heyjamie

Jamie Jo Hoang - Author & World Traveler

Author: heyjamie (page 2 of 7)

Why Book Trailers Matter


Making a book trailer is no easy feat, but to stay competitive in a highly saturated book market it needs to be done. Recently, Tara Lynne Groth of Write Naked found my book trailer on Google+ and contacted me about doing a interview. And afterwards, guess what? SHE BOUGHT THE BOOK!

Check out the full interview on Write Naked! 

Book marketing is a beast of a job and after 4 months of just trying everything–though I still couldn’t tell you the best way to go about it–I did learn a few things:

When you don’t have money for advertising it’s very hard to compete on the internet for face time with readers, but if you take on a mass approach and understand that you may only reach one person a day, that’s 365 people in a year, plus everyone they’ll tell if they think your book is great. Which they will.

In the fast paced world we live in, Tweets come and go in the blink of an eye, and most people just scroll through the vast majority of them. But readers are a great bunch of people, and if you can get your work in front of them they’ll market it for you. Word-of-mouth is still the best way to promote your books.

So where does the book trailer come in? Well, having a 1 minute visual reel to show people make it easier for your readers to quickly show their friends how awesome your book is.

A quick google search for “The Best Book Trailer” turned up this page. 

The site has A LOT of great book trailers, BUT the vast majority of them are national bestseller books, which means someone paid quite a bit of money to create it.

If you’re like me and don’t have the cash, you’re job is a little harder. You need to think outside the box and come up with a creative way to showcase what you’re book is about using the tools at your disposal. If you have technical friends or creative friends ask them to help you. Just pulling images off of google searches and adding title cards is a bad idea. First of all, you don’t own the rights to those photos, so it could come back and bite you in the ass.

I’m not an expert on how to create an amazing book trailer so I won’t go into that here but what I will say is this: know your audience. Think about the kinds of movies they go to see and look up the movie trailers to get ideas.

Imagine yourself as a customer and think about how much more effective it is to meet the author when considering the purchase of a book! Then buckle down and do a short interview/intro for your book trailer. Don’t make it too long 10-15 seconds tops and then move on to what you’re book is about.

Don’t forget to add purchase links at the end so people know where to buy your amazing book!

My book trailer was based off the trailer for WILD, starring Reese Witherspoon. Since I of course didn’t have a budget with which to hire a multi-million dollar actress and fly all around the world, I decided to make it an homage to pop-up books which I loved reading as a kid.

 

5 Things You Need to Know Before Self-Publishing


There’s nothing like receiving your first proof, but unless you want it collecting dust on your bookshelf you need to get moving on marketing.

Switching gears from writing to marketing was quite possibly the most excruciating brain shift I’ve had to endure. That being said, I’ve learned a lot! So I thought I’d share my experiences to help anyone who is considering self-publishing. I also plan to revisit this page if I ever do this again for another novel.

Number 1 — Begin PR Planning at Least SIX Months in Advance

Six months seems like a long time to wait after the novel is done but trust me when I say it will fly by before you know it, and there is a lot of prep work. I’ll get into the nitty gritty later in this post, but allocating enough time to send out massive amounts of e-mails and get responses takes a long time. Had I known what I know now I would’ve started this process at the same time I began querying agents.

First things first, and I cannot stress this enough: GET A BOOK COVER. “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” be damned. EVERYONE is going to judge your book by its cover first. And you’ll need the cover to jumpstart everything else.

Then, get your ISBN numbers. You will need two–one for your Paperback and a different one for your e-book.

Also, there are 3 basic e-mails you will need to prepare, as you will be sending out thousands of e-mails.

a) Query Letter — If you haven’t queried before you should. Rejection sucks, but having an agent will help you avoid many of the mistakes I’ve made going it alone.

b) Book Review Query — The concept is very much the same as your Query Letter but you have to include book information. Here is a sample if you need help.

c) Newspaper Book Review Query — This one I found to be the least useful, since I got a 0% response rate, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for someone else. Here’s a list of Newspaper contact info– if you have any luck with this please comment below. I’d love some tips.

Create a Press Release — I used PRweb (a paid service) because I had no idea how to even begin writing one.  You don’t need to send out a Press Release right away, but having the PDF file ready will you save you lots of time and a headache later. This is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but when you’re ready to release it (and please do check with someone who knows PR) here is a list of sites compiled by Mashable, where you can do so for free.

Number 2 — Get all of your Social Media Lined Up and Ready to Go

Setup/Update your: Personal Website, Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Goodreads Author Account, Amazon Author Account, Google+, etc.

Make sure you have a full page dedicated to your book: What’s it about? Where can I buy it? What are others saying about it?

Start building a Twitter following. There are useful apps out there for this. Hootsuite is great for planning out tweets in advance and Justunfollow helps you find people to follow via keywords (ie. #author, #books, #amwriting, etc.) This will ensure that you’re building a reader network and not just a bunch of random Twitter followers who just want a followback. Also, you’re building a network, so for the love of God, just follow people back. Unless you’re Stephen King and get 100,000 followers the day you sign up for Twitter, you need to look at social media as a reciprocal networking medium. I can’t vouch for other networking communities, but writers genuinely want to help each other out and you’d be surprised at how many people will retweet your book tweets.

Facebook: This will feel like you’re pimping yourself out a little bit, but GET OVER IT. Invite ALL of your friends and family to “Like” your author page. You’re going to need all of the support your can get and it begins with them.

At first, it’ll feel kind of lame to have these pages up with no news to post, but be patient we’re getting to that next.

Number 3 — Submit Your Book for “Reputable” Industry Book Reviews

Yes. You have to pay for some of these. And No, this does not guarantee you a good review. They’re pricey (~$250-$500 each) but a good review from just one of them is HUGE. This is where strangers begin taking a chance on your “Indie” book.

These are the 5 I’d hit up first:

BookList — Booklist is part of the American Library Association so getting reviewed here is a big deal. It’s free to request having your material reviewed. However, you MUST to submit to Booklist no later than you submit to any other pre-publication media AND they do not review an e-book unless it’s available in libraries already (one of those industry Catch-22’s).

Kirkus Reviews — If your browser is as keen to your searches as mine is, you will see ads for Kirkus Reviews EVERYWHERE. This made me wary of course, but make no mistake they are the Creme de la creme of indie book reviewers. Kirkus has been around since 1933 and for indie authors, getting a good review by them is like getting a good review from the New York Times (I have yet to figure out how to get The NY Times to review a book). It costs $425, but your review is automatically considered for their “Indie Book of the Month” promotion, which means A LOT of free exposure to book buyers via their website and bi-monthly magazine.

BookLife  — BookLife is the Indie arm of Publishers Weekly. They’re still in Beta as of now, but they are accepting Indie books for review and it’s FREE. However, if you want to advertise your review with them it does cost $149.

Readers Favorite — It takes 3 months to get the free one and they review over 50% of their submissions. But if you’re in a hurry you can pay $59 for a rushed review and get it within 2 weeks.

Foreward Reviews (If you do this 3 months prior to your publication date, it is possible to get a review for free.) If they choose to review your book, you will get a spotlight in the Magazine as well.

Clarion Reviews — Clarion is a division of Foreword (and the more recognizable industry name). If you miss the Foreward deadline (as I did) you can pay $499 for Clarion to review your book. Both reviews are conducted by the same group of people.

Number 4 — Submit Your Book to Bloggers for Book Reviews

This is what grassroots campaigning all about. Book bloggers have your target audience hooked into their reviews so it’s the best way to promote your book and it’s FREE. It does take a long time to e-mail everyone, but if you’ve done the first 3 steps you will a pro by the time you get to this part. Book bloggers get a lot of e-mails so they need at least 2 months to schedule in your book.

Depending on your genre, you’ll need to do research on the blogs that best fit your book, but for anyone writing women’s fiction here are the sites I used:

Book Blogger List

The Indie View

Additionally, Digital Pubbing wrote an amazingly comprehensive article on how to find reviewers and readers, among other things.

Update: Once you get 25 or so positive blog reviews, watch the pages and request book reviews from other bloggers who comment. You’re response rate will be higher and it’s direct targeting.

Number 5 — Figure out Printing/Pricing

I made the mistake of doing this part first. But could you really blame me? I really wanted to see it in print! It does take a lot of time and research to find the printing press that is best for your needs. I went with IngramSpark and you can read why here. But there are definite drawbacks–the major one being the $25 fee to upload new versions of your book. If you’re tight on money, make sure you have everything proofed several times before uploading. This is not a problem if you go with CreateSpace. The other perk to CreateSpace is being able to set up pre-orders. That being said, with IngramSpark the book fits in easily with any book you’ll find in a bookstore and you better believe book buyers take that into account when considering your book!

As far as pricing, if you’re like me and all you want is to have it out there for people to buy, you’ll want to set the price as low as possible. However, there are several things to consider still.

a) Just because your e-book is $.99 cents it doesn’t mean people will buy it. Sometimes pricing it that low makes people think it’s of poor quality. Look up books in your similar genre and price-match to stay competitive. OR just price it at $2.99. It’s a respectable price for an e-book and even popular New York Times Best Sellers go for that low. I mean it’s the price of a cup of coffee.

b) Paperbacks are a little more nuanced. There are hard costs to Print On Demand, but then you also need to consider that retail book buyers will want a wholesale discount and to avoid paying them to buy your book, you’ll need to raise the price. A 50% markup is where I’d start because wholesale buyers typically want a 35%-55% discount. Besides, you presumably spent a long time writing this thing– don’t sell yourself short. I’d say for a first book $8.99-$12.99 is a good range.

Once you’ve completed all of these steps an agent you queried way back in step 1 will probably call you and you’ll think you did it all for nothing. But you would be wrong! What will likely happen is the next e-mail they send you will be a link back to my site with the subject line: Let’s Get This Baby Out There! And the both of you will be simultaneously relieved. You, because Ta Da! You’re done! And she (or he), because they were mentally geared up for the long haul and you took the express train to meet them halfway. They will be so impressed with you for being at the top of your game.*

*Note: If you could kindly remind them that I am still looking for an agent that would be great! Thanks! =)

WIR — DAVID SEDARIS


Brilliant! Funny! All the Praises belong to David Sedaris.

Brilliant! Funny! All the Praises belong to David Sedaris.

What I’m Reading: “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris.

This man needs no introduction obviously, so why it took me so long to find his work is beyond me. Given to me by my friend Gina, as a must read book, I picked it up and instantly fell in love.

Because Sedaris writes short stories, there is no commitment! Yet, here’s the thing: I always wanted to come back for more. I’d read a story, laugh out loud, finish it and then want more. His books are to readers what cigarettes are to smokers, which is ironic because he spends about forty pages talking the pains of kicking his smoking habit.

The way he tells stories is unlike anything I’ve ever read. They’re personal, feel candid, and are always really funny. There is so much to admire in his work, but the thing I really walked away with was that it was him. Every facet and nuance of the book was Sedaris himself and whether the way he writes is really the way the thinks, doesn’t matter because either way he makes for a very compelling character.

As a writer one of the things I noticed was that he often times starts his stories by just diving in. His prose isn’t flowery or overly complicated, he sticks to the story and stays focused. He doesn’t spend four paragraphs talking about what Paris looks like or what Japan looks like. It’s all folded into the story itself. If I know what the trains in Tokyo are squeaky clean, it’s because he’s telling me a story about a woman taking her sons shoes off, and laying down a cloth before he’s allowed to stand on the seat and look out the window.

Admittedly, I’m quite jealous of his life. To quit smoking he spent $20,000 on a 3 month trip to Japan. He’s lived in multiple countries and has been all around the world giving talks. Just thinking about his lifestyle makes my mouth salivate. And yet, I get the feeling from his writing that he’d be just as happy writing without the money. So I guess herein lies the lesson.

Pay attention to the world around you because it’s full of fruitful ideas and images that will be useful when writing your novel whether it be fiction or non-fiction. Do things, take classes, stay active as a member of society even if it gives you anxiety, because those experiences are what make up a lot of the humor in Sedaris’ work. “It’s funny because it’s true,” as my friend Mikey would always say.

I’ve never heard Sedaris speak, yet somehow there are vocal intonations in the way he writes and now I know what it means to find your voice as an author. It doesn’t mean you have to fill the book with large vocabulary, or make every sentence move to the beat of a tune, it means being authentic as a writer and of course staying in character as you immerse yourself into the people you create within your stories.

 

Why I’m Publishing with IngramSpark


Paper quality–Look at the difference in ink quality between the two.

 

When I started thinking about writing this article I googled CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark and found an awesome blog post about the pros and cons of each. So rather than duplicate what’s already been done (and done well), I thought I’d explain why I chose to go with IngramSpark over CreateSpace.

My number one concern with the book was quality. Since I’m publishing my first book, this might seem like an unnecessarily thing to be overly concerned with. But I am. I spent the last 3 years of my life working and reworking this novel and I want it presented in the best possible way. So I started at the top. I e-mailed 20 of the top book printing houses and asked for samples (some of which I had to pay for). Then, I looked at pricing. Almost immediately, 5 of my top choices went away. I love my book, but $45/each is crazy talk.

So I found myself looking at CreateSpace and IngramSpark as the two top choices. Here’s why:

1. Print on Demand just makes sense.

2. I wanted to sell paperbacks for no more than $8.99

3. I needed a platform that easily connected to Amazon and simultaneously allowed me to sell to bookstores.

4. Worldwide distribution.

photo 2 (1)

For me personally, I feel like the createspace book looks more like a manual.

CreateSpace is an offshoot of Amazon so it makes a lot of sense to go with them. They are likely streamlined and I’m sure the process has less roadbumps. BUT when I received my sample copies, the decision was an easy one. IngramSpark, had a better matte finish bookcover, the binding was nicer, and the paper was leaps and bounds ahead of the stuff Createspace uses. A quick comparison of the paper quality of any book published with any of the top five publishing houses, makes CreateSpace’s book look like a cheap manual you’d pay $1.99 for. For me, quality matters more than the profit–if no other reason, than I want to feel proud of the product I’m selling/giving to reviewers. I also didn’t spend years, perfecting the art of crafting beautiful sentences so then release my work on a crappy platform. That being said, if my goal was to publishing a lot and very quickly, CreateSpace would definitely be the way to go, because it’ll generate revenue more quickly.

photo 1 (1)

The ultimate goal is to have your book match up with the high quality books sold in bookstores. Which one looks better to you?

Now, for the ebook part.

For the e-book, I’m releasing it on the Kindle directly through Amazon. There are 2 reasons for this.

1. The % of profit you make back is greater if you do Kindle Direct.

2. You can chose/change your set prices.

3. There are really great promoting tools. Ex. Match your paperback and sell the ebook for $2.99 when purchased together.

Note: if you’re publishing your first book (as is the case with me) doing the 90-day KDP Select program is maybe not the best idea. Jane Friedman, wrote a great article on the pros and cons of KDP Select here.

Looking over all of the different options for self-publishing is overwhelming so I hope that this article helps shed some light on the benefits of publishing with IngramSpark. Of course, this is my first book so it’s all just one large experiment for me too! If you’ve had a different experience or have an opinion of better services I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Book Recommendation — The Bluest Eye


The Bluest Eye (Vintage International)

 

Over a decade ago I remember hearing about Toni Morrison’s book THE BLUEST EYE. I only have faint memories of seeing her on Oprah and thinking this was a book I needed to read. But for whatever reason I never got around to it–until now.

There are probably a million reviews from literary critics praising the book so I’m not going to get into why: “Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature.” — The New York Review of Books. I don’t have to sociological background to discuss why this book is such an important piece of history, but I do want to explore the things reading it made me feel as an Asian American.

One of the most powerful lines, and probably what compelled me to buy the book, was from the foreword. Morrison writes: The assertion of racial beauty was not a reaction to the self-mocking, humorous critique of cultural/racial foibles common in all groups, but against the damaging internalization of assumptions of immutable inferiority originating in an outside gaze. What a powerful statement.

The opening is brilliant. A young narrator, Claudia, whose name we do not learn for several pages, is talking about her friend Pecola Breedlove and how they all came to lose their innocence.

An intricately woven story, the narrator takes us on a journey through the history of Pecola’s family so that we understand how she came to be. Choosing to specifically highlight the most vulnerable and delicate member of society, a young black female, Morrison takes us on a journey of “how.” How it is that Pecola Breedlove came to end up where she did.

What I like about the story is that although she is critiquing our society at large she also is quick to point out the cultural flaws within the African American community. The way that I relate to this as a non-African-American is by acknowledging that within my own cultural community we share similar flaws of blaming the victim and drawing absurd conclusions for the sake of dramatic retellings of gossip, when what we should be doing is lending a helping hand as Claudia and her sister Freida attempt to do.

It dawns on me now as I’m analyzing all that can be taken away from Morrison’s beautiful work of fiction that I didn’t so much forget to read it as maybe I was afraid to. For I, too, longed for many years for the bluest eye. I have 22/20 vision but for years I wore a blue-green blend of contacts (which boasted the title of being “the most natural” looking kind) unaware of social consequences of my actions. I had no idea that by altering the color of my eyes I was telling everyone around me that I wanted to be someone other than myself. As much as it pains me to write this I feel encouraged by Morrison: I wanted to be white.

In Morrison’s forward she writes: Implicit in her desire [for the bluest eye] was radical self-loathing. And twenty years later, I was still wondering about how one learns that. Who told her? Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was? 

Like Morrison, I too have no idea where this ideology stems from except to say that perhaps it was ingrained in my worldview in subtle ways like barbie dolls, baby dolls, and and in the way others looked at me. THE BLUEST EYE has important cultural and historical information, which makes it a must read for everyone. Through Morrison’s story of Peccola I learned things I never would’ve known because I would’ve felt uncomfortable asking. Yet, I feel this information is important if we as a society plan to successfully move toward true acceptance of one another.

After You Finish the Book–Get A Book Cover


A simple Google search for Best Book Cover.

A simple Google search for Best Book Cover. My favorite is A Clockwork Orange.

A couple of weeks ago, after sending out over a hundred queries and getting a few very kind rejections I decided to begin the journey into self-publishing. I had heard a lot of good things about it and what it really boiled down to was pushing aside my pride and taking the plunge.

To be honest, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I’d throw the book up on Amazon, send a blast out to all of my friends telling them it’s available and then wait with nail-biting fear as the reviews came in. As you can imagine, things were not that easy.

I started out looking at different self-publishing platforms, which led me to looking at Print-on-Demand. There are a ton of factors that go into what your print-on-demand books will look like and as far as I can tell there are only two major players in the game right now: Createspace and Lightning Source (Ingram Spark for indie authors).

So after a couple of weeks of research and getting test copies and samples sent to me (not to mention signing up for every service there is out there just to compare them all) I decided to go with Ingram Spark. Great. I had someone to print my books now I need to get it up on Amazon.

NOPE. Now I need a book cover. Since I’m self-publishing the caliber for cover art isn’t really that high. My friend Shawn pointed me to 99 Designs where I could pay $250 for 35 graphic designers to compete for my cover. But I looked at the designs and honestly they all looked really generic. For the price it makes sense, but I’m not into stock image books and though I love rom-coms and romance books, mine wasn’t one of them.

Where I ultimately ended up was Deviant Art, a site full of artists from beginner to professional, and there I found Leonid Afremov. After a couple e-mails back and forth he agreed to custom make a painting for my book cover for just $200. This is a great deal, except that I now had to graphically design my cover myself. This took a couple days and few different tries mainly because I haven’t used Photoshop in years and coming back to it was not like riding a bicycle.

Something I wish someone had told me at the beginning was to GET A BOOK COVER. It takes about a month to find, procure, and have sent to you. But you will need it for every step you take forward in promoting your book. In hindsight it seems like a no brainer, but when you’re in the thick of it and reading the million and a half articles on the web about self-publishing, it’s easy to push it aside. Since I made the mistake of waiting til a week ago to finalize my artwork I’ve still got a couple of weeks of anticipation before I even know what my cover is going to look like. In the meantime all I can do is prep the next steps. In my coming posts I’ll get into all the other marketing and PR stuff that I’ve been fumbling around with, but getting the book cover made early, was a crucial step that caused a lot of setbacks so I thought I’d write a post about it now and hopefully save others some time.

There is so much to do that at times it feels incredibly overwhelming but as the puzzle pieces come together I’m finally starting to feel like an author!

101 Queries and a Marketing Plan


Getting a book published is 50% writing and 50% self-promotion.

Getting a book published is 50% writing and 50% self-promotion.

When I hit a 101 sent queries I stopped. The past two months have been an emotional roller coaster with high highs, low lows, and whole a lot of talking myself off a ledge. Over the course of weeks, a request of the full comes in, followed by a rejection, and the e-mails tag-team each other like this for a while. Talk about never letting a celebration last too long. To my surprise, I’m told this is a great ratio. So taking some advice from a writer friend of mine, Gina, I celebrate the small victories. At the very least it’s an interesting concept. I reward myself with a delicious iced coffee with coffee cubes, that’s right, coffee cubes–brilliant.

The high lasts about 15 minutes, before a new reality sets in: none of it matters if at the end of the day I still don’t have an agent.

I stare hard at my 101st query letter and the fifth page of my Google search for upmarket women’s fiction agents, and decide I need something else to focus on. If an agent is a no-go, what’s the game plan? Another way of phrasing this is: If an agent is a no-go, how do I keep from spiraling into a comatose state of complete and utter depression? But that’s obviously overly dramatic. Right? Right.

Positive thoughts, I tell myself, as I research marketing strategies and discover a ton of useful and helpful information from the Canada Business Network of Info Entrepreneurs.

For starters, I learn that I need to “know my audience.” Who am I targeting? That seems easy enough: Women. I write women’s fiction so I’m looking for women readers. More specifically I’m looking for readers interested in “upmarket women’s fiction,” which is fiction that straddles the line between commercial and literary.

The next part is harder. How do I get my book in front of them? I do a Google search for book publicists and, instead of finding an actual publicist, I find an article about how I could be my own publicist–even better. This is great because banks don’t give out loans for marketing unpublished books (at least I don’t think they do), so the more work I can do on my own the better chance my book is going to have of surviving in a clearly saturated market.

Kelly Ferguson wrote a great article titled, “Being My Own Book Publicist,” which I think every emerging writer should read. There is a ton of helpful information like: what to do before the book release, using your friends, brainstorming your market, and social networking. Note: this was her particular story and though I can’t say this with any kind of authority, I am certain that every book has it’s own journey therefore this article is a not complete guide by any means.

After I read a ton of exhausting articles about the million and one things I need to do, my brain goes into shock and I stare blankly at a Wega coffee machine at Romancing the Bean for 10 minutes. I let my mind wander into the world of being a barista. Ahh…coffee, how I do love thee. Writing is a pain the in the ass, maybe I’d be happier making coffee. Gourmet, whole earth, fair trade, organic delicious coffee. I think I’m on to something here. A cute little Cafe Jamie apron, biscotti’s, tea cakes…

“Get to work Hoang!!” my alarm shouts. Yes, I set random alarms throughout the day to remind myself not to procrastinate. And back into the world of publishing I go.

To keep things from getting overwhelming I pick the five things I think need to happen now:

1. My book needs a website. I buy the domain: Blue Sun, Yellow sky. The creation of the website will have to happen later.

2. Research — Start researching book clubs, Goodreads groups, book reviewers, and blogs with an audience fit for my novel.

3. Social Media — Prep blog posts, make use of Twitter, consider an author FB page, etc.

4. Layout a Marketing Plan–It isn’t enough to just research great marketing tactics. I need to put an actionable plan in place with a yearlong calendar of goals and ideas.

5. Query and forget — This is still a vital component to the publishing process. I’ve only been querying for two months, there are many more agents out there and I shouldn’t give up prematurely.

And, now that I have a plan, I need to quit procrastinating by writing this blog entry.

Signing out! *she salutes*

Thick Skin and Patience


When the time is right your egg will hatch.

When the time is right your egg will hatch.

Querying is a beast of a project. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal to have to write a cover letter and submit to agents, but let me tell you, it’s agonizing. First, I spent way too much time crafting the “perfect” query letter, which to be honest I’m not 100% thrilled with but it seems to be doing the job. Second, I had to research the agents. And third, I had to wait.

I’ve been querying for about a month now and the only real advice I have is to be patient and prepared for rejection. In my first round I hit up the top 50 agencies based on this list: Best Literary Agencies.

It’s not enough to just query the agency, I had to research each agent and decide which agent best suited for my material (Yes, this takes time). Once I checked off all of the appropriate agents on that list, I googled “upmarket women’s fiction agents” and added more agents to my query list. This is probably one of the most mundane but necessary processes of finding an agent. 

The first week I got 2 requests and 2 rejections. Not bad. A 50% response ratio was pretty good I was told. But isn’t that umm…an F?! I guess rejections are graded on a curve and the 50% mark shifts everything. The second week was the same 2 requests and 2 rejections. Okay, I thought, I can handle this. But then they stopped. As it turns out, being in the slush pile means most agents won’t even get to my measly query for at least a month. So…I was once again challenged to wait.

A lot of writer’s I spoke to broke their lists of agents up into three tiers: 1. Really want 2. Would be happy with 3. If no one else takes me it’s a start. Then they pick two or three from each category and query in batches. I didn’t do this. In this day-and-age of quick self-publishing I really didn’t want to spend years looking for an agent so I decided this: Query everyone once and in six months, if I get no love, I’ll put on my big girl pants and self-publish.

I work in entertainment and come from a family where the need for praise is seen as a weakness, so I thought the rejection process would be a piece of cake to get through, but boy was I wrong. It’s hard not to read too much into a rejection and instantly think that I may have chosen the wrong career path. 

“It’s all just par for the course,” I tell myself, but there is a devil on my shoulder who loves to taunt. And we creatives know just how little ammunition it takes to make the devil dance, so for the sake of my sanity I took a break. I met some friends at Bass Lake in Northern California and shut off all electronics. For two days I forced myself not to look at my phone every five minutes for an e-mail. And by the time I left I remembered that I began this creative journey knowing full well the difficulties that came with trying to get published and I wasn’t giving up until I saw my book in print.

So, while I wait for  the 5 agents who have requested to read my novel to get back to me, I will continue to send my queries out into the ether and patiently await responses; both the good and the bad.

Women’s Fiction and Author Platforms


I love this comic! Pulled it from Author-Platform.com.

I love this comic! Pulled it from Author-Platform.com.

My novel began with a simple idea: a painter going blind, and spiraled into an adult coming of age story about a 27 year-old forced rethink the identity she spent her whole life cultivating. I embarked on this journey intending to write chick-lit and ended up in upmarket women’s fiction. I think it’s important to note that I had no idea this was the direction my book would take when I wrote it, and authors working on their first few drafts ought not to care. Fundamentally, what matters most is story is character.

In the process of querying, however, I have been asked time and again to define my books genre. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I had to do a fair amount of research before concluding that it was in fact, upmarket. Having done a lot of the grunt work already, I thought I’d share a few definitions for those who are also writing women’s fiction.

Definitions [click the links for more details and references]:

Women’s Fiction: is an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women’s life experience that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels.

Book Club Women’s Fiction: can be any genre, include romance that is not the center of the story, “happily ever after” is prevalent but not required, and must have a central story arc.

Upmarket Women’s Fiction:  fiction that blends the line between commercial and literary.

Chick-litliterature that appeals especially to women, usually having a romantic or sentimental theme.

Commercial Women’s Fiction: fiction that focuses on events and emotions more so than the prose. Commercial fiction uses high-concept hooks and compelling plots to give it a wide, mainstream appeal.

For broader fiction categories check out AgentQuery.

There are quite a few authors who hate being defined by any one category because they rightfully don’t want to be pigeon-holed or type-cast into being a one-note author, and I’ll admit, the idea of ditching labels is appealing, but for the purposes of querying it’s helpful.

One of the many reasons it’s helpful in terms of getting an agent (says the agentless writer), is that a well-defined book means you can begin building your author “platform.”

This is a new term I’ve picked up recently, and let me tell you, it’s all the rage. It’s also one of the seemingly most exhausting tasks that new authors must conquer. Jane Friedman does a great job of defining it as:

  • Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves?
  • Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.)
  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
  • Target audience. You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell. For instance: If you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if your marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodontist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?).

The bad news is that it must be done. The good news is that while you’re querying, you have time, and none of this needs to happen overnight.

For information on how to build your platform, check out these sites:

Page Two Blog

101 Quick Platform Actions You Can Do Today

I wrote a book. Now what?


Found this while searching the internet for "Book Manuscript" images and couldn't help imagining my own words immortalized in a museum this way.

Unfortunately, this is not my book. It’s Charlotte Bronte’s unpublished manuscript which sold at auction recently for £690,850!

Three years ago when I left for Houston on an epic journey to become a “real writer” I never imagined that I’d actually become one. At the very least, I feel like one. I spent the first three months pumping out the “shitty first draft” and another two years and nine months turning that sucker into a real book. So now, here I am with a finished novel at 80,000 words and no idea what do with it.

There are a million articles online that advocate for self-publishing. Classes are taught on how to do it, self-published millionaire authors write about it, and everyone, it seems, has an opinion about it. Publishers hate and indie authors love it, but here’s the kicker: It’s all still very new.

Yes– I would love to jump on the Kindle bandwagon and make upwards of a million dollars as a self-published author, but what does this mean for the industry itself? Is it really better? I’m not sure.

Publishers on the other hand, want us to believe that the Kindle is the devil. That Amazon is driving the prices of books down and that the monopoly they have on the market isn’t good for anyone.

The data and statistics are sketchy at best so what’s a new author supposed to do? Research.

Just as every book has it’s own journey into creation, so too, does it have it’s own journey into publication, so this blog is by no means the right way to do anything. It’s simply how I’m going about it. (Check back in a few years to see if it worked)

So, first up…Querying.

Trust me when I say I would have loved to skip this part. Writing the Query Letter and Synopsis were torturous. If things were still handwritten I’d be sitting in a room waist deep in crumpled up papers. Lucky for me, they all just went into an electronic trash bin on my Mac computer’s desktop. Alas, I did it because I felt like not doing it would have been like trying to cut corners. These are the references I used as guidelines:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-10-dos-and-donts-of-writing-a-query-letter

How to Format an Email Query for Literary Agents

Then after spending a month writing and rewriting my query letter, with numerous comments and critiques from other writers, I started to make my list. Using a simple Excel spreadsheet I created my list which looked like this [All of this info can be found using a simple Google search, so do your research!]:

BSYS Query List

BSYS Query List

Once I had my list, I began e-mailing five to seven agents a day. When I received a rejection I marked it and so on and so forth. Because most agents ask to be notified if you have been picked up by an agent, this is a good way to keep track of who you solicited.

Then…I wait. Ten minutes, nothing. Eleven minutes, a light tapping of my impatient foot begins. Twelve minutes, I realize I need to leave my house before I self-destruct.

Next day: My first rejection. To be honest it wasn’t all that bad. It’s a bit like friendly hazing before they let you join a sorority. Everyone has to suffer through it. The way I see it, the more rejections I collect, the closer I get to finding an agent. So tomorrow I’ll research five more and repeat until successful.

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