Archive for the 'Publishing' Category

Your First Page Better Be Good…

If you are serious about getting your work published, you already know the importance of your first sentence, your first paragraph, and your first page. When all you get to send to a prospective literary agent is a query letter and page 1, that first page better be pretty good. Unlike at writers club, you won’t be around to insist, “keep reading, it gets better.”

And rightfully so. We, as readers, quickly judge books we consider purchasing, not by reading page 127 (and certainly not by reading up to page 127), but by reading the opening scene. If it doesn’t grab us, if it doesn’t give us a reason to keep reading (or worse, the writing screams “stop right there, if you know what’s good for you!) we put the book back down. Knowing the stories about the many rejection letters that now-published authors received before getting their big break, I think it’s safe to assume that literary agents and publishers are more critical than the average reader, not more forgiving/curious/patient. As one blogger puts it, “they’re looking for reasons to reject, not reasons to accept.”

If you’re interested in knowing what these reasons are, check out This is Why I Would Read Beyond the Page 1 and This is Why I Would Not Read Farther by author and blogger Anne Mini. There are 76 reasons the interviewed agents listed for rejecting based on a first page, and only 8 for reading further. It’s definitely worth checking out. Both lists are located pretty far down the page, past all the bold type. Don’t lose hope, just keep scrolling.

So to arm ourselves for the fight to get our work noticed by prospective agents and publishers, a writing exercise was distributed at the Tin Pencil meeting last night. If you weren’t able to make it to the meeting, you’ll find it below.

  1. Pick up a few of your favorite books and a couple not so favorites and read the very first sentence. Does it grab you? Why or why not? How can you incorporate what you liked into your own opening scenes?
  2. Write five first sentences.
  3. Choose one of your newly crafted sentences as a prompt and finish the whole first paragraph, page, or chapter. Was that first sentence the best way to start the scene? Can you improve it?

Those who complete this exercise will be given time at the beginning of the next meeting (February 10th) to read their resulting first sentences and opening scene, or feel free to post them in a comment. Write on!


The Difference

As writers aspiring to be published, the most basic BASIC thing that we must know (besides the English language) is the difference between being published and being self-published. This is not to say that there isn’t a place in this world for “vanity presses,” but paying someone to print copies of your story doesn’t make you a published author.

I had a sad experience at work yesterday. (I work at a bookshop. Be jealous.) As has happened many times before, I had a woman approach me at the counter and introduce herself as a local author who wanted to show me her book. This time it was a children’s book, a thin little thing with poorly painted illustrations that screamed “self-published.” I asked her whether Tate Publishing, whose logo graced the cover, was a traditional publisher or a self-publishing company, to which she replied “oh, no, they’re the real deal.” She gave me a very passionate description of her book, told me how she’d read it at several schools and another local bookstore, and showed me a letter from the publisher stating that out of the thousands and thousands of manuscripts that they receive each year, hers stood with the tiny percentage that was worthy of being published. With a little more faith, I promised her I’d give it a read and call her back.

I should have gone with my gut. After tripping through the clumsy rhymes and disappointing story, I googled Tate Publishing and one of the first things to come up was “Tate Publishing Scam.” Apparently they charge their authors $4000 as an up front “investment” in the “publication” of their books. Pushing aside the swell of indignity at being lied to, I realized that I wasn’t really the one being misled. I have a feeling that everyone who submits their manuscript receives one of those glowing letters in return, along with the price tag.

Please, fellow writers, don’t be fooled! Do your homework. Anytime you have to pay the publisher instead of them paying you, you are self-publishing! No matter how selective they claim to be.

Now, I have a difficult phone call to make.

*Addition* A few legitimate publishers, and apparently agents too, are creating their own self-publishing companies to capitalize on their extensive slush piles. Check out this blog to learn more about this scary new trend.

Reasons for Rejection

Here are two interesting blogs, one by literary agent Janet Reid and one by Del Rey editorial director Betsy Mitchell, on how many manuscripts that passed their initial tests ultimately were rejected and why. It’s a bit scary, but enlightening all the same.

The Future of Publishing…

My posts are so often links to other bloggers’ posts, I know (hangs head in shame), but this is perhaps the best argument I’ve read for the future domination of e-books. While, as an indie bookseller in a traditional brick and mortar store, this makes me a little sad, I can also now look to the future with a different kind of hope. Maybe bookstores will soon be welcome among the ranks of clock shops and hat stores, but at least we will still exist for those to whom it makes a difference.

Query Shark

As promised, here is a link to the awesome Query Shark:

This blog is updated by literary agent Janet Reid. Here you can find problematic query letters dissected as well as examples of letters that made it to the next level. You can even submit your own query letter for feedback, but make sure you read her guidelines (found in the righthand column of her site) before you do.

Tips for Querying Agents

I’ve been looking into the art of query letter writing and the process of approaching literary agents, and I thought these links might be of use to those of you nearing the completion of your stories.

Ten Things You Should Do Before Querying an Agent

24 Agents Who Want Your Work

Anatomy of a Good Query Letter

Get the Big Stuff Right

How (And Whether) to List Your Publishing Credits

The last one is a favorite.

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