Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Overselling Yourself

(This post by literary agent Dan Balow is excerpted from an article that first appeared on The Steve Laube Agency blog. It is used with his permission.)


The desire to be noticed can lead to overselling yourself.

The emphasis on marketing platforms tempts authors to oversell themselves in an attempt to gain more attention. (I define overselling as a series of activities made to make you appear smarter, better, or more qualified and famous than you are in reality.)

And this is partly my fault, along with everyone else in publishing. We demand you spend a lot of time proclaiming, “Look at me” in social media, then we are appalled when someone overstates their credentials and status.

Some things to remember:

You are not a bestselling author if the sum total of your publishing is free downloads. (Note the word is bestselling, not bestgiving.)

You are not an internationally known writer if someone in another country reads your book. The description indicates a deeper kind of connection to those in other lands.

You are not an award-winning author if you won an award anyone can get. There are no awards for participation in publishing. There’s an expectation of the term “award-winning” which includes a level of objectivity and importance.

You do not have an impressive author platform if the way you get 50,000 Twitter followers is to follow 75,000.

You don’t become a “scholar” for self-study. Scholar is a term bestowed by respected institutions of higher learning, not yourself.

You don’t become an expert in something because you wrote a book. You write a book because you are an expert in something. And you can write.

Agents, publishers, and readers easily spot overselling credentials and experience. We would rather someone be transparent and honest than push something they are not, by overstatement.

When authors don’t oversell themselves, an amazing transformation occurs.

Authors become real people, flawed-but-redeemed men and women. Once overselling ceases, the real person comes through and is far more attractive to “follow” or “like” in social media.

Overselling yourself creates a gap (more of a canyon really) between you and your readers, which will be difficult to cross in either direction. If an author wants to maintain an oversold persona, they will come across as aloof and isolated. In turn, the readers view them as distant and are not drawn to them.

Overselling yourself is a result of trying too hard to impress. It rarely works to accomplish the intended goal. In fact, most often it is counter-productive to achieving the purpose for overselling in the first place.

Sometimes very famous and successful authors can be quite lovely people to be around. They don’t have to oversell; they can be themselves and readers like it. It’s “the bigger they are the nicer they are” principle. The reason? They let their work and success speak for itself.

Just be real in everything you do, and write a great book people will buy and want to read.

Everyone loves real.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Being in Print Doesn’t Make It Good Writing

As we grow in our writing skill, we also grow in noticing weakness and errors in print. Not always wrong as much as careless is the author using the same word twice in the same paragraph or (worse) in the same sentence.

Mary Higgins Clark’s The Melody Lingers On has this awkward sentence on page 91: “At least you have to give him credit for being a thoughtful son, Jon thought.”

Two things hit me. First, the cliché you have to give him credit, but worse, she uses thoughtful, and three words later in the same sentence, she uses thought.

I haven’t liked reading The Message because of the abundance of clichés, but I determined to read it from Genesis through Revelation. This morning I hit this sentence in 1 Thessalonians 1: “Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were to take great joy from the Holy Spirit—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.” I can overlook the triple use of joy because it flows. But he wrote take and then taking. It would have been easy for him to substitute receive, derive, or experience, which would have made the prose smoother and not changed the meaning.

What weaknesses have you noticed in print?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Send Simultaneous Submissions or Not?

(This article is written by literary agent Steve Laube and first appeared on his agency blog. It's reprinted here with his permission.)

Bryan Mitchell asked, “What is the max number of submissions you should send at a given time? I’ve heard ten but that sounds off; to me, it seems it should be less than that if you are carefully considering the agents you reach out to.”

When approaching agents I encourage simultaneous submissions, as long as you let us know you are doing so. But, as Bryan answered his own question, there is no magic number. The number should include those you think are the best fit for your project based on what you’ve discovered in your research.

Please do not ever send your proposal to multiple agents in the same agency at the same time. This happens to our agency nearly a half dozen times a week and it is annoying. It is almost guaranteed to receive a rejection.

There are some services on the Internet who will sell you a list of agents and make it simple to hit them all at once. We can often tell when this happens and it is not a good thing for the author.

Why Simultaneous Submissions to Agents?

Since each agent has a backlog of proposals to review it can take time to properly evaluate them all. If you send it to Agent ABC and it takes two months to get a “no thanks,” then you send it to Agent DEF and it takes two months… By the time you get to Agent XYZ it could be a few years.

Better to target your first group of choice agents and send to them all. That way within a couple months you can find out if any have interest. If they all say no or let your proposal languish in the inbox (a form of benign rejection) then you can move to the next group of agents that you have researched.

A simple sentence at the end of your letter can say “This is a simultaneous submission.”

Where Do You Start Looking?

The Christian Writers Market Guide has nearly 60 agencies listed with around 100 agents from which to choose. That is a good place to start your research.

You can also go to any number of quality writers conferences and meet with the agents who attend. I was at a conference at the end of July and there were six agents in attendance.

If you are a part of a writers group or a larger association like RWA or ACFW or AWSA, you can ask for referrals from those who you trust in that network.

Do Your Research, Please

I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating. A book proposal is like a job application. If you are looking for employment, I suspect you would research the company to which you are applying and would customize your application to that organization.

The same thing applies when approaching an agent. We try to make it relatively easy to contact us and we do not hide our names. Why then does the occasional writer think they can get away with the salutation “to whom it may concern” or “dear agent”?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Lifeblood of a Million Dollar List

(This article was written by Rob Eagar of Wildfire Marketing and is reprinted with his permission.)

If you're new to the idea of building a million dollar email list, here's a principle that is crucial to success regardless of whether you're an author, business, or non-profit: List revenue follows list growth.

You must constantly add new subscribers to grow revenue. There are constant forces at work against your list that will reduce the size of your list size and its performance—unless you actively combat it. The industry term is sometimes called the "churn rate," which refers to the amount of people who stop responding to your emails. Every list naturally decreases over time for various reasons beyond your control:
  • People may decide your emails are no longer a good fit and unsubscribe. 
  • People may change their email and forget to tell you the new address. 
  • People may get enamored with other newsletters and ignore your emails. 
  • People may forget to whitelist your emails and your stuff goes into a junk folder. 
Since you can't control this natural attrition, how do you keep your email list and revenue growing over time? Maintain a focus on constantly adding new subscribers. Your list always needs new blood.

This principle was proven by ground-breaking research from Dr. Byron Sharp, the world's leading authority on brand growth and the author of "How Brands Grow." Through exhaustive studies, Dr. Sharp found that the world's top brands, such as Coke, Proctor & Gamble, and Apple, are successful due to a little-known secret. They are superior at expanding their reach and attracting larger amounts of all types of buyers. But it's not the heavy buyers who make the difference. Sure, they have lots of loyal customers. But those companies are #1 because they attract the most light, infrequent customers. They live by the principle of always adding new blood to their customer base.

This same dynamic applies to building a million dollar list. Your success hinges upon how well you add new subscribers. Always make this focus your top priority. Attracting new subscribers is based on creating and promoting irresistible incentives. Be ruthless about your incentives. Don't stick with something that isn't working. If you offer a new incentive for 14 days and it doesn't get a strong response, kill it quickly and try something else. Continually experiment with new incentive ideas to find what entices your audience the most.

Give yourself a minimum goal to add at least 1,000 new subscribers per month. Otherwise, your list will stagnate over time. In contrast, growing your list creates a chain reaction of these positive results:
  • More people to open your emails. 
  • More people to click on purchase links in your emails. 
  • More people to forward and share your emails. 
  • More people to provide helpful research and feedback you conduct by email. 
  • More people to test new and buy new products. 
  • More people to build a larger list that creates greater passive income. 
Your car won't run without adding new fuel. Your body won't function without adding new food. Keep feeding your list with new subscribers, and you'll provide the lifeblood to build a million dollar list.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 16 of 16)

May and Can. We might as well give up on this rule because the can-ites won the war. No one seems to have trouble with can, but my guess is that the use of may sounds too formal.

In school, most of us learned that may referred to authorization or permission while can denoted physical or mental ability.

“May I have this dance?” asks permission. But if you asked, “Can I have this dance?” you inquired about the potential partner’s physical ability.

Strict grammarians still insist on may as the polite way to ask for permission; however, for as long as most of us have been alive, either is now acceptable, except in formal situations.

This is a case where usage overturned rules.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 15 of 16)

Dropping or keeping the final e in words can be troublesome. Many words end with a silent e— brave, move, late, rinse. The general rule is to drop the final e when you add endings that begin with a vowel.

Advise + able = advisable.

Guide + ance = guidance.

Force + able = forcible.

If the final silent e is followed by an ending that begins with a consonant, keep the e.

Like + ness = likeness.

Accurate + ly = accurately.

Care + ful = careful.

In English, we seem to have exceptions for every rule, so here they are.

Sometimes, we retain the silent e before an ending beginning with a vowel to avoid confusion with another word.

Dye + ing = dyeing. (Otherwise it looks like dying.)

Another reason is to prevent mispronunciation of words, like mile + age to become mileage.

To further complicate the rule, we sometimes retain the silent e after a soft c or g. That’s to show that those two letters aren’t pronounced with a hard sound.

Courage to courageous, and the list includes changeable, noticeable, manageable, embraceable.

One more exception. We often drop the silent e before an ending that begins with a consonant, if it’s preceded by another vowel.

True + ly = truly.

Argue + ment = argument.

Due + ly = duly.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 14 of 16)

Let’s look at sentences that begin with there is or there was. I suggest you avoid using that construction for three reasons.

1. It adds nothing to the value of the sentence.

2. It makes sentences longer. (And today, the rule is short sentences, or bite-sized.)

3. Using that construction means you put the verb before the subject, which is normally not the way we write or speak in English.

Here are examples of ways to make your sentences better.

There are your keys on the desk. 
Better: Your keys (subject) are (verb) on the desk.

There will be 500 people attending the meeting. 
Better: Five hundred people will attend the meeting.

It was disappointing that Elsa wasn’t nominated. 
Better: Elsa’s not being nominated was disappointing.

Here’s an example of wordiness. 

There were delays and cost overruns that troubled the tunnel’s builders. 
Try this: Delays and costs troubled the tunnel’s builders.

How about this one?

It was the fear of investors they wouldn’t earn profits once the tunnel opened. 
Change it to: Investors feared they wouldn’t earn profits once the tunnel opened.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 13 of 16)

For a long time, I was unsure of the correct way to finish this sentence: Helen is shorter than . . . Shorter than me or shorter than I?

The proper term for this construction is an elliptical clause. That’s a grammarian’s way to say, “Finish the sentence to get the meaning.” Technically, it means that some words are left out because they’re understood.

In the sentence above, complete the thought: Helen is shorter than me am short or Helen is shorter than I am short. If you do that, you'll see that the obvious answer is Helen is shorter than I.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 12 of 16)

Almost as bad is the difference between rise and raise. One way to help is remind yourself that raise is usually transitive. That means a direct object (noun or pronoun) follows. Rise is intransitive (no direct object following). If you can substitute “get up” or “go up” for rise, you know you’re right. Raise means lift or cause to go up.
  • He rose from the sofa. Substitute: He got up from the sofa. (Rose is the past tense of rise). You wouldn’t say she raised from the sofa. 
  • She raised her arm above her head. (She lifted her arm.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 11 of 16)

Lie and lay are probably the most troublesome and wrongly used words I see regularly (or hear in conversation).

As you probably heard in school, lie means to recline; lay means to put.

Here are two simple rules.

1. If you will remember the principal parts of the verb (present, past, and past participle), you can’t go wrong. They are lie, lay, and have lain.

2. No form of the verb lie is followed by a direct object (noun or pronoun). That is, you can’t lie a book down.

Lay means to put or set down. The principal parts are lay, lay, and laid. Usually an object follows a form of the verb lay. (He laid the box on the floor.)

The problem for many is that the past tense of lie is lay. Some writers can’t remember that and write, “He laid down to rest.” They mean he was put down to rest. Does that mean they killed him?

Somewhere I picked up this tip. Memorize one simple sentence where you use lie and lay. Try this: Hens lie down to lay eggs. A friend learned by repeating this simple statement to herself: You lay something down, and people lie down by themselves.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Common Problems (Part 10 of 16)

  • Is it until? Till? ‘Til? That’s an easy one to remember: Till and ‘Til are both acceptable today, but many of us still prefer until.
  • What about beside and besides? Both are prepositions but with different meanings; they’re not interchangeable. Beside means at the side of or close to. Besides means in addition to. Here are examples of the correct use: I park the car beside the house. Who is going to ride with me besides you? 
  • Many writers are troubled over due to (and I used to avoid it). Think of the two-word phase meaning as caused by. An easy rule is to use due to only when you can logically substitute caused.
  • Burst, bust, and busted. Despite the common usage, the standard form for the present, future, past, and past participle is burst. He burst the balloon. He will burst the balloon if he isn’t careful. Yesterday he burst six balloons. This is one of those rules that will probably change, but for now . . . 
  • Etc. I see this occasionally and my rule is don’t use it. It’s an abbreviation of et cetera, which means and so on. Try the expression, “and others.” (I avoid “and so forth” because it has become cliché).

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 9 of 16)

While teaching a class recently, I used the word antecedent. Two people looked confused. We writers (and especially editors) throw that word around quite a bit. We usually ask, “What is the antecedent?”

Here’s a simple answer: An antecedent is a noun which is replaced by a pronoun. Sometimes antecedent stands for a group of words that act as a single noun.

The most common is the use of it. For example: My new job doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Harry objects to everything, Marilyn passively shrugs, and Esther agrees without hearing the entire argument. It is chaotic.

Question: To what does it refer? Logically and grammatically, it refers to the last-mentioned noun. Thus, Esther is chaotic. We can easily fix the problem with these words: The situation is chaotic.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Common Usage Problems (Part 8 of 16)

Do you have options or alternatives? I’m amazed that people have trouble over this one, but they do. Here’s the rule as simply as I know to phrase it.

When you have several ideas on how to do something, that means you have options. If you have only one possibility, it’s an alternative.

One expert says to think of the “o” in options as meaning one of many.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 7 of 16)

What’s the difference between a while (two words) and awhile (one)? Here’s the rule: A while is an article and a noun and normally comes after the preposition for. When you use two words, you’re going to use a noun and refer to a period of time.

Example: It has been a while since I saw you. You could substitute another article-noun, such as a month: It’s been a month since I saw you. If that makes sense, you’ve made the correct choice.

Awhile (one word) is an adverb and means “for a short time.” Go dance for awhile—that is, dance for a few minutes.

This bothered me for years, until I figured out that a while is a noun phrase.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 6 of 16)

A trend today, and I hear newscasters say this regularly, is as to. That’s an awkward expression and it’s better to say, about. Instead of “As to the situation in Central Park,” try, “About the situation in Central Park.”

A friend said, “I have no idea as to where I want to eat.” It would have been better if he had said, “I have no idea about where I want to eat.” (I would have eliminated about.)



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 5 of 16)

Many writers aren’t sure of the difference between among and between. Both are prepositions. Among always implies three or more; between refers to two people or groups.

Another way is to use among when you refer to things that aren’t distinct items or individuals. Mary had to choose between Harvard and Yale; Yves chose among the universities in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 4 of 16)

Eldest or oldest? What’s the difference? Both words refer to those greater in age. The difference is that eldest can be used only to related individuals, such as, “Jack is my eldest living relative.” Oldest is more general and fits most situations.

Eldest and oldest are what we call the superlative—meaning more than two. James is older than I am; Harold is the oldest of the three brothers. It grates on me when someone refers to “my oldest sister, Anne,” when he has only two female siblings. In that case, he should have written, “my older sister, Anne.”

As a growing writer, I’m aware of correct word usage.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 3 of 16)

Reflexive pronouns trouble some writers. Some, who don’t know grammar but try to act knowledgeable, often use sentences like “He gave the money to Maggie and myself.” The person should have said, “Maggie and me.” The incorrect usage is because the speaker probably doesn’t understand reflexive pronouns.

Here’s the rule: Whenever we use a pronoun ending in -self or -selves, that form must point back (reflect) to a noun or pronoun near the beginning of the sentence. For example, Herb poured himself a drink. (Himself is correct because we know it refers to or reflects the subject, Herb.) I doubt that anyone would write this sentence: I poured a drink for Maggie and himself.

Because I’m a careful, professional writer, 
I remain aware of reflexive pronouns.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 2 of 16)

All ready (2 words) is a phrase that means completely prepared. We’ve finished lunch and we’re all ready to leave. Michael hooked up my computer so I’m all ready to start typing my manuscript.

Already is always an adverb and refers to something that happened before a certain time. Doesn’t every American city already have the Internet? They have already eaten. The battle may already be lost but the one-word and two-word argument goes on.

What about all right or alright? Two words was the standard, but for the past four decades, writers have increasingly opted for one word, alright.

These days, I suggest you choose. I still use two words. I suggest you use two words when submitting for publication and if the publisher has decided on one, your editor will change it.

I prepare to be all ready to work; 
and it’s not only all right to improve—it’s mandatory.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 1 of 16)

In this series, I want to point out problems many writers face (and their incorrect usage).

We’ll start with adopt and adapt. Most writers have no problem with adopt, which means to take something as your own.

Adapt means to change.

If your book is sold to the movies, the producers used to list the title and byline and then add, “adapted by . . .” (These days, they simply say written by and refer to the screenplay.) That means they changed the form from a novel to a script.

Affect and effect. This one used to trouble me until I learned a simple rule. Affect is nearly always a verb; effect is nearly always a noun. Affect means to “have an influence on.” Marvin’s brusque tone negatively affected Grace. (His attitude influenced her emotions.)

Think of effect as a noun that means result. His raised eyebrow had the effect of silencing Grace. (Raised eyebrow brought about a result.) That’s the basic rule.

There are deviations, but my advice is that when you have doubts use this simple mnemonic sentence: Action is affect; the end result is effect.

Because I’m serious about writing, 
I want to know the language well.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Life Hands You a Platform

This post from Dan Balow first appeared on the Steve Laube Agency blog. It's used here with Dan's permission.

* * * * *

Every writer’s conference or gathering includes at least one presentation about developing or maintaining an author-marketing platform.

Social Media, public speaking, blogging, newsletters…everything working together to establish and support your personalized and unique author “brand.” This agency and other publishing blogs address various elements of the issue on a regular basis.

If you are having difficulty determining the direction of your author brand, you might either be thinking incorrectly about it or avoiding the obvious.

Life hands you a platform.

Often, creative people avoid the obvious and desire instead to go an entirely different direction than their experience would indicate. A simple desire to be creative can do this. Narrowing one’s work to one general theme seems restrictive and even creatively dissatisfying.

Re-stating what has been said here and by many others, successful authors will primarily find their success by doing one type of writing…their one thing. A significant majority of authors will write and publish less than a half-dozen books in their lifetime, so unless you are extremely successful, you have just a few opportunities to speak into your brand.

You can become so worried about being repetitive in your fourth and fifth books, you might not have a second or third.

Life gives you a platform, meaning if you look at your experiences, journey, friends, family, work, education, challenges, successes, failures, strengths, talents, weaknesses, spiritual gifts, and sins (yes, sins), you will find a core message laying there which should drive your entire writing career, no matter how many books you might write.

The mistake most writers make is thinking their brand must be so specific and narrow the joy of writing would be completely eliminated because you need to write the same book over and over.

Not true.

Branding is not limiting, it is liberating.

A brand does not repeat the same story, but the same underlying theme. You might think life gave you just one story, but it really gave you a broader message. This broader message is what any skilled author can write about.

Companies and organizations have mission-statements or guiding principles to direct them. Authors should as well. This is the “message platform” which will form a foundation for your writing. (For more on a message platform, click here)

You don’t write Christian fiction, you write stories about people living life in relationships and how God directs them.

You don’t write devotionals or Bible studies, you focus a reader’s thoughts on the things of God and what he desires a person to know about him.

You don’t write books about effective use of money, you show how God’s principles of stewardship make the things of this world work for one’s benefit and for God’s purposes.

The “big” messages from Scripture are themes, which can be repeated and re-purposed in many books. These messages can make for elements of an excellent author mission statement and branded theme behind their writing.

God’s faithfulness

God’s limitless mercy and grace

God working everything together for good

Forgiveness and Restoration

Redeeming your past

…and many more.

Most authors who resist the idea of branding their work do so because they mistakenly establish a brand, which is too specific, missing the bigger theme, which could find its way into many books.

Finding the big-message brand for your writing should be relatively simple, if you are only open to seeing it. Your life and faith journey hand it to you on a silver platform.

—Dan Balow is an agent with the Steve Laube Agency. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Selling Self, Selling Ideas, Selling Books

This article first appeared in MediaWise, publicist Don Otis's newsletter. It's reposted here with his permission.

* * * * *

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Do interviews help sell books?” My answer is always the same, “Sometimes.” This is clearly not the answer most people want to hear. Publicity is not a hard science; it is a soft science. There are many variables that go into making a successful interview. But there is one overriding component that makes a difference. Let me give you one example . . .

I have booked many people on The 700 Club through the years. Because it has such a large national audience most authors believe just being on the show will bring instant success. It doesn’t. I have seen as few as seven responses to as many as 13,000 phone calls. What makes the difference? The couple who saw the greatest response tapped into a felt need. They told their story, how they were about to divorce, and what turned things around. The wife said, “I realized that if anything was going to happen, I needed to be the first to change.” She did. And as a result of her change, her husband softened and changed too.

When listeners or viewers are desperate for answers to their most pressing needs, meeting their felt need is what creates the synergy that generates a positive response. Think about your own life. If you are in a fledgling marriage, have a prodigal child, lost a job, or have a major health issue, what’s foremost on your mind? Your problem. If someone steps into your world and offers a solution, you are open to whatever they have to say that will address the challenges you face. These felt needs beg for real world answers – not just a Bible verse or someone preaching about why you need greater faith.

To the extent that you can identify and tap into a person’s felt need, your chances of selling your book or product increase exponentially. While this may not sound very spiritual, the truth is we write books to help people, and getting your book into their hands is part of the equation. This is not just some magic formula or way to manipulate an audience. There are only human needs and human wants and reaching out to meet these needs is part of what Christ calls us to. While not all books have an obvious felt need, there are other important elements to help sell books through an interview. One of these is the amount of enthusiasm you convey. And no matter how good of an interview you give, you must drive people to your product. Make it easy and quick to find your book – online bookstores or website. And offer a value-added incentive – an autographed copy or a second book for half price.


—Don S. Otis is the president of Veritas Communications, a publicity agency that has scheduled more than 30,000 interviews since 1991. He is the author of five books and has hosted his own radio show and produced radio and television shows in Los Angeles and Denver.


















Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Remove the Barriers in Fiction

This article, written by literary agent Karen Ball, first appeared on the Steve Laube Agency blog. It's used here with her permission.

* * * * *

Few things empower fiction better than well-developed characters. Which is why you don’t want to create unintentional barriers between your characters and your readers. What barriers, you ask? Well, here’s one that affects POV characters:

John knew he was about to learn something important.

Do you see it? The barrier? No? How about here…

Sally realized she wasn’t getting it.

This barrier is kind of like those rotten little sugar ants that one day are not to be seen, and the next day are crawling all over your counter. You had no idea they were lurking there, unseen, and suddenly they’re everywhere! This sneaky barrier skitters into our writing when we’re not looking and pushes the reader just a step away from our character.

Still not sure what it is? Then consider this. We’re still in John’s and Sally’s POVs:

He was about to learn something important.

She wasn’t getting it.

Yup, it’s the knew and realized. If you guessed it, congrats! If you didn’t, not to worry. Now you know.

When writing a POV character, don’t tell us he or she has realized, or knows, or sees, or hears something. Just show the realizing, knowing, seeing, and so on. Because the fact is, if the POV character didn’t realize, know, see, or whatever, we couldn’t either since we’re perceiving the story through them. So this is not only a barrier to the characters, but it’s redundant.

So not:

Bill saw the man coming toward him.

But

A man came toward him.

It’s not a big change, but it’s one that removes a layer of distance—a barrier, in essence—between the reader and your character. Rather than being told about something, the reader experiences it with the character. After all, that’s much of the power of fiction, that our readers experience the journey and the story with the characters. And part of our job as writers is to ensure they can do that with as few barriers as possible.

—Karen Ball has worked as an editor for several publishers, including Tyndale, Zondervan, and B&H. She is a literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 5 of 5)

Let your genre choose you. That probably sounds strange, but I believe that each serious writer has potential to do well in at least one area. And there are any number of ways you let the genre choose you. I’ve previously mentioned your passion and asking writer friends.

I’m a serious Christian and I pray daily for my writing. I began to write when I was a pastor and wrote and sold about 100 articles before I wrote my first book. For the first six or seven years, I rewrote my sermons. From there I branched out into other areas. In an earlier blog, I mentioned choosing your rut. But that’s after you’ve begun to establish yourself.

I became a ghostwriter because I wrote a novel and, at the recommendation of a successful author, sent it to her editor. He read it, rejected it, and said, “Too slow for today’s market, but . . .” And that’s where the door opened for me. “But you have the ability to get inside other people,” he said.
“I’d like you to become a ghostwriter for our publishing house.”

Even though I’d never tried it, I agreed and did 35 books for that publishing house. That’s why I say, let the genre choose you.

Because I’m a Christian, I could say that God intervened (and I believe that) or as my Buddhist friend said to me, “You were open to the universe.” My agnostic neighbor likes to refer to circumstances. Regardless of how you phrase it, my advice remains.

Be open to possibilities; 
let your genre choose you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 4 of 5)

If you have a narrow focus, be careful. Once you start publishing books in one genre, you’re branded. If you’re a novelist, it’s difficult to move into nonfiction. Your fan base stays with you because you write in the area where they want to read. If you switch, they probably won’t, and it means starting over again.

When I think along that line, I remember our years living in rural Kenya. During the long rains (when it rained day and night), the only way we could travel was to pick a rut and stay with it because our tires sank several inches. Trying to get out of that mired track often meant being stuck and unable to move in any direction.

That’s how I think of specialized writing. It’s easy to follow the same rut, if you enjoy it. Before I specialized in ghostwriting, I wrote articles on marriage—a lot of them—and one publisher asked me to write The Encyclopedia of Christian Marriage, which I did. Afterward, I decided I wanted out of that field.

I chose to generalize as early as 1980, knowing that it would be difficult or nearly impossible to sell in more than one genre. Even now, I make my living as a ghostwriter/collaborator. I write in other nonfiction fields, but none of them sell as well. My brand, my public identity, comes from my specialized field.

If you want to be a successful author, 
choose your rut.

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Are you interested in ghostwriting or collaborating and don't know where to start? Check out Cec's new book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method. It'll answer your questions and get you on the right track.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 3 of 5)

My fourth suggestion is experiment. Try writing in various fields. If you’re serious about fiction, try nonfiction. The idea of attempting a wide variety of writing helped me narrow my focus. I wrote a few children’s stories, and other authors helped me to realize that they were, at best, satisfactory.

Too many writers seem to feel they’ll impress agents and editors if they say, “I want to write historical fiction, health and fitness, and Bible studies.” That doesn’t endear you. It says you’re still a novice and need to decide.

My writing friends can help me figure out 
what I really want to write.

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Are you interested in learning more about ghostwriting and collaborating? Check out Cec's new book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 2 of 5)

You know what you want to write because of your passion for the topic or the genre. Good start. Sometimes we’re blinded by our commitment or zeal and aren’t aware that we might have aptitude for a different field.

My third suggestion is talk with other writers and show them your material. Approach them by asking their help figuring out where you need to focus. Others can see talent in us that we don’t. On my own, I wouldn’t have considered ghostwriting. Or even writing biographies and memoirs.

You may not be aware of your aptitude for genres. 
Your friends can help you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What Do You Want to Write? (Part 1 of 5)

As we move into writing seriously, we need to answer that question for ourselves. Some individuals know exactly what they want to see in print and don’t deviate or try anything new.

But if you’re like I was when I started, I wanted to write on nine or ten different topics.

If you’re not sure (or even if you are, consider a few suggestions).

First, examine your own areas of interest. What do you enjoy reading? That can be a tricky question because some of us read widely. I read fiction and nonfiction. I’m immensely curious about many things—like many writers. That may not give you an answer, but it causes you to ponder.

Second, look at your heart. Your passion. What topics or genres stir you when you think about writing? That may not be the ultimate answer, but it’s a good place to start.

To figure out what you want to write,
begin by examining your passion.

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Have you wondered what it takes to be a ghostwriter or collaborator and don't know where to go for help? Check out Cec's legacy book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Waiting (Part 4 of 4)

Steve Laube wrote this post and gave his permission to use it here. 

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Waiting for Your Money

When I became an agent I didn’t know I’d become a Collections Agent…not just a Literary Agent. Getting paid can take time (i.e. waiting).

Waiting for the “on signing” advance — normally the publisher will take a full 30 days before issuing the check after the contract is counter-signed and officially executed.

Waiting for the “on acceptance of manuscript” advance — this can vary widely. Just because you turned it in doesn’t mean it is acceptable. One publisher we work with will not issue an “acceptance” check until the book has gone through every stage of the editorial process and has been sent to production for typesetting. This can take months. My suggestion is that you take your due date and then add four months…that way you don’t budget for the money to come earlier.

Waiting for the advance to earn out and new royalty earnings to arrive — yes, some books do not earn out their advances. But many do earn out and the royalties eventually start coming, even if in tiny increments. This can take a while, depending on the advance and the book. We recently had a client’s book with a small advance finally earn out five years after it had been published.

Indie Authors Wait Too

For those of you who are publishing independently you may feel like you’ve skipped most of these stages. And that is partially true. But a wise writer won’t put their book out into the market before it is ready. This means taking the time to write the best book possible. Taking the time to have the book edited professionally…not by just anyone who took an English class in school. Taking the time to find the right book cover to represent your book. Taking the time to create and execute a strategic marketing plan (a plan that is more than simply uploading an ebook and charging 99 cents). Taking the risk of investing enough money in the right places for the right results.

At each stage the writer chaffs at the process. This is quite understandable. I once read an author’s angry screed (on their blog) criticizing their publisher for the excruciating process of getting their book out. The problem, as I see it, is that the author’s expectations were not in line with reality. Much of a writer’s angst can be avoided by understanding the process and modifying their expectations to match.

Therefore my encouragement for you is to learn how to wait. (Some scientists even claim that it might be good for you). It is to your benefit to accept the nature of this process and embrace the agony of waiting. Anticipating the result can be as fulfilling as holding the finished product.

—Steve Laube is a literary agent and owner of Christian Writers Institute. http://www.stevelaube.com/

* * * * *

Are you interested in ghostwriting or collaborating? Check out Cec's new book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method. It's now available for purchase. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Waiting (Part 3 of 4)

This post is written by Steve Laube and is reprinted with his permission.
* * * * *

Waiting for Your Editor

You met your deadline. And then you wait.

Months.

And you begin wondering if anyone is reading the manuscript at all!

This is actually quite typical. The publisher needs to have the manuscript in hand to know that it actually has been written. But don’t think the editor is sitting at their inbox, on the due date, with rapt anticipation of receiving your contracted manuscript. They manage their time in order to keep things in the queue and moving along. It can be very frustrating to wait. The key here is to be in communication with your editor. It is okay to ask! Or talk to your agent to see if they know if there is anything going on that is preventing that editor from working on your book.

Waiting for Your Marketing and Publicity to Kick In

The new author is so excited about their new book that they want to start chatting about it the day after they turn in the manuscript. A great athlete or sports team wants to peak at the right time, never too early. The same with book promotion. If you begin tweeting and creating Facebook posts, without inventory online or in stores to back it up, the window of sales opportunity closes.

“But e-books solve that issue because they can be ready today!” you shout. True. But don’t forget that a lot of people still buy physical books in stores, online, and off your back table at an event. The physical book is still alive and well and must be available if your publicity and marketing is to be effective.

—Steve Laube is a literary agent and owner of Christian Writers Institute. http://www.stevelaube.com/
* * * * *

Do you have questions about ghostwriting or collaborating? Cec's legacy book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method, is now available for pre-order.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Waiting (Part 2 of 4)

This post is written by Steve Laube and is reprinted with his permission.
* * * * *

Waiting for a Publisher

After working hard to get your proposal just right, we send it out to a select list of publishers. Then we all sit back and wait. It can take 3-6 months to hear an answer from a publisher. The longest our agency waited was 22 months before we received a contract offer. No kidding. Just shy of two years. [Both my client and I had already moved on, thinking the project was dead.] But that is truly the exception. I believe that if we don’t receive some sort of answer within four months it is probably not going to connect.

That record was recently surpassed by a client who was contacted by a magazine asking to publish a poem she submitted twenty-six years ago… in 1990. You read that right. Evidently this magazine keeps great files and a new editor must have been going through the archives!

Waiting for Your Contract

Once terms are agreed upon, it can take quite a while to get the actual contract issued by some publishers. Many can take as long as two months to generate the paperwork. We once had to change the date of the contract because it had taken so long to create the paperwork that the due date for the manuscript was earlier than the actual date on the contract! This delay can be excruciating. Ask your agent what is typical for the specific publisher you are working with. That way your expectations will be set.


—Steve Laube is a literary agent and owner of Christian Writers Institute. http://www.stevelaube.com/

* * * * *

Do you have questions about ghostwriting or collaborating? Cec's legacy book, Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method, is now available for pre-order.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Waiting (Part 1 of 4)

This post is by Steve Laube and is reprinted with his permission.

* * * * *

Good publishing takes time. Time to write well. Time to edit well. Time to find the right agent. Time to find the right publisher. Time to edit again and re-write. Time to design well. Time to market well.

While there can be a lot of activity, it still feels like “time” is another word for “wait.” No one likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Business experts claim faster is better (see Charles Duhigg’s book on productivity Smarter, Faster, Better). Many years ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published, which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved in traditional publishing. Reviewing that post from half a decade ago reveals that nothing has changed!

A successful author learns how to wait well.

Waiting for the Agent

Why can’t agents respond faster? Don’t we just sit around all day and read? We try our best to reply to submissions within eight weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript, remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few pages in a proposal.

If you are already represented, all I can say is that agents do their best to be responsive to your questions and phone calls. Crisis Management is part of our job description. Remember that one of the first things a First Responder must do is triage. Some issues are more critical than others, which can create consternation if yours is next in line instead of first.

But if your agent is unresponsive that is a conversation for another blog post.


—Steve Laube is a literary agent and owner of Christian Writers Institute. http://www.stevelaube.com/

* * * * *

Are you interested in ghostwriting or collaborative writing? Cec's newest book for writers--Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method--is now available for preorder.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

10 Marketing Do's and Don'ts for the Year (Part 3 of 3)

--By Rob Eagar (used with his permission)

8. Don’t Burn Yourself Out
The typical author, business owner, and non-profit director works a tireless schedule. Downtime can get pushed to the backburner, which leads to exhaustion, stress, and lowered creativity. Plan vacations now and make them sacrosanct. You’ll face this year feeling more relaxed knowing a vacation is on the books.

9. Do Pursue Bulk Sales
Bulk sales provide more revenue with less effort. For example, if you speak at conferences, encourage the director to buy your book for every attendee. Provide volume discounts as the quantity goes up, or create a special version of your product unique to the customer, such as custom covers, exclusive content, bonuses, etc.

10. Don’t Skip Your Professional Growth
Don’t view professional development or hiring outside expertise as an expense. View it as investing money today to make more money tomorrow. But, only take advice from someone who has succeeded at achieving your intended goal. If you want to increase your business acumen, you must increase your skills.

As you read these 10 Marketing Do’s and Don’ts, pick two or three issues and work on them this week.


Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing and a broad-based marketing consultant who helps authors, publishers, and organizations spread their message like wildfire. http://www.startawildfire.com/

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

10 Marketing Do's and Don'ts for the Year (Part 2 of 3)

--By Rob Eagar (used with his permission)

4. Do Launch New Products
For every good book, product, or service, there are usually three or more spin-off opportunities. For instance, turn a printed book into an e-book, live event, or video curriculum. Take your top-selling products and offer them into larger or smaller sizes. Doing so helps you attract a wider audience and expand sales more efficiently.

5. Don’t Let Your Website Get Stale
Are you guilty of going through last year without updating your website? If so, you’re implying that your business is stagnant. This year, add new content on a monthly basis, such as new articles, stories, samples, testimonials, products, case studies, etc.

6. Do Raise Your Fees
When was the last time you raised the prices on your products or services? Inflation is always going up, and if your fees don’t rise with it, you’ll fall behind. You should be smarter than a year ago, so you should be worth more. Raise your fees.

7. Do Attend Major Conferences in Your Field
Where do influential leaders gather? At major conferences and events. If you want to meet them, you’ve got be in the same room rubbing shoulders together. Pick at least one new conference to attend and put it in your budget.

As you read these 10 Marketing Do’s and Don’ts, pick two or three issues and work on them this week.

Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing and a broad-based marketing consultant who helps authors, publishers, and organizations spread their message like wildfire. http://www.startawildfire.com/

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

10 Marketing Do's and Don'ts for the Year (Part 1 of 3)

--By Rob Eagar (used with his permission)


1. Do Grow Your Email Newsletter List
My most successful clients all have large e-newsletter lists with at least 50,000 subscribers. If you don’t have a newsletter, start one today. If you do, maintain consistency and focus on growing your database. Encourage signups by offering an exclusive resource to attract new subscribers. Set a goal to add at least 100 new subscribers per month.

2. Don’t Stop Asking For Referrals
Last year, over 50 percent of my revenue came via referrals. Obtaining referrals is the most efficient and cost-effective way to increase your business. Generating referrals is simply asking current customers, “Who else do you know who needs my value?” or “Could you introduce me to _____?”

3. Do Enhance Your Brand
There are so many voices competing for America’s attention that it’s imperative to be seen as an object of interest. If you have no brand, or your brand is bland, make this your year to resolve the problem. For expert advice on this topic, see Chapter 3 in my book, Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.

As you read these 10 Marketing Do’s and Don’ts, pick two or three issues and work on them this week.

--Rob Eagar is the founder of WildFire Marketing and a broad-based marketing consultant who helps authors, publishers, and organizations spread their message like wildfire. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Write Tight (Part 7 of 7)

Rid your writing of clichés. Although I've mentioned it previously in my blogs, writers don't seem to grasp the banality of hackneyed phrases. I can easily provide a list of 50 tired, overworked statements, but the better way is to point to the principle.

Think of it this way: If the phrase or term we use is something we've heard or read before, revise it. Careful, creative writers find new expressions for old ideas.

In most pieces of advice by writers on clichés, they usually write, "Avoid clichés like the plague." Someone said it, others found it humorous, and copied it. By the time writers have encountered the phrase 900 times, the humor has been sucked out of it.

Here's an exercise I devised for myself early in my writing career. I looked for clichés in my writing and in what I read. I copied them and tried to devise a better, sharper way of making the same point.

Don't we want readers to think of us as clever? Original? If our writing is like everyone else's, why do we write?

I am a growing writer;
I learn new ways to say old things.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Write Tight (Part 6 of 7)

We are authorities. When our articles or books appear in print, we are the know-it-person on that topic. Once we recognize that we are authorities, we tend to write tight. That's why we're published.

Therefore, we can write, knowing our words carry weight. Too often I see limp phrases such as I thinkI feelperhapsprobablymaybein my opinion, or even IMHO. If we're unsure about what we want to say, avoid such statements. We don't want to end up as looking ignorant or foolish.

At times, we need to express an opinion, but we do that to state a conclusion based on our expertise that we can't prove.

When my words appear in print, 
readers consider me an authority.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Write Tight (Part 5 of 7)

Words slip into our language in casual conversation and before long, they weaken our prose. And weaken is correct. The best writing keeps readers moving from sentence to sentence without stumbling over needless words.

Awesome! Absolutely! Those two expressions have sneaked into our writing. In fact, (I used those two words as a transition to the next sentence) I deleted both words as I reread an email this morning. Awesome, when used properly, refers to an overwhelming emotion, which can be negative or positive. Too often it means only that is good or I'm impressed—but not overpowered.

Absolutely means without restriction or condition. In casual conversation, it's usually meant for emphasis—but it sounds as if we've misused a powerful word.

If we ask ourselves what we want to communicate,
we can excise meaningless words.