Monthly Archives: January 2018

Patricia Tighe: Bringing the Swoon

Welcome to Patricia Tighe, our first guest of 2018! Patricia is author of LIFE IN THE NO-DATING ZONE, LIFE IN THE LUCKY ZONE, AND LIFE IN THE DATING ZONE (yes, you guessed it, that’s a series!). Her newest novel, ABOUT LAST SUMMER, is about a girl who assumes a fake identity on a dare, which is all fun and games … until she runs into the boy she dated (you guessed it again!) last summer!

What gave you the idea to write this novel?

For ABOUT LAST SUMMER, I was playing around with the idea of secret identities and what might happen if someone showed up who knew who you really were. And what if that someone happened to be your ex? From there it was just a matter of putting my couple in a setting where they couldn’t get away from each other.

How many books have you written, and how many have seen the light of day?

I’ve completed nine books — two middle grade that will probably never see the light of day, two YA fantasy novels that I still might do something with, and five YA contemporary romance novels published by Swoon Romance. Four are out now and the fifth will be out this Spring.

What types of characters are your favorite to write?

I love writing characters that make me laugh. If I can have at least one character that’s a little bit nuts or unusual, I’m a happy writer. It may be that I’m the only one who laughs at that character’s wit, but I still enjoy it.

Kissing scenes: Do you find them they easy or more challenging to write?

I’ve always found kissing scenes challenging to write, not because of the actual physical aspect but because of the emotional component. It’s so important to get that right. Well, at least as right as possible. There’s give and take and character growth to take into consideration. And within all that, you have to bring the swoon!

How did you find your critique partners?

The majority of my critique partners came from the time I spent at Seton Hill University where I earned a master’s in Writing Popular Fiction in 2008. Having worked together for so long, I know I can trust them. Each individual will point out a different aspect in my work that I need to address. It’s wonderful.

What is a typical comment you’d get from your critique partner?

Ha! In almost every manuscript I’ll see: “You’ve got a cluster of passive sentences in that paragraph. Maybe rewrite.”

Ah, yes. Active sentences are definitely better! And on that note, let’s move to the speed round!

  • Alpha males vs. sensitive types: Sensitive types with a sense of humor!
  • Red roses vs. blue violets: Blue violets.
  • Morning glory vs. night owl: Night owl. And I always live to regret it.
  • Tropical island vs. mountain getaway: Tropical island in the shade.
  • Wizards vs. vampires: Wizards!
  • French fries vs. cookies: Cookies. All the cookies.

Thanks so much for visiting our blog, and please, please keep bringing the swoo! Here’s where fans can find Patricia:

Website * Twitter * Instagram

The mother of two grown sons, Patricia B. Tighe lives in West Texas with her husband and dog. She eats way too much pizza, drinks way too much coffee, and watches way too much NFL football. On the bright side, she also reads and writes teen fiction. She promises to include as much romance, angst, and adventure as possible in her books.

Do You Really Need a Literary Agent?

by Karole Cozzo

Back in 2005, I completed my first manuscript. I was jazzed to learn that I could, in fact, accomplish such a thing, that I could take a story from start to finish without getting bored and starting something new or bowing out because I felt overwhelmed or lost along the way. I started Googling “how you get a book published” and quickly realized (especially back then), that querying and finding a literary agent was a necessary first step in the process, especially if an author had any hope of being considered by well-known publishing companies.

Fast forward to 2018. I’ve sold four books to a Macmillan imprint since 2014, and I still don’t have a literary agent. Through the Swoon Reads website and community, I sold my first novel, and I’ve sold my subsequent novels to Swoon Reads through direct contact with the directors and editors at the imprint.

Beyond Swoon Read’s crowdsourcing approach to book selection and publication, there are several other options for selling books without the assistance of an agent, including self-publishing and smaller publishing companies that are willing to consider manuscripts without the divine intervention of a literary agent. It’s definitely possible to see your work published — in electronic format or on the shelves of brick and mortar stores — without agent representation, but what are the advantages of having a person working on your behalf? I questioned some of my author pals, those with representation and those without, about the positives and negatives associated with the agent search in launching and sustaining publishing careers. Here’s some of what I heard:

The Benefits of Going it Alone . . .

  • Complete control, creative or otherwise. Sometimes, agents request one or more rounds of edits before they’re comfortable submitting your work to a publishing company. It’s likely that if a story is acquired, editors will request additional edits before publication. By this time, your novel may bear little resemblance to the story you initially imagined. These changes may be based on expertise and market knowledge, but some authors are uncomfortable or unhappy with the number of changes that may come along with having an additional person weigh in on his or her work.
  • Increased industry knowledge and opportunities for self-advocacy. When you represent yourself, you have to do the research in order to feel comfortable and confident that you’re doing it right. Instead of relying on someone else to manage your career, the responsibility is in your hands. This provides increased motivation for an author to learn all he or she can about how the industry works, contract nuances, etc. When you’re the sole person working on your behalf, there’s the impetus to become as knowledgeable and informed as possible, and there is complete transparency about contract negotiations, conversations with publishers, and career planning that might not come along with having someone speaking for you.
  • If and when you sell a book, you get to keep all the money! When you’re your own agent, that 10-15% cut goes right to you.

. . . and the Downside

  • You don’t necessarily know what you don’t know. This is probably my greatest concern in going it alone. I don’t necessarily know what’s typical or fair in the industry, and I can review contracts and royalty statements until my eyes cross and still not feel 110% confident that I understand everything I’m reading. There are definitely times I’d love to have someone else to bounce my questions and concerns off of. There is always a lingering fear that I’m missing something really important that an agent would alert me to immediately.
  • Most big-name publishing companies aren’t willing to review your manuscript without it being presented by a literary agent. This is a big one if you’re hoping to reach as broad an audience as possible and one day hold an actual bound copy of your book in your hands.
  • Who do you turn to for career guidance? Maybe you’re looking at branching out to another genre, maybe you want to know if the idea for your new novel is “so yesterday” based on market trends. Maybe you want someone to help you develop realistic and attainable career goals. Without an agent, a lot of this feels like guesswork (trust me), and even if you’ve developed a relationship with a publisher, as you attempt to grow your career, it can be difficult to know what steps are best to take to actually do so.

The Benefits of Having an Agent . . .

  • Advocacy. Several of my writing pals quickly noted that their agents are worth every cent they get, simply because it’s worth it, 10 times over, to feel like there’s someone in their corner and someone looking out for their best interests. One author friend mentioned truly believing “he wants to sell my book as much as I do.” It was also noted that an agent may be working on your behalf even when you don’t hear from him or her, coming up with new plans or ideas to be shared. They may be your biggest cheerleader and your most loyal teammate; as one author friend put it, “they’re not succeeding unless you are.”
  • Contract review and negotiations. I’ll be blunt — attempting to read a publishing contract is like attempting to read Latin. Maybe Chinese, because I often feel like I don’t even recognize the characters! Several of the authors I spoke to mentioned how valuable an agent can be when it comes to contracts. They noted that agents caught things and asked for concessions on points they never would’ve thought of on their own. While agents don’t usually get everything they ask for, they often can get publishers to budge on a few points that you wouldn’t have known or thought to ask for.
  • Contacts. They have connections with those working at the big-name companies. Beyond getting a publishing company to review your work, previously established relationships can make that much easier.

. . . and the Downside

  • That whole sharing your profits thing. Ah yeah … you have to do it. It’s typical for new authors to not earn out on their first books, which means a portion of your advance — maybe the only money you’ll ever see that is often taxed heavily — goes to someone else.
  • Like any other profession, there are good agents and there are bad agents. I’ve heard horror stories about unresponsive agents, agents who disappeared off the face of the earth entirely after signing an author, agents who rarely updated the author on submissions or if submissions were being made at all. It can feel like the process is out of your hands, and if you’re not entirely gelling with your agent, a relationship that seemed like a dream come true can end up leaving you unfulfilled, feeling like your career is being handled by someone you might not have total trust or confidence in.
  • It’s really hard to get one, and the query process can be (okay, let’s just say always is) nerve-wracking, frustrating, and disheartening. Rejection from agent upon agent upon agent can really shake an author’s confidence. An agent I follow on twitter recently shared the following: “I just organized my inbox, so some #querystats! I was open to queries for 9.5 months last year. Here is what that looked like: 3, 615 queries received; 89 fulls requested from queries; 124 fulls (or partials read); 4 clients signed.” I’ll do the math for you — in this case, .01% of her queries resulted in an author being signed. These odds can feel downright debilitating, right? While it’s true that most big-name authors can tell tales of the hundreds of rejection emails they received, it’s extremely hard to take these emails in stride and keep going. If rejection emails shatter a writer, he or she may give up entirely on their dream.

Here’s the bottom line: It is indeed possible to become a published author and advance your writing career without a literary agent. It’s up to you as a writer, upon considering the pluses and minutes of having one, to decide how much time, energy, and angst you want to invest in the query game, to decide if the benefits outweigh the negatives of having an agent working on your behalf.

2018, Here We Come!

Happy New Year! As we look forward to 2018, this month we answer the question: What are your goals for this year (writing/publishing or otherwise)?

Erin Fletcher: One of my goals for 2018 is to read more! For a lot of 2017, I replaced reading with things like my day job, watching YouTube, and scrolling through BuzzFeed. The result? I miss reading! I have a large stack of books (okay, fine, I have a few large stacks of books) just waiting for me, and I can’t wait to dive into them! I think I’ll make my first read of 2018 a book from one of my fellow Sweethearts … leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for a Sweetheart book you’ve loved!

Stephanie Scott: My aim is to finish up two YA manuscripts in progress to pitch to publishers. My goal is to turn them in to my agent in March. I spent part of New Year’s Day setting up my 2018 planner and breaking down the tasks of what needs to be done and by when. I don’t get super detailed, but general deadlines and goals along the way help me a lot. I’m also venturing into romance for adult readers and am planning a self-publish launch as part of a group series. This has a spring timeline too. The second half of 2018 is wide open with possibility!

Linda Budzinski: In December, I started back to work full-time with a new job that is going to require a lot of travel. There are lots of aspects of the job I’m excited about, but travel is NOT one of them. I like being home with my husband and sleeping in my own bed. I tend to see travel as a hassle and a major stress-inducer. So, my goal is to figure out how to turn that around. I want to adjust my attitude and learn to enjoy my work trips. And I NEED to figure out how to keep my writing on schedule while I’m  on the road! (And if anyone has thoughts on how to do that, I’d love to hear them!)

Darcy Woods: For the past few years, I’ve said YES to virtually all the invites and opportunities that have come my way. So when 2018 rolled around, I decided to declare it the Year of NO! That doesn’t mean I’ll say no to everything, or that I regret the years of yeses — not by a long shot! They’ve led to so many unforgettable experiences, expanded horizons, and lasting friendships. I’ve just come to recognize the Yes Years are not infinitely sustainable for me. (Egads, I’m human after all!) Time might be one of the most precious gifts we can give ourselves. And with 2017 being an especially tumultuous year, I intend to do just that!

Robin Constantine: I spent most of last year trying to find the joy in my writing. It took some effort and many stops and starts, but I did find it again. Now I want to keep fanning those creative flames. In the past I’ve always worked on one project, taken a break, then started something new. My goal in 2018 is to always be working on something. I’d also like to write something out of my comfort zone — which may for my eyes only, but who knows, sometimes when the goal is to have fun you find some gems!

Karole Kozzo: I hope to accomplish one of my big personal goals next month in Orlando by completing the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which will be my first half marathon attempted. I’m aiming for a respectable time (that might mean something different to me than to serious runners, I admit!) while still having fun and making sure to stop and smell the Dole Whip and snap pictures with some characters. And I have several writing goals! I’m hoping to sell my fifth YA romance manuscript. I would love to finish a WIP in time for Pitch Wars (but if not this year, then next for sure). I’m hoping to branch out a bit beyond romance, which feels challenging and a bit scary for me, but also exciting. Any story I write will have some romantic elements for sure, but I look forward to pushing myself when it comes to structure and plotting. Happy New Year, everyone!

What are your goals for 2018? Tell us about them in the comments! xoxoxo