Genre: So You Wanna Branch Out…

July 5, 2016

Years ago I had an author whose book was lovely. We all put a ton of effort into marketing and promoting the author and the book. Our efforts were rewarded with some very nice sales and wonderful reviews. We had discussed his next book, and I awaited his outline with glee because I was anxious to ride the wave of publicity we’d already gathered.

Then he told me he wanted to write fiction. F-I-C-T-I-O-N. Don’t get me wrong, I adore fiction. But that isn’t what we publish. Um, where da outline for your next book that we’d talked about?

Welllll……

He didn’t wanna write that anymore. Sure, it totally sucked for us, but more to the point, it sucked for the author. Tremendous effort and expense had gone into gathering up a solid readership; readers who would happily suck up his next book. Question was, would his memoir readership suck up a novel? I had serious doubts.

It broke my heart because I felt he was sabotaging all of his and our efforts and basically starting from scratch again. Sad to say his efforts to switch genres did a horrific crash and burn.

For Whom Are You Writing?

There are plenty of authors who aren’t pegged in any one genre. They write SF, romance, mainstream, horror. Whatever scratches their itch. And that’s fine as long as they realize their readers aren’t going to follow them to those other genres. So it’s important to ask yourself, for whom am I writing?

If you’re writing for yourself and don’t give a rip about who buys your books, then I applaud your creativity in having so many wonderful ideas in so many genres. I’m such a one-trick pony

However, if your goal is to become known and have a faithful following, then you might want to take a second and third look at how you might be diluting your readership, thus spinning your wheels.

Genre-hopping works is if you’ve already attained a large, faithful readership. Many may follow you over to your new genre book, and that will help create the groundswell. But if you’re still in the process of gaining a foothold in the marketplace, you would be wise to consider genre-hopping with great care.

Now go out and be brilliant!


We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Links…

March 16, 2016

For the love of all that’s holy, don’t include links in your query letter as a means of getting further information about your book. No matter whom you query, know that they’re insanely busy. They’ve made the time to open your query letter to see if your writing is what they’re looking for. If you do little more than say  a few words in your “query letter,”then direct them to a link where you have your bio, full synopsis, and reasons why you think this book is a “gotta have it,” I assure you that those bleary-eyed editors will delete your email without a second thought…because, well, links are rude.

A query letter is a job interview. Would you meet with a potential employer and hand them a link, so they can take even more time out of their day to accommodate your laziness? I assure you they won’t. They’ll move on to the next job applicant who is actually prepared and knows what they’re doing.

I know, I sound like a cranky pants, and I suppose it’s because I’m seeing a downward trend in the niceties of polite society. Everything is self-serve. It’s like the gal working in the shoe dept of my local department store. It was Sunday…the place was empty and you could have shot a canon through the place. I found some shoes I wanted to try on. She got them for me and unceremoniously dumped them on the chair and promptly returned to the cash register where she could talk to her co-worker, thereby completely ignoring me. I guess that was more important than waiting on a paying customer. In a word, she was rude.

Seems few know or care about excelling at their job, yet they scream bloody murder when/if they’re turned down or fired. But I have enough covered-over gray hairs to give a rat’s patootie about good manners and doing things correctly. And there is a correct way to query.

As for Ms. I-Can’t-Be-Bothered in the shoe department, who then wanted my email address for their records, maybe I should have just given her a link…


Writing With Intention is a lot Like Chicken Piccata

February 12, 2016

chicken piccata

Writing with in intention is what keeps a storyline moving in a forward direction. What do I mean by that? It means that you’ve defined exactly what you want/need to say in any particular chapter. It means that you know the elements/scenes that will keep your story moving in a forward direction. This is what separates a great story from one filled with aimless fluff.

Think of it as following a recipe. (Not my recipies – god help us all – but real people who actually know how to cook without calling the fire department) Let’s say you’re cooking chicken piccata – a dish that I actually cook really well (after many do-overs).

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1 chopped onion
Garlic
Chicken breasts
Olive oil
Flour
Butter
¼ cup sherry
3 tbs. lemon juice
1 cup chicken stock
Parsley
Capers

Directions

  • Saute onion until just tender – set aside
  • Dredge thoroughly beaten-the-sh*t-out-of-the chickie through flour, and lightly brown on both sides in butter, set aside
  • Add onion and garlic
  • Over high heat, add broth, sherry, and lemon
  • Let thicken
  • Take a little of the juice out and mix with a little flour
  • Pour into sauce and allow to thicken
  • Add chicken
  • Serve over noodles or spaetzle

Easy and straightforward. What you don’t see in the recipe are the copious amounts of wine I drank when I burned the first batch of chicken. You don’t see me pondering whether this would be a good time to order Chinese take-out. You also don’t see me cutting up the burned chicken and feeding it to the dogs.

Why? Because it doesn’t have anything to do with the recipe. It’s filler at this point. A recipe is writing with intent. It’s an outline to keep you on track. The ingredients are the essential elements that make up your story. The directions are the outline. The ingredients and directions support each other. They have to. If they don’t, then you’re writing without intent, and going free-range.

Now let’s re-title the recipe to Pricey’s Hapless Adventure With Chicken Piccata. Because  the title, ingredients, and directions are clearly set, it’s easy to write about the burning of the chicken, considering Chinese take-out, and feeding the dogs, because it’s forward movement and supports the ingredients and directions…and the overall theme of Pricey’s Hapless Adventure With Chicken Piccata.

You have to ask yourself with each new chapter, “What do I want to say and do these scenes support the overall theme of Pricey’s Hapless Adventure With Chicken Piccata?” If not, readers will throw your recipe across the room and say naughty things about you.

In short, the boundaries need to be clearly marked so you don’t go outside of them. How can you do this? Well, let’s say in the example above I include some scenes about taking a phone call from an author excoriating me because I didn’t give them a reason for rejecting their manuscript (really happened). This has nothing to do with Pricey’s Hapless Adventure With Chicken Piccata, so the story loses its forward movement.

If I include copious scenes about how it snowed and I nearly took a header off the porch stairs; how a huge tree branch fell in during high winds; how The Rescues insisted en masse that 13 degrees was far too cold to go outside – now I’ve lost all cohesiveness to Pricey’s Hapless Adventure With Chicken Piccata because these scenes have zero to do with the subject matter.

So you can see that writing with intent is vital to keeping your story cohesive, moving forward, and sticking with the theme. If Pricey’s Hapless Adventure With Chicken Piccata has almost zero to do with the elements of an adventure while cooking, then you know you’re out of your zipcode.

Write with intent. Be brilliant!


Call Me Old-Fashioned…

December 27, 2015

…but the Oxford comma exists to clarify.

oxfordcomma12-27

and here’s why:

oxford comma


How NOT To Handle a Bad Review

November 12, 2015

You no spamma me...got it?

Seems Richard Brittain in the UK took a review of his book rather poorly. He hunted down the reviewer, traveled 500 miles to Scotland, and bonked her on the head with a wine bottle. This is a man who can’t handle rejection, wouldn’t you say?

I’m infinitely thankful that in my thirteen years as Editorial Director, no one has bonked me on the head with a wine bottle. On the other hand, I have been invited to do the horizontal mambo with the barnyard animal of my choosing…


Writers Vibrate at a Different Frequency

November 3, 2015

googlehistorymem…and aren’t we grateful for that??


I Wanna Know More About You – Author Bio

October 27, 2015

Authors usually want to mainline Drano when confronted with writing a bio as part of their book proposals, because they’re not really sure what editors want to know. The thoughts come racing: Do editors care where I grew up? Where I went to school? What terrifies me in the middle of the night? My favorite movie and candy bar? Color?

Gah!

Here’s the thing; we really do wanna know about you because you’re the heart and soul of your story. However, we wanna know the parts of your bio that relates to your story. For instance, if your story is about your meteoric rise at school, then knowing where you went to school is a given. But if your story is about scaling K-2 with a broken ankle, then your school education doesn’t ring my chimes.

Avoid Filler

It’s common to see author bios packed with filler:

I grew up with three cats and an epileptic dog, and three brothers who loved to sneak lizards into my bed just to watch me screech loudly enough to shatter the windows.

Yah. Avoid that.

Put Yourself In My Shoes

The reason we want author bios is to use that information for promotion and marketing purposes, so it’s helpful when authors put themselves in my Manolo Blahniks and give me information that I can use to turn buyers’ heads.

I remember reading a proposal about a woman who wrote a Self Help about being a woman in Corporate America and the importance of retaining the very aspects of womanhood. Okay, cool message. But her bio revealed that she was a retired CEO of a major corporation. Yah. I wanna know that. Conversely, I didn’t care that she began her early career by being an intern in a dentist’s office or that she finally married her longtime boyfriend. Buyers won’t care, and my sales teams will throw a hissy fit at me.

But There’s Nothing Interesting About My Life

This is the Numero Uno excuse I see in query letters/proposals, and it’s worrisome. If your life has been that underwhelming, then I can’t help but wonder whether your story is equally underwhelming. I mean, something happened to you: you had a child with autism; you were a commercial airline pilot; you discovered the father who abandoned you was the Governor of Rhode Island…I could go on for days…

But the point I’m trying to drive home is that something happened to you that you felt was print-worthy, so your author bio needs to focus on that. It doesn’t matter if you have previous writing credits. Nearly all of our books are from debut authors! But what each of our authors had was some key elements to their lives that led them to their life-altering personal journey. I wanna know what that is.

So how ’bout it? Are you struggling with your author bio?


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