Thursday, June 30, 2011
Over on Lisa Rivero's Everyday Intensity blog, I consider marketing guru and publishing pioneer Seth Godin's take on the length of brilliance, what that means to someone like me who has trained my ADHD brain (for 30 years!) to focus and what that means to writers in general. Stick around on Lisa's blog - she never fails to deliver something to chew on.
Also, for you nonfiction writers ready to craft your nonfiction book proposals, check out my latest column for Pitch University about how to hook an agent with a clean and thorough Markets section. If you haven't had an opportunity to thoroughly check out Pitch U, I encourage you to find the time - a fantastic free resource for writers.
Happy Summer, all!
Monday, June 27, 2011
We're wrapping up our month on Confidence in a writer's life this week and I've been thinking about the source of confidence all month - we all would like a little more of it at those critical times when it's most needed, yes? Confidence is our gut's way of telling us, "you got it in the bag, my friend!" But so often, when our gut isn't telling us that, we look for positive reinforcement from others - and this is natural. However, there is a difference between a superficial confidence that comes from a few pats on the back than Confidence (with a capital C!) that springs from a solid and continuing education about the process and craft to which you have dedicated yourself.
Author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is here to share with you 5 rock-solid Confidence gaining tips to instill confidence in your writing career. No. You know, tips is too light a word - consider this list your 5 MUST-DOs to building a strong writing foundation. Read and heed.
WNT: It wasn’t until my fifth manuscript that I finally got an agent and a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. For years my hobbies seemed to be honing my craft and getting rejected. Here are some things I learned along the way that kept my confidence up in the face of rejection and allowed me to eventually reach my goals as a novelist.
1 ~ Have Your Manuscript Critiqued – One of my first steps was to join a critique group—a tremendous help. But eventually I needed the fresh eyes of a professional who could read my entire manuscript and tell me not only its strengths, but its weaknesses and what I could do to fix them. I sought advice from published novelists who offered manuscript consulting, but you can also look to professional developmental editors.
2 ~ Network With, but Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Writers – I put together a group of women writers I met online who lived nearby. We gathered together not to read each other’s work, but to discuss the business of writing and our latest struggles in trying to get published and beyond. At first it was difficult because most everyone had an agent except me. But instead of comparing myself to them and feeling sorry for myself I tried to learn everything I could from them. Realize that every writer’s path is different and you’ll feel better about your own journey.
3 ~ Attend Juried Writer’s Conferences – There are tons of writer’s conferences out there and they all have their purposes. But to gain more confidence try applying to one where you must be accepted on the basis of your writing. I applied to the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, but didn’t get in on the first try. But it gave my confidence a real boost when I was finally accepted. It was such a great experience that I returned the following year.
4 ~ Further Your Education – My first stab at creative writing was a short story writing class at a community college. The assignment was to write three stories in a semester. It sounded daunting but I felt accomplished to actually pull that off. I continued taking classes from university extension programs and private author workshops and then finally made the leap to an MFA in writing program. By then I’d been through hundreds of rejections for my novels. I knew that getting an MFA wouldn’t guarantee that I’d get published, but it was a thrill to be able to concentrate on my writing for two years. And, coincidentally, it was right after I started the program that I got my agent and my publishing contract.
5 ~ Write Another Book – You’ve written one book so now you know that you can do it. So why not write another? Putting a book on the back burner after rejection doesn’t mean you’re giving up on it or that you’ve failed. Move forward, build your confidence and write that next book!
About the Contributor:
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, “Love in Translation” and “Midori by Moonlight,” both published by St. Martin’s Press, and the non-fiction e-book, “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband.” Her novel, “No Kidding,” won the Literary/Mainstream Fiction category in Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards in 2002. She is also the author of two children's non-fiction books, and has had short stories published in various literary journals. Wendy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches writing classes for Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and University of San Francisco. She also offers private manuscript consultation services. Visit her at: http://www.WendyTokunaga.com
Monday, June 20, 2011
11. Don't ever think it's a wise idea to have your parent, spouse, partner or business partner contact your agent to negotiate ANYTHING. Unless they are your writing partner and their name will also appear on the agency agreement, it's best to negotiate your own terms. Even so, if there are more than one writers on your book, there should be one person assigned to communicate with the agent. If you feel you need a third party to negotiate on your behalf, hire an attorney who understands intellectual property and/or entertainment law. Does this happen? Unfortunately and surprisingly, yes. And it makes the writer look completely unprofessional. Having your parent negotiate the terms of your agency contract is allowable if you're under 18.
10. Do your research on agents you feel would be right for your book and approach only them to start. It's been said over and over again. And I'll say it again until people figure out I haven't been agenting for several years...but again, thanks for thinking of me!
9. Don't sign with a bad agent. No agent is ALWAYS better than a bad one. The best agents are listed on AAR.
8. Don't approach agents with a badly self-published book that has not been professionally edited (or at least proofread by someone terribly well-read other than yourself), has not had a cover professionally designed and has not experienced at least modestly successful sales in less than 6 months time.
7. Do continue to build your platform by freelancing, submitting to literary journals, guest blogging, etc. This is still the best way to build your platform and lure an agent.
6. Don't expect your book to be your platform if you have yet to build your expertise as an "expert" or "advocate." Agents won't be interested. Publishers will definitely not be interested.
5. Do value your talent and your time and find an agent who does, too!
4. Don't sign with an agent who insists on an iron-clad agency agreement longer than a year. You can always re-negotiate after a year provided both parties are still in love. Also, ethical agents don't charge for reading, editing and critiquing services - all part of the job.
3. Do write the book you want to write and expect your agent to provide feeback to help direct you. Don't confuse this with writing the book your agent wants you to write.
2. Don't turn toward your agent for validating hand-holding when you need a confidence boost. She has work to do and clients to serve. Sure, agents care for you, they provide you valuable professional perspective, but it's not their job to validate your place in the literary landscape. They liked your work and they liked you...why else would they enter into a professional relationship with you?
1. Do plan a budget for your book PR efforts. You'll need money to buy your own promotional materials, web design, ad space, supplementary PR by an independent book publicist (highly recommended), scores of copies of your books to give away and to cover your travel expenses. Plan on $5000 on the very low end; $10,000 is more like it to get you started. Of course, more is better, but don't let those numbers scare you.
Knowing what to expect with your author/agent relationship is the best way to instill confidence in your writer's life. If you have Agent Dos and Don'ts to share, let's hear them!
Have a fruitful week, writers!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Rebuild: 7 Ways to Pick Yourself Up After a Painful Rejection - a blogshop with author Terri Giuliano Long
Rejection takes it's toll on a writer's confidence. Author, instructor and blogger Terri Giuliano Long is here to share her best tips on how to cope after hearing those dreaded words..."No thanks, this isn't for me."
Let’s face it: rejection stings. A tactful “no, thank you” from an agent or editor makes us feel like a jilted lover, hurt and alone. The dreaded form letter rejection reduces us to nameless obscurity, and can destroy a sensitive writer’s teetering confidence.
If we’re to move forward again, we need to figure out how to heal our bruised ego. Here are seven constructive ways to rebuild confidence after a painful rejection.
Indulge. Like a virus, rejection damages the psyche. Take a 24-hour breather, and doctor yourself. Treat yourself to a bar of rich dark chocolate or a glass of white wine. If you prefer physical release, scream, cry, swear, punch a bag, go out for a run. Go ahead and write that cathartic letter. Give the agent or editor a piece of your mind; cite, in bold letters, the idiocy of rejecting your work – then hit delete or throw the letter away. Don’t ever hit send.
Take 24 hours. When the time is up, however you feel, go back to your desk.
Remember: decisions are often related to taste or circumstance. We tend to think of rejection as an objective assessment of the quality of our work. Sometimes that’s true - and sometimes decisions are purely subjective. Maybe the agent dislikes your genre or prefers a different writing style; perhaps the editor recently bought a piece similar to yours. Unless you’re one of the lucky few to receive an explanation, you’ll never know why your work was rejected. If you believe in the piece, let the rejection go and move on.
Separate yourself. The work was rejected, not you. You are an individual, separate from the work you do. Sure, rejection feels personal, but it’s not. Agents and editors dislike pieces for any number of reasons. Unless you’ve violated a rule or sent sloppy work, the rejection is not a reflection on you.
Remind yourself of previous successes. Do what athletes do: learn from your mistakes and move on; focus on what you’ve done well. Draw up a list of successes; keep it handy and pull it out whenever you need an adrenaline lift.
Maintain a supportive network. Writing is a lonely profession, and that loneliness wears on us. Supportive friends can buoy our spirits, pull us out of the depths. Share your everyday life with a friend, lover or spouse. Share writing woes with a trusted writer friend, who understands the nuances of the business and can offer advice, and be sure to return the favor graciously.
Circulate. A friend offered this advice, and it’s among the best I’ve received: as soon as a rejection arrives, reprint and send the piece out again. Never rely on a single work to make you or let one unsold piece break you. Work on multiple pieces; if you always have something in the mail, you’ll have hope.
Reframe. Rather than focus on hurt feelings and negativity, think of rejection as a call to action. Use it to motivate yourself to improve. Read the rejected piece closely or ask a trusted friend to assess it for you: what are its strengths and weaknesses? Figure out where you need to improve and then do it. Work on becoming the best you can be. Learn, practice - and reach for the stars.
TLC: All great tips, Terri! I especially love the idea of Circulate....don't rest on your laurels and conversely, don't allow a rejection to sideline you. The only way to sell your product is to continually put it on the shelf!
About the Contributor:
Terri Giuliano Long is the author of In Leah's Wake. She teaches writing at Boston College and hosts a blog that educates and inspires writers. Terri received her MFA at Emerson.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
William Wolfe's Writing Den
Monday, June 6, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
My Dad says I have the weirdest eyes he’s ever seen. (He’s an optometrist.) I have one eye that’s near-sighted and one that’s far-sighted, so Dad tells me that as I get older, I can just depend on the right for reading and the left for distance, like when I’m driving. It’s a good system, really, except for that wide visual middle-ground of slight imperfection. It’s the subtlest of softening in my focus, a ten-percent smoothing effect at most, but it’s been raising questions in me lately.
I have a pair of glasses, but I only tend to wear them if I’m on a long writing day at the computer. These marathon days usually take place at my favorite café, where the fluorescent bathroom lighting is beyond scary. So I’m in the restroom one day, washing my hands, looking at myself in this disturbing combo of unusually accurate vision and terrible lighting. And I find myself wondering: Is this the real me? Is this the way I really look? Whoa. What about those times when I was perfectly bare-mineraled and gently lit and I glimpsed myself in a mirror, reflected smoothly in the middle of my soft eye-focal-space? I looked damn good those times! Was that not real?