Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Everything Old Is New Again

Jennifer is editing an old manuscript...

I recently received my rights back from a book on my backlist and I spent a week going through the latest manuscript version and making significant edits. There were several reasons for doing this.

The first was that oh my goodness, it really needed it! As much as I had edited it before, my skills as a writer have improved (thank goodness) and I realized there were a lot of places that either repeated what I was trying to say or said things badly. There was repeated word usage and just all around writing that needed improvement. Unfortunately, that meant I had to delete my very favorite scene in the entire book! While it’s a great scene, it didn’t advance the plot and it repeated something that basically happened earlier in the story. So I copied and pasted it into a document that I’ll keep to drool over and maybe offer a deleted scenes bonus at some point in the future.

The second reason to edit the manuscript was that I am submitting it to a publisher as a sweet contemporary. Sweet means no sex and this publisher is very strict—the sex can’t even take place off the page. This book didn’t have sex in it, but it was clear when it was happening. And there were scenes that led up to the sex that were pretty steamy. So I had to tone things down and make sure there was emotion, just no smexy times!

And the third reason was that for this same publisher, I was about 4,000 words over their highest limit for submissions. So I needed to be ruthless. With all of the other edits I was making, cutting words was easy, and I ended up cutting my word count by about 10,000 words, putting me smack dab in the middle of the desired word-count range.


It was a great exercise. As I’ve said, you can never do too much editing, and I think the story is stronger than it was before. I’ve submitted it to the publisher and am crossing my fingers they like it. If not, I have other plans for it, so it will eventually be back in circulation, but with much better writing!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Building an email list of readers

Ana muses on building an email list of readers.

My next author marketing step is to develop a connection with people who have read and enjoyed Stormy Hawkins. I plan to start an email list. 

This is a scary proposition, and a recent post by Tim Grahl, called 5 Myths About Email Marketing for Authors, addressed my fears directly.

1.     I will not annoy people by inviting them to subscribe to my newsletter. They sign up freely and can unsubscribe easily.
2.     I will find interesting and entertaining things to say. I’m a writer. I can imagine--and will refine-- newsletter content that will appeal to readers of my romances.
3.     Direct mail will be an effective way to let readers know when book 2 is ready.
4.     It will not be overwhelming to send two newsletters a month. One, an author update. The other, some new content.
5.     The technology for maintaining subscriber lists and sending newsletters is out there. 

      As with anything new, it will take time to become comfortable with this process. But it seems like a good plan.


Monday, October 30, 2017

The Waiting Game

Debra is trying to be patient...but it isn't easy.

I did it! I got my mss of "The Cowboy and the Princess" polished up and submitted. And now...I wait.

According to the publisher's web-site guidelines, I'l receive confirmation of my e-mail submission within 21 days. We're at day 17, which means technically I should hear a "Thanks we received your submission." e-mail any day now. After that, I'm to allow 8-12 weeks for a response. Is that from the time I originally submitted or from the time I received confirmation of the submission? Either way, it's a long time to wait.

I know waiting is not uncommon in this industry, but I've been working with a small press that is VERY quick on the draw for the last nine years, so to say I'm a bit spoiled is a total understatement.

I try not to think about it, but every time I open my e-mail I can't help but wonder if I'll have my initial response. And I'm trying to decide, planning ahead, if when I get the BIG response, whether I want to open it at work. If it's a no, I might cry. If it's a yes, I won't be able to scream and shout and dance around. But how in the world will I be able to wait until the end of the day when I get home? What if it comes in first thing in the morning? It'll be like Poe's Tell-Tale Heart: Open Me. Open Me. Open Me. All day long.

See? I'm not very patient.

In the meantime I'm about 11K into my new project. There are two more days left in my RWA chapter's 90 words for 90 days challenge, and then NaNo starts on Wednesday. I still haven't decided if I'm going to tackle that or not. On the one hand, I definitely plan on writing, so even if I don't think I will make the overall goal, at least I'll be accumulating words. And, my chapter challenge has been great for keeping my butt in my chair and my fingers on the keys every single day since the beginning of August. (For someone coming off of a huge dry spell, well, that was...huge!) So for accountability, it might be worth taking it on. So I have a day to decide about that.

I also have several guest blog appearances scheduled for my holiday titles and was asked to participate in a fellow Rose's release party in December. So even though I don't have any new releases this year, I'm trying to drum up some interest in my back list. My Halloween story was on sale for most of October, and my Thanksgiving story and my Christmas stories will be on sale the beginning of November and the beginning of December respectively. And I'm trying really, really hard to be active on social media.

On the down side of things, I learned today that two of my books which I'd entered into a contest didn't even place in the top five. Which I'm a bit bummed about. Let's just say it's not the shot of confidence I was hoping for to add a boost of encouragement for positive results for my submission. On the up side of things, tomorrow is Halloween and if we don't get many trick-or-treaters, I'll have a whole lot of chocolate left over to ease the sting of disappointment.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Colours

Paula thinks about how we describe colours in our writing.

On one of my visits to Ireland - and with the Johnny Cash song in mind - my friend and I challenged ourselves to actually name 'forty shades of green'. The first dozen or so were fairly easy, but by the time we got into the 30s, we were struggling to come up with 'genuine' names and not ones we invented!

Quite often, when I'm writing, I have to search for colour names.  Wikipedia has a good list, but I’ve also searched paint colour charts, make-up and fashion sites, and hair colourant lists to find the right word(s) to describe the colour I can see in my mind’s eye.

I admit I do like the synonyms which show the slight differences:  for yellow, there’s daffodil, flax, lemon and mustard; for red there’s fire-engine, ruby, crimson, scarlet etc etc. At the same time, I tend to think the standard names for colours are the best, since everyone knows what they mean.  No point describing the heroine’s dress as ‘Dublin Bay green’ (anyway, Dublin Bay is usually grey!) or ‘Mayan blue’ if no-one has a clue what those descriptions actually mean.

Colour 'cliches' can sometimes be boring – how many times have we read ‘eyes as blue as the sky' or 'hair as black as ebony'?  Contrived, long-winded or eyebrow-raising similes can be equally irritating.  Recently I've seen a couple of examples describing hair – ‘as blonde as a buttercup in a meadow’ (does that mean bright yellow?) and ‘as blonde as a dirty cloud’ (what? was she grey?)

Just as a matter of interest, did you know that, in early colonial times in America, Puritans used no similes or metaphors in their writing, because these glorified the writer, not God. In contrast, Southerners often used showy language in literature much more freely.  Maybe I was a Puritan in an earlier existence, since I prefer to keep colour descriptions simple! 

I once read a story where the author had obviously decided to use every possible variation of blue for the heroine’s eyes – cerulean, baby-blue, azure, sky-blue, denim, electric, sapphire etc – so much so that I got distracted from the story wondering what shade of blue the eyes would be on the next page! 

As with many things, sometimes less is more!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Glimpse Behind The Scenes

Jennifer talks about her writing life…

Lots of people ask what it’s like to be a writer, and I usually answer that question with all the work that goes into getting a book published and out in front of readers. It’s a lot of work, and can feel like you’re in the middle of a thunderstorm—deluged by to-do lists, rattled by deadlines and illuminated by hope that all will go well on release day.

But what about afterwards? What’s it like to be a writer on those other days, after the book has been released into the world?

Well, for me, it’s filled with emotions and requires time management skills. Once my book has been released, I’m monitoring sales, tracking reviews and of course writing. Monitoring sales can be frustrating, since I personally don’t get an accurate daily picture and usually have to wait until my publisher posts them on their internal website for me to see. While people tell me they are buying or have bought my book, I’m never sure until I see the numbers. This time around, sales seem to be good, although they’re better for Addicted to Love than In the Moment.

Then there are the reviews. No matter how much I beg, I don’t get many. And when I do get them, there are always a few that aren’t great—after all, reading is subjective and not everyone will like everything I write. I take comfort in the fact that I do get positive reviews, and any negative ones I get don’t complain about my craft. And I develop a thick skin. J


Finally, there’s writing. Even though I love to write, I get distracted—by life, by the crazy world and by my family. Writing is great because it offers me an escape from the politics and fear out there. But it’s also hard to concentrate on writing when the craziness gets overwhelming. And as much as I like getting away from the stress, sometimes my stress gets the better of me and I can’t sit still. Added to that are the doubts—maybe I’m not really as good as I should be; maybe this story is going to be terrible; maybe that reviewer keyed into something I just can’t fix. To combat that, I try to divide my day into chunks—I have my early morning time where I get ready for the day and make sure the world is still turning; my time to get errands done for my family; my time to do book marketing and blog writing; and my time to write and edit. I try to keep my focus on the task as much as possible. Some days are easier than others. Some days I realize why I fall in love with my heroes. And some days I console myself like Scarlett O’Hara—tomorrow is another day.

If you're looking for a Halloween read, my book, Skin Deep, has a great Halloween party, thrown by the costume department of a hit TV sitcom. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

After the release of Stormy Hawkins

Ana muses about the world after the release of Stormy Hawkins

      I used to press my nose against the glass, trying to peer inside the world of a published author so I would know what to expect, and what to do, when --if-- I became one.
      Late last month, I did. I'm trying to catch up and keep up.
      I now have an author FB page (@authoranamorgan). I joined eight FB western romance readers groups and their companion author groups.
      I have an author twitter handle (#anamorgana) and retweeted for the first time the other day.
      I've done some guest spots on other authors' blogs and have more booked. I'll give away a copy of Stormy Hawkins to a rafflecopter winner. I entered Stormy's cover in an upcoming contest, and I'll be part of a author promo hop next month.

      Right after Stormy Hawkins released, it rose to #71 on Amazon's western historical romance list. It has three five-star reviews on Amazon and two five-star reviews on Goodreads. As more reviews come in, I know some will be less complimentary. I'm okay with that. In my day job, one customer can swoon over a soup mix, and the next customer swear they hated it. Tastes differ; people love to give their opinions. (Fortunately, with my soup mixes, the likes far outweigh the dislikes. Hopefully, that will also be the case for Stormy.)
      The biggest thrill for me, so far, was opening an Amazon recommended promo and seeing Stormy Hawkins heading the list.

      I know every other published author has had these same chills and thrills. Many times over.
      I also know the best promo a first-time author can do is Write-the-next-book. I've started book 2 in the series and am limiting Stormy promo to one request or post per day.
     Now I know what life is like after the release of Stormy Hawkins.
     
     
   

Monday, October 2, 2017

Going for It

Debra is almost ready to submit her latest WIP.

A few months ago when I posted I was having a bit of a dilemma. I was debating on where I wanted to submit my WIP. I've had it in my mind for a while now that I'd like to branch out in an attempt to launch the next phase of my writing career by submitting to a new publisher. At the time (about two months ago) my biggest issue was the word count of the mss. The publisher I wanted to submit to required a word count of 85,000. My mss wasn't even at 65,000 (Although it was close.)

I solicited a bunch of opinions and had an author friend do a beta read for me. She gave me some very helpful suggestions, which I incorporated into the story. After doing my own hard-copy read-through, I found a bunch of places where additional scenes were needed. I found a lot of phrases like "In the six weeks since she'd been at the ranch..." Or, "With just a few weeks left to go in the cast..." Or even just mentions..."She'd gone for a horseback ride that day." Or "He showed her how to ride the ATVs." Lots and lots of places where I told instead of showed and hurried the time line. In the process, missing out on many ways to deepen my story.

So I decided to make those additions, as they would definitely add to the story and not just be filler. At this moment, my mss stands at 85,590 words. I'm in the process of minute edits. Getting rid of 'that', 'seemed to', 'tried to', 'to him', 'to her', etc.

I have a punch list of items to check: time line, checking chapters are sequentially numbered and spaced correctly, etc.

Per the guidelines on the web-site, I've also written a synopsis, author bio which includes previous books written, and brief descriptions of other books I have planned.

Even though I read through the guidelines for submission to the new publisher with a fine tooth comb, I was a bit uncertain if I should submit a query or the full mss as a submission. I e-mailed the editor this weekend for clarification, not expecting to hear back for a few weeks (as stated in their information). To my surprise and excitement, I had a response this morning already. She said to send the full along with a synopsis and brief descriptions of other planned books.

My first reaction was to get the sucker out ASAP. I'm heading out of town the end of this week for a conference for work and then on a family vacation over the long weekend. My knee-jerk reaction was to send it out before leaving on Wednesday.

Then rational thinking (thank goodness) kicked in. I don't want to rush this. There are still things I need to make sure are A-okay before submitting. So I'm going to do what I can in the next two nights. Let the project sit while I'm gone for almost a week. (Which will be good since I've been looking at it everyday for months and months now.) Do a final read-through when I get back, and THEN submit. I've waited this long to submit this particular project, waiting another week certainly won't kill me, AND probably makes the most logical sense.

So, I'm going to put myself out there and go for it. Like Wayne Gretsky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com