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.
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