Friday, February 20, 2009

What balance? *tips over*...

I have to whole-heartedly agree with fellow Girls have posted so far on this subject.

There is no balance. Not at this point.

The fact that I am currently cultivating a raging head-cold - having turned in my last round of edits on my Book 2 manuscript only a week or two ago - is evidence of the fact that I am somewhat out of whack. I don't usually get sick. I suppose I could lay partial blame on the recent spate of crappy weather, but I'm Canadian. We're not technically allowed to do that.

No, rather, I think my system is just a little overloaded. Or overwhelmed. Or something. Because this isn't the first time this has happened in recent memory and I'm starting to see a pattern. See... it's been about a year and a half now since I first jumped on the soon-to-be-published-author train and in that time my books and this biz have gleefully and with joyous abandon taken over my life. Disclaimer: I wouldn't have it any other way and this is in NO way to be construed as a complaint (although the sniffling is rather annoying, I grant you...)

This is a profession that tends to be somewhat consuming. And sometimes you (or, at least, I)forget to do the little things. Things like eating at regular intervals and taking your vitamins and getting enough sleep when you're hip-deep in revisions, for example. And then, you turn those pages in and suddenly - a week or so later - your system takes a little nose-dive just to serve as a gentle reminder that, you know, you might wanna get around to doing stuff like that.

It's funny. I find it's almost exactly the same thing as doing a show. There's rehearsl and production week and load-in and performance... and then the second the curtain goes down on the last show, I can instantly feel the sneeze coming on. With the books, the process is a bit more protracted but it's fundamentally the same. Go go go go go go go go... collapse.

But - here's the thing. It's okay to collapse every once and awhile - if you're doing it with a big ol' grin on your face.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Balancing Life and Launch

I actually have a lot to say about balancing life and writing, about how it’s something I’ve struggled with for years, about how for a period, I stopped writing because the balancing act was too hard, and then how I came back to writing because I realized my life felt a whole lot emptier without it.

But right now, what I’m really having trouble balancing is The September Sisters book launch, with, well, everything else. It’s not the launch itself so much as the anticipation, the jitters, the excitement, and of course my own attempts at publicity and marketing. In fact all of this has pretty much dominated my life for the past month or so. Not much balance there at all.

My husband, who I’ve coined my unofficial publicist/head marketer/website designer is almost worse than I am. Our dinner conversation has been something like this lately.

Him: “How was your day?”
Me: “It was . . . Oh my god! Only (fill in number of days here) until the book comes out!”
Me: “I’m sorry. How was your day?”
Him: “It was. . .Hey, I Googled your book during lunch and found a new blog review. Did you see it?”

And it gets worse. At my son’s birthday party a few weeks ago, I found myself fielding questions about the book. While I was working out a few days ago, my husband interrupted to get my opinion on the bookmarks he was designing for me (which are awesome, by the way.) Kids go to bed, time to work on my revisions of my latest book? Not exactly. Instead, I’ve been answering interview questions, writing guest blogs, and trying to figure out how to use features on Goodreads and Facebook. My husband? He’s been hanging out in the office with me reading his very own copy of The September Sisters, and of course, stopping every so often to comment on a part the he hadn’t remembered reading in an earlier draft. That is, when he’s not working on my website or designing those aforementioned bookmarks!

Yeah. No balance. At all. It kind of reminds me of the way life was when I was nine months pregnant with my first child, when every single conversation or thought seemed to revolve around the baby or the birth or the nursery or how we were planning on caring for the baby. But in a lot of ways, isn’t a book coming out kind of like the same thing? With this book launch, I’m getting ready to put a piece of myself, out there, into the world, and once it’s out there, everything might be different than it was before. It’s an idea that overwhelms me with excitement (and sometimes, terror).

I am sure in a few weeks things will die down, and life will go back to normal, and then I’ll be happily back to juggling only life and writing. But for now, I’m okay with letting the book launch consume my life, for a little while anyway. After all, your debut book only comes out once!

PS. I’m all over the blogosphere this week and next, talking about The September Sisters. Click on over to my personal blog to find the links!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Balancing is tough stuff

I've started this post five times now. And I've finally decided to backspace through the last one and throw in the towel. (I know writers are suppose to be more creative than to use age-old trite expressions but it's going to have to do for now.) I could attempt to write a humorous post about balancing my life and at best I might eek out a little self-deprecating summary of all that's making me crazy. But I'm not even going to try.

Here's the deal. I have a really hard time balancing everything that's going on in my life. I try as hard as I can to keep the pen moving, the kids on track and the day job paying the bills, but it's tough stuff.

Tracy and Jill - I can't wait to read your books. Congratulations to you both! Please don't forget to set aside enough time to enjoy what you've worked so hard to accomplish. That's the part of the balancing act that is the most crucial.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing = Must Do

It's ironic that we're doing the topic "Balancing Life and Writing" this week--since I feel like my life has been going at mach ten speed the past few days. By day, I work in fundraising and worked a huge black-tie event all day and night on Saturday. I think I'm still recovering.

Many people look at me like I have six sets of eyes when I mention that I still work full-time and have a husband and son in addition to my literary "children." Often they ask, "How do you find the time?" And I usually stammer out, " sleep...write on my lunch hour..." because I honestly don't know how I find the time. Between the demands of the day job and the regular boring tasks like laundry, cooking and cleaning, I have very little creative energy at the end of the day. But I somehow managed to write three books in two years, so I must be sneaking it in somewhere.

But what I do know is this: I HAVE to write. It's not just a hobby or an item on the to-do list. And while it's not always something I find easy--like when a character won't do what I tell them to do or a plot hole is staring me in the face, it's part of me. It's who I am. And I might not get a chance to do it every day, but it's always there, like a silent, ever-present piece of me, much like the freckles on my arms.

So finding time, while difficult, isn't really an issue. Because NOT doing it simply isn't an option. Much like brushing my teeth or putting on mascara.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Novel Girls Welcome Agent MICHELLE GRAJKOWSKI!

Please join me in welcoming my amazing, wonderful, and fabulous literary agent Michelle Grajkowski from 3 Seas Literary Agency as our guest today.

From the moment Michelle Grajkowski first opened her doors to the 3 Seas Literary Agency in August of 2000, she has been living her dream. (What could be better than surrounding yourself with great authors and their exciting and imaginative books?)

Since then, she's successfully sold into major publishing houses that include Harlequin, NAL, Berkley, Dorchester, Kensington, Avon, Random House (both here and in the UK), Knopf, Andrews McMeel, Warner, St. Martins, and HarperCollins.

TM: What type of projects are you currently looking for?

MG: Thank you so much for asking me to guest blog today. I’m really happy to be here. :)

3 Seas represents primarily romance, women’s fiction and children’s books. So, anything that falls into those categories is fair game. I love straight contemporary romance, romantic suspense, historicals (especially American set historicals which are VERY hard to place, but I love trying!), paranormal romance and female focused fantasy. On the children’s side, I enjoy young adult and middle grade fiction. I only represent a select few picture books.

One area that I would love to expand in is nonfiction. I love books on women’s issues, parenting, money and business.

OK, so that’s the broad overview. More specifically, what am I looking for? I’m looking for amazing authors who make me feel when I’m reading their projects. Who make me forget that I’m reading. Who draw me so deep into their characters and their settings that I think they are real. When I’m reading a submission, I want to laugh, or cry. I want to be carried away.

In today’s tight market, it’s so important that author’s differentiate themselves from the pack. I love it when I find a project that is so well put together with a high concept angle that I just know will sell. It’s so much fun to market the author and to find the perfect home for their work.

TM: What's selling now?

MG: Paranormals are still hot, hot, hot! But, that being said, for new authors it’s becoming harder to break in. This is where that unique hook, that high concept idea comes into play.

I’ve also recently had editors ask for straight contemporary and historical romances. There has been such a huge market shift where the majority of the submissions received are paranormals. And, while paranormals are selling, this influx has left room for new authors in the contemporary and historical romance subgenres.

Two other segments of the market that continue to grow are female focused fantasy and urban fantasy.

And, middle grade and YA books are still hot!!

TM: In your opinion, has the current economic climate impacted sales?

MG: Right now, I think we’re in a good news/bad news phase of publishing. Let me explain…

One thing that I’ve heard through the grapevine is that initial orders (from the booksellers) have dropped slightly from the years past, but that after the initial conservative buys, the reorders are coming in and in the long run the sales numbers are balancing out. Until we see statements that cover the past year, though, it’s hard to get a good, clear picture.

And just last week, there have been lots of discussions on the distribution system. One distributor is having some major cash flow issues which could dramatically affect the distribution of books into primary markets. I’m hopeful, though, that the distributor will be able to iron everything out internally, or that another buyer will step in to help smooth over this process. As an agent, though, I’m in constant contact with the publishers to find out how this news is affecting our bottom lines.

And, even though the above two statements sound like potential doom-and-gloom scenarios, there are a few silver linings. For example, throughout history, during a recession, the publishing industry usually stays pretty stable. The reason? Books are cheap entertainment. Rather than spending $80+ to go see your favorite performer, for example, you can spend $7.99 to read your favorite author.

Also, because of the distribution issues, publishers are really focusing on new ways to capitalize in this tight market. And, what better way than to revamp how books reach their readers? This Christmas, one of the hottest gifts of the year was the Amazon Kindle, and Apple is doing all they can to keep up with the e-book market. Publishers are recognizing that our readers are changing. As technology continues to explode and becomes even more at our fingertips, for many readers, heading to the bookstore may become a thing of the past. Look at the record industry, for example. With ipods and MP3 players, the majority of the music purchases are done online with instant access to the music purchased. And, with teens being the major consumers in this market, chances are high that they will look for their book purchases the same way.

As with every successful industry, the key to growth is adaptation and change. And, the best news? The publishing industry appears to be doing just that. So, even though there are a few bumps in the road, I have a good feeling that publishing will continue to grow throughout these hard economic times.

TM: What is your favorite part about being an agent?

MG: Can I only have one???

I love, love, love agenting. It truly is my dream career, and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I love working with my authors, helping them develop their projects, celebrating their successes, selling their books, handling their business affairs. I love going to conferences and meeting with my clients and my editor friends. I love making trips into New York and eating my way through. I love going to RT and to Nationals, running around like a crazy person in between meetings and dancing my way through the publisher parties. I love finding new talent and making their first sales. I love reading, editing and critiquing. I love balancing and tracking royalty statements. I love that every day is different, and my to do list never quite turns out to be what I’m doing because little fires appear that I have to fix. I love problem solving and career planning. I love being there for my clients. I love that they are so much more than “clients” to me, I love that they are my friends. Man, I just love this job.

TM: What catches your attention in a query letter or sample pages?

MG: The most important thing you can include in your query letter is your hook. You need to figure out what makes your project special, what makes it different. What the high concept is behind your idea. And, then you need to lay that out for the agent in your query. We literally receive hundreds of queries every week. So, it’s crucial to make your story stand out.

In your sample chapters, polish them until they shine. Make sure every single word counts. Every word should move your story forward. Try to eliminate unnecessary backstory and characters in the opening chapters. Less is often more!! Finally, be sure that your dialogue is natural and unforced. And, avoid conversation. Remember, dialogue moves your story forward. Conversation is just idle chit chat. One last piece of advice -- your voice is everything.

TM: What are some of your favorite books?

MG: Any book by one of my clients!!!

But, all those withstanding. I love the classics like GONE WITH THE WIND And, in high school I was obsessed with I’LL TAKE MANHATTAN by Judith Krantz. Anything by Judith Krantz or Jude Deveraux works for me!! Also, I just read the SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT series by Meg Cabot. Awesome, awesome stuff! For an escape, I love to read anything YA. It keeps me young, and is so much fun!!

Thank you for dropping by and visiting us today, Michelle! I’m so proud to be one of your clients!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Novel Girls News

Join us tomorrow, February 16th, for an interview with literary agent, Michelle Grajkowski, from Three Seas Literary!

And we're only one week away from the release of Tracy Madison's A Taste of Magic and Jillian Cantor's The September Sisters!!! Soon we'll be starting a contest to give away signed copies of each book -- so check the sidebar for contest details next week.

The Novel Girls