Tag Archives: pacific northwest writer’s association

Writing non fiction book proposals: Rita Rosenkranz

One of the presentations at PNWA this past weekend focused on writing non fiction book proposals, those business-side documents that outline what the market is for a non fiction title and the pitch on why this new idea will sell, sell, sell. Rita Rosenkranz, one of the agents at this year’s conference, presented. I missed the first 15 minutes at an editor’s session, but here are my notes for the rest of her talk. While I’d learned much of this by making mistakes over the past year, I also found a lot of new information that I think will be really helpful for future projects.

What to put in your non fiction book proposal:

On the cover page:

  • Title
  • Book Proposal at top
  • Subtitle
  • Author info lower right or left hand corner—don’t bury the contact info.

Follow the file format the agent asks for.

Table of Contents (TOC) page—all the sections of the proposal with page numbers

The Overview—should make a case for the book and author showing how it meets a need on the publishing market. Create context for the book. What is the argument for the book. Why does this book need to be? It should not feel generic. It should be about a page, maybe a page and a half. Make sure that you’re not overwriting. Outline your social context that makes the book attractive to a market. Identi the market as well as you can, but don’t overreach or the agent won’t trust you. Talk about what’s practical and what you can control. Know how long it will take you to complete the work, and say it.

Qualifications—personal experience, professional expier., history as a public speaker.

Competition—would the editor agree with your opinion? How will the receiver review your work? What other books are in this market? Look at Amazon to see if your book has merit. You may see all the other books and worry your market is saturated. You have to make an honest case for your book and the reasons you’re particularly suited to write this book. List competing titles by title, publisher, year, and price. Include a description of the strengths and weaknesses of it. What is your twist? How will your book sell differently? Give about a page and half. The summaries should be concise, not long-winded. Different categories will require different time spans you’ll have to go back. Some books are old but still very ore sent in the marketplace.

Audience—be clear about your intended audience, even if it includes cross over. Is it a niche readership, and can you lifer demographics?

Marketing—will you have special sales? Will you buy quantities up front? That won’t clinch the deal, but it’s good to note. Many folks assume back room sales. What Web sites will mention your work? Are there natural tie Ins on the call dar to your work? Are there hooks to your work that could pique media interest? Are you a member of associations that could help with marketing? Could ppl you interviewed for the book help you market it? Read book marketing books. Not all marketing costs a lot of money. Put in your solid platform plan. Red hot internet publicity. Get known before the book deal.

Blurbs—get advanced blurbs for a submission if you can. Not necessary, but helpful. Quotes help attract attention to the work, requires advance planning, you must send the best version of your book to your blurb writers. Avoid using your relatives.

Include the book’s actual introduction, so you can show the voice. It should run no longer than three pages.

Book’s TOC. This sets up the body of work. It prompts a customer’s purchase. Should be comprehensive with a logical layout.

Sample chapters. Must see the first one, to show me how you frame the work and how it will welcome me. Also a key chapter that is a signature of the work, even ifi it’s chapter 20. If you have more chapters ready, let me know, so I can look at them if I want to see more. They will help me determine If I will bond with the author and will want to invest my time. You can put in a handful of graphs or illustrations if you think they’ll help make the book clear to me.

Book content—this should come at the end, since everything has been leading up to it. But don’t stress about the order of the other things.

It’s the single most important thing to sell the nonfiction book. It shows the editor what will be coming. No editor would consider an oral presentation an adequate substitution. The actual writing of the proposal is useful to yourself to work through what you’re writing, to make it the best book possible. It will help you reevaluate the work and that you’re presenting it the best way you can.

Cover letters are very important. The cover letter will show that you can communicate what the book is about, why it’s exciting. You must be adept at articulating what it is. It is your most effective advantage to getting your foot in the door. As a rule, a summary of the work. Just be clear, not lyrical. Second paragraph, about you. How are you aligned with your subject? No disconnects. Avoid saying the work is hard to describe. Don’t say you have 25 unpublished works. Manage a tone that jibes with the book. Limit yourself to one page. Include full contact Info. Don’t go on vacation the next day.

Rejections: we are all rejected, agents too. Rejections are part of our environment. What is in this letter that will help me get better? Don’t let rejection crush you. Be smart and savvy and know that rejection that tells you something is a gift. You’ll be able to get on to the job of selling your work.

Look at Amazon sales. Does the category consistently do well? Some of the numbers on amazon are misleading. Agents have bookscan, though. Just get a rough guess. Obviously bestsellers are doing well.

PNWA: Three times the charm

It was Saturday morning, and I kept thinking about the Sims, that role-playing video game in which the people in the town all have little diamond-shaped crystals hovering over their heads, indicating their energy and mood levels. When a Sim is content, the crystal is emerald and shiny, a bright beacon of happiness. When the crystal is faded, looking mostly transparent, the Sim is no longer a happy camper. During the course of any activity, the crystal will slowly fade, ticking down, as it were, into misery and joylessness. Fortunately for the game player, something as simple as going to the bathroom with make the Sim happier. But just given the tendency of time and entropy, according to the game’s designers, all Sims will end up in Funked Out Town. And I have made Sims die by leaving them in a room by themselves with no toilet, food, drink, or human companionship. It is awful to see what goes through their minds as they slowly fade into death. I swear I didn’t do this intentionally. I just forgot I’d left the game running and was in the next room watching reality television.

I took the 560 bus again, getting a salutation from the driver who now recognized me. He may be confused on Monday, but I’m betting he won’t care. This time I wasn’t going to wait for the courtesy vehicle. I decided to walk to the light rail station, remembering that I’d seen the conference center from the train on my first day in town last week. Sure enough, a 10-minute walk later, I walked right into where they were serving coffee and continental breakfast. I should have done that all along instead of waiting around for some hotel van.

No sooner had I put a few things on my plate that I noticed that a lot of people in the room had faded crystals over their heads. Everyone was as wiped out as me. We were all toughing it out but damn, we looked a lot more rumpled around the edges and worn out than we had just the day before. I know we all wanted to be there, but I began wondering if it wouldn’t have been helpful to have had a nap room, like in my old day care. Maybe minus the story time with teacher.

After a few gulps of hotel coffee, however, I had brightened my indicator by several shades of green, and I said hello to the folks I’d previously met. It was definitely nice to hear a stream of congratulations through the day from people who spotted my finalist ribbon. And in the back of my head, when so greeted, I would wonder anew if I would win one of the top three spots for memoir. I told myself not to get my hopes up.

I figured out which workshop to attend, found my chair and started typing away on my iPad to take notes. I’m the only one at the conference with this thing, and I hadn’t thought ahead as to whether any rabid anti-ebooks people would eschew me for carrying the device. I really do love paper books and find them easier to read, but the screen really is pretty good and when I’m really reading, I can eat through novels, so I appreciate having several in one place. Already this trip I’ve read through The Help, The Scarpetta Factor, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. What can I say, I have eclectic reading tastes. I do miss my days as a book buyer because I loved getting uncorrected proofs and reading things before anyone else. But that was back in the era before Amazon reviews and online spoilers. Advance readers had smaller effects on others.

In the hallway I ran into one of the agents who handles science fiction and fantasy, and told her about my SuperQueers story, and she really liked it, handing me her card and asking for the first 10 pages. That made my morning! At that point, anyway.

It was time to go to the editor pitch session, in which a group of writers sits at a table with an editor and gets their take on our ideas and manuscripts. We writers have only a couple of minutes to give the idea and get feedback. While this may sound a bit insane—and it is—it at least mirrors the amount of time editors generally have to consider projects. I liken it to this:

I don’t think they get a lot of time to get the wrapping on at most publishing houses.

I gave the editor my pitch for my superheros novel, SuperQueers, that I started writing back in 2004 for National Novel Writing Month. It was a total turd by the end of that November, but I really liked my idea and so hey, I kept working on it for the next four years. I refused to watch Heroes because I didn’t want the narrative to disturb my project. I pitched the project to the editor, and she really liked it. I told her I often see the story as a graphic novel, and she thought about that for roughly 2 seconds, before smiling and leaning in toward where I was sitting.

“Actually, I think it’s a movie,” she said. I believe my mood indicator turned as green as the rolling hills of Ireland. I needed to get on this project next, take another look at the manuscript, since it has sat around for a while now, and see what needed freshening up before sending it to the agent, with whom I’d spoken earlier. The editor wanted me to make a few changes to the story so that it would be more marketable to a mainstream audience, unless I’d think that those changes would be paramount to selling out. I actually liked her suggestions. But I’d need to tell the agent, maybe, that it would be a couple of months before I’d be ready to send the manuscript out to her.

More workshops, another lunch eaten standing up while networking. My stomach was really starting to get pissed at me for eating so strangely these past few days. At least there was an awards dinner coming up in a few hours. But oh, I’d probably be nerve-wracked for that. I reminded myself again that I wasn’t going to win anything, so I should just settle down. I thought, nobody is going to give top prize to a sex change memoir, Everett. Get over it.

A writer I’d talked with the previous day came up and asked me if I’d like her speed pitching time slot. For memoir these had closed out two people ahead of me in line, when I’d tried to get assigned one, and she knew that. I asked why she didn’t want it for herself. She’d signed up, after all. Well, she explained, her longer-session pitches to the agent and the editor gave her enough information that she knew she needed to go back and spend more time reworking the story, so a speed pitch session would be a waste of time. I said sure, and we worked it out with the coordinators.

When the time rolled around for the speed pitch, I found the conference room and waited. Four of us were to meet with four agents. We got two minutes at each station, and had to listen out for the volunteers to call time, at which moment we’d move on to the next agent for two minutes. I walked into the room, and considered leaving, because taking one look at the group, I knew none of them would be interested in my project. They were:

  • A woman from a small agency in California who had thrown memoir in almost as an afterthought when she’d introduced herself two days earlier
  • A female agent from NYC who seemed really sharp but would be more inclined to take the next Eat, Pray, Love than Bumbling into Body Hair
  • A young female agent who rejected my email query five or six months ago
  • An older mam who probably didn’t know a transsexual from a puffin

The agent from NYC was my first pitch. She nodded, listened, as I talked a mile a minute. I hoped she could hear my “voice” with the Doppler effect from my almost stream of consciousness prose I’d memorized. She wasn’t the right agent, she liked the idea though. Fair enough.

Next was the young rejector. I told her, “you rejected this query a few months ago, but here it is again.” She honestly looked at me like a deer in headlights. This was a graduate from Northwestern? She seemed taken aback. That’s when I realized I like querying GLBT stuff through the Internet. I don’t like seeing distress on a human being’s face. Not the right agent, I get it. Thanks.

Older guy, taking notes as I talked. I gave him the title first, before my “hook” sentence. He nodded, and looked straight at my chest once he put two and two together. Memoir + story about a transgender person = this guy used to be a chick.

“I like that,” he said, scribbling on his pad, “good phrase, ‘gender reassignment.'”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that wasn’t a creative phrase, it was just medical terminology. Oh those medical terminologists. Such poets, they are.

“Did you have your surgery in Sweden,” he asked.

“I had it at a strip mall,” I said. This is the God’s honest truth. And nobody gets their surgery in Sweden anymore. He was 50 years behind the times.

I sat down at the fourth table.

“This pitching is really not going well,” I said. This was my opening sentence to the agent. “I think I’ll just be wasting your time. We could talk about something else.” Seriously, I felt almost tortured. Little crystal over my head was ready to instruct me to begin a temper tantrum.

“Well, tell me what it is anyway,” she said. She didn’t smile, didn’t give me any false affect.

“The title is Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of a Klutz’s Sex Change,” I said.

“Ooookay,” she said, and told me to go on. I gave her the briefest of synopses.

“But it’s funny,” she asked.

“It’s really, really funny,” I said. “Pinky swear.”

She asked for the first three chapters.

I learned that this writing thing is just a roller coaster and I need to get used to it. There is an advantage to having a thick protective coating around one’s nerves.

We finally, finally, at last, made it to the award dinner hour. I’d gone down to the bar during the break for a tall pint of beer, and some email checking time, and I felt refreshed and ready to finish out the conference. Finalists were treated to a glass of wine and a networking party, then were led into the dinner room ahead of everyone else. For some reason everyone else at my table was a screenwriter, but the volunteers assured me we’d been seated randomly with other finalists. The awards themselves were poorly coordinated, and rife with technical glitches, but we managed to get through them, after hearing a Shakespeare-checkered keynote speech by C.C. Humphreys, who was charming, but too fake British for the wife of one of the screenwriters. She tsk tsked through his speech, which I heard because we were sitting next to each other.

“That is not a proper London accent,” she told me. “He’s not really English.” I myself would never have noticed, being that I’m from New Jersey.

They called up the memoir and nonfiction finalists. I took my certificate and smiled as everyone applauded us. That was nice. The woman reading the nominee names and titles seemed confused and slightly repulsed by the first part of my title. The subtitle wasn’t on the screen. I’m sure she wondered if I were just an extremely hairy man, and why anyone would write a memoir about that.

I did not win a prize, but with three agents expressing interest from the conference, one agent corresponding with me from before the conference, and one set of really good feedback on my fiction project from an editor, I think I’ve won more than I imagined I would. And I’ve made some terrific connections with other writers, with whom I keep in contact.

I left the dining room to head back to the main lobby, catch a cab, and go to sleep. On the way out, I ran into the science fiction agent. I told her the editor had suggested I make a few changes to the manuscript. She smiled at me as we walked.

“Oh sure,” she said, “she really knows the business. Just put that PNWA in the subject line, take the time you need.”

I thanked her, and we talked a little about the craziness of this business, but how we love it anyway. In my head I started drawing up rewrite plans and schedules.

I am a very happy green.

PNWA: Editor’s forum

I’ll start off with my notes from the Editor’s Session on the second day, since I promised them earlier. Here they are. I do of course have my own opinions threaded throughout the conversation but hello, they’re my notes, so I get to put in opinions when I want to.

JB Haleck, WindRiver, publisher. Three imprints. Christian fiction, homeschooling, blah.
Adam Wilson. Editor with Mirrorbooks, and Harlequin. Personally looking for romance suspense womens fic, also do Gina show alter. Largely women, but have some guys
Michelle Vega, Berkely Publishing Group. Penguin, crime line. Cozy mysteries, paranormal, sic fi, urban fan.
Peter Lynch, Sourcebooks. We do everything, he works adult side, memoir, history humor, hist fic, womens fic. Strong female pro tags.
Paul Dinas, Alpha Books, Idiot’s Guides. Highly formatted. Little complex. Welcome first time authors. 100 new ideas a year.
Monica Howick, Winthrop Pub. History and inspirational. General or religious market, looking to expand religious market. Also roman e and young adult.
Michelle Richter, St. Martins Press. Not corporately owned, really commercial really diverse books. Some celebrity books. Looking for memoir with strong point of view, female protag, food writing but not cook, pop science, pop culture, no Christian, not paranormal, big fan of mysteries, police proceed, cozies.
Shane Thompson, Variance Publishing. Like to get thrillers, military or special ops, YA fantasy is a new focus, sci fic. Looking for interesting voices. Pacing, plot, craft, voice. Got to have a voice. No gratuitous sex or violence or profanity. Want broad appeal. Market research shows that there is huge readership that don’t want that. Looking into ebooks.
Lynn Price, Bailer Pubs, small independent press in southern Calif. Memoir with strong social relevance. Issues that are not cliched, timeless. Not interested in the what’s hot now.
Paula Munier, of Adams Media. Not as polite as the other pubs up here. Lot of single title, in your face humor, sophomore guy humor. WTF series. 1001facts that will scare the shit out of you. Toxic Man. Why Men Love Bitches. Looking for self help, new age, YA.
Editors may love books, love the writing, but there is more to it. So what is it that gets a book in the door or gets a no?
Shane: I got a bk, read a submission, liked it, gave it to his ten yo, and said he loved it. I was sold on it. What sold me on it was moral of the story, the themes. They were real, provocative, not raw or edgy. It resonated with me and the editorial staff. When we looked at logistics of pubbing a YA fantasy when we’re not in the market there, we thought it would be too tough, building a new author at the same time. But I asked her to send us the pitch again. If you don’t find success in selling me a book today, it’s just today.
Adam: the worst thing is to get a book you love but can’t get to market right then. Some pubs are really corporatized now. Pubs are worried about the bottom line. There are a lot of pol with a lot of input. One of the worst things we can do is publish it and not support the author. We want to do this successfully, not taint an author’s numbers. We also don’t want to lose money.
Moderator: how much editing do you all do still?
Michelle R: when I get a submission I really love and I see things that need work, that’s part of the process. Plots that need work, chars that need strengthening. My job is to make it fit better I to what we do. To improve something thTs already great.
Paula: editors still really edit. A lot of first time authors need a lot of help. Development edits, line edits, copy edits, at Adams we’re all editing. Youre going to get edited, you need to get edited.
Lynn: if we get two good stories, we’re going to take the tighter one. On the other hand, we’re going to edit, if only to put it in our copy style.
Moderator: I’d rather have it be edited now than have it go I to print with problems.
Questions from the audience.
Culture of the business: how likely are any of you to call an Ed in another company and say this isn’t right for us but you may like it.
Michelle R.: it just doesn’t happen.
Lynn: I’ve done it. I ask the author first, but it’s not like they’re going to say no. I do, because I’m little.
Michelle R.: that said, editors are a very incestuous group in new York. We all know each other. So it may happen.
Q: Do you prefer direct subs or thru an agent?
Lynn: little independents like agents because they’re good vetters. If you’re coming to me directly, I don’t know you. I go to agented authors first.
JB: some really good quality works fall by the wayside. It’s a volume issue. You get three minutes of our time on the first pass. Random House gets hundreds of thous of sub,issions a year.
Paul: I welcome direct contact with authors, ESP by email. Fiction is a little bit ,ore complicated. But I like it. A lot of times their agents follow up to negotiate the deal.
Q: Explain strong social significance.
Lynn: strong social sig from history? As long as you can bridge it to modern times and show how it will continue on, then great, that gets people talking. I they not to get too limited. I also have to be able to sell it to a wide audience.
I just published a fic in a smaller house in the Midwest. But do you have speed to market thoughts about using smaller pubs?
JB: trade journals want four to six months ahead. Distribution channels take time. It’s not a printing issue. Come talk to smaller pubs if you’re an experienced author who didn’t lime bigger pubs.
Michelle R.: ouch. You need that time to build the interest a,ong the sales force. We are trying to tighten up the process, but sometimes the work suffers I’d you crash it through. Don’t wreck your book. If you’re looking for a career, doing a book a year is really tough.
Paula: for writing video game books, I’ve done it in 30 days. For crash books, first to market wins. But it does present problems.
Peter: in all kinds of houses you’re going to find great and not so great ppl to work with. Some places won’t market it right. Find the right people.
If you self publish, does that hurt the book bc first rights are gone?
Michelle R.: I worked with two docs who started self publishing and became traditionally published authors. We did follow ups with a diet guy and a cookbook guy.
Adam: it’s not as big a deal in nonfiction. It’s a harder sell with fiction. Or eds might ask, what else do you have going on?

First day at PNWA

I showed up at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association annual conference having taken the 560 bus from my friend’s house in West Seattle, raring to get there early so I could grab a latte before an all-day writing workshop. It was workshop in the conference sense, not the creative writing circle sense. Which was fine. But I waited a while for the hotel shuttle to show up at the airport, so I wound up waiting until the first break, some hours later, before having anything other than water for breakfast. Poor planning on my part constituted a high level of frustration on the part of my stomach.

I found a seat in the large ballroom—which is another funny word, since I’m fairly sure nobody has ever danced in this room of the conference center—and turned on my iPad. Realization dawned on me when it redirected to a pay-only/give password access page. Only cheap hotels have free WiFi. They need it as a selling point. The Hilton, even the SeaTac Hilton, does not need such leverage over its guests. I saw two women at the back of the room on laptops. Being the extrovert I am, I walked up to them and asked if they knew the password.

“Oh, there’s no network for this conference,” one of them told me, fiddling with her cell phone. “The conference didn’t arrange it.”

I relayed my shock and dismay in her general direction. She responded by walking up to the tech guy in the corner of the room and asking if he could help her get her Bluetooth to work. And wonderfully for us, he used her device to set up a network. What a guy!

She came over to my chair and gave me the password, and I thanked her with great enthusiasm. Now I was online with my iPad and could live-Tweet the workshop. So here’s the transcript, more or less, of what I wrote and sent out today:

PNWA! – Just starting the first workshop…writing the novel. Kind of a big subject!

New writers have a 90 percent failure rate. We’re just like restaurants.

BTW Thanks to Johanna Harness for getting me online today.

You should be able to say what your book is in one sentence.

This is all from Bob Mayer, who has 40 books in print.

The original idea is usually the heart of your pitch.|| sure, but they happen a long time apart from each other.

Write what you want to know. Elizabeth George isn’t British. She’s a damn good researcher.

Write what you read, what you’re interested in. Don’t worry about what’s hot. || he just gave me permission to write about transfolk!

Don’t write from a place of fear. People will know something about you from what you write.

Get each sentence right. Think about every word you put down. || well, I get to this place, but not usually in my first draft.

What makes you shiver, and how can you communicate that shiver?

We’re watching Joachaim Phoenix as Johnny Cash replacing all the instances of “song” with “book.”

It’s an example of listening to agents and getting over fear.

Give readers a good payoff at the end. You want them to get something new out of successive readings.

I already think about narrative structure and character, so whew on that.

How is your idea different? It isn’t. But we create new characters, plot, setting, intent to make it fresher.

Writers need to have strategic goals. Book goals, career goals, writing goals. Perswrvere.

Or, perservere.

Protagonist: must want something, be in trouble, unique voice, be different, be someone readers can identify with

Antagonist: must be someone audience respects/fears, drives the plot initially, should be a single person.

I’m not personally a believer of the single trigger leading to main motivation, but I’m not arguing with Bob here.

Conflict can arise from people having the same goal, conflicting goals, different goals. Be clear about what’s happening.

You must know, before you start writing, what your climactic scene is going to be. We’re not all Stephen King.

Use the POV that will work best for your story. Be willing to dissect your own books.

Look at the narrative flow of a movie by looking at the scene selection on the DVD. Think about what gets introduced first, char or prob.

Details drive your story. Flake on the details, bad news.

Outlining: get it out of your head. You’re a writer, write it down.

Back story should fill half your outline. And it’s all before the initial scene. You need to know all of it, your readers don’t.

Backstory: you can’t use your opening to set up your book.

Make clear to readers what is flashback and what is memory. || I don’t always do this. Intentionally.

The initiating event must introduce the protagonist, the problem, or both. Whew! Bumbling into Body Hair gets both.

Introduce your protagonist before they’re aware of the problem. It helps set their motivation.

The opening scene often mirrors the climactic scene, just at a lower level.

The bigger the story, the smaller the opening. And vice versa.

Think about your first shot. It sets your tone, your story.

Remember that suspense comes from caring about the characters. So make characters believable.

Fate works because it is layered on top of the existing base conflict. Coincidence merely is the conflict.

Break coming up. I’ll be back!

Only have one last scene after your climax. Otherwise you haven’t closed out your subplots well enough.

Show how the protagonist has changed by the end of the story.

Setting is time and place. And mood. And a character.

The when is part of your setting.

Get all five senses involved in putting together your setting.

You have to do intense research on your setting before you write it. Your readers don’t need to know it, you do.

Think about how time affects your narrative structure, conflict, suspense. Time can wreck it or enhance it.

Know the purpose of every scene. Make sure it has its own protagonist and antagonist.

Once you hook, the reader, trust them to stay connected. Don’t jar them and take them out of the story.

I like that we’re watching a lot of Paul Newman scenes in this presentAtion.

Dialogue: establishes character, advances the plot, shows off conflict, controls pace, gives expository info. But beware the last one.

Don’t use dialogue tags. Readers notice when writers say shrieked, exclaimed, sighed.

My takeaway about dialogue is that it’s very easy to get wrong. I speak mine out loud to make sure it’s sayable.

Stuff on writer’s block. Nobody cares about that, right?

Don’t over edit. You leave subconscious seeds that should stay in. It might not make sense to you yet, but it may someday.

3 ways to write: following the outline, followed subconscious seeds, rewrote and added.

You have to be your own best editor.

Have beta readers for your work. They must be good readers, not writers.

Readers point out problems. You’re the writer, you find the solutions. All the problems have to be erased. You can’t explain, you must fix.

Story editing: answer why now, what’s the mood, setting, who are the actors? Do the turning points aid motivation? Conflict escalating?

More editing: can your book be better?

Stick your characters into Maslow’s hierarchy to see where they are. They’re never self actualized at the start of the book.

Your characters all have blind spots. As an author, you need to know yours.

List your characters, their main traits, and their flaws. Flaws can be just needs in the extreme.

Your character has to have motivation and back story, but you don’t have to explain to the reader. At least, not at first.

Time for lunch. Catch you all later!

Checkov: don’t have a gun in act I unless you’re going to shoot it by act III.

Show, don’t tell.|| I know! I guess we all keep doing that if they keep saying it.

Character description: keep it brief, distinctive. Use placeholders of people you know so you have a visual image while writing.

Don’t have your char stand in front of a mirror. || Unless they’re a vampire! Kidding.

Try not to make ridiculous names for your character. Users shld be able to pronounce. || Unless that’s the point. I’ve done it on purpose.

Writers interested in getting published should join the romance writers of America, bc they’ve got the most professionals.

Profile yourself for a week, then see how much time you waste that you could have been writing.

Writers should take the Myers-Briggs. One of the 16 types is author. It’s opposite? Promoter.

Writer’s groups should make sure they’re moving forward. Goals, goals, goals!

Top character trait of writers is the ability to change. || I had a sex change, does that count?

#bookmarket I’m at PNWA, listening to a talk on the book market. Follow me for my live twitter feed.

Only 5 percent of people can change themselves at the rate we writers need.

When characters make decisions, they either dismiss it, feel stuck by it, or stick with it.

Nothing in your writing should be by chance. You’re the architect. Architect it.

Decisions leads to sustained action, leads to change. This is how characters develop.

Moments of enlightenment leads to decisions, which start the process.

The stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It’s just like publishing!

To show your character has changed, they must act differently.

During lunch break, lit judge agreed with me: tell agents I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get pub interest.

Everything you put in a book, use two ways. Back story, plot grease, character develop.

Don’t be afraid to refer to other points and arcs in the story.

Bob Mayer: I hate it, but know what genre you’re in. You must know exactly what you’re in. 56 percent of sales is romance, FYI.

There is no reality. So think hard about what POV you will use. POV is the number 1 problem writers have that keeps them from selling.

In communication, the receiver is more Important than the sender. So know your readers.

Don’t be afraid to let your books grow. If pub wants more out of one narrative, write more books!

If the reader doesn’t need it, don’t tell them. The more you put In it, the more you may introduce something they don’t like.

Beware the subconscious negative: to be honest, or else, mocked…

Don’t have too many POV angles.

First person is good for a lot, but not for building suspense. || unless readers think the narrator is dead!

Try not to start too many sentences with “the” unless you’re writing omniscient.

A change POV if it makes sense. Read thru to make sure you know when/why it shifts.

Start writing your next book before you start querying your first. Let the first one sit for a while. Get some distance.

Remember it’s voice that sells. Must be distinctive. In third POV, voices must sound different.

The voice that is your best voice is the one you want least to write in. Because it’s so close to you.

You will tend to write in the voice you most enjoy reading.

Ex. Of Courage Under Fire as a way of using POV as a narrative/plot device.

Selling Your Book. When yr story becomes product. Figure out what you want to achieve.

You may be asked to cut, add, simplify, restructure. Do you want to sell it or not?

The writer is working in conflict with their own environment and the publishing world. Have clear goals and plans.

It’s not supposed to be a war with writers and agents.

Don’t spend your time reacting, get to acting. Successful writers get beyond reacting.

Every writer who thinks they have it made fails. Perserverence makes you successful.

Fixed minset vs. a growth mindset. Writers must be prepared to reinvent themselves.

Have measurable goals. External, visible outcomes. Time lock for achieving goals. Keep it positive.

Face your freaking fears. Often the fear is what you have to do.

Ask yourself: what was my original goal as a writer? Should you return to it? Change it? Make it happen.

If you don’t state that you want to be a NY Times bestselling author, you won’t be. Tell others, too, If this is your goal.

Have specific tactical goals: read PUblishers Weekly, go to specific confs, write 5 pages a day,etc. Write down your goals.

Prioritize your goals, but make sure you keep writing.

Keep your options open. Look for direct and indirect approaches. It’s never a good time to be a writer, so get over that.

Study other books like yours. It’s part of your work. It’s your job. Network and ask for help.

Read blogs by agents, authors and editors, but understand they all have a POV.

If you’re type A, publishing will break you of that. You must have persistence and patience.

Have a three year mindset. Publishing’s processes take time.

Traditional publishing is planning for books in 2012, 2013.

You need to figure out what your platform is. Your anger, your idea, your background. Understand the market you’re trying to reach.

If you’ve written a funny story, your query letter should be funny. Match tone.

The aggressive person wrote a good book, the obnoxious person wrote a bad one.

Find the right publisher by knowing imprints, genres, market, small presses, ebook possibilities.

Copyright symbols on queries and ms copies are turn-offs for agents.

Don’t pay attention to slush pile statistics. The slush pile is supposed to be worse than your writing.

Cover letter: 2 para on idea, 2 para on you, one page total. Don’t say anything valenced–no praise or negative comments about your work.

Don’t hold back the ending to your book in the query letter! Give the entire story arc. Be terse with your synopsis, though.

Only mention the pro tag, antagonist, main supporting character. Don’t use bullets in your query. If it’s a genre, say what it is.

Don’t put subplots in your query letter. Just show the main storyline. In a query, less is more.

Think about using snail mail queries. Email lets agents track you, may serves walls to getting representation.

I really don’t like the predictive keyboard on this iPad. It keeps introducing typos!

Go to writer’s conferences and retreats.

Do multiple submissions, don’t tell them it’s a multiple; that’s a subconscious negative.

Agents and editors don’t read like readers. They scan.

They also don’t read in their offices. They cram it in when they can.

If you want to get published in New York, you MUST have an agent. They actually support writers’ careers.

Small pubs with no advances, regional presses, if those are your goals, you don’t need an agent.

Ask agents: recent sales in your genre, how long in the biz, submission timelines, contract types, how do they like to communicate.

Nasty rejections are mostly myth. But if you get one, stop reading and delete it. Just move on.

It’s simple. Just don’t quit. Be wiling to market yourself.

Thinking your agent will market your book is like thinking your OB-GYN will raise your child.

When you get your first book published, market the hell out of it. You have to work hard to succeed.

We want to love indie bookstores, but it’s the big stores that stock all genres. || eh, I still like ’em.

Go ahead and self-promote, even if you’re worried about being self-promoting.

Balance your promotion with supporting others. Keep yourself honest.

Don’t make your Twitter avatar your book jacket. You’re going to write more than one book, right?

Writers, it’s likely you will have to get out of your comfort zone to promote yourself.

Average sell through on a book is 50 percent. That is why publishing is struggling.

Booksignings are not cost-effective. But they’re good for networking and fan base. Get creative with venues.

Publicists are more important for non fiction. Jon Stewart sells more books than anyone else on TV.

Write a book on your blog. You’re going to write 100,000 words anyway.

Think about viral marketing for your book on You Tube. Do everything you can to find your audience.

If you’re a new writer, get traditionally published. 950,000 books last year (out of 1.2M) sold 99 copies or fewer.

If there were a formula for success, everyone would be doing it. Be open to possibility and find what works for you.

Generate good will. It will go far to your success. For more info, follow @bob_Mayer and go to bobmayer.org.

Don’t self publish fiction. Your work will get buried.

Publishers control distribution. That is why ebooks are confounding to the industry.

That’s it for today. I’ll see what I can Tweet out tomorrow, folks. So far so good!

Things I have won

I am a fan of the contest. I just plain like the concept that for the trouble of sponsoring my own entry into it, I have earned the privilege of getting X chance in millions of winning whatever thing it is that I covet. It’s a tiny taste of exhilaration, made all the smaller by my intellectual understanding that I’m probably not going to win bupkus. But in the years of me entering contests, I have walked away victorious a few times. It’s like a siren’s song, drawing me back, distracted by whatever bauble or accolade is dangled in front of my head.

A stuffed snowman. In 1983 I won a stuffed snowman, hand-knit by some other 8th grader’s mother. The real hook for me was the black hat on its head—inside, curled into itself, was a second scarf, in a different color, and you could change them out. Sweet! A snowman you could dress! For a kid who didn’t give a fig about Barbies, this was for some reason extremely appealing. Tim, a big bully of a kid, had bested me earlier in the school year in a campaign for class security guard—I don’t know how he beat my motto, Shoot for the Moon, Vote for Maroon—and had, upon the afternoon of his victory speech, insisted everyone passing him in the hallway should bow to him. Oh, how my fellow classmates rued their collective decision then! Tim saw me buy a raffle ticket for Mr. Snowman and like an arrogant parent, unrolled a loop of raffle tickets like baby pictures out of his wallet. I would never win, he said. Ruffled by his heckling, I capitulated and bought one more ticket. This doubled my chances of winning, I figured. Ah, 8th grade math. When the principal called my ticket number over the loudspeaker, I squealed and ran down the three flights to get my prize. And I’m positive I loved that changeable snowman far superiorly to Tim, would he have won.

Mill Road Camp Camper of the Week. I have no earthly idea how I earned this prize other than the counselors gave it out on a rotating basis and I just hit my number one week. I didn’t even enter or otherwise make my interest known to the day camp staff. I was just wasting my time perfecting my tetherball skills. Mad skillz, I say. But I still have the brick red banner with white lettering.

I have won roughly $200 in bowling league money. That I have bowled in a league at least 6 times reveals my sad-ass bowling skills. Even the last team in most leagues will walk away with something at the end of the season. But it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about having the coolest shoes in the league. Which I have.

A Panasonic stereo and 25 CDs. This was the strangest contest to enter in my personal history with contests. Sponsored by Dodge and Mothers Against Driving Drunk, or whatever it is they’re called, entrants had to guess how many CDs (in their cases) would fit inside the M.A.D.D. Music Mobile, a van that apparently was roaming around my college campus, hunting for drunk drivers, or something. That really sounds like an unsafe practice, but okay. I went upstairs to my dorm room, called 800 information (there was no Web, people!), and got the number for Dodge headquarters in Detroit. After a series of phone calls, I had the cubic dimensions of the van’s interior. I also, at the time, owned 12 CDs. I pulled two away so I would have an even 10, and I measured the cubic area, did some rough math—math keeps being so important! damn math!—and then went back down to the lobby to put in my guess. I’d all but forgotten about the contest when I got a letter in the mail, saying I’d gotten first prize. I’d missed the grand prize, which was oh, a sports car, but what would I do with a sports car in the snowiest place in New York? Crash it into the Music Mobile, probably, or a Delta Delta Delta on her way back from a drunken formal.

Employee of the Year. This award took me a bit by surprise, and without a doubt meant the most to me of all the things I’ve ever had the pleasure of winning. The vice president announcing the award at the annual dinner did the traditional, “let me tell you about this person before I give you the name” thing. I’m fond of that approach, actually, and not just because it reminds me of Sesame Street’s version of This Is Your Life. I had my suspicions that I’d be getting the award, but it was still great to get called up to the podium and accept it. Sometimes I think it’s silly to get so excited about a wood and brass plaque, but well, I worked hard to have that on my office wall.

It’s with this short but fun history that I entered the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association literary contest, submitting my affable memoir last spring. I’d known upon entering that finalists in each genre category would be notified by early June, so when 6/15 rolled around I presumed I was not among them. But opening my email yesterday, I saw an email from PNWA with the subject line, PNWA Literary Contest: Congratulations! My very first thought was, “well, I guess I’ll see who the finalists are, since I must not be one of them.” Imagine my surprise when I read: “Dear Everett, Congratulations!” Say what? Holy memoir, I’m a finalist!

Susanne wanted to know why the blood had all gone out of my face. I told her, rereading the Web site details about the contest, that so far I’d won a “Finalist” ribbon to put on my conference badge when I show up at the event in July. I bet it’s red. I love a nice, red ribbon and I have no idea why. As it stands, there are 8 finalists in each genre category, and a first, second, and third place winner. So I have a 3 in 8 chance of winning something beyond my lovely strip of satin. Whatever happens, I’m excited and thrilled.

Contests are damn fun.

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