#PitMad advice from an author with experience.

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So, you got no love during #PitMad and you’re feeling horrible! The world has just verified that you are, in fact, NOT a writer – OR – take a breath, it more likely that maybe you need to work on your marketing. Have a glass of wine and let your Auntie Tobi give you some advice.

My writing group friends have recently named me the “Dream Crusher” and while I don’t think I am; I do believe that having a professional understanding of the industry will help you when you try to persuade others to take an interest in your work.

First, turn your ego OFF.

For the rest of this article distance yourself as the author of your work, and think of yourself as an agent or editor, looking at your work through “commercial” eyes. What do you really have to offer?

Agents and editors want books that sell. Here are five things they want plus a bonus.

  1. Books that have an audience.
    1. I don’t care what your genre is, picture books to non-fiction, you need to know what’s selling. How?
      1. Check out the best-sellers lists – WSJ, USA Today, Amazon, NYTimes, etc. Find your genre and see what’s selling.
    2. If you’re selling children’s books – check out Scholastic Lists and then FIGURE OUT WHAT LESSON PLANS YOU CAN OFFER WITH YOUR BOOK! Seriously, make a home-schooling parent or teacher’s life easier by having ACTUAL lesson plans to go along with your book. These can be incorporated as end material or offered online. Look at the National standards at http://www.educationworld.com/standards/
    3. Look at what’s being reviewed and enjoyed on Goodreads
    4. TAKE CLASSES – please, for crying-eye, don’t think that your natural talent (unless you’re Stephen King) is going to get you readers.
      1. Writer’s Digest is a magazine for writers – read it, learn from it, sign up for conferences and workshops.
      2. I highly recommend Romance Writers of America. Check out RWA.org offerings of online workshops and conferences. They are FABULOUS!
        1. Warning: I’m about to rant. You say you don’t write romance? Well, if you write at all, you should consider that in 2013 over $1 BILLION was made in romance novels. So, at the very least, even if your market isn’t 32-54 year-old women, the romance industry knows how to write and how to sell. Romance novels come in EVERY genre – mystery, suspense, action, paranormal, historical, etc. Just do yourself a favor and look at the workshops offered – they’re for EVERY writer out there covering everything from health of the writer, social media, marketing, and writing craft.
      3. Books that can be marketed.
        1. Again, what’s selling in your genre? You have to research it. Seriously. Why would anyone put money into your book if you haven’t done your homework? There are trends in literature, stay on top of them for a more successful career.
      4. Authors that have a “unique” voice. What does that mean?
        1. Well, this I can help you with… You’ve got characters that you Why? What are their quirks? What makes them interesting? Make sure you translate that to the page.
        2. Right now, what editors are DYING to receive are stories about diverse characters. So, maybe you’re a white middle-aged housewife from the Midwest… Please, for the love of God, don’t write about a black teen who runs away from an abusive family to become a prostitute. Pretty, please? Instead, write your story, and make sure you add REAL people. We all have different people around us, and if we don’t… don’t fake it. Diverse doesn’t have to be about color, it can be about characters with ADD, Asperger’s, parents with dementia…
        3. You are an author of a diverse background – for criminy-sakes – EXPLOIT IT! It’s your turn to shine in the sun!
    5. Authors that are willing to listen.
      1. You probably have friends that have read your work. If they say it’s “cute” or “good” – that means it didn’t grip their heart and kill them with feels. Fix it.
      2. If you have a bunch of grammatical errors, find a copy editor. Your friends won’t find all of them and you need to present a polished, professional work.
      3. Your writing group says “they don’t feel comfortable critiquing your work” translated – you need to find your audience. If you don’t have an audience, then you have a hobby, not a potential career. (Huh, this could be why they call me the Dream Crusher…)
      4. You send your work to a potential agent or editor and they say “it’s not for them” that means, it’s not for them. Not, you suck… give up now. It really doesn’t. SO… what to do?
        1. #MSWL is your friend. It’s a hashtag used on twitter that stands for Manuscript Wishlist. Editors and Agents tell you WHAT they want. If you have a story you can tweak for their wishlist – do it.
        2. #MSWL also tells you, in effect, what is trending in the industry. What is selling, what is going to sell.
      5. Query editors and agents that are accepting your work. Use Writer’s Digest and #MSWL to find those.
      6. You get a critique back from friends or an editor and agent. They’ve given you hours of their time to help you. Yes, it stings. Ultimately they’re trying to help you improve your work.
        1. Warning: My last rant. I’ve critiqued work (yes, again, as the Dream Crusher) and the author disagrees and refuses to take any advice.
          1. Other readers offer the same critique and the author disagrees with everyone.
            1. What happened? I won’t critique their work again. They never sold their work. Even after self-publishing… Did they learn from this? No, they’ve decided that the readers aren’t sophisticated enough for their writing.
            2. Don’t be this idiot. LISTEN TO YOUR CRITIQUES.
          2. Read your reviews. Take it to heart. Your customer is telling you what they’d prefer and unfortunately, you may have lost them as a reader if they don’t like your work. If your characters aren’t likable, it really does matter.
        2. Don’t be afraid to self-publish if your work has been edited well.
          1. Agents and editors like to see that you are building your brand; that you have more than one story to tell. A career isn’t one book, it’s many.
          2. Learn how to market yourself and your story.
          3. Keep writing. You’ll get better with every book.
          4. Keep taking classes.
    6. Finally, prepare for next #PitMad…
      1. Read through your genre and find the tweets that got love and learn from them.
        1. They’re still up, look at what got the most hits. You can see who liked them by clicking on the story and then scrolling over the pictures of who liked it.
      2. How did they phrase their story?
      3. Did they add art?
      4. What are the trending words/metadata that you should add?

What’s my experience? PitMad changed my life. It started with NaNoWriMo and being in a bad place emotionally and wanting to write a dark hero. I was supposed to write a fluffy cowboy story, but I wasn’t feeling it, so I trolled through the MSWL and found Stacy Boyd’s MSWL. It was perfect for some characters I’d been thinking about for months. I had the characters, the setting, the storyline, and tweaked it slightly to fit what she wanted, too. When I got a serious offer from my PitMad, I contacted Stacy Boyd and explained I had an offer but I wrote the story for her and included the completed manuscript. I was so freaking delirious when assistant editor of Harlequin Desire, Tahra Seplowin, called me back with the offer. The book, currently titled Adrianna’s Avenging Angel is undergoing editing and is slated to be published in July by Harlequin Desire. With a book that’s been sold to Harlequin, I started querying agents and was offered a contract with the amazing Laura Bradford. So… PitMad works – but only if you lose your ego, listen to your friends and readers, and work on your craft. And no, right now I do not make enough to support myself. However, I have an amazing husband that supports me and loves that I’ve found something I love to do and am passionate about. Let’s face it, nobody’s happy unless momma is happy:)

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