Monthly Archives: December 2014

7 Ways to Make an Agent or Publisher Say Yes!

Traditional publishing is growing again. Sales are up, ebooks have become another channel rather than the death of books, and disruption is creating beneficial changes. Here are 7 ways to make an agent or publisher say, “Yes!” to your manuscript.
1. Write a fantastic manuscript. Tap into your passion and write something that relates to that. You’ll produce a much better manuscript that way.
2. Run the manuscript through beta readers. Use your writer’s group, friends who are readers and writers, or a professional editor to spot those critical flaws you’ve missed because you’re too close to the story.
3. Create a professional query letter (see Dec 18 post for more).
4. Create supporting submission materials. For a nonfiction book, this is a book proposal. For fiction, this means a bio that includes your platform, a synopsis, and an overview of marketing opportunities the author can fulfill. Juvenile fiction and nonfiction needs an author bio as well as an overview of current trends, additional books from the author, and marketing opportunities.
5. Contact the right agent or publisher for your project. Rather than blasting out hundreds of emails, select one agent or publisher every day to contact. You’ll also save yourself time in the long run and eliminate a lot of frustration.
6. Approach agents before you approach publishers. Once you’ve submitted to a publisher, agents generally can’t resubmit on your behalf. A rejection is a rejection in the minds of the publisher. Don’t sink your agent’s ability to represent you to their full network before you even begin. Help an agent say yes by letting them do their job.
7. Keep moving foward. Mention your next project…then stay busy with it while you wait to hear back.

Book Review: The House at Riverton

By Kate Morton.
This book was a total surprise to me. I really don’t go for historical fiction that meanders about with too much emphasis on the tawdry social fights that go on between the upstairs/downstairs set.
This work entirely upset my expectations. I was more than happy to read further and further into this work. Some other reviewers have dinged it for poor storytelling…I believe they are dissatisfied with the pacing. The pace is appropriate for this story, and pays off very well for the reader who wants to dive deep into a character’s nuances.
That was the most enjoyable part of this work. The twists at the end weren’t so surprising to me but as an author, that’s not unusual. Besides, this work isn’t really read for it’s twists. It’s read for the nuances and subtle (and yes, often not-so-subtle) impacts into various lives of different events.
I truly, truly liked this novel. So much so that I went right away to another of the same author’s books. Very well done and worth the time to slow down your reading pace and walk with these people.
4 stars!

Book Review: Heading Out to Wonderful

By Robert Goolrick.
I read this right after finishing Goolrick’s first book, A Reliable Wife. This one was just as well written. Very nuanced characters, none of whom are perfect and all of whom are reaching for something more in their lives. The fact that the something more is really just a little happiness makes it all the more compelling.
The event that ends the story of the two lovers wasn’t entirely to my liking. Not because I don’t like what happened; I’m just not sure it was the right move for these characters. Perhaps with more reflection on the small town community, which can be overly familiar, I will change my mind. But the final event was abrupt in terms of storytelling. Then again, violence of this type always is abrupt, so perhaps I was too influenced by the pace of the story to be prepared for the final event.
At any rate, another excellent novel from Goolrick.
4 stars!

Book Review: The Scavengers by Michael Perry

This middle-grade novel is a fun romp with the love of family and responsibility thrown in. After the country’s population must decide whether they will live inside or outside protective, regimented walls that will control resources, Maggie and her family scrounge for their daily needs outside the Bubble Cities. Life is tough but full with two parents who love her and a special-needs younger brother who delights her and who is her best companion.
But all is not well. Maggie’s father, for one, spends increasingly longer periods with the ghostly humans who are addicted to a sludge-like compound they brew out of leftover chemicals. The corporate conglomerate that grows genetically enhanced corn on much of the good soil outside the cities prevents the outsiders from benefiting from the acres of food. When Maggie comes home to find her family gone and their house ransacked, she must untangle the secrets her parents have hidden from her all her life.
Plenty of action runs throughout this book and the stakes are real. Maggie must grow up quickly, and rounds up her neighbors to help. But truly the only person who can save her family is Maggie herself. She sets off on a cross-country adventure that ends with her facing down nothing less than the government of the bubble cities.
My only complaint with this story was how some information was worked into the text. Dialog was used to convey information that might “educate” readers on various topics, many of which weren’t related to the story or characters. I was greatly turned off by this kind of thing when I was a young reader and I can’t imagine that today’s young readers are much different. But that didn’t take too much away from the plot so the rating here is still high.
This book was received through a giveaway on Literary Rambles. The blog runs frequent giveaways for a variety of books publishers provide the blog as ARCs. Check them out today at
5 stars for the book and Literary Rambles!

5 Secrets Authors Need to Know About Amazon’s Book Sale Algorithms

Self-publishing is a huge undertaking. Understanding how book sales platforms work is critical, and because Amazon sells more books than any other platform, understanding how Amazon works is critical. Here are five things every author needs to know about the company.
1. Free does not count the same as a sale. When you give your book away for free on Amazon, the algorithms count it differently than an actual sale. This means your book will need many more free downloads to rise in the rankings and most of Amazon’s lists.
2. If you have set up your book on any platform other than Amazon’s, you will not be able to directly control the price of the book. You set the retail price only. Amazon decides when to discount it and how much of a discount to offer.
3. After a sale or giveaway that includes many distributors, track your book’s price on Amazon. They often do not restore the original price right away, leaving your book at a sale price for longer periods than you’d planned. Note, too, that they have the ability to leave it at that sale price, including free, forever.
4. If you have a short-term sale that shoots your book up Amazon’s rankings, you will see a very sharp drop-off after the sale. Be prepared for this to happen and continue your marketing efforts over time.
5. Multiple sales spikes, even small ones, are given more weight than single-day or week-long spikes. For best results, spread your efforts out over time. Each smaller sales spike will benefit your book more in the long term than one short, exponential spike.

Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I gave this a try. I approached it because it is written from the viewpoint of a woman who is degenerating, which is unusual for fiction dealing with this ailment. I also was very interested in the author’s approach, to show her degenerating slowly after having a successful career based on her ability to work with very high concepts.
The writing has weaknesses in areas that I just can’t tolerate. The use of dialog to provide information that would be better provided in narrative form is the primary issue. Using dialog to dump data really slows the pace, and it takes away from the internal development of individual characters. I found this too much of an issue to move beyond and so stopped reading after a short time.
1 star.

Book Review: The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant

Fantastic story. This book follows a woman’s life from her youth when she used clothes to define an identity she couldn’t otherwise develop through her efforts to locate the past that was hidden from her by her parents. A great introspective work on what people find acceptable, why they might reject their relatives, and who they turn out to be themselves in the end.
The writing is lovely, spare yet with a style that touches on the emotions and turmoil of this woman at different life stages. And she does find herself in the end through some very interesting moves that force her parents to confront what they hid for so long.
5 stars!