Top 10 Tips About Getting Published from The Writer Magazine

Here is a handout about ten top tips for getting published from what will be an outstanding breakout session that Elfrieda Abbe, publisher of The Writer, will present at the San Francisco Writers Conference, February 16th-19th.

 10. Never underestimate the power of a good contest.

9. Never underestimate the power of a good article.

8. DIY publishing—More writers are doing it successfully, should you?

7. Platform counts.

6. Publishing is moving online. Are you?

5. Think “packaging content.”

4. Polish your work.

3. The “so-what” factor. What makes your story different and why should we care?

2. Make a good first impression.

1. Study the markets and target your submissions.

 

Elfrieda will have handouts about these tips at her session.

I have an article in the February issue of The Writer.

www.writermag.com

For queries and submissions, [email protected]

 

The goal of the blog is to help you and me understand writing and publishing.

Rants, comments, questions, and answers most appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference/A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community/February 16-20, 2012/www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog /@SFWC/ www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference

415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/www.sfwritersu.com/[email protected]/@SFWritersU

What Editors Really Want

Want to make editors love you and be devoted to you? Here’s how to do it. All editors (and agents) really want is writers who

  • write books with enduring value  that keep getting better
  • love and live to write and serve their readers
  • write as much as they can without sacrificing quality
  • use books and authors they admire as models
  • have literary and publishing goals they are committed to achieving and a plan for doing it
  • are passionate about communicating about their work and themselves
  • have a lifetime’s worth of books they are eager to write and promote
  • have continuing visibility with their fans
  • test-market their work in as many ways as they can
  • are professional in their relationships
  • understand how publishers work and how to work with them
  • submit their work on time and as ready to be published as they can make it
  • know the stars in their field who help them with advice, feedback, quotes, and promotion
  • keep building communities of fans and publishing people
  • take advantage of technology to accelerate their progress
  • assume responsibility for the quality of their work and its success
  • have an agent who mentors them and helps solve problems

If this is too much to ask, just come as close as you can and add the rest later. 

Editors hope that they will love everything they start reading. They love finding new writers they can publish with pride and passion. That’s the best part of their job, because it justifies their existence.

If I left anything out of the list, many thanks in advance in for letting me know.

 

I write the blog to help you and me understand writing and publishing. Rants, comments, questions, and answers most appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference/A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community/February 16-20, 2012/www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog /@SFWC/ www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference

415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/www.sfwritersu.com/[email protected]/@SFWritersU

 

The Perfect Pitch for a Nonfiction Book: 11 Ways to Excite Me About Reading Your Proposal

The role of the writer is to make bouillon cubes out of chicken soup.

–Susan Sontag

Whether you’re talking about your book to a friend or an editor, the content of your book has to be scalable: You have to be able to capture the essence of it about it in a tweet, a one-paragraph pitch, a one-page query letter, and a proposal.

Pitching your book will take less than thirty seconds. How can you generate maximum excitement for your book in as few words as possible? Without being self-serving, the perfect pitch describes the essence of your book, why it will excite book buyers, and what’s most impressive about your platform, promotion plan, and credentials.

Six of the eleven parts of a pitch are optional; you may not need them. A pitch for a narrative nonfiction book, such as a memoir, will need two or three sentence about the setting, the subject, and the story.

Platform and promotion won’t be as important for certain kinds of books such as reference books, or for small or for midsize houses outside of New York. Here are eleven possible parts of a pitch that will excite me because it will arouse the interest of  editors in the Big Apple:

1. A sentence with the title and the selling handle for the book, up to fifteen words that show why it’s unique or commercial.

2. The model(s) for your book: One or two books, movies, or authors–“It’s The Tipping Point meets The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

3. (Optional) The length of your proposal. Proposals have an overview about the book and author, an outline, and sample text, usually about ten percent of the manuscript. They usually range between 35 and 50 pages. The right time to pitch your book is when your proposal is ready to sell. But if you have the chance to pitch your book before your proposal is ready, take advantage of it.

4. (Optional) The length of your manuscript, if it’s ready to submit.

5. (Optional) The names of people who will provide a foreword and cover quotes, if they’re impressive.

6. (Optional) Mention if you’re proposing a series.

7. (Optional) Information about a self-published edition that will help sell it.

8. The most important thing about your platform: what you are doing to give yourself continuing visibility on the subject, online or off, with potential book buyers, and if the number is impressive, how many of them. Wrong: “I give talks.” Right: “I give X talks a year to Y people.”

9. The most effective thing you will do to promote your book, online or off, and if the number is impressive and appropriate, how many of them. Wrong: “I will sell books.” Right: “I will sell X books a year.” Your promotion plan must be a believable extension of your platform.

10. What is most impressive about your credentials: your track record; experience in your field; years of research; prizes; contests; awards in your field.

11. (Optional) Anything else that will convince agents or editors to ask for your proposal.

For another approach to pitches, read agent Katharine Sands’ excellent book, Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye. Elizabeth and I have chapters in it. Katharine will be doing a breakout session on pitching, and a two-hour intensive, open to the public, at the San Francisco Writers Conference, February 16-20, www.sfwriters.org. There’s more about platform, promotion, and proposals in the fourth edition of How to Write a Book Proposal.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community
February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / Mike’s blog: https://sfwriters.info/blog @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference
San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / sfwrit[email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

The Royal Flush of Content: Story Rules—Part 3

All three of the conferences I wrote about in the previous two posts agreed on one idea: story is all. The success of writing depends on the ability of writers to create stories that make readers raving fans. If you start out with only one reader on Facebook who tells her or her friends that they must read your work, and other readers have the same response, the word of mouse will go viral. Your success will be unstoppable and will happen faster than it has for any generation of writers.

That’s why self-published books like The Shack and The Christmas Box became bestsellers and why Amanda Hocking’s e-books made her a millionaire. They deliver. Story trumps craft. It’s not about good or bad, literary or commercial; it’s about writing that delivers what it promises so well that readers become big-mouths on social media.

But not all readers respond to stories the same way, so you have to test-market your work and use feedback to build a community of readers who love your work.  Relationships are media. If your work delivers, your readers’ praise, amplified online and off, will make you as successful as you want to be. So build your fan base while you write; your career depends on content and connection.

Creating your future boils downs to three challenges:

  • content: putting the right words in the right order
  • character: building the personal strengths you need to succeed
  • connection: creating win-win relationships

I’ve written about most aspects of them already but will discuss them again in unified new approach to becoming a successful writer in a bottom-up world. Devote yourself to these three Cs, and you’ll never have to wonder where your next app is coming from.

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

An MFA Fantasy Come True: The Fielding of Dreams

“I’m going to write a bestseller about baseball. What’s more timeless and universal, or connects with readers’ psyches like America’s favorite pastime? It worked for Kinsella. The writing will be fabulous, and it will have allusions to Melville to appease the literati. It will also have sex, death, nothing heroic, a setting with no interest, and a none too happy ending. What more could the critics want?

“Then I’m going to have my agent send it to Michael Pietsch, who edited David Foster Wallace and will buy it for more than half a million dollars after a heated auction, and will make it the hot fall book. Michael will give an empassioned talk about it at the booksellers’ convention in May and have galleys to give away. The book will hit the stores in September so the sales momentum builds and keeps the book selling through the holidays. It will have killer quotes from the right people, a big advertising campaign, a front-page review in the New York Times Book Review section, and a story in Vanity Fair by my Harvard roommate Keith Gessen.”

Chad Harbach wasn’t harboring this fantasy while he spent a decade writing The Art of Fielding, but he hit a grand slam in his first at bat. Seduced by all of the promotion for the book, which is on the New York Times list as I write, I took the galley on vacation, eager to read it, but grew increasingly impatient as the story developed. I had to force myself to finish it.

The book symbolizes what’s wrong with contemporary novels: small scale, family strife, the authors’ limited experience, characters and events I don’t care about, and endings that, instead of being the perfect dessert at the end of a great meal, make me angry I read the book.

Like other literary fiction and most movies, The Art of Fielding is a triumph of technique over content. It’s the story of Henry Skrimshander, a shortstop phenom at Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan. Harbach is an excellent writer. He brings the setting to life along with a lively cast of characters who undoubtedly told him what should happen next. Unlike the descriptions of the settings and the games, the lack of description for most of the characters made them more names than people I could see.

But because of my terminally bourgeois sensibility, the plot and the characters kept adding to my growing resistance to turning the 509 (!) pages. The quality of the writing and the futile hope that the story would finally justify my time kept me going, but I wuz robbed.

The book’s impact?

Writing: first rate.

Laughter: none.

Tears: none.

Allusions understood: none.

Erotic excitement: none.

Building tension: none.

Insights: none.

What becomes of the characters?

Henry, error-free until an errant, wind-blown, hard-to-believe throw to first moves the plot by hospitalizing, of all people, Owen Dunne, his gay mulatto roommate who’s reading (foreshadowed, but still a stretch) in the dugout. Henry survives the resulting crisis of confidence, turns down a chance to play in the bigs, and stays on the team.

Pella Affenlight, a lost soul who finds herself, becomes a college fresh person (an appalling term that stopped my suspension of disbelief every time I read it).

Her father, Guert, the college president, escapes his comeuppance for seducing Owen by conveniently dying of a heart attack. Owen conveniently goes elsewhere to study.

Mike Schwartz, Pella’s boyfriend and Henry’s teammate and mentor, becomes the Westish coach.

Is it possible to ruin the impact of fates like that?

Elizabeth and I have known Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch since he joined Little, Brown twenty years ago. He’s also a Harvard grad (Go, Crimson!), and one of the best and most successful editors in publishing history, and a great guy.  Harbach has got the goods and a promising future. But maybe he should take a break from editing his literary magazine, n+1, and consider what Steve Jobs said of Bill Gates: “He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”

Living a middle-class vie boheme while dodging collectors for his college loans, Harbach earned his success the hard way. He was rejected by many agents and publishers until he found the passionate agent every writer dreams of: Chris Parris-Lamb.  I’m sure the book will have a long life on MFA reading lists, but social media have made readers critics. Little, Brown took great pains to avoid making the book look like a baseball novel. But I wonder how women, reading groups, and future readers will respond to what is, after all, a novel about the trials of a college shortstop.

As for you, Chad. You got your MFA. You’ve paid your dues in the Triple A literary league. It’s time to move on from college sports. The world badly needs stories to help us understand and come to terms with a rapidly changing, unpredictable world as full of peril as it is of promise. The article in this month’s Vanity Fair, an outstanding, endearing piece about you, Michael, and publishing, notes that you’re angry about global warming. Step up to the plate with stories that have a scope and relevance worthy of your talent. With Michael’s help, you’ll hit them out of the park. And when I write about your next book, you won’t have to endure any baseball metaphors.

Reading The Art of Fielding wasn’t a total loss, however, because to paraphrase Philip Roth: Nothing bad can happen to a blogger, everything is material. I look forward to hearing from the book’s defenders about how wrong I am.

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 /

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

A Nonfiction Writer’s Audition for Our Agency

Every word in a nonfiction proposal has to be right. The sample chapter has to be as enjoyable to read as it is informative. The proposal has to generate as much excitement as possible
in as few words as possible. But even that may be a small part of the challenge for arousing the interest of agents.

Here is what I email to new nonfiction writers who want to submit a proposal to our agency. I hope it gives you a perspective on what it takes to excite New York publishers about books from new writers:

A book is like an iceberg: Writing is 10%; marketing is 90%. –Chicken Souperman Jack Canfield

Many thanks for writing about your book. Somebody is going to publish it. Out of necessity, our goal is to sell books to New York houses, and they want writers with a platform and a strong promotion plan. So the challenge is to maximize the value of your book before you sell it. Because it’s harder for publishers to launch new authors, publishers want authors who are ready to launch themselves. As agent Rita Rosenkranz says, publishers aren’t buying promise, they’re buying proof. Because we can usually tell from a platform and a plan if we can help a writer, that’s where we like to start.

The plan in your proposal will follow “The Author’s Platform,” a list in descending order of impressiveness of what you have done and are doing, online and off–including numbers when
possible–to give yourself and the subject of your book continuing visibility with potential book buyers. A plan shows how you will use your platform to sell books. Editors won’t believe a plan unless it makes sense based on what the author is already doing.

Your plan starts under the subhead “Promotion” and begins like this: “To promote the book, the author will:…” This is followed by a bulleted list of what you will do, online and off, in
descending order of impressiveness, and when appropriate, how many of them. Begin each part of the list with a verb.

Numbers are very important to publishers. For example, having a blog and writing “Will give talks” won’t help. Publishers will want to know how many people read your blog and how many talks you’ll give and to how many people, which, again, has to be based on what you’re already doing.

If one of your goals is being published by a New York house, you’re welcome to email me just your title followed by your platform and promotion plan, written
as I’ve suggested, in the body of a letter, not as an attachment,
followed by your query letter, whenever they’re ready. Regard your ability to follow these suggestions is a compatability test. Please call me at 415-673-0939, Monday to Thursday, 11 AM-4 PM, California time, if you have questions.

If you haven’t already done so already, please check the helpful information www.larsenpomada.com. My book, How to Write a Book Proposal has more information about promotion and building a platform.

If I can’t help you as an agent now, our site describes how I may be able to help you as a consultant.

Hope we can help.

Mike Larsen

 

If your goal is to be bpublished by a small or midsized house outside of New York, you may not need this ammunition to sell your book, and these publishers buy books directly from writers.  But it’s important for you to find books and authors to use as models for your literary and financial goals. Go for it!

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU