Category Archives: Queries

Results of Survey

Welcome to my first post in our awesome new home!

PJ here. I hope you’ll find the updated digs engaging, user friendly, and informative. I, and each of my Scribe sisters will continue providing you with twice weekly blog posts, rotating through on Mondays and Thursdays so that each of us will be with you only once a month. The good news is that posts will be left active for the three days in between so more folks will have time to pop in, visit, and leave comments.

So, I’ll be back here Thursday, March 6th with my next post. By then, I’m sure I’ll have something super exciting to share with you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss anything.

Now, for the results of our survey, based on 25 responses:

1)      Do you think blogging is a useful endeavor for authors?

58% said yes, 12% said no, and 30% said maybe.

2)      How many blogs do you currently subscribe to?

52% said (0-5), 24% said (5-10), and 24% said (10 or more)

3)      What types of blogs do you follow?

68% said Writers blogs (tips on industry info), 12% said Readers blogs (from your favorite authors), and 20% chose “other” with responses indicating personal hobbies ie: photography, travel, mommy sites, and such.

4)      What do you like to see on a blog or website?

40% chose an Active site with daily blogs from different authors, only 12% liked the idea of a static site, while 44% preferred an Active site with contests, reviews, and guest bloggers. 36% chose “other’, responding with comments suggesting that 2-3 time per week blogs were plenty. Also noted was that the respondents would like to continue seeing insider industry information, marketing tips, as well as book reviews, entertainment, interactive conversation, and guest bloggers blogging on writing related topics.

5)      What would make you subscribe to a blog?

52% chose “Industry Insider info on self-publishing”, 36% would subscribe to “writing craft blogs”, and another 56% of respondents also chose “A variety of interesting, entertaining, and informative posts.” 12% who said “other” said all of the above and one commented that if they were to follow an individual author they would sign up for their newsletter.

6)      Which of the following would most likely make you unsubscribe to a blog?

Almost 46% said “too frequent posts”. 12.5% said too infrequent posts, while 25% said “inconsistent/unfocused content”.  17% sited ranting, offensive, or boring posts as reasons to unsubscribe, along with posts that are too long, inaccurate, rude, or irrelevant.

And lastly,

7)      What would you like to see at the Secrets of 7 Scribes in the coming year?

We heard everything from “no interviews” to “more interviews”, the “writer’s journey” to “more about how to get published”. Requests were made for posts on “what agents are looking for” and “sneak peeks into the writing process and related topics about each author’s journey.” “Theme weeks/months” were suggested (LOVE that one!), and a few votes for and against holding contests were noted.

I don’t need to tell you that polls like these can be terribly skewed, depending on the questions, how they are worded and the pool of respondents. As such, there was nothing scientific about the survey and most people who responded were probably writers, given that’s the readership we’ve attracted over the years. Taking these factors into consideration,  our results aren’t too surprising, but I enjoyed reading the comments and we have lots of food for thought!

anorexic top 10-4I’ll end by giving a big thanks to all who responded. We heard you, and hopefully you’ll stick with us and see what we have in store for you. We appreciate each and every one of you who engage with us here at the Secrets of 7 Scribes on a regular basis. We hope you’ll continue to do so.

In the meantime, the randomly chosen winner of the critique of a query letter, synopsis, or first chapter was Julie Glover. Congrats Julie!

What do you think of our survey results? Agree, disagree, wondering how you’ll live without our daily posts? As always, we’d love to have you comment and pitch in your two cents.

A Key Publishing Ingredient by Connie Mann

Writers talk a lot about all the different stars and planets that have to align to get a bookAngel Falls author Connie Mann published: the right project—well written–to the right agent and the right publisher at the right time—all wrapped up in God’s perfect timeline. All those things are absolutely true.

But there is one more element that is equally important, sometimes the one ingredient that can make all the difference: the right editor. I am blessed to have one of those.

Back in 2004, I thought my time as a writer had finally “arrived.” I’d written lots of articles, accumulated an impressive stack of rejection letters, and had finally sold both a non-fiction parenting book and Angel Falls, a novel. We were in the midst of final edits when things went awry.

The publisher changed their editorial direction and requested significant changes to Angel Falls. So Ramona Richards–the company’s freelance editor I’d been working with–and I went to work. When the publisher asked for still more changes, we made more. Finally, I realized if I kept going, I’d have to rip the heart and soul out of the story. It wouldn’t be the same story at all. I talked it over with Ramona and my agent and with a heavy heart, I said no. The deal was nixed.

To say I was discouraged would be like calling a hurricane a drizzle. I cried. Couldn’t write. I finally realized I had to get out of my house before I lost what little was left of my mind. I became a boat captain-and love it! I’ve found I need that balance between outside around people and inside my writing cave to keep me happy and creative.

Since I’m a writer at heart, the stories eventually pulled me back. I wrote Trapped and sold it to a small press. But Angel Falls was still the book of my heart.

Several years ago, I heard that Ramona had taken a job with Abingdon Press. I figured it was a long shot that she’d remember Angel Falls—do you KNOW how many stories an editor reads every year? But I mailed it to her anyway.

Ramona hadn’t forgotten. One day she emailed me to see if Angel Falls was still available. That SAME day, the manuscript arrived on her desk. Talk about God’s timing!

Angel Falls by Connie MannAnother 1 ½ years went by as she championed the story with Abingdon. Then came the email that began, “I know you thought this day would never come…” Fast forward another year, and Angel Falls is now available! I couldn’t be more grateful or excited.

My best advice? Go to conferences. Get to know the editors. That way, when your right project meets up with the right editor and God’s perfect timing, you’ll be ready.

Thank you, God. And thanks, Ramona, from the bottom of my heart.

And thank you, Connie, for sharing this amazing story about the journey of Angel Falls. I’m so excited for you, and this is a great story of perseverance for writers who wonder if “the call” will ever come. Find the editor/agent who loves your book and they will champion it for you.

Thanks being with us today, Connie!

Readers, Connie Mann loves stories of suspense, adventure and second chances. She offers encouragement to busy women on her blog:  www.BusyWomenBigDreams.com and is an active member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. She’s also a USCG-licensed boat captain, so when she’s not writing, she’s usually on Central Florida’s waterways with local school children or her fabulous family. Please visit her online at: www.conniemann.com. And don’t forget to check out her new book Angel Falls at:

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Falls-Connie-Mann/dp/1426756860/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361369788&sr=8-1&keywords=angel+falls+by+connie+mann

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/angel-falls-connie-mann/1112792558?ean=9781426756863

Christian Book:

http://www.christianbook.com/angel-falls-connie-neumann/9781426756863/pd/756863?item_code=WW&netp_id=1028634&event=ESRCG&view=details

 

 

 

The Unlocked Secret of the Niche Market.

So what is Niche Marketing? Wickepedia says, “A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing.” Really, Wickie? Who wrote that? Is that the best you’ve got? Of course they go on to explain further with words like demographics, market shares, and some other marketing terms and examples that didn’t do much to help me figure out how to define where my books might land on the book shelves.

The first question a professional marketer asks is, “Who is your target audience?” Truly understanding this question is probably the number one best marketing tool a writer can have. We’d all like to say, “everyone, of course.” And while that may be sort of true that many different demographics might enjoy your book, it’s more likely and infinitely easier to reach a smaller group of readers specifically interested in your genre, subject matter, and characters. Think “low lying fruit.”

Targeting “your” readers may be easier if your book falls into a specific genre. If you’ve written a cozy mystery about a librarian who is a quilter turned amateur sleuth, you might consider marketing your book to librarians and quilters, a pretty small “niche” market that might be easier than trying to reach “everyone.” This is why agents and editors want to know what “genre” you are writing. So they can determine the marketability of your book based on their experience with that particular readership and their understanding of where the market is currently trending. Women 30-55 years old are the greatest book-buying demographic that marketers are competing for. Publishing houses are trying to meet that supply. So sending a query for your “Sci-fi/ Historical, Inspirational/ Regency might be a tough sell.

The problem for many authors is that our stories don’t always fall into one genre. Diana Gabaldon had difficulty getting OUTLANDER published at first because she couldn’t clearly define it as a romance, a historical, a science fiction/fantasy, or a time travel novel. Of course it’s all of those, but it was so fabulously written that some smarty-pants publisher decided that they would take a chance and market the book to readers across multiple genres, essentially including “everyone,” and the series took off.

It worked out well for her, but most of us aren’t so lucky. In most cases, if your book falls outside of a specific proven market, agents and editors don’t want to touch it. Most of my rejection letters a few years back were because my manuscripts didn’t “fit the market.”

Now that I’m self-publishing, I see their dilemma. When I put my books up on Amazon, BN, and Smashwords, I have to pick categories that best describe them so that they are listed where my target audience would find them (good old search engine optimization-SEO). The frustrating part is that the choices are limited to the old model of publishing and haven’t caught up with new trends. “Teen/YA fiction” refers to books with protagonists ages 14-17 and are a subcategory of “children’s fiction”. But the books coming out these days for teens are arguably for a much more mature audience, and the demographic isn’t so clear-cut. Ideally, they should be much more delineated. There should be choices that would target older teens and adults who enjoy reading about that all-important transition from teen life to adult experiences. I had no idea when I chose my categories that some sites would lump my books into “Children’s fiction” because I labeled it a YA. They aren’t likely to find a readership there!

So what’s a writer to do? Well, you can choose to write for a particular market, ie; cozy mystery, romantic suspense, thriller, or romantic comedy. This is a very viable approach and is the most likely road to becoming traditionally published if you do your research and watch what’s selling and who’s selling it, and target your agent/editor query appropriately. But if you consistently find your stories falling into “genre no-man’s land,” you can join the new age of genre-bending authors who have literally created new markets by taking risks and writing what they want to write, self-publishing, and then finding their readers by focusing on certain niche markets and using that SEO to their advantage.

Whether traditional or indie-published, when it comes time to market your books and find your readership, look at who your target audience really is. Be creative and look at it from all angles and try different approaches. If you aren’t reaching readers by promoting the book to one segment of the population, try another. My book ON THIN ICE could be marketed to ice skaters, teens who become pregnant, sufferers of eating disorders, or teens experiencing the grief of losing a parent. Over time, I can market this book to several different niche markets, keeping it relevant as long as I can keep reaching new readers and targeting new niche audiences who might not otherwise have found the book. That’s why SEO is so important. And why creating whole new genres may be the best way for your target audience to find you.

Heaven is for Heroes 72 dpi 600x900 WEBSITE USEFor instance, I’ve been promoting HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES as a “Contemporary YA Romance.” But the story deals with the tragedies of war, overcoming loss, and the determination of one seventeen year old girl to find the truth—pretty mature themes that 14-17 year-old readers wouldn’t necessarily be looking to read about. Because of the protagonist’s age, the book falls into the YA market, but our hero is a nineteen-year-old Marine Veteran struggling with a difficult recovery, which changes the demographic for this story. Because the focus of the book is a tenuous teen romance with the underlying plot of a family’s search for peace in time of war, HIFH will appeal to adult readers as well as older young adults, but listed as a YA, it may never reach those adults who might enjoy the book.

The hero’s age and the subject matter make it fit more appropriately into the New Adult genre—a relatively new niche market targeting 19-23 year-old readers previously forced to read “teen” novels or jump right into “adult” romances. This segment of readers wants more than the typical high school experience, but they may not be ready for the white-picket-fence-via-total-abandonment-to-love-and-sex that rules the adult romance world. They are looking for relatable characters faced with real life issues that they themselves might be facing; such as leaving home, going off to college, or dealing with friends coming back from war.

Filled with moments of poignant reality, hard lessons, and the angst and sexual tension of first love, HIFH combines family drama and the relationship between childhood sweethearts, Jordie Dunn and Alex Cooper, who must overcome some pretty “grown-up” obstacles to find their way to a hopefully ever after ending.In Savage Cinderella, Brinn is eighteen and Justin is twenty-three. Add the subject matter and this book clearly falls into the New Adult category rather than YA. I might have tried marketing my books as Mainstream fiction and put them up against books from authors like Nicolas Sparks and Jodi Piccoult, but that would again put me in a very large pool with some very big fish, and without publisher backing, it’s tough to swim in that pond. Literary fiction is an even tougher sell than genre fiction.

With many of today’s YA books fitting more appropriately into the New Adult category, this niche market is catching on. Entangled Publishing, St. Martin’s Press and I believe even Harlequin Teen are adding New Adult titles to their acquisitions. Publishers are finally willing to recognize that yes, college students do read for pleasure in their limited time, and that they want more of what the New YA market has to offer. There are loads of twenty-something’s looking for books that go beyond the teen dramas focused on high school but who still want stories that deal with all of those wonderful (and hideous) firsts. Many of my readers fit into this category. If I had to guess, my average reader is between 19 and 33. That’s a pretty big demographic, but by listing my books as YA, I’m potentially focusing on the wrong group of readers. I don’t want to misrepresent the books by having them listed in the “Contemporary Romance” section either, since they definitely have a younger voice and reader expectation is important to consider.

Re-branding my work might take a bit of time and effort, but if it means reaching my target audience, I owe it to my books…and my readers to give it a shot.

Have you thought about who your target audience is, and what niche markets you might be missing?

Fear of failure or fear of success?

PJ Sharon, blogging from the Berkshires once again. I love these brief January warm ups that allow me to get out and snow shoe or cross country ski on one of the many trails behind my house. 0120011139After weeks of frigid cold temps, it felt good to be outside in the sunshine and breathing in some fresh air. It gave me time to contemplate my WIP, ponder my marketing strategies, and sing a few tunes to the wind. It also gave me an opportunity to take a moment to appreciate how far I’ve come and think about where I’m headed next.
A few hours of reflection led me to ask myself the hard questions: What is holding me back? Are there any obstacles I need to overcome to achieve my goals?

Then I remembered a lesson my sensei taught me many years ago. I had achieved the level of brown belt and he wanted me to compete in a regional tournament. When I refused, he shook his head, frustrated with my stubborn refusal. I tried to convince him that I couldn’t risk being injured, that I didn’t need to compete to know I was good enough, that I couldn’t afford it. I gave lots of excuses, and still he shook his head. Finally he asked me, “What are you afraid of?”

After a few days of honest analysis, I went to him after class. “Maybe I’m afraid of failure,” I admitted. He smiled. “I don’t think its failure you fear. I think you’re afraid of success.”

It took me a while to process this new perspective, but eventually I realized he was right. Competition at brown belt level for adults gets very tough, and it only gets tougher as you approach black belt. It requires a tremendous amount of dedication and focus to do well at that level. I was a married woman with a family and work responsibilities that were demanding. Taking on another huge commitment was not in my cards and I knew if I made the commitment to compete, I’d have to give it my all—which would have been more than I had to give. I decided that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with my martial arts. In that case, my fear of success was the litmus test that helped me decide my direction–a decision ultimately based on choice and not fear.

That lesson has been with me many times over the years since. Whenever I feel myself holding back or not embracing my highest good, I ask those hard questions and wonder if my fear of success is what’s keeping me from moving forward or if the path before me is perhaps the wrong direction.

To this day, I continue to wonder whether the writer’s life is truly for me, but I’m not ready to give up all that I’ve accomplished and I’m not about to let my fear of success—or failure—stop me from becoming all that I can be. I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way as a writer. I think fear is one of the biggest stumbling blocks people deal with. If you’re not sure how to tell the difference, fear of failure is that doubt monster that says “you’re no good,” “no one will read your books,” or “you really suck at this writing thing.” While fear of success looks something like this:

If I finish a manuscript, then I have to submit it (that means queries, synopses, and rejections). I would bet there are as many writers who fear acceptance from an agent or editor as there are those who don’t submit for fear of the dreaded rejection letters. Any agent will tell you that they only receive a relative few of the submissions they request at conferences.

If I become published, I will have to sell my books, have a social network presence, learn marketing, file taxes, etc., etc. Whether you are traditionally or independently published, you will take on these responsibilities and more. Not everyone is prepared for the business side of writing. In fact, most writers are not. Being a published author is a career—a very challenging and complex career that requires a tremendous amount of time, commitment, and hard work. As the scripture says, “To one who is given much, much is expected.”

As you look at your goals for the coming year—as you contemplate how far you’ve come and ponder the path ahead, ask yourself this question: Is your fear of success holding you back? What will happen if you succeed in achieving your goals? Are you really ready for it? If not, what do you need to do to prepare yourself to meet the challenges head on?

Motivational speaker and financial guru, Harv Ecker says, “People don’t have what they want because they don’t know what they want.” Be clear about what it is you want your life to look like. Enjoy the control you have over your career and the opportunity you have to grow into it at your own pace. Don’t let your fear of success–or failure–drive your decisions.

Unlocked secret:  If you love writing, but aren’t sure you’re ready for that next big step, don’t push forward just because others expect it of you, or you’re feeling the need to keep up with the crowd and prove yourself. Continue learning the craft, growing as a writer, and learn the business side of publishing to see if it’s the kind of career you really want, because it definitely isn’t just about writing good books. And if being a published author has always been your dream, don’t let anything stand in your way—not even your fear of success. This is your life—the life you are creating with every choice you make. Choose consciously.

What about you? Are your fears holding you back? Which is it…fear of failure, or fear of success?

Adventures in Query-Land

Hi, there, Scribe fans. Suze here. By now you’ve probably read Sugar’s post from a few days ago about the process she went through over the last year, ultimately culminating in her getting a fab agent and an even fabber three-book deal. (Click here to read it). Since I’m in the same spot she was a year ago, querying and hoping to land an agent and sell my manuscript, I thought I’d give you a run-down on how things are working for me.

Despite the fact that I completed this manuscript a couple of years ago, I was never satisfied with the opening chapters and so I only submitted it a couple of places, and was summarily rejected. After rewriting Chapter One about eight times and tightening up my timeline this past summer, I finally had it where I thought it was marketable. I wrote a query letter and a synopsis, fixed them both with the help of colleagues/friends, and finally began the query process in earnest in September. As one of my favorite rerun detectives, Adrian Monk, might say, here’s what happened.

September – Queried seven agents/editors (two of these were requests from a conference). Two requests for partials.

October – Queried three agents. Two requests for fulls. Two form rejections. One rejection on a partial, but a very nice one (bummer! She liked it overall, loved aspects of it, but she just didn’t love it enough).

November – Queried four agents. Felt like I needed to get some energy moving on stagnant requests, so embarked on closet-cleaning and clutter-clearing in an effort to feng shui my writing career. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired results: Received one rejection on a full because she wasn’t representing my genre, but suggested I submit to another agent in the office. Then received one rejection on a partial because she wasn’t representing my genre, but she “loved my voice” and would be interested in a YA or contemporary if I ever wrote one of those. 

December – Queried three digital-first presses. One rejection on a full, but she did have nice things to say. Depressed! I really wanted that one.  One form rejection. Two requests for fulls.

So the three-month tally is:

  • 17 submissions
  • 7 rejections (none of them mean!)
  • 2 partials still out there (not counting the partials that were sent pursuant to agents’ submission guidelines)
  • 2 fulls still out there
  • 6 queries that have not been acted on one way or another

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was reportedly rejected 60 times. Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses. I’m not in the depths of despair yet!

Where are you in your writing journey? Where do you want to be?

End of Year Check Up…

Hi there, Sugar here. 2012 is almost over and I hope it was a good year for you. I hope you accomplished the things you wanted to. Writing-wise I accomplished a lot. Writing-wise it was a pretty awesome year for me. But it was a long year full of ups and downs and roller coaster emotions. Most of you know that I managed to snag a three book deal  with  St. Martin’s Press. In hindsight it seemed like everything happened so fast but when I was living it everything seemed to go excruciatingly slow. Here’s what my past year looked like.

December 2011

Started querying. Mostly rejections. One request for a full.

January 2012

Rejections, rejections, rejections. One more request for a full. One request for a partial.

February 2012

Rejections on partial. Rejections of queries. Some cursing. One request for a full. Two partial requests.

March 2012

Querying fatigue setting in. More rejections on queries and on partial. One request for a full. Two rejections for partials. Waiting for word back on the then four full manuscripts I had out.

April 2012

Rethinking this whole being a writer thing. I was tired of waiting. I was tired of rejections. The doubt monster had me in a nasty choke hold. One more request for a full. One offer of representation. Another offer of representation. SQUEEEEEE!

May 2012

Agent ,who I ADORE, asked me to cut down my manuscript from 100,000 words to 90,000 to make it more sell-able. (Grumble, grumble.) I went out on submission to the ‘BIG  6′ and romance giant Harlequin. Got my first rejection ON MY BIRTHDAY! Got two more rejections. Starting rethinking this whole being a writer thing again.

June 2012

I got a surprise offer from a smaller but still kick-ass publisher. Screamed like an idiot when I got off the phone with my agent. Two days later I got two offers from two of the ‘Big 6′ and was informed that I would be going to auction the next day. Was in shock. Was shaking. Was also at work when I found out. Kids in my class thought I was having a stroke. St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan) offered me a three book deal. I actually met my editor at CTRWA’s Fiction Fest long before I even thought about writing my book. It must have been fate because I don’t remember a single other editor that was there that year beside her.

July 2012

Contract negotiations. PM announcement.

August 2012

Contract negotiations

September 2012

Edits arrive. Rethinking this whole being a writer thing again. Contract negotiations finally finished!

October 2012 

Book 2 was due. Edits for book 1 due. Super hard. Super proud when I finished both of those things.

November 2012

MUST WRITE BOOK 3. Advance check came! Advance check went! But no more student loans!!!!!!!!! (Do you have any idea how expensive college is?)

December 2012

GOT A RELEASE DATE!!!!!!! Dangerous Curves Ahead will hit shelves on August 27, 2013.

Got my author photos taken. Probably a bad idea right after Thanksgiving, but they came out pretty good.

Tackled this whole social media thing. Amazon author page. Check.

Website updated again. Now it looks kinda professional. http://www.sugarjamison.com/

Got my Facebook page done. Please like me!

Got my cover art! Check back here soon for reveal.

Oh an I won my very first award!

Phew… That was a very long year. What did yours look like?

Me with the very prestigious MARGARITA!
Me with the very prestigious MARGARITA!

Waitin’ On A Dream

Hey, all, Suze here. Great to see you again!

Some of you may know that I’ve finally, after a mind-boggling amount of agonizing, started querying agents and editors about my first manuscript, now titled Rest In Greece. (It’s a fun adventure/mystery set in a Greek restaurant in the Thousand Islands area of New York State.) I finally got the first few chapters to a point where I was satisfied they weren’t total doo-doo, had a serviceable synopsis (thanks to the awesome assistance of my sister Scribes and other CTRWA goddesses), and a decent query letter.

So now I’ve got queries out to a bunch of agents and have had requests for a couple of fulls and several partials. And I’m waiting.

And waiting.

Oh, I know this process takes time. Agents and editors have crazy numbers of emails to sift through. And when they do request whatever number of pages, they have to find time to read them, decide on them, and then respond yea or nay.

So what’s a writer to do in the meantime? Well, intellectually I know I should be writing the next book. Makes perfect sense. And I’m working on it, although not at the pace I’d envisioned. But here’s what I’m doing more of:

  1. Obsessively checking e-mails on computer for responses. Yes? No? I’m even hunting through my spam folder and reading Cialis ads (not clicking on links, of course!) in case some agent has a quirky sense of humor and has hidden her/his response in such an unlikely place and wants to reward me for my ingenuity and mystery-solving skills by offering me a contract.
  2. Obsessively checking smart phone for reponses, in case, somehow, a response shows up there but not on the computer.
  3. Obsessively researching the next round of agents to target, assuming Plan A (immediate acceptance and adulation!) does not come to fruition.
  4. Obsessively searching for ever-more-beautiful photos of Joe Manganiello–it’s research, I swear!
  5. Obsessively cleaning closets and drawers and organizing workspace. Because of feng shui and all that. I’ve been through every cupboard in my kitchen and thrown out tons of crap (including a full trashbag of unused plastic stuff). Next step: sorting through clothes for entire family and making donations.
  6. Obsessively checking horoscopes and online oracle sites (click here — you’ll thank me), hoping for a definitive answer to the most important questions: who, when, and how much?

So, keep me company. What do you do while you’re waiting?