Surviving Rejections from Literary Agents

Man, it hasn’t been easy but I’m taking all these rejections in stride. I’ve pitched my novel since early April of this year to at least 10 agent/agencies with answer ranging from, “your word count is too low,” which pushed me to enhance the story further to now, “I love parts of your story but I’m not the best fit…but keep going.”

I know that the last part is supposed to be encouraging, give me hope still that someone will pick my baby up but honestly, it’s giving me more motivation to move mountains on my own. I don’t feel like the answer is to self-publish, because I know this story resonates with a lot of women around the world. How do I know that? Because I’ve been asking women all over the world to read my book and they tell me so.

So yeah, I have taken a temp on my work and everyone who reads it, who isn’t in the professional world of literature seems to dig it. And there lies the problem; I need people in the literary arena to give her a chance to breath life, trust the vision, and guide me in ways to bring it all the way home if it’s not completely there.

I need to get this book out to a larger audience, to let women know of all types, especially black women, that our sexuality and preferences matter as much as men and we have to learn how to explore it in our own way. Not as we’ve learn, as we feel. Living our true nature, not this domesticated lifestyle. Isn’t that what being a true romance author is all about–telling the stories that bring not just love but self-assurance and joy into the lives of our readers.

I believe in my message and the words that surround it. My team, my family, my readers, and my followers feel the same too, so as much as rejection sucks, it’s inspiring me to keep it pushing. I’ve got to knock out the next novella and let the world decide.

I’ll hold on my novel for a while longer because I know the right agent is out there, but I hope we can connect soon because it’s starting to feel like I’m holding a firecracker in my pocket. Conversations around me hit on my storyline and women want to connect now about their feelings and thoughts.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner and I plan to tighten up and complete Untraditional II so I can give women another outlet for their curiosity and sexual evolution. It’ll be a great distraction from the “No but keep going” comments. Even as I look back now, I remember thinking that I had some extremely outrageous goals for my fiction writing career, but something is telling me that it’s in reach. I just have to stay focus and resilient.

I challenge you all to do the same, my passion-fy family! If living your passion was easy, everyone would do it in a heartbeat. But when your passion is truly your purpose, you couldn’t jump off the train even if it stopped.

Let’s get it! Choo Choo (if that was corny I don’t care because I’ve earned my nerd badge damnit)!

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4 Things to Know When You Attend a Book Pitching Event

I attended my first Black Writers Weekend in Atlanta this past June and all I can say is that it was incredibly dope. And for two reason; first I was able to pitch my third manuscript to a group of women who are experts in the writing arena (one who was a literary agent on my current pitching list); and secondly, I jumped on a last minute opportunity to sell my babies and connect with other authors from around Atlanta.

For this post, I’ll focus on the event that had me shook — pitching my book…verbally. When I first learned of this opportunity, I was scared out of my mind. There is just something about the unknown that is horrifying and not truly understanding how it would be to say a pitch about my book out loud to experts in the industry, blew my mind and confidence.

Thank God I have a dope network of sister/friends around me to keep me focused and challenge my fears. So through all of the unknowns, I signed up for the event and began preparing weeks out for p-day. There were so many things that I learned through both the prep and the post of the event that I have to share them with you all. These four nuggets set me up for success and I want you to make sure you’re ready for your opportunity too.

Watch behind the scenes video of the emotional roller coaster I went on preparing for this event on Patreon. Subscribe today for more exclusive passion-fy content.

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4 Tips You Should Know Before Pitching your Book

Pitch an unpublished book. This is a point that unfortunately most of my colleagues did not think about prior to the event. Let this be the moment that you decided to get out there and connect with others in the world of writing because if I had not been told by another author not to push any of my current public babies, I would have fallen in with the others. One of the tips that the group of experts gave us prior to pouring our hearts out about our novels, was that it’s a lot harder for a publisher to pick up an author who has already introduced the book to the public. Yes, you read that right, I did say harder and not impossible, but just think about whether you would rather take a car up the mountain or walk that sucker.

Perfect your portfolio. For most pitching events, you will need certain printed material to support your words. For the Dope Reads pitching event that I attended, I had to have an author resume (I used my media kit), the book synopsis, and the first three polished chapters. I also included my business card too, so they could see how serious I am about this #writerlife. Once it was my turn to present, they all had materials to take back with them, which was more than others had at the event.

Hone your pitch. Doing all that prep work with the synopsis and fine-tuning your first three chapters will get your mind moving about how to describe your book. What you want to do is nail it down to a two- to five-minute elevator pitch. Highlight your key characters and the conflict (but don’t give away the ending), know and say your word count (they don’t care about how many pages, it’s all about how your word count fits your genre), describe who your book could sit next to, and what trope your novel falls into, particularly if it’s one that is pertinent to society right now. Then practice it out loud over and over again. Want to really test your pitch? Tell it to a stranger and see if they’re interested.

Be confident about your work and who you are as a writer. It’s tough when you get into a room and see a bunch of authors working toward the same exact step as you. You may start wondering what makes you different? Why your book and not theirs?  But don’t start comparing your words to theirs. Your story is one that can only be told by you. It’s like having a superpower; you’re the only one who can control it and use it for good. Be proud of your work and how far you’ve come, then go shine like the sun is counting on you.

If you cover these four points, you will be ready to knock that pitch out of the park (see what I did there). If there is one thing you get from this post, let it be that if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. Opportunity is coming.

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Hard Facts about Being an African American Romance Writer

I read an article today that resonates so well with my writing journey that I have to share it, vlog it, and just sit on it for a moment.

It’s a #Longread from the Guardian title “Fifty Shade of White: the long fight against racism in romance novels“. The writer of this piece, Lois Beckett, dives right into the past and current issues with romance writers of color; it’s hard to break through when the industry is slow to see that change it needs.

As it stands, when it comes to the Rita Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the romance industry given by RWA (Romance Writers of America), there has never been a black winner, like ever. The first official RWA meeting occurred Dec. 1980 – yep not one winner for the past 40 years. But to be honest, as a black woman, I’m not shocked. I grew up watching black romance books being separated from all the others to fall into an Urban Romance category. Segregation comes in many forms, and that my friend, is one of them. I remember never being able to find them, they were always tucked somewhere in the back, as if a white woman with a flowing dress falling off of her shoulders with a guy raising her leg was so much more sophisticated than a black woman’s eyes or lips.

It was then that I picked up my first Zane book and got lost between the pages. Her words reminded me that the black POV of love and lust were different but still viable for all that read it. Zane inspired me to write my own romance stories, using imagery and words that resonated with my generation and my friends. She gave me the courage to go about this writing journey in my own way.

Fast forward to now, as I continue to push my own voice through my writing and pitch an African American romance, women’s fiction, upmarket/commercial erotic fiction book (it may fall into to some other categories but I didn’t want to go overboard), I’m wondering if there will be a delay in understanding the worth and message behind my words. My romance looks and reads differently, but it feels as good as other romance stories. Can a predominately white industry recognize its value? It’s in Beckett’s article that I find some hope that it will. I just pray that it’s sooner than later…I’m so ready to take this passion on full-time.

Here’s an excerpt from Beckett’s article:

For all this diversity of genre, the romance industry itself has remained overwhelming white, as have the industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony, the Ritas, which are presented each year by the RWA. Just like the Oscars in film, a Rita award is the highest honour a romance author can receive, and winning can mean not only higher sales, but also lasting recognition from peers. And just like the Oscars, the Ritas have become the centre of controversy over unacknowledged racism and bias in the judging process.

Last year, however, many observers felt that this was sure to change. One of the standout novels of 2017 had been Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, an interracial romance set during the civil war. The book had already won a number of awards and made multiple best-of-the-year lists.

When the Rita awards finalists were announced in March 2018, An Extraordinary Union was nowhere to be seen. A novel rated exceptional by critics had been not even been deemed as noteworthy by an anonymous judging panel of Cole’s fellow romance writers. The books that had beat Cole as finalists in the best short historical romance category were all by white women, all but one set in 19th-century Britain, featuring white women who fall in love with aristocrats. The heroes were, respectively, one “rogue”, two dukes, two lords and an earl.

What followed, on Twitter, was an outpouring of grief and frustration from black authors and other authors of colour, describing the racism they had faced again and again in the romance industry. They talked about white editors assuming black writers were aspiring authors, even after they had published dozens of books; about white authors getting up from a table at the annual conference when a black author came to sit down; about constant questions from editors and agents about whether black or Asian or Spanish-speaking characters could really be “relatable” enough.

Then, of course, there were the readers. “People say: ‘Well, I can’t relate,’” Jenkins told NPR a few years ago, after watching white readers simply walk past her table at a book signing. “You can relate to shapeshifters, you can relate to vampires, you can relate to werewolves, but you can’t relate to a story written by and about black Americans?”

Read the full article.

 

Take a NaNoWriMo Break with Me!

Sometimes you literally have to stop and smell the roses or take in the sunrise, or people watch in the city, or whatever musing fits your mood.

Life doesn’t stop moving but we can take a moment, or two, to take it all in. Musing for me is much like meditating and reflection. I’m able to breathe in where I am or where I’m going and exhale where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. I analyze what I see and how it may or may not affect me and I reflect on what I’ve seen and how different things are now.

On my channel, I’m putting together several moments of musing where I hope you can stop and enjoy the view with me.

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I know we are on Day 14 of NaNoWriMo, and you have a word count to hit but why don’t you take a moment to muse just a little bit. Step outside, look out the window or click on the video above. Take it all in to get even more creativity out.

With passion,

DNC