Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Submission Tips - Guidelines

When you submit your book for consideration you can contact agents or publishers, I have looked into both. When considering an agent you will almost always send a query letter while publishers may have different needs. Regardless of which you pick it is important to do your homework in order to send exactly what they are looking for. Most agents and even a majority of publishers do not want to receive your entire manuscript right away. Their websites often times will even say that unsolicited manuscripts will be discarded.

Not only will it get your work thrown away but it makes you appear extremely unprofessional. So once you pick out your agents and publishers it is vital to not only get their addresses, email addresses, names and agencies but also to know what they will accept. Starting with the query letter for agents I came across dozens that only wanted the letter. In facts about seventy percent of the agents I queried desired a query letter as an email and nothing further unless I was contacted by them.

Because they are busy and constantly being bombarded with queries they will tell you that they may not respond to everyone and while some do give an expected response time there were a handful that I simply never head from again. Once you have the letter printed and the envelope stamped you may include a few pages if the guidelines call for them. In the case of an email follow the given instructions. It is easy to just add an attachment but because of all the viruses online many will ask for the first chapter or so many pages pasted into the body of the email itself.

Publishers can be even more specific. Not only will they tell you what they want in a query letter, how much of the manuscript to include or not include but also they will tell you up front exactly what kinds of books they publish and then you can figure out if they may be a good match. They will give brief examples of the types of books found in their lines and I have seen a number that are giving word count ranges because they may or may not consider novellas or epics depending on the branding of their company.

Make sure when you are preparing to submit that you read all of the information carefully. If you are like me and submitting to a number of publishers and agents simultaneously it is also a good idea to make sure you keep the information organized so you don't accidentally send a single letter to an agent looking for the first three chapters or send the entire manuscript before you were asked by another. Knowing who wants what and keeping track of who you have contacted will make the road slightly smoother and you travel your publishing journey.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Profile - Washington's Spies

AT the beginning of 2015 I started a reading challenge at which I failed miserably. The goal was to read books from a number of different categories as a well rounded reading list. There were books like a classic romance, a trilogy, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a memoir that were relatively easy to pick and then there were ones that were more difficult to find such as a book based in your home town, a book with antonyms in the title and a book with bad reviews.

I only successfully read about fifteen books over the last year which I am ashamed to say but I have decided to try again for the coming year and each week I will do a promotion for the book I am currently reading that week. I will also post reviews on Goodreads for them and will be adding the entire collection of books to my To Be Read list. I am still in the process of picking all of them out though I have a very good start.

Right now even though it will not count toward the list for next year I am reading Washington's Spies - The Story Of America's First Spy Ring. It is somewhat like a text book in that it is packed with information during the revolutionary war and entails not just the spies and their duties but also discusses the war and politics of the country back when America was first asserting its independence. Because it is non-fiction and reads somewhat like a text book it is somewhat slow to read but since I have always been interested in history I find the information intriguing.

Alexander Rose eloquently paints a picture of the harsh winters and epic battles that plagued not only the military but also the colonists of the time. He writes about family ties and faith based politics while also capturing the fear instilled by the enemy. The American military had to fight now only the British but also many of their own that stood by the mother country. There were significantly fewer colonists that demanded freedom from British rule than I had known. I had always believed it was mostly a universal desire because my history classes focused solely on the battles and not the inner working of the country at the time.

I am closing in on half way through the book and looking forward to seeing what other facts I am able to pick up as I continue to read and then starting on Friday I will be starting on my list beginning with a book set in a place I have always wanted to visit, Paris. I am planning on reading the Count of Monte Cristo next.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Creating A Business Plan

Many years ago when I was first beginning my college experience I took an introduction to business class. Throughout the course of the class we did a number of projects that involved acting as a start up company and the final exam was for each of our companies to create a business plan then present it to our teacher as though we were asking a venture capitalist for the start up capital to make our companies a reality.

I do not remember much of what we did in that class or even what company I was a part f but I do remember that when we presented our plan we received an A as well as a certificate stating that he would have invested in us if we had planned to move forward with our idea. I am now researching and doing my best to create a new business plan for my future as an author and hopefully someday that will be my only job.

I started by making a list of all of the aspects I have learned about and feel would be vital to incorporate into the plan such as having a website, specific financial goals and distribution channels as well as making sure I have a path laid out to reach each of these milestones. On top of simply making a list of goals and eventually the steps needed to reach them I also want to make sure it is a progressive plan of at least five years so that I can not only reach the initial stages of what I would deem success but also have points that I can modify if needed and continue to build on each and every year.

Once the business plan is created I will be focusing on another document that goes hand in hand which is the marketing strategy. Business plans touch on marketing and distribution but truthfully they are rarely in depth when it comes to this important part of growing a business. I have a degree in marketing so I am eager to utilize what I studied to help turn my goals into achievements. It should be a good test to see what I have retained, though for the parts I may have forgotten I found research materials on that as well.

Finally I have my list of projects because as a writer I can create a marketing strategy, I can draft a beautiful business plan however if I have to books to submit it is all just a waste. It should be an exciting and interesting year. Now I just have to get to work as soon as I make a good cup of coffee.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Marketing Tips - Know Your Audience

When a business of any kind is planning its marketing the most important thing they must ask themselves is "Who is my target customer?" In order to market correctly you have to know who it is you are selling to. For a writer this can be tricky however because unless you are writing only one specific type of book your audience may change with every new publication. There is certainly a different type of reader for sic-fi than for erotica. Romance readers tend to be very loyal to their genre and wouldn't necessarily pick up a random thriller.

As an author it is vital to know who would buy each style of book you may create so that you can tailor your marketing plan to that audience. By presenting images and teasers from your books you can draw the reader into the story but you wouldn't want to post something frightening to a group that buys children's picture books. I have a number of books and have files for each genre with subfiles for each book that fits into that category. I am still learning the how of making teasers and promo pieces but when I figure it out I will also keep them all separated.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you do a promotional event the audience is one of the biggest factors to identify. A few months ago I held a book launch at my work, The Venetian Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The book is about domestic violence and I partnered with a local shelter I support very strongly. The Shade Tree celebrated its twenty sixth year along with Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in conjunction with Sands Cares, the philanthropy side of Venetian we held a raffle, shared a reading and even enjoyed a delicious dessert while launching my book.

I had to keep many things in mind while planning the event. I had to know who my potential readers were in order to spread the word about the book. I had to remember things important to Shade Tree so as not to offend them or those they worked with. When gathering raffle items and working with different promoters I also needed to focus on stores and restaurants that were within the Venetian so as not to create a conflict of interest.

It can be difficult to know exactly who your audiences and how to reach them but if you take a moment and ask around you can find out what your friends read and build on that. Go to book stores and watch as people browse the shelves. If your are outgoing enough strike up a conversation with other book lovers or even ask the cashiers about who buys what. You can go and observe readers at your local library as well. Once you have a basic idea you can begin to look at the covers of the books. What makes them appealing? What books seem to make people stop often and which ones are passed by all the time? Identify a few books and look them up online to see what kind of advertisements have been created for them. Are they mass marketed to several types of people or are they specific? You can build your personal database book by book and reader by reader to help understand who to market each of your books too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Character Profile - Asmara Syntel

When I first thought of writing something outside my comfort zone I looked into several different possibilities. I could change genres or try a series of short stories. I had never done either of those before. I had also never done a series of full length novels and so I decided to try and make that happen. I landed on the seven deadly sins as my inspiration and as soon as I committed to it the first book in the series took control.

The first book centers around the mother Persyphone and introduces us to her seven daughters. I have written a profile of Lucasta before because she will be the second book in the series and her sin is pride. along with Lucasta however there are six other girls; Levana, Asmara, Samiya, Maryn, Belicia and Beatrix. The last two are the youngest and are twins. Even though Levana will take the third book in the series I wanted to focus on Asmara because she is the essence of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Asmara Syntel is a fifteen year old beauty that possesses the power to seduce people through the sin of lust. I always wrote clean young adult books though one of them did have a slight romantic angle. I never attempted anything remotely erotic until this series came to mind and while they all have elements of erotica it is understandable that the Lust book will be the most hardcore in the sensual sense. I have gotten a few erotica books to read in order to make her as realistic and sensual as possible.

What makes Asmara even more scandalous than just being the source of lust and having the power to control it within people is that the books take place during the time of the Salem Witch Trials when society itself was significantly more prudish. There is nothing wrong with the values of those days and even though I am very accepting and open with my own sexuality I can agree that today's society maybe be less drastic and chaotic if some of those values were still in place.

I am looking forward to seeing exactly how Asmara channels her gifts and to feeling her take control when I write her book. She is a feisty girl and as her powers grow within her she will be more than a handful for anyone that crosses her.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Submission Tips - Going Indie

It is true that in today's competitive world of traditional publishing an agent is almost a necessity. There are those however that for any number of reasons choose instead to self publish and become an independent or "indie" author. Many will tell you that because this route has grown in popularity that there is no longer a stigma associated with it. That is not true. Many still question a self published author because of the ease with which someone can publish. There is no guarantee of quality when anyone can publish anything at any time.

As Indie authors we must work harder and smarter to set ourselves apart from our fellow authors. We are in a way competing with other indie authors as well as traditionally published authors because we are trying to get noticed but instead of looking at it as competition try to see it as association. The beauty of readers is that they tend to devour books one after the other so if you can get an association with a genre or author that they already like it is that much easier to stand out. With books most times it is not one or the other so much as it is one of many.

I have written about the importance of editing and making sure that when you do publish yourself you still go through the diligence of a traditional publisher in order o give your readers a product they will respect and want to follow with more of your work. When publishing on your own you have far more creative control as well as all of the rights to the book and for those reasons alone it is a very attractive option. I just want people to be aware of the level of commitment required to promote the story when going down this path.

It is not impossible, far from it. In fact there are a number of well known indie authors that have done well and live the dream so many of us have to be full time writers. It is however, more work to be an indie author. You are in charge of one hundred percent of promotions, marketing strategies, sales, networking, distribution and anything else that may arise. Without the branding of the traditional publisher and their team it can be significantly more difficult to break in to a number of locations. If you are willing to put in the effort though it can be worth it because you are able to retain all of the rights and keep every cent of the royalties without anyone else trying to take a cut.

There is no one right way to publish. There are several paths within each journey. It truly is just a matter of finding what works best for you and being willing to put in the work to make it once you have found the road you feel most comfortable traveling along.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Excerpt - Breathe

Breathe. Back in the shower Kelsey realized that while reminiscing she had been lightly tapping her forehead against the wall and now was getting a small headache growing behind her eyes. She stepped back and rubbed her eyes groaning internally as her aching muscles rebelled against any and all movement. She stretched her arms out behind her and let them fall again feeling every fiber of her being longing to simply lay down and relax.
            She reached up and turned the shower head adjusting it to kneading and turned around trying to smile as the powerful flow struck her back and attempted to burrow the heat deep into the knotted mass of her shoulders. However as quickly as the smirk danced across her lips it fell away again. There, drifting across the back wall of the shower stall was Naomi’s face. Her limp hair now tangled and her glasses askew but the nervous glance had been replaced with fear and a twinge of anger.

            This simple girl with a family Kelsey had never met or even known about before today, now a glaring memory that would follow her forever. She tried keeping eye contact but it was impossible to win a staring contest with a figment of her imagination. With a sigh she gave up and backed up into the flow of the shower letting the water run all the way through her hair. The heat was intense but she was barely unaware and with her eyes closing once again, heart beating faster than it should, she reached for the shampoo and thought to herself again, just breathe.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Getting Ready For 2016

At the end of this week it will be Christmas and just a few short days later we will be ringing in the New Year with thousands of different celebrations around the world. I am excited as I look not only back over the past year seeing all of the things I have accomplished and learned but also as I prepare for the year to come. I am hoping to take all I have learned and start putting plans into action. The first step of this of course is coming up with the plan.

Earlier today I went to my local library and raided the shelves in search of books about business plans and marketing strategies. I was able to locate five that I am hoping will be helpful in creating a pathway to being even more successful in the coming year. A number of things on my list include items I am unfamiliar with but that is one of the main reasons to include them. By continuing to learn I will hopefully continue to advance.

I need to create a website which is one of the things I am most concerned with. I do not know how to make a website nor stay on top of it but I know that I need to in order to grow my brand. Branding is another aspect I need to work on. Once I have established the website and figured out how to maintain it with updates and specials I will focus on building my brand. I am currently an Indie author and I intend to keep that aspect for my charity writing but I am hoping to also break into traditional publishing for my novels.

Building a platform and having an established audience is tremendously important so I am going to be looking into seminars and conferences that focus on building brands, marketing strategies and networking so I can broaden my reach. Part of the marketing is going to be learning how to do promotions and specials along with teasers from my already published books. I have a number of anthologies working on collecting submissions as well so that will be an area to continue to grow.

The last major aspect will be finishing current works that I have begun and picking two to three new books to complete next year along with the ones I have finished that will be going through the editing and submissions processes. These are also areas that while I a familiar with, I need to fine tune my skills. I am thrilled to be moving forward I am just curious how the journey will go.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Character Profile - Annora Simon

About a year ago I was part of a group that published monthly anthologies. Each month had a different theme and I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a poem or short story to fit each of them. As one might expect the themes tended to follow the holidays that appeared in the different months such as Love for February and Luck for March. Of course what else could have been done for July but Freedom but this one threw me for a loop.

I had anticipated the theme. I had found a poem I had written several years earlier that had received recognition and planned to update it for the anthology. It was created in response to my feelings following the attack on September 11th 2001. Everything was planned out. Then a few days into the month I was shopping with my boyfriend at the Apple store and decided to kill some time playing around on the computers while he looked for a new tablet.

I played a few games then tried my hand at the photo editing but he was still not ready to go so I did what I always do, opened the writing program. I was thinking about the Freedom theme and out of nowhere the following sentence flowed out of me - "Annora never set out to be a hero but there was nothing else that properly described her."

I had no idea who Annora was or what she had to do with freedom but it was clear that she was a character I was supposed to get to know. It was one of the strongest pulls I have ever experienced by a figment of my imagination. Persyphone Syntel is the only one that ever captured me more completely. I deleted the sentence from the computer and did my best to put it out of my head knowing there was no chance she was letting go of me.

As it turns out a fifteen year old with a stormy past is about as likely to let something go as a two year old with the latest toy. She invaded my dreams as well as my waking thoughts. It was eventually revealed not only the she was fifteen but she was a victim of human trafficking. It is perhaps this past that has kept me from telling her story but she is on the list of the books to be written next year and while I do not what happened to her I am looking forward to sharing her experience hoping it helps others out there.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pitch Madness

Tomorrow is the quarterly pitch celebration on Twitter known as #PitMad short for Pitch Madness. It is the opportunity to share a pitch for our finished work with agents and publishers through a brilliant and captivating 140 character tweet. No big deal right? I wish. Not only do you have to same room for the customary #PitMad as well as the genre designation but you must create a tweet so compelling that it stands out among the thousands of others constantly being loaded onto the site.

Of course the hashtag will help identify you as a contributor for the event an not just another tweet happy teen posting their latest selfie. It is still a large pool to swim in and you are only allowed three different tweets to promote your project without repeating them. I participated a few months ago though I struggled to find a pitch that would catch an agent's attention and so decided to try again tomorrow. Now as the hours wind down to the beginning of a new round of Please Pick Me tweets I find myself struggling once more.

This is the essence of an elevator pitch. Crafting a perfect tagline that will motivate those with the power to effect my writing career to contact me. I have been trying for the last few days to find just the right way to sell my story but everything I can come up with are either too long or sound a little too generic. Along with the need too include the hashtags it is so limited. You want to sound intelligent, sincere and of course interesting. I have always been one for longer explanations so I find myself in the predicament I had hoped to avoid.

I will try to figure it out though I am getting the feeling that it will be something that manages to keep me up slightly longer than I would prefer. I need to develop three solid pitches that I can offer for consideration. I am hoping to at least find one or two publishers and agents that will show interest in me and if not offer further partnership than perhaps at least give me some advice moving forward. Writing and publishing are constant learning experiences but this is a step I need to make soon in order to reach the next level. Fingers crossed tomorrow goes well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Submission Tips - Crafting The Perfect Pitch

The most important part of finding an agent for a traditional publishing route is mastering the query letter. The query is a sales pitch to the agent capturing their attention and pulling their interest into your story. There are a few parts that it you should be aware of when it comes to the query - the hook, the log line and the actual pitch. Lets take a little closer look at each aspect of your query.

The hook is also known as your tagline. Think of it like the quick line on a movie poster. It is something that captures the reader's attention and pulls them in making them have to know more. My most recent book Survivor had a tagline of A nightmare hidden in a dream. It is at the top of my synopsis on the back cover as well as the bookmarks that people bought along with copies of the book.

Immediately following your tagline is the log line. This is the part you would find written in a tv guide for those that remember reading such things. It is the part that gives a few more details, offers some hints about what happens. You want to make sure not to give away too much while also keeping them interested. It is a very fine line but with practice and several drafts it can be achieved, it is just a matter of practice.

Then comes the official pitch. Basically it is the full synopsis and even gives away parts of how the book will pan out. You want the agent to know it is the type of book they will not regret getting into. Of course because the query is only one page you will not get into too many details but it is important that to also make sure that the agent finds it compelling. It will also make the book easier to sell if there is a well written synopsis so make it as easy as possible for your target agent to see themselves taking on your business.

The last thing to include is the about you section. Make sure the agent knows about any awards you have achieved, any audience you have created or anyone in the industry that you have made contact with. It is absolutely what and who you know because they can help others know you and your work better than you alone.