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Category : Quick Tips
Guest writer Holly Lorincz is a professional editor and owner of Lorincz Literary Services. New York Times Bestselling author Vincent Zandri says of her, “A great editor not only points out the gaffs in a manuscript, but also helps you, as a writer, realize the enormous possibilities that exist within the text. That is Holly Lorincz.”
Are you getting ready to send a query?
Attending a conference?
Has a literary agent or acquisition editor asked to see your book?
Here’s a list of tips on how to whip your manuscript into the right shape.
Agents and acquisition editors often have specific format settings they require on manuscript submissions. Sometimes these paradigms are listed, but, more often, the editors expect you to have ESP, assuming you will magically know what they want (just like you should already know what is expected in query letters and proposals). There are a ton of websites and books devoted to formatting advice, including how to make those changes, so I’m just going to give you a quick and dirty list of things I know, from experience, will be helpful. Please note, these are not the same settings you use when formatting an ebook—just one more example of the war between publishing houses and Amazon.
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS WORD, AND IT HAD SETTINGS. AND IT WAS GOOD.
And, boy, have these settings evolved. This is not the double-spaced, stretched justification from your (technological) youth. Of course, it’s best to set up your document before you begin . . . but who really does that? You usually hammer out least forty-five pages before you realize you forgot to set chapter headings or change the font from Cambria. So, let’s say you’re a good chunk of the way into your masterpiece, or you’re done. Just “select-all” and make the following changes to your Microsoft Word doc., which you will be sending as an email attachment.
Someone wrote to ask, “With all the changes in publishing these days, what do I really need to know about agents?” Let me offer a dozen thoughts…
1. Do your homework before selecting an agent. DON’T sign up with somebody just because they say they’re an agent and they want to represent you. I know that’s a temptation, but this is a professional relationship. Would you go to a guy’s office for your health problems just because he claims to be a doctor? Ask around. Check him out. This is the biggest mistake people make with agents, in my view. This past year at ACFW you could toss a rock in the air and when it came down it would most likely hit somebody claiming to be an “agent.” Um… these guys are going to be taking your ideas and helping you sign legal agreements regarding them. Don’t take that lightly.
2. Be wary of any agent who charges a fee or advertises what the charge is to work with them. That’s a total violation of the guidelines for the Association of Author Representatives (and, in fact, those agents wouldn’t be allowed as members of AAR). There are a couple fairly successful agents in CBA who do that. It’s unethical, and authors should stay away, if they want to keep from being scammed. On the other hand, I was VERY glad to have someone write and tell me that “Steve Laube is my agent and he’s good.” Don’t we all get tired of people sort of beating around the bush, telling us one person is bad and another is good, but never mentioning names? The fact is, Steve IS good. So is Bryan Norman at Alive, as well as Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton and Rachelle Gardner and Natasha Kern and Greg Daniel and Karen Solem and Greg Johnson and Andrea Heinecke and Robert Wolgemuth and Sandra Bishop and Amanda
A friend wrote to say, “I’ve been told we should have a launch party when my book comes out. Is that a good idea? And what what makes a good launch party?”
I think a book launch party is a great idea — it allows an author to involve friends and acquaintances in the release of the book, is an easy way to garner some local media, and can help you kick off book sales. (Besides, it can be great for an author’s ego, if done right.) Let me offer a couple of suggestions to help make it a success…First and most important, you want to make sure you INVITE people. In other words, don’t sit around and hope people show — be proactive and make sure you get a house full. That means you need to find a big group who can be supportive, like your local writer’s group, you church congregation, the organizations you belong to, all your relatives, people at the clubs or sports you’ve joined, and all your fans in the region. Pick a venue you can fill up, since getting 40 people in a tiny bookstore makes it feel like a great party, but getting those same 40 people in a huge shopping mall gallery can feel empty. Determine a definite start and end time, and make sure everyone sees it’s a celebration. Again, you’re trying to get the word out, and get commitments from some folks to attend.Second, if you really want to make people show up, offer an incentive — books at a discount, or free chocolate, or wine and cheese (a few big boxes of wine don’t cost much and seem to bring people out of the woodwork). If you can’t do wine, ask a couple people to bring their latte machines and offer free lattes to everyone. Your only expense is the price of coffee. But have something that
When I decided to become a writer, I did it mostly because I liked silence. I liked the idea of sitting with my own thoughts and sculpting words in my preferred order.
But then I got published. And I realized that silence and control over my books wasn’t mine anymore. I was now expected to market them? I was expected to talk to others about my books and try to persuade them to exchange their hard earned cash for them? This was not what I signed up for. I didn’t think I could market. I didn’t think I’d be good at it.
Unfortunately, in this extremely competitive market, I don’t have a choice. I must engage with future readers, pitch my stories and talk about myself in a way that would make others want to read my books.
In the short time that I’ve been a published author, I’ve discovered four no-fail ways to easily transition me from sullen, reclusive, cat-hair covered wordsmith who likes silence to cheerful, enthusiastic, non-pushy salesperson who likes taking other people’s money. The best thing about these ways? They’re cheap! They’re not too hard! And I’ve almost come to the point that I can do them effortlessly! You can do them too!
- Have business cards. I designed my own cards and bought them through Moo.com. (Moo is the coolest place to get cards, IMHO!) So for $20 I have 200 cards that have a lot more than my contact information. My cards have said, “Author, Homeschooling Mother, Queen.” My cards are a manifestation of what I want to be, which gives me confidence. When I pass out a card, (that I always have on hand) people are impressed that I am prepared, that I am professional, and that I am willing to share who I am.
- Carry your books with you always. I put my most recent books in a ziplock bag, to
This week, I’m continuing my series on how to best channel your craft in your conference materials by talking about your novel’s synopsis. A synopsis is an important part of any proposal– sometimes an agent or editor will read it at the conference when taking a look at your proposal, other times they won’t see it until you send them the requested sample chapters or full manuscript, but whenever they get around to looking at it, they’ll be expecting certain things from the synopsis, and if yours doesn’t deliver, you risk frustrating or confusing that important reader. Remember, agents and editors are looking for reasons to say “no” to a project– not in a jerky, we-can’t-wait-to-stomp-on-your-dreams kind of way (well, not most of us…), but in a realistic, we-hear-pitches-all-the-time-and-have-trained-ourselves-to-listen-for-certain-dealbreakers-so-as-not-to-waste-our-or-an-author’s-time-by-pursuing-a-project-that-doesn’t-fit-our-guidelines/preferences/areas-of-interest kind of way. A synopsis that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to creates a potential place for us to say “no,” so make sure you understand the function of a synopsis in a proposal and how to make sure it provides what an agent or editor is looking for in a synopsis.
What is the purpose of a synopsis? When an agent or editor looks at a synopsis, they’re looking to get a feel for the WHOLE book, beginning to end. If they’re reading the synopsis, you’ve most likely already “hooked” them with a dynamite paragraph or pitch giving the main idea of the story– “some particular big thing or big problem happens to a main character or two in a particular setting and hijinks ensue as colorful secondary character’s arc or additional subplot unfolds in tandem with the main character’s journey to learning something.” This hook paragraph has given them the basic premise, a hint of your voice, and a feel for the most unique elements of the book, but now they want to find out more. Sometimes, they’ll read the synopsis first; sometimes, they’ll want to look at the
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Have you ever said or heard a published author friend say the following?
“I have to write this spin-off book because my fans are demanding it.”
“I don’t have time for marketing right now, because my fans are going to kill me if I don’t get them the sequel asap.”
“My readers won’t stop bothering me about my character Jack! They want a book about him and I’m stressing out because I don’t know how to fit it into my schedule.”
The pressure readers can create is impressive. But it can also be distracting.
Let’s say you’re a rock star and you’re in a big arena doing a concert. You get done with a song and are about to move on to the next one on your set list when a group of fans in row two demand a very particular song from one of your lesser-known albums. What do you do? Do you obey them at the risk of making everyone else in the stadium frustrated at you for replacing a known and loved song with one of your b-side tunes?
Or let’s get even more specific. Let’s say you were a writer for the show The Office. From season one, fans were chiding you about getting Jim and Pam together. Would you have given in to their demands even though you knew that if you dragged it out for a few seasons, it would be even more rewarding?
In both of these cases, it’s easy for us to answer with resounding NO’s. Of course you wouldn’t
I spent last week talking about all the resolution the reader expects from the denouement– resolve the events of the climax, answer unanswered questions, wrap up subplots, and establish main characters’ immediate futures. Sounds like a lot of content, right? But you as the author have a delicate balancing act to maintain, because while it’s true that the reader is going to be dissatisfied if you leave out the resolution they expect, it’s also true that there’s no better way to make sure your reader’s enthusiasm has flagged by the time they read the words “The End” than by dragging the book out two chapters after the story has actually ended. Ending on an anticlimax leaves a dull taste in the reader’s mouth and causes their last impression of your book to be a less positive one than if you send them out on an emotional high note, and the way to do this is to fit all your resolution in before the excitement of the climax has fully worn off.
The reader’s emotional high point usually coincides with the characters’, which is usually the climax– in a romance, the climax is not the wedding, but the dramatic moment when Slim rescues Peggy Sue from the train tracks and confesses that he always loved her, he just didn’t think a lawman had any right to ask a nice well-bred young lady to marry him and share his dangerous life. This is the moment when tension and emotions are the highest, and this is the moment that readers have been waiting for. Sure, they want to read that the happy couple got off the train tracks in time and know that Salty Sam is going to jail for his crimes, but the story is effectively over
So it’s spring break for most people. You might be heading out of town, or driving to the beach, or trying to find a place to relax and dive into that new book you bought. I’m going the same thing — well… I live at the beach, so I’m not heading there, but I am trying to ditch the crowds find some quiet so I can read today. I have a long list of projects I want to get caught up on, so instead of doing emails and taking phone calls, I’m going to try and get away and just read for a while.
And that, of course, means I don’t think I’ll take the time to create a new blog post. Instead, I’ll let you YOU create it. One simple question: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
It might be something about craft, or a trick you learned, something about writing quickly or leaving writer’s block behind. It could be advice on creating characters, or raising the stakes, or leaving people with a memorable lesson. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ve no doubt heard (or read) some great bit of wisdom that you took to heart and you noticed it changed your work. Share it with us. Just click on the “comment” bar below and offer the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received. You’re welcome to give us context, and tell who said it and what the circumstances were, if you want to — but don’t feel you HAVE to. You’re welcome to just offer one sentence with the advice you’ve got.
I do this once each year or so, and I have gleaned some wonderful tips from people over the years. Would love to hear what you have to share with your fellow writers. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
By guest writer HOLLY LORINCZ
Holly Lorincz is the newest agent at MacGregor Literary; she was mentored by president Chip MacGregor for a year before her promotion, while also maintaining an editing and publishing consultation business, Lorincz Literary Services (http://literaryconsulting.com).
NOTES FROM UNDER A DESK
I admit it. I’m under my desk. Hiding.
No, there is not a knife-heavy serial killer lurking behind my door.
No, my boss is not on the rampage (today).
No, my mom is not at the door with a list of potential husbands.
I’m hiding because Chuck at Writer’s Digest did me a solid and featured my New Literary Agent Bio on his blog — a blog that has been reposted by seemingly hundreds of other bloggers. Of course, as a new agent, I need the exposure, and I’m relieved people in the industry know I’m alive. I’m not being flippant when I say I’m hugely grateful for the support and excited to continue building my client list.
So why hide? Because. I. Have. 497. Queries. In. My. Inbox.
I’ve created a response system . . . but it’s become more like bloody triage at the scene of a train wreck. I know, I shouldn’t complain. And I am happy to wade my way through the proposals, as long as I’m given the time to do it. Unfortunately, now I’m starting to get the second wave of letters from the first responders. Statements ranging from “I wrote to you five weeks ago and have yet to hear back” to “If you’re not interested, it’s still polite to write back” to “I sent you my query because Writer’s Digest said you were accepting queries; do you ignore everyone?” to “Hey, maybe you should give a crap about someone else other than yourself.”
I have to be careful because my first reaction to the squirrely ones is to immediately hit send on
BY GUEST AUTHOR KATHARINE GRUBB
Some are born great writers, some aspire to being a great writer and some have writerly
greatness thrust upon them. Then, sometimes, neither of those three options apply to us and we have to bushwhack our own path to greatness.
Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot of work?
I’d like to suggest that our writerly ambitions can be accomplished with little or no effort. In fact, I have a list of ten things you can do (or not do) to accomplish this goal. (If accomplishing goals is your thing.) I would have come up with eleven, but I got tired.
1. Don’t Write. Your day is busy enough. In fact, spend your down time doing things like hurling birds into piles of thieving pigs. Tell yourself that this is brain work! Your writing future is dependent on whether or not you see Downton Abbey! Every time you have a nagging thought that tells, you that maybe you should do Nanowrimo or something like that, just watch an episode of Hoarders until the feeling goes away. Smugness, with lack of physical activity, can be just as comforting as that pesky sense of accomplishment that comes with dedication and commitment. Trust me.
2. Don’t read. This is obvious. Since really there aren’t any new plots, there isn’t any point in reading at all. If you need to know something, don’t go any deeper than a search on Wikipedia. If you want a story to entertain you, you’ve got Netflix, right? Besides fiction is made up stories, which are basically lies. Just don’t bother. In fact, if you are reading this blog, stop right now and turn on Pandora, the Shakira station.
3. Hang Out With Stupid People. This should be easy. If you want to avoid greatness, then spend a lot of time with those who are content to stay where they