Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Personal Update

Last month, I entered one of my books into a free contest. The Test of True Love is my 2011 NaNo novel, has had a partial rewrite and at least three rounds of editing. My beta readers have all enjoyed the story, while I’ve enjoyed writing new stories following the family.

For the past four or five years, I’ve entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It opens in late January, accepts 10,000 manuscripts, and the winner is offered a publishing contract, along with lots of money. I’d decided not to enter this year, convinced that my Christian Romance had no hope of rising to the top with all the other awesome stories that get submitted on a yearly basis.

I did drop by their chat boards and got my pitch for my book tweaked. Regardless of what I did with the story, a pitch to sell your story in 300 words or less is essential, but hard to do. I’d started on it this summer, got frustrated, and put it away. So I pulled it back out in late January and had the people on the pitch boards look at it, expecting them to find the same things wrong with it that they had issues with six months before. But instead, they LOVED it. My pitch was tweaked, but not shredded, as most of my pitches usually are.

What was more, I had my usual ABNA friends that I’d talked with every year, asking why I wasn’t entering. Then I learned that ABNA had changed the rules this year. They added different genres, and there would be a top winner in each genre. The grand prize winner would still be determined by popular vote, but the other top stories would also receive a smaller amount of money and a publishing contract. I looked up the rules at that point. I was stunned to find that Romance had its own genre this year. I entered the contest the next day.

ABNA has several rounds of judging. The first round is based solely on your pitch. Out of 10,000 contestants, 8,000 are eliminated in this phase alone. This year, the Top 400 in each genre would be moving on.

They released the lists last week of those who had survived the first cut. My name was on the list!

Sadly, many of my ABNA friends did not survive this cut, though they had awesome pitches. I’m not sure why theirs weren’t picked and mine was.

The next round of judging is based on the excerpt, your first 3,00-5,000 words of your manuscript. Judges are looking at it right now, and I won’t hear back until mid-March.

Shameless Plug

Here is my winning pitch. The links to my excerpt are below. I had to separate it into two different links. Feedback would be awesome.
Jasmine, the youngest princess of Wynster, has fallen for an unusual suitor. Instead of a prince, courtier, or nobleman, she has chosen Trevor – a peasant clergyman. But after accepting his faith as her own and realizing her feelings for the man, she is faced with a dilemma.

Trevor will not court her further without the blessing of her family. And the Queen will not consider just anyone to take her daughter’s hand. But Trevor’s outcries against the Queen’s unfair taxes will not improve his chances to gain her approval.

Jasmine’s plea for her suitor turns into an outburst against her mother where she crosses a forbidden line. The Queen orders her to recant her new faith and renounce her choice of husband. Jasmine refuses and is thrown in the dungeons until she obeys.

Despite the consequences, the princess refuses to recant. Then a new prisoner is placed below – Trevor. When he faces execution, the only hope of changing his sentence lies with facing the angry Queen.

THE TEST OF TRUE LOVE is a Christian Romance novel that follows Jasmine as she learns that love and forgiveness can set her free when nothing else can.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Don't Stop!

I want to take the day off today. As I write this, it’s a snow day. I’ve had nowhere to be, and I can always edit on another day. I’m making good progress on editing my story. I have another beta who wants to read what I’m working on, which works out perfectly since I’m adding in one beta’s suggestions.

And yet, I find other stuff to do. I check Facebook. I tend my virtual farm. I chat on a writing board. I chat on another board. I look at my story document, my paper notes, and I decide it’s time to check the internet again.

I’m making progress, so I shouldn’t be frustrated with myself. But I am. I KNOW I can do better. I can edit more than three chapters a day if I tried. But I haven’t tried hard enough. I haven’t made myself stay off the internet until I’ve done x amount of work.

It Is Okay To Be Frustrated

Writing is a crazy business. You will question your sanity as your plot thickens, your characters tempt fate, and you write in a dragon that had no prior place in the story. You will get upset when you waste time doing something on the computer when you COULD be spending that time working on your story.

It Takes Discipline

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing, editing, or researching for another story. It takes dedication and discipline in order to make yourself stop being distracted long enough to make progress on your story. It means getting off Facebook for a bit. Trust me, the cute pictures will still be there at the end of the day.

This Is Hard Work

Why do you think you’re frustrated with yourself? Why do you call it quits for the day after the chapter where your MC was put through the ringer? Writing is hard work. Rewriting and editing are even harder. Writing isn’t for the weak. You have to keep on pushing.

Why? Because right now, you’re the only one who can breathe the right amount of life into your story. And if you don’t get into the habit of making yourself work on your story even when you don’t feel like it, chances are you won’t make it far in the writing world. You will be content with your place on the mountain, and never care to see the heights of it or the surrounding rocks.

But if you want to keep on and get your book published, you’re going to have to push through. Sure, your spot on the mountain is nice. You’ve become cozy. But you can’t hang suspended there forever. Either a storm will come and knock you off your perch, or the personal touches you’ve added to your little stop will be blown away. It’s time to move on.

Keep Climbing!

This blog post was written just as much for me as it was for you. Stop wasting time on the internet. Open your story document and GET TO WORK! It’s time to make your story better. And the only one who can do that is you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Don't Be Afraid

As I’ve mentioned in the past few entries, the writing world can be a scary place. Now, writing about the dragons, villains, and various monsters was its own adventure, but you somehow made it through. Yet exploring a world you’ve never tread before is always frightening. And sadly, my friends, the writing world is filled with terror.

It doesn’t matter if you’re editing, submitting, or publishing. You will always face fear.

What if this scene I’m taking out is the one that’s supposed to stay in? Will I ever write something this brilliant again? Gah! Do I add the super-cool plot twist here? Will I lose this joke forever? What do I do?

What if this publisher is the one and they decide I’m an idiot? What if I needed to go through 16 edits instead of the 14 I’ve already done? What if there’s a typo? What if I didn’t send enough postage? What if I put the information one publisher requested into the wrong envelope? I’ll look like an idiot to TWO people!

What if people don’t buy my book? What if they hate it? What if it goes down as the next Twilight or the worst book to ever be published? Why did I self-publish? The third page has a typo! I knew I should have done my 15th editing sweep. What if this book cover doesn’t work? What if my book is awful?

For every mountaintop you reach, there will be another climb in the distance. You will doubt yourself, your ability, your sanity, and the judgment of others many, many times. Back in November, we kicked Doubt out the door. Now he’s shown up again with a suitcase and brought along his cousin, Fear.

Doubt and Fear will always exist in the world. A bit of doubt is healthy in judging your work, I think. You are not brilliant all the time, unfortunately, and it’s Doubt’s job to remind us of that. But that’s his only job. He seems to think messing with your mind is fun. And when Doubt is welcome, Fear will follow.

I’m not going to wax super-spiritual on you, because not everyone who reads my blog believes the way I do. But I will tell you that Fear will only stay where it is invited. Fear will come, but you don’t have to let it stay.

Take it from one who’s been climbing the same hill for the past decade – Fear will never help you.
Today, I’m handing you the only tool you’ll need when scaling the mountains in the writing world. It is a life line when the winds blow, when Fear distracts you, or when Doubt knocks you off course.

Hope is stronger than Fear. Hope will always keep you anchored. And Hope will keep you around to climb another day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Step Two: Stay Excited About Your Book

Regardless of whether your story is picked up by a traditional publisher, an agent, or you decide to self-publish, this step is crucial to your success as a writer. If you want to sell books, you’re going to have to convince people to read your story.

How Do I Do That?

To attract fans of your story, you must be the first fan. You must be the one to tell people over and over that this story is awesome, and they should read it. Remember when you wrote that story? Remember falling in love with your secondary character? Remember how awesome that ending was? Great! Now use that same “Yeah! My novel is perfect!” feeling to convince others that your story is not only interesting, but something they’ll want to read. (Sure, you’ve learned by now your novel isn’t perfect, and you’re secretly horrified at how many things you’ve discovered wrong with it during your bazillionth editing sweep. But your future readers don’t need to know that. They must think the same thing as the publisher – you’re brilliant!)

Your friends and family will obviously be the first ones you will turn to for help. They love you, and most of them probably know your story already, since you’ve been yammering about it forever. Forget the fact that they might be sick of it. They love you, right? And they want to help you succeed in this writing thing. So let them get excited about the book, too. Have them tell their friends and family. And while having others help in the promotion of your book, you will also have a big role in this, too.

You Must Be Your Own Champion

I cannot stress the importance of believing in your own work enough to sell it yourself. Regardless of which publishing path you choose, the majority of your marketing will be left up to you.

Let’s say for a moment that you reached the right editor on the right day with your query, and they loved it. After reading through your manuscript, they offer you a contract. When the happy day comes and you have your own book in printed form, your next challenge is before you – how to sell your book.

We talked last week about being a nobody. Yes, a publisher decided you had the potential to be a somebody and has invested in your work. While that’s amazing, the problem remains of what to do with the box of books in the trunk of your car. How do you sell your work? I know you’re wondering as you’re reading this, “Isn’t that what the publishers are supposed to do?”

Yes, the publishers are supposed to sell it. But you’re a nobody. They aren’t going to spend a lot of money on you until you prove that you can be a success without them. Remember when I mentioned that writing is crazy and sometimes things don’t work logically? The same principle applies to publishers. They are a business, and have already spent money on you. You aren’t getting another dime of their money until you earn back that advance and prove to them that you can be a success without them. Then the publisher will step behind you and champion your work. Like the writing process, it is a little backwards. But unfortunately, that is the way the publishing world works.

So, back to that box of books. Find a way to promote and sell them. Whether you choose to host a giveaway, raffle them off, sell them at a friend’s store, print out flyers, or rent a vendor booth at your community event, you must sell your book. You must prove to the publisher that not only you can write an awesome book, you are indeed the brilliant person they thought you are. You can sell the book all by yourself. Without their help.

If you can sell your book without any help, you can certainly sell more copies with their help. And the publisher will remember that the next time you want to write a book. “Huh? Wonder how well they’ll do if we promote this one a bit? They’ve made some money on their own. They might be worth some of this marketing budget.”

Now, publishers are full of wonderful people who fulfill dreams of many authors. But the industry is changing, and publishers are working with less money to search through the slush piles of hopeful writers, looking for the writer that will make them more money. It is a bit of a gamble to take on a new writer. When books are published, the author will receive an advance, money that they would usually earn from royalties. Once your take from royalties on your sales adds up to more than your advance, you’ll start getting checks again on a basis predetermined by your publisher (I want to say it’s quarterly). Before you get mad at the big bad publisher for not promoting your work, please note that most writers don’t earn enough to total their advance. So each time the publisher takes on someone new, they’re taking a gamble with their money.

We’ve established your story is awesome, and you’ve convinced someone you’re brilliant. If you think you can be the next somebody, go for it. But you have to prove yourself and be your own champion. Sell your work. Get people talking about your story. Get people interested. Make that box of books disappear.

That Doesn’t Apply to Me

You may have already decided that the traditional publishing world is not for you. Your story is ready, and you want it to reach the masses at once. Fabulous!

Unfortunately, the scenario I’ve described with the publisher who will eventually get behind you is the best-case scenario. For those who self-publish, the marketing and promotion of your book will be all on you. Getting that box of books in your trunk first requires money to get whoever it is to print them first.

However you accomplish getting your book out there, once the story is published, it will be up to you to market, promote, and sell it. One day, someone may see your success and choose to help you in this area. But in order to meet this magic person who believes you will make them money, you have to do it on your own.

Be your own champion. Promote your work. And stay excited about your story. Regardless of how hard it is to make a sale, keep at it. That’s the only way you can let others get just excited about your story as you are. If you want word of mouth to get out about your book, you must get the word into the right mouth in order to start the phenomenon.

Ready to do that? Awesome! GO!