Whose Voice Is it? Guest Post by Christine Taylor-Butler

Guest Post by Christine Taylor-Butler

ChristineOver the past few years I’ve been critiquing manuscripts for authors trying to break into the business. One of the biggest stumbling blocks centers around “voice.” One of the most common editorial responses is “I can’t connect with your character.” Sometimes it is because their experience and personality is not a fit for what you wrote. Other times its because they can’t find the “voice” or it rings untrue. So in conferences, you’ll hear this topic come up a lot.

When an editor or agent says they look for “voice” what does that mean? Your voice? Character voice? Actually it’s a little bit of both, with a larger percentage of it leaning towards the latter. Characters – the protagonist and the ancillary cast of characters have unique cadences and quirks that distinguish them from each other, and from characters in other books.

YA is one of the hardest genres to write because the age of the protagonist puts them squarely in the headwind of emotional upheaval. High school, relationships – romantic or otherwise, self image, body changes. All experiences that are both sweet and horrible and every emotion in between – often occurring at the same time.

I started to notice a trend among both aspiring new writers and experienced authors trying to switch from younger genres such as picture books.

1. The voice of the character is buried or usurped. I’m told what the author feels is going on but I don’t get to hear it or see it from the character’s actual point of view.

For example:

I sat in the corner shivering while my mother gestured for Jake to sit on the couch.

“She suffered a trauma,” said my mother. “Years ago, her boyfriend was killed in a boating accident. Sarah was watching from the shore.”

“Will she be alright?” he asked, staring in my direction.

“In time,” my mother replied. “She’s seeing a psychiatrist and taking her meds so she can go back to school to study to be a world-class anthropologist.”

“Really? Anthropologist? How can I help, Mrs. Johnson? You know I love your daughter.”

He glances in my direction, then continues as he takes a sip of my mother’s favorite blend of coffee. The one she gets from the Farmer’s market on Saturday mornings . . . . .

This type of author intrusion is more common than you think. The author – an adult – wants to add all their hopes and dreams for the character in the narrative. Doesn’t matter what Sarah wants to say. Doesn’t matter that the Sarah, the protagonist, would be a stronger catalyst for revealing the information. In the above Sarah is a prop and the voice we hear is that of the author acting as narrator and stage director.

2. The character seems shallow because the author blew past a critical scene. I get the “Cliff Notes” version of the action and setting, not a fully rich and in-depth experience.

In one manuscript, the protagonist is facing a life threatening illness. This can be a pivotal moment in a book. But instead, she goes shopping for an entire chapter. When arriving at the doctor’s office, the discussion is short and perfunctory, the doctor delivers the bad news – she’s dying – and then leaves to see another patient. We get no reaction to the abruptness (which isn’t quite accurate) or the news other than the character was now sad.

In another case, the protagonist is in love with someone. But in the ensuing action we can’t figure out why other than they’re cute. I often see manuscripts with a laundry list of physical descriptions and zero physical reactions when the person is in close proximity. Sweaty palms? Heart races? Breath catches in their throat? Nope. Nada. We’re just supposed to take the author’s word that this is a love connection waiting to happen.

3. The author (or editor) doesn’t “know” the voice. Sometimes (just sometimes) the author doesn’t understand the setting or the character because they don’t expose themselves to teens.

Years ago, Richard Peck – an award winning author – gave a lecture on voice. He talked about teaching a college course and critiquing work by the adults in the class. He told one particular student that her middle school boy sounded more like a girl. The author explained she was writing it based on her daughter’s life but wanted to hide the identity. He told her it was best to let the character have their own life. And perhaps the character should be a girl if that was more familiar. Upon reading the revision he pointed out that the protagonist – now a girl – sounded more like a middle class woman from Vassar. To which the woman replied “Mount Holyoke, thank you very much.”

Needless to say there wasn’t much improvement after that because, like most adults he pointed out, the woman also didn’t know what was going on in the life of her child when she wasn’t around. Sound familiar? I remembered this example when critiquing the manuscript about the girl who was sitting in the corner. The authors, as it turned out, were passionate – but had no day-to-day exposure to modern teens.

4. The author writes from a distance. The point of reading a book and immersing in a character is to see where they go and what they do when faced with an obstacle. In YA, those obstacles are often emotional and not necessarily rational. But they are real to the character. But that means hurting them. Which also means hurting yourself.

In an upcoming novel I have to kill a character I adore so that the protagonist can go through an emotional upheaval. In fact, the protagonist is a direct catalyst for the problem. I avoided writing it. I cleaned my office, cooked elaborate dinners, called long lost friends. Anything to keep from making that decision. And of course, the characters weren’t too keen on it either. But hurt happens. When I did it I cried for days at the damage I’d done to my protagonist and searched desperately for a way to bring his friend back. Ghost? Flashback? Too forced a solution. I had to admit, what was done, needed to be done and to let it stay “real” and in the moment.

But I’ve read stories in which the author reverts to “tell” versus show because it allows them to keep their emotional distance. And in the end, no one is entirely satisfied.

SUGGESTIONS

It occurred to me that after reading and referring authors to a myriad of writing resources, few get to the heart of the issue because it’s so hard to define. We can talk denouements, climax and plot progression all we want, but it all falls apart if the voice is not there. A strong voice in an imperfect construction can be successful (think of a certain black jacketed series about sparkly vampires) because it hit an emotional moment. A weak or flawed voice in a perfect construction will fail to find an audience. In the latter case, I knew of a local author who beat and revised a book to death – in my opinion stripping it of all the color that made the book come alive – and although it won an award, it was the adults that bestowed that honor – the teens the book was written for loathed it and called it boring in Amazon reviews.

So – here are some tips on voice:

GET OUT OF THE WAY. Despite your assertions, this is your character’s story to tell not yours. You may have an idea of where the story is going, but the best books are those in which the character surprises you and takes you on a journey you didn’t anticipate. One of my editors often says – I can edit what is there, but I can’t edit what is not there.

LET YOUR CHARACTER SPEAK. I’ll admit I got this advice early on and was resentful until I put the manuscript aside and looked at it with fresh eyes. Try letting your character speak without interference. Let them live their lives while you follow them around and record the events. As an author you should “shape” the narrative into a cohesive form – but never, ever insert yourself into the mix. It doesn’t matter what YOU want. It matters that we see and feel what the character wants.

IF YOU DON’T CRY YOUR READER WON’T CRY. Don’t tell me, show me the reactions, raw and gritty and full of waiting traps and open wounds. Protecting the character actually smothers them. Protecting your own emotions while writing leaves the page lifeless.

IF THE SCENE WAS EASY TO WRITE IT’S PROBABLY NOT READY TO READ. Honestly – characters are multifaceted beings surrounded by settings that, even as they are described, give insight to the character’s voice and state of mind. That same scene, in the eyes of a different character, might read completely differently.

MINE YOUR OWN EMOTIONS for guideposts. Everyone was a teen. And most of us know we wouldn’t go back to that angst for a million dollars. So tap that. Teens change but emotional reactions can have commonalities. First love, rejection, sadness, fear all spring from the same place. So write what you DO know, not what you think you know or how you ‘wish’ things had been.

Here are some excerpts from books I pulled off my shelf at random (I know all of these authors personally except Chris Crutcher who I met twice but I doubt he’ll remember). I don’t think anyone would mistake the voices of the following as being from the same characters:

Fat Tuesday by Susan Vaught (Bloomsbury USA):

It was Daniel who hatched the plot to destroy Sergeant Eason, fix my door, and run away to Mardi Gras – and that was before anyone went to prison.

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Penguin)

I like to run at night. No one watches me. No one hears my sneakers slipping in the loose gravel at the side of the road. Gravity doesn’t exist. . . . . On the outside I’m Good Kate, Rev. Jack Malone’s girl . . . On the inside I am Bad Kate, daughter of no one.

Blue by Joyce Hostetter (Calkin’s Creek):

My family huddled together on the railroad platform, but we wasn’t huddling to get out of the January wind. We was all trying to stay close to Daddy like that would keep him home somehow.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow)

In the end, write it down. Back up and find the story. Mr. Simet, my English and journalism teacher says the best way to write a story, be it fact or fiction, is to believe aliens will find it someday and make a movie and you don’t want them making Ishtar.

The Laura Line by Crystal Allen (Balzer and Bray/HarperCollins)

Sweet Mother of Teen Vogue magazine, I’m model-marvelous in this new outfit! And when the doors of the bus open like stage curtains, I pooch my lips, raise my chin, and use the school sidewalk as my runway. A rhythm I didn’t know I had moves my feet to a beat only I can hear. But it’s all good because I KNOW I look amazing.

Five different and very successful authors. Five different voices – none could be taken for Hermione Granger, or Bella Swan, or the lead characters in a host of other movies.

Unique. Distinguishable. Honest.

And yet voice is also about your personal writing style. Some people can write in multiple styles but writing is like music. We can tell if a song is written by Pat Metheny, for instance, even when he switches styles because he has unique signatures in his work. We can still tell Michael Jackson’s voice whether it is Thriller, or Man in the Mirror.

So in the examples above, for instance, Crystal Allen’s work is always cheeky and irreverent. Chris Crutcher’s stories are edgy and hard-edged. We often seek authors new works because we identify with their approach to writing and their unique voice as writers. Even so, the characters in each book have their own distinctive styles and nuances.

Voice – above all – is about the courage to be emotionally honest with the reader. It is about allowing them to connect with someone who – in most cases – is not going to be you.

Many blessings on your own writing journey – Namaste!………Christine Taylor-Butler

About the Author

Christine Taylor-Butler is the author of more than 75 books for young children and older children. Find more about Christine here.

Find Christine Online

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Repost: Influences On Voice In Fiction

On Friday, April 18, I’m featuring award-winning author Christine Taylor-Butler who has an in-depth guest post on voice in writing  titled Who’s Voice Is It?  to share with you all. Christine provides excellent examples of issues writers face with voice, tips on honing it, and excellent snippets of ‘voice’ from established authors. CANNOT wait for you all to get a chance to ‘meet’ my long time friend Christine and read her post. It helped me understand ‘voice’ on a deeper level. So, please be sure to mark your calendars and come back on Friday.

Today, I’m kicking off this topic by touching very lightly on ‘voice’ with a re-post from January 2011…

The main character’s attitude affects the voice of a story. Dialogue shows readers how the main character sensors herself in front of others. Narrative lets readers see what a character is really thinking. Those discrepancies help give voice to a story.  It’s in the way characters respond to the world around them.

The movie Shawn of the Dead centers around a horrific event — people turning into zombies. Yet the main character’s response isn’t fear. That’s not Shawn’s disposition toward life, so the story has a lighter, comedic voice. Even though the main character in Forest Gump faces one challenge after another, he never has a defeatist attitude which lends a light, hopeful voice to the story.

My favorite method to find the voice of a new character is to ask them to finish this sentence:

“Life is like a box of chocolates…”

If you watched the Forest Gump clip (link above) or have seen the movie, you know his mother’s response is “you never know what you’re gonna get.” It reveals her ‘don’t give up, no matter how hard things get’ disposition toward life.

Rena Moon, the main character in my novel Edge of Truth responds this way: “Life is like a box of chocolates, sharing makes them better even you never find another box.”

Lexi Ripley, the main character in my current project Blink responds this way: “Life is like a box of chocolates, they’re delicious, but some of them bite.”

How would your character(s) finish the sentence “Life is like a box of chocolates,  _______”?

Where Are All The Books That Reflect The World I Live In? Guest Post by Libertad Araceli Tomas

Guest Post by Libertad Araceli Tomas

I asked myself this question a few weeks before I started my book blog with my sister, Twinja Book Reviews. Before we started it, I think it’s safe to say that we barely read any books that featured diverse characters. We only picked up popular reads and unfortunately they only featured the default “white”, able-bodied, thin, cisgendered, male, heterosexual characters.

Before our book blog, my sister and I read but it was only while we were on vacation or bored with whatever was on TV. Unfortunately, due to some cut backs we had to disconnect our cable service and there we were, BORED as ever. Reading became the go to activity and surprisingly we found it more entertaining than anything that could ever be on TV (except for The Legend of Korra and SuperNatural, let’s not get hasty now). One thing we kept noticing when we did our regular “book run” at some local book stores is that while fantasy took us to other worlds, it barely reflected the world we step foot in everyday, a diverse one.

While there are many who really feel as though they don’t see race and don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, sexual identity, size, religion, or color of skin, it makes me wonder why books don’t reflect that. I’m not talking stereotypes, I’m talking real life, 3-dimensional characters who just happen to be different than that of the “default.” And if some readers do live in an affirming, color blind society as they say, what stops you from picking up a book that has a POC or a transgendered individual as the main protagonist?

Since my sister and I started blogging, we decided that the only way we would stand out in the blogging world (because there are soooo many great blogs out there) is to shed some light on what really drove us and that is Multiculturalism in Fantasy, Science Fiction and Paranormal books (our favorite genres). It was a rough start because to find multicultural books you have to really search a lot! Believe me they are out there but they don’t get half the promotion as let’s say a book like Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, will get.

What I’ve noticed in multicultural books is that often they bring something extremely different than mainstream books. They bring legends, myths and lore alive in different cultures that you don’t get a chance to see in mainstream books. And honestly the stories I’ve read so far have been awesome!

Growing up Afro-Latina was difficult. As a child there was no such thing as calling yourself Afro-Latina. You were either a black person or a Latin person. Most people had no idea that Black people had flooded the population in Latin America. I was considered foreign by the things I ate, my unusual first name (which is spanish for Freedom), and the language I heard at home (Spanish). African-Americans and Latinos rarely excepted me because of my very dark skin. This very fact drove me to my love of Fantasy and Science Fiction in books, but what I noticed was people like me were always left out of the “Spectrum.”

I think when some people hear what we focus on with our blog, they hear “Oh, so you exclude books that feature white characters?” But that’s not it at all. We just try to make a home for authors who write books that are easily relatable to anyone regardless of our differences. After all don’t we all fall in love? Don’t we all have issues with our parents? Don’t we all want to take down our corrupt government for a chance of peace?

At first, we didn’t think many people cared about this subject, but the deeper we’re getting into it, we’ve been flooded with requests from authors that write multicultural lead characters (we didn’t think we’d get many requests) and a lot of fellow readers who do want to see more diversity in their favorite genres. I figured the least we could do to spread the word is spotlight authors who make diversity in fiction the everyday thing that it should be.

After all, it’s not about complaining about the authors who don’t include it, it’s about celebrating the ones that do!

About Author

Libertad
Libertad Araceli Tomas is part one of ever so lovely Twinjas @ Twinja Book Reviews. When she’s not busy reading stories featuring multicultural lead protagonists, she’s occupied improving her no hand aerials and working on getting her Black Belt in Tang Soo Do. Her Dream? To publish her Multicultural Fantasy themed book centering Time Travelers.

Author Links

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Fear of the Unknown

spaceout

Photo Credit: celinejeanjean (Flickr)

I know last week was the official Insecure Writer’s Support Group date, but apparently I have enough insecurity to spill over into a new week. Confession time, I can be a bit of a perfectionist, sometimes. I like check-lists and guidelines (that I can adjust for efficiency, when necessary.)

Recently, I’ve taken on two major projects, things I’ve never attempted before. I’m on unknown paths, and though I know where they should lead, I feel uncertain and anxious about the journey. I think what stresses me most is that if I make a mistake, everyone will know. Did I mention both projects require public involvement?

One task at a time I tell myself, while popping Peanut M&Ms.

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On the spectrum of projects within my comfort zone and control, please mark your calendar’s for these upcoming Feature Friday Guest Posts:

p.s. If you’ like to be a Feature Friday guest, please let me know. Thanks.

You Can Do It! (#IWSG)

IWSG

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! (Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG)

Alex J. Cavanaugh’s awesome co-hosts for the March 5 post are Hart Johnson, Chemist Ken, Candilynn Fite, Terri Rochenski, Clare Dugmore, and Lilica Blake!

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I know a number of bloggers who are participating in the April Blogging from A-Z Challenge. Every year, I think, “This is the year I’m signing up!” I came so close to signing up this year, but chickened out once again because I’m afraid I’d miss a day and I love each and every letter of the alphabet. Wouldn’t want to any of them to feel neglected. I’ve let the fear of being overwhelmed  stop me.

Instead, I plan to cheer others on. Who knows, I might discover a method (or combination of methods) that might help this challenge feel less staggering.

Are you participating in the Blogging A-Z Challenge this year? What do you enjoy most about it?

5 Things Every Indie Author Should Know About Cover Design – Guest Post by Victoria Faye

Guest Post by Victoria Faye

First and foremost, I want to thank Natasha for inviting me to guest post, I’m trying to get into more into blogging this year, so I’m ecstatic that she gave me this opportunity ­ Thank you my dear! =)

On to the post! As graphic designer / head cookie monster at Whit&Ware, I specialize in book branding and cover design. I am EXTREMELY passionate about indie authors since I am also a writer at heart, so I put together these in­depth tips that should help any author get the cover that they’ve always imagined from almost any cover designer:

5 THINGS EVERY INDIE AUTHOR SHOULD KNOW ABOUT COVER DESIGN

Image11. Cover designers need details, but not about the entire plot of your book.

When I first started designing book covers, I loved it because I had time to read each book I designed covers for. These days that’s next to impossible because usually I’m designing several covers at once, and most cover designers have the same problem, not enough time to read the entire story ­ I wish I still had the time to do this, but its better (and more time effective) if authors can provide the kind of details that relate to the main points of the story (a 1-­3 paragraph synopsis), the character descriptions, and the technical details of your book. Here’s what I typically ask my clients:

­ What do your characters look like, what style of clothing they wear, and what type of personality they have (mysterious, flirty, sexy, shy, etc)? I especially need to know if they are of different races! Sometimes authors have forgotten to mention that they have more ethnic / or characters of a different race, and I’ve had to scrap a design completely because of that small detail. Other cool details to give me are things like jewelry and tattoos that you want your characters to have. Letting the designer know this right from the beginning helps them incorporate those elements right at the start, rather than later on in the design process when things are harder to change.

­ What kind of world does your story exists in? Is it a dystopian world? Show the designer your idea of dystopian. Is your book in a fantasy world like Lord of the Rings? Or is it contemporary like world in Pretty Little Liars? Describing your book’s world and using existing references will instantly provide a mental image for the design ­ it is beyond helpful for creating an accurate design.

­ What mood/reaction you want readers to feel/have when they look at the cover?

Do you want your characters faces to show, or do you want readers to imagine features? Do you want the book to feel dark and mysterious or do you want the book light and romantic, or sexy? If a designer isn’t sure what you want, finding the right stock images for you can take forever. If you give your designer clear directions, they are more likely to find good images that you will love right away.

­ The most important detail ­ the specs of your book : Who is publishing it (Smashwords, Lulu, Amazon Createspace or KDP, Lightning Scribe)? Do you have a custom barcode? What’s the print size? 5×8? 6×9? There are unique eCover and print book templates that each publisher will have, so your designer absolutely

NEEDS to know which you will be using so the artwork will look good no matter where you upload it to, and they will make it the best size right from the start.

2. There’s no such thing as just “photoshopping it”

It may seem like a given that designers can only do so much when it comes to Photoshop ­ but interestingly enough, there have been a lot of authors that have requested that I take an existing photo and make it into something extremely different and specific, thinking I can easily change poses, props, hair color and backdrops with Photoshop. To some extent, I can make those changes, but when it comes to photos, ALL designers are limited to what is in the photograph. Also, if you request a design that requires extensive photo manipulation, it WILL take a lot of time and design work, so naturally, it will cost more for the designer to create it for you.

The only way to accurately get models posed specifically the way you want, with the props that you want, in the background that you want, is to commission a custom photo shoot. I work with several photographers and provide that service for my clients because sometimes its more practical to schedule a photo shoot than to try to find and Photoshop images that in the end, may make the cover look totally Photoshopped ­ in a bad way.

Image23. Providing image references will save time for you and your designer.

The word Classic” to you and the word “Classic” to your designer may mean two different things, visually. It helps if you show your designer what you mean by classic, ie, “Princess Diana has classic style.” This helps them to understand what you visually mean by classic, and not create an image that’s completely off base. Image references help make sure there is less room for misunderstanding, and more room for focused creativity.

Image34. Cover designers have no control over who buys stock images. (That is, unless they are the photographer). One of my cover

designer friends was recently chewed out by an author because she found another book cover with the same image they had picked for her book cover. That’s something the designer has no control over, nor can they can tell another designer to stop using that image if its a non­exclusive stock image (something that the author demanded the designer try and do).

With stock images, seeing the image used somewhere else is a risk you will run into, especially if you are on a tight budget, and the designer is limited to what they can purchase for you. If you look for stock images yourself, take an extra step and Google search the stock image, and see if you can find how it is being used elsewhere. If you can afford it,

commission a custom shoot or purchase exclusive stock. Most stock images, by nature, are non­exclusive,

meaning almost anyone can use them for almost any project ­ the designer only has control of what they have access to.

That being said, its also good to know what licensing and usage rights are attached to the stock images that are being used for your cover. Are they non­exclusive/exclusive? Are they cleared for commercial use? A prudent designer will have done this homework for you and have included it in their terms so that you are aware of it all, but it doesn’t hurt to ask and make sure so you don’t run into any legal problems with images (and fonts too, by the way!).

Image45. If you don’t like what the designer has created for you, be specific, not critical. Designers are people too, and like anyone, we can misunderstand what you mean. If you don’t like the designs they came up with, take some time to really look at the artwork and come back to the designer with information that is specific:

­ The characters take up too much of the cover.

­ The font isn’t right for the mood of the book. It’s too masculine, etc.

­ The colors are too bright and seem appropriate for a younger reader, not YA.

Just saying “I don’t like it”, or “this isn’t what I wanted, what’s wrong with you?” really doesn’t help the designer improve the design. (Another reason why image references are so helpful!) Taking a moment to analyze what you don’t like (colors, the models don’t look right, the font is too small) will give the designer an idea of what to fix, and will cause less frustration on both sides. Sometimes the exact cover design that you want takes a bit more time and maybe, more communication. When you are open to helping the designer understand what you want (because we can’t read minds), you’re more likely to get the cover of your dreams!

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Well, I hope this info was useful to the indie authors out there, and if you have questions, feel free to contact me without obligation via email (victoriafaye [at] whitandware [dot] com) or Facebook, I’m happy to help, and always eager to share the good ideas!

Till next time, This is Victoria Faye!

About the Author

VictoriaFayeVictoria F. Alday , Graphic Artist, and Professional Dreamer, lives, works and plays in Sunny Southern California. If she isn’t working on artwork or writing, you’ll probably find her making music or eating chocolate chip cookies in shameless excess. Visit her illustrated life at thisisvictoriafaye.com

Contest & Cover Teaser Reveal of Come Back by Melissa Maygrove

In anticipation of her debut cover reveal for Come Back on Monday, March 31, Melissa Maygrove is sharing some teaser images this week. A trivia question has been paired with each one. It’s a contest!

Hop around to participating blogs and collect all 7 answers, then give them to Melissa by Saturday. Your answers don’t have to be correct to win, but you must submit a complete list by the deadline to be entered in the drawing for the giveaway.

The prize is Come Back eBook and a $10 gift certificate to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Here’s my piece of the Cover Image puzzle!

T3 ‘Sometimes a single choice alters the course of a person’s life forever.’

Title: Come Back
Genre: Western Historical Romance
Category: Adult / New Adult
Release Date:  May 2014

Teaser images designed by Carrie Butler,  Forward Authority Design Services

And here’s my teaser trivia question…

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Question #5

What is the name of Seth’s horse?
A. Cyrus
B. Jack
C. Banjo

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Find the remaining Teaser Posts & Puzzle Pieces on these sites:

Monday 24 – Julie Flanders & Alex J. Cavanaugh
Tuesday 25 – Cathrina Constantine
Wednesday 26 – Loni Townsend
Thursday 27 - H.R. Sinclair
Friday 28 – Candilynn Fite

Check Melissa’s blog for direct links to all the questions. Submit your answers to her email, melissamaygrove(at)gmail(dot)com, or use the contact form found on her blog.

*Deadline for entries is Saturday, March 29 at midnight CST.*

A randomly drawn winner will be announced in the cover reveal post on her blog on Monday, March 31. She’ll list the answers to the questions then, too.

If you’d like to be notified of important events, like cover reveals and releases, consider signing up for Melissa’s newsletter. You can do the on the home page of her website, www.melissamaygrove.com.

About Melissa

MelissaMaygrove

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she’s not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she’s hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers. Her debut novel titled Come Back is set to be released later this spring.

 Blog  ~  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+

Author Extras: Bookmarks, Business Cards, & Other Fun Stuff – Guest Post by Melissa Maygrove

Author Extras: Bookmarks, Business Cards, & Other Fun Stuff

by Melissa Maygrove

When Natasha invited me to guest post, I didn’t have to think twice. She’s a talented author and an upbeat internet friend. I’m honored she’d allow me to take over her blog.

*hacks password* “I’m in!” Kidding. :P

Natasha and I batted around some ideas for a topic, and—since I’m busy gearing up to publish my debut—I was in a perfect position to discuss my experiences with ordering promotional paper goods. When I promised her a readymade post complete with pictures, she gave her approval and turned me loose to conjure up some content.

Along with the typical ‘cyber’ things I’m doing to market myself and my book, I wanted to have items I could give to people in the physical realm—tangible reminders of my name, my contact information, and my novel. Business cards were an obvious first choice. They may not be the best thing to give to readers, but I knew occasions would arise when I’d need to have some handy.

(Please forgive the quality of the images. I’m a writer, not a photographer.)

(Please forgive the quality of the images. I’m a writer, not a photographer.)

I bought a personalized, engraved business card holder and pen for book signings (I choose to think positive. *grin*) when Son #1 was selling them for a fundraiser. Then the search was on for a reputable place to buy the rest of the goodies, including my cards.

Goodies first…

I thought about personalized pens and mugs or similar swag, but everything I liked (because of the minimum order limit) was out of my price range. I decided to order bookmarks instead. Not only are they useful and attractive—even in bulk, they’re cheap.

Both sample packs came in nice sturdy folders.

Both sample packs came in nice sturdy folders.

A fellow writing friend suggested I order sample packs from a couple of online printing services. I had plenty of time, so I took her advice. I’m glad I did. What I *would* have ordered, sight unseen, and what I ended up ordering after I touched the samples and examined them up close were completely different. It impressed upon me that weights of paper and various finishes are things that need to be experienced in person.

I requested free sample packs from two companies, Overnight Prints and GotPrint.com. It took about a week or so to get them.

Ordering from either one would have done the job, but GotPrint’s samples stood out. Not only were they more plentiful and had a more precise cut, the bookmarks were of better quality.

Maygrove 3               Maygrove 4

I don’t want to knock Overnight Prints. It’s just that, judging by the samples, they seem geared toward larger promo items, like postcards and full-size brochures.

Maygrove 5

Maygrove 6

See what I mean? Look at that gorgeous fan of bookmarks. You can’t tell from my lousy photography, but the paper thicknesses and the finishes vary quite a bit. They even have a recycled ‘green’ option.

Now on to business cards…

Lots of writers rave about MOO. MOO gives good service and makes quality products—they even have lots of great designs—but, believe it or not, Zazzle has more.

Side note: Both Overnight Prints and GotPrint make business cards, but I was disappointed with the limited choice of designs.

This is the ‘Linen.’

This is the ‘Linen.’

I caught Zazzle having a 50% off sale, so I ordered two different thicknesses of business cards—the ‘Linen’ and the ‘Ultra-thick premium white with white core.’

You can’t tell from the photo, but it has a slight lilac tint to the white of the card. It’s of a typical business card thickness and has a nice textured feel.

 

Maygrove 8Now, compare it to the ‘Ultra-thick,’ side by side.

You probably won’t believe me, but the row of ‘Ultra-thick’ on the left and the small pack of ‘Linen’ on the right represent the same amount of business cards—100. (Yeah, I know. At first, I thought they’d goofed and sent me extra or something.) In the next photo, I turned two on edge so you could see the difference.

Maygrove 9

 

Truth? I don’t like the ‘Ultra-thick.’ It’s so thick, it feels like wallboard. LOL Seriously! I tried to put one on my refrigerator door, and the magnet could barely hold it up.

I’m no expert on business cards, but I don’t see the need for something so thick you could use it to scrape ice off your windshield. The only sensible use I could come up with was distribution at a conference or something, e.g. tossing them into patrons’ goodie bags, where cards of lesser grit might get crushed.

Those are my author cards. I also needed business business cards. (I’m one of those evil editor people your friends warned you about. xD) I’d be uploading my own design for these, so I decided to try MOO and see what all the fuss is about.

I also got a custom personalized card holder for them from Zazzle, which was nicer than it looks online, by the way.

I chose the standard business card MOO offers. They’re a tad thicker than the “Linen’ ones from Zazzle and they have a slicker finish. I see why people like them. Although I prefer the texture of the others, I like the sturdiness of these—firm without being too thick. Also, they come in a very tough little black box.

So, that’s my story. I’m now armed with portable amounts of both cards. As soon as my novel-promo bookmarks arrive, I’ll be packing those and handing them out to anyone who stands still for longer than five seconds. :P

 Have you had a different experience? Found any awesome swag or clever ways to market yourself and your stuff? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for having me, Natasha. I hope I didn’t scare your followers away.

About Melissa

MelissaMaygrove

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she’s not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she’s hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers. Her debut novel titled Come Back is set to be released later this spring.

 Blog  ~  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+

2014 OWFI Agents, Editors, Publishers Appointments

OWFIbadge

If you’re attending OWFI 2014 and are interested in booking an agent/editor/publisher pitch session, I’m your gal.  Feel free to repost and/or tweet if you or someone you know might be interested in this writer’s conference. Thanks!

***** UPDATED 3/19/2014*****

Things to remember…

  1. Your conference fee must be paid before you make an appointment with an editor or agent. Click here for online registration or download registration.
  2. Appointment requests will be accepted ONLY between March 1, 2014 and April 28, 2014. Between those dates, send email request for appointment to Natasha Hanova at NatashaHanovaOWFI@gmail.com
  3. Be sure to put OWFI in the subject line. Please include your phone number and an e-mail address.
  4. For more information about what type of manuscripts the editor, agent or publisher is looking for, and how they like it presented, go to their websites.
  5. One-day attendees who wish to make an appointment must state which day they are attending.
  6. You may make only one appointment with either an agent or an editor. Send a first & second choice for agent or editor in case of scheduling problems.  Additional appointments may be available at the conference. Check at the registration desk.
  7. If you do not receive an email confirmation of appointment within a week of your request, please resubmit. Sometimes e-mail goes astray in cyberspace.
  8. Appointment times will be e-mailed to you prior to the conference. Please bring this information with you to the conference. Please verify your appointment time at the editor/agent table at check-in since appointments may have been changed to accommodate special needs.
  9. Please do not ask for a specific time or date in your request for appointment unless you are a volunteer at the conference and need to work around your designated duty roster.
  10. Do your homework! Practice your pitch before you come, and be certain your manuscript is within the range of work the editor or agent represents.

Good luck to each of you!

Here’s a list of attending agents, editors, and publishers.

Agents

Susan Brower from the Natasha Kern Literary Agency

I love finding and developing authors and connecting them with the reader.  Book publishing has changed dramatically over the past several years and it’s no secret that the novels that create buzz through their unique writing or concepts are the ones that become bestsellers.  Over the past 25 years in publishing, I have done marketing, editing, story development and acquisitions for Zondervan, a division of Harper Collins Publishers. Most recently, I was Executive Editor and had the privilege of working with New York Times bestselling authors Karen Kingsbury, Tim LaHaye, Stephen L. Carter, and Terri Blackstock and was named ACFW’s Editor of the Year in 2010. And now I am fortunate to partner with Natasha Kern at the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

I’ve been an avid fiction fan since childhood and love the way stories are able to change lives, heal hearts, and bring joy to readers.   Today, I want to read and acquire women’s contemporary, any kind of romance, suspense, mystery and historical novels.  I would love to discover the next breakaway author in any of these genres.

I am originally from Arizona and now live in Michigan with my hubby, and three furry “kids,” Shep, Ollie, and Pepper.

Susan Bower Agency Website     •     Susan’s Website   

Dawn Michelle Hardy from Serendipity Literary Agency

Dawn Michelle Hardy has been called a “literary lobbyist” by Ebony magazine for her ability to help authors reach their readership using strategic promotions, win awards and garner national and local media attention.

She began her career in publishing in 2002, first as an assistant to a self published turned New York Times Bestselling author, then as an award-winning publicist and author consultant and now as an associate agent with Serendipity Literary Agency led by Regina Brooks.

While actively building her client list, she likes memoirists who can capture a larger narrative through their personal story and strong hook, best-in-class professionals in a variety of fields, the relatively unknown that has unique and incomparable life experiences, and the music, sports and pop culture enthusiasts with a ‘hip’ idea from an untold vantage point.

Her client list is diverse ranging from a veteran entertainment writer, to a single mother, to a Washington Post award-winning sports journalist. Her first acquisitions as agent included a biography on the Grammy winning pop-star Nicki Minaj (Hip-Pop Moments for Life by Isoul Harris), a previously self published memoir that garnered SyFy Channel docu-series fame (Forgotten Burial: A Restless Spirit’s Plea from Beyond the Grave by Jodi Foster) and a forthcoming narrative inspired by the #2 most shared news story in 2013 on NBA 16-time Allstar Allen Iverson.

As an agent she is continuously seeking acquisitions for platform driven general interest narratives that can spark debate and heavy conversation. She welcomes the process of collaborating with editors and authors on topics in the area of sports, pop culture, blog and trend, music, lifestyle, and social science.

Dawn on Twitter  

Amanda Luedeke  from the Chip MacGregor Literary Agency

Amanda was a 2006 graduate of the acclaimed Professional Writing program at Taylor University Fort Wayne. Since college, she’s made her living as a writer, working as a freelancer for local newspapers and marketing companies, while operating her own writing business.

Her love for writing and her ability to think strategically landed her a full time job in marketing at an agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since starting there in 2008, Amanda has written web and print copy for Vera Bradley, Baekgaard, Brecks and Peg Perego. She’s also assisted in marketing strategy for these companies, conducting research, launching social media sites and proposing and working on major projects targeted at the online consumer.

Yes, she knows … she’s one of those people.

She met Chip at an author signing in Barnes and Noble in 2008. After realizing they had a commonality in Taylor University, one thing led to another, and before she knew it, she was helping him with projects, research, and all the little stuff she now assumes he just didn’t feel like doing. Shortly after, Amanda was hired on as Chip’s Assistant.

On board as an Agent since 2010, Amanda brings unique interests to the MacGregor Literary team. She represents general market and CBA projects, and her areas of interest include nonfiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction (all types except historical romance), paranormal and speculative fiction (including steampunk, fantasy, etc), YA, middle grade fiction, and twenty-something/post college-aged hip lit (think Joe Meno, Brett McCracken, Brad Land, JD Salinger).

Having lived all over the Midwest, from Iowa to Minnesota to Illinois, Amanda considers the Chicago suburbs to be ‘home’, though she’s currently settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband, Tad.

Amanda on Facebook     •     Amanda on Twitter

 Maria Vicente from the P.S. Literary Agency

Maria Vicente is an associate agent at P.S. Literary Agency. She is a creative and editorial agent, providing support to her clients through all stages of the writing and publication process. Maria is dedicated to managing authors’ literary brands for the duration of their careers.

Her reading preferences vary across categories and genres, which is reflected in her client list. She is actively looking for literary and commercial fiction, young adult, middle grade, illustrated picture books, and nonfiction projects in the pop culture, pop psychology, design, and lifestyle categories. She has affinities for literary writing, strong character development, and original storytelling formats.

Maria’s publishing career began as an intern with Bree Ogden at D4EO Literary Agency. She also interned at P.S. Literary before joining the agency as an associate agent. Maria has a B.A. in English Literature from Carleton University, a Bachelor of Education from The University of Western Ontario, and many years of experience editing and designing literary magazines. She is currently an editor for Underneath the Juniper Tree, a literary/art horror magazine for children.

Her blog, I Believe in Story (ibelieveinstory.com), features book reviews, advice for writers, publishing industry articles, and lifestyle posts inspired by literature. You can find Maria on Twitter at @MsMariaVicente.

Editors

Mari Farthing

Mari Farthing is a writer and editor with over 20 years of practical experience in private industry, government, media and publishing. Mari has worked with writers on technical documentation, procedural manuals, memoir, children’s fiction (middle grade, young adult), women’s fiction, suspense and horror.

Mari on Twitter     •     Mari on Facebook

Mary-Theresa Hussey

Mary-Theresa has been at Harlequin for nearly a quarter century—but it certainly doesn’t feel that way.

As an executive editor for Harlequin Books, she is surrounded by fantastic stories, terrific colleagues and has had the pleasure of working on thousands of entertaining, enlightening and exciting novels.

Mary-Theresa—sometimes known as Matrice—works with authors on both series and single title imprints, and is always eager to talk about books.

Publishers

Rhonda PendersRhonda Penders from Wild Rose Press

Rhonda Pender is President and co-founder of The Wild Rose Press, a publishing company that publishes books electronically and in print.  The company began in May 2006 and is home to over 1600 titles and 500 authors. The Wild Rose Press began as a romance only publishing house but in 2013 opened its submissions to other genres of fiction including erotica, women’s fiction, mystery and suspense including thrillers, and historical fiction.

TWRP prides itself on never issuing form rejection letters and on being a kinder and gentler publishing house.  Their web site, which is referred to as “the garden”, is truly a community garden where everyone feels as if they have a part in its growth.  Writers, authors, readers and editors come together in chats, loops, blogs, and email to discuss ideas, thoughts, concerns and plans for growing the company.  The editors and the owners are completely accessible to their writers. Currently they are accepting submissions in all lines and all lengths.  All submissions should be made electronically and specific guidelines can be found on their website at www.thewildrosepress.com.

Vivian Zabel from 4RV Publishing

Vivian Zabel has a degree in English and speech. She taught in public schools for 27 years, covering such subjects as English, composition, writing, yearbook newspaper, literary magazine, drama, debate and speech. Vivian has published short stories, articles and poetry until she retired from teaching, and now has 7 published books. Vivian is the founder and president of 4RV publishing, a traditional, royalties-paying publishing house with over 75 authors, including many OWFI members.

Vivian’s Blog     •     Vivian’s Website

Volunteers Needed for Feature Fridays

writingI’m still accepting volunteers for my Feature Friday posts. If you’re a reader, writer, blogger, cover designer, editor, movie watcher, music lover, artists, etc. and are interested in being featured on my blog please let me know in the comments below or message me in Facebook.

Here’s what’s up the rest of this month:

  • March 21 - Melissa Maygrove with her guest post, Author Extras: Bookmarks, Business Cards, & Other Fun Stuff
  • March 28 – Victoria Faye Alday, Creative Director of Whit & Ware Design