Friday, March 22, 2013

Getting Down to Business: Opportunity Knocks

This month columnist Donna Alward returns with Getting Down to Business  - and how wasted opportunities drive her bananas.
Who’s there?

Why, it’s opportunity.

Okay, so I know that it’s a bit of a groaner but I’m going to talk about opportunities today.

I have a philosophy that you have a great influence on the forward motion of your writing journey if you view everything as an opportunity. Yes, even rejections. Let’s face it – after a rejection you can learn from the feedback (if there was any), or send it to a publisher where it might fit better, or even put it under the bed and take the opportunity to apply what you learned to a brand new story that’s even stronger.

There are tons of opportunities out there. You just have to look for them.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few ways to take advantage of opportunities for your manuscript RIGHT NOW:

·         Publisher Calls for Submissions – on their websites, through social media…keep your eyes peeled. An editor out there might be looking for something exactly like what you’re writing.  Start following editors and publishers who publish the types of stories you write.

·         Chapter Contests – several RWA chapters hold annual contests with agents and editors judging the final rounds. The key thing here is to look at who is doing the judging and if they are a match to what you write. So if you’re targeting a particular HQ line, for example, and one of their editors is the final judge? That contest is probably worth it.

·         Pitch Sessions – Harlequin is a great one for this. There is almost always some sort of contest going on at the Harlequin community. Right now there’s a Blaze contest where you can submit a synopsis and first chapter. There are often “Fast tracks” to certain lines which promise a response in a certain amount of time.

·         New initiatives – publishers are starting to think outside the box and exploring new and exciting ways to get stories into readers’ hands. There’s a new “trend” (and I use that term loosely) for releasing stories as serials, as well as digital initiatives that are for stories that haven’t quite fit anywhere else before. Because I write for Harlequin, I’m probably better versed on what they’ve got going on, but the partnership with Cosmo and their Red Hot Reads comes to mind. Think Lauren Hawkeye and Beth Kery too and how some of their works are being released in installments.

·         Editor and agent appointments – the chance to pitch your novel face to face is great! A lot of requests happen that way.

But I want you to also bear in mind that this is not the ONLY way to go. You need to focus, too. For example, I see a lot of people entering manuscripts in every line pitch contest that’s announced. If you don’t write inspirational, why would you enter an Inspy contest? Same deal with contemporary, paranormal, suspense… a publishing career is not based on a “throw it out there and see what sticks” mentality.

And while “special” opportunities are great, there are still a lot of people getting picked up the old-fashioned way – yeah, I’m talking about the slush pile.

Here’s the thing about opportunities. It drives me CRAZY when people waste them.

We all know life happens. But you know what? Life happens to ALL OF US. It never fails to blow me away when I hear someone say that they got a request or a revision letter but didn’t send in the book. SRSLY? (and yes, I adopted my 15 yr old’s head tilt and eyebrow raise when I typed that.) I want to say, “Let me get this straight. This editor asked you to send her the full manuscript a year ago and you never sent it???”


And then I need to lie down in a dark room when those same people lament that they’re not published yet. No one is going to hold your hand and nudge you along. And while you were holding back for whatever reason (*coughexcusecough*) and NOT sending your story, someone else was more than happy to take your place.

Let me tell you a secret: You can write through just about anything. Sometimes writing is the ONE thing that gets you through it – I’ve been there. The thing is, you’ve got to want it more than you fear it.

Sometimes opportunities come in very obvious ways. Other times it’s more subtle, but they truly are all around you. It’s your job to make the most of them. Figure out where you want to go and then actively move towards that goal – whether it’s through a contest, pitching at a conference, answering a call for submissions, or just sending in a requested partial or full.  Don’t let your opportunities go to waste.

And for something a little more concrete, here are some opportunities you can take advantage of right now:


Donna’s latest release is LITTLE COWGIRL ON HIS DOORSTEP, the third book of her Cadence Creek series. You can catch up with her latest news on her website at


  1. Great post for those who need a little (okay, big?) kick in the pants, Donna! :) Everything you said is so, so true!

  2. Lovely post Donna. I agree there are so many opportunities for new writers. I am currently finishing an ms for Harlequin Intrigue after a speed date pitch in January. I was asked to send my full ms when completed. Fingers crossed. :-)

  3. I totally agree with this philosophy!@!! And another Donna Alward book to read! Hurrah.

  4. Hullo, Editor Tanya! ;)

    jolliffe - good luck!

    Anne - Thanks. :)

    And Tina - hey stranger!