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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bad News for Good Writers

Dear Gifted Not-Yet-Published Writer Who Has A Timely Message Audiences Need,

I think your writing is fantastic. You’ve allowed me to peek and I think that you have an important message and that you can deliver it well. I wish that was enough. It should be, right?!

It’s not enough.

In today’s publishing world, publishers who want nothing more than to publish great writing aren’t able to say “yes” to every book with a great message that’s written well if the writer has not worked diligently to build an audience. Some publishers do take that risk on a book they believe in, knowing that it might not pay out for them.

And if you’re like me—with way more confidence than might be merited—you believe that your awesome book will be the rare shining exception. Once the first reader reads it and tells all her friends, you figure, it’ll start selling like...a bestseller. And possibly it will. Much more likely, though, you’ll not find an audience for your writing unless you work to build one.

So—momentarily abandoning my signature irrational optimism—I’m just going to outline the bad news so that you have access to the facts you need.

1. Agents and publishers need to sell books.

Every agent and publisher I know loves great writing. In order to stay in business, though, they must publish and sell books that sell. It would be great if these two were synonymous, and sometimes they are. Not always.

2. Writers with audiences sell books.

Whether you publish with a traditional publisher or decide to self-publish, you must have access to an audience that trusts you in order to sell books.

3. Demonstrating an Audience is Requisite to Securing an Agent or Publisher

For an agent or publisher to consider representing you or publishing your work, you need to demonstrate that you’re reaching an audience. 

4. Building an Audience Takes Hard Work

Occasionally someone will build an audience with seemingly little effort—because they win an Olympic gold or are elected as President of the United States. (Okay…there was some effort.) The rest of us have to work REALLY HARD to grow an audience. Smarties, like @jeffgoins, with much more experience than I have can teach you how to do this. (Mention other smarties in the comments, below.)

5. Selling Books is Really Hard

Whether you publish with a traditional publisher or self-publish, selling books takes work.

Now start at the top of the list and read them all again. Congratulations, you now have a handle on the bad news.

The Good News

The good news is that there’s always something you can  be doing to build your audience:
  • Pitch article after article to editors.
  • Speak to audiences, for free at first, about your subject.
  • Offer a freebie download at your site to build your mailing list.
  • Guest post on blogs of folks you know.
  • Make friends online by sharing their great stuff. (They will love you for this. And owe you.)

If you were bummed out by all the bad news, do one thing today to build your audience.

Cheering you on,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Don't Hire Me to Edit Your Manuscript

When clients contact me to edit their book proposal or manuscript, I will try to dissuade them. I love to edit, but I don't want writers spending money on what I'll provide if it's not what they want or need. 

Don’t hire me for a developmental edit on your manuscript or proposal if... want a proofreader. 

If you want an editor to catch misspellings or to suggest better word choices, I’m not your editor. I can, though, recommend gifted copy editors and proofreaders. want a cheerleader.

I understand that you want to hear, “It’s perfect. Don’t change a thing!” I get it. I love those words, too. But if you hire me, I will suggest ways to strengthen your manuscript or proposal. If you have no intention of investing more time and energy into it, don’t hire me. want to be finished. Immediately. 

You’ve written the cover letter to the agent or publisher and are ready to hit "send." If you plan to jet it off in next 72 hours, no matter what I suggest, don’t hire me. want a nap.

Maybe you’ve had a critique group offering input on this project for three years. (If so, good for you!) Maybe you took time off of work to pour your soul into this work, and you’re just exhausted. The very best thing you can do is to set your work aside for five days or three weeks—before or after I see it—and return to it with fresh eyes, mind and heart. If you are too exhausted to make suggested edits, don’t hire me. want an easy path.

I don’t want you to invest money in a developmental edit if you don’t see the larger path toward publication for your book. If I provide a developmental edit, I want to be sure—for your sake—that you see and understand the larger publication process.

(1) If you’re pursuing a traditional publisher, they’ll want to see that you’re building a platform and reaching and audience. Even if your writing is excellent, they need to see this larger picture to say “yes” to you. (MUCH has been said about this & you can find lots online.)

(2) If you’re considering self-publication, you need to have a plan both to produce a quality book (copy editor, proofreaders, cover designer, book designer, printer, etc.) and also a way to sell that book. (Selling books is hard. You’ve heard this. It’s true.

Do consider hiring me for a developmental edit on your manuscript or proposal if...’d like an experienced editor to offer feedback so that you can improve your writing. If you want to know what’s working well, what can be strengthened, and how to strengthen it to serve readers—and you have more fuel in your tank to make those changes—we can talk.

Cheering you on,

Thursday, August 4, 2016

5 Ways to Show and Not Tell

After you knock out your first draft, return to your manuscript with fresh eyes to transform your “tells” into “shows.”

For that second pass, here are a few practical ways to “show” rather than “tell”:

1. Share Stories

Stories allow reader to experience what the character is experiencing.

Telling is saying, “She was bullied.”

Showing is helping the reader to hear the ugly taunts, see the mocking faces, feel the sting of shame. 

Telling is saying, “I had an eating disorder.”

Showing is letting reader see teen picking at a few leaves of lettuce through her mother’s eyes: seeing sunken eyes, noticing an emaciated body and touching her daughter’s thin arm.

2. Use Dialogue

Dialogue engages the reader.

Share a pivotal conversation. Let the reader hear speaker’s tone of voice and glimpse a facial expression.

Caution: Be creative; don't use dialogue as another way to "tell"!

3. Appeal to reader’s senses.

Your job is to let the reader see and hear and smell and taste and touch what’s being described.

4. Be specific.

Use precise language. Instead of tool, hot, fruit and car, use “lathe,” “fiery,” “mango,” and “orange VW Beetle.”

Specificity makes your writing more colorful and engaging.

Caution: Avoid the temptation to overuse adverbs and adjectives. Instead, use better nouns and verbs!

5. Externalize what happens in a character's head.

Even if a character experienced something in her head—the realization that she was in love, or discovering he’d been denied admission to grad school, or learning that she has diabetes—allow the reader to experience it in a more visceral way.

Was her heart racing? Did he feel nauseous? Did she pull an envelope out of a cold tin mailbox? 


*What are other ways to "SHOW" rather than "TELL"?  Leave a comment!

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