Canceled Contract? WHAT IS THAT?? Find out from Author Brandi Hall

Hello everyone! Welcome to day 12 of the Sizzler’s anniversary month! We have already had some fantastic guests this month ranging in a wide variety of topics. Today I’m honored to have friend and author Brandi Hall with us. Her topic today is one that is not widely discussed but should be. It’s one of the horror stories that we all hope never happens to us but know deep down it could. But Brandi is proof that authors can forge forward and survive a canceled contract! So without further babbling here is author Brandi Hall and her discussion on canceled contracts.

The Tough Decisions No One Wants To Make—or Talk About

You know how they say, “be careful what you wish for”? Well, I now understand what that means. After finishing my first novel, my hopes and dreams of being published were just like any other debut author’s.   But along the way, I slowly lost sight of that bright and shiny brass ring and was willing to settle for an oddly tarnished one instead. I’m sure you’re asking yourself “but why?” The simple answer is: I lost faith. Not faith in the industry. I lost faith in myself.

After countless agent rejections from queries, partials and full requests, I came to the conclusion that I was never going to land an agent with my first manuscript. Yes, I revised and tweaked my ass off, but it was still never quite right. So when I saw a post come through the FF&P loop about a new publisher who was looking out for the “author”, I jumped at it. Low and behold, they offered me a deal I was only too eager to accept. 

Now don’t go thinking I was some dumb blonde who locked myself into a bad deal—because it wasn’t like that. I hired an attorney to help me work through it, and the contract was fairly decent in the end. But sometimes, it’s not what’s in the contract you have to worry about—it’s what’s not. The contract was surprisingly author friendly, but it was also filled more with more holes than Swiss cheese. Even though my gut said “run”, I still signed the deal because deep down, I hoped I was wrong. Well let me just say—I wasn’t. Always listen to your instincts!

After close to five months of promoting, cover designing, revising and editing, my book was just about ready for the copy editor. What I didn’t say is that during those five months, I was initially given an editor who’s never read or edited in my genre (huh?), I was deceived in numerous ways, and my release dates kept getting mysteriously bumped back because of funding. But still, I was pushing forward to release my book. But one afternoon, I started reading a few blogs from one of my dream agents—and I received the wake-up call I wished I’d gotten months earlier. Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency posted a blog called “Don’t Give Up and Sell Out”—and it most likely saved the life of my writing career. That afternoon, I wrote the most difficult email I’ve ever written, and I canceled my contract and asked for my rights back. Fortunately, my forceful email compelled them to return my rights immediately. But that might not be the case for other publishers. I’ve certainly heard horror stories of it taking more than two years to get back rights.

I’m not here to go down the path of bashing the publisher, because that’s not the intent of this blog. But if I can share my bad experience to help any unsigned/unpubbed authors from making the same mistakes I did, then maybe something good will come out of this nightmare. The most important lessons I learned from this are:

  1. Never give up on finding an agent. You deserve an advocate who will look out for you and your writing. They know what to look for and if something critical is missing, they’ll spot it immediately.
  2. If an offer seems too good to be true—it probably is.
  3. Research and ask questions. This is your career and anything unanswered will only eat at you—or bite you in the ass later when it’s too late.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say “NO!” If you have even the tiniest bit of doubt about a contract you’re offered, don’t do it! Once your name is linked with a less than reputable publisher, it’s on your resume forever.

 

I recently attended RWA Nationals in Orlando where something painful and embarrassing kept happening. Because I sold my book, I was given a ribbon to wear that said “First Sale”. Since I technically did make the sale, I decided to wear it, not realizing the can-of-worms it would open up. By the end of day two, I could no longer handle explaining that I canceled my deal—and why. Needless to say, each time I was asked something, it was like tearing the band-aid off all over again. Even worse, I was humiliated to mention the publisher’s name. I felt like a colossal idiot for falling into such an amateur trap. Trust me when I say, you never want to be in this position. You should be proud of the choices you make.

At the end of the day, you started out in this business with a specific goal in mind. So whether you dream of landing a huge publisher to make it big—or you’re simply trying to supplement your income—don’t settle for less than what you want, just to be published. It’s not worth it. Your writing career will only be as good as you make it. If your work isn’t strong enough yet to get an agent or solid book deal—work harder to make it the best it can be. You only have one chance to make a first impression on your readers.

 Thank you to Brandi for being with us today and discussing a very touchy subject!

Tuesday’s Industry News: Tips for Self Promoting

Hello everyone! So I missed last Tuesday’s blog and I’m so sorry for that mishap. Today I’m back in full force. Well not full force, I have a bit of a problem. You see as I’m researching ways to promote Riding Double I’m running around not settling on any one WIP. I’ve started five new WIPS this month! FIVE and written a chapter on each one, thats five chapters plus change. That could be a great first quarter to one full length book or half of a great short story(I say great because I’m trying to think positive). Instead I’m running from WIP to WIP and in-between I’m going crazy over what to do for promoting. My critique partner is having great fun with this also. As she said “I’m the one usually never settling, what the hell is wrong with you?” I don’t know!!!

I’m hoping once I get my mind off the release I’ll settle some. I emailed Ms. Cat Johnson who we had on the site a few months back for her new release Bucked to get her advice on promoting. She emailed me back with some suggestions on what to do for promoting and I’ve started.  So I’ll give you all three of my favorite tips and we can discuss them.

1. Setting up Author Pages.

Now I had never really put much thought into this as I figured the stuff I sent my publisher would work but turns out you can create your own author sites on some book seller websites with more information on you and your book. For example on amazon.com if you have a book sold through them you have the great chance to go to authorcentral.com and set up an author page. I loved it. I got to add more about myself, my book, book reviews, I even added an interview that my ‘laughing at me because I can’t settle’ friend Rebecca Zanetti did of me. I uploaded a photo and all. Loved it. Now have I ever really checked out an authors page? No, but it was cool to do one and I hope people check it out and maybe buy my book because they decide “Yeah I like her, sounds cool” because you know I am 🙂 That last comment was a test, my author friend Brandi Hall “visits” the site every so ofter and I make comments like this to her all the time while she rolls her eyes and tells her cat I’m a dork.

2. Free Reads

Okay I love free reads, I mean really they are the best. When Cat suggested that I write one in hopes that readers would get a taste of my writing and want more I was all over that. In fact I started one (#5 of my WIPS). But I sent an email to my editor about it and well for her it has to have a beginning, middle, and happily ever after. I didn’t want it to have a HEA, no I wanted to introduce a character let him have some wild times then pick up his story later. Alas not going to happen. SO I’ve adjusted and have it going in a way I kinda like. Now have I ever read a free read then went “Gotta buy this chicks books now”? Not really, I will say that after reading a free read if I like it I will go and look at the other books offered by said author.

3. Articles

Now this is one that I had already done before I got any advice. A friend of mine along with some of her friends( I think 2 maybe only 1) started SavvyAuthors.com and recently invited me to participate in the weekly newsletter. When she asked if I wanted to I said “Sure, why the hell not”. I gotta admit I loved it. It gave me a chance to write an article I’d been wanting to write for some time and it helped promote my book. It was a win win and I’d love to do another one as I’ve got all kinds of stuff to rant about(Hear that Liz?? I’m making a list!)

So as readers what makes you want to buy a book? Do reviews matter? Do free reads help? Does seeing a person’s biography and picture help? Tell me what helps you decide.

And my writer friends what do you do to promote?

Thanks all

Sayde

Oh and just for shits and giggles here is my current WIP list:

1. Hell’s Transporter- Paranormal Suspense filled with demons, fallen angels, bull riders, and more.

2. Steam Punk(haven’t named it yet)- Steampunk filled with a smart mouthed southern woman who likes to invet contraptions to help save her plantation from the Yanks although and one New Orleans bred and born inventor of the HOT kind.

3. Spirit Heart- Western Romance filled with Comanche’s raiding, loving, and kidnaping and one pissed off half Comanche and half white woman who has been taken by Running Horse in order to be saved from his brother Kicking Buffalo. Did I mention this woman is mad?

4. Saige’s Story(haven’t named it yet)- Erotic Romance short filled with emotions of loss, griefing, finding love again and hot sex with a playboy bull rider who is lost in his own self pity.

5. The Free Read- Erotic Romance free story. Woman kicks her cheating husband out, divorces him and then shows up her first love. The injured bareback rider who now works for her brother(Bo from my book Riding Double) hot renewed love begins.

Countdown to the Conference Interview Five

Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth installment of Countdown to the Conference. Today we have senior editor Patience Smith with Harlequin Silhouette Romantic Suspense. I got to be greedy on this interview as I’ve had it for a few days and read over it a few times as I’m pitching to Ms. Smith at conference 🙂 I’m looking forward to it and without further hogging of it I present you all with Ms. Smith’s interview.

 

Sayde:     Tell us what you think is hot and what’s not?

Ms. Smith:

Vampires still seem to be hot, along with zombies and knitting stories, but I’m feeling some other trend is dying to take over or return.  Maybe romances set on the Jersey Shore?  In the office, we religiously follow trends and discuss them.  A great story will override any trend or, possibly, inspire a new one.

Sayde:      What types of work are you most interested in seeing at the 2010 Silken Sands Conference?

Ms. Smith:

I’m most interested in projects suitable for Harlequin/Silhouette with a focus on series romance.  I can acquire for all the lines so just about anything goes!  (except Fantasy, but only because I haven’t read one)

Sayde:      This question goes back to the “writer rumors”, but so many times I’ve heard that agents/editors will throw out a manuscript if they see grammatical errors. Personally, this is a huge one for me as I am grammatically challenged.  Many times authors will edit and edit then send to a contest and have their manuscript ripped to shreds because they used “ing”, “ly” or “was” to much for the judges liking. Do you look for these issues when reading requested material or is it more about the story?

Ms. Smith:

If a project is riddled with errors, I can’t take it seriously.  It means that the writer didn’t take the time to edit her work.  Even if the writer is grammatically challenged (J), she should work that much harder to turn in a polished product.  If I see a typo or two, I’m unfazed since every book has a mistake. That said, it’s important that the writer go over her work a few times and have someone else search for typos.  It’s the professional thing to do, and writers need to turn in their best work.  Oh, and editors are notorious for their own errors.

Sayde:       What is your opinion on emarket vs. traditional print? I know this is a hot topic and we all appreciate whatever comments you can give us.

 Ms. Smith:

I’m fairly old school, but can claim I haven’t researched this topic enough.  Writers should seek whatever means to get published because that’s the goal (other than total enjoyment of writing process).  Ebooks give writers broader opportunities.  As for me, I will read just about anything as long as it’s printed on paper, so go for it.  No matter how it’s done, good stories get noticed.

Sayde:       I know that when I am researching an agent or editor, I Google them,  check their Facebook page, and tweet them. I read their posts and blogs.  I try to see if their tastes would lean toward my writing style or not. And I try to get a feel for their personality to see if we might “mesh well” if the opportunity ever arose. If you have a manuscript on your desk, do you ever check the same accounts for that author?  Do you ever check to see what he/she is posting? If so, have you been influenced by what you’ve learned?

Ms. Smith:

I never check those accounts for an author.  There’s no time, unless I’ve already bought her work. After this, it’s a nice way to network.  Otherwise, though, I just want to read the proposal and then I’ll be curious about profiles.

Sayde:       If an author has queried you and you’ve rejected that query/partial and the author emails you asking for details on why you’ve rejected their ms, what is your process here? Do you give specific reasons on why the manuscript may not have been for you?

 

Ms. Smith:

Sometimes I’ll give a reason for rejection in the letter itself.  If I send out a standard rejection, it’s because the proposal was way off.  The writer needs to go back, rethink and rewrite.  Because we get so many submissions, it’s difficult to respond in detail to every project.

Sayde:       As a final wrap up could you tell us some of your pet peeves in the industry? Or is there anything happening in the industry you’d care to comment on or discuss?  We’d love to hear some of your views and opinions on the state of the craft and the market.

 

Ms. Smith:

I have a few pet peeves, but they mostly have to do with reading a bad story.  I will say that it humbles me at every conference to see the overwhelming support between writers.  I’ve had a few careers and am amazed at how so many of you stick up for each other, with your work and your lives.  This seems unique to romance writers.  Of course, there are battles and grievances, but working with romance writers is an editor’s dream come true. It’s inspiring to me and makes me remember why I love my job.

Sayde:

Thank you Ms. Smith! What a wonderful interview and I look forward to meeting you at the Silken Sands Conference. Just a quick note concerning Ms. Smith’s final answer. Everyday I am humbled as well by the support offered not only by my fellow Sizzlers, but by my critique partner Rebecca Zanetti and my good friend and supporter, author Brandi Hall. A little over a year ago I walked into my first Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA meeting and was met by some amazingly talented writers and even friendlier people. At times the writing industry can seem so cold and harsh but I encourage every author, whether you are well established or just starting out to make friends with other authors because the friendships you forge are those of support, wisdom, and encouragement. I’m an advocate for joining RWA and supporting your local chapters as well as special interest chapters so please take a moment today to research those chapters a little and may you all be blessed with a wonderful support system as I am.  Thank you everyone and remember to check out Thursdays conference countdown interview.

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