Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Blogger Debby Giusti Guides Us To MAKING A SALE IN THE NEW YEAR

By Debby Giusti

Thank you for inviting me to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. You gals have created a fun blog community that is attracting interest in the writing world. Marketing guru, Seth Godin, in his book, TRIBES, talks about the far-reaching effectiveness of interactive online sites to generate sales for a particular product. Your product is the written word. People—including editors—are, no doubt, watching. The buzz you’ve created on the blog will lead to success with your submissions as well.

True story…in 2005, I banded together with fourteen other hopeful inspirational writers seeking publication. We call ourselves The Seekers, and since we’re spread across the country, we keep in touch on a yahoo loop. Two years ago, we decided to reach out to other writers on the road to publication and started our Seekerville blog,

Initially, our focus was on contests, but we eventually spread our wings and now interview editors, agents and best-selling authors and feature information on a wide range of publishing topics. The goal is for all the Seekers to get off our fictional “upubbed island” with a sale. Many Christian editors visit our site on a regular basis, and one even requested a submission when she was guest blogging.

To date, eleven Seekers have received The Call, and the others are close, with full manuscripts sitting on editors’ desks. I wish the same success for all of you, which brings me to today’s topic: Writing category books to achieve that first sale.

Shortly after I joined Georgia Romance Writers, I took Nancy Knight’s workshop, Once Begun is Half Done, at Arts Station in Stone Mountain, GA. As most of you know, Nancy is a fantastic teacher and encourager. She suggested I write what I know, and I took her words to heart.

As an Army wife, I had spent two years with my hubby at the National Training Center in the middle of the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, CA. The training area is as large as the state of Rhode Island, and maneuver units—tank and mechanized infantry battalions, cavalry squadrons and support units--trained in the grueling and dangerous environment on twenty-two day rotations. The man I love headed the Armor Task Force that put the visiting units through massive battles and provided minute-by-minute feedback and evaluation. Hubby and his men were only home four days between each rotation, and the schedule never varied so life was challenging for the military and their families as well.

When we left the desert, I wanted to capture the essence of that unique two-year assignment and set my first suspense at the NTC. I killed a general and wove a web of corruption that spread from the Mojave Desert to Forces Command Headquarters in Atlanta.

Needing to find a home for my newly penned manuscript, I attended my first M&M conference. An agent requested the story, and I thought my career was ready to explode. Of course, I had a lot to learn and was soon rejected.

Four manuscripts followed--all single title suspense. Although I received positive rejections, I eventually realized 100,000 words was too broad a scope. I needed to focus on a basic love story between a hero and heroine. My next manuscript was a category-length romantic suspense targeted for Harlequin Intrigue.

About the time I completed the story, then Steeple Hill senior editor Krista Stroever spoke at a GRW meeting and talked about the Love Inspired Suspense line. After the meeting, a few of us pitched, and Krista said she’d like to take a look at my partial, if I added a faith arc.

Once I incorporated inspirational elements into my work, I realized I’d found my genre. To test the effectiveness of my new direction, I entered three contests where Steeple Hill editors were the final round judges. I won the contests, received requests from each judge and before long the telephone rang. Krista wanted to buy my story.

With my sixth Love Inspired Suspense out this month, I know switching from mainstream to category was a good decision for me.

So what’s my point? For those of you writing single title books, if you are receiving good rejections letters and getting to the final round in contests but not making a sale, consider switching to category romance. The word count is short, the focus is on a powerful love story between the hero and heroine and secondary characters and subplots are kept to a minimum.

Bring the hero and heroine together in an action-packed opening and have the sparks fly. Create opposing goals and load on the conflict. Let the black moment seem hopeless and add a climax that has the readers—and the editors--on the edge of their seats. End with a happily ever after that leaves them yearning to read more. By focusing on the two main characters, you’ll identify weaknesses in your manuscript that can easily be strengthened and end up with a story that sizzles.

Another advantage to category books is the built-in readership and low price point. Distribution is great, and many lines have book clubs that increase sales numbers, especially for debut authors just starting out.

I’ll be online throughout the day so let’s talk about your writing and what you plan to accomplish in the New Year. My hope is that 2010 includes a sale for each of you.

Leave a comment and your email address to be entered into a drawing for CHRISTMAS PERIL.
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Need stocking stuffers for friends and family?
CHRISTMAS PERIL is on sale now, featuring two action-packed stories: Merry Mayhem by Margaret Daley and Yule Die by Debby Giusti.
Here’s a peak at Debby’s Magnolia Medical novella:
It’s hardly a happy holiday for medical researcher Callie Evans…until she discovers her ailing patient is her long-lost brother. And he’s being watched by undercover police officer Joe Petrecelli. When the trio is abducted by a cadre of bad guys, Joe and Callie will have to fight to keep her brother—and themselves—alive.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning, Debby! Thanks for blogging with us today. I love your Magnolia Medicals! From my observations, the category books do require great focus on the relationship. I still love my villains and can't quite get to writing less of them than I can in 80-100,000. However, I'm going to try on this next book which is a category historical aimed at Steeple Hill. Not a serial killer in sight, LOL! Kinda like going cold turkey for me!

Debby Giusti said...

I know it's hard to shorten and write out of the genre you love, but focusing on those two main characters and telling their story helps to focus our writing as well.

Good luck with your historical! Now that's a genre I will never tackle. Take me out of this era and I'm lost!

Keep me posted on your writing progress!

Thanks for downloading my blog and making it look so nice! :)


Sally Kilpatrick said...

Debby--thanks for stopping by. It's always so helpful to hear the steps of one's success especially as I search for a genre myself. My goal for 2010 is to polish and submit. Oh, and to finish my Masters. That's a big one.

Linsey Lanier said...

Thanks so much for being with us today, Debbie. And thanks for the encouraging words about PF&HT.

Seekerville is a great site.

That's some food for thought about switching to category. I write single title and have thought about going back to category in romantic suspense. My problem is, like Debbie, my suspense stories become too complex and I can't condense them. Any thoughts on condensing the suspense part?


Barbara Monajem said...

Debby, I completely agree with your advice. My first sale was a single title, but while I was waiting for it to happen (three years on the editor's shelf) I switched from writing single title paranormal to category historical. Writing shorter novels really helped me learn to be more concise, and now I find it a stretch to get past about 85K. And I realized through reading many romances that often I actually prefer the shorter ones, which are MUCH less likely to have a sagging middle. I also tried writing short stories, another way to learn focus and make sure you only say what really matters.

Marilyn Baron said...


Thank you so much for blogging with us and for your wonderful advice. You are truly a friend to unpublished writers and we appreciate everything you've done for us through GRW.

I just finished a single title that I co-wrote with my sister called "The Edger," which has elements of romance and suspense. I've submitted two fulls and a partial as a result of M&M requests and I'm waiting to hear from those editors and agents. In addition to starting a new book in 2010, I'll be trying to sell "The Edger," and participating in the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog. We're working on two blog novels this year. I like writing humorous single title featuring older heroines. Your advice about category is interesting. I tried that and have had more success/interest in my single titles.

On a personal note, thanks for your prayers and good wishes before my surgery this week. I think they really made a difference. I am recovering nicely and everything was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Marilyn Baron

Audra Harders said...

Morning, Debby! I just finished reading Yule Die a couple of days ago and still have the story lingering in my mind. Great job!

When Debby mentioned The Seekers, she forgot to mention that SHE was the first Seeker to get published. We all cheered her on and from that day, Debby has alway supported all of us in our writing trials and joys. She makes such a nuisance of herself at conferences, continually nudging those of us who aren't pubbed yet to talk to the editors -- and if we don't move fast enough, she just gently shoves you along and introduces you to whoever she thinks you need to talk to. LOL. Now that's a friend : )

PF and HT is a great community! I know your audience base will continue to grow. I've just bookmarked you for return visits : )

Blessings to all!!

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry, I'm headed for an unexpected funeral today. I'll be on the road for a couple hours to and from. Hope to get back to the blog late today. I'm so sorry...

I promise to answer any questions either late this evening or tomorrow. Please stop back again.

Leave comments, questions and your email addy to enter the drawing.

Tami Brothers said...

Sorry about the funeral, Debbie. I wish you a safe trip.

Awesome story, Audra! Thanks so much for sharing it AND for bookmarking us….grin….

This was a terrific post, Debbie. You really made me think about my goals for the coming year. I am actually splitting myself (at the moment), writing one single title and one category. I will admit that I’ve had several comments from a couple of agents who have read my category submissions, that I had a ‘voice’ for single title. That way back in the beginning when I’m sure I put everything, including the kitchen sink, into my stories.

Okay, my goals for 2010. Of course the first one is to finish both my WIPs and to submit, submit, submit. I plan to enter Sally’s PRO Rejection contest this year WIN!!! (note the challenge in that statement to all you other Pros…wink, wink…) The first few months of 2010 will be spent finishing up my last semester for my Bachelor’s degree and I have to be honest when I say those classes totally suck any creativity out of me. I’m also taking two training programs for my job and those compound on top of the business classes. I’m hopeful once I receive my degree, the ideas will again flow like a waterfall.

That’s me for now.

Thanks a ton for such an enlightening post on the group blogging community. I also have the Seekers bookmarked and am constantly waiting to see who is next to get “kicked” off the island… I love that idea. Maybe we can start one about getting kicked out of the kitchen…big grin….

Best of luck to all of your sisters out there.


Anna Steffl said...

I'm sorry to hear about the funeral.

Debbie, thanks for blogging and sharing your journey to finding your genre -- it is really neat to find that people who write inspirational don't always have that loud and clear "call" from inside that leads them there.

I wanted to pass on that my sister, who met you at M&M, thought you were just awesome. Well - yeah!

PS -- I enjoyed Protecting Her Child. You really know how to suck a reader in.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

I'm liking this idea of kicking people out of the kitchen--especially since I don't like to do dishes.

Linda Henderson said...

I love holiday books. Happy holidays

seriousreader at live dot com

Cyrano said...

you've always been such an inspiration to me. Any time I've had a question, a problem, a lack of faith in my ability you've been there for me and you can't begin to know how much I appreciate your input and wisdom.
I just finished my second novel and some of what you've said over the past few years helped in that endeavor.
It took five years total. During that time I barely wrote, doubted myself, made excuses, procrastinated and then two weeks ago I finally tried to get this 1/2 finished novel completed in time for the Golden Heart. I missed that deadline, but decided to keep trucking and for two more weeks I wrote nearly all day in order to submit a finished manuscript to the finish the book contest and I DID IT!!!
This second complete novel will go out to John Scognamiglio (oh my fingers are crossed on that one) no later than the end of this month after its been edited. That's my final goal for 09, getting Sophie White out to all the people who requested fulls. In 2010 one of my big goals is to finish 3 novels. I know I can do that because I wrote 115 pages of SW in the last 4 days before our December GRW meeting.
I just need to get my priorities straight, my head on right, and my confidence up.
I'm glad to call you friend Debbie. I'm also glad you've had so much success and I wish you unending success in the future.
Thanks so much for visiting with us on PFHT.
Have a brilliant, productive evening.

Cyrano said...

In gushing over you I forgot to leave my email address. It's
I think that's what we're supposed to do. Leave an email address to possibly win Holiday Peril.
I also forgot to tell you that I love the name of your story, YULE DIE!!
How great is that?
Oh and have a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Susan May said...

Hi Debby. Thanks for being here. I appreciate your story and great suggestions.

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Debby,

Just got back from work parties...whew! I love your story about how you got published and I wonder if adding in that faith element gave you a little heavenly help!

I decided during M&M to try to make the move to category romance, so I picked up several in different subgenres. It had been quite a while since I'd read one and I was absolutely fascinated with the quality and depth of each of the books I picked up (yours included, I may add!)

I'm going to be off for the next two weeks and working on the romantic suspense I started during NaNoWriMo. I'll let you know how it goes!

Thanks again for being with us today. You're such an inspiration to all of us at GRW.


Anonymous said...

I'm reading Christmas Peril and loving it!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Ladies,
At long last, I'm back at my computer. Thanks for your understanding. Travel yesterday took far longer than expected ... highway delays and a huge accident on 75.

Those of us who live in the Altanta area know all about traffic, don't we?

I'll be on the blog today, if anyone stops by.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Sally,
Congrats on getting your Masters! Something I'm hoping to tackle one day. We talked at the December GRW meeting about your writing. Please let me know how you're progressing. I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about the inspirational genre.

Thanks for all you do for GRW! :)

Debby Giusti said...

You asked about narrowing your story vision from single title to contemporary. Come up with a new idea that focuses on the hero and heroine and try to keep the problem fairly limited. I often struggle with too many tangles in the suspense web and end up cutting some of the threads.

Might be easier to start simple and then add as you see fit. So, at first, you'd have a goal for the hero and heroine, a villain for suspense stories, and a climax and resolution. Add a few twists to the plot and determine if you can fill 230 pages or so. Work it all out in your synopsis, and you should be able to tell whether you need to add or subtract.

Does that help?

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Barbara,
Congrats on your success! Glad to hear writing category worked for you as well. You're right about the importance of writing tight.

You wrote short stories. I published a few and also freelanced for magazines for years. It all helped me learn to get to the "meat" of the story more quickly.

You mentioned saggy middles in single title stories. I keep thinking about using two category-length story lines and joining them together to make a single title. That way, I'd have plenty of things to write about in the longer book. Of course, pulling the synopsis together would probably put me into cardiac arrest! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Marilyn,
So glad you're up and about. You've been in my prayers!

Marilyn, you're such a prolific writer and knock out those single title stories in a matter of weeks! :)

Here's a writing challenge: take one of your longer stories and condense it. Pull out the most important elements and write it in a much shorter format. Category length, which would be about 55,000-60,000, or even cut it down to 75,000-80,000 and see if you end up with a faster read. Editors want stories to zing. That means no extra dialogue, lengthy description or scenes that don't move the story along. It's hard to cut words we love, but often trimming the fat improves the story.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Audra,
Did you say that I'm a pest at conferences? LOL!

Audra's a fantastic writer who will see her work in print soon! I'm sure of it!!!

IMHO, determination makes the difference between making a sale or remaining unpublished. The road can be long and steep, but if you keep pushing forward, you will eventually make it.

Thanks, Audra, for stopping by today. The PF&HT are my sister GRW members -- wonderful writers and wonderful women, as well! I'm so proud of what they're doing on this blog!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Tami,
You're a busy lady! Good for you getting your degree! That's got top priority now. Your business classes rank up there as well. Once you've got those under your belt, you'll have time for your TWO wips! Oh, my goodness! Two books at one time. I'm impressed.

Lisa Gardner started in category but felt she had a single title voice as well. Guess she had to force herself to write the category stories...but she did build a readership and honed her craft on those first books.

Writing a category won't hamper your writing nor will it weaken your ability to create a single title. On the contrary, coming up with a satisfying shorter read will help you weed out the extraneous portions of that larger book and focus on the points needed to develop the story.

Good luck with both works! Let me know what happens! And, yes, submit, submit, submit!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Anna,
Your sister is a doll!!! Tell her hello for me. I keep thinking of both of you dressed up for the party! Too, too cute!

If only we'd all hear a voice that would tell us what type of story to write! Unfortunately, we have to test a number of waters before we decide where to make our home. Even when we think we've found our spot, things can change.

The publishing world has been topsy-turvy recently. Established authors have gotten the boot and are looking for new spots to place their work. Tough economic times force publishers to tighten their belts. My editor works with 40 authors. I don't know how she handles that load. Some lines are cutting back on the number of books they publish each year, which isn't good for writers. I don't want to preach doom and gloom, but we all have to stay on top of our game. Don't sell yourself or your story short. Be the best writer you can be and don't be afraid to try something new. Often a slight change of direction can lead to a sale.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Linda,
Thanks for stopping by. You're entered in the drawing.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Tamara,
Congrats on finishing your story...and I love your goal for next year! You've had so, so many requests. Editors and agents love your ideas and keep asking to see your work. So glad you've now got a completed manuscript to send out to all who requested the story!!!

Julia Cameron, in her book, THE WRITER'S WAY, talks about the negative internal voice that wants to stop our forward progress. My negative voice is very, very loud at times. Sounds like yours might be equally as verbal. Some days it's a constant battle to drown out the negative comments.

Perfectionism plays into it as well. I have to remember that every story is different. Thank goodness. If not, we'd all get bored reading the same story over and over again. Since readers have varying tastes, stories come in all shapes and sizes. I write one thing. Someone else writes a different type of tale, yet both can find a home. But only if the story's written and submitted.

Don't focus on what you can't do...find joy in what you are able to accomplish. You've finished Sophie White! YAY!!! You've got three more books to finish next year! YAY!!! And you've got a limitless supply of new ideas just begging to be written! YAY!!! YAY!!! YAY!!!

Everyone needs to post a sticky note on her computer: I am a writer!!! I will sell!!!

That's my prayer for all of you!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Susan!
You're a wonderful mother, and your story will help so many others who face what you and your family had to endure.

I continue to hold all of you in my prayers.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Ana,
Thanks for sharing your strategy for publishing in the category market! Before dipping into a new genre, writers need to know the market. That's what you're doing by reading a number of books. Good for you, Ana. (And thanks for mentioning my work, as well! :) )

I read my fellow Steeple Hill authors because I like their stories, but also, I need to know what Steeple Hill is publishing across the board. Often an editorial slant may change. New subjects--once taboo--may now be allowed. A story idea I might find unique could have just been published so staying current is important.

Best-selling suspense single title authors are also on my to-be-read shelf. I learn so much from the pros. Of course, I have to temper my negative voice that says, "You'll never be able to write the way they do." No, I won't write the same way, but by studying their stories, I can learn ways to improve my own work. Nothing's wasted. Everything goes into the mix. Bottom line, if we keep writing and reading, we will improve...and improvement leads to sales...and sales lead to happy writers, which is what we all want to be!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Tina,
Thanks for stopping by!!! Tina is the Web mistress for our Seekerville blog and a dear friend! Check out her weekend editions that feature lots of contest information and fun "stuff" all writers need to read!

You're the greatest, Tina!!!

Tami Brothers said...

Thank you, Debby, for some really great advice. You helped me not only with the reply to me, but with several other comments. This is wonderful stuff and something I plan to copy and save.

Thank you so much for blogging with us this week. We really appreciate it!


Cyrano said...

Thanks so much for your kind reply to my comment.
You helped me come up with another goal- silence that negative voice that is constantly whispering in my brain.
Great advice.
Thanks again for your help.