Brace Yourselves: #PItmad is Coming

That's right all you literary hopefuls, #pitmad is just around the corner! But what exactly is #pitmad, and how do you participate? I thought I'd give you a run down and suggestions while I also furiously scribble out pitches for the event. 

#Pitmad is a quarterly pitch party where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their finished manuscripts. Agents and editors will be scouring twitter and liking/favoring tweeted pitches that catch their attention. If they like your tweet, that means they want you to query your book to them. Yes, this is a real thing. People have landed agents and editors this way! 

Some things to keep in mind: 

  • Make sure your manuscript is complete. This event is for people who are ready to query their books (query letter, manuscript, synopsis and all). If you can't participate on December 6th (8am-8pm EST), don't worry! The next one is March 7th. 

  • Don't favorite other friends' tweets, because that's how agents communicate with the authors. If you want to support your friend, retweet their post! 

  • Include #pitmad and an age category to help the agents better find your work. 

  • You can pitch more than one manuscript, but each manuscript only gets three pitches for the whole day, so space them out. 

  • If an agent or editor likes your tweet, make sure to research them to ensure it's someone you want to represent you. 

For more information, check the official website

But what is a pitch, you might ask? It's basically a summary of your story in 280 characters. That's right, that huge manuscript you wrote? You need to tell us the most important things about it in a sentence or two. 

And you thought writing a synopsis was hard. 

Writing the perfect pitch can seem impossible, which is why you should check out Amelie Zhao's blog post How to Write a Killer Twitter Pitch. She gives excellent examples of pitches that caught an agent's attention, including her own during #dvpitch. 

A few tips to keep in mind are: 

  • Introduce a protagonist and antagonist.

  • Explain what's at stake. 

  • Add in what makes your pitch/story unique. 

  • Show your personality. 

  • Think of comps, or books that are similar to yours to show you know what kind of audience your book will attract. 

  • Test your pitch out on other people. 

Amelie breaks this down into even more detail, but this list can help you get started. Also, don't get discouraged if you don't get chosen. Thousands of people are pitching at the same time, and agents have to sift through everyone. That's why it's so important to make your pitch unique and eye-catching (and I don't mean by using images). 

If you're doing #pitmad, give a shout out below, and feel free to practice your pitch! 

Good luck and happy writing! 

Traditional Publishing 101

Ever since finishing two of my books, I've had to ask the tough question of whether I want to go indie or traditional with publishing. Well, I don't like making decisions, so I decided to be a hybrid. While I'm indie publishing The Purple Door District in December, I'm also trying to go the traditional route with my other book Dragon Steal

But what does it take to publish a book traditionally? I had a friend ask me this question recently, so I thought I'd toss up my own thoughts on the whole process. Keep in mind, this is just based on what I've learned through my own journey and studies. If you have advice about publishing, feel free to post it down below. 

Warning! This is going to be a longer topic. I originally wrote this for The Writers’ Rooms, and I’ve expanded upon it for my readers here.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • They know their stuff. Traditional publishers are in the business, so they know how to get the job done. They have a team of people who can do all the little fiddly bits (covers, back matter, editing, marketing, legalese, rights, taxes…) so you don’t have to do it on your own. It saves you a huge headache. 

  • Legitimacy. Because of the gatekeepers, people know that if a book is good enough to be published traditionally there’s a certain expectation of quality--or at least of whatever quality the publishing house is known for. (Note: this does not mean that indie publishing is not legitimate. There's still a stigma against self-publishing, but it's dissipating day by day).  

  • Marketing. You don't have to do your marketing alone! A team will help you, though you will still be expected to market your story somewhat. 

  • But… They take whatever they think is marketable. This can mean a distinct lack of freedom for your writing, since they’re less likely to take “risky” work.

  • But… Publishers are ultimately in it for the money, and will drop writers for the slightest reasons. Even well-established, upper-mid-range authors will find themselves struggling sometimes. Or, a publishing house could drop an author partway through their series and battle over the legal rights of the original books. 

  • But...It takes FOREVER to publish your book. For YA, sometimes a book that’s acquired doesn’t come out for two years. By then, the hot market could have moved on and you'll have missed your "hot topic" window. 

First Step: Query Letter, Pitch, and Synopsis

  • Query Letter: This is essentially a sales pitch to an agent to get them interested in your book. It’s a brief piece that describes the story, provides word count, relates the book to other familiar genres/books, and gives a little background about the author. This is often one of the hardest things to write asides from your story. Make sure you find a good guideline example to follow and adhere to anything an agent requests in the query letter. You can check out my blog post all about writing query letters here

  • Pitch: The pitch is your elevator speech. You want to wow the agent, editor, publisher with a 5-second pitch, 30-second pitch, or 1-minute pitch. Think of it as 1 sentence, 2 sentences, and a paragraph about your story. Throw in something unique that is going to catch the listener’s attention. A great way to get practice is by participating in pitmad on twitter, which happens quarterly. You put your pitch on twitter at the same time agents and publishers are looking for the "next best thing." If they like your tweet (or contact you directly), it means they're interested in your piece! The next one is on December 6th, so get those pitches ready! 

  • Synopsis: Your synopsis is basically a long summary of your story. In about two pages, double spaced, you have to introduce the agent to your protagonists, antagonists, your world, your plot, and everything that's unique about the story. This includes (gasp) the ending! They want to hear it in your voice, not just a simple retelling. This piece is vital, because it may make your break your chance at getting to talk to an agent. If you're interested, I can write a blog post about constructing a synopsis. Let me know below! 

Additional Resources:  

Tactful Ways to Say Awkward Things in Your Query Letter, Medium.com

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter, Writer’s Digest

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference, Writer’s Digest

Step Two: Finding an Agent/Publisher/Editor

  • Research: Look for Agents who are requesting your genre. One easy way to do this is to find out the agents of some of your favorite books that are similar to yours. Books like “Guide to Literary Agents 2018” can help you not only find agents, but develop your query letter too. Don’t just query to a random agent. They need to be looking for the thing you’re selling. You can also check out Query Tracker to see what agents are looking for. Once you do find an agent, model your sample chapters, query, and pitch to their standards. Also, by no means should an agent ask for money up front (but we'll get into that in the red flags section). 

  • Response: Response time can take a very long time, even 6-months to a year. You can query to multiple agents, but if an agent accepts you, you’re responsible for letting other inquiring agents know that you’ve accepted an offer. Typically, if an agent is interested, they’ll request a few chapters or the full copy of your book. Query Tracker is great with indicating response time for agents as well. 

  • Rejection: Everyone is going to get rejected at least once. J.K. Rowling was rejected by multiple agents before she found one. If a rejection says something more than, “I’m not interested,” consider that a success, because it means the agent thought enough about the story to write you a longer response. If you want a better idea what it means to receive rejections, take a look at my blog post here. It might help you out a bit. 

  • Acceptance: When an agent accepts your piece, it’s up to the agent to take the book to an editor and a publisher. She will try to sell the book to a publisher through an act called acquiring. Once a publishing house accepts it, the agent, publishing house, and editors will work with you to perfect your book. Keep in mind, an editor may require heavy changes to your book, so be open minded.

Additional Resources:

Guide to Literary Agents, Writer’s Digest

Step Three: Contracts

  • Contracts: A book contract is a legal-binding agreement between the author and the book publisher that outlines rights, obligations, and money earned. In a traditional agreement, the author retains the copyright and the publisher purchases the right to distribute the book in many forms (paper/ebook/audio, etc). The contract is usually dictated by the the literary agent on behalf of the author. Make sure you get everything on paper and you retain the rights to your book.

Things to Consider About Contracts

  • Rights: How long do they keep rights to publish your book? Is it for a year or several? Will they relinquish the rights to your book if their company goes down?

  • Series: Is your contract for a single book? Is it for a series? Will they reprint your previous books when the new series comes out? Do they have the right to cancel the contract halfway through the series?

  • Non-Compete Clause: This clause says that the author can’t write another book with the same subject or name during the life of the contract. While this may not matter to you, it’s something to keep in mind.

Additional Resources:

What is a Book Contract?, The Balance

Five Publishing Contracts Red Flags, Alina Popescu Writer

Red Flags in Traditional Publishing

  • Contract Publisher Retains Rights: Sometimes when a publishing company likes the idea of your book, and has had a similar one already suggested, they may ask you to write the piece, but all rights remain with the publishing company. If you’re more interested in royalties than having your name credited to you, this is fine, but if you want to retain rights to the book, this is something to watch out for during the contract phase.

  • Publisher Requires Money to Publish Book: Back away. You should not have to pay the publisher to publish your book. You should receive royalties, and you will work with a literary agent to figure that out.

  • Literary Agent Who Charges Upfront: Literary agents do not receive payment until the book is published. They will receive a portion of the book sales.

  • Promised Publication: Some websites will promise to publish poetry, books, essays, etc. if they’re submitted to the site. These are generally not places you want to submit your work to. While they might, indeed, publish it, they will ask you to pay for a physical copy of the piece and will publish it to other locations.

  • Agent/Artist/Editor Problems: Sometimes the relationship between the author and the agent, artist, or editor does not work. Authors have pulled back from agents before because either the agent failed to uphold their end, or the relationship just was not positive. Some artists who design covers may not have the author’s best interest in mind and may produce work that does not jive with the book. On the flip side, an author may express distaste in a book cover that the artist created (I'm looking at you Terry Goodkind), but the publisher will print the book anyway. And sometimes authors and editors bump heads. Do what’s best for you and your book.

After that, you will work with the marketing team to get your book out in bookstores and in libraries. You'll set up tour dates to do readings and signings. Interviews both online and on television will become your new best friends. But keep in mind, the marketing team won't do all of the marketing. You'll have to do some of it yourself. For more tips on marketing, check out my post here

Like I said, this was going to be a long one. Hopefully it'll help get you started on your path to publishing your book. And if you're going to try out for pitmad, let me know! I'd love to cheer you on. 

Happy writing! 

Marketing 101

After months of writing blog posts, I've come to realize that many authors agree on one thing; they hate marketing their books. I can understand why. Marketing isn't an easy job. You spend all of your time and energy writing an amazing book, and still there's so much work to do after that to ensure that your baby makes it into the world. 

I'm by no means an expert when it comes to marketing, but I've learned a few tricks through my own experiences and also reading articles/blogs from experts in the field. I would definitely suggest looking into Jenn DePaula of Mixtus Media. She's actually running a sale on her Book Marketing Foundations class. Also, check out Alexa Bigwarfe from Write. Publish, Sell who also provides valuable information and courses in marketing.

  • Build a Community: Whether this is through social media, readings and signings, conventions, or gushing over a book, make connections with writers and readers in your genre. Building connections helps open you to other opportunities in the literary world, like signings you never heard about. It's also just nice to make new friends. Try to focus on those in your genre because they will be the people you sell to later. It's better to have a smaller group of interested people than a large group of followers who won't take a second look at your book. 

  • Social Media: As much as some people hate it, social media is important. It's how your readers get to know you. You can share information about your story or your everyday life. Keep in mind, you don't have to do all social venues. Pick the ones that work well for you. Maybe update a blog every week, or keep a twitter account active. Don't try to do everything, otherwise you might become overwhelmed. Just make sure people have a place to find you, buy your book, and learn more about you. Readers want to feel connected with the author. 

  • Author Website: Going along with social media, you want to be able to market your book through an author website. You can get one for free through Wordpress, or you can spend a little money on it through sites like squarespace. Here's mine for example.  Make it unique. Make it you. The best thing about this is you can store all of your social media links, your appearances, your purchase links, etc in one location. And if working on a lot of social media platforms is too daunting, this is a good place to focus your attention. 

  • Author Signings: As much as we would like to stay behind the computer screen, it's important to participate in author signings. An author named Alexandra Penn says she sells most of her books through in-person signings. To prepare for it, have your elevator pitch ready. Know how to explain your book in 30 seconds or two sentences so you can keep the people engaged. Decorate your table to make it eye catching. Also, consider holding raffles or special sales at in-person signings. It might attract more attention. 

  • Swag: Seriously, people love swag. Bookmarks especially tend to go over well with people because they have a dual use. Character stickers, postcards, small journals, key chains, etc. All of these things can be used to promote your book. You can either make the items yourself or enlist others to help you like Sarah Cunningham who made a lot of my swag.

  • Press Releases: When your book is about to come out (or even if it is out), it doesn't  hurt to write a press release and send it in to your local newspaper, radio show, or tv station. Contact your local newspaper company (or go on their website) to find out where to send a press release. 

  • Interviews: Look for authors or bloggers who are hosting interviews of other authors. This is your chance to talk about your book and introduce yourself to your readers. If you have a book coming out, make sure you get some interviews out around that same time. I host author interviews on my own website here

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you have any marketing tips, please feel free to post them down below! 

Cheers!

Erin

Accepting Rejection

It's bound to happen to all writers. You write a piece for a contest, anthology, or agent. You're excited. You really feel it has what it takes to get published. You send that e-mail off along with your hopes and dreams. A few weeks later (sometimes just a day later) you get a one-word response that shatters all of that. 

Rejection. 

Okay, so maybe this sounds a little over dramatic, but, as writers, we're all faced with rejection. Even the greats endure it (Rowling was passed up at least 7 times before a publishing company took on Harry Potter). That doesn't make it sting any less. Here you presented your heart and soul to someone and they broke it with a single e-mail. 

What are you supposed to do? 

First, let's address how you feel and what to do about shelf care.

  • Breathe: Take a breath and remind yourself that everyone gets rejected. Just because the contest or agent didn't accept it doesn't mean it's bad. 

  • Feel: Allow yourself to feel mad or sad if you need to. I know this may sound silly, but if you can get your emotions out, you can go back to the rejection, and your piece, with a clearer head. 

  • Don't take it personally: Easier said than done, I know. But don't take this as a rejection of you or as a personal attack. As with every "contest" in life, some people win, and some don't. This is NOT a reflection of you or your self worth. Keeping going forward and do what you love. 

  • Step back: Step away from the piece for a while. You probably just spent a bunch of time working on it and it's too fresh in your head. Take a few days to relax then get back to editing or submitting. You don't want to rush in and send it to a contest that doesn't quite fit the piece. 

  • Get back to work: After you've had a moment to collect yourself, sit back down and get back to work on your piece or your other stories! 

Second, let's take a look at that rejection letter, because sometimes there's something there you might not notice in the heat of the moment. 

  • Generic Response: This is the auto-generated, "Thank you for the chance to read your piece. Unfortunately you were not selected." If you get this kind of response without any additional information, then let it go and move on. Prep your piece for another contest. 

  • Personal: Sometimes you may receive a more personal rejection letter. Someone may have seen something in your piece and decided to take the time to respond back to you. These e-mails or letters will be signed by the person you queried and likely contain more than the typical "you were not selected." In this case, consider writing a very short thank you letter back. It's a good way to keep connections open. 

  • Personal Feedback: These are my favorites. The queried person not only responds with a personal letter, she also provides feedback. Use this as constructive criticism to revise your work, not as an offensive response. This means she's taken the time to help you with your work. And if she mentions wanting to see your writing in the future, make sure you keep that person in mind! Definitely send a thank you letter back. 

The final question is, what do you do with your rejected piece? 

  • Submit again: In some cases, try again without revising. Maybe the piece wasn't right for that particular contest. It doesn't mean your work is bad! Go ahead and send it somewhere else. My rule of thumb is I wait for three rejections before I touch the piece again. 

  • Consider Revising: If the contest provided some feedback, you may consider revising. Take another look at the story. Are there ways to revise it? Can you make it sound better or tighten up the language? Did you miss one of the contest requirements? It doesn't hurt to look it over.

  • Blog it: Sometimes if you can't get a piece published, it doesn't hurt to either blog it or post it on Wattpad. There's nothing wrong with sharing your work on another platform!

There's nothing wrong with getting rejected. It helps you grow as an author and prepares you for sending out some of your larger pieces. Rejection is all part of the process, and the best thing to do is to learn, grow, and keep writing! 

 

Marketing vs Writing Time

I think the favorite motto of a writer is, "I hate marketing my book." Most times when I ask someone about their marketing techniques, they talk about how much they despise it and would rather have someone else do it. Unfortunately, whether you're traditionally published or self-published, you will have to do a fair bit of marketing if you want your book to succeed. The question is, how much time do you put into marketing vs your writing? Obviously you won't have anything to market if you don't write! 

Here are a few tips and ideas I've learned about when to market vs when to write and how to divide your time. 

  • Feeling inspired? Put the marketing aside and get those words down on paper. Don't squander time if you're feeling creative. 

  • No Inclination to Write? Then focus on marketing. Sometimes putting together graphics or sending out tweets/building your reading and writing community can help you break out of that creative fog. 

  • Deadlines for Books: If you have short stories due for contests, or a book due for printing, put the marketing aside and focus on getting that done. You want to make sure you meet those deadlines so you can market it later. 

  • Deadlines for Interviews/Guest Spots: If a site or station is waiting on your interview or a guest blog, for example, then make that your priority. You might have to put your writing aside just to make sure you get that deadline done. Remember, this will give you traction and bring more people to your website. 

  • Long Break: Do you have a few hours during the day where you can sit and focus on your book? You might consider writing. While marketing can take hours to do, it's easier to get that done in shorter spurts of time than working on your novel. 

  • Short Break: Are you waiting at a doctor's appointment? Do you only have a few minutes to relax before a meeting? Spend that time marketing. Post a tweet. Share information about your book. Check your e-mail. It's easier to do that than to get writing done. 

  • Split time: Maybe you want to market and write in the same day. Create meetings for yourself. From 6-8, you'll work on writing. From 8-9, you'll work on marketing. Treat those like meetings that you can't miss. That means you can get both done! 

  • Author Events: When you have an author event coming up such as readings, signings, tours, you want to spend most of your time marketing. Share your event to the community you've built up. Focus your tweets and Instagram posts around what you'll be doing. At the same time, post pictures while you're at the events! Not only will you be preserving memories, you'll also be sharing your experiences with your readers. This is a time to focus on the marketing and getting to know the crowd, not the writing. 

  • Burnout: At some point you're going to burn out from writing or marketing. When one fails, turn to the other. Usually if I'm too tired to write, I can still market my stuff. I might engage in a twitter thread or post a couple of pictures on Facebook and Instagram because it doesn't take a lot of energy. Sometimes, trying to share yourself with the social world can be draining. When you feel worn out, settle in, turn off social media, and just focus on your book. And, if you hit a point that you can't do either, take a break. Allow yourself to breathe and come back to it another day. If you keep pushing yourself, you won't do well with either your marketing or writing. 

  • Scheduling: Each week, create a schedule for yourself. Decide what's most important (writing or marketing), and jot down the days you want to do one or the other, or both. Having this routine set up can make the whole process a lot easier and more friendly for yourself. Scheduling marketing posts is helpful too. You can take a day to schedule posts/blogs/interviews, and then while those launch, you can work on your writing. 

  • Check in with yourself: Check in frequently to see how you're feeling. If you're starting to feel too overwhelmed with writing or marketing, it may be time to switch up your schedule. You are in control. You have the power to do as much or as little as you want. Make sure you're being kind to yourself and taking it all one step at a time. 

  • Create Shortcuts: Find ways to get multiple kinds of marketing done at the same time so you have more time to write. For example, use hoot suite or another platform that allows you to schedule and set up multiple posts at once. The site posts for you while you write. Or, schedule a blog post on a Tuesday and have that be your "marketing piece" that you share that day. By 9am, you may be done with your marketing. While views are rolling in on your blog, you can go back to writing. 

A lot of this really depends on where you are mentally and what needs to get done. If you're itching to write, then write. If you're craving social media, focus on that. And if you find that you're struggling in one of those areas, then make sure you set up time that you can sit down and focus on publicizing or writing your work.  

It's likely authors hate marketing because either 1. they aren't sure how to do it productively, 2. they don't like stealing away from their writing time, 3. they don't like talking about themselves, 4. it's just not their forte. If any of this is true for you, you may want to look into finding someone who can market your work for you. That way you can spend more time writing. 

I hope this helps!

If you have any topics you'd like me to cover, please post them down below!