It’s an Epidemic!

X-posted from the Manuscript Mavens blog

A few months ago, my local paper ran an article about a group of writers in my area who get together to support one another and commiserate over their rejections. (It wasn’t the local RWA chapter, to which I belong.) Several people quoted in the story lamented over how impossible it is for a debut author to get published in New York these days. Agents and editors won’t even consider an unpublished writer’s work, let alone offer a contract for publication!

But is that really true? That the unpubbed, to quote Rodney Dangerfield, don’t get no respect?

I used to think so. I was pretty sure that getting an offer of agent representation or of publication were longshots akin to winning the lottery. Unlike the lottery, that didn’t stop me from trying, but I knew the odds were poor.

Yesterday, however, I realized that in the past year, I’ve seen a lot of my unpublished friends become either agented or sold or both. I mean, a significantly higher percentage than anyone would expect based upon the statistics we all hear all the time (agents reject 99% or more of all submissions that come to them, only one-tenth of one percent of books that come before a NY editor are published, etc.). In fact, these events have been occurring so often lately, it seems like a virtual epidemic.

I still think it’s DAMN difficult to get published. I know quite a few authors whose work I think is more than worthy of a six-figure contract who have been rejected repeatedly by agents and editors alike. And yet…it doesn’t seem to be to be quite the crapshoot it once did. Authors with lots of skill and talent and more than a little bit of good luck and timing can and do get published. Even if they haven’t got a previous publishing credit to their name.

Agents are still looking for new authors whose work they love to represent. Publishers are looking for new blood, new voices. And with diligence and perseverance, new authors do get published.

So, yay for the aspiring and unpubbed. Go forth and submit. And never abandon hope!

YOUR TURN: Do you feel encouraged when an unpublished author sells? Or do you think, “There goes another slot for a debut author; now I’ll never get published!”

P.S. A hearty congratulations to Avon FanLit winner and all-around sweetheart, Sara Lindsey, whose three-book deal with NAL/Signet was announced this week, thereby inspiring this post.

Just When I Was Ready to Ask for My Money-Back Guarantee

Today has been one of those days. You know…the kind where everything that can go wrong (or at least unexpectedly haywire) does.

My 16yo niece spent the night and babysat this morning while I went to the office to teach, but that wasn’t where things got whacked. It was when I took her home after I got back. You see, her mom and stepdad just bought a place out in the boonies–I mean, I live in East County, San Diego, and I swear it’s halfway to Yuma!–and it’s the first time I’ve been there, so the round-trip took much longer than I anticipated.

Then, the plan was to go to the bowling alley for some afternoon entertainment for the kids. I was going to write while they bowled. But when we got there, there was a private party taking up the WHOLE alley. WTF?

So, we came back home, exhausted and defeated (though we did console ourselves with milkshakes/smoothies, lol), and decided to go for a swim because, well, that’s what we do in the summer when there’s nothing else TO do.

Needless to say, the writing accomplished in this madness was practically nil, and I was thinking once again that having kids is an AWFUL lot more trouble than it’s worth, my daughter (who will be 9 next month) yelled to one of the boys who was tormenting her in the pool, “Let me go, you miscreant!”

I ask you, is this the child of a historical romance writer or what?

And absolutely worth the price of admission.

Out and About

I’ve been quiet here this week, but I’m noisy elsewhere on the Internet. Come visit me at any of the following places:

Hope to see all of you somewhere out there!

It’s All About the Passion

X-posted from the Manuscript Mavens

There hasn’t been a whole lot of writing in my life this week. Instead, my days have been heavily dominated by the day job, and particularly by a conference I attended Monday through Wednesday.

I have to be honest and say that when I was reminded that I had this conference to attend, I was far from thrilled. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and taking three days out to go to workshops that probably wouldn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know (yeah, call me arrogant, lol) was hardly appealing. But, my company paid good money for me to attend, and so, attend I did. (Fortunately, it was held locally, so there was no major travel involved. Just the 20 minute drive to and from downtown San Diego on $4.20 a gallon gasoline. But I digress.)

Truth be told, there weren’t a lot of workshops geared toward the things that I would have really liked to learn. Or at least, they weren’t marketed in such a way that I thought they were. In all likelihood, I missed a bunch of sessions that were just not accurately described in the conference materials.

I did, however attend one really FABULOUS workshop on Wednesday afternoon. It was my last of the conference, and honestly, it made the whole experience worthwhile. Not so much because of the subject matter, for though I did learn some new things of value, there was nothing really earthshattering in the material he presented.

No, it was because the speaker was flat-out fantastic. Dynamic, funny, and absolutely PASSIONATE about the subject. And it occurred to me that this guy could have been reading the phone book aloud, but if he did it with the same charisma and passion, I’d have been hanging on his every word.

Of course, when I teach workshops of my own (as I had to do today), I try to bring excitement and energy to my performance. It’s one of the reasons teaching is so exhausting! (And why, when I got home this afternoon, I pretty much collapsed in a watery heap and didn’t do anything useful for the rest of the day.)

But sitting there listening to this guy talk about something that was arguably incredibly boring (performance support) and eating up every second of it, it occurred to me that a big part of what keeps me hooked in a book is that the author demonstrates the same kind of passion for his or her story in writing. And I got to wondering HOW the author is getting that emotional connection to the story across to the reader. Clearly, it’s not with body language, tone of voice, or ad-libbing responses to the audience on the fly, all of which the speaker used in spades.

Obviously, whatever an author is doing to communicate that sense of urgency to the reader is both deeper and more subtle than anything a presenter can do with a live audience. I like to think I can TELL that the author *loves* the story he/she is writing, loves the characters, and is aching to share that love with me, the reader. But I’m not sure I can put my finger on what is telling me that. I know when I’m WRITING something I feel passionately about, the writing itself seems to come more easily and I’m almost racing myself to get to the end because I want to experience the story MYSELF. But I’m not sure if that really comes across to the reader.

My contemporary novella, The Gospel of Love: According to Luke, comes out from Cobblestone Press next Friday. (Yes, Friday the 13th. I promise, however, no one named Jason and no hockey masks appear in the story.) And I really felt a passion for that little book while I was writing it. It fell out of my head in a little over two weeks. Every day during that two weeks, I couldn’t WAIT to get time to sit down at the computer and write more.

I hope readers of the story will feel that passion in the words I committed to paper (or screen, as the case may be). And I believe fervently, with every fiber of my being, the loving the story you’re writing is the first and most essential ingredient to producing a marketable manuscript. After all, if you don’t love what you write, why should anyone else?

YOUR TURN: Do you think you can tell when a writer is passionate about his/her story? And conversely, do you think readers can tell when YOU aren’t? How?

The Month of Living Breathlessly

June is supposed to be the month when things slow down, isn’t it? I mean, it’s the beginning of summer, school gets out, people go on vacation…

Apparently, not for me. June promises to be hectic. It started yesterday with a work-related conference I’m attending (that I’d COMPLETELY forgotten about until one of the exhibitors called and reminded me), got nuttier this morning because I had to teach an online class I simply couldn’t reschedule, and continues right through the end of the month with classes and presentations I have to give, my fifth grader’s graduation, a new book to promote (The Gospel of Love: According to Luke comes out a week from Friday), a wedding to attend, and two novellas to keep on writing, right up until we leave for a two-week vacation at the end of the month.

Are you tired yet? I am!

Anyway, if you’re expecting anything from me (like a query critique), please be patient. I promise I’ll get to it. As soon as my head stop spinning.

How about you? Please tell me SOMEONE is sipping iced tea on the veranda and having some of those lazy, dazy days of summer…