Random thoughts on our impending doom and everyday life, courtesy of a Romance Writer who occasionally feels the need to talk like a Sailor.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors... Untitled Rock Star MS

Welcome to another Weekend Writing Warriors. Today I’ve got another eight sentences from my 1st July release, a New Adult, first person point of view, rock star book. Because rock stars need true love and a happy ever after rising from unlikely circumstances too, bless them. 

Here’s the link to the first eight that I posted way back, just in case you’re needing the full picture. But safe to say, our courageous young heroine has woken up to some interesting circumstances in Las Vegas. That, and the hangover from hell.

     Bad things happened here, terrible things. I just wanted to crawl into a ball and die. Sweet baby, Jesus, what had I been thinking to drink so much?
     “You okay?” a voice asked, male, deep, and nice. Really nice. A shiver went through me despite my pain. My poor broken body stirred in the strangest of places.
     “Are you going to be sick again?” he asked.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

When does a writer need an agent? with Alex Adsett.

There's been a lot of discussion about whether or not a writer needs an agent.  It's a damn good question in these changing times with self-publishing booming and so on. Do you only need one if you're planning on chatting up one of the big publishing houses? And what exactly does an agent do for you?

Today, I'd like you to meet the awesomness that is Alex Adsett. Alex is the agent I have when I don't have an agent (Currently, I don't have one. I might in the future, who knows?). She checks my contracts for me and makes sure they're fair and reflect my requirements and all the rest. Also, Alex has a deep and abiding understanding of shoe porn which I admire greatly.  Let's go...

Why should a writer not have an agent?

Authors in Australia may feel they should have an agent or need to have an agent, but the truth is that more than 60% of the books that are published in Australia by Australian authors, do not have an agent. The situation is very different in the UK and US where almost all of traditionally published titles come through via an agent.

Agents provide three main services for an author: they get them the initial publishing deal, they negotiate the hell out of the contract, and they help build and manage their career. There’s a generous amount of advice giving, hand holding and ego boosting along the way, but those first three things are key.

If an author has already got themselves the initial publishing deal, then the first step an agent handles is already done. I recommend authors in this situation think carefully about whether they need an agent to do steps 2 and 3, when there are freelance contracts services out there like the Australian Society Authors or Arts Law (or me) to cover the contract, or for those authors who feel comfortable handling their own careers.

Why should a writer have an agent?

Peacock Shoes.
Once authors have gotten over the idea that they need to have an agent, they should consider whether they want to have an agent. Agents are great! They do a lot of the business side of things so that the author can just concentrate on the writing. Many authors love their agent and would never consider not having them by their side. A good agent will look out for your interests and always be ready to defend, promote or pull you back into line. 

Bear in mind that an agent is just about as hard to get as a publisher. You need to find an agent who really gets you and your work, and who has a good reputation in the industry. A good starting point when looking for a reputable agent is checking out members of the Australian Literary Agents Association. There are some great agents who haven’t qualified for the ALAA yet (like me), but the ones that have, have a solid standing in the industry. 

The best reasons to get an agent are if you’re an unpublished author who finds an agent ready to champion your work (hang onto that person as tight as you can, but not in a needy way!), or if you’re an established author who’s fed up with handling everything by themselves.

What sort of services do you provide to unagented writers to make their business lives more happy and care free?

If an author doesn’t have or want an agent, I can step in to help with commercial business advice about their career, publishing options, and strategies. I think the most important service I offer is being able to commercially review their publishing contract and help them negotiate with the publisher.  I do not offer legal advice, but can review the contract and let an author know if there is anything included (or not included) that is outside publishing industry norms, and then provide suggestions on how the contract could be improved. If anything rings an alarm bell that the contract should absolutely not be signed, I let you know straight away, and if I think you need legal advice I can recommend some good lawyers who also understand the publishing industry.
I provide my review and recommendations in a written report, and the author can then use the report to negotiate directly with the publisher, or keep me involved to do the negotiations on their behalf. 

Happy Summer Shoes.
I charge a flat fee hourly rate, so instead of a normal agent who gets 15% of everything, I invoice at the end of the review or negotiation, and then walk away. I am as much or as little involved as the author wants me to be.  Some established authors have me on standby for any contract discussions with their publisher, but manage all their day-to-day editorial questions directly themselves. 

There are also a lot of new opportunities for authors out there; ebook only start ups, profit share ventures, etc. Many agents can’t afford to get involved in helping authors with these because there is no guaranteed income upfront. I can help review these contracts before you get yourself stuck in something dodgy, or at least make sure you enter into the deal with your eyes open.

You have awesome shoes. Can we see some pictures and where do you get them?

I love shoes! I’ve been a shoe addict since living in London upon acquiring my first publishing job. I’m not too proud to admit I go for cheap but funky, and because I’m addicted to Campers, I get a lot of my shoes from ebay.  I also made the ridiculously dangerous discovery of modcloth- online shoes at cheap prices []. I try to support Australian bookstores and Australian clothes designers (hello Maoicchi, Massuri, Wind & Water), but I’m afraid shoes are fair game from overseas for me.

Give us some book and movie recommendations, please. What have you seen or read lately that rocked your world?
Sparkly Shoes.

Always a dangerous question to ask a book addict... After reading the amazing Among Others by Jo Walton last year, I picked up her earlier work Farthing. It has blown me away in a completely different way, and now I want to read everything she’s written. I love the Roil series by my friend Trent Jamieson, and have been having fun “researching” the best romance books before another RWA conference. I can’t talk too much about Australian spec fic I’ve been reading, because I’m a judge for the Aurealis awards, and don’t want to give anything away before the awards are announced in May. (Check out the shortlist though- great books!!! I’ve also been reading amazing manuscripts that I’m now trying to find homes for.

I tend to run out of time to watch too much tv, but have loved every second of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, and over summer have devoured The Hour and (don’t judge me) Downton Abbey. I’m half way through Parade’s End, and it is quite as amazing as the reviews have said. I’m also looking forward to Game of Thrones and Dr Who (even if new Dr Who is sometimes so bad it makes me cry).

You were brilliant at RWA on the Gold Coast last year talking about not only your business but publishing at large. What events can people catch you speaking at this year?

He Loves Me Shoes. (These ones are my favourite.)
Aw, shucks – thanks! I’m going to be appearing at a bunch of panels at Conflux speculative fiction convention in Canberra in April this year. Not only panels, but my colleague Paul Landymore and I are hearing pitches from aspiring authors, and there are three fancy dress opportunities (three!). Anyone near Canberra should definitely come along to Conflux. In May I’m at the Gold Coast Libraries Literati weekend, in August I will also be at the Romance Writers Convention in Perth, hearing pitches and talking about contracts and copyright, and in October I hope to be at GenreCon again.

Keep an eye on twitter (@alexadsett) and my website for forthcoming events.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Promo - what most likely definitely doesn't work.

The Twitter Police. Be warned.
WARNING: Sweary language involved.

Promotion is a funny thing. Everyone agrees that as writers we need to be doing it. But no one can seem to tell us what actually works. So I thought we might come at it from a different direction and do a run down of what I've come to believe, definitely doesn't. Or at the very least, is worth a serious contemplation before commiting to. Remember now, I've only been twittering and all the rest for about a year so take my advice with a dose of salts and a dash of your own intuition.

Let's start with blogging. My publisher tells me it sells books and I never doubt a single word my publisher says to me. No matter that he met my declaration of being on a mission from God to sell smut with baffled silence. He knows stuff. Furthermore, to build an audience, you need people interested in reading you in the first place, right? Blogging is a great tool for giving people a taste of your wordy awesomeness. My advice would be to not write solely about writing (Haha, says me, writing about writing stuff. Oh shut up). 

I know it's tempting to talk lots about writing because it's a subject you're passionate about. But the audience waiting for your romantic tale of Sarah the Sloth's Sordid Soiree is made up of readers. Readers don't particularly want to hear you banging on about the integral and complex development of a narrative structure sure to wow the ages. Generally, the only people interested in such topics are other writers. If you are planning to sell your novel only to writers, you're probably not going to make much money. Sorry. Vary it, baby. (The best blogs for publishing/writing tips that I've seen are Roni Loren, Chuck Wendig and Kristen Lamb, just in case you're interested. You see, exceptions to every rule. Though those people are involved with writing ed and at least partially built their platform on it.)

Also, don't post once a month and wonder why the internet doesn't sit up in stunned wonder. You have to be reasonably regular about it. Sucks, I know. It takes up time you could be spending on your WIP. For this reason, some writers choose not to go there. Fair enough. But if you're going to do it, try to commit to a post a week minimum. Unless like me you have a deadline crushing your soul. Sorry, I know things have been quiet the last week!

Yay! Tentacle Porn!
Twitter. Ah, twitter. You constant cocktail party on the internet. Twitter is a conversation and the general rules of ettiquette apply. Don't be a dick, just be nice. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, probably best not to do it online either. If all you're there to do is to spam people then fuck right off. Twitter is about trying to make friends. Some people won't talk back to you, other's might try to shoot you down. Never mind. Pick yourself up and go chat to someone else about the glory of David Gandy's crotch or tentacle porn or something. There are millions of people on there. Not everyone is going be on your wave length and vice versa.

By all means, retweet things that interest you, but be warned. If you're RTing a dozen things in a row you're going to risk pissing people off. How do you like it when someone suddenly fills your stream with nothing but their friends shenanigans? Take it easy, do a couple an hour perhaps, space those babies out. And those pre-programmed spam thingies? For the love of puppies, please consider not doing it. If you're going to spam people then have the common decency to be present and involved with your audience. If you're the type to send an Auto DM when someone starts to follow you, good luck with that. Most people will immediately unfollow you. It's not the best start to a relationship, is it? Getting in some strangers face and shouting about your book when they've just walked in the door. 

Oh, and please DO NOT retweet everything anyone says to you that is tedious as all hell. I think it's great that you have friends, but yeah... no.

I've heard people say 1/3 promo to 2/3 amusing anecdotes or general enquiries or whatever. It's probably a good guideline. I try to stick to it, but you know, things happen. Like when you have a new book release! WHEE! All the excitement! Those first few reviews and people going gosh almighty you rocked my world are really special moments. You're expected to celebrate them. Hell, you probably worked for months on that bastard. But if a week down the track your facebook interaction consists only of you shoving promo in people's faces, stop and think. That is not cool. Throw in a LOL Cat or something, spice it up occasionally. Be a person, not a promo machine. Show some personality and respect. 

Most people follow you because they want to feel they have some sort of relationship with you. Hopefully not a stalkery type one involving duct tape. But a friendship of sorts. Be a person, interact, let them in a little on your interests etc. TALK TO THEM. Yes, people do also follow authors to be kept up to date about their endeavours. That is a big part of it. And no, this recipe won't work for everyone. Someone disliked me discussing my favourite romance movies this week and dumped me. It came right out of the blue. One minute, I thought we were doing fine, then BAM! Didn't even leave me a Dear John letter. On the otherhand, some of us had a ball. I think Gone with the Wind got the highest amount of likes, so there you go. Dirty Dancing was probably second. 

To sum up, experiment and see what feels right for you. Be kind. Respect people. Think twice about what you're about to say. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes vodka. Happens to everyone now and then, right? RIGHT?

Anyhoo... got your own hints as to what's worked for you? Disagree with me about something? Feel free to share in the comments.

P.S. If you're in the Sydney area, the lovely Zena Shapter does classes on social media now and then. Keep an eye out for them.