Introducing 2012 Golden Heart finalist Kat Cantrell!
Posted by Cynthia Justlin Jun 1 2012, 12:01 am
I am SO thrilled to be the one to introduce you all to Kat Cantrell. I met Kat back in 2009, and her friendship and encouragement has meant the world to me. I can’t even tell you how fun it is for me to be able to share in her incredible journey to publication. She’s smart, she’s funny (don’t let her tell you she’s not!), and she’s here today to share some fabulous wisdom.
Take it away, Kat! 🙂
Five Things I’m Glad I Did Before Selling and/or Finaling in the Golden Heart
Today we’re hosting Kat Cantrell, 2012 Golden Heart ®finalist in Contemporary Series Romance.
Kat read her first Harlequin novel in third grade and has been scribbling in notebooks since she learned to spell. She majored in English Lit, officially with the intent to teach, but ended up buried in middle management at Corporate America, Inc. She left the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom while chasing the dream of becoming a published author. Kat lives in North Texas with her husband and two sons. In addition to her Golden Heart final, Kat is also the winner of Harlequin’s 2012 SYTYCW competition.
Her Golden Heart finaling manuscript, THE DIVORCE DEAL, is about a woman committed to helping victims of domestic abuse, who talks a real estate tycoon into a six-month marriage so she can access her inheritance, only to find her divorce in jeopardy when he wants to make the union permanent. THE DIVORCE DEAL will be released in February, 2013 by Harlequin Desire.
You can learn more about Kat at her website: http://katcantrell.com/ and follow her on twitter at: http://twitter.com/katcantrell
Thank you to the Rubies for having me here today. I am a huge admirer of the Rubies as a whole, both for the wonderful blog I’ve spent many a morning reading, and because of the enormous talent represented here. Also, because every last one of them is super nice. I am blessed to call a Ruby my best friend (waves at Cynthia Justlin) and blessed to stand alongside several Rubies in the Golden Heart Finalist Class of 2012.
On that note, when it was mentioned I should do a guest blog, I wracked my brain for a topic. I don’t think of myself as particularly funny or engaging in real life – that’s my husband’s role and yes, I steal his jokes for my manuscripts. <grin> So I thought about all that’s happened to me in the last little while. Within forty-five days, I won Harlequin’s SYTYCW competition, sold two books to Harlequin Desire, finaled in the Golden Heart and signed with an agent. What a whirlwind! Once I (sort of) caught my breath, I realized I’m glad I did a few things before all this went down and perhaps the unpublished writers in the audience might benefit from my thoughts. If not, feel free to print out and practice your dart throwing.
- I’m glad I already had a social presence set up under my pen name. Thank you to the Queen of Goal-Setting, Bria Quinlan, for insisting this is necessary before you final or sell. I did it, even though I didn’t believe her. I was thinking to myself – I’m not published. Who cares about my website and whether I have x number of followers on twitter? Well, I should care. Because I set everything up then, it’s time saved which I did not have to spend now. You work really hard for a long time and it seems like The Call will never come. When it does, things move very quickly and you’ll have an influx of new things to think about and worry about. Setting up a website and twitter and Facebook and whatever else is not something you want to be doing at the same time. Oh, that also means you have to decide on a pen name too. My agent contacted me via my website. If I hadn’t had one, that relationship likely wouldn’t exist today.
- I’m glad I had already received two previous revise and resubmit letters on two separate manuscripts. It might seem unfair to work on such a huge task without a contract or guarantee, but turns out, it’s good practice for when you get revisions on your selling manuscript. Yes, even my contest-winning manuscript had requested revisions. You will too. Figure out now how to tackle them now, before you have a deadline on a signed contract. For myself, I reread the entire manuscript first and then made notes about where to make the suggested changes. Then I did small stuff first, like clarifying what a character meant by this particular statement. Big stuff, like adding scenes, I did next and then I worked on overall character arc and motivation issues. Even you don’t agree with the changes or don’t think the editor/agent “gets you”, do it for the practice.
- I’m glad I had already researched what to expect financially when I targeted Harlequin. Better than that, I prepared my husband for it, too. He knew exactly what dollar figure would be on the check and has for about a year. Yes, you might get that six-figure deal and beat the odds. Won’t that be a nice surprise when you and your family were expecting what Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money says every other first-time author on the planet makes? Hope for the exception, prepare for the standard.
- I’m glad I had already written five complete manuscripts and had an appropriate, complete second manuscript ready to submit to my editor. We discussed subsequent books during our first conversation about my SYTYCW-winning manuscript and within a week, she read and bought another book. It’s critical to know how long it takes you to write a book anyway (my agent asked me and I was able to tell her immediately, because you know, I keep track. And I’d written more than one) and there’s no better way to get faster than to write another book while the first one is on submission. Lots of people struggle to write a second book in the same vein as the first selling book and that adds to the pressure. I didn’t have that pressure because I wrote it before I sold the first one. P.S. I talk big. Book number three is just as hard if not harder to write because I now have the pressure to get the proposal in before I start line-edits. I know. I have nice problems.
- I’m glad I had already developed a five-year plan. (Thank you to Bria, again) It helped me look at the big picture and set yearly goals. Often I hear of writers who don’t enter a contest because they didn’t have something ready. Most big contests happen at the same time every year. So do things like summer vacation and Christmas. If you know you want to enter the Golden Heart and you know the deadline is in November, look at your time commitments NOW. If you know you want to submit to agents, most agencies close around the end of the year and are hit with an influx of submissions in January. Submit in September instead or whatever makes sense for what you’re targeting (you’ve done your research. Now use that information!). Most importantly, I know I want to write more than one book a year. It’s important to plan that out in chunks so I know when I need to start and when I must be finished, like before summer vacation and the kids are home to bug the mess out of me. If anyone’s interested, my five year plan started in 2010 and I’m ahead of my goals.
So that’s five things, some which are more critical before you sell as opposed to finaling in a major contest, but we can’t forget that oftentimes, one leads to the other. More so than any of these, I’m glad I spent the last three years developing friendships with other writers. This journey is so much more valuable and exciting when you have awesome people to share it with. Thanks for being one of them.
My goal is to save you some heartache and angst. Put that in your manuscripts, ladies, not your lives! My question for you (and I’d love some feedback from published authors who’ve been there) — which one do you completely disagree with and which one had you nodding your head? Anyone have something else they’re glad they did before (sold, became a finalist, signed with an agent, fill-in-the-blank) happened?