Seeking Representation – Indie authors and agents (Part 2)


(This post is a follow on from Part 1 where I discuss the value of a good agent and some querying gotchas)

Ok, so perhaps you’ve tried to get a writer’s agent but so far all you’ve heard is: “I’m sorry, but we are not taking on new clients at this time.” You’ve moved down the list (e.g. the Australian Literary Agent’s association members) and you are now approaching the bottom. Your next question may be: “Can I use an agent outside of my country of residence?” Well, the answer is “Yes but be smart about it!”

If you want to query an overseas agent or publisher, make sure your manuscripts’ subject/setting are aligned with the agent’s location. Agents generally focus their selling efforts in their own countries, where they know the market and are easily able to maintain the contacts and business connections a successful agent needs. Generally, publishers will also only be interested in content that is interesting and saleable to their local market.

In my case, the Ruthless Series is set in San Francisco, USA. I will therefore consider pitching to US agents, along with Australian agents. So far I haven’t tried but I have done some research to start identifying which agents may be interested in my work (this is very important – there is no point pitching to an agent or publisher that clearly doesn’t represent your genre).

There are some other interesting articles about querying overseas agents such as http://writeitsideways.com/how-to-query-literary-agents-from-other-countries/

Have a read and do some research before you decide to branch out into other publishing markets. In my next post I’ll provide some more insight into the querying process.

 

 

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Seeking Representation – Indie authors and agents (Part 1)


When I was almost ready to publish my first book, I did my due diligence and looked into my options. There was of course traditional publishing, through one of many Australian publishing agencies, or self-publishing, through a service such as CreateSpace or KDP (Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing). I chose the latter based on a number of writer’s seminars I’d attended and the fact it was going to be a great deal easier than begging and pleading with publishers. I also wanted to see how my book faired on the market, getting direct and real feedback from readers rather than publishers (if lucky enough to even be assessed/read).

So now, after two self-published books, I feel I have a product and something people like and want to read. If I were a marketing guru and didn’t have a full time job, I’d probably choose now, the month before I finish the final book in the Ruthless trilogy, to ramp up my campaign and really try and sell these suckers. But, I’m not (a marketing guru nor choosing this course of action). Instead I am looking towards traditional publishing options again and this time I am investigating the value of writers’ agents.

Writers agents (or literary agents) represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers and film studios, and assists in the sale and deal negotiation. More importantly in submitting to publishers, they target the editors/publishers who are best suited to your work, and thereby more likely to a) not reject your submission, and b) have the mechanisms in place to publish it well.

Through my research, I found that despite many publishers now opening the door to unsolicited manuscript submissions, few submissions, via this route, are actually read. Publishers generally rely on writers’ agents to sort out the wheat from the chaff. They are much more likely to read a submission made via an agent than via an unsolicited manuscript harvest. I also found it can be somewhat harmful to have self-published a book when seeking a traditional publishing deal. This is because, publishers want numbers. They want to know a product is saleable before they invest in it. When you are unpublished, this is a gamble the publisher will take based on the quality and content/genre of the book, but if you are published, they will want sales! Unfortunately, sales are not always a good representation of a books saleability (sounds like an oxymoron I know). This is because sales rely on marketing and in a flooded market like eBooks and publishing, if you don’t have good, consistent and snappy marketing, you don’t have good, consistent and snappy sales.

This is an interesting article that talks about the value of agents and why you should avoid submitting to publishers directly: http://editorialass.blogspot.com.au/2008/09/why-you-should-never-submit-unagented.html 

In my next post, I will gather together some good articles on how to find and approach an agent. This is all new to me too so I’ll let you know what I’ve tried and whether I’ve had any success soon.

Update: Part 2 now available

The chapter that busts your metaphorical balls


As a writer you are bound to eventually produce a chapter, paragraph or even just a simple sentence that doesn’t sit well with you. You won’t be able to put your finger on exactly what is wrong with it, but it will be like nails on a chalkboard to read.

These diction ditches can be quite damaging to one’s inspiration and motivation to write. I recently found myself avoiding my third manuscript because I’d already spent two sessions the previous week tweaking a troublesome chapter, and I couldn’t stomach facing it again (I knew it still wasn’t right). After a day off, I talked myself into tackling it, but this time once and for all. Instead of trying to salvage all the hard work I’d put into the chapter to date, I deleted it. I just plain removed it from my manuscript and started again. It was the best decision I’d ever made. In one session, I’d rewritten the chapter and set up the next. I also had my inspiration back and I was keen to move the story forward.

So if you find your metaphorical writing-balls in a vice over pesky phraseology and consequently you are spending all your precious time trying to fix it (with little or no results), consider throwing it out the window. Sometime that is much easier than trying to make it work. You’ll get over the time lost once you re-read your awesome new chapter 🙂

 

The Blood-sucking Author


There is a brand of Author (most often of the indie flavour) that peddles their wares in a somewhat dishonest way. I’m not talking about selling their books for more than they are worth, I’m talking about fooling people into attending seminars under the guise of a “writers workshop” when in fact they are purely sales and marketing opportunities. Subconscious sales are hidden underneath “You can be a successful author just like me!” propaganda, which is eaten up despite the glaringly awkward fact that the “successful author” is spending their weekend talking to a bunch of 50 year old women in a local recreation centre.

They warm the crowd with promise of riches and fame, despite having little or none of it themselves.  They tell the wannabe writers what they want to hear but offer no practical instruction or advice outside of what any idiot could figure out themselves. At the end of the “workshop” they’ve made 20 new fans who decide to spend another $20 on a writer’s self-help guide to actually finishing a book.

The truth is, anyone can write a book, but successfully marketing or selling one is very difficult. Success can elude the most talented authors – if no one reads it, who will know it is great? Telling people otherwise is cruel and wrong. It provides false hope and makes people focus on the wrong elements of writing. You may say “well at least it may motivate writers to finish their work” and you may be right, but that will only last until their sales inevitably fall short of J.K Rowling’s records. Then they will feel disappointed and worthless, when they should feel proud and hopeful.

I am often asked to provide advice to friends of friends or people I meet who know I have written books. I am always happy to help and relay my experiences and lessons learned through my writing journey. But I am always brutally honest. I tell people to write before they worry about attending writing workshops. Focus on creating and producing instead of marketing and making things perfect. You will have an opportunity to build your brand once you HAVE a brand, but if you haven’t actually written or published anything yet, don’t bother.

If you would like to talk to me about writing games or books, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.   My advice is free and devoid of “self-promoting strings”. Media@estherkrogdahl.me

 

Digital Sabbath, Detox and Rehab


I love travelling around the world. I love spending more time outside, seeing new things and meeting new people on my travels. Something else I love, although it always takes me a few days to realise it, is leaving my daily digital habits at home. I admit, I take devices with me when I travel – usually an iPad (for movies on the plane) and my phone – but I use them much less than I would if I were pacing around in my normal life at home. Why? My theory is – a fantastic lack of boredom combined with an enforced break in my routine.

Our extreme use of mobile devices (as compared with not so long ago) may have developed out of convenience but has grown into a habit. Let’s face it, if most people have a spare minute of idol time, they will use it on a device – check their emails, social media, text messages, play a game, chat, watch a video, listen to a pod cast, read a story, look something or somebody up… The list goes on. While our society celebrates “how far we’ve come”, it often fails to acknowledge and discuss the pitfalls of this technology age. All of this opportunity and choice at our fingertips takes up a mountain of mental space, in-between what we are are already processing and dealing with in our physical environment. Our beloved devices  can often make us feel like there is so much more to do, because it is so simple and easy to do it.

Using idol time to complete another task in your day may feel like a win, but it can come at a cost. What else could you have done with that time? Thought about a loved one, looked out the window and admired the weather, remembered a joke that made you smile, reflected on your behaviour during the day? If we stop doing those things because we use every spare moment to engage with a device, I believe we will be losing a big important part of ourselves.

Here is an enlightening yet scary comment from The Sabbath Manifesto (link below) :

I recently had a guy fix my laptop. He (Joe) has a small PC fix-it business near my town in Western Massachusetts. Joe is from Ghana. I was asking him about life there. He said, “People are connected to each other there. Here, people are connected to machines.”

When I travel, I spend a lot of time thinking. I have plenty of idol time but I’m not bored. I genuinely feel enriched and more at peace after taking in and reflecting on experiences that are right in front of me – not on my phone. So here is my challenge – to use my devices more sparingly in day to day life (let’s call it a detox). If boredom coaxes me to pick up that phone, I won’t listen, but I won’t ignore it. I’ll revel in my boredom. I’ll remember what it feels like so that I can really appreciate those moments when I am truly engaged in life.

Some interesting reads on digital disconnect programs, ideas and options are below. Take a read and disconnect to reconnect.

http://digitaldetox.org

http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org

http://www.contemplativecomputing.org

https://thedigitalsabbath.wordpress.com/introduction/

How do you finish writing a book?


A question that many writers ask themselves. I’m not going to lie, it is tough but it is also totally achievable. Last weekend, a good friend of mine asked me to read the first three chapters of her new book. She has never written a book or even a short story before so I was extremely impressed when I was carried away by her story.

Once I’d convinced her that she had talent (in my opinion anyway), she asked how I had managed to produce two books while working 9 til 5 in a completely different industry. Here is the advice I gave her:

Schedule your writing time (after work or on the weekend) and stick to it. I always write on Saturdays and unless I’m sick, hung over or on holiday, I ALWAYS write on Saturdays.

Choose a place to write that inspires you. I cannot be at home or else I want to do the dishes or put out the washing. I go to a local cafe and buy myself breakfast as a reward for my hard work.

Chip away at it. Don’t think about how much or little you have written, just keep writing. Before you know it you’ll have a first draft.

Don’t sweat the details. If you can’t think of the word you want to use or you are unsure of the correct grammar, then type ??? and come back to it later. You will have plenty of time to edit the story at the end. Just get to the end first!

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of my friend’s story later this year. I hope these tips inspire you to complete that half finished tale that you know has promise.

A recipe for an epiphany


Since my worldly travels have ended, I’ve been somewhat void of life-altering inspiration. Unsurprisingly, sitting at my desk working from 9 until 5 hasn’t facilitated any mind-blowing revelations. However, recently I pieced together a magic combination of events/activities that got my brain tingling. I now realise, I’d prepared the ingredients, but I hadn’t thought to pop them in a baking dish and throw them in the oven.

Recipe for an Epiphany

1. Travel Somewhere : 1-6 Months. The more remote and out of your comfort zone the better.

2. Reflect and Relax : Minimum 1 month. While you travel, look at yourself, your thoughts and your behaviours. How are you different now you are not stuck in the daily grind?

3. Return Home : Try to assimilate again. If you have done step 1 and 2 correctly, this will be a difficult task. This is important so you can truly appreciate the difference between your travel life and your ‘home’ life.

4. Watch documentaries about people, the universe and science. Watch TED videos like these:

5. Share your thoughts : Find content that you think is interesting and controversial. Send a link to a friend who you know will disagree.

6. Debate : Have a good-ol fashioned debate with your friend/s. Let simmer until your mind is bubbling and hissing with ideas.

7. Repeat

 

What is a Novella and should I write one?


What is a Novella?

A Novella is a short novel, usually between 20,000 and 50,000 words in length.

Should I write one?

Yes. Well in fact I already have. This post is really a personal reflection on why I and potentially other indie authors tend to deny that the products of their hard work are actually novellas and NOT novels.

I released my first book Ruthless in February 2014. The book is the first in a supernatural-action trilogy and it took me three long years to write (mainly because I didn’t do it very often).

It comes in at an underwhelming 48,888 words- including the dedication, acknowledgements, etc. When I gave it to friends to proof read, the faster readers of the group finished it in less than a day. Although that was extremely handy for me and my proofing process, it also felt like a kick in the guts –three years of writing, condensed into just a few hours of reading.

Being a brand spanking new author didn’t help. I felt like I had something to prove. I told people it was a novel, I marketed it as a novel and I defined it as a novel.

It is not a novel. It is a novella but now I realise that is a good thing!

There are some fantastic novellas out there and many of the classics you will know:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (166 pages): This novel about an ambitious scientist who conducts an unorthodox experiment and creates a “monster” is an early example of gothic horror writing during the Romantic period.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (55 pages): No one should miss Kafka’s tale of a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he has been transformed into a gigantic bug.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180 pages):For those of you who haven’t read this book, get to it! It’s only 180 pages. This classic, referred to by some as “the Great American Novel” is about a man who lets his love obsession get the better of him, and it ultimately leads to his demise

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (128 pages): This novel focuses on a woman who is trying to reconcile her views on femininity and motherhood with those of the very conservative South. It does not have a happy ending.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (144 pages): This crime novel features Chandler’s famous character PI Philip Marlowe. An old man is being blackmailed and he wants Marlowe to make it stop.

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (160 pages): This classic science fiction novel about alien invasion is where so many bad book adaptations get their ideas. (Don’t watch the movies! Read this book instead!)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (160 pages): This novella is fairly different from the movie version (the male protagonist is gay…pretty big difference) and Capote’s prose is simply stunning, so even if you’ve seen the movie, this is still worth the read!

Animal Farm by George Orwell (140 pages): Orwell’s novella is an allegory for the Russian Revolution, and the hypocrisy of the newly-instilled leaders. Of course, it’s overtly political, and uses talking pigs, sheep, and horses to illustrate Orwell’s viewpoints.

If it’s good enough for old George, then it is good enough for me. I write short books that are action packed, easy to read and just as good as any novel.

Ruthless by Esther Krogdahl (288 pages): When career-driven Ruth lands a seemingly perfect job at GlobalCore- a chic yet mysterious global corporation, she prepares to dish out her cold and merciless brand of human resource management. But there is something different about this company. Ruth finds herself climbing the corporate ladder but this time as a matter of life or death. She must compete with angels wearing Armani as she struggles with her new eternal occupation that redefines “employee termination”.

I have almost finished the second in the Ruthless trilogy- Heartless, which will end up around the 45-50,000 mark also. This time, I’ll be marketing the book as a novella- loud and proud.

Places are Just Places Without People


I’ve been travelling for just over six weeks now and I’ve been having an absolutely amazing time. I’ve seen awe-inspiring vistas including snow covered mountains, bottomless canyons, great winding lakes, underwater menageries, even ancient architectures thriving in now modern cities. But I have a confession to make; even with all this beauty, wonder and adventure encircling me, there are times when I just plain miss my home.

I pondered this recently and asked myself why? I mean, the city of Perth, Western Australia will always be there. Little will change while I’m away and when I do return I will continue with the same lifestyle and routine I peddled through before. After some reflection, I have the answer to my question- people.

Despite meeting some amazing people whilst travelling (Mexican people are the most kind, fun loving people in the world!), these encounters have been fleeting and without lasting connection. The people that I surround myself with at home are friends and family that I truly love and miss when they are not around. Places are just places without people and people who you truly connect with are like gold- precious, rare and beautiful.

I could be standing on a ragged cliff looking out at the burnt orange sun disappearing behind the ocean while dolphins dive over purple waves beneath, but if I have no one special to share that with, then the experience isn’t as powerful. Don’t get me wrong, it is still exquisite; something that fills your chest the feeling of fortune, but it can begin to seem less satisfying than say, a casual catch up with a good friend over coffee.

So this post is just an offering for those who are caught up in the daily grind and wishing they were on a beach somewhere far, far away. There are amazing places you could be someday and I encourage you to travel as much as you can, but when you can’t, when you are at home, enjoy home. Recognize the amazing people that surround you every day and be thankful. Beaches are just beaches, cities are just cities, jungles are just jungles without people- the people you love.

Me and the Burning Man


The Burning Man and I were tight once. I met him only one week ago but I felt like I’d known him all my life. It was a completely chance meeting – a friend from Mexico announced she could source some spare tickets to the Burning Man festival only two weeks prior to the event. My husband and I jumped at the chance and soon we were purchasing all matter of odd clothing, equipment and gifts. 

Armed with goggles, dust masks, costumes, camping gear and WATER we joined the crew at the la Calaca camp in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. Our entry was better than most- only 3 hours spent in line (at 1 AM) as compared to the 24-30 hours many spent after lightening storms sent them back to Reno. A roll in the playa dust and the clang of the virgin bell announced us to the BM city that would be our home for the next week.

In the morning, we grabbed some camp bikes and introduced ourselves to the man- the 80 foot giant who cast his gaze over the playa. What a cool guy; a little quiet but nice all the same.

There were art cars made to look like fish, boats, aardvarks, unicorns, tanks, jellyfish, guns, skulls… the list goes on. You could ride these art cars anywhere they happened to be going (like public transport) while chatting to fellow burners on board and dancing to the music pumping from within.

There were 1000s of camps sprawled across the flat, white, dusty, dry playa, making a temporary city, beaten in size only by Reno and Las Vegas in the state of Nevada. Camps offered spa services, food, drinks, games, orgies, advice… Anything you could possibly imagine and for FREE. There is no money on the playa- only gifts.

At night, everything glowed. You had to light yourself and your bike so you could be seen from dusk until dawn. Every art car and art installation did the same, creating a seething, shifting mass of light to explore and get lost in. Electronic music filled the air 24 hours a day and if you felt like dancing, then you could indulge until you dropped. Everything was always open and on. 

We took part in everything we could find. We made friends with like minded people that ranged from students to CEOs. The camp was our home and the other campers our family. We felt welcome and loved and had some amazing nights ending with the sunrise.

There were tough times too though. Lack of sleep frayed nerves and the hot biting sun raked at our skin. Dust storms constantly threatened to engulf us and goggles and masks became a staple when leaving the camp for adventure. At night temperatures plunged to 2 or 3 degrees but it was all worth while when we found a cool camp or made a new friend.

We watched the tribal burning of many installations but when it was time for our friend- the man to burn, excitement spread like fire across the playa. Every burner and art car watched the spectacle. We said our goodbyes and cheered when he crumbled to hot embers and ash. 

The next day we were so sad to leave. What an amazing experience. We will never forget our time at burning man, our new friends and the lost leader- the man.