A Mighty Theme

#EAQuote

2016 melville theme quotescover-JPG-39

“To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.”

— Herman Melville

 

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Query Letter Help

[found on maxbarry.com; by Max Barry]

“The Query Letter

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.

[found on http://maxbarry.com/writing/help.html]

Audience Builder 101

[found on writerunboxed.com; by Dan Blank]

“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:

    • Writers are the best kind of people. (okay, that one was easy)
    • Help you improve the craft of writing.
    • Glean wisdom from their experiences.
    • Build a network of colleagues.
    • Validate your own identity as a writer.
    • Open doors to agents, publishers, media, and other good folks that can help you get published and in front of readers.
    • Motivation & inspiration.
    • Understand how the world of publishing is changing, and give you a roadmap to navigate it.
    • Set proper expectations.
    • Vent. (then vent some more)

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:

    • Read. Read books similar to yours, if possible. Engage as a fan would. Leave reviews online, recommend books, consider who else is doing the same.
    • Understand what other books are like yours, especially those published in the past 5 years. Where are they shelved in bookstores, how are they displayed, what comes up in “People who who bought this also bought…” in Amazon?
    • What is the language that other readers used again and again in reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and other sites?
    • Who are these readers – specifically? See their Goodreads profiles, understand what else they read.
    • Talk to readers. On social channels, follow them, comment on their updates, and learn about them. Engage as a fan of similar work, not an author trying to promote your own books.
    • Develop a group of beta readers.
    • Everywhere you go, ask the person standing next to you: “what do you like to read?” Then ask why.
    • Join book clubs, attend events at bookstores and libraries – do anything possible to chat with other readers about why they read. Study the expressions on their face, the cadence of their voice as they talk about reading.
    • Talk more about other people’s books than your own.
    • Create profiles of your ideal readers. Create lists of where you can find them online and off. Go there. Often.
    • Craft messaging that gets readers interested in your writing. Test this again and again, both in person, and in digital channels. Revise constantly.

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.

[found on http://writerunboxed.com/2013/06/28/are-you-building-an-audience-of-writers-not-readers]

How Do I Publish My Book?

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. 

What is Print On Demand?

  • POD is an option to upload your manuscript AS IS to a site, and they will convert it to an eBook, as well as print a limited number of books for you.
  • This does not allow for formatting, editing, or reprinting without uploading to the site again.
  • It is an excellent mode for self-publishing comic books, instruction manuals, or family albums
  • Example of a POD site
    • CreateSpace
    • Tell CreateSpace you heard about them from editingaddict.com!

What is Traditional Publishing?

  • Just like an actor trying to land a role, traditional publishing requires authors to work through agents.
  • You have to find the agent that is looking for:
    • Your genre
    • Your concept
    • Your audience
    • Your style
    • Your chapter length
    • Your book
  • Agents reject authors daily, no matter how wonderful the book is—because it is not what THEY were looking for…
    • Rejected authors you may recognize (from literaryrejections.com):
      • Dr. Suess—“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
      • Zane Grey—”You have no business being a writer and should give up.”
      • Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul—140 rejections stating “Anthologies don’t sell.”
      • The Diary of Anne Frank—“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”
  • To find an agent, you must write a query letter
    • Each agent requires DIFFERENT information per query letter
      • Some want the first five chapters, some want no chapters…
      • Some want every chapter summarized, while others only want the entire book summarized
    • Research which agent requires what, and do not mix up your submissions
    • Never give up on your book, but it’s okay to give up on a certain agent
  • You FIND an agent
    • They talk to the big publishing companies, and know what they are looking for
    • They find you a publisher
      • You sign a contract
      • Your book is published
      • You retain NO rights to your work, or future books in the series
      • Movie rights are transferred to the publisher
      • Your name becomes well-known…or NOT.
      • The publisher has the right not to sell, or even promote your book—however, you have already signed all rights away to it.
      • The publisher does do the dirty work for you, they advertise, they publicize, they edit, they format, they print, they sell…they also keep.
  • A well-known author has more rights with a publisher than a new author. This is an important point to remember when entering the world of publishing. If you already have a following of readers when you reach a traditional publisher, your ability to maintain rights to your work vastly improve—because you have already proven your work is a success, and people want it.
  • Excellent article on traditional publishing: nathanbransford.com
    • “Now, chances are at this point you are going to be in a psychological state where you are ready to sign over a body part just to get an agent, and you will be predisposed to say “Yes, for crap’s sake, yes!!”. But take a step back, take your time, make sure you’re very comfortable with the agent before you enter into one of the most important business relationships you will have in your life. You and your agent are going to have to seriously trust one another, so ask questions, don’t be shy, and make sure you’re ready.” – Nathan Bransford

What is Self-Publishing?

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.
  • With Self-Publishing, no agent is required, but you are responsible for EVERYTHING; you either must be skilled enough to accomplish all the parts necessary, or you are your own contractor, and need to find all the subcontractors to do your work.
    • Your TO DO list expands daily:
      • Editing
      • Formatting
        • Find a graphic design crew to format book to print, as well as create a workable cover design;
        • Pay graphic design group, as well as pay for the cover picture chosen
      • Printing
        • Find a POD service like Xulon Press, (and tell them you found them on editing addict.com)
        • Pay for each copy of your book to print
      • Advertising
        • Build a website
        • Build Social Media
        • Promote book
        • Sell book
        • Reach bookstores to ask to sell in-store
        • Order & reprint books
    • YOU retain all rights to your book, future books, and movie rights

What is Hybrid Publishing?

  • Finally, a merging between Traditional Publishing and Self Publishing has taken place—bringing the best of both worlds into a a format called the Hybrid Publishing option
    • No agent needed
    • Hire a Hybrid Publishing team
      • Team is pre-made—you don’t have to find an editor, a format team, or a PR group…the team is ready, willing, and very able. They will stay by your side through the entire process!
  • What Hybrid Publishing provides:
    • Editing
    • Formatting
    • Book Cover design
    • Team to walk alongside you through the journey
    • Advertising
    • Web Site
    • Social Media platform
    • Book promotion
    • Author promotion
  • You, as the author, maintain your rights:
    • You keep all rights to your book, and future books
    • You keep movie rights
    • You are not limited by an agent’s likes/dislikes
    • If you are picked up by a Traditional Publisher, you already have a base of readership, and you have a voice in your options/choices for future
  • Example of Hybrid Publisher:

If you have any questions, let Editing Addict know!

 

I’m a poet…now what?

[found on poets.org]

“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.

[found on http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/56]

Rejected Before Fame

[found on bubblecow.net; by Gary Smailes]

“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…

    1. Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time, was turned down 29 times before she found a publisher.
    2. C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing.
    3. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers.
    4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times.
    5. Johathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 40 times.
    6. Louis L’Amour was rejected over 200 times before he sold any of his writing.
    7. The San Francisco Examiner turned down Rudyard Kipling’s submission in 1889 with the note, “I am sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just do not know how to use the English language.”
    8. An editor once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby Character.”
    9. The Dr. Seuss book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected for being “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant selling.”
    10. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected with the comment, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
    11. The manuscript for The Diary of Anne Frank received the editorial comment, “This girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

I hope that these famous writers who were rejected will give you a little bit of hope on those dark rejection letter days!”

[found on http://bubblecow.net/11-famous-writers-who-were-rejected-before-making-it-big]

12 Questions for Writers

[found on 12most.com by Kelly Belmonte]

“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.

1. Who is the ideal reader (“end user”) of my piece?

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.

2. Who is my client?

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?

3. Who is on my team?

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.

4. What is the purpose of the piece?

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.

5. What is the scope?

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.

6. What is your end state for this piece?

“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.”

7. How much time will it take?

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.

8. When does it need to be finished?

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.

9. When will I work on it?

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.

10. When will I know it’s done?

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.

11. How did it go?

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.

12. Would I do it again?

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?”

[found on http://12most.com/2013/05/27/12-getserious-questions-for-writers]