Friday, April 9, 2010

What I Wish I Knew Before I Sold a Book...

.... by the Former Inhabitants of Unpubbed Island.

Pull up a beach chair and grab a Coconut Pineapple Smoothie. Let's chat.

This week the Seekers gathered on the beach of Unpubbed Island (those are Ruthy's feet), to discuss our publishing journey. One of our topics was what we wish we'd known before we left the island. We'd like to share our wisdom, or lack there of, with you.

Our comments are anonymous so we can share our unfiltered thoughts. But feel free to ask questions.


I wish I had known that a writing career is like an egg that must incubate. For most of us, the time before publication seems long and fruitless, yet consider the tiny chick within the protective eggshell. If cracked too soon, the chick will not survive. God’s timing is perfect so use the incubation phase to become a stronger writer and don’t get discouraged.

Once you do sell, remember a newly-hatch chick isn’t fully developed just as a newly-contracted writer isn’t expected to “do” it all--at least not immediately. Pick and choose what works for you. The chick grows to maturity with time. Your career will as well.

I wish I had known not to keep re-writing the same stories over and over. If I had it to do over again, I would keep pressing ahead on new manuscripts so I had plenty to offer my editor once I made the first sale.

I wish
I would have known how an editor looks at a contracted book when suggesting revisions for final approval. The revisions I received helped me tear my manuscript apart and put it back together so it now reads like a book on the shelf, not a contest entry. For the next twenty books and beyond, I’ll keep that first revision letter by my computer while I write, reminding me of the sequencing and rhythm needed to make a connection with the reader and draw emotion.

I didn't realize how much I would miss the strolls along the beach at sunset. The sound of the surf; the tang of salty sea in the air. When I miss them too much, I'll just write them into a book.

I wish I'd known how much personal PR would be expected! Not that it would have deterred me, but I didn't have a realistic sense for the many ways publishers expect authors to help promote their own books. I wish I had learned more about how to plan a successful book signing--all the "extras" that help draw potential readers to your signing table. I wish I knew more about how to talk to bookstore managers and librarians, how to grow a mailing list, how to get the media interested in featuring my book.

I wish I'd understood more about the ins and outs of working with in-house publicists. Even though I took a couple of online classes about book promotion and even read books on the subject, I still didn't feel prepared--probably because I'm such an introvert and just don't want to deal with this side of book publishing. But in today's publishing world, an author doesn't really have a choice. My advice? Connect with an experienced author or two in your area, volunteer to help at their book signings and other events, and pick their brains about what types of promotion have been effective for them and what have not.

I wish I'd known how much time it takes away from writing another book to get the previous book to its release date. (Although . . . even if I'd known this, it wouldn't matter because there's nothing I can do about it if I want to sell books. It is what it is. ) I also had NO idea how wonderful reader letters would be--really hadn't thought about or anticipated people taking time from their busy schedules to email or hand-write letters to share what a book meant to them. When a story touches someone's heart the way you'd prayed it would, you know God was in it. Amazing and humbling.

I wish I had known to establish more of a database a year before my book was released. My agent says you only have one shot at a debut novel, so you have to give it your all—via a loaded Web site, blogs, newsletters, etc., none of which I had until about three months prior to my launch. I attended an ACFW seminar where the teacher said you need to work on this at least 1-1/2 to 2 years prior to a book launch, which, of course, I didn’t!

And I wish I’d known what an emotional roller-coaster it was going to be AFTER I got published. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, wouldn’t it? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered (AGAIN!) that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is our confidence when our sales rankings on are high or low, which is why I CLING to the following Scripture from 2 Corinthians ll:3, praying it almost every day: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

I wish I'd known to COMPLETELY clear my calendar the month prior to and of my book's release. Marketing takes an enormous amount of time. I wish I'd known how much book sales really matter. I wasn't prepared for how much pressure there would be to that end. I wish I'd known that rejection is as common post-publication as it is pre-publication. I wish I'd known that I'm not the only one out there who battles thoughts of inadequacy and doubt about my ability to write. I wish I'd known how very much work goes into making a book shelf-ready. I have way more respect for published authors, editors, art, marketing and everyone who is striving to make the book as good as it can possibly be. I wish I'd known how hard getting successive contracts would be.

I wish I'd known how much reader letters would mean and how seriously some readers take our words and how deeply they come to care about our characters. I wish I'd known to what extent God would and could use my words to reach in through the lines and apply balm of laughter to a human heart or evoke a bout of long-overdue tears. I wish I'd known the weight of the responsibility I feel toward my publisher, my editors and most of all, to each reader who spends time and money to buy and read the books I've been privileged to write.

I wish I'd know that Marketing and Sales directors drive an editor's decision much of the time. It's not that my story was bad, or my writing sucked--it was that my storyline wasn't sellable according to Marketing and Sales considerations. I have learned to take rejections much less personally.

I also wish I'd fully realized how much of all this is just timing (and God's timing). My being impatient didn't do anything except cause me stress and make me seem like a whiner. I needed to get to a better place emotionally in order to be able to handle things like editorial edits, marketing demands, bad reviews, etc. Only God knew when I'd be okay to handle all that stuff without going loco.

What I wish I knew...

You know honestly, that's one of the blessings of being among the last. I kept studying what the other gals did, what worked for them, what didn't, what they noticed or complained about, what caused problems with their time, money, stress, etc. and made it a point to learn from that. I kept rationalizing that if I was going to be the caboose, I was at least going to be an intelligent one. And that helped because when the time came I didn't feel like I was wasting money or spinning my wheels or running on a treadmill in slow motion. I felt energized and prepared.

I never felt adrift. Between the editorial staff and my agent, most things were smoothed for me step-by-step and that made my 'crossover' much easier in the long run. And I had Seeker sisters to help me with the ins and outs, the timing stuff, the necessary paperwork, terms, time-lines. That was huge.

I found marketing to be a big, unexpected surprise. How much time I put in to blogging, answering emails, interviews, book signings. All extremely time consuming. It's a good thing I don't have a life or things could get out of control.

I wish I'd known the importance of planning ahead for promotion. Setting up blog tours, reviews, radio and newspaper coverage and book signings needs to be done well in advance of the book's release. For example, our Christian radio station needed an ARC before I had my author copies in order to get my book in the lineup. I thought two or three months ahead was enough time. Wrong. I also learned to get bookmarks designed and printed, our business cards to readers, as soon as I have the JPEG of my cover. The further ahead you can set things up the better.

I wish I had known that I would still have to empty the litter box and clean the toilets. I woke up the morning after I sold and I looked exactly the same. I won't lie, this was a major disappointment.

I wish I knew that the agents are worth every dollar we pay them and more. Since they act as a buffer we don't make the mistake of sounding off to our editor when we're frustrated by our book or by them. We don't want to sound whiny or neurotic to an editor!

I wish I knew I'd have to fight deadline panic, but in the end I'd manage to settle down and finish on time.

I wish I knew how much time and energy editing a soon-to-be pubbed book can take--and how it can eat away a big chunk of the time allocated for the next book.

I wish I knew I'd have to juggle promotion and editing a book while working on deadline for the next book.

I wish I knew how long it would take me to write a complete book with a deadline looming. Before selling you have all the time you need to write and rewrite, but on a deadline you don't.

I wish I had more time between books and factored in a week for vacation.

I wish I'd kept better records for tax purposes.

I wish I knew that from the moment I sold, the publisher would treat me as a professional with a writing career, not a writing hobby.


So what do you think?

We're sending a corked bottle of sand, shells and inspiration from Unpubbed Island to one of our visitors. Winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition.


Marilyn Brant said...

I think every aspiring writer should read this! My next blog post is a collection of a few great links, and I'll be including a link to this one. Thanks, ladies!

p.s. Am I really here first?!! Does that mean I get to put the coffee on? (It's hazelnut mocha. :)

Patty said...

Great post, everyone! And I do have a question--how different was the book you sent out for an editor's consideration than the book that ended up on the bookshelf?


Julie Jarnagin said...

Awesome post! Thank you!

Keli Gwyn said...

Great post! It helps those of us waiting for our first sales to hear the lessons you've learned.

Thanks to the Seeker who shared that the doubts didn't go away just because you sold a book. As one who deals with bouts of doubts, it's nice to know I'm not alone--but even nicer to know we have a loving, caring Lord willing to take them from us, if we'll let go of them.

Anita Mae Draper said...

This is such a good post, Tina.

You're echoing some of what Harlequin author Donna Alward said when she gave us a seminar on 'The Business of Writing'. It was over 2 yrs ago but I still remember her words. It's what pushed me into my own blog even when I had no experience in blogging.

Thank you. I'm going to come back and read it in the morning to ensure I've retained the info. :)


Joy Filipovic said...

I took note of every wrong steps you made along the way. This will really help me as an aspiring writer. Keep on sharing your publishing misadventures. One day, I hope that I'll be sharing my own version too.

Greetings from Croatia!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Marilyn, up so early in Chicago. Way to go.

Coffee sounds good.

sherrinda said...

Wow! What a wealth of information! I'm definitely bookmarking this page. ;)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hazelnut mocha, Marilyn????

Oh my stars, I knew there were a multitude of reasons to LOVE you!!!

Thank you and God bless you, honey!!!

Mmmm..... lovely!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Patty, I don't have kids yet, so I'm taking a stab at your question since Marilyn brought coffee.

First book, Winter's End: No revisions. Had to lose 500 words, no biggie. I thought I was "Writer Extraordinaire"... All that AND a bag o' chips.

Book two: I'd written it as a Single Title for the longer SH line. To cut it down for Love Inspired I then had to realign a good share of the story, we had to get rid of parts that referred to the one North Country novel Melissa didn't contract, and then reconstruct Waiting Out the Storm to this new plot line. So while the story is the same arc, the plot for it is very different in spots.

Book Three: This technique didn't work with Made to Order Family. Using Melissa's advice and the month of December (nothin' else going on in December, IS THERE, GIRLS??????? OOOPS, AND GUYS!!!)

I rewrote the entire book. We did revisions and copy edits in one very interesting maneuver for a newbie like me, but now that I've done it I feel smarter. Tougher. And:




And that's the crux of it, right there. By having to realign the second book, I knew that I could tackle that rewrite and give Melissa a smooth story that arced and ebbed in all the right places. And it does.

So while it was crazy in December, (we won't discuss the condition of this poor house for the last two years, right? With kids moving in and out, puppies, book contracts, marketing, grandbabies, etc???? Suffice it to say that while it's getting better season by season, DO NOT WEAR WHITE GLOVES HERE. EVER.)

Long answer, I know, but I've found that each book is different and it's good for everyone to know that kind of thing.

Ruthy (hey, Perkins is due in with breakfast because I'm busily readying the questions for Janet Grant AND doing final edits on Made to Order Family AND working on new proposal....

Not to mention loving what's happening in A Family for Trent...

So the gang from Perkins will be loading up the buffet momentarily with all kinds of good stuff but TRY the POTATO PANCAKES....

Oh mylanta, SOOOOO good.

Love 'em.


Kav said...

I made banana bread with chocolate chips only it's still in the oven because the middle is a bit mushy. Sigh, that always happens. I think it's because I put more chocolate chips in then any other ingredient. But even mushy it's delicious and I'm willing to share since y'all have shared so much of your time and expertise.

I'm curious about the whole marketing angle...isn't that what a publishing house is for? Don't they have someone who contacts the media in your area when a book is about to be released? Contact your local libraries etc? Or am I extremely niave?

I mean, I know that the personal touch can draw in readers. This blog is evidence of that. I've scouted out as many of the seekers' books as I can find and am reading voraciously so I can be up to date and ready for the new books that are coming up.

I can appreciate how much time it takes to blog though and then if you add in a webstie. Oy. It must be very hard if you can't make writing your only career!

Off to work with soggy banana bread -- thanks for sharing your collective wisdom! You guys are the best!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

I LOVE banana bread with chocolate chips. Thank you, Kav.

Project Journal said...

Wow, Tina! You totally outdid yourself! That was such a nice post. If I was a writer, I know I'd be very inspired to go and write. Instead, I just feel inspired to perservere, which I guess is appropriate since mom and I are almost ready to head to Colby-Sawyer for the Accepted Student Open House! Lol.....funny how some things work out, eh?

Ruthy, I'm going to respond to your suggestions later because I don't have them with me right now.

Don't forget to check out my Funny {Church} Signs Segment at my blog:

I'm not trying to simply advertise, I REALLY think you guys will enjoy it (I hope!). Melanie came last night and checked it out. Thanks Melanie!!
Talk to you later,

K. Dawn Byrd said...

Everything in this post applies to me. "Queen of Hearts" debut was April 1 and I've been working my tail off marketing. Of course, that's not a bad thing...I could stand to lose a little in that department (grin.) I've been overwhelmed and stressed with the many tasks awaiting post-publication. I feel like I've blogged my self to death. I've spent hours on interviews and I've joined several new forums, all of which take time out of the day. I've not written a thing because of these other responsibilities.

I've placed myself under a lot of pressure because I don't want my publisher to regret taking my books. I'm anxiously awaiting my first review. I'm a perfectionist and know I'll be crushed with anything short of excellent. I'm trying to prepare myself because no matter what I write, I can't please everyone.

I've found that the hardest thing about the business is not writing the book, it's what comes post-publication.

Pepper Basham said...

Great post SEEKERS!!

The marketing & sales info seems rather daunting to me.

The readers' letters caught my attention. I hadn't thought about that before - how much of an impact that would make on the author. wow. Iguess that does add all the more gravity to your words and the process of creating a book.

Thanks for the Seeker who talked about setting things for Promotion BEFORE publication.

And I really appreciate the reminder that it's all about God's timing. When you get contest results back that remind you about how very far you have to go as a writer, sometimes the goal feels unattainable - but God DOES have a plan.
I was glad for the reminder.



Julie Lessman said...

WOW, Tina, this is just downright incredible ... a wealth of information that I certainly wish I had known!

Patty, how different was the book I queried vs. the one on the bookstore shelf? Grin. I actually have two answers for that because I had two versions of A Passion Most Pure that I sent out.

First, a CBA version that didn't have drinking, card playing, Catholics or as much "romantic tension" AND second, an ABA secular version that had it all.

Fortunately for me, the ABA version was inadvertently sent to a CBA house and lo and behold ... they bought it!! That blessed the socks off of me because for me, it was another confirmation that the type of edgy romance I write for the Christian market, which is HEAVILY covered in prayer by myself and my prayer partners, by the way, IS God's plan for me.

As far as changes on A Passion Most Pure, I expected TONS because of the increased sensuality in a CBA market, but again, I was shocked to discover that Revell BARELY changed anything!!

On book 2, A Passion Redeemed (which I actually wrote FOR the secular market), they ... ahem ... changed a little more.

But it was on book 3, A Passion Denied, where I got slammed on revisions -- not on the sensuality, mind you, but on the shock level of Brady's past -- Revell thought is was TOO awful and had me tone it down considerably.

And on book 4 (book 1 of the next series), A Hope Undaunted, I actually thought I was going to have to REWRITE the whole book because my editor said I could not do the major plot point in a romance. Fortunately for me, after a lot of prayer and negotiation, I only had to change a few things and add several more scenes.

So, I guess for me, each book gets a little harder -- for both my publisher and me!


Julie Lessman said...

"As one who deals with bouts of doubts, it's nice to know I'm not alone--but even nicer to know we have a loving, caring Lord willing to take them from us, if we'll let go of them."

Doubts??? Oh, girl, you ain't seen NOTHING yet, trust me!! But the good news is that God is right there all along the way and you get to know Him a WHOLE lot better, at least I did (and do daily), which is a VERY good thing for a Christian author, right?


Audra Harders said...

Hazelnut mocha? And Perkins? Umm, my kind of Friday!

About those revisions, Patty. Revisions have been my life for YEARS! I actually had to do two sets of revisions. One before the contract, and then another to tweak things into shape. The story didn't really change, but the editor had a different view of what was important to draw out in the story.

I LOVE how the final version of Rocky Mountain Hero worked out. Of course, It's not in print yet, so anything can still happen!!

Did I hear something about Banana bread with chocolate chips??? This is going to be a great Friday, LOL!

Julie Lessman said...

"I'm curious about the whole marketing angle...isn't that what a publishing house is for? Don't they have someone who contacts the media in your area when a book is about to be released? Contact your local libraries etc? Or am I extremely naive?"

Uh, yeah, just a little bit, Kav! :) True, publishing houses have their in-house publicists for both print and Web, but keep in mind that for Revell, they have hundreds of authors that they are working for, so the amount of help they can give you is greatly curtailed.

Revell has set up a few book signings for me but unlike Barbour (who sets up TONS for Mary), they don't do many, nor contact libraries, nor contact much of the media -- those are all responsibilities of the author, or at least that has been my experience.

At an ACFW seminar I took last year, I was told that promotion in today's world falls squarely on the author's shoulders first, then the publisher, especially given the advent of social networking such as FaceBook, Twitter, etc.

For me, this is absolutely the WORST part of being published, having to promote myself, and if I could have a promotion lobotomy, I would because like most writers, we are authors, not sales people, so naturally all we really want to do is WRITE!!!


Rose said...

What a pleasure to see the other side of writing...being published! So anyone, everyone, can you tell us how you divy up your time between revisions and writing new books or book proposals?

I'm assuming that you drop everything for revisions with a deadline?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Teenster, you did a great job putting this together. And great answers too, all things that hit home. What a nice sharing group of buds you have... ;)

Reader letters, Pep...

Such a gift from God. I've gotten e-mails and snail mails forwarded by Rachel at Harlequin, and it's a great feeling. Only one negative response to Winter's End so far, and you're never going to please everyone so if you please MOST, then that's a great start.


In Harlequin's promotional brochure that helps you outline what you should do, it reminds you that self-promo is limiting and the best thing you can do to promote yourself is KEEP WRITING GREAT BOOKS...

I totally agree. Building a readership is HUGE, so working within what you can physically do for self-promotion, pray for patience and write. Write. Write. Then write some more.

These gals that have 4 and 5 books releasing once their voice catches on, it's not because they hosted teas and book signings and bake sales....

They wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven... ECC 3: 1

When you've got big guns behind you, do what you can but trust their distribution and sales network to be your new BFF's...

Especially if you send them chocolate.

And write.

Gina Logue said...

Wow! Great insights. Thanks for sharing what all of you have learned. I really appreciate the advice of moving ahead on new manuscripts instead of re-writing one manuscript over and over. I’m at that point where I have started a new story and having to suppress the urge to re-write the finished story.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

I didn't outdo myself. I asked the Seekers all to submit a paragraph or two. Some have no idea what that means (1-2 paragraphs) but they still gave me great info.

This is the Seekers great post, not mine.

Missy Tippens said...

Hi,all! I drove through Dairy Queen and got pork tenderloin biscuits for everyone! Yum!

Patty, my first book had quite a few revisions. It's been a while now, but I remember cutting the ending a good bit (it was way too long and almost had 2 endings!), I changed a secondary character to be nicer, I added in more interaction with the community/church, and I had to lose about 2k words (which cutting the ending helped a good bit on that).

Overall, the story was the same, but they helped me make it read much smoother and stay more focused.

Missy Tippens said...

Pepper, the reader letters have been amazing. Very touching. And yes, in some ways they do remind me what a responsibility it is to write Christian fiction. It has to go beyond just telling a good story.

Missy Tippens said...

Rose, the deadline always takes priority! :)

For me, I'm very single minded. While I'm writing one book, I'm thinking of ideas for the next. I might jot ideas down, but I'm not actually writing anything yet. Once I turn in the manuscript, I jump right in on the next proposal. But then revisions will come back (plus, older books may release about then), so it requires juggling. I do know writers who can multi-task well and write more than one book at a time.

I guess this all depends on how the books are spaced out. Authors just have to figure out how they work best and how they can juggle things.

Melanie Dickerson said...

I think one thing I didn't realize was all the waiting and frustration that would occur AFTER I was told my book was being bought by a publisher. And the feelings of pressure and downright panic! Not to mention the doubts. But then, I'm highly emotional anyway.

But the last week has been a mountaintop experience, so I'm not complaining! But it is funny how you think your life will change and things will be totally different. Then you realize your husband and kids still expect you to feed them and keep the house clean! What?! Oh yeah. You're still the maid!!! LOL!

Debby Giusti said...

Tina, thanks for such a great blog! Glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles. :)

My first book had few revisions. Okay, the editor wanted me to include a bit of description about a house featured in the story, but that was about the extent of the rewrites. Remember I had spent lots of time on the manuscript prior to getting the call. After numerous contest entries and wins, I had been tweaking that story for months.

I made the mistake of not emailing my editor about book two until it was completed. (Newly contracted authors usually submit completed manuscripts for the first two to three submissions. After that, they can sell on proposal.) Book two involved a black market organ racket. Well, who knew that Krista Stroever's (my editor at the time) dad ran the largest tissue bank in the US? He was convinced organs weren't being sold illegally in the US so Krista wanted the story changed. We discussed possible ideas and ended up with a transplant tourist scheme with folks traveling outside the US to receive organs. That meant sizeable changes to the story, which took time. But, I liked the way it turned out, and Scared to Death won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Inspirational Suspense the following year.

What did I learn? Always listen to the editor. She knows the business and what readers like.

Mary Connealy said...

I wish I'd used the word 'exacerbate' in my answer. I've been entranced with that word lately and I'm trying to use it as often as possible.

And I know that's very exacerbating.


Also, those aren't Ruthy's feet. When did RUTHY ever sit down for long enough to snap a picture. Tina made that up.

Mary Connealy said...

Patty, I'll say this, and it was another thing I didn't expect, I was honestly amazed at the extent to which my books are my own.

I really thought they'd fix them. It seemed like part of their job. But noooooooooooooooo they took out typos and made quite a few editorial comments along the lines of, "You're character sounds like an eight year old and you said on page 34 she was sixteen."

Also the occasional, "What is the deal with you and the COMMA addiction woman???

But the books are mine when they hit the shelves. For good or ill.
But for the most part

Mary Connealy said...

Hey, I cooked this morning, too. I made banana bread with blue Peeps. Help yourself.

Debby Giusti said...

Talking about promotion...

Steeple Hill has great distribution and a book club, which is an advantage. The disadvantage is the books only remain on the shelf for a month. Some authors feel massive promotion efforts aren't as necessary for category books as for trade paperbacks. That's not to say that category authors don't work hard to establish a strong reader base, but sales numbers are more greatly impacted by whether the story is selected for the book club, month of release, cover and any nationwide promo the publishing house may do.

Mary Connealy said...

Keli...bouts of doubt?

Bouts of Doubt

I claim that. I'm using it for my next book title.

Debby Giusti said...

I'll ditto Mary about the books being our own. The editors don't fix our work. They make suggestions. We can say yes or no to the changes.

However...going back to what I said earlier, I trust my editor and feel she usually knows what's best for each story.

Pepper Basham said...

Okay Ladies,
I'm currently at a B&B in the mountains with my best friend of 17years. It's the first time we've been away together since the night before her wedding...16 years ago. Oh my!! So I wrote that to say, they just cooked the BEST cheese grits EVER.

I know most of you aren't impressed with grits, but this was definitely worth a try. Even for the sketpics. Dear me...YUMMY.

And the absolute BEST homemade sweet pepper jelly. FANTASTIC!! on homemade banana bread. Yes, yum, and Amen.

I know eating like this will only exaserbate my weight gain,'ll think about that tomorrow.

Does it seem that a webpage and blog are good ways to start marketing? or at least getting ones name 'out there'.
What are some other simple ways?

Debby Giusti said...

Bouts of Doubt?

A title for Mary's next book? She'll have it written by the end of the week.

Wait, it's Friday. Okay, she'll have it written by sundown Saturday.

Did anyone mention that we have to find our own pace? Remember the tortoise and the hare? I'm a tortoise. Mary's the hare. Looks like Ruthy may be a hare too. Cheryl is as well.

Mary Connealy said...

Marketing, publicity, book signings, giving speeches(just kill me now!). These are soooooooo not my thing.

I spend my time alone. I make up conversations and eliminate the middle man (that would be 'other people') so as not to make a fool of myself.

I don't need no stinking speeches.

But I see all those are part of me holding up my end of the bargain. Of doing my part to realize the honor bestowed upon me by a publishing house to commit to me and see the worth of my writing.

So, I do it. Speeches though. BAH!

I've got to give one to a whole lotta school kids next week. but I've learned the secret there.


Debby Giusti said...

Oh, Pepper, how fun to reconnect with your dear friend.

Pass the grits, please. You know what they stand for, don't you?
Girls Raised In The South!

Simple ways to get your name out there?

Consider volunteering at conferences. Get to know other writers, who are readers as well. Mentor those just starting out. Develop that strong group of friends--like the Seekers--who will support you through thick and thin.

Glynna Kaye said...

I have a GREAT editor (Melissa Endlich at Steeple Hill) who has a gift for spotting ways to strengthen a book. She never TELLS me "change this to that and that to this." She poses questions . . . "What was your goal for this scene?" "Is it really necessary to...?" Or says "The reader needs to know this sooner" or "This needs clarification" and things like that. I actually LOVE the revision stage because I've had a few weeks to set the book aside and let it "breathe." Then I get Melissa's POV and I'm ready to launch back in there and eager to make it better. I've done some moving around of scenes, deleted some, added some, but I wouldn't say that the story itself changed. It was just made much stronger. A good editor is SUCH a blessing!

Lindsey said...

Wow guys every word was just so helpful, and gave me perspective, and opened my eyes to the publishing world! Thank you so much!:)

Kav said...

I have another question. It seems to me that nearly all of you seekers have written series. When you wrote your first book, were you thinking of subsequent books for a series? Or was that something your editor requested of you after accepting the first book? Did you pitch a series or just one novel?

Helen Gray said...

This post was good, but the comments coming later from published seeker authors are also helpful.

I read an article a few months back, I thought it was on this blog but I can't conveniently find it. It was about the fear of publishing--wanting to be published yet fearing it.

I related to the article at the time, and do even more so now.

I'm like the seeker who said, "I wish I'd known how much personal PR would be expected!" and "I still didn't feel prepared--probably because I'm such an introvert and just don't want to deal with this side of book publishing."

I'm frightened of the idea of having to do all that promotion, yet I keep writing. Because it's the writing that I want to do.


Myra Johnson said...

Great idea for a post, Tina! Nice to read I'm not alone in many of my doubts and frustrations. No surprise, though, that angst over personal promo tops the list.

Yes, it's true, some houses have active PR departments. But most of their time and money will be focused on their most promising and/or best-selling authors. The rest of us are spending our hard earned advances on getting our own bookmarks, postcards, posters, etc. printed. Mailing out our own ARCs. Making our own media contacts. Setting up our own book signings. Seeking out guest blog opportunities and other online venues. It's hard work and takes huge hunks of time away from the actual writing.

Ugh. I'm depressing myself. Anyone else need a chocolate fix? Maybe I can still find some Cadbury eggs somewhere marked down to half price.

Glynna Kaye said...

And although I just said that after I first submit the manuscript to my editor for her feedback it allowed the story to "breathe" for a few weeks, I keep busy while I wait for her revision letter. Finalizing an art fact sheet, tracking down clarifying photos for the cover artist, writing a Dear Reader letter and composing a dozen reader questions that book clubs use.

Julie Lessman said...

"I'm assuming that you drop everything for revisions with a deadline?"

Pretty much, but I actually don't mind because it gives me a chance to re-read the book and make even more revisions than the editor requested. Anal, I know, but unfortunately there's no drug for that ... :)


thelisas said...

Thank you so much for all the candid advice. Perhaps for a follow up you can tell us the specifics as to how much time is "enough time" to devote to PR, etc., or how to set up a successful website/blog in advance of publication. (*note key word here is successful) lol

I don't want to call it, 'if I could do it over again' because that sounds negative, but it comes down to the more realism and preparation the better. You gals are to aspiring authors what premarital counseling is to engaged couples! :)

Debby Giusti said...

We haven't mentioned branding today, which is something to focus on pre-publication. What "type" of book do you want to write? What's your brand? What will people expect when they pick up one of your stories?

I wrote a log line and came up with a logo before publication: Faith with an edge...cross my heart! The logo is a heart with a cross in the upper left-hand quadrant. I always knew I wanted to write suspense. It's what I love to read and write.

Julie Lessman said...

"When you wrote your first book, were you thinking of subsequent books for a series? Or was that something your editor requested of you after accepting the first book? Did you pitch a series or just one novel?"

Kav, I started writing A Passion Most Pure (then titled When Tomorrow Comes) when I was 12 years old after reading Gone With the Wind, so no, I didn't have a series in mind.

When I rewrote the book forty years later, I STILL never intended it as a series. But when I was waiting during the querying process for APMP (which I wrote for the Christian market), I started writing book 2 for the secular market. Fortunately for me, my agent pitched me as a series, and my publisher bought it based on book 1 only, which I'm learning now is not that unusual with Revell.

Surprisingly, I was pretty shocked at how easy it was to make a series out this passionate Irish family. But, uh, sixteen characters later, who ALL appear in every book, I'm finding it's not so easy anymore ... Geez Louise, they are ONE dysfunctional family, which I have to admit, makes me feel rather normal ... whatever that is!


Debby Giusti said...


Consider starting with a group blog, like Seekerville. Each writer takes a day to post and brings her own friends to the site, which increases interest and readership.

Debby Giusti said...

I turned on the computer, expecting to work on my story this morning. An hour+ later and I'm still blogging. Seems I'm having far too much fun today!

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary, glad you like Bouts of Doubts. I'd write that book myself since I've lived it, but as fast as you write, you'll no doubt beat me to it. For all I know, you've already got the first three chapters done. You're the poster child for the word prolific. :D Not that I'm complaining. Who wouldn't want more of your fun books?

Casey said...

Don't enter me please, I already have this.

But what blew me away is that almost every single one of you said you wished you know what came AFTER the book was written and sold. Wow, that blew me away.

Hope you trip was fantastic. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

I think the best thing I did as an unpubbed writer was to make friends. It's that simple. I made a lot of friends because I needed support from people who understood what I was going through. I learned from them and helped them out whenever I could, and I became friends with them. I've promoted their work, and now they are eager to do the same for me.

That's another thing unpubbed writers can do. Write reviews. Promote the authors whose books you love. That's getting your name out there AND doing something helpful for someone else.

How do you make friends? I didn't realize it at the time, but by coming to Seekerville all the time and leaving comments, I was making friends. I belong to a lot of loops, and the more I have in common with the people on the loop, the easier it is to make friends there. For instance, I belong to a loop of European historical writers. We all write historicals set in Europe or someplace other than the U.S. We are very supportive of each other, and I've become very close friends with many of them.

Another way is to volunteer. I helped out with the ACFW Book Club for years, and I made a lot of friends that way. And it was fun. And it makes people think you're selfless and nice, which is always a plus. :-)

What's that guy's name that does marketing workshops? Jim Rubart? He says the best marketing is just talking to people, making friends, and being personable. It makes sense. And making friends is fun!

Ruth Logan Herne said...




I can COUNT....

I just don't listen and follow directions very well.

So there.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, I came here to get my quick Seeker fix, and a half hour later, I'm still soaking in all the comments. So, so helpful, ladies! And all this food is making me extremely happy (I think this baby must be on a major growth spurt)!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm laughing at Glynna's response about Melissa (who will have strict instructions NOT to read this today...)

Because my revisions come with the full gamut from hearts and smiley faces in the margins to phrases like...

"Umm... So... Weren't we writing a romance here? Do you see a hero? Heroine? Because I don't."


"While I'm delighted in your wealth of knowledge about internal combustion engines, the reader is now asleep. Please shorten."

Of course I do my best to annoy her regularly so it's totally understandable... I love that she feels free to tease me and make fun of me because it makes me feel like we're on an even keel. And I'd jump through hoops for the woman because there's a reason she had Rita finalists the past two years, Irene Hannon last year and Carla Capshaw for this year...

She's good at what she does. Seriously good. So when she wants less, I cut as needed, the old slice-and-dice...

When she wants more, I add more because I know that balance is one of my downfalls. When I'm immersed in a story I don't 'see' the whole thing as clearly as Melissa does, so her help is invaluable. I treasure that.

Erica Vetsch said...

This is such a great post, def. one of my favorite Seeker-posts yet.

I concur with every post-publication observation...especially the one about cleaning the litter box! LOL

Dianna Shuford said...

Great information! Your time in posting these tidbits are greatly appreciated. I'm on target with a few things, but I need to get with the program on others.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

I agree Glynna, I love revisions..especially when guided by a wise editor.

Mary Connealy said...

Speaking of babies--is anyone in touch with Debra? Wasn't someone she knew in their 335th hour of labor a day ago???

Lisa Jordan said...

Wow, great thoughts!!! LOVE the beach pictures, too, especially after a breezy week of spring-like temps plummeted into spitting snow...sigh.

Thanks, Seekers, for the great advice. You're a terrific bunch!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Oh, Oh!!!!

Waving hand wildly here because I happen to be blogging over at


Her beautiful daughter had a ....

should I tell?

Should I stay mum????

Oh, heck, she should be over here telling you herself... I'm in a quandary....

Let me just say without revealing any secrets....


HE'S adorable.

Don't tell her I told you. Pretend you're suprised, 'kay, 'cause she'll KILL me and then how will I sign future contracts from the grave?????

So tricky.

Tina Pinson said...

Golly, My book comes out next month.

I wish you all would have told me this stuff a few months ago. Cause now I'm gonna wish I knew it before I sold a book.

Thanks alot... LOL

Merely kidding.

It's amazing how we each can get hit differently by things we wished we'd done. We'll see how what my list looks like come August. Two months after the fact huh.

But thanks so much for the heads up on things to look for and do. Beyond a website, FB, Twitter and a blog, My promotion skills have been somewhat at suck level.

I'm planning a contest for the release of my book. Details coming soon... hopefully

I'm checking into rules and such. What kind of contests, beyond just giving a book and promotions have you done with success. What blew up in your face?

And I appreciate the honest assessment that your doubts and fears didn't just fade, some even got bigger (now that scares me LOL)

ahh my info is

Richard Mabry said...

Ladies, Like you all, I've been voted off Unpubbed Island. At first I thought that was great, but now there are times I wonder if I shouldn't have told that boat to leave without me.

I agree with everything you've said. I've just completed the launch of book one, a review of the galleys for book two, sent in the manuscript of book three, and yet the world keeps spinning. For this particular vertigo, do I need a book doctor?

In a recent blog comment, someone said that getting the contract and not being able to tell anyone for a couple of months is similar to finding out you're pregnant but having to keep it secret for a while. My take is that the analogy doesn't stop there. Like having a baby, having a book published doesn't stop when the newborn peeps into the world. No, the work--and the fun--are just beginning.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And seriously, despite all the negatives you've listed, aren't you happy to have had the chance to reach this status? I know I am.

Leigh said...

All I can say is Wow! What a great way to end the week and kick off the weekend.

I love Seeker posts and comments because they're always fun and I learn something new -- but I especially appreciate that those of you who are further ahead on the publishing road are so open and honest about things. We can learn so much from you.

I enjoy marketing and PR things, so part of me looks forward to getting into that part of the writing world someday. Another part of me is awfully skittish because it wonders how in the world I'll find the time to do the kind of marketing I (and my publisher) would want. Not something I can think about too much at this stage, other than laying some potential groundwork through blogs and such. Right now I'm going to focus on the advice to take the Nike approach and Just Write!

Happy weekend, everyone. :-)
leigh (at) leighdelozier (dot) com

Janet Dean said...

I'm late getting to Seekerville. We've been playing with Mickey. :-)

I loved this post! I saw myself in every comment. Unlike some...:-) I kept my comments to Tina's suggested length, but I could've written all of these! Wish I could say I've learned to deal with doubt but for me it'll probably always be part of the process. That also means I'll never be complacent.

As to Patty's question, my first book, Orphaned Hearts was retitled Courting Miss Adelaide and shortened by 10,000 words after the sale when Love Inspired Historical went from 85,000 to 70-75,000 words. Melissa Endlich asked me to add a red herring to make the villain less obvious, but otherwise it was pretty much the same book.

Book Two in the Courting series was another matter. Melissa asked me to make the hero's nephew his son, which upped the stakes and conflict in Courting the Doctor's Daughter. But it neccessitated a lot of revising and totally rewriting the last three chapters

I had virtually no changes with The Substitute Bride. So each book is different. And editors are different in what they want too. I've had three editors for four books. Which is evidence that authors need to be flexible and deal with change. Cause it's coming, I promise you.

But all the doubts and hard work are worth having books on the shelf. Especially when I get a precious letter or email telling me what a book meant to a reader. Twice I've had readers tell me that a story confirmed their need to address a spiritual issue. What a huge blessing to know God is using my books! Nothing tops that.


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

You are right, Richard. Wouldn't have it any other way.

And speaking of MEN...

Where's Vince ...


Jenny in Arizona..thinking of you.

Hey, was Helen here?

Regina Merrick said...

You know, every time I get discouraged and start asking myself why I've spent all this time writing thousands and thousands (and thousands) or words, I come across a post like this.

I love hearing from those of you who have left unpubbed island and are in the trenches, and to learn that even though it's HARD, you're not sorry you got on that darn boat. The fact that you all have a passionate teacher's heart for helping the rest of us amazes me on a daily basis. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I think I'll print the post (DEFINITELY pictures and all!) and hang it on my wall . . .

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Richard, Dude!!!

Welcome aboard, my friend, and congrats on getting the nod from Abingdon! We l-o-v-e Barbara Scott over here and we're tickled you stopped in.

Code Blue looks great. I got hooked on medical suspense as a kid, starting with Cherry Ames and then moving on and up from there, but hospitals and power rush educations just leave a medical center rife with possibilities.

And worth it?

Oh my stars, I've been waiting all my life for this.

It Is So Worth It.

In spades.

And clubs.

Diamonds and hearts too. ;)

pat jeanne davis said...

Fantastic post, Tina. Thanks to all Seekers for telling your experiences and insights gained. I'm hoping to profit from what you've learned along the way. Today I'm looking at my corked bottle of sand and shells from unpubbed island. I'm making requested revisions to a novel. I'm hopeful. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

pat jeanne davis said...

Fantastic post, Tina. Thanks to all Seekers for telling your experiences and insights gained. I'm hoping to profit from what you've learned along the way. Today I'm looking at my corked bottle of sand and shells from unpubbed island. I'm making requested revisions to a novel. I'm hopeful. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Helen Gray said...


You bet Helen was here.

Confessed my fears.

Had been looking forward to this post all week---and it didn't disappoint.


Walt M said...

It's nice to be missed.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop of a local bookstore, finishing up my work day. (I was working fom hme today. My on-line system went out and I needed to relocate.) Half of my office is gone for what is traditionally a slow time and the work suddenly cascaded like a barrel over Niagara Falls (and I feel like I'm in it).

I'm happy to read that I'm at least doing some of the things that I need to prepare. However, I unfortunately learned today that I still have time as my e-mail in-box brought a response I wasn't looking for.

I have drowned my sorrows in a mocha from Einstein's and said my prayers.

Debra E Marvin said...

I'm here. Are all of Missy's biscuit's gone?

No, Mary, labor was only 18 hrs this time. 9 lb baby, no drugs. And I needed them. Whoops. I mean, My daughter had no drugs.

funny thing (ha ha ha) I was just thinking this morning how badly I was kidding myself thinking I could write. THANK YOU ALL for reminding me about Bouts of Doubt.

Mabye sleep will help.
This was a fabulous post Tina. I appreciate God's Timing. I just wonder if he ever looks at me, and then at his wrist watch and clears his throat. I better get a move on.

Mary Connealy said...

YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY GRANDMA DEBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Sorry Helen, the room was so crowded I missed you.

Hey Walt, your drink of choice sounds very good. Sorry about the "Not response of choice." I got one of those yesterday too. :)

Janet Dean said...

Debra, congratulations on the birth of your grandbaby!!!!

Sorry, Walt, that you didn't get good news today. Would like to ask but won't.


Audra Harders said...

So sorry, Walt! Drowning sorrows in anything chocolately-coffee-ey takes off the edge.

Congratulations, Debra!! WooHoo, we love grandmas here in Seekerville!!

Hmm, there's gotta be a spare hammock around here to rock the wee ones as the ocean breeze blows...

Such a fun day! Had hoped to stop in more, but -- not. So, how many books do you need to write before you can quit your day job???

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Dear Audra,

We are not there yet.

Your friend,


Carol J. Garvin said...

This is what I love about this blog -- the sharing, caring and encouragement you all offer. When I have doubts I paddle over to the Island and listen in on the conversations. When I head for home again my beach bag is crammed so full of information that I sometimes have to leave my flipflops behind for lack of room. :)

This is definitely a post I'll bookmark to re-read when I get closer to that elusive goal.

Elizabeth said...

Awesome post. Thank you so much for sharing! I've recently started a blog because I read somewhere it was important to have a following who will buy your book when published. I'm glad I'm on the right track. I'm only just getting started with writing after years of talking about it. I've heard writers write, so I better get busy! Ha! Thanks so much...all the way from New Zealand!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Carol and Elizabeth, thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. Elizabeth..I do my travel the world of blogs on Sunday and will stop by and say hi.

rbooth43 said...

I love the beach and am waiting to join my girls there one week. I have written a few short stories for and about the family, nothing published, but they enjoy reading them. I also keep a journal. I love this blog because it's so informative. Keep up the great works, everyone.

Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D. said...

Thank you for this post. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into it. There are a number of themes that run through the blog article and the comments pretty consistently, e.g., marketing and time demands. God bless you all!

Camy Tang said...

Great post, Tina! You're so brilliant, woman.

Congrats, Debra!!!!

I'm with Julie, I hate promotion. I only do what I want to do, which is usually a blog tour and a contest. Booksignings? Nope. Do I feel guilty? Nope. Stress levels? Waaaaaay down. Totally worth it.


Missy Tippens said...

Congrats, Debra!!! So happy for all of you!!!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Thanks Carrie and thanks rbooth43 for your kind comments.

Brittany Roshelle said...

Wow--what a great article! Gives unpublished writers a heads up!

Cheryl Wyatt said...

I'm SO late!

Thanks everyone for stoppiing in.

Patty, my first book was drastically different than the original, but EVERY editorial suggestion made the book stronger.

Each book is different as far as revisions. Two (or three) of my seven Wings of Refuge books had NO revisions...and to tell you the truth, that made me more nervous than the ones that did have revisions. LOL! Without exception, editorial insights have ALWAYS made my stories stronger and more relatable to readers.

The books that end up needing little to no revision normally require a little more work at the line edit stage, but it's all worth it in the end.

Line and copy edits take only a matter of a few hours to days, so you normally have to drop what you're doing and get to them. Being flexible and multi-tasking is a must when you have more than one book in production. Despite all the things I wish I'd known, I wouldn't trade the blessing of it for anything.

Thanks all for sharing! I noticed common themes among us and hope it helps all of you.

One thing I wish I'd mentioned was that we have God to depend on too, as far as marketing. After a wreck, I had to cancel all booksignings and could NOT type or do anything to promote an upcoming release. It still sold okay...the only thing I could do was pray and ask God to please draw people to my books. Trust me, He came through for me and if you trust Him, He will come through for you, too. Just do what time and money allows and don't worry about the rest. I think that the marketing and promo pressure is way more intense for single title books than it is for category books.

I still do it though because my publisher took a chance on me and I want to do everything I can to help the sales along.

Thanks for coming by everyone and for the yummy cyber food!

Janet, I hope you enjoyed Disney!


KC Frantzen said...

Been out of town. Way late but had to stop by and thank you all for sharing. This is a keeper for sure.

So many things yet for me to do.

One of my "readers" of the first couple of chapters encouraged me so much last year. Her reaction and comments were amazing. (She's not read the remainder of the book. Perhaps should stop there!)

After he heard, my husband said, "It's worth the couple of years you've taken to write it."

I hope the finished book lives up to expectations.

Thoughtful comments are the most helpful - the meaty ones with suggestions on how to improve. I do want it to honor the Lord and help people.

Gosh that sounds like a beauty pageant answer...

Anyway, thank you all. Seekerville is THE place to hang out for Godly encouragement and fun!

Tammy Claudette said...

As an aspiring writer I found a wealth of advice, tips and wisdom in this article. Thank you.