Thursday, November 4, 2010

Writing Advice From A Publisher, An Agent, Two Editors & Several Terrifc Authors

Today, I'd like to share a little bit about my publishing journey. I first started writing in 2003. I didn't take it seriously until a year or so later. Oh, sure, I wrote a few novels and submitted to big NY houses, then proceeded to get shot down. That's when I realized I didn't know what I was doing. Like many new writers, I just sort of assumed I could write and get published, easy as pie. Once I woke up from that little dream, I began the intense process of researching.

I bought books on publishing. I read tons of articles on various topics like sagging middles and passive vs active (and tons more). I went to conferences. I emailed published authors asking for advice. I didn't know the first thing about a query letter or a synosis, much less writing a bestselling romance book. I gathered samples of everything and started experimenting. I'd write scenes. Not whole stories, just snippets. I taught myself how to write various forms of poetry to help me develop a more descriptive voice. I read classics like Poe and Dickens, as well as just about every current romance book I could get my hands on. The Half Priced Bookstore was my best bud!

Finally, I felt like I was ready to try again. To make a long story short, I met Christina Brashear at the Lori Foster Event and pitched my erotic romance story Haley's Cabin. She listened as I tried not to look nervous. In truth, I was about ready to throw up. Thankfully, she let me know I could send her the full. Yes, step one was complete, but I still had to get to step two--the offer of a contract. That came on a Saturday morning. My husband was cooking breakfast and I was checking my email. And there it was, the email from Linda at Samhain Publishing offering to publish my story. That day is still one of my favorite memories. It's right up there with giving birth to my kids. Why? Because I'd finally made it. My dream was coming true.

That was in 2006. Since that day I've sold several other stories to Samhain. Three stories to Red Sage Publishing and two books and a novella to Kensington. It was then that I received a call from agent Jennifer Schober at Spencerhill Associates, who recently sold two more of my books to Kensington (she rocks!).

The other day, when I was wondering what sort of advice or tips I could provide to new authors, I realized something. My journey is not for everyone! There is more than one path to publishing. So, my advice to you is simple. Take in as much advice as you possibly can. Read what the pros have to say. Learn from it. Take notes. These are people who have been there, done that. They live and breathe this industry.

Having said that, I turn the blog over to them, starting with the very savvy Christina Brashear

Christina Brashear, owner of Samhain Publishing.
"Write. Don't twitter, blog, or go through your closet organizing by color. Write. Dithering = no book written. No book written = no book published. No book published = no royalties! It's been my experience during these past ten years of conversing with authors that the biggest stumbling block is committing to an actual schedule. Some authors are seat-of-the--pants writers and others are careful plotters, strategically laying out every twist and turn. Either is great, as long as you remember that while you're doing what you love, you still need to commit to a writing schedule and actually write."

Agent Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates has sold more than 150 books with recent sales to Mills & Boon, Harlequin, Kensington, Dorchester, Sourcebooks, HarperCollins, Ballantine and Berkley. And she’s my very patient agent.
"As you begin your journey towards publication, remember that your ‘brand’ begins as you make your first steps out into social network and the industry network—whether by blogging, contacting agents or editors, or just networking at RWA, you are creating a professional identity. Agents and editors do google potential clients, just as any other future employer does in other industries. My advice? Be as professional as you can be with your interactions on social networking sites and when conducting your business. Most of all---Let your fantastic quality work proceed you!"

Linda Ingmanson has a degree in English and has been editing for Samhain Publishing since 2006. And she’s my ultra terrific editor. (you can find Linda and the rest of the Samhain Staff on Twitter)
"Avoid making emotions into secondary characters in your story. Sometimes I see hero or heroine's emotions behaving so actively that the character seems a passive element swamped beneath the waves of his or her rampaging feelings. It's always better to get into your character's thoughts more deeply than to "go purple" and overwrite emotions. Some examples (made these up, not from real books): His heart squirmed in his chest like a rabid rat. A powerful storm of fear buffeted her. Terror threw a blanket over her head. Passion enflamed his groin like an exploding volcano.

Well, you get the idea. A little of this is okay, but, like a strong spice, a pinch goes a long way and such flowery phrasing can easily be overused. If you're in deep third person POV, your POV character probably isn't thinking things like, "Hey, my groin feels like an exploding volcano!" Tone it down -- get into your characters' heads more and avoid the cartoony descriptions.

And…

Please use contractions, especially in dialogue. And authors shouldn't keep repeating characters' names in dialogue."

Kelli Collins is the Editor-in-Chief for Ellora’s Cave Publishing. And she’s my super wonderful editor. (read her blog Redlines & Deadlines for more helpful tips)
"If you're fortunate enough to be invited to submit directly to an editor, remember that it's a privelege. You're being allowed to bypass the slush pile.

Therefore, don't take advantage of the editor's generosity. Send the book requested. If it was an open invitation to send a manuscript of your choosing, send ONE. Not four or five. And send it only when it's ready. There's nothing more frustrating than getting multiple "updated" versions. "I'm sorry, I sent the wrong version, please use this one. No wait! Use THIS one..."

Eden Bradley aka Eve Berlin is published with Harlequin Spice, Berkley Heat, Bantam/Delta, Samhain Publishing and Phaze Publishing. A number of her novels have been translated into German, Romanian, and Japanese. Eden appears regularly on Sirius Satellite’s Playboy Radio show, Night Calls. She gives some important tips on finding the right agent.
"Before you get an agent, evaluate what your goals are. It's crucial that you have some idea of where you want to go so you can communicate your needs and ask the right questions. And when searching for an agent, DO ask questions. Remember that you're interviewing them as much as they are you. You need to know if your working styles mesh. What is the agent's communication style like with his/her clients? What's their usual follow-up on submissions? Do they represent all the genres you'd like to write? Have they made sales to your target publishers? How much are they involved in a client's writing process? Do they offer editing advice? Is that something you want? Make your list of questions and don't be too shy to ask.

A good fit is important, but what that means is different for everyone. Some agents are all business, while with others you get a little warm-fuzzy. Think about what you'd like your relationship with your agent to be. Then ask around, talk to authors about their agents, Google agents, read their blogs and interviews. Go to conferences and meet them in person, if at all possible. And find the best match for you."

Mari Carr is published with Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing and Carina Press. She’s the author of several extremely popular erotic romance books, including the Wild Irish Series, Tequila Truth and Passionate Plume winner Erotic Research.
"It's never too late to sit down and start writing. I've known from the time I was in high school I wanted to be a writer, but real life interfered--job, kids, house. Finally, at 34, I stopped making excuses. It's a struggle to chisel out writing time, but the sacrifice is worth it when you see your characters come to life and your stories on the page. Sit down. Open up a blank document. Write."

Rhian Cahill is published with Ellora’s Cave Publishing and the author of the delicious Coyote Hunger Series.
"There's one word that I think sums up everything about this industry. Passion. And no, I'm not talking about the sex kind, well I am but that's not the only type of passion to be found in writing. Be passionate about your story and your characters. Love them completely and it'll come through in your writing, because if you don't love them no one else will.

Write, write, write, read, read, read. Both are invaluable to you as an author. With each word you write and every sentence you read you're learning your craft and improving your skills as a storyteller. You're the only voice your characters have so speak for them loud and clear."

Jayne Rylon is published with Samhain Publishing and Ellora’s Cave Publishing. She’s the author of several bestselling books including, “Kate’s Crew” and “Dream Machine”. Her anthology with authors Lorelei James and Jess Dee, “Three’s Company” won the 2009 Eppie award.
"Write what you love."

Lexxie Couper is published with Changeling Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. “Death, the Vamp and His Brother” won the 2009 CAPA award (paranormal erotic romance category).
"Write every day. And I mean, every day. Even if you delete every word you’ve written, it doesn’t matter. The story won’t leave your head by itself. Set yourself a daily word count goal (mine is 2000) and try and write that many each day. It can be a daily word count of one hundred words (and sometimes, that’s all I achieve if I’m lucky) but the very magic of forming words and sentences contributes to the addictive magic of writing your story. Accept some days forming those words and sentences will be like pulling teeth and other days will be like drowning in a flood. And again, don’t stress if you delete them all. No word written is ever wasted, even the ones you trash.

Rejection will hurt, but it will never kill you. Don’t let a rejection letter from a publisher/editor or agent stop you. Put your manuscript aside, let it sleep for a while and then see if it deserves another go. And while it’s sleeping, start your next book."

Jess Dee is published with Samhain and the author of “Ask Adam”, “Going All In” the 2009 Eppie Award winner “Three’s Company” and several other wildly popular erotic romance titles.
"Just write the story in your heart."

And just as a reminder, for anyone who might have missed it, Kelli Collins (Ellora's Cave Editor-in-Chief) wrote up a great blog yesterday about websites. The good and the bad! Check it out here

51 comments:

Madison Scott said...

"Hey, my groin feels like an exploding volcano!" I loved that and she's so right! When you put it that way, it makes so much sense.

I'm also guilty of the name thing sometimes.

GREAT advice here! I love getting advice from agents, editors, and other writers.

Awesome post, Anne.

Regina Carlysle said...

Thanks Ladies for dropping in and delivering your 'solid gold' two cents. Some really helpful advice here. I've actually come to realize the internet is my enemy. I spend far too much time playing and that's a big no no (especially when the wip is calling your name). My biggest problem seems to be time management because, let's face it, we have to promote too. Lately I've been trying to carve out an hr in the mornings, just to catch up on emails and post a blog or two and often, I'll do some late in the evenings when I'm 'written out'. That seems to work. Although lately, I have to admit, I've been distracted, restless. Maybe it's the MOON? I think we all go through those periods when 'the real world' seems to interfere with our best plans. I'm not remembering who said 'write something everyday even if you end up erasing it all' gave great advice. It can really jump start those creative energies and who knows what you might come up with.

Thanks again for all this wonderful insight!

Regina Carlysle said...

LOL@ exploding groin! OWWWWWW. Sounds painful. snicker.

Anne Rainey said...

I really enjoyed all the advice these ladies had to offer. Some of it seemed to speak directly to me. Like Ms. Brashear's advice about spending too much time playing on the net. Yes! I intend to buckle down and stick to a schedule.

Also, Lexxie's advice about writing every day. That's something I've never done. Usually I take weekends off. I can see now that's a mistake, because it makes it that much harder to get back into my WIP come Monday morning.

Thanks so much for taking the time to offer up tips! :)

(and the squirming heart...again, EW! lol)

Melissa Bradley said...

This was some truly sound advice. I've hit the point where the initial excitement and the oh-my-God-I'm-published feelings have been replaced with holy-cow-how-am-I-going-to-keep-this-up. I'm trying to set goals and a regular writing schedule, which is very difficult, because I've never had one before. With a day job, I've always written whenever I could. Writing is now a business and no longer just my secret passion, so I'm struggling to conform it to a structure. And I need all the help I can get.

Melissa Bradley said...

Oops, hit post too soon. Even though my writing has become a business, I'm still trying to work it all around an evil day job along with promo, blogging, etc. Any advice?

Natalie Dae said...

Thanks to all who gave their time for this post. Most excellent!

:o)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Ms. Brashear's advice about spending too much time playing on the net is so true. I've been much more productive after I cut back on FB and twitter. You can't be a successful writer if you don't write!

Maria said...

Fantastic post and such wonderful advice. As a reader I have to say that I agree with what Christina Brashear said the most about writers- yes I love reading the twitter posts ...but not at the expense of your writing:)
I found Jennifer Schober, Linda Ingmanson and Kelli Collins advice to be excellent - and oh so sadly true sometimes- yeah the imagery of the exploding volcano in his pants...makes me laugh and I doubt that's what you wanted me to feel :)

Anne Rainey said...

Melissa--The first thing I'd do is sit down and evaluate just how much time you spend blogging and promoting. After you've figured that out you need to look at where you get the most bang for your buck. It's entirely possible you're spending a lot ot energy in places that's not giving you anything in return.

I did this same thing recently. As a result, I dropped several things, including certain blogs, a few yahoo groups, and two social networking sites. And surprisingly I've discovered that it is possible to spend a small amount of time promoting, if it's in the right spots.

The payoff is that I hit more readers at one time, and I have more time to write.

Anne Rainey said...

Nicole--That's SO true! And really the best promo in the world is a well written story. If we're spending all our time updating our status every five minutes, then we're not really concentrating all that hard on the WIP.

Anne Rainey said...

Melissa--I wanted to mention one more time saver. Connect your various sites, if you aren't already. I do this and it's so darn handy!

I post one blog on my personal blog and it goes to Twitter, Facebook, my Amazon Author page, Goodreads, and my personal yahoo group.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Excellent advice, especially about the writing part. When I meet new people and they find out I'm a writer I almost always hear, "You know, I've always wanted to write." Usually I'm nice but honestly, I think to myself; what's stopping you? Even if you carve out 20 minutes a day. Have a schedule and stick to it. It's one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard and one of the most difficult things to do.

And Linda, the volcano crotch is going up as my new favorite bit of silliness. :)

Anne Rainey said...

Anitra--LOL@volcano crotch. Too funny!

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

Lots of great advice here, and I also have the privilege of having Linda as my wonderful editor.

Elizabeth Black said...

What wonderful advice. I took it all to heart and I learned a great deal.

Will dream about exploding volcanos tonight. :)

Anne Rainey said...

Marie-Nicole--Linda is awesome, huh? I have to say, I'm blessed with some really great editors! They keep me from looking like a boob. :P

Regina Carlysle said...

Anne, I hear you on cutting back. Recently I have unsubbed from a number of loops. These days I trend more toward facebook and my blogs. I don't visit as many blogs as I used to. Not long ago I felt that I was a mean, uncaring friend if I didn't hit them all but that list is loooooong and just ate up so much time. So I visit when I can (during down-time). I would suggest that writers (through trial and error) find the kind of promo that works best for them and eliminate the rest.

Melissa Bradley said...

Thanks, Anne! I appreciate this advice very much.

Anne Rainey said...

Elizabeth--I think a lot of us will dream about that. LOL

Anne Rainey said...

Regina--I agree with the commenting thing. I've been this close to just unplugging my internet so I won't be tempted to read and comment on blogs!

Shoshanna Evers said...

Great post, great advice from everyone!

Janie Mason said...

Volcanic groins? {{snicker}} What reader wouldn't get bumped from the story with that image?
Great post, Anne, with wonderful advice from names we should listen to!

Anne Rainey said...

Shoshanna--Lots of great advice, you're right. I need to print this and keep it close as a reminder!

Anne Rainey said...

Janie--LOL! I think we're all going to be laughing over that one for next few days!

anny cook said...

Oh, I absolutely agree with the write, write, write every day. Excellent tips!

Tara Maya said...

I always enjoy hearing stories of how writers make their journey to publishing. :D

Nina Pierce said...

ROFLMBO at the exploding volcano groin ... funny, Mr. Nina said that to me the other day. *snort*

Wonderful advice everyone, especially not being able to sell a story that's still in your head. Funny how that works. Write. Write. Write.

Anonymous said...

Hi all - always interesting to hear different takes on the publishing world. Thanks for taking the time to share info:-)

Becky
www.BeckyBarker.com

Debra Glass said...

Great advice!

Anne Rainey said...

Anny--That's one that I'm personally taking to heart. I don't currently write every day. That's going to change!

Anne Rainey said...

Tara--I do too. Here's a page that shares more road to publishing stories: http://www.charlottedillon.com/TheCall.html

And thanks for stopping by!

Anne Rainey said...

Thanks for coming by Becky! :)

Anne Rainey said...

Debra--I was checking out your website (very pretty!) and noticed your picture on the home page. Love it! It's always nice to put a face with the name. :)

K.M. Mahoney said...

Great advice! I once had a writing instructor say "creative writers will do anything to avoid writing creatively." With all the blogs, twitter, facebook, etc, it's so easy to get distracted. I have a very set schedule - without it, I doubt I'd get anything done!

And Linda - loved it! I'll have to go back and make sure I don't have any weird imagery in my latest work, lol

rhiancahill said...

Such great advice. Definitely taking notes.
RC

rhiancahill said...

Such great advice. Definitely taking notes.
RC

Anne Rainey said...

K. M.--I seriously need to adopt your self-discipline! I have such a hard time with that. :)

Anne Rainey said...

Rhian--Thank you for contributing! And congrats on your latest Ellora's Cave release, "Doing Logan". :)

Anne Rainey said...

NOTE TO AUTHORS: Be sure to check back next Thursday because I'll be sharing more writing advice. This time from Audrey LaFehr, editorial director at Kensington Publishing (and my editor). She'll be sharing her #1 piece of advice! :)

Tess MacKall said...

I'm running soooo late today. Got absolutely nothing done. And I'm pooped.

Great blog, Anne. Love hearing from all different sources to take the mystery out of submitting. What a great group of publishers, editors, and authors you gathered.

Looking forward to seeing more of the same!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you so much for sharing this information!
A treasure trove of wisdom!

And...yes...the groin exploding! Oh, that made me smile!

Thanks again! I thoroughly enjoyed this!

Fiona said...

Ah yes, write everyday. Alas, the bills need paying, the kids are in college, and family commitments seem suffocating sometimes. On the days that I can't write, I spend time working through scenes in my head, even if it is as I wake up, then as I go to sleep. At least when I CAN get to my laptop, I'll know what to start writing! Channeling all of those voices is hard enough...writing some of them down hushes them up IN my head!

Brindle Chase said...

Thank you for sharing this, Anne. My story is more recent (1st published 2010 and started writing 2007), but amazingly similar to yours. I thought I could write, been told I could write and then decided to write. I can only imagine what snickers my first barrage of queries brought to the poor agents I sent it too. 60 rejections later, I knew I wasn't doing something write.

But you did what I did and so many aspiring writers do not. I understood I obviously had a lot to learn and so I sought out authors, writer groups, any resource I could find to help me improve my writing, let alone understand what is expected in a query letter. The first step is admitting the agents/editors are not insane for not recognizing your sheer brilliance and accepting you need to learn the craft, and then doing so.

My editors and publishers have told me many of the same things mentioned here, so instead of spreeing off on a long-winded "I concur" drivel... I'll just say, I concur!!!

Brindle Chase
www.forlorn-hope.net

Miranda Baker said...

Love this post! I'm just getting started in this biz and the social media is overwhelming. I appreciate the admonition to not let promo overwrite my writing schedule!

Anne Rainey said...

Thanks, Tess! And I've had those days myself, totally understand. :)

Anne Rainey said...

C--I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

Anne Rainey said...

writing some of them down hushes them up IN my head!

Ah! Soooo true, Fiona! Good point! :)

Anne Rainey said...

The first step is admitting the agents/editors are not insane for not recognizing your sheer brilliance

Very well put, Brindle! :)

Anne Rainey said...

Miranda--One of my editors (I can't remember which one) said once that 'authors forget that a good story is the best promo in the world'. When she said that I realized I needed to step back from some of the thousands of things I was doing to promote and concentrate on the few places that actually work, so I could spend the bulk of my time writing!