Tag Archives: author

5 Secrets About Literary Agents

One of the best things about attending a writers’ conference is it is a great way to meet literary agents…and demystify them a bit. Here are the top 5 secrets I learned about them:

1. They tend to work odd hours. The number one takeaway I got from the conference was to write a query letter as if the reader is half-asleep…because they very well may be. The agents I met were workaholics, ad several admitted to reading queries late into the night, before bed. That makes it a little trickier to grab their attention, so keep it simple!

2. There are bad times to solicit them. Of course, this doesn’t just mean when they’re in the bathroom (but don’t do that!). Certain times of year tend to be trickier to get their attention: in the summer months, they’re taking vacations (along with everyone else!) and many are also out of the office in December. Don’t send your manuscript on January 1! Wait until mid-month, when the flow of queries from authors who didn’t get this advice will have tapered off.

3. Some really like self-publishing. We sometimes imagine that self-publishing and getting a literary agent are entirely opposing ideas, but the agents at the conference really didn’t think so! While not all of them would accept a self-published author, they all admitted that there are some genres, stories, and situations where self-publishing is a better route, and many said they would take on self-published clients.

4. They work really hard. These folks…wow. They are a devoted bunch. They all really seemed to genuinely want to see more books published (and not just because it means a revenue stream for them, too). They are people who like books, at heart. (One woman I met was a member of three different book clubs!) Which is good, because they have to read a lot of books, and queries, and manuscripts to do their jobs right. Sometimes (angry) authors can push the idea that agents are evil, book-hating gatekeepers who just want to keep an author down, but that definitely didn’t seem true.

5. They are all different. Shocking, I know, but there isn’t exactly a literary agent hive mind. There are similarities, because they are all doing the same job, but what appeals to Agent A just may not resonate with agents B, C, and D, and vice versa. That can make our job as writers seeking to court them tricky, but it also means that all those rejections may not at all be personal. So keep trying.

What “secrets” have you learned about literary agents? 

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Your Amazon Author Central Page

Amazon is an excellent tool for selling your book, but it isn’t necessarily intuitive. There are completely different sites for print books (createspace.com) and ebooks (kdp.amazon.com), and then there is a different site to craft your author tools. It took me six months to realize I wasn’t using their author tools! I figured I’d write it up to save y’all the same embarrassment.

Amazon Author page interface

Amazon Author page interface

First, find the site. I had to Google it. You can also click through one of your favorite books, and click on the author name, then scroll down to find the “are you an author?” link. You’re looking for https://authorcentral.amazon.com.

If you are already selling your books through an Amazon platform, it should be easy to connect your name to your book. It’s an easy-to-follow interface, and won’t take very long.

You’ll fill in a short biography, and it’s a good idea to add your author photo. Bonus points if you have other photos or videos that will help readers connect with you as a person, but you have to work within your comfort zone. Connect your blog and Twitter* feed, and it’ll give readers just one more chance to follow you. You may need to look up exactly how to find your blog’s RSS feed, but once again Google is your friend there.

This is what it will look like when you’re done (and it’s been approved by Amazon).

amazon author page

As we know, connection with readers is critical! The author page is a fantastic, free way to connect the dots. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

There are a lot of other tools back in there, including a sales chart, your sales rank against all other books in Amazon’s stock, your current author rank, and an easy snapshot of all the Amazon customer reviews of your books. I mean, seriously, how did I miss the memo on these? They’re great to have access to, finally!

Do you use Amazon’s author page tools? What’s your favorite feature?

*Note: Amazon’s having some kind of dispute with their tweet provider, so tweets aren’t currently uploading, but it’ll resolve sooner than later.

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How NOT to Deal With a Bad Review

Being an author comes with a lot of challenges, but one of the hardest may be managing our own egos. Namely, having the restraint to accept that bad reviews will happen, and the wherewithal to keep yourself from trying to argue.

Because every once in awhile an author comes along, and does that, and serves as a horrific example of what can happen.

It’s like watching a train wreck sliding into the Titanic at the instant it impacts an iceberg. It’s painful to watch but you are so struck that it still is happening that you can’t look away.

His first response to the negative review (which, remember, on Goodreads means “didn’t like it,” not “literally the worst”):

“This review is not good for my business, so unless your desire is to ruin my dreams, it would mean a great deal if you could remove this review from my work and forget about it. But if it’s your desire to hurt me financially and ruin my business, then it’s understandable why you would post such a harmful review.”

In addition to responding to the review at all, this guy really screws up when he implies that this person’s review was posted out of “desire to hurt [him] financially.” What? One bad review certainly won’t be your ruin. But he’s not done. The reviewer politely responded (more politely than I would have) and explained she would not be removing her review, as is her right, and went so far as to compliment aspects of his book. But he came back again:

“Leaving a 1 star review on a book says much more about what kind of person does such a thing, and then attacks it for being “pretentious,” which is an erroneous statement that is defamation at best.”

And then it goes steeply downhill from there. Let’s be clear: a review is about the content, not the author. I mean, no one is leaving a review to just be hurtful to some stranger they’ve never met. I review every book I read; all that says about me as a person is that I read a lot, and that I like to give reviews about it. There’s no moral judgement. Also this guy has no idea what “defamation” is (hint: 100% totally not that).

This schmuck just can’t stop digging a hole, though. He goes on, for another 11 posts, with his rants getting more and more loopy. Worse, he seems to make a bit of a habit of doing this. And may have scared of this (and who knows how many other) readers from ever trying out a new, indie author. That’s just unfortunate.

Now, I commiserate with the author a smidge; I had one one-star review show up on Goodreads. It didn’t even have a review for me to nit-pick and pout over, but it had been created at the same time as like 37 other reviews. I ranted to my husband for 20 minutes, then I closed the page and went to bed and didn’t think about it anymore. And you know what? The next morning, I had two 5-star reviews.

The winds of popularity can change that fast, which is why it’s important to keep perspective. A negative review isn’t the end of the world. And even if it was disastrous for your book, remember, even failure has its values.

But there isn’t anything to be gained from acting out. In fact, it looks like this particular author’s rant lowered his Goodreads rating from a solid 4 stars to a dismal 2 (and falling) in less than two days.

This is one of those lessons it’s good to learn from watching someone else go through it.

Don’t make this guy’s mistake; have some dignity and leave reviews—especially bad ones—alone.

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Warts and All

As if I hadn’t told y’all about 100 times, my book is out now! And that’s awesome and exciting and…really bizarre. I’ve crossed a threshold and yet…nothing is really different–yet.  Most of the differences are in how I’m feeling: jittery and super-overwhelmed.

Does every author feel this way?I’ve worked on this one book for nearly 3 years and yet I still have moments where my heart beats faster and I get all shaky and am just convinced that my book is terrible an no one will ever love me and I’d better just go pick out a nice box under the freeway already. Then I swing to the opposite extreme: my book is the best in the world and I’ll be the funniest guest on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and I’ll have publishers knocking on my door, on their knees.

Of course the truth is nowhere near as dramatic. I’ve sold–actually sold!–a handful of books in a variety of formats and got my shipment of 10 copies to give away to family. I’ve got some great reviews on Amazon and the beginnings of interest on Goodreads. That’s progress.

But there have also been problems: a friend who I’d given the book months ago finally got around to actually reading the book, and she found an error, which was embarrassing. Then my cover artist finally got her copy and noticed a formatting thing that I swear I never saw before… combined, these two things rendered my 10 giveaway copies practically useless. Luckily, CreateSpace’s tools made it easy to fix the error and replace the cover, but it’s still not exactly how I dreamed it would be. It wasn’t perfect.

My husband (rightly) points out that things are often not perfect (hey, I found a blatant typo in my 20-year-old copy of Ender’s Game!) and that I’m being too hard on myself. I’m trying that whole “it’ll work out” ethos.

I’m trying to keep that same tenacity with the marketing stuff. Man do I hate talking about myself–and, it turns out, promoting my book. But of course it’s necessary: even the greatest book won’t be bought if no one knows about it. I just spent about an hour on different social media platforms, just doing simple things–posting about my book, talking with readers–and yet by the end of the hour I was shaking like I’d downed four cups of coffee. My veins were thrumming with “what if they don’t like me? what if? what if?”

Deep breaths. Just keep on keepin’ on.

Those of you who’ve survived this stage, what do you recommend? Help me out here.

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Filed under Publishing, Undead Rising

Authors, Stop Your Blogging

It’s that time of year where everything is fresh and cold and you think, “yes, this time I shall do it! Really!”
Well, authors, allow me to help you strike something off your list of intended resolutions: forget about blogging.
Maybe it seems disingenuous for me–who has had this blog for over two years, with two posts minimum a week–to say that. But I’m just trying to keep you from the treacherous path I was put on. (Save yourselves!)
When I started this blog, it was partially because I liked the habit of it and wanted a place to say things. But it was ALSO because everyone at the time, via other blogs, how-to-get-published books, authors on Twitter, and people I met at conferences, everyone said a blog was essential for a writer wanting to be published.
Why? To “gain a following” and “demonstrate your niche.”
Frankly, that honestly isn’t that good a reason to start a blog. So I’m going to talk you out of it.
Reasons You Should Not Blog
1. It’s hard. Particularly if you’re the kind of person who is frequently setting resolutions and then abandoning them. The number one thing about a blog is consistency: posting regularly, preferably about your niche subject matter. And that, honestly, is hard to do. Ostensibly this blog was supposed to be focused on finding the audience who would be into choose-your-own-adventure zombie novels for adults. I don’t know about you, but I have limited interest and motivation in spending all my time coming up with CYOA/zombie posts.
2. You can’t let up. You’ve got to write stuff all the time. Something big happening at work? You can’t stop blogging. Got married and left the country for more than a week? Better work extra hard so you have posts happen while you’re not there. Having a bad day? Suck it up, cupcake, and write another blog post.
It’s like resolving to go to the gym, every week. Ok, sure; you can probably do it for awhile, but eventually, it’s going to get hard…then what?
3. No one wants to read your stories. I know, I know; you want to disregard this because people WILL want to read your stories when they discover how BRILLIANT you are. Maybe so. It’s certainly happened before. But a lot more aspiring authors put out works that a) they’d rather sell for money rather than giving it away for free or b) aren’t really finished or polished yet. You just shoot yourself in the foot with the first and you can lose credibility with the second. By and large, people who are browsing stuff online are looking for something to help them–why should they want to help you?
4. You’d rather work on the stuff you want to get formally published. If you don’t want to blog…don’t blog! You’ll have more time and more creative energy for the stuff you really want to work on.
5. It won’t get you a platform/audience. Admittedly, it has happened sometimes. But from what I can see, the authors for whom blogging created a platform already had things published.* Rather than being a place to gather a prospective audience, the blog becomes a place for the existing audience to congregate. That’s a big difference. *Exception: Food blogs. Man, I’ve seen more food blogs become cookbooks than anything else. That seems to be a recipe for success (har har). However, that’s also a ridiculously crowded marketplace, so you have to really stand out.
Now, if you still want to blog after all that…go ahead. It can be fun. It can be nice to communicate with other authors, to push the boundaries of your abilities, to have physical proof that you’ve been doing something productive. Just don’t believe a lot of the notions put out there as “must dos.”
The worst thing you could do, really, is to start a blog… and then peter out, leaving it to die on the vine, forgotten but still ranking high on Google for your pen name. So if you start a blog and decide it’s not working as you wish, be sure to close it out, too.
Good luck in 2015.

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