For Writers

  • Never give up. Never surrender. Fight for your dream and never take rejections personally. Remember, only you hear those voices in your heart and head, and you owe it to your characters to fight for them. Please don’t give up. If you do, no one else will ever hear those people who live inside you. For their sakes, keep going even after you’re ready to quit.

  • I think Stephen King said it best, you’ll know when you need an agent. That being said, it’s hard in some genres to submit without one. It can be done, but you’ll have a harder time. The only thing I can really say is that agents are like spouses. You’re a team and it’s important that both of you understand and share your vision for your career.

    If you’re having trouble, then fire the agent. I always say that it’s better to have no agent than a bad one. But in the end, it’s up to you. The one thing I would suggest is that you review the website before you sign on with any agency.

  • My agent is Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend one as I’m not up to date on who is currently agenting at other houses. The best thing to do is research agents and pick one you’re comfortable with.

  • That is a personal decision every author has to make for his or her own self. I’ve never self pubbed, but I did sell ebooks. The market for ebooks has exploded and a lot of authors are now choosing to do that.

    Personally, I know how much a publisher puts into an author’s career, and I’d rather write than do their jobs. I think New York is the best, but the final decision is yours. Never let anyone dictate to you how to run your life or your career.

  • Same as any job. You have to finish projects on time. Be willing to work with others. Be flexible and ready to put out fires when they happen. Think fast on your feet. Balance the job with the family. Keep a positive attitude and don’t let the naysayers win. People will always criticize you, no matter what you do. Don’t take it personally.

  • Every book starts differently. For me, it usually starts with a character, but that’s as individual as the writer. The important thing is to start it. Just because it’s written in blood, it’s not carved in stone. You can always go back and rewrite if you don’t like it.

  • Listen to how you and others talk. Make it sounds as natural as a real conversation.

  • That varies by genre and publisher. On average, they’re 100,000 words and if you’re using a Courier 12 pt font, that’s exactly 400 pages. I tend to write much longer books, but everyone’s different. Consult the submission guidelines at the publishing house you’re submitting to.

  • I found mine while reading a Jude Deveraux novel. Something in her style made it finally click for me, and that was after I’d already sold a novel. I honestly don’t know. Just listen to your internal monologue in your head and let it guide you.

  • Everywhere. They fall out of the sky. Really. I was on a shuttle with my crew, coming back from Comic Con New York. Exhausted, I was trying to grab a catnap and paying attention to nothing. All of a sudden… BAM! I had Thorn in my head and I knew everything about him. His past, his presence and the entire book I want to write about him.

    Bubba was born during a conversation with a friend who said that she wanted a computer tech guy she could understand. Someone who spoke slowly and didn’t use tech words she couldn’t understand… BAM! Bubba Burdette was there with the Triple B.

  • The characters. They are always with me and I want to hear them more clearly. Nothing motivates me more than wanting to know how the story ends, wanting to learn more about the people in my head.

  • Not in the beginning of their careers and not much more later on. But that really varies depending on the publisher and your editor. Some will give you more, others not so much. Same is true for titles, and back cover blurs. You will have absolutely no control whatsoever on the format they publish you in, or the price of the book itself. Not unless you self-publish.

  • The steps to publication:

    1. You have to finish the book (this is the hardest part for a beginning writer).

    2. Depending on the genre, you have to find an agent. You find an agent by following the next few steps after number 3.

    3. You study the market and pay attention to the books you read. If you like books from one publisher, then the chances are that’s the publisher you’re going to want to publish with.

    4. You write what’s called a query letter (if you look it up online, you can find tons of examples). I’d post one of mine, but honestly I stink at writing them. It’s usually a one page letter that tells the editor/agent what you’ve written, how long it is, why you think they should publish/represent it, and list all the qualifications you have for writing the book. Then you send that letter or email off to them. You get their addresses from either a writer’s group or you look up their submission guidelines on their websites. Follow those instructions to the exact letter. Do not deviate. They will tell you what they want and how they want it. They’re not joking.

    5. You wait and wait and wait and wait for them to get back to you. If they send a rejection, repeat the steps above until you get a yes.

    It can take an editor months, even years, to get back to you. The reason is, they are swamped. In addition to your manuscript, they have books that they’re editing that are in various stages of completion and publication, which I’ll explain below.

    If you don’t have an agent, your manuscript is put into a slush pile with all the other unknown writers. Most editors only read from the slush pile one day a month. They read as many as they can. Hopefully, they’ll get to yours, but most likely they won’t. If you’re agented, it still doesn’t mean they’ll get to you faster. Sometimes they do. Sometimes not.

    Let’s say that they do get to yours and they love it. The editor may need to get another opinion on the book, which can take weeks. Either way, the editor then takes the book to marketing to see if they think it has potential. If marketing approves, they call you to make an offer.

    6. While you wait, educate yourself on publishing law and contracts by reading publishing law and contract books. Even the best agent in the world will miss something from time to time, and no one will ever put as much into your career as you do. So you owe it to yourself to understand contracts as they will control the rest of your publishing life.

    7. When they call with an offer, take down their contact information and the terms they’re offering. DO NOT SAY YES! You sill be so excited, you have no idea what they’re saying or how it will affect you. Tell them, Thank you. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Let me look over this and I’ll get back to you.” Memorize that until it’s rote.

    Hang up and scream. Call your friends and family. Celebrate and then look over the terms once you’re calm.

    8. That first offer can be for as little as $500 (that’s what I received for my first book) or, if you’re really lucky, as much as $10,000. On rare occasions it’s more. But before you run out to spend it, remember you won’t get it in one lump sum. It can be spread out over years. Not to mention, Uncle Sam can take as much as half of it and your agent will take 15-20%. Most advertising for that book will also come out of your pocket.

    Most writers get paid in 3-5 payments. Payment 1 is due on signing the contract (which can take as long as two years to finalize- yes, it’s happened to me. Normally it’s 4-16 weeks). Payment 2 is due when they accept the manuscript. That means that the editor has read it, then given you his or her comments on how to improve it. You work on it and then resend it to them. They read it again and if they don’t send it back again, they accept it. This can take a few weeks, but more likely a few months and as much as two years, too. Payment 3 comes after the book is published- usually 3-4 weeks once the book is on the shelf. This is the quickest one. So a three payment contract, even if it’s $10,000 can take as long as three to four years to get. Not a lot of money. Most of the time it’s two years.

    The money you receive up front is called an advance. You won’t get anymore money unless you earn that back in sales. Remember, you only make about fifty cents a book, so you have to sell approximately 20,000 books to make that back. Sounds easy, right?

    If only. First time print runs are usually around 10,000-15,000 copies which is why first time advances tend to be low, and most writers sell half of the books sent to the store. So in reality, a first time book will only earn $2500-$3750 for a first time book and your agent and Uncle Sam will take a big cut of that. I don’t want to scare you off, but I want you to be prepared for the reality of publishing. This is the cold hard truth.

    The way print runs are set is that the publisher sends out their sales force to take orders from bookstores and other accounts that carry books. Those orders are what determine your print run. The publisher will then print 2-5% more than what was ordered so that if an account needs more books they can send them right away.

    But I digress. If you have a larger advance or you sell hardcover, then the additional payments usually are: Payment 4 when the paperback comes out (usually one year after the hardcover) and Payment 5 is six months later.

    If you don’t earn back your advance, it’s often the end of your career. Sometimes publishers will try with another book. But they won’t keep you long if your numbers don’t grow. Like any business, they can’t take a financial loss and still function.

    9. Once the contract is negotiated and signed, which takes a few weeks to a few months, your assigned editor (normally the one who bought you) will then read the manuscript and make notes on it. It will be sent to you with a letter, detailing the corrections and changes the editor wants. They will give you a couple of weeks or months to do them.

    10. You hand the book in again.

    11. The editor reads is again. Sometimes there are more corrections or changes. Usually there isn’t. If there’s not, the editor sends in a request for author payment. BTW, if you have an agent, that payment is sent to them and they have to process it and then send you your portion of it which is one of the reasons it can take awhile to get a check. No one rushes your check through the system. There’s a joke in the business that most writers can write a book before a publisher can write a check.

    12. The editor then sends the book to a copy editor who reads it and looks for inconsistencies, and grammar mistakes that you and your editor have missed.

    13. Your editor has meetings with Art, Sales and Marketing to discuss the cover and how best to advertise and sell the book. They decide on the title. You will most likely never get to name a book. Sometimes it happens, but it is rare. Titles are assigned by the editor and/or marketing. Covers are decided by the editor and/or art. You *might* be consulted about either or both. Maybe. Even if it’s in your contract that they consult you about the cover, it doesn’t mean they will.

    The cover will be sent to you. If they want your opinion, they will ask for it. They might listen and change it, but most times they won’t. At least not until you’re much further along in your career.

    The same is true of the write up on the back and the title.

    14. Once the copy editor has finished, you will be sent their comments and you will have to answer each and every query they’ve made. Some you will agree with, others will send you off into a Hulk style rage.

    Yes, there are some copy editors who are incredible. Barbara who does my Dark-Hunter novels is a godsend- those are rare. Most will make you insane. I’m not sure how publishers hire CE’s, but some really shouldn’t be editing. I’ve had them insert mistakes into my books such as one who removed all the hyphens out of Dark-Hunter. She even removed it from the website address One took my pass code 6-6-0-5-0-3-1 and wrote it out. So the computer says, “Password?” and the hero answers, “Six million, six hundred and five thousand and thirty one.” Huh? Who talks like that? And yes, in spite of my telling them I wanted it taken it, the book was printed with that and I now look like an idiot.

    You have a 50-50 chance that your corrections will be taken. And you are the one who will have to bear the angry and indignant letters from readers who think you’re stupid or that you didn’t do your research.

    Some CE’s will go off on you and give you lectures. Most of the time when they do, it will be because they are the ones in error and yet they think they’re experts. I once had a CE tell me I knew nothing about Atlanta. Kind of interesting since I grew up there and all of my family still lives there. My favorite was the one who told me the way I described the actual car I drove was wrong and that my car didn’t have the factory features my car had. I could go on all day.

    What will really make you crazy is that they often lecture on inconsequential matters and then let something major slip through their fingers. My favorite of all time was a book where I had a shapeshifter fighting the entire scene as a wolf. Then in the next paragraph, I had the comment that it was a shame he couldn’t take wolf form to fight. Er? Still not sure where my head was and how I missed it in my edits. But I felt better since the CE had missed it, too. Had I not caught it in galley form, it would have gone to press that way. Scary, right?

    15. Once you’ve had a stroke and vented, and finished answering every query, you’ll send it back in to the publisher. Your editor and the production manager will then review it and make the changes (they also review the CE’s comments before you see them).

    16. They will then put it into production. This is where the manuscript is formatted and laid out like it’s a book.

    17. You will next receive what’s called a galley. These are the actual pages that will be bound into a book. And this is your last chance to make changes. But, you can’t make too many. Only those that are absolutely necessary as each change costs the publisher a lot of money. Your corrections are made with a colored pencil. Your editor will also review a set of galleys. Many authors will photocopy these pages and send them out to reviewers for advance comments. Sometimes the publisher will bind them into what’s called Advance Reader’s Copies (ARCs) or Review Galleys, and send them off to reviewers.

    Once you’re finished, the original galley set, along with the style sheet that lists how things are to be formatted in the book and the characters who appear in it, are returned.

    Your editor and the production manager will then be given a final set to review. You will not see the book again until it’s published. If you’re lucky, your editor will send you a copy as soon as it’s off the presses. You will dance and shout, and hold your baby for the first time.

    18. Behind the scenes, your book is being boxed and then shipped to stores and warehouses. The electronic files are being converted and formatted into e-books.

    19. Congrats, you’re now a published author. And with luck, you’ll be writing your next novel (which you probably started the minute you handed the first one in).

    20. Once you’re further along in your career, you’ll be sent on tours. Though those are getting rarer and rarer, and may cease altogether if e-books take over the market, and as more and more bookstores close.

    And in a nutshell, that’s how it all basically works.

  • My experience was so long ago, it no longer applies. Back before the internet, we had to call the publishers in New York to find out where to send materials.

    The easiest thing to do today is to find a writer’s group and join it. They can give you all kinds of support and advice.

    If you don’t want to do that, then visit the publisher’s website. Almost all of them have a submission guideline page that tells you how to submit your work to them.

  • Absolutely. In the modern world, we are all constantly writing, whether it’s texting, posting, or emailing. Writing is a vital part of everyday life, and it keeps us from looking or feeling stupid. You have to know how to construct proper sentences, convey feelings, and punctuate appropriately. After all, there’s a big difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma.” and “Let’s eat Grandma.”

  • The one that you enjoy that will give you the highest GPA possible for graduation. Seriously. Nothing will make you more miserable than taking classes you hate and it will show in your grades. I personally think that the classes that helped me most in college were psychology and philosophy because they taught me how to express myself in words and how to understand people and their motivations.

    But, I was a history and classics major, and I use those every day in my books, too. I wanted to major in Creative Writing, but the professor in charge of that program wouldn’t let me in. I tried three times and on the third attempt, she asked me not to apply again as I didn’t write well enough to be in the program and that the slots in it were reserved for students who had a future in publishing. I couldn’t get into journalism because they had a typing requirement I couldn’t pass.

    Meanwhile, I know a number of bestselling authors who didn’t go to college at all. In the end, the decision is up to you. Good luck!

  • Yes. The one that accepts you that you like. Colleges are a very personal decision and you get out of them what you put into them. The best advice I can give is to visit the college you’re interested in and meet the professors in whatever major you think you’re going to have. Nothing will ruin your grades or your future faster than a personality conflict with a professor who teaches required classes. That can make you miserable. Other than that, it really doesn’t matter where you go.

  • That’s entirely up to you. I’ve been in many, and I’ve had critique partners. Whatever you decide, just make sure that the person reading it isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, that they read and like the genre you’re writing in, and that they’re not overly harsh. You need a comfortable relationship with your CP or CG.

  • I wish I could say yes, but unfortunately I can’t. It’s that whole bad apple thing. Due to legal reasons, I’m unable to read any fanfiction, story ideas, or unpublished works. Sorry. The best thing to do is join a writer’s group where they offer those services.

  • Like all jobs, it varies greatly. Some only make a few hundred dollars a year, others make millions. But the cold hard fact is this, less than 10% of all writers make enough to support themselves, never mind support a family. Only 2% will ever get rich from it. Most earn a salary around ten to twenty thousand a year. That being said, you also have to remember that Uncle Sam will take half of everything you earn for taxes and your agent will take another 15-20% and you only earn 6-8% of the cover price (less on international or club sales). So on a typical $7.99 mass market paperback novel, the author only clears 25 CENTS a copy after taxes and agent. No lie. I swear this to you. On a $25.99 hardcover, an author makes only a dollar a copy. Now, out of that quarter or dollar made per book, the author has to pay for all their own publicity such as bookmarks, buttons, mailers, website, travel, etc.

  • Working for the paper or yearbook will teach you to meet deadlines and write on multiple projects. Sociology will teach you about people, and that’s the most important thing. You have to know people in order to write them. Likewise, history helps you to know people and to understand cause and effect. But as with all things, it depends more on who is teaching it than it does on the subject matter. All classes teach invaluable lessons that you can use in later works. Yes, even math and science. Remember, it was working for a paper and talking to my mythology professor that led me to my Dark-Hunter world.

  • Dianna Love’s Break Into Fiction. Also check out the Writer’s Digest website. They have tons and tons of helpful books on every writing topic imaginable.

  • I don’t. The characters name themselves. But I know a lot of writers who use phone books, internet searches or… shameless self promotion, my Character-Naming Sourcebook :)

  • Whenever I think the plot is lagging, I either shoot someone or blow something up. Seriously. It’s hard to be boring when you’re running from a soul sucking demon armed with dynamite and a death wish.

  • The one that won’t let you sleep at night is the one you have to write. At least that’s how I decide between them.

  • I really don’t get the dreaded WB, but I do occasionally write myself into a corner. What that means is that I want to do something, but the rules of my world won’t let me. When that happens, I walk a circle in my living room or go to the gym. Whenever I take a step back and just let the characters run around my head without any real distraction, I can figure it out and get back on track.

  • Not in the beginning of their careers and not much more later on. But that really varies depending on the publisher and your editor. Some will give you more, others not so much. Same is true for titles, and back cover blurbs. You will have absolutely no control whatsoever on the format they publish you in, when they publish it, or the price of the book itself. Not unless you self-publish.

  • What writers influence your writing? That is probably one of the most commonly asked questions that always baffles me because when I ask for clarification, the interviewer always wants to know what fiction authors made a difference in my work.

    The answer is simple. None.

    While I’ve read fiction all my life, none of them have ever made a difference in my writing in any way. I’ve never tried to mimic anything about them, never wrote fan fiction (most of my friends have– but I’d rather play in my own worlds), and even though their characters and books have stayed with me and lived in my heart alongside my own, they’ve never held any kind of influence over me. Yes, I’ve admired the beauty of how Oscar Wilde and Chaucer, as well as countless others turn a phrase, but that’s their style and while I love and admire it, it’s not my style or my characters’. Writing for me wasn’t like art where I studied another artist and tried to duplicate their expertise. I give other authors their due while I continue on my own by doing things, right or wrong, my way.

    But as I was doing an interview earlier today, I realized something. There are actually writers whose works have influenced my writing. But not the way most people think. Since the day I discovered Descartes’s Passions of the Soul in sixth grade (I really was a precocious little monkey), I became enamored of philosophy, and, more importantly, philosophers. No, I didn’t understand everything back then, I was way too young, but I kept returning to those books and mulling their words, gaining more insight and understanding with every reread.

    Over the years, I didn’t absorb and believe all their theories. Some of them just don’t work for my own philosophy and ethics (Rand jumps immediately to mind), but others such as Hobbes, Plato, Kant, Kierkegaard, etc. appealed to me at my most fundamental level. More than that, they taught me to think and to evaluate human behavior for myself. I went from philosophy to psychology where I explored Jung, Pavlov, Skinner and countless others. That ability to understand the complexities, duality and most importantly the dichotomy of human behavior has influenced my writing heavily because it has influenced my cognition and forced me to evaluate every aspect of not just me, but every character I create.

    Another great influence on my writing was a paper I wrote in college. My dissertation was simple and yet extremely complex. It was that human personality and individuality are defined not by our consistencies, but by our inconsistencies. Those weird quirks we all have- some for a reason and some simply innate. That is the cornerstone of humanity. And that is what I use in my writing.

    Each and every book, each and every character, for me, is an exploration of the various, and often opposing, philosophies and theories I was exposed to by those writers. Without their work, mine would not be the same and so I guess in the future, I need a new answer whenever an interviewer wants to know what writers have influenced me.

    The only problem now is figuring out the ones who made the most impact. Hmm… maybe I should say Homer and Hesiod, and of course, Plato… definitely Plato :)

  • First, MAJOR congratulations! BIG HUGS! The best thing to do is to have your editor or agent contact my agent Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group. Robert will then give them information on where to send it. If I have time in my schedule, I will read your book and quote it. But please be aware that I have an extremely tight schedule. In addition to writing 4-6 books a year, I also have three children at home and I travel extensively throughout the year to meet as many fans as I can. To say I don’t have a lot of free time is a major understatement. Not to mention, we get a lot of books/manuscripts each week from authors wanting quotes.

    However, there is nothing I love more than helping out fellow writers. So I will definitely do my best to try and read it and quote it. I only ask that you be very understanding if I can’t work it into my schedule. And if you don’t get a quote for this book, then please send the next one, and as early as possible to give me time to get to it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to quote that one.

    Good luck with your book. I hope you land high on all the bestseller lists!

  • One of the many writing questions I get asked a lot is about the length of a manuscript. It really depends on the genre… But on average, a novel should be between 340-400 double spaced pages (using a 12 pt) Courier or similar monospaced slab serif typeface.

    Huh? A what? A monospaced slab serif typeface is a block type where every letter takes up the same amount of space on the page, and it’s considered the industry standard for novels and screenplays. Courier is the most commonly used, but others have been known to use Arial, Helvetica, etc. I’m old school, so for me, it’s Courier.

    Now that being said, you seldom see a publisher say 340-400 pages. Instead, you’re normally given a word count: 85,000-100,000 words which happens to be 340-400 typed pages. This is done because if you write a lot of dialogue, you’ll need more pages to make up that word count. The word count is traditionally done assuming that there are 250 words per page and you multiply that by the final page count.

    As a rule, publishers usually prefer a smaller book to the larger, especially if you’re a beginning writer. They really don’t want to see anything over 105,000 words (420 pages). And have been known to get extremely cranky at long books due to the much higher cost of printing and shipping them.

    How do I know? I make all of my publishers really cranky… a lot, LOL. I can’t seem to bring a book in that small no matter how hard I try. In the beginning of my career, my manuscripts fell between 112,500-125,000 words. Then enter Night Embrace which came in at a staggering 212,500 words (853 pages). Yeah, my editor had conniptions and I was forced to take out almost 200 pages which still made it a whopper of a book. Luckily, I was able to use those pages in other books that came down the pike, such as Seize the Night, Night Play and Dance With The Devil.

    Nowadays, my books are much longer than what they were in the beginning. And luckily, my publishers, while still cranky, are much more tolerant of it. Most of my books are in the 127,500-150,000 range. Acheron, of course, is the granddaddy that came in at a staggering 275,000 words… the length of three full novels. There was a lot of story to tell with that one. Bad Moon Rising was 175,000, Born of Night 190,000, Born of Fire 184,000, No Mercy 163,000, Retribution 148,000, and Born of Silence 183,000.

    So what determines the length? For me, it’s always the story. I don’t believe in adding extra scenes or “filler” to any book. My personal belief is that those scenes detract from the story and are noticeable when added. Every scene should be pertinent to the story being told or it’s removed. I use whatever page count it takes to get from beginning to middle to end, and as you can see from the above, it varies greatly book to book. I never know final word count until I hit it at the end of the project, and I don’t worry about word count. That is the blessing of being where I am in my career. This doesn’t mean I’m not edited. I have more editors now than I did in the beginning. But editing always adds additional pages to every novel. What it means is that I’m no longer asked to cut scenes or pages from a book. Yaah!

    That being said, I will on occasion add a “bonus” scene. These are scenes that don’t fit into any one book because they don’t pertain directly to that storyline, yet I know the readers will want to see them in print and I need them for the overall series arc. Cases in point: Xedrix and Simi meeting for the first time. Ash in the graveyard. The extra scene at the end of Retribution. But I don’t count those as part of the word count for the book. Those are fun vignettes for the readers and fans to enjoy.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking. Ash was a big book, but it wasn’t 1100 pages in book form. What happened to the extra pages? They are still in the book. Believe me, I checked, LOL. I’ll be honest, it astonishes me to hand in a ream and a half of paper and then get back the galleys (the printed form of the book that is bound) and see it reduced to 450-500 book pages. I always have a degree of heart failure and have to verify that no one left a chapter out (which actually has happened before… and more than once).

    Printed novel length has no bearing on the length of a manuscript. If you’ve ever played with the Make It Fit feature in Word, then you know what I’m talking about. You can play with font size to get 4 pages onto 2, and that’s what they do with novels. Mostly, they do it to keep cost down so that the price of the books is cheaper for y’all. Believe it or not, publishers keep readers in mind all the time and do everything they can to keep the cost down so that they can pass those savings along to you. It’s why hardbacks are always reduced the first few weeks of publication. If you buy a book the first two weeks it’s out, you can get it at 30-40% off the cover price– courtesy of the publisher.

    So I hope that alleviates some of the mystery of how many pages you need to aim for when drafting your novel. Good luck with it!