Don’t Even Get Me Started: Self-Publishing and the Need for Diverse Stories

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So last week I wrote about Why Your Whining Behind Needs to Self-Publish, and hopefully, it reached the people it was intended for– talented writers who have been rejected by traditional publishers, not because they aren’t talented, but because of industry rigmarole, the inability of the planets and stars to align on days that end in “y,” and good ol’ fashioned crappy luck (“Oh? Your story is about kung fu squirrels who take over Manhattan? Well, wouldn’t you know! I just sold a story like that last week for a staggering 7 figures, so I can’t take yours on at the time. Sorry, toots!”).

I will say this again: just like spandex, self-publishing is not for everybody. I have friends who are, at this very moment, querying agents (and one friend with a novel so good that if he can’t get an agent this time around, I’ll think this whole darn thing is rigged). As I’ve said before: different strokes for different folk.

But I would also like to take this a step further. Some people assume that when a writer can’t get an agent/publisher, they are either not a good writer, or they are a good writer, but the story is just not where it needs to be. Is this true sometimes? Absolutely. Is this true all the time? Absolutely not. So why, if a writer is talented and the story is great, wouldn’t they get an agent or publisher?

For part of the answer, let’s take a look at author Tia William’s article, Why Aren’t There More Black Women in Fiction? The excerpt I’m including is long, but worth the read:

Last year, I finished my fourth novel, The Perfect Find, about a 40-year-old former superstar fashion editor who, after losing it all, risks her big career comeback for a deliciously steamy romance with a coworker nearly half her age. When my agent shopped it around to publishing houses, the editors loved it. They told me so in their rejection letters, many of which included some variation of the following critique: “Witty, juicy, timely — but given that Jenna’s a black woman working in a white world, we wish this aspect of her were more deeply explored. Can you give more insight into her struggles as a black woman in fashion?”

How could these non-black women decide that I, a black woman, hadn’t adequately explored my character’s race? Jenna isn’t struggling with her blackness, in fashion or otherwise. She’s struggling with starting over and her ticking biological clock and hiding from her boss that she’d just had an orgasm in the fashion closet with the guy three cubicles down — all multilayered, real situations that white characters are allowed to experience, no apologies. You think anyone asked Lauren Weisberger to play up her protagonist’s Jewishness in The Devil Wears Prada? So often, in order to make sense to mainstream audiences, publishers need us to speak to some aspect of the understood “black experience.” Hence, the popularity of Big Issue books on slavery and civil rights and literary tomes theorizing race in America. Where’s the black Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train? Where’s the Sophie Kinsella-esque rom-com confection starring a cheeky Spelman alum? Just once, I’d love for the best-sellers’ lists to include a book about a black coed intrigued by a creepy-hot rich dude who introduces her to whips and chains in his Red Room of Pain (for better or worse).

The fact is, black commercial-fiction heroines aren’t afforded the luxury of nuance. That’s because most of the people making decisions about what Americans read aren’t personally intimate with everyday blackness. 

And then this:

Many black female commercial-fiction writers are driven to self-publish — check out Amazon, Goodreads, and AALBC.com (African American Literature Book Club) to discover new voices.

Tia goes on to say that she found an indie press, Brown Girls Books, for her latest novel, A Perfect Find (which has fabulous reviews, by the way).

Let’s keep it real: if black, brown, and purple writers are not exploring race, or talking about their experiences as a black, brown, or purple writer and what that experience means and how it relates to a deeper meaning of life and society, MANY publishers don’t want to hear our stories. Is there anything wrong with these kinds of stories? Nope. In fact, we need them (and if you haven’t read The Bluest Eye or Nervous Conditions, stop what you’re doing right now and go buy and read these novels).

But.

We also need love stories. And comedies. And Christian fiction. And thrillers. And mysteries. And suspense. And horror. And paranormal. And science fiction. Because we come from all walks of life and have different experiences. And we are also not a monolith.

But there’s great news!  Many readers are starved for stories featuring diverse protagonists (see the “We Need Diverse Books” or the “We Need Diverse Romance” initiatives for examples). The even greater news? With the advances in publishing technology, we can let our voices be heard–even if we’re writing about Kung Fu squirrels who take over Manhattan (or a zany rom com that takes place in Silicon Valley).

Should everybody self-publish? Probably not. There are many people who self-publish stories that probably should have never seen the light of day. They either need more practice, a damn good editor,  a page one rewrite, or a handy-dandy blowtorch. But not everybody who self-publishes does so because their work is subpar. Don’t even get me started!

 


Why Your Whining Behind Needs to Self-Publish

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Warning: this is a rant. The original title was “Why your whining behind needs to self-publish and stop crying about how you can’t get an agent or publisher ‘cause don’t nobody wanna hear that mess, especially with all the tools and technology now available to help you get your story to market with no damn middle man.”

But it was too long.

Look. I get it. Some writers dream about being offered a publishing contract. New York Times Best sellerdom. The six figure advance. Validation that someone other than you, your mama, and your cousin Big Mookie thinks you can write. I. Get. It.

But, baaaybee. There comes a point in life when we need to stop begging to be let into the party and create our own party.

via GIPHY

Is that meant to disparage, belittle, or minimize any person looking to be published traditionally? Nope. Same destination, different journey. As a matter of fact, if you’re a friend of mine (or want to be a friend of mine) who is traditionally published, when you get that big advance, it would be totally kind of you to let your girl hold something.

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Here’s a novel (no pun intended) thought: if you’ve been trying to get published traditionally and haven’t gotten any takers, maybe it doesn’t mean that you’re not a good writer. Maybe it just means that you’re meant to take a different route.

Or, hey; maybe your book sucks!  And if that’s the case neither traditional nor self-publishing is for you. But how do you know if your book sucks? I’ve made it easy for you to figure out with my super easy checklist below. If any of the following scenarios sound familiar, then you, my friend, just won yourself a free blowtorch, courtesy of the CABS (Citizens Against Books That Suck).

So here we go!

  1. Every time you send out a query letter, there’s a roll of thunder and flash of lightening. Maybe the weather’s just bad in your neighborhood. Or maybe God is trying to tell you something.
  2. You send out your manuscript to beta readers and they disappear without a trace. But not just some regular disappearing; their voicemail now says, “The beta reader you are trying to reach is no longer accepting your calls. Goodbye.”
  3. You find out that your writing group has been meeting without you.
  4. Literary agents send you a “cease and desist” letter instead of a standard rejection.
  5. As a kid, the dog ate your homework. But now, even Fluffy won’t eat your mess of a novel. In fact, when he sees you with your book, he plays dead.

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  6. Every time you type “The End” at the conclusion of your novel, it rains. This is no coincidence. God is crying tears of joy.
  7. Lovers of Twilight fan fiction snicker when you walk by.
  8. Your significant other sat you down for the “It’s not you, it’s your manuscript” talk.
  9. You let your mama read your book. And then she slapped you.
  10. Publishers call you at 2 in the morning like:

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All jokes aside, you guys, I totally understand that some of us want that traditional publishing credit to our name, but please don’t let not getting traditionally published deflate you to the point that you stop believing in yourself. Just because you didn’t get an agent or publisher doesn’t mean you aren’t good. And just because someone got an agent or a publisher doesn’t mean that they are any better than you.

What if you wrote the best book you could write and got the chance to connect with readers that love it? Oh, that’s right; you can! It’s called self-publishing. It’s up to you whether or not you’re going to sit at home and wait for the phone to ring (or for a “yes” from an agent or publisher) or if you’re going to write the best stories you can and get them out no matter the process.

Don’t believe me? Here are some Indie Pub All Stars, in no particular order. And if you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, but their situation is not the norm and I probably won’t be as successful as they are because I’m too busy being a pessimist,”  I want you to raise your right hand quickly and swing it as hard as you can against your forehead.

New York Times Bestselling author Terry Mcmillan self-published her first book, Mama. Many of her books have been made into movies, including the smash hit Waiting to Exhale that starred the late great Whitney Houston.

Terry McMillan

Alan Weir self-published The Martian. Anybody seen the Hollywood movie starring Matt Damon???

Alan Weir

Kimberly Lawson Roby has been on more bestsellers lists that I can count. She self-published her debut novel nearly 20 years ago and has gone on to sell over 2 million copies of her books. As a matter of fact, my sister from another  mister, author Faith Simone, just blogged about seeing her speak recently. If you need an extra dose of inspiration today, be sure to check that out.

Kimberly Lawson Roby

Imagine what would have happened if none of these authors believed in themselves enough to take the leap!

 


New Romantic Suspense Release! Seismic Crimes by Chrys Fey and #Giveaway!

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Happy Monday, Everybody! Today I’m hosting blogger and author extraordinaire, Chrys Fey, as she celebrates the release of her novel, Seismic Crimes. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below! Any lovers of romantic suspense in the house? How do you approach writing about cops??? Let’s hear about it!

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Profile of a Cop – BURNETT

Name: Burnett

Occupation: Police Officer

Character Type: Good Guy

Location: Orlando, Florida

Likes: Coffee, protecting the innocent, and putting away criminals

Dislikes: Fellow officers trying to get away with crimes.

Favorite TV Show: The Blacklist

Favorite Movie: Die Hard

 

EXCERPT:

Her eyes lowered, her fingers tugged the string on his pants. “These are nice.” The look on her face and the way she batted her lashes told him she was teasing him. “You came close to wearing these for the rest of your life.”

“Would you have visited me?”

“Hm.” She bit her bottom lip as she considered his question. “I don’t know. I think things would’ve been different if they had hauled you away.”

He nodded, knowing she was right.

A throat cleared behind them. Burnett stood, hands on hips with a smugness tugging at his mouth. “Try to keep the PDA down, or I’ll arrest you two.”

Beth pulled free from Donovan’s hold. “Sorry, Officer.”

Donovan lifted his hands in the air. “I’ll do my best.”

 

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Title: Seismic Crimes

Author: Chrys Fey

Series: Disaster Crimes Series (Book Two)

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Format: Digital and Print

Page Count: 282

 

DIGITAL LINKS:

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

NOOK / KOBO / All Romance eBooks

PRINT LINKS:

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

The Wild Rose Press

 

BLURB:

An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane—Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer’s location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?

 

HURRICANE CRIMES 99¢ SALE!

 

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DIGITAL LINKS:

Amazon US / Amazon UK

Amazon CA / NOOK / KOBO

All Romance eBooks

The Wild Rose Press

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

chrysfeyAUTHORPIC

BIO:

Chrys Fey is the author of Hurricane Crimes, Book One in the Disaster Crimes series, as well as these releases from The Wild Rose Press: 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. She is an administrator for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and has participated in the Blogging from April A to Z Challenge.

When Fey was six years old, she realized she wanted to be a writer by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started writing her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen.

Fey lives in Florida and is always on the lookout for hurricanes. She has four adopted cats who keep her entertained with their antics, and three nephews who keep her entertained with their antics. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and through her blog, Write with Fey. She loves to get to know her readers!

 

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter


The Power of Being Single-Minded: Focusing on One Main Goal to Achieve Success

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Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The co-hosts for this month are Murees Dupe, Alexia Chamberlynn, Chemist Ken, and Heather Gardner

Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

***

 I have this AMAZING friend who is super talented. Like super, super, talented. She’s a photographer, cinematographer, makeup artist, maker of au naturel scrubs and body butters, event planner, and a master craftswoman. I am not making this up, you guys. She’s talented at each and every one of these things. So much so, that she had trouble deciding which thing to focus on.

Last year, she helped me decorate my table at a vendor’s event (I was there selling my world famous pralines, because that’s how I roll), and while there, we bumped into a business consultant. She said, “People keep raving about your candy,” and had a sample (and then of course, she brought herself some). We began to chat and my friend mentioned all of her different endeavors. The woman said, “You will not be able to be successful unless you focus on one thing.”

My friend said, “But I can’t pick. I’m good at all of these things. And plus, I love them all.”

“Okay. Maybe you can focus on a couple of things that kind of overlap, but if you want to see some real success, you’re going to have to narrow things down.”

“But I can’t.”

The woman shrugged, “Well, you’ll just have a bunch of hobbies, then.”

My friend was so upset! She was like, “How can this woman who doesn’t even know me and what I’m capable of tell me what I can and can’t achieve?”

Well, fast forward a few months, and guess what? My friend began making these pieces for children’s parties that really took off. And I mean really. Due to demand, she began focusing on her craft business only and you probably already guessed what happened: that business grew by leaps and bounds. Later, she said, “Oh my God, that woman was right! Ever since I started focusing on my craft business, it’s grown so much more than it would have if I was splitting my time between fifty million ventures.”

Why do I tell this story? Because it also applies to writing: in order to be successful at it, we have to become single-minded.

sin·gle-mind·ed
adjective
1.having or concentrating on only one aim or purpose.
synonyms:determined, committed, unswerving, unwavering, resolute,purposeful, devoted

 
If some of you are like me, then your creativity can be both a blessing and a curse. I have so many entrepreneurial ideas that I hardly have a place to put them. Some things relate to my writing, some things don’t. “I could totally do ______________________,” I’ll say to myself. “That should make me a pretty penny!” And then I’ll focus on said thing and then be totally miserable because I’m not focusing 100% on my writing.

What if you:

  1. Set writing goals and wrote as much as you could, even when you didn’t feel like it.
  2. Took the time to write the best possible story that you could write, even if that meant getting out of your comfort zone. Why not push yourself and write the stories that challenge you?
  3. Dusted off those old manuscripts and resubmitted them to agents/publishers or published them yourself.
  4. Conquered your fear of public speaking by reading your work in public.
  5. Really learned how to market yourself both online and locally (and not just doing a Tweet and run like I do )
  6. Weren’t afraid to promote yourself by actually telling people that you wrote a book–and even better, having a physical copy to either give away or show.
  7. Reached out to some of the book clubs in your city. Why not ask them to read your book?
  8. Got some press: small newspapers and local tv shows.
  9. Participated in an author’s expo either in your city or in a surrounding area. And if they don’t have one, why not start your own?
  10. Reached out to your local library and coordinated a reading. And why not submit a press release for the occasion?
  11. Went to at least one book conference a year where you could meet readers.
  12. Allowed life to take it’s course! Things happen. Many of them unexpected, but don’t let things derail you to the point that you give up. Take the time you need to regroup, get the support you need (hello, blogger community!), and get back at it.
  13. Were kind to yourself (GREAT advice from L. Penelope). We face enough negativity and doubt as writers. The last thing you need is to join the naysayers!

Inspiration

If you had put a hundred percent into your career five years ago, where would you be? Where will you be in five years if you vowed right this second to treat your writing like a business and dedicated 100% to it?

Side note: On my first go, I accidentally typed a dollar sign as opposed to the percent sign, but I think that “Where would you be if you dedicated $100 to your writing career is also a valid question:)

What say you, folks? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Why you Should Establish a Writing Schedule

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This guest post originally appeared on Violette L. Meir’s blog. Also, shout out to Brande McCleese who just successfully revamped her writing schedule. Ya’ll stop by her blog and show her some love! Happy Monday, you guys!

***

Cat Meme

Back in the day (way back. Before Facebook), I had a creative writing professor who asked the class: “How many of you have a writing schedule?” Very few of us raised our hands. A writing schedule? I mean, I watched The Young and the Restless and The Golden Girls regularly and spent a lot of time thinking about going to the gym. I knew I eventually wanted to write a novel, but actually writing? Who had time for that? But as time went on, I kept thinking about what he said and it dawned on me: how was I going to write the next New York Times best seller if I didn’t sit my behind down and write? So, I put my big girl panties on and made the decision: I was going to establish a writing schedule. But when? I had classes during the day and after 5 pm my brain turned to mush. That only left the mornings. And if I was going to make any real progress, I needed two whole hours. It was settled: my writing time would be from 5am until 7 am, when my house was completely quiet.

I was so proud of myself! I waited for my professor after our next class and told him about my new writing schedule. “I get up at 5 in the morning!” I gushed.

He looked at me and said, “Well, even if you’re writing crap at 5 am, at least you’re still writing.”

via GIPHY

His words went right over my head. All I knew at the time was that I was now a serious writer. A bonafied, eat it, live it, and breathe it writer. Not one of those people who walked around complaining of how they wanted to write a novel but couldn’t find the time. No, sir! I was dead serious about my craft. I would write the next Great American Novel and give litra-ture a whole new meaning. I told all of my friends and family and pretty much did everything to let the world know aside from hanging a shingle outside of my door that read, “Serious writer resides here. Inquire within.”

Fast-forward 10 years or so and here I am, still writing at 5 am. I’ve made it a priority. Even if it means going to bed early. Or waking up even when I’m tired (to combat this I usually preset my coffee pot so that if I have a hard time waking up, the smell of French Roast will lure me to the kitchen, and finally to the computer). But most of the time, I get up ready to confront whatever idea or manuscript I’m tackling at the time.

So what’s happened since I’ve established a writing schedule? Well, I’ve spent many a morning writing short stories that will never see the light of day, outlining novels that I’ll probably never write, wading through terrible ideas and even more terrible manuscripts, squinting at my computer screen (wondering how I could come up with an idea so hackneyed), frowning at my coffee cup (wishing I had just a tad more hazelnut creamer), and giving a good ole fashioned western style stare down to my computer screen before rolling up my sleeves to confront my WIP.

I’ve abandoned more novels than I’ve finished, thrown several novels out of the house, and divorced many well-meaning protagonists. But on the flip side of that, three not so bad novels, several well thought-out outlines, and many brainstorming sessions have come at 5 am. Had I not established a routine, I would probably still be twiddling my thumbs and saying, “You know, I want to write a novel. I just don’t have the time!”

So if you’re having trouble establishing a writing schedule (and finding that, every time you sit down to write, there are a host of distractions that come your way), consider this: what are your goals and how long will it take you to reach them? For instance, if you plan to write a full-length novel (80,000 words are so), decide on a deadline and stick to it. You want to give yourself 6 months? Then you’ll need to write just under 450 words a day. Doesn’t sound so bad when you break it down like that, huh? You could probably do that on your lunch break! And if you can’t devote 2 hours, try to commit to 30 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how fast your word count will add up!

Also, considering your work schedule and family obligations, when is the best time for you to write? Early mornings? Afternoon? Late at night? On your lunch break, perhaps? Pick a time and stick with it until it becomes second nature.

Can’t write every day? Commit to 3 days a week. And if you can’t do 3 days a week, be a weekend warrior. But if you’d like to write a novel, try to commit to something, even if it’s only one day a week.

What about others? Do you have a writing schedule? If not, how do you prioritize your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Claim it! Visualizing Your Goals And the Power of What we Speak

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Happy Wednesday, Everybody!  It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means that it’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The co-hosts for May are Stephen Tremp, Fundy Blue, MJ Fifield, Loni Townsend, Bish Denham, Susan Gourley, and Stephanie Faris. If you can, stop by their blogs and see what their up to these days:)

So. I’ve been working on The Novel That Is Taking Longer To Finish Than Any Novel In The History of Novels. There are a myriad of reasons why it’s taking me so long to finish this book. Among them:

  1. Two pregnancies in two years = 18 months of pregnancy brain.
  2. A cell phone swiping toddler (who is also a well known flip flop thief) who zeroes in on my laptop’s “off” button every time she gets the chance. And then she shouts “Yaaay!” and claps with joy before stealing another flip flop and taking off running.
  3. A huge bout of what-to-write-next-itis.
  4. “Great” ideas that end up just being huge distractions when I realize that I should have just been writing in the first place.
  5. Doubt. Unspeakable doubt about…well, everything. 

Number 5 is a biggie. Lately I’ve been rather down on myself for not having the time to pursue my writing career the way I’d like to. That includes writing more books, maintaining this blog and my social media profiles, and supporting authors that I meet online by reading and leaving a review for their books. And since I don’t have the time, doubt (fear’s wicked, wicked stepsister) seeps in and causes me to question whether or not I should be pursuing this writing thing at all since I can’t devote my all to it. To boot, I feel guilty about many other things that I should be doing (like getting my butt on Instagram or marketing myself locally), and because I can’t do every single thing I’d like to do, I start feeling like maybe I should just give up.

But having that kind of defeatist attitude just leads to failure! It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and if I believe that I won’t be successful, then guess what? I won’t be! So even when I’m feeling like my to-do list is insurmountable and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to pursue all my dreams, I have to stop that train of negativity by reminding myself that I can do anything I set my mind to as long as I don’t quit. I also have to ask myself, “What’s the rush?” So what if I don’t get every single thing done today. Who cares? Doing a little each day is better than doing nothing at all. And then I start thinking of all the things I thought I couldn’t do and did anyway, like finishing my first two novels, and I realize that I can achieve all of my dreams. Just not in one day–or one year.

There’s so much power in our thoughts and the things that we speak that we have to be vigilant about what we think and what we say. Despite what your situation looks like, keep pushing.

Are there going to be days of doubt? Yes. Are there going to be setbacks? Yes. Are there going to be days where you feel like you’re doing all of this in vain and you should just give up? Absolutely! But nothing worth having comes easy. And things don’t just happen: they must be planned. Yes, you have to think positively but you also have to map out a plan and get to work. Also, don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, surround yourself with people who have your solution, not your problem, and go out there and live your dreams.

Visualize your success. Speak it, write it, claim it. Wake up next day, repeat. Click To Tweet

Don’t believe me? Check out this inspirational letter that renowned science fiction author, Octavia Butler, wrote to herself. If you aren’t familiar with her work, she is one of the most lauded American writers and the first science fiction author to win a MacArthur genius grant. She also wrote one of my favorite books, Kindred, a novel about a modern black woman living in California who is transported back to slavery times.

 

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Now excuse me while I go and take my own advice, lol. What about others? Do you practice thinking/speaking positively and writing down your goals?

And for those of you who need an extra boost of motivation, check out one of my favorite songs, “Go Get It,” by gospel duo, Mary Mary. Go get it!

 


Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ and UFC 197 (No Sleep Saturdays, Volume 1)

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Happy Monday, Everybody! I hope that everyone is well and that you all got lots of writing done this weekend??? If not, sending good vibes your way for an uber successful week.

So. I’m taking a brief moment from the black hole commonly known by writers as revisions to tell you all about my weekend. I’m also veering off of my scheduled list of blog topics to tell you guys about No Sleep Saturday.

Some of you might be surprised to know this, but I’m a huge MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fan. Like, seriously. It started when my husband and I lived in San Jose. While channel surfing one night, I accidentally stumbled across what, at the time, appeared to be two men—wearing just their drawers, ya’ll—wrestling (or as we say back home, “wrassling”). But this was different from regular wrestling. Nobody came into the ring and slammed a chair over somebody’s head. There was blood on the mat. And lots of it. They were on that floor grappling like one of them had found the very last chocolate donut on the planet and the other guy wanted it for himself. And one of the guys had blood pouring from his eye. But they kept fighting! (But if I knew the last chocolate donut was at stake, I’d fight too, ya’ll). I know this might sound gory to some of you, but it was so exciting to watch because of the unpredictability of the match and the athleticism of the fighters. And when I found out that girls fought, too? They had me, honey.

So fast forward to this past Saturday and UFC 197. For those of you not familiar with the sport, this fight was a huge deal because Jon Bones Jones, who is considered by many to be the best fighter in the world, returned to fighting after 15 months. Side note: those people who consider Jones to be the best fighter in the world obviously do not know about my cousin, Keshia, A.K.A. Desert Storm, who, in high school, was voted most likely to knock a motherf*cker out. But I digress.

Anyhoo, Bones’ return was a huge freaking deal, but another fighter stole the show that night: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. He fought a wrestler named Henry Cejudo. I may not know much about the technicalities of the sport, but Demetrious whupped that boy like he stole something. It was such an exciting fight! And what do you think happened after the fight? I was up, on Twitter, looking at some of the comments from fans–and so hyped I couldn’t sleep. So my naive behind said, “Well, since I’m up, I might as well watch Lemonade,” Beyoncé’s visual album featured on  HBO. Now why I did that??? My can’tsleepness went from about 75% to 175%! Why, you ask? Because as the kids say, “This album is lit.”  Disclaimer: I’m a HUGE Beyoncé fan. Her family is from my hometown, New Iberia, so it’s very likely that we’re cousins. Just sayin’…

So since Beyoncé and I might be cousins, I’m probably biased, but I loved all the songs and visuals from the new album, so much so that I had to go to Twitter–again!–and see what other fans were saying. All the fans were just as captivated as I was, and No Sleep Saturday quickly morphed into No Sleep Sunday. And since both Beyoncé and Demetrious decided that they were going to be out here on these streets snatching people bald, it is very likely that I will have to spend the rest of the week applying Jamaican Black Castor Oil to my edges.

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Who said life was gone be easy???

What about you guys? Any other MMA or Beyoncé fans? What are some of your interests aside from writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


How to Get More Book Reviews

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Book Reviews

I’ve written quite a bit about book reviews on this blog:

Book Review Query Etiquette
How (Not) to Respond to a Negative Book Review
How (Not) to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part Deux

And another post that sparked an interesting discussion: Would you Give a Fellow Author a Negative Book Review?

I’ve even talked about how I get quite a few book review requests despite the fact that I’m not an “official” book reviewer. At this point, you’d think I’d be all book reviewed out, right? Well, just about every day somebody Googles: “How to write a book review letter,” and that query leads them to one of my aforementioned posts. So I thought I’d do another post with more detailed information about how to approach reviewers.

Some of my more seasoned author pals will probably know this information already, but please feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section with advice and tidbits that I didn’t mention here.

So here we go!

  1. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the first thing you want to do is Google “[fill in your genre] book reviewers.” For instance: “Romantic comedy book reviewers.” Or, “Book reviewers for horror novels.” This might take a bit of research on your part, but it’s an important step so that you don’t send someone who only reads science fiction your erotica novel.
  2. Once you have the list of bloggers, please, please, please read their review policy! If they clearly state that they are “closed to submissions at this time,” please heed this! And don’t query them anyway because that’s probably the fastest way to get your email deleted. Or their policy might be that they are only accepting review requests from authors they’ve worked with before, or from traditionally published authors. So whatever their review policy is, please follow instructions!
  3. After you have Googled reviewers in your genre and have whittled your list down to reviewers who are open to submissions, it’s time to start getting your letter ready. This doesn’t have to be some grandiose thing. Keep it professional, polite, and to the point. For example, don’t do this:

Dear Blogger:

What happens when Die Hard meets Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead? You get Babysitting Ain’t for Chumps, where my kick ass main character, Swanky Johnson, battles mob bosses in New York City after getting stuck with her dead date’s daughter. Think you’ve seen it all? Well, prepared to be wowed by Swanky and her side kick, Peanut!

I see that you don’t accept adventure novels and that you are currently closed to book review requests, but I thought I’d send you a note anyway because I don’t want you to miss out on this (because once Hollywood buys the rights, you’ll be able to say that you were among the first book reviewers! (wink).

I have been in love with writing since I was seven years old, and I am so happy to share this journey with you!

Sincerely,

Literature’s Next Big Star.

Please don’t do this!

Instead, do this:

  1. Address the book reviewer by name. If you search the blog and can’t find the name, then I think it’s fine to say “Dear [insert name of blog].” You can open with how you found the blog or get right into why you’re writing. Totally up to you. Just remember to keep it polite and simple.
  2. State your business quickly and get out of there: the genre of your book, the blurb, word count, and the formats you have available.
  3. Thank the book reviewer for his/her time and go about your day. Seriously, that’s it. Don’t wax poetic about what writing means to you. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So the letter might look like this:

Dear Cynthia,

I’m writing because I see that you are currently open to reviewing speculative fiction books. Would you be interested in reviewing my novel, Ripley’s Ghost? 

It’s ______________ words. Here’s a synopsis: [include the book blurb here].

If interested, I’d be happy to send you a copy of the book in the format of your choice: mobi, Epub, PDF, or hard copy.

Thank you so much for your time!

Sincerely,

Le Author. 

Sure, it’s not the sexiest letter on the planet, but it’ll get the job done! And if someone agrees to review your book and then suddenly dissapears into a dark hole, please don’t write them demanding to know why they haven’t reviewed your book. Just assume that they got busy, starting reading your book and it wasn’t their cup of tea, or was so engrossed in your book that they were reading while crossing the street and got hit by a bus (it could happen!).

And if you get a negative book review: do nothing. If it makes you feel better, put the reviewer on “the people you will snub when you’re rich list” and keep it moving. Don’t respond. Don’t write them telling them that they got your book all wrong and that they’re an idiot. Just pretend the review doesn’t exist and focus on getting more reviews–or writing your next masterpiece.

And if writing letters isn’t your thing, go social! You can post a query on some of the review groups on Goodreads (Goodreads even has some peer review groups that you can join–someone reviews your book and you agree to review theirs in return). If that’s your cup of tea, then go for it! I’ve even seen instances where reviewers will start a thread saying that they’re looking for new authors to review. I’ve also seen authors “@” book reviewers on Twitter with a link to their book. You can also join some of the Facebook author groups and post your info–it’s really up to you! Some other advice: be nice to people. People will probably be more willing to buy and review (good!) books by authors that they actually like.

What about others? What methods do you employ for getting reviews? And if you’re a book reviewer: what are some things that authors do that you wish they didn’t? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


On Writing and Unaccomplished Goals

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Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Happy Wednesday, Folks! It’s the first Wednesday of the month so you know what that means: it’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day! What’s the purpose, you ask? Well, writers from all over come together and discuss our fears and insecurities–all without feeling silly about it. And if you’re a writer reading this, why not join us if you haven’t already???

This month’s cohosts are Megan Morgan, Chris Votey, Viola Fury, Christine Rains, Madeline Mora-Summonte, L.G. Keltner, Rachna Chhabria, and Patricia Lynne! If you can, stop by their blogs, see what they’re up to, and leave some comment love.

Okay, guys. You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks (or maybe you haven’t, lol). And that’s because….

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A couple of Thursdays ago, something fantastic happened: my husband and I had our second baby girl!

She was about three weeks ahead of schedule and I have to tell you: I’ve been quite the busy bee. With a one and a half year old, late night feedings for the newborn, and trying to get adjusted to this new “normal,” team no sleep is definitely back in the building (#teamnosleep).

And that leads me to my insecurity for this month. I don’t have the time to write like I used to, and when I have the time, I don’t have the quiet. I know things won’t be like this forever. I mean, kids do grow up–right? (Right???) But in the meanwhile, I have to rest in the knowledge that yes, I may not be producing books at a super fast rate, but at least I haven’t given up and I’m still writing. And even though I haven’t been able to market myself like I’d like to, at least I’m still doing something. It’s easy to get so overwhelmed by all of our life goals that we end up doing nothing, so I’d like to challenge myself (and some of you) to not be so down on ourselves whenever it takes us a tad bit longer to reach our goals (and I’d also like to challenge myself to not get so caught up in goal making and pursuing that I forget to live and enjoy life).

I was listening to the incomparable Les Brown (motivational speaker) recently and he said this quote: “By the yard it’s hard, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch.”

Ain’t that the truth???

 Sure, I haven’t accomplished everything on my goal list, but what matters is that I’m getting there. And I’m pretty sure that same sentiment applies to all of you. Instead of bemoaning all the things we didn’t get to do, maybe we should celebrate the things that we’ve already done. Life is short, you guys. Drink wine. Eat waffles. Be happy. And if you get the chance, then by all means, write.

 Anybody else hard on themselves over unaccomplished goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


How Do You Deal With Pushy People Online?

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It’s Monday! Woo-hoo! And guess who still hasn’t been getting any sleep???? Well, at least I managed to make some progress on outlining one of several WIPs this morning—after lying on the couch for an hour trying to will myself back to sleep (and looking at strange music videos with the volume muted). Ah. The perks of waking up at 3 a.m. You should try it, folks:)

So what’s on my mind today? Well, in celebration of No Sleep Mondays (#NSM), I’d like to talk about pushy people online (because when you’re sleep deprived like yours truly, you’re eleven out of ten times more likely to tell a “pushy” person where to stick it).

Here’s the scenario:

I get quite a few book review requests. As I have stated numerous times on this blog, I am not an official book reviewer, per se. I repeat: Quanie is not an official book reviewer.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

Book Reviewer (from Quanie’s dictionary): noun. Someone who loves to read books, oftentimes with a critical eye. Often solicits authors to submit books for consideration because they have time to read books critically, post a review, and repeat the process as many times as necessary.

Quanie: noun (although can sometimes double as an adjective). Hasn’t been able to read anything since the arrival of Le Munchkin a year and a half ago. Tries to read books, especially by authors she meets online, but has come to the conclusion that she may not get to read another book all the way through until Le Munchkin is in kindergarten. But she’s not a quitter and will continue to try!

So anyway, I get a lot of book review requests, but one request in particular really took the cake. The exchange went something like this:

*Names have been changed to protect the pushy person’s identity*

Cleophis Wonderbutt: Hey, Quanie! Really love your blog! I was wondering: I have a book I’d like you to review. It’s about 150,000 words, mystery, suspense, women’s fiction with a tad bit of paranormal. Oh; and it’s a comedy, too!  I have attached the novel as a word document, but I’d be happy to send you a PDF file if you prefer. I’ve also attached a non disclosure agreement, as I am very weary about this copyright thing.

My apologies in advance for the typos in the manuscript, lol!

All Best,

Cleophis.

Quanie: Cleophis, congratulations on finishing your novel! I know how excited you must be, but I actually don’t review books. Have you tried some of the groups on Goodreads or Googling reviewers in your genre(s) and querying them directly?

Best of luck to you!

Quanie

Cleophis: Quanie, thank you for your response, dear! I understand that you are not reviewing books, but you will not regret this! Can you please please please review my book and post your review on Amazon and Goodreads within the week? I’m on a deadline. Thx. Oh; and I really loved The New Mrs. Collins! Can you please send a copy to my mother?

*Bangs head against keyboard*

You guys, I embellished a bit here, but the exchange above is not too far off from the actual correspondence between me and this author. No wonder I can’t get any sleep! As someone who sends out quite a few book review requests myself, I understand wanting exposure just as much as the next author, but what happened to the days when we took no for an answer, said to ourselves, “When one door closes a window opens somewhere else,” and kept it moving? When does persistence evolve into something else? Like annoyance? Or a nice, ice cold 24 ounce can of whup ass????

Of course, this author isn’t the only pushy person I’ve come across online (I’m looking at you, spammer who keeps sending me an invoice for web services despite the fact that I never hired you), but they had a certain je ne sais quois that really fried my grits. The nerve!

Okay, guys, sorry about the rant! What about others? Even if you haven’t had to deal with overly persistent authors who can’t take no for an answer, what types of pushy people have you dealt with, online or in person? Used car salesmen? Mattress salesmen?

Let’s talk about it!