Monday, April 29, 2013

The Truth About Rejection
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, what's she got to complain about? She has a BOOK coming out! 

Yeah. I do. But it was years in the making. And guess what else? Even published authors face the R word. 

It seems at every turn, writers have to deal with the word "no" or even worse. 

  • When you send to critique partners (even the nicest ones have to be honest or you'll never get anywhere)
  • When you query
  • When you go on submission
  • When you face reviews
  • When you start the process over again from any step above
Heck, even JK herself has to deal with all those adverbial dialogue tags she threw in. Ouch.

There are tons of posts out there on how rejection is necessary and you have to have a thick skin and even I myself say "eat chocolate!" But, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we are human and it's okay to admit it hurts. 

We all have that OUCH moment. But you know what? That's okay. Let it happen. Then move on to healthy responses like taking the criticism and working to change whatever it was. Oh and chocolate. What? Chocolate has health benefits. 

I'm just saying that you have permission to feel bad for a minute. No one is going to think you are a horrible person or that you don't know what to do or any of that. It's what you do after that initial moment of weakness that counts. Don't go rant online - I promise you'll regret it. Instead... say it with me... EAT CHOCOLATE. And? If there's something you can work on to fix the issue, do it. Then try again. Because as I've also said before, that one YES makes it all worth it. 

Monday, April 22, 2013


What genre do you write? Is it the same every time or do you criss cross into varied territories? Obviously, I like paranormal. I'm very comfortable there and know it well. But is that all I write? No. I've also published Sci-fi and I've written high fantasy, thrillers, and I've dinked around with horror and mystery. One thing you'll *probably* never see from me is straight contemporary. But that doesn't mean I don't read it or enjoy it.

Here's the thing. I STRONGLY believe in writing what you love. I do not advocate trying to write to trends or what you think will sell. EXCEPT that it's important to know what's out there and what is being sought and use your lovely brains to find ways to make what you love into something marketable.

Let me explain. Paranormal and dystopian are hard sells right now. Flooded markets make it difficult to get a look. I've mentioned before on this blog the idea of changing it up and making yours stand out from the crowd. But what else can you do?


That's right. Cross-genres. I've written for adults and younger children before, but my preference is YA. And one of the wonderful aspects of YA is that genre lines are often blurred and almost encouraged.

Write a mystery set in the future. Or one involving paranormal activity like THE DEAD AND BURIED.  How about a contemporary with elements of fantasy? Think BEFORE I FALL. I've crossed thriller with paranormal for example. Fun!

Experiment with it. Write down a bunch of ideas and see what happens when you combine two together. Always think (forgive the cliche) out of the box.

So tell me friends, have you ever mixed genres? And how did it come out? What are some of your favorites?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Agent Sara Megibow On Whether You Still Need an Agent

Today I have with me Uber Agent Extraordinaire Sara Megibow. Yes, I have dubbed her such. She is not only AMAZING at what she does, she is super nice to boot. She's agreed to take time out of her very busy schedule to answer some pressing questions I've heard plenty of writers discussing lately. So without further ado, here is the interview:

1.  The market is rapidly changing as we all know. How is the agent's job changing with it, or is it?

Great question and thanks for having me here today! I imagine that, as with most questions about publishing, this answer will vary greatly from agent to agent. I tend to represent debut genre authors (Stefan Bachmann of the middle grade fantasy THE PECULIAR, Miranda Kenneally of the contemporary young adult CATCHING JORDAN, Roni Loren of the contemporary erotic romance CRASH INTO YOU, etc), so my answers will be skewed to those markets.

For me personally, when someone says "rapidly changing market" my thoughts go to electronic book sales and subsidiary rights.

What does "rapidly changing market" mean in terms of ebook sales? Growth. We've seen huge growth in the ebook market since I started working in publishing in 2006. The impact of that growth affects my job in many ways - this won't be an all-inclusive list, but here's an overview:

         In 2012, Stefan Bachmann's book sales (remember - he writes middle grade fantasy) broke down to 94% print sales and 6% ebook sales. Conversely, Roni Loren's book sales (for contemporary erotic romance) were 33% print book and 67% ebook sales. How does this affect my job? Well, I need to know this stuff. It's important to know the numbers, the trends and the impact for my clients and their books. We see ebook sales growing tremendously, but it's also important to know in which genres that growth occurs and in which segments growth is perhaps plateauing. Ebook growth in the past couple of years has affected my day-to-day job to include: negotiating contracts that include important ebook language and ebook royalties, crafting publicity plans for my clients that focus on print sales AND ebook sales (or just ebook sales for clients with ebook-only releases), weighing ebook-only deals with p&e deals (print and ebook) and researching the impacts of cover design, metadata, release dates and pricing on ebook sales.

What does "rapidly changing market" mean to subsidiary rights? Opportunity. Subsidiary rights (to an agent) means film, foreign rights, audio rights, gaming, merchandise, etc. Possibly as a side result of the growth in ebook sales (or possibly due to the gigantic increase in pop cultural success coming from books like HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT and HUNGER GAMES) - I've seen tremendous increase in opportunities for my authors to make money on subsidiary rights. I have more interest from Hollywood for film and TV sales than ever before and for a wider range of books (romance, erotica, New Adult, middle grade - etc.). CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally was optioned to producer Nick Wechsler last year, and I have more big Hollywood news coming soon. I'm selling more audio rights and making more money for my clients on foreign rights. Tiffany Reisz's ORIGINAL SINNERS series knocked 50 SHADES OF GREY off the #1 bestselling spot in erotica in the UK and Stefan Bachmann's THE PECULIAR is a bestseller in Germany and Switzerland. So, how is my job changing? Basically - I am spending more time shopping, organizing, planning and promoting subsidiary rights sales for all my clients whether they write fantasy or erotica and whether they are debut authors or international bestsellers.

As a side note, many times when writers ask agents about the "rapidly changing marketplace" they are asking about self-publishing. Self publishing is a wonderful trend that has seen tremendous success in the past few years. This trend doesn't affect me much though as I don't tend to represent previously self-published titles. My inbox is still stuffed full of authors looking for traditional publishing deals and that's the model I, personally, tend to prefer. For example, Jaleigh Johnson came to me via the traditional email query letter in December and we sold her debut middle grade fantasy in 12 days in a significant deal to Random House. So, self publishing works for a lot of authors, but it's not a trend that's affecting me much right now as the traditional model is still working for me very very very well.

2.  Many are going the self publishing or Indie route. We've examined the pros and cons in a series here on this blog. What would you say to those that choose this route?

Awesome! Seriously - the success stories are inspiring and heart warming. It's not a segment of the industry that I pursue as I am still rabidly in love with traditional publishing. But, some of my clients are self publishing ancillary works - for example, Juliana Stone is publishing a New Adult,  THE STILLNESS OF YOU, under the name Julie Bale and is very happy with that decision. One big benefit self publishers have (at least in my limited experience) is control - they can control content, length, release date, cover, editing, pricing, metadata, promotions, publicity, audio rights, etc. For authors who prefer a lot of control in the process, I imagine this is a powerful and wonderful feeling. If someone who is not a client says to me, "I've decided to self publish" I say great! If someone who is not a client says to me, "I've decided to traditionally publish" I say great! If that someone IS a client, then my answer is a bit more complex as all clients receive in-depth, personalized career planning. Still, your question is "what would you say to those that choose this route" and my answer is, Great!

3.  Here's the big one! Why do we still need an agent?

That's an excellent question! You don't.  :)

Many authors don't want agents and if you don't want an agent, then don't get one. Personally, I want to work with people who WANT to work with me and I'm sure it works the other way around too. This question doesn't offend me at all and it's an excellent one! Here are some reasons why you *might* still need an agent:

There are publishing houses and imprints that only accept material from agents. However if an author has no interest in submitting to those houses, then having no agent is no loss. In general, I would say if an author wants a traditional publishing deal, they want an agent. If an author wants a small-press publishing deal or to self-publish, they don't need an agent (although she/he may want one anyway).

As an agency, we provide serious and thorough contract negotiation. However, anyone can hire an entertainment lawyer (just make sure to hire one that specializes in publishing contracts). If you are self-publishing, then there are fewer contractual issues to worry about. But if you are print and/or e-book publishing with any publishing house - big or small - then the contract is a complicated document that most people need explained and/or negotiated for them.

I provide editorial feedback, career planning and publicity/promotions help - but an author can hire an editor, make their own career plans and pay for a publicity team.

Our agency audits royalty statements for our clients and tracks license payments, advance payments and royalty payments. An organized author can do that for her/himself, especially if they have an accounting background.

The big question is subsidiary rights. Can an author shop their own foreign, audio, gaming, film, TV and merchandising rights? That I don't know. I wouldn't want to have to do that on my own, however there are some very savvy people out there and if this extent of sales floats your boat, then I imagine it can be done. Perhaps the savvy author could hire their own foreign co-agent and travel to LA to meet with film co-agents? Again, I don't know the answer to that one. My gut response in today's market (and that could change next year, next month, next week) is that if an author wants to exercise their subsidiary rights then they need an agent.

Hugh Howey didn't have an agent when WOOL went viral as a self published e-book, but he has one now (my boss, Kristin Nelson). Kristin has closed foreign deals for him, a print-only deal (very rare) and a significant film deal with Ridley Scott. Courtney Milan DID have an agent (again, my boss - Kristin Nelson) when her self published e-books hit the NYTimes bestseller list. If an author wants to self-publish, they don't need an agent, although these are two good examples of authors who wanted them.

So, that's my answer. Why do you still need an agent? If these additional services would be of benefit to your author career then you may need an agent. If these services would not benefit you, or you simply don't want an agent, then you don't need one.

WOW! Thank you, Sara, for being so forthcoming and explaining things so well. 

Want to know more about my guest? You can find her in the following places: 

Sara Megibow
Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency

on twitter @SaraMegibow

and on publishers marketplace:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tag - I'm It!!

I want to start by letting you all know about my post for next week because you will want to check it out. Agent Sara Megibow will be here answering some tough questions, including whether you still need an agent in today's changing marketplace. And her answers may surprise you! 


Author Ellen Booraem, author of the upcoming TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD tagged me for The Next Big Thing, a blog tour that started in Australia and has been edging its way around the world one author at a time. I'm thrilled to take my turn answering questions about my new book. Read through to the end to find out where we go next!

What is the title of your next book?

THE BINDING STONE comes out this spring, which is *bounces around room* very soon! It's the first in the DJINN series. Here's the blurb:

Tricked into slavery by the man she loved, the Djinni Leela has an eternity to regret her choices.

Awakened in the prison of her adolescent body, she finds a new master in possession of the opal that binds her. But seventeen-year-old Jered is unlike any she’s seen. His kindness makes Leela yearn to trust again, to allow herself a glimmer of hope.

Could Jered be strong enough to free her from the curse of the Binding Stone?

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was looking at the website, which I love playing on cuz I'm weird that way, and I wanted to find something like a demon that wasn't a demon. What I found was djinn, which fascinated me. Then I researched and started filling in the blanks with my imagination.

What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal YA. Don't run! I promise it won't be the usual girl falls for brooding vampire. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ahem. This is -- IMHO -- original. 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Cool question! Kristen Kreuk would be Leela I think. And Jered would be Alexander Ludwig. 

Who is publishing your book?

Fuzzbom Publishing. They're an uber cool new house and I love them. We've done the Journey's of Wonder anthologies together and working with them is amazing. I have lots of control, but still get all the editing, copy-editing, marketing, etc.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

First drafts are typically quick for me. So I'd say three months to completion. It's the revisions that took years!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wanted a new project that was original but still paranormal. That was my initial inspiration. Then I wanted to write from the POV of this girl that popped in my head. I went on that website above and the rest fell into place. 

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It's action packed, with fun characters, magic and romance. What more could you want?

And now (*drum roll*), who better to tag than the talented woman who also created my beautiful book cover? Lisa Amowitz, author of Breaking Glass

Monday, April 1, 2013

Exceptions To The Rules

First - it's April Fools! Check out the fun post on Enchanted Inkpot this morning. 

Now - Last week I spoke about the cliche things I see in a lot of opening pages and while most people agreed, there was also a consensus that these things don't have to be avoided. I agree! So today I want to talk about taking these cliches and turning them on their heads - or sometimes just making them so darn good that it doesn't matter.

  • Starting with waking up with or without a dream. 
    • Some great books start with this! As someone pointed out the Hunger Games is one of them. And that's one of my favorite books. But I can't tell you how many I've seen and I'm not even an agent or editor. So what can you do if you are sure this is the right place to begin?
      • Make sure it's the right place by asking what the inciting incident is and WHY you feel this is the right place. If you can find anywhere else do so!
      • Tell us something new. Katniss woke up feeling for someone next to her that was missing. Someone that shared a room with her entire family and that's different. We also heard about the "reaping" right away and were drawn in by wanting to know more. 

  • Parent has died and child is in new living situation.
    • Sometimes we need to get those parents out of the way so they won't interfere. Or we know they've died because it's important to our story. Unfortunately it's important in a LOT of stories. Some of my own manuscripts are no exception. So what's different?
      • Perhaps we can focus on the relationship with the remaining parent instead of the death. Think Beautiful Creatures which both starts with a dream AND has a dead parent. I still love that book!
      • Maybe the parent's death was just that. A death. And there's nothing mysterious about it. And if they don't have to be dead, why not give them something else to do? Preoccupy them with another sibling, a job, or *gasp* have them be involved in the characters life, just not the one running the show. 
  • Teen discovers powers she never knew she had.
    • I know, I caught a lot of flack for this one. That's the whole point of the story very often! But I challenge you to ask yourself if it HAS to be that way. And if so, what's so special about your book? I'm not saying that to be mean, just to challenge you before you get out there and start getting rejected over it. I too am working on one of these believe it or not. I try not to usually though. I use someone who knows they have magic/powers. OR the MC doesn't (and neither does the boyfriend LOL). But if we must then...
      • Don't make the MC a pathetic loser to begin with. Most of the time we see a meek girl who finds out there's more to her. Make her interesting before she finds her power.
      • Don't give us the info right off the bat. You can hint subtly, but draw us in and connect us first. 
  • Mysterious or drop dead gorgeous guy appears conveniently poised to become the love interest. 
    • Yeah we all love a hot guy. You all know I have a soft spot for bad boys. But look at Hush Hush (another one I love). We really don't know whether the hot guy is good or bad. In fact (spoiler alert to turn away if you haven't read) he was bad at first and did want to kill her
      • So give him a fault. Anything really, small or big. Don't make him perfect! Or better yet let her fall for the non-obvious one.  
  • "Best friend" boy likes MC but she doesn't realize it.
    • I've seen this a lot lately - I suspect trying to make up for the one above. It's true if they've known each other for a while a love relationship is more believable. But maybe he doesn't notice her and it's the other way around? If not:
      • Find her another guy to go for and let the poor kid's love go unrequited. 
      • Don't make it obvious! Make him mean or something to hide his feelings so we can forgive her for not noticing this. 
  • Perky best friend has it all and MC is shy and awkward.
    • Why do our heroic MCs always have a perfect, bubbly friend that you want to smack? 
      • Give the friend some faults and make your MC just as great. Where is it written that the MC has to be shy?
      • At least give that friend a true purpose other than the "sidekick" role. Let her have some fun too and give her a personality other than simply "perfect",
  • MC finds it necessary to describe herself by looking in the mirror or thinking about her blonde hair and blue eyes 
    • Most of you admitted this bugged you. But guess what? I bet we all did it initially and thought we were oh so clever! I know I did! I even use the mirror myself still, but I try to change it up a bit.
      • If you feel it absolutely necessary to physically describe your MC, work it in other ways. For example: If your MC is super tall, don't have her say, "I'm six feet and awkward." Show it by having her have to duck to fit somewhere, or slump so she isn't taller than her boyfriend. We'll get the idea. 
What do you think? Does this clear it up? Or did I make it all more confusing? Mwahahaha! The point is, rules are there to teach us not to take the easy way out, but to challenge ourselves to make it more unique and interesting. Can they be broken? Yes! But only when it's REALLY necessary and you better do it well.