sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

Research resources February 4, 2010

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 1:43 pm
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I’m currently writing an article on how to get teenage boys to work when all they want to do is play video games and ignore their mothers. Because this epidemic is viral, perhaps I should charge for the advice. . . . 😀

So where does a girl go to get the information she needs for such an article?
The local bookstore
Personal experience
Friends
Forums
HARO
The local library

I went to the bookstore rather than the library this time, because I had to kill time and I wanted the most up-to-date books on the subject. I had my notebook, I had extra shots in my fancy coffee (that I deserved because I was working), I had half a shelf of parenting books; and I folded myself into a corner of the coffee area to take notes.

When it comes to personal experience, all most people want to know is a) that you can identify with their pain, and b) what you did to fix the problem. The same goes for stories from friends. If you can tell the story with humor, all the better. People need to laugh at themselves or they might cry.

I posted a question on a forum I enjoy—one that has a high level of interaction—and within hours I had many responses on what other moms do with their sons. While I won’t quote these in my article unless I have express permission from the women who wrote them, it’s always good to have a variety of opinions and suggestions. I never put last names in articles, especially, in this case, when moms are bemoaning the laziness of their children.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is something I am relatively new to, but it is a wonderful place for reporters and writers to glean from the savviness of experts. HARO sends out an e-mail 2-3 times a day to their 80,000 subscribers with a list of questions needing input. So let’s say I want to break open the story of a politician’s illegitimate child—I could post a query that looks something like this:

Seeking news on personal life of politicians. (Anonymous)

Reporter is looking for the low and dirty on politicians in the city of Washington D.C. All sourced will remain anonymous.

Ok, I am seriously just kidding about this one, because I hate people exposing others when they aren’t exactly shining angels themselves; nevertheless, I think you get the idea.

The library is also a fabulous place to find info. on just about everything. You have current magazines, books, reference books, etc. all waiting for you to delve into them. The librarians usually love being asked for help, too.

Perhaps you have loads of ideas for articles but you have no idea how to go about getting your writing into magazines. That’s another topic, but basically you find the magazines you’d like to write for (start small), and query the editors with your ideas. Here is some help on how to write those queries:
How to write a query letter.
How to write a successful query.
Writing a bulletproof article query.

Good luck!

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

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Writers’ market guides—which one should you buy? January 2, 2010

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Writer’s Market, one of the standard submission guides writers use, seems to have taken its 2010 edition down a rocky path. Amazon reviewers are not impressed.

“This edition missed the boat completely.”

“This edition is substandard.”

“This 2010 Writer’s Market is the last edition of this book that I’ll be buying.”

“Somebody needed to proof the manuscript before publication.”

Other online book sellers seem to copy the reviews from Amazon, so I am limited in my resources; nevertheless, my thought is that the researchers and editors for Writer’s Market may have taken to resting on their laurels rather than upgrading (or even maintaining) the quality and content of the 2009 guide.

Needless to say, I won’t be buying this year’s Writer’s Market. My choice would be Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2010.

Amazon reviewers, so far, have given it four and a half out of five stars, and to top that,

“the twentieth edition has been has been completely revised. The updated layout includes new symbols and callouts designed to give readers the information they need most in a quick and accessible format.”

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Litmatch—agent search and submission tracking September 28, 2009

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LitMatch is a free service that helps writers find and secure an agent. Apart from the necessary ads in the right-hand column, the site is beautifully designed—crisp and clean looking. It’s dead easy to use, too. [Since writing this post, LitMatch has changed its name to Author Advance]

Tracking
For each novel, record the submissions you’ve made to agents. (You would not believe how easy it is to forget.)
Records: Day, agent, agency
Follow up info
End result

Agent search
Find an agent who represents your genre—LitMatch’s search feature could not be any easier.

Literary agencies and agents
LitMatch lists 1757 agents in 821 agencies. You can pull up any agency and find:
The list of agents
What they prefer to represent
All their contact info
Personal info/publishing experience
If they are currently open to submissions
If they accept e-mail submissions
If they accept postal submissions
A pie chart of the percentage of offers, requests, and rejections
Responses
Response times
Submission guidelines
Clients and projects represented
Comments

Agent blogs
Lists and links to all of the blogs agents have

Hotlist
When you find an agent or agency you like the look of, you can hotlist it, grading it out of five flames.

LitMatch blog
Talks about what LitMatch hopes to offer in the near future

I’ve just registered so I can track who I’ve sent my queries to. Hopefully you guys will find it just as helpful as I have.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Make the most of your writing conference September 22, 2009

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I’ve been at the ACFW conference for the last few days. I went without expectations, and was duly impressed with what I saw. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of yours.

Packing list
Comfortable shoes
Clothes that meet the “relaxed professional” look
Notepad and pen
Laptop, power source
Business cards
Snacks
Water
Extra room in your luggage for all the books you’ll bring home

During the conference
Do advance research on the workshops offered.
Don’t miss a thing.
Get to your agent and editor appointments at least five minutes early.
Be ready to hand out your card to anyone who asks.
Chat to all the other writers—some of them have terrific advice.

Have ready to show editors and agents (only if they ask)
The first five pages of your novel/book (double spaced)
One-page synopsis of your novel/book
Writing samples
Bio page with all published credentials and social media activity

The editors and agents will usually only scan your papers to see if they want to work with you, and even then, most agents won’t ask for the full MS until they have read the first three chapters, which they will ask you to e-mail after the conference.

The best advice I can give you is this: If you have a completed novel you’ve pitched, and an agent or editor asked for more, send in the partial that’s been requested ASAP so that the agent does not forget you among the heap of other writers they showed an interest in.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Espresso: In-store book printing August 6, 2009

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What is an Espresso machine?
This is an Espresso machine. It makes you coffee and serves up a warmed chocolate croissant. . . .
Kidding!

“Up close and personal it is as if the Gutenberg Press met with Willy Wonka, and the chocolatier come out on top.” ~ Felicity Wood, editorial assistant at The Bookseller

What can it do?
The Espresso machine is like an ATM for books because it prints books while you wait. The exact number of minutes it takes to print a book depends on the number of pages being printed and the size of the book, but in one machine,
pages are printed,
a cover is printed,
the spine is glued,
the pages are evenly chopped,
and a finished book slides out of the chute.

How fast is it?
Version 2.0 will print a book of 300 pages in about four minutes. The older version is three times slower.

What can be printed on it?
Books can be printed from the Public Domain list, as can books from a PDF file. Publishers that work with Lightening Source have made their titles available. Writers and content owners can also print their own books on it.

How much will it cost to print a book?
The cost to the store owner for one book is about $2, but we have yet to see what price the retailers settle at for having the machine in their store. The older machine costs a store/library $75,000, and the newer one $175,000. The store also has the option to rent it for $1,000 a month.

If a newer machine prints 60,000 books a year when it’s working 24/7, then it produces 20,000 if it only works an 8 hour day. If the retailer charges double the cost to make a book, then he will only make $40k in the first year, assuming that books will be churned out of it like play-dough. It will take over four years before he begins to make a return on his money, so I assume that he will charge the public about $7 in order to pay off the machine inside of two years instead. Add on the royalties for the publisher and the writer, and you shoot up the price even more. This would end up costing more than the basic price of a paperback, so who benefits, then?

Writers might.

How might it benefit writers?
Writers can send their files electronically to the Espresso machine and have them printed while on their way to pick it up. As long as retailers settle at $8 a book, it ends up cheaper for writers to print their books on an Espresso than print the book with print-on-demand companies. Most print-on-demand books end up charging the writer over $10 just to print, and that’s before shipping costs are added. As long as retailers make the use of the Espresso machine cost effective, a writer can price a book to be more competitive with bookstore prices and still receive some sort of royalty.

Another beauty of printing on the Espresso is that writers and publishers can see exactly where their content has been ordered and produced, and the system tracks all the data needed to divvy up royalties, production costs, network fees, etc.

“We’re looking forward to a rapid expansion of available content, moving us much closer to our goal of 1 million titles available on the Espresso Book Machine.” ~Andrew Hutchings, Blackwell Group Chief Executive Officer.

All of this is only good news to writers if stores and libraries are smart about their pricing system. In England there is a set fee of $17 a book, plus 4c for every page, although a popular book costs the same as its cover price. Rare books could cost about $25. Not so smart. . . .

Where are these machines?
Libraries and bookstores will be the main outlets for this machine. As I write, the Espresso machines are available in the following places in the US:


Internet Archive, San Francisco
New Orleans Public Library
University of Michigan Library
Northshire Bookstore, Vermont
Brigham Young University Bookstore, Provo, Utah
University of Arizona Bookstore, Tucson, AZ
University of Missouri Bookstore, Columbia, MO
The InfoShop, The World Bank (exhibition, 2006), Washington, District of Columbia
New York Public Library, SIBL (exhibition, 2007), New York, New York

Click here to find the location of Espressos in other countries.

Click here for more information about the Espresso machine.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Review of Joy in a Box July 25, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 12:23 am
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Recent review of Joy in a Box

I liked the old 50’s feel that it has, kind of like reading James Joyce or Steinbeck. Very nice job.

Rie McGaha . . . fantasy that keeps you up
http://www.riemcgaha.com

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Market Your Fiction (and Yourself) July 20, 2009

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Penny C. Sansevieri
Today’s interview is with Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., a best-selling author and internationally-recognized book marketing and media relations expert.

Penny began her career in the publicity, book marketing, and literary field over fifteen years ago. During that time she has been an author, freelance writer, publicist, and instructor. Penny’s most recent book, Red Hot Internet Publicity, has been called “an indispensable guide to leveraging the Internet for success.” The second edition is being released soon.

Promoting fiction
I’ve read a lot about author platform, social media, and other ways to promote authors and their books, but most of the advice seems to refer to writers of non-fiction. Is this because it’s harder to promote authors of fiction? If so, what are the difficulties unique to promoting fiction authors?

It’s tough to promote fiction. That’s always been the case, mostly because fiction authors always try to promote the book, not the message. Remember that it’s never about the book; it’s about what the book can do for the reader. Sometimes you have to get super creative with this, like the marketing team did for My Sister’s Keeper—they incited debate on the very topic that is the arc of the story. That’s really what you want to create. So, for example, if you’ve written a story about spousal abuse, child abuse, etc., there might be some discussion points on those subjects that you can “hook” your message on.

For example, a few months ago I taught a webinar and talked with a participating author who had written a vampire YA novel. He said that he was not looking forward to competing with Stephanie Meyer, who had just released her book. I told him to pitch himself locally on the topic of YA vampire fiction and see if he could get himself on some shows. He was on three shows in his area talking about the trend of this type of book and, of course, during the interview, he was able to mention his own title!

Which would you say is more important—promotion of the author or promotion of the book?

That depends on what the brand is. Generally in fiction the author (at some point) becomes the brand. But let’s say it’s early in your career and you have only published one book. Maybe it’s the story (your story) that is your marketing hook. Maybe you overcame obstacles to do this work. Whatever it is, market the hottest element, either the book or the author, and if it’s tough to determine what this is, then sit down with someone who can be objective and guide you. Spending a couple of hundred dollars to get some focused direction might save you thousands of dollars in the long run on marketing

Are there any staple skills that you require of authors before you take them on as clients?

Not really. Authors come to us in all stages of marketing knowledge and readiness. I must love the book; that’s the first piece of this. I try and get the book (or the manuscript if it’s not published yet) and do a read through. I believe that at the end of the day, I’m selling this book, and I can’t sell something I don’t believe in.

The average reader of this blog is a woman who is between thirty-five and fifty-five. (Yes, I made those ages up in my head based on the profile pictures of fans!) She has written her first novel, edited it to perfection, but could not find an agent or publisher to take her on. Instead, she released it through a reputable print-on-demand company. She has a blog, and she is active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook; however, her book is not selling. Is she doing something wrong? What can she do?

Keep in mind that not everything you do will relate in sales and, candidly, you should *never* measure the success of what you’re doing in sales alone and here’s why: traction for a book is cumulative. It’s what I call the long runway of publishing success. You have to keep the momentum going for a while before you see results and, often, authors get discouraged at the 90-day point and give up. That’s why I suggest keeping a running list of things to do. Surround yourself with people who will help you keep the momentum to keep marketing, even when you feel like giving up. If you’re doing the right marketing you’ll see a marked difference—perhaps in web visitors or signups to your social networking page or a jump in your Twitter followers. Success leaves clues, so does effective marketing, but to measure it by sales is too discouraging. Remember the rule of 7—it takes seven impressions of your book, message, or product for the consumer to buy it. I almost think that the rule of 7 is not the rule of 70, though. With so much stuff coming at us at any given time, it’s tough to sift through it. That’s why consistency of message and consistency of marketing are both important. It takes seven consistent impressions.

When you think of the top fiction authors you have helped, what was it that they did (over and above other clients) that sold more books? Alternatively, have fiction authors ever done things that damaged their sales figures?

Let me answer the second question first. The thing that authors do (and this isn’t just limited to fiction) to damage their sales and career is that they give up or switch horses mid-race. By this I mean that they think what they’re doing isn’t working and they switch to doing something completely different. This steals the momentum from their first project, just like you’d lose steam in a race if you switched fuels.

The thing that separates the successful fiction authors from the unsuccessful is the successful ones keep going. As long as the direction is good (and again, if you’re not sure, spend some time and money on a coaching session with a marketing professional) then keep going. Also, often the best way to sell your first book is with your second and so on, so if all else fails, keep writing.

Finally, be open to feedback from reliable people. Your family and friends will all love what you do, so don’t dismiss their feedback, but what you want is someone in the industry to offer you insight and advice. Perhaps that person can even suggest slight improvements to what you’ve written or point out a new, more supportive marketing direction.

You currently have over eleven thousand subscribers to your weekly newsletter. What do you think has made it so successful?

I think the reason for its success is that we always go heavy on the helpful information and light on the self-promotion. So often you read newsletters that are all about “buy this” and “buy that”—I tend to unsubscribe from those very quickly. A good newsletter should be 95 percent helpful and 5 percent self-promotion.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Reviews and Interviews—Why Bother? July 9, 2009

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Meet Tim George—guest blogger; author of novel in the making, The Source; reviewer; interviewer; and author of: t.e. george, unveiled.

Reviews and Interviews—Why Bother?
A recent e-mail reflected a question more than one person has asked me. “How much do you get paid for your book reviews and author interviews?” the earnest writer asked. Now if that had been my eighty-five-year-old mother, I would have understood. But it was a fellow writer hoping to be published, as they put it, “in the near future.” One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my writer’s journey is you have to be willing to give more than you take. Seems like Jesus had some things to say about that.

For many years I hoarded books like a squirrel does acorns. There couldn’t be too many on my shelves, or in my closet, or under the bed. You get the picture. But the more serious I have become about writing, the less I want to horde my works of fiction. More and more, I find every way possible to give away a good book once I have finished with it. Why? Because I want others to know the same pleasure I found in the story.

Why I review fiction
That is why I review fiction. I love to read and I want to help other people who love to read. At first I reviewed on Amazon just because. Then I began to offer reviews on my Web site and blog for my friends. And now I review for Fiction Addict because my love for books was recognized by others. But in the end, I review because I read. My aim in a review is not tell you what the book says (that’s why you buy the book). One of my pet peeves is reviewers that can’t resist telling me the whole story, including the ending. Instead, a good review tells you why you should read the book and, on a few occasions why your money might be better spent elsewhere.

Interviews
Several have also asked me how I got into doing interviews. The answer is similar yet deeper. I review because I read. I interview because I write. Interviews with published authors fascinate me. It allows me to join the writer in front of their computer, if you will, and see things through their eyes as they work to bring ideas, characters, and plots to life. We can interact and discuss those characters as though they are a part of the conversation. And in many ways they are.

I was amazed to learn how readily many authors are willing to do an interview. Their time is very valuable and limited so I do everything through email (back and forth several times usually). What I enjoy most is when an author gives me something from the heart. Like when Athol Dickson said, “the novel I’m writing now also has a lead character who is morally perfect. Since I’ve never met anyone like him, he’s been a real challenge to write.” Priceless. Or when Randy Singer responded, “If Christ didn’t wrap up each parable with a neat spiritual conclusion and tie a bow on it, I don’t feel pressure to do so either. I will let the story be king and the spiritual truths will flow out of that.” That comment forced me to change the ending of the novel I am working on—for the better.

More than one fellow blogger has asked me how I get these people to grant interviews. There’s no mystery to it. I asked. The worst they could do is say no. And, if we writers are not thick-skinned enough for that, we surely need to find some other pursuit.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

How to Get Published Clips July 7, 2009

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In order to be published by the better-known magazines, one has to start small. An absolute necessity is to buy a market guide—buy the one (or two) that fits best with the genre you prefer to write in. Because my two main forms of writing are Christian fiction and practical, help-yourself-style articles, I usually buy Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide and Writer’s Market.

Starting out, I worked with the list of best-selling magazines and steered my gaze toward the bottom of the list. Down there are the smaller magazines that pay less or nothing, but they will give you an opening into the world of published work. You need to get published here, as the better-paying magazines will not be interested in your queries if you have no previously-published clips. E-magazines are also good places to see your name in print.

Read the information about the magazines that you pick out of the guide. The description of what they are interested in will guide you as to what type of story/article/poem you can write for them. If you ask about sending a story about Aunt Gertrude’s strawberry jelly and they are only interested in fiction, then you have wasted both your time and theirs.

Most magazines are not interested in seeing the fully written piece; you must send a proposal first. In the front of the market guides are good examples of how a query/proposal letter should be written. You can also find out (in the guides) if the magazine you want to submit to is open to receiving that query by e-mail. They may want it sent the old fashioned way—by mail.

If you send it by mail, don’t forget to send a self-addressed envelope with it or you will not hear back. If you send it via e-mail, save the e-mail in a separate folder so that every month you can check to see if it was replied to. If, within two months, it was not, then you can send another e-mail to ask if they have considered your query yet.

Once you get a response and, oh joy, they want you to send in the piece, send it in as soon as possible. Editors are busy people, and their time should be honored. If you flake off at this crucial point of business, they will remember and not ask for your work again. Editors want people they can rely on.

Usually when starting out, pay will be either nothing but a byline (your name beside your work) or a year’s subscription to the magazine. That’s fine. All you need is to have that published clip for the bigger and better queries you will be sending out.

Good luck!

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 
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