I speak as a bookshop owner. Someone who loves books. Most of us that run bookshops do, so please bear in mind that if you want us to stock your book we theoretically, will lend a receptive ear. But here are a few tips to help make the whole submission process a bit easier. Running…
For the past few years, I’ve been attending a great writers’ conference in Raleigh, NC, hosted by the Triangle Association of Freelancers called Write Now! It’s a day-long event and includes an exceptional keynote speaker, great sessions, and lunch (not to mention a raffle) — all for only $69. These people really understand the concept of the “starving artist”!
Last year, the keynote speaker at Write Now! was author David Morrell (you can see my write-up here), author of countless thrillers and a fabulous speaker. This year, Brian Klems, the online editor of WritersDigest.com, gave us all great advice to help win over literary agents. He gave us a whole list of practical tips to help stack the deck in our favor. As well as working for Writer’s Digest, Klems also edits books for a living and has had his own book published (Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters), so he knows a thing or two…
Here are a few of my favorite tips that Klems shared in his keynote speech and also in his workshop about “writing like a pro”:
- Make sure your manuscript is typo-free. This sounds obvious, right? But according to Brian, spelling your character’s name three different ways and getting “they’re, their, and there” mixed up are signs to an agent that you’re unprofessional, lazy, and not in it for the long haul. Yikes!
- Get to know agents by doing your research first. Before he started pitching his book, Klems first made a list of traits he wanted in an agent. He or she would have to have children because the book was about being a parent, the ability to purchase TV rights, represent his book’s genre, and have a similar sense of humor as Klems. He thoroughly researched three agents (THREE!!), getting to know their interests and who their clients were. The third one he queried took on his book. The moral of the story? Quality not quantity!
- Have more than one idea. Agents love lots of ideas, Klems said. If you get the opportunity to talk to an agent or editor, make the most of it. If he or she doesn’t like your first pitch, try another. Come prepared to pitch any ideas you have when you have the chance.
- Hire an editor to help you with your query letter. You only get one chance to impress an agent, so give the query everything you’ve got, Klems said. (Especially if you only send out three!)
- Be kind, useful, and network. Never badmouth an agent or author online; the publishing world isn’t that big, and who wants to work with a writer they perceive as being negative? Be useful by following agents and authors on social networks like Twitter and sharing their Tweets and other valuable information. Be an advocate for writers you admire — write positive reviews for them — and network with other writers. You may find your next beta readers, and maybe they’ll have a connection with magazines or agents.
I’ll post more great tips I learned at the conference in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned! And feel free to share any advice you’ve learned about improving your odds of getting published.
Happy New Year! I hope 2015 is off to a good start for you, with lots of creativity flowing in all your ventures!
A writer friend and I were talking this morning about how easy it is to create a pseudonym if you are publishing via Amazon. Anyone who has ever signed up for Amazon to review a product or book can pick a Pen Name, or the name they want the public to see, just by going to his/her public profile page. (Here’s mine as an example.) To add a pen name or alter your public name, just click on “Edit Activity Settings,” and a box will pop up. Your real name will still be used for anonymous settings like bank accounts and payment information.
I haven’t tried it, personally, with my books because I want my name to be associated with them! But my friend has contemplated using a pen name with a romance novel she’s working on. Having the option of a pseudonym does seem to open up possibilities if you’ve ever felt awkward about working on something “risqué” like a romance or erotic novel. Perhaps you have young children and don’t want them reading it one day because you’d feel embarrassed. Or maybe you’re a public figure in the church or in politics, and it would cause a scandal! Or maybe you’re writing a self-help book about how to deal with the in-laws but don’t want your in-laws associating it with you. Who knows?
There are plenty of self assured writers who use their real names and feel perfectly comfortable writing whatever comes naturally to them. But for those writers who feel the need to be anonymous, a pen name is a great option. Look at George Eliot, who ditched her female name to be taken more seriously as an author. And there are writers who, alternatively, go by just their initials to avoid being assigned a gender (or even ethnicity!). What do you think? Would you ever use a pseudonym?
It’s easy to make your own simple book trailer. With Movie Maker, I combined some free clip art (the turtle at the beginning) from Microsoft Office with a movie my daughter made on my phone while we were driving home from the beach! Then I added the picture of my book cover at the end. The background music I got from http://www.freemusicarchive.org
Movie Maker is free, and it’s easy to use. You just click on the icons/buttons to add video or photos, background music, and captions for your “scenes.” Then you can choose different transitions between each scene — for example, my turtle photo fades in gradually, and the cover picture at the end “pans” out slowly. That way, I kept the images moving, rather than having clunky jerks and stops between the still photos and the moving video.
If you’re interested in making your own book trailer, try downloading Movie Maker and experimenting with some videos and photos you already have on your computer. Add some background music, and try out different features to see how it works!
Last night I started experimenting with Windows Movie Maker, a great way to make a free, decent book trailer. You can look for music at the Free Music Archive. Just be sure to properly attribute; that is, give credit where credit is due!
Not that I have a book trailer yet, but I’m working on it… Here’s something silly I put together, based on a video of my daughter: