“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.”
— Herman Melville
The winner of the contest will be the person with the MOST registered referrals who ATTEND the WiNS Conference (minimum of nine referrals required).
b) Share the A Book’s Mind poster of the WiNS Conference (remember to tag A Book’s Mind, so you are registered in the contest).
a) Early register yourself for the WINS conference (see poster for details)
b) Have the MOST early registered referrals who attended the WINS Conference (minimum of nine referrals required)
c) If you have already registered for the contest, let us know, and do STEP 1!
The idea of a query letter is to take this book you’ve written, this incomparable masterpiece that took five years and destroyed your marriage, and summarize it on a single piece of paper while still leaving enough room in the margins for a publisher or agent to scribble, “Sorry, not for us.” You have to try to pitch your book in such an intriguing way that the publisher immediately writes back to you, demanding to see sample chapters (or the entire manuscript). This may sound tough to do, but in truth it’s even harder. Your query needs to stand out from the other 80 the editor is going to read that day, but avoid amateurish gimmicks, like $50 bills.
There are plenty of good web sites on how to write a query letter and approach agents/editors. Some of them are:
One thing you must do is say what sort of book you’ve written. This is what agents/editors will be scanning for when they read your letter: is it a thriller, a comedy, a rural human drama? Most writers, including me, find this very difficult to do, and tend to produce descriptions like, “It’s kind of a futuristic science-fiction comedy-come-romance set in Medieval France with a strong anti-war message.” This is why authors should be banned from describing their own novels.
So I suggest enlisting help: have your friends read your book and ask them what novels they think it’s similar to. Then at least you’ll have a rough genre to start from. Also, for practice, try to describe your book in a single, short sentence. Ask people if it sounds interesting, and rework it until it does.
This is very much personal opinion, but I think a good description often combines something common (“It’s a detective story”) with something original (“where the PI has a terminal illness”). The common part grounds the story, letting us know what ballpark it’s in. The original part shows it’s something special.
Update (May-07): If you’re interested, I’ve posted my old query letter, which I sent out while agent-hunting in 1998. It’s kinda cringe-worthy reading it now, definitely over the top, but since it worked…”
For more great info from MaxBarry, click here.
“Far too many writers build an audience of the WRONG people. As a writer, you craft a work that is meaningful to you, and you wonder how you will connect it to the world. So you begin engaging with people online and off, telling them about your writing.
And guess what? Guess who is MOST interested in this journey you are on? Readers? Nope. Oftentimes, it is other writers.
So we do what feels validating and welcoming: we join amazing communities such as WriterUnboxed.com. We forge relationships, we grow our platforms with people who want you to succeed as a writer.
But therein lies the problem.
These good people – these other writers, yes they may buy your book. They may read it too. They MIGHT even review it on Amazon & Goodreads. And this is good.
But what I worry about is that when you focus only on engaging other writers, you are not learning how to engage readers. Without the shared interest in becoming a writer, without tapping into that sense of identity and goals, you are not developing that keen instinct of who would love your book and how to get them interested.
Now, obviously, there is ENORMOUS value in engaging with other writers, andespecially to do so on WriterUnboxed.com. (Can you tell I am trying to get back into the good graces of Kathleen & Therese?)
Just this week, a writer I am working with heard from two other successful authors who shared wonderful insight into what has worked for them in engaging with readers – what online platforms have worked for them, and the value of certain types of in-person events.
Let’s explore why it is super helpful to engage with other writers:
The list goes on. I will leave “fashion tips” and “recipes” off of the list for the sake of space.
So what is bad about any of this? Nothing. The issue I see is that sometimes writers stop here. They feel a sense of community with writers, they experience all the benefits listed above, so they go no further.
They never develop the capability of understanding who their ideal readers are, how to engage them, or the habits to do so both online and off.
As you develop your platform as a writer, I see an extraordinary amount of value in working through the more difficult task of engaging your readers and those who have access to them, such as librarians, parents, teachers, booksellers, etc.
In other words: YES, engage with other writers. But don’t stop there.
Every single week, learn more about who your readers may be. Engage with them in tiny ways online. And off. Learn what it is about your writing that cuts to the heart of why your ideal audience readers. Discover what it is about one of your stories or books that jumped out at people.
How do you begin engaging with readers? Just a few ideas:
When I work with writers, the big questions they are often looking to answer are: who is my readership, where can I find them, and how can I engage with them in a meaningful way? Of course, the outcome they hope for is a larger audience for their work, and greater book sales.
Critical to this is beginning to understand your readers as early as you can in this process and developing habits of doing so.
I hope, dear writer, I have not offended in this post. I strongly believe in the purpose of this site, and completely understand that writers are readers too. But there is a distinction between those who obsess about writing & publishing, and those who “merely” read, read, read, and ideally, will one day read YOUR book.”
For more great tips from WriterUnboxed, click here.
Upon request, here is a favorite re-post:
Congratulations! You have your book finished—and now you want to publish it. What do you do? How many options are there?
Firstly, what is your goal? Are you planning on sharing your book with your mom and your great aunt Molly? Then you want to use Print On Demand. If you have a larger audience in mind, but don’t have the time—nor the patience—to wait for Traditional Publishing, you can always try Self Publishing; it is a road where you are judge, advocate and jury…so be prepared. If none of these fit your style, you can embrace the transformers of the publishing world: Hybrid Publishing.
If you have any questions, let Editing Addict know!
“How can I become a poet? The best advice for writing poetry is to read lots of poetry. Read everything you can get your hands on: contemporary and classic; English and translation, formal and experimental. Read literary journals and magazines geared toward writers.
How can I get my poems published? Start small. Everyone wants to publish a book, but you should be aware that most writers start their careers by submitting their work to literary magazines and journals, gaining recognition from editors, agents, and peers. Creep up the ranks. After your work has appeared in a variety of periodicals and you have amassed a solid manuscript, try approaching small presses and university publishers. There are also several well-respected first-book contests, including the Walt Whitman Award, which you could enter.
Where should I submit my poems? Research is key. Spend some time finding journals and ‘zines, online or in print, that publish work that you enjoy or is similar to your style. Poet’s Market, published annually, is an essential sourcebook for poets interested in sending out their work. It contains listings of publishers with descriptions, contact information, and submission guidelines.Poets & Writers magazine, published six times per year, is another excellent resource.”
For more excellent tools, and expounding on how-to for poetry, check out their site: poets.org.
“The list of famous writers who were rejected is long. Rejection and writing go hand-in-hand, but sometimes it feels that those pesky publishers simply don’t know what they are talking about.
We all know that quality of writing isn’t the only reason for reaction. Perhaps your book is not a good fit for the publisher, or the agent is looking for something ‘different’ or your work has just been misunderstood. Yet, no matter what the reason those rejection letters still sting!
Here’s eleven famous writers who were rejected and show that writers might just be right after all…
I hope that these famous writers who were rejected will give you a little bit of hope on those dark rejection letter days!”
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing
I cannot disagree with King on this point. I have been reading a lot and writing a lot my entire life. But only recently have I gotten “serious” about being a writer. To be clear, what I mean by “serious” is really “published” — someone whose written words are read a lot by folks who are not otherwise obligated to do so.
A big shift for me occurred when I realized I could apply my years of accumulated project management experience to my writing. I found that if I treated each written thing (whether a poem, a blog post, a technical document, or any other piece of writing) just as I would a project for a client, I’d get more traction on meeting realistic publishing goals.
This post offers a list of 12 questions that, when answered, will provide a workable project management framework for the “serious” (!) writer.
If I want my words to be published, the assumption is I want someone else to read them. Communication 101: speak the same language as your audience. Even if you are thinking, “I want to write things that I want to read,” you still want to identify the key elements of what makes you tick so you can know how to find more people like you to read your stuff.
The client is the person, group, or organization that will compensate you for your efforts, whether through money, copies, publicity, recognition, validation, connections, or something else of value to you as a writer. This is also who is going to connect you with your ideal reader. Unless you’re self-published (in which case you have a direct compensation relationship with your reader), this is usually going to be a publisher with a specific agenda, format, or type of writing they promote. It’s important to know what’s important to them. If you have a fantastic collection of sonnets, you probably don’t want to submit your chapbook to a publisher of haiku, right?
Writing is never just writing. There’s research. There’s first and second drafts. There’s proofreading, copy editing, content editing, and fact checking. There’s formatting, graphic design, and packaging. There’s marketing and distribution. Are you good at all of these things and (here’s the clincher) do you have the time to do them all? Do you seriously think you can edit your own words? (Guess what I think about that…) Figure out who can help you, whether for pay, barter, or goodwill. It will be worth it in the end.
Do you want to inspire, connect, challenge, relate, instruct, change behavior, anger, illustrate, or simply tell a darn good story? Or some combination? This is both your roadmap and your test in writing. Your purpose keeps you on track.
This is where you describe what you think is being asked of you by your client and what you want to create for your ideal reader. Get a handle on whether you’re writing the entire history of the Great American Experiment or a day in the life of a 21st century Bostonian. Articulate for yourself (and confirm with your client, if possible) the number of words, lines, chapters, pages, required thematic and stylistic elements, and formatting constraints. Only then can you begin to map out a plan for completing your writing project.
“As a result of my words being read, _________________ [fill in the blank].” This may be easily confused with number 4, the purpose. They are connected — one should lead to the other — but not the same. For example, if my purpose in a piece is to provide instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the desired end state will be “As a result… the reader will be able to make a pb&j sandwich.” If my purpose is to inspire, my end state may be, “… the reader has an ‘Ah ha’ moment.”
Your scope (and to some degree, your team) will provide you with a good guideline for the amount of time required (the “level of effort”) for each element. While there are some standard estimates for pages per hour, different types of writing require different levels of effort. Get to know your own pace, tracking the amount of time you spend on each project, so that estimating your time gets easier as you go along.
Even if there is no deadline or entry date, make up due dates for yourself. It will give you some basic math to work out the answer to the next question. (Due date – today’s date = number of days left to work on project.) Don’t forget to take into account time for review and editing.
Many writers like me have day jobs, families, friends, other interests, and need to work our writing in around an already full schedule. If I am going to be “serious” about my writing, I have to answer this in a real and manageable way. I have to recognize my priorities, logistical challenges, and areas I’m willing to sacrifice for the words. This, too, is clarifying.
This isn’t as easy to answer as it may appear on first glance, especially given the independent nature of many writing projects and the varying schedules of publishers. But this is the million-dollar “ship it” question. It can be crazy-making — there’s always just one more tweak, another review, an alternative viewpoint, a bit more white space perhaps. Will that tweak make the difference between rejection and acceptance, between runner-up and winner? You may never know. But one thing you can know for sure: if you never submit your work, you will never be published. Decide what “good enough” looks like for you.
Conduct an “after action review,” looking at your original purpose, scope, end state, and deadline. If possible (and if appropriate), engage a reader and the client in evaluating if your piece (and the process for completing it) met expectations. Listen, and learn from the gap between what you said you would do and what you actually did. This is a great opportunity to get better or to pat yourself on the back for hitting it out of the park. It’s also a constructive way to handle the inevitable disappointments that will come with writing, whether it’s negative feedback from your ideal readers, a missed deadline, or a rejection slip. Use those disappointments as fuel for the next project rather than a reason to give up.
Ah, there’s the rub. Would you go back to that well, that publisher, client, magazine, meta-blog site again for another opportunity to be published? It’s certainly ideal when you’ve found your niche, the exact right space where your words connect with ideal reader and are supported by an influential client-champion. But usually there’s some middle ground between lousy experience and ideal. Know your limits and your ideals. Find the opportunity in that middle ground where the good outweighs the bad.
And here’s my bonus question: Do you take yourself seriously as a writer? If the answer is yes, how many of these questions do you regularly ask yourself, and are there others that keep you moving forward on your own publishing goals?”
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