Guest Post: Multi-Published Author Cathy Lamb’s Publishing Advice for Aspiring Authors

Grab a cuppa and settle in. Today, multi-published women’s fiction author, Cathy Lamb, shares her personal publishing story as well as some unconventional advice for aspiring authors.

Cathy Lamb is the author of nine novels. NINE! (And she’s working on number ten! Yay!) She has been one of my favorite authors since the day a friend handed me Henry’s Sisters. I was hooked. I’ve read all of Cathy’s books and recently finished What I Remember Most, a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of resilience, friendship, and love. I adore Cathy’s characters, they—even with their many flaws and sometimes gut-wrenching backstories—are people I wish I knew. I want to step inside the story and be part of it.

One of the best perks of being an author is making author friends. Cathy and I have become friends through various writer groups.  I’m thrilled to say she recently read The Glass Wives. Can you imagine? Her work has inspired me and she has read MY book. You can poke around on Facebook and see more about that here.

But first, read the post, and welcome Cathy Lamb to Women’s Fiction Writers.

And if you haven’t read any of Cathy’s books, why not start today? I recommend her first book, mentioned below, Julia’s Chocolates. I was hooked with the first line: “I left my wedding dress hanging in a tree somewhere in North Dakota.” Aren’t you?

Share your rocky road to publishing in the comments! Or ask a question!

Amy xo

The Rocky Road To Publishing

by Cathy Lamb

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I am asked all the time how one should go about getting traditionally published.

I will assume that you want to know how to do this without losing your mind.

Here is my answer.

You need to write something good. Really good.  You need to write something that a publishing house believes will sell.

So work, work, work on that story of yours.

Write when you’re crying. Write when you’re daydreaming. Write when you’re hopeless. Write when you’re exhausted and miss your hippie days.  Write when grief is overwhelming you, write after you kick your husband out, write after a weekend with your sisters where you laughed so hard you wet your pants.

Write when all is well, write when all seems black.

Study writing. Go to writing classes. Study your favorite books and ask yourself why you like them. If you read a dull book, ask yourself, “Why did this not work for me?” Make sure you don’t replicate those problems.

Read fiction, non fiction, memoirs, thrillers, biographies, etc. Read all over.

Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. On Writing by Stephen King. Writing Out The Storm by Jessica Morrell.  And read Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing for advice and inspiration.

Study more. Write more. Read more. Begin again. Edit, edit, edit. Use that delete button.

When you’re ready to submit your work, you need to get  yourself an agent. (Remember, this article is not addressing self publishing or publishing with Amazon. That is a whole other massive and mind numbing article with conflicting opinions.)

Should you finish writing your book before you try to get an agent?

Probably anyone else, in any magazine article or speech about “how – to – publish,” here or on Jupiter, will tell you to write a full manuscript before sending the first chapter off to an agent for her review with the hopes that she’ll love it and ask for the full manuscript.

This is enormously good advice in many ways. Writing a full book before sending it to an agent makes you nail down those characters. It forces you into the writing process.

You learn about pacing, character arcs, character development, word choice, descriptions, dialogue, narration, setting, voice, and a hundred other things, including whether or not you are capable of sitting your butt down and finishing a book. All excellent points.

I, however, will not tell you to write a full manuscript before sending the first chapter off to an agent to review.

Why? Because of my own personal and miserable publishing history which involves piles of rejection slips from rejected, full manuscripts.

Let me share my literary misery.

(Skip this part if you can’t stand to listen to people whine. I’ll understand, I will.)

After years spending time writing full manuscripts, as a certain category romance publishing house kept asking for more, they would be rejected. Repeatedly.

I wanted to bash my head through a wall. All those months of work…trashed. For nothing.

Looking back, the writing was bad. The idea was bad. The characters were bad.  The organization and dialogue and narration were bad. Bad, bad, bad. I’m surprised I got as far as I did.

On my LAST attempt at writing a book, when I completely changed genres to women’s fiction from romance, I wrote the first 40 -ish pages of my book, Julia’s Chocolates, no more. I sent it to four agents and a famous editor. The famous editor never responded. All the agents, based on those first forty pages, requested the full manuscript.

I waited until my favorite agent – the one I have now – asked for the full manuscript. I lied and told him I needed to do “a little editing,” and worked my butt off for about four months, writing from ten o’clock at night until two in the morning, while taking care of three young kids, a house, and working a freelance writing job for our state’s newspaper.

I used to edit Julia’s Chocolates while my kids were playing at Chuck E Cheese and McDonalds. I lost a lot of that fake money to the games.

Anyhow, I sent the full manuscript to my favorite agent, blurry eyed and exhausted. He loved it and I signed with him in a couple of weeks. A few weeks after that he sold Julia’s Chocolates  as part of a two – book deal to the publishing house I’m with now.  I was ecstatic and I still love both my agent and my editor.

So my advice is to write a bang up 20 pages. Yes, I did say twenty.

But why write only 20 pages? Because then you won’t waste your time. If the subject matter/characters of your book are not appealing, if it is not going to sell, you have not wasted a year, or many endless years, of your life writing a book that no publishing house wants. With twenty pages you have limited your loss of time and effort and, unfortunately, tears.

The brutal truth is – and here I will say something that will be offensive so put on your tough alligator skin – what you’re writing may not be anything anyone wants. It could be the topic. Could be the market. Could be the wildly insane competition out there.

It could well be the writing. It’s just not good/intriguing/gripping/fun enough.

So write twenty pages.

When the twenty pages are perfect and wildly wonderful, write a short cover letter to the agents describing the plot in the first two paragraphs, the ending paragraph should be about you, your writing history, etc.

Your packet out to agents, online or by snail mail, looks like this: Cover letter, one page. Twenty pages of your story. Synopsis, one page.

Send this packet out to ten agents at a time. Yes, I did say ten.

Everything you hear or read, here or on Jupiter, will tell you to send your partial manuscript to one agent at a time. Don’t follow that rule either. As you can see, I don’t really like rules. Too confining, too dull.

Why submit to multiple agents at the same time? Many agents will never, ever respond to you or your pages. Other agents will take months to read it. With others, the rejection slips will come back so fast, you will think the agent didn’t even read your book. And, he may not have. He may not be taking on clients.

Want more mean truths?  An agent will read the first paragraph of your work, MAYBE the first page, of your book, before he tosses it if his attention is not grabbed. If he likes the first paragraph, he reads the first page, then the second page, then the third.

He knows QUICKLY if your book is something he can sell to a publishing house. They’re experienced, they’re smart, they’re efficient. Never forget: They are BURIED in manuscripts.

You will probably be surprised at how fast the rejections come back. It is disheartening, I know it. I lived it. Bang my brain against the keyboard, this part is not fun, and I so feel for you.

But buck up on the rejections or get out of writing. Rejections are a part of being a writer. Even multi published, successful authors still get rejections. Cry. Throw a fit. Take thirty minutes then get over yourself and your pride and your belief that your book should be Number One on the NY Times bestseller list by Tuesday.

If your book keeps getting rejected, analyze it without emotion and figure out what’s wrong with it. You must put your ego aside. Do not give it to your mother or wife to analyze it, they are too close to you and probably won’t be honest.

Hire a reputable editor. (Like Amy) An editor does not like or love you, which is how it should be. You are paying her to be honest and to help you improve. Do not hire an editor if you are afraid your feelings will be hurt. Listen to what she tells you, be open to the criticisms and suggestions.

(Side note: Do not hire an editor if you want her to flatter you and tell you that your book is perfect. A good editor is blunt and honest and knows her stuff. Most of the time she is polite, but not always.   Only hire her if you want to hear the truth, you won’t get defensive, you want her criticisms, you’re okay with her shredding your prose, and you are mature enough and smart enough to turn around and use the criticisms to write a better book.)

You may have to eventually change genres, like I did, from romance to women’s fiction, which worked splendidly, and I am now writing my tenth novel.  I wish I had changed genres years before I did. I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and heartache.  I would encourage you to do the same after repeated rejections in one genre.

But, lickety split, let’s go back to agent talk.

If an agent likes those twenty pages, he will ask you for the full manuscript. This is where you write your heart out, like I did, above.  Make it the best writing of your life. Give up sleep. Get up early, go to bed late, write during the weekend.

You may have to edit that sucker four or ten times. I edit all my books eight times before I send it the first time to my agent and editor, and I have been writing for years. Address the stuff I mentioned above about compelling characters and believable character arcs, word choice, description, setting and PACING.  Pacing is key. Too slow and you’ll put people to sleep.

Many people will say that this approach, where only 20 – ish pages are actually done when you first send it to an agent,  will result in a rushed, poor manuscript if it’s requested by an agent.

Here’s the key:  Don’t send in a rushed, poor manuscript. Duh. Send in an excellent manuscript. The very best you can do.

Yes, your manuscript arrives later than the agent wanted but, trust me on this one: If it’s a heckuva manuscript, he won’t give a rip. He’ll lean back in his chair, throw up his arms, look to the ceiling as if in “Hallelujah,” and try to sell your manuscript for as much as he can get.

If you get ONE reputable agent who is interested in your work, you should click your heels together in joy. I have heard unpublished authors fret,  hands wringing, all uptight, “What would I do if I send my manuscript to more than one agent at a time and they all  want it?”

This happens so rarely, stop your worrying.

If you are very fortunate and two agents or more ask for the full manuscript, send it to your favorite agent first, wait a month, send an email to see if they’re interested, and if they don’t respond in a timely manner, send the full to the second agent. Or, send it to both agents at the same time, (this is what I would do) and let them know another agent is looking at it, too.

If the agent likes your manuscript and thinks he can sell it, he will call or email  you. It is unlikely that he will send a smoke signal.

If you still like that agent after that conversation, you will sign a contract with that agent.  This means he will represent your book to the publishing houses, which basically means he will contact the editors he knows, either at lunch or a cocktail party or a meeting or a bar, and talk your book up. He will contact editors in houses who sell your type of genre.

Hopefully an editor is interested. If he is, the agent will send the editor your manuscript. If the editor believes his house can sell it and make loads of money off it, he will then buy the book. This involves more contracts. All the contracts are in legalese and are quite long and detailed. They will bore you silly. Get an attorney to review it.

The contracts from the editor/publishing house will go through your agent. You will sign the contracts if you agree to the upfront money the publishing house is offering, and the royalties they offer after the book sells and your upfront money is paid off.

Please people. The number of writers who get upfront six figures – plus is tiny. Miniscule. Do not expect anywhere near this, especially for your first book.  I know writers who get all the money they can upfront, because they know they will earn no royalties.  Be aware that the vast majority of people who call themselves writers (probably 97%) cannot make a living writing, that’s why they keep their day jobs.

Remember, you will also give a portion of your earnings to your agent (15%)  once you are under contract with a publishing house. All monies go from the publishing house, to the agent, then to you. Royalties are paid twice a year.

Once the contract is signed, you’ve sold your book. It is now time to skip and cheer so the aliens on Jupiter can hear you.

There is a WHOLE TON of stuff that you need to do at that time, social media, etc. but that is another article and I do not want to make you cry.

Hopefully there will be more contracts to come and you’ll be on your merry, lovely way. I wish that for you, I truly do.

In the meantime, always remember….

You must keep writing all the time if you want to publish.

You must keep reading excellent books, and learning from them, if you want to publish. I am still learning. Still studying. Still critically analyzing my work and doing the same to other authors’ work whose skills I admire.

Don’t you dare ever read crappy books. It will affect your writing.

Understand that this is an incredibly competitive industry. There are so many freakishly talented authors out there it is head spinning. You are competing against them. Never forget it. Bring your best to the table.

You must live a full life if you want to publish. Love. Laugh. Be with family and friends. Dance. Sing. Go have adventures. For heaven’s sakes, travel. Listen to people. Think new thoughts. Open your brain up to new ideas.  Read the newspaper. Take an art class. Try photography. Go to the mountains. Play in the waves. Make new friends. Be interested in others. Be interesting yourself. Be compassionate and kind. All this will fuel the writer in you.

Good luck. I mean that.

Cathy Lamb

***** A little more on agents, even though you are probably sick of this topic…

Do you need an agent?   Unless you are writing category romance, like Silhouette or Harlequin, or you’re self – publishing, you need an agent. An agent acts as a screener. If you cannot get an agent to represent you, the general rule is that the publishing house won’t look at your work. In other words, if an agent didn’t like it, they won’t either.

How do you contact an agent in the first place? If you’re in writers’ groups, agents’ names will start floating around. Pay attention to those names.   You might also meet agents at writing conferences or workshops.  Your best friend’s brother’s half sister may be an agent.

Or, pick up this book, 2015 Writer’s Market  and find an agent in there under your genre. If you’re writing romance, look for romance book agents, writing thrillers, go for agents representing thriller writers

Make sure you are sending your work to good, honest agents. Go to this website to check. Reputable agents NEVER ask for upfront money or reader’s fees. If yours does, drop him and move on.





NYT Best-Selling Author Susan Wiggs Shares Her Writing Journey With Women’s Fiction Writers

My Writing Journey

by Susan Wiggs

Although I’ve been a published writer for 25 years, I’ve been a WRITER for twice as long. Storytelling is somehow embedded in my DNA, and I’ve got the evidence to back it up. My very earliest writings were preserved by a doting grandmother, and survive to this day. I was just three years old when I learned to make recognizable marks on paper and call it writing. Something else I used to do, perhaps channeling writers who dictated their stories to secretaries, like Barbara Cartland and Sidney Shelton, was dictate stories to my long-suffering mother, who wrote them down while I illustrated them.

At the age of eight, I met my first writing mentor–Mrs. Marge Green at School 11, my third grade teacher. Like most writers, I was an advanced reader, so while she worked with other students, I was left to my own devices. She told me if I fancied myself a writer, then that’s what I should be doing–writing. I took her advice and self-published a book, which can be seen here.

Throughout my childhood, I read books all day every day. I told stories to my friends. I lied to my parents, invented stories for show-and-tell, and even fabricated outlandish “sins” to relate to Father Campbell in the confessional. For me, making things up was as natural as breathing.

In 7th grade, I rewrote the ending of OF MICE AND MEN because I was easily able to figure out a way to save Lenny in the end. (Side note: My chihuahua was rescued from a shelter in Salinas, and yes, his name is Lenny.) In high school and college, I was that annoying student who would request extra blue exam booklets for essay tests, because I had a knack for filling them at an alarming rate.

As a graduate student, I worked with a critique group for the first time, and I loved the process. A piece of bad writing could be transformed by this magical concept known as Rewriting. Who knew?

While in graduate school, I wrote my first full-length novel, a romantic historical saga about (I kid you not) the Dutch Revolt. Convinced I was on to something, I wrote its sequel. Eventually, I came to understand that storytelling is a lot more fun when READERS are involved, so I looked around at what readers were devouring at the time (1987). Big sexy western historical romances were the order of the day. And they just happened to be my favorites.

I wrote all 600 pages of TEXAS WILDFLOWER on a typewriter. In about three months. Shiloh Mulvane and Justin McCord consumed me every night. Why at night? Well, because in addition to writing, I was a full-time teacher, a full-time mom of a toddler, a wife, a homeowner, a dog owner. So if you want to write but are waiting until you can “find the time,” forget about it. You HAVE the time. You just have to decide what to do with it.

I sold the book to Wendy McCurdy, then an editor at Kensington, in 1987. Since then, I’ve published a book every year or so, honing my craft and learning the business along the way.

RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE, just published, was written by an older, wiser and much more skilled writer than the one who pouded out Texas Wildflower. My process is pretty much the same as the way I wrote at the age of 3. I make marks on paper, and call it writing.

How about you? What does your writer’s journey look like?

Susan Wiggs’s life is all about family, friends…and fiction. She’s been featured in the national media, including NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and is a popular speaker locally and nationally.

From the very start, her writings have illuminated the everyday dramas of ordinary people. At the age of eight, she self-published her first novel, entitled “A Book About Some Bad Kids.”

Today, she is an international best-selling, award-winning author, with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries. Her recent novel, Marrying Daisy Bellamy, took the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List, and The Lakeshore Chronicles have won readers’ hearts around the globe. Her books celebrate the power of love, the timeless bonds of family and the fascinating nuances of human nature.

She lives with her husband and family at the water’s edge on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where she divides her time between sleeping and waking.





The Long Road To Publication By Author Laura Drake

Today’s a special day at Women’s Fiction Writers (OK, every day is special!) because our guest is Laura Drake!  Laura shares awesome publishing news below as well as her journey to get there — but what she doesn’t mention is she’s the President of RWA-WF which is the Women’s Fiction Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Laura is smart, funny, dedicated and hard working.  I am pretty sure she doesn’t sleep at all.  How do I know? I’m the RWA-WF Secretary, and we’re emailing all the time in addition to hanging out on the RWA-WF email loops and taking care of all kind of RWA-WF business.  

I’m thrilled that Laure took the time to share herself with all of us here — and I’m hoping (guilt-guilt-guilt) that she’ll join us again when her first book hits the shelves!

Please welcome Laura Drake to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

It Has Been A Long Road – Or – Learning The Hard Way

By Laura Drake

As writers, we’re observers. We’re endlessly fascinated by human behavior. Over the years, I’ve observed that no one gets it all. We’re all a blend of assets, fatal flaws and blind spots. I’m not sure we have control over which of the above we’re ‘gifted’ with.

I’m not smart. No, really. I had to work hard in school to get decent grades. I don’t think well on my feet. I’m a bit of a klutz, physically and socially. If you believe in ‘old souls,’ I’m not one of them. I learn by jumping in and flailing about, making mistakes until the right path presents itself.  I’m not being self-depreciating – I have assets. I just had to find what they were as I went along.

My biggest asset? I’m a plodder. I know, it’s not sexy. But that’s okay, because it works.

My husband and I ride motorcycles. Before I learned to ride my own, I rode behind him for a hundred thousand miles. That’s a lot of time for your mind to wander while observing life from the pillion seat. One day, outside Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of the bike. After a sphincter-tightening scare, he trotted off, but it gave me an idea – kernel of a plot.

Me? Write a book? Who was I to write a book? My brain worried at it, but I refused to be a cliché, sitting in front of a blank computer screen. But the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. Oh, the pressure! Then one day I finally realized – my computer had a ‘delete’ key! I could write anything I’d like – no one would never see my drivel!

So I plodded forward on my ‘biker-chick’ novel, finally finishing it a year and a half later. Then I stumbled onto an online critiquing community, and realized I knew nothing about craft. POV? What the heck was that, and what did it have to do with my book?

Seven or so revisions later, I was ready to submit (oh, the ignorance,) and researched how to get an agent (oh, the hubris!)

Fast forward about ten years. I’d finally put the biker-chick novel under the bed, wrote two more books, joined RWA, took classes, attended conventions, pitched. I was a veteran of the submittal wars. I watched authors around me being published. I felt like the last klutz to be selected for the pick-up softball game.

But I just kept at it. I knew my writing was ever-improving, and my last book? It was special. I just knew it in my heart. Last summer, I snagged discovered a wonderful agent who thought so too. That was the start of the crazy Wild-Mouse ride I’ve been on since.

In December I signed a 3 book deal with Grand Central.  And last week, after more than thirteen years, I my ‘biker-chick’ book sold to second publisher!

Do you despair that you’ll never sell? Do you look at the other writers, wishing you had her voice, or his fast writing style?  Don’t. You have assets, and if you keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other, you’re going to get there. If you don’t stop, how could you not?

I’m a plodder. I’m embracing it. Yeah, it’s not sexy.  But you know what? Right now, I don’t care.

Laura Drake is a Midwesterner who never grew out of her tomboy ways or a serious cowboy crush. She writes Women’s Fiction and Romance, and in December, she sold three novels set in the world of professional bull riding to Grand Central. THE SWEET SPOT, in which a couple struggles to reclaim their lives after a tragic loss, will be released in the spring of 2013.

Laura resides in Southern California, though she aspires to retirement in Texas. She’s a corporate CFO during the day, and a wife, grandmother, writer, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

You can learn more about Laura and her books here: And you can follow her on Twitter too: @PBRWriter.

Five Publishing Lessons I Learned On The Playground

  1. Find Friends.  Writing is a solitary endeavor.  Preparing to publish your work, is not.  Find critique partners, writing groups, classes, or at least someone your mom can pay to listen to you talk about your work (kidding, sort of).

  2. Share. Give and take feedback and advice.  Use kind words.

  3. Take Turns. When something good happens to someone else – clap loudly. Your turn will come and you want someone clapping loudly for you.

  4. Don’t Push Little Kids Too High On The Swings.  Don’t scare someone just because you’ve been there, done that. We all have to acclimate at our own pace, in our own time.  (And some people get dizzy on swings.)

  5.  If You Are Cranky, Go Home And Take A Nap.  

Author Kimberly Menozzi Says When It Comes To Publishing, She’s Taking The Long Way Around And That’s OK

Just when you think you’ve heard all the stories there are to hear about publishing — you find out you’re wrong. Again.  Kimberly Menozzi’s story is one of publishing perseverance and determination. And while I’m dedicated to featuring traditionally published authors on Women’s Fiction Writers, Kimberly’s story of how and why Ask Me If I’m Happy came to be self-published, is worth sharing with all of you — in my opinion.  I think you’ll agree.

Please welcome Kimberly Menozzi to Women’s Fiction Writers!

~ Amy

Author Kimberly Menozzi Says When It Comes To Publishing, She’s Taking The Long Way Around And That’s OK

My name is Kimberly Menozzi, and my first novel, Ask Me if I’m Happy, was originally put out by a small publishing house in London in November of 2010. It probably won’t surprise you to know I was perfectly willing – and happy – to start out “small” as it were.

Even better was the fact the publishing house had found my work quite by chance. The publisher had initially spotted my work on the Authonomy website, run by Harper Collins, back in 2008. The day after the publishing house’s 2009 launch in London (which I attended), they asked if I would let them publish my book in 2010.

Of course, I said ‘Yes’. I was thrilled to be a part of the publishing world at last, even in this rather small way. That someone else had thought my work worth sharing with the world at large was a heady, wonderful feeling.

Soon afterward, I emailed one of their editors my full manuscript and he sent me his suggestions for edits a short while later. We worked online, doing rewrites and revisions. The release date was discussed and changed multiple times, to avoid conflict with other titles due in the spring, and then the summer. Finally we settled on a date in November, one month after the release of another title by the house.

Publicity was minimal. A few small adverts for my mid-week book launch were provided on free-to-the-public websites such as Time Out London. My publisher spared a few posts on their websites, too. However, aside from those posts, I was the only one who really seemed to make an effort to get the word out about my book.

To my delight, I was invited to read at two charity events in Oxford. My readings were well-received, and a few copies of my book were sold and signed. It was exciting and fun – even though no-one from my publisher attended the first event, and only stayed a very short while at the second.

Back in Italy, I continued doing everything I possibly could to raise awareness of my work. I did guest blogs and giveaways, wrote my own blogs, even sold books out of hand to teachers and students in the school where I worked.

In time, momentum began to build. I gained a small foothold on Amazon’s forums and had some lively conversations with people about subjects related to Ask Me if I’m Happy. Sales of the e-books picked up and a few copies of the paperback were sold.

And then, suddenly, my publisher decided they only wanted to publish Historical Fiction, which my work definitely wasn’t. They said my work would now be handled by the fledgling US division of their company. Unfortunately, the US division had no printer which could produce my novel for a reasonable price.

Production of my book reached a standstill. Without a paperback available, only the e-book was selling, and the publisher wasn’t actively promoting it. They earned a share what few sales there were yet did nothing to get the book in the public eye, because it wasn’t “their kind of book” any more.

To say I was troubled by this would be an understatement.

Worse yet, they weren’t answering questions about my book. I had friends, acquaintances, and even actual customers contacting me through my website. They asked why the paperback wasn’t available on Amazon any more. Could they get it at their local bookshop? Why not? When would it be out again?

You see, this is the part they don’t tell you about: After all your hard work, a publisher can drop you – just like that. This is why you need a contract, and why you need to read it very closely.

Believe it or not, in spite of everything that happened – or, rather, didn’t happen – I was quite lucky. It was easy enough to get my rights back once we’d determined they hadn’t fulfilled their side of the contract. Rights in hand, off I went in search of a new publisher or an agent to represent the work. What I hadn’t anticipated was the fact that no-one – publisher or agent – wanted anything to do with it since was now considered a “previously-published” work.

This was almost enough to convince me to give up. In spite of all my hard work, this was the end result?

After some heavy deliberation, desiring some sense of closure to the whole escapade, I opted to self-publish Ask Me if I’m Happy. After all, it had been vetted by an editor, and it had already gotten good reviews. Why not? With a new cover – including pull-quotes from writers I respect – I re-released my novel just six months after its first release.

I’m happy to say it’s selling modestly well. No, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling aren’t quaking in their shoes over my numbers. Nevertheless, the book is selling, and the majority of the reviews so far have been very positive.

My next go-round will likely follow the traditional path. I will write, revise, and submit dozens of queries to other publishers somewhere down the road. After all, my dream survived all this, didn’t it?

Trying to make it come true is the least I can do, even if it means taking the long way around.

An aspiring writer from the age of eight, Kimberly Menozzi began writing her first stories instead of paying attention in school. While her grades might have suffered, her imagination seldom did. She managed to keep most of her stories together for years, then lost them after a move when she left a trunk full of papers behind. (She meant to go back and get them, but circumstances prevented her from doing so.)

So, she started over again. And she lost those, too.

After a trip to England in 2002, she began work on A Marginal Life (Well-Lived), inspired by the music of Jarvis Cocker and Pulp. The novel was completed in 2003, and is undergoing rewrites with hopes of publication in the near future.

Also in 2003, she met and fell in love with an Italian accountant named Alessandro. She married him in 2004. This necessitated her arrival in Italy and she has lived there ever since. After several months of working for language schools and writing blog entries for her family in the US to read, new story ideas began to develop.

Finally, in 2007, she began work on a new project, inspired by her love/hate relationship with her new home. The novel Ask Me if I’m Happy was completed in 2009.

Ask Me if I’m Happy was first released November 15th, 2010 in the UK, and was re-released in the US on May 31st, 2011.

Kimberly is presently at work on her next project, 27 Stages.

In May of 2011, Kimberly also published a novella, “Alternate Rialto”, which is a prequel to Ask Me if I’m Happy.

Author Wendy Delsol’s Journey to Publication

By Wendy Delsol

In many ways, my journey to publication began in a dark tunnel, an MRI machine to be exact. It was three weeks before my fortieth birthday, and I was on week seven of debilitating headaches and vertigo. And, naturally, when you’re told the test is to “rule out tumors,” you’re convinced that’s precisely what you have. Amidst the pinging and dinging of the machine and my anxiety, I resolved to write a novel.

When well enough (I had a “migraine-esque” episode, not a brain tumor, by the way), I sat down and pounded out a book. It took me nine months, and I wrote in secret, not even telling my husband what I was up to. The end result was, sadly, awful, but I loved the process. Next step was instruction. We were living in L.A. at the time so I was able to take writing courses through UCLA’s Extension Writers’ Program. While taking a full year of these (wonderful) classes, I wrote my second novel. Still not good enough but getting better.

Around this time my family moved from L.A. to Des Moines. Once settled, I attended the Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa. Also enrolled in the course was Kimberly Stuart; she and I formed a critique group and have become great friends. I set to work writing books three and four, both of which were workshopped in that writers’ group.

With the completion of each novel, even that horrid first attempt, I queried agents. I had a magic number for rejections; once a project received forty passes, it was dead to me. And I was always working on the next book. Now, when asked for a nugget of advice, I often cite my willingness to bury a manuscript. Without mourning.

I finished book four, The MCCLOUD HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS, in the summer of 2008 and immediately began querying agents. I did get some interest and one agent, in fact, had advanced from query to partial to full over a period of several months. In the meantime, I got this idea for a young adult project: a girl with the paranormal ability to match the hovering of undecided souls with the right mother on earth (STORK). I wrote the book in five months. By then it was February of 2009; I had my adult manuscript out as a full with an agent but now also had this brand spankin’ new YA project. No harm shooting out a few queries on the new book, I figured. Sure it was a rough first draft, but by then I knew the drill. It would be weeks, if not months, before I’d be asked for a partial or full. I sent seven queries on a Tuesday morning. That same afternoon, Jamie Brenner (my wonderful agent) sent me a return email stating (I’m paraphrasing here), “this sounds interesting, send me the full.”

For the record, it wasn’t ready. It was a first draft, and I hadn’t even spellchecked it. But, come on, there was an agent in NY who wanted THE FULL. To this day, I wonder if I’d had a glass of wine that night because I sent it in all its imperfect glory. Jamie read it on Wednesday, liked the concept, liked my writing, and signed me on Friday. Now that was an exciting week!

I did, politely, inform the other agent that I had representation. She did not have an exclusive, and there were no hard feelings. It’s a business. Properties sometimes move fast. This was one of those cases.

Jamie sold my YA to Candlewick Press, and, although only one novel was written, we pitched it as a trilogy. Meanwhile, there was that adult novel (my WAYWARD girls). Jamie read it and suggested one of the characters be written younger (she went from 19 to 14). Once that rewrite was complete, the manuscript was sold to Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin.

Which is how it has come to pass that almost exactly ten years after that terrifying ordeal in an MRI machine, and just a month shy of my fiftieth birthday, I’ve published three books in one calendar year: STORK, October 12, 2010, THE MCCLOUD HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS, August 2, 2011, and FROST (book two in the Stork trilogy), October 11, 2011. TIDE the final of the Stork books is in the editorial phase and will release in October of 2012.

Wendy Delsol was born in Canada to British parents, grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and is a graduate of Michigan State University. She lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, working in the travel industry. She is married with two teen sons. The family currently resides in Des Moines, Iowa.

Women’s Fiction Author Kelly Simmons Talks about her Journey to Publication

One day I watched the Backspace Conference Video from the Women’s Fiction Panel in May 2011.  I didn’t attend the conference, but knew that Kelly Simmons, Jael McHenry and Keith Cronin were sitting on this panel.  I had to see it!  (You can see it too if you’re a Backspace member!) I already knew Jael and Keith — and when I *met* Kelly Simmons I immediately tried to snag her for the blog.  Kelly has a straightforward and encouraging manner that is sure to hit home with writers who’ve been “at it” a while as well as those who are just getting started.

Please welcome Kelly to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Women’s Fiction Author Kelly Simmons Talks about her  Journey to Publication

At a speaking engagement not long ago, I gave a humorous-but-harrowing talk about my 15 year struggle to get published.  That is not a typo.  I didn’t say five.  Or ten.  (And okay, not twenty. That would have required me starting in approximately eighth grade.)

This has to have set some sort of world record for self inflicted punishment, like the dude who laid on a bed of nails for 100 days (piece of cake) or the woman who swam across the Pacific Ocean (please, how long could that have possibly taken?)  Most writers are absolutely aghast when they hear this high number; who wants to hear this discouraging tale?

Who wants to hear about That Horrible First Year, when my famous high-powered-agent-who-also-repped-Pat Conroy paged me at work and told me he’d sold my first novel, then paged me a week later to tell me the house had rescinded their offer?   Who has ever heard of such an awful thing happening?  Who could ever forgive that publisher?

Who wants to hear about Horrible Year Seven, when my second famous-high-powered-agent-who-also-repped-Michael-Chabon asked me to write concepts and chapters to her specifications so she could approve the whole book along the way, only to reject the final manuscript she had approved every single freaking chapter of?  Who does this happen to?  Well, um, not Michael Chabon, that’s for damned sure.

Finally, at this event, someone raised their hand and asked the question everyone now asks:  If self pubbing an eBook had been an option, would you have gone that route?

And the answer is:  I don’t know. I missed them by the skin of my teeth, being published in 2008.  But in my case, I’m glad it happened the way it did.  Because I have benefited so much by failing, by listening, by studying, by re-writing.  By being read by people who offered criticism with their praise, and edited by people who both infuriated me and forced me to be better.   People I would not have encountered had I self-published.

Fifteen years ago, I had many talents as a writer.  I know this in my heart. But I also know that  today, I have many, many more.

When I teach, students often ask if they “should” self pub or not.  And this what I tell them.  If you are looking for closure, self publish.  If you are looking for recognition, or achievement, don’t.

At some point you may need one more than the other, and you’ll know what to do.

Good luck to all you intrepid writers.   And you know what I’m going to say next.

Keep. At.  It.

Kelly Simmons is the author of two Simon & Schuster novels:  STANDING STILL, and THE BIRD HOUSE.   Visit her website at or follow her on twitter: @kellysimmons.

Interview with Women’s Fiction Author, Kathryn Magendie

As writers we love stories – and I love my “sort of” personal story about Kat Magendie.  I was at breakfast with a girlfriend last year and she said, “I just read Tender Graces. I loved it. I hope there’s a sequel.  You have to read it.” And I said, “I know the author!”  (And then I always go on to give my little spiel about Backspace and online writing connections.)  I hadn’t yet read Tender Graces but did so in the next week and found out that indeed, there was a sequel, Secret Graces.  Jackpot!  I had the inside scoop for my friend AND I connected online with Kat Magendie.  Kat is generous and hilarious — and her books are unputdownable. (I think that word is going to be in the urban dictionary soon.)  

No matter what you read that Kat has written — whether it’s a novel or a Facebook comment — you’re sure to be entertained and inspired. 

Please welcome Kat to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Interview with Author Kathryn Magendie

ASN: First, tell us a little about yourself and your books Tender Graces, Secret Graces and Sweetie.

KM: Dang. This is always hard for me. I become all discombobulated. Afraid I’ll babble. Go all teeheehee on you. Here goes—I live smack in the Smoky Mountains in a quiet mountain cove at Killian Knob in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. I love puppies, chocolate, and long walks on the beach—okay, not really, well, yes I do love those things, but there are beaches here, however, I do adore my long walks on the old mountain log trails where I do much of my thinking about things—like chocolate and puppies and sometimes the beach.

A short blurb about the Sweetie and the Graces novels:

Mountain girl Sweetie is wild, rough, almost feral, yet brave and endlessly honest, a symbol of pride and strength. When Melissa, a shy stuttering town girl, befriends her, the two enrich each other’s lonely lives. But there are some in the Appalachian community who regard Sweetie and her peculiar heritage as sinister. This poignant and haunting story takes readers deep inside the bittersweet heart of childhood loyalties.

Virginia Kate Carey, daughter of a beautiful mountain wild-child and a slick Shakespeare-quoting salesman, relives her turbulent childhood and the pain of her mother’s betrayals. Haunted by ghosts, her Grandma Faith’s violent death, and by buried family secrets, Virginia Kate struggles to reconcile three generals of her family’s lost innocence—she is the storyteller of their lives.

ASN: When did you first have the idea for creating Virginia Kate?  Did she come to you fully formed or in bits and pieces?

KM: What started it all was a Wyeth print I had/have in my bedroom that I often stare at, “Chambered Nautilus,” where the woman is gazing wistfully out of the window while the bed curtains billow around her (and you can’t see her face, which intrigued me how I still think the word “wistful”). I wondered if she was remembering “all her yesterdays,” and that was the start of Virginia Kate’s journey to storytelling about herself and her family. The character and story took a big turn from where I’d first began because Virginia Kate’s real voice became stronger and stronger, and for that I’m glad. However, that woman in the painting still intrigues me and she has her own story, and one day I will get back to her.

Originally, VK was to be a short story only because I truly thought I could not write a novel. Luckily, my bestest friend Angie Ledbetter said, “Write it. You have to. Get to it, girl.” She was correct. Angie, if you are reading—you are my hero! I need to send you a nice present right now. And folks, just think about it—if I had not sat down and just simply given it a try, would I still be angsting that I couldn’t write a novel? Sometimes you just have to take a risk on something instead of saying “I can’t;” I wonder how many “I can’t’s” have kept people from their dreams?

ASN: Aspiring authors like to know about “the journey.”  What was your journey from the birth of VK to seeing your books in print?

KM: I went through what lots of writers do—I wrote a whole bunch of words, fiddled around with them, and then flailed about querying some agents—except, I did that before the manuscript was ready (although, I didn’t recognize that it wasn’t ready because I didn’t want to think about that possibility—denial!). I received rejections from the agents; however, there were “themes” in those rejections from 95% of the responses: that I was a gifted writer, had a strong voice, and the story was intriguing. I put VK aside and wrote an entirely different novel (what would become Sweetie), then went back to VK months later. I deleted thousands of words and tightened her up.

So, I was sitting on my couch watching Christmas shows with my laptop on my lap (Oblahdee! Obladah! My laptop on my lap! . . . oh, sorry, teehee), and a little voice urged, “Google ‘Southern Fiction Publishers’ Kat.” BelleBooks popped up. Something about them resonated with me, and before I lost nerve, I fired off my pitifully written query.

Within a few days, BB editor Deb Smith asked to see the entire manuscript. I sent it, my brain going “boinga boinga boinga.” Then I waited—cue twiddly thumbs, jittery eyeballs, a shot of vodka or two—and less than two weeks later, BelleBooks offered me a contract for Virginia Kate’s story, with an option to publish a trilogy *happy frenetic dancing ensued.* They have been wonderful to me, and Deb Smith is the coolest editor ever—I just love her and she can never ever leave BelleBooks.

So, you never do know. If you feel a prodding voice slap you upside your pea-head as I did, then why not see what comes of it? You are going to receive rejections; you are going to hear “No!” You are going to feel like crap, like you are nothing, like you are the worst writer in the land, like you suck. Pick yourself up off the floor.

If you really really want this, then you have to keep plowing ahead. Will “never giving up” get you a contract? Honestly, I can’t say that it will, and that’s the Big Fat Frustration in this business. But, again, if you really really want this, then you won’t be able to give up—instead you’ll dig in deeper and see if you can figure out why you are being rejected: is it your work? Is it the places/people you are querying? Is it the “State of Publishing” right now? Be honest with yourself until it hurts and then if you can fix it, fix it. If the problem is external, that’s a little more difficult to control.

ASN: How much of you is in VK?  And, what parts of VK are definitely not you?   And of those parts — any traits you wish you had?

KM: VK’s name came from my adoptive mom and from my name: I’m Mary Kathryn and she is Ruth Virginia. I wanted to honor my adoptive mom and all mothers who “take on other mother’s children.” So the name means something special—the intertwining of adoptive- or step-mother and daughter—a “theme” in the Graces books.

VK and I share the “whirly world” thing—I go off in my head all la tee dah’ing around. We also both have a sense of “justice” and what is “right;” we don’t understand liars and cheaters and people who intentionally hurt others, because we would never intentionally hurt someone else. We watch people and figure them out pretty quickly—which is sometimes a burden.

But VK as a better friend than I am, because she remembers details both important and minor, and I can forget details important and minor about people/friends even if I’ve known them for a long time. VK is also more optimistic, while I can be too cynical (which by the way, I couldn’t think of the word “cynical” so I called out to my husband and asked, “What’s that word I am? Not negative or pe—” and before I could finish, he shouted out the word “cynical!” harrumph!).

VK has great hair. Dang, I wish I had her hair! And she’s so level-headed—I’m crooked-headed. She also has this unique way of speaking that I find myself picking up sometimes, but it’s her interesting voice not mine. She doesn’t care what she looks like, either, and will wear out of style clothes—she’s just in her own kind of space, lost in her own world and her own time—I love that! And she’s a bit naïve, but in an endearing way that I love and wish I were more like. There is more, but that’s enough yammering!

ASN: One thing I loved about VK was her need to figure things out and understand things (or at least that’s how I saw it) – sometimes things she might not have been meant to understand.  Sometimes folks are lazy and just let things be and take it all at face value.  What made VK so brave in TG?

KM: She had no choice but to be brave. Well, everyone has choices, but if one’s choice is to lie down and cry and feel sorry for oneself and let life run one over repeatedly, then that’s not much of a life, is it? VK needs to have some kind of control over the chaos, and she needs to understand the why’s so she can figure out the how to fix its, and she needs to put names to things so they make sense to her. That’s her way of coping. VK never gives up on hope and love and honor, except when it comes to men, then she can be kind of chicken-hearted because of her momma’s legacy.

ASN: We’re all about Women’s Fiction on this blog (although we do not discriminate, we just prefer).  How do you define women’s fiction?

KM: When I read that question, I had a sudden image of this wonderful Club, and in that Club were all these amazing women who love a good story, who love reading about characters who may struggle but somehow they find strength—even if things don’t always work out as they’d hoped. Because these women in the club have had the same things happen and same feelings happen to them in one fashion or another.

Women have a wonderfully unique way of seeing the world and in responding to it, so when a fiction character mirrors that in some way, we are intrigued, we want to see how it all turns out, we want to see if the character handles it differently or handles it just as we did, or somewhere in between. We have high hopes for those fictionalized women. If they possess traits we wish we had, or if we recognize ourselves in them, their choices can help us to understand our own choices. And if the character makes bad or questionable choices, we identify with them, and want to protect them, help them along until they are all right again. We all like knowing that we don’t suck so bad, that, dang it all, we’re really just human, after-all.

ASN: What makes a book your perfect read?

KM: If the character engages me, I will follow them wherever they take me. If the character falls flat, then I probably won’t enjoy the book, no matter if it has a thrilling plot. I tend to write character-driven fiction, and I read a lot of that, as well. Though, I’ll read just about anything if the character is well-written/intriguing/interesting/Real—I hate fake one-dimensional wooden characters, don’t you? They leave splinters in my brain, ungh.

I read an awful lot, every night, sometimes finishing a couple books a week. So, I always say my perfect read is the book I’m enjoying right now. I am now reading a brilliant debut novel entitled “The Secret of Lies,” by Barbara Forte Abate.

I want to also note that I just finished reading another amazing debut novel, “The Reason is You,” that isn’t out yet and I’m very excited for the author: Sharla Lovelace (Sharla Scroggs as many know her).

Two great debuts who I expect more great things from!

ASN: You have another book coming out, will you tell us about it?  And, what else in the works?

KM: I have two things coming out this year. This summer, “Petey” is a novella that will be in the anthology “The Firefly Dance” with authors Sarah Addison Allen and Augusta Trobaugh. Petey is set here in Western North Carolina and she, along with her brother Hill who thinks he’s a canine more than a boy, have to move to Texas, which seems like a foreign country to them. It’s a story of displacement (a favorite theme of mine), loss, love, and second chances. It’s such a sweet story.

The final in the Virginia Kate “Graces” trilogy will be released this fall—I’m working on that now.  I am hoping readers like what I’m doing because this novel is structured differently from the other two Graces. There are darker aspects— I can’t seem to stop the darkness peeking in and I’ve just had to go with it—the first chapter near broke my heart to write because it is Grandma Faith speaking through Virginia Kate about her last five days on earth—but as always there is hope and light. Rebekha, Momma (Katie Ivene), and Adin (VK’s adoptive daughter) will all speak through Virginia Kate in this last book, since VK is the Storyteller—that is if everything goes as planned and my editor likes it!

Beyond that, there is a character who keeps poking at me so maybe she’ll be my next project because I am intrigued by her. We’ll see!

ASN: You know why we’re here, on this particular blog.  So, what is your best advice for writers of women’s fiction?

KM: Support other writers/artists/musicians—we could all use each other’s friendship and support—another’s success does not take away from what we have, we can only take away from ourselves the wonderful feelings of our own accomplishments when we compare ourselves to others’ successes in a negative way instead of a “let’s be inspired” way.

Appreciate and acknowledge your readers. If at all possible, answer your reader mail and/or engage on Facebook/Twitter or whatever is your thang. I adore my readers and am grateful for them more than they may ever know—they think I am giving them something, but they are the ones giving me the greatest gift of all.

I’m not a good advice-giver, and what works for one may not for another. However, if I tried to give someone writing advice, I’d say to write what feels like Truth to you instead of writing what you think someone wants to read. Write with happy-go-lucky abandon and re-write/edit with a fine-toothed critical eye. Trust your instincts—those little naggy pokes should not be ignored, because if you are feeling bored, restless, “something isn’t quite right,” impatient, etc., your reader will most certainly notice even more so, and so will anyone you query to.

And finally, when I first began writing, there was such a sense of urgency to get it done and out for query—I realize that is a mistake, that stepping back and taking some time is prudent; however, I also recognize how I am writing this advice from the distance of having three books published and more on the way, so it’s an “easy for me to say” kind of thing, you know? But it is still a truth, and like all truths, they sometimes are hard to listen to, especially,  too, when there are always exceptions to every Rule and every Truth it seems!

Thank you Amy! This was fun.

Indeed, Kat.  It was fun!  Thank you!!

Kathryn Magendie is the author of Tender Graces, Secret Graces, and Sweetie. Her novella and novel are forthcoming summer and fall, respectively, of 2011. You can find out more about the author at, or her blog Follow her on twitter @katmagendie, or Facebook at kathryn.magendie. Her publishers, Bellebooks, are on Facebook and twitter, too – for more information go to: You should see Kat’s face right now, because writing her bio in third person makes her mouth quirk up and it looks funny, especially when one eye is kinda squinchy.

Why I Want My Women’s Fiction Published By A Traditional Publisher

Some people work out in a gym.  Some people work out at home. Some folks want to power walk with headphones.  Some want to sweat to the oldies.  Some want the support of a workout buddy or personal trainer. Some want fancy machines and some just want a mat in front of the TV and Jane Fonda leg warmers and a headband (who me?). If you do either of them right, one method  isn’t better than the other in terms of quality of the workout.

To me, the where-to-workout conundrum is a little like self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.  There isn’t right or wrong. Just like there are diehard gym rats and at-home fitness aficionados, there are writers with their dukes up on both sides of the publishing fence.

My thought, as a gym-goer and someone who wants to be traditionally published, is to do what is right for you that will actually get you the results you want.

For me and my novel — being traditionally published is what will work. Traditional publishers distribute books to the places my readers get books. So, that’s where I want to be — in bookstores, big box stores, online and in libraries. That broad umbrella of women’s fiction Jael McHenry wrote so eloquently of means I’ll need wide distribution to reach a diverse group of consumers.

Another reason I’m opting for traditional publishing? It’s a group effort. Writing is a wonderful yet solitary profession, and with a traditional publisher you benefit from the input of trained professionals when it comes to editorial input, copyediting, marketing, cover design, and sales. Publishers create ARCS and send them out for review, books are eligible for review in the trade publications, and for awards.

All of a sudden (after years of writing and editing) there will be a team behind my book. (note the optimism?)

I’ve been internet-admonished for saying self-publishing isn’t for me.  I’ve even felt picked on for coveting inclusion in the publishing machine. I’ve been asked why I feel I need the validation of an agent or publisher to think my book is good enough for a mass readership.

I’ll tell you why.  Because very often — these people actually know.  And there is no shame in wanting acknowledgement within an established industry. There’s no harm in looking for recognition from stalwart professionals. Don’t self-published authors want the recognition of their peers? Readers? Reviewers?  Same difference. (I love that silly saying.) But in my case – for my writing – for this book – for me – it’s this way or the highway or, in writerly terms, it’s this way or it’s going under the mattress.

I admire writers who self-publish with excellence and enthusiasm.  I have the same drive, the same dreams, the same raison d’être.

I just want to get there in the way that works for me.

Do you think self-publishing is a good option for women’s fiction? How do YOU want your book published? Classy dissension is welcome. Nastiness is not.