Monday, March 23, 2015

Hungry, hungry authors

Image Courtesy: WikiCommons
I'm in historic Charleston, South Carolina attending the PubSense Summit and, as always, I spent a good part of my afternoon yesterday, sitting quietly taking it all in. People-watching. You can learn so much about where people are, where they're going, what they hope to accomplish just from sitting quietly and absorbing your surrounds. The hotel has a Starbucks in the lobby so after picking up my grande soy Oprah Chai Tea latte and an egg and cheese sandwich, I went upstairs to the mezzanine and sat down to enjoy my vittles. It was my only moment of anonymity and I cherished it as much as I cherished my Starbucks semi-healthy meal. I watched people move from one panel to another, talking about their projects, what they were working on next and talking to the panelists who had just finished their session. It was a great way to get to know the people in attendance and sort of prepare myself for the panel I would be on shortly.

Image Courtesy: WikiCommons
Authors come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life but what they all share is a love and passion for their writing. I noticed that the ones who were most successful in carrying conversations, were the ones who directed the passion they have on their work to the industry as a whole. The ones whose eyes light up at the mention of something new or changing in the industry. The hungry ones. They didn't just look for other authors to talk to, they approached panelists from the industry and sought out information about the landscape and waters they were currently navigating. They approached the panelists with questions about the industry rather than about how they were going to succeed in said industry. These are the hungry authors. The ones who don't wait for someone to come feed them but who go out and forage for their best eats. They are the voracious readers of books about everything from the genre they're writing in to industry newsletters.

Sitting there for just a few minutes, eating my semi-edible egg and cheese sandwich, I saw them all and was excited to see them in the audience during my panel. They were hopefully fed by some of the information we provided but I wasn't worried about them, I knew they'd eat their fill while in attendance.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A typical day or why agents drink

I know that I have to get better about my time management (evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this blog post instead of continuing to check off items in my daily to-do list) but I think it's important to note that a day in the life of a literary agent is long and sometimes difficult to manage. I've made posts about "my day in the life" before but it doesn't hurt to reiterate, right?

On a typical day, my work hours are 14-16 hours long and consist of so much “brain work” that I often need a nap around 4 PM. (Much like a toddler or a Golden Girl.) So, what do these 14-6 hours consist of, you ask?

3-4 hours are usually spent replying to, composing and forwarding emails
  • emails from clients (sounding a lot like “are we there yet”)
  • emails to clients (royalty summaries, editorial letters, marketing/promo ideas, what are you working on next)
  • emails about clients (buzz-building)
  • emails to editors (proposals, negotiations, general “how-do-you-do” stuff)
  • emails from editors (replies to proposals, negotiations, editorial letters, invitation to local bars to drown our sorrows)
  • emails about editors (who’s looking for what, moving to another line, out on maternity/paternity leave, where the editors are meeting for a drink to our drown our sorrows)
  • emails to staff (pub crawl?)
  • emails from staff (raising glasses)
  • emails about puppies, cats (we generally tweet about our staff cause they’re awesome and we like to talk about ourselves)
Word/Excel/PowerPoint Documents:
 3-4 hours are usually spent drafting, editing and formatting office documents
  • documents from clients (proposals must be read, and re-read, and made to bleed)
  • documents to clients (said proposals covered in notes and the blood of a thousand dashed hopes)
  • documents about clients (press releases don’t write themselves and royalty statements don’t correct themselves either)
  • documents from editors (cover proposals for books on spec are a particular joy)
  • documents to editors (proposals don’t write themselves)
  • documents about editors (updating lists daily sometimes)
  • documents to staff (begging for document writers)
  • documents from staff (reminding us that interns should be allowed bathroom breaks)
  • documents about staff (gotta let the whole world know we’re awesome and we like to talk about ourselves)
 2-3 hours can be spent on one contract and negotiations per day
  • read contract
  • make contract bleed
  • write email outlining negotiation points (see email section above)
  • compare contract offers
  • prepare offers for a client
  • research market to make sure contract terms are not outdated
  • review previous contracts when trying to determine out-of-print dates
  • go over the contract(s) with the client
  • curse, bang head on desk, play videos of cute cats or dogs on youtube when a negotiation gets difficult
Social Media/Website Interaction
 2-3 hours can be spent updating agency website and social media sites per day
  • come across a cover reveal your client forgot to tell you about while reading newsfeed looking for insightful information to post on FB page
  • upload said cover to agency FB page, website and agent blog
  • reply to tweets, FB comments and tumblr notes
  • schedule posts for social media to appear while you’re sleeping for two hours
  • like, comment and friend client social media sites
  • add reviews and books to “my-clients” bookshelf on goodreads
  • pin links to client books on agent’s pinterest page
  • post a funny moment on tumblr to keep your sanity after reading inane comments on social media
  • watch a baby giggling youtube video to remind yourself that you’re still human
2-3 hours per day can be spent talking with people
  • IM chats with clients
  • phone calls with clients, editors, staff
  • skype/google hangout/gotomeeting conferences with staff, editors, clients, sub rights editors, translators, marketing teams
Reading (and drinking):
3-4 hours are spent staring at a screen or book
  • reading manuscripts, proposals, synopses
  • reading proposals by junior agents, interns, etc.
  • reading digital ARC (hopefully before release day to catch any typos)
  • reading queries (while drinking heavily)

And at some point, we spend time with our family so they can remember what we look like, shower, eat and step outside to get some Vitamin D if we’re not popping multi-vitamins with No-Doze and gallons of coffee. So when your agent takes a few days longer to reply than you expected approach emailing them with caution and offer up a pot of coffee in reverence.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Twins Come Out to Dad

I watched this video the day they uploaded it and was surprised to see that, at the time, it only had a few hits (at my viewing of it, it had less than 1k hits). It was picked up by Upworthy and a few other LGBTQIA websites and it has over 14 million hits today. I love this video for many reasons but the moment that I think resonates with so many is when both twins break down and hide their tears and voice from their father. They're so vulnerable at that moment that you can see them as the children they were and not the young men they are. It's a moment that's very real for all of us when we have to confront the fear of rejection by a parent.

The father's reaction is beautiful and honest without being overly emotional. It's a great video and I know I've already shared it on social media but I had to post about it on my blog too.

Have you ever had a moment that resonated so much with you that you just had to share it with everyone? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Obsessions

If you know me at all, you know I get obsessed with things quickly and completely immerse myself in these obsessions in a way that may seem unhealthy to my psyche to non-fandom, non-geeky individuals: aka, the straights but is perfectly normal to the rest of us.

In realizing this about myself, I've found that part of our self-identity and, in turn, our self-awareness lies greatly in the things we enjoy. The things we obsess over. I have a very addictive personality so I know to steer clear of things that will suck me in and keep me from accomplishing my goals but once in a while, I throw my addictive personality a bone. These are a few of my current obsessions:

  1. Cooking Shows
    • Chopped I currently have over 80 episodes recorded and just love watching what people can make with the crazy basket ingredients. I don't know what it is about this show but I've got everyone in my family now watching the recorded episodes late at night when we're not playing tabletop games or doing Harry Potter movie marathons.
    • Cutthroat Kitchen Alton Brown being deliciously evil with sabotages worthy of any Slytherin like a Hashtag frying pan or a bunk bed prep station! Beautiful! Anthony and I love the trash talking too.
    • Worst Cooks in America Love Anne Burrelle and while she yells at everyone a lot, she's also the type of encouraging chef that you want teaching you how to be a better chef and a better person in your own life. Plus, I love seeing that there are people out there who are so bad at cooking that my cooking failures pale in comparison.
  2. TV Shows
    • Agent Carter If the writing stays as strong as the series premiere throughout the rest of the season, I'm going to be one happy camper. I love the chemistry between Peggy and Jarvis and the millions of ways the gender stereotypes are addressed and just obliterated by Peggy's bad-ass ways. Beautiful writing and great plot so far. I hope it's better than Agents of Shield whose series I've grown tired of. I didn't like Skye from the beginning and writing the whole series around her, just annoys me.
    • Downton Abbey Talk about great writing! I never thought I'd be such a huge fan of period pieces like this one and now that we're on our 5th season, I've grown to love this series more.
    • Galavant Campy musical in the style of Mel Brooks and Monty Python on network television at a time where we need more music and sarcastic humor on TV? Yes, please.
    • The View I spend my lunch hour watching a recorded episode of The View mainly because I like Whoopi Goldberg and the show's at a time I can squeeze in my day and it's actually kind of mindless watching. I like Nicole Wallace on the panel but her laugh annoys me and I hate it when they all start talking over each other. Nicole likes to just cut into conversations a lot and that irks me most of all but I do like her insight. I think they need to get better at learning to co-host a talk show.
    • Forever This show has sucked me from the first episode and while I'm not keen on the villain storyline yet, I love that Burn Gorman is his nemesis, I hope the villain trope is stronger than they've let on so far. My favorite moments are actually when they show the relationship he has with Abe, his adopted so played by Judd Hirsch. The intricately woven storylines have been beautiful to experience and I really hope they continue for several seasons.
  3. Books
    • Parasite by Mira Grant My niece and I have decided to do the PopSugar Reading Challenge this year and I chose PARASITE as my "Book over 500 pages long" challenge. I'm a huge Mira Grant/Seanan Maguire fan so she's an auto-buy for me and at 510 pages, the book serves the challenge nicely. Her books are also the treats I give myself when I've accomplished a goal. I've had this book in my Kindle for a year and it wasn't until I saw that the second in the series was released recently that I decided, I needed to read this book. See, I know that she has an ability to suck me into her worlds and make me wish her worlds never ended so I could keep revising them with a new installment but, as it is with all good things, they must come to an end. Now, I know the book is pricey both in Kindle and print versions but I assure you, every one of her books is worth the money you spend. If you're a fan of her Feed series, I think you're going to like this one. I'm only 1/4 of the way into it (I'm only able to read about an hour a day so it's going slowly) but I'm sucked into this near-future world where a SymboGen parasite is creating what will likely be the coming apocalypse.
    • Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan I've been talking about this upcoming release by one of my clients for months now with anyone who will listen because I think it's one of the most important books of 2015. Not just because it's about Autism but because it's about a adults dealing with disabilities that have been stigmatized for centuries and portrayed by media as people to pity or just not give a second thought to. As the parent of an autistic adult who will soon need to deal with falling in love, same-sex attraction, living on his own and dealing with adult decisions, one of my biggest fears is thinking he'll be alone late in life because he won't have found his SO. In CTO, Cullinan addresses so many of the issues ASD adults and those diagnosed with severe clinical depression deal with on a daily basis while still managing to give these two men a happily ever after in their romance. She's unapologetic about the portrayal of love among two men who find each other sexually attractive in a world that doesn't always allow them to be self-sufficient adults who can make decisions about their love lives on their own. Yeah, this book's a real obsession of mine as I continue to work to get people to be accepting and understanding of all walks of life, including my gay autistic son.
  4. Music
    • Meghan Trainor's TITLE album Love, love, love this album and the complete album isn't even out until tomorrow but I've already played the five songs released about 50 times each. Dear Future Husband and Title are two of my favorites.
    • American Author's Oh, What A Life album This is my editing/working/walking/reading soundtrack. It's OneRepublic meets Fun. meets Bastille. Love, love, love this album!
And those are my obsessions this week. No seriously, that's just one week's worth of obsessions and it doesn't include my daily obsession with Tumblr, Pinterest and Coffee, of course.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Simple Marketing Ideas

I think authors get hung up on their marketing because they don't devote as much time to learn about the industry and their genre as they do on the craft of writing. For some reason, marketing is relegated to the back burner in such a way that when the book is done, there's a "sitting idle" time.

When I speak at conferences, I often remind authors that when they transition from being writers to authors, they transition from artists to business people. A writer, writes. An author sells her writing and a successful author does both well.

The book is paramount to the success, so make sure it's edited, polished, set aside for a week, then edited again after several beta readers, and critique partners have made it bleed. But once the book is in submission, your marketing platform needs to be strong in order to help your agent, editor sell the book to the publishers they are courting with your manuscript.

The old adage, "It's not what you know but who you know" applies greatly to publishing when authors are looking to market their books (regardless of the publishing route explored). When you're not writing, you need to be cultivating relationships with readers, reviewers, book industry people online and in person. This is where conferences and blog tours come in handy.

Research blog tour companies and talk with published authors in your genre who have recently used a blog tour company to get an idea of their experience and learn what works and what doesn't. If you're represented, reach out to your agent's other clients who write in your genre and introduce yourself. Pick up their books and familiarize yourself with their writing style. Is it similar to yours? Do you think their readers could be part of your target audience? If so, reach out and ask for information. Most authors like to talk about their experiences in the publishing industry (some a little more than others) and many like to help new authors or mentor them in some way. But be authentic in your desire for mentorship and/or help. If they are unwilling or unable to offer more than a recommendation for a blog tour company, for example, say thank you and engage with them via social media about anything BUT your book.

Expect review sites to take MONTHS to get to your book, so make sure to send out ARCs early and to a large number of sites. Cast a wide net. Join Goodreads groups that allow you to connect with readers. Talk to your publisher about reducing the price of your first book so the second gets a chance to pick up new readers. KNOW your genre and the heavy hitters in the genre and get to know what works for them and doesn't. When you're not writing, you need to be promoting. Set time aside each day to do something to promote yourself. Readers want more of you, they buy your books to get that so give them YOU!

Then start thinking outside the box for your marketing. Look for opportunities to talk about your book on social media without panhandling it. Talk about your writing process, your cat, your cat's inevitable desire to thwart your writing process at every turn. Anything that's not just blasting social media with your book every five seconds.

Then sign up to speak at conferences and partner up with other authors in your genre to help expand your reach. Be active in promoting yourself as an expert in your craft because you are! You have expertly written a book, sold it to a publisher and expected to sell it to thousands of readers. What works and doesn't work become part of your expertise. Talk about that at conferences and take these opportunities to also engage your readers one-on-one. Sign up for books signings at conventions. Schedule speaking engagements at our local writing group meetings. Get out there and make your name known!