Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting *THE CALL*

I love stories on how authors reacted when they got THE CALL from a publisher offering a contract. They're fun because you can see their reactions to the whole thing. I'll admit, I like to collect them. I run them because it offers hope to many aspiring writer wishing for THE CALL.

My guest today is Olivia Cunning. I've known her for over two years and have read many of her stories and thoroughly enjoy reading work from such a talented writer. However, like many authors, Olivia didn't get a request on the first query she sent out. There is a lot of writing, sending off queries, waiting, getting rejections, repeating the cycle and getting more rejections. Sometimes an aspiring author thinks they will never get a nibble of interest much less a call like this.

But let Olivia tell you about her call.

I think every aspiring author dreams about how they will respond when they get “the call” – the call that converts them from aspiring author to debut author.

Well, after years and years of dreaming about it, it finally happened to me. I was not prepared. Nope.

How would I describe my reaction to “the call”? Stammering idiot comes to mind.

Let’s back up a few days.

I’d been querying my erotic romance series “Sinners on Tour” for a couple of months. Strangely, the publishers I queried kept making requests to review the full or partial manuscript, but I had absolutely no luck getting a literary agent interested. No luck. None. Zero.

So after a couple weeks of waiting to hear back from publishers (milliseconds in literary world time), I get an email from an editor at Sourcebooks. She told me she was taking my manuscript to an editorial meeting later that week. Meaning she wanted them to buy it. No guarantees that the publishing house would be on board with her decision, but I had a foot in the door. Maybe a whole leg.

After I got over the accompanying feeling of flattery (more precisely: OMG, an editor likes my manuscript! OMG! OMG! OMG!), the panic set in. I still didn’t have a literary agent, but I needed one if I did get an offer for publication. Business person, I’m not. And I don’t speak legal-ese. Time to face facts. I needed an expert.

This meant it was time to make a few calls of my own. Email correspondence would be too slow. Spam filters eat my emails for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I couldn't risk it. I had to pick up the phone.

I was a nervous wreck. (Is this where I mention my phone phobia?) How many times had I been told to NEVER cold call a literary agent or a publisher? Uh, many. Many, many, many. And I don’t recommend it unless your situation is as immediate as mine was. As I dial the numbers on my short list of potential agents, I’m expecting flames to shoot out of the phone and to be connected to that annoying fax-machine screech in retaliation. It turns out that literary agents are very nice people. Who knew?

Also agents are interested in reading your manuscript immediately when you have a potential sale in the pipes. If they don’t think they’re a good match for your work, they will still reject you. It isn’t just about making a quick and easy buck to them, as I had always assumed. They really want a strong connection with your work. My respect for literary agents grew three sizes that day.

Luckily, I found a match – the wonderful Jennifer Schober at Spencerhill Associates. I knew she was the right agent for me because a) she liked my work, b) she was easy to talk to, and c) she didn’t connect me to a fax machine after making me wait on hold for thirty minutes. I knew she was good luck, because while I was talking to her on the phone, I got an email from Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks. She'd just got out of the editorial meeting, and... they wanted to publish my manuscript. Well, my manuscripts. Five of them.


Yes, I’m still pinching myself. They bought the entire five book series.

SO after much enthusiastic screaming at poor Jenn (who shared my excitement), I hung up and less than a minute later my editor, Deb, called. This is when my stammering began. And my gulping. I don’t even know if I said a single coherent sentence. It’s all a total blur. When it was over, all I could think was: what a great first impression to make on your new editor.

So how did I respond when I got the call? With a complete lack of poise and grace. Maybe I should have rehearsed my reaction in advance.

If you’re an aspiring author, how do you think you’ll respond to “the call”? Or if you’ve already gotten “the call”, how did you react? It has to be better than I reacted.

Combining her love for romantic fiction and rock ‘n roll, Olivia Cunningwrites erotic romance centered around rock musicians.

Raised on hard rock music from the cradle, she attended her first Styx concert at age six and fell instantly in love with live music. She's been known to travel over a thousand miles just to see a favorite band in concert. As a teen, she discovered her second love, romantic fiction -- first, voraciously reading steamy romance novels and then penning her own. Sourcebooks will release Sinner’son Tour in Fall of 2010.

You can visit Olivia's Website and read the blurbs on the series. You can also visit her on her blog:

Brian’s Muse Book Blurb

Human Sexuality Professor, Myrna Evans, wants nothing but a weekend of hot, no-strings-attached sex with Sinners' sensual lead guitarist, but Brian Sinclair is looking for something more permanent than a one-night stand. Unable to compose music for months, when Brian makes love to uninhibited Myrna, he hears exquisite guitar riffs and finger-burning solos. In Myrna, he's found his muse.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What Is Your Brand As a Writer/Author?

As writers, we know what genre we write but do you know your brand as a writer/author?

Recently, a friend and I had a rather lively discussion about this over drinks. Honestly, I hadn’t thought as much about what my brand was or even what a brand was, other than in general terms as applied to marketing.

So what is an author’s brand? The author's brand is his or her work. They’re known for writing certain types of books. Think Stephen King, Christine Feehan, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, or even Dan Brown. You know when you pick up one of their books exactly what you’re going to get. For the most part, we pick up books largely based on the authors’ brand.

Established authors do see themselves as a brand. They work to protect that brand and some even have trademarks attached to their names. Their brand represents a certain standard or identity readers recognize. In many ways every author is a brand, though they may not see it that way.

As one writing friend reminded me, when we were discussing this, branding is important as is the integrity of that brand. He cited how Nora Roberts has her JD Robb identity for certain stories she writes and that way she doesn't confuse her readers. Jayne Ann Krentz does the same, to a certain extent, with here Jayne Castle persona for her futuristic stories, Amanda Quick for her historicals.

Years ago, Disney realized that they had unused movie making resources (writers, producers, directors, studios, etc) and signed Danny DeVito, Bette Midler and others to multi-picture contracts (which relaunched their careers) producing such films as Ruthless People and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

The Disney brand was so valuable, and these movies were not PG, they came up with a clever solution and distributed the movies under a new brand — Touchstone films.

From a marketing standpoint, having a brand is important. If someone says, Johnson & Johnson, Harlequin, Disney, Campbells, Revlon, Wilson, or Black & Decker you know exactly what the products are. So it’s not surprising that Publishers are actively cultivating the trend of authors as a brand. Publishers are the first to acknowledge that branding is becoming a more conscious marketing activity.

Lynne Brown, Dorling Kindersley's brand manager, made an interesting observation.

  • “In recent years in an ever more crowded market, the consumer has come more and more to rely on brand identity as an indicator for purchase. We believe this is now true in all industries and no less so within publishing… this will continue to be a strong ongoing trend…”

I have a brand as Sia McKye Over Coffee. I have a logo and a tag line. I play up my Celtic roots. Judi Fennell, author of In Over Her Head, has a brand, Fairy Tales with a Twist. Whether she writes about Mers or Genies, you know her books are going to fit into that brand. While she incorporates darker threads within her stories, she never loses sight of her brand. They’re light, fun, and humorous.

  • What are your thoughts on branding?
  • What’s your brand? How do you present you and your work?

Lazy G (TM) Freeze Brand

Touchstone Pictures (TM) Brand