Saturday, July 25, 2015

40 Things an Author Absolutely Must Do To Succeed

1. Facebook. Get on there, get 5,000 friends and post every day. ‘What are you reading and why?’ ‘What is your protagonist’s worst attribute?’ ‘How do you edit?’ Be sure to post photos of a little girl in a tutu. Any little girl. People love that.
     2.  LinkedIn. More professional. Post every day. ‘Got a good response from my critique buddies on chapter three.’ Speaking of that,
     3.  Join a critique group. Online or meet at Starbuck’s for a seven dollar chocolate whipped coffee. Keep the receipt, deduct it when the book sells. Where to find critique friends?
     4.  Join a writer’s group. Meet once a week, listen and smile while Nancy gushes that she wrote her first romance, pitched it to one agent and has sold five thousand copies.
      5.  Attend a writer’s conference. Dress for success, put together a perfect pitch, rehearse it a thousand times, then tweak it so it doesn't sound memorized. Rub elbows with other writers. Smile at dinner while Stephanie gushes that she pitched her novel to one agent and he’s got her lined up with Harlequin. But don’t just attend…
     6.   Teach a class at a writer’s conference. Put together the ‘Rainbow Story Arc.’ Weave the colors through the tome. Red represents anger, Blue depression, Purple epitomizes passion and yellow, pleasure. Figure out what orange represents. How can you teach?
     7.  Join Toastmasters. Learn to speak in public with conviction and ease. And who knows’? Perhaps a fellow Toastie will read and critique your work. Then,
     8.   Find speaking engagements. Rotary Club, Lions and anywhere else where people will listen to your story. Come up with something clever to speak about.
     9.  Shop at Barnes and Noble. Watch people shop and see what they pick up in your genre’. Marvel at the myriad books in your genre.’ Speaking of what people are buying,
     10.  Check out Amazon. What’s selling? What are your competitor’s reviews looking like? Oh, speaking of that,
     11.  Write reviews for your critique and writer’s group friends. Oops.
     12.  Read books for your critique partners. Don’t like sci-fi? Read it anyway. It’ll broaden your horizons. Oh, and
     13.  Read books. Read in your genre. Read classics too.
     14.  Put together a killer website. You’ll probably need help on this too. Don’t go cheap. Keep it fresh. Videos are big too. So,
     15.  Get a YouTube account, make videos that support your work. Speaking of that,
     16.  Put together a trailer for your book. You might need help on this so,
     17.  Find an expert to put together a trailer for your book. Be sure to put puppies in it, even if there aren't any in your story. Puppies sell.
     18.  Figure out Hootsuite. Cool! Now you can post once and send it everywhere. Except Goodreads. Oh, that’s right,
     19.  Join Goodreads. Make lots of friends. Keep them apprised of what you’re reading. Participate. If someone disses your buddy, stand up for him. Be brave, but don’t overstep and alienate your followers.
     20.  Get going on Twitter! ‘@B&N cheking out thrillers. Lite traffic 2day. #B&Nlitetraffic.’ Tweet a lot. Follow. Follow more. Follow a lot.
     21.  Find a graphics artist for your cover. Don’t go cheap or your best seller will look cheap and won’t be a bestseller.
     22.  You're supposed to write what you know. Don’t know anything about Maine and lobster for your breakout? Get out there. Be sure to wear the bib.
     23.  What are you thinking? You've missed so many social sites. Join Pinterest, Google Plus+, Tumbler, Instagram and Flickr. Don’t be a social site outcast, get in there! Be faithful, you don’t want to lose your followers.
     24.  Buy and read the book by the agent you met at the conference. ‘Being a Connected Writer.’ Be sure to post a nice review of it.
     25.  What? You haven’t gotten a blog built yet? Come on! Make it fresh, post faithfully and keep your followers interested. You need to stand out from the 150 million other blogs. If you don’t have 5,000 followers, a publisher won’t even glance at you. Speaking of publishers,
     26.  Pitch that book! Knock out some query letters, get those submissions going.
     27.  What? Sure you’re on Facebook, but you don’t want to look like a rookie. Set up a professional page. Send your followers over there. Keep it fresh and catchy.
     28.  Get that computer fixed up. Bring it in and get those five thousand viruses taken care of. Speaking of that,
     29.  Clean up the junk in it. Old pre-edited works, photos, abandoned blog posts and goofy ideas. Ideas?
     30.  Make a file of great story ideas. Need help organizing it? Set up an Evernote account, study how to schedule, make notes and organize contacts.
     31.  Keep a journal. You’re a writer, correct? You need to document insights, thoughts and emotions. You should do it every day.
     32.  Set up a professional email. Come on, isn't going to cut it.
     33.  Get a professional head shot. You aren't going to impress potential agents and publishers with that selfie of you with the pink boa. Put it on all the social sites, the blog and the website. Now you’re branding!
     34.  Find a good editor to clean up your work. Yes, Aunt Jenny taught second grade English, but you've seen her Christmas letters. Be honest, it’s not going to work.
     35.  Shop for e Magazines that fit your work and offer to write articles for them. Send a sample article. Send another. Okay that’s enough, you’re becoming a stalker.
     36.  Find a buddy and offer to guest write on her blog. One hand washes another, right?
     37.  You haven’t posted anything on your writer’s group’s Facebook page! Stick SOMETHING in there, or they will forget you exist. Add some comments on others’ posts. Be clever. Someone posted on their blog? Read it and comment. Speaking of that,
     38.  Check your blog for comments. Reply to them. You don’t reply, people assume you’re dead.
     39.  Get to the weekly writer’s group meeting! Listen to others read their work and struggle not to grimace. They don’t grimace at your work.
     40.  Check FB posts. Connie Blair commented two days ago, come on! Are you there? And look at that post! The one below the kitten wearing the tutu. ‘Scientists find that sniffing rosemary can increase memory by 75%. Be sure to remember- somehow- to get rosemary.
     Oh. Yes. And write. 

(This tongue-in-cheek piece was originally posted by author Kevin Parsons on AuthorCulture.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pitching Tales

July's topic is submitting and pitching, and Anita Higman will be our guest at the next meeting. Agent Dan Balow provided our guest post last week, so this week, I thought it would be fun to read some author experiences.

wots blog susanwots blog susan coverSUSAN M. BAGANZ chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Her story:

My first ever pitch, I sat across from Blythe Daniel and a mentor had told me to start out with something personal. I looked at Blythe and said "Is your hair naturally curly?" We had a little commiseration over that. Later she came to me and we talked about kids with chicken pox. The next morning she sat across from me at dinner and we chatted about life and kids. A day later she came to sit with me at breakfast which, at that conference, was a time when authors were forbidden to connect with faculty (so they usually ate separate). I told her I was beginning to think she was stalking me. She never did become my agent, probably because she didn't get my weird sense of humor.

Another day, same conference, I sat with Eddie Jones and pitched my book. We engaged in a spirited debate on various aspects of the project for a good ten minutes before he finally said, "Send me the full manuscript." We ended up not working together but I remember how once I had done that, I wasn't afraid to pitch anything to anyone anymore.

You can learn more about Susan by following her blog, her twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page,


wots blog Jodie
JODIE WOLFE got bitten by the writing bug as a young girl after reading and watching Little House on the Prairie. She loves writing stories about feisty heroines and strong, godly heroes. The power of story to influence lives and change hearts is what motivates her to weave tales that tell of the Savior’s faithfulness and forgiveness. She writes a column for Home School Enrichment magazine and has received awards in contests.

Her story:

An impression. A prompting. A thought. A single step of faith. An act of obedience. As Christians, we often have them throughout the day. Times where we feel God (the Holy Spirit) is prompting us to do something. It could be as simple as expressing a word of encouragement, praying for someone, moving in a direction He is showing you to go. It can be a reminder to call someone.

I had such an opportunity a week ago. I felt prompted to ask a question concerning a contest that was held just days before. I figured it was closed since it was to take place over the weekend and that entries were no longer accepted, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I still needed to ask.

The answer came back, yes the contest was closed, but the blogger was open to still taking a look at my writing pitch. I debated and prayed and almost didn't send back what was requested. But I couldn't deny the overwhelming sense to follow through.

Linda S. Glaz emailed back within 20 minutes and loved my pitch. She wanted to see more and asked for the first five pages of my book. I admit to starting to feel a bit panicked at this point. I realized then that Linda was an actual agent. Yikes! What had I gotten myself into? While she read I perused the site she represents - Hartline Literary Agency. Honestly, when I looked at all the requirements they had for submitting to them I was overwhelmed.

I prayed, "Lord there is no way I can do something like this. You'll just have to work it out and provide an agent when the time is right because it's not something I can do on my own." It was soon after my prayer that Linda corresponded again wanting to see more of my novel - the whole thing - providing I wasn't already represented by someone.

Again with much prayer I emailed her my whole manuscript, seeking God for His wisdom. His timing. She responded back hours later after reading it and offered to represent me.

God opened a writing door when I wasn't even expecting it. A single act of obedience provided an open door. I'm forever grateful.

You can find Jody’s ponderings on her website,


wots blog pat
PATRICIA BEAL Originally from Brazil, Patricia is a Christian author, Army wife, and ballerina. She writes contemporary romance and is represented by the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. She is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and has completed two manuscripts.
Her story:

My grandmother died on the first night of my first ACFW conference, the one in St. Louis last year. My mom called me soon after the last spotlight session. It was almost midnight in Brazil, where I’m from and where it’d just happened. Back home people get buried fast, so I knew there was nothing I could do. The following day my mom gave me the website of the funeral home, and in the afternoon I would be watching the cremation ceremony online. I didn’t want to do conference anything—I was a mess. But I had a 10:15 editor appointment with Amanda Bostic, editorial director of fiction at HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

My mom urged me to go. It’s 15 minutes, she said. So I got dressed, got my folder, and I went.
I knew I looked like I’d cried all night, so I told her what had happened, but also said I was glad I’d got it together and that I was there—ready to pitch. I jumped right into pitch mode, and the pitch was good, praise God.

Amanda was so sweet and caring. She gave me her card and asked me to email the proposal to her after the conference. She urged me to meet as many agents as possible while in St. Louis, because even if she liked the proposal, she would need me to have an agent. Then she asked if she could pray with me. She reached for my hands and prayed for me and for my family. And I was so touched. And she was so touched. I will never forget that moment.

That afternoon, I watched my grandma's funeral online from my hotel room. Not a good day. But with the conference worship events and the prayers sent my way, I woke up well on Saturday and booked tons of extra pitches, all with agents, like Amanda said I should. I just kept getting back in line and pitching to anyone who had an opening. I pitched to each of the four agents in Mills 9—it was pretty comical. I finished the day with five agents interested in seeing my proposal.

Two weeks after the conference, Les Stobbe offered to represent me.

Amanda ended up sending us a rejection in March, but I will always remember her compassion, and I credit her for the sweet blessing of having Les Stobbe in my life. I wouldn’t have an agent today if she hadn’t urged me to meet as many agents as possible while at the conference.

Praise God for orchestrating these meetings that comfort us and move us closer to His will.

Patricia is very active online and would love to connect on Facebook ( and Twitter ( You can also sign up for her newsletter and learn more about her work at


Don't forget to join us, Saturday, July 18!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wanted: Authors (Apply Within), by Dan Balow

A book proposal sent to an agent is like applying for a job as an author. Comparing how applying for a job and pitching an agent for your book proposal are similar is my task today. I think some authors believe that pitching an agent is a mysterious process involving passwords, magical keys or some sort of ceremonial sacrificial offering.
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sometimes a prospective employee is not hired by a company because they simply “did it wrong.” Similarly, an author might be declined by an agent because of a bad first impression. We might never read what you wrote because of it.
Pitching your book proposal is really not as complicated as it seems. Sure, there are some hoops to jump through, but they really are not that unique to publishing, but more common sense than anything else. By comparing it to a job application/interview process, maybe we can demystify it a bit.

Do’s and Don’ts of Applying for a Job

Prepare your resume – this is not something you do quickly or without taking great care. There are people who are experts in resume development. Talk to them. Spell things right and use an accepted format.
Follow Instructions – Some companies have forms you can fill out and submit online. Some are very specific. If they don’t want you to follow up for updates, then don’t. If they want you to include certain pieces of information, then do it.
Know your audience – Many HR directors have a common experience with an applicant who asks, “So what does this company do anyway?” For people in HR, that is translated, “Please don’t hire me.”
Be clear what you want – Just say it. “I am applying for the position of assistant bookkeeper.” A cover letter mentioning that you are “looking for a place  to expand my horizons and find inner peace” will trigger a drug test, not an interview.
Don’t apply for jobs for which you are not qualified – “I know you said you are looking for a bookkeeper and I am not good with numbers, but I have a degree in history, and bookkeeping is sort of like history.”
Don’t burn bridges – sending a caustic note to the HR person if you don’t get the job will never work well. Ever. You just confirmed that they made the right decision in not hiring you. They will remember you and not in a good way.

Applying all this to the author/agent process

Prepare your proposal – this is not something you do quickly or without taking great care. There is no one format that works for every agency, so do your research and create something custom to each target. This takes time, but you took hundreds of hours to write your book, why not spend ten hours to do a great proposal.
Follow instructions – If the agency says, “Do not paste your proposal into the body of an email,” then don’t paste your proposal into the body of an email.
Know your audience – Get to know them. If they have a company blog, then subscribe to it and read it for a month or more before you pitch. Agents and agencies like to know you understand who they are. Find out who they represent and their work-personality.
Be clear what you want – Just say it. Save the creativity for the manuscript and the point in the proposal where it is necessary. Being too creative and obtuse will confuse everyone and probably get a quick decline. You are “….looking for an agent to represent my work,” not trying to “Engage a literary soul-mate to find fertile soil for my book seedlings.”
Don’t apply for jobs for which you are not qualified – Every agent announces what they are looking for and what they are not. “I know you said you are not looking for _______, but…” is a waste of everyone’s time.
Don’t burn bridges – After declining to represent an author or failing to get a publishing contract for an author, every agent has been told at least once that they will go to a very hot place after they die…and probably sooner rather than later. In the social media, text, and email world we live, the principle to remember is, “Don’t hit send,” when you are angry. They will remember you and not in a good way.
So, nothing too earth-shattering here. More common sense than anything. No secret handshakes, Vulcan mind-melds or coded communications required.
Not authors pitching agents, but people communicating with people.
(Reposted by permission from Dan Balow, of The Steve Laube Agency)