Tag Archives: How to Publish Your Novel

How to survive pub board

If you have acquired an agent, sold your book to a publisher, and gained the attentions of its editor, you could be forgiven for thinking that all you need do is put your feet up, and have a chocolate truffle (or several).

Unfortunately not.

Your book could still be denied publication.

How can that be? you ask. After all, I have an agent and editor behind me now. So how can my novel fail to get published?

In two words: pub board.

What is pub board?  This is the meeting at which your editor presents your novel to the people at sales and marketing. Your editor has to convince sales that your book is actually going to sell. Your editor has to educate the people at marketing, so that they know what your book is about, in order to promote it.

And this is where your novel can fall down.

Is there anything you can do about this, as a writer?

  1. Know your market. Who is going to enjoy reading your book? Which genre does it belong to? Which novels does it compare with? Where does it fit on that bookshelf.
  2. Have a platform, because yes, in these days of chaos in the publishing industry, you will be required to help sell your book. Do you have a website? A blog? Are you an active participant on Facebook and Twitter?
  3. Take the sales people at your publishing house out to lunch or coffee, or find some way of visiting with them so that you can talk about your novel and answer any questions they may have. The more they know, the better job they will do at selling your book.

If you have any stories you would like to share about your own publishing ventures, please feel free to comment in the comment box.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Next: Publisher’s Marketplace

Image: www.touchstone-books.net

1 Comment

Filed under How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself

I join a book club

Finally, I have joined a book club. I have been meaning to do so for years, but sometimes it is hard to get into established ones, who don’t necessarily want new members. And then I’ve been going to writing clubs rather than book clubs, because I’ve been trying hard to learn the craft of writing,

Joining a book club illustrates the notion that sometimes the best way to get what you want is not to go directly for it, but to meander off onto a side path. I joined writing clubs to get advice on my manuscripts, but have become more and more disappointed as my writing has gotten better. You see, most people who join writing clubs have half of a first manuscript they want to share. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But for a writer who has passed the beginning stage, what is actually needed is advice from a professional. And the only way to get that is to pay to take craft courses, not to rely on well-meaning amateurs.

I’ve recently discovered that book clubs can be a blessing for those interested in practicing the craft of writing. Since you can talk about anything as long as it is related to the book under discussion, there is no reason why you can’t slip in a few craft questions about character, story arc or anything else. And the best part of it is that the people you are asking are your potential readers. These people don’t necessarily know much about craft. But they do know if they like the book, and can often articulate why this is so in great detail.

If you are a writer who feels frustrated with your writing group, my advice is to consider joining a book club. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Next: How what you don’t know about publishing can kill your book.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, How to Publish Your Novel, News & Notes

I go to AWP

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) holds a conference every year. I had never been before, and I went to see the Book Fair, meet some friends, and sit in on some of the sessions.

The most impressive thing about this conference is the Book Fair, which is huge. I’ve never seen so many representatives of indie presses all together in one room. I had a wonderful time walking up and down each row as I looked for presses that might be interested in publishing my novels. (This is my Plan B. Plan A, is still to get representation. Plan C is to self-publish).

I also had time to sit in on the sessions, and it was an interesting experience. I should say, first of all, that in my professional life I am a medical writer with a science background. I’m used to people who deal in facts, and always support what they say either by producing relevant data, or by making an argument.

So I was bemused to find myself in a session listening to five people talking around the issue of whether workshops actually work.

This is an important question because workshops are the backbone of MFAs and many writing conferences, so it is important to know if they don’t work and why. I sat in the audience for 75 minutes, without hearing one person explain exactly what the problems with workshops were. I heard two people say that they were problematic, two people say they were not problematic, and one person give a lit-critty deconstructional analysis.

I was puzzled. After all, if you don’t state what the problems are, how can you possibly find a remedy?

Next: I join a book club.

Image: mymcpl.org

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, Conferences, How to Publish Your Novel, News & Notes, Promoting Yourself

I get scooped

There are two kinds of historical novels, those which are about a real person from the past, and those which are about fictional characters set into an historical context.  Although agents prefer novels written about real people, the risk you take in writing such a novel is that someone else may have the exact same idea, and beat you to publication.

This has happened to me.

As you know, I have been trying to sell my novel ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, which is about Cecily Neville, Richard III’s mother. On Wednesday, I learned that Anne Easter Smith is to come out with a novel about Cecily titled QUEEN BY RIGHT.

Needless to say, I was very upset. Right now, I am a complete unknown who has failed to get the attentions of an agent, even though I have been trying to do so for a year. How I would have loved it if I had been first!

But this is the difference between being published and unpublished. Ms. Smith has three novels under her belt, which have sold moderately well. She has an agent. She has an editor. She has a publishing house. All she has to do is write, and I have to say she has worked with commendable efficiency to get a 500-page historical out in 18 months.

So what am I going to do about this?

I am going to wait.

I am going to stop promoting ONE SEED.

I am going to start promoting another novel I’ve completed, HE MUST BE SOMEONE, set in 1921 in Georgetown Washington DC, and Berlin Germany, which is a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets that takes us into the life of a gifted violinist.

I am going to buy QUEEN BY RIGHT when it comes out on May 3rd, and read it. I will probably write a book review to post on this blog. And I will hope that her novel does well, because if it does then I will have an audience eager to read another novel about Cecily.  Stay tuned.

Image: A photo of the model Heather Hayes posing as Cecily Neville. Photographer: Whitney Arostegui.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under About Cynthia, How to Publish Your Novel, News & Notes

Watch out for those subtle POV mistakes

In an earlier post, I mentioned that subtle ‘tells’ can show up, ruining your prose style, and pulling your reader out of her fictive dream. Today, I’m going to talk about subtle problems with point of view (POV).

We have all been told never to change POV in the middle of a scene, or head-hop. This mistake is easy to avoid, because you just have to remember to stick to one POV per chapter (at least).

Like unwanted ‘tells’ that show up in your prose style, unwanted POV problems can surface as well. These mistakes can be avoided by writing in first person POV. But if you need to write in limited third, then you really need to keep an eye on these problems.

In the following example, I am going to highlight the POV mistakes, by putting them in ALL CAPS:

She flinched. “How can you say that to me?”

“Very easily,” snarled Rossi.  “I can say that to a woman who has no regard for her own reputation, or her daughters’. Puttana! Slut!” he spat.

Angelina recoiled and WENT WHITE. Memories flooded back. Something terrible had happened the last time she’d heard that word. Unbidden tears came to her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, fumbling for a handkerchief.

She stiffened. The last thing she wanted was his pity. She waved away his handkerchief and continued walking with him down the street, arm in arm, as if they’d just had a lover’s tiff. A sudden thought occurred to her: “You’re Italian aren’t you?”

“I speak four languages,” he replied.  “Italian, German, French, and English.  How do you think I got into Georgetown?”

“You told me you were born in this country,” she remarked, her cheeks GOING PINK. “But no non-native speaker pronounces that word the way you do, with the correct intonation.”

Now, I’m going to rewrite the passage, taking care of these mistakes. I’ll highlight the correction in ALL CAPS:

She flinched. “How can you say that to me?”

“Very easily,” snarled Rossi.  “I can say that to a woman who has no regard for her own reputation, or her daughters’. Puttana! Slut!” he spat.

Angelina recoiled and HER BLOOD WENT COLD. Memories flooded back. Something terrible had happened the last time she’d heard that word. Unbidden tears came to her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, fumbling for a handkerchief.

She stiffened. The last thing she wanted was his pity. She waved away his handkerchief and continued walking with him down the street, arm in arm, as if they’d just had a lover’s tiff. A sudden thought occurred to her: “You’re Italian aren’t you?”

“I speak four languages,” he replied.  “Italian, German, French, and English.  How do you think I got into Georgetown?”

“You told me you were born in this country,” she remarked, her cheeks GROWING WARM. “But no non-native speaker pronounces that word the way you do, with the correct intonation.”

Next: I get scooped.

Image: Houses in Georgetown, Washington DC. Personal collection. HE MUST BE SOMEONE is set there.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Craft, How to Publish Your Novel

Watch out for those ‘tells’ in your prose style

“Show, don’t tell,” is a common thing that you hear writing instructors say to their students during workshops on craft. And there are obvious things you can do to heed that advice, such as putting all of the emotional high points of a novel into scenes, rather than summarizing them.

But there are subtle ways in which tells show up in prose style, that also need to be watched. Today, I am going to share what some of those problems are, something I didn’t realize about my own style until it was pointed out to me in the Self-Editing and Revision course I’m taking from Writers Digest.

Here is an example of what I mean. I have put the ‘tells’ in block caps:

Dominick Rossi had fought in the Great War from April 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany, until April 1919, when he’d finally returned home to Chicago. His war had been over for little more than two years and still his experiences haunted him. He brushed away  unpleasant thoughts, TELLING himself that he must  help free the world of the evils of war, and make this new decade, the twenties, happy and peaceful. He looked around, NOTING that dusk was beginning to fall, and REMINDED HIMSELF that he was on his way to his lodgings in Georgetown, Washington D.C.

Here is how I re-wrote the excerpt, getting rid of the ‘tells’:

His war had been over for little more than two years and still his experiences haunted him. He brushed away such unpleasant thoughts. He must help to free the world from the evils of war, and make this new decade, the twenties, happy and peaceful. He looked around. Dusk was beginning to fall. He was on his way to his lodgings in Georgetown, Washington D.C.

Why would you want to do this? The problem with too many ‘tells’ is that it has the effect of distancing the reader from the characters. If the point of the craft you deploy is to make your novel un-put-downable, you don’t want to do that. This is why you look over your writing and eliminate these mistakes.

I am very grateful to the instructor for pointing out these subtle errors in my prose style.

Next: I participate in a self-publishing webinar.

Image: The elegant spire of Healy Hall, Georgetown University, Washington D.C. Dominick Rossi is staring at that tower in the scene I excerpted.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

6 Comments

Filed under Craft, How to Publish Your Novel

I enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

After receiving numerous rejections from agents who’ve passed on ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the story of Richard III’s mother Cecily Neville, I decided that the time had come to try something different. Last Sunday, I stayed up until just past Midnight, so that I could submit ONE SEED for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The judges wanted not only the complete MSS, but also an author bio, a synopsis, an excerpt of between 3,000 to 5,000 words and a 300-word pitch.

I spent all day Sunday working away on that pitch, asking friends and family for their help, because that 300 words is all they read to start with, and is crucial to getting you into the second round. If you get there, then they’ll read your excerpt. My excerpt was exactly 5,000 words long and comprises the first two chapters of ONE SEED. Chapter One shows Cecily being sold into a marriage she doesn’t want at the tender age of nine. Chapter Two shows Cecily with her mother and other female relations, chatting, sewing and reading Chaucer. The point of that chapter is to ground the reader in who Cecily is and the influences that molded her before she became famous.

I hope they like reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. If they like the excerpt, you get into the quarter-final round, where they read the whole excerpt. I’m crossing my fingers that I get into the quarter-final round.  Stay tuned.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the story Richard III’s mother Cecily Neville. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Next: What I’m learning in an online course in Self-Editing and Revision.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, How to Publish Your Novel, News & Notes

I get a free critique of the first 3 pages of SOMEONE

One of the benefits of signing up for a Writers Digest Webinar, is that you get a bonus after it has ended. The first webinar I took allowed us to send in either a query letter of the first 300 words of our manuscripts. This webinar, titled  HOW TO HOOK AN AGENT, offered to send the agent leading the webinar the first three pages of your novel-in-progress. Accordingly, I sent in the first 3 pages of my second novel, titled HE MUST BE SOMEONE.

Set in 1922, it is a coming-of-age story about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. When Dominick Rossi arrives at Georgetown University to study at the School for Foreign Services, he dreams of meeting his aunt and three half-sisters. But Rossi’s actions lead to an unexpected death, and a forced separation from the woman he loves.

To my great surprise, I received a reply from the agent about a day after I sent in my pages. She liked them, but she also told me something useful. She said that my style of writing led me to do too much telling, which had the effect of distancing the reader.  This helped me to understand what it was about my writing that the other agent “didn’t love”.

Next: I enter the Amazon novel context

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel

I get rejected by an agent and participate in another webinar

As I said in a recent post, I was awaiting a verdict from yet another agent on ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, who promised me she’d get back to me after holidays. I finally heard from her January 8. She passed. She told me that it wasn’t right for her because “she didn’t love the writing.”

If you are an unpublished novelist, you know how frustrating this is. There you are, working so hard on your art, faced with an agent who is demanding an exclusive. You give it to them, and honorably keep your side of the bargain so that no other agent sees it, while they take their sweet time. Then you get dismissed with a one-liner.

What did I do? I swallowed my bile, wrote to the agent, and thanked her. Then I signed up for another webinar given by Writers Digest. These webinars are not cheap (they cost $89), enough so that I nearly didn’t sign up. But I was very pleased with the quality of the first one, so I decided to sign up for this one, entitled HOW TO HOOK AN AGENT WITH YOUR FIRST PAGES. The speaker was a newish agent who was actively seeking new work. Here are 4 tips that I thought were important:

  1. Be careful with the quality of writing in your query letter, because the agent will take it as an accurate representation of the quality of writing in your novel.
  2. Prologues are a real turnoff, so don’t do one unless you have a very good reason for it.
  3. Readers hate data dumps, so when introducing your characters, go lightly on descriptions. Instead, focus on their thoughts and actions.
  4. Perhaps the most important, if you’re having trouble getting your novel off the ground, write down what the inciting incident is and start over. What is an inciting incident? In ONE SEED it’s Cecily’s betrothal to Richard, Duke of York. In SOMEONE it is Mr. Rossi’s moving to Georgetown to study at Georgetown University. In THE HEIR it is when Count von Lietzow hears that Grace has moved back to Berlin. You get the idea.

To find out more about Writers Digest webinars, click here.

Next: I get a free critique of the first 3 pages of SOMEONE.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel

I get a FREE critique of the first 300 words of ONE SEED

As I said in my last post, I recently participated in a webinar given by a well-known agent, who has a reputation for looking after her authors. As part of the fee we paid, we were eligible to have this agent critique the first 300 words of our novels. So I sent in the very beginning of ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED.

To my delight, the agent responded within 2 days. Her response was that she wasn’t sure that my protagonist (Cecily Neville) was enough of a name to be able to sell books. On the other hand, she did have some interest as the mother of Richard III. What would make a difference for this agent was how good the writing was.

I would like this agent to represent my novel, but I’m taking her warning about the quality of the writing to heart. I’ve decided to explore some other avenues first before I submit it to her. Stay tuned.

Next: I get rejected by an agent and participate in another webinar.

Image: Castle Raby, near Durham England, where Cecily Neville spent part of her girlhood.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel