Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

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Facing The Ying-Yang of Publishing Fears

May 3, 2014

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Many moons ago, back when I lived in Vancouver, I had the pleasure of attending a talk given by Natalie Goldberg. She said this and it still resonates for me (I’m paraphrasing):

When you are writing, focus on writing. When you publish, focus on publishing.

She said this to address those pesky publishing concerns that cause writer’s block while you are in the midst of your creative milieux.

Meaning: the self doubt that sneaks up on you and makes you question everything you are doing because, god forbid, what you are writing CANNOT POSSIBLY BE MARKETABLE (*gasp of horror*) SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP.

I myself have struggled with the whole concept of ‘marketability’ and ‘worth’.

When you devote so much of yourself to a project, of course you will occasionally wonder: what the heck am I doing this for? Is it worth it?

On a personal and creative level, sure it’s worth it! The answer is an emphatic YES!

But when you think about publishing (indie or traditional) and the idea of people (maybe even lots of them) reading your book (maybe even people you know), then I think it’s only human to wonder if they are going to like it or not.

One star on Goodreads? Five stars?

Who the heck knows!?

The truth is that once a book goes out into the world, the author is done with it. DONE. It leaves the realm of the author and enters the realm of the reader, who will interpret and judge it however they will, willy nilly.

Out of my control. Not my concern.

My job, as always, is to stand by my book. Stay with my writing.

So to Natalie’s quote above, I would add this: when writing, focus on writing, and when publishing, focus on publishing…and when doing both, support your vision. Tweak as needed, consider advice wisely but ultimately, stand up for what is yours.I must remember this as I enter the Publishing Fray.

I’m the one with the sales pitch. I’m the one who needs to argue in favour of my book like I’m some kind of hot shot courtroom lawyer.

Nothing but the book, the whole book, so help me God!

Nothing but the book, the whole book, so help me God!

This is not the time for maybe, perhaps or um, idunno–but rather my book rocks, my book is awesome bravado. Leave the self doubt for late night cry sessions. (Or, better yet, channel it into your next novel!)

In a recent, delightful conversation with @lisa_donahue about writing and publishing, she said something that I intend to carry with me as I head forth into the ying-yang of query letters/rejection letters.

“No room for shyness in publishing. Bold and friendly. :)”

That’s the name of the game!

So, lift that hat up, girl! (see comic #1 above) and build that lemonade stand if you have to (see comic #2)!

Believe in your book (product)–as you have believed in your book all along.

*now excuse me while I go put on Katy Perry’s Firework and dance with confident derring do all around the room*

PS. I made these comics originally back in 2010 but the ‘perils’ they depict still ring oh-so-true, so I’m using them again!

PPS I’ve come up against this issue before. See Self Promotion Without Cringing and I Need a Business Cap

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Choosing the Title of Your Novel: It’s Time to Name the Baby!

April 24, 2014

naming the babyI usually have no trouble choosing a title for a piece of work. The title typically comes before the work, or concurrently, and when it does, it seems right.

You can feel when a title is right. It sits in the gut in just the right way.

Not so my current novel. My opus of numerous years has remained title-less. When speaking of it I call it ‘my novel’ or ‘my regency romp’ or ‘my regency soap opera’.

It has no official name–yet.

I need to rectify that. I am nearing THE END, starting to cast my eye towards publishing, and I can’t keep calling it ‘my novel’, certainly not in my query letters to agents.

It’s time to name the baby!

But what do I name the baby?

I have no idea. Nothing from the novel itself leaps up. No particular saying or place.

I’m stumped.

I decided to try random associations, something I like to do when I’m stuck/have writer’s block.

I turned first to the tarot, randomly selecting a card. I got the card ‘judgement’. Reading through the meaning of Judgement,  this phrase stood out:

SHADOWS OF THE PAST.

Ooooo, I thought. That might work! It fits with the story (several of my characters have their pasts rise up and bite them in the bum).

Plus, my novel is the first in a series and think of all the ways I could play around with ‘shadows’!

Shadows of the Past, Shadows of the Heart, Deep Shadows, etc.

But does this exemplify the quirkiness of my regency romp? Is it too common a turn of phrase? Does it stand out? Is it too hokey? Does it sound too ‘Harloquin Romance’?

So I kept hunting.

This time I plucked a few of my favourite era-ish themed books off the shelf, closed my eyes and chose a page.

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Here are some of the phrases I found that could conceivably be turned into titles to fit my  novel:

From Gothic by Fred Botting (pg. 48):

  • Let Fancy Roam
  • A Certain Distance

From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (pg.148):

  • Feeling Haunted
  • Impulses of the Moment

From Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb (pg. 142):

  • The Meaning of That Glance
  • Jests of Fancy

From The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker by Tobias Smollett (pg. 70):

  • Uncommon Regard
  • Turned Tipsy Turvy (which has the benefit of alliteration! Always welcome in a title!)

I even tried randomly selecting a page from my own novel.

  • A Peculiar Message
  • Sitting in Solitude (more alliteration!)

None leap out at me as the one, I’m afraid.

I guess the next step is to write them all up on slips of paper, stick them in a hat and pull one out with my eyes closed?

 

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Why I Want to Publish

February 8, 2014

delusionsSometimes I ask myself: why do you want to publish?

And my response, usually said in an affected country twang, is typically:

“Cuz I ain’t no Emily Dickenson.”

As in: Emily Dickinson, the nineteenth century America poet who hoarded away ‘nearly 1800 poems’ that were only discovered after her death.

Say that again? She had 1800 poems (!) that were never shared, that were never published, that were so hidden away from prying eyes, not even her sister knew about them?

It makes one postulate:

Emily D. must have burned in this secret life, furtively writing away in the dark, slipping her poems away when no one else was looking, making sure they were never to be seen by another soul–a fate which I refuse to follow. Hence, my country twang response.

But wait! It is not as straightforward as that.

Emily D. didn’t just write it all in gluttonous secrecy and then leave her writing for the wastelands–as it may appear at first glance. She did publish a few pieces while she was alive. And upon her death, she instructed her sister to burn her correspondence–but not the 1800 poems. She gave no instructions about the poems–and I find that silence telling. It suggests a half-hope, a wish, a chance for those poems, her work, to see the light of another’s eyes. If she really didn’t want anyone to see them, they’d have been tossed on the fire with the rest.

Even poem-hoarder Emily D. wanted her work to be seen, don’t you think?

Another poet I like to consider when thinking about publishing is William Carlos Williams. Imagine: it’s the 1920’s.  William, poet and physician, is scribbling poetry on prescription pads in-between patient visits. When he completes one, what does he do? Does he toss those small notes away? Do they flutter into the garbage pail, forgotten? No. He keeps them. And eventually,  they’re published.

writingwantstobereadBut you see how easily it could have gone the other way! Write and remove vs. write and reveal. Why do these writers, even reticent ones like Emily D, arrange things so that their writing is (eventually, ultimately) revealed?

Because: Writing wants to be read. 

Let’s consider now ‘the Legend of Stephen King’. As the legend has it, when young Stephen King was a poor English teacher scribbling out his first book, Carrie, he reached a point of such intense frustration that he tossed it all out. He threw it out and his wife (as the legend says) had to dig it all out of the garbage and coax him to continue.

Again, so close! It could’ve been left there to mould and rot away with the coffee grinds…but it didn’t. And, also, it wasn’t burned! It was retrievable, workable, and ultimately–published.

So doesn’t it make you wonder? Why do writers pull their work from the trash, pile up the papers, keep them from dying and disintegrating away? If writing were solely about the cathartic process for the writer,  the result might be considered disposable. Write, rinse, repeat: right? But it’s more than that. So much more.

I turn lastly to novelist EM Forester and his epigraph to his book Howard’s End. When you open Howard’s End, before the story even starts, Forster has written two words on a single page: Only Connect.

Is this the crux of it, then? Did Edward Morgan Forster get it right? Is this about shared connection? Sharing stories; experience?

There are a lot of blogs and a lot of books in the world. I’ll never have time to read them all. But the ones that Serendipity sends my way offer the chance of connection–and we’re all willing to take that chance. Think of how you feel when a text really resonates. That is the pulse behind publication. That is why I want to publish.

I mean, its not like I’m doing it for the money! *hardy har har*

(…though, Universe, please note: I am not adverse to money! I’ll take the book deal, movie deal, merchandising deal and yes you can use my Regency characters as action figures in MacDonald’s Happy Meals if you so wish!)

PS. To experience WCW’s prescription-pad sized poems, click here. Also here’s Emily D’s work.

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Searching for Crit Partners…How? Who? Where? Why?

April 13, 2011

In a few short months (like two) I will be finished my novel. At least that’s the plan. Lately I’ve been writing like a fiend to make this happen, not because anyone’s making me do it, but because I made this #writegoal for myself and I intend to keep it. It’s the whole point of setting a writing goal: so I honour my commitment to myself.

And truly, it seems quite possible I’ll do it…the end is in sight…! *applause* *cheering*

Already I’m thinking about how it will feel to finally cross that finish line, to write the last, pithy line to a 10 year labour of love. I expect I’ll cry a little, do a little dance, tweet it out, facebook it, call everyone I know and shout it to the rooftops: I DID IT!

Then, after about five minutes of that, I’ll turn my attention to stage 2. Editing.

How I wish I could just press ‘send’ and have my novel magically appear in the #1 spot of the best sellers list! But, alas, it is not that easy. After sweating and bleeding out a first draft…I now must sweat and bleed out a second draft.

Editing.

Ok. So I can do a spell check no problem, I can probably even plug enough caffine into my system to work my way though a grammar check (they’re, their, there…who, whom…its, it’s–finding these in a block of text is the best cure for insomnia, I swear!).

But as to the rest of it–I could honestly use some help!

Someone who can read it through and is willing to say more than just: great! well done! I love it! Because they don’t want to make me feel bad.

I need honest input. I need someone who will tell me great, well done, I love it–AND also pick it apart, tear it to shreds, tell me everything that’s wrong with it–so that I can fix it and make it better!

These are the things I need them to tell me:

You said he took off his jacket. So how can he put the letter in his jacket pocket later on?

I can’t understand who’s saying what in this dialogue! Is the the guy? the girl? the dog? Who?!

This scene makes no sense. Why is he telling a ghost story? Who cares?

THEN I can finally see about getting it published…!

So…who do I get to do this? Sure, I can lasso my family and friends into doing it. But there’s obvious limits to that. They don’t want to hurt my feelings, for one. And I don’t want them to feel beholdened to me to do it just because I ask, that’s two.

But if I want someone else to do it (for free), someone I’m not related to or know well…how do I figure that out? Do I randomly select names from the phonebook? Do I put a help wanted sign up at the local grocery store?!

I know Twitter’s writing community is probably a good place to find critique readers, but…and here’s the rub: HOW DO I TRUST THESE PEOPLE? No offence, but I only know you from your tweets, your twitter name and your profile picture (which could be photoshopped, for gods sake!). Yes, I’ve built up relationships with some fabulous people on Twitter …but….but…

Can I ask them for a resume? References?

My novel is my baby! It’s like the first time I sent my child to daycare. It was tough to let go, but I knew I had given a lot of thought into my decision and it was sound. I did the research, toured the facility, met everyone , got references, talked to those who also had brought their babies there before…

Does this hold true to the writing world?

Writers, how did you find your crit partners and beta readers? If you’ve been down this road and survived, can you help a sister-in-writing out here and let me in on your secret?!

THANKS!

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Self Promoting Without Cringing?

July 8, 2010


I’ve decided to try out Social Oomph to help manage my ‘on-line productivity’. Essentially, it lets you write Tweets ahead of time and program when they will be magically revealed…I’m using it to send out  the occasional ‘promotional’ blog tweet (for when I get back from holiday), highlighting some previous blogs/comics that haven’t been seen in awhile.

So I’m sitting here typing out a mass of promotional tweets…and I feel like my own ad-man. Its not a comfortable feeling. It’s like I’m putting adverts out hither and yon, so when your driving down the information highway you see:

Billboard #1: Hey Everybody! Come visit my blog!

Billboard #2: For a good time, come visit my blog!

Billboard #3: Did you see the sign? Did you visit my blog yet?

Billboard #4:Why haven’t you visited my blog yet?!

Billboard #5: Hey, You! Yes, You! You need to get your butt over to my blog!

Well, you get the idea…

It’s not just due to Social Oomph. Anytime I send out an ‘updated blog post!’ notice I experience the same feeling of self-consciousness….the Self-Promotional Heebie Jeebies…

I kind of just make myself write the thing, then close my eyes and click ‘send’…because of course I want readers. I write to be read, preferably now, when I’m alive. I’m certainly no Emily Dickinson, scribbling feverishly behind closed doors, hiding it all in a shoebox to be revealed after I’m dead…

And therein lies the crux. I want you to read this, but I don’t want to push it on you. I want you to know about this…but I don’t want to be impolite and bring it up all the time.

There seems to be a fine line between being a self-promotional Guerrilla Girl with the requisite moxie and derring-do to stand out from the crowd and be heard…and being an obnoxious, obvious pusher of ME ME ME. (How many promotional tweets is ‘too many’, for instance? Is one a day okay? Two?) It’s a line I don’t know how to walk very well just yet.  So I’ve been erring on the side of caution. (Perhaps too much caution?)

So far, I’ve been watching to see how others manage it, to get a sense of what’s considered okay or the norm. I also think building relationships is key, as is participating in the the writing community at large. You get to know and be known that way. Social media should be more than just pushing your own ideas; it’s a conversation. A dialogue, not a monologue.

When it comes time to publish my novel, whether as an indie or traditional, I know I’m going to have dig in and do even more self promotion. I hope it gets easier with practice. It seems to. Twitter and blogging have certainly made me build up my promotional muscles…and maybe Social Oomph will help me get an even more flattering self-promotional figure…

But if you’ve any suggestions on how I can do this without cringing, I’d love to know!

PS. This blog by Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund) inspired my own reflection on this matter.

PPS. Her blog is I also where I first came across the terrifying idea of hosting your own ‘themed book launch party’…

PPPS. If, by chance, one day I have to give my own ‘theme launch party’ I’ve decided its going to be an all out Regency Extravaganza with me in my best Jane Austen-esque ball gown, a buffet of Regency delicacies (like turtle soup), a whist card table in one corner (gambling optional), an open bar in the other (port, cordial & sherry mostly, with perhaps some home-brew Raspberry cordial), and quadrille dance lessons every quarter hour!

PPPPS  This is another helpful blog I’ve found re: authors using social media by C. Hope Clark (@hopeclark)

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#teasertuesday a.k.a Putting It Out There…

June 28, 2010

I came across @Madison_Woods’ idea of #teasertuesday 2 days ago and decided on the spur of the moment to participate. I’ve never, ever put my novel on-line before. The only person who’s read any of it is my husband and my best friend Jen…so this is a big step.

It was hard to pick a selection. My book is a ‘comedic Regency mystery’. It’s a bit of a soap opera; a bit of a send up as it pays loving homage to Jane Austen’s era. It also has a lot of plot twists and so I had to find a scene that didn’t give too much away…

This scene occurs early on in the book, when we (as readers) first meet the Rutherford family at their dinner party…

(*Deep breath*. Here it goes…)

Eight o’clock that evening saw me standing in the Rutherford’s green chintz drawing room in their town home on Brook Street, doing my duty by my aunt.

“He’s the second son of a Viscount,” I was telling Miss Jane Rutherford, somewhat manic with my enthusiasm. “Pleasant looking. Moral.  Income of a thousand pounds. Attended Cambridge. Very intelligent. Speaks six languages. Has traveled widely in the east and has recently returned from an excursion to Turkey. He will be looking for a wife next Season.” She was to meet him next Saturday, six months before the Season even started. A perfect plan.

Miss Rutherford, of course, was only half listening, looking past me to the window, which was dark and showed our reflections. We were both brunette, and clad in vibrant colours: hers, blue, mine green. Each of us wore silver pendant earrings that dangled at the slightest movement as well as a cross necklace. My aunt had bought us a similar set, in an effort to bring us closer.

“Fine,” she said, bored.

Her brother, William Rutherford, neared us then, ready as usual to rescue his sister from my bad influence. Of course he was looking well—dark haired, dark eyed, refined—but then his looks had never been the problem.

He had barely greeted us when Jane’s mother beckoned her from across the room, a rather obvious ploy. We all shared a glance (her hopes for her son and I being totally transparent from the start) before Jane went off and Mr. Rutherford and I made dutiful small talk, alone.

“Well, well,” he said, with a tight little smile. “Second son of a Viscount. My mother is ecstatic.”

“I’m pleased to hear it,” I returned with deliberate sweetness.

“Of course my sister is not as impressionable. She is not as easily swayed by a thousand pounds and a family estate in Hertfordshire—as you well know.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but she may take an interest in his collection of eastern artifacts, which is considered to be very fine.”

“Perhaps,” he allowed, grimly.”But I wouldn’t reckon on it.”

“Their mutual interests could very well engender mutual regard and affection,” I insisted—sounding, even to myself, ridiculous. I no more believed that than he did.

“A love match?” He scoffed.

“Of course.”

“A happy ending?” He scoffed again.

“Why not?” I countered, somewhat gruffly. “Does she not deserve it?”

Surely, he couldn’t find fault with that line of reasoning but he still looked displeased, as usual—the man always looked pained around me, as if he had a burr in his boots. And he was at the ready again to make comment–.

Thank god his friends arrived then, interrupting our dispute with their apologetic entrance. Living in Holburn, they were often the last to arrive.

Mr. Murray was an attractive, disheveled Scotsmen with bright eyes and a deep voice, who greeted me with his usual warm enthusiasm. His wife also gave me a gusty hello. She was an energetic, dark-haired pixie who no doubt had her husband’s neck cloth as taunt as a bow string upon leaving the house. Two minutes later, he would have rumpled it like sack cloth. Same with his hair.

Naturally personable, they gathered everyone round and started to rave about The Merchant of Venice, which they’d seen at Drury Lane last week—filling in each others sentences, how cute!

Theirs was obviously a love match.

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I Need A Business Cap…

June 4, 2010

Here’s a quote from Twitter that struck me awhile back: It’s by Colleen Lindsay, a lit agent in New York City. On May 31, she wrote:

“Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. It’s best that writers remember that.”

Well, heck! No wonder I’ve been having panic attacks about query letters and story pitches, about trying to ‘sell’ my writing! It’s because I’m an artist! A writer! A dreamer! Not a business person!

I have a writing cap. There is no business cap in my closet.

But I really, really need to get one, it seems. (Can you get them off E-bay I wonder?). Not just for when its time to ‘pitch’ my novel (which isn’t done yet). But for now. Right now.

For my blog.

I started my blog on a lark, for ‘fun’. Then I went on Twitter, primarily to connect and share (which has been great! I love the Twitter writing community!)…but of course I wanted to get my ‘blog’ out there so the masses could appreciate my pithy commentary and sense of humor re: the writing craft….

Before I joined Twitter I had about 7 readers (friends, friend-of-friends and family). Then I went on Twitter and I had a one-day spike of 20 (20! Do a happy dance!), but that leveled off immediately to about…7 readers (and a big thank you to you all, my loyal follows, i.e. friends, friends-of-friends, and family).

My husband has encouraged me to tweet every time I put out a new blog post, which I started doing (feeling awkward, I’ll admit). But even still there’s only about…7 readers!

Maybe I need to tweet something like “Naked Pictures of Brad Pitt!”. That’ll bring the traffic in for certain…but they’ll all hate me forever once they realize I don’t have any blurry shots of Brad skinny dipping in Italy. And then no one will ever tweet me or visit my blog site ever, ever again. Not to mention Brad Pitt will probably sue me….

See why I need a business cap? Even a used one?

Hey, maybe Colleen Lindsay will lend me hers for a small fee…

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