Why Network?

networkng5

Networking with an editor and other writers over lunch.

Eva Marie Everson posted a video clip on Facebook. She’d ask James Watkins what was the one piece of advice he’d give authors. His answer. “Three words: network, network, network.”

As an author and editor he understands the value more than most.

We’d rather write

Writers are stereotyped as introverts and shy. Although I have never been accused of either, I understand how much alone time is required to create awesome words.  Writers prefer to spend their free hours writing and reading rather than anything else. But networking is too essential to be ignored.

An important key

Networking is a key to getting published. Really!  The more writers you get to know, editors you befriend and publishers you are acquainted with opens doors. At a conference you may find the perfect lead to a magazine or editor who is looking for the very thing you write. The book you pitched to Editor A wasn’t suited to his present needs. After a few conferences of maintaining dialogue with Editor A, he asks to see the manuscript you pitched a few years ago. Now his publisher is frantic for your theme.

people meeting around table

Critique groups are networking opportunity too.

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I keep in touch with Susan Baganz, Acquistion Editor for Prism Book Group on Facebook.

You’re struggling to improve your craft. Your rejection letter, all have a common theme—your writing’s not great. A writer friends hooks you up with a critique group. The group helps you see the weak spots and encourages your progress. You get the contract that’s evaded you for years.

Writer friends understand you and your goals. So build those relationships.

Editors are more likely to give your manuscript a second look if they are acquainted with you and see your persistence in developing into a better writer.

Network in your community

Networking isn’t restricted to the writing world. Historical writers might get involved with local historical societies. Any genre might find some buyers at local festivals. Visitors will discover you’re an author. They find it cool to know someone local writes “real” books.  Network with an organization that promotes the message you spent years putting on paper. If your story is about adoption or foster care, volunteer in organizations who banner your cause.

Networking helps create a fan base for book sales, future contracts, and speaking engagements.

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Rowena Kuo, Acquistion Editor of LPC and I developed a great friendship over the years that eventual lead to my current contract.

Works for me

My personal journey to publication was on the road of networking. The people in the literary world I have gotten to know and helped on their journey have made a difference. As I explained in a previous post, it took me ten years to get a book contract. I truly believe if I had not made an effort to network, I would still be on the outside looking in. I say a hearty amen to James Watkins statement. Network, network, network.

What are your thoughts on networking? What kind of success have you had with networking? Please leave a comment.

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Conference Tip# 5 Do Your Research

 Do the research in advance. It's worth your time. Dreamtimes.com free stock photo.

Do the research in advance. It’s worth your time.
Dreamtimes.com free stock photo.

“Go! Learn things.” Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS

Research before you attend a conference is a huge key to success. Go to the conference website click on each faculty member, agent, editor and publisher attending. Read, read, and read. Click on links directing you to their website. Read lots, learn stuff. What do they publish? Do you have something that fits their need? Print off the faculty page to circle, highlight, and take notes of those you wish to see.

After you learn stuff

Only make appointments with those people who are interested in your genre, article subject matter, or the idea you are pitching. Positive feedback and requests for your manuscripts are most likely to happen if you’ve done your research.

Most of the faculty will have a photo on the site. Having a copy with you will help you identify them between classes, break time, elevators and dining halls. Introduce yourself and briefly pitch your stuff. It’s not being rude. They expect conferencees to pitch to them outside of appointment schedules.

List those you wish to have appointments with by order of importance. You will only be allowed to make a few appointments. You’ll have to catch the rest on the fly.

Don’t forget panels

Attending panels at the conference furthers your research. Editor A does not list flash fiction for his magazine on his website but during a panel he mentioned he is now looking for it. Tada! You now can add him to your list of who you wish to contact.

Check your samples and clips

Look over the samples and clips you are taking to the conference. Decide in advance which ones you want to share during each appointment. Write more samples if an idea hits you while researching the needs of editors. It might be the perfect fit. Be sure it’s your best work.

Knowledge is power

So in conclusion-research, research, research. The more you know the less overwhelmed you will be at the conference.

Do you have any pre-conference research tips? Share them please.

 

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Conference Tip # 4 Synopsis and Proposals

Two great proposal writing books from my library. There are sections in each focusing on writing a synopsis.

Two great proposal writing books from my library. There are sections in each focusing on writing a synopsis.

You’ve made your business card and you may or may not have opted for a sell sheet. Another option is a synopsis of your book. A more complete presentation of your project is a proposal. It is a sell sheet on steroids containing pages and pages of information. Let me give a brief description of these and let you decide if you want to bring them to the conference.

Synopsis

A synopsis or summary condenses your entire book content to as few words as possible. The goal of a synopsis is the same as a sell sheet—to get interest in your project during appointments. This must be concise, complete and compelling. You should know your story well enough to tell it without rambling. As you write your first draft, you will probably put in too much detail and it will run much too long. Once it is complete, cut all unnecessary words and rabbit trails. Then trim, trim, trim all words that drag or distract. The synopsis is the first impression of your writing skills so make it stellar. Be sure to have others critique it for grammar, spelling and any other error that give you black marks rather than stars. Try to keep it to a page, no more than a page and a half. A well-written synopsis should promote discussion about your project and you. And ultimately a request for a proposal.

Proposal

A request for a proposal used to mean you handed it over at the conference. Some editors still take hard copies of proposals. Most do not. Email as an attachment is now the norm. Hauling home lots of paper proposals, especially on a plane, is not practical. Often the request will be accompanied by a guidelines sheet. Follow it to the letter.

There are lots of books with step by step examples of how to put together a proposal. A proposal has many components. A proposal for fiction has slightly different requirements than non-fiction. Pay attention to details. If you are on a time crunch, put writing the proposal aside as a to-do after the conference, especially if you are a newbie. You will find  proposal writing books for sale at the conference. Check for conference class offerings; often how to write a proposal is listed.

If you want to take a proposal, you don’t need many—one maybe two. (Again most requests will be for email versions.) The advantage of a completed proposal before the conference is ease of submitting after the conference. Be sure you review the guideline sheet and customize each proposal to match each publisher’s request. (Be sure to send a proposal to each person who asked you as soon as you can after the conference.) You will find that most requests follow the same format, but some may have a few additional components. You might want to create a template to follow for all future proposals.

Here are the basic components of a proposal

  • A Cover Sheet

A single page, single spaced, specific format containing your title, word count, name and contact information and agent information (if you have one). Sometimes it contains a pitch line. (One line about the book.)

  • Synopsis

Generally single spaced, 1 ½ to three pages long. Be sure to tell the ending so publisher can see how the story plays out.

  • Writer’s biography

Single space description written in third person with a photo.

  • Sample chapters

Usually double spaced. Always the first three chapters or first fifty pages.

  • Comparison titles.
  • Similar books to yours. How yours is the same yet different.
  • Chapter Outline

Usually this is for non-fiction. An outline gives the publisher a good idea of where you are going with your subject matter. Sometimes a publisher wants a chapter by chapter synopsis of fiction.

  • Marketing

Include a marking page of what you can and will do to help sell your book.

  • Audience

Who are your target readers? Women, young adults, history buffs, theologians? Everyone is not an acceptable answer. Ex: Women who want to get away to pioneer days for the weekend will enjoy this book.

  • Genre

Publishers want to know what genre your book falls into. They are always looking for books in genres their company is light in. Here is a short general list. There are lots of subgenres and genre definitions change. Contemporary Romance, Contemporary, Historical, Women’s Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult, Children, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Western and the list goes on. For non-fiction you might list Christian Living, Self Help, Devotional, Bible Study, and Health. Your book might fall into more than one category.

Take your time

As you can see, a proposal takes time to put together well. If you are a newbie and your conference is a few weeks away, you might want to forgo the proposal and focus on the summary and other tools. It is better to attend the proposal class, buy the how-to book and get some critiquers to look over your proposal after a request has been made. A well-done proposal following the specific editor’s guidelines has a better chance of getting off the slush pile. If you have time to do a proper proposal in advance of the conference, I would remind you to make it stellar with no grammar or spelling errors. (I know I say this a lot.) Make each word count. Your writing is judged on how well you write your proposal.

Here are two links to books on writing proposals. Each one has details on synopsis writing as well.

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Perfect-Book-Proposal-That/dp/0471353124/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1431175377&s

http://www.amazon.com/Book-Proposals-Made-Easy-nonfiction-ebook/dp/B00VAN8LDO/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1431175449&sr=8-14&keywords=writing+book+proposal

What success have you had in sharing your synopsis at a conference? Have you had a request for a proposal? I’d love to hear your experience.

 

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How Beta Readers Help Polish a Maunscript

woman reading book

Another invitation to be a Beta reader came in my email. Because of this Speedbo challenge I had to pass on it. *sigh* This is something I love to do. So I’ll take a few minutes to share with you what it is all about.

What is a Beta Reader

I’ve had the privilege of being a Beta Reader a few times. Before my experience I had no idea what a Beta reader did or why they were important. Beta Readers are the final line of defense against typos and grammar fopas. The last opportunity to question flow and any other oddity in your manuscript.

As a Beta Reader I received a PDF file in my email of a completed manuscript ready to go to press. It’s the Beta Readers job to find misspelled words, duplicate words, punctuation, wrong character names, duplicate sentences and paragraphs. Examples of these are John said when it should be Joel. Tom sat nearby when it should be Tim.

How it works

A Beta Reader examines every word from the title, the acknowledgement, the body of work to The End. Anything that seems odd or unclear, forgotten words, incorrect punctuation or grammar is noted on a separate sheet- a copy correction template. Each correction starts with a page #, paragraph and line #   followed by specific verbiage.

I’ll use an example from earlier.

Page 142 paragraph 3 line 6

It reads: John said.

Should read: Joel said.

In this case the character John is Joel’s missing brother and he is not in this scene at all. So obviously he would not be speaking. Characters with similar names or same first letters are easy to confuse and often missed in initial edits.

What it’s not

A Beta Reader does not rewrite or delete sections. They are not the critiquer. Rather they are the polishers. Critiquers and editors sand and resurface the words and beta readers produce the high shine to take the imperfections out of the varnish.

Beta reading eyes

After my experience as a Beta Reader I have caught glaring mistakes in printed books. One recent example. “I agree.” He agreed. It drew me out of the book and I pondered the redundancy of those words for a few seconds. No author wants a reader drawn out of his story.

One novel had a page with the list of characters at the end of the book. The Korean-American was listed as a Japanese –American. Where were the Beta Readers on that one? Duplicate words are a constant bother to readers such as: with with or she with went with. Probably occurred during editing. The editor or author deletes part of a sentence but not all of it and in the rewrite adds extra words. This is another place that will draw a reader out of a book. Enough of these and the reader may stop reading and consider the author a hack.

How many Beta Readers is enough

Most books have several Beta Readers. I was one of 30 on my projects. Those small errors are usually caught by having multiple Beta Readers. In my case there were two groups. Fifteen read first and the second group went over the manuscript after corrections were made. This creates the cleanest copy possible. The words shine with the natural beauty minus most of the flaws. I say most because there can still be after all those readers a comma or misspelled word that got slipped through the cracks. But hopefully no one or very few readers will ever notice it.

Why be a Beta Reader

It builds your network of contacts. You slowly read through a ready to publish book and your mind absorbs what makes the book publication worthy. You catch mistakes you may be making in your own manuscript and you learn to do line edits.

If you are asked to be a Beta Reader go for it. If you really love the book offer to do a book review when it is available. My experience has shown me I want beta readers on my projects. Any Indie authors out there can only benefit from those extra set of eyes.

Have any of you had experiences with beta readers either as one or using them. I would love to hear about it.

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The Biggest Anchor Weighing Down A Writer’s Dreams

Today I am posting a blog I wrote as a guest blogger a few years ago over at Write It Sideways. Recent events in my writing life caused me to revisit the sentiment in the post. I know I am not alone and thought I’d share it here.

Large Anchor in front of Conderate White House in Richmond Virginia.

Large Anchor in front of Conderate White House in Richmond Virginia.

Have you ever heard a writer say “I don’t care if I ever get published.”
My answer to them (in my head anyway) would be, “You are such a liar.”
I know, because I have wanted to wash my mouth out with Whiteout fluid when I heard that very statement slip out between my lips
Writers who are serious about their craft want to be published. Writers who have a passion to share with others crave to be published. Authors don’t slave for years over their book to never have it see the light of day.
Let’s call it what it really is F-E-A-R.
We are afraid of being rejected. Who wants to spend hours working on something to get rejection letters? Be honest. How long did it take to get comfortable with any kind of criticism of our precious creation? My husband is a grammarian, and it used to aggravate me that he was so nit-picky. Really, he is a wonderful help with the editing process. But until I developed a thick-skin toward my work, he and I went head to head, point for point. Sending pages from my novel to critique services, editors and fellow writers for evaluation can be unnerving. All the red marks stung at first. Needless to say, without that editing my stuff did not get published.
Don’t Criticize my Baby
Our created masterpieces are our babies. Rejections stir our maternal instincts to protect our young. When we protect it, we suffocate the creative process and any growth our writing can have.
A line in the sand
Drawing the proverbial low expectation line in the sand—I don’t care if I get published—creates excuses for not pursuing publication. That low expectation in turn produces negativity. Mention an author you like, their opinion of them won’t be favorable. If you share a lead regarding a publisher or magazine, they have a horror story about the publication. Why? Fear encourages defending the line; out come the weapons of authoritative sneers. The line forces the fearful to take other would-be writers with them.
Fear of New Technology
Writers can be afraid of learning new things to improve their ability and expand their platform. I remember learning to use a computer. Once I mastered the word processing program, I was in heaven. No more carbon paper and retyping whole pages. As the word processing got more refined, I had to battle with the newest edition. Discovering how to use the editing application in word was freeing–although I still do print off a copy and red ink it. I find the editing program much more efficient especially when I turn it over to my husband for his comments, which can be eradicated with a simple mouse click. Obviously, I still have a few issues with his input.

Writers cling to Mantra
There’s also the declaration by some—whether I am published or not, I will keep writing. Really! Seeing your name in the byline and your article in print is such a rush that anyone who is serious about their writing will pursue publication again and again. Those who say they don’t care will quit writing. It is too discouraging to have no affirmation. I find that I have to switch from my novel to writing other things. I need that affirmation. While I wait to find a home for it and see my name on a book cover, I will write other things to keep my creative juices fueled.
Getting published is hard work
People continue to say that getting published is not their goal because it is time consuming hard work. All the research and contact making, query letters, book proposals, networking. Whew! Makes me tired just writing the words. That, too, is a fearful thing.
Publishers don’t get my unique style
I love to hear I have a unique style that traditional publishers don’t understand. My question to them (again in my head) is if traditional publishers don’t understand it, what makes you think traditional readers will? Again, I see fear as the main culprit. That uniquely gifted writer may be afraid it is too late to learn proper grammar and correct spelling. He fears if he hired an editor to do that, his voice would be lost.
Fear is the biggest anchor weighing down the awesome potential in many writers.
To lose that anchor that still tries to weigh me down, I read blogs like this. I am involved in Word Weavers, a critique group that helps me hone my craft. That group gives off an encouraging vibe that fuels me on. When I write something every day, fear can’t whisper the words that make me feel worthless. Entering contests is my way of telling fear–nothing ventured, nothing gained. I take classes and attend webinars. Attending conferences boldly slaps fear in the face. There I discover my story idea has merit and my articles have value. Most importantly, I say I am a writer. The more I say it–print it right on a business card—the more I can sense the fear diminishing and the confidence coming forth. Like you, I battle with fear; but it is getting weaker, and the desire to continue to be published is getting stronger.
What excuses have you made because you were afraid of rejection? How do you stamp out that fear?

One Way A Writer Can Be An Encouragement

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Critiquing a book for an award nomination can give great insights into what publishers are looking for.

One of my goals as I walk this life as a Christian is to encourage others. As a writer I want other writers who meet me to go away uplifted and confident in their ability. This past week I had three opportunities to critique. Critiquing is a great way to encourage. In contrast to being critical, critiquing is helping others improve their craft while letting them know what they have accomplished is noteworthy.

Accountability Partner

Recently, I gained an accountability partner through my affiliation with Word Weavers. I receive encouragement, and I encourage in return as we critique each others work. I am gaining a lot in the process.

E-mail and snail mail critiques

Last week I also received an email from a woman I had met at a writer’s conference who asked me to critique a portion of her short story.  What a surprise to be remembered after a year.  The book I agreed to judge for an award came in the mail that week too. Neither of these activities came with a return-the-favor benefit as with the accountability partner. However, I fulfilled a directive from the Lord to be an encourager. I took the time to give suggestions to this acquaintance to make a good story great. Her story premise was fantastic, and I was honored to give my input.

The book I read and critiqued for the award took hours of my time. The benefit I gained was proving to myself that I could complete this task in a timely manner. It was great discipline for me. I can’t wait to hear the winners announced knowing I was part of the process.

Gaining fresh perspective

All of the critiquing I did helped me look at my own writing with fresh eyes.  The book I judged gave me deeper insights into what publishers are looking for. I was reminded that encouraging others is not all about cheering for the sake of cheering but for sharing insights and observations that can strengthen my fellow writers.

When you give your work for someone else to critique, it’s risky. Receiving your work back with positive affirmation along with constructive tips makes the heart resonate an “I can do this” attitude.

And as one who critiques, if the individual I help is inspired to continue forward, that same positive energy motivates me to press toward a higher calling in my own work.  Christian writers involved in a writer’s community whether online or in real time gain more than they can ever possibly give out. Encouragement is a hard calling that is not always reciprocated.

What have you gained through critiquing?

 

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