Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Another Duplicate Copy by Andy Scheer

The trouble is, I love hardcovers … and I struggle to resist a bargain. So whenever I visit a good thrift store, I usually come home with a few new copies.

But by the time I get home, someone has placed another copy of that same hardcover onto my shelves.

Or so it seems.

Early in my days of accumulating titles by favorite authors, I kept lists. Being a low-tech person, I used index cards. They worked great, as long as I updated them and carried them along. Somehow that practice fell by the wayside. And I began looking for books by other authors.

I'm safe if I do my shopping online at home. When a fellow collector alerted me this past week to a listing on E-bay, I could say thanks and assure him I already had a nice copy, with dust jacket.

But garage sales and thrift stores are another story – especially when I visit on half-off discount day.

My son tells me there's a smart phone app that lets you scan a book's ISBN and check the title against your personal database. Great idea – if I carried a smart phone. Buying one would likely cost more than I'd save on duplicate copies.

Meanwhile, if you could use a nice hardcover first printing of Black Order by James Rollins or The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King, let me know. Somehow I got spare copies.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Authors Say the Funniest Things by Linda S. Glaz

“You didn’t read far enough. The story gets really good in the third chapter!”
Well, yes. It probably does. But what makes this author think someone is going to wait that long to become vested in the characters?
“I already self-published it on Amazon, and the sales aren’t all that great. I need an agent to take it to the next level. But the reviews are wonderful!”
In other words, I need an agent to try to convince a publisher that even though it didn’t sell well, if only THEY would publish it, it would. And my family and best friends loved it. Nope. It doesn’t pay to look at material that has already been published unless the author can show a real level of platform or sales numbers that make my eyes explode. And if that’s the case, why do they need another publisher? (And why would they need me, I can’t see their work anymore?)
“I no once you read the story! youl’l be happy to werk on bringing the gramer and puntuashun up to par cuz its SOOO good.’
And there you have it. So often a story that really could be amazing is sent out far too soon. Without critique partners, without serious edits, and often, without even a basic knowledge of grammar and punctuation, of current writing styles, and so forth, a writer is so invested in his or her story that they feel the need to share it immediately. I know I did. And if it isn’t polished more closely than the Hope diamond, it won’t shine. It won’t stand a chance to be considered above the rest in the pile.
“I’ve worked really hard on this for three months. I got laid off and figured why not? All of my friends love it. One who reads two books every week said she never read a better story.”
Our friends love us. They are impressed that we’ve written a book. They will love it even if it suffers bad construction. They are, after all, our friends. A good story takes time and work.
“You didn’t read far enough. The story gets really good in the third chapter!”
Again, folks, that just doesn’t cut it. As writers we all know it has to shine in the first chapter. No, it has to shine on the first page. No, again. IT HAS TO SHINE IN THE FIRST LINE.
You novel must grab a reader from the first words and force them to read on.
Be prepared: write, polish, review, and rewrite.
Let your words sing directly to your readers’ hearts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scheduling by Terry Burns

It takes me a full day to work up, format, study the market for the proper people that I can see evidence might be interested, and make submissions on a single client. It takes me a full day to do a full manuscript read. I can read them much quicker but I format and do light editing as I go as it causes me to do a closer read and if I find I am interested in it that work is already done. If it doesn't draw me in or I don't connect with it I quit reading and respond at that point. I have 60 clients so you can see how that schedules out.

I can work in quick things that require immediate attention, of course, and would never ignore correspondence from an editor or an urgent need from a client.

I block out half days to work incoming submissions which I evaluate and respond to, set it aside for a closer look, or if I have preliminary interest request a full manuscript. I do keep an eye on what is being discussed in the various groups I connect with just to know what they are talking about but seldom contribute nor invest significant time there. I put time in communicating with my clients on our private client group and I contribute to the Hartline and my personal blog once a week.

It is common for me to do outside chores, lawn and garden, in the first couple of hours of the day while it is cool before I start doing the above work. I seldom work at all on the Lord's day at all unless it is something really urgent. My Sundays are pretty much tied up at church and I don't even carry my phone with me when I go.

When you add in the honey-do's and knocking down my to-do list, time in the morning and evening with my wife, and the myriad of small ways that life demands attention the schedule can be pretty full. But I try to respond as quickly as possible to the constant stream of submissions and correspondence that comes in each day. I know some people only respond if interested, and I get that, but it isn't how my momma raised me. As I recently commented on our blog, I remove my hat when meeting or talking to a lady, I open doors, and I adhere to the Southern courtesy she taught me. That includes responding to everyone who writes me.

Occasionally I get notes addressed "to whom it may concern" or maybe "Dear Sir or Madam" and most of us read that as "Dear Occupant." Those aren't addressed to me. I know what you do with your occupant mail and I may do the same with mine in spite of the fact that momma always would think it rude not to someone who takes the time to write you.

You can see that it sometimes takes a little time for me to get something done. But I try to keep up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Choosing Your Book's Title by Diana L. Flegal

It has been said a reader takes two seconds to choose whether to buy a book or not. Most often it is the title that helps them decide.

This week a client and I worked on a fiction title idea for her book. We went back and forth several hours between phone calls and texts until we settled on a favorite. Our goal was to choose a title that connected the plot and storyline. We felt it important to make a strong connection for the reader. A great example is: Capturing Jasmina, a book about the slave trade set in India. I feel the cover captures the books emotional story line and important message.

Authors are often tempted to choose an esoteric or uber creative title, but better than a “woo woo” title is a plain and simple one. 

Choosing a line from the book is often a good choice. Read it out loud. Does it sound good?  You want to have a title that rolls off the tongue easily.

Nonfiction titles can be easier, but not always.  Ask yourself what the “take away’ is for your reader and create a title that is most likely to connect with that.

The books cover photo helps out, as well as the back of the book, but the title is the most memorable. The book to the left is the authors journey through Anorexia. Title and cover effectively convey the reader takeaway and the back cover material makes the promise the reader needs. Hollow by Jena Morrow

Avatar, Twilight, The Help, Jesus Calling, Eat, Pray, Love, and Situation Maid are all examples of one to three word titles that worked well.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The Time Travelers Wife, The Memory Keepers Daughter. Great titles that solidly connect to the subject of the book and hint to the reader what the book is about.

The Map Across Time and The Unraveling of Wentwater, fairytales by C. S. Lakin, are two well named in her Gates of Heaven series.  

Humor is a great way to catch a readers attention. We All Married Idiots - 3 Things You Will Never Change About Your Marriage & 10 Things You Can by Elaine Miller certainly catches the eye and hearts of those passing by.

These childhood titles remain in my mind's memory vault :     

     Fell Off the Cliff by Eileen Dover  

     Rusty Bed Springs by I.P. Freeley

Books That Were Never Written from the Boy Scouts Trail blog is entertaining. I like this one best, I think: 'Sitting on the Beach' by Sandy Cheeks, but then there is this one: Help With Math by Cal Q’later.

Happy Over the Hump Day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

240 Shades of Color by Andy Scheer

How many crayons does your box hold. Sixteen? Thirty-two? How about two-hundred forty?

That's the number of terms author Ingrid Sundberg placed in the color thesaurus she compiled to aid her writing.

She started with a dozen basics (white, tan, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, green, brown, gray, and black). For each, she named eleven more terms.

Starting with yellow, she listed canary, gold, daffodil, flaxen, butter, lemon, mustard, corn, medallion, dandelion, fire, bumblebee, banana, butterscotch, dijon, honey, blonde, pineapple, and tuscan sun.

Purple was joined by mauve, violet, boysenberry, lavender, plum, magenta, lilac, grape, periwinkle, sangria, eggplant, jam, iris, heather, amethyst, raisin, orchid, mulberry, and wine.

Her list of 12 colors became a chart with 240 shades (including 19 more of grey).

Like most writing tools, use a color thesaurus with caution. If you're not sure what cerulean looks like, your readers may not either. Compile your own list—using the shades that flow from your vocabulary.

A few years back, I edited a novel for a writer who includes in each story an auto from the family's museum of classic cars. This story would feature their 1930 Packard roadster – a car I'd seen many times.

Red and silver -- or maroon and pewter?
Working from a male author's typical box of just sixteen colors, he described the car as red and silver. Not the terms I'd choose.

I revisited the museum, walked around the Packard with the writer's sister, and asked her opinion. Like most women, her box holds at least 64 shades, if not 132. After a few minutes, we settled on maroon and pewter. Nothing exotic (like aubergine) but evocative and accurate.

Looking to make your writing more colorful? Visit your paint store for sample cards, then compile your personal color thesaurus. It may help your stories get read.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Anyone Going to a Conference by Linda S. Glaz

Just returned from Maranatha conference and am looking forward to some really awesome proposal submissions, and some that I think might be good but need a little work. Well, if they aren’t exceptional, why did I even asked to see them?
It’s really very simple. Because that individual put a boatload of time and energy into preparing their pitches as well as, many times, getting up the courage to make an appointment with me. (Everyone knows how mean I am…LOL) Does that give them special rights? With me, it does. I remember being on the other side of the appointment and how brutal it was.
Folks who shell out hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of dollars in order to attend a conference at least deserves a chance to have my attention for more than fifteen minutes. So, yes, I do offer everyone the opportunity to send me their proposals for a better look. And if I don’t take it? I can at the very least offer some suggestions. Then perhaps next year they will be that much more prepared. And who knows? They might find their connection.
Anyone going to a conference…deserves our best as editors and agents. And my best is offering a bit more of my time.