I signed my first book contract in August 2012. This was a HUGE deal for me, as I had almost given up on publishing and just continued writing for myself. Without my husband’s push, I never would have made it. Since then, I published six other books, all in mainstream romance category, and then moved into Christian Romance, published one book with Anaiah Press and now almost finished with the second in my Hill Country series.
As I remember back to my first year of signing a contract, I think back at how much I had to learn. So, in honor of those who were like me, hanging in the balance, here’s a bunch of newbie tips for newbies out there!
Tip #1: Don’t give up! Yeah, yeah, this is completely clichéd, I know. But, I almost gave up. I began writing my first mainstream novel more than 15 years ago while on maternity leave with my third son. Then mothering got in the way and I had to put it to the side. If it weren’t for my husband giving me a little push to finish the novel, I wouldn’t have. He had such faith in me! (Having a support system could be a whole tip in itself!) So, even if you have to put your writing to the side, don’t forget to get back to it once the inspiration hits again.
Tip #2: Do your research on publishers! I’m a Harlequin girl. Since I was a teenager, I had stacks of Harlequin category romance next to my bed. After receiving a rejection from them on my first book – I was heartbroken. A few years later, I entered a Harlequin Romance contest and was a runner up! I had an interview (speaking to my favorite editors of all time!) I didn’t win — heartbroken again! What we writers need to realize is that there are more than one romance publisher out there. Actually, there are many fabulous publishers – including small presses who I’ve had the best experiences with. Check them out on Duotrope.com or google the different sites. Research is KEY! With my books, I’ve worked with at least 5 different publishers. Some were awful (like closed-down awful – a whole other story to awesome and amazing!) You’ll find a good match somewhere!
On the same note, I do want to advice that vanity presses are not the way to go. I don’t understand the concept of paying someone when you do all the work. You can do your own research and self-publish which is so viable in today’s world. This is just MHO.
Tip #3: Find untraditional ways to submit your work! I love this tip, because with my first two publishers, I did not take the traditional route – sending a query and partial through email, waiting months for the news, etc. With my frist novel, I saw a pitch contest on www.romanceuniviersity.com website which has since closed. So, I decided to go for it (see Tip #1). I’m so happy I did. I pitched my story and within a few weeks had contract in hand. I secured my second contract with Crimson Romance (also recently sold to Simon & Schuster who eventually closed the line) through a Twitter pitch session the following year. Yep. I sold my book to the editor with a 140-line pitch. Two weeks later, I had a book deal! So, again, find untraditional routes. It’s quicker, it’s fun and it’s great practice.
Some example Twitter Pitch sessions are:
Tip #4: Know the editing tricks of the trade! I had a major newbie fail with my first novel. I’d never heard of Track Changes in word, so when I first edited my novel, I didn’t use track changes. FAIL! I had to teach myself how to use the program and I’m glad I did. This is the way editors work with writers in the industry. Here’s an excellent explanation I used afterwards to help: http://www.geoff-hart.com/resources/Using-revision-tracking.pdf
Tip #5: You will have to kill your little darlings! When you first get your edits back, be ready to cry, shout, scream, yell, throw things – because it’s painful. Your ‘baby’ will be practically eaten alive. Opening up your edits and seeing red marks all over it is quite disarming at first. My advice is to sit down with a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, open the document and read through. Then set it aside for a day – take it all in – and realize that your editor knows what he or she is doing. They’re the expert. Their goal is to sell your book, not torture you. Then when you’re ready, get to work. As Steven King said, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Believe it or not, your book will be better for it!
Tip #6: Make your presence known! You want exposure and you want to find out all you can about the industry. Create an online presence. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest are all great places to create your brand. You can also make lifelong author friends. Most of my editors have told me that a writer’s online presence is important to them. They check writer’s out before signing them. If you need to create a blog, do it NOW! And if you want to follow me, find me on Instagram (my fave) at http://www.instagram.com/melindadozer, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melinda.dozier.9 or Twitter www.twitter.com/melindadozier.
I hope these tips help you out. I’m by far an expert, but I have lived and breathed the newbie romance author life. Plus, I’m still learning! If someone can learn from me, then I’ll be satisfied.
Drop me a line below and provide any tips you have or let me know if you learned anything from this post!