Ten points to consider before signing a book contract Part 1

Meme for contract blog

You’ve worked hard and now a contract offer looms before you. The first book contract is the most exciting. So much so you might even sign it for free. But please, don’t.

I’ve signed two so far and I did my research first. Both contracts were with reputable small publishing houses. That helped me feel more comfortable. Before the first contract was offered I got to know the editors from the house through conferences and became a fan of authors they published. I was confident when I signed with them and pleased with their author care. The second one I got through my agent and he negotiated the contract. But I still did some homework myself.

Below are ten things I feel are important before you sign not only the first but any contract. Especially with small publishing companies because they come and go. But traditional house should still get the same scrutiny. Small publishers are a great way to start your author career. They are usually more open to debut authors. And new authors can get so excited and in a hurry to see their name on a cover. Here are some things to consider before signing on the dotted line.

  1. What percentage do you receive as the author for each sale? (royalties) Those percentages can range from 10% to 50%. Most small publishers don’t give advances and often the first royalty check doesn’t come for 90 days. Any paperbacks you wish to sell you purchase for an author’s discount.  If your goal is to get your first book out there, the royalty amount may not matter. The smaller the company the smaller the royalty. (There may be exceptions.)
  2. Number of titles the publisher has? Go to their website and check out their volume. A brand- new publisher may have ten. A more established will have hundreds.

While you’re on the website check out a few other things.

  1. Cover designs Are the covers appealing. Are you drawn to the covers? The first thing a potential reader notices is the cover.secret-charades-front-cover

 

  1. Do they have any best-selling or award-winning authors under contract? This is not a red flag, merely a hopeful consideration. They look for quality and if they are offering you a contract, you can feel comfortable they consider your work quality.
  2. Sales ranking Choose a book in your genre and search for them on Amazon. What do the sales rankings look like? Do this with a few or all the books in your genre. There are millions of books on Amazon so if their numbers are over 500 in specific categories or over 50,000 in the whole pool of books that is a good thing. These numbers give you a good idea of sales. However, some some authors refuse to market and their numbers reflect that.

Next week I’ll share the second half of my list. If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them. These tips are things I find helpful. You may have some other ideas.

 

 

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How Does A Wedding Mirror Story Arc

This past Sunday was my daughter’s wedding. And as I mentioned in my last post, I would be laying my pen aside, but my mind would still be doing writerly things. Reflecting on the wedding, I found the day was a great analogy for story arc. Each part of the wedding and reception reflected how a story line grows in a novel.  As I smile thinking about the wonderful event on Sunday, I’ll share how I see the analogy and a few pictures not only to illustrate my point but also to share my joy.21314833_10214203649511292_4022649231922811820_n

Wedding theme

Today couples create a theme for their wedding that goes beyond colors. My daughter and her fiancé chose favorite things. Every part of the day a reflection of that choice.

(Photo of Cake Topper, table decorations and favors.)

Favorite superheroes cake topper. A CD of music representing their journey to marriage (Note the label looks like the one from Guardian of the Galaxy.) Favorite games in the table decorations.

Novels need a theme

Each novel we write must have a theme. Secrets and Charades’ theme: Your past does not have to determine your future.  New Duet has a similar message: leave the past behind. Writer’s weave the idea through the story from opening line to the end.

Novels can have settings that help carry the theme. My novels speak of new beginnings so the settings are opposite of the protagonist’s former lives.secret-charades-front-cover click here to order.

Wedding surprises and novel structure

My daughter and her husband wanted their guests to enjoy some of their favorite things. While the venue for their wedding and reception were typical, the whole day was uniquely their own.

The Bride and Groom represented the hero and heroine in the structure of a romance novel. Both have distinctive character qualities with their individual goals and desires. The wedding like a story arc has basic bones. The Bride and Groom enter a church or other setting where guests watch them say their vows. Everything beyond that is up for grabs.

Pam and Jon chose to have my niece perform the ceremony keeping it more of a family affair. The flower girl passed out flowers rather than sprinkling petals on the floor. And the ringbearer had a Chicago Bears Teddy Bear ring pillow to carry. There was a string trio, but the bride (to the surprise of her groom) entered to a recording of Somebody to Love, by Queen. The couple exited to Star Wars music after reciting traditional vows. Bubbles were showered on the couple who drove away in a classic 60s convertible.

Disasters a must

A microphone malfunction and the flower girl standing frozen in the aisle reminded me that stories must have a few disasters. Not necessarily an explosion but something to create tension. Perhaps the heroine can’t cook or the hero really isn’t very good at fixing things.

Unique elements

Our novels need to have unique bits that keep the reader engaged. A female doctor in the 1800s is unique but becoming a mail order bride is over the top. A wounded warrior after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan loses his leg in a motorcycle accident stateside which adds to his angst.

Unique elements for the decor : favorite superhero cake topper, party favors and a CD for every family of all the music representing their romance and each table had a different game for guest to play.

The wedding had a traditional photographer and a videographer but there was also a photo booth with props. A few added twists that spoke to the favorite things theme greeted guests at the reception. The table center pieces were games the guests were encouraged to play. Prizes were given to the first person at each table who won a game. The games were available to play all evening.

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Grandchildren engaged in a fun game.

Children’s games helped keep my grandchildren engaged, and many adults were loving the opportunity to play games rather than dance. All the games were ones Jon and Pam have enjoyed.  But the game curve intensified just like a plot twist. There were several pictures mixed into the decorations that represented favorite movies. There was a prize for the person who deciphered all the clues.

Plot Twists are a must to engage the reader

Twists are what make your story sing. Characters that aren’t who they seem, unexpected solutions and buried secrets. The protagonist doing what no one thought they could.

That brings me to my favorite part of the reception. My husband is not a dancer with a capital N. Pam wanted to do something unique for the father/daughter dance. So, for months they worked out the steps for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from the musical Mary Poppins complete with straw hat, cane and umbrella. The guests were surprised and delighted.

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The Father/Daughter Dance gets a 10. I have no photos to share of the dance right now. But this unexpected twist is priceless.

As in a well-written novel there was a challenge to the plan. In this case on the dance floor. Jon had no idea what Pam and her father had planned, but he wanted to do something extra special as well. (Sound like a familiar plot twist.) His mother made him a coat like the one from Beauty and the Beast that he put on after the initial traditional first dance. Jon insisted this dance would be the best yet. (the challenge.)  He changed into the coat bowed and took her hand as they danced to Beauty and the Beast. After the lovely dance, Pam threw down the gauntlet (in a joking manner of course), and she and her father to quote Jon, “Smoked him.” Yet he had another surprise up his sleeve. As the applause died down the Bridal Party held up paddles with the number 10. Another awesome surprise. Laughter and more applause resonated around the room. The DJ in his 30 years had never seen both the bride and groom keep a surprise from each other. Again, unique things sprinkled in a story arc.

During the toasts Pam’s brother David, who is serving in the Army gave a toast via Facebook Live on his brother Nathan’s phone that was broadcast to the whole room. So cool. David also viewed the wedding ceremony from his brother’s cellphone. Again, a sweet surprise thanks to technology that intensified the emotion.

A great The End

The reception wound down and the couple headed out for their honeymoon.

In a romance novel, the couple struggles with and overcomes all the disasters and unexpected twists in the plot. They enjoy or work through all the surprises to reach their happily-ever-after whether that is a wedding, a honeymoon or a declaration of love. In my novels, the theme of putting your past behind has been resolved and a promising future loom. The reader like the wedding guests will talk about what they experienced for a long after The End.

Thanks for indulging my afterglow thoughts. Happy writing.

What events in your life were fuel for your story arc?

 

 

 

 

Reflections on My Online Launch party

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A week ago today was my virtual book launch. It was both exciting and scary. Exciting because it was a launch for my book and not someone else’s. Exciting because it was a launch for my book and not someone else’s. I’ve been to others launches. But being the center of the launch was surreal.

I don’t have the sales figures yet because my book released on the 15th. But I think the launch did bring more interest in my novel. Paige Boggs, my marketing guru thought it went well.

Be Proactive

I decided to be proactive in advance. I’ve read lots of blogs from successful authors to start garnering interests early. I posted some trivia facts about Secrets and Charades and things I’d learned from my research on my author page every Monday for seven weeks. Then I post the whole group as a post the day before the launch. Then I composed seven trivia questions to post on my launch. Some were true or false. Others were multiple choice questions. You could check the facts before answering or just guess. Of course, I had to post the answers at the end of the party so those who answered the trivia could grade themselves.

Every commenter was placed in my drawing for a variety of things. I gave away one paperback version and one kindle version of my book and amazon gift card and stuff related to my story.

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I posted about each item and how it related to the story. And I cut and pasted the trivia questions so I had more time to comment to commenters.

The last portion was a Q &A for me. People actually asked me questions—amazing. My friend and fellow-author John Turney kept everything pretty lively with his silly comments and fun questions. Having veterans of launch parties attend helped keep the discussions lively.

People hung around at the end to see who won what prizes.  Paige has a randomizer thingy that choices winners. The winners were pretty excited. And it seemed everyone , whether they stopped by for the whole two hours or for a few minutes had fun.

Those from my stage crew who could attended were among my guests and they brought along their friends.

Benefits of the party

I noticed this blog has picked up some more traffic.

More people have their curiosity piqued about the book and are talking about it with friends.

I’ve been notified by those who attended or just saw the announcement that they had ordered my book.

After the party

Now I’m busy with the help of my amazing husband sending out prizes to the lucky winners. Note to self. Postage is a real downer.

 

Have you ever attended a launch party? What did you think of it? Have you hosted one? How did it go for you?

 

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Add Persistence to Your Writing Toolbox

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

~Octavia Butler

 

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No matter what persist at your writing task. Do what is necessary to reach your goals.

 

 

After running across this quote I looked up the word persist online.  Webster’s definition is powerful.

Persist:  to go on resolutely or stubbornly despite opposition, importunity, or warning

 2: obsolete:  to remain unchanged or fixed in a specified character, condition, or position

3:  to be insistent in the repetition or pressing of an utterance (as a question or an opinion)

4:  to continue to exist especially past a usual, expected, or normal time.

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What a great tool to have in our writer’s toolbox. The definition reminds me of the inventor Charles Goodyear. A self-taught chemist, who used up all his financial resources, spent every waking moment and sacrificed his family in order to create vulcanized rubber. After years of failed experiments, he found the right formula when his concoction overheated and boiled over. The rubber that spilled on the top pf the stove is the basis for modern rubber used in tires, rain boots, watertight seals and hundreds of other products.

I am not advocating abandoning family in pursuit of publication. But his persistence is a measuring stick to encourage us all to keep pressing in.

Persistence is an attribute every successful author has. I know of none who wrote their first draft, published it and made millions. Even debut authors who hit the best-seller list took years writing. Not to mention, rewriting and shoveling out piles of disgusting prose to reshape their words into the masterpiece the public reads.

Our first draft is our babies. They can’t stand on their own. Too many adjectives, weak verbs and head hopping to make smooth transitions from scene to scene.

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Be persistent in maturing your newborn novel for publication.

 

Even final drafts, whether that is three or thirty go through rewrites based on the publisher’s requests. Persistence helps us read that manuscript one more time and find a creative way to satisfy the publisher.

As 2016 winds down and 2017 is just days away I think persistence is going to be my go-to attitude in every aspect of my writing life. Persistent in my time-management. Persistent in meeting deadlines. Persistent in continuing to learn the craft and in paying it forward as I promote other authors. Persevering in my marketing and finding opportunities to promote my work. (Not my strong suit.)

How about you? Is persistence something you’ve embraced or are you still working on it?

Springing into a New Novel

My hubby took this photo from our garden.

My husband took this photo from our garden. Daisies are a favorite of mine. My WIP is set in a favorite place of mine. Photo by: Charles Huff

Spring is a time of new beginnings. Although in the Chicagoland areas we are still waiting for it to hit us full force. Seeing the crocuses and daffodil’s green shoots come up gave me hope of warmer days ahead.

New beginnings in my writing life are a lot like spring. I just finished Speedbo in March, giving me a mess of words—the shoots springing up to form a novel. A new story, new characters, new plot, new time period. All waiting to be shaped into a new story world.

one of my favorite photos my hubby took.

One of my favorite photos my hubby took. I feel like I could reach out and pick it. The same is true of how our words need to effect the reader. photo by : Charles Huff

Watching my story unfold reminds me of watching the neighborhood awaken from winter into glorious floral colors. When I sit down to write a new story, whether it is a novel or a short story, an in-the-zone feeling sweeps over me. The characters’ world becomes my world. I see them. I experience their pain and joy. In their heads I discover new secrets. Details of place and time bloom forth in all their imagined glory.

Focusing on the details of this lily reminds me of writing to help raders focus. Again my husband Charels took took this

Focusing on the details of this lily reminds me of writing to help readers focus. photo by: Charles Huff

Springtime is raking, planting, watering, seeding, and fertilizing to encourage our yards and gardens to look their very best. My novel seeds need rewrite fertilizer, editing weeding and repotting, critique group watering and raking away all unnecessary words to trim and hone my manuscript into a story that flows and carries the reader to a satisfying conclusion.

Yardwork and gardening in the spring can get intense, but the end result is a lovely yard to enjoy and share with visitors. Something to be proud of with a feeling of satisfaction in a job well done. Gardening my words brings forth the same feelings of pride and satisfaction. Something to share with my readers for them to enjoy.

A new setting for flowers like a new setting for my new  WIP.

A new setting for flowers are like a new setting for my new WIP. Photo by: Charles Huff

How do you feel when you start a new project?

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