Can You Say It In Three Minutes?

Are you able to pare your story down to three to five sentences?

Can you say it smoothly within three minutes?

The sole purpose of a pitch (the in-person conversation with an editor or publisher) is to convince them to give your story a look.

Be sure your pitch includes:

Hook: Why they should read your book. 

Synopsis: What the story is about. (Be sure to include the title, length, and genre of your novel). Your

target audience; and where it fits in the market (Titles of books similar to yours—and why yours will be different); and your bio.(including why you are qualified to write the story and what you are willing to do to promote your book after it is published.)

Remember to take your business card with you. You don’t want to be writing down your information on a gum wrapper while going out the door!

The Query Letter

As promised, I read about query letters in several sources this week. Here’s what I learned. All in one place.

Note: you can send a query letter in an email -OR- standard letter. Put QUERY in the subject line, if using an email.

Use a professional font. Nothing quirky. No color. No cartoons or pictures. Your writing—and only your writing—should be used to make your query stand out amongst others. 

Include your personal contact information in a header (if using a standard letter) or at the end (if submitting by email).

Create a strong hook and place it in the first sentence of the first paragraph. Its purpose is to get the reader’s attention and inspire them to keep reading. 

This should be followed by a synopsis, or overview of the storyline or main points and key elements of your book. This may include setting, characters, style, and genre.

The synopsis should be followed by the addition of your credentials: List your published works, including publications, websites, short stories, and so on. If you have educational achievements, add those, also—especially if your book and your achievements are related. 

Close your letter with a statement of gratitude for the person taking the time to read your letter. 

A physical letter should have a place for your signature.

Suggestions: Address to a specific agent and use the agent’s name throughout (not: Dear Agent). Use block formatting. Double-space between paragraphs; single space within. Left-justify. 12 point.

Use your real name, even if you publish under a pen name.

Hope this is enough to get you started, but not so much as to be overwhelming! 

Famous Pen Names and How to Choose Yours

  • Although authors can register copyrights for work created under a pen name, remember that this reduces the length of time the copyright will be active.
  • Using a pen name doesn’t protect you from lawsuits, taxes, or anything else.
  • You can acquire a trademark for a pen name. (But not your own real name!)
  • You can legally sign contracts using a pen name.
  • Don’t use another author’s pen name or real name.

Peruse this list of famous pen names: J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seus (this one is a registered trademark, also), Lee Child, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, and Lemony Snicket.

Choosing a Pen Name:

  • Choose the right age. One that appeals to your readers. You might use a list of baby names of your target year, or one or two years older.
  • Choose names that fit your vibe and genre. Amazon is a great place for ideas by looking for author names in your genre.
  • You’ll want to own the internet domain and social media handles for your pen name. Go to siteground to see if your choice is available. Be sure to check under both .com and .org.
  • Use a name that is easy to pronounce, spell, and remember.
  • Make sure the name you choose isn’t identical or similar to another writer’s.
  • Sign up for social media sites using the pen name, even if you don’t use them right away.
  • Choose a fake photo. How? Go to Generated.photos/faces. (You can choose age, gender, skin tone, eye and hair color, emotion). Note: The free versions cannot be used commercially.)

More next week…

Reading and Writing

Writers like to read. Need to read.

Not just pleasure reading, which is a “given”.  But also reading about writing. The craft. Punctuation and grammar to be sure, but also reading about genres, point-of-view, voice, character development, plot and hundreds of more things we need to consider—need to master—in pursuit of excellence in writing.

James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are two books to add to your library.But don’t forget to pleasure-read, too. 

“All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”

I read that somewhere…

Five Things Writers MUST Do

I would say there are about twenty-five things writers need to do, but these top five are ESSENTIAL:

1- Know your audience and write for them.  I don’t write YA, but if I did, I would have to learn my readers’ interests… their unique vocabulary… popular phrases… wardrobe and hairstyle preferences… everything there is to know about them. No one—no matter how much they love to read—will invest the time in reading what doesn’t interest them or reflect their dreams and aspirations.

2 – Read. First and foremost, a good writer reads. Get to know what’s out there and how other authors approach their craft. All the while, read for fun and pleasure, too. After all, fiction writers must be able to offer their readers an enjoyable reading experience.

3 – Learn the writing “rules.”  Read books on plot, style, character, etc. Go to conferences. Talk to other writers. Ask someone to mentor you. (Don’t worry, after you learn the rules, you can grant yourself permission to break them!!! I’ll clarify. Don’t break all of them all of the time. Be careful. Pick and choose as you find your unique “voice.”)

4 – Make every word count. Be precise. I use a an average vocabulary because I want my readers to enjoy my stories and not have to look up unfamiliar words. I think this is good advice for most fiction. However, I can see that Sci-fi and some other genres may want to use a different standard. By reading other books in your genre, you will learn what to use for your specific story.

5 – Edit, Edit, Edit.  Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation stand out like a sore thumb and draw attention away from your story. Even though no book is perfect, you don’t want to be embarrassed by mistakes. Take your time. Use an editor, but also read through your own work several times before sending it off to them.genre

Promote Your Book

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Back to our research on book promotions for Indie Authors:

The article I mentioned in my past blog recommended three companies: Books Butterfly, Kindle Nation Daily, and Bargain Booksy.

I went to each of these sites. I scouted around for different promotions, cost, layouts, ease of use, and overall appeal for readers.

Of the three, I found that only https://www.Bargainbooksy.com ticked off all of my boxes.

The other two were unappealing, expensive, and didn’t offer what I wanted for my specific genre. Feel free to visit those websites and check them out. 

I read the general information on Bargain Booksy as well as followed links they supplied for examples, additional information, and customer reviews.

First of all, their site is attractive and fairly straightforward. They supply a handy chart of genres and the cost of advertising for each genre. 

They claim over 305,000 registered users. They also say that a Bargain Booksy feature will help drive sales of your e-book, find a new audience of readers, generate reviews, and improve your book rank on retail sites.

With a paid promotion, your book will be in their daily email of Kindle readers who have expressed an interest in your genre.

They will link your book on Bargainbooksy.com with Kindle, Kobo, Apple, and Nook.

Your promotion will feature your book’s front cover and a short description.

You must price your book between .99 and $5.00 for the length of your promotion. (There are articles that explain how to do this.)

Your book will be in a daily newsletter to over 294K combined subscribers of all genres AND a customized email to readers of your specific genre. [Each with book cover, purchase links, description, and price.]

Additionally, your book will be featured on the Bargain Booksy website and their Facebook Page, which claims 20K followers.

Note: There is a Deal of the Day Premium feature which has different pricing, but it is only for these four genres: Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. See their site for details. 

Audiobooks can be promoted on their sister site,  https://ReadingStacks.com 

Genre???

 

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The first time I mentioned to someone that I wanted to become an author, I was asked what genre I was interested in.

Genre???

I didn’t even know what genre meant!  That’s how new I was to this whole writing thing!!!

In case you are new—and we all have to be at some time—here is a common definition:

A genre is a category of composition. Within each genre, pieces have similarities in subject, style, and form. 

Here is a current list of major writing types:

FICTION:

Classic, Crime, Drama, Fable, Fairy Tale, Fan Fiction, Fantasy, Folklore, Graphic Fiction, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Mythology, Realism, Science Fiction, Short Story, Suspense, Tall Tales, Westerns

NON-FICTION:

Biographies, Essays, Personal narratives, Textbooks, Self-help, Journalism

When you begin to write, it is good to have a clear picture of your genre. (Most people write in the genre they most like to read, but that is not always the case.)

If you are writing because you love to write, first and foremost—if self-fulfillment or getting your message “out there” is the motivating factor, then you are free to write in any genre you’d like.

However, if your primary motivation is to make money, then consider the following as they are the most widely-read genres:

Contemporary Romance

Mystery-Suspense/ Thriller/ Horror

Fantasy and paranormal

Young Adult

Science Fiction and Magical Realism

In the coming weeks, I will attempt to feature each of these genres in this blog.

Remember:  Knowing our genres will help us understand our reading audience—one of the most important factors contributing to our success as writers.

 

The Right Words Are “Key”

businessman with a cup of coffeeAs we continue to take actions to drive sales to our sites, our discussion naturally turns to keywords.

Simply put, keywords are the words a prospective reader would type into the search bar in order to find a book on a topic or in the specific genre they are looking for.

If you have included these words into your headline, description copy, and your pages, your book will be “found.”

If you don’t include searchable keywords, the feisty little web crawlers will, in essence, crawl right on by and continue to search until they have discovered someone else’s website, book page, etc. Yikes!

The suggestion is that we narrow down a list of 5-7 keywords and insert them in our copy everywhere—and as often as—we can.

Some day, we may not have to do this. Some day, we may be famous and have a following–readers who require nothing more than typing in our names as they search for our latest books.

But for now, those 5-7 well-chosen words are key. 

Stay in Your Own Lane

13366864053_840b7df994Driving home after an evening out, my husband complained about a driver in front of us. “Just look at that guy, weaving in and out of traffic. He’s going to get somebody killed. He needs to stay in his own lane.”

Perhaps writers should heed his advice. Settling on one genre, such as Amish Romances, for example, lets the reader know what to expect when purchasing one of their books.

When a brand is loud and clear, it not only benefits the reader, but it also helps the writer focus their writing.

New writers often have to feel their way through two or three books before they catch the vision for their writing, however.

Recently, I discovered that my books—Runaways: The Long Journey Home and The Choice: Will’s Last Testament—have a common thread: forgiveness. Then I took a hard look at my newest book, Simon Says, and found that this story about bullying  has forgiveness as its central theme, also. (Simon Says is not, yet, completed).

So, I guess I am in full “branding mode” and I couldn’t be happier than to be writing stories of forgiveness because they assure us there is hope after we mess up or make wrong choices.

So, if you don’t want your readers to be confused and you want to bring your writing into focus,

Simply find your lane and stay in it.

Let’s Get Cozy

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Sometimes, genres are broken down into sub-genres. One of my favorite reads is the cozy mystery, which is a sub-genre of crime fiction.

Here, point by point, are those factors which delineate them as such:

1- Profanity, sex and violence are downplayed.

2- They are usually set in small, socially intimate communities.

3- The detectives, almost always amateurs, are frequently women.

4- The main characters are usually well-educated, hold jobs which bring them into contact with others in the community.

5- They often have a contact on the police force (a spouse, relative, or friend) that gives them access to important information about “the case.”

6- The “detectives” are usually discounted by the authorities as nosy busybodies,(especially if they are elderly women) but are generally well-liked and gregarious members of the community.

7- The detectives get their information by eavesdropping, or even “stumbling” upon clues.”

8- The murderers are usually members of the community where the murder takes place and have hidden in plain sight. They often explain their motives after the unmasking.

9- The secondary characters are often comedic.

10- The murders often happen off stage, or even before the story begins. The real story is in the solving of the puzzling mystery.

11- These mysteries often have a prominent thematic element introduced by the detective’s hobby or job, such as fishing, golfing, antiques, etc. Some are based on holidays, such as Cozy Christmas Mysteries.

Cozy mysteries are fun, both to read and write!