South African writer: Hustle to get your books published

The first poem Melissa Rambally wrote was when she was 12 years old. The writing-bug got hold of her heavily, because at the age of 14, she finished her first short story. Years later, she is now a part-time author known as Melissa Kate.

The Durbanite says this long, hard journey to get her first fiction book published taught her to take rejection like a champ. “It’s a tough journey,” she explains. “When you write your story, it’s your baby and you cannot quite understand why others don’t love it (your work) as much as you do.

“But you must pick yourself up and persevere. Keep at it,” she advises.

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This year she debut her first romance novel, Waiting For You. Rambally recently released her second novel, Love in the Fast Lane.

When Cassarica Nadas of the Amazeblog asked her what she enjoyed about writing, Rambally said: “I just love the thrill of a new love story. I often watch movies or music videos and get so disappointed with a cliff-hanger or a negative ending, and I always think ‘I could have done that so much better!’ Who doesn’t love a happy ending?”

She also told Amazeblog that it helps that writing goals are set. “I try 5000 words per day and for now I only have Sundays to sit down and get the words on the page – the earlier the better.”

The toughest thing about writing is the dialogue, Rambally confesses.

We spoke to her about what it takes to finish your story and get it published. Is it a walk in the park or do you have to hustle?

Here is the question- and answer session we did with her:

Why the pseudonym ‘Melissa Kate’?

Melissa Rambally (MR): There was no special reason for it. I just like the way the name sounds – it’s classy and elegant.

What is your profession?

MR: I’m a Human Resources Business Partner for a Food Service Company.

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What steps did you take to become an author?

MR: The biggest step is to get the words on the page. I am a compulsive planner so I keep a notebook with me at all times. Before I even sit down to start Chapter One, I research elements of my story, and I jot down ideas and possible scenes. It then all comes together once the fingers het tapping on the keyboard.

After that, it’s a matter of having people around you who will read your manuscript and give you honest feedback.

Then it’s the editing; ensure your formatting and spelling is a 100% and submit to potential publishers.

How did you get a publisher?

MR: I did A LOT of research.

Each publisher has their own guidelines for manuscript submissions which are kind of painful because you can’t send them all a generic mail with your story.

I got MANY rejections, so very much and because I am human, I started to get despondent and feel like “What’s the point?”

By chance I sent my book to one last publisher and I assure you, the day I got the email to say they wanted to offer me a contract, I thought for sure it was a big hoax. I didn’t tell anyone I got a publishing contract till I saw my author profile on their website. Lame I know!

What do you enjoy about being an author?

MR: The achievement of knowing you have your name in print – it’s every writer’s dream. Oh and definitely when people love your books, nothing quite like it.

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What would you say are small achievements in your author journey, especially those you have achieved this year?

MR: I’m still a fairly new author – I have only been published this year so I’m still green in the game. It was quite a proud moment when my local newspaper printed an article about me.

Are there misconceptions about what you do?

MR: I don’t think so. I am a pretty open person, what you see is what you get. I tend to also share a lot about myself on my personal blog and my social sites, so there’s always clarity about what I am about and what I write about.

Before you tell us about what your books are about, share some tips for aspiring writers.

Write from the heart and write, because you have a passion to give your characters life.

Don’t give up when you get knocked down. It’s a tough road to get published, but it is achievable and it’s the greatest accomplishment. You got this!

Please share what your two books are about.

Waiting For You was my debut novel. The blurb reads:

Audrey Kelly finds her way back home to Crystal Valley with her bruised pride and a shattered dangerous past mocking her rear view mirror. What she didn’t expect was to be face-to-face with Adam Parker, resident bad boy, sexy Navy SEAL and one of the reasons that Audrey ran all those years ago.

Audrey was the last person Adam had ever expected to see back in Crystal Valley. Over a decade ago, they shared a sizzling night together before he received the worst news of his life and he hasn’t seen her since…until she moved back unexpectedly. She was no longer the sweet innocent girl he once remembered, but Adam has his own problems without having to deal with Audrey’s ice princess recital, no matter how tempting the auburn haired seductress may be.

Sparks begin to ignite between them but can they accept Audrey’s past when it threatens to engage them in a dangerous twist? Can they save each other from themselves and stop running once and for all?

Love in the Fast Lane was released in November 2016 and its blurb reads:

Race car driver, Nathan Wolf, is primed to win his first championship. A thriving career and sexy holiday fling have Nathan riding the high life. But the past haunts him and could ruin it all.

After six long years, Brielle Woods has finally put the past behind her. Or so she thought, until she bumps into the hotshot who turned her world upside down and left her…to raise their son…alone.

Can they overcome baggage from their past and give into the passion that still burns between them? Or will they lose the chance at true happiness and the family they both long for?

Thank you Melissa for sharing. We wish you all the best for the future!

PS. What did you enjoy about this interview?

Networking: surprising ways to connect with strangers

I don’t know if it’s just me but I like watching people.
For example I used to watch people at night clubs. A lot of them seem expectant, like they are expecting to meet someone that night.

I have been at that stage too. You expect someone to talk to you and make a connection. Heck, I even met some new people in the ladies’ bathroom while we check if we still look good. [If the bathroom looks very nice, you take some photo’s with your friends.]

I am not saying everyone going to a night club is expectant. Some just go there to dance and drink with friends.

The same thing goes for being at a business event. A lot of us go there to network and meet new people, possible clients. But are you one of those that are a bit shy and expectant that someone might talk to you first?

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I have to talk to people, because I am a journalist. No matter how shy I am, I have to mingle because I might meet someone and find a new story for the publication I work for.

LET’S TALK NEWSPAPERS
I wrote a story this week on the Pocket Reporter. It’s a new cellphone app designed to help cadet journalists of the community and grassroots level.

So basically, it helps you get information for the story you are working on. For example, the app gives you questions that you can fill in while working on the story. This way you will have efficient information for your story.

Are there apps that help you talk to someone for the first time? I don’t know.

I do know that approximately 28-million people read independent publications. This is according to the Association of Independent Publishers in South Africa. The organisation says their members print more than 7-million (7,000,340) copies publications like newspapers per month.

So this means A LOT of people in the country reads community and grassroots level newspaper.

I have worked at a newspaper as a journalist and I have realised that a lot of people want their stories to be told. A lot of people want to be listened to. A lot of people want to read others’ stories, especially if they can identify with the person in the story.

WHAT’S MY POINT?
Newspapers or any other publication like a church or company newsletter being printed, shows us that there are stories to be told.

While being a journalist I always heard the term “everybody has a story to tell”.

So whether in a night club or a business event, you have a story to tell AND someone else has a story to share. Holler!

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HOW TO GET SOMEBODY’S STORY?
I often start my networking sessions at an event with a question that could come off as dumb. Like, “are you also an entrepreneur” I would ask the person next to me.

I saw Christopher Barrat’s video on Tedx Talks. He says (successful) networking can be placed in four categories: 1- Know. 2- Like. 3-Trust. 4-Buy.

In his talk, Barrat says you have to be interested before being interesting. That’s why the first two categories are important.

“It’s about how you make them feel [referring to the people you are networking to],” says Barrat.
“Be fascinated by them.”

If you are fascinated by them, chances are that they will start to like you. Once they like you, they will trust you.
Once the trust is there, this person (or people) will buy into you or [buy a product/ service] from you.

So whether you are a business-person or just someone who wants to meet new people, try expecting something different.

Instead of making it about, thinking “someone might talk to me tonight” – rather go and be the first one to talk, then try finding out someone else’s story.

Introduce yourself and get to know someone. Then follow Barrat’s steps.

To find out what else Barrat has to say on networking, watch this video:

Have you done any networking lately? How was it? Do you have any tips on meeting new people?

PS. I have been focusing on the theme “what I learn as a journalist” this week after joining Sam Posselt‘s #rsabizblogs Challenge. Sam is the co-founder of SA Biz Chat, a network that connects brands and bloggers/ small business owners. Today is Day 6 of the Challenge. Today’s theme of the challenge is “anything goes”.

Thank you Sam for the cool tips you send via email.