3 S.R. Johannes: June 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So Close Yet So Far

Marketing Muse
Here are 10 ways twitter can help writers. Did you know the average Twitter user has 126 followers http://bit.ly/16Y4qM {now that is interesting indeed :)

So Close Yet So Far

As some of you know - I got an agent on May 26th (to be exact :). Now I am in the throws of my second round of edits. Agent 001 gave me great advice and I am taking about 95% of it. Luckily, I didn't have any plotting issues and no rearranging issues. Agent 001 mainly asked for expansion of ideas which is the fun part. Its just she wants it by July 6th.

Now this is a deadline we set together because I am nutzo and she is passionate. And I have some wiggle room but I am a stickler for deadlines (as long as the quality is there of course). I will bust my arse to make a deadline. Its my consulting background. Moving deadlines costs money. I know this isn't the same (cuz lets face it - no money in sight right now :) but I cant get rid of that "meet your deadline no matter what even if it takes 90 hrs a week" mentality.

I know my agent would prefer to go market by Aug (me too!) and this book is almost there.

So I say hell yah - lets add stuff - I can totally do that! Adding, lengthening, expanding, developing, perfecting - that's the easy part to me. It's tough but doable. It's the cutting, moving, killing off, and replotting stuff that bites

Not adding. I can add all day long. I can be a long-winded as you want me to be. (I am sure all of you are nodding your heads now after looking at some of my recent LONGGGGGGG posts.)

So that is where I am - for the first time in my life - I am loving expanding something. (besides my hips, pants, or belly)

Used to be expanding anything was not good.

Now if life would just freeze.....

If my Bank would stop hosing me with what I call an unfair credit card percentage increase under the excuse of "its hard financial times miss." (HELLO!!!! you do not need to tell a writer that - trust me - I KNOW! And how does your rate increase help me in these financial times. Cuz let me just say I'm pretty sure my Bank has much more money than I do.)

If my mortgage company would correct mistakes they made that have now cost me a huge pain and mental anguish. (H0w come when you're older - saying "that's not fair" doesn't work on anyone. FYI - saying "That's SO not fair" or "I'm going to tell my mom on you" doesn't work either.)

If my cable company would stop trying to renegotiate my bundle rate by telling me that I have to pay 40$ a month (BTW I didn't thanks to my persistency and what I like to refer to as my Bitch Mode. Oh yeah, and since when does renegotiating mean raising prices. Doesn't negotiating mean working together to get the best deal?)

If my lease could have just been for a few more months so I did not have to deal with car people right now. (PS Car People also find using the "financial climate" a good excuse for trying to charge me more on my lease payout than the car is worth. Do they think I'm dumb?)

If little pesky germs would take a vacation and stay away from me and my kids. (Wonder Twin Powers activate - form of white blood cells)

If my light bulbs would stop all going out at the same time. (I can't take another small thing on my list)

If Wipeout could have waited just a couple more weeks for their season to start. (I know I keep saying it, but that show is Hi-larious! Ha I am laughing just imagining the last episode)

If the cicadas would stop being nocturnal and chirping out my window so I don't sleep and am gruggy when I'm "creating" chapters. (BTW Did you know that the cicadas here are called
Magicicada, because they have an extremely long life cycle of 13 to 17 years? Does that mean they have to hang out my window for that long? Do they move on? Or migrate? ever?)

If my Muse and brain would come off hiatus and snap back into their positions and do their thang...(Muse's break and vacations and personal days are getting old - let me tell you.)

If everything was quiet and perfect, I'll be fine. (Side note: wouldn't it be cool if we could freeze time for like 12 hrs, write and then unfreeze so we don't miss any thing? Expecially with our kids. Because I want to write but I dont want to miss anything.)


if all the ifs would go away, then adding, expanding, perfecting and finishing by Monday would be a breeze.

One can wish.....

OK so I need to focus (so then what am I doing blogging????)

I can finish this book - even with all the distractions. And why? because I love it. because I want it. because it makes me happy. And I know with this book - I have something special and I want to finish it and finish it right.

And I am ready.

Now I realize that even when you get an agent - there is so much more in front of you. I think I have always been so focused on getting an agent, I could never see past it. (at least except for my book on the shelf and bestselling) I will say am so glad I enjoyed the agent process and that I continue to enjoy the writing process. Because getting an agent is just one step. The first step in a long staircase to publication. Getting an agent just one fat comfy boulder along my journey. A place for me to rest up so I can continue to hike up my tall mountain of dreams.

So now, no matter all the ifs, ands, or buts - I realize that I am so close, yet still so far. I just need to keep taking one step forward at a time and get to that next boulder - which right now is finishing edits!

So back to writing. Back to enjoying the journey.

Because let's face it - if you ever finally really get to "the end" and get published.

If you ever really make it?

Then what?

You start all over again!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Mary Kate Castellani (Walker Books for Young Readers)

Hi Mary Kate. Thank you for joining us today.

Before we get started, tell me a little about yourself.

I’m an associate editor at Walker Books for Young Readers. I worked as an assistant to a literary agent for a year before joining Walker & Company, where I started as an editorial assistant. Being on both sides of the process has really been helpful when considering manuscripts and making deals.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

Social networking can be a really great tool for reaching readers directly. Teens and tweens are constantly online and being able to access authors’ information is a great way for authors and readers to interact, but also distanced enough that both parties feel comfortable.

How important is technology to an author's marketing plan?

I’d say that the importance of a web presence is certainly growing, but it’s important that authors be comfortable in how they extend themselves online. Blogs are great because fans can get a slice of life for their favorite author, but it’s important to keep your audience in mind. If you’ve written a young adult novel do you think teens will be reading your blog? Or if you have a picture book or middle-grade novel, do you think it will be mostly educators and/or parents checking in?

Once published, it’s important to keep in mind that you might have to start tailoring the material on your blog to reach that audience. Blogging isn’t for everyone, however, and so I don’t think it’s an essential tool. At the very least a web site with updates about your books is the best place to start and then it’s good to think about how you can extend that reading experience for your fans. I’ve seen authors include elements like playlists that their characters would listen to, quizzes to see which characters readers are most like, and features that give the back story about writing the book. It should be fun for both the author and the reader!

Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promote books as a group?

Teaming up can be really helpful for authors because they feel like they are a part of a supportive and enthusiastic group. Beyond the kind of marketing push that a publisher can give a book, the most beneficial aspect of this is being able to cross-pollinate audiences between one author and another. If readers like one author and his or her work, they usually take further reading suggestions to heart and this is a great way to lead readers from one book to another.

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

I usually do check first to see if an author has a web site just to see how far along they are in the process. It’s not essential that a writer has a web site at the time of acquisition, but it’s always a bonus to be able to say that an author has already created a web site—especially because it’s a tool we’d want them to have at their disposal in the future. Knowing that the url is reserved and that at least the bare bones of a web site are set up means that when it comes time for the book to publish there will already be an option for a stepped up web presence.

A really good example of this is Walker’s author Simone Elkeles. When we acquired her novel, Perfect Chemistry, she already had a great web site for her previous titles. Then she created an excellent book trailer that got a lot of attention and drove the sales of her book. It was a great combination of online elements that really came together to spread the word about her book.

What things do Publishers offer in contracts in terms of Marketing? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book?

Just as books differ from each other, no two books have the same marketing plan. What is most important to us is not how much marketing we put behind a book, but how specifically we target the areas where we know a book will have success. This means figuring out how best to reach the market for a book. Since resources are limited publishers pay close attention to making the best use out of allotted resources in very focused ways.

For example, is a book one that we know will have direct to teen appeal? Then perhaps a Facebook ad or a blog tour would do well by that title. Or is it one that is best served by appealing to the gatekeepers (teachers, librarians, parents). Perhaps then we’d focus efforts on getting the word out at educational conferences. Our marketing department tries to be as creative as possible, and is always thinking of new ways to try to make the potential audience as broad as possible.

What are you looking for? What are you interested in?

I acquire books for all age levels, and especially likes quirky, kooky picture books that celebrate personality, and middle-grade fiction with a light-hearted, honest approach like my current middle-grade project The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. I am also looking to find new YA voices for the Walker list, especially ones that have a more literary feel, but I also like issue-driven stories, such as my upcoming project Dirty Little Secrets, a story that explores the effects of compulsive hoarding on a family. My acquisitions wish list also includes historical fiction with a strong hook, coming of age stories handled with humor, and explorations of spiritual or cultural identity.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday's Marketing Round up (6/26)

Sorry I have not been posting much lately. Between my July 6th deadline, kids camps, and annoying admin stuff with house and car, I have not had much time. I'll be back more next week ;)

Cynthea's auction for schools is still going on. Check it out!

Here are my top favs for the week:

Creative Self Promotion - Sometimes being yourself is promotion enough.

Building Your platform - A platform will help you attract the attention of an agent and later a publisher. Why?

Series on Branding - This series on author branding is great. Unfortunately they did not do individual links for the posts. So you will have to click the tag word "branding" for the five articles.

The Internet's Short attention span - interesting article on reaching consumers over the Internet. It has to be fast!

Podcasting 101 - what to look for when selecting a podcast provider.

Tweets to follow - a list of biz tweeters to follow.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Kristin Tubb (Author, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different)

Hi Kristin, thanks for joining us today.

Before we get into your marketing strategies, can you tell me a little about yourself?

Hi Shelli. My debut middle grade novel, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte, 2008), is an historical fiction account of the beginnings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times called it “a real sparkler of a novel.”

I’ve also written a number of children’s activity books, many for licensed characters like Scooby-Doo, Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobbie, and the Powerpuff Girls. My stories have appeared in Spider Magazine and Highlights for Children.

And I’m currently revising my next middle grade novel, Selling Hope: Or Gaining Glorious Asylum from Mr. Halley’s Fiery Beast (Feiwel & Friends, Fall 2011). My SuperAgent is Josh Adams of Adams Literary (who, I suspect, might even wear a cape – he’s that Super). Also, I hate mice, love Project Runway, and I’m allergic to housecleaning.

Do you/your agency/your house have a website/blog? When did you start it and who manages it?

I do have a website. I launched it in 2002, when I started freelancing full time. I manage the content, but I admit that I’m not as good about updating the “Appearances” page as I should be. (More on that below…) I’m also a bit of a technophobe, so I don’t know how to do cool things like imbed my blog within the site, or put little Facebook-icon thingys on it. Anyone out there willing to share pointers on that?

I am continuously amazed at how many people contact me through my website. I’ve booked a number of author visits from the “School Visits” page, and I get a lot of readers who contact me this way. I’ve also had editors compliment me on this site, so I know for a fact that they’re out there looking up authors when they’re considering our work!

I also have a blog. I am, as I’ve said before, “a spotty blogger.” Every one of my New Year’s Resolution worksheets since 2006 has included the affirmation, “I will blog more” (along with “I will eat better” and “I will get more sleep.” Those aren’t working out so hot, either. J)

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

A website is a must. I’ve had readers, editors, librarians and teachers all contact me via my site. If I had to decide between paying for business cards and paying for website hosting, I’d go with the hosting, hands down. (But I have business cards, too! J )

Every children’s author should also consider doing school visits. I know these aren’t for everyone, but some of my most successful events have been school visits. Plus, I adore meeting readers! They are made of awesome!

Third, and most painfully (at least for me), you have to get out there and introduce yourself to local booksellers and librarians. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that they want to know local authors! I’m really uncomfortable walking into a bookstore and approaching the nearest clerk with, “I’ve written a book, and I’d like to talk to you about carrying it/signing your stock/hosting an event.” But I have yet to come across a bookseller/librarian who has kicked me to the curb, and I’ve met so many great champions of children’s literature this way.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

I’m assuming you mean besides the fact that it’s the only way I talk to my friends these days? It’s very important. There is a huge writing community online these days, and many times, the only way you’ll find out about an event is through these sites. (Case in point: a last-minute party at an NYC pub during the SCBWI conference, at which I met many authors that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise. Fun stuff!) I try to list all my booksignings through these sites, too, and I’ve seen direct results. I’ve had high school friends, college friends and others contact me and say, “I didn’t know you wrote a book! I’ll run right out and get it!” I love Facebook, and I use Twitter and Goodreads, too, but to a lesser degree. I also use JacketFlap. Friend me, y’all! J

What creative things have you done to promote a book?

I don’t know if this is “creative,” necessarily, but we just found out that Autumn will now be available for sale through the gift stores at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a longish process, and all books must be reviewed and voted on before they are stocked. So I’m excited about that!

I’ve also promoted Autumn to Gatlinburg, TN-area gift stores, heritage museums, and other Appalachia-related interests. And to again relate how important networking sites are, author Kerry Madden did a round-up of environmentally themed books for kids. Because of her efforts, Autumn was mentioned in Sierra Magazine. (Thanks again, Kerry!)

I think the main thing to remember is what niche your books fill (more specifically than “it’s for kids.”). Selling Hope is set on the vaudeville stage, so I hope to do a ton of vaudeville-related promotions for it. Book promotion can be as much fun as the writing itself, and it gets readers excited about your story. What could be better than that?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's Marketing Roundup (6/19)

If you are going to LA - please leave me a comment. I'd love to know who else is going. :)

Here are my favs for the week:

S&S has launched a social networking site for teens - A new book social networking site where 14- to 18-year-olds can read and review new S&S titles online, create profiles, communicate with authors and other members, and earn points redeemable for prizes. The initiative is similar to Penguin UK’s Spinebreakers, which launched in 2007.

The Dreaded Author platform (Rachel Gardner, Agent) - Gone are the days when publishers were solely responsible for the marketing of a book. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.

Simple ways to promote yourself online - the idea of marketing yourself online is still very confusing to a lot of people. Here are some bottom line basics - because at the end of the day, we all need to start somewhere, and the best place to start is online.

Take advantage of unplanned marketing opportunities - Sometimes activities come along that can be wonderful marketing opportunities if you have an eye for them. When they come, are your ready to take advantage of them? Here are some unplanned marketing opportunities to keep your eye out for.

Beefing up your anchors (hyperlink text) for Search Engine Optimization - Anchor are the hyperlinked text that you click on to follow a link. Most people overlook this text, using words like “click here” or other nebulous terms. If used correctly, anchor text can really help with your site ranking.

Here's how the Internet can affect promotion - You can broadcast your own interview online directly to your target audience, and given that, who needs an interview opportunity on someone else's traditional media outlet to promote a book?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why you DON'T want to get published

Marketing Muse

Promote your book signings!!!!! Do not expect the libraries and bookstores or your publicist to do it. If they do - great you are ahead of the game. If you want people, they will not come unless you tell them about it ahead of time! There will always be some kind of marketing you can do to get the word out. But you have to plan ahead. Newsletters, local newspapers, email distribution, blog announcements, signs, etc

Why you DON'T want to get published!

OK - So I read this post and it is hilarious! But I betcha it is true.

Made me feel better about not already being on the shelves. Whew! takes off some of the pressure. (Yeah right!)

For those of you sick of this entire publishing process - because let's face it, it is not easy - this one's for you!

Why You DON'T Want to Get published - From a publishing intern.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Triple-Dog Dare you!

Have you heard of Cynthea's Liu's event: Take the Dare, Show you Care?

Well I donated a marketing critique package to the auction and it is for a great cause. So I wanted to get the word out in case you were interested.

Cynthea Liu, Author of PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE along with 40+ children's and teen lit authors, several reputable Children's and YA literary agencies, and a few editors have joined forces by putting up awesome prizes up for auction to raise money for a Title I school in my home state of Oklahoma--Tulakes Elementary.

This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win critiques from distinguished pros, including ...

* Me! :) YAY!
* Fellow blogger Lindsey Leavitt, author of Princess for Hire, 2010
* NYT bestselling author Jay Asher of Th1rteen R3asons Why,
* Picture book phenomenons Tammi Sauer, Jean Reidy, J.C. Phillipps,
Kristy Dempsey ...
* And so many wonderful MG and YA authors whom I know and trust.


"Take any Dare, and you'll also receive ..."

1) Autographed gimmies from fab authors like Lisa Schroeder, Amanda Marrone, Linda Urban, Cynthia Leitich Smith and many many more ....
2) A chance to win autographed books from... Jay Asher, Lisa Yee, Linda Urban, Stacey Jay, Mitali Perkins ... The LIST GOES ON!
3) AND ... an autographed PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE mini gift-pack from
Cynthea Liu.

So stop by, Take the Dare: SHOW YOU CARE!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Jon Bard (Children's Book Insider/CBI clubhouse)

Hi Jon, Thanks for joining us today.

Before we get into marketing, can you tell me a little about yourself?

I'm Jon Bard, Managing Editor, Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers and Fightin' Bookworm in Chief at The CBI Clubhouse -- The Essential Children's Writing Resource.

My wife (Laura Backes) and I have been publishing Children's Book Insider since May, 1990. Our audience is aspiring and working children's book authors. We've also produced numerous books, ebooks, DVDs and such, all about the art (and science) of writing children's books and getting them published.

Do you have a website/blog? When did you start it and who manages it?

We've been online with Write4Kids.com since 1995. But our new project is also our most exciting -- we've created a full members-only site for our readers called The CBI Clubhouse. It's packed with audio, videos, articles, ebooks, messaging and much more. It's really a full-fledged online community all about writing children's books! The response has been astounding -- there's nothing else quite like it on the Net. I invite your readers to come by and check it out. I think they're going to be amazed at what they find.

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

1. Learn about marketing. In particular, learn how to craft a compelling marketing message that will resonate. Some of my favorite marketing writers are Dan Kennedy, Joe Vitale and Joseph Sugarman. PublicityInsider.com is a good site to learn about PR. Also, visit the Warrior Forum to learn how marketers think. They're a very helpful group and are usually happy to help newbies get started.

2. Don't be shy about promoting yourself. Get out there, via Twitter, Facebook, your blog, other people's blogs -- whatever it takes. And do all of this with a consistent marketing message in mind. One of my favorite marketing concepts is "the elevator pitch". If you have 20 seconds in an elevator to convince a fellow passenger to buy your book, what would you say? When you've got that down, you're ahead of the game.

3. Team up with other writers. Group blogs (like classof2k9.com) are a great way for authors to expand their reach and seem "bigger" than they are individually. Find some other writers who work in the same or a similar genre, or some writers who cover the same sort of topic and put together a group blog. Twitter together. Hold a teleseminar together about your topic, and so on.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

They're great if used properly. They're ineffective if it ends up being all about what you watched on TV or what you're eating at the moment. Get out there and give useful information, provide quality links and build alliances, and social media will pay off for you.

How important is technology to an author’s marketing plan?

I don't even think of the Net as technology any more. It's just the place to connect with the world. I do like using audio and video, and they're now so easy to do. Combine a presentation software like Powerpoint with a screen recorder like Camtasia and you can create really compelling video in no time at all. Here's an example of the sort of video I'm creating on a weekly basis. It's called "A Crash Course in Submitting a Children's Book Manuscript to a Publisher".

What other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

You've worked hard on your book, so you should feel no reservations about asking people to buy it. Too many writers feel uncomfortable with the idea of marketing and (gasp!) actually making a few bucks. Really, you're not selling out by doing a little promotion. Trust me, your favorite sainted children's book authors never turned down a royalty check, so why should you feel strange about hustling a bit to find success?

What are some offbeat things that authors can do to promote their books?

1. Give your book's characters their own online presence. Have them Twitter, create an online diary, let them make videos or audios. Have them do the sort of off-the-wall things that you never would. Create a buzz for your characters and readers will naturally want to read the book to find out more about them.

2. Target niches that might have an affinity for your book. Let's say one of your main characters is a cheerleader. Go to the top online cheerleading sites, blogs & e-zines and offer to do interviews about your book. Again, use an elevator pitch, but this time, more targeted to the niche you're addressing (e.g. "My book deals with a boy cheerleader who overcomes taunting from the school jocks to make it to the state championship")

3. Use your online "real estate" to sell your book. Put up some sample chapters and link to them in your e-mail signature file, in your signature files used on message boards, in your Tweets and anywhere else you show up. Post comments on blogs that relate to your subject and be sure to include the link, and so on. Just be out there -- and always include a way for folks to find your book.

Thank you for joining us today!

Thanks Shelli.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunny Sunday: Thanks for the bad times

Here's my Sunny Sunday kickoff to Monday's Project Perk.

(don't forget to check out Suzanne Young's blog and Robin Mellom's blog for more "perky" posts on Monday!)

I was trying to find something to post about today on Sunny Sunday to kick off to Monday Perks Project.

Considering my recent milestone in obtaining an agent. I thought I would write about being grateful and acknowledge how grateful I am for everything I have in my life.

My family
My friends
My health
My life
My passion
My mind
My heart
My willingness to grow
My strength
My hope
My love
My joy

Mostly, I am grateful for the path I am on. For my ongoing journey in this crazy life. No matter how hard and frustrating, everything scene leads to the fantastic reel of my life.

Then I started to realize that sometimes we forget to be grateful for the hard things in life. Sometimes we forget to love the rain, the storms, and the dark clouds as much as we love the sun and clear skies.

I think it is important to be grateful for all the hard times just as much as the good times. Not only do they teach you lessons but they get you to where you are today.

So thanks for the bad times. The hard times. The crappy times.

The pain
The sickness
The sorrow
The frustration
The failures
The fear
The fights
The struggles
The obstacles
The tears
The broken hearts

Today, I am grateful for the downside of life.

Because it makes the upside even sweeter.


A Poem of Gratitude

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security,

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,

With the grace of a woman,
Not the grief of a child

And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After awhile you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
In stead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers

And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth,
and you learn and learn...
With everything you learn.

- Shoffstall

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday's Marketing Round up (6/12)

First - thanks to all of you for the wonderful comments, well wishes and offline emails! So sweet. I just could hug each one of you. Love you guys (can you tell how sappy I am this week!)

Next week - my blogger friend, Chandler Craig over at Fumble with Fiction (agented by the great Dan Lazar) is starting The Agented Support Group - this group is for writers to share their crappy and good experiences with the agent process. Not a bitch session. Not any names. But to connect with other Pre-Agented writers to help them through the painful process of rejection and frustration. Lets all band together and help each other through the process we call publishing b/c I'm pretty sure you would not be reading my blog or this post unless writing was your passion. Check it out!

Here are my favs for the week:

Meeting agents at Conferences - (How you present yourself is all part of your unconscious branding). Try to avoid business and strike up a normal conversation. This may make a bigger impression than an awkward pitch in the restroom under the bathroom stalls.

Christina Katz's Platform chats for writers - tweets from Marketing expert on how to build a platform.

Twittersated- I do have to say that I am charmed by the format, the short 140 character long bits of people’s lives.

Facebook Frenzy - Tips for effective facebook

Tips for Twitter success
- Must haves on your twitter account.

Writing secrets to giving your book a PR edge - By following the secrets revealed below, fiction writers can greatly enhance their chances of getting print, radio, and TV exposure.

Blogging Basics- If you can't say anything nice, it might be better to say nothing at all.

Signings are they worth it? - An author talks about her experience and how it worked for her.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Pictorial Interpretation of Getting an Agent AKA Evidence!

This is me cheering when I find out the news!

here is how happy Alyssa is.....OK so its from Trident's web site but I can pretend!

This is me printing out the contract (Oh yeah and cheering again)

After me signing the contract - This is me smooching the contract - I needed to send Alyssa/Trident ALL MY love for believing in me.

This is me giving you all the thumbs up! Just because I am gooby that way!

This is me mailing the contract! (What?! I still can't believe it and NOOOOOO it's not a submission!)

This is Sheri and Jessica (from my critique group) taking me out for drinks ;)

And this is me hanging the signed contract on the wall so I can look at it everyday and pinch myself!

This is me soaring up to Cloud 10 (Cloud 9 just wasn't quite high enough!)

And finally, no matter what, these are the most important things in my life!

Of course Alyssa and Trident are Number #2

(oops sorry to all my friends and family but all I can say is: I HAVE PRIORITES PEOPLE!!!)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Tracy Marchini (Literary Assistant, Curtis Brown)

Hi Tracy! Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I am a Literary Assistant at Curtis Brown Ltd., a full service literary agency that has had the pleasure of representing adult and children's literature for nearly 100 years. We have a foreign rights and film department, and have just launched our new website. I also have my own personal blog.

Before joining Curtis Brown, I worked as a newspaper correspondent and a freelance children's book reviewer. I graduated Binghamton University with a BA in English, concentration in Rhetoric.

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

The top 3 things every author should do to promote their book:

1.) Start early.

Buy your name as your domain now. Maybe you don't need to set up your website yet, but squat on your space and pay attention to renewals. Once you've sold the book, you'll most likely have a year or two before your book hits the shelves. Start social networking now so that you have friends in the kidlit social community that will be happy to hear and blog about your book release. (Likewise, this is a friendship like any other, so respect your fellow bloggers by blogging about their book releases and linking to posts that you think other writers would find informative.)

2.) Encourage creativity.

Experiment with ways to create a movement around your book by offering your readers not only information about you and/or your book, but also different ways of interacting with you than they might interact with another writer. Try different platforms to see which are the most appropriate ways for you and your readers to talk. Try videos, contests, "open mic" Q&A's -- anything that might give the reader more information about your book without just giving them a sales pitch. Experiment without worrying about how many people might catch on, and remember that there will always be more people reading than participating (partially, I think, b/c of the ease of Google Reader.)

So, forgiving the fact that marketing isn't a large part of my role at the agency, and speaking more on a "what I'd love to see authors do" level, let's imagine that I wrote a funny memoir about needle pointing while traveling the world on the circus train. (On the off-chance anyone really did, I would love to read a copy!)

First and foremost, I would ask myself if this project would translate better online as a blog or as my own social network. In this case, I would consider A.) if there are any major needle pointing social networks already in existence, B.) if I felt that my audience would be interested in posting videos and pictures of their own needlepoint projects or if they would prefer just to comment on what I blogged about, and C.) if my target demographic was likely to be comfortable with one platform over the other. Because crafters would probably enjoy the ability to learn new techniques from others in a niche community, I would personally choose to create a social network over a straight blog.

Once I set up the network and traffic started to grow, I would invite my readers to tell their funniest circus stories, post a series of how-to needlepoint videos, keep my readers up-to-date on my latest needle pointing projects by posting pictures, encourage people to post pictures of their needlepoint projects by commenting on those that do, give away needle pointed bookmarks that I'd made as prizes, post sample chapters of the memoir, invite readers to write a circus story with me by writing a line, or perhaps invite them to create illustrations to a circus story I'd posted, etc. In addition to reaching out to my readers, I would reach out to other blogging needle pointers and invite them to guest blog. Perhaps I'd set up a needlepoint rivalry, challenging a fellow needle pointer to a cross stitching duel. (Post videos of your fastest 100 stitches? Or challenge each other to create the best original image without using a grid to pre-plan the design?) [If you're not a needle pointer, I'm sure the idea of watching people stitch 100 x's as fast as possible sounds about as much fun as giving yourself a frontal lobotomy with a spoon. It's tempting to be as general as possible in hopes to attract the biggest audience. But remember, the goal is not to have every person on the planet on your network. Instead, we're trying to create a tight-knit community of needle pointers, because they are the ones that would (possibly) be interested in a needlepoint circus memoir.]

Then I would experiment with how my Twitter feed and Myspace and/or Facebook page could integrate what was happening on the needlepoint social network without turning into a list of links. Maybe invite your Facebook followers to be the judge of the best needlepoint project that was posted on the social networking site by creating a Facebook page or group for it. Schedule a time to have a question and answer session with your most advanced needle pointer on your network via Twitter, and invite your readers (who have, at this point, essentially become co-creators on your site) to listen to the conversation and then ask questions.

If I had a major prize to give away (b/c needle pointing is so time intensive), I would ask my readers to needlepoint a favorite scene from the needlepoint/circus memoir. The scene where you discover the bearded lady isn't a lady, or perhaps the story about the tightrope walker who fell during a practice session into an elephant pile because they accidentally used your embroidery floss instead of the tightrope.

Likewise, I would experiment offline. Perhaps at book readings I would ask people to come prepared with their own needle and floss. I'd pass out 1 by 3 inch pieces of canvas and at the end of the reading, we'd race to see who can embroider their piece the fastest. Winner gets a prize and everybody else goes home with a physical reminder of the event, even if they chose not to buy a book. Or maybe I'd try to find an artist that makes beautiful needlepoint art, and see if we could have a collaborative reading and gallery exhibition.

The most important thing to remember, I think, is that if people love your content and if you are genuine in your interactions, then they're going to want to participate in the making of similar content. So experiment yourself, and encourage other people to experiment with you.

3.) Be gracious.

Networking online is the same as networking in person, so whether you're online or offline, it's important to be a gracious host and an appreciative guest. Thank people for re-tweeting, or for posting a link to your blog. It's important to remember that people online are still peope, so take care when you comment and post.

In your opinion, how important is social networking? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, GoodReads etc.

My main area of interest is children's literature, and so I can not stress enough how important it is as a children's writer to talk to your audience on the platforms that they are most comfortable with. I think this helps not only on a marketing standpoint, but also I think it improves your writing and keeps it more real. As we get older, our perspective on middle school, high school and college changes, so why not talk to the very same people you're writing for and ask them -- what are you worried about today? What is the best thing that's happened to you today? I think the answers will be inspiring, and will help keep authors in touch with how they were felt at that point in their lives.

How important is technology to an author's marketing plan?

Technology is important because it enables its users to access the type of information they want at an ever-increasing pace. What that means for an author is that their fan-base can decide how much or how little they want to know about an author and their books.

Sometimes I think authors are resistant to blog or tweet, or chat on Facebook because they worry that people don't really care what they're working on or what their flight to Denver was like on the way to their book signing.

But that's not something an author should worry about, because the people that follow them are doing so by choice. Your readers want to hear from you!

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever Google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

We often Google perspective clients. We're always pleased to see a professional looking website, but we are also looking to make sure the author isn't a fugitive!

Can you give us an idea of what things Publishers may offer in contracts in terms of Marketing? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book?

Contracts vary depending on the author and publisher. It's been my experience that debut and mid-list authors will rarely see any sort of marketing commitment in terms of dollars spent in their contracts. (One exception to this is Vanguard Publishing, whose business model is to offer a certain amount to be spent in marketing dollars instead of an advance.)

Unfortunately, most publishers have one small marketing and publicity team that handles all of the imprint's and/or publisher's books. It's impossible to buy a full page ad in the School Library Journal for every book, or to send every book to the New York Times Book Review.

So be nice to your publisher's publicist! You want them to want to help you.

Thank you Tracy for your time and advice!

Thank you Shelli.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday's Marketing Round up (6/5)

First thing first

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on my bog this month - we did 315 comments ($78.75). I know its not much but its something.

BTW - for all you who bid or blogged about the auction - we raised $13,000 for Bridget on the auction. Someone even bid on my marketing package :)

Also I am adding a poll on the side: Should I split my blogs and do Market my Words specifically for marketing but do Srjohannes for my writing journey? Would you all follow me if I split off?

Now, here are my favorite marketing posts this week:

Some don't want any promotion at all. - Most of us eagerly grab all the book promotion opportunities we can get. And then there are those who want no book promotion at all.

Effective Speeches - 5 questions to ask yourself while preparing a speech. This is the basic structure every talk should follow.

Webinar class - Look at your marketing/promotion skills as a writer - are you a generalist or a specialist?

Simple ways to promote yourself - When it comes to online promotion, it's really about participating.

Everything I learned about twitter -
Here’s how some of the mantras from our undergrad days now make the best tweets.

Thanks again for all the congrads! Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Inside Scoop!

O.K. So it is now official official.

I have an agent! wow! I still can't believe I am typing this. It is still a blur.

One day I didn't have anything. (Except rejections of course! :)

One day I got I made a huge change.

One day I got lucky.

One day I got a email.

One day I got a phone call.

One day I had a few agents who wanted me. (BTW I did not wake up expecting this day to be "the day")

Now suddenly, I found "the one".

Finally today, I can tell you my agent seeking story. Since the Agent Agreement is signed, my agent can't back out now (at least not for a year :). For the last week, I have been almost sure she would come to her senses and change her mind.Right?

I mean she's crazy... right?

Surely she called the wrong Shelli. Right?

Surely this is a joke. Surely I am on candid camera. A mean episode.

But it is really happening. (OMG! OMG! OMG! AAAHHHHHHHHH! :D

My agent and I (man I love saying that!) have both signed in blood so it is irreversible. O.K. so she signed her name with her Secret Agent pen (they have those right?) , however, what she doesn't know is that I signed mine in blood, sweat, and tears. It's a done deal and I am thrilled and so lucky and so grateful for my journey.

Mostly, I am so grateful to(there I go again!) for believing in me and seeing something special in me and my writing - Just like I see in her amazing ability.

So here is my story.....

...when I was born in 19??..... ( JK! I won't go back that far - thank god! I hear you sighing with relief. Whew!)

In the beginning

As many of you know, I was an executives at a Consulting Firm and International Bank until I started my own marketing company. I have over 15 years of experience in marketing and communications. But something was always missing.

I have always loved writing. But growing up - I was always told to go into business. That was where the money was. I still managed to do writing in my business jobs - it was just business communications. Sometimes, I would dabble in poems at home. But I never took it seriously. I never expected or even thought it could be a career. I think that's why the marketing copywriting was a great transition b/c it was creative and I am good at business.

My first book

When I had my daughter in 2004, I went on 5 months of maternity leave.The summer before when I was traveling in England (with my British hubby) I remembered passing by a shop called the Broken Winged fairy and got an idea. A book about a fairy who couldn't fly. I sat down one day when my baby girl was sleeping and started to write my tween fantasy, which is now titled On Tattered Wings. It all came pouring out of me - totally out of the blue b/c I never set out to write a whole book. I wrote on naps, at night, early in am. I never intended on trying to publish it.

But I realized I felt so alive writing and suddenly knew (don't ask me how I came to this conclusion after 15 years of business experience. I just knew.) writing was what I wanted to do. 6 months later I had a first draft. I think my family and friends thought I was crazy. As I kept my marketing business a float, I left my job and immediately starting querying some agents and some editors. Yes this was only after my first draft. Big mistake! This was all before I joined SCBWI (oi!!!!!) and trust me I made so MANY mistakes. (if you have not already, join SCBWI!!!!! I would not be here without them!)

At that time, I did not get any requests from agents (I must have queried at least 60-75 but they all seemed to want YA at the time - now I see why :). I got alot of form rejections and even a couple nasty grams begging me to proof my book. I edited my book and started querying publishers (thinking what did agents know anyway! :). First there was one publishing house that asked for MAJOR revisions. I did them but they took me 4 months only to get a (lets all say it together) REJECTION! I was bummed (for a nicer word) but then another small publishing house requested a full and informed me my book was going to Acquisitions. I thought for sure I was In-like-Flynn (cliche alert!). Unfortunately my book was once again rejected. I was so upset. Devastated. I really thought I was going to be published by this company. I mean didn't they know I was the next Harry Potter?????(blah blah blah). Now what? I didn't have time to write another book!

I paid an well-known editor to edit my book. What was wrong with it. It came back with so many post its and changes and things broken - I shelved it and it still sits on a shelf today, collecting dust. Maybe someday when the fairy market subsides, I will revisit it again. I still think a young tween fairy book may have a potential market - especially clean tween.

A new project

I did not write for a long time after that let down. I was very discouraged with the whole process, the rejections, the mean letters. I mean - after all - who did I think I was thinking that I (a business person) could write something and get published. I was a joke. I had no writing degree, no MFA, no experience. I was a business girl and that was it. I had nothing tangible to go on, except a dream and an urge.

Needless to say, I had a hard time personally in 06/07 - i lost a big money-making contract, lost a baby, got prego, had a son was born in May o7 who was very sick for the first 6-9 months, and to top it off my hubby had to have major back surgery in Germany for 6 weeks (nov/Dec 07) with a very long painful and recovery.

During this time, I started Grace Under Fire. But I only dabbled. Nothing serious. My hubby actually came up with the original concept - a homegrown terrorist group training in NC mountains found out by a nature loving, sassy girl. I loved Grace because she was sassy yet insecure and I loved the nature aspect of the book. (which BTW has now changed dramatically)

I wrote when I could but had totally given up the dream of getting published. I looked into self-publishing but for some reason, it didn't call me. I had little time to focus on writing anyway, with everything else going on.

To be honest - I think I made up every excuse to not finish my book and get it out on sub. Who needs the rejection anyway. Life was full of it already.

My Posse/Peeps!

But I still had the itch.

I joined SCBWI and attended conferences. But in Fall 07 - was asked to give a marketing speech at a SCBWI conference. There, I met Sarah Francis, Katie Anderson, Jessica DeHart, and Lindsey Leavitt. Just making some new friends that I could talk to about writing all day really helped me get going again. I had always gone to conferences alone, ate alone, and didn't focus on meeting people. I only focused on meeting editors and agents and getting published, I didn't try to connect with anyone. This change in mindset for me was huge! These special girls have all got me to where I am today. Without them, I really do not think I would be here. After all, none of us can do it alone.

I started writing again but sporadically. Until I attended another conference in April 08 and got re-inspired when I met up with Jessica DeHart again. We found a couple of cool chicks to hang out with (since Katie, Sarah and Lindsey were not there) and started our own informal posse - OK so it was just an informal weekly critique group, but doesn't posse sounds much better? This group included both of us, Sherri Dillard, Kelly Williams, and Betsy Delves. My special connection with these girls is really what pulled me back on my path. For 6 months, we met weekly and not only did they offer to read a chapter a week of my book. Sometimes they did 2. This was invaluable to me and pushed me to finish Grace. Something I'd been dabbling in for a couple years at this point. I will say during this time, I also wrote a nonfiction book that went to Acquisitions at American Girl - once again only to be rejected. This sucked! I was so fed up at the all rejections. For me, it always felt like 1 step forward, 10 steps back. Because of my group - that we called The Calliope Circle - I pushed onward and upward. Needless to say, I grumbled the whole way.

Before I started subbing in the fall, a friend that I met at a Southern Breeze conference, Lindsey Leavitt, had just gotten an amazing agent and 3 book deal. At the fall conference, I met her for coffee and we chit chatted for a couple hours. She was very generous and I soaked in all the great tips she offered on the agenting process and all the great info on her own story. She also encouraged me to restart my blog. When I had met a year before, Lindsey and I had been in the same place writing wise. Suddenly, she had catapulted forward in a flash. She and her story re-lit a major fire in my belly. I could do this! It had happened to someone I knew and now it felt attainable. It was possible. I made a decision then that no matter what I was not going to give up. If I wanted something out of this process, I need to put something major into it.

I started a blog to help people sell their books. I started offering free web sites as giveaways. I started doing massive amounts of research on the business side. I ordered PW, signed up for Publishers Lunch and studied the daily deals. Anything I could get my hands on that added to my knowledge of the business, I sucked up!

Agent Subbing process

In general - 3 agents changed my book and my career.

After I met Lindsey, I was ready to sub Grace. THIS TIME, I decided to go for an agent and not a publisher. I realized in all my research that it was the best option for me to kick open a door in this industry. In Oct 08, THIS TIME I did massive amounts of research. I made a very detailed spreadsheet listing my top 50 agents. I logged all the research I found on them - what did they like, who were their clients, where did they come from, what did they read for pleasure. I read blogs, interviews, studied the journey's of their authors. I really did my work. In Nov, I sent out 5 queries at a time and worked very hard to put a personal item in each letter that connected specifically with that agent. I mentioned a book they read or an interview they did. Each letter was very personal and took a long time to write. Then, I waited.

Surprisingly, within a month, I had several agents request fulls. I was ecstatic. In Dec, I got 2 very personal letters from 2 wonderful agents (I'll call them Agent #1 and Agent#2). Pretty much they both told me that my premise was unbelievable and dark and my characters needed some major work. But they did say that they loved my voice and that my writing had serious potential. OK, so at least I did not totally suck! At least I was not a joke to them. (PS. I want you to know that one of these agents is now my agent. So stay tuned!!!!) Even though these were 2 hard rejections, I knew it was promising. It gave me much more specific feedback that I could use to get to the next level.

Back to the drawing board

I started brainstorming ideas with my book angels.

Lindsey Leavitt gave me great advice and laid it on the line for me. (BTW you don't want people around you who are going to blow spoke up with booty. That is not going to get you published, trust me.) She told me that if I was getting past query stage and partials going straight to fulls. That meant I had good writing, good voice but something was wrong with the plot of my book. In my gut, I figured it had to be the terrorist group - the ending. I had in mind a huge change I needed to make to the book that would get rid of the terrorist angle and change from a thriller into an environmental suspense. But there was no way I was changing all that. The changes were way too daunting and way too big. I just didn't have the time nor the energy. Did I?

I made some changes to my characters and the plot, but nothing like I knew I needed. But I was still getting full requests by alot of agents so I kept waiting to see if something would stick. Out of 50 queries (over 6 month period) - I think I had about 15-20 full requests but they always ended in a rejection. This was heartbreaking for me and I cried many nights. I was so close. Why wasn't this happening for me. I became a bit obsessed with the process. I got jealous of hearing people's agent stories and deals. With every rejection, I got anxious and angry and a bit bitter. This wasn't the real me - it was the desperate me. What I also didn't tell you is that during this whole time, I was battling a bad ear infection that caused major Vertigo - 6 months of daily vertigo.

Jessica DeHart pushed me through this process. She was so positive and always saw the best in everything I did and the good in anything that happened. This changed my mindset completely.

But, more rejections came in and none were as personal as the 2 I received in the beginning.

Finally, a wonderful agent - Agent #3 (who I was referred to by a fabulous friend/author) provided sent me a very nice and long letter. In this letter, she loved my writing, my characters but hated the terrorist angle. She and I exchanged a couple emails and she gave me very specific feedback. Do you know what was weird? Her feedback was EXACTLY the same changes I had been contemplating for months. The ones I was avoiding because of being lazy and impatient. This was a sign to me. I knew then I had to try the huge changes or I would always wonder if I could have been more. Changing the terrorist thriller to an environmental suspense would be so hard. It was a major plot change. Like 1/3 of the whole book had to be ditched. Meanwhile I got in the Quarterfinals in Amazon (which was based on the first few chapters of my book).

I knew I was on the right track, but I wasn't convinced the changes would make a difference.

What helped me finally push over the edge was that Agent #3 said if I decided to rework my plot, she MIGHT take another look if I resubmitted.

Suddenly, I had a speck of hope and possibility. There was no guarantee. But it got me through those changes. I went back to the drawing board, scrapped the last 1/3 of my book, and started over. And cranked them out in one month. I did not want to mess around and take 6 months. I know from a business perspective that markets can change like the wind (cliche alert) and I was not going to ruin my chance of getting Grace published because I could not work fast enough.

I worked night and day and my hubby gave me weekends.

My goal was to give rebirth to Grace on Easter.

That was a long, hard exhausting, month. But I did it. Vertigo and all.

Round 2

When I finished the rewrites, I resubmitted to Agent #3 just before crashing. (I also dropped dairy, sugar, caffeine, carbs and 14 lbs - but you know what vertigo went away too!)

I was happy. I knew this new version of Grace was tighter, lighter, better, and much more believable. I felt like I'd fixed it but I still wasn't sure.

One day, I was talking to Katie Anderson about who had rejected me and I how I was bummed I had wasted some good queries especially on the 2 agents that gave me personal feedback. She said, "Can't you just requery them?"' I said. "Noooooo I don't think you can do that." But that night my hubby said "So? Why not? all they can do is say no again. Who cares?"

Me! I could be blackballed from the industry for fudging the "rules". They would all send each other emails about me: "hey don't read Shelli's stuff, she'll just keep requerying."

You know what? I decided to requery them - what the hell right? If you fail, I say fail big! :) Go outwith a bang! You gotta take changes. Agent #1 and Agent #2 had taken the time to give me feedback and very personal rejections but that was 8 months ago and my book was totally different. It was risky and I know everybody says - "please don't requery us." but I did anyway. I wrote a very nice, professional letter to both agents, reminding them of what they said about my writing, explaining how I had changed the book, outlining how I had addressed their specific comments, and asking permission to resubmit my manuscript. In the letter, I also included - as a one liner at the bottom - a blurb about my new tween-angel book (On the Bright Side) that I had started writing. Just so they knew I was not a one-shot wonder.

It took me a couple of weeks before I heard back. When I saw their emails pop-up in my box, I didn't open them for like an hour! I was so scared to. I anticipated multiple curse words and a couple F-off's followed by: "Listen little girl, we already said No and I've marked you as junk mail in my box. Go away neophyte. You'll never make it in this town!"

But these 2 fabulous agents were very nice and very generous. They thanked me for requerying them and allowed me to resubmit Grace. They also asked to see the beginning of Bright too. I was so grateful. For the first time, I felt like something might happen for me. It was another sign that I was going in the right direction. At this time, I still had a total of 6 agents reading my full manuscript so I went ahead and emailed each of them asking if I could replace the old version with an updated version (due to major changes). They were all very gracious as well and let me switch since they had not gotten to it yet.

Honestly - they were all so nice! I think we would all be surprised. We have to remember they are people not ogres.

Suddenly the 3 agents (the 3 that had given me the personal feedback before) came back to me and requested more of my tween angel book. This was promising. It meant they liked my writing and voice. I had a shot.

Maybe it was a shot in hell - but it was a shot nonetheless.

One of the 3 quickly bowed out with very kind words of encouragement. :) ( Who to this day I think is amazing!)

I waited. And prayed. And waited. And hoped. And begged the universe for a break.

I just needed one to see my potential? Just one to believe in me!

The Calls

Then a couple weeks ago, (about a month after I sent off the new versions) Agent #3 came back with an formal offer. I was so ecstatic on the phone - I barely remember what she said. I loved her and was drawn to her because she was the first agent who had ever offered to REREAD Grace if I made changes. That glimmer of hope helped me in that hard month of rewrites. I felt grateful to her and - to be honest - somewhat loyal for her just giving me the extra chance. I almost swiped up the offer without even thinking it through. I knew she loved my writing and my books. And I thought she was fab!

But a couple writer friends encouraged me to think it through and email all the people who were still considering my full to let them know. I thought, "Yeah right. Like they are all going to want my book. What are teh chances? And if they did, wouldn't they have emailed me." Besides, I had one already interested that rocked the house!

So what's the point? Right?


But I wanted to be courteous of the others that had been courteous to me.

So I emailed them about my offer, expecting. "Good, we didn't want you anyway and this saves us another manuscript to read." (Again, they are people not ogres!)

Within about 10 minutes of emailing them, the floodgate opened. I got all emails returned within a short time. A couple agents bowed out and wished me luck/congratulations. But several were interested in offering me representation on Grace. And lucky for me, a few had also read the sample of Bright as well and loved it. (PS Bright was in first draft and not even complete yet!)

Now I got to schedule a few interviews and choose! What?????! This is CRAZY! For years, I had been begging people to look at my manuscript and love my writing. Begging!! Wishing!! Hoping!! It had all seemed so unreachable but now, I was going to get to choose my agent out of a great group? A top group!

How lucky was I?

After the interviews, I narrowed it down to 2 wonderful agents that I connected with the most. I thought so hard about it. This was where it was really tough for me. They both were amazing and so nice and loved my writing. Which one to choose? I even did a few eeny meeny rounds, a few flip the coins. But it always ended up even stephen.

ahhhhhhh! I felt pressure. I've always heard a bad agent is worse than no agent. what if I make the wrong decision? what if one backs out? How do I know if i choose right?

I made a thousand lists of pros and cons!!! I analyzed every word of their emails looking for a hidden clue. At first, I looked at experience, books sold, clients, their vision for me and my writing. But it was so close and they both were so good.

In the end, I simply quieted down and went with my gut. It was hard because I loved both of them for different reasons.

But the agent I chose was honestly the one I had a feeling about since the very beginning. Since last fall. It was the FIRST agent who gave me very constructive feedback in a personal/nice rejection. It was the agent that had so much passion in her voice for my work that I got off the phone MORE more excited about my own book. It was the agent who took the time and care to lay out a very specific plan ( and I mean very specific) for my career and each book's journey to market. For both Grace and Bright!

Out of respect, I am not going to list who my agent choices were. That seems very tacky. Because they were all fab for different reasons.

But I will tell you who my Secret Agent is.

When I was trying to choose, I Casey McCormick posted her Agent Spotlight of the Week. which happened to be the one I was leaning towards. I am a big person on signs from the universe and this was a big sign to me. (thanks Casey!)

Wanna know who it is?

My agent is.....

the fabulous Alyssa Eisner Henkins from Trident Media!!!!!!!

(what?! can you believe it?!!!!!!!!!!!! She's amazing right?!)

I m so happy!

If I had a dollar for every time I have said or screamed or cried over the last 2 weeks - I would not even need a book deal!)

So, what's next?

My first deadline - my real official deadline that someone else has given me - is June 8th! Yes a week away. But I'm ready to work hard and do what it takes. Hopefully we will go to sub in July if I can crank through my edits. Or maybe I should say when i crank through my edits.

How did I do this?

I would say I had some luck mixed with perseverance, splashed with blessing, and dipped in destiny.

But honestly, I have no clue how I got to be 1 of Alyssa's 24 lucky clients!!!! ;) OMG!

I do think I have a unique voice. I do think I tell stories well. After all, I am a total drama queen at heart so that part is so easy. And just like every other writer, I did not give up! I also have a great family and a hubby that supports me and believed in me when I did not believe in myself.

But most of us have these things. Right?

I was thinking last night, what did I do differently. I wanted to help you all who are still on the agent path to take a step closer to your dream. So I think there are a few things that I tried to do during this crazy process that may have pushed me forward.

1) I joined SCBWI and met my book angels - Jessica, Katie, Sarah F, Lindsey, Betsy, Sheri, Kelly and Suzanne Young. We cannot write in a vaccum! We get ideas from outside sources but we write from within. My book did not just come from me. The idea, premise, characters and writing are mine. But they are all sprinkled with advice, critiques, and ideas from all these girls. Without them I would not be here! I swear, I am here because of them!! I dont think any writer gets anywhere alone. We make work alone. But we can't write/create alone.

2) One thing I have tried to do is celebrate each and every step forward! I really have! I have tried to be grateful for any small sign of progress. Which in this business, are usually very small things. If someone requested a partial or a full. If an agent took their personal time to send me a personal rejection (of course this is after totally crying of course :). I celebrated my win at Amazon, even though I dd not get to the next round. I celebrated the agent who gave me a second shot to revise and resubmit. Because you see, she gave me more than just a shot, she gave me hope - which is priceless. These were all wins to me. I try to focus on the small steps. As long as I took a step forward, I knew it was a matter of time.

3) I requeried the 2 agents that gave me feedback. I was actually expecting 2 "hell no we've already said no so go away" but it was not the case. I went against the grain a bit and did something everyone says not to do. I just did it in a professional and appropriate way. I'm not saying it works for everyone. And please don't go and resend all your queries (especially to Alyssa!!!) I'm just saying you can't always play exactly by the rules. No one can tell you what to follow and what to break, sometimes you have to take risks and go with your gut. Whatever you decide, be sure it is smart and appropriate.

4) I am open to CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. I actually seek it out. (Note on constructive - Please emember if you are critiquing someone - they is no reason to dog them. I saw some comments on one of Miss Snark's Victim's monthly contest that were just plain rude and mean. If I was an agent, that stuff would turn me off completely). I always look for any way to improve. Don't get me wrong, this does not mean I don't get my feathers a bit ruffled - I think we all do. After all our writing is personal. But after I vent a bit and stomp around muttering under my breath (so much to where my daughter asks who I am talking to :) , I really try and step back to take in what was said. I do not think we can write books alone. There is so much more that goes into our stories: our past, our deepest feelings, fears, experiences, and even criticisms. I do always look for any small nugget of advice, any way to improve. I listen even if I do not agree with something thankful someone cares enough about me and my writing to talk about it.

5) I tried not to focus on the end result of getting published. Towards the beginning of this year, I got to a place where I decided "I am going to write for me and if I get published great. If I don't, it doesn't matter b/c I will still write and be happy writing." I let go of any angst to to attachment. I tried to start focusing more on my journey and the passion I feel when I write. I didn't do this all the time, I am not perfect - but this was the mindset where I could recentered myself after bad rejections or major disappointments. And for a long time, that is all if felt like I was getting. I'm not saying I didn't stand on the edge of the doubt. I did many times. I even quit writing 2 or 3. But I always came back because I love writing. I am a writer at heart. No rejection could tell me otherwise. We have to remember why we write.

6) I think you have to seek out and help others - I decided lastyear that you do not "get anything until you give something). That is why I started this blog. Not only to network and start building a platform. But so I could give marketing advice to every author that woudl help them get noticed and get deals and get published. I have tried to give back by speaking at conferences and give free things away so that others can benefit. I think this is important but this is just me.

7) Lastly, I try to remember that publishing is really just a business. Even though it is a creative one. The publishing business is about what sells. My original version of Grace was not selling. If I couldn't sell it to agents, then something was wrong. And b/c of that, I was willing to change my entire book to be sellable. Don't get me wrong, I did not sell out! I did those edits on my terms, in my way, and maintained my true voice. The story is the fundamentally the same, I just did it in a different way. If I had not stayed open to the drastic feedback and possibility of changing my entire plot, I would not be here today. I got essentially 50 rejections with my old version and several offers with my new version. I knew deep down if I want to get an agent and get publsihed, I had to find my target audience. BTW this does not mean you all have to write commercial fiction. I personally dont think Grace is commercial. YOu can still market yourself as literary but you still need a market to buy your idea. And if an agent is not buying, it probably won't sell. I am sure there are exceptions.

BTW - we are not our target audience. Just because we love our work and characters, does not mean it sells.

In the end I think it helps to remember, this is a business and we as writers have to find customers and a market for our books and ideas. If we can't - for whatever reason whether its fair or not - we need to find some way of adapting. Or we lose.

Grab Hold of your Dream

Whatever you do, if you know deep down that this is your calling, your purpose, your path. Keep going!!!!!! Instead of focusing on the end result, the big agent, the big book deal, the signings. Focus on the now. Make connections. network. Listen.

Yeah easier said than done. But it can be done. I did it.

Look for all those little signs telling you that you are heading in the right direction. The letters, the requests, the advice, the special connections, the people, the special moments of serendipity that sometimes come our way without us even recognizing they are there until they pass us by.

If you don't look for them, you will not see them and you may give up on a dream that is yours. One that could come tomorrow.

Doesn't mean it is easy. Doesn't mean it will happen tomorrow.

But at least you have hope and possibility.

If you quit, all that hope goes away. You will never make it. So woudl you rather think you might make it or know you won't. That is what it came down to for me. Try to relax. If you hold on tightly to the end result, you just cause yourself angst and anxiety that only impacts your life, health and your writing.

It only impacts your dream.

So keep trying, I did. Keep your chin up. I know - trust me I know - it is not easy. But is anything worth getting easy?

When I got bad news, I always gave myself 24 hrs to mope and shout and cry and quit and feel sorry for myself. But that's it. You only get 24 hrs. Jessica DeHart taught me this and it helped. After 24 hrs, you force yourself to get up and go on. After 24 hrs, get off your BUTT and take a step forward. Maybe even 2. If you take 1 step back and then 2 steps forward, you are actually ahead of where you were. Do it! You will feel better. Write a page, send out one just more query, call a writer friend, buy a book. Read this blog :) Do whatever it is you need to do for you.

But you have to get back up and take a step forward.

You never know - tomorrow could be your day. I never expected it to be mine.

I am still working towards my dream. It is still a long shot and I am sure more rejections are to come.

But for now I am going to stop and cherish this moment. I am going to enjoy my feeling of accomplishment and the steps I have taken in this crazy process.

Today, I'm just going to.....Dance and Shout!