Sunday, March 18, 2018

Can You Follow The Editor’s Directions?

As a long-time member of the publishing community, I interact with a number of authors. In fact, I have my personal email address onmy Twitter profile. It generates a number of emails that I answer. I do love to help writers which is one of the reasons I write these articles each week.

Recently I got an email from “Tom” (not his real name). He told about sending his novel out to numerous literary agents and not finding one. He sent me his phone number and asked to “schedule a time to chat.”

From my experience, this author’s suggestion was a big mistake. My time is as limited as the next person and I’ve “chatted” with plenty of authors who have wasted my time.

Because Morgan James publishes about 25 to 30 novels a year, and I work for them, I quickly transferred this discussion to my work email. I wrote Tom and asked for several specifics—true for any novel submission:

1. I need the full manuscript
2. I need a synopsis
3. I need the author’s mailing address

Tom responded that he would be sending it to me and appreciated the quick response.

About a week later Tom sent the preface to his novel and the first chapter. He acknowledged in his cover note that I asked for the full manuscript but he wanted to send what he wanted to send.

I quickly responded and asked for the full manuscript, synopsis and address. It was several weeks ago—and to date I’ve not heard from Tom. I believe Tom is going to struggle to find an agent or a publisher. Why? He has refused to send what is requested. 

Possibly he is a talented writer with a great novel but unless you follow the directions, you will never be read and published (other than self-published—and the average self-published book sells less than 100 copies during the lifetime of the book.). These details matter and are part of the evaluation process as I meet authors. Are they coachable and teachable?

Like I often hear from our Morgan James founder, David Hancock, we can always fix the manuscript but sometimes we can’t fix a poor or bad author.

Are the lack of attention or following the details holding you back from achieving your publishing dreams? If you are struggling to find the right connection with a literary agent or a publisher. I encourage you to consider if your material is in the requested format and if you are following the directions in the guidelines. Not delivering what is requested can prevent you from achieving your dreams as a writer. It can be something simple but important to the editor or agent which blocks you from moving forward.

Have you ever discovered that when you added something which was missing, it changed how it was received and opened a new opportunity? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Oscar Surprise

The Oscars aired last Sunday night. While the audience has been slipping for this event and they often highlight “different” films (ones we never see), I still watch it. This year, I could not watch it live because my wife and I were traveling home from Kentucky where a few days before my mother celebrated her 90th birthday. Prior to leaving, I set my DVR to record the program and we've been watching it this week.

Over the years, I've watched hours of this event and never seen a single person that I've personally met—until this year. Imagine my surprise when they called out the winner in the Short Film category and called Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant. Here's the two-minute clip:

Many years ago I wrote a story about Glen and Linda Keane which was published in Marriage Partnership magazine (which no longer is publishing). Glen worked at Disney animation for many years and was the lead animator of The Little Mermaid, Beast from Beauty and the Beast and many other films. You can follow this link to read my article from 1992. It has been years since I thought about Glen and his work on some children's books. It made me wonder what happened to those books and reach out to Glen to see if I can reconnect with him. It has not happened at this writing but I'm hopeful.

Last week, literary agent Bob Hostetler wrote a terrific article: It's Not What You Know But Who You Know. Yes it is important to have skill in writing and storytelling but I agree with Bob, that who you know is a key part of the process.

How do you kindle or rekindle the various relationships you have in the writing world? Sometimes it is from an occasional phone call or an email. Or maybe you are both on each other's newsletter list or read each other's blogs. There are many different ways to establish and reestablish these connections. Part of my regular practice as a writer and editor is to reach out to new people—but also to reconnect with old friends. Last week I made a number of these phone calls and emails to others. In some cases, I get zero response from it but in others, it reconnects me to these people and we are able to work together again.

As you read this story, who comes into your mind that you need to reconnect or reach out to them? Make some concrete plans to do so and tell me about it in the comments below.


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Sunday, March 04, 2018

Why You Want to Learn From Experts

As we move into spring, there are a number of upcoming writers conferences.  I've been going to conferences for many years and I enjoy learning from different workshops. Yet from experience, I have learned the necessity to check out the credentials of the workshop leaders or speakers. What type of expertise do they have in the topic they are teaching?

There is an old saying in the public speaking arena, if you really want to learn a topic, you need to teach it. While  there is some level of truth in this saying (you learn a great deal as you prepare to  teach it),  there is also the necessity of having a certain level of expertise before you teach a topic.

For example, I often find people who have written one or two novels, will be leading a workshop on a particular aspect of writing fiction. These workshops are the ones I would avoid  because of the lack of qualifications of the instructor. Or in the area of social media, I often see people who call themselves "a social media expert" then I look at their twitter following and see they have less than 500 followers (almost beginners).  I want to learn from many different people, but I also want to learn from people who have exhibited their expertise in the area where they are teaching.

Here's how to check  out this expertise:

1. Read the background of the instructors and keynote speakers.

2. Use Google to search for their names and background

3. Make decisions ahead of the conference based on your research

From my years of attending workshops, I've walked out of a few workshops where the speaker has been unprepared or under qualified. Also I've grown to be more discerning of this issue when I sign up for an online course or take writing training from someone.

Are you discerning about who you learn from with your writing life? What are other qualifications that are important to you when you attend a workshop? Let me know in the comments below.


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