Tag Archives: Publishing

Writers’ Group: Traditional Publishing

8 Apr

My writers’ group got together recently! Jason spoke about his journey through traditional publishing and gave us some great insight into the process.

The first step in traditional publishing is to get an agent. Writers pitch to agents, agents pitch to publishers. Jason recommended a few places he was able to find agents listed. The first is a directory such as the Writers’ Market which can be found in print or online. He said he had success with the print version, available at our library. Other sources would include the acknowledgments section of a book similar to yours (where the writer thanks their agent) or referrals from other writers. When sending query letters, be sure you follow the submission guidelines to a T! Some agencies say a rejection from one agent is a rejection from the whole agency, others allow for multiple submissions. Most ask for no attachments in query emails so paste everything in the body of the email. If you do get an agent, this person is likely to take 15% of your royalties, so make sure it’s someone you like!

Gary shared some writing infographics and we spoke about topics for future meetings. We talked about dynamic characters and discussed the possibility that the main character doesn’t change. We recognize it’s possible but couldn’t think of a book we’d read where it happened.

It was a bit of a short meeting this month and I had to leave early, but I really appreciate this team and how much they convince me to keep writing as much as I can.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!


My First Rejection Letter

18 Dec

I knew this day would come, but being so close to the holidays, I was hoping to put it off. My first rejection letter came in the mail today. I just had a feeling it was a rejection letter as soon as I looked at it, not even touching it to see how thin it was. My heart seemed to stop when I saw my name in my own handwriting and a return address with a journal title. I imagine many of you reading this have had similar experiences.

Because I felt like I knew what was coming, I made myself ready for it. I had cookies prepared in the kitchen and I put on sweat pants. If that’s not ready for rejection, please tell me what is. When I picked it up to open, I saw how thin the envelope was and my heart sank. Permission to print forms were at least one, if not two, pages and this didn’t even feel like a full page. Wouldn’t an email have been more environmentally friendly?

Unsurprisingly, there as a third-of a page letter inside addressed ‘Dear Writer.’ I won’t print it here, but it was what I can only imagine is standard. “Thanks for your submission… We receive over 2,000 during our reading period… If you’d like to purchase your own copy…” Boiler plate. Cold.

Being the child of the 21st Century that I am, I turned immediately to Facebook (for the record, my husband wasn’t home). Within minutes, support was flooding in. My non-writing friends were sympathetic (“I’m sorry, 😦 ) and also supportive (“At least you had the guts to send something, like JK Rowling”). The best advice came from AP, who insists that I frame it. KK reminded me that everyone gets turned down, even the elites of writing. It’s funny that this happened to me today because I just finished the section of Stephen King’s On Writing where he talks about how consistently he was rejected when he first started writing. So timely. Another fellow writer said she’d gotten a rejection letter herself earlier that day, letting me know I’m not alone. Nicole offered to come reenact the scene from The Proposal where Sandra Bullock dances to “Get Low” with Betty White. I’m keeping that offer in my back pocket.

It’s ironic that this came the same day my “How to Date a Writer” post went up. I’d read the list to my husband when I found it and I guess he listened well because he was very polite about the letter and wouldn’t let it get me down. He offered me caramel popcorn (not chocolate, but still delicious) and reassured me that someone would want to publish my poem. Probably the best thing said to me was when he said “At least your first rejection is a poem and not your novel.” So true, Jay, so incredibly true.

I’m fortunate that a lot of good things happened yesterday that are equaled out by the letter. I got a $50 gift card, Jay got Christmas gifts from his catechism students, I was able to blow my mother-in-laws mind with how much I write (I think) and this morning I got my company Christmas gift. But underneath all of this, there’s a voice saying “Not good enough, not good enough!” I want to punch that little voice, but he’s nagging me.

So where do I go from here? I’ll take another look at the poem, maybe ask one or two more people to read it and tell me what they think. I’ll revise it a bit and then send it out again. I’ve pulled up two magazines already. I’m determined to see it in print, whatever form it ends up taking. I’m going to start a spreadsheet and keep track of where something’s submitted and when I get rejected so I can send it again. I’m going to put myself out there and let the rejections come if they will because I won’t know what I’m lacking until someone tells me.

Reader, I’m not going to ask for your sympathy. I’ll use my mom for that if I need to. What I want to hear from you is how you deal with rejection? Does it motivate you or make you cry in the corner? Did you get a rejection letter on Monday also?

Until next time, write on.

Published Again!

13 Dec

I can say that for the second time, my work has appeared in print! I’m overly excited to say that my good friend and fellow Novel Girl, Nicole, has had a poem published alongside my story and I encourage you to check out Nicole’s poetry blog here on WordPress. If you’re interested in reading our stuff, it’s available in the Grey Wolfe Publishing Autumn Legends, available on-line.

I haven’t had the chance to read through this edition yet, but I see that it is shorter than the first. Shorter pieces? Fewer submissions? Fewer accepted pieces? I have no idea. I wish the pieces were arranged by some way other than alphabetically by title. Many are the outcomes of a writing prompt but are spread through the collection instead of grouped together.

I consciously decided not to send a piece in for the winter journal. It’s great to see my work in ink, but I want to see it in some other journals as well. I wrote a winter-themed sonnet a while ago and bit the bullet, sending it to my alma mater’s literary journal. I’d be very proud to be published there but I know it’s a long shot. The reading period started at the beginning of the month and I have no idea how long it will be until I hear back. If I hear back.

Reader, where are you trying to get your stuff published? Are you trying to be in a poetry book? Are you trying to publish your own book of poetry? What publication are you most proud of? Please leave a comment and let me know, I love hearing from you.

If you have the time, please head over to my Facebook fan page and give it a Like, I’m two away from being able to see analytics!

Until next time, write on.

Book Club Discussion and Meeting the Author: Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler

4 Nov

I had a very Bruce Feiler-filled week last week. My book club met Monday to discuss his book, Walking the Bible, and on Tuesday Nicole and I went to hear him speak about his latest release, The Secrets of Happy Families. I’ll cover Book Club first.

I was surprised that many people in our group didn’t finish the book. Because it’s not a work of fiction, this didn’t hinder our discussion too much and we were able to discuss the majority of the text and explain the last 100 pages or so. This was a book that really made us all re-think our religion. One woman in our group is Jewish and she said that learning so much about the ‘stories’ she had been reading since her childhood really helped her connect with them. She’d traveled through Israel as well and had the same feelings Feiler felt, that there was a connection with the physical place. Feiler’s continuation of this journey, into Egypt and Jordan helped us all connect.

One of the greatest messages of Feiler’s book is that the Bible isn’t a bunch of stories; a lot of them happened. What we’re dealing with is history, not fable. He was able to find evidence of many of the events that seem so fantastical at first glance. Water from a rock? Yep, it could happen.

Two of our overall observances were that Feiler was very well received throughout the lands he traveled. Maybe it was his guide Abner, who we all felt was his most interesting acquaintance. Without the formal title of many other people Feiler met, Abner knew more about the desert than (I think) even Feiler expected.

I was able to categorize the rest of our comments into three groups. The first is the amazement of the Bible we felt while reading Feiler’s words.  With all the fact and history Feiler found in the Bible, we were amazed that this history had been preserved for so long. One member of our group pointed out that many people don’t know what happened three generations back in their families because things were not as well recorded before universal education, yet these stories have lasted thousands of years. The animal skins the stories could have been written on have crumbled, but a combination of record keeping and oral history has allowed the stories to last through the ages. Because of the time gap between event and reading, we feel a sense of skepticism that these things couldn’t have happened, but Feiler’s evidence and account of the physical locations makes them seem even more real. It makes one wonder, is being in the desert the only way to fully connect with the Bible? One of our members argued that the topography of the Near East made the stories and their players into who they are. Had the land been a wooded forest, different things would have happened and those of us visiting Northern Michigan would be able to feel the Bible close at hand much easier. The struggles of surviving in a desert are not something many Americans and Europeans can relate to. One story that resonated with many of us was about a woman from New York City who moved her family back to Israel as a part of the Zionist movement. She said that in New York, her children would go on field trips to the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. This was how they got a first hand account of their national identity. In Israel, they go wonder the desert for a few hours.

Our next group of comments revolved around what we learned about religion from Feiler’s book. When God reached out to the Israelites, it was the first example of a monotheistic God as the center of a religion. The rules that this tribe followed helped unite them to each other and to their God. Kosher, for example, was a rule that the Israelites followed that God proclaimed and that kept them safe from forborne illness. People would (and still do) look beyond themselves to a higher power to survive. This is highlighted when the Israelites wonder the desert for 40 years. They had to learn to trust in God to reach the promised land. The first generation betrayed God and the tribe had to wait for that first generation to die off before they could get what had been promised to them. Along the way they learned to trust in God. One of our group members said that faith is accepting what you’re taught to believe, that which you are told but cannot see. To be part of the church, you have to succumb to your doubts and believe.

The last thing I will note here are the facts we learned in Feiler’s book that were memorable to us and that we greatly enjoyed. Translators of the Bible mistranslated the Red Sea (which Moses parts) incorrectly. It is actually the Reed Sea, which does not appear on surviving maps. The body of water many believe it to be is a more shallow marshy land, which may have been parted by a series of waves and tides. (There were many other fun historical facts that Feiler shared and I won’t spoil the story by including them all here.) One member was not very impressed that Abraham’s burial place was known because Cesar’s tomb is known in modern day as well and he lived centuries ago as well. Some of us wondered if the meaning of the word ‘year’ has been changed over time. With Moses’s life span being over 100 years and Sarah giving birth past age 90, maybe a year was measured differently, by cycles of the moon or seasons. Though, of course, these could be divine intervention. Our last point of discussion was on the Bedouin who still to this day life in the desert. With modern conveniences, it’s a conscious decision to live such a lifestyle and in Feiler’s book he makes it clear that for many it is a choice the people are glad to have made. It makes me think how connected they must feel to the desert.

Tuesday I was fortunate enough to attend a speaking event Feiler gave on his latest book, The Secrets of Happy Families. The crowd was relatively small and Feiler chose to speak from the audience level instead of using the stage. I loved the intimate feel. I’ll admit that while what he spoke on was very interesting, insightful, and thought-provoking, I felt like I wasn’t the target audience. My family right now consists of my husband, my turtle and me. I hate to brag, but I don’t have any disciplinary or behavioral problems with my turtle. He has some great advice about raising children from infancy to teenage years. I, however, feel closer to a teen than a parent. (Yes, I know this isn’t true.) So, like any inquisitive mind, I asked a question.

What of your book applies to me?

I told him I was a newlywed and Feiler told me that in his book there’s a section on how to argue. My ears perked up. He rattled off some really interesting facts. Prime arguing time is 6-8 PM so avoid serious conversations with your spouse until after 8. If you’re sitting on a hard surface, you’re more likely to be rigid in your opinions and not come to a compromise. Soft surfaces lend themselves to compromise. Sitting face to face is confrontational while sitting side by side promotes teamwork. When I told my husband he said, “Should we always just argue when we’re in bed right before we fall asleep?” Not a bad idea.

After all the talking and eating baklava (thank you, library!) Nicole and I made our way over to meet Bruce. We waited so that there wouldn’t be anyone behind us so we could ask our question. We introduce ourselves and I might be wrong but I suspect Feiler remembered me from our Twitter interaction (I may have been really excited about this). After he signed our copies of Abraham, we asked our question, “What is your advice to us?” First advice, if you want to be a writer, you have to write. This might sound obvious, but I’ve been given this advice before and it’s not. You need to dedicate time to writing, time to be sitting in a chair. And you have to finish what you start. No one ever published the beginning of a novel; it has to have an end. The other thing he said surprised me a little but the more I think about it, it makes sense. He said to self-publish. Good self-published books can be picked up by traditional publishers and make that jump into print. Even if a book doesn’t, an author’s second novel would have a better chance if it could be shown the first had success as a self-published piece. Feiler recommended publishing on-line to gain followers as well. The site he wanted to recommend escaped him in the moment, but I believe it was Wattpad. This platform gives authors a space to publish their novels chapter-by-chapter and gives them a place to gain a following and get feedback. I’m thinking now I might want to do this with my NaNo!

Feiler had a quote during the night that made Nicole and I look around for pen and paper. It was so beautiful we had to write it down. He said it was the blessing he gave his daughters when they were ten days old.

“May your first word be adventure and your last word be love.”

Until next time, write on.


25 Sep

Get ready for the shameless plug because I’m published for the first time!

There’s a local independent publishing house that got suckered into publishing two of my short stories.  The journal is called Summer Legends and is available for $25 plus shipping.

I truthfully have mixed feelings about this publication.  One hand, my writing is in print and some people will pay money for it!  That’s incredible to me.  On the downside, I’m not sure how widely this journal will be circulated and what kind of appeal it will have; All the authors in it are unknowns, myself included.

I’m so excited that I was accepted, but I wonder what kind of criteria was used because there are some pieces that I feel were falling a bit short.  I wonder if this publication is something I would even want to include in a query letter because I don’t know if an agent would be impressed.

One of the nice features is that I didn’t have to pay to submit my work and received a complimentary copy of the journal.  On the down side, I wasn’t paid for my work.  I’m not particularly bothered by this because I don’t feel the pieces are the best reflection of my writing, but are still good enough that I’m not embarrassed for them to be in the public domain.  I have another short story that I’d like to publish but I’m hoping to get paid for it or at least have it distributed to a wider audience.

Okay, Reader, time to engage in a conversation.  What do you think about this publication?  Should I be proud?  Use it in a query? Look for more well-known journals in the future?  Have you ever submitted to a small journal before and what was the outcome?  Please leave a comment on any of these below and let me know your thoughts!

Writer Goals

9 Sep

I was lying awake in bed last night unable to sleep.  I was thinking about how unlikely I am to ever be published!  My husband (being the amazing man he is) helped me think through it and told me to define some goals I want to accomplish.

  1. Use traditional publishing: I know a lot of people are pursuing the self-publishing route currently.  My goal is to use the traditional agent/editor/publisher route.  I think I would try for a steady five years before I’d consider self-publishing.  My goal is to not have to try for so long.
  2. Have over 100 ratings on Goodreads: I know this one seems a bit strange.  I see books on the Goodreads site with seven or 12 reviews and I get sad that so few people have read that book!  My husband tried to put it into realistic terms for me.  He challenged me to go to the library, find a random book in a random aisle, and see how many reviews it had on Goodreads.  He’s probably right that it wouldn’t have 100,000 but I’m going to guess that a given library book would have over 100.  (PS- I’m going to do this experiment.  It sounds fun.)
  3. Be featured in a ‘Local Authors’ section at a bookstore: I think a lot of authors dream of this.  I’m fine if I’m not on the New York Times list, but to be featured somewhere would be a dream come true.
  4. Have my book available in libraries: So that crazy book-lovers like myself can stumble upon it.  That really is the dream.  And finally;
  5. To catch someone reading my book: I got this idea from a book (strangely enough).  In the book Ape House by Sara Gruen (Fun Fact: This is a NaNo book), one of the characters is married to a writer.  She says that it’s always her dream to catch a reader ‘in the wild.’  I think that’s a wonderful goal and it would be so fulfilling.

So those are my goals.  Please leave a comment telling me what your goals are (as a writer, blogger, or otherwise).  Let’s try to help each other achieve our goals!