Traditional or Self Publishing?

Traditional or Self Publishing?   I’ve got an e-book available on Amazon: How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing can help authors figure out which path to take. How Do I Decide? is a concise, definitive resource that will guide you through the decision, allowing you to ignore the noise and hype and focus on the right path for YOU. This is a fair and balanced approach that avoids favoring one choice over the other—and instead shows you how to determine which best fits your own situation. About 50 pages jammed full of insider information, How Do I Decide? gives you the facts you need to make an informed choice. It walks you through the various steps of the publishing process so you can determine which road best suits your personal goals, temperament, and level of previous publishing...
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Answering Questions about Queries

Answering Questions about Queries I get mail! My inbox is always filled with questions. Today I’m answering some I’ve received on the topic of Query Letters. You’ve said on your blog, “don’t pitch a novel unless it’s complete.” Do you feel the same about query letters? Do we only query completed works, or are ideas fair game? If you are sending a query to an agent, only pitch projects that are ready to go. If it’s a novel and you are not previously published with a mainstream commercial publisher, this means a completed manuscript. For non-fiction, a complete book proposal and two sample chapters will do. (But the more you’ve written, the better.) Think about it: If I read your query and I like it, the first thing you’ll hear from me is, “Please send a...
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So Many Ideas, So Little Time

So Many Ideas, So Little Time Are you the kind of writer who has several book ideas (or even written several books), possibly in different genres? If so, you may be wondering where to start. Which book should be the first one you write, or pitch to agents and editors? It’s a question worth asking, and you’d do well to put some serious thought into it. Here are my thoughts:   FOR NON-FICTION: Spend some time on each idea, one by one. First work on a rough outline of what the book would be. List the themes and topics you’d want to cover. Ask yourself: is there enough material here for a whole book? Consider whether you’ll be able to gather the information needed to fill a book on this topic. Is there enough to say? Marketplace: Are there other books on this topic? Too many? Is there room or...
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Nobody Knows Anything

Nobody Knows Anything “Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.” ― William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade I’ve always liked this quote, because it’s so true—and it applies to publishing, too. We don’t know how a book will do until it goes on sale, or sometimes, until it’s been on sale several months or even years. Publishing companies and Hollywood studios routinely produce works they predict will sell based on past success of similar works. It’s a flawed method of decision making, but it’s the best we’ve got. Besides analyzing past experience, what can we do to predict future success of a book or...
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Lessons from the Gym

Lessons from the Gym If you know me at all, you probably know I have this annoying little habit of getting out for exercise everyday. Either the gym, or outside for a hike or bike ride. I admit I love my exercise. But not for the reasons you might think. I mean, physical health is important and all, but honestly, would that be enough to motivate me? No way. The truth is, I go to the gym for YOU. When I’m at the gym, I have all kinds of insights about the writing life, then I come back and share them on my blog and you might think these things just sort of come to me, but they wouldn’t if I hadn’t been at the gym. Case in point. I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that there are parts of a writing career that writers don’t enjoy. It’s different for each person, and some...
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Finding Comparable Books

Finding Comparable Books When you’re trying to interest an agent or publisher in your book, you’re often asked to provide “comps” — other books that could be compared to yours, or books that might compete with yours. A good book proposal always has a “Competition” or “Comparable Books” section, and even if you’re self-publishing, it helps if you give readers a frame of reference in the form of similar books.   One of the most common questions I’m regularly asked is, “How do I figure out what books to include in my comps?” People get all hung up on it, especially with fiction. Do I look for books with the same premise or plot? Same time period? Same writing style? How do I know what to include?   I’m going to make it easy...
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Focus on Writing the Best Book You Can

Focus on Writing the Best Book You Can It seems in the last few years, dialogue about all-things-publishing has been focused on platform, marketing, increasing output, distribution platforms, technology, and self-publishing.  But I think it’s important to call our attention back to the work.    Two years ago in January 2014, I posted a prediction for the coming year:   “I think authors will re-focus on the foundational importance of writing a good book. Conversations will be more about mastering the craft and less about the logistics of publishing. People are becoming aware that while options are expanding because of self-publishing, and it may be easier than ever to get your work out to readers, the process of writing a good book is the same as it’s ever been. It’s challenging, it’s grueling, it’s...
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10 Things Editors Look for in Nonfiction

10 Things Editors Look for in Nonfiction Got a terrific nonfiction project you’re trying to sell? Wondering if you have what it takes? Here are some signs of potential future success as a nonfiction author: 1. You’ve previously written a book that was at least mildly successful… maybe something like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 2. You have a recognizable name. For instance, Bradley Cooper. Or Oprah. 3. You are currently a top candidate for President of the United States. 4. You have recently won several gold medals in the Olympics. In a sport people care about. 5. You have come up with a life-changing, magical method of organizing people’s stuff. And it involves talking to your stuff. 6. You are the founder of Microsoft. 7. You are the…. what’s that? you don’t like this...
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And to Whom Should I Reply?

And to Whom Should I Reply? I can never understand why so many writers have websites and/or blogs, but do not have their email address or a “contact me” link easily visible. It’s a frequent source of frustration for me. Why would you bother putting yourself out there without giving people a way to contact you?There are two circumstances in which I come up against this: (1) I’m following links to various websites/blogs, find something I like and become interested in talking to the writer about whether they’d ever like to be published, whether they have an agent, etc… and there’s no email address. (2) I want to respond privately to a comment someone has left on my blog, rather than put it out there for all the world to see. I’m interested in engaging in conversation....
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Create a Compelling Book Title

Create a Compelling Book Title I’ve been coaching several of my clients through the process of coming up with a good title for their book, so I thought I’d share my tips with you. Let’s start by acknowledging a few things. The publisher is usually responsible for the final decision on title, and in the query stage, it’s not that important. In fact, some agents have said they don’t pay any attention at all to titles. But at some point, you’re going to want to think seriously about this. Your title is part of the overall impression you’re creating about your book. It can set a tone and create an expectation. Whether you’re pitching to an agent, or your agent is pitching to publishers, I think you want to have the strongest title possible. Think of it this way: the better...
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How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember

How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember Sometimes it’s hard to believe how difficult it can be to write about yourself in a bio—after all, you’re a writer! But I understand it’s not as simple as that, so here are a few tips to make it easier. Write your bio in first person for query letters, third person for most other purposes including proposals, book jackets, article bylines. Make it professional but you also need to convey personality and writing style. Don’t try too hard to be funny, but include something that makes you seem like a real person. What gives you credibility? What makes you interesting? What helps people connect with you? (When you’re on Twitter, Facebook or your blog, what kinds of posts seem to get the most comments?) These are things you can briefly include. If your book centers on...
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What the Heck is Content Marketing?

What the Heck is Content Marketing? I’m always talking with authors about marketing their books and growing their platforms. It’s a challenge for most writers, who are constantly trying to figure out the formula for gathering more fans (i.e. potential book-buyers). While writers typically don’t love the idea of marketing their books, ironically they’re more suited to it than many other kinds of business people these days. (Click to Tweet this.) Why? Because today the #1 strategy for marketing in every kind of business is CONTENT MARKETING. And what is this newfangled, businessy sounding term? According to Content Marketing Institute: Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a...
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Your Elevator Pitch

Your Elevator Pitch You are standing in an elevator and have two minutes to tell someone about your book. Today we’re going to talk about crafting that one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence (elevator) pitch. This is not your book’s tagline! What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book. Why: To get someone interested in reading your book. When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?” What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book. What it should include: → A character or two → Their choice, conflict, or...
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Thick Skin: The Key to a Writer’s Survival

Thick Skin: The Key to a Writer’s Survival How many times have you heard the new-writer’s advice: Develop a thick skin. You’d think this would be even more of a requirement for an agent. It’s good advice for anyone who’s visible on the Internet, frequently giving their opinion on things. So all in all, you probably think I’d be a person with a thick skin. However, I have a confession: I don’t have a thick skin. Not at all. I have a fragile heart, I take things personally, and I don’t just bounce back right away when I receive criticism. Paradoxically, I truly appreciate helpful critiques of my work,or advice on how to improve any area of my life. I crave it. I value the input of others. Yet at the same time, if it’s not always positive, I have a hard time getting over the hurt...
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