Third Time is a Charmer

In 2012, I attended my first writer’s conference. Although, at the time, I had already been writing for years. Walking in that first day, I was certain that at that point in time, I was ready to become a published writer. Turns out, I wasn’t.

An agent was kind enough to review my work, but I was devastated when she said I was likely a year away from being ready. Another year, I thought. I’ll never make it. Alas, after many more hours of writing and after completing multiple rewrites, just shy of two years later, I emerged with a completely different manuscript.

I just published my ‘first’ novel, “Secret Agent of God”. 

Image

“Secret Agent of God”

 

I say ‘first’, but what I mean is third, because the other two never saw the light of day. My real ‘first’ novel, the one I attempted to write about twenty-five years ago, was a summery love story. From what I can recall, it was along the lines of Snooky’s book about the Jersey Shore, but mine was about a little known island called Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. I think I still have the story in a shoebox somewhere. It was hand-written on an assortment of cocktail napkins and in several beer-stained, spiral notebooks.

My second novel was another lovelorn tale about a single working gal, who was very similar to my former single-self, but in a fictional setting. Said ‘gal’ tried desperately not to fall in love with a very attractive private detective who had just breezed into town. YAWN. Sixty-five thousand words into the manuscript and after (I’m too embarrassed to say how many years), I decided the story was not unique enough to publish.

What’s the moral of this story? Both of these writing exercises helped me to become a better writer and more importantly, they made me realize some things. I don’t really like writing romance unless it’s wrapped in another package like paranormal suspense. Furthermore, if my life were exciting enough to read about, I wouldn’t need to write fiction. Finally, it takes as long as it takes. While deadlines are important, you need patience to become a writer.

In my first published novel, I created a protagonist who is nothing like me, threw her into a crazy situation and viola! I wrote a fast-paced thriller, with a strong female protagonist who is quirky, upbeat and funny despite her bleak circumstances. I almost feel badly about everything I put poor twenty-one-year-old Janice Morrison through, but I’m confident that she can handle it. She is ‘spiritually challenged’ but remarkably resourceful.

The weird thing is, I keep thinking, that someday I’ll be signing books in a mall somewhere and Janice will walk right up to me and say, “Hey, you stole my life!”

Now wouldn’t that be something?

 

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Boost your writing enthusiasm; attend a Writers Conference.

Who should attend?

Because I thought I needed a finished novel to attend a writer’s conference, I waited until I had what I thought was a complete manuscript before attending one.  In actuality, that may have been a mistake.  The knowledge I gained from attending the conference helped me to redirect my writing efforts, to start promoting my work before publishing and to overcome fears, objections and writers blocks.

Last April I attended the Unicorn Writers Conference in Connecticut:  http://unicornwritersconference.com

I was nervous but quickly found my confidence.  As a result, I had an incredible experience, further solidifying my wish to become part of the writing community.

Dashing preconceived notions:

I was not the only one who still had work to do on my novels.  I met both published and unpublished writers wanting representation for cookbooks, single novels at various stages or multiple novels.  There were also self-published novelists looking for representation and publication for new work.  A further surprise was how many unpublished Authors were writing blogs and already had Author websites.

Just mixing with other writers was a bonus for me.  Writing is such a solitary activity and if you do not already have writing friends, you may not have anyone in your life who truly comprehends your passion for writing and the struggles you face, like the fear that kept me from attending a conference sooner.

Fear is a major obstacle for writers, whether it is fear of failure or fear of success.  Both are roadblocks to power through.  A conference offers an opportunity to attend seminars that will help allay your fears and concerns by offering facts, success stories and pertinent information.

Attendance also gives you a leg up on writers who rely solely on the internet, due to face time with Agents and Editors.  It is a professional but relaxed setting that pulls down the barriers between Writer and Agent or Editor.  They are just people after all, people with the power to make or break us, true, but people in a business seeking good writers.

The self-publishing threat:

Self-publishing was a hot topic, with Agents warning against writers jumping in without proper editing or serious effort made to seek traditional publishing.  Were they nervous about losing clients to self-publishing?  I’m not sure, since so many, take on so few clients.  Some said they only take one or two per year, not great odds for us.  Nevertheless, there clearly was an opportunity for self-published authors to use their online sales to option a publishing contract for new book sales.

I left less fearful, with some new contacts, the names of some great potential Agents and a better understanding of the publishing business.  I received some strong encouragement for my novels, but have since decided to rework them.

If you attend a conference, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of submitting your work ahead of time for the nominal fees charged, versus traditional costs of $3 or $4 per page charged by many online agencies.  I paid $45 for a review of my first fifty pages.  I also found the query letter review well worth the time.  Every author in my query letter group was given the opportunity to send his or her first fifty pages to the Agent running our workshop, following the conference.

If budget is an issue and you have never attended a conference, you may want to start with a small, local conference.  The next Unicorn Conference will be held on March 9 2013, prehaps I will see you there.  Writer’s Digest lists upcoming conferences monthly in the Conference Scene column by Linda Formichelli.

Finally the most common theme:

In a panel discussion at Unicorn, the Agents and Editors mentioned repeatedly, that they are seeking that next great story idea, but none seemed able to explain exactly what that meant, just that when they saw it, they would know.  It makes sense, if you think about it, they handle the bulk of the business end of writing and they need us, writers, to come up with fresh, saleable and entertaining ideas.

So, here’s hoping one of us is working on that next great story right now! 

#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.

http://www.youtube.com/watchv=bu5qbaMXxh0&feature=share

I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!