Wednesday, October 19, 2011
REV UP WEDNESDAYS - A weekly booster shot for inspiration... Catching up with ROWENA CHERRY
This REV UP WEDNESDAY gives centre stage to another amazing talent: ROWENA BEAUMONT CHERRY aka ROWENA CHERRY. Rowena has a lyrical, aristocratic sounding name I'd love to give one of my characters! She is a lady with enough class to sell, a full reserve (and a half) of smarts; a cartload of dry and subtly irreverent humor (that can fly right past you if you don't stop and think about it); a few dozen gallons of useful information to share; and a sexy passion for chess. She also has another passion, or perhaps one can call it a mission: to advocate for authors' rights and to use social media to fight book piracy, tooth and nail. She is a stickler for privacy and "doing the right thing", and there is no doubt in my mind that she walks the walk. In fact, she's taken the wrongdoers on with the tenacity of a pit bull, and with the satisfying goal of exposing them to fellow writers and the public. It seems like a thankless, unending job - but some are doing it, and Rowena's one of them. In the meantime, she writes and puts her imagination to work. She has an agent, was published with Dorchester, and has quite a story to tell... but I'll let you be the judge of that.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since 1993, but I've only been published since 2004. It took me ten years to convince an acquiring editor to buy my first manuscript, but in that critical tenth year (2003) I sold Forced Mate to two different publishing houses almost simultaneously. Just so you don't start questioning my morals, let me say that they knew about each other; one was e-book and POD only, and the other was mass-market only.
When did you decide that you wanted to write for a living (that "aha" moment)?
I assume that writing for a living is the dream and the goal of everyone who has written a work of fiction. In my case, I didn't consider writing for a living until sometime in the late 1980s when a publisher-friend of my husband's told me that I ought to write. Obviously, the publisher did not mean that I ought to write for his publication!
What did your family say when you told them you wanted to be a writer?
I don't remember telling my family that I wanted to be a writer. I told an aunt that I intended to write Science Fiction Romance about highly sexually motivated aliens, and she promptly suggested that I ought to write a sweet mystery Romance set in Europe during World War II instead. Another family member was also acutely concerned about my subject matter, and would have preferred me to write sweet stories about neutered cats.
I know that I used "sweet" twice. Pardon the monotony, but "Sweet" is an industry term for a story that looks away at the bedroom door.
Perhaps you should have asked what my Tax attorney said....
What is your preferred genre both for reading and writing?
Those who know, advise writers to write what they know, and to write what they like to read. I'm a natural contrarian, so I ignore that advice. I like to write facetious Futuristic Romance, or Science Fiction Romance, or non-traditional Fantasy Romance. However, I like to read Mystery, Regency Romance, accurate Historical Romance ("accurate" is the operative word), and non-fiction scientific magazines.
Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?
I'm a kept woman.
Did you take any writing courses or did you just sit and write a book?
I sat (and lay) and wrote. Obviously, the autodidact route is a long and winding road, full of potholes and pratfalls and other perils. I did purchase a few How To Write Romance books, but never bothered to read them. Just as I buy household cleaning things and hope that their very presence in my home will deter dust and mites and skid marks.
I wrote draft after draft, and got to the point of being publishable (eventually) thanks to the judges of numerous Romance Writers Of America contests who critiqued my opening chapters repeatedly and sometimes ruthlessly until I took note, extrapolated what to do with the bulk of the book, and made changes.
Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?
The trouble with crit groups is that one has to not only receive crit, but also crit back. That is time-consuming and a distraction, particularly if a writer is on a creative roll. I suspect that many crit groups are the blind leading the blind. After all, the only opinions that count are going to be that of a writer's editor and her agent. Not necessarily in that order.
That said, there are excellent on-line, by-genre crit groups and special interest chapters that focus on non-simultaneous critiquing and mentoring. One was Outreach International, and its The Whole Thing program. Their system was that one gave or committed to give a certain number of critiques to other writers in one's own genre, and in return, and at a different time, one received one or two critiques.
Did I have a mentor? Not one. Many.
Romance writers are amazingly generous. At various times, several authors who were higher up the ladder took an interest in my progress and gave me advice, guidance and either a hand up or a much needed kick in the pants.
Did you sell the first story or novel you wrote?
Yes. It was Forced Mate, and possibly, if I'd been smart, I would have written two or three more stories instead of fixating on selling that one. It did not help that when I started writing it, paranormal/futuristic was out of fashion.
How many drafts did you write of your first novel before you felt you got it right? What about now - do you still write several drafts of a story?
I cannot remember how many drafts I wrote, but every time I wrote a draft, I felt that I had got it right!
I probably wrote at least 500 drafts of the first 50 pages. One of my temporary mentors ran a regional RWA contest. I sent in my first 50 pages, and one of the more outspoken judges told me that I ought to ditch the first 60 pages of the book. I had real trouble with that advice. The next year, I entered again having made some revisions and cuts. I did not expect to be blessed with the same judge again. I was blessed. The third year, I started my book at the point where the heroine's life changed, but I dreaded entering and almost didn't in case that same brutal contest coordinator decided to judge my story again.
She did. However, I'd pretty much ditched 50 pages. It was a much better story, and I think the other judges agreed.
Yes, I still write several drafts of a story, but I don't take two years to recognize good advice when I receive it. Let me admit, I envy authors who can plot out a story, write it right first time, and never have to do a second draft... and who are asked for minimal or no revisions by their editor!
Do you read industry or writing related blogs? If so, can you share some useful links?
I share a blog with Jacqueline Lichtenberg. She gives great advice on writing and technique, http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com
Jacquie Rogers and Ann Charles have a superb website of writers' advice to other writers, mostly on marketing, http://www.1stturningpoint.com
I enjoy agent Kristin Nelson's blog, http;//pubrants.blogspot.com/
Don't forget to check the sidebar for the blogs Kristin follows! Seriously. Kristin lists links to websites that inform and protect writers (3 of them), to blogs she finds cool, to other agents who blog, and to her "Agenting 101" blogs, and her critiques of query letters that she has received, and more!!!
Another industry blog worth following is Richard Curtis's - http://www.ereads.com - blog.
Did you get an agent first or did you submit directly to publishers?
Getting a good agent can be harder than finding an editor. Moreover, if you cannot find an agent, an Intellectual Properties attorney can negotiate a contract for you. You will pay them up-front, which is expensive but tax deductible, but they will not have a claim on 15% of your royalties for that book for the rest of the life of your copyright.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to submit is to become a finalist in a contest that is being judged by an editor or agent of your dreams. The other shortcut is to meet an editor by appointment at a convention, and request permission to send your proposal. Or.... look out for Brenda Novak's Diabetes charity auction next May, and place a bid (this will cost you, too) on a reading by an editor. Be sure that you have your manuscript polished and ready before then, because there is a published time limit for the winning bidder to submit.
My current agent is Robert G Diforio. I signed up with him after I was contracted with Dorchester Publishing.
Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?
Did I ever...? Laughing. Of course. Dozens and dozens of times. In fact, I received what I thought was the definitive rejection from one editor at Dorchester a month before I entered the Romantic Times/Dorchester "New Voice In Romance" contest. Winning a place in the finals was how I came to be offered a contract with Dorchester, albeit with a different editor.
I only had the nerve to enter their contest (after said definitive rejection) because Susan Grant told me that I would be an idiot not to enter.
The only writers I know of who haven't been rejected, ever, are those who submitted to a Vanity Publisher.
What, in your opinion, do agents/publishers look for in a new author in the current market? Is it all to do with talent or with trends?
I honestly don't know, but I recommend taking a look at Kristin Nelson's blog, http;//pubrants.blogspot.com/. However, I suspect that talent and trendiness may be two legs of a three-legged stool. I've heard that editors and agents take a look at a candidate's online personality and following. (I intend every one of the implications that you might read into that last comment.)
What do you think of the changes going on in the book industry (e.g., e-books vs. print books, and big publishers getting involved in digital publishing)?
I think the Big Publishers are riding a tiger.
Where do you see the industry going?
I think that the "royalty" method of compensating authors is doomed. With print, there were a given number of copies created at one central printer. Someone knew how many that was, where those books were, and who had them. It was possible to calculate sales and therefore the percentages of sales (royalties) owed to the author.
With e-books, any licensee can sub-license the creation and distribution of perfect copies. Infinitely. The entire royalty system relies upon honesty and scrupulous book-keeping. I don't see how it would be possible for an author to audit it.
I suspect that digital theft, aka piracy, aka forgery is already much more of a problem than most people in the industry want to recognize, and I believe that it will get worse. Huge amounts of money are being made off e-books, music, games, and movies, but the copyright owners are out of the loop. PayPal doesn't pay copyright owners, big business advertisers don't pay authors, search engines don't, file-hosting sites don't, blogsites don't.
Now, if every author could digitally fingerprint her own name, so that every time her name showed up in a Google Search (or any other search engine's search) as part of an url to a download, that author was automatically paid a tiny royalty, that would be progress. However, one would still have to trust the ethics and morality of the search engine, but I see possibilities in Google's Adwords software.
Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?
Now, that is a question. I am considering self-publishing, so are a lot of my colleagues. Most of us are self-publishing "backlist", that is, books that were traditionally published, and to which we have had our rights returned by the publishers (or we never licensed electronic rights in the first place).
Anyone can self-publish and has the right to self-publish, but I confess to a nagging feeling that writers owe paying readers a professional level of quality. There are freelance editors and so forth whom writers can hire to ensure that the book is as polished as possible. That is expensive, of course. One should budget for at least a couple of dollars per page, possibly more.
I have heard that there are readers who automatically assume that any e-book costing less than $1.00 is self-published. I don't know this for a fact. It would probably be very helpful if all publishers (self- and otherwise) developed a system so readers could tell at a glance whether or not an e-book has been professionally edited and professionally proof-read.
How do you feel about so many bookstores closing across the US? Do you think this trend is similar in other countries?
I think that it is a great pity that so many bookstores are closing, and it is certainly happening in other countries, too: Waterstones in Britain, the Borders branches in Britain and Europe. I'm afraid that bookstore browsing is being replaced by online copyright infringement. I'd much rather readers browsed in libraries and bookshops, and either left empty handed or else with a legal loan or purchase, rather than creating unauthorized copies online.
The bookstore model was unsustainable. It was completely illogical that publishers should pay bookstores to shelve new releases, and then pay them to return books, or worse, to return the stripped covers of unsold books while the body of the books got sold to the paper recycling plant.
I felt that bookstores ought to become more like book-related internet cafes, with lots of wifi and computers for browsing online and sampling online, and with POD machines and CD burners so customers could print a trade paperback or copy an ebook onto an mp3 or DVD or CD and check out at the cash register. The technology exists. The will doesn't.
Are your books available in print or in digital format?
At the moment, I have four titles.
MATING NET by Rowena Beaumont Cherry is a very short novella (58 pages) which is available only as an e-book for around $2.50 from New Concepts Publishing. It's not available in print, unless someone sells a print ARC that I once gave away for contest prizes or to reviewers. That's their right. I hope they wouldn't sell such a rarity for less than $20 because that is what it cost me to have a print ARC made up. Obviously, no one would pay anywhere near $20 for 58 pages, so Mating Net will never be available as a stand alone print book.
FORCED MATE by Rowena Beaumont Cherry is a full length e-book that I now sell myself through jexbo.com and occasionally on EBay. It is pirated. It is included in a lot of the EBay-fenced "collections" of multi-thousands of Romance e-books burned onto DVDs and CDs and falsely described as "public domained" or GNU-licensed. It is not in the public domain. It is not legally GNU-licensed.
There are trade paperbacks that occasionally show up on reselling sites, but this version should not be confused with the mass market paperback once published by Dorchester's LoveSpell imprint. The editor was different. The publisher was different. It was aimed at a different demographic.
FORCED MATE by Rowena Cherry ought only to be a full length paperback. I believe that LoveSpell put out 3 print runs. Booksellers around the world still have the right to sell off their old inventory of new copies and also to re-sell any used copies. I also have a stash that I will sell personally once the market clears out all the deeply discounted remainder copies. I would not be surprised to learn that there are some illegally created e-book versions, but I have no official knowledge of them.
I will be developing my own e-book version, but with a different cover.
INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL by Rowena Cherry ought only to be a full length paperback. Booksellers around the world still have the right to sell off their old inventory of new copies and also to re-sell any used copies. I also have a small stash that I will sell personally once the market clears out all the deeply discounted remainder copies, but when the Dorchester warehouse was selling off boxes of old inventory, I was unable to buy any copies of Insufficient Mating Material.
There may be a few illegal e-book versions that were created from scans.
I am working right now on my own, self published e-book version of Insufficient Mating Material, with a cover of my own.
KNIGHT'S FORK by Rowena Cherry has never been anything but print. Some booksellers still have a few copies. I purchased everything that was left in the warehouse. I have no plans to self-publish it as an e-book at this time.
What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?
A few years ago, I advised aspiring authors to secure their own name and their pseudonym (if any) and possibly the titles of their books or their genre as .com domain names before they become famous.
For instance, I own RowenaCherry.com ; RowenaBeaumontCherry.com ; aliendjinnromances.com ; SpaceSnark.com (and a few others)
Aspiring authors who plan to write erotica should seriously consider whether or not it is worth it to lock in the new .xxx domains these days. If you don't, a cyber-squatter could grab your name first. Look what happened to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Look what happened to Dara Joy! (Dara Joy's website is still www.officialdarajoy.com),
These days, I recommend that aspiring authors should also get a Muso account at http://www.muso.com shortly before they start to send out electronic ARCs and promote their debut novel. Muso is an efficient service that costs $15 per author name, per month to locate and (with a click of the author's mouse) take down illegally shared files.
If you decide to self publish, take your time and read every online contract and print off and understand the Terms Of Service statements before clicking "I Agree".
Wherever you go online, remember that you never know who is watching you and reading your posts, ratings, rants, or reviews. Editors and agents have been known to Google the writers who have submitted proposals. You only get one change to make a good first impression.
Enter contests for the advice that the judges will give you, and for the possibility of future cover quotes. They will be volunteer judges (unpaid) and although not all of their observations will be on target, if two or more agree on something they consider a flaw in your work, take it seriously. Usually, the contest coordinator will forward thank-you notes to anonymous judges. It is always worth thanking kind strangers. For instance, the anonymous judge who wrote how much she loved your original premise might turn out to be famous, and one day, with her permission, what she wrote on your manuscript might become your first cover quote.
Above all, persist, network, say "thank you" often.
What are you working on now?
I am working on Grand Fork, which is a spin off from the "Mating" books, but, I am in no hurry. In the past, I've always split my rights, and it looks as if any publisher would probably want digital and print rights. I am also developing Forced Mate and Insufficient Mating Material (as previously mentioned) as e-books.
Do you read when you are plotting or writing a story?
I tend not to do so. I have a horror of plagiarism. It's tricky enough that "great minds think alike", without inviting the possibility of being subconsciously influenced by someone else's solutions to impossible dilemmas. I strive for what one of my English professors used to call "thusness" and which might also be termed "surprising, dramatic inevitability." In other words, the solution to a problem ought to astound the reader, but at the same time be absolutely plausible for that particular character in that particular circumstance.
How do you juggle work, writing, chores and family/personal life? Do you have a secret to time management that you want to share with readers?
NO. LOL Time management is not my forte.
What's your website URL?
I have two...
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/
Are you on Facebook?
My Mission Statement:
My goal as a Romance author is to give good value. I expect to provide my readers with six to eight hours of amusement, at least a couple of really good laughs, a romantic frisson or two from the sensual scenes, a thoroughly satisfying Happy Ever After, and something to think about when the book is finished.
~ Angela ~
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love. "Mile High to Heaven" and "Mr. & Mrs. Foster" available at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.