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Viewing: Blog Posts from the Agent category, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 14,372
26. Have a nice day!


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27. Query Question: diverging paths

Awhile ago my agent broke the news that she had reached the end of the road with my middle grade manuscript. It has been rejected by all of the big New York houses and their imprints, and when I asked about smaller presses she essentially said that they weren’t worth the effort (in terms of the financial payout and level of promotion), and that I’d be better off to self-publish it. Knowing myself, I’m fairly sure that the legitimacy that even a small press would give my novel would make me much more comfortable with the self-promotion I know is necessary for a book to sell. So I don’t think the self-publishing route is right for me.

I’m considering next steps at the moment. A friend suggested I query new agents. Obviously I’d have to tell them up front that the manuscript has already been rejected by the large publishers, which it seems would make 99.9% of them reject it outright (understandably so) (1). Or, I could simply go it alone and query smaller presses that accept unagented manuscripts?(2)

I've reached this point with a couple of my clients too. It's one of the worst conversations in the world to initiate let me tell you (and it's no picnic on your side of the phone either, I know.)

You're right (1) to assume most agents aren't actively looking for a used, albeit good, manuscript.  We are in business to make money and we prefer to sell to places that will give us lots of it.  Finding a new agent might not be step one here.

However, you might ask  your agent if she'll look at the contract if you sell it yourself to a small publisher.  This is what I do for my guys who've been in this situation.  (In fact, I insist on looking at every publishing contract my clients sign because I want to avoid problems down the road and some of these small publishers have contracts that make strong women weep.)

If she will, then (2) shop this puppy yourself.  You clearly know you're in for a lot of promotion and marketing work, but you are with a big publisher too.

The problem with self-publishing a middle grade book is that the buyers of these books are not the readers. Parents and teachers buy the books and it's hard to get a review in Library Journal if you're not a publisher.  It's REALLY hard to get your books in Barnes & Noble (where parents shop) if you're self-pubbed too.

If your agent won't help you with the contract you might consult this book for short term remedies.

For longer term remedies, this one is the place to start

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28. 7 Things I Learned So Far, by Heather Sellers

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Heather Sellers, author of CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her book, CHAPTER BY CHAPTER, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 10.25.44 AM        Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 10.26.28 AM      Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 10.30.41 AM

Heather Sellers is the author of two popular guides to the writing life,
Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter as well as a textbook for writers,
The Practice of Creative Writing.  Her award-winning memoir,
You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know was an O, Oprah book of the
month club selection.  She teaches creative nonfiction at the
University of South Florida. Find her on Twitter.

 
1. Don’t start with an idea. Start with an image. Readers want to enter your world. Too often, we writers start with our grand ideas, our glorious intentions. Start your poem, your essay, your novel, your screenplay, your love letter, with an image. An image isn’t static. It’s a scene, something taking place in real time–is a little micro-movie. It’s action that engages us on the sensory level.

2. Start with conflict right away. Don’t warm up, wander, or muse. Start with a battle: one character’s strong urgent desire set against, and directly opposing another equally “right” character’s strong unmet desire. Plunge into problem.

(Before you send out your query, look over a submission checklist.)

3. Come in through the side door. If you are too on the nose, you lose your reader. Coming in through the front door means your piece is about exactly what it says it is about. But our pleasure in reading is figuring things out. Set up the writing so your reader gets to be smart; trust that she truly wants to figure things out. Write so that the words point to your point but don’t spell it out directly. Readers are brilliant. And powerful writing creates an envelop for the reader to slip into. When writing about despair and meaninglessness, start with a bug. When writing about transcendent love, start with something as unexpectedly to the side as a sandwich.

4. Notice what you notice. My friends are always commenting on the notebook by my side, the note cards in my pockets, my habit of asking for a piece of paper and writing things down. I guess it’s weird but I can’t even walk down to the mailbox without a note card and a pencil in hand. At restaurants, at red lights, on hikes, kayaking, even riding my bike, I’m always pausing to take notes. It’s very difficult to invent convincing details on the spot. But more importantly, noting strengthens the observing mind, and that’s your gold as a writer, noticing what you notice.

5. Take care not to write solely for revenge or therapy or venting. That’s what your diary/therapist/best friend is for. Part of the point of literature is to help us see why annoying people are annoying. Write to learn; don’t write to unburden or to punish. Your work can be darkly honest and brutally exposing of injustice and it can still be fair, beautiful, and (when appropriate) kind.

(What query letter mistakes will sink your submission chances?)

6. Use lists in your work. If you give the reader lists of specifics (she loved roasted chicken, antique fairs, handing her husband his folded laundry and her dog’s head in her lap, that weight) you give her everything she needs. Quickly. Lists not only increase the tempo of your work, they can deliver an enormous amount of necessary information in an appealing rhythmic package. Try a list on every page: short lists, long lists, lists with surprises, two item lists, secret lists.

7. Billy Joel calls his working life “being in harness.” Every since I heard him say that in an interview, I’ve adopted it. “I’m in harness,” I tell my friends. I can’t go play. I’m in harness. You can’t live your whole life in harness though. You have to know how long the trip is going to be, or you are unlikely to saddle up. I write in four forty-minute blocks of time, with mandatory fifteen minute breaks in between. This kind of happens from 9-1, but not exactly. If I don’t hit my marks, I have to work at night. I’m in harness, but the milk runs are clear, definable, and they end. I can’t work without a timer. I can focus for 45 minutes. No more, no less. I’m half horse, half rider.

GIVEAWAY: Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her book, CHAPTER BY CHAPTER, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Z4961-Z0008-BUNDLE

Get both of Heather’s informative fiction writing books
at a discount together.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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29. Query: no confetti, no cake, and no bound mss.



I'm nearing the end of my agent search and it looks like I'm coming up empty. I'm already 67,000 words into my second novel so I'll be considering my first one a drawer novel. Worse things happen in the world.

My first novel is a mystery, a cozy mystery, and my second novel will be more mainstream fiction, book club fiction, women's fiction (these categories still confuse me somewhat). I would have written a long series with the first set of characters but if it's not going to sell, I'm going to move on.

My question is this: Can I "self-publish" my first novel in hard copy via print-on-demand with ~50 copies for my friends and family and still call myself unpublished? I wouldn't put it on Kindle or take out space on Goodreads or anything like that. My peeps have been so supportive of me throughout this whole process and I just want to gift them with a copy of the book (it's been professionally proofread but still would be considered a nicely bound manuscript). It's a good book even though it may not be good enough to make cash for agents in this particular market. I want to share it with my people. But I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by being one of those "who cares if you don't like it, big publishing; I'll publish it my own damn self" people. I want a traditional publishing career, even if it takes me a book or two more to get there.

If it ultimately doesn't find an agent, it's because it doesn't deserve an agent. I'll have queried every single agent repping mysteries of any kind by the time I'm completely finished. I've cast a wide net. But it is good enough for my friends and family, especially if I don't charge them for it, which I wouldn't.

Pitfalls? Draw backs? Legitimate to go ahead and commission a cover, get an ISBN, print-on-demand and move on to my next book and pretend to the marketplace like this one never happened? What say ye, oh wise Shark?



Well, the first thing to do is remember that once that book leaves your hands you have no control over what someone does with it, and I recently ran into a guy who found out the hard way that a "friend" had posted his early work for sale on Amazon.  Ooops. The early work was a manuscript he'd sent out to friends for feedback. Nice, huh?


Second, if this is a trunk novel, it belongs in a trunk, not sashaying around like a book. Five years from now you're going to look at that book and weep.  Please trust me on this. It's not that you're a bad writer, it's just this is your first book.  

Your peeps aren't expecting this and they're not going to feel slighted if you don't give them a copy of the book. In fact, if you do, all it does is create expectations that you'll do this with EVERY book, and trust me, when you get a contract, and you need sales, you want your peeps in the habit of BUYING books, not getting yours for free.

And honestly, not every event needs some sort of marker or celebration.  I still remember my father being a bit rueful about sixth grade "graduation" festivities at Sister Mary's School for Wayward Sharks.  "We expect our kids to complete the sixth grade," he said to Sister Mary.  Now, Dad did NOT feel this way about graduation from college and the tassels beyond that point.  He reserved his huzzahs for the achievements that really meant something.  Getting your first book published means something. Not getting your trunk novel published is like graduating from sixth grade.

If you absolutely insist on ignoring my advice, don't put an ISBN number on it, don't use CreateSpace, and pray your friends aren't douchecanoes. 

0 Comments on Query: no confetti, no cake, and no bound mss. as of 7/19/2014 6:34:00 AM
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30. Alien Rock

Being a famous rock star is hard. Especially when an alien invasion hits mid-concert. As lasers and abductions abound, do you think your sick beats can stop this catastrophe? Write about how you attempted to fight off the aliens and whether or not you succeeded.

Get two weeks worth of writing prompts that will inspire you to write great stories.Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Want more creative writing prompts? Download:

The Writing Prompt Boot Camp (Free Download)

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31. 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story

Mention the word outline in a room full of writers, and you’re sure to ignite a firestorm of passionate debate. Writers either love outlines, or they hate them. We either find them liberating, or we can’t stand how confining they are.

My experience has been that more often than not, those who swear they dislike outlines are thinking of them in the wrong ways. Outlines are not meant to trap you into preset ideas or sap your creativity before you start the first draft. Outlines are also definitely not meant to be lifeless Roman-numeral lists.

—by K.M. Weiland

To imbue your writing with the full power of outlining, you need to approach the process from a mindset of flexibility and discovery. When you do this, you’ll end up with a road map to storytelling success. Road maps are there to show you the fastest and surest way to reach your destination, but they certainly don’t prevent you from finding exciting off-road adventures and scenic drives along the way.

At their best, outlines can help you flesh out your most promising story ideas, avoid dead-end plot twists and pursue proper structure. And the greatest part? They save you time and prevent frustration. Sketching out your plot and characters in your first draft can take months of trial and error. Figuring out those same elements in an outline requires a fraction of the time—and then allows you to let loose and have fun in your first draft.

Let’s take a look at how to get the most out of the outlining process, beginning with the shaping of your premise and working all the way through to a complete list of scenes. (Note: Although this outlining method is one I use myself and highly recommend, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to outline a story. The only requirement is that you find the groove that works for you. If you start outlining and begin to feel the technique isn’t working for you, rather than denouncing outlines entirely, consider how you might adjust the process to better suit your personality and creative style.)

[Learn important writing lessons from these first-time novelists.]

1. Craft your premise.

Your premise is the basic idea for your story. But it’s not enough to just have an idea. “Guy saves girl in an intergalactic setting” is a premise, but it’s also far too vague to offer much solid story guidance.

This is why your outline needs to begin with a tightly crafted premise sentence that can answer the following questions:

•  Who is the protagonist?

•  What is the situation? What is the hero’s personal condition at the beginning? How will that condition be changed, for better or worse, by the hero himself or by the antagonistic force?

•  What is the protagonist’s objective? At the beginning, what does the hero want? What moral (or immoral) choices will she have to make in her attempt to gain that objective?

•  Who is the opponent? Who or what stands in the way of the hero achieving his objective?

•  What will be the disaster? What misfortune will befall the hero as the result of her attempts to achieve her objective?

•  What’s the conflict? What conflict will result from the hero’s reaction to the disaster? And what is the logical flow of cause and effect that will allow this conflict to continue throughout the story?

Once you’ve answered these questions, combine them into one or two sentences:

Restless farm boy (situation) Luke Skywalker (protagonist) wants nothing more than to leave home and become a starfighter pilot, so he can live up to his mysterious father (objective). But when his aunt and uncle are murdered (disaster) after purchasing renegade droids, Luke must free the droids’ beautiful owner and discover a way to stop (conflict) the evil Empire (opponent) and its apocalyptic Death Star.

2. Roughly sketch scene ideas.

Armed with a solid premise, you can now begin sketching your ideas for this story. Write a list of everything you already know about your story. You’ll probably come to this step with a handful of scenes already in mind. Even if you have no idea how these scenes will play out in the story, go ahead and add them to the list. At this point, your primary goal is to remember and record every idea you’ve had in relation to this story.

Once you’ve finished, take a moment to review your list. Whenever you encounter an idea that raises questions, highlight it. If you don’t know why your character is fighting a duel in one scene, highlight it. If you don’t know how two scenes will connect, highlight them. If you can’t picture the setting for one of the scenes, highlight that, too. By pausing to identify possible plot holes now, you’ll be able to save yourself a ton of rewriting later on.

Your next step is to address each of the highlighted portions, one by one. Write out your ideas and let your thoughts flow without censoring yourself. Because this is the most unstructured step of your outline, this will be your best opportunity to unleash your creativity and plumb the depths of your story’s potential. Ask yourself questions on the page. Talk to yourself without worrying about punctuation or spelling.

Every time you think you’ve come up with a good idea, take a moment to ask yourself, “Will the reader expect this?” If the answer is yes, write a list of alternatives your readers won’t expect.

3. Interview your characters.

In order to craft a cast of characters that can help your plot reach its utmost potential, you’ll need to discover crucial details about them, not necessarily at the beginning of their lives but at the beginning of the story.

To do this for your protagonist, work backward from the moment in which he will become engaged in your plot (the “disaster” in your premise sentence). What events in your protagonist’s life have led him to this moment? Did something in his past cause the disaster? What events have shaped him to make him respond to the disaster in the way he does? What unresolved issues from his past can further complicate the plot’s spiral of events?

Once you have a basic idea of how your character will be invested in the main story, you can start unearthing the nitty-gritty details of his life with a character interview. You may choose to follow a preset list of questions (you can find a list of more than 100 such questions in my book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success), or you may have better luck with a “freehand interview” in which you ask your protagonist a series of questions and allow him to answer in his own words.

[Here's a great article on how to structure a killer novel ending.]

4. Explore your settings.

Whether your setting is your childhood neighborhood or the seventh moon of Barsoom, you’ll want to enter your first draft with a firm idea of where your prominent scenes will be taking place.

Don’t choose a setting just because it sounds cool or because you’re familiar with it. Look for settings that will be inherent to your plot. Can you change your story’s primary locale without any significant alterations to the plot? If so, dig a little deeper to find a setting better suited to your plot, theme and characters.

Based on the scenes you’re already aware of, list the settings you think you’ll need. Can you reduce this list by combining or eliminating settings? Nothing wrong with a sprawling story locale, but extraneous settings should be eliminated just as assiduously as unnecessary characters.

5. Write your complete outline.

You’re finally ready to outline your story in full. This is where you will begin plotting in earnest. In Step 2, you solidified the big picture of your story by identifying the scenes you were already aware of and figuring out how they might fit together. Now, you will work through your story linearly, scene by scene, numbering each one as you go. Unlike the “sketches” in Step 2, in which your primary focus was on brainstorming and exploring possibilities, you will now be concentrating on molding your existing ideas into a solid structure.

How comprehensive you want to be is up to you. You may choose to write a single sentence for each scene (“Dana meets Joe at the café to discuss their impending nuptials”), or you may choose to flesh out more details (“Joe is sitting by himself in a booth when Dana arrives; Dana orders coffee and a muffin; they fight about the invitation list”). Either way, focus on identifying and strengthening the key components of each scene’s structure. Who will be your narrating character? What is his goal? What obstacle will arise to obstruct that goal and create conflict? What will be the outcome, and how will your character react to the resulting dilemma? What decision will he reach that will fuel the next scene’s goal?

Work to create a linear, well-structured plot with no gaps in the story (see the checklist on the opposite page). If you can get this foundation right in your outline, you’ll later be free to apply all your focus and imagination to the first draft and bring your story to life.

As you mentally work through each scene, watch for possible lapses of logic or blank areas in how one event builds to another. Take the time to think through these potential problems so they won’t trip you up later. If you get stuck, try jumping ahead to the next scene you know, and then working backward. For instance, if you know where you want your characters to end up, but not how they’ll get there, start at the ending point and then see if you can figure out what has to happen in the preceding events to make it plausible.

6. Condense your outline.

Once you’ve finished your extended outline, you may want to condense the most pertinent points into an abbreviated version. Doing so allows you to weed out extraneous thoughts and summarize the entire outline into a scannable list for easier reference. Because your full outline may contain a fair amount of rambling and thinking out loud on the page, you’re likely to end up with a lot of notes to review (I often have nearly three notebooks of material). Rather than having to wade through the bulk of your notes every time you sit down to work on your first draft, you can save yourself time in the long run by doing a little organizing now.

You may choose to create your abbreviated outline in a Word document, write out your scenes on index cards, or use a software program such as the free Scrivener alternative yWriter.

7. Put your outline into action.

By now, you’ll be feeling prepared and eager to get going on your first draft. Each time you sit down to work on your manuscript, begin by reviewing your outline. Read the notes for your current scene and the scene to follow. Before you start writing, work through any remaining potential problems in your head or on paper. If the time comes (and it will come) when you’re struck with a better idea than what you had planned in your outline, don’t hesitate to go off-road. These ventures into unknown territory can result in some of the most surprising and intriguing parts of your story.

An outline will offer you invaluable structure and guidance as you write your first draft, but never be afraid to explore new ideas as they occur. Remember, your outline is a map showing you the route to your destination, but that doesn’t mean it is the only route.

Historical and speculative novelist K.M. Weiland writes the award-winning blog Helping Writers Become Authors (helping writersbecomeauthors.com). She is the author of Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel.

90 Days to Your Novel90 Days to Your Novel is an inspiring writing
manual that will be your push, your deadline, and your 

spark to finally, in three short months, complete thatfirst
draft of your novel. Order it now in our shop for a discount.

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

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brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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32. Question: Talk about Grand Schemes!


A writer friend of mine writes adult historical fiction and has recently connected with an ex-literary agent who has offered to work with her on her query letter for $1,000.00. Honestly, I think it's nuts. My friend is a seasoned writer, highly educated, and has a firm grasp of her manuscript, query letter, synopsis, etc. She is tempted by the offer because she's been unsuccessful in garnering an agent's interest and feels this money may be well spent.

So my question is: Does this sound reasonable and fair to you? Any advice you can give would be most appreciated. As you know, the path to publication for an author is murky at best, and can sometimes cloud our judgment.







Wow, if I'd known giving advice on query letters garnered a thousand bucks a pop, think of all the dough I could have gotten from this! What are we up to now? 261?


Of course I think this is nuts. But I'm betting Miss X gets a bunch of people giving her money. She probably has to fend them off.


It's so so so beguiling to think the only thing standing between you and YES is a measly thousand dollars and The Secret Sauce of Acceptance.


I'm not going to rant too much about Miss X because if she's an ex-agent it's clear that she didn't make enough deals to keep her business afloat and is now busy making money the old fashioned way: snake oil. I feel sorry for someone who has failed at a business and has to become a literary busker.


Getting advice on your query is a good thing. Paying for it is not the problem. Paying THAT MUCH for it, and getting ONE person's opinion is.


Your writer friend is MUCH better off to use that spare thousand she's got lying around in her sock drawer to attend a writing conference (see yesterday's post) and talk to SEVERAL agents, and hit a workshop or two.


Writers who are butting up against the glacial embrace of rejection will often try everything and anything to melt the ice.  Paying this much and getting an opinion won't kill you but it's NOT the most efficient use of your resources (neither time nor money.)


I'll bet you twenty bucks and a shark bite that she does it anyway though.


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33. Scaling in Nature Poetry

This is the final installment of a three-part series on nature and poetry by guest Daniel Roessler. If you’d like the opportunity to be a guest on this blog, send your ideas (and a little about yourself) to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com.

******

This is the final post in our three-part series on how to freshen up our nature poems. In the first post, we discussed how the changing role of nature in our lives and world could bring a fresh perspective to our poetry. Next, we talked about paralleling nature themes with other components such as human, social, and urban topics.

Today, we discuss how scaling in nature poems can make them distinct.

Macro vs. Micro Level

When we view the world, we can do so on a macro or micro level and our choice greatly influences what we see. We will use trees as our example to illustrate the power of scaling. If we write a poem about trees, there are many options.

We can write about all trees everywhere in general terms at an extremely macro level, a certain forest, a specific type of tree, an individual tree, or an exact branch on a given tree at the most micro level. Selecting one of these resolutions shapes our poem’s voice and any of them can be appropriate depending on our poems context.

Scaling is a powerful tool and by varying our choices, we can make our nature poetry distinct. For example, the opening line of our poem might be, “A forest of trees waved hello to me.” Alternately, the flavor of the poem changes if we start it, “The mighty oak greeted me with open arms.” And again, even more specific, “The crooked branch just off my porch welcomed me by caressing my face.”

All of these are somewhat similar opening lines but also invoke considerably different images for us. The more precise we get, the more unique our poem tends to become. However, the micro approach isn’t always the best choice because we can get so specific and personalized that it takes away from our readers’ ability to relate to our poem.

Use Scaling to Freshen Perspective

When we feel that our nature poems are becoming stale or unoriginal, using a micro or macro approach is a great tool to help freshen them up. Another effective method is to use scaling within a given poem. We can begin at a micro level and expand it to a macro level as the poem proceeds, or alternately, start at a macro level and shrink it to a micro level within a given piece.

Our poem might begin with us spotting a rose garden from a distance that looks like a fallen rainbow. By the end of our poem, maybe we hone in on a single red rose bud about to blossom into splendor.

Ultimately, nature has been and will continue to be one of the most beloved topics in poetry. There are many ways to introduce unique elements into our nature poems and we have only examined a few in this series.

So keep writing and when you are stuck, try some of the techniques we have discussed to freshen up your nature poems.

*****

Daniel Roessler

Daniel Roessler

Daniel Roessler is an author and poet who recently placed 4th in our Writers Digest SIJO competition with “Drowning” and 5th in our Triversen competition with “The Eulogy”. He is also the author of one non-fiction book, seeking representation for his recently completed novel, and has two poetry chapbooks in progress. For more information on Daniel, visit his website at www.danielroessler.com.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

 

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34. Welcome Bigfoot Friends

Picture
 

I strive to be a Welcome Ambassador to Everyone I meet. I know that’s a tall order. I sort act like a Walmart greeter on steroids. I smile, open doors, as I shop, make positive comments about team logos that I see on total strangers. I get money from tellers, not ATM machines. I talk to the mailperson, and don’t duck when I see acquaintances and former co-workers in the wilds of the frozen food section of the supermarket. I am a people person, not a robot mechanically going through mundane motions of life.

Now what’s that got to do with Bigfoot, a large hairy-ape like creature between 6.6-9.8 feet tall weighing over 500 pounds, covered with brown or reddish hair? He’s a legend hiding in the forest somewhere.  Over the years there have been many eyewitness reports about him, large footprint tracks of him, handheld film recordings, audio recordings, blood and hair samples. There also have been many hoaxes and pranks related to finding Bigfoot in the wilds.

Okay, now you have the background story. I can proceed with my encounter.

I was waiting for the garage door repairman to fix the runner on my garage door. My wife accidentally caught backing up with the car. I tried to fix the metal runner, but I crinkled the bend worse, making it almost unrepairable.

As the repairman abled out of the truck, I opened the garage door and wondered if he would get the job done without installing expensive new runners, or even if he had late model ones on the truck.  He had a bald head, jeans on, and a dusty bulging black T-shirt. No uniform. No Mr. Goodwrench-look. I know first impressions aren’t always correct, yet I wasn’t impressed. He looked more like a professional wrestler or a man of the mountains.

I said hello and welcomed him to my garage and my problem, adding these words “I decided to get an expert to help me.”

He said, “I am not an expert in this area, but I have fixed a number of doors like this.”

He wrestled with the bent runner and after quite a struggle he bent it back to working form, and shot some oil into the little revolving wheels. He told me that I was all set, good as new.

I asked him if he wanted a bottle of cold water. He said that he had some in the truck.

I wondered what made this man tick; in other words, what he cared about beside his job. I thought that I might be surprised. I was already totally wrong about my first impression.

I asked, “So what do you like to do for fun?”

He eyes arched upward recalling a fun scene and he said, “I hunt for Bigfoot with my son in the mountains.”

As my mouth dropped open, I asked “Do you believe in him?”

He answered, “Well, we have fun looking for him. It’s an adventure. We don’t want to hurt him, just hangout. Maybe take a few photos. We bring fruit, nuts, and cold water to share with him. If he doesn’t show up, we eat the goodies ourselves. My son, Ryan, loves hiking and the outdoors.”

“How old is your son?”

“Well, he’s 12, but he has the mental age of 5. Ryan has a brain disorder. He literally has problems doing things. The nerve endings in his body are mixed up. He has to think things through to do normal things. But he has been getting better and better. That’s what counts. And he loves talking about Bigfoot, looking at pictures of Bigfoot, and learning about big animals. We frequently read together. I work two jobs so that I have enough money to get the best help for him.”

Tears circled in my eyes. I wrote him a check for his services, and said “Wait a second, I have a present for him, and I ran upstairs to get a copy of the poetry book Waiting to See the Principal and Other Poems.

I signed the paperback for Ryan and I said, “There’s lots of lines that are repeated in my poems. Ryan and you will have fun repeating them. After awhile both of you will have them memorized which makes it even more fun to read.”

“Yes, he will love this book! And the pictures in it are funny too—something like Shel Silverstein’s books. Ryan loves all of his books. Thanks so much. I gotta get back on the road. Thanks again.”

“By the way, does Ryan really believe in the existence of Bigfoot?”

‘OH, YEAH! He says Bigfoot is just a good hider.”

And I said to myself: we are all good hiders unless the right questions are asked by an interested person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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35. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 271

Before we get to the prompt this week, a few things: first, don’t forget to write a golden shovel (or three) for the latest WD Poetic Form Challenge (click here for guidelines); second, Dressing Room Poetry Journal published one of my poems (click here to read it).

For this week’s prompt, write a poem in which you’ve imagined a story for a stranger. Maybe someone you see on public transportation, a couple at the laundromat, or a neighbor. Is the person more fabulous than expected? Fallen upon harder times? Exactly as one might guess? If you need ideas, use this prompt as an excuse to do some “research” by getting out and about in the world today/this week.

*****

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*****

Here’s my attempt at an Imagined Story Poem:

“the cashier at kroger”

as she leaves gives a high five
to the guy who collects carts

in the parking lot passing
the folks hidden in their cars

scanning their social profiles
or staring into futures

that seem impossibly bleak
but she’s not interested

in the sad & lonely not
today with the sun pounding

the pavement & a little
hitch in her step & a song

on her lips & a man who
can’t wait for her to return

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and the author of Solving the World’s Problems.

His collection has recently been named an Editor’s Pick by Crab Creek Review, and includes a poem about a guy sitting in a Kroger parking lot, because apparently he spends a lot of time (and money) there.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic posts here:

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36. Question: when should I hit a writing conference?

At what point should I, as a writer, begin dishing out the big bucks to attend conferences? It seems like, from what I've heard, they're a great place to meet agents and editors and writers I admire.

But I'm pretty far off (at least a year, if I'm being realistic) from querying. Should I wait until I'm further along in my MS to get serious about conference attendance? Or should I start laying that groundwork now?

And, perhaps more importantly, which conferences should I attend? I know about AWP and BEA. What biggies am I missing? And is there a resource for must-attend genre-related conferences (RWA*, CYA*, etc)?

Thanks again, sharko. 

Well, sharko just cracked me up completely, I may change my monogram to that.

Let's make sure you understand what a writing conference IS first, cause AWP* and BEA* ain't.
RWA and CYA are both closer to the mark but a writing conference is more like CrimeBake, or Rocky Mountain Fiction writers Colorado Gold conferencePacific Northwest Writers or Pennwriters (one of my faves!)

These conferences are focused on CRAFT more than the trade side of publishing. There are opportunities to meet and woo agents but generally these conferences offer classes and workshops and panels on how to improve your writing.

And these are the ones you want to hit before you even think of hitting anything else. For starters, you'll find some that are close to home, and for second, they aren't going to cost you an arm and leg. 

As for when to start going to conferences, I'd suggest after you finish your first book. That will be when you're thinking you're ready to query and the conference will give you some ways to analyze whether you are or (more likely) give you a whole bunch of information that makes you rethink that.

Not all conferences are good (the ones listed above are great.)  If you go to one and you hate it, it's not you, it's the conference. Try another. Ask your friends. And going WITH writing friends is a great way to get more than your money's worth from the conference. I know two writing gaggles who do that and it's always impressed me as a very smart approach to things.






*Association of Writing Programs
*Book Expo America
*Romance Writers of America
*Children and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference

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37. The Top 10 Publishing Insiders (& Outsiders) to Follow Online

If you’re a writer, it’s important to keep your pulse on the publishing industry. But with so much information out there and so many resources, how do you keep up with everything? Let us help.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 people who are “must-follows” when it comes to getting the inside track on publishing news. We also have a bonus list at the bottom of all the Writer’s Digest editors who are online and constantly sharing great tips, advice and news on writing. If you’re looking for the best people to follow online, these lists are an excellent starting point.

—by Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writer’s Digest

1. Jason Allen Ashlock

jasonashlock.tumblr.com, @jasonashlock

Jason Allen Ashlock embodies much of the optimistic entrepreneurship and experimentation in the publishing industry. He founded Movable Type Literary Group (now Movable Type Management) in spring 2009, and within five years the agency amassed a healthy roster of more than 200 authors and established a reputation for inventive and expansive multimedia management. He also helped launch The Rogue Reader, an agent-assisted publishing model, before stepping away from agenting in late 2013 to turn his focus to book packaging and creative management. He now aims to help authors, start-ups and organizations succeed outside the commercial requirements of traditional publishing.

Why follow: Ashlock offers a fresh take on publishing, often with a focus on multimedia opportunities. He blogs at his own site; sends out a monthly e-newsletter with important reads on the industry; and serves as an expert blogger for Digital Book World (digitalbookworld.com, a subsidiary of F+W Media, parent company of WD), where he covers innovation, experimentation and content strategy.

In his own words: “Stark contrasts are drawn in times of upheaval and transition, and the dominant publishing narratives have centered on Big Publishing and Indie Authors. But there’s so much in between: mid-size houses with impressive reach, small houses with fiercely loyal followings, author collectives, ad hoc indie associations, networked book studios, experiments from innumerable nontraditional publishers. Today’s author gets to choose among an array of options for building a team.”

In action: In an article detailing their experience running The Rogue Reader, Ashlock and his agent-partner Adam Chromy offer a rare lessons-learned case study of agent-assisted publishing. Read it at http://bit.ly/ashlock.

2. Joel Friedlander

thebookdesigner.com, @JFBookman

There’s a cacophony of advice out there on self-publishing, but one of the few people offering comprehensive, start-to-finish education, without any snark or agenda, is Joel Friedlander, aka The Book Designer. Friedlander began his career in book publishing in the 1970s doing letterpress work, and has since moved into digital book design and production. He founded and runs Marin Bookworks in California, which works with a range of authors, small presses, and publishers.

Friedlander is particularly active on his blog and Twitter, and is a frequent speaker at major events for writers and publishers, including the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publishing University and the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Why follow: Friedlander’s website offers more than 700 free articles on how to self-publish, market and promote, and he is continually creating new services and products (both paid and free) for authors. He also runs a range of contests, including the eBook Cover Design Awards to recognize excellent work in the self-publishing community.

In his own words: “Authors need to realize that no one will automatically be interested in their work, and that they need to create books that have a real reason for being. It’s not enough, in the business of publishing, just to write. Quality work that clearly sets itself apart from other books in the market, that contributes something unique and valuable, is the basis for successful publishing.”

In action:In one of his most innovative offerings to date, Friedlander created Microsoft Word-based book design templates, which offer an affordable way for independent authors to get professional-grade design for their self-published books, both print and digital. Find out more: bookdesigntemplates.com.

3. Rachelle Gardner

rachellegardner.com, @RachelleGardner, facebook.com/agent.rachelle

Agents can sometimes seem inaccessible to the average writer, but Rachelle Gardner has a well-established reputation as a friend and adviser to new writers seeking assistance and insight into traditional publishing. Gardner became an agent in 2007, but started her publishing career in 1995, working in a range of positions related to sales, marketing and editorial. She’s also the author of eight ghostwritten books.

Why follow: Gardner has single-handedly amassed some of the most comprehensive and well-organized information available on how to get traditionally published, and her blog, where she engages in discussions spurred by her posts, has one of the most active comment sections of any writer-focused website. Because of the enormous archive of material at her site (she’s been blogging since January 2008), start with the “Popular Posts” section if you’re a new visitor.

In her own words: “Nobody is trying to keep you out of publishing. The whole job of agents and editors is to bring writers in—to find new voices, to nurture them and get them published. We have to say no to many writers because there are more writers trying to get published than there are slots available. But don’t take it as someone trying to keep you out, and don’t buy the lie that the publishing industry has erected barriers so that most writers can’t get in. We are always looking for new writers—it’s our job, and it’s my passion.”

In action: In one of her more controversial posts in 2013, Gardner wrote about whether a traditional publisher will allow an author, while under contract, to continue self-publishing other work. Her opinion on the matter drew criticism, so she wrote a follow-up post to clarify her position. To read both posts, visit http://bit.ly/rgardner.

4. CJ Lyons

cjlyons.net, norulesjustwrite.com, @cjlyonswriter, facebook.com/cj.lyons

The bestselling author of 21 novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons is known for being a master of the thriller genre—and a member of the Kindle Million Club (authors who have sold more than a million e-books through Amazon). Lyons’ first novel was released by a major house in 2008, but since then, she has actively self-published many of her novels, becoming a hybrid author who decides which projects she keeps and which ones she sells to traditional publishers.

Why follow:Lyons is generous with information and advice for other novelists who want to follow her hybrid path to success, and actively blogs about new lessons she is learning along the way. She emphasizes the value of an author’s choice in publishing, rather than advocating any single method.

In her own words: “When I sign a contract with a New York publisher, they’re acting as a subcontractor (just like a plumber would), connecting me to my readers using their specific expertise and knowledge. But it’s my decision who to form strategic partnerships with, based on what best serves my business and my readers. If you take that approach to publishing, then every author can create their own Global Publishing Empire—it’s simply a question of standing up and taking control of what’s rightfully yours: your connection to your readers. … For me, this means there is no looming ‘death of publishing.’”

In action: In a revealing blog post, Lyons discussed whether or not giveaways really work, and shared her download figures during a giveaway of a new e-book. Read it at http://bit.ly/lyons-free.

5. Peter McCarthy

mccarthy-digital.com, @petermccarthy

Peter McCarthy was the vice president of marketing innovation for Random House before stepping into his current role as full-time marketing consultant for big publishers seeking new ways to reach readers directly through online channels. He remains on the cutting edge of trade book marketing strategy, to such an extent that his expertise recently was sought in the programming of an entire industry conference called “Modern Book Marketing.”

Why follow: As one of the leaders in consumer book marketing innovation, McCarthy has truckloads of professional knowledge on how readers find books through search engines, online advertising, and social media. While his consulting business is focused on sharing that information with big publishers, he also happens to share some of it through his blog, which is accessible to a general audience (and invaluable to writers). He also regularly contributes to the Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog (digitalbookworld.com/category/expert).

In his own words: When asked the most important lesson for an author to learn about marketing, he says, “To cooperate. In essence, a respect for the fact that marketing is a profession, as is writing. This is not to say that authors have no idea about marketing, nor that marketers know everything. Just that in my experience, the more an author describes to me in his or her own words the goals, context, challenges, etc., and leaves it at that, the easier it is for me to do my job. … With marketing—particularly digital marketing—authors seem either scared or to know it all. Neither stance is likely to yield a satisfying outcome.”

In action: In one of his expert blog posts for Digital Book World, McCarthy offers up five big-picture ways social media can effectively multiply book sales. Learn them at http://bit.ly/pete-mccarthy.

6. Kristen McLean

kristenmclean.org, bookmarketingdb.com/home, @BKGKristen

Kristen McLean spent 17 years in a wide variety of traditional publishing roles, including five years as executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children. Today, she’s the CEO of publishing start-up Bookigee, focused on developing new services to help transform the book industry—including WriterCube, a free database of more than 20,000 vetted listings of book marketing resources (media contacts, top bloggers, book reviewers, etc.) for writers.

Why follow: McLean asks big, sometimes difficult questions about where the industry is headed. While some of her work is specifically for publishers, she is also interested in serving the individual authors who are trying to figure out how to succeed in the new environment. She tells WD, “If you want to disrupt an entire system, you have to think about the start of the value chain, and that is the author. … They’ve been largely ignored by the rest of the chain, who are trying to figure out how their own segments are changing.” McLean regularly guest blogs on major industry sites; you can follow her latest on Twitter, where she is active in sharing links on the technological transformation of publishing.

In her own words: “‘Making’ the book is a fairly simple exercise compared to the two activities that bookend it: (a) writing a great book; and (b) marketing a book. … Given that discovery is a challenge, and there are more and more books being published all the time, a book has to be very, very good or very, very well-supported by marketing dollars to break through.”

In action: In a guest post for Publishing Perspectives (publishingperspectives.com), McLean argues that the publishing industry needs to foster its own start-up economy. Read it at http://bit.ly/bookigee.

7. Joanna Penn (J.F. Penn)

thecreativepenn.com, @TheCreativePenn, youtube.com/thecreativepenn, facebook.com/TheCreativePenn

Compared to others on this list, independent author Joanna Penn is fairly new to the game, having begun her publishing career in 2008. But given her prominence in the indie author community as an informational resource, it feels as if she’s been around for much longer. Her thrillers, self-published under the name J.F. Penn, have sold more than 55,000 copies combined, and her blog The Creative Penn and its companion podcast for writers have been going strong for more than five years.

Why follow: Penn has interviewed nearly 200 authors, editors, agents, marketers and publishing industry insiders, and turned those discussions into podcasts, YouTube videos and blog posts, all available for free. Her interviews are geared toward helping authors write, publish, market and promote their own work, regardless of genre. She also writes informative blog posts about her successes and failures as an independent author, and is transparent about how she’s achieved her success.

In her own words: “I love the hours I spend alone writing in libraries, but I also love the connections we can now make online. The writing community I have found through blogging and Twitter makes this a social creative world, plus I can share my stories with a global audience through online publishing. Being a writer and creative entrepreneur at this moment in history is fantastic!”

In action: In fall 2013, Penn wrote a blog post on how she makes a living as a full-time author, with an accompanying pie chart breaking down her true sources of income: product sales (45 percent), book sales (42 percent) and professional speaking (13 percent). It also illustrates how each book ends up producing multiple income streams. Read it at http://bit.ly/joannapenn.

8. Bob Sacks

bosacks.com, @bosacks

Bob Sacks has been delivering news and opinions about the magazine publishing industry (with occasional pieces on news-papers and Web-based media) for more than 20 years, partly though a free e-newsletter established way back in 1993. Sacks’ career in publishing began in the 1970s, when he started a weekly newspaper in the metro New York area and later became a founder of High Times magazine. Over the years, he has been director at companies such as McCall’s, Time Inc., New York Times Magazine Group and Ziff Davis. Currently he is a full-time consultant in the magazine publishing industry.

Why follow: If you’re a freelancer or journalist, then subscribing to the BoSacks e-newsletter is one of the best things you can do for your industry IQ. In addition to sending three reads every weekday, he often adds his own insightful commentary, and circulates the opinions of others who respond to him. Even book authors can benefit from the articles he shares; many of the challenges faced on newsstands mirror those on bookshelves.

In his own words: In a recent email to his subscribers, Sacks wrote, “Print will survive because it does things that a Web-based product can’t do. … It is a relatively inexpensive product and on most occasions contains excellence in editorial quality and beautiful reproduction of art and photos. When you get right down to it, the whole dialogue of the death of print has been terribly exaggerated. Most of the trauma is from failing newspapers and magazines who can’t supply the reader with the kind of 21st-century content that they need, desire and are willing to pay for. Those titles that can supply outstanding content aren’t suffering.”

In action: Sacks is frequently on the road, speaking at industry events. To get a feel for his myth-busting talks, visit http://bit.ly/bosacks-future.

9. Mike Shatzkin

idealog.com, @MikeShatzkin

For people who work in the book publishing industry, Mike Shatzkin represents the insider’s insider. Shatzkin has worked in every conceivable role in the field, including bookseller, author, agent, and sales and marketing director. For the last 30 years, he has served as a consultant to the world’s largest publishers, and is actively involved in ongoing conversations with the industry’s movers and shakers.

Why follow: Because of the depth of his experience—and access to top-level publishing executives—his blog posts on industry news and trends offer a level of insight and perspective that is often unmatched by other analysts. Even though his audience tends to be other insiders, his posts about the evolution of publishing are clear enough to be understood by authors, and often carry critical insights into how the landscape will evolve.

In his own words: When asked what advice he would give to authors on choosing a path to publication, Shatzkin says, “The choice between self-publishing and using a publisher is ultimately the choice between having professional help to do a lot of things or doing and managing them yourself. … The other big consi-
deration is whether ‘books on shelves’ is important to an author. Self-publishing will probably (but not certainly) deliver higher margins for e-book sales and even perhaps for online print sales. But you won’t be in bookstores in any appreciable way unless a publisher prints copies and pushes them out for you.”

In action: Shatzkin is involved in the programming of major industry events, including Digital Book World and Publishers Launch. His blog posts frequently cover the themes and findings presented at those events (which are often too expensive for an author to attend), making them accessible to the writing community. For a strong example of the kind of analysis he’s known for, read his post about Amazon’s impact on publishers and authors at http://bit.ly/shatzkin-amz.

10. Victoria Strauss

sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware, accrispin.blogspot.com, @VictoriaStrauss, facebook.com/WriterBeware

Even if you don’t know her name, you probably know her work. Co-founder of Writer Beware, career novelist Victoria Strauss has been working as a publishing industry watchdog since the 1990s. She works to document, expose and raise awareness of the huge variety of literary schemes and scams that prey on writers, and the website of Writer Beware often serves as the starting point and continuing resource for anyone unsure of an agent, publisher or contract.

Why follow:Every week, Strauss analyzes complex business and industry issues that impact all writers. She offers clear explanations of things like the evolution of contracts, self-publishing services and new publishing imprints, with a reasonable, informative tone, and often speaks directly with companies or people who have come under scrutiny from the author community. If you have a complaint about a publisher or service, Strauss’ Writer Beware is often the first place you should contact.

In her own words: “When I was submitting my first novel, I had no idea that publishing scams existed. I never encountered any, but I could have—and knowing how easily I might have been taken advantage of makes me determined to protect others from falling into that trap. ‘Pay it forward’ has become a hackneyed concept, but I truly believe in it, and it gives me huge satisfaction to be able to help writers in a measurable way. I also have to admit that I’m fascinated by the psychology of scammers!”

In action:In one of her most helpful blog posts, Strauss deconstructed the reversion of rights clause in book contracts, carefully laying out its history and evolution, and digging out specific examples from her own contracts over the years. To read the post, visit. http://bit.ly/vstrauss.

7 Additional Must-Follows (The Writer’s Digest Staff)

Make sure you’re following all the folks on the WD Team who share a constant stream of great writing tips, advice and quotes. Click on each image to follow on them Twitter.

briantwitterimagechucktwitterimage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

roberttwitterimage jessicatwitterimage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

adriennetwitterimage tiffanytwitterimage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

philtwitterimage


Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

 

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38. 16th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest: Middle Grade Fiction

Welcome to the 16th (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This is a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you’re writing middle grade fiction, this 16th contest is for you! (The contest is live through EOD, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.)

 

 

WHY YOU SHOULD GET EXCITED

After a previous “Dear Lucky Agent” contest, the agent judge, Tamar Rydzinski (The Laura Dail Literary Agency), signed one of the three contest winners. After Tamar signed the writer, she went on to sell two of that writer’s books! How cool! That’s why these contests are not to missed if you have an eligible submission.

HOW TO SUBMIT

E-mail entries to dearluckyagent16@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments.

WHAT TO SUBMIT

The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, completed book-length work of middle grade fiction. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with each entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, you must mention this contest twice through any any social-media. Please provide a social-media link or Twitter handle or screenshot or blog post URL, etc., with your official e-mailed entry so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step! Simply spread the word twice through any means and give us a way to verify you did; a tinyURL for this link/contest for you to easily use is http://tinyurl.com/pwbds3q. An easy way to notify me of your sharing is to include my Twitter handle @chucksambuchino at the end of your mention(s) if using Twitter. If we’re friends on FB, tag me in the mention. And if you are going to solely use Twitter as your 2 times, please wait 1 day between mentions to spread out the notices, rather than simply tweeting twice back to back. Thanks. (Please note that simply tweeting me does not count. You have to include the contest URL with your mention; that’s the point.)

WHAT IS ELIGIBLE?

Middle grade fiction. The agent judge did not choose to exclude any subgenre, so everything is fair game.

CONTEST DETAILS

  1. This contest will be live through the end of July 30, 2014, PST. Winners notified by e-mail within approximately three weeks of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter.
  2. To enter, submit the first 150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.
  3. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners cannot win again. All that said, you are urged to only submit your best work.
  4. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA’s publisher, F+W Media, Inc.
  5. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms possibly added by me in the “Comments” section of this blog post. (If you have questions or concerns, write me personally at chuck.sambuchino (at) fwmedia.com. The Gmail account above is for submissions, not questions.)

PRIZES!!!

Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com ($50 value)!

MEET YOUR (AWESOME) AGENT JUDGE!

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.30.43 PM

 

 

Peter Knapp joined the Park Literary Group in July 2011. He provides support for all of the agency’s initiatives, and is building his client list with a focus on middle grade and young adult fiction. He does not represent picture books or nonfiction. Prior to joining Park Literary, he was the story editor at Floren Shieh Productions, where he consulted on book-to-film adaptations for Los Angeles-based film and TV entities. He graduated from New York University with a B.A. in art history. Pete reps middle grade and young adult fiction.

 

 

———-

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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39. Query Question: but I *am* unique

I’ve completed my first book, a memoir, and did my homework prior to writing a book proposal. I’ve read many memoirs to get a feel for style, focusing on those that are popular. I’ve studied books, websites, and blogs about how to write a good book proposal. The market analysis and complementary and competing titles sections are giving me fits. Everything I’ve read says don’t ever say your story is unique, because it’s just not true. However, I’ve honestly not found another story like mine. I’m not bragging here. After months of research, I’ve found no other book about a woman who became one of the first female forest firefighters. Plenty of books by men about firefighting exist, however most are self-published. (That leads to my second question.)

My questions: Do I dare say my book is unique, or should I just focus on published memoirs and how mine differs? Also, should I mention complementary and competing titles that were self-published?


You're mistaking what agents mean by unique.  You may have been the first female forest fire fighter, but your memoir is "first female fill in the blank."

And you are assuredly not writing the ONLY book wherein a woman is the first of something.

Thus you will not now or EVER say you haven't found a story like yours because that only says to me you haven't read widely in your category and that is a HUGE Red Flag (one might say it's a hotspot.)


Don't focus on the firefighting aspect when you look for comps. Look for "first female" and you'll have a better list.

As for what books to choose from for comparable titles:

1. Front list or within a year of publication is best. Thus, you want books pubbed in 2013 and 2014.

2. Do not use self-pubbed books unless they sold so well that editors will be impressed. Most self-pubbed books didn't.  How to tell? Well, Amazon rankings are helpful. Number of reviews on Amazon are a good indicator. When in doubt, leave it out.

3. You'll want to use books that got review attention. Good review attention is best, but BAD reviews offer a place to show why you are better/faster/stronger/hotter.   Books that have no reviews or only blurbs from authors are less useful as comps.

4. If there is a classic in your category (and in your case it's most likely Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean) you want to make sure you've read it thoroughly and can clearly state why your book belongs  on the shelf with it.

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40. Do Your E-Book Right (and Start Making Money) — July 31 Webinar With Jane Friedman

The industry has exploded with new and free opportunities to help you publish your work electronically, at little or no cost to you. Learn how to get visibility for your work by using online services that make your work available on major e-reading platforms such as Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

This intensive and information-filled 90-minute webinar — titled “Do Your E-Book Right (and Start Making Money): All the 101 you need to get started in e-publishing your work.″ — gives you a tour of how these sites work and how writers are using them to move their career forward. While e-publishing doesn’t equal instant success (if you build it, they may NOT come), you’ll learn the principles behind the successful creation and distribution of an e-book. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, July 31, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes.

 

 Screen shot 2014-01-26 at 11.49.02 PM   W3060

 

 

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • What services are available to distribute your e-book, plus what you can expect from these services, and how they turn a profit
  • How to make your book available on Kindle, Nook, iPad, and most reading devices in use today
  • If and when you’re endangering the future potential of your work by making it available electronically
  • The technical skill required and how/when to use a professional to help you convert your work into different formats
  • 3 essential factors that impact your e-book sales
  • How to appropriately price your work
  • Critical strategies for marketing and promoting your e-books
  • How to decide when it’s time to seek traditional publishing options
  • A list of trusted resources to help you after the webinar. Sign up for Jane’s webinar here.

INSTRUCTOR

Jane Friedman is the former publisher of Writer’s Digest, who now serves as web editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR). She spent more than a decade evaluating book proposals and manuscripts for publication, and continues to evaluate pitches through her work at VQR and at writing conferences across the country. Her blog for writers at JaneFriedman.com has more than 35,000 unique visitors every month and was named one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers in 2011/2012. Find out more at JaneFriedman.com.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  1. Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit
  2. Writers interested in self-publishing or e-publishing
  3. Traditionally published authors looking to make their work available again
  4. Business professionals interested in publishing and or test-marketing their content or ideas

 

Sign up for Jane’s webinar here.

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41. What Is a Perfect Ending?

During a ThrillerFest panel moderated by author Nancy Bilyeau (Joanna Stafford series), authors Brenda Novak (Whiskey Creek series), Chelsea Cain (Gretchen Lowell series), Ben Lieberman (Odd Jobs) and Michael Sears (Mortal Bonds) discussed book and series endings, and how they hope readers feel after reading them. Here are some highlights.

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

Brenda Novak: “I’m not a plotter, so oftentimes I’ll find out at the end who the villain is right along with the reader. … [At the end], I really feel as if I want my readers to have a sense of denouement, a sense of fulfillment. But I don’t want to tie it all up too neatly.”

Chelsea Cain: “Sometimes you make a reader unhappy, and that’s ok. Think of Romeo & Juliet, Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s sad, and we want it to be less sad. That tension of unfulfilled desire is a tempting one [to resolve], but that’s a mistake. …

And I’m not obsessive in terms of editing. I won’t spend a poet’s time on each word … but I’ll spend hours on that last sentence. Sometimes 80 hours, just on that one piece, because it’s so important.”

Ben Lieberman: “I would say [I want readers to feel] exhausted. I think the feeling of being exhausted, like they’ve been through a journey, is important [to the ending].”

Michael Sears: “As a child, I always wanted Shane [of the 1953 film, Shane] to come back. As an adult, I understand that it was the perfect ending. I think a lot of people appreciate ambiguity and making their own decisions about what happens [at the end].”

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42. Symbolism and Literary Themes: Distracting or Necessary?

On Friday, a ThrillerFest panel moderated by WD contributing editor and author Steven James (Jevin Banks series) discussed whether or not literary themes and symbols interfere with a story. Here are the highlights from the panel, which included A.X. Ahmad (the Ranjit Singh trilogy), Linwood Barclay (A Tap on the Window), Carla Buckley (The Deepest Secret), Chevy Stevens (That Night), Mike Pace (Dead Light) and Jamie Freveletti (Dead Asleep).

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

James: What is the difference between a theme and a symbol?

Buckley: “For me, the difference is that a theme is a running occurrence, whereas a symbol is a clue you give the reader to the themes you’re using.”

Barclay: “I am probably not an intellectual or artsy enough writer to use symbolism in my books, but themes drive the action. Mental illness and the economic downturn are running themes for me, but they drive the action and they cause the characters to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

Freveletti: “I’ve been writing the fifth [book] in my series, [which is] placed in Africa. And the theme is slavery, which still exists in Africa. One problem I did notice is that to write about a theme that’s that powerful, it’s easy to slip into preachiness. That’s the only drawback I’ve run into so far to using a strong emotional theme.”

Stevens: “I never consciously think when I start a book, What’s the theme I’m going to use? But one theme that recurs is survival. How do you overcome these things that are happening to you? In symbolism, I don’t think its conscious, but I tend to use animals as symbols for themes for my characters. In one, a woman associates a duck with the idea of freedom, and in another, a cat reminds a woman of her daughter.

Ahmad: “My [book] was told from the point of view of an immigrant, and that was a conscious decision because I am an immigrant. I think we’re all drawn to symbolically charged material, but I think our jobs as writers is to make the characters as specific and real as possible. We take the abstract and make it concrete.”

Pace: “I wonder which came first, symbolism or the English major. You’re probably familiar with the story of [To Kill Mockingbird author] Harper Lee, who was at a Harvard lecture where students kept asking her about a particular symbol in her book, which she insisted wasn’t there. … And eventually, this professor stands up and says, ‘Excuse me, madam, but you are wrong!’ I think that most of us here, to some extent there are symbols in our writing, but they come organically. If you go in and try to insert them it’s going to go badly.”

James: “I believe that you should never write from a theme and avoid as much symbolism as possible.”

Buckley: “I am strongly of the opinion that the reason [my books are published] is that … I figured out that if I start with a theme, then it helps my work … become very clean and focused.”

Barclay: “I think [obvious symbolism] is about how artful the author is. It’s like they’re walking around with a sign … saying Here’s the theme! Here’s the symbol!”

Stevens: “Themes for me are personal, still. I think it’s a theme that runs through my life. I’m fascinated by family dysfunction, powerlessness and survival. I’m not consciously doing it, but they … run through my life.”

Ahmad: “Writers are very weird people. If you choose to sit in a room by yourself making stuff up day in and day out as an adult, you are weird. What we’re calling themes—politely, euphemistically—are obsessions. And writing those themes is working out those obsessions.”

Freveletti: “If you’re writing a book and you have a theme that’s [so] obvious [that a reader stops engaging], then you’re doing it really wrong. That’s a problem you get in every genre.”

James: “[Flannery O’Connor said], ‘When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one.’ Do you all agree?”

Pace: “I guess I agree. It’s the same thing we were talking about earlier … Trying to jam in a particular theme or a particular symbol, it’s not natural. If you can turn a cliché symbol on its head it can be interesting.”

Barclay: “I think [that the key to] that quote from Flannery O’Connor is to boil it down. ‘Don’t overthink it.’ If you’re trying to make your work sound more important than it is, your reader is going to see through it.”

Ahmad: “I want to make a distinction between plot and theme. Your plot can be boiled down to a very clear plotline that someone can grasp, is very clear to the reader, and can still have very rich themes.”

James: “Do you want readers to identify your themes and symbols?”

Buckley: “Absolutely not.”

James: “Then what’s the purpose?”

Buckley: “It’s to bring the reader to me and into my world. I don’t want my reader to say ‘Oh, that’s about a mother,’ … but I do want them to say ‘That relates to me and my life.’”

Barclay: “Themes in particular are just texture, an extra layer. I don’t read [a book and] think Wow, I love the family dysfunction theme. The theme just [makes] books richer.”

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43. Where Thrillers Are Born: Authors on How They Got Their Story Ideas

On Friday, author Sandra Brannan (Liv Bergen Mystery series) moderated a ThrillerFest panel including authors Linwood Barclay (A Tap on the Window), Laura Benedict (Bliss House), Linda Fairstein (Alex Cooper crime series) and Reavis Wortham (Red River Mystery series). Here are the stories of how their book ideas began.

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

Laura Benedict

On Bliss House: “Haunted houses aren’t born, they’re made. Rainey Bliss Adams [my main character] talks about how people imprint themselves on houses. And families live in houses, and give a place so much energy. And there’s just nothing more twisted than families. I don’t know where this came from; I had a perfectly normal childhood, but I understand other people’s families are twisted.”

On Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts: “I really hated being a teenager, and I didn’t really have a lot of close girlfriends, but I had a friend named Roxanne. She had a sister who was a witch before there was Wicca, and witches just did … spells and things. Roxanne worshiped her sister and she would go out and steal cemetery stones and hide them under her bed. And I was raised Roman Catholic, so with Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts … these girls build this man they call a lover but he’s really a priest, and then a demon gets involved.”

Linda Fairstein

On Death Angel: “When Central Park was built in the 1860s, they realized that if they didn’t make a park there that it would be just concrete. There were 60 houses, an African-American community, that were razed to the ground. I was trying to find a way to use the fact that there are houses and cemeteries and schools under the park. So I used the character to unlayer parts of the city in a historical way. … When I found out about Seneca Village, it just staggered me that you could dig a hole in the ground and come up with a teacup that was used by a person who used to live where the park is. “

Reavis Wortham

On his Red River Mystery Series: “I dream them. I got to sleep and I dream things that are so real to me, it’s like living. There are houses in my dreams that I can literally draw the blueprints, and it would go on for miles. There are doors I’ve never opened. I wake up and take notes. … The first chapter on Burrows started out as a short story based on a challenge from Stephen King many years ago, to take a short story and turn it on its head. It just kept bubbling in my head and I couldn’t put it down.”

Linwood Barclay

In general: “Because I write about regular people, the weapons of choice are often very mundane. And because I myself am a person of caution, I look at everyday things as dangerous weapons. Those steak knives in the dishwasher are a real hazard.”

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44. What It’s Like to Pitch Your Novel to 50 Agents in 3 Hours

PitchFest is a three-and-a-half hour agent-snagging extravaganza, deep in the conference hall of the Grand Hyatt in New York. Authors with manuscripts to sell line up, awaiting the moment they’re allowed to talk to about their books to any agent in attendance—or every agent, if they use their time wisely. And on the other side of the table, reps from several agencies, big and small, anxiously await the flood of hopeful novelists seeking representation. It’s one of the more magical moments of ThrillerFest, and an event that isn’t really rivalled by any other. There’s no time limit for each writer’s pitch to an agent, and many reps stay beyond the allotted time to take more pitches during the PitchFest Power Hour. For everyone here, it’s the highlight of the day, and for many, the sole reason for attending the ThrillerFest conference.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

Thirty minutes before hundreds of hopeful writers were loosed into a hall connected to rooms full of agents, the noise level is roughly 30 decibels above comfort level and the long line of anxious bodies has brought the building well above “room temperature.” ThrillerFest organizers are taping tablecloths, placing name cards, searching for missing odds and ends. Volunteers and hotel staff direct everyone to their proper locations, set out drinks and assist staff and press, all in a finely choreographed routine that, to an outsider, seems like the height of frenetic chaos. Pitching authors excluded, everyone is at a near sprint.

Writers, meanwhile, are either sitting quietly while reading or mouthing the words to their pitches, generally trying to ignore the anxious energy as they wait or chatting nervously together. Their stories come in snippets:

“If I get just one request for a full, it’s worth it.”

“I’m not going to kill myself if it doesn’t happen today, [but] I really hope it does.”

“I just need [this particular agent] to say she likes the idea. That’s all.”

“I want good things today, but if nothing comes of this, I’m finished.”

“I don’t know, man. I’m trying not to have any expectations. But how do you do that? I guess I expect the worst.”

“I’m just going to pitch as many agents as possible and hope that someone likes what I have to say.”

“My book is different from all the other books I’ve read. And it’s really, really hard to explain.”

Agents here have their own anxieties. I spoke with several before the event, and the general consensus is that every agent wants exactly what most authors strive to give them: Good stories, well-written, to share with readers. Whether or not they’ll find those stories has yet to be seen, but of the handful I spoke to, all seemed hopeful. One rep was visibly uncomfortable before the event: “This is my first experience with [PitchFest]. I hope someone comes to my table!”

One minute before the event begins, the tension is thick, but everyone is relatively still. Agents are called back to their respective tables (most congregated in the halls to talk shop, say hello, and maybe shake off a few nerves of their own). On the signal—a bellowing “And they’re off!” from an organizer—hundreds of unpublished, unrepresented authors fill the hall. PitchFest has begun.

Half an hour in, the lines are long, the noise level is reaching Dull Roar status, and most everyone is smiling.

One hour in, the lines are even longer. New attendees are still trickling in; indeed, the registration tables are still active, even as early arrivers are leaving—some satisfied, some empty-handed. Not everyone is smiling, but scowls are still outnumbered by happy faces.

Midway, I sat down with Eddie Schneider from JABberwocky to see how he was holding up. “It’s going pretty well,” he said. “People seem to be well-prepared, well-practiced. … I’ve seen some potentially exciting pitches. I feel good about it, I think. One thing I’ve noticed in going to conferences is that there isn’t a wonderful correlation between a person’s ability to pitch [and] the writing. … Not everyone is silver-tongued, and that isn’t a problem. Sometimes they’re a little more awkward, a little more nervous, and if [the pitch] sounds like a good idea, or a potentially good book, I’ll decide to take a look at it.”

Nearing the end of the event, I caught up with a few authors who came to pitch. One reported that his day was a solid success: “I was disappointed that in the three hours I only saw six people. But of those six—five agents and one publisher—all six wanted to read the book.”

Another attendee was seemingly surprised by his success yesterday. “I came with no expectations. I didn’t know what to expect, what the agents would want, but I think I did OK. I saw 10 people, and I had two requests for fulls [complete manuscripts] and five for partials [manuscript excerpts]. That’s not bad, I think.”

A woman attending for the first time was disheartened that the agent she set out to pitch today didn’t seem interested: “I really wanted [her] to love my story, but she wasn’t interested in it. I’m not sure if it was my pitch or of it was my premise, my story itself, but that was rough,” she said. But it wasn’t all bad news; the same first-time attendee and first-time novelist visited 11 other agents and publishers. In the end, she says, “I’m sending out four fulls and six partials. That helps ease the blow, a little.”

And one other woman, maybe the event’s most persistent and successful attendee, managed to speak to all but three agents. “Sometimes there was no one standing in [an agent]’s line, so I just swooped on in and gave my pitch,” she explained. I asked what her success rate was, to which she replied, “Well, it was a gamble, and I can’t say that they all loved the idea. Some of [the agents] don’t even rep my genre. But I think I did ok, all told.”

As the clock winds down, the halls are once again filled with the noise of chatting authors. The difference here at the end is that the tension has dissipated. Writers congratulate and console one another, agents begin clearing away their notes and ThrillerFest staff step in to thank and assist attendees and reps alike. The persistence of ThrillerFest’d “full-access atmosphere” remains: Agents continue talking to writers as they leave the floor, discussing changes they’d like to see, offering advice for future pitches and generally just being available and helpful to authors trying to make their way into a tough business.

It’s easy to see, now that PitchFest has concluded, why so many people choose to travel to New Yok for these three hours. No author I spoke to left without positive feedback, constructive critique, or a request to see a manuscript.

If you write thriller or fiction with thriller elements and are seeking a traditional publication route, it’s worth considering a trip to this event. Later this week, I’ll share success stories from previous years. Stay tuned!

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45. 4 Newsletter Basics for Authors

At ITW’s ThrillerFest Thursday afternoon, M. J. Rose, Meryl Moss and Elizabeth Berry held a Buzz Your Book session. As with all great panels, some of the best information came from the informal Q&A afterward. Here are some fantastic insights into book promo and author branding from yesterday’s session.

MJ Rose: “For years people said ‘You don’t need a newsletter, you just need a MySpace page. Now MySpace is gone. Then it was Facebook; ‘You don’t need the newsletter because you have the Facebook page. But now Facebook is only showing your updates to about 15% of your followers. So when do we say ‘We need a newsletter’? You always need a newsletter.”

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

1. How Often Should an Author Send a Newsletter?

Rose: “Minimum is 4 times a year: When your book comes out, and equally dispersed after that. Monthly is good, every 6 to 8 weeks is good.”

2. What Kinds of Things Should We Write About?

Meryl Moss: “It’s important to be interesting and not to be ‘me me me.’ You need to include things that are related to your book or to you as an author, but it can’t be only about your books every time or readers will unsubscribe.”

Rose: “I talk about other books I’ve read, and things related to the book, like I wrote about perfumes I’d smelled because I was researching perfumes.”

Berry: “Give them a slice of life. Include details about your process—what were you listening to or reading while you wrote your book? Did you go on vacation? Have you had a great day or a breakthough recently? Talk about yourself, but not only about your books.”

Rose: “Exactly. Readers love that and it keeps it fresh. They don’t get sick of seeing your book in their inboxes.”

Moss: “I like that, a slice of life. It really needs to be something that is interesting to the people who get your newsletter.”

Berry: “Please remember that you’re the author and you’re building a relationship with your reader. I love when my favorite authors send a newsletter, I look forward to that – and the authors who give me a slice of life, it’s like visiting my friends. There’s only one person on the planet who has the ability to do what you do, and that’s to live your life and show us what’s inside your head. Build a relationship with the people who want to read it.”

3. Is There a Specific Service You Recommend?

Rose: “We all use MailChimp, which is a free service and is really customizable. After you go over a certain number of recipients, it’s not free anymore, but it’s very reasonable and it’s worth it for that ease of use and reliability.”

4. Can You Give Us Some Technical Pointers?

Berry: “You should break up [the text] with a lot of graphics and images and artwork. Pick a signature font and use it for your [website header] and your newsletter.”

Rose: “I would say they should be about 500 words long. Not so long that people get bored, but long enough to get the details down. … And don’t sign anyone ever sign someone up for your newsletter who doesn’t want it. Never do that. Let them sign up themselves.”

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46. Buzz Your Book: Niche Marketing Techniques for Every Author

“A book is new to everybody’s who’s never heard of it before. So your job as a writer is incredibly difficult: Your job is to buzz your book for the rest of your life,” M. J. Rose explains. “Books never die, but nobody can buy a book they’ve never heard of. You can’t walk into Barnes and Noble and say, ‘I’d like to read that book I’ve never heard of. Do you know where it is on the shelves?’ [Readers] can’t Google your name or your book if they don’t know about it. So it’s simple, really: If people know your book exists, they might actually buy it.”

Of course, promotion and marketing aren’t easy, and Rose acknowledges that, as well. “I don’t pretend that this is fun. It can sometimes be fun, but it’s a lot of work. It’s worth it if you want to get sales.” So what’s an author to do?

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.04.02 PMThis column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.

At ITW’s ThrillerFest Thursday afternoon, M. J. Rose—author, former corporate marketer and founder of AuthorBuzz, a marketing and promotion service for authors—held a Buzz Your Book session with Meryl Moss, of Media Muscle Public Relations, and Elizabeth Berry of ITW. The idea behind Buzz Your Book session is for the three panelists to help an author find niche marketing and publicity opportunities—on the fly, live, in real-time. Though these suggestions are specific to the book pitched by an attendee, the principles behind them can apply to all genres. Here are some methods for finding interesting, outside-the-box solutions for effective, creative marketing, regardless of your novel’s genre.

First, a distinction:

“The difference [between] marketing and publicity is that marketing you pay for, but publicity is free,” Liz Berry says. “You purchase ads, you pay for that, and your results are trackable. If you do an interview, that’s free, but you can’t see how many people read it or what sales came from that.”

Find an interesting element of your story that allows you to offer free content for potential readers.

One book on the Buzz docket featured a secondary character in a washed-up rock band. Rose’s suggestion: “Create a website for the [fictional] band, and for [your character], and then start building him up as a real character with a web presence. Put his music out for free. Include an excerpt of the book at the end of the music; so, the song plays, and then [listeners hear] you read a section of your book on the same audio file. It doesn’t do you any good to excerpt the book and give away music for free, but if you do it the other way around you can gather interest because there aren’t that many authors giving away music.” Meryl Moss adds her thoughts, as well: “There are many, many magazines and websites for … serious musicians. … Consider approaching those editors to ask if they’ll help you distribute the files, or perhaps you can offer an interview or review.”

Though this advice is extremely specific, the logic is sound: If your book has a character, theme or location that lends itself to interesting free content, use that angle to create new promotional avenues. And don’t be concerned if your secondary characters are the ticket to this new marketing. As Rose pointed out, “In The Da Vinci Code, Mona Lisa got all the attention.” Whatever draws readers in is worth pursuing.

Approach hobby or enthusiast publications.

If a character in your novel has a specific skill or hobby that appeals to a wider audience than your book itself, use that as a tool for intriguing potential readers outside of your typical audience. The same book mentioned previously also stars a character who is an Italian chef. That’s an excellent outlet for niche marketing, says Moss. “Take the cooking side of that character and go to food magazines [or] websites. Share recipes that your character might make in the book, or family recipes that character might cook at home. Whatever ties into the story and [reaches a] new segment of readers.”

Use controversial themes to garner media attention.

One thing to always aim for, according to yesterday’s panelists, is an element of your book that makes it newsworthy—and not only in publishing circles. An attendee offered his book for a Buzz session, which featured a GMO crop that wreaked havoc on the world. Rose was quick to offer this suggestion: “One of the biggest movements going on right now is anti-GMO, so maybe it’s worth it to get involved with some established groups who are anti-GMO. …. [Consider starting] a petition, and then each [person who signs] gets a segment of the book. … And there are a lot of stores … that have a strong organic brand that could help you by carrying your book [in stores].” Moss was also eager to point out that topic angle was extremely newsworthy: “You could be an activist and take it on as an activist, and you could make tremendous headway going that route if you take the newsworthy angle of GMOs. [You could] promote the story as a cautionary tale, and if you do interviews and [talks] on the GMO angle, it could work very well for you.”

Although most books won’t have such a timely, topical plot, the foundational argument here remains. Any angle of your book that makes it worthy of media attention is worth pursuing, and to do that, you should follow the same methods as the groups already working in that debate.

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Use teaser images any time you can.

Liz Berry also had a great idea for the same book: “You could have some scary graphic pictures and a whole “Did You Know” campaign with photos and [info] about GMO crops. And on those images, you [include] your website … so that no matter where it’s shared your address is there and people know it’s your campaign and your book.” These types of images shared through social media to promote your work are called teaser pics or teaser images. Teaser pics certainly aren’t available only to thriller authors who are taking on genetic modification of crops: any author can create one. Rose expands on the idea: “Teaser pictures are a piece of art where you’ve taken a quote from the book – just a little, not a page—and the name of the book, author, website, boom. Anyone can share it and they spread really well [through] Twitter and Facebook and websites.”

Location, location, location.

Another book, this one set in a specific region of California, inspired excellent feedback from the panelists. “If your character is an actress in [that region], then she’ll be familiar with specific theaters, and so will the people who live there. Look around for places where you can make something [like a reading or signing] happen because it’s local local local, and it’s fun for the area,” Moss said.

“When you have a local angle, the first thing to do is exploit that,” Rose said. “One thing I did [when I was promoting a book] was go to Patch.com. There’s a Patch.com for every town, every city. So [I went] to Patch and proposed a series of articles on what it’s like to do research [in that particular city]. And here’s the thing that no one will tell you: Doing research can be boring, and talking about research can be boring, but you can make [it less boring]. Not the research, obviously, but maybe you embellish your experience in a way that seems interesting, especially to the people who live in the area.”

Invest in help when you’ve gone too far to manage it yourself.

“I always tell people that you should spend as much of your advance as possible on PR and marketing. Most publishers have authors who are [hiring an outside PR agency], “ Rose says. “Your publishing house has its own publicists, and they work very hard 99% of the time … but they’re also working on 20, 30, 40 books at a time, and there are too few people and too many books passing through to really devote … that kind of attention to. … The best way to approach that is to say, ‘I want to do some additional PR, what are you doing so I can know what to do, or what not to do.” It may seem unbelievable that an author working with a publishing house might need an outside publicist, but if you want to really go all-in on promoting your book, you’ll likely need more help than your publisher can give you.

For a free digital copy of the AuthorBuzz book, filled with marketing and promotional techniques like these, email authorbuzzco@gmail.com.

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47. It's a Thrilling Saturday!


It's been a busy couple of days with clients in town for ThrillerFest.

Some highlights:

1. Sitting very very quietly at the lunch table when some very accomplished writers started talking about whether the twist in the story comes first, or after the writing has commenced.  And talking about how they organize their writing and plotting.  This is fascinating stuff to me, and I always learn a thing or ten. 

2. Looking up to see Andrew Grant walk by! He'd flown in very unexpectedly and of course, we found each other in the bar!

3. Having Dana Kaye, the most amazing publicist in the world, run down a few tips on effective Facebook and Twitter postings.  I always learn a lot from her and this was no exception.

4. Meeting Lori Rader-Day, author of THE DARK HOUR.  You'll be hearing more about her from me.

5.  Getting blog reader J.D. Horn's new book!

6. Having an entire conversation with Lee Child via semaphore across the bar!

7. Discovering that Fabulous Terry Shames really IS one of the nicest people on the planet.

8. The opportunity to visit with writer Jill Abbott.  I met Jill some years back, and actually blogged about it: 

 Write what you don't know. I recently attended a panel sponsored by the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and it was interesting to me that five of the six authors had created a protagonist in their own image. That's all well and good, but I'm much more interested in the people I don't see every day. The one author who mentioned her protagonist was a Pakistani terrorist was the author I went out and bought the next day.
That story is in Queens Noir by the way.


9. The bookroom! Always a place that sucks dollars out of my wallet and this year is no exception.

So far I've bought: The Darkest Hour by Lori Rader-Day; Strange Gods by Annamaria Alfieri; Tales of the Witch by Angela Zeman; and, The Line by J.D. Horn.  And I'm not done yet!

10. And my favorite thing of all was losing my phone! I realized I'd left it someplace when I sat down to a meeting in the bar and needed to check the time.  About five minutes later publicist Dana Kaye joined me and said "you left your phone in the book room." Whew! But wait, how do you know?

Well, the bookroom people found it, and called the last number I'd dialed. Fortunately it was not anything lurid. It was someone who knew me: Fabulous Patrick Lee!  Yes, he admitted he knew me, and yes he'd tell me. But of course, he saw Dana first and mentioned it to her. She saw me first.

At the end of the meeting, clients Dana Haynes and Katy King sprinted to the book room to fetch the phone for me, as I had another meeting.

One phone: the connectivity of the Fabulosity on display.

I love my job!

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48. Have a hip hop pop Sunday!

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49. New Literary Agent Alert: Mackenzie Brady of New Leaf Literary

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Mackenzie Brady of New Leaf Literary) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

 

mackenzie-brady-literary-agent

 

About Mackenzie Brady: Mackenzie joined New Leaf Literary as an agent in 2014. Previously, she’d been an agent at Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and before that an intern at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and FinePrint Literary Mgmt. She was a microbiologist in her pre-publishing life, so she’s always on the hunt for projects that bring new facets of science to light. She is endlessly fascinated by the human body, especially the heart. Follow her on Twitter: @mackenziecbrady.

(Listen to agents define what makes a writer an ideal client.)

She is seeking: Her taste in nonfiction extends beyond science books to memoirs, lost histories, epic sports narratives, true crime and gift/lifestyle books. She is particularly interested in projects with a strong narrative and a female bend. She represents select adult and YA fiction projects, as well. Her favorite novels are almost always dark, visceral reads focused on the complexities of being a human. Think “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire” but in book form. She also represents illustrators (with or without book projects of their own). In the end, all she wants is to be told a good story.

(Learn about pitching your novel to an agent at a writers’ conference.)

How to submit: Do not query more than one agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.

How to query: Send query to query [at] newleafliterary [dot] com, and put both the word “Query” plus the agent’s name in the e-mail subject line (for example: “Query for Mackenzie: [Title]“). You may paste up to 5 double-spaced sample pages within the body of the email. No unsolicited attachments. You will receive an auto-response confirming receipt of your query. This agency responds if interested in seeing more

2014-guide-to-literary-agents

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
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Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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50. Query Question: submission detritus

Dear Queen of the Known Universe (ballot write in, FTW):

As a querying writer, I now have a few literary bodies littering my wake. I've clawed my way up from silence and "Dear Author" forms to the coveted "I liked this and even smiled on occasion, but..." I didn't query my most recent book as hard as I should have. I could probably send another round or two, but I'm really close to being ready to query another project (stronger, better, faster than before). I have fulls out on my current manuscript.

My questions:

I'm ready to query the next novel VERY soon. How do I handle the fulls that are out on the previous manuscript now that I'm about ready to query the next? Patiently wait unless there's an offer of rep on the next book? (1)

I know everyone says to query one book at a time, but one of the fulls came in from a query that was six months old (Yes, really, six months on a query; my record is 18 months for a response). I don't want to rush the agent (unless there's an offer of rep, that is), but I think the agent would like my new work as well--or at least, I hope. Is there special "I've started querying a new book" protocol? (2)

In general, because the responses from queries can stretch into the distant future, what time gap do you recommend between books? Or are you a line-in-the-sand kind of gal--query one book until the day you start querying the next?


(1) No

(2) No

There are no hard and fast rules for this, BUT:

You really don't want the glacial speed of agent reading and response time setting YOUR timeline. This is your career car and you need to keep the ball rolling.

Thus, contact the agents reading the novel you have out on submission now. Say you've got a new, better, faster, stronger novel that has been known to eat agents for breakfast make strong men weep. Would they prefer to keep reading, or receive a query on the new one: that puts the ball in their court.

When I get these kinds of emails, I generally want to see the novel (or at least the query) for the better, faster, stronger work. I'm ALWAYS interested in the strongest novel you have.

Here's the pitfall with having a lot of work circulating: You don't want to query one agent for multiple novels in a short period of time. I have several clients who write VERY quickly and they can do maybe two good books a year. If you query me for more than that in a given year, I'm not impressed--I'm leery. Whether that is justified is not my concern. That I am leery is information you can use to your advantage.


I'm assuming here that all your novels are in roughly the same category. They're all crime, or all romance, or all SFF, etc.


IF you query me for six novels in six categories, I'm not leery of them. I'm blatantly put off.  I'm absolutely sure that an author can't write six good, fresh and new novels, in six categories in six years.  The reading alone precludes it.  (By reading, I mean reading enough of a given category to know the tropes, the history, what's old hat, what's hot stuff etc.)

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