Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The good, the bad, and the insane.

It was a week of near disasters and glorious victories. Pits and peaks Mountain tops and sink holes. Typical writers' terrain.

Pit: After driving 4 hours to speak to a writer's group, I noticed the sky was getting ominously dark. Three miles from the venue, the torrents broke loose. With nowhere to park near the appointed building, I was forced to run through the downpour with my dinner plate-sized umbrella (which the wind turned inside out almost immediately) in my dry clean only suit and heels.

The wide expanse of parking lot? Well, to quote a famous title, a river ran through it.

As I traversed the first ankle-deep puddle, I watched helplessly as my box of books perched atop the wheeled suitcase carrying my presentation materials tipped - in slow motion - and descended to the wet earth. My books, my precious slaved-over, paid-for books that could not be returned, scattered far and wide as the deluge did it's best to ruin as many as possible.

At least my tears blended in with the rain and tendrils of hair dripping down my face.

Only 5 people braved the elements to attend.

Peak: Two days later, my hometown Tea Tasting/Book Signing at a lovely Tea Room was a smashing success. sunny skies, gorgeous surroundings, lots of old friends to hug, a delicious lunch, and more than 80 books sold.

Pit: My long anticipated first nationally broadcast interview on NBC was preempted by a dog food commercial. After notifying hundreds of local fans to tune in or tape the Daytime show on our local affiliate, WFLA, Spouse and I watched with bated breath for the entire hour and . . . no Mom Needs Chocolate interview. So deflating.

Frantic calls to my publicist followed, then her queries to the show's producer. What happened?

It turns out the segment containing my spot was sold to an advertiser (money, of course, trumps everything else) locally, so the interview aired all over the rest of the country, just not on our Tampa affiliate. Most embarrassing for me and difficult to explain to the fine folks who came home from work, flipped on the recorded show, and watched the whole hour expecting to see me. I was bummed all day.

Peak: A wonderful hour-long radio interview with WMMK Talk Radio. Yay! Redemption!

Pit: My agent isn't crazy about the title or content of the new book I've been slaving over.

Peak: But he wants it anyway. By the end of the week. Yikes!

So there you have it - a typical week in the life of a writer. The good, the bad, and the insane.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nailing a Radio Interview

These great tips are from bestselling author Tricia Goyer.

Radio interviews are fun. The interviewer calls your home and you get to chat about your book. And then lots of people hear about it and go buy it. How easy it that?!

For radio interviews:
Do ... put it on your calendar.
Do ... check your calendar the night before, in case it's an early interview. (I've almost missed a 6:00 a.m. interview once!)

Do ... get the dogs out of the room.
Do ... get the kids out of the room.
Do ... get them both far enough away so their complaints will not be heard by the radio interviewer.

Do ... turn off call waiting on your phone.
Do ... confiscate every other phone in the house.
Do ... turn off your cell phone.

Do ... call the emergency number included with your confirmation IF you do not hear from them within 1-2 minutes of the scheduled time ... especially if it is LIVE. Sometimes they have the wrong number. Or maybe your home phone line is dead. (Something that happened this week that I didn't realize it until I called the station on my cell to check on why they hadn't called.)

Do not ... check your email at the same time.
Do not ... have any other distractions except the voice on the phone.
Do ... tell them if you cannot hear them clearly.
Do ... have the volume turned up on your phone, because sometimes they are hard to hear.

Do ... have your favorite statistics (for non-fiction) printed up and sitting next to you.
Do ... have a copy of your book with you. (So when they say, "On page 93 ...)

Do not ... ask your assistant to call in for a call in show ... unless she is already prepared with a REALLY good question :-)

Do ... come up of "key phrases" ahead of time. Things you want to get across.
Do ... have a copy of your publishers' suggested interview questions and know how to respond.
Do ... have short stories or illustrations that can sum up the principles you want to share for your non-fiction.
Do ... have the same stories ready for your fiction. Interviewers love them.

Do ... have a smile on your face.
Do ... laugh and enjoy yourself. You'll come across well.

Do ... listen to your interview when you're done (if possible) and see what worked and what didn't.
Do ... have a professional critique your interview, if possible.
Do ... listen to their suggestions for improvement.

Do ... send a thank you card to the station when you are done.
Do ... add them to your contact list, and make a note of what type of interviewer they were.

Do not say ... "in my book" 50 times. Let them rave about you.
Do ... be ready for any question. And if you don't know that answer either 1) do your best or 2) say "I wish I knew the answer for that, but what I can say is ..."

Do not ... worry about this before your book is published, just enjoy the writing ... which is what writing is all about!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Writer's Journey Continued

Marketing. A single word that encompasses a boatload of time, energy, and yes, expense.

In these days of rampant self-publishing, I'm amazed at the number of new authors I meet who truly believe the hard work is over once the manuscript is bundled off to the printer and now it's Easy Street. Sit back and watch the sales roll in.

Many writers enter Publishing World without a clue to the vast occupation that awaits them once their book sees the light of print: phone calls, e-mails, creating brochures and flyers, business cards, establishing and maintaining a web site, blogs, visiting book stores, pitching to reviewers and media to name a few tasks.

That is, of course, if you plan to sell more than the average 75 copies self-published books chalk up.

The key to a successful book launch is to do your homework. Talk to other authors, research what works and what doesn't, visit how-to sites and author/agent blogs, ask questions, listen and implement. Establish a marketing plan and stick to it, revising along the way as necessary.

Working your day job is no excuse. If your book is important to you, you'll make it a priority with whatever time you have. Take me for example. During the four years since my first book came out, I've worked two to three days a week as an orthopedic occupational therapist and until last year, also taught piano lessons.

Last night I met the producer of the audio version of my book, The Distant Shore, and spent two hours recording original piano music to be used for credit and chapter lead-ins. I just labored for three days to mail 200 brochures to churches regarding my Grace Notes speaking ministry and two new inspirational releases, Mom Needs Chocolate (Regal) and Everyday Hope (Barbour). I'm awaiting a call from an Atlanta radio station for an interview this morning, and will leave tomorrow for north Florida to speak to a writer's group in Jacksonville Thursday night and attend a Tea Tasting & Book Signing at the Strawberry Tea Room in Starke on Saturday.

These events didn't magically happen. They are the the culmination of months of phone calls, e-mails, mailings, personal contacts - just plain hard work.

So if you're one of the brand spanking new authors who approaches me, gushing with expectations of awards, accolades and offers about to descend upon you, please forgive my bland smile. It's the smile of the tired, sweaty gardener who knows a beautiful rose garden doesn't just magically happen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of...what?

In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote the words: ", liberty and the pursuit of possessions."

Later it was changed to ", liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

To the colonists' way of thinking, materialism was driving the expansion of the New World. Possessions, to them, equaled happiness.

So...what do you think of that?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roll 'Em

Had great fun taping an interview for NBC's local affiliate WFLA in Tampa this morning. We were there for almost two hours to get an edited 4-minute interview, which will air on the August 25 "Daytime" show, 10 - 11 am.

The process is very interesting: A LOT of waiting around but when they're ready for you, it's blam, blam, blam, cameras whirling about, tech guys groping you to secure your lapel mic and amp in place, prompters rolling, hosts mugging for the cam. Then you wait some more and do it all over again.

I arrived at 10:15 at the downtown Tampa studio, which also houses The Tampa Tribune newspaper offices. A security guard escorted my husband Chuck and me back to a waiting room, where another author also scheduled for an interview that day sat nervously chatting with her friend. It turns out that lovely Lisa Black from Melbourne (just next door to Merritt Island, the setting for my novels The Distant Shore and Billowing Sails) is an inspirational mom writer as well. We hit it off, gabbing our fool heads off until a technician appeared to escort us back to the cavernous studio.

We waited in chairs backed against a wall, surrounded by monitors that allowed us to view the constant movement and chaos accompanying the shooting of a myriad of lead-in's and wrap-ups (by the three hosts) of pretaped segments, presumably airing today. They rotated among three sets and shot numerous takes due to tripping tongues or holey scripts, reading from hooded prompters located just above the numerous cameras situated to shoot different angles at almost every other sentence.

The host scheduled to interview me, Lindsey, slid over between takes and introduced herself and asked for a copy of Mom Needs Chocolate, which my publicist sent but had not arrived. My stomach dropped like a stone.

This is NOT a good thing. You always prefer your interviewer to have read your book before they discuss it with you on national television.

Since Lindsey didn't know one thing about my book, she had prepared questions based on a magazine article I had written, which really had very little to do with the book. She did manage to speed read at least one chapter of MNC between takes so that during the interview an hour later, she was able to squeeze in a few customized comments so that it turned out just fine.

One vain girlie side item: After debating for days over whether to wear the teal suit or the black pinstripe, I chose the teal, only to arrive and find the set slated for the interview sported wedgewood blue chairs. Oh well. There was nothing I could do but hope I didn't clash with my chair to the point that the viewer was reduced to squinting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coping with Rejection: Part 2

This is information from a week-long July blog posting from a literary agency Books & Such:

When an agent sends a rejection letter, different types of rejections mean different things. Here’s the inside scoop, as I see it, on four main forms of rejection:

The Plain Old Rejection (usually sent for rejecting query letters):

This letter will say something like, Thanks, but no thanks. It means that the project isn’t right for that agent for one reason or another. If you continue to receive these rejections from every agent you’re submitting to, consider revising your query, or maybe it’s time to move on to a new idea.

The ‘Revise and Send Again’ Rejection (usually sent for rejecting proposals or manuscripts):

This rejection letter will have some revision notes in it. This usually means that your proposal or manuscript sparked the agent’s interest, but the agent knows that it needs to be revised in some way to have a chance in the current market. These rejections usually ask for the project to be sent again, if the suggested revisions are made. If you receive one of these rejections, be sure to follow through and send that revised project back to the agent. (Agents hate to make suggestions, only to have the potential client never resubmit but instead shows the new and improved version to another agent–who, of course, thought it was genius!)

The ‘Any Other Ideas?’ Rejection (usually sent for rejecting proposals or manuscripts):

If you receive a rejection asking if you have any other ideas for projects, this typically means that the agent enjoyed your writing, but didn’t think that your idea would work well in the marketplace. You’ll want to write back to the agent with a list of project ideas and an estimated date of when he or she could see a proposal, if you aren’t finished with the writing yet.

The ‘This Project Isn’t Right for Me’ Rejection (usually sent for rejecting proposals or manuscripts):

This type of rejection is used as a thanks, but no thanks rejection for proposals and manuscripts. It means that something in your query letter sparked the agent’s interest, but when he or she looked at the writing sample and examined the idea more closely, it wasn’t a good fit. If you continue to receive this type of rejection, stop submitting your project and consider revising.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

Hey, check out my newly posted TV and radio interviews at! And if you're from Florida, don't forget to sign up for the exciting and informative Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat on Nov. 14 (details also on my website). Low cost! Enormously beneficial!

Here's an excerpt from Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

"I recall listening to an audio tape of my now twenty-four-year-old son as he sang a very off-key rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" at age three. In the opinion of most people, his skills would be considered rudimentary, even lacking.

But I was deeply touched by the most beautiful voice on the planet, blessed and proud as only a parent can be. I taught him that song, and he was doing his part to learn and improve.

That's exactly the way God, our heavenly parent, views our writing skills. He taught us everything we know, through avenues of formal education, experience, and aptitude. Now it's up to us to continue learning and improving.

If we view our writing careers through the Daddy filter, the pressure of being "good enough" is lifted. Our Heavenly Father will be blessed and proud of our accomplishments on any level."

From the chapter "Who's Your Daddy?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coping with Rejection: Part 1

This is information from a week-long July blog posting from a literary agency Books & Such:

This week I’m going to talk about something we all hate: rejection. Unfortunately rejection is a big part of a writer’s life, and it’s also a big part of an agent’s life, just in a different way.

I have to reject people. Believe it or not, agents don’t actually enjoy rejecting people, but it’s part of the job. I often do all of my rejection emails and letters on the same day each week, and I never feel good about that day when I go home. It’s not fun to think about crushing the hopes of so many writers. The agents I know never set out to be insensitive when it comes to writing a rejection to an author, but sometimes we sound as if we don’t care just because of the number of rejections we have to send out. It’s humanly impossible for an agent to represent every good project that comes along; so we have to evaluate each project using these criteria:

1) Is the project something I’m excited about?

The best representation comes from an enthusiastic agent. I want to be excited about my clients’ projects, and my clients want me to be enthusiastic about their writing.

2) Could I show this project to my established network of publishers?

Every agent has a network of editors and publishers whom they’ve established relationships with. These editors and publishers are usually interested in the same type of material the agent is; so the relationship has been built on a mutual love for certain genres or topics. Agents want to represent books that could be shown to many different editors and publishing houses in their preexisting network because the possibility of selling the project is higher.

3) Could I work well with this author?

The author-agent relationship is VERY important. There needs to be mutual respect and trust between them for the relationship to last. I have a phone call and exchange several emails with potential clients before I offer representation. I try to get to know them as much as I can because I would much rather be very careful about whom I work with than having to end a relationship because it didn’t go well.

4) Can this author write well and revise if necessary?

I look for clean writing in submissions and often will suggest revisions not only to help to improve the project but also to see if the author is willing and able to make revisions. It’s understandable that authors don’t want to change their “babies,” but when I see changes that need to be made, I want clients who are going to trust my judgment and do a thorough and professional revision.

If the answer is “no” to any of these criteria, I’m going to choose not to represent that writer. When I send a rejection, I hope that author will find the right agent for his or her project; I want every author to succeed.