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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Monday Mayhem – A blog about blogs

As I type this (on Sunday), the state of Florida is under siege. Please know I’m praying for all those impacted by Hurricane Irma and those still coping with the aftermath of Harvey. And then, we have the anniversary of 9-11…

It’s hard to think/talk about romance when it seems the world is splintering around us. Then again, what better time for a little escapism? If you’re in one of the areas impacted by the hurricanes (and can access your computer or electronic reading device) and need a little something to take your mind off your troubles, please email me at maggiewells1@gmail.com and I’d be happy to do what I can to provide some escape.

Release day is coming for PLAY DATES, and that means I am prepping my promotion efforts. That means I will be writing at least three other blog posts on varying topics as well as making some graphics to go along with them. Like this:

Wanna know where to find me when I am not here?

Well, on September 23rd, I’ll be sharing my experiences with loving a single parent AND the cover reveal for Play Dates #2, EASY BAKE LOVIN’ on the Kensington Books blog.

On the 25th, I’ll be sharing a chat I had with literary agent extraordinaire, Sara Megibow, here on my blog. Sara will be sharing the same chat on the kt literary blog as well.

On October 3rd (release day!), I’ll be at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University talking about National Novel Writing Month and preparing to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

On the 4th and 5th, I’ll be at Just Contemporary Romance talking about how I scored two kids and a house in just fifteen minutes in front of a preacher.

Whew!

I’m sure there will be or two more in there in addition to my regular Monday Mayhem posts. One thing I can tell you for certain, by the time Colm and Monica’s story is launched, I’ll be more than ready to retreat into the world of fiction again. Just in time for NaNoWriMo. Coincidence?

In the meantime, stay safe, friends. Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Joy Thievery

Sadly, my favorite picture of Teddy Roosevelt has proved to be a fake.

But one thing the 26th President got right was this little gem:

It’s true. People rarely come out feeling better about themselves or their accomplishments when they hold them up against someone else’s.

We tend to stop and look around when we are needing some kind of validation we’re on the right track, but it rarely works out for us in a positive way. There will most likely always be someone smarter, richer, funnier, more talented, more successful than we are at that moment.

So, as the nuns used to say, keep your eyes on your own paper.

I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but you have to keep working on it. Like meditation, or yoga, any practice that forces us to look inward can be uncomfortable. But in the end, those are the ones that help use find peace, become more flexible, and ultimately, allow us to celebrate our achievements on their own merit.

So, if you feel the need to stop and look around, focus on enjoying the last of the summer flowers, the sweet stickiness of a campfire s’more, or the hum of the cicadas. Soon they will be replaced by breathtaking autumn leaves, crisp breezes, an pumpkin spice scented toilet paper. That’s when you’ll realize there was no point in comparing the two seasons. They were both just doing their own thing.

Do your own thing. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Try not to anyone thieve your joy. I may not ever ride a moose, but neither did Teddy Roosevelt.

Not that I was looking.

This week’s celebrations:

Cover art for LOVE GAME! This will be the cover for my first mass market paperback release, coming to bookstores near you in Feb 2018!

Trade paperback copies of PLAY DATES (Oct 2017)! These are much prettier in person. The lighting in my house is horrible.

Hope your week is as fabulous as you are!

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Third time is a…

…pain in the tuchas.

I’m still working on the first draft of A RING FOR ROSIE, book 3 in the Play Dates series.

Still.

Forever.

And ever.

I just can’t seem to wrap it up. And now, 38 books into the writing career, I’m afraid I may have a book three block.

I had this problem with LOVE & ROCKETS as you may recall. And I never did finish CONTAINMENT (book three after CONTENTMENT and COMMITMENT). I cannot tell you why I struggle so much with the number 3, but apparently, I do.

I blame SHERLOCK. It’s the Sign of Three (Season 3, Episode 2). And excellent choice for procrastination. I just hope I don’t bleed out before this this is done.

Oh! And be sure to watch Heroes & Heartbreakers tomorrow (August 22, 2017) for an exclusive sneak peek at the cover for LOVE GAME (formerly Full Court Press) coming in February 2018!

Cheers!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Ask and you might possibly receive

This week I started reading a book called THE ART OF ASKING by Amanda Palmer. It’s an interesting book – part memoir, part self-help.

The premise is that we don’t ask people, particularly our friends or family, for the things that we need. Our society values self-reliance, and often views asking for help in the same vein as begging. In other words, asking has a shameful connotation.

This is ironic considering that one of the first things you learn in any type of sales job whether it’s taking orders at McDonald’s, or selling insurance, or selling any type of product or commodity, is that you don’t get if you don’t ask. Maybe it’s this connection to sales that make us view asking in the more negative light.

Anyway, I’m horrible asker. I’m definitely control freak. I live and die by my calendar. Collaborative work makes me a little bit crazy because not everybody has the same type of work ethic I do. If the world would just bend to my way of thinking, everything would be so much easier, but it doesn’t.

That leaves me with few options. I either work myself into the ground trying to do it all, or I let things slip through the cracks, or I learned to ask for help.

I’ve gone the first route before, I’ve been living the second one for a while now, and now I’m working on the third. That’s why have challenged myself to ask for something every day. It could be small or large, but it has to be something that I wouldn’t have asked anyone else to do for me last week.

For example, I did a couple of twitter threads, designed to spark interaction with other authors or with potential readers. A few of my good friends hit the little heart icon on twitter to like my tweets to let me know that they’ve read them, and were feeling what I said. That’s awesome. But the point of me doing these types of discussions is to cast a wider net. So, I asked my friends if they would consider re-tweeting the first tweet in the thread, rather than simply liking it. This shares it with their followers on twitter, which adds another ripple to the stone I tossed out into the conversational pond. They were kind enough to re-tweet my threads, and agreed to do so whenever they saw me engaged in a similar activity on Twitter.

The next day, I asked a different friend who is proficient in Microsoft Excel, if she would help me finish a project I had started in a spreadsheet. Pretty simple project, but a tedious one, which involved gathering information from a number of websites on each of my books. Nothing time sensitive, just something I like to have as a convenience. She said she was happy to help, and I sent the file along.

Yesterday, I was in my local Barnes & Noble, eyeing the spot on the shelf where LOVE GAME would sit come February 2018. (!!!!!) As I was wandering, a woman stopped to ask if I needed help. It turned out she was the store manager. I confessed that I was stalking the shelf space where my book will go, and then proceeded to ASK her if the store did any promotions for local authors. We talked for a bit she took my card, and I know to get in touch with their outreach manager to arrange possibly appearing at a group signing.

Not bad, so far.

Asking is not easy for many of us. Sometimes we have to get to a point where something is important enough to us that were willing to sacrifice our pride/ego. I guess I am edging up to one of those points. I have two new series launching in the next six months. I want them both to be successful.

I can’t do it all alone.

I need your help.

As an asker in training, I’ll probably be practicing on you here on my blog and in my FB reader group, The Margaritas, just I am practicing my dictation by speaking this post rather than typing it.

I hope you’ll help me out. As always, I’m happy to reciprocate in any way I can.

This is today’s ask: A WILL AND A WAY is on sale for $0.99! Will you help me get the word out?

Please tell your steamy-romance-lovng friends? You can use any means you’re comfortable with using – social media, word of mouth, text stalking, or simply buying one for a friend. Right-click and steal this graphic, if you want. Here’s the link to my publisher website. It will direct them to the retailer of their choice: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/33189

How was that for an ice-breaker?

I thank you in advance. I appreciate all you do.

(This post brought to you by Desdemona Dragon. Sorry for any typos. We’re still learning!)
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Monday Mayhem: Uhhhh

So, yeah. In the last two weeks I’ve completed revisions on one manuscript, approved and completed copyedits on two others, added 15k to my WIP via dictation, and there’s a galley to proof in my inbox.

Yes, it’s safe to say I’ve hit the Kahn level of tired.

So I’m taking the rest of July off. Yep, a whole day.

In the meantime, I have this to keep you entertained:

Lyrical Press is so excited about my upcoming Play Dates series, they are doing a special pre-release giveaway on Goodreads. You can enter to win here: http://bit.ly/2tPeJpg

Oh! And don’t forget to join my Facebook reader group, The Margaritas, if you haven’t already. I haven’t be slaving away on a whole bunch of nothing, you know. There’s going to be some good stuff coming up!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – This Magic Moment

I did something totally out of character for me this weekend…I lived in the moment.

On Wednesday, I turned in the finished manuscript for Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), and then from Wednesday night ’til this minute, I haven’t even powered up my computer. Oh, it traveled to Illinois with us and back, but I didn’t do any work.

Here’s what I did instead:

Walked out of the Isle of Capri casino in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with $50 more than I had when I walked in. Wooot! Thanks, Ghostbusters!

Took the bypass around Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (my hometown) without stopping for the first time in my life. It was a little freaky.

Laughed my butt off with some of my oldest friends – seriously, these broads are getting up there.

Trained from Level 1 Ninja to Level 5 Ninja thanks to my Karate Kid crane kick and guidance from my nephew, Liam. Sadly, that still wasn’t enough for me to be able to wield the plastic nunchucks. I’m told you have to be Level 10 Ninja for that.

Learned how to vanquish the undead (neon green plastic skeletons) with a sword. Special thanks to nephew, Connor, for letting me use one of his foam swords. Fodder refuses to buy me one of my own. The big chicken.

Rebuilt a bulldozer. (I wasn’t sure I could do it, but great-nephew, Bo, had faith in his Aunt Moogie.)

Laughed my butt off some more, but don’t worry, I ate enough to ensure continuous padding. Plus, we made the resident teenagers whine and beg us to go to bed, so we win!

Swept into Bloomington on our way south again to share a little lunch with my biggest brother, nieces & nephews, and great-niece and nephews.

Rolled into the St. Louis area and scammed a bed for the night from second biggest brother and his ever-patient wife. Devoured my first steakburger from Freddy’s Custard – yum! Can’t wait until our Freddy’s opens!

Up early to drive another six hours through sporadic rain, but it was all worth it to come home to this smiley beast:

I realized when I started this post that I forgot to take pictures of all of the above, but I decided I’m okay with that. I was living in the moment, and enjoying every one of them. <3

How was your weekend?

 

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Monday Mayhem – Ripples Needed, Apply Here

The Diamond State Romance Authors met this weekend. As usual, spending time with my writer friends recharged me.

This month, we talked about every author’s worst nightmare – PR and publicity.

Most people don’t realize that almost all book promotion falls on the author. My publisher will promote the book through their existing networks (which are admittedly much larger than mine), but there’s no campaign to speak of, and almost no advertising beyond the occasional boosted post on social media. Once, I was lucky enough to have my book included as part of a print ad in a trade publication, but that was mainly a matter of lucky timing.

But mostly, it’s up to us to flaunt our work. Not an easy thing to do for people who prefer to spend their time writing the next story.

So, yeah, promotion a vital skill for an author to master. And one that stymies me every time. You see, there is no magic formula. What works for one book may fall flat on the next. A catchy cover can help, but that only goes so far.

Word of mouth is everything.

Kelli Reep of FlyWrite Communications talked to us about how to maximize the ripple effect needed for marketing success. We’re so inundated with information and images that it takes a minimum of seven impressions for something to register with most people. Which means I am tempted to do this and go back to my keyboard:

   

   

I threw an extra in there for symmetry and good measure… But that probably isn’t going to do the trick, huh?

I have a new series starting this fall and my first mass market paperback release coming in 2018. Man, do I want them to be a success. I mean, I want all of my books to connect with readers, but the Love, Unexpectedly series from Sourcebooks will be my first shot at being on shelves in major retailers. This a pretty big deal for me. I confess, I occasionally go to visit my spot in our local Barnes & Noble:

So, yeah, I’m going to have to get better at this marketing and publicity bit. I’m hoping I can count on you to help me. To be my ripples. And I’m asking you in advance to forgive me, as I blab all over the place about these books.

After all, an author has to do what an author has to do, right?

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Cover Reveal!

I have new art!

Check out this adorable cover for the first book in my upcoming PLAY DATES series!

 

For single parents, life is often more diapers and daycare dilemmas than dating. But for three dads going solo, a little flirting can lead to a whole lot more than a fling . . .

Colm Cleary lost his wife just moments after his son Aiden’s birth, and it’s been just the two of them ever since. Dating is his very last priority—until he spots gorgeous Monica Rayburn on the playground with her little girl. Suddenly finding a woman sympathetic to the demands of single parenthood seems like a great idea—especially if they agree to a no-pressure, no-strings date . . .

Dazzled by the hot “Saturdaddy” who asks her out, Monica doesn’t get around to mentioning that little Emma is her niece. She’s in commodities, not children. A gambler to the bone, she’s going to take a chance on an adult evening with Colm—and worry about the details later. But when their casual connection deepens into something more solid, the truth will have to come out—and both Colm and Monica will have to throw caution to the wind to hold on to a future together . . .

Play Dates (#1) coming October 3, 2017 from Kensington/Lyrical Shine

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Monday Mayhem – Off to camp I go!

Ha! Not that kind of camp. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not sleep out of doors.

Nope, I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month in an effort to get the writing mojo flowing. I cranked out over five thousand words this weekend! Woot!

I received a visit from the cover art fairy this week. I can’t share yet, but I can’t wait to show you the cover for PLAY DATES – the first in a new series about single dads coming this fall.

Thanks for all the great messages, Facebook posts and Retweets on the release of A BOLT FROM THE BLUE last week. Check out this awesome review from Wicked Reads and this one from Meags.com!

I received a box of paperback copies last week, and they are GORGEOUS. Who wants one? Comment on this post and I will draw the name of one winner on Friday.

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