Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
May 24th, 2012

P.O. Boxing the Author

Yesterday, I went to my local post office and rented out a P.O. box for the first time. Since I’m doing a lot of writing “business,” i.e. promotion, I thought it would be a good idea to separate it off from my home. With my first book, 12 years ago, I considered doing the P.O. box thing, but in the end, it seemed like too much of a hassle. And I had a publisher, so even though I was doing all of my publicity, I could use his P.O. box as the return address. Nice and professional.

Now, since I’ve self-published, I want to put on a professional front, even if I have kind of sort of no idea what I’m doing. Publishing and the promo that goes with it are not my business, per se, at least I don’t think of them like that.Writing is my work and being a writer is my vocation, my profession. So, it’s time for the box. Plus, I have kids this time around and I’m dealing with a lot of mail to and from people I don’t really know, to put it bluntly (although, if you’re reading this, you’ve all been awesome! :D). Sure, we’ve chatted via email or LinkedIn messages or online forums—but there you go, the term online forum just ignites a CAUTION sign in my head.

What about you fellow bloggers, authors, and writers—do you have a P.O. box or are you all right with the world knowing your home address and with the possibility that someday, some “friend” might show up at your door?

August 15th, 2011

Being submissive

Well, I went ahead and did it. I sent my novel manuscript along with a synopsis and cover letter to two e-book publishers. If you want to check them out, they are Samhain Publishing and Carina Press. Samhain Publishing put out an ebook, The Matchmakers by Jennifer Colgan, I either got for free or extremely cheaply for my Kindle, and it seemed in the same vein as my book. I found Carina Press through some publishing board—can’t find the conversation now—but the two presses are slightly related in that a former Samhain editor, Angela James, is the Carina Press editor. Carina is owned by Harlequin.

Yay! Usually, I am extremely secretive and closed-mouth about my submissions because a.) people want updates all the time and b.) the submissions eventually, usually end in rejection and c.) when I can finally give  an update, it will be about a rejection, and then I have to deal with sad, disappointed, slightly embarrassed looks from friends/family. So, it’s best to keep it on the down-low, if I may be so bold.

On the other hand, there’s always that little thrill of accomplishment I get when I submit my work. For a while, at least, I get to dwell in possibility, and it’s a good feeling. But on the other other hand, while submitting is part of the writer’s job, it’s not easy.

Take the synopsis. Depending on the publisher, it has to be two to five pages long, give a complete description of your book, including the ending, and be good reading. I don’t enjoy writing synopses, but they’re great tools for figuring out if your book makes any sense. In the past, I have stopped myself from submitting my book because the synposis didn’t at all match what was going on in my book, which means what I had written and what I envisioned weren’t grooving to the same beat yet.

Anyway, I’ve left my virtual baby on the virtual doorstep again. It’s out there! Nurture it, love it, Samhain and Carina!

Right. I should have some news in four months at the outside. No, it’s not a fast process. In the meantime, I also entered a short story contest with Narrative Magazine, an online lit mag. I submitted one of my more literary The New Yorker type stories. You know, one with an existential crisis and an epiphany at the end. And no magical ponies or pixies or any of that stuff (although they did publish an excerpt from Chris Adrian’s The Great Night, with Oberon and Titania and other assorted faeries, and it’s a startling, lovely, tragic, magical read, so there’s that). I love my story, titled “Teachable Moments,” and hope it finds a home some day.

So, that’s the skinny for now.

How about you, fellow bloggers, writers, and readers? How do you deal with stuff like this? Do you have a sort-of secret life, a hidden artist’s heart that you want to protect from judgment and ridicule? Or do you just let your freak flag fly without giving a damn about the sad, disappointed, slightly embarrassed-for-you looks?

August 10th, 2011

Genre fiction, or what’s in a name?

I admit, I haven’t done a lot of research on the whole e-publishing microcosm—I don’t know what e-publishers are out there, the ones that are following the rules of traditional publishing with submissions, rejections, standards…you know, not vanity presses but “real” publishers. Oh, and that handle editing, cover art, distribution, publicity, and royalties (of the two I’ve checked out so far, they do not give advances). So just this very minute, I did a Google search and found this site, ebook crossroads. The link is a list of ebook publishers they’ve compiled. I’ll study it in more depth and invite you to do the same. Let me know what you find, if you don’t mind.

Like print publishers, many ebook publishers specialize in particular genres—romance, science fiction, westerns, etc. A few years ago, I interviewed author Clare Willis, who wrote Once Bitten, a paranormal romance about mosquitoes. Just kidding. It’s about vampires, of course. She told me an interesting tidbit—the best-selling genre of all genres is romance. Could I beef up the romance in my own paranormal novel? she asked. I wasn’t even sure if my novel could be labeled “paranormal.” For a long time, I thought of my book (and still do, although what do I know?) as “cross-genre”, like, if I may be so bold, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, or a part of the magical realism subset of literature. (Remember, I’d been trained by my creative writing program to think like this: literary fiction=good, genre fiction=meh.)But my book might be too plot-driven or mainstream-ish or—gasp!— accessible to the reading masses to be classified as any sort of literary fiction. Anyway, I had discovered the genre of urban fantasy and thought that might be a good fit.

But romance? Well, again, my snoot radar went up. I didn’t read romances. Well..sometimes I read chick lit, but it was like a dirty little secret, an indulgence. But romance novels with busty ladies in corsets and long-haired, steroid-riddled pirates hovering over them on the covers? Not since a brief foray into the romance shelves of the local used bookstore back when I was in high school. I preferred the ones that took place in the Old West.

But I digress…I do like a good love story. A tantalizing triangle. There is an element of that in my book. Sure, I could beef it up. And it might even make the story better, more crackling.

Plus, once I checked out these publishers (and not all of them require lots of steamy sex, sometimes just “elements of romance”), they had clearly moved beyond corsets and pirates. There were fairies, vampires (of course), witches, space rangers, and normal everyday people. Other genres that have been around for 40, 50 years, I’m just learning about like steampunk and cyberpunk. Even if I’m not writing for those audiences, it’s exciting that other writers are, and that readers are demanding more.

Am I a romance writer? I wouldn’t go that far. Is my book a paranormal romance? If I can find a wider audience for my book, I’m open to the idea that it is. If you’ve changed your mind about genre, have always written genre fiction, or have some thoughts about e-publishers, do share.

 

August 4th, 2011

OK, traditional publishing, I’ll give you one more try

So, I’ve been obsessing about this whole e-book phenomenon, and it’s no wonder as I plow through the first Sookie Stackhouse novel (yes, I’m one of those True Blood fans who’s finally found her way to the source material) on my iPad. The app that truly legitimizes this basically rather expensive toy, although my kids would argue accessing Disney movies and Angry Birds is reason enough, is OverDrive Media, which I highly recommend to anyone who is an advocate of library usage. Through OverDrive, you can “check out” e-books and audible books (i.e. books on tape) for free. You get the file for 3 weeks and then it disappears. No late fees! Pretty awesome. Oh, and the app is free.

Anyway, e-books haven’t completely replaced real books in my personal library. An author I admire can’t sign my e-book, can she? I recently scooted down to a wonderful local bookstore, Bookshop West Portal, because I knew one of my favorite authors Ann Patchett had done a signing there for her new book, State of Wonder, and I’d be able to get a lovely autographed copy. Granted, I have yet to read her book (but it’s going to be good! It’s getting excellent reviews) because the e-books I requested keep rolling in from the library, and I have to accept them or they disappear from my “hold shelf.” But I’ll get to Ms. Patchett’s book soon. Don’t you worry! And for now, I can admire the lovely cover.

Of course, there are e-book publishers out there that specialize in digital books, and because this whole indie e-book publishing thing is kind of daunting (just found out, for example, that hiring an editor is going to cost mucho dinero), I might give one of these publishers a try. Yes, give them a chance to reject my beloved book one more time, then head off on my own, as Planned B. Let’s see…if I send out my manuscript by tomorrow to the editors, it could take three to four months before I hear back from them.

What say you, dear readers. Should I do it? Should I invite more rejection into my house?

August 3rd, 2011

Once upon an agent

Yes, at one point in my life, I had an agent. It was an amazing feeling when this complete stranger said she would like to represent my first novel. I was about 26 or 27 years old at the time, and it seemed like the work I’d done in grad school, despite my extremely yeasty doubts and insecurities, actually had some merit. I had found her in a heavy tome my thesis adviser had recommended, along with the advice to look for younger, newer agents, because they are “hungry” and more likely to take on an unknown writer. Plus, they will work really hard for you.

My agent was in Colorado. Not the hot bed of publishing, but I wasn’t prejudiced. She also wasn’t a member of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives), saying she had the qualifications, so why pay the big fees? Fine, fine. I understood about that. She asked for $600 to cover expenses like photocopies and postage. Red flag: all my grad school professors (at the time, these were the only published people I knew personally) said this was a big no-no. NEVER give money to an agent. They should make their money on the commission only. But I had a good job as a paralegal and could spare the bucks. Plus, she was the only agent, out of those I’d so far queried, who had said she wanted to represent me. What can I say? I was in love. Head over heels.

We had lunch once. She was in San Francisco for some reason. And I won’t give any specific personal details, but that meeting planted the seeds of doubt about her commitment to my work. She had not actually read the whole novel, she said. Well, I wondered, how did she know it was any good? But I shook it off. We went dutch on the lunch.

Rejection, rejection, rejection. One big nibble from St. Martin’s Press, but in the end, no thanks, the editor said.

Every day, I waited for my agent to call with news. Sometimes, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I called her for an update. It was like being in a relationship with a boyfriend who ignores you most of the time, and you wait by the phone, can’t eat, can’t sleep…you get the idea.

At the end of our year contract, she gave me a 3-month extension. But about a month in, she called me and said, not at all kindly, “I don’t want to work on this project anymore. No one is interested, and the writing isn’t very good, and I just don’t want to spend any time on it anymore.”

Was I devastated? Hell, yeah! All of my insecurities were totally validated! I let it sink it, numb me, then went home and cried on my husband’s shoulder.

“What happened?” he asked.

“My agent broke up with me!”

I called her a few days later. She was polite. I asked her if I rewrote the book, would she consider representing it? She said she’d take a look if I had something in a few months, but she didn’t have any specific advice for changes, or maybe I was too dumb to ask.

But instead of calling her back, I went into hibernation. After a while, I might have done some editing of the book on my own. Maybe not. But I did decide not to go back to the agents. I went back to the heavy tome and looked for small publishing houses. And  that’s how I found Dry Bones Press.