Friday, December 29, 2006

The Year that Was

I thought I'd take this last post of 2006 to offer a few ruminations on the past year and some aspirations for the year ahead.

2006 was probably the year that ushered in more milestones in my life than any other before. Not only did I have my second child, I sold my first novel and achieved a new income high. What's interesting about these, or at least the professional aspect of them (I won't bore you with the baby stuff), is that in 2005, they were nothing more than goals, things I'd hoped to achieve, but really wasn't sure if I could or would. Hell, until about May '05, I didn't even know that I was capable of writing a novel like TDLF. As I've mentioned before, my first novel took me years to write and ultimately didn't sell. And while my income had steadily increased over the years, and I was doing very well by nearly all freelancer definitions, catapulting to a new level was (and continues to be) a goal that I was actually a little surprised to achieve.

So why am I blogging about this? Because I really think it speaks to the importance of goal-setting. Especially because you're the only one steering the ship of your career. Studies have shown that people who set specific goals are much more likely to achieve them than people who sort of float along in life, hoping that they'll come into good things, even if they know what these good things are and how to find them.

My goal for the past year was to sell my novel - in hardcover - to a house that would fully support it. Thanks to my fabulous agent, I met this goal. My goal for the previous year (2005) was to land an agent who would place the novel at a house that was a perfect match and push for said hardcover in the sale of the book. See how setting one goal led to achieving the next? Ditto increasing my income. Sure, my advance really helped my bottom line, but in terms of magazine work, in 2005, I ditched pitching FOBs because I realized they weren't generating a high time-money ratio. I also abandoned any toxic editors who sucked me dry, both emotionally and time-wise. And these two things allowed me to spend more time crafting feature pitches, writing those stories and developing strong relationships in 2006. All of which led to more money. goal for 2007? Well, I'll be spending a lot of the spring generating publicity and spreading the word for TDLF, so in that sense, I'd like to be as proactive as possible, even when it might feel awkward or self-promoting or whatever. I'd also like to complete novel #2, ideally by the end of the summer, so my agent can then shop it around before the close of the year.

We set goals for our weight, our exercise routine, our smoking habits. But this year, forget those extra ten pounds and try setting career-related goals. I guarantee they'll pay off...and you won't have to give up chocolate to see results!

So what are your goals for 2007? And have a happy and safe New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

MySpace Musings

I noticed that you have a MySpace page. I was wondering what you've gotten out of it and if you think it's necessary for a writer to have one.

Once upon a time, I thought that MySpace was solely for sixteen year-olds who wanted to display various naked body parts to complete strangers and potential predators. Then, I heard from some author friends, particularly YA authors, that it was a fabulous marketing tool and way to reach new readers.

So I checked it out.

And I was amazed how many authors have pages on the site, and how many of their names I recognized, either as a fan or as a fellow writer. So I signed up. After the initial frenzy of wanting to spend every waking second tracking down old acquaintances and adding friends so I didn't feel like a total loser (admit it, you do this too!), I've settled into a nice rhythm with the site. I add a few friends every day, check out some fun profiles, and listen to some cool music that I might not be able to find elsewhere. it worth it? Sure. I've definitely reached some readers, particularly, say those who support breast cancer causes or BC survivors, who might not have heard of me without the page. I've also connected with some authors who have become emailing pals. As I approach the launch date for TDLF, I imagine that I'll amp up my efforts and become more proactive in adding friends and spreading the word about the book. But for now, I do trust that I've reached a new audience...not to mention had some fun doing it. (Though it's definitely a time-suck. Be forewarned.)

Does every writer need to have a page? Um, I'd say no. I mean, sure, you can have a page and network that way, but is it necessary? Probably not. Editors aren't going to be cruising through MySpace looking for new writers, nor are publishers. If you have a product, i.e. a book, to market, then the site can be really useful, but other than that - and other than having fun with it - I don't think there's so much value.

That said, I know that a lot of blog readers are also MySpacers, so what say you? Has your MySpace page garnered you oodles of business and writing work? Or is it more of a promotional tool or time-waster?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Introducing Essays

My question is, what is the best way to pitch a personal essay? I was told one sentence was enough to introduce the essay (something catchy, of course) and then just include the essay in the email. Would that suffice, or should there be more of a real pitch, something more comprehensive to introduce (and sell) the personal essay?

Caveat: Essays aren't my area of expertise, BUT I have recently landed a few that will be published around the time my novel comes out, so I do think I can adequately answer this. That said, if others disagree with my response, feel free to chime in and correct me.

I have to say that unless it's the most brilliantly written sentence ever crafted, I can't imagine how one sentence would be enough to lure in an editor. I mean, I'm all for masterful writing, but one sentence? It would have to be mysterious, engaging, alluring, potentially funny/sad/emotive/heart-wrenching and intelligent all in one. And yes, every sentence you write should, of course, have elements of these characteristics in them (just so you don't accuse me of advocating useless or filler sentences), but all in one? I dunno...I think it's risky to pin all of your essay hopes in one sentence.

Instead, I can offer what has worked for me. And that's been opening the pitch with the first few sentences of the essay, and then segueing into a summary of the essay. This gives the editor a taste for your voice - which, other than subject matter, is the most critical factor in selling an essay - and also gives them an idea of the direction that the piece will take. I can't imagine how you could accomplish both of these factors in a single sentence alone. It also still leaves room for an element of surprise: you've told the editor the general gist of the essay, but haven't laid out every detail.

So...that's my best shot at answering your question. Essay specialists - how wrong did I get it, or in other words, what would you do?