Category Archives: looking for literary editors and publishers

Tips to to publish and improve your writing

So-True Post: Some Hard Facts about Publishing

Soooo many books! Why write one more?
Soooo many books out there

Over at Writers in the Storm, guest blogger Tasha Seegmiller writes not to offer a “downer,” but instead, to help people align their expectations of writing a little better.”

This column reminded me how I’m constantly surprised by some of the questions aspiring writers ask on self-help Facebook sites. Yesterday, is grammar important? Today, should an author get a web site? This column offers some advice I think everyone hoping to publish needs.

Me included. Realizing that writing is a business—never a comfortable home territory for me—but also that it really has to be something you just can’t help doing: These are the reminders I need.

A while back, in answer to a post on the pros and cons of self- versus traditional publishing, I wrote “What It Was Like for Me,” an account of my own experiences being traditionally published. Even though my encounter with the realities of publishing happened quite a long time ago, I still found that Seegmiller’s take resonated. It was ever so, and I didn’t know enough then to negotiate this strange and daunting space.

Follow good blogs and wonderful people like @JaneFriedman. As Seegmiller says, educate yourself. So you’ll be more ready than I was.

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Filed under business of writing, inspiration for writers, looking for literary editors and publishers, Money issues for writers, Myths and Truths for writers, Publishing, writing novels

Useful Info on Word Counts

Big green smileyThis post from Bookends Literary about the preferred (or maybe acceptable) word counts for different genres justifies my efforts to cut 6,000-7,000 words from my latest finished manuscripts. Since word count is often the first thing an agent or editor sees, I was happy to be able to claim something more appropriate than 107,000 words. image of scissors

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Filed under Editing your novel, Finding literary agents for writers, genres for writers, looking for literary editors and publishers, self editing for fiction writers, writing novels

Here’s a List of Online Pitch Fests for 2020!

Book publishing success--butterflies hovering over an open book

Interested in trying out an online pitch via Twitter? Some people find this process rewarding. Here’s a list of pitch fest dates I just discovered on Victoria Strauss’s Writer Beware site (check out her warning about due diligence when responding to an agent or editor after an online pitch).

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If You Do Online Pitchfests—Writer Beware!

Here’s a warning from Victoria Stauss’s Writer Beware about the kinds of publishing predatorsmeeting an oncoming car on a dark road with a full moon overhead--navigate online pitchfests safely you may encounter at #PitMad or other digital pitching events. The sponsors of these events always encourage writers to check agents and editors carefully before submitting. Strauss’s example here contains plenty of red flags, but not all may be as transparent.

Thanks again to Writer Beware for keeping our eyes open.

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The 9 Most Common Mistakes I See on Opening Pages

Here’s a great new discovery: Annie Bomke. This post lays out almost every first-page show-stopper I’ve heard agents mention at conferences. “Over-narrating” is a trait I constantly have to work on. See if something here resonates with you!

Annie Bomke Literary Agency

A while ago when I solicited advice on what topics to cover in my blogs, someone asked me to cover common mistakes I see authors making in their first pages, so here is my rough list.

One quick note before I start the list, just to give you an idea of my mindset going into a manuscript. When I read a submission, I don’t ask myself: “Is this a good book?” or “Is this person a good writer?” I ask: “Am I interested in reading more?” There’s no such thing as an objectively good book, because reading is a subjective experience, so I don’t attempt to judge what’s “good.” All I’m looking for is a desire to read more. If I don’t feel compelled to read more, I stop reading.

So without further ado, here are the most common reasons I stop reading:

No Sense of POV
There’s a description…

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Filed under Editing your novel, Finding literary agents for writers, Learning to write, looking for literary editors and publishers, self editing for fiction writers, writing novels

The Complete Guide to Query Letters – by Jane Friedman…

Here’s an example of why Jane Friedman ranks as an incredible resource!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

The query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query letter is so much of a sales piece that it’s quite possible to write one without having written a word of the manuscript. All it requires is a firm grasp of your story premise.

For some writers, the query will represent a completely different way of thinking about their book—because it means thinking about one’s work as a product to be sold. It helps to have some distance from your work to see its salable qualities.

This post focuses on query letters for novels, although the same advice applies to memoirists, because both novelists and memoirists are selling a story.

Continue reading HERE

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How to Query–and More

My last writers’ group meeting included a long discussion about the book market triggered by an article from Vox that one of my colleagues had brought in. The discussion branched off into familiar territory for aspiring authors: how to get published.

Books leading to a door in a brick wall

I often feel like a Grinch when I respond to these discussions and questions by saying, “Go online. Google ‘How to.’ There are many wonderful people out there providing solid advice and authoritative, expert guidelines.” Yes, there are also scammers, but if you follow the admonition not to pay anyone anything until you have investigated a wide range of options—and to take the same basic precautions you’d take buying any product—you won’t fall into any serious traps.

My point is often that a thirty-minute conversation can’t cover nearly enough ground to do more than point a new author in the right direction. In these groups, I recommend specific sources for follow up, such as Jane Friedman or Victoria Strauss or, for formatting issues as well as other self-publishing help, The Book Designer. For those convinced that formatting their own e-book is an overwhelming challenge, I recommend Smashwords and Mark Coker’s free e-book formating guide, as well as his list of formatters and cover designers.

book with butterflies taking flight from its pages

Sites like these include links to dozens of helpful articles. Obviously, there are many others; these are just the ones that pop into my head on short notice, because they’re stellar.

Today, my feed included a post from yet another site just brimming with the kind of information the people in my group were craving: Anne R. Allen’s Blog . . . with Ruth Harris. So I’m linking here with advice to anyone starting out on this journey: Once you’ve read Anne R. Allen’s clear, direct instructions on how to write a professional query, browse the site. Click on the links. Subscribe.

I found sources like these the way I suspect anyone builds a personal knowledge base, by clicking on intriguing articles and subscribing to bloggers whose advice seemed relevant to my goals. Compilers like Chris the Story Reading Ape have also given me lots of trails to follow.

Comment and turn all of us on to your favorites. To whom do you go for expert advice on the many aspects of publishing, both traditional and indie? I am always up for learning more!

question mark adorned with flowers

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Filed under business of writing, ebooks publishing and selling, Finding literary agents for writers, indie publishing, looking for literary editors and publishers, Marketing books, Publishing, Self-publishing, Smashwords, writing novels

Help with Those Darned “Comps”

Maybe most of us know exactly what genre we’re writing for. Wish I was one of “us.”

mountains nature arrow guide

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

This piece from Penny Sansevieri via Anne R. Allen (the wonderful @annerallen) via Chris the Story Reading Ape (inimitable @Storyreadingape) lays out a path for one of the most onerous tasks for me as I query my WsIP: finding “recent” “best-selling” books that are “similar to my book” yet, of course, slightly inferior.

I. e., “comps” or “comparable titles.”

I’ve read comments by agents on their blogs that if I can’t come up with perfect matches for these descriptors, I just haven’t done my homework.

After wallowing in self-pity for a while, I’ve discovered some of the “homework” assignments Sansevieri suggests, with some decent results. I’ve had the experience of finding that books that come up when I type in my keywords aren’t at all like my books. She offers some ideas for solving that problem I haven’t tried yet.

Tomorrow!

One of my biggest problems, as she suggests, is finding time to read widely enough to locate books in the same universe as mine. I’ve used the “Look Inside” feature to get a general sense if I’m remotely in the right category. Even using that metric, of the three I thought most likely to match one of my books and bought just to see, one fell into a completely different universe. I won’t know if the others are good matches until I read more of them.

Any ideas,  in addition to those Sansevieri provides, for speeding up this process? (Not that I don’t like reading. So many books, so few lives.)

What do you do to find comps?

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Sigh. Yes, We Have to Write Those &(%%$# Queries and Synopses.

Sad that InDesign is not working rightI’ve given up fighting. I’m doing it, I’m doing it!

I wonder how many creative writing classes and MFA programs include a course in query-writing. I guess if you’re a superbly outgoing person capable of making such a stunning impression in an elevator that you get an automatic request for your fulls, you don’t have to.

Where can I find a class in how to be that person?

Sigh.

Doing the Things You Don’t Love to Get to Where You Want to Be

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Power Cutting from Someone Who Had To!

Pair of scissors for cutting text.

Bad news.

The very first line of your query has to tell the agent or editor how long your book is.

The execrable fact is that they expect certain genres to fall within certain limits.

When you’re an overwriter, like me, always able to stroke out one more metaphor, one more lilting phrase, one more neat character detail, hitting those word limits can be a challenge.

The problem intensifies when your writing groups and betas want “More! More!” Or when they push you to look at issues in your story that you glossed over before but now can’t leave unresolved.

So I faced querying a psychological-suspense manuscript at 107,000+ words and an accidental-detective mystery at 106,000+. I’m here to report that both books are now under 100,000 words.

Victory lap after cutting 6000+ words from my manuscript!
Victory Lap!

I’ve read enough submissions in writing groups to know that I’m not the only one in need of a repertoire of tricks (okay, strategies) for corralling a manuscript that has bolted for the hills. I needed “Power Cutting” skills.

I know what a lot of us would say: Cut 7,000 words?!? That will destroy my book! My brilliant writing will win over readers no matter how long it is.

Maybe, but you have to get an agent or editor to read your brilliant writing instead of thinking, “That sounds way too long.”

In fact, my efforts taught me strategies, many of them simple fixes, that actually improved my books rather than devastating them.

Not only will these strategies help you catch bad habits, they’ll force you to think hard about your story: What is it about, what belongs and what doesn’t? At least, that’s what Power Cutting did for me.

Here are some of the big-ticket things I learned.

Have a word-count goal. Until you make up your mind that you MUST cut, you won’t. Watching that number at the bottom of the screen sink and sink inspires!

Start, obviously, with familiar “fillers” like “very” and “really.” Read up on advice for recognizing useless words.

Cut hard now, reconsider later. You might cut too hard and scrape off too much voice, but storing your cuts in a separate, renamed file saves your original language, ready to reinstate after you’ve exceeded your goal.

Remember that no one but you knows what you took out. No one else will miss your golden imagery or your delicate dialogue exchange.

Cut via a complete read-through. You’ll spot problems like repetition that would not show up if you dove in at random, and you’ll maintain the continuity of your story.

Throughout, remember that clarity comes first. Always make sure, for example, that it’s clear who’s speaking before you cut a dialogue tag.

Ask first and last, what does this scene/paragraph/line add? Three cuts to look for:

  • Work you’ve already done. Yes, certain themes and events should be kept before your readers, but when you find yourself thinking, “Didn’t he already say this?”, he probably did. If there’s no new twist to a scene or interior monologue, it can go.
  • Dialogue exchanges that don’t further the plot. Banter for banter’s sake, no matter how scintillating, takes up real estate. Dialogue cuts better when it’s sharp.
  • Piled up details/metaphors/images. In literary fiction, you can interweave whole pages of lyrical description with luscious introspection. In commercial fiction, most paragraphs drag after more than one detail or image, no matter how powerful. Pick the one that does the most work in the fewest and/or most evocative words.

I found some more specific strategies as I progressed with my cutting. I’ll share some of those in an upcoming post.

Some colored pencils for cutting!
You’ll need a few of these.

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