Monday, August 25, 2014

Helen Lacey and the Author/Agent Relationship

Please welcome the lovely Helen Lacey back to the blog today! Her new book Once Upon a Bride is a lot of fun! I enjoyed the plot, and the characters were complex and intriguing. If you're looking for an enjoyable romance set Down Under, look no further!

It’s no secret that the publishing landscape is evolving and shifting at a mind boggling rate. For years there was kind of status quo in publishing – the author wrote the book, sent it to their agent if they were lucky enough to have one or sent it directly to a publisher to languish in the slush pile. Now, with the surge in self publishing and the rise of small boutique publishers, it’s an author’s market. We no longer have to wait for rejection letters or hope for a contract. We can do what we like, when we like, and as much as we like.

I was recently at the Romance Writers of Australia’s annual conference and it struck me that through all the hype and talk about indie publishing and how so many authors, including myself, were now what has been coined hybrid, I was still being asked the same question over and over – why do I have an agent? Why would I give a portion of my earnings away when I could do it myself?

I signed with my agent about six months before I got published. I’d wanted to be published with Harlequin for a long time prior to getting the call in 2010…it was over two decades of submitting and eighteen rejections from this one publisher before I sold my first book to Harlequin Special Edition. I’d had a book in submission with them for over a year when I signed with my agent, and within months on signing I was offered my first contract. True, you don’t need an agent to sell to Harlequin, but in late 2009 I realized I wanted one. Why? Well, writing is mostly a solitary occupation and as a writer who is most defiantly a pantser, and one who just wants to write and has no interest in talking or negotiating contracts, getting agent was right for me.

And that’s what I always stress when asked the question – having an agent is purely a personal choice based mostly on my personality. My agent talks contracts and deadlines with my editor while I get to talk storylines and characters and simply write my books – which is what I love to do most.

I work a day job and have to fit my writing around that, family, friends, pets and general life stuff…having an agent makes the writing part smoother and much less stressful. The important thing is to work with someone who is your advocate. Someone you trust. Someone who shares your work ethic and understands how important your stories are to you. Someone who will work at getting the best from your books and contracts, and also someone who will support your endeavours into indie publishing if you wish to go down the hybrid road. I know an author who has been with her agent for fifteen years, I also know another author who has had three different agents in eighteen months. Not every author/agent relationship will be the right fit. Sometimes you have to try one another on and see if you work.

Is having an agent for everyone? Probably not. But think about what you want…and then what you need and you’ll quickly work out if having an agent is for you and your career as an author.
Connect with Helen:

Website    Blog      Facebook    Twitter     Goodreads 
Helen Lacey’s latest release is ONCE UPON A BRIDE
Happily ever after…?

When Gabe Vitali escapes to a fresh start in Crystal Point, Australia, the former physician isn't looking for a storybook ending. For the first time he's living in the moment. His new five-year plan does not include serious relationships. But he doesn't anticipate his unavoidable next-door neighbor…and an undeniable attraction.

Bridal consultant Lauren Jakowski wants marriage. She's just sworn off love and sex! To avoid getting burned again, she's looking for safe and forever-after. But they're not Gabe's to give–for reasons he can't share with anyone, least of all this pretty complication.

Gabe and Lauren don't figure on a fairy tale. But fate has other plans…
For Kindle: Once Upon A Bride

Paperback: Once Upon A Bride

Thanks Helen! Agents can certainly be wonderful assets for writers! 
It's an interesting time for writers and making the agent/self-publishing/hybrid/small publisher with no agent decision is an important one!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Julie Musil & 5 Scary Things about Indie Publishing -- Plus Solutions to Calm Your Nerves

Please welcome the awesome Julie Musil to the blog today! Julie's latest book The Summer of Crossing Lines is out and about today. Can't wait to read it! Julie's first book The Boy Who Loved Fire is a great story with powerful characters. Today Julie's here to talk about...

5 Scary Things About Indie Publishing--Plus Solutions to Calm Your Nerves

The idea of indie publishing can be overwhelming--even scary. Believe me, I’ve been scared as heck since I took the leap and published The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire. But sometimes the scariest road is the one we must travel. I’ll share five scary things about indie publishing and what we can do to calm our nerves.

Scariest Thing #1--Quality Writing

What if my books aren’t good enough? What if they’re best left on the hard drive? We all worry about that, right? Readers deserve the best we can give them.

Calm your nerves by...hiring a professional editor

Don’t do this after draft two. You’ll waste time and money. My books had been through several rounds of my own editing. Then through beta readers. Then edited again and again and again. I also cut the word fat, using tips from craft books such as The Word-Loss Diet by Rayne Hall. If you’re paying per page, why pay for fatty words that shouldn’t be there?

After paring down the manuscript, I hired Bethany from A Little Red, Inc. to edit both books. She was fabulous. More on hiring a freelance editor here. It’s definitely an investment, but totally worth it.

Scariest Thing #2--Book Cover

Confession: I do judge a book by its cover. Fair? Probably not. But it’s something I consider when deciding what to read. Cool covers are important to me.

Calm your nerves by...hiring a professional cover designer

Sure, writers can create their own covers using a laptop and nifty software, but I didn’t want to skimp on this. The cover is a reader’s first impression of your book. I hired designer J. Allen Fielder, who does amazing work for a fair price. More on working with a cover designer here.

Scariest Thing #3--Formatting

Early ebooks were fraught with wonky fonts and spacing, which frustrated readers and helped give indie publishing a bad name.

Calm your nerves by...hiring a formatter or learning to do it yourself

Many authors hire formatters and swear by them. There are plenty of affordable resources listed on the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog and Susan Kaye Quinn’s blog.

I’m a serial do-it-yourselfer and chose to do my own formatting. I’m so glad I did. If I want to make changes--even if it’s just centering text or changing one word--it’s easy to do. Begin with the Smashwords’ Style Guide (it’s free!). Most guides are created for Word, but if you use Apple Pages, the ebook From Pages ’09 to Kindle Format in Minutes ($.99) will come in handy.

Scariest Thing #4--Getting Noticed

It’s crowded out there, and I don’t have the loudest voice. I’m not a salesperson and I’m definitely not a marketing pro.

Calm your nerves by...reaching out to people you’ve connected with

When it came time to spread the word about my books, I asked friends (like Jemi!) if I could spend a little time on their blogs, offering value to their readers. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? We’re writers. We should be used to the word No. (By the way, no one said no. Writers are such nice people). I also mention news on my Facebook Author Page, on Twitter, and on my own blog. Not constant noise, just sharing information.

Other writers hire marketing teams, but I haven’t tried that. The good thing about indie publishing is that you can experiment and find what works for you.

Scariest Thing #5--Failure

We all fear failure...newbies and professionals in all walks of life.

Calm your nerves by...accepting that failure is part of the process

Don’t give up. Keep learning, keep improving, and keep trying. That’s the beauty of indie publishing. If you try something that doesn’t work, you can try something new. There isn’t a publisher breathing down your back, demanding results. You’re free to chill out and have fun with it.

Have you indie published? Did my five scariest things mirror yours? Any questions you’d like answered? Any tips you’d like to share?

Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her Young Adult novels, The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire, are available now. For more information, or to stop by an say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody loses control of her orderly life. Her stuttering flares up, her parents are shrouded in a grief-induced fog, and she clings to the last shreds of her confidence. 

The only lead to her brother’s disappearance is a 30-second call from his cell phone to Rex, the leader of a crime ring. Frustrated by a slow investigation with too many obstacles, and desperate to mend her broken family, Melody crosses the line from wallflower to amateur spy. She infiltrates Rex’s group and is partnered with Drew, a handsome pickpocket whose kindness doesn’t fit her perception of a criminal. He doesn’t need to steal her heart—she hands it to him.

With each law Melody breaks, details of her brother’s secret life emerge until she’s on the cusp of finding him. But at what point does truth justify the crime? 

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Apple     Kobo     Smashwords     Print

Thanks Julie! Those are great solutions for anyone interested in indie publishing! I won a 5 page edit from Bethany and would totally second your recommendation. She was fabulous!!

How about you? Any tips to add to Julie's list? Does self-publishing intrigue or terrify you?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Spread the Happy

Sometimes the world is full of sad.

Many recent events/tragedies have been very difficult to understand or believe.

It's easy to be overwhelmed by tragedy and grief and worry.
It's easy to forget that joy and laughter and hope are just as real.
And just as important.

Our news sources have the responsibility to bring us the devastation, but I wish they took their responsibility to bring us the joys as seriously.

Sadness and grief and fear can be contagious.
And sometimes a cycle is created, bringing more and more grief.

But a smile can be contagious too.
So can hope.
So can love.

It's easy to forget that we are capable of changing the world. It's easy to feel small and insignificant.

We're not.

Every act of kindness,
every dollar donated,
every smile shared,
every person reached,
every hand offered,
every compliment given,
every person heard (really heard),
every heart opened,

Go out and share yours.

Spread the happy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oh, Those Characters

As you probably know by now, I'm a bit of a sports nut. I spent a few days down in Toronto last week watching tennis at the Rogers Cup. AMAZING!

I put some of my People Watching games into action and got all kinds of ideas for new characters. A few of my favourites were:

  • the couple who'd finally got an evening free without the kids and had scooted out in such a hurry, they'd forgotten their tickets (had email proof and still got in) and their sweaters (would have never let the kids out of the house without them!) and their wallets (so were unable to buy sweatshirts). They snuggled all night to keep warm!
  • the couple with two kids who were wide eyed at seeing their heroes up close and who were thrilled to find people who were able to 'talk tennis' with them despite a bit of a language barrier
  • the couple wearing extremely expensive and chic clothing (3 piece suit, silk dress, high heels, wowza jewelry) who brought in a cooler of food and drinks to avoid the high priced snacks. They made egg salad sandwiches at 10 pm!
  • the pizza vendor who insisted I sing a verse of MargaritaVille with him before he'd sell me a slice of his delicious Margarita pizza!
  • the elderly lady with her pompoms, signs and noise makers who stood up and cheered VERY loudly when one of the players changed his shirt during the change over
  • the man who must have asked me 10 times if I'd really driven 8 hours on the highway "all in one day????"
  • the man who stated loudly he was a tennis expert and his date could ask him anything she wanted. He proceeded to make several errors in his tutorials, and despite the giggles around them, no one corrected him and his date appeared to be very impressed with his 'knowledge'
And so many more! How about you? Did you see any interesting characters on your vacations this summer?