October 2009


Last weekend was a great collection of authors and illustrators at the SCBWI-Iowa fall conference. It was wonderful to start putting names with faces and learn more about the publishing industry. Steve Meltzer from Dutton and Dial had us do some activities to start thinking about ways to market our manuscripts, which in turn help editors market to the sales force, and the sales force to market to booksellers.

First, describe the book in one sentence. What are the hooks that make people want to buy and sell your book?

Then, come up with four selling points for your book. Do you have a unique platform or background? Is there potential for a sequel or series? Does the book appeal to reluctant readers? Does it use humor?

Thirdly, what makes you as an author special? Why are you the person to write and sell this book? Not all these points need to be in the query letter, but should be considered for future marketing.

After talking to attendees, the most surprising piece of advice from Steve was that authors need to know comparable titles published within the last three years as well as titles their book would be competing against. Know the market, read other books, and have comparison titles that sold well.

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Happy Wednesday everyone! In this edition of Linkfest:

An official investigation has been requested for the Amazon-WalMart-Target hardcover price wars.

Facing rejection? Know that even Andy Warhol went through it .

Fantastic article from Publishers Weekly on What Teens Want  via Jill Corcoran.

Good list of publishers working with debut authors from Alice.

Interesting diagram showing the acquisition steps for Blooming Tree Press from the Buried Editor.

Coming on Friday, the first post with information from the Iowa SCBWI fall conference.

At a recommendation from critique group member Michele, I just finished my first Lisa Yee book, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time. Thankfully my husband is used to me laughing out loud while reading, because this book was hilarious. And touching and completely absorbing. I just had to share the excerpt that sent me into hysterics last night:

“I feel nauseous, like the time Stretch and I ate all those frozen fish sticks and then drank hot chocolate to see if they’d cook in our stomachs.”

I only hope I can get that authentic a voice for my middle grade boy protagonist! What character voices inspire you?

Side note: this weekend I’m attending my first Iowa SCBWI conference! Anyone else going? My goal is to be very social and take lots of notes.

First off, for anyone in the Des Moines area, head to the Des Moines Central Library from 6:00 to 8:00 tonight. The Iowa Author Fair features 48 Iowa authors and books for purchase facilitated by our local indie bookstore Beaverdale Books. Free and great authors, can’t beat that!

On to the links, a helpful and encouraging “10 Things I’ve Learned” list from Murderati.

The literary world is buzzing about the Amazon-WalMart (and now Target) price war.

Chuck Sambuchino  covers The Essential Parts of a Novel Synopsis.

Super agent Kristin Nelson  is doing a great series on royalty statements.

 NaNoWriMo is on the horizon and this will be my first time around pushing myself with the “butt in chair typing madly” method and set goals, etc. Is anyone else planning on participating? Have any tips or experiences to share?

Happy Wednesday everyone! Enjoy this week’s smorgasbord of news, tips, and hilarity…

Like to win stuff? Have the best first paragraph ever burning a hole in your desk? Agent Nathan Bransford is running his 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge.

For those of you going through the process of querying, enjoy a gem from Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog on the “10 Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters.”

Also from Chuck, the definitive post on word counts. Especially helpful for me right now as I embark on my first middle grade work-in-progress.

Good tips for maximizing keywords in your online profiles from The Buried Editor.

Anyone nearing publication? Another great post from Moonrat on handling the two weeks before your book is available to the masses.

One of the only book trailers I’ve actually watched, mainly because of Jon Stewart and the title of the book. Thanks Teenreads.com!

A touching tribute to summer reading.  OK, maybe not “touching,” but guaranteed funny, since it’s FoxTrot. (via Teenreads)

And possibly my new favorite thing ever, via Beth Revis. This is the kind of inspirational poster I could use in the Writing Cave (the physical location, not referring to the blog in the third person).

Have a great rest of the week!

I’ve been obsessively adding subscriptions to my Google Reader account for months now, and I like to think I’ve picked up on some trends in the advice given by the pros in the literary industry. My Top 10 list:

10)       Authors need agents unless they’re super-awesome lawyers and marketers on the side.

9)         Always spell “query” correctly.

8)         Don’t be lazy; research agent/editor genre preferences and submission guidelines.

7)         Agents are people too (mostly…I’m pretty sure). Don’t be afraid to add personal touches like “I am also from the Midwest” or “I hate the Yankees too” that show you’ve done your research and really do think the agent will be a good fit.

6)         Flattery is rarely a bad thing (but save it for the end; sell your book first).

5)         For most authors, signing with a literary agent is entering into a long-term relationship. Make sure it’s a good fit.

4)         Do not send a generic email to a long list of agents. Address them by name and use separate email messages for each query.

3)         If you’re a fiction author querying your debut novel, have it finished (polished, critiqued, book proposal, the works) BEFORE sending query letters/emails. If you do get a request for the full manuscript, you need something to send!

2)         Read, read, read. (I love a good excuse to read more)

1)         If writing is what you really want, don’t give up! Publishing is about timing and fit. Work to find people as passionate about your work as you are, and in the meantime, start another book, build your platform, and improve your craft.

What lessons have you learned?

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