122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Path to Getting Published - Part 3: Project: Agent Research

Project: Agent Research

The cool thing about owning a blog is I can blather on and on about something inconsequential, like researching literary agents for instance, and you can either choose to continue reading and maybe even participate in the conversation by way of comments. Or close my page, never to return to my babbling again.
In either case I don't have to face a friend where I feel obligated to give a 30 second summary or depressingly watch their eyes go glassy as they wonder when I am going to shut up.

If you haven't read Part 2 of the Path to Getting Published series, you may wish to do so before continuing, but I've tried to write them so they can stand on their own.

I have begun the process of searching for an agent. Living vicariously through other people's blogs, but there is nothing quite like trudging through the process firsthand. A friend of mine I met on Twitter, Dee Ann Waite has two great blog entries on the subject:
  The Horrifying Journey of Querying
  and Are You Really Ready to Publish?
These have served as an excellent platform to jump from.

The second entry had a link to a Research Agents article which had great advice on finding an agent. The second recommendation in this article, Acknowledgments, in the list is where I am starting my search. Here is what they say:
Find out who represents authors you admire, either through the acknowledgments in their books, where agents are often thanked, or simply by Googling their names and words like "agent" or "represented by." If they're open to what your literary heroes are doing, they'll probably be open to your work, too.
Ahhh, sweet! Something to Google! I started with my literary hero: Stephen King. If you're going in, may as well go all in, right?

Google: Stephen King Literary Agent

There are a gazillion hits. Okay, searching....

Doh! Just got sidetracked by an article Ten Tips for Nabbing Yourself a Literary Agent, by Jay Clark. His [first] name is awesome and his article great. It's on setting your frame of mind when you do query, remember you are not a humble villager wishing to appease the great and powerful volcano god literary agent who can squash your dreams with a click of the mouse. You are a professional, by god. Act like you have something they need!

In addition, like in real estate, he points out another important quality in an agent: location, location, location. The presses are in NYC and so should your agent. Someone in Akron, Ohio will not be having a daily lunch date with their connection at Simon and Schuster, because S&S is in New York and your agent is in Ohio.

Jay's article led me to sign up for Agent Query. Create a profile? Check. Validate email? Check. Follow JayPatrickClark on Twitter? Check.

Oy. Google can be such a rabbit hole. Focus. Focus. Back to Stephen. Oh, crap, his literary agent, Ralph Vicinanza died last year. Twenty different sites, lots of clicks and I am getting good information but am no closer to figuring out who his agent(s) is/are.

OCD and years of attention deficit kicking in, time to switch gears. Trying another of my heroes, Dean Koontz.

Google: Dean Koontz Literary Agent

Bam! First link and I have my answer: Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Group. Shazam! On a roll now! Researching Robert. Okay, so according to his bio, Robert is founder and chairman of Trident. Doesn't look like he is accepting new clients, but Trident has a eleven active agents. They are representing hugely successful authors like Mr. Koontz, but still do a quick check on their location as per Jay Clark's article...Snap! They are in New York. Check.

Looking at their submissions page, you can submit one query to one agent. Time to start my contact spreadsheet. Name, address, phone, company, blah blah blah. Starting with the first agent on their list, Don Fehr and working my way down, looking for what feels like the best fit.

It seems like there are two parts to finding an agent: leg work and instinct. This blog article is mostly about the research part of it. Finding the people. Checking their bonafides. Seeing if they are accepting submissions and if so, what genre and in what format. On and on. But like in writing, there is the other side, the gut reaction to the person. Do they resonate with you? Based on their description of how they work and their philosophy, do you think the two of you will gel? Sure all of this is coming from an unpub, who is just starting the querying process. But I trust my instincts, they almost never lead me wrong. Well, okay except for that time when I was 17 and Ruth and I got locked in the park after hours. But I think that was more hormones than instinct, but I digress.

So that being said, I weeded the list down to four after reading their bios:
Melissa Flashman - What resonated: I am always on the lookout for the novel that makes you want to call in sick," says Melissa. "I'm genre agnostic—it's the story and writing that have to click. I LOVE the phrase "genre agnostic." Even after Googling it not entirely sure what it means, but I love it still.

Alex Glass - What resonated: I enjoyed working with writers even more as a literary agent, helping them through the creative process and making their vision a reality with the publication of their books. I have a passion for the business aspects of publishing.

Ellen Levine - What resonated besides her MASSIVE list of clients: I love to guide my established authors' careers, but I also love discovering fresh talent and new voices, taking authors to the next levels of success.  And of course, I get great pleasure in making the best possible deals for all my clients.

Erica Spellman-Silverman - What resonated: First her energy. It's weird, but I could feel this wave of energy coming out of her bio. Read it and tell me I'm wrong. Then there was this: I love great storytelling, and the talented writers who create the books," says Erica. I like being involved at the beginning of the process with the book, or even the idea and helping the writer to bring the work to fruition. Great storytelling is near and dear to my heart.

Okay, so I have four, now what? Now I am going through their list of clients to see whose work is closest to my own.

So first up: Melissa Flashman. In her bio she says categories include pop culture, memoir, wellness, popular science, business and economics, and technology, and based on the first dozen clients, none of whom were in my genre, I'd say this is a very accurate assessment of what she targets. Tons of good stuff, but doesn't seem like the two of us are on the same page.

Before I go on, I feel compelled to point out that about a third of the links to her clients' pages took me to someplace that I really had to dig to get any content. Sometimes it was a blog, sometimes Twitter, other times a random page I couldn't figure out why it was linked to. I don't mind working, but my ADD only gives me a minute or so per link to find useful content read before I move on.

Mental note: make a web page that gives the low down on who and what I'm about as well as links to my work.

Here is a superb example of what to do: http://www.eveadamson.com/. Really, this is awesome. Right off the top I see who she is, what work she's done, contact information, etc. It's simple and to the point.

Next, Alex Glass. I love his links to his clients, including the first one by Eve Adamson I mentioned. Of the first dozen, I got a ton of great information right away, though none quite as good as Eve's. Found several authors who write similarly to myself. Yay! Definitely keeping for round 3!

Going through Ellen Levine's massive list of clients is like pursuing a library and randomly pulling books off the shelf. The first few links for her clients didn't work, but after that so much. Memoirs. Documentaries. How-to. Including several in my genre. Yay!

Oops! Sorry, Alex and Ellen, but we have a winner: Erica Spellman-Silverman. Why? Well, first as I mentioned her bio radiates energy and I am like a moth to the flame for energy. If that's the way she comes across in her written word, what would she be like if I ever actually got to talk to her? Dude. Second, even though a lot of her client links didn't work, I felt compelled to keep going down her list. The reason was simple: at least half the authors had books I wanted to read. They resonated with me.

Three hours later I have the first literary agent on my spreadsheet and an item on my to-do list: create a compelling web site with all my information and links.

Until next time, carry on!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Just Let It Go

My daughter is 15 and has been my partner in writing crime. For the last couple of years she and I have been writing books at the same time and it has been marvelous fun. Then school kicked in and she has not had as much time and of course she has a ton of other interests: dancing (5-6 days a week!), maintains a 4.0 in school, can draw like a demon--I can sketch but compared to her I'm a complete fraud--has a set of YouTubers she follows religiously (YouTube is her version of TV), she has her friends, she has a whole slew of "hot guys" she is constantly mooning over, so on, the list is longer than as this run-on sentence. Plus, she's my "yes" girl.
   "Want to go skiing?"
   "Want to go on a bike ride?"
   "Want to go to Word Stock? Go to coffee? Go rollerblading?"
   "Yes. Yes. Yes."
You get the idea.

During our hours of riding, coffee, rollerblading, we talk about our stories amongst other things--one of her favorite subjects is always the latest "hot guy" she is admiring--share ideas and experiences. Work through story lines and plot twists. Figure out how to smooth out dialog and create tension.

But with all she has going on, her writing has fallen by the wayside. Plus, at her age, she is figuring out who she is, trying new things, constantly pushing her own boundaries. Did I mention the girl can draw? Damn! Big Ben. Tower of London. Lots of portraits. Yeah, yeah parental pride and all, but still pretty damn good.

So yesterday, she came with me to Bring Your Kid To Work Day, and on the drive over she told me that she was thinking she might not be an author--this has been her stated profession for a couple of years now. It didn't come as a surprise to me, she spends a ton of her time drawing which is where I think the love in her heart really lies and she wants to try her hand at vlogging like her favorite YouTubers. But it still hurt a little.

My heart is like, "wait! When we go on the Amazing Race together we could have been father/daughter [best-selling] authors. That was going to be our shtick! I was going to help you put together query letters and a list of agents I researched." Blah blah blah.

But instead I said, "yeah, kinda been thinking that. So what do you think you might do?" and we launched into another entertaining conversation.

I've seen parents try and cram an idea onto their kid, and sometimes that's a good thing. You will stay in school. You are brilliant you can get a bit better grades. You aren't going to watch TV all day. You aren't going to eat doughnuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But your dreams are your dreams, and watching your kids figure out theirs is even better, more exciting, more exhilarating than watching them try and fulfill yours.

Just let it go.

That's a metaphor for life, really. Most of the crap we try and control isn't worth the effort. Think about some of the stupid things we waste effort on and get spun up about and ask yourself if it is really worth it? What happens if you just let it go? Sometimes the result of letting something go, letting it unfold on its own, is even better than if you had controlled it. That's what I do in my stories, I let my muse take control and that seems to work. So I am.

My daughter is super good on social media and has an artist's eye, so she helped choose the color theme for my blog and has made recommendations on getting more followers on Twitter. Plus, she spent two years going down the writing-a-book-road, so she's my biggest supporter and we still get to talk about it. Who knows?, maybe she'll pick it up again later and if not that's okay. Then I'll get to live vicariously through her as she goes some off on some other fabulous adventure.

And when she turns 21 and we get on to be on the Amazing Race together, we'll have an even better byline.

Until next time, carry on!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Path to Getting Published - Part 2

Adventures in Social Media

This is part 2 of my series, Path to Getting Published. If you haven't already, take a moment and read Part 1.

When I started this process I didn't have a clue. Really, those that know me would argue that is still the case, but I digress. After I pulled my head out of the pages I was writing I started looking around for the next step and it turns out that step is "marketing."

If you aren't Steven King, Jack Nicholson, Ellen, or are, for whatever reason already famous or infamous, you probably don't have a huge entourage, thus it is up to you to drum up excitement for your upcoming book. It doesn't matter if you are going the traditional publishing route, like me, or indie, you need to employ liberal doses of social media.

Twitter. Facebook. Google+. Blogging. Yahoo. Blah blah blah. On and on. There is SO much it's easy to get bogged down and spend all your time working on socializing you don't leave any time to actually work on your next manuscript. I made that mistake when I first started. I tried to do Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and blogging. What I realized is you can't. It's too much.

Let me say that again for emphasis: You can't do it all.

Choose one or two and focus. I have a FB fan page I post to occasionally, and have a defunct G+ page, but my focus is blogging and Twitter.

If you don't have a blog yet, you can use www.blogger.com by Google, WordPress, or a plethora of others. Blogger.com was super easy to set up, except for the email subscription--I have outlined how to do that here-- and within 30 minutes I was posting.

Yay, right? Well, yes and no. You have to know the rules. Rules? What rules? I can post whatever I want!
Again, yes and no. There is no reason for me to go into all the do's and don'ts about blogging because it has been done ad nauseum.

So where to find The Rules?
Well, one of my absolute favorite bloggers is Molly Greene. She has posted a article titled My Ten Biggest Blog Blunders. Read this article then peruse her site and mimic. The girl is classy and a pro.

Another with great content is Write With Warnimont. Yet another is Jay Squires, who is both witty and informative. Very entertaining.

That's really the ticket to a great blog, give everything away and be a little entertaining while you do it. Your blog is not just for self-promotion!

Now you have to drive traffic to your site. That means, for me at least, Twitter.

I had a defunct account, that had like three followers. I picked it up and started following other authors. It's not hard and once you learn the rules--what? more rules?!--it becomes fun and an excellent place to network.

My number one rule that will get you bumped from my follower list every time is: don't spam self-promotion! This drives me crazy. You can check out my rantings on the subject Dealing with Twitter Megaposters if you feel so inclined.

Okay, so you need to drive traffic to your blog, socialize with other like-minded individuals, and gain a following. How do you do that exactly? Well, again, this has been written up by the experts. Below I have included four links of the best-of-what-I-have-read-so-far. You would do well to follow the advice of these pros.

Molly Greene wrote this fantastic article on Twitter Tips for Newbies. Classy, informative, and entertaining.

Jonathon Gunson wrote an article on promoting your book: The Most Effecitve book Marketing Strategy. It's simple and to the point.

Jay Squires wrote this article on the Bitter and the Sweet of Twitter and the Tweet. Informative and entertaining.

Claude Bouchard wrote this most excellent article on gaining followers: How I Really Got 1/4 Million Followers

Questions? Please, send them!
Carry on!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Setting Up Email Subscriptions in Blogger.com

For those that are using Blogger.com by Google, follow this guide to add an email subscription option, which apparently is not part of the default gadgets in the blog template.

I set my blog up last month and thought I had email subscriptions set up. There were two links on the right-hand side under "Subscribe To", one for comments and one for posts.

Awesome! With so much that I was thinking about when setting up the new blog, not the least of which as "what the heck am I going to write about?" it was great not to have to worry about that.

So I'm going along, posting and my stats are slowly climbing, good good good! But wait? WTH? Only one subscriber? Is no one interested in getting updates or seeing comments? So I started poking around and actually clicked on my Subscribe To links:

Netvibes, Newsgater, My Yahoo and Atom? (Oh my!) What is this, Google? Where is the email subscription? I'm in Information Technology by day, author by night--yes, I have a cape--and other than My Yahoo, I have no clue what the other links are for, plus, I've used Yahoo for years but never go beyond it's email functionality.

Okay, enough griping about my lack of keeping up with modern social media technologies. How do we add an email subscription option?

When you signed up for your Blogger.com account you automatically got a FeedBurner account. This is the technology that is used to send out email alerts. So open a browser and go to www.feedburner.com and enter your Gmail credentials, these will be the same ones you use to log on to Blogger.com.

So you open it up and it lists your blog. Since I'm using mine as an example here is what I get:

First thing to note, I have 2 subscribers yet the number is listed as 0. Whaaat??? It's low but not that low! Well, my friend Google search told me there is a known bug, and this value almost always says 0. Okay, I can deal with that. So, continuing, click on your blog link, see the sloppy circle in the image above.

Since my blog is new, the first couple of tab are all useless giving me the notice about the people at FeedBurner playing with bubble wrap. Click the Publicize link, this is where the meat of what you need lives.

Here is the menu you get. Click the Email Subscriptions link--almost there, I swear!

Here is what you need. Highlight everything in the scroll box and copy (control-c or right-click and choose copy).
So close now!

Okay, go back to your blog and open it in template view, and add a new HTML/Java script gadget, putting it where ever you want it. Edit the new gadget and paste this in the script box and save it.

Here I am assuming you know how to add a gadget and if you don't, check out their help page. If you really really really are having trouble ping me and I can write up instructions for that too.

That's it! You're done!!!

Your new subscription should look like this:
Yay!!! Update your blog and you are good to go!

Now, here is a really great idea. Sign up for your own blog. Yes, I said that. "But I KNOW what I wrote and I read my own blog! I'm its biggest fan!" Yes, that is true, however knowing what your potential subscribers are getting can be very helpful. If the format is botched, or the graphics are mucked, or if the emails don't come out at all, you should know about it.

Okay, what about that pesky 0 subscribers? How do you know how many you've got?

So a little further down on that same FeedBurner page where you got the HTML for the gadget, scroll down. Not only does it list the number of subscribers, but it gives you their emails, allows you to export a file of the addresses, so on.

Once you know where to look, it's not hard, but like anything, you have to know what rocks to turn over.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Path to Getting Published - Part 1

Let me say up front that I am not yet published and I haven't started wallpapering my study with rejection letters. Yet. Haven't faced the prospect of someone telling me my work doesn't fit into their marketing scheme, not quite what they are looking for, or whatever. I know it's coming. It's a right--or write, har!--of passage, and I am gearing myself up for it.

I have multiple manuscripts, the first is a novel, 122 Rules, and is complete save for beta reviews and proofreading. The second is a novella, The Birth of an American Gigolo, which is in the final editing phases. Two more scripts are in the works: about 33k words into the first draft of the follow-up novel to 122, and another novella, The Seduction of the Pastor's Wife, which is about 1/2 done.

A ton of unpublished, and arguably more talented, authors have a lot more bodies of work done. I am stating my goal, is to get these scripts published traditionally rather than the indie route. I have made this decision based on countless hours of research and from reading the stories of people who have taken the path in either direction.

Self-publishers control and are responsible for everything from editing, proofing, the art work, marketing, you name it. They get more reward if their book is successful, i.e. they get a more royalties, but they also put in more blood, sweat, and tears after the script it done.

My take on it is you will be more successful with self-pubbing if you have been down the road with a team and have experience with all aspects of the process. Not that you can't do it by researching and going it alone the first time around. But me, I learn by example, and observing, then mimicking those that are good at what they do. Besides, my lazy mind rationalizes, I work full-time and have a family, as do a lot of authors, and want to spend my limited time writing stories, not learning the ropes of self-publishing.

So all of that being said, I am trying to be as absolutely prepared as possible before sending in that first query letter. In this regard, Google, Twitter, and to a lesser extent Reader's Digest have been my friend.

I am going to write a series of My Path to Publishing blogs, all chronicling my adventures. I will share everything I find relevant that will, hopefully, help anyone reading this avoid some of the pitfalls I encounter on my journey. Rather I serve to be an example of how to make it or a dire warning of what not to do is TBD,

After I finished my first manuscript I started trying to figure out what to do next. Basically, I had been heads down for 18 months, writing, editing, and re-writing, never once pulling my head out [of the sand] and looking around. This is good because it let me focus on the task at hand, figuring out my own creative process, but bad because there was stuff that I could have been doing in parallel.

Okay, so I pulled my head out and in researching found out that you need to "market." What the hell? Yes, even those that are going the traditional pub route need to market. For the average person this means social media.

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, so on.

I read the submission requirements for a publisher in Portland, Grit City, http://www.portlandbookreview.com/writers-roll-call/, the guidelines say they only accept submissions from people who have 200 followers on Twitter, 200 on Facebook, and 200 on Google+ at a minimum.


At the time I had a gaggle of friends on FB, but something like eight followers on Twitter and only my brother on Google+.

So it begins.

I will write the next MPP Part 2 - Adventures in Social Media, in the next few days and will update this post with the link. Notice the acronym, does that not make it blatantly obvious I work for the government from 8-5? I will try, TRY, not to repeat all the other information that is out there about social media--oh, lord is there a lot--instead will give you the best links and info I have found.

In the mean time, keep swinging and writing and if you have useful information, please send it to me and I'll fit it in if it's relevant  A collaborative effort will create a much better result than my rambling monologue.

Carry on.

Join me on Facebook!
Have a page? Send me the link and I'll return the favor!

Join me on Twitter!
I follow back!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Writing Confessions

This is inspired by Confessions of a (part-time) writer by Molly Green. If you haven't read it yet, go give it a gander. The first two are my versions of her entries.

Confession #1: Stephen King, you are my hero and if you ever bless me with a glance at my scribbling, please skip this entry and go on to #2. Like Molly, I don't write every day. I get up at 4:30 M-F. On three of those I days I hit Starbucks where I crank out a couple of hours of writing before going in to work. The other two weekdays I go to the gym and burn off some stress--yes, writing and working and raising a family can be stressful. Who knew? See Healthy Prose. On those two days, I might hit my blog and Twitter and think about my characters who are never far from my mind anyway. Of course the weekend mornings are my absolute favorite times to write.

Confession #2: I do not revise or outline. Ever. I've tried and what came out was a stilted mess that felt both wooden and artificial. That particular manuscript was tossed after 100 pages and is moldering away in a "Lessons Learned" folder somewhere. The experience lead to a two year hiatus from writing I am ashamed to admit. My muse is a fussy, impatient, little troll who's as about as moody as a 12 year old girl during her first period. If I tried to direct him with an outline he'd just get pissed and either ignore it or go stomping off leaving me to flail on my own. Same with revising. He has NO patience and will not wait for me to go back and fix the wording. His business is to give me the story as he sees it. By the tiWme I come back from editing he's put on his coat and hat and is down at the bar throwing back shots and grousing about politics.

Confession #3: Sometimes I write chapters out of order. The very first chapter I wrote of my first book, 122 Rules--almost ready to start shopping it around!--was somewhere right in the middle and I wrote it on my phone. I had this vision--maybe my first real visit from my muse--and it was so clear, I braved that little virtual keyboard, thumbing the letters until I had it down. After that, things started flowing and I wrote them in the order they were sent to me. Later during the editing I moved stuff around, yes, even entire chapters. But that was later, can't edit as I go along--see confession #2.

Confession #4: I am a hypocrite. Obviously. Everyone is in some capacity, right? Well, in this case I wrote a blog about not liking short stories just a few days ago and guess what? I have been killing my darlings and decided that two of my characters didn't belong in the book--at least not with their monumental back story--so I moved them to their own novella. Actually I think there will probably be at least two, possibly three novellas about these characters. *sigh*

So why all of this? Well, even as much as I have going on in my life--working full time, father of two teens, working out, riding on the weekends, on and on--I can still find time to write. I really really can't stand excuses. It drives me crazy when someone says they want to do whatever but can't because of time. It's just setting your priorities. Either do or don't, but don't bitch because of "a lack of time".

You may not have enough time to do it all you want, I would LOVE to write all day, but you can even if it's just a few minutes here and there. If you want to do it, don't let anything or anyone hold you back. Who knows, you could be the next Stephen King?

Carry on.

Join me on Facebook!
Have a page? Send me the link and I'll return the favor

Join me on Twitter!
I follow back

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Short Stories Are Not My Friend

Let me start by saying: It's not you, it's me. Really.

As a reader, I've always had trouble with short stories. Most people I know can happily read several shorts in a sitting and come away happy. Like they've eaten a large buffet and are completely satiated. I've tried and tried, from a huge variety of authors, and it always feels like I've had Chinese food for dinner. It was good, and I know I ate, but I am still hungry.

For me it seems like just when I'm getting into a story it's suddenly, prematurely, over. I flip the page thinking there must be more and disappointed, cheated even, when there isn't.

Personally, I love to getting happily lost in a story. I want to get invested in the characters and learn more about them. Exploring their world is a way to escape my own, not that my life is bad--actually I love my life--but who doesn't want new experiences that are massively different from their own?
But a shorty only gives me a little glimpse while I want to gaze in all the windows and wander its city streets.

I've thought it over and the only thing I can think of is that maybe it's because I read slowly. Others  seem to be able to polish off a 400 page novel as quickly as a bottle of Evian, but it takes me the a week or longer to drink that same bottle of water. It's the only reason I can come up with.

It's frustrating, because there are a ton of incredibly well-written shorties out there. Novellas are a hit/miss too. Sometimes the longer ones, The Green Mile comes to mind, are very satisfying and I come away with a new set of friends from a world not my own. But other times...

Am I unique in this regard? Anyone else have this problem? What is it? Shortabookaphobia? Suggestions are welcome.

Carry on.

Join me on Facebook!
Have a page? Send me the link and I'll return the favor

Join me on Twitter!
I follow back