Now that we have so many new members of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Board of Directors, we'll once again be featuring the RMFW Spotlight on the blog. Our goal is to introduce our board members to all our readers and encourage other RMFW members to offer their time and energy to this energetic and growing community of writers.
1. Rene', Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.
I spearhead PR for RMFW. I’m passionate about RMFW because it’s important for writers to have a supportive community where we can meet other writers and obtain valuable insight to the craft.
2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?
My debut novel, Mizerably Happy, is finished, aside from a last round of edits for formatting, etc. I plan to query agents mid-October. Further information can be found on my website (My pen name is Rene’ Collier).
3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?
Well, of course I want the right agent and for Mizerably Happy to be traditionally published in the near future! 😉
4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?
Spending too much time editing before getting to the end. With my sophomore effort, I plan to outline and write until I finish it, THEN go back and do more technical edits.
5. What do you love most about the writing life?
I love how an idea can be shaped and polished into a scene, then story. I also love the therapeutic and independent nature of the work.
6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?
I would say stick with the genre you’re comfortable with and keep your story within that framework. If you receive criticism on your work, take into consideration the other person may not read your genre, and don’t change your work just because it doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations.
7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?
My desk is white, with a Nantucket feel, and it sits in front of a window. I have a few pictures, along with a vase full of flowers and deocorative book that says BE BRAVE and FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, from which a fairy dangles on a chain.
8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?
I’m reading Contrition by Maura Weiler, an author on the PAL panel this year at RMFW GOLD. I highly recommend it! Also reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I just finished Carry On Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton, who is entertainly funny and insightful. Next on my list is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Mizerably Happy is Rene' Zimbelman's first novel. Writing has always been in her blood, whether it be song lyrics, journal entries, poetry or short stories. She was born in Boulder and received her degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado. Rene' enjoyed writing website and promotional copy for a cable television network in Los Angeles, but ached to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write a novel.
Currently, she live in Centennial, Colorado, with her husband, two boys and Jack Russell. They are endlessly patient as she delves into her untitled sophomore effort.
Many moons ago, as the cold winds swept across the lands, I used to scoff, yes I said it, scoff at those writers writing holiday novellas. Hacks the lot of them.
And then I realized something—I’m the hack.
I’m the writer not using all the tools in my utility belt.
It’s me who sucks, not them. And that is the horror or all horrors, besides seeing your grandfather naked.
So let’s talk holiday shorts/novellas. My original dislike of them came from a true consumer perspective, in that, they felt like marketing ads. Why else, I figured, would a writer do it other than to sell me a holiday novella for near the same price as a full length novel? Only a moron would buy half of something for the same cost. It was a total crock. A way to make writerly millions (okay, writerly tens at best).
But publishing isn’t the same world it was then, or even yesterday. Writers build readership by giving the readers what they want. If readers like holiday novellas, then damn it, I’d be truly stupid to ignore the trend, especially given the vast f***ed up fairytale world I have to work with.
If you plan to write novella/shorts for the holidays, I do have some suggestions about how to go about it:
Don’t cheat your reader.
Sort of a given I know, but here it is, in plain black and white, if your novella shorts the reader in any way, chances are you won’t get that return reader for your next work. So don’t think of shorter as any less content. In fact, you have less time to impact them more. Do you best work.
Give your secondary characters a chance to come out and play.
One way to keep the shorter story fresh is to open up to other voices. Say you have a series that features one character and his/her/it’s constant plight. Awesome. But think about using the holiday short to give the reader a more in-depth look at a secondary character. Who knows, they might have a breakout series of their own. Try new things. Be bold.
How you publish matters.
For those who are traditionally published only, I suggest taking a hard look at self-publishing your holiday novellas. It’s a great way to dip your toes in the water and to build your traditionally published books readership. I suggest the self-publishing route for one very good reason, traditionally publishing a novella is hard enough, but adding in the length of lead time and it’s more than my tiny brain can handle. Plus, who doesn’t need a little extra money for Valentine’s Day? Penicillin is expensive. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Don’t limit yourself to one holiday.
This is perhaps my favorite part. By holiday I don’t mean Christmas alone, which is the main ‘holiday’ novella. You can create a holiday novella for the most obscure ones, for example, I’d love to see a novella about the Bolivian
Holiday of Tinku, in which neighbors gather to punch each other in the face.
And on that note, I’ll leave you to pound the keyboard or that annoying guy down the street. Either way I look forward to reading your take on a holiday. Oh, and in case you’re interested, I have A Very F***ed-Up Christmas Tale coming out in a few short days, on November 3rd. Pre-order is available now! (See the cheesy marketer in me?)
BTW, hope you have a great Halloween!
Tell me, do you have a holiday novella out? If so, why that holiday? If not, what holiday would you pick?
Joshua Viola—author, artist, and video game developer—is the guest. In addition to creating a transmedia creative franchise around The Bane of Yoto, honored with more than a dozen literary awards, Josh is the author of Blackstar, a novel based on the work of Celldweller. He’s also the editor of the horror anthology, Nightmares Unhinged, and has published Bram Stoker, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writers. He lives in Denver, Colorado where he is chief editor of Hex Publishers.
“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~Picasso
When I was a kid growing up on a cattle ranch in the panhandle of Texas, I had a tumbleweed for a friend. Seriously. Miles from the nearest neighbors and school, our home was surrounded by thousands of acres of natural buffalo grass, cattle, and yes—weeds. To keep my tumbleweed from blowing away in the never-ending wind that swept the plains, I tied it to our back porch with a piece of yarn.
My mother negotiated a deal with the public librarian in our closest town: we could check out all the books we wanted as long as we brought them back each month when we made the trek into town for groceries. So, while friends were sparse during those days, my inner life became rich and fanciful. (How else could a child enjoy the companionship of a tumbleweed?) My parents and teachers often called me to task for daydreaming. Little did they know that I was a young writer in training.
Writing is a lonely business, but that loneliness can be countered with the right friends. (And many of these friends should be people.) Find fans—or at least one—who love what you write; mine are my adult daughters. Fans don’t have to be writers, but it’s helpful if they love to read, and it’s best if they like to read in your genre. The fan role is to encourage you along the way, cheering you on when you want to give up. They read your work, tell you they love it, and then answer your specific questions about characters, plot, and scenes to tell you how they think it could be improved. After a fruitful visit with these friends, you need to return to the solitude of your writing space and revise.
Then take your work to another group of valuable friends: your critique group. This group of friends must be made up of writers. They will give honest feedback on the work; pick apart grammar, plot, and character development; scribble “show, don’t tell” in the margins; and sometimes leave you wondering why you ever attempted to write in the first place. But what’s most important is that these friends will help you improve your writing.
Showing your work to your friends requires that you have written something. It means we writers need to shut out our friends and abandon our tumbleweeds on the porch so we can enter the solitude we need to complete the serious work referred to by Picasso. Most of us don’t have the luxury of an office or studio to write in. We eke out a creative space in the back bedroom, den, or basement. Some people have an extraordinary power of concentration and can write in coffee shops or while sitting with family in front of the television. I once saw a seasoned writer sit in the hallway at a writing conference for hours, surrounded by people, tapping away at a keyboard. (No, I didn’t stay to watch him; I merely observed him every time I came out of a session.) I admire that type of focus, but I don’t have it. I write in the back bedroom at a desk surrounded by photos of friends and family, motivational greeting cards, and inspirational sculpture and posters. I light candles made by my daughter before beginning my writing sessions.
So it’s okay to embrace your tumbleweed, but beware the prickles. It can be fun—dare I say great fun—for writers to mingle with friends in coffee shops, in online chat rooms, or on social media talking about their characters and ideas for all the wonderful books they’re going to write. But at the end of the day—or better yet for me, at the beginning—we must write! We must be alone to create our masterpiece. Fight for your own space within the house; hang up that sign that reads, “Do not enter—murder and mayhem reign behind this door.” Balance friends and fun with the solitude of work, and do the work until you finish. You’ll be glad you did.
Who are your writing friends? Where is your creative space, and why is it perfect for you?
Margaret Mizushima is the author of Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery to be released December 8, 2015 by Crooked Lane Books. After earning a master’s degree in speech pathology, Margaret practiced in a hospital and her own rehabilitation agency, and now she assists her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Her short story “Hay Hook” was published in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology Crossing Colfax. She enjoys reading and hiking and lives in Colorado on a small farm where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website.
I just took a vacation. It was great, but what I took away from it (besides a sunburn and a hangover), was that I need to make sure I never let myself ignore serendipitous moments in time.
While our husbands went fishing, my friend and I decided we’d take a nice little snorkeling trip. Just a couple hours. The snorkel “beach” was actually a pile of granite boulders, with very sharp edges, and massive surf. As in “knock you over and roll you around” surf. Combat snorkeling, if you will. As you can guess, this was not what we signed up for. We didn’t have change for anything to drink, and the water taxi was an hour late coming back for us. This should have been the excursion from hell.
But lest you think I digress, in an instant we got to experience one of those serendipitous moments. The other passengers on our water taxi back to civilization were a group of 20-30-something cruise ship employees from South Africa, England, and a couple other places I forget. The twenty minutes back to town, plus the two or so hours in the bar we spent with them, were truly serendipitous.
We were fifty-something women whose husbands had gone fishing. Those “kids”, by all rights, could have made fun of us, should have ignored us. But instead, they decided to hang out with us simply because we talked to them, and told them where they might find drinks and good food. When a Mariachi band came by, one of the crew asked to use a guitar, and began to play – Santana no less. Holy Cow – that Mariachi band was even more surprised than we were. It seems we were in the company of some of Disney’s Cruise Line’s star entertainers. Then another crewman picked up the guitar, played, and sang lead while the others sang along, including the Mariachi that still had instruments. These “kids” were interesting, fun, VERY talented, and talked about everything that came into any of our heads.
If we hadn’t been on that Ponga boat, at that time, on that day, there is no way this diverse group of people would have ever come together, and stayed together for more than a moment. But what we ended up with was something that made that day, and our vacation, so much more memorable than if we’d just followed our itinerary.
Where I’m going with this is: you should never let those moments pass you by. Let those strange little quirks take you wherever they will. As writers, we need these moments to take us away from the tunnel vision of our WIP. To make us experience those things that might not be within our comfort zone, or the genre we write in, or the circle of people we’re comfortable with. And just maybe, to give us an idea for the next story, a great story, a bestselling story.
Serendipity. Grab it when you can, hold on with all you got, and Write On!
I’m Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.
Hi, Piper. Welcome.
Thank you. It was hard to come here today, so I knew I needed this meeting.
I’m back at Step One. I am powerless over my imaginary friends, and my manuscript has become unmanageable.
My editor called and asked me for my draft. I told her, “It’s not ready.” The truth is that I’m not ready. I’m not ready to part with my Little Darlings.
We know what they are. They are 68 out of 75 main characters. They are detailed scenes designed to show off our expertise. They are the cool one liners we saw on Twitter and worked into our dialogue, even though our characters would never talk like that.
*sniff* *reaches for tissue*
And they are the entire scenes and sections of our manuscripts that we love most, but that serve nothing to move the plot . . . Our Little Darlings. Our babies.
While writing is an art, publishing is a business. We give birth to our babies, but most of us don’t try to sell them on Amazon. That’s reserved for the products of our business.
And so I come here to these rooms to stay honest. I know that I owe it to my readers and to myself to rise above my ego and let the editing begin.
Thank you for your support.
12 Steps of Little Darlings Anonymous
We admitted we were powerless over our imaginary friends, and that our Works In Progress had become unmanageable.
We came to believe that an Editor greater than ourselves could restore our prose to sanity.
We made the decision to turn our will and our manuscripts over to our Editors, whoever we understand them to be.
We made a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of our Little Darlings.
We admitted to our Editors, to ourselves, and to our beta readers the exact nature of our self-indulgences.
We became entirely ready to have our Editors remove all the Little Darlings from our Works In Progress.
We humbly asked our Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of our Little Darlings when we had not the strength.
We made a list of all persons we had subjected to our original manuscripts and became willing to make amends to all of them who had not hung themselves by page fifty.
We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause them to injure themselves or others at the mere memory of our manuscripts.
We continued to undergo edits, and, when our Editors sniffed out Little Darlings, promptly submitted them for termination.
We sought through study and daily word count to improve our conscious contact with our plots, as we understood them, seeking only the knowledge to distinguish between Little Darlings and actual elements of our stories.
Having had a literary awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to other Little Darling Addicts, and to practice these principles in all of our written endeavors.
The Writers Serenity Prayer
Grant me the serenity to accept that things have got to change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And a good Editor to help me know the difference.
Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She's also a belly dancer from way back and a former hospice volunteer. She is currently the managing editor of Social In Worldwide, Inc., and pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels when she isn't shooting, baking cookies, or chauffeuring her children.
Inspired by the RMFW conference, my critique partners and I are participating in a writing challenge this fall. In an effort to develop the daily writing habit, we declare our intentions, much as the NaNoWriMo participants do. We challenge ourselves with so many words a week or so many pages a week, with a goal to write daily.
I’m sure you’ve heard the comments by NYTBSA’s like Nora Roberts, Stephen King, et al, who, when asked about their daily routine, stress that real writers write. They write each and every day. That consistency is what helps them release over three and more novels a year.
Slacker me, I crank out one when I have the perfect combination of inspiration and time, zero when I don’t.
A cartoon circulated about ten years ago depicted two rooms full of writers, all typing away on their keyboards. Under the cartoon on the top, it read “Unpublished writers.” Under the identical cartoon below, it read, “Published Authors.” The message was simple: as a striving-to-be-published author, one needs to work hard to learn the craft. While studying writing components such as plotting and characterization are necessary, learning only occurs when the principles are applied, i.e., during the writing.
And as a published author, your fans and your publisher will want you to produce at least one book a year, preferably more, so one should write, and write frequently.
If we write to be rich and famous, we become dependent on external validation to make that happen, and without it, it’s likely we’ll lack adequate inspiration to write every day.
If we write to please ourselves, the writing is intensely personal and there’s less pressure. I write because it's a joy, and it's extremely entertaining. I also enjoy sharing my work, and it delights me when others enjoy my words, so I write to publish.
Must we write every day? I propose that the rule need not be so absolute. There are days of accidents and heartaches and legal difficulties and the flu. Let’s not allow that little voice inside to deride us and sap our confidence if we miss a day here or there. I haven’t set a daily rate for each week within this challenge, but I’ve set a goal that requires, if not daily writing, most days writing.
Because I’m a confirmed plotter and hopeless editor-in-progress, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic program that I’ll likely never try. Adapted to my needs, however, it can serve as inspiration to get me there.
So far, it’s working well, and I’ve made my goal for four weeks straight. I’m beginning to feel the rhythm of daily writing, and it makes the story I’m writing much more exciting. I would love making sufficient progress to eventually release a book every six months.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or a modified version with your critique buds? What are your goals for November?
We all know the challenge of selling fiction to the reality-crazed techie generation. Time and again we’ve been told we need a “platform” – that area of specialization that enables us to sell books to people who aren’t necessarily shopping for them.
In writing my debut novel, THESE DAYS, I was partly motivated by the resurgent interest in the Depression-era art of burlesque. THESE DAYS takes place on an historic burlesque strip, The Block in Baltimore, which also happens to be where I came of age in the late 1970s.
In 2007 when I sat down to write, “New” Burlesque was in its formative years. I was 45 – well past “formative” but still agile enough to compete as a performer. And I had that special something that appealed to aficionados of the art: I’m a “baby legend”: a performer who was around at the tail end of old burlesque. As one who bridges the gap between the old and the new, I knew my tale of coming-of-age on a notorious burlesque strip would appeal to the newbies of the craft.
With the aid of social media, I connected with the Denver burlesque scene and began performing. Author/Burlesque Performer: I wore two “hats.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t make me an instant success. I’ve sold books at burlesque shows and discussed burlesque, old and new, with bookstore audiences. I’ve given readings in towns where I’ve performed, thus tying the two together. Still, selling books in areas where I’m unknown is a challenge. I have little trouble getting events in Baltimore, where THESE DAYS takes place, or in Denver, my home for 16 years. Other cities have presented more of a challenge, however. While performing in Laramie, I gave a reading to a bookstore audience of four, one of whom was my husband and two of whom were employees – I’ll let you do the math.
This past winter, while on my third Baltimore book tour, I reached out to a bookstore in Philadelphia, ever-hopeful but expecting the usual spiel regarding the need for a local following. That came, but with a twist: “Can you teach a writing workshop?”
I hadn’t taught a workshop, but I’d talked with many in the burlesque and literary areas of my life about the process of creating. I sat down with literary and burlesque friends to brainstorm. The concept that came up most often was that of dressing up.
Writing fiction and performing burlesque both involve dressing up. In burlesque, performers spend countless, unpaid hours fashioning elaborate costumes. To entertain and amuse, we create characters that are sub- and super-human; over-the-top, even. In fiction we want our characters to be relatable; down-to-earth, yet we still strive to give them that extra “umph” that will make them walk, talk or dance their way into readers’ hearts.
We also strip them bare, manipulating them in and out of tricky situations to show what they’re made of. We do the same in burlesque, but with flair and tease – There’s nothing like expectation to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. We can make a tight-fitting gown without spending our extra dollars on sequins and rhinestones. It will suffice for peeling out of at just the right moment, but will it pop off the stage, shining at its biggest and brightest best?
No. Nor will our fictional characters be their best without details, details, details. Their backstories, motivations and predicaments are what make them shine. For better or worse, details are their “sequins.”
At Philadelphia’s Big Blue Marble Bookstore, I filled a room with aspiring writers and a few curious passers-by. I sold a dozen or so books and gained a bit of a following in previously uncharted territory. Thus I discovered “hat” number three: Workshop Presenter.
On November 7, I will present “Dressing Up and Baring All: A Workshop for Fiction Writers” at the Standley Lake Library in Arvada (Denver). Bring a sample of your writing and be prepared to “dress it up.”
Burlesque Performer and Prize-Winning Author, Margo Christie will present a workshop on dressing up your fictional characters to make them larger than life and stripping them down to keep them real. Through her experience on the burlesque stage and examples from her own and other novels, she will talk about “adding the sequins” to otherwise everyday characters then “baring it all” to keep readers emotionally-hooked. She will also demonstrate ways to supercharge your public readings by adding some G-rated burlesque pizzazz.
No matter your style or genre, Margo's exercises will help you bring your characters to life.
November 7, 2015
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Mountain time
Standley Lake Branch Library - Jefferson County
8485 Kipling St.
Arvada, CO 80005
Current Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers president Pamela Nowak is the guest. Pam recently released her fourth historical romance, Escaping Yesterday. Recently, one of Pam’s titles was named as one of the best 101 romances of the past ten years by BookList. On the podcast, Pam talks about her love of research, her reaction to the BookList pick, and also chats about the rewards of getting involved in RMFW.
I recently had the chance to ask Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Magazine a few questions about two of his most recent publications, the Writer’s Digest 2016 Guide to Literary Agents and a humorous book called When Clowns Attack. This popular author, public speaker and columnist had a lot to share, and I’m thrilled to post his thoughts here . . .
Chuck, why do you think authors should seek agent representation?
There are a bunch of reasons, but I'll just explain one: The biggest/bigger publishing houses and publishing imprints out there usually do not take unagented submissions. We're talking about dozens of imprints that will be off limits to you without an agent. And these medium-sized and large imprints are the places that can afford to pay you a decent advance, that can try and sell your rights overseas and to Hollywood, that can distribute your work all over for sale. Agents open all doors, and can get your work considered anywhere. Ruling out these many large, powerful imprints is not a good idea.
What new material will this guide offer compared to previous editions?
I've always called the GLA "a yellow pages of literary agents." So, like a phone book, it updates its info every year. Previous buyers will just be buying a more up-to-date resource that includes new/newer agencies that we added. Each edition also spotlights different new agents who are seeking clients right now. Every new addition adds new/newer agents that just joined an agency. This is key because it's those new/newer agents at established agencies who are building their client lists and look for writers just like you.
When should a writer seek a new agent, or ask hard questions of the one he or she is already working with? Some of our people have had agents for years without nibbles from the publishers.
You want an agent to be communicating with you, and submitting your projects, and passionate about your work. Those are all important steps. And you want them to be selling books. If these publishers haven't nibbled, it's hard to say if that is the agent's fault or perhaps the fault of the writing. There was a period of time in my writing life where my agent & I pitched 7 nonfiction books in a row and none sold. But the whole time, she believed in me, and was submitting, and liked what I pitched. Plus, she had other clients that were selling books. That last point is key. If your books aren't selling, make sure that the agent is selling the books of others. That proves that your agent has skill; she just hasn't found a publisher match for you yet.
If you sell to midlist publishers or smaller presses, the advances and royalties are quite small. Is that worth investing an agent fee in?
Typically, agents do not aim for these small markets. They're not financially worthwhile. For example, if you were only getting a $2,000 advance, their cut is only $300. It isn't worth weeks of time for $300. So they don't aim for the smaller markets.
When Clowns Attack. Hmm. Guessing this is for readers with a funny bone waiting to be banged.
That sounds dirty. I like it.
Okay, Chuck, are you secretly a wannabe clown or do you just like to pick on creatures most of us love (first gnomes and now clowns)?
I know plenty of people like garden gnomes (though I have no idea why), but the truth is I have heard very, very few people in life say "I love clowns!!" Clowns are the creepiest, and I am now keeping my distance from you, Liesa, for saying those words. I am not a wannabe clown, and the fact that you called these people "creatures" says, I think, everything one needs to know. Clowns will hit you in the head with cotton candy; they will spray seltzer in your spouse's face; they will kidnap your toddler when you're not looking. They're roaming the world, unchecked and untraceable, and they must be contained.
Who will be your next target, dinosaurs?
No no no. Don't be silly. (*Writes down "next book idea: dinosaurs" on pad*)
When do you think the next major clown attack will occur, and will it be covered by CNN?
Clowns pop up out of the woodwork around Halloween each year with haunted houses and pranks and weirdos standing on street corners. That's the reason we wanted to release this prior to Halloween. This is peak season for clown weirdos harassing and attacking people. And as far as CNN goes, I hope so, but the mainstream media has yet to realize the true danger of these red-nosed bozos. Sadly, it will take a few more legit clown assaults before people walk up to the danger of jokers with big shoes.
On the Writing Business
WD has been in the business of encouraging aspiring authors and copywriters since 1920. With all that history, is there really hope for successful writing careers “out there?” (Stats here would be great, if you have them. Most of us live in the world of bad news, little to no profit from our efforts, and a changing publishing world that makes our prospects of traditional publishing dim more all the time)
This is hard to answer, but let me address a few key things. One, to say the word "career" makes it sound like you want all your money to come from writing. That is a fine goal, but not necessarily one many will achieve. I always say that writers need to diversify themselves and make money any way they can (ransom notes work the best). When you're writing novels, short stories and poetry, you need to take money out of the equation. You have to do this for love, because you never know when you will create something great that someone will pay you for. Plenty of debuts still come out every year. You have to enjoy writing and enjoy the process. Let's look at Jessica Strawser, editor of Writer's Digest magazine. She wrote a women's fiction novel a while back. She got an agent, but they failed to sell the novel. Her and her agent amicably parted ways. A month ago, she got a new agent (Barbara Poelle of Irene Goodman Literary) and this week she got a two-book deal from St. Martin's. That is a big, big deal. She is a debut with no other books under her belt. She is a grand success story, and if she would have bought into the point of view of "There is no hope; The publishing world is dim," then she wouldn't have this amazing news this week. Yeah, most novels don't sell. But some do. So keep writing.
Your Author Platform book was focused for the main part on non-fiction writers. In it, you said an author platform for novelists and fiction writers isn’t so important. Why do you believe that?
If you’re writing fiction, the top priority is excellent writing. That is what makes books sell through word of mouth, and that is what gets them into book clubs. Platform is great because it helps you sell more copies and make money. I’m not saying platform is unimportant for novelists. I’m saying that for nonfiction writers (like myself), it is a massive priority and absolutely necessary. I cannot query an agent or publisher for a book without platform on my side. A novelist can. So while you want platform (money, control, sales), you do not need it to query.
You seem to be on the road a lot. Is this a requisite for becoming a successful author, or is it simply something you enjoy?
It's all for platform. You meet a lot of people on the road and sell plenty of books. The more I'm on the road, the more money I can make and more books I can sell. And in terms of enjoying it, I would say that I used to enjoy it more when the trips were relaxed. But then I had a daughter, so the last three years have been filled with faster trips, and that makes them more hectic. After a conference, while everyone is meeting up at the bar for drinks, I'm hightailing it in a rental car to the airport to catch an evening flight home. I don't enjoy the rush, but I cherish the smile of my toddler when I get home. So it all works out.
Chuck Sambuchino (@chucksambuchino) of Writer's Digest Books edits theGUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. His latest humor book, WHEN CLOWNS ATTACK: A SURVIVAL GUIDE (Sept. 29 2015), will protect people everywhere from malicious bozos and jokers who haunt our lives. His books have been mentioned in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Variety, New York Magazine, and more.