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A Fond Farewell

A Fond Farewell

Today has been a very emotional one for me. It’s been an emotional month, truth be told, filled with lots of exciting (and yet, scary) decisions.

Sometime around October of 2018, I realized that I was more than just tired, and spread like too little butter over too much bread (to paraphrase a certain Hobbit) – I was genuinely burned out.

I had been heading for a Burn Out for a long time, but it took this article on Buzzfeed this past January to really solidify for me what I was experiencing. I was working six days a week for ostensibly three employers: my dayjob, as the guest entertainment correspondent at Accessible Media Inc., and giving workshops, convention appearances and all of the marketing/editing/revisions that comes of being a professional writer. I’ve published seven novels in the last eight years and it’s been very consuming.

I needed all three jobs to make ends meet and to keep my writing career afloat, and it wasn’t doing my sleep schedule, my mental health, my physical health, or my fatigue levels any favors. And it was affecting the quality of my work in all three areas, most severely in my writing.

Something had to give before I did.

Coupled with a few fortuitous new opportunities with my wring career – winning the TAC grant, signing The Skylark’s Saga to a shopping agreement, and signing To A Stranger with Divine Paradox films – it became clear to me where my focus should be concentrated. I needed to free up bandwith to provide my writing the attention, clarity, and focus it deserved.

Therefore, with no small amount of hand-wringing I made the difficult decision to change dayjobs and say good-bye to Accessible Media Inc.

While it is my choice – and the right one – to depart Live From Studio 5, it wasn’t done lightly, and I can admit to a large amount of melancholy with today’s final broadcast. I was asked to be a part of the show from it’s very inception, working with the producers and the hosts for a few months before it actually hit the airwaves in February 2016. It was the first time my skills as a voice actor and pop culture scholar could be used in tandem and moreover, the team at AMI completely and honestly valued my contributions, which at the time had been a rare and wonderful thing for me.

I have learned so much from working with AMI these past three years – about the Accessibility community,a bout advocacy, about myself as a scholar and speaker, and about how radio (and later television) are made. There are so many hardworking people behind the scenes, and so much passion and intelligence working hard every day.

I definitely wept as I said my goodbyes after the show today. Then a long-time listener sent me an email letting me know he was happy to hear I was pursing my passion and to let me know that he’d always enjoyed my segments, so I bawled all the way home.

To everyone at AMI – thank you for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful project, for your patience as I learned the ropes, and for asking me to help you touch and change people’s lives every morning. I wish you, and the show, only the very best things going forward.

 

JM FreyA Fond Farewell
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WORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing

WORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing

Congratulations! You’ve signed with your first literary agent, and they love your manuscript! Huzzah! Bravo! Cheers! Mazel Tov!

… now what?

What happens next?

Working with your Agent

After you’ve had “The Talk” with your agent, and agreed to sign on as a client, one of the first things you will likely discuss with them will be what revisions they would like to see done on your existing manuscript (unless you already revised the book as a condition of offer).

You will likely also have a conversation about what other manuscripts you currently either have already complete, or what ideas you may have for future books or – if the book you signed on has series potential – where to go with the next books.

Remember, your agent is your ally for your future career, and they are the ones with their eyes on the market.

Shopping your Manuscript

Once your manuscript edits are complete and your book is ready to be sent out to publishers and editors for consideration, your agent will work with your to build a Shopping or Pitch package. This is where those Back Cover Copy, 1-3-5 Page synopsis, Market Comparisons, Series Potential, etc. documents that you ought to have been writing while you were sending the books out to agents to consider come in.

When you’re both happy with what you have, your agent will start sending out letters of interest (these days, more like emails of interest) to the industry connections they have. Editors, publishers, etc. They’ll talk it up at conferences and list it in their available properties if that’s something they do. They’ll work with the agency’s foreign rights partners and dramatic adaptations partners to pitch the manuscript around those parts as well.

You’ll likely get some nos, some partial or full reads and a pass, or some interest. The ideal is to have several editors at multiple houses wanting to acquire the book, which would result in a bidding war.  

Once you have an offer, you and your agent will discuss the terms of the offer (it may include a book tour, it may not; it may include an advance, it may not; it may include an audio book, it may not, etc.), request any desired changes to the phrasing or clauses, and then sign it.

At this point, the work of turning your manuscript into a book passes out of your agent’s hands and into your acquiring editor’s.

Working with your Publishing House

Editing

Once all the paperwork is signed with your publisher, your acquiring agent will reach out to you with a formal Editing Letter. You will likely have been in contact with them already, talking about the book and what they loved about it, and where they see it fitting in their hourse’s roster and marketing plants. But this will be the first real notice that it’s Go Time.

The letter will outline the strengths of the manuscript, and discuss any changes they propose. You can always talk with your editor if something is unclear, doesn’t seem to sit right, or would impede future narrative plans. Always make sure you guys have a through understanding of what you’re each talking about and are completely on the same page before diving back into revisions.

Sometimes these revisions are substantial and include complete burn-and-rewrites, and sometimes they’re like, four little notes. It all depends on what serves the manuscript best to make it a strong book product.

Once you and your editor are satisfied with the rewrites, a timeline for publication will likely be set, and the great spinning wheel of turning this manuscript into a Book starts cranking into motion.

Copyediting

Next, your manuscript will be handed off to a proofreader and copyeditor. Their job is to hunt down and destroy all those typos, comma splices, and mistaken homonyms.

Depending on the size of the publishing house, this might be the same person as your acquiring editor, or a freelancer they hire, or an in-house copyeditor. Either way, these edits should all serve to strengthen your manuscript, so if at some point you’re reviewing them and something is clashing, or they’re stripping out the voice, talk to your acquiring editor about it.

You may have a few back and forths, depending on what you want to accept or reject in their proposed changes.

Cover

Likely, you’ll have already been discussing your ideas for the cover with your acquiring editor. Remember, you as the writer don’t actually have the power to dictate or veto the cover ideas, but of course as the person who knows the story best you will be asked your opinion. Different publishers include authors to different extents in this discussion process.

Usually a cover is completed far enough in advance of the book that it can be used as the jumping off point for the Buzz Building that will take place in the 3 -12 months prior to the book’s release date.

Discuss with your editor what their marketing department has planned for the cover release, and loop your agent into this discussion so all three of you can strategize together.

Interior Design & Galleys

The next time you see you manuscript, it will be book shaped! After everyone’s signed off on the edits, your manuscript is forwarded on to a typesetter/interior designer, who will lay it out in book format. This is the time when they’ll add things like illustrations, if your book comes with them, or specific fanciful scene separators, or the title page.

Any specific imagery or layout choices will have likely already been discussed with your acquiring editor before this time, so now is the moment to review the book and make sure that it was translated onto the page correctly.

A “galley” is basically a dress-rehearsal for your book. You’ll be asked to review it (and hopefully with at least a few weeks lead time so you’re not rushed), and make sure that not only are major mistakes (like two chapter 4s and no chapter 5 ) or small weird formatting concerns (like cut off lines, or things that are italic which should not be or vice versa), or something else is wonky.

Where I’m given the lead time, I prefer to be able to print this out and see it “book shaped” to get a sense of the whole product, not just the story.

You’ll be asked to send back your fixes and then, for really reals, the book will be out of your hands forever. That’s it! No more changes! All done!

Marketing and ARCs

A lot of this work will probably actually take place alongside your work on what was requested of you in your Editing Letter.

Once you have your cover (and it’s been released), you can start using it in your own marketing initiatives. Authors are usually the ones who must design and pay for the little in-hand things like lapel pins, bookmarks, postcards, library posters, and of course whatever graphics you use for your own social media and website.

Your publisher will work to get the book out to review sites, awards, industry publications, and if they have the pull and the money, premium placement on a shelf, or book tours or appearances.  You may or may not be paired up with a publicist in the house to help with this.

You may have very little marketing support, if they’re a very small house with a very small budget, so in this case you may want to consider hiring a publicist yourself, or a social media advertiser, or a virtual assistant, or paying a friend in wine to put out a newsletter every month for you (thank you, Karen!). Or you may wanna just buckle down and do it yourself.

Either way, do some research and make yourself a plan. I have lots of advice on marketing your work in my other Words for Writers articles.

When the book is done-done-done, the publisher will make ARCs – Advance Reader Copies. Basically, pre-publication books. This should be the final book in every way except that they are available before the book’s actual release date.

These are sometimes paper, sometimes e-only. Reviewing the ARC will be the Final Chance Ever to find mistakes, but should be pretty clean.

ARCs are then sent out by either you or your publisher’s marketing team, or both, to reviewers, media outlets, contests, and industry publications. This helps to generate the vitally important pre-publication buzz for the novel.

The Big Wait

(Sometimes I think this stage is added simply so you can take a breather from your book and stop despising it after having reread and rewritten it about seventy million times. I’m always grateful for it though because it’s nice to have the time to refill your well with excitement and joy for your story.)

This is where the marketing plans start whirring into motion and you’ll start sending the ARCs out for reviews. They’ll start coming in so you can use them to support your marketing, and add them to your website.

This is the perfect down time to do all those little To Do list things you’ve been missing – update your website, write thank-you notes, get your social media queued up, arrange your book launch party, etc.

Time to go have another chat with your agent! Get them up to speed with the marketing plans that your publishing house is enacting, and talk through what you think you can add on your end, and from the agency, to support or augment that push. Makes some checklists, start some buzz going, and then…

Step back.

Do nothing.

RELAX. Catch up on sleep. Do your taxes. Spend time with your kids. Meal prep. Whatever sparks your joy.

And, eventually, when you’re ready to jump back into the creative well, start the next project you and your agent earmarked as your follow up. This might be book #2 in your series, or something else entirely. Check in with your agent, and then have fun!

Release Day

Time to get back at it!

On the day your book is released, it will likely be All Hands On Deck. You, your publisher, your editor, and your agent will be working in tandem to execute all of your social media blasts and marketing pushes. Try to set up as much of it as possible to be automated on the day-of.

Some people have their book launch party coincide with the release date, some choose to do it after, and some choose not to have a party at all. Research what works best for you, and make sure you have enough lead time for you/the bookstore to actually receive your box of books in the mail!

The Aftermath

The book is out, the party is over, the cake is eaten and your hand is cramped from all the autographs you signed. Bravi!

Don’t forget to keep your social media and website up to date with any changes that might come with the book – new fantastic reviews worth sharing, the announcement of a foreign language edition acquisition, an audiobook adaptation, etc. etc.

At the same time. take some time to refresh, recharge, and revel in what you accomplished before jumping back to the other project you’re working on.

You deserve it!  You published a book!

*

Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS here or ASK ME HERE.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing
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A WOMAN OF THE SEA -Posting Update

A WOMAN OF THE SEA -Posting Update

About the Book

A proudly out bisexual, Jessie Franklin was supposed to be going on vacation to celebrate her graduation. Instead, she’s pulled from what should have been a watery grave by an intriguing British Naval Captain– the only issue? It’s 1805! Stuck in Regency-era England, Jessie is left with no choice but to enter into the services of the Captain’s sister as a maid and companion in return for what shelter her new employer can provide. She resigns herself to a life of quiet servitude, and forever hiding her sexuality.

But she didn’t count on the sister being Margaret Goodenough – the world famous authoress whose yet-to-be-completed novel was the first lesbian kiss in the history of British Literature, and a clever woman. Clever enough to know her new servant has a secret. Now Jessie is caught. Margaret’s own perception of her place in society is transforming, the text of her novel is slowly changing, and Margaret herself is finally unafraid to embrace her own desires – and Jessie. Jessie must tread the tenuous line between finding her own happiness in a world where she is alone, and accidentally changing the course of history.

What is a twenty first century gal to do?

Read The Novel On Wattpad  GoodReads

JM FreyA WOMAN OF THE SEA -Posting Update
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WORDS FOR WRITERS – Beta Readers

WORDS FOR WRITERS – Beta Readers

One of the most invaluable resources a writer can ever have is a second pair of eyes.

Called a beta reader (like a beta-tester in programming), a secondary reader, or sometimes just a straight up editor, having someone else read through your work is an invaluable step in the editing process.

This is important because while writing a story, writers live very deeply within them. We can be blind to all sorts of mistakes – little ones like typos, or big ones like failing to close a plot gap, or to make a Chekov’s Gun payoff, or changes to a character’s appearance, or simply forgetting to write a whole chapter. I’ve done all of these things. It’s easier to miss than you’d expect, because you think you’ve done the thing and when you re-read the story, you can easily see what you intended to put on the page, instead of what you really did put on it.

Of course, putting a story away for awhile and coming back to it with fresh eyes is a great way to find errors and ensure the book you’re working on reads as intended, it’s still easy to miss things, or to assume something works when it doesn’t. Afterall, it’s nearly impossible to be fully objective about writing we ourselves put on the page.

To this end, that second pair of eyes is a vital part of the process of turning a first draft into something professional and legible. Especially if you want to make sure that characters come off the way you intend them to, twists happen at the right moment and the right pace, and nothing is too predictable or too gonzo or simply doesn’t make any sense.

Secondary/Beta readers are also great because they may clock onto something that you missed – an opportunity to explore a way to tell the story better, or introduce a twist, or broaden something that they say in the book but you didn’t realize you’d put there.

The number of times I’ve said “Oh my gosh, I didn’t mean to put that in there, but that’s a much better idea than what I was going to do!” is nearly obscene. ~_^

And the truth of it is that as much as people would like to believe we are special and talented enough to be above needing those second set of eyes, not one of us is.  Not a single writer.

So, I usually run my books/short stories/screenplays/(and sometimes even my fanfics) through three to five levels of secondary readers, depending on the intended use of the story:

  • A friend/someone from my writing circle who likes my work  
    • Why? This is someone who’s read a lot of my work and knows my patterns and habits, both good and bad, and help me spot them and work with them. This is
  • A friend/someone from my writing circle who hasn’t read much of my work or doesn’t often read in this genre.
    • Why? Because someone who likes my work, or loves the genre I’m writing in, may be blind to the flaws of the story that come from me leaning too heavily on genre tropes or my own habits.

>>This is where I generally take the feedback from these folks and go do a re-write or a second draft.

  • An editor
    • Why? This is someone whose sole job it is to find errors, both structurally and/or line-by-line (depending on which kind of editor you’re working with), and help you as a writer improve both the manuscript and your craft. They’re trained professional storytellers.
    • If the book is already contracted, then this person generally goes last on my list, because it’s the editor at the house that’s going to be working on it and carrying it through to the end of the project. I’ll give it to my agent before this editor to get her feedback.
    • If this is a book I’m self-publishing, then I skip my agent as she’s not working with me on this particular project, and hire a freelance editor to work with me.
    • If the book isn’t already contracted and I am giving it to my agent to shop, then I usually work with a freelance editor in some capacity at this point to give it a look-over before it goes to my agent so I’m certain that the version going out to houses for consideration is the best that it can be.

>>Another draft usually goes here.

  • My mother
    • Why? She is the Queen Of Finding Typos. She won’t comment much on the story, but boy howdy if I spell something wrong her eyes go right to it!

>>Another another draft goes here.

  • My agent
    • Why? Because she knows what’s saleable and marketable, and she might ask me to make changes to make the book easier to sell.
    • Depending on whether the book is contracted or is going to be shopped around, it will go to my agent either third or last.

While securing Editors and Agents may not be the easiest thing, there’s lots of information out there on how to do it, so I’m going to skip straight to talking about where to find those friends/people in your writing community who are likely fellow writers and can act as your beta readers/secondary readers/extra set of eyes. And you, of course, for theirs.

  • Friends
    • Did you take writing classes with any friends? Do you have people in your life who just love to read and do so a lot?
    • Have you met any other writers online, via blogs, or communities, or contests, or sites like Archive of Our Own or Wattpad?
    • Have you cultivated a group of fellow writers you can ask?
  • Family
    • Is someone in your family in creative writing, or teaching, or journalism?
    • Do you have family members who love to read and can be helpful but objective about your writing?
  • Local Writer Community
    • Check out local writing contests, bulletin boards at libraries or campuses or bookstores
    • Does your school have a writing or book club?
    • Attend book launches to meet a wide variety of authors, not just the one launching – we usually go and support one another.
    • You can also meet fellow writers in the crowd at  literary festivals, or conventions.
    • Is there a local social group – like a local horror writers association, or a monthly meetup for a group, like a YA Author’s Pub Night?
    • Does the writer’s union/collective in your area have nights open for non-members, or if you are a member, socialization nights?
  • Online Writer Community
    • Check author websites and FaceBook pages to see if they foster a community of writers or hold contests, like Miss Snark’s First Victim or Gail Carriger.
    • Join your local NaNoWriMo Forum on the website, and follow their social media accounts. Many have a forum where you can post your search for a beta, and answer someone else’s.
    • Check out the forums and community boards surrounding your favourite conventions, fandoms, or fiction archives.
    • Does your local writer’s union/collective have an online community, facebook group, or posting board where you can search for betas?
  • Classes. Schools, and Courses
    • Take a course or after-school or community class in writing. You’ll make friends and find great support there.
  • Professional Editors / Betas
    • Consider hiring a professional to give your book a read at some point, because their job is literally to make your book better. And they have the education and skills to catch a lot of what you may miss or be unaware of.

In the end, no matter how you choose to find a Beta Reader, I cannot recommend one highly enough. And keep in mind that it is expected that their service will be reciprocal (unless you’ve hired a professional); if they read your book, at some point they are probably going to ask you to read theirs and offer critique and feedback in return. Be prepared to support and help them in the same way.

The Writing community is an awesome one, and we’re all ready to help one another succeed!


Got a question about the craft or business of writing? Ask it here.

Or read other Words for Writers blog posts here.


JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS – Beta Readers
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MAIL BAG – A lovely Thank You!

MAIL BAG – A lovely Thank You!

Occasionally, I have the great joy of opening up my email and finding a beautiful, heartfelt letter from a reader who has found my work and really connected with it. This letter came from a reader who has given me permission to share it. Please excuse me while I go die of happiness and sob a little bit.


I am 65 years old. I am a woman. I have never written to an author before. I read Tolkien’s books in high school -as they were published the US .I had to wait a year between the books

😱

 I re-read them every year of my life. Well, the hobbit and the Lord of the Rings!

I’ve also read as many others as possible, the Simarillion, etc.
my son introduced me (reticently,lol)to George R R Martin’s books years ago. During major surgeries I became the oldest asoiaf geek,podcasts,reddit,etc.,rereads…

I read Piers Anthony’s books as they came out. I found you as I was looking for reviews on Xanth, again re-reads due to surgery..tho I have my paperbacks of the entire series I’m no longer able to reread them because the print is too small… And many of them aren’t available on Kindle.
I was a feminist. I was involved in civil rights .my friends and I worked so women could work and it would be okay .I experienced sexual harassment before there were laws against it.

I worked as a psychologist in an all-male maximum-security prison for 30 years . I also had a private practice.

As a result of reading your Xanth comments and review, i just finished your book ,the untold tales. I sit here in tears because my whole life I’ve been waiting for the fantasy writer you are… .A women as a complex,realistic,strong protagonist ,gay characters as just strong characters. I read your book in one sitting today, well, sitting and driving ( thank you for having this voice enabled )…I remain committed to the old Kindle keyboard,because I have had one for over 17 yrs… 

I have no means to thank you enough for what you’re doing except to continue to buy everything you are writing!!! Sometimes magic happens..
I’ve had such a sense that what WE fought for-the right for women to have careers AND families,to be acknowledged NOT as sexual objects, the protections afforded by sexual harassment laws,and the right not to be held PERSONALLY RESONSIBLE [sic] for their own rape & be victimized during prosecution,to be GAY AND PROUD (instead of suiciding as one of my best friends did in 1975,rather than ‘shame’his family)…. I was married to a black man for 28 years. now our biracial sons, 25 and 30 are experiencing unprecedented (for them)) harassment from random law enforcement…. and one of them is a law student at Stanford …

I have just been feeling overwhelmed by rampant cultural darkness.
Your book gave me HOPE!!!and I mean this.I hope YOU realize how ABSOLUTELY important your work is.

for me today , your writing was the candle in the darkness of current politics, racism and sexism that I needed. in addition reading your blogs and those of other young women, I see hope that the work that we did will be carried on. That the walls that are trying to be erected in this election are NOT going to be completed . 

I thought as a country we had become a kinder gentler place ,but when I started reading live chats,seeing the use of the N-word &the c-word I was truly shocked. my younger son said mom where’ve you been for 10 years…. 
We fought hard for women not to be treated as sex objects -while the old white men promoting music videos continue reinforce women as disposable,and african -americans as thugs…the absence of people of color on tv,etc.

I’m not nuts. I didn’t mean to write a dissertation,lol! . I just want to say thank you and tell you again YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!!


If you’d like to send me a letter, you can email me at scifrey@hotmail.com

JM FreyMAIL BAG – A lovely Thank You!
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