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Advice from Carolyn Kaufman, Part 4: Get Started on Another Book

I've been posting a short series based advice for aspiring authors from my friend, fellow founding QT blogger, and critique partner, Carolyn Kaufman. Previous posts can be found here: Part 1: Professionalism,  Part 2: Accepting Criticism and Part 3: Controlling your Online Image.

Carolyn passed away well before her time, but she left a rich legacy of advice for writers in her book and on her blogs, including Psychology Today and this one.

This is the third part of an interview she did for me back when her book, The Writer's Guide to Psychology, was about to come out.

What I’ve Learned: Advice for Writers Who Aspire to Publish  
Dr. Carolyn Kaufman 1973-2013 
4. Get started on another book. 
If your first idea doesn’t sell, move on to another one. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology wasn’t the first book idea I had – it was just the first one strong enough to grow into a true book. I’m extremely methodical about preparing a proposal – I spend months researching and writing, and I want to know exactly what’s going into each and every chapter – so I’m pretty committed to finding the book a home once I reach that stage. Other writers find it fairly easy to write up their ideas and send them out without doing that kind of preliminary work. When you’re working so hard on one book – writing it, editing it, promoting it – it feels like your entire world. The truth is, though, that if you want to be more than a one-hit wonder, you will eventually need to write another book. Try to get that next proposal ready before everyone forgets who you are!

Carolyn was so right. At this point in my career, the thought of only working on one thing at a time is laughable. I have two publishers and four books under contract. Three books will release int 2014 and probably four in 2015.

The good thing about being this busy is I don't really have time to fret over one single book. At one point this year, I was drafting a proposal, writing two novels (different genres) and editing another, while yet another had just been published and I was dealing with interviews and pimping the new baby to readers and reviewers.

*hands in the air while screaming on the way down the roller coaster drop*

I've been lucky in that I've always had another project in the works while I was querying, on submission, or waiting for publication. Otherwise, I'd probably be friendless and my family would hate me, too. It's hard not to fret and get paralyzed by the odds or the changing world of publishing. I've found I work best under pressure with lots of balls in the air. No time to brood.

Carolyn was an amazing time manager. She blogged all over the place, taught college classes, was a fabulous photographer, and still, she found time for friends and reached out to aspiring writers who sought guidance. She was a fabulous resource with regard to psychological issues addressed in books and for professional advice. Sadly, her website no longer exists, but you can check out some of her articles the links found at the bottom of Part 1 in this series.


***

Mary Lindsey is one of the founding members of the QT Blog. 

She writes young adult novels for Penguin USA and is the author of Shattered Souls, Fragile Spirits, and Ashes on the Waves. She also writes adult romance for Entangled Publishing as Marissa Clarke. Love Me To Death is scheduled for publication October, 2014. 

Mary is represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and can be found the following places: Twitter, Facebook, MaryLindsey.com and MarissaClarke.com
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When the Happily-Ever-After Ends…




Like many writers, you may dream of the day when you finally get that call or email from an agent, saying he loved your book and wants to represent you. Or maybe you’ve already signed with an agent. Things are going well. You’ve interviewed him to make sure it will be a good partnership, you’ve signed the contract, and you’ve posted, tweeted, yelled to everyone on your street that you are now agented.

But months later—or maybe even years later—things don’t feel like they did in the beginning. The honeymoon period is well past over. Maybe he’s not communicating as frequently as he once did. Maybe he tried to sell a few of your books, but you haven’t landed much of a nibble. Or maybe you sent him your last manuscript, and months later you’re still waiting to hear back from him. And this is after a few friendly reminders, checking on the status of your book—to be met with several “I’m reading this soon” and then silence for another few months.

The first bit of good news is that you’re not alone in this. It’s one of those dirty little secrets many writers don’t like to talk about. We’re quick to announce on our blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter about signing with an agent. We’re not so quick when it comes to announcing we’ve split ways. Often you don’t even know a writer (quite possibly even your friend) has gone separate ways until she announces, more quietly this time, that she has just signed with someone new. In some cases, it takes a writer several agents before she finds one that is the right fit. This can even happened to bestselling authors, but you only realize it when you read their acknowledgments and notice that it isn’t the same agent as was listed in the author’s previous book.

So, what do you do when you’re just not feeling it anymore with the individual who you once declared was your dream agent? For starters, you’ll want to begin a dialogue with them to address your concerns. A few authors I spoke to said this did wonders for their client-agent relationship. Others were met with a simple “This is not working for me after all” response, and the agent terminated their contract, much to the writer’s surprise. Ideally, if this is the case, it’s better to find out the love isn’t there anymore sooner rather than later. No, it’s not easy, because now you’ll have to get back to querying again, if you want to go the agented path. And very few people enjoy that. Some people loathe it so much, they remain silent about their concerns and their writing career remains stalled.

It could also be that your career path goes beyond what your agent can do for you. You might be interested in having a hybrid career (your books are both self and traditionally published), but your agent is against self publishing. This is something you need to consider when it’s time to query again, should you decide to go that route.

If you do decide to look for a new agent, you need to terminate your contract before you contact other agents. Never query agents while you’re still a client. This is unprofessional. Agent Janet Reid recommends mentioning in your query that you’ve amicably departed ways with your previous agent. That’s all you have to say on the subject. Make sure you are querying a project that hasn’t been submitted elsewhere. If your agent did send it out to a few editors before you terminated your contract, you need to mention this in your query. Some agents don’t want to bother with manuscripts that have been previously shopped. Others don’t mind, within reason. If an agent does offer representation on a previously shopped manuscript, she’ll want a list of the editors who have already seen it. Ask for this list when you terminate your contract with your previous agent.

Whether you terminate your contract or your agent does, be prepared to go through the various stages of grieving (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It’s only natural, just like when you break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse. In a lot of ways, breaking up with your agent is very much like getting a divorce, and it can do a number on your self-esteem. And depending on your reasons for ending the relationship, it can damage your ability to trust again. This is when it’s helpful to talk to other writers who’ve gone through the same journey. You won’t feel so alone, and you’ll see that great things can actually come from the break. I know authors who were “fired” by their agents, only to turn about, sign a new agent and finally land a publishing contract. All they needed was an agent who believed in them.

Have you or someone you know ever departed ways with an agent?


Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website. She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.

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Publishing Pulse for July 11, 2014

New At QueryTracker:


This week we've added four agent profiles to our database and updated five. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before sending your query.

If you're a QueryTracker premium member, then you can be notified whenever an agent or publisher profile is added or updated. If you're not a premium member, you can just check for yourself.

Publishing News:

The fun continues with Hachette and Amazon doing mighty battle.
 Popcorngif.com

Costco decided to remove Dinesh D'Souza's bestselling book from their shelves, then decided to put it back.

Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers passed away at age 76. May perpetual light shine upon him.

Around the Blogosphere:

Some of the difficulties libraries have with ebook publishers.

What one agency reader learned while reading slush.

Three ways to put your first-person narrator to better use.

If you're tire of being serious, the thirteen writers you hate (and who probably hate you too.)

Literary Quote of the Week:

Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, 
and nothing else. -CS Lewis

Thanks for stopping by, and keep sending those queries!

---
 Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, three cats, two books in print, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or crocheting inappropriate objects. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 
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Advice from Carolyn Kaufman, Part 3: Control Your Online Image

I've been posting a short series based advice for aspiring authors from my friend, fellow founding QT blogger, and critique partner, Carolyn Kaufman. Previous posts can be found here: Part 1: Professionalism and Part 2: Accepting Criticism

Carolyn passed away well before her time, but she left a rich legacy of advice for writers in her book and on her blogs, including Psychology Today and this one.

This is the third part of an interview she did for me back when her book, The Writer's Guide to Psychology, was about to come out.

What I’ve Learned: Advice for Writers Who Aspire to Publish  
Dr. Carolyn Kaufman 1973-2013 
3. Control your image: be conscientious about what you share online. 
This is a good general rule, but it’s doubly important when you’re trying to convince people – agents, editors, potential readers – that you’re a professional. 
Thanks to books (and films) like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we all know that Hunter S. Thompson was heavily into drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the same image might not do much for you if you’re writing YA or MG or even a nice nonfiction book on scrapbooking. Even if you are writing edgy material, you don’t want unsavory personal choices to overshadow your work, a la Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears.

Yes! I completely agree with Carolyn. I see this all the time. I guess it's the anonymity of the internet that makes people want to over-share, but stop! Please.

Querying authors: Save the behind the curtain posts for after you land an agent or publisher or decide to publish your book yourself. Don't put the angst of the process out there for everyone to see while it's happening. To outsiders, it looks like you are a failure (which rejection of a manuscript in this business is NOT), or it makes you look like a whiner to those inside. A little bit is okay, but were an agent to Google you, and see nothing but posts about rejection letter after rejection letter and how torn up and discouraged it makes you feel, it might affect his or her stand on what to do about your manuscript. It's a tough business. It takes tough people--or at least people who can appear tough. Sad, but true.

After the fact, whine and rant away if you feel you must, but be careful. It's out there forever.

As for online persona… I go to conferences and workshops all over the country and meet readers who feel like they know me simply from online interaction. Without having met me in person, they come up and introduce themselves (sometimes by Twitter handle) knowing I'm friendly and approachable because I work hard to give out that vibe online.

I can't even tell you how many times I've wanted to rant and rail about specifics of the industry or jump into a flame war over a review of what I though was a fantastic book by an author I love, but I don't. I never do. Not because I'm scared, but because there is absolutely no benefit from it. I write commercial fiction. I'm aware that the readers of my books don't really care about my political, religious, or industry beliefs. They care about books, and dogs, and my kids and funny crap I accidentally do or say--usually involving my dog or kids. Now, other authors are in different situations, especially if their works relate to specific issues hitting the coals. I can only speak to what works for me.

When I want to jump in the middle of something flaming on a board or Twitter, I step back and think, would I do that in real life? Would I tell a group of my friends that? If so, I go for it. But it's rare.

More than that, I think long and hard about how personal I want to get online. I'm pretty open, but I don't air dirty laundry. Some people put it all out there, and if it's helpful for them personally or professionally or enhances their platform, okay. For me, its like putting a personal diary out there for strangers to read and pass around. Not for me, thanks.

Carolyn mentioned genre related to persona being a consideration. I completely agree. In real life, I cuss like a sailor (thank you, Dad). Online, I intentionally don't swear because I speak at middle and high schools and write for teens in addition to adults. I don't want a school board or teen book club to cancel an appearance because they think I'm going to go all potty-mouth on campus in front of an auditorium full of students. Teens follow and interact with me on social media, and I never ever let myself forget that. I'm an ambassador for my books, my publishers, my genres, my profession and ultimately, my brand as an author. You know… I'm that super nice woman from Texas who loves meeting new people and writes ghost stores for teens and adults.

Carolyn had a fantastic online presence. She prided herself on her accessibility to aspiring writers as a resource of psychological issues addressed in books and for professional advice. Sadly, her website no longer exists, but you can check out some of her articles the links found at the bottom of Part 1 in this series.

Stina did a great post on online behavior recently you might want to check out called, You Really Want to Avoid This.


***

Mary Lindsey is one of the founding members of the QT Blog. 

She writes young adult novels for Penguin USA and is the author of Shattered Souls, Fragile Spirits, and Ashes on the Waves. She also writes adult romance for Entangled Publishing as Marissa Clarke. Love Me To Death is scheduled for publication October, 2014. 

Mary is represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and can be found the following places: Twitter, Facebook, MaryLindsey.com and MarissaClarke.com
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The Writer's Bookshelf: Karyne Norton on "Save The Cat!"



The Query Tracker Blog is thrilled to kick off The Writer's Bookshelf series with a special guest post from author Karyne Norton... see what's on her bookshelf.

SAVE THE CAT! By Blake Snyder

I am a dog person. Cats gross me out on multiple levels, so the idea of reading a book called Save the Cat! was an immediate turn-off. If that wasn’t enough of a deterrent, the premise of the book seemed to involve putting every story in a box and making them exactly the same. And aren’t we all working to write the next “unique” bestseller? Besides, I was already an outliner, and all the people who raved about the book were pantsers, so it obviously wasn’t meant for my writer “type.” When I hit a wall with my manuscript, I finally gave in. I’d heard so many great things about Snyder and his “beat sheets” that I had to check him out.

It revolutionized my writing.

For one thing, it was an extremely quick and easy read. I spent much of my time nodding in agreement while reading through his examples and explanations. It just makes sense! The book is technically written for screenwriters, but nearly every concept can be applied to writing as well. He starts out by showing you how to make a killer log-line (or how to scrap an idea if you can’t make a good pitch for it). Then he moves on to categorizing story structures into ten basic genres (and not your typical romance, action, or comedy). Having your log-line and genre determined before you work at mapping your story gives you the broader view that you need to keep all the details focused.

Then he gets in to the meat of his 15 beats (or plot points). Before I bought his book, I downloaded some beat sheets (more on those in a second) with summarizations of these beats. The sheets were helpful and gave me a good idea of what each of those beats represented. But reading the book helped make all of those beats really click for me, so I wouldn’t recommend being satisfied with the beat sheets alone. 

In the last sections he explains how to create a storyboard using those beats and then goes through various trouble-shooting questions that people have asked him over the years. I think the storyboard concept works best for screenwriting, but I’ve seen some authors make really great use of this. For me, it ends up being more time consuming and frustrating because I get too focused on having the exact number of cards I need in each row. 

Personally I like to have a generic outline with my 15 beats and any other major plot points. With those in mind I can write my first draft. My favorite part of the beat sheet concept is what comes next. I pull out a beat sheet  plug in my word count, and start checking to see where in my novel my beats are falling. As long as you have some type of spreadsheet program, you can simply adjust the word count to match your manuscript and you immediately have a personalized beat sheet. These sheets also give you a page count option, but I’ve found that to be less accurate depending on what font you use and whether you write with more or less dialogue. 

Just a quick note on these beat sheet links: The Save the Cat! beat sheet was created by Elizabeth Davis, but Jami Gold’s site has multiple beat sheets (including the Save the Cat! beat sheet) for plot points and character arcs and is an amazing resource!

 

I will admit that I’m a total math nerd, so this is an extremely rewarding process for me. When the numbers are fairly close, I’m absolutely giddy. And when the numbers are way off, it becomes glaringly obvious where I need to make cuts or additions. For example, in this beat sheet for an 80,000 word novel, it shows that the catalyst (or inciting event) should be around word 8,736 (or page 35). If I go to the inciting event and discover it’s around word 4,000, I know that I’m missing key elements of the set-up. If it’s around word 12,000, I know that I’ve waited too long to draw my readers in and need to do some trimming. I tend to use this as a general guideline, but I’ve seen others get all their numbers within a couple hundred words of each beat. Regardless of how particular you get about the beat sheet, it will end up being the perfect tool for plotting your story structure.

About Karyne Norton
Karyne Norton is a writer, nurse, and photographer. She currently lives in Rwanda with her husband and two sons where they are doing business development for missions. When she’s not fantasizing about chocolate, cheddar cheese, and chips back in the States, she's writing science fiction and fantasy. She loves networking with other writers, and you can get in touch with her on her site.
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Publishing Pulse: July 4, 2014

This Week at Query Tracker

The profiles of several agents were updated this week. You can see the publisher updates list here.

We have two new success stories! Congratulations to Rachel Simon and Morgan Shamy.  

Ready to write your own success story?

If you're a QueryTracker member (membership is free) you can view the database of more than 1200 agent and publisher profiles. Premium Members can be notified whenever an agent or publisher is added or updates their profile, in addition to receiving access to several other enviable features.

This Week in Publishing

I like the word “indie”. So, apparently, does Forbes. See why they think indies are changing the economic world, one idea at a time. 

Joe Konrath shares this post on the Amazon-Hachette dispute: a look from the indie side of the street. 

We’ve mentioned hybrid authors in the past. Here’s a pair of articles that talk about Amazon’s White Glove Program… and yes, self-publishers, you do need an agent. David Jackson and Jane Friedman share their views. 

Just for fun…

Test your literary agent IQ with this quick quiz.

Enjoy your weekend... for to our US readers, Happy Independence Day!




Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at www.ashkrafton.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press) or stop by the Demimonde Blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com . WOLF’S BANE (Demimonde #3) is now available and is touring like a witch on wheels.
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Advice from Carolyn Kaufman, Part 2: Accepting Criticism

Recently, I posted the first part of this article regarding advice from my friend and critique partner, Carolyn Kaufman.

 Carolyn passed away well before her time, but she left a rich legacy of advice for writers in her book and on her blogs, including Psychology Today and this one.

 This is the second part of an interview she did for me back when her book, The Writer's Guide to Psychology, was about to come out.

What I’ve Learned: Advice for Writers Who Aspire to Publish  
Dr. Carolyn Kaufman 1973-2013 
2. Be open to honest feedback: Realize that criticism of your idea or writing isn’t criticism of you. Also realize that you are not objective about your work, and that the only way you’re going to see those flaws that are hidden from you is to rely on other people. The only way you’re going to grow as a writer is to really listen and consider what others have to say – especially when their feedback isn’t all glowing. (In fact, if all you’re getting is glowing feedback, you’re not getting honest feedback. Everybody’s work has rough edges. And if you’re not getting honest feedback, it’s because you’ve somehow sent the message that you don’t want or can’t handle honest feedback. So take a step back and decide how important publication is to you. If you’re determined to get there, you need to find a way to hear and utilize constructive criticism.)

Easier said than done. Truth can sting, but it also can make us better, which is why I loved having Carolyn as a critique partner. She told it like it was, and my manuscripts were much better for that. She lived up to her own advice and accepted criticism gracefully. More information on Carolyn and her book can be found at the bottom of Part 1.

How about you? Do you have writing buddies who give and accept honest criticism? (Feel free to give them a shout out in the comments).


***

Mary Lindsey is one of the founding members of the QT Blog. 

She writes young adult novels for Penguin USA and is the author of Shattered Souls, Fragile Spirits, and Ashes on the Waves. She also writes adult romance for Entangled Publishing as Marissa Clarke. Love Me To Death is scheduled for publication October, 2014. 

Mary is represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and can be found the following places: Twitter, Facebook, MaryLindsey.com and MarissaClarke.com
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