Friday, 7 August 2015

Submitting to agents and publishers - how getting their feedback means you're close to getting published

Someone once asked, "How do you know when you're ready to be published". The answer was "when you start getting feedback from agents and publishers."

Feedback from agents and publishers is golden. Worth a thousand times more than feedback from friends, about a hundred times more than critique from peers, and ten times more than a paid appraisal. Agents and publishers simply have no reason to let you know how to improve your work. They're busy.

However, once in a while, a manuscript comes through the slush pile (that is what the unsolicited material is called in case you don't know) and it piques their interest, so they read the submission material yet it's still lacking...something.

And they do something that will improve your book tenfold - they tell you what's wrong with it.


Tip no: 1
Know your audience

Let's first take a look at who agents and publishers are. A lot, not all, are successful editors. Some, not all, are writers. I've checked out many agent profiles during the course of pitching my novels and rarely have I seen a bio with "published author" on it. There were a few. Out of maybe one hundred agent profiles that I've searched.

I mentioned that they are usually successful editors. They've worked on small books, big books, with small authors, big authors. So who are agents and publishers really? Read their bios and many will tell you that typically they are editors. Editing is the single most important part of any novel. It turns coal into a diamond. It turns muck into gold. The experts at this task are the editors. However, they do a lot of work and rarely get any of the glory.

In a previous post I discussed the myths around publishing. One myth is that agents and publishers are not looking for the next big thing. Busted. They are. Discovering talent is what drives agents and publishers to get out of bed. So this leads me to think that agents and publishers are seeking the same glory that writers are. Maybe why they cut their teeth as editors but move into managing and publishing.

So if we are seeking the glory, then it stands to reason that many writers, agents, and publishers are on the same page.


Tip no: 2
Would you rave to your friends about a second rate meal?


No you wouldn't. Agents and publishers have to rave about your book to everyone they meet, which means they have to love it or they won't have a chance at selling another book. How can you send them something to love?

Firstly, don't send in something that you wrote for NaNoMo and spent a week doing a spell check on. There is so much more to a publishable story than punctuation and grammar.

Other components include:

Narrative:
Not just dialogue, not just action, but that internal thought that goes with the things we do each day, that angel/devil on our shoulder.
 
Character flaws:
Nobody wants to read about wooden or too perfect characters.
 
Character arc:
Is there development, redemption, a reason we kept reading?
 
Pace:
Is action and reflection evident in the pace of the writing. Action should be fast. Reflection can be slower.
 
Setting:
Can we imagine this world?
 
Dialogue:
Is it age appropriate, informal where it needs to be?

Readers shouldn't notice the work that goes into producing a good story, they should just enjoy the book because, like a good meal, we can tell at first glance or taste whether any effort has gone into the dish. Likewise, an agent and publisher can also tell within the first 5 pages whether the effort has been put into the book.

Make sure that you are submitting the best work that you can possibly submit. Don't rely on agents and publishers to give you feedback. Most won't. But if they do, you are one step closer to achieving your goal of having your book published.



Tip no: 3
Rainbows and kittens are of no help to you.

We have an agreement in our writers group that we do not want to hear that the work we submit is all rainbows and kittens. This sort of feedback is lovely, but rarely is it helpful. You want somebody who is looking at the book objectively to point out the flaws in the structure, in the plot, in the characters, in all those aspects from Tip no: 2.

Here is some actual feedback I have received from publishers and agents over the years.


The narrative and character arc were secondary.

The characters seemed younger.

Scenes just sorta happen.

At times I felt I was looking in on the journey, not experiencing it.

I didn't feel that the characters deserved their ending.

The narrative is excessively wordy.

The editors who have seen your work feel that it shows real promise.


I've been so lucky to have received this type of feedback with every novel I've submitted. It has kept me writing; the power of positive feedback is second to only hearing yes they want to publish it. Some books were revised and resubmitted, some left in the drawer. But what this means is that I am close, very close to having that book published. Some I've reworked, some I've put back in the drawer, but always have I taken this feedback on board, which leads me to tip no: 4.



Tip no: 4
If you get feedback, use it.

This goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. If you disregard the valuable feedback you've received you won't improve your writing. Every single piece of advice I've received has been applied to the book in question, or a subsequent book. The version that got rejected 3 months ago is not the same version that is now sitting with an agent and a second agent is interested in receiving a follow up query. All because I took the advice offered and I applied it.



Well, there you go, getting feedback from an agent and publisher is possible if you approach it properly.

Good luck with you pitching and if you wish to share your experiences I'd be happy to know how you went. Did you get that book published. Did you land that agent?

I'll keep you updated on how it goes with the agent.

Best
D L


Monday, 3 August 2015

10 celebrities who took selfies before they were even invented

What did celebrities do before the invention of the selfie? Oh, sure, if you were a Hollywood movie star you had stills from movies that could be used in publicity, or photo shoots, or if you were a rock star hordes of photographers followed you around. I decided to track down some photos that I think look exactly like as if they'd be taken today as a selfie.


1. David Bowie
 Tag this one #artistic selfie. It's going on his blog home page. As well it deserves to.
 
 
 
 
2. Marilyn Monroe
Tag this one #girlsnightout. The before shot.
 
 
 
3. Mick Jagger
Classic attempt at natural look for an online dating site selfie.
 
 
 
 
4. Debbie Harry
She's got the pose. She's got the lipstick. She's got the selfie stick. And this one's going on Instagram.
 


 
 5. James Dean
He's cool. This one is for his fans. Tag #justchillin

 
 
6. Audrey Hepburn
This is the can't get out of bed selfie. Been there. Done that.
 
 
 
7. Freddie Mercury
I have a selfie stick and I'm not afraid to use it.
 
 
 
8. Judy Garland
And from this angle I can get my best side even though I'm lying down.
 
 
 
9. Elvis Presley
The one eye closed selfie, because sometimes it's hard to focus with both eyes open.
 
 
10. The Beatles
This is possibly to first group selfie in existence. John's got good control of the camera.
 
 
 
 
 
I had a lot of fun skipping down memory lane with these classic photos. I hope you agree that these photos look like today's selfies. Many of these celebrities were ahead of their time anyway, this is just further proof.
 
Enjoy your day!
D L
 
 
 
HOW TO KEEP IN CONTACT
 
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Email               dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
 
 
ABOUT ME
 
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.
 
 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

How does feng shui and astrology fit into writing

I'll admit, I'm a sucker for feng shui. If I can turn my glasses right way up to attract more money, I'll do it. If I can put a red pot in the money corner of the house, yep I'll do that too.


Each year, a group of friends and I gather at a house to share food and wine and we make a feng shui collage. It's just a bit of fun. We take clippings from a magazine and place them in certain quadrants that each represent a different aspect such as:

fame
study
career
children
travel
self

We all open a magazine with our left hand, we cut out the first image we see, we paste it into a quadrant, and then we have someone read the pictures and predict our future for the next year.



Like I said, it's a big of fun. Except that it isn't JUST fun. There seems to be an element of truth to these predictions. It's uncanny but the last chart we did one of the girls got lots of pictures of a new career, a new man, BIG changes. Within a year she has relocated and has a new boyfriend. Another girl got lots of babies in her collage, within a year she had a baby. And I had a book next to a dinner plate and I got invited to speak at a function where my payment was a free meal.

Each time I create my collage, it is filled with lots of book stuff. Pictures of books. Pictures of coffee tables with books. Pictures of people reading books. Pictures of awards. Lots of business, lots of writing, lots of words.

I'm told this is a good sign. So I'm excited about the future. But EVERYONE knows I'm a writer. EVERYONE knows I'm desperate to crack that big publishing deal. So is this just playing on my desires or is this truly a prediction?

I also like to listen to my star signs each morning. My favourite readings so far has been:

"success and good fortune are coming your way"

I'm kinda hopeful this one is coming true. I'm waiting patiently, plodding away with my writing and my blogging and my writer workshops.


Maybe none of these will come true. Maybe all of these things will. Maybe some will, though maybe they'll come true due to hard work and dedication rather than fate good fortune. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. But I wouldn't be a writer of speculative fiction if I couldn't sit down in my chair and imagine...what if?




Best wishes
D L
 

HOW TO KEEP IN CONTACT
 
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Website           www.dlrichardson.com
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Twitter              www.twitter.com/#!/DLRichardson1
Email                dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
 
 
ABOUT ME
 
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.
 
 
 

Monday, 27 July 2015

How tradition helps soothe the soul

I did something on the weekend I've never done before. No, nothing sinister or illegal. I roasted chestnuts on an open fire.



At the moment, it's late July and winter in Australia. My husband had been working away from home for the week and I wanted to do something special for dinner to make him feel glad to be home. But special for us doesn't usually mean a fancy 5 star restaurant. It's usually something homey like a really good home cooked meal. I like to reconnect with the earth by baking, so we set up the outdoor fire pit and I bought chestnuts and a roasting rack. It was such a simple thing to do, and because of its simplicity it worked a trick in boosting both our spirits. 

This brings me to the topic of tradition. Literature is steeped in in.  From Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to J K Rowlings' "Harry Potter"  series to Helen Fielding's "Bridget Jones 's Diary", Christmas is filled with turkey, pudding, tacky gifts. We can't imagine Christmas without Santa, without reindeer, without a Christmas tree. Even though  Christmas in Australia is blistering hot and nobody is senseless enough to cook a turkey, and we have cold meats and cold salads and cold drinks. Yet we still see value in the traditional of cooking up a huge feast and gathering around the dinner table.

Tradition is the transmission of custom or belief from generation to generation.

Traditionally, print books were all we had and they were bought in book stores, but these days we can shop online, we can download books. The way we buy goods is changing. There are still people who cling to print books. There are people who have never purchased anything BUT ebooks.

The world is changing. To say that change is bad is naïve. The need for animal and human rights dictates global change. The environment has rights and this promotes change. What was done simply because we always did that way is coming under the test. Some things will survive. Some will not.

It's 18 weeks or so until Christmas and over the years this has become Happy Holidays or something else generic. Whatever it's called, people  in colder climates will still roast turkeys and chestnuts, and people in warmer climates will celebrate with champagne and prawns.

We are in the middle of a culture shift. During this time people rely on tradition to give them a sense of comfort and warmth, and the courage to embrace change. We are embracing old traditions and creating new ones. Change is both good and bad, but change is always inevitable. In order to grow and develop, we need to embrace change.

But it's still okay to question whether any change is simply for the sake of change or if it's for our growth and development.

In the meantime, I was able to partake in a tradition from the northern hemisphere and it brought a little magic to the night. If I looked up on the sky I could imagine Santa and his reindeer flying across the starry sky. I had a lot of dun, it was simple and it helped my husband and I connect after a week apart.

What new traditions are you embracing? And what old ones will you refuse to give up?
 
Enjoy your day!
D L
 
 
HOW TO KEEP IN CONTACT
 
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Email               dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
 
 
ABOUT ME
 
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writing. I'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.
 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Movie review: The Terminator Genisys

I love the Terminator franchise. So I hurried down to watch the latest instalment, Terminator Genisys.

O.M.G. This is my favourite movie in the franchise.

The blurb is this:

When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance against Skynet, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), from a Terminator assassin, an unexpected turn of events creates an altered timeline. Instead of a scared waitress, Sarah is a skilled fighter and has a Terminator guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) by her side. Faced with unlikely allies and dangerous new enemies, Reese sets out on an unexpected new mission: reset the future.
 
Now, there are bad reviews that say this movie has killed the franchise. It got poor box office sales. Don't believe the negativity. This movie does see Arnie as a caring robot. He is sent back to protect Sarah Connor as a young child.,  but hey, we knew that was coming in Terminator 2.
 
So why is it one of my favs and why did it get bad reviews? Because the tin man gets a heart.
 
Let's face it, we all wanted Data in Star Trek to achieve his dream of being human, but we needed him to be the kick-ass android and save the day. We liked Arnie as the bad-ass robot, but we also wanted him not to be "misunderstood". Way back in the day we also wanted the Tin Man to meet the Wizard of Oz and get his heart.
 
 
We got what we wanted. So we can't complain.
 
Anyway, I loved it. 5 stars for me.

Best wishes
D L
 

HOW TO KEEP IN CONTACT
 
Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Website           www.dlrichardson.com
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Twitter              www.twitter.com/#!/DLRichardson1
Email                dlrichardsonbooks (at) bigpond (dot) com
 
 
ABOUT ME
 
I write speculative fiction. I've published young adult novels, a horror novellas, short stories in a range of genres but mostly science fiction, and I don't ever want to stop writingI'm passionate about sharing my experiences with other writer through workshops and conferences. My other loves are music and animals. I live in Australia on the NSW south coast with my husband and dog. When I'm not writing I can found in the garden, renovating the house, playing my musical instruments, or walking the dog.
 
 
 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Top 5 super must-haves for writers

We all know the need to find better and faster ways to do everyday things is the mother of invention. Our daily lives get busy this things need to get automated.

The same needs apply for writers. Oh, we've got computers instead of typewriters for faster editing. We've got ebooks for an immediate way to get books to readers. We've got the internet so we can research without leaving the house.

But we need more. Okay, I need more. I'm editing and writing books, writing blog posts, reading books, checking social networlds (yes, that's a new word I just invented), plus I'm pitching to agents and working on writer workshops. The point is I'm as busy as a one-armed man amidst a s warm of locusts. That's why I've checked out the top 5 super must-haves for writers.

SUPER WEIRD

You remember the story about the woman who wore a nappy just so she could drive 950 miles from Houston to Orlando without having to stop at restrooms to meet her lover's flight? She showed up wearing a trench coat and a wig, and a knife, a BB pistol, and latex gloves were found in the car. But we didn't blink an eye at the potential kidnapping plot, instead we all fixated on the ludicrousness of a grown women without incontinence wearing a nappy.

Yet I'm betting there were a lot of writers out there, including me, who were nodding their heads and saying to themselves, "Yes, yes, that might work."

Let me explain why this isn't such a weird idea for a writer. This morning I have my one cup of coffee, and then because I feel like a boost of vitamins I follow that with a glass of Berocca (boom I've also started on my water intake), and then I head into the office and within ten minutes my private bits are starting to bear the burden of fluid build up. I know I have to get up and relive my bladder, but I've only edited one page so far and I'm at the really good bit!

This interruption goes on for over an hour. I've consumed 500 millilitres of fluid, expelled about three litres. This is why the adult nappy/diaper makes it to my top 5 must-have item for writers this year.
 
Yes, this is totally disgusting but I'm so sick of having to get up all the time.


SUPER FOODS

Fast food manufacturers, it seems, always have writers in mind when they prepare their packaged foods. Potato chips, muesli bars, chocolate bars, pretzels, heck even fruit comes in simple packaging. They contain a lot of carbs. We all know that protein is essential for brain development.

So what is one of the best fast food that contains high protein and low fat and don't have to be heated up, because let's face it even a microwave meal takes eight minutes I don't have?

Three foods come to mind. Tinned salmon, fruit, and yoghurt.

I'm always motivated to eat yoghurt whenever I watch Burn Notice. The main character, Michael Weston lives on yoghurt and water. He's super fit and very clever. Yes, it's a TV show but yoghurt does have benefits other than being good for you. It's easy to eat. It's healthy. It's there and all you have to do is grab a spoon, open the lid, and eat.

In a guide to flatten your belly without starving yourself, Health Magazine says, “Take it from the dieters in a University of Tennessee study who ate 6 ounces of fat-free yogurt with every meal and lost 81% more abdominal fat than those who cut calories alone.”

Tinned salmon can be eaten straight from the tin on crackers.

Fruit comes in its own packaging and can be eaten raw. Yes, raw. No heating, no cooking, no anything.

So yoghurt, fruit, and tinned salmon makes it to my top 5 must-haves for writers this year. Because if I rely on unhealthy snacks then I'm going to have to find time to do more exercise.





SUPER FAST

After swearing at my old computer for the millionth time, I conceded that the fight with the world of commercialism will never be won, I went out and bought a new PC tower. Quadruple core processor. Windows 8.1. 8GB RAM. 1T HDD (whatever that is). Enough said. As Batman needs a super fast car to catch the bad guys, so too does a writer need a super fast computer and internet connection.





SUPER COMFY

Inactivity is simply not good for the body. Going to the gym to do a session takes time I do not have. I do have time to walk the dog. I also have time to sleep. That why I like versatile clothes that go from bed to work to exercise.

The great thing about working from home is that nobody sees you. You can, and often do, get out of bed, slip on some leisure wear for the feet, and shuffle into the office to write. After an hour your dog stares at you like you've forgotten to do something (walk the dog) and you can then slip straight from your leisure wear for the feet into active wear for the feet and  keep your body healthy.

I like to walk the dog daily for minimum 40 minutes, some days we go for an hour. Then it's back into the office, from there to the sofa, from there to bed. Some days I even do the gardening. Errands that can be performed without getting out of the car can also be accomplished.

An entire day can pass by without the need to get dressed. I also save a lot of money.

Warnings signs to check that you haven't slipped too far over the edge with leisure wear:

Do any items of clothing have food stains? Yes - go out and get new ones but do not wear leisure wear to buy more leisure wear. It makes you looks dependant.

Do you start to hang up your leisurewear in the closet? Yes - put it back into the drawer where it belongs. The moment you put your leisure wear on a hanger you are asking to be excluded from all future social engagements.



These are very versatile, they're like a walker cross slipper so they can worn all day!



SUPER SUPPORT

Batman has Alfred. Tony Stark has Pepper Potts. And I have my husband.

In all seriousness, I could not continue to do what I do without my husband's support. He only recognises me from the back of the head these days. I'm always at the computer. He's also great at doing domestic stuff around the house like washing clothes and dishes. Sometimes he'll cook dinner. He supports me when I go to a writer's conference. He supports me when I have to meet a deadline.


 
 
 I recall the day I told my then boyfriend, now husband that I had written a novel, but it hadn't been published. This was back in 1999. I said I was taking a break from writing and he told me that I should start it back up. He is like my Alfred, whenever Bruce Wayne thinks of giving it all in, he is there to tell me to suck it up and keep doing what I was born to do.
 
 
So there you have it, my super must-haves for writers. Some practical, some wishful, some borderline psychotic, but then if I wasn't borderline psychotic I wouldn't be a writer. Who else is crazy enough to do what we do without getting paid?
 
Don't forget you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, Google and Instagram to be kept up to date with all my latest blog posts and book news.
 
Best wishes
D L
 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

D L Richardson is the author of speculative fiction. She has three teen novels and one short story anthology published. Her first novel reached number 2 at OmniLit and number 38 at Kobo Books. Her second reached number 1 at OmniLit. Little Red Gem is her third novel and recently won 2nd place Best Books of 2013 Paranormal Cravings. She lives in Australia on the NSW south coast with her husband and dog.

 
Website           www.dlrichardson.com
Facebook         http://goo.gl/560JXl  
Twitter             www.twitter.com/#!/DLRichardson1
 
 
 
 

Monday, 13 July 2015

The gates on self publishing are closing says Amazon

If you're an indie writer, you've probably heard the latest about royalty payments by Amazon. They are  going to start paying authors who self publish on the Amazon platform only the percentage of the book read by the reader, instead of the full royalty for the book at the time of purchase.

At first I was like, WTF? Then it occurred to me that they're right to do this. It is becoming the only course of action they can take against inferior writing.


There's a saying, "The good thing about self publishing is that anyone can do it. The bad thing about self publishing is that anyone can do it."

It seems as if Amazon is finally becoming it's own gatekeeper as far as self publishing goes. As an indie author, I understand why they're doing this. My first two novels were published through a small press publisher, and then the rights reverted back to me. So I thought I'd give self publishing a go until I can find a new home for them. But there is still a major problem. The market is flooded with inferior self published products. Covers are low res, I've invested money in software and images to create something high res. Okay, low res shouldn't matter so much for an ebook, but it matters a lot for a print book. It's getting harder and harder to get reviews because of the poor quality in the marketplace.

But what is worse is the poor grammar and spelling mistakes littered throughout self published books. I can't tell you how many authors I've tried to support by buying one of their books, but then I can't get past page 3. This poor writing is causing readers to demand refunds from Amazon, and it's a practice they just can't keep continuing. Not when the onus is on the self published author to produce something of high quality, higher than the big guys really, if we're to stand out against them. 

Just watch a thread on a Facebook writer's group and you'll see comments about inferior quality and spelling errors. There's a reason readers are becoming fed up with inferior works. Because self published authors keep producing it. We might as well start branding the words Made In Taiwan on the front cover of our books.


Writers need to be the ambassadors for the written English language. This means proper editing, proper proof reading, proper covers. We're already pushing shit uphill, pardon the language, and inferior writing is only going to convert more readers to Netflix.

I learned a lesson when I self published a novella and a reviewer stated she was put off by the number of errors. I was aghast. I'd proof read this novella a hundred times. But I had made a huge mistake by not engaging someone else to proof read. The first thing I did was admit my mistake and recall the product. But the damage was done.

What do you think of Amazon's new rules? Are they too tough? Are they fair? Will this influence you as an indie author to step up or will you keep going the way you have?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.