Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Business is Personal (Except when it's not)

When most authors set out to write a book, they don't consider all the ramifications of what they're about to do. Sitting in the privacy of your own home and clickety-clacking away on your computer keyboard can be fun, fulfilling, and fancy-free. Writing a whole book, editing that book, getting readers to crit the book, all this is good clean fun.

Until you decide you want to publish it.

Suddenly, you find that your book is no longer just your baby, your darling, a slice of your soul. It's a product. You are not just a writer, you're a salesman, a producer of said product, and a variably-valuable commodity to a (very often) large corporation which is driven by one thing. What is this one thing you ask? Love of art? No. A drive to reach the masses of readers with entertainment that will also teach them something valuable? Uh, no.

Publishing companies, like any other kind of company, are driven by money. While many, many individuals within those companies are a part of the publishing world because they love the art of creation, the entertainment and learning that can come from reading, and even authors themselves, their paychecks are filled with money, too. If there is no money, they don't get paid. If they don't get paid, they still have to eat, and they might find they have to go get a more practical job.

Hence the need for YOUR book to make money, if you want anyone to have the chance to appreciate its value as art. And here's the secret newbie authors like to forget: making money is about more than how cool your story is.

If you're anything like me, you started out writing thinking that you'd write, edit, edit some more, and then BAM! Your book is on the shelves. You might go on a fun tour, where everyone loves you, but other than that, someone else will worry about all the details, until it's time to cast the movie, whereupon, of course, you'd have full veto power.

Yeah, wrong.

Once you send your book out to become someone else's PRODUCT, a whole new world of business opens up. Suddenly you need to worry about pleasing your editor, parsing out foreign rights, ebook rights, movie rights, and all other rights to your baby. There are decisions to be made about marketing (not all by you), tours, self-promotion, and how much your publisher will help with all of the above. Then, once your book sells, you might be shocked to learn that you don't get a check every two weeks. And that the game changes a bit when you start hitting bestseller lists.

But, really, I don't know anything about all that. I'm new. I haven't even started querying yet.

Fortunately, the awesome, stupendous, hilarious, and quite experienced NYT Bestselling Author Gail Carriger is coming to help answer all our most pressing questions about The Business of Writing. I love Gail's books (go read them RIGHT NOW if you haven't yet) and it was the thrill of my Twitter life when she started following me a few months ago. Naturally, I immediately DM'd her to see if she'd be interested in doing a conference call for Authors' Advisory. (Oh, how I love having that excuse to talk to authors!) She agreed and the time is almost here!

It's tomorrow, actually: June 1, 2011 at 9:00 PM EDT. Go to the Authors' Advisory blog for details on how to call in. She's planning to arrive fifteen minutes early for some pre-call general Q&A (for all the supernatural steampunk questions you've been dying to ask), and then she'll tell us everything she wishes she'd known about business when she was starting out. Don't miss it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How Do You Like Your Crit?

With apologies to the vegetarians who may or may not read my blog, we're gonna talk about steak today.

My husband is an expert on the proper preparation of steak. So much so that he's rather insulted if you ask for steak sauce. Why would you need to cover up the flavor? He has strong opinions on how steak should be prepared, from the moment it stops walking around to the moment it hits your plate. He'll tell you about it whenever you want to ask. (Or whenever you just happen to mention the word steak, trying to make polite conversation.) I don't even think about cooking the meat in our house.
My husband's perfect steak, of course, is RARE. Most experts agree: steak is meant to be red in the middle, nice and tender. Barely warm. Still mooing. Rare steak is not tough to eat and you can often cut it with a dinner knife. It leaks red juice all over your plate. Yummm.

I'm more a fan of happy-MEDIUM. Pink on the inside, still fully cooked, little messy blood. It doesn't melt in your mouth, but it doesn't take an hour to chew, either. Plus, I think steak knives are cool. Why wouldn't I want to use one?

There is a small minority of steak eaters who foolishly insist on the WELL-DONE steak. Burned. Black. Fully dead. Brown all the way through. Chefs in restaurants (so I hear) set aside the worst cuts for these folks, since they'll never notice once the meat has come off the heat. Steak knives are required, and you might have to rest your jaw halfway through.

Honestly, I care not one little bit which one you prefer. Take your steak however you like. Let's talk about critiques.

There are those who like their critiques as soft as a rare steak. Easy to chew. Minimal cooking time. Tons of "wow, this was great!" and very little "dude, I did NOT get this part at ALL." Like the rare steak lovers, if their crit is slightly overdone, they're apt to throw a fit, challenge the competency of the chef, and regale anyone nearby with an account of the proper way to prepare a well-written story. Like theirs. If only everyone could appreciate their genius. Every once in a while, one of these types publishes a book and soon wages a public war against any who dare call it less-than-perfect. This war is entertaining to all, but less than helpful to the writer's career.

I do NOT like these types of crits. I refuse to give them, and if that makes me a bad critiquer-- well, it doesn't make me a bad critiquer. Just an insensitive one. I can deal.

Then there are those who recognize that, if they want to actually improve their writing and their stories, they will need to face the flaws head-on. Only, they're insecure and they know it. Criticism hurts, no matter how well-intended or how well they prepare themselves to hear it. Like the medium steak lover, they want the tough balanced by an equal measure of tender. If it is too tough, they won't be able to swallow it at all. If they don't hear "loved this part" almost as often as "eek, this doesn't really work, does it?" they might despair, throw the whole novel in the trunk, and take up cross-stitching. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

These crits I can handle. I actually strive to give this type in every crit I give. Even if I have to go back and add in the good comments later. :) I would never want someone to come away from one of my critiques thinking they or their story has zero chance of success. Any writer can improve. Any story can rise from the muck of mediocrity to become extraordinary (if only by stripping it down to its barest bones, finding the one good thing about it, and rebuilding from there). Happy-medium is good.

But it's not my favorite crit.

My favorite crit to receive is like the well-done steak. Burned. Black. Dead. No weak plot point left unpoked, no flat character left unchallenged, and no useless scene left unskewered. Mockery should abound. My ideal beta reader will mock the heck outa my book, whenever they can. They will leave comments in the margins to the effect of "Again? Really? When will you stop doing this? This is driving me crazy!!!" They will protest loudly and often when I let my characters wander into a scene without knowing what they want--and communicating it somehow to the reader. They will circle my -ly verbs and, just to be sure I'm aware of it, will  recite the rule that says we should use them sparingly. They will unapologetically point out when my tense shifts, when they can't tell whose head they're in, or when my tricky turn of phrase turns them off. They will mercilessly apply heat, they will ignore all sounds of suffering, and they won't let up until it's impossible to tell just how bad the cut of meat I handed them really was. They will praise on occasion, when driven to do so, and will offer the token positive points when writing their crit, but they will focus on the flaws.

Why? Because, someday, I want to be published. If I succeed, my little darling will be slid onto a plate, decorated with some garnish, and served to people who don't know me. Who don't care about me. Whose addresses I do not know. These people will not care if I think that this little cut of my soul is perfect in all aspects. They will not care if my entire sense of self-worth is tied to whether they like it. They only care about what THEY like, and what their hard-earned dollars have purchased. And they will say, loudly and frequently, exactly which parts they hated about it. They will mock my limp voice, my flat characters, my uninteresting vocabulary choices, and my yawn-inducing scenes. UNLESS I've already identified such things and fixed them. UNLESS I have friends wonderful enough to mock me before the general public has a go. Unless my crits are well-done.

Now, I'm not saying that brutal beta-crits will completely save me. Some people won't like my book no matter how perfect it really, really is. I'm just trying to limit the number of post-publication "ouch! he's right!" moments. I want them all up front. I can take it. I have my jaw all warmed up and my steak knife ready.

What about you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What puts the Happy in YOUR Ever After? (The Case for Kids)

General Spoiler Warning: talking about endings again. I'll try to stick to books everyone has probably already read.

Not every ending has to be happy. There are lots of different ways to end a story. Dean Koontz wrote a heartbreaking story I still recommend to people, even though I sobbed for days afterward, in which the hero accomplished his goal . . . and still lost the woman he loved. Nathanial Hawthorne's Scarlett Letter ends on a bittersweet note, with the "hero" overcoming his fears just before his death, and the "heroine" escaping Boston with her daughter, only to return years later to complete her life sentence of infamy. The Hunger Games trilogy ends as well as can be expected after so much horror... but hardly anyone would call it "happy."

This post is not talking about those books. Or others like them. Here, we discuss only those books where the author obviously intended the audience to be largely satisfied at the end. To be happy. To be, overall, pleased with the way things turned out.

A woman I know followed the Harry Potter books faithfully through the whole series, both for herself and for her young nieces and nephews. When book 7 came out, she read the ending first, just to be sure it ended "right." If the wrong people had died, she told me, she would have hunted down and destroyed every copy of the entire series in her family's possession, just to ensure that none of her nearest-and-dearest would be exposed to the "wrong" ending of such a tale. She demanded a happy ending and she was prepared to go to great lengths to eradicate an unhappy one. Happily, Rowling did well enough, and my friend did not have to go all Fahrenheit 451 on her books. (By the way, I totally called who died in HP. Just sayin'.)

So what makes an ending happy? Survival of the main characters? Overall state of happiness enjoyed by the main characters at the end of the book? I think it's different for each reader, frankly, which makes it somewhat hard for a writer to appeal to everyone.

For example: One of my favorite authors wrote an awesome romance, in which the overweight heroine still managed to bag the hotty hero. No one else has been able to pull it off, before or since (to my knowledge). It was a romance coup. I loved the story. It's full of the author's trademark humor and excellent writing and the characters were believable and quirky. But they didn't want kids. Though they both loved children and acknowledged that the other would make a terrific parent, they had both decided to remain childless. And that's what they did.  And it sort of put a bummer on the HEA for me, because, in my ideal HEA, you get married and then you have kids. How can you be truly happy without them?

Now, this isn't the same for everyone. I've seen two recent studies, in fact, that explain the absolutely unbelievable (to me) decision of many modern couples to intentionally remain childless. Now, of course, I can see the draw of not having kids. More freedom, less mess, more money, less stress, more me-time, less PTA-time, more tranquility, less screaming (yours and theirs), more sleep, less waiting up for teenagers to come home, more vacations, less aggravation... you get the idea. The list goes on and on. Good things get traded in when you decide to have kids. It's true.

What childless-by-choice couples may not agree with me on, however, is that every sacrifice is SO TOTALLY WORTH IT. So long as you foster appropriate coping skills. Those studies I mentioned in the last paragraph contain statistics that parents are, overall, less happy than their childless-by-choice counterparts. Less satisfied with life in general. Well, duh. Those who don't want and don't have kids get to run their lives however they want, while parents have to deal with the unreasonable demands (and school schedules) of completely irrational miniature people. Screaming, discipline, cleaning, and confrontation aren't fun for anyone and are a necessary part of any parent's life.

But if the lows are more frequent, the highs are higher. Holding your new baby is the best high in the world. Watching my kids learn new skills, play nicely with each other (it happens on occasion), and actively want to spend time with me is a thrill like no other. Because I helped with that. No adult acceptance can measure up to the completely honest acceptance of a child. They don't BS you. They won't pretend to like you or to approve of you if they just don't. My boys might point out my chub, but they also call me beautiful. When I say "I love you," they respond with "I love you mostest." What does a childless life have that can possibly compete with that?

Finally, kids provide a lifetime's worth of happily ever afters. If you're lucky, they give you grandchildren. Who will love you and accept you. Who will call you beautiful when you're old and wrinkled. Who will visit you when you're too feeble to leave your house. Who can give you support in your old age.

Children are worth any price. I'm not saying that to be self-sacrificing: I'm a huge fan of taking care of #1. Children flat out give more joy than you can get on your own. More sorrow, too, but joy is like that. Life is like that. You can't have happy without sad, and, in my own life, you can't have a perfect Happily Ever After without children.

[Steps off soapbox]

So what about you? What elements are essential to your own perfect happily-ever-afters? Have you ever reached the end of a book and doubted the stated bliss of the main character?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapturous Raptureless

See? Lawyers can be raptured, too.
I've been having tons of fun this weekend following the rapture countdown online. So much fun that I planned a great post for Saturday, where I'd announce that, since I'd finally finished my second edit, I was now ready for the rapture, should it have to happen. I worked diligently all week on my edit, frantically scanning my writer's group's crits, fixing poorly worded sentences, showing where I had originally told, and adding far too many words to the book as a whole.

On Saturday, I delayed posting, planning to finish right up, and write the blog post right at rapture time. Or soon thereafter. Or sometime.

Around midnight, [no one I knew had disappeared and] I realized that I needed to rewrite a huge swath of my ending (again). Remember my post about anticlimax? Yeah, well, suffice to say the bad guys at the end of my book gave up and went away. Had to fix that. Took some time.

Anyway, after working feverishly all day today (it's not "work" if it's fun and I'm not getting paid, so I can do it on Sunday) I can now finally announce that I'M FINISHED!!

Not, like FINISHED, finished, but finished with this edit. The blasted thing is ready for my beta readers.

After I read over my new ending tomorrow to make sure it makes sense, that is.

If all goes well, and the betas like it, I hope to be querying in a couple of months. That could change. Has before.

Still, I'm going to take credit for postponing doomsday. There was NO WAY anyone was going anywhere before I finished this edit!

It's also good that I postponed this (ahem) post because I get to include an announcement of my very first writing contest honorable mention! Yay! It was a pitch-and-first-250 contest judged by Gina Panettieri (follow her here), President of Talcott Notch Literary Service. Out of approximately 88 entries, there were 4 winners and 4 honorable mentions. You can read my submission here. If you want to, that is.

Also honorably mentioned is my friend Chersti Nieveen. (The fact that her name is listed before mine on the Honorable Mention list means absolutely nothing.) Her submission is part of the story she brought to LDStorymakers 2010. As was mine--we worked on them together at our boot camp table with the awesome Aprilynne Pike. I love what a small world we have here.

We both win a $5 B&N certificate, which is SO COOL! Congrats, Chersi!

A Reminder:
Elana Johnson is willing to help us with our query letters on an Authors' Advisory call. Using fer-reals query letters supplied by fer-reals people. People like YOU! So far I've only received 11, which is rather astonishing to me. Who doesn't want their query letter fixed by a master like Elana?

At least I'll be able to slip my own into the pile without feeling guilty.

If you want yours included, see here for full details.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

About Betas

My editing is getting close to the end. Well, a week or so away (if the world doesn't end, first). I've fixed the beginning (a few times), the end (a few more times), and now I'm going through the middle. (Why is it that the beginning and the end need so much more work than the middle? There's so much more to the middle!)

Beta-Readers should have pretty fins.
Once I've finished polishing all the flaws my wonderful writer's group found... and the ones I found myself, while going through their crits... I'm sending it out to beta readers. Some of you have already volunteered (so excited!) and I have a slew of non-writer family and friends and people-who-just-met-me-and-were-foolish-enough-to-mention-they-like-to-read lined up. I'll be handing out questions to help focus the reviews, and then will have a few weeks to breathe... which I'll probably spend reading through it again, fixing more problems.

So anyone have any advice on beta readers? How many should I have? Is more better? I'm hoping this will be my last round of revisions before querying, but if there are major issues that pop up, there might be more--should I hold some in reserve for the next round?

I'm keeping the post short today, so I can have more time for editing (Ummm. Editing.) Before I go, though, a reminder: Elana Johnson will be critiquing queries on her Authors' Advisory call on June 23rd. We're collecting queries for her to review until June 1, after which she'll be too busy reviewing them to collect any more. See this post for details.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Day With Aprilynne Pike

Over the past few years, I've met tons of awesome writers. Some on Authors' Advisory, some at conferences, and some just online. Authors are amazing people and universally fascinating (at least to me).

Only one (so far) has let me hang out with her for a whole day (well, half-a-day). Only one has let me shadow her to a school visit and a library lecture and a book signing. Only one has come to dinner at my house. Only one has let me play with her adorable baby and meet her so-cool mother.

Only one is Aprilynne Pike, #1 NYT Bestselling author of WINGS, SPELLS, and ILLUSIONS, and, most recently, new inductee to the NYT Bestselling Series list.

My friend. (I'm sure she called me that at least once.) :D

You want to touch me now, don't you?

I first met Aprilynne at LDStorymakers 2010, where I was thrilled to see she was my bootcamp instructor. When we ran out of time in our group, Aprilynne graciously met with me during the main conference to give me her notes on my writing sample--and they were SOOO good! She has amazing instincts for what works and what doesn't, and made a beautiful bloodbath of my pages.

When I started hosting Authors' Advisory, Aprilynne was one of the first authors I asked to be a guest, though her call was delayed for several months to coincide with the release of ILLUSIONS and to not conflict with the birth of her baby. Her call, predictably, was sooo informative, and full of her own unique humor. I loved reconnecting with her on the phone.

Right after the call, she announced that she'd be including my town on her ILLUSIONS tour! I was so excited! I contacted her and volunteered to help, and ended up contacting our local library and high school, and putting up flyers about her B&N signing. Can you imagine the thrill as I called people and said "I was talking to Aprilynne Pike...." :) (The school thought I was her publicist.) :D

On the big day, Aprilynne let me shadow her (you know, since I want to do this sort of thing when I grow up). She, her mother, and her daughter picked me up at my house and we went to the high school, where she thoroughly entertained 80 students with a fun exercise on plot and characterization. She'd select a student, have everyone decide who they were, what their power was (since she writes fantasy), and eventually collected enough characters for a mock battle. She effortlessly discussed story structure and conflict, answered lots of great questions, and was finally interviewed by the school newspaper.

After the school presentation, we headed over to the library, where she lectured a small group of librarians, patrons, and a carload of fans who drove (bearing gifts) two hours to see her. She talked about her path to publication--and the many pitfalls she experienced along the way. It was fascinating, and I loved how she didn't let setbacks stop her. She kept writing, kept trying, and eventually made #1 on the NYT Bestseller list.

After the library, it was off to my house, where my wonderful hubby fixed us a venison steak dinner. Aprilynne and I discovered that we have TONS in common, and she gave me advice on my query letter--improving it immensely.

During the book signing at B&N, I played with her baby (continuing my day-long baby-playing campaign) while she greeted her fans (including my boss... who hadn't seen me at work that day...). We had more time to chat, and she ended the night by signing a bunch of their stock. I bought me a personalized copy of ILLUSIONS, and mostly just reveled in the coolness that is Aprilynne.

I had tons of fun, y'all. Not only because Aprilynne is awesomeness itself, but because I learned SO MUCH about how to be a professional author. It looks like tons of fun, frankly, and I can't wait to try it myself.

Thanks, Aprilynne!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest: Publishing Practice

When I was a Theatre Arts major in college, I really wanted to be on the acting track. Acting is fun. You get to be on stage, you get to pretend to be someone else, and you get to hang out with other actors, who are almost universally COOL. So, every semester, I would endure auditions for the next semester's acting classes. Every acting class beyond the most basic required an audition with a certain benchmark score. I can't remember for sure (I think I'm blocking), but it seems that I never made it past the basic classes. Maybe to intermediate? Certainly not onto the acting track. *Sigh*

So, I did directing instead, which was also very cool. (I mention this only because, on Saturday, I ran into Shelly, who acted in one of my first directing projects, a Theatre of the Absurd student-written play called The Dialogues of Il and Elle. Shelley was Elle. She was awesome. Still is--only now she's an awesome writer.)

My point is that I'm absurdly practiced at dealing with rejection. With people telling me that I'm not quite good enough. With picking myself up, dusting myself off, acknowledging the subjective nature of the arts, focusing on the constructive parts of the critique, and moving forward. Rejection is disappointing, but hardly crippling. Shrugging is possible. Tears are highly optional.

In that vein, on behalf of the 130+ First Chapter Contestants who waited until the very last award, hoping that our names would appear on the Grand Prize announcement, only to force a smile, clap enthusiastically, and pretend that we knew all along that our chapters weren't good enough... I present my scores. Two years of scores, actually, since I did this last year, too. I'm hoping they'll be enlightening, and will help us all to understand that, like in publishing, not every reader will like our work. But not everyone will hate it, either.

I'm a bit hesitant to post this, since there has been a lot of advice lately on how to respond to critiques and NONE of it has advocated breaking it down on your blog. (Most good advice is to scream in private / ignore in public.) The difference, of course, is that my book isn't published yet. I'm still editing it, so flaws and mistakes are expected, and most importantly, CAN STILL BE FIXED. Please feel free to assume, as you read the following, that I'm going fix every last mistake. All of them. I'm even going to win over 2010 Judge #5.

Before you read the chart, you should know that, in my humble opinion, my first chapter 2011 was vastly superior to my first chapter 2010. When I re-read the chapter before the 2010 conference, I knew I wasn't going to win. This year, I had hope (as you probably noticed). :)

So, voila the spreadsheet!
GEAS is the title of my book. 5 is the maximum possible points per category. The blank was probably an oversight by 2010 Judge #4, and the score of 31 was calculated with a zero in that category, though I skipped the blank when I calculated the average for that category. Even if 2010#4 had given me a 5 in Pace and Style, my 2010 average would only have gone up to 33.2.
Conclusions and things of note:
  1. I'm improving overall. (Yay!) My average is 1.3 points higher this year from last year. Therefore, in 5 years, I'll have a perfect score! ('Cause it totally works like that.)
  2. Out of 72 scores, I have 25 5's, 35 4's, 8 3's, 3 2's and a no-score. That's 83.3% 4's and 5's, and 16.7% 3-and-under.
  3. For every category, taking in both years, I have at least two judges out of nine giving me perfect scores. Yes, folks, fiction is subjective.
  4. My strength is in mechanics, described as "grammar, spelling, etc." 2011 Judge #2 told me that I needed to format my page #'s differently, and add my name to the header (which was against contest rules). I can't possibly know if the lack of name got me docked a point, or if it was something else. 2011 Judge #3 only commented "good" on mechanics.
  5. My weakness is in Resolution/Read-on prompts. 2010 Judge #5 confessed that s/he didn't like fairy stories, and said "don't take my not liking as a sign that you can't write--you write very very well--I just can't find myself caring. Remember not everyone is going to like my stuff and not everyone is going to like your stuff-tough it out and keep writing to show that jerk judge from Storymakers." It is honestly my favorite comment of the lot. This judge is NOT a jerk. :)
  6. Also on Read-on Prompts, 2011 Judge #2 pointed out that, the way I'm currently ending chapter 1 gives my readers an excuse to put the book down. Though other judges were happy with the premise and the set-up and wanted to read more, s/he's right: it's a natural stopping spot, with no compelling reason to turn the page right now. Few first chapter readers will find themselves on my doorstep, begging for the next page. Gonna have to try to fix that.
  7. If 2010 had only had four judges (and if #5 was the one missing), my 2010 average would have been 34. Which would have meant I'm now getting worse overall. Which means it's completely useless to agonize about what-ifs. (Also, I would have missed out on the awesome things #5 said.)
At the end of the day (and the blog post), I'm happy to have played. I'm thrilled with the feedback and that it seems that most of the professional reviewers really seemed to like the chapter. They might not have judged it to be "better" than another chapter in my (really big) genre group, but most of them said they'd like to read on. That's good enough, right? So long as we can keep our readers turning pages, we've won.

Hopefully, they'll like it enough when I query to make me ineligible next year....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

[No Longer] Calling for Queries (Elana, not me)

I can't wait, so I'm announcing this a few days earlier than I said I would.

Drum roll please....

Elana Johnson, author of POSSESSION and FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL, will be doing a conference call for Farland's Authors' Advisory on June 23, 2011. Her topic will be Query Letters, a topic she has not only written the book on, but has also presented on at writer's conferences. Are you excited yet?

Starting today, I am collecting queries for Elana to critique live on the call. She wants them early so that she'll have enough time to review them beforehand. If you've ever wondered (like I have) whether your query is all it can be, this is a chance you won't want to pass up. Elana is brilliant and she tells it like it is (I've heard rumors that she made someone cry once...)--and don't we all want to hear the truth before we send it to agents? Of course we do.

So here's the rules:

  1. We'll be accepting queries through June 1, or until we have 50 queries, whichever comes first.
  2. One query per person.
  3. For the purposes of this exercise, you can either pretend that Elana is an agent who represents your genre, or you can write it as if you are querying your dream agent (feel free to change the names). Don't skip that paragraph just because this is an exercise.
  4. You can query for any book you're working on, whether it's ready for querying or not. For this to be as instructive as possible, however, you may wish to only send in a query for a project that at least has a first draft done. This is entirely up to you, however. We will not be requesting fulls. Or partials. Or offering representation.
  5. Email your query to me at robinweekswriter at gee mail dot com or by pushing the Email Me link in the right sidebar.
  6. Attach your query as a Word document to your email--do NOT put it in the body of your email, like you will when you actually query an agent. Do, however, put everything in the same format as you would for an emailed query--so don't worry about letterhead. If you have a question about page numbers, your query is too long.
  7. In the subject line of your email, put "Query for Elana: [Title of your book]"
  8. Please indicate if you'd rather we not use your real name on the call, but if you send in your query, understand that we will assume we have your permission to read some or all of it during the call. If you don't want it read on the call, don't send it in.
Feel free to download and review Elana's free e-book FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL before sending in your query. Her advice will be so much more valuable once you've done all you can do on your own.

Please help spread the word on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc. No extra points, but we'd sure appreciate it. I'm going to keep Elana's picture in my right sidebar for as long as we are still accepting queries.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. No one is required to follow anyone in order to participate.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sweet Failure

One of the coolest thing about the LDStorymakers conference is how they glorify those who try and fail. The point is that they TRY! Today, they gave awards to those who got the most query rejections this year. Yesterday, they showed an awesome video about famous historical (and local) figures who failed, failed, failed, never gave up, and then, finally, succeeded! The ending line was the best EVER:

Failure: The Secret to Success

Anyway, I won't have time to do a proper blog post, because I'm driving all the way home tonight to surprise my husband (who doesn't read my blog) by arriving a day before he expects me. I'm considering breaking down my First Chapter Contest scores here for you and comparing them with last year's (who'd like to see that?), but I don't have last year's scores with me, and you're really not supposed to react to critiques quite so soon (I got my scores 30 minutes ago).

So I'll just say this: I didn't win. Anything. Except for great critiques from industry professionals. If, by some strange alignment of the stars, one of my judges were to read this blog post, I want to say THANKS! I love your comments, I'm already working on ideas to fix the things that could stand improvement, and I really appreciate your time in judging the contest. (Oh, and I couldn't put my name in the header, because it was against the rules, but I'll absolutely do that when I query.) :)

Anyway, I'll break down the conference later, and you'll definitely want to stop by on Tuesday, when I'll have a HUGE announcement related to Elana Johnson that anyone thinking of querying will want to see.

Now I'm going back to learning. :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Awards (for me) and the One I REALLY Want

If you're a writer, you know the importance of maintaining some healthy delusions. Odds say publishing a book is about as likely as winning the lottery? Pshaw. That doesn't apply to me! First book never sells? Stephenie Meyer's did! Why not mine? Most published writers can't support themselves (much less their families) on their writing? Well, some of them do! Why not me?

If we believed the odds, we'd never try.

I don't buy lottery tickets because the odds of winning are so minuscule that it's not worth my money--but I've spent thousands of hours creating my own, custom, lottery-ticket novel (no, it's not about lottery tickets). And I believe in it. I do. I think it's a winner.

This is my first full-length novel (though I wrote the first 5 chapters of a few others--do they count?), but I'm still going to query it. In a few more months, when I get it perfect. And I'm going to cross my fingers, send up a prayer, hit send... and then start refreshing my email inbox. Because, you never know, my dream agents might be so enchanted by it, they'll immediately want the full. And I wouldn't want them to wait more than five minutes before they get it, would I? Of course not.

I want to sell it for a lot of money. Because, see, I have this dream life in my head. Free of debt. Living in a house without threadbare carpet. On a ranch, where my husband can raise cows and my sons can ride horses. With an office just for me, where I can continue to write books people will love. Occasionally leaving to attend conferences and to go on tour. To England. To meet my father's family. Perhaps with a baby daughter (or two) in tow. Doesn't that sound good? Would you give that up just because the odds say it'll never happen?

So I say it's okay to dream. Hard cold reality doesn't have any place in my world. Even if this book doesn't sell, the next one will. Or the one after that. Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gol-darn it, people like me!

Don't believe me? I present Exhibits 1, 2, and 3:

From Anita

From Deirdra

From Jenny

I received these three awesome blog awards within the last week. See? I told you people like me! :) Anita and Deirdra custom-made theirs, which make them doubly awesome, but I have to like Anita's best because she only awarded hers to five people--and guess who was #1? ME! :D Are you jealous? 

Of course you are!

You know who I'm jealous of? I've mentioned her before (once or twice): Brodi Ashton. Brodi I-had-to-choose-between-five-awesome-agents Ashton. Brodi I-waited-24-hours-before-I-got-a-preemptive-three-novel-deal-on-my-debut Ashton. Brodi, who is awesome for reasons I can't even tell you about because I promised not to!!! (Yes, you want to be me. No, I can't tell you why.)

Brodi, who, this time last year, won the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest.

I was in that contest, yo. I sat through the awards ceremony, watched some dude win first and third in my category, and then watched them announce Brodi's name as the Grand Prize winner. And she wasn't even there! Valynne had to go up and accept her laptop for her. I texted her, though. Yeah. Me. 'Cause I'd had dinner with her the night before, and had her cell number. (You want to touch me now, don't you?)

Anyway, I wasn't at all upset, because I'd already read the first page of Brodi's book and she totally deserved it, but it didn't stop me from rejoicing in the fact that she'd likely sell her book before the next contest and would therefore be ineligible for the 2011 contest. (Really, I'm just too good at this predicting stuff.)

So Wednesday, I'm driving down to Utah. Wednesday night, I'm pushing shiny buttons for another Farland's Authors' Advisory Conference Call--this time with Laura Ann Gilman, who's giving VERY timely advice on professionalism, including how to talk to editors (like at conferences and stuff), so you should totally call in with all your questions. Then, on Thursday, I'm picking up Susan Jensen at the airport and attending the Bootcamp at LDStorymakers, where the first fifteen pages of my book will be torn to bloody shreds (if all goes well).  Friday and Saturday are for the conference, where I will network, hob-nob, hand out business cards, meet cool writers, learn some stuff, and hunt down a few future guests for Authors' Advisory. Lunchtime Saturday, they announce the First Chapter Contest Winners. Not that I'm paying any attention to things like that.

So who's gonna be there? If you're going to be there, I'll tell you a secret: I get a text every time someone @'s me on Twitter. Just sayin'. My Twitter ID is @Robin_Weeks. Don't forget the space. I'd love to get together with you. Meet in person. You know, for meals. Really cool classes. (I sit at the front. Always. That's what elbows are FOR.) Or just for pal-ing around in the hall. I'm the one with the obnoxious rolling briefcase. If you trip over something, it's probably me.

Oh, and only the Blog on Fire Award requires me to pass it on. Since I love so many of your blogs, please let me know if you want it--I'll give it to the first five takers whose blogs are over in my blogroll on the left. :)

See you in a few days?