Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thoughts from an overworked writer

I am up to the challenge. I am up to the challenge. I am....

...trying to convince myself of this. The Holidays are upon us, I have the cold from hell, AND I'm thoroughly inspired to write, but don't have time or the health to do it. Why do things always work out that way?

Anyway, I was a guest blogger last month on the Romantically Inclined blog and I left some thoughts on what unpublished writers can do to get noticed, get read, get represented, get published. I won't lie, this isn't a magic formula or anything, just steps I used when I was trying to break in.

Unfortunately for all of us aspiring writers (aspiring to be published, aspiring to be read, aspiring to make it to the next level of our careers), Writers are kind of like starlets in Hollywood. One of us gets hit by a bus, there are 20 more standing right behind waiting to take our place. So why do we continue to do it? Well, quite simply, because there's nothing like the feeling you get when someone says to you, "I read your book and I loved it."

That said, here is my list. Hope at least one thing on it will help you!

  1. If you can't write a synopsis, trying writing a book cover copy. Make it one page, pack it with mysterious teasers. Make it as intriguing as you want and don't worry if you've been told "you have to tell how it ends." You really don't--especially if you have a completed manuscript. Your goal is to intrigue. That's it. Line up all of your favorite books, cover side down, study the cover copy and try to design your in the same format. Note: If you use this method, make it one page and one page only, single spaced. If you go over one page, it loses it's punch.
  2. When you send a query letter to an agent or editor, always include the first two pages of your novel. End the query with, I have enclosed the first two pages of my novel to give you a feel for my voice and style. If they read two and want three, you've accomplished your goal. Only 2 pages though. Any more will make the envelope too fat or the reading a task to be procrastinated.
  3. Always do multiple submissions. Of course they're going to tell you not to, but what is the worst thing that might happen? You have two agents or editors vying to sign you? Trust me, you'll survive that scenario. :-)
  4. If you do--for some unfathomable reason--give an agent exclusive rights, state in the cover letter: As agreed, I am giving you exclusive rights for two weeks. After that I will be submitting to the others who have requested my novel. Then, at least, you are not waiting 2 years to hear back plus you let them know that they are not the only ones who thought your query was interesting.
  5. If an agent/editor is at a conference and you missed the chance to meet them, open your query with that. "I wanted to meet you at the RWA Nationals, but your appointments were booked and when I saw you there was a crowd. I didn't want to be rude and interrupt, but I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to speak with you in person." By doing this you establish that you are savvy enough to attend conferences, you didn't just decide to query this person by covering your eyes and picking their name with your finger. You flatter them by pointing out how popular they are, and you show that you are not one of those rude and pushy writers who would have barged in on any conversation rather than miss a chance to talk to them.
  6. If you can, coin a phrase that goes with your book. (Ex, with Echoes I used, A past she shouldn't remember, a life she shouldn't be living, a man she can't stop loving. With Whispers, A haunted hotel, a century old curse and a love to last forever). These little phrases will help you in marketing and also help your agent/editor when pitching the book. These are also great to use in your one-page synopsis. (Ex: A past she shouldn't remember... Tess Carson isn't the kind of person who sees things, but when....)
  7. Before you start hunting for an agent, make some decisions within yourself about what you want. Do you want someone who is going to be nurturing? Or do you want someone who is known for making the biggest deals? Is it important to hear from your agent about who they are submitting to, who has passed, what the next step will be? Or do you just want them to call you when a check is in the mail? Do you want a partner or a business associate. It would be wonderful to have an agent who could do it all but chances are that you'll have one or another. If you know your priorities going in, you'll have a better chance of making a successful match. The big name agents at the big name agencies have a lot of big name authors and big deals they are working and probably aren't going to be as willing to hold your hand and keep you sane through the agonizing wait. Is it better to be a big fish in a little pond or visa versa? I don't know the answer to this question, but it is one you should consider.
  8. If you are writing a genre that is currently being published in eBook form, consider submitting to an epublisher. Authors that are starting in ebook and building a readership there are doing great things when they hit mass market. To a bookstore, a first traditionally published book is a debut and if you debut with 20k readers in your pocket, you are going to make a great first impression.
  9. I heard Bob Mayer speak at the SDSU conference (pre-Jennifer Cruisie fame) and he said something that has always resonated with me. He said, "People will tell you to write what you know. But really, you should write what you WANT to know because that's what excites you." Amen.
  10. Don't ever, ever, EVER listen to the evil critic who sits on your shoulder. She's a bitch and she only wants to make you feel bad. If she was your neighbor, you'd send your dog over to poop in her yard so don't give her any power just because she's managed to get in your head.

And that concludes my post for the day. :-)


amycarolina said...

What great tips! I've wondered myself why we should hesitate on those simultaneous submissions. It's generous of you to share your experiences with those of us who aspire to be published.
Amy Baldwin

Calista Fox said...

Amen, sister! I'm published, but striving to reach the next level. It is so wonderful to hear tips from fabulous authors such as yourself. Thanks for imparting your pearls of wisdom!

Cheyenne McCray said...

This is great, Erin! You hit it all on the head!



Anonymous said...

just wanted to let you know that you've been linked. :) i hope you feel better and the tips are very good. being an aspiring to be pubbed author, these come in handy as good to know.

Brit Blaise said...

What a nice post to read during a busy made me slow down and think!

Jennifer Ashley said...

Great things to know, Erin! I will tuck that away for reference. You are very wise.

Erin Grady said...

Thanks, everyone, for leaving comments. :-0 Glad this was helpful.