Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Is How You Do It: Lumiere

Lumiere by Jacqueline Garlick

There is a heck of a lot in the news these days about self publishing.  Heck, I've written a blog post or two about it myself.  If there's one thing I've learned about the industry it's that the Field of Dreams "If you build it, they will come"…., well, that doesn't really work in reality and especially self pub. 

Nick Morgan of Forbes noted last year that "there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe.  Many of those - perhaps as many as half or even more - are self-published.  On average, they sell less than 250 copies each. Your book won't stand out.  Hilary Clinton's will.  Yours won't."

Wow, that's a bit depressing isn't it?  Well, for those of us that are okay with sending our novels out into the ether and waiting for things to "happen", it probably is.  But for others like author Jacqueline Garlick, well, she's not going to sit there and twiddle her thumbs, she's going to make things move.

Which brings me to the amazingness of what this author/entrepreneur has created for her readers.  To celebrate the launch of her steam punk novel Lumiere, Garlick offered special limited editions to her first one hundred fans.  I just received mine today and well, I'll let the photos speak for themselves. 

Girl holding up package
A package in the mail!

Special Edition copy of Lumiere and Collector Pieces
Everything you need to start your steam punk adventure.
Eyelet's favourite candy and tea!
Letter from Jacqueline Garlick
Special note from Lumiere's Urlick & Eyelet
Clue piece
A clue to a secret letter.  Check out to
find out the answer!

Contest Coupon
A cool contest for the lucky 100

Limited edition artwork
Original artwork by Jacqueline Garlick and
conceptual art piece by Tanner Fife

The coolest piece - a prototype of Urlick's latest invention -
a pickle stabber!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Writer's Resource: #MSWL, Agent and Editor Wish List

If you're writing a novel or nonfiction book and hoping to get it traditionally published, there's a good chance you'll be submitting it to agents and/or publishers. It's important to be selective when putting together your list; sending a query for a YA sci-fi novel to an agent who only represents adult literary fiction, for example, only wastes their time and yours.
Today, we have the advantage of agency and publisher websites that often give an idea of what they're seeking. There are also sites that compile this type of information such as Literary Rambles. But wouldn't it be great to get even more current and specific information about what agents and editors wish they were seeing in their slush piles?
Agent and Editor wish list

Enter the Agent and Editor Wish List.

An active Twitter user had the bright idea of a manuscript wish list for agents and editors. Using the hashtag #MSWL, agents and editors can tweet a short description of the manuscripts they wish they were seeing. Searching this hashtag on Twitter will bring up months of these tweets (and a few other people trying to capitalize on the popularity of the hashtag--as with anything on Twitter, make sure to check the source of the tweet).

Not a Twitter user? Or maybe sorting through all those tweets seems too overwhelming? Don't worry. Some extremely helpful person started the Agent and Editor Wish List Tumblr to collect these tweets in a user-friendly, searchable format. You can click on the keywords in any post to bring up all of those entries. For example, you can search for YA, urban fantasy, or romance.

Make sure to check out the Tumblr's excellent FAQ page before sending a query to any of the agents or editors you find.

Happy querying!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Great New Query Resource: Critiki Lounge

Looking to shiney up your query?  Check out the Critiki Lounge, a great new query resource created by two writers who were inspired after hosting the 2013 Like a Virgin pitch contest.

How it works:
Every month the site hosts several volunteer writers (aka the Lounge Lizards) that have successfully made it out of the trenches. Accepted genres change based on the Lounge Lizard's area of expertise.  If you have a query that fits within that months genre requirements (and you're unagented and follow the guidelines)  make a reservation and your query could be that weeks pick for the Scorpion Bowl (aka the featured query).

Fun, eh?  There are a lot of useful resources out there to help writers work through their queries, but I love that this site connects unagented writers with agented and pubbed writers that have successfully mastered the art of the dreaded query.

Regardless of whether or not your query gets critiqued that month, the past Scorpion Bowls posts are available for viewing so you can peruse the feedback and offer up comments of your own.

The Critiki Lounge is currently open to February submissions (with a Valentines Day inspired theme).  And if you're a YA Paranormal Romance writer, yours truly will be offering up her services on the 21st. ;-)

Happy writing!

Monday, January 20, 2014

19 Days Down and Trending

We're almost three weeks into the New Year and I've already broken all of my resolutions. Mind you, I didn't take a solid oath or anything, so I don't feel too bad (at least I'm still going to yoga). It's just…well, time flies by way too fast!

Just as time seems to flash before our eyes, so do trends and I've seen a lot of predictions for 2014! So I thought I'd list a few of them here.  Perhaps, we'll revisit them at year's end and see how many exploded and how many fizzled before the snow melted. 


There was a time when every query letter contained a promise of a trilogy. That time has long passed.  Publishers want stand alone books that pop!  They aren't willing to invest in a project that they may be hand tied to - especially if the first book isn't a star.  This year, we're seeing the end to many successful trilogies.  Jessica Lind compiled a list of the top eight including Veronica Rossi's Into the Still Blue, Tahereh Mafi's Ignite Me, and Michelle Hodkin's The Retribution of Mara Dyer

There are a few trilogies entering the stage in 2014 including the much lauded These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner but time will tell whether these projects live up to the hype or become part of the minority. 

Contemporary Realism

You can't tame the literary train that is John Green.  His books have touch readers in a way that many cannot.  It feels real and gritty and mature which is probably why so many teens can relate to them even if they aren't dealing with tough decisions like a terminal disease in their own lives.  Be prepared to see more of this in 2014, although if we're honest, it's not like contemporary realism just popped out of nowhere, it's been around since writers began writing (it's just been overshadowed in recent years by wizards, vampires and anything not of this world). 


I have to admit, I love a good thriller and it seems a lot of people feel the same way.  While some agents are not as hell bent on it, others are more positive.  Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management notes in Publisher's Weekly "Everyone is looking for a YA Gone Girl."  Thrillers can be combined with contemporary to kill two trends with one stone.  As Michael Bourret of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management notes thrillers "can be the kind of book people are looking for when they say they want contemporary fiction."  I think I can get on this bandwagon. 

YA or MG? 

Finally, we can talk about all the trends within YA but what if YA is dead? James Dawson of James Dawson Books notes "The 'word on the street' is that YA authors are taking aim at a younger market and that publishers are looking for 'New Narnias'….say what!?!  

So does that mean we should all throw out our YA projects, kick those fantasy ideas to the wayside?  At the end of the day, I think most of us need to take all trends with a grain of salt.  A good book is a good book no matter what the label.  So I say, write what you love and what you're passionate about.  If you feel excited about your projects, others will feel your excitement as well and that in turn will make them turn the page.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How Much Does an Author Really Make?

Unfortunately her post was removed after it went viral because it included proprietary contract information. I won't share the numbers she posted for that reason, but I will share the broader message and open it up for discussion: don't write just for the money.

 Here are a few things to take into consideration when doing the math and planning for your writing future.

1) You have to pay back your advance before you start receiving royalties.

An advance is NOT a bonus.  It is exactly as the name states: an advance on future earnings. Many authors will not sell past their advances, meaning they will never receive royalties for their books.  And for those who do sell past their advances, it can be a long time before they start to see those royalties hit their bank because it takes time for books to gain momentum.  Net: what you receive upfront may be the only money you see for a while, or ever.

2) Advances are becoming smaller and rarer.

Publisher's Marketplace announces advances using the following terminology:

"nice deal" = $1 - $49,000
"very nice deal" = $50,000 - $99,000
"good deal" = $100,000 - $250, 000
"Significant deal" = $251,000 - $499,000
"Major deal" = $500,000 and up

Skim through the announcements, and you'll see that most debut authors fall into the "nice deal" range.  But you'll notice that some don't have anything next to them, because the author didn't receive an advance.  And if you do some Googling, you'll start to see that $4,000 - $15,000 is a realistic range for a debut author signing with a larger house.  For smaller houses, advances are typically smaller, if they exist at all.

Yes, some authors get nice sums of money up front when a publishing house wants to make a bet that a book will be a big hit (especially if they're bidding against other houses).  But most of the large deals are not tied to debut authors.  And there seems to be a consistent message from the publishing industry as a whole that the industry is moving away from them, at least to some degree.

3)  Royalties rates range, but don't expect a high take home percentage.

This is where things get sticky and proprietary to publishers, so truth be told I'm intentionally not posting the figures.  If you quickly Google, you can get a decent sense of the averages.

Royalty percentages vary depending on whether your book is sold in print, ebook, or hardback.  You will earn a smaller percent on physical book forms because the publisher is absorbing higher costs (and thus higher risks).  Ebooks, therefore, typically pay higher royalty rates, although note that because something like a hardcover book has a higher retail price tag, your absolute earning per book may be similar because the percent is taken from a larger base.

In short, only a small portion of each book sale will go into your pocket.  This means you need to sell a lot of books to really start raking in the dough.  And in an increasingly fragmented market, selling a million books is no easy feat.

4)  Don't forget that agents share 15%.

Agents work hard to get you a great deal, and their average reward is 15% of your advance and all subsequent royalties. Most people would argue they earn it in spades by getting you that great deal, but it's an important piece of the earning puzzle that should be accounted for - whatever you bring in automatically gets a 15% haircut if you're repped.

5) So how much does a "successful" author make?

According to my research, an average mid-list author will make an income in the mid-five digits ($50,000-65,000). But it will take time to get there, because success doesn't happen overnight.  And the reality is that many of us won't actually get to that place (see point #1.)

There are other factors that can influence your overall earning potential as well, like your proliferation as an author.  If you're releasing a book a year and are reasonably successful, then your earning potential increases. If  you release a new book every two years, you'll likely see the number go down.

Yes, some authors rake in the money.  They get huge advances, sell millions of books, and close movie deals.  But they are the exceptions, not the rule.  I'd go so far as to say they represent < 1% of the writing community. It's a fact that we all should recognize when making choices about our writing careers.

So maybe I won't quit my day job anytime soon, but I still consider myself a success.

I started writing because I had a story to tell.  Whether or not I sell a million books or a hundred books shouldn't cloud my view of accomplishment. I said I'd write a novel, and I did.  I said I wanted a publishing deal, and I got one. I said I wanted to see my book in print, and it will hit store shelves next January.  For those reasons, I'm calling my writing journey  a success, and I will do my best to keep that in focus regardless of the size of my royalty checks. I'll also keep writing because it's something I love to do.

And here's the honest thing:  even though I've done the math, am very aware of the financial realities and consider myself a pragmatic person, there is still a little part of me that thinks I could possibly maybe someday be one of the exceptions.  It's the same part of me that buys the occasional lottery ticket, won't walk under a ladder, and eats black eyed peas on New Years Day.

Because there's always a chance.

Happy writing, and may you all sell a million books!

Monday, January 13, 2014

YA Book Pick: Wild Cards

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's Book Pick is WILD CARDS, by Simone Elkeles.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

First Line:. "Getting caught wasn’t part of the plan." Intriguing, but not wholly original proving that a very first line doesn't necessarily have to be overwrought with too many fresh images, or deep truth. Sometimes it's nice to start with a bit of simple intrigue and build to the rest. The book begins from Derek's viewpoint, and it makes sense chronologically as the inciting incident (getting kicked out of boarding school and forced to move to Ashtyn's) occurs on Derek's end.

Highlights: A strong female protagonist who is taking on football culture in Texas in a way that doesn't feel forced or single-note. It's a fun and sexy read that moves deftly between vivid detail, authentic dialogue, and truthful interiority while pushing forward a plot that shows teen girls how to get what they want by putting their nose to the grindstone and working hard for it.
A Good Read For: This is definitely an older YA bridging into NA. The protagonists are high school upperclassmen and it's a sexy read. I'd recommend it for readers who are comfortable with sexuality in YA and like the idea of a Friday Night Lights romance where both the guy and girl falling in love play football.

On a side note...One of our loyal readers has a new MG (we don't cover) out on Yay Karen Clayton. Here's a link to check out her fun story about a team of brothers on an amazing race through National Parks to save the world...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Importance of Details in Your Writing

I hope everyone out there in blogland had a great holiday season (or a great December, if that's more your thing)!

I've been thinking a lot about worldbuilding recently. My husband and I are working through one of our favorite TV shows, Stargate SG-1, and we both keep commenting on how rich the world of the show seems.
Since my husband is a writer too, we inevitably started to analyze exactly what it was the writers were doing to make the show so interesting. We eventually broke it down to one main point.


This show is absolutely crammed with details. Because it's sci-fi, the protagonists are going to other planets and encountering other races and cultures. The writers sprinkle in little differences between those societies and our own (which may be as simple as an oddly shaped drinking glass, or a quick hand gesture when greeting a friend).

When I think over recent books I really enjoyed, I realize that they are all rich in detail. This doesn't just apply to sci-fi, either. I just finished a Regency romance that I couldn't put down, mostly because it included tidbits of everyday life during the time period, things I'd never read in other books. Part of the reason contemporary novels like Eleanor and Park resonate with readers is because the author includes the details of the characters' lives--the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, the way they react to things around them.
One great thing about including lots of details is that the technique helps avoid the dreaded infodump.
This happens when writers try to give a load of backstory very quickly and can be very off-putting for readers. Sprinkling details into your narrative is a much better way to hint at the differences between our world and the world of the story. 

For example, instead of coming out and saying there was a great war between our hero's nation and the neighboring one, why not have a character looking at someone's war medal? Or maybe show the wreckage of a building that was destroyed by enemy troops?

Of course, anything can be overdone. For an interesting discussion of what happens when you overdo it on the details, check out this blog post by author Kate Elliot on the blog: The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Villain of the Month: Blue Monday!!!

From Dostoevsky's oppressively hot St. Petersburg in Crime and Punishment to Shakespeare's stormy Scotland in Macbeth, great writers have often heightened the tension in a work by understanding the way weather/seasons affect the characters. If we consider villainous weather and seasons, then today is officially the most villainous day of the year. It even has its own name...Blue Monday. Sounds like a great YA novel title to me. SO if you're feeling a little glum today, remember the power setting has on you; your characters feel the weight of their settings at least as much. 

To read more about Blue Monday, read this