Friday, September 29, 2006

Oops, I Missed It Again

Thanks to everyone for weighing on on the great fall TV choices! I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to respond to all of the comments - crazy day in my parts - and needless to say, I had to settle in to watch The Office (sob, poor Jim!!!), Grey's and Ugly Betty tonight. :) But I'll try to respond tomorrow....

Question of the day: I'm curious to hear how much trouble you think I caused for myself. I got my first assignment from a pretty big magazine, and due to a variety of circumstances, I missed my deadline. My editor said that she understood, and I did get the story into her a week later, but she hasn't assigned anything to me since. How badly did I screw up?

On the richter scale of badly? Well, if I were your editor, I'd say pretty badly. (And that pains me to say because this blog is all about being supportive to writers, but sometimes, I have to deliver the cold truth.) The good thing is, is that I'm NOT your editor, so I can't say for sure.

But I will tell you this: for me and to me, deadlines are non-negotiable. If you've agreed to meet one, then you meet one. Barring major out-of-your-hands catastrophes such as childbirth, a death in the family, complete and total computer meltdowns, being sent off to get the idea...there's really no excuse to miss a deadline. I've been freelancing for about five-six years, and I can honestly say that I have never missed one. Really. I have had two situations in which experts bailed on me at the last minute (this, over the course of half a decade), and immediately informed my editors of the situation, and got the story to them within 24 hours of the pre-established deadline. So're not going to get a lot of sympathy from me for blowing past yours. (Wow, I feel like Miss Snark here with the tough love.)

Here's the thing: deadlines are there for a reason. Editors work on a schedule, and they count on you to help ensure that this schedule hums along. When you fail to file your story on the designated day, you risk throwing your editor's life (okay, not life, but at least day or week) to the dogs. And really, who wants to be the one to do that? And meeting deadlines also gets back to something I've mentioned earlier on the blog: to be taken seriously as a writer, you have to be a consummate professional. Guess what? Not delivering when you said that you would is the opposite of professional, and if I were the editor, I wouldn't work with you again. (God, I'm harsh today!)

One thing that successful writers know in the back of their minds is that, like actors or even athletes, for whom there is a full bench of players waiting to take their place, we are expendable. If you don't have the gusto or the savvyness (is that a word?) or the wherewithal to come through for your editor, someone else will. So don't be the one to drop the ball. End of discussion.

Now, if you really, really want to get back in this editor's good graces, I suppose that it wouldn't hurt to send her a note of apology, explain the circumstances that led to your error, and promise that it won't happen again. If she's kind (and she likes your work), she just might move past it. But if she doesn't get back to you, consider it a lesson learned and then move on. And don't let it happen again.

What do you think? Am I being too hard on this reader? Have you guys blown deadlines and lived to tell about it?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Must See TV?

Taking a break from the writing world to talk about my other favorite thing...TV! Hee! How sad is it that a voracious reader such as moi would be such a TV addict? What does it say about the state of our world? Hmmm, let's not ponder that too much, especially since I know that plenty o' readers of this blog love the boob-tube as much as I do. So in that spirit, I thought I'd 'fess up about my new fall tv habits: which shows I'm watching, which I'm loving, which I'm totally not feeling. The new tv season always starts out like this - with my Tivo on overdrive, and then I gradually whittle down my options until I settle into the shows I'm obsessed with (which will promptly be canceled by idiot studio execs). Feel free to chime in and let me know what you're loving (or not), and if I'm missing anything good!

Oh, and fear not: I'm not the ultimate couch potato. I tivo nearly all of these, then watch them when I'm working out, folding laundry or doing some other brain-draining task.

Though, this actual conversation did occur tonight in my household.

Me: "Let's watch some of The Office DVD episodes. I'm caught up on all of my shows from the DVR."

My husband: "Wow, that's like saying that you've read every book in Western literature."

That hubby! Such a jokester.

So here we go:

Monday: (aka, my new second-favorite night of TV)
Prison Break: Love it, love it, love it, even if it is totally preposterous and inane. Watch it with the hubby, which makes it more enjoyable. (Though the last two epis have actually sucked.)
Heroes: Tivoed the premiere but will now be watching live. One word: AMAZING.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Tivo - never watched West Wing, but did catch the premiere and thought it was pretty sharp. Matt Perry is a sure bet for an Emmy nod: you heard it here first.

Veronica Mars: Tivo and sometimes watch live. Feel compelled to love the show, but I'm not sure if I really do.
House: Don't really watch it, but my husband loves it, so will tune in if I'm totally, totally bored.
**Friday Night Lights: It's gotten good reviews, so I'm intrigued, but don't know if I can tackle another show.

Lost: Live. (Duh!)
The Nine: Cannot WAIT for this show. I've adored Scott Wolf ever since he was Bailey.
(And I'm happy to report that I've finally kicked my America's Next Top Model habit!)
Project Runway: Tivo. At least for the next few weeks until the winner is crowned.

The Office: Live: if you've followed this blog at all, you'll know that I'm obsessed. OBSESSED. Also now watch with the hubby.
Ugly Betty: Tivo: This has gotten rave reviews, and I love the fact that it's set at a magazine.
Grey's: Live (Duh again!). Mmmmm, McDreamy. That's all I need to say.

I got nothin'. I debated taking on Men in Trees, but I just don't have the space for it in my schedule. Instead, I usually catch up on something that I've taped.


The Amazing Race: Live. Love it! Want to be on it! Could never deal with the sleep impairment and would promptly be declared a whiny bitch!
Desperate Housewives: Tivo. Totally lost interest last year, but might muster the energy to give it a second try.
Without a Trace: Tivo. Started watching after I interviewed Hank Steinberg a few years back. Totally nice, normal guy. Also watch this one w/the hubby, so we usually fire it up on a Friday or Saturday when we don't have a sitter. /lame/

So that's my

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Conquering the World Wide Web

I'm building my first portfolio website and feel like I'm lacking direction. Are websites more helpful for certain kinds of writers? I'm planning on using my site to easily present my work to editors, but can a website really help sell you? Also, would I be violating copyrights by posting the text or images of pages of articles I've had published?

In my mind, and I couldn't feel more strongly about this, a website is a MUST for anyone who is serious about building her platform and taking her business (because remember, writing is a business, people!) to the next level. So you're definitely on the right track.

Let's break down your questions: are website more helpful for certain kinds of writers? Well, unless you want to be the kind of writer who is invisible, then I'd say no. I've surfed over to dozens of fiction writers' websites to learn more about them or their books (or to contact them), and trust me, plenty of magazine editors have surfed over to mine (or other mag writers like me) to learn more about me and my work. And the same logic applies going the other way: I've often tried to hunt down a book author for a magazine interview, and when I couldn't find him or her online, I'd move on to someone else. Your website makes you instantly accessible, and if you're not instantly accessible, and someone needs you NOW or is interested in you NOW, he'll move on to someone whom he can find stat. You know how it goes...snooze = lose.

In addition to this instant access, my website has been an invaluable place to showcase my work to editors. (Something you alluded to above.) If they're interested in hiring me, but haven't seen my clips? Hey, check out my website! If they want to know what sorts of subjects I cover? Hey, check out my website! Not to mention that editors definitely google you when your name has been passed to them by someone else or when they're looking for a specific type of writer (say, a health writer), and they'll track you down this way too.

As far as copyrights, I'll admit that I know zilch about that. This issue comes up every once in a while in one of my writer's boards, and no one ever seems to nail down the right thing to do. I'm sure that someone will chime in here and tell me that I'm breaking the law by posting links/scanned articles, but (and maybe this isn't a good defense!), I can tell you that dozens of editors have seen my site, and no one has complained. And most writers I know who have websites post the articles too, so I dunno, maybe there's safety in numbers? (Or is this akin to jumping off a bridge because your friends are all doing it?)

Want to sing the praises of your website? Or narc me out to the writing police? Sound off.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More on Blurb Etiquette

After I asked someone I really wanted to blurb me and who I felt would blurb me, I found out she only had a month if I wanted her blurb on the cover. Needless to say with her crazy writing schedule I didn't feel like this was fair to her and apologized. Is it worth it to get blurbs knowing they won't make it on the cover?

I wanted to pull this question out from the comments section because I thought it was juicy enough to ask other folks to weigh in on, and feared it might get lost if I didn't.

Here's what I would do (or would have done): I would have still asked said author for the blurb, but with many, many caveats. The first being that you are truly respectful of her time and if she couldn't get to it in less than a month, absolutely no big deal. (I say this to all potential blurbers anyway, since obviously, whether they have a month or six, I'm still asking them to give me their time.) I'd also then include something about how, if she can't make the tight deadline, the blurb would still be included on your website, the press materials and the inside pages of the book. This would then give her the option of whether she felt that reading the ms was a worthwhile use of her time. Why not let her decide rather than dinging yourself from the get-go?

I definitely still have some other authors in mind whom I'd love from whom I'd love to garner blurbs. And if we do get more, that means that someone might not make the back cover. (Right now, I think all six are going to be squeezed on.) But when I asked both my agent and my editor if we should stop soliciting blurbs, they said no - that we'd use them in other capacities, like some of the ways mentioned above. I think - and I'm only speculating here, so please, authors feel free to weigh in- that when you blurb, you do it with the hope that you'll get the back cover, but also recognize that you might be placed inside the book, along with a website, etc. Like anything else in publishing, there are no guarantees. At least, that would be my attitude if I gave someone a blurb...

So those are my thoughts? Would you have handled the situation differently? And for those of you who have been asked for blurbs, how would you like to be informed of a scenario like this? Do you expect the back cover? (I could be totally wrong, frankly.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

'Scuse Me, Can You Spare a Blurb?

A Grog Not to Be Missed:
Before we get into the question of the day, I wanted to send a shout-out to six of my author friends who have started a group blog called, The Debutantes...each of these authors has a debut novel coming out in '07, thus the title. Get it? Truth be told, I was part of this wise, witty, brilliant grog for a short time (when it was in its planning stages), but found that I could only juggle so much and had to regretfully (and guiltily) bow out...but I know that these gals, including Kristy Kiernan, Anna David, Eileen Cook, Tish Cohen, Jennifer McMahon and Mia King, are going to do just fine (read: kick ass) without me. So head on over and check out The Debutante Ball!

Question of the day: Do you have blurbs from authors ... Oh, never mind, I already know this question! But maybe for others who don't you might want to explain author blurbs and the importance of them, and how to get them (after the sale of a novel, of course!). (Special shout-out to the hilarious - and often drunk - Manic Mom for the question!)

Yes, I do have blurbs, as of now, six of 'em, from various chick lit/women's fiction authors.

Blurbs are an interesting topic because it seems that everyone has a different take on them: new authors are often desperate for them, certain readers despise them, and I'm not sure that anyone - PR depts, authors, etc - really knows how much they actually DO for you, in terms of real, quantifiable terms. But regardless, they do seem important, and here's at least one reason why: when it comes time to fire up your sales force (the folks who shop your ARC around to places like Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon, etc), these blurbs can really help. (Or so my agent and editor tell me.) It makes their job a hell of a lot easier...after all, the book has the ringing endorsement of Superstar Bestseller, which might help distinguish it from the 1000s of other books being pushed on the Barnes and Noble buyer. And the Barnes and Noble buyer might also be impressed with the fact that, given these blurbs, he suspects that the book will be an easier sell to readers. After all, all things being equal, it does make sense that a customer will likelier buy a book that's been endorsed by one of her favorite authors than a book that hasn't been.

So, as you can probably tell, I'm someone who subscribes to the fact that blurbs really can only help raise the awareness and sales of your book. Sure, some readers - and some of you might comment on this - find blurbs a turn-off. I don't really understand that, but I guess it's your right. But more often, they'll help distinguish your book from the dozens of others on the shelf. I suspect, and again, I have no proof of this, that they might also help you garner more reviews...again for the same reason that blurbs might boost your sales: if a reviewer sees that it's been well-received by other authors, he might be more likely to pick it up than if not.

Now, some skeptics out there will say that blurbing is sort of like back-scratching: you do me, I'll do you. And thus, they doubt the validity of the blurb. Hell, I've heard people claim that some blurbers don't even read the ms they're blurbing, and the truth is...I'm sure that happens, and it's unfortunate. In my case, I can say with certainty that all of my blurbers read the ms (I could tell from their specific comments), and then offered up whatever comments they so chose.

So how did I get these blurbs? Well, I was proactive. After the revisions of my ms were complete, I emailed about 10 -12 authors whose work I had read (and liked), and with whom I thought I would share similar readers. I didn't know these women from Adam, but wrote them very polite, very flattering (and not just to be flattering! but because I did and do admire their work) notes, explained what my book was about, why I'd love for them to take a peek, and let them know that under no circumstances did I expect an obligatory "yes," or good review. A few didn't have the time to read the ms, but I've gotten great blurbs from most of those who did.

My editor and agent were thrilled, partly because of the quality of the authors who were blurbing, but also because most authors don't get blurbs until the galleys are made. So now, we had these amazing quotes to use on the back of the galleys, as well as in the catalog copy that gets sent out to booksellers. But we're still not done. I get my galleys in a few weeks (yahoo!), and from there, my agent and editor will take the lead, sending out ARCs to a few more authors in hopes of landing even more advanced praise. Because, as my agent told me, you can never have enough positive feedback. I wasn't about to disagree... 'em? Hate 'em? Disregard 'em? Gotten 'em? Been asked for them? Who wants to share his or her own opinion on blurbs?