It’s Not as Spooky as You Think: A Brief Word on Ghostwriting

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A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the book launch for a biography I ghostwrote. The entire project was one of the best experiences of my life — I helped a woman tell the story of her faith-affirming journey as she struggled to care for a husband who’d been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

You can find out more about that project by visiting:

It was a great opportunity, the kind of project that reminds me why I love my job.

ghostwriting photo.jpgBut I was surprised to discover that many people had no idea what a ghostwriter was. Even other writers were asking me about what I did as a ghostwriter and how I felt about it. So I’ve decided to give a brief sketch of this corner of the writing profession.

In a nutshell, ghostwriting is just like it sounds. It’s when you do the writing, but someone else puts their name on it. You’re there in spirit only. You’re paid to write what you’re told to write and the employer owns the copyright, has complete creative control, and, if they so desire, can pretend you don’t even exist. *makes vaguely spooky woo sounds*

That may sound terrible but it’s really not. If I poured all my blood, sweat and tears into a book that I created and someone came along and took credit for it, that would suck. But much like you pay a photographer to make you look good in pictures; a ghostwriter can help you look good on paper.

To date, I’ve worked on three books as a ghostwriter. One was for a financial planner who wanted to put his professional knowledge into an easy-to-digest self-help book. Another was for a health advisor who wanted to give his political ideas a proper grounding in book form and the third was the autobiography mentioned above. Each project was unique; and none of the people who hired me were trying to “trick” anyone — as one person asked me. Ghostwriting is a valid editorial option for people who have a great idea for a book — and the knowledge, resources or experience to validate the project — but don’t want to take the time to learn the writing craft to get the work done.

If you’re a writer looking to earn income through different avenues, ghostwriting is an interesting option. You get to live in someone else’s shoes for a bit. You get to open yourself up to a whole new world. And you get paid while doing it! I got a quick education in finances — something people pay good money for. I consider myself much more well-informed about national health care policy and I’ve heard (and then written) some insane horror stories on how the bureaucratic side of things is affecting our country. And walking in the shoes of a woman who had the worst thing she could imagine happen to her has strengthened my faith in ways I never saw coming when I signed on to do the project.

For writers considering a career as a ghostwriter, I’d say the number one quality you need (other than the basic skills any writer must acquire and strengthen) is empathy. If you can fully immerse yourself in another person’s story; if you can lose yourself in someone else’s life and take on their voice like it’s your own; and if you can make yourself curious about pretty  much anything, ghostwriting might be an option worth exploring.


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Crystal Liechty is the mastermind behind the Educating Mom webtoon, which details the always funny and often inappropriate hijinx involved in homeschooling three mischievous children. If you’ve been to college lately, you might have seen one of her essays in the Elements of Arguments textbook (Macmillan Press). When not homeschooling or torturing college students with argumentative essays, Crystal can be found watching Korean dramas, teaching herself Kpop dances or in general working as an unofficial ambassador for South Korean culture. Find out more about her online comic by visiting You can also find it on Facebook.

Five signs you’re not ready for a brand design

We are thrilled to welcome Allison Martin as our newest contributor! 

Branding design is a complicated topic that most like to pass off as something simple and inspirational → Just be yourself and your authentic brand will shine through!

While I personally believe that, I have spent ten years educating myself in design and marketing both formally and through the school of experiential learning, so I truly understand what it means.

The even tougher part of it all is that for authors you are not just branding a company, you are branding your soul, your life experience, your view of the world.

That would be a daunting task for a narcissistic sociopath, never mind an author riddled with impostor syndrome and self doubt.

There is a big piece of the branding puzzle missing in publishing and it’s the piece that has become my mission — what to do Before the Brand.

As a freelance Art Director I coach authors through understanding their branding needs, defining their career goals, and translating that into meaningful design to grow their confidence as well as their readership.

If you’ve been playing around with the idea of developing an author brand here are five signs that you’re not quite ready.

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— — —


When someone asks you why you write or what you write about and you can’t confidently state it in three sentences or less—like you would pitch your book to an agent—you are not ready for a branding design. There are two sides to this fence, those who say ‘I just love to read and want to share my love of stories with others’, and those who ramble off ten thousand disjointed things over a 20 minute time frame.

The problem with the first is it is vague and says zero about who you are and what you are promising your readers. What that tells me as a coach is that you lack self confidence and therefore direction.

The second tells me that you lack focus and probably self confidence too—although arrogance is a thing with some new authors, the majority struggle with feeling inadequate so they try to cram in all the things to compensate.

If you can speak clearly and concisely about what you hope to achieve with your work you might be ready to hire a designer.


There are two reasons why logo design is more expensive:

  1. Copyright — When you hire a designer to make a cover you are licensing that design from the designer, they own it and you cannot alter it or duplicate it without permission from the designer. When you hire for a logo design, you own it. The designer creates it and then relinquishes rights to you to use however and wherever you choose.
  2. The purpose — To a designer, a cover is an advertisement for a single product. A logo is a visual representation of a company’s mission statement. A design that will be used to sell products and generate profit indefinitely. So because your logo will generate you more revenue in theory it costs more to create.

Logos also require a lot more pre-design work and back and forth with a client so time is a big factor in cost.


A logo is only a single piece of an author brand and not even the most important one, I would argue. You would be just fine to build a visual identity by simply choosing a font for your name and sticking with it across your entire platform.

Your brand design is about understanding your mission, working toward a consistent goal, and making sure everything you do is ‘on brand’. Your brand includes your interests, the images you take/choose, the colors you use, the clothes you wear, how you talk, what you talk about…

And if after reading all that you’re sweating and saying ‘great, now I have to change everything about myself to have a brand’ then you are definitely not ready for a branding design.

It’s not about forcing yourself into something you’re not, it’s about paying attention to what you already are and amplifying it.


We are hit with thousands of messages every day wanting our money and a majority of those messages are shameless and gross. But the only marketing that should make you feel gross is if you have to lie or manipulate your way to a sale.

If you understand there are many different ways to share your stories and get the word out that don’t include tricking people into buying your stuff then you might be ready to get a brand design to help with that.


A lot of us authors get into writing because we can hide behind our books and remain relatively faceless to our readers. But the industry is changing rapidly, we are more and more connected in a visual way, and readers are wanting to see more of our personal space.

I want to clarify that the advice of ‘write more books’ is 100% valid. The best way to get relevant and stay relevant is to keep writing, keep improving, and keep the books coming.

But it’s no longer enough to just write more books.

Our careers are becoming more intertwined with our lives and processes, but with a little bit of forethought and strategy and a whole lot of honest introspection, an authentic author brand should be an exciting journey, not a daunting task.

— — —


Allison Martin is the author of nine independently published YA & NA novels, and a Graphic Designer, with over ten years experience in television and newspaper advertising, and freelance publishing design.  

Makeready Designs began five years ago as an accidental hobby and grew to a full service publishing design business that works with NYT and USA Today Bestselling authors, as well as Penguin Random House. She has currently shifted her focus to her real passion—helping authors set realistic career goals and implement effective branding strategies to grow their confidence as well as their business.

Allison lives and breathes the North Canadian wilderness, adventuring with her husband and daughter and plotting her next novel on some mountain top—but not until she’s had at least two cups of coffee.

She is represented by Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret Literary Management.


Back Cover Blurbs vs Query Letter Blurbs

Blurb is a weird word. It sounds like a fish trying to talk. Blurb. Blurb. Blurbitty-blurrrrr-blurb.

Quirky as the word itself is, the ability to write an effective one is a vital marketing technique. While studying effective query letters and back covers can help us develop a sort of sixth-sense regarding blurb writing, a lot of authors struggle because of the profound similarities and differences between back cover blurbs and query letter blurbs.

The queries I critique tend to fall into one of three camps:

Camp #1: Reads like a synopsis, listing almost every major event in the story, often in laundry list “and then” fashion. Literary TMI.

Camp #2: Reads like a back-cover blurb. Often contains vague, and clichéd language.

Camp #3: Gets the level of detail spot-on, making my job way easier (yes, this actually happens, and yes, I sometimes weep tears of joy when it does).

I’ve seen authors complain that some agents ask for queries that are “more like a back cover blurb,” but when they try to mimic that style, their queries still fall flat. It’s my belief that understanding the similarities and differences between a back cover blurb and a query letter blurb, can make or break a querying author.

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Back-Cover Blurb Query Blurb

Meant to intrigue/entice the reader.

Meant to “sell” your book.

Contains plot, character, and world-building elements (to name a few).

Doesn’t reveal the resolution of the ultimate climax of the story.

Is written in present tense.


Back-Cover Blurb Query Blurb
Avoids spoilers as much as possible. Spoilers galore! Many secrets revealed!
Generalized language. Specific details all over the place!
Attached to a published book. Does not need to prove it can be a book, because it already is. Attached to a manuscript that might or might not be ready to be a published book. Needs to prove itself worthy.
Aimed at readers. Aimed at publishing industry professionals.

 One of the biggest differences between the back cover blurb of a published book, and the query blurb of a query letter, is detail-level. Back cover blurbs are secretive creatures. They have to be vague. They have to avoid spoilers. Their goal is to intrigue with just enough information to entice the reader, but little enough that the reader will still be thrilled and surprised by the story itself.

Your average author has read far more back-covers than they have query letters. When we try to describe a story in blurb-format, Back-cover-ese is the language we automatically translate into. Also movie trailers. Our brains tend to be big fans of movie trailers.

Back Cover Blurb: “In a race against time, young Owen must delve into his secretive past and learn the truth, or lose his newfound brother who he’s already beginning to love!”

Query Letter Blurb: “Ha! That’s not what I heard. My author told me Owen was adopted, and that his newfound brother Jimmy lives with his bio-mom—who kept Jimmy but not Owen!—and his birth family is super screwed up because his bio-dad cheated on his bio-mom with her sister, then robbed both women blind! And while he’s dealing with that hot mess of emotional overload, Owen’s got to track dad-dude down because he’s their last hope of finding a bone marrow match for Jimmy!”

^^^Don’t write your blurbs like this. This is terrible writing. The story idea is kind of cool though. Someone should maybe write that.

Query blurbs, as you may have noticed, are the loud-laughing, secret-sharing gossip at the party. They spoil almost everything. But they do it for good reason. Agents and editors read more query letters than we can probably imagine. They understand story structure. They get it on a deep, bedrock level. To appeal to them, to show them ours is a story worth giving their (very limited) time to, we need more than just the basic surface-level of the story.

Details. It’s all about those specific details.

When writing your query letter blurb (or anything, really) please, for the love of words, avoid phrases like:

  • “Or her whole world will be turned upside down.”
  • “Or everything he thought he knew would fall apart.”
  • “Or everything would change.”

Back Cover Blurb: “She must race against time to prevent a catastrophe!”

Query Letter Blurb: “She must defuse the bomb or a school bus full of children is going to blow up!”

If a phrase in your query could be used to describe literally hundreds of other stories, it doesn’t belong there. You’re not going to hook agents or editors with generic lines like “They must master their new ability or the world will be destroyed.” The world is always about to be destroyed. Main characters always have new abilities that need mastering.

What makes your story special? What’s unique about it? What does your story have that the other 724 queries in the agent or editor’s inbox don’t? A main character who uses graffiti art to make incisive social commentary, but secretly dreams of being an accountant some day? A clever novelization of Westside Story, but with mermaids? A murderer who puts a chess piece in the mouth of each of their victims, and the clever young waitress who figures out why?

Querying authors, find those details, and then share them! If you sacrifice clarity for the sake of mystery, you sacrifice your best chance to show agents or editors what your story is actually about. Make sure your query letter is that talkative gossip at the party*.

*But aim for the 250-300 word sweet spot, okay? Agents and editors have tired eyes and tired brains. Be nice to them.


Kimberly VanderhorstKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.


Finding Your Path to Resilience

I’m worried that I may never sell another book. No, it’s stronger than that. I’m terrified. More than anything else in the world, I want to write and publish books. At times it becomes such an overwhelming distraction that it bleeds into all other facets of my life. Whatever small successes I might experience here and there, I still feel like a failure.

It’s been the source of too many unhealthy emotions for too long: bitterness, anger, cynicism, envy, defeat, self-doubt. But no matter how many times I decide to leave it behind, I always fall back into the same old routine, for better or worse.

They say it’s the persistent ones who ultimately succeed. The ones who don’t give up, who keep trying in the face of terrible odds, who pick themselves up after a defeat and try again. There’s a word for that (a word other than obstinate or naïve or just plain foolhardy).


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I saw a news segment recently about a new book called Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World, by Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston. The authors propose that the most resilient people are those who will be most successful in life. I’ve added the book to my reading pile, because the idea makes perfect sense.

So does being resilient—trying and trying, bouncing back after every setback—guarantee that I’ll ever publish again?


But it does guarantee that even if I never reach my goal, at least I can say I did everything in my power to make it happen. It means I have no intention of giving up. But it also means that I need a reliable, alternate source of success in my life. I realized a long time ago that focusing on writing to the exclusion of all else is not healthy for me. So I’ve tried spending time on other pursuits, though it’s been a struggle to find the right fit. Every time, I end up viewing the new job or hobby or project as a distraction; as time that could be better spent writing. It’s a vicious circle.

And then, this past week, I finally found it. I did something I didn’t want to do, didn’t think I could ever, ever do without making a complete fool of myself.

I went to a weight training class. Twice! And I’m going back again this week. Now, I have to clarify that a good friend is in the class. She played a huge role in getting me there, assuring me that it was low pressure, that everyone was nice and non-judgy, that I could go at my own pace. Still I was braced to discard it as another failed distraction.

Instead, I felt proud of myself. In control of my own success. And I felt…strong. Also really sore.

Writing is a beast. I can’t claim that I’m in it purely for the joy of creation. I crave professional success. I’d love to make a decent living at it. Mostly I want to reach young readers with my stories. So, since it seems that writing and I are stuck with each other for the long haul, I’m over the moon that I’ve found my path to resilience, and hopeful it will carry me through the inevitable ups and downs.

Maybe I’ll even end up healthier along the way.


Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at

Ten Tips for Surviving Book Launch

We are absolutely delighted to welcome today’s guest, Barbara Claypole White!

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I’ve just launched my fifth novel, which means I’ve lost 5lbs and restful sleep. (Last night I dreamed my office had become a medical triage unit.) Book launch turns me ever-so-slightly neurotic and detracts from the joy of hanging out with my characters in my jammies. However, this time around I’ve figured out how to survive with my humor intact:


Look in the mirror, spread your arms wide, grin like you’re accepting a Pulitzer, and say, “I’m a badass author! I launched a novel into the word.” (Repeat as necessary after every one-star bashing on Goodreads.) Anything that exhibits what I call the it’s-all-lovely mindset helps chip away at anxiety.


Take twenty minutes to stop and enjoy the gifts that will arrive on the UPS truck: smell those roses and eat at least two truffles.


Treat yourself to one thing on launch day, even if it’s only a shower. I had an extended cocktail hour with my beloved menfolk, when we talked about the state of the non-publishing world. (Obviously too much alcohol will not help your anxiety, but hey, a little buzz is good for the soul.)


Accept that you have no control over what happens to your book from this day forth. No, really, you have ZERO control. I live in the South, and we rarely get snow. On launch day the weather forecast turned against me—yes, it’s easy to take everything personally—and the 50% chance of rain or sleet was now a 90% chance of snow. I spent launch day morning creating Plan B for my inaugural reading at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and then had to sort out the caterer, who was baking a book cake. (Public service announcement: book cakes freeze beautifully.) Then I spent another hour rescheduling hair and dental appointments, which is way harder than it sounds. Both my hairstylist and dentist are rock stars in their fields and booked until May. (And my roots were showing, and I have a killer toothache.)


Yes, you will go down the rabbit hole with social media and messages of congratulations, but the next day, step away from your computer. I learned this accidentally after our 90% chance of winter weather dumped a foot of the white stuff on our driveway and I spent the morning shoveling snow, which leads me to…


This is a toughie, but do not compulsively check your rankings on Amazon. If you find that ‘resistance is futile’, set limits: check in two hours, then three, then five, then only once a day. Get it? Got it? Good.


Amazon rankings are not listed in real-time. You will have a much better sense of how the book’s performing on day two. With THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, reviews started coming in quickly, but the book’s rankings didn’t do anything interesting until day three. (Okay, I was weak; I checked.)


Don’t read reviews that are anything less than 5-stars before bedtime. If you can hold off, binge read all the negative reviews after the book has launched and you’ve rediscovered your happy place. THE PERFECT SON has been out for two and a half years. Yesterday I read all the one-star reviews. As predicted, 50% went after my characters’ use of the f-bomb, 40% were a variation on the theme ‘boring’, and 10% had vaguely useful criticisms that made me nod and say, “Fair enough.” But hey, that book was a Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best Fiction 2015—a category that I shared with Harper Lee—and that fact is tattooed into my soul.


If your deadline is not ticking loudly, take launch day off, but return to writing as quickly as possible. My favorite mantra is, “let writing be the cure,” because the only time I have laser focus is when I write. Writing is also how I process my own emotions and everything that I can’t control (back to anxiety). I spent launch day—ahead of snowmaggedon—co-writing a blog piece with my buddy Laura Spinella. We’ve been sharing the same foxhole since our writing careers began, and as we traded comments in track changes, I shared launch day angst with a sister-in-arms. Perfect.


Newsflash: your novel is unlikely to burst into the world on the bestseller lists, but women’s fiction has a long shelf life, and sometimes the most thrilling part of book launch isn’t the sales’ number. I discovered, by mistake, that THE PROMISE BETWEEN US was included on a list of must-read 2018 books for fans of Jodi Picoult. I’m a huge fan of Ms. Picoult (her books do burst into the world as bestsellers!). That list made me feel like a queen—for far longer that one day.

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bcwBestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family.  The Promise Between Us, which shines a light on postpartum OCD, released on January 16th, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit, or follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.


Life After Querying: Publication Insights from Authors

For writers who are interested in pursuing traditional publication, there are all kinds of tools and resources for drafting writers and revising writers and querying writers. There is hardly anything that then allows a writer on submission with publishing houses know what to expect. And if a writer publishes with one house — even a few times — and then doesn’t resign? It’s like trying to walk a maze in the dark with a blindfold on.

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With this in mind, I put together a survey to see what the “typical” experience tended to be, how writers negotiated time expectations when writing and marketing, and asked for some advice. Over 50 authors jumped in to share their experiences. I’m going to get out of the way and let you peruse the results.

How many times have you been published?

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.33.01 PMWhen was your first book released?

1990s – 4
2006 – 2
2009 – 2
2011 – 5
2012 – 4
2013 – 6
2014 – 6
2015 – 8
2016 – 6
2017 – 4
2018 – 1

Did you publish the same book that you were querying when you signed with your agent?

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How many publishing house read your book before you signed? Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.57.44 PM

How many books were included in your first contract?

42 authors signed a single book deal.
6 authors signed a two book deal.
5 authors signed a three book deal.
One author signed four books, and one author signed six (this one was direct author to publisher)

Has the entirety of your publishing career been with the same publishing house? Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 3.03.02 PM

If you have changed publishing houses, which book was it with? screen-shot-2018-01-19-at-3-03-33-pm.png

Considering the amount of time you have available to write, what % is spent crafting and what % is for marketing?

(for reference, the 1st number is crafting/the 2nd is marketing)

7 – 90/10
1 – 85-15
10 – 80/20
3 – 75/25
6 – 70/30
1 – 65/35
5 – 60/40
14 – 50/50
4 – 40/60
3 – 30/70

What advice do you have for authors who just signed their first contract?

  • Don’t be shy about communicating with your editor and publicist when you have questions or ideas.
  • It’s never too soon to start working on your next book
  • Always be writing.
  • Enjoy the honeymoon
  • Don’t stop learning. Book 1 is part of the journey, but keep writing, keep honing your craft so future books can be even better.
  • Market a lot at first, keep writing too
  • Read and understand what you’ve really agreed to.
  • Don’t compare to other authors!!
  • Get an agent.
  • You’re not done waiting.
  • Enjoy the giddy, crispy delight of having done this amazing thing. Then take a deep breath, because there’s way more work than glory ahead. ??
  • Keep writing. Book one is just one piece of your career.
  • Make sure to read the contract before you signing you don’t understand it ask for help
  • Build a mailing list!
  • Keep your day job
  • Be clear on the expectations
  • Be careful and read the final print of the contract. Make sure you have an agent who has your back.
  • Start writing the next book! One book does not a career make.
  • Try not to fret social media
  • Connect with other authors who are in a similar situation. It really helps when questions come up.
  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Build relationships based on commonalities and a desire to support others–not on hoping people buy your book. Have your agent be ultra-involved in marketing plans with an aim toward getting you as much support as possible. Remember this is a long game, a marathon not a sprint, and focus on your next book, and your next, and…
  • You make your living writing, not waiting. At first, I was nearly frozen with fear as I waited for edits or notes from my editor (agent) but I’ve quickly learned that that time is golden. It is time to try new ideas, work on my craft, build the next book. Oh, and become friends with your cover artist! Getting to know her/him will be a HUGE help if you need additional art for swag etc. They will also LOVE to help spread the word for you on their social media channel because it is their work too.
  • Be patient and keep writing
  • Focus on the good parts and celebrate them
  • All your marketing efforts are a drop in the bucket. If I were going back, I’d focus on a few select things I like or really want to try and would just spend the rest of my time on the next book.
  • Don’t rush to sign a contract. Don’t rush to fire your agent.
  • Get marketing savvy. You still have to do a lot yourself.
  • Remember you have little control about what happens next. Focus on editing your book to the best it can be and let go of the rest.
  • Before you sign, don’t rush. Don’t settle. Read it twice. If you sign, be cautious. Be clear. They’re not doing you a favor. This is your career.
  • Begin your next manuscript as soon as possible. Do not stop writing.
  • Write your next book and consider going indie. 😉
  • Breathe. Ask questions. Advocate for your book and your career. Meet your deadlines.
  • Nothing is as big a deal as it seems. Things will happen that you’ll be sure are going to ruin the book, the events, your career. It won’t. Don’t sweat it. Just keep working.
  • Everything is going to be fine.
  • Lay strong marketing groundwork now. Build relationships with people.
  • The first contract is just the beginning, not the final milestone. Enjoy all the little successes, because there will be lots of things that don’t pan out the way you expect them to. Cultivate gratitude and try to keep your eyes on your own paper–envy is hard to avoid, but poisonous to creativity.
  • Enjoy it!
  • Treat the time between signing and actual release day as a learning experience.
    It depends on whether they signed via an agent or not. If it’s an experienced agent, let them handle it. Ask for twice the number of finished copies they offer. Ask for print ARCs. Remember that while your sights are on a single book your editor is juggling multiple titles. All are important to him or her; keep that in mind when emailing, etc.
  • Keep writing, keep making connections like you’re still trying to get published
  • Start networking!
  • Just keep swimming
  • Keep your head down and work on your craft. There is so much out of your control.
  • Try not to compare yourself to other writers. Everyone’s journey is different, but all are valid.
  • Expand your platform as much as you can now. Be gracious. Watch out for people who just want to take your money. Ask around before signing up for marketing/promo services.
  • Be prepared to do a LOT of marketing on your own, no matter how you are published.
  • Ask questions!
  • Be informed. Stand up for yourself. If you’re panicking, you’re in the majority.
  • Be willing to make your own magic happen– your publisher likely won’t do it for you.
  • Make sure you have a lawyer look over the contract. Watch out for contracts that want to claim all future works or who will force you to purchase your rights back.
  • Editorial feedback is not always direct, so trust your gut. “We need a bigger plot point here” may mean “you need to make us care more here.”
  • Have an attorney review it. Don’t get sucked into the hype of the moment.

What advice do you have for authors who have to go on submission after having worked with a publishing house?

  • Be patient and prepared for change
  • None. I’m about to do the same thing.
  • Understand this happens to everyone. Publishing houses make mistakes and editors get fired or hired away, all of which are to of your control. Switching publishing houses is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Sometimes the journey is hard and ugly. But it’ll get good again eventually.
  • Be patient and start working on something else
  • Keep writing.Keep submitting.
  • You’ve got this.
  • Keep moving forward
  • Evaluate how your agent or publisher has performed for your book and don’t be afraid to jump ship.
  • If you have to start over trying to find a new agent or new publisher, I would say gird your loins! And never give up, and stay busy on a new project.
  • Keep your chin.
  • It’s not the end of the world. Many authors end up publishing different works with different publishers. You’ve got a leg up in the process since you have books out there in the world and a web presence already.
  • If you want to publish traditionally, don’t give up.
  • Don’t think about it. Write the next book instead.
  • Hang in there. You did it once, and it will happen again. Maybe even at a better house than your first turned out to be.
  • It takes time. Oh my goodness, so MUCH TIME! Before finding a publisher that was a fit for me, we went out on submission to at lease 20 different editors/houses. I piled up comments, collected them, then finally started writing something new.
  • Before we had even collected all of our responses I had a new book ready and THAT is the book that finally found a home. Did I mention it takes a long time?
  • Solidarity, friends.
  • Don’t take any contract if it means changing your manuscript in a way you don’t want to.
  • Good luck and keep writing.
  • Being on sub is the worst anticipation. Fill your time with non-related writing activities as much as possible.
  • All the eggs in one basket is not the norm. It’s okay to be at more than one house, and self-published at the same time.
  • Most of us do have to chAnge publishers from time to time. Don’t be discouraged
  • Consider going the indie route. 😉 My indie book makes more than my book with a publisher…and I get paid every month and can see all the numbers.
  • Take courage. Believe in yourself and your writing. Absolutely write the next book, and focus on the things you can control!
  • Keep your tribe close. There are no guarantees in this business. You’ll need them more than ever.
  • Submission sucks. Be kind to yourself. Remember that your worth is not tied up in your writing–and even your worth as an author isn’t solely dependent upon whether or not a publisher buys your books.
  • It’s brutal out there. Believe in yourself and enjoy the act of writing.
  • Keep trying. There’s a home out there for it somewhere.
  • Best advice: never get angry in publishing (agent, editor, copyeditor, PR folks). It’s not personal–though it certainly will feel like it is.
  • Patience, grasshopper, it only takes one YES
  • As much as possible, try and write the next book and forget about the one on sub. It can take a LONG time, but that is no reflection on the quality of your work.
  • My bias is toward finding an agent you trust and who believes in your work 100%. That might include telling you a particular book of yours doesn’t have a market right now. This is certainly harsh to hear but I really do believe agents know and understand the market better than most writers do.
  • It’s OK to feel bad. Submission isn’t fun. Stock up on junk food and binge watch your favorite shows when you need to.
  • Develop a nice, thick, shell. I’ll be “out there” again after book #2, and at least I know now not to take rejection personally!
  • Get writing on something new
  • Turn the MS over to your agent and forget about it. Do something else, write something else. That book, for the time being, is not in your hands.
  • Find other things that bring you joy, and focus on them.
  • Each house has its own business plan. Whether or not your project is a fit may have nothing to do with the quality of your manuscript. Reality is, if they don’t know how to sell it, they aren’t the publisher for you.
  • Persistence outweighs skill 10 times out of 10

How do these experiences align with what you’ve experienced or heard? Have any advice you’d like to add? 


Tasha Headshot Color

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. A co-founder of Thinking Through Our Fingers, she is the managing editor of the writing-focused website as well as a contributor to Writers in the Storm. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, where she serves as a board member. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Resolve to Quit! But if you can’t…

“Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” – Homer Simpson.

It’s a new year, and that means new goals, new plans, and new resolutions. It’s a time for fresh starts, rededications, and the Rocky soundtrack on a constant loop. It’s also the time of year when everyone writes a blog post about the importance of sticking to your guns and never, ever quitting.

This is not that kind of a blog post. I’m just warning you up front.

I’ve seen several people I know struggle greatly with writing over the years, and not the usual “I’ve hit a plot hole and I can’t get up!” sort of struggle. I’m talking about friends who seem to be at an existential crossroads of sorts; who aren’t sure if they have the strength or will to ever write anything again; who want to set fire to their laptops and be done with it all.

Maybe you’re at a similar crossroads with your own writing. Maybe it’s because you just got your fiftieth rejection letter. Or your hundredth. Maybe the thought of having to do one more bit of self promotion gives you stress hives. Maybe you discovered a book on the bookstore shelf that has the exact plot you’ve been wrestling with for the past two years. Maybe it’s because you’re just tired and burned out. However you ended up at these crossroads, know that you’re not alone. Every writer ends up here at least once in his or her career. The question is: what to do about it?

Here’s my first suggestion: Quit.

No, I’m serious. If you just can’t take it anymore, then quit. Please note that I am not referring here to simple writer’s block, or the rough days where nothing seems to be coming together, such as are common to all writers. But if writing has lost all joy for you; if it is affecting your emotional or physical health, or negatively impacting your personal relationships with family and friends; if writing has become, in the words of Chuck Wendig, “an endless Sisyphean misery,” then why on earth are you still doing it?

You have to ask yourself hard questions: Is this really for me? Is this really what I want? I can’t answer those questions for you, nor would I ever try. I’m not saying that every moment of writing should be sunshine, sparkles, and dancing unicorns. I don’t know any writer who experiences that all the time. Writing—or any worthwhile creative endeavor, for that matter—should be a struggle, and should stretch you and challenge you. But for heaven’s sakes: if you’re not experiencing any enjoyment whatsoever from writing, isn’t that telling you something?

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Okay, I hear the sounds of angry mobs sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches out there. You’re upset with my first suggestion to quit. That’s good. That means there’s still a spark inside you that won’t let you give up just yet. For you folks, here’s my second suggestion, taken from a quote from Rick Walton: “Quit. But if you can’t, then do the work.”

Think about why you started writing in the first place. What led you to do it? Was it a school assignment that awoke something inside you didn’t even know was there, or have you always felt compelled to tell stories? Think about how it felt when you wrote your first story, about the thrill that came from typing ‘THE END’ and knowing that this story was all yours. Think about the first time you were brave enough to let someone else read your writing, and they actually liked it!

Now think about never writing again. How does that feel? If it makes you dig in your heels and put up your dukes and want to fight me for merely suggesting it, then it means you’re still in this. But it means you’ve got some work to do. It means taking yourself seriously enough to actively and consciously arrange your time to write on a regular basis. It means working through that plot problem that has been kicking your trash for the past three months by any means necessary. It means finishing that book, that chapter, that scene, that paragraph, or that sentence. It means sitting down and opening a blank file and writing “Chapter One.” And it means doing it today.

Don’t worry that your first draft will suck. Your first draft is supposed to suck. That is its whole job. Your job is to make that first draft exist. Your job is to get the words out of you and down on the paper. There is time to fix them up, rearrange them, and make them look all sparkly later. Just get it done. You know you can’t quit, so go do the work.

A big part of doing the work is to keep the proper perspective. Too many writers focus too much on this nebulous, ever shifting goalpost called “success.” This skewed line of thinking reduces success to a binary choice between all or nothing, as if to say that anything less than being the next Stephen King or JK Rowling equals abject failure.
Emily King said it well: “Success is a dangling carrot that motivates us to work harder and persist, no matter where we are on our personal journey. Fame. Fortune. Rubbing elbows with important people. Notoriety. Independence, creative or financial. One person’s perspective on what success looks like will change to the next, and our interpretation will change as we taste nibbles of it. In essence, success is something we chase, not something we achieve.”

My advice is to focus on SATISFACTION, not success. Success can come quickly, and be taken away just as quickly. It doesn’t mean you should stop chasing your dreams and goals, but it does mean that you can—and should—learn to be grateful for where you are. Don’t define yourself based on something that hasn’t happened yet. Give yourself credit for what you’ve already accomplished, which is likely more than you realize.

J. Scott Savage also had wise words on the subject: “Am I against making money by selling what we write? Heck no! Make as much as you can. You have earned every dime. What I am against, is taking an art, a talent, something that blesses your life and the lives of those your share it with, and turning it into a job that is only worthwhile if it makes lots of money. I am against seeing people asking if they should give up a God-given talent that brings them joy, (even when it is very hard), because enough other people didn’t buy their work.”

I echo those words. I believe in God, and I believe He gives us talents to help us grow and develop in this life. Think of how many people in this world have a talent for music. How many of them are superstars, with all the fame and fortune, and what does that mean for the rest of us? Does that mean God totally screwed up when He gave me a love of music? Am I somehow a failure in life, and displeasing Him just because I only play my guitar for fun, and I’ve never played Carnegie Hall? Not hardly.

It’s the same with my writing. Don’t get me wrong: getting paid for what you write is awesome, and I highly recommend it. But the NYT bestseller list is not the only way to honor the talents you have been given. Your gifts were given to you for a reason. Your voice is needed. Only you can tell your story the way you can. That’s not something to walk away from lightly.

Now, if you’re still feeling burned out, here’s my final suggestion: Quit. But just for a little bit. Everyone gets burned out from time to time, and it can be healthy to take a little break now and then. You’re still a REAL WRITER even if you’re not writing every single day. Take a sabbatical and do something completely different. Travel. Try a new hobby. Take a class. Go to a writing conference. Do something that will jump-start your brain and get you back on track.

This new year, resolve to quit feeling sorry for yourself. Resolve to quit beating yourself up. Resolve to quit listening to those negative voices telling you that you can’t do it. Resolve to quit giving up, and get back to work.


Dennis Gaunt has worked as a slushpile reader for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain publishers since 2000. All those years of reading other people’s words inspired him to take a crack at writing himself. His first book, Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon, was published in 2011, and he has since published other books and magazine articles in the LDS market, and has even recorded talks on CD for LDS youth and young adults.

Though primarily a non-fiction writer (for now), he loves reading and talking about what makes great fiction stories work. His years of wading through the slushpile from the other side have given him a unique perspective on the writing and publishing processes, and he’s excited to be a part of Thinking Through Our Fingers.