An Enchanted Life

Don't let the title of this post fool you -  life as I know it, is definitely NOT enchanted in some magical ethereal way, it's just that I now live in the Land of Enchantment, aka New Mexico.  

To avoid falling into an abyss, I took a big leap across a huge crevice... and landed here.
I am simply doing what needs to be done, to get to a better place in life.

No more chickens and homesteading dreams -they'll be in the drawer for a while. 


I have to come up with a completely new direction for my new life situation. 
From here, I’m pretty sure it’s all uphill, but at least that means I can’t get any further down. 

Speaking of down, as I write this, I'm looking out over a deep gorge that splits the town in two. The ridges are lined with steep crags that go deep into the gorge. 
A rough trail shaded by pines cuts into it, about halfway down to the narrow gorge floor. (See it there on the right?)

It's breathtaking. The sun rises on the east side and sets on the west, throwing light and shadow across the ridges and rock outcroppings, and it can fill up with a misty fog - or snow, falling so thick you can’t see the other side. 

Even standing in the same place, there is always something new and awesome to see.....
It's all rough, and untamed. 
AND BIGGER THAN YOU.
It's a good place to regain perspective of your place in the world. 
(Speaking from experience, if you live in a fast-paced, crowded, megalopolis -or in southern California- you may not understand you even lost perspective until you get out...)

Anywhere in the southwest is a great place to imagine life back in the 1880's - when they were first trying to tame it. 

Remember when Westerns (movies, television shows- and books).... were dead? 
LOLOL
Like a zombie, they will NEVER die out completely.
                             (And neither will pirates).

‘MUSTANG’ is my first western novel. It is currently languishing, waiting for its final edit.   

Meantime, I’m working to get my "story picturebook" published. I still need a good pirate captain name, but "Cove of the Golden Mist" is good to go (to an agent).

First I have to find agents (or publishing houses) to query...and then hone it directly to them individually.

*A query letter is a sales pitch of sorts, a ONE PAGE descriptive letter with three concise paragraphs outlining the: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and the author’s bio (if you have anything to give you creds). 

I can’t think of anything harder to write than that. (Except maybe a resume’.)

Wannabe authors (like me) have to become expert on writing query letters and professionally submitting them. That means you have to understand how the publishing business works first.

It helps to have an agent - they will approach publishers on your behalf; they make you ‘legit’ in the publishing world. Their representation of you/your work is proof than not just yourself thinks you can write something worth reading.

But to get one (after you’ve written something worth reading), you have to really study up on each individual agent before submitting to them.
Agents specialize in the kinds of books THEY LIKE. 
Or perhaps what the publishing house they work for, wants. Maybe in line with popular trends.
Research takes time, and so does writing out a query that matches each agent.

Over 100 email queries are received by the more popular agents every day. So, you want to see the agents’ "published author list" (called annual "book acquisition lists") to see how busy/popular they are.

And agents have different rules for different things- not just for the query, (length, by e-mail only, what format, etc...) but whether you submit multiple queries to multiple agents and whether or not to tell them if you do... 
Yep, another thing to research! 

I used to think writing was the hard part. It used to be that's all that was required...
  
Advice on querying, from agentquery.com:
"Start with Dear Ms. Agent: and then vomit right into your query letter."

Yeah, it's like that.

I could query directly to a publisher/publishing house. They have staff to read for them first, but they also have what's known as a 'slush pile' - for any queries that don't immediately grab their attention.

But, not all publishers will accept an "unagented" author.
Especially for their first 'breakout' work.

And publishers have a similar set of rules as agents. This is the standard for submissions (from writing-world.com  -children/FAQ):

"Request guidelines (send a self-addressed stamped envelope) or research the publisher to find out the projected turn-around time. If that time has passed and you still haven't heard from the house, you can try the following: send a self-addressed stamped postcard or envelope with a note asking whether or not the manuscript is still under consideration.
... If you receive no reply or if you are told something vague, you are free to send the manuscript elsewhere. It's probably a good idea to alert the publisher that you are withdrawing your manuscript, or that you are now going to submit it to another house."

Then once you vomit, um, submit, you have to wait! Sit on your hands move on to the next writing project.

I’ve heard that releasing your novel is like letting go of the apron strings of your children.
It’s out of your hands at that point, all you can do is see if it will fly on it’s own merits.

Publishers (or agents) might claim to have a” turn-around time” (answer you) of thirty days, but three months is normal and four is not unheard of.


That's a lonnnnnnnnng time to sit on your hands/wring your hands. Maybe that's what starts authors on drinking binges and gave them the reputation of being nervous wrecks.

The entire process takes soooooooo long. 
Life is short, it's better to let it go, refocus on the next thing! (Maybe get out some...)

It's normal to want to hang on to things, but sometimes it's just time to let go.

LET IT GO   (a ballad that's pretty cool)

Oh, and  if you sell a book today, that book will not be on the shelves for at least a year.
You get to keep an advance no matter what - but you will not receive royalties afterward, if that advance doesn't "earn out". If you don’t sell enough to cover it. 
Royalty checks arrive every six months after publication, if it is a popular book and continues selling.

And even though children's book sales are shooting thru the roof these days, the picture book market is really, really, really (seriously) tough.

*Inserting a statement  of children’s book sales STATS.... 
publishersweekly.com/ shows that (as of  2015), children’s book sales were up 12.6%. Some of this growth is the recent boom in coloring books for adults (in the U.S. they are coded as children’s books - but they are supposed to be fixing that to help publishers target the true areas of growth).
Still, print sales of adult fiction and nonfiction have dropped, and even e-books are actually down 14%-- while the juvenile market has grown 40% in the last decade.  

The best part of their info, at least as far as I’m concerned: Kids ages 5-8 “are the most important group in terms of market share“.

Hmm, do you think it’s BECAUSE CHILDREN LIKE TO HOLD ACTUAL BOOKS?

 Kristen McLean, director of new business development at Nielsen Book says:
 “Children’s books are holding up the U.S. book market right now."

 Of course, that could be because of the adult coloring books - right?

And there is this to consider - from an interview with children's book agent Andrea Brown:
"To publish a competitive picture book and charge $18 for it, editors want art that is museum quality...”

                                      best attempt -- "museum quality art" -- by me

Some publishers won’t even accept submissions of any children’s book that ISN’T illustrated by the author. Who has time for all that work?!?

Oh, well, someone like this guy I guess... (A FABULOUS PIECE OF WORK!)
  
But he's a graphic artist for a living. 

And notice he says it would cost $60 to print each book.

I guess that’s why so many kids books now have cartoon style watercolor (what I consider watered-down) illustrations.

A picture book is about a $50,000 investment for a publisher -so you have to ask yourself:
“Is this a $50,000 story?”

That $50,000 covers the author’s advance, the illustrator’s advance, (illustrator usually gets 60% and author 40%, when it comes to picture books.

So, an author should expect to share a great portion of the profit with the illustrator.

Or illustrate it yourself.
With museum quality art.
                      -haha, my first pirate scene (on a canvas tote for a 7 year-old).
Please don't look too closely at the pirate's face, lol! 
Actually, if you did, you'd understand why exactly, I am NOT going to try to illustrate any people in a book! 

Picture books cost a lot because they’re usually hard cover and need art for every page. This isn't exact, but it's relevant knowledge.

My book is NOT a picture book PER SE, but a "STORY PICTUREBOOK", which means a picture on every OTHER page... 

(It is a 2-chapter plot-based heroic quest fantasy-adventure story, just over 6100 words. With illustrations on every other page, it runs 38 pages, written for readers aged 7-11.)
So, a $25k publisher's investment?

I think the time investment to illustrate it is worth it but I've painted a couple of dragons, and many horses, and I don't want to paint pirates, ships, castles, knights... people portraits are just too complex!

Maybe I could do a pirate ship's powder monkey. 

Or the pirate crew's pet tarantula, tortoise, or shrew....

(Slapping forehead like I could've had a V-8. Or maybe a strawberry margarita.... my current painting projects are all roosters!)
NO! I can't just start pirate themed work in the middle of this -  roosters must come first. That's just the way it is.

Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates:
“...kids love old-fashioned storytelling...everyone wants to find a beautifully crafted book that packs a moral and emotional punch."

InfoTrends data revealed that the juvenile book market is one of the fastest changing segments in the [publishing] industry, as well as one of the most lucrative.

A website, or a blog for it, or the topic, to generate interest and interaction from readers is the least that is expected.
But that takes research, time investment (ON A CONTINUAL BASIS) & talent too.

 ♥ If you’re still reading this, then you must really love me, lol.  And I love you, too. 

Make of all that what you will.

From an article I read about rejection letters:
One writer papered her powder room with rejection letters.
How apropos, lol!

Does it still sound romantic to be a writer?  


The only Enchanted Life in a writers world is the one they create on paper

I bet ya still wannabe one.





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