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.
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.
I’m not going to lie, it was nice to have a month that was book free. The last few books I read were a bit of a letdown, and I was overwhelmed with work for my personal projects.It was nice to focus on my own work. I began to miss reading after a week or so, but I was leery because of the rough, weak story lines I had read before my NovelVaca ( ooh, look, a new word!). Luckily, the first book I read, Gambit by C.L Denault, immediately hooked me on books again.
It was that good.
The premise is classic Dystopian, one of my favorite genres. There were a few new ingredients in this Dystopian universe, which included cat/children “rippers”, AKA feline killing machines, and physically enhanced soldiers.
Okay, that last part is not a new concept, but it was very well done.
The world is a mix of old charm and futuristic fantasy, which goes together much better than you would expect. Think bacon plus chocolate- Great separate, decadent together. The world building is solid, not overdone, and not slapped in front of you with a word paint brush in a single paragraph ( this is called info dumping, I detest it!) . The prose was beautiful. C.L Denault is a talented storyteller and writer, and the possession of those two talents is harder to find in an Author than people might believe.
However, all the things above are not the reason I loved this book. Yes, the world is interesting. Yes, there are unique factors. But the characters stole my heart. Willow, Reece and the supporting cast were exceptional.
Willow is a 16 year old girl who grew up in a poor, yet happy family. She acts like a teenager, which is great, because that’s exactly what she is. Her life wouldn’t support an overly mature attitude, so I appreciated the realistic take on her. Despite her immaturity, she is a strong, promising character that I am sure will encompass her potential by the time this series is complete.
But she wasn’t the star of the show.
My favorite character is Commander Reece- a terrifying, harsh, amazingly enigmatic man who any girl would fall head over heals for, despite his streak of danger (let’s be honest, it makes him better!). He’s the first male character I’ve fallen for in ages. It was wonderful to feel that way about a book again!
I also enjoyed the supporting characters, Asp, Tem, Morry, all of them! They had their own unique personalities, which is so refreshing. Many books have filler characters that are just there, saying lines. Not these guys! They were dimensional and alive.
There were a few times I looked up from the pages with an “eh” attitude, but now that I’ve finished the book I can’t remember why I felt that way. The positives completely overtook those few moments, and I will be waiting for the next book with anxious impatience.
So, I am going to give this book 5 stars.
That’s right. I said it. FIVE STARS!!!!!!!
I am not saying this book is perfection, or a great piece of artistic mastery that will be studied for ages, but I truly, completely enjoyed this story. To me, it was awesome, and I might even read it again.
WHICH I NEVER DO!
This book will be bought by me in hard copy, and go on my favorites shelf, right next to the Shatter me Series,The Selection series, The Razorland series ( and Emily Grifin’s novels, and The Giver, and Rebecca … you get the idea). To put that in perspective for you guys, I haven’t bought a hard copy since 2014 .
And if C.L Denault could autograph it, that would be amazing…(I can dream!)
If you like romance, Dystopian, or just fantasy in general, grab your copy of Gambit here!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
So there’s this book pitch contest called #PitchMAS. Maybe some of you have heard of it?
PitchMAS is run by Jessa Russo and Tamara Mataya around Christmas once a year. It’s free. It’s a good opportunity. I finished my novel The Mercy Killers recently, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I e-mailed my submission. Here it is, and it wasn’t great.
A young vagabond girl trades freedom for protection from a disease-ravaged world, but not without sacrifice. When the plague’s cruel ending threatens her sanctuary, only one man can help. Problem? He was the sacrifice.
I didn’t make the top 50.
I wasn’t surprised. I’m not great at pitching, so I figured I wouldn’t make it. Pitching an entire novel in such a restricted format is not an easy feat. I read the winning pitches and I was impressed! I could see how they used each word to their advantage. I learned from it and decided I would try again during the #PitchMAS party!
On Friday morning I woke up and posted the first two pitches that came to me on my twitter feed, sporting #pitchMAS and my genre hashtag.
There are worse things than dying from the Plague. You could survive it and be forced to become a Mercy Killer #YA #NA
The Governor’s son has a new GF. She looks sweet, but she isn’t. She’s a mind reading blade-wielding vagabond with a dark past #YA #NA
I walked away for a few hours, refusing to obsessively refresh twitter all day. I’m not an amazing pitch doctor and I know it. Why stress?
I was talking on the phone with a close friend when I decided it was time to check my feed. I had a few notifications, but I didn’t get excited. It could be anything.
I received 4 likes.
For those of you who don’t know what that means, 4 agents/ editors “liked” my pitch enough to request my query.
I lost my mind!
I wondered if I was seeing things. Was I reading the twitter feed right? Was I on the right page? DID THEY DO IT ON PURPOSE!?!?!?! My friend who was still on the phone thought something was wrong.
“What is it Jessica? Are you okay? IS THERE BLOOD!?!?!?!”
No blood. Just confused joy.
You see, I just finished my novel. I entered into a few contests, signed up for a query class which starts in January, and started on the novel’s sequel. I created a rough query letter a week prior to try my hand at the process, but I hadn’t done anything with it. I wasn’t expecting anything. #PitchMAS is a big contest, many authors participate, and I am very unseasoned.
I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, so I threw up another #pitchMAS tweet-
Greylin is a Socialite, promised to Attica’s next ruler. She hides telepathic abilities and skills with weapons.Why? #NA #YA #R
I received three more likes, two by editors.
Okay! This was really happening!
Overall, I received 6 partial manuscript requests. I spent the next 24-48 hours getting my submissions ready. I was so grateful I already possessed a basic synopsis and query letter! I strongly encourage putting together something as soon as you complete and edit your novel, just in case! I tried to craft each submission to the Agent/ Editor requesting, and made sure to follow the submission guidelines the best I could. I am not a practiced query writer, but I gave it my all.
About a week went by, way to soon to hear anything. An average turn around response for a partial is 30-60 days. So when I woke up with two full manuscript requests from two separate publishing companies, I made sure to read both e-mails twice so I could be 100% positive I was reading them correctly.
Did they mean to send this to me? Were they serious? DID THEY DO THIS ON PURPOSE!?!?
Are you noticing a trend?
So…I sent my manuscript in!
I won’t lie, my manuscript wasn’t perfect. The story is finished (except for a few tiny tweaks I keep obsessing over, but that’s normal, right?) and edited to the best of my ability, but there are bound to be mistakes in a 100k word manuscript. I was nervous, but I hit send.
I understood it takes a while to hear back from publishing houses. I wasn’t expecting anything.
I swear, not expecting anything works!!!!!!
I received my first “we are interested in publishing your book” e-mail a few days later. I am currently staring at a contract with my name and my novel’s title printed at the top.
I don’t know if I will sign it (although I am very strongly considering it), my lawyer is looking over it (I don’t have an agent! I just wrote some tweets!) and I want to talk to my hubby bubby about it face to face, but the publishing contract exists! This is amazing to me!!!!!
GUYS!!!! I WROTE A BOOK AND PEOPLE DON’T HATE IT!!!!!!!
I won’t be making any rash decisions about my novel this week. I asked the publisher for a certain amount of time to consider everything and get my ducks in a row, and they kindly obliged. The firm is new and fairly small right now, but I believe in small beginnings. After all, I’m just an Accountant/house wife who got bored while her husband was deployed, couldn’t find a book that hit the spot, so I wrote one!
Everyone starts somewhere.
My book started at 2am on a sleepless night when one of the characters insisted on being put down on paper. My writing journey was wonderful and came naturally. I wasn’t sure how my journey to publishing would start.
It looks like it started with #PitchMAS and a little fantasy!!
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!
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?!?
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.
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!
A Gift of Poison, what a name! And like its intention grabbing name the book started off with a flourishing scene involving gambling, a good chase, and knives being thrown at our heroine.
This book certainly has a hook.
The story centers around a young girl named Briand, who’s sharp, beautiful under all her gruff antics, and gloriously flawed. She doesn’t lack in spirit but she does lack in discretion, and it tends to get her into trouble. The fact that the man who is charge of her wishes she didn’t exist doesn’t help her situation.
The book started off well. Briand is shunned by her Uncle to the “wildlands” which seems to be an eventual death sentence. Her cousin, Bran, and the Steward of the castle, Kael, want to save her from the harsh punishment, so they attempt to whisk her away somewhere safe. In the process it is revealed she is the “Dragonsayer”, meaning she can control animals – even dragons.
Sounds cool, right?
In many ways it is. Kate Avery Ellison is an amazingly descriptive author with a vivid imagination and this book is full of poetic world building. Some people don’t like that, but I do. And there are moments of really great story telling, such as the snake scene (when you read it you will understand) and the moment in the mountains with the lake (JUST READ IT!). It has loss, different cultures, and a great twist ending. This book is appropriate for young teens and still interesting for adults, which is a rare thing.
It’s just missing something.
I think what’s missing is more connections. More connections between the characters, and there are a few holes in the story. This is the first book of a series, so I suspect many of those holes were placed with purpose and will be explained in the future. That’s understandable. But this book’s description is “Intrigue. Romance. Dragons.” Those last two words are a bit understated in the storyline.
There are dragons, just not as many as you might like to see. That is fine with me, the first book of a series often offers only peeks of what’s to come. Be warned that if you are choosing this book because of the dragon aspect you might be disappointed.
There are many great reasons to read this book, but if dragons are all you want go somewhere else, or wait until the next book in this series is released so you can jump right in.
As far as romance goes, this book is lacking in it.
Romance is starting to show by the end, but it hasn’t fully bloomed. I have a problem with that. I am a sucker for a good “angsty” duo or a spit fire boy and girl who love to hate one another. This book almost has it, but not quite. I think a little more would have driven the plot along, especially because the two characters in question are so much more multi-dimensional when they are together. They make one another better, not just as people but as characters in a story. I am hoping the next book will break past the “I almost like you” barrier. When Briand and her love interest cross over that line it is going to be quite a show!
Finally, the ending is abrupt. Way to abrupt. I wouldn’t call it rushed. The plot points that needed to be tied up in this book are taken care of and foundation for the next installment is laid. The book just sort of …Ends. Where it ends doesn’t really make any sense to me, so I felt sort of lost.
Overall, I’d say this book is good. Not great, but good. It wouldn’t be the first book by Ellison I would recommend, but I will be anxiously waiting for the next installment to be released, mostly because of the ending.
I think she did that on purpose!
3.75 stars, and I’m rounding up on all the sites that don’t allow decimals…which is all of them.
Thanks for the book Kate Avery Ellison! It was an enjoyable read.