Thursday, August 25, 2011

Unexpected Insight into the Publishing World

Thanks to my parents and their wonderful ability to make friends wherever they go, I was unexpectedly treated to a two-hour conversation with someone who not only worked for one of the big deal, holy cow, publishing companies until quite recently, but did so in a majorly important capacity. I can’t and won’t divulge who that person is or where exactly they worked so you’re going to have to trust me on this one. What this person had to say not only confirmed some things for me but also reminded me about a few things that we busy writers sometimes forget. So, in summary (with permission, of course):

1) Don’t expect instant success: I know we all want to be the next (insert famous author's name here) and make millions, but for first time authors this is very hard to do. It usually takes three to four books to really launch a successful career…the publishers know this and take it into account when they are considering a new author. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions to the rule, but for the most part building a career takes some time, especially in fiction.

2) Genre fiction is NOT dead: Nor will it be for the foreseeable future. Vampires, witches, werewolves, whatever…paranormal is still selling well and pubs are very interested in finding new voices and new talent. (Whew!)

3) You probably won’t have a ton of input on your book covers: So try not to be a prima donna about it. As much as your ms is your baby and all, you really need to trust those who know what they’re talking about where book covers are concerned and avoid being viewed as “difficult to work with.” By no means are you supposed to lay down and take it however it comes, but be professional about any concerns you might have and be sure to listen to those in the know.

4) Self-promotion is very important for new authors: Especially with regards to tapping into small communities. That’s where you’ll build your loyal fan base, in small towns and cities where they may or may not have heard some buzz about you. Get into your local papers and bookstores as well…make yourself available and be prepared to market yourself. If people don’t know you exist, how will they ever find your books?

5) Agents and their reputations are very important: I know that this won’t be a favorite to some, but this person did confirm that having an agent is really important in helping to get your foot in the door of the big pubs. This person also stressed the importance of having an agent who is known and respected. Although there have been a few instances where writers were discovered in the slush pile, it really doesn’t happen that often – the pubs rely on the expertise of the agents to bring quality work to the table.

6) For those of us in Canada: The Canadian Market is very small and often quite difficult to break into (especially if you’re writing genre fiction). Sometimes it’s easier to get a deal outside of the country first and then approach the Canadian pubs.

And finally, most importantly, (in my opinion)

7) You need to let things happen as they happen and not rush the process. It was stressed several times to me during our conversation that things take time in publishing…time to write, time to perfect, time to learn and grow, before you even get to the submission stage. It is very important not to jump ahead of yourself and skip some steps because you’re so eager to get your book in print. (Something that I personally struggle with quite a bit.)

And that’s that. Maybe not groundbreaking in the sense of hidden secrets on how to get published, but definitely very important information to be reminded of and to reflect on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Okay, okay, so I'm not talking about all the freakin' romance that I read, or the copious amounts of chocolate that I ingest...I'm talking about the guilty pleasures that could be considered a personality flaw.

I have this problem...I love...and I mean love...all forms of confrontation...I get so excited when I know a fight (verbal usually) is about to happen. So much so that my heart pumps harder and I get so giddy...even better when I'm the one doing the confronting or when someone works up the nerve to confront me. A good friend told me the other day that I get this look in my eyes that scares the poop right out of her.

It works for me at my job...which I'm still not going to tell you about (pen name and all) - I've been told that I can be intimidating...which is very effective in managing all kinds of people. It's a descriptor that I've been labelled with from the time that I was a teen (although then I think it had more to do with wearing all black and sporting many tattoos= goth to the extreme).

The funny thing is that I don't get angry...just excited...and I don't lash out at people, ever, I'm not an attacker...I just don't like to see injustice done and will fight for the underdog (or encourage them to do it for themselves). I also don't like incompetence and would rather a job done right, with dignity and honor. I expect people to be honest with me too and call me on stuff when I need to be checked.

But if you attack me...well, I come out swinging...and if it's bad enough...I will go for the throat.

Now, when I was talking to a colleague this week about it, she told me that it's not that I'm scary or mean (because I'm not) it's that I'm honest with people and don't usually sugar-coat problems. I call it as I see it. I don't like bs - be straight with me, no matter what it is you have to say. How else can I change or grow as a person if I don't know what the problems are?

So does this make me a bad person? If so, does it mean my friends and I are all bad people? (I tend to surround myself with like-minded folks) What's the general you prefer the truth or would you rather be told everything is fine when it's not?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Great Love Affairs

Since I've been working on an old ms lately, a paranormal romance that I wrote last year, I've been thinking a lot about all of those memorable hook-ups between hero and heroine that have inspired me and my writing. I thought I'd make a list of the top 5 great love affairs in the world of fiction.

1) Mr.Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet: Truly amazing union and really one of the most inspirational love affairs that I've ever read. I don't know if it's because of the long chase, the misunderstandings, the covert heroism, the pride or the prejudice (sorry, I couldn't resist), but this is one of those pairings that always comes to mind when I think about sweet romance to the extreme.

2) Wrath and Beth: For all you BDB/J.R.Ward fans, these two really heat up the page with their passionate love affair. Wrath is the typical brooding, badass vampire warrior and Beth is a take no crap kind of girl who seems to be perfect for him. They come together in a gripping instant attraction kind of way and stand by one another even in the worst of times. This couple is one of those ones who make me want to reread the series (or at least their books), especially for those torrid love scenes - wink, wink!

3) Raphael and Cyn: For those of you who haven't read any of D.B. Reynolds books...what the hell is wrong with you? Her first in a series of 8 (I believe) titled Raphael, introduces us to the amazing world of vampire lords and the humans who love, serve, protect them. These two have their issues, as strong willed characters would, but their passion is explosive and their love is eternal. I love how these two come from such independence and strength (sometimes stubborn to the point of personal injury) and work to mold together into a cohesive pair. Definitely ranking with the best of the romantic leads out there.

4) Elena and Clay: Okay, Kelley Armstrong fans out there - these two are one of my favourite couples, even if they aren't vampires ;-) Both bitten werewolves, they each bring their own kind of stubborn strength and electricity to the relationship. Again, it's not all sunshine and roses for these two, but that's part of the allure, I think. What really builds this relationship up for me is that they know each other so well - their connection really translates onto the page in a very realistic way. They might not always get along, but that's what makes their love affair so great.

5) Mac and Barrons: Now some might think that these two were never meant to be together and Moning definitely made us work for it when she started this couple down their path to hell, but in the end their love affair was totally, hot, hot! But not only that, because of everything they go through together, there is also a strong connection that makes their unspoken love for one another so believable. They change (or at least Mac does, Barrons kind of "modifies") and grow in order to envelop one another in this solid unity where you just know they've got each other's back no matter what.

As I'm sure you've noticed, most of my list is comprised of paranormal couples...which is mostly what I read these days. I'm sure there are other great couples out there - what are some of your favorites?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life Advice and Other Things

I thought this week’s post might be best used as a reflection on some of the life advice I’ve gathered during my time chasing my writing dreams and goals. Now, I’m not talking life advice in general, like how grooming your eyebrows can transform your face in both good and bad ways or how it’s easier to get things you want when you’re nice about it. I’m talking about writing advice, you know, usually the last question in all interviews that authors do?

So, here’s my summary of five key pieces advice I’ve gathered and want to pass along to you.

1) If you don’t use it, you could lose it: This is something I’ve very recently experienced myself – when it comes to writing, practice is key. If you don’t exercise your ability in different ways, like writing 3rd person when you’re used to writing 1st person POV for example, then you could find yourself very rusty when you want to make a switch – so don’t let yourself stall in any one area for too long –even if it’s just for practice or experimentation, it can’t hurt to explore other ways of doing things.

2) It’s not personal – really, it’s not: I know that’s a hard one to swallow because we often get really close to our work, but when dealing with professionals in this industry, a rejection or critique is not meant to hurt your feelings, it’s meant to make your work better. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t cruel people out there ready and willing to crush you at the first chance, but I’m not talking about those people – I’m talking about the professional, respectful people, like the ones I’ve met in my own writing group or my agent and various editors – it’s these people who are trying to help you.

3) It never hurts to ask: As long as you’re respectful and polite about it, it doesn’t hurt to put the request out there and ask for what you want, especially if you offer to reciprocate in some way. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone can say no. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if someone is willing to help you out or not.

4) You can’t give up: No matter how hard it gets (and trust me, it can get pretty hard) you can’t walk away from your dreams. Your chance might be just there, a fingertip away, but if you give up it will never happen. So find some trusted people to talk you off the ledge and keep going.

5) There’s always something to learn: If you think you’re flawless or that you don’t have anything more to learn, then I pity you. There’s always something to work on, improvements can always happen, especially if you’re experimenting with writing styles and breaking through your own boundaries. You need to put yourself out there, get critiques, have betas read your stuff – go to classes, research, explore and keep an open mind.

That’s it – my five top pieces of writing advice. What about you all? What helpful gems have you picked up along the way?