Monday, March 9, 2015

Interview with Debut Author, Rosalyn Eves

Rosalyn Eves is the author of the upcoming romantic fantasy adventure, The Blood Rose Rebellion.


Lana: How did you find your agent?

Rosalyn: My agent hunt was a combination of things: conferences, querying, and online contests. I met my agent (Josh Adams) at the LDStorymakers conference last spring, in an intensive workshop where we looked at first chapters. He requested to see the full manuscript when I was finished polishing, but it took a few more months to get there. At the end of July, I entered Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contest in the hopes of getting some feedback on my first chapter. To my surprise, I wound up getting two full requests on the manuscript (one was from a ninja agent), and that jump-started my querying. To be honest, the manuscript probably wasn't ready to be queried then. All of those early submissions came back rejections. At the end of August, I entered Pitch Wars and was lucky enough to be picked by a fabulous mentor (Virginia Boecker—her historical fantasy will be out in May). She gave me some terrific feedback that resulted in rewriting a significant portion of the manuscript: I'd already cut about 10K to get into Pitch Wars, and I cut another 25K and added 27K in the two months we worked on my revision.

Just before Pitch Wars started, I also entered another online contest (Pitch Plus Five, at Adventures in YA publishing). For both contests, my primary aim was to get feedback on my pages. I got some great feedback, but beyond that, I met some fabulous fellow writers, so even if I hadn't gotten requests, I'd say that those contests were worth it. As it turns out, I got several requests: between the two contests, I ended up with just over twenty full and partial requests—above and beyond what I'd hoped for!
Because I'd done well in the contests, I knew my pitch and first pages were working, so I also sent out a bunch of queries just after Pitch Wars ended. I got my first offer (from a Pitch Plus Five agent) about two weeks after Pitch wars ended. That prompted a bunch of emails (seriously, I didn't quite realize how many queries I'd sent until I had to contact every agent I'd sent something too—I wound up notifying agents who just had my query, and several of those requested to see the full). I asked the offering agent for two weeks, which is a little longer than normal, but it spanned Thanksgiving.

Lana: Did you have interest from other agents, and if so, how did you choose?

Rosalyn: I wound up with five offers (plus a couple of requests to revise and resubmit). Choosing just one was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. The agents I talked to all seemed like terrific individuals, and honestly, I think I would have done well with any of them. Three were newer, two were more established—I wound up going with Josh Adams, partly because he represented a friend of mine and I was impressed with the way he'd stuck with her through two unsuccessful submitted manuscripts, and also because I'd met him in person and knew we'd get along well.

Lana: After signing with the agent, how long did it take for the manuscript to sell?

Rosalyn: My experience was actually pretty fast (although apparently there's really no normal for submissions). I signed with my agent in early December and did some minor revisions over the holiday break, and wrote up synopses for the next two books in the series. Josh sent the book out on submission in mid-January, and we had an offer about a month later.

Lana: This is a 3-book deal. How much material did you have to submit for the second and third installments? What kind of timeline do you have?

Rosalyn: I submitted a short blurb for the other two books—basically a glorified query letter. As far as timeline, I don't know exact details, but the first book comes out Fall 2016, and the sequels come out each succeeding year (so 2017 and 2018).

Lana: What is the series about?

Rosalyn: Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb for the first one, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION: The romantic fantasy adventure set during the political unrest of 19th-century Europe follows a 16-year-old British socialite exiled to Hungary and swept up in a revolution to overturn world order.

I'm not sure how much I can say about the others, save that they continue Anna's confrontation with the Hapsburg empire and the consequences of the magical turmoil unleashed at the end of the first book.

Lana: How long were you working on the first manuscript?

Rosalyn: It took me about nine months to draft, and another nine months or so to revise. I'm hoping the others are faster!

Lana: How did you come up with the idea?

Rosalyn: The idea evolved from several things. I love the 19th century (British and American—I wrote my dissertation on 19th century American women's rhetoric), and I'm a long time fan of several series set in 19th century England and America (Patricia Wrede, Gail Carriger), so I wanted to try my  hand at something historical, but with a magical flair. I also served an LDS mission in Hungary, so I wanted to try and use what I'd learned about the culture and the language while I lived there. 1847-48 was pretty pivotal across Europe, and especially in Hungary, when they broke away from the Hapsburg empire, so that seemed like a natural starting point. Much as I have loved stories about the chosen one, or a teen with phenomenal powers, I was intrigued by the opposite possibility: what about a teenager who didn't have any of the abilities common to her society? What would she do? And so the seeds of the story were born.

Lana: What's your best writing advice?

Rosalyn: I don't know that I have any great advice—only that you have to keep at it! Writing means working through discouragement, rejection, writer's block and so much more. But there are few things that compare with the high of wrapping up a story that came out of your own head.

Lana: Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me and my readers. :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Brodi Ashton & Lindsey Leavitt

My awesome friend and critique partner, Erin Shakespear organized a Novel-Writing Workshop on September 15. The presenters were Brodi Ashton (Everneath) and Lindsey Leavitt (Princess for Hire). They spoke on their publishing journeys, creating characters, and worldbuilding.

from Lindsey:

The observations your characters make should say as much about them as about what they're observing. Find the conflict that's especially difficult for that character. Go deeper to the internal things they wouldn't say except in a diary.

Don't tell, whisper...what's the character's secret?

Lindsey talked about Matthew Kirby's advice to take the secret, desire, or wish and attach a physical object to that with both an external and internal attachment to the object. Each scene should go back to that driving force/inner conflict.

Introduce yourself to the characters and get the basics of plot down in the first draft. As you revise, you'll get to know more about your characters.

Sympathetic characters can do awful things as long as they're sympathetic. Get the reader rationalizing with the character.

The first draft is the hardest, like shoveling sand into a box...and THEN you can build a sandcastle. The second draft fills in big holes. Let yourself skip over stuff. Lindsey revises four times before sharing a draft with anyone. "[When first starting out] I treated writing like a job. Set goals and deadlines for yourself because you are a professional writer."

from Brodi:

Fantasy worlds make us think differently about our own world and offer narrative possibilities unavailable otherwise. Think about what the world you create is saying about the world you live in, and know more than you show. "If everything you know is on the page, you either don't know enough or you don't edit enough, and I'm not sure which is worse." (quoting Hemingway)

Types of worlds:

Foreign: a different time and place in our world that feels like another world (historical fiction).
Alternate: our world with critical differences.
Accessible: a portal of some sort to get to it from our world.
Secondary: inaccessible from our world.

All worlds have laws that must be established early and be consistent.

Brodi and Lindsey flash-edited participants' first pages in a group setting and later gave one-on-one sessions. They shared a little bit of their writing and querying process as well...too much info to put into a blog post. If you have the opportunity to hear them speak, take it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interview with Michael O. Tunnell,
author of Wishing Moon

I'm dusting off this archived interview from the old JP newsletter. Others previously posted:

T.A. Barron, David Farland, and Rebecca Waugh.

Mike Tunnell interviewed by Lana Jordan was first published in November of 2006:

LJ: How extensive was your research for Wishing Moon — did you visit the Middle East?
MT: My research was quite extensive. The culture of the Arab world circa the ninth century was foreign to me, so I had much to learn. I, of course, did a lot of reading in reliable sources. I used the Internet. And I visited the Middle East, spending some time in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

LJ: At what point did you know there would be a sequel?
MT: Before Wishing Moon was finished. I had originally planned for the story to end at a different place than it finally did. So, I already had an idea about where to go next. And I really should do a third book. By the way, the sequel is titled Moon Without Magic and should be available in the spring.

LJ: The concept of finding a genie (jinni) in a bottle or lamp is so timeless and alluring...how did you go about determining what Aminah would wish for?
MT: I knew right from the start that Aminah would use the jinni’s powers to do good. So, even her early wishes were designed to lead her to that determination—that she would help others.

LJ: How many rejection letters did you accumulate before getting published the first time? What kept you from giving up as a writer?
MT: So many that I can’t recall the number. I’m not sure what kept me from giving up. However, I took a break from writing to finish some graduate work. When I returned to writing for young readers, I was reenergized.

LJ: By comparison, how many rejections did you get on Wishing Moon, and have you found that the challenge of finding a publisher becomes easier with each subsequent book? If so, do you attribute that to being an "established" author, or to your maturity as a writer, gained from experience?
MT: Wishing Moon was originally under contract with HarperCollins. It’s a long and convoluted story, but in short, it came over from William Morrow when Morrow was purchased by Harper.  Actually, I ended up with an open contract with Harper to do a novel instead of a picture book I had had under contract with Morrow. Anyhow, I couldn’t seem to come to an agreement with Harper about the story, so we decided I could shop it around. I sent the manuscript to five places at once. Dutton took it before anyone else responded.

LJ: How did you learn and perfect the craft of writing?
MT: I have never perfected the craft and never will. It is an ongoing learning and growing process. Reading, reading, reading and writing, writing, writing are keys to honing the craft. Beyond that, I imagine if you polled a large contingent of authors, you would get a great variety of answers.

LJ: Did you have a writing role model and/or mentor?
MT: The many authors whose books I have read. Lloyd Alexander has been a particular favorite.

LJ: What is your plotting process — do you outline the book, the chapters, and the scenes?
MT: I keep trying different methods. I do outline in one way or another. For Moon Without Magic I started by writing a 70-page “outline” divided up by tentative chapters — it was almost a first draft. I’m still wondering how well that method worked.

LJ: On average, how many revisions do you do on a manuscript? What is your revising process?
MT: Because of word processors, it is hard to count revisions as we did in the days of typewriters. I’m constantly revising by going back and forth through the manuscript as I write a draft. However, there are usually at least five or six drafts for a novel that are sent to my editor. In the case of Moon Without Magic, I wrote two long “outline/drafts”—one 70 pages and the other 100 pages. Then I wrote the true first draft. My editor saw and commented on all three of these. After lengthy editorial direction concerning the first draft, I did an extensive revision and sent it to New York. More editorial comments (tons, actually) and another revision. Then yet more comments and another revision. Then another round of comments, fewer this time, and another, lighter revision. Now I’m sitting here looking at the copyedited manuscript, which requires answering a vast number of questions about such things as grammar, historical facts, and so on. I hope I counted all the revisions — it’s easy to lose track.

LJ: How did you find your writing "voice"?
MT: I wish I had a good answer for this one. The best I can do is to say that, in part, it came (and is coming) through the reading and writing I continue to do. It’s a mysterious process, I think, and hard to pin down.

LJ: What's the best advice you were ever given as a writer? What's the best advice you can give us as writers?
MT: Again — read, read, read. Write, write, write. That’s basic. Beyond that, there are a host of other things. However, I believe every writer needs to find his or her own way. There is no single path to writing success.

LJ: Thank you for taking the time to share your insights and expertise with us!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Changes at JP

Due to time constraints, Jorlan Publishing is now providing author services only to existing clients and personal referrals on a limited basis. The website is in the process of being converted to a blog dedicated to posting interviews, articles, insights, conferences, and news on writing and publishing. Please check back often for the latest updates.

We wish you all the best in your writing and publishing journey!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lana's Slog Blog

Check out my new blog: www.lanajordan.com

Because I'm so diligent about keeping up with one, I really needed to start another, right? Well, maybe I'll do better since it's supposed to help me stay motivated about writing. And hopefully it will do the same for you!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

LDStorymakers Conference

Don't miss the upcoming LDStorymakers Conference! You don't have to be LDS to attend, and they have lined up many, many amazing authors, agents, and editors. For more info, visit:
LDS Storymakers Conference

Registered attendees can also enter the Show Your Love contest for a chance to win awesome prizes: Show Your Love blog post

See you there!

LDStorymakers

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview with R. William Bennett

I met Bill Bennett, author of The Christmas Gift, at CostCo in December. He was doing a book signing and we struck up a conversation. I was very surprised to hear the book was self-published. And even more surprised to hear that he had sold almost 6,000 copies. How did he do it? Well, I interviewed him to find out.

LJ: Why did you decide to self-publish?

BB: Like many people, I had always wanted to write. One evening, in a hotel while on a business trip, I had one of those 'if not now, when?' moments. I decided that if I was going to write, I wanted to do it now, and do it with my full energy. So, that evening, I called my wife, found her to be completely supportive, and then called my boss and resigned. Within a couple months, I was sitting in my study at home with nothing to do but write.

I began that effort with intent to submit a business book concept I had worked on, but my daughter encouraged me to publish a little Christmas story I had written for the family a year earlier. Given that it was September, I thought if I self-published, I could have it out in a few weeks (was I ever wrong) and get my first toe into this water. I shelved the business book project and began my efforts to self-publish.

LJ: Did you have previous experience or existing connections that fueled your success?

BB: I had no experiences with writing and publishing to lean on. However, there were three things that gave me confidence: First, I had been given the opportunity to speak a great deal in my career, and I seemed to be able to tell a good story. Thin as it was, that was one asset. Second, I had found in my life that if I put my full efforts into something, being willing to do all the work required, I could learn and do something new (just as anyone can who does the same thing). Finally, I just had that feeling in my soul that this was the right thing to do.

LJ: Would you do it again? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

BB: Absolutely! In fact, I would recommend every aspiring author, and even many existing ones undertake self-publishing at least once. There are several benefits:

First, traditionally there is a real love/hate relationship between an author and their publisher, primarily centered on what is perceived to be how much money the publisher keeps and the author is paid in royalties. Self-publishing will give an author a real understanding of just how much work a publisher goes through to produce a book, and how much additional cost is incurred for everything other than the writing, from editing to production standards (such as higher quality paper, hard covers and artwork), to distribution to marketing.

Second, there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction of seeing your project through from beginning to end. While there are many steps, anyone can learn them.

Finally, if you believe in your book, you can invest the time to distribute and market it where a traditional publisher may not. There are so many success stories of authors who believed in their project when nobody else would. Some among those are Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Christmas Box, and The Shack.

As far as what I would do differently: I would not waste the time editing the book myself or having family and friends do so. The money for professional editing is negligible and the value of having a set of professional eyes on your work is incalculable. A hired editor does not feel any temptation to be nice to you, as Aunt Mabel or cousin Joey may. You want every conceivable pushback given you during the editing process.

Another thing I would do is invest in a cover designer. I made the cover myself first time around, and I thought it was nearly perfect. Later, I signed on with Jenkins Group, a firm to print my book and the per unit publishing cost included someone to do cover design. It improved so much, the new look earned it a place on the cover of Publishers Weekly. When I look at my original cover now, I want to seek out all remaining copies and burn them.

LJ: What did your marketing plan include and how big was the budget?

BB: I was very deliberate in creating a marketing plan. The learning of how to market was primarily free, as I downloaded gratis guides on marketing from various writing websites. I soon learned most say about the same thing. Eventually, I formulated thirteen areas of work a self-published author needs to focus on, of which marketing represented five of those. Detailed discussion of each of these could make up another blog entry, but for now, the marketing ones are:

1) Endorsements

2) Publicity - any coverage about the book as news, including radio programs, newspaper articles, etc.

3) Promotion - selling support activities like signings, speaking, social media, and book shows, etc.

4) Advertising

5) Awards

I focused on each of these areas, with some degree of success in most, with the exception of awards, which I am still waiting to hear on. I spent around $20,000 for marketing. I know people may immediately respond "That’s fine if you have the money..." I would say if you don't have the money, borrow it. It was responsible for me selling $75,000 worth of books rather than $5,000. Knowing what I know now, I could have gotten the same result for about $10,000.

LJ: What was the best marketing decision/investment you made?

BB: I think marketing is like an ecosystem with each part adding to and drawing from the other parts, so it is hard to say there is a single investment that is the best. There were a few standouts that became catalysts for others. Among these were getting endorsements from Robert Busko, an Amazon Top 500 Reviewer (that’s an official Amazon classification) and from Stephen Covey, hiring a professional PR agency, and doing KSL radio advertising with Grant and Amanda.

LJ: Novels are generally tougher to market than nonfiction. How did you get around that?

BB: I think a holiday book has a bit of easier time of it because it has the natural attention afforded the holiday. I did a Christmas book and we already know at Christmas, people are looking for Christmas books. Beyond that though, I would say it really comes down to incredibly hard work. I just stayed on every opportunity I could find, writing hundreds of people, sending out sample copies and more. Most of those efforts fail. A few succeed, and those few make it all worth it.

LJ: Was a seasonal book harder or easier to market? In what ways?

BB: As I said above, for the most part it is easier. It’s like the 'free return trajectory' a space ship gets when it circles the moon before returning to Earth, sling-shotting it with great momentum. The obvious downside is that nobody is interested in a Christmas book in March.

LJ: How did you get a book signing in Costco?

BB: I sent the book to Costco's book reviewer right after I wrote it and got a form letter rejection. Later, after I hired my PR firm, Jenkins Group helped me formulate a professional looking marketing sheet. I think the polish of the marketing sheet, plus the credibility I had by noting I had hired a well-known publicity firm caused them to look differently at the book upon the second submission. Another critical factor was getting distribution. That same marketing sheet and publicity contract helped me get into Baker & Taylor, and that improved my odds at Costco. By the way, Costco was a complete delight to work with. The store managers could not do enough to help on book signing days. I think it was worth their time, averaging about 100 books sold per signing.

LJ: What factor[s] would you say contributed most to your impressive sales?

BB: I think there is a pyramid of factors that contribute to any book succeeding. I think I did well enough on these that I was able to hit a certain threshold. My feeling is that they are:

1) Good story. Nothing you can do will overcome a bad story. This is not about your writing—this is about the fundamental story elements being individually strong and holding together as a complete tale. These are all the things you can learn from a writing course, such as plot, character development, etc.

2) Good writing. Once you have the story, you have to be able to tell it in a compelling way. Your use of language, sentence structure, etc., has to work.

3) Distribution. You have to have a way to get it out there. If you write it, they won't come just because you wrote it because they won’t be able to get it. And, having your own website is not distribution. You have to find a way to bring people to your website, which is the next point.

4) Marketing. Now you bring the people to your points of distribution.

5) Business Model. You have to watch your costs like a hawk. That being said, you also have to know your goals. I plan on writing as a full time career, so the mission of my first book was to get cred as a writer. If I did not make anything, or even lost money I was OK. It was volume of books that was my primary goal so that I could make my next move as a writer.

Incidentally, it worked. Through a series of events, the success of this book led to a contract with Deseret Book for my next book which is a Christmas story for 2011 that will be out this fall under the Shadow Mountain imprint.

LJ: Your name is R. William Bennett—very similar to William J. Bennett of Book of Virtues fame. Do you think that helped?

BB: It made for a lot of funny stories to tell. I think the biggest place it had an impact was that it brought people to my website. However, Google analytics said that as quickly as they came to the site, many left when I can only assume, they found I was not that Bill Bennett.

LJ: How did you get an endorsement from a heavy hitter like Stephen R. Covey?

BB: I knew Stephen professionally and I asked. He was very gracious to give me the endorsement, but I also have to thank his personal assistant who made it happen. Those assistants are key to having any kind of exchange with a famous person.

LJ: What advice would you give to authors looking to self-publish?

BB: I would say DO IT with these caveats:

1) Know your goals. If you want to do 20 copies, or 2,000 or 2,000,000, they are all worthy goals, but each will dictate different decisions when it comes to doing all the rest of the work.

2) Expect and do hard work. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in life that is worthwhile that does not come without hard work. I think there are thousands of self-published books that are as good or better than mine that never sold more than 25 copies. The biggest difference was I was willing to do the work required to get it out. Anyone can do the work, if they are committed.

3) Just because you want to self-publish, it does not mean you have a good book. Be willing to submit yourself to the blistering feedback of a great editor and you can eventually create a story that is worth reading.

4) If you have a vision for your book, write it down and never, ever let go. There will be discouraging days, and months, and even years. I collect great quotes about writing, I read stories about writers; I watch movies about creators of all kinds, from Norman Rockwell to Charles Dickens to Preston Tucker. All these stories fuel me. The common elements are vision, overwhelming opposition, and the reward that came from persistent work.

BIO: R. William (Bill) Bennett grew up on the New Jersey shore and in New England. He spent more than thirty years in business, including many years as an executive of various technology companies, and most recently, as the division president of FranklinCovey.

In 2009, Bill decided to devote himself fulltime to his passion of writing. An experienced leader, speaker and teacher, Bill has always used stories of great human character to cut through the details and reach the hearts of those with whom he works. Bill and his wife Loree have been blessed with four wonderful children, ranging in age from twenty-nine to twelve as well as two grandchildren. Bill and his family reside at the base of the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains in Alpine, Utah.

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT: In September of 1968, sixth grader Scott Stewart went out to the playground after lunch and stood up for a victim of school bully Ben Jackson. That moment permanently changed Scott's and Ben's lives.

Scott became Ben's new daily target. Eventually, having endured months of torment and humiliation, Scott verbally lashes out at Ben, managing to cut to the core of Ben's ego. Though it earned him near-hero status in the school, Scott is troubled by his conscience and to the complete bewilderment of all around him, decides he owes Ben an apology. What results is a unique friendship between these two most unlikely friends. Built on apology, forgiveness and understanding, this relationship carries each boy through a crisis that will affect them, and generations after them forever.

As Robert Busko, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer said, "It will be impossible for you to read The Christmas Gift without being forever changed."