Many newbie writers ask "What's the secret to getting published?"
I have the answer. Are you ready?
There. Is. No. Secret.
Every agent and editor you ask this question to will have the same answer as me. There's no secret. What there is is this:
The second you think you know everything you need to know about how to write a good book, turn off the PC and give it up. Because you've just lost the drive and professionalism it takes to be a success in this business.
Always keep learning. Always look for better, smarter, fresher ways to tell your stories. Always do what you'll say you do when you say you'll do it.
And this is key: learn grammar and punctuation basics. Editors will work with you on correcting poor grammar and improper punctuation, but you really don't want them to have to focus on the minutia. You want your editor to focus on the plot, on the meat of the story, so it will be the best story it can be by the time it makes it into the hands of your readers. So learn the difference between further and farther, when to use lay and lie, and where commas should and shouldn't be placed.
Good writing. Good storytelling. Professionalism. Not secrets, just common sense.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Many newbie writers ask "What's the secret to getting published?"
Monday, September 29, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
From Lacey at Romance Junkies:
"Wicked Omen is one delicious tale. Ms. Sherrill Quinn pens a wonderful paranormal romance set in a very intriguing world. I love the character Nikolaos. He is strong and brave, a true warrior who fights for what he wants. I also liked his interaction with Kalla and their relationship. This is one hot book; chock full of steamy sex scenes that are sure to leave the reader panting long after the final page is read."
You can read the full review here.
To read an exerpt or buy, click here.
Friday, September 26, 2008
In these uncertain economic times, I received these investment tips from a cousin:
Be aware of the next expected mergers so that you can get in on the ground floor and make some BIG Bucks. Watch for these consolidations in 2008.
1. Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W.R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
2. PolyGram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
3. 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.
4. Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa.
5. FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS and become: FedUP.
6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.
8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!!!
and finally --
9. Victoria's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name: TittyTittyBangBang.
Laughter now more than ever is important! Hope you enjoyed these. :)
Mused by Sherrill Quinn at 6:04 AM
Thursday, September 25, 2008
From Tanya at Joyfully Reviewed:
It Takes a Thief or Two proves that just because you think you know someone else’s type or what they think about things doesn’t mean you are right. More times than not, you are actually wrong, as with Jessica in this story. Ms. Quinn does a fantastic job weaving in the matchmaking grandmother and the apprehensions of all three people into a wonderfully erotic story. The twist of the twins’ link only made the story hotter for me. It Takes a Thief or Two is a rapid-paced story that will definitely help you warm up on a cold day.
You can read the full review here.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
As I've mentioned in at least one post here before, in 2007 I wrote over 500,000 words, most of which have been (or will be) published. This year I'm on target to have written roughly 350,000 words by years' end. Not quite as...intrepid as last year, but still nothing to sneeze at.
How do I do it, you ask, plus work an outside job?
Here's my tip for the day: I treat my writing like a job, and you should, too. It's not a hobby for me. It's not something I do because I have to be creative. I do it because I'm determined to make this a career. I can't wait for inspiration to strike; I park my butt in the chair and write. Just about every day.
Of course, I don't have children or a husband to distract me, so I realize my situation is different than many other writers'. But I will say this: you must set aside specific time to write, and demand that your family and friends respect that. Ask your spouse to watch the kiddies for an hour or two each night so you have uninterrupted writing time. Non-writer friends might call, knowing you're home, and ask you to do something/go somewhere. Learn to say no.
Listen. You have to want this. You have to want to write more than you want to go out with friends, more than you want to watch the latest TV show, more than just about anything. Because once you're under deadline contractually, it's a world of difference than when you're just writing in the hopes of being published.
Editors are people, too, and understand when kids get sick or the husband loses his job and/or you have to go to work to make ends meet. But they're business people as well, and if they have authors who don't meet deadlines, well, after very much of that those editors will be in the unemployment line. Understand that. Publishing is a business full of business people who have a bottom line to meet.
My final thought: Sometimes the only thing that separates a published writer and an unpublished one is persistence. Park your butt in the chair and write. Every day.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
That Jerry Seinfeld is one funny guy. Check this out from his 1998 HBO stand-up comedy special I'm Telling You for the Last Time:
But men and women will never understand each other, we all know that. It's just not gonna happen, just forget it. I know I will not understand women. I know I will never be able to understand how a woman can take boiling hot wax, pour it on her upper thighs, rip the hair out by the root... and still be afraid of a spider. I'm not spending any more time working on that.
(He's right, you know. Although I'm not one of those women who keeps waxing--I tried it a few times with different products, but nothing is worth that kind of pain, so it's the old razor for me until I can afford laser hair removal...which may be never.)
He goes on:
I bet women would like to know what men are really thinking, the truth, the honest truth of what men are really thinking. Cause I could tell you. Would you like to know? Alright I'll tell you. Nothing. We're not thinking anything. We're just walking around, looking around. This is the only natural inclination of men. To just kinda check stuff out. We work because they force us to but other than that this is the really only thing we wanna do. We like women, we want women... but that's pretty much as far as we've thought. That's why we're honking car horns, yelling from construction sites... these are the best ideas we've had so far.
(Oh, and have you seen the new commercial Jerry and Bill Gates are in? Funny stuff!)
Mused by Sherrill Quinn at 6:06 AM
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I sometimes think that Thursday is my favorite day of the week, because of the anticipation of the next day being Friday and the last day of the work week. *sigh* I don't know what it is about this week, but I can't wait for it to be over. At least today I'm only working 4 hours today, so that's not too bad.
I'm fine tuning the plots of my 3 urban fantasy books and hope to get the final proposal to my agent by the end of next week. I had sent her the synopsis of book 1 with short premises for books 2 and 3, plus the first 3 chapters of book 1 to see if she thought it would fly. She had questions and comments, of course, and so I'm working on making my world as clear as possible, the over-arcing plot solid over the 3 books, and trying to cut out some of the exposition in the early chapters. A first book set in a world vastly different from the real world always requires a certain amount of exposition, but too much can slow down the pace, and if that happens in early chapters you risk having readers not finish the first book, let alone buy any books set in the same world.
So that's what I'll be working on this afternoon when I get home from work, and tomorrow afternoon, and this weekend...
No rest for the wicked, eh?
Mused by Sherrill Quinn at 6:23 AM
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Well, it's another Tuesday, and another day for a tip.
I read a few agent blogs, most regularly Nathan Bransford, and in the last day or so he's posted about something I've observed in writers (including myself from time to time) that just drives me crazy.
In part, Nathan wrote: But perhaps the most dangerous period where impatience can affect your judgment comes when you are offered representation and are trying to decide on a course of action.
By the time an author is offered representation, chances are they've been working at it for years and have been dreaming about it for longer. Every cell in their body will be shouting, "Take it! Take it!!!"
Oy. Is that the truth! You've labored over a book (or books) for years, finally have honed your craft to the point that you're not just getting routine rejection letters, and when that one lone agent says, "I'm interested in representing you," you shriek to high heavens, dance a frantic Snoopy dance and rush to the phone to call all your friends. (What? That's what I did...)
But...you have to make sure that agent is a good fit for you. (Thankfully mine's a great fit!) Which means, hopefully, that you didn't send out queries to agents you really didn't want to work with.
The important thing to remember is to do your homework and take your time. Know what you want and who can best provide that to you.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
DRAGONHEAT, the sequel to my top-seller DRAGONFIRE, is available now at Amber Heat!
Nikolai Zelenka and Rainer Batsakis are sent by the leader of their dragon clan to find out what happened to a geneticist working for them. They meet the scientist's sister, Deirdre "DeeDee" Adair and immediately recognize her as their mate.
DeeDee doesn't need dragon DNA to know she's wildly attracted to both men. But first she has to understand--and accept--them for what they are. And they must protect her against the dragon hunters who are after her...
Nikolai's stance became ultra-alert, his nostrils flaring and eyes narrowing. His gaze slid past her to the large curtained picture window on her right. "Get away from the door," he ordered in a low voice.
"Now, listen here," she began, only to be cut off when he charged toward her. Eyes wide, fear closing her throat, she still managed a squeak of alarm and depressed the button on the pepper spray. The stream soared over his shoulder to land harmlessly on the carpet. God, he was fast! He grabbed her and moved behind the sofa. He pushed her to the floor and slanted his big body over hers, his large hands cradling her head.
At the same time Rainer turned off the lamp. She heard him moving, his heavy boots squeaking as he crawled past her on his way to the picture window.
Heat from Nikolai's body seeped into her, tempting her to stroke her hands along his lean sides. Ay-ay-ay. Get a grip, girl. Now's not the time to be lusting after him, though that's an interesting development. She wiggled a bit and the bulge pressing against her abdomen hardened even further.
Just as the thought that he might be planning to rape her killed the burgeoning lust she was beginning to feel, loud pops filled the air. Staccato in rhythm, it took a few seconds for her to realize it was weapons' fire. "Someone's shooting at us!"
"No shit, Sherlock," came the muttered reply from the man crouched beside the window.
Ass, she thought with some heat. "I've never been shot at before, you putz."
"I have." His voice was still as low as before.
"Can you see them, Rainer?" Nikolai lifted his head. He rose up onto his elbows and stared toward the man by the window.
DeeDee twisted her neck to get a better look at what was going on. She could barely make out Rainer as he crouched by the window, peering out through the curtain.
"I told you it was too dangerous to entrust information like this with humans." Rainer's deep voice had a decided bite to it.
She blinked. What did he mean, give it to humans? As opposed to...what? Monkeys?
More gunfire erupted and Nikolai dropped back down onto her. She heard the breaking of glass, the shattering of ceramic, and shards of the table lamp rained down over her. Well, mostly over Nikolai, since he was still smashing her into the floor. His warm breath wafted against her cheek, sending tiny shivers up and down her spine.
Contrary to the strangeness of the situation, the man on top of her felt...familiar.
"Fuck this." Rainer's voice was harsh. "I'll be right back."
"Be careful." Nikolai tipped his head up. Though he looked at his friend, DeeDee was enormously aware of just how very close that luscious mouth of his was to hers.
Rainer headed toward the kitchen in a crouching run. Then Nikolai looked down at her. In the darkness of the room she couldn't make out very many details, even as close as his face was, but she could see the light amber of his eyes.
Wait. Amber? Hadn't his eyes been...brown? Or maybe hazel?
"Stay down." He pushed away from her, pausing with his knees bent and his palms planted on the floor on either side of her shoulders. "I mean it, Ms. Adair. Stay put until we get back."
From outside came the sounds of men's shouts and a roar like a fierce wind, but different somehow, a sound that she couldn't quite figure out. Seeing that Nikolai was waiting for her response, she gave a nod. If people were outside firing guns toward the house, she wasn't a fool. She was much less likely to be hit by a bullet if she was flat on the floor.
He leaned down and for the briefest of moments his lips touched the corner of her mouth. Then he was gone.
Copyright 2008 Sherrill Quinn. All Rights Reserved.
DRAGONHEAT - available now at Amber Heat!
What reviewers have said about Dragonfire:
"5 Hearts!...This is a powerful story with excellent dialogue and characterizations..."--Dee, The Romance Studio
"5 Lips!...Sherrill Quinn has written a perfect shapeshifter novel...A story you simply must read...Sherrill Quinn does not disappoint!"--Tara Renee, TwoLips Reviews
"5 Angels!...I loved this book. From the first page till the last it captured my attention...I hope Sherrill Quinn continues to write Dragon books and I would definitely buy them if she did. I look forward to reading more stories by her."--Ashley, Fallen Angel Reviews
Saturday, September 13, 2008
A recent article in Publisher's Weekly deals with free speech issues outside of the US:
Nineteen organizations involved with free speech issues have signed a statement sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking them to support the Freedom of Speech Protection Act of 2008 (S. 2977). The bill would prohibit foreign libel judgments from being enforced in the U.S. if the speech would be protected by U.S. laws. The bill was introduced after a series of libel judgments were handed down against American authors in foreign courts where speech does not does not have the level of protection it does in the U.S. Earlier this year, New York State passed a law, The Libel Terrorism Protection Act, that prohibits the enforcement of a foreign libel judgment unless a New York court determines that it satisfies the free speech and free press protections guaranteed by the First Amendment and the New York State Constitution.
Chris Finan, president of American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, one of the 19 groups to sign the statement, said the so-called practice of “libel tourism” “is a serious threat to American writers and publishers who face the nightmare of defending themselves before unfriendly courts where their books were never published.” Finan said the statement was sent to the Judiciary Committee with the hope that they will act on the bill before the current session ends. Finan noted that the New York bill moved quickly so it is possible Congress could pass the legislation in the current session.
The world keeps getting smaller every day, and our laws need to keep up. What do you think?
Mused by Sherrill Quinn at 8:40 AM
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Here's the cover of book #2 in my Sassy Devils series with Ellora's Cave:
Is that not the sexiest thing you've ever seen?!? (The release date has yet to be determined--I haven't even started on edits yet.) But, wow. The artist--Philip Fuller--did a wonderful job!
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
On Thursday last week I briefly discussed the situation when a prospective agent requests you to do a revision. Let's back it up a bit today and talk about why you need an agent.
Simply, agents can target the editors who are best suited to publish your work and who are, therefore, less likely to reject it. If the agent has a good working relationship with these editors (which, let's face it, they do or they wouldn't be in business for very long), the editors will trust the agent's opinion about the book they're trying to sell, and will in most cases be willing to read the manuscript within a matter of weeks. (Versus being stuck in the slush pile for months and months and months.)
An agent will navigate the contract waters for you, taking on what could be a somewhat adversarial process and free you up to focus on the creative end of things. (Of course, I'm not saying that you shouldn't read that contract word for word--and make sure you understand every last option clause. But your agent can get the kinks worked out so that you don't have to worry about much of the process.) Plus for the agent it's a much less emotional thing, and editors prefer working with someone who's going to be calm in this process.
Even if you've met an editor at a writers' conference and that editor requested your manuscript, you still need to get an agent. By all means, submit the manuscript to the editor, and then use that request as leverage to get an agent on board.
Do your homework, though. Don't just grab a list of editors and start down the list alphabetically. Find out which specific editors handle the type of stuff you write, make sure they (and their agency) are reputable. If an agent wants to charge you anything up front, run. Run as fast as you can. They only thing they should "charge" is the standard 15% on what you make. Nothing should be asked for up front. If a prospective agent asks for a reading fee, or an editing fee, or any kind of fee... Well, like I said. Run.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
One of my critique partners, SC, started working with an agent several months ago, and before this agent actually agreed to take SC on as a client, she asked her for rather extensive revisions to her book. This agent was one that SC really wanted to work with, and the areas in the book she was asked to revised weren't out of line, so she agreed. Even as she said to us that the agent had recently blogged about how she *never* took on clients after she'd asked them to revise a book. But SC knew the revisions would make her book stronger, so she did as requested.
And was promptly picked up by the agent.
Agent Nathan Bransford blogged a week ago or so about agenting and revisions, and he had this to say (in part. You can read the entire blog about "Exclusives and Literary Agents" here.):
Revisions: I don't generally ask for exclusives at the partial or even full manuscript request phase. But there is one situation when I often will. And that's during a revision.
It's very time consuming for an agent to read partials and fulls, although I see it as going with the territory. But a revision with a prospective client takes time-consuming to a whole new level. It means a serious commitment on the part of the agent without a sure prospect of success, it means committing to reading a manuscript multiple times, taking notes, thinking about the manuscript during most waking hours, and for me it means writing 10-20 page e-mails full of suggestions on each draft.
I don't know if there would be anything more gut-wrenching than to embark on a time-consuming revision to improve the manuscript only to have an author take that improved manuscript to a different agent who gets to benefit from my hours of hard work. Quel horreur! The mere thought of this happening gives me dry heaves.
Fortunately this hasn't actually happened to me, but just to make sure we're all clear what a full manuscript revision means, I often ask for an exclusive before embarking on a revision, and I think this is fair. When the author is done, if either of us aren't happy with the manuscript or how we've worked together in the process then we're still free to go our separate ways, but while we're working on that revision we're going steady, pinning each other, and any other serious dating metaphor you can find. If we are happy with the manuscript at the end, then it's time to move on to formal representation and submissions.
So, my point is, if you've been lucky (and talented) enough to garner the attention of an agent, listen to him/her. Don't do something that will, in your opinion, ruin the book. But do try to take an objective look at it and, if it's something that really should be done, then do it.
An agent wouldn't make the suggestion just to make the suggestion. They have better things to do with their time.
Mused by Sherrill Quinn at 8:33 AM
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
In recent days there has been another example of an author behaving badly, which I'm not going to go into on my blog here. All I want to say about author behavior is...
Be professional. All the time. But especially in public forums. Ever heard of the word "cache"? It means that what you put out in cyberspace stays there forever...
Along these lines, here are my tips for the day:
Be emotional about your work, but not about the business. Because it *is* a business. Emotion in a book is necessary; whining to your editor is not. (Whining to readers is even worse. First, because they can't do a damn thing about it and, second, it's not their problem. Don't try to make it so.)
Build relationships. Send cards (or emails) and say thank you to the people who help you. Even reviewers who don't "get" your book should receive a "thank you for your time" note from you.
Treat your writing like a professional. Don't pull the kind of crap that would get you fired from an employer who gives you a weekly/biweekly paycheck--which means, meet your deadlines, accept constructive criticism, and do what you can to make your boss (i.e., your editor) look good.
Treat your readers with respect--even the snarky ones. Be accessible. Be polite. And, even though I'll sound like a broken record, be professional.