Monday, November 3, 2014

Round Three from CCMWG: Linda Rodriguez on Writing and Publishing Novels with the Big Five

Linda Rodriguez at CCMWG
Attending Linda Rodriguez's session at the CCMWG conference was like taking a master class on how to survive and thrive with the Big Five. (Hey, did I just type a rhyme?)

Linda has an impressive list of credentials as a writer, poet, and university administrator. In 2012, her debut novel, Every Last Secret, was the winner in St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear, was published this year.

During her presentation, she explained that with recent changes in the publishing industry, what once was the Big Six publishing houses is now the Big Five. Where editors with a passion for books used to make final decisions, now MBAs and "bean counters" are in charge.

Linda got her first big break in the mainstream fiction market when she won the St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition in 2012. As the contest winner, she received a generous advance on publication of her book.

How did she do it?

* She wrote a novel (which she revised and rewrote and fine-tuned).

* She belonged to a critique group and got professional and honest feedback for her novel.

* She hired a professional freelance editor.  She emphasized that no matter how good a writer you are, you should hire a professional editor--and, she emphasized you should make sure the editor you hire is reputable. An editor can help with the last little bit to improve your novel. She also observed that as a result of downsizing and outsourcing by major publishers, there are some highly qualified and experienced freelance editors available for hire.

(Linda's advice on hiring a professional, reputable, and an experienced editor struck a chord with me. Before hiring an editor (or a proofreader, etc.), I believe it's a good idea to ask about their background, training, experience, and references. Just because someone has a blog or a website claiming they are an editor or has the word "editor" printed on their business cards doesn't automatically make them qualified, professional, or reputable. Ask for credentials and references.)

* She entered her novel in a contest.

* She won the contest.


Here are a few other notes I jotted down: 

Develop a platform while writing your first book.

Know that contracts are always weighted to give advantage to the publisher.

Find a good agent to help you get a contract favorable to you. 

Attending conferences, joining professional organizations, and networking can help land an agent--and get you and your book noticed.

In traditional publishing the first four-six weeks after a book is published are a measure of success.

Traditional publishers expect every book to do better than the previous one.

By the fourth book, publishers expect a breakout novel.

Writing a great book isn't enough.

Writing is a business. Writers need to become business oriented.

Make an annual marketing plan.

Learn to prioritize.

Balance time between promotion and writing.

Use social media, but don't hammer your book to people.

Get your followers to like you.

Don't spam everyone to buy your book.

Group blogs are a plus. She belongs to two.

Life happens, be flexible.

To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her blog.


  1. You take such great notes, Donna--makes me feel like I was there, too (sitting next to the writer who takes all the great notes and lets me copy them later). :-)

  2. Lots of good info here...wish I had a novel ready to!

  3. Donna, you thoroughly covered Linda's workshop. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hi Cathy,
    You are welcome. I admit; I'm a compulsive note taker then I feel compelled to type them out so I can refer to them later, so why not share them with my writing friends?

    Hi Claudia,
    I'm with you. I have a couple works in progress but nothing read to go.

    Hi Linda,
    You are welcome. Wish you could have been there. It was a great event.

  6. I missed this one, so thanks for sharing!


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