Saturday, January 30, 2016

Writing a Series?

I swear and, as God is my witness, I had a terrible prejudice against anyone who wrote a series, or planned to write one before their first book was even picked up. I laughed at anyone who wrote a complete series and had no agent to push it. Back in the day, series books weren't as popular as they are now. Today, it's almost a given that large independents and big publishers like/love to sell a series. Two-book, trilogies and large series packages are more popular than EVER. Multiple books are actually favored by publishers--it seems to be the advantageous way to hook  readers, build a fan base, and at the same time, launch a debut author. If you've written a standalone today, chances are excellent that you will be asked to follow it up with a sequel or more books that belong to a series--your special universe. I was left in the dust, from my own account, all those years ago, up until just fairly recently.

So, I want to formally APOLOGIZE for my narrow view and ridiculous exclamations.

I've completed a trilogy, edited  it with my agent, and turned it over. It's now going out on submission. 

I can't tell you what kind of hard work this project cost me. It was a mountain of writing, revising, editing and titling.I was hesitant every step of the way, wondering if all of this effort could possibly pay off. Then I realized, what did I really have to lose? I'd made them standalones, with only slight references to each other that could be removed very easily. So I just about guaranteed myself a possible sale--somewhere--even if it was small press. When the work was done, I was satisfied, and so was my agent, who said "I think we really have something hear."

I can remember J.K. Rowling penning (starting) Chamber of Secrets before her first book was picked up. Now that's MOXIE! Or call it blind faith. Not only that, it was her intention to write seven books! Look what happened to Twilight, Hunger Games, Wool, Divergent--they went on to success--becoming huge breakouts. 

Now that my YA trilogy is over, I mourn it. I miss my characters. Terribly so. I can't believe that I did this, stepping up to the plate and accomplishing my most difficult writing project ever.

If you have a series in mind, go for it! Don't let anybody stop you, and field those rejections for solid and valid comments. I think you will eventually sell. Even if you have to self-publish, I believe you will garner a much larger fan base with multiple books.

Good luck with your series. Press on, have faith and reap the rewards. 



Friday, January 1, 2016

Email Marketing



Email marketing is not as complicated as you think. It's simply a means to advertise or inform potential customers over the Internet that you have something of interest to offer them. You can sell products, information or services by directly contacting persons who are looking for what you offer. Email marketing is cheap, fast and surprisingly interactive. An email marketing campaigns starts with some valuable tips.


Your Virtual Base of Operations


For your email marketing push, the first consideration is your source or home base on the Internet. This will be your website, newsletter or a blog. You can find free websites on the Internet by Googling phrases such as “free websites”, “free website construction” and “no-cost websites.” You can purchase a hosted website or domain by searching the Internet. Domain websites are very cheap, some of them costing only $10 to $15 dollars per year. Domain websites that cost more will have more features and design choices that include everything from reader traffic patterns and locations to buy buttons or small databases and spreadsheets. If you are selling a product (like a book) you might want a website that can host and display lots of visual data like photos, diagrams or videos. Make sure your website or blog has a comment section where potential customers or visitors can ask questions and receive your reply. Design your website or blog with ease of function in mind. Do not clutter it with extraneous features which will cause slow loading. 


Your Brand


Remember in your email marketing campaign, you will need to give your site a name or title. You can use your name, but use it in conjunction with your product or services—like the pen name you use on your genre books. Be clever or cute if you want, or give it a more serious and formal tone. Selling medical supplies might have a more formal or technical tone, while a dog-grooming business might use a more relaxed and humorous title. Books might include a clever or enticing reader hook. Stay on target with a specific theme. If you are selling books, keep all information relative to books and reading subjects, with no deviations to other personal topics. This shows professionalism and expertise.


Communication and Building your Audience


An email marketing campaign means learning how to write an intriguing and interesting newsletter or blog topic. Find help on the Internet to increase your writing skill. Do you belong to some blogs on the Internet? What is it about them it that attracts you? What attracts you to their information or news?

 Concentrate on subject matter that will interest and draw your targeted audience. Join Internet groups that offer the same topic you are covering, and solicit memberships and readers to your site by leaving a link to your website or blog in your profile or at the bottom of your message post in the “signature line.” Record all email addresses of persons you find might be interested in your topic and send them an invitation to your site, blog or your newsletter. Drop a link to your site everywhere you go—interact with the online community as often as you can. Become a presence. Once you begin to draw subscribers and readers to your site, encourage them to spread the word.


Frequency and Drive


Post on your blogs or website, or send out newsletters frequently and with a steady rhythm. Once a day is great, or at least two to three times per week. Once a week is enough to drive interest and hold it. Vary your content with new and updated information relative to your topic. Thank your subscribers and answer all comments. Nothing helps increase traffic to your site with an email marketing campaign than word-of-mouth advertising. Don't expect immediate results, but rather build up your audience with a slow and steady pace. Before long, you’ll have a plentiful and growing audience that can only get larger and more popular.      

Friday, December 18, 2015

Writers Fruit Salad



The following questions popped up in a number of writer’s groups, particularly Absolute Write. They were interesting because they were more personal than the norm. Kind of a spill your guts in nature. I’m a truth-teller. I won’t shy or back off such questions because I’ve been in this too long to hide anything. Yet they are only my experiences. So, have at me, and I hope you learn something or take a trip down a writer’s memory lane.

WHAT ARE YOUR WORD COUNT TARGETS FOR YA AND ADULT NOVELS?

I have to at least be over the 65,000 word mark, 200 plus pages for a YA title before I feel adequate or accomplished. I'm more comfortable with 80,000 or more for any adult title. But I convinced my last publisher to give me the large font in the book, so I got my thieving little way of keeping my page count up there, when my word count was a little slim for a novel (my novels) at about 62,000. (For anyone who has a lean YA title, just ask your publisher to jack up the font and that will do the trick—that’s where you get your extra pages—some fluff up. I think they call them “Easy Readers” or some such. They come out real nice looking that way too). I've written five big books in the past that were all about 110,000 to 120,000--I just don't have that kind of steam anymore unless I'm writing something truly epic with a grand scale and multiple viewpoint characters. I just finished a NA genre book that came in at 216 pages and 72,000 words, and I'm not really happy about the small size of that one—I do consider it an adult novel. I do like a book that has at least enough room on the spine to be noticed or read from a distance.
I had terrific success writing short stories many years ago. I don't know why I want nothing to do with them now. I wrote two prequel shorts for my SF publisher recently, only because he asked me to. I did kind of enjoy the experience and they fit right in with the main title! I just might be afraid of shorts because I'm 28 years out of practice with churning them out.  

WHAT ABOUT THIRD PERSON V.S.F1RST PERSON?

Out of 22 books I've only written ONE first person narrative and it was a novella. I'm so damn jealous of those who can master and write in 1rst--it's been so popular in so many YA titles that really broke out and became bestsellers these last couple of years.
During the Dinosaur era when I first started out (exact year as James M. here--1987) there was kind of standard rule or popular belief that third person tight was the only thing that had the best chance of getting published. First person was just a little bit frowned upon--just not the real favorite style. I kid you not. Oh, and memoires and auto biographies? Uh, they were discouraged much more back then.

MY ATTITUDE ABOUT THE PUBLISHING PAST AND THE OLD GUARD.
The dinosaur era, speaking of which--there was a time when we SFWA members laughed at Whitley Strieber because of his alien contact confession—now look at him! We choked with hilarity when the fantasy writers wanted to join and merge with the Science Fiction Writers of America. We were an elite snooty ass bunch of thespians (uh, they still are a wee bit to this day). The mid-old SF guard is still mostly there, and there was an earlier time when you could exchange dozens of letters with Asimov, Robert Bloch, Anderson, Heinlein and other notables. We all had time for each other then--no Internet--lots of regular mail, some which were banged out on typewriters. Tons of us used 4th Class Special Book Rate to mail our fulls and partials--which you marked as disposable if you couldn't afford their round trip. It was a time when I made fun of Clive Barker because he was such a punk at the BEAs. Oh, boy, did I eat that one in a Hellraiser sort of way. Yeah, back then, if you were serious you mailed 400 to 500 pages.

The dinos are almost extinct now, and we're reckoning with this new age of Internet and instant publication for Indie writers. I'm confronted with massive computer storage systems, programming needs, clicks, drop downs, links, navigating social media and a hard-copy list that has over 70 passwords and user names. Motherboard crashes? I've had four of those. It makes me long for my IBM Selectric. I've been so god-damned stupid trying to adapt to all this, I rarely if ever touch any friggin key on my board that doesn't spell a word and belong in a text file. I’m more than hopelessly lost in this computer tech world.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?

I wrote three longhand pencil novels on yellow rule paper in 1975. My next stint was from 1987 to 1991 when I published two successful non-fiction books and about 15 short stories, which landed me in the SFWA. My agent at that time was Richard Curtis, and he failed to sell three of my completed novels. I wrote an additional 3 novels that I never bothered subbing to the agent or anywhere. I stopped writing in 1991. Total books written = eight.
My current, third stint journey has lasted from Dec, 2004 (joined Absolute Write writers group at that time) until now. Wrote about 17 books during that time which includes a really neat non-fic dinosaur book. My first two novel publications came in 2007 and six others have followed, plus two prequel shorts. My agent now has an additional six completed, revised, edited and polished novels (a trilogy and picture book in there) and my current NA WIP which was just finished, waxed to bedazzlement and sent yesterday. She's going to "stagger" sub all of them in 2016 and see which poop pie sticks to the wall. I'm counting on the trilogy to bust out with a NYC biggie—so is agent. Got everything crossed including my eyes.  

HAVE YOU GIVEN UP OR TRUNKED MANY BOOKS?
I can't even tell you how many false starts I've had--books that went from the 20,000 to 40,000 words and got dumped midstream. Maybe eight to10 of them. I'd have to look them up.

BIG FIVE OR SMALL GUYS?
I've never been without an agent my entire writing career. Which makes me think I'm jinxed somehow, since that huge contract has been illusive, with only advances that numbered in the low thousands during my earliest years. Back then we had the “medium sized” presses--which still got you into every library in the United States and all the large franchise book stores, like Waldens and B. Dalton. Today, there is a littler gray area between small/independent presses and the Big Five and all their imprints. Either you land a publisher that has real distribution to brick and mortar stores and pays a nice advance, or you settle for a small press that will typically sell between 75 and 150 books in their lifetime. We do have some really high-end small presses which fork over advances and have distribution. These “middle” type small press publishers might have a large staff, a marketing manager, foreign rights department and other such extras. Bookatour and Entangled would be these types of successful small press/independents.

In conclusion: keep a diary or journal of your writing life and history. You might have to recall your bio when your talented little ass hits the big time.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

What is a Stealth Agent? What is an A-List Agent?





First, Stealth Agents:

My agent was/is a stealth agent. She was/is an A-lister in hiding. You will run across these in your search. Oh, God, you say. That's a whole new kettle of fish. Real short: in most cases, a stealth agent does not have a website, Twitter feed, FB account--NONE of it. No footprint. They might only be registered in a few online media listings, like Agent Query, and there you will find almost nothing about them except a phone number and an email address. They might even announce that they are closed to queries at the present. I Googled one such agent and found a few listings associated with books she had repped on Amazon.

When I Googled those authors I found them to be best-sellers and name celebrities. It was quite a shock to find out how successful she was. I also found more information about her at my AW writing site which confirmed my suspicions. Everyone agreed that she WAS a very successful agent and had dinosaur longevity. She only stays/stayed invisible because her stable was full, she wasn't taking on queries and she concentrated on furthering the careers of her current authors. Quite noble, actually. The secret handshake to her was, simply sending her a proposal whether she liked it or not! Hah! I did this and she took me on, bowled over with the number of books I had finished and ready. She said, "Oh, you know the way to my heart-you came and got me." I don't recommend this strategy for other authors. It's a coin flip. Don’t try to get into the Richard Curtiss Agency this way—he’ll flatly tell you he’s only interested in non-fiction. Yet, he has his ear open to the right scout and movie exec.
 

The A-lister: look up your favorite genre or contemporary books and authors at the major book stores and look in the dedication pages. Make note if the publisher is a large one, i.e S&S, Ace, Harlequin, Penguin/Random, etc. You'll find out what agent sold those books. Large, popular houses = A-list agents (for the most part). It's a good feeler gauge, but some new agents make big sales too, just not that many of them. Google the name of the agent on the Amazon book page and, wallah! You'll see how many books, ranks, best sellers the agent has dealt with. Better: ask the agent straight away for their rep history, author names she reps, length of business and so on. An A-list agent is How Big, How Many and for How Long. You’re likely to get an agent/author contract.


B-list agents, who also sometimes call themselves "boutique (or medium-sized) agencies" generally have several dozen sales under their belts with medium sized publishers and maybe a few large ones. Heh, don't get me started on Medium size, that's a whole new article. B-list agents are oft times known by first names in the industry and their over-the-line phone pitches are not frowned upon. Many of them (not all) are based in the NY area and have kissy-face lunches with publishers, as well as the A-listers. Agent/author contracts are common.

C-listers are new, have only a couple of sales and are eager to pull in new authors. I say, "pull" because they can compete and be aggressive about signing you. They're just starting out. I can’t say that I recommend them. Caveat: it can also be said that a C-list agent will pull out all stops to find you a publisher and that can mean dozens and dozens of rounds. I have heard of a few authors who are repped by C-list agents and are happy with the arrangement and have no complaints. But I beg them to wait two or three years and tell me the same thing. A no-name agent in the business can be as bad as no agent at all. Besides, do you want your book tied up for two or three years indefinitely? They are more than likely to sign an author to more than one book. You might get an author/agent contract.

Is there such a thing as a D-list agent? Well, yeah. They are the ones that sign you for a one-book contract (having no care about your career), charge a reading fee for a synopses, chapters or full and exceed the royalty share of 15%. They also tack on undefined administrative costs—postage—copying services, mailers and sometimes an hourly rate. They most likely will offer you their lofty editorial services, or refer you which gets them a kickback. You might not get a written contract with them, but it’s not likely.

ETA: Don’t fret if you don’t get a author/agent contract with any agent. It’s no reason to panic and it happens all the time. In this business, your/their word does carry a bond. No so in the movie industry.
 

Hope this helps a little.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Nabbing and Keeping an Agent


CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE:

http://helenafairfax.com/2015/10/17/some-surprising-tips-on-pitchin...

I like this article and I've got just about every one of those suggestions covered. It's pretty standard fair. I'm weak in a few areas. 

I just found out about a year ago that series DO really sell. I didn't think it was necessary, or popular and I didn't believe in such nonsense. Five months ago I went kicking and screaming on a writing rampage because my agent suggested I take the YA Screamcatcher book and make it into a trilogy. Actually it had crossed my mind. I'd never done it before. The results: I'm 3,000 words away from the end of the third book. I couldn't be happier. You really HAVE to love your characters enough to see them through to this length. You have to perform a little bit of sewing to tie the books together. But...alas! You can use a little magic and make them standalones at the same time!

I disagree about three agent queries a month--if that what the poster was actually suggesting. It will be years to find an agent with such a tepid sub outlay. Do you normally quit around 100 or 135 agents? You should. That is a normal and satisfactory expenditure of agent submissions. I know no one who subs that little (three a month) to agents. And did they really say wait one month and move on? Oh fiddle-e-dee--give me a major break. You might not hear from an agent for three or four months or even longer. Yeah, right, cross them off your list. 

I'm at the different end of the spectrum; I use Guerrilla tactics but I don't recommend you do this: I subbed to 440 agents in sight of three weeks--a full-on blow out. I kid you not, there are that many thriller agents out there. I left hard mail subs off my list. Within five months I had four offers. I took the best quality A-list agent from the stack. Finito. Done. Finished. Over. It was that fast and that effective. Of course, you BETTER have a bullet proof query/synopses with a mind-bending premise and irresistible hook. Give it a tag line right up front like you would a movie script and be rewarded extra points for that. Tag line? Look it up.

Where in the land of Goshin is your bio and credit history? Are you supposed to leave that out if you have nothing? Let me show you how to make something out of nothing and you tell me you can't do the same thing.

PUBLISHING CREDITS:
BOOKS:
Auto Repair Shams and Scams (Forward--Ralph Nader), 1990, Price Stern & Sloan, Los Angeles--226 pages, non-fiction, consumer warning and repair book.
Garage Sale Mania, 1988, Betterway Publications, Crozet, Virginia--190 pages, non-fiction—1988.
Word Wars, a SF novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—May, 2007.
Once Upon a Goddess, a Fantasy novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—January, 2008
Planet Janitor—Custodian of the Stars, a SF novel sold to Engage Books, May 2009
Gate Walker, a Paranormal Fantasy, sold Lyrical Press—January, 2009.
The Wolfen Strain, a fantasy thriller sold to LBF (Lachesis) Books, February 2009
The War Gate, a Paranormal thriller, to Pen and Press, 10-12-2012
The Girl They Sold to the Moon, a YA dystopian sold to Intrigue Press, August 2013

MAGAZINE—SHORT FICTION:
Stellar by Starlight, to Amazing Stories, 1988.
The Lonely Astronaut, to Amazing Stories, 1988.
Temperamental Circuits, to Gordon Linzner of Space & Time, 1989.
Things that go Clump in the Night, to Richard Fawcett of Doppelganger, 1989.
Dance the Macabre and Dance it Well, to Erskine Carter of Ouroborous, 1989.
Future School, to Chris Bartholomew of Static Movement, January 2006.
The Incredible Mr. Dandy, to Not One of Us--1989
Planet Janitor The Moon is not Enough, to Enage Books, 2012
Planet Janitor Journey Interrupted, to Engage Books 2012
Other magazine appearances from 1988 to 1991 include, Alpha Adventures, Small Press Writers and Artists Organization and Sycophant.

RADIO PLAYS:
The Summit, 15-minute horror play to Night Sounds, Embassy Cassette Inc, Santa Ana, California—1990
Night of the Moa, 13-minute horror play to Night Sounds, Embassy Cassette Inc, Santa Ana, California—1990.

AWARDS:
Finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, for Temperamental Circuits, 1987.
First place, grand prize winner for The Girl They Sold to the Moon, a YA distopian novel, to a Publisher's Novel Writing Competition. Advance and publication offered—June 2012.

JOURNALISM AND MAGAZINE ARTICLES
350 newspaper profiles, stories, and interviews to Sunset Publishing, Anaheim, California, appearing in The West Coast Jewish News, The Senior Citizens Reporter and The Military Review. From 1988 to 1991. Seven automotive and home and garden articles articles to Dollar Stretcher Magazine, from 12-2-2011 to 2-28-2012. Eight science articles to Xiauduo Media, for Chinese translation( 8 -14 year-old audience)—Astronomy, new transportation technology, space, exoplanets, future spaced ship drives, big bang, theory and inflation.

CONTENT AND CLIENT
I have written and published over 1,750 non-fiction automotive, aircraft, marine, home and garden and science articles for Demand Media Studios, under the Beta-Automotive and E-How stations. Six automotive articles to Examiner.com—6-2012. Published. 440 automotive and general articles to TextBroker—plumbing, gardening, home improvement, home utilities, electricity--Content writing for a total of three years.

ORGANIZATIONS/POSITIONS:
Served as content editor of Sunset Publication (see above) for three years. Responsible for all writing assignments content editing, filler and artwork and payment.
President and founder of Heartland Writers Group, Huntington Beach, California, from 1987 to 1991.

AGENTS:
Past agent--Richard Curtis Associates, from 1988 to 1991.
Past agent—TriadaUS (Dr. Uwe Stender), from 2006 to August 2009
Present agent—Sara Camilli Agency--2010 to present. 

CURRENT FINISHED BOOKS (AVAILABLE):
Iron Girl, a military espionage thriller.
Valley of the Mastodons, a non-fiction book involving the Ice Age megafauna discoveries in Hemet, California, during the Diamond Valley reservoir dig. Proposal, chapter outline, and 100 pages available upon request
Dispossessed Incorporated, an urban ghost fantasy with time travel
The Omega Wars—SF, apocalyptic alien invasion (Sequel to PJ)
Screamcatcher, A YA portal fantasy out on agent sub round. Resembles the Narnia world.

Do you see any category in there that would include your history or even general writing interests? You SCRATCH deep for anything you have that is writing related. No one has nothing. That's impossible. BTW--your bio is a tiny one-paragraph of your personal life--your name, location, work history, degrees, if you love hamsters and such things. I'm sterile. I don't include a bio--with me it's all business.

It's perfectly acceptable to contact your agent about every 30 to 40 days. You're not being intrusive with that frequency. Once you hook up with an agent, you can usually call and discuss things over the phone, UNLESS, your agent prefers email. And here's a controversial tip you'll seldom hear: ask your agent what's hot and are any publishers looking for something specific. Publishers ask agents this all the time. The agent will evaluate one of his/her writers and ask them if they would like to take a leap of faith. I've been assigned twice. If you have the chops to write in most genres, and your agent singles you out for a stylistic fit, you just might give it a go. Talk about putting your finger to the pulse--this one takes balls/ovaries.  

Getting an agent is not as difficult as keeping one. That means you write your ass off and have a new book ready to go after your agent has exhausted all attempts at selling your first one via one, two or three rounds. My agent took my entire inventory. I was lucky she'd sold and dealt with the multiple genres I write in. If you time it right, you'll have a book making the rounds all year long, year after year.



REPEAT: You don't want a one-book agent. You don't want a cheap date. You want a marriage ceremony. 


I really don't think the Twitter calls are a waste of time. I know too many authors who participate in them and many get picked up or get solid feedback. Those hash tag ones, you know?


Now, wait just a minute about new agents who are intent on building a stable but have NO fiction credits or very little. I'm sorry--agents who have been in the industry for eight years plus and live in NYC or near by are on a friendship-face-to-face basis with dozens of A-list publishers and routinely use the phone (or dinner) to intro a book and get FULL manuscripts read. This also includes big agencies that live in other states. Check their sales history, staff, genres covered and best-seller status and frequency (if any). Go for the gusto first. Then work your way down. My list is A-List, B-List and C-List agents.

Don't send agents gifts out of the blue.

Gobble up any critique suggestions you get and use the rule of 3. If three or more agents discuss the same problem you have in the manuscript, take it to heart. They've probably got you nailed to the garage wall. This goes for major R&R, grammar, syntax, POV, show not tell, passive, plot, theme, execution, adverbs/adjectives and any other nasty little trouble makers.

You better keep a spreadsheet/database of all your agent submissions including query, partial or full and the date of all contacts with them.

Do not protest a rejection. Read it and file it away. You can get a form rejection, a form rejection with notes, a critique letter and even, dear God Almighty, a red-lined manuscript WITHOUT representation.

Do not refer your friends for representation to your agency even though you might have that power as an agented author. I get asked that one a lot.

I could go on and on...but I have to stop. I'll have some more guerrilla tactics on this subject later.


 Keep writing and reading and submit till hell won't have it.