which is not really a good combination for our cats.  
Pistol and Ty are both fine, surprisingly healthy, but pretty resentful about being confined to the inside of the house for now.  Their cries for freedom are pretty pitiful and hard to ignore.     
 -My older brother passed his P.E. exam (Professional Engineer) on the first try.  I guess only 50% of the applicants who take the test make it on the first time around, so we're really proud of him.  Congratulations B!  

-His son, (my nephew) is walking now - scratch that, running.  He's keeping his mommy and daddy on their toes for sure.  I hear that he has forgotten that he still needs to go down the stairs a bit lower to the ground and that he's feeling so confident in his new skill that he's fallen twice now.  Isn't that how we learn?  I imagine he'll be talking soon.  But, if he's anything like his dad, he'll only speak when there's something really worth saying.  And that's okay.  It's just fun (for a chatter box like me) to watch him grow and await the day when he can communicate exactly what he means with words.  

If you're still reading this, and you have a moment, please feel free to take my little poll about the book.  I think that this will really help (when this eventually becomes more of a blog about writing and my book).