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 When you are unpublished, this is a gamble the publisher will take based on the quality and content/genre of the book, but if you are published, they will want sales!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

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Attack of the Cheesy Sex Scene


Writing sex scenes… I’m not good at it. In my second book, Heartless (also second in the Ruthless series), I put my all into describing a somewhat surprising, yet passionate encounter between the protagonist, Ruth and another character. When I read it back, I found I’d written one single page of flimsy fornication. So I knuckled down, quashed the thought that had been circling in my head (All your friends and family are going to read this) and wrung out another half page. Not only was my ‘coitus chronicle’ short, it also sounded so… Cheesy! In the end, I vowed to never to re-read it again and moved on like it had never happened.

Now in the midst of the third and final instalment of the Ruthless Series, Soulless, I find myself limping through another scene of passion (I hope this is enticing you to start reading – even cheesy sex sells right?). Let me SHOW you what I’m talking about here:

Fever rose in Ruth’s stomach. The cool air of the night was suddenly undetectable. Her skin burned, fuelled by hot blood. It was as though Ruth was back in the depths of Hell, but she wasn’t, she was in heaven.

See? That is cheesier than a pub parmigiana. So, what can I do about it? Well, I propose that YOU write my sex scene for me. That way I can tell my nanna, with all honesty, that I didn’t write that page turning filth. I’m sure anyone could do a better job than me. If you are interested, let me know. I’m completely serious.

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 🙂

 

Soulless – The Rapture


I’m about half way through the final instalment in the Ruthless trilogy, Soulless. For a while there, I was rebelling against finishing the series and consequently didn’t do much writing over a number of months. However, over the last few weeks I have picked up again and I am LOVING smashing out this supernatural story. I can assure you it is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing, like its sisters – Ruthless and Heartless. For those of you who like a good Zombie read, here is a snippet from the middle. I hope you enjoy and it inspires you to grab a copy of Ruthless and Heartless so you can see where it all began!

….

They rode on through the streets in silence until they came to a grassy hill surrounded by a very old, low cobblestone wall. As the hellhound leapt over the top, landing on the scattered daisy patch on the other side, dark clouds began to form in a swirling whirlpool in the sky. They padded up the hill until Ruth could see the view on the other side. Rows and rows of grave stones.

“New recruitsssss,” the demon Kelvin hissed over his shoulder before slapping the reins against his beast’s back.

The hellhound began threading its way through the graves and with each step, the ground shifted and shuffled. Ruth swivelled to look behind them. Only a few feet away, a mottled, grey fist smashed free of the guttered ground. And then another and another. The clouds above crackled and flared with lightening, momentarily bathing the graveyard in silver light before a rumble of thunder darkened the gravestones once more. Ruth’s heart pounded in her chest. She gripped the beast’s fur tighter in her fists. At the bottom of the hill, the graveyard fanned out into wide flat field. Thousands of headstones stretched out evenly in front of them like marble soldiers. Ruth cringed.

These once good people will rise and terrify their loved ones. There is no trace of their soul left to appeal to, just rotting skin and bones reanimated to do the devil’s work.

Guttural moans rose up behind them. This time Kelvin pulled the reins and turned his animal so that he and Ruth had a full view of the crater-covered hill. Stones lay upturned, flowers and trinkets were strewn and trampled. Decaying bodies staggered down the slope towards them, gnashing their toothless gums and stretching out their curly nailed fingers.

“They will follow us and attack the library on my command,” Kelvin reported over his shoulder.

“They will slow us down and Stratus will see them coming a mile away. God already suspects we will attack the library. We need to take her and her angels by surprise.”

Kelvin snorted and turned the hound again. Sensing his ambivalence, Ruth continued-

“Let’s carry on to the library without them. We can camp out tonight and plot our attack for the morning. If they walk all night, they will arrive tomorrow and supply us with good cover while we slip inside the library unseen.”

Kelvin’s response was to dig his bare, horned heels into the beast. They launched forward, bounding swiftly through the sea of gravestones until they reached the other side of the cemetery, cleared the wall and continued down the desolate street. Ruth tried not to show her relief. Gritting her teeth she stared over Kelvin’s blistered shoulder at the carnage ahead.

The risen-dead have no currency. They have no soul save. I can’t have them ruin my plan.

 

My New Book Heartless


Heartless, the second book in the Ruthless Series is OUT NOW!

I’m loving the cover, created by my good friend Ben Roestenburg. We worked together to revamp the Ruthless cover as well so now they compliment each other beautifully.

Soulless, the third and final instalment is on it’s way. I’m thinking… mmm March (that means July 2015).

I’d appreciate your support, so please pick up a cheap copy of both Ruthless and Heartless on Amazon.com.

(Heartless is also available via Smashwords retailers in multiple formats. The story stands alone, so don’t hesitate to start from there 🙂 )

Amazon Books Esther Krogdahl

Heartless


My new supernatural suspense story Heartless is finished! Currently some of my most favourite anally retentive friends are proofing the 99.99% finished product, then it will be ready for a final primp before release. “When?” You ask. Well, I am sorry to announce to those of you dying to know what is in store for Ruth after reading Ruthless, that I won’t be releasing Heartless until the new year (update: Here it is on Amazon and Smashwords). In the meantime, here is the synopsis I’ve been flip-flopping over. I hope it makes you want to read on!

“The devil is in the detail.”  

Like any other large corporation, Hell’s employees need to be acquired, managed and when necessary, terminated. Now in limbo, Ruth Wroth is the unwitting Human Resources manager of Hell’s Earth branch- GlobalCore. Forced to work for the charismatic Lucifer, Ruth must reap the souls of her heinous assignments in devilish style. Although killing scumbags for an eternity is strangely satisfying, Ruth has a plan to resign but first she needs help from the competition.

To secure salvation for her tarnished soul Ruth must find her seeing-sphere, the heavenly object that reveals the good deed needed to absolve her sins, but it is locked within a library managed by Heaven’s Earth branch- Stratus.

When Christian, an undeserving angel offers Ruth a lifeline in return for a date, she reluctantly agrees. Soon Ruth finds herself grappling with love, loyalty and lies as she is forced to choose between the better of two evils.  As the Rapture nears, will Ruth’s journey to the truth leave her heartless?

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.

Green Indie Publishing


I love print books. I keep my favourites in an old antique bookcase in my lounge room. I have a sentimental attachment to them because they remind me of the time in my life when I read them. Their stories kept me turning the pages while I was cosy in bed or laying on a beach in Mexico or sitting in a cafe in the sun. I love books but I don’t have room to store every book I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, my “recycled” books end up gathering dust in a thrift store warehouse somewhere, never to be read again.

I decided to self-publish Ruthless in print and in eBook form for obvious reasons, but once I became the publisher and not just the reader, I began to think about the impact that decision would have on the environment (if I didn’t, my enviro sister would soon remind me). So I did some research about the impact of print books on the environment. There are lots of different articles, slants and stats on the subject but all that aside, print books = paper = trees= lack of trees= 😦

Createspace (the print publishing arm of Amazon) when questioned on the eco-friendliness of their business responded with the following, which I thought was kind of cool-

Environmental consciousness is important for the continued growth of our company. As a print on demand facility, we only print units as orders come in, which greatly reduces excess production. Additionally, we currently offer a 60# cream paper for black and white book interiors that is made from 30% post consumer waste recycled material. We also maintain a commitment torecycling waste materials that may result from the printing process. We continue to review our manufacturing practices on an ongoing basis to ensure we are doing our part to protect the environment (ref).

So I will be updating Ruthless to use the cream paper instead of white and the next instalment- Heartless will be printed on the same kind.

Also, I found this awesome website Eco-Libris that promotes planting a tree for every book you read (which basically costs $1 per plant). So as well as planting some trees, I’ve decided to reduce the cost of Ruthless in print by $3 so that readers who also love, love, love real books, can spare a dollar to plant a tree too. You can now grab a copy for just $10 USD! Then, when you are finished with it- lend it to a friend 🙂

green publishing

The Perfect Synopsis


I published Ruthless back in February 2014 and slowly I have been gathering readers and buyers online. One element of the book I have recently changed in order to improve interest and sales, is the synopsis. Using wattpad, I can see how many users are reading the synopsis and then deciding NOT to continue on with the story. Unfortunately, there have been many. So I went back and reviewed the “hook of the book” and found it was not nearly as catchy and gripping as it could be.

The synopsis is really as important, or perhaps even more so, than the book cover design. It needs to pull readers in- quickly! My synopsis for Ruthless was a little slow and only really got to the intriguing part after 2 paragraphs. I changed it up on wattpad first and then updated Amazon after I saw a significant increase in reads. This is what I ended up with:

Corporate life just became deadly. Succeed or seek salvation…

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 soon finds herself climbing the corporate ladder but this time as a matter of life or death. She must compete with industrious angels, hell-bent on success, as she struggles with her new eternal occupation that redefines “employee termination”. Follow Ruth as she delivers damning employee evaluations to the most wicked souls that California has to offer. These aren’t the mild-mannered office workers Ruth is used to firing, these employees are rotten to the core, and they won’t be leaving without a fight.

So how does one write the perfect synopsis? First of all, I think keep it short and punchy. Originally, mine was quite long as I felt I needed some real content on the back of the book- not just a few lines. Not necessary. Have a look at some of the more popular author’s books. They are mostly covered with review quotes- not the synopsis.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to start with a teaser line at the top. I used Corporate life just became deadly. Succeed or seek salvation… This will serve to pull the reader in if it is something bold or mysterious and it may also help you when readers are searching for your book online. Often, search engines- whether they be built in to applications like wattpad or Amazon, will only return a snip it of a synopsis or book description. Usually, just the first line or two, so make you point in that first line. Make it interesting.

Don’t give too much away. In my case, I have planted twists and turns throughout Ruthless so it was hard not to give some of those away by describing events in the story. You want to offer a teaser of what is inside so people will actually want to read the book. If they feel like they have the whole story from reading the back, then they are going to just put it down and move on. It is a tricky balancing act but you also don’t want to be too abstract or ambiguous. Aim for something in the middle.

I am about to publish my second book and the sequel to Ruthless so I am beginning to write the synopsis for Heartless now. I’ll publish on my blog soon. I’d love to hear your comments.

An Assignment


Kelvin Abbott dusted his hands against his stone washed jeans before examining them in the waning light. He’d gotten blood under his fingernails again and now the dirt from digging had mingled with it to create black arcs at the tips of his fingers. He’d have to wash up before he went back inside. Jillian knew better than to stick her sniveling nose in his business but still, he didn’t need to invite questions. It had already taken him two and a half hours to dig the hole- much more time than was realistically needed to burry a junkyard dog. His dim-witted wife wouldn’t know the difference anyway, she’d never suspect looking at the size of the hole. She’d be too stupid to consider that it was the depth of the hole, not the width that mattered. The duffle bag containing the folded child took up no space at all but it had to be buried deep. After the duffle bag was inside, he’d need to cover it with two feet of dirt before adding the stinking dog he’d run down that day. Filling the hole would be the culmination of all his hard work. It would make the thing final – a success.

Kelvin wiped the sweat from his brow with his forearm and straightened is aching back. At forty-four, he was fit and strong enough to be digging holes in the stony earth of Woodlake Californian, but it was still hard work. He kicked the loose dirt from his work boots and moseyed over to the blue duffle bag that was tucked just underneath the house. The bag was brand new – had never been used- on account of the fact he’d bought it just yesterday. Kelvin grasped the black handles and dragged the bag along the ground towards the hole. As he neared the edge, he had to come around and spread his legs on either side, before grabbing the bag handles again and pulling the bag inside. It landed with a wet thud.

Kelvin took two steps backwards, steadying himself with his shovel, wedged in the mound of dirt he’d extracted from the hole. Pulling it out, he pushed the top layer of soil into the hole. He did this until a quarter of the mound had disappeared. Finally he stood back, scratched his head and surveyed the yard.

The dog lay out in the open only a few feet away, its vacant black eyes staring up at Kelvin as he made his way over. He kicked it in the belly and sent it launching towards the hole. He’d overshot it. The dead dog landed on the edge of the hole but didn’t fall inside. Prickling pins of rage sent a burning sensation over Kelvin’s shoulders and into his arms. It made him stronger and more determined, like a bull that has seen the flash of the matador’s red cape.

Kelvin marched over to the hole, grasping the shovel on the way and brought the edge down hard on the dog’s neck, lopping it clean off. The rest of the dogs body slid into the hole as Kelvin gritted his yellowed teeth in a horrific smile. He then turned the bloody tool in his hands and held it like a golf putter, gently knocking the dog’s head into the hole. He grinned with tight lips and then spat into the hole, before taking a shovel full of dirt and unloading it onto the bloody mess beneath him.