Monday, May 27, 2019

An Evening with Kwame Alexander

"If you don't stand for something,
you'll fall for everything."

                                            --from "swing," by Kwame Alexander
                                             with Mary Rand Hess
Anyone who has had the good fortune to see poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two books Kwame Alexander in person, will come away changed. On a rare rainy night at the University of New Mexico, Kwame and guitarist Randy Preston, the terrific musician who accompanies him for many presentations, made a stop in Albuquerque on their 16-city tour. It is obvious in his books and in person that his poems come from his heart; in person memorized and recited with vigor and finesse; and punctuated by soft background guitar music, poignant popular songs chosen to go with the poems, and original songs.

Words have Power. Words can Transform our Life.
Daycare at three years old.  Living on the Upper Westside of New York City, a kid knocked over Kwame’s blocks. The only weapon Kwame could conjure up were his words. He used a few choice ones and made the kid cry. That’s when Kwame learned the power of words. From then on words transformed his life. Who else at that age would immerse himself in the Dr. Seuss book, Fox in Sox, and know it backwards and forwards? That marked the beginning of Kwame’s love of words.

Speak Out. Your Voice Matters.
A man in the audience pointed out that he could hear empowerment in Kwame’s books, and asked how Kwame’s empowerment came about. Kwame’s dad, headmaster of his school in Brooklyn, dragged him to a march—a protest against police brutality after the killing of a black man. He didn’t want to go. He was scared. Then teachers and kids started singing. He sang too, and the tears dried up. That’s when Kwame realized he has a voice. And his voice matters. He says, “You have to speak out to make wrong things right.”

The Road from Twenty-two Rejections to the Newbery Medal
The Crossover. The best book Kwame felt he has written. The book he wrote from his heart, written at Panera Bread, winner of the Newbery award, garnered twenty-two rejections before it found a home. Upon publication, no one wanted to read it. A book about basketball? Girls don’t read books about basketball. Boys don’t read poetry books. Then boys tried it. Then girls. Then they asked for more. The rest is, as they say, history.

How did Kwame begin his journey?  At a booth in Reston, Virginia. Kwame set up a card table, wore a T-shirt with Miles Davis on it—he listens to jazz while he’s writing—laid out 100 books, and sold them all in about an hour.

The evening ended with Kwame’s reading of his new book, Undefeated, while displayed on a large screen. The reading cut me to the core. I came away in awe of how Kwame’s words dig deep into the soul. Bring out feelings about how we as inhabitants of this Earth interact with each other. And how beautiful it is when we celebrate each other. Read Undefeated for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. There is so much to learn about Kwame Alexander. Please visit his website: https://kwamealexander.com/. Like me, you will never be the same.
Clipart courtesy of: www.freepngclipart.com.


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Market with Content

What Does It Take To Market Your Writing? Great Content

What does it take to Market your writing? It takes spotlight effort on your Author Platform, Branding, Identifying your audience, an Author Website, and building Connection with your readers. Overwhelming? Yep, it is for all of us. Let’s break it down: this week we’ll talk about Great Content.

We use the internet to research concepts, compare topics and glean information for our work, discover fresh ideas, and to find the best, consistent resources to build our writing without wasting time or money. 

Likewise, we must deliver informative, strategic, and timely content.
Five Tips:
  1. Since we are not entitled to our reader’s attention, deliver content that grabs their interest through text, imagery, podcasts and video, and make it snappy for the scanners
  2. If it grabs, it’s likely to spread
  3. Use proven structures such as:
    • Headlines, and sub-headlines, that command attention (see Heading Styles in Word)
    • Focused introductory sentences
    • Information that solves a problem
    • Limit the message to one central point
    • Lists stand out and are a quick read
    • Use relevant links, and test them
  4. The Result? Great Content = Successful Marketing for your business
  5. Build your audience now and grow your business
Helpful Resources:
Our own Writers On The Move Series of Content Articles found here: https://www.writersonthemove.com/

Copy Blogger:
https://www.copyblogger.com/?s=content+marketing

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .

Write clear & concise, personable yet professional






Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Necessity of Simple Follow-up


By W. Terry Whalin

Good and clear communication is a critical element in the business of publishing. Otherwise authors and editors have wrong expectations.

Recently I was at Wheaton College for Write to Publish. During the question and answer portion of a workshop, a woman asked, “I sent my manuscript to an editor who asked for it at the last conference. I never heard and checked on it about six months later. When I called, the editor said she had not received it and could I send it again. I sent it a second time. Now it is six months later and I’ve heard nothing. What do I do?”

See the challenge for the author? She has been waiting for a response to a requested submission and hearing nothing. This new writer is too timid to email or call and check with the editor about it. I understand the reluctance because sometimes when you check, it gets rejected—and no one wants to be rejected.

Here’s what the writer isn’t thinking about. As editors, we receive a lot of material. For example, at Morgan James, we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. Did you see those numbers? A massive amount of material is floating through our system at any single time period. I’m constantly putting submissions into our system and sorting through my acquisitions files.

To be transparent, other editors are not as careful with their submissions. It is not uncommon for me to receive several hundred emails a day. If I’m traveling or at a conference, and then I can’t be as conscious of my email and the submissions. Manuscripts, proposals and submissions are misplaced and sometimes the editor doesn’t receive them. Or maybe they have moved into a new computer or their computer has crashed or any number of other possibilities.

Here’s what I suggested to the writer asking about her manuscript: follow-up with the editor. Don’t wait weeks yet at the same time give it at least a week so you don’t seem overly anxious. Then you can email or put in a quick phone call to the editor asking, “Did you receive my submission?”

Notice the question. You are not asking if the editor has read it or reached a decision—which if you ask is pushing them to say, “no.” Instead you are simply asking if they received it.
You avoid waiting months for a response, hearing nothing and then asking only to learn the editor never received it. I never mind an author checking with me to see if I received their material and this simple follow-up is professional and appreciated.

Other authors are extreme in the other direction of follow-up. They follow-up too frequently. I have a children’s author who submitted their material three weeks ago. I got their material into our submission system and they received an acknowledgement from me in the mail. In addition, I emailed the author to tell him I received his submission. Yet, in the last several weeks, I’ve been in Seattle, New York City and last week Chicago. With my travel, I have not been processing manuscripts. Yet this author has called multiple times—essentially making himself a nuisance. In my last email to him, I leveled with him and asked for patience—and no more calls or checking—or I would be rejecting his submission. I’ve not heard from him in the last few days so hopefully he is following my last instructions or I will follow through with the rejection letter (whether I’ve read his material or not).

Why take such a direct response with this eager author? Because if he is eager with his submission then he is showing that he will be eager throughout the entire publication process. You can substitute my use of the word “eager” with the word “high maintenance.” No publisher wants high maintenance authors. Every publisher wants to work with professionals and not with eager authors who simply waste volumes of time and energy over nothing.

If you are submitting your work, that is excellent. Many writers never get published because of this simple fact: they never submit their material. As a professional writer, you also need to use this simple follow-up method to make sure that your material was received. It will help your work be considered and move forward through the publication process. This follow-up work is critical.

How do you follow-up? Do you have some insights or tips for other writers. Let me know in the comments below.

Tweetable:

Writers have to follow-up their submissions—yet need to do this work carefully or risk immediate rejection. Get insights from a seasoned editor here. (ClickToTweet)


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W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers.  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Libraries: A Thing of the Past?


People sometimes hear that I work in a library and say, "That's a dying professions, isn't it?" or  "Libraries will all be gone within ten years."  or "Who goes to libraries anymore?"

Well, today was the grand opening of our new local library.  We had to stand in line for nearly an hour to even get in the building because there were so many people.  When we left, there was still a big line:  all sorts of ages, races, family configurations.  They were all so excited that this library we've been waiting for has finally opened.

Libraries aren't going out of style.  They're not just a place to check out books.  There are so many more resources:  culture passes, nature exploration kits, DVDs, seeds, study rooms, storytimes, book clubs, ESL classes, job hunting assistance, refuge from the elements, computer access, color printing, e-resources, writing classes, social events, cultural events, author appearances, safe spaces for teens, literacy support, etc. etc.

But...they're also a place to check out books.  And people DO check out books.  A lot of books. So, keep writing.  And keep supporting your local libraries.


Melinda Brasher's fiction appears most recently in Leading Edge (Volume 73) and Deep Magic (Spring 2019).  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available on Amazon.    

She loves hiking and taking photographs of nature's small miracles.  

Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Freelance Writers: How to Schedule Your Work Days

If you're a freelance writer who wants to be more productive, take a look at how you currently structure your work day.

Do you schedule your most pressing projects for early in the day (so you work on them while you're fresh and alert) or do you get up in the morning and read your email first thing or check to see what's happening on Facebook?

Are you scheduling marketing activities—to look for new work—on specific days and times, or do you neglect the marketing altogether, which means you have few or no new projects?

As freelance writers, every week you should be looking for new work (marketing yourself) and working on your current assignments and projects.

To be more productive, set aside specific blocks of time (or even specific days each week) for marketing and specific blocks of time for writing— instead of switching back and forth between these two different types of activities all day every day.

You'll be able to "work in flow" when you set aside specific blocks of time for writing because you'll be more focused on the work instead of thinking about all the things you should be doing to market yourself.

On the flip side, you won't feel guilty when you're marketing because you'll know you aren't doing it during your writing time.

Look at your to-do list for today and determine how you could best schedule your time.

A few changes in your usual schedule might easily increase your productivity.

You might schedule your workday according to 3 separate sessions, like this:

Session #1

Spend one session of your day working on your current work-in-progress.

That might be a novel, a nonfiction book, or an article for a magazine, or even a grant proposal, for example.

I like to schedule this first thing in the morning, before my mind gets filled with so much other stuff.

But you might find that you like to save late afternoons for working on your novel or other writing projects.

Session #2

Spend another part of your day on affiliate marketing.

Search for new products that would appeal to your target market.

Find out about these products, then promote the good ones to the people on your mailing list and visitors to the site you have created specifically for this target market.

I like to do this later in the day because my mind doesn’t need to be so fresh.

Plus, it’s fun, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m working.

Session #3

Spend the third section of your day on marketing and promotion of your own products and services.

This is when you might guest blog for someone or write posts for your own site(s), or you look for new writing assignments.

Note: you might want to look for new writing assignments early in the day if you’ll be checking online job boards and newsletters since “the early bird gets the worm” and you’ll want to apply for something as soon as you find an opportunity that looks interesting.

Decide how much time you want to spend on activities during each of these 3 sessions.

For example, you might want to devote 3 hours to writing (session 1) and just 1 hour on affiliate marketing (session 2) and then 2 hours on marketing your own products and services (session 3).

When you first start dividing your time like this, don't worry about how much you accomplish during each session.

Just stay focused on the work at hand during each of the different sessions and it won’t be long till you realize you’re much more productive.

Try it!


Suzanne Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Visit her blog at www.writebythesea.com and sign up for her emails with writing tips and resources for writers at www.morningnudge.com.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Power of Saying No

The Power of Saying No
One of the biggest challenges people have is saying, "No."

Has this ever happened to you?

Scenario 1: 

Can you help with the school committee? "Well, I have a huge deadline at the end of the month, so I can't really devote the time." But you are so good at promotion. It'll only be a few hours a week. "A few hours?" Well, less than 20 total, but you are speedy, so it will probably won't take you that long. 

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: You dedicate more than 40 hours, because when she said help she meant lead the committee, and everyone else shirked their responsibilities. You are not happy with the work you have done for either project. Plus, you are frustrated, sleep deprived, and mad at yourself for not sticking to your instincts.

What you should have said: I understand that volunteering is part of my responsibilities as a parent at the school. However, the timing is not great. Let's take a look at the calendar and pick something I can contribute in the near future. I will be less stressed, won't have to split my focus, and will do a better job on both projects.


Scenario 2: 

Mom, will you pick up grandchild from school this afternoon and take him over to the dentist? "I'd love to help you out, but you know this is my designated writing day." I know it's short notice, but I have a meeting for work that I can't reschedule. "Why did you double-book?" The work thing was last minute. You'd really be helping me out. And I know how much you two enjoy spending time together.

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: You do it. It's fine. But you get the same request a week later. Then, when you try to say, "no," you get, But you did it last time and didn't you two have the best time? 

What you should have said: I understand it's last minute, and I will help you out this time. But, in the future, I'd appreciate it if you would find an alternative. Even though it's work on spec, it's still my work schedule; I cannot skip all the time. Optional: I take Fridays off, so if you need me to pick him up on a Friday, that's much easier.


Scenario 3: 

Do you want to be on a panel for this cool - but not related at all to your business goals - event? We had a last-minute cancellation and we'd love to bring you on board.

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: This could go either way. 

1. You do the event, you make some new friends. You don't really get work out of it, but make some nice connections. 

2. You do the event. It went okay, but definitely not a topic you would speak on in the future. It felt strained, but you pulled it off. To top it off, you discover the topic that is your forte is on the schedule for three months from now; and you are not eligible since they have a rule against repeating speakers within a year.   

What you should have said: I'd love to help out. But just so you know this is more on the cusp of my niche. My true expertise is XXX. Whether or not I am still a fit for this event, I'd appreciate it if you would think of me the next time my topic comes up, regardless of the timing.

* * *

To avoid - or at least lessen - regret, wasted time, and frustration, before you commit to anything, ask yourself three questions:

1. What is the benefit? Will it help me professionally, personally, or both? Does it reflect my mission? 

2. What is the commitment? Do I have the time and bandwidth to take this on?

3. Do you want to do it? When it comes right down to it, this is really the only answer that matters. 

When making a decision to do - or not do - something, consider yourself first. Granted, emergencies happen and sometimes the choice is a clear Yes. However, if your answer is No, meant it, stick to it, and keep any (necessary) explanation short and firm. 

Think of Saying No as giving yourself the gift of time. And it's likely something you should give yourself more often.


For more on the power of saying "no," join on Twitter this Sunday, May 13, at 7pm PT for our #GoalChat on this topic.

* * *

How do you say No? Do you say No? Or is it a skill you need to improve? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Keeping Our Spirits Up for the Good of Our Writing Careers


The Best of Times, Not the Worst

Keeping Our Spirits Up 

I was excited to be given an honorary membership to a site designed to help writers keep their spirits up in spite of Murphy’s Law, Writer’s Block and all the other boogeymen we writers have convinced ourselves are out there. I know I wasn’t so chosen to go on the forum to complain about my down days, but the brilliant (truly!) site owner had no idea that “no moaning” is my modus operandi on the rare occasions I feel stuck.

No, it’s my grandmother’s Wedgewood sugar bowl. On the rare occasions I begin to ruminate on the time I frittered away between the time I knew I wanted to write and the time I got busy focusing on it, I go to that sugar bowl where I’ll find dozens of scraps of paper. Some scraps are unreadable, but I’ll always find one or two that I scribbled on long ago that pull me out of my funk. They may include an image I didn’t want to forget or an improbably idea for a story or book. Sometimes I don’t find anything all that useful in the moment, but I always find myself smiling or laughing out loud at myself.  Once, I found enough images to write what poets called a “found poem; ” that poem eventually worked its way into a chapbook I published with another upper in my life who partnered with  me on the Celebration Series of poetry chapbooks. An Aussie (seems Aussie’s are always uppers!), Magdalena Ball runs a review site (http://CompulsiveWriter.com), and always seems ready to collaborate on some misery-fighting project. 

I have a ton of other such antidotes for any mood that aims to defeat me. I have never felt compelled to visit to a therapist or a psychiatrist, but I wouldn’t rule that out if necessary. I address some of those techniques in my first how-to book for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter. It includes sections on overcoming fear of marketing, fear of success, and fear of failure so I go back to my own book when I begin admonishing myself about what I might have achieved if I had started publishing earlier.

I bring a background as publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to my practice of staying pretty jolly and focused. Having other careers has helped. When we bring a whole slew of life's experiences to a new pursuit, we can feel secure much more quickly. That's something I keep reminding myself of, too. Years of retailing, as an example, helped me figure out how to market my first novel when my first small publisher failed miserably at that pursuit so it wasn’t the struggle to switch gears it might have been otherwise. 

My biggest hurdle was related to a recognized problem that psychologists sometimes call the “I’m-Not-Good-Enough” syndrome. With "only" a bachelor's degree and some study overseas, I did feel insecure about reaching out to the academic community. A man at a party encouraged me not to let that hold me back, assured me that UCLA would be interested in me as an instructor because they often take experience rather than solely academic credentials into consideration. That was how I started with my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers which I needed to teach marketing to writers back in the early 2000s (most marketing books were written for businesses and marketers in those days!). Though I don't remember that mentor's name (maybe I never knew it?), I will be forever grateful to him. I am here today—and was maybe chosen to be part of this authors-aid site-- because I like the whole "pass it forward" idea--no matter the industry. And I firmly believe we are never so darn smart we can't learn from both newcomers and old-timers. 

So you want to know about this miracle site. Here’s the sad part: This site didn’t take off. Authors can’t use it to share and encourage one another. I hate the old saying, “There is more than one way to skin a cat!,” (disgusting, isn’t it?), but it is a truism. And sometimes a sad event leads to reexamining other possibilities, other opportunities and other says to look at downers.

So, yeah. I can take a minute to feel sad, but lots of social networks, writers’ associations, and educational programs that might otherwise be thought of as support groups are out there. All are filled with people willing to share—rather like a therapy group. That’s sort of why I was determined to teach a class in marketing for writers back in the day, so determined I overcame my fear of academia with a little encouragement from the gentleman I met at that party. That lead me to writing a “text” for the first class. The texts on public relations and marketing I found were really texty—you know, dry and boring, based on principles and not real experience. And mostly not for writers. That wasn’t a downer. It was an opportunity.

That experience turned into my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. It includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoterand The Frugal Editor and How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.  (I hate seeing authors spend money on stuff they can do better than anyone they hire!). In the case of the winningest book in the series, The Frugal Editor,I hate to see authors assume that an editor assigned to them from a big publisher is always in a better position to make choices than they are!

Most of all, I believe that the best way to keep our spirits up is reveling in the successes of others and learning from failures. We can be there for one another. This is not a competition but a sharing experience. Forget the negative words. There is a way to succeed in a notoriously difficult field. This is the best time for that. We can take control of our own futures better than ever before! 

Just know you are not alone. 

And make yourself an equivalent of my antique Wedgwood sugar bowl. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Writing Secret to Getting Ahead



Probably everyone has heard one adage or another about the first step. Well, that first step certainly applies to your writing too.

Having a desire to write a novel or children story is something, but taking the first step to bringing that desire to fruition is impressive.

Having an idea for a story is something. Taking that first step and bring that idea through to the end of a completed manuscript is impressive.

Here are a couple of tips to get started:

Your idea must be put into writing or a computer file. From there you need to add notes as to what your story will be about. Do you know what the setting will be? Do you have a main character in mind? Will it be a novel? Will it be a children’s middle grade book or possibly a picture book? Do you know how you want the story to start and where you’d like it to end up? Do you know what the conflict will be?

Once you have your notes down, turn them into an outline. You might add character sheets at this point. Or, if you’re a panster, just get started on the story and watch the characters unveil themselves.

Below are a few other quotes on that first step that I hope will inspire you to get your story started today:

“Without that first step, there is no journey. Without that first step, there can be no creation, no story.”
~ Karen Cioffi

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
~ Chauncey Depew

They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited ‘first chapters’. I have indeed written many. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

“Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is started, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance.
~ Robert Collier

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” ~ Indira Gandhi

And, of course the quote in the image above:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~ Mark Twain

So, if you have a desire to write a book or have an idea for a story, get started today – take that first step and bring it to life.

Maybe you have some notes on a story or an outline – take that first step to turn your notes, outline, or even your draft into a complete manuscript.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP TODAY!

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.


To get monthly writing and book marketing tips, sign up for The Writing World – it’s free!

And, you can follow Karen at:

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/writingforchildrenwithkarencioffi/
LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Building Story from Pitch, by Kit Rosewater

Children's Author Kit Rosewater
shares her expertise as WOTM's guest
Children's author Kit Rosewater presented a talk, "Building Story from Pitch," at a recent Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, meeting. Her debut queer middle grade series, the Derby Daredevils, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse, is scheduled for publication in spring 2020.

Kit's talk lit a fire under those of us in attendance. I overheard one writer say as she was leaving that she was going home and working on her pitch for her novel all week so she could take it to a writer's conference that week end. Others I've talked to have done the same thing. I think you will, too, after reading Kit's detailed and enjoyable write-up of the content from that evening, which she has graciously agreed to share with us.

When I started querying in 2011 . . .
I looked at pitch a lot like a suitcase. The first time I’d even think about writing a pitch for my work, the entire manuscript would be finished and ready to send around. I’d stare at the pitch format in horror, wondering how was I supposed to distill a huge, complex narrative into a two-paragraph query letter. Or even worse, a measly logline! My pitch suitcase looked like a tiny weekender bag I was supposed to stuff an entire wardrobe into. Fitting one into the other seemed impossible.

But writers seeking the traditional publishing route know that pitch is a necessary evil. So I gritted my teeth, manuscript after manuscript, and crammed the content into query letters. Every time I got the inevitable rejection, I would curse the concept of pitching. “Why won’t agents give me a chance?” I would moan. “My stupid query letter is standing in the way of them connecting to all the special aspects in my book!” Little did I realize that response was the key to everything I was doing wrong. But more about that in a moment.

Pitch and I started to become friendly in the fall of 2016, when I participated in the writer mentorship contest, Pitch Wars. While I revised my manuscript for two months, my entry in the final agent showcase was a mere 50-word summary and the first page of my story. Here's that summary:
The vitiligo on Tami’s skin has always made her lonely. When her new classmates mistake her for their missing friend Renee, Tami’s strange connection to her doppelgänger grants instant popularity—along with access to Renee’s dark secret. If Tami sets things straight, she’ll lose her newfound friends. If she doesn’t, she might lose herself.

My mentors and I worked on that short summary for weeks and weeks, yet I was still amazed to see the payoff and ultimate power of those fifty words. While the first page showcased my writing skills, the summary showcased my story’s concept, which turned out to be my winning ticket to signing with an agent.

Fast forward to a little over a year later
When my agent and I first went on submission with THE DERBY DAREDEVILS, which was then a chapter book series titled THE FLANNELS, we honed the summary until it sizzled. Again, that hard work paid off. Here's that series pitch:

When Kenzie Ellington’s best friend moves to Canada two weeks before her birthday, Kenzie has to find someone new to celebrate with… and a way to celebrate! In THE FLANNELS, a group of funky third graders button their plaid shirts, lace up their roller skates, and take to Austin's junior derby track. Together, the Flannels face fierce competition, thieving roller derby ghosts, and some confusing first crushes. IVY & BEAN meets ROLLER GIRL in this queer chapter book series that embraces differences and staying true to oneself.

I met my eventual editor in person months after acquisition, once we were in the middle of revisions on Book 1 of a very different-looking middle grade series. Still, that initial pitch was the first thing she brought up in our conversation. “Minutes after I received the email, I wrote Lauren back and said I couldn’t have dreamed a better pitch,” my editor told me. “I needed to read your story.”

Wow, I thought. Maybe that little weekender bag isn’t so bad after all.

And that’s when I realized that instead of being my worst writing enemy, pitch was actually becoming my best friend.

Since this discovery, I’ve studied and honed the craft of pitching. Looking back, I’m able to see that my inability to clearly pitch earlier manuscripts meant they were pretty much doomed from the start.

As a proud pro-pitch-convert, I want to go into all the great things about pitch I was missing out on, why I now start every project with a pitch before a draft, and my specific process for transforming the ideas in my head to a crisp logline and query letter.

What a Pitch Really Is and Why It’s Important
While past-me may have thought loglines and query letters filtered out the special qualities in my writing, the truth is, it’s the pitch’s job to convey those special aspects. The reason why I missed this pretty obvious point was due to a common pitch misconception:
Ultimately, a pitch isn’t just about what happens in your story from A to Z. A pitch is about why this story is unique, fresh, and needs to be told.

When I’m out of ideas with my writing, I let pitch lead the way. I check out the #MSWL (manuscript wish list) hashtag on Twitter to see what agents and editors are fascinated by these days, to see if I’m drawn to any of those concepts. A lot of times writers believe they’re only standing on one side of pitching, but really we’re on the other side too, as readers.

While I like to know what agents and editors are still searching for, I also like to see what they’ve already discovered. Along with #MSWL, I research deal announcements on Publishers Weekly Rights Reports and search for one-line descriptions that makes me want to read a certain book. Similarly, I’ll check out book blogs like “Pop! Goes the Reader” and consider the short descriptions of upcoming books and which ones pull me in.

There really is no escaping pitch. It sticks the whole way through a book’s life cycle. A pitch is used to sell a book to an agent, then to an editor, then to a publishing team, then to booksellers and librarians, then to the reader. Pitch never ceases to be important. People will always want to read that paragraph-length description before they buy, checkout, or order a book.

Why Pitch Comes at the Beginning
In his book Anatomy of Story, John Truby suggests that writers crafting new stories should begin by making two lists: one summarizing all their past projects, and one of all the qualities they enjoy in books by other authors. The point of this exercise is to identify the unique and specific ideas writers most enjoy before they become sucked into the weeds of plotting and character arc.

I love this practice, and even though my tastes rarely shift between projects, I still make the lists every time I sit down to try something new. It reminds me to begin the process of writing with joy and excitement. And ultimately, my pitch becomes a touchstone marking my excitement for a new project that I can return to again and again when I’m lost in the drafting and revising stages.

Besides acting as a touchstone during times of struggle, I like crafting a pitch before I start a project because it can save me loads of time, energy, and heartache. Sometimes an idea feels so fragile that I want to hide it away until it grows up into a full book. But I owe it to my ideas to get feedback early on. By the time I have a logline or two-paragraph pitch, it’s time to see if my excitement translates. While hearing a concept isn’t viable may hurt a lot in the moment, it’s much better than hearing the same response after I’ve spent months crafting and polishing a full manuscript.

The same goes for significant feedback that asks me to streamline or reimagine parts of the story. Once I have a whole manuscript in front of me, I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of elements that can change. Should I combine two side characters into one? Nix a subplot? Add a chapter or two in the third act? I can often toil away at a list of revisions without understanding if I’m addressing and improving the true core of the story.

When I begin with pitch, I’m building the narrative from the ground up. I don’t move onto the next floor until the first is solid. That way, when I do run into trouble I can figure out exactly which component isn’t working.

My Pitching Process
With #MSWL inspiration and “love lists” completed thanks to Truby’s advice, I make pages of messy notes about what I want my next story to look like. I jot down aspects of the setting, twists, character dynamics, or themes and symbols I want to see echoed throughout. If I have a picture of a scene in my head, I describe it without crafting full sentences.

Then, when I’m fairly certain I have my rough ingredients for a story, I throw some of them together.

My favorite strategy for crafting pitch is to first fill out a basic logline formula:

“After/When [catalyst], [main character] must [main action] or [stakes.]”

This “Mad Libs” exercise turns my list into something I can fiddle with. Sometimes I see a lot of potential in the basic formula, and I massage the wording from there. Other times, I realize the special aspects of my idea aren’t coming through in the original logline, so I revisit other components and see if I can sub those into the format.

Here are some other aspects I’ll list and consider in my notes: Main character’s goal, conflict, decision, antagonist, hook, setting, mentor, sidekick, love interest, etc. Once I have a logline I’m happy with, I move onto my query-length pitch. This entails two paragraphs. In the first paragraph, I go into the setting, the main character and their goal, and the catalyst. I like my midpoint of the pitch to be a wrench that gets thrown into the main character’s initial plan.

In the second paragraph, I detail the catalyst and how my main character reacts or pivots. Usually there’s a new plan for how to deal with the disruption, but ultimately it’s a flawed plan. In the last sentence, I like to hint that the solution for my main character won’t be so easy, and they’ll be pushed into either an impossible action or impossible decision in order to get what they want. I like to keep the word “impossible” in mind because I want the reader to wonder how things will turn out. There’s nothing more disappointing than stakes that are easily predicted or solved from reading the pitch alone.

Armed with my logline and query pitch, I’m ready for feedback from critique partners. Sometimes I’m sent back to the drawing board. Sometimes I’m given a handful of notes for consideration. I work and rework my pitch materials until they make me desperately want to read this not-yet-written-book that’s still floating around in my head. Only after my pitch reaches this level will I set it aside and get to beat sheets, outlining scenes, and exploring various character profiles. So many aspects of a manuscript are bound to change, but if a pitch is done right, its essence should continue from one form to the next.

Whenever I’m feeling discouraged with writing, I like to take a favorite book down from my shelf and read the short summary on the back cover. I’m reminded that every marketing blurb can be traced allllllll the way back to an idea that sparked that author’s imagination. And I remind myself that perhaps one day, the pitch of my work in progress will end up on the back of a book cover, too.
Linda Wilson
Writers on the Move
Monthly Contributor

This month, I'm pleased to welcome as my guest, Kit Rosewater, author of the Derby Daredevils, her debut queer middle grade fiction series coming out in spring 2020. For more about Kit, please visit https://www.kitrosewater.com/. Here is some of Kit's sage advice: Every setback or challenge you face in your path to publication is a chance to strengthen your resolve. Each rejection adds to your backstory. Every “no” hardens your knight’s armor. Be the hero you want your readers to root for. And above all else, don’t give up. Your journey isn’t over.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

What Does It Take To Promote Your Writing?




What Does It Take To Promote Your Writing?

That’s a BIG question. What does it take? It takes attention to your Author Platform, Branding, Identifying your audience, an Author Website, and building a Connection with your readers. All this can get overwhelming, particularly when we just want to WRITE! But, we want to reach folks to read our stuff, so let’s get going.

Many writers are fully setup and operating in all these areas. We want to hear your “lessons learned”. Please comment. 

Kimberly Grabas founder of YourWriterPlatform.com defines platform succinctly. Platform describes the ways you connect and engage with your ideal readership – the readers that are most receptive to your work. It also denotes your influence, visibility and authority.

Platform, established and maintained, is the action you take to promote your writing.

Branding is who you are and how you are known. We market ourselves through our branding.

You have a book in you. Write it and get it out.
But, who will buy your book, your story or your blog posts? We need to know who wants or needs our work and how to connect with them. This is our target market.

Your Author Website/Blog is your vehicle. Is it set up yet? Own it through WordPress. Select your own domain name, not a group name e.g. blogger. Host Gator is my host—consistently helpful and reasonably priced. WordPress.org is the go to place for website themes that work well.

Next, you need a path for the easy way to stay in touch with your readership. MailChimp, Aweber, and Convertkit are worth looking into. They are a subscription channel for connection with your team; delivering automatic post emails, announcements, course offers or a free gift.

More next time.
**Resources worth your time to check out:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s “The Frugal Book Promoter” https://howtodoitfrugally.com/the_frugal_book_promoter.htm 

Kimberly Grabas:  https://www.yourwriterplatform.com/

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .

Write clear & concise, personable yet professional.
Know your reader.
Use quotes & antidotes whenever you can.





Monday, April 22, 2019

When You Hit A Bad Day


By W. Terry Whalin

Let's face it head on. Everyone has a bad day. You know what I'm talking about. 


When you walk out to your car and see the tire is flat—and naturally you are trying to rush off to some important meeting.


Or your computer crashes in the middle of an important rewrite on an article or book and you lose hours of work because you didn't back it up.

Or you get sick and land in bed. Or someone in your family gets sick. Or a dear friend suddenly dies.

Or a friend or a co-worker promises they will do something—and they don't. So it creates huge amounts of unexpected work for you or a project you were counting on completing didn't happen.

These various possibilities that I just listed are a fraction of what happens to everyone. The unexpected happens to each of us with our writing and publishing lives.

Here's the critical question for you: when you meet one of these difficulties, does it totally derail you so you don't complete what needs to be written. Or do you rise to the challenge and continue forward with your writing?

Something derails writing for a day. Do you shake it off and return to it the next day? Or do you set it aside and say, the time must not be right? There is a time and place to persevere.

Several years ago a number of publications celebrated the storied career of journalist Barbara Walters. At 84, she retired from 17 years on The View. I read an article about Barbara Walters in AARP magazine, which claims to have the world's largest circulation at 24.4 million (more than three times the circulation of Reader's Digest). In the AARP article called What I Know Now: Barbara Walters, she shares the secrets of her success saying, “I think the secret of my success is that I persevered. I didn't give up. I didn't say, 'This is a lousy job, and I'm unhappy, and I'm going to quit.' I went through the tough times, and they were tough. And I was fortunate that I came out the other end.” I admire Barbara Walter's perseverance.

Several years ago my agent friend Steve Laube wrote an article What to do when technology fails? I did feel bad for the author who lost the entire manuscript on a computer the day it was due at the publisher. As a result the book was canceled. Buried in the story was the fact the author had missed the third extension. What happened in the case of the first two extensions? This story wasn't told.

About fifteen years ago when I started working as an editor on the inside of publishing houses, I learned that writers are notoriously late. I've often been the editor who the author calls and tells about their bad day then asks for an extension. Publishers know about bad days so they often build some flexibility into the deadline.

Yet writers should not count on that flexibility or extension. Here's how to distinguish yourself as a writer and make editors love you: turn in your writing when you promise to turn it in—with excellence.

It's one of the elements that I've done over and over with my writing deadlines—met them. I recall writing one section of a book where I stayed at my computer all night in order to meet the deadline. At that time, I had a full-time editorial job and I had taken on a book project to write.

When I didn't come to bed, in the middle of the night my wife came down to my office to see if everything was OK. Everything was fine except I had to meet a deadline and did not make it to bed that particular night. I fired off my deadline material to the editor, cleaned up and went off to my full-time job. Yes, I drank some extra caffeine that day and was tired but I delivered what I promised to the editor and put in a full day at work. I've only done it once so I don't make a regular habit of such actions.

How do you handle bad days? Does it derail you so you don't complete what needs to be written or do you shake it off and continue? Let me know in the comments below.

Tweetable:

How do you handle a bad day? Get some ideas from a prolific editor. (ClickToTweet)

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W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers 

 


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Publishing on Amazon: File Size vs Pricing


When publishing e-books on Amazon, file size is an important consideration.

Why?

First of all, Amazon charges delivery fees for any books priced $2.99-$9.99 if you've chosen the 70% royalty rate (and even with delivery costs, you generally want to choose the 70% rate).  They calculate your royalty and then subtract the delivery cost, so a big delivery cost can really eat into your profit margin.

Delivery cost depends on file size.  If you're publishing novels or narrative non-fiction without fancy graphics, it's probably not a big problem.  My books of this type have delivery costs of 3-6 cents.  If you're publishing something with photos, illustrations, charts, etc, then you have more to worry about.  My book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget, could easily have had delivery costs above 70 cents, even without putting in all the photos I wanted.  I got it down to 22 cents through photo editing and somewhat complicated computer gymnastics.  I'll detail my process in another post, but that scaling down left me a lot higher percentage of profit.

Even if you choose the 35% royalty rate (or take the mandatory 35% rate for books $0.99-$2.99), you still have to think about file size.

If you want to price your book at 99 cents, your converted file size must be under 3 MB.  My current book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports, is a relatively short book, and it's only 99 cents for its launch.  The file I'd prepared, however, full of pictures of the beautiful trails and stunning views, was bigger than 3 MB.  Despite my publishing experience with KDP, I'd never run into this problem before, and it took me some Googling to figure out why I couldn't price it at 99 cents, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

For more detail, you can read my post on Have Book, Will Travel.

Keep an eye out for my personal file-scaling-down method next time.


Melinda Brasher's fiction appears most recently in Leading Edge (Volume 73) and Deep Magic (Spring 2019).  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available for pre-order on Amazon.    

She loves hiking and taking photographs of nature's small miracles.  

Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com






Saturday, April 13, 2019

If You're Writing a Novel, Try This!

If you're working on a novel, here's something to try along the way.

When you get midway through the story—or any point where it gets a bit difficult to keep writing—move away from the novel and create a short story about the main character.



Your short story can take place before the action in the novel or it can cover some period of time that you skip over or don't go into detail about in the novel.

Remember, your short story still needs to have a problem for the character to solve and a good beginning, middle, and end.

But writing something short like this will give you a sense of accomplishment even before you finish the novel.

Chances are, you'll also get to know your main character a bit better by writing the short story.

And anything that helps you get to know your main character better will make it easier to finish writing your novel.

But even if you've finished writing your novel (but haven't found a publisher for it yet) go back and try to create a short story from small incident in the novel.

Then you can post this short story on your blog or website, as a way to test the waters to see if readers (which might include agents or editors) like your main character and want to read more about this person.

If the novels you write are mostly in the same genre, you could publish these short stories as Kindle Singles and start making some income (and building your list of readers) this way, too.

Try it!


Suzanne Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Visit her blog at www.writebythesea.com and sign up for her emails with writing tips and resources for writers at www.morningnudge.com.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Creativity & Work-Life Balance

Creativity & Work-Life Balance
When was the last time you did something creative just for fun? 

If the answer doesn't come to you immediately, you are missing out.

There are many benefits to being creative. Among other things, it helps with critical thinking, relieves stress, and is just plain fun. Whenever you are having a particularly stressful day - or even if you are not - a creative endeavor will add much needed adrenaline, motivation, and spark. And just a few minutes can make a huge difference.

Here are ten creative things you can do today or any day.

1. Doodle or Sketch. You don't need to be artistic to make art.

2. Take Photos. Just about everyone has a camera on their mobile phone. Take a walk and take some pictures.

3. Write a Poem. April is #NationalPoetryMonth. Celebrate.

4. Turn on Music and Dance. Regular dance breaks also help with your physical health. 

5. Write a Story. Just for Fun!

6. Garden. The bonus: flowers to beautify your home or something good to eat.

7. Cook. See what you can make with the ingredients in your fridge or pantry. 

8. Bake. Yum. 'Nuff said.

9. Craft. Sew, scrapbook, knit. The options are endless. 

10. Write a Letter. This is a fun exercise. Plus it will make someone's day. 

For more on the power of creative pursuits, check out the recap from my #GoalChat on this topic.

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How do you incorporate creativity into your work-life balance? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

An Evening with Kwame Alexander

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