Saturday, July 30, 2011

Resources for self-publishing

2 comments:

Courtesy of Angela Breidenbach.

I meant to post this last week, and then... I don't really know what happened. Busyness + busyness + more busyness, I suppose.

So when Angela sent me her guest post (which is a must-read if you're considering self-publishing. If you missed it, you can click here.) she also sent me a list of books she recommends and a hand out for a class she teaches on publishing.

Angela Breidenbach teaches at writers conferences, is published on Kindle with Creative Cooking for Colitis, Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance from Westbow Press, and traditionally published in Gems of Wisdom: For A Treasure-Filled Life from Journey Press: An imprint of Sheaf House. All her books are available on Amazon and autographed copies of the print versions are available directly from Angie’s website: http://www.AngelaBreidenbach.com.

Education and Promotion Tools for Self and Traditionally Published

~In his book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, Peter Bowerman gives advice to self-published authors on how to promote their books to make money.

~Getting Your Book Published for Dummies by Sarah Parsons Zackheim and Adrian Zackheim. This book has the entire process for any type of publishing process.

~The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson teaches publicity to all authors.

~Get Organized, Get Published! By Don Aslett and Carol Cartaino has both great organizing tips for writers, but also awesome business and marketing education.

Questions to ask yourself and use as a checklist toward your achievement of either self-publishing or traditionally publishing your books.

What’s your purpose?
-Family stories
-Message that’s highly sought after (such as a health solution, hope in dark times, etc.)
-Teaching
-Other?

Do you have a platform?
-Do you speak publicly?
-Do you have thousands of followers on twitter, facebook, or your website?
-Do you hold a job or position or achieved something that makes you a household name?
-Online presence?

Do you have the ability to market via time and skill as well as financially all on your own?
Marketing is required by the author regardless of the publishing choice, but the author takes on a couple of heavy responsibilities by self-publishing.
-Do you know how? Can you find a mentor?
-Do you understand distribution into bookstores? (Crucial to find someone that does.)
-Do you have a means to mass market?
-Do you have media connections? Can you hire a publicist for up to $2,000/month.
-Do you have financial management skills and an understanding of the complete publishing business or someone who does?
-Can you afford the financial risk?
-Do you have the time to run your book sales as a business and as an entrepeneur?

What type of company do you need?
A Printer:
-Prints what you give in the format you give
-Does no editing (scary unless you’ve had your book professionally edited!)
-Prices go down based on volume
-You own the books, store them, sell them
-No distribution connections (must hire a distributor.)

POD: Print On Demand
-Prints in specific format (often pdf) more like a copier
-Books can be run in 1 or thousands
-Entire process usually in one machine
-Higher production cost
-May or may not help with distribution (getting your book on the shelf is important. The publisher must have a distributor they can prove actually puts books on shelves.)

An Offset Printer
-Prints en masse
-Prints in layers, CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)
-Cannot print short runs
-Usually causes costs 10% over-run
-Creates storage needs
-May or may not have distribution connections (this is a big deal if you can’t get into bookstores.)

Digital Publisher format:
-Ebook, color or black/white
-Ipad
-Kindle
-Nook
-Traditional style like Desert Breeze, Marcher Lord Press, etc., or a supporting ebook by traditional publisher for the print version.

Turn-key Self Publishing Examples for both digital and paper versions:
-CreateSpace
-Smashmouth
Traditional:
-Proposal to live paper book in retail stores: entire processed managed by publisher
-Deadline requirements
-Cookie cutter process
-Royalty program
-Sell through requirements
-Distribution channel tried/proven
-Hard to get in the door
-Financial management handled by the publisher
-Risk belongs to the publisher
-More of the marketing is falling more on the author now days

What if you decide to self-pub?
What to avoid:
-Sloppy product: poor covers, poor interior design, poor quality of actual print ink/paper.
-No editing or minimal editing.
-Extra high book prices that won’t move in the stores.
-High Pressure tactics/Amazing promises.
-No networking or infrastructure unless you already have it.
Questions to ask before self-publishing:
-Do they distribute the book?
-Who is the distributor and where do they actually have books distributed?
-What is a comparable cover price to your book project?
-Do they edit, charge for edit?
-Their definition of editing the manuscript
a. Spell check
b. Substantive edit-logic, comprehension, tightening wordiness, etc.
c. Copy edit-punctuation, spelling, spacing, etc.
d. Visual/interior design-visually appealing, logic of page flow, industry standards
-Cover design quality/pricing
-What’s the charge for the cover file and the interior design file should you choose to leave that company in the future?
-Length of contract and proper exit from contract
-What books have they published that are similar?
-What marketing do they provide?
-What other services do they provide?
a. Storage
b. Shipping/handling/fulfillment
c. Inventory
- Press Release? To who?
-Book Trailer, Website, Promo Items? Beware!

Questions to ask before signing the contract:
-Your purchase price as the author
-Retail purchasers discount: Must be enough that they want to buy the book to sell in their stores.
-Store Returnability: Have not? Kiss sale goodbye.
-Publicity options
a. What are they?
b. What input do you have?
-Final cost with all details
-Will your agent look at it for you if it’s a self-pub? It’s worth asking. Since your agent isn’t earning anything on this contract deal, you could offer to pay a fee for the advice. Think what they would earn if you were traditionally publishing. Honor the work they would do for you by protecting your interests and you’ll be protecting your relationship.
-Can retailers order from the publisher? Is there a track record of this happening?
-How many books will you get?
Project Awareness:
-Know all the process including paper and color on paper.
-Have a timeline for the project and know where it is in the timeline and who is on it.
-Marketing timing to release date.
-Follow up, all the time.
-Check on website links such as books due up on Amazon, websites, etc.
-Be timely in response.
-If you don’t know, ask. If you don’t understand, research until you do.
-Understand the printing process of 4 up pagination
-Create marketing inside your book with front and back matter.
-What promotional tools will draw attention to your project?
-Know when to start pre-orders
-Set up your website and store well in advance.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What do you want this blog to be?

29 comments:
I'm seeking your help today.

I love Go Teen Writers, and I want to make sure it's as fun for you guys as it is for me. I'm getting ready to redo the site, and I really, really want your input.

If you want to email me privately, you can do that here. But if you don't mind making your suggestion publicly, that'd be great too. Let's just be our usual respectful selves, shall we? Disagreements are fine; rudeness is not.

Here are a couple questions I'm looking for the answers to, though you don't have to limit yourself to these nor do you need to answer them all:

What do you like best about Go Teen Writers? (Want to make sure I don't get rid of something you like!)

Would you like more opportunities to connect with other writers or no?

Do you like guest posts? I've considered asking some authors (like 2 or 3) if they want to take a day out of the month to be on GTW. (Like so-and-so would always blog on the 12th of the month or something.) Would you like getting different perspectives like that or no?

Is there something you would like to see more (or less) of on GTW?

Are there resources you wish GTW had that we don't?

I really value your feedback. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Staci Stallings on Self-Publishing

10 comments:
Staci Stallings has been gracious enough to come hang out with us here on Go Teen Writers to talk about why she chose to self-publish and why she feels it was the right choice for her. She'll be around today to answer any questions you may have.

A little about Staci, in her own words:

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. You can find her online at StaciStallings.com and you can read some of her books for free here.

The Road Less Taken

Every so often the subject of why I choose to self-publish comes up. There are those who say such a road is foolish and only taken by those who can't endure the rigors of traditional publishing. There are those who say self-publishing is "vanity" and that those who take it are just not willing to work hard enough to get their work "really published." They complain that self-published work is riddled with mistakes, of poor quality, and not worth the time and money to read.

I suppose all of those could be true for some, but for me, I did not choose this road lightly. I did not go into it thinking it would be a one-way ticket to fame and fortune. As a former high school English teacher, I did not blithely think I would skim through the work once, throw it together, and put it out. I knew very well what went into making a manuscript print ready, and I had the skills to do so.

In fact, I have helped several other authors to become traditionally published, so it's not like I couldn't get my writing to fit inside the box traditionals want you to be in. However, for me, it's not about fitting into someone else's box. I'm not particularly worried about the money--if it comes, great; if not, that's not why I write anyway. I have no need to "prove" myself to anyone. I simply love to write. I love to write what I write and how I write it, and because of self-publishing, I've found many readers who love the way I write too.

Four Reasons I Choose To Self-Publish

One. My work is my work. I like my voice--the way I write and how I write it. I like the freedom to be able to explore issues that traditional publishers shy away from. I love to write characters who are lost spiritually and then brought back into the embrace of God. Often the traditional publishing route for a first-time author is to go through the lines, which is great if you like the lines. Me? I like characters who are really off-the-rails, who struggle--not against physical conflict but against emotional and spiritual conflict.

Too often the lines are simply too short of a genre to gently weave a detailed story. In them, you are limited by word count (nearly half of what my typical word-count is) and by editor's expectations. For example, you can never mention underwear, kissing has to be limited, and you can never mention showering or bathing or have two unmarried characters sleep in the same house. Not to even mention no drinking or dancing.

For me, these "rules" put all characters in a box I'm not willing to put them in. And so for me, the lines are not an option. That's not to say they are not for some people. I know authors who love those boundaries. I'm just not one of them.

Two. The first book I released, I went through a quasi-traditional publisher who gave me an editor. The editor was a wonderful, nice guy, and I was so eager to please him that I let him strip the life right out of my book. In fact, that was the sixth book I had written. A year or so later, I self-published the fifth book I had written, and I had a lady come up and tell me how much my writing had "improved." Now, really. I wrote the sixth after the fifth. How much could my writing have improved going backward?

But that's what editors can do--they can strip you right out of the book. They can actually make good writing worse and great writing not-as-great. Sounds strange I know, but I've seen it happen countless times. If you decide to go traditional, be adamant that they don't change you.

Three. With three kids, a husband, two businesses, a house, a full-schedule of fund-raising at two schools, and teaching Sunday School and VBS, I simply don't have time to be at the beck-and-call of an agent or editor. I have friends who send a manuscript in, don't hear anything for months, and then suddenly get it back with, "Can you make these changes by Friday?" My schedule right now just doesn't work like that. When I was first published, I got assigned a publicist who seemed to think that my life was now her job to run. She scheduled me for TV appearances (exciting, I know) at six in the morning. My husband had work, and we had little kids. One of those appearances, it was a huge deal for me to even get there, but when I got there, I found out I wasn't even on their schedule! It didn't take me long to figure out that I don't do well with someone else (other than God) running my life.

Four. I can put out what I want when I want. If it works to put out several at a time in various venues, I can. If it doesn't, I'm not locked in. I'm not on contract to "pump out" a set number of stories a year. So my writing is free-flowing. If an opportunity comes up for an article, I have time to write it. If I want to work on a book I've been working on for a couple of years, I write on it. If a new idea comes up, I'm not committed to other projects that have to go first. I can write what God gives me to write when He gives me to write it. That cuts down on the pressure to produce. And production for me is not a problem. I've written 30 full-length novels, two short story compilations, a twice-a-week blog, writing for other blogs, and writing for my church. Self-publishing just gives me the freedom to go where I'm needed at the moment.

Self-publishing is not for everyone. If you are not strong at editing, look for someone who is. Get help. Learn the ropes. Do your homework. Enlist your English teacher if he or she is willing to help. Write everything you can get your hands on. Do writing contests at your school to get objective feedback. Write a journal. Write poetry. Write your own stories. (The best way to learn to write is to write!) Join groups that can connect you with people who can help. Just don't fall for the lie that traditional is the only "right" option out there. Follow your heart. Consult God. See what makes the most sense for you, then do that.

I have taken the road less traveled, and for me, that's made all the difference.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What makes a good title?

21 comments:
Ugh.

When I saw what I'd scheduled to talk about today, I had a brief, inner-toddler moment of "Don't wanna!"

That's because titles are hard. And even if you work your butt (or your "boom-boom" as my 3-year-old inexplicably calls it) off at creating what you think is the perfect title, your publishing house might change it.

Why do so many titles get changed in the publishing process? The best theory I've heard on this is that a writer tends to pick a title that has meaning and sticking power only if you've read the story. I think that's definitely true for me and likely many other writers as well.

So does it matter what you call your book if there's a 50% chance your future publishing house is going to change it anyway? In short, yes. In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder suggests that the title is part of the one-two punch of a great pitch, which includes your one-line. The title should "say what it is" but should say it cleverly. The example he gives of a great title is Legally Blond. He's right - it's a wonderful title. It says something about the tone, the story, the audience.

How do you come up with a great title? Brainstorming and trial and error.

My all-time favorite title is The Earth, my Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. I read in an interview that it took her 2 years of reworking that title, and it's paid off big time. When I bought the book at Barnes and Noble, the clerk laugh and started flipping through it. When I've talked about it on here before, my mom asked if she could borrow it. It's a title that grabs you, makes you laugh, and makes you curious.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to test the titles you've come up with:

Is it unique?
Could it apply to only your book or many others? The title Love or Money could be applied to tons of stories, so it lacks uniqueness. The Other Boleyn Girl (Philippa Gregory) couldn't. It's a great title. Or Hunger Games could only apply to Suzanne Collin's book. Same with The Uglies by Scott Westerfield.

Does it say something about what the book is about?
A great way to test this is on Facebook. You can post, "If you saw this book title, what would you think it was about?"

Like The Pact by Jodi Picoult. I instantly think this is about some sort of grave agreement. (It is.) Or My Sister's Keeper also by Jodi Picoult. My first impression would be it's a story about sisters and one is in charge of the other. (Close enough.)

The Earth, my Butt, and Other Big Round Things. Weight, but done in a funny way. (True.)


The Other Boleyn Girl. My thoughts instantly go to, "It's not about Anne ... did she have a sister? What would life have been like as Anne Boleyn's sister?"

The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson. I think 3 things - sacrifice, religion, and Catholic. All correct.

Is it memorable?
We've all had titles we have a tough time remembering. I really enjoyed the movie In Good Company, which came out a couple years ago. But for the longest time, I could NOT remember what it was called. I was always saying to my husband, "It's just like in ... that movie we watched. With Topher Grace ... remember he becomes Dennis Quaid's boss..."

I'm also not a fan of "50-cent" words in titles. Those big complicated words can make it tough to remember and can also make the meaning unclear.


It's possible you've written a marvelous book, but if your title and your elevator pitch don't sell it, it'll hinder you when you're trying to get it in front of agents and editors.

One of the best ways to learn what makes a good title is simply noticing them and paying attention to what captures your attention and what doesn't. So let's share! I've given examples of some titles I think work well; what are some of your favorites?



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eddie Snipes on self-publishing

11 comments:

Thanks to everyone who entered the Go Teen Writers Elevator Pitch contest! We received 22 entries, which is about half of what we get for prompt contests. I wasn't sure what to expect (writing a one-line summary of your book isn't nearly as fun or easy as writing 100 words of a story) but I'm proud of those who entered and impressed by the quality. Wonderful job, guys! The next writing prompt will go live Monday, August 1st.


Today we're continuing with our series on self-publishing. We've heard from Betsy St. Amant on POD publishing, Angela Breidenbach on her self-publishing experience, and today we have Eddie Snipes, author of I Called Him Dancer. Eddie will be around to answer any questions you may have for him, so feel free to leave questions in the comments section.


In Eddie's words:


Why Self-pub?


Traditional publishers are focused on one thing – how to market to the masses. For this reason, publishers are resistant to anything new. While they say, be unique, if your work doesn’t fit into a proven genre, they won’t take a chance on you. In other words, be unique, just like everyone else.


I chose to self-publish so I could keep the vision of my book. I

want to publish on my schedule, with my vision, and control the content. Talk to any published author and you’ll find that the author’s vision may not be the publisher’s vision. When there is a conflict, the publisher has the final say.


Self-published authors aren’t dependent upon the industry. The query process for an agent could take months or years. After landing an agent, it could take months or years to find a buyer for the book. Then it could be another year or two before it hits the press. For most authors, it’s a long and painful process.


Cons to self-pubbing

No paid book advance. Advances are shrinking, so this is losing its importance, but if a self-published book flops, the author makes nothing.


Loss of respect. If you self-publish, you can be a bestselling author, and still be considered a hack. John Locke is a New York Times bestseller and has had six books in the top ten at one time, but people still say he’s not a real author.


Self-published authors are excluded from awards and many other recognitions. This will change as the market does, but if getting praise from the publishing industry is important to you, self-publishing isn’t a good option.


Marketing is all on the author. For the most part, this is true for traditional authors as well, but traditional channels include press releases and easy book distribution. Even so, book marketing is the author’s responsibility. In my opinion, if an author has to do the work, he or she should get a higher profit.


Editing, cover art, printing, distribution, and marketing are on the author. It’s a big job, but in my opinion, not difficult to do. When help is needed, there are professionals who can do these things for a reasonable cost.


Costs

This is my opinion, but I’m convinced it’s true. If you plan to publish as an independent author, don’t use a self-publishing press. The services are overpriced and if you are willing to do the work, the cost can be low. Most self-pub presses overprice books. If the book is $18, you won’t sell to anyone but friends. CreateSpace gives the option for authors to publish for just the cost of the book. Then you can set the price as low as you want, and your only other cost is editing, cover art, etc.


Get informed and make a smart decision. I’ll continue to self-publish, but each person needs to evaluate their own goals.


Keep on writing!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Winning entries from, "I turned on the light..."

10 comments:

I actually planned on posting all this on Saturday, but my blogging time got eaten up by this guy's party:



I'm pretty sure, however, the birthday festivities are officially over and life can go back to it's normal level of crazy.

Below are the winning entries from last round's prompt. DON'T FORGET YOUR ELEVATOR PITCHES ARE DUE TODAY. Click here for details.

By Ellyn Gibbs (First)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief. Philippe was not in bed. And there was a frightful caterwauling coming from outside the darkened window. I went to it and peered down. “Philippe! What are you thinking, you silly boy? Frenchmen don’t serenade their ladies!”
The caterwauling stopped. “I know, my own, but…”
“Besides!” I said. “We’re already married.”
“Yes, dearest, but it was the only thing I could think of to make you jump out the window.” His voice shook in urgency.
“Jump? Why on earth - ”
I saw Philippe’s face freeze, and at the same time, a smooth gun muzzle prodded my neck.
The judge says: Ooo! Very nice hook! Cute and funny, then gripping.

By Jordan Graham (First)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief. There he was. I had seen him before and was glad to see him. However, when he appeared, it was rarely a good sign. He extended his hand and, as it grasped mine, he whispered, “The Kingdom is under attack. His Majesty wishes you to join Him right away. Will you come?”

“Of course.” I nodded. I knew exactly what was fast approaching, for it had been foreseen long ago. Bursting through the window, he extended his long, feathered wings. The elation of flight almost chased away the looming knowledge of what was to come. I was soaring to war.

The judge says: Excellent! I wanted to get to know someone who would willingly hop out a window and fly off to war with a winged creature at a moment's notice.

By Katy McCurdy (First)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief. The bottle of wine looked out of place on my kitchen counter—I never bought wine anymore. Something wasn’t right.
Movement to my right caught my attention. I wasn’t alone. My pulse quickened.
“Hello, Courtney.”
Nerves on edge, I whirled toward the voice…and froze.
He was here. Gerald, my spurned lover and unforgiving tormentor. Slivers of fear pierced my chest. The witness protection program had promised safety…and yet, he had found me.
“The boss has another job for you.” He grinned in sick pleasure.
Panic clutched my heart as I found my voice. “No…I won’t kill for you again.”
The judge says: I really feel like I’m in the head of the main character and being pulled directly into an intriguing story. The writing flows so that you forget about it and focus on the story. Wonderful job.

By Jordan Newhouse (Two votes for second)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief. My brother had been gone for so long, and now here he was sitting on Mama's feed sack quilt!
"Rick! You're home!"
I climbed on the bed and wrapped my arms around him. Then I noticed his empty sleeve. I touched it and frowned.
"A Japanese bullet took it. It's lucky it wasn't just a few inches to the right." He traced his finger over to the place near his heart.
"God brought you home safe." I put the sleeve around my shoulders.
He stared at the hand he had left. "Why me and not Warren?”
The judges say: The historical writer in me jumped all over this one. The feed sack quilt got my attention right away as a great detail that set the scene beautifully./Great details. Very compelling.

By Clare Kolenda (Third)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief.
My brother, my twin, the other half of me that had disappeared nine years ago, stood in front of me.
My breath seemed to be caught in my chest, suffocating me. “Sam,”
His eyes were sunken in; it appeared life had not treated him well since he had left. He looked older than his twenty-four years. “Hi, Annie.”
My whole body trembled. “What are you doing here?”
His smile left his face, “I need help.”
Sam stepped back and revealed what was behind hm. A car seat; carrying a baby.

The judge says: Good start to a novel. Great job showing the story and setting the scene. Good balance of story elements.

By Adria Olson (Third)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief. After living in shadows and darkness for seventeen years, I could finally see. The operation worked. I looked around the hospital room at my family. They eagerly stared at me as if they were the ones seeing me for the first time. My mother has curly brown hair; my father has hazel eyes. "How many fingers am I holding up?," my sister asked. My eyes filled with tears, but I forced myself to blink them back: I didn’t want the tears to blur my first few moments of sight.

The judge says: What an intriguing opening. I immediately started wondering what that moment must've felt like, where she'd go from here, how the ability to see would change her...it would sure keep me turning pages to find out.

By Rye Mason (Third)

I turned on the light, then blinked in disbelief. Seven stuffed rabbits and a magician’s hat dangled from my ceiling on fishing line. I looked down at the keys in my hand. Did I unlock the wrong apartment? I ran my free hand over my eyes to push out the sleep from my 2 AM convenience store shift. I wasn’t dreaming because I could still smell cigarette smoke and cold recycled air on my uniform.
Then with a start I realized I’d seen this before. The Magician had been on the news, or rather, the aftermath of his murders had been on the news. He had come for me.
The judge says: Gives me chills! I want to scream at her to run!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cliche Plots and last round's finalists

23 comments:
Once upon a time, I only posted on Go Teen Writers twice a week. These days I feel like I could post 7 days a week if I wanted to spend that much time blogging.

A reader emailed me to ask, "I was wondering though if you had any advice for me as to how to make a cliche plot not so cliche."

One of my tips is to read a lot, especially in the genre you write. Not only does it help you know what's being done in your genre, it helps you determine what's fresh and what's not. How would you know "my knees went weak" is a cliche unless you'd read it in 10 different books? And it works for "bigger cliches" too, not just phrasing. I read an article last year saying red-headed best friends had become a cliche. When you read widely in your genre, you'll get a good idea of what's "done" and what's not.

But helping you determine what is a cliche doesn't help you change a cliched plot, does it?

Freshening a plot takes work. It involves pushing yourself, pushing your characters. A good place to start is asking questions - what if he's not handsome? What if she's not beautiful? What if the step mother isn't evil? What if no one is rich or poor, they're all just middle class? What if what she thinks she needs to solve her problem isn't it what she needs at all? What if it's actually the thing standing in her way? What if they're misunderstanding a key piece of information? What if they don't get a "happily ever after?"

Part of creating a fresh plot is not settling for the first idea that pops into your brain. It'd be great if our ideas were all perfection, but if you're like me, that initial idea needs work. Needs poking and prodding. Needs to be molded into something bigger and better.

If you write a genre like romance, freshness can be tough to come by. Romance stories follow a formula. (If they don't, they're not true romances, they just have a love thread.) Romance is:

Boy gets girl.
Boy loses girl.
Boy gets girl back.

Twilight, a romance. Gone with the Wind, not a romance. Because at the end, they're not together.

In a genre where the story follows a formula, what makes or breaks it is the characters. Say your hero is a country music hot shot, a guy brimming with confidence. And say your heroine, the main character, is a nobody. Very shy and insecure. What might keep them from being cliche romance novel characters? Their insides.

Why is she shy? Maybe she's been in abusive relationships. Maybe everyone in her family is outgoing, and she wasn't able to get a word in. Maybe she used to be outgoing, but embarrassed herself on stage one time and is now shy.

Also, what in her life is she confident about? We almost all have something we feel we're good at or can find security in. Maybe she's outgoing with kids or the elderly. Build in those contradictions.

Same with those confident characters. Where in their life are they broken? Where are they insecure? Susan May Warren did a fabulous job with this in Finding Stefanie. Her hero was a handsome, confident actor ... but he had MS. Wonderful character. Love that guy.

Developing layers in your characters will help build a freshness into your story and plot. Just whatever you do ... don't make the best friend a red head.

That's a joke.

Okay, those who placed last round are:

First Place
Ellyn Gibbs
Jordan Graham
Katy McCurdy

Second Place
Rebecca Pennefather
Jordan Newhouse (received 2 votes for second)

Third Place
Clare Kolenda
Adria Olson
Rye Mason

Honorable Mentions
Clare Kolenda (also placed third)
Rye Mason (also placed third)
Alyssa Liljequist (received 2 votes for HM)
Alyson Schroll
Rebekah Hart
Talia DeAndrea
Jenna Blake Morris


I'm still waiting to hear back from a few winners. I'll probably post winning entries tomorrow. Don't forget to enter this round's contest. Happy Friday, everyone!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Self or Traditional Publishing: How, Why or Why Not?

7 comments:

Angela Breidenbach is here today to talk about her experiences with self-publishing.

Angela teaches at writers conferences, is published on Kindle with Creative Cooking for Colitis,
Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance from Westbow Press, and traditionally published in Gems of Wisdom: For A Treasure-Filled Life from Journey Press: An imprint of Sheaf House. All her books are available on Amazon and autographed copies of the print versions are available directly from Angie’s website: http://www.AngelaBreidenbach.com.

She sent me loads of information for you guys, so I'll be posting part one today and part two early next week.

(I just paused to reread what I'd typed and found about 10 typos. My fingers are clearly working faster than my brain today. Oy.) Luckily I get to move on to the interview portion of today's post:


Stephanie: Why did you self-publish?
Angie: I had a cookbook that I wanted to sell to help people with a problem I’d successfully overcome. I didn’t want to wait the year to two (or longer) it often takes to “shop” a book. So I tried a few different ideas to decide the best format. Ebook wins this round for me. Kindle is the easiest to manage the first timer experience with Nook falling right there behind for being able to handle color photos.

Stephanie: Tell us what you've liked about it, what you've disliked.
Angie: I really like the personal control I have over my material and price. I’ve published my cookbook into CD, ebook, and even a PDF version before I had a paperback version created. Then I took it to Kindle and am now working on the Nook version.

What I don’t like about it is the many versions of ebooks out there. I wish it were a simple one-epub-format-fits-all. Smashmouth is a great way to send a book into all the different versions of epub, but it doesn’t handle photography well so I’ve had to format myself. There’s a small learning curve on each specific format. I’ve had to fit it into my regular writing and speaking schedule. It’s also hard to get a paperback self-pubbed book into bookstores.

Stephanie: What surprised you, what you'd do differently next time?
Angie: International sales in Australia and the U.K have surprised me. But I produced something that people need in a niche market. A niche market is a smaller market that has a group of like-minded readers or a similar problem. Since my first cookbook deals with a specific health issue,
it’s considered a niche book. The topic narrows to those interested in that specific information. The paperback and soon to release (when I finish the formatting) Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance, includes the health issues in the back as bonus material so the reader gets more for their buying investment but it’s a general market product for higher sales. If I could do it differently, I’d have someone do the formatting for me for about $115 or so. But right now, I’m doing it to keep my costs down.

Stephanie: Many people have asked me about cost, so if you're comfortable sharing numbers (or even a ballpark)…
Angie: Every book is different due to page count, images, and design. There’s interior design and cover design, both handled as separate cost factors. Going to paper right now, I feel is very cost prohibitive for any author. You’re talking thousands unless you do a POD (print-on-demand). But in POD style of self-publishing, you’re also up against less profit. My suggestion is to test your book in the Kindle, Nook, Smashmouth markets first. Begin to reap the rewards of putting your work out there for no cost, set the price based on the guidelines, carefully read the guidelines, and then let it build.

A crucial element of self-publishing, regardless of format, is that your work must be pristine. The book must be professionally edited before it goes out for public consumption. Yes, you do have to pay for that if you are self-pubbed. But it’ll kill your career if you put out inferior product.

The other thing that helps is to have more books out there. Start with small books of 20,000 – 40,000 words so you can build momentum off of a lot of product creating name recognition. I’ve been meeting some traditional contract deadlines or I’d have a few more up on Kindle as fast as possible. They’re in the works, but you have to recognize your own time constraints. Another super important detail is the understanding that everything takes time. Building a platform with twitter, facebook, blogging, and learning how to get and do interviews helps build name recognition.

Stephanie here. Whew. Are you on information overload? Angela is super nice, so if you have questions for her, please leave them below, and I bet she'll answer them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

POD Publishing by Betsy St. Amant

8 comments:
Many of you have asked me questions about how to get published and what my feelings are about self-publishing. The industry is constantly changing, and I don't have firsthand self-publishing experience, so I sent out a message on my writer's loops asking if there were self-pubbed authors willing to share their stories.

One of the responses came from the beautiful and talented Betsy St. Amant, which at first threw me because Betsy is traditionally published with Steeple Hill and, recently, Barbour. (Her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY: CONFESSIONS OF A PK releases in January.) But she was initially with a print on demand publisher and thought you all might benefit from hearing about her experience.

If you have questions, I'm sure Betsy would be happy to answer them. Betsy is also judging the writing contest this round; don't forget to enter!

And now, here's Betsy:

In 2007, my very first book, Midnight Angel, was published through The Wild Rose Press, in their White Rose Inspirational line. The Wild Rose Press was a brand new POD Publisher, which stands for "print on demand". POD means that each book is printed one at a time after they are ordered, as opposed to how traditional publishers print a "print run" (an often unknown number of copies of your novel, anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000) at one time.
At the time, I had no clue how anything worked in the industry, and was just thrilled to know I was having a book published. I didn't have to pay to have it published, but I didn't get an advance, either. I only received royalities on copies sold (typical for a small publisher. Today, The Wild Rose Press does pay a small advance) Naive, I barrelled ahead full force, thinking my novel would be in bookstores and would become the next big thing.

But it wasn't, and it didn't. Bookstores wouldn't order copies to put on the shelf,
because they were afraid of not being able to return them. Because TWRP wasn't a traditional publisher, and because it was POD, my options were very limited and my sales minimal. The book, though only about 50,000 words, sold online at Amazon for $11 - a little high, considering that my Love Inspired Books now of 60,000 words sell for $5.75. I ended up discovering the best way to make money was to buy a ton of my book with my author discount, then sell them outright to family and friends and church members myself and keep the cash. I was in charge of all my own marketing, etc, which I also hadn't expected. There were a lot of surprises and I learned some life lessons. Looking back, I soon felt that my book wasn't completely ready to be out there, yet in regards to editing and structure and design but...there was it.

A few years later I acquired an agent, who sold RETURN TO LOVE to Love Inspired, and I've had 5 LI's published with a 6th one coming in April 2012 (my 5th one releases August 1st) The differences between small press/POD publishing and traditional is huge in regards to money, advances, marketing, and sales. That doesn't mean small press/POD publishing is bad, it's just different. My experience with POD was a positive one over all, and I made friends with my editor and was able to network and take those stepping stones to the next level and learn a LOT about the industry along the way. However, I do wish someone had been there to warn me up front about the differences of POD/small press publishing vs. traditional, to prepare me. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Elevator Pitches Part Two

7 comments:
My husband thinks I'm weird, but I think Pinterest is way fun. I only learned about it on Friday, so I'm pretty new over there, but I've started a Teen Writers pinboard that I'll be adding to as I get more time/discover more resources. I love that it's visual social networking and therefore feels different than Facebook or Twitter. Way fun. And way addictive.

Anyway, that's not what we're really talking about today. We're talking about elevator pitches. One thing I failed to clarify is that we're talking about a written pitch, so I guess really I should be calling this a one-liner since elevator pitch implies verbal. We'll talk about verbal pitches sometime soon.

Yesterday I shared 4 elements of a good elevator pitch - a sense of irony, a compelling mental picture, audience and cost, and killer title. We're going to focus on those first two.

So what is a "sense of irony?" Let's make sure we're working from the same definition here:

From Dictioary.com: a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., especially as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.

Sometimes I feel like I'm too stupid for dictionaries. Like I need a Dictionaries for Dumbies or something.

Focus on that "contradictory impulses" thing.

This is the one-liner example I gave before - A self-sufficient, small town girl must work through her prejudices against out-of-towners when a conceited tourist turns out to be everything she needs.

The irony represented in this elevator pitch is that she's prejudice against out-of-towners ... but then falls in love with one. Also that she's described as being self-sufficient, but finds that she needs this person. That contradiction is the story's conflict.

Let's look at another one - A quick-witted, intelligent teen, secretly pursues her dream of publishing a novel after being ostracized by the snarky friends who inspired her story.

I think the irony in this is a little trickier to nail down; she's secretly pursuing a very public lifestyle.

So if that "irony" word is throwing you off, instead think of it as "contradiction." What contradiction can you show in your 30 words?

I love the way Blake Snyder describes it in Save the Cat. He says, "It must be in some way ironic and emotionally involving - a dramatic situation that is like an itch you have to scratch."

I also love what Blake Snyder says about the second thing on his list when talking about creating a compelling mental picture. He says, "it must bloom in your mind when you hear it. A whole movie must be implied, often including a time frame."

So let's look at this example again. A quick-witted, intelligent teen, secretly pursues her dream of publishing a novel after being ostracized by the snarky friends who inspired her story. If she's pursuing a dream of getting published, that implies this is a story that unfolds over a period of months, not days or weeks. I also think we get a good sense of what this story might involve - losing her group of friends, dealing with rejection from them yet opening herself up to rejection in the business world, the hope of her dream being achieved (getting published) battling against her fear of her former friends discovering what she did.

Another thing to note - I didn't use names in either of my pitches. What tells your more about the story? "Gabby secretly pursues her dream..." or the way it's currently written?

With the other example I gave, I also talked about the hero. I described him as a "conceited tourist." I could have picked a lot of other adjectives to describe Colton. Colton's loyal, shy, hot, and determined. But none of those make the story difficult. By saying he's a conceited tourist, I show you why there are sparks when him and the heroine are around each other - because she's a "self-sufficient, small-town girl" with prejudices. Of course she's not going to get along with some conceited tourist. Especially if he thinks she needs him.

Hopefully those pointers help. I feel like I'm only now starting to understand what makes a good one-liner. It's definitely a learning process. Feel free to ask questions, and don't forget you can get feedback on your one-liner by entering it in this round's Go Teen Writers contest. And if you're under 20, get yourself registered for the NextGen conference and enter your pitch there too.

Tomorrow, Betsy St. Amant will be here talking about her publishing experience. It's a complete scheduling fluke that she's guest posting during a week when she's also judging. Made me think of 30 Rock when corporate executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) says to Liz (Tina Fey) "You can't fight synergy, Liz. It's bigger than all of us." True that, Jack.

Have a great day, everyone.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Elevator Pitches Part One

8 comments:
Real quick - "Sananora," you're the winner of Roseanna M. White's Jewel of Persia. Please email me with your mailing address, and we'll get that sent to you.

Traditionally on Go Teen Writers, we do writing prompts every other Monday. (If you're new to GTW, click here for an example.)

But because we're talking about elevator pitches today...

And because I'm running the elevator pitch contest for NextGen Writer's Conference...


And because I think elevator pitches are a critical skill...

We're going to do elevator pitches instead of a writing prompt this round.

Let me introduce our wonderful judges, and then I'll talk about some more details and what makes a good elevator pitch:


Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by as depicted in her first highly-acclaimed novel,Chasing Lilacs. Carla launched her writing career in 2002 when she earned the coveted honor of being invited to attend Guidepost's Writers Workshop in Rye, New York. Since then, her articles have appeared in Guideposts,Angels on Earth, Saddle Baron, and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine.

In her life before writing, Carla enjoyed a career in nursing and raising her family. Now that their four sons are married and they’ve become empty-nesters, she and her husband relish the occasional weekend getaway and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.
Carla enjoys a good cup of coffee, great books, and hearing from you, her readers. You’re invited to contact her and learn more about her writing at her website.


A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa is a writer of not your usual Christian Fiction. She weaves stories of unscripted grace and redemption with threads of hope, humor, and heart.

Walking on Broken Glass is her debut novel. Her next novel, Edge of Grace will be released by Abingdon Press in August of 2011. Her essays have been published in The Ultimate Teacher, Cup of Comfort,Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul.

Christa is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a teacher of high school English. She and her husband Ken live in Abita Springs, Louisiana, where they and their three cats enjoy their time playing golf, dreaming about retirement and dodging hurricanes.


Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers . Betsy is multi-published through Steeple Hill and has been published inChristian Communicator magazine andPraise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press. She has a BA in Christian Communications and regularly freelances for her local newspaper. Betsy is a fireman’s wife, a mommy to a busy toddler, a chocolate-loving author and an avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God’s grace through her stories. Look for her recently contracted YA novel in January 2012!


I don't know about y'all, but that list leaves me feeling a little starstruck...

Your elevator pitch must be 30 words or less, and is due by Monday, July 25th at 11:59pm. One entry per person, and you must be 25 or under to enter. You may email your entry by clicking here, or at Stephanie(at)GoTeenWriters(dot)com. (Note, if you're registered for the NextGen conference and wish to enter your prompt in both the NextGen contest and the GTW contest, you need to specify that when you email me. If you've already entered the NextGen contest pitch-it contest, email me again with your prompt saying you're entering in GTW contest too.)

Let's get started talking about what makes a good elevator pitch.

What I'm sharing is coming from Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, which is meant for
screenwriters, but much of the advice applies to novelists too. Especially his advice about a "one-line" which you'll also hear called an elevator pitch or logline.

The job of the one-line is to create a compelling mental picture that implies an entire story. It should also say something about who your characters are, what kind of dilemma they're facing, the tone of the story, and a clue about the intended audience. (A one-line for a regency novel will sound different than a one-line for a romantic comedy.) All in about 30 words.

Here’s an example: A self-sufficient, small town girl must work through her prejudices against out-of-towners when a conceited tourist turns out to be everything she needs. (23 words)

Blake Snyder suggests that all good elevator pitches have 4 components:

1. A sense of irony

2. A compelling mental picture.

3. Audience and cost (for novelists, that cost thing doesn't count, but audience does)

4. A killer title.

For our purposes, we'll talk about those first two Wednesday, then deal with titles later this week.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pitch-It Contest

12 comments:


It's a special day in our house today. As of 9:13 tonight, this guy



will be a year old.

Crazy. So it'll be a shorter blog post today.

I told you guys on Wednesday that we were going to shift our focus from the craft of writing to the business of writing. One of the things you'll have to have is an "elevator pitch." Something to say when you're asked, "What's your book about?"

Crafting a good elevator pitch is an art unto itself, and we'll spend some time next week talking about what makes a good one. Which is timely because the NextGen Writers conference page has been updated recently with the details on the Pitch-it contest, so you Go Teen Writer readers will have a leg up on everyone else.

Also the schedule of presenters has been released, which you can check out here. I'll be the one in my jammies talking about the wonders of secondary characters.

I'm putting together a list of "publishing business" topics to cover. What would you like to see on that list? What agents look for? Outstanding query letters?





Thursday, July 14, 2011

Top 20 finalists from, "I turned on the light"

6 comments:
Here's the list of those who made the top 20

Clare Kolenda
Nicki Taylor
Rayna Huffman
Ellyn Gibbs
Jamie Nickel
Alyson Schroll
Adria Olson
Rebekah Hart
Talia DeAndrea
Rebecca Pennefather
Rachelle Rea
Jordan Graham
Esther Wong
Jordan Newhouse
Sammie Weiss
Jenna Blake Morris
Katy McCurdy
Teddy Chan
Alyssa Liljequist
Rye Mason

Congratulations everyone! If your name is on that list, your entry has been passed on to the other judges. If your name isn't on that list, I'm still working on returning feedback, so it should be coming.

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Perfect Novel Writing System

9 comments:
We've spent the last 7 months talking about the process for writing a novel, from the spark of idea to getting your commas right.

Once upon a time I thought I would eventually find some magic system for writing a book. I'm a girl who loves to organize, and I thought one of these days I would find a method that made my plots work perfectly the first time, my characters fleshed out from page one, and a variety of other ludicrous notions.

But after writing The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series plus 3 other manuscripts I'm hoping will get snapped up one of these days, I've become more comfortable with the idea that there is no perfect novel writing system. I've made peace with the reality that I will always have room to improve.

Sure, I have things that generally work well for me. Like editing the big stuff before focusing on details. But it's impossible to say, I always do my synopsis, then write my first draft from start to finish. Because sometimes I have to make time for character journals. Or edits on other books. So don't waste your time putting together some kind of 1, 2, 3 checklist for novel writing and insist on following it each and every time.

Be open to trying new techniques, and at the end take time to evaluate what worked for you and what didn't.

Last time, on my work-in-progress Playing Kitchen, I tried a Scene Breakdown Spreadsheet. This worked fine for me for, like, 3 chapters. Then the story veered, and while I occasionally glanced at my spreadsheet in hopes of finding guidance for my next scene, I don't think creating an SBS is very time-efficient for me. So I won't do it.

For my current WIP, Lost or Found, I had just read The Story Template by Amy Deardon, and I'm trying a couple new things. Some will work their way into my routine, and others won't.

What about you? Have you discovered something new that works? Something that doesn't?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Winning Entries from "No one wanted to be here"

No comments:
Thank you everyone for being so patient! I spent a couple days in Nebraska last week, and didn't have time before I left to get everyone's permission to post their entry.

Since the first of the year, we've been talking about the writing process. This week we're going to wrap that up and talk more about the publishing business. Many of you have asked about self-publishing, which is something I don't have any first hand experience with, so I've invited some self-published novelists to come on the blog and talk to you guys. It'll be an education for both of us. We're also going to talk about traditional publishing, agents, back cover copy, elevator pitches, and much, much more. We'll likely delve into marketing and platform building too, since they're a necessary evil in the life of being a published writer.

Enough prattling. Below are the winning entries from the prompt, "No one wanted to be here."

By Jenna Blake Morris (First and second)

“No one wanted to be here,” she admitted. “Probably nerves.”
“Gwen.” The knife was cold in my hand.
She swept the bangs from my face, all business. “They’ll crown him at the platform—”
“No,” I whispered. “I can’t kill the king.” Panic blossomed within me. The people wouldn’t realize the nation would fail if a king was crowned now.
I’d be condemned. Probably hanged.
“Listen,” Gwen said firmly, lifting my chin. “We’re with you. Together, we’ll save everyone.”
“I guess.”
“Sure we will. Now get going.”
I nodded, dizzy. It was time.
I was the Assassin.
I had one life to end—millions to save.


The judge says:
I love this ending! Although if it were simple narrative, I might say it was “purple prose,” but that it feels so much like the character is justifying his actions, and these are his direct thoughts… it works!
Overall, I really like the scenario and the conflict you’ve established, plus the relationship between the characters, and you’ve written a great hook that would keep me reading. Good stuff!

By Joe Duncko (First)

No one wanted to be here. Even so, I think I desired it the least of all. The last four years of my life, spent climbing up to the top of my class, brought down in an instant. Of course I had to be part that handful of hoodlums that were too slow to make it out the back before the police came in. I stood with my hands to the wall, awkwardly trying to avoid placing my palms on the many portraits that lined the wall. It was as if their smiles mocked me.
The judge says: This is solid from the get-go and GREAT thanks to the last line. That single image perfectly captures the entire scene.

By Courtney Calvert (First)

No one wanted to be here. We’re waiting as long as we can, watching the sea of black disappear through the church doors. Ryan had always run with the wrong crowd, but this came as a shock. A few months ago, she’d turned her life around. She had been a different girl.

The ring of the church bell startles me and I notice we’re alone. It’s time to head inside before Coach comes for us. The team follows me through the doors to our pew. As we file in, I notice a note. I pick it up and freeze as I read:
You're next Rachel Forester.

The judge says: For me, this was like the beginning of an episode of LOST—there’s these mysterious occurrences happening in a place of worship, but why? And who exactly is Coach? If that wasn’t already enough to make you want to turn the page, you end with a humdinger of a hook that makes me feel rather afraid for poor Rachel Forester. If you kept the action paced as well as you did in the beginning, I think you’d have one fantastic novel!

By Faye Rhys (Second)
No one wanted to be here. Not the crowd, nor the convicts. I was a convict.
I stood in line, my hands bound in front of me, awaiting my death. Every time I heard the trap door engage, I shut my eyes down tight, and wished that my hands were free so that I could clap them over my ears. And each time another group of innocents died; still another group was pushed closer to their deaths.
Bang!
A single gunshot rent the air. The thunder of other firearms reverberated in reply.
A man materialized before me, cutting my bonds. The ropes fell. I was free!

The judge says: This is definitely intriguing, bringing up questions of why the narrator’s a convict, why and who set him/her free—great stuff!

By Rebekah Hart (Second)
No one wanted to be here. I forced myself to kick, to keep afloat. The dark unforgiving waters pulled at my courage. My shipmates' panic was fueling my own. Through the hull I heard muted gunfire and screaming, constant screaming. Floating debris rammed my chin as someone moved towards me. Funny, I didn't feel anything.
“Chase?” my buddy's voice shook.
“Yeah.”
“It's bad, isn't it?” I hated that I knew the answer. Taking five torpedoes, the Oklahoma couldn't last long.
Nearby drilling made us freeze. If they cut through too slowly, we'd lose our air-pocket and drown. A crack appeared. The water rose.

The judge says: I loved your beginning because it was so inherently visual. I felt like I was right there with these guys in the middle of the chaos, which is exactly where you want your readers to be. I don’t even know these characters, but I’m immediately invested in their survival. Like a great movie, you start with the action…a wise move in setting the stage for an exciting adventure.


By Rye Mason (Third):

No one wanted to be here. Their eyes said it with sparkling tears and low lids stained purple and teal. Not a single girl met the policeman’s gaze when they entered the room.
He told them to stand against the wall, chalked with thick black lines that ran ragged over concrete, and face the camera without blinking and without smiling. Their faces glistened when they composed themselves enough to look up. No one blinked and no one smiled. The camera fired off three shots, white enough to be lightning, and then, just like that, their faces were captured forever for the Milton County Correctional Institute.

The judge says: A group of girls in a correctional facility? I’m intrigued by the unorthodox protagonists and already find myself wondering what they did and why. I also like the unconventional descriptions of the girls’ lids…the purple and teal…that was a great touch

By Carilyn Everett (Third)

No one wanted to be here. This seemingly never-ending transfer of me and the other young men in my company served only to weaken the tyrants in my mind.
I winced as the iron door clanged shut. The sentinels shouted to each other like clockwork in the polished corridor outside. So here we were, in yet another of the dictator's antechambers. A young man near me sighed.
A moment of silence reigned until we heard the sentinels' shuffling. Then the mechanized lock-door swung down over the outside of the iron door and sealed us in. It was all too familiar.
Great.


The judge says: What I love about this one is the utter disconnect the character feels. Like, yawn, here we go again. Facing the dictator. Woo. Hoo.

By Ellyn Gibbs (Third)

No one wanted to be here. Not heavy-set Bud Tompkins, not lean, aristocratic Luther Hunt, and definitely not me.
But, as the youngest sheriff in Smithers County, I was obliged to always look intimidating. Even when my little office sizzled with the heated glares of two rivals.
"Glad you c'ud come, gentlemen," I said, linking sweaty hands behind my back. "Set down, an' we'll settle this dispute quick as an eighty-acre claim."
Tompkins grunted, while Hunt sniffed and adjusted his expensive leather vest.
I rubbed my temples and knew that this job was going to be as dirty as a swamped cow.

The judge says: Fabulous setting of scene, excellent voice, and some truly great lines. My only suggestion is to forgo the dialect-spelling in the dialogue. The accent comes through fine through word choice—creative spelling just slows the reader down. Love the character you’ve set up here!