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 – 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 – The High Life

Happy Labo(u)r Day, you working stiffs (I added the U for the Canadians)! I have spent most of my long weekend not laboring, and I have to tell you, I’m pretty good at it.

Fodder and I ran away to Hot Springs for a night. This is the closest you will ever see me come to touching an actual bird. As always, the can Miller High Life is a homage to my grandmother, for whom I am named.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma a lot this weekend. She’s been gone since I was in college, but occasionally, flashes of memory pop up. This weekend, I found myself thinking about her hands.

My grandparents were already in their seventies when I was born, so in my mind, Grandma’s hands were already a map of blue veins under paper-thin skin. Her knuckles were swollen with arthritis, and she always wore a dark blue star sapphire ring that spun on her pinkie finger.

When you walked into their living room, there was a good chance you’d find Lawrence Welk on the TV, a can of Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) on the side table, and an embroidery hoop on her lap.

This was Margaret Carbery, in her natural habitat.

My grandmother had both cataracts and glaucoma. The bit in Sixteen Candles where Molly Ringwald’s character complains about being felt up by her grandmother?

Yeah…All the time. Our conversations usually started like this:

“Margaret Mary? Is that you?” *grope-grope-grope* “Well, it’s not Jimmy, Grandma.”

By the end of her life, she had little vision left, but more often then not, you would still find her sitting in her chair under the light with the tiffany-esque shade, embroidering pillowcases. She gave them to people as gifts. In our house, they weren’t kept as heirlooms. We used them every day. I don’t think I rested my head on a pillow that wasn’t enrobed in a case hand-stiched by my grandmother until I was in my twenties. I have a couple of sets stashed away:

 

I don’t have many pictures of my grandmother. Even fewer have been scanned into the computer, but she is still fresh in my mind. If you need a visual, here’s a photo of her (the lady in white with the big old star sapphire on her pinkie) dancing a hula with Don Ho at the Polynesian Palace:

That’s what we Margarets do. We live the high life.

Rest well today, my friends, for tomorrow we are back to laboring!

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Monday Mayhem – Mayhem

I can’t ramble about writing romance novels. It’s hard to think about happily ever afters when it seems everything I believe in is being challenged.

I’ll try again next week.

In the meantime, think peaceful thoughts and turn your face to the sunlight.

 

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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 – Poised on the brink

Here we are in JULY. Can you believe it? Yeah, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it myself. Camp NaNoWriMo started 7/1/17. I’m hoping it gives me to motivation/momentum I need to finish drafting A RING FOR ROSIE (Play Dates #3).

Tomorrow, we celebrate Independence Day. I’m working today and the rest of the week, so that means it’s one of those weird mid-week holidays, but I don’t mind.  We’ll party it up tonight, then I can spend the holiday lounging in my chair watching The Music Man. 🙂

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans!

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Monday Mayhem – Nothin’ doin’

I did nothing this weekend.

Those of you who know me well, know that this is kind of a shocker, because even when I say I’m being lazy, I’m usually still producing something. Not this weekend. This weekend was Margaret Ethridge’s day(s) off.

I didn’t really plan on being such a layabout, but circumstances were ideal, so I went with it.

If you need excuses (as I do), there have been 2 novels revised and returned to two different editors in the last 3 weeks. And I do have a day job that keeps me hopping. On Friday, we served lunch to over 150 hungry teenagers in support of a community outreach program.

Oh, and a sick hubby…and a bit of insomnia.

So, yeah, I didn’t even play an Author on TV this weekend, but that’s okay. I needed to rest and recharge. So sayeth, Dr. Sally.

 

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