Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Many Mistresses of My Nightstand #1--March 2009

Today I am starting a new monthly thread, entitled 'The Many Mistresses of My Nightstand.'

Reading (and reading widely, both within your genre and without) is crucial for writers, helping them to develop basic skills and to craft a personal style of writing.

Each month I will include titles I have been reading throughout the month, from most recent backwards. Feel free to post yours in the comment section. Be sure to warn us if you were not satisfied with a particular read.

To make it easy for readers to check out your recommendations, please include a live, clickable link with your comment [Amazon links are great, because the provide both reviews and a means of purchase]. There are two ways to add a link: first, you can compose your comment as a new blog post, add the links in the usual way, then copy it, HTML and all, into the comments section here; or you can write it yourself like this:

[a href="http://paste.amazon.address.here"]write title of book here[/a]

Don't forget to change the web address and name the title of the book. Then replace those two pairs of square brackets [] with pointy ones <>, or the link won't work.

Kicking it off was quite a diverse group of books:
I'm eager to read your lists!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Painful Value of Critiques

Call me a scientist. I have recently embarked on two experiments: Book Roast's March 17th 'Luck' Pitch Party and the Public Query Slushpile, which I have commented on before here. I submitted a 68-word pitch on one of my picture book manuscripts to Book Roast's Pitch Party and its corresponding full-length query on the Public Query Slushpile. I received positive feedback and constructive criticism at both locations. Commentators forced me to address several issues related to my manuscript. The process was not easy, as we all want to believe our work is flawless, but it was empowering at the same time. I had to contemplate my reasonings for certain aspects of my writing with as much of an objective eye as I could muster. While I did not place in the Pitch Party, I consider both experiments to be great successes, as they provided ongoing dialogues that will only strengthen my manuscript.

Miss Snark's First Victim recently posted on the rules of listening to critiques, which includes these sage words: 'Never love your manuscript more than you appreciate your critters.'

Editorial Anonymous also expounded on this issue at her Anonymati site: 'It is not the willingness and ability to write well that separates the amateurs and hobbyists from Real Writers. It is the willingness and ability to rewrite well that makes you Real Writers.'

These experiments have been two more examples of the power of networking with other authors.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Marketing Yourself as a Writer

I have posted on the importance of following publishing blogs, but what about hosting one? In this technological age, writers have seemingly endless possibilities to market themselves and their work. Consider some of the following online options:
  • Author website (a general website about you as an author, which could be personal or strictly professional)
  • Book website (a separate site created for each of your published titles)
  • Agent's/Publisher's website (request that your agent updates his website to include your book after publication)
  • Author blog (again, depending on your audience, this could be more personal a la Sarah Dessen or informative, such as this blog)
  • Book review websites (submit your book for consideration at sites such as: Goodreads, etc.)
Then there are the numerous social networking sites (some of which I have linked to before):
  • JacketFlap (children's/YA publishing blog reader/networking site)
  • Technorati, (online blog directory with networking features)
  • Facebook (social networking site)
  • MySpace (social networking site geared towards a younger, school-age demographic)
  • Twitter (micro-blogging site with the ability to network)
  • Linked In (professional networking site)
In the blogosphere, there have been a few useful posts on these topics recently. QueryTracker offers a pros/cons list of several major social networking sites, a 'how to' guide on creating a writer blog or website, and a helpful list of what to include in your website. Writer/blogger Shelli interviewed Sarah Davies from Greenhouse Literary on how authors can help market their books. Shelli also posted several helpful links on 'Friday's Marketing Round-up.' Finally, literary agent Jessica Faust from BookEnds gave her thoughts on what authors can do to sell books.

Please comment with any important online market avenues that I have left out.

UPDATE (03/28/09): Jane Smith wrote a great post on how to write a press release.
First-time picture book author, Kim Hutmacher, created a terrific article on steps to maximize the publicity her debut manuscript.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Link Slushpile #1

Taking my own advice, I found several interesting posts on the literary blog front this week.

First, literary agents assistant Tracy Marchini offered some helpful hints on 'How (and When) to Follow-Up with Agents and/or Editors.' This is a must-read for all submitting authors. Don't let unprofessionalism stand in your way to publication!

Writer and blogger Emily Marshall over at Author2Author provided the next juicy tidbit: a guide to getting organized as a writer.

Finally, literary agent Nathan Bransford linked to a new peer-reviewing query site called 'The Public Query Slushpile.' This will definitely be a resource to watch. I'm interested to see if: a) the comments are constructive, and b) if it draws the attention of other literary agents/editors. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Place, Same Musings (Part II)

My blog can now be found on Technorati, an online blog directory of sorts. As a relatively new blogger and, as yet, unpublished author, it is important for me to establish a presence within the online community of children's authors and bloggers.

Please, look me up and let me know what you think. Fellow bloggers, be sure to "Fave" me or include links to any posts of mine that you found helpful (which will improve my blog's authority). Thanks for the help!

The Importance of Reading Agent/Editor Blogs

My husband, a fellow writer, told me recently that he doesn't understand the importance of staying current with agent and editor blogs. He does, however, check his favorite political, news, and sports websites/blogs more than once each day. While I have tried to share with him my thoughts, I am thankful that literary agent Jessica Faust at BookEnds has put in her two (more credible) cents on why publishing blogs are important for authors to read. Here is a summary of what I consider to be the top five reasons:
  1. Many writers do not understand the industry. Agent/editor blogs are tremendous resources for new authors just stepping into the publishing world. Everything a writer needs to know on how to be published is waiting to be accessed (see my post 'Do you know what you don't know?').
  2. Beginning writers can and do receive inaccurate (and often down-right bad) information from well-meaning-but-poorly-informed fellow writers on social networking sites or from self/subsidy-publishing companies attempting to lure authors to their 'services' by portraying themselves as traditional publishers (realize that all of their 'information' represent a conflict of interest). Any advice a writer receives should be checked against what successful people in the industry say (i.e., credible agents and editors). In addition, before proceeding with an agency or publisher, authors should research it on Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware.
  3. Writers can see into the mind of an agent or editor and perhaps discover what he or she is looking for in a query or manuscript. Let's face it, in this industry it is a challenge to get published. The burden is on you, the writer, to prove your worth to the agent/editor. Why not give yourself all the edge you can--by researching the agent, reading his blog, and following his query advice?
  4. Agent/editor blogs are a great place to network with said agents/editors and their readers (fellow writers). If you find a blog posting particularly helpful, leave a comment. If you have a question, leave a comment, then check back for the answer. Better yet, read other's comments and be a part of the already existing dialogue. Learn from your peers who are just as committed as you.
  5. Other writers are asking the same questions and the answers can often be found by regularly following the publishing blogs or by searching the blogs. [As an example of #5, how many of you children's book writers have wondered how to get your book to be included in the Scholastic Book Clubs? If I didn't subscribe to Editorial Anonymous' blog, I would have missed this valuable information.]
For those of you interested in blogging, I highly recommend beginning with Editorial Anonymous and Nathan Bransford, although all of the agent/editor blogs listed on the right of my page are worthwild. Each of the blogs also links to other publishing blogs. As your blog reading grows, you will find which bloggers suit your taste. Just make sure they are credible before you bank on their information.

Remember, even if you have a full-time job, if you are pursuing publication for your manuscript, agents and editors are going to expect that you treat writing as your career (and rightfully so). They want to know that you have taken the time to understand the industry, even before you are a part of it. It shows them they can expect you to put the same hardwork and initiative into editing your manuscipt and promoting your book once it is in print. It does require a sacrifice of your time, but one that I have found very rewarding. One final word of caution: do not go off the deep end and spend so much time blogging that you sacrifice the time that should be spent honing your craft. Balance is key.

UPDATE (03/16/09): Literary agent, Jennifer Jackson, also chimed in on this topic. See her regular blog series 'Letters from the Query Wars' on the importance of doing your homework. Also, published author Justine Larbalestier offered her experience on why writers need to know and follow agents' individual rules and submission requirements, which are usually posted on agents' websites and blogs.

UPDATE (03/28/09): The Guide to Literary Agents Editor's Blog posted their Top 5 Agent Blogs to Follow. I have to admit, they chose well. I personally follow four of the five blogs and the fifth I have visited from time to time. If you are looking for a place to start, here it is!
Also, when you feel confident enough to contribute to the literary dialogue on the agent/editor blogs, Grammar Girl has some excellent advice on how to write a great blog comment--definitely a must read post.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Positivity on the Blog Front

As a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, I am greatly enjoying agent Nathan Bransford's Positivity Week. As a part of his current endeavor, he has written a very encouraging post on reasons to be optimistic about the future of books. He also has included the Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer.

Last week, Editorial Anonymous posted another interesting blog, encouraging readers to name small publishing companies that represent reputable children's books. The response was large and informative. Several writers also included which publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts (for those of my blog readers interested in seeking publication without an agent). However, most publishers still do give preference to submissions from agents. In addition, agents offer writers more than just access to publishers.

I continue to have meaningful communications with fellow children's book authors on JacketFlap. Thank you for the encouragement and fellowship! Keep it up!