The realities of being a writer OR The art of not selling

So, as some of you may know, last March I had my first novel published.

Well, it was a novella actually, but with the few short stories I’ve had published over the years it was (and is) the longest piece of writing I’ve had published.

It was a lot of firsts for me. First time working with an editor, first time working with a cover artist, first time having something published as a stand alone and not in an anthology.

It was incredible and fun and exciting and it made me hungry for more. I couldn’t wait to finish my next book. It would be longer and better.

The thing is, when I wrote Cold Blood, Warm Heart I thought it had everything. It was filled with excitement, had sexy chemistry between the leads, a strong heroin and some heart. Also, it was short. I actually thought it would be a quick fun read. You know, a beach book for the paranormal romance fan. I didn’t think sales would be an issue.

And then I didn’t sell a single copy.

It was made available on Cobblestone press’ site, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc. and yet not a single copy sold.

I waited in excitement for friends and family at least, to snatch up one of these little ebooks but even that didn’t happen.

My first quarterly statement arrived in my email box with a great big 0 in the “copies sold” box.

It was a weirdly numbing experience. I thought back on the writing process, on how hard I had worked, on how much fun I’d had and I was disappointed. I wanted people to read it at least, even if they hated it, I wanted it to be experienced by someone, anyone…

Eventually, I sent out a little reminder to friends and two of them purchased the book but I couldn’t help but feel it was out of pity.

Then, a young woman I had gone to high school with agreed to review the novella. She had become the book reviewer for a big newspaper-which worried me.

This was a trashy romance novel to read for fun, not a great literary work. I sent it to her anyway, fingers crossed until she finished reading it and I received her curt email saying, very briefly, “I cannot review your book”.

To be honest, it took the steam out of me even more.

You always hear stories about writers starting out and not selling. It’s not that I didn’t think that would apply to me, but for some reason, I didn’t think I would mind that.

I thought that my writing was done to nourish my soul and for no other reason. That’s not true though. It’s so unlike me to even think that way. Of course I write because I love to BUT I also cherish a sense of community. I love to talk to other writers, to share works of fiction, poetry or art that I love in order to inspire others. I love to read other people’s work and I love to contribute. I want to share. That trait is in my very being.

After a while of this deflated feeling, working on every art aside from writing fiction, I finally realized; I would have rather put it out for free somewhere like fiction press, or even Tumblr if that meant it would be read. I admit that I even stopped reading my emails.

I’ve started to write again. This time a YA novel that would be published in my real name and separately from my adult romance for obvious reasons. Yes, I still want to publish. Why? Because being a writer is what I’ve always wanted, whether anyone reads my writing or not. Heck. I don’t mind writing on the side, as long as I am actually writing.

And then I checked my email.

My publisher had missed sending me my royalties. The first quarter I had nothing. The second quarter my sales were under ten dollars so it wasn’t sent. The third quarter I had fallen through the cracks and been missed.

I opened the statement expecting nothing.

There was almost twenty dollars.

There was another ten after that but I hadn’t known about it since i’d avoided my email for so long.

Maybe a year ago thirty-five dollars would have seemed like nothing but now! Now, thirty-five dollars means that ten people have bought my book!

What an incredible feeling to go from zero to ten. I am elated.

Getting to this place took a little longer than it should have for me, but it was a lesson to keep doing what I love. It was a long winded way to remind me to keep going because any small progress is a big pay off when you work for it.

It’s funny, there are so many stories of writers being disappointed by lack of sales but there are very few to describe the absolute pleasure of knowing that even one person out there has read your work.

Keep writing all you authors out there. It is so worth it.

Kissing Santa

All I want Holiday Sip from Torquere Press 🙂 It is definitely a delayed post now that we are in February but I thought I should still share it. Torquere was such a pleasure to work with and the short story has been getting great reviews on Goodreads and other sites 😀

6-Step Story Editing!

In celebration of finishing the edit of COLD BLOOD, WARM HEART I decided to share my six step editing process with you all! Exciting I know.

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Editing can be-and often is-the most tedious and sometimes painful part of the writing process. However if you can keep sight of the creativity and excitement that you had while writing, it doesn’t need to be.

Just like with writing, there are steps and tips that may help ease the process and maybe even make it more fun. So here are my personal techniques!

 

STEP ONE: TAKE A BREAK

Yes that’s right. Hey, you just finished writing a book. Take a friggen break! Not just a lunch break either. Go out, celebrate, do something to congratulate yourself. This is a big accomplishement, whether its your first time doing it or your hundredth. It may seem unneccesary but believe me, gatting space from your novel will be the biggest key in seeing it objectively. I cannot stress doing this enough. It may be the biggest key to your editing.  Personally I aim for a month at least before getting back to the manuscript. It will wait for you.

 

STEP TWO: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT

This sounds vague I know but it is also amazing the way your mind just opens up, your story will seem fresh and your drive renewed if you manage to look at your novel with fresh eyes. So how do you do it? Before you open up the manuscript take out a notepad and think about your book. What is the theme? What is the point of the story? How would you summarize it on the back cover? Now, is there anything in the story that conflicts with that? Is there something that you now realize doesn’t work or make sense? Is there a compelling way to add to it? Its amazing what this excersise will accomplish.  By actively deciding what you want from the book, you can give it a new clarity that it may have been lacking before.

 

STEP THREE: SPELLING AND GRAMMAR CHECK

Very basic, I know, but while you are rereading your manuscript again for the first time you don’t want to be distracted from the bigger picture by small errors. It ruins the flow and may inhibit your ability to get into the story. Annoying!

 

STEP FOUR: READ!

This is the fun part. Read your novel as though someone else wrote it. DON’T MAKE CHANGES! Not in the actual manuscript any way. Take as many notes as you need to. This is the stage where rewriting might grab at you. Just be sure to do it through note taking. It ends up getting really messy when parts of your rewrite are already written into the story and parts aren’t. Especially when you might end up liking it how it was before a little bit more than your rewrite.

 

*NOTE: make sure that after rewrites and major edits you always save as a new file. You will end up with multiple copies of your book but you will also be able to keep track of what draft you are on! Being able to see how far your book has come is amazing motivation.

 

STEP FIVE: REWRITE

Here it is. The meaty part of the editing process. It will probably have you tearing out your hair, just remember, if something doesn’t need to be changed, don’t change it. Anything that you really like can be saved, whether its a particular chapter, dialogue or even sentence. figure out how to make it work and if it still doesn’t fit you can adjust/add or even delete it. Oddly, deleting parts of stories is often the key to having a stronger book. Use the notes that you took and I’m sure that everything will come together.

 

*NOTE: If something is still bothering you about the story maybe its time to put it aside and start the steps all over again. Yes it’s a lot of work, you have to decide if your story is worth it. I have a feeling that the answer will be yes.

 

STEP SIX: READ AGAIN

You did it! The book is done, you are happy with it. You have accomplished something amazing, something that people often dream of doing but never do. You are ready for the next step-submissions. One last thing, read the book one more time to be sure that nothing has slipped through the cracks.

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There you have it. This is my personal process for editing, not just novels, but short stories, screenplays, whatever I happen to be writing. It may not work for everyone but it gets me confident and ready to submit. Remember, there is no set in stone rule for this. Do it in whatever way makes you content with your manuscript/screenplay/essay/etc…

 

I hope this helps! Good luck and keep tuned for other tips on writing and submitting your work.

 

~Sienna 😉

 

Writing Queries

Yesterday Began the first day of submissions in what I am assuming will be many. That’s the hope any way and although it has been quite a while since I sent anything off, I now have a little accumulated pile of short stories novella’s and yes even novels.

I think all writers have been in this position before. Maybe its insecurity holding us back, in my case I know that is a big part of it. I know this is what I wanted to write. I know I had fun writing it. I know my sweat and blood went into it and in my oppinion it was totally worth it, but after all that, will anybody else want to read it?

I’m not so sure. Maybe by being so particular with what I write-lets be honest, I have an affinity for drama, very silly characters, angst and happy endings-I’ve cut out a major group of people that would otherwise read this. Hey it’s possible but why bother trying to make everybody happy if you end up with a story that makes ‘you’ less happy?

Yesterday I sent KISSING SANTA in to Torquere press. It is a short story that I have a definite soft spot for. The main characters are a gay couple already in an established relationship. Quite honestly they have the type of relationship that most people probably long for; supportive, secure and playful. The story somehow even has that bit of spice to it. You can probably tell that I am proud of that one. I wouldn’t change it and managed to submit it on the last day of their deadline for their christmas anthology but they do not require a query letter and thankfully their submission process for short stories was a little bit simpler than some others.

Case in point being my next two planned submissions. FAR TOO FAMILIAR is a short romantic story about a witch. It is sweet, it is PG, and it is supposed to be the first in a series which will be followed by at least two novels. A lot rides on this submission. How do I make this story sound good enough that two novels could potentially follow in its footsteps? Is it good enough for that? The submission that I am planning to follow with (currently untitled) is a paranormal romance novella also with the possibility of follow up novella’s although those are not set in stone. I have a publisher lined up that I would like to try first, but even there there are difficulties, the main one of course being the query letter.

From my research I’ve put together a bit of a go to for query writing:

Step one: Find the right publisher. Sounds easy, I know but be specific, and I mean very specific. Do you have a gay paranormal romantic short story? Then find an open call for a gay paranormal romantic short story. Wrote a speculative novel about Peter Pan? You’d be surprised, there is a publisher out there looking for something just like that. Look at their other books, see what they publish. In the submission details all publishers will have a fairly detailed list of the kind of things they are currently looking for. Take everything into consideration and don’t waste your time submitting to a publisher who might not want your story.

Step two: Know the name of the editor you’re submitting to and address the letter to him/her. Again, the publishers website will be your best friend for this part. Under each open call they will have the name of the specific editor listed. If you are not submitting to an open call be warned that specific imprints or genres may have different editors. Find the one that is looking for your type of story.

Step three: The majority of your query letter should be about the book you are pitching. Remember you are trying to sell your book. This can be the fun part or the hard part. How do you summarize your entire story in a few short paragraphs? Try first to identify a theme. Cut to the chase by starting with that. Follow with the word count and merge into the sales pitch. This should basically be what you would read on the back of the book. Use your imagination and have fun! (Easier said than done, i know…)

Step Four: Indicate your credentials! This is important only if you have very good, applicable credits. Have a couple books published? let them know what and which publishers they were published by. Also remember if you have real life credentials that counts too. Wrote a book taking place in ancient Greece and have a degree in classical studies? Let them know! Remember that applies especially to non-fiction. If you don’t have anything to put down don’t worry about it. You can still have a strong query.

Step Five: Proof read. Make sure that its short. One page if you can manage it. Make sure that it is clean and neatly laid out. Double check to see if your summary is written in the same voice as the novel. Be sure that it is in present tense!

Its funny, but after all of that story writing, the query letter can be the hard part. You are no longer writing for yourself, you are officially writing for someone else, trying to identify all the little ways that a mass audience might like your story. Its definitely not easy but you owe it to yourself and to your own creativity to give it your all and go as far as you can.

Good Luck!

…now on to the summary…

note: any extra tips for me? Please give me any that you can! Any feedback for my list is truly welcome!

realism, romance and drama

The first post I made to this blog is simply a quote from oscar wilde which I find incredibly to the point when it comes to romance story telling.

He says “While we look to the dramatist to give romance to realism, we ask of the actor to give realism to romance.”

Don’t you think that this quote carries so much weight when it comes to writing in general? How many times have we read stories with fantastic writing and an interesting plot that still left us yawning? Being a writer, particularly of romance means that you alone need to find that delicate balance of romance and drama and realism.

The ability to type a good dramatic romance only goes so far unless there is a realistic touch to weed out all of those star lit nights and perfect love making sessions where all parties climax at the same time in a breath-taking explosion of white light and flower petals.

Too often, writers forget that the drama is what makes the comedy funny, or that the drama has a whole new level when things like romance are at stake.

Lets be honest, no one wants to read a flat, two dimensional story in any genre but the more you layer and find the romance or drama or realism the ultimately better your story will be.