Making It In the Writing World

This past March, I celebrated the second anniversary of my first book being published. It’s not the first thing I had published, but it was my first full-length book and the ‘big deal’ that kicked off my career as a published writer. Of course, I use the word career in the literal sense, because I’m by no means making a living off it, which is an entirely different thing.

In those two-plus years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned things I never thought about before I got published. I’m still learning, trust me. I don’t think there’s an end to this education, no matter how many books you publish or how long you’ve been around–that’s largely because the industry is always changing. Not even the biggest, most bestselling authors you’ve ever heard of can just sit back and dust their hands off because they’ve learned everything there is to know.

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the things I’ve learned, give you some advice, and no matter where you are on your publishing journey, maybe you can take some wisdom from it.

Here’s some of the things I’ve done/learned since I’ve gotten published:


My Siren Song series is published with Kensington Books’ Lyrical line, which is by far my biggest publisher, but it’s not my only publisher. Kensington isn’t one of the Big Five (which used to be the Big Six), but it’s the largest and oldest independent publishing house in the US and definitely considered a prestigious New York publishing house. I make more money off my books published with them than all my other publishers combined. This is, of course, because they are a big publishing house and therefore their publicity and promotion efforts are huge, they have a vast reader base built in, and they have high visibility. I should want to publish all my stuff with them, right?

Except, I decided early in my career that I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I’m also published with five other, smaller publishing houses. Those being Tirgearr, Muse It UP, Siren-Bookstrand, House of Erotica, and most recently, Evernight Publishing. There’s three key reasons why I would diversify like this:

One is that it keeps my options open. If I write something and one publishing house rejects it, I have other publishers I can send it to. Also, I might want to write something that doesn’t fit in a certain publisher’s catalog. That’s all right. I have other options. Also, once you’re an in-house author it’s much easier to get other works accepted by them.

Two is that it increases my luck. I wrote a post about the role of luck in author success a few weeks ago, in which I discussed ways to get ‘closer’ to luck. One of those ways is to get yourself into as many circles as you can so luck has a higher chance of finding you. Being involved with different publishing houses expands my chances of running into the right person or big break that I need. Maybe I’ll catch the eye of a huge reviewer who likes to read things from one particular publishing house, or I’ll come across an industry professional who can promote my career. It’s always good to try to meet and mingle with as many opportunities as you can.

Three is for the simple fact that I want to test the waters. Not all publishing houses are created equal. Some have a huge base of readers who might love your book, some are very involved in your promotion and some aren’t, and they all treat you a little differently, give you different levels of editing and creative and practical support, and have a unique brand that appeals to different audiences. Myself, I want to try as many flavors as I can at the buffet and then decide which ones I like best. If a publisher doesn’t work out for me, I simply won’t submit anything to them in the future.


Make no doubt about it, at the end of the day, publishing is a business. That means if you want to be part of the publishing world, you have to treat it like a business. Be professional, follow the rules, and always put your best face forward. You might not agree with the processes you run into, but they’re in place for a reason and bucking the system won’t get you far.

I’m constantly dismayed at new writers who think they’re going to ignore guidelines, do want they want, and still be so awesome and special they get a publishing contract. I blame this on the fact that in all industries, we tend to focus on the ‘trail blazers’ and people who ‘didn’t follow the rules’ and still became successful. The thing is, once again, these people ran into some luck. They also aren’t telling you about all the times their deviant behavior didn’t work out for them or set them back. Also, even ‘innovators’ followed the rules to a certain extent, they just found new, unique, and more creative ways to do things that made sense.

There is a game you have to play in publishing, and that’s figuring out where and when you can jump in the mix and have it work out for you. I can’t fully explain it, but after you’ve done it for a while you’ll start to recognize it and you’ll develop a knack for it. You’ll start to see opportunities and know how to do the backflips and cartwheels that will land you in the right spot. You’ll figure out how to work things to your advantage, where you have the best shot at succeeding, and the right things to say to get the appropriate attention.

But remember, it’s still a business, and you need to be a business person.


No writer is an island, and you don’t want to get stranded on one, either. You have to make connections in the publishing world, even if only superficial and strictly business. This opens up doors you didn’t have the keys to previously.

Let’s be clear on this, though: you need to have realistic expectations about networking. Telling a publisher “I’m friends will Big Time Author,” will never get you a publishing contract on its own. Even if Big Time Author gives you a glowing recommendation, that’s not an automatic in. Publishers will judge your work based on the merits of your writing alone, and decide if they want you on their team. Even if JK Rowling descends from Heaven with your manuscript clutched to her breast and delivers it directly into the publisher’s hands, this will still not get you a publishing contract if your writing isn’t up to snuff.

However, Big Time Author might give you a guest spot on their blog, or a shoutout in their newsletter, or recommend your books to their readers. That’s something.

There ARE people who can help you get published though, people who have actually had their hands on your manuscript–an editor you worked with before, an agent who found your work appealing but couldn’t represent you for various reasons. These are the sort of people you want to get a rapport with too. Networking is part of playing the game.

These are a few of the things I’ve learned in the past two-ish years. There’s a lot more, of course. Maybe this advice will be helpful to you. Have you learned some things you’d like to share?

Stuff I’m Up To Right Now

A few updates in my writing world today. I come to share some happy news and a sale with you!

First of all, I had a novella picked up by Evernight Publishing! I haven’t worked with Evernight before, but dang do they have some lovely covers. Also, they were awesome through the whole process. I originally submitted the work as a short story to a submission call for an upcoming anthology. However, the editor asked me if I would revise the work to make it longer and more detailed and submit it to their Romance on the Go line. I did, and they’ve decided to publish it! It’s called Star-Crossed, it’s a paranormal romance, and it will (tentatively) be released in July. Watch this space for more details!

Black Mountain Magic got a four-star review at Night Owl Reviews! Remember that post I made on Monday about luck? Well, this is a fine example. Night Owl Reviews is a huge and well-respected romance review site. Black Mountain Magic is one of my self-published works, so I’m able to directly access my sales figures. My book getting a highly-visible favorable review on a well-known review site, coupled with the fact I just HAPPENED to have the book on sale for 99 cents at the time of the review (which I didn’t know was coming) translated to a few days of high sales figures on Amazon, enough I almost got into the bestseller category. See how luck works like that? Since then, sales have tapered off, despite the fact I subsequently bought a reduced-price ad spot on their site after the review. It’s a roll of the dice.

So, speaking of that, both Black Mountain Magic and White Witch Magic are on sale for 99 cents right now at all retailers! Get ’em cheap! And remember, if you buy ANY of my books, I would be happy to autograph them for you.

Do you have any good news to share today?

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.