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Posts Tagged ‘achieving goals’

Sorry for the delay yesterday. Here you go for real this time! ūüôā http://youtu.be/EFKA5ECs0I0

Please let me know if you run into any problems.

All the best for a great week ahead!

Cheri

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Hi! Before I turn in on this Saturday evening, I want to get the word out that I’ve created and posted a new video for YouTube (and beyond). This one is very personal, in which I give my own demonstration of how women can fix their eye makeup to look very natural even though chemo has taken (temporarily) their eyebrows and eyelashes away.¬†And yes, I actually start the demo with my bare face, for those of you who are curious. ūüôā

This is the first step in my plan to start giving back, in the wake of my rather extensive cancer journey over the past two years. (You’ll find lots of posts on the subject in this blog, if you missed them, to give you more information on that journey). And before too much longer there will be another book, this new one falling into the nonfiction category¬†(a very different experience for me than my novels)¬†and designed to be of immediate help to women who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I will continue to keep you current on that book’s development and publishing¬†progress, both of¬†which should start zipping right along now that my chemo treatments are complete.

But the main thing I’d like to see happen with this new video is for everyone who views the film, and wants to be¬†of help, to forward¬†the video’s link to women they know are going through chemo or are about to do so. Forwarding the link to loved ones and friends of those women would also be useful. Missing eyebrows and eyelashes will not be a big deal for every woman undergoing treatment, but I’m hopeful that those who would¬†like a little help will find at least one thing (even if that’s just support and commiseration) in “Chemo Eyes” at http://youtu.be/0C_rC5lamSw.

Thanks so much, in advance,¬†for your assistance with this! Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

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Hi! This will be a quick post, but one that’s hugely exciting! In January, Amazon opened the¬†fifth annual ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award)¬†competition. There are two categories: General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction. A maximum¬†of 5000 entries were accepted¬†into each category¬†prior to the close of the entry period on February 5, 2012. There are a whole bunch of rules and judging levels (http://tinyurl.com/7hgp4qt¬†)¬†if you’re unfamiliar with the contest/process and¬†interested in learning more for future reference.

At any rate … last year I entered Separation of Faith¬†in the General Fiction category, on sort of a¬†lark. Much to my surprise, the novel made the first cut in the competition (the 5000 entries in each category¬†are narrowed¬†down to the top 1000 in each category). Given the odds, I wasn’t surprised when that was the end of the good news. The¬†500 novels chosen for the Quarter Finals in the second cut did not include Separation of Faith. And yet I loved the experience anyway!

So … this year I decided to try again. And as you already know from the post headline above,¬†my little book has once again made the first round cut!! There’s no doubt that Separation of Faith has some sort of legs, especially in the contest arena, having won or placed in more than a dozen contests thus far. This success hasn’t translated yet into any significant visibility in the publishing world–but, just like every real writer out there, my motto is, “Where there’s a new day, there’s¬†indestructible hope, no matter how daunting the odds.”

Now we have to wait until March 20 to see if the fresh perspective from a new set of judges will make a difference this time around. Even if the novel didn’t advance any further than the next cut, making the top 500 out of 5000 entries would sure be a kick! Nonetheless, the first round cut authors do receive feedback from two of the judges, which I found to be¬†both interesting and useful last year. I know from all of my other contest experience,¬†though,¬†how many good novels are out there just waiting to be discovered. We’ll simply¬†have to wait and see how Separation of Faith¬†stacks up against the other 999, whose authors are dreaming the same dream along with me. Our stories are whatever they are at this point.¬†Still, a¬†little bit of luck would sure be useful (and appreciated).

Hope all is well with each of you and that your publishing journeys are on your projected paths for 2012!¬†My next post (tomorrow) will include a chemo update as well as a bunch of¬†links to articles that I’ve¬†been collecting for you. There might be a surprise as well. ūüôā Stay tuned … and have a wonderful night/weekend!

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Self-Pub Success Story!

This Wall Street Journal article (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204770404577082303350815824.html) opens by saying that author Darcie¬†Chan’s debut novel, The Mill River Recluse, has sold 400,000 copies¬†and has placed her on the best-seller list “next to writers like Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and Kathryn Stockett.” Then the next paragraph goes on to say, “It’s been a success by any measure, save one. Ms. Chan still¬†hasn’t found a publisher.”

Needless to say, a statement like that grabbed my attention (something of an understatement, to tell the truth). And Ms. Chan’s story¬†turned out to be inspirational, as well as instructional–one more light on the horizon for¬†those of us who’ve decided to¬†try a DIY (do-it-yourself) angle or two on our publishing journeys.

If you haven’t read this story yet, I promise that you’ll learn at least one thing you don’t know already about the worlds of self-publishing and e-books. Furthermore, if you’re trying to decide which way to go with your¬†next book, I suspect that you’ll be a little¬†closer to that decision by the time you finish this article. Enjoy!

The Big Reasons Indie Authors¬†Aren’t Taken¬†Seriously

Sometimes we writers have to pull our hands away from our ears and force ourselves to listen to tough words. At least, that’s what we need to do if we’re serious about growing in our craft and eventually finding a wide readership for our work. This article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/indie-authors-struggle_n_1242935.html?ref=books) puts some of those tough words right in our faces!

Still assimilating the wealth of information from the 2012 Writer’s Digest Conference two weeks ago, I was drawn to this article for¬†a number of reasons,¬†the most important of which is the subject of¬†editing. Not only¬†were there dozens of references at the conference to this critical element of the publishing process, especially if you’re opting for a DIY avenue.¬†But there are dozens more such references in the first year or so of this blog, as I was bringing my second novel, Separation of Faith,¬†into life. Having learned the hard way what happens if you don’t invest in a book’s editing,¬†I was determined to produce a novel comparable, or even superior, in editorial quality to anything coming out of the traditional world.

Separation of Faith has now placed in more than a dozen competitions.¬†First Place continues to be elusive. But the novel has earned Runner Up to the grand prize winner several times, in addition to multiple Bronze prizes and a list of highly ranked Honorable Mentions. And most recently, even though there wasn’t an associated placement, the 2012 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards produced the following feedback from one of the judges:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “poor” and 5 meaning “excellent,” please evaluate the following:

  • Plot: 4
  • Grammar: 4.5
  • Character Development: 5
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

What did you like best about this book?

Congratulations on writing and publishing your novel! The cover design and packaging is very professional. The back cover copy does a good job of maketing the book to potential readers. You have clearly done a great deal of research, which shows in the historical details and description that bring the scenes alive for the reader. You have created some interesting characters and brought them to life with strong dialogue and characterization. Good job balancing action, dialoge and narration. Good job with grammar, proofreading and formatting of the interior of the book.

How can the author improve this book? (Cheri’s Note: I decided to include this part as well, because I learned something, and I thought some of you might as well. And, we do need to strengthen our nerves so we can hear the improvements along with the accolades!)

Watch out for the overuse of italics, as this can be¬†difficult to read, dilutes the emphasis, and makes the pages look a llittle disorganized. (Cheri’s Note: This comment addressed letters and journals written as part of flashbacks, several of which I formatted in italics.) Also, the book’s price seems a little high. These are minor concerns for a book that is quite strong overall.

The winners’ list for this contest will be announced¬†by the end of this month, and I’m anxious¬†to see who beat me. But the main¬†thing I want to point out here is how important formatting and interior quality are with any book, but especially with self-published books! And even though Separation of Faith didn’t win a slot in this particular competition, the novel, as I said earlier, has placed in more than a dozen others. And there’s no doubt in my mind that¬†a primary reason for that success is the quality of editing. (That’s also a main reason why¬†I truly believe this entire endeavor will eventually take off! ūüôā )

Enjoy this important article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/indie-authors-struggle_n_1242935.html?ref=books) — and have a wonderful Super Bowl weekend!

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Cheri’s Note: This was an uplifting and inspirational way to end another great WD conference!

The Drive to Write–Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); author of No Plot, No Novel and Ready, Set, Novel

NaNoWriMo: Writers sign up to write a 50K word novel, from scratch, during the month of November each year. Baty and a few friends first experimented with the idea in 1999 (a total of 6 people). By 2000, 130 writers participated. In 2011, there were 300,000 participants in 33 countries.¬†Six years ago, NaNoWriMo became a non-profit in Berkeley, CA, with a staff of seven.¬†On Friday, January 20,¬†Chris left the organization. On Monday the 22nd, he began his new job as a full time writer.¬†¬†He explained his decision to make this change with this quote: “A ship in harbor is safe–but that is not what ships are built for.” –John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928.

Baty said that a common trait in others who’ve left the shore is the drive to write. Something else they share in common–they’ve all packed the same four things:

  1. An established deadline.¬† Set a deadline and then share that date with someone (even a newly met stranger). Ask that person to hold you accountable for that deadline commitment. And don’t ask just one person. Invite several people to hold you accountable.
  2. Momentum. “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann, German writer. “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.” –Isaac Newton.¬†Even if you don’t start out writing every day, commit to opening the document every day. That single motion of opening the document will automatically begin to expand and lead to writing.
  3. An appreciation for messes. Writers need to make as many messes as possible in both the writing and the business levels of this endeavor. Fumbling in the dark, on and off the page, is part of the process. The only way we can better ourselves is to make mistakes–trying and failing first.
  4. Faith. Faith that “our books don’t suck.” That we’re getting better as writers. That our work will eventually mean something. The world holds a lot of surprises–and success is often closer than we know.

If we give ourselves permission to take this crazy path, we have the power to accomplish unimaginable things.¬†Baty says he’s watched hundreds of thousands of people write a book in one month that they didn’t even know they had in them when they started. That’s quite impressive and unimaginable. And we each have the power to do such things.

He offered to have faith for us, on our behalf, believing in our possibilities, because he’s seen them firsthand.

Cheri’s Note: As I said earlier, this was quite a moving and inspirational presentation, and the perfect closing for this conference!

And this concludes my series of summaries on the sessions I attended. But this exercise in sharing has accomplished something unexpected. One of my goals for 2012, as I complete and rebound from the chemo, is to get back to a more frequent and predictable blogging rhythm. Very much in tune with Chris Baty’s “objects in motion tend to stay in motion” point, my need to get these summaries out to you has put me on a daily blogging cycle that I’m hoping to sustain–unexpectedly meeting one goal by accomplishing another. And that, after all, seems to be the story of a writer’s life.

Wishing you all a happy, productive day!

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Sunday, January 22–Panel Members:

  • Phil Sexton–Moderator of Panel; Publisher, Writer’s Digest
  • Karen Cooper–Publisher, Adams Media
  • Michelle Howry–Senior Editor, Touchstone (an impring of Simon & Schuster)
  • Donya Dickerson–Senior Editor, McGraw Hill

A. What is the most common mistake writers make in nonfiction proposals?

  • Too much emphasis on the manuscript.
  • Not enough evidence of need. Why does this book need to be in the marketplace?
  • Not enough emphasis on the author platform.
  • Not enough competitive analysis. Need to do research: a) Where will this book go on the shelf in Barnes & Noble? b) How does this book contrast with competitive titles? c) What does this book provide that no other book does? Check publicity volume of competition and occupied shelf space in bookstores. Also check Book of the Month Club offerings and other visible signs of a book’s sales/popularity.
  • Writer¬†is not realistic about competition for books by a “new author.” In proposal/query, presents him/herself as “the next ___________ (fill in the blank with a famous author’s name).” This approach brands the writer as inexperienced and unrealistic. Instead, the writer should answer: a) Here’s how my book fits into the market, and b) Here’s how my book differs …”

The approximate length of a nonfiction book proposal should be thirty pages, not including any sample chapters.

Include suggestions about where book could be sold outside of the trade (ex., Walmart, Costco …) Research should include publishers and where they sell.

———————————————————

B. How important is the author’s writing in nonfiction?

  • Depends on the imprint, the book idea, and how hungry the editor is for an acquisition.
  • Authors should not have someone else write the proposal. Both the manuscript and the proposal need to have the same style. Editors can tell if they’ve been written by different people.
  • Editors/publishers vary regarding how important the writing is. If the concept is great, the quality of writing is not as important. Writing can always be beefed up through input from agents, editorial staff, or even ghost writers contracted through publishers.
  • The author’s platform plays a role in how important the writing is. The more the author already has in place to help sell the book, the less important the actual writing becomes.
  • Editors differ with respect to the weight applied to a) good writing, b) promotion, and c) platform.

————————————————————

C. How has the view of self-publishing changed?

  • All three editors said they would enthusiastically look at proposals that included self-published books.
  • Writers should keep in mind that, if an author is doing well with self-published book saes, then there is a strong case to be made for not going with a traditional publisher.
  • However, publishers can offer access to additional distribution channels, unique book promotions, etc.

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D. What is the most compelling proposal you ever received, and why?

  • Wreck This Journal. Original proposal was a mock-up that was intended to be torn apart (as is the final product). Sometimes editors have to do a hard-sell job with odd ideas like this one, when channels like Barnes & Noble and Amazon have decided to passed on a project.
  • The Starbuck’s Experience. Author had gained full access to Starbuck’s operations. (The publisher was instrumental in changing the title from the original.)
  • The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. Author had secured permission from J.K. Rowling to use the Harry Potter name.
  • Retail Hell. The proposal came in as a self-help book. The publisher reworked it into a memoir.

Editors and publishers want authors who are cooperative and willing to listen, who respond positively to input, and who want to work in a partnership to produce the best quality book possible.

–Cheri’s Note: I’m now studying up on how to write a nonfiction book proposal. I will keep you posted on what I’m learning and how the process unfolds once I actually begin writing the document.–

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What the heck is¬†the pitch slam anyway? Well, depending on the person answering that question, the¬†pitch slam¬†can¬†either be¬†comparable to walking the proverbial plank, or¬†the experience can be a writer’s nirvana.¬†Technically, the setup involves a whole bunch of agents sitting at little individual tables¬†arranged around the edges of two huge hotel conference rooms. And those agents are waiting for hundreds of aspiring writers to line up in front of the little tables, in order to pitch, one-on-one, their books du jour.

Expectations tend to run pretty high with writers who’ve never been to a writer’s conference before, and I spoke with lots of young men and women who were truthfully anticipating the signing of a book deal by the end of Saturday. In reality, this is an exercise of practice–practicing the pitch, testing out the story idea, gaining a little feedback from several “someones” in the business, and maybe–at best–getting a request¬†to submit a proposal or a chapter or two. We were specifically¬†instructed not to hand any of the agents any materials at all–not even a business card. And yet I watched as dozens of writers tried to force flash drives¬†or varying sizes of manuscripts into the agents’ hands. Needless to say, by the end of the three hours, there were hundreds of folks who’d come face-to-face with a major expectation/reality adjustment.

This three-hour session is the only reason¬†lots of writers attend this particular conference. In fact, the conference attendance pretty much doubled on Saturday (same thing happened last year), because there’s a Saturday-only registration option. Such an approach seems to¬†me a bit like jumping into the¬†middle of the open sea after foregoing your swimming lessons. But what do I know? And I have enough to worry about, with respect to my own plans and expectations, without worrying about my conference-mates!

Actually, as those of you who’ve been following this blog know,¬†I wasn’t planning to participate in the Pitch Slam at all this year, believing that on Day 13 of my fifth chemo round I wouldn’t be able to project my strongest, most energetic, and promotable self and book story. Plus, since my first book-length priority for 2012 is my nonfiction project (although I’m being driven nuts by the next novel clamoring to get out of my head), I didn’t feel confident that I was far enough along with the manuscript¬†to confidently pitch the work. However … I was so totally energized¬†from the conference sessions by Saturday morning that I decided I didn’t haven’t anything to lose by pitching, and I figured I’d be totally stupid to bypass such a gaggle of agents who were only there to listen to book pitches. (None of the agents who participated in the Pitch Slam received any compensation for being there, which is pretty amazing all by itself!)

Directions in the Friday evening session designed to prepare everyone for pitching Saturday afternoon cautioned against developing pitches that are too long, for a variety of reasons. First, this is the way the three hours were organized: Approximately 60 agents (eight or nine were last-minute cancellations due to the Saturday snow storm, but three or four local area agents were added in) were seated at their little tables around the two huge conference rooms. In the conference directory, the agents were listed alphabetically with the specified genres of books they were looking for, and each attendee selected a group of agents that appeared to be a match. As soon as the doors opened at 2:00 Saturday afternoon, we all filed in and formed lines in front of the first agent we wanted to pitch to. Generally, there were about 6-10 people in each line, and each pitch session was three minutes in total.

Here’s another reason why¬†our pitches were supposed¬†to be ultra short:¬†The first person in line sat down in front of the agent when “start” was signaled, and a 60-90-second pitch was designed to leave another 60-90 seconds for the agent to comment and/or to (hopefully) request some sort of submission to follow. Once the “time is up” signal sounded, the next person in line was supposed to sit down in front of the agent. (Can you imagine how cross-eyed those agents must have been after engaging in three-minute pitch sessions, one after another, for three consecutive non-stop hours? They deserve a lot of credit and admiration for such duty!) At any rate, as you might imagine would happen, most of the attendees had never pitched a book before, and the majority¬†were failing miserably with the 60-90 second pitch objective. Instead, they talked continuously for the full three minutes, leaving the agent only a few seconds to say anything at all (and usually after the “time is up” signal had sounded). So, the next person in line started their own pitch late and, in order to be fair, would take the full three minutes even though the “time is up” signal sounded a long time ago. Consequently, all the lines were growing restless with the timing that was becoming increasingly out of whack. Eventually, the conference staff began to enforce the schedule, walking around and making sure that pitch sessions were ending at the signal. By hour number two of the three, the lines were finally moving at the planned pace. When someone finished a pitch, they would then go to the end of the line in front of the next agent they wanted to pitch to, and depending on how many people were already in that line, most attendees were able to pitch to six or eight agents during the three hours.

Typically, after each pitch session, I could tell that most people were spending their time revising their pitches while they were¬†waiting in the next line–and I was doing the same thing.¬†I’m not used to pitching nonfiction, not to mention that I’d only started to prepare that morning. So, I had afforded myself¬†minimal practice time¬†prior to sitting down in front of the first agent. Still, I had pretty good luck.¬†The lines I was standing in were especially long, because there were fewer¬†agents looking for various categories of nonfiction–and there were even fewer of those looking for the “health” category.¬†And because I started feeling tired after two hours, I only pitched to four agents, whereas¬†if I’d been feeling more on my mark, I could have easily squeezed in another two or three in the final hour. (Apparently, there were a lot of complaints last¬†year about too few agents (I think there were 40-something) and not a big enough Pitch Slam time slot (only two hours instead of the three hours this year). The conference organizers really responded to that input, and I didn’t see or hear about anyone who felt that there wasn’t enough time to see all of the agents they wanted to meet.

The four agents who listened to me (and I was pretty good about keeping the pitch close to 60 seconds) had¬†plenty of¬†time¬†for comments and input. Two of them enthusiastically requested a proposal and a sample chapter. One requested the same information but with noticeably less enthusiasm. And the fourth agent waited until I’d finished the entire pitch before telling me that she didn’t represent the health category of nonfiction (even though “health” was clearly listed under her name in the program). But since I hadn’t even planned to pitch at all when I arrived on Friday, I felt good about the experience and the end result. I learned a lot and had fun, and that’s where expectations should realistically be set¬†for this type of exercise at a conference with close to 1000 other writers chasing the same dream.

Now I have to write a proposal ūüôā¬†(and fortunately I attended a nonfiction session that included a few things about how to do that, plus I bought an e-book on the subject–The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Book Proposals & Query Letters by Marilyn Allen & Coleen O’Shea, partners in the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency). Some agents were more interested in seeing the book and the writing. Others told me to stop writing the book and focus on writing the proposal¬†(which is supposed to end up somewhere around 30 pages in length). One agent in particular made a couple of significant points, especially for me, who’s really a fiction girl but who’s writing this nonfiction book because I believe it needs to be written. She said that¬†a completed nonfiction book can be a disadvantage¬†because, once the concept is contracted¬†with an agent, an editor will enter the scene who will have major input about the book’s structure.¬†A huge percentage of editors will not want to take on the structural rearrangement of a book that’s already entirely finished. The agent also told me that going through the process of writing the proposal will prove invaluable to me once I finish the proposal and then refocus on the book, especially if I do, in fact, decide to publish this one on my own as an e-book first. She told me as well that following that DIY path will not¬†eliminate the traditional publishing path for that book in the future!

So, my new direction is to write the proposal, which I will then submit to the three agents who requested information, along with a sample chapter (which is not supposed to be the first chapter but one that’s in the middle of the book). Following those submissions, I will give the agents a reasonable amount of time to respond. Then, unless some miracle happens and my submissions turn into something other than¬†rejections, I will refocus my attention on finishing the book, which I will proceed to publish as an e-book, with a separate print option.¬†The goal is to get this one, as quickly as possible,¬†into the hands of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, so I’m not going to wait very long for someone in the traditional publishing world to say “yes.” I’ll get the book “out there,” and then continue to approach agents the old-fashioned way while I start working on my next novel. If someone eventually¬†wants to acquire the nonfiction¬†project, that will be terrific. In the meantime, I will¬†have¬†met my objective¬†of making the¬†information available to my breast cancer target audience.

Although¬†there will be additional¬†posts forthcoming on the Day 3 (Sunday) conference sessions that I attended, along with the¬†incredible, outstanding Closing Address by Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, I want to say here how valuable I found this year’s Writer’s Digest¬†Conference to be! And even though my expectations for the Pitch Slam were really low, I walked away from that afternoon feeling invigorated and inspired. If you’re looking for a writer’s conference that will actually send you home with practical information and experiences you¬†can really use on your literary journey, I strongly recommend that¬†you give this conference a try. Apparently, there will be a west coast version later this year (in September, I think), and then the east coast version will happen again in January 2013. Not sure if that one will be in New York again or in some other east coast city. But you can bet that I’ll be there, if I have to drag myself on my¬†hands and knees!

Stay tuned for the final “chapters” of WDC 2012! And have a terrific weekend!

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