5 Years in Publishing: A Celebration

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It’s my 5-year anniversary in the publishing business. It’s hard to believe. Without getting cheesy, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately over the last few years and how they’ve shaped where I am today. I am forever grateful to my day job for helping with the foundation as I learned so much about writing and marketing. And of course, huge thanks to those who have carried my books in their stores, hosted me for signings, and TO YOU THE READERS for taking a chance on my work. It’s really been a whirlwind, and while there are always struggles to go with the celebrations, I wouldn’t take back a single second of it because it’s how much I appreciate where I am today.

In the past 5 years I have:

  • Published:
    • Gifted, Donovan Circus book 1 (May 2012)
    • Burned, Donovan Circus book 2 (December 2013)
    • Hunted, Donovan Circus book 3 (March 2015)
    • Ignited, Donovan Circus book 4 (October 2015)
    • A Reaper Made (October 2014)
    • Witch Hearts (October 2013)
    • Heroes of Arcania trilogy
      • SuperNova (June 2016)
      • Fortune’s Favor (July 2016)
      • Unbreakable (August 2016)
    • “The Two Ringmasters” short story in The Peculiar Lives of Circus Freaks anthology (April 2017)
  • Public Speaking: This is a big part of my resume now, thanks to this career. This includes classes and workshops at various conferences, moderating or participating on panels, and solo opportunities to talk about a variety of topics in regards to self-publishing, marketing, social media, and more.
  • Conferences and signings: I won’t list them all, but I’ve been lucky to participate in dozens of events that connect me with other authors and readers.
  • Started Roanoke Author Invasion: now headed into its 4th year, I’m honored to bring so many authors and readers to my city. I love hosting this event and am so proud of its reputation of welcoming all into the fold, because I hope that’s how people see me in the publishing world – friendly and helpful.
  • Become Director of Roanoke Regional Writers Conference: while this one is more of a regional event, it’s one that has really helped me in networking and growth in the Roanoke area. I get to meet amazing writers (especially those outside my genres which can be a breath of fresh air sometimes!) and/or help those wanting to learn.
  • Set goals: Learning to set goals was a new one for me – by setting goals, I can work backwards to see how to reach them, which in turn helped me better understand marketing. It all goes hand in hand, like it or not, and is so much more than just publishing a book and waiting for it to sell like crazy. Setting goals and marketing plans for each title have really helped me not just get where I am, but become stronger in my career for the next title, and the next.
  • Author Connections: I have met some of my very best friends thanks to the book community. We help each other through everything – the mundane, the frustrations, the exciting celebrations – and I am so lucky to surround myself with quality people who have my back as much as I have theirs. Even introverts need besties!
  • This Blog: I am so glad to have met so many people who stop by to read my blog, whether they’re looking for tips or pep talks. I’m always surprised when people bring up something they read here, and so touched when they tell me that it helped them move forward to the next step in their process. MAN, that’s humbling.

So, what about the next 5 years?

  • Publishing:
    • My hope is to release the 5th and final book in the Donovan Circus series this summer (aka SOON!).
    • I have at least another 3 book ideas I’d like to work on (including one that’s nearly done with the first draft), with one to possibly query due to timely market needs
  • Public Speaking:
    • I’ll be speaking at the Virginia Writers Club Symposium in Charlottesville, VA this August!
    • And I will continue to add on these opportunities to my resume. I love speaking to people on topics I’m passionate about, and helping other writers with their journeys is incredibly gratifying.
  • Big goals. Now that I know how to set them, I can attempt to hit or even surpass them. Without going into too much detail, I’ve got a couple things lined up later this year that will hopefully be great for the writer career. Such as…
    • Hit a USA Today or NYT bestseller list
    • Branch out into new genres (I’ve forever wanted to write a murder mystery, possibly cozy, in addition to about 150 other ideas)
    • Attend more/new events = more author friends! New readers!

There are always more goals to add to the list, but rather than being afraid to try or overwhelmed, I’ll simply take it day by day and keep putting words down. And that’s the real thing, right? At the end of the day, writers have to write. We have stories bursting in our minds and hearts and no matter how you publish, or you have 2 readers or 2,000, putting great stories out in the world truly makes it worth it. So, here’s to my first 5 years in publishing – and here’s to many, many more! Cheers, friends!

Rejection Letters: Why Writers Shouldn’t Hate on Agents

I think I just got the World Record of rejection letters. No joke-I emailed an agent everything she required in her submissions guidelines: query + the first 5 double spaced pages. I even spelled her name right. As soon as I hit send, I got the generic “Thanks, we received your submission!” email. Fine, okay, cool. I put it in the appropriate folder and went on to my next thing. Literally, not even a full minute later, I got an email directly from the agent:

“Thank you for querying me.  Unfortunately I don’t feel I’m quite the right agent for your project. I’m regretfully going to pass.

Best of luck with this project and all your endeavors.  Due to the volume of queries and submissions I receive, I’m unable to provide a personal evaluation of your query and/or further explanation of my decision.

Good luck with your submissions.”

The thing is, it’s not the rejection that bothers me. I’ve gotten them before and I’m 110% sure I’ll get a bunch more in the next few months. But there’s no possible way she even read past the opening sentence of my manuscript. NO. WAY. She barely had time to read my entire (short) query.

Here’s my deal: if it seems like you didn’t read my query letter past my “Dear Agent’s Name” (and I know I got that part right), then yes, it is frustrating for me. At least make me feel like I had a 1% chance of you reading the story description! I’ve commended myself on not taking these rejections personally and I still don’t. I know agents aren’t passing my manuscript up because they don’t like me. They don’t know me. They get what they read on paper and make a split second decision. We as writers move onto the next query letter, fingers crossed and ever-hopeful.

I get it, I really do. I’ve worked in publishing, both in books (three years ago) and magazines (present job). Agents are busy people, with thousands of submissions coming in on a monthly or weekly basis. I know from experience that it’s a tough job. And boy, do writers hate on agents. The ones that have agents love them, but for those of us lost out in publishing space, it’s mostly filled with frustration. I can see both sides of the page as well as the giant brick wall that’s between agents and new writers.

However. As disappointing at that rejection email can be for writers, we need to remember that agents are people, too. They don’t hover on their keyboards just waiting to reject us. For whatever reason, they don’t think our writing works for them and that’s okay. I mean, think about it–JK FREAKING ROWLING got rejected. I’m willing to bet every buck in my bank account that the guys who rejected her are still kicking themselves so many years later. When we get the letter telling us it’s not right for them, that does not translate to “It’s not good enough.”  I think it would do all writers well to remind themselves of that from time to time. I once read somewhere that most agents really do want that next Harry Potter/Hunger Games/sparkly vampire novel. They want to be excited about a manuscript and to have a successful and in-demand client. But they can only do so much–it’s up to us to write the damn thing and get it in their hands.

The query letter is the quick and dirty way to explain your novel and why it fits for that agent. So as frustrated as I was to get that particular rejection, I had to take a deep breath, remind myself it’s not about me, and start working on the next query letter. If it didn’t work for her, she had a reason, even if it was because of my query letter instead of the plotline. It just means that I need to rework my letter to reflect the best manuscript possible. I guess my main point for all of us is not to take it personally. It’s not about the writer. It’s not even about the agent. It’s about your novel, the story you want to tell because you believe in it and know you’re the right person for the job.

Worse comes to worse…get the hell away from your computer and get yourself a milkshake. (To drink, not throw against an agent’s car door.)