Novel Rocket

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Companies Writers Need to Know about in the World of Publishing

Chip MacGregor is the president of MacGregorLiterary, a full-service literary agency on the Oregon Coast. A former publisher with Time Warner, he has worked with authors as a literary agent for more than a dozen years, and was previously a senior editor at two publishing houses. An Oregon native, Chip lives in a small town on the Oregon coast. Chip is also the author of a couple dozen books and a popular teacher on the craft of writing and marketing. Connect with him through his blog and on Twitter.
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My recent blog posts on trends shaping the publishing industry has led to a number of people writing to me, asking what other new companies are doing significant things in the world of books. Several people simply asked, "Who are the new companies I need to know about in publishing?" I can think of several...
There are new companies that writers need to know about.
BookBub—This is a site that offers a daily deal for certain ebooks, and they have a huge database of readers they market to. Publishers and authors suggest titles and pay a fee to BookBub, and the company has an editorial team that selects the titles they want to offer. The price is usually very low (sometimes free), they send out an email advertisement to a couple million followers, and authors have been raving about the results. Another company, Riffle, is trying to do the same thing, only by offering more choices by letting the readers select the books they want to see discounted.
Oyster—A company that is the ebook version of NetFlix. You pay them a monthly fee, and you can read all the ebooks you want. They've recently signed a couple of deals with publishers, and their popularity is growing. (So much that recently Amazon created Kindle Unlimited, which does the same thing, only with a larger number of self-published books.) And, if you're not familiar, Entitle is another company that does something similar. Right now these two and the company below are leading the way with ebook subscription services.
Scribd—They also offer a monthly subscription service to ebook titles, but they're best known for document sharing and digital distribution. What you may not know is that Scribd does a nice job of working with authors, offering a bunch of analytics on who is reading what, which ebook device they're using, which genres are most popular, etc. In my view, this is one of the key companies to watch. They think creatively, are nimble, and seem determined to make an impact on the world of books.
Librify—Just started a year ago, they're basically a "Book of the Month Club" for ebook readers, and they are partnering with Target to sign up people and get them reading. I keep hearing they're right on the verge of breaking out.
With all the options, we need to stay informed.
Atavist—I'm always surprised I don't hear more from authors about this fabulous site. Started by a journalist, they offer great writing that is shorter form than books—most frequently journalistic pieces in the 10,000 to 20,000 word range, often including video and other visual elements. If you're like me and enjoy great nonfiction writing, you should check them out. A similar company is Byliner, which has done short-form fiction as well as nonfiction projects, and has teamed with some headliner authors in the past year.
DailyLit—Almost ten years old, this company got started by emailing chapters of Pride and Prejudice to people who wanted to read great books in bite-sized chunks, but needed someone to help them stay on track. Now they have their own serialized fiction projects that they send out to subscribers. I mention them because I know several authors who love their dose of daily literature arriving via email or app.
Zola Books—This is another one of those companies that may or not may survive, but has an interesting place in the business. They're a combination ebook store and social media network, and they take the unique approach of working with large independent bookstores (The Tattered Cover in Denver is one example), small indie presses, as well as working directly with some authors (such as Audrey Niffenegger, of The Time Traveler's Wife) to create and sell exclusive titles. Readers can comment on them and interact with the authors. It's a fascinating site. A company that's similar is Bilbary, which sells ebooks that can be read on any device.
Don't discount the value of fan-fiction sites.
Wattpad—One of the earliest fan-fiction sites, this is aimed at letting people come on to post their thoughts, poems, stories, and articles on the site, then letting others respond to it all. They started out focusing on young writers, ran into trouble when people started posting copyrighted material, and have said they're making an effort to stop the stealing. But they're one of the most well-funded of the newer companies, have signed deals with most of the major publishers, have done book launches for significant authors, and now offer their own crowdfunding plans. In my view, it's turned into a promotional site with some social media built in.
SliceBooks—Remember when you used to put together a playlist of your favorite songs on a CD? This company does the same thing, only with chapters of books, to try and create marketing pieces for publishers and libraries. And, if you're an author looking for new companies that offer helpful content, by all means check out BiblioCrunch, which is sort of a combination do-it-yourself publishing site and an Angie's List. You can visit the site to find cover designers, freelance editors, publicists, ebook consultants, and the like. Some people like them, others find they tend to push a bit hard, but they certainly have become a leader in the field of DIY indie publishing.

There you go... Fourteen companies that are becoming movers and shakers in publishing. What companies have you worked with that the rest of the folks in publishing should know about? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Chip MacGregor

Friday, October 24, 2014

Moving on From Rejection

By Tina Ann Forkner

When I showed fifty pages of my novel to an editor familiar with my work, I was told right out that it was a coma book. There were, the editor explained, lots of coma books being pitched and I should write something else. Now, before you think the editor was being harsh, you have to know that in my book, a character spent time in a coma, hence the editor’s expression, ‘coma book’. I don’t think the editor was saying that my book would put readers in a coma, but then again, I can’t be sure.

For all I know, the term ‘coma book’ might be a term for extremely boring manuscripts, but her message was pretty clear. She didn’t want to read another coma book. Many writers would have sanely taken that editor’s advice and abandoned the story, but like some of the characters in my novel, I might have been just a little bit crazy. I wrote the book anyway. That was five years ago.

Over the next few years, the book was passed over by publishers so much that even though I’d already had two novels published by a legacy publisher, I started questioning my career choice. Over and over the message about my ‘coma book’ was, “This book is good, but I don’t like____.” The blank was filled in with basically the same thoughts coming from different editors.

After wrestling with fear of failing, beating myself up, exchanging emails with my agent in which I wanted to give up on my writing career, and taking some long and much-needed breaks to be with my family, I always came back to the same place. I still loved that book.
Consequently, loving your book isn’t enough to get a publisher to accept it, so I also got really ticked off. Getting mad made me feel better, but it also pulled me out of my slump and forced me to take an honest look at my manuscript. Was that first editor who called it a ‘coma book’ right? Should I abandon the novel? Was I going to listen to all those rejection letters? I decided that yes, I was, but not in the way you might expect.

Instead of moving on to something new, I decided to figure out what part of the story I could let go of in order to make it better. I kept going back to my manuscript, revising, and asking myself, what makes this different than all the other “coma books” out there? I got rid of the elements that multiple editors didn’t like and tried to figure out why they loved other aspects of the book.

What I figured out was, my story wasn’t about a woman in a coma. It was about a woman waking up from a coma. My main character, Joy, had been sleeping through life, not sleeping through a coma. She wasn’t stuck in limbo, she was waking up to a bigger life, but there was something huge keeping her from embracing it.

Now, talk about having a come to Jesus moment. All this time I’d been calling the book Waking Up, but somehow I had never connected the title I had chosen to the bigger point of Joy’s story. And when my author friend and future editor extraordinaire, Amy Sue Nathan, mentioned that Waking Up Joy would be a better title, it all came together in my mind. The book was later picked up by Tule Publishing, which is a whole other post, but the point is that I did not abandon Waking Up Joy, and it paid off. It releases October 8th.

I’m not saying that every story we write should be published. We all know that just isn’t true, but if you have a story and you feel in your bones that you can’t let it go, spend some time thinking about what you are really trying to say. Consider what editors are saying in their rejections of your book. If you feel like they are missing the point of your story, then your point hasn’t been made clear in your writing.

If at the end of the day, you think you can let go of your novel, then you definitely should move on and write something new. But if you are passionate about your story, if you think about it all day and it wakes you up at night, then go back and rewrite it. Make it clear, tell it better, but don’t ever give up.  

Tina Ann Forkner is a Women’s Fiction writer and the author of the Waking Up Joy releasing on October 8th, 2014. She is also the author of Rose House and Ruby Among Us. Tina’s new book is set in Oklahoma where she was raised, but she makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming where she is a substitute teacher and lives with her husband, three teenagers, and two spoiled dogs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Michener Epic Writing Journey ~ With a Happy Ending

Camille Eide writes tales of love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, church office & preschool administrator, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, and Peanut M&Ms. 

Her debut novel, Like There's No Tomorrow, a contemporary love story, released September 30, 2014 from Ashberry Lane Publishing.

This is your debut novel. What sparked the story?

When my friend’s Norwegian sister visited the US, she met my brother at a BBQ. After she returned home, they began corresponding, fell in love, and soon married. My friend and I thought that was very romantic and played around the idea of me writing their story as a novel. Because, you know, anyone can write a book. Although Like There’s No Tomorrow isn’t my brother and his wife’s story, their meeting and falling in love through correspondence did inspire it.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

I can be transparent here, right? “Today” is much different from the day I began writing to publish in 2007. Back then, while traditional publishing contracts for unknown writers were becoming available, competition was quickly growing. So whenever an editor asked to see a full manuscript of mine at a conference, I felt a ticking clock to get my book finished or shaped up and sent in as soon as possible. Which means I spent a LOT of time in my writing cave (locked away from family) intending to follow through as promised and strike while the iron was hot. I wanted to send an irresistible manuscript and have a chance at an open slot before others filled it.

But today, things are different. The opportunities for new (and not so new) novelists with traditional houses seem to be fewer, while the competition continues to grow. Today, writers are taking a step back and weighing all our options—and there are many. The timing for publishing a book is also different now, so the pressure to “strike” the traditional market has changed.

What would I do differently if I were starting my publishing career today? I’d probably back off on the 24/7 write-a-thon (though it was a valuable learning lab) and balance my time better between writing and being present with people. Take a walk. Invite the adult kids over for dinner and laugh myself sick at the comedy ricocheting around the table. Take the motorcycle out for a spin. AND continue to work on my craft, write the best books I can, and pray for the right avenue for publishing them.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

My publication journey is a novel. Not a pretty, slender Love Inspired that you can tuck into your pocket, but one of those fatty ones. A Michener epic. With chocolate smudges on tear-stained pages, flaking creases on the spine, whole chapters missing from being ripped out and shredded, nicked corners from being flung against a wall. It’s a 7 year journey from birth to gut-wrenching surrender to death to second birth.

I think that’s about all you have room for.

I love the Michener reference and can relate to that. Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

A tidy little haven. The wallpaper on my monitor screen is a photo of Jane Austen’s writing desk, my little added inspiration. J

What would you do if you didn't write?
Probably shuffle in little circles in a corner while clutching a ratty copy of Catcher in The Rye and muttering.

What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

Gotta be honest again — you okay with that? I struggle with the temptation to make Tidy, to wrap up with the answers. I have to remind myself life isn’t tidy, I don’t have the answers, and even if I did, that’s not why people pick up a novel. I try to remember to lay down my little ego and give God the lead as I’m crafting a story, and remember it’s a collective journey for us all — the reader, the characters, and me.

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

1. STUDY the craft until your fingers bleed and your brain falls out.
2. READ excellent writing to train your instinct. 3. Then TRUST your instinct.

Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?

1. Don’t lock yourself away with a typewriter and a fifth of bourbon and tell yourself you’re the next Ernest Hemingway. He could do that and sell books because he’s Hemingway. You’re probably not. Do the work, learn from others, get feedback.

2. Don’t dismiss correction and instruction. Stay teachable. Some of the most prolific writers in my acquaintance impress (& humble) me by taking classes alongside noobies and admitting they always have something to learn.

3. On the other hand, Don’t listen to everyone when it comes to flaws with your story or your voice; learn to distinguish helpful feedback from impulse-driven, opinionated flap. Which is not always easy to do. Since useful advice can be just as tough to hear as flap, you can’t judge its merit by how hard it is to hear. Ask God to help you stay teachable about the things you need to hear, and confident about the things that make your voice yours and your story a strong one.

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you think?

If you’re talking about fiction, anyone with a fair grasp of language can learn to string words together into a story. Some people are gifted Wordsmiths, and if they study Story, they can write fiction well enough. I believe others are blessed with the gift of storytelling — Storysmiths. They can spin a tale and captivate an audience with little understanding of grammar or The Rules. (Boo. Hiss. Oops, sorry.) If you are a storyteller by nature, and are willing to learn wordcraft, you can potentially do very well. (Debbie Macomber is a great example.) If you are crafty with words but not a storyteller by nature, you too can learn, but I believe it’s a tougher road to be as captivating. All this is one fool’s opinion, by the way. You did ask. J

What's the strangest or funniest experience you've had in writing?

Strange: When I was just starting out as a novelist, a friend of mine was in a bookstore at the mall (20 miles away) and met a woman in the Christian Fiction aisle who said she writes novels. My friend told her about me wanting to write, so this nice lady gave her some helpful book titles for me. Then she told my friend a story about meeting Francine Rivers under a tree at a writer’s conference.

Meanwhile, I joined an online writers’ group. I was welcomed by several members including Kellie Gilbert, who rarely visited the group, and who was at that time the president of a new local ACFW chapter. She saw I was from her area and invited me to attend. At my first meeting, Kellie started the meeting by telling a story about how she met Francine Rivers under a tree at a writer’s conference. Kellie was the woman my friend met in the bookstore—in an entirely different town from where I live. I ended up joining Kellie’s critique group. That strange coincidence was the first of several divine appointments that helped affirm my call as a novelist.

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?

Creating gets the story rolling, but I probably do my best work while tweaking/editing (word freak). I confess I am research-challenged and lapse into evasive behavior (grazing for chocolate, fainting spells, etc) when any real research needs done.

What are your writing rituals?

I keep a little dish of peanuts and raisins nearby (ok, some of the raisins are chocolate chips), especially if I’m trying to push through something difficult. Actually, I have no idea if it helps writer’s block, but the carb rush is fun.

Do you work best under pressure or do you write at a leisurely pace??

I’m slightly OCD, so there’s always pressure and no such thing as leisure.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

If you are lucky like me, CPs are reeeeally helpful and can turn critique sessions into mini workshops, drawing valuable lessons for everyone from all the writing samples. Or maybe that’s only if your group leader is Randy Ingermanson. Oops. Sorry. J

I think critique groups and partners are potentially priceless, if you get a good fit for your style and genre.

Any final thoughts?

I’ve been a fan/follower of Novel Journey/Novel Rocket since my own journey began, and I consider it a great honor to be invited to hang out here among some of the coolest and finest authors on the planet. (Can we get a group selfie?)

Like There's No Tomorrow

What if loving means letting go?

Scottish widower Ian MacLean is plagued by a mischievous grannie, bitter regrets, and an ache for something he’ll never have again. His only hope for freedom is to bring his grannie's sister home from America. But first, he'll have to convince her lovely companion, Emily, to let her go.

Emily Chapman devotes herself to foster youth and her beloved Aunt Grace. Caring for others quiets a secret fear she holds close to her heart. But when Ian appears, wanting to whisk Grace off to Scotland, everything Emily is trying to protect—including her heart—is at risk.

Like There’s No Tomorrow is an amusing yet heart-tugging love story about two kind, single caretakers, two quirky, old Scottish sisters bent on reuniting, and too many agendas. It’s a tale of family, fiery furnaces, falling in love, faith, and the gift of each new day.