Your Questions Answered

Your Questions Answered Here are some questions I’ve received from readers lately, and my brief answers. I’m stuck on my second draft. When is it a good idea to bring in an outside editor? You should bring in an editor when you can’t go any further on your own. Try a critique partner first—it will save you money and help you get your manuscript to the point where the cost of an editor will be worth it. I have some questions over copyright. I’m working on my manuscript (and have been for several years) but I’m wondering what protection I have if it should leak out online. 1. You own your work without having to do anything specific like registering a copyright. 2. Everyone is subject to plagiarism. 3. My personal opinion is that worrying about someone stealing your work is a waste...
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5 Ways to Deal With Failure

5 Ways to Deal With Failure (Today’s post can be read in its entirety on the Books & Such blog.) When I first started this job, I was repeatedly surprised at how often it seems to bring a sense of failure. Whether or not I’m actually “failing,” it’s amazing how often I feel like I am. I don’t sell every project I take on. I get rejection letters from editors all the time. I can’t always meet everyone’s needs as quickly as I want to. I’ve taken on clients that weren’t a good fit and then lost those clients. I’ve made decisions I later realized were the wrong ones. There are also daily successes, everything from selling a project, to helping a client solve a manuscript problem, to coming away from a contract negotiation feeling like everybody won. But human nature being what it is, I...
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Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh

Query Lines to Make an Agent Sigh I was going through my current batch of query letters, and while many of them are very good, it reminded me how difficult it is to write a strong pitch. You have to accomplish so many things in a concise format: introduce your book in a way that the agent wants to read it; give just enough information about yourself to be helpful; convey a bit of your personality; avoid query landmines and clichés. I understand it’s not easy. I never reject writers for making one silly mistake in a query — I sincerely assess whether the book being pitched looks interesting to me. But as I was going through my current batch, I found most of the same kinds of “sigh worthy” lines that I’ve been seeing for years. Try not to say things like this: 1. I’m certain this memoir will...
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What NOT To Blog About

What NOT To Blog About Yesterday on the blog, we discussed online presence, and what our social media activity tells the world about us. Today I want to get a little more specific and highlight a few online no-nos. It can be easy to fall into a “letting it all hang out” mindset with blogging and social media, but from a professional standpoint, you can’t afford major missteps in your online persona. The trick is to be a real person without over-sharing. As an author, there are specific things you should avoid in your blogging, Tweeting or Facebooking. Here are some of them: ♦ Contract provisions This one seems obvious, but many authors don’t realize how many things are covered in their contract and hence are subject to the contract’s confidentiality clause. Any of the following...
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Possibly the Best Blogging Tip Ever

Possibly the Best Blogging Tip Ever My post last Friday received the highest number of comments I’ve ever had on a single post (over 500). It was not because it was such a great post. Rather, I think it was because: 1) The post gave helpful information, but most importantly, it was about the reader — not about me. 2) The post encouraged readers to interact with one another in the comments. 3) There was an inherent promise in the post — that if readers put the “one sentence summary” of their book in the comments, they might receive valuable feedback, not from me but from fellow readers. This bears out something I’ve learned from writing over 1700 blog posts, and I think it may be the most important blogging advice ever: Make your blog about your reader. Engagement is an important part of...
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10 Things Editors Look For in Non-Fiction

10 Things Editors Look For in Non-Fiction Got a terrific non-fiction project you’re trying to sell? Wondering if you have what it takes? Here are some signs of potential future success as a non-fiction author: 1. Established platform. (A tribe of dedicated fans and potential bookbuyers). 2. Experience, expertise and/or credentials in the subject area of your book. 3. A new and exciting idea, with a terrific title. (Yes, they do exist.) → Click here to read the rest of the post on the Books & Such...
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4 Tips for Writing a Quick First Draft

4 Tips for Writing a Quick First Draft National Novel Writing Month starts in three weeks! For those who don’t know what this is, you can go to the NaNoWriMo site here and learn all about it. The point is to write a 50,000 word novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. I think it’s great for discipline and for getting that first draft out. A terrific way to stop procrastinating and just do it! Of course, in many cases, 50,000 words isn’t going to be an entire novel. If you’re planning a longer book, it’s okay. You can write the skeleton of a novel, then fill it out later, or write roughly half of your novel by the end of November, whatever 50k words turns out to be. You have to get to 50k, though — that’s the point. So let’s talk about writing a first draft. Today I want to address a couple...
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Secrets of a Great Pitch

Secrets of a Great Pitch Next week I’m headed out to the ACFW conference (American Christian Fiction Writers) and I’m sure I’ll see some of you there! Rachel’s post yesterday on the Books & Such blog gave some great advice about talking to agents and editors at conferences: It’s Not All About the Pitch. But I know many of you will be pitching, so I wanted to go over some tips. I think the secret to making a great pitch is to start with a bit of context or background, then tell me about your book. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, considering your time restraints. But take a moment to introduce yourself and your project before pitching. Too often, people sit down and nervously launch into some kind of story and I find myself dizzy with confusion. I feel like a deer in the...
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How Do Authors Benefit From Agents?

Many times on my blog, I’ve answered the question of why you, a writer (singular), might need an agent (also singular). But today I want to answer a slightly different question. How do authors, collectively, benefit from agents (plural)? How does the existence of agents in this business help all authors? → Read the complete post on the Books & Such blog.
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13 Ways to Write with Urgency

13 Ways to Write with Urgency Guest Blogger: Chad R. Allen (Editorial Director, Baker Books) @chadrallen We’ve all been there. You start reading a non-fiction book or a blog, and all is right with the world. But then as you get into it, something changes. It’s not holding your attention. In fact, the word “boring” comes to mind. One way to reduce boredom among your readers is to write with a sense of urgency. After all, if what you’re saying is not important, why write it? As I read your blog post or non-fiction book, I want to know that you want my attention. I want your writing to be like hands on my shoulders as you look me in the eyes and speak. It’s about taking my time seriously. It’s about believing what you say matters. Following are 13 ways to produce a sense of urgency in your non-fiction or...
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When Should You Write Your Memoir?

When Should You Write Your Memoir? I just finished reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. This is an incredible book, a bestseller since its release in March, about the author’s 1,100 (that’s eleven hundred) mile solo hike through California and Oregon. She undertook the hike as a way of coping with devastating loss and her own reckless behavior that had left her life in tatters, and it turned out to be a transformative experience. The memoir is beautifully written, seamlessly weaving Cheryl’s hiking experiences with the events of her past that had led her to the Pacific Crest Trail. She is unflinchingly honest about her pain and her failures; her writing avoids sentimentality, and it never feels like it’s asking for sympathy—things that are often...
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How Does Your Publisher Make Money?

How Does Your Publisher Make Money? If you read the publishing blogs and follow industry Twitter feeds, you’ve no doubt gathered that there’s a firestorm of controversy over Pearson, the parent company of Penguin Books, purchasing a company called Author Solutions (ASI), a well-established self-publishing company. You can read numerous diverse opinions on this acquisition and plenty of astute commentary (links at the end of the post) but here, I want to focus on one tiny aspect. What is the most important thing for an author to understand about a traditional publisher entering into the self-publishing fray? As it happens, I addressed this very issue over 2½ years ago on the blog (December, 2009). Much of what follows is what I said back then. Self publishing represents a completely different business model from...
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Should Unpublished Novelists Be Platform-Building?

Should Unpublished Novelists Be Platform-Building? A couple of weeks ago I blogged about My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media, and the vocal response in the comments confirmed that many of you feel the same way. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, most of us are just trying to keep up. We all recognize the potential hazards of social media—mainly, the TIME it takes. The question we each have to answer is: How can we use social networking to the extent that it’s positive and helpful, but no more? There are two things I’m constantly stressing on this blog: (1) Building a platform using social networking is important. (2) Mastering the craft of writing is crucial. But for some of you, the two are not equal. Unpublished fiction authors—this is for you! Your writing should be first priority. Spend most of your...
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Self-Published Author Seeks Agent

Self-Published Author Seeks Agent More and more, I get emails from people who have self-published, asking me whether I take on self-pubbed authors, or whether they even need an agent if they’ve already gone the DIY route. This is a topic that will require several posts to completely cover, but I’ll get it started today by answering a few of the basic questions I typically see. If I’m self-published, why might I still want an agent? 1. If your self-published books are extremely successful, you may want an agent to shop the print rights and subsidiary rights such as audio, film, and foreign rights. “Extremely successful” can be defined in various ways, but certainly it would mean you’ve sold several thousand units on your own in a short period of time, maybe a few months. 2. If...
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