Repackaging my book proposal

I understand that publishers don’t have time to respond to each book proposal individually, but wouldn’t it be handy if they could tick a box so at least we know where we are going wrong?

Did my proposal even make it to an editor?

Was it my writing experience?

Was it my first five pages? My first page? Was the synopsis not engaging enough?

Was the writing not up to scratch? Did I use a dialogue tag other than’ said’? Should I have used ‘said’ alternatives? Did I use an adverb?

Was it the covering letter/query? It was the prologue, right?

Is my book marketable?

It’s this last one that I am going to delve into today. I, by no means, have the know-how on the Literary industry. This blog is more to take you on my journey: an unpublished writer uncovering the clues as she goes along. It’s Blue’s Clues, alright. It can be downright depressing, but more than that, it’s shown me how naive I am. Who do I think I am submitting to publishers directly? Am I arrogant? Am I cocky? Am I an arrogant cock? And if you’re English, you can call someone a cock and it’s all good. Has a different meaning here of course: it’s not quite as endearing and charming as cockney English and really scary to google when you want to check your facts.

I don’t think I’m making too much of a leap from my limited knowledge base to say that publishing is a business, and like any business, they need to make money. So…

Write what you love but it needs to sell.

Don’t write to a trend – but what is trending sells.

To work out where my book fits, I have to consider:

1) Young adult, new adult or adult.

2) Paranormal romance or urban fantasy.

Combinations of 1 and 2 produce very different expectations and attract different markets. Apparently romance readers have specific requirements – this is not from me, this is what I have heard over a few panels/seminars. I can’t guess what they are because a romance reader, I am not.

When I was thinking about comparable novels, authors I feel I am similar to, it became obvious that young adult urban fantasy – my pitch – is hard to find. Well, if you consider urban fantasy the way I consider urban fantasy, it is: if you took the romance out, the story would survive on it’s own. Try thinking about comparable novels and authors you are similar too. Now try and do it without saying ‘but’. It can be hard. I read on a blog once that a comparable novel will allow a publisher to forecast future revenue based on that books past sales. That makes complete sense, but if you don’t fit into a box, it’s tough. And no one wants to believe they fit into a box.

Don’t get me wrong, I have romance in my book. It’s slow burn and it’s low on angst, but it does has an emotional element where the tension builds. My original synopsis, though,  was focused around Mae, the troubles she has to face and how they are resolved. If I change my pitch to be young adult  paranormal romance, then the synopsis should focus more on the tension between Mae and Gage, rather than Mae’s journey?

Pitching as young adult paranormal romance will certainly make my book more marketable, if popular young adult books are any indication. Sex aside, I would love to introduce true urban fantasy as it’s written in the adult market, to the young adult market.

Am I selling out if I change my pitch? I don’t know, but there is a reason my favourite uf authors are writing contemporary, and I don’t condemn them for it. I know I want to sell my book, and I know I want this to be a paying career. And I do know that the shift and / buttons are wearing out on my keyboard from all these questions, so I must wrap this up.

I guess I need someone to help me sell my book, but literary agents are no less forgiving – so lets just go back to the very top of this blog and go through this again.

I’m dizzy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Post-submission options

So, I’m at a crossroads or is it a crossroad? If it’s angry, it’s probably safer if it’s alone. Either way, I could take a spin – a great smoke-inducing, environment-cluttering burnout – and call them the rageroads instead of the crossroads, but I’m actually dealing fine – even though I normally can’t resist  playing with words and embellishing the truth… But to be truthful, I’m in the middle of an octopusroad, or whatever an intersection would be called if it where based on a thirteen-armed creature. Yep. It’s that scary.

What do I do with my time, now that I can cross step one off my list?

1) Contact local literary agents

This involves redoing my synopsis as some require a 300-1000 word synopsis and mine is only 300. Technically, I would be complying with the terms, but I’m sure they want more than 300 words.

I tried to just add more information to my existing one, but this was a bad idea. I need to start from scratch.

2) Contact overseas literary agents

I have sent off for a number of books that can help: Writers and Artists Yearbook 2015, 2015 Guide to Literary Agents: The most trusted Guide to Getting Published and The Firstwriter.com Writer’s handbook 2015.

It was also suggested that you can purchase The Directory of the American Book Publishing Industry but wow, is that expensive!

I know that I can look to the internet for a lot of this information, but I like my time away from the screen and can look at this information more clearly in book format.

3) Submit to digital publishers

Thankfully, having subscribed to QLD Writer’s Centre, I am able to see a number of digital publishing opportunities that I wasn’t aware of. Do agents also sell to digital publishers? I guess so – more research!

4) Research the submission proposal and queries further

I have ordered a few books to help here from the library. An Insider’s Guide to Publishing and Write the Perfect Book Proposal: ten that sold and why.

5) Seek out writing training

I have ordered Penguin Writer’s Manual to see what it offers.

There is also a mentor opportunity – which I have to pay for – which will also highlight my flaws.

6) Have my manuscript assessed

I did not know this service was available until two weeks ago! One I checked cost  about $600 for the amount of words in my MS.

Apparently, having this done, and including this, along with any other workshops attended/memberships held, in your query letter can help highlight how serious you are about your career. I should have done this!

7) Research mythology, fighting and weapons for book two.

I have a ridiculous amount of research to do for book two. While I am unsure what I should do, I could maybe take a few weeks off to solidly research.  This will at least satisfy some of book two’s need for attention.

8) Continue to write book two

Really, I should still be writing 500 words a day to keep the flow, but I am struggling. I still think book one and I need some time together.

9) Network and attend workshops

This, I will try and do as they become available. As per my previous post, I am baby-stepping my way into networking. There was a lot to be gained just from an hour and a half last night! Thank you Louise Cusack!

10) Investigate publishing overseas

I’ll be seeing what I can glean from the above books.

11) Invest more time into blogging and building a platform

12) Rethink my pitch

I’m trying to sell my book proposal as urban fantasy. Upon thinking about young adult and trying to find comparative novels, it became obvious that this may be a hard sell. I have romance throughout, but I played this down. I think I need to rethink the way my proposal is packaged. I’m not selling my soul to any devil here. There are romantic elements that may make my book more marketable if I show they are there. The romance stays the same; it was always there.

13) Revamp my MS

The first ten pages has to be engaging. To me, it was, but I have to think on this again. The prologue, as well received as it was by beta readers, might have to go – even though it is short and has you wondering – who the hell just killed that guy and why! Even the synopsis might need to be changed to suit a more paranormal romance tone – if I decide to repackage.

 

In hindsight – more like, as I grab hindsight by the throat and threaten to harm it should it speak up – I should have done even more research. I felt like I’d done enough, though.

What do I prioritise?

I could treat my writing like I did my professional career as an account manager. Divide my day into increments and do a little of everything. I mean, the customers don’t stop calling just because I’ve allocated a day to paperwork. Some activities just need to be attended to – every day. Should this be book two? If you should write every day, then surely this should mean that every day I write at least 500 words. The rest of the day could be research for book two, blogging, revamping my query, synopsis and MS.

There is a lot to consider, isn’t there?

We are told to get the story out first. And now that it is out, like a newborn, the world it is introduced to is vast, unpredictable and confusing.

If anything stands out that I am missing or you would like to share your thoughts on where you are, please do 🙂

 

 

 

Three days until my first submission – why is this process taking so long?

A week ago I started confirming all the details of my submissions. They fall over different days and have different requirements, so this is not just a duplication process.

Skim over the next part if you wish, the bikini is at the bottom.

To give you a brief summary ( about 5 hours a day)

Last Friday: confirming requirements: checking MS length required, date of submissions( some want 50, 100, one chapter etc );  manuscript cover letter and synopsis format; biography and cover letter  content ( If they say to email your cover letter is this a separate attachment *shrug*)

This Monday: Started writing biography and content of cover letter. Biography: who I am, my experience, and any relevant achievements. Cover letter: market I’m writing to, why, authors/work I am similar to, and in one case, how I can help promote the book.

Tuesday: Halved bio and cover letter content, and researched cover letters further through QLD Writers centre. It’s starting to look like a query letter now, even though it’s not going to agents.

Wednesday: rewrote synopsis to make it shorter (240 words) and punchier, formatted manuscript and synopsis checking indents, page breaks, changing font and adding headers and a title page, started cover letter.

Thursday: Daughter was off sick so I thought it wise to firm up my blurb, tagline, logline in case this helps with my synopsis. Rewrote synopsis to include the ending…fun day

Friday/Today: Have finally decided to submit my new adult urban fantasy as adult instead of young adult as MC is 20 – this has been plaguing me all week. And I have to rewrite everything above.

Where has the time gone? If I hadn’t started last Friday with these finer details, there would be no way I’d be ready on Monday. I cant stress enough- start this process early if you want to meet your goal.

I’m already thinking about editors eyes rolling over my work, tossing it aside and saying, “NEXT”. It made me think about the power of visualization. If I’m thinking they will hate it and that I will fail, have I already lost? Will this doubt sabotage my final revisions, ensuring the result is congruent with my beliefs?

When you want to look skinny, you visualize yourself after you’ve lost weight – wearing a bikini. If you want that new house, you picture yourself in it. So today I’m going to picture myself wearing a bikini in my new house while editors look over my work and say, “Wow. This is what we are after,” just in case any other negativity bleeds into my submission head space.

Condensing your writing – why there’s no harm in starting early.

I feel there’s no harm in providing this advice. Writing a synopsis can be time-consuming, but there are multiple benefits to be gained by condensing your work early.

I moaned about how hard it was to condense 80K words to 300, to use your voice, to illustrate your writing style. What I didn’t stress though is what I uncovered.

When you write a synopsis, from what I’ve read online, you have to  also include: setting and age early on, the character’s motivations, the problem, the obstacle, and what need’s to be resolved.  What I found  further from researching loglines is that it’s also important to highlight a contradiction. This helps to  create tension  and an interesting read. eg  control freak who has her choices taken away.

Firstly, I’m from Australia, so it’s important you research how you go about querying or submitting your MS straight to a publisher in your country.

I’m sending my MS to Australian publishers directly and am tailoring my submission to meet their requirements. That doesn’t mean I won’t be contacting agents soon. **UPDATED** I have been informed ( thank you brixmcd13 🙂 ) that when you query an agent, you are to reveal the whole plot in a short synopsis. Please see Christine’s comments regarding the synopsis – you are to reveal the entire plot to publishers as well when a synopsis is requested. I will have to read that book, Christine! I was originally confused by one publishers advice which I misconstrued :S

It won’t hurt to research what the requirements are in your circumstance.

From there you cut the information down further to a blurb (what the reader’s see) , and then a logline ( one sentence summing up the whole book)  and then a tagline ( something you would see to promote a movie for eg.). The shorter it gets, the more difficult it is, and the more intense the themes.

Whether you’re querying an agent or sending to a publisher ( research will help you determine which they require) I believe it wouldn’t hurt to do all of them.

Why?

Because it’s amazing what you find. If you keep all those elements in mind that I highlighted above, you find themes you may not even be aware of. This is not only helpful for your summaries, but it will also help you look at your complete work in a new light. Did I emphasise that theme enough? Is that what this book is actually about?

Researching and playing with my blurb,  logline and tagline has helped with my synopsis and to uncover themes. And when I send off my submissions in a week I want to have them completely finished in case somebody asks – can you sum up your book in one sentence?  That one question right there almost scared me off writing a year and a half ago.

 

What makes you put a book down? Questions for beta readers.

I recently sent out a list of questions to beta readers. It would have been less scary to just ask for their general reaction – being hunted in the woods by a hillbilly would have been less scary. But it raised some interesting points and I hope it helped them with my expectations which in turn helps me out with my submission.

I found these ones most important:

When did you first put the book down and why?

This uncovers if your protag is likeable, if there’s too much detail, and if there’s enough action in the beginning. If they are reading the book for you they probably wont put it down, but a non-beta reader might.

Seeing that you may send only the first 50-100 pages of your manuscript to publishers/agents, this is going to be where feedback is integral.

I’ve spent two weeks rewriting my first two chapters to get to the action faster ( I’m writing Urban Fantasy though). I’ve deleted some detail, and I’ve tried to thread whats left  throughout in a drip feed format.

This one was tough for me because I love banter, but I decided to eliminate unnecessary dialogue – especially when it looked like Mae/I was trying too hard to be clever. The start is about setting the scene, and once you know what she’s like, I don’t need to hammer you with it.

And basically I tried to show and not tell ( are we sick of hearing this yet?) her background, her relationships with secondary characters and her personality. A lot of this is done in dialogue. You can infer a lot from the way they move and speak to each other.

What was your fav/least fav scene – could it be shorter/longer

This picks up any undeveloped ideas, or even areas where you emotionally connected with the reader and weren’t aware of it. This was also where I found that the beginning was two heavy in detail.

Was anything confusing?

I have a scene where you are taken back to the protags past. I kept it in first-person present-tense, and basically confused most people. If you confuse people they may switch off and skim, and the scene will lose its impact. It was suggested that I change this to third-person past-tense and now it makes sense again!

Could you relate to the character? Were there actions consistent?

This one was important too. Mae can be pretty dry at times. If she goes too far and I lose people, then I really need to be careful. It’s written in first-person present-tense, so there’s nowhere to hide. To help with this I made sure I didn’t overdo her inner monologue/narration.

Consistency. This was key for me. As a reviewer I’m pretty unforgiving when it comes to a characters consistency and believability. If they react a certain way in one scene, they had better be consistent with the next scene. Unless they’ve learned something, then I think its important to show that growth and make it apparent.

Would you like to see more of another character? Who was your favourite?

I’m not sure about this one. Maybe its because I got back four different responses and I got confused. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe I need to concentrate on key characters more?

Was the ending believable?

This was scariest. It’s a small cliffhanger. But ultimately, I ended it in such a way that would show that my series is heading this way and you should be aware. There wasn’t too many issues here, thankfully. But we all know, we are going to end it in a way we feel comfortable anyway.

 

So the feedback was great. And I took it all on board. I might change some of it now, I might leave it until publishing. But I know that that to beta, is to come first 😛

What other questions do you think you should ask beta readers?

 

YA,NA and Adult: Blurring the lines

I’m going to be making some huge generalisations here. I’m in the final stages of my second to last edit and I have to take some leaps. Forgive me if I fall into a big hole in the process. I’ll roll over and expose my belly later, but I don’t have the time right now.

I should probably note here that I’m a huge Urban Fantasy fan ( with Urban Fantasy there’s a paranormal aspect, but the romance normally takes a back seat. If romance was driving, it would be called Paranormal Romance.) and my comments about contemporary romances are probably ill-informed and basic. But considering it takes up a large part of the NA market, and this is where my book fits age-wise, I have to acknowledge it’s existence.

Hi, NA Contemporary Romance *waves sheepishly*.  I’m Urban Fantasy, new to the block. No, please keep your pants on, this is just an informal introduction.

The year New Adult  was born ( protag aged between 18-25 I believe) , I contemplated writing a book. It was certainly  before the age group was accepted as its own category,  but I didn’t know it existed at the time.  I don’t know if I shied away from writing New Adult because of this, or because I wasn’t ready period. Redundant statement really.

I heard NA was born because some authors were being handed back their manuscripts and told: make the characters younger, tone down the sex and lets get some YA love out of the market. People wanted to write about emotions, the exciting time where you leave your parents to experiment life.  I believe it started with books like Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster. Still pretty tame for NA really. The setting was university, but the sex didn’t dominate. I don’t know what happened though – over the next few years NA contemporary romance seems to have become very erotic.  I could proclaim myself a prude with my desire to shy away from reads that are heavily erotic. I don’t know if this is it though. And I’m not saying they don’t have great story lines that hook you in- I almost stayed up all night reading Beautiful Disaster. I guess I’m confused as to why the NA that’s selling well seems erotically skewed. Is this because there are no other NA genres available to this age group? Why can’t we have NA that reads like YA, but with older characters? Oh, but less angsty than YA.

When you take out the angst, you can almost argue it becomes more adult in nature. But considering a lot of my content and humour could be considered juvenile to adult readers,  this isn’t exactly where I sit either.  My character doesn’t tolerate boundaries, so I’ll be damned if I shove her somewhere she doesn’t want to go.

I’m blurring the lines. My book isn’t angsty, it isn’t romancey, it isn’t adult, it isn’t not erotic. Am I doomed? Will romance forever be kicking the back of my seat saying, “Let me drive. I can do this so much better, and I’ll do it better nude?”

When you’re writing, do you consider what appeals to your market, or like me, do you write what appeals to you, and hope that it will resonate with the right readers who can be of any age.

 

Writing Habits: Do you try to do it all and end up getting nowhere?

I was trying to lighten my ice-cream recipe, so I looked online and one suggested half and half milk instead of full fat cream. I thought,  I have no idea what that is, and I don’t really want to either. What is this milk that can’t commit to being one thing or the other?  How come it’s allowed to have such a casual approach? And like most people, when I thought about milk, I took a good hard look at myself. Is my anger misplaced? Am I projecting my own thoughts of inadequacy about myself to this commitment-avoiding milk?

The worst thing my husband will hear while he’s at work is this: I feel like I’m getting little bits of lots of things done and getting nowhere. I can’t remember how I phrase it now because that sounds clunky, but I’m normally on autopilot at that stage and it flows naturally without a thought.When I don’t feel up to writing, I potter around doing  a little housework and cooking, a bit of reading and some exercise. The whole time I sabotage these activities by moaning about how I’m not getting anywhere and that I should be writing.  I thought it would be cool to be a ghost writer and I was amazed when it seemed my goal  would be realised so quickly! You could barely see me in my study writing.

At the end of a day like this, I feel I’ve achieved nothing. Unless you count the hours guarding the spot on the wall next to my bed. Nothing was getting past me. That spot was safe.

I don’t like to bring my kids into my writing career.  Well I do, but I prefer to innocently dissect their personalities and spread them amongst a number of characters for all to see.  Anyway, when the kids get home, that’s when the fun really begins. I’m desperate.  I really need that hour before dinner to write down all the ideas I’ve accrued while wallowing. So I try to get started the minute we get home from school, while there’s another ten things to be done. And after an hour of giving everything 10% of my attention, I still haven’t written much and the kids don’t feel I’ve been present, because I haven’t been.  I’m icy and I’ll take forever to thaw – like the above mentioned low-fat ice-cream.

So, I’ve decided. If I’m not writing, then I’m going to commit to my non-writing hours 100%. If I need an hour in the afternoon to write, then the hour before, I’m going to commit to the kids 100% for that whole hour, and the hours after my writing hour. If I don’t feel like writing, then whatever I choose to do, I’m going to make that activity my newborn baby. And for me, little bits here and there amount to lots of something alright. Lots of frustration and guilt. It’s the same when I diet. When I break it, I have loads of little unsatisfying snacks, where if I went for a large-sized burger meal, I’d probably intake less calories, and be more satisfied.

How do you deal with your non-writing time? Do you feel guilty when you can’t do it all? Does it effect the enjoyment of every activity that surrounds it?