The Waiting Game: From Writing to Reward-How Long Does It Take?

I'm enjoying a brief vacation in Breckenridge, Colorado. While I'm gone, here's a "post from the past" about the waiting game we all experience in some way. Have a wonderful week!

How long does it really take to get published? Once a book is finished, an agent is found, and that elusive publishing contract is secured, what kind of time-frame can you expect? And how is the wait different for a self-published author?

In the current economy, it's tempting to look at big-name authors and think, "I could do that." If money is getting tight for the mortgage, or a lay-off is looming, it may seem like a quick way to make some cash.

For money emergencies, freelance writing may be the best bet. See Making Money from Your Writing, and 9 Ways to Make More From Your Writing. Novel and non-fiction writing is for those who have the patience to wait for years.

I didn't know the answers to the time-frame questions, so I checked them out. Here are some links to help give writers a realistic picture of the process.

For writers aiming for traditional publication:

Agent Steve Laube shared very specific answers--including when to expect those longed-for paychecks.

Agent Rachelle Gardner has not one, but two posts on the topic. How Long? and How Long Will It Take? are her most frequent questions.

For writers planning on self-publishing:

The Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN) lists a very detailed timeline. There are lists to complete while writing the book, when almost finished, when editing, all the way to after publication.

Self-publishing guru J. A. Konrath compares the timelines of traditional and self-publishing. And this recent post is quite interesting: the story of a writer in despair who took Konrath's advice. In a few days (with Konrath's endorsement), Kiana Davenport's ebook, House of Skin, went from #134,555 to #10. Wow.

How about you? Are you ready for the length of time publishing can take?

Will you miss Book Expo America? Here's the solution.

A plane ticket to New York City. Taxi and hotel costs. Meals and a ticket to the Javits Center. It really adds up.

But you don't have to worry. This year, you can sample the best of the writers showcased at Book Expo America without leaving home. And without spending a cent.

This year, for the first time, Publisher's Lunch has compiled an ebook that presents "over 30 meaty excerpts from books that will be featured at the convention and highly-touted fall releases of all kinds".

Want one? It's free. You'll find BEA Buzz Books on all ereader formats.

Here's a little more about what it contains:

Enjoy new work from Junot Díaz, Mark Helprin, Rhoda Janzen, Barbara Kingsolver, Dennis Lehane, J.R. Moehringer, Neil Young, and other well-known authors
Discover some of debut novelists the publishing world is already "buzzing" about, including Shani Boianjiu, Amanda Coplin, Peter Heller, Scott Hutchins, Kevin Powers, M.L. Stedman, and more.
Sample breakout books from experienced authors, and get a taste of what's coming from some of the biggest names in growing field of young adult fiction (including Libba Bray, Jessica Khoury, David Levithan, Sarah Maas, Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, Ned Vizzini, and others).
 Who knows? You might discover a new favorite author. And maybe someday, your name will be included.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt

Here's a book you'll probably want to buy. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt. I just did. Why? 

1. Because I read Michael Hyatt's blog. Formerly the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, Hyatt blogs about publishing, writing, social media, and leadership. His posts are practical, and I always learn something. He's got great content.

2. Because he's given away content before--and it's good content. Sure, he can make money on this book. But he's offered so much free content through his blog, with posts like How To Shave Ten Hours Off Your Workweek and his free ebook Creating a Life Plan.

3. Because he exemplifies how to build a great platform. Hyatt started blogging eight years ago. After four solid years, he managed 1000 unique visitors a month. In other words, he started out just like us. In the last four years, he's made some changes. Now he has over 300,000 unique visitors a month, and a huge presence on Twitter and Facebook. Wouldn't you like to hear how he does it?

4. Because he's giving incentives. To help get the word out about the book, Hyatt is employing some great marketing tactics. He's building a team of influencers for the book. And those readers who buy the book by the end of the day on May 25th will receive a huge batch of free videos, ebooks, and podcasts. Check out the list to see what you'll get.

Who inspires you with their marketing ability or their platform?

The Next Step: keep going, even if you hear 'no'.

I blogged about my pitch to an agent, and about hearing 'send it'. I blogged about actually hitting 'send'. So now it's time to blog about the response.

I only had to wait ten days for a response (though it could have taken two months). No, I didn't check my email constantly, mainly because I had company and a crazy schedule due to my daughter's impending graduation.

The answer was 'no', yet I feel like the query process was a complete success. Why?

First of all, I had the honor of pitching to Kristin Nelson. Need I say more?

Second, I was aware that out of 36,000 queries a year, she takes on one or two clients. Understanding reality is a big part of avoiding disappointment.

Third, I had a goal: to get feedback on my writing from an industry professional I greatly admire. And I got it! Kristin gave me her views on my idea, its saleability, and even made a suggestion that could bring more emotional impact to the first chapter. And she remembered how out of breath I was because I ran up seven flights of stairs when the elevator broke.

So what's next? I haven't yet submitted to other agents, so I'll digest Kristin's advice and make the changes I decide on. Then, I'll start submitting to several other agents who have asked for pages. It's time to really put my nose to the grindstone.

So, for me, my first query and response was a great experience. I realize that if I hadn't pitched in person and just sent my query to Kristin's slushpile, I might not have received a response at all, and definitely not a personalized response. That's one reason writing conferences are a great idea.

If you've been slogging through the query process for a while, you may be losing some of the excitement you had when you started. So here's a dose of encouragement from Missy Tippens at Seekerville: how to tackle fear that kills creativity. She offers a fantastic quote that just may remind you why you started writing in the first place. And if you're feeling really low, it may be time to quit writing so you can write.

How do you react when you hear 'no'? Have you heard it yet? Is it time to start accumulating some rejections?

Don't Miss Brenda Novak's Auction

Katie and Daniel, staying healthy despite diabetes.
If you haven't heard of Brenda Novak's annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes, you don't want to miss it this year. To raise money for research into a cure, Novak stages an online auction every year. Novak's son has diabetes.

Part of my interest comes from my own personal connection. My son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 17 months old (he's now 17). Six years later, my daughter was given the same diagnosis at age 11. Diabetes is a difficult disease to manage, and most of that management falls to the family.

The other great part about the auction, besides the benefit of aiding diabetes research is that Novak is an author. Many of the items up for bidding are of interest to writers and readers everywhere. Yes, you'll find jewelry and art, but you'll also discover books, ereaders, and best of all, opportunities to get your writing before agents and editors. Many bids start at only $2. The bidder who makes the most bids (regardless of whether they win anything) receives a brand new laptop.

Here are some items up for bid that caught my eye. Check out the auction site, where you can search for many others. The auction closes on May 31st, but there are some items that are only up for one day.

Enter a sweepstakes for a Kindle or Nook, plus a $250 gift card 

How about having coffee or tea with your favorite agent, editor, or author? Like Tea at the Plaza Hotel in NYC w/authors Eloisa James, Caridad Pineiro, & Ruth A. Casie (ends May 20th)

Choose to bid on one of 48 agent evaluations of your manuscript, from Donald Maass to Kristin Nelson to Holly Root. Kristin Nelson promises a 5-day turnaround and Skype phone call.

Similarly, choose from 50 editors willing to look at partial and full manuscripts. Find editors from Harlequin, Grand Central, Kensington, and more.

How about feedback from your favorite author? Browse through 72 authors willing to look at manuscripts from several chapters to fulls.

You'll also find bidding for conference fees and contests, and a list of 59 services like ebook and website design.

I recently bid (and won) an item at a writing conference auction, and I'll be deciding what to bid on in this one. What would entice you to bid in Novak's auction?

Quit Now, So You Can Write

This is a Facebook post from my friend Angela Giles Klocke. When I saw it this morning, I realized how many of us come to this point and are better for it.

Have you ever quit writing? Endured too many rejections? A disappointing contest result? Fell out of love with your manuscript? Maybe the ups and downs of life have sapped your fire to write, and it's difficult to write despite the unexpected. Or you're just tired of the race to finally, magically have something happen.

Maybe it's time to quit, like Angela did. Let the fire burn through all the hopes and aspirations, the queries and the questions, until the only thing left is the pure desire to write. Not the desire for publication, for readers, for a platform, but just that itch to dig through your bag hoping for a scrap of paper because there's something you must write NOW.

One of the comments under Angela's post recommended a book, The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron. Seems she recommends quitting writing in the first chapter.

Have you ever thrown in the proverbial writing towel? What happened when you did?

Researching Your Novel With Maps

Some of us write historical fiction, while others, like myself, write fantasy set in historical places. Still others write contemporary fiction, or stories set in the near future. No matter where your story is set (unless it's in a completely fabricated place, current or historical maps can mean a great deal in how well you describe the storyworld for your reader.

By strange circumstances, I decided to set my current novel in medieval Croatia--an unbelievably beautiful place that I must visit before I die. In order to learn more about the area in which I'm setting my story, I've used a few different tools.

Google Earth was my first stop. If you've never tried it, this software visually flies you around the world to the place you've selected. You can then zoom in fairly closely, depending on the satellite photos available for the area. Try your own address for a bird's-eye view of your neighborhood.

Google Maps will give you a map of the area you're researching. Click on the little man icon on the zoom bar, and you can place him on any street. If photos have been taken on street-level, you'll be able to "walk" along the street, looking around like any other pedestrian. This is a great tool to use if you have a novel set in say, San Francisco, but you don't have the money to actually visit.

For historical maps, I've discovered an excellent site, The David Rumsey Map Collection . Here, you can view over 21,000 historical maps from around the world. Due to the sophisticated scanning technology used, you can blow them up and drag them around to view them in great detail. The maps of your choice can be purchased, as well, but there is no charge for viewing these incredible documents.

Many universities and other organizations have online map collections. Here are a few I've found:

Though I'd love to travel to a hundred of these places, I'm content for now, to let my fingers do the clicking. Where do you want to travel for your novel's research?

Book Review: Let's Get Digital, by David Gaughran

Yesterday, while browsing Pixel of Ink, the website that keeps me up to date on free Kindle books, I saw Let's Get Digital, by David Gaughran. The subtitle intrigued me: How to self-publish and why you should. I started reading this morning, and decided others might benefit from Gaughran's information. If you've been studying self-publishing for awhile, some of the information may be old news to you, but other sections might be helpful.

In part one, Gaughran shares an overview of publishing. In these twelve chapters, he highlights why traditional publishing is changing, and how it benefits the independent author. Tagging on that, he answers the obvious questions about book piracy and the realities of actually making money on your own, along with addressing the myths of self-publishing.

Part two addresses the actual process of self-publishing. From editing, to cover design, to formatting, Gaughran covers it all. He includes advice on pricing, marketing, and social media, as well. Following his ten steps, you can get your book online for every available reader. He also links to a free guide to formatting your book.

The section I like best is part three. Here, Gaughran allows thirty-three self published authors share their own stories. Each one has seen varying degrees of success, and I really appreciate that Gaughran is not promising bestseller status to anyone who tries self-publishing. Whether published traditionally or not, there are no guarantees. But the stories are inspiring, and can give writers the nudge they need to persevere in whatever publishing path they've chosen.

Let's Get Digital is currently free on Kindle for a few days (normally $2.99), but the author is offering free copies to owners of other devices. It's worth a look. For more information from Gaughran on self publishing, check out his Let's Get Digital blog.

 I'm still on the fence about whether I'll try self-publishing, so I'm learning all I can about it. How about you?

Shelf Unbound: Free Magazine for Writers

Well, another snowy day at my mountain home. Yesterday it was in the 70s, and today we've got several inches of snow on the ground. Spring should resume again tomorrow.

It's been an amazingly busy week and a half. Three of my children have been in no less than six performances in that time, coupled with prom and visiting parents and in-laws. Not to mention preparing my agent submission in the middle of everything. So today, I'll keep my post short.

Today's resource is a free magazine for writers. Shelf Unbound is an electronic magazine with more than 100,000 readers in the US and abroad. I had never heard of it before I received an email last week. Here's what it said:

Why do successful writers
subscribe to Shelf Unbound?

It's free
It keeps you on top of the latest trends in writing from small press and independent authors.
It’s more than a magazine--it's a community of writers, readers, and editors enthusiastically championing self-published and small press books.
It’s a 2012 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Magazine.
Still need another reason? Well, we’ll let Shelf Unbound speak for itself--read the latest issue here.

Page through the sample magazine and let me know what you think. See you back here on Wednesday.
Here's the link to subscribe: ShelfUnbound

The Aftermath of 'Send It'

This isn't the first time I've heard 'send it'. But it's the first time I actually did send it (see here for why I didn't before). I've been thinking this week about how differently I looked at my manuscript once I knew who would be reading it. Suddenly, the pages I thought were just fine (having been critiqued and edited and re-edited), didn't look as ready as I'd thought.

Length. The agent asked for the first 30 pages. For my novel, that included the first four chapters. But I really wanted to include chapter five in the sample, since the end of that one precipitated something significant for my character. So I really examined each paragraph, identifying which ones carried their weight, and which sentences could be eliminated.

Tightness. Once I started rereading the pages, I realized there were many words that weren't completely necessary. I hunted for words like 'that', unnecessary phrases like 'I saw', and excess prepositional phrases. A couple of made-up examples:
Before: I saw the guards moving closer.
After: The guards moved closer.

Before: She thought that she ought to leave now.
After: She ought to leave now.

Paragraph squaring. I made up this word, but I learned the idea from fantasy author Carol Berg. It's a way to shorten the length of a manuscript (and Berg should know--her first drafts can be as long as 175,000 words!). Look at the tail end of a paragraph--the words that don't fill a whole line. Try to eliminate enough words somewhere in the paragraph to eliminate the 'tail'. When I first heard this idea, I was skeptical, but it really made me examine my words with a new eye, and I felt so good when I shortened the manuscript by another line. I'll be using this in the future, for sure.

Working hard for a week helped me get rid of over one thousand words, and I fit the extra chapter into my sample pages. Whew! It wasn't easy, and I read and reread those pages more times than I could count, but it was worth it. Now I'm applying the same techniques to the rest of my novel, hoping to bring the word count down.

How do you tighten your writing? Does submitting to an agent or editor make you look at it differently?

Book Review: Wish You Were Here, by Beth Vogt

There are people you learn a little from, and there are people you learn a lot from. For me, Beth Vogt is in the second category.

When I was just starting out in fiction writing a few years ago, Beth graciously volunteered her time to teach a handful of newbies how to critique one another. Month after month, she guided us, instructed us, and encouraged us, until we were ready to continue on our own. That group is still together.

During one of those sessions, Beth brought the first chapter of her novel, Wish You Were Here. I loved the story, and couldn't wait for her to get published so I could read the rest of the story.

That day finally arrived when I received the book in the mail a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I had to fight my husband over the book, since we were both reading it at the same time. Now my mom is visiting, and she's spending all her time with her nose in the book.

Wish You Were Here is an inspirational novel set in my neck of the woods--Colorado. It was really fun to read about places I've been (my town even makes it into the book!) and new places I'd like to explore. And it has llamas! Here's the back cover copy for the book:

Kissing the wrong guy days before her scheduled wedding leads Allison to become a runaway bride. But can it also lead to happily ever after? Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom.

Still, kissing the groom’s brother, Daniel, in an unguarded moment is decidedly not the right thing to do. How could she have made such a mistake? It seems Allison’s life is nothing but mistakes at this point. Daniel’s adventures—chronicled through a collection of postcards—have always appealed to Allison’s well-hidden desire for something more. But how can betraying her fiancé’s trust lead to a true happily ever after?
Can Allison find her way out of this mess? Recognizing she doesn’t have all the answers won’t be easy because she’s used to being in control. To find her way again, she will have to believe that God has a plan for her—one outside her carefully defined comfort zone—and find the strength to let Him lead.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Allison is a character readers can relate to. Her issues are not skin-deep, and I loved discovering her layers right along with her. Both her character arc and Daniel's are so realistic, and the dialogue keeps things moving along in a humorous way.

One of the things Beth does best is keeping the reader off balance with plot twists. Romances are usually so predictable. Not this one. My husband was so worried about how it would end, right up until the last chapter with its wholly satisfying ending.

I'm excited I'll get to go to Beth's book launch this Saturday. If you're in the area, you might want to swing by. And here's a fantastic review of the book by one of Beth's critique partners.


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