Slow and Steady

If you’re an anxious sort of person who likes things to happen fast, the last thing you want to be is a writer. Writing and publishing are the slowest activities you can imagine. How anyone manages to make a stable career out of it is beyond me (I’m sure it takes a thousand years to get to that point). If you want to go fast, race stock cars. If you want to watch yourself slowly age while nothing happens, become a writer.

Every step of the writing and publishing process is slow:

  • Need an idea? If your brain is anything like mine, it’s going to take its sweet old time coming up with something for you to write. Even once you get that spark, the details need to be slowly untangled before you begin. If I try to push my brain for ideas it gets even more cranky and just goes to sleep.
  • Got an idea? Now write a book. How long do you think it will take? Weeks? Months? Years? Everyone is different. Sure, there’s some writers who can churn out a book in a few days or a week, but it probably took them a long time to get that fast, and also they probably sacrifice puppies to gain their dark magical power.
  • Now edit that book. This might take even longer than writing it, especially if it needs major rewrites.
  • Start sending it off to agents/editors. If you want to feel the true passage of endless time in all its horrifying reality, send a submission off and then keep refreshing your inbox while you wait for a reply. Stalk the agent/editor on Twitter as well if you really want to experience what eternity feels like.
  • Got an offer? Great! You think things will speed up now, don’t you? You sweet summer child. When they finally send you the contract, you’ll want to make sure you read that sucker thoroughly and consider all your options. Definitely not the time to rush.
  • Now your editor/cover artist/proofreader gets to make it into a real book. Days and weeks will go by where you’re fairly certain the publisher has forgotten they’ve taken you on board. Then, your editor will email you in the middle of the night with fifty pages of edits that they want back in two days.
  • Release day! Finally! …wait, I spent all that time waiting for this? Where is the choir of angels singing? Why isn’t Channing Tatum at my door ready to give me a lap dance? Why hasn’t Kim Kardashian called me up to take me on a shopping spree for being so clever and published? Now you get to wait for someone to care that you wrote a book.
  • Now wait to get paid. Keep waiting. Better start writing another book.

Writing is slow. Publishing is slow. But it’s all worth it in the end, right? Right?!

A Cover Is Worth A Thousand Words

As I announced on Friday, I had a novella accepted for publication with Siren Bookstrand. Great news! However, when you have something new being published, there comes that inevitable form you have to fill out (which I’m filling out right now and as usual, biting my nails over):

The cover art request sheet.

If you haven’t been traditionally published, I’ll fill you in: MOST publishers give you some say in what you want your cover to look like. You will get a form, through which you get to explain your vision for the cover to the cover artist. This is both great and terrible. Great because, hey, you get a say. Terrible because, do you really know what you want your cover to look like? Have you really thought this through in detail? If you have, and you have a clear vision, good for you. For me, it’s some vague idea or ‘man, I just want it not to suck, okay?’ Also, how in the world do I express exactly what I want to see on the cover? Do they think I’m a writer or something?

Here’s some important tips and things to remember if you gotta fill out that sheet:

  • Your ideas are just that, ideas. You’re probably not going to get exactly what you want, especially if you’re too particular. The project is a collaboration between you and an artist (who hopefully knows a great deal more about cover art than you do) and your suggestions are merely suggestions.
  • The artist has almost probably not read your book, so you’re going to have to be explicit about what the characters look like and what the important themes of the story are.
  • If you absolutely hate the end result, most publishers and artists will work with you to tweak it. On one hand, publishers want you to be happy with the product and not hate the sight of it (they really do). On the other hand, there’s a clause in your contract that states the publisher has the final say on all cover art. The artists aren’t ruthless monsters though, they want you to like the work they do and they want to represent your work faithfully. I’ve only heard a few horror stories of authors who were absolutely repulsed by the covers they ended up with.
  • Check out the other covers your publisher produces. Find ones that are similar to the vision in your head and mention them on the cover art form. Like, “hey I really like the composition in this one, and the colors in this one…”
  • This is something I personally do: most cover art is made from stock photos. I go to stock photo sites and find pictures of people that resemble the characters I see in my head. Then I send links to the artist with notes like “this is what I envision this character to look like, sorta.” It may not be the same stock photo site they use, but it gives the artist an idea of the sort of photos to look for. Sometimes I make comparisons to celebrities as well.
  • Try not to be too terrified on that day when you get the email that has your cover proof attached and you’re going to see it for the first time. Take a deep breath and open that file. You did it!

There’s my tips. Have you ever had a cover you loved, or hated, or had a hard time (or an easy time) getting what you wanted out of it?

Some happy news!

Just a little announcement today!

Yesterday, I signed a contract with Siren BookStrand for my paranormal erotic romance It Takes a Thief. It’s tentatively scheduled to be released in August. I will talk more about it and have more information to share soon!

I’m really excited about working with Siren. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them from their authors and they’re one of the top publishers for erotic romance. They seem to be interested in cultivating the careers of authors too, so I’m hoping to publish more with them in the future.

I’m feeling quite positive about writing things right now. This marks my eighth publication (not counting short stories in anthologies) and it will be my second release this year (The Burning City comes out in July and I have a novella, Through the Darkness which will be released in fall/winter with Muse It HOT). My novel-length works are urban fantasy and romance, but I can’t help myself, I like to write smutty novellas, so my shorter works tend to be of the erotic variety. We all need hobbies, don’t we?

Anyway, that’s the good news! More info about it coming soon.

Tell us what it’s about

I’ve been doing a lot of editing this week, preparing a novella for submission. That also means writing a synopsis, which I think is easily the most difficult part of any submission process. If you’re still preparing for your first ever submission and you’ve never written a synopsis before, you’re going to find out quickly that it’s an art form in itself–and that you’d probably rather write a thousand books than one synopsis.

The facts about a synopsis that will make you laugh with utter insanity:

  • You have to distill an entire story–no matter how long, even a book–into just a few paragraphs to one or two pages. The whole thing! All of it!
  • Remember, you gotta make it sound interesting and exciting!
  • You have to decide what’s important to mention and what can go without being detailed in the synopsis…but wait, isn’t all of it important?!
  • Good luck!

My method of writing a synopsis is to write the first version as long and detailed as I want to, and then go back through it and omit things that aren’t pertinent or don’t directly move the main plot. And then go through it again and remove more. And then again. And then again.

Here’s some other methods you might try:

Pretend you’re telling a friend what the story is about and they have to catch their train in two minutes.

Tell the bare-bones version of the story. Who is the main character, what do they want, what’s working against them, how does it get resolved? Remember, in a synopsis you have to reveal the ending. There are no ‘spoilers’ in publishing, agents and editors want to see that you can write a coherent story that gets resolved in a satisfying way. They’d rather read the two-minute “my train is coming” version of that first before bothering with the manuscript itself because they’re busy people.

Describe what your story is about in one sentence.

This sounds even more insane than a synopsis, but if you can do it, you can then expand on that sentence rather than whittling down a longer description. Work backwards!

Write the synopsis as you write the story.

I have grand plans to one day actually try this, but I haven’t done it yet. Each day after you write, also write a brief description of what you wrote that day, and then at the end shape this into the synopsis. It sounds much easier than working on a synopsis post-story, but I’ve yet to remember to try it.

Writing a synopsis is daunting, and I’d like to tell you it gets easier the more you do it, but I won’t lie. It’s never easy to distill an entire story down to just a few words and you always feel like you’re leaving out something vital. If you’re one of those people who can write an amazing synopsis effortlessly, kudos to you and also send your magic fairy my way.

News around the writing world

These two bits of information are unrelated but have been the biggest writing news stories on my radar the past week:

You’ve probably heard by now that Samhain Publishing has decided to cease operations. They’ll be shutting down slowly over a period of months while they continue to release the books they currently have scheduled. This comes as a huge shock, especially for romance writers. Samhain has been a staple of the romance e-publishing world for almost a decade. They were one of the largest, most powerful romance publishers outside of the ‘big’ houses and they produced tons of bestsellers. I remember when I first started writing romance, they were the most coveted publishing house for me. I would have given my right arm to be published by them–of course that would make it hard to write, but the sentiment stands.

I eventually ended up with Kensington, but I still would have been happy to have Samhain publishing anything of mine. It’s sad news for romance (and horror–they had a robust horror line) when such a powerhouse goes out of business, even sadder because many of the authors are saying there was no indication this was coming. Scary too, because if a house as well-known and respected as Samhain can falter, who else can? Small publishers sputter out all the time, but Samhain was by no means a ‘small’ press.

I wish good things for all the authors being affected by this–may you all find new homes for your books!

The second bit of news is a big deal for all Stephen King fans (of which I am definitely one). Idris Elba has been cast in the role of Roland Deschain (the Gunslinger) in the upcoming Dark Tower movies. I’m only about halfway through the Dark Tower series–I’ve always been more a fan of Stephen King’s horror than his fantasy, but the novels are excellent. They were my ex-husband’s favorite Stephen King books and he finally nudged me to read them (we’re still friends!). There has been some contention because of Idris’s race, in part because it interferes with the storyline of another character in the books who is actually black, but Idris is an amazing actor and I think they’ll be able to work with it.

I think I’m even more excited about the fact Matthew McConaughey will be playing the Man In Black! If you’re a Stephen King fan you know the Man In Black is ‘the’ villain, who appears in various forms in many of Stephen King’s works. I couldn’t think of a better actor (sorry, Jamey Sheridan). I’m pretty happy with the casting. And this series of tweets made my fangirl heart scream in delight:

So there’s some random news from the past week. What’s caught your attention in the writing world lately?

Scammers (and how to avoid them)

Today I’m going to talk about a rather sensitive topic, but one that needs to be talked about often and shared widely. The more I try to navigate the tricky waters of publishing, the more I read, learn, and educate myself on, I sadly find there’s a dark truth everybody needs to be aware of: there are predators out there in the publishing world, they will jump on you given the chance, and so you have to learn how to avoid them.

I think every faction of the entertainment industry has wolves in sheep’s clothing who try to lure you in, who want to prey on your desperate need to validate your art and latch onto that as an opportunity to suck money out of you. With the upsurge in self-publishing, these scammers and con artists have found new niches to dwell in and new techniques to get you to open your wallet for them. Despite the fact we live in a digital age with tons of information right at our fingertips, they manage to flourish and they can still smell who is ripe for the picking. Education is important for every writer.

Here are some hard truths you need to know. And if you already know these things, make sure other writers do too:

  • Real, legitimate publishers/agents do not charge you a single dime to edit, produce, and publish your work. There are no ‘buts’ or ‘howevers’ to this, it’s not in any way arguable. The Association of Author’s Representatives forbids agents to charge any type of fee to their clients, or even people just in the querying stage. For publishing houses to belong to writer’s organizations such as the RWA, they cannot charge their authors for publication. Publishers are supposed to pay you. They foot the bill for your editing, cover art, book production, to put your book up at retailers, and any publicity they want to do on their part. Then they send you a check for the books that were sold. That’s it. That’s how real publishing works. Unfortunately, there are many so-called ‘publishers’ out there who are literally charging people tens of thousands of dollars to ‘publish’ their book. Yes, this is a real thing that happens. It is a scam. They’re called vanity presses. These people regularly get in trouble, go away, and then pop back up as another ‘publisher.’ For the money they charge, you can self-publish for far cheaper (and keep all your profits).
  • Speaking of self-publishing, be careful who you pay to get your book sale-ready for you. If you pay for professional editing, cover art, and distribution, make sure the people you use are legitimate. Do your research. Talk to other authors they’ve worked with. Ask for credentials and look up previous books they’ve worked on to see how they’re presented and how well they sell. Also make sure you do research on the current average rates for these services, so you don’t get overcharged.
  • Contests are a hotbed of scams. There are quite a few legitimate writing contests out there that will help you along in your career, but there’s also quite a few that are designed to take your entry fee money and you’ll never hear from them again, let alone ever see your story in print (this also compromises your rights to the story so you can’t publish it elsewhere). Before you enter a contest you’ve never heard of, do your research on it. Don’t hand over your money and your hard work and get nothing in return.

There are thankfully plenty of resources online you can turn to that will give you information about who and what to watch out for:

There’s a lot of really good people out there in the publishing world, people who believe in your work and want you to make money, who want to help you share your art and vision with the world. There’s also people out there who only care about them making money, even if it means robbing you of your trust and creative energy. If we can’t effectively shut these people down, we have to learn how to dodge them. Arm yourself with education.

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being (Traditionally) Published

I figured since I’m in the middle of two publications–The Bloody City this past Tuesday and One Night In Cleveland this coming Wednesday–I would espouse a little wisdom about publication. Mind you, this is about traditional publication, since I’ve never self-published and I know that’s a whole other animal. These are a few interesting things I’ve learned and observed.

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being (Traditionally) Published

  1. You’re still your own biggest cheerleader. Your publisher will put some promotion into you, but you still have to do a lot of self-promotion. You have to get yourself out there, shake hands and kiss babies. You still have to do a lot of the footwork when it comes to peddling your book. You can’t simply sit back and let the publisher do all the work–or you can, I suppose, but the results won’t be very good.
  2. You pay your own way. Do you want to go to a conference? You’ll pay for that yourself–entry free, hotel, travel, stuff for your table. Want some swag? Design and pay for it yourself. Want some of your own books for free to give away/sell? Ha ha ha, it doesn’t work that way.
  3. You won’t get rich quick (unless you do). Your first book almost probably won’t be a runaway bestseller. Maybe not your fifth book. Maybe not your tenth. That’s okay, because very few authors become runaway bestsellers. That’s not to say you can’t or won’t, but if you don’t, you’re still awesome.
  4. You don’t need an agent. Disclaimer: I’m not saying nobody needs an agent ever. I’m saying you don’t need an agent to get traditionally published. Some people do have agents when they get published, some don’t. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever want/need an agent, it just means it’s not an absolute requirement for getting published.
  5. Your book is a product. Your publisher respects you as a person and acknowledges you as an author, but your book–and you to an extent–is a product and they want to sell it and make money. You have to be okay with that. It’s art, but at the end of the day it’s also a business.
  6. It’s (somewhat) easier to get reviewers to pay attention to you. If your publisher sends your book to ‘big’ reviewers you might have a better chance of getting it reviewed than if you sent it yourself. Maybe. There’s no shame in getting reviewed by smaller reviewers either–you want an opinion, right?
  7. Sometimes you feel out of the loop. Sometimes when your publisher is scheduling promotion for you, running contests, sending your book out to reviewers, getting it up on their site, and doing all the fine tuning that comes with publishing a book, you might feel a bit lost and like you’re sitting in the corner, forgotten. Sometimes you’re the last person to get a piece of information. Sometimes you unexpectedly find your book being advertised somewhere you didn’t know it was going. Don’t take it personally. I try to be happy they’re making a fuss over my book in the first place, and I send emails and ask questions when I feel like I’m out in the cold.
  8. Things get harder, not easier. When your first book gets published, you want to sit back and smile and feel proud of yourself. You should! But soon enough you realize you have to get back to work and this time,  you have to prove yourself. You have an expectation to meet. More books to write. More pies to stick your fingers in. Balls you have to keep up in the air. You’ve just gone from an author to a business–and you have a lot of work to do.
  9. You can still get rejected. Even if you’ve been published multiple times, you can still get a ‘no.’ Your laurels alone won’t sell your writing, no matter how many you have. If you thought rejection before you were published sucked, wait until you get one after and find yourself clutching your pearls going “But…do you know who I AM?!”
  10. People ask you weird questions. Maybe this is just me. Here’s an assortment of actual questions I’ve gotten over the past couple weeks:
  • Why do you call yourself Megan Morgan? Why wouldn’t you use your real name? (My real name is goofy, hard to say/spell correctly, and even when I explain I want an easy to spell/pronounce catchy name they stare blankly). One woman actually asked me what my mother thought of me changing my name like that. My mother is dead
  • Is this a book for teenage girls? (????)
  • Is this you on the cover? (Several people have sincerely asked me this. Why would I be on the cover of my own book that’s not an autobiography? And more importantly….the woman on the cover looks nothing like me.)
  • Is there sex stuff in this? (Yep.)
  • Why are you still working here (at my job)? (Because success =/= fame.)


And there you have it. A little insight into the publishing world. Feel free to add your own thoughts!

Writing a series–forever!

My urban fantasy series is contracted with Kensington Books. The second one comes out in November, the third is in the hands of my editor. I’m only contracted for three books, because my plan was to write three books, wrap the universe up with a nice tidy bow, and move on to something else. Of course, the publisher has the first right of refusal, so they get to look at any further works in this universe should I write them. That’s all well and good, and certainly fair, but it was totally my intention to be like “that’s all, guys!”

So why am I currently writing a fourth book?

Because when I got to the end of the third book, I found I couldn’t wrap it up as neatly as I’d hoped. Also, my characters are still bouncing around in my head like hyperactive toddlers yelling MORE! MOOOORE!

When you write more than one book–and certainly when you write multiple books–about the same people, they start to come alive inside your head. You find out more and more about them as you follow them around, and you want to tell people about the things they do. My protagonist, June Coffin, is written so that she has a huge character arc where she grows and becomes more mature through her experiences and becomes less of a caustic brat. The thing is, now that I’ve turned her into a nice sensible lady (hahaha don’t tell her I said that) I’m more interested in her than ever before and I want to keep writing about her.

I may frame the fourth (and subsequent, dear God) book(s) as a different leg of the series. The main components of the conflict in the first three books are wrapped up by the end of the third book, so beyond that is sort of a new story. There’s also side characters I’d love to write more about and maybe one I’d love to give his own book. Sigh. Now I know why Anne Rice can’t stop writing about her vampires.

Don’t start a series folks, you’ll never stop.

What to do after you get a ‘yes’

In Monday’s blog post I talked about getting published, including tips for navigating publishers and agents and getting that coveted acceptance. In this post, I’m going to talk about things to do after you capture that prize. Some of you, like me, may be new and wondering what happens now. I’ll give you some tips based on the experiences I’ve had since becoming a published author:

1. Accept that most editors know much more about writing than you do. You’ve been writing your entire life. You’ve taken classes. Your grammar and spelling are polished. You understand how to construct plot and create characters. You’ve studied every way there is to properly put together a manuscript. That’s great. You’re going to be amazed how much you actually don’t know, so sit down and be quiet. Listen to your editor, take their advice, and learn from them. I was stunned how much I didn’t know about writing until my editor guided me and helped me shape my writing. The knowledge I’ve gotten from being published has been absolutely invaluable. Make sure you take what you learn from these professionals and start applying it to your work in the future. You’ll be amazed at how your writing blooms.

2. Don’t lose your mind over edits. It’s common to receive a marked up manuscript back from your editor and want to drink yourself to sleep. It’s easy to look at the changes and get defensive, angry, and hurt. Instead, look through the edits and try to understand and correct your mistakes so you don’t make them next time. Take a deep breath and remember, your editor just wants you to write the best possible story you can write. It’s hard to be grateful when you feel like you’re being told you’re a stupid stupidhead who can’t write, but if you take it step-by-step you’ll learn a great deal. And remember, they accepted your story for a reason–they just want to make it shine now.

3. You are your own promotion machine. Unless you’re already a New York Times bestselling author, no one is going to know who you are and no one is going to tell them but you. You have to give yourself an internet presence, whether you like it or not. Get involved in social media. Start blogging. Send your stuff to reviewers. Get involved in forums and discussions. Go to conventions. Put yourself in people’s faces. New authors don’t get much attention advertising-wise so you have to make it yourself. Say hello to other authors and make new friends.

4. Don’t buy that mansion and yacht just yet. Seriously, you’re not going to get rich, especially when you’re first starting out. You’re actually probably going to spend more money than you make to promote yourself. Keep your day job for now.

5. Get back to work. It’s nice to bask in the glory of being published, but remember what got you there and get back to it, so you can stay relevant and build a readership. It’s what you wanted to do with your life anyway, isn’t it?

Any other authors out there with some advice? Let’s hear it!

5 tips for aspiring published authors

I’m still pretty new to the party on the published side of the writing fence, having only been published for about a year and a half now. However, I’ve published quite a few things in that time, so I thought I might be qualified to pass on some advice. This is based on my own experiences trying to fight my way into that yard where the grass seems so much greener. If you’re looking to leap over the fence too, here’s some things to give you a boost:

1. Make sure your skin is thick. You’re going to get rejected, maybe a lot, when you first start submitting things. Most authors do. Some agents or publishers will send you form rejection letters, some of them a short non-specific personal note, and some may even tell you why they’re rejecting you. Some might give you advice. Try not to take anything too personally. Listen to the advice if it seems relevant, but don’t let anything get you down. The best way to deal with the disappointment of a rejection is to look the work over again for ways you might make it better, then send it off to someone else. Don’t give up. And whatever you do, don’t reply to an agent or publisher and tell them to go to hell, no matter how much you want to.

2. Follow directions. This is very important. I have writer friends who have asked me, “How do you submit something?” There is no one answer to that. The only answer is: go to the agent or publisher’s website and read their submission guidelines, and follow them to the letter. Every publisher has guidelines they want you to follow when submitting. Every agent does too. Some only want you to query them. Some want partial manuscripts. Some want full manuscripts. Some want a query and synopsis. They all want these things formatted in different ways. No matter how many instructions are given, be sure you cover them all. If a publisher wants you to submit a partial manuscript triple spaced in Papyrus font only during the first Tuesday of the full moon during the heart of winter, you better do it or it’ll go unread.

3. Know the market you’re submitting to. Don’t send the wrong thing to the wrong people. Look up some of the books the agent handles or the publisher puts out. Target publishers who handle what you’ve written. Don’t send an adult horror novel to someone who only publishes YA books. Look around and see which publishers are publishing the books most like yours. You can also find out who represents authors writing in the same genre as you. Do some research and make sure your manuscript is going someplace it will be welcome.

4. Toot your horn a little. Even if you have no publications under your belt, you can find things to brag about. Before I was published, I would briefly mention classes and courses I had taken and how long I’d been writing. This lets an agent or publisher know you’re serious and dedicated to the craft. Don’t talk too much about these things, but when they ask for a ‘brief bio’ you can throw a few tidbits out to prove you want to pursue a serious writing career.

5. Network. I’ve gotten published in anthologies because I spoke to the editors and developed a rapport with them long before I got the acceptance. It’s easier these days with social media: say hello on Twitter or Facebook. Write an admiring email. Comment on blog posts. Find the people who do the publishing and say hello. You never know what might come of it down the road.

Any published authors out there want to share some of their own tips? I’d love to hear them! In my Wednesday blog post, I’ll talk about things to do after you’re published that will help you stay in the game.