Monday Mayhem – All I Ask of You

It’s PLAY DATES release week!

Colm and Monica’s story will be available on Tuesday, so expect to see me posting all over the place this week. If you want to follow along on my release week adventures, here’s where you can find me:

Today: Here, of course!

Tomorrow: Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, #KBooksChat Contemporary Romance chat on Twitter (1PM EST).

Wednesday and Thursday: Just Contemporary Romance

Saturday: 2-3pm Octoberfest – Fall into Romance party on Facebook (prizes!)

So, yay! A new book! Remember when I  said I was reading that book about asking for what you need?

Well, here’s my big ask:

  1. Buy the book. This is actually the best thing you can do for any author. Even if you don’t read the genre, or think the story may not be your cup of tea, consider buying a copy for a friend.
  2. If you read the book, please-please-please consider leaving a review on Amazon or another online retailer. Reviews help authors in a dozen ways, not the least of which is helping other readers decide to give a book a try (or not). I’m not asking for a good review, just an honest one.
  3. Recommend the book to your local public library for procurement. Not only do authors earn royalties library purchases, but they help us reach new readers.

Thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement. The release of PLAY DATES is just the start of a wild six months. I’m so glad to have you along for the ride!

 

 

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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 – Old Dogs and Happy Goats

This weekend was the annual Diamond State Romance Authors writing retreat! We rented a lovely house on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Here was my writing view from the deck:

This time, I didn’t have a deadline pressing on me, but I had a couple things I wanted to work on. Like many of my writer friends, I’ve found myself struggling with the words over the summer, so I was also looking for some new tricks to jumpstart the old motivation.

Most writers will classify themselves in one of two ways: plotter or pantser. Plotter is pretty self-exlanitory. Those writers plot each bit of a book before they even begin. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants.

I started out as — and still naturally identify as — a pantser. But my career has moved at such a pace that I find I am selling books to publishers based on a synopsis of what I think future book will be. If I leave it up to my pantsing tendencies, I tend to veer off course from that synopsis, so I’ve evolved into sort of a plotser.

Adding dictation to my bag of tricks has also changed my writing style. I found I needed to have a pretty good sense of what I was trying to accomplish in that scene before I could speak it. Which meant, I had to do some *gasp* plotting.

This weekend, I took my first steps toward becoming a full-fledged plotter. The fabulous Brinda Berry showed me an awesome template she’d started using. I bought the book (FOOL PROOF OUTLINE) and downloaded that template.

In one afternoon, I’d done over 3,000 words of story outline, character worksheets, and scene plotting for a new project. Here’s hoping this new trick will work for this old dog.

In other news, Kelli Reep and I saw a goat riding in the back of a truck on the way home.

 

Welcome to Arkansas.

How about you? Did you learn any new tricks this week?

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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 – Discipline: The Modern Love Edition

For those of you who have been following my blog for the last few weeks, you’ve heard me mention Elizabeth Gilbert’s term, “the song of the disciplined halfass.”

That section of her book, BIG MAGIC, really spoke to me. Not that I consider myself half-ass. In this case, she’s referring to half-assery as an alternative to perfectionism. As I’ve grown older, I have let go of my quest for perfectionism. I believe it’s corrosive to one’s psyche.

That’s not to say that I don’t get tied up in it every once in a while. I’m not perfect, after all. But, I recognize it for the trap it is, and I try to dial my expectations down to a more reasonable level. Because, let’s face it, the quest for perfectionism can make a person even more imperfect than they already are. Or worse, it can stop them in their tracks.

And this train is not stopping.

I am a disciplined person. First, let me say that my brand of discipline has minimal leather (way too hot) and no actual flogging (only mental self-flagellation). I think of it more in tune with the line from David Bowie’s MODERN LOVE. “I know when to go out. And when to stay in – get things done.”

This week has been a test of that discipline.

First, it was an extremely busy week at the day job. And hot as Hades out there.

8:30am

The increased in pace and soul-sucking heat meant I came home pretty wrung-out, and basically not ready to think really hard about anything. A detrimental state of mind to an author whose writing is pretty much a full-time night job.

Remember how I mentioned before that this would be my summer of revisions? Well the heat is on, both outside and in.

In the last ten days, I received full editorial revisions on one manuscript, as well as copyedits on two others. I knew they were coming, but…EEEP! All this, while trying to complete my work in progress in the month of July.

This is where my Dragon, Desdemona, swooped in to rescue me. Because I have been doggedly limping along with this dictation software, I’ve been able to keep pace with my work in progress in the midst of all this editorial madness. Here’s how:

I dictate on my way to work in the morning, edit my transcribed words first thing in the evening, and add them to my work in progress before moving on to the my editorial work.

So, both rounds of copyedits will have been turned in by the time you read this, I am knee-deep in revision on the other manuscript, and I added a total of 9,874 words to my work in progress over the course of the week.

I’ve also watched a couple episodes of LAST CHANCE U on Netflix. In reading the new Sarah MacLean book. So, you see this job is when to be disciplined, and knowing when to be a half-ass.

Is there anything you’ve learned to let go of lately? Anything you’ve added to your repertoire to make achieving your goals more reasonable? Anyone else googling the video for MODERN LOVE right now? Here, let me make it easy for you. Enjoy, and have a good week! https://youtu.be/1hDbpF4Mvkw

 

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Monday Mayhem – Accomplishment vs Ambition

Good morning! This blog post is brought to you today once again by the letter D. Hi! I’m here with Desdemona, my Dragon software, and I’m talking to myself again. After last week’s post, a few people have asked how it’s going, so here’s an update:

I’ve been working with it all week, I’m not sure that I’m getting any better, but I’m doing it. I’ve been dictating during my approximately twelve minute drive to work each morning. That time has netted me about 900 words on average each day this week. I’m only dictating basic punctuation, and not using the dialogue marks as of yet, but, yeah, progress. When I come home, I have Desdemona transcribe what I’ve dictated into my phone, I edit it, and add it to my work in progress. So far, so good. I’m finding that dictation allows me to get the bones of the scene in, and when I go back to edit it, I’m adding the color, character, and voice to the story.

In other news, at a great time the ladies from the Diamond State Romance Authors yesterday. it had been a couple of months since I’ve been to a meeting, and I really needed this one. Being around other writers helps to recharge the batteries.

We had an interesting discussion at lunch about ambition, expectations, reality and our accomplishments.

When you’re waist-deep in the publishing industry the disparity between an author’s ambition, expectations, and reality, can be…disheartening. And in those moments of despair, we have a tendency to downplay our accomplishments.

So if you are in one of those funks where you feel like a failure, ask yourself these simple questions:

1. Did I try?
2. Did I finish?
3. Did I dare to show my work, even if only to one person.

If you answered yes, to any of these, then you are an accomplished person.

It’s easy to lose sight of our accomplishments when we hold them up next to our ambitions. Most of the time, our ambition and expectations are waaaaaay up here, and our reality looks something like a royalty check barely big enough to cover lunch. But that doesn’t mean we still haven’t accomplished something spectacular.

I’m speaking directly to my novelist friends now, but I believe this applies to any creative endeavor:

Look at what you have done. You are amazing. Literally, one in millions. A percentage so minute, most people don’t even count it on a chart. The year I signed with my literary agent, Sara, she tweeted her 2015 query statistics in December. The numbers were so staggering I broke out the calculator, and did the math.

I know! I voluntarily did math.

You know what? I am one of the .003%

One-percenters may think they are something because their checks cover more than lunch, but you, me, and a handful of others? We’re in an even more exclusive club.

As writers, we build a career one word at a time, one book at a time, one series at a time. What we need to do is stop using yardsticks to measure a game played in millimeters. It doesn’t covert properly.

It’s not wrong to have ambition or expectations. Reality can sometimes be better than we expected. But please, oh please, don’t sweep your accomplishments under the rug because they didn’t jibe with the rest of that jive.

Feed your ambition.

Temper your expectations.

Plot what you can do to enhance your reality.

And celebrate your accomplishments every damn day. Because, wow! Who knew you had this in you?

You did. That’s who.

So, yeah… *steps off soapbox*

Right now I’m working on revisions for novel number thirty-seven and adding words to number thirty-eight. See what I did there?

I’m totally high-fiving myself as I eat the peanut butter sandwich I brought from home.

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Monday Mayhem – Big Magic

I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I prefer the world of make-believe most of the time. Unlike most writers, I’m not much of a ‘craft’ book reader, either. I don’t like being told what to do or how to do it, so I tend to rebel. But sometimes, I do go looking for inspiration when I feel my creative well running dry.

This week, I started reading the book BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. I admit I never read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, nor did I see the movie, but I am in love with BIG MAGIC.

Not because she has some nuggets of magical writer voodoo to impart, but more because she reminds us that it’s okay for people engaged in creative pursuits to be burned out, worked up, disillusioned, or even madly in love with their own work.

I needed this right now.

So go out there. Be brave. Be bold. Live a life filled with Big Magic. No one can tell you you’re wrong.

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