Writing Conference Pitches: Dos and Don’ts

Many writing conferences offer aspiring writers the opportunity to pitch agents and editors. These meetings can be a chance to get representation or even a book deal, and as a result can seem totally intimidating. But don’t get overwhelmed—follow these dos and don’ts to make the most of your face time with a publishing pro!

Do…research the person across the table. Spend time before the meeting checking out the agent or editor on their website and on social media so you know exactly what kind of project they’re looking for. Choosing the right person is the first step to finding a home for your book. Continue reading

Seven Things to Do Before Querying Your Novel

Finished your book? Starting to query agents and editors? Wondering how you can stand out from the slush pile? Check off these seven steps before sending off your manuscript, and you’ll be well ahead of the game.

1. Edit. A book that has not been edited by a third party is not your best book, and working with a critique partner or hiring a professional editor is always a smart move for your manuscript. You can connect with thousands of other writers online or in your local community and even find folks in your genre who are willing to read your work and provide notes. A second set of eyes can provide invaluable feedback and catch those pesky typos that you’ve overlooked. Continue reading

10 Things to Do When You Have Writer’s Block

It happens to all of us, that agonizing moment when you sit down to write and…nothing happens. You try all the tricks you can think of to break the cycle, but the words just aren’t coming.

Instead of banging your head against the wall, try the 10 activities below. Some get your creative juices flowing, some engage your research skills, some are just plain fun, and all them allow you to keep moving forward with your manuscript without actually writing the text. And who knows, maybe you’ll be back at your keyboard before you reach #10.

1. Go back and edit what you’ve written. Stuck on a chapter? Go to the beginning of your book and start editing. By the time you reach the sticky chapter, you will have gotten reacquainted with your book and will be full of news ideas to improve. Continue reading

Writing with a Coauthor: 6 Smart Strategies

Thinking of cowriting a novel? A lot of folks have done it. Some recent YA examples include Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and my personal favorite, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Cowriting can be a blessing…and a curse. On the pro side, you only need to write half a book and you have a built-in brainstorming buddy. On the con side, think of how agonizing it is to write your own first draft, and then imagine having to share that with another human being who is writing an equally agonizing first draft. Or consider having to make compromises when you really, really don’t want to. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Avoid disaster with the six strategies below that will help you make cowriting work. Continue reading

How to Write a Fiction Book Proposal

A book proposal is a document most commonly associated with pitching a nonfiction book. It includes information on the content, the author, the market, and the salability of the project. But when it comes to fiction, few agents or editors expect or require book proposals. I certainly don’t, though I have to admit that I am always happy to receive one. A book proposal helps me learn more about an author than a two-sentence bio. It gives me insight into marketing opportunities. And it provides a snapshot of the project that saves me hours of work when I’m preparing to evaluate a project.

Whether or not you need a book proposal, I recommend going through the exercise. Putting together a proposal will help you hone your pitch and get a feel for being the “brand manager” of your book. A proposal makes you think like an editor, a marketer, and a salesperson all at once.

Ready to give it a try? Here are some elements I love to see in a fiction book proposal (and if you’re writing nonfiction, most of these still apply!): Continue reading

Writing Conferences: Get Your Money’s Worth

Can I just say, I can never figure out if it is supposed to be “writers conferences” or “writers’ conferences.” No one seems to use the apostrophe, but aren’t the conferences for/belonging to the writers? These are the things that keep me up at night!

Grammar existentialism aside, let’s talk about writers(‘) conferences. They are incredible places to meet agents, editors, and fellow writers, to work on your craft, and to pitch you book. However, they do tend to come with a price tag. So how can you get your money’s worth?

1. Go with goals. Before your conference begins, write down a list of 5 or 10 realistic goals you want to accomplish. Do you want to finish drafting your novel? Meet a new critique partner? Find an agent? Make an effort to cross each of your goals off during the conference. Continue reading

The 15 Books Every Writer Should Own

Take it from the girl that has five overflowing bookshelves (not counting the ones in my office or the boxes stashed away in friends’ and family members’ basements): You can never have too many books. But if you are an aspiring writer, or even a seasoned one, there are 15 must-have books that will help you take your craft to the next level. Check out the list below, and add your favorites in the comments section.

Reference

1. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This is the go-to dictionary for the publishing world.

2. The Chicago Manual of Style Continue reading

Hook, Line, and Sinker: 5 Ways to Create Your Novel Hook

Today’s publishing world is all about the hook. Just take a look at PW’s roundup of recent deals for any given week.

“It’s a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility.”

“It’s a gender swap of Gone Girl.”

“It’s Jaws meets Catcher in the Rye.” (Okay, that might be interesting. Is the shark a phoney too? Will it cost Holden an arm and a leg to find out?)

Don’t get me wrong…I love a good hook. It can be make or break for a submission. It’s a great way for editors to pitch a book to sales reps and accounts. It helps make a book memorable. It can be the cornerstone of a marketing campaign. But creating the right hook is even more important than having a hook in the first place. Some things, like Jaws and Catcher in the Rye, just don’t go well together (unless you’re as anxious to see Holden Caulfield get eaten as I am). You want your pitch to fit the book, but not seem campy, confusing, or forced. So how do you master the art of the hook?  Continue reading

A Match Made in Literary Heaven: What to Look for in an Editor or Agent

Finding the right editor or agent is a lot like finding The One. You two are going to be spending the rest of your literary lives together, at least for this particular book, so you need to choose wisely. This means no trip to Vegas only to wake up with a hangover and lots of regret the next morning (i.e. don’t settle for just anyone because they promise to get your book published).

You want to find someone who can handle your crazy—because trust me, the editing process involves a lot of crazy—who will celebrate the good reviews with confetti and sparklers and hand you the kleenex when the not-so-good reviews come in too. Someone who cares about your characters, your story, and the message you are trying to share with the world.

So when you’re making the call on who to work with, ask yourself these three simple questions. (Note that we editors ask ourselves these questions too!) If you can say yes to all of them, you have found your match! Continue reading