On My Bookshelf: The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

Title: The Wild Trees
Author: Richard Preston
Genre: Nonfiction: Redwood Trees, Forest Canopies, Ecology, Explorers
My Rating: 5/5

Imagine you’re crazy enough to climb a redwood tree. That’s more than 300 feet. More than 30 stories. (No thank you–I’ll stay here on the ground with my crippling fear of heights.) Now imagine sitting in the branches at the top of that tree, plucking fresh berries off the huckleberry bush that lives in the canopy. In “The Wild Trees,” Richard Preston beautifully describes the unseen world in the tops of the earth’s tallest trees. The canopies of the redwoods were once thought to be a desert, but they teem with life. Entire gardens grow in the treetops. Climbers can get lost in the branches, some of which are riddled with fire caves. Preston conveys the wonder of the canopies through the eyes of the pioneers who were some of the first explorers. I devoured this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in trees, explorers, or ecology in general. Someday, when I am able to see a redwood forest with my own eyes, I hope I feel like one of the explorers as he sits in the top of one of the trees: 

“The spiritual weight of the place seemed immense. It was as if he were waking up from a sleep, as if his life up to then had been a dream, and this was real. He felt as if he had left time behind.”  

The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston (p26)

How to Publish Your Novel: Part 2


Years ago, when I first thought I might become a published author someday, I started researching how to achieve my goals. What I found was completely overwhelming. I needed an agent, but there were thousands of them. Each of them wanted different documents I had never heard of. Query? Synopsis? What?

In this series, I’m going to share what I found and break down how to publish your novel. I’ll cover a the difference between the types of publishing currently available, writing a query letter, writing a synopsis, and finding the ideal agent to query. The process can seem overwhelming, but I hope to offer some clarity and simplicity so you can approach publishing with confidence.

Welcome to Part 2: Finding an Agent. Catch up by reading Part 1: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing.


Literary Agents:
The Basics

So you’ve decided to publish your novel and have settled on the traditional publishing method as the best option.

Step One is to find a literary agent to represent you.

What is a literary agent anyway?

The shortest answer is that literary agents sell manuscripts to publishing houses. Most publishers don’t accept manuscripts from authors directly; they need to come through a middle man (middle person?)–the literary agent in this case. When you find an agent who likes your work, they will submit to publishers on your behalf, negotiate contracts, and will be your advocate in the publishing world. They love your book and want others to read it.


Literary Agents:
How Do I Find One?!

I get what an agent is–now how on earth do I find one?!

Gone are the days of purchasing enormous, phonebook-like tomes listing every literary agent’s contact information. Thank goodness we have the internet.

A great resource is the Association for Authors’ Representatives a/k/a AAR. Their database lists members and the types of books they represent. For example, in the search box, I typed “fantasy” to find agents who represent fantasy novels. As of today, there are 72 results, some of whom come from the same literary agency.

Other resources include Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest, or genre-specific websites that may list agents seeking manuscripts.

So, you’ve done some research and found several lists of agents who likely represent your genre. But there are dozens and dozens of them! What are you supposed to do with all this information?

First, you take a deep breath. The sheer volume of information can overwhelm you if you let it. You are not the first person, nor will you be the last, to find a literary agent.

In next week’s post, “Organization Amid Chaos,” I’ll go over my method for sorting through all the information to find the best literary agent for your work. Done this way, it doesn’t seem so daunting after all.

On My Bookshelf: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

Title: 99 Percent Mine
Author: Sally Thorne
Genre: Romance
My Rating: 4/5

One of my latest reads is Sally Thorne’s “99 Percent Mine,” a delightful friends to lovers romance. I feel like giving this book only four stars is a little unfair of me. I couldn’t help comparing it to Sally’s first book, “The Hating Game,” which I loved so much that I read it twice in a row. Despite my bias, “99 Percent Mine” is worth a read. The main character is both flawed and loveable and the love interest, thankfully, is a well-rounded character in his own right. Though the book oozes with sexual tension, both characters have their own growth arcs that don’t revolve around each other. Sally Thorne has a strong voice and a fresh take on romance tropes. I will read anything she writes in the future.

How to Publish Your Novel: Part 1


Years ago, when I first thought I might become a published author someday, I started researching how to achieve my goals. What I found was completely overwhelming. I needed an agent, but there were thousands of them. Each of them wanted different documents I had never heard of. Query? Synopsis? What?

In this series, I’m going to share what I found and break down how to publish your novel. I’ll cover a the difference between the types of publishing currently available, writing a query letter, writing a synopsis, and finding the ideal agent to query. The process can seem overwhelming, but I hope to offer some clarity and simplicity so you can approach publishing with confidence.


Self Publishing vs.
Traditional Publishing

There are currently two publishing methods:

  1. Self-publishing (a/k/a digital publishing / indie publishing / vanity publishing)
  2. Traditional publishing

What’s the difference?

Anyone can self-publish a novel. All you need is a completed manuscript (like it’s that easy!) and a modest amount of money to get started. Self publishing involves formatting your manuscript, designing a cover, and using a service (like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing) to produce your book in electronic format, paper format, or both. That’s the easy part. Next, you have to market your book to convince prospective buyers it’s worth a read.

If you want your book to appear in major bookstores, like Barnes and Noble, traditional publishing is the route for you. This method requires you to have a literary agent. Agents are not publishers, and most publishers won’t accept novels from authors without agents. (This rule of thumb may not apply to non-fiction books, but we’re only going to focus on fiction in this series.) Therefore, you’ll need to find an agent by sending a “query.” The best agent is one who loves your book as much as you do. They will be your champion and will do their best to sell your book to a publishing house. Agents typically charge a commission of 15% for domestic sales.

Let’s look at some pros and cons for the self-publishing and traditional publishing methods.


Self-Publishing (Digital)

Pros

  • Anyone can do it
  • Less hassle of finding an agent
  • More control

Cons

  • Costs time and money
  • No advance from publisher
  • You pay all expenses (copyediting, design of cover, marketing, etc.)
  • You do your own marketing
  • No paper copies of your book are produced (unless you pay for this option)

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  • Costs nothing but time
  • Advance paid by publisher
  • Publisher pays expenses (editing, design, marketing, printing, etc.)
  • National distribution
  • Publisher markets your book (with your help)

Cons

  • It can be difficult to get an agent
  • No guarantee of publication
  • Slow process (18 months or more)
  • Less control over process
  • Agent takes a cut

You can probably tell that I prefer the traditional publishing route. The thought of spending time and money on marketing an e-book doesn’t appeal to me, but it might work for you, especially if you already have a large social media following. Personally, I would rather have someone more knowledgeable do the design, editing, publishing, and marketing of my book so I can focus on writing the next one.

Let’s say you’ve decided the traditional publishing route is right for you. What’s next?

Finding an agent is first on the list and we’ll cover that in next week’s post, “Finding a Literary Agent.”

Critique Partner vs. Beta Reader: What’s the difference?


Critique partners and beta readers are NOT the same. You need both.

Critique partners are writers. Often, two writers will share manuscripts for constructive criticism. Your critique partner(s) will tell you your story’s strengths and weaknesses and help you work through fixing plot holes, flat/shallow characters, and other structural issues.

Beta readers are, you guessed it, readers. They will give you an idea of how real readers will react to your story and may give general feedback of what they liked and didn’t like. Beta readers should be familiar with your genre and be willing to be honest (which is why family isn’t always the best choice).

Finding critique partners and beta readers can be daunting. If you’re not part of a local writing community already, try to find one. Coming up empty? Start your own group! There are also numerous resources online for pairing critique partners and beta readers. Allow yourself a little time to research and choose one that works for you.

With a reliable, supportive group of critique partners and beta readers and a willingness to take criticism, your story will become the best version of itself. As you share your work, remember that not everyone will love your story. That’s okay. Accept some comments and dismiss others. Allow your work to grow while staying true to your vision.

Happy writing!

How Fear Holds Us Back


I am afraid of a lot of things. Pain. Outer space. Things that lurk in the darkness of the ocean. (In the extreme, that would be algophobia, astrophobia, and thallasophobia, respectively).

My biggest fears are perhaps more common. Change. Failure. (Metathesiophobia and atychiphobia.)

This website is a fear. It encompasses both change and failure. I want to connect, but I’m afraid of putting myself “out there.” I’m afraid that I’ll start a blog, burn myself out, and then disappoint all three people who follow me.

But living in fear is no way to live at all.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions or “New Year, New You,” mantras, but I do believe in taking stock and making changes for the better. The theme for this year, perhaps, is living without fear.

Well. Not living without so much as recognizing it and not letting it hold you back.

I’m planning some big changes in my life this year. One of those is working towards getting my novel published. (See My Books!) In service of that goal, I’ve started an author Instagram page (follow me here! https://www.instagram.com/life.as.a.writer/) and this blog.

As I embark on my publication journey, I hope to build a community of authors and readers who can share resources, books, and life experiences.

Welcome. I’m so glad you’re here!