Friday, December 31, 2010


This past year has seen many changes in the publishing community such as a tightening of the belt in the numbers of novels agented and advances that authors dreamed of getting smaller and smaller every day. Now an author must step up and make his/her presence known to the readers, touting their book(s), drawing in customers and driving sales (building platforms is crucial to a published author’s success). We have also seen many authors who believe in their work go the self-published route.

Self-published authors are increasing in number every month. When I took up the call to be a published author I read that agents would not count any self-published novel as a plus in a query letter. Even the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest excluded self-published novels. The self-published novel has come full circle and is now included in the ABNA and other contests throughout the year.

Many authors have turned to publishing their material in eBook format. This is a bold move because digital books are taking off in total sales. They are driving a publishers bottom line and in many cases saving a company from going into the red. We live in exciting times and I ask you are you ready to meet the challenge of becoming either an agented or a self-published author?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

You tell me what new author you discovered in 2010. I am finishing reading "Return the Heart" by TK Richardson.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


A quick note about writing goals: Did you set goals last year and if so how did you do? Mine was simple, finish the first draft of my second book in The Darkside of the Medallion trilogy. Sad to say I am at the fifty percent of my goal. I was at seventy-five percent but removed almost 100 pages because I did not like the voice. I took notes and resumed writing. Good luck to all aspiring writers in the New Year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I want to wish everyone a wonderful THANKSGIVING. During this day of feast and remembrance, of our Pilgrim ancestors struggling to eke out an existence in a new land, think of the less fortunate in our world.

Thanksgiving on the Net - The Pilgrims and America's First Thanksgiving

free thanksgiving pictures Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creating: Writing Cliffhangers by Randy Ingermanson and a free gift!

The secret to writing novels that readers can't put

down is simple -- in theory. All you have to do is making the ending of each chapterso exciting that your reader can't help but turn the page.

That's a nice theory. How do you do it in practice? The answer depends on the kind of novel you're writing. The purpose of a novel is to give your reader a Powerful Emotional Experience. Each category of fiction creates its own mix of emotional experiences. Each category makes a promise to deliver a certain kind of emotion at the end of thenovel. A romance promises to deliver love. A suspense novel promises to deliver safety. A mystery promises to deliver justice.

As your story progresses, your reader tracks how close you are to delivering the final emotional payoff for your story. If the payoff looks like it's getting closer, your reader's tension eases. If it looks like the payoff is getting further away, your reader's tension tightens.

When something happens at the very end of a chapter to make the payoff suddenly look dramatically less likely, that's a cliffhanger. Lee Child is a master of writing cliffhangers. Child is the author of a series of thrillers starring Jack Reacher, a drifter who left the Army after 13 years as a military cop. Now Reacher hitchhikes around the country, running into one set of bad guys after another and reluctantly puttings right.

Reacher is a skilled street fighter who knows every dirty fighting trick in the book and uses them to get out of trouble. That's a great skill to have when you get in fights with thugs three at a time, or you're threatened by guys with guns.

In one scene in KILLING FLOOR, the first novel in the series, Reacher and a businessman named Hubble are put in prison on a trumped up charge late one night. There's been a murder in town, and both Reacher and Hubble are incidentally connected, even though they're not suspects. They're supposed to be put on the holding floor for nonviolent prisoners. By mistake, they've been put on the floor with the hard guys -- lifers.

By the time Reacher realizes the mistake next morning, the guards aren't around and he's got a pack of toughs in his cell, and they've got rape on their minds. Hubble is cowering in the corner and is clearly not going to be any help. Reacher is on his own.

A lot of authors would end the chapter right there. It would be a nice cliffhanger. Lee Child doesn't do that, because that's not good enough. Instead, he continues the scene. Reacher takes on the first guy, smashes his face with one good head-butt, and then shoos the other thugs out of his cell.

A lot of authors would bring on more hard guys to make some sort of threat against Reacher and end the chapter
there. That would make an even nicer cliffhanger, because it would increase the number of Reacher's enemies -- and now they're forewarned that he's a good fighter.

Lee Child doesn't do that either, because it's still not good enough. Instead, Reacher talks to his cellmate Hubble about the reason they've been arrested. He learns that Hubble's been involved in something crooked that he can't talk about and he's been threatened by somebody he won't even name. If he tells who, Hubble says, they'll nail his limbs to the wall. They'll cut off certain parts of his body and feed them to his wife. They'll cut his throat. They'll cut his wife's throat. They'll make his children watch. Then they'll do unspeakable things to the kiddies. That's where the chapter ends. That's a cliffhanger with some bite to it.

The reason this works better than ending the scene with a physical threat to Reacher is because Jack Reacher can take care of himself, and the reader knows it. A threat against Reacher is just an invitation for a great fight scene. A treat against Hubble, though, creates conflict. Reacher is a drifter who just walked into town, and he barely knows Hubble. Reacher would just as soon walk right on out of town. But now he has to make a choice -- will he get involved or will he leave Hubble in trouble?

The reader doesn't know the answer to that. The reader wants Reacher to get involved, but Reacher hasn't really got a reason yet. He knows he can't be responsible for fixing all the problems of the world, of which there an unlimited number. So he'd just as soon walk away. Will he or won't he?

In the next chapter, Reacher and Hubble go down to the bathroom. They're trapped inside by five huge guys -- Aryan Brotherhood types. Two of them hustle Hubble out of the way, and the other three single out Reacher. It's clear these guys have come to kill. Again, Lee Child doesn't choose this as the cliffhanger ending to his chapter. Instead, he lets the fight run its course. There's a guy choking Reacher from behind and a guy in front about to punch his lights into next
year. Reacher kicks the guy in front of him where it counts the most, breaks the little fingers of the guy choking him, and gouges out the eye of the third wannabe killer. All in a day's work for Jack Reacher.

Next thing you know, the guards rush in, break up the fight, and take Reacher and Hubble up to the holding floor where they should have been to begin with. Reacher does a little thinking and it's clear to him what's going on. The whole thing was a setup. The guards must have put the Aryan boys up to killing Reacher. Not just any guards. The head guy. Somebody important, wants Jack Reacher dead. Somebody who controls the people who run the prison. Somebody big
and nameless. That's where the chapter ends. Again, it's a good solid cliffhanger. Jack Reacher is in danger from somebody he can't see, can't name, and therefore can't fight. The reader doesn't know if Reacher is up to this kind of danger. Neither does Reacher. But this puts tremendous pressure on Reacher to get out of town as soon as he gets bailed out of jail. If he
doesn't, he'll be in over his head against somebody he's unqualified to fight. Leaving Hubble still in massive danger.

The next two chapters have Reacher getting bailed out of jail with Hubble and talking with the cops. He's planning to leave town, but some of the cops are good guys, and they're trying to get any information they can from him before he goes. Then the fingerprint information comes in on the murder victim. The cops have a positive ID on the corpse. They
show it to Reacher, and suddenly he's got all kinds of reasons for staying in town and getting to the bottom of this mystery. Because, by some awful coincidence, the dead man is Reacher's brother. That's a cliffhanger.

Reacher doesn't owe Hubble anything, and he could leave him to his faceless foes. But not when Hubble's enemies are the ones who killed Reacher's brother. Now it's personal. Now Reacher is committed to battling Big Faceless Evil, whether he wants to or not. He's in the crucible now. How in the world is he going to get out? And the story is launched -- with a cliffhanger.

What makes these cliffhangers work? We can extract several principles from the scenes we've seen:

* A good cliffhanger attacks the weak character, not the strong one. It was better to end a chapter with a threat to Hubble than a threat to Reacher.

* A good cliffhanger attacks a strong character at his weakest point. It was better to threaten Reacher with a politically powerful and invisible enemy than to threaten him with a thug.

* Moral obligations are strongest when they involve people close to your character. Reacher might not stay in town to rescue the stranger Hubble, but he has to stay to find justice for his brother.

You're probably in the middle of reading a novel this week. Keep an eye out for any chapter endings that qualify as cliffhangers. Ask yourself these questions:

* Why did the author end the chapter where he did?

* Would the cliffhanger have been stronger if it came earlier or later?

* What emotional forces is the author using to make you turn the page?

* How can you use what you learned about this cliffhanger in your own novel?

If it's 3 AM and your reader hasn't finished your book yet, she really has no business going to bed yet. If you can keep her up all night, she'll hate you in the morning. But she'll buy your next book for sure.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 23,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel. Amazon US is offering an outrageously great deal this week on the Kindle version of my book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES.
From November 15 to 19, 2010, Amazon US is offering WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES Kindle edition as a FREE
download. Here's a quick link to the page:

If you do not have a Kindle, no problem. Go to and query PC for Kindle (it's free. You need an account and this takes a few minutes). After the download is finished download the free eBook and enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sell Throughs, Part Two

Noah Lukeman, of the Lukeman Literary Management Ltd, a New York based literary agency has some great advice to share on how to write a strong query letter, and he is giving it away as a FREE downloadable book. Check it out:

Ever wonder what the ancient Egyptian language sounded like. With new advances in linguistics we are getting closer to vocalizing how the ancient Egyptians spoke. Check out this video and enjoy.

Sell Throughs, Part Two:

Retail sales information is generally more reliable than publisher sales figures, though publishers generally don’t pay too much attention to retail sales numbers in the short term except on major bestsellers. Retail bookstores get their sales figures from cash register sales, so they have a day-by-day, week-by-week, store-by-store tally of how many copies of a given title they’ve actually sold. Overall, sell-throughs still take time to accumulate and are only final when the retailer pulls the book off the shelves. In most cases, it takes at several months for a retail establishment to accumulate the sales to compute the final sell-through for a particular title. (This is not true for series romance titles. For those books, two to four weeks is sufficient to get a solid sell-through. However, it still takes months for bookstores and wholesale accounts to get the covers to the publishers, so series romance publishers are as much in the dark about sell-throughs as any other publisher until significant time passes.)

The sell-through numbers in bookstores can be computed many different ways. Retailers can compute sell-throughs based on initial orders of a given title only, or upon total orders, including all reorders. Typically, retailers compute sell-through this way:

Sell-through percent = Books purchased by consumer
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------  X100
Books ordered by retailer

Many retailers, who are interested in comparing apples to apples, so to speak, keep a database of all titles, with sell-throughs computed at some given period—usually eight or twelve weeks—during the book’s life. This database enables them to see if a given book is performing particularly well or particularly badly against others of its kind at exactly the same moment in its lifespan. If a writer can get a sell-through at all from a retailer, that’s generally the number given, and it tends to be lower than the full life-of-the-book sell-through. So even the numbers we think of as so reliable aren’t set in stone. They can change depending on who’s putting the calculations together and why.

Can you calculate sell throughs for eBook sales? If you press the buy button for a book the sell through will always be 100%. Think about it, one book was ordered, paid for and delivered. Looking at the bye button it represents a single book until you press it. Once your book is delivered another book is available for purchase. So the formula is now, (1+ n )/total books sold. Or is it? If I use this formula and purchase the first book, the sell through for the publisher is 1 divided by 2 times 100 equals 50%. Two books purchased equals 33.3333%. You can see this formula will not work. The sale of eBooks cheat the system. For every one sold the sell through is 100%. The total eBooks sold will not be known until the retailer removes the button. If a given book only sells a single eBook the sell through is a cool 100%. If a million copies are sold it’s still 100%.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sell-Throughs, But Were Afraid To Ask

Quote to ponder: “We should be as quick to compliment as we are to criticize.”


Mitchell P. Ejnik

Can words that sound exactly alike, but spelled differently confuse your readers? Here is a tale of a one-day trip that is still in motion. To help demystify this short video, Morrow is a small town in Ohio. Enjoy.

Sell-Through by Literary Agent Denise Little, Literary Agent with the Ethan Ellenberg Agency. Ms. Little is a new agent at the Ethan Ellenberg Agency. She is not new to either the publishing community or being a top-notch agent. Read her full profile HERE. Submission guidlines HERE.


September 7, 2010

by Denise Little

I always find it interesting to listen to writers talking about the business of writing. Part of the fun is that any such discussion is likely to wind down into metaphysics or ratchet up into verbal battle before it’s over. Even the simplest issues, issues that are basic to the industry, can ignite a firestorm, because there are no clear answers, no absolutes to be found in publishing.

Nowhere is that more evident than in what should be the cut-and-dried subject of sell-through. A sell-through, as virtually every writer knows, is nothing more than a mathematical formula indicating percentage of books sold. Or, in terms, my various math teachers would have reduced it to:

Sell-through percent equals Copies of books sold

             --------------------------------------------------    X 100

Copies of book printed

It sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? There shouldn’t be any question as to what a sell through is or what it means. And it should mean the same thing in every case, right? A high sell-through is good, and a higher sell-through is better, right?


Like everything else in publishing, sell-through numbers are open to interpretation. While a high sell-through will only rarely hurt a writer’s career, and a low one frequently can, the interpretation of sell-through figures is an art, not a science. There are actually times in a writer’s career where a low sell-through can be a sign of publisher commitment, and times where a high sell-through means that the publisher goofed up. We’ll get to that later.

So, keeping in mind that we’re dealing in an art form, not a science, and that everything here is opinion (my opinion) rather than fact, here are some of the nuances of sell-through analysis I’ve picked up in my twenty years in the book business.

First off, let’s deal with the fact that even the formula itself isn’t as ironclad as any of us would like to think, and start with a primer on how the numbers are arrived at. Some publishers compute sell-throughs using the number of copies shipped from their warehouse, rather than total copies printed, as the divisor. This can change the sell-through number substantially. Most publishers compute their sell-throughs based on stripped covers or unsold copies returned to them by their various accounts, rather than on actual copies sold. Typically, publishers use the following formula:

Sell-through percent = Books shipped – Books returned

                  ---------------------------------------------------------        X 100

     Copies of book printed

Because of this, the information takes at least eighteen months to accumulate—the same amount of time it takes the majority of covers to land in publishers’ warehouses. Any figure you get from a publisher earlier than a year from the publication date of the book is a guess, not a real sell-through. They’ve got enough experience to guess well, but surprises are a part of the business and always have been. In addition, the publishers’ reliance on stripped covers or whole copy returns as sales indicators means theft, miss-shipments, and losses due to the sort of thing insurance companies call an act of God count as sales—usually only a small percentage of total sales, but in some rare cases that percentage can be substantial. In the eighties, a book on graffiti art “sold” well enough to trigger a sequel. It was only when the publisher was presenting the sequel to accounts that they discovered that virtually the entire print run of the first book had been shoplifted, incurring large losses for the booksellers, and making the stores resistant to ordering the new volume. In another case, a flood at a major warehouse destroyed several months’ worth of accumulated stripped covers and artificially boosted publisher sell-throughs of mass-market books across the board for the period. In the early nineties a major national account changed its return systems and, in the process, lost about six months worth of stripped covers forever, raising sell-throughs for that period substantially. There was also a case of a wholesaler who forged stripped covers and returned them, artificially depressing sell-throughs for a while. Sell-through figures, while they’re the best indicators we have for what works in the marketplace, aren’t always foolproof.

The next installment will cover sell through from the bookseller’s point of view and the sell through of the eBook Think about this one).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack book is out!

Move over zombies and adolescent vampires.

There’s a new threat in town—and it’s only twelve inches tall. How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack is the only comprehensive survival guide that will help you prevent, prepare for, and ward off an imminent home invasion by the common garden gnome. Once thought of as harmless yard decorations, evidence is mounting that these smiling lawn statues are poised and ready to wreck havoc. The danger is real. And it’s here.
Class 1 gnome-slayer and gnome defense expert Chuck Sambuchino has developed a proven system—Assess, Protect, Defend, Apply—for safeguarding property, possessions, and loved ones. Strategies include step-by-step instructions for gnome-proofing the average dwelling, recognizing and interpreting the signs of a gathering hoard, and—in the event that a secured perimeter is breached—confronting and combating the attackers at close range.
About the Author

Chuck Sambuchino is a produced playwright, and a magazine writer, freelance editor, husband, dog owner, and cover band guitarist. He is the author of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd Edition, and editor of Guide to Literary Agents and the Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market. Sambuchino lives in a heavily fortified residence in a secret Midwest location.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to write a novel

This is Paul. I found him outside my granary, panting heavely under a 100 degree sky.
A trip to the vet resulted in three casts.
Two for broken legs and one for a damaged knee.
He is doing fine. The knee cast is gone and only a few more weeks
until the other two casts are removed.

Even though I consider myself, a dedicated and passionate writer, there is always something new to learn about my craft. Nathan Bransford has a wonderful and informative take on HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. Check out his six step approach to writing a novel. Does your novel’s setting have change underway, personality and unfamiliarity?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Get your query letter critiqued and watch the video.

Ms. Marla Miller is offering to comment on your query letter free (what’s not to like about free). She works for the Writer Magazine and has several query critiques online. I watched the video (link below) and was impressed. Sooo I polished up my query letter and submitted it. She responded within the hour and said mine would be number two. Below is the blurb from the Writer Magazine eZine.

Speaking of learning opportunities: The first post in our new monthly video column "Critique My Query" is up on our website. Writer and marketing guru Marla Miller breaks down a query letter for a novel called Amy's Own. You can submit your own query letter to Marla by following the instructions after the article.

Check out the relater five-part query links at the bottom of the page. If you ever wanted feedback on your query letter this is an excellent time because Ms. Miller is actively seeking queries to meet her goal of two videos a week review.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hailstone takes out Satellite!

This will be a short post to let my faithful followers know that a week ago a Nebraska hailstone severed my internet connection. A one in a million shot took out my amplifier at the end of my satellite antenna. Bouncing off the reflector shield the hailstone broke the end of the amplifier’s cover, allowing water to enter and short out the transceiver. Today the technician replaced the broken part and I am once again able to connect with the WWW.

I am aware of the loss of my followers from my blog, also the loss of some of my previous posts. I am working on the problem that might include going to a different template.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

You tell me what your favorite writing quote is.

 Looking toward the entrance of the Cave of the Sybil, Cumae Italy

Mine is:

“If I had known how difficult it was to edit my book, I would have done that first—then written it.”
Edwin D Ferretti III/2008

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bizarre tip on Grammar (or—changing a semicolon to a joining word, period, comma or an em-dash)

Lake Avernus, Italy

I read two separate articles. One by an editor and another by a publisher. They both shouted that the overuse of the semicolon was a BIG NO NO. I did a search for this evil punctuation mark in my first finished manuscript and discovered (to my horror) many of these dreaded pests.

What to do. The grammar checker often suggested the use of a semicolon and I went along with it. Checking with my copy of the Universal Keys For Writers, by Ann Raimes, I found the following:

• A semicolon provides a less distinct separation between two independent clauses and indicates that an additional related thought or item will follow immediately.

• The semicolon provides a tantalizing feeling of expectancy; there is more to come. (Notice the clever use of a semicolon).

I am not going to give a full grammar lesson on the proper use of a semicolon. This information can be Googled. My problem is how to change the semicolons in my manuscript without rewriting the entire paragraph. A definition from the North American Encarta English Dictionary gave me a hint. Simply stated, a semicolon is a punctuation mark (;) used to separate parts of a sentence or list and indicate a pause longer than a comma but shorter than a period. This was the answer; I needed; I could use a comma, or a period.

Let’s try this with the first sentence. The semicolon provides a tantalizing feeling of expectancy; there is more to come. We can change this:

• The semicolon provides a tantalizing feeling of expectancy. There is more to come. Or:

• The semicolon provides a tantalizing feeling of expectancy, there is more to come.

I discovered that the use of a comma and or a period would successfully change some of my sentences and still convey the meaning I wanted to pass on to my readers. However, there were many sentences where I wanted the extra independent clause to stand out.

Here is my bizarre grammar tip. The use of an em-dash makes the second independent clause stand out forcing the reader to pause for a second then move on. Using the same sentence above it now becomes The semicolon provides a tantalizing feeling of expectancy—there is more to come. Will it work on the second sentence that has two semicolons?

• This was the answer—I needed. I could use a comma, or a period. As can be seen, one em-dash replaced the first semicolon. Ending this clause with a period replaced the second.

I think we can all agree that this sentence is a poor example of using semicolons correctly. In this sentence, it would be better to replace the first semicolon with the word “that.” This was the answer that I needed. I could use a comma, or a period.

The bottom line is that we can replace a semicolon (in almost every instance) with a joining word (example: that), comma, period or em-dash. How do you make a proper em-dash? You could hit the dash key twice
 (--) or a better way (for Microsoft Word users)is to hit your control and alternate buttons together followed by the minus sign on your calculator (—).

I hope I have given you something to think about. Take a few of your own sentences with a semicolon, use a joining word, comma, period or em-dash, and let me know what you liked best

Here are two examples from my finished book:

“I am glad you saw me. Your birthday party was awesome and you know me, I forgot to bring your gift; was planning on dropping it by last night.”

“I am glad you saw me. Your birthday party was awesome and you know me, I forgot to bring your gift—was planning on dropping it by last night.”

This is not supposed to happen to me; my life is beginning not ending!

This is not supposed to happen to me—my life is beginning not ending!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Free Online Writer’s Conference

For the past three weeks, I have been playing farmer. Well, I have been playing at being a farmer and helping my friends harvest their winter wheat. Not to crazy with the early to late hours, but when someone asks for help, I cannot help but say yes.

What’s not to like about something free? Especially when it could aid our writing carrier. Check this WriteOnCon website and join in the fun. The conference will take place August 10-12, 2010. Go to the WriteOnCon website to sign up.

Will I see you at the conference?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Answering questions; from friends and other interesting people.

Q: What it was like to live in the early forties?

A: The forties! That was last week, if I remember. I do not remember anything about it. My first memories are as a five year old, living in American Samoa, where a boy could do nothing wrong (also where my mother cringed and our Samoan houseboy and house cleaner took charge of my pitiful life and I never once received a spanking). God, I miss those days.

Q: What was it like at the Woodstock Festival and why did you go?

A: I will answer the second one first. I had two crazy cousins who I doted on and they were going and asked me along. Honestly, I had never heard about it and was going to pass until they told me Joan Baez was singing. Well, when I heard my favorite folk/protest singer was only a few dollars away I joined. The car they drove was a 1954 Chevy filled with food, beer and sleeping bags. Need I say any more?

Woodstock lasted for three days and I heard many singers and bands that I had never heard of. I remember listening to: Ravi Shankar, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald (he was a scream), Santana (I love his music (thinking back to Woodstock I realize his musical style carried on to his music of today),Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead (knocked my socks off), Creedence Clearwater Revival, CCR (one of my all time favorites), Janis Joplin (I was privileged to see and hear her sing), Sly and the Family Stone (I believe they were all stoned…great music), The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Crocker, The Band—Blood, Sweat and Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young—Paul Butterfield Blues Band (from my hometown, Chicago and my all time favorite Blues Band), Sha-Na-Na and the fabulous Jimi Hendrix. I still remember the feelings I experienced when Jimi Hendrix played the Star Bangled Banner. It was awesome.

I also remember it was hot, wet, muddy, and full of laughter, beautiful women, sharing of supplies and food (except the beer) and wonderful life changing music.

Thanks for asking

Friday, May 28, 2010

TK Richardson's blog party is in full swing

I want to remind all readers that TK Richardson’s bookReturn the Heart—will be out in the stores in June of this year. To celebrate this awesome event, TK is hosting a blog-party at her site, this Friday. In her own words (see how clever I was to save typing many words):

That's right! It's almost time for the release of my novel RETURN THE HEART! And in anticipation of that I will be hosting an awesome blog party along with some great giveaways.

Invite your friends and spread the news 'cause this will be fun!

Starting on Friday May 28, I will be giving away a goodie filled prize pack - all you have to do is show up here leave a comment and your name will be in the drawing to receive the prize.

But that's not all.

It starts all over again on Monday. And on Wednesday and again on Friday. Yes, that's right - 4 awesome prize packs to give away. WOOT!

Want to know what they are?!?! Well come back on Friday, bring a friend and you'll see!

I am there…Oh darn, I popped my balloon. See you there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Great Forum from Nathan Bransford

One week ago, I sent a question to Literary Agent Nathan Bransford. The question dealt with linking together two stand-alone novels in a series. I was surprised when he answered me with- Thank you very much for your question. I recently launched discussion forums on my website, and I have a dedicated thread for questions that people haven't been able to find an answer for on my blog: .

I checked it out and found a wealth of information in each of the forums. Here is a list of forums and topics covered:

• Town Hall
New member introductions, suggestions for the Forums, and questions about posting.

• All Things Writing
The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress

• All Things Books
Recommendations, discussions, and odes to your favourites.

• All Things Feedback
Query critiques, first pages, and sharing your work.

• All Things Finding An Agent
Submission protocol, the road to publication, and questions for your resident agent

• All Things Publishing
News, trends, and the future of publishing.

• All Things Procrastination
Because that novel isn't going to delay itself.

I see great opportunities to improve our writing on the internet. This one speaks volums.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dear Luckey Agent Contest number five

If you are writing a science fiction or fantasy book, this contest is for you.

How to enter: E-mail entries to Please paste everything; no attachments.

  • What to submit: The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of fantasy or science fiction (adult fiction and/or YA fiction; no MG please). You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.

  • Please note: To be eligible to submit, you must do one of two things: 1) Mention and link to this contest twice through your social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook; or 2) just mention this contest once and also add Guide to Literary Agents Blog ( to your blog-roll. Please provide link(s) so the judge and I can verify eligibility! My link to GLA is on the left side of my blog. I have been following for several years and have picked up many tips for sharpening my ms.

  • Contest Rules

  • 1. This contest will be live for approximately fourteen days—from May 12 through the end of Wednesday, May 26, EST. Winners notified by e-mail within 7 days of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter.
    2. To enter, submit the first 150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.
    3. This contest is solely for completed book-length works of fantasy and science fiction (both YA and adult novels are accepted; no MG).
    4. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners cannot win again.
    5. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA's publisher, F+W Media.
    6. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms possibly added by me in the "Comments" section of this blog post. (If you have questions or concerns, write me personally at The Gmail account above is for submissions, not questions.)

  • Prizes!!!

  • Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Quick post on local resources.

Yesterday I called several local newspapers and asked if they had editors who had experience working in the book-publishing world. More specifically, do they do book editing. I was surprised to find a majority of the editors worked in this field and that some still edit manuscripts. One of the editors told me that if I publish my novel through a publishing house they usually have an editing section that will edit your work as part of the process. I am presently waiting for a call, from an editor, and will let you know if her prices are cheaper than the services I see advertised in my writing magazines. (Update, the woman has agreed to read my ms and comment on it—for free).

I also talked with several of the local libraries and asked if I could bring in a printed copy of my ms and have them check it out to beta readers with the understanding that they will fill in a questioner I will provide. The response was positive and I am busy printing copies.

I hope the above information will be of help in your publishing journey.

Now for some fun. I copied this from Nathan Bransford’s blog, enjoy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Art of Critiquing

First, I must apologize to my blog readers for my absence. In short, a few weeks ago I lost a battle against the strong Nebraska winds, an engine cover and its metal frame. My head came out in a different shape that when I entered the space. When I opened the compartment, the wind forced the cover open and held it tight. I leaned down and started to remove the starter motor. The wind suddenly did a one-eighty and I remember seeing stars and blood everywhere. It took me a week before I could sleep without my pain. The good news is that during that time I worked on my ms and edited it again.

I am now seeking serious Beta readers for my completed manuscript. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to point out several new critique sites I came across in the latest issue of Writer’s Digest (May/June 2010). The title of the article is 101 Best Websites for Writers. It is full of a variety of Websites guaranteed to meet any of your writing needs.

• Two sites that I joined are Critters Workshop and Critique Circle.

Critters Workshop: You must love a site whose motto is—Guaranteed Critiques or Your Story Back. To help you review properly they have a fantastic library of articles on how to critique. Be sure to check out the free tool section. You earn credits for every critique you send in. You can post full chapters or a completed novel for review. Different rules apply so be sure to read the instructions. The only drawback I have encountered is that all submissions must be in text format. No DOC/RTF or PDF files. This is easy to do if you are using a major word processor such as MS WORD or Open Office.

Critique Circle: As with many writing groups, the system is based on points. It costs three points to submit a work. You will likely have to wait a week or two for it to be posted, as there is a queue. Critique Circle pays you points, from 1.5 to three, for your reviews of other people's works, which is necessary on the site so you can post your own material. The shorter your material the more reviews you will receive.

ALERT: Caught your attention didn’t I. I ordered a book titled Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by C. Laufenberg & the Editors of Writer’s Digest. It covers every part of the manuscript submission process, including how to construct persuasive and professional correspondence, with more than 120 sample letters and proposals.

• Cost: $4.95 (original price $19.99)
• Order number: 1711490
• Website:

I am seeking a few BETA READERS who would like to exchange manuscripts. I will read and comment on yours and you would do the same for mine. You must be a follower of my blog.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How do you edit your manuscript?

I want to ask you—How Do You Edit Your Manuscript. Do you rely on peer group critiques; you word processor’s spell and grammar style checker, beta readers or editing books? Do you use sophisticated editing software or rely on your own re-reads of your manuscript?

Here are a few tips I learned editing my own manuscript.

• Self-reading will build your confidence in your script and help you focus on improving it.
• Peer critiques help you focus on your weak points of your novel.
• Reading aloud will help you find missing words, poor sentences and repetitious words within the same paragraph. It will also let you hear the pace of your written words.
• Reading it in a book format will widen your eyes allowing you to see the smallest grammar and writing mistakes.

Self-reading: Face it, you can only read and re-read your ms so many times before you become immune to discovering more mistakes. Sometime you must take several weeks off before attempting another re-read.

Peer critiques: I value peer critiques because they give you several other sets of eyes looking over your writing and it gives you an idea if someone wants to read your entire book. It can also tell if you can hook a reader into wanting to read further. In order for this to work, you must be open, honest and receptive of other criticisms. I use each critique (no matter if it is negative or positive) as a constructive step toward improving my writing.

Reading aloud: I blogged about a free reader program called Natural Reader. After installing the software, I opened my first chapter, selected all and clicked on the Natural Reader. With my laptop on my lap, I shut my eyes and listened. Several times, I heard words that did not sound right and checked in the document, making changes as the program was paused. This helped me also find sentences that needed to be re-written.

Reading in eBook format: This is proving the best editing tool that I have found so far (I also blogged about this in my last post). After printing out my manuscript, I opened the Kindle for PC program and began reading the entire book. Style and grammar mistakes stuck out like a sore thumb. Using a red pen, I made remarks on my printed out pages. I am about one third through this editing phase and expect to finish by Tuesday. I will then review all of the red edit marks and make changes in my master file. I have to say it is almost like reading (and analyzing) someone else’s work.

Keep your pen sharp.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The most exciting news since the Tomato was found to be edible.

Among the myriad of eZines I receive daily one arrived in my in-box that piqued my interest. One link lead to another until finally I discovered a free program that will convert text that you have written and let you read it on almost any ereader. I also discovered another free program called Kindle for the PC.

My mind went into full overload when I thought of the possibility that I could download the free Kindle and the text converter program and then read my book on the Kindle.

Therefore, I did exactly that. Here is how I did it.

Click on the Kindle for the PC link. This brings you to an Amazon page offering a free download. Download the free program and after it has completed open it up. I saved it to my desktop. Next click on this link, Calibre for Windows and download the free program. Set this up on your desktop.

The Kindle for PC program is strait forward. You can Google free novels you want to read. Keep the program closed for now. Open the Calibre for Windows program.

• The first thing you want to do is to convert your written text into HTML, PDF or TXT document format. (If you use Word 7, then saved the file as a WEB Page. Word 2003 will save it as an HTML page.)
• After converting my file to HTML, I saved it to my desktop.
• Using my clicker, I dragged the file on top of the Calibre icon. The Calibre program opened it and added it to the program.
• Once the document is added click it then click the Convert eBook button at the top of the Calibre window. The program converts your file.
• When the program is finished converting your file click on the button titled Save to Disk and save it. I saved it to my desktop.
• (Can you feel the excitement?) I found the file that contained my converted text and clicked on it. This opened up the Kindle reader and my book appeared. The arrow keys allowed me to flip pages.

So how does it look?

Some notes: One of the questions I answered during set up was what type of reader do I have. I selected Kindle 1 or 2. The program now knows to convert your text for this reader. If you own another reader then select the proper one. You can also use the reader that comes with this program. The help button on the Calibre program will guide you through the steps to convert your manuscript to kindle format.

If you own an eBook reader, this program will help you set up an email address and download it to your machine. Have fun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Evolution of page one of a WIP

My topic today covers the first page of your WIP. More specifically, what does it look like today as compared to when you first penned it? I saved copies of all of my versions and will post the first page of my first draft, first major edit and the final version (I hope).

I was shocked how different each of my versions read. I suppose I could classify them as worst, better-worse (yes, I coined a new word) and best. It took all the courage I had to cut out my beloved mirror scene and make other edits necessary to tighten up the manuscript.

Without going into specifics, I will let you tell me which version you like best. We can discuss in detail the reason I chose for each revision in a later post. In addition, I ask you to tell me about your first and present drafts. You can email them to me and I will add another post highlighting your examples or you can past them into the comments section (chicken way out). Why did you make the changes and has it tightened up your beginning page? In reality, this is about my journey to improve my writing skills. Have fun:

First Draft (worst):..(No laughing allowed)

The Dark Side of the Medallion

Chapter One

Jennifer emerged from Swanson’s Department store and went to the curb, looking for her father’s car. A cool, moist breeze tugged her hair, whipping it across her face. Turning her head toward the ocean, she saw dark clouds gathering.

Oh great, a rain storm, she thought. Walking back to the small shelter, offered by the door opening, she watched the storm gathering overhead.

Lightning flashed, illuminating the already darkened sky and town. The crash of thunder rolled across the sky, reverberating down Main Street. Raindrops fell slowly at first. Blown around by the wind, they visited every brick, window and door of Swanson’s. Jennifer thought the rain paid special attention to her face and hair.

“Unfair!” she cried, as she quickly entered the store.

Placing her bags beside her, she retrieved a tissue from her purse and patted her face. Her hair was wet, clinging to her neck. For now, all she could do was to toss hair back and forth. To her friends she was known simply as Jen. Standing five feet eight and 3/4 inches tall, she was considered tall and graceful. Jennifer had an athletic body and worked hard at maintaining it. She played tennis on the girl’s tennis team, swam on the swimming team and had for the past two years studied Karate. Beside her beautiful face and smile her other striking features were her bright red, long hair and deep expressive green eyes. Tomorrow she would celebrate her 21st birthday with family and friends. For the past three years, she attended the local J. P. Simmons University of Archeology. Her grandfather, Dr. Henry James Standford, founded the University. Dr. Simmons was regarded as a leading pioneer in Central and South American Archeology. He was also a lifelong friend of her grandfather and he named the university to honor his memory.

Jennifer was following her family’s example. Both her father and mother were archeologists and taught at the local university. Her father, Dr. William Paul Standford was Head of the Ancient Egyptian Department and her mother Phyllis, taught ancient languages and art. When her dad was in his last year of college, he fell in love with a young woman of French ancestry, who was majoring in art. Shortly after, they graduated, he asked her to marry him and she went with him on his first of many digs to Egypt and South America. Over the next several years, she documented many of the excavations they were working on through her drawings. She also took up photography and learned how to develop her own film in the field.

First edit: (better-worse)



Jen’s inquisitive green eyes carefully observed the girl facing her. They focused on the long shoulder length red hair that hung evenly on both sides of her face. The girl’s long fingers moved down her dress, smoothing the sides. Tall--at five feet nine inches--and athletic in statue, looking like a fashion model, Jen noted. A thin gold chain sparkled against her beautiful black evening gown. Jen’s eyes followed the dress past her shapely waist and down to the hemline, just above a pair of smart looking black heels. Stylish--organized and neat—excessively so, could this be a flaw in her personality? The girl in front of her smiled contentedly. She treasured a secret, feeling she had reached a special point in her life. Full of adventure this one, ready to take a step into the unknown. Satisfied at her appearance in the mirror, Jen stood back, turned, and entered the formal dining room.

“Happy Birthday Jen,” her grandfather greeted her. “How does it feel to be 21 years old today?”

“Good evening grandfather...just feeling wiser not older. What did you do today?”

“That’s a very political answer to my question,” he chuckled. “Most of the day I spent editing my life story and reading a new book on the tomb of Menhotep, keeper of the king’s royal horses.”

This Egyptian archeological reference was common dialogue in the Standford family home. Every member of her immediate family was an archeologist. Her grandfather, Dr. Henry James Standford founded the J. P. Simmons University of Archeology. The next day Jen was to graduate from the university with the class of 2008. Her father Dr. William Paul Standford chaired the Ancient Egyptian Department and her mother Phyllis taught ancient languages and art. Jen’s Uncle, Dr. Henry Standford, also an accomplished archeologist, promised upon her graduation to let her join him in Egypt and begin her fieldwork.

“Menhotep...goodness they discovered his tomb less than seven months ago and there is a book already in print?”

“The archeological community moves fast when they want to.”

The house lights flickered several times reminding Jen of the heavy rainstorm outside.

Last edit: (best)


At the stroke of midnight, the sentinel’s eyes blazed with power, forming a shield of protection around the Standford family home—pushing the supernatural hailstorm out to the street. The guardian remained on alert until early morning, when her ears detected the high screech of a hunting falcon.
# # #

“Rats,” expelled from Jen’s mouth. “Taint fair, tonight’s the last night I can go dancing before leaving the country.” Turning around she looked at Miss Lickey, stretched out at the end of her bed.

“You are the laziest cat I know.” Moving closer she reached out and scratched under her chin. “I suppose you were up all night looking for mice.”

An eye opened. Jen smiled and returned her attention to the tempest.

The lone streetlight illuminated fresh cut grass, her mothers’ prized pink roses and motionless trees in her yard. This view was in deep contrast to the waves of frozen rain tap-dancing on the street in front of her house.

Something moved in front of her driveway. Jen blinked her eyes several times and looked out her window again. Three apparitions formed—floating at the entranceway of her home—staring at her, beckoning her to join them, singing to her a song of death. The wind tore at their black hoods, cloaks and stringy hair giving them the appearance of scarecrows caught in a hurricane. Jen shivered when lightning illuminated their weathered faces and boney arms. The three wraiths emitted a green mist from their mouth, reached out their right arm at the same time and pointed to her. The vapor began traveling in her direction.

“What the,” escaped from Jen’s mouth.

The roar of a lion exploded behind her and she froze like a museum statue. Jen watched a red glow bath the three hags and then they dissolved into the storm. A hideous cackling entered her mind breaking her rigidity and dropping her arm toward the windowsill.

“Yowza,” she said as her hand brushed against something furry. Looking down she saw only an empty ledge. Spinning around she looked at Miss Lickey still resting on her bed. What just happened? Did I really see three ghostly women, and hear that bellow, she thought. She walked to her cat and leaned down, “you didn’t’ make that loud growl, did you?” The cat stared at her. What an absurd question to ask a small cat. Jen smiled, “If you want your dinner, you had better shake a leg to the kitchen before it closes for the night.”

Miss Lickey’s head lifted, she yawned, stood, jumped from the bed and headed out the door. Jen followed her downstairs and entered the music room.

“Happy Birthday Jen,” her grandfather greeted her. “How does it feel to be 21 years old?”

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Today’s post is short but exciting. Actually, I knew this information for many years because I am a YA of yesterday that reads certain YA of today novels. However, it is always nice to see in print a confirmation. I grew up reading all of the Wizard of OZ books. Later I read The Hardy Boys mystery series and Nancy Drew, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, Rick Brant adventure series and Tom Swift Jr. The list goes on and on. The article by the Los Angeles Times made me happy because in my heart I wrote my novel, Mysterious Gift, as a crossover between the YA of yesterday and the YA of today. You can read the full article here.

Speaking of young adult books, yesterday's Automat link to an LAT (Los Angeles Times) piece on the rising popularity of YA novels among adult readers was so heavily re-tweeted that it's worth a separate link. "Authors may gear their novels toward the junior and senior high crowd, but adults are snapping up the books, often about misfit teens or fantasy worlds.... Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids. Scroll down to Young Adult Lit comes of age and click it. How does your YA novel stack up...will an adult be interested in reading it?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ten ways to deal with setbacks.

Today’s blog post covers a different analysis on rejection. Written from a business viewpoint, this article by Calvin Sun—can act as inspiration—for aspiring writers who have or will receive rejection letters. The article originally appeared in the Tech Republic Windows XP newsletter of March 11, 2010. Before you ask, I have the author’s permission to reprint his article. As you read this article think how this applies to a writer who has just received a rejection.

Ten ways to deal with Setbacks:

1: Step back and reflect

You may think the world has ended, but it has not. Rather than get upset and emotional about what’s happened, stop what you’re doing. Reflect on what’s happened and start to think about how you will adapt to this news. You will be better able to deal with the situation if you take this moment to stop and reflect.

2: Find a confidante

Finding someone to talk to, about your concerns and reactions can help. Even if that person cannot do anything, the fact that he or she listens can help your state of mind. Also, remember the old saying “One hand washes the other.” When that person has an issue, you can, and probably should, reciprocate. Avoid friends who merely will lecture you or lay a guilt trip on you. Yes, maybe you should have done things differently; but now is not the time to dwell on those matters.

3: Stay positive

I complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.

Looking at the positive side of things can be difficult. However, as the proverb suggests—things usually—could be worse. You didn’t get that one contract, but do you have others that seem promising? You had problems with the presentation, but what parts did go well. I am not saying you should be a Pollyanna or hide from reality. However, focusing on the opportunities you still have or on what went right would be far better for your mental well-being than focusing on what you lost or what went wrong.

4: Focus on the future more than the past

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…
Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
No, these two sayings do not contradict each other. Reflecting on past events is important. If you made mistakes that led to your setback, realizing that fact is important to reduce the chances of making the same mistake again. However, reflecting on the past is different from beating yourself up about the past. Engaging in “if only…” thinking, if it involves saddling yourself with guilt, will not help you.

5: Learn from the experience

It is important to learn from your experiences—but that is tough to do if you are mired in self-recrimination. Try, if you can, to view the situation as an outsider. Do not say, “What can I learn?” Say instead, “What can a disinterested observer learn?” “What did this person (i.e., you) do effectively? What could this person have done differently?” This approach lessens the chance that you simply start making yourself feel guilty. Once you have gathered your conclusions about the matter, you can begin to do something constructive.

6: Be careful regarding blame

Maybe you, or someone else, did do something wrong. Avoiding that same mistake in the future is important. However, simply blaming someone else, or even yourself, does not help. For this reason, it is better to focus on “Next time do it this way instead” rather than “You &&#&$! You shouldn’t have done it that way!”

7: Find a way to benefit

Try to find a way that something good can come out of the setback. One classic example is Titanic. After that disaster, among other things, lifeboat guidelines were changed so that minimum numbers were based on passenger capacity, not weight of ship. In the same way, see what changes are appropriate. Should you change a procedure or policy? Should you change your own approach or strategy? Having something good come out of a setback, lessens its sting.

8: Write about your experience

One way others can benefit from your problem is to read about it. In addition, the more analysis you can put into your thought process, the more the reader will benefit. Did you ever clobber a production database by loading it with test data? I did once, and I lived to tell about it. In fact, I even wrote about it for TechRepublic.

If you do write about a setback, remember to make the situation as broad as you can. I hate to say it, but readers probably will not care about your own emotional reactions. They might care about the lessons you learned and how those lessons might apply to them. By the way, I am not advocating that you deliberately mess up, or create a problem, just so can write about it.

9: Teach others

Do not limit yourself to just writing about lessons you learned from a setback. Volunteer to speak about the issue, if it is appropriate. If you are teaching a class, consider using your own experience as an example. Students will appreciate the real life information.

10: Remember that failure isn’t final

Before winning two Super Bowls, John Elway lost three of them. Before winning the 2004 World Series, their first since 1918, the Boston Red Sox had lost their four previous ones. Even though you might have experienced a setback, it is not the end of the world.

Calvin Sun consults with clients to address and resolve organizational issues and writes and speaks on this topic. His Web site is . You can also find him on Twitter. Read his full bio and profile.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What category does your book fall into?

Most of you know that my first novel is finished and I am in the throes of seeking an agent. In the past three months, I have sent out nine query letters. Five agents sent me a nice letter saying we would not be a good fit. Three agents remained silent and one agent, (who according to his blog/website, always replies to query letters), has not answered. I used the five agents who responded as positive information. The more I thought about it the more I convinced myself that I was not querying the correct genre.

I reviewed the five agent sites and discovered that I misunderstood the genre they were really looking for. Most of them said they were looking for science fiction or fantasy, not science fiction/ fantasy. I am writing sifi/f and asked myself; self, is there a difference between sifi/f and science fiction and fantasy. The answer was yes, there is a difference. The answer was also on each agent’s information page. The “and” word means they represent either science fiction or fantasy, not the two combined. The terms commercial fiction, literary fiction and mainstream fiction were also on their info page. This is what they were looking for. I was confused. The only answer was to research each term. This is what I found.

Commercial fiction (CF): Commercial fiction is not a genre; it is a canopy covering many subgenres, like mystery, romance, legal thriller, western, science fiction, fantasy and so on. This type of novel is plot driven, attracting a broad audience and tells the reader that they can expect hooks, action, kick ass protagonists and fast moving plot. These novels are not strong in prose and character buildup. The reader also knows that all conflicts will be resolved prior to the end. Bestselling authors would be John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich and Danielle Steel.

Literary fiction (LF) is character driven and appeals to a smaller, more scholarly audience. A work of literary fiction may fall into any of the genres. However, what makes it different are such things as excellent writing and originality of thought and style that raise it above ordinary writing. LF also contains multi-layered themes, long descriptive narration and bigger than life characters (the author takes his time and many pages developing his characters, propelling them into three-dimensional people. The author of this type of writing often breaks traditional writing rules offering the reader a strong narrative voice, multi-POVs and eloquent story lines. Examples of literary fiction are Cold Mountain, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath. Popular authors of literary fiction would be John LeCarre, Barbara Kingsolver, and Toni Morrison.

What happens if your writing crosses both the Commercial and Literary fiction lines; sits on the fence and attracts a larger audience? Is there such a beast and if so what is it called? The answer is yes, there are many books that cross both CF and LF. The answer is below.

Mainstream fiction is a term publishers and booksellers use to describe both commercial and literary works containing a universal theme that attracts a broad audience. Usually set in the 20th or present-day 21st century, these books deal with family issues, coming of age initiations, courtroom dramas, physical and mental disabilities, social pressures, political intrigue, etc. Regardless of genre or category, most of the novels on the bestseller list, are mostly mainstream, including authors such as Sue Grafton, Michael Crichton, or David Guterson.

Do you know what fiction your novel is?

Monday, March 1, 2010

EBook sales do not influence your hardcover book sales.

Penguin USA says eBook sales rose by more than 300 percent, and as projected; they had 10,000 titles available electronically by the end of the year. Rather than cannibalizing hardcover sales, Penguin's current inference is that low-priced eBooks are most attractive to readers who previously were primarily paperback buyers. "If we're right about that," Penguin CEO, Makinson said, then "the author is really not disadvantaged by the transition" from print to digital. What do you think of this statement? Are authors who have a hardcover book for sale losing money because of the low eBook prices? To read the full article, go to and sign up for the free newsletter. Publisher’s lunch brings you the latest in publishing news. This is where many top agents get their current information.

Friday, February 19, 2010

As I see it (News from Nebraska and other wonderful places).

Today’s post covers several topics of interest for the writer community. Have you ever wondered what genres agents want now; and their ranking on bookseller’s shelves? Can you use a spreadsheet database filled with book sales and agent information going back to 2004? If the answer to either / both questions is yes, then read further.

The Knight Agency recently wrote an article titled What’s Hot and What’s Not. Follow the link to sign up for their newsletter and then you can read the full article. Hint Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction and Futuristic Romance ranked number five. Five, you cry in dismay. I agree that is a low number, or is it?

The following link will lead you to a spreadsheet filled with information such as book title, genre, author, agent, editor, publishing house and agent’s literary agency. If you click on some of the input boxes, example, literary agency, you will be directed to that site. If the link does not work, copy and paste it into your browser. Here is a wealth of information especially the 2009 and 2010 pages.

The last good news I found is to tell you that Kristin Nelson, from the Nelson Literary Agency, has put out the call for submissions. The information, with links to the Nelson Literary Agency, is here. This site belongs to Molli Nickell, who is a former publisher. In her own words:

Hello everybody,

I'm a "former" publisher. After 11 years in the biz I decided to leave on my own instead of waiting to check out in a box or a straight jacket. Now I'm a publishing consultant, helping writers of all genre take the next step and get themselves published. My web site helps writers create the marketing docs they need in order to get published. These include the query and cover letters, synopsis, first pages etc. For a limited time, I'm offering FREE evaluation of query letters. I am looking forward to meeting some of you.
Molli Nickell .

If you are not following her free blog, why not. She offers a free ebook on writing query letters.

That is the news as I see it from cold, snow covered west Nebraska.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Marketing: A Killer First Chapter

Today I am ‘stealing a newsletter post’ (the author told me I could) and making it available for my readers. I will also link to the original post and you can sign up for Randy' eZine.

Some of my author friends loathe and despise the word "marketing." It's common for them to say, "The best marketing is good writing."

I agree with them, sort of. I'm not certain that good writing is the VERY BEST marketing a writer can do, but I'm confident that good writing is PRETTY GOOD marketing.

In the weird world of marketing, "pretty good" can be good enough, because nobody knows what the heck they're doing in marketing anyway. Many of the "great"
marketers seem to be people who were successful once on one project for reasons they don't understand, and keep doing that ever after on other projects.

This month I'd like to talk about one aspect of good writing that certainly is good marketing -- writing a killer first chapter.

Some readers will reject a book by its cover, and there's not a thing you can do about that. The cover is your publisher's job. If they create a bad cover, you're at a major disadvantage.

But not all readers are like that. If they like the title, or if they hear good things about your book, many readers will ignore even a dreadful cover and take a look at the first chapter.

That's YOUR responsibility. You can blame the publisher for the cover, but it's lame to blame them for your first chapter.

A good first chapter does four things well:

* It makes a contract with the reader
* It sets a hook in the first sentence
* It sets a second hook near the end of the first page
* It sets a third hook at the end of the chapter
Let's talk about each of those in turn, because they're all critical.

First of all, what's a "contract with the reader?"

That's simple. Your book is going to have a certain tone, pacing, style, and genre. Your first chapter should make clear to your reader what that tone, pacing, style, and genre is going to be. Your first chapter is a promise: The rest of the book will be like this one.

Imagine you read the first chapter of a book that has one long, adrenaline-laced car chase that ends with the bad guys driving off a cliff, falling 300 feet, and exploding in flames while the good guy drives off in his Maserati with his arm around a beautiful woman.

If you buy the book hoping for more fast cars and faster women, wouldn't you be outraged to find that the rest of the book is a slow small-town romance set in Milford?

Yes, you would, because Milford and Maseratis don't mix.

Your first chapter is a contract with your reader that says, "If you like this chapter, you'll like the rest of the book, because it's going to be similar."

Once you write the contract and your reader signs it, don't violate it.

Of course your first chapter should NOT telegraph the rest of the story. Your reader doesn't want you to give away the ending in chapter one. Your reader wants a promise of a certain tone, pacing, style, and genre.

On to the next thing. What's a hook, and why do you need three of them?A hook is something that makes your reader say, "What's going on? What happens next? I've got to read a bit more." That's all a hook has to do.

The reason you need hooks is because your reader always has the option to close the book RIGHT NOW. Early in your book, your reader hasn't yet committed to your story. Early in your book, you need to make the reader commit -- at least to read a bit more.

The reason you need three hooks is because readers have three increasing levels of commitment:

* If your reader likes the first sentence, she'll commit to reading the first page.

* If your reader likes the first page, she'll commit to reading the first chapter.

* If your reader likes the first chapter, she'll commit to the rest of the book. If she's in a bookstore, that's the point at which she buys the book. If she's in the library, it's the point where she puts the book on her checkout list. If she's at a friend's house, it's the point where she asks to borrow the book (or steals it if the friend turns uncooperative).

A hook is generally a sentence or two that DEMANDS the next level of commitment.

Now let's look at two examples of books with strong first chapters and see how well they spell out the contract with the reader and set those three hooks.
Note that hooks are tactical, while the contract with the reader is strategic, so I'll discuss the hooks first and then the contract.

Example: THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins.

THE HUNGER GAMES is a young-adult futuristic adventure novel with overtones of romance told in first-person point of view by a teen female protagonist. It's one of the best books I've read in a very long time and I'll definitely read it again.

Hook #1: The first sentence reads like this:
"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."

Analysis: That's a good, solid hook. Obviously, our protagonist is sharing her bed with someone. But who?
And why?

The answers come fairly quickly on the first page. Our heroine shares a bed with her little sister Primrose, a fresh-faced innocent kid whom everybody loves. Prim owns the world's ugliest cat, Buttercup, which our heroine once tried to drown.

Hook #2: At the end of the last paragraph on the first page, we find these two sentences:
"Sometimes when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me."

Analysis: Yikes, our heroine cleans kills? Why? It sounds like our protagonist is not nearly as sweet and lovable as Prim, but she definitely sounds interesting.
What is she killing?

Again, some answers come quickly as the chapter progresses. Our heroine lives in a poor coal-mining town in a poor district of what used to be the USA. Her father is dead, but he left her a bow and she's quite a skilled hunter. It's illegal to hunt outside the town, but she does anyway in order to feed her family. One of her few friends is a boy named Gale whom she often hunts with, splitting the proceeds.

We eventually learn that our heroine has a name, Katniss Everdeen. We learn that Kat isn't romantically interested in Gale, but it's not hard to guess that this might change. Kat is 16 and Gale is 18 and they're friends.

As the chapter progresses, Kat and Gale fish and hunt, then return home for the main event of the day -- the Reaping. One boy and one girl are to be drawn at random from the inhabitants of District 12 to play in the Hunger Games -- a battle to the death between 12 boys and 12 girls from across the nation. The Hunger Games end when only one survivor remains.

Participation in the Reaping is mandatory. Kat shows up, along with Gale and all the other teens in their town. There's a ceremony before the drawing. Speeches.
Stupid talk about "honor." Then the drawing . . .

Hook #3: The final sentence of the chapter tells the name of the girl drawn to represent District 12 in the Hunger Games:
"It's Primrose Everdeen."

Analysis: We're prepared for Kat to be chosen. We even expect it. But she isn't. Her innocent, defenseless, weak little sister is chosen instead.

That's the end of the chapter. That's a brilliant hook.
If you've read that far and you can close the book, then you have no soul. It's that simple. You HAVE to read on to find out what happens next, even though you know from reading the back cover copy that Kat is somehow going to take her sister's place in a brutal set of modern gladiatorial games that will be televised to the nation.

Contract with the reader: The first chapter is written in first person from the point of view of a fairly cynical but hopeful young woman who is clearly a fighter. Katniss is trapped in a bleak, unfair, dangerous world, but she'll do everything she possibly can to survive and to make sure her family survives.
The pacing is quick and every sentence is well-crafted.
The genre is clearly young-adult adventure.

If you are the sort of person who wants either a very slow pace or an adrenaline rocket, then this book isn't for you. If you want all romance and no violence, then skip this book. If you want all fluff and no grit, then you'll be disappointed. The first chapter sets the stage for what's to follow, and if you like the first chapter, you'll love the book.

All of which reminds me that I really want to read this book again.

Example: THE KITE RUNNER, by Khaled Hosseini.

THE KITE RUNNER is a literary novel set in the years between 1975 and the present, told in first-person by a young man who was born in Afghanistan and later came to the US.

Hook #1: The first sentence reads like this, in a chapter datelined December 2001:
"I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975."

Analysis: This is clearly going to be a retrospective novel, working through some coming-of-age issues. The immediate questions any reader would ask are these:
What are you today? What happened in 1975? Why don't you sound happy about it?

It's a good solid hook. As the page progresses, we quickly learn that the answers aren't going to come quickly. There's a mystery to be unraveled here. But we also learn that the protagonist is going to face his past, because it's coming back at him now, 26 years later.

In the final paragraph of the first page, the protagonist gets a phone call from Rahim Khan, an old friend in Pakistan, asking him to come visit. Our hero doesn't say yes and he doesn't say no. He goes for a walk in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There he sees some kites, and that reminds him of an old, jagged

Hook #2: The paragraph ends with the rather cryptic
"And suddenly Hassan's voice whispered in my head: For you, a thousand times over. Hassan the harelipped kite runner."

Analysis: This raises a LOT of questions. Who's Hassan?
What would he do a thousand times over? What's a kite runner? And what's this got to do with 1975?

The rest of the chapter is just one more paragraph. We get another snippet of the phone conversation earlier, Rahim Khan's final comment before he hung up: There is a way to be good again.

That's intriguing. The chapter is short and it ends with the final hook:

Hook #3: The chapter ends with two sentences that set the stage for the rest of the book:
"I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of
1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today."

Analysis: This raises again the questions that were first raised in the first hook. What is our hero today?
What changed in 1975? Why isn't he happy? Will he find a way to be good again?

Contract with the reader: The first chapter is extremely short, just three long paragraphs told in narrative summary. Clearly this is a literary novel about redemption (or lack of it). The pace is going to be measured, the language will be thought-provoking, and the style elegant.

You learn several things in the first chapter: If your idea of a good book is measured in body count, decibels, or steamy scenes, then the first chapter tells you to look elsewhere, because this is not the droid you're looking for. If you insist on getting a happy ending, you know in advance that none is guaranteed here, although one is possible. If you want authentic Afghanistan, then you can tell right away that you'll get it here.

Now what about the first chapter of your novel? What's the hook in the first sentence? What's the hook at the bottom of the first page? What's the hook at the end of the first chapter? What contract do you offer to your reader?

Can you improve your hooks? Can you clarify your contract?

Don't get hung up on perfection here. The question is whether you can improve what you've got right now. If you can, then do so.

If you can't, set these questions aside for another day. You'll be a better writer next month and next year. Like Scarlett O'Hara, you can think about it later.

Credits for the author: I have learned many valuable tips on writing from this site. Check out his other article titled: Creating---The Path of Least Resistance. It is about his theory that every good model of fiction writing has to pass the "Star Wars test.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 19,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

I am now going to check out the hooks, in my first chapter, and see where I placed them. How are the ‘three hooks of your first chapter?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trim your query down to 250 words

First, I want to apologize to my readers for my lack of blogging. Living on a farm has its drawbacks and one of them is the continual upkeep of the outbuildings, such as my barn. What began as a simple repair to an outer wall has turned into a complete rebuild. The more wood I tore off the more dry rot appeared. I jacked up the sloping roof and removed the entire 50-foot outer wall including the upright supports. The wall's framework is now up and waiting for tongue in grove (T&G) barn wood. Lucky for me I have a farmer friend who has an old outbuilding that he wants taken down. I have spent the last two weeks helping him tear down the building. My reward is a large pile of T&G wood that I will use to finish the wall. A red coat of paint and it will look good as new. Gosh, I wonder if my horses will thank me.

BREAKING NEWS: TK Richardson's young adult book titled RETURN THE HEART, will be out this spring. This is great news and I congratulate TK for her hard work and wish her the best publishing success. Follow her blog here; once on her wonderful blog you can follow the link to her Web page.

I came across an article in my Feed Blitz news update service that I subscribe to, titled, How to Trim Your Query to 250 Words (or fewer): Advice from Agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management, aka the Query Shark. She gave this information at a query workshop for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. I have decided to take her advice, take some time off, and rewrite my own query letter. You have probably read many articles like this, however, I believe this new explanation is easier to comprehend and follow than other articles on this topic.

"Your ability to write a query that does your novel justice can make or break your chances of landing an agent. Reid recommends spending two months perfecting this 250-word marvel.

Your query encompasses three sections:
1. 100 words answering the question ?What is the book about??
2. A brief summary of your writing credits, if you have them.
3. Miscellaneous information on how you found the agent or why you chose him/her.


Section One:
1. Back story.
2. World building.
3. Character roll call.
4. Telling.
5. A synopsis.

Section Two:
1. Academia ? classes, teachers, degrees, dissertations.
2. Conferences you?ve attended.
3. Self-published novels, or traditionally published novels with poor sales.
4. Personal information.

Section Three:
1. Begging, flattery.
2. Arrogance or self-deprecation.
3. Offer of an exclusive.
4. Your marketing plan.
5. Quotes from rejection letters, paid editors, critique groups, your mom.


Section One:
1. Title, genre, word count.
2. The essentials of your novel. (Every time you think you know, ask yourself ?So what? And then?? until you?re left with your main character, conflict, and consequences.)

Section Two:
1. Published short stories or novels.
2. Published magazine or newspaper articles.

Section Three:
1. Why you chose this agent.
2. A connection you have from a conference/workshop.

Start from the bare bones and build from there. Infuse each section with your book?s personality. Consider every word. Don?t forget your contact information. And close with ?Thank you for your time and consideration.? Now get trimming!"