Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts tagged publishing
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How do you celebrate completing a manuscript?

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

Ce-le-brate?

Is that a thing I'm supposed to do?

Look, the challenge of novel writing is you can tweak FOREVER, so I call foul on this question, because complete implies...well...completion.

When I finish a draft I...do nothing. In fact I usually go into a funk for a week or two. I should be plotting something new, but usually I just stare mournfully at the computer screen.

When I submit a manuscript to my agent and publisher I...start the next story, because not having a new story to work on makes me twitchy.

When I hit a major milestone, like my agency and publisher contracts last year, or when The Pick Up was published this year I...spend money on something frivolous but still wildly practical. Like new rubber boots! Or a laptop (confession: the old laptop was taking bi-weekly trips to the Genius Bar. It was time). And Mr. Temple takes me out for dinner, ideally one that involves much wine.

But seriously, celebrate the little things. The milestones. My local RWA chapter gives out chocolate to members who have recently completed a chapter or scene, or those who have submitted a manuscript and been rejected! Celebrate the steps, because the milestones can be a long time in coming.

Succeeding(ish) at the Publishing Game

pug-1210025_1920 Almost two months ago, I wrote to my agent. It was a short email that said something like "Let's talk about what's next. And let's do it soon, because The Pick Up is going to be out next week and I just finished the draft for Cold Pressed, and I'm expecting the emotional hangover to be EPIC."

Boy, did I not even know.

The Pick Up is almost two months old now. In the ensuing 60ish days, I've watched publishing dreams (mine and others) stumble and collapse under the weight of racism, harassment, and the giant angry echo chamber that is the internet.

There were tears (mine and others).

There were promises to do better (mine and others).

There were admissions that it's hard to find momentum after so much uncertainty (fortunately, not mine...except for Good Friday when I nearly deleted the complete Cold Pressed draft in a fit of inadequacy).

So here's what I've learned in the last two months, as voiced by so many other people in the same boat.

A nightmare you say? Tell me more.

Even celebrities (except possibly Sean Penn and Morrissey) are not immune from the crushing weight of authorly uncertainty.

Yup. Publishing will rip your heart out. It will tell you that your hours, days, weeks, months, years of hard work don't matter, because what publishing really wants is another white duke, or a lonely gay superhero (but not your lonely gay superhero*).  And yeah, I'm talking about traditional publishing, and yes, I know self-publishing will let me write my dukes, superheroes, or neurotic professors and put them out into the world without the grind and the waiting game of trad publishing. I'm pretty sure it will just rip your heart out in other ways instead. Like when Amazon suddenly decides your story is too gay and too sexy to inflict on decent people and stops promoting your titles. Or when the limitations of stock photography mean your cover model appears on seven covers in three months.

I was on Facebook this week (spoiler, don't go on Facebook), and someone asked what the lesson is, if you put in all this time, and effort, ink, sweat and tears, and no on reads it? What if the book happens, but the reading doesn't? If you don't succeed, what was the lesson?

Writing is my joy. That's the lesson. Bree said it above, but it's true for me too. I say it all the time. I am happier writing than doing just about anything else. If you're writing novels for any other reason, I'm not sure how you'll succeed, because the rest of it has the very real potential to be a nightmare.

In the last 60ish days, there have been hurdles and hiccups the likes of which my poor debut author brain could not have fathomed. I lost sleep. There were so many tears. And then you know what I did? I kept writing. Because publishing is going to rip my heart out, but writing is going to put it back together again. And every time I write something new, or edit something new, I create another opportunity to succeed at my joy (before the heart ripping starts again).

Someone on Twitter asked last week what piece of advice you'd give to your younger self. And despite everything, this is what I said.

I'm succeeding on my own terms. Come at me. I'm ready.


*I don't currently have a lonely gay superhero...but now I'm thinking about it.

If You Liked The Pick Up...

Presenting Where's Waldo...Kyle Edition! img_0026

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Today is The Pick Up's one month anniversary! Hearing from those of you who read and loved Kyle and Adam's story was one of the best feelings ever! And then you asked when there would be more stories and...well...it's complicated. The Hook Up (a prequel short about how Kyle met Olivia) is out now, and I've got another short planned a few months from now. But, for reasons, the date of the next novel is TBD.

In the meantime, I'd like to make some recommendations. We started talking in my Facebook group this week about covers and stock photos. I like to think that The Pick Up's cover is distinctly cute but the fact remains that that smiley dude is a stock photo model and you can find him having all kinds of adventures over on DepositPhoto. My particular favourites are the ones where he can't figure out laundry, and where he makes an especially dorky face in the mirror, because spinach in your teeth is never cool.

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But even weirder than seeing Kyle in the controlled realm of stock photos is seeing him on other people's covers. He's everywhere! Literally everywhere. The Pick Up is one of seven covers I've found in the last six months with Mr. Smiley on the cover. And that's just in m/m romance! God only knows what he's up to in the heterosexual world!

So while you're waiting for my further novel-length adventures, here are six novels that feature the same guy on the cover. If you liked The Pick Up, maybe you'll like the continued antics of Smiley Stock Photo Guy! He is perpetually adorable, although I have to admit the maternal writer in me wants to tell him to put on a shirt sometimes.

Kyle Covers

Buy links are here:

The Glasshouse (Lavender Shores, book 6) by Rosalind Abel Something New (Something About Him, book 1) by Sean Ashcroft Champagne Kiss (Rose Falls, book 3) by Raleigh Ruebins Heart of Glass (Lawyers in Love, book 3) by Ari McKay Rock a Bye (Cray's Quarry, book 1) by Rachel Kane Blaze (A Masterson Novel, book 1) by Avery Ford

If you find SSPG anywhere else, maybe leave a comment so we can continue to expand our libraries? Good book recs are always appreciated.

Happy reading!

On The Eve of Release

calendar-2763496_1280 The Pick Up is out in less than 72 hours (less than 24 if you preordered). Because I'm a typical author with typical insecurities, I've spent most of the last nine months being at least 50% sure that this is all an elaborate practical joke. A long con by people I've never met. I'm told the imposter syndrome makes me a Real Writer.

At this point though, I think I have to accept that this is actually going to happen.

There have been a lot of things that have surprised me about this process. The big one is how fast it happened. I'm one of the lucky ones who sold her first book quickly, with minimum angst and gnashing of teeth. I even got a bonus which is there are two more books coming, and I didn't have to query either! Undoubtedly, there will be some speed bumps and roadblocks ahead, and I will still be mostly languishing in obscurity this time next year, but it's been a fun ride so far!

But there have been a lot of other things, the ones you never picture when you sit down at your keyboard and think to yourself 'I'm going to write a book!' Someday I'm going to write about them, but here's the short list.

First and foremost, I've learned that editors are wizards. My editor Caz has this preternatural ability to see the little things in my manuscript, the hiccups in language and plot that I was never going to find. They have all made my story better. Also, she has this amazing precognition of when is the most inconvenient time to send me revisions. Nobody's perfect, I guess. Caz says she's still waiting for her Hogwarts letter, but I am confident it is only a matter of time.

Also, I've met some pretty amazing people. Online and in person. Writing is lonely, and even though I am a staunch introvert, I've made some amazing connections over the course of the last few years. Shaunta Grimes and the Ninja Writers, Firefly Creative Writing, the Toronto Romance Writers. And there's all of Writer!Twitter; so big and numerous I can't begin to name them all.

And I've done some pretty cool things. Last fall, I found myself wearing a vintage riding skirt, gingham shirt, authentic Australian cowboy hat, and a dollar store moustache. What was I doing? Waiting in line to buy a beer at GRL (I'm a Supporting Author this year, come see me!). They definitely don't tell you about the dollar store moustache when you write your first book.

There are other things. Unpleasant things. Reviews that weren't glowing. Taglines. Don't get me started on taglines. Has anyone ever been truly satisfied with the tagline for their book? Still for every awkward tagline and grumpy review, there's a tweet or a text from someone who liked the book, or at least likes me enough to be kind!

It's been quite the adventure. Monday is going to be fun! And then . . .

I might have an exciting update early next week! Tune in, same bat time, same bat channel!

Thanks for reading,

A

 

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All Grown Up

little girl with dad dressed in super heroes, happy loving family Yesterday, I saw a very excellent tweet that said something like "Being a grown up is expensive, and also I'm not having a very good time right now."

Something like that. I wish I'd flagged it.

Being a grown up is tough. You have to pay bills on time and do things like go to work (or stay home and write books) even when you don't want to, because being a grown up is expensive.

But two things happened today that make being a grown up worthwhile.

The first, a friend invited me to her high school as a 'guest adjudicator' for the play her students are preparing for a competitive festival. She's working on a play I have performed and directed before, and I was excited just to get to see it again. I was unprepared, though, for the flood of old anxieties that bombarded me as I walked through the front doors of her school. It's been a long time since I was in high school, and still, all those weird awkward feelings are there.

And yet, when we walked into the auditorium, she introduced me, and people thanked me for being there. The kids did their show, and then they sat, with rapt attention, to hear what I (me!) had to say. "But what else could we do to make it better?"

It's always flattering when people ask your opinion and take it to heart. But somehow, being in a place that brought back so many old and anxious memories made it all the more special. Being a grown up means people believe you know what you're talking about, even when you're not sure you do.

It was a nice moment.

The other thing though.

The thing that made being a grown up pretty cool today?

Well it's just gravy.

Actually, by gravy standards, it's pretty expensive. By most other counts, it's not much.

But.

You guys :)

I got my first royalty cheque today.

I am a Professional Author.

And okay, yes, the cheque was for $45. And yes, of the copies sold so far, 10 were purchased by mom. But still, there is a cheque, made out to me, that says people (and not just my mom) have bought something that I made.

Being a grown up is expensive, and $45 doesn't go very far, but today I'm having a pretty good time.

Also, if you want to make my next royalty cheque even more exciting, The Pick Up is out in 10 days! Honestly though, the best part of it is people reading the story. Single dad, grumpy teacher, nosey families. What could go wrong? Pre-orders are still available through Riptide, and will be available on the other online retailers soon!

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A Blonde Moment

True story, I don't look like anyone else in my family. We all have blue eyes, but where my button nose and rosebud mouth* came from is a mystery.

Also a mystery is why my hair never went truly brown. My family is littered with childhood blondes who eventually went brunette. My hair is darker than it was, but I cling to the fact that it still falls under the blonde heading.

All this to say, I should absolutely be excused for completely blanking on the mystery box that arrived today. Even though Riptide emailed me two weeks ago and asked how many copies of The Pick Up I wanted. Even though we have less than seven weeks until release day. Even so, I opened that box with all the innocent enthusiasm of a four-year-old on Christmas morning.

A blonde four-year-old at that.

And then...

I cried a bit. I texted everyone I thought might be close to their phone. I spammed social media.

I wrote a book. It's a real book now. In just under two months, you can read it too! I hope you will!

The Pick Up is available for preorder from Riptide Publishing.

*those are my grandmother's words, not mine. I didn't look like her either.

What's Your Book About?

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 12.52.36 PM "It's about a single dad who falls in love with his daughter's teacher."

That's the 13-word descriptor I give most people when they ask me what The Pick Up is about. I perfected it ages ago, back before I'd finished writing it, back when I wasn't sure if this was a hobby or a career or anything. For most people, it works.

"Yes, but what is it about? What happens?"

That was my mom a couple days before Christmas. We were having lunch at my grandmother's (for the record, my Nana is awesome and doesn't give two figs that I write books about guys kissing).

"Well..." I said. "There's this dad, and he moves back to his hometown and..."

Oh god this is awkward. I thought I'd escaped this kind of thing after I finished my query synopsis.

I am not alone in finding this challenging.

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It's a romance. They meet. They kinda don't like each other so much at first, and then slowly realize how much better their life is with each other in it. There's some not quite kissing, then some actual kissing, followed by Kyle saying some awkward things over Chinese food, and then there is more kissing.

Fin.

Oh, and this book also features the world premiere of the revolutionary field of ice cream psychology.

You don't even need to buy the damn thing now, I've given the whole plot away.

I saw this amazing post on Facebook today. It gave book descriptors like "life with Asperger's", "YA Gatsby" and "extreme illegal sports". Short and sweet. I'd read them all.

So what is The Pick Up about? In keeping with these tiny descriptors, here's my best shot.

  • Coming home
  • Escaping your awkward teenage years
  • Diplomacy via eggplant parmesan
  • Astronaut princesses
  • Serial texting
  • The seductive properties of moo-shu pork
  • Why Bluetooth headsets make bad first impressions
  • Uncomfortable conversations with your parents

Is that better? You can layer those over my earlier "they almost kiss" summary and you've pretty well got the whole story nailed down.

The Pick Up comes out two months today. It's about all those things and I'd really love it if you'd read it. You can pre-order here, or sign up for my mailing list and I'll send out links to the major retailers just as soon as I have them.

In the meantime, leave a comment and tell me what your favourite book is about.

Follow the Instructions

giphy.gif Time for everyone's favourite topic! Resolutions! Or, in this case, lessons learned. Gather round, pretend I know what I'm talking about, and listen closely!

It's December 26, 2017. On Boxing Day 2016, I was still tweaking my draft of The Pick Up and trying to convince myself to believe the people who said it was good enough to query. 365 days, 1 agent and a 3-book publishing contract later, what is the most important thing I learned?

Read the instructions.

Querying is a minefield of angst, endless inbox refreshes, impostor syndrome and occasional highs where someone actually asks you for more.

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You know what makes querying easier?

Following the instructions.

Lame, I know, but here's the thing: The internet is littered with frustrated agents who just can't wrap their heads around why anyone would query badly. The threads below from @RaeAChang and Laura Zats are full of examples where people didn't follow the instructions and hoped for the best anyway. Why would you do that?

What can we learn here? Here's a short list.

Before querying:

  1. Finish the book. Like Laura said, this should be the first thing on this list.
  2. Find agents who represent the genre you're writing in. Query Tracker and MSWL were my go-to resources for this.
  3. Know the standards for your genre. Look, I write long, so I get it that sometimes stories just take a lot of words. And I have no idea exactly how long the book in Q464 above was. There is some wiggle room in any genre. But if you (like me) are an unpublished writer shopping around a contemporary romance, know that 85k is cool, and 150k is probably going to be a no.
  4. Know what makes a good query letter. The internet is full of resources, examples, and forums who will critique your draft letters for free. The good folks at Agent Query Connect raked my first letter over the coals (it hurt, but was totally worthwhile). I read all the archives at Query Shark, and I cannot recommend that exercise enough to any fiction writer going to market.

If you're querying, you've probably heard all of this before, but this is truly the biggest thing I learned in 2017. Follow the instructions. Do the research. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Since The Pick Up is coming, obviously all of this paid off for me. But I can also tell you that putting together the best query package possible (and tailoring it exactly to every agent's submission guidelines), got me great traction. I queried 25 agents and got 10 full MS requests out of it.

I know this sounds lame. Writing should be more fun than critique forums and spreadsheets with submission requirements. I'd rather talk about inspiration and the high that comes when the scene you've been anguishing over finally pays off. But trust me, if you're going with traditional publishing, at some point you're going to have to follow the instructions.

Coming Down from GRL

22712956_10155367716367659_1604930348_o Holy smokes am I tired! Years ago, JK Hogan, after her first GRL, told me that if I ever went, I had to remember to take an extra day off when I got back. As I was falling asleep last night, I had the thought that I could probably go to work today and function reasonably well.

Then I slept until 10:30 this morning and nearly burned a grilled cheese at lunch so...

Thanks, Kristen, for your excellent advice!

Before we parted ways for the weekend, I told Jay (aka Mr. Temple) that if I came home from GRL and announced I was going to quit my job to write full-time, he had to talk me down. He nodded knowingly. We're married for a reason.

I'm pleased to say that 72 hours later, while I'm a little starstruck about who and what I just saw, I am not so far gone as to think the solution to life's problems is to abandon my job to be a full-time writer.

Dude, being a writer is hard work. I firmly believe it's also a metric shit tonne of fun, but there are so may things that will never occur to you (and barely occurred to me) when you set out to write and publish a book. I found myself standing in line for a beer, dressed in a custom made vintage riding split skirt, my very favourite cowboy hat, and a dollar store moustache and thought "I didn't know this was going to be part of the job." Obviously, the moustache is optional (as are the skirt, hat, and the conference in general really). You could just write books and stay home, but GRL is a hell of a lot of fun, and great way to participate in the community I'm writing for.

The writers I met this weekend are (hopefully) winning the battle for shelf space, book reviews, and career longevity on their own terms, and I have nothing but admiration for that. I hope to be them someday, and that day is closer than it was a year ago, but this weekend also solidified for me that I am very much a baby author with a lot of work ahead of me.

I gotta say though, GRL leaves me pretty warm and fuzzy about what that's going to be like. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. Everyone, readers and writers, was approachable and willing to talk. The m/m romance community they've built is as lovely as it is diverse. Seriously. I know there's a long way to go in terms of character and writer diversity, but there really is something for everyone out there. My jam in m/m romance is cute, fluffy, and pretty vanilla. But I saw everything this weekend from that to detectives, to deep sci-fi and high fantasy, to dystopian werewolf kink. It was all there!

As I'm coming down off the GRL high (super high in this case. The air in Denver was thin), I'm pretty excited about what's ahead of me. The Pick Up has a release date! March 2018. Circle your calendars, I'll provide more details soon. The Hang Up is getting lots of fuzzy feedback from beta readers. And a weekend with the GRL crew inspired me to write just a teeny little bit of The Set Up while I sat in airport lounges yesterday. Red Creek is alive and well and it's coming your way! This time next year, there will be two instalments in the world, and I will be ready to celebrate in Virginia at GRL 2018!

My Mom Might See This

caleb-woods-182648 Last week there was much righteous angst and furor over Romance's 'feature' in the New York Time Book Review. Apparently it started out promising, with an entwined couple on the review's cover. The NYT promised readers a Roundup of the Season's Romances. Then things started to fall apart, the roundup written by someone who either has an axe to grind or couldn't be bothered to do anything like research.

By the time I heard about the sexist and patronizing drivel contained in said roundup, the editorials and angry rants had already started happening online. I mean, some of the books cited weren't even published this season, or even in this decade. What was the point of the title? And then the review's author rounded it all up with "Why shouldn't women dream?"

Thanks. I didn't need your permission. I'll dream on my own terms.

 When I got married, Jane Austen loomed large in speeches from family. My cousin played a guessing game of romantic quotes (she might have spiked the deck with a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just because she could). My mom referred to the ubiquitous accomplished woman, but pointed out that in the 21st century, we liked to snorkel, could rock a hard hat on a job site, and our extensive reading now included sparkling vampires (it was the height of the Twilight craze, don't judge).

I don't feel the need to defend my reading preferences, or my writing ones. I like what I like. There are so many moving and beautifully written romances out there. It's disheartening to see articles like the NYT that perpetuate the attitudes that romance novels are something that should be hidden under your mattress, and that the genre only includes heterosexual dukes, governesses, billionaires and pregnant virgins. I know that's not true and, if you're reading this, you probably know that's not true too. Those of us who write queer characters, or space pirates, or even Scottish lairds not in the Regency period, are all very disappointed to hear that we don't write 'real' romance.

My bio is up on the Riptide website. I showed it to my boss, who is white, male, and in his fifties. He poked around the website for a minute. "I'm noticing a trend in what they publish," he said. Nary a heterosexual duke or pregnant virgin to be seen. I just raised an eyebrow. He's an observant fellow, my boss.

I shared the bio link on every social media channel I have. Mid-day today, Facebook told me my mom had liked my author page. That made my heart skip a little. She's been very supportive my adventures in publishing, going so far as to scoop up a stack of my newly printed business cards to give to friends the last time she came to visit, but she hasn't hunted me down online until now. On my drive home, she proudly told me over the phone that she has added my blog to her Wordpress favourites (I didn't even know she knew how to do that). Cue another heart skip.

All this to say, my mom might see this post. I'm not stuffing my writing under the mattress. I started dreaming about this long before the New York Times told me it was okay. I'm lucky I have family who support this crazy publishing dream, when so many people, both strangers and others, are more than happy to roll their eyes and snicker at the inhabitants and creators Romancelandia.

My mom is going to see this post. Leave a comment to say hi, so she knows how cool we all are.

 

August Rundown

julia-raasch-143428.jpg Holy hell. Was that all one month? It seems impossible that five weeks ago I was technically an unsigned author, and now this. In case you missed all the excitement (or in case I wonder why I'm exhausted), here's a rundown of the things that happened this month.

  • August started a few days early when I signed my contract with Riptide on July 21. They wanted an MS to start editing by August 9, and thus writing went into overdrive.
  • I accidentally set a sweet potato on fire in the microwave, and thus the meet cute for Red Creek book 4 (assuming I survive writing books 1-3 and Riptide lets me write book 4) was born.
  • I started and finished my #10daysto20k challenge, surpassing all expectations by crossing the 30k mark on The Hang Up
  • I went on to write a total of 46,000 words on The Hang Up, Seb and Martin's story. How many of those words see the light of publication remains to be seen.
  • I read Wolfsong at 2 am and proceeded to swoon over Ox and Joe for weeks.
  • I accidentally started a book club. The results (as seen on my Facebook page) were hilarious and Canadian and we are definitely going to do it again.
  • Edits arrived from Riptide (already!?) and I have re-read the Pick Up, Kyle and Adam's story, three times this week. You're going to love them both so much. (If you haven't been formally introduced, you can meet Kyle here, and Adam here). Also, I am in awe of editors and the things they can see in what I thought was an otherwise pretty shiny manuscript.
  • After months (okay, years) of prodding from friends and co-workers, I started listening to My Dad Wrote a Porno. I think there's a blog post coming about it, especially about what it's bad for indie authors, but as a piece of entertainment, it's hilarious and you should all listen, but only with headphones and after the kids have gone to bed.
  • I got my first ever piece of fan mail (see Twitter for my squeeing)! You're all awesome!

For non-writing events, I also made three different kinds of jam, survived terrifying summer storms, went to a food and musical festival and a soccer game with my husband, managed to hang on to my day job for yet another month, and watched in horror as white supremacists marched through parts of the US and Hurricane Harvey put much of coastal Texas underwater.

These are the reasons I'm exhausted. One can only wait to see what September will bring! So far, more edits, more writing, a football game, headshots, and prep for GRL!