Question: What could be better than a former publisher, editor and author for Better Homes and Gardens, Harper Collins, Workman, and Simon and Schuster, etc., to help you navigate the learning curve between polished manuscript and published book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble?
Answer: A snarky, know-it-all Publishing Wizard who, with magic wand in hand, is now on the job and available to respond to your questions about any aspect of the "how to get published" process. From self-editing to query submission packet to launching an agent quest, The Publishing Wizard knows all and tells all.
CLICK HERE to meet her. Resist the temptation to make a sarcastic comment about the happy-hands-at-home handcrafted magic wand. The structure of any magic wand (even one constructed with duct tape, dowel, a chicken soup carton, and glitter glue) is not nearly as important as the intention behind it.
We live in a digital world. Almost totally.
This impacts writers.
Their query submission email probably will be read on small screens of laptops, tablets, and/or smart phones. People (and agents are people) read wherever they happen to be: on the commuter train, at the gym, even at the beach. Their smart phones are with them . . . always.
Therefore, when you submit a query submission packet that can be read on a small screen, the agent appreciates this consideration and also makes a mental note that you are aware of industry trends. You've taken the time and made the effort to submit material to them in a format that makes it easy for them to read it.
A digital-friendly query submission packet increases the probability that your material will be read instead of being sent to delete-ville.
If you need some assistance in figuring out how to format your query letter, request my FREE Query Template. CLICK HERE.
All writers feel concern, and a certain amount of stress, over the time and effort required to revise an entire book. Here's a process to consider.
Before you begin your second draft with all that this involves: evaluation and revision of revision of flow, dialogue, characterization, etc., review your first chapter (only) to identify writing mechanic errors. For sure, you'll find a bunch of them. (Remember, your first draft was just that, a first draft. You "vomited it out," knowing you'd clean it up afterwards.)
When you examine and revise errors out of your first chapter, your "inner editor" pays attention to these same issues as you progress through your entire document. You'll be more alert to repetition of certain words that really truly need to be revised. It's important to revise weak words like "was" and "get," and verbs that end with "ing."
Then, as you work your way through the 2nd draft, even though you are focused on context, not line editing, you'll begin to spot and revise the weakies. This helps you launch a new writing habit: utilizing strong verbs.
BTW: Check out my $7, 7-page tutorial, "35 Red-Flag Words that can Block Your Publishing Future." Locating and removing these rascals is reasonably easy using a Search-Mark-Replace program that's included in the tutorial. Available at MolliMart.
Most writers experience sweaty palm terror when they first begin to write a query letter. Since misery loves company, I suggest you share a query exercise to help you, and everyone in your writing group, give up query fear.
Here's how it works. Regardless of whether or not manuscripts are complete, everyone writes a 350-word query letter and brings it to the meeting. Then, one by one, it's the "hot seat" experience. As each query is read, it's evaluated based on query information found on this website.
The purpose of this exercise is to encourage you to think through the bigger picture of your story as you reveal the protagonist's goal, obstacle (s), and resolution: a practice that often reveals plot or character issues that need to be addressed.
NOTE: Memoir writers: craft your query as if it's a fiction story. You can tweak it into standard memoir format later.
Recently, I've been asked to assist three authors escape from the clutches of publishers who really weren't publishers. These author/publishers wanting to sell more of their own books by falsely enticing other writers to join their ranks. Unfortunately, the author/publishers had no publishing training, no skills in marketing or promotion, and had no relationships with any retail outlets other than Amazon.com . They knew zero about the business of publishing. What they did have were websites that made them appear to be honest-to-goodness publishers. Their authors' books were on Amazon. So far so good. But, when I looked inside their published books, right away I spotted tons of writing mechanic errors, crowded pages, small margins, amateur covers. All issues of self-published books, which these were.
Here's the problem. When the three writers in question realized they'd been snookered, they couldn't get away from the author/publisher. Why not? They'd signed a contract giving away all rights to the author/publisher . . . like, forever. Yikes. So be warned. It's understandable. If you pitch to a "publisher" at a writers' conference, and they offer you a contract, you'll feel excited and flattered. But . . . before you sign on the dotted line, perform due diligence. Check out the publisher, contact their authors, look inside the books (and thank you Amazon for that). Most importantly, hire an agent or literary attorney to look at the contract. Believe me, it's cheaper to determine if a publisher is legit before you sign over your book (and youngest child), than to retain an attorney to help you regain the rights to the book you've created.
BTW: just because you meet an author/publisher at a writers' conference, this doesn't mean they've been vetted, unless the conference is sponsored by a national and well-regarded group like Writer's Digest (for example). State and local writers' organizations with limited budgets are so happy to host "publishers" at their events, they don't check them out thoroughly, or at all.
Among the blessings of the digital age, at least for writers, is the ease of submitting manuscripts to agents, acquisition editors, or publishers. Easie-Peasie. Tuck your query, synopsis, and sample pages into one email and Shazaam! off it goes. Unfortunately, this ease of submitting manuscripts has created a tsunami of submissions. This impacts every writer.
Here's the situation. Non-writers with keyboards and typing skills, also submit their manuscripts to the same people. These author wannabees reason, "I have the tools of a writer, ego! I am a writer." HAHAHA! That's like deciding that owning a hammer and box of nails means you're a carpenter and can build a porch. Not on my house!
Right away you can see how the flood of submissions has become problematic. Agents have to scan everything submitted to them. Otherwise, they must might miss the next Clancy, Rowlings, or Patterson.
At first glance, your submission looks like every other one on the agent's inbox. UNLESS, you play it smart and craft an email subject line to compel the reader to click and open.
But, it doesn't end there. Your query letter first paragraph also must "hook" the agent and influence them to read more, more, more and then . . . whoopsie, I'm getting ahead of myself. That's a blog for another day.
At least 50% of the queries that cross my virtual desk "tell about" the story instead of "telling" the story. Don't do this unless the agent requests the "about" information in the first paragraph: title, word count, and genre. Otherwise, begin your query by telling your story and including who wants what, (GOAL), why they can't have it OBSTACLE), and the potential for a terrible "or else" (RESOLUTION) that could occur if the GOAL is not achieved. This is the industry standard. If you want to vary from this format, do so at your own peril. You'll be telegraphing a message to agents and acquisition editors that you either don't know the industry standard or are so arrogant you decided not to follow it. Either way, your query will fly off to deleteville.
If you’d like to re-post any of my blogs, help yourself. Please reference the source as: Molli Nickell. THE Publishing Wizard at www.getpublishednow.biz