The Behind the Scenes Scoop on How to Publish Traditionally

The Behind the Scenes Scoop on How to Publish Traditionally

The Behind the Scenes Scoop on How to Publish Traditionally

 

One of the questions writers ask me a lot is: “What does it take to get published?” or “How do I do this thing called publishing?”

Some of you have heard about the work that we do over in the Writing Gym, and the results we get.

 

Today, I’m really excited because I get to celebrate two of our amazing Writing Gym Rats–we call them that.

It doesn’t sound very nice, but, they’re Gym Rats. They’re working out. They’re working their writing toward publishing, and I’m super excited about it!

First, I want to tell you first about my work with Jim.

Jim has been writing this great book. We finished working on it about eight months ago. He’s been putting together his package and querying, and we are in negotiations with an agent. 

We’ve gotten some great feedback from one agent, and we’ve gone back and forth a couple of times with revisions on that piece. You may not know this, but sometimes an agent will like a piece of work, but will want some changes made.

They might say, “I want to represent this, but I need to see a version where Chapter 3 happens before Chapter 1.”

In Jim’s case, he has moved some of his chapters around, moved some of his content, and now it’s back in the agent’s hands. Congratulations, Jim!

I also want to make a shout-out to Vivian.

Vivian just had THREE requests for full manuscripts!

Many of you know that agents will typically ask for five pages, ten pages, fifty pages, a hundred pages. They put their toes in the water, thinking, “Am I interested enough to read the whole thing? Because I don’t want to waste my time.”

When you get asked for a full, it’s kind of like going from dating to being engaged. It’s a switch in the investment that the agent has on you.

This is an agent saying, “This is interesting enough to me that I’d like to see the whole thing.” And to get THREE requests for a full manuscript within the course of about two weeks is amazing!

Vivian is rocking her querying and her submissions. She and I worked really hard on those submission materials.

Yesterday, I was chatting with a publisher. As you know, I speak with publishing industry professionals every week, all week. I’m always chatting with someone about what’s going on in the publishing industry. She and I were having a chat about negotiating audiobook contracts: how audiobooks become part of the book deal you get when you publish, and how we can work toward getting better publishing contracts for the people who are in the Writing Gym–those Writing Gym Rats.

And over the course of the conversation, she said, “I would love to see some pieces from your writers.”

This happens pretty frequently when I’m speaking with publishers and editors and agents because in the industry, I’m a known entity. People know that the writing that comes out of the Writing Gym is going to be high quality. It’s ready to go.

That doesn’t mean, as we saw in Jim’s case, that they don’t have some changes that they want to make. But it’s going to be polished, not something typed up during NaNoWriMo and sent in. 

As I was speaking to this woman, she said, “I’d love to see some of the writing that comes out of the Writing Gym,” and I asked her what kinds of pieces are really interesting to her these days. She said, “I’m really interested in environmental pieces these days.” And I said, “Well, I’ve got a story to tell you.”

I told her about the novel that Vivian has been working on, and she said, “That sounds amazing! I absolutely love that concept.”

I asked, “Can I send you a query and a synopsis?”

And she said “I absolutely want to see that.”

So, that’s how things happen in the Writing Gym. It’s sort of like having a matchmaker to find you your mate. Having somebody to help pair you with the right person can be absolutely essential.

You can do it on your own. If you want, you can go out and write your book, and try to revise on your own, and try to find an agent.

But, I spend some time trolling around in other people’s groups and listening to the kinds of things that writers are saying, and the things that I hear are: “Agents are jerks.” “Why is it so hard to publish?” “They keep rejecting me. What’s the deal?” “Why are they so snobby?”

I hear all kinds of things like that, and I understand the frustration of trying and trying without positive results. That can be really frustrating, and you might think that the agents you’re submitting to are just jerks. You can try to do it on your own, or you can stop running on that constant treadmill of frustration and find a solution that works.

I’m sure Jim and Vivian would tell you that it feels a whole lot better to alleviate the stress, to submit and manuscript that they knew was ready to go with a query in tip-top shape, and an interesting synopsis.

All the pieces they needed were in order, and I could pick up the phone and call these people and ask them: “You want to see this synopsis? Would you like to see that query? Are you interested in this book?”

That’s what happens for people who invest in themselves and in their future.

I want to be really clear here: There are no guarantees. I do not have a magic wand where I can make the people in the publishing industry do what I want them to do. But I am part of the publishing industry, and that makes a huge difference.

Think about the people in your community, whether it’s the fellow parents who drop their kids off to school with you, or maybe people your church or your temple or your Rotary Club. Those are the people you know. They are the folks you can call when you need something. They are your people.

When it comes to your book, you want to work with someone who has people she can call too.

Now, this isn’t for everyone. This isn’t a magic pill, and I’m not going to give you some magic thing  to get your novel to publishable. The Writing Gym is for people who are looking to become the kind of writer who can publish time and time again, who want that publishing career and are committed to doing the work and putting in the time.

If that sounds like you, I’d love to have a chat with you. Let’s talk about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there. Until next time, Happy Writing!

Finish your Novel in 8 Weeks… Or Less (1)

Finish your Novel in 8 Weeks… Or Less (1)

Finish your Novel in 8 Weeks…or Less

 

I’m super excited to celebrate Writing Gym member–or Gym rat as we say lovingly over in the Writing Gym–Hannah Johnson.

Hannah is writing a fantasy novel, which is no small feat. As some of you may know, fantasy novels are among the longest in the publishing industry; they’re usually around 120,000 words.

Hannah has been writing on and off since junior high school, when her talent caught the eye of a teacher. Later in college, she began to develop a love for writing.

“I discovered I was spending the most time with my writing courses, rather than my other courses,” she says.

Soon, she found herself writing for her own pleasure and recreation, rather than for coursework.

“I wrote a few shot stories, but those never went anywhere,” Hannah says.

Things began to change when Hannah read Storytelling for Pantsers: How to Write and Revise Your Novel Without an Outline. The book resonated with her, and she decided to contact me. I invited her to join our VIP Program, and she did. While in the program, she completed 95,000 words of a fantasy novel in six-and-a-half weeks!

“I didn’t even think I’d be able to do it in eight weeks. But I managed,” she says, modestly. “It was a relief; I had actually finished something I was proud of.”

From there, Hannah moved to the Publishing Mastermind, where she is revising her novel into publishable shape. She said she enjoys the company of her fellow Gym Rats, and that she has benefitted from being part of a community of people who want a writing career, like she does. People who “get it.”

“I don’t really have a lot of writer friends,” Hannah said. “Being together with a bunch of like-minded people – writers – has been beneficial for me.”

A community can be a powerful thing, and Hannah says it has helped her discovered talents she didn’t know she had.

“I didn’t really know what I was good at (before the Writing Gym),” Hannah says. “I discovered that I have some pretty decent dialogue, and I never really noticed that.”

(Side note: Hannah sells herself short here. She routinely impresses fellow Gym Rats with her fantastic ear for dialogue.)

Hannah recommends the Writing Gym to anyone who is serious about a writing career.

“If you’re interested in becoming a published author, this is definitely the right track,” she says. “It’s been a great experience.”

It’s been a great experience working with you, Hannah. We’re so glad to have you in the Writing Gym!

If you want to see results like Hannah’s, give us a call or book an appointment.

Celebrating the Power of Revision

Celebrating the Power of Revision

 Celebrating the Power of Revision

I want to celebrate Emily and her writing journey. She is one of our writers from the Writing Gym program, currently writing a novel set in ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom period. 

“I’m an elementary school teacher and I had this vision two years ago to write a novel set in ancient Egypt, because I studied and taught the theme,” Emily states. “I have a real story to tell about the artist’s life in Egypt. What it’s like working on the temples, working on tombs and more. It was a very respected lifestyle, and quite high up on the caste system in the dictatorship in Egypt.” 

Tackling middle-grade historical fiction is no small undertaking. So, kudos Emily. 

I met Emily at a local bookstore where I was running a class with some local writers.

“I was pretty much surprised, myself, that I went to your class,” Emily says in hindsight, “I really enjoyed it. It was at that point where I was trying to work up the courage to take writing more seriously. I immediately thought: ‘That’s someone who I could actually work with.’”

Emily, before we met, had already written and finished her longer story. She revised it a couple times but “it was in this sort of a standstill.” She wasn’t ready to submit and knew that she needed professional help with the submission process. 

“That’s what I thought it was kind of going for, but then when I talked with Annalisa, and being able to revise it and learn about writing has been the gift. She made that really clear when she described what the Publishing Mastermind was. That maybe the end result is getting published. But throughout it all you’re going to learn a lot. That’s what I’m celebrating.”

Once Emily and I started digging into her manuscript, her energy was so high with so much to celebrate. I asked her what that moment was like. 

“During that writing period, I used it to understand techniques and learn other techniques, experiment with other techniques, know what’s out there, know others who I might have overlooked, and read some different styles of writing within my genre.

“It made me rethink my story and how my characters needed to be doing more, speaking more, and interacting more. Sometimes, it’s those character moments where one character is thinking one thing and the other character is also thinking something, but they’re both saying something out loud. That has a whole other form of communication you can do in writing, but you can’t really do it in other forms of storytelling.” 

Emily also thinks that the inspiration that our Writing Gym community brings makes the experience so much more powerful.

“It’s really confidence-building. It makes me like writing more.” 

One takeaway that stands out to her as a bigger celebration than others is that confidence-building:

“Now I have the confidence to know that I can write a longer piece and have other projects as well.”

“Be alert and take risks. Know that there is potential out there.”

So, what is the Writing Gym? Why should you care about this? 

“Annalisa Parent is an incredibly professional who leads this inquiry-based study that is the Writing Gym. You, as the guide, ask the right questions to make you grow on your own.” 

Thank you so much, Emily. We appreciate you at the Writing Gym. 

Do you speak Agent-ese?

Do you speak Agent-ese?

Do you speak Agent-ese? 

I recently had lunch via Zoom with one of the agents I frequently speak with.

I know in this day and age, we’re doing a lot of digital meetings. It was funny, because she was telling me about negotiating rights with another person over Zoom. 

We are all dealing with the coronavirus right now. One of the positive things we can choose to see during these times is now writers have the time to write, read, and slow down a little.

And there is light at the end of the tunnel over in the Writing Gym. The publishing business has not slowed down despite the coronavirus. 

During my meeting with the agent, we strategized the careers of some of our writers who are in the Novel Selling U and are also on the Paths to Pulitzer. These writers have finished their novels, and they’re in the submission process. They’re creating that career. 

I want to highlight one particular member: Jeanne. The agent and I were looking at her synopsis and marketing angle. We asked each other: “Where are we going to place her novel in the market?” 

Imagine having access to an agent in the way that Writing Gym members do, an agent who can look at the whole picture and say: “All right, placement-wise, where’s the very best place for this and how can we position this so that this author is successful?”  

So, two pieces of good news;

One, agents are still looking for quality manuscripts.

Two, kudos to Jeanne and some of the other authors over in the Writing Gym for joining the Writing Gym and having created access for themselves to that kind of expertise.

The other thing that came up in the course of the conversation was the way agents reject manuscripts, and the things they say when they do.

It is not the agent’s job to tell you what to do with your manuscript when they reject it. But, they do have different ways of telling you they’re rejecting your piece. This particular agent I talked to said: “You might want to have some more people to read your work.” That was her way of saying that your manuscript just isn’t ready yet, but she won’t really tell you everything that you have to do.

Again, that is not the agents’ job. 

You might not understand this, because you don’t speak Agent-ese. The thing is, I speak to agents several times a week. I’m speaking to publishers and editors several times a week so that I can read between the lines when the writers over in the Writing Gym get those rejection letters. And because of that, we can interpret the letters. 

Remember when we were all still in school and we were graded with letters, from A-F? We can try to interpret your “grade” judging by the rejection letter. Is it an A or an F? What are they really trying to say with this language that they’re using?

At the Writing Gym, we have agents who have worked with us for a long time and, to be honest, 50% of the agents who I talk to are people I personally know. Because of that, we can get on the phone, call these agents up, and let them know that a manuscript has finally been revised. We can also depend on these agents to give us some meaningful feedback on the writing. This is really important.

Our Gym Rats aren’t stuck trying to deal with the confusion that comes with Agent-ese, such as asking unsurely whether it’s the manuscript itself or the query letter that has led to the rejection. 

Are you getting a lot of rejections and you’re not really sure what they mean? Or are you one of those authors who starts a novel and then starts it again and then isn’t quite sure what to do with it? Or are you someone who is confused about what genre your novel falls into? Let’s talk about it and clear up the confusion. Contact me here.

Happy writing. 

Writing during a time of International Crisis

Writing during a time of International Crisis

Writing during a Time of International Crisis

As you obviously know, we are currently dealing with an international health crisis. People have a variety of feelings about it. Denial, stress, anger, fear, and panic–all of the natural things humans feel when they are faced with a crisis. 

However, over here in the Writing Gym, we are all about being real and having real solutions.  

I’ve been working with writers for a long time, and one of the most popular statements I hear from writers all over the world is this: “I wish I had the time to write.”

Here’s a new spin: you have been given the gift of time. What writers have always been wishing for is here. So use this time that you have been given to write.

But how? 

Perhaps you can find 15 minutes in the morning or after the kids go to bed just to jot down some of your ideas. Think about it. 15 minutes? You could probably write at least 2 pages. If this goes on for a couple of weeks, you’re gonna have several chapters done by the time we are out of our homes, embracing one another and socializing in person once again. 

So, please use this time wisely. It’s a real gift to write. 

I’d like to give you a tip I usually save just for the Writing Gym members. 

When you’re in moment of strong emotions, like fear, anxiety, anger, write it down. Write exactly what you’re feeling. Write it all down and then save that. Save it in a notebook, in a file on your computer. Title it “uncertainty” or “fear” or whatever emotion you were feeling while you were writing. You’re creating for yourself a bank that you can go back to. 

Maybe 5 years from now, you’ve got a character who’s feeling really uncertain but you’re not sure how to convey this emotional authenticity into your piece. Well, you’ve created a bank for yourself where you can access a distant memory of that emotion. 

Here’s the thing. At the Writing Gym, we always want to reframe things positively. Let me reiterate.

You’ve been given the time to write and you’ve been given the gift of emotional authenticity to really add to your writing. 

Take care. Happy writing. 

Top Author Tips to Get that Novel You Wrote in a Month to PUBLISHABLE

Top Author Tips to Get that Novel You Wrote in a Month to PUBLISHABLE

Top Author Tips to Get that Novel You Wrote in a Month to PUBLISHABLE

 

While we are all at home, doing our part to flatten the curve, our Writing Gym members are taking advantage of this quarantine time to work on their writings. One of our amazing Writing Gym members, O’Dell Isaac, is at the Revision phase of our program. 

Currently, he is working on a detective story in which the main character is helping the Health Department find a person who is HIV positive. During his search, he finds himself in the middle of craziness as he works to solve his case. 

I reached out to O’Dell when I saw his post on our Writing Gym page on Facebook, celebrating his completion of a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo. I congratulated him on his achievement and then asked him: “What’s your next step?” 

“I actually didn’t know what to say,” O’Dell states, “I was too busy doing my victory dance to actually think about what I can do next. I realized that what I was celebrating was not something I was comfortable giving to an agent.” 

“It’s one thing to want something, but it’s another to have a concrete plan with steps to take and here, we’re talking about my publishing career,” O’Dell insightfully states. We talked in hindsight of our first telephone call. From there, I asked him to send me the first 20 pages of his manuscript. I called him back, had a longer conversation with him, and he finally joined the Writing Gym. 

“I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into. I was nervous but excited too,” O’Dell continues, “because I was taking a step that I had never taken before. I didn’t know what was out there, but I figured it was going to represent forward motion. It was going to take me further than I had been in this process.” 

O’Dell credits the Writing Gym for its accountability aspect:

“Someone is getting you to work out the tools that you have and develop new ones that you may not have had before. Someone comments on your results and looks at your writing and sees the maturation, the progress.” 

O’Dell states that he has come such a long way in his writing, that when he opened his manuscript again it seemed to him like someone else had written it.

“I’ve come so much further that it almost looked like it had been written by someone else, but the encouraging part of that is that I’ve become a much stronger writer.” 

The most important and beneficial thing O’Dell learned with us is to believe in himself. “Self-belief is something I never really had before. But now, I know that I have the tools that work best for me and my genre. It’s just a matter of knowing how to apply those tools.” 

We love analogies here at the Writing Gym, and I especially love what O’Dell states about the toolbox. There are a lot of programs out there that, in the context of the toolbox analogy, would come up to a broken door that you’re trying to fix and replace your hammer with a screwdriver or a wrench or something else. Then, you’d have to figure out how to use that tool instead of the one that you are familiar with. Now, you’re stuck with a tool you have no experience with.

At the Writing Gym, we open your kit and we take note of what works and what doesn’t work for you personally and move forward with that knowledge. 

Indeed, the Writing Gym wants our writers to improve and to succeed. We want to point writers at the right direction and help them achieve their writing and publishing dreams. 

We are so happy that we have O’Dell in our Writing Gym membership. We are proud of all his achievements and we hope that you, too, can take advantage of your time inside your home to write and write and write. 

Stay safe and happy writing.

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