Monday, November 09, 2009

What Are You Reading?

It’s a familiar routine. I’m on the way to another conference as I write these words on an airplane. Airports have always been a fascinating opportunity to see what people are reading. Or I observe if they are reading at all. A cross section of the population travels on a regular basis. Some people use the travel time to catch up on their sleep. Others use the time to talk with a seatmate and other people read.

The gentleman in the next seat is working his way through his second newspaper. He’s already breezed through the local Arizona Republic and now he’s studying the pages of USA Today. I’ve seen other people carry a novel to read while others are reading and marking up a nonfiction book. What is on your reading schedule and are you making consistent time in your day to read?

I’m on the way to the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference where I will be meeting one on one with writers and also teaching a couple of workshops. I’m always interested to listen to a would-be author’s pitch then to ask a few questions. Often my questions will turn toward reading.

If you want to write romance, then you should be reading in the genre. If thrillers are your forte, then you should have some favorite thriller writers that you love their prose.

Recently I’ve discovered Daniel Silva. I’m not alone since his books regularly land on the bestseller list. This former journalist turned novelist has successfully turned out some riveting general market prose. In recent months, I’ve read eight of his nine books with the lead character of Gabriel Allon, who is a trained Israeli assassin who loves art and is an art restorer of paintings from The Masters. Yet I do not exclusively read fiction. I’m reading nonfiction—Christian and general market books. I read newspapers and magazines and of course I read the materials that I’m working on each day as a book publisher at Intermedia.

Reading plays a key role in my everyday life. This reading works into my perspective of the world, my knowledge about the world and my work with authors.

(Just to add to the confusion. I'm posting this after the conference but I wrote it on the way to the conference. My schedule was too intense to even get to a computer but now I'm getting it out to you.)

Back to my original question: What are you reading and are you making devoted time in your daily life to read? It will play into your writing life. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Always Cover The Basics

Last week, I received a U.S. priority mail package sent to my old agency mailing address. My literary agency ended a year ago when I became a publisher at Intermedia Publishing Group. Check out this free teleseminar if you want to know more details about Intermedia and the distinct role we play in the marketplace. According to Sally Stuart, more than 90% of the entries in her market guide change each year. The address should have been my first clue to what was inside but it gets worse.

The author failed to include a cover letter with his contact information--phone, mailing address and email address. The package contained a synopsis of his novel and then a 53-page sample of his writing. The result was about a two-minute reading experience (or less) and it was tossed into the trash. I'm certain the author hoped for much more in going to the trouble and expense of sending this priority mail package. He failed to include any information about himself. Why did he write this novel and what level of presence does he have in the marketplace to sell his novel? Pick up this free ebook to learn more about how to develop your platform or presence in the marketplace.

As an author, you have seconds to grab the attention of an editor or literary agent. I mean seconds. When I interviewed acquisitions editor, Andy McGuire, he was acquiring mostly fiction. I asked how he handled submissions. His answer is revealing and from my experience typical how all of us handle these submissions. He explained, "I read the first sentence and if it is a good sentence, then I read the second sentence. If the first paragraph is a good paragraph, then I read the second paragraph."

First impressions count. A complete submission counts and would-be authors (whether it is your first submission or 1,000th submission) need to make sure they always cover the basics. The basics would include a cover letter which grabs the editor or agent and doesn't let go. You also need a brief biography to explain who you are (yes tell about your day job if you haven't been published) and why you are going to be a dynamic author for their publishing house. Every submission needs a marketing plan to show you are sensitive and in tune with selling your book.

I've got much more information for any writer built into the pages of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Here's one of the reviews for this book.

More than anything, don't waste your time and energy on submissions which don't cover the basics. Beyond the basics, do much more and your submission will be read and seriously considered.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Are You Determined To Get Published?

One of the common failures among writers is their lack of determination to get published. Many would-be authors are rejected a few times and give up on their manuscript instead of continuing to look for the right place.

Tap into the wisdom in James Scott Bell's article, Rejecting Rejection. It will lift your spirits and give you renewed determination.

This weekend, I was reading Entertainment Weekly. This story from Kate Ward about Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help caught my attention:

"Nearly 60 agents turned down Kathryn Stockett's debut novel before publisher Amy Einhorn picked it up in 2007. 'Those rejections lit a fire under my rear end,' says Stockett. 'I would say, "I've got to make it better.' Now those agents must be feeling some serious regret. Published in February, The Help, about a '60s-era Mississippian who's writing a book about African-American maids, now has 789,000 copies in print. Its steady word-of-mouth sales have kept it on the New York Times best-seller list longer than any other hardcover novel this year. Not bad for a novel whose first printing was just 57,300."

While I have not read The Help, I've heard plenty about it when my wife read it for her book club. Imagine the disappointed feelings that Kathryn Stockett must have felt when she received the different rejections from literary agents. Yet she was determined to get her novel into print. For a first-time novelist, Stockett has had a remarkable experience.

Almost two years ago at the Florida Writers Association, I met Roxanna P. Platt, a physician. Roxanna had written a romance called Intimately Betrayed. The book was excellent and I loved it and even represented it when I had my literary agency. When I joined Intermedia Publishing Group about a year ago, I closed my agency and became a publisher. Intimately Betrayed has just released in hardcover. I admire Roxanna's determination to get this book published and her enthusiasm to market and tell others about the book.

Writers conferences are a great place to meet editors and literary agents. This week I will be teaching at the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference then in a few weeks, I'll be teaching a full day workshop in Denver. Here's the link to my speaking schedule. I hope to see some of you at these conferences. Years ago, I learned the truth behind the statement: it is who you know as much as what you know. Relationships are important in publishing like any other business. You can build those relationships during a writers conference.

Have you been kicked around and rejected a few times on your book project? What active steps are you taking today to change that situation and renew your own determination to get your manuscript into the hands of the right editor or literary agent?

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