Saturday, January 31, 2015

Polish and Dust your MS before Submission

When sending a query to a literary agent or a publisher who doesn't require a lit agent, make sure it is your best presentation. I can't stress this enough, however, it amazes me that I need to mention it at all.
Trust me on this, a query letter isn't two lines long that basically says "go look at the attachments" with an attitude that you are doing me a favor. You aren't doing me a favor. Seriously, you're not.
There is tons of information about writing a synopsis on the Internet and I've mentioned how to write one many times on this blog.

Out of idle curiosity, I might look at a synopsis even if the query is lacking, but I won't look at the sample chapters if the synopsis doesn't grab me. (A word to the wise on that.) I think Judith is better at looking at sample chapters that I wouldn't bother to read. In the end, if we both don't love-love your work, then we cut bait and move the boat.
We request that submissions are sent in MS Word. The first thing that I do is turn on the "show/hide" feature to see if you know how to use the software. This isn't a typewriter, so don't tab or spacebar the title to the center of the page; use the feature that centers the line. It is basic that there is only one space between sentences. Paragraph indents are made with the tab button, not a random number of spaces.
The sample chapters cannot read like a first draft. While I can content edit and fix any ms, I don't want to spend that kind of time on a sloppy ms. Whether it is true or not that a sloppy ms reflects on the nature of the writer, I think that it does.
We get enough good queries that we don't have to accept messes.
A query is a business proposal for Cactus Rain to fund your book. CRP is not a charity. We are a business. Our kids don't cop an attitude and we don't work with people who do. It is that simple.
If you believe in your work with a writer's passion, we will notice. Make yourself proud, present your best work. Good luck and write right.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Website Improvements

It's time for spring in Arizona. It is warming outside and things that grow green are setting on buds. Winter here is not a deep sleep; it is a power nap.
In a crazy mix of first of the year "fresh starts" and spring cleaning, we are dusting and polishing the Cactus Rain website.
Check it out and see what our web designer has been doing. Click on the links because some of them lead to different locations than they did previously. Come back a couple of times -- we aren't finished yet.

Monday, January 19, 2015

More of the SAME

Tax season seems to last longer than the monsoons. Actually, it is all year long and I kick myself if I fall behind in the spreadsheets.
But this time of year is more than collecting figures for my wonderful tax guy -- Mr. CPA. (Don't google that, it isn't his real identity.) It is also the time to get this year's spreadsheets dusted so that none of that afore mentioned kicking happens next year.
I've spent the weekend setting up new spreadsheets, adding 'this and that' to the items tracked. It goes well to do this on the weekend when it is quiet. My cell phone doesn't work at the office -- yes, I know it is time to change providers. Texting works and I can use the office phone, if needed.
Working on the weekend goes something like this: Call oldest son and ask how to fill repeating formulas down the column in Excel. Take lots of notes from my geeky-smart kid. Get back to work.
Clean out my email address book. Back to work.
Delete photos that I shouldn't have kept in the first place. Back to work.
Organize my computer files and delete a lot of old stuff that I haven't used in years. Back to work.
Figure out how to change my photo on this blog. Back to work after not liking several photos that seemed like a good idea at the time.
Let the cat out -- not my cat. Sit on the patio and watch the cat do cat things. Collect the cat and come inside. Back to work.

Look at the ms that Steve sent. Get stuck reading for a bit. Back to work.
Try this 'focusing technique' if you get writer's block -- not. Alright, back to working on the next Great American Novel. Enjoy. Write your best work.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tax Season

Just a reminder to the new writers among us, be sure to talk with your tax preparer about your writing business. Yes, business. Unless this is a hobby and your writing is never going to see the light of day, it needs to be treated as a business.

In addition to making sure you don't screw up your taxes and have 'Uncle Sam' at your door, you also need to check into state and local business requirements, business licenses, retail licenses; if you plan to sell books at a book signing event you may need a license from the city.

It's complicated and I don't dare say more than do your research.

The same is true regardless of where you live, even outside the US, ask an expert and get set up correctly, then get back to writing the next Great American Novel.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to each of you.
We hope that you have a healthy and happy 2015!

First off, it always surprises me how many queries we receive because CRP does no advertising, none. We are not on social media. (Oh, the sin of not being uber connected in such a way.)
The constant stream of queries points to the talent and skill of our web designer and the meta tags or whatever else she does that I don't fully understand.
Nonetheless, must be quite search engine friendly, because we certainly get more than enough queries to keep Judith and me on our toes and more or less out of trouble -- not that I'm complaining! Oddly too, we are getting much better works submitted to us. Thus, we are requesting more full mss and rejecting fewer mss.
It seems that this year quite a few writers decided that 2015 would be the year their ms would be published. In the last month, we've had a ton of queries.
Sadly, one person mentioned that their publisher is requesting fees after the ms was accepted. That made me think about how different Cactus Rain is from some small publishers. These thoughts are what this post is about...
It's a new ballgame to enter the query phase of the writing process. Querying is a bit like saying, "I love you." You can't take it back once it is out there. You are sharing a personal part of yourself with a stranger and hoping for acceptance, and at times, fearing rejection.
There is a lot of time spent searching for a literary agent or perhaps a small publisher who doesn't require a lit agent; it is an investment. It can be discouraging. That is why I usually make an effort to explain why an ms was rejected, so it doesn't feel like a personal rejection.
Cactus Rain only publishes fiction. We don't have the resources to fact check non-fiction. We most often pick up mid-list mss from not-quite-ready-for-prime-time writers. We look for great stories, and for writers with heart rather than attitude.
We don't have a huge catalogue, but what we published is very [very, very] good. We believe in the mss enough to put our money into them. We take the time to explain why we want the changes that we request, in the hope that our writers learn to be even better writers and go on to bigger publishers in the future.
We don't work with stubborn know-it-all writers. Once the ms is under contract, it is our property, as it is with any other publisher. That said, we are careful not to change the voice of the work. About half of the time we change the working title. It is all about marketing. If the title doesn't appeal to readers, they aren't going to purchase the book.
We do not pay an advance and many publishers are getting away from advances because they are borrowed against the future earnings. Advances are sometimes subject to repayment. We think that advances slow the process of getting royalties into the writer's hand.
We are supportive of authors who want to self-publish. Learning all the things needed to publish successfully is quite a task. We applaud them. Sometimes we buy their book for our library.
We are cautionary of pay-for-publishing situations. However, I know a few people who have been quite successful with that route. And yes, we buy some of those books for our library, too.
Writing is a craft and an art. Write your best work. Aim high.