Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing Inspiration, A to Z Challenge, and Our Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, April 1 is the next post date for the IWSG. Co-hosts that day are:
Suzanne Furness
Tonja Drecker
Toi Thomas
Rachna Chhabria
Fundy Blue
Donna Hole

It’s also the first day of the A to Z Challenge–and the IWSG site is participating!

Our theme is Writing Inspiration–twenty six posts filled with positive, encouraging, confidence boosting information, quotes, and tips. All of the admins here will be contributing - Lynda Young, Michelle Wallace, Joylene Nowell Butler Susan Gourley/Kelley, L. Diane Wolfe, and Joy Campbell.

Joy, Susan, and I are also pulling double-duty as A to Z Challenge co-hosts. Diane and Michelle are acting as A to Z Challenge Minions. We’ll all be very busy and very involved next month.

You’ll also have the opportunity to link your A to Z posts to the ‘letter of the day’ over at the IWSG Facebook Group. Look for the daily pinned post.

Don’t forget, if you are looking for a critique partner or group, visit the IWSG Facebook Critique Circle.

Any questions? Ready to have some fun in April?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Author-Agent Relationship – Three Authors Share Insights

How important is the author-agent relationship? What should you look for in an agent? Three authors share their insights - Dianne Salerni, Stephanie Faris, and Ilima Todd.

Most writers judge agents by how fast they respond to emails and how long it takes them to read manuscripts and report on submissions. These things are important – and my agent gets a gold star on those points – but it’s also essential that an agent knows the business.

When I was querying, I did an extensive R&R for an agent I naively thought was going to sign me. She passed – not because she was unhappy with the revisions, but because she found a broadly-written option clause in the contract for my un-agented first book. She said I was bound to that publisher indefinitely and couldn’t take me on. She implied that no one would.

A month later, I had an offer from the inestimable Sara Crowe. I confessed my option problem, thinking it would be a deal-breaker. Instead, she said, “That’s unenforceable.” She referenced court cases where it had been struck down as “practically indentured servitude.” I signed with Sara. She made one phone call to my former publisher, who released me immediately.

I love my agent not only because she’s upbeat and responsive, but also because she knows her business and does more than submit my manuscripts. She solves problems.

Dianne K. Salerni is the author of the The Eighth Day fantasy series (HarperCollins) and historical novels, The Caged Graves, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead, optioned for TV and inspiration for The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Blog-Website - Twitter - Facebook

Don’t Discount the Newbies

Many authors focus on those who have years of experience and a full roster of clients during an agent search. I had the opposite instinct. While I always focused on well-established agencies, I often would hone in on the new person on staff—the young agent eager to find the next big thing.

I found that in Natalie Lakosil. When I first queried her in 2009, she was the new agent at her agency. I can’t remember exactly what she stated her interests were at that time, but today she lists a wide range of interests, spanning from picture books to thrillers. I sent her a query for my middle grade novel about ghost hunters (my Ghost Patrol series, may it rest in peace!) and she immediately requested the full manuscript.

Six years and six book deals later, I can say that signing with an agent who was new to the industry was a very smart move. Natalie is far from “new” now, with a long list of clients and new sales every month. The most important thing to look for is someone who will champion your work. A new agent has an enthusiasm and excitement that you might not find in a veteran, so keep that in mind while you’re pounding the pavement, looking for representation.

Stephanie Faris is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. Blog - Website - 25 Roses on Amazon - 25 Roses Autographed

When looking for an agent, be sure to do your research. Take a look at who they represent, deals they’ve made, and the publishing houses they’ve sold to. An agent might have a lot of sales under their belt, but they could all be to one small ebook publisher, and that might not be what you want.

When you talk to an agent who has offered to represent your work, find out how much editing they expect, what their plans are for submissions, if your relationship will be for one book or your entire career, and what happens if your novel doesn’t sell or if he/she doesn’t like another book you write.

While it’s fun to find a super sweet agent who adores your story, remember this is a business relationship as well, and you want someone who knows what editors are looking for and will do what it takes to fight for your book in this highly competitive industry.

I love my agent. She answers my emails promptly and takes the time to address my concerns—from contract details to any aspect of the publishing journey. She celebrates with me and talks me down when I’m in crazy stressed out writer mode. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my awesome agent!

Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and currently resides in the Rocky Mountains. She never wanted to be a writer even though she loves books and reading. She earned a degree in physics instead. But the characters in her head refused to be ignored, and now she spends her time writing science fiction for teens. Ilima is the author of Remake, the sequel to be released later this year. She is represented by Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary. Blog - Remake Website

What are you looking for in an agent?

Monday, March 23, 2015

In The Beginning...


We all know that strong opening lines which hook the reader, and make him want to read more, are crucial to your novel.

New writers spend lots of time trying to create the perfect first line, one that is dramatic and meaningful. A weak opening line may just be the reason a potential fan (or agent) passes your story by. You have to nail that first sentence/paragraph!

Look at it in this way. When you are contemplating a new book, it's like the first introduction to a stranger.
There is the initial meet and greet: a handshake, what's your name, where do you live, what do you do for a living...
At this stage, you form an impression of the person. You may/may not warm to him.  
If you really "click" with this individual, then the small talk may extend to a lengthy conversation.

So how does your novel fare, in the "first meeting" department?
Consider your opening sentence. Is it equivalent to a "limp handshake" or a "firm-grip-that-grabs-attention"?
Does it have the impact of a gunshot? So that when the "smoke clears", the reader will still be engrossed in the story, with the shot reverberating in his ears? Or is it the pop of a tiny firecracker?
Is it in the category of "small talk" or "captivating conversation"?

Some writers feel that good lines matter, irrespective of where they occur in your story. As long as you have them. If the opening is unforgettable, then good and well. But it's not the end of the world if the opening doesn't shine. Do you agree?
Look at your favorite stories. Do they all begin with memorable lines? Probably not.

What are your thoughts on opening lines/paragraphs?
Want to share your favorite opening line with us?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Festivals: A Must Have for Your Book Marketing Toolbox

By Donna McDine

With all the wonder of technology at our fingertips we are able to accomplish an abundance of work without even meeting people face-to-face. Don’t let the cyberspace vortex suck you in 24/7. Before you know it, it’s been days since you’ve had personal contact with others. It’s important not to get caught up into the loophole of isolation by keyboard. One of the best ways to put one’s self out there amongst is by participating in book festivals.

I implore you to stop screaming and wipe that worried look off your face. You can do this! Believe me, if I can do it you can do it. I’m not a sales person whatsoever and find it much easier to promote fellow authors than I do my own books. You give me a synopsis and bio of an author and I can talk about them endlessly. Me, my books…not so much. Until the day I pulled up my big girl pants and took the plunge into researching book festivals. Like anything in this world, some events are successful in sales, others not so much. It’s important to know either way the day is a networking opportunity to connect with fellow authors and yes the READERS we are dying to reach. Connections are essential regardless of the monetary, especially with the event organizers.

Hmmm, I hear you grumbling…

“How do I find out about book festivals?”

“It’s too costly!”

Slay your naysayer and get down to research. Yep, even though I’ve told you to get out from behind technology, this is one of those times where it’s imperative to hunker down at your keyboard. For here we go on the roller coaster ride through your region of events via the magic of cyberspace. One of the VERY BEST websites out there for book festival listings is…

Library of Congress

It’s incredible the wealth of information provided!

Not to brag, but I want to share with you two of my success stories to hopefully get you out of your comfort zone…

In the fall of 2014 I participated in the Collingswood Book Festival and the 19th Annual Rockland Literacy Extravaganza. Both events targeted a different audience, the Collingswood Book Festival focused on readers and the 19th Annual Rockland Literacy Extravaganza focused on teachers. Connections were made at both… At the Collingswood Book Festival I had the opportunity to meet readers and the 19th Annual Literacy Extravaganza I met over 60 teachers.

To top it off, I submitted my application to be a featured children’s author at the 2015 Collingswood Book Festival and YIPPEE I was accepted!

I dare you, put yourself out there….you never know what new friends and connections you may make!

Multi award-winning children’s author, Donna McDine’s has four early reader children’s picture books to her credit and a fifth book in the publishing pipeline with Guardian Angel Publishing. McDine is a member of the SCBWI.
Visit McDine… Website - Blog

Monday, March 16, 2015

Whose Story Is It?

A friend of mine recently decided to redo an entire manuscript and change it from first person to third person. I normally prefer reading third person and always write in third person. One of the advantages of third person is being able to tell the story from the viewpoint of various characters within the novel, including the antagonists. That can make for really interesting reading.

Sometimes third person novels are still written only from one person's point of view. Many YA novels take this approach. The POV character is usually the 'main' character in the novel. They are the one doing something or having something happen to them. And usually, we think of them as the 'good guy.'

But if you're just plotting out your novel and perhaps filling in that character profile sheet, maybe you're unsure of who your main character or characters are. How do you decide? You might not know until you've plotted out some of your novel. But here's a short test.

Who is suffering the most? Which character is in the most pain? That suffering will draw the reader's sympathy and interest as they hope for and watch this character take action. A character in pain wants to enact change. This character also needs to be in a position to act and have the power to do so. They have the freedom to try and change their situation. Don't make the mistake of making your main character too powerful.

Even in medieval fantasy, unless it's a very small kingdom or the castle is under siege, the king won't be actually be wielding a sword. The captain of a large space ship with hundreds of people serving under him, will not go down to explore a mystery on a strange planet as Captain Kirk did so often. The chief of police in a big city isn't going out on routine calls.

Do you have other ideas of how to decide which character in your story should be the 'main' character? Have you ever changed your mind after which character will play the lead? Do you agree that the main character should be the one suffering the most?
(I might be late responding to comments as I'm spending most of the day driving home from Boston)

Susan Gourley writes epic fantasy and is multi-published in science fiction romance writing as Susan Kelley. Find her at Susan Says.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dianna Gunn; How An Internship Could Advance Your Career

How an Internship Could Change Your Life

At the end of summer 2011 I made one of the biggest decisions of my life: I decided to apply for an internship with a new publisher called Musa. To be honest, I didn't think I would hear back from them. I had read a couple articles about what successful authors learned through internships, so I figured plenty of other writers would be eager to apply.

I sent an email out anyway, and soon enough I got a response. I spoke with Celina Summers, one of Musa Publishing's founders, for about an hour over Skype, and at the end she offered me an internship working for the publisher's short fiction magazine, Penumbra(now closed).

Out of all the decisions I've made about my writing since I won my first Nanowrimo in 2004, signing up for that internship changed my life more than any other.

Musa provided opportunities I had previously only daydreamed about. I got to run the Penumbra blog, which meant communicating with a number of talented authors, some of whom are quite well known. I also interviewed a couple authors for the magazine itself, including one whose work I adored.

Now I work for Musa Publishing as a Book Promotions Specialist, helping speculative fiction and YA authors market amazing novels. It was a pretty great gig, and a fantastic start to what I hope will be a long career in publishing.

I've even gotten a published author to beta read a manuscript I've been working on for a while. Oh, and she loved it. What could be better than that?

I can't honestly say I've made a fortune from working with Musa, but I'm working in the industry I love.

So how do you get your own internship?

With the number of fantastic small presses and ebook publishers out there today, getting an internship with a publisher has never been easier. Modern technology means a great many internships can be done online. My entire internship with Musa Publishingand all the work I've donehas been entirely online. My co-workers live all over the world and I haven't met a single one.

Most publishers will have internship information on their employment page. Pay attention to what kind of interns the company is looking for and what the qualifications are. Often you'll find that enthusiasm and the ability to learn quickly are the only requirements.

Send whoever happens to be in charge of the internship program at the publisher you choose an extremely polite email explaining why you're interested in the publisher and the internship. You'll want to be as specific as possible. If you already have a website or a blog, especially if it's related to writing or books, you'll want to mention that in your email.

You might end up having an extended email conversation or Skype chat with the person in charge of recruiting interns to see if you're the right fit, and shortone or two assignmentstest work periods are pretty common, but if you're enthusiastic and determined you'll find that getting an internship is about 10,000 X easier than actually getting published.

Making the most of your internship

Getting an internship isn't enough to guarantee your success. There's always too much work to be done at pretty much any publishing house, and most publishers are always eager to take on interns. It's not uncommon for even a fairly small press to have half a dozen interns.

You have to work hard to make yourself stand out from the other interns. Go the extra mile. Volunteer for extra work, as much as time will allow. Get to know the staff. Spread the word about the publisher and their booksespecially books you actually read and enjoy. The more connections you can build within the publishing house, the more opportunities you'll find there.

Publishing is a difficult industry to build a career in. It's not for the faint of heart, and an internship done right is a great way to prove to publishers that you have what it takes.
Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer and Book Promotions Specialist who's working hard to add published author to that list of titles. She also happens to love cats, photography and Scotland.

You can find her at The Dabbler on The Darkside Codex blog every Tuesday.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Finding Media Outlets and the Pitch

Connecting with readers is the goal of marketing. It’s difficult to do on our own, which is why we need to use the media to help us spread the word.

Consider all the possibilities for author interviews or program discussions - radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and online versions of all of those. Which of these options places you in front of your target audience?

Before we go any further, you need to understand media pitches. What is the media seeking? Let’s begin with what the media does not seek:

“I’m an author and this is my latest book.”

Here’s a tip: the media doesn’t care. You are just one of thousands of authors who have released a book today—big deal! Even if the program focuses on authors, or it’s your local newspaper or TV broadcast, you’ve got to come up with a more compelling reason for them to interview you.

Here’s what the media is looking for: experts. They want expert advice and information for their audience. Remember, you researched and wrote a book. You are an expert in one or more areas. The media wants to talk to you about those subjects—not about your book.

So how do you pitch yourself to the media? What’s your approach? Here are some suggested angles:

  • Educate the audience on a hot topic
  • Expose vital new information
  • Provide expert advice by tying in with a current event
  • Show people how to solve their problems
  • Show people how to be healthier, younger, or sexier
  • Show people how to make or save money
  • Tie in with political or charitable organizations
  • If applicable, provide any of the above with a dose of entertainment

The media is looking for ways to educate their audience. You give them what they want, focus on the topic, and you will be rewarded with an opportunity to mention your book. If it’s obvious promoting your book is your only agenda, the media will look elsewhere.

Not all media outlets are a good fit for your subject matter. Do your research. Discover the interests of producers and reporters. What type of story are they most likely to feature?

Location can play a role in key media opportunities. Your local media should be first on the list, as you have the added advantage of being a local celebrity. The setting of your book is also important, whether fiction or nonfiction. Think about these types of locations: countries, cities, businesses, schools, etc. Can you approach the media in those areas?

Here are some databases of media outlets to get you started:
Online Newspapers
On The Radio
Media Post – mixed media
Global Computing – TV and newspapers
USNPL – TV stations

Have you used the media to its fullest potential?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day - A to Z Challenge News and in Need of Co-Hosts

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Our awesome co-hosts today are Chemist Ken, Suzanne Sapseed, and Shannon Lawrence!

Next month is the A to Z Challenge, with bloggers posting daily according to the alphabet.

Here at the IWSG site, we will be participating in the Challenge. This year, our theme is inspiration and encouragement. So stop by every day in April for some words of encouragement to fire you up.

We will also be cross-posting over at the IWSG Facebook Group, so you can follow us there.

The A to Z Challenge starts on Wednesday, April 1. We will still be posting for the IWSG on that day! We’ve never missed a first Wednesday and not everyone participates in the Challenge. Either incorporate the two together or make your IWSG really short if you are participating in the Challenge. We always recommend short posts for the IWSG, but really aim for short on April 1.

We also have some amazing guests lined up on Wednesdays this month, so check beck.

And finally – we need co-hosts for April and May! If you are not doing the Challenge, we could really use your help in April. Please leave a comment below as to which month you can co-host.

Any questions about the Challenge or the IWSG’s posting? And can you co-host in April or May?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Reviews ... Your Thing or Not?

dare say that many person who write, came to it though reading. As far back as I can remember, books have been a part of my existence. My mother fed this part of my life by keeping me supplied with age-appropriate material.  At school, I was a regular visitor to the library and after that came the shared material from friends who also liked to read. This is where my reading material got interesting, with romance novels being added to my list of favourites. 

Until a few years ago, the only way I shared information about good stories was by word of mouth, which limited me to the people in my immediate circle. Being published widened this circle tremendously. Among the blogs I opened was one for book reviews. My intention with that was to share my thoughts about the books I’d read. Soon, I was flooded with requests for book reviews. Only then, did I begin to understand the importance of reviews to authors. 

I’ve found that readers rush to review books by super-popular writers but won’t necessarily write reviews for unknowns. I’ve also realized that misery loves company and some readers will leave negative, but nonconstructive reviews that cannon help the writer to figure out where they went off-track.

On my part, I try to review most of the books I read.  As a reader, I understand how reviews may influence other readers’ purchasing decision. As a writer, I know they help get the word out on a good story. When I don’t leave a review it is usually because I don’t have time or can’t find many positives about the story and/or the way it is written. 

One interesting thing I’ve discovered in that some readers are intimidated at the thought of writing a review. It’s not a test, so the important factors are to state what you liked about the story, what worked for you and what didn’t, and how these things made you feel – and your assessment doesn’t have to be more than a few sentences long. What a review shouldn’t be is a reader rehashing the story or attacking the writer.

Do you get the sweats at the thought of writing a review? How often do you write them? What prevents you from leaving a book review?

This week Wednesday will be post day for the IWSG. The purpose of the group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Sign up on the linky and remember to post this Wednesday!