Archive for Publishing

Oasis Islands in the Bog of Eternal Rejections

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on May 31, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

bog

Over the years I’ve had plenty of aspiring authors ask me how to start in the book publishing business. While inside I’m wondering why they’d ask me and not someone who’s actually published (because I still do have that self-deprecation many self-published authors have — especially us “old ones” who lived through the not-quite-over days of self-publishing demonization), outside I ask them if they’ve written their book yet. About half the time they have not, so I tell them to start there.

It’s funny how many get irritated that a writer has to write. *Facemalm*

Anyway, if they have written the book, I tell them the obvious (to me anyway) next step, which is editing, workshopping, beta…ing and other various cleanING up… ings. The few who have done that enough to have nightmares about it (pro tip: this is a good indication that you’ve edited enough) may finally begin to dip their fingers in the Bog of Eternal Rejections that is… QUERYING.

Dun, dun, DUUUNNNN!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from their dream. In fact, I care so much about this particular dream that I haven’t given up in over 20 years of wading through the Bog. But anyone who expects this to be an easy road to money and fame is not cut out for being a writer. It’s hard. And it’s discouraging. And for the vast majority of writers it takes a very, VERY long time to even get trade published, let alone make enough money from it to quit one’s day job and write full time. (This is at minimum wage levels by the way, let alone millionaire status.)

*BIIIIG breath.*

Okay. Now that I’ve thoroughly dejected you with the bad news, it’s time to give you some well-earned good that may help you see a little light at the end.

I’ll start by saying no: I have not been signed by anyone as of the writing of this blog. Not any agents, and not any editors. My point isn’t a big bonanza LOOKIT I FINALLY MADE IT! post, and not just because signing doesn’t guarantee success any more than querying does. My point, instead, is to show a step towards that success, and highlight when, even though it’s not what you wanted, some things should still be celebrated as a victory. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and along the way there are plenty of positives we tend to overlook because they’re not the finish line. But it’s those positives that keep you going when it feels like you’ll never make it (and trust me, I know that feeling!)

So here are a couple of my own recent oasis islands in the Bog:

oasis 1

Ahh, full requests! For those who are brand new to the publishing world, or those who aren’t writers and are just interested, these are requests from agents or editors to see your full and complete manuscript. (If you’re wondering how you’re supposed to send a full manuscript when you aren’t finished writing it, let me give you a little advice: NEVER QUERY AN INCOMPLETE FICTION MANUSCRIPT! FINISH IT FIRST!) 

*Ahem.*

ANYway, these requests usually come after either an initial query or a partial request, and the first time you get one feels AMAZING! “YES!” you think, “THEY LIKED MY QUERY! I’M SO IN!” Except you aren’t. They’re just giving you more of a chance to be in. And I’ll be honest, every single one of my full requests have so far ended in a rejection. This can hurt even more than a query rejection because the request gives you more hope, and the higher you rise, the farther you fall.

“Wait!” you may be saying, “isn’t this supposed to be POSITIVE?” Yes. Yes, it is. And I’m getting to that. See, the fact that full request rejection can hurt so bad can make any writer forget how great they are as very positive guideposts. For example, my own history:

  • I got zero full requests for my first novel, The Veiling Society. (Don’t look it up; it’s not worth it.) Yup. Zero. I queried it for about 3 years before giving up and self-publishing, and this was back before Createspace when self-publishing cost an arm and a leg (or, in our case an entire tax return). This was my first true foray into publishing.
  • I got two full requests for Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine. That may seem pretty great except I queried about 60+ agents over the course of a few years.  As you know, I ended up self-publishing that one through Amazon, and I can say I don’t regret it at all.
  • As of this writing, I have gotten SIX full requests for Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot and I’m not finished querying. I’ve been querying for only half a year so far, and at the moment three of the fulls are still out there being looked at by agents. The other three did end up in rejections, but two of those were great rejections.

I’ll get to how great rejections are even a thing in a moment, but first I want you to look at where I’ve come. My writing HAS gotten better. My queries have gotten FAR better. Full request rejections hurt, yes, but the fact that you get full requests at ALL is something to celebrate. It means you’re closer than you were, and you’re GOOD at this! So good that they want to read more. And while rejections can happen for any number of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with your skill or passion, full requests are all ABOUT that! They mean an agent or editor liked what they read enough to want to read more.

And that, you should absolutely, be proud of!

oasis 2

Rejection hurts. That’s a fact of life in any circle, including publishing. But there are different kinds of rejections when it comes to agents and editors. Three main ones, in fact: (Yes, there are other kinds but I’m trying to be concise here. Pfft.)

  • Rejection 1: The Silent Rejection
    • This rejection is the worst, and, because Murphy’s Law sucks, it’s also the most prevalent. How does it work? One word: Crickets. Yeah. Agents and editors just don’t reply to you at all. Ever. About anything. I understand why they do this. With thousands of queries in their inboxes a day, it’s just not a good use of their limited time to answer every one, especially ones they aren’t going to pursue. That said, it does suck. Every time. Especially when you don’t even realize you’ve been rejected until the spiderwebs in your inbox begin to show signs of cobbing.
  • Rejection 2: The Form Rejection
    • This is only slightly better than the silent rejection in that at least you know you were rejected. The good news is these are usually only given for queries, not partial or full requests. The bad news is, they give you nothing by way of constructive criticism. A typical form rejection is pasted below for your scrutiny. What does it mean? Noone knows. And I’m sorry, but if you get this kind of rejection from an agent, it’s all you’re gonna get from them.
      • Thank you for your submission, which we have read with interest. Unfortunately, we did not feel enthusiastic enough to take this further. We are sorry to give you a disappointing response, but thank you for thinking of us in connection with your work.We regret that we are unable to give further feedback due to the large volume of unsolicited submissions we receive.
  • Rejection 3: The Good Rejection
    • Ahhh the GOOD rejection. These usually come after a partial or full request, and they’re pretty neat to get, despite being rejections. What even is a good rejection? One that gives you real feedback of course! And not just because constructive criticism can be great for growing one’s skill, especially from the pro’s. No, they’re also great because they take TIME, and time is not something agents and editors have a lot of. So why would they waste time sending you, someone they aren’t even signing, an individualized rejection? Because they feel you’re worth that time! You. The tiny whisper in their storm. You were WORTH acknowledging! Even though in the end they had to pass, MENTION that rejection next time you query them with something new, because they liked what they saw, and they’re letting you know that. And to give you a little more pep to really PUSH for these rejections, here are the two I mentioned earner, both of which I have gotten within the last week (specific agent’s names have been deleted for privacy purposes.):
      • Hi Jessica,Thank you for being so patient throughout this reviewing process. I, and the other agents who read Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot, really enjoyed it. You’re an exceptionally talented writer and I liked SO much about this book, which makes my next comment even harder. I liked this book very much, but I didn’t quite fall in love with it the way I had hoped to in order to take on this project in such a saturated market. I wish I had better news! Please know that I genuinely adore your voice and that I’d be honored to take a look at anything else with your name on it.

        Thank you so much for the opportunity to read your work and for your interest in The Seymour Agency.

      • Dear Ms. Crichton,Thank you for the opportunity to read TIPANI WALKER AND THE NIGHTMARE KNOT.

        You’re a very talented writer and there were many elements of your book that I enjoyed: the strong voice, the authentic characters, and the originality of your ideas. I especially loved some of the passages about knots and time–very impressive. That said, after careful consideration, I just didn’t ultimately connect as strongly with the story as I would need to in order to pursue representation. As you know, these decisions are highly subjective and another agent may have an entirely different opinion.

        Thank you again for reaching out. I wish you the best of luck in finding a good home for TIPANI WALKER AND THE NIGHTMARE KNOT.

        Sincerely,

        Writers House LLC

Yes, you read the signoff right: that second one is from WRITER’S HOUSE. While it hurt to be rejected from both them and Seymour, these rejections, which not only tell me why they rejected me but also complimented specific things about my writing AND asked for future queries, were, once I was over the initial sadness, wonderful gifts to me, and proof that even if I’m still up to my knees in slime, I AM working my way through the Bog to the other side.

And you can too.

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On Encouragement

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

Lately I’ve been rediscovering my favorite T.V. universe of all time: Star Trek. I started by watching “Voyager” from beginning to end (thank you Netflix!) because it’s my favorite-favorite. Now I’m around the middle of “The Next Generation”. I’m watching them from favorite series to least-favorite. (Sorry “Deep Space Nine”.)

When you’re a trekkie like me you learn a LOT about Roddenberry’s universe, including behind the scenes stuff that can be quite illuminating. One of those things, which seems to be the same for every series (though TNG is the most infamous for it), is first season flopping. Though arguments abound over which series is best, it seems each one has started hard but ended beloved by at least a few fans (and in the Star Trek fandom, “a few” needs at least one k after it!) Indeed, when one re-watches TNG especially, one can’t help but cringe jeeeest a little at how… well… BAD… the first season or so is. No matter how much of a fan you are now.

For a struggling writer like me, that is enormously encouraging.

I’ve been writing seriously since I was 16. I decided on that particular age because I was first published then: my own review in the local newspaper on “The Chronicles of Narnia”, though I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. Now 24 years later (you do the math), I am still writing… when I’m not at my day job.

People tend to react similarly when you tell them you’re a writer. Questions like, “are you published?” abound, as well as comments somewhere along the lines of, “I have a great idea for a book — you should write it!” I’ve learned to field reactions like this with a fair amount of grace; after all most people really have no idea how the publishing world works, and I’m all about education. That said one question in particular still grates on me: the dreaded, “do you do that for a living?”

The answer is no.

Still.

24 years later.

No.

At least I’m not alone. The vast majority of writers don’t make a full-time living on it, and those few who do are mostly not the Stephen King types. They’re lower middle class on down, and they work hard for the privilege of writing full time. Many spend more time promoting themselves online, through school visits (for kidlit authors) and the like than they do actually writing, which is what they’d really rather be doing. In a way in this day and age even writing full-time is more than one job. And despite all that hard work, most full-time writers struggle with bills and “dry” seasons when their royalties are lower than usual. Sometimes these “dry” seasons can be anticipated. Other times they can’t. As a mother with children to feed, clothe, and house, I have not been comfortable enough with even my best royalties to try quitting my day job.

There are days — even weeks — when this can feel terribly discouraging.

Most every writer dreams of being free to write what we love without fear of becoming homeless. To not only have an editor, but one to whom we can go with an idea and automatically get clearance — and a nice advance — to write it. The J.K. Rowlings of the world are few and far-between, but to be one of them: that is OUR lottery dream.

And it’s a pretty, pretty dream indeed.

The funny thing is, despite their sometimes awkward or insensitive questions, most people outside of  the publishing world are extremely encouraging and supportive of writers. We are usually seen as brilliant, creative, unique, and even akin to superhuman for being able to even write a book, let alone publish and sell it. To most people, whether we can pay the bills or not with it has little to no bearing on this awe they view us by.

To writers like me, the dichotomy of this can be somewhat bemusing, but ultimately encouraging. I’m a brilliant superhuman, guys!

And so I keep writing my books and watching my “Star Trek”, dreaming of the day when my own first season comes to an end. When I can finally say I’ve grown out of “The Naked Now” and am ready for my own “Inner Light“. Until then, I’ll take the questions with the compliments, and keep my eye on the future prize of answering that dreaded question with a yes.

Finally.

Yes.

Updates from the Land of Nil

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

Hot on the heels of the new and improved version of Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine (which, by the way, is currently free on Kindle — GO GET IT BEFORE IT’S NOT ANYMORE!) comes its brand-new little sister, The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc!

As you can see, the cover is all ready thanks to the beautious Jessica Douglas. Alas, I am not as prolific as she, and my edits aren’t QUITE up to snuff yet. That said, it will be finished and ready to buy within the week so keep checking back!

You follow me here, so of course you know about THIS blog, but did you know I have a brand new website just for Nil? It can be found at http://gutsandglorybooks.com and it will be full of TONS of fun stuff to do soon! For now, you can earn your Nil name (I’m still adding to that, so if it comes out wrong for now let me know please!) and there’s a contact form to talk to me. Keep checking back though because among other fun stuff, I’ll be adding:

  • A Kid area with games, prints, fanart, and more!
  • A Teen area with message boards, chats, fanfic and more!
  • A special game where you can build tons of fun inventions in Books’ lab!
  • An FAQ page for parents about the books, the world, and the website of Nil.

Don’t spread the news JUST yet though… it’s hush-hush between us for now. 😉 So much to be excited about! Talk to you again soon!

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 7-ish: Motivators

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , on January 5, 2018 by Jessica Crichton

I’m going to write a short blog today, but it is an important one nonetheless. I have been down lately, struggling with my own inner demons as well as external issues (*coughlaptopcough*) which have demotivated me so much. But then you come along. The readers and the artists. To tell me not to give up. To gush your love of my world and characters and stories. To remind me that this IS my passion, even when I feel no passion at all.

So… thank you. I CAN keep going… because of you.

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 6: WRITING!

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

You know what I am not?

A promoter.

You know what I AM?

A WRITER.

And yet, I haven’t had a chance to really write one word of the glorious third book of the trilogy that’s in the CENTER of this whole thing!

*Headbash*

So… I’ve decided to give my promotional needs up to those who know how to work them properly, and focus on what I do best — writing the freaking BOOK already. I’ll keep writing my blog of course, and post when and where I need to on social media, but all the crazy details will be taken care of by JKS Communications. After some pretty extensive research, I found them to be at the top of my choices, as they are professional, have KILLER reviews, and (and this is crucial) I can afford them. At this time I have sent in my proposal and am waiting with baited breath on their reply.

For now, it’s time to finally WRITE!

*Runs off cackling like a manwoman*

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 5: Social Media Madness

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Hello all, and I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

I’m back at work now, and therefore back writing to you. Today I’m thinking about social media marketing, this blog, and ways to use them all in-tandem to their best advantage for getting the word out there about “Guts and Glory”.  Things I’ve thought about so far are…

  • Some kind of “ad” campaign where Books’ inventions are being promoted in apocalypse punk style (But I don’t know how interesting that would be to people, especially my young readers.)
  • A”recruitment” campaign into the Dark Crows
  • A “call to adventure” style campaign where readers have to sort clues and such to find their way into Nil
  • A Nil-related contest of some kind
  • A quiz or quizzes related to Nil and its characters

Hmm… What do you think? What would get the kids excited to see Book 3’s debut? What would get the young readers interested in Nil and its denizens? If you have any other ideas or just brainstorming, please leave them in the comments.

Whatever the campaign ends up being, for the full Social Media gauntlet I’m looking at linking:

  • This blog
  • My Facebook fan page
  • My Twitter feed
  • Goodreads
  • YouTube (Especially for book trailers!)
  • Patreon (Gotta do some more research into how to utilize it for kidlit in particular.)

Still thinking! Gotta find a way to get a computer at home, too. I can’t do everything I need to do by February on my work breaks alone… Hmm…

Adventures in Book Promotion Day 4: Pushing Through

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

I want to write.

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m at work. I don’t mind that at all, especially since I’m off at 3:30 and don’t work tomorrow. Plus, it allows me to write to you. Unfortunately unlike this blog, I can’t write my book at work. The zone is too powerful; I’d forget my responsibilities here and that could be catastrophic to my financial stability. I can make notes, which is nice, but when I’m ready to write the book itself… I don’t know how I will do it without a computer at home. (If only my hands weren’t aging faster than the rest of me, I could handwrite it…)

Sorry. Kinda melancholy today. Being tired will do that to you, I suppose.

There are so many steps to this plan, but many of them I can’t do until I have the capitol to do them, and others aren’t doable until the book is finished. Other steps, such as research and planning, I have been doing a lot of lately, but the biggest, the hardest, and the one that takes the longest… is writing the third book itself.

That one is VITAL. And I can’t do it.

I WANT to write, too. I do. But my Muse has been fickle lately and I don’t know how long she’ll stick around. I’m going to be honest here: today, I am afraid. Afraid I will never write this book. Afraid I will never actually make this plan — this DREAM — happen. Afraid and frustrated.

It is a hard day. A low day. But these, too, must be documented, so that I can look back and see that I pushed through them. So that others can see that as well.

Today, I am tired and afraid and frustrated. But today, I am still a writer nonetheless.

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