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.

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.

Day 6—A Southern Place

In an effort to help other writers promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate another book by a writer with a Calhoun, Georgia connection. Elaine Drennon Little is the author of A Southern Place.SouthernPlace

Last spring, I saw a copy of A Southern Place sitting on a counter in Wanda Dills’ lovely gift shop (A Gift of Season) in downtown Calhoun. As I plucked it from the counter, Sherry said, “A local author wrote that one. It’s good!”

I replied, “Hmm. I don’t know Elaine Little. I know a lot of writers from this area, but I’ve never met her.”

The cover art took me back to my roots in the flatlands of Georgia—south of the state’s fall line where hills and valleys are not plentiful and fields are a deep, verdant green. The back text teased me, but I put the book down remembering the dozens of unread books I had at home.

Two days later, Elaine and I connected via the magic of Facebook. A few days later, she sent me A Southern Place, and I wrapped and taped a copy of Project Keepsake and sent it to her.

Little hooked me from the first page. The book starts in 1989 as a beaten, broken young woman (Mary Jane “Mojo” Hatcher) fights for her life in the ICU of Phoebe Putney Hospital in South Georgia. Sheriff Wally Purvis tries to question her, but she codes before she can push any details out. What happened to her? Where’s her family? Will she survive?

The story then moves back in time to 1958 and uncovers the backstories of Mojo’s mother (Delores) and Uncle Calvin. Here’s an excerpt from the third chapter, as the reader is introduced to Delores.

She was outside under the smoking tree, on break from her job at the Nolan Manufacturing Company, a sweatshop that produced ladies’ panties from size 4 to size 44+. One Pattern. All cotton. In white, pastels, and various floral some big-wig found for next-to-nothing at going-out-of-business warehouses.  —Elaine Drennon Little

Mojo meets Danny Hatcher in Chapter 17. Here’s a part of her narrative:

I paid him no never mind, not at first, I didn’t, and I meant not to at all, but after I talked to him, well, things changed. People aren’t always as bad as you think they’re gonna be, you have to at least give them a chance, before you make a decision about them. My mama didn’t trust nobody, ‘specially men, though she must’ve trusted on at least one or I wouldn’t be here. —Elaine Drennon Little

The rest of the book chronicles Mojo’s journey and the events leading to her unfortunate trip to the ICU.

A Southern Place is not a happy, feel-good story. Instead, the book is about enduring. Surviving. Inner strength. Moving on. It’s a real story that maps a life’s trajectory—the sadness, pain, and misfortune that accompany so many lives throughout the South, and beyond. Little weaves alcohol abuse, the plight of the working class, poverty, pregnancy, and domestic violence into her book with panache. Her story is about real people living real lives, and I loved it!

A Southern Place
Author: Elaine Drennon Little
ISBN: 978-1-937178-39-0
Genre: Southern/Fiction
Price: ~$16 Paperback
Buy it HERE.

Countdown to Publication

ProjectKeepsake_BookCover_Final_SmallWhere has the time gone? It was just a few months ago that I partnered with Native Ink Press to publish Project Keepsake, a collection of fifty-five stories about keepsakes. The official book release date is February 27th—just eighteen days away.

By the way, I attended a book marketing workshop this afternoon, and one of the facilitators (Renea Winchester) introduced me to another writer as “being very pregnant with book.” I added, “It’s true. My due date is at the end of February.”

Again, where has the time gone? I’ve been so caught up in the details that the release date snuck up on me. To celebrate the upcoming book release, my publisher is hosting a Project Keepsake Book Release Giveaway.

—One person will win a free paperback book, Project Keepsake
—Five people will win eBook versions of Project Keepsake
—One person will win a bluebird paperweight (like the one on the cover)
—One person will win a writing journal to record his/her own keepsake stories
—One person will win a book lover’s tote

Join the countdown to Project Keepsake. Enter the giveaway today and be entered to win free books and great prizes. There are several ways to enter: You can tweet daily about the giveaway; You can post on your blog about the giveaway; Or you can navigate directly to the entry at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/6860333/