Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, May 28, 2010

Writer Blogger Support Rocks it!

I know I said I wouldn't post until the contest ended but I've never gone this long between posts and I'm going through withdrawal!! Plus I just have to say a big THANK YOU to all who have shown your support for the Pay it Forward contests  by tweeting, posting, commenting and/or following! I LOVE this writing/blogging community! And here's an award passed on to me from Christine Danek, at Christine's Journey for all the Journey Support. (What a sweetheart! And if you haven't read her Warrant post yet from today then get over there and read it. It's so clever!) I'm passing this award to all of you who support me and everyone else on our writing journeys.

It doesn't matter if we're published or unpublished, agented or seeking representation, selling our books or struggling to get the word out, with a finished project or just starting out on the journey of writer. It's a fabulous road to take and I only wish this blogging community had been around early on in my career. I know I would have made a lot more progress faster. As it is, so many years passed from when I started writing for publication until I published my first book, that now I feel pressured to make up for lost time. I'm obsessed to write more and more. (Massive guilt when not writing.) But that pressure doesn't stop me from blogging because here is where I feel all the support I need to keep going.

Welcome to all the new followers! I haven't had a chance to visit your blogs yet but I will. And if you leave a comment then I will find you faster and go follow your blogs too! Since we have a long weekend coming up, I doubt if I'll hit the 250 mark on followers. But if I do, then there will be TWO winners for the Pay it Forward Contest. Two opportunities to have your first three chapters and query letter reviewed. Two chances to have me buy your book and review it on my blog. Or to win the Borders gift card. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed! And you can still enter! Rules --or how to get lots of points so you can win--are here.

Either way, I'm so excited for next week when I get to pick a winner! (Or two winners!)

Have a great weekend! I'll see you back on June 1 with the lucky winner announcement!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

B.Miller's Pay it Forward. Best. Contest. Ever. (And I'm copying it.)

When I read B.Miller's post about her contest, I loved her idea to do THIS as a potential prize:

"If you are a writer with published work available for purchase, I will buy your novel/story collection/chapbook, etc., up to a value of $25. I will also read your work and give a review on your chosen website, as well as a review and a plug on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook fan page. I will go to my local library and booksellers and ask that your work be stocked on my local shelves in Greenville, South Carolina. And, if you're willing, I will do a guest feature on my blog for you, complete with interview and links to your media."

Isn't that AWESOMELY SUPPORTIVE OF THE AUTHOR/BLOGGER COMMUNITY??

I wrote a post awhile back It Takes a Village to Sell a Book about how supportive this community is to fellow writers. Which is one of the reasons I spend hours I really don't have blogging, commenting, entering contests, and generally supporting this online writing community that I feel proud to belong to. (Well, besides which it is fun.)

And I want to take it a step forward, follow B.Miller's example and join in her pay it forward contest, not just by entering but by JOINING. Meaning I'm hopping on her bandwagon, gravytrain, whatever and offering the same deal here on my blog. Enter over at B. Miller's blog if you haven't already, and now you can enter here, too for TWO PRIZES (soon to be revealed!) THAT SUPPORT THE WRITING COMMUNITY!!

Here are the rules for entry:

Comment on this post and add up your point tally: +1
New follower: +1
Old follower: +2
Bring a friend to follow +2
Tweet about this contest: +2
Follow me on Twitter (@KarenGowen): +2
Blog about this contest: +3
Include this post in your sidebar: +3

My prizes are just a bit different but still supportive of the writing community. Your choice of:

EITHER: I'll purchase a copy of your published book from your website or Amazon and post a review on my blog, on Goodreads with a link to Twitter. (I promise to be fair and focus on the strengths of your work. Sample of  how I review here.)

OR: I will  review and critique your first three chapters of a finished manuscript along with the query letter that you've written to go with it. (Yes, I'm an editor. Offiicially.)

OR: A $15 gift card to Borders (because they support their local authors) or Amazon because, well, just because you may not have a Borders in your town).

So this way I'm supporting both the published and unpublished authors!! Yay! We're all winners!!

OH WAIT THERE'S A BONUS!! Here it is: IF I somehow hit 250 followers by the time this contest closes (June 1), I'll double the prize! Yes, I will purchase a second book plus review, or if second winner chooses, I'll do the review and critique of their first three chapters etc.OR, give the second winner the $15 gift card.

B. Miller's contest goes until June 1 (be sure to go enter if you haven't already) and since I'm shamelessy copying her great ideas, mine will be the same! And I'll leave this post up so you can all remember to join the Pay it Forward Contests!






Sunday, May 23, 2010

How I Got Published after Giving up on the Dream

I posted about this once before here, but I thought I'd go into more detail on how I happened to publish a book that would never have gotten picked up by an agent, never gotten a publishing deal and in fact was rejected numerous times as being "too short," "too personal," and "not marketable." Even WiDo Publishing's distributor didn't want it, saying, "I can't sell books like that. I had one similar to it. The author promoted, did signings and everything, but he barely sold 1000 copies. So thanks but no thanks."

Truthfully, I had given up on ever being published. What I like to write, and what I like to read aren't generally the kinds of books being published in today's climate. (why I read mostly classics) I just got lucky with Farm Girl.. And since then, I've been looking really hard to find other unlikely books that snuck through the cracks to somehow see the light of publication. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of them. What an amazing surprise hit that was! Who would have thought that a book written by a depressed divorcee heading off to find spiritual healing through eating pasta and washing floors at an ashram would become a bestseller?

At first, I didn't intend Farm Girl to be published. I planned on putting together a little printed booklet of my mom's stories to surprise her on her 90th birthday, and to pass out to family members. Until it came together and I saw the possibilities. That's when I submitted it to several small and regional presses, thinking they might be interested. No dice. But then, through a series of (fortunate) events, an investor saw it and wanted to launch a publishing company with this unlikely little book as the first release. And since my family members had been involved in the editing and design, he wanted them on board as editors and as the typesetting/design team. I got sucked in later on and now work as an editor for WiDo Publishing.

Now I'd love to tell a rags to riches story here about how Farm Girl went from being the book nobody wanted to publish to the book that everybody wanted to read. Hahahahahhahahahhaha *laughing hysterically* That's not what happened. Although I always hold out hope lol!! And there were people who read it who said, "You can sell a million copies of this book!" (What were they smoking? Nothing, they were little old ladies who read it and loved it. Not a huge book-buying demographic. Oh, and one 12 year-old fantasy-loving girl who couldn't believe she liked it so much.)

Farm Girl sold well beyond 1000 copies and still sells. It has something that appeals to readers of all ages. It touches the heart. But it would never have gotten an agent or a publisher through traditional means. It still wouldn't snag an agent, if that's what I wanted, because sales aren't remarkable. But the publisher wasn't expecting a bestseller. He wanted it as a first release and as learning tool. He also wanted everyone involved to be on board with future releases.  WiDo remains a very small company, with only 4 books out, two of them mine, and several more planned for release this year, with another half dozen in editing. The investor is very cautious and careful and picky.

No, Farm Girl isn't the big seller an author dreams of, but I felt vindicated after all those initial rejections when the first review came out in the Omaha Reader, saying "It concerns real life, relatively ordinary activities, drawn with the precision of a Norman Rockwell painting." And I feel rewarded every time someone who reads it contacts me and tells me what it meant to them.

Moral of this too long as usual story? I'm not sure the post got too long and I forgot my point-- you tell me. Never give up on your dreams? Write what you want regardless of the market? Just because you can't get an agent doesn't mean you can't get a publisher? Whatever the moral is, I hope that my experience gives encouragement to others who feel rejected by the current publishing climate, perhaps because they're writing something that just isn't selling right now.

(I'm fascinated by other writers' paths to publication, especially when it falls outside the box. If you have a story you want to share, contact me because I'm thinking of doing a series of feature interviews on writers who have gotten published by luck or chance or through nontraditional channels.)