Category Archives: General Interest

An Author’s Guide to Utilizing Pinterest

By Colleen Oakes

I love Pinterest. Pinterest is my JAM. I have 77 boards and counting. I find it so refreshing and fun, like a game plan for my life.  It's a place for ideas, for inspiration and for useful tips from everything from tacos to finishing your deck, hipster dressing to social media savvy.  It's the internet bulletin board, and it's the easiest place found to organize your life, your ideas and images.

Like most social media, Pinterest can be used to further your author platform, though also like most social media, this can be a landmine of information.  How then, does an author use Pinterest to sell books and boost their online platform?  I think there are three easy ways for authors to use Pinterest.

First: Get on Pinterest, and get comfortable.  This means setting up an account, and using your real name so readers can find you.  Spend some time setting up your boards. Your boards can be anything that interests you. It can be boards about food, old cars, decorating, colors, or things that you find amusing. Pinterest boards can be about anything - literally - and the more niche you get, the more diverse your board collection will be. With that being said,  the most popular boards tend to be For The Home, My Style, Books To Read, Recipes, Crafts and Products. A good idea for authors is to have a mix of eclectic boards that apply to them and broader boards to apply to the masses.

Second: Make your author presence known.  This is very important: are you, as an author, easy to find on Pinterest?  Check and make sure. When you are signed in, search for your name. For example, when I search my name, I see images of my books, a few author pictures and then some random images that have nothing to do with me (Top 10 Shade Plants?).  This is pretty normal.  If you search your name and nothing comes up, than you have some work to do. First of all - and this is very important - you need to load pictures of your book cover and author pictures onto Pinterest.  To do this, go to your home page (with all your boards) and click on Pins. The first block should say "Add pin" - go there and follow the directions to upload your image. Make sure it's a clear, good picture - poor and low-res images don't last long on Pinterest.  Load your cover and make sure the description is short and clear. Add hashtags to your image in the description. Hashtags let your audience know what the pin is about and enables them to find it. For example, under my new book, I tagged #Colleenoakes, #WendyDarling.  I will also use other descriptive tags: #ya, #ya2015, #fairytalebooks, #Peterpan and so on. This is very important to do with every Pin you upload.  *A note: Pinterest is public. It's not like Facebook. Anyone can see the pictures you pin, so be smart, and be respectful. Don't share anything you wouldn't post on a public forum. You know, don't be an idiot.

Third: Participate in the fun!  If you are obviously on Pinterest just to drum up interest for your novels, other Pinterest users won't care. Why should they?  So jump in and pin away. Make your homepage and boards a fun place to be. Share tips.  Create helpful boards for readers. Do you write paranormal romance? Than make some boards with your favorite paranormal romance books or authors. Love to bake? Make a baking board! Is Halloween your favorite? Make a party inspiration board. Have fun with it, and others will too.

Okay, I have one more step for you: Visit and follow the RMFW Board. We have a ton of great boards and pins for writers from all over, but also some specifically for Colorado writers.  Some of our boards include: Writing Quotes for motivation, What to Cook While Writing for recipes, Tools for Writers, which is a huge board of resources, boards on Publishing and Social Media, Gifts for Writers, Writers Humor and various others. One of our most exciting boards is the RMFW Member Books Board. If you are a RMFW member and your book isn't on our board, please send it to us (at the top of a pin,there is a little paper airplane. Click it and send it to us!).  We also have genre specific boards for Horror, Historical Fiction, Fantasy and Crime writing, with more on the way. You can find us here.

This is an exciting time to be an author, and a place like Pinterest can make it much more fun, and be a valuable tool in getting yourself - and your amazing book - out there.

Got Plot? Got cover? Get reviews!

By Janet Lane

E-books need public shows of affection

You’ve written the perfect story, and you’ve led your book through a series of hoops – careful revisions, professional editing, a web site, a blog, and a beautiful new cover, complete with book descriptions for the on-line retailers.

Now it’s time to get really brave, and get reviews. Ah, reviews. We love ‘em when they’re good, and hate ‘em when they’re bad, but to effectively market your literary e-babies, they’re as vital as an enticing book description.

So in what rivers can you fish for reviews? I started collecting my reviews by asking my critique partners if they would help me out by reviewing my books when they were first released by Five Star Publishing. Later, my publisher cancelled its Expressions Medieval line, under which my novels were published. Overnight I became an orphan author, and suddenly these early reviews became critical to my new role as epublisher. Even if one publishes traditionally, nothing is certain, and those early reviews of your traditionally published book can (unless you substantially change your novel), carry over to your ebook.

Perhaps you’ve heard some horror stories about Amazon yanking reviews. It can happen. Some authors have visited their Kindle pages, only to learn that some or all of their great reviews are gone. Little can be substantiated, but stories abound that Amazon may pull reviews from published authors . In another incident, a review was pulled from an author’s page because Amazon discovered that there was a close relationship between the author and the reviewer. When pressed for an explanation, it was noted that the reviewer had placed an order with Amazon for products other than books, and the order delivered to the author’s address. This, it was explained, would affect the objectivity of the review.

Other denied review stories include writing a review without a verified purchase, or submitting more than one review from more than one reviewer on the same computer.

Amazon is not the bad guy here. All these stories are examples of Amazon’s attempts to retain the integrity of the book reviews. Simply put, they don’t want your mom – along with any other relatives she can recruit – clogging up their pages with biased reviews.

So here are my suggestions on how to get the dozens of reviews your book will need to get noticed:

1. Ask for reviews in your ebook, in the back matter.

2. Don’t ask for five-star reviews, or ask readers to give you a good review, even if they don’t like the book.

3. Don’t pester your critique partners! If they haven’t responded to your request that they review your book, it could mean they don’t like your book enough to publicly lie about it. Or they might not have the time. Or maybe YOU didn’t respond to THEIR request for a review. Or, even if you have written a strong review for their book, they still might not reciprocate. Don’t strain a great friendship with this issue.

4. Look into review services. I used Choosy Bookworms, and their review process is excellent. I’ve heard horror stories about some review services, so be sure to post a question about a potential review service on RMFW’s yahoogroups site to learn more before you commit.

5. Once you have solicited a review, be civilized. If a review doesn’t materialize and get posted, accept it. (See #3). If the review is negative, wait three days before reacting in ANY way, especially in writing. And if it’s negative, still send a note of thanks to the reviewer, and milk the review for all it can be worth. Are there valid points made among the criticisms? If it’s scathing and deliberately hurtful, lick your wounds and turn to your critique partners for support, so you heal more swiftly. After all, even negative reviews stir interest in a book. And remember, even Stephen King gets negative reviews.

Why all the fuss for reviews? They can become a strong marketing tool. With a hefty collection of reviews, your book has a good chance of being accepted on the bargain-book offerings of such valuable outlets as Book Bub, E-Reader News Today and Book Sends.

Good luck! May you never receive a 1- or 2-star review, and may you enjoy great book sales!

The Basics of List Building

By Liesa Malik

Lists are everywhere—the to-do list, the project task list, and most of all, the illusion of the golden contact list.

Screech! Breaks! Illusion?

That’s right. Many people believe that you can purchase, rent, or find on-line great contact lists for the asking. Unfortunately, in the years I’ve been in marketing, I’ve only found one absolute truth where the golden contact list is concerned—it doesn’t exist. But don’t let that stop you from trying. Even the largest companies continue to search for the golden list.

To me, the best list you can have is the one you develop yourself. Here’s how I’d suggest you get started:

BE COMMITTED TO COMMUNICATION

Photo of Contact List

However you build it, they need to be contacted.

I don’t mean the blast out to the universe kind. I mean reaching into your community (list) and regularly touching people one-on-one. A few weeks back, someone from The Ladders employment agency contacted me and asked for my advice on writing careers. He said he considered me a “thought leader.” Not only did that puff up my ego, but it also gave me a blog post on my personal blog, which the representative asked to use in his work with writers. Very cool. AND he earned a follower to The Ladders.

BUY OR RENT

What’s that you say? Why waste money on a list you know isn’t going to be great? You buy lists or rent them because it gives you a place to start. Just as a detective knows that all clues in a mystery aren’t going to lead straight to a killer, all lists aren’t going to lead you to multiple thousands of sales. But you may find a handful of contacts that eventually become associates and friends.

BUILD ONE OR TWO CONTACTS AT A TIME

Yes, this sounds very inefficient. But the real contacts you make often end up being supporters for years to come, whereas blast recipients remain strangers, and your name can easily become synonymous with the word, “annoying.”

COMMIT TO CONSISTENTLY BUILDING YOUR LIST

Ouch! First there were Facebook and LinkedIn. Shortly thereafter followed Twitter and Pinterest. Today there is Goodreads and a host of other social media. With all this posting and messaging, where’s the time for list building?

My advice is to relax. Social media posts are the same as blasting to a huge mailing list. I suspect more posts are written than read. There are no real connections when someone has 1,000 “friends” or more. Create an editorial budget and schedule, or invest in a multi-media service like Hootsuite, and get back to enjoying your life of writing. But connect, really connect with a handful of true friends a month. Here are some ways to make new friends (i.e. contacts) and keep building your lists:

  • Go to meetings and let people know you’re an author or aspiring novelist. Meetup.com has a bunch of interests listed and ways to get involved with your community.
  • Volunteer—you kill two birds with one stone here—you give back to your community and you build friendships.
  • Speak—Does your church need a witness? Does the cub or brownie troupe down the road need to earn a communication badge? Ask your local librarian if they have a speaker’s program. I’m excited to say I just joined my local chapter of Toastmasters. I have visions of opportunities to come.
  • Never forget family and friends! Haven’t written the Christmas newsletter in a while? Try again. Or better yet, pick up the phone and spend 10 minutes with great aunt Sarah, who is part of that romance book club.

Lastly, while we do sincerely want and need contacts in publishing, we also have to be good contacts back. Know an agent looking for westerns? Promote your friend who writes westerns. Your publisher having a hard time getting writers to do self promo work? Send along ideas that have worked for you.

I’ll be talking more about lists and contacts in my talk “Author Platform 101,” at Colorado Gold. If you liked this post, I hope you’ll join me there.

Keep writing and keep sharing. Book sales are all about the lists and contacts we make.

Respect for the Law…and Copyright…Starts at Home

By Susan Spann

In the digital age, it's easy to break the law and call it "harmless."

For example:

...Copying a photograph or an inspirational piece of art from someone else's website.

...Re-blogging a blog post without obtaining the author's permission in advance.

...Downloading pirated ebooks, songs, or videos off the Internet, because after all...those people make tons of money and surely my single download doesn't hurt.

I've heard the excuses a thousand times. "[The artist or creator] doesn't need my money." "It's only one download." "I'm crediting the original author--(s)he should be glad that I wanted to share the work!"

Excuses are not justifications, and wrongful taking, copying, or even re-blogging of someone else's work without the legal permission to do so constitutes copyright violation...regardless of your motives.

In simpler words: the fact that you didn't intend any harm doesn't make an illegal choice okay.

Few artists get paid even close to "enough" for the time and effort they spend creating their works. If you're reading this, you're probably a writer (or an artist, or both) and you know the previous sentence is true. More importantly: it's not for the consumer to decide "how much is enough."

Bloggers rarely receive any monetary compensation for the work they do. The benefit they receive consists mostly of website traffic--which might, in time, develop into a platform allowing the blogger to sell a nonfiction book or other creative work. When you re-blog an article (a term that normally refers to cutting and pasting a blog or other content onto your own blog or website, usually--though not always--crediting the original author and often linking to the original source), you're depriving the author of much-needed website traffic. In other words: you're using their content to promote your blog or website instead of the author's own.

If you do this without permission, it's illegal--and it's also morally wrong. If you believe an article or blog entry merits reading, it's better (and legal!) to post a sentence or two on your blog, describing the article, along with a link to the original source. For example:

Read a post about respecting copyrights on the RMFW Blog today. Do you know the difference between legal linking and copyright infringement? Susan Spann explains why, "In the digital age, it's easy to break the law and call it "harmless" -- and why it's really not so harmless after all. Check it out: [Insert Link to the post you're reading...]

See what I did there?

Here are some quick tips for sharing content without violating copyright:

1. It's okay to capture a short "pull quote" or teaser to use along with your link. Just make sure it's short, and a "teaser" rather than the heart of the useful content.

2. Links are legal--and the original blogger or author will appreciate you for doing it! Link to the original source, rather than copying the material over to your own blog or website.

3. If you really want to duplicate the entire article, ask permission. Many times, bloggers or writers will gladly grant permission for you to re-post content (sometimes with a few reasonable restrictions). I often grant permission for re-blogging or re-posting of articles (subject to restrictions like my byline, a link to my website, and no alteration of my original content). However, if the author refuses permission, don't be a jerk. The content does belong to its creator.

Don't be afraid that sending people to someone else's website will cost you traffic. "Aggregators" are blogs or websites known for providing links to useful content elsewhere on the web. People who value your opinions will come to you even if you "only" point them to useful content (as opposed to posting it yourself). Respecting others' copyright reveals a professional attitude, and raises your reputation far higher than taking other people's work without permission--whether or not you attribute the source.

The good that we do in this world comes back to us eventually--so do the right thing, and remember: respect for the law, and copyright, starts at home.

How do you handle sharing valuable content you find on the web? Do you link it on social media, or post a "look at this" on your blog? Have you ever asked an author for permission to re-post? If so, how did it go?

Susan SpannSusan Spann is a California transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. She also writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. BLADE OF THE SAMURAI (Shinobi Mystery #2), released in 2014, and the third installment, FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER, will release in July 2015. When not writing or practicing law, Susan raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.You can find her online at her website (http://www.SusanSpann.com), on Facebook and on Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded and curates the #PubLaw hashtag.

Guest Post – Terri Benson: What’s a Writer to Do?

By Terri Benson

Today’s writers have so many things to think about besides the act of writing. Oh, for the days when you typed up or printed out your book manuscript, boxed it up, sent it to your publisher, then started your next book, certain that the publisher had enough invested in you that they would do their best to get lots of copies sold. I’m pretty sure those days existed at one point – they’re in the movies, anyway, so it must have happened.

These days, the majority of first time writers who traditionally or Indie publish will get a small advance or none at all, and go first to e-book. If you sell enough, they might go ahead with paperback. Publishers have very little invested in new authors. There’s the art for your book cover, but we all know there are thousands of graphic designers out there who can do a nice cover for not a huge amount of money. The quality of printed books isn’t the same as it used to be, especially in paperback. They cram more words on the page to reduce the cost of printing, and you get books that you can’t open the spine far enough to read without breaking the book’s back. And you know there isn’t nearly as much copy editing as there used to be. I rarely find a book—even by the big names—that doesn’t have blatant typos.

Writers are also pretty much required to have a platform with Facebook, Twitter, a good website, maybe a blog, and lots of followers – and they need constant attention to keep them fresh and interesting. We need to attend conferences and workshops to improve our craft and keep up with the ever-changing technology, and network like crazy.

So if you’re doing all that, how are you supposed to find time to write, edit, go to critique meetings, and read? Because you all know good writers read a lot.

If you thought that by the time you got to this point in my blog, I would have answered this question for you, you’re wrong. I don’t think anyone has all, or even a lot of, the answers for this. The state of publishing is evolving on almost a daily basis. There are more and more options for self-publishing, with the result of more books being published. But we all know many of those books shouldn’t have been published, at least not in the condition they appear. But there they are, and our books are mixed in with them, buried within thousands of other books in our genre.

I’d love to hear from those of you who think you might have some answers to the question: What’s a writer to do? For me, I’ll just keep plugging away, putting words on paper, sending queries, self-publishing when I think I’m ready, but still hoping for a call from a traditional publisher (for the simple egotistical reason that I want to say I was traditionally published, even though many writers make more with self-publishing). I’ll work tirelessly to improve my craft, dissect my book covers to see what could make them stand out in the crowd, and keep my on-line persona as visible as I have the time to, and feel comfortable with. And Write On!

 

Terri Benson 2015As a life-long writer, Terri Benson has one published novel, award winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award winning - in local and regional magazines and on-line e-zines. She is a multi-year member of RMFW and Western Slope events are hosted by her employer, she also belongs to RWA. Benson currently promotes Western Slope events for the RMFW Publicity Committee, pelts RMFW with articles for the newsletter, and randomly blogs.

Her historical romance, An Unsinkable Love, a truly Titanic love story with plenty of suspense, is available from Amazon in both e-book and paperback.

It Ought to be Easier!

By Pamela Nowak

It’s been a frustrating few weeks, starting just after the wonderful high that came when my ARCs arrived. Over the course of these weeks, I’ve discovered a number of databases and lists that need to be created to ease the life of authors. Yet…they haven’t. Or at least I haven’t discovered them.

Mutter, mutter, mutter, sigh.

With my new book being set in Colorado, I knew I wanted to pump up pre-publication marketing. I’d already made my list of things to do. When the ARCs arrived, I hit the internet to find the lists I needed to get them done. And found them woefully inadequate.

First, I needed to get those ARCs sent out to book editors at Colorado newspapers. I thought that would be an easy task. I already knew there was a list of book review editors and contact info for the largest papers in the U.S., but I wanted to target Colorado papers since my publisher was taking care of the national audience. I figured the list I’d located (but hadn’t yet studied in depth) for Colorado newspapers would be the same. Clicking on the link, I opened the list. There are a lot of newspapers in Colorado—154 to be exact.

I skimmed the list. It was a just a list. In order to locate addresses and contacts, I had to click a link for each one of them (or I could purchase a download of all addresses). I got ready to buy the list just as it occurred to me that I didn’t know which of them had book sections. I’d have to click every link on the page, visit individual paper websites, locate the A&E section (if there was one), determine if there were book reviews, and look up the appropriate staff person.

Of course, I made it harder than it had to be. I realize that. I could have narrowed the search to papers in the larger cities. But I figured I might as well be thorough since I would need to target papers for press releases later. I don’t normally do press releases, except in Denver, but my gut says the effort might pay off for this book. So, I went through the entire list, skipping only the business and farm/ranch publications. The process took a huge amount of time and it occurred to me that it ought to be easier.

I’m now looking at my googled list of libraries. It’s pages long—I haven’t counted them but it’s longer than the newspaper list. Since my book is targeted to libraries, an announcement letter advising of the Colorado setting and local author status needs to go out. Again, it’s a list with links for more info (and again, I can purchase a download of them) but it contains few email addresses. I can save time, buy the download, and use snail mail, of course, but that’s an expense I had hoped to avoid by using email. Librarians I know have told me email is considered a desirable way to receive new-release communication. Guess what? The only ways to find that info are to 1) click on every website and look it up or 2) call the central number for each library and ask for it. It ought to be easier.

And, then...Colorado bookstores. I haven't googled for that list yet but none existed two years ago. That would be another worthwhile database.

RMFW is full of authors who use information like this, right? Maybe it’s time to find a volunteer to collect info like this from those who have already done the legwork and set up a resource file that could be accessed by authors. Author Resources, we could call it. Hmmm….

In any case, as I continue working my way through my marketing plan, I anticipate a few more glitches cropping up, a few more cases of muttering, and more time spent than intended on tasks.

It just ought to be easier!

Beta Readers

By Robin D. Owens

Beta Readers are those people who will read your manuscript after you're done, but before you submit it to your publisher.

I have a mentor (Kay Bergstrom) who always reads my work, and I have Beta Readers. Though I try and keep track of people who have read my manuscripts and help me, I tend to cycle through readers (fans) on my blog and facebook, looking for good beta readers.

But I have one guy named Joe (no, that's not his real name, but equally common). Joe started with my futuristic/fantasy romance series and has followed me through my fantasy and my paranormal romance. Joe is good. Since he's been reading my manuscripts, he's gotten better. I don't know whether that's because we've worked together or not. But I can trust Joe.

This morning, before I sent my two month and one week late book due (that's already scheduled for November and being pre-ordered), I wrote a new opening that Kay advised. I worked about three hours on this opening scene so it had enough set up but not too much info dump. Who did I send it to that I knew would get back to me quickly with an honest read? Joe.

Much as I love compliments – and we all need compliments – what we need most is an honest read if we want our manuscripts to be the best. We can get this from critique buddies, we will definitely get it from professional editors (whether we pay them or the publisher pays them), and we should try to find beta readers who do this.

During my recent quest for beta readers, I sent out five rough draft manuscripts to people I thought might be able to help me. Some were familiar with the series, some stated editorial or literary background. All of them said they read fast (because I tend to need a fast turn-around).

One of those never got back to me. This always happens. Often some get back to me too late.

I always ask for OVERALL comments on the story, places of confusion, slow pace, characters not acting reasonably or being stupid or jerks, plot holes, other problems.

I don't care about grammar and punctuation. My publisher's copy editor will take care of that, and I have a good friend I pay to copy edit, too. At this particular point, the rough draft, I need input on the story.

This time I got: Wonderful book, rest assured your fans will love it. Great, that felt great, but was of little help with the story.

I got punctuation, grammar and typo stuff. This also always happens.

Mostly I got continuity errors, which are important and I fix before I turn it in, but I didn't get any comments on characters or plot except from Kay and Joe. So this round wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped.

Especially since I lay in bed last night knowing something was definitely wrong with my secondary black moment, when the relationship breaks. Joe hadn't said anything about it, so it didn't bother him as a reader (like the lack of stated motivation for the villain had). Kay had a problem with it, and I cut pursuant to her suggestions, but it didn't still didn't work. So I had to go back and forth and around and around (like my ceiling fan), until I came up with the solution. I pretty much returned to the basics of character, craft, and the romance genre rules and figured it out. When I did, I knew it was right.

So, some points of this blog.
1) Beta readers can be extremely helpful.
2) You will have to look to find good ones, if you do, keep them. Be gracious to those who give you what you don't need.
3) The bottom line is that you must also trust yourself.

Adventures in Genre Writing: Lesson 10 – Common Mistakes

By Jeanne C. Stein

We’ve now covered the nuts and bolts of writing genre fiction. In the last two lessons, we’ll move on to the world of publishing. The first lesson is on ways a writer can sabotage her own career. We’ll divide this into three categories:

Common Mistakes in Writing

Common Mistakes in Submitting to an Editor or Agent

Common Mistakes in Dealing with an Editor or Agent

Mistakes in Writing—some we’ve already discussed:

1. Starting projects and not finishing them. Especially bad if you find yourself hop scotching from one project to another. Remember Heinlen’s rules…you MUST finish what you start.

2. Using passive instead of active verbs.

3. Relying on narration instead of exposition—show don’t tell.

4. Using five words (or sentences or paragraphs) when one will do. Write tight.

5. Losing viewpoint or forgetting the goal of your scene.

6. Interrupting the action with backstory.

7. Ending a chapter on a low note instead of with a hook.

Mistakes in Submitting to an Editor or Agent

1. Not sending out projects when you’ve completed them. Not querying agents and/or editors the minute your story is ready.

2. Not going on to the next project the minute the first is finished. When you make a sale, the first thing the editor or agent is going to want to know is what else you have completed or near completion.

3. Not knowing the market you’re aiming to enter. Read your competition.

4. Not following submission guidelines—seems so obvious, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how many editors and agents talk about the manuscripts they’ve received on pink or purple paper in an archaic font because the writer thought it would “stand out.” It does, but not in the way intended. It screams amateur. All publishers have websites in which they set out submission guidelines in careful detail. Follow them.

5. Not being professional—see above. Also refers to dog-eared manuscripts that have obviously been seen by more than one editor. ALWAYS send a fresh copy, though in this time of e-submissions, this is no longer always a consideration. Some editors still like the old ways, though, so again, follow submission guidelines. Also, make sure the submission contains NO typos or grammatical errors. If you’re not sure, hire a professional copy editor to go over it with a fine-tooth comb.

Mistakes in Dealing with an Editor or Agent

1. Missing a deadline. Better have a damned good reason. Publication schedules are set up a year or more in advance. If you know you’re not going to make a deadline, let the agent and editor know as soon as possible. If it’s going to be a LONG delay, you may lose your place in the queue which will push back your publication date. Something not to be taken lightly.

2. Calling your editor or agent too often. If it’s your agent, the time he’s wasting talking to you he could be using to talk to an editor about you. Which would you prefer? If it’s your editor, you are not her only writer. You do not want to aggravate her. She’s your champion in the publishing house. If you have a legitimate reason to call, by all means do it. If it’s to see “how things are going”, call your mother instead.

3. Accepting the worse case scenario. One of the hardest things—if your agent calls and says he’s sent your stuff to five or six or ten houses and no one is buying, accept it. Don’t burn your bridges by screaming he didn’t do his job and everyone in the publishing business is an idiot. You can think it. Just don’t say it. Besides, you have that next project waiting, right? Pitch that.

4. Changing agents. Tricky. In fact, I’m going to go into finding an agent later and what the relationship should be.

5. Getting stuck on one idea. Submitting the same basic story four or five different ways. If it hasn’t sold, don’t waste your agent’s time. Move on.

Okay—we’ve got our manuscript completed. We’ve checked it and it’s a perfectly formatted, pristine copy. Now what?

There are two ways to go—agented or unagented. It you choose to submit your book on your own, deciding on a publishing venue will be discussed next chapter. For the rest of this lesson, we’ll look at agents—finding the right fit.

One of the most important questions to ask yourself is what kind of relationship you want to have with your agent. I know plenty of writers who’ve developed a close friendship with their agents. They call to chat. They discuss every bit of business, however minute, with them. They use the agent as a critique partner, letting them read the manuscript before it’s submitted to the editor and rewriting according to the suggestions offered.

The second is strictly a business relationship. Contact is limited to projects to be pitched and deals to be made. If the writer asks for an opinion on a manuscript, the agent will respond. But the agent’s role is to build the writer’s career via contract negotiations.

How can you tell which type of agent you’re querying? Get their client list and ask.

How do you find an agent with a client list? Part of the reward of doing your homework and reading your genre is that at the beginning and end of almost every book, there will be an acknowledgment page. More often than not, a writer’s agent is recognized there. If you read a book that you found similar to yours in tone and content, querying that agent would be a good place to start. Google the agent’s name. With the Internet, you can quickly find out what company he’s with. Checking out the company will provide you with names, addresses, submission guidelines. It will also tell you whether or not an agent is accepting new clients. Sometimes they aren’t. Don’t waste your time querying that agent. Move on to the next.

There is a website: www.agentquery.com that lists acquiring agents and spells out what genres they’re interested in representing. This is a good tool. Use it.

You have your “A” list of agents. You’re ready to start querying. What about the query letter? It should be short, no more than one page, arranged as follows:

First paragraph—introduce your book, the genre, a one or two line “TV Guide” description.

Second paragraph--go into a little more detail about the book. The protagonist, the story question, what makes it unique.

Third paragraph—introduce yourself, list writing credits, any background that makes you marketable. Offer to send a synopsis and the first three chapters at the agent’s request.

Thank the agent for his/her time. Sign off.

Do not send the full manuscript unless the agent asks for it. If you’re sending a snail-mail letter, always include a self-addressed, stamped return envelope. Many agents are accepting email queries now. Cuts response time immensely.

But remember—at this point, patience is called for. You may have to wait two weeks to get a reply from an email query, six or eight from a snail-mail query. That’s why it’s to your advantage to send out a half dozen at once. If you get a response requesting an “exclusive” read of your material, you can stop sending out queries. But even then, you should ask for a reasonable response time—say six weeks. After that, if you haven’t heard, start the process again.

If you hire an agent, you may or may not be required to sign a contract. The going commission rate for an agent is 15%. NEVER sign on with an agent if he requests a “reading” fee. On top of commission, however, he may charge you for manuscript copying, postage fees, long distance phone bills etc. It depends on the company and is something you should inquire about before signing.

As your career progresses, other considerations arise. You may at some point want to change agents. This can be traumatic. If you have a valid reason for doing so, by all means make the move. The agent, after all, works for you. But ask yourself first if the problems you’re having are your agent’s doing or your own. Are you producing new material? Are you following his or advice? Are you demanding too much? Are you doing everything you can to further your own career?

It is YOUR career.

I’ve thrown a lot at you in this lesson. If you’ve decided to go it alone, our last lesson will be choosing a publisher…big press, small press, self-pub. I’ll explain the good, the bad and the ugly of each.

Extra Reading:

From a Blog by Chuck Sambuchino reprinted on Writer’s Digest on Agent Pet Peeves

Example of a successful query by agent Jenny Bent

This is just one in a series of successful queries by top notch agents. Here is the complete line-up:

Pamela Vaughan’s:

The Ultimate Online Editing and Proofreading Checklist

Many of you may already be familiar with Writer’s Digest, the book club and website. If you haven’t signed up for their free newsletter, you should. Here is a sample article you can peruse. Some are free, some are by subscription, but all are well done.

How to Write Effective Supporting Characters

Once, Twice, Three Times a Manuscript….(Anyone Under 40 Won’t Have a Clue What Song The Title References But I’m Using it Anyway Because it’s My Title and I Can…Sing it!)

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

The weekend before last I was lucky enough to hang out at the Pikes Peak Writer Conference. I also did some teaching but it was more about seeing old friends and making plenty of new fabulous ones. Besides having a great time abusing whiskey, wine and food I spent some time talking with other writers about their process.

It was at this point I had an epiphany.

Or maybe you could refer to it as a drunken revelation.

Either way, this is my point-- tables have dancing naked weight limits.

No, scratch that. I had two epiphanies and a bruise on my coccus the size and shape of Texas.

Anyway....we all have such different methods and madness for our works. And each, while valid, might not be the best choice for us, like dancing on a table when you're old enough to know far better.

Here's what I mean. I'm a pantster. A REALLY BIG ONE. I sit down to write and start at page one, word one. But I can learn to be better at plotting and that could make for more words, and more books. I can learn how to be a better marketer. I can learn to write deeper characters and better description. An old dog can be taught new tricks, as long as the teacher talks real slow and plenty of cookies are involved.

Maybe I can learn these things from a class or a workshop taught from one of the amazing instructors already selected for the RMFW Conference in September. Or I can learn from the fantastic community we are a part of.

One of the interesting things I learned a few weekends ago was from a longtime RMFW member -- Mike Befeler. Mike never knows who is murderer is going to be. Right up until the end. It's a good lesson if you've ever read his work, it feels organic for the protagonist when he figures out who done it. Now I am not saying I could pull it off, but it does give me insight into his process.

I'm interested in your own process. How many revisions does it take for the finished (or as close as you can get) product? Do you know what is going to happen when you start? Do you have any advice that has helped you greatly along your path? Let's open up and share all we can together.

Or else I will get on that table!

 

The Fairyland Murders_ebook (1)J.A. (Julie) Kazimer writes books. So many books that she now has to use her toes to count them. Learn more at jakazimer.com or friend her on facebook because she's pretty lonely. You can also tweet her at @jakazimer and she'll share some gruesome stories about decaying bodies or puppies. Tweeters choice.

Also, her latest book, THE FAIRYLAND MURDERS is on sale for the low, low, how the heck am I going to afford my Rolex now, price of $1.99. I don't know how long it will be on sale as my publisher never tells me anything....So pick up a copy today. Or don't. I'm not going to beg...Okay, I will beg. Please, please--

Pearls of Wisdom … by Guest Rhonda Blackhurst

Rhonda_Genrefest 2015Last month I attended Genre Fest 2015, an event organized by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and The Colorado Authors’ League. The speaker for the morning was David Morrell, creator of Rambo–-as well as numerous novels (both fiction and nonfiction) and short fiction-–and to say I was impressed is a serious understatement. While I expected great pearls of wisdom coming from such a successful author–-and he certainly delivered--what I didn’t expect was his level of humility. What an incredible man. Would I go see him again if he’s in the area? In a heartbeat! I realize I just used the dreaded exclamation point, but that’s how strongly I feel about it. I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to grab that sucker. You won’t be disappointed.

While I couldn’t possibly mention all of the golden nuggets of advice, some of the ones that I’ll always remember are:

His five rules for writing mystery/thrillers (and could fit with any genre) are:

1.)  Know why you're writing what you are. If you’re writing what you are simply because it’s popular at the moment, you may want to re-evaluate writing that genre. What you’re writing should be personally meaningful; because you can’t imagine not writing it; because it should be worth spending a year (or more) of your time on.

2.)  Know the history of the genre you’re writing. He states, “we can’t recognize when a plot is hackneyed if we don’t educate ourselves about the best that has been done in the genre.” He suggested that if you’re writing a specific genre, you should know enough about the history that you could give a lecture on it.

3.)  Do your research. Your research can come from interviewing experts, reading non-fiction books on the subject, physically visiting the place you’re writing about as well as doing the activities you’re writing about. This last one, in particular, opens all five senses to the experience. The Internet is another deep well to gain knowledge. What not to do is to get your research from TV or movies. The details are not reliable. (Think courtroom and police dramas.) My husband and I both work in the law enforcement arena, and trust me when I say real life is nothing like it shows on Law and Order, CSI, The Good Wife, etc.

4.)  Be yourself. His exact words are worth repeating over and over and over. And over again. “Be a first-rate version of yourself rather than a second-rate version of another author. Innovate rather than imitate.” Wow! (Yup, another exclamation point.)

5.)  Avoid the genre trap. What we write should be the most exciting and moving novel that we can write. Our job is to write a genre novel that doesn’t come off as a genre book.

Other notable mentions:

  •  There are no “odds” on whether you will succeed, get published, etc. What happens to you happens 100%.
  • One thing all of us writers are prone to is daydreaming. In fact we can’t shut it off. Children are often told to “stop wasting your time daydreaming” as if it’s a negative thing. In reality, daydreaming is not a waste of time at all. It’s where ideas come from. The key is to be aware of your daydreams. Too often they’re mini narratives that we dismiss.
  •  Don’t write what you’re supposed to. Write what you’re meant to.
  •  Don’t chase the market because you’ll always be looking at the back side.

I had David Morrell’s writing book, The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing, on my bookshelf at home waiting to be read. I bumped it ahead of all the others I want to read and I’m not regretting it.

This post was originally published by Rhonda Blackhurst at her blog, Novel Journey, on April 12, 2015.

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Rhonda was born and raised in northern Minnesota and now resides in Colorado. She is a paralegal, restitution advocate for a District Attorney's Office, avid reader, writer, and lover of words. Her greatest joy is her family, which includes her husband, two sons, a stepdaughter, one granddaughter and five step-grandchildren. Her love of writing blossomed at the tender age of four when she began writing with crayons on the knotty pine walls of her family home. Her first published novel, The Inheritance, was born from NaNoWriMo in 2012. She is in the process of writing the first two books in the Melanie Hogan mystery series, Shear Madness and Shear Deception.

Her blog, A Novel Journey, can be found at www.rhondablackhurst.com. She can also be found on twitter at @rjblackhurst and her author Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rjblackhurst.