I had a funny post ready, talking about how not many people would put me in a position of leadership given that I can't even navigate a round-a-bout successfully, but it didn't save properly and my head is foggy so there's less humor than I intended. Sorry.
Probably okay, since for the querying writer, finding your agent match doesn't feel funny. It feels like a hard, long haul. When Amy asked me to be a mentor for the Sun vs Snow contest she runs with Michelle Hauck, I was pretty pumped. It's a big step, for me for two reasons. One is the realization that I have crossed over from the person entering every contest (so, yes, I know how you feel as you press send and cross your fingers) to the person offering some guidance and feedback. That feels pretty cool. A different kind of stress than being the one entering because I want to do right by whoever I help. The second reason it is a big deal is more personal. It tells me that I have, in part, gained some confidence in my ability to help someone else. And this seemed to have happened without me knowing. Instead of second guessing every single step (though I send plenty of doubting messages to my writer friends), I'm starting to feel like I know some of the ins and outs or, at least, can offer something of value to the conversations being had. What it boils down to, for both reasons, is growth. Which takes time and commitment.
The writing community is this vast, yet small, powerful group that truly celebrate the successes of others. This contest, and others, like Pitch Wars, are testaments to how supportive your fellow writers are. People WANT you to succeed. And not just the people running the contests or the people offering to be mentors. Agents and editors want your words. They want your BEST words. If you follow someone like Julia A Weber on Twitter, you'll see how often she gives advice (then funnily enough tells you that you're free to ignore it) to help you strengthen your writing and your query. And she's not the only one. Agents want to find a great match just as much as you do.
But here's the thing you need to remember about these contests: it's not just about getting into the contest. For me, and for many other writers, the contest is the best way to build your support network, to find your people. In fact, I remember entering contests at the same time as Amy Trueblood and reading her twitter pitches (and thinking her book sounded fantastic). And I have to say, it's really cool to see that so many of the people that I connected with during my contest-entering days are now agented or publishing books. It happens. It takes time and it can feel long, but if you want it, if you're willing to keep going; it will happen. There was a great quote from Chris Pratt on Buzzfeed.
One day, you'll be scrolling through Twitter when you're supposed to be working on edits for your book under contract and someone like Amy will message you and ask if you want to be a mentor and you'll stop and you'll think, WHAT? How can I be a mentor? I'm just new. And you'll realize you're not. You'll realize you kept going and you're doing what you set out to do and the very best way to celebrate that is to give back. Share what you know. Connect with others. Encourage others. Encourage yourself. Reach out when you feel stuck or lost or alone. And above all, keep writing.
Good luck to everyone entering Sun vs Snow. I am truly honored to be a mentor in this great event. And don't worry-- I'm better at navigating a query letter than a round-a-bout. Considerably.
ON THE REBOUND IS NOW AVAILABLE!
Author: Jim Cangany Release Day: January 22, 2016 Genre: Sports Romance Publisher: Penner Publishing
ABOUT JIM CANGANY
Jim Cangany was forty pages into his first manuscript when he realized it was a romance. He went with it and has great joy writing sweet, contemporary love stories. A lover of things that go fast, when Jim’s not writing, you can probably find him checking into the latest from IndyCar or pro bike racing. He lives in Indianapolis with his saint of a wife Nancy, his sons Seamus and Aidan, and the princess of the house, kitty cat Maria
When I started writing, I thought it would go like this:
1. Write a book
2. Sign with agent
3. Agent sells book immediately
4. Stay humble despite success
Yeah. That's not exactly how it goes. Well, not for me anyway. But I'm sure that works out for some people. For most of us, there are several more steps involved-- including a lot of rewriting, editing, handling rejection, trying again, etc. But the most surprising part for me is how often I have to reach out to others because in today's digital world, you are not just an author. Not if you want your books to be read. My original intention on Twitter and Facebook was to connect and get to know people. Fortunately, I've managed that part but it doesn't mean that I like what came next...realizing that I needed to ask for help.
Because, let's be honest, everyone is busy. Despite being on the computer OFTEN, a writer will tell you that it isn't just to write. It's to market, promote, research, edit, learn, read, make connections...there is so much more than writing involved when you work toward publishing a book.
So, my journey looked a little more like this:
1. Write a book
2. Get book rejected several times
3. Try again with a new book
4. Repeat step 2
5. Repeat step 3
6. Get an agent
7. Get a previous manuscript accepted by a publishing house
8. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit.
9. Get ready to promote
10. Try not to be annoying
This is where I'm at. I have three books coming out in the next two months. Two in February and one in March. One is co-authored, a follow up to the Christian romantic suspense I wrote with Kara Leigh Miller. It's called Jaded Love and will be out February 23rd.
Falling for Home is a story I wrote a while back, that I was particularly fond of. It was requested by agents but it wasn't the one that landed me an agent. Still, I found a home for it with Penner Publishing. This releases February 9th.
The March release is called Damaged and also found it's home at Penner Publishing.
With three books coming out so close together, I'd really like to not have people dread seeing or hearing my name. I'd rather have people think things like, "Wow, her book is really good. I should read another" than "$%##, if she tweets/posts/says one more thing about her books I'm going to virtually slap her." I'm sure you can see why I'd favor one over the other.
It was important that I not inundate people with requests and favors but to some extent, I had to. If I don't tell you about my books and you don't tell others...they're just going to be stories my mom and best friend have read. But I cannot have three back to back Facebook parties as promotion. On top of being just too much, I think it would lessen the impact; become redundant or tedious.
But one is alright. If I could plan one successfully and get some other (cooler) authors to pitch in. And therein lies one of the hardest things: asking people you "know" and are "friends" with to help you. Think how hard it is (for some people) to ask for help in real life. A friend of mine recently broke her elbow. I found out almost two weeks later and felt horrible. I asked why she didn't call? Why didn't she ask for help? Because she knew we were busy and didn't want to ask. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO ASK. Though I hope helping me promote my books and get readers isn't as bad as a broken elbow, it's still hard to put yourself out there. Even if you'd do the same for them, it's hard to make that request on someone's time (more if you're asking them to giveaway one of their books).
One little instant message or email after another, I started to ask writers I engage with on Twitter and Facebook if they'd help. My nerves didn't lessen each time I asked. It didn't get easier and my response every single time was something along the lines of "OH MY GOODNESS? SERIOUSLY? YOU'LL HELP ME?" I stopped short of saying WHY would you help me because I didn't want them to rethink it.
But here's what I think. They're helping me in some sense because it will promote their own books-- they'll touch base with readers, tell us about their releases, and maybe do a giveaway which ups their own fan base. I really don't think it's the biggest part though. I think that these people are just kick-ass, over the top awesome. They're nice and they're kind and they're giving because THEY'VE BEEN HERE. I have received countless messages from other authors, answering my questions, helping me, and guiding me. I have laughed with, chatted with, and commiserated with some truly incredible people. People I've never met. Might never get to meet. But these people have had a huge impact on my writing life because they are or were there when I needed them. I can't tell you how much this matters and not just because I don't want to have a Facebook party where I'm all by myself, but because it's a lifeline.
It's not easy to keep going some days (with writing I mean). The waiting involved in this industry is HARD. It makes me think of the book by Dr. Seuss, "Oh the Places you will go". Publishing can feel like The Waiting Place. And it's always nicer to have someone by your side who knows how hard the waiting and wondering can be. Someone who, when you need them to, steps up and says, sure I'll help you. Someone who knows what a celebration it should be that you wrote a book and SOMEONE IS GOING TO PUBLISH IT.
I asked several authors if they'd be willing to join in on the party. MANY said yes or that they'd try. I don't even know why, but instead of questioning why they're willing to take time out of their busy schedules, I'm going to just be extremely grateful. I think the best way to show that is to give back what's meant so much to me. Time. Acceptance. Kind words. Support. It's really hard to put yourself out there, but you don't have to do it alone. Every step of this journey requires bravery. Writing the book. Looking for agents or publishers. Revising. Getting critique partners. Interacting. Asking for help. All of it. But like so many other things in life, it can surprise you and be even more than you hoped for.
If you're around on February 9th, 2016 between 6 pm and 9 pm, come by my release party for Falling for Home on Facebook. You don't even have to dress up and you won't be able to see that I'm in my pajamas. Best kind of party. I am extremely thrilled to say I'll be joined by Amanda Heger, Kara Leigh Miller, Jennifer Blackwood, Shannyn Schroeder, Dawn Ius, Kelly Siskind, Harper St. George, A.J. Pine, Joanne Macgregor, and possibly Carly Phillips and Karma Brown. There'll be some great giveaways and lots of chatting about books, romance, and writing.