Posts Tagged With: editors

8 Secrets to Pitching Your Novel Like a Pro

8 Secrets to Pitching Your Novel Like a ProWhen it comes to publishing a novel, the actual writing is only half the battle. In order to get the attention of a publisher, you have to know how to “sell” your book.

I think we can all agree that most writers are not natural-born sales professionals. So it’s easy to understand why the idea of sitting down across the desk from an editor and pitching your novel might make you break out in a cold sweat.

No worries. There are basically eight big pitfalls you have to avoid — all you have to do is navigate around them, and let your story shine through.

I’ve explained how to do it here, on Fiction University.

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What an Editor Really Does — and Why You Need One

I first met Anita when she worked with my literary agent, Kristin Nelson. Anita is a freelance editor who helps writers bring out the very best in their novels. She was kind enough to share her editing insights, including why you should never let a rejection letter get you down, and why joining a critique group can not only improve your writing, but also save you money – and help you get published. Here’s Anita with all the insider info about editors. –L.

 

Anita, can you tell us what a developmental editor does, exactly?

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

The easiest way to describe a developmental editor’s work is that it focuses on the big picture: Does the plot work? Are the characters the kind of people readers want to spend an entire book with? Is the dialogue smooth or stilted? Is the voice appropriate to the genre and audience?

Developmental editing means making sure the foundation of the novel is sound, and that all of its parts come together in a meaningful whole.

Continue reading

Categories: For Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When in Doubt, Check Preditors & Editors

Preditors & Editors

Have you been approached by a literary agent who wants to charge you a reading fee, has pointed you to a private “commercializing” service or seems just a little bit TOO slick to be a good catch?  It seems like the moment you decide you’re going to write a book, the sharks start circling. 

Time to protect yourself.  And in this case, knowledge is the best weapon.  Before you sign on the dotted line, check out those literary agents and editors on Preditors & Editors.  One look at that site could protect your fledgling writing career, spare immeasurable heartache and save you a stack of cash.  No joke.

Long before I sold my first piece of writing, I relied on Preditors & Editors to steer me clear of trouble.  (And since I’m now signed with a “highly recommended” literary agent, I’d say it worked out nicely!)  P&E is the gold standard when it comes to evaluating whether someone is trying to lift up your career — or just lift your wallet.

Dave Kuzminski, tireless editor of Preditors & Editors, has worked hard for years to spare people like you and me from the gnashing teeth of literary sharks.  He’s kind of like a caped superhero to the aspiring writer crowd.  He’s taken on scammers and unsavory characters of all kinds — he’s even been sued over it — and emerged as a shining sentinel of truth, justice and the “highly recommended.”

(And in case you’re wondering:  Yes, my humble website You Can Write a Novel is listed on Preditors & Editors.  I’m so proud!)

So protect yourself.  Check out ANYONE before you sign a contract.  Go ahead, it’s free!

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Aspiring Writers, Take Notes!

You can write a novel that seems absolutely perfect to you: the dialogue is tight, the characters are richly layered and the plot crackles with energy.  But you’ll still get notes, I guarantee it.  And that’s a good thing.

Notes, by the way, are the comments you get from decision-makers (mostly literary agents and editors) about things that they want you to change in your writing.  They can be about anything.  Description (“Where’s Joe standing, exactly, when the frozen turkey falls on him?”).  Continuity (“I thought Joe suffered a concussion in the last scene.  How can he sing the Star Spangled Banner?”).  Characters (“I don’t like Joe as a short-order cook.  How about we call him Bob and make him a rodeo clown instead?”)

Some notes are pure genius, and following them will improve your story in ways you never imagined.  Then there are those rare notes that seem like they’re from outer space.  One of the most memorable notes I’ve ever heard was to an animation writer: “When the monkey takes off his underwear, please make sure he’s wearing another pair beneath them.”
Because the alternative, I suppose, is just too horrible to contemplate.  The truth is, every note is a creative challenge.  It’s an obstacle that you need to find a way to overcome.  And that, I think, is the best way to look at notes: not as criticism, but challenges.
It’s not that much different from the sorts of story challenges you face while you’re writing a novel.  How do I show this character’s true nature?  How do I plant this information without being too obvious?  How do I make this scene scarier?  Or funnier?  An editor once gave me this note: “Sorry, this just isn’t funny.”  Yowtch!

But after I was done pouting, I sat down and brainstormed a dozen or so new jokes for that part of the story, and guess what?  I came up with something better.  In the end, I was proud of the job I did, the editor was satisfied, and I’d long forgotten the tiny sting of that note by the time the piece got published.

Notes force us to grow — or at least to think fast on our feet.  They’re not exactly fun.  Not even if your best friend in the whole world tells you as gently as possible while handing you a giant plate full of chocolate cake.  But it does give you an opportunity to tackle a new challenge, think of a way to satisfy the note-giver while being true to your story, and come out a winner.

 And then, by golly, you deserve that cake!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nail Your Genre in 3 Easy Steps

Last week, I talked about how you can write a novel in any genre, as long as you know exactly what that genre is.  And believe me, you desperately need to define your book’s genre. As promised, here’s a nuts and bolts plan that shows you how to do it, in three outrageously simple steps:

1)  Pick a genre.  And by that, I mean walk into a major chain bookstore and wander the aisles until you find the section where your book belongs.  If it ain’t on a sign, bucko, it ain’t a genre!

2)  Find three recent, successful books in that genre that bear at least a passing similarity to yours.  Close enough that you could tell a complete stranger, “If you like this book, you might like mine!”

3)  Figure out the single most important thing that makes your story unique and fascinating.  You want to be able to say, “My book is like this one, except…” and then point out the key difference.  Example: “My book is like Robert B. Parker’s Spare Change, only the detective is a homeless man who can see the ghosts of the victims.”  Or whatever.

If it sounds like I’m coaching you on how to eventually approach a literary agent, then (BING!) check out your big brain.  I am.  You need to have this stuff figured out long before you send your manuscript to anyone.  (Bonus tip: you can start with the agents of the books you found in Step 2.  But not until you’re ready!)

Now, if you can’t find any successful books that are anything at all like yours — and I mean not even remotely — then I hate to say it, but you’re in trouble, my friend.  Rethink your concept and rework it until you can do the steps above.  Because if you can’t, then the marketing people at the publisher can’t.  And if they can’t, then your book is torpedoed.  Dead in the water.  Boom.

And nobody wants that. So get yourself to a bookstore, toots, and see what’s what!

Categories: how to write a novel, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want to Get Published? Know Your Genre!

You can write a novel in any genre you want, as long as you know what it is.  To me, a “genre” is anything that comes with a certain set of expectations.  If you tell me your story is a hard-boiled mystery, then I’ll know what to expect.  If you tell me it’s a time-travel romance, I know what to expect.  But if you tell me your story is so original that it defies all genres, I just scratch my head, because I have no idea what to expect.

With an editor, it’s a little more cut and dried. Genres have very specific definitions. Mystery is one thing, Fantasy is another. Tell an editor that your book doesn’t fit into a genre and you’re doomed.

For example, meet George.  George doesn’t have a genre.

EDITOR:  What genre is this?

GEORGE:  It’s not really in one particular genre, it’s set in ancient Egypt, and it’s got vampires, and there’s a time-traveling robot who falls in love with a detective from Brooklyn, and–

EDITOR:  PASS, thanks.  Now scram.

Don’t be George!  Pick a genre that the publisher can sink their teeth into.  By that, I mean “Science Fiction” is a genre.  “Cyberpunk” is not.  I love William Gibson as much as the next guy, but there isn’t an actual Cyberpunk section at Barnes and Noble, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by calling it that.

A friend of mine once had a manuscript catch the eye of the editor-in-chief of a major publisher.  He took it to the marketing meeting, it was discussed, and the consensus was that his book was too much of this genre and too much of that, and not enough to fit squarely into one or the other.  So they passed.  He went from hero to zero in the course of one meeting.  Ouch.

Don’t let that crash and burn happen to you.  If you want to get published, pick your genre carefully! How? Stay tuned, and I’ll walk you through it, step by step!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Literary Agents, Editors and You, at the Brenda Novak Diabetes Fundraiser

This is a great charity event!  I’ve been wanting to donate to this for years.  (True story: back when I worked at a book distributor, there were two pallets of Nora Roberts and Iris Johansen paperbacks I was almost able to donate, but then there was an unfortunate incident involving a blizzard, an aging forklift and a propane tank…  It didn’t end well.)

Anyway, this year I’m finally joining in with my humble donation:

Get your opening chapter into shape!

Get a critique of the first 25 pages of your novel manuscript, including personalized suggestions on how to polish this crucial part of your book.

Laurence MacNaughton is a writing coach and contributor to Writers’ Journal.  He teaches fiction writing at YouCanWriteANovel.com.

Bidding opens on May 1st.  There are plenty of wonderful prizes to be had, including one-on-one help from various bestselling authors, top literary agents and editors, all ready to help you get published in exchange for your much-needed donation to help fight diabetes.

I don’t think my modest listing has gone live yet, but when it does, I’ll put up a link.  In the meantime, you can check out this very cool event here:

http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Home.taf?_start=1

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What Kind of Writer Are You? Find Out!

Writers generally fall into three camps: hobbyists, aspiring professionals and working pros. The difference is not so much about your writing skills or experience as it is about your goals.

A hobby writer just wants to have fun with writing. You know what I mean: get together with friends, talk about inspiration, maybe write a few pages and share them with other people. The main goal here is to have fun and play around with creative writing. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, I imagine all of the best authors started out as hobbyists.
An aspiring pro, on the other hand, is serious about getting something published and making money at it, possibly even someday turning it into a living. This person writes something with the intention of eventually getting it in front of a literary agent and then an editor who will buy it and publish it.
A professional writer, by definition, is someone who writes and gets paid for it. The goal here is to keep a writing career going and growing.
Where you run into trouble is trying to pitch your tent in the wrong camp. If you’re a hobby writer and you try to team up with an aspiring pro, you’re both going to end up frustrated. You’ll think she’s being too harsh and not supportive enough — while she thinks you’re not “serious” about your writing.
Does any of this sound familiar?
As you learn how to write a book, ask yourself: What are my goals here? Am I trying to get published? Or do I just want to play around with writing? There’s no wrong answer. You only have to be honest with yourself.  I love cars, for example, but I’d never want to be a professional race car driver. Tuning up my carburetor and driving down to Cruise Night at the local diner is just fine by me. And that’s cool. With my writing, on the other hand, I’m focused on growing my career.
How about you?
Categories: how to write a book | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Editors Are Just Not That Into You

Whenever I hear a writer complain that editors just aren’t “getting” her latest story, I suspect what they’re actually not getting out of it is emotion.  As human beings, we like to sit around the campfire, literally or metaphorically, and tell each other stories.  Stories enlighten us, inspire us, gift us with a new perspective.  And at the heart of all of these things is the experience of a change in our emotions.

In every great comedy, there’s a hint of tragedy.  In a good ghost story, there’s a hint of love.  The change from one emotion to another is what makes the story experience feel real.  Like contrasting colors, playing different emotions off of each other makes all of them more intense.

But evoking emotion is tricky.  What moves me might not move you, because we have different values.  If you’re a diehard Red Sox fan, and I couldn’t care less about baseball, then a story about a poor Boston kid’s struggles in Little League isn’t going to affect me the same way it affects you.

So don’t write a story that’s just about baseball and expect me to “get” it.

But there are certain universal, primal themes that a story like that could tap into, like family, friendship, dreams, growing up — if you hit those notes, and hit them hard, then even the toughest critic will find something to like in your story.  Why? 

Because then it’s not about baseball anymore.  It’s about life.  We’ve all experienced those things.  They’ve affected us.  And suddenly, maybe without really knowing why, your readers will “get” your story.  And that’s what really counts!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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