How to Survive Becoming an Author…Week 6…Surviving Literary Agents

Sorry it has been a few weeks since I’ve posted new material. I have been very busy with work and getting my latest book “Selfie Portrait” launched and promoted. If you are interested in seeing what it is all about, just check out https://www.amazon.com/Selfie-Portrait-Terry-James/dp/1537781677/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1475871764&sr=8-2

I also had an interview with the Toledo City Paper that came out this week. for more information on that, check out http://toledocitypaper.com/online/terry-james-fact-or-fiction/

Anyways, enough about me, this is about you, and your the reason I do this in the first place. You’ve written most, if not all, of your book. You’ve got dreams of walking into any bookstore in the country and seeing your months and months of hard work prominently displayed on their end cap. You get your ducks in a row and send a random copy of your manuscript to a publisher and eagerly await for them to send you that check for a hundred-thousand dollars to buy the rights. Fast forward forty years, your wife/husband asks you to come back in from you standing next to your mail box in the dead of winter, you never got a reply. That’s because your beautifully printed manuscript and brilliantly written cover letter got thrown out years before, unopened, and is now compost in some elderly woman’s cabbage garden, or was recycled into a political endorsement mailing which will also get shit canned.

The reason, publishers no longer deal with authors nor do they accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore, you need an agent. It seems sort of disheartening to think you will have to spit your book’s profits with someone else, but if you are one of the lucky few authors to snag one, it could really make your career as an author really take off.

So how do you get a literary agent you ask, well let me tell you, with the power of the ever dreaded “Query Letter…letter…letter… (just imagine the echo effect)”.

What is a query letter you ask? It is a letter basically asking an agent to represent you and your work, it details the project you are working on, and explains to the agent exactly why your book will be the next best thing to Harry Potter or 50 Shades of Grey or a combination of each (though I’d rather not know what happens behind the closed doors of Professor Dumbledore in that mash-up). Anyhow, the letter follows up with a brief description of you, your background in writing, and why you think you are qualified to write this book. easy right…WRONG!

You can ask just about any author who has succeeded in getting representation, and I bet this is the answer you get, “I was rejected hundreds of times before I found my agent and publisher.” Agents are always looking at the market, seeing what sells and what doesn’t, unless you have something that fits that mold, is absolutely irresistible, or are a celebrity who can sell their name better than they can sell a book, your going to have a hard time finding one that is willing to put his/her reputation and royalty check on the line, especially first time authors. The key to getting someone’s attention…The “Query Letter…letter…letter… (just imagine the echo effect, again!)”.

Luckily, there are literally hundreds of resources online you can look up, the bad thing…there are literally hundreds of resources online you can look up. Not all will give you the best advise on the latest trends on what gets the agents attention, and when a single agent can receive upwards to hundreds of query letters per day, yours better stick out and be magnificent enough to put a tear in their eye. So who better to tell you how to accomplish this feat of letter writing…an agent, that’s who!

I recommend, if you are brave of heart, to look to none other than the “Query Shark” at http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ She is ruthless and painfully honest, but it is a resource that is invaluable and will help get you in the right direction.

Till next time, don’t give up, you can do this!

Sorry…

I know it has been a few weeks since I posted. I’ve been really busy at work and getting my newest book out. I hope to get back on track this week, so look for another installment later this week, chow!

How to survive becoming an Author…week 5…Surviving Getting Started

So you’re finally ready to sit down and write that novel. It’s been burning in your soul, playing out in your dreams like an Oscar winning movie. You’ve envisioned your characters, what they look like, how they dress, even how they talk. But now in that perfect moment as you look at the un-written white screen in front of you, you draw a blank. The white space on your screen does nothing to inspire the fact that you only have 40,000 to 80,000 words left before you can consider yourself completed.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Getting the ball rolling on this type of project is never easy, not even for the most experienced writer. But there are ways of overcoming the blank, and there is no set preference on how to organize your thoughts. But here are some examples and tips that might help you get moving along in no time.

1)      Outline. Nothing is better in the beginning as organizing your thoughts. Start from the beginning, what happens, then what, how does the first thing affect the next? I’ll give you a simple scenario.

  1. Jack and Jill climb a hill.
    1. They were carrying a pail
    2. They were fetching water (or hard liquor, hard to say)
  2. Jack fell down in a drunken stupor
    1. Broke his crown (damn drunk)
    2. Which caused Jill to tumble down after (no doubt cussing continuously)

2)      Thought Bubbles. This technique is a bit more graphical. It entails writing down your basic idea of your book and circling it. From that idea, you write a corresponding thought on that idea and circle it, drawing a line from idea one to idea two, and so on. It’s really hard to show this idea but a cool example can be found by following this link, http://s3.amazonaws.com/heroku-ldatschool/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/12201259/Web-of-linked-thought-bubbles-demonstrating-an-example-of-a-concept-map..png

3)      Free Writing. This is the preferred method of yours truly. It is simple yet effective. All you do is sit and write whatever comes into your head. No structure, punctuation, grammar rules, paragraphs, or even correct spelling is needed. Just write whatever pops into your brain. Run-on sentences, go for it, gibberish, go for it, Pig Latin, whatever! Whatever it takes to just simply put your fingers on the keyboard and keep writing until you slowly find that you are getting into your groove! Then return to the screen and make that magic happen!

4)      Cut and Paste. So you know where you are going with the story, but you’re not entirely how you’re going to get there. But you know exactly how one scene will play out. So, write your scene. Sometime while you are writing the scene, other ideas jump into your head. Once you’ve written a few scenes and figure out exactly how they fit together, simply connect the dots, and cut and paste your scenes in place. (warning, though I know some writers can do this, I recommend not using this method unless you have completely used up any other method. It is very easy to get lost and forget where you were going, or mix up your scenes out of order.)

The basic idea here is simple, organize, organize, organize.

Of course, sometimes you just have to take life by the horns and just go for the gusto. Writers like Sandra Hults believe in simply sitting down with her ideas and letting the story take her wherever it leads. A lot of successful authors do this as well. It is definitely a whirlwind challenge and can make for an interesting adventure, especially when the writer themselves are uncertain of the outcome.

Next, let’s talk comfort zones. Not every writer has the ability to just sit down, crack open their laptop, and produce award winning novels while sitting in the middle of an out-of-control room of children at a daycare center. In fact, some very famous writers out there had very strange places where they would find their elusive muses. Edith Wharton would write in her bed in the morning before getting up. Benjamin Franklin wrote naked after a soothing “Tonic Bath”. And Dame Edith Sitwell only wrote after taking a relaxing rest in an open coffin.

Now I’m not recommending you run down to your local funeral home and pretend to test drive a body bag, but it is important for maximum creativity to find your “Place”. For the before mentioned Sandra Hults, she prefers to sit in a quiet library with a set of headphones, a place she admits herself sounds “Cliché” but works perfectly for her. For me, it is a warm cup of Joe, doesn’t seem to matter where, as long as I have the coffee. So search your feelings, and find your muse!

For more information on Sandra Hults and her writing, check out her blog at: www.sandrahults.wordpress.com, or her Amazon page at, https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Hults/e/B00JQ2GHNW/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1473720432&sr=8-1

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2.

 

So in closing, don’t let anything in between you and the book you’ve always wanted to write! If you get stuck, try organizing your thoughts. Find the comfort zone that’s just “write” for you and get creative! Nothing can slow you down but yourself. See ya for now, check back in later this week for a special edition of “How to Survive Becoming a Writer”. What is it about? Find out later!

How to survive becoming an author…week 4…Surviving Creative Story Telling Stereotypes!

Introduction, The problem or need, The Conflict, The Climax, The resolution. It may sound like the makings of the perfect ‘One Night Stand’, but it is actually the model from which many story tellers arrange their stories when it comes to writing. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

“Here is Dave (Introductions). Dave needs a ride to the bar so he can hook up with a babe while avoiding the Mob (The problem or need). Dave calls his friend who apparently wrecked his car dodging a squirrel and now needs to ride his bicycle through the Mob’s territory (The Conflict). Dave narrowly escapes the Mob while riding his bicycle to said bar (The Climax), only to find out he’s 30 minutes late and babe has already hooked up with his friend with wrecked car and Dave ends up passed out in dumpster after drinking away his sorrows (The resolution…sort of).”

And so the Formula goes on, and on, and on, in nearly every piece literature. Most stories are also either narrated by a either a narrator (often referred to as ‘third person’ is a person telling the story who is not actually in the story). Another is a secondary character close to the main characters but has limited interaction with the actual story, action, or plot. Yet another is that the narrative of the story is being told by the main character or supporting characters themselves who actually contribute to the overall action and dialog of the story.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these particular models, and for most stories this method is actually best. But for the adventurous few, there are a few ways in which you can tell a story using non-traditional stereotypical means.

An example of a non-traditional method of telling a story can be found in a book penned by Tom Lambert entitled “Living with Earl”. The book is a fictional narrative of the author himself (Tom) and his live-in house guest (Earl) who looks and speaks exactly like the famous author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain). The inspiration for the book came from the famous author’s thousands of known quotes, which Tom Lambert individually picked out one at a time and wrote a short story for each based on the Mark Twain quote. Though the stories are short, each story builds one upon an other to a crescendo of emotions, and produces thought provoking commentary on such topics as veterans and today’s youth, not to mention a few laughs along the way.

Another example of non-traditional story telling can be found in Jim Beard’s prose series called “Sgt. Janus, Spirit Breaker”. Roman Janus is an ex-soldier who now travels around “Breaking” spirits and demons from various locations in the late 1800’s early 1900’s England. In the first book of the series, the story is told chapter by chapter, by each of the spirit breaker’s clients, who are asked to write a journal accounting for every aspect of their experience while he battles the spirits to the finest details. Once again like Mr. Lambert’s book, the stories are told in short chapters, but the progression of Sgt. Janus’ deterioration as his adventures begin to take a toll on the character is evident  with his described demeanor with each passing story. A very impressive feat of story telling in both instances.

So as you sit down to write that first novel you’ve always dreamed of penning or typing, keep in mind that your creativity does not have to always follow traditional story telling stereotypes. Don’t be afraid to venture into uncharted territories and let your readers see the story in a new and exciting angle and view that only you can tell. Mix it up, break traditions and be, you!

For more information on Tom Lambert and his novel “Living with Earl” go to http://www.livingwithearl.com/ or follow him on facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/LivingWithEarl/

For more information on Jim Beard and his “Sgt. Janus” series, you can look him up on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Beard/e/B004UWVOPE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1471732278&sr=1-1 and while you are at it, show him some love on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thebeardjimbeard.

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

Best of luck in your writing and I will see you next week for another installment, and be sure to drop me in a comment on this and my other blogs! Let’s get a conversation started, especially those with experience so we can all help new, budding writers achieve their dream!

How to survive becoming an author…week 3…Surviving Author Etiquette!

Just because something is good doesn’t make it popular, and just because something is popular doesn’t make it good. This one phrase and/or any of the other ten thousand variations are the chief core of what I call “Author Etiquette”. It is a simple set of un-binding rules that (in my opinion) help in day to day meetings and greetings from other authors. 

In general, the author community is very friendly and exciting. New and budding authors mix and mingle daily on the internet via Twitter, Facebook and yes, even MySpace. (yes, it is still around) So here is a quick lesson on Author to Author etiquette that you should live by. (the following reflect the views and opinions of the author, and not necessarily the views of other authors, WordPress, Most people still using MySpace, and small furry creatures crawling around in your crawlspace.)

 

Rule 1: The Review Exchange

 

A lot of authors out there write for two reasons. One, to make their voice heard, their story told, their opinions amplified, or just to make noise. The second to make money. One great way of getting the almighty consumer to part with their cash or worsen their mounting credit card debt is to have others speak highly of your work, a.k.a. the “Review”. If most people hate something, others will not buy it. Likewise, if many people like the work, it may encourage others to buy your book. Thus, a new industry practice is born! Authors helping other authors by simply logging into Amazon, or other online book stores, and simply giving a marvelously stupendous review of the other’s material…without actually reading the said book.

 

Ummmm….NO!!!

 

Believe it or not, there are people out there in the business of “Selling their Reviews”. You pay them, and they post a review. Now if a asked a person on the street to walk up to a stranger and tell them to say something great about my book, they would probably laugh in my face. Now give them a hundred dollars, and they would probably be more than inclined to help. There are a few reasons why I don’t do it. The first is if I’m not earning the review simply by having a good book, then I don’t want it. It is a question of ethics. Second reason is that you don’t know what you are reviewing. If I was handed a box with unknown content and asked to review the food inside, I could spout on for days on the savory smells, the detectible juices, the smooth texture and exquisite taste. But if I opened the box after my mouth and found it full of year old cow manure, what did it say about me? I don’t like cow manure particularly, and I wouldn’t tell people to eat it, point made.

 

Personally, I always let the other author know that I have no intensions on reviewing something I haven’t actually read. By saying this, you have let and ensured the other author that you truly intend to read the hard work and passion they have put into the work. Trust me, you will gain not only truer friends, but if they like what you read and vice versa, both have gained a new fan, and hopefully their fans become fans as well.

 

Rule 2: Do for me if I do for you

 

Floating back to rule 1, just because you read and review a fellow authors work, DO NOT expect the other author to do the same. I have read and reviewed several works by a number of fellow authors. Writers like Jim Beard, Tom Lambert, Pete the Popcorn, and Andy Peloquin. And of the group just mentioned, not one of them have offered or reviewed any of my said work. How does that make me feel, well, happy.

Why you ask? Why would I spend the long hours reading over their material and spend precious moments writing reviews for authors who possibly have no intensions on doing the same? Well, because it goes back to ethics and the first rule. Just because I am willing to do it does not make it a requirement for others to stop their day and do the same. I enjoy reading, and I enjoy supporting of authors and lending advice and grand reviews if the material of worth it, but I’m not going to march to their homes and demand they do the same for you, that’s just plain rude.

 

Rule 3: Speaking of other authors

 

I recently read a blog by another author. In the blog, the author sounded slightly angered by the fact that he/she wasn’t able to gain any publicity in a local paper. The rant carried on about how another writer was featured in the same paper which was, in his/her own opinion, less the sub-par, and that she couldn’t understand how a writer who published 200 pages of “Boo-Hoo” about her life could trump the 600 page plus masterpiece that he/she had written. This actually turned me off about the writer, if they couldn’t help support another writer just because he/she was doing better than himself/herself, why would that writer want to support them. Once again, ethics people! This takes me back to the first line of this blog, partly. Just because you don’t like someone else’s writing, does not make it bad (to others), and if you like someone else’s writing doesn’t mean it’s good (to others). It’s a matter of taste, something you should always remember when speaking of other’s writing.

 

Let me give you an example of the above rules. While online one day a year or two back, I was blessed to meet an author by the name of Andy Peloquin. He had just written a book and was looking for other authors to review the work. He was quite professional about it, had an e-mail list of perspective readers and reviewers, sent regular messages including review material, blog information, press release kits, the whole nine yards. The book sparked my interest so I agreed to read and review his work. Even though it took me a better part of a year to read it (sorry again Andy), I did finish the material and put out the best review I could. Do I expect him to do the same even though I did furnish him with a copy of my own, absolutely not. If he did, it would be great, but not everyone is into YA, high school, fantasy, romance novels. I wouldn’t expect him to sit and read something he wouldn’t enjoy, it could reflect on his own honest review, that could be bad for me. Then again, they may be busy with other writing or aspects of their lives, like myself who runs two post offices, married with five children, and tries to squeeze in his own writing while keeping up with reading other books that I wish I had more time for.

 

So in closing, be respectful for other’s work. Try to remember the blood, sweat, and tears you yourself put into your own work and imagine other writers doing the same thing, whether you think the end result may be garbage or the best thing since sliced bread. Do what you can in every instance to lift others up and be supportive and helpful, but don’t always expect the others to do the same for you, whether by choice or by life obligations.

 

For information about Andy Peloquin and his writing, check him out at http://www.andypeloquin.com. He is a superb writer, you won’t regret it!

 

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

 

Good Luck! And I will see you (figuratively of course) next week for another exciting installment!

 

How to survive becoming an author…week 1…Surviving initial disappointment.

So, you want to be an author, congratulations! There is nothing more exciting than surfing Amazon and seeing the novel that you have poured your blood, sweat, and tears into sitting on their website for the whole world to see. That is, until you creep your cursor to the middle of the page and find it ranked at about 800,000,000th out of 799,999,999 books available. It is about this time when you start feeling like you are doing something wrong. You befriend other writers both online and in the real world and wonder what exactly they are doing, then you start trying to do what they are doing to help get your name out there and…

Stop…Right…There

Let me tell you a story, well not a story per say, but let me tell you about my experience. I started off pretty much the same way most writers do, alone in a dark and sinister world, when my over imagination netted me the creation of my very first novel. I couldn’t have been more proud and as I watched my first title grace the catalog at Amazon.com, and as most first time authors do, I waited impatiently for the hundreds and millions of dollars to start flying my way. You can imagine the initial disappointment when I received my very first royalty check in the amount of exactly $1.00.

I had no idea what I had done wrong! I was on the radio promoting it, I was on TV promoting it, I was featured in online and printed news stories. It was about that time, in the very beginning, when I first crossed the starting line of this long race that I nearly gave up. But instead of giving up, I started looking for answers to what I was doing wrong. I will tell you that answer soon enough.

During my initial slew of interviews to promote my book, I was blessed to become acquainted with (now a good friend) another author who was from the general area in which I live by the name of Jim Beard. Now Jim’s specialized in many fields of expertise including a very in-depth knowledge of comic book history and pop culture in general, but his primary writing style was that of the old “pulp fiction” novels. No, I’m not referring to the famous Quinton Tarantino movie, but a particular style of writing in which the story line is driven more by action than by purpose or searching of meanings.

Okay, this part will be difficult to write (not to mention embarrassing), but here it goes. As I got to know Jim, I started watching what he did, what he said, how he confronted buyers at a local signing he attended with me. The more I observed and followed, the more I wanted to do what he was doing, write in the style he wrote, go to the shows he went to, publish with the same people he did. I actually think in a way I started to become jealous of him and the success he had. I wanted to literally attach myself to his hip and do everything he did, like he did. It was about this time when I realized that I had to just…stop…and reassess my situation.

After a long month of pondering, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, It was…

nothing…

I was doing nothing wrong at all, so simple yet so profound. The reason I don’t write like Jim Beard, or know comics like him, or was an expert in pop culture, or write like a pulp writer is simply because I’m not Jim Beard, I’m Terry James! I write like Terry James writes, and that is not a bad thing!

As far as sales are concerned, they are still light or near non-existent, but I am slowly earning my fan base as I go. It ain’t going to happen over night, but I will achieve my goals eventually. When I do, I’m going to achieve it the way Terry James is going to achieve it, and I’m good with that. (not that having a few writer friends with a little experience ain’t a good thing, but remember that your success is determined by what you yourself put into it, not by jumping on the shoulders of others.)

As far as Jim is concerned, me and him are still good friends, and I am a huge fan of his work. If you are interested in seeing some of his work, you can look him up on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Beard/e/B004UWVOPE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1471732278&sr=1-1 and while you are at it, show him some love on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thebeardjimbeard.

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

I hope if you are a fledgling writer that this blog helps, see you next week when we talk about writing tippers!