Thursday, September 29, 2011

Psuedonym, Domain Name, Hosting, Email address, and Website

For any writers reading this, I thought it might be useful to post my progress in getting my promotional and marketing tools configured, so it might be a jumping off point for your own website creation.

Before I was published, I didn't worry about selecting a pseudonym or creating a website. Not only did I not want to jinx myself, I figured when I got published, I would worry about the administrative stuff that comes along with being a writer and setting up a business (more on this later).

When I first started looking into creating a website, I was a bit overwhelmed and unsure where to start. I'm going to break the process down into pieces and maybe I can save someone else confusion.

Pseudonym:

After grappling with several name choices, I decided to pick a pseudonym that is a variation of my legal name. Because my last name is pretty common (Miller), I wasn't too worried about privacy issues. I wanted a name I would respond to, and a name I could easily sign without thinking at book signings when conversation and signatures might happen at the same time. Also, from a legal perspective, I wouldn't have to worry about which name to sign on contracts, etc.

Domain Name:

I selected a domain name and purchased it from 1and1. The domain came with one free email account. The email address was important to me because I think receiving an email from someone@their-domain.com speaks to their professionalism. Setting up the email address to work with outlook was a snap. 1and1 had instructions posted online - a 5 minute job and two test emails, and I am ready to send and receive messages from cj AT cj-miller DOT com.

The domain name also came with private domain name registration. This means I can register my address cj-miller.com under 1and1's contact information, so that my home address remains confidential. I write romantic suspense so my imagination is filled with stalkers and crazy people... So let's call my insistence on this one being careful.

Hosting:

Once I had my domain name, I needed a place to host my website. My home office isn't equipped to host the site myself, nor did I want to deal with that overhead. I could have signed up for hosting at 1and1, but I found their templates and GUI options limited and difficult to use.

I played with several tools on the internet, and decided Weebly was the easiest to configure and still get the layout and features I wanted.

If I have more time, or if I want my website to be more complex in the future, I might chose to host with 1and1 and use the WordPress application. This had a lot of really cool tools, but I didn't think I had the time to work with it.

Website:

I have a masters in Computer Science. I do not fear code or computer tools in general. However, setting up a website that looks cohesive and flows with the right colors is more graphic design than computer science. I decided to use Weebly.com because of the large number of templates to choose. As an added bonus, they'll host my site for free (see above).

If I had known about Weebly when I was pre-published, I would have created a site, hosted it with Weebly, and used their domain extension (the web address would have been something like cj-miller.weebly.com). The domain could have been changed later.

I, in no way, explored all the options available on the www.

Are there other suggestions? If anything is unclear, please post in the comments and I'll try to help!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How did I get published? I kept writing.

Most authors love to read. I'm no exception. I love to read and have since I was a child. Just thinking of Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and the Babysitter's Club makes me warm with nostalgia.

My late grandmother had shelves filled with Harlequin romances. I think they were Harlequin Presents, although I couldn't swear to it. My mom and aunt read them too and they would pass books by the bagful back and forth. When I could get my hands on one, I would sneak off with it and spend the afternoon reading. That's how I became a 3rd generation Harlequin reader.

My love of reading led my imagination to create stories of my own. When I told my husband, who writes as a hobby, about the stories in my head, he said, "Why don't you write the stories down?"

From the moment I started to write, I felt something click into place. This isn't to say that anything I wrote that first year (or second) was publishable. But I persisted. Every day, without exception, I wrote. Even if all I could manage was a few paragraphs, I put words on the screen.

I read books about writing. I read articles on the internet about writing. I read agent blog. I read editor blogs.

Most of all, I kept writing.

I revised my work. I would delete 10,000 words at a time and start a chapter over again. I tried my hand at paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance. When I noticed all my work had heavy suspense elements, I realized I should write romantic suspense.

I still didn't have instant success with the first romantic suspense novels I wrote. But I loved it. Rejection couldn't stop me. I kept writing. I joined RWA. I joined online writing groups. I found a couple of critique partners. I found the eHarlequin writing community. I entered a couple of contests. I got good feedback and bad feedback about my work. Even when it stung, I kept writing.

I submitted my books to Harlequin. I got rejections. It didn't stop me from submitting new work.

I kept writing. Revising. Polishing. Writing. Revising. Polishing.

I don't know how many millions of words I've written, but I will finally be published in 2012. And now, I going to keep writing because I want to STAY published.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Timeline


A brief recap, for writers looking for time lines for their submissions (although it does seem to vary, these are just my dates - roughly):

May 2010: submitted a query letter to Harlequin Romantic Suspense (was called Silhouette Romantic Suspense at the time)

July 2010: received a request for the full manuscript and mailed it

October 2010: received a request for revisions

November 2010: mailed revisions

March 2011: received a request for a 2nd round of revisions

April 2011: mailed revisions

July 2011: followed up via email on my submission.

September 22, 2011: Got the CALL!

The Call

I love reading stories about writers who get the call from an editor or agent when their book is going to be published. In my writer groups, this telephone call is referred to as "The Call." This differs from the dreaded "R," which is a letter of rejection.

So without further ado... my story!

I had heard that HRS was increasing their word count and I had assumed that when I heard back about my book, it would be either a rejection or another request for revisions to make the book longer.

I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting ready to start dinner when I heard the phone ring. It was a 212 number I didn't recognize. I thought the call might be from a contractor we'd hired to install a new front door in our home. I answered and the person asked for me. She identified herself as Shana Smith from Harlequin (at this point I started shaking) and she said they wanted to publish my book (at this point I almost started to cry with happiness). For one small moment, I thought it might be friends of mine playing a joke, since just this week, I entered the New Voices contest and they had read my submission.

I can't recall all the details of the conversation, though I did manage to scribble down some notes on a pad of paper, but I'm pretty sure I sounded incoherent when answering and asking questions. From what I remember, she gave me details regarding timelines for revisions and asked about a pseudonym. She mentioned that she'd be interested in reading other manuscripts (good, cause I have tons) and seeing any connected books (books about the other characters in my novel --- the hero has 2 equally delicious brothers).

My book has been penciled in to the scheduled - I forgot to ask when (whoops!). The editor asked if I accepted, which of course I did, since this is my dream, and when a dream comes by, you don't hesitate - you grab it.

She was really nice and gave me her phone number and email in case I have follow up questions. After I process this, I probably will.

I hope I thanked her and communicated properly how thrilled I am to be given this opportunity.

After I hung up with her, I called my husband, who was happy of course, but said, "told you so, Double Witness just had that certain something." And he has read all my work - even the stuff from the beginning which he describes as "raw talent". It was very raw. Barely cohesive. Gotta love my husband's spin on things.

I emailed my fabulous critique partner, Cera Daniels to give her the news.

Then I called everyone I knew :)