Saturday, August 25, 2007

PANEL: Debut Writers

Panel Discussion: Debut Writers - Roxanne Rustand, J. S. Hawley, Michelle Larks, Jill Nelson, Margo Candela, Carmen Leal, LaConnie Taylor-Jones,

What to expect when you get the call?

What happens after the book hits the shelf?

What you wished you knew before becoming published?

Panel Members, please introduce yourself and tell us what it feels like to be a debut writer.

Attendees, please leave a question in the comment section.


LaShaunda said...

I will ask the first question.

What did it feel like to finally see your book at the bookstore?

Stormi said...

How hard was it to find a agent or publishing company to take on your first book?

LaConnie said...


My name is LaConnie Taylor-Jones and my debut novel, When I'm With You will hit the book shelves November 6th.

Excited, overwhelmed, and scared are the best words to describe my emotions when I received my galleys.

I contacted 68 agents and was rejected by every last one of them!! Finally in November 2005, I got a kick-butt attitude and sent my manuscript directly to 6 publishers. A year later, I sold.

Regan's World said...

Hi Laconnie! It's Regan from SFA-RWA -- thank you for posting that -- it gets pretty depressing when over and over you hear "you're a good writer, you're wrong for my company."

For you and the other debut authors, did you have an already published author read your book and write a recommendation? If so, did it help?

And if an agent is reading this, how much value do you put on a published author's recommendation


Regan Taylor

Anonymous said...

I also want to know, what's the pressure like to perform for book #2? Is it worse than book #1?


LaConnie said...

Hello, Reagn, my friend!!

Yes, a published author did serve as a mentor to me, but she didn't write a recommendation for my debut novel.

However, for my second release in April 2008, I will have that stamp of approval. Personally, I believe it goes a long way!!

Shoba said...

Hi Laconnie,

My name is Shoba Mano. Can you tell me in which stores your books are available? I understand it is very difficult for authors to get bookstores to sell their books even if they have an independent publisher. And does your publisher help you out with getting your books into the stores or do you have to arrange it yourself?

Thank you.

LaConnie said...

Hi Malvina:

Actually, I wrote book #2 right after I finished book #1 and submitted the first three chapters three months after my publisher requested the complete for book #1.

So for me, there wasn't a lot of pressure.

Now I'm working on book #3, which will be finished by the end of the year. I'm also in the initial stages of boooks #4 & 5.

LaConnie said...

Hi Shoba:

My book will be distributed in Mass Market format. It's available for pre-order now on, Barnes & and (BAM). Also, it will hit book shelves November 6th in locations such as WalMart or Target, in addition to bookstores.

As a new author, my experience with bookstores has been to build a relationship with them BEFORE the book is released and convince them to stock it.

Remember, the space in booksores is a premium and they would prefer to stock books for well-known authors that they know will move out the door quickly verses a new author with absolutely no sales history or fan base.

Despite what my publisher does in terms of getting my books into booksores, I've got to hustle and get the word out to the world, too!!!

Therefore, I encourage new authors to develop a marketing plan to include: book clubs, on-line reading groups, on-line advertising and any other venue that enables your target market to know you've got something they WANT to read!!

RoxanneRustand said...

I've been trying to post here, and have not seen my comments show up. So if I end up with duplicates, please forgive me!!

It has been awhile since I first received "The Call," but I thought I would join in this discussion to add my long view of things, and also to address the fact that one can be a debut author at various times in their career!

I started writing in 1993. I started writing because I loved it, and enjoyed my critique friends very much. I never imagined that I could be good enough to ever actually sell a book. Then one day, after joining Romance Writers of America, I learned about contests, and thought entering one might give me an idea of whether or not I was even in the ballpark with all of other aspiring writers out there. I was sure that I wasn't even close to being on that playing field, but wanted to know if there was any hope, or if my writing was just a foolish endeavor.

I now know how foolish that thinking was! And I wonder if there are other fledgling writers who could be as naïve as I was. If any of you have entered contests, you've learned that a given manuscript can be scored high in one contest and not in another. Contest judges--like editors--have personal taste. Most judges tried their hardest to be fair, honest, and careful. Most spend countless hours writing comments and trying to be helpful. But, some can be harsh, or biased, or simply not be very skilled. Some can be highly critical.

Given that--I often wonder if there are wonderfully talented new voices that are silenced forever by contest feedback. People who simply wanted to find a glimmer of hope and validation by entering a contest, but then became disheartened. I was lucky, because after all, contest success does involve a small measure of luck in who one happens to have for judges. My first manuscript finaled in the Golden Heart and then won... which was so shocking that I really couldn't believe it, and for months afterwards, I expected someone to call and say that the scoring was a clerical error. That was an encouraging start...but I would have probably assumed that there was no hope if I'd gotten low scores! So, if you are just starting out, I'd like to say this: DO enter contests. Learn from what your judges say, and use it to improve your work. But don't let a few judges take away your dreams!

I veered a little bit off the topic of being a debut author because I wanted to make a point. I remember those five years of writing before making a first sale. I imagined that life would totally change if I could only sell. I imagined that making it to the top of that lofty, impassable peak would mean that the rest of my life as a writer would be downhill all the way. I had no idea of what to expect... and had no idea of just how invaluable entering contests and belonging to a critique group had been.

When an editor buys your book, you think "she loves this story!" And, you're right. But that doesn't mean your story is ready to publish. It depends on the publisher and the editor of course, but while that editor DOES love the story that you polished and tweaked and revised and polished even more, she's going to work hard with you to make it better, and that can be a surprising and painful process.

A friend sold a book to a major single title house, and after going through three major revisions, a tough line edit and copy edit, she said that she wondered if there were more than ten words in the final version that had been in the first one that sold! With my first sale, I went through a major revision that involved dropping a chapter, cutting a number of scenes, adding a new ending and different scenes... and after all of that, it needed yet another revision! And then there were the line edits, and copy edits....

And this is where experience with difficult contest feedback or demanding critique partners becomes truly valuable. A writer who thinks that her words are golden and who doesn't want to bend will go nowhere in this business! And remember all of those contest deadlines? Perfect training for needing to be absolutely prompt and dependable for an editor. She has deadlines too, for when a manuscript must reach the various editorial and production stages, and an author who makes her life difficult with missed deadlines probably shouldn't expect a long career!

And about that mountain peak... yes, there's an incredible feeling of joy and validation when you get your first Call. It's the realization of your hopes and dreams and the endless hours you put into this goal. For some people it's the combination of many, many years of trying. But beyond that one mountain peak, there will be others. There can be a dry spell before a second sale. Your beloved editor may have a baby, move to a different publisher, or start editing for a different line within the house. Lines and publishers can fold. The ideas for your second and third books may not work well enough to sell.

But just as you held onto your dreams before your first sale, you need to be ready to work hard and to continue to hold onto your dreams. Those story ideas that didn't sell? Keep them. Maybe they will sell later on to your editor, maybe someday you can market them to a different publisher altogether.

I've sold fifteen books to Harlequin Superromance. The fifteenth will be out in mid--September as Lone Star Legacy, and you might think that it was just another easy sale. But right before that, I had three rejections on some books for a trilogy... so even multi-published authors do receive rejections! And as I look back on my career, everything happened for good reason and led to something even better. I love Lone Star Legacy, and I'm really happy I got to do that book.

And that trilogy that was rejected? I heavily revised it, and sold it to Steeple Hill's Love Inspired Suspense (Hard Evidence, December, 2007; Vendetta, February 2008; Wildfire, March 2008.) I am so thrilled to be writing for that line! The stories were far more suited for that one, not Super, and I just hadn't seen it. And this sale wouldn't have happened if not for those rejections at Super.

And this is where the term "debut author" comes into play again.....even after selling all of those Supers and one book to Everlasting Love (which will be out next August.) Changing from one line to another, or switching genres, can be like starting all over again, with some of the same challenges-- including re-establishing one's name with readers. I hope that my old readers will follow me. But I also know that I'll need to work at building a new readership as well. To that end, I am planning on a variety of promotion efforts. Even though my first Love Inspired Suspense won't be out until December, I'm already working on building a new base of readers. You can see an example of this effort at my new page at .

I've probably rambled on way too long here, and had better yield the floor to others!

For those of you who long to be "debut authors" and wonder if it can ever happen, I'd like to leave you with some good advice. I had quotes posted above my computer before I sold, and I looked at them every day. I no longer have them in written form, and can't give proper credit, but here they are.

Never give up. If you do, success might have been waiting for you just around the next corner.

Dream big. Dreams do come true--but they don't land like fairy dust on your shoulders. You have to be willing to work harder than you'd ever worked before, and you have to be open to criticism, suggestions, and willingness to change.

God doesn't give the desire, without also giving the ability.

Best wishes to you all,

Roxanne Rustand

RhondaN said...

Thank you so much Roxanne for what I'm sure will be invaluable words of wisdom for me. I have a novel currently under review with a publisher and I'm anxiously waiting. However, I have started a marketing plan, because of advice from others like you who have shared that selling is only the beginning. I'm a Christian fiction writer and reader. I'll look for your book in December. You've gained a new fan.

RoxanneRustand said...

>>And if an agent is reading this, how much value do you put on a published author's recommendation

Not an agent, here, but from what I've seen: a strong endorsement from a client might help ensure a faster read. But I doubt that recommendation would impact an agent's opinion once the project was in his/her hands.

Finding a good agent is extremely difficult. And by the way, you all probably know this, but NEVER go with an agent who charges reading fees. Make sure he/she is a member of AAR. And it's a very fishy situation if someone approaches you and offers to represent you!

Roxanne Rustand

Anonymous said...

Hello All,

Margo Candela here. I have two novels out this year. UNDERNEATH IT ALL, my debut novel was published in January and my second, LIFE OVER EASY, will be out in a few weeks this September.

I had both manuscripts written when I sold so I didn't feel the pressure to follow up until this summer when I sold my next two books on proposal. My third manuscript is due in about a week and for the first time I knew the final title before I'd finished the book, MORE THAN THIS.

Having sold on proposal and with a completed manuscript, I have to admit I prefer to have the whole thing written. Even though selling on proposal is a goal most writers dream about, now I know better!


Vicki M. Taylor said...

Awesome panel.

I'm interested in the type of promotion and marketing you're doing for your novels. And, if you've seen any results yet that can show you where you've made good choices or poor choices with your marketing dollars.

What kinds of promotion techniques do you suggest? What has or hasn't worked for you?


Anonymous said...


Margo here again. (My initial response seems to have drifted off into the ether.)

Marketing and promoting your book once it comes out as well as building buzz for it before its released is a job unto itself. Personally, I don't think I'm very good at it compared to some writers I know who are comfortable working all the angles.

The best investment of my time, effort and money has been in having my website professionally designed and reaching out to magazine and newspaper editors, as well as blogs and websites (like sormag!).


LaConnie said...

Hi Vicki:

I ditto Margo's sentiments relative to marketing and promotion!!

Also, we oftentimes overlook the best venue and the one that's free - personal contacts. In most cases, you've already shared with them the fact that you're working on a book. Now share with them that you've sold.

Word of mouth referrals are awesome!!

Karen Duvall said...

Margo said:
Having sold on proposal and with a completed manuscript, I have to admit I prefer to have the whole thing written. Even though selling on proposal is a goal most writers dream about, now I know better!

Margo, why do you prefer to have written the whole book first? I'd love to sell based on a proposal. I've only sold one book this way, and it was a novella I was specifically asked to write for my publisher. But selling on proposal seems the best. I'd really like to know your views on this. Thanks!

Karen Duvall

Anonymous said...

Margo again.

Back to Ladystorm's question on which was harder to land, an agent or publisher. I'd have to go with agent only because after I got one it was my agent who had to deal with submitting to editors.

Agents are inundated with so many queries from writers, that to get the attention of one is quite an accomplishment, even if it's them giving you a personalized rejection. That's why you have to craft your pitch and query as well as your manuscript. Sometimes an email, letter or 30 second introduction at a conference is all you're going to get.


Anonymous said...


It's the time pressure, I suppose. With my other manuscripts I had the a while (a long while!) to let my idea sit and visit it again once I was done. With my third, MORE THAN THIS, I've had to turn it around from phone call to due date in a few months.

I felt more prepared the first time since the books were essentially done and it made the editing process a whole lot easier. The writing process is very messy for me even though the concept of my idea doesn't change much. I've learned I need to do a few drafts and leave time between tackling them to be able to appreciate the story.

That being said, my agent will be submitting a young adult novel on a partial and proposal after Labor Day. Sigh.


Rudelle Thomas said...

Upon submitting your query or manuscript, how long should you wait to follow up or resubmit if you don't hear back from them (if it is not specified in their guidelines)?

Rudelle Thomas
Divine Eloquence Magazine

Deatri King-Bey said...

I just wanted to congratulate all of the debut authors. I'm glad none of you gave up your dream of being published and I'll check out your novels.


RoxanneRustand said...

Hi again...regarding the question on marketing and promotion,

Here's my two cents! Marketing and promotion can take a huge percentage of your writing income, and a huge chunk out of your writing time. Is it worth it? Is it even necessary?

If you write for category, the benefits aren't that easy to assess. Category books--Harlequin and Silhouette--are sent out in sets to bookstores, discount stores and grocery stores, etc, all over the country. There is tremendous distribution coast-to-coast, and into foreign markets, but since the books are sent out in sets, there there may be just two or four or nine of your books at a given store. Once they're gone, they're gone...unless the reader knows that she can go to or Amazon to buy them.

Spending a lot of money on promoting one of these books will perhaps help with your sales numbers, improving your sell-through and ranking within your line for the month. But as someone once said-- was it Debbie Macomber?-- category books have the shelf life of bananas in the store. So for a category writer, as I have been thus far, I figure that promoting my books is good, but promoting ME is even better. I want people to not just to think about an individual book title, but to be watching for my name and all of my future books as well.

To that end, I've done a lot of ads in Romantic Times, the RWA Romance Writers Report, and Romance Sells over the years. I've sent tens of thousands of bookmarks out to readers groups and bookstores across the country. When I have a new book coming out, I'll search on the Internet Yellow Pages for bookstores in that state, and send out letters and bookmarks to many of them. And, I've done a lot of other freebies--more permanent items with my name and "brand" and website on them, that I send to writers and readers conferences, and to bookstores. I've tried to build name recognition via an increasing number of visual impressions of my name. When I do those freebies, I don't put a specific book title on them, because that would quickly date the content. And, I avoid doing anything that will be quickly used as discarded. Something like a tea bag, with a label on it, or a small pad of sticky notes, or a candy bar with promotion info on it, will be gone way too fast!

Does any of this help? Ultimately, it just isn't possible to definitively assess sales versus promotion efforts, at least for my category releases. Even when I've spend most of my advance on promotion, it's a tiny effort compared to the vast pool of potential readers across the country... and any conclusions really wouldn't reflect what could happen with a true blitz done by a publisher. No author can really afford to match what a company can do!

And so many other factors come into play when one looks at sales numbers: the other books that were out that month, how comparatively attractive their titles, covers and authors were, the season, the economy, current news stories that might be reflected in your cover art work and how attractive and intriguing your title is, the back cover blurb, your own growing readership... the list is endless. I just figure I want to do anything I can to promote my books...and then hope that it helps.

A side note to all of this--my very best selling Super came out the same week as 9/11...which still surprises me. You just never know.

And about what I've said above? This is from a category perspective only. The world is single title is totally different, and someone else would need to address that!

Again, just my two cents...and hoping this doesn't post in triplicate, because I've had some trouble figuring out how to make this to work!

Roxanne Rustand

Anonymous said...

Michelle Larks here, is anyone there?

LaConnie said...

Hi Michelle:

We're here!!

RoxanneRustand said...


Several people have been posting this morning. I'm not sure when this discussion is over.


Anonymous said...

Hi and Thanks Roxanne,

Are there still people posting here? I'm trying to catch up and only see you and myself.


Anonymous said...

Okay cool, I see a few more people.

My name is Michelle Larks and I've self-published four books, I have a book coming out on October 30th with Urban Christian Books titled Keeping Misery Company, and needless to say I'm very excited.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to respond to some of the questions posted. The agent or the publisher for one. I actually landed the contract first and then the agent. I too was rejected by too many agents to count. A friend of mind sent me an email saying Urban Books was starting a new Christian fiction imprint, I send a manuscript and the rest as they say was history. I queried one more agent and was accepted.

La-Tessa said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. They are very helpful and encouraging.

I am ready for the conference!!

Anonymous said...


Margo here on your question on how long to wait before you inquire about a query.

When I was looking for an agent I'd send out queries in batches but admit, I'd only follow up with the agents I was really interested in after a few weeks or so, three to four. I found that agents who accept email queries have a much faster turn around time, even if it's just letting you know they've received your query.

After my first agent left to become an editor, I got much quicker and positive responses to my queries even though I had nothing published under the first. When I had requests from these agents, I followed up at a couple of weeks because I had more requests for the manuscript. It's also when I had to deal with exclusives, agents who asked me not to send out my manuscript to anyone else for a period of time. My max was two weeks because I wasn't willing to take my manuscript out of circulation for too long.

I used a color coded spread sheet to keep track of all my queries and it was easy to see who I need to follow up with and who I should cross out.


The Paperback Diva said...

Thanks to all the authors on the panel. Romanne, I have to tell you your comments on promotiona nd marketing were most helpful to me. I still struggle with this after 3 sales.

Rudelle Thomas said...


Thanks, that is really helpful!

Rudelle Thomas
Divine Eloquence Magazine

LaConnie said...

Hi Rudelle:

Commenting on your question about follow-up.

I'm still waiting to hear back from a publisher on the manuscript I finally sold. That was two years ago!! For some, it could take upwards of six months.

As for agents, I found the repsonse time to be much quicker. Usually 3-4 weeks for a snail mail query. For those agents who accept e-mail queries, the response time is within days.

I'd say review the publishers and agents you've submitted to and determine if they are the best fit for you. If so, a follow-up within ninety days is not a bad idea. Sometimes, things fall through the cracks.

Don't feel you're being pushy, either. The worst thing that can happen is that they don't respond.

Anonymous said...

Good morning all you wonderful writers. I am in Hawaii so I'm always lagging behind everyone since I am six hours behind the East coast.

I write non-fiction and from the posts I've read there are more fiction writers here. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, articles, or books, the thing to remember is that writing is hard work. It's also not rocket science. There are lots and lots of rules that go with our profession. Cover and query letters, formatting, SASEs, all sorts of things. So my first suggestion is to learn the rules of the game. You can learn them from books, from, other writers, conferences, online.

I have taught at dozens of conferences and I'd say that most people get rejected for two reasons; they don't follow the rules and their writing is not relevant to what the agent or publisher think their readers are interested in reading. So, bottom line no matter what you are writing is to make it relevant and follow the rules.

I will post several smaller posts here just in case they get lost in cyberspace. Feel free to ask questions directly. I tried to post last night but it is evidentially lost in cyberspace.

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

My first and most financially successful book was actually self-published. My husband had a rare neurological disease called Huntington's. There were no books written about the people dealing with this disease so I decided to write a book. I knew absolutely nothing about writing or publishing. I just knew we were all desperate.

I believe that God prepares each of us for the jobs he wants us to do. I had owned a marketing firm for ten years before David's diagnosis and so marketing the book didn't scare me in the least. To me it was just another product. I think as authors we see our books as our babies. And, to some degree that's true, but to me it was no different that marketing a retail store or a conference.

I write non-fiction so that's somewhat different that fiction, but no matter what you write you have to realize you are creating a product that will answer a question, solve a product, or fill a need. The first step to success in finding an agent, selling a manuscript or getting someone to spend hard earned cash is to do one or all of the above. In my case that was easier. Families dealing with Huntington's are looking for answers to one specific problem; How can I survive this nightmare? In Faces of Huntington's they got to read how sixty families were surviving. Of course they wanted it! So while they average royalty book sells less than 5,000 copies I sold 6,000 of my first book. Not bad for a first book. The cool thing is that I earned about $12.00 per book versus the dollar or so I get on my royalty books. Huge difference.

So, my suggestion to all authors is to determine what is the problem, the question, or the solution your book has to offer. That is the key to writing something relevant and to selling your book. Yes, even fiction.

Carmen Leal

Jill said...

Hi. Jill Elizabeth Nelson chiming in here, too. So many excellent questions! But let me introduce myself quickly first.

I write romantic suspense for Waterbrook/Multnomah. The series is called To Catch a Thief, and each book features a musuem security expert and an FBI agent on the trail of ruthless art and antiquities thieves. Reluctant Burglar and Reluctant Runaway are already out. Reluctant Smuggler is due out in January. I spent all day yesterday and some of today on copy edits, which are due in a few days.

I have manuscripts in other genres than romantic suspense, but the rs series was my first sale. My agent urges that at this point in my career, I "brand" myself as a romantic suspense author, so we're shopping new proposals now that the TCAT series is nearly finished (for now--I'd like to revisit these characters at a later date, publisher willing)

Now I'll go to another post to start addressing questions.

Jill said...

I like what Roxanne said about marketing yourself rather than a particular book. That's what I meant by my comment on "brand" above. Publishers have discovered that authors build their best followings when readers know what to expect from them.

Any book by me will have adventure, pathos, humor, and romance. That's the "flavor" of fiction I write, and why romantic suspense is a good fit for me.

Take a good, strong look at what flavor flows from you when you write. You are inevitably going to find that even across genres, you have a certain style or "voice." If you can identify it, you can work your "brand" into the market study portion of your proposal and have a serious leg up in the eyes of both agents and editors.

For example, multi-published, award-winning author Angela Hunt writes in more than one genre and even publishes books that are difficult to pigeon-hole, but she has a single consistent flavor, which is encapsulated in her "brand"--Expect the Unexpected!

The best way to get to know yourself as a writer is to write. A lot. The better you know yourself as a writer, the better you will present yourself to agents and editors.

And as far as getting one of the above, I believe an earlier comment hit the nail on the head--personal contact. Now, this does not have to be face to face, though that's excellent when you can get it.

Usually, the face-to-face opportunities are found at writers conferences. I can't recommend enough to new writers to attend conferences. I met both my first agent and my current editor at writers conferences.

However, conferences cost money. In comparison, joining on-line writers groups that have agents and editors as members is either relatively cheap or free. I belong to American Christian Fiction Writers and pay annual dues, but got my feet wet in a critique group and got to know my first agent before she was my agent in that group. I also belong to Christian Writers Group International, a free group. They gave me a full scholarship to attend my first writers conference in 2002 where, as I said above, I met both the person who later became my first agent (yes, I also knew her on-line) and the person who is now my editor.

It's so very true in this business as in any other that who you know is a key factor to producing success. In the case of this discussion, success would be that first book sale. Yes, your writing has to be up to snuff, but you are going to get looked at more quickly and more favorably by folks you know.

Okay, I've preached enough for the moment. Have I confused anyone? I'm open to questions. I'll be hanging around on-line for the next few hours.

LaShaunda said...

First I want to thank all the panel members who have posted. Thank you for showing up.

The best part about the conference is you can do other things and catch up later.

I went to church this morning with four post at the conference and I come back with over a 100 posts.


Thank you so much for all your sharing. I've learned a lot and the best part, I can come back and re-read. Now you can't do that at a regular conference.

Again thank you for your posts. This day is open until 10pm, so feel free to make comments.

Anonymous said...

Back from church and I have a couple of hours before I leave for Ensemble rehearsal. What a great way to have a conference.

How did I feel when I first saw my book on the shelf? Amazing.

Since my first book was self-published I had to do ALL the marketing. No matter whether you are self or royalty published you will personally have to do most of any marketing that is done, but in my case I had to do it all. This is where cheerleaders come in. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have friends and family and others know about and love you and your book.

I was speaking at a Huntington's disease conference in TN. Unbeknownst to me the organizer contacted a large independent store and had them order my books because there was a conference in town. Otherwise I doubt it would have happened.

On the way home from the first day of speaking she said she needed to pop into the store for something and would I mind.
I walked in and there was a table. On the table was a stack of MY books and MY photo! Now, the photo was only slightly better than a driver's license photo, but it was still me and next to all those lovely books. I was so excited. She had set up a book signing for the following day and was going to announce it at the meeting.

Amazingly I did an impromptu signing that day and sold 12 and then the following day did the real one and sold all the rest. What an amazing charge.

I've since had other book sightings around the country but none as exciting. I will never forget my friend for doing that I always make it a point to go to libraries and book stores and ask that they carry books authored by my friends.

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

Someone asked: How hard was it to find an agent or publishing company to take on your first book?

I was incredibly blessed when it came time to finding my first publisher. I had self-published 2 books and they both had strong numbers for the type of genre and audience. I also had published articles with some name publications. In other words, I already had established myself as being a hard worker with willingness to market my work.

I realized that many authors didn't know much about the Internet and I pitched a book idea to WaterBrook since they published Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Market Guide. Based on a solid book proposal and a strong web presence I was offered a contract. I had not pitched it to anyone else nor did I have an agent.

The company sent my book to writer's conference directors and agents and I was invited to speak at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference where I met an agent who had just read and loved my book. She offered to represent me.

I realize that not everyone has these doors opened for him or her. But what I didn't show you was my back-story. It had been three years of full time work writing and speaking and developing relationships. I did reams of research and paid lots of dues.

Everyone has a different path to success. But everyone needs to write the best book proposal of their lives and work their tush off if they want to break into the market.

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

Roxanne Asked: And if an agent is reading this, how much value do you put on a published author's recommendation.

I am not an agent but I do believe an established author's stamp of approval does make a huge difference. That said, you don't really go out and ask people to help you. I have referred maybe 10 authors to my agent and she has signed just about all of them. Why? Well, they were all non-fiction books which is what I write. She knows I go to a lot of conferences and meet a lot of writers. She also knows that I have a good mind for marketing and that when I refer her to someone it's usually an idea that pops, a writers with personality plus willing to work hard to market, wrapped in excellent writing. I believe you need all of the above.

I also know that there is no way you can out give God. So as you are mentoring others, going to critique groups, answer questions on writing loops, and in many ways supporting others, God will bring people into your life to help you.

I think blurbs and reviews I've written have help at the publisher stage, but again, it has to be something for which I am known. As the author of books on caregiving I might be a good one to ask to comment on a caregiver, health focused, or grief book. A book on parenting toddlers? Maybe not so much. So match your work with the right author.

Carmen Leal

Jill said...

Good comments, Carmen.

As to the agent question, when my first agent stopped agenting, I was without an agent for all of about three days. Why? Because I had been steadily developing personal ties within the writing community. A dear crit bud recommended me to her agent who is with a highly reputable agency in the Christian publishing world, and voila!, I was once again agented.

So, yes, an existing client's recommendation can open awesome doors. That wasn't the only factor in her decision to represent me, but it was a big one.

So how does one form these contacts, you ask? Writers groups (on and off line), conferences, and crit groups. Steadily, steadily, here a little, there a little. And whatever you do, be sincere in your desire to learn, to grow, and to help others do the same. Character is gold, just as much as talent!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm joining so late but a family emergency with travel plans and household upheaval altered my participation, but here I am.
I was so thrilled to be invited by SorMag to participate in this event that I started researching and doing preparation immediately. I am indeed a debut writing in every true sense of the definition. Although I have been writing and giving speeches as well as pursuing a Bachelor’s in English Arts I have never actually attempted to publish anything. However when I finally wrote a cohesive novel I was in the right place at the right time and was sought out.
Come With Me is about an African-American woman raised to work and make her own way. She faces the dilemma of being black and female in the white male dominated upper business echelon. Jesse Bishop is all at once hit with dating a wonderfully, trophy man with no substance, having her business infiltrated by a new ‘white’ partner and having life incidents chink her tough armor.
She lands in the beautiful wilds of North Carolina and she is ready to deal with the love of the native Cherokee chief Michael ‘Majestic’ Cloud Walker. Readers love him and have dubbed him Cloud although Jesse is still at odds with knowing herself and understanding love magic happens.

---What did it feel like to finally see your book at the bookstore?---

I wish someone had warned me that it was a waiting game. You wait to hear back about submissions then (I was blessed it was a short wait) you wait to hear back from a specific editor and then you wait for the publisher and then wait for the actual contract. You wait for your advance check and then wait for copy edits and then wait for advance copies and wait for the actual book to be on the shelf. (Sometimes a month after your release.) Truth be told others told me my book was on the shelves I've only seen it when I'm doing signings. But my publisher is mass market, amazon, etc. and it seems to be all over including Walmart, Barnes & Noble, CVS, gas stations, military bases, airports. Shoot my book is like giveaways from my publisher but it has gotten me noteriety. That's how people started reaching out to me for signings and appearances. As for me the thrill is in forgetting I'm a published writer as I'm going about my 'regular' life and then mentioning it in passing and the reaction I get. And I do career days, author chats, free community events, my own contests, workshops, panels, discussions and booksignings. Right now it's all local because I'm between nannies but soon I hope to travel. I have shown up at events with my own books and been allowed to sell and sign.

---How hard was it to find a agent or publishing company to take on your first book?---

I was lucky my editor, who became my friend who was initially a friend of a friend was also my mentor after signing me. She also prodded a couple of agents to take interest in me until one did.

---I also want to know, what's the pressure like to perform for book #2? Is it worse than book #1?

I think one was harder for me only because I didn't know anything and was at their beck and call this time I'm familiar with procedures, deadlines, and personalities to help the process. Book two was in six months from conception. Four is twenty chapters in, five is three in, six is almost done, and I have about seven more in development with three chapters, outlines and synopsis. My preference is to have the completed manuscript. I don't always do deadlines well and have to lie and set up my deadline three months in advance of the real date.

Anonymous said...

I have some questions I think is important to ask and down the road I'll chime in with responses. I have to run to rehearsal now.

1. How important is it to write articles when you know you want to write books?

2. Should novelists also write articles? Why?

3. What, if any, benefits to your long term writing career are articles?

Carmen Leal

Anonymous said...

Carmen, I'll (Margo) chime in on writing for other markets. I haven't gone out of my way to try to freelance again, but wouldn't turn down work if it came my way.

What I do know, from writing for magazines and websites before I turned to fiction, is that editors will pick up the phone and pitch a story to a writer they trust. They want to work with someone reliable and who can deliver the piece they want. It's all a matter of building relationships.

I sometimes contribute first person essays here and there and its a nice break to write something just for fun. And it keeps your skills sharp. My editor would love if I could get something in Glamour Magazine. Maybe someday.


Jill said...

One thing you can do to get your name out there consistently, besides write articles for periodicals, is hook up with a popular blog site as a regular blogger. Saturdays I blog for the Christian authors network marketing blog.

Not only do I get to share marketing tips on a site that gets a lot of traffic, I raise my on-line visibility to the various search engines. BTW, that's a marketing tip in itself.

For those of you debut authors who are interested in a wealth of marketing information, check out this blog. Published authors share their experiences every day but Sunday.


RoxanneRustand said...

I think Jill's idea about blogs is great. I'd love to get started with one somewhere, because having a group means less stress on just one person trying to keep up, and would draw more people, too. Great idea. I've been to her site, and it's marvelous!

Roxanne Rustand

Jill said...

Thank you most sincerely, Roxanne!

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