The Publishing Industry is Subjective

If you are a writer who’s ever pitched a novel, or simply googled insight into the publishing industry, chances are you’ve heard this before.

I know I’ve heard it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve even accepted it. But it wasn’t until this past week I truly understood it. The following experience gave me a different view on those words.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to judge the first round of a writing contest. It was a simple “answer these questions, see if you qualify, and you can judge” sort of thing, but I was still looking forward to it. I couldn’t wait to see what the contest process was like from the other side! I opened the entries with excitement, read through them, made notes, and instantly attached to a certain story.  A week later I reread my samples, focusing on the technicalities and quality of writing. I carefully considered, tried to provide helpful feedback, and sent my judged files back to the contest coordinator with a sense of satisfaction. My judgments were fair. Every score I gave could be justified (at least by me!).

But here’s the crazy thing-

I didn’t give my favorite story the highest score.

Why? Because technically, it wasn’t the best. The highest scoring story flowed better. The sample was flawless. There were no mistakes, no awkward phrasing, and no grammatical errors (that I picked up on). It was simply  well written.

However, something about the second ranking sample spoke to me. The characters grabbed me, and the story drew me in. I wanted to read it.

What’s really puzzling is if I were to summarize the story lines, the highest ranking book had a better plot. More happened. It moved at a quick pace. But there was something about the second place book I loved. I don’t know what it was. I can’t explain it. It simply connected with me.

As I ponder this experience  I’m blasted with an understanding I thought I previously grasped, but obviously didn’t.

The love of a book is subjective.859697

My judging experience opened
my eyes to a new side of things. I’ll probably need to reread this post in the future to remind myself, but I finally understand. If  I were an agent, I wouldn’t have requested a full for an arguably well written book, simply because it didn’t speak to me.

This taught me how important it is to find people who connect with your work.  If my writing is good, and I constantly strive to improve my craft, eventually I will find the right people to help me get my book out there. A big part of success is commitment.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. jessica grace kelleyt signature

Until then, I’ll keep writing

 

 

 

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My journey to becoming a Published Author

 

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A year and a half ago I was sitting on my couch with my best friend  (AKA husband) passionately displaying my dissatisfaction about a book series I just finished reading.  The ending was, in my opinion, poorly executed and didn’t give the characters justice.

“I could write a better ending than that!” I proclaimed, tossing my wine glass up to the sky.

“Then do it,” Ryan replied.

I laughed at the suggestion and we playfully brainstormed book ideas, most of which were horrible. One stuck with me though, and this character wouldn’t quiet. I opened my laptop at 2 am and wrote this strange, dark character’s story, entitled The Cleanser. It was the first chapter of what would become my debut novel, The Mercy Killers.

I can honestly say I had no idea what a life changing night that was for me.

I wrote like a madwoman for 5 months, then my husband came home from deployment and I put the half finished manuscript away. I wasn’t sure what  I was doing, was this only for fun? Was this something I wanted to pursue?  I wasn’t under any delusions of what being an author truly means.  There is always a chance an author can make it “big” but being an author more than likely means pouring your soul into a manuscript which may never see the light of day, and if it does it can take years of crawling through the trenches to get it picked up. I have two small children and a husband who is often absent because of his job. I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to something that draining for the possibility of no pay off.

But the story wouldn’t go away.images (1)

It was always in my head, building, creating this giant world, and as time passed I realized I needed to write this. Even if nothing came of it I wanted to write it because it brought me joy. So I pulled out the book and finished it.

 

When I typed that last sentence,  it became clear writing was my passion. In some ways it always had been.  I have stacks of journals and songs to prove it.  But this book was somehow different. This made me excited and brought me peace (you can read more about my reaction to my finished manuscript here.)

I didn’t know what to do next, so I blindly entered contests because  I was told they could provide valuable feedback. I entered a few and received some excellent advice.  I learned how to hone my skills, and I completed my edits using the lessons  I gleaned from the contests. I placed  well in them, which helped my confidence.

So now I possessed a completed manuscript! What next? I knew I needed a Query letter, so I signed up for a Query Class. I also tried my hand at a pitch contest, #Pitchmas (read about my experience here, it was eye opening.) The pitch contest went well. I ended up with quite a bit of interest.

That was a shock.

I prepared myself for the trenches.  I was ready for tons of rejections and piles of agent queries that went nowhere. I ended up with solid choices. I did receive a few rejections, but even the rejections didn’t have the horrible bluntness I heard about. Most were incredibly positive.

“Sorry,  I can’t take YA. Could this story be for an adult audience?” ( No, it is NA/YA) .

“I love the first chapter, if the majority of the narrative is from that POV I am interested” (It wasn’t, so we didn’t pursue a relationship.)

“Love your voice! Do you have anything set in the current time period? I am looking for Urban fantasy.” ( I have a voice!?!?!)

I was shocked.

I was overwhelmed.

This was not what I expected.

I did my research, read through my options, and took the advice I was kindly given by the experts who  offered it. I settled on an offer that seemed clean to me. I sent it to my lawyer, who promptly agreed the contract was clean, didn’t have hidden clauses and the royalty agreement was fair.

However, this contract was through a small start up publisher which hadn’t even released a book yet. Signing with a new company was a risk, so I didn’t sign right away.

Instead, I did more research. I spoke to the owner, who was  honest and helpful. I read success stories and stories of failure, some through small pubs and some through the big five. I sat down and tried to figure out what I wanted.  I researched pros and cons of the big five versus a small pub and I seriously considered signing with the new publisher. After all, contracts are hard to get, and  getting looked at by the big five or an established independent publisher can be tough. It wasn’t like a big agent was going to randomly knock on my door!

I entered a contest called the YA! 2015 Authors.me competition on a whim. I had no idea how much exposure I would receive, nor did  I have a real grasp on who would be reading it.  I did well, in fact I won the whole shebang ( WHAT!?!?!) and a few weeks later I had two different individuals within the literary community approach me with some great advice and interesting proposals.

It was a little overwhelming.

The small publishing house contract was still on my desk, carefully arranged and protected in an envelope, postmarked and addressed.  It was ready to go, but I hadn’t been able to actually sign it. I don’t know why. I had every intention. But every time I picked up the pen this quiet voice would whisper, “Not yet.” I was certain the voice was insane, because book deals are hard to come by and I was lucky to have a publisher who was as devoted to what I wanted as this company was.

You see, I’ve never been a very brave person. I’ve always taken the safest, surest route. This small publisher was safe, and I liked who ran it. I liked the authors. I liked everyone. But all of the feedback from different sources was forcing me to look at what I really wanted out of writing as a career, and my goals became clear.

I wanted to be a hybrid author. I wanted to try to shoot for the stars even when the deck is stacked against me. If I failed, fine, but at least I tried. So, I did a very terrifying thing.

I walked away from a sure thing. images

Was that the best decision for me?

Only time will tell, and probably quite a bit of time. The publishing industry tends to move slow.  I will likely experience some rough moments. I may end up with a small publisher, after all many of them are very good at selling a certain genre. If we are a good fit I will be over the moon. Now, I understand what I am looking for.

Was I scared?

Absolutely. I still feel a little sick thinking about it. It was a hard decision for me to come to, and it hurt because I had come to genuinely care about the people who ran the small publishing company. I was also working on a second book which was perfect for them and needed the type of platform they could provide. Severing our relationship didn’t just mean pulling The Mercy Killers, but it also meant pulling a chance for The Seductress too.

Still, I walked away.

My big, terrifying journey starts here. A journey I could have finished already, and maybe  I should have. I know I’ll  likely receive rejections before I find what I am looking for. But I think intuition is important, and a famous quote echoes in my head whenever I start to doubt myself.

dont-give-up

Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite books. It was rejected 38 times.

Stephanie Meyer struggled to get an agent, she was snubbed 18 times, and then went on to get rejected by over a dozen publishers.

The Help got rejected 61 times. Stephen King had a spike of rejections on his wall.  Meg Cabot had an entire bag full of them.

I don’t know if I will ever be as great as the people  I’ve mentioned. I understand it’s not likely. I do have passion. They obviously have talent, and mine remains to be seen. I think it’s there, I just need to hone it.

If I receive 300 rejections? I’ll submit 301 times.

Until then, I’ll keep writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

House Of Royals

I haven’t read a vamp book in a while. Probably because I vamped myself out when I was nineteen ( Oh, hey Twilight!) So when The House of Royals caught my eye, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I realized the book was a vampire Paranormal read, and I was still interested.

This all boils down to one thing.

     I love the cover!HOUSE OF ROYALS

But we aren’t here to talk about the beautiful red dress and lovely raven that dominate the book’s front. We are here to talk about the inside pages. So let’s get down to business.

The House of Royals starts with  a young city girl named Alivia arriving at her newly inherited Southern Plantation home. Her long lost father left her a mansion…and quite an eye brow raising heritage.  I won’t go into any more plot detail because the books starts out fast and I’d end up spoiling things, but lets just say vampires, slayers, and royal bloodlines are involved.

Oh, and romance. But I’ll get to that later…

The writing is good.  Modern slang with Southern charm. I can’t say the premise is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but it is a well described, beautiful setting . The vampires weren’t original, but they are vampires. We all know what they are! It’s 2016! Why change what works? The descriptions are good, the characterization is good…

The book is good.

However, nothing really surprised me. The ending does have a plot twist, but I could feel it coming. The beginning of the book felt rushed, and parts of the book seemed to be filler. It was good, but not great.

So, why am I putting the book on my blog? I only talk about books I love! The other reviews go straight to Amazon and Goodreads!

The Romance.

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I love romance!!!!!!

Keary Taylor is a romance writer. Romance is her language, and she can give quite a speech. The house of royals is a romance, so that’s what I’m going to judge it on.  Here is a little taste of Taylor’s style below.

 

“Ian and I have been circling one another in close orbit. We have a gravitational pull on each other that can’t be explained by logic or reason…Sometimes fate deals you the horrible and the incredible. We can’t run from either. I take a step away from him…and millimeter by millimeter, our fingers slip apart.”

I love the energy she creates between two people. She is a pro at tension, and tension is what I love. The tension between Ian and Alivia is thick, and sticky, and oh so not allowed.  Forbidden love, hot guy and beautiful girl who might be destined to be a vampire?

I’ll take it!

I’d highly recommend this to anyone who likes Paranormal Romance. if you love Vamp romance, this is a must read for you.

Four stars for the House of Royals! The second book in this series is already out, and you can bet I’ll read it soon. Put me on your e-mail list, Keary Taylor! I ‘ll be needing the last book in this series as soon as it’s available!

 

How to get Free Books!

This has been a big month for me!

My first novel made it into the finals of a contest (Yaay!), I found out my novel formatting is incorrect ( Noo!), and I found another way to get free books.

I have been enjoying the world of book blogging for about five months.  I have deeply educated myself on how much I don’t know about the literary world.  I am slowly catching on. A few new bloggers reached out to me this week and asked how I got started, so I want to share the four main things I have learned.

    1-   Ask for a book before you buy it.

I always request review copies from the authors or publishers of books I am interested in adding to my website. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.  I figure it’s better to ask and receive a no than to never know. Right?  Requests usually work out in my favor. Authors  want to get their book in the hands of people who are going to rave about it.  Are you a book lover? Are you passionate about the genre they are writing? Then you are who they are looking for! It’s a win-win!

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   2- Sign up for your favorite Authors’ newsletters.

Newsletters do more than provide news on release dates and book signings ( although as a book reviewer you should be paying attention to these things). Authors often use them to reach out to their fan base and let them know about contests, book giveaways, and their need for book reviewers.  Newsletters are what really got me started. It was so simple, and it got me connected.

    3- Join a review website

A while ago a favorite author of mine sent out a request for book reviewers ( Oh look, # 2 in action!) .  I was all over that like white on a polar bear that’s never left the north pole. She sent me a link to a little website called Xpresso Tours

And my world was forever changed.

Did you know there are websites for book reviewers that GIVE AWAY free books?!?

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I  also joined Net Galley, and I am sure there are many more websites and avenues I have yet to discover.  So far I have received four books,  and I definitely have things to say about them. all good things

 

 

One little tip- don’t  over request if you join these websites.  You are expected to fully review each book you receive. If you don’t your feedback rating will go down and publishers will stop giving you review copies.

4.- Use twitter!

All of the above actions can be done using tweets. Twitter is a great way to instantly connect with your favorite authors. It is also an easy way to be added to their newsletters. Once you start following a few people in the book business, they will follow  you.  I started  using twitter to connect with authors, readers, and publishers a few months ago, and my network has increased by 300.  If I really put some effort into connections ( it’s on my to do list, I swear!) I could see that number tripling in a month. While we are talking about this, follow me on twitter guys! right here! Follow me! @_AnchoredGypsy

One more thing before  I sign off. It’s the most important part of this post, so listen up!

   Don’t expect every book to be free.

If an author doesn’t need any more reviews I am happy to pay for their book. Remember, this is their livelihood, and it is important to support the people who create these worlds we love much. I Love books. They are worth my money.

Now I have a question for my fellow book bloggers who are much more seasoned than I am.

What other resources are available for the word gobblers out there? Enlighten me, please!