Sara Megibow knows I am beyond blushing

This week, I have a guest star on my blog…literary agent Sara Megibow!

*cheers*

*applause

*lets loose with one of those those piercing whistles that make people cringe*

Sara did a fabulous interview with another one of her clients, Emmie Mears, about what happens once an author signs with an agent. Not long after that, we got to talking about how the experience of working with an agent can be different for those of us who are beyond the first blush of publication. Those emails evolved into this thesis we like to call a blog post.

This is Maggie and Sara’s story, and we’re sticking to it:

Sara: In April 2015 Maggie Wells sent me a query letter for LOVE GAME – a sexy contemporary battle-of-the-sexes romance starring two mature, confident, hot protagonists. LOVE GAME releases Feb 1, 2018 from Sourcebooks Casablanca and we’re so excited! Maggie is a slush pile query success story with a bit of a twist.

The twist is that Maggie’s query letter included a bio outlining her experience as a previously published author with novels from Turquoise Morning Press, Carina Press, Cleis Press, Harlequin, and Kensington. Working with an established author brings a different strategy to the table so Maggie and I wanted to share that experience.

Maggie: Back in 2014, I made a conscious decision to try to take my writing career to the ‘next level’. We all know that we have different paths and everyone’s mileage varies, but for me, the next level meant cracking the print market and wider distribution. I had already been published on digital-first platforms by publishers ranging from small press to Big 5, but the digital revolution in publishing has been a roller coaster ride. More established authors were going indie. Small press publishing rose and fell. Many authors were opting out of traditional publishing altogether, but I wasn’t ready to take it all on myself. I decided I wanted a partner to work with me as I moved into the next phase of my career. I needed an agent.

I’ve heard the arguments for and against, the success stories, and the nightmare scenarios, but this seemed like the right decision for me. I researched the agents I wanted to work with carefully. Not only do I look at how they handle books similar to those I write, but I studied their interaction with the publishing world at large via social media and blog posts.

In other words, I stalked them, but in the most professional way.

I knew that searching for an agent, then shopping the manuscript for a publishing contract is a lengthy process. I had a project I’d earmarked for querying—the book now known as LOVE GAME—knowing it might not see the light of day for years. Then, I made a list of my top choices of agent, and began the process. Less than a month after sending the first queries, I had an offer of representation from Sara – who happened to be number one on my list. Needless to say, I was somewhere beyond giddy.

Sara: Thanks Maggie! You’re so sweet –I was giddy too!

In the query slush pile I see submissions from debut authors to New York Times bestselling authors – platform is neither a deal-maker nor a deal-breaker for me. Regardless of platform, I have to love a book in order to offer representation. In the case of LOVE GAME – wow! It’s SO good and funny and sexy – I can’t wait for readers to love it as much as I do!

Maggie: Thanks, Sara! I’m excited for them to read it too!

Sara and I have had some pretty frank discussions on where my career was/is, how we can maintain momentum, and how we might push forward. I think this has been one of the most beneficial aspects of working with Sara.

We are a team. She knows when to step up, when to rein me in a little, and when to just let me do my thing. That may be where working with an author who has some publishing industry experience differs from working with a new author.

Sara:  We do make a good team, don’t we? 😉

As Maggie’s agent my job is to make her more money than she would have been able to make on her own. An author’s money comes from advance, royalties and subsidiary rights deals so we talked a lot about these things on that original phone call.

First, like you said above Maggie, you asked how to “maintain momentum.”

To that end, we made a list of the books/series Maggie wanted to write and made a plan to write and sell them. It worked! In addition to LOVE GAME, we have Maggie’s PLAY DATES series launching in October 2017 from Kensington Lyrical. PLAY DATES is a trilogy of contemporary romance novels starring hot single dads. The release of these digital-first titles was strategically planned to keep momentum going while waiting for our print release of LOVE GAME.

Second, Maggie, you asked me about “pushing forward” and how to “take your career to the next level.”

Maggie’s previous books are amazing! They are ebook-only or ebook + POD so for us “pushing forward” meant increasing her market penetration by landing a print deal with a major publisher (done! The LOVE GAME series will have its exciting print release from Sourcebooks with extensive bookstore and library distribution). Taking Maggie’s career to the “next level” also meant inking those profitable subsidiary rights deals (done! The entire LOVE GAME series was sold to audiobook for simultaneous release).

Now let’s flip the tables. What does a previously published author bring to the table for an agent?

To start with, Maggie already had an understanding of publishing processes. Like she said above, LOVE GAME was earmarked for querying knowing that it would be a while before release. This demonstrated to me that Maggie understood the traditional publishing production timeline. Understanding publishing processes up front meant she could focus right away on writing those delicious books. Debut authors experience a steep learning curve (rightfully so!) when going through their first production cycle and Maggie didn’t have that hurdle.

In addition to her understanding of the traditional publishing process, Maggie had an established brand (sexy, contemporary romance starring mature protagonists) and a robust social media presence.

Maggie: But even with my previous experiences, Sara has provided a wealth of in-depth knowledge about aspects of the business.

Sara: When we originally talked about LOVE GAME I was able to discuss format, distribution and subsidiary rights with an eye toward profit. But, you’ve been a major player on this team too, Maggie  – we are stronger together because your experience adds to mine.

Look at what you’ve done in terms of networking with other authors and your brilliant Margaritas Facebook Page and social media plan. Do you want to talk about that? These are great examples of YOU bringing value-add to the relationship.

Maggie: By the time I started working with Sara, I had stopped chasing the social media trends and settled into what works for me. I use my Facebook reader group for interacting with readers, and Twitter to chat with other authors. I maintain my own website, blog weekly, and have a steadily growing newsletter list. All of these things can be a boon to an author, but also take time away from the writing. Sara is great about providing marketing support and brainstorming, but mainly she helps keep me focused on the most important part of marketing my work—writing the next book.

Sara: YES! Writing the next book is a huge piece of the profit strategy. Our goal is to make money on books… then write more books and make money on those books too!

Maggie: It all comes down to time, knowledge, and access. I think those are some of the most important assets an agent can bring to an author.

Sara:  “Time, knowledge and access.” These are three big reasons why authors DO choose to sign with agents.

Time: An author pays their agent 15% of monies received (from advances, royalties, subrights). My time investment as an agent includes tasks like editing, submissions, strategy, tracking payments and royalties, answering questions, being a liaison between author and publisher, organizing marketing, negotiating contracts and selling rights to audio publishers, foreign publishers and Hollywood, etc. I want to be worth that 15% an author gives up so I keep me client list small and focus on being “value-add.”

Knowledge: An agent’s knowledge of the publishing business is a tool for making money for their clients.

Access: Many publishers still only accept submissions from agents. Also, opportunities for subrights deals (audio, translation, Hollywood) heavily favor agented authors.

Maggie: What are some of the traits (aside from that ‘gotcha!’ manuscript) that you appreciate most in a client?

Sara: 90% of my clients came to me the same way you did, Maggie – through the query slush pile. You’re right – I’m looking for that “gotcha manuscript.”

Once we get past the amazing-manuscript-offering-representation phase I appreciate a client who is professional (example: turns in books on time) and kind (example: says thank you to our hardworking teammates).  Professional and kind go a long way in this business! I hope a client has a social media presence, although it’s not a deal-breaker if they don’t. I do, however, expect them to keep an updated website once we ink a book deal. Finally, all my clients are passionate and I appreciate that trait because it inspires me.

Maggie: In short, the author + agent relationship has been a revelation for me, even though I came into it as an experienced author. Having a partner like Sara by my side has expanded my career horizons—not just because I made it past a ‘gatekeeper’, but because she helps me view each project through a wide-angle lens. While I am focused on writing the next book, Sara and I are planning next steps beyond typing ‘The End’ in a manuscript.

Thanks so much for joining me here, Sara. I love being on Team Megibow and having you on Team Awesome!

Follow Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow

Learn more about what Sara is looking for here: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As promised…

I went to New York for 5 days to attend the Romance Writers of America national conference. Here are some highlights of my trip to NYC for RWA15.

Wednesday:

Travel was smooth as silk. After discovering that we’d be on the same flight, I hooked up with fellow writer Renee N. Kelly in Atlanta and we shared a ride into Manhattan together. I even brought Pocket Jamie along for the adventure!

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Got checked in, changed, and ready to head down to the Harlequin author Meet & Greet when who did I spy waiting for the elevator on my floor???

SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS!!!!!

I have no photo because, frankly, I was too busy trying to fangirl without actually dropping to the floor and worshiping the ground she trod upon. Those of you who know me know that I am wary of meeting my idols live and in person. I hate it when they disappoint me by being human. I’m happy to report that SEP is everything gracious and lovely. We had a nice chat on the ride down, and apparently no restraining orders were filed.

Wednesday night was the huge Readers for Life Literacy signing. Here’s my set up:

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My friend and roommate, Karen Booth was signing as well:

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Now, some of you may have noticed that there was no mention of food so far in my post. That’s because, other than a bagel at the airport, I had none. The schedule was so jam-packed, and I didn’t want to miss a thing to take time out to eat. You can bet your bippy I did once the signing was over. Back in comfy clothes, I ventured across the street to Junior’s Famous Cheesecake for fortification.

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Thursday was my busiest day.

I started out by attending some publisher spotlights and signings. Here I am with my new BFF, Lisa Kleypas.

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After offloading books and other goodies in my room, I joined my DSRA pal, Mia Kay, for a walk up to the Random House offices. There we had lunch and listened to their editorial team talk about their digital first imprints, Loveswept and Flirt. Here are some highlights from the walk up Broadway:

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Upon our return, I worked the line for the Kensington Books signing, handing out my nifty ‘How deep is too deep?’ promo buttons for GOING DEEP (September 15, 2015).

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Then, I ducked into a fabulous workshop on Conquering High Concept led by Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Avon editor, May Chen.

After that, it was time for the Carina Press wine break, where I got to schmooze and booze with my fellow Carina authors.

The next thing I know, it’s time to slip into my party dress and head off to the Bowery district for the Kensington Books party at Duane Park jazz club. I was lucky enough to hook up with fellow Kensington authors Sharon Struth, Terri-Lynne DeFino, and Sonali Dev in the cab line.

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There were cocktail and passed hors d’oeuvers. We had a great time mixing and mingling with publisher, Steven Zacharius, and the whole Kensington team, including my acquiring editor, Martin Biro.

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Upon my return to the Marriott, Karen and I slipped into our PJs and headed downstairs for the Harlequin.com pyjama (they are Canadian, after all) party where we sugared ourselves up good before heading off to bed.

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Friday we hit the ground running with a keynote address from historical romance mega-star, Julia Quinn. After that, more spotlights and signings. Here I am with my fellow diamond, Elle James:

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And the always charming and glamorous, Olivia Gates:

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As the morning wound down, I slipped out of the conference to meet up with fellow Gilmorian and NYC native, Marla, for a fabulous lunch at Arriba, Arriba and my very first caramel frappachino.

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Back at the hotel, I slipped into a session on developing characters given the incomparable Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Copious notes were taken, but will make sense to no one but me. Then it was on to another publisher spotlight before I dashed up to the ninth floor to help set up for the Passionate Ink RWA speakeasy party:

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Sadly, I couldn’t stay long once the festivities started to heat up, because I was due to change and head for the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for the Harlequin authors Black and White Ball!

There were a bunch of us in the cab line, so the doorman cut a deal with a limo driver, and nine of us arrived at the party in style!

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Once there, we drank, ate delicious desserts, then donned our dancing socks – yes, socks – and boogied the night away.

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I’m proud to report that my partner in crime and I shut that baby down!

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Saturday was tennis shoe day.

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It was also the easiest day in my schedule. I attended workshops and leadership meetings, slipped into a great seminar on dialogue led by Alyssa Day, Elizabeth Hoyt, and my other new BFF, Kristan Higgins (squee!):

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After that, the roomie and I decided it was time to slip out for a little John’s meatball pizza, and a walk in the lovely low-80s evening before dashing back to dress up one last time for the RITA and Golden Hearts awards ceremony.

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I had a few author pals who were finalists. so the cheering was loud and proud. So happy for fellow Team Megibow (kt literary) client, Tiffany Reisz. She won the RITA for best Erotic Romance for THE SAINT.

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She even let us touch her RITA. Very gently. And with great reverence.

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We shared a celebratory cocktail in the bar after the ceremonies, where I posed with my RITA. She’s a little smaller, and made of chocolate, but someday….

The following morning, I hugged my roommate extraordinaire goodbye while she stood in the FedEx line, then hooked up with my travel partner, Renee, for the trek back to JFK.

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And that, my friends, was how I spent my summer vacation. Want to share in a little of the loot from my trip to NYC? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving away goodies to random winners chosen from my mailing list and from my Maggie Wells Street Team.

Sign up to be a part of one or both today!

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Monday Mayhem – One Click Edition

Hi all!

I’m here! Still in a full-on writing sprint whilst attempting to have a life. Silly me.

The book is going well. I’m chipping away at it bit by bit and hope to have the rough first draft completed by 7/15/15.

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In the meantime, I am preparing for my jaunt to NYC later this month to attend the Romance Writers of America annual conference. I’m super excited. Not only do I get to room with the fabulous Karen Booth, but I get to meet a bunch of other publishing biz friends and associates live and in person. It’ll be four days jam-packed with signings, seminars, speakers and soirees.

The downside to all that means I’ve been forced to do some clothing shopping. Those of you who know me in the three dimensional world, know that I loathe shopping for clothes. Add this crazy-pants deadline to my natural aversion and you can understand why I’ve been doing as much of my acquiring as possible online.

Dress at RWA National ranges from pajama party to formal. I’m trying to be strategic in my packing. I’ve picked a basic color scheme of black, white, & re(a)d. [sorry, had to throw the Gilmore reference in] I’m adding in some silver and everything (including shoes and accessories) will work around that.

Of course, I’m a chronic over packer. God forbid I get stuck without at least three days worth of extra underwear and socks (genetic flaw), and I live in fear of forgetting the one essential item that I won’t be able to procure in the nation’s largest metropolis. So, of course, I ordered packing cubes as well. They claim I can squeeze an entire week of tops into one neat and wrinkle-free bundle. I can’t wait to see if it’s true.

So yeah, when I’m not tapping away at the manuscript, I’m clicking away on the shopping sites. So far, I’ve hit all the usual suspects – Kohl’s, Target, and Amazon. Had a fabulous customer service experience with Zappos. The shoes didn’t work out, but they were so awesome about the order, tracking & return that I’ll definitely be ordering from them again.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at this week. What about you? Are you an online shopper? What are some of your favorites?

 

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Monday Mayhem – Kicking names and taking…

I have to tell you, I had a killer awesome weekend writing-wise. I started a new project called Play Dates. Yes, I know, you wanted Hooligans next, but trust me when I tell you that there’s a whole bunch of convoluted reasoning behind the switch in schedule. Anyhoo, I started Play Dates this week, but didn’t have a lot of time to get words in. So, I scheduled some play dates of my own.

First, I hooked up with my pal, Parker Kincaid, for pastries and pantsing at Panera. No, that doesn’t mean we pulled each other’s drawers off. It mean we both write by the seat of our pants. Fueled by bagels, danish, and toffee-nut cookies, we managed to put up some respectable numbers in the old word count column.

But then on Sunday, I took part in this:

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As I type this, we are in the dinner/break portion of the day, and I am proud to report that I have over 4k for the day!

Between sessions, I did a little stint on the elliptical (part of the Body by Gilmore Girls program-I’m on ep 3), threw together some crock pot salsa chicken with black beans, ran to the store, and frolicked outside with the puppies.

I hope to get at least another 1000-1500 words this evening, and round out chapter 2. Jewels has totally kicked butt too. We’ve decided that we like having more defined writing times. Eyes on the prize and all that.

How was your weekend? Hit any goals? Take any naps? Share! I like to live vicariously. 😉

Oh! And starting this week, I’ll have a new feature on my blog – Teaser Tuesdays. These will give me a chance to introduce you to some of my writer friends and their latest projects.

That means this joint is jumping at least 5 days a week. Remember to stop by for all the fun:

Sunday – 8 sentence challenge

Mondays are Mayhem

Teaser Tuesday

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Fangirl Fridays!

Oh! Oh! Don’t forget to add your email address to my newsletter list. I have combined Margaret and Maggie’s previous lists and will start moving most of my future contests, excerpts and giveaways to the newsletter mailings thanks to Facebook and other social media outlets restricting the fun stuff, so be sure to hit then newsletter sign up on the sidebar if you aren’t already on there. 🙂

Happy Monday!

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Monday Mayhem – Is this thing on?

So, I’ve been having a good time with the merged blog thing. It’s been interesting to see how many people are just realizing that Margaret is Maggie or Maggie is Margaret. Worlds are colliding!

Thanks to all who have been reading and commenting on the Weekend Writing Warrior posts. It’s so much fun to be able to share snippets of my work each week.

I’m still trying to get Whatcha Reading Wednesday and Fangril Friday going. These posts are more than a chance for us to interact. They give me insight as a writer as to what is attracting audience attention. So let me know what you’re reading, not only because it helps me gauge the market, but because I am a book junkie and I’m always looking for a fix.

I started Fangirl Friday for the same reason. I want to know who you are crushing on, what attracts you to those characters, what do you wish they would do/say/etc.

As I mentioned before, social media platforms are starting to make it more difficult for authors to interact with their readers. We don’t have that restriction here. Tell me what you think. What would you like to see here?  I’ve been offering backlist books to commenters on Wednesdays. Please tell your friends to stop by and comment for a chance to win. Trust me, Evelyn Jules has already read them all.

So, speak up. I want to hear from you. Is this thing on?

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Makeover Edition

New year, new website, new combined blog…what does it all mean? Well, hopefully it will translate into a whole lot more action around here. With Facebook tightening the clamps on what you can see on my author page and Twitter becoming more and more negative, I plan to take refuge here on my blog.

With you.

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Combining my pen names will certainly make it easier to maintain things, but I want to have more of a chance to interact with readers. Therefore, I will continue my Weekend Writing Warrior posts on Sundays and my usual Monday Mayhem mumbling, but I’m going to add in some days to talk about the stuff we love.

Please join me (and bring your friends) for Whatcha Reading Wednesdays (there will be book giveaways) and Fangirl Fridays to celebrate all we love that is shippable, but won’t fit in a box. Yes, I need people to talk about Scandal, Downton Abbey, Outlander books and series, Chicago Stars novels… You see where this is going?

So yeah, lots going on here. Be sure to click the email subscription box on the sidebar so you’ll receive notifications of new posts in your inbox!

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