Category Archives: Writing Tips

Support for Female Authors

Recently there has been quite a bit of conversation about how little support there is for female authors. This runs the gambit from fewer reviews to fewer publishing contracts. In 2012, for example, only 16% of reviewed books were written by women. Writers of color are also underserved.

Joanna Walsh has launched the #readwomen2014 project to help correct the imbalance. Daniel Pritchard, editor of the Critical Flame journal, is dedicating the entire year to women and authors of color. Support these projects…and of course submit to Critical Flame to help boost your own writing.

What Makes an Author a Professional?

Recently author Brian Klems offered his opinion on the difference between professional authors and amateurs. He pointed out that patience is one difference, which fits with one of my top tips: be persistent. Publishing is not a race. No matter whether you’re indie or with a traditional house, marketing and outreach take time.

Another difference he noted was focus. It’s fine to work on several projects at once but something at some point has to be finished…otherwise the author will never have anything to send out. Whenever clients ask me about how best to achieve success with a work they’re writing, I tell them to finish the manuscript. Once it’s in a fixed format, any problem can be fixed. Until it’s on the page, it is very difficult to address problems, even ones you know are there. Finish first, then shift your focus to fine tuning the draft.

Infographic on Successful Books

Galleycat has posted another cool infographic here. This shows different elements and how successful they are for different kinds of books. The primary points I located are:

–Women are 50% more likely to finish a book than men, meaning that women are also more likely to become loyal fans.

–Literature is more likely to become a top-grossing novel than other types, with sci-fi a strong second. This goes against everything authors are told in general chatter…literature and sci-fi are supposed to be tough sells. So, as always, write from your heart, not for the market!

–30% of readers will put down a book by page 50. So hone not only those first five pages but the opening segment (the first 50 or so pages).

What a Rejection Really Means

This is a great article about how to change one agent’s no into another agent’s yes. I love the list of what each comment actually means…it’s realistic, and is something every author should understand.

Free Houses for Authors

Yes, you read that title correctly: If you’re an author and you’re willing to move, you could get a free house.

Write-A-House takes the usual idea of a writer’s residency and adds a new twist: the residency is forever, because the authors chosen for the program receive a house.

All right, nothing is forever. But you do have to agree to live in the house for at least two years. The program is intended to revitalize areas of Detroit that have been blasted by the economic downturn.

The primary repairs have been done but you should be willing to paint and do a few minor things here and there on your own. Otherwise, check it out!

Front Matter: When It Matters

There’s some confusion about when to include front matter and when to leave it out. First, here’s a list of the usual items defined as front matter:

Half Title Page — Which includes the title of the book.

Title Page — The title, any subtitle, author’s name, and publisher’s name

Copyright Page

Copyright Acknowledgments — For reprinted material or material reproduced from the original with permission

Colophon — Production notes about typefaces, name and address of the printer

Dedication — The single most important person/people the author wants to thank!

Table of Contents

Foreword — This is usually written by someone other than the author, often a professional in the field. It usually is used only in nonfiction but an important novel that has already seen success might at times have a foreword

Preface — Often the story of how the book came about

Epigraph  A poem, quotation, or phrase that sets the tone for the book’s message or theme

Prologue  Written by the narrator or a character in the story; must be used carefully as it is often viewed as a weak choice

Acknowledgments — All those folks who helped the author in some way

Introduction — Written by the author to define the purpose and goals of the book

Nearly always, authors will not include any of this material when approaching agents or publishers. The frequent exceptions are the epigraph (fiction or nonfiction) and the table of contents (nonfiction only), the prologue (fiction only) and the foreword (usually only nonfiction).

If you are self-publishing, you do not need to submit this material to your editor. You do need to include it with your manuscript when you send everything to the interior designer.

Note that more ebooks are moving nearly all of the front matter to the rear of the book. This allows a reader to jump right into the work. Readers are also much more likely to read through the materials after they’ve had a satisfactory experience with the book’s content.

Just for Fun

Writer’s Digest has a list of the odd jobs taken by some of the best writers of all times.

My own strangest jobs included working on a production line at an egg factory and, later that same year, processing raw deer hides, heads and tails that arrived at a junkyard before being sent on to a leather processing facility.

What’s the strangest job you’ve ever held to support your writing career?

Ways to Keep Readers Coming Back

When you’re setting about to write that next book, don’t ignore the fans you’ve already snared. They’ll be looking for you and the content you create rather than just another book to read. So be sure to utilize branding methods like the following:

–Be consistent. If you’re writing thrillers, don’t suddenly switch to romance. The exception of course is if you’re writing a cross-genre romantic thriller. Then go for it! Just be sure not to leave your existing fans out in the cold as you work to gain new readers.

–Remember that readers want to read your books, not someone else’s. So whenever you appear for a signing or media opportunity, be authentic. Speak from the heart about your passion for writing and your fans. If someone asks a question you don’t want to answer, simply say so and allow the interview to move on.

–No matter whether you’re self-publishing or traditionally published, always focus on quality. Even if your goal is to produce two books every year (or more!), make sure that nothing goes out the door you wouldn’t want to read yourself.