Writing Prompt Calendar

After reading a comment from FHL, I've googled everything I can think of to find a page-a-day writing prompt calendar. I've come up empty handed. Hmmm...maybe I should publish one.

Let me know if anyone finds one. E-mail the URL address to me and I'll post it for everyone.

I was talking to a colleague about this. We both think it's an incredibly good idea. So FHL, and others, if someone were to create a writing prompt calendar with a prompt a day, which format would you prefer:

1. Traditional hang on the wall, month at a glance calendar, with a new prompt in each square. (There would be no room for writing appointments.)

2. A table top one day at a time calendar, like the vocabulary building ones (click on the "click for other item views" link under the image; then click on "Back Cover Image")

3. A day planner type bound calendar, with a writing prompt at the top instead of a quote.


How much are novel submissions censored to fit LDS "standards"? Do most publishers censor similar to Church magazines or are they more open to situations outside traditional LDS values?

Depends on the publishing company. Some are very circumspect in the topics and treatments that they will consider for publication. Others, though few in number, are willing to take on non-traditional treatments. You can easily tell which is which by a quick browse of their website or reading a few of the books they've previously published.

Also, for most LDS publishers, it's not so much a case of censoring what doesn't fit LDS standards, as promoting and selecting items which do fit those standards. I know that's a small distinction to those attempting to sell manuscripts which explore things outside the LDS box, but it's a distinction that is important to me.


Sending Multiple Submissions to a Publisher

Hi LDSPublisher,

A non-LDS publisher only accepts submissions during one month of the year. Is it acceptable to send them more than one manuscript? You've stated before that we should only submit one manuscript at a time to a specific publisher, but since this publisher only accepts during one month would it be acceptable to submit 2 different types of manuscripts?

Prolific Writer

The trouble with sending more than one submission to a company at the same time is that even if they like all of them, they are only going to publish one. They will pick one they like best, publish it, see how it sells--then want to see something new from you. If they've already seen the something new, it's going to feel old because it's been bouncing around in their subconcious for a year or more.

I strongly suggest you send only one manuscript, and send your best. If they like your writing, but the content doesn't hit the mark for them, they will ask if you have something else and give you some guidelines for what they're looking for. Then you can send something more tailored to what they're looking for.

Question for you: Which company only accepts manuscripts one month out of the year? It seems I've heard something about that before, but I just can't bring it to mind.

Halloween Contest

I only received 4 submissions and they are all posted. Since there are so few, only vote once.

To vote, type "I vote for this one" in the comments trail. You can elaborate on why you liked it if you want.

Halloween Contest #4

Q: Where does Jack Sparrow go for Halloween?

A: To the Scaribbean!

Wow, that was easy to keep under 500 words! =)

Halloween Contest #3

What am I doing here, alone in a corn maze?

I came with a couple of old friends who are trying to cheer me up. I've been in a dark mood for the past couple of weeks, since my girlfriend was killed. I thought that coming out here might lift my spirits.

It isn't working. Personally, I blame Devin, the new friend Chris and Sean had started hanging out with recently. I couldn't say exactly why, but there was something about him that made me uneasy. They brought him along on this trip and, instead of walking with me, the three of them are out lurking in the shadows trying to scare other corn walkers. Alone, I start thinking about the past.

Katie and her roommate were on their way home from the grocery store. No one knows why they pulled off the road on that stretch of deserted highway. Their bodies were found a short ways into the neighboring woods. Identification would have been difficult, if not for the car. The few details from Katie's family suggested the girls had been ravaged by bears, but they sounded skeptical. The Sheriff's Office continued to investigate, but hadn't come to any solid conclusions.

Looking around the cornfield, I wonder how far I could go without running into anyone else. And really, what would stop me from just picking a direction and going between the corn stalks until I emerge? I stare at the dark sky and wonder again why I'm here.

A short while later, Chris and Sean catch up to me and ask if I have seen Devin. Apparently, he had gone to retrieve something from the car and hadn't returned. Getting no response from me, they race back into the corn forest.

After a bit, I think I hear a low growl in the darkness. I know my mind must be playing tricks. I strain to hear more. I hear crashing stalks from behind me and another, louder growl. I can feel my heartbeat thudding in my neck as it races in fear. For just a moment, I wonder if my friends are playing a cruel prank on me, but then I see a pair of glowing eyes, much too close.

My first thought is to run, but I can't seem to break the connection with those menacing eyes. My mouth opens, but no sound comes out as if my breath decided to run when I didn't. I close my eyes and will this apparition, caused by my dark thoughts and lost sleep, to vanish. After a moment, I squint at the ground in front of me and see a pair of shaggy feet and … blue jeans above them? I look up and see Devin, wearing contact lenses and holding a baseball bat. I angrily get up and lunge at him when he swings the bat at me! My last thought before blacking out is that there's a realistic looking bear claw on the end of the bat…

Halloween Contest #2

The Ruthless Grave
by Melanie Goldmund

It was Halloween, and Jeannie was trying to get out of a grave. Not hers – she hoped it wouldn’t come to that – but the open grave she’d fallen into when she’d tried to take a shortcut across the old cemetary. She’d already tried to climb up, but it hadn’t worked, and she’d fallen back in. Now she spread her arms and legs to shimmy up the sides of the grave like she’d done with doorways when she was a kid. The grave, however, seemed wider than those doorways, and Jeannie could tell that middle-age and motherhood had taken its toll on her body. She put all her strength into one last effort, but finally had to drop back to the bottom.

“Blast it all,” she snarled, angry at her son, Kyle, who was responsible for Jeannie’s predicament. Just as dusk had fallen and the trick-or-treaters had started to come out, Jeannie had discovered that her stash of Halloween candy had been reduced to three empty bags.

“Oh, was that for Halloween?” Kyle had asked in mock innocence. “Ooops.”

To make things worse, Kyle had had to leave just then, and Jeannie hadn’t even had the chance to demand that he go to the store and replace what he’d eaten. Instead, with the rest of her family out at various places, she’d been forced to go herself.

At the store, the cashier had given her glow-in-the-dark mummy costume a double take, then grinned. “Thought you were my mother-in-law, come back to haunt me. She always insisted that I call her Mummy Dearest.”

Jeannie had still been in a good mood then, so she’d laughed at the pun. Now she wished she’d dressed up as Teddy from Arsenic and Old Lace, complete with shovel, so that she could dig her way to freedom. Resigned to using her fingers, she began to scratch out hand- and footholds.

She was still clawing at the first hole when there was a screech and a whump from behind her. Somebody else had fallen in! Straightening up, she turned around, but before she could speak, she heard a whisper of horror.


“Help me,” Jeannie started to say, but the person let out a scream that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up straight. The heavy breathing turned into panicked gasps, and there were scrabbling sounds as he literally went up the wall.

“Come back!” Jeannie shouted. “Don’t leave me here alone!”

But whoever it was had gone, and Jeannie was left to continue digging by herself.

The next evening, Jeannie read a story in the evening paper about a man who’d turned himself in to the police, asking for protection from his wife, whom he’d killed ten years before. He claimed that her ghost had lured him into an open grave and tried to drag him down to the underworld with her. Jeannie sat back with a shiver.

The man’s wife had been named Ruth.

Halloween Contest #1

Guilt. It consumed him.

He knew now he shouldn’t have done it but, at the time he wasn’t thinking.

Oh, some people would excuse his actions as a fit of passion but the fact was, he wanted to. He’d heard about people who’d done similar things. They showed it in movies and talked about it on the pages of books.He always wondered what it would be like. What it would feel like.

Now he knew exactly what it felt like.

It felt awful.

Worse, he knew his actions were even affecting his appearance. Some choices you just couldn’t hide, but he needed to try.

Carefully he washed his hands, then scoured the sink. That finished he moved through the rest of the house, cleaning up the evidence of his ‘fit’ before his wife and children returned home from trick-or-treating. He didn’t want them to find out. They’d be shocked, hurt, angered.

He could just imagine the looks on their faces.

How could he have done such a thing?

With his stomach in knots he gathered up the last of the proof and took it outside to the trash. Carefully he buried it beneath the dinner refuse.

Walking in the back door, he heard the front door open. Excited shouts filled the air. They were home early. Maybe, if he didn’t act different...

Forcing himself to face his family, he moved down the hall and past the bathroom. He turned to look at his disheveled reflection in the mirror and grant himself a moment of self-loathing. Then he saw, with horror, a hideous stain still on his face. Evidence! Frantic he darted to the sink, turned on the water and scrubbed at the tell-tale sign.

His wife appeared in the doorway. “Why did you turn off all the lights, dear? Trick-or-treaters won’t come if the house is dark.”

A princess bounded into the room, toting her crown and a bag of goodies. “We got so much candy, Daddy!” she exclaimed, and dumped it on the bathroom rug.

A vampire squeezed in next. “Yeah, it was great, Dad! We got JoJo Balls and Chocolate Bursts.” Dracula looked into his bag, taking inventory. “I even got six packages of Fruit Chews, some cinnamon gum and licorice sticks, only nobody had any Peanut Crunches.” His fangs and bloody makeup frowned, but only momentarily. With delight, he looked up at his father. “Where are our Peanut Crunches, Dad?”

The princess jumped up from her treasures. “Yeah! We bought three bags.”

Three bags? The number horrified him.

Had he really eaten all three bags?

Deep in his stomach, he felt the answer rumbling. He’d turned off the porch light, taken the entire bowl of Peanut Crunches to the living room, turned on a Halloween show and stayed there eating one after another until the bowl was filled with empty wrappers and chocolate and peanut crisps littered the couch and covered his fingers.

Candy. He’d consumed it all.


Halloween Contest Update

Time is running out to send something for the Halloween contest. I said I'd post the top 10, but I haven't received 10 yet. So pretty much, if you send it, it gets posted.

This does not have to be a major composition. And the 500 word count is the MAX. Minimum word count: 2.

We're not going for polish in this one. We're having fun. So send me a joke, a story, an essay. Everything goes.

Please Post Comments Here

I get some pretty good comments about this blog--but I don't always get them here. I get them in my e-mail. And it's really too bad because sometimes other readers could benefit (and my ego certainly would also) from seeing the comment. Case in point, the comment left on yesterday's blog by Rob Wells. Great link, great info.

When I get a comment in my e-mail, I will ask the sender if I can post them to the comments trail here. Frequently, I get no reply to that request.

I know it says in my blog info that I will repost e-mailed comments here anonymously, but I just don't have time. So please, if you want to make a comment about the blog, please, please, please do it in the comments trail.

(P.S. I read every single comment posted here.)


The Next Generation

I'm in high school. If I wanted to write a book someday, where would I start now?

1. Write something creative every day. This can be a journal, a blog, letters, stories, poems--anything, as long as you do it regularly and use your imagination.

2. Take any creative writing classes that your school or community offers. You may or may not learn how to write well there, but you will be "forced" to write creatively on a schedule. Also pay attention in your grammar and spelling lessons.

3. Read LOTS. While you read, pay attention to what works for you and what doesn't work. Does the dialog sound corny? Why? How would you write it differently? Does a character really intrigue you? What about the way the character was described really captivated you? Take notes. Then practice those techniques.

4. Write, write, write--wherever you can. Join the newspaper staff or set small writing goals for yourself. At Writers Digest, they have a daily writing prompt. Do those. Practice writing in different styles and genres.

5. Build a support group. Don't let anyone talk you out of writing. If your friends and family aren't supportive, then stop sharing your writing with them. Find a network of other writers who will support you and cheer you on. I like latterday authors and I think there are a couple of teenagers who post on that.

6. At some point, look at getting published. Local papers will sometimes publish columns from a teen perspective. Submit to magazines for teens. Read blogs and forums and books that talk about how to publish.

Most importantly, if you love to write, WRITE! Don't give up on your dream. And good luck.

Halloween Joke

This was sent for the contest, but I couldn't wait to post it.

Okay, here's a quick joke then:
Q: Where does Jack Sparrow go for Halloween?
A: To the Scaribbean!

Wow, that was easy to keep under 500 words! =)


Dead Publisher

I'm trying to decide what to be for Halloween. I was thinking Dead Publisher might be fun. White face, teased out hair with rotting leaves in it, broken horn-rimmed glasses, red pen behind the ear, elbow patched and moth-eaten sweater, a huge armful of papers and manuscripts...

No, too much like real life.


Today in My Life...

Some of you have asked for a description of my typical work day. I haven’t written about it because there isn’t one. Maybe that’s because I’m not a very well-organized person. Even though I’m highly attracted to the allure of structure and regimen, I rarely am able to live by it more than a few minutes.

But since I can’t think of anything to write about—and I currently have a dearth of questions from you guys—here goes.

Depending on what I’m doing, sometimes I go in to the office to work; sometimes I telecommute and work from home. Today is a work from home day, partly because I want to catch up on some query and manuscript reading. That’s easier to do at home, where I have easy access to hot chocolate and candy. Plus I can scrunch up on my couch and hang my head backward over the edge of the seat. This position sends plenty of blood to my brain, facilitating good solid literary analysis and encouraging hair growth.

7:00 a.m.—Start my work day. Check my e-mail to see if any of my authors have like, gone crazy or something over the weekend. No. Good. But I have 6 spam messages, a potential author checking on my progress in reading their manuscript, and a tirade from my daughter arguing about who was right: dooce or Kensington. Just as I’m about to hit send on my reply to both author and daughter, my internet goes down. Unplug and replug everything and messages go out. Then I take a kid to school.

8:00 a.m.—Go to open submissions file (Excel) where I track who sent what and when and all that, and I hit the Word icon instead. That’s okay, because I wrote some rejection letters over the weekend and I need to print them out and mail them anyway. However, instead of bringing up an empty document file, it brings up a file I backed up last time I used it. That’s weird. I click on the Open New icon and it brings up another copy of that same file. Again. And again. Uh-oh. Do I have a virus? Run my virus software while filing some contracts and organizing my desk. Nothing shows up. Can’t deal with this, so I’ll just ignore it.

9:00 a.m.—These aren’t the rejection letters I wrote last weekend. I think I mailed these already. Not sure. Now here’s a dilemma. Do I print and send and hope I didn’t do that already? (Note: If everyone sent a SASE, it would be easy to match them up and figure this out. Look at log. Neither of these authors sent a SASE.)

9:05 a.m.—Phone rings. Confirming an appointment later this week.

9:10 a.m.—Phone rings. An author who has been working on a new book for the past 6 years tells me they’ve decided they don’t want to finish it. They have lots of really good reasons. And lots of ideas of what they want to write instead. Whatever. Send me an e-mail.

9:30 a.m.—Leave for doctor’s appointment. The other reason I am working from home today. :(

11:30 a.m.—Back home. Okay, which item in this vast pile of slush do I need to look at next? Do a fast sort into “Rejections” and “Maybes”. Okay, ready to start…

11:45 a.m.—Phone rings. Another author: Where is my royalty check? Shouldn’t it have arrived by now? I really, really needed it by this weekend or… (Like I can just wave my magic wand and get it to them.) Okay, I’ll see what I can do. (Wish my mother had not ingrained courtesy and politeness so deeply into my psyche.)

Check in at the office. Checks are going out tomorrow. Get involved in some other conversations with office staff. Get sidetracked by a printing project that was supposed to be finished today and is not. Have no idea when they will be done.

That reminds me of another project I need to finish. Darn! Completely forgot about that one. Well, they aren’t on the phone yelling at me yet, so maybe I have some time.

1:45 p.m.—Author calls again: Have I found out about the royalty checks yet? Listen to financial woes. Wish I could tell them my own financial woes. Could match her toe to toe, and then some—I’ve got teenagers and kids in college and my husband is home from his job today because his car won’t start…

2:00 p.m.—Where is that reading pile? Now, where was I? Should I read first, or write more rejections? Drop my pen and bang my head on the desk picking it up. Throw pen across the room. Throw a couple of other things too, just for fun. What is wrong with me? Oh yeah, it’s way past lunch time. I tend to get cranky when my blood sugar is low.

2:45 p.m.—During my lunch break, my daughter called from the dentist’s office. She had to have a root canal this morning because she fell at work a few weeks ago and banged her mouth on the trash can. Turns out, the tooth died and is turning dark. That stress just sucked up all the sugar I had from lunch! And I’m out of candy.

3:00 p.m.—Phone rings. Another author: Do you have my press kit ready yet? And have you talked to XYZ Bookstore? Are they going to let me do a signing? And what about this conference on Saturday? (This is the first time she’s mentioned it to me) Are you going to be there? Are you going to have a booth and FEATURE ME? I try to explain that it will cost me $200 between booth rental and man hours to be at that conference and the chances of me selling more than two of her books is worse than the proverbial snowball’s. She’s mad.

3:41 p.m.—Teen-age daughter is home from school. Wants to borrow my copy of The Scarlet Letter because the school’s copy is falling apart. I have to check five bookcases before I find it.

3:45 p.m.—Pick up the packet that is on top of my stack of unread submissions, start reading.

3:47 p.m.—Phone rings. It’s the printer about that job that’s not done. What kind of paper did I want for the cover? (The same kind we’ve used the last four times we’ve had you print it!!!)

4:05 p.m.—Where was I. Oh yes, page 1, second paragraph.

4:11 p.m.—Phone rings. Another author. Proposing another book idea. Okay, let’s see…we’ve published one book by you. It’s doing okay. But I’d really like to see the other three proposals you’ve already run past me before you hit me with this fourth one. Yes, I know you’re creative. Yes, I know you have so many ideas you can’t sit still and work on any one of them. Fine. Whatever. Send me that proposal too—if you ever get it done.

4:25 p.m.—Page two, first paragraph. Good thing I read really fast. Too bad this one isn’t going to make it.

5:00 p.m.—Daughter drops by the house to show me her newly root-canalled tooth. She can see a difference between the lovely shade of off white of her still good front tooth and the lovely shade of off white of her now dead front tooth right next to it. I can’t. She turns on a light. Then another one. I still can’t see a difference. Daughter leaves to go back to college. I won’t see her again until December.

5:20 p.m.—Phone rings. Another author. Geez, I give up. Move the slush piles from my desk back to the cabinet while she’s talking. Finish filing the rest of the paperwork from earlier while she’s talking. Look at my calendar and update my To Do list while she’s talking. (If you’re wondering why I don’t just hang up, it’s because she’s my current best-seller and I’m listening to her worries about the book she’s working on now. Whatever it takes to get that next book.)

6:00 p.m.—Start writing this blog.

6:15 p.m.—Teen-age daughter walks into my office and with a dramatic sigh falls down in the doorway. She hasn't moved in the past 15 minutes. I think she’s trying to tell me that she needs some attention. Or that she likes The Scarlet Letter almost as much as I do.


Another Contest

I did four posts yesterday. How did that happen? Blame it on jet lag, I guess.

So I'm taking it easy today. No big discussions. Just another contest you can enter (after you've entered something for mine, that is).

In last week's free FFW Small Markets newsletter (sign up at FundsforWriters), they mentioned the following contest:

HAVE YOU ENTERED YET? FUNDSFORWRITERS ANNUAL CONTEST. 70 entries so far. Imagine that...you have several chances in 70 to win a prize. Where are you going to find odds like that? Also, this year we are surprised to see that half are paid entry fee submissions and half are no entry fees. Do the math. You have one chance in 35 to win $150? Where do you have an opportunity like that?


(If you can't get this link to work, copy and paste it into your URL address line.)

And while you're there, surf around her site. It's got lots of cool stuff on it.


Halloween Contest

I'm bored. Time for another contest. This time it's a Halloween short story contest.

Write a short short story suitable for Halloween.

Maximum word count: 500

Paste entire story into an e-mail and send to me.

SUBMIT it any time between now and Thursday, October 26th.

I will pre-select the top 10 stories and post those by Saturday, October 28th.

Then you VOTE between October 29th and October 31st.

Winner will be announced after Halloween.

Prize: bragging rights.

Right of First Refusal

Back to contracts and some serious stuff: the right to first refusal.

This keeps coming up, so even though I’ve discussed it here and here, I’m going to talk about it again.

What's fair?

I’m sure that there will be both publishers (who feel they have the right to all of their authors’ future stuff) and authors (who feel they should be able to shop each new piece to the highest bidder) will disagree with me. But in MY opinion, fairness of first refusal falls into three categories: number of future works, category of future works, and length of enforcement.

Number of future works
Fair: a specified number of future works; as in ONE, perhaps two. The exception to this is if you are selling a series. In that case, the number of books in the series—but make sure it spells out that it only applies to the books in that series. Other books are up for grabs.

NOT Fair: More than two; more than one series.

Category of Future Works
Fair: The next novel in the same genre.

NOT Fair: Every genre that you might consider writing in, including non-fiction.

Length of Enforcement
Two to three years (because sometimes it takes an author that long to write their next novel.)

NOT Fair: More than three years.

All three of these categories need to be addressed and balanced in your contract. If they aren't, ask for clarification.

Now, I know that many authors want to get rid of this clause entirely. I understand—really, I do. But from a publisher’s perspective, let’s say I have two authors and, all other things being equal, one of them is looking at me with “long-term relationship” burning in their eyes, while the other one wants to “keep their options open.”

If it was your $10—$15 grand (or more) going into the project, which one would you ask to the prom?

In the Interest of Poor Taste

WARNING: RATED PG-13 for Violence

I regularly read Kristen Nelson's blog. (She's a national literary agent.) Today she linked to a blog by Jenny Rappaport, also an agent. Jenny then linked to another blogger who didn't like what she had said. You are free to read these blogs at your leisure, but the content is not what I'm posting about.

Scroll down to the cartoon at the bottom of the first comment of this blog.

Well, it is Halloween.

And yes, I am warped.

But I did warn you.

Submission to Shelf

Can you describe the publishing process--from the time the author submits a manuscript until it shows up on the bookstore shelves?

Geez, you want a book! And this is a blog. But okay, I'm game. Here it is in a nutshell. (Some of these items are done concurrently--for example, cover design and promo plans are developed while author is doing rewrites, etc.)

Manuscript arrives on editors desk, where it sits to wait its turn to be read.

Editor reads manuscript and likes it.

Editor sends it to company readers and gets analysis back.

Editor creates a proposal for the book which includes things like a profit and loss estimate, marketing hooks, why the company should publish it, etc., etc.

Editor has meeting with various departments and they yell and scream and throw things at each other until finally, someone gives in and the manuscript is officially accepted. (These steps can take 6 months or longer.)

Contract is sent to author. Author dances around the room in ecstasy. Contract is reviewed by author's attorney and/or other financial/legal advisors. Points are negotiated between author and publisher. Contract is signed and returned to publisher. (This step better take you at least a week or you haven't done enough homework.)

Manuscript is sent back to the author with rewrite suggestions. (Actually, they are rewrite commandments or the contract might be voided.)

"Finished" manuscript is submitted to publisher.

Manuscript is edited.

Manuscript is typeset.

Cover is designed. Manuscript given a new title (probably). Back blurbs written.

Marketing and advertising plans are developed.

Promotionals start. Advance sales are made.

Final pre-press check is done.

Manuscript sent to press.

Finished books arrive at warehouse.

Pre-sells shipped to bookstores and books are placed on shelves.

Total Elapsed Time: 1 to 2 years

Now the work really begins...


Exploring the Edge of the Internet

I am going on a trip. I will be taking my laptop with me, but I'm not sure I'll be able to figure out how to make everything work correctly. So if it seems like I've dropped off the edge of the world for the next week, I have not. I've only dropped off the edge of the Internet--and I will be back.

Promoting Your Own Book

What would you suggest as the top three most effective ways for an author to promote his or her books?

Some authors feel they can't do much to promote their book because they can't afford a big ad or book signing tour, but that's not the case. The three items I've listed below can be done free or for very little expense. They do, however, take a commitment of time, energy and creativity.

1. Establish a quality web presence--this can be a website or blog or both. The best ones are frequently updated and have things that entice a reader to visit--like contests, newsletters, freebies. Absolutely have one that will let visitors sign up to receive messages and announcements from you. This is a good way to get news out about personal appearances and new releases. There are several free web hosting companies, and blogspot (this site) is free.

2. Make personal/virtual appearances--not just book signings. Go talk to church groups, schools, libraries. Even if you only do these within a 30 mile radius of your home, it will still help you to establish a readership. Create a platform or get behind a good cause that you believe in. When you speak in support of your cause, have your book mentioned in your introduction. Join a variety of online forums and participate regularly, using a signature that mentions your book and links to an online store where the reader can purchase it. The more that people see you, hear you, read you, make a personal and positive connection to you, the more likely they are to buy your book.

3. Tell everyone you know about your book. Don't be embarassed--be enthused. Mention it in your Christmas letter. Give your book as birthday and Christmas gifts to your family and close friends. Carry business cards or bookmarks and hand them out whenever you see old friends and acquaintances. Strike up conversations with strangers and when they ask what you do, whip out your BC or bookmark and give it to them.

If you're proud of your book and excited about it, let that bubble over and infect everyone you come in contact with. Your enthusiasm is THE most effective way to promote your book.


Romance Me? Romance Me Not?

I've noticed that the majority of LDS suspense novels have a strong romantic subplot. If there isn't much romance in my book, will this hurt my chances in the LDS market? Do readers demand romance?

Traditionally, the LDS fiction customer is female. LDS women who prefer romance novels have increasingly turned to LDS romance as a replacement for national romance which is becoming more sensual. LDS publishers have tried to satisfy this demand for clean romance.

LDS readers who prefer other genres have not really moved to LDS fiction simply because very little exists in other genres. As LDS publishers move into other genres with quality, well-written stories, they will attract other readers. While romance may be leading the pack right now, I think it's just a matter of time before the demand for other genres, including stories without much romance, catch up.

Submission Counts

On average, how many fiction submissions do LDS publishers get per year?

I have no idea. Right now, I'm averaging about 6-8 per month, but I'm a small house. If anyone knows what the bigger houses are averaging, feel free to chime in.


Launch Parties Outside Utah

I pulled this from the comments trail of the previous post because it applies to a rapidly growing group of authors--those living outside Utah.

What would you suggest for LDS authors who don't live in Utah? I could easily arrange such an event here in my hometown for friends and family, but seeing as how Utah is about 1700 miles away, it would be much more difficult.

It still works. How far away is your nearest LDS bookstore? If there's one within a few hours drive it's still considered local. If there are no LDS bookstores nearby, or if the one nearest you can't or won't do a launch party, have your publisher contact a small local mom & pop bookstore and see if they will host one. (Smaller stores are often more willing to do this than the bigger chains.)

If that doesn't work, consider hosting a launch party at your home. It will be smaller scale, but I know a musician who did a launch party at their home and sold 100 CDs on one night.

Another idea is to do a one-day online launch sale. Using your website, your publisher's website or another online LDS bookstore website who agrees to "host" the launch, schedule a party. Send out postcards with a code that gives customers a percentage off your book or free shipping if they order that day. If you can work it out with the publisher, have them send the books to you to sign before shipping. Then enter all those who place an order for your book using the code on your postcard in a drawing and draw out for a couple of prizes.

It can be done. It just takes creativity and flexibility--and if you're an author, you've got plenty of both.


Party! Party! Party!

I always hear that at book signings an author shouldn't just huddle behind her signing table with her nose in a book, but should get out and interact with the customers. But what if I'm doing a signing on a day when customer traffic is very slow? I'd feel very uncomfortable stalking the one customer in the store. As a customer, I'd be very uncomfortable if an author were pushing his/her book on me, so I don't want to do that to someone else. How can I make book signings a positive and productive experience, even on the slow days?

As a book reader/buyer myself, I don't like being stalked by an author either. Sometimes I don't go over to an author's table to find out about their book because I don't want to be in that awkward position of not wanting to buy it. I mean, what do you say? "Sorry, I forgot my purse," and hope they don't notice you in the checkout line buying the 4 books you came in to get?

One solution to this is the launch party. This is becoming more and more popular. Remember the release of the last Harry Potter book? Several bookstores in my area had huge midnight parties with treats and games and costume contests, etc.

You don't have to be quite that extravagant, but a party atmosphere is fun for everyone and you don't have to sit there feeling like a loser because no one comes over to talk to you. Check Josi Kilpack's blog for details on having a launch party. Then use your imagination to adapt that to your own book.

Even if your book has been out awhile, if you can make it feel more like a party you can avoid those embarassing moments. Play a game that ties into your plot or have something for the customer to do besides just look at your book. Have a free drawing. Serve cookies. Do a signing with several other authors. If all else fails, have your friends and family come in and pretend to be customers. If people are at the table talking to you, other customers are more likely to come over and listen in.


My Favorite Publisher Doesn't Publish Fiction--Am I Out of Luck?

I met the owner of a small LDS publishing house and was very impressed with them. I've written an LDS novel that I'd like to submit to them, but when I checked their website, there aren't any novels listed. They don't really mention what they're looking for in their submission guidelines. Does that mean my chances of working with them are zero, or is there a possibility they'd consider me? How do I find out?

Since I don't know which publishing house you're talking about, I can't really answer your question. Some small houses are looking to expand, just waiting for the right manuscript to launch a new genre or topic area. Others are only interested in publishing in their specialty. If you really think they're the cat's meow, it won't hurt to do some investigation.

Did this owner give you their business card or their e-mail address? If they did, a very SHORT e-mail would be okay. It should go something like this:

Dear Ms. LDSP:
My name is Jane Doe. I met you last week at the XYZ Writers Conference. I was very impressed with your comments. [a little schmoozing is nice, but don't overdo it.] I noticed on your website that you haven't published any fiction. [this shows you did your homework] Is this an area you are looking to expand into? If so, may I send my LDS romantic suspense directly to you, or should I send it to someone else within your company?
Sincerely, Jane Doe

Notice how short that is?

If they didn't give you a card or e-mail, call the receptionist and ask if the company would consider fiction manuscrips and to whom you should address your submission.


When Creds Count

How important are previous publishing credits when submitting a manuscript? And does it matter where you are published?

The most important thing is good writing. Every author has to be published first somewhere. If you've never published before, but your novel rocks, I want it.

Publishing credits help with marketing, but only if the current product is good and solid. Past sales only go so far.

As to where your publishing credits are from, as long as it's a legitimate, professional publication with a critical and discriminating selection process (as in, they don't publish everything that is submitted), it counts. Self-publishing only counts if you've sold a significant number of copies (say 4,000+ in a year).


Critique-O-Meter #1

Dear LDSP,

Fifteen year old Jeremy James Johansen lived a rather boring life until the past year. Now, his father has disappeared, he’s been suspended from school for fighting, and he’s wandered through a portal to another world and become an old man. He can’t help but question his sanity when he spots his father just before being plucked from the ground by a dragon and taken to a man in black. The man’s teeth are chiseled sharp, like a cat’s, and he insists on calling Jeremy “Father,” [,] despite the boy’s objections. In trying to escape the scary man, Jeremy trips over his beard and plummets from the cliff to his death.

After waking from what he thought was a bad dream, strange things begin to happen. [to him--delete this.] [His] Jeremy’s hair turns white over night, he sees the face of an old man overlapping his own in the mirror, and strangest of all, his mouth talks without him at the most awkward of times. It seems that the dream was no dream at all, and somehow the spirit of the old man has been forced to share his body with him. In time, Jeremy discovers that the portal holds the answers not only to his rebellious body, but most importantly points him down the path to find his father — and help save a world.

The young adult fantasy, [Title] is complete at 72,000 words and is the first in a series.

I am a staff writer and regular participant in the [an online writers blog], as well as an administrator for the online writing workshop The XYZ Writing Workshop, and have been published in [recognizable title] magazine.

I would love to send a copy of my manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and attention. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.


Hopeful Author

Uhmmm. Other than the three red spots, I can't find anything wrong with it. I read a lot of YA fantasy and this is unique enough to get my attention. I'd ask for the manuscript.

Please Move Your Foot Before Pulling the Trigger

I’m probably going to get some blasting for this, but I have to say something—and sorry for being so blunt, but I have to say it forcefully.

I have made no secret about the fact that I lurk in a lot of online forums and read a lot of author blogs and websites. I’m not the only one. A lot of my colleagues do it too. Some of us lurk fairly openly and people who are not comatose know who we are. Others of us use a secret online identity so people don’t know who we really are. Some of us lurk out of personal interest or just for fun. Others of us lurk specifically to find out what YOU are saying about US. And even if we don’t lurk in a particular forum or chat room, we have friends and cohorts and connections who read stuff and forward it to us—all the time. Subject line: Did you see what they are saying about you over on…

So a word to the wise, think twice before complaining about your publisher in a public forum, such as a blog, website or online chat. If you complain about me, I’m going to hear about it and it’s not going to make me feel all warm and fuzzy about you. And if you’re complaining about one of my colleagues (as is the case I’m ranting about now), and your complaint clearly indicates a lack of understanding about how the business side of publishing works, how receptive do you think I’m going to be when your next manuscript shows up on my desk?

Some authors are mistreated by their publishers and their complaints are legitimate. If this is the case, take your complaints to someone who can help you do something about it—an attorney, an agent, another publisher. If you feel you must blow off some steam, then rant to your spouse, your family, your close friends, your writers group—face to face. But do not do it online where it can come back to bite you. And it will. Trust me.

There are times when a publisher or a bookstore will go through their inventory and make wholesale book dumps—this most often happens when there is a change of command or a restructuring of focus. You know that this is the case because it will be an entire genre or multiple authors or all books that use the phrase “aw shucks.” When this happens, don’t take it personally. But when it’s just you that's getting dumped, you need to keep in mind a few facts.

Fact: A bookstore does not dump a book because of one complaint, unless that complaint is made by the owner’s mother or spouse or lien holder. As long as the number of books being sold outweigh the number of complaints coming in, they will continue to stock the shelves and carry the book. A bookstore dumps a book for one reason only: it isn’t selling.

Fact: A publisher does not dump a book because one store receives one complaint. They dump a book for one reason only: it isn’t selling.

Fact: A publisher may discontinue a class of books (ie: fiction), a genre (ie: western), or a title (ie: your book). They do this for one reason only: it isn’t selling.

Fact: No matter what other reason a publisher, bookstore, or author gives for a book being dumped, the only true reason is IT ISN'T SELLING.

Are we getting the message?



Just a reminder that I am still willing to review and comment on query letters and opening paragraphs. Send them in the body of an e-mail. I will post, critique and comment on them.

*Yes, this is a rip-off of Miss Snark's idea, but I just can't bring myself to use her word for it. It is so indelicate.

Also, unlike Miss Snark, my Critique-O-Meter is always open.

Simultaneous Submissions

Clarifications have been made to this post. Please re-read.

Can you submit the same manuscript to multiple publishers at the same time?

This is called simultaneous submissions. Some publishers accept them, others do not. Check your publisher's submission guidelines. If the publisher you want to submit to accepts simultaneous submissions, then yes, you can send your manuscript to them, and to other publishers, who also accept simultaneous submissions, at the same time. If the publisher you want to submit to does not accept simultaneous submissions, then you must submit to them, wait for them to reject it, and then submit to the next publisher on your list.

The reason some publishers choose not to accept simultaneous submissions is because then they can read at their leisure without worry that someone is going to beat their time. This is unfair to the author, as single submissions can kill you. For example, let's say you have 10 publishers on your A list and you have to query and submit to them sequentially. And let's say they each take about 6 months to go through the review process. It could take you 5 years to get through them. Who has time for that?

Personally, I think there should be a law that forces all publishers to accept simultaneous submissions. But until there is, you have to play by their rules. If they say they want exclusive looks, and you want them to consider you, then you have to send it to them and no one else until they make a decision.

One more word: If you decide to do simultaneous submissions to publishers who accept them, let the publisher know in the query letter that you have submitted to others as well. You don't need to tell him/her who else you've submitted to, but it is polite to let them know that others are looking at it also. And if you get accepted somewhere, write or e-mail all other publishers who are still reviewing your manuscript and let them know it's off the market.