Tag Archives: getting published

Want to Get Published? Sell More Books? You Need This: Q&A w Mike Larsen

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Feeling a little fatigued or overwhelmed by the sheer amount of publishing advice out there today? There are so many options that it can leave us creative types wanting to bury our heads and surrender. But that’s not an option. Whether you plan to self publish or to garner an agent and secure a publishing deal—small or big house—you need to get on top of your own brand, marketing plan, sales goals, and platform. It’s a new world order demanding that we balance our time between business and creating. It’s not easy for everyone to juggle. Which means that some extremely talented writers may push out a book that fizzles out with low sales, making it more challenging to publish later with traditional houses. If that’s happened to you, don’t give up until you consider all the other areas to your writing career that you may not be on top of yet. For advice, I turned to Mike Larsen, author, agent with Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency since 1972, and currently an author coach.

I met Mike at the San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) this past February. If you don’t know Mike, and you’re a writer, you need to get to know him and his work. He is the author of How to Write a Book Proposal, which is in its fourth edition and has sold more than 100,000 copies. He also wrote How to Get a Literary Agent and coauthored Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work. Mike and wife Elizabeth Pomada also coauthored the six book Painted Ladies series about Victorian houses, selling more than 500,000 copies. As agents from 1972-2015, Larsen-Pomada, sold hundreds of books to hundreds of publishers and imprints, before declining to accept new clients in 2015. As an author coach, and co-founder of the SFWC, Mike speaks at writing conferences across the country and firmly believes writers need to support and network with other writers.

Being on both aisles of publishing as an agent and an author since the 1970s—as well as currently coaching authors—Mike has a wide-range view of the industry and solid, positive advice. Today’s marketplace demands that authors do more than ever to make their books succeed—even when securing a book deal with a publishing house. For many, it’s hard to navigate time spent on business and promotion (and what that looks like or costs), verses time spent on the craft (why we are doing this in the first place). Time spent on promotion can often induce fear, thwarting, or delaying, time spent on creation. This is why inspiring writers conferences where experts such as Mike speak, are so important. (See Mike this June at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.)

 I firmly believe, as Mike does, that writing is a life-long, ever-evolving career. You and I are already a success if we love what we do and have found the way to carve time out every week to create. Control what you can, with a positive mindset, and embrace Mike’s belief that “Now is the best time ever to be a writer.”

         Skeptical? Fearful? Daunted? Then this Q&A is for you!

Q: Friends who self publish and have not broken even financially moan about how much money they invested in marketing, editing, cover art and design, SEO optimization, travel, promotion and printing. I suggested they teach for additional income. What advice do you have for them?  

MIKE: Writers have more ways to earn money from their books than ever: movie, audio and foreign rights; a blog or newsletter that attracts advertising. For nonfiction authors, speaking, coaching, consulting, training for individuals and groups, online or off, may be a possibility. Get to know other authors in your field and see what they are doing. Maybe you can partner with them.

Q: I’m assuming that you are not just suggesting submitting to online writing contests, but are referring to crowdfunding publishing options and Patreon?

MIKE: They may be able to bring in additional funds through those tools. But an author needs to learn who his/her readers are, where they are, and reach them on the platforms were they congregate: video, podcasts, or blogging, and social media.

Writers need to go events. They can give readings or interviews, attend book clubs, in person or by phone or Skype. Whether writers self-publish or sell their books to a publisher, the challenge of promotion will be mostly on their shoulders. Big and midsize publishers expect authors to be on top of their promotion. Being as visible as possible in as many ways and places helps sell books. Writers have to look at building their platform as an investment in their career.

Q: Some of my friends cringe at the idea of using Patreon as an additional revenue stream, as if it is the equivalent of begging.

MIKE: It’s high-tech patronage. Hundreds of years ago, it was fashionable for patrons to support artists whose work they enjoyed. Patrons have a deep appreciation for the arts: for playwrights, authors, painters, musicians. One must build up a following first. Then fans will want to contribute to help you keep writing. I think it is brilliant, especially at a time when writers are often expected to write for free. Writing is a noble endeavor that takes time, skill and effort. It deserves support.

Q: As a former agent and now a coach, where do you see writers most often slipping up? What are the most common mistakes writers make?

MIKE: New writers usually have no platform or promotion plan. They have to know more and do more than ever, including building communities of fans and writers. The moment you decide to write a book, maximize your visibility platform. They need clear writing and publishing goals. How big a house do you want? Do you want to self-publish? How many copies do you want to sell? At what price? Be consistent in how you communicate, building a brand to create your identity as a writer.

Q: It sounds like you’re saying writers need to take charge of their career and treat it like a business and write a business proposal.

MIKE: Yes. And it’s also important for writers to stay visible and accessible. Go to events. Support other writers, network, stay engaged. There are so many opportunities for writers to build communities of fans. But they have to be both writers and merchants, and balance between the yin and the yang of creating and writing with sharing their passion for the value of their books.

Q: Any other advice to budding authors trying to publish traditionally?

MIKE: Agents and editors need to know two recent, successful books that prove that your book is salable. Publishers are relying on authors. Prove that you can promote the book. The bigger the house you want, the more they will expect of you. If you’ll be happy with a small house, platform and promotion aren’t as important.    

Q: Parting words of advice?

MIKE: You can do anything you want. Social media can make any book sell. Be clear about where you want to go and the best way to get there. Assume it will take you five books to build an audience. Find an author to model your career after. Keep turning out books that sell each other. If you love what you do and keep doing it, nothing can stop you.

 

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Offline & Off Alcohol … What?!

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Good morning. I’m feeling raw and authentic these days, so why not post a naked face pic? ha ha … So here I am, no make up, early morning cup of joe, my last lingering vice. Five months ago, as some know, my 15-year-old dared me to go off all social media. I did. He did. We are both more productive—although his gaming time has gone up, LOL! I finished my 3rd novel, Between Thoughts of You (link to except on title), and sent it to an agent on Monday. Woohoo!! Fingers crossed! The day after Thanksgiving I gave up alcohol. I did this at the request of a dear friend. It was a good request. Alcohol didn’t serve me. There were too many times when I found myself around drunk friends and the chatter became negative or gossipy. Then there were the mornings after when I would still have to teach hot 105 degree yoga. Ow! Plus, I want to be someone my boys can look up to. Someone who still has fun, still enjoys her life, is healthy, vibrant and joyful—all without alcohol. So far SO GOOD. I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed my 2nd New Year Eve at a yoga (last year) or meditation event where we all ended up dancing for hours and hours! A dear friend I met in Peru, when I attended Mike Dooley‘s retreat, (yeah, the source of Notes from the Universe and SO much more!) flew in. Beth and I attended Marianne Williamson‘s weekend retreat on forgiveness, miracles, finding your voice, vision, taking calm, yet powerful steps toward peace, etc. It was inspiring! We met people from all over the world and via her livestream folks tuned in from Israel, Syria, Egypt, Palestine—talk about powerful! Here’s a pic, post-midnight, of us dancing with Marianne Williamson, her party-goers and the Agape Choir.

Post midnight dancing @ Marianne William's NYE event!

I adore Marianne, a 65-year-old who looks 40 and whose powerfully strong light is feminine, strong and passionate. (I hope she runs for office again!!) I did The Course in Miracles a few years back and in my first yoga training four years ago, was given one of her quotes:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

**

It felt natural that I should attend her event, held here in LA instead of her usual New York venue. What I took away that was new, however, I will share with you. Pray for Donald Trump. Pray for all your ‘enemies’ and know that they have a light, a direct link to God, just as much as you do. AND, the only thing that is REAL, is LOVE. So what they are doing to hurt you, doesn’t represent them, their true essence, their higher self they were born intrinsically with (like you) and nothing they did or said that harmed you is REAL. As Einstein said: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

It’s easier to forgive those who hurt me (or who I allowed to hurt me, it is the same) when I think this way. Maybe it will be for you, too? BUT, Marianne warns that talking smack about what they did, or even thinking negatively about what they did and/or ‘who’ they are, will hurt you too—as you enter into the negative illusion that isn’t REAL. LOVE is REAL. LIGHT (GOD LIGHT) is real. And it takes strength to embody both. Letting go of the baggage, forgiving and loving ‘enemies’, ourselves, and then doing something to change our world, takes courage.  I’ll leave you with some of the best quotes by Marianne over the NYE weekend:

“Everyone we meet will either be our crucifier or our savior, depending on what we choose them to be.”

“Get off the cross, we need the wood.”

“The warden, just like the prisoner, can’t leave the jail.”

“You can have a grievance, or you can have joy, you can’t have both.”

“Those who act in a loveless manner (who hurt us) are not being Real. They are love, but have forgotten, or fell asleep. Us attacking them, or criticizing or not forgiving them makes us asleep with them. We must stay awake and forgive.”

“You are reborn in the instant you do NOT bring the past with you.”

“The EGO mind is like a scavenger’s dog, seeking your brother’s guilt. The Loving mind wants to see your brother’s innocence.”

“Forgiveness is a Radical concept. Drop victimhood that the EGO uses against you, against your sense of peace.”

“Jesus said, ‘I don’t have anything you don’t have. I just don’t have anything else.’ Remember to look at your problems, but deny their power over you. Fall in love with positive possibility.”

“Our potential is infinite.”

“The EGO wants suffering. The SPIRIT wants joy.”

“You must have already decided to not be joyous if that is how you feel. Recognize you actively decided wrongly. So choose again. Ask God to help you. HE will listen to your slightest request, your slightest willingness.”

So, I am signing off with one last thought. For me to forgive those who have hurt me in the ‘illusion’, I’ve decided to think of their beautiful light that shined inside of them when they were young children. I see their giggles, their little pudgy hands reaching for their mom’s necks. I imagine the way they must have looked wide-eyed at all who came near and smiled gooey smiles and stared deeply at the strangers with so much love, some had to look away. They still have this innocent light. I love this light. And I forgive them for behaving unlovingly or harmfully toward me because that wasn’t the essence of who they are. I love their essence. God loves their essence. And I love and forgive me for allowing them to hurt me, as I wasn’t protecting myself. Yes, only LOVE is REAl, so anything not loving, must be released with LOVE.

Here’s to Love, Light, Healing & Joy

Laura xo

When Your Book Deal Falls Apart

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There are always two ways to look at things. Always. Some of my favorite authors were rejected multiple times by publishers and agents before getting a break. And my writing mentor in graduate school in New York, Barbara Probst Solomon , told me years ago to hang every rejection letter from every agent and every publisher on my bedroom wall. She insisted that I should be proud of trying. She also had to read, edit and approve my first novel, Lucifer’s Laughter, in order for me to graduate from the writing program. I’m not sure if the novel was her speed, but I’ll never forget her words of encouragement. It was a murder mystery/suicide plot with a southern main character in a little town of Maine. In short, it was nothing she would likely pick up on her own. But she said to me: “You’ve done this before haven’t you? You can tell a story well and move it along. Keep at it.”

In a world that is hyper critical and loud, like New York, that was the kindest encouragement I had ever received during my four years there.

So, I’m sharing my rejection story with you in honor of my thesis advisor, Barbara. In short, a lot of life and a lot of fear occurred in between that time when I was in New York penning my first novel and now. Journalism jobs, marriage, international life, divorce… Four years ago I began writing fiction again in earnest.  My second novel has only been read by one agent and one top editor at a publishing house. Barbara, if she still advised me, would likely say I haven’t tried hard enough. I was lucky to have an introduction to an agent right away. It didn’t pan out, but then I reached out to the top editor of a major publishing house directly, and to my amazement, she said yes she’d love to read my book! It took five months to hear back, but this kind soul wrote a very thorough letter to me last Wed. It was like a soft break-up with someone you really like, but just aren’t in love with. She told me I was a good writer and lyrical and careful with word choice, but that Southern main characters have to be so engaging that she falls madly in love. She wasn’t in love with the main character and I have too many characters. She wants a more simple novel to publish right now. Uriel’s Mask has a lot of action and goes from the end of slavery (inspired by a true story) to the 1980s, so it is more plot driven and reads like a movie. I learned about the type of novel she’s looking for and it’s not as large in scope.

So, this week was hard and I was working such long hours and juggling a lot that I didn’t have time to digest this news properly. I’m sharing it with all of you because I want my fellow writers to realize that it’s just the process. If I am too scared to hear these honest dialogues from those in the industry, I will never grow. Maybe the book just wasn’t a fit for this particular publisher? Maybe she’ll read my next one, which is drastically different and not southern AT ALL.

Maybe I need to do what most do, and mail 15 to 20 copies to agents all over the country? Maybe I need to consider self-publishing if it costs the same amount as spamming agents? All I know is that I can’t give up and neither should you if you receive one rejection letter. All I know is that I’ve been writing and publishing work since I was 18 years old as a journalist with the Red & Black newspaper. Writing is what I do. Yoga helps me do it better and live longer and healthier. In my Yoga for Writers Workshop that I’m leading, I will bring in my rejection letter, as well as all the drafts of the query letter that I created to finally send to the one agent and the one editor who responded positively and requested a copy of my novel. It’s a process. It’s a business. And the best part is telling the stories. I’ll keep writing Between Thoughts of You, my 3rd novel, but also squeak in time each month to mail out one query letter or two for my previous novel. I think baby steps and practice will make it all a little easier. Have a beautiful week. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep focused and out of drama. And keep striving. Laura x

Here are some more posts on writing that I hope inspires you!
Want to be a great writer? How you live matters.
First creative writing conference with kids in tow!
Boldness has no expiration date
How yoga helps you create
 Breaking through resistance

Finding Courage to Stay on Course

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I recently read an inspiring quote from a friend, (I’ll paraphrase): “All the shit, drama and pain you’ve dealt with in life has prepared you for this present moment, this present action, this present course.”

It’s so true, right? Well, sometimes. It’s only true if each painful experience propels growth. As long as I can see that each time someone has hurt me, hasn’t seen, or heard me, or said something cruel, or treated me without respect—it was exactly what I needed in order to find my boundaries, my self-respect, my strength, my confidence, my kindness, my direction. And even when I hurt others, or typically myself, if I can learn to forgive, have more compassion and ‘own’ my issues, I’ll become stronger and closer to the person I want to be.

All of this sounds groovy now, but when I’m in the thick of it with someone, it’s hard to keep in mind. But I’m learning that that’s ok too—maybe I’m letting myself feel more now, and not dismiss things so quickly in order to avoid confrontation. I don’t know. Here’s an example:

Someone recently hurt me by saying I needed to give up writing—that it would never work out and that I needed to move out of California or I’d be destitute within 3 years. Ow.

Ok, that was really negative. My eyes welled up with tears and my stomach felt like it had been kicked as I listened. (It didn’t help that this conversation came a week after I had been heart broken. But that’s not for this venue.) This judgmental tirade came after I said, happily, that I had finished polishing 150 pages of my novel…I was in shock as I listened to the negative rant. The old me, the me before daily yoga and meditation, would have likely not said anything, took more abuse, felt horrible, internalized this, doubted myself, and then finally complained to a few friends in order to try to garner some sort of support. The new me just looked at this person, felt the pain that was welling inside my stomach and said quietly that the conversation wasn’t kind. The conversation didn’t end, sadly, with more justifications as to why I would never get published and was living beyond my means…but in my mind, I knew I responded authentically and calmly—in the moment–(a big deal for me) and was able to mentally button up the judgement as unsupportive, fearful, negative.

I’ve been a journalist and writer for 15 + years and this person hadn’t read anything of mine or even a chapter of my current book or my first novel. And, of course, I won’t be destitute within 3 years!

Honestly.

But for some reason, over the past two weeks, I’ve come back to this conversation in my mind to see what I can learn from it. I’ve decided to dismiss the negativity of it. What you think is what you can manifest right?

But it struck a chord. I have half my novel finished and the rest outlined. I’m very excited and a few friends have read a bit of it to give me feedback. But since this summer, I have found so many distractions. I am to blame for allowing each and every one them. Between soccer games, homework, sickness, volunteer demands, friend demands, work, trainings, it can get hairy. But, at the end of the day, I am in control of my schedule. I am in control of my time. I am in control of my thoughts, my actions and who I choose to let into my life.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided that the reason why I keep floating back to this conversation is that I realize that I’m out of balance. It can seem almost insurmountable with kid demands, but there really is at least 2 hours a day to work on my book. And I can fit in yoga and mediation for my sanity. (All you single parents know just what I mean!) So, if that means that dishes pile up in the sink or that my kiddos don’t have rooms made or the perfectly-kept house, who cares?

I’m taking the steps I need to get published. I spent more money today (Egads! One more step toward destitution! ha ha) and signed up for the La Jolla Writers Conference next weekend. Yup, there are soccer games, a bar mitzvah, and my son’s birthday party to prep for. But I’ve decided that I have to put my writing goal on my to-do list each week. If it means missing a soccer game, or having a birthday party that isn’t perfect. So be it.

I’m so excited (and nervous) to go as many agents and authors attend this conference where they give feedback on work, have writer jam sessions, as well as listen to “7 minute pitches”.  So now I have to hone my 7 minute pitch for Uriel’s Mask—as well as polish my one page synopsis. But it’s what I need to do. If I expect an agent, who likely works 50+ hour weeks in this field to take me seriously, I have to push aside distractions and take my writing just as seriously. I even ordered new business cards.

So, I’m officially taking the plunge. And you know what? I’m actually thankful for the hard knocks this month…they are helping me to focus on my path, my journey and GET IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE.

I’d really love to hear from any of you out there who have had similar experiences where either fear or distractions kept you from finishing a project or keeping you from your art. How do you stay on course? Any single parents out there trying to carve out a regular schedule for an artistic project? PLEASE reach out. I’d love to share motivational strategies. Some days, I feel like I’ve run a marathon before 10 a.m. Lets share strategies to keep a daily schedule or to stay on track.  Thanks so much for reading! XO