Transition: From editor to author…

No, I’m not quitting my day job. If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you may have seen me talk about my self-editing workshop, Before You Hit Send, or may have heard some of the authors who’ve taken it talk about it. Well, after giving the online version for a year and a half, and having participants ask me about PDF versions, I’ve realized the next natural incarnation of this is a book. I’ve been planning it for awhile, already have a lot of extra material not in the workshop ready (or planned) for the book. But what I don’t have, is a publisher.

See, Carina doesn’t do nonfiction, and Harlequin does a broader scale of nonfiction for women, and my project definitely falls in the niche category. I believe there’s a market for it, and that I have a pre-existing platform. And I have the material, 2/3 of a manuscript and um, lots of time to work on the project (sarcasm, people!) So, naturally the next step is to find a publisher. I thought it might be interesting for some of you authors out there to hear someone from within the industry running through the exact same process you do.

Step 1: I have the book… Now what?

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself… Should I get an agent, someone who specifically deals with nonfiction projects? I don’t even know if an agent would take me on for one, very niche project, but an agent who specializes in nonfiction would definitely know more about the publishers I need to approach than I would, since I live mostly in the fiction world.

Or…should I do my research and find a list of publishers who have published this type of book before, and send them a query and proposal?

And..if I do that, do I utilize my contacts so I don’t go through the normal slush pile process, or do I go through the regular submissions process?

Should I self-publish? I have a platform and a brand, and the percentages are lovely… For what it’s worth, I ruled this out almost immediately, though after serious consideration. I don’t have the time or the energy to do all of the things myself a publisher can do for me: a qualified editor, cover art, formatting–especially formatting for a nonfic project–sales venues, etc. I’m someone who needs and wants a publisher, and not just because I essentially AM a publisher but because I just can’t even contemplate doing it myself. It makes me want to curl into a small ball and sob.

Or maybe I should just slap it all together into a PDF and give it away to those people who take my course, and not worry about publishing it:?

So there you go, some pretty normal, “I have a book, now what should I do” questions. Maybe it doesn’t make you feel better to know that someone in the industry goes through the same process you do, but we all know…publishing is hard! There’ are no easy answers. And what’s the right answer for me won’t necessarily be the right answer for you. That makes it even harder, doesn’t it?

 

 

Playing Favorites

Every other week or so, we get a newsletter from Brianna’s swim team. Often, the newsletters are short and contain only a line or two of information, but they always come with an article about swim team and young athletes. I’ve started making sure I read the articles, because they’re always full of great info for a new swim parent. When I read this article a few months back, it resonated with me, not just with the idea of athletes, but in terms of how the publisher/editor/author relationship often works as well.

It doesn’t mean that editors and publishers are looking for authors who are the most “well-behaved” or the nicest. We want those who are hard working, dedicated to their craft, motivated to sell and promote and always thinking about what comes next, what can be improved, changed, added or otherwise done to future works to make them stronger and more attractive to fans and future readers. We’re looking for focused authors who don’t just do edits just enough to answer the question or write the book just to meet the deadlines or contractual obligations, but who want to do the best edits possible and write the best book possible.

Of course, I think most authors know all this, but I think this article, though directed at athletes, does a great job of explaining just what it might mean when there’s an appearance of playing favorites.

Playing Favorites

By John Leonard

One day a few years ago, a club board member accused me of “having favorites” on our club team. Several other parent board members nodded their heads in agreement The implication was that this was a terrible sin. When I was a younger coach, I thought it was terrible also. And he was right. I did have favorites. My favorites were those athletes who most fervently did what I asked of them. Those that did, I gave more attention to. I talked to them more. I spent more time teaching them. I also expected more of them.

The implication that he was making was that my favorites got better than the others because they were my favorites, and that was somehow unfair. He mistook cause for effect.

The fact is, that the athletes who came to me ready to learn, ready to listen, ready to act on what they learned and try it my way — even if it was more challenging and more difficult than they imagined — were ready to get more out of our program. And they were my favorites.

As a coach, I have only one thing to offer to an athlete. That is, my attention. Which means that I attend to their needs. The reward for good behavior should be attention . . . attending to their needs. The consequence of inattention, lack of effort, unwillingness or unreadiness to learn or just plain offensive or disruptive behavior is my inattention to that athlete.

How could it be other than this? If you have three children, and you spend all of your time and energy working with the one that is badly behaved, what does that tell your other two children? It tells them that to capture your attention, they should behave badly. What we reward, is what we get.

As a coach, I want athletes who are eager to learn, eager to experiment to improve, and eager to work hard. I want athletes who come to me to help develop their skills both mental and physical, and are willing to accept what I have to offer. Otherwise, why have they come to me? And I am going to reward that athlete with my attention. In so doing, I encourage others to become like the athlete above. If I spent my time with the unwilling, the slothful, the disruptive, I would only be encouraging that behavior.

The link I want to forge is between attention and excellence. Excellence in the sense of achieving all that is possible, and desired. My way of forging that, is to provide my attention to those who “attend” to me. This does, of course, result in increased performance for those that do so. I am a professional coach, and when I pay attention to a person, that person is going to improve. Over time, this makes it appear that my “favorites” are the better swimmers. Not so at all. The better swimmers are those that pay attention, and thus become my favorites.

What the above mentioned board member didn’t realize is that you must have favorites if anyone is to develop in a positive fashion. The coach’s job is to reward those who exhibit positive developmental behaviors. Those are my “favorites,” and they should be.

When contest judges disagree

On Twitter this weekend, Viv (@VivWestlake) asked me:

Curious @ your opinion: When contest responses are polarized, how does writer know what to change/edit? 2 judges love & 2 hate.

There’s no simple answer to this so I didn’t try to respond on Twitter. The truth is, contests can be an excellent source of feedback for authors, but they can also do a terrible disservice to authors as well. Why a disservice? An author who wins a contest may think this means their book is ready for publication, doesn’t need more editing, or is the best of the best. But as most editors and agents who’ve ever judged contests can tell you…sometimes picking a winner is not always about picking the best of the best, but the one that’s least badly written (that was a little painful to type but I’ve talked about it before here as did Jessica Faust of BookEnds nearly 3! years ago* ). Not all contests get a lot of entries, and not all get a lot of quality entries, so a contest win can instill a false sense of…complacency…on some occasions.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of reputable contests where competition is fierce, but there are a lot of contests in general, so which one you enter, and win, does make a difference.

So what should you do with contest feedback? First, when you enter you should pay attention to who’s judging. If you don’t respect the judges, whether it’s their experience, background, professional reputation, etc., how valuable with that win–and any associated requests and feedback be to you? I would say that what you do with the feedback is much going to depend on who gave the feedback and your opinion of their overall skills.

One thing to remember–something I say in every pass letter–publishing is a subjective business. And writing is both an incredibly simple thing (write a good book) and an incredibly complicated thing (here are all the rules to follow and things to know about the craft of writing and here all all the things you have to include to make the book good). Because it’s simple, sometimes your feedback will be simple like “I loved this, I couldn’t put it down, you have a compelling voice”. Because it’s complicated, sometimes your feedback will be just as confusing and complicated. Not the least of which is because writers often misinterpret and misunderstand the “rules” they’ve learned. So your feedback might look like “your writing is too passive, you have too much infodump, your dialogue is stilted and your conflict isn’t apparent”.

Of course, there are some things that aren’t quite as subjective; if two judges told you that you had typos and grammar errors in your writing, but two judges marked you as perfect, I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss the judges that told you there were errors. Get someone who’s good at that sort of thing to take a look. Then again, you’d be surprised just how often people see “editing errors” that aren’t errors at all. But that’s a post for another day…

On the other hand, if two judges tell you that your writing is too choppy while two judges loved your “voice” then you’re just stuck in the middle of subjective hell. Welcome. This is where you (and I think Viv) have to wonder…what the heck do I do now? You listen to the people whose opinions you trust. Maybe it’s 1 of the 4 judges. Maybe it’s none of the judges at all, but 2 of your critique partners and a beta reader.

Do you dismiss the feedback out of hand? Well, if you do, just make sure it’s not because your writing ego is getting in the way (admit it, you know it happens).

Do you give weight to the feedback? Maybe, if you trust the knowledge and opinion of the person giving it.

A few other things: this is made harder if the feedback is anonymous. If you’re getting the same feedback from multiple sources (multiple = more than one) then you might want to think on it a little more carefully. And if you’re questioning contest feedback, it’s time to start asking yourself if you’re entering contests you trust (though it’s totally possible to get bad feedback even from contests, and judges, you trust). I’d probably also be remiss if I didn’t mention that contest wins can be an excellent opportunity to get in front of the editor/agent judges whose eye it might otherwise be difficult to catch in a pile of slush queries.

And that’s my long non-answer to Viv’s question. Bet it will be awhile before she asks another!

*Agent Nathan Bransford also had an excellent post on contests last December.

Look, Ma! New job!

I think most of you have seen the news by now, but let me back up for a minute and be a little girly.

Seventeen years ago next week, when I was seventeen years old, my mom passed away suddenly. It’s a hard age to lose your mom, and I was just coming out of that difficult teen period and just beginning to be able to hold civil conversations with my mom again, when she died. But though I’ve now lived just as many years without her as I did with her, there are still memories I will never shake and she still contributed to who I am today.

One of those ways, unbeknown to her at the time, was my love of romances. I still recall the trips I’d take to the used bookstore with her, where she’d trade in a brown grocery bag full of Harlequin category books, and get another bag in return. She’d browse the shelves with a list in hand of the numbers she hadn’t gotten yet, and off we’d go with that bag of books, which would set next to her recliner until she’d gone through it. After she’d read through them, they didn’t actually go back to the bookstore, but moved on to my grandmother and aunt, who traded a similar bag back to my mom in return.

I have always been an avid (and precocious) reader, and in fourth grade, I snuck into that brown bag of Harlequin category romances and pulled a couple out. Hey, it was a large bag and she wouldn’t miss them as long as I returned them quickly, right? That night, and for countless nights in the following years, I read those Harlequin romances into the early hours of the morning, often by flashlight. My love of romance was born with those purloined books, and it hasn’t abated since.

So it’s with great pleasure that I get to say today* that I’ve accepted a position as executive editor of Carina Press, Harlequin’s new digital-only press. Some things come full circle, and I’d like to think this is one of them. Thanks, Mom.

*this links to a post I did for Dear Author, with more on my emotional journey in the past months

Passionate Ink speech

I was asked to speak for a few minutes about digital publishing for the Passionate Ink chapter’s RWA party last week. Since digital publishing is such a broad topic, I chose to take the rah-rah approach. I think the speech loses a little in translation, reading it instead of seeing it presented, but several people on Twitter requested that I post it so here you go:


“Zor Q’an Tal, High King of Tryston, Emperor of Trek Mi Q’an galaxy, Guardian of the Sacred Sands, and the most feared man in six hundred galaxies and seven dimensions, popped a cheesy doodle into his mouth.”

And in 2000, with those highly evocative words from Jaid Black, author of the Empress’ New Clothes, Ellora’s Cave was open to the public and thus began the age of erotic romance. Prior to 2000, there were other digital publishers in the market, but Ellora’s Cave, who holds the trademark for romantica, was arguably the publisher to put erotic romance on the digital map. After Ellora’s Cave came other digital publishers such as Loose Id and Liquid Silver. In 2004, Samhain Publishing exploded on the scene (I can say it like that because I work there :P) with offerings like Maya Banks 2005 debut, Colters’ Woman:

“His big hands traveled down her back and settled on her ass, cupping and squeezing, pushing her against his groin. His cock, hard, big, bulging in his jeans, thrust into the cradle of her pelvis. Can you feel how much I want you?” he whispered.”

In the almost decade since erotic romance has made its mark on the publishing map, countless other digital publishers have opened their doors from Cobblestone, to Total E-bound, to Wild Rose Press, to the most recent addition, Quartet Press. Print publisher Red Sage joined the digital-first/digital-only ranks. In that time we’ve also seen traditional print publishers join the erotic romance trend…and now release their books in digital formats as well. Beth Kery’s Sweet Restraint from Berkley Heat:

“He saw her eyes go wide but he didn’t give her a chance to respond to his totally irrational proclamation before he covered her mouth with his own.
He drank from her furiously. Pain vibrated through his flesh. Not the discomfort of a wound or an injury, but the raw, searing pain that came from exposing a desire that had long been denied.
At that moment he needed Laura Vasquez just like he needed to breathe.”

And yet, while there is now an outlet for erotic romance in the traditional publishing realm, authors and readers continue to seek out digital publishers to publish not just erotic romance, but all genres of romance, as well as fiction.

When Passionate Ink asked me to speak to all of you about digital publishing, I didn’t know how I could possibly do justice to the topic in five to ten minutes. Where do I begin to explain why I think readers and authors continue to seek out digital publishers? How would it be possible to convey how amazing I think digital publishing is. How excited I am to work in a part of the publishing industry that gives me the freedom to publish books that I love, to push the envelope and allow authors the ability to get books that bend genres (and body parts) in new and unique ways.

Then I realized that I probably don’t have to do that. Many of you already come from a digital publishing background. Those who don’t, who are here tonight, are here because of your love of erotic romance, a genre everyone can acknowledge got its push in digital publishing. So many of you already share my excitement and love of this corner of the industry.

Still, with all that’s been discussed leading up to this year’s conference, we have to acknowledge that there are those who don’t feel the same optimism, excitement and passion for digital publishing, and in some cases, erotic romance, as we do. It would be easy to be discouraged, angry and frustrated about this, and since I’m only human–don’t tell anyone, I heard earlier that there’s some talk I’ve never been seen in the sunlight and I don’t want to shatter anyone’s illusions– but since I am only human, I’ll admit there are times I feel all of those.

But then I remember I work in an industry that allowed talented authors like Lora Leigh, Lauren Dane, Angela Knight, Jaci Burton, Maya Banks, Beth Kery, Mary Janice Davidson, Megan Hart, Linnea Sinclair, Lilith Saintcrow and so many others to get their start. An industry that’s drawn authors like Deidre Knight, Shayla Black, Ilona Andrews and Lucy Monroe. And an industry that’s showcasing talents like authors Josh Lanyon, Laura Baumbach, and K.A Mitchell who write male/male fiction they otherwise might not have found a home for.

Digital publishing is a place where authors can start their careers, continue their careers, write short, write long, write erotic, write male/male, write female/female, write about three brothers loving and living with one woman…write about werewolves, demons, vampires, suspense, erotica, BDSM, and publish a book like Deidre Knight’s Butterfly Tattoo, a simple yet amazingly complex story of a man and a woman falling in love and facing obstacles…such as finding a publisher because the hero was formerly in a homosexual relationship. Digital publishing offers all of that and so much more.

I know that, you know that and I believe that as time passes and more people get to know digital publishing, they too will recognize that. I’m not going to stop believing in our industry because people question, disdain or disbelieve. In the words of Galaxy Quest, I choose to “Never give up. Never surrender.” because I have faith in digital publishing.

Chassie planned on having a whole lotta beer. She definitely needed alcohol to get the conversation started and probably an entire case to follow through with her plan. She took two bottles of Bud Light from the door and passed one to him. Snick, hiss, pop echoed, as the lids were untwisted.
Edgard’s backside rested against one counter; hers on the one across from him. She gulped her beer, cautioning herself to be tactful and calm, but what burst forth from her mouth was, “Are you in love with my husband?”

This is the industry that brought readers erotic romance and powerful books like Lorelei James’ Rough, Raw and Ready.
And it’s not going away.

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