Posts Tagged ‘author’

Congratulations to our resident blogger Sybil Nelson for winning The Strongest Start Competition at TheNextBigWriter.com with her middle grade entry, Priscilla the Great. She also has a movie deal for it. Now all she needs a publisher to realize the awesomeness of Priscilla The Great.

To get a sense of Priss’s voice, check out her blog Prissy Fit and the way-cool Priscilla The Great website. You can also get Twin Shorts FREE, a short story collection about Priscilla’s devil twin brothers written by Priscilla via the masterful pen of  Sybil The Great Nelson.

~ CV


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Please welcome our guest blogger, K.L. Brady, author of The Bum Magnet. I asked her to share her story, since she has such a cool one.

K. L. Brady is a D.C. native but spent a number of her formative years in the Ohio Valley. She’s an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively. She works as an analyst for a major government contracting firm and is an active real estate agent with Exit Realty by day—and writes by night (often into the wee hours of the morning). She lives just outside of D.C. in Cheltenham, Maryland, with her son, William, and two pet Betta fish, Spongebob and Jerry, and lives to eat chocolate, shop, read, and write.

How My Publishing Deal Found Me…

Some say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I probably wouldn’t consider myself “lucky” any other way.

A few short months ago I was offered a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster on the first novel I ever wrote. Authors go years and years waiting for the fortuitous “break” to happen—sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. So, I’m often asked what was the secret ingredient? Karla, how you did get an editor to notice your novel? The easy answer is, “I dunno!”
The complex answer is I prepared like hell for opportunity, and when it came, I was ready.

For those who may not be aware, I self-published my debut novel, The Bum Magnet officially in October 2009, after fruitlessly trying to find literary representation. By February 2010, an executive editor at a publishing house had expressed interest in my book. A month later, I had an agent, and within another month I had a deal.

So, how did I prepare?

1. I wrote a pretty good book. It’s commercial which, in short, means the editors think it has the potential to sell a lot of copies. In all the letters I received back from editors, rejections or expressing interest, nearly every single one said they are looking for good commercial fiction and asked my agent to send it the moment he got his hands on it.

2. I also workshopped it and had it proofread and edited pretty well. Not perfectly mind you, but pretty well. I quite frankly could not afford to get the line edit from a former editor at a publishing house like I really wanted to do. So, I opted for the cheaper manuscript review in which she read the entire manuscript and gave me tips on plot, structure, pacing, etc. The suggestions she made were VERY minor, she was surprised that it required so little—but this was after it had been workshopped on TheNextBigWriter.com.
3. I designed the book so that it looked professional, that includes ensuring that it had a catchy book cover. Feedback has been about 70-30 in favor of the design. Can’t please everyone…but you can try to please as many as you can.

4. I designed and implemented a comprehensive marketing strategy.
The ebook versions on Kindle and Smashwords were as much a part of my marketing strategy as they were a part of my sales strategy. I sold them for 99 cents and got them into A LOT of hands. My Amazon rankings shot up high and remained there for a long time. My priority was getting my work out there, not profit.

I promoted my book like CRAZY. Every single day, I did at least 3 to 5 marketing activities. Posted it anywhere they would allow you to post a book. Promoted everywhere I could, including on the Amazon Discussion Boards which is where I think I had the most success. I also marketed heavily to book clubs.

5. Got it reviewed. I sent it out to book blogs, book clubs, and review sites and requested reviews. Among the most helpful were the book clubs and the Midwest Book Review, at least I believe that’s where I got some attention.

Along came Luck…

Fast forward to sometime in early February 2010. To this day, I don’t know how she found me, but the editor from Kensington sent me an email and said that she was interested in talking about my book. Needless to say, I was over the moon. We spoke the next day for about 45 minutes or so.

The details are foggy now. I just thought it was surreal to be talking to her. She has a number of African-American NY Times Bestsellers on her list (Carl Weber, Mary B. Morrison, Mary Monroe). I knew exactly who she was and I knew the publisher well. As a matter of fact, I had sent a partial in mid 2009 but never heard from her. (For those of you not aware, you can query Kensington editors directly. You don’t need an agent.)

So, she asked me about how I got into writing, how I went about publishing my book, what kind of marketing plan I’d put together, etc. In one of the funnier moments in the conversation, she asked me if I’d queried any agents or editors. I said, “Well, as a matter of fact I sent my partial to you.”

She got quiet and I heard her fish around her desk. She had my query sitting in an envelope right in her overhead. Ha! How’s that for coincidence? Of course, she was mortified. I told her not to feel bad. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. There was a reason that she didn’t read it back then. So, she suggested she’d be making me an offer. She asked me for a copy of my manuscript and to see my two works in progress. So, I sent them to her.

I was advised to get an agent and sent a note to the editor asking if she minded. She said no. As a matter of fact, she referred an agent to me.
At that point, I knew she was serious.

I queried a few agents, including the one she recommended for me. I went on Publisher’s lunch and found agents who worked with author in similar genres. I wanted someone with experience in selling African American (AA) fiction. Within a few days I had a few that were very interested. I ended up picking the agent who represented two female best-selling AA authors who write in different genres than mine. He had great credentials (a former editor for big houses) and he knew how to sell AA fiction. I couldn’t go wrong.

He asked me to make a few edits to the manuscript. Admittedly, I was reticent only because my book was already out there. But it came down to the fact that, even though I’d sold a couple thousand copies (ebook and paperback), I hadn’t sold enough to the point where changes to the manuscript would impact millions of readers.

So, I got over myself and my few measly sales and I made the changes he suggested. He sent it out wide—meaning submitted to all the major editors at the major publishing houses that he thought would be interested. He submitted it just as he would an unpublished manuscript but in the accompanying letter, we let them know that it had been self published, received great reviews, was building word of mouth, yadda yadda yadda.

So, two weeks go by and the rejections start rolling in. After about 4 or 5 I asked if I should get depressed and he said we had a long way to go. Finally, an editor from S&S said she liked it and was passing it around. The original editor who expressed interest from Kensington was still interested and waiting on her boss to return from vacation. Then another editor from Grand Central (Hachette) expressed interest. After all the offers and counteroffers, we finally accepted the one with Pocket.

That’s pretty much the story.

To answer some of the questions I received, no one ever asked about my sales numbers until after the offers were made. I did not query anyone after I published the book. I queried before I published but not after. So, I can’t really say whether trying to query an agent or publisher after you’ve self-published will work for you. I didn’t have to query.

How do I think she found me? Well, my book had been reviewed on several sites where her authors book were also reviewed. Mine was one of the few self-published books to get a 5-star rating, “favorite,” or “top read” status. My book also stayed in the Top 100 African American fiction list on Amazon. I went through the list at the time, and I was the only book on the list that didn’t have a publisher. I’d also been reaching out to book clubs and stuff like that. So, there are a lot of ways she could’ve found out.

I was also asked why if an author, such as myself, was doing well in distributing my book and getting good reviews, why would I relinquish control and sell my rights to a publisher?

Without a whole lot of work, there is no way I could reach the audience that S&S or another major publisher could reach. It was not about the advance for me. It was about the opportunity this deal offered to build my author brand and I plan to take advantage of every perk the brand and affiliation with a house comes with to market and sell more books. As a new/first-time novelist, I also wanted the chance to work with an editor so that I can improve my craft.

So, the long and short of this story is, I didn’t really find this deal, it found me. Your deal is waiting to find you too, and it all starts with writing a good book. When opportunity knocks, just make sure you’re ready!

Thanks, K.L, for sharing your story and what worked for you. Check out the synopsis and trailer for The Bum Magnet.


Real estate agent Charisse Tyson seems to have it all-a great job, a dream car, and a McMansion in high-and-mightyville. Everything in her life is just right…except the Mister. While lamenting the break-up with her most recent “the one” during a holiday meltdown, Charisse realizes she has a type when it comes to men—players, players, and more players. A magazine article motivates her to swear off men and examine the complex roots of her romantic fiascos.

Just five simple steps to turn her life to the stuff of legends, right? Life is never that easy…  Charisse commences her do-it-yourself therapy project and barely cracks open her emotional toolbox when she encounters the monkey wrenches: an irresistible new beau, two persistent ex-flames, and an FBI agent with life-altering secrets threatening to turn her world upside-down.  A tug of war ensues and Charisse is dead center, trying her best to distinguish the Don Juans from the Romeos. As her love life is propelled into unpredictable twists not even she could imagine, will a twenty-seven-year-old secret keep Charisse from finding the right “one”?  Laugh loud and often as Charisse discovers whether her choices in men reflect more than a penchant for good looks, great sex, and bad judgment.


Thanks so much, K.L. Very informative post. I especially enjoyed the marketing aspect, which included things I hadn’t thought of.

Swing by K.L. Brady’s blog and website if you’d like to connect or learn more about her upcoming novels.

~ CV

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After a little snag in the launch date, Contraband, a romantic suspense novel by resident blogger, J.L. Campbell, is finally gracing shelves and available on Amazon. I read an early version of this book, so I can’t wait to see how it came out. I ordered my copy yesterday. You can get yours too, here.


As master of his destiny, Paul Weekes does what is necessary to survive. He makes his own fortune, but his luck nosedives when hijackers target his illicit shipments. He has no proof, but suspects the police officer who facilitates his exports off the island of Xantrope has turned on him. To make things worse, Paul’s ne’er-do-well cousin is accidentally involved in a gang murder, and a hit is put on him. A budding liaison with the cop’s niece adds more complication. Janine refuses to accept Paul’s way of life, but inadvertently becomes a victim of his lifestyle. Thrust into kidnapping, double cross and murder, Paul must choose between a relationship with Janine and staying alive long enough to change the course of his future.

Congratulations, J.L., and much success!

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There are going to be days when you’re tired, you’re uninspired, where you plain just don’t want to write. There will also be days when you would love to write your thoughts down but the phone won’t quit ringing, the toilet is leaking. These are the days when your life will just be too complicated to get any writing done.

I find that’s when my brain kicks into high gear, when I don’t have any time to indulge myself. When I have all the time in the world, I can’t write three coherent sentences. How do you work around your writing muse?

First of all, you have to train your muse like a pitbull puppy. Although they can make fine pets, you can never forget it’s a pitbull. The same goes for your muse. If you let it run wild, you’ll never get anything done.

First, you need to potty-training your muse. Don’t laugh. Do you want your muse making messes on the new carpeting? No. You must be firm but not mean. Set up a schedule to write. If possible, write every day. Pick a time when you won’t be interrupted and sit down and put words on the page. Perhaps write during your lunch break or get up forty minutes earlier to write before work. They don’t have to be great words, just words.

After awhile, your brain gets use to kicking in at a certain time of day and after several months, you can actually feeling the writing juices start to flow during your ‘writing time’. It’s just like puppy training, there will be accidents, there will be successes but the key is to be consistent.

Can’t write every day? Then set up one day a week to devote to writing, perhaps Sunday morning. The key is to be keep your schedule. It’s not going to work immediately. I’m just letting you know that. You have to work at it. There are no perfect puppies.

Leash training your muse is the next step. Be prepared. Can you walk a dog without a leash, collar, and some pre-training? No. The same goes for your muse. Keep a pen and paper in your car or your purse (or your man bag). If you have some cash, buy a little recorder. When driving or when you’re working on that leaking toilet, you can dictate your plot ideas or your cool lines of dialogue.

Don’t let your muse boss you around on the walk. You’re in charge.

The next step is obedience class. Obedience class is about socializing, networking, and improving your relationship with your muse and other writers.

Why? Isn’t writing a job of aloneness? It doesn’t have to be. Workshops and classes give you a chance to learn how to take criticism and to improve. Sometimes the lady with the poodle will constantly bait your dog. You have to learn how to deal with these kinds of people.

Maybe you can’t stand to be growled at. Get over it. You have to learn to be the best writer you can be, to see your flaws and your high points. Your muse has to learn to let yappy poodles go on their merry way. You won’t change the poodle.

In workshops and classes, you’ll also network. You’ll meet future agents, editors, blog writers and fellow novelists. You’ll learn from them ideas on how to do viral marketing, self-editing and self-promotion.

You’ll also learn how to tell someone to ‘Bite your Ass’.

And if you’ve ever tried to publish a book, you’ll know that these are skills you need.

The last thing you should know about training your muse is that you should have fun with it. You should play with it, build a relationship. Control your muse except when it’s time to let it run wild.

And if you’re good to your muse, train it well, it’ll be a loyal companion for the rest of your life. You let it be the boss and it’ll eat your sofa.

Muse Training 101.


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Yes, you heard right.  Go ahead. Hate it.

Sometimes your work really does suck.

The first book I wrote is wonderful in places, but it’s flawed in too many ways to be fixed without a major rewrite.

My MC’s 19, risky age, being too old for YA, too young for adult. And it has structural failure–the main conflict, dilemma, goal, desire, is resolved before the climax, and it should hold taut until at least that point. It also relies too much on coincidence and may break true FBI procedure. I love quality enough to know this book just isn’t publishable.

Practicing, getting your work critiqued and reading about craft & for pleasure will help you recognize the good, the bad and the ugly in your work.

When I wrote my second novel, Kings & Queens, I better understood structure. In that, readers and my MC are aware of a massacre plot in chapter 1, and the whole truth about the why, who and how is not revealed to readers or my MC until the epilogue.

Not everyone can do that, and I’m not saying you have to stretch it THAT far, but to have a hooky work—which is the best kind IMO—the big concern presented at the onset shouldn’t be resolved until as late as possible, and definitely not until the climax.

Sometimes your work IS good, but needs the perspective of others besides your mom to make it oh-so-fabulous.

Don’t be afraid of criticism. Yes, that’s your baby, and yes, you have a delicate soul, but most critters want to help you take you and your work to a higher level. Take what works for your story and ditch the rest.

Hate your work enough to be objective and at least consider that they may be right. After several people complained of things being confusing, I changed things to bring clarity.

And sometimes your work IS almost ready for shelves, but could still use another glance over.

Definitely do it. Go over it one more time, looking at everything: flow, meter, voice, grammatical errors, wordiness. I’ll probably keep toiling and tweaking until I’m signed.

With my edit this past spring spring though, in trying to get work count down, I stripped out nearly every adjective and got sentences down to bare bones, and the writing lost its sparkle and MY VOICE. Not good! So, I ended up replacing a lot of what I cut and just decided I’d reached my word count and that was that.

Well, I really need a much smaller word count. So this week, I decided to go at it again, but I set out with a different tactic. Here are the ways I was able to trim, no lie, 1300 words from my first SEVEN chapters. Yippee! And the cool thing is the scenes don’t seem any emptier. They’re not sparse or choppy. The flow is nice. I’m very happy. It’s just kind of embarrassing that I had that much to trim and didn’t see it. You can keep these tips in mind if your work is in need of a major hack-and-slash.

Ø For the most part, keep modifiers to one per noun. Slay extra extras. Removing ALL strips out color, so don’t do that. Rather, go for vivid, concise pictures. Is it really important to say his polo shirt’s blue? If he gets mistaken for someone else wearing a similar shirt, then his shirt color factors into plot. Keep it. Just consider everything, whether it’s needed or not.

Ø Choose punchy verbs over an adverb-verb combo.

Ø Omit unnecessary dialogue tags, action or anything that disrupts flow during a conversation.

Ø Examine dialogue and say the same thing in fewer words. I hacked off so much when I broke speech down to the guts.

Ø Take a machete to exposition. Since it’s the Narrator spilling info, it pulls readers from the scene and somewhat breaks POV.  Examine those scene-killers, hack away, keeping only the most vital bits.

Originally in ch. 1, I stopped to describe this hangout called Spanky’s. The info’ really wasn’t needed. I offed 75 words, keeping the one line that held some voice–a mini-golf/ice cream shop gone wild.

And chapter 4 had four paragraphs describing my character, Derek’s lousy upbringing, thought process, fears, etc. I cut 200 words and it’s now one spiffy graph. What I did keep relates to his thoughts.

Ø Do some telling. I know we’re told to show not tell, but in many cases, showing adds words. Showing is important for engagement, but if you’re a writer with 90-95 show percentage, don’t be afraid to take it down to 70%, or 80 if you’re squeamish about it.

Ø Kill your darlings. Sometimes we love the specific way we word sentences, but look at each construction with fresh eyes and think, can I convey this tighter? Be ruthless. Rewrite and reorganize sentences rather than just trimming down what you’ve got so you can maintain voice.

Ø Look for extraneous articles, prepositions, that’s, evens and other extras that can be cut off and not missed.

Ø Perform magic with better word choices. [e.g. He went up the stairs, two at a time…He whooshed up the stair…He double-stepped the stairs.]

Ø Get in some dirty talking and thoughts. Dialogue doesn’t need to be perfect English and thoughts can be broken because people don’t always think in complete sentences. [e.g. “Can’t wait for football season to start!”…or “Goin’ home?”…”Excited about your new job?”…Boss sucks!]

And people blend many, many words–gotta, wanna, kinda, sorta, hafta, should’ve, that’d (contraction for that would…That’d be okay.). Stripping out formality, when it’s fitting for the speaker, not only trims words, it helps your characters seem more real and you less stuffy.

Ø Expand your vocabulary. Sometimes a perfect, juicy word can replace two or three. [e.g. come up with v. devise.]

Ø And don’t forget to remove as many filters as you can like he saw, she could sense. Just name the stimulus or spill what the character is thinking or experiencing. [e.g. She wondered if he could read her mind. v. Could he read her mind?] If you’re firmly locked into one POV, such trims won’t be jarring at all.

Strangely, with all this excess baggage shed out of my manuscript, I feel refreshed and exhilarated, knowing my work is cleaner and overall better.

Don’t be afraid to have a love-hate relationship with your work. You’ll be a much better writer for it.

All the best!

~ CV

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Hurry Up and Wait!

How to survive the publishing industry’s waiting game.

                There’s a lot of waiting involved when you’re a first time author.

After you write the book, you have to wait while friends and fellow authors read it for editing purposes. After it’s edited to death and back again, you have to send out queries to agents and then wait for responses. After you get an agent, you then have to sit back and wait as he/she sends off queries to publishers. Then, when an editor shows interest, you have to wait for them to actually read it and pass it along to their colleagues. And for people who read books for a living, they sure do take forever to read your stuff. Take it from me. I’ve been there before with several publishers. Then, after your book is accepted for publication, I’ve read that it can take anywhere from six to twelve months before it appears in print.

Anyway, I think I just found the trick to surviving all this waiting without going crazy with impatience and self doubt while I’m waiting two, three, or four months for them to read a 200 page book.

The trick?

Planning ahead. No matter what stage you’re at, start researching and planning for the next stage as if it’s definitely going to happen. If you’re waiting for someone to edit your book, start researching agents. If you’ve sent your queries and are waiting for responses, then start researching agent contracts and what questions to ask your prospective agent before you sign.

Personally, I’m waiting to hear back from publishers so I’m planning the next phase. I’m researching what happens when a book gets accepted for publication and how I do my part for marketing. I’m building a website, coming up with a marketing plan, and writing my next book. I’ve found that planning ahead for the next stage is helping me to stay positive.

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We all strive to get our work just perfectly so, to tell a good story with well-rounded characters and some kind of grip in the plot, which is to be commended, but don’t neglect adding details that will provide a “wow” factor.

Although it’s not for everyone—as with any given novel—, the music of Pink Floyd has that “wow” factor. At first, it sounds about as trippy as Strawberry Fields but if you let the words, strange chords and unusual sounds linger for a while, you’ll see it all contains shades of sorrow and joy, irony and societal satire and commentary that is difficult to appreciate at go one. It’s not drug music at all…it’s art. And many Breaking Benjamin songs are so rich with metaphor that every listener comes away with a different meaning like their song entitled Dance with the Devil.

It has nothing to do with the actual devil. It’s just a metaphor, which could mean giving your life away to debauchery while ignoring its destruction, a loss of life or love, the inability to save a friend, turning your back on responsibilities, drug addiction. I’ve heard commentators all over the web give a different meaning for this song. Kind of funny and cool all the same.

You can infuse, braid and paint multiple layers into your works to create greater texture: secrets for the setting/town or minor characters that are uncovered little by little, codes to be unlocked, dark humor, irony, satire, themes, multi-layered metaphors, mini plots that weave in and out of your main plot.

A pro at layering is Eric Wilson, author of Dark to Mortal Eyes and Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy. He has character and prop connections in most of his books, where one minor character will be related to a character in another book or the mystery surrounding a relic in one novel is revealed in another. He also infuses his love for chess, Eastern Europe and Judaic history.

As long as the things you write flow in the story in a non-cumbersome way, it’s okay to weave in undercurrents and nods for things, tiny treasures to be unearthed by your keenest readers.

For instance, I am a Red Sox fan, so my main characters in Kings & Queens are also Red Sox fans. One of my character’s had a dog named Dewey (nn for Dwight Evans, for those who don’t know) and Carlton Fisk’s name pops up a few times (one of the best catchers ever). The two jersey numbers worn by Fisk during his career tie into the plot and I refer to Don Mattingly as being from the Evil Empire. Most readers will gloss over these details, but they’re there for savvy fans to find.

In the 80’s when Family Ties and Growing Pains were on air, Michael J. Fox and Kirk Cameron had an on-going competition with one another to see how many times they could spin in any given episode. Would any viewer even give the spinning a second thought? No. It’s a private joke between them. That’s funny and cool.

Don’t be afraid to build in those little extras. Deeper nuances, richer details and surprising angles and tie-ins will make your work much more resonating. For keen eyes and minds, your hidden jewels will make the read unforgettable.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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