Books by Melissa Bowersock

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Agents: Got One? Need One?

In a lot of the book forums I frequent, I often see posts by newbies asking plaintively how one goes about getting an agent. The traditional publishing segment, of course, continues to bleat out its timeworn advice to writers: get an agent, get validated by being traditionally published. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the only way to get “validated” is by doing things their way, playing by their rules? But that’s another post.
sticks-agent
A much more interesting note is the fact that recently traditional publishers have found that combing through the growing ranks of indie writers is yielding a double bonus for them: these writers have already gambled on putting their voices out there and for some the public has responded positively. The traditional publishers are now taking a new look at the indie boom, since they’re finding (1) good books, already vetted by the public, with (2) a built-in following. The publishers are definitely seeing—and jumping on—the opportunities of the growing indie movement.

But the ones who are still dead-set against it? You got it. The agents, the very ones who are being marginalized by this new tete-a-tete. After all, if you can put your book out there, gather a following and possibly, eventually, get picked up by a traditional publisher, who needs an agent?
sticks-noagent (2)
I had one once, through sheer serendipity. Eons ago, back in the middle Paleolithic, I used to write my books in longhand on blue line. By the time I got done with one, I was pretty well sick of it and I had no interest in typing it up (on a typewriter [electric, not manual. It wasn’t THAT far back!]). Luckily my mom was a good typist and volunteered to do it for me, so I shipped my 15-pound manuscript off to her.

Unbeknownst to me, she not only typed up my book but liked it well enough to shop it around to a literary agent she knew. He liked it, as well, and agreed to represent me.

All of a sudden **bam** I had an agent!

Initially things went well. He dutifully made copies of my ms and mailed it out to various publishers. He would let me know when he received a response of note, usually a rejection letter with nice encouragement, i.e., “Doesn’t fit our program at the current time, but has promise and we hope you will keep us in mind on future projects,” or something of that nature. As he was pitching the first book, I was writing the second. When he notified me that he had negotiated a contract for the first book, I was, understandably, over the moon.

Unfortunately my book took a little longer to make it through the process to publication than it should have. The company that originally bought my book went under; it was bought out by another. In the aftermath, the second company had to go through the backlog of contracts and decide which ones it wanted to keep and which ones it didn’t. I was lucky; it kept mine.

But it took four years before the book came out. In the meantime, of course, I was writing and figured my agent was earning his keep by sending out my second book. It was a jolt when I got a letter from my publisher asking if I had any other books they could see. Well, yes, of course I have other books. I promptly sent them my second book. They liked it and bought it. So now I’m thinking: what the heck is my agent doing?

Come to find out he was busy looking for properties for movie projects. He told me to quit writing westerns (both my first two books were western romances) because they didn’t translate well to the big screen. He had many ideas for what I should have been doing, but no interest in promoting what I was doing.

Needless to say, it was time to go our separate ways. That was back in, um, 1987. Since then, I’ve published 11 other books by various means, both traditional publishing and self-publishing. And I haven’t had an agent for any of them.

Do you need an agent? Only you can answer that question. The answer for me has been a resounding NO.


This article was originally published by Indies Unlimited on January 30, 2014

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Author Interviews: Using the Tool to Your Best Advantage

There is constant discussion in online forums about how to promote our books, how to get our names out there in front of readers, and there are a zillion ways to do that. One such way is the author interview, a particularly friendly, chatty way to connect with our readers.
I know, I know; many of us authors are introverts and not terribly comfortable talking about ourselves. We’d much rather stand behind our books and talk about them instead of ourselves. But it’s a proven fact that people are much more liable to buy books from an author if they feel they know and like that person, rather than just recognizing a name on a cover. And with social media on the rise, people are coming to expect more of that kind of connection with their favorite authors.
Still not comfortable? Here’s a tip: don’t think of it as someone trying to drag intimate secrets from you. Think of it as a writing exercise. Each question is a chance to tell a mini-story, to expound, to weave, to fascinate as well as explain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something like this:
Q. Did you do a lot of research for your book?
A. No.
Really? That’s it? Come on, you’ve just missed a great opportunity to talk about that time you almost got thrown in jail for breaking into your own car so you could write the process into your latest novel. Or that time you drove through New Mexico looking for a locale to match your character’s home town and you almost got beamed up by a flying saucer near Roswell. This is about more than answering questions—it’s about showing us your craft.
Every chance we have to write, whether on paper or on the internet, is an opportunity to show our mettle. You know that old saw about writing that we hear over and over: Don’t tell us—show us. This applies to these interviews, too. Use the questions as a springboard to propel us into your imagination. Show us what you’ve got.
For you interviewers out there, you have the opportunity to open up that author in unexpected ways. I know it’s easy to gravitate to the generic questions every interviewer asks—Who’s your favorite author?—but you’ve got the opportunity to make your interview unique. Spark up that interview with interesting questions. Here are a few suggestions:
Ask open-ended questions. Don’t ask yes-or-no questions like the one above. Instead ask, “What’s your process when you’re researching a book?”
Focus on the author. If you’ve taken the time to read some of the author’s work and checked out their webpage or blog, you can ask very specific questions about them and their work. For example: “In your new book, Hell on Wings, your main character base-jumps off a thousand-foot cliff naked with his hair on fire. What kind of research did you do for that scene?”
Not only is the reader going, “Whoa, never saw that in an interview before,” but the answer is giving the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse that expands his reading experience. It’s like watching “The Making of …” section on the DVD after you’ve watched the movie. Very often knowing the story behind the story gives you a greater appreciation and a more textured experience of the original movie. And in the above case, if the reader has not already read this particular book, this question just might move them to buy it.
So get creative—on both sides of the interview!
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on December 19, 2013.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Valentine's Day Sale

Love is in the air. In honor of Valentine's Day, it's time again to put those romances on sale.  I've got something for everyone: contemporary, historical, cuddly, sizzling and hilarious. Take your pick for only 99 cents each through February 14th. 



Historical (Western) Romance


Married and widowed within a 24-hour period, beautiful Leigh Banning watches as her storybook New Orleans life crumbles away piece by piece. In a heartbroken attempt to start over, she travels to the wilds of frontier Arizona in an effort to understand the father she never knew and is rewarded with gold from the legendary Lost Dutchman gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. The gold comes with a price tag, however—the murder of innocent people. Leigh’s quest for justice leads her to a remote Apache camp in the company of a proud Pima Indian and a handsome cavalry officer. Torn between the fiery kisses of the Major and the respectful love of the Pima, Leigh joins forces with the Apaches to battle gold-hungry killers and in the process discovers her true self and her one true love. (Sensual)


Historical (Western) Romance

The daughter of a white woman and an Indian warrior, "Gray Feather" Catherine Boudry had spent the first thirteen years of her life among the Cheyenne. Wrested from her home and taken to her mother's wealthy parents, Cathy grew into womanhood surrounded by all the civilized comforts of the white man's world. But at the age of twenty, the lure of her Indian heritage drew her back to the western plains. It was a journey that would awaken her to the joy and agony of passion in the arms of two very different men — Jory, the rough mountain man, and Barred Owl, the Cheyenne brave to whom she had been pledged in marriage long ago. (Sensual)

Contemporary Romance
Elly Cole wakes up bruised and battered in a hospital-and has no idea who she is or how she got there. Her brooding giant of a husband informs her that she had been fleeing with her lover who was killed in the car accident that left her injured, that she is pregnant with that lover's child and that she has nowhere else to go but home-with him. Struggling against the threat of her husband's dangerous rage and jealousy, Elly strives to regain her memory and reconstruct the life she left behind, wondering how she could ever have loved this man who hates her. (Sweet) FREE with Kindle Unlimited!



Contemporary Romance
Jessie Evans is a free-lance journalist, emphasis on the "free," with no plans to tie herself down. While researching a story in Flagstaff about Indian influences in Arizona, however, she encounters Lucas Shay, a smoldering paradox who is part Indian, part architect and all man. Whether igniting her temper with his arrogance or challenging her beliefs with his laser-like insight, Jessie can't deny that Lucas sets fire to her soul as well. (Sizzling)

Satire
Young, nubile Elizabeth Montgomery is too beautiful for her own good. Accosted by lust-struck males every time she appears in public, she is profoundly grateful when sea captain Benjamin Elliott saves her from a would-be ravisher. Her gratitude, however, turns to shock when Elliott himself seduces her and ruins her chances for an honorable marriage. Sealed to the man in an arranged marriage, Elizabeth rides the surging tide of shock and denial, lust and love, as she is swept from the manicured gardens of England to the savage shores of Africa and the wilds of the New World, never quite sure which Captain Elliott is the man she loves. Caution--this over-the-top satire is NOT your mother's romance novel! (Graphic and irreverent - not for the faint of heart)

If you haven't sampled these books before, now is the time. I think you'll like them. I certainly do! They're on sale through Valentine's Day, February 14th, so don't wait! Get yours today!