Friday, July 29, 2011

Okay, it's the last blog day of the month. So I want to encourage you to leave by blog and go do something else. Don't rush off yet, though! Click on the Charity of the Month link to your right. Don't like that charity? Pick one of my previous picks. But please go check out one of those charities and give give give!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Overextended?

I have a huge week this week. And I made it busier. I have to drive the company truck for a show that we have which means I may get overtime again. I'm querying every day, again. And I'm going to start revising another manuscript. Again. To top it off, I recommitted myself to reading and reviewing Heartless by Gail Carriger, and I agreed (volunteered) to beta-read Hanna C. Howard's WiP.

Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, it's because I need to get my backside in gear. I've slacked off on my writing lately. Sure, I lost some motivation, I got REALLY busy at my day job, and my wife has summers off (perk of being a teacher). This means that whatever free time I get is easily filled with stuff. Some of that stuff includes writing, but most of the time I'm too tired to even think. But no more excuses. I over-committed myself with the intent of getting something done.

I still want to join a critique group with the RMFW, but right now I'm going to wait until after the conference. That will give me until September to get a project or two completed so that I can then join/put together a critique group.

Who else over-commits to projects? Why? And do you get stressed? Do you get anything accomplished? How long does it last?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Individual Queries

I can certainly see why some authors might be tempted to send out cookie-cutter "Dear Agent" queries. I mean, how easy is it to find a list of emails, paste a simple letter into the text box, and then click send? Compared with all of the research and personalizing you have to do to follow individual agents' submission guidelines, option one can appear tempting. But it's not very exciting.

I love researching each agent to whom I submit my work. It's exciting to learn which authors they enjoy reading, who they work with, what projects excite them. This information is important to me. After all, if I write fantasy and sci-fi novels with a splash of mystery thrown in now and then, do I want to submit my work to someone who's only interested in historical romance? Of course not. I'd be wasting their time.

As I've said before, seeking out an agent is like looking for a business partner. You, the author, need to know that you can work with the person who represents your work. It's easier to find out in advance which agent is best suited to your needs by doing a little research. Then, make sure that the agent knows you sought them specifically. Today, for example, I spent an hour putting together a pitch for one agent. They use a detailed submission form on their website, and I didn't have everything compiled for them in their requested format. But I did my research and followed their directions.

Was it worth it? I think so! Because I take the time to research agents, I get genuinely excited about each agent I query. I mentioned a couple month ago that I read a blog post strongly recommending that authors refrain from discussing their query process on their blogs. That's because a few authors stated that they have a specific "dream agent" that wasn't the agent currently reading that post. That's not the case for me. I don't query an agent until after I'm sure that I want to work with them. Then I personalize my query to pique their interest. I'm not throwing spaghetti, here, I'm trying to craft a long-lasting business partnership.

So if you're a writer, do your research, personalize your query, and only send out one letter at a time. Not one per day, necessarily, but make sure that each letter you send works for that one agent, and only that agent.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm back on the field! After benching myself in April, I have finally returned to the world of submissions. Yesterday I sent out a brand new query, and I'm quite confident in it. I wanted to send one out today, but my body decided to try to make me sick. I fought back and slept in. I just can't afford to miss any work at my day job. Especially because August is going to be pretty slow. I don't really have time on my lunch break to put together another submission, either, or else I would continue the process right now. I just have too much going on today. But tomorrow I'll try to make time!

I don't have much else to say, I'm excited but tired. See you all on Monday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Sudden End

I spent a lot of time daydreaming about my future. Especially the part that involves promoting a published book. A big part of that dreamed-of future included appearances at Borders Books. Now that will never happen, which is kinda depressing. Not because of the book signings, but because I hate to see this company go away. I loved shopping at Borders, and I loved working there. I'll be sad to see it go.

But as I said a few months ago, this downturn in Borders' business is no surprise. They were very bad at business. For example, they would keep many MANY copies of a single book on the shelf, but it wasn't a new book, or a book in high demand, just a book that the buyers for the company were TOLD would sell. But it didn't sell. So we'd send the extra copies back to the publisher (we called it RPL), and then the NEXT DAY, we would get another dozen or more copies of the SAME BOOK. Yes, the book that wasn't selling.

I genuinely thought that by filing bankruptcy and closing so many stores, they would be able to save the company. I hoped that they'd learned their lesson and discovered a path toward a profitable future. Heck, they were selling e-readers when the only other option was Kindle. But I guess they started to try to same themselves too late in the game.

The landscape of book sales is changing. I hope to see brick-and-mortar stores for quite some time, but I imagine most of those shops will be mom-and-pop shops that focus on used book sales. Really, it's only a matter of time before e-books become the "standard" for the publishing world.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Making Progress

I think I finished my Query. I'll look it over again on my lunch break, and if I like it, I'll start re-writing my synopsis. I have the query up on the forums again, but I don't expect to hear back from any of them. It seems like the help only shows up on newish query letters or those that need LOTS of help. Not that that's a big deal: I'm still making progress!

I managed to get up close to on time, too. That makes me REALLY happy, and I'm excited for the day. It's going to be busy at work, but this is going to be a much easier week. This is encouraging because I get to return to my routine without feeling like I'm going to fall asleep in my cereal bowl.

So here's my question for you: what keeps you from working on your projects, and what are you doing to make time to work on them anyway?

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'm looking at ten hours of overtime for the week. That means I've been working until I can't think anymore. Have a great weekend. If you're going to be at the RMFW picnic, I'll see you there. Otherwise I'll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Random Update

You'd think this would get easier over time, but it turns out I'm only getting old. I have less energy now than at any time previously in my life. I have enough energy to work my day job and give my wife attention when I get home. And that last one isn't always consistent. Getting out of bed every morning is rough, but I'm going to try to get earlier again because I'm sick not making progress on my writing. It's annoying.

I'm ALMOST done with my query. I'm sure of it. I have one sentence that I'm unhappy with, and once that's taken care of I can send it out. While I'm querying – oh dang it: I just remembered I have to update my synopsis, too. Anyway, while I'm querying this book, I'm going to return to DEFENDER OF THE CROWN to get some more re-writes in. I want to polish that up still to see if I can get it into a publishable state.

That's about all I have for today. Please click on the link for the MC–LEF. A donation would be great! Have a wonderful Wednesday, I'll see you in two days :).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Long weekend

I'm sure a couple of you noticed that I didn't get a post up on Friday. I forgot because I was running around like a crazy person trying to get all of the clients at my day job taken care of. So Friday went well, I just didn't have ANY time.

Today's going to be pretty similar. In fact I have to leave in fifteen minutes, I haven't finished my breakfast, put together a lunch, or poured myself any coffee. But I needed to sit down and write up a post. I'll see if I can get some free time around lunch to write a real post, but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Looking for a new computer?

If you're an aspiring (unpublished, unrepresented) author, buy a PC. Why not a MAC? Because agents and editors (with very few exceptions) want your manuscript in .doc format. "But Pages exports to .doc," you say. "I can write in a Pages file and then just export to e-mail the file, right?" Wrong!

Pages is a great program. In my opinion, it's better than Microsoft Word and Open Office combined. And Microsoft Word for MAC? Probably the worst word processor in existence. Don't even bother with it. Ever. But I love Pages, and I write in Pages because I bought a MAC. To send my work to agents who request pages, I still need a PC. And here's why you should spend your money on a PC if you don't have an agent yet:

If you write in Pages, you need to export to a Word Document and transfer it over to your PC, load it into Word, and then format it for submission. Formatting the margins with proper headers, footers, and page numbers is quite easy in Pages, but the instant you export the file to .doc, it destroys your work. The margins shift, your headers get cut off, and sometimes you add or lose actual pages, changing the final page-count. That means you put together the work of formatting, then you send it out to an agent, only to look like a one of those people who can't follow directions. Sure, in the best case scenario it won't ruin your chance of gaining representation, but if you have ANYTHING going against you before they start reading, it could color an agent's opinion of your writing.

So if you need a new computer, buy a PC, format in Word before you write page one, and save yourself a great deal of time. Besides, PCs are cheaper.

Monday, July 04, 2011

God Bless America!

Today is the two-hundred-thirty-fifth anniversary of the day that our fore-fathers declared their independence from the British government. This country has made mistakes along the way, but as a whole, this is one of the greatest nations on earth.

I'm proud of this country. I'm speechless. I've tried to continue my train of thought into something coherent, but all I can come up with is "I'm proud of my country." Sure this country has made mistakes, and we're working toward rectifying many of those. We're not perfect, but this nation has done a lot of good around the world. I'm proud of those accomplishments. From the victory over the Nazis to the relief efforts in Haiti, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Bill of Rights. This day is a day to celebrate our freedom. From the freedom to practice whatever lifestyle you choose, to the freedom to speak out for and against our government.

This nation is divided about what direction we should head, but today let's celebrate what we have in common: this great nation that allows us to live our lives, give us liberty, and leave us to the pursuit of happiness.

God Bless America!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Charity of the Month: MC-LEF

It's July 1st, and that means it's time for a new charity. This month is the Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation, a group dedicated to providing scholarships to the children of fallen Marine Corpsmen and Federal Law Enforcement personnel. Since their inception in 1995 they've been able to award over $43 million in scholarships, and not only to children of Marines and Federal Law Enforcement. They've also contributed aid to families of Army heroes, children who lost someone in the Pentagon attack, and the kids of those who died on the space shuttle Colombia.

To find out more about this group, please click on their link. I believe it's important to help take care of the families of those who died to give us our freedom. And with Independence Day approaching, what better way to celebrate this great nation than to honor those sacrifices by looking after the families they left behind for our sake?

If you have a charity that you'd like to see supported on this blog, please let me know. Leave a comment, send me an e-mail, or shoot me a message on Twitter.

I'll be back here on Monday with a special Independence Day post! Have a great weekend.