tirgearr publishing

Query Do’s and Don’t’s

A lot of authors and writing blogs talk about query letters and dispense advice on how to compose one. There’s a lot of tutorials out there, some very detailed and informative. As an author who has written many query letters, and even gotten a few publishing contracts out of them, I thought I’d throw my two cents in as well.

A query letter is a pitch you make to an agent/editor/publisher in the hopes they will say “this sounds interesting, show me more.” It can be nerve-wracking and stressful to put together, as you only have one shot to make a good impression. As a rule of thumb, query letters should be 90% about the project and 10% about you. Why? Because agents and editors are busy people and they want you to get to the point. They want to know about the story. Even if you have 100 books published and a trophy case full of awards, those things have nothing to do with this project.

Write a blurb for your book–the type of thing you’d see on the back cover–and make that the bulk of your letter. Keep your own bio brief and relevant. For example, if I was pitching a paranormal romance, I’d mention the paranormal romances I already have published. If you don’t have any or many writing chops, mentioning any background or education you have on the subject matter is good.

A great blog for learning more is Query Shark. There, hopeful authors get real advice on their query letters and how to improve them. If you’re trying to write a query letter I suggest checking it out.

Here are some pieces of advice when writing a query letter:

  • Keep it short. 3-4 paragraphs maximum. Agents and editors are busy people and if your letter is pages long, they’re probably going to pass it over. You only get a few seconds of their precious time, so make sure you utilize it wisely.
  • Keep it relevant. Talk about the story, as I said above. Too much rambling about yourself and your plans for the future will derail the point of your letter.
  • Don’t ask rhetorical questions. A lot of new authors think this is a way to build excitement. They start with a hook like If ravens pecked out your eyeballs, what would your life be like? Don’t do this, it’s pointless and annoying and A LOT of publishing professionals don’t like it. Instead, ask yourself the question and put the answer in the letter. After having his eyeballs pecked out by ravens, Timmy finds his new blind life difficult and traumatic.
  • Put some technical details in there somewhere. Tell the word count and genre of your story, and if it has series potential. Don’t call it a ‘fictional novel.’ All novels are fiction, that’s the definition of ‘novel.’ Don’t say the manuscript is ‘complete,’ that is implied (see below).
  • Get names right. Make sure you don’t misspell the agent/editor’s name or call a Mrs. a Mr. You should do your research before you send the query off, so you have this information correct (however, if I don’t explicitly know if a woman is married, I use the ambiguous Ms.).
  • Know what you need to send. Every publisher and agent has specific requirements for what they want you to send along with the query. Make sure you follow these to the letter. Some don’t want anything but the query, and that’s all you should send.
  • A query letter is not a synopsis. A synopsis details a story from start to finish, in deep detail. You don’t need to do this in a query letter, and you don’t need to tell the ending of the story. A query is simply an enticement.
  • Don’t query unfinished projects. Your book should be fully written and edited before you begin querying. You’re not going to make a good impression if someone wants to see your full manuscript and you don’t have it finished yet.
  • Check your formatting. Email can do wonky things to your text. Make sure you give it a look over before you send it off–breaks between paragraphs, no weird fonts or random symbols.
  • Don’t be chummy. Unless the person you’re sending the query to is someone you actually know, keep it professional and focused. Use formal language, don’t make jokes, and present yourself in a friendly but not overly-familiar way, like you would in a job interview.

Querying is stressful, but it’s the necessary first step in getting a yes. There’s lots of information out there–do some research before you send that letter off!

Your Fake Name

A lot of authors use pen names, but they’re not the only ones. Use of a pseudonym is prevalent in other branches of the entertainment industry also, as there are lots of actors and musicians who use alternative names. If you’re new to writing and want to choose a pen name, but you’re wondering if there’s some legal and official thing you have to do, you don’t. Unless you plan to do something business-wise or financially with your pen name, you simply choose a name and get to work. If you publish traditionally, publishers and agents cut your royalty checks with your legal name on them, so you don’t need a separate bank account with your pen name attached to it.

Why choose a pen name, though? Here are some reasons writers might want a nom de plume:

  • An unwieldy real name. This is the reason I personally have a pen name. My real name is a bit silly. Everyone mispronounces my first name and misspells my last name. So, I took on something easy to say, easy to spell, and is hopefully catchy with its alliteration. Some authors would have lots of headaches with their real name from readers and publishers alike, as they’d be constantly correcting people’s spelling and pronunciation. The opposite is also true–some authors may want to change their name to something more glamorous and memorable, if they have a common and unremarkable name.
  • Anonymity. Some authors–especially romance and erotica authors–may not want people in their real life to know what they write, be it co-workers, family, or friends. Some people have day jobs where they could get in trouble or even fired if it was discovered they write smut (or even something like horror) on the side. Rest assured, if you publish traditionally, publishers do not reveal your legal name to the public. Even your copyright claim inside your book will state your pen name, so your secret is safe.
  • Multiple genres. Some authors write in more than one genre, which may not crossover well with their reader bases, so they write different things under different names. Some are open about this and it’s a well-known fact, while others keep it more secret and even maintain different websites and social media for each name.
  • Just for fun. Some writers just want a writing name, a ‘persona’ they slip into when they’re in author-mode. That’s fine too!

Do you have a pen name? Why/how did you choose it?

A few side notes: Monday is my birthday! I’m not planning anything big for it, but the blog will probably be a bit wonky next week. And Wednesday is release day for It Takes a Thief, which you can pre-order right now! A new book out is indeed a great birthday present for me.

Happy Friday, everyone!

I need nominations!

One Night In Cleveland is up for nomination in The Romance Reviews Summer 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards! You may recall The Wicked City won best urban fantasy in the Winter 2015 Awards. I’m up against some stiff (no pun intended) competition, but I’d be happy just to be nominated. Each book must get 50 nomination votes to get to the actual voting-to-win round, so that’s what I’m shamelessly begging for today.

You need to be registered for the site to nominate (or use your Facebook account), but signing up is simple and fast. Nominations go on until the end of March. I’d be HUGELY grateful for nominations and any spreading the word folks would like to do. Again, this is NOT voting for the competition, merely giving the book nominations to get into the actual voting round.

THANK YOU for helping me out! (Also, if you have a book in there yourself, let me know–I’ll nominate you too!)

Click the banner below to nominate!

Snogs in the snow!

Today, as part of Blissemas (which I’ll be participating in on December 8th!) I’m taking part in the Snogs in the Snow blog hop. What’s that, you ask? Everyone who participates in the blog hop posts a kissing scene from one of their stories, and does a giveaway with their post. Sound like fun? Read on!

bk-snogsinthesnow1

I’m offering up a kissing scene from my erotic romance One Night In Cleveland, which is part of the City Nights series. After the scene, I’ll be giving away an e-copy of the story. Want to win? Find out how after the scene–it’s easy!

They settled into a booth in a dark corner, a strategic choice on Matt’s part. Caylee didn’t object. His gamble paid off when she responded positively to his attempt at making out with her.

Her lips were soft and her shiny, pink lip gloss strawberry-flavored. Behind those tender lips, she tasted like coffee and the sweet cream of her cannoli. This time he could savor her mouth, instead of having to rush—though every part of his body wanted to push forward, some more than others.
She pressed against him, feminine and delicate, yet she had some muscle too. He put his hand on her thigh, finally getting a feel of her smooth leg. She didn’t stop him, even when he inched his fingertips up under her skirt.

Time stretched out as they sat in the shadows, getting hotter by the minute, enjoying the burn. He kissed all her lip gloss off, oblivious to everyone around them.

“This is so nice,” she finally said, the first words she’d spoken since they started kissing. Her hand rested on his thigh, perched precariously close to his crotch. “I have to admit, I haven’t been on a real date in ages.”

“Me neither.” The band was on break, so they didn’t have to shout. The bar was crowded but they were in their own little bubble.

“As bad as this is going to sound,” she said, “I’m really glad I accidentally arrested you.”

“I’m really glad, too.”

She kissed him again, clutching the front of his shirt. He sucked at her tongue, groaning softly into her mouth. This was quickly becoming torture.

“Sorry,” she said as she drew back. “Haven’t done much kissing in a while, either.”

“It’s okay.” He sought out her lips again, drawn inexorably to her mouth. He’d remained a gentleman so far, but when she slid her hand farther up, her fingers lightly touching the bulge in his pants, he didn’t think he could remain one. He caressed down her side and over her hip, tracing her delicious contours.

They broke apart again, both a little breathless. She gazed into his eyes. “I know we’re going really fast,” she said. “You must think badly of me.”

He chuckled. “Well God, what do you think of me? I’m right here with you.”

She smiled. “I like you. I think you’re sexy.” She squeezed his thigh. “I really, really enjoy your company.”

“You want to come back to my place?”

She licked her gloss-less lips. They were a delicate shade of pink beneath. “I really shouldn’t, especially on the first date…”

Win an e-copy of One Night In Cleveland!

All you have to do is comment on this post…it’s that simple! I’ll toss the names in a random generator and announce the winner on December 8th–the day of my Blissemas post!

Contest is now closed–commenter bn100 is the winner!

What’s Blissemas, you ask?

Erotic authors serve up holiday-themed posts each day: stories, excerpts, pictures, recipes, fun things galore. And the best part? The prizes! Every day of Blissemas offers chances to win naughty and nice prizes: books, gift cards, games, gift bundles, and adult toys and erotic playthings. All sorts of sexy stuff to make your winter sizzle. The grand prize is a £100 Amazon Gift Card!

So if you want something hot under the tree this year…stop by and celebrate Blissemas with us!

One Night In Cleveland release day!

It’s release day–again! If you’re not a fan of my scary paranormal stuff, this is a sexy, non-scary, contemporary erotic romance. Want to win some prizes as well? Check out the bottom of the post!

Part of the City Nights series.

City Nights is a unique erotic romance series with authors contributing stand-alone stories to the collection. Each book title starts One Night in . . . and takes place within a 24 hour time frame in a city somewhere in the world.

Chef Matt Fattore lives a clean and lawful life—so he doesn’t expect to meet the woman of his wet dreams by being arrested by her. When Lieutenant Caylee Benton of the Cleveland PD mistakes him for a wanted burglar, Matt finds out fantasies sometimes land right in your lap—and frisk you.

Sparks fly despite the misunderstanding and Matt decides to take a chance and ask her out—and maybe, coax her into bed. But Caylee is more than just a beautiful woman with a badge and a gun. While Matt is falling in lust with her, she’ll become his hero, too.

Matt is about to spend the wildest twenty-four hours of his life in Cleveland, and if he’s lucky, he’ll be in handcuffs by the end of the night.

Read An Excerpt

Buy it at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | B&NSmashwords | iTunes | Kobo

One Night In Cleveland will also be on tour next week:

In honor of release day, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card and e-copy versions of One Night In Cleveland AND my first contribution to the City Nights series, One Night In Chicago. Just click on the link below to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! The contest will be open until midnight EST tonight and I’ll announce the winner tomorrow morning.

Enter to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card and e-copies of One Night In Cleveland and One Night In Chicago

Contest is closed.

Cover reveal for One Night In Cleveland

I can now show off the lovely cover for my second contribution to the City Nights series, One Night In Cleveland!

Chef Matt Fattore lives a clean and lawful life—so he doesn’t expect to meet the woman of his wet dreams by being arrested by her. When Lieutenant Caylee Benton of the Cleveland PD mistakes him for a wanted burglar, Matt finds out fantasies sometimes land right in your lap—and frisk you.

Sparks fly despite the misunderstanding and Matt decides to take a chance and ask her out—and maybe, coax her into bed. But Caylee is more than just a beautiful woman with a badge and a gun. While Matt is falling in lust with her, she’ll become his hero, too.

Matt is about to spend the wildest twenty-four hours of his life in Cleveland, and if he’s lucky, he’ll be in handcuffs by the end of the night.

Available November 18, 2015 from Tirgearr Publishing

Pre-order at:

Amazon | Amazon UKSmashwords

(Just 99 cents on Kindle until release day!)

I’m so excited to be part of this series again! As you may remember, I also wrote One Night In Chicago. You may also be aware I actually live in Cleveland, so I’m representing my city in this one. Check out the book page to read an excerpt!

Making progress

For all my adult life (and many of my immature teenage) years, I wanted to be a writer. Not just a writer, a published writer, one with multiple books on the shelves and readers and professional contacts and editors and an agent and oh, let’s not forget, people asking for my autograph. You know, the big dream.

It took a very long time for any of this to happen. I still don’t have an agent (I’ve got a few prospects) but I have signed a few autographs! For friends, really…but they count, right? The rest I’ve also got, though it doesn’t always fit the glamorous picture I created in my head when I was younger. I’ve grown up a lot since then. The reason it took me so long to get here is because I was simply lazy, uneducated, and unwilling to put in the time and effort it takes to be where I am now. When I say ‘lazy and uneducated,’ I mean I didn’t choose back then to understand or study the industry, I didn’t care enough to learn every in and out of the mechanics of writing, and I wasn’t trying to make connections and contacts. I wanted the big dream so much but I didn’t know exactly how to achieve it and I didn’t get off my butt to find out.  I also hadn’t honed my writing to the point it’s at now–and I’m quite willing to admit it needs to be sharper yet.

Life got in the way, many times over, and so did my own self-doubt and fear of being a failure. It’s funny that I was so afraid of going nowhere I just sat still. I don’t know what exactly happened to give me a kick in the pants finally, but I did change a great deal as a person over a singular, extended period of my life and I think my revamped way of living during that time gave me a new perspective. I was ready to learn, to work hard, to figure stuff out. I was finally willing to accept you don’t just slap words down, send them off to an agent, and become a millionaire. At least, most people don’t.

I think the key point is now I not only work hard, but I’m much more willing to learn than when I was young and delusional. I ask questions, seek answers, talk to other people, listen to my editors, watch what successful authors do, and listen in on what readers are saying. I try to take it all back to the page and make some sense of it.  This is what I want to do with my life after all, and sometimes the reality is much more strange and awesome than the dream.

I have an old journal post that I wrote during one of the periods in my inexperienced, young maudlin life when I was flinging myself around in despair convinced that I’d never be a ‘real writer.’ I’m thinking about printing it out and framing it next to my first book cover. Looking at it would not only make me chuckle, but nod sagely.

The impact of cover art

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and while that’s true, many people do. Have you ever bought a book because the cover caught your eye? How many times have you seen a well put together cover and felt the urge to read the book based on the cover artist’s prowess? Advertising has a strong influence on all of us, whether we want to believe it or not. And book covers are just that–advertising. A beautiful, compelling, dynamic cover attracts our attention, because that’s the point.

This is by no means a pronouncement that only books with amazing covers are worth reading. You can’t judge a book by its cover. A less-than-amazing cover may house an incredible, compelling story. All I’m saying is you can’t deny the power of advertising and artistry.

I’ve had covers I nearly wept over (in a good way), actually feeling my story was inferior to such an amazing cover. If you’re not an author, you should know: authors get very little say in what their covers look like. Some publishers allow input and ask for suggestions but the publisher has the last say in any disputes (this is often written into the contract).

I’ve been blessed so far, my covers have been created by some amazing artists (click on the covers to see them in their full size detailed glory):

MorganMegan_TheWickedCityThe Wicked City (and the sequels) are done by the amazing Fiona Jayde. I nearly did backflips when I found out she was my cover artist, as she’s one of the best in the business!

The cover for Her Darkest Secret was done by the equally amazing Celairen.

 

 

And the cover One Night In Chicago (and all the City Nights series covers) was done by the extremely talented Cora Graphics.

 

 

 

How about you readers out there–do you judge books by their covers? And if you’re an author, how do you deal with covers you hate and covers you love? Does it fill you with anxiety waiting for the cover art, or are you happy just to have a cover at all? Let’s hear your thoughts!

Atypical writer’s tools

Certain online writer’s tools many of us already know and love: Google and Wikipedia for research, thesaurus.com, The Chicago Manual of Style onlineAmazon’s Author Central for keeping your details up to date, Yahoo! groups for keeping in the loop, Google Docs for storing and collaborating. All are valuable resources and places to research, store, promote, and enhance our writing.

Today, I’ll share with you a few other websites and apps I use to help my writing, as well as keep my social networking manageable:

Dropbox – The best online storage site. Even the free version has lots of space. I use it to back up my writing from my computer. I can access anything I have stored in it, anywhere. This makes transferring stuff between my laptop and netbook extra easy. When I’m working on something I like to save the updated versions of the manuscript to Dropbox as I go–just in case! You can download an app for your computer, tablet, and smartphone and connect everything.

Google Street View – Writing about someplace you’ve never been? Need to know what a street, building, or area looks like? This is the most incredible resource ever created for visiting far-off places and getting information you might not be able to glean from text. I use it quite often. Great for absorbing the sights and atmosphere of the places you’re writing about, too.

My Writing Spot – A place to write and store your work online, complete with a word count tracker. Very simple and easy to use. There’s probably a lot of other places online you can do the same thing, but I really like this one.

Grammar Girl – An invaluable source for looking up those pesky grammar questions that gnaw at your brain, explained in a way that makes them easy to absorb and remember! I visit this site a lot.

Spotify – If you’re like me, music enhances your writing experience. Personally, I love to have good mood music relevant to what I’m writing at the time. With Spotify, you can listen to very nearly any song ever made, whenever you want to. You can also create playlists and experience new artists without any monetary commitment. You might find the soundtrack to your next novel or the perfect song for one of your characters! The free version is just as awesome as the paid version, though it has ads. I have the paid version–super cheap, by the way–and it’s a worthwhile investment.

– Tweetdeck – Awesome app for keeping track of your social networking. You can make multiple columns for twitter lists and sync your Facebook with it as well. I’m sure a lot of you out there already use it, but if you don’t–try it out!

VistaPrint – Need swag? Need it to be cheap and highly customizable? Want a huge selection of products you can make for your fans? This is a great service!

PDF to Word Converter – Sometimes you need to switch your files up. This is 100% free and does it perfectly.

How about you? Do you have any sites or apps that help your writing, either directly or indirectly?

My happy news this week.

In case you don’t follow me on social media and haven’t already seen, my big announcement is that I’ve just signed a contract for One Night In Cleveland, a novella that will be part of Tirgearr Publishing’s City Nights series! I’m already part of the City Nights series with One Night In Chicago. The series is a lot of fun to write for and I’m very pleased to get another spot on the list.

If you’re interested in digging into the City Nights series, it’s important to note that all the books in the series are stand-alone, so you don’t have to start with any specific one. The characters and plots are different in each book–their only connection is that they all follow the common theme of taking place during a 24 hour period in a city. All the stories are contemporary erotic romance, too.

So what will One Night In Cleveland be about? Here’s the blurb:

Chef Matt Fattore lives a clean and lawful life—so he doesn’t expect to meet the woman of his wet dreams by being arrested by her. When Lieutenant Caylee Benton of the Cleveland PD mistakes him for a wanted burglar, Matt finds out fantasies sometimes land right in your lap—and frisk you.

Sparks fly despite the misunderstanding and Matt decides to take a chance and take her out—and maybe, take her to bed. But Caylee is more than just a beautiful woman with a badge and a gun. While Matt is falling in lust with her, she’ll become his hero, too.

Matt is about to spend the wildest 24 hours of his life in Cleveland, and if he’s lucky, be in handcuffs by the end of the night.

The release date will tentatively be toward the end of this year, but that’s no way set in stone yet. I’ll keep everyone posted! In the meantime, you can enjoy the other books in the series. Maybe start with Chicago? 😉

And yes, I do live in Cleveland! I thought it was time to write about my fair city by the lake and all the naughty shenanigans one might get up to here…

Cleveland Skyline