So many lives have ended this week. Some that I have been aware of were celebrities and some were the family members of online friends.
There is an image I have for the way it feels when someone vital to you dies. I shared this image with a friend online and it helped her so I thought I'd share it here too and, if someone is no longer in your life or if you are just badly affected by the deaths of one or more of the public figures we have lost recently, I hope it also helps you.
When someone you love dies, it's like one of the outside walls of your house falls down. The rain gets in. Soil is blown in from the garden and it's cold and frightening. You want to rebuild the wall but the council refuses planning permission so you buy a tent.
You all squeeze into this tent and pitch it in the house thinking,
'any day now that wall's going to rebuild itself or the council will change its mind,'
but it doesn't happen. After a while, you realise you can't rely on the house to be your home any more. Three of the walls are there but without the fourth it doesn't work the same so you all start trying to love the tent.
You make it bigger and fill it with new things and eventually, you do love the tent. It's still in the grounds of the house. The three walls still protect it but you notice that where the soil blew into the house, little flowers are starting to grow.
It takes a long time for all this to happen but it does happen and when you finally notice that the place where the wall once was is now the place where the sun rises, that is when you're able to appreciate that life is beautiful even without it there.
So many lives have ended this week. Some that I have been aware of were celebrities and some were the family members of online friends.
People seem to fall into four groups about Twitter. Here’s a little quiz to see which group you fall into and how this could affect your career as a writer:
What Kind of Twitterer Are You?
1/ You are writing a book. You...
a/...send out tweets (messages) about your book constantly, set up a newsfeed from your blog and sign up to a number of automated programs that guarantee to drive traffic to your page, figuring it makes sense to get as many eyes on your book as possible.
b/... don’t tweet. Twitter is a fad. Twitter is full of airheaded wasters and you wouldn’t want them to buy your book anyway.
c/ ...get very confused. You want to make sure people know about your book but there’s just endless text on this Twitter-thing and you don’t know who anyone is or how to join the conversation – if it even is a conversation. Why can you only see part of what’s going on all the time anyhow?
d/...unfollow all the automated marketers immediately then scroll through your follower list picking out only the ones you like the look of before hacking away all the dead wood. You then follow the people you’re interested in and start finding out about them.
2/ A publisher starts to follow you. You...
a/ ...DM (direct message) them immediately with a summary of your book and links to your blogs; ask for their email address, offer your phone number and give them the best times to call. Write down a 21 day plan of action to get them to take you on – and possibly a campaign against them if this fails.
b/ ...know it’s a mistake as you don’t have a Twitter account, then wonder why anyone would want a publisher to follow them. If anyone asked your advice, you’d say:
‘publishers just want to see how inane you are before they reject you. Stay off Twitter and get on with your book.’
c/ ...think ‘OMG! What now? Do I DM, do I not DM? What’s the protocol? Aarrrgh!!’
d/ ...openly thank them for the follow. Follow them back. Look into the kinds of work they’re interested in and the people they currently represent. Join in with discussions about the publishing industry and let them know about developments you discover. Promote their authors in a non-spamming way (e.g. RT – retweet – news about award winners from their stable) and let other authors and readers know about them through #followfriday.
3/ You only have half an hour a day in which to tweet. You...
a/ ...see how many tweets you can put out with trending hashtags and your book in the same tweet. The more newsworthy the hashtag the better. It doesn’t matter if it’s relevant or not. Gotta push that book. Go through your followers and see the names of the followers of spammers and sex-workers. If people will follow them, they’ll follow anyone – why not you? Never take your eyes off that sale. It’s a numbers game. Visibility is power.
b/ ...think ‘If I were on Twitter, I wouldn’t waste thirty minutes a day on it. Do people not have lives?’
c/ ...wonder what you can do in only 30 minutes. You are paralysed with indecision and end up feeling like a failure before your day has even begun.
d/ ...scroll through your new followers - taking time to thank the new publishers, media people and celebrities following you. See if there are any conversations that are too important to leave for a day, and make a pithy contribution. If there aren’t any then put out a general update, witty quote or comment on a trending topic before getting on with the rest of your day.
Mostly a – you’re a Web 1.0 Spammer
Back in the early days of the dot-com boom, a group of people rose up from the primordial ooze and began to spam. In the early days, spam was considered to be repeated mass-emailing of unwanted drivel about business opportunities, pharmaceutical products and ‘personal services.’ Today, people are so fed up with spam that spam-sensitivity is heightened. There are people on Twitter who will unfollow you for any amount of promotion. Promotion is not always spam - sometimes it’s Parma Ham or something equally delicious - but many people won’t stay around to find out, so promote elsewhere.
Twitter is a discussion place. It is a party. If you unendingly promote yourself on Twitter, you are like the annoying person at the party with all the business cards but no interest in anybody else. It is really good that you believe in yourself or your product so much but let your web site or blog do your promoting. Put a link in your Twitter bio to that site and people will go there if they want to know more.
If you write an interesting article, put up a link but be aware that publishing a feed of all your blog or site content is a bit of a no-no. Would you just put your 140 character tweets up on your blog? Of course not. It would make your blog followers feel ignored. Think carefully before you commit the same faux pas with your Twitter friends. They want to talk to you. Throw off your business hat, loosen your tie and have a chat. You might like it.
Mostly b – you’re a Twitterphobe
You hate Twitter. You haven’t been on it but the very thought of it takes your blood close to boiling point. Why ‘dumb-down’ society any further? Isn’t it stupid enough already? Why won’t people switch off their computers and start reading again?
I hear your fury. Find your neutral space – it will pass. Read ‘Twitter is as Twitter does’ by clicking the link at the bottom. It is fine to be selective about your Twitter friends. Sign up and look up people you’d really like to chat with. Which authors do you like? Why not talk to them? They may even talk back. You can stay up to date with the trends in the literary world and get as involved as you like.
It is fine to protect your updates and only communicate with your best friends if you like. You can use Twitter as a bookmarking device for the things and people you find most interesting. Alternatively, you can take part in literary conversations like #litchat, where readers share ideas in real time using the Twitter ‘hashtag’ search facility. If you need this further explained, come to http://twitter.com/rebeccawoodhead when you sign up and I’ll take you through it.
Mostly c – you’re a Bitter-Twitter
You want to get on board with the Twitter-thing but you just don’t get it. Maybe you were a little over-enthusiastic and followed hundreds of people and now you don’t know which conversations to follow or what to do. Take a step back. Look through your timeline and see which of your new chums are starting to annoy you. Unfollow them. This is important because some people are put off if they see you follow too many more people than follow you. Look at what’s left. If you were at a party, is this the kind of party you’d stay at? If not, look for people you’d like to talk to and invite them to your party until it is.
Terminology can be confusing. For instance ‘Bitter-Twitter’ would have made perfect sense a few months ago but now ‘Bitter-Twitterer’ or 'Bitter-Tweeter' makes more sense. People tend to ‘tweet’ rather than ‘twit’ now. They talk to ‘tweeps' rather than ‘tweeple’ and ask people to ‘tweet’ or ‘follow’ rather than ‘twitter’ them. The vocab changes all the time. Just throw yourself into it and eventually you’ll find a way to make yourself understood. Don’t panic!
Mostly d – congratulations, you’re a member of the Twitterati!
You’ve sussed out Twitter and are moving into the realms of the Twitterati, if you’re not already there. Celebrities, journalists and publishers contact you daily and your experience of Twitter is interesting and fun. You have followers at the top of their game in publishing and media; frequently find prize-winning authors on your follow list and are never short of an expert to DM about a writing issue. You take your work seriously but are not afraid to be silly when the party calls for it. Good work. Follow me any time!
Now you know the kind of twitterer that you are, you need to know what to do to enhance your Twitter experience. The guest blog is on The New Author. I've organised transport for you. Next stop: 'The New Rules for Literary-Twittery'. Jump on the Blog Tour Bus....
A Note to UK Publishers
As yet, this book is not available in the UK. This needs rectifying immediately. British libraries, book shops and book clubs need this novel. Schools need this novel. Children need to read this. We can't be the last land mass on the face of the planet able to rave about it.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - by Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a tremendous debut novel. It deals with sensitivity with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. At the same time, it is a Romeo and Juliet story of near misses, deception, heartbreak and yearning. The novel is based in Seattle and jumps between the 1940s and 1980s. This is a strategy that is hard to pull off without jarring but Ford manages the task admirably, illustrating the changes in the central characters without resorting to decade stereotypes.
Ford's novel is well researched but not didactic. He does not preach at you to take sides. He simply presents the characters and the facts and you are pulled in. This will be big and you'll want to be able to say you read it early. Buy two. Read one and keep the other pristine. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet will become a classic.
Haven't said anything recently because I didn't want to jinx it but I've noticed my online following has been growing a bit of late. I just counted all my online followers (and yes, I took out duplicates) and I've got 468!
I know it's cheeky but any chance you lot could indulge me and mention this on your own blogs/twitter or just pop up a banner on your site and see if I can get up to 500? Thanks hugely. I'll keep you posted. :)
First of all, thanks so much to everyone for the support today. It's no fun at all when you receive a rejection letter and even though Jamie Ford (NY Times Bestseller) sent me a lovely note telling me that there's nothing wrong with a few rejections, it's still an occasion that calls for extra sugar in the tea and a mild hissy fit at not being able to afford chocolate.
The important thing when your work is rejected is to be analytical; evaluate whether you could have done anything to improve your chances or not, and work out how to vary your strategy next time.
I was fortunate enough to meet someone who's been rejected by this particular agency and gone on to be published elsewhere. He told me to pay very close attention to their wording if they rejected me as they are good at pointing out exactly where writers have gone wrong.
They said nothing negative about my writing. They described it as 'fluent and easy to read' and went on to explain that the marketplace has become very tough and they lack the confidence to take me on in this marketplace. Basically: 'there's a recession; you're unpublished; we don't want to take a gamble.'
I've noticed that this is happening to quite a number of new writers at the moment and it's understandable. I'm not cross with this agent for not taking a chance on my writing, I'm just frustrated. If they'd told me that the characters weren't strong enough or the writing jarred I would have something to work with. This isn't something I can edit my way out of.
Everyone's going through this at the moment. Companies are closing and qualified people are unemployed. Why should the creative industries be any different?
Our writing can't just be 'good enough' or even 'fluent and easy to read' any more. It must be extraordinary. It must be the equivalent of the Family Guy episode that screened in England last night - The King and I with robots and strippers. If it's not completely different then it won't get noticed. If it is completely different, however, doesn't that also make it a risk?
I suppose I'm asking two questions:
1/how do agents/publishers make the right choices in the current market so that their own businesses don't go under?
2/how are we, as writers, supposed to handle these choices?
The time has come to start another book, so I have. For the first few chapters, I usually need to lock myself away and become a total hermit so don't be cross if I don't post for a while. I may be able to throw a few words at Twitter and maybe Facebook if you're on those but I doubt I will be able to put together anything blog-worthy for a little bit. Feel free to chat amongst yourselves.
Pedamundo greetings aside, business hats on. There is currently a 'land grab' going on in the world of Facebook. Google 'Facebook land grab' for relevant info. Long story short, a very fine publisher on my side of the pond needs 1000 fans on Facebook to secure their own special bit of Facebook land. Whether you feel a UK publisher can help you or not, this is a great little bit of publishing karma and it will surely be returned to you in abundant book sales at a later date.
Up for the challenge? How cool would it be if we were able to do this just with our own network? (What a great thing for us all to be able to tell publishers too...) Obviously, if you're on Facebook, follow them by becoming a 'fan' but also put the link on your sites, blogs, twitter etc and tell everyone with even the slightest interest in books/writing to do the same. This is the link: http://bit.ly/PeKrv
Oodles of love,
P.S. I got my name in the Facebook land grab! If you're on there, look me up. http://facebook.com/rebecca.woodhead
Pedamundo is a new International holiday. I've contacted the BBC to see what plans we have in Britain but, as you can see above, they are not yet aware of any. Our government is leaving things a bit late as Pedamundo begins this evening. I'm sure the appointed Prime Minister for the festive period has some plans. The rules of Pedamundo - as I define them - are:
1/Stephen Fry is Prime Minister of the UK throughout the holiday of Pedamundo, during which time he is able to alter as he sees fit any laws pertaining to cheese or yellow flowers
2/It is customary to wear one wool glove and one cotton glove - though this is not compulsory and there are many national and regional variations
3/There is to be much merriment on an international scale and a huge amount of silliness
4/The traditional gifts are the 'retweet', 'link' or 'follow'
5/You can only mention Swine Flu if you actually have Swine Flu
Have a great one :)
Just a quickie for this post. Don't think it will be of any use to me as I'm in England and she's in America but for those of you looking for an agent, one of them is actually looking for more authors at the moment (rather than just looking for reasons to turn them away) so if you've got something up to scratch, do some research on her and consider sending it along.
Her name is Donna Bagdasarian and her new agency is called Priot Entertainment Group.
I've been a bit naughty today.
- I did no work
- I've spent most of the day exchanging cheeky banter with publishers and journalists
Can't help it. It just happened. There's a feeling that I should be in some kind of well-behaved hibernation while I await the decision of the agent but I'm rebelling. For one thing, the agent in question is lovely so I'm fairly sure - regardless of their eventual decision over my writing career - they wouldn't want me to stop living for the next 5+ weeks. For another thing,the publishers and journalists are lovely too and I like having little chats with them. They know lots about the things I love and are great chat-ologists. Why do I feel guilty?
I think there's a deeply felt concept that agents, publishers and others in positions of authority are either out to get writers or are simply unapproachable but is this true? Probably not. Authors are supposed to fall into the same category and yet today I received a very lovely email from one of my favourite authors, Joanna Trollope.
It's a contentious suggestion but maybe they're all just people too. What do you think?
I can write two novels at once - why not? I usually hit the tricky middle bit around November anyhow so it might be fun to take a month off and write another novel.
Who's in? If you're an aspiring author - maybe you've written a couple of chapters before but never known the glory of writing 'The End' - have a bash at NaNoWriMo.
Why Write a Novel in November?
National Novel Writing Month (it's now international but they kept the name) means different things to different people. Could you set yourself the task of writing a 50,000 word Novel in November? If so what would it mean for you? For me, it's a writing exercise but for others it might be the chance to get down the first draft of their first novel or break through a psychological barrier about writing speed. Whatever your reason for trying it (and there's no shame in 'failing' as whatever you manage to accomplish over the month is going to be valuable to you)why not give it a bash?
If you want to join in this year, leave a comment here so we can all support each other when the time comes and sign up at www.nanowrimo.org It only takes a few seconds. Next, go to your diary/calendar and write 'start novel today' on 1st November. :)
This is the sucky bit. The first three chapters of my manuscript are with an agent. I must wait.
Back in the day, agents were used to being approached on an exclusive basis but this is no longer the rule. That said, I have approached this agent on an exclusive basis. They don't know that but I doubt it would give me much of an advantage even if they did. What I need to decide is whether to leave my book with them for six weeks before approaching another agent or whether I should just get to work sending parcels to agents every week or so. Any thoughts?
If I were to take this approach, it would probably make sense to send out three submissions every couple of weeks. Small problem: I can't afford the postage.
Operation Sh*tstorm Returns
The need to get a publishing deal is huge. This is the main factor in my wanting to send out work to as many agents as possible.
The full-time job that Mr W was offered still hasn't started. Meanwhile, he's had to give up part-time work elsewhere because the council fined us for it (the work was all above board. He told them about it in advance.) He earned a little over £30 and they fined us £90 for it which has to come out of our budget every week! Our housing and council tax benefits have also been reduced. The upshot of this is that we now have enough coming in to pay for rent, insurance, lighting and council tax but no money for food, heating or anything else.
'Heating?' I hear you say 'but it's June.' Well, yes it is but the heating - as long-time readers of the blog will know - emanates from an oil-filled tank behind the house. This oil is responsible for heating everything - including the water. No oil: no hot water. If you click on 'Operation Sh*tstorm' you can follow the drama so far on this front.
The oil monitor has only two bars left. The cost of oil has gone up. The cost of a minimum drop of oil will be about the same as a month's rent. Can't be done.
In all likelihood, we won't be able to buy any food this month but my stockpiled rice is doing well and we have many peas. Hubby has made some chicken stock too so we won't starve. Calories are surprisingly easy to come by. Sugar's cheap. It's entirely possible to maintain your weight on not much money and we're both well-cushioned enough to sustain a drought. Starvation's not a worry. The worry is malnutrition. We're almost definitely both suffering vitamin and mineral deficiencies and we can't afford multi-vitamins. There's hardly any iron in our diet for instance.
Right. I'm going to stop talking about that before I get depressed. The point is: the money I spend on postage, paper, ink etc should be going towards food and oil. It comes straight out of our food budget. It's a huge gamble. It feels so arrogant and selfish of me to think that I can somehow work us out of this poverty with my writing. How the heck do I know whether it's any good? It just seems like the only option. How did J K Rowling afford to sit in a coffee shop all day writing? I'm a million miles from being able to spend money on something as frivolous as going out for coffee.
Could be Worse...
Thank goodness we moved house. The last place we lived in was fire damaged, had wood worm and there was a black bucket at the end of the bath which supplied the water. The place was constantly damp and generally falling to bits. The place we moved to had no carpets or curtains but it's gorgeous. It's really hard to believe how poor we are when you walk round this place! It was pretty easy to believe at the start as we couldn't afford carpets and I had to make curtains. Since we couldn't afford proper fabric, the curtains I made were not impressive. Eventually, we resolved our floor and window issues with the help of some astounding bargaining tactics and lots of free carpet fitting thanks to my husband's step-dad. Now it's amazing.
Back to the point. Given our financial constraints and the long cold-bath summer which stretches ahead of us before the onset of another hypothermic winter: should I send chapters to other agents or just wait?