Tag Archives: authors

Author Up Close Series: Learning From Successful Authors

Though you may not know it by the prevalence of clickbait headlines sounding the death knell about author careers, successful authors are out there. Lots of them. And I’m not just talking about the ones who top the bestseller lists week after week. I’m talking about the authors whose names you may have never heard, who are quietly writing and earning income from their books.

And while there is no formula for becoming a successful author, or even a consensus about what defines “success,” there is much that can be learned from studying authors who are already where we hope to be one day. I’m fortunate to know several of these authors. I’ve had the benefit of their wisdom and expertise for years and wanted to share some of that wisdom with you. So this year, in my posts for Writer Unboxed, I’ll be sharing Q&A’s from authors I think we can all learn from.

My series, Author Up Close, will include Q&A’s with two of Writer Unboxed’s own: Anne O’ Brien Carelli, whose middle-grade novel was published by Little Bee in 2018; and Linda Seed, a contemporary romance author who had so much success self-publishing, she was able to leave her 9-5 to write full time. The series will also include interviews with Roger Johns, a traditionally published author who found himself in the enviable position of having to find an agent after being offered a publishing deal, and Vanessa Riley, a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering who writes multi-cultural Regency and historical romances in an industry that (falsely) believed there wouldn’t be a large enough audience for her work.

Author Up Close begins with a Q&A with Fiona Zedde. Fiona is the author of several novellas and novels including the Lambda Literary Award finalist Bliss. Her novel, Dangerous Pleasures, won the About.com Readers’ Choice Award for Best Lesbian Novel or Memoir of 2012. Fiona lives a location-independent lifestyle, traveling and sometimes living abroad for months at a time. As you’ll discover from our Q&A, her ability to adapt to changes in the industry has been key to her success as an author.

GW: You’re what the publishing industry considers a “hybrid author.” Was this an intentional strategy you adopted when you first launched your professional writing career or is this something that evolved?

FZ: This “fingers in different pies strategy” slowly took shape over the years. I started off working with a single New York publisher back in the mid-2000s and stayed that way for a good ten years while also working a corporate job. After a few changes and setbacks, which included leaving my 9–5 and being released by my NYC publisher, I realized I needed to do things a little differently if I wanted to continue writing and publishing.

Luckily, I soon received the opportunity to work with another NYC-based publisher (different genre and different name). I also eventually regained the rights to my backlist. At the suggestion of new author friends, I republished these novels myself. Once the backlist books became available again, readers began asking for sequels, and so I wrote and published a collection of short stories, some following the characters from the previously published books. That led to a full-length novel published last year.

These days, I work with a few different publishers as well as self-publish.

GW: In many respects, you’re living the dream as a writer who makes a living writing and who is location independent and travels the world. What are the key decisions/choices you’ve made in your career to make this lifestyle possible?

FZ: I think one thing I’ve done is remain open to different opportunities and open to change. The business of writing and publishing shifts quite a bit. Strategies that worked two years ago may be completely useless now, or vice versa. If I see that—despite marketing efforts and other factors—a writing name of mine is no longer doing well, I’m willing to scrap it and begin a new name, explore a new genre, and/or submit to different publishers. I also submit to short story anthologies every once in a while in hopes of finding a new audience or coaxing back readers who’ve lost touch with my work over the years.

GW: What are some of the challenges you’ve run across in within the publishing industry? 

FZ: One of the biggest challenges for me has been gaining readership outside of my black, female audience. Black readers dive into books of whatever genre they enjoy, despite the race of the author. Black writers aren’t afforded that same courtesy by a majority of non-black readers. At general, multi-author book signings, it’s interesting to see white readers move like water around a rock past the tables belonging to black writers, their gazes fixed on the next available white face.

My other challenge is marketing. I need to get so much better at that.

GW: Finally, what advice would you give a newbie writer who one day wants to be doing what you’re doing?

FZ: Network. Talk to the people already working the way you dream of working. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. At the beginning of this writing thing, I felt like I was doing everything on my own and didn’t think I had a community to turn to.  Now, I’m better at asking for help and advice as well as taking part in community, but it took me a while to get here.

You can learn more about Fiona and her writing, by visiting her at FionaZedde.com. Many thanks to Fiona for allowing me to interview her for this piece.

Over to you: what is some of the best advice you’ve received from your successful author friends? 

By

Source: writerunboxed.com

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Staying Relevant As An Author

For many writers, the day comes when you think, hey, this is more than a hobby. More time goes by and you decide, you know what? This writing thing is serious business.

You put yourself on some kind of schedule and you decide you’re gonna be disciplined if it kills you. You might get close to all out catatonia as you balance work, family and your writing regimen, but you stay the course and begin to release books.

Without a promotion drive, those books will sputter and sales fizzle. Exposure is critical when you’re unknown and trying to build a readership.

The internet provides unlimited research material that helps us to decide what to do and how to find the best deals.

  • Say you need book covers? Fiverr has a host of cover artists that provide service starting at – you guessed it – five dollars. Be warned, that you’re hardly likely to get anything for that price, so be prepared to spend more.
  • Need a blog tour host? Google is your go-to unit and if you want to get close and personal, Facebook is a great place to find people who provide this kind of service. Type in book promotion or cover art and potential sellers will pop up.
  • Looking for someone to run your promotions or host a book release party? Use any search engine or Facebook. Your writing buddies are also a source for checking out service providers.
  • Want to find book clubs to expand your base of readers? Facebook is a good source as well.
  • Have people who like reading your books? Start a group on whatever platform you like best and encourage them to share your work and add others to the team.
  • Include a free book as a gift for joining your mailing list.
  • Last, but by no means least, this website is a powerhouse of materials on every aspect of the publishing world, so make use of it.

Gone are the days when we can afford to keep our nose to the grindstone and ignore the reading public until we have a new book for sale. It’s not necessarily the best writers who have repeat readers, but those who find a way to keep themselves relevant and in front of those who are buying books.

Have you made the decision to take your publishing efforts to the next level? Are doing enough marketing? What has worked well for you in selling books?

Source: insecurewriterssupportgroup.com

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Which Social Media Channel Sells The Most Books?

 

Rachel Thompson has written a great article on the effectiveness of popular Social Media influencers over at her site at Bad Redhead Media. Rachel is considered one of the top Social Media Gurus for authors and has some great research to share in this article as well as her website.

 

“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat (join any Wednesday on Twitter, 6pm pst/9pm est simply by typing in the hashtag).

Well, it’s not that easy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go to say, Facebook because that’s the EASY button, and violá! They will come, we will sell, and yacht-life, here we come. Alas, it just doesn’t work that way because well, a few reasons.

Let’s deconstruct.

 

 

Go check the rest of this article at Bad Redhead Media

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3 Terrific Insider Email List Building Tips to Help Authors!

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Serving Publishers & Independent Authors

email marketing, Bri Clark, Rachel Thompson, BadRedhead Media

 

Joe Brewer asks what a fiction writer can offer as an email subscriber list-building giveaway that isn’t merch. Information? Special stories just for the subscriber? We hear you Joe, so we asked Bri Clark to join us with three awesome tips for building an email list for fiction authors.

Here is a brief overview of the tips in the video below:

 

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30 Inspiring Blog Post Ideas For Writers

From Amanda Patterson over at  Writers Write 

Do you have blogger’s block?

Even creative people get stuck when they’re trying to come up with ideas for a blog post. I thought I would put together a list of possible topics to inspire you. These are based on some of our blog posts at Writers Write and others I’ve enjoyed reading on the Internet.
Whether you blog daily, three times a week, or once a week, I hope that one of these are just what you need to break your blogger’s block.

 

 

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The Why and How of Developing a Blog Strategy

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Another great post over at BadRedHeadMedia!

Blog

In my continuing series where I answer questions asked by YOU (in this case, this question comes from writer Camela Cami Thompson), staff writer Naomi Blackburn takes on ‘What is a blog strategy and is it important for authors to have one?’ Thanks Camela for a fab question! Here you go….

 

I am always shocked when authors ask me if they have to blog. My resounding YES always leads to, “But I don’t know what to write about!”

Why Blog?

Blogs are wonderful because they give authors an opportunity to take an active role in marketing their works to their readers while also providing a way to network with other authors. Let’s face it. Before an author has name recognition by the public, a chunk of the effort is focused on relationship building with a readership base. What better way than a blog to help to facilitate this?

Develop a Blog Strategy and Calendar

As with everything in the business world, the key to success is always in the planning. Developing a blog calendar and strategy allows for seamless posts and provides alternatives to marketing and social media opportunities besides shouting “BUY MY BOOK!”

First, decide what you want to blog about. Ask yourself:

  • Is it close to the subject matter of my works?
  • What do I want my “brand” to be?
  • Who do I want my target audience to be?

Maybe you want to be recognized as a dynamic professional, such as Molly Greene, who is an author of romantic mystery fiction, but writes a blog specifically focused on blogging for authors. Or do you want to focus on your readers and write on topics close to the genre of your books? For example, maybe you write romantic fiction and want to use your blogs to discuss suggestions for romantic interludes with that special someone.

The next step in your blogging strategy is to plan out a list of topics on a calendar. For example, I have a desktop calendar that has my topics listed for the next three months. Having a calendar with mapped out blog post topics allows me to write ahead. My calendar is based on the topics for my forthcoming book, The Author CEO: The Book. Preplanning also allows for emergency posts and/or guest posts, as needed. Have a new book in the works? Having a blog calendar allows for scheduling pre-release blog posts announcing the new release.

(On this note, I am of the opinion that everyone must have a professional blog, no matter who the target audience is. Since your blog is essentially your corporate image, I always recommend hiring a professional to develop the site that hosts the blog.)

Still Not Sure What to Write About?

One of my favorite posts by Molly Greene that I frequently recommend to clients is 101 Blog Topic Ideas. The post is divided into several categories and Molly, in her own pithy way, addresses numerous topics—from supporting other authors to showcasing one’s own work.

Networking with authors is critical in blogging. It can get very difficult to come up with fresh ideas. Always having that “spot on” blog post can become stressful. Furthermore, the lack of networking and only writing for your own blog can lead to isolation, which not only costs you in terms of visibility, but also in potential lost opportunities for cross-promotional blog posts. So, come up with ways to have guests on your blog, and offer posts to others who may also be looking for fresh or new content.

I know that I am not an “expert” in everything. Being able to host subject matter experts—such as an author attorney writing on Copyright, Fair Use, and Book Reviewers—on my blog allowed me to present my readers with information I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to provide them.

Editing Matters

Regardless of what topics you choose, I can’t stress enough the importance of using an editor or, at the very least, having someone else review your posts. It drives me crazy when I see mistakes in author’s blog posts. This is your business. This is your craft.

Think about your favorite company. What would you think if you were looking at their marketing material and it was laden with mistakes? Would you think less of them? I recently had the chance to review an author’s blog. She had done a wonderful job of coming up with topics. One of the headings was a recipe section that contained some fantastic-looking recipes. As I went through them, I saw that they were loaded with typos, and some even had a couple of ingredients missing from the directions area. What was I to think?

In The End

So, what are you waiting for? Blogging is a must-do marketing opportunity for authors, and is also another outlet for creativity, interaction, and fun. Because I consider blogging to be such an important aspect of every author’s business development plan, I think it is worthwhile to bring in a blogging coach to learn the ins and outs of successful blogging. After all, it’s your business at stake, why not invest in it?

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A Checklist for Considering Writers’ Groups

 

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From the good people at AuthorCulture

WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 2014

 

People have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to the writer’s group or workshop. Some authors like Dean Koontz abhor them. Some say they will cause you to quit writing or destroy your writing style. Others say they could not write without them.

I have experienced both points of view. Over the years, I have belonged to three writer’s groups. The first was the Frisco (Texas) Writer’s Group. It was a hybrid group. Some sessions focused on the learning the business of writing. Other sessions were for critique. Over time, I outgrew this group of mainly want to be writers. I attended the group from 2006 through 2009.

While attending the first group, I learned of the Dallas-Fort Worth Writer’s Workshop. It is a larger group with many full-time and published writers. They sponsor the DFW Writer’s Convention. In 2008, I attended convention.

I joined the DFW Writer’s Workshop in 2009. I was a paid member through 2012. For several years, I drove twenty-five miles each way through heavy Dallas – Fort Worth traffic and freeway construction to attend the group.

The meetings had a set agenda. They began with an introduction of guests and new members. Next was a time of sharing submissions, rejections, being asked to send a full manuscript, and getting an agent. You could also sign-up to read. You were assigned to critique groups for the evening. There you read. Then others commented on your work. You did not respond to their comments. The comments were extremely helpful and required a thick skin at times. The group has been around since 1977. Over the years, members have had over 300 traditionally published books. The group charges $100 per year to be a member. It meets 52 weeks a year.

I had published over two-dozen magazine articles before joining the group. I credit the group with keeping me motivated. It caused me to look at my writing at a level I did not know existed. It provided encouragement as I witnessed fellow members being published. The group was a first-amendment group where you could write anything. The critique group helped me write, as I needed something new to read each week. While in the group, I published over a dozen pieces. I also completed the 80,000 words book that I am currently shopping.

In 2011, I joined Wholehearted Writing Group. It is located less than two miles from my day job. The location was the reason for joining. The group is more about writing prompts than analyzing or working on your current project. It meets 26 times a year with the cost of $10 per meeting.

Whether you are joining the writers’ group to gain new friends, network, or to improve your craft and motivation, you need to make sure it meets your needs. Below are some points to consider when selecting, joining, and attending a writer’s group.

  1. Does the writer’s workshop have in writing defined goals?
  2. Does the group start on time and stay on mission? I will use the DFW Writer’s Workshop that I belonged to as an example.
  3. Does the group have an interest in your writing or is it just a niche group?
  4. Are there rules for people whose work is critiqued to follow?
  5. Does the organization allow you time to network and develop relationships with others in the group?
  6. Should I pay to attend a writer’s group?
  • Does the group know where it is going?
  • Does it regularly meet?
  • Are members submitting, progressing in the craft and publishing?
  • The group starts on time – 7 PM. It began with a large group session.
  • They recognize guests, ask them what they write, and how they found out about the workshop.
  • They ask for rejections followed by asking for submissions.
  • They ask is anyone has sold articles or gotten a contract for their manuscript.
  • After the large group session, they break into small critique groups.
  • Writer’s read for ten minutes followed by a critique of five minutes.
  • They have a monitor for a group who times and moderates the readings and critiques. The monitor keeps the group on track.
  • The group ends at 9:30 PM. Ending on time respects the participants.
  • Is it a first-amendment group allowing freedom of expression?
  • Does the group focus only on fiction or non-fiction?
  • Does it require you to filter your writing through the scope of the group? For example, you would not want to attend a Christian writer’s group if you write erotica.
  • Having guidelines is essential.
  • People get defensive when others are telling them what they did wrong.
  • The man or woman receiving the critique needs to have rules to follow.
  • We have him or her listen with no response or rebuttal.
  • You need to listen to what people have to say about your writing and learn from it.
  • Do the group members like each other?
  • Are they happy to see you and urge you to participate?
  • Does the group assimilate new members?
  • Does everyone get to read?
  • If the group members spend more time telling you how great they are or what they hope to do instead of staying on schedule and mission, find a different group.
  • Most writers’ groups in the USA are free and run by volunteers. Fee-based groups are also common.
  • One of the most expensive writer’s groups in the USA is the Original Los Angeles Writers Group™. The cost for new members is $475 a year while returning members get a break at $450. That is about $9.00 per week.
  • The Kansas City Writer’s Critique Group meets in ten-week sessions with each session costing $65.00 ($5.50 per week).
  • The DFW Writer’s Group in Texas is $100 per year (paid in advance). You must be a paid member to read.
  • The Burlington Vermont Writer’s Group cost $12.00 per month.
  • Wholehearted Writing in Dallas, Texas is $10 a session.
  • I have attended pay and free groups. Most pay groups are very polished, professional, stay on task honoring the attendee’s time by starting and stopping on time plus having a set break. Many are connected to educational institutions or are legal nonprofits with a constitution by-laws and elected leadership from the paid membership that manage / lead the group. They are not social in nature and have had an evaluation element. The leader in the pay group may receive your writing assignment in advance. They check your style, grammar, and transitions as a proofreader or outside editor. They may lead you in structured revisions.

While people have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to the writer’s workshop, a writer’s group is not for everyone, but it could be what you need to get to the next level.

 

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Tough Love For Authors — Stop Whining And Do The Work!

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Terrific post on badredhead media

JULY 20, 2014 BY
HELPING AUTHORS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, MARKETING, AND BRANDING TO SELL MORE BOOK

Taken from rant my today on Facebook because I just couldn’t listen to the whining anymore (warning: a few choice curse words ahead). grumpy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ONE thing will not sell your books. It’s a combo of:

– a spectacular book (professionally edited, formatted, designed, proofed)
– reviews (minimum 25) within the first few weeks
– beta or ARC readers before you release
– an optimized website (professional graphics, social media icons, keywording, HTML, CSS for faster loading, etc…all to increase your SEO). Look it up.
– an active blog (once weekly minimum).
– a book trailer (share on your own site and YouTube)
– participate in memes like ‪#‎MondayBlogs‬ or chats — meet cools peeps, learn, promote others
– interactive social media (not spammy) at minimum Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (important for your Google ranking) following readers, book bloggers, book reviewers, book clubs
– groups (important to establish connections with peers)
– an eBook version (duh) Don’t care if you hate eBooks. What do your readers want?
– a virtual blog tour (won’t sell books. DOES increase visibility, SEO, reviews, connections with readers and bloggers, and Google Ranking)
– Google AdWords (get advice on how to do it correctly, study and research, or pay someone to do it for you), or FB or Goodreads or blogger ads. Something!
– Book clubs.
– Book signings.
– swag (bookmarks, pens, postcards, etc)
– guest blog guest blog guest blog (and not only about your book and how wonderful your toenails are).
– interviews
– give back, for fuck’s sake. stop talking about yourself all the damn time.

Bitch and moan that you’ve done EVERYTHING (bet you haven’t), and still haven’t sold any books. I don’t believe you. Sorry.

When you’ve done ALL of the above in great detail, and I mean everything with a concentrated effort and still haven’t sold any books, then guess what? Maybe you need to rewrite your book, or write another.

It typically takes FIVE books to start making a living on your work. FIVE. (Says who? Almost every writer who is making a living on their books –Steena HolmesBette Lee CrosbyRyne PearsonLiz SchulteHugh Howey, and on it goes).

Bottom line: focus on building relationships, people. It’s not all about you!

So stop with the whining over here about how Amazon sucks or blah blah doesn’t work (nothing is magical), pull up your big girl and big boy pants, and spend that effort writing your next blog post, book, or tweet. Or yell at me for bitching at you. I don’t care. I won’t be here.

I’ll be writing my next book TOUGH LOVE FOR WHINY WRITERS. ha.

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Seven Reasons Not to Write Novels and Only One Reason to Write Them

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Another great post at Three Penny Review

by Javier Marías

 

I can think of seven reasons not to write novels:

First: There are too many novels and too many people writing them. Not only do those already written continue to exist and demand to be eternally read, but thousands more entirely new novels keep appearing in publishers’ catalogs and in bookshops around the world; then there are the many thousands rejected by publishers that never reach the bookshops, but which nonetheless exist. It is, then, a commonplace activity, one that is, in theory, within the grasp of anyone who learned to write at school, and for which no higher education or special training is required.

Second: And precisely because anyone, whatever his or her profession, can write a novel, it is an activity that lacks merit and mystery. Poets, philosophers, and dramatists do it; so do sociologists, linguists, publishers, and journalists; politicians, singers, TV presenters, and football coaches; engineers, school teachers, civil servants, and movie actors; critics, aristocrats, priests, and housewives; psychiatrists, university professors, soldiers, and goatherds. It would seem, though, that for all its lack of merit and mystery, there is still something strangely alluring about the novel—or is it simply a desirable ornament? But what is so desirable about something that lies within the reach of all professions, regardless of their previous training, prestige, or earning power? What is it about the novel?

Third: Writing a novel certainly won’t make you rich: indeed, only one in every hundred novels published—and that’s an optimistic percentage—earns a decent amount of money. The money earned is unlikely to change a writer’s life and it certainly won’t be enough to retire on. What’s more, it can take months or even years of work to write an average-length novel that some people then might want to read. Investing all that time in a task that has only a one percent chance of making any money is absurd, especially bearing in mind that these days no one—not even aristocrats and housewives—has that amount of time to spare. The Marquis de Sade and Jane Austen did, but their modern-day equivalents do not; and worse still, not even the aristocrats and housewives who don’t write but do read have time enough to read what their writing colleagues write.

Fourth: The novel is no guarantee of fame, or only a very minor fame, which could be acquired by far speedier and less laborious means. As everyone knows, the only real fame comes from television, where novelists are becoming an increasingly rare sight, unless the writer in question is there not because of the interest or excellence of his novels, but in his role as fool or clown, along with other clowns from various fields, whether artistic or not. The novels written by that truly famous novelist-turned-TV-celebrity will merely provide the tedious and soon-forgotten pretext for his popularity, which will depend less on the quality of his future works, which no one really cares about anyway, and far more on his ability to wield a walking stick, wear stylish scarves or Hawaiian shirts or hideous waistcoats, and explain how he communicates with his unorthodox God or how easily and authentically one can live among the Moors (this always goes down well in Spain). Besides, it would be nonsense to struggle to write a novel purely in order to become famous (for even if you write in the most pedestrian of styles, that, too, takes time) when nowadays one doesn’t need to do anything very much to become famous. Marriage to or an affair with a suitably prominent person and the subsequent slipstream of marital and extramarital goings-on are a far more efficient way of going about it. Or you could simply commit some indecent act or outrage, although nothing, of course, that involves a long prison sentence.

Fifth: The novel does not bring immortality, largely because immortality barely exists any more. Nor, of course, does posterity, if one understands by that the posterity of each individual: everyone is forgotten once he or she has been dead a couple of months. Any novelist who believes otherwise is living in the past and is either very conceited or very ingenuous. Given that novels last for, at most, a season, not just because readers and critics alike forget about them, but because only a few short months after a novel’s birth it will have vanished from the shelves of bookshops (always assuming there are still bookshops), it’s absurd, therefore, to imagine that our works will never perish. How can they possibly be imperishable if most of them have perished before they’re even born, or have come into the world with the life expectancy of an insect? One can no longer count on achieving enduring fame.

Sixth: Writing novels does not flatter the ego, even momentarily. Unlike movie directors or painters or musicians, who can actually see an audience’s reaction to their works and even hear their applause, the novelist never sees readers reading his book and is never there to witness their approval, excitement, or pleasure. If he’s lucky enough to sell a lot of copies, he might be able to console himself with a number, which, however large, remains just that, an impersonal, abstract number. He should also be aware that he would share those same consoling sales figures with the following: TV chefs and their recipe books, gossipy biographers of feather-brained megastars, futurologists wearing chains, beads, and even cloaks or jellabas, the poisonous daughters of actresses, fascist columnists who see fascism everywhere except in themselves, stuck-up fools giving lessons in manners, as well as other equally eminent scribes. As for receiving glowing reviews, that is highly unlikely: if a novel does get reviewed, the reviewer may let the writer off lightly the first time, but not the second; or the writer may feel that the critic likes his novel for the wrong reasons; and if none of these things happens, and the praise given is overt, generous, and intelligent, probably only about two people will read that particular review—a further source of upset and frustration to the writer.

Seventh: I will list here all the usual, boring reasons, such as the isolation in which the novelist works, his suffering as he wrestles with words and, above all, syntax, his fear of the blank page, his bruising relationship with major truths that have chosen to reveal themselves to him alone, his perpetual stand-off with the powers-that-be, his ambiguous relationship with reality, which can lead him to confuse truth with lies, his titanic struggle with his own characters, who sometimes take on a life of their own and may even run away from him (although the writer would have to be somewhat of a coward for that to happen), the vast amount of alcohol he consumes, the special and basically abnormal life you have to lead as an artist, and other such trifles that have seduced innocent or foolish souls for far too long, leading them to believe that there is a great deal of passion and torment and romanticism in the rather modest and pleasing art of inventing and telling stories.

This brings me to the one reason I can see for writing novels, which may not seem much in comparison with the preceding seven, and which doubtless contradicts one or another of them.

First and last: Writing novels allows the novelist to spend much of his time in a fictional world, which is really the only or at least the most bearable place to be. This means that he can live in the realm of what might have been and never was, and therefore in the land of what is still possible, of what will always be about to happen, what has not yet been dismissed as having happened already or because everyone knows it will never happen. The so-called realistic novelist, who, when he writes, remains firmly installed in the real world, has confused his role with that of the historian or journalist or documentary-maker. The real novelist does not reflect reality, but unreality, if we take that to mean not the unlikely or the fantastical, but simply what could have happened and did not, the very contrary of actual facts and events and incidents, the very contrary of “what is happening now.” What is “merely” possible continues to be possible, eternally possible in any age and any place, which is why we still read Don Quixote and Madame Bovary, whom one can live with for a while and believe in absolutely, rather than discounting them as impossible or passé or old hat. The only Spain of 1600 that we know and care about is the Spain of Cervantes: the Spain of an imaginary book about other imaginary books and out of which an anachronistic knight errant emerges, rather than out of what used to be or was actual reality. What we call the Spain of 1600 does not exist, although one has to assume that it did; just as the only France of 1900 that exists for us is the one Proust decided to include in his work of fiction. Earlier, I said that fiction is the most bearable of worlds, because it offers diversion and consolation to those who frequent it, as well as something else: in addition to providing us with a fictional present, it also offers us a possible future reality. And although this has nothing to do with personal immortality, it means that for every novelist there is the possibility— infinitesimal, but still a possibility— that what he is writing is both shaping and might even become the future he will never see.

(Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa)

Javier Marías, Spain’s foremost contemporary novelist, has had his work translated into more than forty languages; his most recent novel is The Infatuations, published in America by Knopf. Margaret Jull Costa has been his translator since 1992; her most recent publication is Things Look Different in the Light, a collection of stories by Medardo Fraile.

 

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5 THINGS WRITERS SHOULD ASK POTENTIAL AGENTS

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Categories: Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig Tags: Brian Klems.

questions-to-ask-an-agentAn agent has offered me representation, but I don’t know how to tell if she’s right for me. What are the most important questions a writer should ask an agent before signing? —Anonymous

There are hundreds of questions you could ask an agent, from the sensible “What attracted you to my book?” to the slightly less sensible “When will you net me my first million?” The key is to choose the ones that will get you the most important information you need to make an informed decision.

Here’s a list of the five most crucial questions you should ask any agent before agreeing to join her client list.

1. Why do you want to represent me and my work?

The agent should be able to answer this easily. Agents generally take on projects that they not only think will sell well, but that they personally admire. This question gives the agent an opportunity to express her interest to you.

[Want to land an agent? Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.]

2. How did you become an agent/get your start in publishing?

You want an agent who has a history in publishing, whether as a junior associate at a well-known agency or perhaps as an editor with a small imprint. You need to be assured that the agent knows the business and has the contacts necessary to give your book its best shot. You might also want to ask if the agent could refer you to one of her clients in your genre as well; getting the perspective of a writer who is in the role you’re about to step into can be invaluable.

3. What editors do you have in mind for my book? Have you sold to them before? Will you continue to market to other editors if you can’t make a deal with your first choices?

This is more of a three-part question, but it’s the overall answer that you want. By asking these questions, you’re checking to see if this agent has connections, and you’re also clarifying her overall game plan. This is key. You want to make sure your expectations are aligned.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. What books have you sold recently?

This indicates whether the agent has a track record of selling books in your category or genre.

5. Why should I sign with you?

You’re about to enter into a partnership that neither party should take lightly. This is an opportunity for the agent to pitch you, just as you’ve pitched her, and convince you that she’s the right person to represent your work.

You’ll have additional questions more specific to your work, so don’t hesitate to ask them. They’ll simply show the agent that you’re savvy about your book’s target market. Agents are used to these inquiries, so they are unlikely to be surprised by any questions you may have. And if an agent refuses to answer anything on the list above, that should be a red flag that something is amiss.

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brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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