Make the Sell First

by Ron Estrada

You are a salesperson.

Say it with me.

I (insert name) am a salesperson.

Let me tell you about salespeople, having spend most of my adult life working in close proximity with these folks. A salesperson will tell you what you want to hear in order to the “yes.” After said “yes” is achieved, it is only then he’ll tell you what you’ve really just bought. But you’ve already said “yes,” so you’re ten times more likely to go ahead with your purchase.
No, it’s not dishonest. But a good salesperson knows that he can’t sell you diamonds for a penny if your defenses are up. And the “yes” is the wrecking ball against your defenses.

What does this mean to you, dear writer? You, who are wholesome and would never stoop to such tactics when pitching your darlings.

You must stoop.

All of you, I assume, have a novel in hand, ready to pitch. You, being a serious writer, review the bios of every agent and publisher to whom you submit. They often tell you exactly what they’re looking for. Your novel will match none of those. No one’s will.

But you can adjust. Let’s say, for example, the agent or publisher to whom you are pitching (I used whom twice in one post!) has a bio, and she is looking for 20th century historical romances with a paranormal twist.

Your WW2 historical romance is written, edited, re-written, cuddled, and ready to ship.

Now here’s where you pause. Like most writers, you’ve probably dabbled in multiple genres. I don’t need a show of hands, but you’ve likely dabbled in just about every genre minus the 50 Shades category (some of you, and you know who you are, have even stepped into those dark waters).

So ask yourself: would I want to rewrite my novel with a paranormal twist?

If the answer is “no,” keep searching. If it is “yes,” then by all means pitch it that way (helpful tip: make sure you’ve got some sort of outline written for the rewrite so you don’t sound like you’re making it up as you go along…even if you are).

Now, chances are you wouldn’t do this for an agent. They’re far more general in their requirements than publishers. But, if you find yourself in the position I have recently, you have a great publisher on the hook, but she has different ideas about how your novel or series should go.

Can you live with the new direction? (I can…she had better ideas than I did…see my last post).

I suspect that this is often how publishing goes. Now, I still have great plot ideas that I’ve greenlighted as “must writes,” but I don’t need to pitch those now. I need to pitch whatever the publisher wants. I need the “yes.” After I have the “yes,” then I can casually mention to my new publisher, “Oh, by the way, check out this idea.”

Yes, she may hate my favorite ideas, but that’s what hybrid publishing is for.

How about you? Have you ever “massaged” the plot of your written book to get the “yes”? How did things turn out?

Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com.  You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.

Building Your Own Cage

by Ron Estrada


Recently I received a phone call from my agent. Yes, it was “the” call. A big 5 publisher read my entire middle-grade manuscript and likes what she sees. However, if I don’t mind, please re-write the entire thing and here’s a better idea for the series.

Now, I’ve been at this for a long, long time. I’m way past pride. I have arrived at the “whatever you want I’ll do it because I’m going to die soon” phase of my career.

So the re-writing, as of this post, is almost complete. The first quarter of the book has been slashed and about a dozen chapters added to please aforementioned publisher. As much as I hate to admit it, the story is much better. I have yet to resubmit and sign a contract, but even if it doesn’t work out with this publisher, I feel my odds of success are greatly improved thanks to her input.

Same with the series suggestions.

If you’re like me, you have a tendency to box yourself in with your series idea. I had so completely sold myself on the concept of my Navy Brats series that I left no room for better ideas. I had intended to write about a different Navy Brat in the years spanning 1968 through 1984 because, you know, I lived it.

The publisher said (and I’m paraphrasing), “boooooooriiiiiing.”

Know what kids want to read about? War. The stuff in their history books. She loved my idea of using military families in my stories, but suggesting I use some recognizable historical incidents as my setting. She blasted my original Navy Brat series, even hated the name. So where does that leave me?

Free.

Suddenly, I’m not caged in by my own narrow scope for my book and series. To be honest, I was absolutely hung up with book two of my original idea. And not willing to change directions. Sure, I knew that a military brat in the middle of the attack on Pearl Harbor would be somewhat more interesting than the same brat in 1972 Hawaii, but I couldn’t see past my own self-imposed restrictions.

Now I’m already planning book two of the new series (still don’t have a good name) and reading up on the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. And this is exciting stuff! My middle-grade readers will eat it up.

So the moral of my story today is thus: when you get “the” phone call with a long list of suggestions, there’s a good chance the publisher knows what she’s talking about. And there’s also a good chance that your story and series will be much improved whether you get this deal or not.

What about you? Has a suggestion from a publisher or agent drastically changed the direction of your writing? Or are you, right now, stuck in a series you’re no longer excited about?

TWEETABLES

Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com.  You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.

Hey, Maybe It’s Time To Move On…

by Rachel Hauck

While everyone is in the throws of NaNoWriMo, some times we have to pause and take stock of where we are in our current WIP. Some of you… it’s time to move on.
“How do I know when it’s time to move on from a story I’ve been working on for so long?”
Great question! I worked on my first book for two years. I tell you, it discouraged me because I wondered how I could ever make any kind of living if writing took so long!
But it was my learning book and at least half of those two years were spent with me editing the book from a complicated, multi-plot story to a straight up romance.
I sent it out and received rejections. It was in the late ‘90s and there weren’t many options, but the doors I knocked on replied, “No thank you.”
By then, I was tired of the book. I didn’t know what else to do with it. It was time to move on.
Another idea came to me while sitting at a high school football game and I got to work on that right away. It was fresh, fun, alive in my heart.
I also changed my strategy. I decided to write a Heartsong Presents. With the first book, I tried for a Bethany House WWII saga. Rightfully, they turned me down.
So for my skill level, maybe a smaller, more focused story – romance – was the answer.
That story became my first published novel! In e-format. Yep, I sold it to an e-publisher.
By now, the Lord had connected me with a published Heartsong author and we collaborated together to create the Lambert series.
So, I was on my way.
The first book slept peacefully in my closet. Later, when I needed parts of a novel for Love Starts With Elle hero, Heath McCord, I pulled from that book.
So, where are you with your novel? Is it your first? Your fifth? Tenth? Are you struggling to keep going? Do you have vision or a passion for the story?
Is it time to move on?
Here’s some guidelines for sticking with a story:
  1. Good feedback from editors, agents or other knowledgeable writers?
  2. Your vision and passion remains high for the story.
  3. You can see clearly how to improve the manuscript.
  4. You’ve not rewritten it so many times – based on feedback – you can see the original heart of the story.
  5. You final in contests or get manuscript requests from editors or agents.
Here’s when you need to move on from a story:
  1. You’ve changed it so many times – based on feedback – you don’t recognize the original vision.
  2. You’re heart and passion for the story couldn’t fill a thimble.
  3. You have no idea how to improve the manuscript. If you have an idea, you’re not sure you want to do it.
  4. It’s been rejected by everyone you’ve submitted to and your mentors are suggesting a new, fresh idea.
  5. Your contest scores indicate you have a long way to go.
  6. You’ve learned much more about the business and know your book will not readily fit into the current market. That’s cool! Move on.
There are stories all over the map about the publication journey. Author Tamera Alexander worked on her first book for four years before it got published. On the other hand, author Jill Eileen Smith had ten or more closet manuscripts gathered up over twenty years.
Charles Martin had 120+ rejections before he sold The Dead Don’t Dance. Susan Warren wrote four or five novels before she sold a novella to Tyndale. When they asked her, “What else do you have?” She pulled out and polished those closet manuscripts.
There’s no end to possibilities. To closed and opened doors.
What is God saying about the book that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere? It’s okay to put it away and start over.
Here’s what I find on a rewrite – when I try to edit what I’ve already written, I tend to stick with that story and accept the weaknesses. But when I start over from scratch, I craft the story with stronger elements. I work through the weaknesses. The story isn’t as fun or flowing as the first draft because I’m actually thinking through and working out the problems.
So often, when trying to rewrite or improve a first novel, or a well-rejected novel, we can’t see what really needs to be changed to make the manuscript sellable.
If that’s where you are, start over. Sometimes we don’t want to start over because we don’t want to wait for publication. But it could be on the first or rewritten-rejected manuscript, we could find ourselves waiting forever.
Only you can determine if it’s time to set a manuscript aside, but if you do, do so with confidence and give your whole heart to your next work!
Happy Writing.
TWEETABLES
New York Times & USA Today best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She is on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship for their annual conference. In 2013 she was named ACFW’s Mentor of the Year. She lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat. Read more about Rachel at www.rachelhauck.com.

Hurricanes and Sorries: A Waiting Game

Ane here. I’m pleased to introduce you to Normandie Fischer, a friend and fellow writer. I met Normandie a few years ago and loved her heart for helping writers.

Hurricanes and Sorries: A Waiting Game, by Normandie Fischer

Our neck of the woods acts like a hurricane magnet. I think
it’s the sticky-out part of Cape Lookout that does it, hooking that swirling
wind to drag it toward land. Those of us in this area of North Carolina have to
spend days preparing and then weeks—or months—recovering. Between hurricanes
and lightning strikes, our beloved ketch, Sea Venture, has been stuck on land
since July 2014, which means she’s un-sailed, mired in the soon-we-hope mode,
waiting, waiting, while we long to get on the water and sail again.
Sea Venture in the water, the Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Sometimes our writing life feels like that, doesn’t it?
Our germ of a story has grown to full-length status, and
we’ve sent it to friends, to critique partners, to contests. We’ve rewritten
it, tweaked it, and now, surely, we’re ready to submit it to the judgment of
the gatekeepers, the literary agents and the acquisitions editors.
We start with a few. Then, we try again. And again. And all
this time, the silence seems to grow so loud we can barely write another word,
a silence interspersed with “Sorry, but not for me” emails that trickle in, one
rejection at a time. Maybe we have writer friends who tell us we’re wonderful, that
we should just hang in there, it will happen. And maybe we sit in our writing
cave and hear only the silence, read only the rejections.
Our words are mired in the un-sailed, soon-we-hope mode.
Add in the cries from the other camp, many of whom have
achieved success: “Who cares about gatekeepers? We don’t need them any longer,”
as the push comes to head out on our own and self-publish.
Dreaming of the day (Unsplash.com)

I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for the years of
waiting. Yes, I look at writers half my age who are selling and publishing, and
I feel a pang or two. But I know a truth about my own work: it’s better for the
wait. It’s honed, edited, crisper in some places, more lyrical in others.
If you’re in the waiting mode, have you asked yourself why you’re stuck? (As, I did, again and
again.) Is it because your work needs to move to the next level? Or are you
mired on land, unable to launch, because there’s something yet to be completed in you?
Solomon said that whatever our hands find to do, we’re to do
with all our might (Eccl. 9:10). Couple that with the word from Ephesians 13:6:
“…having done all, … stand.”
So, we write with all our might. We edit with all our might
(and with the might of experts, perhaps). And then, having done our all (sometimes over years, as in my
case), we stand. And we trust that if things aren’t working out the way we
wanted, the waiting has a purpose—a different one for each of us, but a purpose
that will improve both our writing and that thing in us that needs to learn
patience.
My first manuscript won accolades (and an award), but no
sales. Twenty-four years after I first wrote it, it’s out there, published—and
it’s a better, stronger book because of the intervening years during which I
wrote and had published four other books. (One of those four was a work for
hire that actually helped hone my suspense-writing skills.) Maybe my time in the
trenches is unique to me. In those silent, seemingly unproductive years, I
acquired and left two agents. I took a job as acquisitions and developmental
editor for a small publishing house. I sailed and traveled—but most of all, I
wrote and rewrote and read and learned.
What about you? Are you in the waiting mode—or were you
before your words finally became a book? I’d love to hear your stories.
Normandie studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum
laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed
(2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather
(2015)—she ventured into the realm of romantic suspense with the release of Two
from Isaac’s House
. In early 2016, a novella, From Fire into
Fire, 
will continue the Isaac House saga. Normandie and her husband
spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in
the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she
takes care of her aging mother.
Normandie’s Website
Facebook
Amazon