Here are just some of the testimonials we’ve gotten from Pitchapalooza. We’ve loved every second of it. Thanks America!
I am still resonating from the experience. — Larry Kirshbaum
I just wanted to drop you both a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed the event last night. You two are incredible! I learned so much and just thought it was tremendous.
I’m so glad I could be there and meet you in-person, as well. Thank you again, so much, for extending this awesome event to our participants and including us in such a smart, beneficial, and fun project. You’re stars! — Lindsey Grant, NaNoWriMo Program Director
I wanted to thank you for a very inspiring afternoon at Kepler’s. Thanks for showing me the different components of a perfect pitch. I’ve done tons of query letter writing in my years as a freelancer but this one-minute pitch was daunting. But I told myself that the point was to go and have a good time and that’s what I did. — Kalpana Mohan, Pitchapalooza winner, Kepler’s
I wasn’t sure what to expect when went to Kepler’s last Sunday, but I thought the Pitchapalooza was amazing, and I hope to attend another one or one of your workshops in the future. The positive energy combined with the constructive feedback helped me feel energized and ready to continue working towards polishing my craft. I have a page full of notes from the Pitchapalooza and will continue to consult them as I write new query letters and pitches. Thank you for putting together such an amazing event and resource. I’m looking forward to speaking with you. — Jessica Bayliss
Pitchapalooza is a great concept. Fledgling authors get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of literary experts who provide instant feedback. Not only was Pitchapalooza entertaining–some “pitchers” are funny and have great senses of humor–but participants get a chance to meet “neighbors” and discuss their book ideas with them as well. All in all, Pitchapalooza is a wonderful opportunity for average folks to learn if their book ideas have merit. — Murray Sabrin
Thank you for your appearance at Kepler’s a few weeks ago. I chickened out of pitching my book-in-progress but I learned so much from the experience and met some other wonderful fellow writers. — Samantha Rajaram
I LOVED it! I spent six months and paid $1,000 to get a fraction of the publishing wisdom you dished out in a few hours for 17 bucks. Beyond entertaining! Arielle and David were charming, hilarious and wise. You had fun, so we had fun. I learned something from every pitch and every panel response, even though you didn’t call my number. And … you softened the blow for those of us who didn’t pitch with your surprise announcement that we’d ALL get a chance to have you weigh in on our proposals … for FREE! Thrilling! I loved the energy in the room — yours and my fellow authors’. You captured the, “American Idol for Aspiring Authors,” vibe I had read about… I appreciated the clearly communicated, fast-paced, tightly enforced format. I appreciated how thoughtfully you assembled your panel; panelists brought insights from vast but varied experience… You and the panelists didn’t pull punches, but no one left with a “black eye” from too-brutal feedback. I considered it a fantastic event… — Kelly Standing
Pitchapalooza made my book go from the realm of the desirable to that of the possible. It was exciting to see so many other people wrestling with many of the same issues that I’m confronting, and getting to pitch my book forced me to confront this one obvious fact: yes, I can do it. And not only can I do it, but I should, and now. So, the experience inspired me. Thanks, Book Doctors! — Nathan
The enthusiasm of David and Arielle, from the beginning and throughout the event, was contagious. They did an amazing job at setting everyone’s nervous minds at ease immediately. I felt a definite camaraderie with the others “pitchers” as each stood bravely to try their hand at their one minute pitch. The genuine, attentive and thorough feedback from the panel was impressive. I took a few pages of notes from the critiques given and I learned something from each pitch and comment. The 17-second-recited-in-unison pitch by David and Arielle was entertaining. — Michele Dutcher
Pitchapalooza was highly entertaining and as nerve-wracking as the thunderstorm going on outside the tent as I waited to see if my name would be called. I learned a lot. It was my first experience with doing a pitch and it was incredibly helpful to listen to the specific feedback everyone was given…including feedback given to me. — Bev Smith
Since civilization began, we’ve been climbing the walls to get our stories told. This husband and wife team rocks the Kasbah! Arielle and David have turned today’s science of book publishing on its head by teaching us the art of enjoying the ride. They delete the daunting and magnify the doable, so that everyone wins. .How did they manage to write a whole Bible yet have it be such a fun read? By quantum leaps, The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published inspires me forward and grows more valuable every day. — PM Kearns
Pitchapalooza is the most fun I’ve ever had in a bookstore. The two of you work together like a comedy team, and your advice is succinct, insightful, and encouraging. I left Pitchapalooza with an autographed copy of your new book (definitely worth buying for the new information) and with concrete ideas on how to improve my pitch and market my book. Thank you again for sharing your time and talent. — Lee Wilson
The Pitchapalooza was GREAT!! I was very entertained. It was a first time experience for me as I am quite new to the writing and publishing world. The process was interesting and impressive. I enjoyed first the positive, encouraging manner that you all began with leading into the needs or more accolades. And of course many of the pitches were amazing. — Regena Walters
Thank you so much for the highly entertaining and informative pitch session at the Northvale book store this afternoon. Your feedback on my very rough pitch about raising a child with autism was invaluable. — Laura McKenna
I thoroughly enjoyed attending your Pitchapalooza, even though I was nervously anticipating my turn to pitch. The event was entertaining as many of the authors were gifted performers and all of them were passionate about their work. One of the authors even argued with the judges which gave it an American Idol flavor. Your panel of judges was very knowledgeable and had a wide variety of expertise which they passed along and which I found invaluable. I hope you make this an annual event! — Kristin Oakley
I had the pleasure of hearing you both at the DIY Author’s Conference luncheon yesterday. The Pitchapalooza later that afternoon was great fun and very informative. — Bobbi Hahn
I loved your book. I read it over a couple of day’s time and learned a lot from it. As far as the pitchapalooza went, its been very useful because not only did I learn how to do a pitch but also how NOT to do it. Confidence is a big factor in pitching. Knowing your pitch upside down, inside out and backwards is a MUST and NOT giving away too much of the plot seems to be the smarter way to go. — Renee Gibbons
I enjoyed the event; it was interesting to hear what other writers are working on. Plus, to get the mesh of the writer’s personality with their ideas was entertaining. Usually you only get the words on paper, no actual personality of the writer before you. Evaluating a “pitch” is far different than evaluating the actual work. However, in this harried world, poor authors probably only get a minute for consideration — or not. So perfecting the pitch is a necessity. — Liz Gruder
I wanted to personally thank you for putting on the PitchaPalooza for books. It was a last minute Daddy-Daughter gig for us. Katie listened intently to the 20 pitches prior to hers and took in the advice you gave. You both inspired her to finish her manuscript. Again, thanks for writing your book and holding your seminars. The ripple effect of your genuine enthusiasm for the written word coupled with an “honorable mention” in your contest lifted the wings of a budding ten year old blond author. — Allan Mishra
I attended the Pitchapalooza this past week and loved it (despite the fact that I didn’t actually get to pitch!) Listening to all of the writers, and the panel’s incredible feedback, was worth the cost of babysitting. Warm regards. — Deb Levy
Pitchapaolooza was fantabulous—full of theater, zany humor and most of all the insightful tips from The Experts: David, Arielle and their stable of experienced agents. The book itself is extremely well written and so packed full of vital information that, I found, it has to be read and digested over several weeks time. For the writer with chops, The Essential Guide is a blueprint for success. — Peter Hensel
Pitchapalooza was so much fun! It truly proved everyone has a story to tell. I learned a lot and came away with several gold nuggets of useful information. — Robert Skead
I really enjoyed your seminar and I am really enjoying your book! What I liked about it was you all gave really good, valuable feedback that all of the attendees could use on their own pitch. So even though I didn’t get to pitch, I feel like my pitch is now 100 times more powerful! — Anthony Fasano
I was not selected to pitch at the Kansas City Pitchapalooza, but I still found it an entertaining and enlightening experience. Attending Pitchapalooza helped me conclude that my hundreds of hours of work and late nights were worthwhile and now I am working towards presenting my ideas to others. — Courtney Privett
Your Pitchapalooza innovation is such a heartening service for the literary future. You are inspirng the birth of what has been feared to be an endangered species, the published author. — Ann Rasmussen
I thought Pitchapalooza was a very unique approach to getting people energized about writing and publishing their book. The selling of the event as an American Idol for writers was a great way to describe the experience. It was entertaining but also frightening for those of us who either weren’t expecting to get up in front of such a large crowd. Another positive was getting accessibility to both of you who are willing to give honest feedback. — Andre Logan
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You folks are a traveling feast! What a simmering soup of ideas you served up for aspiring authors. Especially refreshing were the humor, empathy and the kindness of your comments. How deftly you kept the mood inviting and comfortable for all. Thank you for sharing your talents with us. I am lovin’ every page ofThe Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published! — Patty Kearn, OK
You provided a lot of positive yet helpful critiques. I think it is a great opportunity for a new writer to get direct feedback and an opportunity to work with an agent, which in my case is the most difficult part. The event was certainly entertaining, and if I had the opportunity to attend again, I most certainly would. — Glenn Snyder
The Pitchapalooza was absolutely wonderful. I loved listening to other people pitch their books, and while your advice was specific to each pitch, it was very applicable to every aspiring author. I learned a lot just by listening to what you guys had to say. My only complaint is that it went by so quickly! Thanks so much. — Rebecca Coppage
I really enjoyed Pitchapalooza. It gave me some insight to things that I would not have otherwise thought about regarding my own book and my pitch. It was entertaining and informative. — Scott McCulloch
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a lot. It was a wonderful event. — Kristin Oakley
Pitchapalooza was part lecture hall, part rock concert. — Lonita Cook
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.
9 a.m. – Noon to register click here.
HOW TO GET PUBLISHED SUCCESSFULLY
This is the greatest time in history to be a writer. The barriers to publishing have been torn down and now anyone
can get published. But getting published successfully is a whole other matter. Arielle and David will take you
through the entire publishing process. This step-by-step, soup-to-nuts workshop will demystify the murky world
of publishing and give you a map and a compass to publishing success. Handouts.
You learn to:
Choose the right idea
Craft an attention-getting pitch
Find the right agent or publisher
Self-publish effectively with ebooks, print-on-demand or traditional printing
Find your audience and build a following through social media
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry have helped dozens of writers become published authors. Their book is
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully.
Arielle Eckstut, an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, co-founded the iconic brand Little Missmatched, and an author of eight books. David Henry Sterry is the author of sixteen books. His books have been translated into ten languages, and one appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. David and Arielle have been featured on NPR, in the New York Times, and have taught everywhere from Stanford to Smith College, and presented at more than 100 bookstores, and book festivals from Texas to Miami, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.
Those famous black lines, the compilation for numbers that make no sense, the coding that is on almost every book out there… This is the allusive, little understood but weirdly all-important ISBN.
The ISBN or International Standard Book Number started some thirty years ago as a way to create a computerized system for cataloging books. The number is not actually a code but literally just a number that has evolved from a 10 digit number to a 13 digit number. Although you don’t have one to print a book, it is nearly impossible to successfully publish and market without one. The number is the universal identity of the book and allows for instant recognition in bookstores, libraries, online sales platforms and databases.
When assembling your book, it’s important to obtain one for yourself. The U.S. ISBN Agency issues the numbers and purchasing one from them makes you the “publisher of record” as well as gives you all the rights to the number and your book.
Many self-publishing companies also are willing to give you a free (or cheap) ISBN if you choose to work with them. However, this makes them the “publisher of record” and does not allow you to your print book on your own. Or much worse, be published by anyone else. The “publisher of record” automatically retains the rights to your title. Although this may not seem like a problem if you plan on sticking with the company, it can cause trouble if you decide to leave…and you don’t want to ever be stuck. Look, if your book blows up and Harper Collins/Random House/Penguin come calling, waving a checkbook, you want to be the ““publisher of record”.
Another thing to keep in mind is that ISBNs do not carry with the title across format boundaries. Print and e-book versions of the same title each need their own ISBNs.
When it comes to self-publishing and help with things such as ISBNs or topography, the self publishing guru, Joel Friedlander, “The Book Designer”, can be a great resource for information. His blog http://www.thebookdesigner.
Happy writing! See you at the bookstore. The Book Doctors
Describing your story in the constrained arena of a one minute pitch
without comparing yourself with other writers can be difficult. It’s a
crutch that many of us use to create a sense of understanding but it
can also backfire. Here’s a tip on how to get your point across
without relying on others to define your piece:
“Be careful about putting yourself in the company of great and famous
authors. ‘Early Philip Roth with a dash of Jane Austen’ can’t stand
alone as a pitch. You’re sure to turn someone off if you compare
yourself to literary giants. Instead, construct a pitch that
specifically explains how your book will speak to the audience of
those uber-authors: ‘What happens when the repressed male sexuality of
Alexander Portnoy meets the strong-minded, spunky joie de vivre of
Elizabeth Bennett? Watch the sparks fly in The Shiksa of
Herefordshire, a new twist on the old battle of the sexes.’”
For more information turn to page 69 of your copy of “The Essential
Guide to Getting Your Book Published” by Arielle Eckstut and David
Henry Sterry. Don’t have a copy of your own? Pick up a copy right here
bookstore and get a FREE 20 minute consultation with The Book Doctors
(with proof of purchase).
Happy writing! See you at the bookstore. The Book Doctors
Friday Friday Friday! The work week is moving into the rear view mirror and the weekend is staring us in the face. So we’re starting Fridaywritingtips. To elucidate, illuminate, and inspire. And please feel free to ask questions: about books, publishing, writing, the meaning of life, whatever.
This week is all about The Idea. Here’s an insider’s tip. The greater your idea, the better your chances of getting successfully published. But what makes a great idea? It’s original yet familiar. New fangled but old fashioned. It fulfills a need. Scratches an itch. Solves a problem. Takes us on a wild ride. Makes us laugh or cry or fall in love. Fills a hole in the market. Most of all, it has a big passionate audience.
“’Now it’s time for some self- assessment. Do you really have something new to say? Something only you can put into words?’ Neal Sofman, owner of San Francisco’s BookShop West Portal, says ‘The thing I notice with successful authors is that they have a unique voice that communicates to their audience. They touch you in some way. You know immediately who’s speaking because they’re so distinct.’ Many, many people spend years and years writing and trying to market books that end up as recycled paper precisely because they’ve failed to capture their uniqueness on the page. And those who fail often become bitter and frustrated, sliding sadly into desperate lives of drugs, booze and literary criticism.
Which gets us back to your idea. ‘Is it so compelling that a person will plop down his hard-earned money for a copy of your book?’ asks Jim Levine, founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency and author of seven books. ‘Your friends and colleagues will say, “that’s a great idea,” which is different from saying, “that’s such a good idea, I’d pay $25 if you write it” most authors don’t realize the difference here.’ How can you tell the difference? Now is the time to put to good use whatever bits of self-knowledge you possess. Consult your therapist, your inner children, your guru, your webmaster, your e-friends on Facebook and as many other people as possible. And not just your mother and BFF’s who believe that nothing but sunshine pours out of you. The more you know in your heart that you are the perfect author for your book and that your book is salable and/or necessary, the better your chances of convincing someone else. Remember: Every day, another writer nobody ever heard of gets a deal to publish a book. And now, you on’t even have to have a publisher if your idea is great enough and you can get it into the heads, hands and hearts of your large and passionate audience.”
Want to learn more? Go to page 79 of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.. Buy a copy of the book at your local bookstore or from: http://thebookdoctors.com/
Happy writing! See you at the bookstore. The Book Doctors
How To Write 60 Books in 20 Years: The Book Doctors Interview Terry Whalin–Writer, Editor and Publisher Extraordinaire
1) You’ve written over 60–SIX ZERO!!!–books. How in the world did you accomplish such a feat? And what can other writers who have trouble writing learn from your ability to keep writing?
I often say writing a book is like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time. It’s the same with books. They are tackled one page at a time, one chapter at a time, one section at a time, one book at a time. One of the best ways to write a full length adult book (something with 40,000 words or more) is to set a daily word count then consistently day after day write 500 or 1,000 words or whatever makes sense for the type of writing that you do. In nonfiction (and all of my books have been nonfiction), I look at each chapter as a lengthy magazine article. In magazine writing, you need to have a beginning, middle and end plus you need to lead the reader to a particular point (call to action or takeaway it is often called). If you can write a successful magazine article and get that into print, then you can string 15 or 20 of those articles together into a single book.
While many writers want to produce a book, I always encourage writers to learn the craft of writing in the magazine world. I have written for more than 50 magazines and I’ve been a magazine editor. It is much better to learn this skill on a short magazine article than a long book. Also you can reach many more people with a magazine article than most books. I wrote many magazine articles before I ever tackled my first book, which was published in 1992. The same principles apply to writing books from my perspective.
I also love many different types of writing and books. Too many writers make a decision that they are only going to write nonfiction or fiction or children’s books or young adult books. It is almost like they are hitched to a plow trying to get through a muddy field and are constantly plodding forward. I’ve discovered great joy in the variety of the writing world. One day I was writing children’s material and another focused on a magazine article then a third day writing a chapter in a nonfiction book. The decision to write a certain type of material is to be made consciously—just like you can decide to write many different types of material.
2) Your books have been published by publishers big and small, general and niche. How did these experiences differ? What were the biggest pluses and minuses of each?
Each book and each publisher has a unique way of working. I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions before I turn in my manuscript to make sure I’ve met their expectations and I encourage them to voice as many of those expectations as possible so I deliver what they want. Some publishers expect you to be a mind-reader and I’ve learned that often I’m off base if I make assumptions and don’t ask expectations questions. This reality is true whether you are working with a large or small publisher.
The key from my perspective is building a relationship with the editor and also as many different people within the publisher as you can access such as marketing and sales and publicity. Position yourself as a proactive author who wants to come alongside and help each person in the house exceed expectations for the performance of your book. There is a fine line each time between proactive and high-maintenance (not where you want to be as an author).
Finally I advise authors to be open to many different ways of working with a publisher. Writers often have a pre-conceived way of working with a publisher. For example, many writers only want a royalty contract with a publisher and are turned off with the offer of a work-made-for-hire, all-rights contract. With that attitude, they walk away from a WMFH offer rather than take it. My literary attorney (notice I have one) says that I’ve signed more WMFH agreements than anyone she knows. I like to have book contracts and work as a writer. Many nonfiction writers don’t understand that about 90% of nonfiction books never earn back their advance. This figure isn’t my statistic but I learned it in a writing book (unfortunately I can’t remember the source). The statistic bears out in my own writing. I would rather be paid well WMFH for a short term book than not have my book earn out a royalty advance. For example, I wrote two devotion books on a very short-term deadline and each book sold 60,000 copies. My name is in the tiny print on the copyright page of those books since devotional books are topical and not author driven. It’s OK with me because I was paid a flat fee and gained a great writing credit that I can use to get other books. Many writers lose sight of such possibilities because they are focused on one way to publish when in fact there are many ways of working. Do not limit yourself.
3) We’ve entered a new age of publishing where the barriers have been ripped down and anyone can publish. Do you see this as a positive or negative for all of those out there that not only want to get published, but get published successfully? Please elaborate as much as possible!
The fact that everyone can get published online with a blog is great (a positive) but writers need to learn to tell good stories and not just write from a stream of consciousness (a negative). Every single book I know has a good target audience and delivers well-crafted stories and how-to information for that reader.
Whether publishing an ebook or manuscript, the successful authors know how to tell a good story and work on their visibility in the marketplace (platform) through speaking, an online presence or other aspects. I encourage writers to attend conferences and build relationships with other writers as well as with magazine and book editors. You never know when one of those relationships is going to lead you into a new publishing opportunity. The old saying is true, “Often it is not what you know but who you know.” What editor is thinking about you and going to pick up the phone or email you when they have a need that they believe you can fill for their publishing house? Much of writing is isolated and writers need to make the effort to get to conferences and continually build personal relationships.
Also writers need to join with other writers and take an active role in a writer’s organization like the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They will grow as writers and learn a great deal from the experience. Like going to conferences, an active role in an organization will help any writer grow in their craft and abilities.
My final point is to encourage writers to establish their own independent publishing business. While building and working within the publishing structure, there is something refreshing and freeing about having your own ability to generate income and reach people through your own initiative. This step teaches you that writing is a business and you need to run it like a business but also this action removes the gatekeepers so you can interact directly with your target market. Establish your own free newsletter like my Right-Writing News. Give away part of your work to build your audience. As you sell products, you can collect the money directly from your reader rather than waiting for a magazine to pay or your book publisher. It will help you have an independent income stream as a writer and is vital for your on-going work in this market.
4) You’ve been both a writer and an editor/publisher. What did you learn about becoming a successful author from being an editor/publisher?
I’ve learned there are many options to get published. There are several keys: the right book for the right audience which is created right and has the right distribution to the bookstores and the right marketing behind it. I understand there are many “rights” in that last sentence. No one cares whether Doubleday or Podunk Press published your book if your book is edited, designed properly and has distribution and marketing. At Intermedia Publishing Group where I’m a Vice President and Publisher, we offer these services at an affordable price. I’ve signed several authors who have sold millions of books (no exaggeration) in the traditional market.
5) You established a strong niche for yourself by writing many of your books for a Christian audience. Do you think this helped your career? Did you ever felt you were the equivalent of type-cast?
A common saying to writers is to “write what you know.” I didn’t necessarily select the Christian audience but I was writing what I knew. The relationships I built were primarily with Christian editors and they gave me the opportunity to write for their magazines and book publishers (in many cases over and over).
There are merits to specialization but my writing is also diverse in the types of writing that I’ve done such as children’s books, young adult, biographies, how-to books, co-authored books, etc. Even within a particular category such as religious inspirational books, there is room for wide diversity. In my years in publishing, I’ve worked in many aspects such as a magazine editor, a book author, a literary agent, an acquisitions editor and now a book publisher. Each aspect has taught me something new and helped me grow as a writer. I’ve built many of the lessons from my diverse experience into my latest how-to book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.
Some great additional links from Terry:
1) The list of Terry’s published books online. Notice the diversity in his writing and the different categories he straddles.
4) Here’s a link to a free hour-long teleseminar that Terry did with editor, Diane Eble, talking about the changes in publishing and the differences between traditional publishing, independent publishing and self-publishing.
5) A free sample of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams
6) The book trailer to Jumpstart on YouTube.
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
Join us on 11/30 at 2 ET, for a LIVE 2-hour event as we celebrate the close to another successful National Novel Writing Month by answering YOUR questions about how to pitch your latest finished manuscript to agents and editors — live on Twitter with the hashtag #novelpitch! We’ll also choose 20 participants at random to give 140-character pitches and get feedback — and one of those people will win the grand prize of a half-hour telephone consult with us.
In every profession there are people who have a profound effect on whatever is being created, but who go unsung not just by the outside world, but often by the people around them. In publishing, copyeditors are very often at the top of the list of those who don’t get noticed, or credit for their painstaking and incredibly valuable contributions.
For our first three books, we never got to meet our copyeditors. Nor did we think much about them. They did a nice polish on our books, but our editors didn’t even tell us their names. In the shuffle of getting a book published, we forgot to ask and not one of these good and talented people made it into any of our acknowledgments. This all changed when Workman bought Putting Your Passion into Print (FYI, this was the former title for The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published). Enter Lynn Strong, copywriter extraordinaire and one of the crown jewels of Workman.
Workman, for so many reasons, is unlike any other publisher out there. One of these reasons is that their copyeditors are VIPs. And Lynn was the queen of the copyeditors. When we were told that Lynn would copyedit our book, it was like being told that Meryl Streep would be playing you in the movie version of your life. And the best thing is that the lead-up was nothing compared to what was delivered. Lynn didn’t just polish our book, she transformed it. And she didn’t copyedit it once, but three times! Twice for our first edition and once more for our second edition. Sentences that we had struggled over draft after draft were transformed from awkward to elegant. Information was moved around to form just the perfect flow. And every misquoted fact, misspelling, and piece of misinformation was corrected by a mind that could clearly beat us at Trivial Pursuit even if we played two against one. On top of all this, she got us. She got our voice. And she managed to not only capture our idiosyncratic style, but to make it better.
We had gratitude pouring out of us and we wanted to thank Lynn in person. But we were told that she was a very shy person who preferred to stay inside her office than to hobnob with the authors whose books she was gracing with her red pencil. Finally, a copyeditor who gets the glory due her, but she doesn’t even want it! She was like the Lone Ranger, who rounds up the bad guys, saves the town, then rides off into the sunset without even waiting for a thank you. But we are pushy people. And, finally, one day while in the Workman offices, we did manage to meet Lynn.
Lynn was a notorious smoker, and her deep raspy voice was true to her habit. She was also every bit the introvert we had been told she was. But she was also warm and lovely. She told us how much she enjoyed working on our book and you could tell she was the kind of person who wouldn’t bullshit you. We left that day feeling like we really had a good book because Lynn had told us so.
Last week, Lynn passed away. For those who worked with her or were graced by her red pencil, her loss was deeply felt. Her loss also made us take a moment to think about the people around us who don’t get the proper appreciation and gratitude.
Lynn, thank you for helping us to become better writers and to realize our dream of creating an essential guide to how to get published. We think of you every time we read our book…