Monday, January 15, 2018

Poetry Study To Enhance Your Novels

Let me first say, I am, in no way, saying you need to add poetry to all of your stories. I am also not saying that authors INTENTIONALLY add figurative language to their writing. In fact, you should never simply add figurative language to your writing because you believe it will make the story better. But, there is a lot we can learn from poetry to enhance how our stories sound.

The thing that makes poetry difficult is that a poet has to say a lot in a short amount of space. With limited words, the poet has to convey emotions and imagery, and, in some cases, work within the confines of the specific genre or style of writing (rhyme, rhythm and so forth). I should also add here that this is the reason why I argue that writing category romance is much harder than writing single title. There are the guidelines of the line as well as the constraints of the word count that make telling those stories ever more difficult. (A BIG SHOUT OUT TO HARLEQUIN, TULE AND ENTANGLED AUTHORS).

What we learn from poetry is how the author tells the story. We see how an author shapes words and phrases to convey that image. We can see how the author is conscious of the flow of the writing and how the words cascade off the page in a beautiful flow.

Authors of fiction (and yes, non-fiction too) are often so concerned about the plot of the story, they forget to read it out-loud to hear if there is any poetry to the words.

So, your goal today is to read out-loud. Listen to the words. Listen to the flow. Listen to the images. This might be the reason your writing is being rejected by those editors and agents.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Agents Are Not Just Business Partners

Being an agent is a unique job. It is exciting, and certainly fulfilling when our clients get great contracts, great awards and great recognition. What a lot of writers do not understand, however, is that the job of an agent is not just about negotiating contracts. We are often the ones who are there for 100% emotional support.

As writers, you understand that the job is a lot harder than most think. It is stressful. You have deadlines and you have reviews. You have revision letters that are much more complicated than you thought the darn things would be. Add in the struggles of having to come up with story ideas, proposals, unique characters, settings that have never been done before, as well as that infamous writer's block and you now start to question why you wanted to do this at all.

There are a lot of times where it is my job, as an agent, to talk our writers "off the ledge." We talk through those struggles they are having. We have to get their heads back in the right place to insure that the creative genius comes back to the computer.

I know that I have several authors who I am always having to tell them things such as, "No, your editor doesn't hate you" or "You ARE a good writer and the story IS good." Agents now remove our hats and we become the cheerleader for the author.

I have other authors where it is my job just to hear out their personal problems. They need someone to vent to about what most would think are "silly things."
  • My kids are sick
  • The car just died
  • The dishwasher is exploding before my eyes
  • I think I just deleted all of my rough drafts
While these might be things you would believe an agent doesn't need to listen to, it is important to note, that we need to. Again, why? So that we can get that writer back to doing what he or she does best. Tell great stories.

For those of you without an agent, I cannot stress enough the need to find someone you can talk to and be that sounding board for you. It cannot just be about business.

I think this is one of the biggest reasons why I encourage so many writers to join those professional writing groups such as the Romance Writers of America. This is your support system. And, whether or not you believe it, you need those people to help you write!

Have a great weekend people.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Interpreting Data

Data driven business models are some of the new trends right now. This strategy has really been around for a long time, but it is really at a peak right now. Even in publishing, decisions are being made constantly based on numbers that some computer has crunched out. While data is certainly interesting to consider, it is always important to stop and consider one big concept.


In publishing we always look at data for sales all of the time. It is these numbers that the editors use to determine your next contract, advances, sales and so forth. But we have to be cautious when looking at these numbers.

Let me give you a quick example.

One author I worked with back in the early 2000's had a fantastic story. Editors loved it. We were totally excited about this book being released. But... when it came time to get her next book signed, the publishers came back arguing that "the numbers just were not there." So what happened?

The month her book was scheduled to be released was the same week Borders collapsed. Over 50% of her sales were gone just like that. Add in the fact that so many buyers were also feeling cautious about buying anything due to the housing bubble.

Now, can we 100% say that this is the reason her sales were low? No. But what we can say is that these numbers had to be considered as a variable in the equation.

When authors who are previously published send submissions to me, I am always interested in knowing the data behind those previous sales. Most of the time, the only thing that I often hear is how high the rankings are for this book are on Amazon. Sure, these are numbers, but tell me more. Often, those additional numbers can give us a bigger picture.

There are two things I want you to take away from this today.

First, if you are looking at numbers from the outside, make sure to not limit your thoughts to just those numbers. Look at all of the variables before you make any decision.

Secondly, if you are going to use numbers and data in your submissions to editors and agents, make sure to provide a complete picture (if those numbers really demonstrate your success).

I wrote this post yesterday, and later in the day, found an article that came from Publisher's Weekly that continues with this same theme on book sales of FIRE AND FURY. Good read and another thing to always consider when it comes to Data Interpretation.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Understanding Release Dates For Publishers

One of the draws of self-publishing is that authors get to control their own release dates. I am not going to deny this is a fantastic benefit. But, if an author wants to go through traditional publishing routes, release dates are dictated by the publishers. But how do they do this and why do they take the approaches that they do?

It is important to note that publishers are very clear that the more visibility an author has is correlated to the success the author has in the bookstore. Buyers remember seeing the same names over and over again. It is that exposure that drives sales. You have probably experienced this for yourself. The authors you tend to go back to, over and over again, are not just the authors you like, but these are the authors you remember.

Publishers are not "playing favorites" when they select release dates for their books. All of the editors, on a regular basis, sit down with a huge calendar and decide who they are going to release each month. The goal is to spread out the authors throughout the year, providing the reader a good mix of genres and voices. At the same time, the publishers want to insure that maximum exposure, as well as making sure the authors have time to complete projects.

Another factor that comes into play here would be the time it takes for authors to complete books. I have some authors who are really fast with books and can complete 4+ novels a year. Others, the production is closer to 2. Now, does this mean those who produce faster should get all of the exposure. No. That element of spreading out the work and the voices during the year are considerations of the publisher.

Now, if an author wants even more exposure, this is where you see authors maximizing their writing for other publishers, re-releasing books, or even self-publishing. But there is something to consider here.

I remember one editor I work with responded to this type of question at a conference. How do publishers feel about authors self-publishing as well as writing traditionally. I really liked her comment. As long as the work was quality, she had no problem with it. The problem, however, is that far too many authors also put out garbage on their own. Because of that name recognition, the garbage writing starts getting clumped in with the work being done by the publisher. Not good.

Although you might want to have your books released on your own terms, remember that publishers are also working with other people and those books also need to be put on the schedules. It all comes down to balance.