Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today my special guest is Jessica Bell, whose much anticipated fiction debut, String Bridge, releases officially on November 1. Jessica generously agreed to share a bit about her experiences preparing to launch her first novel.

About String Bridge
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a “proper” career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she’s been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place.

E-book available at Amazon.com, Amazon UK
Paperback available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble
Soundtrack "Melody Hill: On the Other Side" available at iTunes, Amazon.com, Amazon UK

The Interview

What marketing activities did you decide to pursue to launch String Bridge?
I think nowadays the best thing to focus on is web presence. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s fast. So, of course, I’ve organized a blog tour and Amazon Chart Rush. I’ve also released an all-original soundtrack to accompany the book, which can also be purchased as a separate item from over 150 different digital outlets. I’m hoping this album with create a little more interest in the book, than the book itself is capable of, as I can actually market the music to an audience that probably wouldn’t look twice at the book without the album existing.

How did you prioritize them?
I actually didn’t. Each thing seemed as important as the other. It was just a matter of reaching deadlines.

What did your schedule look like?
Hectic. I made sure I did everything I needed to as it came in. I never put anything to the side that could be accomplished within a 24-hour period. Not sure that was such a good idea as it tampered with my sanity. I had to fit these things in around my day job, but thankfully I work from home so I suppose creating my own schedule wasn’t so hard now that I look back. But I think I was too "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants." I got stressed. Really stressed. I think my jaw was perpetually clenched. Even now I have to remind myself to loosen it up.

Which activities have taken more time or been trickier than you anticipated?
The hardest thing was organizing the blog tour. Over 90 blogs have signed up to participate, some posting reviews and some interviews, or both, and some signed up to plug the Amazon Chart Rush only. Keeping track of everyone’s preferences and emails and blog addresses, and post dates has been a challenge. I have Excel to thank for that! But nothing has really been "tricky," only time-consuming. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it though. I guess that’s the key to getting through so many tasks without having a nervous breakdown! Implementing the final edits to the novel and writing the album took a lot of time. But that was a creative part. And time shouldn’t even exist then, right?

What are some lessons learned from this launch? Things that worked well? Things you’d like to do differently with the next book?
One: Never underestimate the importance of making friends online! Their help and support has been invaluable to this exciting and important time in my career. I can’t thank them enough!
Two: Don’t burn yourself out. Find time to spend AWAY from your desk to maintain sanity.

There were a few weeks there where I thought I was literally going to fry my brain. I took a couple of days off after weeks of constant rigorous juggling of tasks, but it was too late. I spent the whole time staring at the wall just trying to find some inner-quiet. I could hardly lift a finger. Seriously. Pace yourself. The slower you move, the faster you’ll get things done. Trust me.

About Jessica

Jessica Bell is a literary women’s fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

Help spread the word about the String Bridge Amazon Chart Rush, November 11th!
Help Jessica Bell's debut novel STRING BRIDGE hit the bestseller list on Amazon and receive the all-original soundtrack, written and performed by the author herself, for free! All you have to do is purchase the ebook or paperback on November 11th, and then email the receipt to jessica(dot)carmen(dot)bell(at)gmail(dot)com. She will then email you a link to download the album entitled, "Melody Hill: On the Other Side," at no extra cost! Visit www.jessicacbell.com to hear samples from the album.

What take-home tips did you pick up from Jessica?
Thursday, October 27, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today my special guest is Jessica Bell, whose much anticipated fiction debut, String Bridge, releases officially on November 1. Jessica generously agreed to share a bit about her experiences preparing to launch her first novel.

About String Bridge
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a “proper” career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she’s been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place.

E-book available at Amazon.com, Amazon UK
Paperback available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble
Soundtrack "Melody Hill: On the Other Side" available at iTunes, Amazon.com, Amazon UK

The Interview

What marketing activities did you decide to pursue to launch String Bridge?
I think nowadays the best thing to focus on is web presence. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s fast. So, of course, I’ve organized a blog tour and Amazon Chart Rush. I’ve also released an all-original soundtrack to accompany the book, which can also be purchased as a separate item from over 150 different digital outlets. I’m hoping this album with create a little more interest in the book, than the book itself is capable of, as I can actually market the music to an audience that probably wouldn’t look twice at the book without the album existing.

How did you prioritize them?
I actually didn’t. Each thing seemed as important as the other. It was just a matter of reaching deadlines.

What did your schedule look like?
Hectic. I made sure I did everything I needed to as it came in. I never put anything to the side that could be accomplished within a 24-hour period. Not sure that was such a good idea as it tampered with my sanity. I had to fit these things in around my day job, but thankfully I work from home so I suppose creating my own schedule wasn’t so hard now that I look back. But I think I was too "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants." I got stressed. Really stressed. I think my jaw was perpetually clenched. Even now I have to remind myself to loosen it up.

Which activities have taken more time or been trickier than you anticipated?
The hardest thing was organizing the blog tour. Over 90 blogs have signed up to participate, some posting reviews and some interviews, or both, and some signed up to plug the Amazon Chart Rush only. Keeping track of everyone’s preferences and emails and blog addresses, and post dates has been a challenge. I have Excel to thank for that! But nothing has really been "tricky," only time-consuming. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it though. I guess that’s the key to getting through so many tasks without having a nervous breakdown! Implementing the final edits to the novel and writing the album took a lot of time. But that was a creative part. And time shouldn’t even exist then, right?

What are some lessons learned from this launch? Things that worked well? Things you’d like to do differently with the next book?
One: Never underestimate the importance of making friends online! Their help and support has been invaluable to this exciting and important time in my career. I can’t thank them enough!
Two: Don’t burn yourself out. Find time to spend AWAY from your desk to maintain sanity.

There were a few weeks there where I thought I was literally going to fry my brain. I took a couple of days off after weeks of constant rigorous juggling of tasks, but it was too late. I spent the whole time staring at the wall just trying to find some inner-quiet. I could hardly lift a finger. Seriously. Pace yourself. The slower you move, the faster you’ll get things done. Trust me.

About Jessica

Jessica Bell is a literary women’s fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

Help spread the word about the String Bridge Amazon Chart Rush, November 11th!
Help Jessica Bell's debut novel STRING BRIDGE hit the bestseller list on Amazon and receive the all-original soundtrack, written and performed by the author herself, for free! All you have to do is purchase the ebook or paperback on November 11th, and then email the receipt to jessica(dot)carmen(dot)bell(at)gmail(dot)com. She will then email you a link to download the album entitled, "Melody Hill: On the Other Side," at no extra cost! Visit www.jessicacbell.com to hear samples from the album.

What take-home tips did you pick up from Jessica?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Giving a name
Since I last posted, I've had some pretty weird stuff happen. One I suppose is mostly positive--I at last know WHY I've been so run down for the past seven months. I've been diagnosed with anemia. Really severe anemia. Severe enough that I had cravings to suck on rocks and got winded just going up stairs. So my doctor has put me on a crazy-high dose of iron that's like swallowing barbells (okay, maybe not quite, but it is 50 times more milligrams than my trusty One-a-Day contained).

I have to say, it's a huge relief to give my general bleh feeling a name. And even though I still get winded and cold too easily, I have hope again. Because naming the illness put parameters around it. It stopped being some amorphous malaise that could eat my life. It's just a mineral deficiency.

Taking a name
The bad weird thing was having my wallet stolen out of my office. I work on a college campus on a floor with both classrooms and offices, so it's not hard for a pickpocket to slip through the crowds unnoticed, pop into an unlocked room, grab and go. (Believe me, I now lock up even when I use the drinking fountain.)

In hours between when the thief took my wallet and I noticed it was gone, he or she had run off to do a little shopping spree in my name. With my accounts, my credit. One bank flagged the fraud attempts immediately, the other let one charge go through, which I now must dispute.

Among the many calls I had to make to stop the fraud was a call to the credit agency Equifax. They now have flagged my name, so that would-be thieves can't use my name to apply for credit and ride my good reputation as someone who pays bills on time.

The $10 they took from my wallet could never hurt so much as their potential power to destroy my name. (I think there might be a good shapeshifter plot in this story somewhere, for one of you paranormal fantasy writers.)

Both for good and for ill, names are powerful. Names contain and define.

It's something to keep in mind when we write. Nothing is quite so chilling as a widespread plague that no one can name; a good name lost is far harder to restore than a lost fortune.

How have you seen the giving, withholding or taking of a name used powerfully?
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 Laurel Garver
Giving a name
Since I last posted, I've had some pretty weird stuff happen. One I suppose is mostly positive--I at last know WHY I've been so run down for the past seven months. I've been diagnosed with anemia. Really severe anemia. Severe enough that I had cravings to suck on rocks and got winded just going up stairs. So my doctor has put me on a crazy-high dose of iron that's like swallowing barbells (okay, maybe not quite, but it is 50 times more milligrams than my trusty One-a-Day contained).

I have to say, it's a huge relief to give my general bleh feeling a name. And even though I still get winded and cold too easily, I have hope again. Because naming the illness put parameters around it. It stopped being some amorphous malaise that could eat my life. It's just a mineral deficiency.

Taking a name
The bad weird thing was having my wallet stolen out of my office. I work on a college campus on a floor with both classrooms and offices, so it's not hard for a pickpocket to slip through the crowds unnoticed, pop into an unlocked room, grab and go. (Believe me, I now lock up even when I use the drinking fountain.)

In hours between when the thief took my wallet and I noticed it was gone, he or she had run off to do a little shopping spree in my name. With my accounts, my credit. One bank flagged the fraud attempts immediately, the other let one charge go through, which I now must dispute.

Among the many calls I had to make to stop the fraud was a call to the credit agency Equifax. They now have flagged my name, so that would-be thieves can't use my name to apply for credit and ride my good reputation as someone who pays bills on time.

The $10 they took from my wallet could never hurt so much as their potential power to destroy my name. (I think there might be a good shapeshifter plot in this story somewhere, for one of you paranormal fantasy writers.)

Both for good and for ill, names are powerful. Names contain and define.

It's something to keep in mind when we write. Nothing is quite so chilling as a widespread plague that no one can name; a good name lost is far harder to restore than a lost fortune.

How have you seen the giving, withholding or taking of a name used powerfully?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Busy day today, folks, so this is going to be a quickie.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says:
"The more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.... the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul."

What do you think? Discuss.
Thursday, October 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
Busy day today, folks, so this is going to be a quickie.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says:
"The more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.... the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul."

What do you think? Discuss.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My critique group meets tonight and it was really tough for me to not send bits of my rough draft in progress off to the gang for feedback. But I had to ask myself whether feeback at this stage would be a help or a hinderance. I tend to have only the loosest sense of the trajectory of the story when drafting, leaving lots of room for discoveries, but also for wrong turns and deadends. Those wrong turns sometimes don't reveal themselves as such for chapters and chapters. Getting feedback too soon might tempt me to keep in a well written scene that takes the story the wrong direction, or alternately, to abandon an idea that needs more development but could flower into something amazing.

With my previous book, I had two people who served as "alpha readers": folks who read chapters as I finished them, cheered me on and with whom I could discuss problems that perplexed me. Their purpose was not so much to critique as to be an accountability mechanism and sounding board.

Only after I had a complete draft did I ask for critiques, starting with broad-strokes issues like characterization, plot and pacing. Those folks were "beta readers." In the revision process, I leaned on my critique groups to help me do the next sets of revisions (I jokingly called them "gamma" and "delta" readers).

I now wonder if that could have been a more efficient process. I fear I became a bit too much of a feedback junkie, and got addicted to having "enough" praise before I felt good about a section. What I lost was a sense of my own vision and confidence in my instincts.

How about you? How many people see your work and at what stages?

image from www.morguefile.com
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Laurel Garver
My critique group meets tonight and it was really tough for me to not send bits of my rough draft in progress off to the gang for feedback. But I had to ask myself whether feeback at this stage would be a help or a hinderance. I tend to have only the loosest sense of the trajectory of the story when drafting, leaving lots of room for discoveries, but also for wrong turns and deadends. Those wrong turns sometimes don't reveal themselves as such for chapters and chapters. Getting feedback too soon might tempt me to keep in a well written scene that takes the story the wrong direction, or alternately, to abandon an idea that needs more development but could flower into something amazing.

With my previous book, I had two people who served as "alpha readers": folks who read chapters as I finished them, cheered me on and with whom I could discuss problems that perplexed me. Their purpose was not so much to critique as to be an accountability mechanism and sounding board.

Only after I had a complete draft did I ask for critiques, starting with broad-strokes issues like characterization, plot and pacing. Those folks were "beta readers." In the revision process, I leaned on my critique groups to help me do the next sets of revisions (I jokingly called them "gamma" and "delta" readers).

I now wonder if that could have been a more efficient process. I fear I became a bit too much of a feedback junkie, and got addicted to having "enough" praise before I felt good about a section. What I lost was a sense of my own vision and confidence in my instincts.

How about you? How many people see your work and at what stages?

image from www.morguefile.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

I've been reading this book about gratitude called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It talks a lot about thankfulness as a key to living more fully with joy in the difficult now.

I also lost a colleage this week. She'd been ill for a year and I know near the end got to hear at last all the gratitude people had for her. And it struck me, why wait until someone's dying to express how you're thankful for them?

So, yesterday I wrote a brief note on Facebook to an old high school buddy, just a quick thanks for one of the many positive influences she had on me. And you know what? That small bit of thanks opened up something. Not only a mutual warmness between my friend and me, but also a whole well of good stuff that I haven't been able to access in a long time. The kooky, fun geek girl I once was started to resurface. Now I realize where that joyful version of me had gone. She'd become imprisoned by ingratitude. The key to unlocking her was merely to say "thanks."

So I challenge you, reader, to tell someone in your life thanks. Be specific: their kind words at the right moment, a book they recommended, some life event you shared that shaped you. Gratitude is light in the darkness, friends. It is a powerful weapon against despair, a powerful creator of joy.

And speaking of joyful things, if you're in the Philly area, you don't want to miss the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill. Germantown Ave. will become a mini Hogsmeade. A muggle quidditch tournament will be held. Gotta love this awesome promo video!






Who are you thankful for today? Did you tell them? What joy did it unlock for you?
Friday, October 14, 2011 Laurel Garver
I've been reading this book about gratitude called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It talks a lot about thankfulness as a key to living more fully with joy in the difficult now.

I also lost a colleage this week. She'd been ill for a year and I know near the end got to hear at last all the gratitude people had for her. And it struck me, why wait until someone's dying to express how you're thankful for them?

So, yesterday I wrote a brief note on Facebook to an old high school buddy, just a quick thanks for one of the many positive influences she had on me. And you know what? That small bit of thanks opened up something. Not only a mutual warmness between my friend and me, but also a whole well of good stuff that I haven't been able to access in a long time. The kooky, fun geek girl I once was started to resurface. Now I realize where that joyful version of me had gone. She'd become imprisoned by ingratitude. The key to unlocking her was merely to say "thanks."

So I challenge you, reader, to tell someone in your life thanks. Be specific: their kind words at the right moment, a book they recommended, some life event you shared that shaped you. Gratitude is light in the darkness, friends. It is a powerful weapon against despair, a powerful creator of joy.

And speaking of joyful things, if you're in the Philly area, you don't want to miss the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill. Germantown Ave. will become a mini Hogsmeade. A muggle quidditch tournament will be held. Gotta love this awesome promo video!






Who are you thankful for today? Did you tell them? What joy did it unlock for you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

As I write this, a work colleague is losing her year-long battle with lung cancer. Her son had written last night to say she was unresponsive and likely to pass on in the next day or so.

What has impressed me most about her final months has been her determination to keep on editing, even when she needed to nap frequently and struggled to type e-mails. It's been kind of a kick in the head, especially when I think how badly I've responded to setbacks by doubting, getting derailed, moping. Especially lately, even while this amazing, dying woman was giving such a clear picture of how to be alive--by moving forward.

I honestly had gone into blogger a few minutes ago thinking I'd recycle an older post, and then I realized that was the stuckness talking. I can't go on borrowing from yesterday's energy, or last year's or some golden age in the past. There's a degree to which the stuff of creativity--joy, life energy, what have you--is like manna in the wilderness. It is a gift that must be gathered fresh daily. God gives it, but we have to gather it. We can't hoard it. There's enough for today. Just enough. We take in the mystery with thankfulness, and tomorrow there's more.

If you were dying, how would you live differently now? How might the idea of manna help you in your creative work?
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 Laurel Garver
As I write this, a work colleague is losing her year-long battle with lung cancer. Her son had written last night to say she was unresponsive and likely to pass on in the next day or so.

What has impressed me most about her final months has been her determination to keep on editing, even when she needed to nap frequently and struggled to type e-mails. It's been kind of a kick in the head, especially when I think how badly I've responded to setbacks by doubting, getting derailed, moping. Especially lately, even while this amazing, dying woman was giving such a clear picture of how to be alive--by moving forward.

I honestly had gone into blogger a few minutes ago thinking I'd recycle an older post, and then I realized that was the stuckness talking. I can't go on borrowing from yesterday's energy, or last year's or some golden age in the past. There's a degree to which the stuff of creativity--joy, life energy, what have you--is like manna in the wilderness. It is a gift that must be gathered fresh daily. God gives it, but we have to gather it. We can't hoard it. There's enough for today. Just enough. We take in the mystery with thankfulness, and tomorrow there's more.

If you were dying, how would you live differently now? How might the idea of manna help you in your creative work?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Whether your ultimate goal is to secure agent representation or to simply get paid for writing (even a pittance), establishing a publication history will help you.

The best way to get started is with short-form work--articles, short stories and poems. If you think you don't have time to generate material while pounding out novels, think again. Some of my most recent publications were pieces I rescued from the cutting room floor.

"Tribute," published in Motley Press vol. 1, issue 3, is a flash fiction piece revised from a scene I'd cut from a novel.
"The Lost Coin," published in Drown in My Own Fears, issue 16, is a fiction-in-verse adaptation of another cut scene, one that I'd unsuccessfully attempted to sell as flash fiction.

For more on giving new life to unused material, see my post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.

I'd also argue that taking a break from your long projects to write new work in multiple forms and genres will keep you creatively fresh and flexible. It's also a great way to try out germs of ideas that could become novels.

Once you have some material to submit (critiqued and revised first, of course), how do you go about submitting?

As Angela mentioned yesterday, there are Writer's Digest market books to help you: The Poet's Market and The Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. These are both decent, comprehensive guides to publications seeking submissions. They have the disadvantage of being paper rather than databases. For a more searchable list of markets, you want the website Duotrope's Digest.

There are several schools of thought about how to break in to magazines. One school says always aim high first--that is, submit first to publications offering professional payment and high prestige. Personally, I don't think that's the best idea if you have no history at all. Aim a little lower first--markets offering semi-pro payment. If you don't have luck there, aim lower--to token payment and then to nonpaying markets. (Yet another school says start with "low-hanging fruit"--the non-paying, take-almost-anything pubs--just to have something to put in your bio. )

Another factor in a publication's "prestige" is its acceptance statistics. Duotrope provides that information for most markets. A magazine that accepts 1% of submissions is tougher to crack than one that accepts 40%. Whether payment or presitge matters most depends on your ultimate goal--do you want to be considered a "serious" poet or story-writer, or do you want to build audience and look mass-marketable?

Fit is one of the most critical considerations when deciding where to submit. Above all else, you need to see a publication's content to know what styles and themes the editors like. Most publications have at least one back issue online for perusal. A local university library would be another place to peek at issues.

If you find a high-prestige market that might be a fit, but you're intimidated about approaching, Duotrope can help you find parallel markets. Let's take, for example, Ancient Paths, a pro-paying religious market. They accept about 5% of submissions, making them fairly discerning. Duotrope provides this data on Ancient Paths's page:

Work submitted here was also submitted to...
[Fiction] The New Yorker; Harpur Palate; Ninth Letter; Cream City Review; ShatterColors Literary Review; GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator; Relief; The Midnight Diner; Fifth Wednesday Journal; Birkensnake; Ashé Journal; Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
[Poetry] The Toucan; The Electronic Monsoon Magazine; Time Of Singing; Palettes & Quills; Rock & Sling; Boulevard Magazine; Raleigh Review; Three Line Poetry; The Pedestal Magazine; Dappled Things; A Public Space; Poetry Magazine

Users accepted here also had work accepted by...
[Fiction] Insufficient data.
[Poetry] The Pedestal Magazine; Foundling Review; The Ante Review; Rufous City Review; Barnwood Poetry Magazine; Boston Literary Magazine; Pirene's Fountain

Wow, look at that! A host of other markets that have parallel tastes. Take a gander through these other listings, and you should have a plan of where to submit.

The thing with publication history is that it tends to snowball. So don't be too quick to turn your nose up at nonpaying publications. If you rack up a half dozen, the more prestigious magazines are apt to sit up and take notice--and give your work more than a passing glance.

Remember, too, that e-zine publication can increase your blog readership. Self-published writers find that getting their name out there helps drive book sales as well.

Have you started building a publication history? How might you approach doing so?
Thursday, October 06, 2011 Laurel Garver
Whether your ultimate goal is to secure agent representation or to simply get paid for writing (even a pittance), establishing a publication history will help you.

The best way to get started is with short-form work--articles, short stories and poems. If you think you don't have time to generate material while pounding out novels, think again. Some of my most recent publications were pieces I rescued from the cutting room floor.

"Tribute," published in Motley Press vol. 1, issue 3, is a flash fiction piece revised from a scene I'd cut from a novel.
"The Lost Coin," published in Drown in My Own Fears, issue 16, is a fiction-in-verse adaptation of another cut scene, one that I'd unsuccessfully attempted to sell as flash fiction.

For more on giving new life to unused material, see my post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.

I'd also argue that taking a break from your long projects to write new work in multiple forms and genres will keep you creatively fresh and flexible. It's also a great way to try out germs of ideas that could become novels.

Once you have some material to submit (critiqued and revised first, of course), how do you go about submitting?

As Angela mentioned yesterday, there are Writer's Digest market books to help you: The Poet's Market and The Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. These are both decent, comprehensive guides to publications seeking submissions. They have the disadvantage of being paper rather than databases. For a more searchable list of markets, you want the website Duotrope's Digest.

There are several schools of thought about how to break in to magazines. One school says always aim high first--that is, submit first to publications offering professional payment and high prestige. Personally, I don't think that's the best idea if you have no history at all. Aim a little lower first--markets offering semi-pro payment. If you don't have luck there, aim lower--to token payment and then to nonpaying markets. (Yet another school says start with "low-hanging fruit"--the non-paying, take-almost-anything pubs--just to have something to put in your bio. )

Another factor in a publication's "prestige" is its acceptance statistics. Duotrope provides that information for most markets. A magazine that accepts 1% of submissions is tougher to crack than one that accepts 40%. Whether payment or presitge matters most depends on your ultimate goal--do you want to be considered a "serious" poet or story-writer, or do you want to build audience and look mass-marketable?

Fit is one of the most critical considerations when deciding where to submit. Above all else, you need to see a publication's content to know what styles and themes the editors like. Most publications have at least one back issue online for perusal. A local university library would be another place to peek at issues.

If you find a high-prestige market that might be a fit, but you're intimidated about approaching, Duotrope can help you find parallel markets. Let's take, for example, Ancient Paths, a pro-paying religious market. They accept about 5% of submissions, making them fairly discerning. Duotrope provides this data on Ancient Paths's page:

Work submitted here was also submitted to...
[Fiction] The New Yorker; Harpur Palate; Ninth Letter; Cream City Review; ShatterColors Literary Review; GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator; Relief; The Midnight Diner; Fifth Wednesday Journal; Birkensnake; Ashé Journal; Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
[Poetry] The Toucan; The Electronic Monsoon Magazine; Time Of Singing; Palettes & Quills; Rock & Sling; Boulevard Magazine; Raleigh Review; Three Line Poetry; The Pedestal Magazine; Dappled Things; A Public Space; Poetry Magazine

Users accepted here also had work accepted by...
[Fiction] Insufficient data.
[Poetry] The Pedestal Magazine; Foundling Review; The Ante Review; Rufous City Review; Barnwood Poetry Magazine; Boston Literary Magazine; Pirene's Fountain

Wow, look at that! A host of other markets that have parallel tastes. Take a gander through these other listings, and you should have a plan of where to submit.

The thing with publication history is that it tends to snowball. So don't be too quick to turn your nose up at nonpaying publications. If you rack up a half dozen, the more prestigious magazines are apt to sit up and take notice--and give your work more than a passing glance.

Remember, too, that e-zine publication can increase your blog readership. Self-published writers find that getting their name out there helps drive book sales as well.

Have you started building a publication history? How might you approach doing so?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Today my special guest is Angela Felsted, a fellow crossover writer of fiction and poetry who blogs at My Poetry and Prose Place. Her poetry chapbook Cleave is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2012. It is now available for preorder from the publisher, HERE.

Here is Angela's beautiful book trailer, which features music by Saint-Seans:



Today Angela is opening a window for us into the world of poetry publishing, and I'll be chiming in periodically. Take it away, Angela...

Ten things you ought to know about publishing poetry

1. Unless your name is Billy Collins, there’s little money in poetry. Most journals do not pay. Granted, there are some paying markets, but we’re talking about small sums.

LAUREL: Very true. And the markets that pay best are NOT poetry journals, but large-circulation magazines and trade journals. Prepare to wax poetic about tractors, the rosary, diaper rash or your last colonoscopy.

2. Competition in the poetry world is fierce. So fierce there’s an online journal called Redheaded Stepchild that publishes poems which have been rejected at least once. Think these poems suck? Think again. Go check out the great stuff that gets rejected every day at their site.

3. Most agents won’t rep poetry.

LAUREL: You generally don't need one for poetry. Academic and small presses still lead this publishing niche, and they handle queries directly from authors.

4. Poets who want their work published need to do their research. I always read what a journal publishes before submitting my stuff. Even then I often get it wrong.

LAUREL: If you're just starting out, Duotrope's Digest is a good place to find e-zines in which to break in.

5. Beware of vanity publishers. You know the kind, don’t you? The ones who offer free poetry contests, and then publish every poem regardless of quality, in a book they sell for big bucks, largely to the contributors.

LAUREL: Ouch. I fell in this trap once, when I was in high school. And yes, my parents bought the book for a princely $30, back when most paperbacks cost $4.95.

6. Purchase a copy of Poets Market. I sleep with mine under my pillow at night. It is my most intimate friend. :P

LAUREL: Keep in mind things can change in lag time between when Writer's Digest compiled the information and when the book was printed. It's always a good idea to check every market's website before submitting. Some journals publish by theme, and some open and close reading periods throughout the year. And small publications fold all the time.

7. It helps to join a poetry group. For one thing it makes you feel less alone, and for another it’s an invaluable tool for honing and improving your skills. Laurel would know, because she and I are in a group together, and there’s no way I can adequately express how much her feedback has helped me.

LAUREL: Aw, shucks, I'm blushing. Like fiction has genres, poetry has "schools"--ways of approaching content, form, tone. It can take time to find like-minded writers.

8. A chapbook is a book of poems 18-28 pages in length. There are several routes a person can take in order to get a chapbook published. The four most common ones are these: (1) enter a contest and win, (2) get in good with the editor of a journal that also publishes chapbooks, (3) self-publish, or (4) submit to a small press and cross your fingers.

That last one is what I did, with lots and lots of finger crossing. Okay, so maybe there was some prayer in there too, a few superstitious chants, a dance I performed with all my blinds closed. *sigh* I digress. I still had to pay a ten dollar reading fee. That’s the thing about entering contests and submitting to presses, it’s normal to pay some kind of reading fee. Sticking to a budget is key.

9. A poetry collection is a book of poems 48 pages or longer. And these are published in much the same way a chapbook is, except most people who publish collections have already published their work in journals and chapbooks and usually have some kind of following.

LAUREL: That's a helpful distinction. You can attempt a chapbook with only a few publications under your belt. Collections are for more established poets.

10. Poetry readings, open mic nights, and other such venues can be great for poets as well. I confess to being a rookie where this is concerned. But I’ll be dipping my toe into poetry reading on my youtube channel starting this Friday. So . . . anyone willing to watch my sad attempt at dramatic reading is welcome. Just, please, promise me one thing—that you won’t laugh.

LAUREL: It's been more than ten years since I've delved into my local poetry scene. I do know you have to search a bit to see where you fit. Some groups are very academic, some more avant-garde, some steeped in urban music traditions like rap.

Thank you, Laurel, for having me on your blog.
LAUREL: My pleasure. I'm excited to get a copy of Cleave in my hot little hands!

Willing to give poetry a second look? How about trying your hand at writing it?
Tuesday, October 04, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today my special guest is Angela Felsted, a fellow crossover writer of fiction and poetry who blogs at My Poetry and Prose Place. Her poetry chapbook Cleave is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2012. It is now available for preorder from the publisher, HERE.

Here is Angela's beautiful book trailer, which features music by Saint-Seans:



Today Angela is opening a window for us into the world of poetry publishing, and I'll be chiming in periodically. Take it away, Angela...

Ten things you ought to know about publishing poetry

1. Unless your name is Billy Collins, there’s little money in poetry. Most journals do not pay. Granted, there are some paying markets, but we’re talking about small sums.

LAUREL: Very true. And the markets that pay best are NOT poetry journals, but large-circulation magazines and trade journals. Prepare to wax poetic about tractors, the rosary, diaper rash or your last colonoscopy.

2. Competition in the poetry world is fierce. So fierce there’s an online journal called Redheaded Stepchild that publishes poems which have been rejected at least once. Think these poems suck? Think again. Go check out the great stuff that gets rejected every day at their site.

3. Most agents won’t rep poetry.

LAUREL: You generally don't need one for poetry. Academic and small presses still lead this publishing niche, and they handle queries directly from authors.

4. Poets who want their work published need to do their research. I always read what a journal publishes before submitting my stuff. Even then I often get it wrong.

LAUREL: If you're just starting out, Duotrope's Digest is a good place to find e-zines in which to break in.

5. Beware of vanity publishers. You know the kind, don’t you? The ones who offer free poetry contests, and then publish every poem regardless of quality, in a book they sell for big bucks, largely to the contributors.

LAUREL: Ouch. I fell in this trap once, when I was in high school. And yes, my parents bought the book for a princely $30, back when most paperbacks cost $4.95.

6. Purchase a copy of Poets Market. I sleep with mine under my pillow at night. It is my most intimate friend. :P

LAUREL: Keep in mind things can change in lag time between when Writer's Digest compiled the information and when the book was printed. It's always a good idea to check every market's website before submitting. Some journals publish by theme, and some open and close reading periods throughout the year. And small publications fold all the time.

7. It helps to join a poetry group. For one thing it makes you feel less alone, and for another it’s an invaluable tool for honing and improving your skills. Laurel would know, because she and I are in a group together, and there’s no way I can adequately express how much her feedback has helped me.

LAUREL: Aw, shucks, I'm blushing. Like fiction has genres, poetry has "schools"--ways of approaching content, form, tone. It can take time to find like-minded writers.

8. A chapbook is a book of poems 18-28 pages in length. There are several routes a person can take in order to get a chapbook published. The four most common ones are these: (1) enter a contest and win, (2) get in good with the editor of a journal that also publishes chapbooks, (3) self-publish, or (4) submit to a small press and cross your fingers.

That last one is what I did, with lots and lots of finger crossing. Okay, so maybe there was some prayer in there too, a few superstitious chants, a dance I performed with all my blinds closed. *sigh* I digress. I still had to pay a ten dollar reading fee. That’s the thing about entering contests and submitting to presses, it’s normal to pay some kind of reading fee. Sticking to a budget is key.

9. A poetry collection is a book of poems 48 pages or longer. And these are published in much the same way a chapbook is, except most people who publish collections have already published their work in journals and chapbooks and usually have some kind of following.

LAUREL: That's a helpful distinction. You can attempt a chapbook with only a few publications under your belt. Collections are for more established poets.

10. Poetry readings, open mic nights, and other such venues can be great for poets as well. I confess to being a rookie where this is concerned. But I’ll be dipping my toe into poetry reading on my youtube channel starting this Friday. So . . . anyone willing to watch my sad attempt at dramatic reading is welcome. Just, please, promise me one thing—that you won’t laugh.

LAUREL: It's been more than ten years since I've delved into my local poetry scene. I do know you have to search a bit to see where you fit. Some groups are very academic, some more avant-garde, some steeped in urban music traditions like rap.

Thank you, Laurel, for having me on your blog.
LAUREL: My pleasure. I'm excited to get a copy of Cleave in my hot little hands!

Willing to give poetry a second look? How about trying your hand at writing it?