WARNING: Author Under Attack

Late yesterday, I attended the July meeting of the Calhoun Area Writers group and listened to guest speaker, Sarah Rowan, discuss the development and launch of her first book titled, Authentic Happiness: Devotions for the Slumbering Believer (Westbow Press, 2014). With no experience in writing or publishing, she not only wrote a book, but she sold over 1,100 copies of her book in the first seven months—by hand. That got my attention because I know how difficult it is to sell books out of the trunk of the car.

But it was something else she discussed that resonated most with me. Her account of being under “spiritual attack” weeks before her book was published knocked my mind back to January of 2014, just a few short weeks before my book, Project Keepsake, was released.

Under AttackIn the eleventh hour, I had to ask all story contributors to sign a legal release form allowing me to print their stories in the book. It protected the publisher and me against future lawsuits—standard practice in the world of anthology publication. Three story contributors pulled out of the project.

One writer sent a rather spirited email my way accusing me of being selfish and greedy. She reprimanded me like a teacher scolds a devious little schoolgirl saying, “You stand to profit from my writing, and I will not allow that to happen.”

My character was under attack, and it stung. I lost sleep over the email.

Project Keepsake evolved from my love of storytelling, my passion for writing, and my interest in the objects people keep. I never thought about making a grand fortune from the book. I often joked, “If Project Keepsake becomes a New York Times bestseller, we’ll all be rich.” But I knew there was little to no chance of fame and fortune occurring, even though the book is delightful.

The following morning, I sat in my office in distress thinking about calling off the entire project. “What am I doing?” I thought to myself. “I’m no writer.”

Like Sarah Rowan referenced in her speech last night, I had allowed doubt to permeate my psyche. I was under spiritual attack, and I was going down like a wide receiver being tackled inches from the end zone. That’s when my husband appeared in the doorway.

I said, “My character means everything to me. If this person believes I am a horrible person, how many others are thinking it, too? And what if the book bombs?”

“Are you kidding me? Suck it up!” Gene said in a louder, firmer voice than he usually uses. “This is what you’ve wanted for three years. Don’t let that woman’s email get to you. That’s bullshit.”

He turned and walked away.

An hour later, friend and fellow-writer, Renea Winchester, called to check in on me. I often ponder the timing of her call that morning.

Renea is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy, Farming Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for Newly Published Authors, so when she shares her wisdom, I listen.

Renea told me that she, too, had experienced a moment of weakness just before her first book was published. She urged me to push through it. She said, “Remember—it is always darkest before the dawn. It will be fine.”

My husband’s tough love and my friend’s gentle encouragement were what I needed to move forward that day.

The book was published, no one called me out for being a despicable person, and everything was—and is—fine, fine, fine.

Do all authors go through these deep trenches of doubt on their way to publication? Apparently most of us do.

I think the take away is this: We must talk about our experiences in writing and publishing with each other, we must reach down and lift up our fellow writers who have stumbled or fallen, we must be teachers and encouragers to upcoming authors, and most of all, we must be kind to one another. I certainly needed “a lift” that day, and two people I love and admire came to my rescue. I hope I can do the same for another writer one day.

Tablo—Writers and Readers Unite

I don’t live under a rock, but I had not heard of Tablo until last week.

YouTube is to video sharing as Tablo is to content and story sharing. It’s an online publishing platform and marketplace where authors—like me—can write and post stories, assign tags, affix covers, and connect with thousands of readers. Indeed, every day more than a million words are published on Tablo by authors around the world.

Tablo Publishing

Readers can discover new, interesting, upcoming writers to follow and leave “likes” and/or comments about certain writing projects.

Tablo offers an easy-to-use BookMaker widget. By simply dragging and dropping a document into  the Tablo frame, it instantly turns your work into a publishable eBook. Authors can then publish their books with a single click on Tablo and its applications, on the iBooks Store, on Amazon and other major booksellers. And yes, Tablo assigns ISBNs, validates and packages eBook files, distributes content and manages royalties. The only thing the author needs to do is write a book, select a book cover, publish, and drink a cold Margarita while relaxing on a shady porch.

So last week, I saw a post about Tablo’s flash fiction contest. With a nice $500 purse, I decided to give it a try. I created a Tablo account, selected one of six writing prompts, and uploaded my 494 words to my bookshelf. To my surprise, over one hundred people read it and thirteen people voted for it. As a writer, I love for people to read my work, and on Tablo, people are actually reading my work. Yay!DANCINGDAYS3

I chose the writing prompt: Suddenly, every radio station in the world turns to white noise and a voice reads out a single name.

I immediately thought about old radio hour shows. I started humming some Big Band tunes, which reminded me of my mother-in-law, who adored Swing music. And that memory made me think about her last days at the assisted living facility. And so I crafted a flash fiction story based on the prompt and titled it, “Dancing Days.”

To read it, please click over to Tablo (https://tablo.io/amber-nagle/dancing-days), and if you like the story, please leave me a “like” vote. And if you follow me on Tablo, I’ll follow back.

I’ve enjoyed the Tablo experience of discovering interesting writers. It’s more than a publishing and sharing platform, it’s a community—a community where writers and readers can congregate, connect, and unite. What a brilliant idea! This one’s a winner, folks!

Why Authors Need Literary Agents

A few years ago, after I had collected about twenty-five stories for my anthology, Project Keepsake, I began looking for a publisher. I crafted a killer query letter and sent it out to about twenty publishers I selected from the pages of my thick Writers Market guide.

“Sorry, we’re going to pass on your project,” most of the replies noted. Other publishers said, “We only review works by agented authors with strong platforms.”

I had a pretty strong platform, but I did not have an agent. So, I shifted gears and began looking for a literary agent—not just any literary agent, I wanted a literary agent with Mary Tyler Moore spunk.

I got no after no, and then, I heard back from Jeanie Loiacono (www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com).

“I really love this and think I can find a publisher for it,” she said. “How long will it take for you to collect enough stories about keepsakes to fill an entire book?”

She was kind, interested, and experienced. After I collected the other stories, I sent her my draft manuscript, and she sent a contract outlining her services and compensation. I signed it.

Jeanie Loiacono

Jeanie Loiacono is a literary agent. Visit her website at www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com.

My friends and family members didn’t understand why I needed a literary agent, and so I found myself frequently explaining the role of literary agents in the world of writing, publishing, and selling books. In case you are wondering, here are a few things literary agents do.

  • LITERARY AGENTS SEND OUT MANUSCRIPTS TO REPUTABLE PUBLISHING HOUSES. Jeanie is well-connected in the publishing world and knows the key players at several publishing companies. Publishers open her email messages and take her endorsements seriously. She knows the people in the industry who may be interested in particular projects and doesn’t waste time sending manuscripts to publishers who won’t care.
  • LITERARY AGENTS ALLOW WRITERS TO WRITE. Before I found Jeanie, I spent hours each day researching publishers and crafting tailored query letters. Even when I wasn’t scouring the Internet or the pages of my Writers Market, my mind was preoccupied. Finding a publisher was more time consuming than I had ever imagined, and it interfered with my job as a freelance writer. Jeanie lifted the burden of finding a publisher from my shoulders and allowed me to get back to writing (and making money). Handing the task of finding a publisher to her was freeing, and a smart business decision.
  • LITERARY AGENTS SHIELD WRITERS FROM THE GLOOM OF CONSTANT REJECTION. Rejection is par for the course. Jeanie sent my manuscript to dozens of publishers, fielded the rejections and negative remarks, and continued to move forward without losing hope.
  • LITERARY AGENTS SEND PROGRESS REPORTS TO AUTHORS. Every other week, Jeanie sent me a detailed spreadsheet listing all publishers and contacts she had sent my manuscript to, along with comments and status notes. She kept me well informed during the process.
  • LITERARY AGENTS NEGOTIATE THE TERMS OF PUBLISHING CONTRACTS. I’m not a lawyer. The legal jargon of the contract was a little confusing to me, and I certainly didn’t know the going royalty schedule for first-time authors. Jeanie knew what to look for in the contract and fought for the best possible deal for me.
  • LITERARY AGENTS CELEBRATE SUCCESS WITH THE AUTHORS THEY REPRESENT. Jeanie was genuinely happy for me when she found a publisher (Native Ink Press) for Project Keepsake. She basked in the sunshine with me that day.
  • LITERARY AGENTS HELP WITH PROMOTION. Jeanie didn’t stop advocating for me and my book after she landed my book deal. She posted reviews on Amazon and other online bookseller sites. She tweeted about my book. She shared information about my events on Facebook and on her website. She wants the authors she represents to succeed, and so she helps us. She is a champion for her authors.

Sure, Jeanie and other literary agents work on commission, but what Jeanie Loiacono did for me far outweighs the meager monetary compensation she gained from my project. I had hoped Project Keepsake would skyrocket up the bestseller list and make Jeanie (and all of us involved) a small fortune, but that didn’t happen. I promoted and peddled books like a mad woman, but we didn’t make it to the Today show. Through it all, Jeanie never complained. That’s just not her nature. She continued to press forward with optimism and spunk, and that’s what makes her a great literary agent.

To learn more about Project Keepsake, visit the website at www.ProjectKeepsake.com.

eBooklet

On the eve of 2013, I vowed to release three or four more eBook titles in 2013. So last week, I got busy and uploaded another project to the Kindle storefront. It’s not long enough to call an eBook, so I’m calling it an eBooklet or eInstructional Guide. Have a Seat

My newest eProject is titled, Have a Seat—Chair Caning Using Split Reed. Years ago, I interviewed my friend, Marvin Garner, and he taught me how to weave the seat of a ladderback chair using split reed. It didn’t take long to find a home for the article at Grit Magazine, but I had to cut so much content to get it to fit in Grit’s space. Last week, I expanded the introduction, added more photos, and added supplemental information. I uploaded it on Thursday night and sold my first copy on Friday.

I need to do more of this type of work. I have hundreds of articles in my computer’s folders just waiting to be revisited, updated, and published. As the magazine world continues to decline, I will have to put my work out there using other venues.

Will publishing eBooks and eBooklets make me a wealthy writer? Probably not. But it does keep me current, relevant, and helps me market my other writing projects. If you are interested in publishing an eBook but don’t know how to get started, I offer a three-hour workshop designed to help writers get their projects off the ground. Contact me if you are interested, and I’ll send you my rate sheet.

Reworking my eBook Cover

Last year when I published my first eBook, Southern Exposure, I quickly designed a book cover incorporating blues and browns and an old photo of my siblings standing with my mother in the parking lot of Rosemary Primitive Baptist Church outside of Metter, Georgia. At first, I was happy with the cover. It served its purpose.

But in the last year, eBook cover designs have changed dramatically. They seem more professional now, and many authors are hiring graphic designers to create covers for their projects. Amid these snazzy eBook cover designs, my eBook cover looked blah and primitive, like an ugly website design from the late nineties.Southern Exposure by Amber Lanier Nagle

I took an online class in December that pertained to Internet writing markets. The instructor of that class discussed eBooks, their evolution, and their covers during one of her sessions. For cover designs, she suggested stretching a large, relevant photograph across the cover and using dark, sans serif text on a light background to complement the artwork. “Simplicity is the key,” she said. “You don’t want the cover to look cluttered and confusing.”

And so, I spent a few minutes yesterday revisiting my book cover. This time, I used a photo of the old tobacco barn at the Lanier farm, where my grandparents raised my father and his four siblings. To me, the photo signifies my roots and screams Southern. I feathered the edges a little to make it look a bit dreamy. I used simple fonts for the title and the author—no drop shadows or special effects.

The cover is better, I think. What do you think?

Available through the Kindle store here. Available at the Nook store here.