Monday, December 21, 2009

Excellent words of advice

Cruising other blogs to find good stuff:

Here's a post on handling criticism: You need to learn to handle feedback before you're pubbed, and you definitely need to know how to handle it when you're pubbed. (All authors get bad reviews. Doesn't matter how brilliant the author or the book, or how much the angels sing, a negative review will come.)

Colleen Thompson blogs about tightening words, plots, scenes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And Now for a Humorous Look at Writing

Came across this today:

How to Write Badly Well:

A hilarious sendup. We all need the laugh I think!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The New York Times (and Other) Bestseller Lists

I'm always fascinated by bestseller lists and how books get there (because, yeah, I want mine there too).

For the last three weeks, I've had the thrill of seeing my Allyson James pseudonym appear on the New York Times mass market bestseller list at the following ranks: Week 1: 15; Week 2: 14; and Week 3: 35. The first two weeks were printed in the newspaper, and you bet I grabbed a copy of each.

Now, this was for an anthology, and I know that, duh, the lead authors in this book were responsible for it getting on NYT and I was just in the car with them. But it was a thrill, nonetheless to see my name on the coveted print list.

I'm always curious about bestseller lists and how they're put together. And also, who it's important to. As an author, I'm stoked when I get on one. As a reader--I think I can't be paid to care. I read what I like to read, and will think no less of the author or the book if they're not "bestsellers." But publishers get very happy with you when you hit a list, and booksellers start to privilege you, so as a writer, it's in my career best interest to do so.

The USA Today top 150 lists the top 150 sellers for the week, be they nonfiction, fiction, mass market, hardback, YA, romance, self-help, whatever (some things are left out, like category romance). They have handy web page: which lists the current week, plus provides a searchable database, so you can look up "Jennifer Ashley" and "Allyson James" and see me there (all right, if you're not my mother, you don't have to do this).

According to the USA Today page, books are not broken down into formats--for example if a hardcover, mass market, and ebook copy of a book are all available for sale, the sales are counted together.

You can read the whole explanation of how the list is generated and who gives them sales data here:

The New York Times list, on the other hand, breaks its lists down into categories and formats.

From their handy website:

they have separate lists for:

Hardcover Nonfiction
Hardcover Fiction
Trade paperback fiction (those oversize paperbacks that run about $15)
Mass market paperback fiction
Paperback nonfiction
Hardcover Advice books
Paperback Advice books
Children's Books
Graphic Novels
Hardcover Business bestsellers
Paperback business bestsellers

Here is what the page says about how they get the numbers for these lists:

"These lists are an expanded version of those appearing in the November 8 print edition of the Book Review. Rankings reflect sales, for the week ending October 24, at many thousands of venues where a wide range of general interest books are sold nationwide. These include hundreds of independent book retailers (statistically weighted to represent all such outlets); national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; university, gift, supermarket, discount department stores and newsstands. An asterisk (*) indicates that a book’s sales are barely distinguishable from those of the book above. A dagger (†) indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders. Among those categories not actively tracked are: perennial sellers; required classroom reading; text, reference and test preparation guides; journals and workbooks; calorie counters; shopping guides; comics and crossword puzzles"

In the publishing world, the New York Times list carries the most prestige. It's a difficult list to crack. In my personal opinion the USA Today list is even harder--you're competing with cookbooks and the most popular YA as well as your fellow romance or mystery authors in all formats. This would explain why people can hit the New York Times extended lists (#21-35) and not make USA Today top 150.

Then there's Bookscan, which most readers never see. I read all over the place that Bookscan represents 75% of all sales. That might be true for hardbacks, but it is NOT for mass market fiction, especially mass market paperback originals. For mm originals, Bookscan represents about 25-30 percent (this is data taken from my own royalty statements; I'm sure mileage varies.)

The main reason for this disparity is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart does not report sales to Bookscan (at this time), and Wal-Mart sells a gazillion mass market paperbacks. In my own experience, Wal-Mart accounts for the largest chunk of my print runs.

Bookscan is a private list owned by Neilsen, and you need a subscription to view it. If you're in Romance Writers of America or Novelists Inc, you get a chance to look at Bookscan lists at a substantial discount. I like it because when my book makes the top 100 romance list, it gives me a good indication of how my book is getting out into the world. The list shows total sales for each book for the current week, the previous week, and total year to date. It's only a slice of the pie ('cause, Wal-Mart), but it's helpful to get a relative picture.

So there you have the dirt on bestseller lists. As authors, we are constantly judged by them. As a reader, I personally don't care, although I know readers who refuse to read anything not on the New York Times top 10 (I feel so sorry for them *g*).

Opinions? Questions?

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Dreaded Synopsis

I've been wanting to post on synopses, but my friend Colleen Thompson did a great one on her blog, Boxing the Octopus.

Go forth and learn!!

Jennifer Ashley

Monday, September 14, 2009

Professional Jealousy--How to Deal with It and Make It Work for You

I have been trying to write a post on Professional Jealousy for some time. I started the draft months ago, but have been too busy to finish. No one should be jealous of my organization skills! LOL But here goes:

What is Professional Jealousy?

Professional jealousy is really envy--something wonderful happens to someone else and you wish it had happened to you. If you want to be Biblical, you are coveting your neighbor's success. You want what they have.

The first thing you have to realize is that it's ok to envy someone. I envy one of my friends who travels the world every year. I'd love to do that! But circumstances at this point don't allow it. I envy another friend who always seems to have the coolest gadgets. I want them! But I have other expenses I have to take care of first.

And when I was unpublished, I hung out on online loops where every week someone else had won a contest or gotten a request for a full or signed with an agent or pubbed a book, while nothing, nothing, nothing happened to me. Sometimes it got to be where I couldn't sign onto the loop without feeling a great wash of despair.

But don't feel bad. Envy is natural. When we want something (and want it bad!), it seems unfair that it happens to someone else.

Then I looked at it this way:

1. Do I want what they have? YES!
2. Am I willing to work very hard to have the same succes? YES!
3. Do I want to take someone else's success away from them? NO.

No, I don't want to take the shiny trophy away from the person who is weeping with happiness, surrounded by her family and friends cheering for her because she won it. She worked hard, she likely had many, many problems along the way (personal and professional), and she probably deserves the damn trophy.

After I'd been writing a while I realized that no one's life is perfect, not even an author's (and these days I'm thinking, especially not an author's! LOL).

No one achieves without a lot of sweat, heartache, pain, and sacrifice. Very, very few people are handed things on a platter. (It might seem like some people are, but it's extremely rare, and it may be that you just can't see the pain behind the success.)

The most important question up there is:

Am I willing to put in the time, energy, and labor to get what that person I envy has?

If your answer is No, then the rest of this post probably won't help you. You are expecting things to be handed to you, and I'm sorry, they won't be. Nothing is free.

If it's Yes, then let me see if I can help you harness your envy and make it work for you.

How to Harness the Ugly Emotion and Make it Work for You

One thing I've learned about very successful authors: They work very, very hard. They want success so much that they are willing to give up time with family, vacations, sleep, watching TV, and other things to achieve their goals. These people are willing to put in the hours, the labor, the pain and depression to become stars of the literary world--well, let's face it, to be published at all!

One way to curtail your jealousy is to realize that no one--no one at all--achieves anything without a price.

I've seen authors leap to the top with their first book (doing way better than me), only to be gone within a few years.

I've seen authors' careers lag for years before they finally hit the right note and shoot to the top, baby! (I mean, one year these authors are completely ignored at the conferences; the next, they can't walk without a crowd on their heels.)

--Aside: I can think of at least five authors off the top of my head whose first series were very modest successes, if that. Then they did a name change/genre change and zoomed upward. I figure that's because they're now more market savvy, have more experience writing books, and just wrote the right thing at the right time.

I've seen authors start at the bottom and progress slowly and steadily to the top. I can think of names in that area too.

Another way to look at it

Everyone has a different path to success. Some luck out with the best agents right away and land delicious contracts while the rest of us are still struggling. Some people write for years before they strike paydirt with a good contract. Some get published then languish low on the midlist for a decade before they have a hit.

You know what? Each of these authors might in the end make the same amount of money and have the same number of sales. And yet, they each reached that level in a different way.

So if you think--everyone's getting published but me!! That might be true!

Today. Maybe even next week. Some day, it will be you getting published/winning that award/landing that dream agent.

It really will happen.

The fact that other people succeed BEFORE you do, DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU WILL FAIL.

How to Use Jealousy to Your Advantage

Also known as Market Research!

There's always going to be someone out there you envy. Someone got published. Someone won that award. Someone got an agent.

Do you want to get published?

Do you want to win the award?

Do you want the agent?

Here's what you do. Read that person's book. Don't bother trying to read them before they're sold (e.g., asking friend to read her GH finaling book)--you want an example of what SOLD. Because A BOOK WINNING A CONTEST DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE BOOK IS MARKETABLE.

Sad but true.


Say woo hoo.

(I tanked in as many contests as I won before I was published--imagine my confusion.)

Anyway: Read the book. Analyze the book. What do you think caught the readers' attention? What is the writing style? Simple and plain? Lyrical and witty? Did it have innovated ideas, a twist on the tried and true? Or did it feed a market greedy for more of the same?

What happens if you don't like the book? If you're thinking "This is the most putrid trash I've ever read. How did this get published??!!"

Do the following:

Go into a back room in your house alone.

Scream. Pout. Kick the walls (not too hard; you'll just have to fix them)
Shout: "It's not fair! I hate her!"
Have a sullen temper tantrum.

Then suck it up.

Put your emotions aside and read the dang book. What do you think caught the readers' attention? What is the writing style like? (You know the drill).

Do You Mean I Have to Write This Person's Book?


Of course not. You have to write your book. I'm just trying to get you to diffuse your envy and turn it into a learning experience.

What if I Just Don't Get It and Hate the Book and Never Want To Write Anything Like That?

Then that writing style/theme/market/audience is not for you. That's fine. There are SO many opportunities and markets and styles and subgenres that you'll find your niche if you are willing to try.

Therefor, you can stop being envious of that writer! You don't want to succeed in that area anyway.

Read other books of successful authors. Find the ones you fall in love with. It's likely that those styles and subgenres are ones you connect with, and probably what you should be writing. (I say probably, because some people have a heck of a time writing what they love to read. Oh well! We all find our talent one way or another.)

One Other Thing I Should Mention about Negative Wishes, or Hoping Mega-Bestselling Author will Fall into A Well and Clear the Field for You

It doesn't happen that way.

Actually, you want mega-bestelling author to succeed.

Why? Because booksellers like sure things.

If certain types of books sell very, very well (e.g., romances; time travels; Manga; whatever) it's much more likely that your book in the same niche will be published and sell well too. Publishers and booksellers like a sure thing. I can't stress this enough. (Yes, they take chances on new things too. But warily. Sometimes new things take them by surprise. If it's your new thing, yay you!)

If you write romance, you want every romance author out there to do well. So that the romance genre will still be there when you want to publish in it!

(To make things complicated, though, never write so closely to a trend or popular subgenre that the shelf life of your career is about two minutes. That's another post!)

Other Ways to Deal

If you just can't stand that you seem to get no breaks and everyone on the Internet is talking about THIS aspiring author that they say is the Next Big Thing, and no one, but no one is paying any attention to you, and you have heartburn and can't think about anything else, let alone write your book:


Turn off the Internet.

Just. Don't. Look.

If you can't handle it, I implore you, let it go and don't participate. Obsession only loses you valuable writing time. Take all that emotion and put it into your stories!!

The Spotlight Shifts

The publishing business is fluid. One day everyone says a certain author is the Next Big Thing. The next, no one can remember her name. I've forgotten the names of many authors I swore, when I was unpubbed, would be The Next Big Thing. Everyone on the aspiring author loops were sure of it. They were the darlings of the group. Everyone ignored me, or responded to my questions with condescending dismissal.

Guess what happened?

Yep. Here I am a multipubbed author making a nice living, while most those people gave up.

Sometimes the spotlight is on me. When I won a Rita. When I hit USA Today for the first time. When I was headlining the Immortals series. When Madness of Lord Ian came out.

Right now, no one can be paid to care. I'm not doing anything interesting right now. (To the world. To me, I'm busier than I've ever been!)

Some of my books get hoopla. Some of my books get ignored.

It is the way of publishing.

I'm saying this so aspiring authors realize that the spotlight shifts. When it's shining brightly on you, be gracious, lap it up, do your best to thank people who are shining it on you.

When it's not on you, breathe a sigh and get back to work!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From Nothing to Full Book

I'm guesting at Magical Musings: with a tale of how last year I had a looming deadline, a blank screen, and no story. From blocked to book. It might be inspiring. :-)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How Authors Make Money

With a lot going around the net about ebooks, piracy, advances vs. royalties and things of that nature, I thought it would be a good idea to lay out exactly how authors earn money and how much (or little). From what I've seen around and surveys I've read, there's a bit of confusion among authors and readers both.

Basically authors earn money BY THE SALES OF NEW BOOKS IN RETAIL OUTLETS (Borders, B&N, Walmart) OR IN RETAIL EBOOK STORES (e.g., Kindle, Fictionwise, B&N, Sony, etc..). With possible income supplements I outline below.


I could end my post here. But I like to talk so I'll do more explaining.

Here's where you can find print books and ebooks for sale and what each means to the author:

1. Retailers who carry NEW books ordered from the publisher (sometimes via wholesalers/distributors like Ingrams, Baker & Taylor, Anderson Merch, Levy, among others). These include: Borders, B&N, independent booksellers who stock new books (not just used), Target, Walmart, drug chains, grocery stores, and the like.

Authors make: Royalties on the cover price, anywhere from 4% to 8% on mass markets, 7.5% on trades, 10% or so on hardbacks.

Sales: Mass markets: anywhere from a couple thousand to a couple hundred thousand; Trades: anywhere from a couple thousand to 50K; Hardbacks: Anywhere from a couple thousand to 50-75K. (This is the average author. Huge blockbuster authors like Nora Roberts or Stephanie Meyer sell much more, but most authors never become blockbusters and sell more moderately.)
Benefits to author: Author gets paid royalties. (twice a year or yearly)

Drawbacks to author: Books, esp. hardback and trade are expensive for readers. Distribution might be spotty--her/his books might only make it to a few chain bookstores and indies, in which case the number of sales will be drastically lower.

2. Ebook retailers who order directly from the publisher: Amazon Kindle, B&N's new e-store, Fictionwise, Sony, and others.

Authors make: Well, there's a bit of fluctuation going on. About half the publishers right now are giving authors royalties on the cover price (percent varies wildly; I do mean wildly, not widely); about half publishers are trying to give authors royalties on the "net proceeds" (which means after all expenses are subtracted, authors get paid. Bad, bad, bad for authors. What if there's nothing left after expenses are subtracted?)

Sales: At this point, the percentage of ebook sales to print sales (from major print publishers) is small.

Benefit to author: Another area of distribution, and author gets paid royalties. (Twice a year or yearly)

Drawback to author: Ebook readers are expensive, not all readers are comfortable with the technology, readers dependent on the site having no glitches at the time they want to purchase. Not all publishers are making their books available as ebooks.

3. Ebook publishers selling new ebook originals directly from their websites (e.g., Ellora's Cave, Samhain, LooseId).

Authors make: Again, varies by publisher. Royalties are about 35-40 percent of cover price, but some try to pull that net proceeds thing.

Sales: In one month, anywhere from a handful (at the smallest pubs) to several thousand (at the larger epubs). Sales can continue at a lesser rate (from a handful to a couple hundred a month) for years.

Benefit to author: Author gets paid royalties, usually quarterly or monthly.

Drawback to author: Readers must go directly to publisher website. Again, glitches when reader tries to purchase will send reader elsewhere.

4. Print publishers (Penguin, Dorchester, Kensington, St. Martins, eHarlequin) selling directly from their website.
Authors make: Royalties on cover price (usually 4-8% on mass markets; 7.5 on trades; 10 and up on hardbacks.

Benefit to author: Author gets paid royalties.

Drawback to author: Print publishers don't get very many direct sales (from my royalty statements, I get only a handful.) Most readers purchase from larger online retailers or bricks and mortar retailers.

5. Book clubs (i.e., Doubleday, Rhapsody, publisher's own book clubs).

Authors make:
a) From their own publisher's book club, a royalty on cover price (usually a reduced royalty; 4% of price is common)

b) From big book clubs (e.g., Doubleday): A flat fee (usually small) that the big book club pays directly to the publisher.

Sales: Varies depending on book club, etc. If you sell the book club rights for a flat fee, that means NO royalties, and you don't always know the sales figures. Publisher-owned book club: varies depending on publisher.

Benefits to author: Another distribution point to find new readers.

Drawback to author: Flat fee is usually small / smaller royalty percentage.

6. Secondary rights (movie options, foreign rights /translation sales)

Authors make: Fee, which is often split 50/50 with the publisher (unless the contract specifies otherwise). Fees can range anywhere from $1500 to five and six figures (but the top end is rare, even for movie options). Sometimes authors get royalties, depending on how contract is written.

Sales: Who knows? Much of this is flat-fee based--you are selling the rights to someone else to do with your book what they wish (within certain parameters spelled out in the contract).

Benefit to author: Income plus more distribution.

Drawback to author: Fees are usually smaller than you think. Even movie options can be $10K or less. (An "option" is an agreement for you to take the movie/TV rights for the book off the market. No guarantee the movie/show will ever be made. If movie/show is made, what authors make is dependent on how that contract reads.) Translation rights can be purchased but the book might never be published. Waters tricky to navigate without an agent.

7. Libraries: Public and school libraries that purchase books directly from the publisher or wholesaler (e.g., Baker & Taylor).

Authors make: Royalties on cover price of LIBRARY's purchase. Authors do NOT make royalties when the book is checked out. (E.g., if a library buys five books and each book is checked out 100 times (500 checkouts total), author gets royalties for FIVE sales only.)

Sales: Varies from library to library based on library budgets.

Benefit to author: Readers might "discover" an author in the library and then buy that author's books new. If books are popular, libraries will buy more copies of the author's next book.

Drawback to author: Not all libraries order an author's book (depending on genre, author popularity, and library budget). Potential loss of income.

8. Used book stores (including eBay): Stores that mainly sell books acquired through customers who bring in books for trade and from purchasing from other used book sellers.

Authors make: Zero (no royalties are paid to authors because bookstores do not pay publishers.)

Sales: ??

Benefits to author: Readers might "discover" an author in the UBS and then buy that author's books new. UBS owners are usually avid readers and can be incredibly supportive to authors.

Drawback to author: Books might be difficult for readers to find. Loss of income when the book is still available new, and more copies are bought used than new.

9. Remainder bookstores: Publishers sell off remaining copies of new books from their warehouse to free up space.

Authors make: Zero

Sales: ??

Benefits to author: Readers might "discover" an author and then buy that author's books new.

Drawback to author: Loss of income, loss of face (books are remaindered if they're not selling well), possible loss of career.

10. Pirate ebooks sites: Readers scan or decode ebooks/files and post them free on sites.

Authors make: Zero

Benefit to author: Possible that reader will read book free and "discover" the author.

Sales: None. Some sites post how many times the book has been downloaded.

Drawback to author: Files can be downloaded hundreds and thousands of times (one author reported 100,000 downloads of one of her books from one site). Loss of income. Copyright infringement.

As you can see, from the many places books are available authors make income from about half of them. Authors can make extra money from secondary rights sales, but many authors never get offered secondary sales.

Authors make most of their money ONLY from royalties on new book sales. Advances aren't salaries; they are advances against SALES. If a publisher offers an author 100K for 3 books (about 33K a book), then they are expecting the author to make enough sales to earn back $33K before the authors sees another penny in royalties.

(Note that an offer of $100K does not mean the publisher hands the author $100K. It means the author gets a little bit on signing the contract, another little bit each time she hands in a manuscript (which might be a year later), depending on the publisher, another little bit when the book is published. This whole process might take two years, three and more to finish the contract. So that's $100K that has to last the author for three years. Plus she has to pay her agent (if she has one) and income tax.)

I'm not here to whine about how little the average author makes or to whine about UBSs and pirate sites.

This post is meant to lay out pretty much where authors make money and how much. It does vary from author to author; each person's experience is going to be unique.

I like to say: The most consistent part of the publishing business is its inconsistency!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Small Press, Epress, Vanity--what are they?

There's been a great deal of controversy lately at RWA concerning "recognition" for publishers as well as what kind of books can be entered in the RITA contest.

While I'm not going into the controversy (I have my opinion, but it's being discussed very well elsewhere), it occurred to me that newer authors might not know what the heck they're talking about. What is meant by "non-vanity, non-subsidy" press? What's an e-publisher? What's the difference between small press and e-press, and what does it mean when people talk about "New York"?

Vanity press: Vanity publishing is different from self-publishing. In vanity publishing, you send your ms. and a sum of money to the publisher, who then does all the editing (if any), creates the cover, prints the book, and sends you back a carton or twenty of published, bound books. There is no "acquisition" process--anyone can publish at these presses as long as you pay (some are fairly inexpensive; some can run into thousands and thousands of dollars.) Vanity press can be useful if you want to publish your great-grandmother's diary or your child's picture book as a gift for family members (some presses specialize in "gift books"). If you dream of becoming a big-name, NYT novelist, this is not the way to go.

Subsidy press: Subsidy is much like vanity publishing although the press might pick up some of the costs (e.g., it pays an editor but you pay for the cover and the printing.)

Self-publishing: Self-publishing differs from vanity press because you are essentially becoming a publishing company. You pay for everything, yes, but it's in your hands to hire an editor, hire a proofreader, hire a printer, design the cover or hire a cover artist, and decide how to market it. Self-publishing works well with books that will sell to niche audiences--regional cookbooks, regional histories, how-tos, etc. (mostly nonfiction). Self-published authors have been quite successful, although I think it's a rare author who is successful in self-published fiction. It can be done, but it's rare. Most readers looking for fiction hit Walmart or B&N.

In these three types of publishing, self-publishing is the most respected. Tip: If you have vanity-published a book, never mention that in a query letter to an agent or editor, unless it's become an NYT bestseller (which is not very likely).

Note also that with these types of publishing options, you must distribute, market, and sell the book yourself. If you are fantastic at hand-selling, love to get out with the public and press your book into as many hands as you can, you go for it. It's not for me, but some people are good at it.

E-press: E-publishing has been around for ten or so years now, and now every major publisher has started putting out their list in e-. When someone talks about an e-publisher or e-pub, they mean publishing houses who release e-book originals, bringing a print copy out months later in a secondary process. They sell the e-books from their own website or partner with distribution points like Fictionwise, Sony, Kindle, and the like.

Examples of highly successful e-book publishers are Ellora's Cave, Samhain, and Loose ID (pronounced "Lucid"). I submitted a ms. to an e-publisher about five years ago to see what it was all about, and was pleasantly surprised at both the income and the quality of the press. (The submitted book is still selling, btw). Please note that all e-presses are not created equal. Before you submit to e-presses, purchase their books, look over their website, talk to authors who write for them, ask questions about their contracts. Object strenuously to contracts that pay royalties on "Net Receipts". Or get an agent and let her object strenuously for you. Stick to your guns on this or don't be surprised if you get ripped off.

Small Press: When most people say "small press," they mean presses that print a limited run of nicely bound hardback books. Small presses can be quite prestigious. Poisoned Pen press, a mystery publisher, has produced novels that win top mystery awards and have been optioned for TV mini-series. Avalon press and Walker are well-known in the library industry, and produce quality titles. Small presses don't pay very high advances ($1000 is typical), nor are their print runs large (2000-10,000 is typical). However, small presses can then sell mass market rights to a larger house, getting you more distribution and more $$. Small presses usually cater to a niche market (e.g., the mystery genre; library market; nonfiction only; etc.). I've not published with small press, but authors tell me they have a homey, intimate atmosphere.

NY House: When people refer to a "NY House" or simply "New York," they mean the big dogs of the publishing industry with big offices in New York City: Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, HQ/Sil, Simon & Schuster, as well as a few independent houses like Dorchester and Kensington. NY pubs can pay million dollar advances and get your book shelved in every supermarket, bookstore, library, and mass merchandiser in the country and around the world. Note that they can also pay you $1000 and send 20,000 books to a few bookstores only. The NY House is where the big distribution happens, where the big money rolls around, and where authors get famous. My biggest advice about NY: Get an agent. You can sell a book without one, but please have someone by your side after that!

Another thing to remember: While small press and e-press (and even self-publishing) can be a stepping stone to a NY House, please realize that vanity/subsidy press is not. It's a rare, rare, rare, rare occurrence for a vanity author to make it. I'm sure everyone can point to one instance where it's happened (that's what "rare" means). Point to twenty or thirty, and I might start believing.

And one more thing:

It's perfectly fine to want a career in small press or e-press! I know authors who are happy as clams writing for two or three e-presses or sticking with their small press. Writing isn't always about money and glamour. And you can make money at an e-press (Hint: The key is backlist.)

I think I've covered the bases here--if not, or you have questions, let me know!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Writing for Multiple Publishers

Hey all. Sorry for the weeks with no posting--I was writing and revising a novel due July 1, and since turning it in have been trying to find my head.

Alexis asked: "2)How do you juggle multiple publishing houses? Not in regards to getting the books written, but on the relationship side? Do you keep it to one genre or sub-genre per each house? Does one of them ever try to get you exclusively? How does that all work?"

I am amazed at the number of authors who write for two, even three, houses nowadays. I know authors who write for Dorchester and HQ/Sil; Dorchester and Kensington; Berkley and HQ/Sil; Berkley and St. Martin's; Berkley and Dorchester. And that's just off the top of my head early in the morning.

It has become increasingly common not to be "exclusive" to one publisher. This is especially true in the midlist, where advances and print runs can be low, and authors want to gain the most exposure they possibly can.

Things to keep in mind:

1. Be very careful about the language in your contract. Publishers have an "option" clause, which means that you must submit your next work to them before offering it to others. Now, this option clause can be worded to your liking. The standard wording is "Next book-length work" (meaning anything you write, even a cookbook). Your agent can get that changed to: "Next book-length historical romance by Alexis ..."

For example, I submitted my historical mystery series to Berkley even though I'd been picked up for romances at Dorchester, because Dorchester didn't publish cozy historical mysteries (at that time), and Berkley had the Prime Crime line which specialized in it. Likewise, I submitted my erotic romance to Berkley, because again, they had the line, and Dorchester didn't. Both times I took a different name (Ashley Gardner and Allyson James), both because I was asked to, and because to me, it signals to readers better what kind of book they're going to get. Also, I published with an e-publisher, doing category length erotic romance, when no one in NY was doing it. (Note: e-publishers too have started putting option clauses in their contracts, which weren't there when I started.)

I know of an author who has her option clauses written very carefully so she can publish different subgenres at different houses of her choice, under one name. In fact, most of the authors I know who write for more than one house don't take psuedonyms. When I started, I was rather naive, and I didn't know I could have my option clause so tightly worded that I could take my name elsewhere.

So, if you do wish to publish at more than one house, make sure you read your option clause carefully, and tell your agent exactly how you want it worded. Change option clauses to your advantage, as much as you can. (But be flexible--give and take is better than rigid demands).

2. At some point, a publisher will want you exclusively. A couple of authors I know of who published at two different houses are now exclusive to one. If the publisher wants that, in my opinion, they need to pay for it. It is not to your advantage to write for one house exclusively if you're still getting $5K to $10K advances. You will be tied to their scheduling, and if your books come out too far apart, your income will not be good, and in this reading climate, readers will forget about you!

Now, when a publisher "wants" you, they might be signalling a willingness to publish you well (i.e., good advances, scheduling your books fairly rapidly, good marketing push for your books). They might be investing in growing you. (Or not! You have to be careful. :-) )

It can be an advantage to be exclusive at one house (the "investment" in you). But until you're a guaranteed lead with guaranteed big print runs, in my opinion, it's a good idea to try different arenas.

3. That all said--if you don't think you can juggle two publishers, DON'T! You will find yourself on a crazy schedule, tying to finish two books at once, trying not to make what you write for each house too similar so you don't violate your option clauses, being bombarded with revisions on two books at once. It can be a nightmare.

I hope that answers your questions. In my humble opinion, writing for multiple houses is a great advantage for the midlist and beginning author. You have more exposure to more audiences, and can build a strong base, so that when you are asked to be exclusive (and paid well to be), then your audience is established, and you can move up well. That's the theory, anyway! :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Character creation

I received some good questions on my request for blog topis, and I'll answer each one. I'll start with Laura's on characterization:

Laura wrote: "That leads me to wonder how you go about creating a character. Do you sit down before writing a book and write profiles of each character and how he or she would react to certain situations?"

I'm sure every author has a different technique of character development--what works for some authors doesn't work for others. For instance, some writers use character charts or index cards to keep track of who their characters are and what they look like.

That doesn't work for me, because I lose charts or forget to look at them. That's just my special style. :-)

My answer to the question is two-part:

1. Do I write profiles of each character: Yes, but...

2. Do I write out how he or she would react to certain situations? No.

Character Profiles

I do write down notes about my characters, but I don't have anything so organized as a notebook or charts or whatnot.

I find it helps enormously for me to write autobiographies for certain characters either before I start or shortly thereafter (I start the book when when I emotionally *need* to start it--the idea grips me so hard I have to write it before I explode. And, um, deadlines creeping up on me force the issue as well.)

I write biographies or autobiographies of my main characters: in romance, the hero and heroine. In mystery, the main protagonist.

I like to start with when they were born and who their parents were. What kind of people were their parents? Rich? Poor? Prominent? Nobodies? Were they happy people or miserable? Does he have good memories of his childhood or only terrible ones?

What were some events in the hero's childhood that marked him? In the case of Madness of Lord Ian, of course, it was his father's abuse that bordered on violence, and being shut away for being "different," plus what he suffered as experimental "treatments" in the asylum. But also he had memories of his oldest brother, Hart, who always looked after him, and no matter what their later differences, the oldest and youngest brothers of the Mackenzie family share a special bond.

As another example, I had a pirate character in an earlier book with several life-shaping moments--when he watched his father be killed, and when he decided to take charge of bringing up his illegitimate half-sister.

Those events will make the character become who he is, as will his social and economic background.

I'm brainstorming a novella right now in which I'm not sure who the heroine "is." The hero was mentioned in another book (his brother was the hero), so I know a lot about him already, but the heroine is an enigma. I haven't even decided whether she will be a "normal" or supernatural character.

I'm mostly visualizing these characters in my head, which is how I always start the characterization process, not writing anything down until I've replayed things in my brain several times. But soon I will start writing out the heroine's biography, and the decisions I make about her will shape the plot. Her decisions (and the hero's) will drive the story.

2. Do I write out how he or she would react to certain situations? No.

I say no to this question because I'm not a big pre-plotter/planner. I wait for the situations to come up in the book, then I channel my character and basically record what he/she says and does, plus of course the reactions of the other characters to them.

This is where the character bio comes in handy, because it's already made me get deep inside the character so I can channel him or her.

That doesn't always mean I get it right the first time! I always read through my drafts two or three times, and I'll think: "That character would never say that," or "She would never use that expression." I make changes accordingly.

The draft gets out the bare bones of my story and characterization, then the second draft fleshes it out and establishes the characters more firmly.

That's not to say that I don't think writing out how a character will react to situations is a bad idea. It might be a great way to get to know them. A similar method is a "character interview" I've seen some writers use, to ask their characters all kinds of pointed and difficult to answer questions. Not only are their answers telling, but also whether or not the character is comfortable answering.

Whatever method you choose, I believe it's very important to get deep into your characters' heads, know where he/she came from and what happened to them earlier in life. Think about them, daydream them, live with them, dream about them, let them blog, grill them... Whatever it takes. :-)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

All right....any requests?

I need to post here again, and I am drawing a blank on topics. I'm contemplating writing about what "being published" means (more than having a book in print), professional jealousy (how to keep it from destroying you, and even how to make it help you), and... I either have too many things to say or nothing at all.

Any requests? Any questions? Feel free to post in the comments and I'll see if I can come up with a post about it!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's All About Control

Oh my goodness gracious. I haven't posted a while here, because my life suddenly went berserk.

Not only did I have a book release this May, but it generated all kinds of amazing buzz, plus I've been trying to market it a bit (writing blogs right and left).

Plus there have been icky distribution problems (Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is well stocked at B&N and Wal-mart! Please support them!)

And on top of that.... Page proofs, then copy edits, then more page proofs, plus a ms. or two to finish and submit.

I never knew being an author was this crazed.

I feel like Yoda saying: If you're not afraid now... you will be.

Anyway, it's been an exercise in learning what an author can control, and what she/he can't.

What you can control:

1. Writing your book.

2. Being professional (doing your job; whether that means turning around your copyedits on time, doing market research to find a publisher/agent; showing up to promote your book, etc.)

3. Taking care of yourself.

What you can't control:

1. Distribution (see "icky" above)

2. Print run of your book (despite the happy articles of the romance market going up; still there are problems with orders and returns, and booksellers are ordering fewer books).

3. Where your book is placed and in what stores.

4. Your cover. (Authors have some say in covers; but more and more publishers are refusing to give authors cover approval.)

5. Reviews. Ya sends out the review copies, and ya takes your chances.

6. Word of mouth. Either readers will like it and tell their friends... or they will not (and tell their friends).

7. Distributors going out of business. Anderson News closing their doors in February was a huge blow to the publishing industry.

8. Bookstore returns. Almost all bookstores decided, at the same time, to get rid of excess inventory, which meant massive returns to publishers. What will this do to authors' sell through (percentage of sales to books printed)? I shudder to think.

As you can see, there is a lot in the publishing industry authors can't control at all. I am not going to pretend it doesn't suck. It truly does suck!

What can we do?

1. It comes back one more time, to writing the best book you can. Cream does rise even with all the many, many problems that have suddenly cropped up in the industry.

2. Get a team of people on your side to get you through. Writing really doesn't happen alone. We like to think we're individual geniuses, but the truth is, it takes a village to become happily published.

A good team can consist of: a great agent; a supportive critique partner or group; an assistant (I don't have a full-time one; though I do have a part-time long-distance assistant who helps with my website and reminds me to enter contests and so forth). Friends--both authors who get what you're going through, and non-writers, who can pull you out of your mad obsession for a few minutes.

Gather your team and give them chocolate.

Take care of yourself and feed your creativity.

Pay attention to what's going on in the marketplace, and don't walk blindly into publication ("I got published; my career is now perfect.")

Stay sane.

I can't say "you'll be fine," but you might just survive. :-)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What a Writer Really Does to Celebrate a Release

I'm slacking here (I know), but I tell a bit about why, and how I get to celebrate my fabulous release week here:

Friday, April 17, 2009

How many books does a NYT bestseller sell?

I plan to do another post on Monday, but for now, I'll turn you over to Lynn Veihl who reveals the numbers of her NYT bestseller from last July.

In the interest of full disclosure, her print and sales numbers look much like mine have for several of my recent books. Which tells me that making the NYT list is not so much about the number of copies sold but at the velocity at which they're sold and reordered.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon: Egg on Face

Read about the whole Amazon kerfluffle here:

Monday, April 6, 2009


Every year Romance Writers of America announces its slate of finalists for the RITA award, given to the best romances of the year.

And every year there is a deluge of controversy (some years more than others). There are also questions--what is a RITA? Who is Rita? Why were those books picked to final? Why these categories and not those? Why are ebooks excluded? (the hottest of hot buttons right now).

So here is everything you ever wanted to know about the RITA contest but were afraid to ask. (If any of the below needs correcting, please, feel free to tell me [politely...]).

1. The RITA award was established I think about twenty years ago to honor excellence in romance fiction. The award is named for Rita Clay Estrada, founding member and RWA's first president.

2. The RITA was invented to give romance some recognition. At the time, romance got zero recognition, especially category romance. Romances were often not "counted" on bestseller lists (and category still isn't). To let romance authors be recognized as having some talent, thank you, the RITA was developed.

3. Unlike the Edgars, Nebulas, and Hugos, the RITA is a contest, with an entry fee. Books may be entered by either a. the author; b. the author's publisher. (I believe anyone can enter someone else's book but I'd have to ask about that.) Most publishers enter at least some of their authors' books.

4. Non-RWA members are allowed to enter the contest, but they pay a higher entry fee.

5. The entire contest is limited to 1200 entries.

6. Judges are authors who have a. joined RWA, and b. are in the Published Author Network (PAN). Judges may NOT judge a category in which they are entered.

7. Entries are broken down into categories, which are the subjects of many flame wars. In the past, categories reflected that most entries were category romances--as time passed and more and more single-title romances were published in more and more subgenres, the categories changed. Do I think the categories need more work? Definitely. The romance genre is ever-evolving. Imho, the RITA categories are always behind the power curve. I won't get into it, because, hoo boy.

8. Judges indicates the top three categories they are interested in judging and the judge gets a box of books that are a mix of those three categories. Each book is read by five judges and given a score. Judges score anywhere from six to nine books. Scores are anonymous, and are a number from 1 to 9.

9. The top scoring books in each category are finalists. I don't know how the scores are calculated or how they figure out how many finalists there are--it's math.

10. Finalists are called, names announced.

11. Another set of books are sent to final-round judges who again score the books, and the top scorer of each category is the winner.

12. Winners are announced at the big ceremony at RWA National, and the winner takes home a shiny statue.

What does it all mean--why are RITAs such a big deal?

The RITA contest is a peer-judged contest, writers judging writers. It's also a level field (in theory)--books that had low print runs compete against books that are mega bestsellers. Few readers might not have even seen a book with a 15K print run that sat on the shelves for three weeks, but that doesn't mean it was a bad book. The RITA gives that author the chance for some recognition. RITA winning does not necessarily mean bestselling. Bestsellers are a different ball of wax (read some of my previous entries on how a book becomes a bestseller).

Why do authors care so much?

Because of that peer review. We not only want to please readers, we want other writers, people who share our profession, to think we're good too!

Why should readers care?

It's up to readers whether they care or not. The RITA represents the best romances--that were qualified to enter in a certain year of people who bothered to enter. Many authors vehemently don't enter the contest, others vehemently do, others can go either way.

Do you enter, Jennifer?

I do. What the heck? I might win and get a pretty statue. Which is how I ended up with the one in 2007 (shown above). My publishers put a line on my book cover, and we sing la la la.

Do I think some books are unfairly excluded?

Yes, I do. See my above statment about the genre ever-evolving and how the contest needs to keep up. Also method of delivery is evolving (of course I'm talking about ebooks).

I won't go into all that controversy, because it's covered well elsewhere, plus I just don't wanna. Too much stress. The RITA is problematic and problems need to be fixed. Granted.

But there you have it. More about the contest rules can be found on the RWA National website ( under Contests & Awards.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Leah Hultenschmidt blogs

My editor at Dorchester, Leah Hultenschmidt, is blogging at Ninc today. Good questions about submitting, getting published, the industry today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Writer's Block... Excuse me, Writer's Attitude

I've been promising a long time I would write about writer's block.

I've procrastinated by finding many other things to write about, and besides, I've been busy.

Or maybe I just had writer's block about it. :-)

This is what happened to me in 2007. In the spring, I turned in a ms. (Immortals: The Gathering, if anyone wants to know), and then

I. Burned. Out.

I didn't want to write anything. For any reason. I turned to reading, went to conferences, got check-ups, cleaned out my house, taught other people how to get published.

This wasn't just procrastination. I had another book due that summer, but any time I sat down to do it... I had nothing.

One big empty blank.

And I didn't care.

I told myself I was watching my career slip away. I told myself I was a wimp. I promised myself all nice kinds of things if I would just get the next ms. done.

I still couldn't write. Oh, I'd might get an idea and sit down and type a page or two, then the computer would be idle for days.

If I had two or three years to write a book, this wouldn't be a problem. I had three months.

And I couldn't be paid to care.

(Actually, I was being paid to care... I'd gotten an advance for signing the contract. But I didn't care.)

By the way, I never call it Writer's Block. I call it Writer's Attitude. If I can trick it, you see, I might be able to conquer it.

Exciting things happened while I had my Writer's Attitude. I made the USA Today Bestseller list for the first time. I was nominated for a Rita. I WON the Rita.

It was wonderful! The stress of the excitement also added to my burnout.

And then... my deadline was less than a month away. Panic set in. What did that do? Yes, made things worse.

It was horrible. Some days I hated myself. Other days, I just didn't care.

My deadline was looming. And guess what I got to reward myself with after that book was done? Yes, another book. In fact, I had deadlines all the way up to Sept. of 2008 by that time.

Don't think that didn't add another stone to the big weight around my neck.

Obviously, I got through it, because the book I blocked, Highlander Ever After, did get finished, turned in, published. The next book, which also terrified me, got finished, turned in, published (it came out last month).

I'm sure what everyone wants to know is how I got through the block.

I'm not blocked now (knock on wood). The joy came back. It's still here. I'm booked solid until mid-2010 with writing now. Yay!

How I Got Through Writer's Attitude without Losing My Job or My Mind

1. I know: I should have stopped beating myself up and started giving myself positive messages (it's ok to be blocked, relax, if you don't want to write, don't stop yourself doing something else.)

I flunked Positive Messaging. I beat myself up the whole ride.

2. I couldn't trick my muse (or give it positive messages). So I tricked the left side of my brain, the non-creative one.

Tricks that worked:

Taking laptop (without Internet) to a coffee house or library, and making myself write X number of pages. No leaving until they were done. I could write anything, as long as it had something to do with the novel that needed to get done.

Getting plenty of sleep. Stress is exhausting, and you can't write when you're exhausted.

Exercising. See sleep.

Cutting back on committments that have nothing to do with writing (conference appearances, volunteering, speaking). I like to "give back", but I was doing so at the cost of my own creativity.

Tricking the Right Brain

I still had to get my muse going so I had something to say when I was rested, in shape, and had freed up my time.

1. I let myself be a bad writer. I never believe that what I write is brilliant; I always believe it's crap. I feared that now I was a "bestseller" and a "RITA winner," had to be brilliant. People told me that all this meant I was already wonderful, but I had sold the books/won the prize for books I'd written nearly two years before. Who says I could do it again?

I allowed myself to be bad--or actually neutral--until I got the words on a page. To paraphrase Nora Roberts: you can fix bad writing, but you can't fix a blank page.

2. I fed my muse. I indulged in books I loved, watched DVDs, did non-writing creative things like music and art.

3. I looked for wisdom from other authors. One author (and I'm sorry, I can't now recall who it was), suggested this exercise:

Write a scene that you won't turn in, that you won't show anyone. Make it as erotic or dramatic, or whatever, as you want. Let yourself go. Never, ever show this scene to anyone! No one will judge it; no one will see it. Do whatever you feel, without inhibition.

This one helped me a lot. As I wrote my scene (which nooooo one gets to read, evah), I felt the walls I had built between myself and my stories crumble and fall.

I read it back--it was good! It had that heart-squeezing, gut wrenching emotion I had completely blocked from myself. (But no, no one gets to see it.)

I realized how inhibited I had gotten: I thought I had to be briliant all the time. Result: I second-guessed every word, every scene, every line. I worried so much about everything I wrote that I couldn't write anything.

When I wrote that scene I wasn't going to turn in, would never be published, would never be seen even by my husband . . . suddenly it was all about the story, the characters in that room, and the feeling.

The head shut up, and the heart came back.

So, I'm hoping that sharing these thoughts might help someone else break through.

The happy ending for me was: When I was halfway through the book after the burnout book, the joy of writing came back. I just went for it, let my heart tell the story. My editor loved it, RT gave it a fantastic review, and it's selling well.

If anyone else wants to share how they got through writer's block, please do!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Writing Lean (gacked from my editor)

My editor runs a terrific and informative blog over at She had a good post the other day about slimming your writing:

A couple spoke to me especially (Leah in quotes; my comments in brackets):

"--Avoid explanatory dialogue – characters shouldn’t explain things they would obviously know just for the sake of the reader. Find another way to include the information."

[This drives me nuts. I see this on TV a lot too--the characters discussing what happened between the climactic scene and the denoument: "Wasn't it lucky that so-and-so happened by in his truck to pick us all up so we didn't have to walk home after killing the bad guy? Especially since it was raining."]

"--Be wary of a lot of gazing. It’s not very action-oriented. Most readers will follow the story without it." [OK, I DO THIS!!! I try to trim it out in the final draft.]

"--Simplify as much as possible. I can’t tell you many times I’ve changed “She moved her head up and down in agreement” to “She nodded.”"

[And I think we don't need as many nods and head shakes as we put in. I know I delete many!]

"--Avoid dialogue tags that repeat the words just said. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. Or “I agree,” he concurred. Really, “said” is just fine."

[I sweat A LOT over dialog tags--most aren't necessary at all. The action and the dialog itself should tell you who's speaking. But then, sometimes you do have to keep the reader clued in to who just said what (esp. if there are many people in the scene.) It's a tricky balance.

My favorite solution is {Short action sentence. "Dialog."} or {"Dialog." Short action sentence. "Dialog."} Again, if you do that every time, it's clunky. I read my dialogs over and over again, fine tuning until I find the right balance of tags.]

Another quirk that bugs me is the overuse of name-calling in dialog--as in this imaginary conversation between me and my sweetie:

How are you today, Jennifer?
Not too bad, Forrest.
So, Jennifer, do you want to go out to dinner tonight?
Forrest, I thought you'd never ask.
Great, Jennifer, what time do you want to go?

I'm exaggerating a little, but I have seen things very close to this in published novels. No one speaks to each other in this fashion. You say a person's name to get their attention or for emphasis, then you talk without names. Same with endearments--they're sweet, but if the hero says it every time he opens his mouth, it's a bit much.

Check out Leah's blog for more slimming tips. (Scroll down to the entry; it was a couple of days ago.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thoughts on Novellas

A few weeks ago, an author friend expressed that it was harder to write a novella (about 25,000 words or 100 double-spaced pages) than to write a novel (about 100,000 words or about 400-450 pages).

I just now put the finishing touches on a Christmas novella that will come out in October and--she's right!! Since November, I've written two novellas (both for Xmas anthos for next year), and one short story (for the Mammoth Book of Vamp Romance II).

Within a tight space, you have to get deep characterization; a feasible plot with beginning, middle, and end; an emotionally satisfying romantic plot (in Romance); and enough detail to flesh out the story without going overboard.

It's a good exercise in "less is more." In novels you have a little time to explore the character's deep, dark past and how they got to where they are now. In novellas, you still have to explore the character, but in a few short bursts here and there (a pithy paragraph in this scene, a few lines of pivotal dialog in that one.)

It took me four intense weeks to write this one, and I'm exhausted!

I have gotten excellent reviews on past novellas (even ones I thought weren't that great), so maybe I know what I'm doing more than I think I do.


Now it's back to novels, which I hope I can remember how to write. Plus go through the copyedits of the novel I turned in back in November. Maybe I'll go through that and remind myself what novels are.

Speaking of novellas, I had one come out Tuesday in Immortals: The Reckoning. That one took me about six weeks.

I used to write entire novels in six weeks! It takes me longer now--I spend much more time rewriting and polishing than I used to. I can't tell if that's because I'm more picky in my rewrites, or my drafts have gotten so bad it takes me longer to go through them.

Both, possibly.

But, whew, I'm done with the novella and can return to the two new paranormal series I'm starting, one for each name. Fun stuff.

Rejection--It's Not the End

I came across this agent blog, where agent humbly confesses how she let a good one get away. It's a nice perspective on why rejection should not ruin your day (or your week/month/year/life).

Good reading while I finish about 30 projects . . . (feels like 30 anyway; is probably closer to 15).


Friday, January 23, 2009

How It Isn't Done

Susan Wiggs has done an excellent send up of the publication process on her blog:

Watch and enjoy. (For the humor challenged--it's a joke.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't . . . and Michael Palin

A happy historic inauguration day to all!

Am proud of myself for writing 2400 words today, even with inauguration watching, lunch out, and finishing up reading a book.

The book I finished was Michael Palin's Diaries, The Python Years. I picked it up at first because I'm a big Python fan, but I highly recommend it to anyone who's ever wanted to be (or already is) a professional writer (novels, plays, television, or movies).

It's an interesting inside story of a writer's life, and I found amusing parallels in it to my own writing life (excepting the whole being rich and famous, hosting SNL, and hanging out with rock stars thing). I'm always amazed how much in common all writers have, whether they're making millions of dollars or happy when they sell 20K books, whether they're writing Pulitzer Prize winning literary fiction or scifi romance.

The second half of this post is a list I put together for a recent workshop. I was inspired by a book of Victorian etiquette entitled: "Don't"

Here are my "Don'ts" for writers:

Don’t—Expect a writing career to happen overnight. Writing a quality novel takes time, selling it takes time, having it published and released takes time.

Don’t—Email a proposal or book to an agent or editor without being very sure they take email submissions! (Most epublishers, of course, take email submissions.)

Don’t—Send a romance or mystery novel to an agent who doesn’t represent romance or mystery novels or an editor who doesn’t acquire them. Do your research first.

Don’t—Send in a sloppy submission. Make sure you proofread your ms. carefully, use uniform margins (1 inch or 1.25 inch are standard), use a readable font (Courier or Times Roman are best), and only print one side of the page.

Don’t—Ask everyone on the Internet to spam email the publisher or agent with pleas to buy your novel. That’s a good guarantee no one will read your book.

Don’t—Wait by the mailbox (or email box) after you’ve submitted your book. Immerse yourself in another project. Agents and editors will take anywhere from one to twelve months to get back to you. No, there is no way around this; publishers/agents are overworked and understaffed. Do something constructive during that time, like write another book.

Don’t—Expect to make millions of dollars on your first book. It could happen! But in genre fiction, it’s unusual to be offered a huge contract right away. Most genre novelists start out on the low end of the scale. However, once you get started, the sky’s the limit!

Don’t—Assume you have to start small (e.g., small press or epress) before you break into large press. Anyone can break into large press. Publishing with small press first is just one way in.

Don’t—Assume you have to publish with a large press. If small press or epublishers make you happiest, stay with them.

Don’t—Give up! Writing is a profession in which the persistent succeed. It’s difficult, it’s discouraging, it’s easy to find excuses to stop. Talent is good, but persistence moves you to your goals.