Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Writers's Cafe

For a free sign up Writer's Cafe offers quite a bit.  Contest, the ability to post your story for review if you like, writing groups already established or start your own. Info on literary and publishers. It's worth looking around, you might find some gems.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Multi Faceted Writer

Zorba Publishers Edition
Writers have a lot more on their plates than most people think they do.  There seems to be this mythology of a writer sitting behind a desk, pounding the keyboard, selling his/her work with ease, then sitting back and collecting a check.

Anyone who's been in writing and publishing for any time knows there's no truth to that image.

Nope, writers have to write the book, sell the book (this can take quite some time with or without an agent - and oh, yes, woo an agent if the writer wants to work with one), then help in the selling while writing another book.  Whew, that was a lot to cram into a sentence and that's just the easily visible part, remember all the subheadings that come under each heading. Things that include book tours, virtual or physical, maintaining a website and maybe a blog, spending time on social networking, sending out queries and yes, perhaps visiting conventions.

So, this round I'm going to talk a bit about pitching your manuscript to an editor or publisher, or perhaps an agent you'd love to have represent you.

Conventions, whether a national do or a local conference, are great places to exercise your promotional muscle.  It can be frightening or stress-inducing, depending upon how shy you are and how much you do or don't like presenting in front of others.

But, contacts at conventions can be a great shot at getting your manuscript on front of editors and agents so  you want to make your time spent with these folks count.

So, what's a pitch? They use them in the film industry to sell a script and in the book industry to sell manuscripts - or at least get them read.  It's a short description of your story, the plot narrowed down to one or just a few sentences (one is best).

How do you do this? You break it down into smaller bits that you can handle. Know who you're pitching to.  Take the time to research who will be at the convention, of them who you want to pitch to, who of that group you can actually get a chance to pitch to and then check those people out. Know about the publisher or agency they're attached to, the types of books they're interested in (hopefully you won't pitch a SciFi novel to someone who only reps or publishes romances). You can find a lot of information online and you might ask other writer friends, or you might call the company directly and speak for a few moments with a receptionist or secretary to get information.  Take the time to know who you're talking to and you'll put yourself above all those who don't bother to find out anything about whom they're going to see.

Research on who you're going to pitch to completed, you need to work on your actual pitch. You'll need to be able to tell the person what genre or subgenre your book falls into.  They'll want to know that for marketing purposes. You'll need to tell them where and when it takes place and of course about how long it is - an accurate word count.  Pitch only stories you've already written and can send a complete copy of. Very few things frustrate agents and publishers more than a great pitch followed by "I haven't finished it yet". Don't sabotage yourself.

Write and bring along copies of a short page that tells your story.  A synopsis.  Also have as a separate sheet or at the top of that one, the VERY short, one sentence or maybe two condensation of your story. Make it a very succinct statement of a story premise which would hopefully induce the editor/agent to want more.

Once the pitch is ready you need to practice. Do it out loud. Train your voice to be enthusiastic, filled with the power of your story, not strident, or stuttering. Go over it until you know it front, back and up-side-down. Be ready for a full blown pitch session, or if the fates point a finger in your direction and you find yourself in the buffet line with that editor or agent you want to pitch to and he or she turns to you and politely asks, "So, what do you write?" you'll be able to answer without considerable stumbling.

Oh, and don't forget to dress well. You don't have to be perfect or flashy, just clean, neat, you know, business casual.  You can bring your single sheet with your story synopsis to the meeting, but don't try to load that person down with more like disks or complete manuscripts.  You can always mail or email other materials later. And don't forget to ask for one of their business cards - you need that address whether to contact later or to have an accurate address to send materials that have been requested.

And remember these folks are people just like you.  Smile, draw a nice deep breath and try to relax. And if you mess up?  Don't worry, keep going and remember, the more you do it the easier it will become.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Media Bistro

If you haven't found Media Bistro yet, I'm surprised, but for those who haven't, check it out.  It offers industry news, jobs, blogs, articles and more for the freelance writer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Settng the Scene; Writing The Mood

I was sitting down to write this post when I started thinking about what a beautiful day it is here today, sun shining, not a cloud in the sky, a touch of autumn in the air, how good I felt, how much I was smiling.

These are all things a writer needs to think about and identify.  These are things that enrich stories and bring them to life.

There are  many things that affect character and setting so I thought I'd pull one out and get you to think about how to use an element in your story.

For example, weather can be an important element in your setting. If it's sunny, windy, rainy, snowy, sleeting, hailing or just overcast. The weather can contribute to the mood the writer sets in a scene.  It can, and would, affect a character's emotional being and it can be used to foreshadow upcoming events.

So let's think about rain for one.  Consider how it looks.  If it's raining the sky is overcast and dark, things might seem bleary and depending on the power of the rain it might be drizzling or pounding.  It would put a sheen on everything like asphalt, sidewalks, windows; even more so if it's night. Leaves shake beneath the onslaught, awnings collect water and dump the overflow on people walking the street. Water can ooze into puddles or splash up with a downpour. Rain will drench hair, soak clothing and send people running for dry sanctuary. Think about how everything is affected, how it appears.

Then think about the other sensory input.  How rain smells.  It washes the air clean laving behind a fresh smell, unless you're in the tropics in which case it might be a more heavy, earthy, moldering vegetable smell.  If it's a full blown storm lightning might leave behind traces of an ozone smell.

Would there be a taste?  Water is water- BUT in an urban area might there be traces of something else?  Has the rain washed through something acidic in the air?  Is there something else?

And how does it feel?  It could be cold and wet making things clammy and very uncomfortable, or if it's a warm rain it might make the air heavy, humid and the characters miserable. In either hot or cold clothing would be saturated against skin, shoes would be soggy and irritating and a driving, hard rain can actually be stinging against the skin. People hunch over in the rain, they grab newspaper, briefcase, umbrella to huddle under for protection. Most people run in the rain, though some seem to relish it and stroll. Characters might shiver in a really cold rain. Some may be ready to dance naked in a warm rain.

Don't forget the sound it makes.  It can be a soft whoosh, an irregular pink-plonk, a powerful pounding. Rain falling on a tin roof can create a cacophony to the point where it's almost impossible to hear anything else. Or, of falling gently on a green lawn it might make only a whisper of sound. It depends on where the rain is falling, how hard, and if it's coming down at an angle or dropping straight from the heavens.

And what does all this do to the mood, the emotions of your characters?  Rain might stop your character from getting where he/she needs to be or doing what he/she needs to do.  It might force characters together seeking shelter from the rain who would otherwise not choose to occupy the same space and give you, the writer, the opportunity to take things slow for just a while, reflecting while the storm passes. It could be a depressing moment for the character or a cleaning one. It could be humbling before nature's power or romantic as in Gene Kelly's "Dancing In The Rain".

Be original, think of new associations or new twists as to how this can be used to your advantage.  BUT, avoid the old cliches.  Let's not have drizzling rain at a funeral or a little girl crying in the rain or the rain washing away the sins of the character.  It's been done.  Be more original. Think about how you, yourself, react to something, in this instance, rain. Think about how a character, feeling bleak, might feel that more intensely if the ran is followed by bright sunshine and a rainbow. Consider how joy can be tamped down by a drizzling rain or a biting wind that foreshadows trouble to come.

Don't be afraid to put this test out there when you're writing, and rain is just one of hundreds of examples.  How does it affect the character?  How does it feel?  Smell? Taste? Look? Stretch your writing and grow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Ebook Revolution

Into Ebooks?  Reading them, writing to publish in digital format?  

Em Craven has an excellent blog The E-Book Revolution to help the independent writer along.   

It's this week's check it out site.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writers working with Editors - or Not

Writers and Editors many times have a love/hate relationship. It can be terribly trying or wonderfully fulfilling.  And it can be both.  However it works, its a relationship few writers avoid.  So, writers – don't shoot the editors - you'll thank them later; I think.

This relationship can be a very tricky one. Writers create their masterpieces – Editors rip them up.



It's true there are some very bad editors out there, but equally true is there are many very good ones.  It behooves the writer to assume the editor he/she is working with is one of the good ones unless/until proven differently.  And, even then, it might not be that the editor is necessarily bad, but that it simply isn't a good match between that editor and that writer. If that is the case, a request to change editors is a very good idea.
That said, you're working with an editor.  I dig deep into my treasure trove of experience for this example of an editor/writer clash: A writer, published with a major publishing house more than once, has an offer on another manuscript. Problem is, the manuscript is over length by about one third – by the editor's estimate. But wait, that isn't the worst of it. The offer to publish the manuscript  was based on the writer agreeing to cut the book by one third AND eliminate a minor character the editor deemed superfluous.

The writer reading this scenario no doubt will gasp at the mere thought of slashing work by a third. But wait, when it comes to cutting, condensing and compacting, pretty much anything is possible. Take a deep breath.  Here's the formula for coping.
First the writer is entitled to scream and throw something across the room. Then maybe utter a few curse words, kick the desk leg and finally get down to work. With focus and ruthlessness a lot of words can be eliminated. In fact, if the writer will just step back she/he may well even come to agree with the editor that the cutting does a lot of good. Condensing can make the manuscript tighter, snappier, more taut with suspense. All of those good things. So the wise writer, when faced with the dreaded chopping block will check the impulse to harass the editor, cultivate a yes-I-can attitude and get to work.

So, the moral so far?

Publishing is not only an art, but a business. Cooperation will get the writer (hopefully YOU) much further than a stubborn, or cavalier, take-it-or-leave-it attitude. A good editor will not only make requests or demands, but will frequently be of assistance. Writers need to open up and discuss changes and cuts when unsure as to where the editor intends to lead.


That doesn’t mean the editor has all day to dally with every one of his or her stable of writers, but reasonable questions will be addressed. And if a bad response is the result, give it a day or two and try again. After all, editors are as human as writers are. Perhaps the editor in question was having a bad day. If nothing improves a request for a new editor isn't out of line and failing that a new publisher could be a good idea next go-round.

On to the other request/demand in the scenario: the removal of a character. Okay, permission granted to writer to scream again. Plainly that character was not being viewed from the same perspective.

The character the editor saw as unnecessary was perhaps minor, yet pivotal. What if in the writer's eye most of the action did not include him, but turned on him or was triggered by him. Besides, the 'bit character' could well be a lot of the comic relief. Okay, so a cover-to-cover rewrite would remove the editor's unwanted character, but what, then, would be the catalyst for the action; where would the comic relief come from?

Moments like that are cause for thought, a lot of it, once the private screaming has abated.

If the writer is dealing with such an issue and finds she can't frankly discuss it with her editor, there's a problem.  It might be solved by doing the rest of the work, cutting the manuscript as desired, tweaking the minor character, even removing him from a few scenes where his presence had little or no impact, but mostly leave him alone. The combination of the work could have the desired effect. In fact it did since the story is a true one – and the book was published a year later.

So, the moral to that part of the story? Well, editors are people too. That was mentioned earlier. Did the editor just not notice the minor character wasn't removed? Possibly. Perhaps the editor was having a bad day when it was strongly suggested the writer kill off a character or be killed instead (publishing wise for that one book).
Or, and this is more likely, perhaps once the real work was done, once the manuscript was greatly shortened, the impact of this minor character was more readily apparent and the need to keep him in the book more obvious.

The overall moral for the writer is, throw your fit, preferably not at the editor, in fact, definitely not at the editor. Then think, consider, be true to yourself, and cooperate to the greatest extent possible.

On that path lay the greatest possibilities and the most reward.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Creativity Portal

Feel like your creativity is waning?  Need a little boost?  Creativity Portal is great fun. It offers special sections for writers and more general opportunities to improve your brain and creativity generally.  Explore this site when you have a bit of time to uncover a lot of its goodies.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Authors and Book Promotion

You've written a book, you've found an agent, gotten your book published  (or published yourself).  Now you kick back and wait for sales, right? 


Now the real work begins - promoting your book while you begin your next one.  And yes, you need to do both.

Here's quote I remember, and can't remember where I heard it, but believe it's truth:
"Writing a book is thin-lipped determination.
Getting a book published is vocal persistence.
Promoting a book is screaming madness."

Yep, there it is, in a nutshell.

The reality for writers is this - once you have a name the big publishing houses will probably allow a budget for promotion (but you'll still have to promote as well).  

Until then you're pretty much on your own.  They will do little to nothing to promote your book.  If you're thinking the publisher is going to arrange a national book tour and pay for your travel first class, think again.  It's much more likely the publisher will ask you to stay in Motel 6, share the costs of travel or even if you can arrange for -at different towns when you're on vacation.  Even more likely is they won't say anything at all and it'll be all left up to you.

So, the key question is, "who is going to buy this book?"  It's a question you need to be clear on when you begin promoting. And, actually it would be best if you begin promoting BEFORE the book is actually published. Think about it, tweak your promotion to that audience - think focused, not shotgun.

So what can you do to promote that doesn't cost you a fortune?  By all means set up book signings if you can.  You won't sell a lot of books that way, but exposure is good and many readers like to feel like they get to know the writer. And remember, turn out could be very light.  Don't take it personally. The bookstore may just give you a table and if you're lucky, a chair. Don't take that personally either. Bring some extra books, bring a blown up photo of yourself and your book cover, maybe some flowers and a bowl of free mints - or use your imagination and do better than that.

Don't give away any copies of your book free except to your Mom and reputable reviewers. It'll cost you a lot of money if you don't remember that advice.  When you publish the publisher will generally give you a few copies included gratis in your contract - maybe 10, if you're lucky perhaps 20 copies of the book.  After that you buy them from the publisher to hand out.  You won't pay retail, but you will pay.

The obvious these days is social networking.  Have a great following on twitter? Many friends on Facebook?  Make sure you get the word out that your book is available.  Give live links to where the book may be purchased.  Make sure you get onto Amazon and set up your author's page, and ask friends, relatives & the folks who do many reviews on Amazon to review it. 

And if it's an Ebook you've published?  Advice is similar.  You can arrange virtual book tours now.  Amazon is a great place to  pimp your book; investigate, use all the tools they supply that you can.

There's a great book out called Internet Rich, Your Blueprint to Book Sales by Mike Bray that offers a lot of ideas and resources (I take the 'rich' part with a grain of salt, but his info is excellent). And I, personally, can use all the  help I can get. I can recommend Premium Promotional Tips For Writers By Jo-Anne Vandermuelen as well, a kindle book on the subject.

Dig into it, be creative and remember the promotion really rests mainly on your shoulders -- and it will always be greatly your responsibility to promote your book. 

No whining, just get out there and do it.

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