Wayétu Moore, author of SHE WOULD BE KING and founder of the nonprofit One Moore Book, shares the publication journey for her debut novel and reflects on art, writing craft, commerce, and more.
Filmed at Succeed2gether’s Montclair Literary Festival 2019.
WHAT WE COVER
0:35 Writing a draft of SHE WOULD BE KING and exploring identity as an African in America and as an African-American
2:19 Pressures writers put on themselves, writing craft, and not resenting your art
3:26 Writing discipline and respecting your art
4:01 Publishing industry trends
4:23 Wayétu Moore’s next novel is about mermaids
5:32 Publishing SHE WOULD BE KING
6:00 Meeting literary agents at conferences
7:06 Editing a manuscript with a literary agent and making a book as strong as possible
7:54 “If you’re writing for yourself, keep a journal, but if you do commit to writing for others and being mindful and considerate to the sensibilities of others, then you do need to be conscious of what readers would be in to, how they would process your work. . .”
8:23 Shopping a manuscript to publishers, dealing with rejections, and the reality of when art meets commerce
9:14 Publishing SHE WOULD BE KING through Graywolf and the benefits of being with an indie press
12:00 Cover design and avoiding cliches designers use for African, Islamic, and Indian narratives
15:04 The meeting of art and commerce as well as time and capacity in Big Five publishing
15:59 Versify, an imprint by Kwame Alexander, and One Moore Book, a nonprofit serving children who rarely see themselves in print
Author Brad Parks on Journalism, Literary Agents, and Publishing Award-Winning Thrillers
Versify: an Imprint from Kwame Alexander
Joshua Mohr on Writing and How to Publish a Book
Wayétu Moore is the author of She Would Be King, released by Graywolf Press in September, 2018. Her memoir is also forthcoming with Graywolf.
Moore is the founder of One Moore Book. One Moore Book is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that encourages reading among children of countries with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures by publishing culturally relevant books that speak to their truths, and by creating bookstores and reading corners that serve their communities. Her first bookstore opened in Monrovia, Liberia in 2015.
Her writing can be found in The Paris Review, Frieze Magazine, Guernica, The Atlantic Magazine and other publications. She has been featured in The Economist Magazine, NPR, NBC, BET and ABC, among others, for her work in advocacy for diversity in children’s literature.
She’s a graduate of Howard University and the University of Southern California, and is currently a Margaret Mead Fellow at Columbia University Teachers College, where she’s researching the impact of culturally relevant curriculum and learning aids in elementary classrooms of underrepresented groups. Moore is an Africana Studies lecturer at City University of New York’s John Jay College and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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The other day, we got one of the best emails an author can get. It was from two dudes and it said, “Recently we released a memoir (Soft Skull Press) called, Buskers: The On the Streets, In the Trains, Off the Grid Memoir of Two New York City Street Musicians. We never could have done it without you AND your book The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. We wanted to say hi and thank you!” Of course, we wanted to know more. So we wrote back and said, “Do tell how it all happened!” and they did. Here’s their story:
We would be hanging out at a party, getting our drink on, and guests would find out we were street musicians. That’s when the Q’s & A’s would fly fast and furious. No shit? How much do you guys make an hour? (between $0.00 & $200.00) Do you need a permit to play on the streets? (not unless they catch you) Is there a union you had to join? (what are you, nuts?!) And folks ate up our juicy busking war stories. Like the time we beat a mugger into submission with our trusty microphone stands after he helped himself to about two hours worth of hard earned tips. The conversation would almost always end with: “You guys should write a book!” Yes, but how do we do that? The answer remained a mystery until destiny intervened. A mutual friend at Simon and Schuster recommended we pick up a copy of Arielle and David’s book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published—that’s when the veil of confusion lifted. EGGYP provided the road map we desperately needed for organizing our thoughts into a solid proposal. With our confidence bolstered, we spent the next six months meticulously focusing on each and every component, until the Outline, Overview, Competition, Sample Chapters etc… became a part of what several literary agents eventually deemed “the most thorough book proposal they’d ever seen.” Next, by adhering to the guidelines in the righteous chapter, Locating, Luring, and Landing the Right Agent we managed to concoct a rather killer query letter. Here is an excerpt . . “Hi, My brother and I are street musicians in a duo called Heth and Jed ( www.hethandjed.com ). Perhaps you’ve seen us playing in the subways. Over the last four years we’ve performed in excess of 1,000 shows, and sold more than 50,000 copies of our independently released CDs–all without ever leaving New York City. Together we’ve written a proposal for a book entitled, Buskers: The-On-the-Streets, In-the-Trains, Off-the-Grid Memoir of Two New York City StreetMusicians. We’d be thrilled if you would review our proposal and consider representing us.” Then it was GO TIME! With the book proposal and query letter “in the can”, we plunked down twenty bucks to join publishersmarketplace.com and sifted through a list of the Top 100 Deal Making agents. After boldly firing off an arsenal of query letters we sat back and hoped for the best. Within hours our inbox was filling up with top agents requesting a look-see at our proposal. For the first time we held out tentative hope that we might someday know the thrill of having our magnum opus published. The more we sat and thought about the whole thing, the more surreal it became. Here we were, two accomplished musicians who couldn’t get a record company to give us the time of day, but within hours of the initial mailing, the gatekeepers of the literary world appeared to be welcoming two guys with the combined SAT scores of around 900, with open arms. In the end, we met with a bunch of prominent agents and eventually signed with Andrea Somberg at the Harvey Klinger Agency. We swear we didn’t sign because she was the only one schmoozing us over pitchers of Brooklyn Lager . . . or maybe we did! At any rate, she was way cool and we believed she could sell our book. Soft Skull Press subsequently published Buskers and our band was finally on the musical and literary map, receiving recognition not from the previously envisioned Rolling Stone or Spin Magazine, but in the form of book reviews from such sweet ass publications as theNew Yorker. Presently, our book continues to unlock unexpected creative doors as we begin the process of adapting our story for the stage. Having our book “out there” has also separated us from the generic rock n’ roll pack and we couldn’t have done it without Arielle and David by our side. Like those two rockers from Aurora, Illinois once famously said, “We’re not worthy!” Heth and Jed Official Heth and Jed Facebook Heth and Jed YouTube
David has now been a writer for 15 years. Before that, he was a professional actor for 15 years. In that time, he located, lured and landed over 50 agents. In fact, he got so good at it that he eventually got an agent to marry him and be the mother of his child. Sadly, on their wedding day, she fired him as a client. For those of you who don’t know, that agent is Arielle.
We’ve seen lots of agents try to tell writers how to find an agent. The sad truth is agents have no idea how to find an agent. All they have to do is look in the mirror, and there is an agent staring back at them. They look around the office; they’re surrounded by agents. Agents can tell you what things not to do and what things annoy them. But they also often give bad advice because, quite frankly, they don’t want the competition.
We see lots of agents tell writers not to do multiple submissions. But, in fact, it can take an agent nine months to get to your manuscript. That’s how long it took Arielle to read David’s manuscript after he submitted it to her. And we went on to get married! Imagine if it took nine months for every agent to get back to you, it would take you seven years to query 10 agents. Of course, agents don’t want you to do multiple submissions. They want you all to themselves.
David also heard an agent say a writer should never submit a book that’s already been self-published. She said it in such a dismissive and entitled way. You find this a lot with agents; they tend to develop a dismissive, entitled, bitter, jaded, snarky outer shell. You can’t blame them because they are constantly inundated, and everyone wants the agent to make their dreams come true. In fact, a great agent can make your dreams come true. David is living proof of that. However, he also did exactly what the dismissive, entitled agent said couldn’t be done. One of his books went out-of-print, and people kept asking where they could buy it. So, as an experiment, he decided to self-publish the book. It was a great experience, and he learned an amazing amount from doing it. It cost him nothing because the book had already been published; and he bartered with people to make him a new cover, a new layout for the printed version and an e-book. He immediately started making money on the book. At the same time, he went out to a number of agents and editors, and lo and behold, got a book contract. When that happened, he immediately took the book down from where it was available, and no one was the wiser. Mind you, he didn’t tell the people he was submitting a book that had already been self-published. But if they had asked, he certainly would not have lied. They didn’t ask. He didn’t tell.
So how do you find an agent?
There is a fine line between research and stalking. The Book Doctors firmly believe it’s important to stay on the research side of that line. The first thing David does is make a list of 10 to 15 books that are similar, in the biggest broadest sense of that word, to his book. Let us emphasize in no uncertain terms that we mean big broad strokes. And please, for goodness sake, don’t say that your book is like no book ever written. Because that book will never be published. Lots of our clients have no idea what books are similar to their books. That’s a problem.
One of the most important things you can do as a writer is to read, and you have to become an expert in the section of the bookstore where your book is going to live. Recently, someone pitched us a piece of noir. We asked him if it was more like Raymond Chandler, Dennis Lehane, or James Elroy. He looked at us like a confused puppy and said, “Who are they?” They’re only three of the most successful and brilliant noir writers in history. If you are lucky enough to get an agent or editor interested, and they ask you if your book is similar to another book on the shelf, you have to be able to say, “Oh yes, I love that book, and readers of that book will love my book, but it’s different in these ways …”
2. Find Books Similar to Yours
Take a field trip to your local independent bookstore. When the phones aren’t ringing off the hook and the cash registers aren’t going crazy, find a person who is the expert, or as close to an expert there is, in the kind of book you’re writing. Then ask them what books they have that are similar to your book. Start making a list of books that are similar to yours, again in the broadest, largest sense. List books that looked interesting to you, that looked like they were done by people you’d like to do business with. In the acknowledgments section of those books, look for the agent and/or editor.
3. Make a List and Create an Environment of Competition for Your Book
Your agent list should be a little bit like a high school senior putting together their college list. You should have some well-known agents at the top of your list, some agents you admire but aren’t bigwigs yet, and some agents that have just started out or whose lists are small.
As soon as anyone expresses interest, you immediately email everyone else on your list. There’s nothing that’s going to get you a response faster than having someone else interested. That’s human nature. It’s like the sorta cute kid in high school who shows up with a beautiful cheerleader on his arm. Immediately, he becomes much more attractive. He’s exactly the same guy he was yesterday; only now someone else wants him. You see, every agent who’s been in the business for any length of time has a recurring nightmare in which they’re walking down the street, people are pointing at them, laughing and giggling, whispering to each other, “There goes the agent who passed on Harry Potter!” That’s because every agent has passed on a book that has become wildly successful.
4. Know Thy Agent-to-Be
Make a file on each of the agents. Where are they from? Where did they go to college? What are their hobbies? Where have they been interviewed? What books have they agented? Are they a dog person? You’re going to use all this information when you write your query letter.
One of the biggest mistakes that most amateur writers make is that they just send anonymous letters without doing any research. In lots and lots of places, it says that Arielle does not like fantasy and science fiction; and yet every week she gets another email from a writer that says, “Dear Agent, I know you’re going to love my book; it’s the first in a 37 book series. It’s called the Unicorns of Narnia.” Arielle used to actually answer those emails. She doesn’t answer them anymore. They go directly into the trash.
5. Make it Easy for an Agent to Say Yes
Agents are trained to say no. They’re just looking for a reason to reject you. It sounds cold and cruel from a writer’s perspective; but having lived with an agent for so long now, David totally understands it. They are inundated and overwhelmed, mostly overworked and underpaid. They’ve got 50 submissions that arrived in their inbox today, they had 50 yesterday, and will have 50 tomorrow. It’s relentless. That’s why they’re looking for a reason to say no. These reasons include:
- Spelling or punctuation mistakes—we can’t tell you how many people have spelled Arielle’s name wrong
- Over-promising and under-delivering
- Too much horn-tooting and butt-kissing
- Using obvious and overblown comp titles (i.e. Harry Potter, Eat Pray Love, Hunger Games)
- Not following agent submission guidelines—you can’t believe the percentage of submissions that do one or more of the above.
That’s why if you just do the basics, it already ups your odds by loads.
6. Don’t Submit Your Book Until It’s Fully Polished
Writers are under the mistaken impression that an agent will help them fix their books. The agent is almost certainly not going to help you fix your book. If your book is not ready, the agent will reject you and your book. Almost certainly, that bridge will be burned.
7. Develop a Coping Mechanism for Rejection
JK Rowling was rejected 25 times. What makes you think you’re any better than JK Rowling? Thicken your skin. Everyone has her own method of doing this. David subscribes to the Godfather model: It’s never personal; it’s always business. He also enjoys accumulating lists of people who’ve rejected him; so that when he finally gets a deal he’s been looking for, he can send them all a very sweet email, and rub their noses right in it. But again, everyone has to come up with their own personal method.
8. Keep Up-to-Date
Sign up for Publishers Marketplace and Shelf Awareness. Keep abreast of who is selling books and making deals. Know what agents have awesome blogs. Speaking of which, here’s a shout out to Jennifer Laughran, who has an absolutely awesome blogfor those of you writing children’s books.
9. Go to Writers Conferences, Seminars and Workshops
There are very few places a writer can actually get face time with an agent. Conferences, seminars or workshops are one of them. You can listen to agents make presentations, and sometimes you can even have one-on-one sessions with them.
10. Join a Writers Group
When David lived in San Francisco, he found an amazing writing group. One of the writers was a very handsome, very charming, ridiculously talented writer. Plus he was a doctor. You wanted to hate him, but he was just too nice to hate. You knew if he caught a break, he was going to be huge. Well, he did catch a break. He wrote a little book called The Kite Runner and became an international sensation. His name is Khaled Husseini. Now David is connected with his agent by one degree of separation.
11. Attend Readings at Bookstores and Libraries
Any time an author whose work is similar to yours in any way, shape, or form comes to town to do a reading, GO! Buy a book. Be the last person in line at the signing. If someone comes behind you, get behind him/her. This is important because when you get up to the front of the line to have the author sign the book, it’s very rude to have a conversation if there’s someone waiting behind you. If you’re the last one, then there’s no pressure to move along. Sometimes the writer will want to talk to you; sometimes the writer will not want to talk to you. Pay very close attention to body language. Ask the writers if they’re happy with their agent. If they say yes, this gives you the opening to contact the agent and say, “I was talking to your client yesterday, and she said how much she enjoyed having you as her agent.”
12. Write a Killer Query
Three paragraphs. The first is always customized. Why should this agent be your agent? The second paragraph is your pitch. The third paragraph is a short bio. The whole query should reflect the voice of your book whether that be funny, authoritative, lyrical or whatever. This is your audition to show what a fabulous writer you are.
13. Persevere and Follow Up
Don’t ever assume if you don’t hear back from an agent that they are rejecting you. Assume they haven’t even looked at your query or manuscript. David’s maxim is: keep submitting until they say yes or the agent tells you to go to hell. He tries to have the Zen attitude that it doesn’t matter whether they say yesor no. Because when someone says no, it’s like you bought another lottery ticket. You have increased your chances of winning.
However, there are two kinds of perseverance: smart perseverance and stupid perseverance. The Book Doctors highly advocate smart perseverance. Always try to make your query/proposal/manuscript a little better. Polish, buff, shine until is evolves into the best versions of itself.
Whenever you are rejected, ask if there’s anything you can do to make your work better. Time and again, David has seen people be very generous with their advice. When David first approached Arielle, he didn’t know her. In fact, David didn’t know anyone in the publishing business. After making initial contact, he sent her his manuscript. A week later he followed up, just to make sure she received the manuscript. It turned out she had already lost it. He sent another. A month later, when he hadn’t heard anything, he called her on the phone. Generally speaking, agents don’t want you to call them on the phone. But this is David’s strength. We had a very nice conversation; he never even mentioned his manuscript. He found out afterwards that because he’d been so nice, Arielle felt very guilty. One month later, he did the same thing. This went on, as he mentioned earlier, for nine months. One human gestation period. Finally, he told her he was coming to New York for Christmas. He lived in Venice Beach at the time, and in fact he wasn’t going to New York at all; but he had a feeling that if he said that, she would read his manuscript. He was right. As soon as they hung up, he went and booked a ticket to New York. Six months later, after she had helped him craft his proposal, she sold it for six figures in less than two hours. Ten years after that, they had the most amazing daughter ever.
As we freeze in a winter wonderland (or a frozen wasteland depending on your point of view) and dream of spring springing, we are positively jubilant that we’ve turned in the final draft of the Third Edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. So we thought we’d give you a little preview. If you want to get successfully published, then this info is a must read and one of our most important updates in the new edition.
Many authors neglect to put crucial information in their author profiles on social media platforms, if they even put up profiles at all. “You only get so many owned or controlled presences online,” says Peter McCarthy, of the Logical Marketing Agency, a digital marketing company for the publishing industry. That’s why you want to make sure to have in-depth and well-thought-out profiles on Google Plus, Amazon, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. Not only do you get to decide what to put in these profiles, but you also get to take advantage of the fact that Google ranks these sites highly for searches. So let’s say, someone is looking for a book on how to get published. If I have profiles on all these sites with well-chosen keywords and phrases on this very subject, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published is likely to come up higher in this person’s search than someone else’s book on the same subject. And the higher up you can get on Google searches relating to your book, the more books you’re likely to sell.
But don’t put up the exact same author profile on all four sites. Differentiate slightly among them so that you can broaden the number of searches that might find you. Within Amazon, for example: Because people visit Amazon to buy stuff, your profile should facilitate those transactions. You want to be much more specific in describing the types of books you write. On LinkedIn, which is mostly for professional networking, you want to be more focused on credentials: Why should a reader trust you on your area of expertise? On Goodreads, which is more social in nature, you can be more informal and talk about your kids, your dog, and the books (preferably within your subject area/genre) you love and admire. On Google Plus, where biographical data help Google identify you in searches, it’s just the facts ma’am.
Find out more about author profiles and check out the rest of the updates we made in our new edition in May!
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We’re writing a new edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! and want to know what you need.
What do you want in the new edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published?
- How much time do I need to put into social media each day? (14%, 8 Votes)
- Should I try to publish with the Big 5, an independent publisher or self-publish? (13%, 7 Votes)
- How do I price my ebook? (11%, 6 Votes)
- How can getting my work published online help me get a book deal? (11%, 6 Votes)
- If I hire an outside editor, do I need a developmental edit or a line edit? (11%, 6 Votes)
- Should I publish with Amazon? (9%, 5 Votes)
- How do I self-publish literary fiction? (9%, 5 Votes)
- Are they real publishers or just author service companies that want to rip me off? (9%, 5 Votes)
- How to get the most out of a writer's conference? (9%, 5 Votes)
- What is the art of selling children's books? (5%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 11
Have other ideas? Leave a comment below to tell us what you want in the new edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
“Is’t possible that on so little acquaintance you
should like her? that but seeing you should love
her? and loving woo? and, wooing, she should
grant? and will you persever to enjoy her?”
— William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act V, Scene II
Every day published, self-published and unpublished writers breathlessly ask us, “Do I really have to have a Facebook page? And if so, what the heck do I do with it?” We will endeavor to answer these questions. But there are also a lot of questions we are not asked, but we think authors should be asking. Our goal is to present a roadmap that will help any writer navigate this increasingly complicated –and crucial– cyber-landscape.
While we get our Facebook on every day, we turned to two experts, Annik LaFarge and Antonella Iannarino, to give us the skinny on the latest and greatest ways to use this monster of a tool.
Annik spent 25 years in the publishing business in senior marketing, editorial, and publishing positions. Today she runs her own company that specializes in online project management, editorial work, and consulting on digital strategy. She recently wrote The Author Online: A Short Guide to Building Your Website, Whether You Do it Yourself (and you can!) or you Work With Pros. Antonella, an agent and digital media maven at the David Black Agency, has helped authors like Mitch Albom get their websites and Facebook pages up and running. Here Annik and Antonella offer us both the Big Think about how to use Facebook and also some more granular how-to information (just follow the links…) that will help you get started today.
First, Annik addresses the most popular questions The Book Doctors hear from authors about Facebook:
1) How many Facebook fans is enough to impress a publisher?
What seems like a lot of fans to one publisher might seem paltry to another, so rather than think in terms of actual numbers I urge you instead to think about growth. Facebook’s analytic tool called Insights allows you to easily track the number of monthly active users, Likes, wall posts, comments and visits that your page receives, along with the increase or decrease on a week-to-week basis. So pay attention to that data and aim to present your publisher with a percentage of growth rather than a fixed, context-less number. More impressive will be the fact that with active use and engagement you grew your key metrics by ten or twenty percent over a period of several months or a year. That shows dedication on your part, and demonstrates that you understand how to provide high value content to your readers. Even more impressive will be the number of Likes your page has garnered from fans. Read on and you’ll understand why.
2) Should I set up a fan page for my book or just use my personal page?
You should set up a fan page because these are accessible to anyone on the web, whether or not they’re Facebook members. And they don’t have to be your friends to access it; the page is open to anyone. This way you can post special content or links on your Facebook page and mention it in media interviews. For all of you Luddites out there Antonella wrote a great primer about how to do this: The 7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Fan Page. Everything you need to know is there, along with screenshots plus a link to a piece that outlines all the important settings for your Facebook page. At the end of this article we’ve offered a few examples of author fan pages that you can use to generate ideas of your own.
3. When should I set up my Facebook page – when I start writing/once I have a book deal/once my book comes out?
It takes time to build an audience. The sooner you begin the more time you’ll have to grow your fan base and start learning – by studying your Insight analytics – what sort of content resonates with them. Start as soon as possible. How about tomorrow afternoon?
4) How often should I communicate via Facebook? What is too much?
You’ll know when it’s too much because the postings will feel forced. Communicate as often as you have something worthwhile to say. Being consistent is good, but not essential. Some people insist that you should post to a blog or Facebook page at least once a week. I think the better rule of thumb is: always default to quality, not quantity. Your friends and fans have other things to read; just make sure that whatever they find on your page is worth their time.
5) I’m worried about privacy issues. What should I do?
You don’t need to include personal information on your Page. You do need to provide some details when first signing up for a personal account with Facebook, but that’s for registration and you can keep that information private through your privacy settings. But for your Page, the only details you can elect to include on your “Info” tab that might be of concern are your birthday and contact information. Think carefully about posting your birthday online. The upside is that your friends can send you nice messages, wishing you a happy birthday. The downside is that your date of birth is used by banks and other institutions as a legal identifier, and so there are reasons to keep it private. Antonella points out that some people include their zodiac sign and list their publisher’s address or a P.O. box for fan mail. As for managing information on your personal profile, our best advice is to closely monitor your settings and stay up-to-date on changes that Facebook makes. They happen often, and are widely discussed online. Often, Facebook’s default options are not pro-privacy. So pay attention, and ask your friends what they do if you’re unsure. And of course, use common sense about what information you share. Anywhere.
6) Should I put up pictures? Video? What kind of picture should I put up for my profile?
If your pictures and videos enhance what you’re sharing on Facebook then sure, use them. But don’t post any visual media just because you have it. Post it because the stuff is worthy of being posted – because it helps you amuse, entertain, educate, engage. And use something dignified. A goofy picture of you and your dog is okay for your personal page but not, perhaps, the image you want to leave potential book buyers with. Many authors (myself included) use their book cover instead of a photograph. That’s fine too, just try to keep the image relevant to you and your work.
Now that Annik and Antonella have covered the questions The Book Doctors get on a daily basis, we want to introduce the questions you should be asking, but aren’t. Take notes!
1) So now I know I need to get people to “Like” my page. What’s the best way to do this so I can build my list of friends/fans?
Two ways. First, post relevant, engaging content: questions, insights, books you’ve read, etc. Give people a reason to visit your page, make it interesting, interactive, and a true reflection of you and your work. Then tell people about it in all the ways available to you: link to it from your website or blog; place a link in your email signature; mention it on the flap or back cover of your books; send a message with a link to all your personal Facebook friends asking them to join your book page by clicking the Like button; etc.
2) What’s the deal with the “Like” button and why is it so ubiquitous?
As you may have noticed, the “Like” button that appears at the top of a fan page, is now showing up in lots of other places: on people’s blogs, next to products on online stores, and in nooks and crannies all over the World Wide Web.
I recently had a conversation with Greg Lieber who runs business operations for GraphEffect, one of the fast growing social advertising platforms that Facebook works with closely. They develop and manage Facebook campaigns for large brands that go way beyond the spookily targeted ads you see in the right column of your Facebook page.
He helped me understand the basics of how Facebook works by explaining that its algorithm, EdgeRank, gives a value to all of the items that appear in your News Feed and that a huge component of this is the number of Likes and comments that are associated with it.
So let’s say you have a blog and you’ve installed a Facebook plug-in that places a Like button alongside each post you write. When someone clicks the Like button your post appears in that person’s Facebook News Feed and becomes visible to all of their friends, plus it includes a link back to your blog.
This allows people to discover your work and enables them to either like the post directly in the feed or to click on the post and like it directly from the post itself. As the likes increase via Facebook’s viral channels the value of the post increases in EdgeRank and makes the post more likely to appear in your friend’s News Feed. However there are other factors at play: for example, if there’s a friend or page you interact with frequently on Facebook, then this person or page’s post will likely appear towards the top of your News Feed. Another factor is timing: the older your post, the less likely it is to appear in the News Feed of your friends. Finally, the “weight” of the post’s feedback plays a role, meaning that comments on a specific post are going to have a greater impact than ‘Likes’ of that same post.
[Side note: you may have recently seen that new “Send” button on Facebook. It’s similar to the Like button, but allows you to share a link privately with a friend or Facebook group using Facebook email. Whenever someone clicks it, it does increase your total like count, but it will not show up in the newsfeed.]
3) What sort of landing page should I have?
Creating a special “landing page” that people will see when they first come to your page is an effective way to use Facebook almost as you would the home page of a website. You can convey the “voice” of your site (in words and images) and tell folks what sort of regular content you’ll be providing there. A good example of this is a company called Global Basecamps, a popular eco-tourism business. See how their landing page expresses what the business is all about, tells you a bit about what they offer (weekly travel quizzes!) and, most important, encourages you to hit the Like button. Once you’ve Liked their page you’ll start landing, in future visits, on the wall page where they post all kinds of useful, interesting, amusing, content. The more good stuff they post, the more their visitors hit the Like button. And the more they hit the Like button….Well, you know about that now.
But be warned: Facebook recently changed – and made more complex – the programming language that members use to customize their pages. Today creating a landing page requires some knowledge of basic programming. Antonella’s 7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Facebook Page article has some very helpful background information and tips for how to get started (see #7), and she also includes links to third party apps that you (or your developer) can use.
4) Should I connect my Twitter feed or my website to Facebook?
Probably, but if all you feed to Twitter is your Facebook status updates you’re not making your Twitter account unique. Best of all: create unique content for each platform and give people a reason to follow you in both places.
Now that we’ve laid down the basics, look around at some author pages on Facebook and see what you like (lower case…) and admire. Some people share a lot, others very little. But it bears repeating: follow the quality over quantity rule and post your updates and links with care. Offer value to the people who come to your page, and remember that because you’ve made it public anyone can come there – it’s not just your friends and family. Think about all the many different kinds of people who might end up there – young or old, familiar with your work or not, interested in just one aspect of a subject you cover, etc. Visit your page periodically like you’re a perfect stranger, and consider how the content, style and look may strike those different audiences. Then review, update, revise. And for goodness sake, whatever you do, have fun!
THREE AUTHOR PAGES WORTH LOOKING AT ON FACEBOOK
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published and The Book Doctors blog.
You’ve finished your novel (or maybe not—that’s okay, too). What’s next? You gotta have a great pitch. Now you have the chance to test your pitch on The Book Doctors, aka, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, who are holding a Pitchapalooza for NaNoWriMo participants only. Pitchapalooza is like American Idol for books—only without the Simon. Arielle and David have been hosting Pitchapaloozas all around the country, and they were recently featured in The New York Times. Dozens and dozens of writers who have participated in Pitchapaloozas have gone from being talented amateurs to professional, published authors.
How does this online Pitchapalooza work? Just send in your 200-word or less pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 15th, 2011. Twenty-five pitches will be chosen randomly and critiqued by Arielle and David on their blog,www.thebookdoctors.com/blog. A winner will be chosen on March 1, 2011. The winner will receive an introduction to an appropriate agent or publisher for his/her book.
Plus, anyone who buys a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published gets a free consultation worth $100 (please send proof of purchase to email above).
And, for the first time ever, you have the opportunity to vote for your favorite pitch. Let Arielle & David know which pitch you like best by email@example.com. The fan favorite—if different from Arielle and David’s choice—will win a free copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published and the accompanying free consultation.
Just send your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you in cyberspace!
Click here to go to The Office of Letters and Light.
New Orleans opened her beautiful, battered and FREEZING arms to us (it was as cold as a polar bear’s ovary in January in New Orleans, DO NOT come without your woolies!) as we made the next stop on our coast-to-coast pilgrimage listening to book pitchers from America’s citizen authors.
Food. Let’s talk eating first, since this is, after all, N’Awlins. Our first meal was at Cochon (that’s French for pig), recently voted #1 restaurant in New Orleans by the people who live there. Our amazing concierge from the W Hotel (best customer service this side of Zappos btw) snuck us in, otherwise we would never gotten seated.
Alligator. Pig’s feet. Hog’s head. Just reading the menu was an adventure in culinary exotica. We had smothered collard greens whose vinegar greenness melted in the mouth and intoxicated the taste buds. Creamy grits that made you want to cry for joy. Boudin balls crispy fried on the outside and mushy with flavorful sausage and rice on the inside. Black eyed pea and pork soup. A pork pie that made you rejoice to be alive, bursting with thick textures and deep dark gravy flavor combinations all set off by a crisp, crunchy crust. Dessert was a key lime pie that was to die for, with homemade butterscotch ice cream. Plus lime coconut sorbet that was extraterrestrially splendiferous.
On our last night we went to Commander’s Palace. It was the polar opposite of Cochon.
Upscale and formal as opposed to down-home and funky. A hidden kitchen versus the openness and excitement that comes from watching the chefs bustling, hurrying, and slaving over hot stoves. Vests and ties, not t-shirts and jeans. The food was also reflective of this schism. Whereas Cochon took traditional dishes and put contemporary spins on them, Commander’s was strictly old school. We had an appetizer that was simply spectacular – shrimp skewered with a slice of pork smothered in pepper sauce and accented by okra so fresh you expected it to grab your ass and woo you with a snappy pick-up line. But the last meal was sadly pedestrian. The grits were leaden, the gumbo was just above average, and the lamb no different than the lamb we’ve had at upscale joints across the country. Dessert salvaged the meal though: soufflé light and lovely set off by vanilla/whisky sauce; shortcake long on delicate buttermilk goodness and complimented by succulent strawberries and wicked whipped cream. One other important difference: Commander’s was $150; Cochon $60!
Okay, now to the secondary news: our event. Garden District Books is one of the delightful, intimate indie bookstores that reeks of charm and is run by a serious book person: Britton Trice.
The staff is warm, friendly, welcoming, and knows books inside and out. Actually we were scheduled to go there in September 2005 for an event, but were waylaid by Katrina, So it was joyful to finally make it there and to see the bookstore, and indeed N’Awlins not only up and running, but flourishing. It was a freezing night, but to our delight 75 people showed up to pitch.
A very stylish slow talker gave her pitch about a memoir of continually saying the wrong thing at the wrong time with the charming title: The Bumble Gene. Another writer told her story of ½ human, ½ alien hybrids. A trust-funded rock critic gave a lovely presentation about her coming-of-middle age memoir. But our winner blew us away. He pitched his middle school novel called Peaches, starring a “blaxploitation Pippi Longstockings.” It was unique yet familiar, funny and poignant, magically delivered. One of the things that sets this Pitchapalooza apart from dozens and dozens of others we’ve done was that lots and lots of the people told stories in which New Orleans herself was a main character. People there take a real pride in their crazy mishmash of a culture and history. It was way, way cool!
Again, we were blessed with a set of slammin’ judges. Susan Larson, who has her own NPR show after being the book critic at the Picayune for two decades, had a gentle wisdom and wit while dispensing pearls of valuable 411. Kathleen Nettleton of Pelican Publishing was wonderfully no-nonsense, with a real tell-it-like-it-is POV that comes from being in the family book business since she was 12 years old. She told the writers there how critical it is to research a publisher to make sure you fit perfectly on their list.
Writer tip: be nice, not bitter. We were confronted by a writer after the event who was hostile and angry, disgruntlement shooting off her like poison arrows. She complained about how we sucked because she didn’t get to pitch. As we said, there were 75 writers there; we would’ve been at the bookstore until 3AM if we stayed to hear everyone’s pitch. To offset the disappointment some feel, we offer a free one-on-one consultation for everyone who buys a book. But this was not enough for this lady. She snarled and huffed away. An incredibly handsome and snappily dressed doctor approached us full of thanks and gratitude. He didn’t get to pitch either, but said how much he learned by watching and listening. Immediately we wanted to help this guy. So he told us his story. He was a doctor who had overcome drug addiction while treating patients. Great story, told with style and heart.
We were sad to leave New Orleans, but there’s already talk of bringing us back down for the Tennessee Williams Book Fair. We can’t wait!
After a month of sleep deprivation, self-medication, and caffeine saturation, you wrote your 50,000-word novel. Now what? Do yourself a favor, before you rush to send that novel out, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and come up with a strategic plan for getting your book successfully published. Because one of us is a writer, and the other is a literary agent, we thought we’d shed some light on this planning stage from both perspectives. Then we’ll give you 10 simple things you can do to increase your chances of success before you send your manuscript out into the cold cruel world.
DAVID, THE WRITER:
Before I shacked up with a literary agent, I had absolutely no idea of the sheer insurmountable massiveness of the Matterhorn Mountain of manuscripts that every agent faces every day. No matter how fast they reject manuscripts, they just keep coming. I always thought that agents would be excited to get my manuscript, would cherish the prospect of being able to get rich from it. But now that I’ve been living with an agent for over a decade, I realize what a fool I truly was. The great agents can barely service the clients they have. Even the bad agents have too many clients. If an agent is already established, they’re not hungry. If the agent is young and ravenous, they may not have the contacts necessary to lure the elusive golden ticket of a publishing contract.
Before I lived with an agent, I used to finish a piece of writing and send it everywhere. The problem, I now realize, was that I kept sending out a faulty product. One that hadn’t been road tested. That wasn’t finished. It’s as if I invited a guest over to my house for some delicious cake, and I only baked it for 40 minutes instead of an hour. All the ingredients would be there, but my guest would be forced to eat something all sloppy, gloppy, drippy and nasty. I’d say for every hundred manuscripts that arrive at our door every week, a good 85% of them are half-baked.
Now that I myself counsel so many writers trying to get published, I realize that many of them think, as I did, that an agent or publisher will help fix their manuscript. With the ever-shrinking publishing business in such turmoil, agents and editors must be absolutely passionate about a book. Or believe in their heart that it will make lots and lots and lots of money. Hopefully both. But because they have so many books to choose from, it only makes sense that they would be most attracted to the cakes that are beautifully baked and frosted. The ones that need no fixing.
ARIELLE, THE AGENT:
While it’s never overtly stated, agents and editors are trained to say “No”. You’re trained to look for reasons to turn a project down. To think of every objection anyone might possibly have. Uncover every reason a book might fail. In fact, because I have so little time as an agent, if a manuscript is just good or if it’s at all sloppy or if the writer doesn’t appear professional, the manuscript will go right in the trash.
But when a writer has done her research and perfected her craft, agents get excited. They can sniff a professional often in the very first paragraph of a query letter. And when they do, the thrill of the potential sale ping pongs through their bodies.
I love helping writers. I love working with writers. But it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, often for very little reward. One of my great frustrations as an agent is that some of the very best books I’ve ever worked on never got published. It breaks my heart! That’s why agents are so very picky. And that’s why you have to anticipate every reason why an agent might say “no” before they can.
Now that you’ve heard both perspectives, here’s our top 10 list of things to do before sending your manuscript out. These tips are writer and agent friendly!
1) READERS & CRITIQUERS. Like a fine bottle of newly opened wine, let your manuscript breathe. While it’s breathing, get people to read it. You absolutely cannot be objective about your own work. Almost everyone thinks that their baby is the cutest, smartest, and most talented. For this reason, don’t depend on your family and/or people who love you as your readers. Look to your NaNoWriMo cohorts. Writer’s groups and workshops. Readers and writers on any of the gazillion websites where they congregate, like Goodreads, RedRoom, and Open Salon. Offer to read other writers’ work in exchange for them reading yours. Yes, of course, take all comments with several grains of salt. But if everyone says your ending sucks, there’s a very good chance that it does.
2) MOUNTING A PLATFORM. Nowadays, publishers don’t just want you to have a following, they expect it. How many eyeballs can you bring to the table? Relentlessly connect with your audience. For example, Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, a novel about Alzheimer’s she originally self-published, hooked up with a major Alzheimer’s website. After much dedicated hard work, Lisa became a keynote speaker at a big annual Alzheimer’s convention. This led to the New York Times bestseller list, which led to a seven-figure two-book deal.
3) IDENTIFYING COMPETITION. Know your marketplace. Frequent your local bookstore. Live in the section where your book will land. Read everything. Befriend booksellers and pick their brains for comparable titles. Assemble a deep and elaborate comp list (this is industry lingo for comparative titles). When you go to an editor or agent, and they ask you about a book similar to yours, you better know that book, and know how yours is different. You also want to compare your book to others that have been successful in the marketplace.
4) FINDING BUYERS. Pinpoint books similar but not exactly like yours. Scour the acknowledgments. See if the agent and/or editor is named. Research these people. Find out everything you can about them. What other books do they represent or edit? Where did they go to high school, college, grad school? Are they horse people, cat people, Jane Austen people? All this will help you find the right buyer for your book when you go to sell it.
5) A PITCH-PERFECT PITCH. 1 minute or less. 1 page. 150 words. That’s all you get for a pitch. Read tons of flap copy of other books in your section of the bookstore. Use your comp titles to develop a 5-second elevator pitch, which will usually either end or begin your pitch. For example, we call our book the What to Expect When You are Expecting…of publishing. In other words, our book, like What To Expect promises to be a one stop shopping guide for everything you’ll need to know about the subject. It may seem cheesy and/or ridiculous, but this shorthand “sales handle” gives agents and editors a quick and easy way to understand and describe exactly what your book is. A pitch is like a poem. Every syllable counts.
6) MASTERFUL QUERY. 1 page. 3 paragraphs. The first paragraph establishes your connection with whomever you’re trying to hook with your book. The second is your pitch, condensed to one paragraph. The third is your bio, again shrink-wrapped so that it’s one short paragraph. This letter needs to establish who you are. If you’re writing a humor book, this letter better be funny. If you’re writing romance, there better be some sizzle. If you’re writing suspense, there better be a great cliffhanger somewhere in sight. Read your query out loud before you send it. Again, get others to read it. Sadly, this one page has a lot to do with your chances of getting successfully published.
7) GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. A great editor can make your book so much better. Our editor improved our book approximately 15,000 times. She kept challenging us to be more precise, to surgically remove unnecessary words, to say things with more clarity and concision. She could, in the words of editor/agent/author Betsy Lerner, see the forest for the trees. If you have the dinero, investing in your book early on in the process may save you time and money in the long run. If you don’t have a lot of spare change, you can ask a local bookseller to just read—not edit—your manuscript for a fee.
Originally posted at The Office of Letters and Light