Not only is Vannetta published with Abingdon, but she also has a 3-book contract with Zondervan! Yes, she must be doing something right. I'll be sharing her brand new title for the first book in that series at the end of her post. So please grab your coffee or tea and settle in to hear from this new and successful author...
Doing Your Homework
Why is it we all still cringe at the word HOMEWORK? I’m a 47 year old woman. (Yeah, I’m proud of my age.) I’m a full time public school teacher, and an adjunct professor, and even I wince at the thought of homework. Nonetheless, I fully believe if you want to become a published author, or if you want to be picked up by a bigger publishing house, or if you want a 3 book deal from your publisher instead of the 1 book deal you have – you need to do your homework.
When I was completing my Masters degree in English, I had a graduate advisor who gave me some sage advice. “Most scholarship applications are rejected because they’re not filled out correctly. If you don’t bother to read the directions … if you don’t do the homework necessary for the application, you don’t deserve the scholarship funds. The good news is, if you do the homework, you’re already in the top 10%.” Those words have stayed with me through the last 12 years, and I believe they are the reason that my first inspirational release is a CBD bestseller this month, and they’re also the reason I have a 3 book contract with Zondervan which will begin releasing next year. I did my homework.
So what does that mean? How does it translate to writing? We all need to spend time in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, and I’m a big advocate of writing so many words a day. But I also think it’s pretty futile if you haven’t done some prep work.
1. Genre study. You probably know what you like to write. Now you need to spend a few hours finding out what’s already out there. Open up an excel spread sheet, go to Amazon, and do a survey of what books have released recently. Note the titles, the settings, and the blurbs (or short synopses). It’s important to know what’s hot in your genre right now for several reasons: you don’t want to write 85,000 words on a story line that has already sold, you want a feel for what types of stories readers like, and you need to become familiar with the market in general. I had another professor who said that with any type of publishing you are entering a conversation. Stop and listen for a minute. Figure out what is being said--and what isn't, then jump in. I think that’s excellent advice, and I think that’s largely why I’ve experience some success.
2. Style study. Once you’ve done your genre study, I recommend going to the library and checking out the books that appealed to you the most. Okay, I might not CHECK THEM OUT. Personally, I sat down with a pad of paper and a pen (not a computer—it’s too distracting), and I read the first chapter or first 3 pages of each book. Harsh? Yes, but so are editors and agents. I made notes about what appealed to me and what didn’t. I forced myself to move on. It was quite eye-opening. Now I starred the entries where I wanted to go back and read the entire book, but I didn’t let myself do it right then. For one thing, I have a fear of copying other voices in my genre. So I only READ in my genre, when I’m not actively WRITING in my genre, but that’s a pet peeve of mine.
3. People study. As I was looking at each book, I took a quick peek at acknowledgements. If the author noted their editor’s or agent’s name I wrote it down. If you don’t currently have an agent, I suggest contacting one early, especially if you have another manuscript that is completed. No, an agent isn’t necessary, but in my experience, they are worth their weight in gold. As far as editors, you now have the names of editors that specifically like the kinds of books that most appeal to you. This is like a box of treasure. If you have an agent, when you finish your book, ask her to submit it to these houses first. If you don’t have an agent, send it to these houses first yourself.
4. Fun Study. Notice I haven’t mentioned doing research ABOUT your story. Probably when I said homework, that’s what you were envisioning. I think a well-researched story is important to being published, but I also think it slows down a lot of writers. A manuscript that could be written in 4 months, takes a year instead. You’re a writer—so write. I’m a bit compulsive, so I have an excel spreadsheet, and I decide ahead of time how many words I’m going to write a day (usually 1,000 words a day, 5 days a week). If I make my word count, then I can spend time researching. While I’m writing, if I don’t know something, I highlight it and keep going. I never stop in the middle of writing to research. I’m not advocating sloppy writing, but I think THAT sort of research can become a type of procrastination. Let’s face it, researching the details of our story is FUN. It’s a bit like recess, and you don’t get to do that until you’ve finished your day’s work.
I hope this helps everyone find a way to the publishing contract they’ve envisioned for years. In the last few weeks, I’ve had many people say to me, “You’re doing it. You’re living your dream.” I fully realize how true those words are. Every night I thank the Lord. Every morning I write in my gratitude journal, then I grab a mug of coffee, boot up my computer, and do my homework.
Missy again. Vannetta just found out the title of her upcoming release from Zondervan and wanted to share this new info with you:
A Shipshewana Amish Mystery
You can find Vannetta at:
Vannetta's at school right now so won't be able to hang out with us until later this afternoon. Apparently, schools don't like to pay teachers to hang out on Blogger, so they block it. Imagine that! :-) But please jump in and leave comments and questions! And don't forget to mention if you'd like to be entered in a drawing for A Simple Amish Christmas.
Links to the FREE download!