Interview With Book Blogger Lia Covington

~ Lia Covington It's such an honor to have such a fun, book-loving guest on the blog today! Not so long ago, I heard this guest speak on the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books podcast and I knew she had to come hang out with us. So, without further ado, here's Lia Covington from Lia's Booking Obsession. Enjoy. ~ Melina (aka Melissa) Welcome, Lia!

Contemporary Romance: It is a truth universally acknowledged that your lovely husband enables your reading obsession. Care to elaborate?

Lia Covington: Gladly! Larry Jerome Covington III is the most unbelievably stubborn man I have ever meet in my entire life. If he believes in you, he’ll  do everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING in his power to make sure you reach the goals he believes you can achieve. He’s stubborn. He’s strong willed. He’s always so quiet, yet always observant! He’s also charming which makes winning any type of argument extremely hard, especially since the center of his eyes are hazel pooling into deep brown until lost within a ring of pure black, I know how common!

When you have a man standing a foot taller than you, pouring all his focus, strength, and determination into you as he tells you that you’re going to grad school to fulfill your passion; that he’ll pay for any expense for the blog as long as it makes me happy; or that he’ll try to send me to any event I ask to attend if it means meeting an author would make me happy, it makes it very hard to argue back, let alone focus.

So if he says he’s happy to buy books, send me off to meet authors, fellow bloggers, and such, well how can you argue with such abundances of loving support! Thus making me spoiled.

CR: How can I put this delicately? You were once in a situation wherein you had to deal with a librarian who, unlike your dreamy husband, wasn’t tolerant of your reading choices and habits. What exactly happened and how did you deal with it?

LC: Simple. I wasn’t “allowed” to read books at the YA section of the library. I had a full range to read the romances novels that she approved of, or the historical fantasy novels that she approved of, but not the YA section. The excuse was the YA only has one copy per book and “if” a true teen wants to read it should be ready for them. Every time I tried to check out a book I wanted to read, that wasn’t on her approval list, I didn’t get it. I would check my bag and it would be a different book. The worst thing she did was deliberately take a v-e-r-y long time cleaning up her desk so a librarian-ade would have to help me but only AFTER finish their original task.

I wish I could say I handled it like a proper adult. Marching right up to the front desk, demanding to be checked out, with switched books either! Instead, I would leave the books on the table, then leave the library all together crying.

I would cry to my mom on the phone, or if my husband was home to see me walking in the house with wet cheeks, he would turn me right around to get back in the car. Sometimes he would march to the library, grab the book in question, then wait 15-30 minutes to be checked out. There were times when the library was closed, so he would drive us to the local bookstore, telling me to get as many books as I want. I would tell him that just being around books was enough.

Little did I know he was keeping a list of all the books I wasn’t “ allowed” to check out. So! Imagine my surprise a month after giving birth to our daughter, he turned one of the spare rooms of the house into my own personal library, filled with each and ever books I ever wanted to read, or a complete collection of books from an author I mentioned to him. How can anyone deal with such a GIFT!?! I’ll tell you how. I cried. I cried on the floor and I cried from the soul. I cried. Cried! Not that cute cry, I mean heart swelling with so much love type of cry, and he just held me until I either I had no more tears.

CR: Sorry, but I have to ask. What was it like being on the Smart Bitches podcast? How did you meet Sarah Wendell?

LC: Ohhhhh Sarah Wendell is amazing. I meet Sarah Wendell at the RT Book Bloggers Conferences at RT BookLovers Convention-Las Vegas this year. While stuffing my face with food, I managed to tell her between bites what brought me to RT, let alone how I managed to become a blogger. She couldn’t believe the story, especially about the librarian, double shocked when I told her my husband sent me, and possible, triple shock at the blog being a gift.

Larry, really truly believes that the blog could be something more than what it was then. He, being as stubborn as he is kind sent me packing! He bought the tickets, ALL THE TICKETS! Sending me from Minot AFB, North Dakota to Las Vegas, Nevada to meet authors, book boyfriends, booklovers and to learn how to book blog properly thus sending me to the book blogging conferences hosted by Sarah Wendell.

After she hearing my story she asked if I could be on her podcast. Honestly, I didn’t think my story would get much attention, plus I didn’t think anyone would believe me about the “librarian” in question. She told me that librarians listening to her podcast would freak out. So I said sure why not! Sarah seemed confident in herself and my sister bought me Amazon Prime, there was no way I was ever going back to that library so I did it, I did the podcast, and it was a MARVELOUS revenge!

CR: What? Reading isn’t enough for you? You have to write about what you read? Why is it important for you to share what you’ve read and communicate with other book lovers?

LC: When I first started the blog, I never thought anyone besides Larry would ever see it. It was just meant for us to stay connected through the long distances of his job. I would read such adventures, heartbreaking stories, and desperately needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately, his job took more time away from him than it gave, so he could never read as fast as I did. Thus the blog was made, it was a simple way for me to write about all the books I read, and for him to keep up with all my reading activities, even adding books to his TBR pile.

Now that the blog has grown, I feel that it’s even more important to share with the book community! It’s fun to see what other people are reading because readers are always interested in reading a book but never sure they want to take the chances to BUY a book if it might not be so GOOD. That’s why book reviews can save someone some cash or encourage them to spend it!

Book lovers will always support book lovers! I found this to be A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y TRUE when fellow blogger and friend Kat from Bookthingo.com.au meet my favorite contemporary author Rainbow Rowell, who I’ve desperately tried to meet n’ failed, meet her and made a little video of her saying hello to me. When I say I cried like a newborn baby, I mean I cried.  To have someone that I meet at RT Las Vegas remember me to talk/ask an admired author to say hello on camera! O-M-G Booklovers 4lyfe! So it’s very important to me to spread the love!

CR: You know, you kind of make some of us look bad. You’re in graduate school, and you’ve got a young child to take care of. How do you find time to blog? (Maybe you’re a superhero?)

LC: Ha! Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say! But no I am no superhero, although if I were I would want to be Storm from Xmen. I would make a thunderstorm every time I wanted to stay inside to read. At first, I didn’t truly have time to blog, as a new mother I felt every time I took my eyes away from my spawn she was going to French kiss a light socket! In the beginning Larry would take everyone out the house so I had time to create/ schedule blog post along with finish homework assignments. Now that our daughter is turning two next week I find that we are very much alike. She doesn’t like to be bothered in the morning during her PBS Kids shows, leaving me with 4 to 6 hours to read, do homework or blog. When she feels alone she just snuggling next to me in my papasan chair in the library with her own book or project close in hand. My family really supports me going to school as well as blogging, it’s incredible how much time they let me be to myself without worry.

CR: You’ve got some beautifully created graphics on your blog. Can you share some tips and tools for authors who might want to create graphics for their own websites?

LC: I’m happy you think so, I actually have no tips on website graphics because I actually don’t like my website design, I’m currently working with Anna Moore Design to help create a more unique design on my blog. If there were a tip I could give, it would be don’t be afraid to get professional help! Gawds know I’m thankful to Anna Moore for all her help thus far!

CR: Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in starting their own blogs?

LC: Yes! Make sure you are passionate! There are going to be times when you think the devil himself is hiding behind the 0’s and 1’s of your computer! Post goes missing! Things that were scheduled don’t post on time. But as long as you are passionate about your blog and treat it with kindness/determination others see it, feel it when they read your post, that’s what’s most important. If you’re only trying to start a blog to get free books then you have a better chances just going to the library. Blogging is hard work, and the best make it look easy. I found that out the hard way!

CR: In your opinion, what is the appeal of contemporary romance?

LC: Seeing yourself in the romance itself. When you read a historical fantasy romance novel, no matter how much you love or admire the characters the characters are always so far away. But when you read a contemporary romance novel it’s like watching tiny bits of yourself in the characters you see before your eyes. Sometimes you feel so excited when a character has made a choice that you yourself have made, or perhaps you yourself would have made if you were in that situation! Plus it’s fun to read contemporary romance novels because they really make you think about things like:

Why is the button on a man’s jean the hardest button to unbutton when you’re trying to be discreet!

Why is it when you’re not EXPECTING to have sex you’re now having to pretend you’re non-sexy undergarments are the sexiest pair you have!

Beyond that it’s also nice to see characters that are so close to my own life fall in love, it makes me feel like I’m living my own feelings of my own relationship which is always a nice way to start an evening ;-)

Thanks for stopping by, Lia! 

Greetings! I’m Lia Covington from Lia’s Bookish Obsession. When I’m not chasing a naked baby, or a Siberian wolf pup, down the hall, you can always find me reading, writing, and studying in my gifted library my husband created for me. I love books, a lesson taught to me by my mother while living in the isolated island life of living in the Bahamas. Currently stationed in Minot, North Dakota with my family, with a love of books in my heart I see no stopping my love for blogging!

Follow Lia:

Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Tumblr

From Solitary Writing to Collaborating on Joint Ventures

mk-headshot-bBy Milou Koenings Like most writers, it tends to be just me and the keyboard. And I like it that way. But when it comes to book marketing, I decided a few years ago that it was time to break out of my comfort zone and start collaborating with other authors. I had seen what could happen for my author friends who were brave enough to try it, and I wanted in on some of that collaborative magic. For me, the first step was joining a group blog. I was incredibly fortunate that the week I'd decided to start looking for this kind of opportunity, I saw an announcement that Sweet Romance Reads was forming. We are a group of clean, sweet romance authors who blog together. We each have our day, once a month. And we support each other's marketing efforts. You know what it's like when you have a new release and you send out a few tweets about it. You hope your followers will notice and maybe retweet. But what if you were guaranteed that 30 other authors would retweet your posts to all their followers, too? Imagine how much larger your reach would be. If you knew your whole tribe would promote your blog posts, feature you on their own blogs, re-pin and Instagram you and support your Thunderclaps, wouldn't you feel more confident about your marketing efforts? Group blogging and marketing support networks aren't the only joint ventures open to writers. Other joint venture projects could include:
  • Collaborating on a book with another author, or several others, who write in a similar genre
  • Pooling your modest marketing budgets together into a sum significant enough for some serious advertising
  • Entering into collaborative arrangements with people who can open new markets, for example, translators, illustrators and narrators. You might not be able to afford thousands of dollars for a translator. But some freelance translators are willing to work in partnership, translating your book for a split of the royalties.  If you're an indie writer who'd like to take a gamble in, say, Germany's booming romance marketplace, this may be a path to consider.  These kinds of arrangements also mean that your translator will have an incentive to market the book, too, and will probably have more contacts than you do in the foreign language market. The same goes for illustrators and even narrators of audio books.
The synergy of joint ventures can be powerful, enough, at times, to catapult mid-list authors to NYT best-selling author status with a single boxed set. people-woman-coffee-meeting-largeOn September 27, we at Sweet Romance Reads will be releasing our fourth collaborative publication: a boxed set of 17 holiday-themed, all new, wholesome romances by New York Times, USA Today and National Best-Selling authors, that take you around the globe from small-town USA, to London, England, and even to Africa. (The African one is mine!) As you probably guessed from our title, in past years, we've put out two other anthologies, both of which were USA Today bestsellers. We also have a cookbook, Recipes for Love, which is a collection of menus and recipes for romantic dinners for two. It's a privilege to work with a wonderful group of women on projects like this. When working with a group, everyone gets to bring her or his own special skills and experiences to the table. It's incredibly educational. And when a group of writers and artists pulls together, it's amazing the creativity that can be unleashed. Suddenly, you can find yourself doing things you never thought you could — and probably couldn't if you were doing them alone. But you're not alone. And the possibilities are suddenly endless! Milou Koenings is a USA Today bestselling author who writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with happy endings bring joy to the world and so make it a better place. She is the author of the Green Pines Romance series and her new novella, The Kampala Peppermint Twist, is part of the 17-author box set, Sweet Christmas Kisses 3. You can find her at www.miloukoenings.com or blogging on the 21st of each month at www.sweetromancereads.com and get to know her better here:

Twitter || Facebook || Goodreads 

Ready, Set, BAKE!

carolematthews~ By Carole Matthews A Note from Melina (aka Melissa):  I may not bake as well as Mary Berry (though not for lack of trying). But I'm proud that that we have one thing in common.  We both adore Carole Matthews.  It was from Carole Matthews that I learned about The Great British Bake-Off, and I've been an addict from the first episode I was able to get my hands on.  The show is so soothing, with its rivers, fields, and adorable animals walking around. Even the music relaxes me.  The encouraging atmosphere in "the tent" reminds me of RWA meetings and conferences. Writers and bakers are clearly among the world's loveliest people.  Writers and bakers are clearly among the world's loveliest people.  And of course, the show is a great injection of enthusiasm for my muses (as is kneading bread dough and mixing batter).  The Great British Bake Off is the perfect show for a writer, and Carole has graciously offered to share some of her thoughts on the show.  Thank you so much, Carole!  It’s the time of year in Great Britain when everyone goes a little bit cake bonkers. As the nights draw in and the trees turn to gold, the nation becomes hooked on the latest series of The Great British Bake Off. Never has there been so much tension involving cake. We weep with them over their biscuit disasters. Empathise when their bread fails to rise. Commiserate with their soggy bottoms. We all love Mary Berry’s wisdom, Paul Hollywood’s steely blue eyes and the terrible innuendos from Mel and Sue, the comfort that comes from nothing more complicated than a bit of cake. For me, it’s a great time of marketing activity too. As well as keeping my eye on the trials and tribulations of the bakers, I live tweet during Bake Off while simultaneously balancing a plate of biscuits on my lap – for no one can possibly watch Bake Off without having something cakey-based to snack on. [caption id="attachment_7109" align="alignright" width="225"]Star Baker! Star Baker![/caption] Every week during the show we also give away signed copies of my book, The Cake Shop in the Garden, which has been one of my most popular novels worldwide. Helped in no small measure by having a glowing quote from THE Mary Berry on the cover. I also throw in a bit of chocolate for good measure. I had the pleasure of meeting Mary when she was doing a book signing in my local bookstore. When it was my turn for my books to be signed, I gave one of mine and thanking her for all the pleasure gives to me and my readers – we are all Bake Off fans and chat about it on social media. She said she would love to read it and I thought no more. So I was very surprised when, a few months later, I saw a piece from her in a magazine and she said that she was ‘addicted’ to my books. Go me! Now, of course, she can have free books for life as far as I’m concerned! You can keep all your celebrity chefs, for me there is only one cook. Her recipes always work and don’t have any weird and wonderful ingredients. I was chatting to a friend about her yesterday and we were saying, that in an age where it’s still very unusual to see older ladies on the television, Mary is a fabulous role model. She’s elegant, refined and a complete style icon. Long may she reign! And, of course, with all that fabulous cake on the telly, my diet goes completely out of the window as I reach for the flour and try a few new bits and pieces. I’ve always loved baking, but too often find that I’m doing it against the clock. In the winter, I feel happier to set time aside for a bit of baking therapy. Perhaps that’s why my books, so often, have a cake or chocolate theme. This week on Bake Off is batter week. Looking forward, already, to pancakey goodness. What could possibly go wrong? Carole’s latest book is The Chocolate Lovers’ Wedding. 

Facebook || Twitter

Top 5 Takeaways from My RWA 2016

krisjayne~ By Kris Jayne Note: This post originally appeared here RWA’s program amazes me every year. It offers information and guidance on everything from craft to business to wellness. The worst part? I can't attend every session. So I’d love to share my top takeaways from the sessions I attended — small and large. Maybe in the comments, we can compare notes. 1) Boost your back matter ("Newsletters, Back Matter, and Other Indie Marketing Strategies,” Deanna Chase and Violet Vaughn) I self-publish, so I know the importance of back matter. I include the blurbs for the next books my series, email list sign-up, buy links, and an excerpt of the next book. But I didn't ask for reviews, and the buy link for the next book in the series required turning the page. Now, I've put both immediately after “the end." Have a separate sign-up list for each book, so you can know the source of each sign-up. I’ve now created separate sign-up pages (via LeadPages) and separate lists (in MailChimp) for each book. This way, I can target emails to my audiences to buy the next book or send them book-specific bonus scenes and content. 2) Layer scenes that hook your readers ("Frame Your Scene, Build Your Story: The Art of Layering,” Lori Freeland, handout in the RWA app) Layer for clarity so the reader can see the movie in your head. Ensure that every scene pushes the story forward. I’m in the middle of editing my next book, and I cut an entire chapter that added little to the book’s forward momentum. Each scene should flow from:
  1. Setting the stage - Does the reader know where they are? When the story takes place? Who is there? What relevant props or environment cues are there to paint the picture?
  2. Letting the scene play out - Get the basics down. What happens? Then, layer in emotion and mood with dialogue, internal thoughts/feelings/visceral responses, heightened action, and interactions with setting.
  3. Hooking the reader - Leave them asking questions that make them turn the page.
Start by writing your strength. If you’re a dialogue person, start with what they’re going to say. If internal thoughts are your forte, begin in the character’s head and reveal the emotion of the scene. Then, go back and layer in the other elements. vintage-technology-keyboard-old-largeLast, layer the emotional subtext with dialogue cues and body language and spiff up the writing with more expressive language. 3) Deepen POV ("Build a Character, Build a Book,” Christie Craig, handout in the RWA app) Link gestures, jobs, your character’s decor, clothing, what do they have in their pockets, etc. to the specifics of the POV character. Think about everything, but don't overdo it. Pick a few things to highlight and root them in the character’s psyche. Tie these elements to the defining conflict or traumatic moments of your character’s life. Make them meaningful. Another tip: the reader can get a deeper sense of your character by seeing him/her read another character. You learn a lot by how they interpret others. 4) Keep up with the industry (PAN Track) I don’t mean follow every trend, but understand some of the overarching trends and numbers and where you and your career goals fit. Here are some stats from the Data Guy at Authorearnings.com
  • 89% of all romance sales are digital
  • Of those, over half are self-published
  • 67% of romance sales aren’t tracked by any traditional metric (like BookScan, which tracks print sales)
  • 74% of paid ebook sales (all genres) happen on Amazon.com; next is iBooks at 11%
  • Top 5 genres in romance on Amazon.com by total author earnings are (in order): Contemporary, Romantic Comedy, New Adult & College, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal
  • However, the top genre earnings per title and pen name are: New Adult & College, Contemporary, Sports, Romantic Comedy, Military (with Paranormal a very close 6th)
“Total author earnings” reflects the volume sold in the category, but the per title/pen name gives you a sense of which genres make an individual author the most money. 5) Know your why (“From Mid-List to Mad Money: How to Set Yourself up for Self-Publishing Success,” Kristen Painter and Roxanne St. Clair) Why do you write? Do you want to make a living? Win awards and recognition? Just write for fun? Knowing what you want shapes your priorities, and you have to be honest and clear. The truth is: if you want to make a living, that changes your priorities. If you want to win a RITA, that changes your priorities. Since I want to build income self-publishing, I know I need to write faster. I can’t spend two years polishing a manuscript. Saying that out loud (or in print) can be scary. I want to produce quality work. I work hard on it, but I have to move fast and be willing to let the story go and move on to another. That’s a different writing cycle than someone who wants something else. There’s no right or wrong motivation, but we have to know ourselves and align our process. What did you learn at RWA? Christina—a devoted writer, reader, and traveler—writes as Kris Jayne. She spends her days blissfully sweating out the writing process in the Dallas area with her dogs, Otis the Shih Tzu, Rocco the Terrier, and Red the Foxy Mutt. Her passion for writing is only matched by her passion for the adventures of travel. In 2008, she let a friend talk her into sleeping outside for the first time in her life when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She will release the fourth book in her Thirsty Hearts series, Chasing You, in September. P.S. If you're buying her a gift, she has a penchant for single-malt Scotch and scarves.

Website || Facebook || Twitter || Goodreads

On Competition and Writers

Marilyn Brant--author photo~ By Marilyn Brant  Note: This post originally appeared here At the end of last year, I'd spent a lot of time pondering Criticism and Writers. This week, having reread those reflections, I realized I didn't have much to add to them after another year amidst the thrill, the chaos and the frequent insanity of being a part of the publishing industry. What was true for me 12 months ago is still true for me now. Although I have to admit, my determination to pull away from the gossiping maelstrom wasn't without consequences... Two friendships I'd valued came to an end in 2010, both due in part to our having different approaches to dealing with life stressors and criticism. Letting go is rarely easy and that was certainly true in these cases. However, there are times when the path on which we're traveling splits and we have to make a choice if we hope to move forward and live a healthier life. This year was, for me, a reevaluation year, and while there were a couple of losses, there were quite a few more gains. I met some awe-inspiring people and had the pleasure of getting to know better or reconnect with some wonderful friends -- online and off. This year made me even more appreciative of the insightful, compassionate, secure and genuine travel companions who are sharing the journey with me...and I thank you all for that. Now, as 2011 approaches, my thoughts have turned to a different but marginally related theme:Competition. I had an interesting, somewhat unexpected experience with it in recent months. I was taking part in a multi-author booksigning event and a reader came up to all of us to ask about our novels. Since the reader questioned me specifically about one of my books, I was in the midst of explaining the story's premise to her when the writer to my left jumped in and launched into a description of her own novel. It was a noticable interruption, but I liked the writer and attributed her behavior to a combination of over-eagerness and the simple desire to make a sale. The reader, however, raised her eyebrows, took a step back and laughed uneasily. "What? Are you guys in competition or something?" she asked. I started to shake my head, but the writer jumped in again and immediately said, "Yes!" Before I could respond, another writer near us said emphatically, "Oh, no! Reading one of our books makes readers want to find others that are similar. It's not a competition." I nodded mutely in gratitude, but found I couldn't put into words all that I was feeling at the time. The issue is complex. It has logical and emotional components, real-world battles pitted against internal, intensely personal ones -- and rarely are all of these addressed. As a result, I haven't been able to get the incident out of my head. Looking back, I probably should have been offended by the first writer trying to horn in on a potential sale, but I wasn't. I just thought it was ineffective, if it was a strategy (in the end, the reader chose to buy my book anyway), and merely strange, if it wasn't. I'm aware it's a mindset some people can get trapped by -- that whole zero-sum game where all the world is classified into winners and losers. In the realm of the arts, it tends to perplex me more often than not because, IMO, it may be an unavoidable business reality on one level, but it's a fallacy on a dozen others. Yes, there are Amazon rankings and, if someone else's book earns the #1 spot, that means mine will inevitably be lower. If someone else sells the most copies that means mine will sell fewer. If someone else's novel wins the fill-in-the-blank award that means mine won't. Okay. That's true -- literally. But that's not the only game that happens to be in progress. And in the game that's most often in the forefront of my mind, the win-lose construction is almost...laughable. Because I already won. I won years ago. And so did many of you. I won when I decided to pursue a passion rather than do something I hated. I won when I chose to write stories as honestly as I could whether or not anyone else on the entire planet liked them, understood them or cared about them. I won when the side of me that is grounded in self-belief chose to stand up to the side of me that isn't...or, rather, I've triumphed in a handful of battles against Lack of Confidence but the war is far from over. This much I can tell you about it, though: The end result won't be determined by a royalty statement. Or by the number of GoodReads raves or bashes. Those are irrelevant in the heat of such combat. Tell me, how many "wildly successful" (in the eyes of the society) actors, musicians, writers, athletes, etc., do you know who've crashed and burned when forced to face themselves? That have lost their fortunes, their families, their sobriety or their sanity? Yeah. A lot. So, a focus on comparing sales figures as a measure of success -- while not a wholly worthless endeavor -- is limited in scope when placed alongside all of the truly significant conflicts fought within. I physically cringe when I see someone setting him- or herself up as some kind of opponent against me. I want to tell them to chill out ("Here, have a cookie!") and to please use their energy more productively. Out of fairness, they should know there's no external competitor in the universe more powerful than somebody's internal demons. The notion of a mere human rival being strong enough to turn my attention away from Fear...well, that's absurd. I wishthe real battles were so simplistic. Alternately, how can anybody put a price tag on having done what one set out to do? On reaching one's intended audience -- no matter the size? What author could possibly "lose" by overhearing a reader tell another author that his/her novel touched them? That a character the other author created was one the reader closely identified with? That the author expressed something for that particular reader that this person couldn't express for him- or herself? How do you quantifymeaning and slap a win-or-lose label onto it? No one will convince me that what's meaningful to 5 people is worth less than what's meaningful to 50. I don't believe that the thoughts and emotions of those 5 can be dismissed just becausemore people happen to agree on something else. I think of all the times I saw a film or read a book and LOVED it and, yet, my positive opinion was in the extreme minority. Is the fact that it changed my life of less significance than the fact that another film or book changed someone else's? I know more than one book and more than one film have influenced me, but I fail to see where the competition is between them. They were each a gift to my mind and my soul. Each brought me something I needed. Each shared with me a message of value -- even if it only illuminated a tiny corner of some concept. There is no ranking that can be stamped on illumination. Am I the only person that finds such attempts futile?! Sigh. (Yeah, I'll get off my soapbox now... ;) Of course, on the materialistic, tangible plane of existence, competition abounds and it's often hard to ignore. Writers can't afford to go on writing if our books don't sell enough copies. Publishers won't take a chance on a debut author without a P&L statement that's in the writer's favor, and they won't pick up our option books if the financial pros don't outweigh the cons. But just because I can't completely close my eyes to the reality of competition in the literary world, it doesn't mean I have wrap my heart around it. I know what I'll remember in old age about being a writer in 2010 will have far less to do with my novels' placement on one list or another than the thrill of knowing I fought off Fear or Lack of Confidence long enough to write something a few people told me they loved... Wishing you all a 2011 filled with important battles won, meaningful memories created and peace throughout the process. And joy. May the New Year bring you much of that, too! Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy & mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. 

Self-Publishing or Traditional: Which One is Right for You?

Katie McCoach~ By Katie McCoach Note: This post originally appeared here FOR THOSE THAT are planning to self-publish a book, you may have heard by now that self-publishing is a business. It’s your business, and treating your business with professionalism and enlisting in the required help will help your business (books) succeed. For those seeking agent representation, this idea also holds true, however a publisher is in charge of many of the business decisions instead of you. How do you decide which option is best for you?

Traditional Publishing—The Steps:

Seeking agent representation is your first step in hoping to land a publisher. Yes, there are some publishers that now will ferret through slush submissions without books on shelfneeding an agent, but there are many benefits to having an agent. One of them being that someone is investing their time in you—selling your product—and two, the right agent has your best interests at heart. They will help you with the contract and make sure you don’t get screwed. But seeking representation is difficult! You must craft a query letter, a synopsis, and research agents to pitch the best ones suited for your work.  And still, it may not work out for numerous reasons (trends, timing, recently acquired books, etc.). This is part of the publishing game, and it’s what makes this process so tough. But, if you want the best chances of landing an agent, be sure to do your research—follow submission guidelines, craft a compelling query, edit your query and manuscript before sending, and be sure not to do any of the “don’ts” when pitching. For a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”: What NOT to Say to a Literary Agent (or Editor).  Once you land an agent, it doesn’t mean everything is suddenly a cake walk. The agent may ask you to make changes to your manuscript, then once they feel it’s ready they will start pitching to acquisition editors of the publishing houses to get you the best deal possible. Once you get a deal (with a publisher), you must be sure the contract is agreeable on both ends, and then the publisher will begin working on the book. They will hire the editors, the book designer, and they determine the release date. Books take a while to release. The publishers handle all the decisions, they get the book on the shelves and distributed, but it is still your job to market/promote the book. Marketing is minimal from publishers these days, so no matter what path you take as an author, you are in control of the promotion of your book. Having a publisher might just open a couple more doors for you.

Self-Publishing—The Steps:

Self-publishing is becoming a very popular option these days, even with previously traditionally published authors. And why not? In self-publishing, every decision for the book is yours. You hire the editors, the formatters, the book designers, the printing company . . . you are in complete control. This is liberating for some authors because they know the product they put out is everything they want it to be. However, this also means you foot the bill. As I mentioned at the start: self-publishing is a business. You are now a business owner. If you’re not willing to invest in your book, who will? Finding the best team to help you create your book is on you, and as a self-published author it’s very important you do your research and are constantly learning about the business and changes in the industry. But the ultimate benefit: the earnings go directly to you. Minus what retailers take, the rest is yours. An agent or publisher isn’t taking a portion of your earnings. You’re in charge of your book’s fate.

It’s a lot to decide which path to take! What feels right for you?

Either way, you want to publish the best possible version of your work. And either way, you will feel amazing when your book hits the shelves. KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at http://www.katiemccoach.com/blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

What Are The Odds? [REPOST]

Jill Beck Headshot - square~ By Jill Beck  What are the odds? Do you ever ask yourself this question? For me, it rears its ugly head on the days my thoughts go over to the dark side. It’s my brain’s more subtle way of saying, “This is too hard. We might as well quit.” When I first started writing, I spent a lot of time worrying and the question wore a path, pacing back and forth through my mind. “How many people are writing books? Thousands and thousands. So, what are the odds that my little book is going to go anywhere?” Writing is hard all by itself. And on top of that, there’s a lot of competition in the field. Of course, there’s competition in every other field, too. It’s never easy. If you want to accomplish something, there are going to be obstacles to overcome – many of them, large and small. But one of the things I’ve learned in these early stages of my writing career is that the odds are not fixed. They’re fluid. Like me, you may have started out with no experience and those odds may have looked like a mountain in front of you. But maybe you sat down and started brainstorming ideas. Or maybe you decided to take a couple of writing classes or join an online writing group. You just chipped away at that mountain. You wrote a first draft of your book and, boy, did it need help. Jeez, it was terrible. But you finished it. You had a couple of people read it, you made some changes and you came out the other side with a much better second draft. Once again, you’ve changed the odds. What was once a crazy longshot is now starting to look pretty possible. Obviously, you have no control over factors outside yourself. You can’t control the trends in the market. Who can predict when vampires will take off or fizzle? Who know whether contemporary or historical or paranormal will suddenly be the rage? But you do have control over your part of the equation. Keep learning. Keep evolving. Develop a greater mastery of your craft. You play a huge role in your own personal chances. You’re moving forward. You’re learning and growing. And with every step you take, you’re altering the odds. You’re controlling them – not the other way around. You set the odds. If you don’t like how they look, change them. Keep going. Keep pushing until the balance has shifted and the numbers are in your favor. I still struggle with my own internal bookie, who insists on quoting odds to me. Yeah, they might not be the best odds, but I’m going to gamble anyway. Jill Beck is a graduate of Purdue University and spent the first thirteen years of her career in manufacturing, before setting it aside to raise her children. Once the kids were in school, she opted to embark on Career 2.0 and try something more creative and intrinsically rewarding – no offense, manufacturing. Jill lives in Indiana with her three beautiful children, two awesome dogs and the most supportive husband in the universe. Jill writes new adult contemporary romance and her first novel, Legacy of the Dog, was released by Boroughs Publishing Group in October of 2015.

www.jillbeck.net || www.facebook.com/jillbeck186 || Twitter  @jillbeck18 || Tsu  @jillbeck

Selling Toilet Paper [REPOST]

litdiva~ By Lit Diva For a really long time, I was stuck on the idea that my writing was Art with a capital A, that I was a dilettante author for the love of wordsmithing. That I was neither a real writer nor a hack for hire, but an Artist. For this reason alone, I'm convinced I was unable to find an agent for my novel after repeated efforts. I just wasn't willing to revise the damn thing until it had sufficient plot events to merit its length. I'm still too attached to it, so it shall remain in my hard drive languishing. However, for those who haven't heard, my husband got fired last week. We are now a one income household and that is, alas, a teacher's salary. Consequently, I've redoubled my freelancing efforts and I've discovered a few things that resulted in an attitude adjustment: 1.  Outlines help.  I'm a pantser by nature but clients like to know what to expect. For example, I ran out of plot on a novella and threw in an unexpected pregnancy just to sustain momentum with stagnant characters. The client was not thrilled by the surprise. It wasn't the event itself but its suddenness. So I outline. It gives me a map to work from and comforts the client. 2.  It's not art, it's a commodity. It's work for hire. My analogy now is selling toilet paper. As in: I had a client who hired me, worshipped my dialogue and my efficiency, then bitched when I turned in a 23000 word novella instead of 25K. I thought it was perfect or nearly perfect as it was and didn't need filler to clutter it up. I was all insulted because my capital-A Art wasn't being respected when, in point of fact, he was right. Like, let's say you ordered a hundred rolls of toilet paper. Your supplier sends you only 97 rolls. You contact them and demand the other three rolls you ordered and paid for. No, your supplier says, the 97 rolls he sent you are fluffy and superior with surprisingly good tensile strength. You don't actually NEED 100 rolls. Ninety-seven is better.You demand your 3 rolls, convinced you're being cheated. Supplier points out that, no, in fact the package looks much nicer without being crowded in with those extra rolls. You refuse to pay until given the promised toilet paper. Supplier gets huffy but supplies toilet paper as contracted, but in a begrudging manner. Like, say, a diva. To the client, it ain't art. It's toilet paper. It's something to use or repackage and sell. It's like printer ink or coffee filters...they order a certain amount and that's what they expect and there is no ephemeral standard of writing till the story is told. It's work for hire. Or to use my old chestnut from Jerry Maguire, it's not show friends; it's show business. Believe it or not, this has been good for me to learn. Readers, what do you think? Where is the line between your own artistry and writing a "marketable" book? Leave a comment and let us know. * This post first appeared here. Lit Diva is an American educator and freelance ghostwriter, as well as a sometime blogger about all things reading, writing and parenting. She writes contemporary, YA and paranormal. She's been fangirling romance novels since she was too young to admit to it...some of her favorite escapist reads are Courtney Milan, Kerry Greenwood and Rainbow Rowell. 

Editors: Making the most of an all-important relationship [REPOST]

Deborah Blake~ By Deborah Blake  No matter what kind of writing you do, at some point or another you will probably work with an editor. Over the course of a long career, you will probably work with quite a few. There will be editors who make you look good, by catching every mistake you make…and editors that don’t. Most of the time you don’t have much choice in the matter; the editor who picks your book is the one you end up working with. At worst, this can be frustrating. At best, they will be enthusiastic about your writing and a joy to work with. [If you are self-publishing, you won’t have a traditional editor, but you are still going to want at least a copy editor to double check your work.] I’m lucky—I’ve got the best editors in the world, both at Llewellyn with my nonfiction books and now at Berkley with my novels. Unlike fiction books, where the person who buys the book is also the person who is your primary editor for the entire process, in non-fiction (or at least at Llewellyn, where I have all my experience) there are two main editors involved: the Acquisitions Editor and the Production Editor. At Berkley, I have a terrific editor named Leis Pederson who shepherds the books through the start to finish, along with a copy editor (different ones for the novella and the two novels I’ve done so far, and I don’t even know their names). The Acquisitions Editor is the person you submit the book to in the first place. She reads the proposal you send, and your sample chapters, and if she likes it, she’ll ask for the rest of the book. If she REALLY likes it, she’ll then take it to an acquisitions meeting and pitch it to the rest of the team. If everyone REALLY likes it, she then offers a contract. And paperwork ensues. This is essentially the same for both nonfiction publishers and fiction house. For some Acquisitions Editors at Llewellyn, the job is more or less over once the contract is signed, and from then on you deal with the production editor. But Elysia tends to be more hands on, and frequently offers in-depth feedback and suggestions for the scope, direction, and content of the books. Some authors don’t like this in an AE—but I love it. I want to turn in the best possible book, in a form that is going to make all those higher up on the food chain at Llewellyn happy. Working closely with Elysia helps me to do this. She makes me look good. Once Elysia and I deem the book finished (a process that usually takes about three months from the time I start writing to the time I finish—almost always well ahead of my official deadline), it gets sent on to the Production Editor. There are a number of PE’s at Llewellyn, but on all but the first book, I have been lucky enough to be paired with Becky Zins. Becky rocks, too. The PE helps to polish the book. She goes through it word by word and (hopefully) finds anything I screwed up or left out. Eventually, she contacts me via email with her biggest questions, and we usually have a few days of “is this really what you wanted to say?” and “would you mind if I changed this?” exchanges. When she’s done, she sends me the final proofs and it is my job to make sure that it all turned out right. At Berkley, the copy editor does the same job as the production editor at Llewellyn does, but all my feedback about the book goes through Leis. I’m sent a copy of the manuscript with notes in it first from Leis for big picture stuff and then a second round from the copy editor for specific small things, and I make the changes I agree with and fix any issues to the best of my ability. Only rarely do I say, “No, I’m sorry, but this has to stay the way I had it in the first place.” I find it is best to only pick the few places where I believe a change would interfere with the story or the way I need to tell it—with editors, you definitely want to pick your battles, and make them as few as possible. (But do stick to your guns if something is important. Just make sure you do it politely.) Like Elysia and Becky, Leis has been a joy to work with. Her vision of the books has always matched mine EXACTLY; something which is a minor miracle in publishing and for which I thank the gods daily. I have been really fortunate in my editors so far, and hope that this good fortune will continue as I continue my journey into the fiction world. But it isn’t all luck—I also work hard to be as good an author for them to collaborate with as I can be. I want them to be singing my praises as loudly as I sing theirs. Here’s a few basic ways to be an editor’s dream writer: Always be polite and cooperative. (Yes, that should go without saying—but it doesn’t.) If you have to disagree over something, don’t get defensive; after all, your editor has the same goal you do—to make your book the best it can be. Always meet or beat your deadlines. Much of publishing takes a long time, and then you get two days to do the next step. The more lead time you can give an editor, the easier their job is. Submit the cleanest copy you can. Just because it is an editor’s job to clean up your manuscript doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to find all the typos and other errors yourself. Becky has said she loves to see one of my books land on her desk, because she knows that there will be very little for her to do. That’s what you want to hear! Say “thank you” often and loudly. Editing is one of the behind-the-scenes jobs, and it can be pretty thankless. It never hurts to tell your editor how much you appreciate all the work they put in to make you, the person everyone associates with your book, look good. With three books and a novella out last year (one book from Llewellyn and the others in my new Baba Yaga series for Berkley), I have spent more time than usual dealing with editors. Which only makes me even more grateful than usual to have three such wonderful ones to work with. If I look good, it is all due to them. Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga paranormal romance series, including Wickedly Magical, Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful (Berkley) as well as eight books on modern witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide. She has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine and was featured in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. She can be found at www.deborahblakeauthor.com.

How To Be An Editor’s Favorite Client

KATIE RED SHIRT (1 of 1) ~ By Katie McCoach Note: This post originally appeared here As an author, your relationship with your editor, your book cover designer, your agent, and your publishing house are all extremely important to your success. I believe in good and bad energy—what you put out, you get back in return. Day to day, I work my tail off to be my clients’ favorite editor. If I can be in their list of best editors they’ve ever worked with, my relationship with them, and other clients in turn, will be more fulfilling. And I believe this can go the other way around. The more fulfilling your relationship as an author with your editor(s), the smoother the process will be for the both of you, and you’ll be excited to work together then and in the future. I could spend all day telling you what qualities make a great editor, but what about how to be an amazing client? An editor’s FAVORITE client? Using my own experience, and asking some editor friends about theirs, I’ve come up with this list of 9 qualities an editor’s favorite client possesses: 1. Pay on Time Okay, this is the obvious one, and also most important, so I figured I’d get it out of the way early on. Even if you have every intention to pay but it takes an extra week or so for you to complete your invoice, that’s difficult on an editor. This is our career. Just as you have bills to pay, we do as well. Reminding an author about payment is uncomfortable (I really don’t want to remind you about this, but…), a little nerve-wracking (are you unhappy with my edits? -BTW this is still never a reason to not pay. Always pay, and always discuss how you feel about the work you received. The best editors will rectify when possible), and it’s time consuming (I have other edits to work on). 2. Open communication Communication when conducting business over the internet or phone is vital to the success of a partnership. Keep your editor updated on the manuscript, changes, feedback, concerns, and more. Be sure you two have discussed expectations thoroughly as one editor’s definition for something may be different than another’s. Reply to emails. “Ghosting” your editor is not cool. Also not cool? Pushing back work and expecting to be accommodated with no issues. If a client needs to change the start date, I’m fine with that as long as it’s communicated in as much advance notice as possible, and also that they realize I may not be able to fit them in as soon as they’d like anymore, because I book my schedule solid, back to back, so pushing back work encroaches on someone else’s timeline, which isn’t fair. Be open, be honest. If you’re concerned about your edits, please, I beg you, say something! I can’t read your mind and I want you to be as happy with the edit as I felt delivering it. Editors don’t have a boss, so your feedback is all we have to improve. (Feel free to tell us when we do an awesome job too.) 3. Respect Respect between editor and author applies to so many things. I give my authors respect in the fact that they are talented individuals who only want to publish a great story, they’ve decided to work with me (that earns them double kudos  ) and they are human beings with about 100 different things on their plate at a time. My favorite clients give me respect as well, and here are a few big ones:    -Respect your editor’s time– Don’t try to get additional work for free. Time contributed is time spent away from other projects, leads, and marketing. If you have additional questions, work, or need a rush job done, offer to pay for their time. –Respect their edits/suggestions even when you don’t agree– I don’t expect an author to take on every suggestion I make. It’s unrealistic. But, what I do expect is that they understand why I’ve made a suggestion and are willing to look at it in a different light or bounce ideas around with me to get the ideal outcome that fits their vision. –Respect office hours– This job is like any other—I have business hours, I don’t answer emails at night or on the weekend. Well…I lie. I might sometimes do so, but that’s out of the norm. These business hours exist because I if I sat in front of email all day, I’d never get anything done; things come up, appointments are made, and I like to have a personal life. Don’t you? So as a rule, don’t expect replies immediately, after hours, or on weekends.4 4. Send the best version of the manuscript. This is a big one that I’m not sure if every writer understands. Just because you are hiring an editor to catch errors, insonsistencies, or advise you on things to improve your story, does not mean it’s good practice to send a manuscript that is an early draft. The better the draft your send your editor, the deeper, more involved their edits will be because their focus isn’t going to the easy stuff. To get the most out of your money and their time, give them the best possible manuscript you can. The more eyes on it the better, always. 5. Grow as writers I love self-aware clients. Every writer has strengths and weakenesses, and the writer that know what theirs are will only grow to be stronger, better writers. Becoming a better writer should be every author’s goal, until the day they stop writing. My favorite clients don’t just use one editor on their first draft of the manuscript and call it a day. The best clients, and the best writers, write numerous drafts, use beta readers, critique partners, and then editors. The best writers are the ones I get to see grow. Who learn from our edits together and the others who’ve helped them, and get stronger every time. Who use a suggestion I give on their manuscript and take it to the next level, making it their own. Who don’t get mad when they hire an editor to find mistakes, and then the editor does. 6. Use the sample edit This is a personal preference of mine, and I’ve found that some of my strongest writers are the ones who take advantage of this. When I start talking to a potential client, I will provide a free sample edit on the first 1,000 words of their manuscript. This is so I can evaluate the level of editing required, and also so the writer can see what my work will look like and make sure we sync. This happens before we book work together. I do a little happy dance whenever I begin working on a client’s manuscript and I see they used my sample edit and applied it to that chapter, and throughout the entire manuscript if possible. This thrills me to no end. It goes along with #4 – send the best version of the manuscript. 7. Keep your editor in the loop of your success (if they want to be) I want to know when my clients are succeeding! Did an agent request your manuscript? Did you sell a book? Is the release date coming up? Win an award? I personally want to know these things. Maybe not all editors do, so this is more of “how to be Katie’s favorite client,” but when my authors succeed, I feel that I’ve succeeded. That’s all I want for an author who works with me—for them to face success and growth as a writer, and feel encouraged. 8. Be human The basics here are simple—be a real person and I’ll be one right back. I love clients that I mesh really well with, or that I can joke around or throw in a smilely face or two in my comments or emails. I really enjoy using exclaimation points to show my excitement in email and on Twitter. I won’t apologize for this. Side note: I 100% recommend against using exclamation points in fiction writing. 9. Praise me. LOL. Okay, so this one is not necessary, but if a client sings my praises, is loyal, sends me cookies, writes a testimonial for my site, buys me a beach house, I’m going to love them forever and always make sure I can fit them into my schedule. Wink, wink. If a client possesses all or most of these traits, they are by far my favorite people to work with. These are the clients that make me love what I do, be proud to be in this industry, and basically, I’d like to clone them and work with them forever. I’m not the only editor who feels this way. Writers, tell me what you think of this list. Do you possess these qualities? Or do you think it’s all completely unnecessary?  KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at http://www.katiemccoach.com/blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.