Writers, we need to stop saying this

Usually I limit myself to one writing-related post per month. But something has been irritating the living hell out of me for years, and the more time that passes, the angrier I get. So, lest I morph into some female version of The Incredible Hulk, I’ll expel that rage here, as a semi-productive rant. Because if …

Source: Writers, we need to stop saying this

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Love, plotting and New Age publishing with guest author, Lena Hart

Happy Monday all! (I can’t believe I said that.)

And although we–in the New Jersey, tri-state area–are bracing for the monster storm of Hurricane Sandy, I’m still glad it’s Monday. I’m also thrilled to have author Lena Hart as my guest today.  First things first …welcome Lena!

LH: Thanks Nett for giving me the opportunity to be here!

Lena and I met a couple of weeks ago at the NJRW Writer’s Conference, and I’ve been waiting on pins and needles to have a chance to talk to Lena about her life as a newly published author. So, let’s get to it!

NR:  How long have you been writing?

LH: I’ve been writing for fun since I was 14 years old but decided to start writing “professionally” (i.e. to make money, lol) in 2007.

NR: How did you discover your love for writing?

LH: When I was in the 8th grade, my Language Arts teacher had us create five characters and write a screenplay about them. She loved the “whodunit” play so much, she encouraged me to go into playwriting. (But of course my plan was to become a doctor.) Needless to say, many years later, I am no doctor but I had so much fun writing that year, I’ve been writing ever since.

NR: And what about your work? What drives your stories?

LH: Good question… I don’t know. Characters and scenes just come to me and I write them down. That’s probably why I have a lot of stories started and very little finished (lol). Most times I have to sit down and channel my characters to get the full story out but the real fun comes from having them pop up when I least expect it. It’s inconvenient, but fun. 🙂

NR: Congratulations on your first book! Can you tell us about it?

LH: Thank you! And of course – here it goes:

Sabrina Monroe and Jake Landon are caught in a tug of war between love and trust. A hurt Sabrina wants nothing more than to forget about Jake and the fierce love they once shared. A wary yet determined Jake wants to bury the past and start anew. When old feelings and desires are reawakened, Sabrina struggles to keep her distance – and protect her heart. But it’s a losing battle she’s not even sure she wants to win. With Jake determined to gain back her love, Sabrina is left longing for his trust. In a fight for “all or nothing,” they’ll soon discover that even an imperfect love can triumph over all.

NR: Are there any takeaways you want readers to experience after they’d read it.

LH: That true love does triumph over all. And everything else, i.e. trust, forgiveness, happiness will follow.

NR: With all the various ways to publish nowadays, which route did you take, traditional or self-publication, and why?

LH: Neither, I think. I classify “traditional” as seeking an agent to get into one of the Big 6+Harlequin so I’d consider my route more “New Age.” I found an established e-publisher that believed in my story and the rest is history J. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with self-publishing or going the “traditional” route but they didn’t factor in my strategy for building my “author brand.”

NR: What’s your writing process/schedule like?

LH: My process is more of a “panster,” I guess. I usually start with the character profile, a logline, and a high-concept blurb – and that’s my outline! I find that if I do too much plotting, I get bored with the story. But I do have a blank plotting board for the moments I do get stuck. And I don’t really have a writing schedule. My life is so unpredictable I just have to find the time. There are weeks I get more writing done then others, but because I’m a night owl, most of it’s done at night and on the weekends.

NR: Writing is tough. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers or writers in general?

LH: I agree, it is! But it can also be fun, liberating, and rewarding. My advice for fellow writers would be:

1) Write what you’re passionate about. Don’t follow a trend – just write what you love.

2) Build your “brand.” What do you want to be known for? What’s your strategy to get there?

3) Join a writing group. It’s the best way to keep the momentum going.

4) Read. Read books, articles, blogs, etc on writing, the publishing industry, and within your genre.

5) Keep writing! Aim to write every day, even if it’s just a paragraph or a page a day.

NR: What a way to start the week! Lena, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your wonderful news and insight.

LH: Thank you again, Nett, for having me as a guest on your blog today!

Lena Hart is currently working on several literary projects, while obtaining her MA in English Language & Literacy. Her debut novella, BECAUSE YOU LOVE ME, is currently available through Secret Cravings Publishing. To learn more about Lena and her work, visit www.LenaHartSite.com or you can find her rambling at scatblogging.blogspot.com   

I’m a writer: Is it okay to scream for joy now?

“It’s an exciting time to be a writer.”

This seemed to be the buzz phrase at the NJRW conference I attended last weekend. Every other workshop, particularly those that spoke about the expansion of E-pub, self-publishing and the juggling for position of traditional publishing, seemed to hold this sentence in high regard.

After, reading an article about authors no longer being at the mercy of publishers, I began thinking about my options, and started to see the truth in those few words.

While I’ve mentioned that I would love to be published by a traditional publisher, I’m starting to see the possibilities of venturing into other avenues of publication, which may lead me back to that traditional path.

At one point, traditional writer’s organizations, such as RWA, didn’t acknowledge self-published authors as “true” authors. In all fairness and appreciation, RWA is an organization whose mission is, “to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income.”

The organization didn’t believe that the author should “pay” for the publication of one’s book. I totally get and respect that.

However, as we all know, times are changing.

Authors are trying to broaden their readership, have control over their work and sell books where they can. Thank goodness, RWA was savvy enough to recognize that many of its members have gone the e-pub and self-publishing route, and support them. This is a good thing.

As I see it, I can remain a member of RWA and NJRW and be considered a “published” author, even if I self-pub. Granted, the author must make a certain amount in revenue from their self-publishing to be considered a true published author within RWA.

But even with that caveat, (which isn’t unreasonable) this new consideration gives an author the opportunity to get their books out, particularly when traditional publishing is slow to pick up and rejections are more than overwhelming.

If I decide to go the self-publishing route, I will follow two words of advice that often come with the, “it’s an exciting time to be a writer,” cheer—copy editor. I will secure the services of a copy editor who can go over my book with a fine tooth comb and offer suggestions that will make my book the best it can be.

I don’t want to publish crap. And I don’t want to try and sell it to anyone. IMHO, some of the books on the self-pub scene totally missed that important piece of advice.

Just tossing it out there on this Thursday afternoon.

Rejection: So, does that REALLY mean it’s over?

No one wants to receive a Dear John, Dear Jane, or Dear Writer letter. Whether it’s from an ex-lover, an agent or an editor, rejection is rejection and it’s painful.

There are varying degrees of rejection. Some can actually inspire you, while others can be downright hurtful. Yet no matter how good or bad they are, our egos and confidence take a beating. Initially, we may want to:

• Scream and rip the manuscript to shreds
• Start revising the book–at that moment–from chapter one.
• Burn the rejection letter along with the other 50 stuffed in the desk drawer
• Become BFFs with Jose, Jack or the Captain.
• All of the above or a few of your own creative choices

Yes, I know. It hurts like hell.

But the next day, after the hangover and putting out the fire we started in the trashcan, we grab our manuscript, and tape it back together. Then we try to behave like the professionals we are, and take this rejection as a sign of getting closer to our dream. And remember, the most successful authors were rejected. I might add, some none too nicely.

I ran across an interesting blog, “One Hundred Famous Rejections,” complete with the blogger’s editorial comment(at the end in italics) that I thought could make any aspiring writer struggling with rejection, hopeful. (I only saw 78, listed. However, I’m sure they’ll have a complete list in no time.)

Here are a few from their list. I urge you to look at the rest.

Famous Rejection #1: F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered to be one of the best American writers, wrote The Great Gatsby in 1922. While the book is now ranked #2 in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, he once received a rejection letter that read: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” I believe history would beg to differ.”

Famous Rejection #43: Nora Roberts

Bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts has written over 209 novels! We think that deserves repeating. Two hundred and nine novels, which spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. But, before all that, there was rejection.

[Nora Roberts] submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says, “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey.” Nora found a home with Silhouette books, and since then romance has never been the same.

Famous Rejection #69: Louisa May Alcott

“Little Women” would never have seen the light of day if Louisa May Alcott let rejection hold her back.The editor of Boston’s The Atlantic magazine, James T. Fields, told Alcott’s father, “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a writer.” As far as rejection goes, that one is pretty harsh! Fortunately, Louisa May Alcott never took it to heart. Instead, she told her father: “Tell him I will succeed as a writer, and some day I shall write for the Atlantic!” Not long after, she did!”

Rejection #72: Jacqueline Susann

“Novelist Jacqueline Susann is famous for her book Valley of the Dolls, which sold over 30 million copies. She’s also known for a particularly nasty rejection letter. Editor Don Preston initially wrote this about Susann’s initial manuscript:

“…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly…. most of the first 200 pages are virtually worthless and dreadfully dull and practically every scene is dragged out flat and stomped on by her endless talk… I really don’t think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in its present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity.” Wow. Now that’s a rejection!”

Famous Rejection #76: Chinua Achebe

“Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” has been considered a milestone in modern African literature written in English, and is one of the first to receive global acclaim. It has sold over 8 million copies worldwide, been translated into over 50 languages, and was selected as Time Magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. And, it too, was rejected: It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through west Africa read the book and forced the company’s hand with his succinct report: “This is the best novel I have read since the war”. In 1958, the publisher published 2,000 hardcover copies, and the rest is history.”

Lesson in all this?

If and when you get another disappointing ”Dear Writer” letter, take another glance at some of the most famous authors who had their work handed back to them. And remember, they prevailed. We will too.

And one more reminder. Stay true to you and your book. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t take out Jay Gatsby, did he? If he had, we would have been reading “The Great Whathisname.”

Chin up and keep writing because it only takes one YES.

Thursday’s Toss: E-book settlement has publishing world in turmoil

Interesting article on the e-book settlement worth sharing.

E-book settlement has publishing world in turmoil.

The case, which alleges that three major publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster conspired to limit competition in the e-book market, and fix the retail price, is enough to make my head spin.

Was it the “in desperate times you must take desperate measures” philosophy that made them think they would achieve their goal? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

And with all this “turmoil,” I can’t help but wonder where authors and pre-published authors, particularly those traditionally published, should take cover. Or should we seek refuge in the e-embrace of Amazon and Barnes and Noble?

Just tossing it out there.

Self-publishing and e-books: The new sheriff (and deputy) in town

For decades, self-publishing has been the dirty word that’s been swept under the tumbleweeds and kept locked in the back room of the saloon. And e-what?

But times …they are a changin’ and people—particularly progressive publishers—are taking notice. It’s good for some, not so good for others.

Between self-published authors and e-books, one can’t possibly look at the publishing industry the way it once was. From book covers to trailers to print-on-demand (POD), things on changing, and everyone wants in. Even traditional authors who are established are having their back titles published in e-book format. They see the potential.

One company enticing authors into seeing an even greater potential is PurpleBrainBanana, an online marketing company that develops high-end story graphics, to die-for- book trailers and marketing tactics worth remembering. The article touts, “how self publishers and authors notice a huge increase in online sales.”

With all the publicity, the battle lines for or against self-publishing and all facets of e-books are being drawn.

And while it’s dying down (somewhat), the recent shut down of LendInk, left a lot to ponder about the e-books, authors’ copyrights and contracts.

From the incident, it’s clear that traditionally published authors are trying to hold on to their royalties, and fight any form of–what they deemed to be–piracy, while those who believe in e-books and all it entails, are fighting for the right to read (and lend).

While the authors who shut it down disagree, supporters of LendInk, say the site has the capability to increase reader base and royalties, (particularly among Indie authors) and provides a way for the avid reader to continue reading. There was even rationalization about someone being allergic to the paperback books and e-books gave them the opportunity to read to their heart’s content.

Frankly, my head is bursting from the ever evolving self-publishing and e-book brouhaha. I’m a progressive traditionalist. I’d like to have my books published by a reputable publisher, earn royalties, distribute in mass market and dabble in e-book. (The techy in me, totally loves e-book!) I want it all and in this current climate, there’s too much from which to choose.

One thing is for certain, e-books and self-publishing are coming on strong, both barrels blazing and with reinforcements such as PurpleBrainBanana.com. I don’t think they’re leaving town any time soon.

I’m in a quandary, though. Perhaps, I need to visit the saloon, and finish reading my Google alerts—at least 100+ articles, so that I can make heads or tails of this growing debate.

What’s your take?

Getting the most out of your Author blog

For authors, whether you’re aspiring or established, social media has become the way to attract potential readers and yes, agents and publishers who may be interested in representing you. Although there is no agent or publisher involved, social media is also an Indie author’s best friend. It puts you where you need to be–connected to your readers.

At a past New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference, a group author friends and I were discussing our social media avenues. We all discovered that we were either blogging, active on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin or in the process of getting started.

This was great to see that many of us were doing what industry professionals suggest: Getting your name and brand out to the universe. You might ask, “How do I do that?”

One book, I found to be very helpful in answering that question is Christina Katz’s, “Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform.”

IMHO, it’s a must have for any author writing or planning to write in the age of social media. Ms. Katz offers sound advice on growing your brand and building a platform, especially if you’re not published yet. And one way to grow your brand and build a platform is through blogging.

Let me sidestep and explain the brand and build a platform concept. If you think of Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, or John Grisman, 9 times out of 10, you already know what kind of book you’re about to read, along with the theme and even some of their character types. It’s what they’re known for writing, it’s their “brand.” As authors, they have a strong, identifiable platform.

Now back to blogging. Nowadays, almost everyone has a blog. However, as an aspiring author or even an established one, are you getting the most from your blog?

A Writer’s Digest article, “16 Blogging Tips For Writing Fresh Content & Attracting Readers,” gives advice specific to authors who want to build a brand and their readership. As an author, there are a few things we should do, not only to separate ourselves from the pack of blogs, but to create a professional platform that will entice readers, agents and publishers.